Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feasting in Penang?: Penang Road Teochew Chendol

Mention Chendol and Penang...and automatically the recommendations run to the stall just by Penang Road and Lebuh Leng Kee. For the longest time, there has been two stalls, just across the road from each is perpetually with a long queue, and the other, curiously is almost always without any customers.

My parents both loved the one which, when you stand on Penang Road, and look into Lebuh Leng Kee, is on the right. And the one which has the queues.

I haven't been at this stall for about 5 years now, and returned just after Christmas 09 for a visit...and boy it has changed. The stall now has rented (?) or bought a shophouse just a stone throw away, and now customers can sit in comfort to enjoy their bowl of chendol.

The prices also have increased accordingly over the years...but the BIG question is...has the quality and taste?

Sad to say, it has. Quality has suffered in the pursuit of profit. No more the thick, coconut milk. No more the large kidney beans. No more the springy, yet tender strands of green mung bean pasta. No more thick, wholesome, fragrant palm sugar. The only thing remainding is the beautifully shaved ice...still done just right...finely shaved, no icicles forming...providing a jolt of cold, and melts on contact with the tongue.

Now, in the chase for profit, it looks like what you get is a bowl of watery mess...with ingredients mildly reminiscent of the glorious chendol we used to get from this stall. Disappointing. Rarely, do I write a poor review, and not offer any positive attributes to say about a stall. My policy has always been if I don't blog about it, either I have not had the opportunity to taste the food, or it is not good. But this transgression of hawkers who have tasted success and fame, and now goes to their head, and dilutes their product need some exposure. And makes me furious!

Teochew Chendol
stall by Penang Road and Lebuh Leng Kee

Monday, February 22, 2010

Boon Tong Kee: only for chicken rice?

with colleagues

Many of us are familiar with Boon Tong Kee as a purveyor of fine chicken rice...hmm...that's doesn't sound quite right...ok...Boon Tong Kee as having power chicken rice...smooth, moist, tender chicken on fragrant, rice, and a chilli sauce with some kick. But did you know that they serve very good cze char style food at restaurant level?

We dropped by for lunch one day at their Whampoa West (next to Boon Keng MRT) stall. Kind of like a blast from the past...this row of shop houses right next to the MRT station. Boon Tong Kee occupies the corner lot, just next to the station entrance.

Inside, the decor continues on this 1970s theme. Quaint.

We started with the chicken, of course!

Also known locally as Pak Cham Kai...or translated as white, chopped chicken...I think...:-)...the chicken is steamed or boiled...with skin intact. The meat was smooth, almost creamy in texture and consistency, moist, and very juicy. Sometimes, in steamed white chicken, the white meat comes out to be dry, fibrous and chewy. But the BTK version was total opposite...nearly as smooth as dark meat, but the dark meat was even more succulent, even more tender, and any fibrous texture...small and interesting as it may have been on the white meat, is totally smooth.

But we came to sample the other dishes. Starting with the Khong Bak Pau:

Braised, pork belly...this was to be eaten between the folds of a steamed bun. The meat was less fat and meltingly tender as my benchmark Westlake's version, but it was quite tasty...a bit less collagen and fat, a bit more sinews and muscles. I prefer the smothering sauce and sinful collagen/protein mass served by Westlake, but the BTK version is quite good.

A dish not commonly found is the cuttlefish with kangkong...jew her eng chai:

The chef was generous with the cuttlefish. Typically this is either done from rehydrated dried cuttlefish which is more flavourful, chewy. Or with fresh cuttlefish, which is more gelatenous in texture. The traditionalists prefer the rehydrated version. I am not sure what was used here, but the cuttlefish was very springy, nice and not too chewy. The eng chai, or kangkong was quite young, and leafy. I truly dislike the use of old kangkong...these end up being fibrous, tasteless...and thankfully BTK had chosen to use young kangkong...which is fresh, crunchy instead of chewy, and tasty. The sauce, a kind of dark bean sauce...sweet, salty, spicy, punctuated by fragrant, lightly toasted sesame seeds was perfect.

Regular readers of this blog know I have a soft spot for well made, fragrant, soft tofu...

The special tofu served up at BTK does not disappoint. The home made tofu was cubed, coated with a batter, and deep fried. The batter provides a crispy exterior in golden yellow...protecting the smooth, creamy, silky fault, and wonderfully fragrant tofu interior. Wonderful.

And the piece de resistance...the ter kar...braised pork trotter

One of my absolute favourites, but totally destroys diets...and only to be imbibed once in a while, and only the very best, the braised pork trotter is excellent. The trotter is de-boned, and braised for a long time to achieve the consistency, and tenderness to be separated by fork. A thick layer of collagen and fat sticks to the skin...which has a springy, slightly tougher consistency than the super tender meat it conceals. The braising sauce could have been a bit stronger in flavour...I found the trotter in PuDong Kitchen and recently a tasting in Zhou's Kitchen to be better, but the BTK version is more elegant, lighter in flavour (though not lighter in fats and cholesterol), and milder. Nonetheless, within my top 5 great braised pork trotters.

And of course, we rounded up the meal with ohr nee:

The yam paste was quite nicely done, thick, gooey consistency, a bit of the powdery texture of ground yam could be detected, and very fragrant. The ginko nuts added the traditional taste, and the use of pork lard eased the paste to a smooth pulp. Nice.

Overall, a nice restaurant for the chicken rice and also cze char style dishes. The braised pork knuckle is quite excellent.

Boon Tong Kee
34 Whampoa West #01-93 Singapore 330034
(beside Boon Keng MRT)
Telephone 6299 9880

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bergs: are gourmet burgers better?

with Ken, Kennard, Malvyn

A large, juicy burger is a special meal...appealing to inner senses, it fulfulls in many ways. But looking from another point, a large burger like the Double Western Bacon or Portobello Mushroom from Carl's of my favourites, pulls in at 970 calories, of which a whopping 52g is fat(not to mention 1`850 mg of sodium and 15g of sugar). See Carl''s Jr nutritional information page for more info. Add a large coke, and a serving of fries, and it is quite a toll on the recommended daily caloric intake of 2500 calories for the average male.

So when I have to eat burgers sparingly, and only chose the best tasting for the occassional indulgence session. I have been hearing reports that Bergs, tucked in one corner in Far East Square serves one of the best. Aussie style, these are grilled on order, and are very large.

The menu is cheeky, and quite an interesting read. The open kitchen is out for all to view and sample the smells of cooking burgers. Very nice too. The casual, Aussie style is relaxed, unhurried.

And the burgers are HUGE.

The burger above is called the Crikey Too...comprising a huge cut of prime beef fillet, bacon, tomato, lettuce and all the toppings. The beef looked like it was rough cut, perhaps hand chopped and hand made patty, unlike the more homogenous patty served by Carl's Jr, I can easily discern the chopped beef and onions, and the patty was more prone to crumbling than Carl's Jr. I found it to be a bit on the dry side, though the flavour of the beef was very good, with the characteristic smokiness of a char grilled patty. The bun was also dry, but soft. The bacon was very streaky, and was relatively crispy.

Overall, for me, this does not quite make it to be a regular haunt. The burger was too dry, and not tasty enough. I will stick to Carl's Jr for my burger cravings.

Far East Square
137 Amoy St,
#01-01 Far East Square,
Ph: 6438 6505

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gastronomy in Paris: Le Roi du Pot Au Feu

with SJX, RobG, FXO and Steve

It was our final evening in Paris...Friday nightout. We met with my French friend Francois and caught up with Steve (who had just arrived via TGV from Geneva).

I had, years ago stumbled on the Pot Au Feu (literally translated from French as "pot of fire") with Kin and Edward while wandering around the 2nd, after a tiring day of sight seeing and shopping. And we remembered it to be a remarkable meal...not for its inventiveness, nor the use of special and exotic ingredients, but it was a nice warm meal, hearty, home the middle of a very cold spring evening, and it warmed us up. We remembered the service to be friendly, and the menu short.

We ordered some red wine:

Côte Rouennaise Rouge: a kind of a table wine...already decanted, and poured into this unpretentious bottle. The wine was a little light on the nose, but had a deep, dark hue which was beautiful. On the palate, it was heavy, dark, brooding perhaps. With a hint of tannins to lift it up, and a good complement to the beef we were about to have.

Starters was an kind of French Onion soup:

Hearty, simple, and frankly quite a truly homey kind of way.

And the Pot au Feu special:

The meat was sinewy, but nonetheless the long hours in a pot of fire, boiling away, have broken down the tough muscles into tender, soft, and very delicious meat. The marrow inside the bone, a la osso bucco, was absolutely sinful, but captivatingly delicious. Accompanied by bolied vegetables, it was indeed like your mom would cook at home...if you were French, and lived in a small town in France. Very hearty!

For desserts, we were served the very nice pear sorbets...I had one which is laced with Calvadose - an apple brandy from Basse-Normandie. A thick, viscous, liquour added depth and kick to the home made sorbet of pear.

A superb ending...and a highly recommended restaurant, especially after a few days of fine dining, and rich French cuisine.

The next morning, we were off at the Gare de Lyon catching the TGV back to Geneva, and from there on to Zurich and home.

Le Roi du Pot au Feu
34, rue Vignon, Havre Caumartin,
Paris, France
01 47 42 37 10‎

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gastronomy in Paris: Guy Savoy

with SJX and RobG

Guy Savoy is THE celebrated French chef! As the youngest of the haute cuisine innovators, famous fo light, nouvelle cuisine, this 62 year old is full of energy and concocts dishes which not only one marvels at with the ingenious use of ingredients, but also which fulfills, teases, cajoles, provokes the taste buds.

The restaurant at 18 rue Troyon, just a short walk from the Arc de Triumph and the Avenue de Champs Elysee, the restaurant features a discrete front door. Once inside, the decor is modern, a bit similar to Iggy's which I reviewed earlier. See lunch and degustation.

As we were seated, we were immediately offered a club sandwich.

Tiny, but made up like a club sandwich, with a tiny bit of toast, foie gras. It was excellent. The toast was more like a crouton, but light and crispy. The nuttiness of the foie gras was apparent, and the truffle oil used lifted the sandwich. Promising to bring further adventures to the tastebuds.

We promptly ordered a glass of house champagne.

And started perusing the menu...

We were tossed between the set menus...but it looked too heavy for the Maitre d' recommended a special menu for us...lighter, and more suitable for lunch, comprising of two appetizers and two main courses each. He described the courses in detail and obvious delight. It sounded good to us, so we opted for it. Two appetizers - a lobster dish and the signature Guy Savoy soup, and two mains: a fish and guinea fowl.

Then the labourous task of chosing some wines. I was presented with the rather large wine list...

And with the help of the sommelier, chose two whites, to complement our appetizers and main courses.

We then began the show...even lunch at a 3 star Michelin restaurant is a show...lasting 2 to 3 hours, and amusing. Service was excellent, as was expected...attentive, knowledgable, and very pleasant. Starting with the amuse bouche:

The amuse was served as a double espresso cup, joined at the facing up, the other facing down. Into the up facing cup, a ladle of pumpkin soup was poured...pepper as you wish rests on the bottom of the inverted cup, and may be added as you wish. I enjoyed the soup...robust pumpkin flavours, in a smooth creamy texture. As I lifted the conjoined cups, the inverted bowl reveals a tiny pastry tartlet pastry with foie gras. The tartlet was super light, almost like paper, and crisp. The foie gras, was of course, excellent.

The first wine was served:

Chateau Soucherie, Savenneries 2007. From the French Loire region from chenin grapes, and hardly a premier cru or grand cru, but we found the wine to be rather nice, pale golden hue on the eye, on the nose - honey flavours, tart. On the palate it was quite fine, full, structured.

Before the food proper was served, we were presented with the Bread Cart:

Bread was specially baked by Guy's France, the bakery is a kind of religion...neighbours who are normally civil and polite, sometimes come to blows when discussing which baker gets their custom and why...maybe that's why bread in French is called "pain"...:-) The waiter described each bread in detail, and explained that he would serve a specially selected bread with each course.

Then the first appetizer. Breston lobster "raw cooked" in cold stream.

The thearetical aspect of fine dining rears its sometimes beautiful head...witness a large plate, with a bowl containing a tartine of lobster...the sides of the plate is perforated. Some liquid carbon dioxide is dished into the perforations, evaporating immediately to form a cloud of mystery. A consomme of lobster is then dished into the bowl. When the CO2 cloud dissipated, it reveals the lobster sitting in the consomme. The lobster was very fresh, lightly cooked, and tasted of the sea and crustaceans. Flesh was firm to the bite, sweet. The consomme complemented the meat particularly well...just a tad savoury, the hot broth was tasty.

An intermezzo of cream of squash cappucinno:

This creamy soup allowed the palate to refresh, and recharge after the lobster dish. And be prepared to be assulted by the main soup.

The second appetizer was none other than the famous Artichoke and black truffle soup, with layered brioche with mushrooms and truffles:

Although I don't usually like artichokes, I decided I should try this, as this is one of Guy's most famous of dishes. And I was glad I did. The soup was quite sublime...the flavour of fresh heart of arthchoke was present, but ever so lightly. It was creamy to the palate, and the black truffles and parmesan chese was a wonderful foil. The truffles were fragrant, and almost dreamy. And the cheese anchored the dream in a bit of reality...being more robust and a bit chewey.

The brioche which accompanied was wonderfully light, and the truffle butter quite nice...done by the waiter in-situ. Very nice, light and fragrant, but for me, though I thouroughly enjoyed it, I felt it hardly complemented the soup.

And the second white wine: Joseph Drouhin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Marquis de Languiche 2004.

Quite a different white from the first. Scoring 96 points on the Wine Spectator scale, the wine was full, luscious, elegant. Beautiful complex aftertaste.

So, on to the first main course: Roasted sea bass with sweet spices...

A fillet of sea bass, grilled to perfection...soft, tender, succulent. What was interesting was the fish was roasted with the skin, and scales on. The skin was super crispy, and the scales rendered crisp, and very tasty, but yet, and I see no evidence that the fillet and skin were cooked separately and assembled, the fish meat remained very moist, succulent. Amazing! My first taste of fish scales, and it tasted wonderful.

The dish was accompanied with mushrooms, chard ribs and fish stock infused with vanilla and sweet spices with a piece of seaweed. Wonderful dish...certainly one of the best fish I have ever eaten...I didn't know sea bass could be so full bodied on the palatte, the flesh was almost creamy, and rich. Contrapoint with the crispy skin and super crispy scales. Wonderfully shiok!

Next dish was another spectacle. When the waiter wheeled in our order on its own trolley, it looked like a huge egg...and all the other diners looked at us in wonderment...

The dish was whole guinea fowl poached in a pig's bladder, served with basmati rice and black truffle. The egg, was actually an blown up bladder, containing the the waiter proceeded to puncture it, and slice it open to reveal the guinea fowl:

The fowl was expertly carved up in-situ, with two servings each...first the white meat.

The white meat was moist, with the sinews of the muscles clearly discernable by sight and on the palate, but the meat remained very tender...smooth and tasty. Flavour was not quite gamey as I expected, but quite like chicken. The rest of the fowl was whisked away into the kitchen for warming while we ate the white meat, and returned as a second serving. The cabbage was very well done...cooked soft, but not to the point of collapse...some crunch remained. The basmati rice was very fragrant, and savoury.

After the elaborate main which time some 2 hours had passed, we were getting quite full. We started on the desserts, but first a pre-dessert...not one, but 4 courses of pre-dessert:

From top left clockwise, in order of service...Blood orange with slices of caramalized blood orange and hot blood orange sauce. Apple pie (tart tartin), a small prune cup cake, and a lemon-orange chiffon cake, with caramalized mandarin orange.

We declined the cheese course, and embarked on the dessert...the trolley:

I opted to sample most of what was offered:

From the top right, clockwise, caramel with sea salt and vanilla ice cream. Followed by a warm apple compote, almond and bergamon sorbet and vanilla pudding with pink praline pudding. All delectable. Of note is the caramel with sea salt ice cream...the taste of the sea salt was apparent...the sugar was quite subdued, just an undertone, allowing the salt to take centerstage. The puddings were also, sensuous...and I hazard to

in the kitchen with Guy

Unlike previous 3 star Michelin meals I have Hotel de Ville Chez Rochat, and at Auberge d'Lille at Illhausen, the meal at Guy Savoy was lighter...perhaps it was lunch...but the dishes were imaginative, with interesting ingredients, cooked perfectly...technically faultless, and served with a bit of fanfare one expects from a Michelin restaurant. The dishes were light, not greasy, and went down well with the wines chosen. The service attentive, knowledgable, and cheerful. The chef made his rounds, joyful and obviously enjoying himself very much...and in his element entertaining his guests, as I am sure as when toiling in the kitchen. Overall, I found the meal to be excellent, and a bit overwhelming.

Guy Savoy will open in Singapore Sands IR soon. I will be watching out for it to sample more of the delights.

Restaurant Guy Savoy
18 rue Troyon
Paris 75017
+33(0)143 804 061
Opening Hours:
12pm–2pm, 7pm–1030pm
Reservations mandatory...either by phone or on their website

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Pre-Gastronomy in Paris: Lion D'Or in Geneva

with the Lange Owners Group

A. Lange & Soehne, the top end luxury watch brand hosts a dinner every year at the Salon International de Haut Horologie (SIHH) for a collector's group where I am Founding Chairman...the Lange Owners Group (LOG). As a tradition, we have held the dinner on a Tuesday evening at the Auberge du Lion D'Or. The Lion D'Or, or the Golden Lion has 1 Michelin star, 17 GaultMillau points and situated in the prosperous district of Cologny in Geneva.

We take our usual place upstairs from the main dining room, which by the way has a spectacular view of the Lake Geneva. Our little private enclave upstairs can sit up to 25 diners in comfort, but we had the luxury of only having one long table sitting 20.

As is typical of Lange, we started with conversations lubricated by champagne (Laurent Perrier Brut). We talked about everything on earth, from watches (of course!), to suits, to shoes, to roasting coffee at home.

And eventually, we settle down for the food and wine. After the amuse bouche was served, the appetizer of foie gras was presented:

The duck liver tasted very good...freshly made pate, smooth, creamy. Nice flavour. Ably supported by the chutney and crispy bread.

Other than the champagne, the white was superbly matched to the foie gras. This is my first taste of Domaine Vacheron...curious in a watch have wine with the domaine name which is the same as Lange's stable mate in Richemont: Vacheron Constantin. This Sancerre was typical of the region's prized wines...medium bodied, with floral notes underlined with a hint of truffle. 2008 was quite a nice year for Domaine Vacheron.

The main course was medallions of veal:

Veal is meat from suckling cattle...who have not started to eat grass or grain, but fed only with their mother's milk. So the meat is rather pinkish, and considered a white meat, rather than red meat of beef. Typically very tender, and not flavourful, this meat is quite popular in Switzerland.

This veal was no different. Tender and mild tasting. It went well with the rice fritters and the light sauce which accompanies. The wine coupling was with the magnificent Les Pagodas les Clos St Estephe 2004. This was a powerful Bordeaux...strong violet hue. On the nose, blackberries and a hint of raspberry pemeates. Very elegant finish.

Dessert was inspired:

The black chocholate was super rich, and very strong chocolatey flavours, creamy, smooth, almost overpowering, but not quite. And topped with a cocoa sherbert, which was just as creamy as any ice cream...quite nice. Not too sweet as is the custom these days, but nice to finish the meal.

An excellent restaurant, in a beautiful setting.

The chef, taking his kudos:

Auberge du Lion d’Or
Place Pierre-Gautier 5
Phone: +41 (0) 22 736 4432

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