Monday, February 25, 2008

D'Peak Steamboat King Chinese Restaurant

Sichuan Hot Pot

Yeah, this place (64 Prinsep Street, 6337-0858) has a weird name. But an earlier discussion today reminded me that I hadn't had Sichuan hot pot in quite a while. And given how brutal of a day it was at the office where I was so busy that I literally forgot to eat dinner, it was convenient that many of these dumpy hot pot places were open late enough for me to go to after I finally finished work. The sign here said that they were open from 5 PM - 5 AM.

As with most of these sorts of places, there isn't much to be said about the quality of the food, and there is even less to be said about the appearance of everything. But the spicy broth was effective enough for me to consider this borderline passable, even if the "clear broth" on the other side seemed to be unnecessarily overloaded with MSG. They had sa cha sauce available, but it was the Mainland Chinese version rather than Taiwanese, and thus unfavorably sweet. As a result, this by no means could compare to the Whispering Man's now defunct establishment, and I'm not exactly going to come running back right away. Still, it ultimately satiated the need for a late-night (if unhealthy) meal. I wonder how their a la carte menu of Sichuan food fares.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee

Bak Chor Mee

I noticed these guys last time we were at Hong Lim Food Centre while visiting one of Tai Wah's other outlets. Whoa - another bak chor mee place in the same complex as Tai Wah? And with much longer lines and a full Makansutra rating? This I had to check out (531A Upper Cross Street #02-43).

I can see why people like Ah Kow. It's the vinegar. They use a lot of it, making their bowls even more accentuated than Tai Wah's. Given a recent discussion about the use of vinegar in these things, one might think that would tip the scales in favor of Ah Kow. But I'm still a huge fan of how Tai Wah does its extra tasty meatballs and wantons.

Honestly, it's a tough call between the two. But waiting in line for Ah Kow is not worth it in my opinion. In that sense, I'm still going to Tai Wah.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ma Maison, Singapore

Tonkatsu

You wouldn't think so based on the name alone, but this was actually a Japanese place that had made its way to Singapore (Bugis Junction #02-41, 6338-4819 with another location at the Central). Actually, the reason for the name was because it was styled like a French place and served Japanese versions of a number of European dishes, but it really was Japanese at the end of the day. I was a bit bummed that my tonkatsu was rather soggy on the underside, but it ultimately did the job, as did the hanbaagu in their special brown sauce. I'm definitely not going nuts over this place, but the simplicity of it all will likely draw me back next time I'm looking for a simple no-frills meal.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wings from the Singapore Flying Club

Level #3 Wings

Here's an updated photo of the wings from the Sunset Grill at the Singapore Flying Club. I still don't like these enough to come all the way over here regularly, but we decided to make a quick diversion out here this afternoon after having had a few brews at a friend's place nearby.

Indeed, if it weren't for the spiciness of the wings, then I'd have forgotten all about this place. Part of the problem is the sheer size of the wings themselves, as they are still in one contiguous piece. But the spiciness does make it rather fun. I'm still amazed that this lip-burning stuff was only "Level #3" out of a ten point scale.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tajimaya Yakiniku, VivoCity

From front: US Karubi Tare and Wagyu Tan

Here was the yakiniku side of Shabuya (1 HarbourFront Walk #01-102, 6377-0070). I should have heeded my lessons from last time. The kimuchi that came first was in a rather discouraging condition, although the meat eventually got the job done, if forgettably. The only thing that I did enjoy was the salad, which was also a highlight from the other side of the house. But in the end, we paid more than we would have at Aburiya and yet left far less satisfied.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Si Bon, Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa

Fish Kushiage topped with Foie Gras

As part of the ongoing effort to find kushiage in Singapore, we finally made it out to this place tonight (1 Larkhill Road, 6276-9896). It definitely wasn't the humble type of establishment that is so commonplace across Osaka; rather, this was the complete opposite. Located in what was apparently a former chapel, this posh brick-lined venue contained counter-based seats for only 13 people (think: Iggy's meets Tenshin), where you watch the chefs deep frying your skewers away and bring them to you one by one, complete with explanations about the ingredients and what condiments to pair them with.

And those ingredients were key to the S$150/person (US$100) course tonight. This wasn't any normal kushiage. As you would expect of such a fine dining experience, each skewer that arrived in front of us was a creation on its own, such as pork paired with sea urchin, fish topped with foie gras, or mackerel seasoned with the sharp punch of yuzu. The coating on each of these was featherlight, thus making the 15 or so skewers that we each received very guilt-free. These were all preceded by a tray of cold starters and accompanied by fresh veggies and noodles to cleanse the palate as we went along.

Perhaps the most memorable item of all was the simple slice of ever-expensive Japanese melon that we got for dessert. It was such an incredibly ripe, sweet, and tender delicacy that only God could have created it. Yes, this place was very pricey and upscale, but I liked it. The out-of-the-way location and cozy setting also made it a great place for special occasions. To whomever it was that provided the pointer about this place last time, thank you! This was indeed a good night.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mariner's Corner Restaurant, Singapore

NZ T-Bone Steak

An ex-coworker of mine mentioned to me ages ago that this restaurant at the Singapore Mariners' Club Maritime House used to be one of the best places in Singapore to get a steak (120 Cantonment Road #01-02, 6224-9928), with American sailors piling in here regularly. I was so skeptical that I pretty much forgot about it after all of these years until I saw a big sign erected outside recently that stirred up some curiosity again. Tonight, I came down to check it out.

It wasn't too encouraging at first. By appearances alone it looked like one of those old school "Western" places. Some ancient Phil Collins easy listening track piped in overhead, and the red wine was chilled. I'm not a huge fan of localized Western food (or as they put it, "Cooking with Hainanese Influence"), but I figured that I'd better embrace the chance to try the T-bone steak, even if I had to tell them to keep the peppercorn sauce on the side. Lo and behold, out comes my steak on one of those black cow platters, sizzling away, accompanied by a stone cold potato.

To my surprise, I rather enjoyed the sauce that this thing came with, so much that I completely finished it (then again, I suppose that also says something about the quality of the beef when I tried it on its own). Another unexpected bonus was the fact that there were a few chunks of daikon sitting under my steak getting scorched by the hot plate. It was a very odd pairing, but I'm a sucker for any form of daikon.

Best place in Singapore to get a steak? Hardly. But it did remind me a lot of Shashlik, another localized Hainanese place that I've been rather fond of. Come to think of it, it's been ages since I'd last been to Shashlik. I think that a visit there is overdue.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Korea's BBQ Chicken in Singapore

Hot Hot Drum

I was intrigued when I had read about these guys a while back: a fried chicken chain from Korea that had arrived in Singapore? (Cathay Cineleisure Orchard #B1-04, 6887-3638) Why did they call themselves BBQ Chicken when clearly the place served fried stuff instead? If I read it correctly, "BBQ" here stood for "Best of the Best Quality," even though they did have some barbequed stuff on the side too.

Anyway, their main pitch was that they used extra virgin olive oil and 30 natural seasonings to fry their "Olive Luxury Chicken." It had a very thick batter and definitely tasted different, although really not in the way that I had hoped. I also got some of their "hot hot drums," which basically then slathered some kind of a spicy Korean sauce on the chicken...kinda like Korean buffalo wings, I suppose, but using gigantic drumsticks instead. I liked the spiciness, but the sweetness was almost candy-like and borderline annoying.

I won't be running back here anytime soon, although I am a bit intrigued by the Jerk BBQ chicken that was stated on the menu as using a "Korean style barbeque sauce" rather than anything Jamaican. Regardless, it is interesting to see how many cultures around Asia that do fried chicken, be it Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, or Taiwan. And all of this time I figured fried chicken to be from the South.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Vindaloo from Garam Masala, Boat Quay

Mutton Vindaloo and Bhasmati Rice

It looks like some of the nightlife in Singapore has finally opened up after the first two days of Chinese New Year. And fortunately for me, a post-drinking vindaloo was also within reach. I popped on down to Boat Quay after a few beers tonight and hit the first restaurant I could find that was serving the stuff (72 Boat Quay, 6535-5066).

They told me that they were going make it spicy, which made this thing totally hit the spot, especially when garnished with with the fresh slivers of ginger and cilantro and accompanied by a soothing bowl of fresh raita. I'd almost go so far as to say that this was one of the most satisfying meals that I've had in a long time, although that was probably more of a side effect of all of the beer consumed earlier.

Khansama Tandoori Restaurant, Singapore

Pani Puri

Not every place in Singapore shuts down for Chinese New Year; Little India in particular was still filled with people today. I nearly walked past this place at first, seeing that it looked a bit touristy (166 Serangoon Road, 6299-0300). But when I saw a chaat counter along the street, I stopped in my tracks and sat down.

Amusingly, the counter's puri was piled up in what appeared to be a former aquarium tank, complete with the hood still attached. And when the plate was finally delivered, each puri got its own little tin, surrouding a central highball of jal jeera. It was a rather tangy rendition, and the puri were done carefully enough that there wasn't too much leakage of the juices. But there are so many other choices in Little India that this probably won't be a place that I'll pick out of the bunch again.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Clearing Out Supermarkets Before CNY

Emptying out the shelves

This was an interesting sight. As if people were preparing for nuclear war or an alien invasion, this supermarket's produce section was partially cleared out this afternoon. Presumably this was because people were buying enough food for their families' Chinese New Year celebrations, as well as foreigners who needed to stock up, lest they be stuck eating McDonalds for the next few days while the island shuts itself down. Either way, people were streaming out of the market today, all clutching multiple bags of groceries while others proceeded inside to make their runs.

Baikohken, North Canal Road, Singapore

Miso Haafu Saizu

I didn't find out until recently that these guys have been here for a good number of months already (7 North Canal Road, 6534-3808) - I wish I had known earlier! These guys are from Asahikawa, just as Ramen Santouka is. I ended up liking these guys better, mainly because the broth was toned down to a much more reasonable level, including the miso ramen that I usually find too salty elsewhere.

My favorite of the bunch though was the shio ramen. While looking like murky dishwater, the taste of the broth was sophisticated enough to keep me happy yet light enough to keep my conscience clear. The thick cuts of menma were a standout, as were the crumbles-apart-in-your-mouth slices of chashu. Such a toned-down broth may not necessarily provide the "wow factor" of Santouka, but it's precisely such humility that will bring me back.

P.S. They are open over the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays while the rest of the island shuts down (yay!).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

RedDot BrewHouse, Dempsey Hill

RedDot Beef Mushroom Burger

Here's another microbrewery that has popped up in Singapore (25A Dempsey Road #01-01, 6475-0500). They were so new when I came by here last month that they were only running a partial menu at the time. So it was good to finally be able to try that mushroom burger today.

I raised an eyebrow when it came out though. Not only were there no mushrooms on this Mushroom Burger (it turned out that they were mixed into the patty), but more importantly, the Eddie Murphy phenomenon struck again: some huge glob of a patty that was unnecessarily thick and yet had a diameter that barely took up two thirds of the bun (one could cue that famous Wendy's ad here too). Fortunately, it still tasted pretty good, but the shape of such patties is a huge pet peeve of mine.

...and oh yes, how was the beer? The English Ale, as well as some special summer brew, were a bit too hoppy for my taste. Nonetheless, it was good to see another microbrewery showing up here, especially now that they finally had a (nearly) full offering from their menu today.

Tetsu, Tanglin Mall, Singapore

Rosu Katsu

When we saw this place listed in the Sunday Times today (163 Tanglin Road #03-18, 6836-3112), we got so excited that we came straight down to check it out (wow - a new kushiage shop in Singapore!). As you can see in the photo above, this was more than a kushiage shop, as they also served tonkatsu as well as kushi-tempura. I picked out a bunch of the usual kushiage favorites from the a la carte section. The meat didn't have that much flavor, and the coating seemed like the rougher stuff that was used for the tonkatsu, but it worked in the end.

Part of this was because they at least provided that brown sauce. It was a bit scary at first since they brought out some fancy little tray featuring - of all things - chili sauce (oh no!). We breathed a sigh of relief when they finally opened a separate container with the requisite brown sauce though.

This was such a fancy place that there were no piles of cabbage nor shared metal bins full of sauce here...everything was done nicely in little porcelain containers. I suppose that this would be a great place for a business lunch as a result, but for my personal meals, I prefer a much more humble and grimey place. Maybe if they start offering cheese sticks (something that was glaringly lacking on the menu), then we'll consider coming back.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shabuya (Tajimaya), VivoCity, Singapore

US Black Angus Shabu Shabu

A new yakiniku cum shabu shabu place has opened up at VivoCity (1 HarbourFront Walk, #01-102, 6377-0060). Split in half, the Tajimaya side specializes in yakiniku while the Shabuya side specializes in - you guessed it - shabu shabu. In the mood for something light tonight, I veered over to the Shabuya side to see how it would fare.

It wasn't too encouraging at first. A pile of cut chili padi was oddly provided next to the usual daikon and scallions, and yet the sauces consisted only of ponzu without the usual goma counterpart. Some of the udon that they gave me was rather tattered and broken up into small bits, and there was no strainer provided either, which effectively forced me to use a makeshift upside-down shiitake mushroom in order to skim the scum off the broth. Moreover, the Australian beef that I ordered was so lean that it was pretty much tasteless. Perhaps that's why they needed to provide that chili padi.

I was pretty unsatisfied at that point, but I knew that it was my own fault for ordering the cheapest grade of beef that they had (S$22.90 or US$16.20 for a set). Thus, I added an order of US beef instead, which fortunately came out marbled enough to give it a bit more flavor. There were a few other things that I liked too, including the light and refreshing house salad as well as the pork-based broth that they gave (interestingly, they used one of those Chinese yuan yang pots where one gets two different kinds of broth). Even though this meal was eventually rescued, I'd much rather go to Ohsumi instead.

Golden Pillow 933, Singapore

Golden Pillow Curry Chicken Bun

This was interesting. This place's (1 Kaki Bukit Road #05-11, 6323-8933) signature item is some kind of a "golden pillow bun" that is filled your choice of curry, which initially sounded to me like a Singaporean version of that sourdough bread bowl from San Francisco. But it was actually quite different. First off, this thing was at least two to three times bigger than those single-servings of clam chowder, so this definitely needs to be shared. More importantly, this wasn't as simple as boring out a hole in a loaf of bread and then scooping soup into it. Instead, this loaf has the curry placed inside before baking, thus trapping it inside from the start.

Opening up the breadWhen you get it, it looks like a giant loaf of bread, but when you cut into it, you find a warm curry sitting inside (in paper and plastic), which you can dump out into a bowl on the side and then dip your bread into.

I figured that this was all just a big gimmick, and that it wouldn't really taste that much different from any ol' roti prata with a curry dip. But I ended up really liking this because the food tasted pretty good. The curry was just spicy and rich enough to be exciting without being excessive, while the chicken and potatoes were tender enough to want more (despite me wanting to focus on the curry only at first). And how was the bread? It was...well, pillow-like; a bit like King's Hawaiian but less sweet. The good thing is that they deliver, and the bread/curry combo stays nice and warm on the way to your place. Just be prepared to go comatose on your couch afterwards given all of the rich curry and bread.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Pierogis and Chard on United

Spice-rubbed chicken with vodka sauce, potato pierogis, and Swiss chard

Here's yet another United long haul meal on the way back. Not surprisingly, it didn't stand out that much. But at least I learned a couple of new things. Pierogis were apparently some kind of large Polish potato-filled dumplings, while chard was a leafy green vegetable that was lot less tasty than it looked.