Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tawandang: German Thai food in a micro brewery

The Thais are an assimilative culture. This extends from their acceptance to all kinds of people...farang and locals mix with ease, and the assimilation of farang food into their own. Two prominent ones I often see as fusion food is German Thai and Italian Thai.

Today's feature is on one such fusion...German with Thai...with great German beer, sausages, schweinhaxe and great spicy Thai food.

Tawandang has two fairly large outlets, both with a micro brewery in Dempsey where I visited, and another in Suntec City. The atmosphere was relaxed, afterall this is a beer place, where people come to chill out. That afternoon, my makan gang and I didn't try the beer, I needed to keep sober for a photoshoot later. The menu was rather complete, with divers temptations for the palate. We started with the Thai omelette.

Nicely done, but not quite as thick and fluffy as those we easily get in Bangkok.

A plate of prawn cakes was promptly ordered

Interesting...this was not the usual tod man kung we find in Thailand, but a variant of the Californian style crab cakes...done with prawns...curious combination, methot. But it tasted very good. The breaded crust was light, not greasy and very crisp, and the insides were moist, nice and tasty.

Phad Thai...a traditional favourite...any attempt to fusion this dish will often end in disaster...luckily, the chef stuck to tradition

Classical Phad Thai...using the correct, dried Thai kway teow. Classical ingredients. Very nice. Authentic.

On to the German...schweinhaxe

This is a large entire leg...the haxe...deep fried till crisp. Not very greasy, the meaty parts were a bit overcooked...dry...but the tendons were wonderful. As was the skin. Goes fantastic with the Thai chilli paste with lime. Rival perhaps Siang Hee, though not quite, as Siang Hee's meaty parts are tender.

Their morning glory...kangkong had special place in their menu...amongst the boasts of only using fresh meat and seafood, of only using kampong chicken, was this interesting claim that the morning glory was not only fresh, but 1kg of morning glory only made 1.5 portions...only the stems were used...the waitress tried to explain how it was done, but I didn't get most of it...

Very young shoots were used. Cooked lightly, with fish sauce and powerful chilli padi. The stems were very crunchy, very light tasting. I liked it quite a lot.

We also tried the tanghoon with king prawns

Quite good. The tanghoon was moist with the braising liquid. The prawns reasonably fresh. Often times, in a dish like this, the tang hoon is dried Bangkok, the best restaurants line the base of the claypot or aluminium pot with a layer of pork the pot is heated, the lard melts, infused upwards, and prevents the tanghoon from being scalded. Tawandang did not use the lard, but the noodles remain soft, and moist. I suspect it was cooked elsewhere and only served in the also evidenced by the lack of soot at the bottom of the pot.

We also had some grilled chicken

We see chicken (and eggs) being grilled in the streets of Bangkok all over...this is a restauran-ized version. Boneless, beautifully grilled...crisp skin, juicy, tender meat. Beautiful with the Thai sambal sauce or with Prik Nam Pla.

Desserts were sticky rice

Too bad they did not have my favourite durian sticky rice...only mango. But it did the trick. The mango was sweet, but with a undertone of sour. The sticky rice was perfect. Al dente, aromatic as only Thai rice can be. Nice.

Some red ruby...traditional favourite was also ordered...I found it to be regular...a bit pedestrian. And some magnificent tapioca

I love a good tapioca. This was very good. No veins. Just tender, tapioca gently boiled in syrup, with a dash of thick coconut milk.

Overall, very good meal. Everything tasted good. Service was friendly. Price was a bit on the high side, but considering the amount of food we had, I guess not out of reason. The meal above cost just a hair shy of S$250.

I will revisit, and to try their beer as well as more food.

Tawandang Micro Brewery
26, #01-01
Dempsey Road
6476 6742
Open: Daily 11.30pm to 1.00am (Closed for lunch on Monday)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Friend's favourites: Whitley Road Prawn Noodles

Prawn noodles is a perennial favourite in Singapore. Each have their own favourites. I have shared my favourite, here is one from one of my good friends...his favourite. This begins a series of posts, where I will explore the favourite makan places of my friends.

The Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodle is an old, old favourite of many. They used to operate under the Whitley Road flyover, and was famous for many years. When the hawker centre was removed by the government some years ago, they disappeared...but have appeared in the city.

Recommended by a good friend as it was his favourite...we dropped in during the heat of the lunch hour...the place was choking full of people. And we had to wait some 20 minutes for our noodles.

So how was it? The noodles were done just right...we had the mee with coarse bee hoon. Soft to the bite. I had the one with pork ribs, which was tender, and light in porky flavour...just right. The prawns were partly deshelled, and rather fresh, sweet, nice firm meat. The soup was nice and hearty...good stock.

How does it compare for me to my favourite at Pek Kio Market? Well, for me, Wah Kee still rules the roost. The prawns are a bit fresher and sweeter. The stock is where Wah Kee at Cambridge Road (Pek Kio) Market leads...strong crusteacean flavours, developing beautifully from the base of pork bones and prawn heads. The Whitley stock was a bit sweetened by either rock sugar or sugar...a bit too much for me, and as far as I can tell my favoured Wah Kee does not sweeten the stock.

Worth the eat? Yes, but for me, I rather go to Cambridge Road...but the wait there is even longer...often 45m to an hour during meal times.

Whitley Road Big Prawns Noodles
18 Lorong Telok

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nasi Padang: Rumah Minang

Nasi Indonesia...its a visit to a eating place were they lay out their entire day's cooking on the table, and one eats whatever one wishes, leaves the rest, and pays for what one eats. But in Singapore, I guess we practice better hygine...we point and only order what we want. I will begin a tale of two nasi padangs in the same is Rumah Minang.

A nice spread is available. All delivered at the same time, eat at will...unlike French where there is a definite order...nasi padang has none...I shall start with the sayur lodeh...shown flanked by the very nice sambal at picture top, and ladies fingers picture bottom.

Cabbage, long beans, in a fragrant coconut gravy with chilli and spices. With a piece of fried tofu. Quite nice as sayur lodeh go.

The beef rendang is excellent

Not as fat and done in a very dry style...the taste of the rempah (spices) is excellent. The meat is usually a lesser cut...tough, but rendered tender...not quite fork tender, but nice, slightly chewy, immense flavour from the beef itself and from the spices it absorbed during cooking. The additional spices I asked for was also superb.

The fried chicken with red spices is also quite nice

This was tender...the skin, being fried retained some of the smoky flavour and was slightly crisp. The meat was very tender. Nice. Again an abundence of flavour from the spices.

Sambal goreng...literally fried spices, but it typically means tofu deep fried and then fried with long beans and spices, sometimes with tempeh (fermented bean sticks)

One of my favourites. The flavours meld into one beautifyl harmonious taste experience. Very nice.

Overall, small corner coffee shop, serving excellent nasi padang. Bicycle friendly.

Rumah Minang
18 & 18A Kandahar Street

Monday, March 18, 2013

Food Republic: Wisma Atria

Food Courts are interesting places to eat. Some of them better than others. And one of those I like is Food Republic...owned and operated by the folks at Bread Talk. I rather like the one in 313 Orchard and at Wisma Atria.

Here I highlight a meal I had at Wisma Atria...we started with the noodle store...first off the KL Black Hokkien mee

Nice wok hei...but I don't know why we don't get the right noodles here in Singapore. Here, as in the other 2 others which kinda of get the gravy and ingredients sorta right, they use udon. I would have imagined the fat yellow noodles used in lor mee might be a nice substitute for the real black hokkien mee noodles.

We also had the wat tan yee mien

Nicer...same wonderful wok hei. Nice, fresh ingredients. Great gravy. And nice, fragrant noodles. But I saved the best...

A superbly cooked beehoon with pork belly and topped with a fried egg. The wok hei is still ever present and beautiful. The beehoon is nicely done...seemed to have absorbed the gravy used to braise it...but still rather al dente, and not overcooked. Very nice.

For dessert, we also tried the rojak, which was rather excellent

Very nice. The sauce was just right. Thick, sweet, spicy, a tinge of sour and a touch of salt. Mixed into the fresh fruits and vegetables, and toasted dried cuttlefish with cut croutons from yu tiao. Worth the calories. Very nice.

Typically, Food Republic can be trusted for their selection of hawkers. This Wisma Atria outlet is no different. In addition, there is the Sargeant Chicken Rice...pricy but very nice. And the Nasi Padang...also very expensive, but very good...especially their 3 sambals. And one can always trust the great nanyang kopi at Toast Box.

Food Republic
in many malls islandwide

This meal taken at Wisma Atria

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Swatow: Old hero returns? Or does he?

Sometimes, an old favourite which has closed comes back to live. Sometimes, its just the name, sometimes the old owners decide to restart the business. I am not sure is Swatow, now in Toa Payoh, is a revival of the original which was in Golden Shoe Carpark in Market Street. So we ventured a try...

Mixed results. The old Swatow was a temple of Teochew cuisine. Specializing in the traditional braised goose, steamed fish, Teochew Kana Kway Teow. A similar menu is offered in the new place. In an earlier visit, I did try them, and found the Teochew dishes to be competent, but nowhere as inspired as the Swatow of old. So I decided to try the pushcart tim sum this time round.
The char siew pau...the skin tender, light, but the filling fell short of the best. Still eminently edible, just not special.

Occupying the same place, and reputed to be owned by the same owners as the former Fortunate, the dining room is vast.
Quite tasty. Crisp skin, nice insides, served piping hot. Fortunate made its name serving value for money tim sum, big servings, in push carts.
The deep fried yam ball was de rigeur. Not the lightest, or fluffiest, but makes the cut.

But in recent years, the restaurant closed in favour of the mini Fortunates now in Food Republic Food Courts around the city.
Rather pedestrian, but very large hargao. The skin was thin, but broke on prodding with a chopstick.

To be fair, the tim sum was nothing special.

But reasonably tasty, large portions.

The only standout was the deep fried, crispy bean curd skin, stuffed with prawn paste. This was rather good. The bean curd skin was superbly light and crispy, and only slightly greasy. The prawn paste within was very good.

The Kway Teow Kana...fried Teochew Kway Teow with kale and preserved radish was rather good too. Slightly more greasy, but the kway teow packed into somewhat like a cake, was nice, tender, flavourful.
Rather similar to the deep fried beancurd, so the deep friedn prawn friters gets a thumbs up too....but its getting to be a greasy meal, with most of the good dishes being deep fried.
Ordinary, but edible in the sense that it taste ok.

Overall, rather decent eat. Reasonable prices, largish servings. Good tasting food, though none which break the must eat barrier.

Swatow Restaurant Pte Ltd
181 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh
6363 1717

Monday, March 11, 2013

You Huak Sembawang for White Bee Hoon

White beehoon is a simple dish...made with boiled beehoon, a thick, rich sauce poured over it...and that's it...of course, fresh ingredients like prawns, pork, vegetables and an egg.

Deceptively simple, but yet getting simple dishes to taste good is not easy. Nothing to hide the chef's capability to bring all the ingredients into one coherent, delicious whole. For me, this is perhaps the one or two which make the cut.

The wok hei is there, but not in the usual place one would look for it...nay, it is not in the noodles, but in the sauce. Curious how sauce can wok hei...I don't know how to explain, but it does. The ingredients are nice and fresh. The beehoon, supple, compliant, with a bit of springy bite. Very nice.

I think, worth a trip to Sembawang just to sample. They have some cze char as well, but as I had cycled there alone, I did not sample the other dishes. An opportunity for another visit.

You Huak Restaurant
22 Jalan Tampang
(Opp Sembawang Shopping Centre)
11.30am to 10.30pm Closed on Wed

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Culina at Dempsey: a retake or still the same goodness

I wrote about my lunching experiences at Culina in Dempsey before...and always enjoyed the good and cheerful service, and the good food. I return again and again, and a couple of days ago, while cycling with my buddies, we thought of lunching there.

This sounds like the setup for a poor review...but yowza...I was surprised...the service was excellent. Genuine smiles all round from the waitresses. The food, to let the cat out of the bag, was excellent. The ambience very nice. Superb experience...again.

We shared a Nicoise Salad

Fresh crunchy greens, a very light dressing, and a generous serving of tuna. Very nice.

I had the Full Blood Wagyu burger

This is one fantastic burger. The full blood wagyu was wonderfully tender, fragrant and nicely textured. The patty was cooked nicely, medium rare as ordered, very juicy, and still sizzling when delivered. The fries were magnificent. Thick cut, very crispy outside, smooth, creamy within. A small helping of greens sat at the side. This is a very large serving...I almost couldn't finish it. But finish it I did. Excellent ++ burger.

My friend had the cod...looked good, but I did not try it

A truly excellent place for lunching. A bit pricy, but the premium ingredients, the excellent cooking, and great service made up for it. Highly recommended.

Culina Bistro
Blk 8, Dempsey Road
#01-13 Dempsey Hill
6474 7338
Daily 11am to 1030pm

Monday, March 4, 2013

Crystal Jade Pristine: Healthy and, there is no need to choose one.

Crystal Jade is one of the old guards of Chinese cuisine in Singapore. Recently, in Jan 2013, they opened a new concept restaurant at Scotts Square...aimed at the health concious diner who still demands good tasting meals, Crystal Jade Pristine was born.

I do enjoy this cleaner, lighter cuisine, with nourishing ingredients, as evident in my love for Restaurant Ten's food, but alas is no more on Singapore. Crystal Jade Pristine seem to fall nicely into this niche. I attended a rather private media tasting organized by Crystal Jade and Storey3. Thanks to Samantha for hosting and Sahimi for the invitation.

The decor is pleasant indeed, tastefully done. The food is Cantonese influenced, and during this tasting, many of the dishes seem like they have been deconstructed. We started with the apppetizer

Cordyceps Flower and shredded cucumber with black garlic, pan fried scallp and vegetable paste coated with almond flake. A mouthful. As is characteristic for Prestine, the ingredients are premium, and the menu explains the nourishing aspects of this dish. The cordyceps flowers are believed to improve complexion, nourish the yin and cleanse the kidneys. The black garlic is odourless, and have anti oxident capabilities . The cucumber is imported from Japan, and is crunchy and completes the combination to a healty and refreshing starter. The cold cucumber is crunchy, and contrast very nicely with the hot, crispy scallops in almond shell.

Next, we had what was described as steam chicken beancurd with ginseng and cordycep mushroom

Doesn't look like a chicken dish...but the key word here is chicken beancurd...though not really a beancurd, the bowl is made from Malaysian kampung chicken, minced to a silky paste and topped with herbal ingredients and steamed for 20 mins in a douboiled superior broth. The herbal aroma hits the nose as the dish was served. The beancurd had the texture of beancurd, but the mouthfeel is like finely minced chicken. Very nice.

Braised minced pork and Hong Kong kailan with preserved olive leaf was next

I found this very nice. Australian kurobuta is used as the pork base. And the Hong Kong kailan was tender, crunchy and does not have a bitter after taste as some do.

Braised beef with chinese yam and red dates

Another superb dish. The beef was ultra tender...and is braised with the chinese yam and red dates for an hour for the truly melt in the mouth tenderness with the full flavour of excellent beef. Really nice.

And some prawns...poached with baby chinese spinach in superiopr broth

Fresh live prawns. Sweet, plump and tasty. The broth was excellent and the baby chinese spinach is delicate and subtly flavourful.

For dessert, boiled fresh lily bulb and organic pumpkin with Osmanthus honey

A clear, very refreshing dessert. Excellent as a mouth cleaner and a bit of a sweet taste as one finishes a fine meal.

This is the restaurant to bring Grandma and mom to. Excellent ingredients, prepared beautifully, cooked well. Taste good, nourishing. What else can you ask for.

Crystal Jade Pristine
#03-06 Scotts Square
6636 1836