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Trip to Houston, June 2016: Rani's World Foods

>> Thursday, June 30, 2016

*vegetarian

There is a Chinese saying that goes, "Good things come in pairs" ("Hou xi seng seong"). As a true Malaysian-Chinese, I completed day 1 in Houston with 2 meals of Indian cuisine, which made AK really happy!

Rani's World Foods
16711, Hollister Street    
Houston
Texas 77066.
Tel: (+1) 281-440-8080
Business hours: Sun - Thurs  11:00a.m. - 9:00p.m., Fri & Sat 10:00a.m. - 10:00p.m.
URL: Rani's World Foods
GPS: 29.9725622,-95.5239209

I know it's very strange to kick-start an "American trip" with Asian food & what more Indian vegetarian food in a land filled with red meat. But hey, I eat everything & I have plans to eat a variety of cuisines while I'm here in Houston! :D

Rani's World Foods wasn't in my initial plan, but AK mentioned that this was one place where she could get her Indian vegetarian meal, so I drove us to Rani's after half a blazing-hot day of shopping at the premier outlet. This place offers more than just cooked/pre-cooked Indian vegetarian meals, but it's actually a supermarket filled with items from India to cater to the Indian community in the area.


You'll find raw & fresh goods, Indian herbs & spices & even those instant packet meals to go, which AK bought quite a few to keep her going for the week just in case. For that particular evening, as it was quite late by the time we got there, we just decided to get a dosa (we call it 'thosai' here in Malaysia, & NO, it's not the Malay word for 'sin'...hahaha...). We ended up trying their spring dosa, which is something like our Thosai Masala, with stuffing of potatoes, vegetables, herbs & spices.


We made a mistake to order 1 spring dosa each as the American-size of the dosa is HUGE & could feed 2 very comfortably. It was quite a challenge to stuff so much carbs into our small mouths & narrow tummies (kakakaka....) at around 10:00p.m. Yes, we forgot about dinner time amidst all the shopping, thus ended up having dinner so late. If you're hungry or have a huge appetite, this is TRULY WORTH IT!


Each set of the spring dosa (and every other dosa set, if I remember correctly) comes with a serving of dhal, mint chutney & tomato chutney. The dosa, dhal & chutneys were tasty, well-balanced in herbs & spices, plus I dare say the serving is generous for $7.99/set (not including tax).


I was so stuffed...like SO stuffed that I could hardly move after the meal. I didn't even manage to finish the entire spring dosa. Gosh...Asians really need to share a portion of meal when they're in the US! Hahaha...

If you're a vegetarian & you love Indian vegetarian, you can count on Rani's World Foods when you're in Houston ;) There are limited options for vegetarians here in Houston, so The Ruthless Eater has graciously shared with you 2 very reliable options (Rangoli & Rani's) that you won't regret knowing...hahaha...enjoy!


Ratings:
Presentation (does it look mouth-watering): * * *
Price (is it affordable - more stars = YES): * * * 1/2
Environment (is the place comfortable, cosy, clean, pleasant): * * 1/2
Taste (is the food delicious, worth coming back for more): * * *
Service (are the service providers friendly, efficient, polite): * * *


Overall:






Had my fair share of Indian cuisine in Houston,

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Trip to Houston, June 2016: Rangoli Fine Indian Cuisine

>> Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hello, my dear readers! I'm finally back in Malaysia & I've managed to convince my lazy self to start blogging again & sharing all the juicy experiences :D

The business trip to Houston has been an interesting trip. It was my first time to Houston & it was also a golden opportunity to meet up with colleagues from various partner companies whom I've been working with since the beginning of the year. There were even some colleagues whom I have been working with in previous projects who were there, so it was just great to meet people face to face for the 1st time!

Airline food on MAS & Korean Air (the best airlines that I've traveled with to the US)
Food on both flights were surprisingly delicious. Korean Air will be my favorite airlines to travel from now on...good food, spacious leg room, & pretty stewardess/good-looking stewards.

My ride for that week

Since the trip took almost 20 hours of flight to arrive at my destination (with a 1-2 hours transit time between the flights), I flew in during the weekend so that I'll hopefully recover from any jet lag & in the mean time get to see places before the meeting week starts.

My room for that week

I'll begin a "short" series of food & places to visit in Houston, just to share with you my discoveries; some of which aren't in my initial plan (yes, I have an Excel spreadsheet with the list of places to go to, their business hours, the address, distance in kilometers...etc).

Hope you'll enjoy the posts & do drop your comments/feedback as well! :)

**********
*pork-free

Rangoli Fine Indian Cuisine
10728, Cypress Creek
Houston
Texas 77070
United States of America.
Tel: +1 713-834-5999
Business hours: N/A - They're opened for lunch & dinner, every Tuesday - Sunday
URL: rangolirest.com
GPS: 29.93607, -95.58195

Believe it or not, my 1st meal upon touching down in Houston was at an Indian restaurant :P (I know, I know....it should be steak, but hey, let's take it slow...I've got a week there after all). My team member from India was patiently looking forward to my arrival (she was in Houston a week earlier for another meeting) & she's vegetarian, so I thought I'll drive her out to one of the recommended Indian restaurants near the hotel for lunch. Poor AK has been eating salads & her packet food from India as there's nothing very familiar to her & choices of vegetarian meals in Houston is just very limited. Yup, it's a COWboy town...beef is the IN thing! *lol*


Rangoli is indeed a gem discovered & I don't think any of our other colleagues popped by this place during their trips to Houston. If you fancy Indian cuisines (I do!), I think this is actually a great place to enjoy a good, authentic Indian meal, mainly northern Indian cuisines, which I love *yums*

This restaurant was in my list of "vegetarian restaurants to go to". I didn't come across any blogs on this place, so information was quite limited (only from Yelp, Trip Advisor..etc). Little did I know 'til we were there, that they only serve buffet during lunch hours & ala carte during dinners. For $12.99/person (excluding tax), you get to enjoy about 10 different vegetarian dishes, 3-4 meat dishes, rice, naan, & 2 types of desserts -- eat all you can! The variety wasn't extensive, but it was no doubt good enough to keep me satisfied!


The restaurant was clean & has that classy Indian feel, which felt like what we get back home. My colleague, AK, was truly grateful & was enjoying the meal thoroughly as it was her 1st 'real meal' after being there for a whole week since she didn't have a car nor anyone whom she's close with to drive her out for such meals.

You'll find familiar Indian dishes like the:
Palak Paner: Chunky cottage cheese cubes cooked in creamy spinach gravy
Vegetable Pakoras: Deep-fried garbanzo beans batter with assorted vegetables
Chicken Tikka Masala: Charcoal roasted chicken cooked in creamy tomato-based sauce
Aloo Gobi Masala: Cauliflowers & potatoes sauteed in herbs & spices
Tandoori Chicken: Chicken marinated in yogurt, fresh herbs & spices, & baked in a special clay oven

There were of course many more that I just couldn't recall its actual names! Hahahaha...


I don't do very well at buffets, so I only have 2 rounds of main course & I was done. For $12.99, I think the meal was satisfying & rewarding for an Indian cuisine lover like me. The overall taste of their dishes were well spiced, not over-powering, & very tasty.


There were also 2 types of desserts available that day i.e. Gulab Jamun & Shahi Kheer. I'm not a fan of Indian desserts, so I just took a little to taste-test them. Thankfully the desserts weren't overly sweet alike those that we find back here in Malaysia. Having said that, I still don't fancy Indian desserts, so I didn't go for a refill.

Gulab Jamun
Juicy milk solid balls in syrup

Shahi Kheer
Rice pudding with orange flavoring (somehow this one had additional flavoring, which even AK didn't fancy)

We left the restaurant satisfied & "recharged", all set for our half day trip to the Houston Premium Outlet for some shopping. We only managed to buy a pair of sports shoes, a watch & that's about it! The deals & discounts there weren't as fantastic as Gilroy's near San Francisco, but I guess it's good enough to pass the time on an extremely hot & lazy Saturday.

I'll share about our dinner in my next post. 'Til then, stay tuned with The Ruthless Eater!


Ratings:
Presentation (does it look mouth-watering): * * * 1/2
Price (is it affordable - more stars = YES): * * *
Environment (is the place comfortable, cosy, clean, pleasant): * * * *
Taste (is the food delicious, worth coming back for more): * * * 1/2
Service (are the service providers friendly, efficient, polite): * * * *


Overall:






Indian food any time,

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Announcement: Away for 1+ week

>> Saturday, June 18, 2016

To all my dear readers,

Just to inform you that you won't be seeing any updates on this blog 'til approximately 26th June 2016 as I'm away for business travels. I'll be back with more updates & stories to share once I'm back! :D Stay tuned!


Omnomnom,

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What to eat in Kuantan: Oui Chef Restaurant opens today!

>> Tuesday, June 14, 2016

* nope, this is not a paid review. I just know the team personally, so the below are my honest feedback *

The much awaited day has arrived & Oui Chef Restaurant finally welcomes diners who have been following their FB page in anticipation of their 1st business day! It was a busy day 1 as expected, with every table occupied & people having to walk out or just join their friends on occupied tables due to a full house of hungry diners.

Day 1 of any restaurant business is often a war zone, with:

  1. an over-flow of people stepping into the restaurant, wanting to try the food
  2. inefficient service as the team has not picked up the momentum & probably did not expect such an explosion of hungry people
  3. supply of food running out (at times, during the wrong-est times of the day)
I've seen & known restaurant teams going through similar experiences as above & feeling defeated, tired & insanely hungry themselves as they just didn't have time to breathe, what more eat or drink. But I know for sure that the team here at Oui Chef Restaurant are doing their best to provide the best dining experience in Kuantan to all their supporters & diners. I know the core team personally & I believe that they won't short-change anyone who steps into their restaurant in any circumstance :) Given time & constructive feedback to work on, I sure look forward to better service, greater food here at Oui Chef Restaurant.

Lamb Chop (RM34.90+/serving)
Ok, before I get into my detailed post, let me share with you the winner for today's lunch! Putting aside the time we had to wait extremely long for this to arrive at our table, I must say that it's one of the best lamb chops I've eaten; thick-cut, tender, juicy, flavorful & a meal with rich, meaty lamb goodness in every bite! I love the combination of textures & bite on the plate, with some silky, chewy mushrooms ragout, sauteed spinach & silky smooth mashed potatoes that just melts in your mouth (mind you, it's freshly mashed potatoes, not those powder ones). Nearby steak houses & western restaurants have a lot to improve on with Oui Chef Restaurant serving such excellent lamb chop in Kuantan! We've got a winner yo! Highly recommended!

Anyway, those who are on a budget would be pleased to know that Oui Chef Restaurant has a set lunch menu (RM10.89 nett, inclusive of the 10% service charge), featuring their Asian Specials, which comes with a choice of either iced lemon tea or a can of coca cola. You can choose from their nasi lemak with deep-fried/curry chicken, kam heong fried rice (recommended), kam heong fried noodles, or their creamy butter chicken rice.


I also noticed a slight difference in the look & feel of their menu since the time I was there for a sneak preview & tasting (read more about it here). Seems like some of the prices & dishes have also been amended. The differences are:

Revised prices/titles:
Kam Heong Fried Rice from RM6.90/serving to RM7.90/serving
Salted Egg Pasta from RM18.90/serving to RM14.90/serving
Vegetarian Aglio Olio from RM18.90/serving to RM14.90/serving
Iced lemon tea from RM5.90/glass to RM4.90/glass
All their shakes are now classified as "Freak Shakes"

Added into the menu:
Mushroom Carbonara at RM14.90/serving

Removed from the menu:
Kam Heong Chicken with Rice
Honey-Glazed Soya Seabass

Updated, finalized menu from day 1 of business 'til they revise their menu again 


I was there with AP & 3 of our friends, so we had the opportunity to try out more dishes in a single meal & to experience how day 1 of business at Oui Chef was like.

Breakfast Special - Cajun Chicken (RM12.90+/serving)
The cajun chicken slices, about 5-6 slices in the croissant that was overflowing with creamy, buttery scrambled eggs, were really tender. Specializing in the sous vide cooking method, the chefs sure nailed it with the chicken to keep the chicken breast meat tender, juicy & balanced in flavors. Our only wish: could we please have a larger portion of this dish? :D
*lighting at the back table that we're sitting at was quite bad, so the photos didn't come out nicely & I've tried editing as much as I could with the little time I have...

Big Breakfast (RM21.90+/serving)
BW ordered this thinking that it will satisfy his HUGE appetite, but was somewhat disappointed with the portion as it wasn't 'big enough'...hahaha. Having said that, Oui Chef's big breakfast came with 2 juicy slices of beef bacon (you can opt for chicken cheese sausage), 2 large slices of hash browns, creamy & buttery scrambled eggs & somehow the croissant appeared on the platter as well. It's not really as per their menu, which stated sauteed spinach, mushrooms & toast as part of the Big Breakfast (and we didn't realize that what we were served was different from what's stated on the menu that referred to). Chef Eugene, what's the reason behind the differences? :D

Chili Cheese Fries (RM8.90+/serving)
I think using crinkle-cut fries is a good idea as there's more potatoes to chew on. They didn't hold back on the cheese sauce, but I felt that more chili flakes or some sort of spicy, meaty sauce would taste better & give more texture to this snack. 

Set Lunch: Kam Heong Fried Rice (RM9.90+/serving for set lunch or RM7.90+/serving ala carte)
I've always looked up to Eugene for his Asian dishes & yes, this kam heong fried rice was no less fragrant & flavorful. I just find the rice slightly under-cooked or at least somewhat chewy (I prefer fluffier rice) & the kam heong dried shrimp mix slightly over-salted. I personally think that it'll be nicer to have some chunks of chicken breasts to chew on as well, so that this flavorful fried rice will have various layers of texture for a more enriching meal experience. I've yet to provide these feedback personally to the team at Oui Chef Restaurant, so I'll do so later & let's see to the improvement in the days ahead :)

Set Lunch: Creamy Butter Chicken with Rice (RM9.90+/serving for set lunch or RM7.90+/serving ala carte)
Not too bad, although there's room for improvement. I think they were really rushing to get all the orders out as efficiently as possible, so this felt slightly below standard. Flavor was no doubt delicious & the portion was more generous than my recent favorite, The Plain, just a couple of shops away from Oui Chef Restaurant, which I have recently wrote a review. Both prices are the same, both have its distinctive taste. I feel that if Oui Chef's creamy butter chicken had a thicker consistency of the gravy & a fluffier serving of rice, that'll be a satisfying combination. 

Tiramisu (RM8.90+/serving)
Which cheese-lover would give this a miss? BW enjoyed this without having to think twice & he mentioned that this will be his next tea-time restaurant (BW, they're closed at 3:00p.m., so better pack & have this back at your workplace ya...). I liked the thick, creamy consistency of the cheese & the chocolate + coffee flavor in the same serving. The only thing that probably needs to be lessen is the powdered cocoa, which could cause people to choke due to the dry, powdery texture at the top of the tiramisu :P The cake sticks/biscuits that soaked up the coffee were also slightly 'over-soaked', so the bottom of the tiramisu had liquid coffee visible. I reckon, you won't experience this in the days to come.

Give them some time & I believe this team will indeed achieve their dream to be the best restaurant in Kuantan :D


I'm such a hard-core believer in this team...hehehe...

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What to eat in Kuantan: Delectable meals at Oui Chef Restaurant - opening tomorrow!

>> Monday, June 13, 2016

* pork-free *

Yes! For those who have heard about this "new kid in town", you'll be delighted to hear that business begins tomorrow, 14th June 2016, for Oui Chef Restaurant in Kuantan!

Pronounced as "wee" (oui) "shef" (chef), which simply translate as "yes, chef!"in French, this restaurant's business is no child's play! Aiming to serve just the best, satisfying & worth-paying meals to all diners, Chef de Cuisine, Eugene Cheam, & his handful of kitchen staff, are looking forward to tomorrow for its doors to fling open & welcome curious, anticipating diners.


Certainly the best BBQ beef back ribs in town!
It was the star of the evening when I tried it :D Tender, juicy, 'falls-off-the-bones', & bursting in flavors, you have to try this sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) cooked beef back ribs when you're here for dinner. This full rack costs RM102.90, while the half slab costs RM55.90.

"Eugene has spent 11 years in the culinary world, 5 of which he spent in Grand Hyatt and Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, where he cooked for celebrities like Bill Gates, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cruise and other royalties. He also competed in the Emirates Culinary Guild in Abu Dhabi in 2011 and returned with Bronze medals.

He later spent two years in Cappadocia, Turkey, leading his team of chefs to achieve an award for Cappadocia's Best Tourism Restaurant 2015. The restaurant had also hosted Datuk K and Dato' Siti Nurhaliza.

Our chef's humble beginning was waiting tables at a local steakhouse. He also spent his earlier days in JW Marriott, KL. If you've never heard of him, it's because he believes every chef should be, "Humble, passionate and teachable." - taken from Oui Chef Restaurant's FB page.


The restaurant is located at the bustling area of Star City in Kuantan, right opposite the Nirvana Supermarket. Its decor boasts of a classic cum contemporary twist of earth colors, giving diners a homey yet lavish dining experience.



The menu is pretty straight-forward, where they serve breakfast/brunch & lunch from 11:00a.m. - 3:00p.m. & continues with dinner from 6:00p.m. - 11:00p.m. You can expect to find 3 types of delectable breakfast specials i.e. Big Breakfast, Cajun Chicken & Eggs Benedict & the rest of the dishes are available pretty much throughout the day unless stated otherwise. They currently serve 2 types of desserts, which I hope in time to come will have a greater variety to select from once they're more established. One thing I've to highlight is that Chef Eugene specializes in Chinese-style dishes during his hotel days, so I'm looking forward to try his Asian Specials tomorrow :D


One of the highlights of this restaurant are their shakes, which are highly recommended if you're not lactose intolerant.


Matcha Tea Shake (RM12.90/glass)
Having a shake feels like having a meal by itself! It's really filling! All their shakes are "beautiful mess" with intense flavors, especially their matcha tea shake, where the green tea is infused for several hours & chilled before the shake is made & served.

Vanilla Shake (RM11.90/serving)
When we tried this, the flavor of the vanilla wasn't very evident. But the following day when another group of friends tried it, they said it's greatly improved & highly recommended :) Calories aren't allowed in the equation when enjoying any of Oui Chef's shakes!

Chocolate Shake (RM11.90/glass)
If you're a chocolate fan, this will keep you happy for the entire day, I reckon. I even licked up all the chocolate ganache from the brim of the glass! :P 

Cookies n' Cream Shake (RM11.90/glass)
I would have loved to have more chunks of cookies in the shake. When I had it that evening, I didn't give this a passing mark, but it seems like the feedback provided helped the team of humble chefs & staff to improve, so you can expect nothing less than satisfying when their business begins tomorrow :) 

Hot Chocolate (RM7.90/mug)
My BIL took a sip before the camera could get to it...hahaha...I think we have no complaints for the simple cup of hot chocolate. 

I hope that the drinks above did whet your appetite to find out more on what Oui Chef Restaurant has to offer. We tried as many dishes as our stomachs could fit, but there are just a lot more dishes that we have yet to try.

Mushroom Soup (RM8.90/serving)
This home-made assorted mushrooms soup is one of the best that I've had & I would dare say the best in Kuantan. Every mouthful of creamy soup comes with moderately-chopped chunks of mushrooms. This is a must order for mushroom fans & yes, it's vegetarian! 

Garlic Cheese Baguette (RM5.90/serving)
Crispy on the outside, soft & chewy on the inside & overall coated with the fragrance of garlic, herbs & cheese. What's not to like about this? :D 

Prawn Wasabi (RM22.90/serving)
Ok, this may seem quite expensive for an appetizer, but I tell you, it's DELICIOUS! You'll find a colorfully presented plate of plump, deep-fried prawns, topped with fresh mango salsa & Oui Chef's in-house wasabi dip for an extra "kick". I enjoyed the balanced flavors of savory, sweet, acidity & wasabi-spiciness.


Salted Egg Pasta (RM18.90/serving)
Are you a fan of salted egg & won't mind salted egg in every other dish? This is something you won't want to miss. The creamy salted egg sauce coats every strand of spaghetti & the aromatic curry leaves plus a slight tinge of spicy chili flakes sure gave the dish a good balance that you won't find this dish cloying. I personally feel that it pairs even better with the wasabi prawns for added chew & texture :P

Ribeye Steak (RM58.90/serving)
What you see on the plate isn't blood, but freshly pureed beetroot for an added layer of flavor to the juicy medium-cooked beef. Each serving comes with spinach, mushroom ragout & creamy mashed potatoes (to die for) with a side of sauce of choice i.e. black pepper, mushroom, or beef jus (pronounced as beef ju) - natural juices from the beef while being cooked.

Teriyaki Salmon (RM32.90/serving)
 I enjoyed their sous vide salmon as all the juices are locked-in & the skin is pan-seared for an added crisp. I find the teriyaki sauce a 'lil too sweet for my liking & prefer the miso salmon to this version.


Miso Salmon (RM32.90/serving)
 You may not be a fan of the salty miso, but this version of miso dip for a piece of meat like salmon  goes perfectly well! Who would have thought that the salmon & miso dip are such a great couple? :D It feels SO Japanese yet Western. Thumbs up!

Earl Grey Creme Brulee (RM8.90/serving)
I didn't get to try this as I was rushing off for my night meeting, but the feedback from the rest who tried this was "it was SOOOO good!" The taste of Earl Grey tea was apparently evident in this dessert. It's something that I would like to try soon!

For this week, the restaurant rests today & business begins tomorrow for an entire week. Their usual off days will be Wednesdays, so do check this place out once their doors are open tomorrow :) You may want to place your reservation if you intend to get a guaranteed seat/table for your meal or special function.



Oui Chef Restaurant
B28, Ground Floor, Star City
Jalan Seri Kuantan 81
25300 Kampong Kuantan
Pahang Darul Makmur
Malaysia.
Tel: (+609) 505 5004
FB: https://www.facebook.com/ouichefrestaurant/
GPS: 3.8242806,103.3347442


Oui Chef!

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