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Review: Coffee 101/Appreciation at Caffe Crema

>> Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's my 1st time attending such a session & I'm so glad that I joined :D To those who know me, you'll know that I'm not a 'coffee-person' & I've no clue on what makes a good cup of coffee. This was my golden opportunity to learn up from the expert & to also share with you what I've learned!

The coffee appreciation session took place at Caffè Crema, Plaza Mont Kiara. This is one coffee (tea and chocolate too) cafè that serves ONLY coffee, tea, chocolate drinks & desserts, nothing else!

We were introduced to the cafè & the basics of coffee by Elvin S, the founder of Caffè Crema. Elvin's background is actually in IT, but his latest passion is for coffee. He finds coffee interesting like wine & enjoys traveling, in search for good coffee; one of his favorite countries is Italy!

From his passion & likes, you can bet that the name of this cafè derived from the Italian name for cafè i.e. Caffè, with the inspiration of "Crema", which refers to the 'cream above the coffee'. Caffè Crema's concept goes back to the basics, where everything is"raw", from their furniture to even their coffee & cakes (home-made from scratch). Those who love a cup of coffee accompanied by jazz & blues kinda music will fall in love with this place.

This business started within 2.5 months after the discussion with 76 Hair Salon, the salon next door that was interested in having a cafè together with the salon. Everything took place very quickly, even the idea & SOP of their signature blend. Caffè Crema does not sell decaf as Elvin feels that it defeats the purpose of drinking coffee :D

Elvin gets his roasted coffee beans from Singapore (beans are roasted there). The coffee beans come from Bali, Brazil & Costa Rica. This mixture of beans give a smoother,  low acidity, & chocolaty taste to the coffee. Their signature House Blend coffee is medium roast, smooth, & not so strong, while their Raven Coffee is stronger, darker & has a dark chocolate after taste. They also offer single-origin coffee like the Ethopian Sidamo Yirgacheffe.

Most of you would be aware that there are 2 major types of coffee, the Arabica & the Robusta. The Arabica is more dynamic & may have different notes, while the Robusta is mainly found in instant coffee, as it is cheaper, easier to grow & easy to have a consistent taste.

Freshly ground coffee - SO aromatic *aaahhhh....*

One of the many 'important toys' in the coffee industry is the porta filter & VST filter basket. Caffè Crema's VST filter baskets are not machine punched, but laser punched. This offers greater precision & quality in the coffee filtered. You won't be able to get such toys here, so Elvin gets them shipped in from the US.

Lamaazocco Italian espresso machine: Custom made
This is every barrista's dream!

Caffè Crema uses the EK-43 German coffee grinder machine, which grinds coffee very quickly, by the seconds! If you're using the hand-grinder for your own consumption, it's best that you don't grind the coffee beans too fast as the grinding creates heat & evaporates the fragrance of the coffee. Most importantly, grind only when you want to drink to ensure freshness of the coffee!

Another toy that we were introduced to that day was the Coffee Refractometer. The aim is to have consistent coffee, so this refractometer does the job! So cool! *yes, I'm a noob in such things* This cafe brings coffee science into the market!

Ah, such an educational session, right? So what other things did I experience, you would wonder. We had the opportunity to do some touch-test, smell-test, & also taste-test!

1. Touch-Test
- Touching different textures of ground coffee
- Fine (like table salt) ground = espresso, mocha
- Coarse ground = cold drip, siphon

2. Smell-Test
1st: Very ' burnt'! Coffee = Nescafe Original 3 in 1 :P
2nd: Smells burnt. Coffee = Starbucks house blend medium roast *ooooo...I didn't know*
3rd: Stale coffee smell that doesn't smell very coffee. Coffee = Pre-grounded Caffe Macinato Espresso Moka.
4th: Fresh! Coffee = Raven blend where the beans were grounded 2 hours ago/grounded fresh. *wow, makes a lot of difference!*

Basically, after roasting the coffee beans, the coffee should be consumed within a month. If you're a coffee-lover, you should always get your coffee in beans form as well. Grind your coffee when you wanna drink & NEVER store coffee beans in the fridge! Just keep them in a cool, dark place. When it comes to coffee, it's not advisable to buy in bulks to "save more money" as buying in small packs will ensure you'll always have fresh coffee.

3. Taste-Test
1st test: Under extracted: Pungent, sourish/acidic, thick *bleagh!!!*
2nd test: Over extracted: VERY bitter & burnt *double bleagh!!!*
3rd test: Normale (good cup of espresso): Sourish, bitter, a bit of everything. Balanced.
* Every barrista will have to do a "dial-in" before serving each day i.e. testing that the coffee tastes right before serving.

So what makes a good cup of coffee? Almost everything! Hahaha...Growing, Roasting, Storing, Machine, & even the Barista.

Crema is the top 'creamy' part of the coffee

Latte art in the making...I failed in such art :(

Preparing the coffee + milk

That's a lot of information about coffee. Caffè Crema offers lovely cheesecakes & mille crepe too - all home-made by Elvin's friend. Yums!

Toblerone, Oreo & Durian Cheesecakes (RM12.50/piece)
Rich, flavorful & not too sweet - LOVELY! This is what I call "quality cakes".

Strawberry & Blueberry Cheesecakes (RM12.50/piece)
I love the fresh berries *yums*

Salted Caramel, Oreo, Vanilla & Nutella Mille Crepe (RM15.00/slice)
I love the salted caramel & nutella...*drools as I recall*

Unique Coffee Grinders

Coffee-related equipments sold here

Their selection of tea

Special thanks to Xavier Mah & Elvin for this opportunity to experience good coffee & learn up some tips & tricks on coffee making! I'll be back!

Caffè Crema
E-01-02, Block E
Plaza Mont Kiara
2, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara
Kuala Lumpur

Tel: (+603) 6206 2237
Business hours: 8:00a.m. - 8:00p.m.
FB: http://www.caffecrema.my/

Feeling blessed & excited - must be the caffeine!


Review: Feast Like an Emperor this Chinese New Year

>> Monday, February 9, 2015

Venue: Utara Coffee House, Armada Hotel Petaling Jaya
Overall comment: The team maintains the Chinese tradition amidst the ever & quick-changing lifestyle this Chinese New Year
Halal: Yes

Utara Coffee House is all set to usher in the Year of the Goat with its Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Buffet Dinner spread & set dinner. The buffet spread is priced at RM78.00+/adult, RM55.00+/senior citizen, & RM39.00+/child, while the set dinners begin from RM978.00+ to RM1308.00+ per set that could serve 10 persons.

You'll also find the Prosperity Yee Sang from RM65.00+/portion, featuring a selection of fruity veggies, salmon, butterfish or Hokkaido scallops.

Below are some of the dishes that we tasted that evening, available at the buffet spread &/in the dinner sets. If you're still considering options for your CNY Reunion Dinner with family & friends, you could opt to "feast like an emperor" here at Utara Coffee House :) This CNY promotion (CNY reunion buffet spread is only available on CNY eve) will be available from now through 5th March 2015!

Hot Pot Treasures/"Poon Choy" - yes, it's available at the buffet spread!

Fish Paste Rolls in Beancurd Sheets

Cocktail Shrimps

Braised Shark's Fins Soup

Chinese Herbal Chicken

Steamed Seabass with Ginger Sauce

Fried Prawns with Salted Eggs & Butter Flakes

Fried Mixed Vegetables with Fatt Choy

Chinese New Year Lotus Rice

Stir-Fried Longevity Noodles with Chicken & Mushrooms

Red Bean Cream with Lotus Seeds & Lily Bulbs

Chinese New Year Pancake & Steamed "Nien Gao"

Utara Coffee House Armada Hotel
Lot 6, Lorong Utara C, Section 52
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
For reservations, please call (+603) 7954 6888 ext. 4557
URL: www.armada.com.my
FB: Hotel Armada
Twitter: Hotel Armada

Looking forward to an ameeehzing Year of the Goat!


Review: Dian Hou Xin Wo Steamboat Restaurant, PJ

>> Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Overall comment: Delicious hand-made meat balls in flavorful soup base - perfect meal especially on rainy days! You've to try their CNY special "Smoked Pork Bacon Yee Sang"! I loved it...who doesn't love bacon?? :P
Halal: No

Dian Huo Xin Wo (点火心窝) is no stranger to those traveling on the LDP highway, passing by Kelana Jaya area. This simple yet 'filled with surprises' steamboat restaurant is opened by 4 business partners 1 1/2 years ago, with the soft launch that took place in September 2013. With the passion & love for good steamboat by the brainchild, Mr. Lee Wai Hoong, Dian Huo Xin Wo was birthed.

The restaurant looks classic, brings a nostalgic feeling & creates an atmosphere of warm, jovial relationships amongst diners as they enjoy a good meal of steamboat together.

Very 1960s?

The menu is just a 2-page (multiple folds) card, featuring an exciting range of hand-rolled meatballs, seafood, meats, vegetables & more.

Just 3 types of dips (all spicy) to go with the meat
The meatballs were actually so good on its own that you don't really need to dip it with any sauces!

Here at Dian Huo Xin Wo, you can rest assure that no MSG is used in their soups & meats except for the clear tom yam soup, which has a small portion of seasoning to create the tom yam taste. All soup recipes are specially prepared by Wai Hoong's wife, so you can expect a very "homey" taste & feel when you dine here.

Black Chicken Herbal Soup (RM23.00/pot - refillable without extra charges)
Flavorful, nutritious & sweet - I loved this!

Clear Tom Yam & Pork Oriental Soup (RM18.00/pot; refillable without extra charges)
 The clear tom yam soup was very deceiving. It didn't give us a good 1st impression as it looks too clear to be tasty, but oh my, this was one of the best tom yam soups that we've had! The pork bone soup was alright but nothing very "wow". Having said that, I think it's the best soup base for the meatballs as the soup eventually gets all the flavor & doesn't cover the natural taste of the meatballs like the other 2 soup bases! :D

While waiting for our soup to boil, we were served some appetizers:
Fried Salmon Skin (RM6.00/serving)
Very crispy & the slightly sweet soya sauce actually gives a nice balance to the flavor. I could eat the whole plate myself :P

Tongsam Century Egg (RM4.50/serving)
For those who love century eggs, you'll love this. The yolk is just divine!

Japanese Cucumber (RM4.50/serving)
Refreshing, appetizing & quite addictive although after a while, it does remind me of the cucumber slices served with chicken rice...hahaha.

Thanks to the upcoming CNY, we also had yee sang at this humble restaurant:

Smoked Pork Bacon Yee Sang (RM68.00/serving)
 Who doesn't like bacon??! To have it with yee sang was total happiness! The strips of smoked bacon were thick enough so it was bliss in every bite. The sweetness of the red dragonfruit gave the yee sang dish a different dimension as well :D Huat ar!
You can have this yee sang from now 'til 15 February 2015. Best to pre-order to avoid disappointment cos I think they're the only restaurant that offers smoked pork bacon yee sang!

Every dish served like a dim sum...how unique...
 I love the way the balls are served here. It's classic, easy to stack & looks very neat as well.

Dian Huo Xin Wo serves 9 types of meatballs + dumpling. All their meatballs are freshly prepared & served, using only the freshest & finest ingredients to ensure that quality & taste aren't compromised. They use the "yellow tail" fish for their fish balls & the minced prawns used for their shrimp balls are 'massaged' for about an hour to give the desired texture! *wow*

All the balls can be kept for up to 4 days in the freezer/fridge only as there aren't preservatives added to the balls. Wai Hoong & his team will teach all customers the proper way to store the meatballs to ensure freshness, so don't worry ;)

Fresh meatballs, hand-rolled! Using real, fresh ingredients...no such thing as 'prawn-flavored balls' or 'beef-flavored balls'

(clockwise from top left): Signature Beef Balls (RM8.00/serving), Golden Yolk Pork Balls (RM8.00/serving), Quail Egg Chicken Balls (RM7.00/serving) & Mushroom Pork Balls (RM7.00/serving)
Each meatball has its unique taste, texture & fragrance. I think the most 'exciting' one for me are the quail egg chicken balls & golden yolk pork balls :D One whole quail egg in every chicken ball & chunks of salted egg yolks in the pork balls. Thumbs up on quality!

(clockwise from top left): Crystal Fish Balls (RM6.00/serving), Squid Balls (RM7.00/serving), Seafood Balls (RM8.00/serving) & Shrimp Balls (RM8.00/serving)
What surprised me was even the squid balls were made of actual squid (unlike those that you buy from supermarkets) *yay*

(clockwise from top left): Mongolian Sliced Lamb (RM25.00/serving), American Wagyu Sliced Beef (RM36.00/serving), Fresh Large Prawns (RM20.00/serving), Sliced Pork Loin (RM16.00/serving) & Sliced Chicken (RM12.00/serving). They offer the Australian Snowflake Sliced Beef as well for RM18.00/serving
What's steamboat without fresh meat slices, eh? The selection is certainly sufficient to keep me happy & contented. I salute the freshness of ingredients served & the simple yet neat presentation as well. Oh, I must say that the prawns are really worth having as they are the really large ones (the head itself is the size of the ladle's scoop area).

Dig in, dig in!

The Quail Egg Chicken Ball
One of my favorites although I admit that I can't have too much of this due to its high cholesterol level (small egg but highest in cholesterol...ish).

The Signature Beef Ball
Minced beef with parsley, turnip & other ingredients that I can't really decipher :P I love the smooth yet slightly bouncy texture & aromatic taste.

Assortment of ingredients
Vegetables (from RM4.00 - RM7.00/serving), Mushrooms (from RM6.00 - RM6.50/serving), Beancurd (from RM4.00 - RM6.00/serving), Pork Intestine (RM10.00/serving)
 If's actually my 1st time having pork intestine in steamboat & my, my, it's SO GOOD!!

Tender, clean & odorless: THUMBS UP!!
I'll certainly order this the next time I'm here :D

Many families would be celebrating CNY Eve reunion dinner with a steamboat meal. If you're keen to have these hand-rolled, fresh, & delicious meatballs in your steamboat, here's the good news: you can order the meatballs (raw/uncooked) for your steamboat at home! Call to order from now 'til 16th February 2015. 'All the balls will roll out of the kitchen' in containers & will need to be self-collected/'taken to their new home' on 17th February 2015, just in time for your CNY Eve reunion dinner the next day :D There is actually no minimum amount for the take-away, so even if you want 1 serving of their Signature Beef Balls only, they'll still prepare for you :)


Dian Huo Xin Wo 点火心窝
19, Jalan SS 4D/2
47301 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel: (+603) 7887 4557 / (+6012) 296 3886
Business hours: 5:00p.m. - 11:00p.m. daily
FB: https://www.facebook.com/DianHuoXinWo
Note: Located on the row of shops after the Kelana Jaya LRT station towards Puchong (i.e. People's Park area)

Presentation: * * * *
Price: * * *
Environment: * * *
Taste: * * * 1/2
Service: * * *


Salivating now & dreaming of fresh meatballs,

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