Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Yellow Brick Road Cafe with the Kids

As a parent, you are always on the lookout for child-friendly cafes and restaurants where the whole family can enjoy. It's not easy to balance kids-friendly with good food and ambience, hence this Yellow Brick Road that opened in Jalan Batai is a good addition to the family fave list.

What I loved about the place was the spacious kids area, on the first floor. Ample parking when you arrive Jalan Batai, however under the hot afternoon sun, get ready to enter an extremely hot car!

People always queue up outside Yellow Brick Road cafe, it seems it has gained popularity since my first visit months ago. I wouldn't be surprised why parents love the place. My kids played freely and happily while adults had some coffee and breakfast.

The owner was there to take our orders, which was great. You can see the passion oozing out of the way he explained their best sellers and what he would recommend.

Food and coffee are nice. Sometimes service could be slow, due to the amount of people eating there and probably the kitchen cannot cope up. A bit of delay in some of our food, though I was okay with it since the kids were happily playing. They forgot to deliver the babyccino order I did, so the owner nicely gave it on the house -- which was very sweet of him.

Overall, a safe bet for families who just want to chill on a weekend morning.

The place was not packed when we arrived (first floor). However the ground level was full. Opt for the 1st floor if you want a more quiet area, though with kids around, it's hard to predict!

Families enjoying their brunch, long table seating style available which is great!

Kids getting ready to discover the play area

A view of the kids area

1st floor of Yellow Brick Road

We had the seat right beside the kids area... we loved that!

Flat white 

Simple eggs breakfast for my daughter

Pancake with fruits and yogurt -- shared this as it is too big for one person!

Hubby's order - sweet potato with eggs - Sweet Mash of Mine

Some kids are really enjoying the tent!

Oops.... they are really enjoying it ... in a different way :)

Bill for 3 pax and 1 kid

Yellow Brick Road Cafe

  1. Address: 50490, 7, Jalan Batai, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, August 31, 2015

Marketing for Small Businesses and F&B Industries: The Essentials

I had the pleasure and opportunity to be included in this year's Enterprise Takeaway event, hosted by BFM 89.9 The Business Station. They had close to 600 - 700 people who signed up for that day, all from the Food and Beverage industry.

I was very happy to share our success and story, La Juiceria, and how the role of "Picking the Right Idea" can help business move forward. The gist of my sharing really boils down to Marketing. If you have a good product, people need to know about it. And the challenge since the dawn of time is how to market what you have so that people will know and buy it.

I realized as I shared our experience up there, and got many questions back, both while I was still on-stage and when I got down. Many people have great ideas -- but they lack the knowledge how to market it. It was such a profound moment -- how I wished I could give them advice so they can turbo boost their business. But all I had was a small moment, to share our story and the impact of marketing in building our La Juiceria brand, which is barely 2 years old at this point in time. Hence, this blog entry.

I wanted to leave a footprint, in case small businesses do stumble upon it, a small advice on what they can do boost up their company, their cafe, their business and their brand.

In the Malaysia scene, I would conclude the following are important:

  • Social Media - you may not know it well enough to use it, then find someone who can. Post properly and timely, create good content, make sure you check and reply diligently. This is one step for you to advertise your goods and services for free. Engage with customers. Ensure you have the right things to say and said well. Do not forget the social media element as it can bring waves of business if done the right way. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Do what makes sense for your business.
  • Renovation and Ambience - whatever it is you are into, whether F&B or just an office -- make sure you renovate to the quality that you can be proud of. People are buying into a brand and an experience. Even coming to your office should be a pleasant experience. Your employees need to also have a pleasant experience. For cafes and restaurants, whatever dollar you have put in, people will know. They can feel it, they can see it. Though the average person may not know how to quantify the spending, he or she can feel and sense it. Hence, if you are out to impress them with your brand, spend on the renovation. It will be worth it. Malaysians want to buy into a good experience -- and that includes the look of where it all happens.
  • Logo, brand name and photos. If you do not know how to do it, engage someone who is more artistically inclined. Whatever you start with -- your brand name, your logo or photos of your product -- those are ASSETS which are valuable until the end. Spend on it. Make people confident of what they buy into by making sure these elements are done well. 
  • Customer Service - this is by far the most challenging one. I lived in Manila for many years and the extend of customer service there is so good, simply because of population and the American influence. That is what we are trying to replicate here in Malaysia. I am positive that Malaysians can give superior customer service if given the right training. Strive for it. Invest on your people. It reflects well to that company when customers are delighted by your staff.

There are many, many more elements. However, these are the top ones I would give advice. Here are some photos from the BFM 89.9 event. It was a wonderful experience and I hope, that in some little way, I was able to make a difference.

Together with Freda Liu (in center), the host for BFM 89.9 Enterprise Takeaway and the lady always on the radio at 10am on BFM 89.9 Enterprise Segment

In action -- during the panel discussion regarding Picking the Right Concept

It was a wonderful opportunity to be alongside many masters of their trade 

A blurry capture of me talking on stage
My little remembrance from the 2015 Enterprise Takeaway

They summarize the panel discussion on : Picking the Right Concept

Scissors Empire at Solaris: Retouching Roots and Major Hair Treatment

One of the things that we women have to endure as we grow older is retouching our hair roots. As I am coming close to the big 4-0 very, very soon, one tends to feel much, much older when we see little white hairs sticking out awkwardly at the crown of our heads.

I couldn't anymore wait for the appointment with my usual salon people, Number 76. They seem to be very much in demand and it's hard to get the time and day I want. So, I decided to take an adventure down to a place which is near home. Perhaps with this new discovery, I can have a go-to place which is less of a hassle, especially as this is just a root touch up.

Chanced upon Scissors Empire a while back, when I came in to inquire something (that was the day we had the Mahathir event, and I needed some hair and make up service!). Will blog about Tun Mahathir's birthday another time. Meantime, back to hair business.

The staff were friendly and mostly for me, they spoke English. Often people mistake me for a local Chinese so they start speaking Cantonese. I have gone into some Chinese owned salons and they don't converse well in English. Which can be a big issue, especially when you are trying to explain to them what you want for your hair.

Chloe and Ken attended to my needs and it was fairly quiet for a weekend - Sunday.  They explained it was due to the Bersih, which made a point! And after several minutes, customers did start to come in and saw some expats as well. 

I love the renovation they did. Modern with a homey feel. It is spanking new with just a few months of renovation. And they told me they were in the salon business for 4 years now.

I had my root retouched by Chloe. And I was so, so , so relieved that I chose the INOA root retouch because this time, the hair color DID NOT STING! My last retouch at Number 76, I was suffering through hell of a sting. The stylists and their assistance didn't seem to catch what I was saying, (perhaps my English?), but the staff that attended to me that day at their Publika branch just didn't get it. So in the end they just ended the root retouch much earlier than the alarm they have set, perhaps sensing that I was uncomfortable, though I can see they didn't understand what I meant.

The INOA retouch was such heaven for me. I'll be sure to be back for that kind of root retouch in the future. Have to observe how it washes off and how the color turns after weeks of washing.

Meantime, it was time for some ME TIME treat and I chose their most intensive treatment. It took about 30-45 minutes to do and no regrets. It smelled great and I felt good afterwards!

Overall, it's a nice go-to place salon for those who are living nearby. Friendly atmosphere with nice renovations. They serve green tea when you arrive and they have their own toilet for the customer's comfort.

Comfortable seats

Having my root retouch with INOA

Intensive Treatment 5-step process

Major steps to hair treatment! They apply several things and they massage into the hair strands to penetrate into the hair shafts. A short massage followed after the wash.

Home care treatment, which I will use after a week's time. 

Massaging the hair with the treatment. Batches of strands being taken cared of.

In case you are interested to know the 5-step process!

My view -- while having my hair washed

Hair washing area - modern and sleek

After the retouch, treatment and blow dry. A feel like a million bucks!

Look for them when you need help!

Total "damage" -- the price of beauty!

Their price list 

PSSSST.... this is how you can get a discount if you want one! Like their Facebook!

View from outside. This is beside Wanderlust Cafe at Solaris Dutamas. Easy access for people living in Mont Kiara!

Scissors Empire Hair Salon at Solaris
Address: Block G, 12, Jalan Solaris 4, Solaris Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Neroteca Weekend Brunch at Damansara Heights: A Family Treat

After several attempts of buffet around Malaysia, my husband and I came to a conclusion that we try to shy away from it because we end up feeling bad afterwards. Perhaps it's the human nature of wanting to try everything and everything. Or simply the thought that you could have everything and that's why you're chowing down more than what your body needs. Due to that fact, we try to stay away from buffets unless it's a special occasion.

With Neroteca's Weekend Brunch Buffet, I felt that the appropriate term I should give it is : QUALITY over QUANTITY. Which is the kind of thing we like. The kind of weekend brunch that we would go back for often.

For people who are looking for an extensive spread of food, this is not the place because their main focus, in my own observation. Those looking for a quality Italian spread, then this is for you. The place is cozy, not too big nor too small. The seats are suited for families, whether you want the long table setting or the small booth (which we liked).

This was my 5th visit to Neroteca. Was there mostly for lunch discussions and once with my family for a weekend lunch. However, this round I was invited by their Marketing to experience the kick-off of their weekend brunch buffet. And I am glad we went!

We were given the long table upon arrival, however we opted the booth seating as it looked more cozy. Plus the fact I could put the baby chair on one side and cozily seat my daughter in between me and hubby. 

The highlights of our 2 hour brunch at NEROTECA last Sunday (before Merdeka):

  • Easy parking on a Sunday lunch time, we arrived at 11:30am. This is an important factor if you have kids with you. You don't want to trouble yourself with parking inside a mall. Easy access to the restaurant!
  • Booth seating is cozy. We like it. I sat there in all my visits to Neroteca.
  • The waiters and staff are friendly. 
  • Buffet spread had quality food instead of quantity. A good selection from pizza, pasta, to meat and vegetables. And of course --- cheese and parma ham! Heaven.
  • Bubblies and white wine was round the clock. However, me and hubby just opted for 2 glasses of white wine to pair with our cheese and ham indulgence for that day. 
  • They had fresh milk for the kids, served with straw and all. My daughter finished a whole glass! Also, we love our sparkling water -- and I am glad this is one of the places that serve 1000mL of sparkling -- good for families!
  • My favorite dessert: panna cotta ! It was creamy and milky. One of my faves. They served at the buffet. Then it ran out quickly. The staff was nice enough to make a new one and I had my overdose of sugar for the day when they delivered a whole piece to our table. Paired with espresso shot and a flat white. Heaven.
  • My daughter loved the pizza and finished a whole slice by herself. Believe me, that's a bonus already for me as she usually doesn't have appetite. They had a good selection that day. 
  • My son enjoyed slurping some pieces of pasta from daddy's plate. Pasta wasn't spicy -- which is a bonus for us. We don't usually eat spicy stuff and it turns off the kids when stuff have too much pepper in it.
  • They have an outdoor al fresco seating, long table and my fave the booth seating.
  • Enjoyed the live music. It gives a wonderful feeling to hear live music while enjoying your weekend meal. 

My wishlist for Neroteca:
  • Mushroom soup that day wasn't hot enough ... perhaps it's the Chinese side of me wanting my soup extra hot. Maybe Italians don't really serve it piping hot like how I like it. Their mushroom soup tasted yummy though!
  • Signage - they need to add small signages on the food area. I had to ask the assistance of some staff because I do not eat beef, and they had some meat displayed. Luckily, one of the staff informed me they had lamb, too, so I took a small piece. Yummy! Especially after hiatus from meat -- as we don't eat as much meat anymore as compared to my past unhealthy life!
  •  Kids activities - this one is more of a wish ... which may come true! The marketing manager informed me that they may organize arts and crafts for little kids soon. This will be heaven for all moms like me! Plus ... kids eat for free (6 years old and below). Which makes a lot of sense (and attracts parents like me). My daughter had a pizza, a glass of milk and a slice of cheese. Wouldn't be so attractive to us to pay adult price for a small eater like her. Hence this possibility of kids eat for free is going to be such a bonus!

Overall, a good dining experience for those looking for authentic Italian, buffet style on a weekend. 

RM188 for brunch with wine. RM88 for those who come to enjoy the buffet only.

Pizza galore!

Dessert area -- waffles, fresh fruits, creme brûlée and more.

Staff in action
Making the pizza before putting into the oven

Long table seats for families

Live music on weekend brunch

Our inulgence -- cheese and honey

Quality meat / ham

Our drinks of choice -- milk for kids,  while for mom and dad : sparkling water, white wine and capped off with coffee afterwards

Panna Cotta came in time before we left

A thing of beauty -- love the vanilla beans and the creamy panna cotta

Neroteca Damansara Heights

  1. Address: 15, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ho Chi Minh City: Seafood Heaven and other Yummy Restaurants

We went on a recent business trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. I had no food research plans this time, as we luckily had a Malaysian friend who lived there for many years. He has planned out the whole itinerary for us, for the business visits as well as the food trip.

I had no idea that it was such a seafood heaven place, where your dreams of lobsters and big shrimps can come true. Of course, more than just the seafood, there were other discoveries. Kick-ass drip coffee - both hot or iced, tons of coconuts and cheap massages. I was indeed in heaven (in between business stuff).

Highlights of must go places:

Song Ngu : our first destination. Kick-ass Lobster porridge was unforgettable. Along with an appetizer which I could not name ... it's definitely the place to kick start the trip. WOW WOW WOW!

70 - 72 Suong Nguyet Anh Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1Ho Chi Minh City 70000Vietnam

Lobster Porridge is a must!

Coconut and their beautiful plates

One of their famous coffee chains is called PHUC LONG (I know, I know... it sounds funny when you try to say it in English).

Popular with the young people, you could see that the place looked like "Starbucks" yet half the price of Starbucks. Very serious caffeine kick after I had my Vietnamese White Coffee. Must try when in town.

Try to say it in English : PHUC LONG

Dinner time came and we went to this popular restaurant which Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt went to. It looks like a home and they serve up home-cooked-style food. It was hugely popular and was full to the brim when we came in. You need reservations to ensure you have a good seat.

The interior design of CUC GACH QUAN was very simple yet nice. In a way, there were parts which were impressive, yet some parts remained humble and rustic.

I can imagine why it's so popular with the expats in HCMC, as upstairs they have a nice lounge bar which is again rustic in design. Make sure you are wearing pants for dinner so you can go up the high staircase, if you want to see all the hidden rooms they have upstairs.


10 Dang Tat | Ward Tan Dinh, District 1Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam
Beautiful rustic design

Home-cooked style meals for sharing 
What a revelation. I could not believe my hometown brand called Jollibee was actually in Ho Chi Minh City! They have several outlets there. I grew up with this brand back in Manila. It is literally the competitor of McDonald's, and they have same style offerings, except that they have perfected it to the Filipino taste, hence they have won over the hearts of Filipinos.

I had to give it a try -- as I was missing home. However, they didn't serve gravy with the chicken, something which is impossible back home in Manila -- it is a crime not to have gravy with chicken! We also tried the pork burger -- which is decent but really not my thing.

Jollibee at Ho Chi Minh City

Pork Burger and fries -- we didn't finish it.. .just had a small bite to remind me of home

The must try stop for some serious noodle soup: Pho Hoa. Funny, as there is a popular chain in Manila called Pho Hoa. It is very different from this one -- the design of the shop is authentic and very simple -- with tons of people : both locals and tourist throng the place. The crowd starts at breakfast time and the tables are all beautifully colored with garnishes such as veggies, spouts, lime and many more. Very Instagram-friendly table, as you can see from the photo below.

I stopped eating beef long ago, so I tried the Chicken Phoa Noodle. It was awesome!

Pho Hoa

Close up of our meal at Pho Hoa

Beautiful Spring Rolls

Our local friend brought us to another interesting place which is hidden from the street. You cannot easily find this restaurant as it is tucked away inside a small street. Before you can reach it you will see a row of nail bar (local style) and as you walk in, then only you can see the signage of the restaurant.

Our local friend described the dishes as something typical that they would eat. This was a totally new discovery for me, as this was not something I was familiar with and never did associate it to Vietnamese food.

It had many dishes which were so new -- like shrimp wrapped in rice roll type, another dish which was fried clams with rice paper crackers, spicy noodle soup thing was also interesting as the noodle type is different, coconuts to go with your meal, and the small plate rice-based once again. Everything went well with some fish sauce... haha. When in Vietnam, fish sauce for everything! Haha, that's the Filipino side talking -- as Filipinos love eating stuff with dipping sauce.


116 Suong Nguyet Anh | District 1Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam

Other photos and unforgettable meals of Ho Chi Minh City....

Flaming shrimp with coconut husk and juice

Yummy clams with ginger sauce

Random street in Ho Chi Minh City

French influence is very strong in Vietnam and they have cute Creperie places there -- wish they had more in KL!

View from my Breakfast Place - Tous Les Jours is everywhere in HCMC

Busy streets of HCMC

Trung Nguyen is one of the local coffee chains -- you won't miss it. I had a wow Vietnamese Coffee with Milk

Traditional style and very strong caffeine kick

I didn't expect it to turn out into a food trip. HCMC is impressive for seafood lovers like me. Also note that their airport is modern and clean, their people are friendly, taxi are soooo easy to get and they are all pretty decent and honest, there are some malls to shop in (with many Malaysian brands there!). We visited the expat areas, which are beautiful and modern. Very easy to travel around and tons, tons, tons of Boutique Hotels in every corner!

Easy place to visit -- whether alone or in a group. Just make sure you research the food places that you want to eat at to avoid disappointment.

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