Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Monday, August 29, 2005
Morton's - the Steakhouse
Ahh yes, Morton's of Chicago: evidence that God truly exists, and that He's gracious enough to keep one open for us in Singapore, of all places. I have a ritual there now - start with the beefsteak tomatoes with blue cheese, move to the "bone-in" ribeye, maybe add some sauteed wild mushrooms on the side, and finish it with the Godiva chocolate cake. Everything else on the menu looks so good too, but I never seem to find the ability to break away and try something new.
The food tonight was actually a bit substandard compared to other nights: the beefsteak tomato wasn't as firm as it had been in the past, the ribeye was a bit dry (and it's still Australian beef due to the Singapore ban on US mad-cow-scare beef), and the Godiva chocolate cake has actually recently been renamed the "World Famous Chocolate Cake" as they stopped using Godiva (globally).
But in the end, it's still nothing to complain about. Morton's is Morton's, bar none. The blue cheese still had all the requisite stank, the ribeye still had all the aged goodness, and the chocolate cake was still oozing in pleasure. The mushrooms were still drenched in butter (with the huge crouton sucking it all up), and the service was also impeccable, which is definitely refreshing to find in Singapore. Don't forget of course the piping hot onion loaf at the beginning of the meal too.
It's interesting though - I've found Morton's to be a bit inconsistent from location to location. I had a fantastic meal at the Las Vegas location, but the San Francisco one always disappointed. The Singapore one had always been consistent in the past (even when they had to switch to Australian beef), but they seem to have lowered the bar a bit tonight. It doesn't matter though. I'm still coming back. This is a nice little pocket of American excess and extravagance in this little island on the equator. Now I'm ready to collapse.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant, Singapore
It wasn't bad by any means. In fact, it was pretty darned good, especially given all the greasy garlicky seafood taste mixed in with the bee hoon noodles. But it was a bit overrated. I still don't appreciate the thick-shelled Sri Lankan crabs commonly used across the island (boy, do I miss the Swan Oyster Depot in SF). Don't get me wrong - the place is good, and certainly pretty unique to Singapore, but I doubt I'll get cravings for this place. (Besides, the service is too slow here.)
Hot Sauces - the Americans vs. the Aussies
At a BBQ today, we ran into a showdown between who had the hotter hot sauce: the American Dave's Gourmet Ultimate Insanity, or the Australian Redback. The former is clearly made with habanero peppers (and the label has warnings to boot), while the latter is probably made with the same (it tasted like it), although it wasn't explicitly clear.
After several blind taste tests with bread (and sweat and tears of the testers - including locals who claimed to be able to eat very spicy food), the verdict was that the American sauce on the left was the hotter one, but the Australian sauce on the right was the tastier one (and certainly still blazing hot). The American one was so hot that it lingered for at least 5-10 minutes after eating just a little drop. So get the Ausssie one for a more practical taste. And if you get the American one (really just for the novelty than anything), be careful with it, and be prepared to get singed.
BTW, on a completely separate note, if you do a BBQ, try hitting up Espirito Santo (376 River Valley Road, 6256-5070), which is a great butcher that also supplies to many of the Brazilian spots on the island. They've got some pretty darned good quality meats, ranging from the ribs (get the Argentian rub - it's great salty and burnt) to the kebabs (both the lamb version as well as their signature kebabs) to the sausages (the Brazilian linguica is definitely very fatty, and the cheese knackers aren't bad). I don't have pics here, but do try them out. I'm definitely going back before my next BBQ.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Ramly Burger - in Singapore!
Whoa. Normally one has to go up to Malaysia to get this (apparently the Singapore health department does not approve of this mystery meat), but it looked like there were a bunch (I counted up to seven) of hawkers selling Ramly Burgers the other day at a pasar malam (a temporary streetside night market) in Serangoon North. Or so I thought.
Many of them looked like the real deal, with the "metal pressing down thingy" and logoed banners and wrapping paper. But unfortunately, they were still not quite the same thing. Many of the vendors had pre-cooked patties, and none of them were butterflied in half like they often do in Malaysia. None of them used Maggi sauce on the patty. Most of them used the egg-wrapped-patty technique, but one guy actually used little metal rings to hold the egg in. One vendor used her own patties but called them Ramly (it was obvious that they weren't Ramly being that they were too thick - even though she had the official Ramly wrapping paper and logos everywhere). Heck, there was even a guy doing a knockoff "Pakistani Ramly" of his own! (I didn't try it.)
At the end of the day, it generally had the same greasy goopy taste that we've come to love of Ramly Burger. But it still wasn't the Real McCoy. At only S$2 (US$1.20) a burger though, it wasn't exactly painful to buy three burgers from three different vendors and try each one out.
Separately, there was a guy selling some sort of "Thai Shark's Fin Soup." Having never had a Thai version before, I got one, but it wasn't anything unique...just a bit too sweet and definitely not spicy. It was only S$2 (US$1.20) though, so tree huggers can rest easy knowing that it had to have been fake shark's fin.
Catchup Chronicles #3: Australia and New Zealand
This is the Fergburger from Queenstown, New Zealand, which smelled and looked very appetizingly greasy after a long day of snowboarding. But when I bit into it, it was appalling. Why? The slice of sweet beetroot inside (apparently it is quite common in ANZ). Yuck! I learned my lesson: whenever ordering a burger from Australia or New Zealand, get them without beet. There are some unique soft drinks down there too - I particularly like this one (it was so long ago that I don't remember what flavor it was though). I had some pretty good seafood in Auckland too.
Over on the other side, Sydney has to be one of the food capitals in the region. Great stuff all around, ranging from tall pies on the wooden pier late at night at Harry's Cafe on Wheels in Woolloomooloo near the W Hotel (with mashed peas and gravy) to Pancakes on the Rocks (I had some chocolate and vanilla pancakes?). The fresh oysters at the fish market looked amazing too. Here is a photo of a creme brulee from Waterfront Restaurant (seafood) at the Rocks. I wish I took more photos. Sydney is truly a great place for food.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Jollypong - with a scooper
Nail-cutting Cab Driver
I don't know why I keep running into these nasty cab drivers, but I ran into this guy sticking his head out the window with nail clippers at a red light, cutting his nails so that they could fall onto the pavement. Yuck!!
This has nothing to do with food, I know. And it certainly is disgusting. But this was just too strange to avoid posting.
At least it was on the way to the "whispering man's" hot pot off Smith Street. And having been to so many hot pot places in Singapore lately, I have to conclude that this guy is the best, particularly because of his thinly sliced high quality beef (and his special sauce isn't too bad either). I doubt that I'll be patronizing the other hot pot guys anymore - just his.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Jaggi's Northern Indian Cuisine
Jaggi's is (Punjabi) Northern Indian, which is my preference, and sometimes more rare to find in Singapore considering all the Southern Indian cuisine out here. Other great items there include the samosas (a precursor to the Chinese curry puff, I realized), butter naan, and fried ladyfingers. The kebabs aren't bad either, but I'm still waiting for Bukhara to re-open.
These guys were originally at the PSA hawker stalls on Keppel Road (apparently to cater to the dock workers), but have recently over to Lim Teck Kim, with slightly nicer surroundings (air conditioned with real plates). They've also got a couple other locations, including Race Course Road in Little India.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The Lamb Sandwich at Burger King Singapore
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Waraku Japanese Restaurant
This place was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much (especially considering it has multiple locations around Singapore), but it proved to be OK. Not super great, but better than I thought it would be. The kawaebi karaage (little bite-sized shrimp) were deep fried just right, with just the right amount of an oil & salt combo taste...kinda like potato chips (but with a twist of lemon, and little crunchy antennae). The cold aimori zaru combination udon and soba was refreshing too (apparently this place is known for having good udon ?).
Next up was the okonomiyaki, which was much smaller than I was expecting, but still with all the requisite cholesterol bomb items: mayonnaise, grease, egg, pork, and of course the bonito flakes on top waving hello. Another grease bomb for the evening was the potato mentaiko...it was so greasy that it wasn't clear if it were added butter or oil oozing out of the cheese. It sure tasted good though - especially the burnt bits on the edge of the platter.
The only letdown was the hamachi sashimi, which was actually a nice thick slice, but I've definitely had fresher. The garlic rice was OK too, but not a standout. Anyway, this place still beat my expectations (although I was a bit worried that nearly all the menu items I wanted were off the "special" menu rather than the standard one). I doubt I'll get cravings to come here, but I certainly won't kick and scream if someone twists my arm to eat here again.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Catchup Chronicles #2: Korea and Japan
This was from a random place that I walked into on the streets of Seoul (the store's signboard notes www.pusangalbi.com in the corner, but it appears to be a dead link). This seemed to be the usual greasy burnt fare that I've come to love, especially with all the varieties of kimchee. The place was certainly better than Singapore, although I still like LA better.
This was a place near the JW Marriott that I randomly stumbled into as well. It was just a simple US$5 bowl of soup - but of course with all the yummy kimchee accompaniments. Not pictured here is the "army soup" that I once had, which is made from cracked up instant noodles and cut up hot dogs. It was sadly was created as a result of local Koreans starving in the Korean war, and having to dive into the US military's dumpsters looking for leftover food. I suppose anything with that garlicky Korean chili sauce is gonna be good though.
Here is some yakisoba at an okonomiyaki joint in Japan; I love these do-it-yourself places with all the grease rising into the air, and the thick brown sweet sauce to be added at your discretion. Not pictured here is the yakiniku place we went to the night before - better than real Korean BBQ in many ways. I still crack up at the cop that was checking drivers for alcohol by asking people to breathe into his face. Yuck - what a horrible job! (especially after all that yakiniku we just ate with garlic)
Finally, here are clams from a shop outside the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. These tasted as good as they look. Another amazing thing that I ordered from this sushi chef was the seared albacore: the chef actually took out a little blowtorch to sear the tuna on the spot. The mix of tastes and textures was so fantastic that I ordered another one.
I swear, the best food in the world is in Japan - I even ate raw horse meat (tastes like bacon) and raw chicken meat (tastes like tuna) in Tokyo a few years ago - and it was so good that I ordered more. And no - I didn't get sick. From what I understand, chickens raised in the wild are not prone to salmonella - it's just the ranch-raised ones in confined living conditions where they stew in their own feces where the salmonella problem comes.
Soto Ayam at Adam Road Stall #9
Friday, August 19, 2005
More dishes from Cantina
Here's just a few newly-tried dishes from Cantina, the first of which is the prosciutto on enormously large (and quite sweet) melon slices. The prosciutto was a bit tough though.
Actually, tonight was a bit of a disappointment compared to previous nights. The mushrooms were a bit boring (I was expecting a richer butter taste).
I strayed off the menu here too - the aglio olio with crab meat, which was a recommendation in another review. Although it was good, I was a bit surprised that they used whole cloves of garlic (are they too lazy to slice it?). This made for a strange meal considering that the chunks of crab meat were basically the same shape as the garlic cloves, thus creating some surprises when you popped them into your mouth. I like garlic, so the taste was still OK, but I would have preferred sliced garlic. I also should have told them to use linguine instead of spaghetti. The service today was also spotty - we had to wait a long time for the food, even after reminding them (they must have forgotten about our table). At least the pizza was nice and thin.
Well, this won't detract me from coming here - the food is still good. But tonight was a bit of a letdown from the heavenly experiences of the past.
Yuzu-Shimizu, PSA Building
I'm told that these guys just moved over from Lock Road across the street to get closer to the businesses over here on Alexandra. I opted for the niku kami nabe largely for the novelty factor of cooking raw meat in a paper bowl on a fire (hey, it makes a nice picture too). The meat quality wasn't great (it was a sliced bit thick too - and they nearly forgot my sesame dipping sauce to go with it), but in the end, it was bearable. I'm not sure how the other menu items were either. I doubt I'll be coming here on my own accord too much, unless it's of course for a business lunch again.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Looking back at my previous post for this guy, I'm not sure why I was so happy last time. Today's pork sausages were only ho-hum: a bit boring without grease (which prompted me to ask for the cheese sausage afterwards), and the casing lacked snappiness. The sauerkraut was also sweeter than I liked. Is this how sausages are in Austria? At least I got better photos this time.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Pepper Lunch - "lion steak"
Monday, August 15, 2005
Pepper Lunch (I've become an addict)
Oh man, this is the third day in a row that I've been here, and I even came here twice today in the same day. I'm hopeless. At least I went to the other location at Ngee Ann City the second time.
Anyway, here is the hamburger steak, and up top is the curry beef pepper rice. Both were good, but I would still prefer the original pepper rice as well as the combo.
And for dinner, I had the tokusen ribeye steak. It's not Morton's for sure, but it is one of the thickest cuts on the menu (and the most expensive at SS$18 or US$10.80). It actually featured thin slices of garlic to go with it (almost as thin as they were cutting them in Goodfellas). I also had a beer, which of course reminded me of John Travolta's line in Pulp Fiction: "And in Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald's."
Believe it or not, I actually ordered some to take home tonight too - which I'll eat for lunch at the office tomorrow. I doubt it will be as good as having it on the sizzling platter, but we'll see. I wonder when I'll get sick of this stuff...
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Pepper Lunch (again)
Speaking of meat quality, the shimofuri marbled fat steak certainly looked great while cooking, but was quite a pain to try to flip over with disposable wooden chopsticks when it was sticking to the platter (use the metal spoon instead). It was also rather thin, but again, for S$14 (US$8.50), there isn't much basis for complaint. It was still the same yummy butter-grilled taste that I would expect.
It was quite crowded today actually, but maybe it's just the initial curiosity factor driving it right now. This place is open until 11 PM (10 PM on weekdays), so I'm sure I'll be coming back a lot - probably in the off-hours to avoid the crowds.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Peppaa Ranchi ("Pepper Lunch" in Japanese)
Whoa. This was a suprise. This had all the markings of another disappointing Japanese chain arriving in Singapore, like Mos Burger and Ajisen Ramen, boasting about the 130 outlets across Japan and having spread to Korea and Taiwan too, etc. But given that it was new here, I had to try it to be sure.
And boy, am I glad that I did. It was both fun and tasty at the same time - a sizzling platter with steak cooking right before your eyes, and lobs of butter on top, a bit akin to Ruths Chris or A Hereford Beefstouw, but with a practical purpose too: for cooking the other side of your steak when you flip it over (the servants eagerly encourage you to do so while the platter is still hot). A honey brown sauce is available for dousing on top of your veggies, as is a garlic soy sauce (with a neat dispenser for stirring up the garlic sitting at the bottom). The meat (from Australia and New Zealand, probably since the US mad cow beef ban is still in effect here) certainly wasn't Morton's-quality, but it was good enough considering that it's basically fast food at around S$13 (US$8). Apparenty the hot plates use "a patented electromagnetic cooker patented in Japan" and "heats to 260 degrees Celsius quickly & keeps food hot for long."
I got the cut hitokuchi and hamburger steak platter, but next time I want to try the beef pepper rice, which seems to be the house specialty, seeing how it is prominently displayed as the first item on the menu, as well as on the advertisements. LCD monitors in the restaurant even play Japanese instructional videos on how to mix the beef and rice together when it's cooking. (On that note, there is even a cylindrical paper wrapper surrounding the platter that give you instructions on your specific dish...mine read, "Hurry!! Turn it over!" in big headlines preceding the four step detailed process.) There appeared to be some other ones that I wanted to try too, like the shimofuri marbled fat steak, tokusen rib eye, and yawaraka loin varieties.
Now, admittedly my affinity for this place may largely be driven by the sheer novelty right now (cue Bill Murray in Lost in Translation again: "what kind of restaurant makes you cook your own food??"), as well as my love for fat juicy hamburger steaks from American diner counters. And the pepper taste did evoke bad memories of some atrocious steaks-on-a-platter that I've had in Taipei. But it wasn't that bad - I thought it was quite tasty with all those sauces too. In fact, I like this place so much that I'm still salivating right now. I'm gonna try to come back tomorrow for lunch.
If you come here, don't come with expectations of a normal steak - this is definitely localized. If you don't like Angus House at Ngee Ann City (a Japanese steak house with somewhat similarly localized tastes), then you may not like this place. But I do.
Singaporean Soft Drinks
This one, Sinalco, is apparently Malaysian. It tasted like carbonated Robitussin at first (yuck!), but it grew on me. I guess it's just a pseudo-cherry soda.
Finally, this isn't a drink, but this hawker had a tank of live frogs for food, which was a bit disturbing to me, even though I've certainly enjoyed frog legs before (yes, tastes like chicken).
Catchup Chronicles #1: Morocco and Frankfurt
My main destination was Marrakech, where there were an abundance of night market vendors in Jema al Fna, the central plaza with an amazing generation of burning meat smoke. The guy in the big photo above was serving a hearty harira soup, which is apparently eaten after the fasting period of Ramadan, while the man the small B&W inset photo was serving a spicy hot tea, which was great in the freezing cold December air.
Kefta or brochettes (basically kebabs) are obligatory in this part of the world too. Admittedly we probably got suckered into a tourist trap in the photo above, judging by a number of tourists populating the establishment and what appeared to be a kickback being handed over to the taxi driver who recommended this place to us in the new city (outside the walls of the old medina city). Well, the kebabs were still tasty, especially with a little bit of grease oozing out of the chargrilled exterior. Fortunately, we did get plenty of more "down & dirty" kebabs from street vendors at the night market in the photo below, all with a great burnt taste. Yum.
Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of the wealth of other amazing dishes there including tagine (stew in ceramic pottery), pigeon pastille pastry puffs, couscous, the ubiquitous "Moroccan whisky" (very sweet mint and Chinese tea), and the grease-dripping tanjia mutton.
On my way out of the country, I had to route through Casablanca. I asked my cab driver where he liked to eat local seafood, and he took me to a place in his neighborhood for some deep fried goods. I don't know if this is true Moroccan cuisine (probably not?), but it was definitely still very tasty, especially with the hot sauce on the side, which tasted very similar to a roasted Mexican salsa.
And finally, I had to stop in Frankfurt on my way back as I was taking Lufthansa. With a few hours layover, I took the train into town and picked up some fire-roasted sausages and gluehwein off the streets. Yum - just the right level of "burntness" to match the mustard, and the warm wine definitely helped keep me going in the near-freezing December temperatures. There was also a great market near the river - I was salivating at all the cheese, sausages, and vegetables lined up all nice and pretty there.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Last night's meal at Cantina was so good that I was craving this all day and even went back again tonight. To help keep the variety going, this time we got the penne matriciana (onions, bacon, and chili in tomato sauce), which was surprisingly spicy (and in a good way). The cold melanzane eggplant was respectable: thin slices drenched in oil and spices (even if it looks horrible in the picture here).
The fusilli pesto also looked good at a neighboring table last night, so we got that too. This was not as much of a shocker - it tasted like a basic pesto. Not bad, but it did get tiring after a while.
Finally, the limone ripieno sorbet was very very tasty - smack full of a fresh lemon taste. Yum. The only gripe for tonight was that they still have the same annoying elevator music playing in the background - I really hope they change that before my next visit.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Cantina, Greenleaf Road
Wow. This was seriously one of the best meals that I've had in a long time. It's pretty difficult to find, actually, as it's right in the middle of a residential neighborhood (60 Greenleaf Road, 6467-5413, although apparently they have another site out at the Changi Village Hotel). It's kinda cool - there is another Cantina across the courtyard - when I asked the maitre d' what the difference was, he told me that the other one didn't have air conditioning (for the smokers).
Anyhow, the starters gave a nice sneak peek at the beauty to come. The minestrone soup has to have been the thickest that I've ever had, but it's smack full of finely diced veggies with a good finish. The vongole antipasti was lighter than Hog Island in SF (not as much of a butter taste) and had a strange mix of clam sizes, but they were still small and savory. The garlic bread exhibited a very very rich butter overtone with just the right level of crispiness (and without overdoing the garlic, like other places do). It certainly looked promising.
Then came the main courses. One of the house specialties was the linguini al granchio. Mmm...bites of sheer heaven! The tomato crab sauce was luxuriously rich yet delicate, all with chunks of fresh crab to boot. If you come here, this is a must. We also had the lasagne, which wasn't as crispy as I'd like (like at Pasta Brava), but it was very very hearty with huge slices of pasta layers and a rich cheesy taste. Mmm. It was so tasty that I didn't care anymore that it wasn't crispy on top. It was still very good.
Finally, came the melone ripieno (ice cream in a melon) - a nice way to finish off the meal. The service here is generally good, if a bit overeager (a young kid asked me if I wanted anything to drink, without realizing that there was a glass of wine on my table already). Wine lovers: note that there is a sizable wine cellar behind a closed door on the side. Regardless, I know we're going to be coming here a lot in the future (and there is another Italian place across the way, plus a fish & chips shop). Wow - it's nice to be able to get really good Italian in Singapore. I'm blown away.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Teck Kee Wanton Mee Coffeeshop
And always remember to ask taxi drivers where they eat themselves, as you know it will be good, cheap, and open late, as long as they are not getting a kickback from wherever they take you.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Prata Cafe, Evans Road
This place (26 Evans Road, 6333-6979, with another location at 320 Clementi) was rather disappointing, especially compared to some of the other recent places. Open until midnight (2 AM on weekends) and full of crowds, it seemed like it had the right makings of a good prata shop. Alas, it was not. The cheese prata lacked any hint of cheese taste (almost to the point that we forgot that it was cheese prata). The egg and onion prata was a tad better, but nothing to boast about.
The murtabak (a bit like an Indian calzone - or stuffed prata in this case) was also a bit boring - not crispy and the ground mutton filling was not tasty either. They ran out of the thosai as well as tissue prata. And the teh halia was very weak. Ugh.
The only thing really worth writing about was the kambing mutton soup, which proved to be quite thick and rich. It was not as spicy as I would like, but it was still pretty good. To be fair, the curry dip for the prata was pretty good with an interesting sour twist. But the prata itself came nowhere close to being a fair companion.
It's funny that the restaurant had this little paper sign hanging on the wall that said, "All food is freshly prepared, please be patient. The taste is remembered long after the wait is forgotten." And they are right. I won't forget about how lackluster the taste is here.