Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Tavern - with US Beef!

US Ribeye

Singapore officially lifted its ban on US beef today, so what better way to celebrate than to get a nice bloody steak? The venue tonight was The Tavern (229 River Valley Road, 6737-6995). This was a quaint and cozy little wood-paneled place, complete with Continental European menus written on a wheeled chalkboard that are pushed by to your table. Almost as if Morton's and Lawry's joined forces, this place pushes the raw meat over to your table, and then carves it in front of you (before cooking though), where it is weighed in order to calculate the charges. To be honest, I didn't know that US beef was available already, but when I noticed it on the menu, I was a bit surprised, and the waiter told me that this was the first day. The dish selection was a no-brainer then!

GoulashIt was pretty good: tender, rich, and full of that flame-broiled taste. They underdid by "medium" a bit, but I didn't mind so much, as it sure is better than being overdone. I also got the goulash to start, which was piping hot and full of little diced ingredients. I've never been to Hungary, so I can't really say if this was authentic or not, but it was pretty good, even if it didn't seem as spicy as some others that I've tried (I was quite addicted to Soup Central's until they closed their International Plaza branch). Finally, I finished this off with the "Mango-Mango," which was basically just sliced mango with mango sorbet.

I heard that long ago, this place would feature beef from Niman Ranch back home, but no one seemed to know a thing about it tonight (I guess they haven't served US beef in so long that they forgot). This place came with Morton's-like prices though, so for that kind of money, I'd admittedly still rather go to Morton's instead. The Tavern does have a bar next door, billed as a "Wine, Tapas, & Music Bar," so I thought it might be nice to come back to try the tapas one of these days (and they seemed to have some "All-Night-Long, Drink All You Can" special for only S$30 or US$17.65 on weekdays). But I looked at the menu very quickly before leaving, and alas, it wasn't Spanish food - it was just random bar snacks, complete with mini hamburgers and tandoori chicken. Hmph. Oh well. I heard that Lawry's was going to throw some sort of US beef reunion party or something tonight. I wonder how that went.

Mamee Monster Noodle Snack

Mamee Monster Noodle Snack

Hahahahahah. This stuff is hilarious. You know those hard bricks of instant noodles that you need to cook in boiling water? (Top Ramen as it's known in the US) This Malaysian company makes a product where you intentionally eat it as a crunchy snack, as the wrapper says (next to the clear ripoff of Grover/Cookie Monster): "No Cooking Required." It's an MSG bomb too, as the noodles come pre-seasoned.

It's so funny; this is the second bacheloresque-practicality thing that I've come across out here, and yet it's commonly accepted (apparently many locals ate this a number of years ago when they were growing up). When I was a kid, my mom once scolded me for trying to eat Top Ramen without cooking it first. If only she knew about this...

Dolce Vita, Oriental Singapore

The mushroom soup in the Executive Set Lunch

Dolce Vita on the fifth floor of the Oriental Hotel in Singapore (6885-3551) sounded Italian, but actually features a Mediterranean menu (in my defense, it wasn't my choice to come to a Mediterranean restaurant again - someone else arranged this business lunch). I was a bit concerned at first, seeing that it was a hotel poolside restaurant with a menu featuring names so elaborate that you needed a secret decoder ring to figure it out. For instance, the Executive Set Lunch started with some sort of "Cappucino of champignon with [blah, blah, blah, blah, blah]." Just to be sure, I asked the staff about it before she explained to me that it was simply "mushroom soup" (even if I knew much French - which I don't - I think I would still have preferred a simpler description). To add to the snootiness, the soup had a healthy dallop of foam on top, which to me is just pointless. I was disappointed in the taste at first too since I was expecting a Campbell's (ha ha) Cream of Mushroom richness, only to find that it was thin instead. But once I got past that bias, I realized that this was actually really good in its own right: it was light and full of mushroom flavor. Hmmm...things were starting to show some promise.

The seabass in the Executive Set Lunch

Then came the seabass, which also surprised me. This very fresh and tasty fish was done just right, sitting on some mildly spicy lentils, but without being too overpowering. A few selected red peppercorns added the occasional amount of surprise and character to it too (hey - nice touch!). Finally came the dessert, which was just a straighforward - but appropriately refreshing - sorbet and strawberry combo.

uhh...the dessert in the Executive Set LunchI was impressed. Normally I frown upon chichi places like this for concentrating too much on making it look pretty rather than focusing on the taste of the food itself. Dolce Vita, on the other hand, had achieved both, which I was not expecting. This was one of the few times where I had found fancy-looking food to actually taste really good too.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Persepolis Restaurant, Prinsep Place


Yaaayyyyy!!!!! After so many failed attempts at trying to find good Persian food in Singapore, at long last I have found it. Persepolis is located at Prinsep Place across from Paradiz Centre (46A Prinsep Street #01-01, 6238-1151). In fact, I noticed this place when passing by Trattoria Lafiandra last time, but I didn't think it would be any good given that they had pizza on the menu (i.e., oh great, another restaurant with an identity crisis). Still, I noticed that they had koobideh, so I had to come by to give it a shot. Boy, am I glad I did.

It was outstanding. I could not believe it, but it was true. The meat was tender, tasty, and done with just the right amount of burntness. The rice was bursting with a buttery flavor, and even the lemon was sliced just right, so as to provide a generous squeeze of juice. Wow. I wolfed this thing down so quickly that I ordered one more of the exact same plate afterwards, and they were very prompt in delivering it too. (Before you call me a pig, please note that these portions were literally less than half the size the dish is supposed to be.) It wasn't as expensive as I thought it would be either: just S$15 (US$8.80), so my double-duty was only S$30 (US$17.60) in total. I would have happily paid more for this rare find.

Sure, maybe I'm getting a bit too giddy here. They certainly didn't present the whole emsemble like Shabestan in Dubai, and I even had to proactively ask them to bring me some raw onions on the side (the taste is just not the same without it). Was there anything else not to like? Yeah, the salad on the plate was pretty useless - it would be much better off with a couple extra portions of rice or even some more grilled tomatoes instead. And - ugh - I found a human hair in my rice, but I just turned a blind eye to it and kept eating, as the butter flavor still fueled my appetite.

This place is very small - just four tiny tables inside plus some extra seats on the patio, the latter of which seemed to be catering more towards selling beer to people wanting to watch soccer on the big screen TV outside. There were a few Persian rugs hanging from the ceiling inside, plus a bunch of hookahs/shishas lying around on the floor as if they hadn't been used in years. In fact, there were almost no customers at the prime 7:30-8:30 PM slot on a Sunday evening, which made me worry about how long this place would stay in business. They told me that they had been in place for four years already though, so that was a bit of a relief. They don't serve lunch, unfortunately, although that's not a totally bad thing considering that I probably don't want to be effusing a raw-onion-induced dragon breath mid-day at the office.

Anyway, I was so happy to find this that I'm still having trouble wiping this huge smile off my face. I feel like a man who had been panning for gold for years without success, only to find this by sheer luck. I'm definitely coming back. I haven't tried anything else on the menu, so I don't know if anything else was any good (they had shish kebab as well as some Persian stews, and I suspect that the pizza is only on the menu to help it appeal to a broader audience, as the waitress sounded so surprised to hear that I actually knew what Persian food was). But I already know what I'm going to ask for next time: a double-order of koobideh with a side of raw onions again. My mouth is watering just writing about this.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Eau La La (second chance)

Lamb Kebabs

I decide to give Eau La La a second chance today by going for those kebabs, which apparently they billed as Turkish. I've never been to Turkey before, but at least from what I've had from Berlin's big Turkish population, this sure wasn't what I was expecting. Instead of being grilled simply on a fire, they did it Esmirada-style with a flamboyant hanging rack. And unfortunately, it was covered in some sauce that just covered up the taste of the meat. Esmirada's simple salt taste and choice of ingredients is my preference.

Paella Valencia

I was also craving a bit of rice, so I went ahead and got the paella too, hoping that things would finally improve. Alas, disappointment set in again: the rice - while flavorful and bursting with saffron - was too soggy. To make things worse, they actually used what appeared to be hot dogs instead of chorizo in here (geez!). I guess I'm not surprised why there were scant a customer to be seen (whereas a line was forming in front of neighboring Miharu just before their 6:30 PM opening).

So my opinion is unchanged even after this second try: while the food wasn't as bad as it could have been, it is not something that I'll come back for. What a bummer for someone who loves Cantina so much.

Lemon Rice at Bombay Woodlands

Lemon Rice and Jal Jeera

Here's just a quick photo of the Lemon Rice that I had at Bombay Woodlands, complete with little sour pickles on the side as a condiment. I also got a jal jeera drink, which was a bit weird considering that it was basically the salty peppery juice that goes into pani puri, but I had to try it. I also got a plate of sev puri, which the guy said had vermicelli-like stuff in it or something, but it just seemed like a dry version of dahi bhatata puri without the yogurt.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Eau La La, Gallery Hotel

Chicken Tagine

This was a bit of a letdown. Excited by the thought that this place (76 Robertson Quay #01-12, 6887-6668) was owned by the same folks that own Cantina and run by a Moroccan chef, we made our way down here tonight. I went straight for the Moroccan food, starting with the harira. The taste wasn't bad, but I was rather shocked to find tube-shaped pasta sitting inside too (huh? Is this because Cantina is Italian?). Then I moved to the chicken tagine, which although finally served in an actual tagine this time, still did not invoke memories of Morocco for me. It was almost more like a local curry stew with potatoes. I would have preferred a much stronger taste of preserved lemons and olives in this.

HariraPerhaps the reason for these confusing tastes is because this place features all sorts Mediterranean cuisines, including Spanish, Italian, and others, all noted with little country flags on the menu. (They even had Cantina's linguini al granchio, but it was cooked with way too much garlic here.) And even though I normally shun such identity-crisis places, it's not often that we get Moroccan chefs out here, so I guess I was hoping that that would help focus things. Alas, I was let down, leaving me with a rather unsatisfied feeling upon departure.

Well, the food could have been worse; in fact, these were decently tasty and could stand up well on their own, had I not known anything better. And I did notice paella and kebabs on the menu, so I do plan to come back to try those given my lack of success in trying to obtain good renditions of these locally thus far. But I won't be getting cravings for that harira or tagine.

Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant

Spicy Seafood Combination

I'd noticed signs for this place a couple times when passing by the lobby of UOB Plaza, and it sounded interesting given that I like Sichuan food, and that this was up on the 60th floor of the building. Today, we happened to go there for lunch, ordering one of the big set menus (apparently they also have locations at Plaza Parkroyal as well as Grand Plaza Parkroyal).

Seven Delicacies Combination starters, including a shredded chicken in peanut sauce, as well as mushroomsIt started out with the so-called "Seven Delicacies Combination," or a bunch of cold starters in little dishes spread out around the edges of the lazy Susan. I particularly liked a shredded chicken in peanut sauce starter, as well as a spicy sliced pork that tasted a lot like the "laundry" pork at Chuan (and just as spicy and tasty - yum). Next, we got the usual Chinese banquet dishes like Shark's Fin Soup and Steamed Garoupa. They also served us a "Spicy Seafood Combination," which featured sliced fish and prawns in a pretty darned spicy sauce. What was interesting was that it featured Sichuan-style spices, but it had the consistency and influence of Singaporean chili crab sauce - together with a fried mantou to boot. Regardless, I liked it; it really packed a punch.

Camphor Tea Smoked Duck

Next came the Camphor Tea Smoked Duck, which seemed more like Peking Duck rather than any spicy Sichuan thing, but it was very aromatic and a welcome breather from all the spiciness earlier. The Fresh Scallop with Garlic & Chilli in Basket was also a nice one too, with crispy noodle-like things forming the "basket." The meal then closed off with the usual Ee Fu Noodles and Mango Pudding.

The tea kettle with the long spoutBeing way up on the 60th floor, this place is definitely rather posh, complete with a traditional long-spouted tea kettle and a nice view. But sometimes it's a bit excessive, like the dry ice that they put in the glass gauntlet holding the mango pudding (and thus being a bit tacky). As pointed out above, it wasn't exactly pure Sichuan food either, so I probably wouldn't come here on my own. But for a big business lunch or banquet, I don't suppose that I'd mind (and might, in fact, prefer it), so long as the rest of your party doesn't mind spicy food.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Aromas Coffee, Lippo Centre

Tuna Melt

I used to come here once in a while (78 Shenton Way #01-00, 6224-7877), but then I tasted Kaffe Krema. Today, I came by for the first time since then, and I realized that I like Kaffe Krema better. Similar to Kaffe Krema, it's actually more of a little coffee stand that just happens to serve sandwiches (but the selection is bigger as long as you look beyond what's posted on the boards and look at the separate sandwich list). And the tuna melt is OK with baked on cheese and such. But I still like the taste and quality of the ingredients at Kaffe Krema better, as long as I'm patient enough to get past the long lunch lines that form there these days.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Uncle Leong Seafood, Ang Mo Kio

Crab Bee Hoon

This place (233 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 Street 22 #01-1194, 6554-3453) is apparently run by the brother of the more well-known Mellben Seafood on the other side of the parking lot. It's been a while since I've eaten there, so I don't remember that place too much, but tonight's meal was pretty good.

Black Pepper Crab

Of course we went through the usual Singaporean seafood delights, like cereal prawns, chili crab, and pepper crab. But each of these excelled in their own right here. The cereal prawns used a very light oat bran, the sambal kangkong was extra spicy, and the pepper crab featured very coarsely ground black pepper (just be careful when cracking open crab so as not to spray some of that pepper into your eye like I did - ouch!). We also got the crab bee hoon, which, in contrast to the dry version at Sin Huat in Geylang, was in more of a milky white soup form (and that's apparently the more common version).

Guinness PorkOne really interesting dish we got was the Guinness Pork. What is that, you might ask? Well, just like "cereal prawns," this is pork made with Guinness (yes, the Irish stout - I heard that locals believe that stout has healing properties or something?). It was really good; it was kinda like sweet-and-sour pork (of American Chinese fame) but on steroids, with a crispy caramelized edge and with cilantro to boot. Wow - that was a surprise.

Chili Crab and Sambal Kangkong

If there were anything to pick on, it would be that the chili crab sauce tasted too much like Chinese chili sauce from a bottle. But it was still pretty good, and I'm definitely impressed with this place. This is one to earmark for a repeat visit.

Melbourne's Bratwurst Shop in Singapore

Black Pepper Pork Grilled Sausage

I finally made it down here today, and indeed, this is related to the famous shop at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market; apparently this guy used to work there, and then he went in with the owner over there to setup shop here as the first overseas branch.

Anyway, I ventured off into a couple new items today, including the Black Pepper Pork sausage, which the owner's wife assured me was one of the most popular ones there next to the Spicy Beef & Pork sausage that I got last time. It tasted just like it sounded with a black pepper taste, but it just didn't have enough kick, so I think I'll still go for the Spicy Beef & Pork sausage next time (and maybe opt for some extra toppings that they offer like grilled onions). They have other sausage selections, like Mild Beef & Pork and Chicken & Mushroom, but those don't sound too appetizing to me, aside from maybe the Swiss Cheese Pork. Anyway, all the sausages are apparently custom-made here, and run at S$4.50 (US$2.65), with extras at S$0.20 (US$0.12) each.

Rosemary Lamb Focaccia with Tzatziki Sauce, Feta Cheese & Spanish OnionsThey also feature a number of focaccia sandwiches here. Now, I'm not a huge fan of focaccia (I don't like that overused olive oil and rosemary taste), but I went for this after seeing a news article posted at the shop that talked about how their Rosemary Lamb sandwich tasted like Greek souvlaki that is sold along Lonsdale Street in Melbourne. It was pretty tasty, especially with the sauce, but I'm still gonna stick to the sausages next time.

Boon Tong Kee on Balestier Road

Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice

I didn't mean to eat chicken rice two days in a row, but I've been working late this week, so it was just convenient to hit a late night chicken rice shop tonight. This is also one of the more well-known places around the island, with multiple locations. Interestingly, the locations will vary a bit, with the one on River Valley doing weird things like putting your rice in a pyramid shape. Tonight, I hit the one at 401 Balestier Road.

I must say, this was one of the juiciest chicken rice platters I've ever had. But the standout here was the rice - probably one of the tastiest. Oddly, the scallions were crudely shopped on the side rather than shredded, but it was still pretty good. Anyway, my preference is still for Tian Tian Chicken Rice, but this place was open late tonight, and I just needed to put something in my stomach before going home.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More From Pasta Brava

Ravioli Con Carne De Manzo Al Gorgonzola

I finally ventured off my usual lasagne routine at Pasta Brava (11 Craig Road, 6227-7550) today, opting for their homemade Ravioli Con Carne De Manzo Al Gorgonzola instead. The pasta was fresh and cooked to the right level of firmness, but I'm not quite accustomed to the taste of blue cheese on ravioli (I still prefer blue cheese cold on salads).

Torta Di Mele Al Mascarpone E Ricotta Con GelatoI also tried the apple pie, but I should have known better than to build up the thought of American apple pie in my head while we were in an Italian restaurant. This was, instead, a bit like a cross between a cheesecake and a fruitcake that happened to have some apple in it and a side of vanilla ice cream. I was a bit let down by this. I shoulda stuck to my lasagne.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice

Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice

Here's a pretty well-praised chicken rice shop (275 Thomson Road, #01-09). It's definitely better than average, but I still prefer Tian Tian Chicken Rice instead. The soup here is a bit too bland for me (it's a bit sweet rather than salty). At least it's open until 2 AM.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hotel Saravana Bhavan, Singapore

Adai Avial

This was interesting. Saravana Bhavan (63 Robinson Road #01-01, 6224-4525) is a Chennai-based vegetarian chain with multiple locations across India that curiously has the word "Hotel" in the name, even though it appears to be just a restaurant. It has gone overseas, including two locations in Singapore (the other one is near Sri Kaliamman Temple on Serangoon Road), and even a location in Sunnyvale, CA (ha ha - what a small world!).

Anyway, I was told to get the adai avial, which is apparently some kind of lentil-based flour made into pancake-like things. And when I say pancake, I really mean pancake: there is butter melting on top, just like good ol' Bisquick. Of course, this is more savory than it is sweet, and I don't think it's a breakfast dish (although they do seem to give you some form of sugar on the side if you want - and it's almost just as sweet as Aunt Jemima). Apparently this is one of the few places in Singapore that serves this dish, despite the plethora of Indian places around here.

Chola Bhatura

Another tasty treat tonight was the chola bhatura, which was this huge deep fried...uhh...thing. I don't even know what to call it. It is this dough-based flying saucer-like (but hollow) thing deep fried in grease. It is so big that it doesn't even fit on the plate. But it is pretty good. The taste and texture reminded me a lot of Taiwanese yio tiao, except of course this is UFO-shaped rather than in stick-form. Accompanying it are raw onions and some sort of garbanzo curry thing. I'm not a huge fan of garbanzo beans, so I wasn't a huge fan of that curry, but it was definitely needed to cut the greasy taste of the bhatura. There was a nice oily residue sitting at the bottom of the plate when I finished. And whoever said that vegetarianism was healthy??

Ta Lu Prawn Noodles, Hoe Chiang Road

$5.50 Mee Pok Prawn Noodle

Here's just another bowl from the place that I went to the other day (9 Hoe Chiang Road). This time, I opted for the pork slices, flat mee pok noodles, and an extra S$0.50 (US$0.30) for more noodles so that I wouldn't go hungry like last time. This was pretty tasty, I must say, especially with a nice chili sauce and deep fried shallots and such. It kinda reminded me of Tung Kee Noodle House.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Marrakesh Moroccan Lounge & Bar

From left: Tagine Koft Tamaghdour and Labneh

Harry's appears to be expanding. It opened Marrakesh (#01-01 Block 3D at Clarke Quay, 6338-7331) a couple months ago, despite the fact that the renovations at Clarke Quay are incomplete, thus tucking the bar away into an obscure corner of the area that is in fact a bit hard to find at the moment. But once you find it, you'll see a really nicely decorated place and an impressive lounge environment. It's more of a bar than a restaurant; in fact, the menu positions everything as bar snacks, but I still wanted to give it a try. Apparently they even hired a Moroccan chef.

I went ahead and grabbed the tagine koft kamaghdour to give it a shot. Disappointingly, the tagine was not served in the eponymous tagine pottery; rather, it was served in slices on a plate. At least it was pretty tasty, although it still wasn't quite what I had in the real city of Marrakech. And they had labneh here, which I understand is more of a Lebanese thing rather than Moroccan, but it was still pretty good and fresh, even if it seemed a bit thin (and with slightly stale bread).

Will I come back? Well, for drinks, this is a pretty cool and cushy place, and I guess I wouldn't mind the "bar snacks" while I'm there. But for a real meal, I'll probably wait a bit; they said they would consider starting up some lunch options after this section of Clarke Quay opens at the end of the month. While it's not quite what I had in Morocco, the food was by and large still good enough that I can't exactly call this a bad meal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Garibaldi, Purvis Street

Pan-Roasted King Prawn Wrapped in Parma Ham with Tahiti Vanilla InfusionGaribaldi (36 Purvis Street, 6837-1468) is across the street from Chuan. They had a fixed menu tonight, so everything was pre-selected aside from a choice of seabass or veal. By and large, the dishes were pretty good, be it the "raw spanner crab with green able and tomato sherbet" (that was different!), the "pan-roasted king prawn wrapped in Parma ham with Tahiti vanilla infusion" (crunchy enough to eat the head), or the "sea-scallop and black truffle ravioli with leeks and saffron sauce" (one whole scallop inside a ravioli). The foie gras went well with the super-tender veal too.

Unfortunately, the meal fell short toward the end with the "golden molten lava chocolate cake with nutmeg ice cream and cherry sauce." Unlike Morton's, this chocolate cake lacked the rich sweet taste that I was hoping for, thus seeming rather bland. (Sorry for the crappy photos here - it was really dark in there.)

Sea-Scallop and Black Truffle Ravioli with Leeks and Saffron SauceSo just as with many other chichi places: the service is attentive, the ambiance is beautiful, and in many ways it is worth the high prices as the food generally is fresh and delicate (and you've gotta respect the kitchen for being so creative and original). But at the end of the day, this kind of stuff is not something that I will get cravings for.

Breakfast Catering at the Fullerton

A Cheese Selection

Since we're on the topic of event catering, it seems appropriate to add that the Fullerton Hotel does great breakfast spreads. I was thoroughly impressed: the bacon was extra thin and crispy, the cheese spread was quite impressive, and the omelettes were done just right. They even had miniature bite-size French Toast made from slices of baguette. Awesome.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fish & Chips at Harry's

Harry's Fish & Chips

This looked so pathetic when it was brought out to me. It wasn't really fish and chips; it was more like fish sticks and fries - in a very small portion, I might add. At least it tasted decent, and the malt vinegar here wasn't in a spray bottle. But I guess I should go to an English pub instead of Harry's (an American jazz bar) next time.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Prawn Mee and Soup Kambing at Adam Road

Dry Prawn Noodle

Dry chili powder at your disposalThe hawker center at Adam Road has a number of notable food stalls. One of these is Noo Cheng Adam Road Prawn Noodle (stall number 27), which is apparently now open late until 2 AM. This guy's was probably the best one out of all the prawn noodle bowls I've had recently. The noodles are tasty with a healthy kick of chili, and the prawn is conveniently cut longitudinally, which makes it loads easier to shell. And while I'm still not a huge fan of the soup (due to its sweetness), it's still better than the other shops (that's why I stick to the "dry" noodles). It's not a lot of food, but it's only S$4 (US$2.35).

Soup Kambing - the S$3

That means that there is enough room in your stomach to sample other dishes here too. I also hit up the Bahrakath Mutton Soup King (stall number 10), who boasts of awards from SBestFood and Singapore Food Map. His kambing soup is simply awesome: full of rich flavor with a spicy bite, complete with extra tenderly cooked mutton and fried shallots and cilantro to cinch the taste. Yum. The ugly greenish brownish color may look like hell, but it sure tastes like heaven. And it all starts at just S$3 (US$1.75) - or more if you want more stuff in it.

Soup Kambing - in a hanging takeaway baggieIn fact, I liked this guy so much that I grabbed a bowl to go (or "take-away" as they say here) for the next day. Takeout in Singapore is done in a bit of an interesting way if your food is of a hot fluid form like soup or hot tea: they pour it into a plastic baggie. This can be a bit strange since you really can't drink soup from a bag without pouring it into a bowl of your own first, but apparently the baggies are cheaper than plastic bowl-like containers. It can also be a bit weird with hot tea or coffee since you can't fit it into a cupholder - instead, find a hook somewhere to hang it from, and then use the straw sitting in the bag. Anyway, it helps to have a bowl or cup of your own at your disposal - either that, or cough up a little more money and tell them to put it in a styrofoam cup or plastic bowl.

Catchup Chronicles #7: Amsterdam

I wish I had started this blog about four years ago, when I really started to give my passport and frequent flier accounts a workout, going to new places around the world. Well, in an effort to try to make up for some of that, I've dug up some old photos that I've taken, and will post them here in sections from time to time (especially when I don't see any upcoming travel for a while). This episode: Amsterdam.

A Savory Pancake

A Bucket of SyrupHere is a pancake from The Pancake Bakery (Prinsengracht 191 near the Anne Frank house, 020-625-13-33). They've got a very wide range of ingredients, ranging from sweet to savory (and a huge bucket of syrup at the table for you to douse with). I had a savory one - although so many years have passed since this trip that I really don't remember much about it. I think it was more thin-pizza/crepe-like than a pancake though.

Another interesting meal that we had in Amsterdam was rijsttafel ("rice table"), or little Indonesian dishes kept warm on burners for Dutch colonists (sorry - it looks like I didn't take a photo of that). I was not a huge fan of Indonesian food to begin with, but I do remember some of the little dishes did have a good spicy kick to them. I think that was also my first experience with soto ayam - ironically, getting it in Europe for the first time despite having lived right next door to Indonesia for a year or two by then.

A Kebab PlatterHere's a kebab platter from a random shop in one of the alleyways of the city. I really don't remember if this was any good - it was eaten on pure impulse and haste one afternoon - but it's pertinent given all the various kebabs that I've been hitting up around the world lately.

Unfortunately, I don't really have many other photos (nor memories) of Dutch food. Putting mayo on fries isn't as nasty as it sounds though - I actually rather enjoy it (especially while stumbing around late at night craving food).

SQ Seared NZ Lamb Chops

And here's just the final meal on the long-haul flight back - seared New Zealand lamb chops - thanks to SQ's Book the Cook service.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Trattoria Lafiandra, Prinsep Street

Tagliatelle Bolognese

We gave Trattoria Lafiandra a try tonight (46 Prinsep Street #01-01, 6238-8746). It was a bit tough to find at first, as it was buried among a bunch of bars with big neon signs, none of which suggested an Italian restaurant lurking in the midst. But after finally finding it, the food turned out to be pretty good, be it the rich ham ravioli, or the mushroom soup. The minestrone was thin but still refreshing, and the tagliatelle bolognese was decent.

Free BruschettaWould I come back though? Eh...probably not. The food, while better than average, still did not evoke that emotional reaction that Cantina did. Plus, the service was so slow tonight that we decided to skip dessert on the assumption that it would take too long. At least they brought out some tasty airy bruschetta as a starter to appease us during the long wait.

Well, they do appear to be open until midnight seven days a week though, so I suppose this can be a decent fallback if I get off work too late...as long as I'm not in a rush to get anywhere afterwards.

Another Lo Hei, Another Four Seasons

Another Lo Hei

OK, the Chinese caterer at the Four Seasons does do good catering. At another banquet today, everything was great, be it the fish, poultry, or lo hei (yes, another one). I wish more events could be held here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro

Littleneck Clams NZ

A while back, I noticed a sign outside this shop (34 Greenwood Ave, 6467-4950) boasting of Fish & Chips Takeaway, and outside, it looked like a simple fish market. So I thought it was a typical fish & chips shop, where they wrap some fish and chips in butcher paper and douse it in salt and vinegar. Instead, what I found was an actual restaurant tucked away behind the fish market, complete with linens and silverware. Whoa. OK, it wasn't quite what I was expecting, but the menu featured Western seafood, which was something I had not found in all the time I've been in Singapore. So I went ahead with one of my faves: steamed littleneck clams. It came with a decent buttery broth, so it wasn't off to a bad start, despite having what I felt was a mildly excessive amount of parsley.

House Fish & Chips - Battered

Now, seeing that I was sitting down at a nice place, I wasn't exactly in the mood for fish and chips anymore. But I came all the way down here for this, so I still went ahead and got the House Fish & Chips. Interestingly, they offered it in a variety of non-battered styles, but of course I had to get the classic interpretation. And fortunately, it turned out well. It was piping hot without being excessively battery, and it had a pretty good taste. Nice job, despite the sweet Thai garlic chili sauce that was oddly provided with the tartar sauce.

Still, this place wasn't perfect. The portions were small, and I was a bit surprised to see an alfalfa sprout-topped salad on my plate with bell peppers - it's as if they were trying to make it look chichi (and I didn't care for the sweet dressing either). I also noticed that the to-go price for fish & chips was cheaper than the menu (maybe that's the butcher-paper kind that I was looking for? - hopefully sans salad too). When I asked for malt vinegar, they gave it to me in a spray bottle (not only did it take forever to drench my fish in vinegar that way, but the sweaty-sock-like smell of malt vinegar isn't exactly an aroma that one wants to be sprayed into the air). The place was a bit of a mess (food on the floor, fluids on the floor, tables with unchanged linens, etc). And interestingly, the servants were not allowed to take my order due to some management change just one week ago (the manager denied that there was any change when I asked him about this though).

Well, it doesn't matter. I'm just glad to find a place that serves seafood like they do back home (although I think this place is supposed to be modeled off of a Sydney-style place if I heard correctly). The food was better than I thought it would be, and it looks like they even have a Tuesday S$1 (US$0.60) Oyster Nite that could get interesting. I'll be coming back.

Pierside Kitchen and Bar (yawn)

Lobster Gumbo

I didn't quite feel like the miso cod at Pierside today, so I tried venturing off into something else. I started with the Lobster Gumbo, which was surprisingly mild, and simply lacked an edge. It looks like Bisous still wins in this department.

Spinach Pasta

Unfortunately, this proved to be a bit of a consistent theme throughout the meal. The spinach pasta, while having a great springy texture, was so boringly bland - ugh! I kept hoping to discover a rich cream or stanky cheesy aroma buried inside, but I was simply left disappointed the more and more that I dug into it.

Lemon TartAnd as pretty as the lemon tart was, the only thing I enjoyed from this was the tangy sorbet rather than the tart itself. What a shame - I don't mean to be harsh, but this was really boring. It seems as if the kitchen was trying so hard to make everything look pretty that they forgot to make the taste stand out in the process.