Friday, March 30, 2018

La Strada reborn

La Strada, Shaw Centre

We decided to stroll into La Strada today and in happenstance found out that this was the second day of their operations after the renovations from the beginning of the year which we had no idea had happened. Gone was the rustic looking trattoria facade. The interior had morphed into something a little more clean looking, classy and contemporary. I personally preferred the previous setup over this.

La Strada, salumi

We were initially worried that much have changed into something else we wouldn't like. The menu has gone through a shake up and most of the old stuff aren't around anymore. A handful of their signature dishes/desserts were still around. But as we ate, we realized that our fears were unfounded.

La Strada, salad

Even the new green-y sprout-y salad with the raw sliced cruciferous greens and alfalfa was surprisingly tasty. I know, right? I wouldn't have believed that either before eating them. 

La Strada, lamb ribs

We were definitely impressed by their fatty lamb ribs; rich and greasy with those lamb-y fragrance with tender "slip off the bone" meat.

La Strada, sea bream

Also outstanding was a butterflied and grilled sea bream where the quality of the fish spoke for itself just underneath the veneer of expert preparation.

La Strada, cannoli

I didn't like the cannoli. It wasn't that the pastry was bad. Their choice of fillings were probably just not my thing. 

La Strada, tiramisu

Tiramisu was unexpectedly good. "Juicy" even. The lady's fingers were well soaked and we could taste the alcohol from their liqueur of choice beneath the airy mascarpone cream. Possibly the best rendition we've had since Angeleno.

La Strada

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Noodle Thai Thai Kitchen, Beach Road

This Thai shop (327 Beach Road, tel : +65 6909 0759) had pretty good food. Even though the name had "noodle" in it, it sold more than just noodles. In fact, there's a gamut of commonly seen Thai food dishes.

Like som tam mamuang. They didn't have some of the usual add on/condiments around the table so I asked for extra crushed peanuts. Didn't look like much but these had the extras already. No fish sauce was detected. The mango was just a little bit riper than usual resulting in a slightly less crunchy texture. I liked it though.

The aroma from the khao soi wafted into our noses as soon as the brought it to the table. What made this good was the creamy coconut infused into the broth that made it creamy and nutty. Not as luxed up as the one from Provence that even had some lime and onions with a more complex flavour but it was still tasty that I wouldn't mind coming back for.

That's the lala jade noodles there - essentially a sort of Thai vongole. Spicy and rather good if I might say

We had a salt baked sea bass which was also nicely done. The meat was firm and flaked off like fresh fish meat does.

Not forgetting their mango sticky rice. It was unfortunate that the mango wasn't very aromatic even though it was juicy and sweet. The black rice which tasted like the glutinous rice version of pulut hitam was impressively soft

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Caffe Fernet, Customs House

Caffe Fernet, Customs House

The Internet finds us places as much as we do the finding ourselves. It found me Caffe Fernet (Customs House, 70 Collyer Quay, #01-05, tel : +65 9178 1105) which has just opened but a fortnight ago. Apparently Italian inspired - opened by the people behind Jigger & Pony and Humpback.

It's a nice spot by the waterfront facing MBS. Air conditioning indoors is a challenge because of how the space is setup. Also, the longer we ate, the darker (and orangey-ier) the place became. Not so much because of the disappearing sunlight but from the adjustment of the restaurant lighting for "ambience".

Caffe Fernet, leeks gorgonzola pecans

We had smoked leeks with Gorgonzola and pecans. I'm sure there's more to the ingredients than wasn't mentioned in the menu. Like a bit of black pepper that made a difference and the shavings of the Parmigiano Reggiano on top. Outstanding dish of creamy Gorgonzola coated soft sweet leeks. We would come back just for this. For $19, portions were a little too small.

Caffe Fernet, hokkaido smelt

This was Hokkaido smelt. Which according to my limited knowledge would be wagasaki but it felt more like shishamo. Solid crisp batter clad on small white fish. Who could resist? Needs a little more salt though.

Caffe Fernet, cauliflowers

The menu described these as caramelized cauliflowers. Obviously these were way beyond caramelized. They have transcended into being charred. Damn these were good. I've never had cauliflowers with such a smoky flavour profile before and we liked it. But we saw a neighbouring table with the same dish with less char so maybe ours was an accident.

Caffe Fernet, charred gem lettuce

Another delicious vegetable dish in the form of charred gem lettuce. One that was topped with raisins, capers and anchovy vinaigrette. And some crumbled cheese that might have been Parmigiano Reggiano. Umami, savoury, sour and a bit of sweetness from the raisins. Nice.

Caffe Fernet, agnolotti

That's the sheep's ricotta agnolotti with a saffron, honey and thyme sauce. Pretty good. Flavour was curated with a light sweetness in the saffron. Portions a little small though.

Caffe Fernet, bomboloni

We made room for desserts because there's bomboloni stuffed with lemon curd. Eggy lemony curd in a crusty sugary shell. The texture was old school.

Caffe Fernet, olive oil cake

And olive cake with mascarpone and olive oil. Their olive oil was very good. The first thing after the smooth finish that struck was the fruitiness. We asked for more because the serving portion was a little too little and we were obliged. Pretty much doused the cake which together with the mascarpone rocked. In case it wasn't apparent (obviously so from the dark photo), there's rosemary with the cake. We mopped the leftover olive oil with the bomboloni even. Still good.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Ajisai @ Hokkaido Marche, Orchard Central

Ajisai, se'abura charshumen

Ajisai, a small ramen chain from Hokodate in southern Hokkaido has set up shop at Hokkaido Marche (B2 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road). They are supposedly known for their shio ramen but I was intrigued by their se'abura charshumen bowl which featured bits of pork back fat. I got a squid ink bowl which in honestly, didn't look nor taste like it had much of squid ink for any flavour to register. The broth was porky and salty in a nice way and it seemed that the noodle had picked up some of those flavours as well. Charshu had a good shoyu flavour while the half ajitama didn't seem to have any at all. Must remember to forgo the menma the next time. Those were pungent.

I wonder what's the piece of bread about though.

Ajisai, Hokkaido Marche, Orchard Central

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru @ Hokkaido Marche, Orchard Central

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, prawn head

A new sushi shop (#B2-11/29/44/48 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, tel : +65 6634 0211) has opened up at Hokkaido Marche - the latter a Japanese food court by Don Don Donki if you didn't already know. It's a better class of entry level of sushi-ya which was unique in its own way. Make no mistake about the food. It's not Nogawa or possibly their apprentices that have graduated into sushi making. It's also not in the same leagues some of the better joints run by local chefs. Sushi toppings are prepared in advance and refrigerated in drawers. Not sliced upon order. Sitting at the counter tells much.

Service was good.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, sake

But the food was definitely better than most of the mass market sushi places. Variety is wider and more interesting as well.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, chutoro

It's kinda troublesome to go through each item. That's almost like documenting a buffet so I'll just settle for some short notes.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, engawa

I didn't think much of the chuturo. It's okay but we've had better. But we had better where we paid more. Speaking of which, the fishes here are a little too chilled. Flavour is muted from the temperature.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, hakkaku

Shari was not well pressed. Some of the pieces were falling apart as I picked them up to dip in the shoyu. The vinegar was so light that I wasn't sure if there was vinegar as well. All orders come with wasabi or not as you indicate on the order chit. It's not if the chef thinks the fish requires them.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, toro nishin
toro nishin

The hakkaku (sailfin poacher) and toro nishin were nice. Flavourful from the fattiness I guess. What also happened was when we asked for the omission of grated ginger, the spring onions were also left out. Hmmm.....

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, botan ebi
botan ebi

There was no frying of the head of the head/tail of their botan ebi negiri. Maybe we should have asked but I thought they might have offered. Speaking of the botan ebi, it was not bad. Definitely had better though. Guess all those heads went to waste.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, iwashi

The sushi makers behind the counter aren't very conversant with English so the servers double as translators.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, taraba fundoshi
taraba fundoshi

Some of the uncommon offerings include the taraba fundoshi. I think the menu translated those as crab loin. I'm not sure exactly which parts of the crab are those but it was a little cold and not as sweet as I had hoped. Sardine was nice though. 

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, ajiwai tarako
ajiwai tarako

Ajiwai tarako is salted pollack roe. Kinda like mentaiko minus the spiciness. So salty fish eggs.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, shoyu marinated sujiko
shoju marinated sujiko

There's shoyu marinated sujiko. I think they are salmon eggs. They come in clustered lumps and the flavour is akin to extra salty ikura. I don't mind them though.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, hotate

The hotate is likewise better less chilled. Maybe I'll have that aburi the next time. That's bound to coax out flavours.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, dashimaki tamago
dashimaki tamago

Even though prices are listed for most of the items on the menu, they eventually charged by counting the coloured plates that they used. The items that weren't charged by coloured plates and had to be ordered through the servers are the non-sushi stuff. Like the dashimaki tamago which was served piping hot. 

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, tempura wagasaki
tempura wagasaki

Their tempura wagasaki (smelt) was nice. I'd eat these again.

Sushi Shiki Hanamaru, tempura maitake
tempura maitake

While not the best in class for tempura, what we had was pretty good. The ingredients were freshly fried and not excessively battered.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodle (忠于原味云吞面), Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre

Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodle (忠于原味云吞面), wanton mee 不见天

This (#02-30 Tiong Bahru Market, 30 Seng Poh Road) was the popular wanton noodle shop just right next door to Koh Brother. The reason why these guys attract a queue is because of the char siew that they serve with their wanton noodles. Specifically, it was the cut of meat that they used. Known in these parts as 不见天 or the arm pits of the pig. Leg pits would be more accurate. The Spanish call it secreto o cruceta.

The meat was coarse grained, fat laced and pretty tasty with some char and caramelization from the marinade. Noodles were well timed that they were full of bite. As a bonus, their chilli packed a bit of heat and was delicious. The irony coming from this stall was that those wantons weren't very good. 

Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodle (忠于原味云吞面), Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre

Monday, March 19, 2018

Khachapuri Day at Beerfest

Beerfest, khachapuri

Apparently, Khachapuri Day happens at Beerfest every third Sunday of the month! So here's a khachapuri from our local microbrewery in Rochester. Freshly made upon order and of the same Adjarian variety like the one we had previously at Dacha. The cheese was a little different though. The ones used here was more curdy and sharp as opposed to a richer, heavier and stretchier cheese. Still very good coming fresh from the oven and worth the 20 minute wait.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, Tras Street

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, Tras Street

We have walked past The Public Izakaya (#01-09 100AM, 100 Tras Street, tel : +65 +65 6604 9622) countless times and wondered if they were any good in spite of the crowd. We finally found out today.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, chicken liver

Their reba shoyuzuke was the first to land on our table. I liked that those chicken livers were not overcooked. Suitably flavoured with both shoyu and sesame sauce. The accompanying onions were crunchy and not sharp.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, negitoro don

There was a negitoro don. I was thinking that this might be a substitute for the one at Tampopo that used to be better since they were at similar price points.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, negitoro don

I think it could work. It was nicer toro that they used and I certainly couldn't argue against pickled daikon and ikura. More negi would be great but I don't think that's a deal breaker.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, momotaro tomato

The momotaro tomato which we had thought would be the first to be served came after the negitoro don which we had expected to be served last. Sequence was a little wonky but I guess it wasn't such a big deal. But a little more salt for those nicely chilled tomatoes would have been nice.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, jaga shiokara

We had an order of the jaga shiokara mistakenly thinking that it would be the same as the ones from Hokkaido Izakaya. Those had fermented squid guts while this one was just fermented squid. That explains why there was a lot more squid here since the guts had a much more intense flavour and saltiness.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, squid ink tsukune

Following up was some big assed tsukune in squid ink mayo. The tsukune was sweetened by a lot of minced carrot and I wasn't not getting much of those squid ink flavour.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, bacon hotate

Kushiyaki here were heartily portioned. No comparisons will be made to the king since they are obviously better at this - I thought these bacon wrapped hotate were pretty good. Each piece was a large mouthful.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, tori hatsu

This place also seemed to be less heavy handed with the salt. Which I suppose is sometimes a good thing. Still the hatsu skewers were enjoyable.

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, kushiyaki

Both their tori momoniku and reba were also large and chunky. I think we liver-ed out here. These liver skewers were about twice the size of regular ones. Haven't had so much in one sitting before today. While those larger portions were good value for what they charged, it also meant a larger meat to surface ratio which by extension made these skewers less flavourful than the smaller "usual" skewer sizes that kushiyaki joints normally make them. 

The Public Izakaya (大衆酒場) by Hachi, Tras Street