Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eating USA: Route 66 and Rod's Steak House

withProf Horolographer

Route 66. Certainly one of the most famous roads in the US, perhaps the world. I managed to pass its path, when we stayed at the historic town of Williams, AZ when we were visiting The Grand Canyon. See my photoblog for pics of the canyon. Certainly a worthy visit.

Staying at one of the small towns that dot the historic route west for the Americans is advantageous in that it gave me a glimpse of Americana...diners, old american cars, pubs and salons...reminiscent of the wild west...

As we walked from our Motel...yes, its a small town...don't know of any large chain we stayed at this little motel...comfort level was ok, but as the motel allowed pets, it was certainly not the cleanest we have ever experienced. The Super 8 motel at Mariposa was certainly one of the better ones.

Anyway, along the route...a pub! Which offered drinks, as well as a bath...I imagined a copper bath tub, hot water for the cowboys of the day to get themselves cleaned for a night out!

As Horolographer was no drinker, and not craving for a drink myself, we passed...till we came across this steakhouse...

A quick peruse of the menu...and we were inside.

Long story on quality, value...and a long story on how great a guy was Rod...who started the steakhouse.

The decor was almost exactly as we expected a saloon in the Wild Wild West (those of you old enough to remember that TV series will know what I mean...those who don't can imagine the Will Smith version. And if that's too old for you it up...)

Right on our ceiling where we sat...a light cover with a nice, fat, cow. Hmm...and the songs they were singing on how fantastic the steaks were got my juices flowing. So I ordered one of the signature steaks...Rod's Special Charred Steak. Dipped in sugar. Hmm...that sounds a bit suspicious...but the Special Charred got me.

Looks pretty good...but this was not the speciality charring I was expecting from a high end steak Smith's & Wollensky we just had tried in Las Vegas...but more home cooked.

Cut, it looked good too...

The meat was ok. I guess the cow was grass had the characteristic sinewy, a bit chewy texture, and almost no marbling. But it was disappointingly sweet. I should have caught the dipped in sugar part when I ordered, but I was not really expecting a sweet piece of meat, which it was. Almost like dessert. Other than the coyness, the meat was fine, and the done-ness was ok. I should have ordered a more regular steak...sigh.

Rod's Steak House
301E Route 66
Arizona, USA

Monday, October 25, 2010

Flutes at the Fort: Fire Chief's Residence turned restaurant

with Eddie, Prof Massi, SJX

Flutes at The Ford is an interesting restaurant. With almost no visible frontage at all, it is tucked between the buildings at Fort be exact, right behind the Singapore Philatelic Museum. It used to be the residence of the Chief Fire Marshall of Singapore, and indeed, is connected by a walkway through a set of stairs to the Central Fire Station.

The restaurant is housed in a very residential looking, black and white bungalow. Seating can be either outside on the verandah, or in the air-conditioned space within.

The decor is quite nice, I must say...with huge paintings depicting a somewhat colonial environment. The food, is decidedly modern Australian, I guess...with emphasis on fresh ingredients, simple cooking but fortified by sometimes strong sauces.

We had the set lunches...two sets are in somewhat more detailed as I ate it, and the other I show pictures and offer my eating companion's views.

First off...the bread...typically I don't mention the bread unless it is exceptional for one reason or another. And this bread is freshly baked, warm when served, and excellent.

Nice, soft, fluffy. Goes perfect with the extra virgin olive oil.

I started with a pan fried foie gras, with pineapple and chocholate:

I found the foie gras to be a bit on the small side...especially when it commands a $8 supplement over the set lunch price. And the liver itself to be slightly overcooked...not to the extent of being rubbery, but the consistency within was a bit less than, shall I say, melt in your mouth smooth creaminess. The pineapple was a grilled affair on which the foie gras sat on. And I must say the pairing of a light chocholate sauce is quite brilliant. Nice complement.

The other starter, also a $8 additional cost item, was the seared Hokkaido Scallops with cauliflower, curry and celery.

This was rather interesting. The top of the scallops looked like they were charred over hot coals...indeed this was the case, though the scallops were coated in a sauce or condiment before searing. The dark, seared parts were well done to a crispy consistency, but the insides remained soft and succulent. I tried one scallop offered to me by Eddie...and it is a sweet, delicious one!

I went for the duck confit...being a sucker for this dish...heck the fat, cholesterol and calories:

Confit du Canard is a deceptively difficult dish to pull off successfully. Not only must the duck be rendered perfectly with its own fat, but it also must not be too salty, and the final cooking before serving must make the skin super crispy. The best example I have eaten, bar none is found at Chez Dumonet Josephine in Paris. But in Singapore, the best I can remember and still serving is at Black Sheep Cafe. Chef Ratha gets it almost right.

At Flutes, they almost get it right too...but a bit further along the continuum than Ratha. The meat was a bit too salty, and the skin not crispy enough. Not disappointing, for it was still quite nice to eat...though a touch too salty, but nowhere near where the masters of the confit can make it.

The other set was grilled fillet of cod.

I didn't try it, but Eddie offered that it was excellent. The fish looked cooked nicely.

OVerall, Flutes was a good place to bring a business associate for a quiet lunch to discuss business. It has tremendous ambience, quiet, and very good service...and it is within the CBD without being overcrowded with office lunch crowd. The food was good, but not at the level to command multiple returns for me...the ambience might make me want to return to entertain clients, but the menu is not inspiring enough.

Flutes at the Fort
21 Lewin Terrace
6338 8770
Open Mon-Sat 12pm-2:30pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eating USA: In and Out Burger

withProf Horolographer

Last night in Los Angeles, tired, and we had already returned the car. Went to the concierge...

me: Hi, can you recommend a nice place to eat? Walk...Somewhere where you would go.

Concierge: guys from California?

me: um, no

Concierge: have you tried In and Out Burger?

me: oh, we saw many of those driving around the state...are they any good?

Concierge: Da Best! You gotta go. There is one just round the corner...about half a mile walk.

So off we trotted to the nearest In and Out Burger. When we arrived...there was a long line of cars at the drive-in counter...and inside...there was a long order. Promising, methot.

The menu was simple...this was the place for the indecisive. You only get burgers. That's it! No fancy names to figure out...just plain and simple. Hamburger, Cheeseburger, or Double Double (meaning double patty, double cheese). That's it! I ordered the Double Double:

It was excellent. The blurb they put up...100% beef patty, made from fresh whole chuck. They claim they don’t even own a microwave, heat lamp, or freezer. The buns using old-fashioned, slow-rising sponge dough. And we make every burger one at a time, cooked fresh to order.

And it shows. The burger was delicious. The ingredients were fresh. The beef tasty. The cheese smooth, creamy and um...cheesy.

The fries are also good, and not greasy:

Hand cut in the premises, the fries are also only made on order. Hence the queue.

I also had a nice, thick milk shake...made from real ice cream. So thick, it was a bit difficult to suck out of the cup...and I had to wait for it to melt a bit.

Nice burger joint. Would go again, and recommended if you are in the South West (they have only stores in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah).

In and Out Burger
many branches throughout the South West USA
we were at the LAX outlet

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eating USA: Country Fried Steak

with Prof Horolographer

Continuing on my series of typical street, or highway food in the US...we stopped by this little diner at Mariposa for dinner one evening...on our way back to the hotel from Yosemite National Park.

Fairly typical, small town USA a small building on its own, and with the Americal fascination with the automobile, you drive right up to the door:

Inside, it reminds me of an episode of a TV Becker...bad coffee...the coffee in a typical non-specialist outlet (and by Starbucks don't count as a specialised coffee establishment...perhaps Peet's Coffee or other might fit the bill) is really bad...dreg like dark liquid, which is almost not drinkable...but most Americans are happy to drink gallons of this everyday.

So for me, it has to be another type of liquid stimulant...and being in Yosemite (um...distances in the US are different from what we are acustomed to in Singapore...a 40 mile drive (about 65km) is typical...and indeed was the distance we drove from Yosemite Valley to Mariposa. So a nice cold beer, perhaps?

How about one named after Yosemite's famous landmarks...the Half Dome...this was a fresh tasting, slightly malty, but very refreshing brew. Very nice after the drive. And awaiting dinner.

I had a peculiar American dinner meal known as Country Fried Steak.

For the uninitiated, this is a piece of steak...usually not a flattering cut...they don't tell you most of the time what cut it is...tenderised, usually mechanically by whacking it, piercing it till the muscle fibres are cut into small pieces...tenderising the meat. Then coated in a batter like that used for Fried Chicken...and deep fried (they love deep frying in this country) till golden brown and super crispy. Then a wallop of country gravy. And served with a large serving of french fries.

For some reason, I find the Country Fried Steak quite palatable...I was to have several of these in the course of our sojourn. Love the juxtaposition of the tender steak (yes beef) with the crunchy, crispy batter and the rich, smothering gravy. The fries were also done very nicely. Not as great as they do in Paris (see La Bourse ou la Vie), but nicely indeed.

Country Kitchen
Mariposa, CA

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eating USA: IHOP

with Eddie, Prof Horolographer

This trip to the US, being on the road...I drove some 3000 miles (about 4800km) in the 14 days we were there...treking mainly the coastal California cities and the US National Parks of Yosemite, Bryce, Grand Canyon. So it meant having to set aside fine dining, and nicer food, for fast food on the road.

The US highways are literally dotted with many such oasis of food, gas and whatnot. And in many of them, the usual suspects - McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Denny's but also IHOP.

Easy to find, with their characteristic A frame blue roof...

Interesting and typically American to name your chain of stores International House of Pancakes...when the chain is not quite international (they have outlets only in North America), and their menu is quite complete...a bit like Denny's...all day breakfasts, and other American Diner style meals. But of course, special emphasis on pancakes.

I had earlier been kind of hooked on their in our little party of 3 for breakfast before breaking for Gilroy for some retail therapy, we started with a blueberry pancake stack:

This was superb. The blueberries were fresh berries, but totally immersed in a compote of blueberry jelly-jam. The pancakes were huge, fluffy, buttermilk pancakes, which were embedded with blueberries. Eaten just like that, or if you are decadent, with some whipped cream...oh...delicious! Oh, did I mention blueberries are very healthy? They contain a good dose of antioxidants, and are delicious too.

We also sampled the plain pancakes...just a stack of 3 huge, fluffy.

Breakfast, eating this with either Maple Syrup or Honey is just wonderful. Gives you the energy to bounce off walls for the next 10 hours!

We also decided to add some protein, and went for the American staple big breakfast...

Two eggs, ham, sausage, has browns, bacon...all the grease one can take...and smelled wonderful, tasted great. like the Americans...and certainly worth one breakfast when in the USA.

International House of Pancakes (IHOP)
everywhere in the USA

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eating USA: Thanh Long Crabs

with Kohei, Eddie, Prof Horolographer

Meeting up with Kohei Saito, a good friend from San Francisco...he decided on a famous roasted crab and owned by a Vietnamese family.

The location was rather easy to find, but the parking is a horror...valet is available, which we eventually used.

The restaurant was crowded by the time we arrived at about 7pm...but we were promptly seated.

First up...grilled calamari

Perfectly grilled...slight burnt edges, but nicely medium rare the meat gives rather easily. It is easy to overcook squid, and will result in a rubbery texture. But this was perfect. Nice, sweet, a bit spicy due to the seasoning and sauce.

We also had the classic Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls.

This was de-rigeur. Quite tasty, but nothing to write home about.

The piece de resistance is the roasted crab.

A nice large Dungeness crab was roasted in supposedly secret ingredients...The crab was large, fat, and had quite nice chunky meat. The meat itself was sweet, rich and creamy. Nicely done. There was rather a lot of meat within the crab.

We also had their famous garlic noodles...basically soft cooked spagetti like noodles, with a garlic sauce. Some claimed this to be irresistable. I found it to be good, but not great.

I liked the calamari and crabs. Very nice.

4101 Judah St
(between 46th Ave & 47th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset
(415) 665-1146

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In Flight food...Book the Cook in Singapore Airlines

I often fly with Singapore Airlines. Its my preferred airline. When I have been away for a while, stepping into the aircraft makes me feel instantly at home. Some people have remarked that the crew treat angmo passengers better than locals...I must admit, after about a million miles on board SQ, I have found this to be untrue as it applies to me. Crew on board are either average but efficient, or wonderful. I have the privillage of being served by many excellent crew. When they are good, they are wonderful. And when they are average they are still above what most other airlines can offer.

I particularly like their Book the Cook program. These are specially prepared meals, booked before checking in. On my flight from Singapore to Los Angeles recently, I booked two legs on BTC...from Singapore to Tokyo, I had the time treasured, and favourite Lobster Thermidor, and from Tokyo to Los Angeles the Unagi.

The Lobster Thermidor is well executed. Good sized piece of lobster, quite nicely done, I must say.

The lobster itself is a warm water spiny lobster...the kind without the great big claws...some people will say that the crustacean is better catagorized as a crayfish. The meat from the tail is quite sizable, a bit chewy, but full of flavour. Perfect, with a glass of Charles Heinsedick they serve in Business Class...and even better with Krug which is available in First.

The second leg, I had Unagi, taken on board from the Tokyo catering kitchen.

This was rather ordinary...especially as it was on-boarded from Tokyo.

The eel was nicely marinated, but a tiny whiff of eel kept it from excellent. The meat was smooth, and almost creamy, and just short of being magnificent.

On my return, I had the Sukiyaki beef from LAX to NRT. This was excellent. Really good. I didn't take a pic.

And from NRT to SIN, it was unagi again...same as before...just short of excellent.

The Book the Cook program is rather brilliant. I have had great curries in flight, as well as the favourite lobster thermidor.

Singapore Airlines
Book the Cook
Available on most Business Class and First Class Flights

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eating USA: Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse

with Prof. Horolographer

Las Vegas...sin city or city of dreams? Amongst the many attractions and distractions of the city, I love the steaks at 2 of the outlets here. One is Gallager's...which in NYC, their main restaurant has a great reputation of great steaks. I had once dined here, and have done a review...nice thick, dry aged steaks.

So its off to Smith & Wollensky which I went this time. Also a haven for great steaks, this restaurant occupies its own building in The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), sandwiched between Hard Rock Cafe and MGM Grand.

The steaks are dry aged...from 18 to 21 days, as the grillmaster and resident butcher will determine...and I had my NY Strip Steak, all 16 oz as Chicago medium-rare.

The steak was served exactly as ordered....charred black to a crisp outside:

And perfectly medium rare inside

The taste was wonderful. Full flavoured...the meat was all at once luxurious on the palate as it was rather dense, crispy, smokey, charred exterior gave way to the creamy, almost foie gras like flavour of the meat. Really excellent!

Coupled with creamed spinach:

This is a great meal. Excellent steak. The service was quite good, though Horolographer sensed the waiter might have sized us up as not great spenders...and hence not great tippers...he was probably right. Other than the steaks, and shared spinach, we each had one drink. And nothing else.

3767 South Las Vegas Boulevard
(On the Strip
Opposite the Monte Carlo)
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 862-4100

Las Vegas Steakhouse Hours:
Open 7 Days a Week:
Sun - Thurs: 11:30am - 12:00am
Fri & Sat: 11:30am - 1:00am
Wollensky's Grill:
Open Fri - Sat:
11:30am - 1:00am
Open Sun - Thur:
11:30am - 12:00am