after black cafe

one of the best places to open cafes is near universities. 

in fact, the commercial row across from sunway university has had quite a change in cafe growth spurt since my last time i was around here trying out garage 51

wait a second... that means my last time here was almost 2 years ago....

well, okay. i have my reasons. 

if truth be told - there was not much of a compelling reason to return before, especially with the mandatory face-off against an almost impossible challenge every time i head there for food called "blank parking space".

the latter is reason enough. 

after black.

the typical industrial chic decor of black metal + wooden panels and furniture against the dark colored walls which was illuminated by the warm morning sun streaming through the window panels along the walls.

strings of bulbs of warm light were hung across the room and interjections of petite potted greens and art pieces against the wall added a little something to the decor. some vintage pieces found at the back of the cafe and rows of books breath personality and whimsy to the space.

one thing though, i'd imagine the room being rather dark after dark....

...which may be its intention after all, with its name and all... perhaps?

the menu was an interesting mix of asian fusion where the food seemed hearty and familiar. ultimate value set -- the pairing of selected mains with carbs (i.e. pasta or the black rice) were also up for the picking. most importantly.  i've read that coffee stands in the limelight at after black so it was a must for me to try.

coffee & chocolate // hot :: latte (rm 9.90)

i've read many good things about the rose latte at this cafe but i thought it was best to stick to the classics to really taste its coffee flavor notes - nutty notes, ending with a bitterness that was transient. the beans they picked didn't have that full bodied flavor profile i typically adore in my lattes but overall it was a decent cuppa.

coffee & chocolate // hot :: toffee nut chocolate (rm 11.90)

{mh} craves for this and had talked about this deliciousness a few times previously. so it wasn't a surprise when she knew what she was gonna order even before we got there. this cup of hot sweet beverage had all the flavor notes that the name promises - nutty within the chocolate-y goodness ending with an undertone of rounded sweetness of the toffee. not too cloyingly sweet and not as rich as i'd imagine - lighter flavor nuances but delightful and comforting.

ultimate value set :: garlic herbs roasted chicken whole leg + cheese baked black rice (rm18.90 + rm 1)

served with a generous scoop of potato salad, the grilled chicken with beautifully seared skin on the chicken rested upon a lettuce leaf, glistening slightly with the light drizzle of honey. the meat under the lovely crispy skin was moist and seasoned nicely with subtle garlic flavors while the occasional textural crunch of the skin and sweetness of the honey. the underside of the chicken leg offered an unexpected heat, which was a welcomed variation to the flavor profile. not sure if that was an intended but it certainly worked to their favor.

the potato salad was a chunky mashed potato dressed in a mix of mayo and a light sour cream but it was carb overload with the side of potato salad and the baked cheese rice. i would have very much preferred a vegetable sauté to balance out the meal. for the record i wasn't much of a fan of the potato salad mainly because it was strong on the mayo and lacking in seasoning.

the cheese baked charcoal colored (black) rice is a signature at after black, interestingly i'd probably call it as a dish mascot. the charcoal hue is attributed to the addition of squid ink that gave it a subtle seafood saltiness to the rice, mellowed by the gooey cheesy goodness baked atop. the rice was slightly underdone resulting to the bits of crunch and despite that it was pretty good.

ultimate value set ::  grilled chicken chop with sweet basil bbq sauce + cheese baked black rice (rm18.90 + rm 1)

{mh}'s pick was doused in a thickend sweet & sour like sauce with chunks of pineapple but i just didn't find nor taste the sweet basil. the grilled chicken chop rested on a pile of sautéed string beans and tomatoes. it was a pretty huge serving of food especially with the addition of the cheese baked black rice to which {mh} was munching it up happily.

dessert :: matcha chocolate mille crepe (rm 9.90)

although we were stuffed almost to the brim, but i guess the saying "there is always room for dessert" is true! plus we were sharing and i skipped the potato salad and didn't really finish the rice either. (why am i trying to justify here.. i don't know lol!).

anywhoooo, i took the first bite that had a strong green tea punch and soon realized it was because of the heavy sprinkling of the green tea powder on the top and eventually the chocolate took over as we ate our way through the cake. the mille crepe layers were lost in the midst of the cream which i thought was a pity especially after the work put into it. it didn't quite come close to our favorite mille crepe.

tldr // after black offers hearty meals with that familiar asian flavor profile at a reasonable price with their signature cheese baked black rice which is infused with squid ink. their latte was alright, while their stronger point was their toffee nut hot chocolate. overall, while the dishes offered was solid, it would have been nice if they had added special twists in their interpretation of the food as they do with their drinks.

after black cafe | location
23 jalan pjs 11/9
46150 petaling jaya
{opens weds - sundays: 11 am  - 11 pm
closed tuesdays}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

brunching palazzo viva

telawi, bangsar. 

concentrated with popular brunch spots for the picking. 
the home of one of my favorite brunch cafes, yeast
an ever-changing food scene with new restaurants eyeing to make a lasting impression with food adventurers.

palazzo viva.

rooted firmly in italian roots, the elegant cafe quickly caught my eye with its monochrome colors of marble and black, accentuated by geometric motifs that gave its decor a personality. brightly lit in a spacious dining area where beautifully colorful petite desserts filled the glass counters at either sides of the wall and wine bottles lining the white shelves with intermittent natural greens. while the open kitchen allowed the chefs to show off the mastery to their diners at the back of the restaurant.

offering their signature big breakfast at a special price (rm 25 instead of the usual rm 27 + an additional glass of juice) for weekend brunches, {mh} and i decided to give the italian not-so-new-addition to the cafe scene in telawi a shot.

breakfast :: palazzo's big breakfast | eggs of choice, chicken sausage, beef bacon or turkey ham, salad, yoghurt parfait, baked beans, roasted potatoes, two slices of toast

the components of the big breakfast were a colorful bunch collectively gathered upon a rather large cheese board.  in fact, it was quite an attractive spread with the generous basket of roasted potatoes and a small saucepan of lightly scrambled eggs topped with crisp beef bacon. it came with a glass of juice, which was a choice of mango or pineapple where i picked the former but it didn't quite taste like it was freshly squeezed.

the bread was akin plain focaccia toasted with possibly butter but left an unpleasant greasy taste on my palate that somewhat distracted me from the texture of the bread - a tad dry. the salad was a mix of greens with a halved cherry tomato but very light dressing which was a pleasant tart addition to the combo. the baked beans was nice but the sausage was off-putting and i prefer franks with a bite to their casing, which these lacked. and what i thought was soft boiled egg in a small glass at first glance was actually mango yoghurt, which neither here nor there for me.

my favorite was probably the roasted potato wedges which had a crunchy outer texture and soft insides and seasoned just nicely. the scramble was almost on par where the soft texture was countered by the semi-crisp beef bacon for those salty bits in a lovely ratio to allow the bacon to season the eggs just nicely.

tldr // palazzo viva is an italian cafe located in telawi bangsar dressed in beautifully elegant decor of marble white and black. the brunch special was neither here nor there for me although the scrambles + beef bacon and the roasted potatoes were pretty good. however in general the decor left a lasting impression on me more than the brunch did.

palazzo viva | location
no 10 & 12,
jalan telawi 2,
bangsar baru,
59100 kuala lumpur
{opens tues - thurs, sunday: 9 am - 1 am;
fri - sat: 9 am - 2 am
closed mondays}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

{chiang mai} rustic & blue

when i planned a visit to our northern neighbor, if the food wasn't thai, it was probably not going onto my eating itinerary. 

well, the exception was my coffee fixes. 

and this. 

a restaurant located in the hip street of nimmanhaemin was recommended by a talented artist friend of mine who is currently residing in bangkok. its decor was as how i'd imagine the restaurant to be from its name - rustic, cozy and reminiscent of sharing a meal at the dining table of a friendly farm house.

a matching game of wooden furniture coupled with hanging greens occupied the dining space. at one side  of the room were shelves that held collections of tea leaves and few stacked cookbooks (i spied momofuku!).

smacked right in the middle of the dining space was a big rustic table where diners can pick to eitherwatch the staff prepping drinks at the back of the tiled counter or people-watch through the full length sliding door at the back of the restaurant of diners mingling and basking under the sun in the the restaurant's wide garden furnished for al-fresco dining.

akin to its decor inside, the garden was filled with comfy looking couches and benches with stringed lighting of bulbs hung over through the tree that created a cozy ambiance. if only the weather was cooler, that would have probably been our choice of seats. 

the decor was just the beginning. the theme persisted even in their approach food styles - inclination towards new american but with an organic farm-to-table concept, its menu gave an impression that most of there ingredients were made in-house. that was the kind of restaurants i've always liked.

warm & hearty :: duck prosciutto crostini | house-cured duck breast prosciutto, warm fresh mozzarella cheese, mango black tea jam, rocket, rustic rosemary bread (thb 185)

served on a wooden serving board, three pieces of crostini displayed itself proudly with its finishing drizzle of a balsamic reduction. the idea of combining the flavors of gamey-savory saltiness from the duck prosciutto countered by the fruity sweetness of the jam, creaminess of the cheese, pepper notes from the arugula and the occasional tartness of the balsamic reduction was interesting. there were some play on textures which was nice. 

there were some room for improvement: it was hard to chew a piece off the unsure duck "bacon" in the most elegant manner and it was too hard with a fork and knife. the gaminess may have a bit too pronounced. the bread itself had subtle hints of rosemary which was easily overshadowed by the other ingredients of the dish. my favorite part has got to be the reduced mango black tea jam against the melted mozzarella cheese. 

warm & hearty :: bbq pulled pork sliders | brioche mini burger bun, bbq sauce, rocket, pickled beetroot, homemade gorgonzola cheese (thb 185)

served with a side of sweet potato fries, it was a pretty huge serving despite its bun was "mini". the side of fries were greasy but i loved the splash of colors and flavors from the different sweet potatoes and the rare crunch of the salt against the natural sweetness, with the deep fried garlic chips. 

the pulled pork was mostly great but some bites were of borderline dry pulled meat doused in a generous amount of the sweet-vinegary (i thought i tasted notes of apple cider vinegar) bbq sauce. the strips of beets were visible but was mild on the taste. however, my mom thought the sandwich was pretty good. 

what i loved about rustic & blue is the farm-to-table concept coupled with most of the items are made #fromscratch and in-house and i am a sucker for those. the creativity in combining classic flavors and occasionally splashing in unexpected combinations while still making the flavors work beautifully together is something i always look forward to at a restaurant on top of friendly service. there are still some room for improvement in the execution but i like what is serving from this kitchen.

rustic&blue farm house | location
nimman soi 7
chiang mai thailand
{opens tues-fri : 830am - 5pm
opens sat-sun : 830am - 10pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

{chiang mai} akha ama coffee

a short entry. 

work and class have gotten a tad busy these days. 

a short entry but manage i will ;)

*               *               *

just as ristr8to has captured the attention of coffee enthusiasts in chiang mai, akha ama coffee has similarly garnered the same love and recognition for its caffeine beverages. 

my initial reasons were mainly because of the location of the cafe, its ambiance and of course, its cup of brew.

however, these were overshadowed after a quick read about akha ama's origins and its reasons - the cafe's founder, lee ayu sources coffee beans from local farmers in his village and neighboring communities who practice sustainable organic farming and fair trade while bringing that local coffee beans into the thriving local caffeine scene in chiang mai.  loosely described, it almost resembles the farm-to-table concept, supporting the local farmers and bringing the freshest coffee beans for coffee lovers in the northern city of thailand.

i never quite understood its slogan of "socially empowered enterprise" until now and lee's efforts were recognized when their beans have been selected by the speciality coffee association of europe (scae) for the world cup tasters championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

the sun was unbearably hot, to the point it felt scorching that i quickly sought shelter at akha ama cafe by one of the busiest and oldest wats in chiang mai, wat para singh.

the petite shop was not as bustling as ristr8to. it took a very minimalist rustic approach in its decor - adorning the typical cafe industrial theme, keeping it simple with cement walls with occasional red bricks and accented by wood logs. i enjoyed the hand drawn arts of the essentials behind a cup of brew on the wall of chalkboard which added a little charm to the cafe's personality. mellow songs played in the background but were contrasted by the occasional screech of the espresso machine.

i ordered at the counter and picked a seat at the high table where i could watch the barista work his magic behind the counter. best of all, i had a front row seat to enjoy watching chiang mai just go by along its daily routine - uninterrupted.

espresso :: mocha (thb 550)

i looked at the latte art on my mocha in amusement - how fitting that it reflected my love that has grown for the city as my vacation in chiang mai was nearing the end. 

i sipped the cacao-coffee beverage while people watching, quickly noting the lovely flavors of the espresso. the espresso was full-bodied and smooth to the taste accentuated by the creamy milk where the various flavor notes ended with a tart finish, paired with the lip smacking bitterness. 

the cacao half was too subtle and left me wondering "where has the chocolate flavor gone to?". its lack of balance in the cacao - coffee ratio had this cup inclined towards the latte instead of a mocha. despite that, it was still an enjoyable cuppa. 

oh! and the people watching?

i found it absolutely endearing and amusing, even as of the many walks of life, tourists and locals including monks moved at their own pace towards their next destination. add into the equation the songthaews, 'tuk tuks' and motorbikes that whizzed by quickly, occasionally stopping by the side of the street to pick up passengers. it was oddly calming and found it almost meditative.  

akha ama coffee la fattoria was an unforgettable experience that i never expected to have enjoyed this immensely.  definitely one of my favorite things to do while i was in chiang mai (read more here).  this was when i finally slowed down to savor my vacation with every sipful of coffee while people watching to recharge myself mentally and emotionally. just lovely.

akha ama coffee la fattoria | location
175/1 rachdhamnoen rd,
phrasingha, muaeng,
chiang mai thailand
{opens mon-sat : 8am - 6pm
opens sun : 8am - 8pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.