Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sushi Tei, Raffles City

I'm quite peeved at their service. Despite calling a day in advance for reservations, I was told that my name wasn't to be found on the list when I arrived. And now I had to wait in the queue just like a walk in. This is one example of bad service that restaurants here get away with. Probably the result of inadequate management. Still we decided on dinner here because there are some stuff from the menu which we were in the mood of having.

That's the seafood salad. It's a bunch of relatively lazy toss up of prawns, crab sticks, squid, lettuce and I think I spy a tomato. I'm not sure who ordered it. The only redeeming quality of this salad was the sauce which was quite appetising. One of my pet peeves is seafood dishes that contains crab sticks. I personally don't consider crab sticks to be seafood. The temerity of the practice goes to show the mentality of most people. Despite the preen and prose that countless pretend to have, they tolerate mediocrity and pay for it.

I forgot what is this called, but I liked these. It's beef wrapped golden mushrooms and it's chewalicious. This was one of those things I could go back to Sushi Tei for even though they are a little pricey.

Fried pork cutlet and soba which was ok I guess. I'm sure I've had better. The mass of soba is enlarged by the ice cubes buried beneath, so the portions aren't actually as big as it looks in the photo.

That above is the Dai Dai Roll. Yummy stuff. Let's take a closer look at it.

Basically, rice rolls topped with salmon sashimi, prawn roe and dripped with mayo. There's crab stick and mango stuffed in the middle of the rice. Another fancy junk I could come back for.

This is the Golden Roll. I liked this too.

Basically, a huge prawn is stuffed in the rice which is then draped in mango (I think) and ebiko. Another pricey tasty roll from Sushi Tei which I wouldn't mind turning for.

And that's the salmon belly soup filled with fatty salmon belly meat and vegetables. The soup was deliciously sweet. I wonder if it's MSG.


Beef stir fried with onions. Tasty stuff too.

Friday, September 29, 2006

überburger, Millenia Walk

überburger, Millenia Walk

You're not going to see a photo or a writeup of the #101 burger, so there. So there I was, after messaging my old friend, X. Yes, X wants to remain anonymous. And no, his first name is not Charles.

The truth was that, I walked in expecting "just good", but not fantastically jaw dropping burgers and hoping for a little bit more in the way of I suppose their überservice and the überambience so that I would not be überdisappointed. I had lowered my expectation of the food from online reads, friends and the fact that the menu actually describes their 200g patty for the sirloin burger as colossal. 200g is not colossal. They're so überwrong. But I give them large. The self styled gourmet burger restaurant wasn't really packed when we arrived at about 7.30pm. The waiters which look like they're in police uniform brought us the menu. The menu as seen in the picture, it's elongated and rather difficult to flip through because it was so überstiff. So fast forward, we grabbed ourselves a sirloin burger and a Hoegaarden each with their regular bucket of fries to share. One would notice that the condiment dispensers (squeeze bottles) on the table didn't really look überchic or überstylish for a gourmet restaurant. In fact, it looks übercoffeshoplike. This place feels like a less crass setup of Billy Bombers with an open-concept kitchen manned by staff that didn't really look like chefs of any sort to me. I don't know if I'll ever plunk "1-oh-1$" for a piece of marbled ground meat in bread with those cooks.

So there, the sirloin burgers. Thick beef patties topped with a slice of tomato, thick sliced onion and fried garlic in a lightly toasted bun dense with sesame seeds. And what the menu called the übersalad on the side was actually just some rockets, romaine lettuce and some pine nuts with a squeeze of olive oil. Straight up, the patty was pretty good. It's as thick as Botak Burgers patty, of higher quality and literally bloody juicy (at least it was for medium doneness). I don't think I managed to capture the bloody and juice in the photo though. The über-potato fries were actually value for the buck even when compared fast food. For "three $ 50", one could get a small bucket of thick cut fries.

I enjoyed the burger. It was better than many. Not having tried their signature #101, I couldn't comment on their gourmet status. The service although polite was far from being prompt. I make references to the waiters staring into space with their backs at you, daydreaming while you try to get their attention.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Basil Alcove, Middle Road

In looking out

Just about two months in its infancy and coping with the teething challenges of a new eatery, Basil Alcove, which is situated along the first floor perimeter of Fortune Centre on Middle Road has already begun its inroads in attracting its own crowd. Headed by an amicable and candid Chef Xander Ang, this small family run restaurant seems to be starting to grow their share of late dining crowd and throngs of students from the nearby NAFA campus as a regular crowd. If you are not familiar with the area, Middle Road is the stretch of road that separates Bugis Junction/Intercontinental Hotel from the Stamford National Library. From there, move towards the direction away from Beach road and Fortune Centre is about 5 minutes stroll away.

Chef Xander was gracious enough to take some time to engage in a little chat providing insights of his work, the theme of his menu, his experiences in the culinary industry and sharing his thoughts over his role as the master of his little kitchen that caters a range of diversified customers. Hailing from the hotel industry, travelled and spent 8 years in the honing of his craft, Xander had developed his own taste endowed in this restaurant which he admits is part Italian, part French, and infused with a tinge of Asia. In the spirit of candor, Xander also talks about the unique advantages of the size of his establishment which enables him to deliver a personal touch in the service he provides in the form of personal customisation of taste when time permits. These he says, works to satisfy gastronomically both the traditionalist and the adventurous. Ultimately, he gains gratification from seeing the smiles of satisfied customers with food that both warms both the stomach and the heart.

Basil Alcove is as I've mentioned, a small restaurant with indoors that seat up to 6 or 8 at the most. On the outside, there are more tables which on a fully packed night can seat up to about 30 (inclusive of the inside). Within arms length from the seats is the kitchen counter and just behind, the kitchen. And for a kitchen that barely has working space for 3 persons, this places whips up a fairly mean array of dishes and a price tough to beat. The setup of the restaurant was small and cosy with attentive staff. Diners are armed with a simple array of cutlery which is basically sufficient for all the served food from the kitchen of this place. Waiting time for food gets a little stretched when the place is crowded since the kitchen itself is basically managed by Xander. Ironically in a heart of Asia, Chef Xander manages to run his eatery styled like the little family and non franchised restaurants which is commonly seen in Europe. This place offers daily set lunch for about $8 and has an a la carte dinner menu with a small selection of wines.

For a first visit, we opted for fairly safe bets and started with the soup of the day (clam chowder), Tomato Bruschetta and a dozen mussels.

Clam Chowder
Looks above average doesn't it? For $3.50, it's heart warming, smooth and creamy. I must admit that the clam flavouring needed a bit of work, but otherwise, I would say that it's pretty decent value for money spent. Especially when compared to a similar offering at the same price or even higher. The photo doesn't show it, but there were clams swimming in that soup.

Tomato Bruchetta
At $2.50, this appetizer was a steal. Though the toppings came a little dry, the dip more than compensated for it. This zesty dip tasted to be olive oil and vinegar(or is it vinegrette?) infused with coriander(I think) and garlic. I really do not know what else could be inside, but it's a little spicy and quite different from the usual oil based dips.

Have I said cheap and good yet? How about it? At $7.80 a dozen, these mussels are fresh, full of healthy bite and cooked in butter. Due to a little misalignment in supplies this time round, the buttery broth was a tad too salty, but it seems that this will not be repeated. I'll definitely be tempted to order this again upon re-visit. This too, has a mild spicy infusion from the sliced chilli bits.

Pan fried dory
This cost just $6.80. I'm not usually a big fan of fish so I'm at a loss of how to really define the meat. It's definitely not lousy, just didn't eat it enough to leave an impression. The rice dumplings at the side are interesting though. They're topped with sliced eggplants and I think zuchinni with a shower of grated cheese. The flavour of the rice dumpling is light, yet noticeable. I found them quite tasty and I couldn't really identify what's in it.

Mushroom & Bacon Aglio
The Mushroom and Bacon Aglio came at an affordable (I really mean this) $4.80. Eat that Pasta Mania! You'd be hard pressed to find another place in town that sells pasta at this quality at this price. If you click on the image on the right, you can get a better picture of the ingredients that are buried in the spaghetti. A generous amount of bacon and mushroom for less than 5 bucks. I'm not sure if it shows up in the photos, but there's sliced chilli inside which injects a mild spicy heat in this dish.

All the above and a Hoegaarden at $32.20 for dinner for 2. I have little reason to complain. Fine food in a not so fine place? Yeah, you bet. Don't just take my word for it. Experience is the best teacher in life.

Lunch at Sakae's been a while since I've lunched here, but since my lunch date preferred to avoid the heavy stuff, it was Japanese and there isn't much options where I work. This Goma Salmon Don came essentially like it looks in the menu. Ground raw salmon over a bed of rice garnished with seaweed strips, seasame seeds and finely chopped spring onions. There was no little yellow flower though. It tasted pretty much as it looks, so not much comments from me.

I also got a side of Ika Teriyaki. Which is essentially grilled squid with teriyaki sauce. I was told that there was a short waiting time of 15 minutes for the squid, but it actually came right after I finished the salmon don. I like grilled squid from Japanese places, and this one is really not good. The squid doesn't have any permeated flavour and it's way too chewy. Avoid this if you like grilled squid too. Beppu and Riverside Indonesian Restaurant has the good ones from memory.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Waraku, Marina Square

I remember the first time Lbrought me to this place. I was quite impressed and it's one of the places where I took a look at the menu and was overwhelmed by the options they had. I really had some difficulty deciding what I wanted because so many things looked interesting. My feelings of this place has somewhat changed since then. Some of the old sentiments that accompanied the first visit still remains though. Amongst them, this was the first place I tasted uni. It is still a nice little Japanese place in my heart even half the menu doesn't look so Japanese anymore.

We got a bunch of stuff that seems to be favorites, at least of ours. This on the right is the Scallop Hooba Yaki. Junie if you are reading this, well, here's a close up you can look at. As you can see, the leaf really does not burn. Lol. For the rest of you who are wondering, it's a sort of specialty this place has where you get your meats cooked on a rather dried leave over a pot with a small flame that is topped with a grill. The meats are served raw on a bed of miso paste and basically, you leave them there to be cooked which doesn't really take that long for seafood. You do need to turn them over once in a while so that the upside of the meat gets the heat. This stuff is quite nice, but ultimately is just either seafood or beef cooked over miso paste that is quite salty. The plus point to this gimmicky dish is that it keeps the meats really warm and if you chose the Beef Hooba Yaki, you can decide on the doneness of the meat. So you don't have to worry about stuff that gets overcooked and dried up. You decide when.

The two dishes over on the top are Puri Ebi Guratan (top) and the Coro Coro Steak. The Coro Coro Steak isn't really steak. They're chunks of marinated beef, in a small cast iron hot pan that is served bubbling in the sweet peppery brown sauce. The meat is barely cooked when served, so again, there is some small measure of how much you want the meat to be done. I don't think they arrive early enough to be medium rare, but this isn't the high quality stuff you're expecting from steak places. What mattered was that the meat tasted beefy and the sweet black pepper sauce is quite nice. All of it remains hot in the iron pan.

The Puri Ebi Guratan is a sort of really cheesy prawn casserole with onions. It's actually like a sort of cheese and prawn baked rice without the rice. This dish fills one up quite a bit. So for a very small eater, this one alone probably spells the end of dinner. There are a few prawns in this thing. I can't comment on the freshness of the prawns, but they aren't tiny shrimps if you're suspecting and they have enough bite in the meat and are somewhat crunchy. If you love cheese and prawns and charred cheese, this should not be missed.

This dessert on the left is actually ice cream with a white chocolate skin. The skin is painted red and the interior is actually apple flavored ice cream with a brown chocolate core. I've seen it on the menu numerous times, but this is the first time I've had it. I didn't really think much of it. I think that if it's apple flavored, sorbet should be the way to go.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gnocchi with buttered cranberry pesto sauce

This was totally experimental and it happened to be one that turned out pretty good. If you don't know what gnocchi are, they're dumplings largely of potato and kneaded with flour to hold the dough together before being shaped into the little lumps that you see. So far, I've only seen them at Carrefour. I'm sure they can be found elsewhere as well.

This was a simple dish. I'm no a chef so only the simple culinary forays do not elude me. The ingredients are
  • Gnocchi - can be bought from Carrefour. Comes in sealed plastic packs.
  • Dried cranberries - ok I cheated, would have been juicier if I used the fresh ones. Might be sour though.  Dried is actually good.
  • Pesto - jarred, easily available in supermarket. This one's from Carrefour. Butter.
  • Olive oil - for flavour and to avoid dryness.
My method was to cook both at once. My brother helped me so I cheated. In 2 main steps...

1) For the gnocchi, the preparation is fairly simple. Bring water to a boil in a pot and add salt. After that add the gnocchi. The gnocchis cook pretty fast, say in a minute or two, so as soon as they float, scoop them out onto a dish somewhere. If you let them in the water too long, they will disintegrate as the flour that holds them gets dissolved in the boiling water.

2) For the sauce/pesto thingy, pan fry the dried cranberries into a pre-heated pan with butter. Press the cranberries so that they open up as much as possible for the flavour to come out. In this serving for 2, I used about a palmful of dried cranberries. Keep the butter plentiful enough so that the cranberries do not burn. After a minute and a half, add pesto and continue the stir for another minute or slightly longer. If the mixture starts to dry, add olive oil. Once everything is nice and bubbly, scoop the sauce onto the gnocchi.

Do not underestimate the small portions. These were quite filling. And they're easy to eat since the sauce is tangy and light. There's totally no meat, so vegetarians are free to try.

Fast Breaking bulletin : BK versus MCD

I normally don't breakfast. In the weekdays, I would like to think that I don't have the time. For the weekends, it has to be a good enough reason go get me up early to eat. Today, I had to get up early, so.....

Doesn't look too bad does it? Double sausage croissant. Didn't taste that good either. It looked quite smooth for a croissant and the taste was not buttery. Check out the sausage patty on the left. Looks really dry doesn't it. Well, it is. And it's very salty. The egg inside is scrambled and the portions were quite sad. So much for Burger King. But I guess they're about as quality filled as the faith I had in them. Which means not much at all. Let us take a look at what McDonald's has.

I don't know about you but this looks better to me. While I'm not a big fan of McD, I'll give credit where it's due. The Sausage McMuffin with egg was one of those things that I still like from them. Came with enough egg to look really generous compared to what BK has. Burger King my ass! So let's check out the bite views.

Who is your winner here?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Lunch @ Tiong Bahru Market

S'been a while since I was last at Tiong Bahru Market. This was the first time I've visited since they've renovated. The place looks a lot more spacious and well lit and there also seemed to be a whole lot more food stores than I remember having been in the older market. Hunger had also changed the perspective of options and it made us look like we were spoilt for choice.

Lunch today was a blood curdling carbo fest. Char kuey teow, chwee kuey and carrot cake. Of course I didn't eat all of it alone. I thought the Mediterranean Salad dude ate more than I did in which I was grateful for. Grateful because I didn't have to make myself eat more and there was no wastage. He was dripping with enthusiasm - makeing a beeline to Lao Chen's stall which still had a short queue (was already late for lunch). He mentioned having it recently and saying that it was like, the best carrot cake he's ever had. Maybe 6 years in France changes perspectives also. It was nice carrot cake, but best is a description I try to avoid. I believe in the subjective opinions, so here we have as I see it, good carrot cake. Came in small pieces. No best involved. Have had many equally delicious ones.

The horror was actually the char kuey teow. No, it did not taste terrible. On the contrary the plate was quite good. But there was a lot of hum in it. And the Mediterranean Salad dude saw the proprietor pour "hum juice" into the pan fried mixture or noodles, egg and pork lard. I'm not sure what all the shellfish juice does to the flavour. Maybe it could be part of what makes the dish taste good? But just to give you an idea of how "cockled" this dish is, take a look below. That's the aftermath, even with one person who eats cockle has had his share. *shudder*

The gem for me was the chwee kueh. Jian Bo. It came exactly as I remembered it, hot and tender rice cakes with a healthy (figure of speech) pile of chai por and delicious chilli which I actually couldn't get enough of in spite of asking for extras. Granted that those chilli portions didn't look like it was anything beyond normal portions. I've had this since time I cannot clearly recall. That meant I was really young. After all these years, this stuff still tastes fabulous. If you should ever venture to this place and have never eaten chwee kueh here, try it.