Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Khusbu, "The Fragrance of India"

Lamb Seekh Kebab

It wasn't completely intentional to hit another Indian spot out at Boat Quay, but being in the area tonight conjured up thoughts of that vindaloo again (wow - and without even any drinks beforehand). This place (36 Boat Quay, 6535-5887), was again a totally random selection arrived at by just walking down the path and asking if they had vindaloo. These guys acknowledged.

Rawa Fried MushroomsWe did want to try some new things first. One item was the pyaz ke bhajia, described as onion fritters but in the end pretty much being onion rings, although of course with Indian spices in the batter. We also got some rawa fried mushrooms, which interestingly came out in the shape of little round balls. Neither of these were bad (they would make fitting bar snacks), but neither of these were anything to crave either.

And how about the vindaloo itself? It was fiery hot, but also much too tangy for my taste, and thus generally not that enjoyable (maybe I wouldn't notice after pounding some beer?). Feeling a bit unsatisfied, I then added the lamb seekh kebab, which was fine, but definitely a bit gimmicky by being placed into this metal heating contraption, probably to appeal to all the tourists out in the area. Well, Boat Quay probably isn't exactly the optimum spot for getting stuff like this (they brought stale papadum out to us too), but at least we did get to try some of those snacks above.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Vindaloo From Punjab Da Dhaba

Mit Vindaloo (is that supposed to be Meat Vindaloo?)

Here is another post-drinking vindaloo from a random shop along Boat Quay (46 Boat Quay, 6538-3092). Honestly, I couldn't clearly identify many characteristics of this stuff in my sleep-deprived, stressed-out, and subsequently beer-unwound state, but it was satisfyingly spicy enough that I wolfed this down like someone who hadn't eaten in days (which to some degree was true, seeing that I was so busy with work that I didn't even have time to eat dinner tonight).

Perhaps more interesting was this long list of terms and conditions placed in the upper right hand corner of the menu here. Alongside the list of curries and such lay all of these rules such as how one can not ask for a refund after he has placed an order and how one must wait for their food (or something like that...as best as I can remember, anyway). It was so ridiculously long that it seriously seemed like a binding contract that one needed to sign before being able to order.

Did these guys have so many problems with unruly customers in the past that they felt the need to put this right at the top of the menu? Well, it's not like it affected the food, but it was so in-your-face that we spent five minutes reading the decree first before even looking at what dishes were available here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Five Hot Dogs For Dinner

Italian Hot Dog

With a late night at the office ahead of me, I stepped out real quickly to fuel up for the long haul. Perhaps rather randomly, I ended up at Windows on Club Street and finally tried one of those hot dogs that they took so much pride in. My selection, the Italian, meaning it had lots of herbs in it, came out like it looked in the picture: completely naked with nothing on the side to go with it (those leaves on the side were also undressed, BTW). Fortunately, this didn't really need anything, as the grease oozing from inside the casing was sufficiently flavorful enough to keep my interest, even if the toasted (and hence mildly crispy) bun was a bit weird. I won't go out of my way for this again, but it was better than I expected given my previous experiences here.

Mini Sausage ComboAs I made my way back to the office, I somehow also (rather randomly) found myself veering towards Erich's Wuerstelstand for some reason (I assure you that going out to eat a bunch of hot dogs this afternoon was not my explicit intention...it just happened that way). This time I went for his so-called Mini Sausages Combo, featuring a German Neurnberger, a Hungarian Debreziner, and "a very special" Chicken Sausage. I don't know what was so special about the chicken sausage as it came across a bit boring to me, as did the Neurnberger. I did like the smoky taste of the darker Debreziner though, as it had a nice little edge to it.

CurrywurstAs I was about to leave, I noticed something else on his menu: currywurst. I had to do a double-take to be sure, but indeed, it was currywurst. It had been so long since my last trip to Berlin that I could hardly remember what the real deal tasted like, but I didn't really like this one that much. It was just a boring sausage drowning in ketchup and curry powder, none of which were anything too exciting to me. I'll pass on this next time.

Now, before you call me a pig for eating five hot dogs, recognize that three of those hot dogs were in "mini" sizes. I don't know what it was that got into me to eat all of those in one run, but hey, at least I tried some new items.

A Ploughman from Simply Sandwich

Ploughman Sandwich on ciabatta

This was a new one for me. Having tried many of the items at Simply Sandwich already, I went for something new: a so-called Ploughman, which I'd never heard of before. Only later did I realize that this is actually quite common in British pubs...at least, in the original non-sandwich form with a big hunk of cheese.

Actually, the thing that probably distinguishes this the most is the brown pickled relish, which ends up giving it a bit of a sweet character and hence not a huge fave for me (I don't even really like relish on Chicago hot dogs). But I sure do like that cheese.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese New Year Kueh Bangkit

Chinese New Year Kueh Bangkit

Here's another Chinese New Year thing unique to Singapore and Malaysia: kueh bangkit, a light flaky coconut biscuit that is so frighteningly addictive that they could almost steal the tagline from Lay's Potato Chips: betcha can't have just one.

I'm told that this is Peranakan in origin, thus creating the Chinese New Year snack with the Malay name.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Peking Duck...in a can??

Peking Duck in a can

Here in Singapore, it's important every year to make a quick run to the supermarket a few days before the long Chinese New Year holidays start to stock up on food, given that nearly everything shuts down (aside from the Indian and Malay places...and ugh - McDonald's).

On this year's run, I came across something peculiar on the shelves though: Peking Duck...in a can (and "with sauce" too). I didn't buy it, but I can't exactly imagine that this would include that delicious crispy skin that makes this world-famous dish so distinctive. Has anyone ever tried this canned stuff?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Billy Bombers American Diner

The Naked Gun

We came down to The Central at Clarke Quay tonight to see what kind of new places were open, especially since many of them were supposed to be Japanese. To our dismay, most of the shops weren't even open yet, aside from a Kopitiam food court, a branch of Waraku, and a sign for a Tomton outlet to come. There was some place called Manhattan Fish Market that looked too much like that nasty Fish & Co place to be good. What was left then? Billy Bombers, an American diner dressed up like Johnny Rockets that has been in Singapore for ages, but also one that I had never really paid a proper visit to. We might as well give it a shot...it's not like there was much else to choose from.

It was typical diner fare, with burgers, floats, and shakes. I grabbed a "Naked Gun" burger, so called because it was very basic, without any cheese, onion rings, bacon toppings, or anything like that. While the size of the patty was eclipsed by the size of the bun (remember "Where's the beef?"), this was at least fairly straightforward. Still, there wasn't anything edgy enough that I would crave it. (Hey Kurt, the pickle you see in the photo was unfortunately of the sweet variety.)

Buffalo WingsWe also got some buffalo wings and chili to see how they would fare. Fortunately, they got the sauce right (yay!), but alas, it still suffered from a consistent problem with wings here: they were plain and simply too big, with way too much meat on the bones (there was so much that I could literally eat them with a knife and fork!). The chili at least wasn't surrounded by tortilla chips here like at Jerry's, but it was still way too heavy on the meat.

So...Billy Bombers: better than Jerry's? Yes, although I didn't exactly try the ribs here. Is this someplace I'd come back to? Not likely. At least I finally gave it a proper try though (last time, it was through a delivery service after which everything got soggy).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Iggy's, The Regent Singapore

Black truffle risotto, pan-seared scallops, and shaved winter truffle

Iggy's (1 Cuscaden Road, Level 3, 6732-2234) is one of those places that has been put up on a pedestal and raved about lately, especially after British Restaurant magazine named it to one of the top 100 restaurants in the world last year (98th, to be specific). I wasn't completely convinced though, seeing that my criteria for food are usually quite different from those of high-end restauranteurs; I really don't care if the food looks pretty, if the decor is elegant, or if the wine list is well paired. If it doesn't taste good, then plain and simply, it's a waste of money to me, regardless if it's $1.50 or $150 (the latter of which in Sing dollars was the price of the 8-course tasting meal here, with the option to pay S$25 more to upgrade to the truffle-based course...that translates to US$95 and US$110 courses for stateside readers).

Mosaic of maguro and hamachi, yellow frisee and foie gras sauceSo how was this place? Perhaps not surprisingly, many things here were very much "truffle this, truffle that," even on the non-truffle menu. Each plate that arrived of course was aesthetically pleasing, used exotic ingredients, and was certainly very original. They also came in very small portions, which probably wasn't any huge surprise, but nonetheless became a bit frustrating after a while given the pace at which the dishes came out. I did like most of the food though, most notably the slow-cooked salmon, which was very rich and tender, all the while having a very subtle bite of salt on the side for extra character. Many of the other dishes were indeed quite innovative too, and you've gotta give these guys loads of respect for that. There's no way in the world that I could have done any of this, even if I had a gun pointed at my head.

Still, that was pretty much the extent of it for me. The entire course took a whopping 2.5 hours to complete, which in many ways was just as painful as the actual dollar amount required from my wallet. If you're one of those folks that enjoys spending time over a slow meal, contemplating the virtues of one vintage of wine versus another and that recent real estate investment that you just made, then this place is for you. But if I had to spend this much money again, I'd rather go to Morton's. The food there is by no means innovative, but to me is so much more satisfying and filling (both physically and emotionally)...and I could probably even save a few bucks in the process.

Regardless, lots of respect is in order for this place, and yeah, I suppose that the 98th ranking is well deserved here (I don't regret coming). But admittedly my proletarian stomach did think a couple times about Pepper Lunch down the street as we tapped our fingers tonight waiting for the next truffle-laden plate to come out of the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Two More from Simply Sandwich

BLT

Here's just a couple quick items from Simply Sandwich, the first of which is the BLT. There weren't necessarily any huge surprises, but it still managed to distinguish itself thanks to its great bread and fresh ingredients.

The Everything SandwichI wasn't as big of a fan of the so-called "Everything" sandwich though. Featuring turkey, bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, this thing was rather dry and not as fun to eat. It almost seemed as if she simply forgot to put mayo on this thing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don - Your Personal Pie Club

Chicken Pie

This place (25 China Street #01-01, 6327-4344) had a bit of a wierd name, and also had a bit of a confusing offering. At first glance, it looked like they offered Australian meat pies. But when I asked for their allegedly popular Chicken Pie, they pointed at this huge thing that could have fit into one of those Marie Callender's return deposit pie tins. I thus asked for a single serving instead, after which they gave me one slice in a cardboard box.

Perhaps more surprisingly, this thing turned out to be rather spicy as a result of being heavily loaded with white pepper, which suggested that this was more of a local pie than anything (they also offered Claypot Crab Bee Hoon at this place). Well, I love white pepper, and the crust was nice and flaky too, despite not using any lard. So I really did end up enjoying this quite a bit in the end, even if it wasn't exactly the Australian variety of pie that I thought they would be serving.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Simply Sandwich, Robinson Road

The GHC

Yay! Simply Bread's sandwich offshoot on Robinson Road (120 Robinson Road #01-01, 6536-6041) has finally opened, thus rounding out what has really become a Sandwich Row of sorts in the CBD. Only after looking at the menu did I realize that these guys already had a couple other locations established, including one at Millenia Walk. Nonetheless, I was happy to give this place a shot to see how it fared against its neighbors.

Interestingly, they also offered a bunch of pre-made sandwiches in triangle-shaped boxes sitting in the fridge for busy office workers to pick up on the run. But unlike the others, these guys actually offered some large boxes containing three half-sandwiches, thus effectively giving you 1.5 sandwiches...and each of the three being a different type of sandwich too. Nice. Well, I didn't come here for any pre-made sandwiches though. I wanted one made on the spot instead.

I thus went for the GHC, which was described as something to the effect of mustard, melted cheese, and shaved ham. It wasn't until they called out my order that I realized that GHC stood for Grilled Ham and Cheese. This fared very well, with bread that was fresh enough for me to like, plus some tasty sharp cheddar inside that gave this just the right bite. I wasn't quite expecting them to shove this into one of those George Foreman grills and flattening it in the process though, so next time I'm gonna try grabbing some of the other choices, such as a BLT that looked pretty darned good.

This is easily now my favorite sandwich shop out of all of these other guys on the street. The main thing is the good yet simple ingredients that they used. The coleslaw was also on the refreshing side, and the staff was very engaging. Thumbs up.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mee Rebus...Pronounced Correctly This Time

Mee Rebus

Here's a bowl of mee rebus from a random hawker center here in Singapore. There wasn't necessarily anything outrageous about this - it was just a basic bowl of Malay noodles doused in a gravy and garnished with a few things like bean sprouts and a hard boiled egg, as seen in the picture.

The more amusing story is how I ignorantly tried to pronounce this when I first came to Singapore a number of years ago. I told the lady that I wanted "mee rebus," with the second word pronounced as if I were boarding the bus again (re-bus). She was completely puzzled as to what I wanted until she realized that I actually meant "mee reh-BOOZ." Now I know better.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bun Bo Hue from Pho House, Suntec

Bun Bo Hue

I once ate at this place (Suntec City Mall #03-008, 6820-2455) a long time ago. And while I didn't necessarily remember anything bad about it, I didn't necessarily remember anything so good about it that drew me back here either. Still, I came back tonight thanks to a number of comments posted recently about it. One would think that the obvious choice here would be the namesake bowl of pho, but something else on the menu caught my eye tonight: the bun bo hue, which is supposed to be from the Hue region of Vietnam and based on pork as well as beef. I'd never had it before, so I gave it a shot.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really distinguish this from a normal bowl of pho. Aside from the deep fried shallots, some slightly thicker meat, and a mildly heartier broth, this basically seemed like the same thing to me. Is this all there is? I thought that this was supposed to be a spicy soup or something.

Well, I don't know if this was considered to be very authentic or not (I really need to spend a bit more time in Vietnam one of these days), but honestly, this still wasn't so exciting for me to want to come back right away. Maybe I should just try the normal pho next time. Meanwhile, my preference is still for Song Trang and Viet Inn. Note to self: don't come here on a weeknight after work unless you want to endure those heinous taxi lines at Suntec again.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Spicy (Sichuan Mala) Whopper from BK

Spicy Whopper

I didn't really notice Burger King's ad at the train station today until one word in the corner of my eye caught my attention: "mala," as in spicy Sichuan food. After a double-take to make sure I wasn't imagining it, I realized that they really were selling a spicy version of the Whopper, presumably as a temporary promotion in the runup to the Chinese New Year. Whoa. Could this thing be any good?? I could only imagine that it would be in a thick sweet sauce, somewhat akin to what Bread Talk did a while back, and especially given Burger King Singapore's success with its Rendang Burger. That wasn't too encouraging to me, but we still went in to see what it was like.

To my surprise, I liked it. I didn't think that I would, but I did. It wasn't the sweet thick sauce that I was expecting at all. Instead, this thing packed a good amount of heat, and didn't really clash that much with the rest of the basic Whopper ingredients. There wasn't really any of that Sichuan numbingness, but in some ways, that was a good thing. In fact, it was so straightforward that it could have easily been transported to New Orleans and passed off as a cajun burger instead. Well, technically they never did call it a Sichuan burger or anything; it was just a simple "Spicy Whopper." But the promotional material did say "Enjoy the Mala Experience" on a red Chinese motif, so it didn't take much to figure out the inference.

Wow - I'm impressed. I guess I could go for that again. I've just gotta remember to be sure to catch it again before their promotion goes away. How's that for more localized fast food?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Swedish Meatballs from IKEA

Swedish Meatballs

I hate IKEA furniture. But hey, every once in a while, you've gotta stop by to pick up some supplies. What is it about affordable particle-board-based flat-packed self-assemble furniture that goes so well with Swedish meatballs? I don't know, but it's pretty much obligatory to get them while you're there. I assume that everyone and their mother has had this stuff before though, so I won't even bother describing it. At least it's consistent.

A plate of pickled herringOf course, to boost the Swedish experience, I also grabbed a plate of herring, which featured three seemingly different types of the stuff, but I couldn't tell the difference. They all seemed to have the same sweet fishy dill weed taste that I didn't mind one or two bites of, but tired of quickly. I don't know if I could survive in Northern Europe for too long as a result.

Munch, Robinson Road

Big Munch BLT

I never knew there was a sandwich shop here (112 Robinson Road, 6223-5197) until recently, so I came by to give it a shot today. Actually, it wasn't a dedicated sandwich shop: they also featured items like pasta and such on the menu. But with a big sandwich making station, it was clear what I was going to get, especially when they labeled their Big Munch BLT as one of their "Munch Most Wanted" items.

It turned out to be very straightforward. It wasn't bad, but there wasn't necessarily anything to get me too excited either. At least it was the right size, and hence would be considered in my mind to be the bare minimum of what a sandwich shop should provide. I did like the bag of black pepper seasoned chips that I got on the side at least.

It's interesting to see so many sandwich shops popping up right next to each other, with Pret A Manger on one side, the sandwich shop just a short hop away from them, and even Subway in the middle. Across the street lies this place, as well as another sandwich shop under construction called Simply Sandwich (I believe it is related to the Simply Bread guys?). When can we get Potbelly Sandwich Works out here??

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Breda Royal Lager

Breda Royal Lager

I was expecting this unfamiliar brand of beer to be total crap, seeing that these only seemed to appear at supermarkets as one of the cheapest beers that one could buy, a bit akin to Natural Light or Pabst Blue Ribbon from back in college. So when I saw these on sale at 7-Eleven for only S$2.20 (US$1.40...don't forget that Singapore taxes alcohol so heavily here that some post-work beers can run up to US$7 a pop...and that's at Happy Hour prices!), I had to pick up a couple cans just for the sheer novelty of it all, even if it potentially tasted like water.

The surprising thing though was that it had more flavor than I thought it would, and ended up being nothing like 'ol "Natty Light." Granted, it still won't be something that I will immediately reach for, but if the only choices for the day were this versus Natural Light, I know which one I'd reach for.

One thing that I couldn't quite figure out though was that this is brewed in Holland exclusively for the British Channel Islands. I guess it somehow made its way over to Singapore since then.

Pontian Wanton Noodles, Hougang Plaza

S$3 Wanton Mee featuring extra fried wontons

We were wandering through the food court at Hougang Plaza today when we came across this stall commanding quite a long line, not to mention all sorts of commercialized signage buzzing with phrases like, "the most popular handmade wanton noodles," "traditional secret recipe," and "probably the best in town, selling over 1,000 bowls per day in Malaysia." All of this suggested to me that maybe this place was overhyped, but nonetheless, I gave into curiosity and gave it a shot.

It was better than I thought it would be. The noodles were super firm and the deep fried wontons paired up very well with the mayo in the squeeze bottle. The portions were on the smaller side, but that was enough for me, lest I get sick of it too quickly.

One other thing these guys boasted about was that "kept or packed noodles won't soften," and indeed, a number of the folks in front of me were ordering a bunch of bowls to go. I guess that I wouldn't mind coming back here again.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Loke Woh Yuen Vegetarian Restaurant

Some deep fried abalone mushrooms tossed with cereal

We picked this place (20 Tanjong Pagar Road, 6221-2912) somewhat randomly, but we figured that we'd give it a shot tonight, partly in hopes that there might be some surprises to be found that could shatter any pre-conceived notions against vegetarian food. We didn't quite know what to order, so they gave us some recommendations and we went from there.

And what a surprise it was indeed. First out of the gate was a cereal topped plate of deep fried abalone mushrooms...kinda like cereal prawns but with the great benefit of not needing to shell those bad boys. These turned out so light and tasty (and the cereal was ground a bit more finely without being overly sweet either) that it was truly enjoyable. If everything else here turned out as impressive as this, then we were in for a great meal.

Unfortunately, the rest went downhill pretty quickly. Some tofu skin dumpling thing was crispy, but the bed of veggies underneath was rather bland. Similarly, I found myself continuing to dump pepper and soy sauce onto their noodles in an (unsuccessful) effort to give it more taste. Finally, they brought us some special soup that wasn't even on the menu, but it was filled with so many Chinese herbs that just didn't quite agree with me.

So as much as I liked those mushrooms, I doubt that I'll be coming back, mostly because of how bland most of the food was. In some ways, I suppose that this wasn't unexpected of a vegetarian place, but Raj goes to show how much more tasty vegetarianism really can be.

Orchard Emerald Beef Noodle

Beef Noodle

This is just a bowl of local beef noodles from some random stall at the Tanglin Mall food court. I knew that it wasn't going to be the same as Thaksin beef noodle, but somehow as I ate this, I still couldn't help but think about how boring this was compared to Thaksin's.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Udang Goreng Tauyu Lada from Blue Ginger

Udang Goreng Tauyu Lada

Here is Blue Ginger's udang goreng tauyu lada, a house specialty of "sauteed prawns with pepper in sweet dark soya sauce." I normally am not a huge fan of that dark sweet soy-sauce, but this surprisingly worked for me. I guess it reminded me a bit of that alternative sauce for satay that I liked.

Anyway, this was just another one of our usual bring-a-visitor-to-try-local-food-in-a-nice-spot-near-the-office lunches, so we got the usual items in addition to this new one for me. The good thing is that Blue Ginger is still the same great place for us to continue to take out-of-towners to.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pete's Place, Grand Hyatt Singapore

Our Custom Made Pizza

I'd eaten at this place in the basement of the Hyatt (10 Scotts Road, 6416-7113) years and years ago, but the only memory I had of it was the checkered tablecloths, thus suggesting that the food itself probably wasn't anything spectacular. Still, it had been ages since I was last here, and the post-work traffic on Bukit Timah was absolutely horrendous tonight (we were originally trying to go to Borgo), so we made a quick U-turn to come here instead. Maybe it would turn out to have some better lasting memories this time.

It started out encouragingly, with a cool (albeit gimmicky) bread table for you to freely select and slice your bread and breadsticks from, not to mention a choice of sun-dried tomato or herb-infused butter. The pizza that we ordered also came out blazingly fast, and came complete with a nicely done thin and crispy crust. It wasn't exactly La Braceria, but it was good enough to clear my bare-minimum expectations of a pizza. The service was also pleasant and efficient.

Rack of LambThen we moved to our main courses, which consisted of a rack of lamb as well as a baccala, which I presumed to be an Italian version of bacalhau. The lamb was tender and interestingly done with a bit of a mustard crust, while the baccala was more like a normal piece of cod rather than the salty Portguese version. I actually kinda liked the cod better this way, but in the end, none of these really had the excitable edge that we were initially craving. It was just very straightforward, that's all.

Were there any lasting memories from this trip then? Yes, but unfortunately they weren't really positive ones. When the suprisingly triple-digit check arrived, we really regretted not having waited out the traffic to go to Borgo instead, where we would have gotten a much more satisfying meal for the same (or less) amount of money. Hopefully their pasta here is a little better, but unless someone says otherwise, maybe we'll just leave this place for the expense-account-carrying business travelers staying at the Hyatt instead.