Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, Jalan Merah Saga

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, berry salad

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, caprese salad

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, tagliatelle al granchio

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, bosco d'inverno

Da Paolo Pizza Bar, isola verde

This "pizza bar" by Da Paolo (44 Jalan Merah Saga, tel : +65 6479 6059) has been around for a number of years and I've never been here until today. I quoted them as it's not so much a dedicated pizza place than another restaurant that serves pizza, amongst other things. Like salads and pastas and even traditionally non-Italian-ish breakfast items. I couldn't even say that I felt that they specialized in pizzas and wouldn't know any better if not for what they had named themselves. But one has to cater for variety and that's the way the market demands here.

Speaking of which, my impressions of Da Paolo was different years ago. Their restaurants were more Italian-ish, so to speak. These days, they don't seem so straightforward Italian anymore. But a wise business moves with market sentiments and adjustments to accommodate survivability are sometimes a necessary evil. And that could be a thin line to thread upon when we talk about perceptions.

So, it's a family brunch so lots to eat like a less fragmented dim sum. The salads were well, just salads. The one with berries was quite nice, but the crepe bowl was stiff and tasteless and the Gorgonzola sauce meagre. No one picked at the bowl after a first bite. Caprese came with more vegetables than necessary, but I guess it makes us fill our vegetable quotas.

The pizzas were decently made, but I don't get the sense that they're very good at it. Pizza bar? I'm generally bias when it comes to blue cheese and the Isola Verde (the one with baby spinach) agreed. The other one with truffle and mascarpone lacked a little salt? The crusts were thin but not super thin and had some chew. No issues for me with that. But I was expecting to be a bit more impressed.

Which brings us to that odd pasta from the pizza bar. That tomato cream and vodka sauce really brought back memories. I'm sure those memories can be selective or fickle at times, but I'm also pretty sure that it tasted very close to what I had the first time at their defunct Il Giardino restaurant. I liked it then and I like this now. It's rich, creamy and the flavours of the crab were in there. It's my Italian butter chicken.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Xin Mei Congee, Ang Mo Kio Ave. 6

I have a little history with the chicken rice stall right next to this congee stall (#01-32, Blk 724 Ang Mo Kio Food Centre). I noticed that the chicken rice had a queue and promptly tried. I didn't think much of it. A long while later, I happened to be back here again and saw the same queue. I forgot that I didn't think much of their chicken rice and ordered it another time. The aftermath was the same. This time round, the same thing almost happened and I was fortunately reminded of the history and the déjà vu.

So it's congee today, with mixed ingredients. I took the top up option and an additional egg which ended up costing twice the price of the regular bowl. I think I like this, but it's noticeably more costly to eat nice at hawker centres these days. There was certainly some generosity with the ingredients which consisted mostly of sliced pork and some bits of fallopian tube and....gosh, I forgot what else. The dough fritters look like they were fried upon order and that made it pretty freshly crisp. Fairly decent yu sheng to be had here as well and those chilli padi sure packed heat.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Platypus Lobster Shack, Pickering Street

Platypus Lobster Shack, Pickering Street

It's probably not fair to make this particular comparison, but the lobster roll from Platypus Lobster Shack (3 Pickering Street, Nankin Row #01-31, tel : +65 6438 7961) doesn't stand up to the one Travis Masiero has done. Then again, this one costed about half of that.

For half the cost, we got chips from a packet on the side and rolls that were neither as well buttered nor crisp which really made a huge difference. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that these guys here are doing something that's much more affordable rather than the current sweet spot in pricing that the others rolling  (hah!) with. I actually liked the lemon dressing that they squeezed over their salad on the side.

Will come back another time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Goat's brains from Azmi Restaurant

Azmi Restaurant, goat's brains

Well it says goat's brains on the menu and it did contain small chunks of stuff that looks like brains. Stir fried with eggs and nicely spiced up. The whole dish tasted eggy, savoury and spicy; actually pretty good with the chapati. There's quite a bit more things that can be had here from this shop, I'll have to come back another time. The address from what I could find says either 168 Serangoon Road or 170 Norris Road. The former is more accurate and it's actually at the junction of both Norris and Serangoon.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hana Hana (華花), Orchid Hotel

Hana Hana (華花), Orchid Hotel

Yamashita Teppei seems to have done pretty well for himself. His other (actually first) restaurant Teppei is fully booked up a couple of months ahead and Hana Hana (#01-17 Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, tel : +65 6222 7363) which is just next door that doesn't take reservations has a queue that stretches all the way to Keisuke's Tonkotsu King down the pavement. He's a funny guy too. More about that later.

This was omakase.

Hana Hana (華花), shoyu braised wings

That's shoyu braised mid wings. 

Hana Hana (華花), cabbage

Cabbage which is refillable for fibre and alleviation of guilt.

Hana Hana (華花), sashimi

Akami, chutoro and sake harasu. The salmon belly was pretty flavourful.

Hana Hana (華花), edamame

Toasted edamame. It tastes almost exactly like the boiled ones. No, those burnt marks don't lend char aroma to the protected bean.

Hana Hana (華花), kushiyaki

First of the skewers. There's some beef, squid, chicken parts and enoki in pork belly. All were pretty tasty.

Hana Hana (華花), negitoro maki

Next came the negitoro rolls with bits of tempura batter. This was really good. I'm sure the crispy bits of batter helped some, but the chopped tuna belly was delicious. Well shoyu-ed if you know what I mean.

Hana Hana (華花), grasshopper

The first of the nibbles on sticks that was handed out through the omakase. It was a mangled grasshopper. One leg left, possibly left leg, probably dipped in tare and deep fried. It tasted like a dried shrimp if anyone's wondering.

Hana Hana (華花), dinosaur

Teppei-san introduced these as dinosaur when he served them.

Hana Hana (華花), goose barnacles

Of course they are goose barnacles. This was possibly the first time eating them for me. They tasted like abalone or clams, chewy to the texture and briny in flavours. I kinda liked them.

Hana Hana (華花), quail eggs

Next handout on sticks, quail eggs.

Hana Hana (華花), kushiyaki

The next batch of kushiyaki were mushrooms, wagyu of underdetermined origins (by myself) and unagi. All competently done.

Hana Hana (華花), kushiyaki

And then some big assed prawns, chicken wings and thick cut pork belly with onions. I wasn't so much into the wings. The huge prawns were very nice. The char aroma got through and the flesh was sweet-ish. Pork belly was hearty.

Hana Hana (華花), chicken windpipes

Next sticks handout.....chicken windpipes. They're a little chewy, like tripe or intestines. Tasty.

Hana Hana (華花), chicken

Some chicken part I couldn't clearly identify, but I reckon it's probably thighs. There was some fat and the meat was flavourful and tender.

Hana Hana (華花), prawn soup

Clear prawn soup. This was not bad at all.

Hana Hana (華花), barachirashi

The omakase comes with rice bowls which one gets to choose from the a la carte menu. I recommend the barachirashi which rocked for me....

Hana Hana (華花), beef bowl

...over the beef bowl which I found a little too sweet for my liking. The meat was not as tender as I had been expecting too.

Hana Hana (華花),

Those on top were deep fried rooster crowns. After all the deep frying, they tasted like crackers. It's all crispy so that's pretty much all there was to the texture. There's some of that tare sauce so it's a little sweet and savoury. Again, Teppei-san refused to say what they were and simply smiled.

Hana Hana (華花), maybe chicken cartilage

These tasted like deep fried cartilage so I'm guessing that they are those.

Hana Hana (華花), sawagani

Sawagani season must be in, so we had some of that too. 

Hana Hana (華花), sawagani
sawagani right side up

Hana Hana (華花),
sawagani upside down.

Hana Hana (華花), green stuff

I had no idea what these were when it was served. Another mystery service from the kitchen. Turned out that half the spoon handouts contains edamame paste and the other half was wasabi paste disguised under a bit of edamame paste. The chef had more than a few hearty laughs over the reaction of those that picked the wasabi.

Hana Hana (華花), fried Hokkaido potatoes

This was the last handout. We were stuffed at this point. Sliced fried potatoes from Hokkaido.

Hana Hana (華花), Orchid Hotel

For what Hana Hana charges along with both the quantity and quality of food, it was very good value. It's little wonder why people queue for this place. There's no pretence to the offerings, just straightforward good eating which we enjoyed.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Durian sago dessert from Ah Chew

This is new from Ah Chew (181 Thomson Road, Goldhill Shopping Centre). A ball of durian pulp in durian cream with sago. Well, new to me at least since I haven't noticed it on the menu before. It's quite nice and it's here to stand in as my favourite durian dessert whenever I feel like having that durian mousse from Dessert Bowl at Serangoon Gardens.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Seng Huat ba chor mee and a piggy pork chop bun

I remember Seng Huat from some years back. I had initially thought that this shop (Seng Huat Coffee House, 811 Hougang Central, #01-206) was another ba chor mee place that went by the same name but after checking out the "accolades" they've stuck up their walls by a couple of commercial food blogs, I realised that it's that very same shop I had back then. Almost nothing seemed to have changed since. There's no more meatball now. The noodles were still an average bowl which wasn't outstanding in any particular way. I hear that these guys running the stall are the 3rd generation from the same family so I guess that's just the way their bowl works. With the weak vinegar and oddly, ikan bilis which couldn't be tasted once everything was tossed up.

In that very same coffeeshop, the drink stall sold these cute looking pork chop buns which I couldn't resist not ordering. With beady raisin eyes that challenged you to eat them and no less. It was actually a pretty decent piece of peppery pork chop between the buttered pig faced buns. Albeit a little thinly sliced. I would have done away with that sweet chilli sauce and mayo.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sumire Yakitori House......the good, the edible and the forgettable

The Good

This is not tea. It's chicken soup. Very good chicken soup. A small pot serves approximately two cups. Even if you were an enemy to yakitori and would eat nothing of grilled meats on sticks and their ilk, try this soup. 

That's the chicken shoulder, shio. It's quite nice. I can't specifically point out how it tastes like, but I think it's pretty good.

The Edible

The piping hot tamagoyaki mentai cheese was what it was. I could imagine how it would taste and it was pretty much that. What I didn't expect was that it was rather large. I'm not complaining.

Pretty competent if unexceptional tori hatsu (chicken hearts). Did a better job than Ippudo.

Tsukune (chicken meatball) was again, decent if unexceptional. I tried to like these, but ended up feeling that they were just okay.

If I remember right, the kawa (chicken skin) was another okay, not impressively so item. We had a pretty good sensing of the food quality here at this point.

Grilled nasu (eggplant) with minced chicken and cheese. I didn't dislike this at all, but it looked really clean for an izakaya styled food item. The look of the melted cheese made me think of plastic. No they didn't taste anything like plastic. 

The Forgettable

Too much mayo and that tonkatsu sauce flavour which I never liked in this bakudan korokke (croquette bomb?). The taste was rich, mayo-ey and greasy. And not in a way that was enjoyable for me. Pity because this was a good idea.

These were some of the more poorly done tebasaki I've had in a while. Even the a la carte buffet styled grill at Shinryoku tasted better. Whatever little meat there was in those wings, were dry and hard. 

I like mentaiko stuff. The mentai mayo topping didn't save these boring chicken breast.

As much as I understand that izakaya food is generally salted to make one drink more, the ume paste that they squeezed over was way too salty even over chunky bland chicken breast. Unpleasantly salty.

I'm not too impressed, but I guess this joint ( 80 Middle Road #01-88/89, tel: +65 6338 9963) has enough that we could give them a second go since there may be other things that we didn't get a chance at that might be good. If not, I could always return just for the chicken soup.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

363 Katong Laksa, Holland Village

I haven't been to this hawker centre in a long while and it seems that there's a 363 Laksa at the nasi lemak stall (#01-15, Holland Village Food Centre, 1 Lorong Mambong) where one simply orders from the side of the stall. Is this even related to the other one at Lorong Liput? Anyway, the gravy was sufficiently rich and had enough spice to be fairly satisfying. But the flavours certainly didn't beat a certain French chef whose rendition was more outstanding. Not enough hae bi here. But I'm not complaining. I quite like their otah