Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ayam Penyet at Dil'B

Ayam Penyet...I never knew this dish growing up...but now, it is gaining popularity in Singapore.

An Indonesian dish, made with fried chicken...then smashed with a mallet...interesting concept...and over the years, I have learnt to love this dish...especially as a mid-ride lunch. Today's post is on one of my regular nasi penyets...also in Changi Village.

The corner shop, this place also serves prata and nasi biryani, which they advertise as "Power Nasi Biryani". The biryani is quite good, but not game changing...but their ayam penyet, to me is.

The chicken is coated with a lovely, fragrant batter...aromatic...I already said that, but to emphasize that point...fried to a deep crisp, the chicken meat within is tender and juicy. Very nice. A small piece of deep fried tempeh accompanies. The rice is a rich yellow colour...I am not sure how it is made, maybe with a pinch of kunyit. But is nicely done. Even the soup, is excellent...a tasty chicken broth, nice flavours. The only thing missing are some nice vegetables...perhaps a side of stewed cabbage or an achar might be interesting.

The teh halia shown above was quite average, though. Mr Teh Tarik just across the street serves better tea.

P.S. by the time you read this post, I will be in Paris savouring the French delights, after attending the Salon International de Haut Horologie in Geneva. I may not be able to post more food notes till I return on Feb 1, though I will try and do some short Swiss and French restaurant posts.

Dil'B Restaurant
1 Changi Village Road #01-2026

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chinese New Year Treats: Crystal Jade Kitchen

Chinese New Year is feasting period. Many pencai is a favourite, as is the ubiquitious yu sheng. Today's feature is on Crystal Jade Kitchen's offering...affordable CNY treats.

The Crystal Jade chain is one of the larger chain Chinese restaurants in Singapore, if not the region. Boasting of 100 restaurants, they pride themselves in being able to cleverly carve out the market segment not only into various regional cuisines, but also in price levels. Smart marketing. The CJ Kitchen is the regular, eat everyday restaurant. Prices reflect this, as does the level and quality of the ingredients. But the cooking is still quite good.

This restaurant is somewhat within the bowels of Ngee Ann City, in Basement 2. But a nice neat restaurant with a bakery store.

We started with a curious dish...a Chinese pizza of sorts...with pork floss, chinese sausage on a pastry.

Interesting methot. The flavours meld well...the bahu providing nice dry, crisp flavour and ably supported by the flavourful chinese sausage.

The yu sheng, done in traditional lohei...

Usual ingredients, with salmon raw fish. Each ingredient symbolises a certain aspect of wishes for the New Year. And the tossing is to bring luck and prosperity to the participants.

The platter of BBQ meats was served next

Comprising of roasted duck, soy sauce chicken, BBQ pork rib with honey sauce, jelly fish, marinated Duck Web and wing and pig's tongue...this dish was rather tasty, and an excellent appetizer.

The main course was, of course the pencai

Comprising multiple layers of abalone, black moss, pork knuckle, fish maw and served with a whole chicken, pig's tongue, radish, sea cucumber, conpoy, dried mushroom, lotus root, deep fried pig's skin and preserved meats. The dish is, of course, by the list of the ingredients, very rich. The broth infused with the flavours of all theingredients, and is quite robust. I really liked the radish, which, humble as it is as a vegetable, quietly sits and absorbs all the flavour.

Dessert was rather interesting...a twist of the traditional nian gao...or new year cake.

In interesting flavours...clockwise from bottom left...nian gao with strawberry jam; nian gao with green tea, red bean and raisin; nian gao with osmanthus and ginger; and the crysanthemim and wolfberry ingot of Konnyaku jelly. The nian gao with osmanthus and ginger was my favourite of the evening. The nian gao were all, perhaps modernized...less sweet, but retaining the sticky consistency of traditional nian gao...perhaps to suit the healthier palate desired by diners these days.

This was an invited media review. Thanks to Samantha of Crystal Jade, and JJ Koh & Geri of Story3 for the invitation and kind hospitality.

Crystal Jade Kitchen
Takashimaya Shopping Centre

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chinese New Year treats at Park Palace, Grand Park Hotel

Its almost Chinese New Year...or at least, each year, the celebrations start earlier and earlier. Media tastings have begun, and I have already attended quite a few. Today's post is on an interesting one...tradition with a twist...offered by Grand Park Hotel's Park Palace Restaurant.

Tucked in the second floor of the Grand Park Hotel, this restuarant looks newly renovated and spiffy. Nice interiors.

I was invited for a media tasting, and the table setting is also indicative of the festive atmosphere, with splashes of traditional colours - orange representing gold, gold leaf, red.

As is traditional for the season, the meal began with yusheng...

A bit special...with gold leaf on the shredded radish and croutons. The raw fish was also interesting as sashimi grade yellowtail is offered. The fish tasted excellent. The croutons were less obvious than cheaper alternatives, and offered a nice crunch. The sauce was also a bit more restrained, allowing the fresh ingredients to shine.

Next, an utterly traditional roast suckling pig

But served in an untraditional twist...the skin was removed and served on a piece of steamed bread coin with a dark, sweet sauce reminiscent of those used in Peking Duck, complete with sprigs of spring onion.

Superb suckling pig. The skin was an ultra crisp crackling, expertly carved such that there was hardly any fat lingering on the underside. The taste was superb...light, yet robust. The sauce and spring onion added two additional dimensions, one pushing towards a richer taste, and the other cutting the richness...wonderfully balanced by the neutral palate offered by the bread. Excellent dish, one of the best suckling pig skins I have eaten.

The rest of the pig was whisked away and to be returned as a second course later.

A beautifully presented deep fried garoupa was next

The presentation is excellent, and deserves a double plus. The meat, already filleted and deep fried was nicely cooked...crisp outside, juicy within. A sweet and sour sauce is prescribed and went well. In this august company of dishes presented that afternoon, the fish was my least favourite...but having said that, in another restaurant or another time, this quality of fish at this level of cooking would be very appreciated.

The piece de resistance for a CNY dish has to be the pen cai

With 18 ingredients, this huge pot of treasure is truly a sight to behold...the ingredient list are as follows: Sliced Abalone, Sea Cucumber, Scallops, Prawns, Whole Conpoy, Roast Pork, Roast Duck, Soya Chicken, Tien Shin Cabbage, Lotus Root, Black Mushroom, Bai Ling Zhi Mushroom, Nameko Mushroom, Broccoli, Wood Fungus, Gingko Nuts, Duck Webs, Beancurd Sheet, White Radish, Sliced Sea Perch Fillet, and Sea Moss. Phew, what a mouthful...indeed there was sufficient to feed 10 with at least 3 servings, each with a different set of ingredients as they are laid on the pot as layers.

And to add to the spectacle, the chef flambes the pot by your table, with Henensey VSOP.

Tastewise, this dish cannot be faulted. The premium ingredients shone, and the briasing liquid was superbly crafted...each ingredient adding its own wonderful flavour, aroma and taste to the dish. The radish, simple, humble vegetable as it is, truly shone in the dish...absorbing all the intensity and releasing it with each bite. Truly an excellent dish, and certainly one of the best pen cai I have eaten.

Then the second serving of the suckling pig was presented...

The rest of the pig, sans part of the skin is then oven baked with lemongrass. The meat was tasty, tender with a rather strong lemongrass flavour.

The rice dish was next

Billed as the "Auspicious glutinous rice with foie gras and preserved meat", the twist is in the use of a typically French ingredient in a rather traditional Chinese dish. I must say I am impressed. The glutinous rice is made into a cupcake like shape and pan fried till the outside is crisp, the inner still moist and sticky. Within the insides are stuffed the preserved meats traditional for the season, and atop sits a slice of foie gras. Nice twist, and taste good.

And finally the desserts in the form of steamed mini pumpkin dumpling with green bean paste

The dish looks amazing. Beautiful, looking like little pumpkins. The skin is similar to ang ku kueh, though a bit tougher. This is the style of modern desserts...not so sweet, just a touch to clean the palate after a rich meal.

Nice Chinese New Year banquet style presentation. Great dishes.

This is an invited tasting. Thanks to Jean Ng for the invitation and hospitality.

Blog Promotion: Complimentary bottle of house red wine per table of minimum 10 pax. Please provide promotion code: "Ho Chiak blog" when you call to make your reservation to enjoy this speical.

Also available is an Early Bird Special: Book now and dine-in from 21st Jan to 7th Feb to enjoy 20%off to Lunar New Year Set Menus or A’la Carte.

Park Palace Restaurant
Grand Park Hotel
10 Coleman Street

Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Ring Wanton Mee...

Passion. The single most important factor for me when I do any evaluation of any kind. Be it when I was managing teams or when assessing cooks and their food. Today's review is on a wanton mee stall, and the chief motivator for the stall has so much passion for his noodles, I really have to sit up and listen.

A recent graduate in chemistry from NUS and soon to be bound for his Ph.D. in either Cambridge or the US...this passionate young man spent some 9 months trying to perfect his idea of the reference wantan mee. The stall is tucked in a corner in a coffee shop by Holland Drive. And his mother Esther takes charge.

They sell only one type of noodles...with home made char siew and home made deep fried wanton. No soup option, no wanton in the soup either. And with the signature red ring of chilli...which is actually incorporated into the sauce.

The preparation story is almost as interesting as the tasting....the noodles are cooked to perfection and precision that only a scientist would be able to make possible. The cooking is done with a special automated machine, imported from Japan.

Cold water is fed into the cauldron continuously and exchanged all the time. This is to prevent the starch from building up on the cooking water which fouls up the taste. Precision in that the temperature is kept at 100C and the noodles are cooked precisely for 25 seconds. For a bit firmer noodles, this can be tweaked to 21 seconds, and for a softer version, 30 seconds. Impressive.

How does the noodles taste? For me, the 25s version was slightly was cooked through, and a bit shy of al dente which I prefer. So for me, perhaps the 21s noodles would be the answer. I did not try that. The noodles were nice, smooth, no alkaline (kee) flavour. And absorbs the very special, spicy sauce very well.

The wantons

Prepared fresh, and only cooked on order. Made with prawns and fresh pork by hand in-situ. Fried to a beautiful crisp. Taste very good. Very good indeed.

And the char siew?

No lapse in attention in the preparation. Roasted daily from scratch without any preservatives, or colouring. The red colour is not from colouring as is the norm in most char siew, but as a natural chemical reaction as the meat is being roasted. This is a complex reaction prior to achieving Maillard, and renders the pink/red meat.

Roasted with a mangrove charcoal specially imported from Malaysia in the roaster shown above right at the coffee shop. Made fresh daily. The pork used is the pig's armpit meat (bu jian tian), and is tender, a bit of marbling. Taste wise it is very nice. But not enough for me to come just for the char siew. For me, the Malaysian style of char siew...crispy almost burnt on the outside, nice and juicy on the inside as exemplified by Meng Kee in KL is still superior.

But taken as a whole, the wanton mee is very well balanced. The noodles are nice. The soup stock is very flavourful and savoury. The signature chilli sauce is quite complementary to the noodles and provides a nice kick. The wantons are the highlight for me...succulent insides, very crisp, fall apart outsides. And the more than capable char siew rounds it up. But it is the passion to excel and to be the best wanton mee in Singapore which won me over. They do have some ways to go before they can achieve fame and perfection in the taste, but I am sure they will continue to improve and be very successful. Red Ring was no more than a fortnight old when I was invited by the owner to come for a tasting. Thanks to Esther for the invitation and hospitality.

Red Ring Wantan Mee
Blk 46 Holland Drive

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chef d'Table at CHIJMES

A western themed restaurant...tucked in CHIJMES. Small, cozy, comfortable. This is Chef d'Table.

In the interest of a full disclosure, the restaurant is owned by the family of a good friend. But the views expressed are totally mine, and I hope not biased by friendship. I know my friend would want no biasness in my review.

The bar outside is fully stocked, but we brought our own wines

We started with appetizer of chilled angel hair pasta, perfumed with white truffle oil, tossed with ebbiko and konby with a sauteed garlic prawn

Excellent. Reminds me very much of the signature dish at Gunther's, but with a twist. Less luxurious as in the place of caviar, ebbiko is used. And two beautifully cooked and fresh prawns adorns. Very nice.

The next course was a lobster bisque cappucinno

Very good. Strong lobster bisque flavours. Served very hot. My only complaint on this soup? I wish it had larger chunks of lobster meat within...but mainly I wished the soup were bigger. I was later told that a regular a la carte serving would be on a soup dish, and a larger serving size. But we were there for a banquet like event...some 30 pax, so the portion size was reduced to meet our very specific budget. Anyway, excellent soup.

For mains, I had the grilled US Angus rib-eye steak, with grilled asparagus and crispy fried eggplant with a shallot red wine veal jus

The meat was excellent. Again, I wished for a larger portion. I prefer steaks which are at least 1-1.5 inches thick, so the doneness can be perfect...charred on the outside, medium for the inside, with a tinge of medium rare at the core.

As steaks go, this was quite good. The ribeye was tender, juicy, well marbled. The accompanying vegetables were excellent. And though I am not a jus fan, the sauce went very well with the steak.

For dessert, baked filo pastry, wrapped caramalized banana with almond and crumble with a warm chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream

I found this to be magnificent. The pastry was light, crisp and fluffy. The banana within beautifully cooked. The entire dish, being a dessert provided a wonderful sweet ending to the meal...but not too sweet...just right. The vanilla ice cream added a dimension which transforms this dessert.

The chef...Jason was an quiet, unassuming man...but quite accomplished in the kitchen.

Overall, highly recommended restaurant. Beautiful surroundings and romantic atmosphere complemented by truly excellent cooking.

Chef d'Table
30 Victoria Street
11.30am – 2.30pm
6.30pm – 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays

Monday, January 7, 2013

Claypot Fun at Big Splash

Claypot rice. Some love it, some are neutral, some hate it. As for me, I love it.

One of my favourite places to eat one is at Le Chausseur who uses long grain, fragrant basmati. But recently, at the old Big Splash, we spied one interesting restaurant...called Claypot Fun...interesting name. One of my friends have eaten there before and recommended it...and on a rainy afternoon, we had lunch there.

We started off with, wel some starters...chee cheong fun...

I am not sure if they steam the pasta themselves...chee cheong fun is made by steaming a rice base gruel mix into thin, light sheets, which are then rolled, sometimes, as in this case, filled with ingredients, and dowzed in sauce. Quite nice CCF. Definitely one of the dishes to re-order.

But we came for the claypot, and its the namesake of the we ordered two different claypot rice...first the minced pork patty with salted fish.

Reminds me of the traditional steamed rice and pork dishes I used to eat as a child. They used Thail long grained fragrant rice. Nice. Firm texture, beautiful fragrance. The aromas from the salted fish punctuate the savoury richness of the pork. Magnificent with rice and some cut chilli padi, and just a dash of either soy sauce or fish sauce.

And the piece de resistance, the kampung chicken claypot with Chinese sausages

Beautiful, huge chunks of tender, juicy chicken. Mix the pot, and one finds the treasures of the sausages

With the thick black sauce, the dish really shines. The sausages are dried, and probably fried before being popped into the claypot. The claypot keeps the heat well distributed and focussed within, rendering the chicken ultra tender, and the releases the beautiful flavours and fragrance of the sausages. Very nice!

Overall, a nice restaurant, with good food. Prices are a bit steep for a place outside of the CBD, but not prohibitively so. Recommended.

Claypot Fun
902 East Coast Parkway
Blk B Playground @ Big Splash #01-11
6440 7975

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Foo House

Foo House. An interesting restaurant...serving Western cuisine, opened by the former chef of Grand Hyatt. In local parlance, these Hainanese Ah Kor western stalls are reputed to be the best in the island. Offering European style cuisine and sometimes mixed with Hainanese ingenuinity.

I tried to eat at this restaurant several times. Tried thrice at their outlet at Tanjung Pagar...later to be informed that that outlet was closed. Tried twice to eat at the Pari Burong their only restaurant...but somehow managed to come twice on a Monday...and you've guessed it, they close Mondays. Anyway, went there on a Wednesday this time...and managed to try the let the cat out of the bag...very good...

Inside the restaurant, it was a bit musty...a bit dark...certainly not a high end establishment...happily the prices reflect this...rather good value.

I went with a bunch of friends and I get to try two of the dishes...I ordered their rather famous burger

One can choose the side...I opted for french fries. The burger was rather impressive. The bun is quite large...perhaps 100mm across. The patty done perfectly medium rare. I would hazard a guess that the patty is hand chopped rather than minced beef. Nice. Not too fatty. I added a fried egg. I found the burger to be quite a bit above average. Better than the $10 one at De Burgs...I have not tried their megabuck burgers at De Burgs. The fries were carefully fried...crisp outside, nice and fluffy inside.

As Edward had the salmon where the menu states that was served to Queen Elizabeth at the Grand Hyatt when she visited.

This is rather special. The salmon is done perfect. The tiniest bit of pink within the meat. The skin crispy. Very flavourful and tasty. The sauce was rather rich, but complements the fish, especially with the slice of lemon squeezed to provide counterpoint...not that it was a greasy isn't. The buttered rice was nice and fluffy. Very nice dish.

My other friends had divers dishes from their braised duck to steak to spagetti. All nodded in agpproval when asked how they felt their meals tasted.

So overall, very satisfying. Will be back for more? You bet!

Foo House
6 Jalan Pari Burong 488672
6445 3110