killer gourmet burgers - kgb

"what do we demand of the perfect hamburger? that the meat patty be profoundly beefy in flavor, mouthwateringly browned on the outside, and succulent (a combination of juicy and tender) on the inside. the bread or bun should not interfere with any of these virtues. it should be soft, mild, and unassertive; it's job is to absorb every last drop of savory juice trickling from the meat while keeping the burger more or less in one piece and your hands dry."

jeffrey steingarten, an always precise food critic and writer, has decidedly listed the virtues that define THE perfect hamburger. 

he reiterates, almost with a sense of resoluteness...

"mouthwatering, beefy, juicy and tender - not too much to ask from life but entirely elusive, at least to me. it's not as though i haven't tried. God knows, i've tried"

mr steingarten is also a man with a brilliant food mind, whom i have utmost respect for and look up to as my inspiration for my foodie ways. so who am i to argue on his views of the quintessential hamburger?

valid points but these are merely the foundation that is mandatory for the perfect hamburger to build on; throw in a few more essential pre-requisites: a beautiful deep brown crust where the flavors are concentrated (think the maillard reaction) on a thin beef patty (not a fan of the thick patties - at that point, i'd rather go with a steak) cooked medium rare/medium on the griddle.

hmm... perhaps, those are more like my preferences.

// the maillard reaction - also known as the browning reaction - is a series of chemical reactions that take place when protein-rich foods are heated. large proteins break into smaller compounds which react with others, recombining into new configurations. they break apart again, recombine, and on and on in a cascade of chemical reactions that creates hundreds of brand new compounds."

sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go - the good ol' cheeseburger (with a ton of cheese, of course). even so, there are always those days where bacon, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, caramelized onions add ons can either elevate the flavors or accentuate the beefy greatness to a greater intensity when intricately paired.

THAT is my ideal hamburger.

and these were the qualities i was looking for when i was picking out one of their renditions under the crust seared burgers menu at kgb, short for 'killer gourmet burgers'.

its industrial inspired setup was akin a shack with exposed red bricks as its backdrop where the brightly lit sign hung above the menu behind the counter. once orders and payments were made over the counter, i took my metal number tent and picked a wooden table with metal chairs for two, while waiting my dining companion to complete her order.

it was tough to choose a burger i wanted, but my cravings had made the selection easier - the animal style - crust seared (of course!) 100% steak grade australian grass fed beef, mustard grilled, sharp cheddar, caramelized onions and shack sauce that i had requested to have it on the side (rm 14.90)

stamped with its signature logo on the top of the bun, and the cheese melted on the seared beef patty glistened slightly in its juices under the spotlight (literally... well, there was actually a bright lamp  just right above the table).

the juicy patty was cooked almost to the doneness i had requested for - medium-ish, begging for just a slightly more crust to the sear and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. the patty comes apart effortlessly with every chew in the mouth, intensifying the beefy flavor that shone behind the melted cheddar. it paired beautifully with the slight sweetness of the caramelized onions but the bun fell short (i frowned momentarily) - it was dry.

while all these time, the shack sauce was benched on the side as a spectator. there's a history between us, the shack sauce and i. my first kgb experience was a few years ago when i had gotten myself the same burger. my burger had been over-sauced, the sauce overwhelmed the palate and casted an eclipse over the beef patty. this time, i cautiously dipped my burger lightly in the shack sauce and took a bite - creamy with whispers of light spicy tartness. my personal inclination remained the same - without the sauce, please.

weak against fries, i succumbed to ordering a basket of fries with just salt and pepper to be shared. medium thick cut, deep fried but not too greasy. but most of them were not crispy enough either.

tldr // kgb starts their burger with the right stuff: all natural thin beef patties, seared crusted just enough to lock in the juices in the beef. some fixing are needed though, the dry bun distracts from the patties and the shack sauce - strong in its presence (sometimes too strong) may overwhelm the tastebuds. get those right, then we may have something great in our hands.

killer gourmet burgers | location 
232-b lg, the gardens mall
mid valley city,
59200, kuala lumpur
{opens daily: 11am - 10pm}

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

paul patisserie & boulangerie

"On a tous dans sa vie des grands rendez-vous à ne pas manquer. J'ai moi-même saisi deux opportunités qui sont à l'origine des étapes décisives de cette formidable aventure."

a familiar dark facade caught my eye as i rushed through pavilion kl. i stopped abruptly on my tracks to take a glance at the off-white print against the black walls:

depuis 1889

obviously excited and quietly whispering "OMG" to myself while texting my foodie friend in bangkok, i doubled back slightly to find that the first outlet in malaysia has still some ways to go in the making.

that was three to four months ago. 

that was also how long i agonized/anticipated until the day it finally welcomed diners through its open doors where i jumped at the first opportunity to dine when i finally found a willing dining companion within the first few days.

priding itself with a 125-year long tradition through five generations, paul kept its signature trademark front that paired effortless with the checkered black & white floors where the golden pastries and the bright colors of the fresh fruit tarts flirtatiously beckons you over from behind the glass case. i was almost distracted by the golden brown pastries until my dining companion pulled me back to the maitre d's desk to request for a table for dinner.

shifting my attention between the open dining space centered around the espresso machine station and the french-english inspired dining space, we promptly made out choice and walked through the open french doors into the latter. the gold accented trimmings framed paintings against the off white walls. multi-colored chairs pushed in against the light brown tables where the familiar paper place mats are laid as the server placed the menu on our table.

slightly nostalgic, it took me aback very briefly to my first encounter with paul patisserie - a heavy brunch of crepe and super thick hot chocolate in rabat, morocco and my second in the form of pastries take out during my quick layover at dubai airport, both on the same trip. that was merely three of the paul patisserie locations in 33 different countries, globally.

flipping through the menu, it featured french classics - mains and sandwiches but my dining companion, who had tried its franchise in philippines, was surprised at the limited selection for the main dishes. she skipped ahead and spent more time poring through the dessert pages even when her mind was already made up for her dessert choice.

i was left with an unshakable need for a hearty grilled cheese sandwich after a friend had showed me a picture of one just a few days prior. unknowingly, my cravings had made my main dish selection quick but i still had an inner struggle to pick only ONE dessert off the menu.... okay, maybe two - one for here and another to go. and perhaps also a piece of their baked breads. or could i instead get two...?

the server returned to our table just minutes after, our faces immediately fell when she broke the bad news that neither of our dessert choices were available (i ordered tartelette aux fraise - crème pâtisserie and strawberries while my dining companion desired millefeuille chocolat - the napolean with chocolate crème pâtisserie). back to the menu, we went searching and as we named our second choices, to which our server shook her head, signaling their unavailability. we finally agreed to share one of the few available desserts, disappointment still looming over our heads.

it didn't help alleviate the frustration when the server returned for a third time when they ran out of the iced tea i ordered. in my head, i was imagining myself causing a scene and asking what is NOT unavailable on the menu. but i didn't. still, it wasn't an impressive start to the evening.

starting with a complementary basket of bread of just plain bread slices, it paled in comparison to the one i had at its moroccan counterpart where they served a variety of bread, one of which featured olives and served with softened french butter. here, they didn't even serve any butter.

nos croque monsier :: croque oignons caramélisés et tomates | emmental cheese, caramelized onions and tomatoes, cream and pain de mie (rm 30+)

halved diagonally and served with a simple side salad tossed in a light tart dressing, this no-ham twist that had the beginnings of a croque monsieur, was filled with decent amount of lightly sweetened caramelized onions and juicy slices of slightly tart tomato, contrasted against the melted nutty, mild flavored emmental crust; the soft but firm pain de mie was missing some crisp edges. i wished for more cheese, especially with that steep price tag for a french version of a grilled cheese sandwich.

desserts :: crème brûlée | smooth, creamy custard topped with brittle caramelized sugar (rm 18)

the fragile golden brown bruleed sugar top instantly cracked (in a satisfying manner) under the light tap of the dessert spoon. the creamy custard was smooth, borderline runny but oddly enough, had an occasional curdled texture on the tip of the tongue and eggy undertones.

the custard was lightly sweetened to accommodate the sweet, crispy layer of caramelized sugar, it would have been better with a more pronounced vanilla running through the custard. while the bruleed top was on point, a little tweaking could take this rendition of this traditional dessert to perfection.

i ordered a "to-go" dessert (it was a tart aux myrtle - the blueberry tart) but i figured it wouldn't be a fair review since i didn't get to it within the next day. thus, i'd have to reserve my thoughts, at least for now.

tldr // paul pâtisserie & boulangerie has a menu that is rooted in its 125 year tradition, serving french classics that were featured in all of my three encounters in different countries. it all highlighted one similarity - paul's strength lies in the breads (which translates to pain in french). while i'd imagine the same high quality in their renditions of tartelette and millefeuille, i'd love to affirm my suspicions during my next visit despite the steep prices.

however, the contrasting quality at paul kl from the rest is also its biggest flaw - the service...or rather the lack thereof. the service was slow, uninformed and unorganized. my biggest pet peeve was the unavailable menu items especially the sought after pastries & desserts despite it being still pretty early into the dinner service.

but for now, i'd stick with the pain, tartelette, millefeuille and the likes - oh, and can i get it to go please?

paul pâtisserie & boulangerie | location 
2.09.02 & s2.09.02, level 2
pavilion elite,
168, bukit bintang street,
bukit bintang, 55100 kl
{opens daily: 10am - 10pm}

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

{ busan } suminine // 수민이네

we stared intently down the slightly busy main street. one bus approached but we quickly shifted our attention to another one coming down the road as we realized it was not the right bus number.

we sighed as we looked at our watches. 

"8:30 pm"

we were starving after a spending four hours at the spaland and now we had the dilemma of either taking a cab or to wait for bus that may not even come to get to our dinner spot in haeundae. 

after a few busses whizzed past us (they weren't the right ones either), we took a chance with my shaky korean and asked one of the taxi drivers who were parked in the taxi line if he knew how to get to su-min-i-ne

after a few seconds of hand gesturing, we were driving through the inner narrow lanes of dimly lit housing areas. i was beginning to worry that he may have misunderstood my korean but i breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the brightly lit signs of that read SUMININE on one and 수민이네 on the other.

we took refuge inside the restaurant from the chilly evening, occupying one of the round metal tables instead of picking out a tent outside. we hung our coats on our own plastic chairs and took a quick glance around the brightly lit restaurant that was lined with windows. realizing we were surrounded by mostly local diners who were pairing their grilled seafood dinners with local beer, we thrilled that we may have found a real food gem in busan.

thinking how i'd order without a menu, it was a huge relief when our order was taken in english. the owner had brought out a plateful of scallops, clams and mussels as a sample as we picked out all but the mussels (my dining companion didn't care too much for them) for two and a half order of fresh eel to be grilled. 

several minutes later as we cozied into our seats, the cook brought out the hot grill, nestled it in the middle of the table and began to place the half shells over the the open fire. a feeling on anticipation and excitement grew like the flame but slowly a mild disappointment started to set in when he removed the clams and scallops from their half shell and combined them in a aluminum foil bowl placed over the open fire grill.

firstly, it felt like i was on a camping trip, albeit just for a moment.

secondly, "but..whyyyyyy?"

it was unexpected but the umami of the first clam had quickly quieten my concerns. a tent could have been set up around our metal table and a sign that reads 'flavor concentration booth' pegged all around us - because that was exactly what each bite was. the natural sweetness was accentuated by merely nudging it in the right direction with the addition of aromatics. the most intense flavors concentrated in the broth - the freshness of the shellfish did all the heavy lifting where my favorite flavors of the mild brine notes against the sweet scallops had concentrated in the broth.

i had unintentionally stared as one waitstaff made her way to the next table carrying a huge pot of steaming korean ramen soup before i glanced expectantly over at my dining companions; i chuckled slightly when i realized they were doing the same.

"라면 하나 주세요!" i asked the wait staff who repeated my one order of ramyeon, looking at me briefly, with a small smile before saying "한국어 잘했어요" ("you are doing well with the korean language") to which i smiled and nervously responded that i only knew very little.

still beaming, i shifted my attention to the grilled eel on my plate.

unseasoned, i picked up a piece of the fish with my chopsticks, still warm and slightly charred from the grill, dipped generously into the bean paste before wrapping it in the shiso leaf. crispy burnt edges against the meaty texture of the very fresh fish. 

it didn't quite leave as lasting of an impression like the scallops and clams did; the tiny bones of the eel didn't help either. we were left wanting more of the shellfish and i was the first to volunteer when the broth left in the aluminum bowl was up for grabs.

i'd be lying if i said i didn't consider licking the bowl...

instant korean noodles may not be the favorite to some, but i am a fan of the ramyeon ( so are my other dining companions). at 2,000 won, we appreciated the warmth that filled the belly, great way to finish our meal on a chilly fall night.

with 2,000 won for the ramyeon adds to a total of 52,000 won for the complete meal of the freshest grilled sweet shellfish and eel, a reasonable price tag.

i had a chance to speak to the owner very briefly as he had been so nice and accommodating to call for a cab for us to get back to the closest subway station. i had been so curious about why he spoke english fluently and also learned that the restaurant was named after him.

tldr // it was my most anticipated meal throughout my trip that i was looking forward the most and it surpassed my expectation. the grilled shellfish is a must that we are still raving about and even wished we had ordered more. after leaving behind a memory of transient happiness through its flavors, the question to ask here is not whether suminine is a mandatory food destination in busan, but instead, who will be the lucky one to call dibs on the last drops of the shellfish broth :)

cheongsapo suminine {수민이네} | location 
118 cheongsapo-ro  58 beon-gil,
jung 2(i)-dong,
haeundae, busan
south korea

//부산광역시 해운대구 청사포로58번길 118
{opens daily: 12pm- 7am}

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

top eat of 2016

i opened up the calendar on my notebook.


"shucks! a month plus delayed!"

being hectic at work has left me a little behind in my annual ritual of picking out the #bestof2016 from my collection of food photos from the previous year. twentysixteen was filled with an assortment of good food (although i've had my share of not so great ones too) but i've got to admit that there were some food experiences that stood out more memorably than others, evoking pleasant tasting memories that leaves me with a bittersweet feeling of transient but strong cravings for another bite once more.  

// the grilled scallops by cheongsapo suminine {수민이네}

the epitome of simplicity executed perfectly, highlighting the natural sweetness of the freshest seafood you could get from the coasts of south korea's second largest city, busan. 

this was easily one of the most memorable meals of 2016 where fresh shellfish on the half shell, lightly seasoned with salt & pepper, complemented by the sweetness of sliced onions, chopped garlic and straw mushrooms - placed over an open fire grill, in a bowl. cooked to perfection, the heavenly broth from the scallop's were sweet and intensely packed with an umami punch that i had a quiet desire to lick the bowl. 

so.very. delicious. period. 

and yes, i'd be going back for seconds if i return to busan for another visit.   

p.s. i have been craving to share my busan travelogues since i've returned in october 2016 but i just haven't had the time. it will, however, be written in the very near future. 

// the otoro sashimi by sou omakase

at the mere mention of "o-toro" itself, pupils dilated in excitement, an unconscious smile on the face and the mouth watering unexpectedly may be the few involuntary reactions in response. 

this piece of otoro left a lasting impression - fresh without a pang of fishiness, served at the right temperature. fatty but with an underlying familiar tuna flavor, a meltingly tender texture, moist and luscious as it enters the mouth. it was so yummy that my face was illuminated with a smile almost immediately with my eyes closed momentarily as i savored every bite, only to be surprised by my reaction seconds later. 

no doubt, the best piece of otoro i've had, thus far. 

// the hokkaido scallop sushi by sushi oribe

lightly smoky grilled flavors that gradually transitions into a citrus-y umami of the yuzu to finish off with the natural sweetness of the fresh scallop. a distinction from the torched exterior, lightly cooked - possessing a different texture than its raw interior. this fresh shellfish was accentuated further by the perfectly cooked sushi rice, still slightly warm. the beauty of the fish was that it almost seemed every chew held its own tasting experience.

// the canalé by yellow spoon pastry

a seemingly basic and simple french petite pastry in the form of a canalé.


with a desire to imitate as the best form of flattery, i've done some research to only realize how extremely fickle and delicate this french classic was to get just right. meticulous precision and mastery is vital in achieving the ideal contrasting textures with just the right amount of sweet nuances.

while this was only my second canalé that i've had, (my first time was also during the same trip to bangkok but much more forgettable) it was one that i thought embodied the qualities of an excellent canalé. with the textures resembling that of a perfectly cooked sweet french toast, the soft and tender custard interior encased in a dark, caramelized, crisp shell - baked to an almost bittersweet flavor profile to contrast the sweetness from within. 

// the cherry ripe by rosie patisserie

a petite, endearing french cafe in bangkok, serving impressive desserts mimicking its namesake.  masterfully created, the delicate combination of flavors with just the right level of sweetness and a deliberate play in the texture. the thoughtfulness were reflected in this dessert with combinations of flavor that worked beautifully together, boasting flavors of fresh cherry concentrated in the compote against the chocolate richness and creamy mousse.

"the bib gourmand list"
// of the ones who just missed the top list but deserve an honorable mention

// the iced houjicha latte by tealily cafe

besides being able to play with the very adorable #mochithecat, the depth of flavor in the iced houjicha latte is reason enough for frequent visits to this bangkok cafe, specializing in green tea. a resounding flavors of forceful roasted fragrance, lightly scorching the tips of the floral notes of the roasted green tea, rounded by the creaminess and sweetness of the milk. it was intricate as it was lovely. 

// the hanjuku cheese tart by tokyo secret


molten cheese, delicate but rich oozing slightly from the shortbread cookie buttery crush with a pleasant fragrance, striking a lovely balance of sweetness and cheesiness. the hanjyuku cheese tart assumes different alter egos after spending different periods of time in the fridge or freezer, a three-in-one cheese tart.

// the pork soup with rice in busan, south korea

a bespoke delicacy of busan in south korea where you're in control of the flavor profile of the pork soup served with condiments to be added to your preferred taste, picking from a combination of gochujang paste, fermented shrimp sauce, kimchi, bean paste, sliced green onions, garlic, etc. 

in fact, it is a dish where every bowl may taste different. 

starting out with a clean and mild flavor of the pork bone soup, containing very tender pork slices. the broth starts building character gradually with the addition of the sauces/sides, with a hope that the end product is one that is hearty and delicious. 

// the ipoh bean sprout chicken with flat rice noodle by ah loi restaurant

an old-school coffee shop specializing in a popular classic of my mom's hometown is a mandatory pit stop whenever i visit ipoh. smooth and perfectly cooked flat rice noodles in flavorful, clean broth were slurp-tastic, paired with plump bean sprouts with a fresh crunch and tender, moist chicken  albeit a bit greasy tossed in fragrant garlic oil with slightly sweetened soy sauce. the trio is a wonderful combination that brings warmth to my soul and yummy to my tummy. 

twentysixteen eats were a collection of a few hits, some averages and several misses but what was most important, it brought a few first times in my food experiences has had me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more in twentyseventeen. here's to another 365 days of yumminess :)

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

{ singapore } osteria mozza

the chef with the orange crocs. 

it's the attraction of the brightly neon colored crocs. 

come for the orange crocs, stay for the endearing charm of the person wearing them.

when i first watched chef mario batali on iron chef america - a cuddly (even almost teddy bear-like) chef in his white coat and apron, preparing five beautiful italian dishes with a cheerful demeanor even when he was under the pressure of intense culinary competition. in fact, he looked like he was having a blast. 

it was such a lasting impression that since then, mario batali has been one of my favorite chefs.
by the end of that episode, eating in one of his restaurants became a goal of mine.

that was nearly nine years ago.

so you'd imagine how overwhelmed i was with a bittersweet feeling when chef batali opened eataly in chicago.

... okay fine, upset probably described my feelings more accurately because eataly opened merely a year and a half after i had left chicago. i was scrolling my instagram feed on eataly with envy and all i wanted was a plate (or a couple) of freshly made pasta, a cup of gelato and freshly baked focaccia.

about a year ago, osteria mozza came into my life when a friend told me he found out about the restaurant during his food hunt in singapore. located in the grandoise marina bay sands, it was on my list of 'must-go' even before i knew when my next visit to our neighboring country would be.

finally, my "mild" disappointment was appeased when i was finally seated across from my dining companion in the open dining space, adorned in dark wood contrasted by the pristine white table cloths accentuated by the marble table counters that lined the back walls. i drank in the sophisticated yet casual ambience as my excitement soared with a hint of expectation.

the friendly server came by with a smile, ready to take my order patiently as i mulled over the menu - while i learned how to pronounce my pasta correctly...with very little success. this was clear however -- pasta was a must. and a shared appetizer to start with.

they started us off with the amuse-bouche of homemade ricotta cheese with olive tapenade, finished lightly with olive oil atop a cheese cracker. a pleasant texture of the milky ricotta was quickly distracted by the olive flavor imparted by the tapenade. a sprinkle of salt would have featured the flavors in a more pronounced manner but a lovely introduction.

antipasti :: chargrilled octopus | with potatoes, celery & lemon (sgd 27)

a mini tower of chargrilled octopus rested on a nest of shaved scallion with hidden thin slices of celery upon the layer of beautifully cooked potatoes that still had a nice bite.

"it is best to eat it with the greens," the server recommended as he placed the plate in the middle of the table.

getting a bit of everything on my plate, i couldn't resist taking just a bite of the octopus on its own.
"ooo that is slightly charred..." i was slightly taken aback by the burnt edges from the octopus.
unknowingly, i just had to say it just as our server walked past our table and when he double backed, he repeated, almost impatiently, "this is best with the greens!"

i understood his good intentions and yes, he was absolutely right.'s just that i have a habit to try the elements on its own, most of the time.

the greens were dressed in the lemon juice and olive oil, where the mild onion notes, fresh from the lemon juice balanced the charred flavors from the octopus beautifully. a slight crunch from the celery and the potatoes, seasoned perfectly then the tenderness of the octopus. each ingredient had a purpose and this dish was best when all the ingredients were eaten in a single bite.

'this was a good start,' i thought with a smile.

pasta :: orecchiette | with fennel sausage & swiss chard (sgd 27)

a signature dish of mario batali, orecchiette from the southern region of italy is paired with peppery sausage bits -- maybe it was a bit too peppery. the freshly made pasta, cooked al dente gives a lovely chewiness that can never be found in store bought dry pastas. however, that may be the only highlight for me.

to be fair, the server had explained the pasta would be spicy in the peppery kind of way. but it was heavy, almost monotonous with each forkful - it was probably the fat rendered from the sausage, coating the tongue. some freshness and lightness of herbs could have gone a long way to bring the flavors to a full circle. it was missing the balance of flavors that was masterfully depicted by the appetizer.

pasta :: ricotta gnocchi | with wild mushrooms & asparagus (sgd 29)

i get nervous with gnocchi but my friend did not.

before i go any further, allow me to explain myself. 
several years ago, i've had probably the best gnocchi i've ever tasted where the gnocchi's texture was the ideal embodiment of pillow-y clouds - in the most literal sense - but with a sturdiness yet tender. it had became the yard sticks of all future gnocchis, which had been disappointing, thus far. 

she generously offered some and the flavors were lovely, lightly hearty -- almost familiar.
texturally, it was delicately tender and somewhat melts almost instantly in the mouth. it was good but didn't mange to upstage our shared dish of octopus.

caffe :: latte (sgd 6)

an excellent cup of latte to end the dinner right. the familiar bitterness of the espresso lingered with different full bodied notes, announcing its presence against the milk.

tldr // osteria mozza. this restaurant was one i had been dreaming to try from the first time i watched chef batali's battle on iron chef america. freshly made pastas cooked al dente with a slight bite are definitely my kind of thing especially when they offer freshly grated cheese at your table. but not when it is doused with an overpowering flavors that lacked a harmony i expected. maybe that's just it - it could be because of the increasingly budding expectations i've had over the nine years....or it could be that i picked the wrong pasta from the menu that just wasn't what i was craving for.

even so, eataly and babbo are still in my future plans, hopefully one day.

nonetheless, while you are at osteria mozza, don't miss out on the chargrilled octopus for sharing (or not!) but don't forget that "it's best with the greens!"

osteria mozza | location 
2 bayfront avenue,
b1-42-46, galleria level,
marina bay sands, singapore
{opens mon - sun: 5pm - 11pm;
weekends only: 12 pm - 3:30pm}

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