A romance that blossomed in Hanoi might now make food lovers in Kuala Lumpur strike up an affair with Vietnamese fare, home-cooked with the sort of passion that's the province of the tastiest private kitchens.
Cute Ball Kitchen is the brainchild of Malaysian Kenneth Teoh & his Vietnamese wife, Hoa, who met while Teoh was working in Vietnam's capital. Teoh returned in 2013, bringing home Hoa & their now three-year-old son, whose Vietnamese-language family nickname forms the basis for their new private kitchen's name.
Hoa is likely to prepare communal meals of three to four dishes for guests. Her repertoire includes grilled seasoned pork, juicy, aromatic & savoury, wrapped in wild betel leaves that the couple pick themselves from a nearby hill, braving mosquitoes there to procure these peppery pleasures.
Hoa's Vietnamese salad scores top marks, light & exceptionally easy to gobble up, wholesome-tasting & ravishingly nuanced with fresh veggies, seafood, meat, herbs & nuts. Like everything here, it's painstakingly prepared, with nearly a full day's worth of slaving in the kitchen to whip up courses like this.
Salt-&-pepper squid. Hoa's standards for seafood are high, the result of many years spent at Halong Bay; the couple now regularly drive to Sekinchan on weekends to secure straight-off-the-boat seafood _ an effort for which guests will be grateful.
Braised pork belly, sumptuously caramelized. Bring a nice Merlot to savor with this; in a cost-effective contrast to eating out at a restaurant, there's no corkage fee here.
Steamed rice is thoughtfully sourced too, coming from a paddy processing plant amid Sekinchan's rice fields.
With Vietnam having a strong French connection, it's not improper _ but nevertheless a pleasant surprise _ that Hoa opts for French sweets to wrap up her meals. Freshly baked madeleines are an uncommon treat, but what really won everyone over was the heavenly dark chocolate tart, thick & creamy, rich in flavour.
All in all, this feels like a lovely way to spend a casual Saturday evening, the only time Kenneth & Hoa currently operate their private kitchen. The couple have hopes of eventually starting their own cafe (we vote, "yes, please!") & are currently open to also supplying cafes with baked goodies (the dark choc tart would be a sure-fire hit, much more delicious than the norm).
Follow Cute Ball Kitchen at https://www.facebook.com/CuteBallKitchen ... Meals cost RM55 per person (Edit: updated to RM68 as of February 2014), a very fair price for the entirety of the experience. More details available at https://plateculture.com/where-to-eat/vietnamese-dinner-at-cute-ball-kitchen
Value for Money 3