Lunar New Year Home Meals: Ampersand & Cafe 5 Takeaways

February 11, 2016

Bringing home a meal this month from Damansara Uptown's Ampersand by Culinary Rebels: The restaurant's Chinese New Year Yee Sang - ravishingly designed to resemble a colourful pair of koi fish - was one of the tastiest, most textured tosses we've enjoyed in 2016, with no fewer than 18 ingredients, filled with the freshness of jicama, purple cabbage, carrots, pumpkin, chewy fu-chuk & more, with crunchy sweet braised shredded pork to replace the customary seafood - it conveyed a more substantial savouriness in each bite compared to the typical yee sang, but it made for a nice, nuanced change from the norm. A strong start to a dinner that also included Ampersand's increasingly renowned chicken wings (CCB Belacan & Devil Szechuan Peppercorn Oil) & super-succulent pork ribs (fennel-rubbed), partnered with the double-carb whammy of Japanese sweet potatoes & chive-mashed potatoes. We over-ordered, so we ended up with leftovers - that's not to disparage the pastas, which were both well-prepared (the aglio olio is above average, & the kimchi with cumin cream is an interesting experiment). Talk about guilty indulgences - the bacon-wrapped pork balls with mozzarella cheese were total calorie bombs; but in the end, the eating was worthwhile, thanks to surprising pleasures like the deep-fried sliced lotus roots - order these for certain; they're almost guaranteed to be gigantically crowd-pleasing in any group that loves the Chinese New Year season's arrowhead chips.

Pearl International Hotel's Cafe 5 was a conveniently located choice for us to attempt a takeaway spread; we're thankful that it turned out to be a (mostly) satisfactory choice for a reasonable budget of below RM500. The Yee Sang with jellyfish & baby octopus could have been skipped (too cloying), but the Seafood Poon Choy was a worthwhile bet for slightly south of RM300, brimming with a total of 10 sizeable prawns, as well as sufficient dried scallops, mussels & sea cucumber, plus slices of smoked duck, chicken, lotus roots & broccoli too. Again, the food proved too much, but in any other situation, we'd have utterly devoured the fall-off-the-bone herbal steamed whole chicken (coupled with chunks of arrowhead, a distinctively flavoursome alternative to the common potato) & lotus leaf-wrapped glutinous rice (an addictive match with pieces of punchy waxed duck).

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