Monday, October 29, 2007

Asia Grand Restaurant, Odeon Towers


The main draw of this restaurant as some of you may already be aware of, is the $28 Peking duck which was pretty much a steal considering how much other Chinese restaurants are charging for them. I'm also fairly sure that there isn't any other place in town that can match this place in price for that. That being said, one also must be realistic in expectations for such a Peking duck since it was going on the cheap. It wouldn't be anywhere close to top notch in terms of quality. I've definitely had better Peking ducks elsewhere, but that being said, I've also never paid this little for one.

Peking duck aside, Asia Grand Restaurant (331 North Bridge Road #01-02 & #01-05/08 Odeon Towers) is also a pretty decent restaurant. The variety on the menu is sufficient if not too extensive in variety. Noteable mentions from dinner included the bamboo clams with garlic, apple soup with fresh water fish and a certain lup mei fan which consisted of claypot rice with a variety of waxed meats which turned out to be quite heart clogging.

We were informed that this dish (which isn't on the menu) is not available all the time. At the end of the claypot rice, a bowl of stock was provided to scrape the remaining charred rice from the bottom of the pot creating a porridge of sorts. I thought that was quite well done if not for the fact that there was coriander in the broth which really just killed it for me. From the desserts, the yam paste (orh nee) was surprisingly enjoyable, considering that I don't normally like them.

I missed out the photos of the soup and the Peking duck skin in egg rolls, so there...

meat from peking duck

The Peking duck as mentioned was decent. We opted for the meat to be cut up and served instead of the usual options of having them stir fried with rice or noodles or having them minced and served on lettuce. I very much prefer the meat sliced and served. This also educated us of how little remnants of duck meat was actually available from one bird. And also reminded me of that sad one at Golden Peony which had seriously pathetic leftover meat compared to a much larger plate here or even Hai Tian Lo. Seriously, I had doubts about having had the whole duck at that place. Even though the standards of the Peking duck here weren't comparable to the Golden Peony, this one actually felt more satisfying.

some vegetable with roasted garlic and dried scallops

These are mustard greens I think. It was a pretty light dish but the garlic turned out to be a bit more pungent than I expected. It's a good thing I didn't pop too many cloves into my mouth at a time.

bamboo clams with garlic and golden mushroom

These steamed bamboo clams were great, full of chewy meat along with the golden mushrooms. The soy sauce and minced garlic worked as a common flavour paring to the shellfish. I can imagine polishing of quite a few of these yummy shellfish myself.

salt and pepper pork ribs

I unfortunately didn't like their pork ribs. It could have been because I found the cut of the meat to be excessively fatty. Much more than I normally like. We opted for the salt and pepper option as the sweet and sour rendition sounded really quite boring and coffee sauces sound more interesting than they usually taste. None of those taste like coffee or remotely so. I was thinking that this would probably be a good test of flavour for the ribs and I wasn't wrong. The flavour was simply just not outstanding.

assorted waxed meats (from the claypot rice dish)

These assorted waxed meats which are actually part of traditional claypot rice are quite commonly available and costly during the Chinese New Year. The assortment here includes waxed duck, lup cheong, liver lup cheong and waxed pork belly. All of which are fatty and oily and sweet with the exception of the duck which was very salty. Unlike the regular claypot rice, the meats and vegetables aren't mixed with the rice and the stock is used in sparing portions.

claypot rice

broth from the remaining claypot rice

yam paste

red bean paste pancake

mango pudding

The desserts which we had were average at best. So the mango pudding was really just a regular mango pudding which I didn't think much of. The red bean pancake was likewise unexceptional though it did have a much less chewy skin and I didn't find the paste itself excessively sweet.

In retrospect, while definitely not the best around, Asia Grand made a passably adequate restaurant. I'm pretty sure that they quality as a decent location for family dinners. Hell, I can see myself coming back just for with my family. For their economically priced duck also.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

La Cantina in Venezia, Changi Village Hotel


I'm thinking that this place could probably be just the poorer cousin to San Marco if not for the fact that Cantina (#08/09-02, Changi Village Hotel, 1 Netheravon Road ) dwelt in one of the most remote of locations and the service here is quite spotty. I was honestly quite taken in by how the restaurant had made it's placement at the roof top of a surprisingly pleasant Changi Village Hotel and in spite of being just on the 8th storey, it was one of the tallest spots in the vicinity. Which grants a nice, if not so scenic view of the beach. The night ambience in the al fresco areas with the roof top pool made it a quiet and pleasant place. One could always reduce the value of an al fresco dining appeal since the weather is virtually humid all year round, however this was located just beside the sea and well, there was the occasional sea breeze. Did I mention having also to look past the tacky wooden bars and retro styled crystal lamps on the walls?

If you haven't yet been sufficiently bored by the description of the place, you might still recall that I had also mentioned that the service was rather spotty. I didn't think I had expected top dollar service. I was more interested in what I could get to my stomach then any superficial flair that an eatery might practice, but I'm sure that there's minimal expectations that one would normally have. The restaurant was slightly over half filled on a Friday night with no wait staff bothering to even bring a menu to our table until we requested for one from a group of waitresses that looked like they couldn't be bothered to even glance to a table of 3 that was just seated and without a menu. To be fair, the service evolved towards an old world charm was quite friendly when it finally happened.

The prices here were what I consider to be quite regular of standard Italian places. That meant that while it wasn't really cheap, it also wasn't anywhere close to exorbitant. Portions did look quite generous and the food is in a nutshell, pretty ok. So while it wasn't mediocre, there are other places that do better. Which also means I'll difficult time justifying a return.

I managed to break my routine of just getting pasta and since this was my first visit, and I hadn't any idea if there was anything that was great about theirs. The menu didn't look too interesting, so apart from an antipasto platter, I grabbed the Saltimbocca alla Romana.


This is a regular olive oil drenched antipasto platter of vegetables and cold cuts that was serve chilled and marinated. That was something that I hadn't expect. I was thinking that they'd be grilled instead. Oddly, their button mushrooms were so soft that they almost disintegrated in the mouth without having to chew on them. The mortadella and salami were really, just ham and salami. Apart from the enjoyable hard and crumbly Parmiggiano Reggiano, I don't really have much comments here.


From what I had gathered, the Saltimbocca is a meat dish lined with proscuitto. Here its done with pieces of chewy pork wrapped in Parma ham, seasoned in sage and sitting on top of pan fried potatoes and some vegetables. Hearty would be the good word for this dish and I quite enjoyed the slightly charred potatoes. I couldn't quite make out what the sauce was however. The taste was a little buttery and saltish.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A million deths?


We interrupt this gastro diary with "Long live Dave Mustaine!". It definitely rocked ass last night!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yakitori obento set lunch @ Kushigin


Kushigin at Cuppage Plaza now does lunch on Sundays too. I'm not sure for how long has this option been going on, but I remember it being only available for Mondays thru Saturdays. I've been told about their yakitori bento sets which is suppose to be great value at $12.50. The bento comes with 5 grilled items along with the rice that is topped with seaweed, sauteed mushrooms and ground meat (I can't really tell what this is but I suspect it is chicken). On top of it, is a miso soup and a dessert (I got a red bean dessert with mochi). The grill on sticks are pretty good since I see them freshly made on order for the bento. We get a chicken with leek, chicken balls, quail eggs, asparagus wrapped in pork belly and some mint in chicken things. I thought it was pretty decent and rather affordable.

One gripe on the bento lunch is that the rice which is really, not the regular Japanese rice that one would expect. It wasn't very sticky all in the first place and the minced meat and mushroom toppings had sauce that seeped into the rice, breaking it into a soft mash which was simply a trial to eat with chopsticks. Since they weren't sticky at all, it was akin to eating regular rice from a box like that which was really just a hassle. I wonder how this fares against the bento at Nanbantei.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

L' Angelus, 85 Club Street


This quiet and pleasant dinner was otherwise perfect if it wasn't so visibly marred by a particular waiting staff that confused himself with the order, gotten the wrong starters and gave a subtle to blatant display of displeasure by his attitude at the prospect of having to get the wrong orders corrected. That particular moment reeked strongly of chi-chi pretentiousness which I have yet to really encounter in other French places which I've visited so far. Yeap, that means even Raffles Grill. Frankly the encounter was quite the lowlight of the evening when everthing else was pretty good. I would really have liked to avoid any negative comments because L'Angelus is honestly a rather nice restaurant for a bistro styled French dinner and looks to be a place ideal for dates. Again I am reminded of the one waiter whenever I want to talk about the merits of the ambience and the satisfying dinner that left me quite stuffed.


The pan fried foie gras comes in quite a generous portion which I found to be rather enjoyable. I'm not too sure what has gone into the sauce but it seems to be a balsamic glace of sorts resulting in a robust flavor of vinegar over a mildly crisp skin liver and soft quivery insides that breaks apart and dissolves onto your tongue. As it's intended purpose, the vinegar sauce balances the rich oily liver with a tangy blanket creating a savory and appetizing coupling.



I'm quite pleased with the ribeye and it turned up a bit larger than I had expected since I've always had the impression that portions tend to be more dainty in French places. The steak was served quite plainly with just the meat, a grilled tomato and a side of gratinated potatoes which arrived separately on a hot plate and was scooped onto the main plate after being served. You also get the option of either a pepper or blue cheese sauce. Needless to say, I picked the blue cheese which was actually quite robust and definitely not of the commonly used light variety. While it didn't score right at the top in the department of juiciness, the meat was distinctively intact of beefiness with it's soft manageable fat along the sides. The meat texture and firmness retained a measure of tenderness, and yet still came across as firm. I thought that the fat wasn't excessive and that's a good thing. Not to mention that this was a properly done medium rare which I liked. It cost about as much as the tenderloin from Brasserie Wolf, but this was a noticeably much more enjoyable piece of steak and definitely better value for the money. That's just my take.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Alaturka Turkish & Mediterranean Restaurant, 16 Bussorah Street



Had a little difficulty finding Bussorah street and well...we almost didn't find it until we stumbled upon the sign at the back door of the restaurant in the alley. Pretty cosy restaurant adorned with mosaic tiles, decorative plates on the wall, Turkish lamps on the ceiling and little tea lights secluded into little alcoves of the brick walls whichexudes a feel of the middle eastern kind (if that's how it truly is over there). Which was somewhat jarred by the fact that there is a multi media kiosk at the front of the restaurant rotating through images of the food from the restaurant.

We ordered the karisik kebab (mixed grill) along with an iskender lamb kebab (which I didn't get to find out about from Sultan Kebab), starters of hummus and babakanoosh (roasted eggplant & garlic dip) accompanied by their olive oil garlic bread. On hindsight, it was quite a lot of food for two.

babakanoosh

hummus


karisik kebab


iskender lamb kebab


olive oil garlic bread

The food was pretty much what we had expected of the grilled meats except of a couple of things. The iskender kebab came with something that tasted like lamb ham. I was really expecting real grilled lamb rather than a sliced ham like substance and that was a little disappointing. The other thing was that the karisik kebab also oddly included a chicken drumlet and mid wing besides the regular shish kebabs of chicken and beef and the lamb koobidehs. Are these part of the usual items in kebabs? The prices, I thought was pretty reasonable. All these totalled to about $50.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Modesto's, Orchard Parade Hotel



I have mixed feelings about this place and after eating here, I'm too sure whether it's a place which I liked or not. I'm probably going to have to come back again since the selection on the menu is rather large and I must admit that there are some items which I find compelling. The hindsight left me with the impression that the food here wasn't all that great in terms of quality. I was thinking that certain things could have been done better. The service however was friendly and great despite the bustling crowd and agonizing waiting time. Over the course of an hour of wait for the food, the waiting staff had, without prompt walked over to reassure that the food is in order and that they're doing their best for a busy Friday evening.

For a start the bread served is rather bad. It tasted very much like a dry herb foccacia which definitely didn't feel fresh. To emphasize, I needed generous dips of the olive oil and vinegar in spite being hungry and having to go through a rather long wait for the food to arrive.


The starter of the antipasto italiano wasn't quite up to what I had expected. While quite palatable, the food felt limp. The grilled vegetables were a tad too cold, Mozzarella cheese felt crumbly from the caprese and there was noticeably too little Parma ham that draped on the rock melons. The calamari fritti made it into the second starter option. As a person who enjoys soggy fries, I certainly had no issues with the soft batter that coated the squids which was actually quite enjoyable with the chew factor. I was debating over the option of a few of the pastas and eventually ended up with the ravioloni di pesce al pomodoro. The pasta turned out to be quite disappointing with it's fillings of supposed minced prawn and crab meat. There was some creamy things with the filling and that was pretty much what could be tasted despite my efforts at attempting to feel for the minced meat. Neither the prawn nor crab could really be tasted and whatever little of it was pretty much drowned out in the tomato sauce. The portions and doneness of the ravioli was actually good and if the stuffings were better, it might have actually been a lot more enjoyable.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Anatolia Turkish Restaurant, Far East Plaza


This was another place that has been steadily operating in their current premise (Far East Plaza #02-58/59) for a long while which I've on fairly frequent basis passed by. Had always thought of dropping by and never really did until now. Anatolia does Turkish food. Apart from the vertical rotating spits where the meats are carved, the place also features a small and single helping salad bar and a corner for Turkish ice cream. The menu features a list of kebabs, wraps, a small selection of sides and salad. This place works by having your orders taken over at the counter and making the payment before heading to the seating area to wait for your orders to be served in the opposite unit facing the stall.


Dinner was a mixed kebab which features grilled chicken, lamb and beef heaped over some salad, a portion of tasty rice (anyone knows what's in this rice?) and accompanied by a couple of grilled green chillis and tomatoes. It is described on the menu to be a combo of sorts for sharing, however the portion looks to be enough a hungry person. One notable thing about the lamb koobidehs from the platter is the extra dose of chilli which ups the spiciness level by a notch. Banoo and Persepolis doesn't seem to do theirs with chilli. The egg omelette which we got to go along is really just a regular pan fried omelette with paprika. From recommendation, I tried the apple tea which I had originally assumed to be a freshly brewed beverage, but it actually came in a teabag and was surprisingly not too bad. There was quite a bit of of apple flavour.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ox liver and pork cutlet from Colbar


I've been curious about this ox liver after hearing about it from the hungry cow that took a bite out of the liver of his own kin. So I just knew that I had to order this and see what it's really about now that I've managed to head down to Colbar again. Truthfully, I wasn't too sure if I could eat so much liver at a go since this is the first time I'm having them in such quantities. Now on hindsight, this stuff is pretty good. What I thought was great is that the livers aren't sliced too thickly and it was probably cooked in a very hot pan fry, evidented from the char marks on the exterior and the little bloodiness in the middle of the livers. This turned out more enjoyable than I had expected with less livery taste than the usual overly well cooked chicken/pork livers. The pork cutlet on the other hand was much less remarkable coming across as pretty normal. The meat leans on the dry and chewy side and really, I can't think of anything of note to speak of.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Brownie with cheese


Wow, this stuff isn't too bad and a surprising one at that, courtesy of an introduction. I must say that the chocolate and cheese combo does feel wholesomely heart clogging coupled with a healthy dose of sugar rush. The saltish cheese sauce on this thing tastes pretty much like Cheez Whiz in jars which I cannot seem to find anymore in supermarkets. Despite the differences of the taste spectrum, it's really not bad with the brownie that's loaded with bits of macademia nuts. It actually feels like something I would throw together at home rather than appear on the menu of some eating place. This does needs to stay in the oven longer before being served because a hot brownie tastes better than a lukewarm one. And if you're wondering, it's from Breeks (#05-29, Ngee Ann City).


Monday, October 15, 2007

Stiff Chilli, Jalan Besar

"when a chilli is stiff, its dead" ~ Ah Teo

I had a bit of difficulty trying to locate this place at 279 Jalan Besar from the map on Streetdirectory.com. It's actually 2 or 3 bus stops from Sim Lim Square in the direction away from town. The restaurant is an oldish and modern/quaint little place nested in a row of dilapidated looking shophouse with crumbling whitewash. Apparently from what I've read, this place is run by an Italian-Australian chef Rodney Holt who had opened four other Stiff Chilli outlets in Bali. From the way things are looking at the moment, this place looked like it was going to do itself pretty good. This was one of those times I walked out of the restaurant feeling really good about the dinner. The question was of course if it were to be successful as an eatery in this country, would it be able to gracefully meet the challenge of compromise and not bow to mediocrity as many others have.


One of the signature dishes here was apparently something call Burrata which is essentially a smooth ball of mozzarella cheese heaped over with rockets, Parma ham, some cherry tomatoes and then drizzled generously with olive oil and vinegar. The mozzarella cheese is of a soft and smooth texture, light on flavours and has the consistency akin to a portobello mushroom cap. In spite of the size, it didn't come across as overwhelming or heavy. This stuff was definitely worth a try. This dish apparently comes in two options of either parma ham ($22) or grilled vegetables ($18).


The bruchetta here are limited to two or three different types, but I thought that their mozzarella e rucola ($6) which features tomato, basil, little pieces of bocconcini cheese and roasted garlic (what a pleasant surprise!) was a pretty good starter for the evening. For me, the best part of the ordinary, but rather well made bruchetta was the addition of the soft roasted garlic and I definitely wished that there was more of it. That would have in my books made it great!


The speck pizza ($18) which features, according to the menu, double smoked mountain ham (what's this?!) and blue cheese was something that I thought I shouldn't pass up on. This turned out to be something that I found myself liking quite a bit. Again, I thought that a little more generosity with the blue cheese was in order and I'm not sure what's the deal with that salty double smoked mountain ham which tasted almost like Parma ham. The pizza came with an excellent thin crust that was really crispy at the sides and a bottom that did not turn soggy because of the toppings.


There was a variety of pastas to pick from. There was a canneloni which I spied on the menu, but I have unfortunately limited space. We managed to decide on the ravioli di zucca ($8.50) which was pumpkin filled raviolis cooked in butter and sage. The ravioli was decent in a light buttery broth which I would have preferred to be more buttery. The only thing the sage did for me was to provide a little dimension to the taste.


Interesting thing about their chocolate ice cream was that there were actually flecks of chilli inside. The effect of which was a subtle chilli flavour which doesn't change the chocolate ice cream, but rather sits above it. There was only a very mild spiciness that can be felt and left a ticklish sensation in the throat. The taste was honestly not bizarre or weird. Just different.

I would probably want to come back again to check out other things on the menu. I liked this place enough with first impressions.