Monday, February 28, 2011

Duck Noodles at Beo Crescent

This is an on again, off again favourite of mine. The duck noodles has beguilled me for the last 10 years of eating here...but yet, as the Chinese say...they have their winds. Sometimes, like yesterday, it was superb. Yet, at other times, it is lack lustre.

But when it is right, it really hits home run.

I always order the duck noodles, dry with extra chilli. Kin has the same, but no chilli. The soup, which many stalls consider as an extra and pay little attention to gets good marks for the fragrant herbal smell and taste. I usualy drink up the small bowl.

The noodles are bathed in a thick, almost dark brown sauce, which is superb. The fragrance leaps out and attacks the nostrils. With each mouthful, the feel within is rich, almost creamy. The beautiful fragrance of the fried shallots and onions intermingle with the sauce's richness. The yellow noodles are totally covered, and because of the viscousity of the sauce, sticks to the noodles, rendering them too with the rich, fragrance. The duck, sometimes is fat, but today, it is lean, the meat done perfectly - just a bit shy of medium. The meat, with the characteristic consistency of a well braised duck, with just a tiny sliver of fat under the skin to add oomph. Too fat a duck, it all falls down in one messy greasy flop. But just right, it lifts the meat, which in this case is a bit dry-ish with a slightest hint of a powdery texture.

The chilli packs a punch too. They do two types. One rich, thick chilli added to the noodles, and the same, but with a little lime squeezed into it in a small saucer for dipping the duck. The lime helps cut the fat of the duck.

Superb when it is. But at other times, they are just ordinary...almost tasteless sauce. Little fragrance. I wonder about the stall's consistency.

Also at the same shop is the famous Meng Kee Char Kway Teow, which I will not review today. And the power ice lemon tea.

Freshly brewed...well, brewed in rather large batches, but brewed in-situ nonetheless. Fresh slices of lemon added. Sugared to taste. Very refreshing and a good cuppa.

Duck Noodles and Rice stall
Wei Xuan Eating House
Blk 22 Beo Crescent

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beef Noodles: Hock Lam Beef...oldest, but does she still have the crown?

Beef it or hate it. The ubiquitious presence of such a stall in a food court testifies perhaps to its popularity. But very few which are worthy of noting. One such stall which I adore is Nan Xing Zhou in Toa Payoh. But yet another which I like quite a lot is the Original Hock Lam Beef Noodles. Touted to be Singapore's oldest, all natural, etc, they have taken on a web presence...they have their own website and facebook page.

Apparently this generations old business has handed the reins over to the latest generation...a young woman who now helms the making of the noodles. Her father is still there to meet and greet when I visited recently, exuding charm, and directing traffic into the shophouse just inside the CBD.

I ordered the mixed beef balls and sliced beef noodles in a dry sauce.

The traditional Teochew style of adding crushed peanuts on top of the carefully constructed dish is maintained. As is the powerful, piquant chilli which is a marvellous accompaniment. The chilli cuts through the rich flavours offered by the thick smothering sauce, and the luxurious mouthfeel of the beef slices. I added a small serving of tendons, which I must say are very good.

The beef is quickly blanched, and turned out medium rare, with a bit of pink peeking out. Sliced very thin, it has an amazing mouthfeel and taste. The beef is obviously a very good cut...Hock Lam's literature claims the beef is hand sliced, and no tenderiser or MSG is added. The soup is made from 24 hours of boiling beef parts and bones, reminiscent of ramen broths.

The noodles are done just right...kway teow is soft, smooth, and not soggy as they are prepared on order. A rather long queue forms at the ordering station, when I arrived at 12:15pm it was perhaps 10 deep, but it took all of 8 mins to be served.

Overall this is a good bowl of beef noodles, and a tough call between the Hainanese style of Nan Xing Zhou, and this Teochew style offering.

Hock Lam Beef
22 China St, #01-01, Far East Square

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sinar Murni: best Soto Ayam in Singapore?

Soto Ayam...a chicken soup by the Javanese. Of course, it must be spicy. Of course, it needs to be aromatic. And absolutely it needs to be hot, not only from the chilli but also piping hot. Many stalls around Singapore serve this popular Surabaya dish. But few are really good. This one, got me travelling all the way to Changi to sample its pleasures.

Was it worth it?

Indeed it was! The broth is thick, hot (yes both spicy and temperature wise), and very fragrant, aromatic. A piece of pegedil floats within to fortify the makan experience. I normally prefer the soto with yellow noodles, but forget to specify when I ordered, and was served the more traditional version with pressed rice cakes or ketupat. Well, not technically ketupat as the rice cakes are not wrapped tightly in palm leaves, but probably compressed mechanically, so perhaps nasi empit (literally translated from Malay as compressed rice) is more appropriate. The rice is pressed just the consistency is nice and firm to the bite...el dente if were describing another country's cuisine would come to mind. The rice grains have just about melded into each other.

But the star is the soup. It is brilliant. Extremely tasty. I did not detect MSG later as I remained unthirsty all afternoon. The shreads of chicken floating in the soup provided some bite. Very shiok.

We also had the tahu goreng from the same store.

A typical taukwa...a bean curd, is deep fried till crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, sliced, and heaped with taugeh and julianned cucumber and a sauce of crushed peanuts drizzled on top. The peanuts were freshly crushed, so was crunchy and fragrant. The tahu is freshly fried, so is still hot and crisp. Very nice, but not the best I have eaten...which by memory was a stall by the side of a coffeeshop in Binjai Park...the stall is long gone, in its place now a pizzeria.

Very reasonably priced. The soto ayam was S$2.50 for a decent sized bowl. I definitely would come back for the soto ayam...and if we go by the Michelin Guide's "Worth the journey" appelation, then two Michelin stars? Probably not, but a nice, tasty meal this one!

Sinar Murni
Blk 3 Changi Village, Changi Village Road
#01-39 Changi Village Market and Food Centre S500003
Open daily, but only from 1pm till about 4pm when the food runs out

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Smoked meats in Singapore: Enter the Smoke Shack

I have been passing this little deli tucked at the ground floor of the Market Street car park for a while. It advertises smoked meats...and this brings me right back to the cold (very cold, often dipping below -15C before windchill) days in Montreal. A Hebrew establishment at St-Laurent Boulevard is an institution in Montreal. Long lines form outside, even in the bitter cold for a taste of their famous smoked meats. Promising, methot. Even though the Smoke Shack is perhaps more American than Canadian, I went in for lunch.

The Smoke Shack

Nice deli...real deli style establishment...small, cramped...but hey, in a deli, we are here for the food...and it promises to be interesting. The smell coming from the kitchen counter certainly is nice. The meats are cut on order behind the counter.

I ordered a Montrealer.

smoked meat sandwich The Montrealer at Smoke Shack

Packed with smoked meat, on rye bread with a generous spread of mustard and pickles. The meat looks like ham, but this is quality meat, I was told smoked inhouse right in the premises. The meat was delicious. Very tender, very tasty...a tad on the salty side, but nice highlight. The mustard was rich, and creamy with a very light punch. The pickes were nice and sour. The whole combination is what a smoked meat sandwich is supposed to be...sinfully rich, but at the same time balanced in taste with a touch of salt, a kick of mustard, and a tweak of sourness from the pickles.

I also sampled the Montevideo (Chivitos)

smoked meat sandwich The Montevideo Chivitos at Smoke Shack

This was excellent. The nicely balance of thinly sliced steak, with ham and bacon and propped up by freshtomato, lettuce and fortified with olives, pickles and roasted peppers and a generous piece of mozzarella. The mix of tastes which assults the palate is tangible and immediate. I think it is one of the best sandwiches I have eaten in a while. The steak slices were very nice and tender. As were the ham, and bacon. Good!

I enjoyed the food here. Service was attentive and polite, but this is a deli, not a fine dining establishment, and right in the middle of CBD, a long stream of expats soon formed at the ordering counter. Price wise, about similar to Quiznos and Subway, but I think quality is superior to either, and taste is much better too. Recommended. Shiok!

Smoke Shack
146 Market Street #01-33
Singapore 048945
Tel: 6841 1221

Monday, February 14, 2011

Warong M. Nasir: Malay or Indonesian food?

Malay food is something quite special here. I have some favourites, but most of them, when you trace them to the roots are more Indonesian than truly Malay. Nasi Padang...or rice from Padang (a town in Indonesia) is a top favourite amongst devotees of Malay food here. And while I am not an expert in the historical and culinary aspects, I do love the hot, spicy food, and indeed this aspect, when fused with Chinese cooking form the basis for Peranakan. I am not quite certain if Warong M. Nasir I am reviewing here is more Malay or Indonesian, but I am certain I do like the food quite a lot!

This restaurant shophouse right next door to the famous, original Killiney Kopi Tiam, right in Killeney Road is an old guard. Quirky, it plays jazz music almost all day long, and the high ceilings inside gives the dining area an airy, relaxed atmosphere. Their walls are decorated by contemporary artists, and often as cameo introductions for these painters.

Inside airwell, airy atmosphtere at Warong M. Nasir

The food is certainly not laid back. Offering quite a large variety, from traditional Malay to those which are a bit more Indonesian in origins. I highlight a few of my favourites.

The absolute must have here is the beef rendang.

aromatic, spicy, rich beef rendang at Warong M. Nasir

The dish uses the traditional tough cut of beef...typically the shin or rump...and cooked with spices till it is so tender that it almost disintegrates at the prodding of a fork. The coconut milk is all but infused within the sinews of the beef, and the fragrant, smooth, rich spices smother the meat. Sometimes parts of the brisket is served...these are smooth, collagen, and almost melt in the mouth. Sometimes, the tough sinews are offered...and these need some measure of teasing...making a ragout on your own...generously mixing the sinews with the rempah (gravy - the thick sauce which clings to the meat). Ummph!

I also am partial to the sayur lodeh:

sayur lodeh at Warong M. Nasir

Long beans, cabbage, carrots are stewed in a coconut gravy for a long time...till the vegetables are super tender. And large cuts of bean curd taukwa is added. The spicy dish is a favourite of mine. And the Warong's creation is one of the better ones around.

I also love their pergedil

pergedil at Warong M. Nasir

This is probably an Indonesian influenced dish...the pergedil is a potato cutlet - potatoes mixed with beef, onions, spices and deep fried. Excellent. Tasty.

Overall, I like the atmosphere at Warong M. Nasir very much, and the food is quite excellent too...particularly the 3 dishes I highlight here. They do a very nice, rich dessert selection of kuihs as well.

Warong M. Nasir
69 Killiney Road
Tel: 6734-6228
Open daily 11.30am - 9.30pm

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Delhi Restaurant: Chinese Indian Cuisine?

Delhi of the few Chinese Indian Restaurants in Singapore...the phenomena of Chinese Indian food is one which is quite common in India. I have seen many such establishments in Mumbai and Delhi. These restaurants offer Indian cuisine and blends, fuse with more traditional Chinese cuisine. The result is a very special kind of Indian food. I don't think we can mistake it for Chinese food in any way, but a special fusion cuisine.

I happen to love this style of cooking. One of my favourite places to eat this is at The Copper Chimney - a cheap but very good cafe style place right downtown in Shenton Way.

Another such restaurant is Delhi Restaurant in Race Course Road. The decor is rather interesting, with a home made chandelier from colorful parasols

Interior shot showing parasol chandelier at Delhi Restaurant

The highlight for me in this restaurant is their very special mixed grill.

Brandy flambe of mixed grill at Delhi Restaurant

A mixed plate of meats - mutton, fish, prawns and some vegetables and potato is grilled in a tandoor oven. Then transferred while still hot onto a sizzling hot plate which has been prepared with a very special blend of spices...very hot! The concoction is served at the table, and the waiter pours in a pack of brandy and flambes the dish!

Mixed grill at Delhi Restaurant

The result is wonderful. The brandy imbues a tinge, only a very small hint of its presence with the aroma and fragrance of a cognac...but the flambe causes a very smokey flavour to permeate. The spices, mixed in torches the tongue in yet another, spicy. And the meats are cooked just right. The prawns and fish is fresh. The mutton tender. Highly recommended dish!

We also had the butter chicken

Butter Chicken at Delhi Restaurant

A bit unusual, this dish was a bit sweeter than I would have ideally liked. I love the butter chicken at Mirchi's, as I have written twice on that restaurant. But here, the chicken is very tender. Not quite fall off the bone, disintegrate on prodding with your fork tender...but very nice, with still some structure, and bit of bite. But still smooth, creamy. Just a tad too sweet for my taste.

I have loved the Goan Fish Curry served at the ill fated Lobby restaurant at the Oberoi Mumbai...which was the scene of the shootings some years ago. I have actually stayed at both the Oberoi and at the Taj Palace where these atrocities were committed. And the Goan White Promfret Curry at the Oberoi restaurant is truly amazing. A wonderful blend of the richness of coconut milk, with a touch of tamarind to pick up the taste. And superb fresh white promfret - smooth, rich, creamy almost, and ultra fresh. Wonderful dish.

I was hoping for something similar at Delhi, and was presented with this version:

Goan Fish Curry from Dory fish fillet at Delhi Restaurant

In Singapore, I usually avoid white promfrets as they are usually not super fresh. And quite high in cholesterol. I figured, with the cholesterol budget it demands, I am better avoid white promfret unless it is super fresh. Indeed perhaps the chef of Delhi knows this as well, as he offers the curry with Dory fillets. Compared to the Oberoi's, this curry was thicker, sweeter. For me, no challenge to the standard set by Mumbai, but this fish curry was still very good. Again, the issue for me was the sweetness which slightly hampers my complete enjoyment.

We also had the Ghobi Manchurian:

Ghobi Manchurian at Delhi Restaurant

Ghobi is cauliflower...and in this dish, it is coated with a special batter, deep fried and coated with a wonderful spicy gravy. The batter is slightly crispy, and slightly springy, and provides nice contrasting texture to the soft, tender cauliflower. And the sauce provides the punch in the form of spices and heat.

The meal was accompanied by plain basmati rice - long grain Indian basmati. Very fragrant, dry and for me ideal for curries. And also a basket of garlic and plain naans.

Basket of garlic and plain naan at Delhi Restaurant

The naans were acceptable. But nowhere as fluffy and fragrant as those served by Mirchi or in India.

For me, the highlight was the mixed grill, including the spectacle of the flambe on the table. The other dishes were ok, but not spectacular. Would I return? yes, for the mixed grill, and perhaps to sample another dish.

Service was excellent, though the server either had difficulty communicating in English or was not totally well versed with the menu offerings. He had to run to the kitchen to clarify the dishes several times. But he was very attentive, very polite and had a great smile.

Delhi Restaurant
60 Race Course Road Singapore
Tel: +65 6296 4585
Daily: 11.30 – 3pm, 6pm – 11.30pm

Monday, February 7, 2011


Every Chinese New Year the family goes out on the first day for lunch. As tradition demands, we usually have the Reunion Dinner...typically a heavy home cooked meal on the evening of the eve. And my sister and her family visits for lunch on the second day. And typically during the CNY period, we chose not to go to a Chinese a matter of fact, many remain closed...and of those who are open, often use the festive season to increase their prices.

For a few years in a row, we have gone to Modesto's for our lunch. Modesto's is a family favourite...though, these days, it is mainly supplanted by the very excellent La Nonna for Italian food we sometimes crave. Almost everything is better at La Nonna's...but Modesto's is nothing to look down on. Excellent wood fired pizzas, very good spagetti alio oglio. And generally tasty meals. But Modesto's location is much better than Holland Village where La Nonna is situated in...parking is a chore in HV. And Vivocity is quite a nice distraction after lunch.

Interior of Modesto's Vivocity

Their Ceasar's Salad kicks off our lunch

Ceasar's Salad at Modesto's Vivocity

The romaine lettuce, were less fresh during the CNY season than it usually is...but the salad is still crunchy, and fresh tasting. The Italian Caesar dressing is well tossed into the leaves, and the Grana Padano cheese adorns the salad...quite generous too, I must say. Quite delicious, though I think on a regular day, it is even better.

For starters, we also had the deep fried calamari

Deep fried calamari at Modesto's Vivocity

This was quite delicious as well, and again, I suspect due to availability of fresh seafood during the season, the squids were less than their supreme self...a bit less crunchy, and a tad more mushy. The batter remained crisp and nice. As was the dip, but I typically don't quite like dips much, so for me, I ate the calamari on its own.

For the mains, we had spagetti, a pizza and risotto.

First the risotto:

Seafood Risotto at Modesto's Vivocity

Kin loved their mushroom risotto...for some reason, that's disappeared from the menu. But in its place, the Seafood version...served up much like a plate of paella, the risotto was quite good. Again, the ultimate freshness of the seafood let the dish down a bit...don't get me wrong, the seafood is fresh enough, and tasty. But not as fresh as it usually was from Modesto's. I don't really blame them, the festive season has caused seafood to be popular...many families hogging them from a week prior to CNY, and causing prices to soar. But given this situation, I think Modesto's redeemed themselves very well indeed.

The pizza was baked in a wood fired oven, open for all to admire.

Seafood pizza at Modesto's Vivocity

We have always liked the Modesto's seafood pizza. And this was mentioned earlier the slight hiccup with the seafood remains, but we enjoyed the pizza all the same.

And my favourite...the spagetti aglio olio

Spagetti aglio olio at Modesto's Vivocity

Certainly one of my favourites in Italian cuisine. Deceptively simple...just spagetti...but must be done perfect...a dash of aglio olio - Extra Virgin Olive Oil...and a bit of spices...with a load of garlic. Perfection on a plate. I have always loved Modesto's version...with really powerful chilli flakes, and a great generous helping of partially fried garlic. The pasta was done al-dente...perfect as always. The dish is wonderful. This is Italian cuisine! Viva Italia!

And finally the dessert...tiramisu

Tiramisu at Modesto's Vivocity

I found this dessert to be quite good...the pastry was nice and fluffy, steeped in alcohol, though not too much as to be overpowering. The chocholate sauce, quite generously drizzled on the tiramisu was nice too..though I am quite sure this came out of a bottle rather than being carefully concocted by the sous chef. Nice tiramisu.

The CNY experience was quite good. Service at Modesto's is always excellent. Quick, knowledgable staff. Compared to a regular day, the food was slightly below the standard of excellence I have come to know Modesto's, but as this was the festive season, where many other restaurants are closed, and fresh seafood scarce, they did quite well. Quite well indeed.

Vivo: 1 HarbourFront Walk #01-166/167 VivoCity Singapore 098585

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Le Sentier: Hotel Bellevue le Rocheray: Wonderful fish in the Lac du Jour

Hotel Bellevue le Rocheray...a quaint little hotel, right by the lake...Lac du Jour. In the middle of the watchmaking district in Switzerland.

The hotel is called bellevue not for French bellevue means beautiful view. And indeed looking into the lake, the view is nothing short of breathtaking. Click here for a panorama (1920 pixels across).

I had once stayed here at this charming little hotel and enjoyed its cuisine several years ago, and being back this time brings back fond memories. I particularly remember a wonderful lunch I had with the Grandmaster of watchmaking Philippe Dufour, which featured a fillet of pike from the lake, which was truly a marvel in cooking...wonderful tasting fish, done beautifully.

view from the dining room at hotel bellevue le rocheray le sentier

I returned again this time with Philippe and my friends, but pike was not on the menu this time. We had a kind of lake trout.

But first, starters...a grilled liver of chicken in an interesting savoury, slightly sweet and a tad acidic sauce which was absolutely wonderful.

grilled chicken liver and salad at hotel bellevue le rocheray le sentier

The sauce nicely sets against the rich, slightly powdery, but supremely tender chicken livers. And the small cup of salad and caramalized pineapple cubes in the foreground. Nice. Shiok.

For the mains, a beautiful trout from the lake:

lake trout from lac du jour, grilled, with a butter sauce and french fries at hotel bellevue le rocheray le sentier

Served with a rich buttery sauce, and french fries, it was almost reminscent of the wonderful pike I had, though not quite. The pike was a white fish, and the trout's meat was a bit pink...half way towards salmon. The flavours were also different. The trout was a bit more flakey. But nonetheless delicious.

Highly recommended restaurant if you are in the region. The dining room is often filled with the who's who in watchmaking at the Jura...with the independents like Philippe and Daniel Roth (the man, not the company), and large manufactures like Jaeger LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet just around the corner, their executives entertain their clients in the restaurant. On the way out, we spotted a little poster on the 50 watchmaking greats...and indeed our friend Philippe is one of those featured:

poster of 50 watchmaking greats, featuring Philippe Dufour

Hôtel ***Bellevue Le Rocheray
CH-1347 Le Sentier
+41 (0)21 845 57 20
+41 (0)21 845 47 20

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