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.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A green bean soup with seaweed and durian from Ah Chew

Not the first time I have had this at Ah Chew, but definitely a first time I'm having it with durian. I'm not sure how they had meant for this to be eaten. In the end, we didn't break up that ice cream scoop sized ball of packed durian flesh and simply tore chunks out of it as we drank the soup. You know what? It was quite good. The durian that is. I think it's D24, but I cannot be sure. It was also more durian that I had been expecting. The green been soup and seaweed were really just like how it was when we first had them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bario's charshu don and Tonkotsu Itto

Bario, charshu don

I had been wondering about the charshu don from Bario for a while after seeing them on the menu. I had been thinking that it looked like it might be good. Now that I've finally had ordered it, it seemed the real thing looks better than it does on menu; and I think I've found my second favourite charshu don.

It was three thick slices of their caramelized charshu over a bowl of rice, drizzled with their soy based sweet and savoury sauce and then aburi-ed. I suspect there's more, but I don't know what else they had done. The prep time took a while and the bowl itself was "please keep your fingers off" hot.

The result was a charred teriyaki-ish aroma with tender meat and fats which dissolved after you've popped them in your mouth. I'm definitely coming back for this one again. Smoky, sweet and savory.

Tonkotsu Itto, charsu tonkotsu

Tonkotsu Itto rotated in just as the current reigning champion for the past 2 years, Ikkousha had moved out of the arena in the very same shop. To digress, Ikkousha is actually finally setting up shop at Tg Pagar and set to open in less than two weeks. They seem to be offering a bunch of red and black and white flavors that a number of other ramen shops are doing that they didn't do in their original shop at Ramen Champion. 

Back to Itto, I think I enjoyed their bowl of ramen and wouldn't mind having them again if I were in vicinity, but there was definitely something about Ikkousha and their broth that I felt was ahead. 

Tonkotsu Itto, lobster tonkotsu

What Tonkotsu Itto had on menu that was a little different was their lobster tonkotsu which was essentially a regular bowl with a slice of charshu plus a splash of thickened lobster stock on the side. After finishing the noodles, the taste of the broth did remind of a lobster bisque of sorts. Albeit one that was a little more porcine than crustacean.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King, Orchid Hotel

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King, teishoku

The third of three Kings along Tanjong Pagar by Keisuke Takeda has opened its doors sometime last week and this third, was unexpectedly the Gyoza King (#01-15 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, tel : +65 6804 6674). I wouldn't say that I'm that big on gyozas as I generally prefer their Chinese counterpart, still I was intrigued enough to give it a go.

So, it's basically a counter seating joint with gyozas on a la carte or with sets - teishouku styled served with Koshihikari rice for the latter where you can pick your stuffings of choice between tori, buta or ebi and choose a couple of sides to go along.

I honestly didn't come here expecting myself to be blown away by gyozas, but I couldn't deny enjoying the meal. It was almost like eating at Ootoya. The sides were delicious and the gyoza was not bad by my yardstick. I prefer the shrimp over the pork stuffing. I think this place nailed the frills free comfort food concept right on the head. Hey, their green tea Cola doesn't taste of green tea at all.

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King, green tea cola

Ramen Keisuke Gyoza King, Orchid Hotel

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bomba Paella Bar, Martin Road

Bomba Paella Bar, Martin Road

The Spanish culinary conquistadors which have been making quite a bit of inroads on this sun blasted island in the past few years and have yet to show signs of abatement. A handful have gotten their flags planted firmly still going strong, some have collaborated with the Italians and others have failed to gain ground after a while. Bomba Paella Bar (38 Martin Road, tel : +65 6509 1680) opened their doors slightly over a year ago. I'm not about to venture a guess on which category they belong to but here's a look at what they've got.

The name of the place mentions paella bar, but it's just another Spanish joint serving limited varieties of tapas - some of a forward thinking nature and of course, a few options for paella. The latter were pretty pricey for their portions. 

Bomba Paella Bar, iberico ham croquetta

First up was their fried ibérico ham croquetta.

Bomba Paella Bar, iberico ham croquetta

Creamy and milky tasting ball of mashed potato flavoured with bits of jamon ibérico. This was quite nice.

Bomba Paella Bar, olives

Then came the Manzanilla olives with pork crackling. The pieces of crackling were still popping lightly when it was served and they weren't salted. What worked was the piquant olives which lasted as nibbles for the entire meal.

Bomba Paella Bar, octopus

Bomba's Galician styled octopus served on a bed crushed potatoes and capers was actually pretty good. Slow cooked in water before hitting the flat top grill, the meat was rather tender but didn't score so much with the char from the grill. As disposed I am towards it, I've had better octopus.

Bomba Paella Bar, baby squids

Deep fried baby squids had a bit of heat that kept it from being monotonous. Was well fried but was ultimately just fried squids.

Bomba Paella Bar, courgettes

The tastiest part of these courgette stuffed with mackerel and shrimps was the courgette stem itself. The stuffings were creamy and all that cream pretty much left the bits of seafood quite unidentifiable.

Bomba Paella Bar, squid ink paella

Paella here cost quite a bit. So it was a good thing that we were here on a Monday evening which is Paella Night for them. All paella were at 50% off. This small portion which was good for one with healthy appetite is $45. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't come for paella here on any other days. 

Back to the rice, the arroz negro was rich and creamy and flavoured with squid ink....and a little bit more wet than I had been expecting. The bits of squid and black mushrooms inside were finely minced....and thus lost in the textures of the rice.

Bomba Paella Bar, chorizo tortilla

Tasty if ordinary chorizo tortilla.

Bomba Paella Bar, ribeye

There was a ribeye with piquillo peppers and bleu cheese. The meat was well greased but I wasn't sure if it's all from the fat of the ribeye. The char was minimal and the texture wasn't so firm. The restaurant also thought that we would be fine cutting it with butter knife as they had never even bothered getting us sharper tools until it was requested. I'm not sure what is the blue cheese that they used but it was more salty than pungent. Not my kind of beef.

Bomba Paella Bar, chocolate ice cream sourdough olive oil

First dessert was their bitter chocolate ice cream, sour dough bread and salted olive oil. It is said that a picture paints a thousand words. Sometimes, a thousand words aren't enough so I'll add a few more here. 

The ice cream was light on the sugar which was a good thing for me, allowing the bitter to come through. The sour dough bread crisps were actually sugar glazed. Together and paired with the olive oil made it unusual but not un-enjoyable. What impressed me was the base, if I may call it chocolate soil, that was perfumed gently by rosemary. Not overwhelming with rosemary is something that I think a lot of cooks fail to master.

The chocolate and olive oil pairing reminded me of the mousse at Esquina.

Bomba Paella Bar, rice pudding

And then, a rice pudding with caramelised apple and Spanish brandy. I'm not sure what's that Spanish brandy but I couldn't taste it. The creamy cinnamon scented rice was delicious and the toasted almond shavings were a nice touch.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Raj Restaurant, Syed Alwi Road

We were first introduced to Raj (76 Syed Alwi Rd, tel : + 65 6297 1716) some years ago by a couple of friends which left favourable impression of this restaurant from Calcutta. This visit felt different. I recalled it being a little upmarket then and it didn't quite feel that way today. Maybe the place just feels different at night compared to the day.

By the way, I didn't like their sweet lassi. It was way too sweet and much too viscous. The sugar bothered me more though and there are much better ones around. 

dahi gol gappa

Back in that first visit, was also my first experience with dahi golgappa and I thought they rocked. We order a portion of those dahi filled puri shells to start off and it was as I remembered them. There was a creamy sour from the yoghurt, tart sweetness from the tamarind chutney, heat from something I couldn't quite identify, spice from the potatoes and loads of texture from the creamy curd and puri shells, nuts, potato bits and sev. Party in the mouth as some people would call it. I didn't even mind the coriander juice thing that they added. Was really glad that there were none of the leaves in there.

paneer briyani

Never had a paneer briyani before, so this was a first. It did turn up like how I imagined it. The flavour of the spices in basmati rice was...... hmmm, rather engaging. In short, I liked it and it paired up excellently with their jeera (cumin) scented raita on the side. The paneer came in little cubes in the rice.

baingan korma

This was a korma-ed eggplant. I'm not sure what went into the making of the korma, but it was rich, creamy and nutty with measures of sweetness, heat and spice. Served piping hot. Nice.

rava dosai with onion and cheese

Rava dosai is dosai made with semolina flour. Many Indian restaurants that use cheese outside of paneer usually use mozzarella cheese. Raj uses Cheddar. Which ups the flavour game for everyone in my opinion since the distinctively sharper aroma and salt works with their fermented rice flour pancakes. The exterior of their dosai were enjoyably crisp. What caught me by surprise though, a pleasant surprise albeit, was that there were toasted peppercorns in them. Much to my relieve as well, I couldn't taste the coriander that were embedded in the flour.

Those peppercorns were remarkable bits of flavour in the dosai. Good stuff.

Chinatown Beef Noodle, Lavender Food Centre

This stall wasn't the old beef noodle that used to be in the food centre - this replaced that old beef noodle shop. Still they had put up some of those unreliable local media endorsements which meant that they've been around. Everything about the food was acceptably average tasting while the soup tasted thinner and much less savoury than I had been hoping for. 

But I did like the fact that these guys offer fresh juicy limes that you can help yourself with. A lime each into the noodle or the bowl of beef noticeably changes the flavour profile and perks up the beef broth. I wouldn't mind eating this again as long as they have those limes going.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Martin Road

There are legions of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V adepts everywhere that know little or next to nothing about coffee writing about this place (22 Martin Road, tel : +65 6836 4695), so I'll save myself the parroting. One can simply Google them. Strangely,  no one talks about how different the standard roast that this place  uses is quite different from 40 Hands. That being said, I liked the coffee here a lot better. It seemed stronger and less acidic.

The crowd was almost crazy on a late afternoon weekend. I can see how people like to be seen in a place like this and also the conveniences it provides for the those living in the vicinity. Was quite taken in by their croissant croque monsieur. I don't eat these things a lot, but I thought that it was certainly a bag of flavours from the creamy Béchamel, a little sour from the mustard, savoury ham and a fairly buttery croissant. The pastry was crispy to boot. Though not the best I can remember having, it's pretty good.

The other mention worthy was their side of grilled portobello mushroom with pine nuts, pesto and Parmesan cheese. It was a lot tastier than it sounded on menu. And I'm seeing things that I may like from neighbouring tables.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), Neil Road

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), guo tie

Wow, these pan fried guo tie from Jing Hua (21 Neil Road, tel : +65 6221 3060) were really really good. They were flavours of nostalgia for me having grown up with the ones from Tian Jin Fong Kee down at People's Park. These had that exact crisp and umami taste from the savoury stuffing of meat and greens. The shape was just a little odd as the dumplings looked like they've had their ends chopped off.

If not for anything else, I'd definitely come back just for them pot stickers again.

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), zha jiang mian

Their zha jiang mian was a little disappointing. The gravy had a little too much starch and not robust enough flavour. The chilli paste condiment they provide on table side helped but we've had better.

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), xiao long bao

This rocks as well. Taste a little different most xiao long bao althought what exactly differs eluded me. The meat stuffing weren't as tightly packed and the dumplings as a whole were good enough on their own without the usual vinegar dip.

Jing Hua Restaurant (京华小吃), zha jiang mian

There wasn't much for desserts in this restaurant. We ordered tang yuan in osmanthus soup. The flavour caught us off as it tasted very much like rose rather than what we had in mind for osmanthus. I mean Paul Smith's Rose kind of rose. It's nice though.

Will definitely be back.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, Upper Dickson Road

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, lassi

This was a pretty enjoyable meal at Madras New Woodlands (12-14 Upper Dickson Road, +65 6297 1594) preluded by their delicious lassi. I heard that they're good for digestion, but that's not the reason why I drink them. 

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, pani puri

Except maybe for the pani puri which wasn't so crispy and didn't taste fresh at all. It looked too hastily put together even for such a snack. The flavour profile for these were thin and sparse, worn down by too much sour from the tamarind water. I'll be sure to pick something with yoghurt the next time.

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, tomato uttapam

My first tomato uttapam ever. Deliciously filled with chopped onions and tomato accompanied by the usual chutney and sambar. What really got my attention was their orange chutney. I've never found out what went into making them or if there's a proper name for them. This one here was quite good.

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, vip thali

This was their VIP thali, basically their thali with the works which came with both the white rice and briyani plus a pastry of choice along with vegetable options on the side . In our case, the pastry was a bhattura that was crusty, crisp and slightly chewy. I thought we were rather taken in by the savoury flavours from their blend of spices in the entire tray. Their creamy vegetable korma was exceptional, chickpea curry was spicy and the briyani, fragrant enough to eat on its own. Everything except the bhattura was entitled for refills.

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, masala tea

Masala tea here was heavy with milk. Which was not necessarily a bad thing since it lent a mellow comforting quality. That being said, I could definitely appreciate a bit more spice and strength to the tea.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

L'Angelus......after 2205 days

L'Angelus, Club Street

Time sure flies. It's been about 6 years since my very first and also last visit to L'Angelus (85 Club Street, tel : +65 6225 6897). I'm pretty glad that service this time round was much better than then.

L'Angelus, foie gras

Their rich unctuous foie gras de canard was still as good as I remember. This time round, I noticed the little bits of chewy and mellowly flavoured apple compote. Against convention, that wasn't part of the tart element of the dish at all. It was mostly sweet but enjoyably so. YMMV. 

L'Angelus, lamb

Tonight, lamb that they had served was unfortunately not up to scratch. The meat looked haphazardly sliced and was cooked to different levels doneness. The menu had described it to come with Espelette pimento that tasted like just jus and red wine - which was actually quite good. For what they were charging (this place is a bit pricey by the way), I certainly had expected better for the meat. But then again, I've also been watching quite a bit of MasterChef UK. 

L'Angelus, andouillette

The unexpected find on the menu was an andouillette de Troyes, labelled with A.A.A.A.A. and no less. It looked vulgar and monstrous. If anyone's wondering, this andouillette was a fried sausage where the stuffings are mostly pig intestines. We were cautioned that it was an acquired taste. Since we could chug down kuey chap, this didn't sound so intimidating at all. It turned out pretty good. And expensively so too. Mustard on the side was creamy and really addictive.

For unknown reasons, I had been expecting to see it come with British styled chips since it was suppose to be served with Salardaise chips. They turn out to be real potato chips. Some a little over fried.

L'Angelus, spinach

And some obligatory side of spinach with cream spiced with nutmeg. This tasted actually quite good too. Made me feel a lot less guilty about paying $14 for them. 

L'Angelus, rum baba

Dessert was a rum baba. They used Diplomatico rum here. Nothing very unexpected or exceptional about it. It's just something about a good chilled rum soaked cake that I like.