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Motormouth From Ipoh

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ye Olde Smokehouse @ Cameron Highlands - Of Scones, Tea & Life on the Slow Lane

Continuation from the first part : Cameron Highlands - OK Tuck & Strawberry Park Resort ....

The simple 2 pages-Tea Menu from The Smokehouse .....

I've been to Cameron for a good many times over the course of my life. Yet the thought of spending hours appreciating a good cup of tea, paired with fresh warm scones did not cross my mind, as opposed to the more prominent steamboat meal, or DIY BBQ dinner.

Sip on your cup of English tea amidst the lush, green garden .....

Since this visit to Cameron was solely for work (initially, of course), we skipped all of the tourist destinations, namely Cactus/Rose/Flowers/Butterfly/etc Farms, the night market at Brinchang, and even the perennial favourite spot of many; the Tea plantations.

Classic, charming Tudor design dominated the cottage-like settlement, exuding such warmth and cozy feeling you'll feel as though you're transported to 60 years ago (the Hotel opened in 1937) !!!

Hence we dropped the thought of scuffling with the crowd, but instead indulge in a leisurely session of tete-a-tete over high tea, at The Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant at Tanah Rata.

One can even choose to sit beside the fireplace ....

The Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant (www) overlooks the golf course, and right along the main road between Tanah Rata and Brinchang towns.

Ornaments, chandelier, candle stands and blowing yer own trumpet? :)

The restaurant is divided into several sections, each with its own theme & design, from a candle-lit dining area to lounge area with plush sofas & fireplace.

Hot Chocolate (RM14.50) - Very thick & rich, and English Tea (RM8.90) - Complete with filter!

Cappucino (RM14.50) and Cafe Latte (RM15)

Devonshire Cream Tea - Pot of Tea & Two Warm Scones with Homemade Strawberry Preserve and Cream (RM25)

It was drizzling slightly that evening. The cool climate, accentuated with droplets of water painted an idyllic & soothing picture of the classic cottage, from the exterior. And to cap the experience off, we proceeded indoors, and were courteously ushered to our seats at the verandah, with natural sunlight over our heads, merely barricaded by the glass ceiling.

The warm, crumbly scones were indeed magnificient stuff. Soft, moist and crumbly, with a moderately rich, buttery accent. The base of the scones was slightly crisp, and the accompanying homemade strawberry preserve complemented the scones almost to a tee. Not cloyingly sweet, with real strawberries, they sell the jam at RM19.80 per jar as well.

Of course, paying a premium price for the set which nets you 2 scones and a pot of tea may be more of a luxury than a routine tea time.

Nostalgic influences at large. Reminiscence of the ancient British era.

Aside from their scones, they serve various cakes, sandwiches, and savouries for tea time as well. For main meals, they dish out various delightful dishes, from steaks to pies, as well as salads and soups. But bear in mind, a complete meal (with appetizers, main, desserts and wine) may set you back for more than RM100 per person!

The lush gardens - where else can one embrace the fresh, cool air while sipping on a cup of tea, with a good book at hand?

Since the rain got heavier by the minutes, we stayed as long as possible, soaking in the ambience, and taking life a step at a time.

I REALLY would treasure any form of rest and relaxation as of now ......

Location : The Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant @ PO Box 77, Tanah Rata, 39000 Cameron Highlands. Tel No : 605-491 1215.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cameron Highlands - OK Tuck & Strawberry Park Resort

The previous visit to Cameron Highlands was some time in August 2008. Almost a year ago. What better way to release pent-up frustration (with life, work and everything else ...), & escape from the sweltering heat of the lowlands, than a getaway to the Highlands located about an hour from Ipoh?

For a comforting meal to warm the tummy, and appease that hunger pang. Don't you realise one gets hungry REAL quick at higher altitude?

Truthfully, the weather up in Cameron Highlands is far from the idyllic, chilly one from yesteryears. With rampant development, most hills and forests had been paved for plantations, various Valleys (flowers, veges, cactus), hotels/resorts, etc.

Beer Pork Ribs, Belacan Asparagus, Stir-Fried Mixed Mushrooms, and Crispy Roasted Chicken (Kam Heong Chicken)

Arriving at lunch hour, after a tedious drive up the hills, our tummies were growling (no thanks to the spiralling ascend + early breakfasts!) and screaming to be fed.

From Simpang Pulai way, you'll reach the towns of Tringkap, then Brinchang. Since for the 2 previous visits have been T Cafe all the way, we decided to stop at Brinchang before reaching Tanah Rata for lunch.

Little Wok Beancurd with Mixed Vegetables

OK Tuck is more or a less a household name in Cameron Highlands. Serving delectable steamboat sets for lunch and dinner, they can literally whip up a storm with their 'dai chow' dishes as well.

We ordered 5 dishes to be shared amongst 3 of us. A little gluttony at work, but what the heck. We're not keeping our fingers crossed in anticipation of GREAT hotel food anyway. (Which, surprisingly, made me ate my words, as the food at our hotel was beyond our expectation).

The Pork Ribs with Beer tasted almost generic, as with most dishes cooked with beer, stout, or marmite. Sweet-ish, glistening outer coat, with dense meat in the centre. Worth complimenting were the Little Wok Beancurd (at least I think that's what it's called), with lots of greens thrown in for good measure, the gravy was perfect to drench the white rice. Kam Heong Chicken was also commendable, but suffered the harrowing fate of over-generosity in seasoning on behalf of the cook, rendering the dish saltier than desired.

OK Tuck @ 26, Jalan Besar Brinchang, 39100 Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Tel No : OK Tuck (the boss, of course) - 019-647 7757, or Ling - 012-46105126.

The meal came to Rm56.40 for the three of us. Reasonable, given the location and dishes served. But bear in mind these were small portions. Rather easy to find this restaurant in Brinchang, as coming from Simpang Pulai's directions, you'll see this restaurant on your left, in Brinchang town. You'll know you've reached Brinchang town when tall buildings (and civilization) surround you!

Strawberry Park Resort @ Cameron Highlands - Equipped with an indoor pool, and comfortable rooms with cool, crisp air

Accomodation for the 3 days? The charming Strawberry Park Resort located on a hill (really isolated from the towns) between Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Locating this resort was a breeze, given the multiple signboards along the way. But to reach the resort is hidden from clear view, and one has to drive up the hills to reach this destination. The path is not as treacherous compared to the one leading to Sungai Palas Boh Tea Plantation.

A larger-than-life bathroom, with a bathtub in the midst, Rustic, wooden furnitures, and a Balcony with bougainvillea flowers

The neo-Tudor design of the resort depicts heavy influence from the British medieval era, preserved until this very day. The slightly off the beaten track location has its advantage as well, with a serene surrounding, cleaner/unpolluted air, and a generally more soothing and cooling environment.

The Lobby, The Bar, The Lounge and the Spa

To imagine a hearty breakfast overlooking the lush greeneries, with cool/fresh air .... Bliss?

All the meals were included in our package (we were attending a Seminar there, in case you're wondering), and served at Jim Thompson Terrace, the resort's in-house dining outlet.

Breakfast to jumpstart the Day

Fire a-blazing - Free show while tucking into one's meal @ Jim Thompson Terrace ....

BBQ Dinner on the Second Day - More Misses than Hits, sadly.

The Sweets to complete the Experience

An interesting note about the meals at Jim Thompson Terrace; They varied their selections from day to day. For instance, for the 1st day, we were served with a Thai-style dinner, with delicious choices such as green curry chicken, tom yam, tab tim krob (yup, that famous Thai dessert), and even sweetened pumpkin & sweet potatoes.

On the second night, we were treated to a feast of BBQ meats (satay, prawns on skewers, otak-otak) pasta cooked on-the-spot, grilled cuts of lamb/beef/chicken, etc. However, the BBQ dinner paled in comparison to the usual offerings, as the meats were not cooked to perfection, with some raw parts (oozing blood), while some overcooked. The pasta (fettucine or spaghetti, cooked with either tomato paste or creamy carbonara) was forgettable as well. Stick to their cooked items, I'd reckon.

The Perilous Journey for RM5 a pop. We were NOT sold.

The Flora & The Fauna

Our stay at Strawberry Park Resort was a thoroughly enjoyable one, the beds were clean and comfortable, carrying us deep into slumberland for both nights, while the food was generally tip-top, with us going overboard most of the times with the servings.

A strange phenomenon happened on the second evening though, when almost the entire Cameron Highlands was engulfed in darkness no thanks to a power trip. But a blackout atop the hills does not sound so bad, as we embraced the non-existence of technologies anyway. With such chilly weather (it rained on the second day), I was tempted to off all the lights and electrical equipments and declared Earth Hour there and then!

But of course, without the Hot Shower, I retracted my thoughts. :)

Still to come - The (Almost) Perfect High Tea .....

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Teluk Intan Nasi Pulut & Buntong Beef Noodles @ New Weng Fatt, Ipoh

Some might be wondering why there's a vacuum, a dearth of sorts, in posts on Teluk Intan food. While Sitiawan's/Manjung's food got the MOST coverage as of late (for reasons undisclosed), even Ipoh's very own lip-smacking goodies took a backseat.

Come to think of it, there's probably NO post at all on Teluk Intan's food here on Motormouth From Ipoh. Hmm ... I gotta repent for my sins. Someday.

Meanwhile, feel free to submit your recommendations for any yummy Teluk Intan food (EXCEPT for Gulam Rasul, THAT famous Liew Kee Chee Cheong Fun, Ah Chai Rojak, and Mastan Ghani) that I may not have knowledge of.

Here's KC in action. Glorified.

That's why I'm making it up with this combination of a post. Killing two birds with one stone, if you will. Firstly, hands up anyone who have heard about Teluk Intan Nasi Pulut (Glutinous Rice) with Prawn, Barbecued Pork (Char Siew), and Curry?

If your hand (or hands, in fits of excitement) shot up faster than Schumacher's adrenaline-charged acceleration, then I can almost guess your age. LOL. I said almost, ok?

Glutinous Rice with Prawn, Char Siew (BBQ Pork Slices), and Curry @ RM3.00

With a strong, long-standing history of dishing out hundreds, thousands, and probably millions of packets of this Nasi Pulut since ~50 years ago (yup, FIFTY!), the stall in Teluk Intan opens daily for business for a mere 2-3 hours only.

From 4am-6am, no less. UnGodly hours eh? Who in the right mind would wake up THAT early to get their fix of sinful glutinous rice?!! But KC (the proprietor for this stall in Ipoh) mentioned that the Nasi Pulut there usually get snapped up within a blink of an eye, literally.

Fried Bihun (Vermicelli Noodles) with Curry Chicken and Char Siew @ RM2.50

Thankfully, this much-loved but under-rated Teluk Intan's delight came to Ipoh not too long ago. Location? Restoran dan Kafe New Weng Fatt in Ipoh Garden South. Sounds familiar? This is also the place for good yet reasonable Western fare come night time, and the capati stall was even featured in the Star last Saturday (click HERE for Alexandra's guilt-free indulgences).

Crispy Fried chicken from KC's stall as well

The first visit to this stall was an un-fruitful one. The Nasi Pulut got sold off real fast, especially on weekends, as it's served for breakfast only. Perseverance paid off, and I went for a second visit not long after, and rewarded with an opportunity to try almost everything KC has to offer.

The Nasi Pulut is served with accompaniment of his brand of caramelized barbecued pork, a whole prawn, and the whole ensemble drenched/drizzled (your call) with curry. Most praiseworthy is the Char Siew here, being a little sweet and roasted to perfection. But more to lean cuts, rather than melt-in-mouth fattier (sinful, albeit unhealthy) versions. The glutinous rice is unlike the sweet nor savoury version, being a cross between both, in fact. Without the curry, the rice is rather bland, therefore the gravy's a must.

KC also serves "Economy Bee Hoon", to be served with curry chicken, with/without Char Siew, or even an extra side serving of fried chicken. Which was no mere pushover itself, being crispy and fragrant, bearing resemblance to Poh Lee's version.

Famous Buntong Beef Noodles

For breakfast at New Weng Fatt, you can also opt for the famed Buntong Beef Noodles (seemingly a branch of the popular one in town; Srimaju Beef Noodles). The wait may be relentless come peak hours (breakfast on a Sunday, for example), but rest assured you'll be served as they're rather organized with their ordering system.

Hearty, warming, and downright Beefy !!!

Sorry, forgot the pricing for this one, but should be in the realm of RM4, if I'm not mistaken. Flavourful broth, with tender slices of beef, and offals, one bowl of this and definitely your day will be perked up in an instance!

Still craving for more? Their Yong Tau Foo (stuffed fish paste) is rather commendable as well, priced from 50cents onwards.

Grab them while you Can!!!
To down all the grease, the guilts, and for that shot of caffeine to start one's morning, go for the Teh C Special, or 3-Layered Milk Tea. A Sarawak import of sorts, I still think the version served here is the BEST, amongst all the others around Ipoh. For RM2 per 'shot', you get a layer of tea, a layer evaporated milk, and a layer of Gula Melaka segregated; awaiting their fate. Of being mixed, and of being slurped. Very milky, a little sweet, and satiate that craving for a good glass of cold milk tea.
But be warned, as there were times when they messed up the tea, sometimes too little milk, sometimes overly sweet. Therefore, cross your fingers and hope for the best. :)

Restoran dan Kafe New Weng Fatt (MAP)
Next change ..... Cameron Highlands Getaway - A Lethal Combination of Work + Play !!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Motormouth ... disciplined in Port Dickson?!

Back from Port Dickson yesterday. A short 3 days 2 nights vacation .... not. It was another course to instill those integrity/morale values/team building kinda thingie. You know, when one's chomping his face off every corner he goes, while working some more, one REALLY is in dire need of some discipline. Or spanking.

PNB Ilham Resort @ Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan (Here's their SITE)

Unabashedly, I'll admit that it's my first visit to Port Dickson. Yup, throughout the 70 years of my life. Bearing in mind the beach ain't that worthy compared to cleaner ones out there, (or maybe, everywhere?) I did not even bother bringing a swim trunk nor any beachwear. For which I did not regret, as the low tide revealed all the ..... scums, litters, and dirt underneath the murky waters.

Which reminds me of the 2008 GE. Somewhat. =P

A 3 bedroom apartment with breakfasts - FOC. Muahaha ....
Locating this resort ain't a daunting task, given the almost end-of-the-world location. Or rather, the very end of Cape Rachado ('Broken Cape'), or Tanjung Tuan. The resort is about 18km away from Port Dickson town, hence if you're loving the isolated, far from civilization type of getaway, this may be just the place for you.

Charming ornaments, architecture, and ambience, with influences from the olden Melaka Sultanate era
They have apartments with 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms. Rates from about RM290 onwards for the 2 rooms unit, our 3-rooms apartment came with 3 double rooms with air-cond, 3 bathrooms, a living room, basic kitchen amenities (though you're NOT allowed to cook), and a TV set in the hall, with cable channels (though rather limited options).

The buffet spread. With Negri Sembilan's Minangkabau style Malay cuisine, mostly. A compulsory 'Masak Lemak Cili Api' dish is served at every meal!
Since we're more or less constrained in the resort for a good 12 hours or more per day, we dined in at the cafeteria (food's included in OUR package, therefore why not?) most of the time. Selection of dishes may not be aplenty, with about 2 meats and 2 vege at most, but their Masak Lemak Cili Api (a richer curry dish with lots of santan/coconut milk, but fuelled by lots of spicy chillies/bird' eye chillies, hence the moniker Cili Api).

Guess The Fauna?

View atop Menara Ilham, the resort's very own towering structure

The trail to the lighthouse on the hill at the tip of Tanjung Tuan/Cape Rachado

Recreational activities include hiking to the hill atop Cape Rachado. Legendary folklore spoke of the famous Malay warrior of the 15th century, Hang Tuah acquired his strength and knowledge by meditating at Cape Rachado. The legend further claims that his footprint, which was left embedded in a boulder, is visible to this day. (Taken from PNB's website).
But of course, mythical stories conjured up may be misleading,for I'm damn sure whatever footprint that was left has been washed away, IF there ever was this footprint in the first place. Anyway, who doesn't like mysteries, myths and deceits? Hehe ....

You can either choose to run up the tarred roads to the top, OR hike your way. But I was left with the easy way out (or up), as I was decked in mere slippers and shorts. =P

The posers. And the lighthouse, which was gated by the way.

The climb to the top, the gated area, and the lighthouse with a MEASAT satellite!

The area around Cape Rachado - Popular with hikers, as well as bird-watchers. But the place closes at 7pm daily, hence do not push your luck! Free entrance, by the way.

View atop the hill. Nothing spectacular, and the climb was nothing either. Mere steep slopes, and lotsa mosquitoes!

"I Will Follow You ....."
Prison Break - From endless curries assault, to a delightful seafood spread
Enough with the curries, we ventured out slightly, to a seafood restaurant along Telok Kemang, about 5-10 minutes drive from our resort. Mutiara Seafood Village has even been reviewed by Bangsar-Babe before, and seemingly a reasonable and excellent choice for seafood, amongst the restaurants along Jalan Pantai.

Butter Prawns (RM45)
They have a one page menu, bilingual, hence no sweat if you're at lost on what to order. But the staff there were rather accomodating with their recommendations on what's fresh and what's not so, as well as their signature dishes.
Topping the list of must try is the Butter Prawns, or Nai Yau Har, with sinfully rich gravy so addictive, you'll be sipping, drinking, drenching your rice with it, and walloped off the whole serving in no time. Seriously, lip-smacking stuff. The prawns were not of the largest variety, anywhere between M-L sizes at most.

Batter-fried Squids, Kam Heong La-La, Stir-fried Sweet Potato Leaves, and Kung Pou Mantis Prawns
Other noteworthy dishes include the Kung Pou Lai Liew Har, or Heh Koh, or Mantis Prawns. At Mutiara's, the mantis prawns were crunchy til the last bite, glistening from the dark, sweet and slightly spicy sauce, with the usual spring onions, onions and dried chillies.
The clams (La-La) were a bit off, but thankfully we ordered the Kam Heong version to mask the slight fishy taste, indication of not so fresh supplies.
The deep-fried squids was disappointing though, with very thick batter, overwhelming the thin slices of squids beneath.

Steamed Red Snapper (RM45)

The fish can be cooked in a variety of ways. One very novel way of cooking their fish is the depp-fried fish with lotus leaf, or something like that. But fresh fish should NOT be fried, or so I was told all this while. Hence we opted for the plain, soy sauce steamed red snapper, or grouper, based on the lady boss' recommendation for fish of the day.

Indeed, the flesh was firm, and tender, with not a hint of unpleasant stale/fishy taste. Needless to say, this was polished off to the bones.

The meal came to RM170 for the 7 of us, with the fish and prawns priced at RM45 each. Other dishes came in LARGE portions, priced at about RM12 - RM18 each. Rather reasonable, except for the prawns, but given the fact that the Butter gravy was literally; To Die For, the dinner was an overall satisfying one.

Location : Mutiara Seafood Village @ Lot 90-E, Batu 7, Jalan Pantai, Telok Kemang, Sirusa, 71050 Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. Tel No : +606-662 8928.

With that, we bid Port Dickson farewell .... before the next destination tomorrow