Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sembawang White Bee Hoon, Jalan Tampang

That's the famous Sembawang white bee hoon (You Huak Restaurant, 22 Jalan Tampang) that many people wait in line for. It's not bad, but the queue generally puts me off so I don't eat there as much as I could have. It took me a while to understand what was the appeal of the bee hoon. But throughout the past few years, I've had them a number of times, so here's a few flavour profiles that one can get from the bee hoon

The general taste or flavour that most of the people get is gotten when the bee hoon is freshly stir fried and served hot. That bee hoon is stir fried in some stock. I don't pretend to know what it is made of, but I hear chicken, seafood, some say lard and it's fair to say that it's tasty in its own way. What works for most people who like it is that it's light and actually gets inhaled rather easily. The flavours do not dominate. It's also to me, the weakest flavour profile. I'm not saying that it's no good. Works nicely for old folks I guess. 

Then there's the option for squeezed lime. This enlivens the the bee hoon noticeably. And there's their pretty decent belachan chilli which also adds another dimension with fermented shrimp and heat. That's the third flavour profile if you've lost count. And then there is belanchan chilli and lime. More lime is needed if one still wants the citrus to be apparent in this case. To each their own ways and all are pretty good.

The last was discovered by chance. Some people don't like hot food. So waiting for the bee hoon to cool down allows the stock to be well absorbed into the noodles. The result is a dry and sticky wetness rather than a lightly starchy gravy. This is when the bee hoon flavors develops and tastes better than if you had them "fresh from the wok". There's also that fact that if it's not hot from the wok, one can generally taste it better. This cooled down bee hoon also works with any combinations of the limes and chillis.

You Huak also serves something they call Indo styled fried chicken wings. Marinated mid wings that are very nicely deep fried. Crisp, golden brown and little residual oil. Can be addictive.

That above is their bitter gourd omelette. It has the option of being done dry or wet and that's wet. It's also one of their very good dishes. The bitter gourd is thinly sliced, not overcooked so that it still has a little crunch and importantly, only leaves a bitter after note. It's not bitter when you eat them which is why I like them.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Soi 19 (十九街) Thai Wanton Mee, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5

Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee, Ang Mo Kio

I had read about this place (Blk 151, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5) from Makansutra recently and ended up heading down for two consecutive days of their wanton mee. I guess I must like them. In my visits to Thailand, I've never had wanton noodles. Ever. So I've certainly no basis for comparison to determine whether these actually taste like Thai wanton mee or not. 

One of the things I liked about them was the texture of the egg noodles which alone, in my opinion, puts the stall ahead of many if not most wanton noodles in this entire country. There was a certain flavour to their seasoning which I couldn't quite put a finger to. But then again in the second visit, I had forgone those flavours with the dried chilli flakes, fish sauce and sugar. The carrot for ordering the large bowl of noodles from the stall are slices of sweet fat laden sausages which are really good by the way. There are two types of wanton from the stall. Deep fried ones that contain onions, served with the noodles and peppery ones which come with the soup. The latter is good.

Without condiments, this tasted quite local and even looked that way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Noi's Mushroom Minced Meat Noodles, Jalan Datoh

Here's a large bowl of ba chor mee from Noi's. I've been wanting to try this stall (588F Jalan Datoh) for a while, having noticed the crowd on numerous occasions on the way to Balestier. Well, half of that crowd were actually having ba kut teh from the neighbouring stall. I would have liked for their vinegar to have more presence and the mee pok with just that bit more of bite; still this was a fairly satisfying and above average bowl which I wouldn't mind having again if I'm nearby. There's prawns instead of the the usual pig liver. Note to self, soup is forgettable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gayatri, Telok Ayer Street

Note to myself : I think I may have found my other favourite butter chicken in this location (212 Telok Ayer Street, tel : +65 6225 4221). We stumbled here for a late dinner on a Sunday evening. This particular outfit is not the same as the restaurant. It's an open air shophouse unit by the junction of Telok Ayer Street and McCallum Street where food is self serviced after selection from display troughs. This spot is what most locals would call "coffeeshop".

Why did this work for me? I guess it matches Jaggi's in term of rich creaminess while the undertones of the spices were a bit more robust. Explosion of flavours if you would. What was different was that the tandoori chicken that they used here wasn't deboned. Very competent sambar and rasam on the side too. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ginza Lion Beer Hall, Rodyk Street

Ginza Lion Beer Hall, boot glass sapporo beer

Ginza Lion Beer Hall, caprese

Ginza Lion Beer Hall, black angus roast beef

Ginza Lion Beer Hall, red eye

So this Ginza Lion Beer Hall (#01-01/02, 8 Rodyk Street, tel : +65 6634 9113) is an outlet of the first beer hall set up in Tokyo in 1899. The group that runs this place, Sapporo Lion, is also responsible for Tonkichi and a few other restaurants. The drink to have here is Sapporo draft. There're other imported brews, but I wouldn't really consider them for the price point. There is a 700ml option that's served in a boot shaped glass.

Food here's generally Japanese and their brand of western. It's mostly the latter and looks pub grub. Their Black Angus roast beef which is apparently a recommended item was pretty good. It's frills free sliced beef crusted with black pepper and flavored with shoyu, served with grated horseradish and wasabi. Oddly, no au jus. The caprese that they have was decent if otherwise unremarkable. Don't mind coming back again for some more drinks and the other grub on menu.

That reddish drink up there is the Red Eye, Sapporo with tomato juice. Kinda like what I had back in Mimigar which is just round the corner.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Omakase Burger at Wisma Atria

Omakase Burger, applewood smoked bacon cheeseburger beef tallow fries

I confess to being suckered into this fairly new outlet (#01-02/03/37-41, Wisma Atria Shopping Centre, 435 Orchard Road, tel : +65 6737 3218) of Omakase Burger for their exclusives. One of them being their nitrates free Applewood smoked bacon which are sourced from hormone & antibiotic free pork which they had cleverly marketed as the Rolls Royce of bacon; and more importantly beef tallow fries! How was it? The bacon cheeseburger was nice, but then we all knew that with their juicy customized blend of medium done ground beef patties already. The American cheese was rich and creamy and the bacon was crisp, adequately salted and smoky. In summary, pretty darn good. Their beef tallow fries were the real talking point today. I don't remember the last time I've had potato fried in rendered beef fat. Yes, that beef fat can be tasted on each strip of fried potato. And you know all those dripping juices that end up at the bottom of the burger wrapper? 

It's liquid steak and bacon.

Omakase Burger, applewood smoked bacon cheeseburger truffle fries

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, Mohd Sultan Road

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, Mohd Sultan Road

This (25 Mohamed Sultan Road, tel : +65 67356739) was one of those places I kept telling myself I'll go to someday for quite a long time. Well, it finally happened today. As the name of the restaurant indicates, it's a Tuscan styled steak place. As with all Italian restaurants that serve bistecca in this country, non of the meat is from the Chianina/Maremmana cattle. The cooking method remains how bistecca is traditionally done but Bistecca uses a Wagyu-Holstein cross breed instead.

Service here was pretty good.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, oysters

We started with some Pacific oysters. I'm not an expert with oysters, but these were pretty good.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, octopus

And then roasted octopus tentacles with preserved lemons. The octopus was very nice too. The meat had a very distinguished char aroma. It reminded me of the ones at Valentino's but these here weren't as big. Then again, they were also not as expensive.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, tagliatelle rabbit

On hindsight, this tagliatelle with rabbit ragout, pancetta and porcini was a little small to share amongst three. That also meant that we liked it. At least I did. The texture of the noodles were great and the sauces, deliciously savoury.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, costata

This was the costata, boned in rib eye with MBS 6+. Not bad, but the marbling and flavor of the meat wasn't what I was expecting. The fat was not as evenly distributed as I had expected. It was just a large ribeye. To further clarify, it wasn't a bad piece of meat at any stretch; it was tasty, but didn't blow away anyone.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, lentils guanciale

Some lentils with house guanciale.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, asparaguses

I think you know what are these.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, fries

Thick cut, but not the most tasty of fries.

I may not have sounded very excited over all these, but the food on the whole was actually quite enjoyable. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the desserts, but the one with rhubarb is good. Actually so was the panna cotta. I spied their single portion steaks coming out of the kitchen on the way to the back of the restaurant. Don't mind trying them the next time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Xperience Restaurant & Bar, Sofitel So Singapore, Robinson Road

This place (35 Robinson Rd) has surprises. The least of all being the chef Anne-Cecile Degenne of Bordeaux who managed top 6 in this year's Top Chef in France. There was also the fact that she managed to capture Asian flavors really well. The other surprises? The food portions were really small and the prices were however not so. It made me recall an old joke I had with some friends over the tiny portions in fine dining and having to go McDonalds after. We went McDonalds after. True story.

But this place was really a lot about the flavours and textures which hopefully could endure with consistency. The menu segregates items by textures and taste. Most of the food on the menu here comes in three sizes. xs for tapas portion, xm for single person and xl for sharing. These were all xm.

This was simply called fish ceviche, cucumber, jalapeño. As one can see, it's rather refined. The acidity of the dish was really too low for ceviche as I know it and in spite of the fact that they had sliced jalapeño in there, it probably would work as a palate cleanser. That being said, the cucumber sorbet was pretty damned good. Made a nice starter.

Then, their foie gras & truffle siew mai sitting a light dashi broth. It's softer than regular siew mai as the meat fillings were a wrapper for a little chunk of the foie on the inside. The shape barely held. I liked that there was enough liver to live up to its name. Realistically, these aren't the best siew mai I've tasted. But they were competent. That says a bit. And for $7.50 a pop, it's a little pricey. Oh, no truffle flavour.

The siew mai came with chilli sauce and vinegar. I thought that the dumplings didn't need the condiments. But the chilli was actually good stuff and the vinegar was good quality as well. It might have been an overkill here.

That above was the roasted lamb, lentils, coconut & curry. This place makes excellent foam. Why? Because we got a full bodied dhal aroma just from eating the foam alone. And it wasn't just a mere interpretation of dhal. It tastes exactly like dhal we can get here with a moderated heat. Lentils weren't too mushy and the toasted ones provided a crunchy texture to the base. The roasted lamb was tender and very good even though I would have liked it to be a little more pink. The portions were a little too small for me with the expectations of a single person quantity.

This is where I say 'Pardon my French' and that it's fucking good. Bear with me on the abused word 'authentic'. Authenticity is a range. There's no quantified precision. The laksa flavours from the risotto falls well within that "authentic" range and impressively so. I could taste the hae bi (dried shrimp) in the stock, there was sufficient laksa leaves to aromatize the rice and the coconut content came from the foam. Hell, I've had laksas from local stalls that didn't taste half as good. Seafood was fresh and sweet and did not get overpowered by the flavor of the spices. The portions were again, too damned small. 

I feel like Michel Roux Jr. here.

And because the portions were small, I asked for white rice which they probably steamed upon my request. The chef was quite apologetic about the portions and the fact that I needed a filler after all the food. She delivered the rice personally. It was also an excuse for me to use up the chilli sauce and vinegar which I had been licking off my spoon. 

The modernist or contemporary (or lazy) description of the menu sometimes does little favours when you're trying to sell the menu. This dessert was just called banana and passion fruit. It's melted bananas and passion fruit pulp (with seeds) stoppered with some tangy mousse on both ends of a caramel snap cigar. And I think the medley of sweet, fruity and tangy in that midst of creamy and crispy was jaw clenching good. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian (興記肉脞面), Bedok North

Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian (興記肉脞面), Bedok North

I'm a dry ba chor mee person.

Have always been and will always be in the foreseeable future. Hence, I was really curious about magnet to the crowd for the soup rendition down at Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian (#01-07, Fengshan Food Centre, Blk 85 Bedok North Street 4). Other than the fact that nothing gathers a crowd like a crowd that is. And I guess it helps some that they have a competent neighbour which is a competitor selling pretty much the same thing in the same style.

It was all okay. I don't mind eating this if I'm in the vicinity and if there's no queue. But otherwise, I don't think it'll be worth the time. The sliced chilli adds that bit of kick and aroma which helps with the relatively flat broth and the meatballs have dried sole in them which results in that particular brand of fragrance. I would have preferred mee pok but one cannot choose the noodles at this stall. The soup was....well, okay. I've had better.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lao Beijing (老北京食堂), Velocity @ Novena Square

Lao Beijing, lamb

Lao Beijing (#02-11/12, Novena Velocity, 238 Thomson Road, tel : +65 6358 4466) serves arguably what can be termed as Northern Chinese food. They have a couple of outlets and is run by Tung Lok Group. I'm not intimately familiar with Northern Chinese food locally since it mostly looks generic but what we had seemed better tasting than a few of Tung Lok's other outfits which I've tried.

We've been here a few times over a number of years (no, I'm not a regular at all). The previous visits were for their lunch buffets which had pretty decent food, albeit small in variety. This was an impromptu dinner from the a la carte items which I haven't had for years.

Their cumin scented lamb was not bad. It says braised lamb on menu but it's probably also deep fried after the braising. A tad greasy but tender, nicely spiced and slid off the bone easily. I don't think I would have minded if there was more of the natural flavours of the lamb. The green stuff on the side was mint jelly. 

Lao Beijing, pigeon soup

The other item we liked was their minced pigeon soup. Not so greasy, tasted clear and if I might say so, heart warming. 

Lao Beijing, pigeon soup

It tasted better after you've mixed up the minced meat patty/mousse at the bottom.

Lao Beijing, xiao long bao

These were crab meat xiao long bao. I don't think they contain enough crab to deserve to be called crab meat xiao long bao. While they were competent as regular dumplings, the word 'crab' in the name raised the bar. And in this case, also my ire.

Lao Beijing, spinach dumplings

I couldn't help but think of the spinach filled crystal dumplings from Red House Seafood as we ate these. These here were no match for those in terms of texture of the skins and the flavour of the fillings.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A monkfish stew with bean sprouts from Your Woul

Your Woul, monkfish stew

As much as I enjoyed eating at Your Woul previously, I'm not about to recommend their monkfish stew. Unless paying $42 for a plate of mostly spicy sprout is your thing. There was little monkfish in it and half of that was rubbery skin and bones. I had imagined that filet or the tail portion would be used but I guess I was dead wrong. Dead as the monkfish on the plate. Whatever meat that was in it was tough and stringy. Certainly not what one would expect from the poor man's lobster. To be fair, the rest of the vegetables were enjoyable.

They're a family restaurant. Stick to the regular items on menu with ingredients that this part of the earth can easily obtain and it's generally fine. Forget the ugly fish that comes from the lightless depths in a sea that's half a world away.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beef rice bowl from Tamoya Udon

Tamoya Udon, beef rice bowl

Tamoya Udon has lost some of the allure for me. For some reasons, they don't seem to taste as good these days compared to the first times I had them and the only item that seems to work for me is their kama-tama udon. Recently, they seemed to have included rice bowls that are topped with their regular sliced meat toppings which are these days appearing more like bits of trimmings that are overcooked. Well, I did score some tempura asparaguses which are really quite good. Those don't seem to be available all the time though.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A walking brunch at Isetan

Here're some chopped toro maki and fried scallops from another one of those Japanese fairs at Isetan. One can generally get better quality tuna at the fairs than those from the regular pre-packed sushi section and these were actually quite good. The price of course, commensurate with said quality. The scallops today were fat and freshly fried.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

inItaly, Craig Road

inItaly, Craig Road

inItaly (38 Craig Road, tel : +65 6423 0918) has been around for a couple of years. I remember reading about them when they first opened but the place somehow didn't generate enough interest for me to check out. Then. At the helm is a Mario Caramella from Milan. A chef of some repute around these parts. I noted that the team section of their web page describes only the chef Mario. I thought there was no 'i' in the word 'team'?

inItaly, asparagus fried egg Raspadura cheese

The first starter was a simple boiled asparagus, pan fried egg and Raspadura cheese. The latter which I learnt is a light salty and crumbly cheese that goes through 6 months of ageing and is served usually, in shaven form. This method allows the cheese to be in..... well, shaven form which basically melts easily onto warm food. Or in the mouth. The flavours are akin to Manchego. This was quite nice.

inItaly, prosciutto di Parma compressed cantaloupe acacia honey

The other items on menu didn't look very interesting to me so we ended up with prosciutto di Parma with compressed cantaloupe and Acacia honey. They were pretty generous with the shaven ham, which meant that there was not enough melon to go round in spite of us rationing each mouthful.

inItaly, compressed cantaloupe

We asked for additional cantaloupe which they obliged. The flavours of the fruit was heady and sweet. I'm not sure if the honey added to the sweetness as we couldn't really taste it. The dominant flavours were the saltiness from the ham and the aroma of the melon. Actually, the melon was the star.

inItaly, beetroot red berry risotto smoked eel

There was a risotto with beetroot and red berry. I'm not sure what red berry in particular though. I like this in a way which isn't so simply described. There was no grassy flavour from the beetroot which was a good sign. The berry portion was well balanced to be present and yet not overpowering. There was little to no sweetness that went along with a hit of citrus and the rice as a result, wasn't heavy in spite of appearances. The use of tarragon was also well moderated so there were only touches of that aniseed taste. Smoked eel on the risotto was quite nice. The eel was fatty and smoked to the point where one could get the flavour, but those flavours weren't overwhelming. Like I said, I like it some, but I don't think I'll come back just for this. I remain faithful to my favourite fruit based risotto.

inItaly, pappardelle fried egg butter black truffle

Off the menu, they had some black truffle items. This was probably the best item from the off menu lot. Pappardelle with fried egg and butter and shaven black truffle. And it definitely reminded us of the tagliatelle we had back at San Miniato in Osteria L'upupa.

inItaly, pappardelle fried egg butter black truffle

Here's some gratuitous molten egg porn.

inItaly, rosolio souffle

Dessert was a Rosolio soufflé. Rosolio is liqueur made with rose petals. This particular liqueur was Venetian according to what the menu described. 

inItaly, rosolio souffle

This was nice. The rose flavours were pretty distinct and the soufflé itself was competent enough. It sank a little while we were trying to get its picture taken. This, I could see myself come back for.

inItaly, Craig Road

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant, Temple Street

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant

I don't watch Running Man, but I have a faint clue what it's about since I do know people that watch it. That said, I haven't any idea as to why this place was named Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant (3 Temple St , tel : +65 8282 1004) apart from some set items on the menu that were under that namesake. Which we didn't order and went the a la carte route.

We ended up with the pork belly and jowl which were.....well, okay I guess. The former didn't taste satisfying. The vegetable wraps that they had provided felt sparse with only lettuce.

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant, seafood pancake

Their seafood pancake was just passable. It's definitely not in the same league as the tasty one from Red Pig. I suppose that after Red Pig, my expectations rose and these didn't quite have enough body for texture from the ingredients which were also noticeably more sparse.

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant, sundae

This was the first time I've had soon dae dry (Korean blood sausages). Pretty dry. Should have gotten the ones in soup instead on hindsight.

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant, beef rib soup

Then a disappointing beef rib soup which failed the requisite of having sufficient beefy flavour. Even with all the spice, Arirang fared much better with their spicy beef soup. 

Running Man Korean BBQ Restaurant, makgeolli

I've never tried Korean rice wine before so here's another first. You know what? This thing tasted like the tapay that my grandmother used to make. With a smooth bubbly finish. Understandably so since these were the products of fermented rice.