Friday, September 30, 2016

Sin Swee Kee, Seah Street


Sin Swee Kee (35 Seah Street, tel +65 6337 7180)is named after a chicken rice institution, Swee Kee. The latter has not been in operation since the 90s. This shop from what I know has no relation to them despite having a very similar name. The setup is pretty much like how Chin Chin works at Purvis Street. The mainstays are cze char, Hainanese pork chops and chicken rice. I'm pretty sure I have visited this place at some point years ago but couldn't really remember much from that time beyond that it was not bad.


Here's a half chicken along with kailan stir fried with salted fish. They are using kampung chicken, so these birds are somewhat smaller, less fatty and are possibly older than the younger GM chickens that are bred to grow fast - and hence, a yellower hue to their skin. Also, we're don't see the dousing of light soy sauce with sesame oil as many regular chicken rice stalls tend to do. Using chickens that are not engineered to grow fast also means a longer turn around period since the rearing of each batch would be a longer cycle. Which translates to more expensive chicken. It's $19 for a smaller half chook here. 


As chicken rice go, this wasn't bad at all. The rice itself wasn't excessively greasy and had their savoury flavours. Chicken was tender enough - just not as slurp of the bone tender as the ones from Sin Kee. There's also a bit more aroma of lime than usual in their chilli sauce. The kailan was a competent stir fry but one could imagine them better if they improve on the quality of the vegetable they were using. Speaking of Sin Kee, it's about time I checked out their new shop down at Holland Drive.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Old Street Bak Kut Teh, Tiong Bahru Plaza


I've never heard of Old Street Bak Kut Teh (#02-105/106 Tiong Bahru Plaza, 302 Tiong Bahru Road, tel : +65 9812 9346) before until I saw them for the first time some years back at Funan Centre. My first impressions were that they might have been an old and possibly respectable stall in the past and have franchised just like a number of other old and possibly respectable local stalls. I didn't pay much attention on them then.

It seems that they have expanded their business into a number of malls since then and have even ventured into Surabaya and Jakarta in Indonesia. 


These guys have updated their business and have installed iPads on their tables for order taking. While that was a nifty thing to have, there wasn't a way we could have indicated the sequence of the dishes that arrived. And hence, the first item from our order list they served was what people normally get for desserts. Tau huay (bean curd). It was not bad though. Light weight and a little "rough" in texture.


We ordered their rice with minced meat braised in a spiced dark soy sauce because we had previously seen other people eating them and they looked pretty good. This was comfortingly delicious. Possibly the local standard for the equivalent of the Taiwanese lu rou fan.


These are the premium loin rib options for their bak kut teh. While the bone was longer and looked more impressive, the meat on the edges were dryer compared to the rib meat from the regular bak kut option. Still it had the prerequisite fall of the bone tenderness and tasted pretty good. The broth was deliciously garlic-ky and peppery.


There was of course the condiment not to be left out as dips for the ribs. Sliced chilli padi in dark soy sauce.


Their you tiao/you char kway (fried dough sticks/crullers) were the soft and bready variety with only a faint crisp on the exterior. These were good for soaking up the peppery broth from the bowl of ribs. 


Braised tau kee was also pretty darn good. They were tender and one could taste the flavour from the bean it was made with.

We were honestly apprehensive initially but I think this visit has gotten us convinced that the food was worth coming back for if we needed a fix without navigating into the inconvenient places some of these bak kut teh stalls are located at.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Revisiting Restaurant Manchurian (满族全羊铺)


This was an anticipated return to Restaurant Manchurian after the promising past couple of visits. We missed the barbecue lamb the last time round so this was the opportunity we had been looking forward to.


We started with their barbecued tendon. The wait staff had described it as tendon with some meat. The texture of the meat was layered in a manner like tripe and their spice mix was awesome. Like their lamb skewers, they were a dollar-fifty a stick. We’re gonna be getting more of these in the future because they were really good.


That’s stir fried cabbage with dried chilli, some spices and thinly sliced pork belly. Aromatic, nicely salted and the doneness of the cabbages was impeccable. By that I had meant that the vegetables retained a healthy crunch while it was cooked past any residual rawness.


Here be the barbecued lamb. Seasoned with what might have been their regular barbecue spice rub with extras on the side for more flavour. The meat was pretty tender and the portions hearty.


The letdown in this visit was their yang rou pao mo. The broth was thin and because of the heavily spiced dishes before, tasted bland. We could hardly discern any flavours of lamb in the broth compared to the robust bowl that the defunct Yang Gui Fei made.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Baba Wins' Peranakan Cuisine, Tiong Bahru Plaza


We've never heard of Baba Wins' (#02-107/108, Tiong Bahru Plaza, 302 Tiong Bahru Road, tel : +65 6884 6884) until quite recently but apparently they've been around for some years. This Peranakan outfit had previously been operating at Star Vista. From what I've read, these guys are a family run business using recipes that have been passed down from, well - the family.


We had sayur lodeh where they gravy had a little heat and was also a little sweet. Just that little bit of sweetness more than what we had been expecting. I'm pretty sure some of it came from the vegetables that were braised in the curry. Speaking of curry, the gravy was thin in consistency. I guess we (and many others) were just used to the more lemak and savoury Malay renditions. It's not bad though.


That's sambal brinjal with crispy grago. The latter are fried tiny shrimps/krill that are piled over fried halved brinjals that have been slathered with a bit of sambal. An unusual but tasty dish.


Their meat and potato stew made with minced pork was delicious. I could eat loads of rice with this thing.


And there was bakwan kepiting - a soup with meatballs made of minced pork, crab meat and bamboo shoots. This was light on the salt and tasted homely. I meant that in a good way.

There were quite a bit of items on their menu and we couldn't possibly try all those that sounded interesting in a single seating. We'll definitely come back another time for more. If I had to do a comparison with the recent Peranakan episode at House of Peranakan Petit, the only thing that bothered me here was the rice which was a little dry and beady; and there, was the price.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fat Prince, Peck Seah Street


To be clear, the two week old Fat Prince (48 Peck Seah St., tel : +65 6221 3683) is a Middle Eastern themed “café-kebabery”/bar from the people behind Neon Pigeon. The operative word here is theme. The owners are American and the chef from what I hear is Canadian. As much as the decor has style elements imported from Turkey, the undertone looks New York. So Fat Prince is probably about as Middle Eastern as Artichoke. Contemporary they are, halal it is not.


Otherwise, their bar would probably not be a fixture.


There's the Fat Prince hummus - made with duck fat and powdered with za'atar on the side. Don't know if there was any olive oil involved but the garlic flavour in the hummus seemed to be absent. This came with pita chips.


We had a scotch egg falafel, which as you might have surmised is an egg wrapped in a falafel instead of minced meat. Came with a fig, fennel and pistachio salad that consisted mostly of rockets and what might have been a lemon cardamom dressing. This was not bad.


That's the Cyprus pork sausage menemen with crispy potatoes- a Turkish styled scrambled eggs dish which is reminiscent of the common scrambled eggs, sausage and potatoes breakfast plate. The orange stuff are the eggs spiced with harissa. Spices in the pork sausage tasted Middle Eastern - the only way I can think of describing. Stuffings were coarse and rustic underneath that caul fat which gave it great texture. This was pretty good too.


What's a Middle Eastern themed lunch without a finish of Turkish coffee. Beans courtesy of Sarnies.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A bowl of mee pok from Hua Bee


Hua Bee Restaurant (78 Moh Guan Terrace) is known for a few things. That the 1995 local movie Mee Pok Man (not a spandex-ed superhero nor related to Marvel/DC!) was filmed here and in recent years, a Japanese kushiyaki joint - Bincho operates out back in the evening after the mee pok stall is closed for the day. I’m sure some of you remember Mee Pok Man. A little bit of sensation of its time when the infantile censorship board in this country was struggling with its baby steps to attempt to regulate “artistic” media. Looking back, one cannot help but laugh at those feeble attempts and wonder what was there to even censor. But I think people who remember Mee Pok Man probably remember it for Michelle Goh. 

Anyways, here’s the bowl of mee pok from Hua Bee. The noodles were a little sticky, slightly clumped together, vinegar indiscernible and the chilli didn’t pack much of heat. The ingredients were generous in their bowl of soup, but nothing was particularly outstanding. For what they were charging, it was a lot more satisfying to get a bowl of fish ball noodles at Li Xin or at Whampoa Food Centre. This shop might have been decent at some point in the past but it’s no longer very relevant except as a washed out curiosity with a reputation. Like an old movie that was once a sensation. No longer in the game but a part of an endless series of portraits waiting to fade away.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

House of Peranakan Petit, Eng Hoon Street


House of Peranakan Petit (42 Eng Hoon Street, tel : +65 6222 1719) is part of the House of Peranakan Group of restaurants. The group, which has begun from humble beginnings back in the 80s have apparently a number of accolades representing their culinary achievements for Peranakan food. This particular outfit as I was able to determine attempts to carry on that tradition with a contemporary spin for some of the dishes. 


That's their ngoh hiang - minced pork and prawns with chopped water chestnuts stuffed in a bean curd skin that's deep fried. I've personally had excellent home made ones so while this was pretty tasty, I couldn't say that it was a stellar representation of the snack. 

The grind of the minced meat was a little fine - a little too refined if I might add compared to the ones my grandmother made. The water chestnuts were also a little too finely diced to the point where they could barely be discerned. So I suppose the sin here was a loss of two contrasting textures that provided bite and a soft crunchiness which made these rolls what they were. At $12 a roll, this was probably the only time I'm ever ordering it. 


HoPP's chap chye was quite garlic-ky. Now I do like garlic in general but I think prefer the renditions of this particular dish that are less brown, more lightweight in flavour and have cabbages that have been stewed for a longer time. The kind that's commonly found in Hainanese curry rice stalls. That's just me.


Truthfully, this crayfish curry was my first crayfish anything in Peranakan cuisine. The gravy tasted like assam fish curry without the assam if you catch my drift. Am at a loss for a better description at this point but the flavours were nice. There was a bunch of wilted cabbage and what might have been a sunny side up on top of it. Awesome stuff altogether. If there were to be room for improvement, it would be an additional egg for the cabbage and perhaps larger crayfish.


These was appropriately named scallop lemak. The operative word here is lemak. Which means 'fat' in Malay but is synonymous to mean 'enriched' as well. Usually with coconut milk. The tender scallops were smothered in a heart clogging coconut milk laden gravy which was topped with laksa leaves. Pretty sure this was Peranakan inspired as opposed to being a traditional recipe. And damn it was good. It's a "tempted to lick the plate clean" kind of good if I had to be more precise. Made me eat more rice than I'm normally comfortable with.


Dessert was durian chendol. Pretty good stuff. The shaven ice with coconut milk was replaced with coconut ice cream. While it appeared deconstructed, it tasted like the actual stuff once it was all mixed up with the gula melaka

Friday, September 23, 2016

Etna 2016


Etna has throughout the past years we've visited gotten more focused and refined with their food and also have progressively gotten more expensive. What we liked about them was the consistently good experience (to date!) and that the quality of their food is actually very decent. 

There're a couple of things that I'm constantly reminded of them. The first would be the occasionally nifty off menu specials like their filo wrapped tenderloin with Gorgonzola sauce. The second is the lamented orange and Parmigiano Reggiano risotto which I am constantly wishing would return to their menu.


It seems that there is a little more variety with bread as well. Previously, it was just focaccia.


I'm not sure if it's just us but we've been encountering quite a bit of octopus lately. Here's an off menu starter of grilled octopus with potato puree and Taggiasche olives. Delicious char they had.


The current menu has a carbonara di mare. A carbonara with some fish caviar and bottarga. The flavours of both fish roes came through together with the tiny bits of bacon. But I though it was a little salty. I do think that I rank the carbonara di mare from Trattoria Nonna Lina higher and more befitting of its name.


Their ciriole alla Norcina is as good comfort food as ever with the chunky minced sausages, mushroom and shaven Parmigiano Reggiano. I've just found out that the name Norcina originates from the town of Norcia - a place known for their cured meats, cheese and truffles.


The other off menu special of the week was their "scottadito" styled lamb chops. A variable recipe that contains salt, pepper and rosemary. Damn this was delicious. The lamb was pink and the savoury sauce was literally finger licking good. While it's not apparent in the picture, it was accompanied some bitter roasted radicchio and mashed potatoes.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

No. 3 Crab Delicacy, Outram Road


I’ve seen No. 3 Crab Delicacy (265 Outram Road, tel : +65 6327 2148) around for a number of years but have never really had the opportunity to be in the vicinity long enough to remember or consider them until recently. If anyone was wondering, they’re a local cze char (an old school one at that) and are also known for their crab dishes. I guess that much would be evident from their name. Heh.


That's their bee hoon with clams. Noodles had a good bite and the garlic-ky broth was pretty tasty spiked with some heat from the sliced bits of chilli padi. Note to self - the small portion is good for only one.


The dish that we had for the first time ever in any rendition was their rojak styled chicken. We never realized that such a cool thing existed. This was essentially battered fried chicken heaped with julienned cucumber, guava and turnip that were tossed in rojak sauce with crushed peanuts. The consistency of the sauce was a little thinner than what one normally gets in rojak but I thought this worked even though I would have preferred a little more viscosity. And more crushed peanuts. We actually enjoyed this.


In the interest of a healthy balanced diet, stir fried kailan with garlic. The bits of brown stuff on the top were crushed ti poh (dried sole). It added a toasty umami aroma to the vegetables but there was a little too little to go around all the greens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brunch @ Humpback


As it says, it's brunch time at Humpback. The folks here mentioned that are working on a theme that had inspired them from New York. I'm not sure where exactly in New York that inspiration came from. There's not much of coffee but one gets a healthy option of drinks to go with the food. Many of the latter in small plates. Sounds like many places.


These are their devilled eggs. Hard boiled, halved and topped with fish mousse, ikura, olive oil and I think that's paprika.


Their burrata was unexpectedly good. The key ingredient that elevated this creamy cheese with EVOO and pine nuts over a thick toast was their salsa verde which I thought was nicely done. 


This was sea urchin, served in a half shell with cauliflower puree. The urchin was sweet, floral - much tastier than the dull colour had suggested. But there was too little to go around the buttered brioche. Twice that would have been good portioning.


Their fried egg was pretty good. Served with orzo and bits of octopus and blanketed with a little Parmigiano Reggiano. Salt, fat and a nice hit of umami packaged with the tasty egg.


I suppose there'll be expectations for the gratuitous molten yolk porn so there you go.


And there there's a lobster roll. This wasn't bad as well. The bun was buttered but airy and had a light crisp. I'm tagging this along with the warm one from The Naked Finn and the one from Luke's to be those I found more enjoyable. Luke's is still my favourite for their heavier hand with the butter.


We tried a couple of their oysters.


The Kumamoto ones were pretty good. It also had a very different flavour profile after being paired with that rhubarb vinaigrette they provided.