Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yong Tau Foo, Ampang-style

Select your items

Yong Tau Foo is a local hodgepodge of various stuffed items that is usually dunked into a clear broth for reheating purposes, and ends up a bit on the lighter side of the taste spectrum as a result (kinda like oden). But another option for this stuff is apparently called "Ampang style," in reference to a part of Malaysia where this is done a bit differently.

Ampang-style yong tau fooInstead of dunking the pieces into the broth, this stuff here at a local food court in Singapore went into a deep fat fryer, which got me a bit excited (I assure you that eating twice-fried stuff two nights in a row was completely unintentional). But then they gratuitously dumped some kind of a gooey sauce on top of it, which I wasn't as big of a fan of. There were some beans and mushrooms in this sauce, but that really didn't add much taste. I guess that this is similar to the Malaysian Hainanese dousing those pork chops in sauce? Maybe next time, I'll ask them to skip the sauce so that these deep fried pieces can stay nice and crispy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Foo Kee Famous Deepfried Tou Fu & Tau Pok

Fishmeat Tau Pok plus other stuff like Ngoh Hiang and Wontons

Hey this was pretty cool. As you can see from the photo, these guys (Zion Riverside Food Centre Stall 7) specialize in all sorts of deep fried stuff. But unlike Old Chang Kee, this pre-fried stuff goes from room temperature back into the vat of hot oil after you select your pieces, presumably as a means to heat it back up and make it crispy again (talk about a double heart attack!). It worked quite well, as they still came across as rather light (relatively speaking of course) and crunchy for dipping into the chili sauce. Best of all, they had some little round cheese things that looked like tofu at first, but instead had some kind of cheese worked into it. As Borat says, "Very nice!"

Kway ChapSeparately, there was a neighboring stall selling kway chap, and if I remember correctly, it was actually called Boon Tong Kee (but is it related to the famous chicken rice guys?). I liked this one better than that Garden Street place as it had a much more pronounced taste combined with solid sheets of those flat rice noodles. "High-five!" (OK, no more Borat references after this.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Maharajah's Curry House, Boat Quay

Prawn Vindaloo and White Rice

I don't know what it is exactly that makes an a$$-kicking spicy vindaloo with rice so attractive to a post-workweek beer-filled belly, but the two just get drawn together for me like a moth to a flame. Fortunately, there are enough Indian places out on Boat Quay that relief is not more just a stumble away from the pubs.

I couldn't really tell in my curry-crazed condition if this place (31 Boat Quay, 6536-4484) was necessarily better than others down the street, but I was decently impressed with the freshness of the prawns, and the slices of ginger on top provided a nice little kick. I inhaled this stuff like a madman and emerged with a very big smile on my face. Here's one to more post-drinking nourishment!

Potato & Egg Salad from "the sandwich shop"

Potato and Egg Salad

I love potato salad, and separately, I love egg salad. So I was a bit intrigued when I saw a Potato & Egg Salad at "the sandwich shop" today. It turned out to be nothing more than just potato salad with slices of hard boiled egg on top, and hence nothing that special, but the bacon topping all made this down quickly.

On a side note, I hadn't been here in such a long time that I had forgotten how they actually have "normal sized" sandwiches here, unlike their similarly triangle-shaped packaging competitor down the street, Pret A Manger. I didn't eat a sandwich today, but at least I know that I can get bigger sandwiches over here instead, even if my experience here last time wasn't necessarily anything special.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More from La Braceria

Fettucine

Here are a couple more items from La Braceria, the first of which is the fettucine topped with truffles and sausage. This came together very nicely, especially with the noodles staying nice and firm. We also had their namesake pizza alla braceria, which featured tenderloin slices and what appeared to be a bit of butter too. One doesn't exactly expect to find either of those on pizza, but they worked wonderfully here, providing an exciting aroma yet still being perfectly thin and crispy. No wonder why this place is so well praised for its pizza. (They also provided some super spicy chili pepper flakes reminiscient of Borgo - be careful with that stuff!)

SalsiccieFinally, here were their homemade sausages, which were filled so robustly that a slice of this hearty stuff seemed more like eating a cut of steak or pork chop rather than any finely ground mystery meat. It wasn't necessarily spicy, but it did have just the right amount of borderline-excessive fat to give it some character.

Rock on. My Italian colleague once mentioned to me that this is one of the best places in town, and I can't disagree with him. This was a refeshingly delightful meal, and the service today was also spot-on. If only it were a little easier to get to...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Resto Surabaya, Lucky Plaza

Ayam Penyet Kremes

I was walking by Lucky Plaza tonight when I noticed a sign for an Indonesian place, right next to the sign for Ayam Penyet Ria. Curiosity struck, and I went up there (#02-63, 6732-1803) to check it out.

At the top of the menu was the ayam penyet kremes, or a Surabayan fried chicken, so I grabbed that, figuring that's what these guys were known for. I wasn't quite sure if the addition of the word kremes made this any different from that stuff at Ayam Penyet Ria, but this was very, very tender (I guess that's what all that hammer smashing did!). The batter wasn't necessarily anything that knocked me off my feet, but the occasional dip into some of the hot sauce kept it going. It also came with some flat fried soybean thing with a bit of an edgy aroma to it. It admittedly wasn't something that I was immediately attracted to, but I guess that it was the Indonesian version of natto, and I'm glad I tried it.

Soto Ayam LamonganThe portions were a bit small, so it was good that I ordered two dishes. There were plenty of choices in front of me to choose from, be it sop buntut, bakso, or even ikan bakar (although this Indonesian version looked like it was slathered in some sauce). In the end, I went for my favorite soto ayam. I was a bit alarmed at first that they didn't bring me any limes to squeeze into it, but one taste of the broth and I realized that I didn't even need it. Cool.

That worked for me. These guys were also super speedy at bringing out the food. Is it true that that these guys were actually started by the same guys over at Ayam Penyet Ria? Well, I guess there's no shortage of choice for this stuff if you're over at Lucky Plaza.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Iskender Kebab

I was in the neighborhood today (100 Beach Road #02-42, 6291-1433) and finally got the chance to try this place out. I went for the iskender kebab, which fared well...at least, compared to my only other reference point, which isn't exactly saying much. I still liked its reasonably light sauce and buttery bread pieces underneath nonetheless.

Sesame Bread and HummusPerhaps what was more interesting was the sesame bread that I got as a starter, which came in a piping hot inflated bhatura-like shape. This was of course meant to go with the obligatory hummus, which surprisingly came in a red tint due to what appeared to be chili powder. I'm not sure if this was done to appeal to local palates or if this is an actual way of preparing it in Turkey, but I liked it, as it gave it a nice little edge.

OK, that was better than I thought it would be. And they did have some eggplant kebab that looked interesting enough for me to want to try some other time. Their service wasn't the speediest though, so I probably won't come back on a lunch hour when my time is tight. But at least I finally got to try this place.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Song Trang Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho

This place (60B Orchard Road #01-16, The Atrium@Orchard, 6837-2040) was mentioned not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions in the past, so I popped on down here tonight to check it out. Even though my primary litmus test was going to be the ubiquitous bowl of pho, this place clearly went far beyond that with a very extensive range of dishes. Wanting to try some of of those other items too, I was rather pleased to find a deal that featured five courses, anchored by a bowl of pho at the end of it. The choice was obvious.

Some kind of shrimp rollsI liked it all. Everything they brought out was fresh and bursting with flavor, be it their signature fish salad (almost Thai-like), the piping hot shrimp rolls, or the barbequed meat complete with loads of rice paper and veggies for you to roll your own. And perhaps more surprisingly, there was so much food here already that I had a bit of trouble clearing the fourth dish, no matter how much I loved the fact that they were deep fried pig feet with oh-so-crispy and tasty skin (wait...didn't I just eat pig skin today??). I felt a bit bad that I couldn't even finish the broth in the pho when it finally came in the end.

Sure, there were a few things that I could pick on (such as the fish salad being a tad on the sweet side), but by and large, this did impress me. Now, if my goal were just a bowl of pho on its own, then I'd probably prefer the larger bowls over at Viet Inn. But I do agree that this is one of the better Vietnamese places in town, and with that set coming it at only S$35 or US$22 (complete with a glass of wine, mind you), it won't take any teeth pulling for me to come back here. I've just gotta remember to clear my stomach first (and not eat double portions for lunch like I did today) if I'm going to order that set again. Thanks for the recommendation(s)...thumbs up from me!

Jia Le Roasted Food, Taman Serasi Food Garden

On the foreground plate from left: duck, suckling pig, and char siew

Someone had mentioned to me once that there was some Cantonese roasted meat guy at Marina Square that was supposed to be pretty good, but I had never made my way down there to try it myself. Fortunately for me, they opened a shop over at the Botanic Gardens' new food court, where I coincidentally happened to be today. I didn't even realize it was this shop at first; the thing that originally caught my eye was all the different kinds of roasted meat glistening in the glass display case, including not just chicken, duck, suckling pig, and char siew, but also what appeared to be a giant goose as well as tiny little pigeons or something (some kind of small bird). I got so excited that I asked for a little of everything.

Not surprisingly, the crispy suckling pig was my favorite of the bunch, done just the way I would like it to highlight the taste and texture of the skin (skip the sauce and eat the wonderfully crispy tasty stuff on its own). The other items were fine (and yes, it was better than Sum's Kitchen...I still don't see what the big deal was about that place), but alas, they weren't so great that I would go running back there right away for more. The char siew, for instance, was too lean and boring compared to the crunchy sugary fatty stuff I like to get in KL.

A pigeon or quail...or some kind of small bird, anywayWell, if I do go back, I'm going to focus solely on the suckling pig. I could probably also use a lesson or two on how to eat that small bird, as I had a bit of a difficult time extracting any meat or skin off that little thing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ikoi Japanese Restaurant, Hotel Miramar

Sashimi

I had heard about this place a few times in passing (401 Havelock Road #01-01, 6887-3788), but had never actually eaten here, so we came by tonight to give it a shot as we were in the neighborhood anyway. It wasn't until we sat down did it occur to us that this place was running a buffet (crap!). That was not a good sign. Well, we were tight on time tonight, and if all those celebrities' photos were hanging on the wall, maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked.

YakitoriWishful thinking. Most of this was pretty lousy, be it the coarse tempura batter or the tough yakitori. The staff was kept wanting to push certain items on us (for instance, I wanted hiyayakko, but she kept trying to suggest agedashi tofu instead). To make things worse, they kept bringing so-called "complimentary" items (it's a buffet...how could it be complimentary?) that were largely vegetable or soup-based, suspiciously seeming to just want to fill our bellies with lower-cost food so that we wouldn't be as prone to ordering other items (and no, none of these tasted very good - we didn't even finish some of them).

To be fair, they were very generous with the sashimi, and while it wasn't anything special, it could have been much worse. I did like the crispiness of the sanma shioyaki, but being a buffet style, they cut one little piece off rather than giving the whole fish. Value for money? Sure, but as with most buffets, it was about quantity over quality, and this will definitely be one that I'd like to forget (it just reminded me of other bad Japanese food). So what was it that drew so many celebrities here then? I don't know. Maybe it was the a la carte menu. Hopefully those items are a lot better than this.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Valley Hong Kong Cafe, Singapore

Dry Beef Ho Fun

After having gone to a place this afternoon with a confusing name, I suppose it was only fitting that I later came to a place that so ostensibly tried to advertise what kind of cuisine it specialized in. I wasn't expecting it to be anything great as a result, but it was a convenient stop (55 Tiong Bahru Road #01-37, 6227-0681, with another location on Shenton Way) on the way home from a late night in the office. As a true test to how much it really took after Hong Kong, I grabbed two of my favorite dishes from that area: a bowl of wonton noodle and some dry beef ho fun.

Wonton NoodleThe wonton noodle looked quite atrocious when it came out, although fortunately it tasted better than it looked with fresh stuffing in the wontons and a sauce that wasn't as sweet as its appearance suggested. It definitely wasn't Mak's Noodle, but at least it was edible. Next up was the dry beef ho fun, which fortunately came out piping hot and decently greasy (no shredded lettuce on top either). But the chili sauce was prawn-based (?) rather than the Cantonese red oil stuff that I love, thus ultimately falling short of what I would want.

Well, the food definitely wasn't as bad as it could have been, and I suppose it could (very reluctantly) be a fallback again if I get lazy. But I'll probably just wait for my next trip to Hong Kong itself rather than trying to find a good local representative here.

Jaan, Swissotel the Stamford Singapore

Pastilla of Confit Duck Leg

I'm normally not a huge fan of French food, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this place with the Indian-sounding name (it turns out that jaan is Sanskrit for "bowl," and apparently many of the Raffles hotels around the world also have a Jaan restaurant). Located up on the 70th floor at the Equinox Complex of Swissotel the Stamford (6431-6156), this rather small place of course had a great view of the ocean. OK, that was pretty much what I would expect of a place this upscale. But how was the food?

I went for the set lunch menu, which provided a number of various choices. First up for me was a Pastilla of Confit Duck Leg that thoroughly impressed. Calling it a giant egg roll would be a major insult (a pastilla is Moroccan in origin, BTW), as the skin was super tasty from the oil yet still crispy, and went magically together with the tender duck stuffing and raspberry sauce. Next up on my list was a lamb rump, where they also gave you the choice of all sorts of sauces and sides. Mine with a red port jus and truffle parmesan rizoni again seemingly came together like magic (and yes, the lamb was very, very tender). I closed this off with a Jivara Mille-Feuille dessert that fortunately wasn't too sweet, and hence got another thumbs up from me.

Wow. This totally beat my expectations given my dislike of both French food and chi-chi places. I'd come back right away if it weren't for one huge shortcoming: the tables are placed rather close together, and sound really carries in this place. I literally overheard some other table five tables away discussing their business plan, which meant that they could also hear us just as clearly. That being the case, I doubt that I'll be taking any important clients here. But I sure liked the food.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Red White & Pure, VivoCity

Sole a la Meuniere

This was a bit of a unique place. Located along the back of VivoCity's second floor where a bunch of restaurants are lined up against the water (1 Harbourfront Walk #02-141, 6827-0088), this place looks like a brightly lit skin care product store or something at a quick glance. Only upon digging a bit further does one find dining tables in the back. What kind of food were they serving? Well, "spa food," for lack of a better description (and yes, they had a spa upstairs). This place is apparently owned by the Eu Yan Sang chain of traditional Chinese medicine shops, and surely enough, certain Chinese medicine products like wolfberries are used in the the food...even though the dishes are generally European in nature. This didn't sound terribly appetizing to me, but the presence of filet mignon and gazpacho soup on the menu reassured me that it couldn't possibly be that bad.

The menu was coded with all of these symbols to indicate what health benefits they produced, such as de-toxifying and de-stressing. That just complicated things though, so I went straight for what I felt might taste at least half-decent, starting with the "Spinach Bowl" soup and moving to the Sole a la Meuniere, all washed down with a beer. Wait...beer is considered healthy? Yes, this place did have some interesting interpretations here. See, the beer was organic, thus supposedly lending more weight to its purity, even if it wasn't necessarily "de-toxifying" (drink enough though and I guess it could be "de-stressing"). One could also order a side of Camembert Gratin; the menu did go ahead to point out that potatoes had some health benefits, but it failed to mention anything about the cheese.

Camembert GratinSo how did it taste? By and large, it was rather bland. My spinach soup had cheese floating on top but really could have used a pinch more salt at the very least. The Sole a la Meuniere was light, but again with bland (not to mention undercooked) potatoes (at least the fish was actually meuniered here). And the Camembert Gratin encouragingly came out with a nicely browned rim, but there was still very little taste despite the presence of cheese...and hardly a potato could be found inside this thing. You might think that one could simply sprinkle some salt on it at the table, but no shakers were to be found (is salt considered a toxin?). In some ways, the food here reminded me of some of the bland stuff I've had at Pierside.

Well, if eating blandly meant eating healthily, then we could at least take consolation in that. But the final blow came with the bill: two of us broke through the triple digit mark here, which in the end forced us to sigh and concede defeat. Even if it were healthy (again, questionable in and of itself given some of the items mentioned above), it sure was bland enough and expensive enough for us not to want to return (and come to think of it, I really don't think I had many Chinese herbs in my dishes after all). Well, this definitely was a unique concept with some laudable intentions, but if eating chi-chi healthy food is the goal, then Original Sin would definitely be my preferred choice instead.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ten-Jyaku Japanese Sushi, Millenia Walk

Seared swordfish with sweet miso mayo

Craving a nice healthy sushi meal tonight but stuck at Millenia Walk, we were a bit strapped for choice. That Raku-Zen place that took over the old Sushi Tei grounds didn't seem too appealing at first glance either (is it related to Raku over at Holland Village?). Fortunately, just a few doors down before reaching Uberburger, another Japanese place presented itself (9 Raffles Boulevard #01-11, 6837-3960). These guys listed a number of set meals on the menu (and rather pricey ones at that), but we skipped all of that and went straight to the sushi bar. There wasn't that much fish being kept in the display case, but fortunately the food generally came through in the end.

SakeThe most striking thing here was that these guys had a tendency to want to garnish nearly every piece of sushi. I got a bit worried at first that it would end up covering up the taste of the fish itself, but fortunately most of the garnishes ended up complementing the taste instead. For instance, an order of salmon came topped with salmon roe, daikon, and a cucumber slice, which for the most part worked fine together.

Indeed, the most remarkable garnishes came when we let the chef suggest a few items for us, thus allowing him to really let it rip. The most memorable of these was a swordfish topped with a sweet miso mayonnaise, all ultimately seared with a blowtorch. Another item he threw our way was some other fish whose name eludes me for the moment, but he went the extra mile by mincing a little extra morsel of the fish and searing it with the same blowtorch (and further topping it with a little bit of yuzu citrus that gave it a bit of a welcome bite), thus effectively using the fish as a topping for itself. Nice one.

OtoroI wish the otoro weren't topped though, as it did make it a bit harder to taste the richness of the fish itself (and it's S$18 or US$11 for a single piece, so don't get carried away with ordering it either). Fortunately there were a few items that he kept more simple, including the amaebi with deep fried heads, as well as the hiramasa that he substituted for my hamachi request. The chawanmushi that they gave us on the side was very simple yet also one of the more memorable and tasty ones I've had. And they were also good enough to use real wasabi for a bit more character (granted, it was the frozen kind rather than the freshly grated stuff, but it definitely wasn't the green horseradish powder or paste).

Amaebi headsYes, the prices are expensive, so don't come here looking for Sushi Tei (that single piece of otoro could have bought a ridiculously filling number of plates at one of those mass-produced conveyor belt monstrosities). But would Sushi Tei have offered this braised pork sushi thing that the guys behind the counter were so proud of? Of course not. This stuff was great on the stomach, and the chef will throw you a number of delicious surprises your way if you sit at the sushi bar and give him the chance. But just watch out for your wallet as it does add up very quickly.

Waffletown USA, Balmoral Plaza

Two Pieces of Chicken

We initially stumbled in here (Balmoral Plaza #01-02) just looking for something sweet as the name suggested. Interestingly though, they were also serving things like burgers and fried chicken, complete with those fixed-stool-table things that one sees at fast food places in the US, and even a microphone for the cashier to relay orders back to the kitchen (which was only a few feet behind him anyway). Fried chicken suddenly sounded a bit appealing, so I grabbed a simple two piece meal to try it out. While certainly edible, I definitely prefer KFC over this place, given the very bland mashed potatoes, over-creamy coleslaw, and a fried chicken that - while crispy and very tender - simply lacked the edge that the Colonel provides.

Actually, what was more interesting here was the fact that these guys were effectively serving chicken and waffles, which I didn't quite realize until after I had ordered. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not, as they didn't have any combined plate of the two to offer. But hey - in the absence of Roscoe's, I suppose that one could come here for the convenience of getting the two items from the same spot. It's just that you'll have to order two separate dishes.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Indian Rojak and Milo Dinosaur in Singapore

Indian Rojak

Here's just a quick snack that we grabbed at Thohirah on our way back from the airport. The item above is Indian rojak, which is basically a bunch of deep fried stuff cut up mixed up with raw onions, chili pepper slices, and cucumbers that you can dip into a sweet sauce. I wasn't a huge fan of the sweet stuff though, so I ended up dipping the pieces into the curry that came with my cheese prata instead.

Milo DinosaurAnother interesting item is Milo Dinosaur, which is based on Milo, an Ovaltine-like Nestle drink popular in these parts, but in this case supercharged by also adding more of the powder mix on top of the already-mixed drink. That means that you can either scoop it directly into your mouth, or let it clump together a bit as it makes contact with the fluids on top before eating it. I'm not sure how the name came about, but it is another one of those interestingly bachelor-esque preparation practices sometimes seen here.

Hakka Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

Some Pork Thing

No, this wasn't meant to be a tour of the different Chinese ethnic groups in KL or anything like that. This was just a convenient spot to hit as my co-workers tempted me with post-work beer in an alfresco spot (6 Jalan Kia Peng, 2143-1908) that apparently is also quite used to dealing with Japanese tourists. Anyway, as the name suggests, this place specializes in Hakka food, so we picked up a number of items ranging from some gooey (but delicately light) tofu dish to some very simple (but very fresh) prawns.

One must-have that my co-workers told me about was this sliced pork thing that you're supposed to shove in between those sliced buns to create a bit of a sandwich (or should it be called a Chinese hamburger?). The good thing was that it wasn't too sweet, and the fat layers of the pork certainly gave the sandwich a great taste and tender texture. My head nodded in approval.

Butter Crab

Another centerpiece of the meal was some kind of butter crab, which I presume to mean that it was cooked in not only real butter, but also the crab butter underneath the shell to create a very rich yellow sauce on top also suitable for bun-dipping. The crab here was also very fresh and generally a worthwhile experience.

Beer served in a half-glass as well as Chinese tea served in a glass vesselFinally, it was interesting to see the beer poured into these little half-glasses that thus required constant refilling. It wasn't an issue as the wait staff here were very quick to do so without even your need to prompt them, but I'd just never really seen such half-sized beer glasses before (and I still have yet to master the art of drinking hot Chinese tea out of a heat-conducting glass vessel rather than insulating porcelain).

Yut Kee Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

Chicken Chop

My co-workers' description of this place (36 Jalan Dang Wangi, 2698-8108) was a bit confusing at first. They said that their chicken chops (apparently the main reason for coming here) were very authentically Hokkien and yet also prepared for Westerners. That didn't seem to make sense to me, and they told me that I had to come down myself to see what they meant. I hope they weren't taking me to some tourist trap.

It definitely wasn't any tourist trap. This hole in the wall was packed at lunchtime with local office workers, and turned out to be a Chinese place (which meant pork being listed a the top of the menu despite being in a Muslim country). So what was this Western/Hokkien thing all about? I was told that the local Chinese used to cook "Western food" for the British colonialists...hence, the potato wedges and sides of peas and carrots here. And yet when the local Hokkien wanted to eat the same thing, they preferred to douse gravy all over it, as that was what they were accustomed to. I got a bit worried about bastardization as a result, but fortunately, I didn't mind it too much. The meat was tender and generally tasty, and the gravy wasn't too intrusive. Sure, it reminded me a bit of cafeteria slop from elementary school (so I'm pretty sure that I won't make my own way back here again), but I'm glad I came as I guess it was an "authentic" representation of what the local Hokkien population would eat when it came to such things. It was a bit of an interesting history lesson too.

Kaya ToastThey also had some kaya toast here, although it was more brown in color than the green stuff I'm used to seeing. Apparently the green color comes from the use of pandan leaf, which was not used here. I suppose this was a bit less fragrant as a result too, although I really couldn't tell the difference. This still tasted fine to me. Don't bother getting the char siew at this shop though...unless you prefer yours to be very lean and thinly cut. I prefer to save my char siew time for Meng Kee on Tengkat Tong Shin instead.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bijan Bar & Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

Ikan Percik

I'm normally not a huge fan of all the spices used in Malay food, but this place (3 Jalan Ceylon, 2031-3575) surprised me with a few dishes that I did enjoy a bit. The first of which was the ikan percik, which were "dory fillets marinated with turmeric & crushed ginger, chargrilled & drizzled with spiced coconut." I guess I liked this one because it was simple without any overhwhelming spices (plus I'm a sucker for anything cooked on a fire). Another highlight was the rusuk panggang, which is a "chargrilled marinated beef short rib served with spicy tamarind dip & sambal belachan," which was tender and tasty with all the fat weaved into it, all the while being only mildly sweet and spicy. A closer of pandan pudding drizzled with palm sugar syrup was a nice light closer too.

Pandan PuddingWe actually had quite a number of other items at our table, includeing some chicken curry, king prawn curry, and baby squid, but those were so heavy on those usual spices that I didn't eat too much of them. It was interesting to eat some local greens called pacuk paku, but in the end, this won't be the first place I'll come to when I'm in town. I suppose if it were my first time to Malaysia and I wanted a nice upscale (but still humble) place to come to try local food, then this wouldn't be a bad spot. But for me, I'd be headed straight to Jalan Alor for that ikan bakar again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wong Ah Wah Roast Chicken Wing Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

Ikan Bakar

Damn, that was pretty f*ckin' good. To whoever recommended that ikan bakar last time, thank you! Admittedly I don't know if this place (1 Jalan Alor , 2144-2463) was necessarily anything special, as it was just a random spot at the end of the street that happened to be grilling stingray in front of the shop. In fact, I didn't even try the chicken wings that they boast about in their name, as I specifically wanted to try the stingray instead.

The guy starts out by vigorously rubbing salt (and a few other seasonings) into all sides and crevasses of the stingray by hand before throwing it on a big flat metal grill. There wasn't any of that sambal sauce covering it like I've seen in Singapore...it was basically just salt and grease, which translated into a delightfully crispy thing. They did provide an accompanying chili sauce with diced raw onions in it; it wasn't bad on its own, but it was so sour that it overpowered the taste of the fish itself, so I only used it sparingly on some of the inner meat pieces that may not have been exposed to the salt and grease. Anyway, good call on this...I really liked it, even if I still don't have the skills to be able to distinguish the meat from the bones in a stingray until after it enters my mouth.

Grilling Bak KwaAs I walked back up the street, there were a few guys grilling bak kwa. I easily fell victim to that lovely smoke rising into the air, and ended up picking up a slice to try it out. It was still scorching hot coming off the grill, and rather limp in the process too, but I did like how this one wasn't too sweet.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pepper Lunch Express, Dhoby Exchange

Atsu Atsu Curry Rice

Pepper Lunch seems to be running a couple miniature versions of their stores called Pepper Lunch Express, which include many of the same menu items, but also have some variations not available at the main stores. One of these is the Atsu-Atsu Curry Rice, which I grabbed tonight after not being able to get a second helping at the kebab shop.

Atsu-atsu is short for "hot-hot," right? Well, hot it was indeed. It was bubbling out of their standard issue hot plate, getting a bit on my clothes until I realized it later. It was also much spicier than Japanese curry usually is, which seemed to be the result of a lot of black pepper in this thing (I guess that's why they call it Pepper Lunch?). I did like the thin slices of beef in here, but other than that, I don't think I'll be getting this again. Besides, I can get the thin slices of beef in the other items.

Sultan Kebab, Peace Centre

Iskender Kebab

I noticed this kebab shop (1 Sophia Road #01-15, 6338-8750) while passing by Selegie Road the other day, so I came by tonight to check it out. Their menu was very simple: just a sandwich, roll, rice platter, or iskender kebab using either beef or chicken on those rotating spit contraptions. They unfortunately had run out of beef already by the time I had arrived, so I had to settle for the chicken, of which I went for the iskender variety.

I've never been to Turkey before, so I don't have much to compare this to, but on its own merits, this thing was great: the tomato sauce was excitingly spicy while the cuts of chicken sat on buttered pieces of bread, all with yogurt for you to douse this in. I don't think it was that authentic based upon what I've read about iskender kebab, but it was good enough (and in part, small enough) for me to pop right back up to the counter for seconds. Unfortunately they sold their last bit of food just 30 seconds before I got there, and hence were finished for the night already.

It turns out that they open at 11 AM and just go until they sell out, which is around 8 or 8:30 PM. Too bad - this greasy spicy concoction would have been great after some drinks, and we could sure use another late night kebab shop around here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Couple More Items from Uberburger

Sweet Burger

Here's a couple more items from Uberburger, the first of which is the Sweet Burger, which is actually a dessert made from fruit, chocolate ice cream. and what they called a doughnut (even though there was no hole in the middle) in order to resemble an actual burger. Creative? Sure...especially the mango slices acting as French fries. But was it tasty? Not really. The ice cream was fine, but the doughnut was a bit boring (it sure wasn't Krispy Kreme), and the mango slices were not even sweet.

Steak TartareAnd here is the steak tartare that I finally went back for. This was fine once mixed with the anchovies and such, although I was still hoping for a bit more of a bite. Oh well. I guess I never was a huge fan of this place anyway. They sure do like to make their food look pretty though.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tatsu Sushi and Teppanyaki, CHIJMES

Kawaebi Karaage...no, this wasn't from the teppan...read on below.

This place (30 Victoria Street, #01-15/16 Block F, 6337-6691) has been here for a long time (it was one of the first restaurants I'd ever been to in Singapore). But it was mainly a sushi joint until I noticed this teppanyaki extension a while back. I finally came by tonight to try it out.

Cooking away...I grabbed their basic namesake set, but unfortunately, I didn't really care much for it. The salmon was tender but wasn't really anything memorable, the garlic rice had potential but was ultimately very uninspiring (and just needed a bit more salt), and the steak was tender, but so tender that it was disturbingly unnatural. Worse, it was drenched in some sauce that didn't let you taste the meat itself (a simple pinch of salt would have been much better).

The only thing I kinda liked was the prawns, which were firm and fresh, and went well with this garlic mayo they used. But that was another gripe of mine - they kept using so much garlic in everything (they even threw deep fried garlic chips on your plate as if to help you season things) that it became the same story as the steak: all these extras just overpowered everything rather than letting you taste the food itself.

After getting rather discouraged, I decided to fall back on a few basic items from their other shop in hopes of some salvation, including a basic hiyayakko, maguro natto, and kawaebi karaage. While none of these were bad, none of them were particularly memorable either (although I did appreciate how the kawaebi were nice and small). I think these guys were trying to cater to passing tourists from all the neighboring hotels...the teppanyaki chefs went through a bunch of noise making and theatrics that evoked a bunch of "ooohs" from some of my tourist neighbors but ultimately really did nothing. Oh well...I guess I'll have to wait for my next trip to Japan before getting any real teppanyaki.

Thaksin Beef Noodle, Clementi

The S$5 Supreme version of Thaksin Beef Noodle

Hey that wasn't too bad. This was a suggestion from a while back (449 Clementi Ave 3 #01-211 with other locations at Harbourfront, Tampines, and Woodlands). It came together nicely, as if the freshness of basil and bean sprouts (and rice noodles, if you choose them here, that is) of Vietnamese pho met the dark beef cubes broth of Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The texture of the meat was almost corned beef-like, in fact. I liked it (and I couldn't help at chuckle a bit at their tagline: "we're bullish about beefing you").

One interesting thing I think I noticed though (can anyone please verify?) was that the S$5 (US$3.10) "Supreme" version that comes with a touch of garlic garnish on top that the standard S$3.50 (US$2.20) version does not have (among other things) that made the S$5 version much, much better. In fact, the broth in the S$3.50 version seemed downright boring compared to the S$5 version, even though I would have thought they used the same stuff (either that, or I just got tired of the broth by the time I got to my second bowl). Well, you've got a full armament of the usual Thai condiments of sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and dry chili pepper flakes at your disposal to do with as you please should you wish to give it more of a kick. Thumbs up for me - thanks!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Tomton Section of Tampopo

Kurobuta Hari Hari Nabe (with the pot out of the picture)

Hey cool - the folks over at Tampopo (Liang Court #B1-50, 6338-3186) have a kurobuta-focused section called Tomton. We went ahead and got two of their specials, including the shio katsu don as well as something I'd never seen before but was really intrigued by the photo they displayed: the hari hari nabe.

Kurobuta Shio Katsu DonThe shio katsu don made me happy with its very light and crispy crust and just the right dose of salt (apparently the main selling point in this one is that they used some special pink salt on it). And the gimmick that got me going with hari hari nabe was the minced pork sitting in an open bamboo half that one scrapes into the boiling broth. This tender tasty stuff also worked for me (although I'm not completely sure why they called it this since apparently hari hari nabe is supposed to be made from whale meat instead). Anyway, these two dishes were encouraging enough that I will happily return back here for more.

The Chicken Rice Shop, Singapore

Chicken Combi with Steamed and TCRS Honey BBQ varieties...and a glass of 'plain water' listed on the menu for ten cents

I'd been to an outlet of this big Malaysian chicken chain in KL a long time ago, but didn't really seem to remember too much about it. So I came on down to VivoCity today for a quick bite at their Singaporean outlet (1 Harbourfront Walk #B2-37, 6376-9388), right across from Superdog. They had all sorts of different kinds of chicken rice available ranging from roasted to braised, so fortunately they had a "Chicken Combi" that allowed me to get two different types. I went for the traditional steamed version as my control group together with what appeared to be their signature Honey BBQ variety.

It pretty much turned out as I expected. The steamed chicken was tender and the Honey BBQ version was a bit sweet, but fortunately not so annoying that I wouldn't eat it (same goes for the hot sauce). The rice was surprisingly oily, but in a good way as it was decently tasty. But would I necessarily come running back? Probably not. There's certainly much better out there (read: not as sweet) at a local hawker. Then again, all this is really meant to be is a fast food place (complete with "plain water" listed on the menu and chargeable at S$0.10, or six American pennies). Apparently they are quite proud of their kueh pie tee starters here too, but I just went straight in for the chicken rice.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Michelangelo's, Chip Bee Gardens

03012007758

Here's another one of the many Italian restaurants at Chip Bee Gardens (44 Jalan Merah Saga, 6475-9069), located right next door to their sister restaurants Original Sin and Sistina with those voluminous wine lists. I'm not a huge wine person though, so the test tonight was going to be specifically for the food itself.

Veal MarcoIt was a mixed bag. The bruschetta, while having a very refreshing tomato and basil topping, interestingly was supported underneath by ungrilled bread. The penne vodka was rich and still exuded a hint of the namesake alcohol despite allegedly being flambeed, but that seemed like more of a gimmick than anything that really added to the taste. Fortunately, the Veal Marco was tender and done just right, complete with a couple very minor local fusion touches of keropok shrimp crackers and a sweet and spicy sauce that I surprisingly liked.

The big letdown though was the spaghetti aglio olio, which was adorned with all sorts of non-traditional ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and bell pepper slivers, but was still severely lacking taste (i.e., it needed just some basic salt and a good browning of the garlic in the oil). In the end, we left a tad on the unsatisfied side, especially given the rather high prices charged here (the staff also forgot our water and surprisingly one of them made a rather crass burp as he walked by our table). Given the choice, their competitor Da Paolo will probably be preferred.