Friday, December 19, 2008

Nee's Big Birthday Dinner

Ok. I think I owe you the full news coverage of last night's event.

This was Nee at her big birthday bash last night.

I was relieved that everything turned out well, excellent, in fact. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. You kind of know things are going fine when the guests get very loud, & when they are not only eating, but talking with their mouths full & laughing as well. Did I mention loud? It was a very, very warm get-together with close friends & family, & it felt like it had a life of its own.

Look at the expression, & passion of some of the guests, especially the one on the right.

However, I must tell you, the preparation for the event was like a marathon, slow & steady in the earlier part, but then it builds up into a frantic 100-metre dash towards the end. On the final day itself, I was rushing back & forth, returning to the restaurant many times to make sure that things fall into place properly - the tables, the setup, the decor, the candles, the lights, the crystals, the cakes & the flowers.

I didn't have to worry about this though. This light decor thing came with the restaurant.

This I had to worry. It was one of those things that just fell into place.

The lighting guy suggested something like snowflakes. But I said it's my wife's birthday, we're not celebrating Christmas now. Then he said he had some crystals. So I said, bring them on baby. All of them.

This is Nee & Sarah, one of the most creative young & hip chefs around in Kuching.

She was the reason why the bash was held at Magenta. Nee has been learning a lot of Western cooking from her & so it was a pleasure to get her to cook up something new for Nee on her birthday.

Now, planning for a dinner like this is ok lah. I think I can pretty much handle things. But when it came to the menu, I was as lost as a Foochow in Paris. So this was the part that needed professional consultation from the Birthday girl.

For soup, we all had cream of potatos with scallops and prawn fritters. Simple but just EXCELLENT.

Salmom ceviche with lemon dill dressings and camembert cheese. I have just discovered my new true love - Fried Camembert Cheese.

Then for the main course, the guests had the option of rusted codfish with shitake butter (no photos unfortunately) or Charbroiled sirloin stuffed with thymed scented mushrooms,

or Grilled Lamb Cutlets with spicy mocha sauce.

And you know what, every single one of them was EXCELLENT. I am not kidding. I was sitting next to Nee's little brother, who is one of the snobbiest & pickiest, high-class eater in the Foochow world & he looked like this with every dish that came out that night.

See, he looked extremely happy. The only difference between the two photos were the dishes on the table.But seriously, the food was GOOD.

And for dessert, a choice of the best Creme brulee in town,

or double choc cake.

I think Sarah outdid herself that night. We were just so impressed.

But you know, food aside, what really made it a wonderful evening were the presence of the close friends and family that love, support and care about us, all this while. It is truly a joy to be in their midst, warmth & laughter.

And of course, a birthday celebration must have a cake! In Nee's case, it's with one candle that fits all ages. This one came from Sarah.

And because I was worried that there might not be enough cakes to go around, I bought Nee two more.
These two were new creations from Tom's which are not out in the market yet. I couldn't have gotten them without Jackie's help. I'm just so grateful to her for this. Thanks Jackie!

Both Nee & I would like to express our utmost gratitude to all friends & family members who were there to celebrate with us, & especially for their very sincere & generous gifts.

Oh, by the way, I got Nee these flowers. I got very excited over these myself when I picked them up from the florist cos I was really hoping that they understood what I wanted, & they did! 120%!
You should have seen me then. I smiled until my teeth fell out. And when Nee saw them that night, her teeth fell out also.

And I am not gay. I just love my wife okay.

Thank you all from the very bottom of our hearts!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Very Special Day

Today is a very special day. I woke up at a very ungodly hour to do this.

Yes, boiling eggs. Actually, 7am is not an ungodly hour for most people. It's the normal hour that you'd have to wake up to go to work. :)

What's the special ocassion? Well, it's Nee's birthday today!!! She will be having a full day packed with programmes. Jo & Jac will be bringing her out for a long afternoon lunch. Then tonite will be the grand finale. In the meantime, I will have to busy bee to make sure that things fall into their proper places.

It's a time for her to be surrounded with friends & also family & also well wishes. I'd like to share that with you, dear readers of this humble little blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Kum Den

For those of you who are familar with Melbourne City Chinatown food, you would probably have eaten at Kum Den at one time or another, especially when you were still students.

The place served cheap Chinese/Cantonese food in large, hungry-student portions. This was practically the place that students came to feed themselves. It wasn't about classy dining. It was about feeding the hunger. I can still remember that this was the place where the waiters would literally throw the plates & spoons to you (almost at you) when arranging the table cos they were too busy & business was exploding.

So when our cousins Michelle, John and Sharon made the trip down to see us, all the way from Clayton, Roger suggested The NEW Kum Den which is an upgrade of the earlier version.

There were six of us and we wanted to be comfortable. The New Kum Den, which is Kum Den No. 2.0 is opened one alley away from the old one and it has packaged itself as a family place, seemed to have maintain their tradition of cheaper food (without the cheapo frisbee-throwing service) but served in a more cozy & customer-friendly environment.

We also chose the place because we were suspecting that those three sweeties would want to pay for dinner which we would not allow as they were still in the category of students. But just in case they moved faster than the old folks, it would not be too taxing on them. Well, we were right but Greg managed to move faster. He had enough of boot-camp foochow training in bill grabbing (100 metres sprint).

These were what we had:

Duck with Yam deep fried

Spinach with 3 kinds of eggs

Some fried chicken with salted eggs

This was my favourite ~ Pipa Tofu.
The tofu was mashed and mixed with other ingredients like ham & vegies before being lined onto a chinese spoon to be steamed into the Pipa shape. It was then deep fried and served with sauce and some greens.

Kingdu Pork Ribs

Steamed Baramudi ~ Roger saw it still swimming in the tank before it was sacrificed to our table.

There were altogether 6 dishes including complimentary soup, rice and tea for AUD120 (RM280). Not bad for the price. But we do find the dishes slightly on the salty side. And you may notice we orderd a tact bit too much of deep fried food. Oops I wonder who did the ordering?! Nevertheless, the whole point was to meet up with the cousins, & we really enjoyed their cheerful & loud company, as always.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Royal Dim Sum at East Imperial

Ok, you may not know this so we're telling you now. Normally, we'd think that the best Dim Sums in the world has to be in Hong Kong right? Well, in many cases, that is correct.
But in the case of Melbourne, it's a slightly different scenario. My classmate Fong from Hong Kong used to tell me that dim sums in Melbourne are generally as good, or even better (can you believe this?) than Hong Kong because all the ingredients are readily available in Melbourne, & to top it off, there's no queue. So knowing that, it was hard for us not to have dim sum in Melbourne before we left.

We wanted to try Terri's Red Emperor, (umm... I mean as recommended by Terri, not owned by Terri!) but Greg just could not seem to fit this it into his super-busy, hard-working, ultra-tight work schedule (just in case his boss is reading this). Either he had a working lunch or he couldn't make it back to the city before 2pm. So we had to abandon the Red Emperor idea until next time. So for now, the great Red Emperor can wait, ... for the two little hungry bloggers from a little place called Kuching.

Instead, Roger took us to this place which was nearer to his apartment. It was called East Imperial at Rathdowne St (corner of Rathdowne and Faraday St). Take any one of the Swanston St trams that stop at Melbourne University, walk to your right on Faraday till you come to Rathdowne, then follow your nose.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical about the place at first. My initial thoughts were "Huh? Yum cha at Rathdowne? Sure this place is not out to cheat angmos?!"

The second thing - I thought the place was too clean too posh to be authentic. The interior decor has the Qin Dynasty theme with the terracotta warriors, hanging beads curtain and solid chinese furnitures. It was definitely very clean and more posh than the usual yum cha outlets. Just look at the teapot and tea cups, and the box for bills.

Food wise, we liked. Roger was right, East Imperial does serve their dim sums in a more refined manner. It seemed like the chefs knew what they were doing, & were doing it in the proper way & being careful about it. Even the waiters and waitresses seemed to be more refined. And so was the bill.

Sorry to shock your socks off with the bill even before you saw the food.

Roger & I arrived at 1.30 pm and ordered one round of dim sums for the two of us while waiting for Greg. He did not show up till around 2.45pm. So the second round of food which we ordered for him around 2.15 pm had gotten slightly cold but he was too hungry, & eating them too fast too furious to even taste anything. And of course you can tell from the pictures that he just could not be bothered with the shots anymore.

Egg tarts ~ very nice and flaky.

Cheong Fun with Prawns ~ Rice rolls. Smooth!

Beancurd rolls ~ pretty common. Not our favourites. In fact I think we did not finish this one.

Guo tie~ pot stickers, This is so good. Nice crispy with
tasty fillings. We had 3 helpings if I remember correctly.

Prawn fritters. The string like rolls outside is actually made out of finely
rolled potatos and twirled around the prawns before deep frying. A must have!

Xiao Long Bao ~ shanghainese dumplings. Very good. The skin was
thin yet firm and the soupy juice aplenty.

Dim Sum must have duos ~ har kow and siew mai. Somehow the har kows were not that excellent. I found them not crunchy enough. Roger agreed too.

Scallops dumplings ~ Fresh and tasty!

Shark fin dumplings ~ pretty good! but I'm sure other places can do as well.

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