Thursday, March 29, 2012

Katong Laksa

Katong Laksa is famous in its own right...including many soap opera style wars amongst family, friends because of the laksa...which caused a proliferation of so many stalls calling themselves Katong Laksa, its confusing. I don't know who is who, but settled on one to eat...having been advised by many foodie friends that they are more or less the same.

I added a piece of fish otak. The broth was very rich, thick, flavourful. Chilli is added on your own to your taste...but I find the chilli too sweet and not punchy enough. The noodles were smooth, slippery and soft...with an interesting mouthfeel. The cockles were nice and plump. I rather enjoyed this bowl of laksa more than I imagined I would have before sitting down for the meal. Two thumbs up. 49 Katong Laksa
49 East Coast Road

Now for a rant...

While I was in the Katong area, and riding around in my bike...I later went to Big Splash Mr. Teh Tarik and had an iced tea, and my riding companion had a hot tea. Iced tea was $2, and hot tea was $1.60, but the total bill came up to $4! Why? Service charge of 10% was levied, and rounded up to 40cents. This is rediculous! This is Mr. Teh Tarik, not some fancy hotel. I asked the server...if I went to the counter and served myself, if I would be levied this service charge...the response was yes. Was there any situation where the charge would not be Then why the service charge? Is this an effort to try and make the price of the tea seem less, and increase profits by adding a 10% on top of it? While 40 cents may seem little and trivial, but for a shop, this is 10% direct to the bottomline, without having to adjust prices or doing anything! This is an outrage.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ubin Seafood

Wild meals: Ubin Seafood...

Ubin Seafood is an old, old place...I understand it originated in Pulau Ubin...a small island off our small island, hence the name...but, has been for many years reloacted to the mainland. The current owner is a retired professional, who loves to eat, and uses the restaurant as his test kitchen, and offers some of his favourites. Lucky for us, we are likeminded...

Now, tucked in the Sin Ming Industrial estate, amongst the car re-spray people, finding a place to park on a weekday lunch can be a challenge. I was told its rather easier to find a lot in the evenings and weekends.

Step into the restaurant, and you step into an oasis...almost like going back to the kampung of Ubin years ago. They have private rooms and a large air conditioned dining area. And the board is scribbled with the stuff the owner likes....

Note small selection of wines. And mix of western dishes like steak and local favourites like chilli crab.

We had to have the steak...its a slab of Black Angus, minimum order of 500g, which is grilled, sliced and served with potato wedges and mustard sauce on a wooden platter.

We asked for the meat to be grilled medium-medium rare, but I think this is rather a bit shy of that...I judge it to be perhaps medium rare-rare. But matters not to me...

Wolfgang Puck can rest safe at night that this does not threaten his Cut for the title of best steak in Singapore...but the Astons of the world should take note. The meat is high quality. Lean, mostly, as the fat has been trimmed (more on this in a moment). The meat was not melt in your mouth tender, it was vigrous and the teeth a bit of a fight, but the flavour was full, and bursting. Lightly sprinkled before serving with salt and pepper, it was quite satisfying.

The fat was trimmed in the kitchen, and used to fry a killer fried rice. My friend Larry dubbed this dish as heart attack on a plate.

This is probably the best fried rice I have eaten...full flavoured. The wok was super powerful, the wok hei very strong and apparent. The crispy bits of the charred beef fat was wonderful in the mouth. The overall mouthfeel of the greasy, oily tallow and the fragrance of the fat was amazing. I believe you cannot order this dish on its own...but only as an accompaniment to the steak, as I don't find it in the bill anywhere when I paid.

We were also mightly tempted with the steamed kurau in a sambal petai sauce. Such is the diversity of the cooking...amazing...

The sauce is simply fantastic. Piquant, spicy, sour, a tinge of sweet, and the oh so marvellous taste of petai. The fish was a tad oversteamed, rendering the meat a bit flaky. But the fish...we had the entire tail of a fish weighing perhaps 3kg, was very fresh.

And the Boss Bee Hoon...called such because the boss - PM Pang, loves this dish...when asked what was so special...he replied...nothing special, this dish is to demonstrate the power of the wok hei.

Indeed the wok hei was fantastic. This is an excellent fried bee hoon...though it looked simple and like any other...the combination of lard, sauce and the powerful wok hei and chilli padi was very good. Excellent dish. We were served som complimentary desserts...a durian pengat

Which tasted like it was made from durian cake instead of fresh durian. Not very exciting for me. I much preferred the one served at Peramakan.

And the red bean pancake

Nothing special too...the pastry was a bit too heavy, but I found it mildly addictive, though Larry thought it to be unspectacular.

Overall a very interesting cze char stall/restaurant. With an interesting and unusual dishes. But cooked with passion to pursue the ultimate taste. Worth revisits.

New Ubin Seafood
Blk 27, Sin Ming Road
64669558, 91701281 Mr Pang
11.30am - 2.00pm,
5.30pm - 10.30pm

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Professor Brawn @ Novena

Professor Brawn: classic western meals

Home style western food in Singapore...chicken chop, fish and chips, sausages...a kind of comfort food, I guess. And one which is quite satisfying...and one which I feel the urge every once in a while. Professor Brawn is an eatery which rekindles this. Good food, nice service, ambience very canteen like, but not unpleasant...and with a social cause to boot. Lovely.

The usual makan gang comprising of CSC, Dr. Mycroft, and Larry descended one lunchtime for some serious eating and chatting...We started with a shared main course...the triple sausage platter as a starter

A nice, flavourful spicy Italian, with a chicken bratworust and a pork stuffed with cheese. I ended up liking the spicy Italian best. I would rate these regular sausages, nice, but not special.

As part of the set menu, includes a soup...which was a creamy soup. And a small carafe of either orange or lemonade. The lemonade was a bit acidic, a tinge of sour, but nicely balanced with the sweetness of the syrup. Nice touch.

I had the chicken with truffle sauce. The chicken sat on top of some crisp potato wedges. The chicken was well cooked, the skin...though not quite crispy, was rather delicious. The drizzling of the truffle sauce was a rather nice complement to the dish. Two thumbs up for this classic western dish, easily found in hawker centres and food courts in Singapore.

CSC had the signature fish and chips:

A rather large slice of breaded, fried dory served on top of fries. Looked nice, and was confirmed by CSC...who commented that the dish brought back nostalgia of Hainanese Ako cooking western meals, with a Hainanese twist. A sentiment echoed by all.

Larry had the pork ribs

Perhaps half a rack...Larry hinted that he thought Tony Roma's was better, but the ribs smelled heavenly with a nice dollop of BBQ sauce and the meat tender enough for him to tease it off the bone with the slightese prodding.

Nice, inexpensive eatery, conveniently located. Food good, though not exceptional. Nice brisk service. Worth revisits.

Professor Brawn Cafe @ Novena
#02-78/79 Novena Square,
238 Thomson Road
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 930pm Mon to Sun
(65) 6253 4650

Monday, March 19, 2012

All day breakfasts: Wild Honey at Scotts Square

Wild Honey at Scotts

All day breakfasts are an interesting concept. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage. Even thinking about it gives me a comfort feeling. Homely.

One of the standard bearers of this kind of lunching or dining is Wild Honey...the original outlet in Mandarin Galleria was a great much so that long queues often form outside. The restaurant had a "No Reservations" policy.

So when they opened at Scotts, now newly refurbished and refreshed, they started taking we thought, let's go lunch there.

I arrived a bit early but was showed to my table immediately by the cheerful hostess. Service was a bit spotty here. The hostess who greeted me, and indeed everyone of the waitresses were smiling, warm, but it did take 2 reminders before they brought me some water.

I ordered the Canadian...three fluffy pancakes, with Canadian maple syrup, berry compote and Canadian bacon back.

Pancakes are a comfort food for me. For some reason, I love the ones served at IHOP...a chain store only found in North America. I love them light, fluffy, tasty...and goes so well with a blob of butter, a generous drizzling of maple syrup or honey. And a nice generous helping of blueberry compote.

Wild Honey's version almost lived up to those expectations. The pancakes were nice and fluffy. Quite tasty on its own, and nearly divine with the maple syrup. The compote was a bit sour, tart...perhaps. But not in line with the richness of the pancakes. No cream or butter was offered...but I didn't need any. The bacon was crisp, fairly lean as bacon goes...but I found it altogether too salty.

Lionel went for the Full English breakfast

Full is the operative word. Two scrambled eggs, tomato, halfed fried button mushrooms, fried potato cubes, sausage, baked beans and almost half a loaf of bread. I didn't taste the dish, but it smelled heavenly, though the scrambled eggs looked a tad over cooked.

We also ordered some coffees...but they were nothing to shout about...typically overextracted brews. The foreground coffee was a cafe machiatto...altogether too milky for a machiatto...even the out of focussed top tells this tale. The main cup in the picture is a fancy mocha coffee.

Nice place...beautiful interior. Good crowd, a tad noisy at times. The crowd was perhaps 80% female...tai tais and ladies who lunch, I guess.

Wild Honey
03-01, Scotts Square
#01-14/15 Robertson Walk

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sun King Ryoriya at Robertson Walk

Sun King Ryoriya: Taiwanese style Japanese food.

Taiwanese Japanese restaurant...sounds like a strange combination...but this one works...somewhat.

I have never been to am planning a trip there this year...mainly foodie, but also to promote my book and also perhaps do a bit of bicycle shopping. So to start the mood rolling, my old friend ASG and I decided to try out some of the Taiwanese cuisine. As we met at Robertson Quay, we spied this quiet little restaurant...a Japanese family was having their lunch there, so we thought we'd give it a go.

The Chinese waitress greeted us with a wide smile, handed us the menu and presented the salad and drinks...even before we ordered...we teased that we might just eat the salad and have the drink and leave. She rebutted with a grin, that that was ok.

They had set meals, at reasonable prices...ranging from about $12 to $25. I ordered the beef curry rice...

Topped with a fried egg, the rice was typicaly Japanese rice...short grained, starchy. The beef was very tender. mainly lean meat. And the curry sauce a bit salty, but rather tasty. Rich tasting. It lacked the typicaly Japanese pickles, but this was a reasonably nice meal.

We also tried the gyoza, which turned out to be very nice

The skin was nice and crisp. Fried only on one side, the reverse was soft and tender. The meat filling was very savoury...juicy and nicely flavoured.

ASG had the noodles, which he declared to be quite nice as well.

I guess this is not a destination dining location...I won't especially travel to Robertson Quay to eat here. But if I were in the vicinity, and didn't want any Ramen (at Shenya Menkan...see review in this blog earlier) or fancy like Brasserie Wolf (also see review earlier), I might just eat here.

Sun King Ryoriya
11 Unity Street
#01-14/15 Robertson Walk

Monday, March 12, 2012

Porridge: Ru Ji in Alexendra Village does the honours

Traditional Chinese porridge with raw fish

Rice porridge and sliced raw fish marinated with sesame oil and lime, and garnished with spring onions and ginger is a breakfast staple in Singapore...and one of my favourites.

I planned a fitness walking routine with my friend Lionel, and our first stop was Alexandra Village to feed. The stall is only open in the mornings...early till about probably 1pm when they finish the porridge and close the stall. Manned by brothers, from what I can minds the porridge, one does the fish, and another the till.

Chinese porridge comes in many forms. All are based on rice as the principal ingredient with water. The Cantonese cook the porridge over slow, constant fire for a long obtain a creamy consistency. Typically the rice grains have broken down due to the hours on heat, and not distinguishable. The Teochews have what they call "moey"...which the grains are still intact, so looking like bloated rice, but submerged in a gooey broth from the broken down carbs in the rice. This broth is known as "alm"...and is known to have properties to cool one's body from the sweltering heat of the day. The Hokkiens have a variant in between, called "ber"...the grains are still distinguishable, but more broken down than the "moey". The alm is integrated to the rice grains.

This one I sampled at Alexandra Village is the Hokkien style. I had one with quartered phee tan (century eggs...preserved eggs) within. The porridge is smooth, creamy. And quite delicious with just a sprinkling of spring onions, a touch of soy sauce and some pepper. And goes very well with the sliced raw fish:

The fish is fresh. Very fresh. No fishy odours at all. And the seasoning of sesame oil, lime juice and garnished with deep fried shallots and lettuce salad is very good. Sometimes, the fish contains little, edible cartilageous bones which adds to the texture.

Excellent breakfast.

From there we walked to the old PSA Towers, now a renewed shopping mall. And had some coffee. The machiatto looked excellent, but the coffee is over extracted, and very bitter.

More walking ensued...up the Tree Top Walk from Hort Park, over to Henderson Waves to Jewel Box in Mt Faber, and down to HarbourFront. And from there back to Bukit Merah Road. 11km total.

Ru Ji Porridge
Alexandra Village.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Old Favourites: Good Morning Nanyang Cafe

Old Favourite: Good Morning Nanyang Cafe

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is an old favourite of mine. From their early days in Chinatown point, and expanding to Robinson Road and a franchise in Sembawang. They are back again (Chinatown is closed for renovations). Now at Hong Lim Community Center.

I dropped by one morning to visit with owner Byron Shoh, and sample the new delicacies they are now offering.

Coffee and tea, or kopi and teh is made using the old time tested method of seeping Nanyang coffee or tea dust in a sock.

Nanyang coffee is different from the arabicas used in espressos. Typically an espresso blend is made from 3 or sometimes more providing the base and body while the others providing the blender's imagination of the flavours that go along. Nanyang coffee is traditional in this region, and more often made from robusta beans, though these days, arabica is also used. Instead of roasting the coffee dry, Nanyang coffee is roasted with sugar and sometimes maize (corn). Because the sugar caramalizes in the roasting, it forms a nice thick, black roast. Ground roughly and brewed with hot water in a sock (seeping method), it makes a powerful brew. Thick, aromatic, and because robusta has more caffeine, strong.

Byron's tea is also a bit special. He uses special tea dust, similar to the ones in Hong Kong...I forget to ask him if he did indeed buy the tea from HKG. The slight astringency of the tea, melds well with the condensed milk. Nice. The coffee too is thick, luscious, and rich with the fortification of the condensed milk. In my judgement, better than Toast Box, or Ya Kun.

Good Morning Nanyang also offers a killer orange ciabatta with butter and kaya. Absolutely delicious. So much so, that it was inhaled...the minute it was placed on the table, and I forget to take a photograph. But believe me, this one is what Makansutra would call Die Die Must Try. And truly innovative. The butter almost just melts...the kaya rich and aromatic...the orange rinds within the ciabatta provide a counterpoint. The ciabatta itself is crispy and slightly burnt at parts, but wonderfully soft, and moinst in others.

They also started to offer chicken curry with rice or ciabatta (instead of french loaf in many other locations) and chicken stew. I will come back and try the stew another day, but the curry was quite nice:

The chicken is cooked till super tender...literally fall off the bone. The curry was mildly rich, and the slightest tinge of kick provide by the chilli. Goes nicely with the rice and also with the toasted ciabatta.

The cafe is around the inside of the Community Center, not really visible from the main road, but has ample ground...and nice open area suitable for bicycle groups. Park the bikes outside, and have kopi.

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe
Hong Lim Green Community Centre

Monday, March 5, 2012

Itacho Sushi: Cheap and Good?

Sushi and Sashimi in Singapore: Itacho

I often shy away from sushi and sashimi restaurants in Singapore. After eating well at speciality sushi-yas in Japan, one never quite gets used to the drop in taste and flavours of fish which is shipped, however carefully it is done, is not quite as fresh and tasty as being in Tsukiji market at 7am and having a sushi breakfast. But as a foodie nation, I think we are fighting back. Singapore's sushi scene has improved a lot. The top restaurants are always very good, but super pricey. And the low end ones are not worth mentioning. Enter Itacho.

Looking very much like a chain restaurant...indeed they are...with branches in at least 2 locations in Singapore, more than 10 in the place of origin Hong Kong and even in China. I did have a meal at their APM outlet in Beijing, but it was nothing to shout about. This meal, at their Ion Orchard outlet, however is something to shout about. One of the better sushi meals I have had in a long time in Singapore.

Arrive early...a long queue often forms at the rather large restaurant. We arrived about 11:40, and it was begining to fill up. I guess fresh, succulent sushi, done well needs little prose to describe, so I will mainly let the photographs do the talking, safe a few notes.

Remember this is a meal for only 2 persons...though I imagine the average Singaporean foodie might eat a bit less than this humongous meal...

A mixed platter of squid, soy sauce roasted salmon. Very good indeed. Limited to 4 pieces per person, this was offered at an incredible S$0.40 per piece!!!

The chawan mushi looked like a soup...indeed it was a shallow layer of scallops in a beautiful broth covering the traditional steamed egg with chicken and ginko nuts.

Hand roll of soft shell crab. We wanted deep fried salmon skins, but they didn't have those.

Some sashimis next....fatty yellowtail and fairy shrimps. Nice touch is to have deep fried the prawn heads, for a tasty, crispy, eat everything...every bit delicious.

More sashimi

And the grilled eel sushi...look at how large the fish is on top of the rice!

And this amazing flame scorched fatty yellowtail

This is amazingly good. The flame scorched parts have a slightly burnt, smokey flavour, and the inside of the fish just explodes in the mouth. Fantastic.

Uni rice

Creamy uni, on top of rice. Superb.

Swordfish sashimi

Assorted sushi

Scallops sushi...whole scallop on rice...

And some grilled pork sushi to round up...

Overall, value for money. In total, this was sub S$200 for all you see above. Not super cheap, but for the quality and quantity we ate, I think very good value for money.

Itacho Sushi
B2-18 Ion Orchard

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eating well in Spring: Putien

Eating well on in spring: Putien

Spring is often viewed by our friend living in temperate countries as the emergence of life. For those of us in always sunny Singapore, spring is less meaningful, except that some restaurants, especially those who specialize in ensuring seasonal delicacies, roll out their spring menus. Putien is one such jewel, whose menu changes to reflect the seasons. Chef Larry Li has created an interesting menu, which I tasted today, and which will be offered from March 1.

The tidbits as appetizer shown above is deep fried Putian seeweed served with roasted peanuts. Quite addictive, and truly excellent. Though deep fried, the seaweed shows no sign of grease, and is light and very crispy with a beautiful flavour.

We began the tasting with fresh, chilled abalone:

Abalone from the Putian area is air flown, and is one of the region's delicacies. Nutritious, succulent, the abalone is reputed to be untouched by pollution in the province's deep waters.

The abalone is tender...very tender and sweet tasting. The rubbery texture one often encounters is totally absent. The fresh abalone in its shell is braised in a rich chicken stock. And served chilled. Very refreshing, and delicious.

Next course was the spring sprouts with enoki mushrooms

This is an interesting dish. I don't think I have ever eaten spring sprouts before. Also known as toon sprouts, it is bright green and has an ever so slight bitter foretaste which melts into a sweetness in the palate. The enoki mushrooms were nicely cooked, still a bit crunchy and full flavoured.

An interesting soup was served:

The fragrance of the soup, hinting at a sourness within hits the nostrils early. But this is not a pungent sour note which assaults the nostrils, but a gentle, sweet sour-ness which permeates into a refreshing taste in the mouth. The dish doesn't look good at all, but served cold, it is delightfull in cutting grease and opening up the appetite. Tender shoots of newly harvested bamboo with picked mustard greens complete the soup.

Pockets of treasure, as it is literally translated was served next:

This is a home made bean curd skin, stuffed with fish paste, chives and an oyster, deep fried to a crisp perfection. I found this dish to be absolutely wonderful. The bean curd skin, being home made by Putien is light, and crisp, though slightly oily through the deep frying, but retains the flavour and taste of bean without the characteristic saltiness one often gets with commercial factory made skins.

Next, the interesting, almost molecular styled braised chicken with dou miao

If the dish does not look like a chicken dish, I don't blame you. I couldn't tell either. Chicken fillet and egg white are blended into a puree and boiled with dou miao. The chicken is the white dusting on the vegetable, and looked like snow on the greens. Tastewise, I can hardly taste the chicken. The dou miao was excellent. Well cooked, and the broth which accompanies is bursting full of flavour.

We next had braised bamboo clam with mustard green.

I am not a big fan of mustard greens...especially the stems they used in this dish. And though this serving did not change my mind on mustard greens, I kind of liked it for its simple flavours. The clams were braised and very sweet, and the stock used was delicious. I understand, when available, instead of clams, they will use mantis prawns.

Their famous Putien Lor Mee rounds the lunch

Unlike the typical lor mee with a dark sauce, this was light, and the chef told us that the base was made from at least 10 hours of boiling pork bones to produce the thick, rich stock. As there were more than 15 ingredients used in the mee, each mouthful brings forth a different the mix of ingredients show themself with each spoon. One of my favourites.

And for desserts, Putian loquat in herbal jelly

Loquat, a fruit which is indigneous to Putian, is most tender and juicy in spring. The loquat sits on top of a home made herbal jelly fortified with a bit of Putian honey to sweeten the concoction. I found it to be very agreeable. The loquat provides a sweet, tinge of sourness to the bitter jelly. And of course the honey making everything sweet.

I think an admirable new menu from chef Larry Li of Putien. Commendable.

p.s. This is an invited tasting. My thanks to Geri of Linea for the invitation and to Ringo and Melissa of Putien for hosting us.

127 Kitchener Road, but also at many locations around the city