Monday, October 31, 2005

LH Biz Class Dinner - Victoria-Jungfrau

Veal marinated and thinly sliced with Quince Vinaigrette and Herb Mousse

Tonight's "Star Chefs" creation on LH featured Manfred Roth and Mike Wehrle from the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland. I started with the veal, "marinated and thinly sliced with Quince Vinaigrette and Herb Mousse." I found it a bit odd at first, seeing as I'd never had cold slices of veal with celery slices on top, but it pretty much tasted just like it looked. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything that I'll get cravings for. The mousse didn't really add much of an additional kick either as it was pretty light.

Pike-perch pan-seared, with Meaux Mustard Sauce, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Potatoes

Next I moved on to the pike-perch: "pan-seared, with Meaux Mustard Sauce, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Potatoes." This looked pretty disappointing to me when it was brought out, especially since I hate cooked carrots. But to my surprise, this was actually really good. The fish was prepared just right (which is especially respectable considering that it was on an airplane), and it went well with the creamy mustard sauce. I love cooked cabbage of course too, and gobbled that up. After I realized that the yellow bits were potatoes, I cleared this plate pretty quickly, leaving only a choice selection of cooked carrots in the corner for the flight attendants to pick up (raw carrots are great, but cooking them changes the taste completely into a mildly sweet mush). Anyway, that was it. I didn't bother with dessert - it was time to get my body clock back on Singapore time.

Eisbein from Berlin - sorta

My substitute for Eisbein

One very unique dish to Berlin (not just Germany, but specifically Berlin) is Eisbein, which I understand is a crackling pork roast. I tried getting it today, but this place didn't have it. The Weihenstephaner folks did offer something similar though. I didn't quite catch the name, but I suspect it is Schweinshaxe. I noticed an English menu later that stated an item called "crackling pork roast in a Weihenstephaner dark-beer sauce with potato dumplings and bacon-cabbage salad." I'm still not sure if that was really what I ate as I didn't order from the menu (I talked to the waiter instead, but my broken German didn't help me in understanding his explanation of the dish).

Damn, this was a huge chunk of meat. The skin was a bit thick and tough, but if you could cut through it, then you got a great piece of crispy fat to go along with the very tender and moist meat underneath (the meat almost reminded me of a Hawaiian roast pig - yum). Interestingly, those things on the left that looked like potatoes weren't quite potatoes themselves, but were rather spongy and springy. Well anyway, we had to get the big one liter steins of beer to go with it - although they were interestingly not that common up here in Berlin, as apparently that is more of a southern German thing (which I believe this restaurant is). All of this was a lot of food and I could hardly finish. Well, I had to try to get this while I was up here.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Honigmond, Berlin

Hausgemachte Koenigsberger Kloptze

This place (Borsigstrasse 28, 2844-5512) has some history behind it, as it has been around since 1920, and apparently was frequented by many a East German politician back in the days, only to be started up again in 1995. They are largely a Central European place, featuring things like cheese fondue, among others, but it looks like they are going more “international,” judging by the alfalfa sprouts used in a few of the dishes.

Kartoffel-Lauchcreme mit CroutonsRegardless, the food was rich and filling. I started with the Kartoffel-Lauchcreme mit Croutons (potato and leek soup), which was really thick but full of flavor (gotta love the leek and crouton toppings). From there I moved on to the Hausgemachte Koenigsberger Kloptze (homemade Prussian meatballs in a caper cream sauce), which pretty much tasted like they looked. The portions at German restaurants tend to be pretty big though, and I had trouble finishing everything, especially considering the steamed potatoes and mixed green salad on the side.

KoestritzerAfter just a couple days though, I’m getting rather of all these heavy German meat dishes. I was surprised to find some German beers that I liked though (I’m not a huge fan of Pilsners), including a dark one called Koestritzer. It suited my tastes as it was fuller bodied with little or no hops, although I admittedly still prefer even more satisfying English ales instead.

Currywurst and other Berlin Pickings

Two kinds of mustard

Slyrs’er Kaes und ZwiebelrahmsuppeWe stopped by Weihenstephaner this afternoon to pick up some beer and pretzels (two kinds of mustard, one sweet and one more like dijon) as well as the Slyrs’er Kaes und Zwiebelrahmsuppe, a cheese-based soup with onions. To my disappointment, the soup didn’t quite have as much of a cheese stank as the meal last night, but I still gobbled it up quickly.

Currywurst

The street-facing grillFinally, I nibbled on a currywurst on the way back too. This is another Berlin late-night type of snack. I had envisioned it as a curry-seasoned meat packed into the sausage, but it’s actually just a regular sausage with curry powder sprinkled on top as well as loads of ketchup. I didn’t think I would really like it since I don’t really like ketchup, but it was actually OK since the sausage was reheated in a piping hot oil, giving it a mildly crispy greasy element to add to the curry powder taste. It was only 1.60 Euros (US$1.90), so it’s definitely a post-drinking grease bomb rather than anything elegant.

Hasir (Turkish food), Berlin

From top: kuver flat breads, humus, and cacik

With the huge Turkish population here in Berlin, it’s no surprise that there are some nice restaurants around too (not just the late nite Doner Kebab places). Hasir (Oranienburger Strasse 4, 2804-1616) is a family-run spot that we hit up, starting with the obligatory humus (a great sesame topping) and kuver sesame flat breads. Cacik, a yogurt-based cucumber dip (kinda like Indian raita, but with dill weed - is that a European localization?), was also great for dipping.

Beyti

My main course was the beyti, or “minced lamb barbecued on a skewer, seasoned with slices of radish.” I still prefer Persian kebabs instead as they seem more pure to me, and don’t necessarily have all the extra spices and stuff. Or maybe this place just undercooked it a bit (the rice was also a bit mushy). It was still good to have though, especially with my favorite grilled vegetables (the peppers were spicy), and even huge radish slices. I got a bit excited to eat the onions too, but it was interspersed with parsley, which is something that I absolutely abhor (and thus obviously don't like Lebanese tabbouleh).

Turkish TeaWe finally finished the meal with some Turkish tea. It wasn’t quite as spicy as I was hoping (there was more of a tea taste than spices), but it was nonetheless good to have.

Doner Kebabs off the streets of Berlin

Doner Kebap

Wow – apparently Turkish immigrants popularized Doner Kebabs in Berlin before they hit the European/ANZ stage. There are now Doner Kebab (doner kebap in Turkish) shops all over the town, and they are all open late, which, just as with other towns across Europe and ANZ, make kebabs accessible to the millions of drunkards looking for a grease bomb to sit in their bellies at 4 AM. Perfect!

Making Doner KebabsAnd this was no ordinary kebab, that’s for sure. It was filled with many more ingredients and sauces than one gets in places like England, including a sweet chili sauce with a pretty good kick to it. The bread was also toasted to a perfect crisp, and fresh veggies abounded. What a great snack for only 2.30 Euros (US$2.75).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dunkel Restaurant, Berlin

No, this isn't a photo error.  This is exactly what I saw at Dunkel Restaurant too.

No, that’s not an error in the photo; that’s what our food looked like. This restaurant, literally translated, is the “dark restaurant,” meaning that you eat your food in complete darkness and are served by blind waiters (Gormannstrasse 14, +49-30-243425-00). There is not a single light in the dining room, which creates a rather disorienting experience, both food-wise as well as socially. There are some really interesting implications as a result:

(1) You obviously can’t see the food, so you really have to rely on your taste buds here. In fact, you first order your selection outside in the (lit) reception before proceeding inside to the dark room. The menu that you get at first is intentionally written vaguely with more reference to the senses rather than the specific ingredients themselves (e.g., "cheesy, not corny soup"). Only after you finish your meal and come back outside do you get access to a menu that clearly states what you ate (and if you're a fussy eater who doesn't like many ingredients, then you may run into some surprises if you can't see it).

(2) You obviously also can’t see your dining companions either, which makes for some interesting dining conversations since you don’t really have any visual cues or body language to ride off of (in retrospect, I guess that’s not unlike being on a conference call for work). Still, most of the conversation of course initially centered around “How the heck do we do this? Do the waiters have night vision goggles or something??” (no, they are blind and are accustomed to using their other senses). You could hear plenty of loud laughter from the other tables. Anonymity also encouraged misfits to occasionally try to influence the entire room of diners, like whispering “shhhhhh!!!!” (and everyone interestingly obeyed and quieted down), or singing happy birthday (and everyone screamed off the top of their lungs). Obviously no one would do such things if the room were lit.

(3) This also creates logistical challenges. Your waiter leads you to your table, and you grab on to your dining companions’ shoulder in front of you to create a chain of people. You have no idea what the orientation of the room is like, so you start to wonder where the other tables are, how high the ceiling is, etc. (I kept looking up, hoping to find artificial stars above like they do at the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland, but to no avail.) Passing the bread basket from one person to the next is obviously a bit strange, considering that you can’t see how high he/she is holding the basket above the table (the same applies for making a toast and trying to make the glasses meet). Even finding your utensils and then trying to use them to get your food off the plates is difficult - the waiters tend to say things like, "Your water is at 2 o'clock" (fortunately, darkness also allows you to do things like bring the entire plate up to your face and shovel food in your mouth, since no one can see how rude that is). Scraping with your utensils is sometimes needed in order to figure out where your remaining food is on the plate, and wine is served in brandy glasses rather than the potentially catastrophic stemware. You could hear quite a few spills going on at other tables (I wonder how the busboys clean it up?). And I doubt this would work in the US where fire marshals require Exit signs to be clearly lit (there is not a single light in the room here – no exit signs…nothing!).

So how was the food then? Honestly, it was a mixed bag. I ordered the "River and Sea" meal; it started with a nicoise salad, which is just canned tuna sitting on top of lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil, and hard boiled eggs (yawn). The soup got better as I smelled a very strong cheese aroma (it turned out to be goat cheese), but then the fish in the soup was also very pungent – too pungent, in fact. The main course was some sort of fish with mushrooms, shrimp, and some kind of orzo-like pasta/rice. This was tasty, but at this point I could barely eat anymore as the portions were simply too huge. Finally, we had a fig, raspberry, and chocolate dessert to close off the meal (originally billed as "boozed Oriental fruit on reddish sweetness"). The seeds in the fig were a bit of a challenge to manipulate in the dark, so I just swallowed them.

Would I come here again? Not really. The food, while not horrendous, wasn’t exceptional either. Is it more for the novelty of eating in the dark? I suppose. It makes you really appreciate what the blind community has to go through, and it’s amazing that our waiter could pour wine, etc, in the dark. As well, it of course tests your taste buds’ ability to sense what you are eating. (A great thing for the restaurant is that they obviously don’t need to worry about presentation – nor room decorations – and I suppose their electricity bill isn’t very high either.) Don’t expect to come here for a quick meal though. Apparently the average meal takes more than two hours to serve, but ours took a whopping four hours. By the end of the meal, most of us felt disoriented enough to get antsy and want to leave. Still, it was good to come to, and it was definitely a very unique experience that I won’t forget. Sure, I suppose you could try this at home by eating in your closet, but it’s not the same thing when you don’t have other diners, impressively skilled blind waiters, and mystery dishes in the experience.

Food from an Afternoon in Berlin

Krakauer Wuerste mit Sauerkraut und Bratkartoffeln

SpeziWe started the day at Lemke, a nearby Brauhaus, including some Krakauer sausage with Sauerkraut and Bratkartoffeln potatoes. The Sauerkraut was definitely nothing like that crap you get on top of your hot dog at Wienerschnitzel in the US - it has little bits of meat in it, as well as a garnish. Of course, I had the obligatory dunkel beer, and I even downshifted into a Spezi, which is basically Coke and Fanta (or, as artificially fruit flavored carbonated drinks are often called in Europe, "lemonade"). It's a kid's drink like a Shirley Temple - the Fanta is used to dilute the strength of the caffeine.

Some sausage stand A hanging sausage grill

Gluehwein by the riverWe passed by a few markets and stands on the streets too, with of course many folks selling cheese and sausages (there was a great thin cracker-like bread called Trockenbrot). There was also this one guy with a self-contained grill under and umbrella. Finally, we closed off the afternoon with some hot mulled Gluehwein along the river, which was great during the cool afternoon sunset despite being pretty sweet. OK - now it's off to dinner!

Breakfast in Berlin (surprise! more meat and cheese)

Breakfast in Berlin

Here we go again with another European hotel breakfast, stocked full of sliced meats and cheeses, which admittedly I’m already getting sick of. What’s strange is that I love cheese and what Americans call “cold cuts,” but more so as an afternoon snack (ha ha – childhood memories of delis and Hickory Farms stores) rather than breakfast (I’m not much of a breakfast person to begin with).

Well, they did have a pretty good selection of cheeses (including some with some extra stank – yum) and flatbreads today, and I was decently impressed with the scrambled eggs (not runny mush from a big trough, but rather piping hot and slightly crispy in fact from a dedicated grilling). And they had radishes, which are one of my favorites, especially if they’ve got that fresh clean taste with the mild wasabi-like kick. I nearly cleared out all the radishes from the breakfast spread today.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Weihenstephaner, Berlin

Jaegerschnitzel

SpaetzleCertainly not full from that tiny Finn Air meal, I went on the hunt for some real German food and beer here in Berlin tonight. Interestingly, there were a lot of Italian places around. But I didn’t come to Germany to eat Italian food. So I stopped at this place (Neue Promenade 5 am Hackeschen Markt, 2576-2871, open from 11 AM to 1 AM), which I guess is from Bavaria and is one of the oldest breweries in the world. I ordered the Jaegerschnitzel (pork with bacon in a sauce) with a bowl of Spaetzle, or a pasta-like thing, but in more of a globular form tonight. The pork was heavy, yet decently good and pretty much what I expected. It is nice to have a dunkel beer while you’re at it of course.

What was interesting too was learning some of the German dining customs too, like seating yourself (even if at an empty seat at an occupied table, kinda like some countries in Asia). When you pay your bill, the waiter comes by with a thick wallet full of cash, and you tell him how much you want to spend in total (tips aren’t really a big thing, but round up a bit), whereupon he then returns you the right change. Berlin is apparently known for having decently good priced food too, but I spent 13 Euros (US$15.75) tonight for the beer and meal, which still seems high to me. Well, do as the Germans do, and get a big fat stein of beer!

Economy Class Dinner on Finn Air to Berlin

Sweet and Sour Pork

This was rather pathetic. When the flight attendant announced that we were having sweet and sour chicken for dinner tonight, I had to stop and think to myself, "Did she say sweet and sour chicken? Is that like the nasty faux-Chinese stuff you get in the US?" Something was really strange considering that we were flying from Helsinki to Berlin, and we were getting neither Finnish food nor German food.

Well, it was indeed sweet and sour chicken in that nasty red sauce. What was even more peculiar was the chicken itself, as it was diced so carefully small and clean that it felt like a robot had created this. It came in a tin so small that it could have been mistaken for a children's meal, and - oddly - the rice featured wild brown rice in it, thus debunking the whole Chinese-American sweet and sour chicken thing. This was so odd...

Stockmann at Helsinki's airport

On a side note though, check out all the cheeses on sale in the refrigeration case at the Stockmann at Helsinki airport. I didn't buy any, but it all smelled good (kinda like the shop in Rome). Here, they of course had other Finnish things, liked smoked fish, reindeer, and elk meat.

Another Catered Lunch in Finland

Steamed Pike Perch Rolls with Vegetable Bake and Tarragon Sauce

Here's just another catered lunch, featuring "Steamed Pike Perch Rolls with Vegetable Bake and Tarragon Sauce." It was OK - the fish was fresh and tender with a nice sauce, together with baked eggplant.

Top Right: Smoked Duck with Fennel Salad

The "Smoked Duck with Fennel Salad" looked nice and pretty arranged all nicely in the trays with contrasting meat and fat colors. It didn't really taste like duck, but it wasn't bad either. I don't think I've ever had fennel before though (only fennel seeds at Indian restaurants?) - it had a pretty strong taste. One thing I really dig about these Finnish meals though is the cream cheese to go along with the thin slices of bread.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Kellarikrouvi, Helsinki

Clockwise from left: thin slices of reindeer meat, reindeer liver, pickled herring, something unknown, something else unknown but probably pate in bread, and some kind of cheese

This is a quaint little place in Helsinki (Pohjoinen Makasiinikatu 6, 09-686-0730) that has apparently been here for quite a while. After heading downstairs into the basement, I'm told that they change their menus depending on the season. For starters, we had thin slices of reindeer meat accompanied by reindeer liver (it looked like a scoop of chocolate pudding). With the exception of foie gras, I'm usually not a huge liver fan, and this had a bit of a stank, but it was bearable. The reindeer meat was fine - it honestly didn't have much of a distinct taste - I could have mistaken it for beef for all I knew.

Salmon and some form of morel with with potato

The main course was some kind of a grilled salmon, which was just as one would expect. But the interesting thing was some sort of potato-pastry on the side, which apparently featured some sort of rare fungus/mushroom/morel - but poisonous. I was told that the fungus must be washed several times or something to get rid of the poison before cooking. It sounds like a lot of effort, but it did create a pretty good taste and texture. I'm not exactly a pro in Finnish food to be able to say if this was authentic or not (apparently they do some fusion from time to time), but they had herring, which is definitely common around here. Welcome to Northern Europe.

"Slightly Salted Whitefish" in Finland

Salted Whitefish

Strangely, this cold whitefish served at a catered business lunch seemed to have a bit of the dill weed taste that is common in herring up here, leading me to think that this was also a local thing. But they also offered a "wasabi dressing," which changed that perception. Fortunately, there was hardly any wasabi taste, and the sauce was sometimes needed given it was sometimes more than "slightly salted."

A European Breakfast with Karjalanpiirakka

A European Breakfast Spread

Here's just another European breakfast spread full of meat and cheese. There wasn't anything special except for some flat karjalanpiirakka pastry (the brown thing between the mushrooms and ham) with some kind of potato or barley puree or something.

The karjalanpiirakka is on the right surrounded by the mushrooms, tomato, and ham

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Post-sauna snacks in Finland

Finnish Beers

Here's just some Finnish snacks after a sweaty-sauna-yet-biting-cold-dip-in-the-sea (it's the first day of snow here today) experience, including grill-your-own-sausages and a bunch of local beers, as well as some bread spreads and potato salad. The sausages were milder than I liked (I'm more inclined toward greasy and spicy kinds), but they were still good to have (what isn't good when it's cooked on a fire??). The beers were generally lagers, although the one on the left was some kind of fruity mix.

LH Economy Class Lunch to Finland

LH Economy Class Ravioli Lunch

Hey these airline meals just keep getting better and better. Today's lunch was a piping hot ravioli in a rich creamy sauce. Although I personally would have done without the sun dried tomatoes (they are such a cliche), it still totally hit the spot. Yum. (And I thought we would be getting some plain old sandwich!) I was a bit surprised at the Griess-Pudding too. I'm not sure what it is, but I guess it's some German gritty-like semolina pudding, which was pretty good with a delicate yet rich taste. I'd like to look for some more of this stuff.

LH Biz Class Dinner to Frankfurt

Linguine and vegetables with tomato and pesto salsa, shiitake mushrooms and artichoke hearts

It looks like the menu hasn't really changed much since the last time I took this flight, and I definitely wanted to skip past the prawns this time. The beef just sounded too heavy to me too, so I opted for the "linguine and vegetables with tomato and pesto salsa, shiitake mushrooms and artichoke hearts." (I seem to be getting a lot of vegetarian meals lately...strange.) It was pretty good - it pretty much tasted just like it looks. I haven't tasted artichoke in a while either, so this was a good addition.

Ocean trout and herbed whitefish

The starters similarly tasted just like they looked ("ocean trout and herbed whitefish"). The menu still says they are running the Connoisseurs on Board program, although I couldn't find any reference to any celebrity chef tonight.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pani Puri at Bombay Woodlands

Pani Puri

On the heels of a great meal at Bombay Woodlands last night, we came back again, although this time armed with a referral for pani puri, a little chaat appetizer, which is apparently often sour and spicy.

Boy, were these things amazing! They were basically these little hollow and crispy ball-like pastries filled with onions and other raw veggies. Then fill in the hollow ball with this thin spicy cold broth, and a little tamarind, and throw the whole thing in your mouth before the broth leaks through the pastry. Awesome! It was kinda like an Indian version of Mexican chips and salsa, but rolled into a ball (the taste was very similar with spicy, sour, onions, and a greasy taste).

Wow - I've become a convert. This is truly amazing - I never thought that I would like South Indian food so much - and vegetarian, no less! (OK, I guess chaat technically started from the north though.) I'm told there is a place across the street from Mustafa on Syed Alwi Road called Raj that makes even bigger versions of this. I don't know how good it is, but I do intend to find out.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bombay Woodlands Restaurant, Singapore

Paper Masala Dosa

Holy Cow! (and I say that as a mildly intentional pun given this place is an Indian vegetarian place) I was totally floored tonight. I'm not a huge fan of the usual South Indian curry and rice thing, and I'm also far from a vegetarian (with the possible exception of Original Sin). So when the sign in front of this place said that it was an Indian Vegetarian place (19 Tanglin Road #B1-01/02, Tanglin Shopping Centre, 6235-2712), I clinched up a bit, thinking that I wouldn't like it. Oh man, was I wrong. This is one of the better meals that I've had. Who'd have known??

Tamarind RiceWhat the heck was so good? The Paper Masala Dosa simply kicked ass. It was paper thin with a good amount of grease, and one of the chutneys was even more mindblowing: made from coconut milk, chili, and dal, this chutney almost tasted like a spicy sesame. WOW. The Tamarind Rice was also cooked just right and with just the right amount of spices - no more, no less (gotta love the raita and little papads too). The mildly sour rasam soup was thin and spicy, providing a great complement to an already amazing meal. I finished it off with some masala tea as I questioned my carnivorous values.

OK, honestly, I felt a bit incomplete after this meal - I was almost craving a McDonald's burger. But I was still totally blown away by this place and never thought that I could like a vegetarian meal so much. And it was cheap too (by Orchard Road standards anyway). I'm definitely coming back here.

Interestingly, it looks like they are open at 9:30 AM, which makes me contemplate coming here for breakfast one of these days. They've got a buffet lunch too; I normally hate buffets, but I'm willing to give this one a try. Two very big thumbs up from me here. (Wow - I guess I really do like South Indian food after all!)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Seafood International Market & Restaurant

The seafood selection area

That little voice in the back of my head kept telling me that I shouldn't go in here (who the heck in their right mind goes to Big Splash to eat??), but I'd been curious for the longest time about this place: I've passed by so many times on the way back from the airport, noticing the big neon sign with the lobster and "If it swims, we have it" logo, as it was identical to a big place in Bangkok (yes, that was the one that Anthony Bourdain did his show at), and I wanted to know if it was the same. Granted, the Bangkok one is quite a tourist trap, but it's kinda fun picking out all your food and getting it cooked, and it tasted pretty good too. So I was hoping for the same in Singapore (902 East Coast Parkway, 6345-1211), but somehow I knew it couldn't be as good.

Deep fried seabass in Thai chili sauceThe first sign was that something was amiss was the seafood selection area, which was maybe only a third or a fourth of the size of the one in Bangkok. The second sign was that the food preparation choices were missing some that I had in Bangkok, including the butter sauce. The third sign was that the lively row of chefs cooking with huge woks and flames at the front of the Bangkok location were seemingly absent from this one, hidden away from view instead. Still, we went ahead and picked out a seabass, to be deep fried and eaten with a Thai chili sauce. This was a bummer - the chili sauce was sweet and drowned out the deep fried taste of the fish, and we ended up not eating a whole lot of it. To get some carbs, we added the Black Bean Hor Fun, which were also excessively burdened with corn starch, and used some questionable ingredients.

Pandan Chicken

The veggies in garlic weren't too bad though, and the pandan chicken was decent (I love the grease glistening on it). They also vigorously refilled your tea, albeit a bit overzealously, and they took forever to get our check.

Apparently this is a joint venture with the one in Bangkok, but I prefer the Bangkok location by far. In other words, I might return to the one in Bangkok, but I'll definitely steer clear of this one. At least I was able to confirm my suspicions either way.

Netsuretsu Ichiban-Tei, Robertson Quay

Clockwise from upper right: Asahi Nama Biru, Tonkotsu Ramen, Kimuchi, Gyoza

I must have walked by this place (60 Robertson Quay, #01-13, 6733-3923) a million times after eating at Aburiya, but never found the chance to go in (and a fellow reader had recommended it a while back too). Today, we finally had a chance to go, and it wasn't too bad. It's a relatively authentic low-cost (relative to Japanese food) Japanese family restaurant, with ramen obviously being a key fixture as a result. In fact, their logo seems to suggest that they specialize in tan tan ramen, which I didn't try this time, but hope to one of these days (obviously it's not going to be like the Taiwanese version though).

Anyway, the tonkotsu ramen was probably one of the best I've had in Singapore: it was relatively creamy and rich, with ingredients done just right, like the egg and noodles (the chasiu was also extra fatty). It was definitely much better than Tampopo's (although it still isn't Jyangara - that's for sure). I was also happy to see them serving draft Asahi beer, another thing I haven't found too common in Singapore (one notable exception being Noodle Shop Ken).

Tsuke Shoyu

The tsuke shoyu cold ramen was also decently good, with generous portions of condiments (although not so generous portions of noodles). Neighboring Miharu is honestly much better, but this is not bad by any means. They also have a tsuke tonkotsu featuring my favorite pork bone-based broth that I'm eager to try next time.

The only real letdown was the gyoza, which were too short and fat without enough grease taste. I'll pass on those next time. (Strangely, they also provided kimuchi on every table, but it seemed too Chinese to me - not enough salt.) But there's still lots that I want to try here, including the namesake tan tan ramen, as well as the chahan fried rice. It looks like they have another location at the Hong Leong Building (916 Raffles Quay, #B1-16, 6221-7781) within the Nanten restaurant, so I hope to get a chance to go again soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Espirito Santo Gourmet & Butchery

Espirito Santo

If you ever have a BBQ, try hitting up this place beforehand. They specialize (but are not limited to) Latin meats, which means that they've got some great sausages for throwing on a fire (much better than any pre-packaged First Choice stuff you'll find at a supermarket). One of my favorites is the Spicy Italian sausage, which is has a great kick with just the right amount of grease and salt. The Spicy Linguica is good too, if a bit excessively salty and fatty. (Be careful when grilling the sausages with tongs: the casings are super thin and rupture easily.) If you get the ribs, get the Argentinian rub/marinade - you won't even really need BBQ sauce after that (but talk to the butcher about what your needs are - I accidentally ordered a set of ribs today that ended up being a bit too thick for my taste).

They also sell preset meals, including pastas and kebabs. Anyway, these guys are at 376 River Valley Road (6256-5070).

The Beef House (Beef Ball Big King)

S$3 Beef Ball Bee Hoon

This place specializes in what are probably the best beef balls I've ever had. (By the way, those are basically Chinese meatballs, not Rocky Mountain Oysters.) I used to come here a lot on the back of a writeup in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, but I hadn't been back here in at least a couple of years. I was reminded of it recently by a Straits Times story earlier this month though. The thing that makes this place so good is the firm texture and fresh taste of the beefballs that puts all those frozen synthetic ones to shame. The chili sauce is very pungent with a heavy dose of raw garlic (dragon breath alert) but without any hint of sweetness that one finds in similar chili sauces for chicken rice. Some argue that the broth is too bland, but I find it light enough to be refreshing, and the few celery leaves on top give it the perfect touch of flavor. In typical hawker fashion, bowls are available at S$3 to S$5 (US$1.75 to US$2.95) depending on the size of the portions that you want, although I find that the S$3 bowl is generally good enough.

The original location is at the Gar Lok Eating House on 217 Syed Alwi Road (I used to come here on my way back from Mustafa), but apparently they have opened several locations now, including one on Killiney Road (I learned the hard way that it's at 118 Killiney Road, unlike what the Straits Times incorrectly wrote). Note that they are only open from 8AM to 6PM, so don't make the mistake of trying to come here for dinner like I once did.

Separately, I finally had a local (Malaysian?) "Chinese Apple" drink today, which is basically an apple soda like that Taiwanese "Apple Sidra" stuff that I love. But it's significantly watered down, so I'll still be hitting up the 7-Elevens next time I'm in Taipei.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Kalinka Malinka, Singapore

Pork Pelmeni Dumplings

This was a very pleasant surprise. Located in the oddly placed second floor of the former Blues Tavern bar, this place (143 Tanglin Road, #02-01, Tudor Court, 6738-8993) has undergone a complete facelift - the decor is so plush that it Blues Tavern is not even recognizable - and has now become a Russian restaurant, complete with a head chef from Moscow. I was a bit bummed when the two proprietors switched hands as I was never a huge fan of Russian food, but I still had to try. And boy, am I glad I did.

Beef ShashlikWe knew that we were off to a good start with the Pork Pelmeni dumplings, which were small enough to taste good and were cooked just right, sitting in an salty buttery broth (and better than some dumplings that I once had in Estonia). The Beef Shashlik was very tender - and definitely a far cry from the hilarious Hokkien Shashlik restaurant down the street.

Beef Stroganoff

The highlight of the meal had to have been the Beef Stroganoff though. It so rich and creamy that you just wanted to eat more (we're not talking about those cheap cardboard boxes of frozen Budget Gourmet here). This place was very impressive. It is a bit "nicer" (and hence more expensive) than I thought it would be though, so be prepared - don't exactly expect to come here for a casual (nor fast) meal.