Monday, February 27, 2012

Nasi lemak at Grandma's...the restaurant

Nasi Lemak: restaurant style

Quick update for today as this will prove to be a very busy week for me. A nice lunch with Kin at Grandma's in Raffles City. I wrote about them earlier, and returned for a re-taste.

Lunchtime crowd was thick and if you come in after 12:30pm, you will be confronted with a queue. We both went for our favourite, the nasi lemak

The rice was regular Thai fragrant rice, but soaked with flavour and aroma of coconut milk. Very nice. The chicken curry was also rich, thick, and bursting with umami. I found the achar serving to be rather pedestrian, though I guess does its job of cutting the richness of the rice and the chicken. As part of the one dish serving are some anchovies with onions in a piquant sauce. Rather nice and a good accompaniment.

We decided to add the day's special - ngor hiang...

Turned out to be a minor disaster. The ngor hiang was not made as a large roll, deep fried and cut like I expected it to be. But made out as tiny rolls, each about the size of a my pinkie, and I imagined it to be pan the browning on the skin was not even. The meat within was a bit too lean and had a rough, slightly astringent mouth feel. Not my favourite.

But overall Grandma's is rather nice comfort food place. The nasi lemak, though a bit pricey compared to food courts is very good.

Grandma's Restaurant
252 North Bridge Road, #B1-76 Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Home style cooking: Cafe de Hong Kong

Home style cooking: Cafe de Hong Kong

I have reviewed this restuarant twice before. And because it is a firm favourite of the family, and every friend I have brought there, I thought I'd do an update.

The place has not changed much in the last 2 or 3 years. It remains comfortable, home like environment.

And so has the attention to detail. We ordered 4 dishes, and CdHK provided 3 different kinds of chilli sauces

First off, the amazing...well still amazing to me how they get the meat to be so tender and juicy, and the skin to be so crisp

And my favourite fish with scallions and garlic.

The fish slices were cooked just right...still firm but tender. And tasty. The scallions, ginger slices and deep fried garlic packs a punch. Lovely. Great with plain steamed rice.

But we elected to do the lap mei fan...dried meats with rice in a claypot. The ingredients:

Chinese sausages, liver sausages, dried duck, and other internals...I am not sure what are the ingredients, but they tasted marvellous. Especially the liver sausage. Mixed into the rice and special sauce in claypot. The claypot caused a thick crust to form by burning the rice...oh, so delicious. (yes, I know...its carcinogenic, but the taste is gorgeous).

Nice, friendly, homely atmosphere. Great food.

Cafe de Hong Kong
586 Balestier Road, #01-01 Eastpac Building, Singapore.
open daily except Mondays.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Parmigiani hosted dinner at SIHH: Hotel d'Angeterre

The dinner Parmigiani hosted: SIHH 2012

Unusual review today. This is a catered event at Hotel d'Angleterre in Geneva. Hosted by Parmigiani Fleurier, a most unusual watch brand who makes watches of the most exquisite quality. I will cover this more like an event give my foodie readers a glimpse on what happens within the watch collecting community, when a brand entertains.

The evening began at the Parmigiani Booth inside the Salon Internationale de Haute Horology (SIHH), an invitation only event staged annually in Geneva. A presentation of the pieces which are new was done. This is customarily known as the presentation of the novelties.

The group was greeted by Michel Parmigiani himself, still active and very much involved in the creation of the beautiful watches.

Marcia Marzzocchi, General Manager of the Americas was doing the honours of presentation.

The group comprised of important and noted collectors, as well as web journalists.

Another view of the group

We then travelled by chartered coach from Palexpo where the SIHH was being held, to downtown Geneva, to an old, but beautifully refurbished hotel - the Angleterre.

And dinner began...a sumptious 7 course dinner, with beautiful wines. I attach a copy of the menu suggestion for info. (need pdf reader). With the menu, and the wine list, I leave the reader to follow the dinner courses. Needless to say, the dinner was wonderfully delicious. Fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared. Wines suggested were perfect.

So we start with the amuse bouche

Scallops with truffles, wrapped in a green leaf enclosure

And foie gras

Lobster was next

And a palate cleanser of champagne granite

We paused to then present the big pieces...the striking watches and the tourbillons...major complications. And the group went weak in the knees...oooh and ahhs were heard...

The main course of veal was served in the midst

But as we ate, most were fascinated by the watches. Michel, Marcia, Jean-Marc (Jacot...CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier), myself, Marco Gabella and Alex Friedmann (co-organizers of the event with me) went around explaining the key and salient features of the watches.

We were so absorbed in the discussion...

That after the cheese course

I forget to take photographs of the food, and was totally engaged with the discussion on watches. Mind you, it was almost midnight already, and most of us had flown in from far away and suffering from jet lag, but you could not tell by observing the animated discussions and the fascination of the timepieces. The hotel wait staff must be wondering when we would finish our dinner...and finally, at close to 1am, we decided to give them a break and go back to our respective hotels to rest.

But highly recommended. Cooking and the food was excellent. The wines were great. And the service excellent.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nam Seng Noodles: Venison Hor Fun

Comfort foods: Hor Fun

This episode: also known as Cheap Eats in CBD. Nam Seng is one of the oldest noodle houses in Singapore...still helmed by Madam Leong, aka Grandma has been the center of this Cantonese styled restaurant for the last 50 years. And still continues to do so.

Famous for their wantan mee, but for today's lunch, I want to talk about their venison hor fun. Beef Horfun is quite a staple for Singapore. So the twist of using tender slices of venison instead of beef in the black bean and pepper sauce is interesting, to say the least.

The taste was superb. Mostly thanks to the delicious, savoury gravy. But also the tender, and great tasting venison. The hor fun was more Ipoh style where it was not really fried till fragrant with wok hei, but looked like it was steamed, and then the beautiful black, rich gravy poured over for a very satisfying meal.

The large serving shown above is only S$5 a plate, so we added a small bowl of shrimp dumpling in soup.

The soup was a bit oily, but the broth wonderfully tasty and the dumplings floating within was very nice. Each with a shrimp and some pork wrapped around a crunchy vegetable.

Long queues form at lunch times with the office crowd, but the queue moves rather quickly. Satisfying meal.
25 China Street
#01-01 Far East Square
ph: +65 6438 5669
hp: +65 9689 6288

Mon - Fri: 8.00am to 9:00pm (last order 8:15pm)
Sat: 8.00am to 5:00pm (last order 4.15pm)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Food Centers: where cheap meals means good meals: Bukit Timah Food Center

Comfort foods: Bukit Timah Food Center

Some of you, dear readers, have sent me some emails. Yes, I like those...emails and comments. Please do continue to send and make suggestions.

And there have been numerous requests for simple, hearty food. I do agree...Man does not live by Michelin stars alone. And especially in Singapore (and Malaysia, Hong Kong) cheap food does not mean poor quality or bad tasting. Sometimes the opposite is true. The least expensive hawker stalls are the best.

First off, the incredible meatball soup...typical Teochew home made style

Truly superb. The meatballs are hand made..and two varieties are included in the deep fried and another steamed. The broth is very nicely made. Very savoury. And the meatballs are to die for. Typical home made style, and it is evident that they were made by hand. Large, irregular. But very tasty. A real treat.

I had meant to write about the 133 Penang Authentic for a while. The char kway teow is rather authentic

The uncle fries them plate by plate, meticulously doing each. The look is rather authentic as you would get in most markets in Penang. Indeed, I have heard the cook speak to his assistants in Penang Hokkien (actually a different accent, some find to be more melodious than the one we speak here in Singapore). Taste wise, it passes the grade for me, but does not rival the best in Penang. Would have preferred a bit more wok hei.

They serve a rather authentic Penang Hokkien Prawn mee too, but as we already had some soup that day, we did not order it. I have eaten the Hokkien mee before, and find it rather good as well.

And we also sampled some pure and simple chee cheong fun

These days, the Hong Kong style Chee Cheong Fun is more common...those which are stuffed with either char siew, or prawns or scallops. But some of us who are older long for the traditional CCF...the type where most in Singapore/Malaysia were too poor to afford stuffings...CCF was just a well made rice noodle concoction, with just sauce and sesame seeds.

This CCF brings back memories. Rolls uncut. Drizzled with sweet sauce and chilli. And sprinkled with sesame seeds. Simple, inexpensive, but divine.

Da Zhong Delicious Yong Tau Fu for the meatball soup. 02-196

183 Chee Cheong Fun, 02-183

133 Penang Authentic for char kway teow, 02-193

Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre

116 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Good Eats in CBD: Saravanaa Bhavan

Good Eats in CBD: Saravanaa Bhavan

Eating well and nicely in the CBD is sometimes a hit and miss affair. Many office workers don't have the time to experiment or try out new stalls due to the short lunch hour, and many continue to just patronize one or two favourites. Passing by yesterday at Golden Shoe, I spied a little cafeteria like place by the corner at the Ground Floor, just by the entrance of tailor Joe...a vegetarian place. Hailing from its native Chennai, this is a rather famous Indian Vegetarian restaurant.

Well, what caught my eye was the Indian bread, made from yogurt and fermented yeast, and deep fried till it puffs up like a giant hum chee peng...if you get the drift.

I used to eat this delightful bread, supremely well made by the proprietor at the now defunct Indian Restaurant by my office. And seldom have I come across bathura as well made as those. So Saravanaa's bold, large photograph advertising their bathura caught my eye.

Well, it was no where near what I have once long ago, perhaps it is just a memory. But in my mind's eye, that bathura was yet to be beaten. Saravanaa's version was fluffy, but was rather greasy. Served with some chick peas which were very flavourful. And the piece of bread was huge! Measured probably a foot across in diameter!

We also had a serving of vegetable biryani

This is a first for me. Even when travelling with an Indian vegetarian colleague in India, where I ate vegetarian (or pure veg as the Indians call it), I never once tried vegetable biryani.

Very fragrant, rather wet in complexion. The rice was not the thin, wiry basmati we are used to in top grade biryanis, like those served by Indian Times (now sadly, also defunct) or Mirchi's. The rice was spiced up. Taste was ok, but throughout the dish, I felt that I was missing something...perhaps I needed a cutlet of, vegetable.

I wished they had some vegetable curry...perhaps with long beans, eggplant and potato as an accompaniment. As it was, it was too bland, and perhaps too simple. And at S$5 a pop, I feel its too expensive.

And I tried the vadai

Variously spelled as vadai, vade, vada. This is a South Indian snack...usually doughnut shaped, made from lentil, grain flour or potato, and deep fried. Eaten with sambar.

The sambar was excellent. Nice, fragrant, spicy. The vadai was a bit of a let down. A bit too hard, though nicely flavoured. But I think rather expensive at S$3.50 for 2.

Perhaps I am not really inclined towards being a vegetarian...I know my raw vegan friends are crinching...but I love my meat too much to eat vegetarian. Looking at the other customers, it seemed like the dosa was a favourite. I didn't try that so cannot comment. But for me, the meal was not as satisfying, though I can see why this restaurant is a favourite of many, just not my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, we did round up our meal with a cup of masala tea, which was very good, albeit a bit too sweet. Again, rather expensive at S$2.50 for a small cup.

Saravanaa Bhavan

50, Market Street,

#01-05 / 5A Golden Shoe Car Park,

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quick Eats: LeWu Cafe

Quick eats: LeWu Cafe

Sometimes we just want an unfussy, quick lunch. Sometimes we don't need great service, or a wonderful, expensive ambience. Sometimes we just need a good, home cooked meal, but don't want to cook. These times, we seek out the Quick Eats. Today's Quick Eat features a small Thai/Western cze char style restaurant in Bukit Timah Road.

Tucked along a row of shophouses, right next to a bicycle shop, LeWu looks like a coffee shop, and one spies a sign saying "Thai Food" and a huge print of a bowl of green curry on the wall. Inside, and upstairs, there is air conditioned sitting for perhaps 25 pax. And along the five foot way, tables were set up. The few times we visited, the place upstairs was packed with school children from the nearby schools. And have always opted to sit outside.

We always tell ourselves that we should order the Phad Thai, but somehow always ended up with dishes and rice. We did order a portion of fried rice as takeaway for Edward, and when I sampled a mouthfull at home, it was nice, but not special.

We started with the papaya salad:

Quite home made. Reminds me of the cze char style stalls that are almost ubiquitious along Bangkok's streets. Nice and fresh. A good balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

And proceeded to one of my favourite Thai dishes (other than basil leaf with minced pork - phad phat kapow moo)...the green curry chicken:

We had just had lunch at Bangkok Jam, one of my favourite restaurants in town and had the same, so a comparison was in order. See here for an earlier dinner at Bangkok Jam when I sampled the green curry chicken.

In comparison, the Bangkok Jam version was richer...the coconut milk used was thicker. The chicken a bit more tender...perhaps they had used dark meat instead of the white meat used by LeWu. I would imagine this might be plate to plate variation, as quite possibly, both places use both dark and white meat. Overall, I am undecided which is better, or if one is indeed better than the other. They were different, but both were satisfying...especially with some prik nam pla.

Another staple in our family's Thai meals is the stir fried mixed vegetables with fish sauce.

Nicely done. Crisp brocolli, firm cabbage, nice crunchy french beans, which means the cook didn't overcook the vegetables. Sauce was typical fish sauce, and a nice topping of deep fried garlic adds flavour.

Finally, the stir fried pepper beef

They had used a lean cut of beef, but sliced steak-style thinly so it cooks fast and not dry out. I wouldn't say the beef is tender, but it certainly is very nice...slightly chewy. The capsicums added nice colour and a tinge of flavour to the dish. Enjoyed it.

For me, this little place is worthy of visits. Especially when its just around the corner from my home. The food is pretty decent, kind of like home cooked Thai. I think its Thai owned, as the lady behind the counter who looked like the owner was talking to the cook in Thai.

Can be busy during meal times as it tends to get swarmed with kids from nearby schools.

LeWu Cafe

551 Bukit Timah Road

Open daily 11:30am to 9:45pm

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some restaurant recommendations for Geneva

What to eat in Geneva?

Just returned from Geneva after attending the Salon International de la Haute Horologie (SIHH), and many of my friends are asking...where do we eat when in Geneva?

The Geneva Main Train station is central to Geneva, a short walk from most attractions, and the main shopping areas.

For first timers, Geneva can be a intriguing place. Especially if one arrives for the first time on a many do when attending the SIHH. Many of the restaurants and bars are closed on a Sunday, a fairly large number, especially the good ones remain closed on a Monday as well. Its a dilemma.

When my first visit to Geneva some 15 years ago, I too landed on a Sunday morning, and at 6pm went to rue du Rhone, the mainstreet downtown looking for dinner...and found none! Well, not that none were open, but as a first time visitor, many of those which are open are somewhat hidden and not knowing where to go, leaves one hungry.

So here is a list of places which I can recommend when in Geneva, and some remain open on Sundays.

  1. Cafe du Centre Good seafood, similar to those in Paris, where a huge plate of fresh raw seafood can be ordered. Their grilled sole with lemon butter is quite good. Can be a bit on the pricey side, but certainly not Michelin prices.
  2. Pizza: Pizzeria Molino is a good bet. Right next to Cafe du Centre. Open on Sundays. Good for pasta, pizzas and Italian dishes. Certainly not the best in the world Italian cuisine, but very nice and acceptable. Family atmosphere.

    Atmosphere inside Relais de Entrecote
  3. Relais de Entrecote. Open on Sundays, but always packed and with queues. No reservation policy. No can only order steaks and fries. My review here.

    Table setting at Les Amures
  4. Traditional Swiss. Fondue and raclette are typical, and traditional Swiss dishes. Neither are my favourites, but this very traditional Swiss restaurant, in the hill of the Old Town does serve other dishes which are very good. Open on Sundays as well. I eat at Les Armures fairly often, here is one report.
  5. Indian. Not near what you can get in London, but one of the better ones in Switzerland. But I found Ghandi to be quite good...though I hear the standard has deterioated recently. But Ghandi might still be worth a try.

    This trip, one of my Indian friends who lives in Nyon introduced this little place called Little India. I found the food fairly authentic, chillis hot and spicy. And recommended.

  6. Modern Swiss/French. I rather like Arthur's Rive Gauche for their nice, modern touch to traditional dishes like lamb chops and grilled fish.
  7. Japanese. Restaurant Fuji at 6, rue de Chantepoulet. Just a short walk from the train station. Malaysian owned and operated. Good sushi, sashimi. And shabu shabu. Reasonably priced.
  8. For the Singaporeans and Malaysians missing home food...the place to eat is at Jeck's Place at rue de Neuchatel 12, just on the parallel road to the one outside the Main train station. If you are homesick, they have surprisingly nice laksa and chendol.
  9. 2 Michelin stars: Chateaux de Divonne is a good bet, but you'd need some transport to get there. I once had a very good meal there, when it was only 1 Michelin star. And I was told its even better now.

    Table setting at the Private room at Lion D'or.
  10. 2 Michelin stars: Lion D'or is a regular on my dining circuit in Geneva. Expensive, but certainly the place to entertain and be entertained. Food is magnificent, as expected of one with 2 Michelin stars. One year's meal is detailed here: The LOG dinner 2010