Monday, April 28, 2014

Na Na Curry: return of the king?

Nostalgia foods have a certain attraction...especially when its gone!

For years, we used to eat at and love the pork rib curry by Nana Curry at Marina South Food Centre...then they disappeared, only to kind of appear again at the Amara Food Court...I am not sure if its the same folks, as the taste, though very good, did not seem quite right to me. Then they too disappeared, when Amara went on their renovations. The new Amara, now smartly called AM100 is open, and behold, Nana Curry is now a little restaurant within. No GST, no service daily except Sunday lunch. Interesting. And throw in a few other cze char dishes for good measure.

But our first love from them is their pork rib curry, and that's what we went back to try, twice, to ensure that they are consistent. I am happy to report that the old Nana is back. Either that, or over the years, our tastebud memories have evolved, and the curry now served by Nana is the new good.

But excellent it is.

The gravy is thick, but not too thick...just the right consistency to be slurp-able...quite shiok to drink...spicy but not tongue numbingly so. Very nice, and now served in a stainless steel bowl with a flame below to keep the curry hot and boiling over.

For a regular 1 pax serving, 4 pork ribs, each about 2.5 inches in length are served...with half a small potato...quite sufficient. I prefer to eat the curry with rice, and they do serve a dry, fragrant rice which is perfect.

I can detect the pork rib is probably frozen, but the curry more than makes up for it. I suspect it is made with fresh spices, and fresh coconut milk, to taste so wonderfully savoury, so fragrant, with the kick of the chilli and spice. Very good, and addictive.

So now they are back, and as I said to Kin on our first visit...this is "crave-able" curry...and indeed it was, within a week, we revisited...and yes, it is still as good.

Highly recommended.

Na Na Curry
100, Tras Street, #03-14

Monday, April 21, 2014

Star Yong Kwang Seafood

Some Cze Char hawkers gain a notoriety because the food they cook is amazingly good. Sin Huat in Geylang is one of them. And I am begining to think so is Star Yong Kwang.

I understand this cze char stall has been around for a long time. And now being run by second generation, possibly third generation of the original founders. The stall occupies some 4 stalls at one corner of the Alexandra Food Centre. Orange T-shirted assistants hang around the stall, and they are rather ruthlessly efficient, unceremoniously plonking down the plate ordered, and demanding payment when the last of the dishes is served, even when one is in the middle of eating...a practice I find to be rude. They should either collect up front, or after one has had the chance to enjoy one's meal. Sigh, but we do put up with these kind of hawkers, especially if the food is good.

So is the food good? Well, kinda. The sambal sting ray, is rather superlative.

The fish is very fresh, beautifully barbecued, with a touch of charring on the thinner parts of the fish, and a light crisp finish to the skin, while the thick flesh of the stingray is wonderfully moist and tender. But the star is not the fish, but the fantastically hot and tasty chilli sauce which smothers the fish. And the slice of lime with cliced onions accompanies the dish perfectly.

I find this sambal stingray to be quite exceptional. And certainly one of the best I have eaten.

The sambal kangkong was also quite excellent, the cook exhibiting mastry of the control of his fire and wok.

However, the hae cho was pittiful

Even with a cursory inspection, the lightness of the tone of the hae cho was suspect. It did have a crisp skin though. The insides were a bit hard...I hesitate to say tough, because it is not, but neither is it soft, tender nor juicy. The pork within was packed tightly. Tastewise it was nothing to talk about. Not good.

I saw many people ordering the salted egg yolk pork ribs, perhaps that's for another day. As there were only 2 of us for this dinner, we could not have ordered any more. The sambal stingray is certainly worth it, as was the sambal kangkong. But avoid the hae cho. For only the stingray, I highly recommend it.

Star Yong Kwang Seafood
Alexandra Village Food Centre
120 Bukit Merah Lane 1

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hippotamus revamps menu with premium beef offerngs.

Steaks have a certain primeval attraction. A thick, juicy, steak always make a wonderful meal. Recently, the French chain Hippotamus, which has been around in Singapore for some 3 years revamped their menu, now carrying premium beef.

I was invited for a tasting of the new menu. Many thanks to Cheryl of Touch PR & Events for the invitation and to Andrew of ABR for hosting.

As a regular media tasting lunch, there was lots of food...lots. We started with a prawn, tomato and guacamole appetizer:

Quite interesting. The two prawns were very fresh, nice, crunchy, sweet. The tomato and guacamole provided a nice rounding to the taste of the prawns. Quite nice.

We next tried a French styled comfort food...a poached egg with red wine

I found this to be quite superb. The egg was wonderfully done...the white was just cooked, and the yolk still a bit runny within. The tangy wine sauce provides a nice counterpoint to the richness of the yolk. And two strips of crispy bacon makes this a very nice savoury treat.

A French Onion soup was next

Very typical in France, nice, rich, sweet almost caramalized onions in a thick savoury broth, and served gratinéed with croutons and cheese. The cheese was nice and crusty, nice flavours.

We also sampled the beef bone marrow

Quite typical bone marrow. Fat, rich, and taste quite nice with a pinch of sea salt.

Then on to the main events..we started with the gourmet burger

The burger is served on a freshly toasted ciabatta bun. Hand chopped beef patty, caramalized onion, and the usual tomato. Not as good as &Made, but quite nice. The best part of the burger was it was completely non greasy.

And the beef cuts came...first two different cuts of wagyu, both which are secondary cuts. Often graded prime cuts of wagyu is too rich and fat for a full steak. I always find a cut of A5 wagyu to be overly rich. So it was interesting to serve secondary cuts, which in a regular USDA Prime beef would be used for braising or slow cooking. But perhaps, as wagyu is so much more tender in the first place, these secondary cuts, if cooked properly may be nice, tender and still remain flavourfull.

The wagyu flank steak

The wagyu is Australian sourced. And as apparent in the photograph, have little marbling. But the meat was tender, juicy and very flavourful. Very nice. But the hangar cut was better!

The French call this the onglet, it is derived from the diaphragm of the cattle. And if highly textured, muscular, as can be seen in the photograph above. The meat was very tender, juicy despite the lack of marbling. And though it was grilled in a gas oven, there was no flame taste, and the browned maillared parts were superbly aromatic and wasalmost crusty, crisp. Very nice indeeed.

We also tried the bone in sirloin...this was not a wagyu cut.

Normally sirloin is not served bone-in. But the bone allows a certain flavour to linger on the meat. This is like a T-bone with the tenderloin part taken out. I foudn this to be quite nice. Good texture, tenderness and taste. As can be noted in the photograph, the meat is quite a bit more marbled and fatter than the wagyus.

For desserts, a curious deconstructed strawberry cheesecake

From bottom up, cookie crumble, cream cheese topped with fresh strawberries. Quite good, and interesting presentation to hold the deconstructed cake.

But I preferred the French Toast Nutella

A thick slice of sweetish Japanese bread, coated with egg, fried, and still quite moist and un-greasy, drizzled with Nuteella and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Loved this.

Overall, I was impressed with the food being served. I had eaten at the restaurant once or twice before, while those visits were not bad, the experience and food was rather average, and not memorable. I even tried the outlet in Paris at Boulevard de Cappucines. But this tasting, especially the hangar steak left an indelible impression on me. A very positive one. So I am now putting Hippotamus Singapore on the Recommended list.

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill
6 Raffles Blvd, Singapore 039594

Monday, April 14, 2014

Menya Musashi

On of my favourite foods is ramen. I just love it. And ramen does travel well...Singapore versions of famous ramen from Japan tend to be almost as good.

Today's review is on such very famous shop in Shinjuku, which I had the pleasure of sampling once. Named after famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, this shop has turned into a chain store in Singapore, with some 8 outlets.

Each boasting of their own noodles. Interesting. As was Musashi-san himself...whose story is incredible, and the subject of numerous entertaining tales on samurai lore. He is also the hero featured in many of the patches in the Japanese celebrated raw denim jeans maker: Samurai.

But I digress...back to the ramen. We ate this meal at the Star Vista outlet, so it was thick square shaped noodle with Tokyo-Ueno style soup with chicken and pork. Very interesting.

First off, white charsiu ramen

The broth was thick, almost collagen like in texture, very flavourful...almost bursting with pork bones and chicken. Very nice, albeit a bit too salty and perhaps a touch too fat. The ramen itself was cooked very nicely, and the thick noodle was good at picking up the broth, allowing it to coat every strand for good flavour. The egg within was cooked perhaps a touch over...both yolk and white are cooked through, but still tasty. Very nice.

We also had the red charsiu ramen

Although the colour of the broth was significantly different, interestingly the taste seemed to be very similar. I really could not tell much difference, perhaps the red was a bit more spicy, but only slight.

The unusual ramen was the Akiba curry ramen, which is famous in the Shinjuku outlet

This one was as different as the first two were similar. The broth was thicker, with a mild curry flavour. This was not as sweet as traditional Japanese curry, nor as spicy as Indian or others. But a nice pork bone flavour still underwrote the entire palate. Again slightly salty. The thin shreds of pork added provided a nice texture, and additional flavour. The egg this time was whole, and perfect - the whites were a jelly like consistency, and the yolk slightly runny. Very nice. Every slurp of the broth made me want more. Interesting and very addictive.

Each of the ramens were a set, with accompanying side dishes, we had the octopus, gyoza and fried chicken.

Suffice to say, they neither outshone the ramens, or were not able companions.

Overall, the ramens were delicious. I love the curry ramen, and will be back for more. And also to try the Tsukemen ramen as well as the black ramen. Recommended.

Menya Musashi
1 Vista Exchange Green
6694 2515

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Comfort food: Cze Char by Kok Sen of the traditional Cantonese eateries?

More comfort food, as I am still withdrawing from the overload of very good European, the quintessential Singaporean table, with Cze Char, also variously spelled Zi Char, Tzu Chao...etc.

Kok Sen, the subject of today's review is an old stalward of the craft of the ferocious fire, and the wok. Food is typically Cantonese styled, and indeed very of the best in the trade.

We begin with the less to speak...yee mee with fish slices

Slightly less successful than the other dishes which I will introduce in a moment...but throughly enjoyable still. The yee mee is a bit bland. The fish was nice and fresh, and the gravy also a bit on the mild side. But this slight disappointment was completely overwhelmed by the black bean beef hor fun, which was next:

Redemption indeed. Bursting with flavours, deep dark...very tasty. The wok hei was powerful, charring parts of the hor fun and the vegetables, but yet the beef remained tender...juicy and very very nice.

The yong taufu was also superb

The gravy was rich, and very tasty, the yong taufu itself was home made, fresh, and very flavourful...superb with just plain steamed rice.

The standard cze char dishes are also done nicely, the hae cho

Nice and non greasy, great flavours. Crispy outside due to the deep frying and crispy bits of water chestnuts within which are fresh and almost raw. The prawn paste stuffing was perfectly cooked, and the flavour of the prawn was evident and very nice. Proof that the cook has great control over his fire.

As was the har cheong kai

Beautifully fried, the seasoning was nice too. Though in the case of the HCK, not the best I have eaten.

We also tried the sambal fish, which was also superb

The fresh fish slices deep fried till crispy outside but still very nice and juicy within, coated with a wonderful aromatic, piquant sambal sauce.

And the obligatory vegetables, spinach in a soup of 3 kinds of egg

Quite standard as was the sambal kangkong we ordered.

Overall, an excellent place for great tasting meal. The place is rather crowded during lunch time, but this kind of restaurant is not for lounging around to enjoy the ambience. But purely for the great tasting food. Service was swift, efficient, and polite, but not pampering. Highly recommended.

Kok Sen Restaurant
30B Keong Saik Road
Daily: 11:30 - 22:30

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy Fish

Comfort food is on my mind, as I return from a week of feasting during dinners in Basel while attending BaselWorld 2014.

While the dinners at wonderful restaurants like Le Cheval Blanc at Trois Rois Hotel in Basel are very good, I long for comfort food. On landing, the first meal back home in Singapore I headed to one of my little secrets for comfort food, which I share with you now.

A little stall in a Food Court is often no indicator on how good the food is, and many...myself included, often overlook these stalls.

I just love the fried fish with curry noodles.

The fish is very fresh, nicely seasoned...lightly. And the batter nice and light, deep fried till very crisp. The curry was marvellous. Wonderful aroma, beautiful flavours, reminiscent of the Indian curries I used to eat as a child. The curry was not overly rich with coconut milk, in fact I guess there is probably none. Not overly spicy. Just nice.

Another of my favourites in the stall is their deep fried garoupa in a sweet sour sauce.

The fish, was as usual superbly fresh. The batter again very light. The fish deep fried to perfection, crispy on the outside, and very nice and juicy, tender meat. The sauce was also superb...just the right amount of sweet and sour, and tinge of heat from the chilli. This stands almost equal to the specialist sweet sour fishes served by top restaurants. Very good indeed.

In fact, almost all the fish dishes and seafood dishes are excellent at this stall. The seafood ee foo mien in a claypot is also superb.

One of my favourites when it comes to comfort food. Very reasonable prices. Highly recommended.

Happy Fish Stall
Koufu, Basement 1, The Anchorage..