Thursday, May 30, 2013

The One With Apple, Disappointment and Its Antidote in California

If you're thinking Apple, the multi billion dollar consumer electronics company that's missing Steve Jobs' magical touch, it is not. Apple is one of the many new friends I made on this trip. Obviously that's not her real name. Met her accidentally while I was attending a workshop in Sunnyvale. A fellow Indonesian who's living the life we would all envy from afar.

If it wasn't for her, I would probably end up cashing out unnecessary taxi money or went home with a pair of sore feet. Sunnyvale is not exactly a city equipped with public transport and truthfully, Google Maps can be very misleading. True story. I walked 30 minutes from the Caltrain station to my Airbnb's apartment at 10 PM and I did not meet one single person along the way, let alone a bus.

I don't believe in coincidence, I know that the universe connect us for a reason, and that is ... to let her show the beautiful food around the city.

The Famous Burger Joint

In-N-Out Burger was the obvious choice. Everyone who's ever been to this part of West Coast always raved about it. I went with utter curiosity only to be disappointed afterwards. Not only that the patty lacks beefy flavor, it also not particularly exciting in taste and texture too. Some kind of bland if I might go to the extreme. And let's not mention the juice. There's none. The special sauce? It's just thousand island. The equation was just not right.

Burger = patty + bun + everything else (sauce, other toppings, vegs)

In my simplest formula this is what makes a burger. When the patty is ruined, even a good well toasted soft bun couldn't help much. In-N-Out did well on the latter but not on the former.

And why am I being this critical to a piece of burger? After spending two weeks in the northern hemisphere, you'll see that burger is as close to a signature food as nasi goreng is to us Indonesian. One is free to make their own rendition of nasi goreng, but screwing up is simply unacceptable.

Then again, for that kind of price tag (less than $5), you shouldn't expect much and let's not be too hard on In-N-Out. Because as the name suggested, you go there for a quick fix, you get in, you dig in, and the off you go with your life. It is not meant to be life changing. Frankly speaking, it is at the bottom rank compared to the other 7 burgers I tasted on the trip. I personally think people go there for the nostalgic reason, the comfort of having something you grew up with.

The Not So Famous Gelato

Now this one right here is the underdog. Classico Gelato, hidden in the long walk of shophouses in downtown Mountain View, is one of the most voted gelato for a few years in a row. It hasn't got the cult following like In-N-Out but damn they have the good stuff here.

For $6.50 I have myself a scoop of Spumoni (pistachio, chocolate, vanilla gelato with dried fruits and nuts) and Creme Brulee. My suggestion: always have it with the original cone. It is the best way to enjoy ice cream with added texture.

After a let down with In-N-Out, this gelato eaten in the sunny blue sky of California was the perfect antidote to put me back in good mood.  It is one of the reasons why I love exploring a city with locals, you get to discover the hidden gem. This post is a thank you not for Apple and a few hours of food adventure.

Meet Leia

Oh, to close with, allow me to introduce Leia, my travel companion on this trip that took most of the beautiful pictures. Yes, she's the new member of the family. A mirrorless Samsung NX300. Proven to be quite portable and dependable. All the shot taken here are hers. You'll see more of her super power in the post to come.

So long, I'll see you in the next episode of #WanderUS Stories.

Fellexandro Ruby
The Wanderlust

Wonderment & Being Human

I tweeted this few days ago while packing for the flight home from New York City.

"Nearing the end of the trip. Head filled with thoughts, heart with excitement, and feet with stories. I'll share them soon." 

And here I am, 10.000 miles after, in Jakarta with 40 gigs of photos and videos. I don't know where to start with the stories. Overwhelmed.

Should I begin with the incident in JFK airport?
Should I begin with Thomas Keller's delicacy that left me in awe?
Or, should I begin with the 11 new friends I made along the way?

When you travel all your senses seem to be more receptive to stimulus. Your eyes see new, your tongue taste new, your heart speak new, your ears hear new, your hands and feet find new strength too. They all adds up to a series of wonderment. You can't wait to share, but you're exhausted, and you're also afraid of minimizing the experience into a few lousy paragraph.

I'm gonna have to take a few moment to digest all this in.

When I'm done with that, from this post forward, I wish I could capture the essentials. I wish I could project emotions in the stories. I wish I could take you to the place as it happened. I wish these stories could be as human as they suppose to be.

I wish you'll read it line by line and journey it with me.

With that in mind, let the curtain roll.

Fellexandro Ruby 
The Wanderlust

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sala Lauak & Pragede Jaguang : Snacking in Padang

We all have our own little 'guilty pleasure' kind of dish. Ignasius Chan (owner of Iggy's Singapore) secret late night indulgent is Ma-Ling canned processed meat. I myself when in doubt, I usually go for Fiesta's Fried Karaage. They are just so good that it keeps you wanting more, and it somehow possess this ability to make you crave after departing from them for a while.

I guess it is what Perkedel Jagung for Dina of Dua Ransel. I could see her eyes glow upon seeing this on the street side of Pasar Atas, Padang. We were around the area of Jam Gadang, and decided to take our own stroll inside the famous market when we met this gerobak parked among the lines delman

I was curious with the name, googled it and turns out it is one of the local's specialty. Sala Lauak is said to be part of Pariaman culinary. Another coastal city 50km north of Padang. Sala means fried, while Lauak means fish. When tasted it does has the aroma of salted fish, but not of the flavor, a bit soft but still harder than a perkedel. I reckon it has been modified from the original recipe in Pariaman. 

If I had to choose though, I'd have more of Pragede Jaguang. It was sweet with a strong dominance of corn all over. Crunchy without forgoing the texture of the corn. I imagine dipping it in a homemade sauce or chili, it would be just perfect. 

What's funny around this area is that it is so populated with people and tourist but they seem to be less interested with the history. Upin and Ipin made appearance here along with Sonic The Hedgehog and Mario Bros. Just as with many tourist spot, it has become more of a money-making venture than an attempt to preserve the story. What do they have to do with Jam Gadang? I haven't got a clue. Well, I'm happy at least we could still trace some of the story from the food. 

More Padang & Bukittinggi stories coming. But before that, I'll be leaving for another two weeks trip. I won't be able to write much without my gears. But I make sure I'll come back with heaps of stories and pictures. =)

Keep in touch with my live tweets @Wanderbites as I travel & scour on good food. I won't spill where I'm heading. Stay tuned! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tsurukamedou Ramen : Late Bloomer, Yet A Strong Contender

Ramen, they come in waves.

First, it was the little known pioneers. Then came the game-changer. Then came the followers to piggyback on the success. Then came the late bloomer, the very few at the long tail that intend to add value and ideals to the almost saturated market. A market where the customers are tastewashed (as in brainwashed) that a 'delicious' broth is the one that is insanely porkish, super thick and oily.

Tsurukamedou is one of the idealist. Sticking to what is true. Authentic original Hakata as they differentiate themselves. You'll find this spirit embodied in many ways.

First and foremost is the ramen itself. The broth is cooked in long hours to bring out the flavor, similar to many others. But if you pay attention, it is less oily. Also if you let it breath for a while, the broth does not separate or break, it stays cohesive. A feature that marks quality. I presume the soup is made from scratch here, while many others have the soup imported partially done, tweaked with few flavor enhancer and cooking resume afterwards.

I singlehandedly savored the pork soup until it was too thin to scoop it with the spoon. You know what that means. Size wise it is very fulfilling, especially with the generous amount of chasiu. Three thick slices, all are well prepared. Nicely barbequed outer skin and have you seen the neat combination of juicy meat and tender fat? Oh my ...

Super Strong Tonkotsu Ramen (IDR 45K)

Look at that thick slice of juicy meat and tender fat. Oh my!

Second, is the noodle. I love the fact that it is thin with a nice texture. The taste is almost neutral, letting the broth and the neighboring ingredients: bamboo shots, nori, and tamago to stand out.

Third, you'll find no extra garlic or extra chopped chili (rawit) here on the table. They will provide if you asked for it. But they strive for the patrons to have it as it is before being experimental with their tastebuds.

Last but not least is the menu. It is downright simple. Either pork or chicken based soup. Three variation of each and that's it. The additionals such as chahan, karaage, and gyoza are more complimentary than a substitute to the ramen. It is purposely orchestrated to let the ramen be the hero of the ramen-ya. At least that's what the culture they want to impart from Japan to here in Jakarta.

Pork Gyoza

Ebi Chahan (IDR 30K)

The chahan though, is worth an extra paragraph because of its goodness. Well cooked rice, fragrant, with a wholesome portion of chicken, pork, and ebi. It's far superior to the one I had at Yellowfin some time ago.

All that being said, will I return? Definitely. And I must say, it is a strong contender to those in the earlier waves, the pioneers, the followers, and even the gamechangers.

Tsurukamedou Ramen
Jl. Ratu Kemuning Raya
(Just go straight from Greenville, its near Papa Mama Bakery)
T: @tsurukamedoujak

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Namaaz Dining : Chef Andrian Ishak In His Playground

Fire, smoke, ice, black lights, and heaps of Nitrogen.

Those are only a few of so many tricks under Andrian Ishak's sleeves. How he gets to make all nineteen course distinct in each of its own way, and still taste wonderful is beyond me. I'm now convinced that they are not just hype and gimmicks. I can now imagine the amount of work and science behind the preparation of each season.

Season is how Andrian name his tasting menu. Each season will have a completely different dish. We had his season two that night. It was a privilege to be surrounded with such lovely crowd. Chefs, restaurant owners, media, F&B practitioners nationed under the same curiosity.

As much as I wanted to share the details of every dish, I figured I should respect the Chef and you, Biters if you haven't been there. I don't want to spoil all the fun, since the surprise factor is part of the experience. So, what you'll see here is a pictorial journey of what we had. I might describe a few dish, I might purposely skip some others.

Being the experience junkie that I am, I enjoyed most of the dishes. But more than that, I love the experimental nature behind them. It speaks to me on a rebellious level, just like Ryan Clift's Tippling Club.

Enough words, to cut things short, was it worth the $100 I spent? Totally. Should you go there? If you have the spare budget and if you're that adventurous, go ahead.

Even mineral water looks finer here. 

More like a chemist in a lab, that a chef in a kitchen.

Notice her from the TV show? 

The dish that won my attention. Pempek Kapal Selam. Taste like one, look totally diff.

From behind of his chemical writings on the walls.

Sate Kelopok. Wood chips smoked. Smell like cigar. Taste like satay. 

Mie Kangkung. Super-savory broth. Very meaty, so much it leaves a mark on your throat.

One of the best dessert. Rose champagne, carbonated grapes, and mascarpone. 

Bet behind the beanie are gray hairs from too much chemistry lesson. LOL.

This is ... Well, you just have to find out yourself ;) 

Is that what you think it is? Maybe. Hmm. ;)

And some more nitrogen. This is him making an instant sorbet. 

Namaaz Dining
Jl. Raya Fatmawati No. 26C
(Web reservation only)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bika Talago Bukittinggi : Heartwarming Delicacy

Remember that cooking video with the Supercook Bara Pattiradjawane?
Did you catch my tweets when I was in Padang last month? 
Now can you connect the dots? 

Well, let me spell it out for ya then. Yes, we won the writing contest by Indomie on their #AsliCabeIjo event. By we, I mean me and the always cheerful Dina from Dua Ransel. The prize was a three days trip to Padang and Bukittinggi. I've never been to both city, so you can imagine the kind of excitement that I had. There's so much to share, but I guess I'm gonna start with the one that speak to me the most. 

There's a saying that goes: "Often, its the littlest thing that left the biggest mark in your heart." It's exactly the case with Bika Talago. The gem is hidden in a small house off the road, halfway from Padang Panjang to Bukittinggi. Colored in orange, it is as if it's trying to scream out of the ordinary line of local houses and attract passersby to take a visit. They did it I suppose, now that we're here. 

We were lucky that they just started to bake the Bika when we arrived. Dina quickly whip out her camera out of the bag and by peer-pressure I took out mine and start click-clacking the shutter. 

The way Bika cooked is a story of its own. Take a look at the clay pot here. Raw bika is put in the lower clay and then closed with another clay pot on top of it. Big chunk of wood charcoal and hot fire inside. In about 10 minutes or so, the raw Bika would start to warm up and ready to be served. 

While munching them, I knew the universe were conspiring to make us happy by sending us the rain. It just made them twice as tasty. Warm food in a cold weather, it just doesn't get any better than that. I personally love the brown sugar more than the white sugar flavor. It has a strong banana aroma and a very coconutty flavor on the tongue. The fact that it was heated in a closed clay might be the reason why it absorb and in itself disburse such an appetizing smell. Sweet and savory tender loving.

The only regret that day was buying only one four pieces of them. Two of each was definitely not enough for me and Dina. Just as it led us to Bika, I guess the universe also purposefully let us took only a quick teaser, so that we'll crave for more and come back in the future. Well, I hope it happens soon!

Stay tuned for more Padang bites!


Bika Talago 
Jl. Padang Panjang - Bukittinggi Km. 10
Sumatra Barat

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