Friday, December 29, 2006

Egg and Corned Beef bun from Crystal Jade Macau

Crystal Jade Macau is located at the basement of Bugis Junction just next door to a Four Leaves bakery. This is the sole outlet of Crystal Jade that purports to have food that is common or popular in Macau/Hong Kong like pork chop buns. This above is the egg and corned beef bun which while a decent sandwich, didn't really have much corned beef. Which is my main beef with it.

So wedged between a crispy buttered and toasted bun are fried eggs with bits of corned beef, tomatoes and some lettuce. There's not enough meat in there for me to order it again unfortunately. I really expected more decent amount of that corned beef.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Avocado chicken @ Basil Alcove

Lunch with Gweezer today at Basil Alcove. We got the $8.80 option which included a pretty decent cream of mushroom, avocado chicken for the main and an iced peach tea. An accompanying avocado puree balanced with pomegranate seeds accompanied slightly spicy grilled chicken. There's no fat nor skin in the meat. Despite having eaten here on several occasions, I'm still impressed at the quality and presentation for the prices this place charges.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Frog Porridge on a cold rainy night at Balestier

Previously in my mentioning of My Rice chicken rice stall, I had mentioned about it being located in the same coffeshop as a frog porridge stall. So that said stall with frog porridge is actually located just beside My Rice. And a pretty good frog porridge they served. It seems from the name on the stall that it originates from Geylang Lorong 9 before shifting to the current location along Balestier Road.

The frog porridge options comes in a few variations. One can choose to have the frogs in the porridge or served separately. The ones that you see here are the separated ones where the frogs are done in a spicy kung pao gravy and served bubbling hot in clay pot. Well actually, I think everything's served in clay pots, whichever variation that is ordered. You'll get to specify during the order how many frogs you want to have at $8 a frog. This kung pao gravy version which I had worked wonderfully in the cold rainy weather along with the piping hot gruel like porridge that came with minimal condiments. The porridge eats well on its own or even better, drizzled generously with the spicy gravy from the clay pot frogs. The frogs themselves are tender in the flesh and can easily be eaten simply by sucking the meat off the bones. Much easier than eating crabs.

Noodle House, Park Mall

I have no idea how long this place has been in operation and I probably would not have known about it if not for recommendation by a friend. Hidden at the basement of the often ignored Park Mall is Noodle House, a Chinese eatery offering Sarawak noodles. At least that's the claim. One of their signature items is wanton noodles which looks very similar to the Kolo mee that one can find around the Chinatown region. To point, the noodles were differentiated because they aren't the regular yellow egg noodles which gives the bowl a different textual feel. I've mentioned a couple of times previously that I didn't like a particular alkali flavour in regular yellow noodles and this one didn't have them. I like this better than the Pontian store at Yishun. Will come by again if I happen to be in the vicinity looking for something to eat.

Dressed simply in what tasted mostly were sesame oil and fried shallots, these noodles were pretty delicious by themselves without other condiments that one gets with wanton noodles. There's also marinated minced pork and meatballs as well. That above was a large bowl at $4 and came with a small bowl of wanton soup.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Peach Garden, Novena Garden

I've been wondering about this place for a while now because I've passed it by on numerous occasions and it was the only restaurant along the stretch behind closed doors. Turned out from what I've been told, I've been here once for a Chinese New Year dinner some years back. I had totally no recollection of that event. So I decided to come (back) for dinner with my family after recommendation from a good friend that told me it was worth checking out. Peach Garden is a Cantonese restaurant. They've two outlets, the other's located Thomson Plaza.

To start, a couple of starters. Haha.

Peach Garden, crispy eggplant pork flosscrispy eggplant with pork floss

This dish was deep fried eggplants topped with pork floss and fried garlic bits. Never had something like this before. It got the unanimous thumbs up for being tasty though.

Peach Garden, roast pork bellyroasted pork

This was roasted pork minus the fat and sliced into cubes instead of strips. Underneath the crackling was just lean meat. Tender ones though.  The dish was served with a rather powerful mustard that packed a bit of kick. Suspect the purpose of the mustard was to musk the pretty prevalent porky-ness. The taste of pork was much stronger than usual. We were told it is because that young pigs are used for them. Not sure how that made sense.  The toasted peanuts on the side were nice.

The other dishes we got were the signature roast duck, wasabi prawns, kung pao fish noodles with venison, fried cereal crusted fillet of sea perch, poached seasonal vegetables with garlic, century & salted egg in superior stock and braised legs of lamb.

Peach Garden, roast duckroast duck

We had originally wanted roast goose, but were told by the server was that the import of goose from Hong Kong has been banned because of the bird flu. Had to settle for duck. The roast duck came with a sour citrus sticky sauce which I didn't really think much of. Not bad as roast ducks went, but nothing exceptional.

Peach Garden, wasabi prawnswasabi prawns

The wasabi prawns it seemed to be a popular dish in this restaurant. It was present in almost every other table. They were lightly battered deep fried prawns that are coated in a mix of wasabi and mayonnaise and sprinkled with prawn roe. Tasted like how it looked. Pretty looking dish.

Peach Garden, cereal crusted sea perchfried cereal crusted fillet of sea perch

Thought their fillet of sea perch was one of the better dishes. Pictured is a single portion at $12. Was really enjoyable with the sweetish cereal crust that's paired with bits of chilli and curry leaves. Definitely recommended. This item was not in the menu though.

Peach Garden, three egg vegetablepoached seasonal vegetables with garlic, century & salted egg in superior stock
Liked this dish. It's probably because of the eggs and the rich tasting soup.

Peach Garden, kung bao fish noodles venisonkung bao fish noodle with venison

I'm not sure why these were called fish noodles. I was thinking that there might be slices of fishes in the noodles along with the venison, but no, there was only venison. Noticed that some of the noodles have burnt marks on them so I think they must have been stir fried at some point. Loved the texture (not being too soft) and I thought it was enjoyable. My gripe with it was that the plate is filled with inedibles - chunks of onions and dried chilli. What you got to eat was half of what's on the plate.

Peach Garden, braised leg of lambbraised leg of lamb

This tender braised leg of lamb was not on the menu. What I found compelling of it was the simplicity of the taste. There weren't any complex flavours involved, just simple light oyster sauce and the natural flavour of lamb. Paired nicely with the fresh vegetables on the side. Another recommended try.

Peach Garden, coconut dessert
I forgot this dessert was, but it tasted pretty good. In the husk of a young coconut, chilled bubor hitam with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There was a thin layer of coconut flesh in the husk. Easily scraped out with a spoon. This was much better than it looked.

10 degrees of Christmas @ Basil Alcove

This Christmas marks in a way, the trial by fire for Basil Alcove which I first visited back in September - in the culinary sense. The chef with the mischievous grin, Xander Ang has taken upon himself to deliver a 10 course Extravaganza menu. So erm....I have some photos of the dinner if you are inclined to continue reading.

Carpaccio Beef

Paving the road to the extravaganza was the carpaccio of beef with cipriani sauce topped with honey roasted figs. This was probably one of the largest servings of carpaccio I've ever had. In honesty, also the ugliest. In spite of being much thicker than how regular carpaccio normally are, it turned out to be quite appetizing and edible. The treat in this dish for me were the honey roasted figs.

Trio Mitili

In the Trio Mitili, there was a trio of half shelled New Zealand mussels accompanied by diced....greens and black olive tapanade? Mussels were succulent and fresh tasting. More than one of us at the dinner though the salty baked cheese was smile etching good and the pesto packed with a robust punch from garlic.

Borscht Asparagus e Beet Cappucino

Foam seems to be the thing these days and I do admit that I'm generally agreeable with them. This beet cappuccino came with a huge dollop of asparagus foam which I enjoyed. Reminded me just a little of a cappuccino of cauliflower which I once had at Sage. In the same capacity, they were both a vehicle of an almost ethereal creamy milkiness accented with a shade of flavour of the vegetable. The cooling foam washed down with the warm beet soup was strangely arousing.

Tacchino Lampone

Most western Christmas dinners don't get by without turkey so this I guess wasn't an exception. The Tacchino Lampone comprised of slices of pan fried turkey accompanied by a cranberry, walnut and yoghurt sauce. Easily one of the favourites for tonight.

Mezcolanza Funghi

This appears to be some kind of mushroom burger. A ménage à troi of a button and two shiitakes under pink pepper sauce. Nothing dried or canned from this.

Strawberry Sorbetto

This 6th course of the strawberry sorbet topped with homegrown mint pesto was the palate cleanser. Refreshing. Rhe citrus in sorbet helped in gearing up for the upcoming duo mains of red and white meat. Actually, I wished there was more of this to go round.

Marmellata Lamb

And this as explained by the server of tonight is the toasted lamb cutlets with whale sperm. Naw...I jest. It's an orange and cherry marmalade which was nice accompaniment to the lamb. Done somewhere between medium and medium well. I thought that it would have been great to have more of the marmalade. But I suppose with restrained portions, we were given the chance to savour the natural flavour of the lamb.

Lobster Thermidor

I generally do not have much expectations for lobsters unless I'm forking out and arm and a leg for them. In Christmas, one would undoubtedly have to top it up with a few vitals just to be sure because it's a crustacean which most of us know can get quite costly. This KGB Lobster Thermidor came across as passable, compensated by the toasted cheese. It's a KGB lobster because in the shooter on the side was an almost Molotov Kalua, Granmania and Baileys. Yes, it was flaming.

Panna Cotta

Their Panna Cotta as I understood was made with pineapple but I was quite sure that there was also coconut in there. Or maybe after a couple of beers, the subtleties of flavours were confusing to me. The texture of the panna cotta was coarse; different from what I have expected. Accompanying chocolate gravy at the bottom was a nice. In this occasion, this worked in small portions. Enough to be enjoyed, not enough to make one start to grow sick of it.

Torta Fromaggio Mango

Deconstruction as I understand of the term comes into light of two applications. Desserts and architecture. The Torta Formaggio Mango is a deconstructed mango cheese cake with warm Baileys topped with a generous portion of fresh cream.

So there you have the 10 degrees of this festive year end from Basil Alcove. As much as I can comprehend, it was likely a daunting task for a small kitchen to stretch themselves for such a menu. Doable in a expensive restaurant undoubtedly but we'll probably not see the likes of anything else similar in terms of effort and delivery based on the creativity of a small family run business here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ember @ Hotel 1929, Keong Saik Road

There seems to be a trend of new restaurants opening themselves in boutique hotels and becoming a name of themselves. Like Wild Rocket at Hangout and Desire at Scarlet Hotel. Ember is the place where the reputation (good and bad) of the restaurant precedes the hotel it resides within. The restaurant also took up more estate on the ground floor of 1929 than said hotel's entire lobby.

Dinner tonight was with fatpig and friends. Originally the idea was to do dinner at Desire but in the arrangement, confusion brought in Breeze and by the time we managed to contact Desire, it was fully booked. That's pretty much how we ended up at this place at Keong Saik Road. The arrangement for dinner was shared appetizers and desserts along with individual mains. We were here on a weeknight and the restaurant was almost fully packed. Service quality from theor staff was pretty good. On the whole, this place felt good. The food while commendable in quality, wasn't as good as I had imagined.

Commencing with the appetizers...

pan scallops with parma ham, orange and tarragon vinaigrette - the scallops were huge. And also succulent. I saw juice squirt out of fatpig's first bite into soft shellfish. Didn't expect the Parma ham to be pan fried, wrapped around the scallops. Apart from the juicy jumbo sized shellfish, the rest of the salad was pretty mundane. I thought the oranges lacked citrus flavour.

tuna tempura with goma wakame, mustard dressing - I was initially skeptical, just a little, about the tempura. It turned out much better than I expected with the tuna being seared instead of thoroughly cooked. Inevitably, I compared it with one I had at Sage which I felt was still the better dish. This tempura batter was thin and light like no other tempura which I've had. The sauce and mustard did overpower the flavour of the fish (which was light in the first place) to the point that it overwhelmed. Just an observation, not a complain.

pan seared foie gras with caramelized apple and clove port and raspberry glaze - unanimously top performer at the table tonight. Ember made a wonderful foie gras with a delicately thin crispy surface and creamy insides that fell apart, melting in the tongue with its rich diffusive flavour. This is seriously damn good.

The selection of main courses at Ember didn't sound enticing from description. In fact, it looked quite mundane.

char grilled angus beef with fava beans - this was my main for tonight. I was thinking that there might have been something more interesting to be had but the steak amongst the other items sounded the most appealing to me. I didn't come here expecting to have steak. It was quite small. Apart from the size, there was no complains. Seasoning of the meat was a simple rock salt and coarse grain pepper without compromising he original beefy flavour. Came with a tasty side of potato gratin.

I managed to get a bite from the Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb with Tamarind Reduction. Lamb was tender in medium rare, sweet and juicy. The sweetness might have come from the sauce though. There was a finely mashed sweet potato side which I thought was quite good. The braised Stockyard Beef Cheek with Merlot that fatpig chose tasted like a Chinese pork braised in soy sauce with a hint of red wine. For $40, I didn't think it tasted good enough to justify the price.

On with the desserts...

warm vairhona chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream
- this was a common dessert. Everyone's doing it. Kinda hard for me to be too enthusiastic about it. Although nice, they all taste the same.

flavoured panna cotta with chilled mango soup - this panna cotta was mostly drowned in the "mango soup" which tasted like the mango desserts from Hong Kong dessert stores. Not very unremarkable.

apple tart tartin with vanilla bean ice cream - freshly made with generous large chunks of apple. I thought this was pretty good. The pastry tasted freshly baked.

warm banana tart with homemade lavender ice cream - I picked this because it came with lavender ice cream. I've never tried it and was naturally curious. The flavour is rather interesting....brings forth more than a faint reminder of shampoo or shower gel.

The waiting interval between the courses felt a tad long for me because it exhausted conversation but YMMV. I'll probably wait to catch wind of the restaurant's new rotation of the menu before deciding if I'll return.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

wham!burger, China Square Foodcourt

Checked out this burger joint today with fatpig at the basement of China Square's food court after hearing about it being mentioned several times on some web forums. Not surprisingly, the hype over the burger was way bigger than taste. The store didn't look like it had any queue in the face of the lunch crowd. The wham!burger came sized like Botak Jones' burgers, with slightly tastier patties. But those patties also fell apart easily like those in the Botak Burgers. The bread was dry and porous, reminding me of the cheap bread used in Ramly Burgers. It did come buttered. We were told while ordering that the double whammy required advance notice for the portabello mushrooms. Wtf!? At $9, a double whammy with egg and no mushrooms felt a little pricey. Well, it was not bad, it's just not great after all the hype...

So the verdict is, I probably won't be back for more. Despite my several at $16, überburger's sirloin burger was a lot heartier and tasted better. With location and the price, I don't think this wham!burger came close enough to being worth the trouble.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Noodles from the Fat Hero

Fei Xiong bak chor mee
I was informed by my co-worker during lunch while having this bak chor mee that Fei Xiong doesn't mean 'fat bear', but 'fat hero'. Lol. A pretty good bak chor mee the fat hero does make.

Fei Xiong bak chor mee

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Paulaners Bräuhaus, Millenia Walk (dinner)

Came by this place previously for an Oktoberfest thirst quencher after dinner at Ten-Jyaku. Tonight, I took advantage of being around in the vicinity and decided to do dinner with a co-worker. I recalled having had their pork knuckles the previous time and them being pretty good. There aren't any German restaurants around that I know of that are accessible (I don't drive) and this was the only one that's accessible. Paulaners Bräuhaus if you didn't know is located at Millenia Walk, just across the road from Suntec City.

The restaurant section of the brewery is located on the second floor. The ground level is set up like a bar/pub that serves their own brand of brew and finger food. The last weekday I attempted to get a seat in the restaurant, it was so packed I couldn't get a space four without having endure a queue. Tonight was quite empty by comparison.

To the food. One of the neat things about their bread was that it was served with pâté - which I enjoyed. In comparison with most restaurants that provide either butter, olive oil & vinegar and even pesto. 

Commenced the dinner with a cold cut dish call Bavarian Brotzeitbrettl. It is essentially a wooden platter of different hams, liver pâté, a bit of cheese, some salad and grated horseradish which was surprisingly good. The horseradish tasted quite fresh with a mild tinge of sweetness. Like grated wasabi. Mustardly flavorful without being overwhelming. Ham seemed to be chicken/turkey based but the waiter insisted that all of it are pork. I didn't think it was worth the effort to pursue this. In all a decent plate of cold cuts which features nothing really remarkable apart from the horseradish .

The home made spätzle and asparagus looked a lot to me like fried sliced fish at first. I had no idea what were spätzles, but it seemed like they're some kind of irregularly shaped pasta of sorts. The pasta was served with melted cheese and flavoured with white wine and nutmeg. I didn't taste any nutmeg or white wine,  just the fragrant strips of fried onion and a very mild melted cheese. If not for the cheese, this dish looked and tasted Chinese. Like fried rice cakes.

The grilled pork knuckle was mostly like I remembered it from the last time I had them. It was a lot less fatty then. In fact, if my memory serves, there wasn't much fat at all under all that golden brown skin between the meat. The bed of sauerkraut was appetising, offsetting the weight of the meat/fat. The portions were actually small enough to make a hearty meal for one person.