Thursday, April 16, 2015

Raring for a Steak with Outback Steakhouse

I don't know about you but I love my steak. I don't usually claim to love something, so when I realized my passion for eating deliciously juicy steaks, I knew that I had finally found my one true mission in life; to find and devour the perfect steak. I came close a few times when I was in Melbourne, grilling my own steaks. But the opinion of my slab of goodness was probably tinged with bias, because c'mon, I'm a good cook.

Still, looking for the perfect steak isn't as easy as it seems. For one, everyone seems to have a different opinion of what a good steak tastes like. So I headed to my good friend Google and typed in "perfect steaks". A picture of a steak I made popped up, as per usual, but then below it, I saw a very familiar name; Outback Steakhouse.

I knew about Outback Steakhouse from when my dad used to bring the entire family there, when I was freaking 8 years old. That's almost a decade ago. It's safe to say that I've forgotten the taste of how an Outback steak tastes like. I mean, I don't even remember what I ate yesterday, more so 10 years ago.

So when I got the invitation to go visit the newly opened Outback Steakhouse in Nu Sentral, I naturally accepted it with all the vigor of a man passionate about his steaks.

If you don't know anything about the Outback, well, neither do I, so we're pretty much in the same desert here. But from what I know, the Outback is where cowboys roam free, herding their cattle from dangers like monster spiders, footlong snakes and 50 other ways of killing you. The heat, the bandits, everything seems to want to kill you.

I can assure you that unlike its namesake, Outback Steakhouse doesn't have that same feel. Stepping into its vast interior is akin to stepping into an open desert, minus the heat and animals ready to kill you.

Pictured: Nothing trying to kill you.

In fact, in Outback Steakhouse, you're the one who's ready to do some killing; by voraciously tearing into the succulent steaks. The smell of sizzling steak from the tables of hungry diners wafts into your nostrils, making you feel hungrier than you ever felt.

There's also a bar, because of course there is. Outback be raising the bar on steakhouses yo.

A kid walks up to a bar...

If the stuffy indoors aren't the thing for you, or maybe you just want to enjoy some of KL's muggy hot night weather, why not sit outside? There's a delightful view of Jalan Tun Sambathan and the constant traffic jams that happen on that stretch of road. Believe me, nothing says romantic more than traffic jams.

But of course, the interior designing of a restaurant is second to the food. You can have the most amazing place but serve terrible food, and that for a restaurant, is bad news. Thankfully, this wasn't the case, and I'm not saying this because I was starving or anything. The food at Outback Steakhouse is legit.

Let's start with the appetizers. These may not look like much but I assure you that these crispy fried mushrooms are one of the best openers to a meal. Biting into the fried mushrooms brings out a taste of juicy mushrooms, while still maintaining the crispy texture. I mean, even Super Mario would gobble these mushrooms up in a jiffy, and that plumber destroys mushrooms on a whim.

Crispy fried mushrooms which will make your mouth water. 

But what is a steakhouse without its steaks? This is an age old question, and part of my quest to discover the perfect steak. I started off the night with the Outback Special, which is basically a sirloin seasoned with their special blend of spices. Look at the thickness of that thing.

I know why they call it the Outback Special, it's something out of this world. 

Depending on how you like your steaks, I would recommend something a bit towards medium well, because the cooks at Outback Steakhouse tend to sear their steaks to a point where the red meat turns a bit pinkish. But if you're into eating the steak straight off the cow, who am I to judge right?

Beef ribs are also something else you should probably try out. The Outback Steakhouse serves a very tender and deliciously succulent BBQ beef ribs, which comes with fries.

BBQ Beef Ribs are so nice, I'm not even ribbing you. 

And the portion, oh my. The portion is enough to knock a growing boy like me down. A full rack will probably feed you for a week (I kid, but it might be true if you're a small eater). The meat just slides right off the bones, which makes for a good meal if you're on a date because you wouldn't want to get their amazing BBQ sauce all over you. Or maybe you're into something like that, I don't know.

The Toowoomba Topped Sirloin steak is something you have to try. I know my picture does it no justice, because I have a terrible camera and horrible photography skills, but when you have shrimp topping a thick, juicy piece of sirloin steak, you know that you've got yourself a winner. It's covered with a tomato cream sauce which is the icing on the steak, really.

Toowoomba makes me TooHungry

There's something about I'm writing this now at home, just an hour after dinner and my stomach made a grumble, as if asking why I'm not stuffing my face with steak and shrimp. I tend to agree a lot with my stomach.

Dessert is up next, because there's always space for desserts anytime. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under.

The Chocolate Thunder from Down Under will make you very happy. 

I apologize for the picture, but it was because I spent almost 5 minutes just gawking at the magnificence that the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under is. I mean, it's literally a pecan brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and a bucketload of chocolate. If you open up your dictionary to Delicious, there would be a picture of the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under next to the word, and dictionaries don't even freaking have pictures.

To finish up your meal, sit back and relax with some drinks and enjoy whatever sports is playing on their big TV screen. Or maybe just have a chat with your friends. There's a wide range of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks to suit almost everyone.

Of course, as a member of #AlcoholicsUnited, it's almost a must to choose this:

I'd take the shot, then chug the beer and finally sip the mojito. But that's just me. 

I know you're hungry now after reading all this, and probably looking for anything to lead you to your next delicious meal. Well, that's what I'm here for. You're welcome.

Address: LG 27 and 28, Nu Sentral Mall (near the main entrance facing Jalan Tun Sambathan)
No. 201, Jalan Tun Sambanthan
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2276 6200
Open from 11am to 10pm daily.

Also visit Outback Steakhouse Malaysia's Facebook page here because they have some pretty sweet deals and you'll definitely want to be the first to be updated. I know I definitely do.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

The Importance of Guests on Running Man

The title for this week's Running Mondays column may seem a little too obvious. It's a given fact that Running Man is a variety show which thrives on its guests bringing the star power to every episode, right? Well, that's only partially right. Running Man focuses a lot on the building of characters within the show to cultivate a fan base, and that can be seen with the various characters that the Running Man members have come to claim as their own over the years, like the Betrayer Giraffe, Yoomes Bond, the Commander, the Ace, the Sudden Commander and so on.

So what are the guests there for? Eye candy? Just to attract more people to tune in for that week? Some people might even say that the Running Man members themselves are sufficient to hold an episode together without so much as the need for guests, citing great episodes like the Superpower episode (ep 74) and the Reincarnation episode (ep 130) as examples of this. But as it turns out, the guests are pretty important in the overall system of Running Man as a show. I'll explain why.

Every guest that comes on the show is split into two kinds; the ones who are on to promote their movies or dramas or albums, and the ones who are picked specifically by the PDs to fit the episode theme. Quick examples of the former may include the cast of The Heirs (or The Inheritors) in episode 166 and Angel Eyes in episode 190, while the latter boasts of guests like the idols in the Idol Summer and Winter Olympics (episode 104 and 129 respectively) and Choi Min-soo, the Running Man Hunter (episodes 152, 69, 118).

The role played by a guest is vital for the success of an episode. The guest can make or break a particular episode, depending on their variety spirit and general compatibility with the cast of Running Man. There are several examples of Running Man guests, who have either made an episode a classic, or have absolutely failed to fit into the mechanics of the episode.

In episode 240, Kang Ha-neul surprised everyone by shedding his "genius" drama portrayals and acting like a total klutz and goofball on the show. He went for the works, first making sure that he made enough mistakes (plaster tower for ivory tower) and then proceeding to give it everything he's got to rope in the laughs.

It worked like a charm, because when someone is willing to go all out and to make sure that things like "reputation" and "image" are forgotten for the duration of an episode, you'll get a guest who will gel very well with the Running Man cast.

I love using this example because it genuinely made me laugh so hard. In episode 237, G-Friend's Yerin, who at only 7 weeks after their debut was the fastest girl grouper to guest on Running Man, danced her way into everyone's hearts with a variety performance that left all the Running Man members in stitches.

She wasn't afraid to show off her dance moves, and even though she kneed herself in the freaking face, she kept up the momentum and finished off with one of the year's most memorable Running Man moments. At 7 weeks after debuting, Yerin showed everyone else how you should be a guest on Running Man.

Groups of guests can make a huge impact as well. I'll point to a few examples where the guests were all sporting and willing to take a joke, and to make people laugh through their actions. In Episode 205, in which the infectious charms of Baek ji-young, Hong Jin-young, and Lee Gook-joo spread to the idol (Miss A's Fei) and the supermodel (Kang Seung-hyun) in a classic episode where the guests really took over the show.

Everyone was willing to go for the funniest way of not losing, and the results showed.

I'll give one more example. In Episode 213, the whole group of actresses, including Choi Yeo-jin, Kim Min-seo, Lee Yoo-ri, Seo Woo and Yoo In-young shed their actress personas and gave it their all in the mud wrestling game and in wanting to win.

To see actresses, Song Ji-hyo excluded, so willing to throw themselves into a muddy game is refreshing, and it gave the episode a more memorable feel to it.

Any guest that cares about "ruining their image" on Running Man is better off not coming onto the show, because he or she is definitely not going to get a lot of screentime. I say this from experience because I've seen a lot of guests who are either shy or unwilling to get down and dirty for the games and I absolutely forgot they were even there in the first place.

Guests like Wonder Girls' So-hee (ep 75), Lee Hong-ki (ep 7) and almost all of SISTAR's appearances (ep 75, 95, 162, 174, and 209) are some of the names I can name off the top of my head who have made absolutely no impact on an episode, mainly because they were shy...?

I don't know, but only through the power of Google did I remember that yes, the frontman of idol group F.T Island once made an appearance on Running Man.

Even Kim Soo-ro doubts whether this really happened or not. 

So yes, while the core of Running Man remains their members and the family relationship that they have carefully nurtured 5 years ago, the guests play no small part in making Running Man what it is today. I won't forget to mention the regulars like IU, Park Ji-sung, Kim Woo-bin, Jung Yong-hwa, Nickhun, Suzy, among other names who have become closer than a family, despite their guest status. Guests are, after all, a huge part of the show and will undoubtedly play vital roles in converting new viewers to watching the show.

What do you think? Would you prefer guests on Running Man, or a pure Running Man members based episode? Which guest do you love, or would like to see appear on Running Man? Leave a comment below!


Note: Running Mondays will be taking a break next week (13 April 2015) and will return the following week. 
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Monday, March 30, 2015

Rating the Running Man International Specials

It's about that time of the year when Running Man starts to plan around for their international episodes, which have always been a joy to tune into every year. But the question that I'm asking in today's Running Mondays column is: which international special is the best? They're all obviously very high in production value and quality, and selecting "the best" one would be difficult, but that's what I'm here to do today.

I'm basing these ratings from my own personal opinion, because that's what people online love to do. I'll be using three main points to come to a conclusion: a) the rewatchability of the episode, b) how well crafted the overall missions are, and c) how well the episode showcases the country's culture, people and experience.

I'm also only using the major international episodes, so episode 200 in Indonesia and episode 212 in Taiwan aren't used because they hardly featured much of the country.

#6 Macau (Ep 133)

Rewatchability: 5/10
Overall missions: 7/10
Sights and Culture: 7/10

From the moment they got off the plane and headed off to Fisherman's Wharf, Running Man was in full gear to invade Macau. The missions were good; looking for the two special guests, Lee Dong-wook and Han Hye-jin around Fisherman's Wharf, jumping off the Macau Tower and even the final tug of rope game in front of St Paul's Cathedral sufficiently showing off the beauty of Macau. 

Still, this episode didn't impress as much as the others in this list because, to be perfectly honest, there isn't really much to do around Macau. Plus, they didn't go for any eating missions, which would undoubtedly have been a highlight. 

#5 Vietnam (Ep 134 & 136)

Rewatchability: 7/10
Overall missions: 6/10
Sights and Culture: 6/10

Vietnam was a delight to be in because of the sheer number of Running Man fans it had. But it was because of the volume of the fans that filming became difficult. 

Running Man were ultimately unable to truly experience the full range of sights or even to discover much of the culture in Vietnam. The food missions, while showcasing some of Vietnam's delicacies, didn't really allow for the members to interact with the locals on the street as much as the other episodes did. 

Still, the episodes themselves were entertaining thanks to the Running Man members and both nametag ripping games, which had a higher dose of excitement and adrenaline to them. 

#4 Australia (Ep 188, 189 & 191)

Rewatchability: 7/10
Overall missions: 6/10
Sights and Culture: 8/10

From the waters of Tangalooma Bay to the Currumbin Animal Sanctuary, and into the heart of Melbourne's CBD, with the snug cafes with their macaroons and coffees, and the little side streets of Melbourne featured very prominently, and the dusty plains of Sovereign Hill, Running Man invaded the land Down Under with much gusto.

They weren't given a lot of time to get used to their surroundings before they were thrown headfirst into an Aussie adventure on land, air and sea. Still, with so much to see and do, the episode lacked a certain kind of quality to it, with the overall missions coming up short.

It could be due to the weather and the overwhelming amount of fans; factors of which almost halted production. Still, the Australia episodes are a great example of the camaraderie between the Running Man members, which is one of the best reasons to watch them actually.

#3 Beijing (Ep 61 & 62)

Rewatchability: 7/10
Overall missions: 8/10
Sights and Culture: 8/10

Kung fu masters, oddly delicious looking Chinese tidbits, and a whole lot of running on the longest Wonder of the World really gave this episode an international edge. 

The guests weren't laidback either, with the feisty Kang Ji-young (formerly from KARA), and actors, the "cute hyung" Kim Joo-hyuk and the stunning Lee Yeon-hee rounding off a nice pairing. 

From Beihai Park to halfway across the Great Wall of China and into a "bandit city" which invoked memories of the Chinese kung fu flicks, the Beijing episode was a solid effort on an international stage.

#2 Thailand (Ep 50 & 51)

Rewatchability: 8/10
Overall missions: 8/10
Sights and Culture: 9/10

It's not easy to be able to capture the beauty and culture of a country by simply doing missions, but somehow, through visiting tourist spots like Khaosan Road, Tha Chang and the Pattaya Floating Market, Running Man was able to showcase the beauty, culture and delicious food of Thailand through their various missions. 

They were also given free reign to run around and interact with the locals and the tourists as well, without being too bogged down by fans surrounding them. With Prince of Thailand Nickhun in tow, as well as an intriguing 2nd half mission, this episode had Thailand written all over it. 

#1 Hong Kong (Ep 72 & 73)

Rewatchability: 9/10

Overall missions: 8/10
Sights and Culture: 9/10

There's something about Hong Kong which really drew me into the episode. A quaint little country which is both traditional and modern at the same time. 

And to make it even better, the amazingly fun bunch of Running Man members and the guests, Running Man stalwart Jung Yong-hwa and the amazingly competitive Lee Min-jung traversing through the cinematographic streets of Hong Kong on a mission given by Jackie Chan himself makes it all the more sweeter. 

From the beautiful view of The Peak and overlooking Victoria Harbour, to the majestic sights of Ngong Ping Village and the frightful journey up using cable cars with glass floors, the Hong Kong special is what an international special should really be like. 

Plus, there's this picture of HaHa scaring the locals at a park. What more could this episode ask for?

Do you agree with the ratings, or do you have another placement in mind? Where do you think this year's Running Man international special will be? Leave a comment below!

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