Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Fish Ball Noodle crew at Tanjong Pagar Market

I'm a regular here. They know my usual lunch routine: a piping hot tasty bowl of fishball rice noodle soup with bean sprouts, scallions, ground pork, and little bits of deep fried lard and shallots for extra flavor - all for only S$2.20 (US$1.40)! I've gotten sick of most hawker food already, but this is one thing that I'll still eat. Light and refreshing - a nice break from the office.

Of course, S$2.20 doesn't get you very far - I get hungry within a few hours, but that's just when I go back for my afternoon snack.

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One interesting thing about Singapore is that you have to explicitly ask for a plastic takeaway tub (which they charge extra for, I might add) - if not, then they will put it in a plastic baggie, which makes for some really awkward situations (I once made the mistake of getting it in a bag, and was told later that it looked like I was drinking out of a urine pouch).

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And for the record, "fish balls" are not fish "balls" (i.e., how do you get their legs open? ha ha). Fish balls are meatballs but with fishmeat instead. It creates a bit of a stinkier fish taste, so it's not my ideal (I'm sure my office neighbors love me for that stank), but it's a simple light taste overall, which is sometimes all that I want.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Erich's Wuerstelstand off Smith Street


Cool. I read about this guy for years- some Austrian dude who set up a wiener stand off Smith Street, where is surrounded by hawkers in Chinatown, sticking out like a sore thumb. But mmm, are his sausages good! Just the right crispness of the skin, the right amount of grilling, and (in the case of a cheese weiner), a nice creamy cheese filling. I eagerly await my next visit to his stand, when I hope to get kraut and a pretzel too.

Just beware - he's not open for lunch, so don't make the same mistake as I made, trying to head down there in office attire sweating in the searing heat only to find out that he was closed - and not having any other choice but Chinese food, being smack in the middle of Chinatown (when I really wanted German sausages instead).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Chong Qing Di Yi Jia Lao Huo Guo (Hot Pot)

Hot Pot

After having mainland-style hot pot at places like House of Mao's Hot Pot and The Magic of Chongqing Hot Pot, I tended to veer away from these mainland places (preferring instead to save my hot pot adventures for Taipei). But this place on Smith Street intrigued me though as it was run by true mainlanders (they are from the Sichuan province). Even though I knew that meant that it was still going to be quite different from Taipei (especially with that nasty peanut sauce), I was curious.

And indeed, I was impressed. The flavor, although definitely mainland-ish (lots of peppercorn and peppers floating in the broth, etc.), was pretty good. Actually, the trick that made this much better than those other guys was a couple special requests that I had made, and fortunately they were happy to accomodate: sa cha sauce, a raw egg, and sliced beef/lamb, which were not openly available unless you asked for them. In fact, the touter was overly eager to get us inside, and I only agreed when she said she had sa cha sauce in the back. She brought it out, and it was clearly made in the mainland, so it still had less taste than the Taiwan variety, but it was still decent. Mix a raw egg in there, throw some sliced beef in the pot, and I was good to go!

Now, granted, the S$20 entrance fee doesn't exactly get you top-quality ingredients. The beef was clearly very poor quality (far from tender!). But the sa cha sauce and raw egg made up for it. And they had the usual dumplings, cabbage, frozen tofu, tofu skin, etc. All you can drink fake orange-flavored drink from powder too (like Tang- my favorite!). Cool. Interestingly, the proprietor said she hated that sa cha sauce because it is too sweet - but it isn't sweet at all (I was worried she was thinking satay peanut sauce). Hmm...

Speaking of the proprietor, she was definitely talkative and eager to please (cue Monty Python: "they're always willing and they're ready to please!"). They are open until 1AM, and she said that if it looks like I will be coming in close to 1AM, then I can call her in advance and she'll stay open later. I'm sure I'll exploit that opportunity one of these days.

In fact, I ate so much that when I was rubbing my belly on the street afterwards, one of the hawker vendors told me that my belly was so round that it looked like these giant pomelo fruits below. Ha ha.


Belly fruit

Homemade caipirinhas

Homemade caipirinhas

Ahh...after those nasty caipirinhas at Mamma Lucia the other day, its refreshing to make them yourself: the right way. (There is admittedly probably some degree of narcissism here, especially considering that I've never even been to Brazil before.) Thankfully I had a big bottle of cachaca and some big limes lying around.

Le Viet at Siglap

Le Viet at Siglap

The broth here is a bit too heavy-tasting for my taste (and slightly artificial - I suspect they use some MSG-based cubes to help), and the bowl is pretty small. I still prefer the lighter, more delicate and natural taste of Pho Hoa. The fresh rolls were fresher than Pho Hoa's though (Pho Hoa's rolls suck - like they had been sitting around for a few days).

This actually used to be the same shop that was outside Far East Plaza, which has now closed, so the only one is this Siglap one. (I wonder if any kids pour chili sauce in the open guppy tank by the tables at this location.)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mamma Lucia Churrascaria

Mama Lucia charrascaria

Wow - this was pretty darned good (especially considering it is run by the Mamma Lucia Italian restaurant next door). This place has more selection and better meat quality (tasty, tender, fatty) than what I've experienced at its competitor on 6th Avenue. Great sides add to this too (olive oil and garlic infused rice, steamed mussels that were surprisingly fresh, etc). Even the pineapple was good: hot, toasty, and sweet. I'm definitely coming here again. The only gripes I have about Mamma Lucia are the lack of black beans (I think it's called feijoada? - I like 6th Ave's version), and surprisingly, the terrible caipirinhas (I actually caught them cheating by pouring some locally bottled lime juice in! Yuck!).

I haven't tried Carnivore yet, but I hope to soon. The Mamma Lucia owner says that the reason why theirs tastes so good is because the meat is all imported from the Americas. This place definitely beats some of the churrascarias that I've been to in California (which, isn't exactly known for good churrascarias, I admit). But it's still not as good as Barbacoa in Tokyo (they apparently only have two locations: Sao Paulo and Tokyo), where they had this amazing cheese as part of the rodizio: lightly crispy on the outside, melted on the inside...mmmm!

If you can't get to Barbacoa, then I definitely recommend Mamma Lucia. Then again, I've never been to Brazil to verify the real deal before, but I can say this tastes good from a "meat on a fire" standpoint. And to my credit, there was a big table in the back of the restaurant tonight that was filled with Brazilians, on the assumption that they wouldn't eat anything less than authentic.

Ramen Ramen at Rail Mall

Ramen Ramen at Rail Mall

Don't judge a book by its cover. That's the lesson learned here. Partially, anyway.

My first impression wasn't good. Judging by the outside, the menu, the service, and the food on other tables, I was thinking that I shouldn't have come (it looked eerily like that nasty Ajisen Ramen). But I was recommended the chizu ramen, and it did turn out pretty good. The broth was rich and tasty, and the noodles had a good texture. The cheese was especially tasty. Wow - that was unexpected. And they actually had Asahi Super "DRY" beer.

Unfortunately, that's where the goodness ended. Just to be sure of the measure of the restaurant, I ordered the yakitori. As expected, the kitchen failed miserably with big chunks of meat and leek that had obviously seen younger days. Would I come back? Yeah, probably - for the chizu ramen. But I'd stay away from the other menu items.

Apparently this place was started by some guy who spent time in Japan and wants to "ramenize" Singapore. Too bad this restaurant is way out there - a bit too far for me when the cab fare costs more than the bowl.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Miharu ramen (again): Before...and after!

Before...


...and after

Miharu again. Koumi tsukemen. Yum.

Pasta at the Coffee Bean??



Yes, they've expanded beyond just pastries and cake. They now have pasta too. I asked them how they prepare it (considering there isn't exactly a kitchen at the Coffee Bean kiosk in our office), and they said they basically just heat it up with hot water and mix it up.

It didn't sound great, but I tried it just to save some time, and it actually wasn't too bad. An excess of pepper and garlic probably covered up any compromises in ingredient freshness, but it was definitely very edible. I won't mind going there again.

On a side note, it was very interesting to see Coffee Bean stores in Taiwan and Singapore a number of years ago. Prior to that, I thought Coffee Beans were only a couple small mom-and-pop shops back in Westwood Village.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kublai Khan Mongolian BBQ

Kublai Khan Mongolian BBQ

One of the things I miss about California is the Mongolian BBQ, so I remembered looking up "Mongolian BBQ" in the Singapore phone book not long after I arrived. I found this place in Park Mall, but never had the chance to go there. After some time, I had the unfortunate opportunity of going to Seoul Garden (which is probably the most disgusting and furthest thing from Korean food that you can get), and it left the impression that this place could be just as nasty. So I never really went to this place.

Tonight, for some reason, I wanted to challenge my instincts, and hoped that this place actually would be good (and not another Seoul Garden). And guess what? This place really does have the big Mongolian platter thing where the chef circles it as he cooks your self-picked bowl of raw ingredients (and the sauce poured on top of course). So I got really excited. After getting my bowl, I sat down and hoped the food would still stand up to expectations, and it was actually pretty good and true to taste. (Although or some reason, there were no noodles nor chili oil available, but it was still decent.) Wow.

But then it went downhill from there. I veered off the Mongolian path and went for their buffet - yuck. I know better than to eat at a buffet. That was horrible (yuck on the pastry-covered mushroom soup with the sweet taste - bleah!). To make things scarier, there was a sign next to the sushi bar saying "If you have a weak stomach, please put lemon wedge or Tabasco sauce before you consume oysters or sashimi." Bad sign?? Guess who stayed away from that.

Disappointed, I went back to the Mongolian BBQ spread, making a bowl that I knew would be OK as I had tried it already. But I was getting pretty full by then, and at that point, I realized I didn't want to eat here again. It really just wasn't as tasty as California (the lack of chili oil being a huge factor). In fact, the only reason it tasted good at the beginning was because my expectations were crap to begin with.

My advice? If you have to satiate cravings for Mongolian BBQ, then go here and stick only to the Mongolian BBQ. Or better, go to California and get a tastier bowl there. (Hey, I wonder what real Mongolian food is like in Mongolia??)

For me, it's not likely that I'll be returning to this place. Darn it, I know better than to eat at a buffet.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Shunjuu at Robertson Quay

An utter disappointment. After wanting to come here for quite some time, the yakitori just does not compare to Nanbantei at Far East Plaza. And the place is just as expensive too.

It was too salty, undercooked, and the ochazuke had a very annoyingly sweet aftertaste.

Yuck. No repeat visit here. Go to Nanbantei. Still the best.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Miharu at Gallery Evason

Here's a new ramen shop that is apparently part of a larger chain in Japan. They import Sapporo Nishiyama brand noodles, which are decently nice with just the right flavor and tenderness.

The tokusen ton-shio broth wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either (Noodle Shop Ken is better). If you don't like the broth, try the koumi tsuke-men cold noodles. The hot "fragrant soup" is quite tasty for dipping.

Too bad they aren't open very late (last orders at 8:45). And they only have S&B teberu kosho, not Gaban Fresh Crop Spice.

Yoshinoya Singapore

Ah...Yoshinoya (or half-affectionately, half-derogatorily known as simply "beef bowl" back home). It doesn't exactly sound appetizing (especially if your only experience with Yoshinoya is the suspiciously bright-colored gooey vegetables that come with the chicken bowl), but it is quite tasty and addictive if you stick to the original beef bowl. It's a tastily brewed quick snack (I inhaled this in less than five minutes).

The Singapore stores get the "outside-of-Japan" menu (just like in the US), which means no natto, nama tamago, or yaki sakana. Nor is it open 24 hours. Instead they have some unappealing Anglicized chicken and ebi fry combos. (For a while, I would just take the beef bowl home just so that I could put natto and egg on it). Well, stick to the beef like the purist in you wants, and you will be OK.

BTW, I think the Singapore stores are using Australian beef now in light of the ban on US beef (mad cow scare). It's interesting that they arent as rigid as their Japan counterparts in adamantly sticking to the praises of US beef. Although I cant really taste the difference, I hope the ban (in both Singapore and Japan) is lifted soon.

First Choice "Lemon Juice"

It's rare to find lemonade in Singapore, so I got excited when I saw this freshly-squeezed "Lemon Juice" (I checked the ingredients list to make sure that they really meant lemonade, not pure lemon juice).

But this sucked. They used fructose instead of real sugar and it tastes horrendously artificial. It certainly doesn't compare to Hot Dog on a Stick in California (gotta love the employees in those ridiculous outfits pumping up and down on that lemon-mashing shaft in the bucket).

Well, this isn't all for naught. I found a nice way to drink this crap by mixing it with soda water (in the background of the photo), thus making what the Vietnamese call soda chanh. Mmm...it actually works well.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bobby Rubino's ribs

Bobby Rubino's ribs

These guys feature decently good ribs (considering that it's in Singapore), although they are a bit too tender for my taste (I actually prefer that they don't fall off the bone automatically). Still, they were not bad.

Don't get the buffalo wings though. They have a horrendous sweet tinge to them. Its unfortunate since they would otherwise be good if it weren't for the sweetness. Spicy and greasy.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice

Ah - chicken rice - the signature dish of Singapore. I used to eat this stuff as much as 2X a day when I first moved to Singapore because of how much I loved it. I don't eat it as much anymore, but it is one of the few local hawker dishes that I have not gotten sick of (that and bak kut teh).

Anyway, I'm glad there is a pretty darned good chicken rice guy nearby. His chicken is cooked just right, the rice is rich and moist, and he provides a generous portion of scallions - better than most of the "famous" Chicken Rice guys in Singapore. (And he doesn't drown it in some lame sweet sauce, either.)

Plus, I hate how Chinese cuisine requires hacking bones in half, ruining your experience with the little crunchy inedible scatterings of bone fragment and marrow all over the chicken (it's allegedly for the tastier dark meat). Me, I like this guy because he gives me a nice clean filet of breast meat that I can inhale right on down without any worry of those ridiculous bones interfering with the eating enjoyment.

The only drawback of Chicken Rice is the instant Dragon-Breath that results from the raw garlic in the chili sauce. I've learned to keep a toothbrush in the office to combat that, and I try to avoid the chili sauce now too (loading up on the ginger instead). But that's still not a solution since the raw scallions are there too (plus the chili sauce is so good that it's hard to avoid).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Teochew Porridge on Old Havelock Road

Teochew Porridge

I used to think this was the most disgusting thing in the world, especially when it was served in Taiwan late at night - bland rice porridge with nasty sides. But a friend once took me to this place late at night once and it changed my opinion completely. This place has nice greasy add-ons that make this bland porridge an actual grease bomb.

It's sludge, I know (and not the healthiest, prettiest, nor freshest sh*t in the world), but damn, is it tasty as the grease and porridge coat your stomach. I would never eat those nasty lukewarm sides on their own, but for some reason, when you put it together with the porridge, it comes together like magic. Yum...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Shayray in Holland V

Shayray in Holland V

I'm not a big fan of South Indian food, so I was told that I might like Shayray, a North Indian / Punjab / Pakistani place in Holland V, which apparently has been in business there for a long time.

I don't know why, but for some reason the kebabs at Shayray were excessively tender - so much that it seemed a bit disturbing (as if they were artificially tender or were not fresh or something). The taste wasn't bad, but the kebabs definitely weren't as good as Bukhara (the above-cited tenderness being the main reason - I'd prefer more of that fire-roasted texture). The vindaloo was edible, albeit sweeter and less spicy than I have had at other places. (Then again, I probably shouldn't order vindaloo at a place like this.)

Still, the food was pretty tasty, and I would not be opposed to returning. But I do hope that Bukhara opens again soon.

Rotiboy

WOW - this one was a surprise. I normally am not a huge fan of sweets or bread, but WOW - this ROCKED. The best part was biting into the middle where the huge chunk of butter was sitting. Oh man, that was good.

I'm told this is a shop that started in Malaysia and is now slowly available in Singapore. And this is from a guy who normally doesn't like Malaysian food too much...with the possible exception of Ramly burgers. Actually, Rotiboy has the same element of Ramly burger that I am inevitably drawn to: a huge wad of grease dominating the taste (gotta love how that grease just oozes out onto the brown paper bag - ha ha). Yum. I'm definitely gonna be a repeat visitor of this one.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mayo Fish??

Mayo Fish??

Something about this name is irritatingly disturbing to me.

Still, I gave in to curiosity and bought one (against my better judgment). It tasted like all those other bread shops in Asia - with a strange sweetness to the bread. This chain, Sun Moulin, appears to be a substore in Isetan supermarkets in Malaysia and Singapore.

I don't think I'll be returning.

Steeple's Deli

Steeples Deli

Apparently this deli has been in Tanglin Shopping Center for quite a long time now, but this is my first time there. Not bad. Pretty tasty and a nice peaceful countertop environment.

My only gripe is that it wasn't so outrageously unique that I would get cravings for it. Don't get me wrong - it's not bad by any means, and is actually pretty good: the pastrami was tasty with lots of spicy pepper on the edges, the coleslaw was creamy and fresh, and the soup was a robust made-from-scratch taste. The peanut butter mikshake was better than I thought it would be with a good consistency. But the pastrami wasn't sliced thinly enough, and its "extra meat" portion was still rather weak. The coleslaw, which is nothing to complain about, still wasn't divine or inspirational though. But again, it wasn't bad. I wouldn't be opposed to eating there again. Put another way, I would probably put its food quality as a 2 (borderline 1, or maybe an aggregate 17) on a Zagat survey.

Be careful when you read the menus though. I thought it said "French Onion Soup," only to realize later that it said "Fresh Onion Soup." I guess I can't blame them for lacking the baked cheese and crouton then. It still seemed to feature carmelized onions, but it was probably just roasted onions, with an excessive (but not entirely unappealing) amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hometown (Sichuan) Restaurant

Hometown (Sichuan) Restaurant

This is a surprisingly authentic Sichuan joint on Smith Street in Singapore. It's just as excessively oily and salty as you would get in the mainland, but only borderline excessive that it still tastes good without getting sick.

Be sure to get the string beans...the best I've ever tasted - full of salt, grease, garlic, and dry chili peppers.

The mabo tofu is pretty good, as is the hot & sour noodles and spicy crab (the crab is naturally a bit sweet!).

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The sour shoestring potatoes are unique, but unfortunately the "water cooked fish" (directly translated from Chinese - what a strangely misleading and unappetizing name. Nothing could be further from the truth - it is more appropriately called "spicy red chili oil drenched fish") is not that fresh - try Chuan Restaurant on Purvis Street for that. But Chuan uses too much peppercorn - one could argue that makes Chuan even more authentic, but I find that tongue-numbing feeling just distracts from the experience of enjoying the food itself.

Monte Cristo Sandwich at Seah Street Deli

Monte Cristo sandwich at Seah Street Deli

Mmm...Seah Street is a nice safe haven of comfort deli food from home, which comes in handy whenever nighmares of being surrounded by an avalanche of Rendang burgers (yuck!) enters your mind.

Not all the food at Seah Street is perfect, but most of it is pretty darned good. I have become quite habitual with the Monte Cristo sandwich and an Oreo shake. They used to have really good kosher pickles, but now they are using a different supplier (from Philadelphia, apparently). Still, its hard to find good pickles in Singapore, so this is still good, especially since they had the good pickled peppers today too.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fishermen's [sic] Wharf Fish and Chips

It's hard to believe, but this place has the best fish and chips that I've ever had anywhere (including England). The key is in the freshness. Not just the fish, but in the fries and even something as trivial as the rich, creamy tartar sauce. Mmm...and just the right amount of salt and grease too. It's enough to enhance the flavor, but not so excessive that it overpowers. Just douse a bit of malt vinegar on it, and you are all set to go.

Interestingly, this place actually makes the distinction between chips (less cooked, more raw potato flavor) and fries (crispy and fully cooked). I prefer the chips myself.

The first time I ate at this place, I was amazed at how good it was, so much that I thought it was just that I was hungry at that time. But after two visits later, I can confidently say that it was not just about the context. It truly is the best fish and chips I've ever had...in Singapore, of all places.

Strangely, the place is billed as a Scandinavian place, downstairs from Akvavit restaurant on North Bridge Road. At least its conveniently on my way home from the office.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Corn on the Cob - War Games style

Am I the only person who stared in awe (and almost respectful deference) at that scene in War Games when Matthew Broderick's father buttered his bread so egregiously heavily only for us to discover that he was only using the bread thereafter to butter his corn? I thought that was the most novel idea (especially since buttering corn without a brush can be an awkward task), and have been using that technique since (even more so since I don't really like bread to begin with).

Anyway, here I am, snacking away on a 3-minute microwaved corn, followed by the War Games technique. (My corn is cooked though, unlike that scene in the movie.)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Noodle Shop Ken

Ken's Ramen Shop

ahh...one of the better ramen shops in Singapore. This is much better than Ohsho in neighboring Cuppage Plaza. The broth here is superior (double boiled for eight hours without MSG). Plus check out the huge stick of butter floating in the corner too...mmm...and they have the real Japanese Gaban black pepper ("fresh crop spice" - its still amazes me that the Japanese can even make pepper taste better than anyone else's). And this is one of the few places I've seen in Singapore that has Asahi (Super "DRY") on TAP.

Of course, I did the Tampopo "stroke-the-chya-shyu-to-show-it-that-you-care" before eating it. Ahh. This is one of the more satisfying meals that I have had in a while.

Ramly Burger

Love it or hate it, Ramly stirs the emotions. I just love all the butter and egg. Something about dodgy Malaysian government meat quality health codes create an ironic sense of adventure in it too. But OH does that grease sit well in an alcohol filled stomach!

...or anytime returning from Malaysia, like this time coming back from a dive trip in Pulau Aur. I ate two and a half on the bus and felt pretty sick. But oh is it good. I had two more in KL a couple weeks later.

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Welcome - me too.

Well, I'm still trying to figure out this whole blogging thing myself. Once I link this thing to Flickr and my phone, I hope I'll start getting some nice food pics on here soon.

Geez this sure takes a lot of effort.