Sunday, August 31, 2014

Peanut butter & pickle sandwich






This happened largely because of Food Wishes. I was watching one of their videos on the world's favourite video streaming and came upon one for making pickles. Somehow, the pickle sandwich just got stuck in my head, driving me to Google for it. Little did I expect that the top search results from 'pickle sandwich' actually leads to peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. One site led to another which eventually led to me making one just to see if it tasted like how I imagined it.

It's actually pretty good. I'm definitely making these again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lamb soup with rice at Curry Times


I was honestly skeptical about Curry Times (3 Gateway Drive, #02-08 Westgate, tel : +65 6369 9609) when I had first heard about them because they were opened by Old Chang Kee. Which has become a brand for me to avoid for their over greasy fried food and steadily shrinking curry puffs with prices going on the inverse. After visiting a couple times, I'm starting to admit that they aren't too bad after all. Sure they're trying hard to sell the nostalgia. Old skool food and decor with new skool prices. But I think they're getting the food part right. At least for some of the items. And their curry chicken is pretty tasty. Seriously.

Here's a bowl of their lamb soup which I liked. I think it's good because this happens to be one of those Chinese (local) lamb soup that isn't overwhelmed by excessive use of herbs. There was a noticeable lamb-y flavor in the broth and those fall off the rib meat. Sure there was dang gui, some goji berries and a little bit of ginseng in there. There was even some coriander I spied that was boiled to death. But all those were on the sideline, supplementing the natural flavours of the lamb without much detraction. And that chilli that they provided on the side was pretty nice too. Tasted like a rendition of chicken rice chilli and would have been more awesome with a squeeze of lime. It's just too bad that this would be on menu only for this month. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rediscovering Modesto's


I haven't been to this place for such a long time. But for some reasons, I got reminded of Modesto's and decided to pay them a visit. But before heading down, I actually Googled it and for the first time, found out a little about the person who opened the place (a real Italian by the way) and how the restaurant was formerly started in Kuala Lumpur. That guy, Modesto Marini, has sold off this chain and is apparently running some pretty spiffy (read expensive) fine dining places in KL.

Well, this restaurant hasn't changed very much. They're still using those plates lipped with leopard skin designs. Well, they don't seem to serve their foccacia anymore.


I think I kinda remembered that their mushroom soup was pretty okay. It still is, blended bits of real mushroom with a token drizzle of cream which fails to achieve any purpose beyond presentation. But really, these guys were way ahead many of the competition of their era when they first opened.


You know, I've never recalled ordering any melanzane alla parmigiana. This could be my first! And as wary of tomato sauces as I generally am, this was actually rather enjoyable. But honestly, it's good because it's piping hot tomato paste with cheese and some texture. Those eggplants were soft and well..... one cannot really taste something like eggplants buried in flavours like these. Not complaining at all though. 


I got suckered into ordering their beer risotto which was apparently this month's special. I was initially thinking that the rice could have been a shade more cooked, the cheeses could have been Parmigiano Reggiano instead of the light and mildly bitter one that they used and more salt would have been great for the beer based stock. They used Tiger by the way. But on hindsight, all those heavier flavours would have drowned out the mild beery (I meant hoppy) bitter that was really all there was to the beer component. Their home made sausages could really do with more salt though.

I guess this was one of those things that got me curious and now that I've tried it, I'm never ordering it again.


What kinda rocked, unexpectedly, was their puttanesca which we got with their house made squid ink tagliatelle. The pasta was firm with bite (again, a shade.....just a tiny shade under what would be ideal for me). The sauce was delicious. There's the garlic, tomatoes, some heat and olives with the pungent and salty anchovies. Served piping hot.

Portions here are still pretty generous. We didn't have space for desserts. The atmosphere was old school, like Pete's Place. There's no fancy plating or puny portions. But I think I'm not going to be discounting them so readily in the future. By the way, OCBC cards gets 30% off the bill on Tuesdays.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sambal nasi ayam at Mr Teh Tarik


I wasn't really sure what to expect out of the sambal from this chicken rice stall at Mr Teh Tarik, but it turned out pretty good. The flavours of the sauce were rich, pungent and spicy ladled over some tender roasted chicken. Their rice was beady and well flavoured while the accompanying chilli sauce on the side was lime-y and refreshing. This was definitely one of the more memorable Halal chicken rice that I've had.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The durian mousse from Dessert Bowl (一碗甜品)


This durian mousse from Dessert Bowl (80A Serangoon Garden Way, tel : +65 6285 1278) is actually part of a small bunch of my favourite durian desserts. The others being the durian sago from Ah Chew and the durian Guinness shake from Udders. Of the three mentioned, the former two are made with D24 and the latter, mao shan wang.

Why does this work? Well, I guess that using D24 helps qualify it as legit since anything lesser doesn't quite bring in the flavour. The mousse is always nicely chilled and retains that chill well throughout eating with its thick creamy consistency. And then there's real durian pulp to bolster those flavours. Guilty pleasures doesn't get any better.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

One last meal at Bottle Tree Village

Well, at least until they have moved over to their new location at Marina Barrage at the end of the year that is. According to what's being mentioned in the news, the lease has expired and there are new interests in their site that's bidding two and a half times the current lease. Can I say that the rental economy here is ousting small local businesses? I better not. Dangerous line I be threading.

Not much has changed with the restaurant. The service still looks semi-reluctant and the prices have never been under the economical range for tze char. But one can always argue that they're a proper restaurant since there's air conditioning. It's probably just that their food and ambiance looked like it came from a local restaurant 3 decades ago.


These are scallop and banana fritters. As you can see, there's not so much scallops in there, but I guess it made a rather tasty greasy dish that reminds of goreng pisang.


Their sweet and sour pork has changed. According to them, there were numerous feedback against the fruits that the restaurant had previously used. If that was true, I can only lament that there's too much boring people feeding back. One can eat regular sweet and sour pork anywhere. There goes the cool green maraschino cherries, dragonfruit and lychee.


Here's their steamed garoupa with chai por (preserved turnip). As sinister as the two ivory beady eyes looked, this tasted pretty good. For a freshly slain fish, I didn't expect any lesser. The flesh was firm and flaky.


And then, obligatory greens of kailan with garlic. Which was decently done if mundane in appearances. Presentation is not exactly a forte here.


Then came the butter sotong. I'm pretty sure these were cuttlefish and not squid. As aware of the fact that there are different renditions of butter sotongs around, these didn't quite fit into my imagery of any of them. These tasted like they had a light curry batter with sugar. Quite good until you've had enough for the batter to  let them get to you as the grease builds up.


We dug their scallop fried rice. Well, just the rice. It was one of the really boring looking fried rice which had left impressions crestfallen upon arrival, but it tasted pretty good. Wok hei present if you like that and not excessively greasy. The scallops were unfortunately not so good. Flavours of the shellfish was muted and the texture conveyed their quality.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Diamond this August


Say what you will about them, Lawry's exhibits consistency. Something that many places seem to have difficulty achieving. Be it their tender prime rib, mashed potatoes that has enough of those little bits of potato amidst the creamy pile to let you know that there are real potatoes; or their smooth and savoury creamed spinach. These guys are still the ones to beat for the classic slow roasted prime rib here. Hell, they're even the ones to beat for the crisp Yorkshire pudding. I'm not sure whether I should be glad that they're upholding standards or sad that in the ever changing dynamics of our F&B market, there's still none that can beat them. Though I'm fairly certain this Diamond Jim Brady has become smaller in recent years while prices have noticeably inched upwards.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The spicy yuzu ramen at Yoshimaru Ramen Bar



Yoshimaru Ramen Bar has been off the radar for a while, at least for myself. They started off here doing Hakata styled tonkotsu broth ramen before the era of Ramen Champion which has to some degrees, garnered more limelight via social media. In retrospect, brands like Ikkousha, Nantsuttei and Keisuke have outdone them in terms of popularity and personally for me, flavour. I'm pretty sure Yoshimaru has their fans, but the interest for me has dwindled.

Today's to check out their spicy yuzu ramen, which uses in some form, yuzu. What else? I think it's quite nice. The flavour of the citrus fruit was definitely there, paired up with a steady warm heat that allows the broth to endure. Their takana on the side pushes the warmth a little more with some dimensions. This particular flavour I hear, has been developed by a test team back in Japan in response to local palate preferences. The rest of the components were so so. The noodles didn't come across as hard enough and to be fair, that wasn't requested for during order. I guess they aren't quite up there as the ramen specialist that we've been used to from the past few years that I'd think to ask for harigane.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Another crayfish party at Ikea


I hadn't realised that it's already been a year since the last crayfish party. This year, they charged $20, but gave a $10 voucher in return for the ticket purchase so if you do buy things from them, it would be exactly the same price as last year. I have to say that they did improve some things. The most obvious was the queue management which was more organized. The quality of the bugs that they served was also better than the last year, but they could have been a little over-enthusiastic on the salt. I lasted a couple of dozens like the last time before I moved on to other things.

Off the main crayfish offerings which were plagued (at least at the start) by aunties doing their best showing us what it was like in the third world food handout, they had crispy fried half mid wings this year and a chopped salmon tartare which was tossed with some tahini like dressing that packed respectable heat. And then their semi hard cheeses which was great with the gooseberry jams. Not exactly the same thing as last year so I guess I could look forward to the next expecting new surprises? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blu Kouzina, Bukit Timah Road


I've passed by Blu Kouzina (893 Bukit Timah Rd, tel : +65 6875 0872) many times along the main road and never realised that it was just right on the ground floor. This is the first time we've been to a Greek restaurant. While what I know about their food is pretty limited to what I've read, the Mediterranean quality to their style of preparation wasn't unfamiliar.

By the way, the olive oil that they have on the table are pretty good stuff.

fasolosalata

Can't say that I've had lots of bean salads in my life but this one that they had with three different beans was not bad at all. The dill and spring onions were a great pairing for flavour. 

saganaki with figs

A saganaki as I've learnt, is a dish of fried cheese prepared in a small frying pan. They cheese that they used according to the menu was a sheep/goat cheese known as kefalotyri, something not unlike halloumi, but not wasn't entirely the same for taste and texture. It was heavy on the salt while the figs were concentrated sweetness.

spanakorizo

This spanakorizo which was basically spinach cooked with rice was my favourite item for the dinner. It's spinach and rice and some herbs. There was definitely dill. The rice was wet, textured like a stodgy porridge. But it was delicious. Something I would get again in revisits.

bifteki stin sxara

This was the only item off the mains we had. The portions of the salads and the rice before this were pretty big so there was only so much space we could afford. We even had to pass on the baklava for desserts after this. This, referring to their beef patty. I'm not particularly impressed because the meat was of a pretty fine mince, so that meant that there wasn't so much of texture to go around. The flavors were expected, but the food was doused with quite a bit of olive oil and lemon like everything they served prior to this dish. It tasted noticeably better eaten with bread than alone.


Well, my interest is piqued. It's been a while since I've had something really different and in spite of the fact that I wasn't blown away by the food, there were things that i liked and I really would give serious considerations to coming back. Service was pretty good.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lunch at the Naked Finn


I think this current lunch menu down at Naked Finn was a pretty recent development. For one, they didn't have the lobster roll (Connecticut style apparently) nor the secreto Ibérico previously. And the availability of their hae mee tng (soup prawn noodles) at lunch was something that they had done not too long ago IIRC as it was a supper only item previously.


Their Indian baby squids were available as sides. These are still char-smokin good.


The Naked Finn's hae mee has been something that's been talked about. At least for the people who're into paying more for food that is. For one, it was $25, probably the most expensive prawn noodle around and definitely the most expensive one I've had. From what I've read, they've been experimenting with the prawns that are used for the stock and from what they told us, it's now botan ebi and sakura ebi that makes the soup. It's actually pretty good and naturally very flavourful if what they claimed were it. The Japanese styled kurobuta charshu dissolves in the mouth. Those prawns that came with the noodles (somen option there) were fresh and sweet.


Deftly priced at $29 in between Market Grill/Luke's Oyster Bar and Platypus Lobster Shack, this came across as an in-betweener. What I did like was the chunky lobster meat like what they do at Market Grill and that there was definitely a lot more butter involved in the roll compared to the one at Platypus Lobster Shack. But Luke's takes the cake for butter. And salt. The differences between the three were that obvious. Was this good? Hell yeah for me.


And that's the secreto Ibérico which came with their addictive chilled piquant bee hoon. The flavours of the meat were moderately porky and livery at the same time with very visible meltingly soft intra-tissue fat spread across the slivers of meat. Grilled with olive oil and red wine thyme sauce. Nice.

20/20? The above fed two. It's still pricey for the portions, but the quality spoke for itself and was outstanding. If you come hungry, one item per person just doesn't quite cut it for portions.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pomegranate cake from Laman's Delight




This was actually rather enjoyable. I've never had cake (or anything else) with so much pomegranates before. Certainly not one in a shade of enchanting red and layered with cream, sold by a couple of ladies that looked like grumpy Russian gypsies. Laman's Delight (PasarBella @ The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road) the shop's called. I hear that this particular cake has been infused with hibiscus juices too. Anyway, the shop's located right beside Keith Crackling Roast which does very delicious caramelized char siew by the way. For $12 a slice, this cake sure didn't come cheap. But I'm pretty sure I'll pop by the shop to buy again the next time I'm there.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Portico, Alexandra Road

I guess my primary interests in Portico (#01-10, 991B Alexandra Rd, tel : +65 6276 7337) was due to Leandros Stagogiannis (doesn't that guy look like Mike Portnoy) who had previously been chef de cuisine at Saint Pierre, head chef also at the defunct Fi53fty Three and had previously been doing pastry at The Fat Duck. It makes for an interesting resume for progressive/modernist cooking with Asian influences. And that they served sweetbread on menu.

Which was unfortunately not available when we were there.

On hindsight, there were hits and misses from what we've had. More hits than misses fortunately, and then some thoughts. It's not a full measure by any yardstick of the food at Portico, just some of my thoughts on what we ate.

grape and quinoa salad, sugar snap peas and fresh raspberries

This salad was chilled and refreshing. The quinoa was properly cooked, the raspberries tart and the grapes sweet. A simple medley of flavours and textures. That being said, I could probably reproduce this at home with the exception of the watermelon which seemed to be flavoured with honey. 

kombu soba noodles, truffle and crispy brown shrimp

The Japanese influence cannot be more obvious here. This was probably another thing I could try replicating. I have no idea where to get kombu soba, but I'm pretty sure regular soba would do the trick since the flavours of the seaweed were virtually non-existent. But there was sufficient salt and truffle oil and the noodles were springy that made good eating. Those little shrimps added crisp and their bit of fragrance. The flavour grows onto you. I can't figure out what those little bits of stuff in there are though.

fish and chips, crushed peas and fresh mint

Let's start with my favourite part. The crushed peas with mint was really good. It's crushed peas, mint and probably enough butter as I could tell. The flavours aren't too difficult to imagine, but it's still very delicious. Fish was actually pretty good. I hear it's locally sourced sea bass. The flesh was tender, moist and flaky at the same time clad in a thin batter. That batter seemed a little over done in the fryer though. 

What ruined this was the curly fries. Those tasted exactly like the ones that can be gotten from McDonalds. In fact, the reminder of McDonalds kinda ruined the experience. They should have stuck with regular fat chips and maybe triple fry them instead of these.

the Portico burger

The Portico burger was a little disappointing as well. I think pretty much everything worked. The toasted brioche, the cheese, the bacon and I didn't even mind their home made BBQ sauce and ketchup which were not excessively used. That's some care right there which I appreciated. What didn't work for me was the beef patty. The meat lacked the natural flavours and I read that it's a 28/72 ratio that they're using. Omakase Burger makes better tasting patties than these. Seriously not cool. And these overdone fries, again are a sore reminder of McDonald's. I certainly expected much better for those.

tart aux citron and onion ice cream

Their onion ice cream with crispy fried shallots were interesting. This was a first for me and it actually works and plays nicely with their smooth and creamy lemon curd which I liked.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tian Jin Fong Kee(天津冯记), People's Park Food Centre


This shop (#01-1148, People's Park Cooked Food Centre, 32 New Market Road) which has been around since before I was born sells dumplings, Chinese rice cakes, spicy and sour soup and zha jiang mian amongst a few other things. But what they are really known for are their guo tie (pot stickers). Notably are their pan fried ones. Which I've been eating since I was a kid. For years, it was an bi-monthly affair until a certainly point, we stopped patronizing for some reasons. I don't remember why. In the past 8 years or so, I recall only having had them once.

Well, that deserves a mention doesn't it? This stall pretty much formed the impression of what I thought a typical guo tie should look like or even taste like. I had grown up thinking that this was local food rather than one of Chinese origins. This was the benchmark guo tie that was etched in my memory with their crisp browned skin that wasn't overly thick with juicy fillings of minced pork and chives. This visit, I noticed the change. Well....the dumplings were probably a little bit bigger in the past (I cannot verify for memory can be fickle), but that wasn't what jarred that memory. The marinate used in the minced pork fillings have changed. Those minced meat are now brown instead of a lighter shade of fully cooked pork. I'm certain it wasn't how it had been in the past.

Not that it tastes very bad in any case, it's just not as good as what I had remembered.  Good thing I've an alternative these days.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Immanuel French Kitchen, Bukit Merah Lane

chicken liver pâté with port

The owner of this place (Blk 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-40), Immanuel Tee, has some heavyweight resume. Names like Restaurant Andre, Jaan, Guy Savoy at Marina Bay Sands, Le Bistrot du Sommelier, the two-Michelin starred Pastorale in Brussels and sous to head chef at the defunct Keystone Restaurant. And he's what? 27 this year? In many industries, it could have been construed as job hopping! Lol. So modern European/French it seems then.

sous vide chicken breast

Food here was French bistro styled with a very curated menu. They were pretty good for their price point and there was certainly not much to complain about except for the need for a bit more salt. The liver pâté was smooth and creamy while the sous vide chicken breast was impressively tender. There was also an onglet was spot on medium rare, had an excellent sear and the meat tender. Unfortunately, some parts were rather chewy. I'm trying not to compare with my favourite place since this was really 54% the cost of that one.

steak & fries

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A bowl of torched toro and avocado rice bowl from Kaiho Sushi


Wow, this was pretty good. I wouldn't say that the flavours were anything new since it consisted of hand chopped tuna belly, sliced avocados, Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce and wasabi. Nothing exotic. But it was the kind of good that we just sat and ate in silence for at least half a bowl. Melting tuna belly fat, seeping all their warmed up flavors into that mash of richness over the vinegared rice. I would have liked for this bowl to be bigger . Like maybe 50% bigger since it wasn't cheap at all.

Since we were at Kaiho Sushi at lunch their chirashi don made an appearance as well.


While it did look visibly less impressive than the ones we had in the past (very visibly less, mind you), the quality of the seafood that they gave were still very decent. Special mentions to the sweet and succulent scallops.  There was fish with skin so silver and mirrored that I could have sworn that I saw myself in it. Then again, we got some salmon and it wasn't really belly. I missed the pink fish floss. I sense cost cutting at work based on the variety of toppings that was given.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Royal Mail, Finlayson Green


The Royal Mail (Ascott Raffles Place, 2 Finlayson Green, tel : +65 6509 3589) purports to provide a modern take on classic British cuisine. Well, it was a really small bit of classic British judging from the menu. 


The first impressions of the food was their gougères which were all freshly baked before service and dangerously good. The flavours were just pepper and cheese in their not so puffy choux pastry. Good that we asked for seconds.


Followed by an amuse bouche of tuna with cream cheese and dill foam. From this point, we realised that the wait for food was going to be really long. We needed more amusing of the bouche and it arrived from in the form of the seconds of their delicious gougère. Which probably took a while to prepare but were inhaled in 15 seconds.


Their starters of scallops and octopus were very nicely done. Scallops were really good actually and I was wishing that they were larger so that there would be more of the sweet seared meat to go around. The ikura which they had added were super briny. One can hence imagine the burst of flavours when it pops in the mouth. The dark sheet of shadow at the bottom of the seafood was suppose to be a squid ink crust. It didn't taste very much like squid ink, had a sandy texture and was pretty wet for a crust. Didn't taste bad, just didn't taste like how it was described.


Soup of the day was cream of cauliflower. 


Cauliflower alone would have been a little too mainstream, so we asked for some blue cheese for the soup. Needless to say, it tasted a lot better than just straight old cream of cauliflower.


Here's their 340g prime rib, which was really more of an English roast of rib rather than the prime rib that I had in mind. The meat was tender, expertly seasoned and in essence pretty good. But it just didn't quite give me that level of satisfaction that I get at Lawry's. Which by the way also does a much better Yorkshire pudding. 

The veal jus that they provided on the side was good stuff. It was rich, robust, salty and malty at the same time. Tasted like it has a base of Borvil.


This was their Kurobuta pork chop, served with apples and what they describe as apple jus. These guys are so modest with their descriptions. The said apple jus was luxuriant and liquid velvet. I'm pretty sure I tasted butterscotch in it and it also had that sweet and savoury element with a bit of tart going on.  For a thick piece of chop, it was almost inevitable that the middle of the cut will become a little dry. But that's what the apple jus was there for.


On the side, some autumn-y dish of chestnuts, grapes, almonds, apricots and blue cheese. Loved those warm grapes.


Dessert was a Banoffee tart. The salted caramel had the typically agreeable notes of the smoky sweet and salty. And then cream, bananas and buttery pastry....need I embellish further?

Service was good. There were only two wait staff in the restaurant, but it was apparent that they know their work and that they were doing as best as they could. Since this was just a single visit, I think it would be a little pre-mature for me to venture an assessment of the food. But I will anyway since it's my blog. 

It's British food as they say, and a little more refined than rustic. From what we had, we could understand what they mean by modern interpretations (not that we had that much of it). But that was probably not true of the meats nor soup which were really just what they were or have been in form.  I'm quite sure that it would have applied to some of the other stuff that we didn't order as well. Which was just basic food without frills. There was definitely some quality in there with nothing over the top in terms of approach or presentation. So I couldn't help but to think that it's a little pricey. Must be the damned location eh?