Friday, April 30, 2010

Claypot Kings: Uncle Sam's

Postcards from Germany is interrupted for two posts on meals eaten in Singapore>

I used to frequent the Uncle Sam's outlet at Robinson Road. My office was just around the corner, and with the colleagues there, we even worked out a timing when we could get to the restaurant, not experience any queues, eat and get out within about 40 mins. This was classic Shenton Way office lunch hour, out, fast, hopefully a delicious, nutritious meal.

When I saw a new outlet at the new City Square, I told Kin, we just have to eat there. And queues, no crowd. And yes, even a lunch special! Maincourse - any of the claypots, plus drink, plus dessert for $7.50. Great value.

Kin had the noodle claypot:

This was Kin's favourite in Uncle Sam's...she always ordered the same. The claypot intensified the flavours of the rich broth. And the noodles, and ingredients were very nice.

I had the Thai Tom Yam claypot chicken

The version served here was a bit on the wet side, with a generous helping of the sauce. The balance of saltiness and slight sweetness was just nice. The chicken was cubed, and I think cooked together with the sauce and rice. It was supremely tender, and also with the smokey flavour. Very nice. In my opinion, one of the better claypot rice around.

The rice was cooked in the claypot...leaving a thick crust of burnt rice, giving the rice its characteristic smokey flavour. I just love eating the burnt crusty rice at the bottom.

Dessert was also typical. Kin had her usual cheng thng, and I had my usual chendol

The cheng thng was rather nice, with plenty of ingredients.

And I found the chendol to be quite good too...especially after the disappointment in the Penang Teochew Chendol recently.

The ice shavings were very fine. And there was sufficient ingredients. The chendol noodle itself could have been a bit more springy, but I found it to be acceptable. The coconut milk and gula melaka was quite generous, and provided the richness, creaminess and the smooth texture and mouthfeel. Nice.

Overall, I felt quite satisfied with the meal, both in terms of taste but also interms of its relative ease on the pocket and value for money.

Uncle Sam's Claypots
180 Kitchener Road
#04-26/29 City Square Mall
Tel: +65 6509 6080
Daily 11am – 10pm

Monday, April 26, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Hiedehof Restaurant

with my Dutch and German friends

I am staying at the Landhaus Heidehof, in Dippoldiswalde, Germany for 3 weeks on a special project to photograph and document the history of the Pour le Merite line from A. Lange & Sohne. As it turns out this hotel, or guesthouse witnessed the re-emergence of the A. Lange & Sohne brandname after the wall came down in 1989. From then, Gunter Blumlein led his team to rebuild the old brand, and relaunched it at the apex of horology in 1995.

Also, as it turns out, the hotel features a gastronomic restaurant worthy of Gault Millau. As I will be here for the better part of 3 weeks, I will have many opportunities to sample the cuisine here, and this evening was the first taste with friends visiting from The Netherlands.

We sat in the very same room where Blumlein held many a dinner meeting, where important decisions on the new brand were taken. Indeed on the walls, were portraits of the Glashutte greats – Pfeiffer (Glashutte Original), Blumlein (A. Lange & Sohne), Walter Lange (A. Lange & Sohne), Alfred Helwig on one wall and Aldoph Lange, Moritz Grossmann, on the other. A ship's clock made by Muhle Glashutte hung on one wall, and reminded us of the passing of each hour with a beautiful strike tone.

Well, on to dinner. The asparagus season just started...a bit late this though technically spring, it was unseasonally cold...evening temperatures were close to 0C, while it rose to about 15C during the day.

I had the asparagus.

The white asparagus was huge, each about the thickness of my thumb. And with a dip of Hollandaise sauce (which my Dutch friends insisted was not from Holland...though it is generally attributed to their homeland), it was absolutely delicious. Fibrous, but tender, each bite had a light crunch, but yielding to a very juicy, luscious taste.

Some of the others had the Beef Capacio

Looked wonderful.

For my main course I had the lamb rump, roasted with salted feta cheese, and potatos

Also very good. The lamb had an almost rustic, gamey flavour, but tender, and not overpoweringly so...lamb, like beef take on the flavour of the feed given to the animal. Strong gamey flavours are from animals feeding on grass, and shrubs. Grain fed animals often yield meat which is not as gamey. This lamb had a lingering gamey flavour, not overpowering, but persistent, and actually quite pleasant. It was cooked just right, just a touch below medium, and was tender. The cheese provided some was probably salted before going into the oven. And the potatos were nicely roasted.

Accompanying, we selected an Italian wine from Alba. Very smooth, mild tannins, and complemented the lamb very well.

And for dessert, a speciality of the region. A pan fried potato, with sugar, and vanilla ice cream.

The potato, was presented as a golden brown crusted patty. Quite nice, I must say. And went well with the apple sauce and ice cream. The apple sauce provided some acidity and bite, and the ice cream the smooth, rich flavour. Nice touch.

Quite a superb meal, and I am looking forward to many more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tasty convenience food: Qiji

Sometimes, when we just have to grab some food to fill our tummies, we may not always have the luxury of chosing a nice place with good food, good ambience, good service. Qiji seems to me to be the very kind of place to meet this type of eating...kind of like the 7-11 of cooked food.

But a recent visit, surprised me somewhat with the taste and quality of the food. We dcropped by one morning for a quick breakfast at Funan Center, while shopping for a new laptop (ended up with a Dell XPS Studio 16).

Apparently the store has been around for some time...originating in the Funan Center area, and returning to its roots here. There a few outlets in other shopping malls in Singapore.

They offered several types of nasi lemak...with deep fried chicken wing, breaded fish, etc.

The rice was regular Thai jasmine rice, not the Biryani used by the folks at No 1 Adam Road. But it was rather fragrant, with the sweet smell of coconut milk and a touch of pandan leaf. The chicken was regularly fried...nice. The fish, I found quite nice. Interesting to include a slice of sole in nasi lemak, but deep fried with a crispy batter, the fish works...very well indeed. The chilli sambal was sweeter than it was spicy, but complements the dish well. The deep fried ikan bilis was the larger variety, and was very crisp and easy on the palate. So was the accompaniment of roasted peanuts. We also tried a piece of otak, which struck me as rather average...perhaps a tad above the ones you get at the HDB void deck. But overall I liked it very much.

They also served popiah, which I found to be quite good as well.

Various locations citywide
#01-17 Funan Digital Mall

Monday, April 19, 2010

Porta Porta: cozy Italian

with Eddie and Prof. Massi

Porta interesting name for an Italian restaurant...meaning door to door...its a bit unusual too...until we discover that the owner, an Italian chef married to a Singaporean Malay lady started as caterers...and suddenly, it becomes clear.

I first at at this restaurant some 10 years ago, when my office was just around the corner at Loyang. I returned recently to sample the delights when I visited foodie friend, whose office is around the corner at Changi North.

This cozy little Italian restaurant is a gem. Home style cooking done almost perfect!

Even the decor is homey and very tasteful. The entire restaurant perhaps sits no more than 25 pax. And for lunch, they serve only a set menu...choice of either seafood, meat, or vegetarian. Eddie elected to do the seafood, and both Massi and I went for the meat set.

We started with soup.

Eddie's seafood soup:

A hearty soup, with hints of fish flakes within the broth, and generous servings of seafood. I took a small sip, and it was delicious. Very good.

My soup was a beef clear soup:

Very nice too...a distinct beefy flavour. The level of salt was just right, and there was a slight tang which lifted the beef taste.

A plate of deep fried chicken balls were next served.

Clear winner! superb taste, and flavour. The exterior was deep fried golden brown...crispy, and gave way with each bite to a soft, tender ground chicken. Very good, almost good enough to return just to sample this.

Then came the Permier Plates of pasta. Eddie's clam spagetti:

Very fresh clams, stir fried with al dente spagetti in a white wine and garlic sauce. Very nice. The spagetti was true al dente, firm to the bite, and yielding to each chew.

I had the beef lasagna:

Very nice beefy flavours here. The sauce is just right in balance of paprika which gave the bite, the tomato which provided the acidity, and the beef which sets the base umami. I found the pasta to be slightly too soft, but other than that, I cannot find fault with the taste. Excellent.

The main course for Eddie was fried calamari:

This was an eye opener. A dish this simple has no business tasting so good. In my mind, this is an incredible simple dish to prepare...super fresh squid, lightly coat with batter, quickly deep fried...a slice of lemon. That's it. The secret is in the freshness of the squid, the batter's ingredients, and the control of the cooking to be just right...slightly crispy outside, but chewy...not too much, just right, and still very tender inside. Superb dish!

Massi and I had the chicken:

This dish was rather more complex. The sauce is a cream based me, tasted very rich, and must be rooted in Northern Italy. The chicken breasts were coated in batter, fried, and coated with the creamy sauce. The roasted, and lightly sauteed vegetables provided a counterpoint to the rich tasting chicken. I rather liked this dish too, but in all accounts, not nearly as special as the calamari.

Dessert and coffee followed. I was looking forward to the home made tiramisu, but the owner came and apologised that the batch just made is not quite ready, and served us some chocolate gelato.

A superb gem, still excellent after so many years of not visiting. I hear their black squid ink pasta is out of this world...this is the true style of making squick ink pasta...regular pasta, cooked true al dente, and a sauce made of cream and black squid ink. One of my favourites, and not quite so easy to find a good example in Singapore, so I will be back to sample this another time. Served only during dinner.

Porta Porta
971 Upper Changi Road North
6545 3108
Tue–Fri: 12pm – 2pm, 6.30 – 9.30pm
Sat–Sun: 6.30pm – 9.30pm

Friday, April 16, 2010

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

One of my old time favourite clear soup bak kut teh Song Fa, formerly at the Blanco Court coffee shop. Since the removal of Blanco Court, they have now moved the main store to a shophouse just opposite Centrel, but a stall exists at Rochor Center, and now operate as a stall in the KopiTiam.

When Prof Horolographer and I dropped by Gin Studios (photographic suppliers: Sinar, Broncolor and Photoclam), we had lunch at the famous bak kut teh.

We were served clear, peppery soup with huge ribs. I have always preferred the prime ribs to the backbone...what the Hokkiens call leng kut (dragon bone). And these were served with very tender, very flavourful ribs. Lovely!

We also had a small serving of pork leg, which was rather average...

Swathed in a delicious dark sauce, the cut we got was rather fat, with skin intact. Normally the fat can be rendered with long braising, but in this case, a rather thick layer of fat still persists under the skin. The lean meat attached was rather tender and tasty.

Overall, still a nice peperry style bak kut teh.

1 Rochor Road
01-506 Rochor Road Rochor Centre Kopitiam
Singapore, Singapore
Phone : +65 65336128
Opening hours : 0800 - 2300, Off on Monday except Public Holidays

Monday, April 12, 2010

Search for ramen 7: Nantsuttei

with Larry, Prof. Horolographer, Dr. Mycroft, SJX

When new ramen outlets hit Singapore, queues usually follow outside the store. Such was when Ippudo opened in Mandarin Galleria. I went about 2 weeks before, during prime lunch time...about 12:30 till 1:30pm, and we walked right in without any queue. The ramen was quite good, but not able to unseat my prime favourite at Santouka or even Tampopo.

But Nantsuttei is rather different. I had sampled their ramen in Tokyo once, and remembered it to be rather good. So off we trotted, when it opened in secure a place, we dropped in early...about queues, but it started to form from about noon. By the time we left at about 1pm, the queue looked like it will take 20 mins to clear.

We ordered the super duper, all in version...what they call their Maru-toku Negi Chasu Ramen...a mouthfull...but it was just their regular ramen with shiraga-negi, bannou negi...types of Japanese spring onions. We added a seasoned egg.

The soup was superb, if quite fact way too salty. And an attempt to ask for less salt, met with the very polite waiter saying that it was not possible as the soup was "machine made"...we wondered what he meant by that. But the soup was hearty, tasty...but as I already mentioned way too much salt.

The chasu was nicely done. But I wished for a cut which is a bit more marbled. Though it was tender enough. And they were fairly generous, we counted 5 pieces of rather nicely sized chasu. The egg was not was hard boiled, and not much deeply seasoned. Tampopo still holds the crown for me...soft inside, cooked but just barely so...the yolk gorgeous and still soft. Well seasoned.

We also ordered the gyoza

These were mini gyozas...really small. But these were tasty morsels. We ended up with 2 orders, each with 5 gyozas. Superb.

Overall, this does not unseat my previous champions. But the ramen is very nice indeed. Santouka and Tampopo is still tops.

Daily 11.30am – 10.30pm

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Loy Sum Juan: one of my favourites

celebrating my sister's birthday

Loy Sum Juan is a favourite of the family. We love the har cheong kai, their steamed fish head, their steamed garlic prawns amongst several dishes. I was first introduced by a former boss...AMB: who brought me, then a rookie sales person, to celebrate a big win. LSJ was then located above some shophouses at Outram Park. HDB has since redeveloped that block, and the restaurant moved to the top floor of Tiong Bahru Plaza. We were regulars then. I blogged about them in the Tiong Bahru outlet in 2008.

They then moved to their current location in Murray Street about 2 years ago, and I have become less regular, but the owners, now second generation, still recognise me.

My sister decided to do a banquet style dinner for her birthday, so the whole clan trooped down.

Typical of a Chinese banquet, we started with the cold appetizer dish:

The dish is not atypical. Some salad prawns in the middle, sliced jellyfish, with a cup of stir fried eggs, strands of sharks fin, bean sprouts, golden medallions of pork, Peking duck and deep fried fish skin in a Thai sauce. Quite nice, and a good way to start the dinner.

We next had sharks fin in chicken broth and thick soup:

This was again fairy typical. Shredded sharks fin, in a chicken broth. The broth was thick, and very flavourful. Nice, thick consistency, and very tasty. This is not superior sharks fin, where the whole fin is served in one piece, but these were loose strands of fin...though reasonably generous in serving size.

We also had the Tau Tay, steamed Teochew style:

To the Teochews, I guess the Tau Tay...a kind of promfret, but with a rounder nose, is supreme. The meat is sweet, smooth, and very clean tasting (if fresh). This was quite good, except the fish was slightly over cooked, robbing it of the rich smoothness characteristic of Tau Tay. But it remained quite delicious.

Sliced abalone with broccoli in brown sauce:

This was a superb dish. The brocolli was cooked just right, not had a crunch, and bite, and tasted very fresh. The abalone was tender, and sliced thinly. I imagined it to have been braised in the brown sauce with rich chicken stock, as I can almost taste the chicken. Nice!

Prawns, deep fried was next:

The prawns were fresh, large and succulent. What can I say, when the prawns were such quality...unless the chef overcooked the dish, it was bound to taste good...and indeed it did. Excellent.

The vegetable dish was baby kailan with mushrooms and beancurd

The baby kailan was very fresh, and again the chef showed his mastery of the fire...blanched just right, crunchy, cooked, but not overcooked into a mush. Very nice vegetables. The braised mushrooms were also very good, as were the cubes of bean curd. Braising for perhaps a long time, bubbling away and absorbing the richness of the stock.

The dessert was a kind of twist on the old Ohr Nee:

Instead of plain ohr nee, this one came cooked with cereal. A nestum like cereal was added to the mix. For me, this is only midly successful. The cereal gave the yam a nice complementary flavour, but it was too sweet almost to the point of being coy. For me, not their best dish.

Overall, a nice banquet. Considering that I had loved their cze char style food earlier, their restaurant banquet style food was also worthwhile.

Loy Sum Juan
28 Murray Terrace
Tel: +65 6221 2257 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +65 6221 2257 end_of_the_skype_highlighting Mon–Sun
11.30am–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm