Monday, January 30, 2012

Ramen Champion at Iluma: Taishoken

Ramen Champion at Iluma, Singapore: Taishokenn

The continuing saga of ramens in Singapore, I next sampled Taishoken. One of the most famous ramen shops in Tokyo, I might even have eaten at their Tokyo outlet...but sometimes, in Japan, one store is similar to the next, and unless spectacularly outstanding (they are all outstanding, btw), I sometimes fail to notice the name and address.

The usual SOP here...order from the staff...take the disk...when the ramen is ready, the disk will flash, vibrate...take it back to the stall...and viola! Be presented with the ramen.

I ordered the signature I can understand what the creators wanted the ramen to taste like...As they supposedly invented the Tsukemen...dry ramen, dipped in a special sauce, I ordered the same:

The sauce was very, almost. And I was told was made with pork, chicken, anchovies and sweet vinegar. The broth was quite refreshing in a way, but as is typical, I found it to be too salty to drink on its own. Though as a dipping sauce, it was ok.

The noodles were thick, a bit springy. And had a nice bite. It picked up the sauce quite well, and was a pleasure to slurp down.

The egg was perfect...and there were 2!

Gooey, almost cooked, yet not quite...oozing. Pictured above is the seasoned egg. The other egg looked white on the egg probably unseasoned, and was somewhat slightly more cooked. But both were excellent.

Now I have almost eaten at all the Ramen Champions...only one left...Gantetsu...which I intend to return to sample later. Thus far, my favourite is still Tetsu, with their Paitan Tsukumen.

Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
4F Iluma

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Party favourites: Seared tuna with asparagus and carrots

Seared tuna

A little photoessay on a dish I learnt to make at Cookyn Inc...seared tuna, garnished with ribbons of asparagus and carrots.

First but some tuna...shown here, two slabs of sashimi grade maguro.

It is important to use sashimi grade tuna, even though we are going to sear the tuna, as you shall see later, only a small outer surface of the tuna gets cooked.

Slice the asparagus longitudinally using a potato peeler:

Next, apply a coat of cooking oil. Peanut oil or vegetable oil is fine. Lard is also ok. Olive oil is not so good as it has a low smoke point.

Season the tuna with pepper, and a little salt. Careful with the salt. Too much will cause the moisture to wick out of your tuna, and cause a dry tasting fish.

Then with a standard blow torch, sear the outside of the tuna, turning over so that all 4 sides gets seared...get the one used in kitchens for making creme brule or searing meat.

After searing, the block of tuna looks like this

Then plate and serve


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Keong Hee Huat Chai

May the year of the Water Dragon bring you happiness, prosperity and health.

The Water Dragon Object d'Art by Parmigiani Fleurier

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Enfant Terrible? Or just very talented chef: Andre

Enfant Terrible or Talented Chef: Andre

Chef Andre Chiang is least in Singapore. The talented chef used to helm the kitchens at Jaan, but decided to set out on his own...with a restaurant, totally conceptualised, designed by him...and aptly named Andre.

Everything in the restaurant bears his touch...from the raw timber used as the table above, branded by burnt marks with is name, to the flower decorations and of course the cuisine.

Reputed as one of the best restaurants in Singapore, Andre sits on its own building, just off Majestic Hotel in the hip Bukit Pasoh area.

We started with a dish he calls Seafood on Arrival

A tomato salad on the side (not pictured), and a chilled langoustine risotto. Marvellous. The lobster was fresh, had a nice bite. Tasted sweet with a wonderful flavour. Very nice. Accompanying are slices of very fresh, lightly cooked...almost sashimi squid, and a beautifully pan fried piece of fish.

For mains, I had the slow roast short rib of beef.

The beef was cooked to perfection. Perfect medium rare:

And truly tender, melt in your mouth. With a great flavour of beefiness, the dish was supreme. It was supported by the wild mushroom polanta and potato and onion praline.

Dessert was an unusual "tarte au chocolat"

A scoop of milk marmalade ice cream, and a milk pudding with a gorgeous filling of semi-molten chocolate. Divine.

A truly excellent restaurant for the refined palate. Expensive, but worthy of a place for that special occassion or special person.

Restaurant Andre

41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089855

Tuesday – Friday Lunch

Tuesday – Sunday Dinner

Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays

+65 6534 8880

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ramen Champion at Iluma: Ikkousha

Ramen Champion at Iluma, Singapore: Tetsu

More on the same Ramen Champion stadium at Iluma. Today, I tried the Ikkousha.

I made my order to what I think is a Japanese cook...and unlike the other times at Ramen Champion, he asked me to wait instead of giving me the buzzing device to call when the ramen is ready. But he was fast, and the ramen came quickly...

I order the special (extra chasu) and 1.5 noodles

The egg was perfect. Nice, flavoured. Gooey inside, almost firm whites. The large slices of chasu almost completely concealed the noodles from the viewer as it was plated. The chasu was flavourful...not as fat as most, and cooked such that it was so tender it fell apart when poked with a pair of chopsticks.

The noodles were the thin, almost wiry hakata style noodles. I prefer the fatter ones served by Bario and Tetsu.

With 4 down...and 2 more to go, my verdict on my favourite is still Tetsu's Super Rich Paitan Tsukumen. Slurp. BTw, many bloggers reported that the Paitan dipping sauce can be heated up with a hot stone placed in the bowl. This was not the case as one of my lunch partners requested one for his sauce. The cook came with a heated piece of iron, shaped like an egg...dipped it into the sauce...causing the sauce to boil with wild abandon. And heating the sauce. Nice touch.

I will come back perhaps to try the last 2...soon, I hope...but as this post goes online, I am in Geneva...and will return with coverage of some more Swiss dining.
Ikkkousha Ramen Champion 201 Victoria Street 4F Iluma

Thursday, January 12, 2012

French Cuisine in SGP: Bistro du Vin.

French cuisine in Singapore: Bistro du vin

It is not always that I can recommend a French restaurant in Singapore...which serves authentic, non-pretentious Provonce style cooking. Many of the French restaurants in Singapore too often serve only haute cuisine and not enough serve authentic, traditional bistro fare. Sebastian's was one...and now apparent its successor...Bistro du Vin is another.

From the decor of the place, and the providence that Sebastian's which was in Hillcrest used to belong to the Les Amis group, who also own Bistro du looks like this is the successor to one of my favourite French restaurants in town.

The set menu is particularly interesting. Unlike many places where the set lunch is a watered down version of the real menu degustation, here the set lunch is quite a good selection. This is a 3 course menu, with entree, main dish and dessert with coffee or tea...all for S$30++. Quite good value if the food is good...and good it, I take it is excellent French cuisine.
I had the chunky leek and potato soup with Burgundian escargots as a starter.

This was a foretaste of the excellence which was to come. The soup was excellent. The potatos were chunks floating in the in a rather clear, though creamy looking soup, which is beautifully flavoured. The escargots were plump and nice. Very good soup.

Kin had the Pan Fried veal head terrine, sauce gribiche and pine nuts.

This was excellent too. I found the salad's rockets a bit bitter. But the terrine (not visible in the photograph above, as it hides behind the salad) of pan fried veal head was very good. Gelatinous, tasty, and great mouth feel. Certainly not for the diet concious. The pan fried roll of veal is particularly crisp and beautiful.

For mains, I had the lamb shank, which was slow cooked with white onion and cherry tomato confit. A S$6 supplement for this main.

And worth the supplement...every penny. The lamb was tender...literally fall off the bone. I imagined the fats to be drained through the slow cooking, as what remained was just muscle and collagen. Beautiful mouth feel, and great flavour. The confit of white onions and cherry tomatoes were an able support team, providing a bit of acidity, and punch. The tomatoes were particularly sweet and ripe. Superb dish...I would certainly rank this as one of the best lamb shanks I have eaten.

Kin had the baked Norwegian salmon, parsnip cream, horseradish and roasted almonds:

Also exquisite. The salmon looked like it had been cooked sous vide instead of baked...the flesh was cooked just so...a bit rare inside. And still extremely moist. The cream was excellent foil to the salmon. And the roasted almonds toped the dish.

For dessert, Kin opted for the Creme Brulee

Excellently done...but for me, I thought it was a bit uninspired....a touch too ordinary. Especially after the spectacular starter and main course we have just had. But technically, nothing to fault. The glazed caramel was perfect. The creme within was smooth, creamy, nice.

I had the chestnut cake, with vanilla ice cream.

To say this is good, is an under statement. To say it is spectacular, is an over statement. This cake lies somewhat in between good and great. The chestnut cake was moist, tasty. The vanilla ice cream was strong, flavourful. Very nice. And all went well with the cream. Great dessert.

We both had the coffee...which, given the state of the third wave coffees available in town these days was dismal. I don't know why chefs go to such great lengths with the ingredient selection, preparation and cooking of the meals to produce such spectacular meals, have great sommaliers who select only the best wines to complement the cooking...but yet, the final cap of serving a decent cup of espresso...they fail. The coffee was too acidic, sour even. Dismal.

But overall I loved this restaurant. The cooking is as fine as I have tasted in France and Switzerland. And the ambience was excellent...nice relaxing. I forget to mention the baguettes which were served with unsalted butter before the entree...this was one of the best baguettes I have eaten in a long time...crispy, crusty exterior...soft, smooth, almost creamy bread within. Wonderful.

And the service was excellent. Catherine Piong and her team were knowledgable, cheerful...none of the "sparking or still" and frown on an "iced water" request. Great service. Bravo!

Certainly a fixture on my lunch calendars for years to come. Bistro du Vin 1 Scotts Road Shaw Centre #02-12 (address sounds like second floor, but it is street level)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Espresso Joints: Maison Ikkoku

Espresso Joints: Maison Ikkoku

Continuing series of espresso joints in Singapore. The third wave espresso places are sprouting out everywhere, and often helmed by baristas who cut their teeth elsewhere...many of them with 10 years of pulling coffee under their belt. Maison Ikkoku is one such place.

With an interesting French/Japanese inspired name...I am presuming...Mr. Google pointed out that this was Japanese manga. The location of the cafe, in the middle of the Malay/Arab enclave of Kandahar is also interesting. Surrounding shops are more likely to offer Middle Eastern cuisine or Nasi Padang (indeed two of our island's most famous nasi padang stores are on the same street...Minang and Sabar Menanti).

Some 10 qualified baristas serve this maison. They don't roast in the facilities, but they roast off site. Interesting to me that some of the beans are quite old...the oldest bearing a roasting date of 20 December was 4 January 2012 when I visited.

But the proof of the pudding is in the here is my macchiato:

I was not sure of the age of the beans, so I shyed away from ordering my usual double ristretto and went for something with a touch of milk. Turned out I didn't have to worry about the espresso. It was thick, viscous. The marking by the foamed milk was perfect. The concoction held a teaspoon of sugar afloat for nearly 20s.

The mouthfeel was near perfect. The viscousity, the body of the espresso was apparant. There was an inherent sweetness of the coffee and this was apparent. I will venture to order a double ristretto next time.

Lionel's picollo latte looked just as excellent. The latte art was nice, finely drawn...I didn't taste it, but if my macchiato had anything to make reference to, it would be great.

Nice homey feel at the cafe...Relaxing. With free wifi (need a password from the barista though). Nice place. Throughly enjoyable.
Maiso Ikkoku 20 Kandahar St

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ramen Champion at Iluma: Tetsu

Ramen Champion at Iluma, Singapore: Tetsu

Last week, I sampled the offering by Iroha and concluded it to be too salty for total enjoyment. Today, I went back to Ramen Champion, and tried the ramen from Tetsu. Tetsu serves the ramen tsukumen style...meaning, the noodles are served separately from the broth. The method of eating is to dip the noodles into the sauce and savour.

The stall offers a fairly wide selection of ramens and side dishes. I opted for the Very Rich Paitan Ramen in its original stock of pork, chicken and seafood. They created a special version for Singapore without the seafood...but I wanted to sample the original.

I added a flavoured boiled egg. Rather expensive at S$2 methot.

The noodles were thick, dense, very nice springy consistency...a little chewy, though not quite. Perhaps just a nice bite. The dipping sauce was really super rich...almost viscous. And superb flavours of pork, chicken and bonito. And the best part is it is not too salty. This comes as a small surprise, pleasant though, as I had expected it to be laden with salt. But the balance was perfect.

The egg was nice too...though just a bit over...just a tad over, mind you...I would have preferred a slightly more runny yolk.

The egg was very tasty. The chasu was a bit fat, and dark...suggesting that it had been marinaded for a while.

It was rather tender...and as it was sliced thinly.

Dip the noodle into the sauce, and slurp it up. The noodles seemed able to pick up the sauce well. And the combination is very good. Oishi! When you have finished the noodles, and there is some sauce still left, go back to the store, and add hot dashi. And drink it all up. Delicious. Btw, if half way through the noodles, the sauce gets the noodle is can bring the bowl back, and the staff will put in a hot stone to reheat the sauce/soup. I didn't try that though.

This is my favourite Ramen Champion so far. I did sample Bario's offering on two separate lunch friend: Dr Mycroft and Lionel both had ordered the Bario ramen. And I had a little sample. Interestingly, the Bario broth was thicker and more salty last week with Mycroft than today's.

I will be back to sample the 4 other ramens, but somehow, I think Tetsu's offering will draw me to it many more times. Excellent.
Tetsu Ramen Champion 201 Victoria Street 4F Iluma

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ramen Champion at Iluma: Iroha

Ramen Champion at Iluma, Singapore

Ramen. Pulled noodles, in broth. Delicious. Those are the words that come to mind when one mentions ramen. The mecca of this evovled cuisine (the Japanese adapted and improved on the Chinese creation of the pulled noodles...also known in Mandarin as La Mien) is no doubt Japan. Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido et al, have their own interpretation of this delectable meal in a bowl. Ramen Champion is the innovative itenerant setup...where 6 famous Japanese ramen stalls compete for the prize of Ramen Champion rolled into Singapore in July 2011, after a successful stint in Bangkok.

The setup is simple and quite ingenious. Take 6 of the best ramens from Japan. Put them together in a large food court. And create a system for patrons to sample all and vote on who they think is the best. After 6 months of as to allow the original masters who were here for the launch, and for the skills of ramen making to be fully absorbed into the local cooks who dish up these bowls daily, I visited for the first time.

I tried Menya Iroha as the first stop.

Looking much like a typical ramenya in Japan...especially those under bridges near railway stations, where a hot, steaming delicious bowl of ramen is probably the cheapest eats in town. It is not unusual to find standing only ramen-yas selling a bowl for Y300 or Y400.

The most famous and award winning style of Iroha is the Negi Tama ramen, which I tried.

The broth was black, thick...flavourful. Perhaps too flavourful...well actually not...but way too salty. It tasted like the base stock was indeed salty shoyu, and reduced by hours of simmering with the soup's ingredients of mixed seafood, chicken and vegeables. For me, this was the killer. Too salty to enjoy.

On the other hand the chasu and egg was excellent...the chasu was very tender. And the egg was almost runny inside, but nice and firm surroundings. It was also marinated completely, and totally infused with the flavours of the shoyu sauce.

The noodles were like the lor mee we use locally. Thick, but nicely cooked. Smooth and goes down well. Quite satisfying.

Not a bad bowl of ramen, but I think this is seriously too salty. I cannot imagine tHat it is not detrimental health effects if you drink up the bowl.

I will be back to sample the others. But for me, this is the last time for Menya Iroha.

Menya Iroha
Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
4F Iluma