Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hai Tang Lor Mee, Mei Ling Food Centre

I'm normally not one for lor mee because of the gravy. It's usually an almost tasteless, textureless and non nutritional excuse of a glop that is passed off as gravy. But I've had this (#02-14, Mei Chin Road Market, 159 Mei Chin Road) a couple of times before and I think I like it because they remind me a bit of the type that I used to eat as a kid. And also in some twisted logic that works for me, it was a lor mee with not so much lor

What really worked with them for me were the generous bits of hand ripped (some that is) deep fried fritters that created crispy textures to go along with the noodles that were just sufficiently coated with sauce. And then, the vinegar, chillis and dragon breath inducing chopped garlic bits are a bag of sour, savory with a piquant spicy and pungent that really gets you perspiring.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Meat Pork Mee, Hong Lim Food Centre

By a large number of if not most accounts that I've encountered, Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Meat Pork Mee (#02-42, Hong Lim Food Centre, 531A Upper Cross Street) is a verifiable institution on its own and has been in been in business since 1945. That's 68 years of cooking the same thing every year for over half a century and then, local media accolades line their stall front.

Boy was it underwhelming. I certainly couldn't reconcile how the very same media who can award similar accolades to Tai Hwa present the same glowing reviews to Ah Kow which was really a different beast altogether. And I'm not referring to the differences by Ah Kow in a positive manner.

Here's a large portion of their ba chor mee. The mee pok was simply not textured with enough strength to handle the viscosity of the sauce, which is neither spicy nor has the vinegar flavors even though this bowl was an option with both. It's suppose to be a certain traditionally made vinegar imported from China. I cannot quite understand how the reputation of that vinegar in the noodles came about when I cannot even taste it. Even the other Lau Dai Hua down at ION was a better bowl in my opinion. 

Or maybe I just needed to help myself with extra lard and vinegar. But it certainly doesn't excuse the dumplings that they included to be disappointingly boring.

To be fair, this wasn't a lousy bowl per se. It certainly didn't justify the 25-30 minutes I spent in the sweltering queue that I will never get back.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, Serangoon Road

From what I had gathered, Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (438 Serangoon Road, tel : +65 6296 5800), a.k.a. MTR, is quite the lauded institution in Bangalore which was started in Karnataka way back in 1924. It has quite a bit of an interesting history which I will not elaborate here. The chain of restaurants is currently run by the 3rd generation of the family that had started it. 

About half a year ago, they opened up here right in the middle of Little India serving food made with ingredients imported from their country. The food was great!

We headed here for a late breakfast over the weekend. The menu required a bit of perusal since certain items were only available on fixed days and time of the week. A late breakfast was also a little too early for their rava idli so we settled for the regular rice ones. These were soft, light and very tasty - especially when doused with the little steel container of ghee and their accompanied coconut chutney.

I hadn't had a Kesari bath since the currently defunct Chellas. This was basically a pudding - or porridge as they described of semolina and vermicelli, done with ghee, cashew nuts, raisins and flavored with saffron. Tasted exactly like I remembered them and good enough for returns.

Amongst a number of dishes MTR is known for, was their bisibele bhath. Which I read also originates from the state of Karnataka. The name translates from their language into "hot lentil rice". Essentially it was like a hot spicy porridge with vegetables, curried, with tamarind annndd...a little steel container of ghee for enrichment. It has also been a while since I've last had these. It was great by the way. I liked those little crispy stuff on the side that they served this with.

Their masala dosa made from rice batter, black lentils and stuffed with potatoes was delicious stuff as well. This was quite different from the regular dosa/thosai that we encounter locally. The skin was crisp, had a little bit of chew in the middle and came in a hue of darker brown; flavored generously with again more ghee. Ghee like butter, makes everything taste better.

The wash down was their filtered coffee which seemed to be some sort of specialty of theirs. It was okay, drinkable stuff but I'm not sure if Indian coffee is a thing for me.

I'm looking forward to coming back again.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A green bean soup with seaweed and durian from Ah Chew

Not the first time I have had this at Ah Chew, but definitely a first time I'm having it with durian. I'm not sure how they had meant for this to be eaten. In the end, we didn't break up that ice cream scoop sized ball of packed durian flesh and simply tore chunks out of it as we drank the soup. You know what? It was quite good. The durian that is. I think it's D24, but I cannot be sure. It was also more durian that I had been expecting. The green been soup and seaweed were really just like how it was when we first had them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bario's charshu don and Tonkotsu Itto

I had been wondering about the charshu don from Bario for a while after seeing them on the menu. I had been thinking that it looked like it might be good. Now that I've finally had ordered it, it seemed the real thing looks better than it does on menu; and I think I've found my second favourite charshu don.

It was three thick slices of their caramelized charshu over a bowl of rice, drizzled with their soy based sweet and savoury sauce and then aburi-ed. I suspect there's more, but I don't know what else they had done. The prep time took a while and the bowl itself was "please keep your fingers off" hot.

The result was a charred teriyaki-ish aroma with tender meat and fats which dissolved after you've popped them in your mouth. I'm definitely coming back for this one again. Smoky, sweet and savory.

Tonkotsu Itto rotated in just as the current reigning champion for the past 2 years, Ikkousha had moved out of the arena in the very same shop. To digress, Ikkousha is actually finally setting up shop at Tg Pagar and set to open in less than two weeks. They seem to be offering a bunch of red and black and white flavors that a number of other ramen shops are doing that they didn't do in their original shop at Ramen Champion. 

Back to Itto, I think I enjoyed their bowl of ramen and wouldn't mind having them again if I were in vicinity, but there was definitely something about Ikkousha and their broth that I felt was ahead. 

What Tonkotsu Itto had on menu that was a little different was their lobster tonkotsu which was essentially a regular bowl with a slice of charshu plus a splash of thickened lobster stock on the side. After finishing the noodles, the taste of the broth did remind of a lobster bisque of sorts. Albeit one that was a little more porky than crustacean.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King, Orchid Hotel

The third of three Kings along Tanjong Pagar by Keisuke Takeda has opened its doors sometime last week and this third, was unexpectedly the Gyoza King (#01-15 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, tel : +65 6804 6674). I wouldn't say that I'm that big on gyozas as I generally prefer their Chinese counterpart, still I was intrigued enough to give it a go.

So, it's basically a counter seating joint with gyozas on a la carte or with sets, teishouku styled served with Koshihikari rice for the latter, where you can pick your stuffings of choice between tori, buta or ebi and choose a couple of sides to go along.

I honestly didn't come here expecting myself to be blown away by gyoza, but I couldn't deny enjoying the meal. It was almost like eating at Ootoya. The sides were delicious and the gyoza was not too bad by my yardstick. I prefer the shrimp over the pork stuffing. I think this place nailed the frills free comfort food concept right on the head. Hey, their green tea Cola doesn't taste of green tea at all.

gyo gyo gyo,,!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bomba Paella Bar, Martin Road

The Spanish culinary conquistadors which have been making quite a bit of inroads on this sun blasted island in the past few years and have yet to show signs of abatement. A handful have gotten their flags planted firmly still going strong, some have collaborated with the Italians and others have failed to gain ground after a while. Bomba Paella Bar (38 Martin Road, tel : +65 6509 1680) opened their doors slightly over a year ago. I'm not about to venture a guess on which category they belong to, but here's a look at what they've got.

The name of the place mentions paella bar, but it's really just another Spanish joint serving limited varieties of tapas - some of a forward thinking nature and of course, a few options for paella. The latter, being rather pricey for their portions. 

First up was their fried ibérico ham croquetta.

Creamy and milky tasting ball of mashed potato flavored with bits of jamon ibérico. This was quite nice.

Then came the Manzanilla olives with pork crackling. The pieces of crackling were still popping lightly when it was served and they weren't salted. What worked was the piquant olives which lasted as nibbles for the entire meal.

Bomba's Galician styled octopus served on a bed crushed potatoes and capers was actually quite good. Slow cooked in water before hitting the flat top grill, the flesh was rather tender but didn't score so much with the char from the grill. As disposed I am towards it, I've had better octopus.

Deep fried baby squids had a bit of heat that kept it from being monotonous, was well fried, but was ultimately just fried squids.

The tastiest part of these courgette stuffed with mackerel and shrimps was the courgette stem itself. The stuffings were creamy and all that cream pretty much left the bits of seafood quite unidentifiable.

Paella here cost quite a bit. So it was a good thing that we were here on a Monday evening which is Paella Night for them. All paella goes at 50% off. This small portion which is good for one with healthy appetite is $45. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't come for paella here on any other days. 

Back to the rice, the arroz negro was rich and creamy and flavored moderately with squid ink....and a little bit more wet than I had been expecting. The bits of squid and black mushrooms inside were rather finely minced....and thus lost in the textures of the rice.

Tasty if ordinary chorizo tortilla.

There was a ribeye with piquillo peppers and bleu cheese. The meat was well greased, but I'm not sure if it's all from the fat of the ribeye. The char factor was minimal and the texture wasn't so firm. The service also thought that we would be fine cutting it with butter knife as they had never even bothered getting us sharper tools until it was requested. I'm not sure what is the blue cheese that they used, but it was more salty than pungent. Not my kind of beef.

First dessert was their bitter chocolate ice cream, sour dough bread and salted olive oil. They say that a picture paints a thousand words. But sometimes, a thousand words simply aren't enough so I'll add a few more here. 

The ice cream was light on the sugar which was a good thing for me, allowing the bitter to come through. The sour dough bread crisps were actually sugar glazed. Together and paired with the olive oil made it unusual but not un-enjoyable. What impressed me a little was the base, if I may call it chocolate soil, was perfumed gently by rosemary. Not overwhelming with rosemary is something that I think a lot of good cooks fail to master.

The chocolate and olive oil pairing reminded me of the mousse at Esquina.

And then, a rice pudding with caramelised apple and Spanish brandy. I'm not sure what's that Spanish brandy, but I couldn't taste it. The creamy cinnamon scented rice was quite good and the toasted almond shavings were a nice touch.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Raj Restaurant, Syed Alwi Road

We were first introduced to Raj (76 Syed Alwi Rd, tel : + 65 6297 1716) some years ago by a couple of friends which left favourable impression of this restaurant from Calcutta. This visit felt different. I recalled it being a little upmarket then and it didn't quite feel that way today. Maybe the place just feels different at night compared to the day.

By the way, I didn't like their sweet lassi. It was way too sweet and much too viscous. The sugar bothered me more though and there are much better ones around. 

dahi gol gappa

Back in that first visit, was also my first experience with dahi golgappa and I thought they rocked. We order a portion of those dahi filled puri shells to start off and it was as I remembered them. There was a creamy sour from the yoghurt, tart sweetness from the tamarind chutney, heat from something I couldn't quite identify, spice from the potatoes and loads of texture from the creamy curd and puri shells, nuts, potato bits and sev. Party in the mouth as some people would call it. I didn't even mind the coriander juice thing that they added. Was really glad that there were none of the leaves in there.

paneer briyani

Never had a paneer briyani before, so this was a first. It did turn up like how I imagined it. The flavour of the spices in basmati rice was...... hmmm, rather engaging. In short, I liked it and it paired up excellently with their jeera (cumin) scented raita on the side. The paneer came in little cubes in the rice.

baingan korma

This was a korma-ed eggplant. I'm not sure what went into the making of the korma, but it was rich, creamy and nutty with measures of sweetness, heat and spice. Served piping hot. Nice.

rava dosai with onion and cheese

Rava dosai is dosai made with semolina flour. Many Indian restaurants that use cheese outside of paneer usually use mozzarella cheese. Raj uses Cheddar. Which ups the flavour game for everyone in my opinion since the distinctively sharper aroma and salt works with their fermented rice flour pancakes. The exterior of their dosai were enjoyably crisp. What caught me by surprise though, a pleasant surprise albeit, was that there were toasted peppercorns in them. Much to my relieve as well, I couldn't taste the coriander that were embedded in the flour.

Those peppercorns were remarkable bits of flavour in the dosai. Good stuff.

Chinatown Beef Noodle, Lavender Food Centre

This stall wasn't the old beef noodle that used to be in the food centre, it replaced that old beef noodle shop. Still they had put up some of those unreliable local media endorsements, which meant that they've been around. Everything about the food was acceptably average tasting while the soup tasted thinner, much less savoury than I had been hoping for. 

But I do like the fact that these guys offer fresh juicy lime that you can help yourself with. A lime each into the noodle or the bowl of beef noticeably changes the flavor profile, uplifts the soup. I'm going to say that I wouldn't mind eating this again and would return as long as they have those limes going.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Martin Road

There are certainly legions of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V adepts everywhere that know little or next to nothing about coffee writing about this place (22 Martin Road, tel : +65 6836 4695), so I'll save myself the parroting. One can simply Google them. Strangely,  no one talks about how different the standard roast that this place  uses is quite different from 40 Hands. That being said, I liked the coffee here a lot better. It seemed stronger and less acidic.

The crowd was almost crazy on a late afternoon weekend. I can see how people like to be seen in a place like this and also the conveniences it provides for the those living in the vicinity. I'm quite taken in by their croissant croque monsieur. I don't eat these things a lot, but I thought that it was certainly a bag of flavors from the creamy Béchamel, a little sour from the mustard, savory ham and a fairly buttery croissant. The pastry was crispy too boot. Though not the best I can remember having, it's pretty good.

The other mention worthy was their side of grilled portobello mushroom with pine nuts, pesto and Parmesan cheese. It was a lot tastier than it sounded on menu. And I'm seeing things that I may like from neighboring tables.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), Neil Road

Wow, these pan fried guo tie from Jing Hua (21 Neil Road, tel : +65 6221 3060) were really really good. It's literally flavors of nostalgia for me having grown up with the ones from Tian Jin Fong Kee down at People's Park. These had that exact crisp and umami flavors from the savoury stuffing of meat and greens. The shape was just a little odd as the dumplings looked like they've had their ends chopped off.

If not for anything else, I'd definitely come back just for them pot stickers again.

Their zha jiang mian was actually a little disappointing. The gravy had a little too much starch and not robust enough flavors. The chilli paste condiment they provide on table side certainly elevates this but surely we've had better.

This rocks quite a bit as well. It's tastes to be a different beast from most xiao long bao altogether. Exactly what about the flavors that differ eludes me. The meat stuffing weren't as tightly packed and the dumplings as a whole were good enough on their own without the usual vinegar drippings.

There wasn't much for desserts in this restaurant, but this was tang yuan in osmanthus soup. The flavors really caught us off as it tasted very much like rose rather than what we had in mind for osmanthus. I mean Paul Smith's Rose kind of rose. It's nice though.

Will definitely be back.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, Upper Dickson Road

This was a pretty enjoyable meal at Madras New Woodlands (12-14 Upper Dickson Road, +65 6297 1594) preluded by their delicious lassi. I heard that they're good for digestion, but that's not the only reason why I drink them. 

Except maybe for the pani puri which wasn't so crispy and didn't taste fresh at all. It looked too hastily put together even for such a snack. The flavour profile for these were thin and sparse, worn down by too much sour from the tamarind water. I'll be sure to pick something with yoghurt the next time.

My first tomato uttapam ever. Rather tasty and filled with chopped onions and tomato accompanied by the usual chutney and sambar. What really got my attention was their orange chutney. I've never found out what went into making them or if there's a proper name for them. This one here was quite good.

This was their VIP thali, basically their thali with the works which came with both the white rice and briyani plus a pastry of choice along with vegetable options on the side . In our case, the pastry was a bhattura that was crusty, crisp and slightly chewy. I thought we were rather taken in by the savoury flavours from their blend of spices in the entire tray. Their creamy vegetable korma was exceptional, chickpea curry was spicy and the briyani, fragrant enough to eat on its own. Everything except the bhattura was entitled for refills.

Masala tea here was heavy with milk. Which was not necessarily a bad thing since it lent a mellow comforting quality, but I could definitely appreciate a bit more spice and certainly, strength to the tea.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

L'Angelus......after 2205 days

Time sure flies. It's been about 6 years since my very first and also last visit to L'Angelus (85 Club Street, tel : +65 6225 6897). I'm pretty glad that service this time round was much better than then.

Their rich unctuous foie gras de canard was still as good as I remember. This time round, I noticed the little bits of chewy and mellowly flavoured apple compote. Against convention, that wasn't part of the tart element of the dish at all. It was mostly sweet but enjoyably so. YMMV. 

Tonight, lamb that they had served was unfortunately not up to scratch. The meat looked haphazardly sliced and was cooked to different levels doneness. The menu had described it to come with Espelette pimento that tasted like just jus and red wine - which was actually quite good. For what they were charging (this place is a bit pricey by the way), I certainly had expected better for the meat. But then again, I've also been watching quite a bit of MasterChef UK. 

The unexpected find on the menu was an andouillette de Troyes, labelled with A.A.A.A.A. and no less. It looked vulgar and monstrous. If anyone's wondering, this andouillette was a fried sausage where the stuffings are mostly pig intestines. We were cautioned that it was an acquired taste. Since we could chug down kuey chap, this didn't sound so intimidating at all. It turned out pretty good. And expensively so too. Mustard on the side was creamy and really addictive.

For unknown reasons, I had been expecting to see it come with British styled chips since it was suppose to be served with Salardaise chips. They turn out to be real potato chips. Some a little over fried.

And some obligatory side of spinach with cream spiced with nutmeg. This tasted actually quite good too. Made me feel a lot less guilty about paying $14 for them. 

Dessert was a rum baba. They used Diplomatico rum here. Nothing very unexpected or exceptional about it. It's just something about a good chilled rum soaked cake that I like.