Sunday, July 29, 2007

Long live Sharon!

Woohooo! Fresh from Holland!

Philadelphia fish & chips, Fish & Co @ Paragon

There's usually not much that's compelling for me at Fish & Co. The food standards like many restaurant chains have spiralled downwards. Their regular fish and chips (quite decent) and the seafood platter for two are probably the only items that I would come for and honestly, it probably wouldn't keep me coming back for much longer. Lately, I've discovered that the one at Paragon serves some items that are exclusive only to that outlet. That's what the Philadelphia fish & chips is about, stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese which sounded interesting. It looked pretty much like the NY version or the regular one. The difference was just the cheese.

Fish & Co, philadelphia fish & chips

The resultant flavour was a little different from what I had thought. This was something that's probably worth checking out once, not something I'd be keen to come back for. On another note, the seafood platter here looked to have bigger prawns and the shellfish are scallops instead of the usual mussels. I'm not sure if that's something just from this outlet or things have changed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

the muse and the wild oat

Ever bar hopped for food? Well, bar food to be exact. I just did and the inspiration rose after chancing upon one of the entries by a local food blogger on a couple of locations that looked like they do pretty good bar food. The talk about days being filled with dealing with self-serving, obtuse lunkheads whom you’d rather be smacking in the back of the head with a baguette rather than working with rang peals of resonant notes in me. Or was it psychotic laughter. I get confused. As did the idea telling certain people what I think of them and the mention of stiff drinks. Lol. So I decided, why not take them on in a single fell swoop on a not so fell night.

Muse Bar at the National Museum was a place that I would never think about visiting if not for the article. Just not atypical of somewhere I would hang out. Menu turned out pretty decent. I hope these places mark the beginning of an era better bar food. The mini prawn laksa burritos were pretty good. There was really identifiable laksa flavour in the fried rolls. Not the most robust of its kind but was however definitive of laksa. 

Following which were the duo of mini burgers along with curried chicken wings. The mini burgers were quite decent tasting - the patties were actually dripping with juices.. The curried chicken wings had a soft and damp batter but commendable seasoning which made it moderately spicy and salty at the same time. The mojitos here were really bad. To be a bit more specific, it was a so damn lime-y with no mint and little hint of rum kind of bad.

Wild Oats (emily hill, 11 upper wilkie road, next door to Wild Rocket) in comparison was a much better spot to chill with friends than Muse was. There's more outdoor seats and the drink selection didn't look as dull. The ambience was much more pleasant me and I appreciated the non-intrusive music. Would probably re-visit. Tonight it's just for their bar food and a couple of drinks. Before I forget, I needed to mention that the Hoegaarden they served was probably the most chilled glass of the beer I've ever had. It was "more chilled than Ice Cold Beer" kind of cold and the glass wasn't even frosted to boot. Awesome but rather pricey at $12 for a half pint. Am genuinely curious how they got it so chilled.

The parmesan wings here features Gorgonzola sauce and chicken rice chilli sauce. Gorgonzola sauce was far too weak. The taste barely registered. The chilli however packed a kick which was a pleasant surprise. Something I could come back for. Feta cheese, tofu and spinach wanton sounded intriguing but there's a slip up with the cheese. I can't imagine not being able to taste feta cheese in a wanton that is suppose to contain feta cheese. The other other fillings were just tofu and spinach so how could the feta cheese flavour not come through unless there was none?What I didn't expect from the wanton was that the dominant flavour was actually tofu.

Got myself a pear cider. Very mundane kind of cider flavour and I couldn't tell it was from pear. I'll be back for the hot bitches the next time!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Pizza Place, Raffles City

So, this was another recommendation. It was definitely more than a couple of people that had told me that this shop has the best pizza they've eaten locally. Seriously? Honestly, I didn't think it was a big deal. Unless we're talking about some specific topping which I have missed. The pizzas here were probably a little better than Pizza Hut. This picture is a half New York and half triple cheese. Despite enjoying meat, I thought the triple cheese was tastier. Would have been better if it was quattro fromaggio for me and maybe I'm a thin crust person. Did I miss anything?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hansang, Square 2

Hansang, Square 2
Hansang, banchanStarting to get the hang of and liking some of these Korean places. Especially those with the bottomless banchans. Something to keep the mouth busy with is much appreciated when you're hungry and waiting. With only one other experience, my thoughts were that Togi serves better banchan than Hansang (Square 2, #03-32 to 35/40 to 44). Service on a quiet Sunday evening was snappy and polite. Snappy meant that things were done fast in case you were wondering. They have a light Korean beer that goes by Hite which claims to be made from natural fresh water and thus providing a fresh taste. Wow! Lol. Maybe the reason that I don't visit Korean places often is because the menu tends to look very similar most of the time. Perceived or real, I'm under the impression that their food is generally same everywhere. Maybe I just haven't gotten to appreciate the subtleties of their cuisine. If such a word is applicable for that. Hansang, bulgogiThe bulgogis were difficult to differentiate. Each one that I've had tasted similar to one another and that was that all there was to them for me. One can try so much bulgogi before the taste wears thin. Even though the ones here were better than those supposed Korean food stalls in food courts, there doesn't to be much difference. What I found myself liking at Hansang was that they did a very nice beef rib soup. In spite of its bland appearance, the soup was flavoursome. The meat from the ribs slid off the bone. I recommend this. The other thing I liked here was the rice which were steamed with root vegetables. There was a slice of carrot, some sweet potato, a piece of pumpkin and interestingly a date. The rice that stayed piping hot up to the last mouthful.

Hansang, beef rib soupbeef rib soup

Hansang, rice

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Manhill Restaurant, 99 Pasir Panjang Road

This place was another recommendation from co workers. I was told they was known for their claypot dishes. I wonder what made the owner of this restaurant call it 'Manhill'. They are an old school Chinese restaurant. Certainly not with a name I would expect. And it's the first time I got to drink chrysanthemum tea in Tiger beer mugs. 

Some of their dishes stood out. There was a claypot sea cucumber with roasted pork featuring fragrant and chewy sea cumbers with roasted pork belly that were further braised in gravy. There was a apple pork rib soup that which was boiled with real apple wedges. The soup didn't really taste of apples but had a light sweetness. Nice stuff - considering that I'm usually not a fan of most Chinese soups. Another delicious item were their paper wrapped chicken which were essentially chicken thigh meat marinated in some Chinese cooking wine before they are wrapped in oiled paper to be cooked. The meat of the chicken was nicely done with the juices preserved in each paper package. There was also aroma from the cooking wine in each bite. The icing on the cake was the lack of bones in the meat!

If it helps, this restaurant is less than half a minutes drive from the Centre for Animal Welfare and Control Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.

claypot sea cucumbers and roast pork

claypot beef

forgot what this is, but it contains a variety of vegetables and some seafood

apple pork rib soup

paper wrapped chicken

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Al Forno Trattoria, Goldhill Centre

Clad in a cosy and rustic interior and hidden out of view from the main roads, Al Forno Trattoria (203 Thomson Road, Goldhill Centre) felt like a hidden find. The restaurant whipped up some pretty good pasta in generous portions. That was on top of the other options like pizzas, salads, seafood & meat that they also serve. My only gripe was that most of their pastas had boring tomato based sauce which I usually avoid. That's just me. I hear that this place has been around for quite a long while and that they do a nice rum infused Black Forest Cake which was available in a few days of the week and something I was curious about. We were actually served a complimentary starter of a warm slice of toast before we've even made orders for the food. The toast had  toppings I couldn't fully identify beyond bits of onions, garlic, gherkins and probably olive oil. Wasn't bad too.

Pappardelle alla Veneziana ($22)

This was pretty enjoyable. Pasta was served piping hot. It was essentially pappardelle with scallops and prawns in a rich creamy saffron sauce. Pleasantly surprised that the prawns weren't tiny shrimps and that they were crunchy. Scallops came whole with their 'wings'. This was probably the most interesting pasta on the menu.

Lasagna Emiliana ($22)

I've never been big lasagna. This wasn't bad. Just me not being so much into tomato sauces. From the menu's description of two cheeses, I was hoping that it would up the cheese factor of the lasagna by a notch. It was sadly not the case and turns out to be typical.

This was be the rum infused Black Forest Cake ($9 a slice) which I had mentioned earlier. Delicious chocolate cake. Wouldn't recommend passing on it if you like chocolate. Dense & rich chocolate cream and chocolate shavings over the top. The only gripe was that I had expected more rum than just a bare hint.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hamoru Japanese Restaurant, Food Republic @ Suntec

Food Republic seemed to be making noticeable effort in bringing up the standards of local food courts and setting a benchmark for the other chain outlets. This applieed to both the quality and the cost of having a meal. 

I've been lunching at Hamoru for the past 2 consecutive days. This shop is sending a message to other claimants to serving Japanese food in food courts that they seriously need to do a whole lot better. Prices here get can get steep for work lunch though. While it's a bar above regular food courts, one should not expect top tier quality. Was surprised that they actually serve foie gras, otoro and uni. Hmmmm.....

Lunch day 1

Shiok maki

This looked local, name aside. Didn't look elegant for a maki. But it turns out to be pretty tasty. And pricey at $15 a pop. There's unagi and avocado in rice topped with strips of salmon, blanketed with some cheesy mayo and ebiko. The roll was then torched for the char. Nice.

asari (shortneck clam) soup

I was recommended this by the waitress and it turns out to be clams in a miso soup. Wasn't bad with the cold weather. There's quite a bit of clams hidden at the bottom. The only gripe wa that the miso flavour was as rich as I expected. There's an option to have ramen/soba in them for a top up of additional $2.

chicken liver

I was a little apprehensive when I saw their chicken liver so pink and dripping blood. Was the first time ordering these from a Japanese grill and to my surprise, this is more like foie gras. Liver was soft and creamy compared to the Chinese styled cooked chicken livers. Nope, they didn't exactly melt in your mouth. $2 a stick. Actually not bad despite it's slightly gruesome appearances.

foie gras

There's also foie gras at $8 a stick. This was more expensive than Kazu. There's no question that Kazu does this better. An Israeli colleague of mine also happens to be having them for the first time in his life. I think he's found himself a new sin. The crisp on the surface of the foie gras here was lacking and the insides didn't disintegrate as smoothly as I hoped, but what the hell.

Lunch Day 2

shiro maguro

The menu describes this as white tuna. Meat appeared to be marinated and lightly flavoured with shoyu. The texture of the meat is quite firm and on the whole, not bad tasting. Does anyone have any idea what's the difference of this from the regular tuna?

grilled saba shio

This soba shio wasn't a large piece. In spite of the grill, it retained quite a lot of juice. Salad on the side was topped with a citrus and sesame dressing which is quite appetizing. On the whole, quite decent if not remarkable.

cha soba

This was disappointing. Not that I expected top quality soba to be had here but the noodles were seriously, limp. Neither the soba nor the dripping sauce were sufficiently chilled. Do not order this if you enjoy soba.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

En Japanese Dining Bar, UE Square

This Japanese bar/restaurant was one of those places I've passed by on numerous occasions but have never spared another look. On the other hand, En (#01-57, UE Square) was a name that I've heard of for some time before and had been curious about. Little did I realize that they were the same. Kinda liked this place because there's drinks and the food was pretty decent without being exorbitantly priced. There's one for one for Asahi from 5pm to 8pm. Quite a bit of the food here were made to go well if you're drinking.

En Japanese Dining, kawaebikawaebi

I think kawaebi means small prawns in Japanese and these were really little river shrimps according to the menu. The shrimps were fried with seemingly no seasoning and are served with lemon and salt on the side. Like I said, good with drinks and very chewy.

En Japanese Dining, sukurarasusukugarasu

The sukurarasu was a serving of chilled tofu with little fishes on the top. I have no idea what those fishes were but they were very salty and definitely needed tofu to balance out that saltiness.

En Japanese Dining, maguro tatakimaguro tataki salad

This tuna salad here was pretty good. The slices of meat were seared along the edges. Dressing was some citrus sauce mixed with Dijon mustard I think. I found this very enjoyable.

En Japanese Dining, yellowtailyellowtail

For some reason, I like yellowtail sashimi. The fish that they served were of decent quality. Definitely above those from conveyor belt sushi shops. But after a couple of beers, much subtleties of the flavours are lost anyway.

En Japanese Dining, enoki baconenoki bacon

Crunchy, chewy enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Most of the reasons are already there. The standards of the grills here of course cannot be compared to Kazu.

En Japanese Dining, unagi fried riceunagi fried rice

The fried rice was just passable, but dinner needed some carbs and it sounded more interesting than the standard garlic rice. I remember seeing mentaiko pasta on the menu so if I ever come back, I'll shoot for that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Benny, Maxwell Hawker Center

This was a local western food stall by the name of Benny (01-16 Maxwell Food Centre, Maxwell Road) run by a very amicable proprietor of the same name. I read about them from Wine & Dine Asia and decided to check them. Got a cheesy pork which I thought looked the most interesting from the menu. Had mixed feeling about that. It looked a tad greasy and had too little cheese. I thought it had a little too much mayonnaise. 

The plus was that I did get a solid piece of fried pork (looks like layered meat) which wasn't cooked to death. Metaphorically of course. The food came with regular cutlery with the exception of the knife which was plastic and looked almost too frail to cut into the thick piece of meat. Fortunately, it held.

On the side was mashed potato which had bits of stuff which I couldn't identify. I was thinking shredded carrots or sweet potato but the proprietor mentioned pumpkin and other vegetables when I asked about what went into the mash.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fusion or confusion, it's all perspective isn't it?

Perspectives from Anderson Ho of Le Papillon, courtesy of Wine & Dine Asia. I personally think perspective could be everything. It has to be managed. No Jedi mind tricks are required here.

'To me, it doesn't matter if it is fusion so long as the taste is there,' says Ho. One of the dishes he served at Le Papillon was a laksa cappuccino served with crabmeat salad, but he took it off the menu after some comments from diners about 'why should I pay top dollar for something I can get at a hawker centre'.

He adds that while some do appreciate the flavours, most don't. However, when he did a cooking promotion overseas and served the laksa cappuccino, it was a great hit.

He reckons that Singaporeans are generally biased towards chefs cooking Western food with local flavours. 'If fusion is done by a Western chef, people go 'wow'. But when a Chinese guy does it, they don't like it. I'm sorry, but that's a fact.'

For example, he referred to Saint Pierre's Emmanuel Stroobant who created an entire molecular gastronomy menu in April for the World Gourmet Summit based on local hawker food. His deconstructed versions of kaya toast, nasi lemak and chicken rice won raves. 'But if I do that at my restaurant, do you think people would come?' asks Ho. we're pointing fingers.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Muthu's Curry, Race Course Road

An Indian curry fish head place at Race Course Road recommended by a colleague who couldn't recall the name. Turned out to be Muthu's Curry. This flagship branch of the restaurant was spacious compared to the other one at Suntec which I've eaten at on more than a couple of occasion. Even with the additional floor estate, they had a full house of customers. Since curry fish head what we were thinking of, it was a good opportunity for me to do comparison between both branches.

Muthu's Curry, banana lassibanana lassi

Muthu's Curry, briyanibriyani

Muthu's Curry, curry fish headcurry fish head

Muthu's Curry, mutton masalacurry mutton

Muthu's Curry, palak paneerpalek paneer

Muthu's Curry, black squidblack squid

Besides the black squid which was suppose to be an outlet specialty, the other menu items were pretty much the same as the one at Suntec. I felt that the food here wasn't as satisfying as Suntec. Fish head had too little meat for a large portion and the briyani lacked fragrance which I was expecting. It was almost like eating plain basmati rice which might have been a better in this case.

There wasn't much to the black squid. Didn't taste too bad though. Their palak paneer didn't have any fragrance from the fried cheese which I was looking forward to. I'll probably stick to the outlet at Suntec next time round. This felt to me like compromises in cooking standards or just plain negligence.