Sunday, July 29, 2007

Long live Sharon!


Woohooo! Fresh from Holland!

Philadelphia fish & chips, Fish & Co @ Paragon

There's generally not much that's compelling for me at Fish & Co. The food standards like many restaurant chains have gone through depreciation. The regular fish and chips which are quite decent and the seafood platter for two are probably the only items that I would come for and honestly, it probably wouldn't keep me coming back for much longer. Lately, I've discovered that the one at Paragon serves some items that are exclusive only to that outlet. That's what the Philadelphia fish & chips is about, stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese which sounded interesting. As you can see, it looks pretty much like the NY version or the regular one. The main difference is just, the cheese.


The resultant flavor turns out a little different from what I had thought. I'm guessing that it could be due to the fact that the cream cheese is melted and that changes its taste. What you get is a much more creamier battered fish with still identifiable cheese flavor, but with less of the sharpness. This is something that's probably worth checking out, but it's not something good enough for me to come back for. On another note, the seafood platter here looks to have bigger prawns and the shellfish portions are scallops instead of the usual mussels. I'm not sure if that's something just from this outlet or things have changed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

the muse and the wild oat

Ever bar hopped for food? Well, bar food to be exact. I just did and the inspiration rose after chancing upon one of the entries by our local celebrity food blogger on a couple of locations that looked like they whip up pretty good bar food. The talk about days being filled with dealing with self-serving, obtuse lunkheads whom you’d rather be smacking in the back of the head with a baguette rather than working with rang peals of resonant notes in me. Or was it psychotic laughter. I get confused. As did the idea telling certain people what I think of them and the mention of stiff drinks. Lol. So I decided, why not take them on in a single fell swoop on a not so fell night.

Muse Bar, at the National Museum is definitely a place that I would never think about visiting if not for the article. The reasons are almost blatantly obvious. The place is also not atypical of somewhere I would hang out and to my pleasant surprise, the offerings in the tapas menu turned out pretty decent. I certainly hope these places mark the beginning of an era better snacks in local drinking places. The mini prawn laksa burritos turned out pretty good. I meant, there was really identifiable laksa flavor in the fried rolls. That flavor is definitely not the most robust of its kind, but was however definitive of laksa and definitely asian. In the burrito along with real prawns and quail eggs. I think I can actually eat loads of this stuff.


Following which I decided that the duo of mini burgers just had to make their way down my gullet along with curried chicken wings. I might have gotten a little too carried away by my hopes of a thick patty even in a mini burger. But it sure as hell didn't look like what I saw from the mentioning above. Still I have to concede that quite decent for a tiny burger and if you like the patty dripping with juices, this is definitely one of them. The curried chicken wings had an unexpectedly soft and damp batter surface, but commendable seasoning which made it moderately spicy and salty at the same time. If anything is good for drinks, these probably are. I really need to get this out, the mojitos here are really bad. I mean, it's so damn lime-y with no mint and little hint of rum bad.


Wild Oats (emily hill, 11 upper wilkie road, next door to Wild Rocket) in comparison was what I felt to be a much better spot to chill with friends than Muse is. The availability of more outdoor seats was probably the factor on a cool evening and the drink selection didn't look as dull. The ambience is ultimately much more appealing to me and when I say chill, I meant non-intrusive music. This place scores well enough with this factor that I will probably re-visit, but tonight, it's really just bar food. And a couple of drinks. Before I forget, I just need to mention that the Hoegaarden that I had here is probably the most chilled glass of the beer I've ever had. It's "it beats Ice Cold Beer" good and the glass wasn't even frosted to boot. Simply awesome but rather pricey at $12 for the half pint. And I'm genuinely curious how it was done to that effect

The parmesan wings served in this place features gorgonzola sauce and chicken rice chilli sauce. Honestly, the gorgonzola sauce is far too weak. The taste barely registered and that really says something for cheese like that. It's something I probably wouldn't bother with again. The chilli however does pack a noticeable kick which was definitely a nice surprise. Something I could see myself coming back for. Feta cheese, tofu and spinach wanton does sound very intrigueing, but again, Wild Oats slips up in the cheese factor. I can't imagine not being able to taste feta cheese in a wanton that is suppose to contain them; and the other other fillings were tofu and spinach. The surprising factor about this item is that the very prominent flavor here is actually tofu which was really much stronger than I've had anywhere. And it was almost a reminder of a fried ravioli. Lol.


This place features a pear cider which I tried. It was unfortunately very common tasting and unidentifiable of the fruit it was made of. I'll be back for the hot bitches the next time!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Pizza Place, Raffles City


So, this is another recommendation, and it was definitely more than a couple of people that said to me that this place has the best pizza they've eaten locally. Seriously? Honestly, I didn't think it was a big deal. Unless we're talking about some specific topping which I have missed, this joint is probably a little noticeable notch better than Pizza Hut. This picture you see is a half New York and half triple cheese and despite enjoying meat, I thought the triple cheese was tastier. Would have been better quattro fromaggio for me and maybe I'm a thin crust person. Did I miss anything?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hansang, Square 2


I'm starting to get the hang of and digging these Korean places that serve the assortment of pickles and starters before the real food comes. It gives me something to work my mouth with apart from conversation and is much appreciated when you're hungry and waiting for the food to arrive. With only one other place in comparison from recent times, I've to say that Togi serves better of this pre-meal appetizers than Hansang (Square 2, #03-32 to 35/40 to 44). Service at this place on a quiet Sunday evening is snappy and polite. Snappy meant that things were done fast in case you were wondering. Also, this place serves a light Korean beer that goes by Hite which claims to be made from natural fresh water, thus providing a fresh taste. Wow! Lol. The reason that I don't visit Korean places often is because, the menu tends to look very similar to me most of the time and this limitation, perceived or real, gives me the impression that the food is generally same everywhere. Maybe I just haven't gotten to appreciate the subtleties of their cuisine. If such a word is applicable for that.

Also, the bulgogis are difficult to differentiate. Each one that I've had taste very similarly to one another and really, is that all there is to them. One can only have them for so often before you get weary of the taste and even though the ones here are noticeably better than what you can get from supposed Korean food stalls in the food courts, there doesn't seem to be much identifying factor to them apart from the fact that they are prepared better. What I found defining for Hansang is that, they do a very good beef rib soup, something which I've never really had before elsewhere. Despite its plain and uninteresting appearance, the soup comes flavorsome of the beef and having meat that slides off the bone easy is always a plus point for me. This comes recommended if you ever visit. The other definition for this restaurant comes from the rice which are steamed with some root vegetables. There was a slice of carrot, some sweet potato, a piece of pumpkin and interestingly a date served with the rice that stays piping hot up to the last mouthful.

beef rib soup

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Manhill Restaurant, 99 Pasir Panjang Road

This place was another recommendation from co workers. Manhill Restaurant I was told, was known for their claypot dishes. I wonder what made the owner of this restaurant call it Manhill. It's pretty much an old school Chinese restaurant. Certainly not with a name I would expect out of such a Chinese restaurant. And it's the first time I got to drink chrysanthemum tea in Tiger beer mugs. 

Some of their dishes stood out. There was a claypot sea cucumber with roasted pork featuring fragrant and chewy sea cumbers with roasted pork belly that were further braised in the gravy. There was a apple pork rib soup that which was boiled with real apple wedges. The soup didn't really taste of apples but had a light sweetness. Very nice stuff, considering that I'm usually not a fan of most Chinese soups. Another delicious item were their paper wrapped chicken which were essentially chicken thigh meat marinated in some Chinese cooking wine before they are wrapped in oiled paper to be cooked. The meat of the chicken was nicely done with the juices preserved in each paper package. There was also aroma from the cooking wine in each bite. The big plus for me was the lack of bones in the meat!

If it helps, this restaurant is less than half a minutes drive from the Centre for Animal Welfare and Control Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.

claypot sea cucumbers and roast pork

claypot beef

forgot what this is, but it contains a variety of vegetables and some seafood

apple pork rib soup

paper wrapped chicken

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Al Forno Trattoria, Goldhill Centre


Clad in a simple, cosy and rustic looking interior and hidden out of view from the main roads, Al Forno Trattoria (203 Thomson Road, Goldhill Centre) is one of those places that probably doesn't get very much attention from the public eye or passers by. I have to say that this place whips up some pretty decent pasta in generous portions. That is on top of the other standard option of pizzas, salads, seafood & meat. My only gripe is that the selection on the menu looks to offers mostly very boring looking tomato based sauce options which on the whole didn't look very appealing because that's what I usually avoid. That's just me. I hear that this place has been around for quite a long while and that they do a very nice rum infused Black Forest Cake which is available in a few days of the week and I was rather curious about it. And we were actually served a complimentary starter of a warm slice of toast before we've even made orders for the food. The toast had a topping which I couldn't fully identify beyond that it contains bits of onions, garlic, gherkins and probably olive oil. Wasn't bad too.


Pappardelle alla Veneziana ($22)

This was something that I thought was quite enjoyable, served piping hot. It's essentially pappardelle with scallops and prawns that's served in a rich creamy saffron sauce. I'm quite pleasantly surprised that the prawns weren't tiny shrimps and that they were quite the crunchy ones. Scallops came whole with their 'wings'. This was probably the most interesting pasta option on the menu.

Lasagna Emiliana ($22)

I've never been really a fan of lasagna and truly, this isn't bad. It's just me being not very into tomato sauce. From the menu's description of having two cheeses, I was hoping that it would up the cheese factor of the lasagna by a notch. It was unfortunately not the case and turns out to be very typical of its kind.


And this would be the rum infused Black Forest Cake ($9 a slice) which I had mentioned earlier. Truly, this is a delicious chocolate cake. For chocolate cake lovers, this is probably a dessert you shouldn't pass on. This is the good stuff with dense & rich chocolate cream and chocolate shavings over the top and it's really harder to get it any more chocolate-ty without changing the type of chocolates that is being used. That was also a lot of chocolate in the last sentence so I hope I got the point across. I really don't have complains on this if not for the fact that I had honestly expected more of the rum than just a bare hint of flavor. It wasn't really what I had in mind for a Black Forest Cake, but hey, I've not much to complain here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hamoru Japanese Restaurant, Food Republic @ Suntec


Food Republic seems to be making a noticeable effort in bringing up the standards of local food courts and setting a new benchmark for the other chain outlets. This I mean, applies to both the quality and the cost of having a meal. I've been lunching at Hamoru for the past 2 consecutive days and this place sending a message to other claims to serving Japanese food in food courts that they seriously need to do a whole lot better. Well, this place is noticeably better and claims a name by themselves with their own separated seats. Prices here get quite steep in the context of what most can afford to eat on a daily basis. Do not expect top notch quality, but honestly, its very much better than food courts elsewhere. The surprising factor here is that they actually serve foie gras, otoro and uni. Hmmmm.....

Lunch day 1

Shiok maki

This is looks really local in style, name aside. The presentation speaks little of elegance. It turns out to be pretty tasty and pricey at $15 a serving. What you get is unagi and avocado in rice topped with strips of salmon, blanketed some cheesy mayo like mixture followed with ebi roe. The whole is then torched for the char effect. Simple, fairly unimaginative, but tasty.

asari (shortneck clam) soup

I was recommended this by the waitress and it turns out to be clams in a miso based soup. It's not too bad in the cold weather actually. There's quite a bit of clams hidden at the bottom. The only minor gripe is that the miso flavor didn't quite come out as rich as I hoped. There's an option to have ramen/soba in them for a top up of additional $2.

chicken liver

I was a little taken aback when I saw the chicken liver for the first time from the color and some dripping blood. This is also the first time I am ordering these from a Japanese grill and to my surprise, this is more like foie gras, being soft and creamy than the usual chinese styled cooked chicken livers. Nope, do not expect melt in your mouth, it's only $2 a stick. It's actually also not too bad despite it's slightly gruesome appearances.

foie gras

You must be wondering if this is good. I'm just wondering if it was duck or goose. At $8 a stick, this is more expensive than Kazu, and I can only say that it's definitely better there than here. An Israeli colleague of mine also happens to be having them for the first time in his life. I think he's found himself a new sin. The crisp on the surface from the foie gras here was a tad lacking and the still creamy insides didn't disintegrate as smoothly as I hoped, but what the hell.

Lunch Day 2

shiro maguro

The menu describes this as white tuna and the meat comes lightly flavored with a hint of soy sauce. The consistency of the meat is quite firm and on the whole, not bad. The chill factor does need a bit of work though. Does anyone have any idea what's the difference of this from the regular tuna?

grilled saba shio

This soba shio isn't too large a piece and despite the grill, somehow retains quite a lot of juice in the meat. The greens on the side are topped with a citrus and sesame based sauce which is quite appetizing. On the whole, quite decent, but not remarkable.

cha soba

This is actually disappointing. Not that I expect top notch sobas to be had here, but the noodles are seriously, limp. Also it neither the soba nor the dripping sauce comes sufficiently chilled. Do not order this if you like soba.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

En Japanese Dining Bar, UE Square

This Japanese bar cum food joint happened to be one of those places which I've passed by on countless occasions but have never spared another look when I made my way down Mohd Sultan Road. On the other hand, En (#01-57, UE Square) is a name that I've heard of for a while already and been curious about. Little did I realize that they were the same. I'm inclined to state that I liked this place because there's drinks to be had and the food was pretty decent while not exorbitantly priced. There's also a one for one for Asahi from 5pm to 8pm. I thought what would have made this place better was if the sashimi selection was bigger but I'm not complaining. Quite a bit of the food here were made to go well if you're drinking.

kawaebi

I think kawaebi means small prawns in Japanese and these were really little river shrimps according to the menu. The shrimps were fried with seemingly no seasoning and are served with lemon and salt on the side. Like I said, good with drinks and very chewy.

sukugarasu

The sukurarasu was basically a serving of chilled tofu with little fishes on the top. I have no idea what those fishes were but they were very salty and definitely needed tofu to balance out that saltiness.

maguro tataki salad

This tuna salad here was pretty good. The slices of meat are seared along the edges and are served with some greens and citrus sauce mixed with Dijon mustard I think. I found this very enjoyable.

yellowtail

For some reason, I like yellowtail sashimi. The fish that they served here were of decent qiality if not the better ones around. It's definitely a couple of notches above those from conveyor belt establishments. But after a couple of beers, really, much subtleties of the flavours are lost anyway.

enoki bacon

There's really little need to ask why this. Crunchy, chewy enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Most of the reasons are already there. The standards of the grills here of course cannot be compared to Kazu.

unagi fried rice

The fried rice was just passable, but dinner needed some carbs and it sounded more appealing than the standard garlic rice option. I remembers seeing mentaiko pasta on the menu so if I ever return, I'll shoot for that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Benny, Maxwell Hawker Center


Yup, this is a local western food store by the name of Benny (01-16 Maxwell Food Centre, Maxwell Road) which is run by a very amicable proprietor of the same name. I read about this place from Wine & Dine Asia and decided to check out what it's about by getting a cheesy pork which I thought looked the most interesting from the menu. I guess I got a mixed feeling about the cheesy pork. Firstly, it looked a tad greasy and the cheese was too little and is really drowned by the mayonnaise in taste. The plus factor is that you do get a solid piece of fried pork (looks like layered meat) which isn't cooked to death. Metaphorically of course. The food came with regular cutlery with the exception of the knife which was plastic and looked almost too frail to cut into the thick piece of meat. Fortunately, it held.


On the side is a pretty interesting mashed potato which contains bits of stuff which I couldn't really point out. I was thinking along the lines of really fine shredded carrots or sweet potato, but the proprietor mentioned pumpkin and other vegetables when I asked about what went into the mash.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fusion or confusion, it's all perspective isn't it?

Perspectives from Anderson Ho of Le Papillon, courtesy of Wine & Dine Asia. I personally think perspective could be everything. It has to be managed. No Jedi mind tricks are required here.

'To me, it doesn't matter if it is fusion so long as the taste is there,' says Ho. One of the dishes he served at Le Papillon was a laksa cappuccino served with crabmeat salad, but he took it off the menu after some comments from diners about 'why should I pay top dollar for something I can get at a hawker centre'.

He adds that while some do appreciate the flavours, most don't. However, when he did a cooking promotion overseas and served the laksa cappuccino, it was a great hit.

He reckons that Singaporeans are generally biased towards chefs cooking Western food with local flavours. 'If fusion is done by a Western chef, people go 'wow'. But when a Chinese guy does it, they don't like it. I'm sorry, but that's a fact.'

For example, he referred to Saint Pierre's Emmanuel Stroobant who created an entire molecular gastronomy menu in April for the World Gourmet Summit based on local hawker food. His deconstructed versions of kaya toast, nasi lemak and chicken rice won raves. 'But if I do that at my restaurant, do you think people would come?' asks Ho.


Ooo....now we're pointing fingers.



Saturday, July 14, 2007

Muthu's Curry, Race Course Road


An Indian curry fish head place at Race Course Road, recommended by a colleague who couldn't recall the name turned out to be Muthu's Curry. This main outlet of the restaurant turns out to be rather spacious in comparison to the one at Suntec which I've had lunch at on a couple of occasion in terms of floor estate and despite that, claims a full house of customers. Since curry fish head was the objective of dinner, it was a good opportunity for me to do some comparison between both branches.

banana lassi

briyani

curry fish head

curry mutton

palek paneer

black squid

Apart from the black squid which was suppose to be an outlet specialty not available elsewhere, the other items were pretty much very standard offerings of Indian cuisine which we had. The feel is that, the food here generally didn't generate the same amount of satisfaction level as the outlet at Suntec. My personal note on it amounts to some minor criticism. I think the fish head had to little meat for a large portion and the briyani lacks the fragrance which I was expecting. It was almost like having just plain basmati rice which probably might have been a better idea in this case. There's really nothing to the black squid that makes it outstanding even though it didn't taste too bad. And this time round, the palek paneer didn't have any noteable fragrance in the fried cheese which I was looking out for since I remember having that from Suntec. I'll probaby stick to the latter location the next time round. Seriously, I think little things like this count and this looks to me like compromises in cooking standards or just plain negligence.