Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yakitori! Satsuma at River Valley

with Michelle C.

Satsuma...certainly an old name in yakitori cuisine in Singapore. I had been there several times some years ago, but have almost forgotten about the restaurant...till Michelle suggested it for our lunch. I am rather fond of the chicken yakitori place down in the basement of the Dai Ichi Hotel in Shimbashi where all parts of the chicken are served by this elderly couple. I can almost imagine being there, everytime someone mentions yakitori.

Only the upstairs dining room is open for lunch...just as well, as I would have preferred the upstairs as well...cozy, but still reasonably good lighting for shooting the food...

The interior is somewhat a bit worn for age, but still looks nice.

An appetizer of cut daikon, carrot is presented on arrival.

Eaten with the bean sauce dip, the fresh vegetables taste very good...especially when you are hungry.

We then ordered a slew of Japanese style, this is typically grilled on a small charcoal fire. So here are the dishes:

Chicken of my favourites:

In my reference store in Tokyo, I believe the chef mixes in bits of the chicken's soft bone for an extra crunch...I am not sure if Satsuma does this, but this is really nice. The outside is nicely charred, with a great smoky flavour. The inside is tender, juicy.

We also had short ribs:

The beef was a bit chewy...not as tender as it could have been. I guess this would be grass fed Australian grass fed. This was no wagyu. But the toughness has some redeeming makes the beef more flavourful, and I can almost taste the grass...:-)

Apparagus with bacon:

The spears of asparagus was wrapped with a thin slice of bacon...fat, full flavoured. Grilled. Can something this wonderfully made taste anything but wonderful?

The cod fish roe sausages...mentaiko sausage.

Not my favourite dish...the mentaiko was a bit salty and did not really allow the flavour of the eggs to come through.

We also tried the jaw bone of a cod...

This was quite good. The grilling was expertly done...just enough to get a charring for the smokey punch, but not overcooking the fish. Big boned fish, charred always brings me back to one of my first trips to was cold...winter in Tokyo can be freezing...indeed, memory tells me it was was late-ish (for dinner at least...about 9pm, I think), and I had no idea what to eat...walking around the streets...peering into the restaurants. I decided to go into one...climb up the narrow staircase. And was presented with a Japanese menu with no pictures! Hmm...I guess the waiter must have noticed, and called one of the kitchen staff over...he made his way over, smiling...and asked..."Singapore?"...I meekly affirmed...and he said, "me Malaysian, makan apa?". That saved the day. I choose for me...this was my very first trip to Japan, and I was a young man...and he served me this huge boned fish, huge bone, of course, but also huge chunks of meat...perfectly barbecued...but a most memorable and delicious meal.

And to round up the Satsuma meal, we had the garlic fried rice:

A winner dish. With the flakes of deep fried, crispy garlic adorning the expertly fried rice. Very nice. Enjoyed it very much.

Overall, a nice Japanese yakitori place which is less crowded than many others during lunch. Good for many revisits.

1 Nanson Road (Gallery Hotel...its located in one of the pods in the compound of the avant guarde hotel)
Singapore 238909
6235 3565
Open Mon-Thu 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm;
Fri 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-1am;
Sat 6pm-1am; Sun 6pm-10:30pm

Monday, September 27, 2010

La Nonna in Holland Village

with Prof Horolographer, SJX and Dr. Mycroft

Lunch with the to speak...its been a while since we last managed to get together...and this time round, the gang is still missing Larry the Foodie. But we rode that day, figuratively. And decended on La Nonna.

La Nonna now occupies the space vacated by sister restaurant Spizza. I am quite a fan of Spizza and also their upmarket fine dining cousin Senso. Superb Italian restaurants. I frequent the Spizza outlet in Balmoral, and this time, we thought of trying out La Nonna since they now have a lunch promotion of 50% off their a la carte menu...super value, methinks.

Starters was the La Nonna house pizza.

Mycroft immediately pronounced this as a winner. "Superb", he exclaimed, as he so often is able to underscore his emotions...this is a man famous for accidentally buying a watch, because his credit card flew out of his wallet. The crust was a thinly made pastry...very nicely browned, and crisped in the oven. I don't know if they have the traditional wood fired al forno, but it was excellent. Beautiful crust, lovely ingredients. I would have personally preferred the pastry to have a slight spongy edge, but that's me...and the La Nonna house special is quite delish.

Horolographer and JX had the crab and prawn ravioli:

I had a piece to taste. Pungent, spicy sauce. Tomato based, of course...the ravioli was just a tad below al dente, and the stuffing was quite tasty crab and I suppose lobster...within the ravioli, I couldn't really distinguish one from the other. But this is a nice ravioli.

Mycroft had the oxtail pasta.

With imaginings of grandeur chunks of oxtail wading on a bed of pasta...but this was not to be. The oxtail were shredded...possibly cooked till super tender, then pulled, and cooked again in braising liquid till almost paste like - the sinews in smitherins, the fat even distributed in the sauce. I can imagine this to be a wonderful, savoury, umami sauce...embracing, luxuriating over the pasta. I didn't taste it, so am not able to offer anything other than the imagined.

I had the rack of lamb. I ordered it medium rare, but charred I always do for my red meats:

The rack was a sight for sore eyes. Superb. No supreme. The insides were cooked perfect medium rare. Beautiful! Bellisimmo!

The lamb was very good. Ultra tender...flavourful, but not overpowering. The outside was slightly darkened by the attempted charring, and retained some flavours from the charcoal grill, but not quite as charred as I would have liked. But overall, this lamb is excellent. Deserves, no demands a revisit.

For desserts, they all ordered the tiramisu

de rigeur, methots. Mycroft thought there was no alcohol in the tiramisu. JX, thought he tasted some...and spent some time expounding how the tiramisu was made.

I ordered the panna cota:

Home made...the waiter advised...and I am impressed by that. But the dessert, when it arrived, was nothing to write grandma about (btw, La Nonna means Grandman in Italian). It was good...but at best above average.

So this was a rather pleasant lunch. Service was prompt, and reasonably good. Food is rather excellent. And the 50% off is a real treat.

La Nonna Holland Village
26 Lorong Mambong Holland Village - 6468 1982
Open Daily 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Treasure in JB: Restoran Peking

Once a whle, a bunch of friends would take a leisurely drive to Johor...especially during durian season to eat some durians, relax, and eat a nice meal before returning home. This time, we made our way to Parit Sulong, then to the little town of Muar, before returning to Johore Bahru for dinner.

The dinner was at Taman Sutera, not far from either the Causeway or the Second quite a convenient location for Singaporeans to drive to.

The restaurant was huge...a bit like Jumbo, but on first impression, more luxurious and up market. The prices, being in JB, are more down to earth for various seafoood than the sometimes expensive stuff we get in Singapore.

We had a full banquet, these are a selection of some interesting dishes:

Brocolli with sea cucumber and chicken:

Quite superb. The brocolli was a beautiful dark hue of green, and was still crunchy. The sea cucumber was already rendered in a braising stock separately till super tender, then chicken stir fried in a hot wok with the brocolli and sea cucumber. Superb.

The sambal sotong with celery was also great:

Fresh squid...very smooth, creamy, sweet and also still crunchy. The sambal was quite powerful, and goes well with the bits of crunchy celery. Another beautiful dish.

The Peking duck was next:

This was a slight disappointment...not that it did not taste good...but the recent spate of great and superb peking duck for me has raised my natural palate standards considerably. While many would consider the peking duck to be good, for me, that evening, I thought it underperforming. The duck slices were a bit too large. The skin not crispy enough, the pastry too thick.

But we actually came for the soft shelled crab:

This was superb. The whisps of egg, stradelling the soft shelled crab bekons. The aroma is wonderful, and with each bite, juxtaposition of crisp egg, slightly crunchy shell, and the creaminess of the crab is pure pleasure.

I often find soft shelled crab, deep fried in this style to often be very oily...the crab and egg batter absorbing a lot of fat. But this was light, and not greasy at all. Very nice.

Overall, this is a superb restaurant. For me, I will avoid the peking duck, as there are plenty of better examples of this art around (the Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck in Paragon is the grandmaster of the art). But the seafood is fresh, expertly cooked, and tastes superb...all for a price you cannot get in Singapore.

Restoran Pekin @ Sutera Utama

Map marks Sutera Mall, the restaurant is in adjacent building left of the mall.

View Larger Map

Monday, September 20, 2010

Restaurant Ten: revisit

I did a first tasting at Restaurant Ten a while ago, and found it to be quite excellent. See here for my initial review.

It was so good, I had to return for a second visit, this time, with Eddy who introduced me to the restaurant, and also with my good friend Prof. Horolographer...with whom I had shared many culinary experiences with.

We tried the $S$48, S$68, and S$88 menus...normally these menus are two to go, but the restaurant manager Dorothy, who attended to our orders, ok-ed for us to sample one each. Nice service.

I won't show all the dishes we sampled, but they were all excellent. Somehow I can get used to this wellness cuisine. Low fat, good quality ingredients, nice wonderful homey feel to the food.

Starter: the House Special Triple Combination

One of the starters was a chilled whole abalone with dang kui and wolfberries:

Smoked Duck with Crispy Seaweed Beancurd (served with buns)

A bit like peking duck, but a steak cut of the duck with skin, fat and meat. On a crispy piece of tofu, and served with sweet black bean sauce on a small steamed bun. Nice.

The tofu dish was interesting:

Crispy tofu, wrapped around mushrooms and golden bamboo...Nice super crisp and light exterior, but a smooth, soft, tender interior.

Their Buddha Jump over the wall interpretation was also interesting:

The broth was thick, smooth, fragrant, and luxurious in the mouth. The savoury, umami sensations as one drinks the soup is superb. The ingredients - a whole fresh small abalone, a whole comb of sharks fin, and fish maw all complete the taste sensation.

And in Michelin style a special be eaten left to right:

Overall, I find this restaurant very interesting for the cuisine it offers. Beautiful ingredients, carefully cooked to bring out true flavours. The entire meal felt light, though we have had quite a bit of food. And perhaps its psycological, we felt truly nourished.

Ten Restaurant
7 Purvis Street
+65 6333 9901
12pm–2.30pm, 6pm–10.30pm

p.s. We went to the restaurant with the full intention of paying for the meal, as I always do...and as we did for the first visit. But when we called for the bill, we were informed by the waitress that the meal was on the house. We asked to speak to Dorothy, the manager, and she confirmed that she has put our bill on the house with her compliments. I am grateful to the management of Restaurant Ten for the meal.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Search for Ramen 10: Black Ramen

Black ramen...the concept itself is quite intriguing...ramen, blackened from squid the squid ink pasta from the Italians...interesting. So off I went to try it out. The restaurant is kind of like an extension to the Great World City Food Court.

The logo shows a black bowl, and in bold sketchy italics the words "Black Ramen", and a picture of a Ninja with a pair of chopsticks picking at the R. The decor is quite interesting as well...

So how was the ramen?

Looks interesting. Tempura prawns, black noodles, and half an egg, which seemed very nicely half cooked.

The taste was quite nice as well. The broth was not as thick and intense as the others recently sampled...from Santouka and Ippudo. It proved a bit too watery, though quite tasty.

The noodles itself was rather interesting. The black squid ink can be tasted...lovely me thot, as I do love the light fragrance and the taste of squid ink. And the noodles were done nicely springy and al-dente. The egg was excellent...almost runny, though not quite. The prawn was nice and crunchy, though the batter was not as light as I would have liked. If you note the first picture, a small bowl of garlic crisps accompanies...and for me this does the trick. This made the soup wonderful...and the crunchy bits enhance the flavour of the noodles with each bite.

We also tried the unagi rice.

My advice: stick to the ramen. The unagi was not the had a muddy smell and taste. Not good enough.

We also had a try of the pork tonkatsu, seen at top left in the first ramen pic...also best leave tonkatsu to the experts...which in Singapore means the Tampopo group with their absolutely ravishing kurobuta tonkatsu.

I might return for the kuro-ramen with the superb garlic, but certainly stick to only that.

Black Ramen
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#B1-15 Great World City S237994

Monday, September 13, 2010

Search for Ramen 9: Ippudo Tao

with Andy and Pat

Ippudo caused quite a splash in the Singapore ramen scene when it first appeared with the outlet at Mandarin Galleria. The ramen is quite spectacular...very good...and the long queues during meal times testify to their goodness.

And following quite fast on the heels of the first outlet, is the second. Named Tao, after the Japanese performance art drummers. The outlet's decor is quaintly different from the outlet at Mandarin...being black and red...aligned to the colours of the Tao.

The menu at Tao is also slightly different from the menu at Mandarin the last time I visited. I tried the new Tao Kuro soup, with the thicker noodles than the regular Tokyo styled noodles.

We started with an absolutely brilliant fried chicken nuggets dish:

Nuggets of chicken nuggets, fried till a crisp crust forms to protect the juicy, tender chicken bits within, and a gorgeous mayonase wasabi sauce! The sauce had just the right balance of wasabi...just to impart a bit of flavour, not overpowering. And goes superbly with the chicken nuggets.

The gyoza are de rigeur:

Though very small...each easily one pop into the mouth. The flavour was nice, but not specatcular.

The soup was thick, powerful. Flavours bursting from the broth, and the fragrance which came forth as one takes a whiff is wonderful. The kuro - meaning black in Japanese - refers to the black fungus, and black sauce which magically floats over the tonkotsu broth. I had the one with bara chasu - pork belly, and a flavoured egg (typical Japanese flavoured egg...firm outside, almost runny inside), black fungus, spring onion, miso paste and the black fragrant garlic oil.

The noodles were thicker than regular, as I had mentioned:

Pat and Andy had the more traditional Shiro style with the Hakata noodles, which are thinner.

I had earlier sampled this at the Ippudo in Mandarin, so please see earlier review. Ippudo review.

Ippudo Tao
207 River Valley Road
#01-55/56 UE Square (facing Mohamed Sultan Road)
Singapore 238275
Tel: +65 6887-5315

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Restaurant Hopping: have you done this in one lunch?

My friend Larry is quite an extraordinary foodie...he is adept in finding little places...literal holes in the wall, where the food is quite excellent. Today, we had lunch, and went restaurant hopping...first course was a starter of steamed dim sum, then hot and spicy Thai, and finally a dessert of putu piring with teh tarik.

First off, Victor's Kitchen.

We had some steamed carrot cake, which is quite excellent...sorry no pics of the carrot cake, but it is excellent. Generous with the radish, and steamed to a consistency which I can only describe as just right. It is obvious the care and attention the owners and chef takes with their food. The dim sum is only put in the steamer on sometimes it takes a while to be served. It is also obvious from the nai cha...characteristic iced milk tea, typical of Hong Kong cha chan teng.

The chef does not want to dilute the tea by putting ice inside the cup, but instead devices a simple yet effective method of keeping the chilled milk tea cold...Reminds me of a bottle of champagne sitting in its ice bucket, or drinking beer in India, though the practice is done for an altogether different reason...where as a foreigner, I fear for patogens in the unboiled water used to make the ice, so place the ice in a bucket surrounding the bottle.

We quickly proceeded a few doors away to Aroy Dee Thai...the place was already filling up fast with office workers and students from the nearby SMU.

Three dishes stood out. The Fried Tanghoon:

The quite special. The strands of Thai vermicilli made from sticky is very springy, QQ in texture, and has well absorbed the braising liquid. A generous sprinkling of seafood and spring onions and taugeh complete this simple, but delicious dish...Aroy Dee!

The omelette is also very nice...and pretty too:

I always love the way the Thais do their eggs and omellettes. Especially what is known within Thailand as Thai Omelette...quickly correct that...flash fried in a super hot wok with scalding the omelette is fluffy but with crispy strands on the outside, and just barely cooked and still moist and almost runny on the inside. The other style is to make the omelette into a well cooked crepe like skin...and wrap this over either minced meat or fried kway teow. In this case, minced pork and seafood. Beautiful.

And finally, the piece de resistance...raw prawns with chilli dip.

This is superb. The prawns are shashimi fresh. Sweet, crunchy. The chilli sauce is oh so POWERFUL...not for the faint hearted. Very spicy, burn your tongue for the rest of the day spicy. Eater beware. But for those who can handle the heat, it is almost heaven! Slightly sweet, sour and very hot. It somehow is able to bring out even more flavours from the prawns. Another Aroy Dee!

Then finally, we travelled to Gelang Serai, to the Mr. Teh Tarek Restaurant, where Larry had found the best putu piring store in Singapore:

This is not your typical Kuih Tutu (the Peranakan call this kuih tutu, the Malays know the same dish as Putu Piring)...those sold in Food Courts or malls by syndicated vendors in their Tutu carts. This is the original ones. Freshly made with each order, they use real Gula Melaka, and super fresh, unpressed grated coconut. The taste is excellent. Soft, tender, melts in your mouth, fragrant, tasty, sweet are all adjectives which come to mind.

Victor's Kitchen
91 Bencoolen Street
#01-21 Sunshine Plaza
Tel: 9838 2851

Aroy Dee Thai Restaurant
91 Bencoolen St
#01-12 Sunshine Plaza
Singapore, Singapore
Tel : 63368852

Putu Piring at Mr Teh Tarek Eating House
970 Geylang Road

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shimbashi Soba: soba very good

Shimbashi Soba is one of the icons specializing in soba in Singapore. I had an incredible experience once in Shiojiri, Japan where I visited a home restaurant serving exceptional home made soba and cuisine. Click here to read that post.

But here in Singapore, tucked in the basement of Paragon, not far from the recent great experience at Grandma's, Shimbashi Soba also makes their own soba in-situ.

A soba specialist makes this daily...perhaps more frequently, and displays his craft from a small glass window-ed kitchen at one corner of the restaurant. He starts from grinding the buckwheat, kneading, cutting into strips.

I have eaten at Shimbashi on numerous occassions, and this post is an amalgam of the latest 2 visits.

The house soba is simply called Paragon Soba:

Indeed, a great name. It comprises of a bowl of hot soba and a bowl of cold soba. I found the hot soba to be good, but the cold soba was exceptional. The crisps from tempura flour provides an excellent foil to the cold, flavourful soba in a thick, cold rich broth...fortified with slices of Japanese seaweed - seen here dried seaweed on the right, and fresh seaweed on the left...and a piece of home made tofu. A small serving of tempura prawns and vegetable are able the side dishes.

The cold soba with tempura is also delectable:

The soba is quite good...a bit springy, slightly chewy, but very fragrant...though in an inobstrusive way so as to provide a light base to set off the ingredients and dipping sauce. The tempura was quite good, though not as good as the best specialist tempuras. The prawns were rather large, straight, and fresh. The vegetables were good too.

The duck soba is also a favourite, especially with cold soba:

I like the way they cooked the duck. Just a bit shy of medium, with a nice pink blush. And very flavourful. Chilled, it proved even nicer than hot. And the characteristic way the Japanese does eggs...a tad over half boiled, with the yolk just runny. Excellent, and pushes all my buttons.

The hot tempura soba, in also very good, but in my opinion, somewhat less good than the cold ones:

The hot broth somehow does not allow the character of the soba to shine.

They also have a very nice kani croquette:

Very crispy on the outside, and superbly creamy and almost oozing on the inside.

For me, Shimbashi is certainly a favourite...worth many revisits.

Shimbashi Soba
290 Orchard Road #B1-41 The Paragon Singapore
Tel: 6735 9882
Daily: 11.30am – 9.30pm

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Au Petit Salut: top 3 French restaurants in Singapore?

Au Petit Salut is one of the standard bearers of fine French cuisine in our little city. Housed now in its own building...which used to be the Junior Flying the hip Dempsey area, the restaurant features a fine dining space, a private dining area and a bistot in Holland Village.

I attended a sampling during an event held by Vacheron Constantin to showcase their ultra thin heritage and the new 2010 Historique watches - the Ultra-Fine 1955 and 1968. See here for a look at these wonderfully elegant watches.

We started dinner, with champagne...of course. Its only the proper thing to do. And during the dinner, fine burgendy whites and reds flowed. I neglected to shoot the bottles, and from memory cannot recall the exact wines served...but they were excellent...delicious and complements the food.

First off the fat, and quite large serving of foie gras

Pan usual, just a tinge of searing to make the skin a bit crispy, but not enough heat to destroy the fatty liver within. The liver remained juicy, milky almost, super rich tasting...and just about explodes in the mouth as the tongue starts to press it against the palate. The richness of the foie gras is usually offset with the sauce, and in this case its Xeres vinegar and red onions with a sprig of baby spinach.

We next were served a bowl with a ravioli, and the waitress carefully poured a ladlefull of lobster bisque into the bowl...almost submerging the ravioli.

The flavour of the lobster bisque was quite good...intense, concentrated. I would have liked to have some lobster bits within, but the soup was smooth and creamy. A few drops of truffle oil completes the wonderful aroma. The dumpling had a rather nice lobster filling. But if I were to critique, the skin pastry of the ravioli was a tad tough...almost like a dumpling from dim sum...and perhaps a finer skin pastry would be more elegant to set off the lobster.

A wild berry sorbet was next served as a palate cleanser

Well chosen by the chef...the sorbet was at once sour, and sweet...the texture of the icicles were alluring, and was a great cleanser for the palate to prepare for the main event.

I had the Pan Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Sauteed Wild mushrooms, mashed potato and a red wine sauce.

As usual, I had ordered my steak to be charred on the outside, and medium rare on the inside. The chef could definitely deliver a nice, wonderful medium rare...

but the exterior was not the least bit crusty, crispy or charred. Nevertheless this was an excellent steak. If I hazard a guess, this was a Black Angus, probably grass fed, but corn fed for the last days of its life to give the characteristic lean, slightly chewy sinews, but tempered with nice marbling from the corn during its final days. Nice.

The mashed potato made a bed for the steak, and stands for special mention. It was rich, creamy, and smooth to the palate. I know of one other mashed potato which is better, but Au Petit's offering is certainly top 3. BTW, Damian Da Silva (formerly of the Big D Grill, and now Soul Kitchen in the National Museum) makes my benchmark gold standard.

The dessert was rather unusual from a cursory reading of the menu card. 8 Hours oven baked apple, ligh calvados custard cream, vanilla and read.

8 hours! wow...this is veering towards Fat Duck territory, where dishes sometimes call for 12 to 24 hours in the oven. The result from Au Petit was marvellous. The apple had been rendered almost to a pulp...though not quite. The calvados custard cream was divine. Smooth, rich...ultimately sinful...but who's counting calories when dining at Au Petit? The vanilla added the characteristic flavour, and the crumble was a good balance of texture to the rich cream. Quite a successful pairing, I must say.

Au Petit Salut once again proves its mantle as one of the best French restaurants in Singapore. I have not yet tried Guy Savoy's outlet at Marina Bay Sands...doubtful I will as I have already met and sampled his cooking in his flagship Paris restaurant. But together with Iggy and possibly Les Amis which I have not had a recent tasting, Au Petit Salut can reign at the peak of French cuisine here.

40C Harding Road
Singapore 249548
T: 6475 1976
F: 6475 1966