Sunday, March 29, 2009

Islamic Restaurant, North Bridge Road

Fish Biryani

The name of this place (745 North Bridge Road, 6298-7563) may seem a bit generic, but these guys have apparently been around since 1921 and are known for biryani. I was really craving some greasy salty rice for some reason, so I hopped on down here tonight.

It didn't exactly knock me off my feet like some of the ones at Tekka Market, but it was good enough that I gobbled this thing down in minutes, even if the fish wasn't exactly the freshest. The place struck me as a bit touristy too, but it was still interesting coming to such an old school place.

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar, Singapore

Moridakusan Ramen

I got pretty excited when I heard that another ramen shop from Japan had set up an outlet here in Singapore (31 Lorong Liput in Holland Village, 6463-3132), especially since they specialized in my favorite tonkotsu. So we came on down here today to give it a try. It looked encouraging enough at first, with a focused menu and a full array of condiments at one's disposal. But when I got my moridakusan bowl, I was a bit let down, as the broth was borderline too thin for me. The gyoza were also surprisingly limp.

Don't get me wrong; this was still pretty good stuff. If I lived nearby then I'd probably come down here from time to time. And I did like most of the ingredients, including the tasty pork. But for me, the broth is the most important thing, and just wasn't robust enough (whereas Santouka is a bit *too* thick). I guess I'm just rather particular when it comes to tonkotsu, but either way, I'm glad to see that ramen shops are still popping up around here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My First Kinkan...Sorta

Kinkan

I got pretty excited about this stuff when I saw them at the market, as I thought that I had found some cool little Japanese oranges the size of ping-pong balls, and was eager to give them a try. But when I tried to peel one of these, I found that they weren't really peelable. OK - so I figured that they had edible rinds then.

I thus bit into the entire thing, but then I realized that it was hardly the juicy little orange I had envisioned. It tasted just like a kumquat. Only after I looked it up online did I realize that these were indeed kumquats...except of course that they were in a perfectly round shape rather than the oblong ones that I was used to seeing.

I was kind of let down then. I wanted some bite-sized juicy and tangy oranges, but these were nothing but kumquats filled with at least four or five annoying seeds each. Well, there is still plenty of Japanese fruit at the market to go try. I'm so curious about them all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Okinawan Taco Rice from Nirai-Kanai

Taco Rice

This may not look too inspiring, but I'd been meaning to try this for quite a while now. What was it? It was Japanese tako raisu. But that was not tako as in the Japanese word for octopus; it was tako as in a Mexican taco or tostada put on top of rice (think: US military presence in Okinawa).

Indeed, the American influence of seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes on top made this thing taste just like Taco Bell. I was hoping that maybe there'd be some kind of a Japanese twist to it, but it was really just a taco's ingredients dumped on top of rice. I suppose it wasn't that different from the time a Jewish friend of mine ate tacos during Passover...using matzoh rather than tortillas.

Now, Taco Bell doesn't exactly conjure up pleasant thoughts, but I still ate this thing pretty darned quickly, perhaps because it had been so long since I'd eaten at Taco Bell (I shunned Taco Bell in Singapore given how they only offered chicken tacos rather than beef). It's just rather strange that an Okinawan restaurant had to serve this purpose rather than Taco Bell itself.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chiang Mai Palace, China Square

Kao Soi

Here was the kao soi from a northern Thai place that I randomly came across here in Singapore (3 Pickering Street #01-27, 6538-2231). It was an off-the-menu lunch-only item, but I liked it enough to want to come back to try their regular menu. I just have to remember to decline those stale chips that shove onto your table and annoyingly charge you S$2 (US$1.30) for when the check arrives later.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Japanese Dekopon Orange

Dekopon Orange

Yep - I'm at it again with pricey Japanese fruits. This time, we're looking at a S$12.50 (US$8.30) orange that looks like it has some kind of deformity...or maybe a navel orange but with an outie instead of an innie. Actually, it did kinda seem like a navel orange given how it was seedless, thick-skinned, and easy to peel. But this was super tart and juicy all the way through, instantly making it one of my favorites. I could easily gobble up several of these in one sitting...as long as someone else is paying for them of course.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tian Ji Porridge, Maxwell Food Centre

Fish Porridge and Yu Sheng

Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore has a couple of fairly popular Chinese porridge shops: Zhen Zhen and Ho Kee. But there was a third porridge shop that was always closed whenever I went there, and yet the stall's signboard was consistently there over the years, so it seemed like it was still in business all of this time. It only dawned on me recently that perhaps this was one of those places that was only open in the morning. Today I was up early enough that I figured I had a good chance to prove my hypothesis.

Surely enough, stall number 13 was open...and I got there just in the nick of time too. I pretty much got their last serving for the day before they shut down - and this was just after 8 AM! They definitely did things differently from the other guys: the portions were much smaller, and yet it was full of flavor...and in the smooth creamy consistency that I like too. The yu sheng in the background similarly had only a few thin slices of fish under that pile of lettuce, but the combination of cilantro, fried shallots, and oil made those few pieces of fish a delight to eat. A Straits Times story that I just dug up confirmed that they are only open from around 5 AM - 9 AM, so I guess the early bird really does get the worm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

United's Hindu Snack Box - Take Two

United's Hindu Snack Box

My special meal request was still in the system for the return flight home, and I guess that I was somewhat hopeful that at least the evening flight would mean a heated meal in a tray rather than those quick snack boxes that we got on the morning flight up. It turns out that was wishful thinking. Snack boxes were still given out tonight, with the Hindu variant being some vegetables and couscous shoved inside pita bread rather than the (half) tuna fish sandwich in the regular box. When did couscous and pita bread become Hindu?

The innately loose nature of couscous didn't exactly make for easy eating on an airplane either. But at least it was healthy, sans the potato chips. And I'm sure glad that I got that salmon beforehand, even if it was really just an appetizer. Note to self: next time try to eat a complete dinner at HK airport before getting on a United flight back to Singapore.

Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar

Balik Tsar Nikolaj Discovery

I eschewed my normal HKIA run to A. Hereford Beefstouw for something a bit healthier this time: Caviar House & Prunier's Seafood Bar, which I'd been wanting to revisit for some time now. This time, they had the Balik in stock, so I went for the so-called Tsar Nikolaj Discovery, which was basically a sampler platter of their Norwegian, Marinated, and Scottish varieties of salmon, plus a bit of their tartare and fish eggs.

This stuff was delicious - and totally woke up my appetite. Those chunks of salmon were astoundingly creamy, going perfectly with the (crustless) bread and condiments on the side. Each of the three varieties had its own characteristic taste, and I liked all of them. I also loved the heavy dose of dill weed clinging to the edges of the gravadlax that we grabbed in addition to the sampler.

It all came at a pretty steep price though: that tiny Tsar Nikolaj platter ran for a whopping HK$360 (US$47). If we were going to pay that much for what was basically just an appetizer, then it had better taste good. I took some additional consolation in the fact that this was a super healthy meal at least.

Farm House, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Deep-Fried Stuffed Chicken Wings

The Farm House may not sound like a Cantonese restaurant, but I guess that was the literal translation from Chinese (first floor of Ming An Plaza at 8 Sunning Road, 2881-1331). It definitely had all of the hallmarks of a Hong Kong restaurant though: dark-suited wait staff standing around everywhere, photos of celebrities proudly on display, and a menu that prominently featured shark's fin, abalone, and sea cucumber. But we didn't come for any of that. We heard that this place was known for some kind of a deep fried chicken wing stuffed with rice, and surely enough, that was the first thing we ordered.

I wasn't quite sure how they could stuff a chicken wing, but they found a way to vacate the center of the wing by removing the bones and then shoving glutinous rice inside. Combine that with the crispy meat and skin surrounding the rice (and an interesting complement of Worchestershire sauce on the side), and it worked, even if the taste wasn't as mindblowing as it was made out to be.

While we were at it, we also grabbed an assortment of dim sum, all of which were better than average, as seen in the tender dumplings and buns as well as generous chunks of mango inside the mango pudding. I probably won't come back for the stuffed chicken wing alone (Buffalo-style for me instead, please!), but at least it was interesting to see.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Da Ping Huo, Hong Kong

Sichuan Spicy Noodles

The last time I was here was years and years ago, when my colleagues in Hong Kong told me about some Sichuan "private kitchen" that would not take walk-ins and forced you into one of two seating times. Nor was there a menu as one just ate whatever the lady wanted to cook, after which she sang Chinese opera for you (L/G 49 Hollywood Road, 2559-1317). That was pretty cool at the time, but I hadn't been back since.

Fast forward several years later, and this speakeasy was featured in both Zagat and Fodor's, of all places. But we came tonight nonetheless, where HK$280 (US$36) per person got us a huge course that started with four spicy appetizers that we liked better than meals in Chongqing. These dishes not only used better ingredients, but also featured much deeper and sophisticated flavors rather than just brute spiciness. After this, the meal took a bit of a break with a clear but absolutely delicious chicken, mushroom, and cabbage soup. This was even better than I had remembered this place being years ago.

Unfortunately, I was not as big of a fan of the second half of the meal, particularly a stewed beef that was pretty tough to chew as well as a shrimp dish that didn't really do anything for me. But the meal ultimately ended on a high note, featuring mapo tofu, fen jen pork ribs, and some spicy dumplings, not to mention a light bean and vegetable soup that helped reset the palate. OK, so maybe I didn't like two of the dishes, but otherwise everything else was pretty much better than I had remembered. And yes, the chef still sang a song at the end of the meal.

Yuen Kee Restaurant, Tsim Sha Tsui, HK

Beef Ho Fun

Not to be confused with yesterday's Yung Kee, this place was just a random pitstop for lunch today (27 Kimberley Road, 2191-9339), where we grabbed some of my favorite beef ho fun. It was a total grease bomb, but of course that made it delicious, especially with some of that Cantonese chili oil. Indeed, yesterday at Yung Kee, we also got this dish, but it just wasn't the same without that chili oil. Now I know...next time I'm thinking of ordering this stuff, I'll be sure to stick to the downscale shops with the greasy metal condiment tins instead.

Porridge from Lei Yuen, Hong Kong

Porridge

I got the noodles last time at Lei Yuen, so this time I got the porridge, which I definitely liked a lot better. All of the grains of rice had been completely obliterated into a goopy mush - just the way I liked it. It could have been as easy to eat as baby food if it weren't for the little annoying bits of fish bones that were sometimes lurking at the bottom. But the congee was savory and creamy enough that I didn't really mind.

Monday, March 09, 2009

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Hong Kong

Some dish with pork and truffles on bread

Hong Kong is one of those cities in Asia where a number of Michelin-starred chefs from Europe have opened up branches, so we took advantage of this to hit up L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon tonight (fourth floor of The Landmark, 2166-9000). Most of the seating was counterside where one could watch the chefs working from a distance. Aside from a few dishes that we picked, we more or less put ourselves in the hands of the maitre d', who artfully suggested and assembled a course of small plates for us to try out from start to finish.

Steak Tartare

It totally blew past my expectations, be it the tiny foie gras ravioli, the crunchy salt crystals in the amuse bouche, or the rich pork on toast topped with truffles. Even the little wad of marzipan that was used to secure a porcelain cup of fries to the plate of steak tartare was playfully impressive. Fresh high-quality ingredients were the key, and the maitre d' was warmly engaging.

Petit Fours

I'm not a huge fan of fancy food as it oftentimes becomes too dependent on truffles, and I usually question whether it's worth the high prices. This place changed my mind about that (although that was easy for me to say given that our friend picked up the tab tonight). Michelin gave this place two stars; combine that with Yung Kee, the one-starred Cantonese goose place from this morning, and I guess we had a three Michelin star day today.

Yung Kee Restaurant, Hong Kong

A Regular Serving of Goose

I must have passed by this place a million times in the past (32 Wellington St, 2522-1624), and heard about how great it was by a million different people. But it was in such a convenient location that I never bothered to come down here to get their famous Cantonese roast goose, figuring that I'd always get a chance some other time. Today was finally that other time.

I can now see what all of the fuss is about. The skin was of course crispy, but the fat underneath was so complementary to the meat that all of the bone fragments didn't bother me as much as they normally do. I didn't even touch that sweet plum sauce, lest it cover up the natural taste. This menu also featured a number of other dishes that apparently have received all sorts of accolades, but we didn't try any of those. The goose alone was good enough.

UA Econ Class Hindu Breakfast?

United's Indian Vegetarian meal

That looks nothing like a Hindu airplane meal, right? I originally put in a request for a Hindu meal, partly out of hopes that it could get me away from those standard issue snack boxes that United has started providing on its morning flights to Hong Kong. But my special meal ended up being pretty much the same thing as the regular snack box, except that the muffins got substituted with croissants. When did croissants become Hindu?

Actually, the label on the box suggested that it was an Indian vegetarian meal rather than Hindu. Even then, clearly it wasn't the spicy Indian airplane meal that I was hoping for. Oh well...I suppose that I can understand the business reasons behind trying to satisfy as many special requirements as possible using a single meal. Besides, I was just requesting a special meal out of selfish greed rather than having a legitimate basis for doing so.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Anyone Want Some Spotted Dick?

Spotted Dick Pudding

Yeah, I admit that this was rather childish of me. But I couldn't help but do a second take and chuckle when I passed by the freezer section at Marks & Spencer tonight. Spotted Dick Pudding? What the heck was that?? A quick internet search suggested that it was an English pudding with dried fruits that got its name from either the words "thick" or "dough"...or even the last syllable of "pudding." I didn't buy one, but I did learn something new today.

Fou de Fafa, Capital Tower

Le Paysan Francais

No, this is not turning into a sandwich blog. But there has been so much press coverage of sandwich shops in the CBD lately that I wanted to try them all. This one (168 Robinson Road #01-05, 6327-9418) had quite a funky attitude and approach to food.

This chicken, avocado, and cheese sandwich came out stacked high in a metal tray that was showered with fun bits of sausage and hard boiled egg, and was further topped with bacon. I wasn't as big of a fan of the bread in this one but I liked this place enough to come back and explore other items on the menu, especially since it looked like they were open late enough that it might come in handy during a rough night in the office.

Monday, March 02, 2009

S$10 Pizza Mondays at Al Dente Pronto

Al Dente Pizza

This was a completely unplanned trip (1 Kim Seng Promenade #02-K2, 6734-7334). I just happened to be heading upstairs at Great World City when I noticed a sign advertising "Pizza Mondays" featuring any pizza for just S$10 (US$6.70). Making the most of it, I grabbed one of the most expensive items available, the namesake Al Dente pizza.

Why was this thing normally priced at S$28 (US$18.70)? Maybe it was the truffle oil. Or the burrata, parma ham, and rucola. It all sounded nice, looked nice, and smelled nice (think: truffle oil), but I felt a bit sick in the end. It was actually *too* rich - so much that I had to dump a ton of chili pepper flakes on it just to cut through it all.

Most importantly, I really didn't like the crust. Yes, it was thin, but it was also very dense. It looks like I had the same impression of their pizzas a couple of years ago so I guess they haven't changed the recipe. Well, if you like this kind of dough, then S$10 Pizza Mondays is quite a steal. But I prefer something lighter.

My First Taste of Quiznos...in Singapore

The Traditional

When I read the paper yesterday to find out that Quiznos had set up shop in Singapore (Far East Square #01-01, 6557-2270), I knew exactly where I was going for lunch today. The funny thing is though that I've never had Quiznos before. They weren't really in my neighborhood until after I left the US, so this was actually my first taste of it.

Anyway, right when I walked in, the Pepper Bar was sitting there, featuring pepperoncini, jalapenos, and banana peppers, along with a few hot sauces, horseradish, and pickles. I proceeded with a Classic Italian, which I wolfed down in seconds, in part because the bread was so small and soft, but also since it was so rich with all of the sauce that it was not hard to gobble it all up.

Encouraged, I went on and grabbed another sandwich, this time the Traditional, which was just as easy to eat. They toasted all of their sandwiches by default, which in this case was a good thing because they put the onions in *before* toasting, thus effectively eliminating most of the dragon breath threat. I was a big fan of the oregano that they dumped onto each sandwich too. Now, it was definitely still a far cry from Potbelly Sandwich Works, but I'm getting so sick of Subway that I'll be all over Quiznos now.