Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Genting Jazz Festival 2008 (part 2 of 2)

This is the last part of my two part review of the Genting Jazz Festival 2008. (Read the first part here).
Let me continue with my pawikan awards (eh?):

Best keyboard duel: Mario Canonge on the piano vs Tangora's Hammond organist. It's a pity I didn't get the organist's name-- whenever he'd turn on the volume and hit the big chords on the Hammond it was just so grand! And Mario, oh Mario! After he played, I'm sure you could light a cigarette on the piano strings because they'd be smoking hot!

Hottest female performer - This is without a doubt petite South African saxophonist Shannon Mowday (Here's an interview of her)! Her skirt and boots outfit, fantastic hairdo and subtle dance moves-- so cute!!! Coming in a close second is uber-tall Karin Hammar, trombonist from Sweden. (Here's a sample video of her playing.) How many female trombonists do you know?

Most unexpected song
- This would have to be Singapore's acapella band, Key Elements and their version of the theme from Spiderman. Plus points to the sounds effects (BIFF! BAM!) and their quaint choreography! (Video courtesy of earthxavier below.)

Best on-stage chemistry and crowd favorite
- Neanders Jazz Band from Denmark. Their big band old-sk00l New Orleans blues got my head bobbing. Their on-stage antics were very endearing, reminded me of daddies having fun.

They got the most awwws and cheers when Neander Kristensen channeled Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' (video below) in their encore performance. When the audience started singing the chorus to the song, that's when I thought-- hey these Malaysians are really getting into it!

Best bassist - Definitely Schalk Joubert! Check out his solo below. Pay attention between the 7th and 8th second when he sticks his finger in his mouth to make a small pop! to punctuate his music. Yeah!

Best dressed band - These would have to be the boys from Jazz Jamaica. Skinny neckties, leather beret, the well tailored pants and heartthrob Kevin-Federline-look-alike drummer (with diamond stud earring!).

: 5/5
Five pawikan points! Minus points because the alcohol was expensive. MYR64 for a bucket of five Heineken bottles! Ridiculous!! Bonus points for the impromptu all-star Jam during the last night of the festival. Here's a video courtesy of d7b9. Pay attention to the riff from "Flight of The Bumblebee" at 0:58 which melds into theme from the Flintstones on 1:19 which drew approving roars from the crowd.

I'd definitely be back next year!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Genting International Jazz Festival 2008 (part 1 of 2)

Great selection of top-notch jazz performers, excellent sound engineering and an efficient crew made the 2008 Genting International Jazz Festival a success.

I had the good fortune to attend the International Jazz Festival held at Genting Highlands in Malaysia. Everything was perfect! The efficient crew took only 15 minutes in between sets to setup the stage, the room acoustics was top-notch and the performers-- let's just say that there was a party in my ears and everyone was invited.

For what it's worth, reviewsbyp is awarding errr pawikan awards (eh?) to the performers:

Best solo
- Hamilton de Holanda's "Disparada" (full version here) on the 10 string mandolin. Imagine this big guy with a shaved head who looks like Dominic Purcell (from Prison Break) playing an instrument as small as a banduria. His fingers flying through the small fret board, each note ringing true and full of emotion. This alone was worth the MYR112 admission price. more videos here and here.

Best duet - Hamilton de Holanda again on the mandolin with Gabriel Grossi (?) on the chromatic harmonica. This performance gave me goosebumps. (Ang OA ko!) But it's as if both instruments were lovers intertwining.

Strangest Fusion - A cross between salsa and celtic music by Salsa Celtica. (Salsa with bagpipes!) They had an unconventional entrance by walking to the stage from behind the auditorium while playing their celtic tunes. Watch this sample video of Salsa Celtica. Their music was also livened up by the spontaneous dancing of salsa students from Havana E Studio.

Best vocalist - This award definitely goes to Tangora (video below). Her scat improvisations were breathtaking and although I barely understood a word of what she was singing because it was all in French, she just proved that her music could cross languages. She also had the best backup band!

The guy (what's his name?) on the steelpans was amazing. In the first place, I didn't even know what this instrument was! It looks like a giant snare drum, sounds a bit like a xylophone but not quite. Check out a the video of his steel pan solo below taken by earthxavier. (Here's another solo taken by d7b9 at the festival itself.)

I'm also awarding the steel pan guy and Jazz Jamaica trumpeter Abram Wilson the best duel! During the last performance of the festival, a lot of these jazz greats went on stage for a huge jamming session and these two really stood out trying to outdo each other with their riffs.

It started out innocently-- a few bars of the trumpet here, a few bars of the steel pan there; but then it got faster and faster and more intricate and the crowd went on their feet and started cheering!

Who won?

Well, the steelpan guy took the pan off its rack, placed it on the floor and started to spin it like a roulette while playing it. That's badass! And it was beautiful musical mayhem!

I wanted to scream "we're not worthy! we're not worthy!"
Find out reviewsbyp's sexiest performer, best dressed band, most unexpected song and more-- continue reading the second part of the review...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Checkers, Kuala Lumpur

I asked the owner: "Is this place halal?"
He looks at me straight in the eye and deadpans: "Halal? This is checkers!"
It's Checkers, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant hidden in a suburb in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur and they've got the best pork i've ever had in this city.

Praise the Lard and satisfaction will be upon thee! Says one of the many charming little signs that adorn this one-room 30-seat affair.

There's little in the way of ambience here and the steel fold-up chairs leave much to be desired but I'm going to forgive these poor choices of furniture because the food and service more than make up for it.

What to order? You definitely must start with the mushroom galette (MYR 19) which is just a fancy term for "yummy thin crust mushroom and bacon pizza". (I think it's a misnomer because galettes are usually more like crepes...) The base is crispy, thin like a cracker and the cheese is sticky and the toppings are generous. But don't just eat the pizza on its own-- ask for the homemade hot sauce simply called After Death Chili Sauce!

That stuff will put hair on your chest.

On to the mains-- if you're in a big group, you must try Lord Of The Ribs which features a whole rack of ribs that redefines finger licking good. And the sauce-- oh the sauce! The BBQ sauce it comes with is for amateurs-- ask for the mustard vinaigrette with its tangy kick that literally (literally!) made my mouth water. (If you're dining alone, try the smaller version-- "Porky's Best". It comes with fresh salad and corn.)

To keep yourself young (you'll die early), order the pig trotters (MYR 25) which is very similar to our crispy pata. Thick, crispy skin that you must pull off the deep fried bone with your bare hands. And as you pull it, your fingers become sticky from the melted fat underneath. Tasty but not for the faint of heart (pardon the pun).

Pasta aglio olio (MYR 18.5) is a good choice to accompany all this porky goodness coupled with their house red wine (MYR 85).

For dessert, I recommend their chocolate mousse (MYR 17) garnished with fresh mint and strawberries. If you want something cool, try the rum dessert thingie (MYR 15) which is similar to ice kacang but with rum.

The service is very personal because the quirky hands-on owner Sam bustles about. He does have a bit of a strange sense of humor and can seem abrasive and aloof but I like the guy. He also has three Filipino staff so if you can speak Filipino, greet them with a hearty kamusta and you'll see their faces light up.

Rating: 0.5
Four and a half pawikan points! Bonus points because there is no corkage (yes you can bring your own wine to drink for free).
Minus points because the place is hard to find-- and this is by design! Sam doesn't want too much customers because he says it's too much work. They've got a big Checkers signboard but it isn't lit so good luck in finding it.

Interested? Make sure to call first (+603-2095-3304) and make a booking because of its limited seats. Ask for directions so you can locate 19 Lorong Setia Bistari 2, Damansara Heights. (More reviews: pasankia, food-4-thot)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In praise of the Nasi Kandar, Malaysia

There was no menu, no prices, the viands had no labels, no one could speak English and all the servers could ask me was: "Makan? Makan?"

This ain't no twilight zone-- this was Lotus nasi kandar on Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur.
My first thought was that this was a buffet with the rows and rows of steel pans containing a very wide assortment of food. How assorted? Well let's see...

- first you've got the standards-- grilled satay (my fave!), chicken rice, roti, noodles, western food
- the fried fare (chicken, pigeon, catfish)
- curried lamb, chicken, fish, shrimp and squid
- tofu in different kinds of sauce
- veggies (bitter gourd with egg, green beans, broccoli, assorted stir fried veggies, etc...)
- drinks (fresh soy milk, lime, tea, coffee, milo, fresh coconut, softdrinks)
- sup ayam which is basically chicken soup chock-full of chili and spice and everything nice. (I had a star anise in my soup!) This stuff will leave your nose runny.

! I will run out of space if I list everything here! You can't beat the nasi kandar for sheer variety. Period.

I understand that nasi kandar is a generic term for a "mixed rice" place and it's usually ran by Malaysian-Indians. It's sort of in between a kopitiam (food court) and a hawker center. This particular one i'm reviewing is Lotus which according to the taxi drivers, is so-so. (They recommend Pelita nasi kandar which I have yet to visit...)

Here's how it's done
You basically get a plate and heap food on it buffet style. Once you sit down to eat, one of the servers will magically appear beside you, look at the food and divine how much each item costs and write it on a piece of paper. After your meal, you bring this paper to the cashier to pay.

I can't quite figure out the pricing strategy but I am sure it is a combination of the type of viand and its quantity. Shrimps and squid cost more than meats, vegetables cost the least. It seems that eating a little of everything costs a lot of one thing than a lot of one thing. The more variety, the more you pay.

I've eaten here on more than one occasion and the cost of my food is never the same. One thing is constant though-- it's consistently below MYR12 (this includes 2 viands, rice, veggies and a drink) which I must say is very reasonable.

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points. Bonus points because everyone eats here! I've seen fashionistas dressed in their clubbing outfits, construction workers, office workers, foreigners, tourists and locals.

The place reminds me of a school canteen but what I like about it is the consistency--It's open 24 hours, the food is usually hot and there's no waiting for tables. The Lotus Family has operations all over Malaysia. Try it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Best Wedding Videos I've Seen in Manila

I've been to five weddings in just the past two months and have seen a wide variety of wedding videos. Usually the best are those that are "homemade" because of the unique content that only those who are close to you can make.

However I must give four pawikan points to Imacron's videos at Carine and Alpi's wedding. Usually the photo montage is done with the usual Apple photo slideshow software but this was the first time I've ever seen a 3D photomontage and it blew me away!

They also showed a video of the wedding day itself edited on-site and it was nothing short of amazing! Perfect use of Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer's "Now We Are Free" from the Gladiator soundtrack. Succinct and dramatic. More wedding videos should be done this way.

Rating: 0

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sahara Tent, Kuala Lumpur

The Sahara Tent restaurant at the Hotel Fortuna in Kuala Lumpur is the closest I think i'll ever get to authentic middle eastern food.

The pita bread (MYR2) is oven baked and served hot and fresh -- crispy and billowy in all the right places. And the hummus (MYR 9.50) is the best i've ever had! Beautiful but simply presented in a shallow plate adorned by a single olive at the center.

The falafel (MYR 12.90) was crunchy all around but I think it would've been better with cream cheese instead of a mayo dip.

Looking for some meat? I specially like the grilled lamb Riyash which are shaped like lollipops and are oh so savory.

The Musahab chicken with its garlic-based dip (MYR 18.90) reminded me of our very own chicken inasal. I found the Shagaff lamb kebabs (MYR19.50) a bit dry and I think it could be improved with a little sauce on the side.

Wash everything down with a pot of the strong Arabic tea (MYR 10) and you've got the makings of a very good meal.

The ambience is definitely Middle Eastern-- carpets, shishah pipes and even a camel stuffed toy! Waiters and clientele who look like they come from the region. They even have special booths with curtains for diners who wear full face veils.

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points! What more can I say? The servers are attentive, the toilets are clean and the food is good. Visit their website for a map and contact information.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Goat soup, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

It's loud, confusing with an atmosphere not unlike a market. The tables are uninspiring and a cat brushes past my leg. Someone almost slipped on the fresh coffee spill. The waiters are shouting something in Bahasa which Mark translated as "come here, come and sit inside".

I am in a hawker center simply called Selera Jaya 223 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia and I'm having goat soup.

My foodie friend Mark orders in Bahasa-- duwa sup kambing and duwa Milo ice kosong. Literally translated as two goat soup and two Milo ice zero. (Mark explains that our drink is called "zero" because it contains nothing but water, ice and a generous heaping of Milo powdered milk.)

I take one packet of nasi lemak (literally "fat rice") wrapped in a banana leaf from the tray, unwrap it on the table (plates? what plates?) and take a huge spoonful of the rice cooked in coconut with sambal (chili) and peanuts. Then I sip the hot goat soup.

Immediately there was a party in my mouth and everybody was on fire. It's a spicy and meaty taste, very bold and aggressive which I think the locals describe as heaty. I drink up the soup until my nose is nice and runny and then I gulp down the Milo ice zero-- aahhh it is THE perfect drink to douse the flames.

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points! Bonus points because our bill comes up to a verrry reasonable MYR 7 per person! Not bad for a meal that really hit the spot.

Be prepared for lots of local color and make sure your stomach can handle this sort of experience. It's not exactly a shining pinnacle of food hygiene.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Massimo's Cafe, Tagaytay

"This reminds me of my lola's house" was Agent A's comment and I think it pretty much summed up the whole feel of the place. (Agent A's lola must also have an expensive chef! hehehe)
Decided to go for an early valentine's day dinner at Massimo's Ristorante upon Mama Hen's and commenter Rachel's recommendation. We were the only patrons during that Friday night and we were greeted by our friendly waiter who immediately showed us the menu written in chalk on a big blackboard.

I thought that was a bit strange-- ordering even before we were seated and it felt a bit 'rushed'. I assume that the meals are made depending on what's available in the market but since it's fine-dining prices, I would've still preferred a printed copy that I could leisurely peruse while nibbling on some starters.

The Food
Speaking of starters, I recommend the artichoke and cheese dip (php250) with sticky, gooey cheese on crispy toasted bread. For the main course, I had the scallops on mushroom risotto (php695) while Agent A ordered sea bass with mashed potato (Php850).

The portions were just right for us but then again Agent A and I aren't very big eaters. The sea bass was crispy, melts in your mouth and went well with the refreshing dalandan juice (php85). I thought the scallops were slightly on the salty side but the risotto had lots of flavor. Both dishes had mediocre plating and didn't invite you to take a photo of it.

It pains me to say this but dessert was underwhelming. The molten chocolate cake with ice cream (php175) was so-so. Maybe I should've tried the gelato instead. Try their calming mint tea (php65) to cap off your meal.

Very good service-- our server was unobtrusive and he knew the menu well.

Rating: 0.50
A dinner for two that cost almost Php2,500 and I didn't even order any wine! I apply my snootier set of standards for such fine-dining prices and I give this place three and a half pawikan points. Bonus points because of the folksy, easy-going ambience. Minus points because we didn't get any official receipt, just a sales invoice.

If you liked this review, you might also want to read my review of Antonio's also in Tagaytay. There are also other reviews of Massimo you can read.
Directions: Coming from the Tagaytay rotunda, drive about 2km and make a right at the Petron station with the fork in the road. After about 400m, you'll see a big sign on your right for Massimo. Turn right and you'll see the well-lit house to your right.