Friday, February 29, 2008

7th Storey Restaurant, Rochor Road

I don't really remember how I came to learn of this inconspicuous place (New 7th Storey Hotel, 228/229 Rochor Road, S188451) down in the vicinity of Bugis, but I'm guessing that I must have read it off somewhere that there's chicken rice to be had at the restaurant and that it was suppose to be good or at least better than the usual. I recall having had a disappointing steamboat at the back of the building once a long time back, but little did I realise that there was actually a restaurant apart from the backyard. Does anyone know why is there the mention of Honjin on the paper sheaths on their chopsticks here?

There is only the steamed variety of chicken to be had as well as a bunch of other dishes that can be ordered from the menu. We got a small portion of the chicken, sambal kangkong and marmite pork ribs, along with the chicken rice.

The chicken that is served here in honesty, isn't really special compared to other stalls which I've had. Sure the dense flesh was tender, slightly chilled and had a nice thin skin that didn't contain excessive fats. It was in the end something that I probably will not return for in favor of other stalls that I've had. Quite a few of which I think are equally tasty, if not better. The steaming hot rice was more heavily accented in ginger than garlic which isn't exactly something that I'm fond of. The same is said for the chilli which was just moderately spicy, but just a tad too much ginger for me to really get into. The sambal kangkong came freshly crunchy and is otherwise quite unremarkable. I had expected the marmite chicken to taste of marmite, but it was just some sweetish pork ribs and was definitely far from the best of these stir fried pork ribs which I've eaten, flavoring aside. I guess this is one place I won't be re-visiting anytime soon if ever.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Porta Porta, Upper Changi Road North

Eclectic would be the very word to describe the setting of this little restaurant (971 Upper Changi North Road, Changi Garden, tel : 65453108) with a somewhat bohemian charm, located at a rather remote spot beside a coffeeshop just across the road from Changi Prison. Homely would probably be the the best word to describe the food served. The dishes as I was served was in summary, tasty and as unostentatious they can come. If you're looking for Italian food with minimal to no frills involved, Porta Porta would probably be a very good bet.

I wasn't sure what was good from the menu at this place, so we opted for what was describe as the "faite" set at $48 which consisted of what the chef could bring out from the kitchen for the day. The set which looked like a sampler of various dishes consisted of a four course of which the first was starters and and soup, followed by a tasting of two pastas. The third course would be the meats along with calamari and prawns and then two desserts. The variety that this set offer looked pretty astounding as the dishes were brought out from the kitchen in quick order.

Starters & soup

Apart from the bread basket that featured a hard, olive oil flavored and dense crusty loaf; there was a wooden platter of marinated vegetable anitpasto; caprese with some smoked cheese instead of the usual mozzarella; some cold unexciting pizza; marinated eggplant; freshly toasted bruchetta; deep fried risotto balls with cheese centers; some fresh tasting plump mussels cooked in a spicy tomato and garlic broth and a rich savory fish bisque.

I hardly know how to begin with this list, but the soup and mussels which arrived steaming stood out pretty well in terms of flavor. The shellfish on the first serving had a weird smell so we requested for a change. A new bowl of freshly cooked mussels was brought back and was soft yet firm with bite. The densely flavored brown bisque has got to be one of the better fish soups I've ever tasted. I didn't even mind the mild coriander taste in it.

Two tastings of pasta

So here we have a pesto ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach and a very tasty tagliatelle with prawn cream sauce. Both pastas were decently al dente though I would say that they probably weren't the best I've had for doneness. The savory prawn cream sauce turned out very rich in taste and again, was good that I didn't mind the coriander flavor in them. It's something I'll be looking forward to if I ever return to Porta.

The meats

The meats was for me, the least interesting unfortunately. We get a braised beef (no beefiness) that was sweet with the onions it was cooked with and a stringy piece of chicken in some cream sauce akin to carbonara. That's really all there is to them.

The calamari was however something I felt worth mentioning. The batter on the squids were so tissue paper thin that they almost weren't there. It was like a light dusting of batter all over and the squids which too arrived piping hot definitely tasted fresh. Despite appearances, the prawns were also in the same league of freshness. They were unseasoned and came like the steamed variety from Chinese restaurants with sweetness in the crunchy flesh. The shells were a tad difficult to remove though as they were a slightly stuck to the meat.


Dessert come in the form of a regular lemon sorbet and a rather good rendition of tiramisu. With the myriads of standards in tiramisus these days, I generally take them expecting the worse. This one served in a chinese tea cup turned out very robust in the expresso and atop, very light and well beaten mascapone cream.

On the whole, I thought that the seafood scored better than the meats. The bill includes just a service charge, no GST. I'm thinking that this place is definitely worth re-visiting and I'll probably head for the one at Stanley Street the next time to see what's up in that outlet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mango Tree, East Coast Parkway

There are probably a couple of kinds of mixed feelings that I get about visiting an eating place as an after impression. Sometimes, I leave without really knowing what's my final verdict on it and usually, it gets ignored and forgotten. Sometimes, I am clear about exactly what goes into the mix of that feeling. Mango Tree (Marine Cove B23, 1000 East Coast Parkway, S449876, tel : 64428655) is one such place and I've decided that even though I enjoyed some of the food and appreciated the genteel service of the restaurant to some extents, the chances of revisiting would probably be minimal. I have to disclaim that apart from the initial impressions of the dishes which consisted of both hits and misses, the location and cost of eating here is also taken into consideration.

I came to know about this place by the way of a heads up from Camemberu, whom has mentioned about this place which also serves coastal Indian cuisine from Goa and Kerala. I thought that it would probably be a good opportunity to check out what the seafood was about since I had missed the chance back in Spice Junction.

murg makhani

green mango curry

mango tree garlic prawns

mango and cheese naans

I'm taking a shot in the dark here by saying this, but I am presuming that the murg makhani (or butter chicken) was less creamy because this is essentially a southern Indian place or at least serves food done in their style. The thick gravy held a sharper tang since it wasn't masked by so much cream, but I think I generally enjoy the northern versions better. The green mango curry was something we decided to try out of the spirit of adventure and turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. The taste of the curry was generally quite mild and tangy with a hint of mango citrus while preserving it's creamy texture. There were pieces of the fruit in the curry which turned out soft (not mushy) like boiled potatoes. The whole dish was generally enjoyable since it was appetizing.

I thought that the green mango garlic prawns looked like a Chinese dish. The initial impression upon serving was disappointment. These prawns aren't large for tiger prawns and didn't look too vibrant. Fortunately, the taste was pretty awesome. Belying the dull steamed prawn look was flesh that was surprisingly firm and crunchy in texture soaked in a buttery sauce loaded with minced garlic. For $27, it was certainly quite pricey considering that it was just three prawns that were quite small in size.

The naans here are good because they were really light and fluffy. I really do mean freshly made, light and fluffy here. In fact it was so light and fluffy that we had to order a portion of basmati rice (pretty costly at $3.80 and didn't exude much fragrance) after two naans. The downside to these breads were the purported flavors. Apart from tasting slightly sweetish, the mango naan didn't taste like it had mango. At all. And I ate the most of it without any gravy so I'm quite positive of the taste. Likewise, the cheese naan didn't taste like it had any cheese baked into them. At all. This was seriously a bummer. The restaurant was kind enough to offer replacements, but we didn't pursue that since they were insistent that it did contain cheese.

I hadn't been in this area for so long that I had forgotten that restaurants here could be pricier like it is in town. I had ordered a glass of lassi without looking from the menu and it turned out to be a little smaller than the usual I've had before and it set my wallet back 7 bucks for it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Herbs & Spices the Euradian Restaurant, Upper Thomson Road

This is pretty interesting as Herbs & Spices (207 Upper Thomson Road, Yew Lian Park, tel: 6252 9038), which is just a unit down from Miss Clarity at Upper Thomson is the first Euradian restaurant I've come across. Euradian as one of the owners explained, refers to the blend of European and Indian. One of the chefs in the kitchen apparently has experience in doing Italian food. So right in this unit, you get a pretty good selection of Indian and Italian food. The options for both cuisines put together was quite overwhelming. As a matter of fact, the selection of Italian food alone, in this place outdoes quite a few other Italian restaurants which I've been. I went for some safe bets of the common items which I thought I liked in Indian food, cliche it may be. It's the usual palek paneer, butter chicken, butter and kashmiri naan, lassi, buttermilk (ice blended??) and along the way of orders tried the deep fried fish roe, chicken pakora (I hope I got this right), gobi manchurian and *drumroll* mushroom risotto with goat cheese.

palek paneer

The palek paneer here is quite enjoyable. The spinach puree wasn't flat in taste as I thought it might have been. Which is a good thing. My only gripe here is that the cottage cheese portions here could do with a bit more generosity.

butter chicken

The butter chicken here was quite like the one down at Jaggi's, meaning that it was rich and creamy while lacking the edges of spiciness as compared to the ones that are served elsewhere. I found this to be quite enjoyable, especially with the fact that they were served piping hot and the combination of the gravy with naan or rice is almost peerless comfort satisfaction for the stomach. Almost.

fried fish roe

Fried fish eggs. Who doesn't like these? Freshly fried and still retentive of a bit of the juices, I really don't need to say much more about them.

chicken pakora

I must say that these fried pieces of chicken with herb and batter are quite tasty and would probably make very good beer snacks. The first time I've had these here, they came in much smaller minced portions. This time round, they were larger chunks and much more tender.

gobi manchurian

The gobi manchurian turned out to be visually, different from what I thought it might have looked like since I've just tried them out at Spice Junction quite recently. The ones here appeared like a sweet and sour cauliflower dish, tasted spicy to some extents, but didn't match the ones down at the former location.

mushroom risotto with goat cheese

To be honest, I had expected more out of the risotto. There were certainly no complains about the generosity of the mushrooms in the rice, but the flavor wasn't as fragrant or pervasive on the tongue as I had hoped it could be. Maybe it lacks a bit of porcini? Certainly, I've had much better for risottos and the goat cheese barely registered in taste. The restaurant had mentioned that it had been adjusted to a mild level since not everyone is agreeable to the pungent taste, but I thought it could have done with more of that which would have made it something to remember. The quality of the risotto is apparently not of the enjoyable that I've had, but certainly it was at least on par with the ones that I've tried at Miss Clarity, which is to say that it's still decent. There's definitely room for improvement.

I think on the overall, I quite like this place and the proximity is somewhat of a bonus now that I know that there is an alternative to Race Course Road for me. The cost for this meal at $66 for 5 persons seems very reasonable to me for the tasty food, especially considering the fact that the risotto was already $24. I'm actually looking forward to going back to try more of their stuff someday.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pho24, Upper Thomson Road

I've actually not much tasting experience with pho bo with the exception of a store down in some old blocks at Novena which I cannot recall the name and Va Va Vroom down at Seah Street which serves a rendition that is full of green herbs that drowned out the beef flavor of the soup. I really didn't enjoy that one. What I've heard from someone who's had them in Vietnam is that the broth was more oily and served very hot so as to help soften or blanch the vegetables and herbs that are served alongside to be added into the soup. Pho24 (215M Upper Thomson Road, tel:6451-6811) which is a fairly new establishment does a pretty tasty soup beef rice noodle. Now I'm not able to comment on the authenticity of the cooking, but it does taste pretty good to me and the broth is actually beefy to taste from the Pho24 Combo which I tried. The combo is essentially just the regular beef noodle with the assortment of innards like brisket, tripe and tendon added, apart from the regular sliced beef fillet or flank. Added with sliced chilli and onions, it turned out to be quite satisfying. Though I must add that the lime which was provided came in really stingy portions. I question the thinking behind a restaurant that actually hails from Vietnam and is successful enough to open two outlets, one in Upper Thomson and the other in Millenia Walk to sting on limes. At $12.90, it's definitely not cheap considering that the ingredients are far from being exotic, but it was enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

6" in the Subway

I've always wondered at the slogan of 'Eat Fresh' at Subway. What do those two words really mean and what are the layers of meaning behind the the thoughts of the people who came out with that tagline and the ones who approved it for the marketing. Does it just mean that it's just freshly made? If so, many fast food places could "Eat Fresh" themselves too. A number of the ingredients are anything but fresh.

This 6 inch, double meat-ed cold cut trio was just basically ham which is essentially salted and preserved meat. What's so fresh about ham? The roast beef on the counter would probably appear fresh to a blind man. Cheese options are plasticky and cheap for even sandwiches. The vegetables aren't too bad, but I really don't know about having label them as fresh. Sure their sandwiches are probably healthier than the whole slew of other fast food joints, but a double meat-ed sandwich would cost at least around the region of $7, which isn't exactly cheap for food like this. Anything without double meat is simply sandwich fillings travesty because the default fillings are just pathetic. With the cookies and chips and sugar laden drinks, I suppose "Eat Healthy" isn't such an appropriate option for advertisement. That being said, I wouldn't mind eating them once in a while.

Eat fresh everyone!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More from Muthu's Curry

I've had some cravings for Indian food these couple of weeks. After the recent trips to Race Course Road, the options available at Muthu's Curry (#B1-056, Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Boulevard, tel: 68357707) doesn't look as attractive as before. Despite some comments I've heard about this restaurant being commercialized, I still think that the food here is really not too far off from what cooking down in Little India. Am I wrong about that? I think I found myself enjoying both the spicier butter chicken here and the subdued and creamier version down at Jaggi's. The marsala prawns slathered in the thick spicy and nutty gravy are still crunchy, though they appear to be a little smaller than I remember them. I had the navratan korma for the first time and it 's a mixed vegetable dish in a cashew and cream gravy. While the gravy was pretty decent, I couldn't taste any elements of cashew or even nuttiness in the flavor and I thought that the scent of the cloves was rather strong. And now, I too recognize that the lassi over at Delhi Restaurant and Spice Junction are way better than the ones served here.

Considering the cost at this place, I think the restaurants down at Race Course Road or anywhere else in Little India presents a more interesting and favorable options.

chennai cabbage curry

butter chicken

navratan korma

marsala prawns

More fruity Kit Kats from Hokkaido

Both these Kyoho grape and the apple flavors in the chocolate wafers were very superficial and definitely pales in fruity flavored comparison with the rock melon rendition. I was thinking that since these are Japanese, they might actually be good. Apparently, not everything Japanese tastes fabulous. Ahem!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Seafood platter from Fish & Co @ Paragon

I've noticed that the prawns in the Fish & Co here (290 Orchard Rd, #B1-35/36 Paragon, S238859, tel: 6733 0938) are meatier and the seafood platter for two comes with scallops instead of mussels. The portions have fortunately remained as large as I remember them to be and most of the time, I find it quite difficult to want to order anything else than this. The wok is laden with the usual suspects of the grilled prawns, very generous portions of salty peppered grilled squid, four scallops, a very forgettable fish fillet, the delicious orange raisin rice and fries. All good to go into the gut with the sourish spicy chilli and dragon breath inducing chopped garlic. However, prices seem to have gone up from what I recall last by about $7 or so. I'm not sure if it's just this particular outlet or has it gone up across the board for all the other outlets as well.

Another regular item on their menu which I've only started ordering quite recently are the mussels in garlic butter. More than a half dozen mussels swimming in a garlicky butter broth which makes good dips for bread. Yep, even the uninteresting foccacia at this place become tasty after a couple of dunks in that creamy and heart clogging broth which happens to be excellent when slathered over the rice in the seafood platter too. It's been around for ages and I've only started realizing them last year.