Friday, November 30, 2007

Fish N Cheap, Hoe Chiang Road

Fish N Cheap

I'm writing only about this because of the amusing name rather than the food. Located on the former grounds of a little prawn noodle shop (9 Hoe Chiang Road), this place clearly was making a play off of the way one pronounces the word "chip" here locally. Indeed, rather than being any dedicated fish and chip shop, they were really selling local food, as evidenced by the fact that they pushed nasi lemak right when I entered the door. I still got the fish and chips, but the fish was breaded rather than battered (and they gave chili sauce packets instead of malt vinegar). It really was not that much different from one of those "Western" hawker stalls out there. But it was piping hot and crispy, and I'd rather come here than that New Harbour place down the street.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pasta de Waraku, Singapore

Hokkaido Bataa Koon

My experiences at Waraku have been mixed. But I definitely wanted to give this Japanese pasta offshoot of theirs a try (The Central #02-82/83, 6534-8085, with another location at Marina Square). Sure, one can get things like spaghetti mentaiko elsewhere if you know where to look. But this was a dedicated shop with much more variety...and that huge display wall of plastic food sure made a number of items look good.

I went for the Hokkaido corn and butter variety (really...how could one resist with such a huge chunk of butter on top?). The noodles came out nice and firm, but the cream sauce was a touch on the sweet side. This wasn't completely unexpected, but it was pushing the limits of what I could tolerate for sweetness. (That cream sauce was used in several other of their plates too, so just be mindful of that if your taste buds have an aversion to sweet things like mine do.) Fortunately, I could still finish the whole thing without much trouble.

Similarly, the daikon sarada, while fine at its base, was overloaded with an inch-thick carpet of bonito flakes on top (you ended up tasting more fish than daikon). So while my mixed experiences with Waraku have continued, this is place is worth a visit if you're curious to try a Japanese interpretation of Italian pasta. Just make sure that you come with an expectation for Japanese flavors rather than Italian.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dum Briyani from Yakader, Tekka Market

Dum Briyani

I don't think this was that Allauddin place that everyone was raving about before, but there sure was a long line here (Tekka Market #01-324). And I absolutely loved it. The mutton was tender enough to fall off the bone, but more importantly, the rice was so moist and rich (without being excessive on the exotic spices) that one didn't even need the still pleasantly tasty curry on the side. I wolfed this thing down in seconds. Gotta love how he scoops out wads of rice from that huge vat too.

Grabbing rice out of the big vatDelicious. Granted, it has been a very long time since I'd had any dum biryani, so my perception might be a bit distorted. But I haven't had such a heartily satisfying meal in such a long time that I really needed this. Just don't come here expecting any ambience.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Corn and Tuna Salad from Carrefour

Corn and Tuna Salad from Carrefour

Here's a random bowl of some corn and tuna salad from Carrefour that wasn't too exciting. Granted, one couldn't exactly expect much here, but that sour prefabricated taste was strong enough to make my face clench up. Well, at least the packaging was convenient enough to keep this lying around in your pantry for a while without refrigeration.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Japanese Treats from Yamakawa Super

Japanese Soft Drinks

This little shop in Singapore (The Central #B1-28B, 6534-9518) carries all sorts of Japanese snacks, including soft drinks that are in those cool little bottle-shaped cans that one commonly finds at vending machines in Japan. Of course all sorts of crackers and candy are available too, but what really got us excited was the fact that they also had bottles of bamonto apple vinegar. Cool.

Anjappar Chettinaad Restaurant, Singapore

Viral Curry

I had never really consciously had Chettinaad cuisine before, but this chain from Chennai (102 Syed Alwi Road, 6392-5545, with another location on Race Course Road) was so crowded last time we were in the area that we were forced to eat at their next door neighbor instead. We got in today, but whenever we tried to order something, the waiter turned it around and suggested a variant of it instead. Since we didn't really know anything about this stuff, we figured that we'd go with his choices.

We should have known better. This guy ended up pushing a couple of the most expensive items on the menu, such as a venison that sat in a thick curry with annoying fragments of bone in it. The fish that he got for us was similarly covered in a curry and required quite a bit of effort in manually de-boning the pieces. I understand that Chettinaad cuisine is known for being very spicy, but our items today came off as rather salty instead...including the lime juice (I guess that I didn't specify that I wanted sweet lime juice, so he gave me the salty option instead).

Bindi FryWell, one thing that we really did enjoy was the bindi fry, which was full of rich aroma and went down in a hurry. But I wish that we had done a better job of ordering, as we got totally ripped off today (the food at our neighboring table looked much better). Here's something interesting at least: our fish dish carried the rather unappealing name of "viral curry," and it was only later that I realized that viral is a Tamil word for a specific type of fish.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Random Bowl of Soon Dubu Chigae

Soon Dubu Chigae

Here's just a random bowl of soon dubu chigae from some place near the office. It was actually one of the worst that I've ever had...ridiculously watered down and simply lacking in flavor. But at least it came out bubbling hot like it should.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Shrink Wrapped Instant Egg

Instant Egg

This stuff is hilarious. There's tons of instant noodles that one can buy at 7-Eleven. So why not buy an instant hard-boiled egg to throw in there too? In the need of some post-drinking grub to coat the stomach tonight, I threw this into my bowl of instant noodles, hoping that it would taste good after keeping it fully submerged and heated in the boiling MSG-laden broth.

I was wrong...this thing was totally nasty. The egg white was tough and leathery while the yolk was dry enough to be powder. Ugh...there's just no substitute for the real thing. P.S. Be careful when opening these little packets too...if you're not careful, the thing will pop right out and bounce right onto the floor like my first one did. (cue: Homer Simpson)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Warong M Nasir, Killiney Road

Nasi Padang

This place (69 Killiney Road next to Killiney Kopitiam and two doors away from The Orange Lantern) was mentioned in a recommendation the other day. I was hoping that they would serve some soto ayam, so I was a bit bummed to find that they were serving nasi padang instead.

Nonetheless, I generally liked the food, including the assam pedas, which was a tender fish in a mildly sour sauce, and the gulai daun ubi, or young tapioca leaves in a rich coconut-based gravy. Some of these items still had that characteristic spicy fishiness that often makes Indonesian food a turn-off for me, but I'm starting to appreciate it more and more. One bonus was the simple wooden decor here, which was reminiscient of Made's Warung in Bali.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dozo, Valley Point Shopping Centre

Cod

I was a bit apprehensive about coming to a place that advertised "fine modern Japanesque" using tacky lines such as "it's sexy, it's here & be seduced" and "redefine Japanesque cuisine that Define [sic] uncompromising true pleasures with a fine difference" (491 River Valley Road #02-02, 6838-6966). Based on this and its arguably unattractive signage outside, I was expecting some horribly bastardized and downscale Japanese food. So finding them going for chi-chi fusion on fancy square plates was a bit unexpected (it really wasn't Japanese). And you pretty much had no other choice but to go for a multi-course set dinner menu at S$58.80 (US$38.70).

Things got a bit stranger as I went in. The decor was dark and velvety, almost like some night club or lounge. Each place setting consisted of a huge barrage of four forks and knives each, and yet there were no linens to be found; all that you had were tiny little paper napkins overflowing out of a lowball glass, like something you might find at a bar counter. The service, while very attentive and better than many other restaurants around here, was also borderline annoying, as seen by the wait staff asking for your name and shaking your hand in an introduction ritual.

And yet despite all of this quirkiness, the food was better than I was expecting. The cod was crispy on the outside yet moist on the inside. The various starters of scallops, escargot, and consomme all went down quickly for me too, even if the latter was unnecessarily tacky again when it was served in a sake flask and poured out in front of you. Normally I despise such unnecessary pretentiousness, but what saved this for me was the fact that the food was generally fresh and delicate.

So if the kitchen left me with such a favorable impression, why was everything else so weird? If I understand it correctly, these guys hailed from Taiwan, which definitely helped explain things. Remember that ridiculous multi-course meal at TASTY steak in Taipei? These guys seemed to share the same line of thought: roll out as many individual courses as you can in an effort to try to impress. Strange...they sold themselves as Japanese, and yet the food was more European. In my mind though, this was really Taiwanese. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find a place like like this smack in the middle of Chung Xiao East Road in Taipei.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tsukune Ichigo, River Valley Road

From left: chizu, goma, shio, and kousho

There are plenty of yakitori places around these days, but these guys are different (399 River Valley Road, 6736-1340). They specialize in tsukune, or the minced chicken meat variety of skewers. And you can get your tsukune dressed in any number of ways, be it with salt, pepper, sesame seeds, cheese, scallions, garlic, sour plum, fish eggs, or even some half-boiled chicken egg drizzled on top. Granted, it was only chicken, so it wasn't so mindblowing that I would get cravings for this. But it was tender enough that it edged onto the favorable side for me.

Besides, my conscience sure feels a lot better about eating something so healthy. This was only further underscored by the way that they finish your meal here: with a little cup of humble yet refreshing chicken soup that tastes just like mom used to make it (you could practically throw a matzo ball in it if the container were just a little bigger). Sure, they have other things like salads, carbs, and some grilled items too, but I prefer to focus on their tsukune.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feng Bo Zhuang Jiu Jia, Singapore

Dry Sauteed String Beans

For some reason, I was craving something spicy and greasy for lunch today. So I was on my way over to Hometown (which incidentally has moved a few doors down to 25 Smith Street) when I passed by the Whispering Man's former digs just to see if anything had cropped up in its place. To my surprise, a rather nicely decorated restaurant was sitting there, with hardly a resemblance to the spartan place that Xiao Ping Steam Pot had held.

Just two weeks old, this place (57 Temple Street, 6223-3588) apparently is a chain from mainland China. And if I understood it correctly, it's actually a theme restaurant, where all of the bamboo-covered walls and such are supposed to evoke thoughts of a martial arts film. The menu offered both spicy and non-spicy dishes, but I had no idea what to order, so the guy recommended some kind of beef and string beans.

The string beans were very encouraging. While just a tad soggier than I'd like, the salty/greasy/spicy taste was right up my alley, and I wolfed this thing down in seconds. This excitement completely vaporized when the beef arrived though. Drenched in a sweet sauce and mixed with crudely cut onions, the meat was nearly beef jerky-like (ugh!). The guy told me afterwards that it was intentional in order to get the flavor into the beef, but I'll opt for something else next time.

Yup, despite these shortcomings, I'm encouraged enough to come back and explore the menu further...there must be something else in here that I'll enjoy. Sure, the prices are a bit higher than I would have thought for a little place like this too (S$15 or US$10 for that plate of beef), but I guess a good part of the money goes into the decor. You can come here to pretend that you're Jet Li for the day.