Monday, May 30, 2011

TCC: cafe or foodie hangout?

TCC Coffee...many think its just for coffee...and for me, actually, I don't really drink coffee at TCC. Being a coffee purist...regular readers would me a coffee snob, but I need coffee done right. Espresso must be made from freshly ground beans, freshly roasted. Singapore used to be a desert for such places, but recently, I found Papa Palheta, Soho 7, Oriole, Loysel's Toys, Fourty Hands serve reasonably good espresso. I also like Nanyang style coffee...mainly robusta, mixed with arabica and typically roasted with corn or sugar. Kopi kao is a typical order for me.

But this article is about the food...because I don't really order the coffee in, as I said, I am a coffee snob.

But the food is another story. The pastas, especially is quite nice.

I am partial to aglio olio...the version served here is very good. Pasta is nicely done, al dente. The olive oil is liberally used. And the fried garlic lifts the dish. They also add small bits of chopped chilli. The prawns are rather large, and fresh. You can see the near transparent flesh of the prawns in the photograph, indicating the freshness. On the palate, it is crunchy, and sweet tasting. Very good.

This visit, we tried the mushroom pastry:

The puff pastry is light as it should be. The creamed mushrooms which are used as filling is cooked well. Fragrant, adn creamy. Very good, and recommended.

Kin had the fish pasta...

I tried a couple of mouthfuls. I cannot determine if the herring is fresh or from a salted pickle, as is common in Scandinavia. The pasta is reasonably good. rather al dente. The sauce is light but creamed. But I felt the fish to be too salty.

Overall, very good experience this time, as with other visits.

Many outlets all over the island
This one sampled at the Circular Road outlet.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Long Beach...66 years old, and still innovating

Crabs are as synonymous in Singapore as is the hot, humid weather. Chilli crabs, are supposed to have been invented here even. And many restaurants have become world (?) famous for their culinary presentations of this crustacean.

Long Beach is one of these restaurants. Founded in 1945...I am wondering, this is a strange year to start a business, as it would have been just after WW2 and the Japanese surrender. I am sure money is tight in those days...but anyway, no good or bad timing to start a business...especially in the food space. Everyone's gotta eat. Anyway, Long Beach is one of the magnificent 5 seafood restaurants in Singapore...I would imagine the others being No Signboard, Punggol Seafood, Seafood Paradise, Jumbo Seafood.

My good foodie friend Larry "discovered" this place, and a group of close friends went to have lunch there...lunch? crab? isn't that too messy? Well, not here. They actually bring the cooked crabs to your table, and the expert-waitress peels it right there...

The White Jade crabs, presented above. We selected 2 large (more than 1kg each) Sri Lankan crabs, and they cooked and presented it as shown above. De-shelling was done in-situ, and all the meat is deshelled. They don't just peel the pincer, but the whole crabs...all the meat is presented back to us on the crab shell. What more delectable way to enjoy crab!

The pincer is presented beautifully with the amazing sauce:

The sauce is known as White something like a thickened, enriched, super power butter sauce...very rich, creamy. And with small bits of chopped chilli padi, packs a punch. Also bits of deep fried, almost crisp curry leaves heighten the flavour and aroma. Super dish. Fat, fresh crabs. Cooked perfectly. Dipped in this wonderful sauce.

You can also avail yourself to the sauce by soaking it up with the mantou.

We had the grilled otak as an appetizer...sorry got ahead of myself with the crabs...

Not bad otak. The bits of ground fish can be tasted within. And the banana leaf infuse its own flavour. Not world's best, but passable.

The next dish was another winner...a honey baked prime ribs:

Oozing, with a thick, beguilling sauce. The tender pork ribs were marvellous.

Looks a bit like coffee pork ribs, but tasted totally different. Less sweet, more piquant. The meat beautifully cooked. Excellent.

We had some vegetables as well, but that was di regeur...nothing to write about except it is an essential dish with all these meat and cholesterol to add some greens.

For starch, a special dish...hor fun, braised with lala (local clam) and topped with a deep fried crispy bee hoon.

Quite good. The braised hor fun was a bit mild tasting, but the savoury sauce packs some umami. The clams were fresh and sweet. And the contrast, counterpoint provided by the crispy bee hoon is a touch of genius. Superb.

For desserts, we had a durian pudding.

Quite good too...with the slightly fibrous strains of the durian used still detectable within the pudding. It is served sitting on a ball of dry ice, quite a sight, as it spouts a thick fog...providing some mystique to the dish.

Certainly well recommended for the occassional binge, and for bringing visitors to experience a bit of Singapore. Superb crabs. Great dishes.

Long Beach @ DEMPSEY
Tel: 6323 2222
25 Dempsey Road, opposite Singapore Botanic Gardens
Daily: 11am - 3pm / 5.30pm - 1.30am

Monday, May 23, 2011

In flight food: on board SQ25 Frankfurt-Singapore

I have written about the special Book the cook which is available to First and Business Class passengers on selected flights on Singapore Airlines, and am very happy with the quality, taste and quantity of the food on board.

In this entry, I record the lunch on board a recent return trip from Frankfurt on board SQ25 - a 747, quite old tail, I think...the in-flight entertainment system still have the smaller LCD screens, though it worked fine. I did watch The Tourist on board.

Normally the return trip to Singapore will feature satay...I am not sure what is SQ's reason for only serving on the inbound leg, but never on outbound from Singapore, but the satay is certainly very good. Typical serving is one stick of mutton, and two chicken:

The mutton was a little tough...though I would expect it to be as it is mutton and not lamb. And the chicken very tender. The peanut sauce is delicious.

And for some reason, though the champagne listed on the menu was Bollinger, we were treated to Dom Perignon vintage 2002. Excellent vintage.

Starters was a salad of prawns with a vinaigrette sauce.

The prawns were rather large. Sometimes, even on board, I have been served absolutely scrumptious succulent, sweet prawns, but sometimes not so great. This was one of the not so great times. The prawns were a little dull tasting. The salad was ok, and the dressing was very nice.

And for my mains, I had the Thai Fish curry with rice:

I almost always elect the Asian dish, in particular the curries. This is because the curries are more robust in flavour and can stand freezing and reheating. And I am usually rewarded with a delicious meal. This meal was no different. The fish was quite exquisite...done perfectly...I am not sure how the crew managed this with the microwave on board, but it was perfectly done...just shy of medium deep within. Succulent. Tasty. The curry was flavourful. And the stir fried vegetables that accopmpanied were excellent. Very good main course.

With this, I decided just to have a small bowl of ice cream and call it a never really know what time of the day it is when flying...we took off about 1:30pm Frankfurt time, and by the time I finished the meal, it was probably 4pm in FRA, and 10pm in I went to sleep.

On board Singapore Airlines SQ25
Boeing 747, Business Class

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eating fish in Dresden: Kastenmeirs

I am always impressed with fish in the city of Dresden...the source of fish is either the Elbe River, or to be transported from the harbour...the nearest probably Hamburg, some 500km away. But consistently, the passionate restauranters in the city impresses me with great fish. I have written about the Carousel Bistro at the Bulow Palais and I did return for a fish lunch again...and again Chef Dirk Schroer delighted me with some great fish:

But the topic of today's post is a very specialized fish restaurant in Dresden...the Kastenmeiers.

As one enters the restaurant, the pride of place is the kitchen, which is fully visible, and the aquarium on the counter above:

There is indoor sitting within the restaurant (of course! This is Saxony, where winter temperatures often dip to -10C and lots of snow), but we opted to sit outside because the weather was quite wonderful. 25C on a nice evening.

After a hard day at work reviewing the contents of my book: The Pour le Merite Collection by A. Lange & Sohne, it was time to have a nice glass of champagne before commencing dinner:

So we start with the amuse bouche:

Interesting concoction of a small river fish, I suspect smelt, battered, and deep fried. Quite nice I must say.

For the starters, I had the King Prawns in a salad:

Quite superb. The prawns, which I think were river prawns, were very large, succulent. And grilled to perfection. The salad which accompanied is also quite excellent...fresh.

We selected a local (to the region) white wine for our dinner. We seldom hear much talk about German wine other than the Reislings and Gewurtztraminer...mostly sweet German wine from the South. But in Saxony, they have been harbouring some pretty serious contenders to the Chablis and Sauvignon Blancs.

The hue of the wine is interesting...a pale shade of straw, with a blush of pink

Made from 100% Pinot Noir grape. The wine is refreshingly fruity. On the nose, an aroma of citrus, ripe apples and pears. On the palate, a bit dry, but excellent finish, and refinement. Even for a 2010 vintage, it showed great elegance, and goes very well with the prawn salad and the fish that was to come.

For the main course, I selected the Dorade...a sea bream from the Mediterranean Sea.

Roasted/grilled whole, the two fishes serves four:

photograph taken under red warming light in the kitchen

Served with a small cup of cream sauce, and a slice of lemon for acid:

For me, I prefer my fish slightly medium rare, with a slight pink at the bone, and lightly cooked so as not to destroy the delicate texture of fish meat...this dorade was delivered medium...cooked to the bone. A little too cooked for my tastes:

Notice the fish meat is already begining to flake, indicating that it is starting to break down. But that did not distract me from enjoying the fish, which was still rather excellent, in spite of that. Smooth, almost creamy texture.

We finished with some espresso and ice cream which I did not photograph.

A worthy restaurant, especially for the elegant interior and great service. For me the fish, which was their raison d'tre was ever so slightly overcooked. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed this fish, but I prefer the gentle hand of Dirk Schroer, whose fish was perfectly cooked. This is perhaps a matter of taste, as my German hosts loved the dorade.

Tzschirnerplatz 3-5
01067 Dresden
Telefon: +49 (0) 351/ 48 48 48 01

View Larger Map

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gourmet coffe in Singapore: its looking is another: Soho7

I am glad that the coffee scene in Singapore is finally maturing. With the arrival of Oriole a few years ago, and the arrival of Papa Palheta and Loysel's Toys. I think the coffee scene, has progressed beyond Starbucks and mass market drinks masquerading as espressos. At least, now we have nice espresso at the above places. Fourty hands at a curious place in Tiong Bahru is another of these new entries...Australian nice lattes, but I found the espresso a bit bitter, and lacking in body. And now another...some 3 months old, just a stone's throw from the old US Embassy (which was the Malaysian High Commission for a while, and now some commercial building)

The roaster...Die Dietrich(?) stands proud with its own bow tie at the the photograph, right of the roaster is barista Ian, a fine young fellow, still honing his roasting craft. We had an espresso and a latte this afternoon...the beans were a blend called Harmony...
Brasil, Ethopian, Indian beans. But the roast was only done yesterday! Too fresh. Need a bit more time to breath.

His stash of beans

So starting with my espresso:

A bit tart, probably due to the fresh-ness of the beans. The dark crema is a bit foreboding...the body of the coffee a bit lacking. Especially when compared with the smooth, rich, syrupy espresso (even more so ristretto) at Papa Palheta.

But mixed with milk, as Ian recommends, the brew is more palatable.

They serve food there too...and we had a Double Burger...with two patties...

The burger is large...I mean LARGE. More than enough for me, and good to share. To be fair, they offer a single patty burger, and also a triple patty burger. I found the patty to be quite nice...roughly chopped beef, lean chuck I am guessing. With loads of vegetables, some fresh, some pickled. Lovely!

We also had the steak and salad sandwich

Messy...:-)...but heaps of heaps of vegetables, piled on a slice of steak, and bacon, hiding within three slices of wholemeal toast. Quite nice...except the steak was a bit tough...perhaps erring too much on the side of providing a healthy meal...but much too tough for our liking. The rest of the sandwich was ok.

And they serve a nice spread of all day breakfasts...we tried the eggs benedict

Beautifully done. Poached egg was perfectly done...runny inside. On a beautiful toast, and two slices of ham with a nice serving of salad on the side. The Hollandaise sauce was quite good. I enjoyed this.

Nice little place...gutsy for joining the fray to try and serve good, hand crafted espressos and coffes. And good, hearty food. Will return for more.

36 Armenian Street
8389 7877 6634 5779

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kha: innovative modern Thai cuisine

A few years ago, when the HortPark first opened, I chanced on a restaurant at the park, very quaint and nicely designed. I tried only the phad thai, and found it to be quite good...not classical phad thai, but more avant garde - with the clever use of ingredients.

So when I received an invitation to do a tasting at Kha at its new location at 38 Martin, I jumped at the chance. So, bear in mind that this is an invited review.

Owned by the same people who also own Jia - a wonderful boutique hotel in Hong Kong, the decor was modern, but distinctly Thai.

Showing the main dining room...from the photograph left, there is a small door which opens into Kha's sister restaurant - Graze, and Australian inspired eatery.

They also have a small private room, perhaps sitting 12, and nicely decorated:

We started with the two signature welcome drinks...the first...with a mocktail name of Ruby Starlet

Made with lychee juice and fresh lime juice, frozen like an icee...and dressed with promegranate and fresh mint leaves, the drink is just perfect for a hot, humid day. It was superbly refreshing.

We also trie dthe other mocktail...the Dragon Eye...

Made with lychee juice and fresh lime juice as well, but trimmed with a nice big lychee and fresh mint leaves. Interestingly though both the drinks are based on lychee and lime, they tasted different. The Dragon Eye was a little sweeter, but also very refreshing, though I prefer the Ruby Starlet as a great aperetif and respite from the outside.

We tasted 3 appetizers and 3 main off we start with the appetizers.

Wagyu beef salad:

This is a typical twist to tradition. Beef salad is quite a typical Thai salad...but the use of wagyu in place of local Thai beef (or even Australian Angus in the more upmarket eateries in Bangkok) is a nice twist. The wagyu is cleverly grilled just shy of medium rare - the only way to eat wagyu without spoiling it with overcooking. The julianned vegetables - I tasted mango, cucumber, carrots. Nicely done.

We also tried the crab cakes

Called Tod Man Poo...the traditional name for crab cakes in Thai, the cakes tasted more like very good Californian crab cakes than traditional tod man. The dish was served with a green mango salad.

And the third appetizer was a rather interesting deep fried chilli fritters.

This was interesting. The batter was a bit thick, and very crispy. The chilli was stripped of its seeds, and kind of mild, and stuffed with minced pork. Very tasty, especially when dipped with one of the three sauces. In particular the Malibu Chili is interesting. The other two being Tom Yum Mayonnaise and Lemon Mustard

The dishes are rather generous serving sizes, so order accordingly or be very hungry...:-) At this point, the three of us sharing the meal was feeling a bit full, but then came the main courses:

As a bridge between appetizer and main course is the tom yam kung

A winner for me...this dish was done more traditionally than avant garde. A very large, very fresh prawn sits center stage. And supported by no less than 3 smaller prawns within the sour, spicy soup. Very nice.

Next...the duck curry:

Instead of the more traditional roast duck used in a thick red or yellow curry, this one had grilled duck...with skin removed, perhaps to make it more appealing to the diet conscious, and in a beautiful, luxurious curry.

The curry was very good. Beautiful flavours meld seamlessly with the rich coconut milk. And the duck meat providing nice bite to the concoction. Interestingly, we found whole grapes and lotus seeds in the curry. Eaten with the fragrant jasmine rice, this dish makes the whole lunch for me.

We also had the char grilled sea bass with lemongrass

Though the fish was very fresh...not a big feat these days, especially for sea bass which is farmed nearby and delivered live to restaurants and wet markets. But the grilling was quite expertly done. The green mint sauce a good complement to the succulent fish. However, I find despite the ingenuity shown by the chef and cooks elsewhere, they did not do such a good job at elevating this dish above the ordinary. Don't get me wrong, it is very good, but given the exciting flavours and tastes offered by the duck curry, the fish did not impress me.

The tofu was next:

Known by the romantic name of Papa Adun's Phad Tow Hu...the tofu is wonderfully creamy and rich when you bite into the nice crispy skin. The sauce was piquant and lifts the rich creamy tofu to another level. Very shiok.

We also had a bowl of vegetables, to balance our meal

The baby kai lan was fresh, and nicely wok fried...very lightly cooked so the vegetable remained crunchy.

Then the desserts.

The standard bearer of Thai desserts, the red ruby

This was rather de rigeur. The chestnuts in the red rubies were large, plump and succulent. Only a touch of coconut milk provided some richness. The dish was not overly sweet as many Thai desserts can sometimes be. Nicely balanced.

We also had the grilled mango with lime sorbet, with a thick creamy mango sauce

The mango was very sweet, and goes very well with the spunk and tartness of the sorbet.

And the traditional Mamuang khao niaw

Traditional to the core, but the Kha twist is in the thick coconut milk flavoured with pandan leaf. The mango was sweet and fresh, and goes well (of course! Thousands, perhaps millions of Thais swear by this combination of taste) together.

Overall, Kha serves excellent Thai inspired cuisine. If you are looking for true traditional Thai, either Royal Thai or street Thai, perhaps there are better restaurants elsewhere. But for a fresh look and taste of Thai cuisine, Kha offers a lot to the diner. Beautiful decor. Good service. Great food. The prices are a little on the high side, but not extremely so, given the quality.

38 Martin Road