Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And the last dinner for 2013 was......

Ootoya, hon maguro akami

Ootoya, fried oysters

Ootoya, scallop rice

Ootoya, scallop rice

We went the dependable route instead of some place that had a New Year menu. Ootoya it was. Even as we placed our orders, I was scanning the update on the Last Dinner of 2013 by Burnt Ends which looked enticing indeed. Well, it's $200 per person so......

This was definitely good in the comforting sense and much less expensive. I picked apart a couple of the seasonal sets that they were offering and grabbed the fried oysters a la carte and discarded the soup from the steamed scallops on rice set. So this mix and match landed a shell fish teishoku dinner along with starters of blue fin tuna sashimi. This time round, the fried oysters were noticeably much better than when I last had them. They weren't as large as I was imagining but were briny and juicy. Couldn't complain on how this year has been wrapped up.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria, Club Street

I've been wanting to visit Cugini (87 Club Street, #01-01, tel : +65 6221 3791) for the longest time. So it's finally happened this weekend! If anyone is wondering, their food is southern Italian styled with influences Sardinia and Sicily, which I read, were where the owners were from.

Today's visit was a little whimsical. We didn't exactly order what the restaurant was known for. We just picked some of the stuff off the menu that sounded like they might be interesting and hence, totally skipped their southern styled pasta noodles that they are known for.

Cugini's calamari fritti was very good. I'd easily rate it amongst the top of fried calamari I've had. The meat was springy with bite, firmly enveloped in a crisp batter that was sufficiently salted and flavoured with something lightly smoky with some heat. Paprika or cayenne perhaps or something similar, but it was light and present, certainly made those calamari good enough to eat on their own. Dips on the side were very well done. 

This pizza was named golosa. Which translates as I understand, into something along the lines of 'glutton' or 'gourmand'. Perhaps the name of this Frankensteinian pizza was meant to be an innuendo sheathed within a double entendre. Just saying.

I actually liked this. For one, the fries are thicker cut. And slightly soggy which is the way I like fries. What it did was bulk up the pizza and the element that kept it from getting boring was the bits of Gorgonzola that was nicely spread through the pie. It's been a while since I've had a tomato based pizza where I didn't quite mind (even quietly to myself) that tomato base.

We had some Sicilian styled lamb ravioli in artichoke cream and butter. This was really good stuff. Didn't taste so much of the butter, but the artichoke cream was lovely and the finely minced lamb,  was lamb-y enough to retain characteral flavour to the meat. I never understood people who ordered lamb and complained of gaminess. Pasta was well stuffed, properly cooked and firm to the bite.

Dessert was a white chocolate panna cotta with some crumbled Bronte pistachios and a raspberry sauce. The texture was smooth and creamy, a little heavier than a usual panna cotta because of the chocolate.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lau Phua Chay Authentic Roasted Delicacies, Alexandra Village Food Centre

Lau Phua Chay , Alexandra Village

I have mixed feelings about this (#01-20, Alexandra Village Food Centre, Blk 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1).

Let's start with the duck. They claim that it's gotten off farms in Malaysia and not frozen. Which was a good thing but the drumsticks sure were small. The char siew was pretty good with plenty of caramelization. But most of the nice burnt bits were also lost in the sauce which they generously ladle over the meats. Too much going on there that really masked any quality there was to the meat or method of preparation. 

Their chilli on the other hand was brilliant. It's probably the best part to what they served. A three hit combo of heat, lime and garlic that gave a decent kick and worked the appetite. It made the gravy redundant for me since the flavours contended rather than complimented.

$9.50 for a drumstick and char siew was also pretty pricey for food that's not sufficient for a hungry person.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles, Pek Kio Market & Food Centre

Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles, Pek Kio Market & Food Centre

This should have been memorable on several accounts. For one, I hadn't imagined myself queuing up for prawn noodles (#01-15, Pek Kio Market and Food Centre, 41A Cambridge Road) on a Christmas Day. This would also be the first time that I'm visiting Pek Kio Food Centre and also the first time that I'm paying so much ($15) for a bowl of prawn noodles from a hawker centre. And I'm also as sure as hell that I've never stood in line for 70 minutes for food before.

If you're wondering what's the verdict for this stall pretty darned famous for their huge assed prawns... the noodles were decent. It all went down pretty easy flavoured with dried shrimp and bits of lard. Those prawns we had were large, satisfyingly meaty and fresh with a good bite. The broth, which is perhaps for some, the essence of good prawn noodles was not bad. There was a base note of chilli and garlic that worked with those crustacean flavours.

Memorable as I said. I'll certainly remember that I wouldn't be coming back to stand in that line. Not worth another 70 minutes of my life I'm never getting back.

Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles, Pek Kio Market & Food Centre

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Uncle Chicken, Alexandra Village Food Centre

Uncle Chicken, chicken rice

This stall (#01-74, Alexandra Village Food Centre, 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1) riding on the name of Sin Kee is apparently run by the sibling of the current owner of the real deal down at Mei Ling Food Centre. I'm sure that both parties would share a similar claim of doing chicken rice the way their father had done, but there's definitely differences between the two. Interestingly, Uncle Chicken fared quite well. 

The chicken was tender but not as slurp off the bone tender as the ones from Sin Kee. Both rice were comparable but I'm giving Sin Kee a bit more points with their savoury edge since the both were sufficiently greased and properly flavoured without becoming excessively heavy. What Uncle Chicken did better in my opinion was their chilli sauce which packed more punch with the heat (just a little bit more) and lime. This was something I could use since I generally eat the rice naked at Sin Kee. 

The owners of these couple of stalls may be siblings from the same father that started the business, but both their chicken rice from these two stalls are different beasts. I liked this enough that I wouldn't mind eating again when I'm in the vicinity.

Uncle Chicken, Alexandra Village Food Centre

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Da Mario's Pizzeria 2013

Da Mario has changed, in manners subtle and sometimes not, in the past years since the time they opened up. The menu has changed, settled down and also become less exciting. They're no longer the new kid on the block that people talk about. I suppose it's a symbol of maturity that they're still around knowing what they can do well, calling on what experimental remains from their earlier days to purge and keeping what people like. Doesn't really work for me unless those are really good, but then again, I hardly have the chance to re-visit, much less re-order something during a re-visit.

Well, perhaps not so for deep fried calamari. Or fritto misto. Which is everywhere. Which also basically, almost exclusively constitutes just prawn and calamari here. In this country. I've had good ones and regrettable ones. Da Mario's are one of the better done. Especially those fresh tasting prawns which are really firm and lovely. I would have loved for them to come with something with a little heat. A spiked pomodoro dip perhaps, rather than tartare sauce.

This is pappardelle with Italian sausage, truffle paste and a cream sauce. I'm not sure how Italian it is, but it's definitely become a Singaporean thing. Like ba chor mee. It's appearing in menus everywhere. It might be disguised with another pasta, but it's really just that truffled cream and sausage pasta. I think it works with tagliatelle well, but really, I'm getting sick of them.

I rather liked Da Mario's pizza bianca the last time round, so I thought I'll try another. Like I said, subtle changes happened to them. It used to be green olives, now they're like Kalamata. Chilli flakes brought forth welcomed spikes of heat, there was the soft crunch of artichokes and well, frozen crab chunks. Ingredients were generous. That didn't change. I didn't dislike this, but it all sounded much more tasty on menu because I was probably imagining non-frozen crab. I would like to clarify that I'm unfortunately not so naive.

And I'm not so sure if any of the food here is representative to Abruzzo.

But you know what could bring me back again? It'll probably be the little memory etched in the little corner of my mind after seeing the chef Colombano Miucci Mario hunch over, kneading the dough for my pizza in the kitchen. I'm still impressed by chefs that do the cooking rather than just talk the talking. Someone in honest toil selling their food and still resisting the impulse to put prices over the roof like what almost everyone else is doing. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A bacon cheeseburger from Triple-O's

This was my first visit at Triple-O's locally (#01-22, The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green) after having had them once before. We were looking for something that was relatively fuss free and ended up here, with little expectations. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but their burger was actually pretty decent for fast food. At this juncture, I cannnot actually name any other fast food joint here that does better actually. Omakase Burger does not count in this case and believe me, the meat here is even better than the Burger Bar. On top of that, the burgers here were larger than I had imagined them to be.

Oh, their natural cut fries are also by the way, better than every other fast food chain here. These were thicker cut, generously salted and had some spicy mayo dip that was actually spicy. Hooray for low expectations!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jollibee, Lucky Plaza

Jollibee, fried chicken

The entire of this country's fast food could certainly learn a thing or two about queue management from Jollibee (#06-048A, Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road). That aside, I can see why these guys are so popular. Their fried chicken was pretty light, quite tender and tasted reasonably good. Even their burger steak in that onion-y gravy was quite the comfort food with the little packet of rice on the side.

Jollibee, burger steak

I thought part of their draw was that they were a little different, subtly enough and not entirely a different beast. I wouldn't mind eating this but I'm not so sure it'll be worth the time if there was a long queue. Hey, there's actually pineapple juice instead of just the globally monopolized sodas and overly sweet lemon tea. 

Jollibee, pineapple juice

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Al Borgo, Bukit Timah Road

I've been wanting to come over to Al Borgo (383 Bukit Timah Road, #01-02 Alocassia Apartments, tel : +65 9772 1680) for a long time because the old Borgo held a special spot in my heart and I really wanted to go back. Well, they closed and this opened up. This here was one of those procrastinations upon procrastinations for some reasons.

The food here was pretty competent without going into any comparisons. The pastas were firm with a good bite and there's very little to fault since it was all supposed to be relatively straightforward food. Portions were generous, food was adequately tasty but it didn't wow so much. But I hear that the chef is more of a man of the grill rather than pasta.

The pleasant surprise from the lunch was a special off the board of their thinly sliced roasted beef with truffle sheep cheese that was packed robust with the flavour of truffles. There was a pungent flavour in the semi hard crumbly cheese that worked with the truffles. I'd order them again if they ever ended up in the regular menu. 

If I had to complain, I could gripe over the minced wild boar from their pappardelle which was a little lean. The light cream sauce from the tagliatelle was much more rich tasting than it looked. I believe a lighter hand with the cream would have worked better with those shaven black truffles.

Monday, December 09, 2013

A recent bowl of prawn noodles

Those may not so remotely resemble dismembered fingers, but are actually "slurp off the bone" tender pig tails from a tasty bowl of home made prawn and pork rib noodles. And yes, the picture below shows off the bits of freshly fried bits of crispy lard to go with them. Thanks for the delicious dinner Alice!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

What happened to L'Entrecote Express and &Made?

L'Entrecote has an express outlet sharing the same premise with &Made down in Pacific Plaza. So you can pretty much order anything from both menus. Since I liked both of them, it sounded like a rather ideal setup right smack in the middle of town. What surprised me was that the quality of the food has gone noticeably downhill.

The beef tasted a little flat and the sauce, while creamy, lacked the liveliness that I remember. Some of the vinegar tart seemed to be lost. This was certainly not the steak I had at Duxton. Even the fries tasted a little grease logged and boring. The other shocker was how dry and lacking of flavor the B Burger from &Made has become. I'm not so sure it was that same aged beef patty that was used and I certainly didn't expect that obvious slide in quality coming from some place run by somebody who has had 3 Michelin stars. Even if that was in the past.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Trattoria Nonna Lina, Craig Road

Hey, I think I actually quite like this place (4 Craig Road, tel : +65 6222 0930) even though it was just a first visit. The people and the food here were humble and homely. But lesson learnt is that I should avoid ordering two cream heavy pastas at a time since it all got pretty darn heavy for lunch, encouraging the z monster right after.

The chilled chopped tomatoes from their bruschetta was surprisingly refreshing. I didn't quite agree with their Gorgonzola sauce in the pappardelle because it wasn't as pungent as I was hoping for. I suspect that it has to do with the cut of the cheese that was used which contains less of the blue mold and hence less stinky. But preferences aside, the food was very decent and generous in portions. Their carppacio di manzo tasted a lot more flavorful and tender than the looks suggested and their signature baby octopus with porcini in Prosecco reduction were so packed with good flavors that we mopped the sauce up with bread.

I quite liked their carbonara di mare. I think a balance was achieved from both the cheesy creamy portion with smokiness from the bacon and the clam/crustacean flavors that were mingling in the sauce. Textures from the bits of seafood and bacon were plentiful.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Revisiting MTR 1924

MTR 1924, vada

This was an anticipated return to MTR as we were rather happy with the experience in the previous visit. We dropped by over the weekend for dinner ordering some snacks and their Sunday menu specials.

MTR 1924, curd vada

We started with a couple of vada - a regular one and the curd vada, the latter which was soaked in curd/yoghurt and sprinkled with boondi. Frankly, I liked both. The one in the curd was more refreshing.

MTR 1924, neer dosa

One of their Sunday specials was the neer dosa, which translates into water dosa. From what I had gathered, the origins of this particular type of dosa is Tulu Nadu, a region in Karnataka. It wasn't browned like the regular one and was chewier. The batter didn't have the sour of fermentation as well. This was served with coconut chutney and a mix of jaggery and grated coconut which made me feel like it could have been a breakfast item rather than dinner.

MTR 1924, pudina rice

The other Sunday special was their pudina (mint) rice. Even though mint was used in the cooking, that fresh minty flavour was barely residual. Instead, this was largely a savoury dish. So delicious that we didn't have the slightest problem inhaling the bowl of it. I'm quite impressed by how these guys can dress up starch.

MTR 1924, lassi badam milk

MTR apparently manufactures canned drinks as well. We had initially thought the drinks were made in the kitchen. Still the badam milk was smooth and sweet with bits of almond and flavoured with saffron and cardamom while the creamy lassi was rose scented. Another delicious meal.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The last customer at Punggol Noodles (榜鵝乾麵) on Sunday......

Punggol Noodles, Hougang Hainanese Village Centre

...was me. I had reached the stall (Hougang 105 Hainanese Village Centre, Blk 105, Hougang Avenue 1, #02-24) at about 1.30 pm and only knew that they were closing when they started refusing orders after mine. Lucky me.

Ordering food as they were winding down for the day also meant that options were limited and I had to settle for mee kia since they were out of mee pok. I think I like this stall. The noodles were well drained as the dry option should be, springy and the ingredients on top were both tasty and generous. One can also taste the bits of dried sole from their rustic looking and tender meatballs.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hai Tang Lor Mee, Mei Ling Food Centre

I'm normally not one for lor mee because of the gravy. It's usually an almost tasteless, textureless and non nutritional excuse of a glop that is passed off as gravy. But I've had this (#02-14, Mei Chin Road Market, 159 Mei Chin Road) a couple of times before and I think I like it because they remind me a bit of the type that I used to eat as a kid. And also in some twisted logic that works for me, it was a lor mee with not so much lor

What really worked with them for me were the generous bits of hand ripped (some that is) deep fried fritters that created crispy textures to go along with the noodles that were just sufficiently coated with sauce. And then, the vinegar, chillis and dragon breath inducing chopped garlic bits are a bag of sour, savory with a piquant spicy and pungent that really gets you perspiring.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Meat Pork Mee, Hong Lim Food Centre

Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Meat Pork Mee, Hong Lim Food Centre

By a large number of if not most accounts that I've encountered, Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Meat Pork Mee (#02-42, Hong Lim Food Centre, 531A Upper Cross Street) is a verifiable institution. The stall has been in been in business since 1945. That's 68 years of cooking the same thing every year for over half a century. On top of that, local media accolades line their stall front.

Boy was it underwhelming. I couldn't reconcile how the very same media who can award similar accolades to Tai Hwa present the same glowing reviews to Ah Kow which was really a different beast altogether.

Here's a large portion of their ba chor mee. The mee pok was so soggy it couldn't hold up to the viscosity of the sauce - the latter which was neither spicy nor has vinegar flavours even though this bowl was an option with both. I heard that they're using traditionally made vinegar imported from China. Couldn't understand how the reputation of that vinegar in the noodles came about when I can't even taste it. Even the other Lau Dai Hua down at ION was a better bowl in my opinion. 

Or maybe I just needed to help myself with extra lard and vinegar. But it certainly didn't excuse the dumplings that they included to be disappointingly boring.

To be fair, this wasn't a super lousy bowl per se. It didn't justify the 25-30 minutes I spent in the sweltering queue that I will never get back.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms, Serangoon Road

From what I had gathered, Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (438 Serangoon Road, tel : +65 6296 5800), a.k.a. MTR, is quite the lauded institution in Bangalore which was started in Karnataka way back in 1924. It has quite a bit of an interesting history which I will not elaborate here. The chain of restaurants is currently run by the 3rd generation of the family that had started it. 

About half a year ago, they opened up here right in the middle of Little India serving food made with ingredients imported from their country. The food was great!

MTR 1924, idli

We headed here for a late breakfast over the weekend. The menu required a bit of perusal since certain items were only available on fixed days and time of the week. A late breakfast was also a little too early for their rava idli so we settled for the regular rice ones. These were soft, light and very tasty - especially when doused with the little steel container of ghee and their accompanied coconut chutney.

MTR 1924, kesari bath

I hadn't had a kesari bath since the currently defunct Chellas. This was basically a pudding - or porridge as they described of semolina and vermicelli, done with ghee, cashew nuts, raisins and flavoured with saffron. Tasted exactly like I remembered them and good enough for returns.

MTR 1924, bisibele bhath

Amongst a number of dishes MTR is known for, was their bisibele bhath. Which I read also originates from the state of Karnataka. The name translates from their language into "hot lentil rice". Essentially it was a hot spicy porridge with vegetables, curried, with tamarind annndd...a little steel container of ghee for enrichment. It has also been a while since I've last had these. It was great by the way. I liked those little crispy stuff on the side that they served this with.

MTR 1924, masala dosa

Their masala dosa made from rice batter, black lentils and stuffed with potatoes was delicious stuff as well. This was quite different from the regular dosa/thosai that we have locally. The skin was crisp, had a little bit of chew in the middle and came in a hue of darker brown; flavoured generously with again more ghee. Ghee like butter, makes everything taste better.

MTR 1924, filtered coffee

The wash down was their filtered coffee which seemed to be some sort of specialty of theirs. It was okay, drinkable stuff but I'm not sure if Indian coffee is a thing for me.

I'm looking forward to coming back again.