Monday, December 8, 2014

Food Glossary at JTC Summit

It is not often one finds great food, reasonable prices and good people serving it. It should be easy, but it is not. When Good Morning Nanyang Cafe closed in Hong Lim, I was saddened...for Byron Shoh, who runs the outlet is a friend and he serves great food at reasonable prices in a convenient location.


When he re-opened with some partners, I was overjoyed...but on discovering that the new location is at JTC Summit, my joy was tempered. Its way out there in the West, nowhere near my habitual route, and opening hours of Mon-Fri 7am-4pm is also not convenient. But I always enjoy a chat with Byron, and always enjoy his food and kopi, so trotted over one weekday to sample his offerings.

Initially he had partnered with a friend, also an aquaintence of mine Jimmy Cheang to offer smoked meats, which also quite pulled on my heart strings...I always longed to re-live the smoked meats at Schwartz's in Montreal or those in the Texas towns. But when I arrived last week, they had closed the Western kitchen. Perhaps the taste of the local clientele, in a HDB area, JTC offices were not atuned towards smoked meats. The Local Kitchen seemed to be doing well, though. I sampled the Char Kway Teow and the Rendang Chicken with blue rice.

First the visually interesting rendang chicken.


Fragrant blue rice, with chicken rendang. The rendang was very fragrant, with chunks of tender well marinaded chicken within, and potato chunks. Full flavour. I found the rendang a tad too salty, but the taste was excellent and very fragrant. The blue rice, other than being a beautiful spectacle was also very fragrant


Topped with a fried egg, it was very nice. 

I also tried the char kway teow


The kway teow used is very wide, more like hor fun than kway teow. And fried very well. Wok hei is apparent, and the prawns were fresh, juicy and very tasty. A small but very important detail - the taugeh (bean sprouts) were fried just right, a tinge of wok hei, and still very crunchy.

Of course I had Byron's famous kaya toast and kopi for dessert


Hand made kaya, done by Byron himself, generously spread with slices of butter on crisp toast. Very nice. The kopi was nice and fragrant, though ultimately loses out in flavour and fragrance to the Hylam Street in ABC, was better than the fare served up at the big chain kopi joints like Ya Kun, Killeney, Toast Box and the ilk.

Highly recommended. I wish the location was more convenient, but even as it is, I will make my way to eat here frequently, I suspect.

Food Glossary
#02-01, The JTC Summit
8 Jurong Town Hall Road, Singapore 609434




Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Black Sheep Cafe: Value meals in Thomson

Chef Ratha and his Black Sheep cafe is one of the favourite places I seek out when I need a comforting, nice French meal, without having to fuss with what one usually fusses about when one goes to eat at a French restaurant.


Fuss free, just stroll in...though a reservation is recommended for dinners on Fri, Sat and eves of holidays. The menu is straightforward, simple dishes, all cooked very well. The wine list does not require one to have a degree in oenology to decipher. Again, short, to the point, all wines are well chosen and work well. No pomp. No ceremony.

I often feel the chef is reflected in his food...and Ratha is certainly like the food he cooks. This lunch I had the baked brie as a starter


Premium brie, encrusted in a pistacio crust, and baked. Accompanied by a citrus fruit salad. Nice way to start. The crust was crispy, and very nicely browned, and the brie within, though not exactly oozing out as one cuts into the cheese, is just starting to melt.

Kin had the escargot in garlic sauce


Huge escargots, sans shell, in a lot of garlic, butter...hugely unhealthy, I guess from the copious amounts of butter...but oh, so delicious. The escargots were plump, juicy. Marvellous.

For mains, Kin had the time and tested confit canard



This is one of the favourites at Black sheep. The confit is made in-house, seared till lightly crisp on the outside on order. Sitting on a apple rosti, and accompanied by a mango relish. The skin was not as crisp as the ones in France, in particular our reference confit from Chez Dumonet. But Ratha's version is very good. Very good indeed, and perhaps the best in Singapore. The skin was delicious, and under just a small sliver of fat to give oomph, and tender, moist meat within. Perhaps a tad salty...only the slightest tad so, but the salt boosts flavour. The combination of the apple rosti helps cut the grease, and the salad was fresh and nice.

I had what the menu calls Cheeky Pork


The pork cheeks were probably braised, and then fried till crisp. And served on a bed of greens and pear and an orange glaze. The skin was very crispy, flavourful. The meat within was very tender, but I found the sinews to be very apparent, and it felt a bit like pulled pork having to cut with the grain of the muscles to make bite sized morsels. Tastewise it was excellent. A slight porky flavour, but all in the proper order and proportion. 

For desserts, we had the double chocholate boudini


Double chocolate refers to the chocolate bed which the strawberries, banana and the pistachio ice cream rests on. Within the outer cake like chocolate shell, is a molten chocolate interior. Superbly gorgeous chocolate, especially for the chocoholic.

And Chef Ratha's famous soufle


Wonderful. The Kalua soufle rises to the occasion, and within the slightly elastic skin, is a superbly light, airy interior, and was wonderful with the chocolate ice cream.

Superb meal, excellent cooking, with little fuss, and very affordable as well. Highly recommended.

p.s. This is an invited review. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have know Chef Ratha for many years. And I have always enjoyed his cooking.

The Black Sheep Cafe
11 Sin Ming Rd, Thomson V, B1-30, Singapore 575629
6459 5373 (11.30a.m-10.30p.m) or 92721842
Closed Mondays





Monday, December 1, 2014

Nodaiwa in Tokyo for the best grilled eel on the planet.

First, a confession...I love unagi (grilled eel, done Japanese style). It is definitely one of my favourite dishes, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find great unagi. The great unagi restaurants in Singapore, there was one standout, but they seem to have perished to the grasp of commercial realities.


The reason is the global supply of eel is becoming scarce. Especially the high quality anguila japonica prized in Japan for unagi. As a result, unagi have become more and more expensive. And today it is almost as rare and as expensive to have a unagi meal as it is to have a wagyu steak meal.

I tried one of the oldest eel houses in Japan, Nodaiwa, which was founded in 1850, and still family owned. The main store in Minato-ku, just across the road from the famous Tokyo Tower is a transplanted old storehouse, transplanted from Takayama in the Gifu Prefecture.



Downstairs house the kitchen, and a small dining room, and upstairs some private rooms. The room we had booked had chairs instead of the normal Japanese style tatami floor seating.


As my Japanese friend knows the current owner Kanemoto-san, we managed to score a visit to the kitchen.



And saw how the eel was prepared. We did not manage to see the slaughter of the live eels, but saw how the shirayaki was prepared. The shirayaki is grilled without any sauce. The style of Nodaiwa was the Kanto style, where the unagi is first steamed, then grilled. The other major style is the Kansai style, where the unagi is not steamed but grilled directly. The skin is a bit more chewy, and the unagi is more fatty to the palate.


The eel is first pierced with thin bambo sticks as shown above. Then steamed in a large bamboo basket as seen in the photograph below:


As each order is prepared a la minute, the large steamer only had one order of eel. 

The steaming melts some of the fat, and softens the skin, and the eel is then passed to the master to grill



The hot coals quickly cook the eel, and in the shirayaki style, no sauce is added. In the kabayaki style, the eel is repeatedly dipped into a vat of kabayaki sauce, resulting in a sweetish, sometimes thick coat of sauce. Nodaiwa's unagi kabayaki, however, the sauce is never overpowering. 

Back to the dining room, the first course we were served a grilled unagi in a egg roll


The tamago dashimaki with unagi is painstaking prepared by an unagi specialist. This style of Japanese omelette is made by rolling layers of egg as it is being cooked. The taste was rather fluffy, a nice rounded egg flavour with the mild taste of the grilled unagi within. 

We tried various types of unagi.

First the shirayaki


As mentioned, this was grilled without any sauce. The texture was very tender, soft, but still a bit springy. The eel was not flaky that it fell apart with the probing of the chopsticks, but remained rather elastic. It melted totally in the mouth. On the palate, it was mild, with flavours very subtle, and was a bit dry.

We also had 3 different types of unagi on rice. First unadon, on a bowl of rice


The aromatic sauce provided a sweet, salty punch to the unagi. The sauce, grilled till almost caramalised on the unagi was still quite subtle. Unlike many other lower end unagi stalls that dot the country where the powerful kabayaki sauce tend to overpower the taste of the eel. Here it was light, providing essential support but never taking over the prima donna role left for the unagi to shine. 

The same unagi, but served on a lacquered box is known as unaju. Here is the large portion...it was quite big, with approximately 400g of eel on one single layer with hot steaming rice below:



And shine it did. The taste was really tender, soft, with a mild flavour. A slight oily mouthfeel, only the slightest hint of grease, and never too intrusive was prevalent. The meat itself was so soft and tender, but still moist was wonderful. 




The unaju above was served as a double layer. Below the first layer of unagi and rice was another layer of unagi. This provides a slightly different experience as the eel continues to subtly cooked under the rice, flavouring it as one eats. 

Certainly one of the best unagi meals I have had. The flavour and incredible texture of the eel takes center stage. Truly memorable and excellent. And very highly recommended.

Awarded a Michelin star for this outlet in Tokyo, the restaurant also have several other branches in Tokyo and one in Paris.

Many thanks to my friend M. Kondo for booking the dinner and taking us there.

Nodaiwa AZABU

1-5-4, Higashiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106, Japan
Tél : 03 3583 7852 - Fax : 03 3589 4227
http://www.nodaiwa.co.jp Japanese









Monday, November 24, 2014

Yoshihashi: Michelin starred sukiyaki in Tokyo, Japan

Japan is reputed to have more Michelin starred restaurants than all of France. And many, many more who refuse to be listed. I suspect this little, gem of a sukiyaki haven in Motoakasaka is one where the owners probably do not care about the Michelin star that it adorns. Nowhere on the premises is the star displayed, unlike European establishments where it is prominently displayed at the entrance.


Yoshihashi's entrance has no such display. But if great sukiyaki is what you seek, this is the place for it.



Situated in a cul de sac in the quiet neighbourhood of Motoakasaka, just a stone's throw from the Emperor's Akasaka Palace, the restaurant is not easy to find. The entrance itself, is nondescript. Only a small sign, in Japanese announce the name of the restaurant, and that of the Oasis Bar, just next door. Japan Times calls it a "favourite among Japan's captains of industry, as well as ranking bureaucrats and political bigwigs from nearby Nagatacho."






But within, is another story. Elegant does not begin to describe the interior. As one enters the ante room leading to the main dining room, one is greeted by a magnificent view of the Japanese garden.




We arrived at 11:25am to ensure a spot (it opens at 11:30am), as they do not take reservations for lunch. The lunch time menu, like many top Japanese restaurants feature a lower cost and less elaborate version of the evening meal. In the case of Yoshihashi, the dinner sukiyaki set is ¥20,000 and up. But lunch is offered at ¥2,100 and ¥3,150 for the premium sukiyaki set. 




We had read that lunch was limited to 16 bar counter seats, but when we arrived, we were shown into one of the two the private rooms. each can probably seat 10, given the 10 cushons on the tatami. But the restaurant was not totally full, and we occupied one room with two other ladies who were also tourists. The other room was occupied by 6 Japanese ladies who lunch. 

The long table with an opening to slot one's legs into, in case one is not adept at the Japanese style sitting with one's legs folded under self. The room itself was superbly minimalist and elegant. 

The menu was in Japanese only, though the kimono clad waitress spoke a little English. But we knew what we wanted. We ordered both the regular sukiyaki set as well as a premium sukiyaki set.




And it was served about 10 minutes later. Top two sets in their copper bowls where the sukiyaki was cooked in are the regular sets, and the lower right one is the premium set. A large pot of steamed rice, was offered on an unlimited basis. And Japanese green tea.

For dinner, the sukiyaki is cooked at the table by your waitress, who also whips the egg white stiff with a pair of chopsticks while the yolk remains undisturbed below. For lunch, the sukiyaki is cooked in these copper pots in the kitchen, and one is left to one's own devices on how to eat it.




But it is easy. First beat up the egg...unless one is trained to do so, just a messy stirring with the chopsticks will do the job. Then pick up the beef with your chopsticks and en-route to your mouth, dip it in the raw egg.




The premium beef tasted sublime. The term, melts in your mouth with powerful, earth shattering umami is overused...but is definitely what applies here. The beef is packed with flavour, all the beefiness, all the tenderness. Very lightly flavoured by the Yoshihashi house blend warishita sauce and the almost begining to cook raw egg. Sublime. 




The regular set features more or less the same, but the beef was more lean. I actually preferred the leaner regular cut, less richness, but a bit more bite to the meat. Accompanying the thin strips of beef, were cubes of grilled tofu, chunks of onions and negi leeks, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) greens and transparent, chewy shirataki noodles. 


This is easily not only the best sukiyaki I have eaten, but also one of the best beef I have tasted. Truly magnificent, and definitely a must eat everytime in Tokyo. 

Yoshihashi
1-5-25 Motoakasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/shop/0120140295/






Monday, November 10, 2014

Christmas Buffet at STREET 50 at Bay Hotel

I have featured STREET50, a restaurant tucked in a boutique hotel just off the bridge from Sentosa. The food is rather interesting, and they make seasonal changes to the menu for National Day, Christmas, etc. Today, I managed to preview the Christmas menu which I find rather interesting. Thanks to Wendy and Xiowei of Pink Publicists for inviting and hosting.

The Christmas menu features a huge selection of delicacies, amongst which I highlight some in this post.

I start with the featured drink...the Glitter Jubilee...rather refreshing concoction with rum, and flakes of gold.



But on to some of the dishes...I found the Honey Baked Chicken Ham to be quite good.



A Street 50 Signature complete with Cranberry Chutney, Peach Compote, Mint Raita & Chestnut Sauce, the ham was nicely seasoned, and very tender and moist on the palate. This is available for take away as well.

A Tender Duckling Breast with Cranberry & Calvados was next. 



Succulent duckling breast accompanied with fresh cranberry sauce and apple brandy. I found the duck a bit on the gamey side. I am not particularly thrilled with the gamey flavour of duck, but I know some of you are rather fond of this. Apart from that, the duck was perfectly roasted, the meat slightly pink on the inside, and nice and honey brown on the skin. The duck was very tender, with a sliver of fat under the skin. 

I loved this dish, on the regular menu, but also available for their Christmas buffets


Called Tom Yum Flair, it has a strong lemongrass flavour which is very tom yum, yet served with spaghetti and seafood, featuring fresh mussels and half a rock lobster. I found this to be very good, if a bit spicy. I had mixed feelings about this dish when I first tried it a couple of years ago, also here in STREET50, but this time, I found it very satisfying. Definitely a thumbs up for me.

We ended with a sweet note of their version of a Christmas Trifle with cranberry. 


Suberb. Rich but not coy. Sweet but not overly so. Beautifully balanced with the tart and sour accents offered by the fruits. Very nice. 

Interesting menu offering...quite complicated, with many options on pricing for lunch, dinner and on the actual holiday dates and eves. Prices range from S$38 for lunch, S$48 for dinner and $88 for the holiday dates, with specials for senior citizens and kids (who eat for free with each paying adult). Conditions apply.

STREET 50 Restaurant and Bar
Bay Hotel, 50 Telok Blangah Road
6818 6681










Monday, November 3, 2014

Eating in Germany: El Rodizio, Dresden

Often the best things in life are the simple kind. A beer. A steak, done perfectly. Simple, satisfying.


After almost a week of feasting, on schewinhaxe, sausages, and Michelin starred French cuisine in Dresden, I went to a nearby steakhouse to the hotel I was staying (Kempinski Taschenbergpalais), and had a great steak meal.

The place was rather packed on a Saturday evening, at 8pm. I was told, I could only get a seat if I left at 10:15. No problem, I told the waiter...who spoke perfect English.

Ordered my usual Chicago medium...charred on the outside and medium on the inside, and a glass of house beer...Kellerbier...an unfiltered brew which was rather delicious.

And voila, the steak arrived in short order...


Looks great, and the aroma of the steak was wonderful. 200g of Black Angus ribeye, grilled perfectly. With a side of vegetables came up to a rather inexpensive 17.60, a bit more than S$28. 


The steak was excellent. Tender, beefy flavour, and done perfect...the meat was indeed medium almost all through the steak, with only a very small sliver, right at the edge, greyed out due to my request for charring on the outside.

Excellent steak and great meal. Highly recommended if you are in Dresden. The location is great, right by Aldstadt, around the corner from the historic city center - by the Frauenkirche, Zwinger.

Mexikanisches Steakhouse El Rodizio‎
Wilsdruffer Straße 22
01067 Dresden
Tel.: 0351 / 49 76 884
Fax: 0351 / 49 77 231


Monday, October 13, 2014

Yat Lok Roast Meats in Central, Hong Kong

One of the best things to eat when in Hong Kong is roast goose...and none better than Yat Lok.


Indeed...roast meats. Wonderfully prepared, and roasted to perfection. Nowhere in Singapore can we even begin to approach this level of finese in roasting. First, the availability of fresh ingredients like the pork and goose is impossible in Singapore, whereas abundant in Hong Kong. And the traditional recipes and knowhow, handed down generations is also well developed there.

I have eaten at Yung Kee, the famous Michelin Starred roast restaurant in Hong Kong. But since then, I think success has perhaps gone to their heads, and the standards has gone downhill since the Michelin award. Today it is mostly a tourist location, and indeed has a great ambience for visitors and for taking out clients. 



In contrast, Yat Lok is a typicaly Hong Kong restaurant, with the roasts hanging in the window, the cook preparing the dishes visible from the street. Inside, it is cramped, not particularly clean and frequently one is expected to share tables. Lingering over a meal is certainly not encouraged. Service is swift, but not particularly polite, and the waiters expect you to know what you want, and are not in a mood to explain what each dish is about.

Having said that, I let the cat out of the bag by saying this is the best roast goose restaurant I have ever eaten. Bar none.

We started with a platter of roast pork and char siew.


Meats in Hong Kong are usually rather fat...but fat equals flavour, so I guess taste is of utmost importance. Indeed, the flavour is very good. The roast pork is full flavoured, the rind crispy. The char siew very tender and very flavourful too. But this is not what Yat Lok is famous for. The level it is achieved, though very good, is not the best one can find in Hong Kong. 

But the roast goose is another story,


My lunch mate had the roast goose leg in noodle soup. It looked marvellous, but I had tried this once before, and though very nice, the soup softens the crisp skin of the goose, and for me, it kind of loses its main attraction.

For me the right way to serve roast goose is with rice


The skin is superbly crisp, under that a very thin layer of super flavourful fat, and under that the tender, delicious meat. The roast goes superbly, no its heavenly, with the lightly soy sauced rice. Marvellous. Out of this world. Definitely the best roast goose I have ever eaten.

Very highly recommended, and a must eat every time in Hong Kong.

Yat Lok Restaurant
G/F, 34-38 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong

Monday, October 6, 2014

Australia Dairy Company: Jordan, Hong Kong

One of the most famous and interesting cha chaan teng in Hong Kong, regardless of the name, has nothing to do with Australia and totally and absolutely Chinese...they don't even have an English menu.


The queue at about 9:30am on a Friday morning. The queue snakes all the way round the block. But clearing about 50 pax in front of me in the queue took all of 15minutes.


The interest in this cha chaan teng springs not only from the simple but exquisite cuisine served within, but also in the ruthless efficiency in which the crowd and queues (and boy what a long queue) are managed, how the food delivery is managed and how the high quality is maintained throughout. The restaurant is a study of efficiency on how to feed thousands in as short a time as possible, without compromising quality. Amazing.


As one enters, the waiter "orders" one to sit where he directs...he did not seem to leave an option...and I guess everybody obeys. Sharing of tables is not a courtesy, but mandatory. Nobody asks you if you mind sharing, the waiter directs you to share, you just sit. He is back to take your order in all of 15 seconds. Most guide books/blogs recommend ordering the sets. Most of these guides also say that the waiters do not speak English...I had an English speaking waiter...though I had practiced the art of just pointing to the third item on the set menu...he understood me, and repeated Scrambled Eggs. It is important to get that right, because the eggs can also be served sunny side up, but scrambled was what they are famous for.

If you had ordered Set 1: the macaroni and ham in a soup would be unceremoniously plonked on your table within 20 seconds from ordering. But I ordered Set 3, which was eggs with toast, tea. I also added a dessert - their famous steamed milk custard.


The iced milk tea was unexeptional. Though fresh milk was used instead of condensed milk, it was unremarkable. There are many better milk teas in Hong Kong. But having said that, it is rather better than almost all we get here in Singapore. So be thankful.

Almost immediately, the scrambled eggs and the buttered toast was served

Some claim this is the best scrambled eggs on the planet. I am not so sure, but it was rather impressive. The eggs were just a tad from being runny, and yet a tad from being solid. The texture was smooth, creamy as it caresses the mouth and tongue. The unique texture and taste is attributed by some to the use of fresh Hokkaido milk and yet others to canned soup. Indeed as one gaze into the kitchen, which is open by the way, one can see cans of Campbell soup tucked on a shelf behind the cooks. 

The buttered toast was also just right. Crisp outside, still moist within, and the butter melted just so, lingering on the inside. 

While I find the taste to be excellent, even more intriguing was their ability to delivery this level consistency. This is almost an art form. Nay, the entire restaurant is like an organism. Efficient, consistent, high quality. 

I come to the steamed milk custard...this was unlike any I have eaten anywhere else


The custard was superbly smooth, and the more than tinge of taste and wonderful aroma of fresh milk was apparent. Sweetened, this is served as a dessert. The taste is rather mild...subtle, perhaps sublime. The smoothness was superb. Our tau huey (soy bean custard) is no where in the same universe in terms of smoothness and texture. 

Highly recommended, not only for the superb food, but also as an observation of the efficiency of a top end cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. 

Australia Dairy Company 澳洲牛奶公司 (Hongkong)
47-49 Parkes Street Jordan (near Jordan MTR)
Tel: (852) 2730 1356
Opening Hours: Daily 730am to 11pm'
Facebook (not official fb)
Location
How to get there: Exit C2 Jordon's MTR Station and walk towards Parkes Street





Monday, September 22, 2014

Paul's new Executive Set Dinner menu at Tanglin Mall and Westgate

Paul's is an bakery from Paris with a long and interesting history from 1889 in France. They opened their first outlet in Singapore in 2012 in Ngee Ann City.


They introduced an interesting menu of affordable meals in their  outlets in Tanglin Mall and Westgate...both an Executive Set Lunch for S$13.90 and their Executive Set Dinner for S$18.90 from now till October 31.

I went for a tasting at the Tanglin Mall outlet, a quaint restaurant, reminiscent of a boulangerie in France, with a large bread counter at the entrance, and a nice beautifully decorated dining area.


I tried the Set Dinner...first up the soup of the day, which was Cream of Brocolli


Made with ground brocolli, it was rather pleasing, but not spectacular by any stretch of imagination. I rather enjoyed it, as it was hearty and wholesome. The cream was light, and the bits of ground brocolli provided the namesake and the taste.

I also had the traditional beef stew. 


This was a hearty dish. Chunks of beef, nicely stewed till tender, with lots of vegetables, potatos, carrots, leaks and a thick, delicious brown sauce. Served with a green salad on the side and house bread, baked fresh. Loved this dish. Very traditional, very countryside. 

Kin had the chicken in cream sauce


Called Saute de Poulet aux Champignons or roasted chicken with mushrooms in a cream sauce. Rather delectable too. The chicken was nicely roasted, and very tender. The mushrooms were fresh ones, and very flavourful, and went very well with the cream sauce.

The set dinner came with either ice lemon tea or ice mint tea...rather refreshing.

Nice dinner sets, and very affordable and good value. 

Paul
#01-16/17 Tanglin Mall
163 Tanglin Road
Singapore 247933
Tel: +65 6736-3257

#01-05 Westgate
3 Gateway Drive
Singapore 065832
Tel: +65 6369-9080