Monday, March 31, 2014

Dissecting Li Xin fishball noodles


Here's a true story. I've eaten at this stall several times. I've had it at the stall at ION and also tried them a couple of times at their outlet at the foodcourt at JEM. I surprised myself at that because I was never really big on fish ball noodles. Certainly wouldn't help one of them stalls tithe their landlords by paying $5.50 for a bowl. And I disliked them as a kid.

Back to the true story. Throughout the visits, I've had them with all the condiments (chilli, ketchup and vinegar). I would have omitted the ketchup if I had known then that they use them, but that's history. I've also had them with chilli and vinegar and no ketchup just to see the difference. Had them with chilli and nothing else because I heard the chilli sauce was good. And it seems that the best tasting set-up for me, was the one with nothing added on. Just the regular portions of deep fried lard that they spooned into the bowl of noodles. This was probably the ultimate edition for me. The flavors of the lard came through, had a savoury ring and was unmasked by the really just average condiments which didn't do it for me. 

Just remember to ask for more noodles if you eat like man. I have this feeling that the sweetness from bloody ketchup makes one feel more filled up than it really does and having none of the rest of the stuff really makes one realise how stingy they are with noodles.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

ƚnɒɿuɒƚƨɘɿ ɿɘdmɘ - back to 1929


My first visit to Ember was back in 06. Pretty much about the time Small Potatoes budded and through all that time after that, this pleasant little restaurant sheathed into an angular corner of a boutique hotel located in a former red light district on the fringes of Chinatown had constantly slipped my radar. I remember being interested in coming back again, but that never happened until this year. Time really flies.

The menu has changed some from that time. Some of the stuff that I had back then are still in the menu. They've become (or had remained?) signature dishes at Ember. 

The scallops, which have shrunk considerably still tasted pretty good. For all the years that people have been talking about their sea bass and me not noticing it, I've also had them for the first time this round and I wished I had not forgotten about them for the past 7-8 years. Very nice. Wished there was more punch from the yuzu component, but still made me wipe my plate clean. With bread, mind you. Miso cod was okay, but it was overshadowed noticeably by the sea bass. The foie gras with hour cooked egg and maitake mushrooms were outstanding as well. Good for returns. I'm sure the truffle helped, but I think the egg and maitake takes equal credit along with the nicely done sear on the foie.

How I feel about the food today is probably different from how I felt about it back in the first visit. The approach to the dishes are deceptively simple. It doesn't overwhelm with too much, gives enough of it and whatever there is, it's done well. 

Service still deserves thumbs up. Here's to hoping that they stay the same after April.


pan seared foie gras with caramelised apple and clove port and raspberry glaze

pan roasted scallops with Parma ham, citrus and tarragon vinaigrette

pan roasted foie gras with 1-hour poached egg, truffle salt and maitake mushrooms

Dissostichus eleginoides?
pan seared Chilean seabass with mushroom and smoked bacon ragout, truffle yuzu butter sauce

marinated cod with black miso

crispy caramelized pear tart with home made Bailey's ice cream

spiced fig cake with Grand Marnier ice cream

mystery diner "A"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A nasi goreng special


This was a plate from Five Star Fast Food (#02-78, Woodlands Centre Food Centre), a local Indian Muslim food stall. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this, but I have a certain fondness for the mee gorengs and nasi gorengs from such stalls. Those red greasy fried noodles or rice with bits of vegetable, green chilli and ground mutton.  

This special came with a fried egg, "mutton chop" and fries with nacho cheese sauce. Hmmm...it was actually all quite palatable for breakfast. The only thing that I didn't quite like was the mutton which tasted definitively from a frozen source and deprived of almost all flavor apart from the red sauce that it was drenched in. Pity about that, but the nasi goreng was pretty decent.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hotaru ika and negitoro don from Tampopo


Firefly squids......they're in season now and they're sharing real estate with negitoro in a bowl at Tampopo. Actually, they taste very much like they way they look. With a little bite just like squids should and a burst with the taste of brine. It's really more for curiosity that I ordered them. I rather enjoyed these. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Re-visiting Basilico


We had a pretty good recollection of our last visit to Basilico. There was a little kind of magic going on for this semi-buffet restaurant at Regent Hotel. A little glitter and sharpness that we liked. This revisit was actually a little disappointing because we remembered that it was good. If one were to take a step back and consider that the food didn't taste as great while the prices have gone up, it had became noticeably more expensive. $69 for a relatively good experience versus $82 for something that felt diluted. The entire experience felt a little washed out. Like the photos that you see here versus then.


The buffet spread had changed a little (no more Gorgonzola....what travesty!). Quality seemed to have taken a hit. Noticeably so was the charcuterie section that tasted just salty and flat. Dessert spread was lazy, lots of simple chocolate stuff going on that looked like it could have come from anywhere else. The only thing that we found exceptional was cooked pineapples in cinnamon and star anise. It was a very nice citrus and spice going on with hot pineapples. Back to topic, the restaurant should seriously consider getting rid of that laziness and do up some real Italian sweets as befits the theme of the restaurant.


This dinner was their Basilissimo menu which is a best of what they had to offer. It was pretty much a showcase of the past winter dishes that they had done which included a porcini and leek risotto with marinated venison loin and Barbaresco wine reduction and some rack of lamb with artichokes and Vitelotte potato purée. The slightly underdone risotto was passable, with the flavors or neither mushroom nor root vegetable coming through and venison with so much star anise that it tasted like lor bah (a local meat braised in dark soy sauce and spices). Lamb was decent, but not outstandingly so although the Vitelotte potato purée was nutty and delicious. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Dong Bei Ren Jia (东北人家), Upper Cross Street

 
 pi dong (皮冻) - pork rind in aspic

cabbage and pork dumplings (水饺)

 
deep fried man tou with condensed milk

 
big head bean sprouts stir fried with shredded pork and dried chilli

mutton and salted vegetable soup

guo bao rou (鍋包肉) - sweet and sour pork

cong you bing (葱油饼) - spring onion pancakes

 
pumpkin deep fried with salted egg yolk and sugar


Just a quick one here. The stuff that they served at Dong Bei Ren Jia (22 Upper Cross St, tel : +65 6224 5258) was not bad at all. The prices were affordable to boot. Both of which were evidented by the full house and it was largely filled by Chinese nationals. 

A few of items that I felt was more mention worthy included the salted vegetable soup with mutton which was really tasty stuff and interestingly, there wasn't much of the flavor of the meat in the soup itself. The actual pieces of meat were however nicely flavored. For mutton lovers I meant.

The sweet and sour pork rendition here was nothing like the local variety. These were thin sliced pork, battered and fried to a light crisp that was a bit more sour (vinegary tang) than sweet. Very appetizing and no cloy. 

Bean sprouts were delicious and the deep fried pumpkin with salted yolk and sugar was interesting to say the least. The latter was surprisingly easy to pop into the mouth in spite of being deep fried.

Better make reservations if you want a table at dinner without having to wait.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball, Toa Payoh Lorong 1


Chicken rice is definitely a local thing. It's something we're pretty damned good at that everyone else's rendition stands a far second. Not entirely true there but, it's almost a generally accepted blanket statement. Chicken rice balls are another thing entirely. It's not so local. It entails additional effort of packing rice into balls which is another layer of hard work over an existing layer of hard work. Not everyone's game. I've heard of them in Malacca, not sure if they're any good there since I haven't tried it. 

I've been wanting to try the chicken rice balls from this stall (#01-366, Chang Cheng Mee Wah Restaurant, 111 Toa Payoh Lorong 1) for quite a while already and now that it's finally happened, I think it's definitely better than the other crumbly one down at Jalan Besar.

What worked for me over at this shop was a more compact rice ball which was almost akin to a chicken rice ketupat. There was definitely enough flavors packed in them and salt going on to make them savoury and tasty. The chicken that was served was also noticeably meatier, more tender and smoother as well. Each serving came with a chicken claw & peanut soup that was rather good. The down side for me was their bland-ish chilli sauce which I couldn't really quite figure out. Still, I'm thinking that this was a pretty decent stall as far as chicken rice joints go. Decent meaning that I definitely wouldn't mind having this place as a semi-regular-crave-fixing-location if not for their slow moving queue. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Re-visiting the foie gras xiao long bao from Paradise Dynasty


Apparently, these have been vastly improved. I've had them xiao long baos twice over the course of the past couple of weeks and they do taste a whole lot better than the first time I've had them. There was a lot more foie in the flavors of the soup inside the dumplings. In other news, the rest of the others were still pretty mediocre. Their truffle version is still a joke compared to the ones at Din Tai Fung. But I guess that just makes choosing here a whole lot easier.