Friday, June 29, 2007

Lan Zhou La Mian, Smith Street

Panfried Dumplings

This was a place (19 Smith Street, 6327-1286) just a few doors down from Hometown that we randomly walked into not long ago. I didn't have a great impression of it that time (if memory serves, their red oil dumplings were unnecessarily sweet), but things were a bit better today now that we ordered different items. The panfried dumplings were generally crispy and featured a decently tasty stuffing, while the hot & sour soup noodles tasted...well, like noodles in hot & sour soup.

Hot & Sour Soup NoodlesWhile I wished that those noodles were a bit springier, they still did the job, and I did like the base of the hot & sour soup. Even the chicken chop noodles, something that didn't sound nor look particularly appealing to me, featured a surprisingly crispy yet tender (and tasty) chicken that I didn't mind too much. These weren't runaway hits (and it's been a while since I've been to the Dumpling Nazi so I am struggling to make a valid comparison), but at least it was better the second time around.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Brotzeit Bier Bar & Restaurant, VivoCity

Kaesespaetzle

Here's a little something to follow up with on that recent macaroni and cheese discussion: Kaesespaetzle from Brotzeit (1 Harbourfront Walk #01-149, 6272-8815). As the name suggests, it's Spaetzle covered in rich piping hot cheese. I wasn't quite expecting this when I came here, but I was quite happy with it when I left.

Brotzeitflade BayernI was a bit confused about some other items on the menu though, particularly the Brotzeitflade Bayern, which was described as a flatbread with toppings on the menu. It was basically just a pizza. Is this even really German?? (Can anyone verify please?) Well, it was pretty thin, crunchy, and tasty. But I just had pizza the other day, so I wasn't completely happy with my selection. At least the generally positive Kaesespaetzle experience was enough to bring me back to try some of the other items.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saliva Chicken from Hometown Sichuan

Saliva Chicken

Here is the "saliva chicken" from Hometown Sichuan. I'm not sure if it was really new here or not (I don't remember it from before), but it was pretty much what I expected from these guys. And that's in a good way; it was definitely much better than that Crystal Jade place, despite the fact that Hometown left the bones in.

It's been a while since we were last here. They have printed nicer menus (they are bound rather than that single laminate before...ooh!), and the food is generally still just as good, even if the sauteed string beans were a tad soggier tonight than I recall. I'm not sure why I didn't put these guys in my Top 10 list this year; they were always in a tight running with Chuan and could have easily replaced their slot. Maybe I should expand it to a Top 15 next year to make some room.

Yanjing BeerThis was also the second time in Singapore that I've seen a plug for this Yanjing Beer, the so-called "official state beer of China." It tasted like many other beers from China though. I'm not really that big of a fan, and I'm frankly having trouble telling the difference between them all.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Buono Pizzabar & Ristorante

Buono Pizza

Hey that was pretty good. We grabbed the namesake pizza from this place today (27 Lichfield Road, 6733-5646) as a quick afternoon snack, and it was quite enjoyable. The ingredients were what made it work: it was dressed in a pleasantly rich cream sauce yet still featured cuts of cherry tomato, mushroom, and sausage, all on a fairly thin and crunchy crust. The full length of the rucola leaves made eating these slices a bit cumbersome, but that was just a minor nuisance.

I haven't tried anything else here, but I'd easily come back if I'm up near Serangoon Gardens again. Sure, there's an outlet of Spizza not far away (or even Devon's Daddy if I want to go really casual)...and I do like those places too. But based upon the strength of this dish alone, I suspect that there are going to be even more goodies in store on the menu here. Thumbs up!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Yoshinoya Singapore's Spicy Beef Bowl

Spicy Beef Bowl

Localization here in Singapore usually involves chili peppers of some form or another. Fortunately, I like spicy food, so some of these things have worked out for me in the past, including a spicy Whopper that I rather enjoyed not long ago. When I noticed that Yoshinoya was running a promotion featuring not only a spicy beef bowl but also a kimchi beef bowl, I was a bit curious. Tonight, I ordered one of each just to see what they would be like.

My jaw dropped when the cashier produced the bowls in question. When they originally mentioned a "spicy beef bowl," I was thinking that maybe they elegantly worked the spices into their famous onion-based beef brew. Instead, what I got was a normal beef bowl with a huge scoop of plain dry chili pepper flakes (like the kind that one sprinkles on pizza) simply dumped on top of it. Really? That was all there was to it?? Sheesh!

Well, those dry chili pepper flakes did make it pretty darned spicy, but it was just way too crude and overpowering. I should just stick to the basic gyudon, and use the much more refined ichimi togarashi that they already provide at each table if I want a little more kick. And in case you're wondering, the kimchi version was nothing to boast of either, with supermarket-quality kimchi sitting on top. What a disappointment.

Friday, June 22, 2007

ChoWon Garden, Peck Seah Street

Yukhoe

Here's another one of the tons of Korean restaurants around here (Airview Building #01-01, 6225-1317). I grabbed the yukhoe tonight. I'd eaten the Japanese version of it a number of times, so curiosity drew me to the original Korean version.

It was fine. It fortunately wasn't as sweet as I was expecting, and the freshness of the meat (albeit half-frozen) and heavy dousing of sesame seeds kept it going for me. Admittedly, this wasn't exactly what this post-heavy-work-week-beer-filled-belly of mine needed for satiation (and I definitely still prefer the way the French do it). Nonetheless I was decently pleased enough with this place to want to come back; I had their kalbi-tang the other day too and was rather happy with it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thunder Tea Rice (Lei Cha Fan)

Lei Cha Fan

This was an interesting one. I almost resigned to eating from one of the "typical" local food court stalls at Suntec City's Food Republic today until these guys caught my eye. "What the heck is Thunder Tea Rice?," I thought. I wanted to find out.

What I got was a big bowl of rice topped with assorted veggies together with some kind of a green soup. The soup was bursting with basil in aroma, but was surprisingly still a bit boring in taste, thus requiring me to pour in a bit of soy sauce to help it down. Only after I finished the soup did I realize my mistake...one is supposed to pour that green stuff (made from tea, apparently), over the rice, thus making this a bit of a Chinese version of ochazuke.

Well, despite not having any soup left to pour, I actually still liked the rice quite a bit, as those veggies were still decently tasty (and the rice decently moist) on their own. And there was definitely no guilt here for eating something so healthy. I'd like to come back (other locations at China Square, Amoy Street Food Centre, and VivoCity's Food Republic) and make sure that I eat it the proper way next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kenny Rogers Roasters, Singapore

Clockwise from left: half chicken, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and corn bread

It's always interesting to see brands like Ocean Pacific and Hang Ten so prevalent over here in Asia despite the fact that they've largely retreated (or even completely vanished) back in the US. On the food side, there is a similar relic of the US still alive here: Kenny Rogers Roasters, complete with framed photographs of the bearded artist and references to his music plastered all over.

And if eaten only occasionally, the food is actually half-bearable, with very moist chicken, hard-to-find-around-here cornbread, and generous heapings of side dishes. That is, as long as you don't mind the fact that you're paying up to twenty bucks per person in what looks like a cafeteria (the Great World location used to have a more homely wooden feel until they revamped it to look like some tacky brightly-lit Las Vegas buffet complete with neon signs...Circus Circus, anyone?).

These guys also had some news story posted on their wall about how they rated better than rival chicken chains like KFC or Chick-fil-A. I didn't quite catch the name of the publication nor the date, but I can only assume that it was very old if it were in reference to Kenny Rogers in the US. Well, it doesn't matter. To me, the king of all chicken is without a doubt Zankou back in LA. In the meantime, I suppose that this will have to do for now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bukang Tuna, Red Dot Traffic Building

Raw tuna slathered in Korean chili sauce

This was a bit of a unique one (28 Maxwell Road #01-06, 6327-4123). It took a little while to figure out exactly what they were serving at first, but they billed themselves as a "Japanese-style Korean Restaurant," or basically Japanese food localized for Koreans. I figured that I'd eaten plenty of Korean food localized by the Japanese, so why not try the reverse? The sushi bar aside, this was clearly a Korean place, complete with Korean drinks, newspapers, and metal utensils (no, it wasn't my intent to eat Korean food two days in a row...I actually didn't know what I wanted to eat for lunch today, so I just started walking around randomly and found myself here).

Rice topped with furikake, masago, and kimchiIn many ways, it was pretty much what I expected of the two cuisines coming together. My "tuna set" (hey, if they went so far as to put tuna in the name of the restaurant, I'd better try it, right?) started with slivers of tuna slathered with some of that sweet Korean chili sauce, and was actually still on the light side. The sashimi that came next didn't feature any localization, but the sizzling platter of corn after that suddenly changed things. Even the bowl of rice at the end came topped with furikake, masago, and kimchi, an interesting mix that actually did work given that they didn't go too excessively on any of them.

That was better than I thought it would be, and yes, I'll come back again to explore a bit more of this unique collection. They had all sorts of other things on the menu, including noodles, unagi, and "stews" that looked like nabemono ingredients sitting in one of those little bowls used for kimchi jige. I guess I'm just curious to see how those will turn out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dae Jang Keum, Yess Leisure

Kimchee

There's definitely no shortage of Korean restaurants in the CBD, although this one was in a bit of a peculiar place (25 Shenton Way #02-01, 6224-5525). I only noticed it when a cab driver happened to be taking me onto the freeway a couple weeks ago, just before reaching the on-ramp. It is surrounded by a bunch of karaoke lounges or something at Yess Leisure (not to be confused with Yess Centre in the West), which made it even weirder. And even when you get to this restaurant, you have to head upstairs to the second floor to find the dining room.

KalbiAnyway, I went for some kind of special unmarinated and boneless kalbi. It certainly was tender and tasty (and they provided my requisite dipping oil), but at a whopping S$38 (US$25.30), I would expect at least that, especially since the portions were so disappointingly small. At least there was tons of kimchee. Even if I won't be coming back frequently, this was much better than I thought it would be, as many of the items they used were admirably fresh and of high quality.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Portobelle Cafe & Restaurant, Killiney Road

Diavola PizzaThis place (128 Killiney Road, 6737-7127) across from Rialto came recommended by a friend who agreed that the pizza at Casa Roma was too soggy and simply inadequate. Portobelle, however, was a bit of an odd mix, featuring that ever-so-vague "Mediterranean cuisine" but then confusing things even more by featuring Mexican food too. (How many times have you seen moussaka listed in a menu right after a burrito??)

I shied away from the Mexican food, but went for the pizza that my friend suggested. My diavola variety came out piping hot and fared surprisingly well with its salami, chili peppers, and generous volumes of tasty cheese. I couldn't quite figure out the crust though, which was thin like I prefer, but seemed largely unrisen or something.

Well, to a non-bread eater like me, it really didn't make much of a difference. It tasted good and came out hot from the oven, so it was indeed generally enjoyable. I still hesitate about ordering from the "Latin American" side of the menu, as the same friend of mine gave me a horror story about the jalapeno poppers here. But I'd come back for the pizza, assuming that there was enough space in this little dimly lit place (only four tables sandwiched between its stucco walls, but hey - it sure gave it character).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ferdosi Persian Restaurant, Arab Street

Meat Mix Kebab

After a failed attempt last time, I finally made it down here tonight (34 Arab Street, 6298-8365). I grabbed my usual koobideh (or the "meat mix kebab," as the menu stated) and dough, both of which turned out better than I thought they would be, with a super buttery rice and a nice thin refreshing dough.

Despite this, my preference is easily for Banoo instead. The koobideh here not only came out slightly cold, but was also very small (I should ask if they have an upgrade option like Banoo does). The diced cucumber and tomato garnish on the plate was a bit pointless, but at least they did bring out some raw onions when I asked for it.

Well, that's just nitpicking. In the end, my belly still left satisfied. And these guys do have one huge advantage over Banoo: they serve food until 3 AM (it's obvious that a huge part of their business is for the shisha crowd, like Cafe Le Caire across the street). I'll probably be back again many times as a result.

Hediard Singapore, Tudor Court

Creamy Scrambled Eggs

This French gourmet shop opened here recently (125 Tanglin Road, 6333-6683), featuring a litle cafe next door that is conveniently open from 9 AM to 8 PM. We dropped on by today for breakfast. And gourmet it was indeed, straight down to the lofty prices. While many items hovered below S$20 (US$13.30), they did have a so-called "H XL" breakfast set for S$45 (US$30) that added scrambled eggs and salmon (or Parma ham) to the base "H" set of coffee, OJ, viennoiserie, half-boiled egg, bread, butter, and jam/honey (hey - no joke on itemizing those...those two little 30 gram jars sold for S$5, or US$3.30 each at the boutique next door). And unfortunately, I was in a mood for scrambled eggs, so I opted for the upgraded XL package despite the pain that it would inflict on my wallet.

Half Boiled EggThe prices were partially justified at least. The buttery croissant was lighter than air, the scrambled eggs (complete with gourmet salt and pepper in little dishes) were rich yet delicate, and the salmon came out in very large sheets...and of good quality too. Even the butter and bread were light and tasty enough to motivate this non-bread eater to consume most of what was provided. The vanilla infused into the "Opera tea" provided a pleasantly warm feel to all of this as well.

Now, I'm not exactly going to come rushing back here to spend S$45 on breakfast again (it invoked memories of spending fifty bucks at the Tiffin Room for an Indian buffet), but I've gotta say that my impression of French food keeps improving with every step. The shop next door is worth checking out too, given the wide varieties of mustard, tea, chocolates, etc. that they have. But just beware of the prices again, especially when you reach those little jars of truffles sporting triple-digit price tags. I suppose that their location can command this though, given that they'll be just a few doors down from the glitzy St. Regis when it finally opens.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Chanko Nabe from Yoyogi, Mohamed Sultan

Chanko Nabe

Watching a recording of last week's Japan Hour this afternoon got us thinking about nabemono, so we headed down to Yoyogi (33 Mohamed Sultan Road, 6887-4669) tonight and grabbed a big pot of chanko nabe. I'm not exactly a pro in this stuff (nor am I that big of a fan of nabemono in general...shabu shabu aside of course), but stewing all of the fresh and healthy ingredients in the ever-so-mildly sweet broth was generally agreeable. Gotta love the flavor of those garlic cloves sitting in there too.

The portions were huge though, such that I could hardly even make it to the rice at the end. But I'm unfortunately on already my way to getting a sumo wrestler-sized belly without this, so it's probably good that I couldn't completely finish this one off.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jin De Lai Zhong Hua La Mian, Boat Quay

Xian noodlesThis was a bit of a random find, not only in the sense that I was just walking down the footpath when I unexpectedly came across it, but also in that it was a bit oddly placed to find a Sichuan restaurant placed here (56 Boat Quay, 6536-8283) next to all the curry and local seafood tourist traps.

It wasn't very encouraging at first, as the dan dan mian arrived in a lousy concoction of seasonings. But there was one aspect of it that we liked: the fact that the noodles themselves were nice and springy. And fortunately, that pulled through to the so-called Xian noodles (whatever that is). These knife-cut noodles were likewise great in texture, but more importantly, they finally got the right seasonings in there with piping hot yet crispy bean sprouts, a good dose of salt, and some dried chili peppers. That went down very well.

String BeansWe also got some string beans, which paled in comparison to Hometown's, but still did much better than that first bowl that we got, and were fortunately also piping hot and crispy (just not enough fatty meat for extra flavor, that's all). While I might not necessarily come back here right away, it's good to know that there is a shop with decent noodles in these parts. Just be sure to pick a bowl where they get the seasonings right (read: not the dan dan mian).

Monday, June 04, 2007

Deli Moroccan, Bussorah Street

Koofta Tagin and Moroccan TeaAfter an aborted attempt at hitting up a new Persian place called Ferdosi tonight (they were running some private party or something), I made my way over to this Moroccan place around the block (30 Bussorah Street) instead. It was a pretty beat-up little shop with slimy laminated menus and ketchup bottles that didn't really inspire too much confidence, but I went ahead and ordered a quintessential kefta tagine and Moroccan tea. After quite a long wait (it was really a little mom and pop shop after all), my food finally arrived.

And wow - this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The perfect degree of sweetness in the first little sip of the mint tea instantly brought back memories of Morocco and a big sigh of relief. Indeed, the tagine featured a light yet tangy tomatoey taste (and it actually arrived in a proper tagine here!), allowing me to gobble this up in seconds. Sure, the bread was a bit odd in that was more like a plain dinner roll rather than the flying-saucer-shaped kind that I remembered from Morocco, but that didn't matter in the end. This was one of the better Moroccan experiences that I've had in Singapore thus far, and the best thing about it was that it was dirt cheap too, with just S$5.50 (US$3.60) for the tagine. I'm definitely coming back here. And yes, I hope that the aforementioned Persian place (which is at 34 Arab Street, not 43 Arab Street, by the way) is open next time I'm out this way too.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Anatolia Turkish Restaurant, Far East Plaza

Rotating Spits

I'm told that this place (14 Scotts Road #02-58, 6836-3352) has been around for ages, and yet it was only tonight that I made my way over here for a quick bite. I was expecting some worn out little place with only a few things on the menu. But to my surprise, there was a brightly lit counter on one side, complete with rotating spits and a rather wide selection of items listed on a lit menu high up on the wall (like they have at fast food joints). After placing your order, head down to the other side of the passageway and sit at the wooden tables where they bring you the food. Hey this looked rather promising!

Ananda KebabAnd yes, it generally worked for me. I grabbed an ananda kebab, whose minced meat was a tad dry and salty but still enough on the safe side of excessive to get me to gobble up the tasty stuff in seconds. The portions were a bit small, so I followed up with an iskender kebab to round it out. It was piping hot and similiarly good enough for me to enjoy.

I'm no pro on Turkish food, but I liked this place enough that I'd come back. They had a couple of other items on the menu that looked interesting, including some big meat-flatbread thing that I do want to come back for. Doner kebabs were on the menu too. Are they open late by chance? I think Dharma's has shut down, so we could sure use a new late night kebab shop around here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel Singapore

Mulligatawny Soup and Papadums

One of my Indian colleagues was telling me that the Indian food at the Tiffin Room here at the Raffles Hotel (1 Beach Road, 6337-1886) was pretty good. So I came by tonight to check it out, especially while I was still suited up from work (I wasn't allowed in there once for afternoon tea because I was wearing shorts).

All they had for dinner tonight was a buffet...and a darned expensive one at that: S$49 (US$32.70). For that money, you get access to a fairly large spread, which of course includes curries, but also a pretty impressive Indian pickle selection (including some pickled garlic and chili peppers) and of course starters and desserts, all of which I enjoyed, particularly some lentil and almond salad as well as a mushroom-based curry. Unfortunately, the kebab selection was disappointingly limited for what was allegedly a North Indian place (just some small cuts of chicken-based seekh kebab-like things), but I did get a kick out of the spicy mulligatawny soup (is it supposed to come with a lemon wedge and fried shallots as garnishes though?).

The Curry SpreadYes, that price is sky high, and is highway robbery compared to what one should pay for Indian food. But you are dining on linens and have a huge staff just waiting at your beck and call; it was so attentive - some might even say borderline excessive - that they pulled out the chair for me every time I approached it, folded my napkin up nicely every time I left it, and cleared my finished plate within no more than 10 seconds after I finished it.

So while the food was good, I suppose that what you're really paying for here is the Raffles Hotel ambience. Sure, I guess it's kinda novel playing the stuffy imperi...err...colonialist for a few moments, slowly sipping away at some masala tea after the meal. But at nearly fifty bucks for this run (not even including drinks and such), this is pretty much also going to be the last time for me. I suppose that they can command such a premium given how much the hotel guests are paying for their rooms here anyway.