Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Fish with Spaghetti" on SilkAir

Fish with Spaghetti or Linguine?

That was interesting. The flight attendants were telling the passengers that the selections tonight were "fish with spaghetti" or "chicken with fried rice." The word "spaghetti" instantly conjured up images of a red tomato-based sauce in my head, which didn't quite resonate with me, seeing as it sounded like they paired it with some fish. So I nearly opted for the chicken instead until the flight attendant suddenly changed her description when she reached our row to "fish with linguine in a cream sauce." Whoa. That changed my selection immediately.

It turned out to be the right choice. This wasn't too bad, with a decently creamy sauce and fish that didn't reek of anything too aged. In contrast, I also got to try some of the chicken, whose dark spicy kung pao-like sauce was enjoyable, but the chicken cubes themselves had a bit of a not-that-fresh aftertaste. I don't know why she suddenly changed the description of the dish when she reached us (especially since this clearly was a different noodle type altogether), but I'm glad that she did.

Dunkin' Donuts at Phuket Airport

Boston Kreme

Whoa - there is a Dunkin' Donuts stand at the airport here. Here's a Boston Kreme doughnut, which definitely pales in comparison to Krispy Kreme (especially with a much stingier amount of cream filling inside). It still went down quickly though. The funny thing is that I never really went to Dunkin' Donuts much back in the US (I think it was more of an East Coast thing?).

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Vegetarian egg rolls and noodles

Apparently the Chinese population on Phuket runs some annual vegetarian festival for ten days for purification purposes, and by sheer coincidence, we were here at the same time. With only one day remaining though, we figured that we'd try some of the fare, even if some of the street stalls selling such stuff didn't really look very appetizing.

Can anyone who can read Thai verify that these signs are in reference to the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?We grabbed a simple bowl of noodles, which featured some forms of clear fungus, some faux-char siew, and even vegetarian meatballs that looked very similar to the real thing. The char siew impressively had a bit of a smoky flavor to it, but the meatballs were just tasteless. The broth was also a bit sweet (probably from all the vegetables), so a dose of fish sauce and chili powder were needed here to change the taste. We also got some vegetarian egg rolls, but these were a bit hard and nothing that impressive. We eventually left a bit unsatisfied, but at least we tried this vegetarian thing out.

Schwepps Sparkling Manao SodaAnd here is final entry for this trip on local drinks, this one being Schwepps Sparkling Manao Soda, which is basically lime soda. It was a bit sweeter and concentrated than I was expecting, but still fine.

Some Market in Kata, Phuket

The market in Kata

Here's that market in Kata (near the Karon side) that I got that kanohm jin from. It wasn't much different than any other open market around here, complete with veggies, spices, seafood, and meat (plus of course the wet floors and flies circling overhead), but I'm always into checking out these kinds of places. It's always kind of fun to use hand signals to communicate when you don't know the local language too.

Some random bowl of noodles off the streets of KataWe later migrated further into the center of Kata and found a few streetside vendors selling som tam papaya salad as well as a lady with some of those round things that I thought she would make into that yum-nam-sod stuff I had in Bangkok once, but instead she served us a bowl of soup noodles (featuring none other than kanohm jin noodles, BTW), complete with bloodcakes and even optional chicken feet if we wanted it. It was spicy and tasty, but also a bit cold and probably not something I'll go for again.

Local Kanohm Jin Phuket - finally!

Kanohm Jin with a curry gravy and a selection of veggies

Finally after so many aborted attempts to get kanohm jin, a breakfast dish originating from Phuket, I finally found some this morning (and in a true local style; not dressed up all prettily in a Bangkok restaurant). It was actually still rather difficult to find this morning, as the first place that I went to along the roadside had already finished their supply before 10 AM. We went further down the street into Kata before a smile appeared on my face after spotting a local open market surrounded by a number of food vendors too. From there, I made my stand.

Kanohm Jin with some thin spicy tom yum-like coveringAnd at long last, I found it. This lady had a selection of two different curries, the first one looking like a standard issue gravy, but a second one that was much clearer and thinner, so I figured that I'd try something different. It was the right call: it was fiery hot and sour (almost tom yum-like), complete with veggies to go along with the kanohm jin noodles. I cleared that bowl in a couple minutes, so I also grabbed a bowl of the more traditional curry too, which wasn't bad in and of itself, but it was much milder, so my preference was for her thin spicy concoction instead.

Yes, it was a bit lukewarm having clearly sat there at (tropical) room temperature for a number of hours, and flies were swarming around, so you know that the bacteria was festering in a nice hospitable environment. I can feel a bit of rumbling down under too, so maybe I'll be paying for it on the throne in a little while, but hey - I'm also making my stomach stronger in the process. We'll definitely have to head back there in a sec to look for other goodies. Mmm...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chiang Rai Seafood Restaurant, Phuket

Fried Fish with Garlic and Salt

This place behind the northeast end of Soi Bangla was the one that we were unsuccessful at finding last time we were here. It turned out that the reason why I didn't recognize it last time was because a kick-boxing ring had gone up in the place of what used to be a big empty lot before the tsunami, and suddenly many of their neighbors had become much more commercialized too, heckling and touting passers-by with English menus. I was a bit worried that this place was also getting a bit touristy - it used to be a dark and grimey run-down lot.

Tom Yum Soup without milk but extra spicyWell, the selection here was still full of many of those standard-issue items like tom yum soup, but the food was fortunately still a bit unique in that the soup was very clear, very sour, and most importantly, was not red in color, but rather filled with dried chili peppers that produced some smoky roasted overtones that I really enjoyed. We also grabbed a deep fried snapper that was covered in fried garlic and paired well with a sour chili garlic sauce. Wash this and a few other dishes all down with some super strong lemonade, and my stomach was getting ready to burst open due to all the acid inside.

Fresh Fish for Sale - at some random tourist trap off Thaweewong RoadNo, it's not my intent to keep eating at such places. And yes, I'm starting to get a bit tired of this continued tom yum soup routine, so I am hoping to hit a few rickety shacks along the road in Karon Beach tomorrow instead. But at least tonight's place wasn't one of the really commercialized spots where enormous seafood is placed on ice in front of passing tourists. I'll admit that some of them did look cool enough that I stopped to take a picture though.

Banana Pancakes from Phuket

The Banana Pancake Man

Here's a slightly more commercialized version of Thai banana roti, which is not surprising seeing that we were right on Soi Bangla, the main drag of the touristy Patong Beach. The price was twice that of the more humble guy in Bangkok at 40 Baht (US$1).

Well, touristy or not, this was still good, complete with the drizzled-on condensed milk straight from the can, not to mention a radioactive orange-colored butter to help him serve this thing to us piping hot on a paper plate.

A Couple Random Snacks From Phuket

Pork rinds with hair still on them

Here's just a couple random snacks from the streets of Phuket, the first of which are bags of pork rinds sold by some cart on the street. Interestingly, these still had some hair on them (look at the piece at the bottom). It didn't really make that much difference in taste, but it was interesting to see. Actually, the fact that these pieces were too lean and hence rock hard were bigger problems with these bags. At least they were only 15 Baht (US$0.40).

Spy Classic Wine CoolerAnd here is some local wine cooler called Sky from Siam Winery that we picked up at 7-Eleven for 35 Baht (US$0.90). I'm not exactly any huge fan of wine coolers (nor wine itself for that matter); I think the last wine cooler I ever had was that Bartles and Jaymes stuff ages and ages ago. This one in particular struck me as being on the sweet side.

Some Sports Drinks from Thailand

iFirm and Sponsor drinks

Here's a couple of local drinks from the 7-Eleven here in Phuket. I admittedly only grabbed the first one out of sheer amusement at the name. It ended up tasting a bit like thick Gatorade. (Remember how the gum was a bit more concentrated in taste than the drink itself? Just imagine that taste in drink form.) The second one, Sponsor, tasted like Tic-Tacs (again, in liquid form). Interesting, but most likely not something that I'll go for again.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fish Maw Salad from Thailand

Fish Maw Salad

Here's a fish maw (air bladder) salad from some random place in Karon Beach, Phuket. Admittedly this was a bit of a touristy place (see those useless slices of cucumber and tomato as a garnish on the side?), so in order to make the most of the situation, I tried to order something different, and this is what I found. I wasn't expecting the fish maw to be deep fried, but this turned out well. In fact, it tasted so much like pork rinds that I wondered if they really were pork instead. Well, this worked for me...everything except for those little chunks of pineapple in here. I'm not sure if they are supposed to be in here or not, but they were.

Room Service...But From A Boat

Tom Yum Soup

With that corporate offsite behind us now, we were freed from the clutches of that self-contained resort and immediately scrambled off to the other side of the island where we could get closer to street food (wow - those resorts really are like cruise ships: being held captive to the "wide variety of dining options" they have to offer on-site...and paying nice hefty prices too). So what the heck were we doing ordering room service again?

Pink Dot had better watch outWell, this was a bit of a unique situation. All of the rooms at this place had direct poolside access, so of course the first thing we did was jump right in. And because of this poolside access, they delivered all room service via boat. Yes, it was a total gimmick, but hey - it was admittedly a bit amusing that we had to try at least once.

How about the food then? While certainly still pale in comparison to what one could get on the street, the tom yum soup was bursting with loads of fresh chunky bits like shallots and chili peppers that I rather enjoyed it. The pad thai, while again not spectacular, was good enough for now. Hey - it was certainly better than having to eat all of that resort food over the past few days.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Forced to Order Room Service in Phuket

Khao Soi Gai

I'm never really the type of person to order room service (in fact, I think this is my first posting ever about it). But being stuck way out here in the remote resort area of Phuket for a business event meant that there wasn't much of a choice for late night snacking (I even tried walking out on the street to find something but to no avail...the street was totally empty). Without any other choice, I went ahead and ordered the khao soi gai from the room service menu. At 400 Baht (US$10), it was certainly multiple times what one would pay for it on the street, but at least it wasn't as ridiculously high as I would have thought room service to be.

Anyway, this hit the spot, with a rich creamy curry, tender chicken, crunchy noodles, and a great set of pickle and shallot condiments. I particularly liked the hot sauce that went with this: pretty much just dried chili and oil without any unnecessary sweetness (although an interesting hint of bitterness in it, presumably from the roasting process?). Hey - price (and the 30 minute wait) aside, maybe room service can be bearable after all...in Thailand, anyway.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Beef With Noodles" on SilkAir



I wasn't expecting much on today's SilkAir flight given that nasty thing I had last time, so I was a bit surprised to find that both selections today sounded reasonable: "beef with noodles" or "chicken with rice and curry." The flight attendant refused to say which one was better, so I went for the beef. The portions were amusingly small, but it did the job, and was much better than that thing from last time. I wonder how the chicken curry was.

Chicken Porridge at Marrybrown

Chicken Porridge

Here's the chicken porridge from Marrybrown at Changi Airport. It looked nothing like the colorful green scallion and red chili-topped photo that was displayed on the boards. Instead, it almost looked like Honey Smacks breakfast cereal (it wasn't sweet of course).

I think those round things were supposed to be mini-yio tiao toppings or something, but they were a bit hard and stale here. Well, taste-wise it could actually pass thanks to a small dose of sesame oil on top, but Mickey D's in Malaysia still takes the cake on this by far.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Baden-Baden Restaurant & Pub

Pork Knuckles

Yes, this pretty much tasted as good as it looked. The thought of some crispy fat-lined German pork knuckles sounded quite appealing to a beer-filled belly this afternoon, so we hopped on over to Baden-Baden (42 Lorong Mambong, 6463-8127) and ordered away. Everything about this was great: the skin was crispy and complete with tasty fat underneath, the meat was tender and crumbled away off the bone, and the thing came out almost in the blink of an eye, all while scorching hot too. This was much easier to eat than that one I had in Berlin, of all places.

Too bad they ran out of pretzels today though. And interestingly, the potato salad here lacked the bacon and mildly sour characteristics attributable to German potato salad. I liked how it was a bit creamy, but it just didn't seem very German...it was more like "normal" potato salad, for lack of a better word.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Alison Eating House, Lucky Plaza

Chicken Rice

I don't know if this was the "Lucky Chicken Rice" that was suggested recently, but this was the only chicken rice place that I could find on the second floor of Lucky Plaza, and it was called Alison Eating House instead. It was tucked away in the back (#02-66) with a big red signboard and a variety of rather attractive Chinese-style roast meat hanging away. I was actually passing through earlier this morning and also noticed them getting some of the ingredients ready...with such a big spread of neatly cut scallions laid out on the table, I knew I had to come back in a bit for lunch.

Prepping for the day

So I did. And this one I liked. While they were totally stingy on the meat (and they didn't even give me any soup to go with this), this meat was tender, tasty, and most importantly, had the secret key to my heart: a hint of sesame oil. They also had some alternate hot sauce that was darker than the usual chicken rice hot sauce and lacked the dragon-breath-inducing raw garlic, thus creating another plus for me (I think the dark sauce was actually meant for people who ordered noodles from this guy instead or something). Sure, the rice was a bit dry too, but that didn't matter to me as much when they got the taste right.

Roast Meat Hanging for SaleGood enough for me. While it was clearly not a home run due to the shortcomings mentioned above, it was good enough for me to want to come back next time I'm in the area. In my opinion, this is the bare minimum standard that chicken rice should adhere to. Anything less (and I've had a number of instances fit that description) is not good enough to warrant a repeat visit.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Orange Lantern Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Dac Biet

The restaurant section in the back of Think magazine boldly claimed that this place (73 Killiney Road, 6732-8032, with other locations at Harbourfront and Hougang) had "the best pho and fried springrolls in town, hands down!" With that kind of a ringing endorsement in hand, I had to come down to see for myself. I had tried them under their old name, Pho Temptation, a number of years back, but without anything memorable to take back with me. I assume that they changed their name so as to avoid confusion with their competitor Pho 31 (a similarly forgettable place in my experience, including their sister Vientai) down the street? Hopefully the food had improved too so as to justify that claim.

Fresh Rice Paper RollsWishful thinking. The pho broth was a bit cold and bland, the meat slices were sliced on the thick side, and some of the pieces were disturbingly mushy. Their dac biet (meaning it should have everything in it) missed a number of other key items like tripe and tendon. The rice paper rolls would have been OK had they been made freshly (it was clear that they had been sitting around for a while as parts of the paper hardened a bit already). At least they got the soda chanh right (none of that nasty syrup stuff), although one could argue that they didn't provide enough sugar and lime to last the entire can of soda water.

The "best pho in town...hands down"? That's debatable. To be fair, I didn't try those fried springrolls, but given the rather unsatisfying meal that I had tonight, I'd rather go to Pho Hoa instead. Then again, Think magazine also had Bukhara still listed in there (they also erroneously listed Via Mar under the "South American" section). It looks like their directory is in need of some corrections.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chuan...Now in Geylang

Sichuan Cold Noodles

We went on a hunt tonight to try to find the reincarnated Chuan that we were told about the other day (thanks!). We actually walked right past the place at first (81 Geylang Road near Lorong 1, 6747-7366), as it was tucked into a huge row of Sichuan hot pot places (as if there weren't enough of those already...this is getting a bit out of hand). Another reason we missed them was because these guys looked like they were serving hot pot on the outside too, presumably with origins coming from that nasty sister restaurant they used to run.

Indeed, this rundown hot pot place looked nothing like the old restaurant on Purvis Street. Only after we questioned if they were the same folks did they mention that they had a special a la carte menu for those that didn't want the hot pot. Gone were the logo-ed napkins, pre-moistened towels, uniformed servants, nicely printed English menus, and even little trays of pickles and peanuts to start. Instead, we sat out on the street where the overhead florescent lighting attracted winged ants all over our table.

But we came here for the food that we grew to love, so we ordered away with many of our usual dishes. They apparently hired a new chef, so there were some minor changes to the dishes (compare and contrast the photos here with the photos there and there and you'll see what I mean...most notably the lack of scallions on some of these). Other than that, the taste was decently close, but still not quite the same thing. And one huge disappointment was the kung pao chicken, which was oddly in a sweet and sour coating. When we asked why they did it this way, they admitted that they did it to appeal to the local palate, and that we could have asked to have it done the more traditional way instead.

Well, as glad as we were to have found this place again, this just wasn't quite the same thing, and it just ended up blending in with some of the other Sichuan restaurants around here now. Honestly, this place is probably going to fall off my Top 10 list next year as a result too. If someone were to drag me here, then at least the food was good enough at the baseline that I'd still eat it without much complaint, but it's pretty obvious that we're not going to be making as many treks out here as we did to the old place. At least their business looked much healthier here, and probably with much lower rental costs too.

Salt Beef Sandwich at Windows on Club Street

Salt Beef Sandwich

Here's the salt beef sandwich from Windows on Club Street that I wanted to come back for. It was only after I ordered it did I realize that "salt beef" is just the British way of referring to American corned beef. And a rather boring corned beef this was: while tender, it lacked flavor and punch (not quite living up to its name, eh?). And no, there was no mustard to help provide any contrast either. I think I liked the side of cole slaw better than the sandwich itself.

I think that will just about do it for me for this place. While neither of these meals was horrendous, the taste is just too bland for me here. More importantly, these guys take far too long to make a simple sandwich that it will never be a quick lunch. I'm still a bit curious about the hot dogs, but I won't be super motivated to come back here just for those.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Triple C from Chippy

Triple C

Not completely full from that bowl of soup tonight, I stopped by Chippy to finally try that Triple C Cheesy Curry Chicken. The picture on the signboard made it look like some big slabs of meat, so I was a bit surprised when it came out in little deep fried cubes in a bag, complete with skewers sticking out of it like Taiwanese fried chicken. Indeed, it even tasted a bit like it, being greasy, salty, and spicy (note to self: the "extra spicy" was actually fairly mild and didn't really taste like curry either).

Of course, the batter was much heavier, and there was no basil in here. Moreover, they gave a cold cheese dip to go with it, but I didn't actually end up using the cheese that much as the chicken was tasty enough. I don't know if this was really an English thing or not (can anyone please verify?), but I did enjoy eating it...in moderation, of course, seeing how it wasn't the healthiest thing in the world. At least it was cheap at only S$3.45 (US$2).

EsTeler 77, Far East Plaza

Bakso Soup

A business contact of mine who works near Orchard mentioned to me a while back that he goes to the food court at the top of Far East Plaza from time to time for lunch. This struck me as a bit odd, as I used to go to Nanbantei on the fifth floor quite a bit but never noticed any food court up there. I was in the neighborhood tonight, so I went to try to go find it.

It turned out that it wasn't really the run of the mill food court like Food Junction and Kopitiam that I thought he was referring to. Instead, these were folks occupying the retail stalls of the building but selling low-priced local food. What really hit me though was the aroma of grease pervading the place. After scoping out all the stalls, I finally arrived at what looked the most interesting to me: EsTeler 77 (#05-81/82), which apparently is a chain of fast food places from Indonesia.

They had a bunch of the Indonesian favorites, including sop buntut and soto ayam. But what grabbed my eye (stomach?) was the bakso, something I hadn't seen since Bali, so I ordered a bowl in hopes of finding that magic again. And while the soup with deep fried shallots on top was tasty, the meatballs were shockingly rubbery and tough. Well, I don't profess to be a bakso expert here, but maybe this is the way it's done outside of Bali or something? Either way, I still ate this all, and wished I had ordered more items as they still looked good. I'm coming back...and all this from a guy who didn't like Indonesian food a while back but is really liking it now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Caffe Beviamo at Tanglin Mall

Ham Sandwich

I'd seen this place a million times before in the open area (#02-K1) of Tanglin Mall (with another location at Paragon above the Projectshop Cafe) but it was usually too crowded on weekends to get a table. We waited a few minutes today too, but fortunately a spot opened up quickly. The menu was rather simple, not offering much aside from toast, sandwiches, sides, and a few other things like pasta. And while a neighboring table's scrambled eggs and toast looked appetizing, there was sadly no bacon to be found on the menu. As such, I moved over to the next best pork product: a ham sandwich.

And no, it wasn't my intention to get a ciabatta-based sandwich two days in a row, but these guys only had that or wheat ("brown") bread, so it was a pretty obvious choice for me. Anyway, this thing came out scorching hot from the toaster, and was filled with ham, onions, spinach, tomatoes, and melted cheese. It all came together well, with the added bonus of telling your conscience that you ate a lighter and healthier meal. Was it good enough that I'll get cravings for this? No, I'd rather go for a grimey grease bomb. But I'll come back and get this again with little resistance. Just watch out for the weekend crowds when families bring their kids to this place and pack it full.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ox Tongue Sandwich at Windows on Club Street

Ox Tongue Sandwich on ciabatta

Windows on Club Street is a long name for a place (1 Club Street, 6323-7561) that I probably would have just walked right on past, had it not been for a sign on their walkway that boasted about an ox tongue sandwich. Even though there were other interesting menu items like some salt beef sandwich and quite an impressive-looking dedication to hot dogs, I went straight in for the ox tongue.

After waiting quite a while for this, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was hoping for something similar to the bacon-like flame-grilled tongue of Korean and Japanese cuisine. Instead, this appeared to be boiled or sauteed or something (I guess this is the Kosher way of doing it instead?). And while that made the tongue much more tender than I thought, it didn't quite have the taste that I wanted either. Indeed, I grew tired of it pretty quickly (seeing some bumpy bovine tastebuds or something on the outside surface of the tongue was a bit disturbing for a minute too). I can't help but wonder what this would have been like had it been grilled instead.

Well, I do want to come back to try that salt beef sandwich as well as the hot dogs. In fact, this place even offered a churrasco that I wouldn't mind giving a shot (obviously this is a bit of a carnivore's place, although they did have some pasta on the menu). Sitting around for churrasco wouldn't be a quick lunch though.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

North Border Bar and Grill

Best of the Border with Jackass Wings

This place was a bit out of the way (2 Rochester Park off North Buona Vista Road, 6777-6818) but sounded promising in that it served food from the American Southwest using a range of appropriate chili peppers for seasoning, including jalapeno, chipotle, and of course, habanero. We got started with a sampler platter of their starters, which included a chimichanga, jalapeno poppers, and buffalo wings. Unfortunately, all three of these were a letdown, with the chimichanga being cold, the jalapeno poppers being oddly stuffed with an herb (and unmelted) cream cheese, and the buffalo wings being so meaty that I literally ate them with a knife and fork. The "jackass" buffalo wing sauce that we requested (the middle on a scale of three) was sweet, thus providing another turnoff for me. The salsa and guacamole were not very fresh, and the corn bread was so excessively moist that we barely took two bites.

Habanero Ice CreamStill, I didn't regret coming here. In fact, there were a number of things here that did turn out really well, such as the side of refried beans, which really got me excited due to the richness of bacon worked into it. The oil in the Crazy Pasta excelled at extracting the aroma out of the garlic browning process, even if this was really just aglio olio rather than anything from the American Southwest. And since we're on the subject of strange ice cream flavors, we finished this off with the Habanero Ice Cream, which impressively captured that distinct scent of the habanero pepper, as well as a surprising amount of bite afterwards. Nice one.

If I come back, I'm definitely ordering the latter items rather than the former. Moreover, it's nice to see a little gift shop on the side selling all sorts of hot sauces from the US. I'll be sure to take a note of that whenever we need to stock up on more.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Honshin Kushiyaki Restaurant

Kawa

This was an unplanned visit. After a late night at the office, I went for a quick walk to try to find some food. One place that I passed was some place called Honshin, which didn't really stand out to me when I looked at the menu (it looked like a boring version of Ichiban Tei). So I kept walking, but then, lo and behold, these guys had a sister restaurant next door specializing in kushiyaki. And they were open until 11 PM. I wasn't quite leaping at it just yet, but Saravana Bhavan down the street looked closed, so I figured that I'd try this place out (140 Robinson Road #02-00, 6220-9989) just to keep things easy. When I went in, another surprise awaited: hey - it's the same guy from Kushigin and Nanbantei! Geez - I guess the supply of yakitori chefs in this town is very limited (it's also a bit scary that I seem to have hit up enough of these places that I'm running into the same chef at different spots).

Kawaebi KaraageUnfortunately, that's about where the similarities ended, as I'm pretty sure that these are completely different owners. I ordered my usual favorites, but some of which deviated a bit from the norm here, such as the hiyayakko that oddly lacked the usual negi, bonito flakes, and ginger (but instead was covered by a Japanese salad). The kawaebi karaage were also larger than I'd like, thus making it a bit difficult to eat when the antennae and claws were so long that one couldn't just easily pop these things in one's mouth. Well, most of these little gripes were more about the "kitchen" food from the back. There wasn't that much to pick on for the grilled items (and he even gave me a couple freebies...nice), although it seemed that the quality of the ingredients could be even better if they really pushed it.

So what's the verdict? It was definitely a notch or two down from Nanbantei, which in and of itself had already slipped a notch or two down from the neighborhood of Kushigin or Kazu. But despite that, this place could still hold itself a tad above the "average" bar. Is it enough for me to get cravings for this place? No. But if I'm out in this area again after hours, then I suppose it might pop up on the consideration list.

Wasabi Ice Cream from Uzumaki

Wasabi ice cream with a seaweed topping

I remembered someone making a comment a while back about how bad this wasabi ice cream was. Granted, it didn't exactly sound appetizing either, but when I passed by this little stand at Bugis Junction today, I figured that I'd give it a shot. It wasn't all about exotic flavors here; they did have some familiar tastes like chocolate and blueberry, complete with toppings like almonds and chocolate chips. They also had what most of us have probably been exposed to as Japanese ice cream, such as green tea (matcha) ice cream as well as black sesame and red bean. But I wanted to go for the most outrageous: the wasabi ice cream, pushing it even further with an optional seaweed topping.

In many ways it was pretty much the way I imagined it to be: wasabi-flavored (kinda like those fried pea snack things) but with the mildly sweet and milky taste that comes with ice cream. The wasabi flavor was surprisingly strong (it will still clear your nasal congestion), and yet putting it together with ice cream didn't actually seem that far out of place. Now, I won't exactly be yearning for Baskin Robbins to make this their 32nd flavor anytime soon, but I do have to admit that I kinda liked it.

I once had garlic ice cream at the Gilroy Garlic Festival back in California a very, very, very long time ago, and that just tasted like vanilla ice cream with garlic on top (if my memory is correct). This one was much more seamlessly integrated and didn't seem that unnatural...once you got past the fact that it was wasabi-flavored, anyway. I'll come back...although perhaps for the black sesame ice cream instead, depending on what kind of mood I'm in.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Lawry's Cut and Crepe Suzette

Lawry's Cut with creamed corn and spinach

Here at Lawry's tonight to say farewell to an old friend, we both grabbed the eponymous Lawry's Cut rather than the English Cut or the "DJB." I think I actually liked this the best out of the three, being as tender and tasty as it is, although I don't think there is anything to complain about at Lawry's (aside from those beet slivers that they put in their salad - yuck). It sure was light years ahead of Black Angus!

Crepe SuzetteThey were also taking a bit of pride in some Crepe Suzette kind of thing for dessert, which they flambeed for you in front of your table with Grand Marnier and Cointreau. It seemed a bit odd at first as they squeezed fresh orange juice into a pan and threw some frail looking pre-made crepes into it before flambeing, but after adding on the ice cream and and garnishings on top, it looked a bit more respectable. Admittedly, I couldn't quite get used to the orange taste, but it still went down pretty quickly.

Cafe Banh Mi Contemporary Vietnamese Cuisine

Honey Glazed Pork Sandwich

Not long after discussing the arrival of a banh mi shop in Singapore, we noticed this place (#01-15 China Court, 6538-9985) at China Square Central. I stopped by here today to grab a quick sandwich before my next meeting.

It wasn't that quick. To my surprise, they took a very long time, which is rather uncommon for banh mi that is usually assembled with Subway-like efficiency. Only when they brought it out did I realize that the reason for the delay was because they were actually grilling the meat on the spot, and bringing it to me hot. And to their credit, the meat did turn out very tasty.

It wasn't quite the banh mi that I was used to though. Instead, this thing had lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers in there, presumably an after-effect of being "contemporary Vietnamese." The pretty plates here further helped to reinforce that, although fortunately the prices weren't too snotty. Well, the taste of the meat was good enough on its own right to make me like it, but I still have yet to find a more traditional banh mi place in Singapore.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ming Kee Chicken Rice in Bishan

Two servings of chicken rice with a side of porridge and veggies

This place (Kim San Leng coffeeshop at 511 Bishan St 13) came as a suggestion last week, and since we were in the neighborhood tonight, we went to go take a look. It wasn't hard to miss; as early as 6 PM, the line was already getting ridiculously long. So long, in fact, that I got a beer to help keep my interest while waiting it out, and by the time I finished it, I still had two thirds more of the line to go!

Anyway, I could see why this place was so popular: the meat was very juicy and cut into generous pieces, and the rice was nice and fluffy. Other than that, there wasn't much to excite me though. The hot sauce was rather boring to me, the soup was so bland that I barely took two sips, and the porridge was very disappointingly made from tasteless plain rice. Overall, the taste here was just a bit too much on the mild side for me.

Well, thanks for the suggestion nonetheless. Maybe if I'm up in this neck of the woods again, I'll try duking out those lines another time, but my first choice is by far still Tian Tian Chicken Rice.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Jin Huang Sze Chuan Restaurant

Our Yuan-Yang Bowl

This was a completely random find and a nice surprise. We spotted the restaurant's big green signboard from the street that suggested that it was serving Sichuan food. With the recent demise of Chuan (what a shame - I guess my prediction unfortunately came true), the thought of finding another Sichuan place sounded pretty good. When we finally arrived (100 Jalan Sultan Road #01-09, 6299-1228), we were a bit discouraged to find that it was actually a hotpot place (yet another one!) instead of actual served dishes (and the hotpot spread wasn't looking like anything great either). But we still went ahead and sat down, grabbing a bowl with the spiciest broth as well as the milder pork rib soup on the other side.

What emerged from all of this was much better than we expected. The red broth was spicy enough that it really got the adrenaline going, no doubt assisted tremendously by a very mainland-ish peppercorn accent...but not so heavy so as to be annoying. The quality of the ingredients, while certainly not spectacular (hey - it was only S$13 or US$7.70 after all), were good enough. And the service was energetic and prompt (the gas-fuelled burner also helped to get the broth boiling quickly). No, they didn't have any sa cha sauce, but the concoction that I made with sesame oil, cilantro, and egg still worked for me.

Now, my preference is still for the Whispering Man here, in part because of his better ingredients, but more importantly because his broth uses fewer Chinese herbs (the pork rib broth here was very, very herbal...apparently the chicken broth would have been the preferred choice for me). But I can understand why people would prefer this place instead, particularly since it is probably more true to form (then again, the presence of a tom yum broth on the menu here would fuel a debate on that assertation). The place has only been open for two months, and is open late too, so I am earmarking this one for the future (noting of course too that eating all of this oil is not the healthiest thing either). Either way, this was a pleasant find, and totally unexpected.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Corduroy & Finch, Bukit Timah Road

U Gourmet Sirloin Burger With French Fries & Salad

Here's a burger from Corduroy & Finch (779 Bukit Timah Road, 6762-0131), the posh market/cafe from the parents of Uberburger. As you can see, the lineage is very apparent, and it pretty much tasted the same too. It wasn't a knockout for me due to how lean the meat was (it got a bit boring to eat towards the end without more of a fatty kick helping to fuel it), but by and large, it was still a decent quality burger. And hey - they provided real mustard here upon request.

Some foccacia or somethingWe did get a number of other items, such as the "linguini with assorted mushrooms and noilly prat," whose sauce was surprisingly a bit on the thick side, but fortunately also very rich in the process. They also brought out some onion-based foccacia for us, which turned out decently well, especially for a guy like me who doesn't really like bread.

The snootiness of such an upscale place was layered on here though, as seen in things like their Mediterranean platter, which cost a whopping S$19 (US$11) for a selection of cold items from their deli, all placed across a very big square plate. The c&f hot sundae also came in a rather unique glass mug with a screw-top bottle of sauce on the side, but fortunately the taste was still fine. Anyway, the point here is that while the food here isn't bad, it's unfortunately not such a runaway winner that I would rush to come back either, especially when such high prices largely help to subsidize a decor that is too upscale for me. At least the food here is far better than that Whitebait & Kale place. Maybe it's worth coming back here for breakfast one of these days, although that would mean having to fight those weekend crowds. Eh...probably not then.

The Convenience of Nasi Kandar

The Convenience of Nasi Kandar

Yes, this is the third time this week that I'm eating this stuff. I don't think I like it so much that it is an addiction like Pepper Lunch was. It is probably more so just that all this ready-cooked food is so convenient that I can literally be in and out of there with a full belly in less than ten minutes with little disruption to the busy working day.

Of course, having half-decent tasting food helps to make it easy to eat quickly. And the selections of this stuff change every day, thus keeping things a bit more interesting. For instance, today I tried his minced mutton, which was a tad salty, but in a good way, as it paired up well with the rice. The soup today was also one of the most sour that I've ever had, but again, in a good way. Oddly, it also had a bit of an artichoke taste to it, although I really don't think there was any artichoke in it. I wonder what it was that generated that taste then. Anyway, moving on...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kopi Tiam Singapore Restaurant

Penang Kway Teow

A comment about Nasi Kandar was posted this afternoon at a very fortunate time: right when we were thinking of getting something fast, cheap, and yet still unique, so we hopped on down to Swissotel the Stamford to take a look. I didn't even realize until we got there that the suggestion was in reference to an actual restaurant named Kopi Tiam (I thought it was about the food court chain called Kopitiam...until I realized that the food court here was run by the competing Food Junction people instead). After finally sorting it all out, this place (2 Stamford Road Level 2, 6431-6221) turned out to be a hotel restaurant serving local food...a bit like the infamous Chatterbox at the Meritus Mandarin, or maybe even the StraitsKitchen at the Hyatt. And while they were indeed running some Penang promotion, it was split into three phases, with the final Nasi Kandar phase not arriving until the 16th. Today, they were still on the first phase, or Penang Hawker Fare. We still went in anyway.

Each of the three phases featured about six menu items from each guest chef, so we went ahead and picked the quintessential Penang Kway Teow, as well as an item from their "normal" menu: the Nasi Goreng Istimewa. We added a couple soups as well to round it all out. It proved to be a mixed bag, with a general inclination toward the worse. The Penang Kway Teow, while featuring some very fresh shrimp, was a bit of a bore compared to the salty/grimey plate that I remember from Penang (and oddly, they threw in things like crab meat and Chinese sausages here, perhaps to partially help justify that relatively high S$14, or US$8.25, price tag?).

Nasi Goreng IstimewaThe Nasi Goreng Istimewa arrived a bit cold (especially the egg, which was a bit of a turn off), and just reminded me of that nasi campur stuff I once had in Indonesia, with nothing to get me going either. And while the fish maw soup came came out pleasantly hot and savory, the tom yum soup was just a disaster, being too salty and hardly even sour or spicy (clearly this was not the right place to order tom yum soup though).

The worst part about this experience was what hit us in the end: the prices. Each of those single-serving soups was S$9 (US$5.30), so add in a couple drinks and those main courses and this became a very expensive meal compared to the much much cheaper stuff that one could get at a hawker center. Then again, that's the hallmark of this genre: cater to hotel guests from out of town that want to try local food but prefer air conditioned comfort instead, and can conveniently charge the higher prices to their expense accounts. At least at Chatterbox, I like the chicken rice enough that I'd be willing to pay for it (despite having much cheaper options out there). But here, there was simply nothing to get me excited, and we left with the remorse of having overpaid for something that wasn't really that remarkable to begin with. Oh well...please keep the suggestions coming though; disappointments are just as much a part of the adventure as good finds are, and at least now I know about Kopi Tiam versus Kopitiam. :)