Monday, October 29, 2012

Rosu ham cold ramen from Tampopo

Tampopo, rosu ham cold ramen

This was a something that was from their seasonal menu, featuring slices of Kurobuta pork ham on their cold ramen. The ham was really smooth and tender and I couldn't really tell the difference from that and ham from regular pigs. The nicely chilled shoyu and sesame broth was refreshing. Too bad Noodle House Ken is no longer around. Their sesame based hiyashi chuka was definitely my favourite and I don't know if there is any other ramen-ya around that does it that way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Esquina, Jiak Chuan Road

Word from the ether is that this lot in the corner (16 Jiak Chuan Road, tel : +65 6222 1616) is run by a Jason Atherton of an El Bulli pedigree hued with some Michelin starred Ramsey and whose fame stretchs from Pollen Street Social in London to Table No. 1 in Shanghai and then down further south to the recent Pollen at Gardens by the Bay. The name itself, has sent up bars of branding which was subconsciously raised even before I stepped in. Even though I know nothing about the man nor his other restaurants.

Even though I know he doesn't cook here and probably has little idea what happens on a daily basis behind his open counter kitchen.

oysters in Vietnamese dressing
The oysters in Vietnamese dressing were....well, oysters with some tangy dressing with a light citrus punch and fish sauce. The briny shellfish weren't as chilled as I was expecting, but I suppose they tasted fine. Just what one generally expects of oysters.

salt & pepper squid, black ink aioli
What I liked about this was the use of thinly sliced green chillis with the fried squid. Never had them this way before and I think it's a level of compliment which is seldom explored. Unfortunately, the squid ink aioli tasted just like a regular aioli. Garlic, olive oil and whatever. Nada of that squid ink which in the end was just only visually interesting. As competently done as they are, I can't say that these are the best fried squids in the world neither.

smoked haddock, omelette and Manchego cheese
This was something that was probably hard to go wrong. It's as simple as cooking eggs, throwing torn up chunks of fish and cheese and then, sprinkling bits of chopped spring onions and paprika. No one operating a professional kitchen should mess something so easy up. I can do it. That being said, the flavors were expected comforting of a smokiness from the fish infused with bits of cheesiness within what tasted more like scrambled eggs.

veal sweet meat and foie gras empanada with burnt onion and caper jam
Foie gras was very good. The physical frame of this empanada dish came across as refined. The foie gras had a thin and light crisp on the exterior while the innards were a little pink, soft and rich. There seemed to be a sweet and salty combination on the upper crust which was a little different and I thought it was pretty good. Empanadas likewise in it's refinement had a light and soft crust which was really nothing like the traditional street food puff. Onion jam was very good.

wild berry and sangria ice cream
Not bad. Not amazing neither.

chocolate mousse, olive oil jelly, coffee soil espresso drizzle I think...
Quite unfortunately for me and possibly for Esquina, this was the first item that I felt was outstanding. It had gotten till the last item before deep impressions were set. The chocolate mouse was rich, smooth and creamy and I liked the bitter aroma in them.

The olive oil jelly for me was mind blowing in a simple way I hadn't quite anticipated. Textually, it reminded me of a very soft pak tong ko (white sugar kueh?). They were redolent of the fruity aromas of the oil and was seeped in a very moderated level of sweetness that wasn't excessive nor too little.

Coffee soil tasted like crushed coffee biscuits. Not impressionably awesome like what I've had once, but I guess they served their purpose well as contrast for the entire dessert. I would order this again. Yeap, I endorse this!

I think we like Lolla much better than here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SPRMKT, McCallum Street

This place (2 McCallum Street, tel : +65 6221 2105) just adjacent to Amoy Food Centre was unexpectedly very different from what I had in mind from the time I had known about this place to the point I thought I knew what was what on the menu to the time when the food was served and the moment when I started eating.

For one, they did a very nicely tender fish and chips with a thin squid ink batter.  I could have sworn that there was an aroma of the squid ink when they were served (and interestingly a hint of curry as well) but as I ate, I realised that it tasted nothing like how I thought it would have. No squid ink nor curry flavor. Still a very decent fish and chips and interestingly so like a lump of coal.


Their delicious smoked tomato soup was both sweet and tangy and worked great with those little chunks of chewy and milky mozzarella cheese swimming in the midst. Oxtail stew was generously portioned, tasted homely and fairly packed with collagen, tasty fat off the tail meat and chunky root vegetables. I wished I worked nearby. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ipoh Lou Yau Bean Sprouts Chicken, Centrepoint

Ipoh Lou Yau Bean Sprouts Chicken, chicken rice

This chicken rice joint (#01-62, tel : +65 6735 2292) hailing from Malaysia must have been pretty new since I've never seen it around before. My initial impression was that it was probably an overpriced sub par quality franchisee of a brand that has seen better days. I was actually glad that I was wrong and the food was actually pretty decent, although a little small in portions.

What was really good about the chicken rice set were the perfectly blanched beansprouts which was super crunchy and had none of the associated taste of being undercooked. The timing of that would have to be pretty impeccable. The chilli sauce that they had offered also turned out to be an extry lime-ed up rendition of chicken rice chilli which I thought was rather refreshing as well on top of the heat. The yellow skinned chickens tasted rather ordinary and looked unattractively like those chooks that are marketed as kampung chickens.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Of the black truffled, sanma and daffodils...

Tampopo, black truffle fried rice

Here's a couple of stuff from my favourite Japanese family restaurant at Liang Court that I haven't had before because it's been a while. Some of these new items have actually made it into the core menu. One of these was a black pig black truffle fried rice which was actually pretty good.

There was no lacking of the black truffle aroma in each of the puree coated grains. Diced bits of shitake added a mushroomy depth and the bits of pork was relegated mostly to provide texture. That was all there was to them, it was a little greasy but I think I like it.

We picked a sanma off the seasonal menu and it turned out to be much better than the one which we previously had at Itacho. The flavors of the fish were both more pronounced (in a good way) and was more tender than the latter location. The fried up bones was just greasy enough without being excessive, crispy and nicely salted. Brought an 'mmmm....' from us.

Tampopo, sanma sashimi

Monday, October 15, 2012

A 'Freshly Baked' breakfast

Freshly Baked, corned beef, beans, eggs, ciabatta

These were a couple of "brunch" option items from Freshly Baked. The corned beef from the item on top tasted pretty good actually, but the portions were really quite little to be satisfactory. Ciabatta was pretty tasty, but otherwise it was all very much like how it looked.

Freshly Baked, salami cheese egg ciabatta

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plum Village Restaurant, Jalan Leban

Plum Village Restaurant (16 Jalan Leban, tel : +65 6458 9005) is an institution for traditional Hakka food. They have been around for at least a couple of decades and it was only a few years back that I was first introduced to their salt baked chicken which I remembered was delicious. When one mentions traditional, old school and no frills, this would be one of those.

One of the specialties of the restaurant are known as 'abacus seeds'. They look like gnocchi and are made from flour and yam. These dumplings of flour and yam are cooked before hitting the stir fry with minced pork, dried shrimp, mushrooms and dried cuttlefish which makes up the dominant flavour of the dish.

There was something that the menu described as sweet and sour pig stomach. The actual dish turned out to be more savoury and sour. The pig's stomach were stir fried with exactly the same ingredient one finds in regular sweet and sour pork sans the red sauce. So we were getting diced cucumbers, pineapples, capsicums and onions in a familiar tasting stir fry without the sweet element. Tasted pretty good. I liked this.

The signature dish that almost every other table ordered is their salt baked chicken. The main flavours of the ripped up chicken came from salt, pepper and sesame oil. Tasty with steamed white rice. It was a little unfortunate that the white rice cooked here was beady, dry and boring.

What I liked about their cabbage and meatball soup were the meatballs which were made with bits of powdered dried sole that added a depth of aroma .

Braised pork belly with mustard greens was one of those items that almost every other table had. I hadn't realised until recently that this was of Hakka origins. The ones here were delicious with soft fat from the pork belly melting into the stewed mustard greens, imparting the aroma of lard into the vegetables.

The stuffed tofu was tau kwa, not tau hu. I actually prefer the former to the latter most of the time so this dish scored for me. The minced meat stuffings that they used for the bean curd were exactly the same ones that were used to make the meatballs for the soup.

Food's not mind blowing. One doesn't look for that here. But if you're looking for some straight forward and traditional Chinese food that hasn't changed for years, this place would be it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

San-Sui Sumiyaki & Bar, One Fullerton

This was a pleasantly delicious but pricey dinner at San-Sui (One Fullerton Road, #01-05 One Fullerton, tel: +65 6423 1555). Most of the items here are prepared sumiyaki styled on a grill fuelled by binchotan (a dense Japanese white charcoal sans chemical additives) - a charcoal that cooks smokelessly at high temperature.

onsen tamago with umi budou

The umi budou didn't do very much in this egg starter. Even if it was just contributing texture, that didn't quite work out and because of the puny quantities that they had added. What worked were the ponzu jelly and ikura which provided real textural differences with the soft boiled egg and bursts of flavours that were altogether sweet, savoury and briny.

oyako don

Very nice, very small bowl, quite expensive. Not forgetting to mention the generous portions of tender and sweet smokey chicken on top of short grained rice that was soaked in the equally sweet and savoury sauce that was elevated into heartiness with enoki mushrooms and egg. This was the best tasting oyako don I've had as memory serves.

chicken fillet with mentaiko mayo

The aroma of the charcoal grill was imparted into the juicy meat of their chicken skewers that didn't look like it had enough char or even browning. Very pleasantly surprised.

chicken livers

Sweet from the sauce and creamy on the insides. Those creamy textures meant that these livers were expertly handled in the grill. Had a taste more in common with foie gras than how most chicken livers are prepared.

chicken hatsu (hearts!)

Lightly chewy chicken hearts had the aroma from the grill as well. At this point, I noted that San-Sui was less heavy handed on the salt than Kazu. I had actually eaten chicken hearts enough times there to remember how salted they were. I'm not sure how I should feel about myself for that.

foie gras

When the foie gras first arrived, the first thought that came to mind was that it looked sallow. Yes, I meant sallow as in the sickly yellow complexion. But damn, this stuff was actually pretty good. The oily livers were rich and creamy and this was possibly the least charred non terrine type foie gras I've ever had. What tipped me over positively was that they had included thick slices of Japanese sweet potatoes to mop up the generous residual oils with. So generous in fact that there was enough of the oil after the potatoes to toss with the salad making these the best salad I've ever had.

lamb rack

This was mentioned on menu as baby lamb chop. It turned out bigger than any lamb chops I've ever had - from Kushigin to Kazu. What kicked ass was that the lamb-y flavour was enjoyably robust. Meat on the rib was laced with soft greasy fat that disintegrated when you popped them into your mouth. Again enough residual lamb-y oils left over dress the vegetables for a second best salad I've ever had.

tatami iwashi

These crispy mats of baby sardines were served pretty late into the courses of the kushiyaki even though they were supposed to be appetizers. That certainly stop us from enjoying the aromatic fishy and lightly crisp bits dipped in a spicy mayo that packed a very decent heat.


The least enjoyable item here tonight was actually the chicken skins. These ones didn't cut the crispy enough standard which we were expecting.


As much as I hate to use the phrase, this stuff does literally melt in the mouth. Underneath the light browned surface of the chunks of wagyu, were juices of beefy flavours waiting to burst once you bit into them. I guess that's why they're $28 a stick.

In retrospect, San-Sui Sumiyaki place was a lot better than I had imagined. I might have lowered my expectations of them being in such a touristy spot but they certainly knew their work on the grill and didn't skimp on the quality.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Dry tan tan ramen from Baikohken

This looked to be a bowl loaded with mostly vegetables from Baikohken at Takashimaya (391A Orchard Road, #B2-01-04 Takashimaya Food Hall, Ngee Ann City, tel: +65 6235 3483 ), but there was actually flat noodles (similar to mee pok) underneath the mound of beansprouts and negi. The tan tan element in this bowl of ramen, came from a very viscous sauce of creamy orange filled with a nutty sesame aroma and a tiny bit of heat. I'm not sure if there was any peanut butter in this, but the was pretty mild and before halfway through, the flavors lost dimensions and became flat. 

What had saved this bowl of ramen for me, was their very fragrant and spicy pepper (table condiment) that added a layer of their aroma and some spicy kick that kept me going. The whole bowl of noodle felt pretty heavy because of the flavors and very sticky sauce. I don't think I'm ever going to order this again but I certainly don't mind checking out the soup rendition another time.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Lolla, Ann Siang Road

Lolla, Ann Siang Road

These small plate joints have been trending for a while starting with Spanish tapas bars and lately have picked up a notch. Of a kind that's no EspaƱolas. Lolla (22 Ann Siang Road, tel : +65 64231128) is a relatively new one that's been up and running for about a month now. The owners are no strangers to the F&B scene.

The place does not take reservations except for a private room dining. Eating is a walk in business and seats aren't that plentiful since they're all at the open-kitchen counter.

baguette with Beurre d' Echire

Fastest prepared and to service was baguette with the Echire butter. The baguette was....well, just a baguette. Freshly toasted, crispy and not tough. The salted butter possessed the light touch of cream and was both buttery and smooth. Beurre d' Echire is an artisanal cultured butter with generally a higher content of butterfat (flavour!).

beef tongue escalopes

The roasted beef tongue was tender and had the light touch of that beefiness. The pairing of the mustard/aioli thingy unfortunately reduced those light flavour to being underwhelmed when eaten together.

Lolla, squid ink pudding
squid ink pudding with sea urchin

I've always had difficulty describing the flavour of squid ink. I recognize it, but am so far unable to be articulate to a satisfactory degree in describing that flavour; calling it seafood-y is probably the thing that works for me right now. The squid ink pudding was undoubtedly 'seafood-y'. There was also the light sweetness. Together it was sublime. Pause. Now imagine them in tandem with the bouquet and natural sweetness of the uni. Elevation. A notch higher.

I could eat this stuff for starters and then dessert.

Lolla, squid ink pudding

We had seconds and that was the end of it. I hear from the people working there that quite a few of the customers tend to be defensive when their uni bowls were getting cleared. Most would like them to be scraped clean before they were removed.  I guess I must be normal here.

I would have really loved for the portions to be bigger. Here's 'good things come in small dosages' slapping me in the face.

an interpreted chutoro tatare

Chunky cubed chutoro rather than sliced. In soy sauce and sesame dressing with chives and pepper. Flavour was clean and very Japanese without being overpowering on the natural taste of the tuna belly. The quality of the cut of tuna was pretty good.

scrambled eggs with Bottarga di Muggine

This was sublime dish number two for me. Sublimity is sadly not going to do me any favours for my cholesterol, but life is short. The old excuse 'but I don't eat this every day' seems fresh enough to be reused again today.

Creamy scrambled eggs topped with generous crumbles of bottarga. It was a dish that worked for me in the arenas of texture and taste. The salty and briny roe with just that little hint of bitterness contrasted as it should on the platform of just scrambled eggs. The soft crumbly said roe likewise juxtaposed for texture against the smooth creamy eggs. Eggs on eggs, how awesome is that eh?

Lolla, lamb chops
lamb chops

Lolla's lamb chops were pretty damn good. Seared on the outside, medium rare on the inside and natural flavour from the lamb present. Fatty meat. All checked. Again, the mustard like sauce did no favour to the meat. I think these guys are doing pretty good with the freshness of their ingredients and should have could consider to let these produce shine on their own merits. Salt and pepper would have sufficed for me. The sauce while tasty, was an overkill for the meat.

doughnut with lemon curd

Lemon curd was tasty even though it looked much more sauce-y than a curd. Doughnuts were ordinary, but made an excellent choice for a light after meals.

Lolla, Ann Siang Road

I quite liked the food here. Service was impeccable. Even though what came out of the kitchen was big on flavour, the portions I felt were a little small and each item a little pricey. But with their scrambled eggs and squid ink uni pudding on menu, I definitely wouldn't mind coming back.