Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Disappointing Hindu Meal on SQ

Hindu Meal on SQ Economy Class

Oh man, that was nasty. After such a long streak of great in-flight Indian food, this one was just wrong. The double-wrapped meal with a piece of flatbread looked encouraging at first, but inside lay an unappetizing fish curry paired with mushy peas that I didn't even bother finishing. Chutneys were provided but no pickles. This was such a letdown that had this been my first ever Indian meal on an airplane, I never would have ordered it again.

Well, I am going to keep eating them though...this was only one out of nine that didn't go over well, so I'll assume that tonight's was just bad luck. Maybe the problem was because of the local caterer in Hong Kong. Now that I think of it, I've never really enjoyed my SQ meals out of HK. At least I didn't get one of those old school non-VOD planes like I got on the way up.

Singapore Noodles on SQ??

Singapore Noodles

Whoa - was that what I thought I saw? Yep - Singapore Noodles indeed, and perhaps the closest I've come to seeing "Singapore Noodles" in Singapore. OK - this was technically in Hong Kong, but the sheer fact that it was at the Silver Kris lounge and on SQ porcelain was something I didn't think that I would see. I can only assume that this was all done by the local caterers given the Cantonese chili oil also available here.

An Addiction to A Hereford Beefstouw

Chopped Sirloin Steak

Man, I just can't get away from this stuff. As much as I want to try something else on the menu here, the thought of this chopped sirloin keeps entering my belly whenever I hop on the Airport Express in Hong Kong. By the time I finally reach the airport, I just need to get my fix.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gi Kee Seafood Restaurant, Hong Kong

Wind Sand Chicken

This was a dai pai dong, but on an air-conditioned floor above a wet market in Happy Valley (2/F Wong Nai Chung Complex, 2 Yuk Sau Street, 2574-9937). Just because it was air-conditioned didn't mean that it was posh though; similar to its outdoor brethren, we sat on plastic stools surrounding plastic-wrapped tables with a roll of toilet paper on top, we washed our utensils in hot water before eating, and we drank local Sonderberg beer (similar to Blue Girl beer, it claimed to be "imported"). It was apparently a very popular place - to the point where it helped to have a reservation.

We came here for a number of dishes, the first of which was literally translated as "wind sand chicken." With fried garlic showered all over the bird, it was certainly tasty, and was a bit like Bangkok's Polo Fried Chicken. Its close relative, typhoon shelter crab, was offered too, but the crab butter in ours was so tough that I easily preferred Under Bridge's instead. We also got their shark's fin soup - but rather than the thick version that one usually gets at fancy wedding banquets, this one came in a refreshingly thin and clear chicken broth, complete with chicken feet inside.

Last but certainly not least, we came here to eat "pork lard rice," an old school dish that used to be common in HK but has since become rather hard to find due to health reasons (we had to pre-order it from these guys). What exactly is it? Well, you get a big pot of steaming hot rice together with a small bowl of pork lard that you pour onto the rice. The heat from the rice melts the lard, after which you give it a couple drops of soy sauce for flavor, and mix it all up. It doesn't look like much and might not necessarily sound that enticing either, but it tastes great, even if it provides an instant heart attack. I suppose that it wasn't necessarily that different from putting salt and butter into rice though.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wing Wah Noodle House, Hong Kong

Dry Wanton Noodles with Shrimp Eggs

Remember the Bourdain episode where that guy made noodles by - perhaps painfully - hopping up and down on a bamboo pole? This wasn't the same shop, but it was in the city and made for an easy lunchtime run from the office (89 Hennessy Road, 2527-7476). Wanton mee appeared to be a staple here, so I grabbed one of the usual soup versions plus one of the dry ones with the shrimp eggs on top.

Based on appearances alone, it was hard to tell how these noodles differed from a machine-made version. And I was hoping for a bit more of an egg taste inherent in the noodles too, but didn't get it. Still, the noodles were favorably firm, and that made the difference. My preference is still for Mak's due to all of its tasty ingredients, but I'm glad I got to eat this too.

Note that there is no English on the signboard...it's all in Chinese. But look for a wooden facade and you'll be able to confirm your location with the building number and photos of the guy doing the bamboo thing. (Unfortunately, you don't get to see the deed in person since it's apparently all done upstairs.) Afterwards, try heading down a couple blocks south to the Wan Chai wet market if you have the time...one could not help but think of Chris Tucker's chicken scene in Rush Hour 2 when seeing the poultry vendors there.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Hindu Meal on SQ

SQ's Lamb Hindu Meal

It doesn't look like much in the photo, but the lamb in SQ's Hindu meal was darned tasty, as were the lentils on the other side of the tray. Put it together with the pickles, cucumber, and yogurt, and I found myself wishing for seconds tonight.

Well, this was just part of my effort to go for Indian meals on planes. I only wish that these were more commonly offered, as I still feel really guilty for requesting a special meal that clearly I wasn't the intended audience for. It's just so much tastier than the "normal" meals though.

The KF Gold Lounge at Changi T3

Greek Salad

After a mildly disappointing run through the public areas of Changi's new Terminal 3 today, I was glad to find the selection of vendors much more interesting after clearing immigration. I was also quite happy with the new KrisFlyer Gold lounge too. While a bit smaller in floor area than I'd imagined, the lounge featured a spread that rang straight through to my belly, complete with chicken wings, several types of salad, and Indian food. No, none of it was anything to go out of one's way for, but in the realm of airport lounge food, this was a relief to see.

Actually, the thing that first caught my eye wasn't the food, but rather the refrigerator full of frosted mugs. Oooh...and what might we be filling those up with? The cold Tiger beer tap on the side. It wasn't the Narita beer machine, but no guy is ever going to complain about open access to a beer tap. Rock on.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

WGS Gourmet Barbecue with Paulaner Beer

Some prawn thing from Novus

That chi-chi looking prawn thing in the photo above isn't exactly what you'd envision at a barbecue, right? Well, that's what we got tonight at the "gourmet barbecue" finale of the World Gourmet Summit tonight on Sentosa's Siloso Beach. Many of the big name restaurants from Singapore were showcased, including Indochine, Tung Lok, and Michelangelo's. The prawn thing above was from Novus at the National Museum.

There was certainly nothing to complain about with any of these guys. But it's questionable whether or not it was worth the price of S$168 (US$120) a head, especially given that many of the vendors ran out of food after just a couple of hours, including the Paulaner beer that was so visibly stated in the name of the event. I didn't even get to eat any of the kebabs from Rang Mahal.

Still, there were quite a few memorable items tonight, such as the rich bisque and tender quail from Au Petit Salut. The olive ice cream from Garibaldi was different, as were the red watermelon & chili pepper martinis from Orgo (I wasn't that interested in the taste, but it was fun watching the Japanese bartender making them from scratch). Oddly, the thing that got me the most excited wasn't even anything barbequed: it was the delightfully spicy cold Sichuan noodles from Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant. I kept going back for more spoonfuls of it.

If they run this event again next year, I doubt that I'll come back. I'd rather just go straight to the restaurants themselves and get a proper meal. But I hope they keep the barbecue concept. If they invite Rob Rainford from the License to Grill show, then I'll be the first to sign up.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Kuro Ma-Yu Ramen from Menya Shinchan

Tonkotsu shio kuro ma-yu ramen

Interesting - Menya Shinchan is now offering kuro ma-yu ramen, featuring roasted garlic and sesame oil. It looked slightly like Gogyo's kogashi ramen, but it didn't really have that carbon-burned aroma. In fact, I think that the thick layer of oil on top was simply based on black sesame seeds instead.

Well, I was still pleasantly happy with the super firm and thin noodles here. And the broth was decent as long as one didn't think that this was a way to get Gogyo's masterpiece in Singapore. But I am pretty sure that this wasn't intended to be the same thing anyway.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yet Con Chicken Rice, Singapore

Chicken Rice

Wow - that was unexpected. We weren't even planning to come here; actually, we went to their competitor Chin Chin across the street first. Only on a whim did we swing over here afterwards (25 Purvis Street, 6337-6819) just to give it a try. We are so glad that we did.

If there were only one word that I could use to describe this place, it would be "character." Every aspect of this place was full of character, be it the proprietor at the front with his abacus, the old school yet air conditioned decor, or of course, the food itself: the chicken rice was unlike any that I'd had elsewhere. The chicken skin was lined with salt, pairing perfectly with the fat underneath, while the incredibly fragrant rice could easily stand on its own. The giant bowl of soup was garnished with pickled veggies and celery leaves, and even the ginger condiment was a delight with its layer of chicken oil floating at the top of the jar. The only thing I didn't like was the unnecessarily salty hot sauce - to which competitor Chin Chin got my vote on instead.

That aside, this place has instantly skyrocketed to one of my favorite chicken rice places on the island, perhaps even threatening my all-time favorite Tian Tian. Then again, I'm not sure if it's appropriate to compare the two: clearly this place was much more traditional. Either way, it was such a refreshing change from all of the other chicken rice places around that I really enjoyed it, and wouldn't hesitate to come back again.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Boon Tong Kee on River Valley Road

Note the pyramid-shaped rice and Ferrero Rocher in the background

Well - there it is: the weird River Valley branch of the well-known Boon Tong Kee chain (425 River Valley Road, 6736-3213), complete with its pyramid-shaped rice, Ferrero Rocher, and green paper-wrapped utensils. I don't really have a problem with the food but the experience is just plain tacky. Note to self: if for whatever reason you end up here again instead of their chicken rice neighbor, remember to decline that darned S$2 (US$1.40) pickled dish "appetizer" that they shove onto your table and charge you for too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pierre Hermé at mezza9, Grand Hyatt

Macaron Variations from Pierre Hermé

I'd never really been a big fan of mezza9 (10 Scotts Road, 6732-1234). Its multiple kitchen concept always struck me as a place trying to be too many things at the same time. My opinion of this place hasn't improved either given how they messed up my order of crab tonight. But we came here not because of their regular menu, but because we were told that Pierre Hermé was featured as special guest of the World Gourmet Summit, and that his desserts were worth coming for.

I'm normally not one for sweet things, but I could understand why this guy is so well respected. He used ingredients that one usually associates with savory dishes rather than sweet: truffles in one of the macarons, foie gras in the crème brûlée, and olives in some tomato thing called révélation. None of these really struck me as being out of place; if anything, the truffle macaron just got me more excited.

He also offered his famous Ispahan, which he later explained as he came around to our table how it required just the right type of rose extract. That was cool - it was definitely a different experience, and an educational one at that. I don't know how much longer he will be in Singapore though.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shanghai's Chicken Hot Pot in Singapore

Beef Behemoth

That was unexpected. After walking around the basement of the newly renovated Temasek Tower tonight to see if there were anything interesting to eat, I was nearly ready to give up. But then I spotted a "Chicken Pot" sign in the distance with a chili pepper in the middle (8 Shenton Way #B1-21, 6220-8048). Hmm...what was this? Closer inspection revealed some kind of a spicy chicken restaurant from Shanghai that had allegedly attained all sorts of praise over the past few years. OK - I figured that it was worth a try.

Now, normally the words "spicy hot pot" conjure up images of a bright red Sichuan broth swirling around in a big metal pot. But this was nothing of the sort. What came out instead was a burner-supported claypot containing what appeared to be meat cooked in a dark soy sauce. Uh oh - for a guy that doesn't really get too excited about food stewed in soy sauce, that didn't look too encouraging.

But I didn't mind the taste as much as I thought I would. The soy sauce wasn't as heavy as it looked, and as long as one specified that he wanted the spiciest version possible, then it actually got a bit more interesting. Finding cuts of daikon and cloves of garlic inside the pot were welcome surprises, and the salty/spicy mixture ended up making a great accompaniment to a couple glasses of cold beer. Once the meat was finished, they came by with a clear broth and poured it into the pot to make a soup out of the leftover spices. A quick walk on over to the refrigerator provided the opportunity to pick out some veggies for dunking.

Despite all of this, I won't make any huge effort to come back, in part due to my aversion to soy-sauce-stewed food. But if this place is really as big as it is in China, then I'm glad I tried it. Note: if you don't like gnawing on bones, I'd suggest skipping the namesake chicken version and going straight for the beef, even if the latter was a bit dry and tough.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Prata Bomb Filled with Honey

Prata Bomb

That was a new one for me. I walked into a random roti prata shop this morning and noticed that something called a "prata bomb" available. I asked what it was and he said that it was a "small prata." Not wanting much food at the time, the small size sounded like a good idea.

Little did I realize that its distinguishing characteristic was not the small size, but the fact that this thing was filled with honey, making it almost like a local version of baklava, sans nuts. I am not a huge fan of sweet things so I couldn't eat much more than just a few bites before I felt sick, but oddly I found relief by drinking the salty curry on the side directly with a spoon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Wild Rocket at Mount Emily, Singapore

Crabmeat Linguini with Chili Tomato Cream

I resisted coming here (10A Upper Wilkie Road, 6339-9448) for a very long time, in part because I'm not a big fan of fusion, but also because this place was generating so much buzz that I figured that it was totally overhyped. The fact that its sister restaurant featured burgers with horrendously thick patties - a huge pet peeve of mine - did little to reassure me.

But after finally giving it a try, I realized that I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. All of the pasta was done perfectly firm, and the intrusion of chili pepper flakes on the crabmeat linguini did not feel out of place at all. The signature laksa pesto linguini featured impressively fresh and firm prawns too (but beware if you're not accustomed to the taste of laksa leaf as the green pesto is based on it).

I haven't tried many of their main courses so I can't really speak for those, but the pastas worked for me. Why did they ditch the creamy mushroom pasta though? When I first came here a few months back, that was one of my favorites, especially with all of the aroma from the truffle oil. Today it was served without cream; it was still enjoyable, but I miss the richness of the previous version.