Saturday, January 26, 2013

Maguroya, Lau Pa Sat

As the story spins from a certain lifestyle oriented niche on the web that christens itself as some kind of fat husband, this tuna themed joint (Stall 79, Lau Pa Sat, 18 Raffles Quay) facing Robinson Road came about from a certain sustainable seafood expert Alistair; also a supplier of the fish who has decided to cut loose the middle men from the maguro supply chain after himself so that he is able to sell them directly to consumers at a more affordable price while providing bang for the buck quality. Smart man he is.

That was the good piece of story that brought me down for lunch.

One certainly doesn't get the most amazing or pretty looking cuts from Maguroya, but that's not the point of eating here. The name of the game is affordability and freshness and I think their otoro don was really pretty decent with soft buttery slices of tuna belly over vinegared rice. Speaking of which, these guys were more heavy handed with the vinegar than what is normally experienced.

Which actually works when we're eating them with their thick and crispy skinned kabuto yaki; the oven baked head of tuna with its sealed in oils trapped in nooks and crannies of slippery and glistening parts, often gelatinous and soft. That extra vinegar-y rice helped cut through, strangely as a starch, all that rich oil. From the largest fish head I've ever had the fortune to disassemble. With eyes the size of golf balls. This would have easily fed 3-4 even though it's described to be for 2 persons.

All the rice sets came with fruit and a cloudy and robust fish soup from boiled tuna bones that they call maguteh. Which was at the same tasty and really quite different from the generally clearer ba kut teh, its Chinese and porcine etymological parent.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Burlamacco Ristorante, Amoy Street

This marks the first and probably the last time I'll be eating at Burlamacca (77 Amoy Street, tel : +65 6220 1763). To first disclaim, the food was mostly not bad and the service was pretty good. What the place didn't represent for me was the value of money I had to spend and the approach to how the food is presented.

Bread was warm and crusty. Refills were offered and appreciated because it took them a very very long while between the starters and pasta. To add on, one of the orders was made erroneously and then there was another wait. But as I had mentioned, service was good. The wait staff was very obviously doing his best and I didn't take issue to any of this even though I was really hungry. Even though he was quizzically trying to convince us that the food was "Italian portions". Now I had wondered that that really meant......

Speaking of starters......

...their Borlotti bean soup was really nice. The undercurrents of the savory flavours were robust and even invigorating. A very rustic taste it held, texturised by the spinach leaves and bits of chopped mussels. I was expecting bits of beans, but this looked like it had gone through a food processor. Which was fine.

The portions however, were not. What you see in the picture was pretty much all of it. A couple of millimeters of soup was all there were in a big white plate. 3 gulps it would have made. And it looked like one mussel worth of meat there. $14 for 3 gulps is expensive. Be that bean soup or lobster bisque. Now I know what Italian portions mean.

Next up came the trippa alla Fiorentina which was excellent. The flavors of the tomato based were a mellow tart with a very discernable cheese flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano. The tripe was tender yet chewy. But, it was a little too little and the portions were anything but rustic.

Their tagliatelle with black pig ragout was good. Not Oso good as they have done for their stracci in comparison for the red wine marinate flavors, but good nonetheless. I was pretty impressed by the well timed texture of the noodle here which was impressive.

Gnocchi which were light and soft came in a basil flecked spicy pink sauce in overtones of garlic which was unexpectedly pleasant. Sadly, scampi that came with them were pitifully small. All the meat from those crustaceans wouldn't have filled one of my cheek. What was frustrating here was that the seafood had in spite of the sauce, retained their natural sweet flavors which were holistically, if I could use that word here, ruined by the fact that the slivers of meat were too small to even qualify much for the word texture.

I would have been happier paying more for full sized scampi (they aren't even that huge in the first place), but for $28, this was an overpriced wannabe. Even with the tasty sauce and light gnocchi.

I'll not waste too much words on their "scottadito" styled lamb. $32 for a biteful of meat in each rib, I need not say further on the pitiful portions. What was worse, was the overmarinated treatment where the natural flavors of the meat were totally lost. This was not what I had ordered lamb for.

The brighter spot at the end was their coconut creme brulee which was smooth and creamy good.

I'm very sure I can do better for myself finding another place which will cost less and put a smile on my face when I walk out. I can understand the Tuscan style and flavors, but much of the heartiness was lost in an attempt to do something else here that I do not understand.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

As messy as this plated heapful of proteins looks, it wasn't just another ordinary plate of mixed roasted meat. This was with certain honours, roasted pork belly with a light (believe it!) crispy crackling, char siew with beautifully caramelized exterior and aromatic charred edges; and succulent roasted duck of a non herbal variety that was certainly tasty and moist enough without the need for any additional sauce. And it was beany braised tau kwa too.

My father used to tar pow mixed roasted meats from this stall (30 Seng Poh Road, #02-60 Tiong Bahru Market) on the weekends home for our lunches when I was a kid. One of the secrets that I almost never hear mention which made them so appealing, was their rice. Which was ordinary by itself. Drizzled in a magical combination of fragrant dark soy sauce mixed with, yes, lard.

Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Koh Brother Pig's Organ Soup, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

Koh Brothers Pig's Organ Soup, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

I remember a stall that sold pig organ soup back from the days of the old dingy Tiong Bahru market when the food centre was but a single story and had stood side by side with the market. I was but a child. Grimy floors, stone tilings that were in the process of being uprooted by tree roots and when rainy weather didn't make eating the best of experiences. But hey, it had that charm that can no longer be found anywhere in this country today.

Since then, I've been told that the mentioned pig organ soup is Koh Brother (30 Seng Poh Road, #02-29 Tiong Bahru Market). I don't recall having eaten at their stall since the current food centre was in operation so I guess this visit was a clean slate. These guys are even on the most inescapable social media space of our time today.

Koh Brothers Pig's Organ Soup, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

What I do remember vividly was the tangy broth flavoured by the pickled mustard greens with a base of clean porcine aroma that simmered just beneath the surface. What went into the soup were slices of lean pork, stomach, liver, meatball and was that heart or tongue there? I'm guessing that in the past, the steaming bowl would have included cubes of pig blood as well. 

Koh Brothers Pig's Organ Soup, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

Those glutinous rice with chestnuts stuffed in intestines what-you-call them were pretty interesting. A food craft from yesteryears fading away as the decades move along.

Koh Brothers Pig's Organ Soup, Tiong Bahru Food Centre

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I'm loving it.....

McGriddles, that would not be entirely true.

It's actually more of a love hate relationship. The love because I did grow up eating them quite a bit and there is always that little bit of nostalgia in the flavour there. What disagrees with me is the ever shrinking portions and leaps in prices for their food, some of which hasn't changed for literally decades. I would also very much prefer real pork bacon rather than turkey ones.

This McGriddles Supreme thingy. Small stuff for the supreme label. I made up for it by drizzling more of the maple syrup. Wet sticky hotcake sandwich it became.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gula melaka ice kachang from Chinatown Food Centre

This deserves mention. In spite of its ordinary appearance, this was actually one of the better ice kachang I've had for years. Granted that I do not actually go searching for good ice kachangs on any basis. What differentiated the bowl from most of the other rainbow hued syrup concoction was that there is only palm sugar and evaporated milk. Instead of just being sweet, there was also the fragrance from the gula melaka. The little chunks of fairy grass that they included tasted like real fairy grass instead of ambiguous bits of obsidian agar agar

And I've only been introduced to this stall (#02-104 Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street) in recent years.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tomato sauce omu rice from Pecori

Pecori Japanese Egg Restaurant

I'm generally not big on tomato sauces. The good ones are hard to come by and there's usually enough options that I don't have to take risks with them. I took a plunge on this and gave it a shot this time round hoping that the flavour would offset all the weight from the egg and meat. Guess what?  I didn't like this too. I guess it was flat with that tartness. Today's hamburg was disappointingly floury and less beefy too. I'm pretty sure it wasn't of the same make as the ones I had from the last visit as this one contained quite a bit of fillers. Stick to the mentaiko with rubbery squid rings I shall.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak, Adam Road

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak, Adam Road

So, this was the nasi lemak that people were talking about which was supposedly fit for Bruneian royalty. I remember having had nasi lemak in this food centre ages ago and it was probably from the neighbour which had the same snaking queue as this one (2 Adam Road, #01-02 Adam Road Food Centre).

In a nutshell, I think wasn't bad. The savoury basmati rice was delicious with the aroma of pandan and coconut and I liked that they didn't hold back whatever they had used to salt the rice. The chilli was one of numerous renditions that was a pleasant balance of sweet and spicy. The other items weren't memorable.

For a start, their crispy chicken wing was pretty greasy and lacked flavour in the batter. These have got to be one of the blandest wings I've tasted. The bergedil was nice and savoury but was also a tad too greasy and soggy.  Otah tasted unusual. By unusual, I did not mean it in a bad way. It just not what I'm used to from otah, lacking the spicy kick and all. I'll eat at this stall again if there wasn't so much of a queue but that's a big maybe there.

This wouldn't exactly be my go to place for nasi lemak when I have a craving. I think Kukus fits that bill better.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bottle Tree Park Seafood Restaurant, Lorong Chencharu

No, we did not have any seafood at all even though this place was a purported seafood restaurant (81 Lorong Chencharu, tel : +65 6759 7077) and there were indeed tanks of live fishes and crustaceans around. In fact, we played things safe because we were told not to have too high of expectations.

As it turned out, it wasn't as bad as we might have imagined. The food was rustic in presentation and the quality was really passable that I wouldn't slap them off as mediocre. In fact, their fried pork from the sweet & sour pork dish (with cool green maraschino cherries, dragonfruit and lychee!) was excellent and competently done with a nice crusty exterior and tender juicy meat on the inside. The sauce didn't overwhelm the natural flavors of the meat. Having a venison dish that tasted like venison has also put this joint above half the cze char stalls in this country. How bad can that be?

Sure we've had better. If I had to gripe, it would probably be how much they charged for their food. For these standards, they definitely don't go easy on the wallet.

tofu with minced meat, pork floss and seaweed

pineapple fried rice

kang kong stir fried with garlic

sweet and sour pork with fruits

venison in pineapple

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A weekend breakfast at Sarnies

Sarnies, bacon and egg roll

Remember that I've mentioned liking the vibe from this place? Well I came back soon enough again for breakfast. I've pretty much said it all for their delicious fry up at Sarnies. Today, we got a bacon and egg roll as well.

What was that about? Think a pile of thin crispy salty bacon, flavours woven into the rich molten sunny side up yolks of the eggs, balanced off in a tomato jam/salsa thingy between freshly toasted ciabatta. I love that these guys do real sandwiches.  

Sarnies, breakfast platter


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mapo don from Ohsho

Ohsho, mapo don

I've had mapo tofu a number of times and have never known much about them except for their origins from the province of Szechuan. I'm guessing that the local renditions taste nothing like the ones that would originate from a place known for fiery lip numbing flavours. No real real basis of comparison against the original dish that I could make for the one from Ohsho except that which I've had locally.

Ohsho did what I thought to be a pretty regular tasting rendition marked by the flavour of fermented bean sauce, possibly vinegar resulting in a tanginess and some heat. That together with tofu and minced pork for additional bite and texture. The combined spicy and sour were appetizing, allowing me to overlook the starchy gravy that I generally tend to dislike. This would actually make one pretty comforting cold weather meal. If it only ever got that cold around Ohsho.

Monday, January 07, 2013

More stuff from Island Cafe

So I'm back here again, hiding in air conditioning from the heat of the sweltering mid day sun, getting lunch and sipping my calamansi crush.

The chicken satay that they served was unfortunately very forgettable. The application of the marinade, quality of meat and expertise of the grill left quite a bit to be desired and it wasn't even close to the better ones that one can get with not too much difficulty elsewhere. In spite of the generous amounts of crushed peanuts in the sauce, it was concocted to be too watery for it to come together as a good dip. What's the point of having so much peanut when the satay can barely hold the watery satay sauce eh? And that fancy little funnel shaped bowl tends to enjoy making a sport of toppling itself over. A martini glass would have been more stable.

So atas food isn't always better after all.

And yes, there was chicken rice.

They serve a pretty pricey chicken rice here. It wasn't Chatterbox expensive but if most people were to be asked, it was expensive for chicken rice. That being said, I thought it was pretty well done on a non mind blowing scale. The rice was light, had just enough fragrance, was moist enough yet grainy. The flavours were present yet almost subtle. It was almost like my favourite spot elsewhere. And mind you, those sliced chicken thigh were served in a deliciously savoury hot broth. Or am I suppose to call that a consommé? Not just the usual rustic and regular light soya sauce and sesame oil drizzle.

Did I like the chilli? Yeah, that wasn't too bad too if I might say. It packed some heat and was generous with the limes. The accompanying dark soy sauce was especially aromatic.

The find of the day for us in Island Cafe was their prawn noodles. It came with a large grilled crunchy prawn apart from the "dwarfed over" boiled ones that came in the broth of the noodles; which by the way, was almost sublime. It was a very enjoyable ratio of part savoury, part crustacean-y and part sweetness that didn't taste like it was artificially enhanced.

Yes, it would be no further from the truth that one could actually have something similar for a fifth of what they charged at this place. But I wouldn't get a boiled chicken thigh in consomm√© and prawn kuey teow with a large grilled prawn. For a fifth of the price, I also wouldn't be sipping my iced calamansi crush in the comfort of air conditioning as well. Sometimes, I want to get a bit more comfortable while I'm eating too.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru, Liang Court


I think I'm gonna have to say that I think Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru (177 River Valley Road, #B1-48 Liang Court, tel : +65 6337 1022) was generally better than the looks of the place suggested. The quality and prices both indicated that what they served, were entry level stuff. Albeit respectable entry level which puts them on similar leagues with perhaps, Itacho Sushi. Which probably means that this place could be a sushi fix spot in Liang Court and that I wouldn't have to deal with an insane queue in a place like ION. Yay?

There were some hits and misses, thankfully, more hits than misses. I enjoyed the ankimo in ponzu as clinical as the presentation might have been and their cheap otoro actually tasted pretty good.  The chilly nama shirasu gunkan with little fish that popped between the teeth was definitely up my alley with their mild briny flavors while the kanimiso ones was rich in flavor of crab liver. Good that we had seconds. Even the torched cheese from the aburi cheese ebi was memorable in its own salty cheesy way.

The 'off' sides came from the uni gunkan which was frankly far from the best representitive of uni that could be served. The hue of the flesh from the uni looked a little dark and the flavors were lacking of the bouquet that could be found in fresh sea urchin of better quality. Anago was a little thin and could use a little more browning for better flavor in my opinion.

Like I said, hits and misses. I wouldn't scramble back in a hurry for sushi here, but will definitely consider them as an option for quick fixes when I'm in Liang Court.


salmon belly

nama shirasu



maguro and avocado

nama sakuraebi



aburi cheese ebi

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Tendon only from Hong Heng Beef Noodles

Hong Heng Beef Noodles, tendon kuey teow

Something has happened to Hong Heng (#01-16 Kebun Baru Food Centre, Ang Mo Kio St. 22)? It's been only two visits since they've moved to the current location but the beef balls that they're using no longer taste as good and the chilli sauce has definitely changed. Not for the better in my opinion. I liked the old ones much better. On the bright side, I've discovered that they do a tendon only option for their noodles and since they chilli was no longer appealing, a squeeze of lime did wonders to the beefy broth.

What's happening to their magical touch?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Sushi Tei after all these years......

I used to like Sushi Tei years ago. They were really pretty decent at least for their cooked food department. Used to be top dog for the conveyor belt sushi chains until the current king of the hill, Itacho Sushi which is noticeably more than a notch better.

I don't think so much of them these days. The signs of a "local" business stain the establishment and their food with the same old unimaginative marketing slogans and localized food proportions which are tipped towards one specific cost/profit spectrum. I'm positive that QC must be a major issue for a chain with so many outlets. That and perhaps, my palate had undergone metamorphosis.

Once in a long while, I end up there.

Like many chain outlets, part of what helps Sushi Tei thrive are "promotions". Which includes dish concoctions of "seasonal" ingredients. Currently, there seems to be some new creations by their various outlet "chefs".

Here's something known as spicy ban ban ji ramen that purportedly uses a spicy sesame sauce. For a local establishment, the word spicy seems to be interpreted liberally towards a specific and almost-nonexistent end. My three year old niece was slurping noodle and sauce, apparently enjoying it. I personally found the lack of fragrance from the sesame sauce disappointing. Chicken was cold and hard and is probably something that was boiled and packed into fridges for easy use. I think grilling the chicken would have done wonders but then who am I to say eh? I'm quite sure can do this at home with bottled sesame dressing. This has got nothing at all on the hiyashi tan tan mien that I previously had from Ichibantei.

On the other hand, the rice stuffed squids were actually pretty good. Not that this was imaginative by any stretch of imagination as part of Sushi Tei's creation challenges. These stuff have been made available from the Japanese fairs over Isetan and Takashimaya for years already, and wow, today they're a creation from some competition. 

I liked that the flavours seeped into the rice. The squid was a little dry and chewy from the grill but I think real grilled squids need that bit of bite.

And then, there was a cheeseburger interpretation of an American sushi roll that came in Singaporean portions. Truly fusion indeed. There were even sliced cheddar, chopped onions and lettuce strips to complete the textures and flavours of the strips of cold chewy cow. Jokes aside, what needs work would have been fattier sliced beef that hadn't been cooked to death. This one component would have done some serious elevation on the roll to another level.

There......finally outta my chest.