Friday, December 29, 2006

Egg and Corned Beef bun from Crystal Jade Macau

Crystal Jade Macau is located at the basement of Bugis Junction just next door to a Four Leaves bakery. This is the sole outlet of Crystal Jade that purports to have food that is common or popular in Macau/Hong Kong like pork chop buns. This above is the egg and corned beef bun which while a decent sandwich, didn't really have much corned beef. Which is my main beef with it.

So wedged between a crispy buttered and toasted bun are fried eggs with bits of corned beef, tomatoes and some lettuce. There's not enough meat in there for me to order it again unfortunately. I really expected more decent amount of that corned beef.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Avocado Chicken @ Basil Alcove

Lunch with Gweezer today at Basil Alcove. We opted for the $8.80 option which includes a very decent cream of mushroom, Avocado Chicken for the main and a iced peach tea. An accompanying avocado puree balanced with pomegranate seeds comes as a very nice touch for the semi spicy grilled chicken. And the cool thing of it all, there's no fat nor skin in the meat. Despite having dined here on several occasions, I'm still impressed at the quality and presentation for the prices this place charges.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Frog Porridge on a cold rainy night at Balestier

Previously in my mentioning of My Rice chicken rice stall, I had mentioned about it being located in the same coffeshop as a frog porridge stall. So that said stall with frog porridge is actually located just beside My Rice. And a pretty good frog porridge they served. It seems from the name on the stall that it originates from Geylang Lorong 9 before shifting to the current location along Balestier Road.

The frog porridge options comes in a few variations. One can choose to have the frogs in the porridge or served separately. The ones that you see here are the separated ones where the frogs are done in a spicy kung pao gravy and served bubbling hot in clay pot. Well actually, I think everything's served in clay pots, whichever variation that is ordered. You'll get to specify during the order how many frogs you want to have at $8 a frog. This kung pao gravy version which I had worked wonderfully in the cold rainy weather along with the piping hot gruel like porridge that came with minimal condiments. The porridge eats well on its own or even better, drizzled generously with the spicy gravy from the clay pot frogs. The frogs themselves are tender in the flesh and can easily be eaten simply by sucking the meat off the bones. Much easier than eating crabs.

Noodle House, Park Mall

I'm not sure how long this place has been in existence and I probably would not have known about it if not for recommendation by a friend. Hidden at the basement of the often ignored Park Mall is Noodle House, a Chinese eatery that apparently sells Sarawak based noodles. At least that's the claim. One of their signature items apparently is wanton mee which looks very similar to the Kolo mee that operates with a few outlets around the Chinatown region. Specifically, the noodles of this place is outstanding because it's not the regular yellow noodles that's being used which gives the whole dish a different textual feel. I mentioned a couple of times previously that I have a distaste of a certain flavor in regular yellow noodles and this is one of them noodle stores that doesn't use them. I like this better than the Pontian store at Yishun. Will drop by if I happen to be in the vicinity looking for something to eat.

Dressed simply in what tasted like mostly sesame oil and fried shallots, these noodles are good by themselves without any other condiments that most wanton noodles gets. Also there's the additional ba chor and meatball which is normally not available also in wanton mee. That above is a large bowl at $4 and comes with a small bowl of wanton in soup.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Peach Garden, Novena Garden

I've been wondering about this place for a while now since I do pass by the vicinity on occasions and it being the only restaurant behind closed doors. Turns out that from what I've been told I've been here once for a Chinese New Year dinner some years back. I have totally no recollection of that event, so I decided to come (back) today for a dinner with my family after a recommendation from a good friend that told me it was worth checking out. Peach Garden is a cosy Cantonese restaurant that operates with two outlets, the other being Thomson Plaza.

To kick the dinner off, a couple of starters that was both interesting and tasty.

crispy eggplant with pork floss

This dish is essentially deep fried eggplants topped with a generous amount of pork floss and garlic bits. I've never had something like this before, it was however got the unanimous thumbs up for being good.

roasted pork

This is roasted pork minus the fat and sliced into cubes instead of strips. Underneath the crispy topside, is just tender lean meat. The dish is served with a rather powerful mustard that packs quite a bit of kick. I suspect the purpose of the mustard is to musk the noticeably strong flavor of pork which is present. The taste of pork in this particular dish much stronger than usual. I am told it is because that young pigs are used for them. Accompanying on the side are fragrant toasted peanuts which is a small, but nice addition.

The other dishes for the dinner were the signature roast duck, wasabi prawns, kung pao fish noodles with venison, fried cereal crusted fillet of sea perch, poached seasonal vegetables with garlic, century & salted egg in superior stock and the braised leg of lamb.

roast duck

The original intention was to get the roast goose, but the bummer as we were told by the server was that the import of goose from Hong Kong has been banned currently because of bird flu, so duck was the closest we coud get. The roast duck comes with a dish of sourish citrus sticky sauce which I didn't really think much of. On the whole, it's pretty decent as roast ducks go, but nothing exceptional.

wasabi prawns

The wasabi prawns it seems are a favorite in this restaurant. From a causal observation, it was present in almost every other table. They're lightly battered fried prawns that are coated in a mix of wasabi and mayonnaise and sprinkled with prawn(?) roe. It tastes just like how it looks like and apart from being visually appealing, it wasn't too special.

fried cereal crusted fillet of sea perch

I found this fillet of sea perch to be one of the better dishes The above is a single portion for one at $12. These personally portioned fishes remind me how much it cost for cod at Szechuan Court. Despite that, it was really enjoyable with the mildly sweetish cereal crust paired with bits of chilli and curry leaves. Definitely recommended and note that this item is not in the menu.

poached seasonal vegetables with garlic, century & salted egg in superior stock

Not much to say about these egged and poach vegetables except that I enjoy them and generally would normally order them if they are available in the menu. It's probably because of the eggs and the really rich tasting soup.

kung pao fish noodle with venison

I'm not sure why these are named fish noodles. I was thinking that there might be slices of fishes in the noodles along with the venison, but no, there is only venison. I noted that some of the noodles have burnt marks on them so I think they must have gone through some intensive stir fry. Still, the texture was what I found to be quite good (not being too soft) and enjoyable. The gripe with it is that the plate is filled up with what I consider to be inedibles. Namely chunks of onions and dried chilli. What you get to eat is essentially half the size of what you see on the plate.

braised leg of lamb

This tender braised leg of lamb was also something that did not come from the menu. The really compelling thing about the lamb is the simplicity of the taste. There wasn't any complex flavors involved, just simple light oyster sauce and the natural flavor of braised lamb as it is. Goes wonderfully with the fresh vegetables on the side. Another recommended try.

I forgot what this dessert is called, but it is pretty good. In the husk of a young coconut, chilled bubor hitam with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The dessert is eaten with the thin layer of coconut flesh that is still in the husk and easily carved out with a spoon. This seriously taste much better than it looks.

10 degrees of Christmas @ Basil Alcove

This Christmas also marks in a way, the trial by fire for Basil Alcove which I first visited back in September - in the culinary sense. The chef with the mischievous grin, Xander Ang has taken upon himself to deliver a 10 course Extravaganza menu. So erm....I have some photos for you here of the dinner if you are so inclined to continue reading.

Carpaccio Beef

Paving the road to the extravaganza was the carpaccio of beef with cipriani sauce, topped with honey roasted figs. This is probably one of the largest servings of cappacio I've ever had. And in honesty, also the ugliest. And despite being much thicker than how carpaccios normally are, it turned out to be quite appetizing and edible. The treat in this dish for me were the honey roasted figs.

Trio Mitili
In the Trio Mitili, there was a trio of half shelled New Zealand mussels, accompanied by diced green and black olives. The common thing about the mussels are that they were succulent and fresh tasting. More than one of us at the dinner though the salty baked cheese was smile etching good and the pesto packed with a very decent punch of garlic.

Borscht Asparagus e Beet Cappucino
Foam seems to be the thing these days. I must admit that I'm generally agreeable with them. This beet cappuccino came with a huge dollop of asparagus foam which I enjoyed, reminded me faintly of a nothing cappuccino of cauliflower which I once had at Sage. In the same capacity, they were both a vehicle of an almost ethereal creamy milkiness accented with a shade of flavour of their said vegetable. The cooling foam washed down with the warm beet soup was strangely arousing.

Tacchino Lampone
Most western Christmas dinners don't get by without turkey, so this I guess isn't an exception. The Tacchino Lampone comprised of slices of pan fried turkey accompanied by a cranberry, walnut and yoghurt sauce. Easily one of the favourites for tonight.

Mezcolanza Funghi
This appears to be some kind of mushroom burger. A ménage à troi of a button and two shitakes under pink pepper sauce. Nothing dried or canned from this.

Strawberry Sorbetto
This 6th course of the strawberry sorbet topped with homegrown mint pesto is as explained to be the palate cleanser. Refreshing, the citrus in sorbet helped in gearing up for the upcoming duo mains of red and white meat. Actually, I wished there was more of it to go round.

Marmellata Lamb

And this as explained by the server of tonight is the toasted lamb cutlets with whale sperm. Naw...I jest of course. It's really an orange and cherry marmalade which comes as a very nice accompaniment to the lamb. Done somewhere between medium and medium well. I thought that it would have been great to have more of the marmalade. But I suppose with restrained portions, it did provide the opportunity to savour the natural flavour of the lamb.

Lobster Thermidor
I generally do not have much expectations of lobsters unless I'm forking out and arm and a leg for them. In Christmas, one would undoubtedly have to top it up with a few vitals just to be sure because it's a crustacean which most of us know can get ridiculously costly. This KGB Lobster Thermidor came across as passable, compensated by the toasted cheese which was again as in the mussels, really good. It's a KGB lobster because in the shooter on the side is an almost Molotov Kalua, Granmania and Baileys. Yes, it is flaming. I've not much complains on the shellfish here, but I'm sure it could be much better.

Panna Cotta
Their Panna Cotta as I understood was made with pineapple, but I was almost positive that there was also coconut in there? Or maybe, after a couple of beers, the subtleties of flavours were lost to me. The texture of this was coarse and very different from what I have expected. Accompanying chocolate gravy at the bottom was a plus and in this rare occasion, this worked in small portions. Enough to be enjoyed, not enough to make one start to grow sick of it.

Torta Fromaggio Mango
Deconstruction as I understand of the term comes into light of two applications. Desserts and architecture. The Torta Formaggio Mango is a deconstructed mango cheese cake with warm Baileys topped with a generous portion of fresh cream.

So there you have the 10 degrees of this festive year end, courtesy of Basil Alcove. As much as I can relate to, it was likely a daunting task for a small kitchen to stretch themselves for such a menu. It's probably quite doable in a expensive restaurant, but we'll probably not see the likes of anything else similar in terms of effort and delivery based on the creativity of a small family run business here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ember @ Hotel 1929, Keong Saik Road

There seems to be some trend of new restaurants opening themselves in boutique hotels and becoming a name of themselves. Like Wild Rocket at Hangout and Desire at Scarlet Hotel, Ember is the place where the reputation (good and bad) of the restaurant precedes the hotel it resides within. It actually also takes up more estate on the ground floor of 1929 than it's entire lobby.

Dinner tonight was with fatpig and friends. Original intention was to do dinner at Desire, but somehow in the arrangement, confusion brought in Breeze and by the time we managed to contact Desire, it was fully booked. So that's pretty much how we ended up at this place at Keong Saik Road. The arrangement for dinner was shared appetizers and desserts along with individual mains. For a weeknight, the restaurant was almost fully packed. The service from the staff was friendly and above satisfactory. On the whole, this place is a rather pleasant restaurant. The food while commendable in quality, wasn't exceptional in direction.

Commencing with the appetizers,

pan scallops with parma ham, orange and tarragon vinaigrette - the scallops in this thing is huge. I do mean huge and of rather remarkable succulence. I saw juice squirt out of fatpig's first bite into soft shellfish. I was actually expecting cold Parma ham from the description on the menu since I haven't actually had them in other ways. The searing of the scallop felt more like a quick pan fry. Apart from the juicy jumbo sized shellfish, the rest of the salad was pretty mundane. I thought the oranges lacked the citrus punch.

tuna tempura with goma wakame, mustard dressing - I was initially skeptical about the tempura in this, however it turned out much better than I expected, with the tuna being seared instead of thoroughly cooked. Inevitably, I compared it with the really good one I had at Sage, which was still the better dish. Noteably, this tempura batter came really thin and light like no other tempura which I've had. The sauce and mustard did overpower the flavors of the fish (which was light in the first place) to the point that it overwhelmed. Just an observation, not a complain.

pan seared foie gras with caramelized apple and clove port and raspberry glaze - unanimously at the table tonight, this is the highlight of the entrees. Ember makes a wonderful foie gras with a delicately thin crispy surface and creamy insides that falls apart, melting in the tongue with it's rich diffusive flavor. This is seriously damn good.

The selection of main courses at Ember didn't exactly present themselves as enticing from description. In fact, it looked quite mundane.

char grilled angus beef with fava beans - this was my main for tonight. I was thinking that there might have been something more interesting to be had, but the steak amongst the other selection looked the most appealing to me. I really didn't come here expecting to have steak. And it was quite small. Apart from the size, there was certainly no complains. Seasoning of the meat was a simple rock salt and coarse grain pepper, resulting in a good retention of the original beefy flavors. The steak comes with a rather tasty side of potato gratin.

I managed to get a bite from the Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb with Tamarind Reduction which turns out very tender in medium rare and sweetly juicy. The sweetness might have come from the sauce though. The lamb comes with a delicious finely mashed sweet potato side which I thought was quite interesting. The Braised Stockyard Beef Cheek with Merlot which fatpig chose tasted like a Chinese pork braised in soy sauce with a hint of red wine. For $40, I didn't think it quite tasted well enough to justify the price.

On with the desserts...

warm vairhona chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream
- this is one of the most common desserts around. Everyone's doing it. Kinda hard for me to be too enthusiastic about it. Although good, they all taste the same.

flavoured panna cotta with chilled mango soup - this panna cotta is mostly drowned in the "mango soup" which tastes exactly like the desserts from Hong Kong dessert stores. It's really unremarkable and the panna cotta itself isn't half as good as the one from Sage.

apple tart tartin with vanilla bean ice cream - freshly made with generous large chunks of apple, I thought this was pretty good. The pastry tasted freshly baked.

warm banana tart with homemade lavender ice cream - I picked this because it comes with lavender ice cream. I've never tried it and was naturally curious about how it tasted. The flavor is rather interesting....brings forth more than a faint reminder of shampoo or shower gel.

The waiting interval between the courses felt a tad long for me because it exhausted conversation, but YMMV. I'll probably wait to catch wind of Sebastian Ng's new rotation of the menu before deciding if I'll return.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

wham!burger, China Square Foodcourt

Checked out this burger joint today with fatpig at the basement of China Square's food court after hearing about it being mentioned several times on some web forums. Not surprisingly, the hype over the burger was way bigger than taste. The store didn't look like it had any queue in the face of the lunch crowd. The wham!burger came sized like Botak Jones' burgers, with slightly tastier patties. But those patties also fell apart easily like those in the Botak Burgers. The bread was dry and porous, reminding me of the cheap bread used in Ramly Burgers. It did come buttered. We were told while ordering that the double whammy required advance notice for the portabello mushrooms. Wtf!? At $9, a double whammy with egg and no mushrooms felt a little pricey. Well, it was not bad, it's just not great after all the hype...

So the verdict is, I probably won't be back for more. Despite my several at $16, überburger's sirloin burger was a lot heartier and tasted better. With location and the price, I don't think this wham!burger came close enough to being worth the trouble.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Noodles from the Fat Hero

I was told during lunch while eating this ba chor mee that Fei Xiong isn't fat bear, but fat hero. Lol. And a pretty good ba chor mee the fat hero does make.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Paulaners Bräuhaus, Millenia Walk (dinner)

I dropped by this place recently for an Ockoberfest thirst quencher after dinner at Ten-Jyaku. Tonight, I took advantage of being around in the vicinity and decided to do dinner with a co-worker. I recalled having had their pork knuckles the previous time and them being pretty good. There aren't really any German restaurants around that I know of that are accessible (I don't drive) and this is probably the only one that's most convenient. Paulaners Bräuhaus if you didn't know is located at Millenia Walk, just across the road from Suntec City.

The restaurant section of the brewery is located on the second floor. The ground level being a bar/pub that serves their own brand of brew and finger food. The last weekday I attempted to get a seat in the restaurant, it was so packed I couldn't get a space four without having endure a queue. Tonight was quite empty by comparison.

One of the neat things about the bread was that it comes with pate; which I liked. Most place just provide either butter, olive oil & vinegar and even pesto. But I haven't really seen anywhere else that does pate.

Commenced the dinner with a cold cut dish call Bavarian Brotzeitbrettl. It is essentially a wooden dish of different hams, liver pate, a bit of cheese, some greens and grated horseradish which was surprisingly good. The horseradish tasted quite fresh with a mild tinge of sweetness. Like grated wasabi. Mustardly flavorful without being overwhelmin. Ham seemed to be chicken/turkey based, but the waiter insisted that all of it are pork. I didn't think it was worth the effort to pursue this. In all a rather decent plate of cold cuts which features nothing really remarkable apart from the horseradish .

The home made spätzle and asparagus looked a lot to me like fried sliced fish at first. I had no idea what were spätzles, but it seemed like they're some kind of irregularly shaped pasta of sorts. The pasta was served with melted cheese and flavoured with white white and nutmeg. Apart from the fragrant strips of fried onion and a very mild melted cheese, I didn't taste any nutmeg or white wine. And if not for the cheese, this looks and tastes Chinese. Like fried rice cakes.

The grilled pork knuckles tasted like I remembered it from the last time I had them. But it wasa lot less fatty then. In fact, if my memory serves me, there wasn't much fat at all under all that golden brown skin between the meat. The bed of sauerkraut was appetising, offsetting the weight of the meat/fat. The portions were actually small enough to make a hearty meal.