Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Food Review - Zuan Yuan @ 1 World Hotel

Zuan Yuan - 1 World

Address & Location
1 World Hotel, PJ (right next to the 1-Utama Shopping Mall)

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Fine Chinese Dining

Getting there
The restaurant is located at the 1st floor of 1 World Hotel. The 1 World Hotel is right next to the 1-Utama Shopping Mall or Sri Pentas.

There are ample parking spaces within the Hotel. Alternatively, you may opt to park in the 1-Utama shopping mall and just walk over as the 2 buildings are connected.

Service was great. The 6-course meal just kept on coming. We didn’t have to wait for the subsequent dish to arrive. They just come immediately after the last dishes are cleared away. My hats off to the kitchen staff for their ability to time the cooking so well. However, not all dining guests may like this style of food presentation. Some may feel like they are being rushed and may not be able to fully savor the meal in its entirety.
The restaurant’s lobby/waiting area has a vast collection of Chinese wine bottles and other artifacts like intricate vases on display.It is very refreshing to see the interior design incorporated the windows to the kitchen so that diners can actually see what the kitchen staff members are actually doing. It also allows you the see how clean they keep the kitchen.
Taste & Variety
Well, it is Fine Chinese Dining. Thus, the taste is different from the kind of food we usually partake of.
We opted for the Jade Set Dinner which included:
- Cold Sliced Seared Tuna with Homemade Mustard Sauce
- Braised Shark’s Fin Soup with Crab Meat & Shredded Chicken
- Braised Sea Cucumber & Goose Web with Garden Greens
- Wok-Fried Ostrich Meat with Fresh Mango Sauce
- Fried Rice with Kai Lan, Preserved Palm & Minced Chicken
- Chilled Honeydew Melon with Sago & Ice Cream

The 1st dish was not one of my favorites as I had never much liked cold dishes (unless it was dessert! =))

The Shark’s Fin soup (served in an intricate clay-pot), I have to admit, was not the best I have had but it was served with authentic shark fins that were still whole and intact (ie: you can see whole un-broken fin pieces).
I have also never eaten chicken feet (or feet of any kind for the matter). However, I steeled my nerves for the Goose webbed-feet. Surprisingly, it was pretty good!
The Ostrich meat was also very good. I have tried ostrich meat before and I recall it to be similar to beef, where the texture could be tough if overdone. This one was perfect. Glazed with the slightly tangy mango sauce, it was a tiny piece of undiscovered gourmet heaven on earth.

Unfortunately, the fried rice was unspectacularly plain. No denying it was done very well by a skilled chef. The texture of the rice and ingredients are not clumped together while it was still not too oily.
The dessert was also quite plain but nevertheless delicious. This dessert, along with the Chinese Pancake, is very popular and is usually the dessert for many Chinese dinners.
A really enjoyable and memorable experience.

The presentation is impeccable, as is expected of a 5-star hotel.

Value for MoneyThese are dining experiences and hence, should be treated as such when determining the value. I think for the pomp & pageantry provided, this is considered to be not too dear for a special occasion.

OverallI was fortunate enough that my wife brought me here as a treat for my birthday. I have to say that it was a most excellent choice as I was most pleasantly impressed with the place and the food.

It is someplace to take that special someone for that special occasion. Great ambience & service. The food is very good. Worth going and giving a try.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Food Review - Pulau Ketam Village Steamboat - Cheras

NameP Ketam Village Steamboat - Cheras (Dinner)
LocationOpposite Taman Midah, Cheras

Getting there
As you head towards Cheras along Jalan Cheras from KL, the left turn just before the Roundabout that connects with the MRR2 (or U-Turn back to Taman Midah) is the turning into this place. Once you turn in, there is a whole block of new shop-lots facing Jalan Cheras and the Roundabout. This one is right at the end of the block on the left. You can’t miss it.

Parking is fairly easy as there are lots of shops there, and parking lots allocated for them.

ServiceThe service is of the no-frills variety. Fairly quick & standard. The staff is quite prompt in refilling the steamboat with the broth when we ask for it.

Common for shops of this nature. As it is quite new, the cleanliness level is quite good. The tables are covered in red cloth and each table has a tea-pot stand.

As with all Steamboat places, there is a gas powered stove in the middle for the steamboat. Diners are each given an individual plastic bowl and plate for the meal, complete with a metal scoop.
The tea is served in the familiar brown porcelain 2L tea pot and white porcelain cups.

Taste & Variety
There is no special item unique to this restaurant. The items contained in the package are standard items that you will find at any other steamboat place or from the supermarkets. Hence, the taste is no bad, but nothing to take note of either. The Steamboat however has 2 types of soup/broth – the normal clear broth and the tom yam variety.
Value for Money
We took the RM16/person package but the items are so few that I feel that the shop really took the diners for a ride. Look at the photos. For RM16/ person, what each person got was 1 piece of 5 types of fish/meat balls plus a few pieces of fu-jok, yam, raw chicken meat and vege.

I would DEFINITELY NOT recommend anyone to go there at all.

OverallDon’t bother. There is nothing this shop can offer you can’t get anywhere else for significantly less money.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Comic Review - Avengers 294-297

Avengers - Kang Nebula
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Roger Stern, John Buscema
Issue (s)294-297

StoryDr Druid had fallen under the thrall of Kang Nebula and had seized leadership of the Avengers after Capt Marvel had been injured from the previous battle engagement. The line-up consisted of only 4 members: Dr Druid, Black Knight, Thor and She-Hulk.

Kang Nebula had learnt of the most powerful weapon of all time thru’ her association with the various Kangs. It was created by a renegade Celestial and is sought by the Kross Time Kang Korps. All of the Kangs know that the Avengers are key in locating the weapon but Kang Nebula, with the Avengers in her control, was always 2 steps ahead of the Kross Time Kang Korps.
Somehow, this story was a little disappointing for me eventho’ I’m a staunch Kang fan. I guess Dr Druid never really appealed to me. Plus, the Black Knight’s curse of the Ebony Blade didn’t really work for me.

ArtJohn Buscema’s art is synonymous with Avengers (and Conan the Barbarian). His art basically defined the Avengers’ look. Tom Palmer’s inking doesn’t really gel with many artists but excellently complements John’s pencils here. Great stuff.
Additional Comments
Lois & Clark from the Distinguished Competitor make a cameo in #296 as reporters trying to interview Thor when he was at the hospital to visit the Black Knight. Clark makes a comment about Thor looking better in a pony-tail (alluding to the Thunderstrike series that Marvel launches at the time).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Movie Review - Unknown

Not knowing has never been this rivetting Movie Title
Category (Current/Recent/ Blast from the Past)
Blast from the Past
Suspense Thriller

The movie opens with 5 unconscious men in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a desert. It is evident that they had all been in a skirmish as one of them is shot while handcuffed to a railing, another is bound in a chair, while 3 others were on the floor bruised and battered. One by one, they awaken but none of them remember who they were or why they were there. Jean Jacket (James Caviezel) was the first to awaken and start to try and figure things out. As the others, including Rancher Shirt (Barry Pepper) & Broken Nose (Greg Kinnear) begin to stir, the viewers start to piece together that this was a kidnapping case gone extremely wrong. Nobody (including the viewers) knows who the victims or the kidnappers were. What makes the movie so intriguing is that tiny morsels of info on the 5 gentlemen’s background are thrown in via flashbacks (their respective memory resurfacing in pieces) makes the viewers want to find out who they were and what exactly brought them to that point in the movie (plus how did they lose their memory?). Of course, the mystery unravels as the movie progresses and you will eventually find out what happened.

This is a good watch because it doesn’t portray characters as clear-cut good/bad guys. You are kept guessing until the very end and even then, it is open to interpretation. This is because the ending has a revelation that compels the viewer to interpret what had actually gone before and make a call as to who the actual villain is in the movie.

Great acting from the main cast. I had always enjoyed Caviezel & Pepper’s acting. I tend to watch almost anything that has Caviezel in it. Movies such as Passion of the Christ, Count of Monte Cristo & Frequency come to mind.

It is a pity that this movie (and quite a few others of this quality) didn’t make it to our cinema circuits.

It’s a very good watch. Kept me at the edge of my seat right up till the very end. Good way to spend 1.5 hours. I recommend it.

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Comic Review - Avengers 267-269

Avengers - Kang
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Roger Stern, John Buscema
Issue (s)
I have a special affinity towards Kang/Immortus related stories, especially if they involve the Avengers. So this is a real treat for Kang fans.

The story starts off with a divergent reality where Colossus and Storm (of the X-Men) are Avenger members. Within the first few pages, the entire Avengers Team, the POTUS (President of the US, for the un-initiated) and the whole of NY gets wiped out by Kang! Then we learn that that was merely 1 of multiple divergent realities and divergent versions of Kang that were being eliminated 1-by-1 by the Kang Council (made up of 3 divergent versions) as part of their divergent-reality* clean-up project. However, as we all know, a villain will be a villain. Hence, 1 of the 3 Kang Council members was only using the other 2 to clean-up the divergent realities before they too would be eliminated by the mastermind Kang.

The Avengers’ line-up at this time consists of Capt America, Capt Marvel (aka Photon, not the Kree), Namor, Black Knight, Wasp and Hercules. 3 of them get transported to Limbo by the mastermind Kang as pawns in his plan to remain as the only Kang in all realities. As you may (or may not) know, Limbo was the place where ROM Spaceknight** used to send the evil Dire Wraiths with his weapon, the Neutralizer. So the Avengers encounter hordes of banished Dire Wraiths in Limbo where they were compelled by Kang to destroy the Avengers or die. So they eventually managed to defeat the Dire Wraiths and head for Kang’s Limbo Citadel. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers managed to track and find the Limbo Avengers in time for the final showdown with Kang.

In the last issue, we learn of Kang’s origin and how the divergent Kangs came about. We also learnt how Dr Doom (What! Him again?) played a role in Kang’s creation and how Kang got those ridiculous colors (well partially anyway)!.
Kang’s lover Ravonna also played a key role in this storyline, as did Immortus (whom we learn, is also a divergent Kang).

*If you are unfamiliar with this concept, you can either read up on more stories about time travel or watch the Back to the Future Trilogy!
** ROM Spaceknight was a Marvel series based on a Toy Line akin to the Transformers, GI Joe & Micronauts. It used to be one of my favorite series in the 80’s when it first came out.
John Buscema’s art is synonymous with Avengers (and Conan the Barbarian). His art basically defined the Avengers’ look. Tom Palmer’s inking doesn’t really gel with many artists but excellently complements John’s pencils here. Great stuff.

Additional Comments
There are many references to other stories that had gone on before as Kang recounts his origin. We will see cameos by various characters like the Fantastic Four, Thor, Space Phantom, etc.

This is an example of marvel continuity at its best. Go and read this.

Food Review - Restoran Choon Yien (Sect 17, PJ)

Restoran Choon Yien LocationJalan 17/13, located at a prominent corner within the Food Foundry & Happy Mansion enclave.

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FoodChicken/Char Siew Rice
LocationSection 17, PJ.

Getting thereJust head towards the Section 17 Wet Market. On the way, you will see Jalan 17/13. Just turn in and keep looking for 2 blocks of fairly old apartments. It is situated at the corner of the right block.
ParkingThere are quite a number of bays there so parking should be a breeze.

ServiceThe boss welcomes guests who walk-in (this not only makes the guests feel welcome but is also a good way to handle crowd management). Service is quick and fuss-free.

Typical of stalls of this nature – plastic tables and chairs. Clean enough that it does not really bother locals. However, as the place has limited space, it does feel rather cramped because the place is almost always full of people.
TasteThe Chicken and Char Siew are really good (but the Char Siew is not my personal favorite.) The Roast Chicken is moist inside while the skin is still crispy. That is something that I had RARELY ever had the pleasure to experience. Just thinking about it is making me salivate…
The Char Siew is good but I have had better. Still, it would be among the better ones in the Klang Valley (as the crowds will attest to).
The rice is also excellent. Very fragrant and if you look closely, the rice is not lumpy but you can actually see the individual grains. Mucho nice rice.

Presentation is good but considered quite standard for fare of this type.

They offer the standard items incl:
- Chicken
- Char Siew
- Siew Yoke

Value for Money
We ordered a plate of Chicken and Char Siew for 2 people and we were charged RM17. I felt that it was a little steep for what we got as I was expecting it to perhaps come to RM14. The portion was not really generous and more than ½ of the plate was covered with bean sprouts and cucumber (please refer to the photos.)

Really good food here, as the crowds can attest, but falls a little short on value. If you have not been here, I recommend that you check it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Comic Review - Secret Invasion

Title/StorylineSecret Invasion
Publish Date/Year2008
Creative Team
Brian Michael Bendis, Leinil Francis Yu

The seeds & lead-in stories for this story-line were planted many months ago in books like the Avengers Disassembled, Illuminati, Nick Fury’s Secret War, New Avengers. I thought all of the earlier storylines were all very god reads and are very well coordinated efforts from Marvel. The Trades well worth picking up if you have missed the original issues.

Bendis was getting a little heavy by including elements of religious fanaticism in the Motivation for the Skrull invasion.

The series starts off with the outlaw Avengers confront the Govt. Sanctioned Mighty Avengers in the Savage Land. Skrull sleeper agents like Dum Dum Dugan & Jarvis the Butler are activated and they all mumble “He loves you…” (This can be really creepy if you think about it.). Then all hell breaks loose as Skrull Jarvis uploads a virus that disables ALL Stark Tech. Fan-boys would have freaked out to see the SWORD HQ destroyed, the SHIELD Heli-Carrier falling from the sky, The RAFT and the CUBE super-criminal detention centres become unlocked AND Sue Storm sends a major portion of the Baxter Building into the Negative Zone! All of this in the 1st issue!

The invasion goes full blown and we get one bombshell after another! We learn that Spider Woman was the new Skrull Queen – Veranke. Just when things look really bad for the heroes at the battlefront, Nick Fury returns (after having disappeared at the end of Nick Fury’s Secret War series) with his team of Commandos/Secret Warriors and only then it looked like Earth had a fighting chance of surviving the invasion.

Fan-boys’ appetites were further whetted when we see Skrulls being whooped by what appears to be Capt America and Thor! The tide really turned when Reed manages to whip up a device that enables the heroes to see who are and aren’t Skrulls. That helped to remove the Skrulls’ biggest weapon against earth – doubt and distrust. Once all of that had been cleared off, it was a matter of humans (heroes and villains) vs. Skrulls.

It was nice to see the bad guys (led by the Hood) join in the fight against the invasion. Among them were lesser known characters like the Griffin which made interesting visuals. The Thunderbolts also joined in the fray. However, there was one part where Bulleye had Spidey as his target and he made the shot but I’m not quite sure what happened next. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on this?

Before the series is over, you will (again) see a major Marvel character bite the dust. This character had been made into a last ditch booby-trap months ago by the Skrulls.

Regardless, this was a good read and I’m sure, kept many fan-boys camped out at the comic shops eagerly waiting for the next installment. I would recommend it!

Yu’s art has been a favorite of mine for some time now but the evolution has gotten to a point that it’s not an improvement but rather it takes away from it.
I recall falling in love with his work when he was doing Wolverine a few years back. Anyway, it is still top notch stuff from Yu.
Additional Comments
For a planetary invasion, it was kind of weak to have the battlefront waged and the whole invasion hinging on a single front – New York.

It was a little disturbing and sad for me to see heroes (especially the Avengers) taking the lives of Skrulls without batting an eyelid despite the fact that they are in a war.

The end was a little anti-climatic as it not only fizzled out but was a cop-out as well as all loose ends seemed to have tied themselves up very neatly. However, as can be expected, another cliffhanger is put in there on the final page of the final issue – a cabal of major Villains (Dr Doom, Loki, The Hood, Norman Osborn, White Witch & Namor) form the next major threat to the Marvel Universe.

Damn Marvel for making us wait with bated breath for the next big event - Dark Reign!
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Comic Review - The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul

The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Issue (s)
Batman 670-671, Ann 26
Robin 168-169, Ann 7
Nightwing 138-139
Detective 838-840

The 2 annuals (Batman Ann 26 and Robin Ann 7) leading into the storyline prep the readers with some background on Ra’s Al Ghul (RAG) and his grandson (Batman’s lovechild) Damian.

RAG is making a comeback by means of resurrection. However, he needs to transfer his essence/soul into a new body. The catch is, the body has to be a family member. So, since RAG would look really funky if he were to go into Talia’s body, the next in line was obviously Damian. The whole process of his resurrection was planned and executed by one of RAG’s loyal henchmen – the White Ghost. The White Ghost did not tell Talia the full story about RAG needing Damian’s body for the transference but had only informed her that they were preparing for RAG’s resurrection. Reason is because no one had ever known of the full process of the resurrection or its requirements as RAG has always only immersed himself in the Lazarus Pits to prolong his life. He had never needed to return from being dead until now*.

Batman gets news that RAG was back and investigates. His investigations lead him to Tibet. Meanwhile, Damian, after having learnt of his role in RAG’s resurrection, escapes to go looking for his father in at the Wayne Mansion to help him escape RAG (who is by now a walking zombie as the body he used does not meet the requirement). This is where Robin gets mixed up in this. RAG sends a horde of ninja assassins to retrieve Damian. Hence, Batman sends an urgent call to Nightwing to help Robin, Damian and Alfred who were surrounded by ninja assassins. RAG manages to capture both Damian and Robin. Batman and Talia manage to reach RAG before the transference happens, but RAG asks Bats to decide if he would save Damian or Robin but Bats counter-proposes a 3rd option to RAG – go to Nanda Parbat to achieve immortality.

There was a part where Robin fights Nightwing because RAG had tempted him with the possibility of bringing Tim’s loved ones back from the dead. Nightwing was there to stop him from crossing that line where heroes do not cross. The fight was both very intense and emotional for me.

Finally, as expected, Batman manages to stop RAG from taking Damian’s body. Hence, RAG needs to quickly take a body for the transference and it was then that we learn that the White Ghost was in fact his despised son – the Failed One.

* I had not read Death and the Maidens. I presume RAG had died in that storyline.

The art work is a mixed bag as there are multiple artists for this storyline. The styles used are quite complementary as there are no jarring clashes of styles. The only one that kind of falls into that category was the Epilog issue by Dustin Nguyen. His style is a bit similar to Mike Mignola’s – highly stylized.

Additional Comments
I had not read or kept up with any Batman books for some time now and it was refreshing for me to read a story that involved almost the whole Bat-Family plus one of my favorite Bat-Villains - Ra’s Al Ghul, and his family.

There was 1 part where both RAG and Bats go up against Sensei at Nanda Parbat, another immortal, whom we later learn was RAG’s father! Sensei makes short work of RAG and Batman in a matter of seconds. In that sequence, Sensei shoves a 4-foot walking stick through Batman’s chest. However, this fact is all but forgotten in the next few issues! What gives?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Comic Review - Amazing Spider-Man 96-98

Amazing Spider-Man
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Stan Lee, Gil Kane
Issue (s)

The Green Goblin resurfaces after certain events & visual cues trigger the amnesiac Norman Osborn to remember that he was the GG! This spells disaster for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This is because of all the foes that Spidey had fought with, only GG knows Spidey was really Peter Parker (and vice versa). Thus, if GG was back, Peter faces the threat that GG would expose his secret.

Harry, Peter’s room-mate and best friend, has been undergoing a lot of pressure and was on the verge of a breakdown because Mary Jane was openly flirting with Peter on several occasions (as she & their friends all thought that the relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter was over). Eventually, MU breaks up with Harry and this drove him to taking some pills to help him “feel better”.

ArtGil Kane’s artwork has never been among my favorites. However, credit where credit is due, his art is very good, just not quite my cup of tea. BUT…for these 3 issues, I must admit that I’m blown away by his art. His and Ross Andru’s are still among my favorite artists for Spidey. Persoanlly, I think they are better than the Ditko & McFarlane versions. Yeah, I know McFarlane has legions of loyal fans who would flay me for that but these 2 guys do the best Webhead art ever!

Additional CommentsThese issues were the comic industry’s bold attempt at addressing the drug scourge in the funny pages (it is considered bold because there was a reason why these books were referred to as the "funny books" back then).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Comic Review - Ultimates III

Ultimates III
Publish Date/Year
Creative Team
Jeph Loeb, Joe Madureira
Issue (s)

Things are not looking good for the Ultimates as they deal with one crisis after another. First, racy videos of Tony & Natasha’s bedroom romps have surfaced and have circulated to the public, driving Tony back to the bottle. Then, they are attacked by Venom at their Mansion, followed by an assassination of Wanda. All of these happen in the 1st issue.

Jeph Loeb is a master at creating cliff hangers at the end of each issue. He keeps you hooked and makes you want to grab the very next issue immediately.

Many of the Marvel Universe characters such as Unus (Yeah, I can hear someone saying “who?...”), Madrox, Wolvie, Kazar & Shanna (and when you see these 2, you know you’re in the Savage Land), Spiderman, Valkyrie, Lorelei, Mystique, Magneto and his Brotherhood, Dr Doom, & Ultron have been thrown in to make this 5-issue series a true visual treat for newbies and veterans alike.

Anyway, the story basically revolves around how Ultron was manipulating events in the Ultimate Universe by using the Ultimates and Mutants to accomplish his goal of obliterating non-machine life on Earth. Question is, where does Dr Doom fit into all of this?

Super sexy art from Joe Mad! If you like Joe’s art, you know what to expect. I have always loved his work since his early Uncanny X-Men days. He has pioneered the unique & un-mistakable pseudo-manga style that makes him 1 of my all time favorite artists. The only problem is that he doesn’t produce many books these days. Hence, this series is a real treat for fans of his work.

Additional Comments
This 3rd series doesn’t quite measure up to the earlier series by Millar & Hitch. Altho’ there are lots of things happening in the 5 issue series, the pacing is too quick and doesn’t allow the reader to really sink their teeth into it.

Perhaps this is caused by Joe’s speed in delivering his artwork (anybody remember Battle Chasers?) Hence, I would have likes the series to have been made into 8 – 10 issues where we get to savor Joe’s art and the development of the characters more.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Food Review - OKR Bak Kut Teh

NameOKR Dry Bak Kut Teh (Dinner Only)
Off Old Klang Road
FoodBak Kut Teh
Old Klang Road (diagonal to the Post Office)
Getting there
If you are coming from KL/Mid Valley towards PJ on OKR, you need to look out for the Post Office next to the OKR Wet Market on your left. Right before the post office is a small lane to the left.

You can’t miss it once you turn in as it is right at the prominent corner and very well lit.

This can be a bit of a challenge, but if you are patient, and don’t mind doing a few 3-point turns, you will eventually find a spot at houses or the school near the stall.

ServiceThe Bak Kut Teh is prepared only after you order. So it may take about 10-15 minutes before it can be served. Ambience
This place is not a crowd magnet as it is not a place that would attract diners based on appearance or cleanliness but it’s not so bad that would turn you away either. However, this is not the place to bring your expat friends.

VarietyThis place is unique because it serves both the dry and soup variety.
I like both the soup and dry varieties served here. Altho the soup variety is served in a claypot, it is still the strong dark-colored herbal type, not the watered down type that is typically served in a claypot. The soup is to die for.

The dry type is also served in a claypot. It is prepared with okra, onions, dried red chilies, Chili Padi and fine cuttlefish strips. It is too savoury to have on its own but mixed with rice, it’s quite a treat. However, it can be a bit oily.
Quite nicely done for a stall of this category as I would have half expected the food to be served in plastic bowls. Both the BKT and rice are served in clay ware.
Value for Money
It is good value as pork prices are quite high these days. They do not scrimp on the parts you request for unlike some other stalls. That is to say, if you request for Pai Guat, they give you Pai Guat.
Not something to have everyday, but you have to try this, because, let’s be honest, when was the last time you had dry BKT?