Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Breaking News: Sham Visa to Open Top Notch Restaurant!!

From left: Chef Hanapi, En Zaini, Sham Visa, and En Norhazemi.
En Norhazemi is the owner of the well-known Nasi Ayam Gemas :)

This is an special entry because I am promoting a friend's soon-to-open restaurant :) Sham Visa, who probably rocked you to sleep on your walkman back in sekolah menengah (read: Untukmu Selamanya and Gerimis Semalam), is opening a restaurant soon and me and hubs were called in for the food tasting. We were thrilled and honoured, and had literally starved ourselves the whole day for the occasion. Sham and his wife Ila, practically served us the food themselves in a 5-star hotel setting in their family dining room. Good thing I didn't sign my name on the fan-mail I sent back in 1991 or I would be blushing bright red and choking on my food at the arrangement.

The celebrated chef is Chef Hanapi with 20 years worth of experience in the hotel business. He looks and talks like one of those Chefs on the Asian Food Channel; intelligent-sounding, worldly, and knowledgeable in all the latest cooking techniques and do's and don'ts of culinary. As a woman, hearing him talk made me feel challenged and inadequate in my cooking skills. As a human being I have come to realize that men yang bersungguh-sungguh can even surpass a woman in her own kitchen. As a wife, I am grateful Mazlan is easy to please and can live on sandwiches and tempoyak. 

The dishes I am reviewing here are the few that will be served at the soon-to-open exclusive restaurant. We started off with fries, and I do love fries. I grew up on fries and baked potatoes, and have pretty much cracked the code of potatoes and what it's good for. But the sauce that came with the fries--tartar and some green condiment--was definitely crazy. If I can get my hands on the recipe of the sauce I would sell it for a million dollars to some foreign country. Mainly because anything you dip in it will taste good!!

Chips with magic sauce. So good ~

Then we had mushroom soup and it was definitely all mushroom in there, not flour and artificial flavoring and preservaties like Pizza Hut's and so many other places. It is 100% crushed mushrooms brought to a boil, drizzled with fresh cream and sprinkled with parsley. It's healthy and good for you! Islamic Kitchen and San Franciso Pizza serves soup like this in a tiny bowl at about RM10 per bowl. Very very good.

Mushroom soup made from REAL mushrooms

Next we had black pepper crab, and this dish just blew me away. Right until the end of the food session, nothing compares to the sweetness, and unique flavour of this dish (I am starting to sound like one of those German chefs on AFC who can't find enough words to describe something). I could just order this with white rice and I would be deliriously happy (circa Mazlan 2014). And that is a lot coming from a girl who is not even a fan of seafood, let alone crab, mainly because I have to get all 10 fingers spoiled just trying to get to a little piece of meat (which is also the reason why I rarely eat prawns).

Black Pepper Crab. So awesome A++

Then we had rack of lamb cooked medium rare with asparagus and carrots and even without glancing at my husband who was diligently eating by my side, I know Mazlan must be thanking his lucky stars. This is his favourite all-time dish at any restaurant that serves it. The lamb was tender and juicy and tasted very expensive. At about this time, I felt really blessed. It suddenly occurred to me that Allah was treating me and hubs for a very nice dinner FOC; this was a RM100 dish by itself right here.

Rack of lamb with asparagus.

Next up was braised beef and again -- wowee~~ The meat was tender and juicy and aromatic, and I was beginning to feel like I should have married a chef instead of a sound engineer. Is it talent or can cooking skills be learned? And how does one persuade one's husband to sign-up for culinary school? I would have signed up myself, but we have already concluded at the beginning of this entry that men are better cooks.

Braised beef
Up next was the red snapper in Red Sauce. I wouldn't say much about this dish. I still had black pepper crab on my mind and in my heart at the time and it wouldn't be fair on the red snapper if I compared between the two. I am sure my Chinese born grandma would have love this dish though. It has an asam pedas taste to it with lots of udang kering. And served with hot rice...it would be simply awesome..
Red Snapper in Red Sauce ala Nyonya. Good~

The last dish up was the Paella. We were served two types of Paella: Seafood on Rice Paella and Seafood on Pasta Paella. From above, they both look the same, so I am sticking in only one picture here. Think lots of seafood "piled up" on a bed of rice/pasta, then think Paella. Now think delicious, and I should try it. Now order.

The rice seafood paella. Very good!

The paella is cooked in a pan in the oven, and as it cooks, all the juices from the meat run down and drenches the rice/pasta, fusing the flavours together wonderfully. I thought the dish was different at first and then, perhaps at the 3rd spoonful, it started to taste pretty awesome. You should definitely not judge this dish through your eyes, but rather, let your taste buds decide. The rice/pasta is not stirred as it is being cooked (that will mess it up even more), so each spoonful will taste slightly different. It does taste a bit bland though, compared to our very flavourful foods, so I am not surprised if some creative chef comes up with a Malaysianized version of this dish (he'll probably gaul the rice, stick in a few stalks of cili padi then rearrange the prawns and mussels in a flower shape). I am sure when that happens, it will be quite a hit.

Heidi. Daddy's #1 fan.
Thanks to Sham and wife for inviting us over. Congratulations to the chef for the fab dishes.  And many thanks also to Encik Zaini and Encik Norhazemi for the great conversation over dinner and on sharing stuff with us about the restaurant industry.                                                  

I hypothesize (in my all-creative-expectant mind with benchmark levels as high as Gunung Kinabalu ---that Mazlan loves so much) that it's going to be a top-notch diner with solid tables and plush chairs, pretty waiters in batik uniforms, silent air-conditioning, low music, free wi-fi, all credit cards accepted, and cuisine made from the freshest ingredients! Jomming all friends to check this place out once it opens; with food as good as this insya'Allah you will find it a super big hit!! 

p/s please order the black pepper crab! Here it is again. Different angle.



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  2. I always have this dream of becoming a chef....la lalala la. Honestly.
    Never too late to start huh?

    Loved the fries as well. wonder if they'll give us a buy-one free-one deal every time we go there in the future....

    anyway...lets wish sham & partners all the best in their new endeavor. they deserve all the success, considering all the hard work that they have put in.
    May Allah ease their path..

    1. yes, I always dreamed you would become a chef too....kekekeke...
      maybe you can ask Sham about the fries..hahaha