Monday, December 30, 2013

Dim Dim - The Hong Kong Pantry at Marina Link

Dim Sum is a classic meal, especially for breakfast and lunch. Most Cantonese restaurants do not serve dim sum all day. One notable exception is Tim Ho Wan, which I featured here recently. And another is Dim Dim.

A curious name indeed, and tucked deep in the bowels of Marina Centre, just beside Esplanade MRT station, this little eatery has been serving interesting dim sum for about a year. I was invited via Nuffnang's Qinxin to come for a tasting.

We started with the nai cha...or iced milk tea.

The Hong Kong styled milk tea is one of the most difficult to replicate outside the territory. For some reason, it is never quite the same. Dim Dim's version is not any different. While it is rather pleasant and nice tasting, it is not quite the same as those one can easily drink at the innumerable cha chan tengs in Hong Kong.

We started the meal with congee

Quite interesting. The congee is nicely sticky, smooth rice gruel. With an interesting touch of nice chunks of cuttlefish within. The usual flour crisps, and roasted peanuts serve as condiments. I found this dish to be very good, and the touch of the cuttlefish very interesting.

The deep fried beancurd was next

Quite good as well. Crispy fried, the bean curd is mild tasting, and yet not greasy at all. The insides are stuffed with prawns and prawn paste.

Ha Gao

Quite standard. The skin was a bit sticky, but very thin and the insides were stuffed with fresh, crunchy prawns.

A bbq pork bun was next

Quite good too, though I think Tim Ho Wan's version is rather more tasty, Dim Dim's version is rather delicious too.

A curious cheong fun was also part of the tasting

This was the only dish I found a bit lacking. Unusual, certainly, as this was a rather fine cheong fun skin wrapped around a crisp yu tiao. I found this a bit strange and not my taste. But other diners who were on the same table felt this was rather good and tasty.

Salted egg yolk custard buns

Again I feel bested in terms of taste and aroma by Tim Ho Wan, but Dim Dim's version is nothing to be sneezed at. The bun was light and fluffy and the custard within smooth, creamy and oozing with aroma and a nice balance of richness, sweet and sour from the salted egg yolk. Quite superb.

And egg tarts

Very competent as well. Ticks all the right boxes for an egg tart. Nice custard. Quite magnificent pastry shell holding it, which is flaky, light and tasty.

Overall, very nice little place, serving good dim sum. For me, not ground breakingly good, but much above average and very acceptable price performance. Recommended.

Dim Dim - The Hong Kong Pantry
#B1-16, Marina Link
336 9088

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Crystal Jade Golden Palace

Chinese New Year tastings have begun...Crystal Jade Golden Palace invited me to a tasting of their very innovative menu for the Year of the Horse.

Chinese New Year celebrations start with the now famous Yu Sheng...a tradition these days and a must have. And to differentiate, chefs have been innovating on the ingredients.

Here we have pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, white sesame and peanuts are added to a salad of fresh vegetables and slices of sweet mango.

Fresh salmon and amberjack fish slices, topped with gold leaf flakes are drizzled with Crystal Jade's special plum sauce and hazelnut oil. The mix is then tossed by the diners, and as each of the ingredients symbolice abundence, wealth and health, the participants get to enjoy the blessing for a great start to the new year.

A very interesting, and special fish is next

The Amadai fish is specially imported from Japan, deep fried to a golden brown and covered all over with crispy shimmering scales. The first time I ate fish scales was in Guy Savoy, a 3 star Michelin restaurant at their main restaurant in Rue Troyon in Paris. Amazingly, Crystal Jade's chefs have recreated a very similar dish...though the French dish was not deep fried and this was, the scales looked and tasted very similar. Very light, crispy, very delicately flavoured. The fish itself is elegant, mild and with shichimi powder...a harmonous blend of chillies, orange peel, peppercorns, sesame seeds, dried ginger and seaweed...the taste is sublime. Very nice. Wonderful mouth feel.

A lobster was next

The Chinese name for lobster is Dragon prawns, and dragons are auspicious to the Chinese. Canadian lobster, which I had once in Vancouver, and explained to me by the restaurant owner as superior to Boston as it is more flavourful, more tender meat, is used. The shellfish is seared with hot oil, and gently simmered in superior stock containing halibut. The chef describes this style as yin yang cooking, and explained that it ensures sweet flavours of luscious, firm, white flesh of the lobster sealed by the scalding, and then infused with the goodness and mildly sweet taste of halibut. Eating the lobster, I would declare he was very successful. Reminiscent of the one I had in Vancouver.

A pork dish was next

Wouldn't be much fun if its just plain old pork served, pan fried, right? And of course that won't be a case for the inspired team at Crystal Jade. Strips of kurobuta pork from Japan, sauteed with 2 different varietals of mushrooms, a tricolor of capsicums, and cordycep flowers. The dish is light, yet bursting and overflowing with flavours. The pork was very tender, and suitably mild, allowing the palate of the mushrooms, capsicum and flowers to highlight the dish. A light, organic raw extra virgin coconut oil permeates with a light, fragrant, and yet very creamy foundation. Very nice.

Having been delighted with the first 3 dishes, the fourth brings the meal to a crescendo

Scallops, seared and braised with sea cucumbers in a superior stock. With two sprigs of sauteed asparagus to provide a bit of colour and extra flavour. The combination rests on a bed of sweet corn, wheat and barley as a substitute for traditional rice as a starch. Beautiful flavours meld together in a very nice symphony.

And finally the sweets...a trio of the familiar, the traditional with a twist and the innovative.

First the innovative, black eyed pea cake, steamed

The traditional with a twist, steamed carrot cake

And the familiar with a twist...CNY glutinous rice cake, steamed

A truly superb meal. Worthy of a consideration for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

Many thanks to Samantha of Crystal Jade and JJ of Pinstripes for hosting and the invitation.

Crystal Jade Golden Palace
5th floor Paragon Shopping Center

Monday, December 23, 2013

Osia Bar and Restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa: Highly Recommended!!

I will come out up front and say it...I love the food at Osia. This bright, airy Resorts World Sentosa eatery has captured my gastronomic imagination like few others in Singapore. Chef Douglas Tay is a genius in creating incredible looking and tasting dishes, and I highly recommend this restaurant.

Having come up with the recommendation up front, I also declare up front, that I have eaten a few times at Osia, and always on invitation of Resort Worlds Sentosa who have hosted the tastings.

And this incredible meal is no different. A huge tasting lunch, with numerous courses. Starting with the Seafood Ice Experience, served in a set of test tubes, with 6 interesting iced creations.

Watermelon raspberry Vinegar, Amabi; Calamari mojito with Hokkaido scallop; Sourz apple with salmon trout; coconut with Maine lobster; pineappple rum with tuna and lychee martini with oyster. I found all the appetizer ices to be very good, but was particularly impressed with the coconut with Maine lobster to be the most outstanding of the flight. Very strong, beautiful coconut flavours and aroma, complemented nicely with the sweet, firm bite of the lobster meat.

Then follows 5 appetizers, starting with the HJokkaido Scallop:

Beautiful hokkaido scallop, citrus cured on a bed of cauliflower cream, black truffle salsa and seaweed vinaigrette. The flavours are marvellous. The scallop sweet, very fresh, and the vinaigrette provided the acidity to cut into the richness of the cauliflower cream. Very nice.

The next was a Fjord trout

the trout is cooked sous vide, a la confit in a 42C water bath. Served with spiced cashews, a pineapple vanilla rum jelly and cilantro butter gell. Again, very beautiful flavours, coming together very well. The trout was mild in taste, but the other ingredients lifted it to quite a nice aural experience.

A soup of Norwegian Prawn

The very fresh prawns, deshelled and cooked in an emulsion, citrus, fennel and dill...the emulsion soup tasted very much like a very good lobster bisque, and the prawns, being very nicely fresh was crunchy and very sweet, with a very nice crustacean flavour.

A beautiful slice of turbot was next

A slice of turbot, with broccoflower, snap peas, cheddar, salted lemon, surf clam volute espuma. Very mild tasting, with a light flavour. Although the list of ingredients in seems rather long, the fish remained very delicately flavoured. Very nice.

And razor clams with Atlantic halibut and Hokkaido scallop

supported by an able cast of black garlic paste, green onion puree, potato foam, Iberian chorizo and artichoke barigoule. I found the scallops to be very intense tasting, bursting with flavours the seafood is famous for...sweet, very nice. The razor clams were also very nice. A superb texture and sweetness. I found the halibut a bit lacking in this company, but still quite nice. Delicious!

Then came the main courses, of which there were 3. Starting with the incredible beef short ribs

Cooked sous vide, a favourite of Chef Douglas, who prefers to use second cuts, as it is less challenging to cook with premier cuts of meat. Topped with a chestnut porcini mousseline, and on a bed of pulverised cider vinegar, compressed apple sauce and black truffle sauce. The meat was certainly very tender....not melt in your mouth tender...Chef Douglas takes issue with that..."beef should not melt in your mouth, it is not butter, but should have texture, and a mouthfeel" which I heartily agree that he has achieved. The short ribs were very flavourful, with powerful beefy flavour, and magnificently complemented by the chestnut paste. Very very good dish.

We also had some grain fed Black Angus beef tenderloin

Again sous vide, then seared before serving on a bed of creamed sunchoke, basil cepe, Aquerello rice, tomato parmesan and a red wine sauce in the small glass by the side. The tenderloin was supremely tender. The cut selected showed the characteristic tenderness, and less flavour than a tougher cut. The rice provided a textural change to the smoothness of the paste and the beef, with a nice crunch.

The marvellous milk fed lamb short loun and brest was next

The dish was served with a Swede carrot puree, Romanesco crumble, garlic cream spelt and Tawny Port jus. I found the lamb breast, shown partly on the left of the photograph to be a bit bland, but centerstage taken by the loin was brilliant. The lamb flavours were apparent, yet very mild, and barely noticable...just enough to remind one that one is eating lamb. Beautiful marbling makes for a very tender piece of meat, Very nice. Very, very nice.

Then came the desserts, the first was a pumpkin

A curious lemon mousse which went surprisingly well with the mango, goat cheese and frozen red wine. Marvellous dessert, but the best is yet to be. The Macadamia souffle was absolutely a brilliant way to cap off a wonderful lunch

Beautiful souffle. Superb! With a chunky praline, banana custard and sour ice cream on the side. One of the better soufles I have eaten for a long time...though, as long time readers will remember that my all time favourite was still the one at Chez Dumonet in Paris.

Truly marvellous cooking. Inspired. The chef, Douglas is a true genius in mixing the various ingredients to make a wonderful meal. Two thumbs up! Highly recommended.

Osia Bar & Restaurant
Resorts World at Sentosa
26 Sentosa Gateway

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lam's Speciality Noodle

Lam's Noodle is an old name in the game of noodles. More than 50 years, and going strong.

As I understand it, they introduced the concept of mini wok noodle in 1995, and was the first to bring abalone to coffee shops. In traditional Chinese cuisine, abalone is considered a very high end ingredient, and normally associated with high end, and high priced restaurants.

Lam's still serve this in their coffeeshop outlet in Race Course Road.

For a princely sum of $6, one gets a huge bowl...the contents almost lost within. A small amount of noodles, but done perfectly al dente. And very nice ingredients...a satay stick with bits of abalone, minced pork, a pork ball, a fish ball and a wonderful piquant sauce, with a fairly powerful chilli. The pork ball is particularly interesting...very springy.

I found the noodle dish thouroughly enjoyable. Only the small noodles slightly disappoint, which can be easily righted by ordering a second helping.

They are also famous for their salt baked chicken

A chicken leg, a rather sizable one, is wrapped in a paper jacket and baked in a salt oven. The result, very tender chicken, almost sous vide tender, but with a nice brown crust which is crispy and mildly salty. Very delicious.

Highly recommended. The noodle is superb, as is the salt baked chicken. They do have other dishes, but not tried yet. I also tred the outlet at Marina Square, the noodles seem somewhat different, and for me, less enjoyable.

Lam's@Race Course
460 Race Course Road
6398 1154

Monday, December 16, 2013

Markets of Jakarta

They say a market is often the soul of a city. The famous fruit and vegetable markets in Paris, the wonderful Tsukiji market in Tokyo, and many others. But Jakarta has perhaps hundreds of markets, and I was told most are very similar to the other.

Continuing on my visit to Jakarta coutesy of Jakarta Tourism Board as invited by Russell Cheong of Winsemius, I went to a morning market. Amongst the many cakes and kuih on sale, it was also a popular place for breakfast.

But before food, an iconic drink I only managed to find in Indonesia. Teh Botol.

Interesting that a sweetened, black tea can be commercialized to such an extent. The teh botol, or literally translated as simply bottle tea, is quite a nice tasting tea, and a must try in Indonesia.

The stalls at the market seem to be makeshift carts. I do not see a bicycle contraption attached to the cart or any means of moving them other than by pushing the cart. But this is a throwback to the years before hawker centers in Singapore, when hawkers literally ply the steets.

Mee Bakso is a popular meal in Jakarta. Be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea breaks, and even supper.

The noodles are a bit like wanton noodles, but less springy, softer, more tender consistency. The diced chicken, and chicken ball, and wanton is quite interesting as well...not at all refined, but a robust, hardy kind of taste, which is satisfying.

Another standard breakfast fare is the Soto Ayam

Eaten with keropok...prawn crackers, and rice, this is a kind of savoury soup made with chicken.

Similar to the mee soto or soto ayam we have here in Singapore, but perhaps a bit more rustic and emphasis on base flavours, it is nonetheless very good. The deep fried shallots providing a wonderful aromatic touch. Must try in many places around town.

Another standard local breakfast item is bubur ayam...or chicken rice porridge. I did not try that, so apologies, no pics.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Skyve Wine Bistro

Skyve, a bistro and wine bar in the former tuckshop of the former Monk's Hill School. Playing on the school theme, the menu is superbly creative, a good read, with lots of inferences to being a naughty kid in school.

The restaurant underwent a facelift, and now with a new chef, the menu is revised. The new chef has a preference for cooking sous vide style, so we can expect beautiful soft, tender, flavourful meals.

I was recently invited for a tasting there. Many thanks to Kelly at Food News for hosting.

We started with a trio of oysters...three different oysters, served in 3 different styles.

The oysters were Mentaiyaki oysters - with mentaiko, ebiko, lime juice and airoli; Chilian oysters - with serrano, lime juice, red wine vinegar and cilantro; and Kilpatrick oysters - with lardon of bacon, worchestershire and chive. I found the Kilpatrick most suited to my, plump. Very satisfying.

A beef tartare was next

Truffle egg yolk, cooked sous vide, cilantro, flat bread, ancho chilli aioli and thyme sea salt accompanies the tartare. The steak itself is chopped beef, with spices. With the egg mixed in, it is rather rich tasting.

Seared petuna

Looking a bit like salmon, I understand the petuna fish to be an ocean trout...hence a kind of salmon. The pink meat is slightly flaky...cooked perfectly sous very tender, moist, full flavoured, and then crisped on a skillet to achieve a crisp crust. Served with ebiko, mango, chilli, sesame yuzu dressing, cold somen and mesclun.

We also had the Sous Vide Poulet

The chicken leg was extremely tender, moist meat. Very nice. And the skin very crisp. With the glazed apricot, baby vegetables, candied pecans and pommes puree, makes a nice main course.

Short ribs were next

Again the beef short ribs were cooked sous vide, then a spicy Kalbi glaze is applied, Served with sauteed brocollini and crispy rood vegetables. The beef was tender, very good beefy flavours. The glaze gave ample support by perking it up slightly with a spicy kick. Nice.

We also tried the polanta mushroom stack

The polanta cake is intended to be crispy, but I found the first disappointment for the evening as the polanta was a bit greasy, and soggy. Served with a mushroom fricasse, grilled portabello which was superb, and vegetables.

And desserts were served..

A deconstructed snicker bar...home made with salted caramel pudding, peanut butter, chocholate ganache, feuilletine, flambe bananas and vanilla gelato. I found the choc to be very rich, very satisfying.

And a second dessert...

A mango and cheese semifredo, fippled frozen mousse, frozen lime foam and sable cookies.

Overall, the restaurant is very beautiful, service was prompt and courteous. And I spied many a table out for a romantic evening. The food is good, but I did not find anything perhaps more fitting of a nice neighbourhood local restaurant than one for special occassions.

Thumbs up.

Skyve Wine Bistro
10 Winstedt Rd, Singapore 227977
6225 6690

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tim Ho Wan: Michelin Star worth the accolade?

Tim Ho Wan, a Hong Kong eatery doing dim sum gain notoriety when it won a Michelin star in the Hong Kong Michelin Guide. This was because it lays claim not only to the coverted star, but also to the fact that it is cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.

When the first branch opened in Plaza Singapura, it gained further notoriety due to the amazingly long queues that form just to get a seat. The restaurant practices a no reservations policy, so patrons must stand in line, often for up to more than an hour. A second outlet opened at Toa Payoh, but pretty soon, the queues also start to form. I normally would avoid having to queue, but for this, I made an exception, as the family wanted to try. About 25minutes later, we got in. The restaurant had a very Hong Kong feel...a bit cramped, a bit hurried. But all part of the fun.

The menu recommended the Four Heavenly Kings...comprising of the following...first the vermicellin roll with char siew and prawns.

Nice. The soy sauce was a bit on the salty side, a tinge of saltiness which permeates the taste. The char siew was good, also a touch heavy in salt. Nice, well rounded taste.

Second amongst the heavenly kings is the pan fried carrot cake

Lightly crisp with nice lightly burnt edges and sides. The insides were soft, very moist and starchy with a beautiful filling of radish with bits of chnese sausage. Very nice.

The steamed egg cake is the third...

Another interesting cake. Light, beautifully steamed. With a very fragrant gula melaka and coconut flavours. The texture is very soft, but with a consistently that makes it a bit springy. Nice too. Not very sweet.

And finally their piece de resistance, the baked bbq pork buns

A crisp, cracking like, sugary skin covers the upper part of a soft, moist bun, breaking open to a nice char siew inside.

Quite special. Each order comes on a plate of 3 paus. And one diner is only allowed one plate each. The restaurant does not offer take aways, but with this allowance, diners are allowed to pack what they cannot finish, and most tables order the max, so that they can take away the remainder. So did we, but when cold, the marvellous crispiness of the covering sugary stuff is softened, taking away from the nice experience of biting into the bun.

We had the usual har kau

Rather standard...though measured with a very tough yardstick. The skin was thin, almost transluscent. The prawn filling fresh, crunchy.

The preserved egg with lean meat porridge

Quite regular Cantonese congee, very smooth porridge, with fragrant and nice preserved egg and lean meat. Good...very good and in line with that of a highly regarded restaurant.

A pork chang was also tried...

wrapped in a lotus leaf, with glutinous rice, pork, egg yolk, chinese sausages. Very good.

A bean curd roll was also ordered..

Like most of the other dishes, a tad saltish, but this forms a nice base for the taste. The bean curd skin is very nice, with great consistency, and the fillings were prawn in a prawn/pork paste.

And finally a dessert...osmentus jelly

Also very nice, lightly sweet, with a wonderful aroma. Nice.

Overall, Tim Ho Wan was nice. The food very good. I am not sure if it is special enough to deserve a Michelin star or the long queues, but very good.

Tim Ho Wan
ERA Centre, 450 Toa Payoh Lorong 6,
#02-02, Singapore 319394
+65-6483-2000 (no, they do not accept reservations)

Photonote: Still continuing on the series with photographs taken with the Iphone 5s. This time, using the Apple's Photo Stream to automatically resize the photographs to smaller ones. I am rather satisfied with the sharpness and crispness of the photographs. The AWB is also quite good, only a very small amount of adjustment is sufficient. The only small nitpick is the depth of field is rather large, so to do selective focussing with nice bokeh is not possible. This is due to the small sensor size.