Friday, August 31, 2012

Malaysian Food Street in Sentosa

The Malaysian Food Street at Resorts World Sentosa is one of the interesting places to visit, especially when one is in the Sentosa. Touting hawkers from famous stalls around Malaysia, it promises to be an interesting meal. For a limited time only, from Aug 27 to Sept 9, Auntie Mooi from Penang will be in residence to prepare and serve her Penang Laksa.

This post is brought forward from Monday Sept 3, as the Laksa being featured is here for a limited run from Aug 21 to Sept 9.

The interior is designed to have the feel and look of 1970s Malaysia..with details of the painstakingly done on the stalls and facade.

With a stall at KOMTAR, Auntie Mooi is present to prepare the Laksa herself

So is the laksa special? Well, it is prepared with 3 different fish meats, prepared with traditional ingredients like chillis, galangal, lemongrass, ginger flower, tamarind, and topped with finily spliced vegetables, mint leaves, shredded red onions and served with a spoonful of hae ko (prawn paste).

As the dish was served, the aroma hits one's nose...wonderful. A gentle stirring to mix the ingredients looks promising...the noodles were a bit thinner than expected....on tasting the texture is quite good, but not exactly the same as those found in Penang. Auntie Mooi later revealed that they have to make do with these noodles, as she is not able to bring in the ones she normally use in her stall in Penang. The broth is robust, full flavoured. The hae ko gives the savoury broth a punch, and tempered with a touch of quite nice. I would rate this as rather authentic, but with Mooi's own variation thrown in for good measure.

Since we were there, we also sampled some other dishes, that the Food Street was famous for...first favourte when in Penang...the Penang Char Kway Teow

A bit pale. Again, the noodles were not the correct type used in Penang. Those used here had a bit more bite. The wok hei was not as powerful as the best in Penang...the Goggle Lady at Lorong Selamat or Ah Leng. I am slightly disappointed because my expectation was higher, but I would rank this about par with the best Singapore version of Penang Char Kway Teow.

Another dish with I anticipated highly is the KL Black Hokkien Mee

Not bad wok hei. Correct black sauce. Nice thick, slippery noodles. Aroma and crispy bits of lard. All right ticks...but ultimately lacking the best on offer in the streets of KL. But close enough. A tad salty though, but this dish will keep me coming back to satisfy cravings.

Their satay is supposed to be very good too..selling some 1800 sticks a day!

I found the beef a bit too sinewy. The sauce was nice but a bit too creamy. I would prefer a bit or crunch from broken bits of peanut. But overall, enjoyable...the chicken (not pictured) being nicer than the beef.

Curious, we also sampled the kampung chicken with rice balls

Interesting note: Malaysia style kampung chicken has the characteristic yellow skin not found in the so called kampung chicken we get in our wet markets. Typically these are a bit more gamey. But this version, the chicken was almost perfect. The done-ness was perfect...just a tinge raw at the bones. The sauce beautiful and very tasty. The rice could have had a bit more chicken fat to provide some lux mouthfeel.

And finally the chendol...famous in its own right, serving some 1000 servings a day

Doesn't look like this is a photograph taken in-situ, no lighting, no food stylist to dress up the dish. But the taste is quite excellent. Smooth, rich, creamy coconut milk, wonderful aroma of the gula melaka. I wished for more beans, perhaps a few attap seeds, but this was very good chendol. Even the ice was finely shaven and served almost melting...Nice.

The Malaysian Food Street at Sentosa is certainly worth a visit...especially for those who long for Malaysian street food. I will revisit to savour my favourites.

This is an invited review. Thanks to Tania Heng at Resorts World Sentosa and Wendy Toh at Weber Shandwick for the invitation and excellent hospitality.

Malaysian Food Street
Resorts World Sentosa
Mon, Tue, Thurs 11am - 10pm
Wed Closed
Fri, Sat 9am - 11pm
Sun 9am - 10pm

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good eats in CBD: Happy Chef

Its not often that one gets cheap and good in Singapore. Perhaps I should not really use the word cheap, as it has other implications...value for money is perhaps a better description of today's review on Happy Chef.

As I understand it, Happy Chef is an initiative from an elderly couple, who had once migrated to Australia, owned and operated an award winning restaurant there, and when their children were grown up, returned to Singapore to startup this little place in a Kopi Tiam.

Tucked next to the super famous Tai Hwa noodle shop in Crawford St, this little stall gets its own line of admirers and an invisible one orders, take a number and return to your seat. The food will be delivered...sometimes half an hour later. I was indeed very happy to find out that they opened an outlet occupying an entire shoplot in Ang Mo Kio Ave 10.

I visited the AMK outlet several times, and each time came away satisfied with the value for money criteria as well as good taste and good. But alas, I recently visited, and found they have closed the outlet...the same location is now occupied by a bak kut teh stall.

So its back to the queues at Crawford. The other difference is the AMK outlet allows you a choice of up to 2 side dishes, whilst at Crawford, no options are provided.

Most of the dishes are recommendable. But I particularly like the Chicken Kiev...a dish which has vanished almost altogether from Singapore. I used to love this from the Cairnhill Steakhouse a long while back. But Cairnhill Steakhouse is no more.

So at Happy Chef, I almost invariably order the Chicken Kiev. Though technically, this is Chicken Cordon Kiev will have butter stuffing, instead of ham and cheese.

Methinks, very nice. The chicken is rolled, pounded, breaded and stuffed with cheese and ham. Deep fried till golden brown and very crisp outside. The chicken meat remains moist and juicy, and the melted cheese provided capable support. When out of the frying pan, the chicken is then sliced into two, exposing the melted cheese heart. With two side dishes. All for $6.

Highly recommended. The menu is quite comprehensive...chicken cutlet, chicken chop, pork chops, pork ribs, steaks, fish. All present and accounted for.

Happy Chef
Block 466 Crawford Lane #01-12
Singapore 190465

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee

A quick one for of Singapore's favourites...bak chor mee.

Quite unique to Singapore. A rich broth, boiled for hours, perhaps with pork bones and other delicious additions. An al dente mee pok, a flat, egg noodle. On this, the rich tapestry of top quality black vinegar, a dollop of chilli paste, and condiments like rare pig liver, pork, pork balls, and sometimes fish balls, sometimes a piece of deep fried crispy flat fish. And the obligatory pork lard crisps.

This particular stall, Hill Street Tai Hwa, is extremely popular. Long queues form at the store from opening time to closing. To eat here, typically one has to wait in line for some 30 minutes. Next door is the almost as famous Happy Chef, which I will feature in another writeup soon.

So is the queuing worth it?

In my view, a qualified yes. This is the best traditional bak chor mee I have eaten. Everything is right. The ingredients are traditional...lean minced pork, white pork slices, wanton, pork balls, and pork liver. The doneness of the liver, the doneness and sweetness of the pork. The al dente noodles. The magnificent, magnificent sauce. Everything perfect.

So why qualified? Well, only because I prefer the more robust taste of the less traditional offering at Good Good Coffee Shop...there they add a succulent prawn, though the bowl is very small, and the wait almost just as long.

Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Block 466 Crawford Lane #01-12
Singapore 190465

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who likes all day breakfasts? Toby's Estate for Eggs Benedict

I featured Toby's Estate in my series on espresso joints in town. But equally interesting is the food at this relaxed cafe by the river. I particularly like their Eggs Benedict which I feature today.

Of course we had to start with a coffee. this time a cappucino...nice, beautifully drawn espresso, with a great foam, with nice latte art. Very delicious. The beans were flavourful, with a punch, even through the milk. Very nice.

But I want to talk about their Eggs Benedict

I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to Eggs Benedict. I don't know why it should cost so much...not to single out Toby's, but a typical EB cost north of $10, some even asking for $18 for two poached eggs, sitting with a slice of ham on toast and Hollandaise sauce. The least expensive is at Al Dente Pronto at Great World City...$7.50.

But Toby's $14, is almost double the price, but I do think is a bit better...the eggs were done perfect. Just runny inside, but holds well to its shape outside. The toast, perfect. Instead of ham, they use a slice of prosciutto. Quite nice!

Here is another pic...

The texture of the egg exterior suggested to me they were poached in vinegar...but as mentioned, they were perfectly done...and one poke with the fork, and the yolk oozes out.

The restaurant features outdoor al fresco seating...and for a nice breakfast by the river, is bicycle friendly. In fact, this is one of the more atas (upmarket) places my cyclist friends and I like to have our morning sustainance before our ride.

Toby's Estate
8 Rodyk st4
+65 66367629

Monday, August 20, 2012

New king of steakhouses in Singapore: Ruth's Chris opens

A new king is crowned for the best steak in Singapore! Ruth's Chris makes its entrance to the Singapore scene, and causes a sensation. I have always loved Ruth's Chris steaks, be it in a restaurant in the US or when I am in Hong Kong, but now I can also enjoy their excellent steaks in Singapore.

Newly opened, now in Marina Mandarin.

I have long lamented the poverty of the steak scene in Singapore. See Lamentations and Mamou's in Manila. Even my friend, celebrity blogger Leslie Tay has blogged about Singapore lack of good steak scene when he visited Mamou's on my recommendation.

But as Singaporeans, we always strive to slowly but surely, the market is responding. First Morton's, then Cut by Wolfgang Puck fired their salvos. I thought Cut was excellent, and crowned it the king of steakhouses in Singapore. But recent as last week, an old US favourite Ruth's Chris opened up. And allow me to let the cat out of the bag...the King is dead, Long live the King. For me, now, Ruth's Chris is the ultimate steak place in Singapore. But read on...

Ruth's Chris is not only known for the great steaks served on porcelain plates heated to some 280C, but also their magnificent starters and desserts. We began with two starters...the famous crab cakes and a shrimp dish.

The crab cakes are made purely from crab fillers, no flour. Pure crabs, spices, a little vegetables, slap on pan, fry, serve on sizzling hot plate of lemon butter. Needless to say, impressive. The huge chunks of blue crab were sweet, fresh, aromatic. Very nice and highly recomended.

Barbecue shrimps in Creole butter

The shrimps were good, though for me, not the best I have tasted...thought it was a bit overcooked. But the sauce was very nice. Perhaps a touch rarer, perhaps if the shrimps (actually prawns as they were actually large, but the Americans call them all shrimps) were a bit crunchier.

I also had a salad

Called the Ruth's Chop Salad, this is a Ruth's Chris original. Iceberg lettuce, baby spinach are tossed with red onions, mushrooms, green olives, bacon, eggs, hearts of palm, croutons, blue cheese and dressing, topped with crispy onions....sounds like an advertisement of old. Nice crisp veg, light touch with the dressing and crumbs of wonderfully aromatic blue cheese within.

Some of my dining companions had the soup

I didn't try it, but those who did nodded in satisfaction as they ate, so I assumed it is good.

Now on to the main event...the steaks!

The ribeye

Rich, tender, fat. Magnificent. The heart of fat within is clearly visible. The doneness perfect:

I had a small cut to taste...very nice.

But for my mains, I had opted for the New York Striploin...aka Sirloin. Only USDA Prime cut is used in Ruth's Chris, so the meat was deliciously juicy and tender.

Legend has it that this cut was served to King, and when he ate it, he was so pleased that he drew his sword, and knighted the cut of loin...thereby from thence it was called Sir Loin...

I had requested as I normally do...medium rare, charred on the outside. Looked almost charred outside...I would have preferred a bit more charring, but this was way better than with most other steakhouses outside of the US (Mamou's excepted). The inside was pink and medium rare. The plate, being very hot at 260C kept the steak sizzling on the herbed butter.

This is what a great steak should be. The consistency achieved by Ruth's Chris is amazing...this was how I remembered the sirloin was served to me in Dallas, in Chicago, in Hong Kong. And equally superbly, now in Singapore. Great steak, and my new King of steaks in Singapore.

The meat was tender, almost melting in the mouth, though not quite, afterall, this was a cut of loin...not ribeye. The flavour was robust, full bodied. The beefiness was present and wonderfully aromatic. There was a touch of "foie gras" flavour, but I had earlier discussed with Stanley and he revealed that they do not dry age the steaks, but the USDA prime meat is wet aged. Interesting. The consistency and flavour was excellent, like dry aged steaks. Similar to, and equal to the dry aged steaks I ate at Smith's and Wollensky in Las Vegas.

Having eaten this great steak...its a hearty serving...the small serving is 340g, and you can also opt for a large serving which is 450g. Its time for desserts...though by then I had little room for sweets...I was satiated with the meat, and totally satisfied.

But the sides...I forget...Asparagus with Hollandaise

and mushrooms, sauteed.

Good, but with such great steaks, these had to take second position....but the desserts deserve special mention. The Apple Crumble

Done as only the Americans can do apple pie...nice crusty, crumbly pastry, beautifully sweet, sour apples within and topped with a rich creamy ice cream.

But the cheesecake is the star...someone mentioned "life changing cheesecake" when she tasted it...I am not in total agreement, as I am still recovering from the greatness of the beef, but don't necessarily disagree

Rich, a touch of salt within the cheesy interior, but creamy, mild-ish. Goes magnificently with the slight tartness of the berries.

This is an invited review tasting, so please be aware of what this may imply. Many thanks to Stanley Ko (pic above), President of the Hasmore...the holding company for Ruth's Chris and Linda Lee of MST Group who handles the PR. Great team.

But truly, based on ambience, service, and most importantly quality and taste of the steaks...this is the new reference standard for Singapore steak houses.

Ruth's Chris Restaurant
6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Mandarin

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Good Eats in CBD: Bumbu Restaurant

As a blue peranakan, I love peranakan food...but I also love Thai what better than a mix of both. Bumbu, with two outlets - one in Kandahar and another right in CBD is one such restaurant.

Right in the middle of the CBD in China Square Central.

The decor is lovely...nostalgic inducing setup, with beautiful peranakan screens adorning the restaurant. The dining area is rather spacious, and a nice, cool respite from the blazing heat outside.

As there were only two of us, we were limited to our choices, so we only had 3 dishes...first, Kin's favourite Olive Fried rice

Nicely flavoured, with bits of black olive. Not as oily as some I have eaten elsewhere. The wok hei is not particularly powerful, but the fragrance from the olives and the rice was excellent.

We had some beef rendang to accompany

Doesn't look much, but this is what I would, colloquially call "power" rendang. The meat used is sinewy, with tendons. The spices wonderfully aromatic, and so well permeate the meat in the seasoning that they become one, inseperable even by taste. This rendang is slowly simmered, perhaps at low temperatures so as to avoid burning the spices or the meat, till the sinews are rendered ultra tender, and the tendons almost gelatin. Magnificent. Reminded us of one rendang brought to the university hostel dining table by brothers Richard and Andrew - their mother had prepared the wonderful rendang, and as treasure would share with close friends on the hostel. One of the best rendangs I have eaten...though if I could whisper in the chef's ear...I would ask for a bit more spicy to perk things up a bit.

We also had some ngor hiang

This is a standard dish in a peranakan household, and Bumbu's version proves the cooks are themselves peranakan. The skin is so crispy and light that it crumbles easily. And yet, even though the rolls are deep fried, I didn't find them greasy. A bite into the rolls, a cocophony of flavours are released...principally crab, along with pork and prawns. Very good. I would advice avoiding the sweet black sauce served along with it, and slap on a good wallop of the sambal.

Overall, a very good tasting meal. Great food. I will be back to sample the other dishes. Nice environment, attentive staff providing good service. And at a reasonable price.

p.s. I was told by the manager as we were paying that they will probably close the China Square are going up and up. But Bumbu's main restaurant in Kandahar will continue to operate.

Bumbu Restaurant
20 Cross Street
#01-25, China Square Central,
Monday to Saturday (Closed on Sunday & Public Holiday) 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ramen Champion 2012 Season starts!

Ramen Champion...a very interesting concept...choose 6 or 8 top ramen makers from Japan, set up stalls in one location in a foreign our case Singapore. Create an environment for the locals to taste and experience ramen, and vote on who they think is best. Brilliant! I covered many of the ramens in the 2011 season of Ramen Champion Singapore earlier. Today we talk about who won, and the 2012 season.

The 2011 Season was won by Ikkousha who was crowned Ultimate Ramen Champion 2011.

There to accept the prize was Chef Kosike Yoshimura, who was visibly emotional when he stepped up to accept the challenge trophy from the organizer of Ramen Champion.

And the eating began...we were served all the 8 ramens featured for this season's Ramen Champion. A judging panel of illustrious individuals ranging from a minister from the Embassy of Japan to famous local and Japanese chefs, and also spotted this gentleman who goes by the name Ramen Freak:

Real name: Ishiyama, a writer from Ramen Freak...and a true ramen freak.

First off the bat, Riki, a new contender for 2012, who served their Tsukemen

With a name like riki, meaning power in Japanese, this new contender specializes in Tokyo/Jiro style ramen. The pork broth is very thick. Noodles thick and chewy. Very good start to the season.

Next up, we were served the offering from Taka no Tsume, also new this year

Called ramen deluxe with sichuan style sauce, the sauce was rich, milky, and had a beautiful aroma and kick of Szechuan peppercorns. Also added are brinjals, black fungus, cabbage, bean sprouts and spring onions. A thick, crispy chicken chop is slapped on top, and provided a beautiful tender, crisp counterpoint to the broth.

The Spicy King's ramen from Iroha was next

Spicy! The soup is based on miso. The thick slices of char siew was excellent - flavourful and tender.

Another spicy ramen followed...this one from Ikkousha

From the 2011 winner we get this magnificent interpretation...relatively light broth, homemade spicy takana (a preserved Japanese vegetable) provides a crunch and spice kick to the rich broth, which is cooked for some 12 hours, with fresh pork bones added in exchange for the older ones every few hours. Thin, wiry Hakata style ramen is used, and according to the chef, the special texture allows soup to be absorbed by the noodle.

Gantetsu served their ramen next, a King Chashu ramen

Mild broth, with 200g of chasiu...tender, well marinated. The egg was also beautifully done...just right amount of doneness...and a large piece of seaweed on the side.

Taishoken presented their Tsukemen next

Interesting in that its the only cold option,. The noodles slightly transluscent, with chilli oil and vegetables. The dippping sauce is light, spicy, and cold. A very refreshing taste due to the cold noodles and cold sauce.

Bario's offering looked like a mountain of vegetables, with some very thick, sinful pork belly peeking out from the side.

Called the Ajitama Ramen, it features thick rich broth, with fresh cabbage and bean sprouts. Signature Bario noodles - thick and chewy characterise this bowl.

Ayoyama served super rich broth with black pepper

The noodles were thin, and garnished with leek and bamboo. The half boiled egg was perfect, almost runny, and the fatty pork was not marinated to allow the taste of the broth to shine. Magnificent ramen. One of my personal favourites

Tasting 8 bowls of ramen is a challenging the end, we were somewhat confused as there were so many to try. And had to rely on tasting notes to write this post. But I thouroughly enjoyed the ramens...all very good in each their own way. For me the standouts were the Special Tonkotsu ramen from Aoyama and the King's ramen from Iroha. With the chicken chop topped ramen from Taka no Tsume just close by.

The judges, remember them, also tasted the 8 ramens, and gave their scores...and right off the bat,for Season 2012, they awarded the Judge's Choice to Ikkousha

and the entire team of chefs, being presented with the judges

Do go down to Bugis+ or Changi Airport Terminal 3 to do your own investigations on the best ramen from Japan. Certainly worthwhile experience for the ramen lover.

I attended the media event to announce 2011 winner, and also to introduce the 2012 session. Thanks to Ling of BrandInc for the invitation.

Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
#04-10, Bugis+ (formerly Illuma)

Ramen Champion Airport
#B2-58 Terminal 3, Changi Airport

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy National Day Singapore!

Today we celebrate our 47th National Day! Happy Birthday Singapore!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Of wanton mee and guotie

Some of my friends are crazy about wanton mee. I like WTM as much as the next man, but am not as crazy about it as say Hokkien Prawn Mee or Char Kway Teow. But WTM floats the boat for many, and today, I feature one which is favourite for those of us who hang around the Peninsula/Funan/Excelsior triangle.

The food is simple enough, noodles, a bit of char siew, some wantons. A killer sauce is essential, as the cook's judging of the cooking time...too long, the noodles become soft and floppy...not long enough, and it tastes of kee, and sometimes too firm. Just right, and it is almost heavenly. Springy noodles, with good bite.

The chilli had a rather nice bite. The wantan, swimming in a small bowl of savoury soup is tender, soft, and very tasty. Nice WTM.

A couple of stalls down, a handmade noodle stall offers guotie...not exactly the one sided pot stickers one typically gets, but this is beautifully browned all around

Nice, crispy skin, good flavour. Bite into it, and the hot soup squirts into one's mouth eliciting a beautiful taste and flavour, in combination with the minced meat within...very nice.

Worth a check out, but the queues on the WTM stall is rather long at meal times.

Food Court at Excelsior Shopping Center

Wantan Mee stall and Handmade noodle stall for guotie

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Turkish goodness in Singapore: Arkadas Cafe

For me, Turkish cuisine is always interesting. The Mediterrenean dishes standout, and I love the kebabs and hummus.

I was recently introduced to this interesting Turkish restaurant, right in Fusionpolis by my good friend Dr. Mycroft. Arkadas Turkish Cafe is situated in one small corner of the building, on level 3, but come lunchtime, it gets pretty crowded. The chef used to be, we were told, the personal chef of the Turkish Ambassador to Singapore, so we figured, that must count for least, he knows Turkish food. And indeed he did!

We started with some pita bread...which was rather not what we expected...we had thought pita as a thin, unleaven bread with a pocket within, but this was fluffy, rather like a pizza.

Used to dip the hummus..which was superb

The hummus was very good. Almost as good as the one I had in the mountain top in Beirut some years ago. The light spices, olive oil and the chick pea hummus...yum...shiok, delicious.

We also tried the auberginbe salad...which is eggplant tossed with virgin oilive oil and lemon juice.

Also rather nice, but nowhere near the awesome taste of the hummus...spelt in the menu as houmus.

And onto the mains

There were 4 of us, and we each ordered something different, so we can cross sample.

I had the adana, which is minced mix of beef and lamb, much like the kubidah in Persian cuisine:

The minced mixed meat is used to coat a sword (at least they used a regular soldier's sword in the early days, as this had started out as warrior cuisine) and barbecued that on an open fire. Hence the shape looked like it had been formed on a sword. The meat was a bit on the tough side, but full flavoured, very robust taste. I enjoyed it very much. The accompanying rice is also superb...nice long grain basmati, with a touch of butter and almonds.

The Shish kebab of lamb

This was the star of the mains. Very tender lamb, beautifully marinated and expertly cooked over a charcoal fire. Superb.

The chicken Shish kebab was also superb

Looks and tastes like a very tender, juicy chicken tandoori. Magnificent.

And lamb meatballs

For me the least successful of the 4 mains we had...such was the goodness of the other dishes, that this perfectly nice meatball dish is relegated to last position. The meat was rather robust, but flavourful. I suspect the seasoning is different from my Adana. Nicely barbecued.

Superb food, and rather reasonable prices. Mains range from $11 to $15.

Arkadas Cafe
1 Fusionopolis Way
Connexis Tower #03-02