serice // poke bowl rice

"oh, there is one place that i've wanted to try out!" my friend exclaimed.

"hmm...?" i wondered.

"you know pokebowls? in puchong?" 

"lol! i have 25 pokémons!

"lol i'm serious," she laments.

yes, i have 25 pokémons - as much as i'd loathe to admit it
(quietly mumbles *the number has grown considerably*)

when she first suggested poke bowl rice last week, i was amazed by how quickly the 'pokémon go' phenomenon made its way into the local food scene (although for that very brief moment).

until she said it was a hawaiian dish, it dawned on me. 

just to clarify. it has nothing to do with pokémons. 

pronounced as poh-keh
a popular hawaiian dish of raw fish salad (ahi tuna is hugely popular), where modern versions are heavily influenced by japanese flavors with seasonings of shoyu, sesame oil and furikake.
the translation from hawaiian: "to chop" or "to cut crosswise".

honing in on the location of poke bowl rice could have been more challenging than discovering pokémons if it wasn't for the online reviews. korea wallpaper was probably the last place i'd imagine a food joint to be at - poke bowl rice shares the space on the second floor. i entered through the glass door almost apprehensively (with no shoes - it's the rule!) like a lost lamb, doubt and thoughts of me mistakenly thinking interior supplies store has a restaurant crept in.

"is this where poke bowl rice is?
i asked quietly, to which the staff (perhaps it was the owner...)
behind the counter smiled and nodded. 

"we are no longer called poke bowl rice, it has been changed to serice"
i honestly thought he had said 'sir rice' 
until he spelled it to me, twice. 

"it's S-E-R-I-C-E!"

nope, i still don't know what it means.

inspired by the poke he had in LA, he had wanted to bring his experience back and share it at serice.

brightly colored ingredients spanned across the counter, my eyes darted from one after another as i tried to listen intently on the rules on ordering the tailor-made poke bowls:

// pick a base of either japanese rice, tofu or greens
// top it with as much sides as the bowl can fit
// add on one protein of salmon poke, grilled chicken or sautéed beef slices with onions
// finish it off with condiments and drizzle of their special shoyu and/or other sauces

i spent several minutes of strategizing a game plan like i was picking out a fantasy football team.. wait, this was EXACTLY LIKE PICKING OUT A FANTASY FOODBOWL FOOTBALL TEAM!

here was my line up: rice // diced mango, sliced black olives, sautéed oyster mushrooms, julienned bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, wood ear mushrooms, blanched okra // salmon poke // bonito flakes, furikake // special shoyu, sesame dressing.

serice swears by the special shoyu sauce, which is mandatory with every poke bowl.

i, on the other hand, swear by furikake and bonito flakes. most of these fresh ingredients were no bench warmers either especially since the qualification requirement was dependent on being my favorites, as much as i can make them work together, rooted to japanese flavors.

rm16.90 at the cash register for your personalized poke bowl rice and any table in the store was for the taking.

i enjoyed the bespoke approach, highlighting the hottest food trend: healthful,  bearing resemblance to a customized salad (which is an option here too with the base of greens). the one hitch: the rice could have used a bit more time cooking.

oh and diced avocado, we would  have definitely loved some of that.
and luffa. it's like the soft melons of cucumber! we liked it.

i enjoyed the surprisingly comfortable ambiance although it was rather odd to be dining in an interior supplies store - i suspect it's all in the shoes off policy. the one hitch: i sneakily peeked to make sure our shoes were where we left them.

i'd probably skip the mocha (rm 12.90) thought. mild in chocolate/coffee notes and missing the punch of caffeine that i needed very much.

tldr // serice (previously known as poke bowl rice) serves hawaiian inspired fish salad, customized . while it wasn't out of this world delicious, this was one good healthy dish that we don't mind having seconds of.

serice // poke bowl rice | location 
shared space with korea wallpaper, 
2-1, jalan  merbah 1,
bandar puchong jaya
{opens tues - sun: 12pm - 9pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

tokyo secret's hanjuku cheese tart

a brief inner monologue transpired as i ogled at my subject. 

"hmm.. a rare find..."

i berated myself for being so oblivious of its existence.

however, what's more upsetting was the time it took for me to seek it out.

no one was keeping tokyo secret's hanjyuku cheese tart a secret. in fact, it frequently slips its way into my conversations, where it often ends with my buddy swooning with praise and a craving for one.

if these were not telling signs that i needed one, i don't know what is. 

i'll let you in on a secret, though. unlike its name suggests, tokyo secret's roots began in tsim sha tsui, hong kong. while its appearance is akin to the local favorite - the egg tart, the inspiration behind is the molten cheese tarts in japan.

"oh no! did it not open today?" 

i thought out loud as i spied the yellow print of "TOKYO SECRET" punctuated against the dark brick wall.

from all the reviews i've read, it was rather uncharacteristic for this petite speciality pastry shop to be anything but crowded especially on a beautiful sunday afternoon. its popularity (some may classify as hype) is often translated into long queues out of the door and i had imagined a constant boisterous hordes of people spilling out of the petite shop despite being in a "hidden" spot in the ipc mall as it shared its space with a mac store.

delicious sweet fragrance of pastry baking in the oven emanated throughout the bright space, distracting us and most likely the two other diners in queue as we contemplated numbers. i breathed a sigh of relief. i made a quick beeline for the only available table out of the three while my companion had the task of procuring the prized treat, tagged at rm7.90 each.

so as i was saying, ogling at my subject.

the most unassuming golden tart with caramelized top and golden brown crust. i'd be lying if i'd say i didn't form a pre-expectation but somehow it worked in the tart's favor.

it was in the crust.
pleasantly surprised, the crust had a shortbread cookie buttery texture and sweet fragrance, crispy edges contained the slightly caramelized top of the half baked cheese slightly give as i took a nibble.  it almost distracted me from the thick molten cheese oozes slightly - delicate but rich in cheesy goodness, striking the perfect balance of dainty sweetness.

after wolfing one down gladly, it was obvious that i NEEDED another - i ordered one to go but not before having to wait for 10-15 minutes. people-watching from our seats, waves of people continuously flooded in periodically - it was then i realized, perhaps the stars were aligned when we first arrived because it only took us under five minutes to get ours.

this hanjyuku cheese tart assumed an alter ego of a cheesecake after spending a few hours in the fridge. the intensity of the sweet cheese flavor was distinct and the tart shell reminiscent of graham crust, emulating the cheesecake brilliantly.

often the antagonist/protagonist of the latest food trend is hype. while some have regarded it as overhyped, the hanjuku cheese tart at tokyo secret have proven its worth to me and defy the odds the moment i needed a second. #cheesescrust

tldr // each speciality pastry shop possess a special something and tokyo secret's charm certainly lies in its delicious hanjyuku cheese tart albeit its price tag.

tokyo secret | location 
g23, pic shopping centre,
jalan pju 7/2 mutiara damansara
47800 petaling jaya
{opens daily: 10 am - 10 pm} 

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

{ bkk } tealily cafe

"tea is a religion of the art of life"

i had made plans with a friend to meet up at the book store before we headed out for a cup of coffee/tea. when i finally found her in the quiet book store in the late afternoon, she had already picked out a book by okakura kakuzou.

-- the book of tea.  

i almost chuckled,"i didn't know you were very much into tea too."

she and coffee has a special relationship, one that i might define as inseparable bffs - it was almost mandatory that by her side, a cup of coffee, be it warm/cold/decaf/with milk/straight black is necessary.

but, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

for one, tealily cafe's matcha latte is understandably a compelling one.

"unsuspecting without expectations but not without anticipation" was promptly substituted by "cravings deliciously steeped with excitement" after my first introduction to tealily cafe. hence, the 'understandably compelling'

"with tea amused the evening,
with tea solaced the midnight,
and with tea welcomed the morning"

nestled hidden within sukhumvit, the small cafe embodies the term 'teahouse' quite literally. a home converted into cafe, the decor reflected an old rustic charm in its mismatched wooden tables and chairs, where the owner drew inspiration from her visits to japan.

a framed drawing of a japanese girl with cats seemed to mimic tealily cafe's owner and her adorable scottish fold, mochi-chan :)

the one year old kitten (most likely the boss of this place), #mochithecat has his own personality and a need for independence (or so he thinks) but is very playful and during his spare time outside of his naps, he partakes the role of a good host, entertaining the guests at the cafe.

it wasn't long before i warmed up to the pleasant and cheery cafe owner and also felt right at home with her friendly mom. (plus my dining companion has become friends with the family) after conversations with the owner, it was her unmistakably passion and heart for the craft that shone most brightly behind her gentle demeanor - from sourcing high quality ingredients from kyoto, japan to keeping customers on their toes with the anticipation of regularly new creations on the menu, translating her personal insights into japanese culture.

"each preparation of the leaves has its own individuality, 
its special affinity with water & heat, 
its own method of telling a story"

beverage :: iced houjicha latte (thb 135)

resembling the appearance of local thai iced coffee, the darker hue of the houjicha - roasted japanese green tea - distinguished itself from the layer of milk, begging to be mixed for the first sip. it was a resounding expression of forceful roasted fragrance that lightly scorched the tips of floral notes of the green tea, rounded by the milk and murmurs of light sweetness. it was the depth of the intricate flavors that left a deep impression - and a declaration that this will be the yardstick for all the other future iced houjicha lattes.

"perfection is everywhere if 
we only choose to recognize it"

beverage :: hot houjicha latte (thb 130)

its warmer counterpart served in a traditional mug, possessed a deeper, accentuated nuances that proclaimed its presence blatantly.  i crinkled my nose at i tasted the unexpected strength of houjicha. sip after sip, i mulled it over  --  and came to a conclusion: the cold version edges out the warm; it must be the balance of flavor notes it struck.

beverage :: iced matcha latte (thb 130)

unroasted, the floral fragrance of the japanese green tea charmed the tastebuds but with clarity and cleaner disposition, sweetened lightly by the milk. i can't remember my dining companion ordering any other drinks from tealily except for the matcha latte.

"tea is a work of art and 
needs a mastermind to bring out its noblest quality"

desserts :: goma dango | dango, roast white sesame, roast black sesame (thb 135)

i've noticed that the owner steps away and into the kitchen whenever customers places an order of dessert from the menu. desserts does take a little extra time to be served because of her devotion of churning out made-to-order desserts, served fresh and warm. dango, the japanese dumpling was warm and soft with a slight chewiness, contrasted texturally by the roasted sesame for nuttiness.

desserts :: matcha brownie | matcha brownie, whipping cream, matcha sauce (thb 125)

this brownie may bring joy to matcha enthusiasts; the comforting warmth of the moist brownie with the familiar japanese green tea flavors with a light sweetness was inviting, when paired with the whipped cream, lighten the whole affair - it exuded the coziness of a homemade dessert.

my friend revealed that the book of tea was more than just about tea but linked teaism to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of japanese life.

“teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful 
among the sordid facts of everyday existence. 
it inculcates purity and harmony, 
the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. 
it is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, 
as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible 
in this impossible thing we know as life.” 

if this is how tea is supposed to taste like, perhaps it's not a bad idea to learn a thing or two about life from the book of tea.

tldr // what sets tealily cafe apart is the owner's sensitivity to technique, ingredients and her passion to share her personal insight into japanese tea and culture. made to order desserts philosophy and excellent green tea lattes, both houjicha and matcha makes tealily cafe one of my favorite cafes in bangkok.

tealily cafe | location 
sukhumvit 39,
soi prommit,
bangkok,  thailand
{opens weekdays: 10:30am -6:30pm
weekends: 9:30am - 6:30pm} 

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

kenny hills bakers, bukit tunku

the car turned into a street where parts of it were flanked by a corridor of trees. it was faintly reminiscent of the street in front of my home where i grew up in. while savoring the memories from my childhood, it was a little down the street when i spotted the petite cafe in the commercial row on the first floor of a dated apartment. 

the car was parked by the side of the quiet street just across the street. i found my way through the dark wooden tables and red metal chairs tucked under to get to the glass entrance of the petite cafe. on the left on the dark brick wall were stenciled in white: 

organic artisanal breads
patisserie coffee

as i opened the door, the espresso machine squealed as the barista was brewing a cup of coffee while i inhaled the aroma. the sights of golden flaky layers on pastries beckoned at me while artisanal breads nestled comfortably in wicker baskets and the plump, crumbly huge wedges of pies & quiches stood on pedestals under glass cake dome, enticing me closer.

"wow, i don't even know where to start..."

several minutes of ogling at the cornucopia of golden pastries and pondering my important bread choices in my head later, it was the specials on the mini chalkboard that finally caught my attention.

i wasn't half as devoted to my pick as i inched myself towards the selections of pastries again, pondering which ones would go home with me. as i browsed its menu board, the next board read:

please order & pay
at the counter 
and we'll send 
your food to you. 
we accept cash only

"oh darn. cash only. this means.. this limits how much i can buy."

which i suppose was a good thing. or not i'd be hoarding a whole lot of pastries i just can't finish.

it was just enough space for my dining companion and i to stand comfortably in the compact lil' bakery - perhaps suffice for one additional person to join in the pastry party.

a lone diner reading his paper contently at the high industrial counter against the wall after his hearty meal. we quickly realized that we'd be taking the definition of cozy lunch way too literally if we were both sardined at the counter.

torn between a very snug lunch space but with the comforts of air conditioning and the outdoor dining where the blinding rays from the sun sneaked its way through the crevices of the wooden blinds which only highlighted the heat in the middle of the afternoon, we chose the latter after a quick contemplation. the heat was occasionally relieved by the wall fan and a cold glass of the cafe's house cooler.

house cooler :: fresh passion fruit with wild organic honey (rm 10)

the punch of tropical tartness intermingled with the whispers of natural floral honey's mild sweetness, chilling in a glassful of ice cubes, with droplets of water condensed on the glass in the warm temperatures. the passion fruit seeds rendered the straw almost pointless and after struggling for a few seconds, i took a sip straight from the glass and was surprised by the prominent tartness that begged for the addition of just a bit more honey. refreshing, nonetheless.

specials :: smoked salmon & avocado salsa s'wich | choice of croissant/bread (rm 21)

i picked up the top half of the shatter-crisp shell to unveil plump greens atop the light pinkish-orange slices of fresh smoked salmon, sprinkled with freshly cracked black pepper. i flipped the top half of  the croissant to discover soft buttery layers mimicking the honeycomb insides.

the fresh slices of the smoked salmon donned a light layer of saltiness but barely took on the smokey fragrance. the butter-like quality of the diced avocado and fresh tomatoes (akin to roughly chopped guacamole) was interjected by unripe pieces of avocado.

i frowned as i bit into one and thought, "this is a real bummer"

if not for that slight hitch, i'd say it was a pretty hearty sandwich.

brew black potion :: mocha (rm 12)

brew with a  bitter aftertaste - overdone. the cacao/chocolate - not present.

our sandwiches :: beef pastrami bagel | with mustard & gherkins (rm 21)

as i stared at the sandwich, it was as if the pastrami was taunting me like an emoticon with its tongue sticking out. i had to request a pinch of the pastrami from my dining companion (it wasn't my order) and the moist meat tasted lightly smoked with a good hint of spiced saltiness. my companion gave it an average but i guess it wasn't fair when it was compared with its counterparts from deli in nyc - it's  just no competition.

desserts :: lemon meringue pie (rm 12)

even in the midst of the many colorful sweets, my cravings called for a good ol' fashion lemon meringue. torched brown, the crown of meringue nestled upon the lemon curd that filled up the tart shell. it had all the elements and flavors but were a hint wonky in its delicate ratio - too sweet.

a more crumbly crust and a more sour disposition would have done the trick to win me over.

tldr // kenny hills bakers dishes out legit buttery tender breads and lovely pastries with a few minor snags. its coffee - hmm.. i think that needs a second opinion.

kenny hills bakers | location 
lot I-1A, taman tunku
bukit tunku
50480 kuala lumpur
{opens daily: 8am - 7pm} 

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.