Monday, July 29, 2013

Hochiak takes a break today...back on Thurs.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Peranakan Cuisine: 2004 Novena Peranakan

Peranakan food is special, being peranakan, our home cooked comfort is of this genre, and as generally Peranakan womenfolk are good cooks, we are pretty pampered when it comes to good food.

As a result, many of us never venture to try out peranakan restaurants when we eat out, because home cooked is best...often because of familiarity, and also as mom would say, "mine is better and cheaper!"

Anyway, I am filing two stories on peranakan this week and another next week. The focus of this week's posting is on 2004 Novena Peranakan Cuisine.

We started the meal with the iconic peranakan dish...Ayam Buah Keluak

First taste...very good. Nice flavours. The buah keluak is a bit more meaty than most I have eaten, so a bit mild on the nutty flavours, but very tasty. The chicken is very good, cooked till very tender. Gravy excellent.

The Ngor Hiang was next.

Another excellent dish. The skin...a beancurd style covering was crisp, very light, and not greasy at all. Within, stuffed chunks of tofu, water chestnut and meat. Very nice.

The Beef Rendang looked a bit different from what I am used to

A bit lighter in hue than the typically dark beef rendang. The flavours were very good. The beef was very tender, perhaps a higher end cut of beef was used instead of the more sinewy, tougher cut used traditionally. And the rendang was done wet, with gravy. I found this to be good.

The Bakwan Ketiping was next

It was served sizzling hot in a claypot. The soup was clear, savoury and tasty. A bit robust tasting. The bakwan was very well done. Tender, but still retaining the slight chewiness typical of a hand made bakwan.

The Fish Head Assam Curry was one of their signatures...

I found this to be quite superb. The assam gravy was superb. The brinjal, ladies fingers, tomato and pineapple made a nice addition. And the fish head was very fresh, beautiful fragrance only a fresh fish can provide. Two thumbs up for this fish head curry. Some of my lunch companions lament that they prefer a lemak version, but for me, the assam curry was the star.

A portion of sotong with sambal

Nicely done. Not too spicy. The squid (sotong) was fresh, lightly cooked, and retained the springiness and light crunch with a creamy mouthfeel.

Sambal Prawns

Freshness of ingredients are paramount. The prawns were beautiful. Not too large, bite sized. But very fresh, with the wonderful crunch, and a light whiff of the sea, even through the light sambal sauce.

And of course some vegetables, instead of the usual sambal kangkong, we elected the Kangkong to be done with a garlic sauce.

Also quite good...the vegetable was young, fresh, and lightly stir fried.

Highly recommend this restaurant. Reasonable prices, very good cooking.

2004 Novena Peranakan Cuisine
273 Thomson Road
#01-02 Novena Garden
6256 1430
Daily: 11.30am – 3pm, 5.30pm – 10pm

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tomi Sushi: Eating Japanese

Japanese food in Singapore is a mixed batch, especially after one's palate has known the wondrous pleasures of eating Japanese in Japan.

There are some good ones, even very good ones outside of Japan, to be sure. But they tend to be rather expensive.

One interesting aspect is that in the Japanese cities, the restaurants are generally specialized. If one feels like a tempura, one goes to a specialist tempura restaurant. If sushi, then to a sushiya. If one craves an unagi, then a visit to the unagi specialist is in order. But in Singapore, most Japanese restaurants are generalists. Even sushi-ya known for their sushi and sashimi often serve a soba or udon, and the odd tempura. Tomi Sushi is one such generalist.

Tucked in a corner in Velocity, it is one of our go to places for a nice, clean, Japanese meal. They have Sapporo on the tap

Cold, smooth, with a beautiful head, this is a wonderful beer served from the tap, vom fass as the Germans would say...why use a German term to describe a Japanese beer? Arguably, the Germans have been attributed to first have brewed beer, or at least spread its brewing techniques all over the world.

On order for dinner was a unaju, a grilled unagi with sauce served on a bed of steamed Japanese rice.

The unagi is quite superb. Creamy meat, beautifully barbequed, with a slight hint of charcoal. I found the sauce smothering the eel to be a bit on the thick side, but it was easy to overlook, as the meat was superb.

We also had an order of mixed tempura

Rather good...the batter is very light, crisp, if a bit...only the very slightest bit, on the greasy side. The prawn, fish, and vegetables are very fresh. Very good indeed.

The chawanmushi takes 15 minutes to prepare, and is quite delicious too

The egg custard was smooth, with chicken bits, ginko nuts, prawns and crab sticks. Very good.

And a cold soba accompanies

Not unusual, de rigeur soba. But really nothing to complain. The noodles were nice, smooth, a bit of the buckwheat flavour still lingering.

Quite a good place for a Japanese meal. Not spectacular, but above the more commercial joints like Sakae Sushi and their ilk.

Tomi Sushi
Novena Square, Velocity
11:30-15:00 17:30-22:00(open daily)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh...a curious name...pork rib tea, loosely translated. But a venerable staple of local food, it combines the rice staple and good old pork ribs in a soup.

I am not sure of the origins of the bak kut teh, but many ascribe the beginings to come from coolies who needed a good solid breakfast or lunch to carry them through a hard day of labour. The rice provides the carbohydrates and the pork ribs the protein. The soup, herbal or peppery provides nutrition as well as hydration.

Interestingly, this is one dish which traditionally, can be served for all the main meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Song Fa, if I remember correctly used to operate at Blanco Court before it was demolished to become the now Raffles Hospital. They are now in South Bridge Road and in Changi Point. Their style is the peppery one, though less peppery than Ya Hua.

We ordered the premium pork loin ribs...long boned pork ribs. The meat was very tender, if a little mild. I found the soup to be very mild...preferring the more pungent version of Ya Hua.

The braised pork leg was quite good, nice, tender, flavourful. And for the healthy concious, not very fat.

The braised peanuts are exquisite. Very nice indeed.

The kiam chye is quite nice, and not too salty as the dish can sometimes tend to be. A rather refreshing dish.

I seem to remember their soup to be much more flavourful in the days back at Blanco Court. But the current version is still very nice, and robust, perhaps they are reacting to the feedback for a less peppery version. Still highly recommended.

11 New Bridge Road #01-01
7.00am - 10.00pm Closed on Monday
6533 6128

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chin Mei Chin: traditional toast and kopi

Chin Mei Chin is an old establishment in Katong. Rumours abound that they were going to close, but I confirmed with the owners...and they do NOT have any plans to call it a day...yet.

The kaya toast is a bit different from the ones by Killeney and Ya Kun, it is served on a toasted bun, spread with their home made kaya and a rather large slice of butter. Beautiful.

The bun is toasted just right. A light crisp, with a very nice, smokey, charcoal flavour. And moist and fluffy within. They also serve a dark bun with raisins, which I found to be even more shiok.

The kopi is rather good too...dark, robust, with just the right amount of condensed milk. Very nice.

Highly recommended.

Chin Mee Chin Coffee Shop
204 East Coast Road
8.30am -4pm Closed on Monday

Monday, July 8, 2013

STREET 50 Bar and Restaurant: Two very surprising dishes which tantalizes the palate

The Bay Hotel is one of the interesting new boutique hotels which have sprung up fairly recently. I featured their Indonesian restaurant Rumah Rasa some time ago, but they changed the concept for the restaurant from Indonesian to an international theme - global flavours with a twist. Interesting methots. So when an invitation to taste was received, I jumped at it.

Especially so when the invitation to the new restaurant, now called STREET 50, featured the new Singapore National Day dish...a new dish created for the purpose of our nation's 48th birthday...the Black Pepper Lobster. Hmm...sounds yum...and it is! But more of that later...I begin with an unusual escargot dish...

Escargot in Hazelnut infused butter, flambe with cognac.

Wonderful. The butter was very lightly fragrant with hazelnut...the cognac was still quite strong and rather powerful...the escargot itself was not especially interesting...this was just de rigeur good escargot. But the flambe process on the table is a bit of drama, and entertaining.

We also sampled the Tom Yum Flair...a seafood dish with spagetti

As I approach this dish, I am a bit hesitant. The tom yum flavours are evident and strong. The crayfish and seafood...I can see squid and fish...are fresh. The spagetti done well, with a creamy sauce. But I find the flavours a bit disjointed. I have mixed feelings about this dish.

Next a lamb shank done like rendang...

I found this more convincing. Actually, really enjoyed this. The rendang sauce was superb...albeit a bit on the sweet side...but still within the norms of a mutton rendang, which usually tends to be a bit sweeter than the rather more sour beef rendang. The meat was very tender, well marinated, so fully absorbed the rendang flavours. Beautiful dish, served with some steam rice.

Then came the piece de resistance...the Black Pepper Lobster

The serving was a rather large Caribbean lobster...weighing about 700g, cooked in the chef's own black pepper sauce. When the dish was presented on the table, the wonderful aroma of lobster was powerful, and seductive in a way only lobster can.

The meat was chunky, very meaty, beautiful texture. Very sweet meat, very nicely blended with the aromatic black pepper. Well supported by the ginko nuts. Truly a winning dish. This is to be available only for the National Day celebrations, but I urged the chef to put this on the menu permanently. Highly, highly recommended.

And the sweet end...durian pengat

If you love durian, you will love this dish. A thin, rather dry crepe is rolled with durian pengat filling. Beautiful, smooth, creamy, aromatic. Very enjoyable.

This is an invited review. Thanks to Dennis She for the invitation and wonderful company during lunch.

STREET 50 Restaurant and Bar
Bay Hotel, 50 Telok Blangah Road
6818 6681

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red House Seafood

Red House Seafood is an old establishment in the seafood scene in Singapore. Established in 1976, it is family run, and opened their third outlet in Princep Street in June. I was invited for a tasting, and here is my view of the food.

We began the tasting with a Trio combination of the Chef's Signature squid.

Three different kinds of squid...a baby squid deep fried till crunchy in the background, a large squid, marinated and barbecued, and in the foreground squid with salted egg yolk.

I found the salted egg yolk squid the best. Absolutely fragrant, very nicely done. The crispy baby squid passed the mark, but was unremarkable. The barbecued squid was surprisingly I had expected the size of the squid may prehaps caused it to be a bit tougher.

Next up Tiger Prawns with Signature Creamy Custard Sauce

Very nice. The prawns were large, succulent. Very fresh. The creamy sauce was beautiful. Slightly sweet, very rich. Excellent dish.

Then, what was for me the piece de resistance, the Spicy Seafood combination

Magnificent, magnificent sauce. A bit reminiscent of some of the dry yellow curries I have eaten in Bangkok...a rich coconut cream laden luxurious mouthfeel, lifted by the bite of the chilli, and the wonderful aroma of the sauce. The seafood provided the base to build the dish...very fresh fish, scallops, prawns, squid. Really superb and a must try dish. Eaten with either steamed or fried mantou...or of course, steamed rice.

Next Sambal Kang Kong

Good too...but more regular tasting rather than out of this world good like the Spicy Seafood Combination. The kangkong was young, lightly stir fried...still crunchy, and the sambal was rather fragrant. The other journalists on my table remarked that they loved the dish, and why Americans don't really like to eat vegetables is because it is always so bland in the US...steamed, poached, grilled.

We next had a huge crab - the Red House Special Chilli Stewed Crab

This was really good too. Unlike many other chilli crabs in town, the sauce is thick, rich, and also perhaps more tomato based...I can catch the whiff of the tomato fragrance when the dish was put on the table. The crab, being of course fresh, but the chef had good control of the wok, and the crab was perfectly cooked. Marvellous.

We also had black pepper crab

A somewhat smaller crab, but still as perfectly cooked. The sauce was a bit heavy for me, but it was very tasty.

And the Red House Mee Goreng

Very good. Reminded of the mee goreng served at the small hut by Punggol End. The noodles were very well cooked, good blend of spices. Very nice.

Thanks to Cheryl Ho and Amanda Tan at ATE Consulting for the invitation and to Red House for hosting.

Red House Seafood
68 Prinsep Street
Mon to Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; 5pm-11pm
Sat, Sun, PH 11am-3pm; 5pm-11pm

Monday, July 1, 2013

Zhen Zhen Porridge

Today's feature is a very famous congee shop in Maxwell Road market. Long queues almost all the time. When I arrived at about 11:30am, I had to wait in line for more than 45minutes before I was served.

The congee is smooth. Silky smooth. Very light tasting, the chicken bits within was very mild. A generous helping of spring onion, chilli, and deep fried shallots with oil drizzled for good effect.

Accompanied with a nice raw fish dish...fresh fish, sliced like sashimi, but drizzled with oil, some lime, and a generous helping of spring onion, juliened ginger, cut chilli and sesame seeds

Beautiful. A very light tasting and light caloric meal. Very nice. Worth the wait? Maybe, maybe not...your milage will vary.

Zhen Znen Porridge
Maxwell Road Food Centre
Stall 54
5.30am to 2.30pm Closed Tuesdays