Thursday, 4 December 2008

Take That - The Circus

Image Hosted by

Update Nov 2010:
The review of the latest album, Progress, is here.

A temporary departure from the usual theme because of a big event that happened this week.. the release of Take That's new album, The Circus! My favourite group at the moment. I have been listening to their songs for almost 2 decades, and even when they temporarily disbanded, I was still listening to their albums and Gary's solo efforts. Here is my review of the tracks.

The tracks:

1. The Garden

Starts with Mark whispering the vocals, and later, the others join in and the song eventually builds up to a crescendo, and has the same feel and sentiment of "Never Forget". I can see this being a later single.

2. Greatest Day

IMO, it was not the greatest preview for this album. There are far greater songs in this album, but maybe I need to listen to it a few more times for it to grow on me. I can see here that they have attempted to write an "anthem" like Queen's "We are the champions". If this song becomes really successful, it will be played at the end of sports events in years to come.

3. Hello

This also stars Mark. Reminds me of an uptempo catchy Herman Hermits song with an updated instrumental backing.

4. Said it All

Has Gary's trademark falsetto in the infectious chorus line. A midtempo track with a lot of jangly guitars and has a mid 90s Britpop feel to it.

5. Julie

Mark's solo. Simple and repetitive lyrics, which includes "sha la la la la I want you", underlaid by a slightly depressing tune. Probably not going to be a released as a single.

6. The Circus

Typical Gary Barlow easy listening composition in which he sings over a shallow piano with strings in the background coming in halfway. Simple yet pleasantly effective and easy to the ears.

7. How did it all come to this

Sounds like Howard and Jason took the lead on this. It is simply Reach Out (the opening track from Beautiful World which I absolutely loved) Mk2!

8. Up All Night

Started like Cecilia (Simon and Garfunkel), then launches into a lively chorus not dissimilar to Shine. This WILL be a massive single! Its Mark on lead vocals again!

9. What is love

Jason takes the reins here. Sang over a predominantly acoustic guitar backed track. The tune is simple but the chorus has an emotionally haunting feel to it, musically and lyrically. In the bridge, you actually believe that the singer is really pleading with all his heart for his love.

10. You

This is the closest to Patience you will get, in this album. However, it just does not have the same
catchiness nor adventure, despite having nearly the same song structure and tempo. The producers probably recognise this too, hence the reason why this has been relegated to near the end of the album.

11. Hold Up A Light

Mark on lead again! This has a driving chorus that will have you humming for hours afterwards. It is
irritatingly catchy and repetitive!

12. Bonus track

A 90 second epilogue. Has a caribbean party feel to it. Great way to end the album.. on a high note.

Overall impression:

The songs are definitely stronger than in the last album, in terms of their accessibility and instant likeability. However, it is not a big departure from the last album in terms of musical style, which, to me, is a good thing, as I liked Beautiful world a lot. This is nothing like the old 1990s Take That but fans of the old TT will still be able to enjoy The Circus because the strong melodies are all still there, although the musical style has moved on somewhat. Mark appears to be the leading singer in this album, which is fine for a studio recording, but I would have preferred to hear more of Gary, as he is by far the best and most experienced singer in the group. Mark's limitations will be really evident when they perform these songs live.

©Kalau anda ingin dengar lagu-lagu
yang tersebut dalam kualiti tinggi, sila tekan sini.TM

Link ini akan tamat
selepas satu ratus muatturun atau satu minggu.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Chinatown aka Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur

Image Hosted by

This place brings back memories going back to my childhood days in the 70s. However, it was only in the 80s that Petaling Street started becoming this vibrant tourist trap that it is today. Back in the old days, it was just full of old shops with few stalls selling food and drinks and most people would not have heard of the the fake designer brands that they sell here today.

It has been seven years since I have been to this place, and during that time, they have built a roof over the street, good for avoiding the extreme heat of the midday sun, but also the monsoon rain, both of which I experienced in abundance during my two week stay here.

Image Hosted by

Getting off the LRT at Pasar Seni station, it was only a short 5 minute walk to Petaling Street. On our way there, I noticed that not much have changed, over the last few decades. The shop owners may be different, but the buildings and roads are still the same. Klang bus station is still the same, apart from that the imposing Toshiba neon sign has gone.

Along the way, we passed a Hindu, and then a Chinese temple. These two buildings have always been there, but I never really appreicated them until I moved away from Malaysia. The Hindu temple, especially was such an elaborately crafted structure, it would not look out of place in the holiest of shrines in India.

Image Hosted by

Two minutes later, we were at the Chinese temple ... you could have easily mistaken this photo as having been taken in China or Hong Kong, if not for the Malaysia flag next to it. No other place does the term "Truly Asia" holds more true!

Image Hosted by

Shortly, around the corner, we reached Petaling Street. In terms of traders, it has not changed much in the last 20 years. It is basically a trading ground for modern day pirates, ie, people who infringe copyrights rather that those with a eyepatches and hooked hands! Apart from food and souvenirs, it was actually DIFFICULT to find any stall that did not sell fake goods there. You would find fake clothes, watches, handbags, shoes, DVDs, CDs, games, sunglasses, toys and more there. In fact, if it is possible to fake it, they will sell it! Look at some of the merchandise we .. er..ahem.. "encountered". Some were very good fakes too!

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

One thing that struck me was that the traders along the street has changed a lot since my last visit. Although it is called Chinatown, Chinese traders were noticeably the minority today. At one stall, I encountered a trader who neither spoke Malay nor Chinese. Eventually, I haggled over the item in my best possible English with a Malaysian accent!

After an hour of browsing and haggling, my 8 year old somehow managed to spot a toy shop hidden behind the sea of stalls, and wanted to have a look inside. Once inside, it struck me that I have actually been here before .... over 30 years ago! My grandfather used to occassionally take me to a restaurant on Petaling street, before all these stalls existed, and after every meal, he would take me to the toy shop next door to buy me a small toy. This was the same shop, still standing after all these years! When we came out, I looked next door and the restaurant was still there! It was none other than the long established Yook Woo Hin. It must be about 80 years old now, and looking little different from what I remember of it, apart from the marble tables which have been replaced by stainless steel ones. However, they had no board outside bearing their name at all.

Image Hosted by

As we were hungry and thirsty by now, we decided to settle down for lunch at this famous landmark for a nostalgic meal at No. 100, Jalan Petaling.

Mid autumn had just passed a few weeks ago, so we did not get a chance to taste their famous mooncakes. Still, there were other things on we could try... we were quite late for Dim Sum by now, but they had some leftover.

This pair of fishballs were ok. Nice but not outstanding.

Image Hosted by

This lor mai kai was very nice. It did not have any unusual ingredients, but somehow it all worked well together. I would have liked the rice to be less mushy, but maybe it was because it had been steaming in the cabinet for many hours. I would imagine that the texture would have been a little firmer if I had come here 4 hours earlier.

Image Hosted by

I had mixed feelings about this wat tan hor. The gravy and ingredients were absolutely delicious and cooked to perfection. However, the ho fun was a litle brittle and not smooth. I suspect that it had been fried a lot earlier and been left lying in the kitchen.

Image Hosted by

When eating in Yook Woo Hin, you cannot not have a dish of Char Siu, something that it is famous for. Char Siu and this restaurant seem to go hand in hand ... just google it and you will see! This plate must have cost around rm16 - 18... I was not disappointed, but neither was I overwhelmed. The marinade was fine and so were the cuts of pork (half lean half fat) I had. It was also crispy at the right places. However, it had a distinct lack of glaze, and the surface felt a bit dry. Or maybe the glaze had dried up after the meat have been left in the kitchen too long.

Image Hosted by

The restaurant was almost empty at Friday lunchtime, unlike what I remembered it to be, when it was bustling with mainly gossipping old men, back in the 70s and 80s. Well, maybe they have all passed away now. So with the slow turnover of food, it might explain why these dishes did not have the freshly cooked feel to them. Still I was glad I got a chance to visit this restaurant again and maybe one day my son will take his offspring there introduce this restaurant to the next generation. I just hope that their standards do not slip further.

Image Hosted by

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Robert's Chow Kuey Teow, Restoran Say Huat, Section 17, PJ

More bits from Section 17, as that is where I grew up and stay, everytime I visil Malaysia. This one is supposed to be "famous" and he actually has a newspaper cutting reviewing his ckt pinned to the side of his stall. Just a quick blog this week as I am back into my busy routine now.

Image Hosted by

Located in Restoran Say Huat, this has been around for a few years now and I have always bought from him everytime I visited. This particular meal was actually tar-pau'ed as I find that restaurant really hot and stuffy to eat in, hence maybe the noodles may look abit limp in the picture. As for the ckt, I think this is probably the best in Section 17. Not exactly exceptional within Klang Valley and I wouldn't exactly recommend anyone to drive miles just to savour it. However, if you are in the area, it is definitely worth trying. Has all the essential ingredients, including a few large prawns and chinese sausage slices, which you would not find at any food court in the shopping malls.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Canton-i Restaurant @ 1-Utama, Petaling Jaya

Back home in Manchester now. However, there is still plenty for me to write about regarding my culinary exploits in KL / PJ during my visit. The last few days since I have been back has been rather dull, as far as eating is concerned. But this always happen after every visit to Malaysia. After a couple of week of extreme stimulations of the tastebuds, all the food here seems rather bland and unexciting. Even when I went to a nice restaurant yesterday, it failed to recreate the buzz and high of tasting Malaysian food in Malaysia itself.

Here is place I have read about in many blogs and have had it on my list as a must-visit when I visited Malaysia next, so here I was.

The front was very modern, clean and had a rather upmarket look to it, despite having the image of selling popular Hong Kong hawker / cafe food. It was around 12pm on a Saturday and there were already loads of people going into the restaurant. I would have liked to have lunched a little later but seeing the crowd, we thought we'd better grab a table there before they were full up.

Image Hosted by

Here we can see the cooks doing their stuff in a kitchen exposed for all to see. No spitting into the food here! So, you can safely return the food if you dont like it!
Image Hosted by

The char siu wantan noodle dish was very nice. The char siu was tender and fresh with just enough charring to avoid the bitter taste. This was definitely Malaysian style char siu rather than the red and blander Hong Kong style. The wantans were huge.. like siu mai, and plenty of juicy prawns and pork filling within. The noodle was nice too, but not outstanding. The sauce, however, was just ok. Not as good as an old fashioned Malaysian style wantan mee sauce from a hawker.
Image Hosted by

The ngau nam meen (beef brisket noodle) is as good as any I have ever tasted. Neither better nor worse. I dont think anything ordering this would be disappointed, but neither would they be wowed.
Image Hosted by

I ordered an indivudual plate of crispy roast pork (siew yoke) and roast cuttlefish, after reading good reviews about the former. I was not disappointed with the former, as the skin was really crispy and meat was juicy and tender. However, the cuttlefish was really tough. I have had much better in the UK. I have not seen this kind of cuttlefish being sold fresh in the local markets here, so maybe the quality of the raw cuttlefish was not so good.

Image Hosted by

My overall impression was that it was just ok, especially given the price of around rm80 for all the above dishes. Ok, so its still about half the price I would have to pay in the UK in an average Chinese restaurant. However, I expected it to have cost a lot less in South East Asia, even if the quality was above average.

Some of the other blogs that made me visit this place:

Babe in the city
Masak Masak

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Restoran Lucky, Section 17, PJ

I dont think I have uploaded so many blogs in a month before, but that's the advantage of being on holiday, relaxed and thousands of miles away from the hustle and bustle of work. Plus eating loads as well, providing me with plenty of blogging materials! Manchester seems such a long way away at the moment. I dont even want to think that, in less than a week, I would be waking up at 7am again and getting ready to cycle into work in the cold and dark English morning at temperatures well below 10 degrees centigrade!

We went to this place because of its convenience as its just a short walk from my parents place. I have been here before in the past and have always thought that their prices were more than reasonable and tasted above average. Not much have changed!

At first sight, the condition of the place was rather off putting. Look at the state of the chairs..... In the past, I have even had a cat brushing up againt my leg while dining here. Not something I am used to! However, when the food arrived, all was forgiven!

Image Hosted by

This sweet and sour pork dish tasted just right, not too sweet nor sour. The veg were crispy and so was the battered pork. Too many restaurants drown this dish with sauce, causing the meat to go soggy very quickly, but they seem to have used just the right amount.

Image Hosted by

This kai lan fried with garlic was just ok. I thought they overcooked it slightly and therfore was a bit on the greasy or soggy side. Maybe it was their way of masking the lack of freshness of the veg.

Image Hosted by

This steamed pak so kung, however, was the highlight of the evening. We saw them net this fish out of the tank, so it could not be any fresher. It was steamed just right and the sauce was just right too! No "fishiness" in the taste at all and the texture was smooth and juicy and slghtly springy. The only complaint was that there wasn't enough of it! Still, at rm23 for the fish, how can I complain?? I have had fish costing 5 times as much, not tasting half as nice as this!

Image Hosted by

I would highly recommend this place to anyone whether you are on a budget or not. I am sure I am not the only person who rate their food highly. Opposite this place is Restoran Wah Cheong, who also do "tai chow" seafood, but Lucky always seem to have teice as many customers.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Beard Papa Cream Puffs

I first tried this on Oxford Street in London a few years ago. Ever since then, I always made it a point to eat this whenever I am in London. When I saw this stall at 1-Utama, PJ last week, I had to try it. At rm3.80 each, it was about half the price of what I paid for one in London.

Image Hosted by

So far so good, looked and felt like what I had before.

Image Hosted by

When I bit into it, it still "looked" like what I was familiar with. However, the pastry was a bit of a letdown. It did not have the same lightness and crisp of the ones from London. The contents were ok though, for this vanilla flavoured puff.

Image Hosted by

If you take a glance back to the first picture, you will see all the already-made cream puffs lying there on the worktop. In London, the turnover was high and sold as they were made. In future, I will only try this again if I can see that they have been freshly made and not been lying there for who knows how many hours, or even days??!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Banana leaf nasi lemak

One of the greatest simple pleasures in life must be the consumption of a basic packet of nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf. This dish just isn't the same when made anywhere else in the world, but Malaysia. Cheap, simple and absolutely delicious!

Image Hosted by

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Restoran Jackson, Section 17, PJ

Just like the old days, dining in section 17! This was meal was at Restoran Jackson. I have never been here before but was made aware of it by Ling239 when I visited her blog.

Image Hosted by

So obvioulsy, I had to try the Sang Har Meen! We told the propreitor that we heard of him from the net and he seemed rather flatterd and I think because of this he gave me an absolutely huge prawn! This single serving cost only rm8! For someone whose tastebuds have been numbed by bland westernised Asian food, this could have been the blandest dish in the country, but it tasted great to me!
Image Hosted by

Some of the other dishes from the stalls in the restoran tasted great too, but I suspect that, to most Malaysians, this fried mee from the Chow Kuey Teow stall only tasted average.
Image Hosted by

Ditto for this fish ball noodle soup. The fishballs were rather unique though .... not really ball shaped, but had a homemade flatshaped feel and taste to it.
Image Hosted by

I am looking forward to much much more culinary delights in the days to come!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

DIm Sum lunch at Jin Xuan Hong Kong, Damansara Jaya

After over two and a half years away, it was nice to be back in Malaysia, albeit for only a fleeting visit. Had a dim sum lunch at a restaurant call Jin Xuan at Damansara Jaya, near Atria. I have beeb told its a relatively new restaurant. The crowds were encouraging and prices were keen. So how was the food?


This har gau was average. You can see plenty of prawns in it, but it seemed lacking in prawn taste.
Image Hosted by

This chow loh bak is rather good. However, they used battered loh bak. The battered loh bak itself was a dish they sold on its own, so it gave me the impression that this was made from leftovers... hmmm.. better not to think of such things and just enjoy the food!
Image Hosted by

This lo mai kei was rather average. There was only one piece of meat .. pictured.. and the sauce on top did not seem to have mixed in well with the rice. It was also too soggy.
Image Hosted by

This was the highlight of the meal. A really meaty piece of marinated ribs.. so meaty it looked more like a mini pork chop! Sweet and sticky and full badness, but lovely tasting!
Image Hosted by

Sang chow lo mai. Tastes quite good and all the ingredients could be tasted, without having any sauce or seasoning drowning the dish. It was quite greasy, but I think that is the nature of ths dish... how else can they fry the rice grains separately without using plenty of oil.
Image Hosted by

The siu mai was not really worth blogging about. Similar to the char siu sellers from local markets.
Image Hosted by

And the picture of the place...

Image Hosted by

Overall a rather satisfying lunch, but omst of all, the price of rm50 for 3.5 persons were quite a good price! Made the mind think the food tasted even better than it was!!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Cascais, Portugal Sep 2008, Part 2

On the penultimate day of the visit, we took a walk along the coast of Cascais and took in some of the wonderful sights.

This is the entrance to the boca de inferno (mouth of hell) which is basically just a steep cliff leading down to the sea.
Image Hosted by

And here is the boca itself!
Image Hosted by

Some anglers near the boca. I included this cuz I thought it was one of the rere good quality pics I managed to take, and directly against the sun too.
Image Hosted by

Some old buildings on the othe side of the coastline... reminds me of Melaka again!
Image Hosted by

The bay where mostly fishing boats park up in the evening. By night, there would be 5 times as many boats than pictured.
Image Hosted by

This is the square in the town centre of Cascais.
Image Hosted by

Chopped octupus salad is served as a side dish everywhere we went
Image Hosted by

Green lipped mussel salad served at the buffet in our hotel
Image Hosted by

A selection of food from the buffet..some tomato rice, a white piece of steamed, reconstituted salted cod, baked chicken breast, the thinnest fries ever, and a fried fish cake.
Image Hosted by

This is grilled baby octopus with baked potatoes, the meal I had on a previous night.
Image Hosted by

This is barbecue squid with corn on cob. The idea was good, but the restaurant was sparse and I dont think the food was as fresh as it could have been.
Image Hosted by

And finally, some Portuguese tarts! They were behind a glass cabinet and somehow my camera focused on the screen rather than the tarts!
Image Hosted by

Dont know when I will ever visit Portugal again, but it was a memorable visit and the food made it even more worthwhile!