Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chin Huat: an old seafood haven

Chin Huat is an old name and hand at live seafood. Its been around, serving live and exotic seafood since the 1980s. And it still does. Now operating from the quaint, bohemian quarter in Clementi, and Novena (same row as my favourite Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice), the restaurant looked very modern, and a bit luxurious. Tanks of live seafood occupy one corner, but the interior was like a typical modern Chinese restaurant, safe for the absence of red decor.

The Makan Tribe gathered and once we were assembled, I began the task of ordering for all.

For starters, the bamboo clam:

Superb! Everyone around the table loved it. Sweet, succulent. But yet the meat was slightly chewy yet tender and yielded its freshness with a breath of the sea as well as clean, sweetness. Wonderful. The sauce, laced with deep fried garlic, was excellent...and a good accompaniment for rice. Reminded me of the superb bamboo clams I had in Hong Kong recently.

Next dish, we had the sambal asparagus, but I managed to blotch the picture, so no pic of that. The asparagus, green, thick, was delicious...cooked just right. It had some crunch, but was tender, and not green tasting. The sambal had some bite, but not too spicy, and had some bits of ground dried shrimps as the taste enhancer. Excellent dish.

We had one of the house specials...the braised giant garoupa in claypot:

Excellent braising liquid...sweet, slightly salty, and thick, rich. The garoupa was cut into thick chunks, and deep fried, before being braised. The fish was fresh, tasty. Its meat tender and yet held together by a springy skin. Quite superb.

We also sampled the braised duck with sea cucumber:

Another superb braised dish, and goes well with plain steamed rice. The duck was tender, cooked till it could fall off the bone. This particular bird was just right, not too fat as ducks can tend to be, but just a thin layer of fat, hiding below the beautiful, brown skin. The sea cucumber could have been more springy, and more consistent texture, but the one which were served was quite good.

Next the Dong Po pork belly, hong sao style:

A rather large slice of pork belly was braised in a red sauce till tender...till the distinction between fat, muscle and skin of the pig became almost indistinguishable from each other...served thus, it looked like an almost homogeneous piece of meat. Tender to a fault, the sauce was a bit piquant, pungent, while all the time based on savoury sweetness. Nice, but for me not really exceptional. Kin thought it to be excellent.

Some steamed, and pan fried man tou accompanied the pork:

These were exceptional. The bread was light, soft, and a bit gelatenous inside, but the outer shell was crisp, golden brown.

Finally, we had 2 rather large Sri Lankan crabs done with what Chin Huat calls their Golden Sauce...which is primarily salted egg yolks:

For me this was the piéce de résistance. The huge crabs were cooked (baked?) in the sauce. The sauce itself was rather dry...much drier than most salted egg yolk crabs served in other restaurants. The cooking process must have been under rather fierce fire...the crab shell was rendered almost crispy. The meat was superb. Fat, rich, smooth, tender, sweet. What crab should taste like. And as the crabs were rather large (1.5kg each), there was quite a lot of crabmeat to go around.

And finally, the dessert: ohr nee

Less sweet than most I have eaten, the yam was fragrant and thick, but the interesting is that the pumpkin sauce was rather more liquid, and larger in volume than most. The yam was almost swimming in the pumpkin sauce.

Overall, and excellent meal at a rather reasonable price, considering we had some nice live seafood...about $450 for a table of 8, and we were very full after. The taste was excellent....one of the better meals I have had in a while. And highly recommended.

Chin Huat Live Seafood
105 Clementi Street 12
Tel: +65 6775 7348 +65 6775 7348
Daily 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30–11pm

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mak's come to Singapore?

I had earlier waxed lyrical over Mak's Noodles as possibly the best in the world. So it was with a bit of excitement, when I read in a recent issue of Wine and Dine, that the executive chef, Chui Cheuen Lai, is now in Singapore and helming the Noodle Palace in Centerpoint.

Noodle Palace is one of the original restaurants to offer Hong Kong cha chan teng style of noodles in Singapore. I remember eating there from the early 1980s, when Centerpoint was new, and this style of cooking was rather novel. However, over the years, Noodle House's novelty wore off, and the emergence of Crystal Jade and with their own imitators took over the scene.

So off we trotted to Noodle Palace, to see if they brought over the Hong Kong handmade traditional bamboo noodle...thin, slightly hard, springy, wiry noodles in a wonderful clear, tasty broth, with fantastic, fragrant wanton.

The noodles were indeed thinner, more wiry, and harder (al dente) than most of those served here. The soup was midly reminiscent of the Mak's in Hong Kong...clear, but thick, slightly viscous broth, with a clean palate offering hints of chicken and pork. The wanton had the tinge of the flounder, but not as apparent as in Hong Kong. Seems to be similar, but different from our tasting in HKG.

We also ordered the Ngau Lam...or beef brisket noodles

If they offered the dry Ngau Lam Mien in Mak's HKG, I wasn't aware...blame it on poor ability to read Chinese...but AFAIK, only the soup version is available there or just braised ngau lam sans noodle. And it was an eye opener...truly a superb dish. The Singapore version is more typical of the stewed brisket we get in Crystal Jade, et al...the meat was a bit sinewy, and tough, and not enough slippery, smooth, fat(?) collagen was served.

Congee next...

Very smooth rice gruel...typical Cantonese style. With treasures of roast duck, abalone, fish, fish maw, fresh prawn, meat ball, pig's liver, cuttlefish, and a raw egg. The chef was specific in his instructions...I guess, only one slice/piece of each of the ingredients. The congee was piping hot, and when mixed with the ingredients, the egg made the whole bowl yellow...and cooked the egg. I must say as a whole the congee was quite agreeable, and delicious. Reminded me of a shabu-shabu session one cold winter night in Geneva, when after finishing off the meat and seafood, we dumped rice and raw egg into the shabu-shabu broth, and had one of the most wonderful congee ever tasted.

We also tried the roast meats:

The crackling of the roast pork was a bit thick and slightly (very slightly) tough, but crispy enough for me to ignore the hardness, and enjoyed it. The pork was a bit on the salty side, but nonetheless very tasty. The roast duck did not have a crispy skin, but the taste was quite acceptable.

Noodle Place Restaurant
176 Orchard Road
The Centrepoint
Singapore 238843

Tel: 6733 3171

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vancouver eats: Joe Fortes

Another steakhouse...I just cannot get enough of steaks when in North America...for the poverty of good steaks in Singapore, I overcompensated...this time, with a bunch of colleagues to Joe Fortes...a venerable institution in Vancouver...the steaks are a contrast to the ones served in Gotham. Gotham, contrary to the unusual name, is more conventional North American...bare meat, done very well, no adornments. The Joe Fortes steaks are done with all the embellishments...jus, whipped potato, the works.

Also in contrast to the upscale, stiff decor and interiors of Gotham, Joe Fortes was more like a US sports bar...noisy, crowded, a party swinging all the time...complete with a live pianist banging out jazz favourites stationed at the staircase.

I ordered almost the same as I did two evenings ago...started with crab cakes:

Same but different...made from fresh crab meat, the patty was fried to a crisp exterior...the insides remained nice and juicy...and in contrast to Gotham's offering, the cakes sit on a pool of sauce of brandy remoulade. Remoulade is a French style sauce much like tartar.

The steak was a 16 oz Canada Prime Ribeye, dry aged. Served Chicago medium.

As served, it looked charred...one of my dining companions, who is English and had his steak well done...remarked that my steak looked much like his. Au contraire! Mine is actually pink and medium inside:

Again, embellished to the hilt, the steak sat on a bed of potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and whipped potato. With a jus sauce. I added two Alaskan Crab legs for a surf component. The crab was truly superb. Already pre-cut so that the juicy, plump meat eases out of the shell easily, the crab, dipped into a small bowl of clarified butter was really, really tasty. The steak was excellent as well...the crusty, slightly charred exterior houses the very nice, tender, meat. As usual, I did not touch the cabernet jus, though the vegetable bed was quite tasty.

Nice steaks and seafood...but for my tastes, Gotham is better...at least this side of the American continent from Peter Luger's.

Joe Fortes
777 Thurlow Street
Vancouver BC
Tel 1-604 669 1940

View Larger Map

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vancouver eats: Gotham

with Ray and SY

Gotham? Batman is that you? The interestingly named steakhouse and bar right downtown Vancouver...and I was told the place to be to spot movie stars and rock singers....the restaurant was as dark as any I have been to in recent history (Bedrock in Pan Pacific Suites back in Singapore is one)...very dark...photography is a bit of a challenge...I opted to let the ambient warm lighting show through the pictures.

The interior was beautifully decorated...nice art deco style paintings, wall of wine bottles, open kitchen. Nice. The waiter we had was very nice too...knows his stuff, polite, attentive. He recommended the oysters...small, but plump, fresh, rich tasting...says he.

Indeed they turned out as he described. Very nice...a bit small, but the oysters had a richness which manages to avoid being coy, but full and enveloping on the palate. Nice.

We also tried the crab cakes...

Which were also superb. Huge chunks of fresh crabs were patted together into a patty, and expertly fried till golden brown. The outer crust was crispy...and the insides succulent, fresh sweet. Excellent.

As we were having red meat...I had the 25 oz Potterhouse, Ray had the 14 oz Prime Rib and SY had a cut of pork. We sampled a British Columbia native pinot noir:

The pinot noir was described to us as similar to Burgundy, but to my taste buds, the wine had a bit too much bite...the tannins were not soft, but a bit too aggressive. On the nose, the floral bouquets were quite wonderful...and on the palate, hints of blackberry and spice were nice. Overall, drinkable, but I think a few years of cellaring would tame the tannins a bit more.

My steak...a huge, American style, 30 day dry aged Potterhouse:

As usual, I asked for it to be Chicago Medium...order was acknowledged, and when the steak was delivered...Ray commented that it looked well done...I said, "its supposed to be like that from the outside...if its medium inside, its perfect".

Indeed it was. The steak was excellent. I would have preferred a bit more marbling, but it was fine. The ribeye side, in particular was superb. Tender, beefy, almost melt in your mouth.

A very nice upmarket steakhouse...beautiful decor, nice service. Good food.

Gothham Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar
615 Seymour Street
Vancouver BC, V6B 3K3

View Larger Map

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vancouver eats: Kirin Restaurant, downtown

with Guillaume D

I am just back from a week in Vancouver. It was a cold, wet March this year, the weather a bit of a havoc. For some reason, the weather was more reminiscent of winter than spring...though the cherry trees had already welcomed spring with the blossoms...

The Winter Olympic Games had just finished. And on Fri, I managed to catch the Paralympic flame being passed for the opening that evening.

Despite the wet weather, we managed to make our way from Sheraton Wall Center, where our conference was being held, a few blocks downtown to Kirin Restaurant.

This was a highly recommended restaurant, and given the large Hong Kong population in Vancouver, and generally large numbers of Chinese, I thought there was merit in this. Larry's nephew, who lives in Vancouver recommended the Richmont branch, and my friend Ray...who had lived in Hong Kong for 2 years and a foodie himself, had dinner at Kirin just a few days before, and highly recommended it.

It was early when we arrived....about 11:30am...in fact we were the first customers for the day...when we left at about 1pm, the restaurant was full.

We decided to take the Lobster Set Menu for 2 persons, and added some Dim Sum.

Har Gao, or shrimp dumplings:

Typical of the har gao in Hong Kong...with a resilient, springy skin, covering fresh, luscious inside treasure of prawns. Wonderful.

We also tried Xiao Loong Pau:

The XLP was not very soupy within the dumpling...the skin was a bit on the fragile side...it broke on 2 of the 4 dumplings we were served...but the meat filling was absolutely spot on. Delicious.

The cold dish of cold smoked salmon and sliced pork hock was our starter:

The smoked salmon was marvellous. Heavy smokey flavour. The salmon was almost fresh tasting...perhaps it was...superb. The jellied pork hock was a bit too gamey for my tastes, but ok.

The next dish was a soup of assorted dried seafood and shark's fin:

The thick soup smothers the dried, and rehydrated ingredients ably. The soup stock was probably made with hours of simmering of chicken and pork bones and all...very flavourful. I could find some dried scallops but also fresh prawns, bamboo shoots. The shark's fin was a bit precious.

The live lobster was up, and the catch of the day

A beautiful, red, fresh, Canadian lobster...off Newfoundland, says the waiter...not Boston...and much higher quality...the meat was fresh, wonderfully sweet and bursting with flavour. Very good. A thin layer of steamed egg white intermingled and flavours the lobster meat very well. The lobster was mid-sized...I estimate, perhaps 300g.

The next dish was sauteed fresh scallops and chicken:

This was another winner. The scallops were very fresh, and the diced chicken was very tender and smooth. The sauce was beguilling...sweet, flavourful. Very nice.

We had our vegetables too...more than just the French Beans served with the scallops dish, we had the Bok Choy with crab meat:

Again the fresh ingredients shone. The crabmeat was excellent..savoury but sweet tasting, with a breath of the fresh sea. The bok choy was also very fresh...living in Singapore, we don't always get the freshest greens...and I find that when I travel, eating vegetables which are truly fresh is a delight...even in China, where I don't usually like the food (too fat, too salty usually), the simple, blanched or stir fried vegetables are always great.

We rounded up the rather large lunch with fried rice:

Again nice. Not oily, or greasy. Each grain coated with egg, and blends with the seafood ingredients well. A bit mild tasting, but a good way to cap off a good meal.

Excellent service...the waiter was knowledgable, spoke good English, and attentive, as were the waitresses. Very good food...even when compared to Hong Kong or Singapore. Certainly a two thumbs up from me.

Kirn Restaurant
102-1166 Alberni Street
Vancouver, British Columbia Canada V6E 3Z3

View Larger Map

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

short break...

apologies for not having a food or restaurant post today...yes, this is Thursday evening already...after the gorging and feasting in Paris, I am taking a short break (going back to old favourites, so not so much to blog about)...should be back online with more food exploits soon. Am also off to Vancouver and you can be sure to expect some reviews from British Columbia.

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of A. Lange & Soehne Cabaret LOG Special Edition...:-)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Il Lido: Italian in Sentosa

with Mike B

Pictures, review without words.

il Lido
Sentosa Island, Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866 1977