Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bontá unplugged

Unplugged because most of the things here aren't really from the menu and the after dinner was graced with the company of Chef Luca Pezzera at the table where casual dialogue evolved around prices of Japanese produce, how he likes otoro and not uni, the real faces of restaurants in Italy and quite a number of other things which will not by discretion, go beyond the dinner table. Chef Luca is apparent quite conversant with the local slang judging from expressions like "ok lah", "I tell you one thing ah", or "very expensive leh" that arise in the midst of his chit chat.

This visit also represents a re-acquaintance to the food at Bontá, recalling that it didn’t leave deep impressions previously. I must say that opinions are rather different this time round, but then again, there’s also the stuff that one doesn’t usually get since they’re seasonal. Still, one can get a feel of straightforward and down to earth cooking that doesn't reek of fancy schmancy.

The first starter is actually a pair of steamed or poached German white asparagus blanketed by a sunny side up with shaved parmesan. I though it was a appropriately warm, but in a refreshing way, light starter for the soft and very lightly crunchy asparagus which were a little juicy. Having cheese and eggs sort seals the deal for the whole thing for me since I like them both. Nothing sophisticated, but a warm and pleasant opener for a start. I just found out that white asparagus are grown in the dark today.

This was followed by sliced Parma ham and nicely chilled melon pieces drizzled with something sweet that tasted little like honey and something else. I couldn't really identify it. Again, nothing over the top here as a second starter.

This was quite good. Basically, it's a pasta with a truffle cheese sauce and with more freshly shaven summer truffles to go with them. What I liked about this was the fact that the cheese in the sauce was distinctively identifiable, yet not overwhelming as to dominate the palate over the gentler truffle flavors. Comforting indeed.

Secondi piatti was a seafood duo of tuna and scampi. I was actually kinda hoping for red meat, but since it's all decided by the chef, you get surprised sometimes. The outstanding items were the sweet scampi and roasted garlic of a variety I haven't had before. There was almost none of the pungence associated with garlic flavors and the bulbs were slightly sweetish and crunchy. I thought they were quite good. The tuna wasn't really my thing despite it being still juicy while a tad hard. There was a rosemary flavor which I personally don't normally quite like. Would have been great if there was more of the crustacean.

Well, that's a molten chocolate cake with rum and raisin ice cream and it was really, just a molten chocolate cake. It wasn't boring or mediocre in any case, but it was just a molten chocolate cake which I really have difficulty describing anymore since they're pretty much all the same.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seletar Grill & Pub, Singapore Flying Club

First things first. This is my first visit to Seletar Grill (140B Piccadilly, Singapore Flying Club, tel: 6482 0244) and I've managed to get my name up on the level 30 wall of fame for their spicy chicken wings. It doesn't taste good, I do not recommend them at all and I did it for the cheap thrill of having my name up on a piece of paper up their wall of fame after enduring the tongue and lip blistering venom which makes those wings look absolutely toxic. Not to mention the fuzzy feeling in my stomach after that......

The real silver lining of this visit is the prime rib on the menu which I was admittedly skeptical about initially. After little persuasion, I took the plunge and this turned out to be one of the really good calls. And a good thing it was too that I decided on medium instead of the usual medium rare since it probably would have been a little to rare for my likings on the inside of this thick piece of steak. The boned in prime rib was tender, juicy full of beefy goodness coupled with a healthy amount of fats for texture and taste. Not forgetting the nicely browned surface with its fragrance as well. I'm honestly surprised at something like this in an out of the way shack, but this was really a pleasant one. It's really tough luck for me that this place is so damned inaccessible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wasabi Tei, Far East Plaza

If I ever had to make a call on the quintessence of form without finesse in Japanese food, Wasabi Tei (14 Scotts Road, #05-70 Far East Plaza, tel : 62388216) would probably be it. There is very little of, if anything at all that can be associated with the usual elegance that one would associate with the traditional vein of such cuisine here. Frills are virtually non existence and presentation takes no precedence. But the food is actually pretty decent with all things considered. While it is something that is far from being beyond reproach, it was actually not half bad at all. It just doesn't really look it at a glance. One comes to this hole in the wall place to get their bellies filled and leaves.

Everyone got served an interesting looking otoshi which consisted mainly of what I was educated to be simmered hijiki seaweed and I think bits of chicken. The seaweed reminded me a little bit of a pickled tea leaf salad I once had. While it didn't appear to be very much, the starter is actually quite flavorful in a savory sweetish manner and I thought it was quite good.

I could simply put it that the mixed sashimi here was generously portioned, thick sliced and straight to the point. We get the usual suspects of sake, hamachi, mekajiki, maguro and a fat piece of hotate sliced into two. They're as you can see them, literal slices of meat with little, if any style on the knifework. But it was nicely chilled, firm and quite fresh tasting.

The uni gunkans were unfortunately not one of the better ones I've had. It did look a little suspicious on delivery especially when one was already toppled and both were barely (badly) wrapped. The sea urchin did look slightly mushy and while the taste wasn't as bad as what my nagging suspicion had indicated, it didn't quite put a smile on my face neither.

This was surprisingly, one of the better tasting unagi makis I've had. Certainly not the best looking one, but the grill scorched aroma was very evident on the still crisp caramelized skin of the eels. I suspect that the extra char was how it was intended to be done since I did look a little more so than usual, but it was really quite nice. I need a revisit opinion on the unagis.

The chirashi bento was basically quite similar to the sashimi platter, on rice. Plus a little bit of ikura, a crabstick and no scallop. Not much else to be said about them that I haven't already mentioned, but my parting comment would be that the salmon served in this place is actually not bad too. Good as in a way of having definitive fat that slicked my soya sauce with grease.

Caveat lector : do mind their little in house rules they have for patrons though.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

D is for....

Damned long wait for food! Maybe it was the stuffy and sweltering humidity coupled with the heat that made the waiting time less bearable. The kitchen did look very much to me like they took their time about their business which while is their prerogative, kinda makes me think twice about coming back again. D is for deliberate.

Getting back on track, Big D does do an awesome kurobuta pork loin. In honesty, this is the first time I'm having such a large piece of grilled Berkshire black pig. The resulting piece of meat doesn't score much of points in the department of tenderness, but hey, that didn't really matter. There was enough juices still left on the moderately fatty insides after the exterior was seared with a very commendable char that came with the accompanying char fragrance which I though was a big factor contributing to what made this pork loin good. D is for delicious. Such was the focus of the centerpiece very other thing else on the plate fell on the sideline. I felt like I was eating steak. D is for dandy.

The sambal buah keluah as I have discovered, was a dish that took a minute to prepare despite all the waiting time. It was as simple as scooping that black puree out from somewhere onto a plate with rice and some salsa on the side. This stuff is good like rendang, being heavy on the coconut flavor and paired with spiciness and sweet. Certainly doesn't taste like the buah keluah I've had before but it was all good. It would have been great if they had done a better job out of the rice which was anything but soft and fluffy.

And finally, D is for Damien. Damien D'Silva. Who wasn't around in the kitchen the whole time I was there. So wassup with those wannabes crooning his name everytime you talk about his food eh? Give some credit to the rest of the staff, especially that guy who was sweating it out at the grill working on the pig.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Going down on Victoria......Street

The initial plan was to get some dinner at the food centre beside Allson Hotel. Since I had to be in that vicinity, I couldn't resist making my way back to Benten Cafe and grabbing their blue cheese and honey pizza again. I really wanted to know if the pizza was going to be as good as the first time round and if it was truly a place I could reliably (loosely used here) come back for more in the future.

Fortunately, the pizza was almost as good as the last visit. There were definitely little difference. The blue cheese toppings felt marginally less generous but that still meant that there was quite a bit of it. Today, the honey was given in a separate jug and there was definitely more going around than the previous time where it could barely be tasted. The stinky blue cheese and honey paired up just like best of friends. For a selfish reason, I hope this place doesn't close down so that I can always come back for this pizza whenever I feel like it.

Moving forward into the second part, there was a stall call Victoria Street Bak Kut Teh. I wasn't thinking of bak kut teh at all since I remembered seeing that they had an assorted variety of items for kuey chap. Those were what I actually had in mind. In the end, it was a plate of assorted items, some tau kee (bean curd skins) and a bowl of peppery pig stomach soup which was generously filled with boiled garlic. The pieces of pig stomach were stewed for so long that they were not chewy anymore. Certain pieces looked like they were on the verge of disintegration. Soup tasted peppery and flat. I don't know if this place was famous or good but I probably wouldn't be coming back. There was nothing very special about them all, but I suppose they did an adequate the job of just filling up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar, Holland Village

I can pretty much say with confidence that this place (31 Lorong Liput in Holland Village, 6463-3132) will be one of those that I'll be revisiting at some point again, maybe soon, in the future because the ramen left in me an impression. Which is probably a good thing now that there are quite a few of the ramen joints popping out in recent years. Coupled with some of the veterans of specialist ramen places, we actually do have quite an option and the array sometimes needs a definition in it's midst.

So here's a bowl of their moridakusan ramen which is basically, Yoshimaru's version of "the works". Including a tiny dollop of mentaiko which I personally felt was a waste since nothing of it could be tasted once everything else got tossed in the mix. The compelling factor for this ramen joint for me was their tasty tonkotsu broth which wasn't as salty and greasy as I thought it would be. In their moderation, intentional or not, it turned out to be a really good base for the thin and firm noodles which was the other compelling factor. I was never a fan of the soft and curly types and this ones almost reminded me of the first time I ate at Ajisen many years back when they were still pretty decent. There was a also a very nuttish and spicy broth in their tan tan mian which was in short, good stuff that left me wanting more. I'm wondering if there was any peanut butter involved in the making of that soup base.

So far the only unfortunate incident came in the form of their charshu don which featured what tasted like preserved pork cubes that reminded me very much of mei cai kou rou when paired with the side option of takana. Definitely had better.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mietta's, Arab Street

Angelo Sanelli, formerly of Michaelangelo's and current captain of this culinary ship known as Mietta's (126 Arab Street, tel: 6396 5493) reminds me of a man sized dwarf. Big boned, bearded, gruffy facade and probably a nice guy at heart behind his serious appearances as he makes his rounds about. Executive chef Dennis Sim on the other hand, exudes the personality of a man of the kitchen. I say that because his chef's coat isn't snowy white like what many are wont to romanticize and it actually has food stains. And the first words from the man were to enquire if the food was fine and to explain why was what which way. Impressions.

Before I go into the more interesting topic of the food, I'd like to extend my thanks to fatpig for organizing dinner (again!) and for the arrangement of the interesting starter of blueberry gnocchi with braised venison in a red wine, bitter chocolate jus which was something dredged up and out from days back in Zambuca. That was probably not the only residual item that was plated since the carpaccio di manzo did look quite the same as well from the chef's former restaurant.

Honestly, the starters didn't leave too deep of an impression and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to feel strongly about them. But perhaps, I had wanted to be pleasantly surprised. For starters (pun intended), the venison as explained didn't have enough marinate time and in all likelyhood didn't have as much flavor as the chef had intended. Chocolate sauce wasn't as interesting as it sounded and compounded on that, the only flavor of the blueberries came from the bits of the fruit. I must say that the portions were rather generous. The beef capaccio arrived in portions too dainty and I could have sworn that I tasted lemongrass even though nothing like that was described to be in it. One could say, underwhelmed.

The mains, on the other spectrum of impressions were very commendable. We had an excellent foie gras risotto with porcini, which I think should have been renamed because each mouthful of that rice was infused with a robust taste of the mushroom. Foie gras really stood second place in the department of flavor and second place didn't position itself with as much proximity to the first as I would have preferred. But that would just be me. The rack of lamb which was crusted with "coffee soil" was just awesome. The only revelation from the chef on what made the coffee soil were coffee and cocoa which were probably the reasons for the burnt caramelized aroma of the crust. The sweet and savory rich flavors of the sauce that didn't threaten the moderate gaminess of the lamb were smile inducingly impressive on my part. It was a tad pricey for a rack of lamb on that note, but it also made me want to eat them again.

Desserts weren't too spectacular for me so I'll only be on top of the items which I thought were the better ones. The more memorable being the tiramisu which was probably one of the better ones I've enjoyed outside of home made ones and something that was call orange, orange and more orange. From what I can remember, a shot of blood orange jelly and mandarin sorbet atop a crepe and I remember hearing Grand Marnier in the description. What worked for that was pretty much the appeal of a clear citrus flavor at the end of dinner.

Golden Rooster at Clementi

Wow, this is quite nice indeed. Another place that has been around for ages and this is probably my first time eating here. I've been trying to make a trip down to this chicken place (Blk 450 Clementi Central, #01-305, S120450) for quite a while after being told about them, but it never really happened until today and I'm pretty impressed. By both the the tenderness of the generously portioned barbequed chicken and the speed at which the stall dishes out orders. For $4.50 it was really a good deal and I was told that it used to cost less for the same amount. They have a pretty good chilli sauce on the side that had some kick to the spiciness as well. For a few dollars more, one could also just get the whole chicken which was really quite a lot of meat. Me thinks I'll be back again quite soon for more of them now that it's really not so far away from the workplace.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Amuse bouche?

These were from a colleague that got them from a trip to Shanghai. They're essentially dried beef jerky things that were a mix of sweet and savory like pork floss, but the chewy texture made me feel that it was more akin to eating dendeng paru (dried and fried beef lungs). And of course, the hilarious naming they've got there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Singing the blues?!

This was a discovery of chance. We were looking for some food after a movie at Filmgarde in Iluma and ended up in a very suspect and what I thought to be pseudo Japanese joint that goes by Benten Cafe (201 Victoria Street Bugis, #01-14). We were totally impressed by their amazing blue cheese and honey pizza which I swear, contained more blue cheese than any others that I've had ever. I did not expect it to be half decent but what turned up definitely surpassed our expectations. Mind blown. One can surmise from the mottled surface of the pizza that no exaggeration was involved here on my part. If not for anything else, the pizza was the one thing that validated this establishment's existence. I hope that this wasn't a one off incident and I intend to come back again to find out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

OverEasy, One Fullerton

Found out about this place (1 Fullerton Rd, #01-06 One Fullerton, tel : 6423 0701) from a timely tip off and a piss poor email advertisement from IS magazine which mentioned that the place does miniburgers for a dollar each in the evenings. Of course the advertisement has conveniently neglected to mention that those were not applicable during the weekends and that the STI performance also had something to do with whether those miniburgers were available or not. One can but sense the reek of cheap ploy oozing through the cracks.

On a more positive note, the grub was noticeably better than what normally passes off for bar food since the menu design was crafted by a Travis Masiero, formerly of Wine Garage whom now runs that little place call Spruce down at Tanglin. So we got a really tasty but pricey Philly cheesesteak sliders ($16) which is actually a misnomer since they were actually just pan fried beef cubes in mini toasted and buttered buns which looked and tasted nothing like cheese steaks. The strange melted cheese on the medium rare seared beef had texture like custard. Or kaya if you will. Otherwise, all was actually pretty good, along with a truffled egg toast ($14) thing which really just struck me with the strength of the truffle aroma as soon as it was brought to the table. I could eat 2 or 3 of these cheesy poached eggs on bread at a go.

All I can say about the burger with the tacky name is that, it was not bad. I wouldn't though, put it past a quarter pounder with a very nicely done medium rare patty that was absolutely leaking meat juices as you bit on them. That's pretty much what it was with a side of that nice crispy haystack fries that was actually quite addictive.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday mee shay

Hey Crystal, when you're reading this, thanks for the mouth watering mee shay again. I thought that these noodles were better for texture than the kuey teows from the previous time. What's that semolina cake thingy with poppy seeds called again?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Oriole Cafe & Bar, Pan Pacific Serviced Suites

As the name of the place suggests, this is really just a cafe (96 Somerset Road, #01-01 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites, tel: 6238 8348) and with that standards of food which frankly ranks to me, just a little above the likes of NYNY. The offerings of their Guinness braised spring chicken and beef cheek tagliatelle were really just mediocre while the fish and chips in thin crisp batter fell within the decent category, but really provided little bang for the buck if you consider that something quite similar could be had for half the price. Albeit without the chic ambience as well and the gimmicked thick cut fries which scored with segments of caramelised garlic, but plummeted with the pitiful quantities of shaved parmesan cheese.

The service staff were definitely most obliging, but at the pace which things were done, the waits were almost excruciating. Even when it came to asking for the bill. It would certainly have been appreciated if they could simply inform of the coverage in the happy hour which did not apply for most of the beers on the menu. Before someone made their order that is. Must be poor logistics in play here. I wonder how come is it that I forgot that this place has an award winning barista in the house and I really do enjoy coffee.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bites from Isetan

This is definitely one of those forays into one of my haunts down in town. I guess there isn't really that much to say about what you can see since some of these stuff are clearly things I've talked about on previous occasions. Well, my favourite squido rice have gotten standardised with their glutinous rice packings into larger squids and they cost more these days. I guess they must have been pretty popular with the other people too. The clam rice ball just above didn't pack as much flavor nor flesh of the shell fish as I would have liked and the small squids stuffed with roe are still as heart cloggingly tasty as usual. One of the more noteable snacks this time round are toasted rice crackers coated in chocolate. Those are amazingly fragrant and tasted much better than their mundane appearances would suggest. The braised pork was simply mouth wateringly sweet and savory. They did cost a bit though.