Sunday, May 31, 2009

Jacky Chan's Fish Soup...Without Milk

Sliced Fish Bee Hoon Without Milk

Actually, I don't think this place has anything to do with Jacky Chan. But the Chinese characters for yesterday's Cheng Long place turned out to be the same as the martial artist's name, which is much easier to remember. We came down to the VivoCity location today, and this time I made sure to get it without the evaporated milk.

I was a bit surprised to find that the broth was completely clear (I was hoping that there would have been some natural murkiness that arose from the cooking process), but I still liked this better than the milk version, especially since it went well with the veggies and fried shallots. I also liked my choice of skinnier bee hoon rather than the standard spaghetti-like version, the latter of which was too slippery for me to effectively grab with chopsticks.

I'll stay away from the deep fried version though, as the fish just wasn't as good with all of that batter all over it. I also tried some mee sua noodles, but it just made everything too heavy. So the non-milk, non-fried, skinny bee hoon version is going to be my preferred configuration.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cheng Long Fish Bee Hoon...with milk

Sliced Fish Thick Bee Hoon With Milk

Here was a bowl of sliced fish bee hoon from stall number 7 at Compass Point's Kopitiam food court. The fish was fresh, but I wasn't a huge fan of the milk that was added to the soup, even if it made it taste richer. I guess that the purist in me was hoping that the soup would be naturally white instead. Next time I'll try asking for it without milk to see how it stands up.

My Favorite Cafe, Lucky Plaza

Yong Tau Foo

No, this wasn't *my* favorite cafe. The name of this place was literally "My Favorite Cafe," and it was the yong tau foo place at Lucky Plaza (304 Orchard Road #06-46) that someone recommended the other day.

I was a bit concerned when they dumped so much chili sauce on it, but fortunately the sauce wasn't as stanky nor as sweet as I thought it might be. And just as it was suggested, the deep fried meatballs were pretty darned tasty. Yeah, I liked this place better than the one that I had the other day.

Even though I don't like yong tau foo so much that I'll come scrambling back right away, it was good to know that there was a shop waaaay up there at the top of Lucky Plaza. They were selling some other local dishes too.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rong Xing Yong Tau Foo, Tanjong Pagar

Yong Tau Foo

That bowl may look a bit puzzling, but it was basically the dry version of yong tau foo. I got it from a stall at Tanjong Pagar Plaza (6 Tanjong Pagar Road #02-04). A quick glance at some of the stuffed tofu and eggplant on display suggested that it was indeed better than some of the no-name shops at random food courts around Singapore. But when I sat down to eat it, I couldn't really taste much of a difference, aside from the soup being really salty. Well, I'm not exactly a pro at this stuff. Besides, this local dish is one where you select your own items (kinda like a salad bar), so maybe I just picked the wrong things. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ebisboshi Shotengai, Iluma @ Bugis

Miso Ramen

Man, Singapore's really getting into this idea of importing a bunch of shops from Japan and shoving them into a food court, eh? Another one has popped up at the new Iluma mall (201 Victoria Street #04-08, 6238-1011), and this one was so dressed up that it could almost put Disneyland to shame. They banged on a taiko drum perched high above to signal their opening hour, and one of the shops there even did the whole French maid "cosplay" thing.

Out of the six or seven vendors here, it was clear that one of the flagship ones was Tsubohachi, a chain of izakaya that is related to Za Watami, if I read it correctly. I was disappointed to find a very limited menu inside, but at least the food was generally able to hold its ground. I also tried the ramen from Menya Manpei, whose noodles and broth were better than I expected, even if the chashu was too boring for my taste. There wasn't really any condiment selection either.

I might come back to give some of the other shops a try, but I don't think the shabu shabu place will be at the top of the list, as the meat seemed a bit too lean to get me excited. Their electronic pen-based ordering system got a bit annoying after a while too, especially when it kept reading off neighboring tables' orders. I found it better to skip the open area where one could order from multiple shops and just go into some of the dedicated ones to get a fuller menu anyway.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

AJ's Piri Piri Chicken, Singapore

Two Piece Piri Piri Chicken

Whoa - did another Afro-Portuguese chicken chain set up shop in Singapore? Yep - similar to Nando's, this UK-based chain sported a rooster logo and different grades of spicy sauces. We would have completely missed this place had we not gone all the way up to the top of the new Iluma mall (201 Victoria Street #05-11, 6884-5507). We grabbed a simple two-piece set for a taste.

I was a bit disappointed as the chicken was not grilled as much as I would have liked. They didn't have any extra sauce sitting at each table either, and the hottest version of the sauce that we got was more salty than it was spicy.

Well, maybe these were just their first few days when they didn't have everything running at full speed yet. And frankly I don't know if I could say that I liked Barcelos much more, as we had a rather disappointing second visit to that place not long ago. But I am glad that places like this are starting to pop up around here; I just hope that one of them can be as good as Nando's.

Popiah from Qi Ji, Singapore

Popiah

Popiah is a local burrito of sorts (or even a meatless mu shu pork) that I usually try to avoid due to the raw garlic that is smeared on the inside of the skin. All the same, that raw garlic is precisely what makes this peanut, egg, and cooked turnip-filled thing taste pretty good. We were near Shaw Towers today and noticed that Makansutra gave this shop (100 Beach Road #01-01) a full three chopstick rating, so we stopped on in to give it a try.

It was fine; as expected, it was loaded with garlic and chili sauce, which made it easy to eat. But I wasn't a huge fan of that pink drink in the background. Called bandung, it was basically a rose-flavored milk, which I really only got because I had never tried it before. The rose scent didn't sit well with me; it was like drinking an old lady's perfume. Now, these weren't the only things available here (indeed, I was surprised to find them selling kaya toast and nasi lemak). But at least I now know what bandung is.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Free Flow Grill from La Villa

From The Grill

La Villa has a deal where S$34 (US$24) gets you all of the grilled meat and seafood that you can eat. It worked for me; it was lightly seasoned and much more tender than I was expecting. But I wish they offered some grilled veggies to go with it. There's something about mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions grilled on a fire and drizzled with olive oil that really gets me going.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yan Kee, BK Eating House, Boat Quay

Bak Chor Mee

Whoa - that was much better than I thought it would be. After another rough night in the office, it was a good time to check out that late night bak chor mee place that I had heard about (21 South Bridge Road). I figured that a 24 hour shop had to be more focused on convenience than food, but I was wrong. It ended up tasting good as well, with a salty chili sauce, tasty meatballs, and noodles that were cooked just right. Of course it wasn't as good as Tai Wah, but Tai Wah isn't exactly open 24 hours either.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Only Thing I Get at Ohsho: F Set

F Set

Ohsho is a big chain of ramen shops from Japan, and the Singapore outlet (5 Koek Road #01-10, 6735-7068) used to be a regular haunt of mine until a few years ago, when all of those other ramen shops started popping up. After that, there was never really too much reason to keep going there, especially since I was never a huge fan of Ohsho's ramen to begin with.

Still, after a brutally late night in the office, I came back for the first time in several years. This was in part because I knew that they were open late, but also because there were two things on Ohsho's menu that many other shops haven't really been able to beat: the chahan and gyoza, which incidentally are bundled in one convenient "F Set." All of that other stuff on their menu is really just noise to me now.

And even after all of these years, the chahan continued to be one of the better ones that I've had. It's done just right: rich and full of smoky aroma without being too heavy on the grease. Too bad the gyoza tonight were overdone, but that didn't matter, as my priority was really on the chahan. It was good to see that the same chef was still there after all of these years too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sankranti, Syed Alwi Road, Singapore

Sankranti Special: phulka, white rice, sengapodi, nallakaram, ghee, pickle, roti pachadi, pappu, vepudu, rasam, appalam, charu, chicken korma, fish pulusu, curd, and sweet

That may look like any other thali, but if you look in the upper left hand corner, there was something in particular that I was told to come for: that yellow fluid in the clear plastic jar. It was warm drawn butter, and right next to it was "gunpowder," or ground chili and spice powder.

Yup...this was another ghee and podi episode, although this time it was mixed into that big bowl of white rice. These sengapodi and nalla karam powders were more salty than they were spicy, but in the end, the ghee still dominated the taste. Mmm...

Actually, the other items in that tray did provide a delightful degree of heat; so much that when I left the place, my stomach was on fire. This was all from a shop across from Mustafa on the second story (100 Syed Alwi Road #02-03, 6292-7655) above the Copper Chimney restaurant. Not to be confused with Sanskruti, these guys seem to specialize in Andhra cuisine.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sawagani Karaage from Rakuichi

Sawagani Karaage

Sweeeet - Rakuchi has sawagani on their list of specials right now...and done just as I remembered having them ages ago, with a bunch of these bite-sized river crabs teeming live in a glass bowl before they get thrown into hot oil. I've been on the lookout for these things for a while. They may not taste like much, but the salt, grease, and crunchiness go perfectly with a cold draft beer. Just be careful not to poke the inside of your mouth with those tiny legs or claws.

Rickshaw Noodles from Singapore

Rickshaw Noodles and Chwee Kueh

This was a bowl of "rickshaw noodles," which apparently got its name from the fact that it fueled rickshaw riders back in the day. I was hoping that it'd be really different...and it was, but not necessarily in a good way, as it was pretty darned goopy and mushy, including those limp veggies. Sure, the shallots and dried shrimp gave it some added flavor, but I won't go for it again. I'll just stick to the much more delightful chwee kueh from Jian Bo Shui Kueh, which is where I got this bowl of noodles from too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lai Huat Seafood Restaurant, Singapore

Sambal Pomfret

That dark mess in the photo might look rather terrifying, but it brought a huge smile to my face after having tasted it. See, it was basically a deep fried pomfret smothered in a local chili sauce, and it was a speciality of this place (72 Horne Road, 6299-3024), which we coincidentally happened to be near tonight. And of course it's hard to resist a whole deep fried fish.

This one in particular was scorching hot from the fryer, done nicely enough where it wasn't excessively greasy, and was crispy enough where one could eat the fins and tail as a crunchy treat. The chili sauce wasn't really that spicy (nor as stanky as the sambal belacan name would have implied), but it was loaded with salt and grease, which is why I gobbled up this small S$24 (US$16) fish in an instant.

No, it wasn't exactly the healthiest thing in the world. But hey - at least it was fresh fish. I just wish that they didn't put that lettuce underneath, as the taste made its way up into what otherwise was a delicious late night grease bomb.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eight Immortals Vegetarian, Singapore

Chinese Vegetarian Economic Bee Hoon

These Chinese vegetarian guys apparently have a proper restaurant somewhere, but this was from the food court at Great World City. And while I'm sure it would have tasted much better if it had come straight out of the kitchen piping hot, this was unfortunately kinda nasty given how it was served like economic rice: sitting around at room temperature in a bunch of trays. At least it was cheap.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Killiney Kopitiam, Singapore

Kopi, Soft Boiled Eggs, and Kaya Toast

I usually don't eat much breakfast, but we needed some this morning, so we came down to Killiney Kopitiam today, a local institution that has spread into a big commercialized chain. The original location (67 Killiney Road, 6734-9648) was just a quick hop away from us, and we picked up the trinity of Singaporean breakfasts: kaya toast, soft boiled eggs, and kopi, a strong brew of local coffee. I am not a regular of this stuff, but that's probably a good thing given how much these things are loaded with butter.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Lai Heng Mushroom Minced Meat Mee

Bak Chor Mee

Not completely full after that chicken rice, I looked around a bit for something else to eat here at Hougang Central, and noticed these guys right next door proudly displaying all sorts of accolades for their bak chor mee. After one bite, I could understand why these guys got all of those awards. The noodles were nice and firm, the meat was tasty, and they accented it all with sinfully huge chunks of crispy pork lard. I still prefer Tai Wah, but this one was worth compromising a bit of one's cardiovascular health for.

Eng Kee Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice

These guys (805 Hougang Central #01-116) definitely weren't shy about flavor. The chili sauce was extra salty, the soup tasted of ginseng, and the brown sauce on the chicken was very concentrated. And while overall it was good (I liked how firm and distinct the grains of rice were as well as how spicy the chili sauce was), the flavors were a bit too strong for me; so much that I'll stick to my other chicken rice faves.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Shirokane Tori-Tama, Singapore

Tsukune and Obi

Whoa - that was unexpectedly good. Located next to Cafe Garb at Robertson Walk was this new kushiyaki place (11 Unity Street #01-02, 6836-5680), which I assumed to be not that different from my usual haunts over at Cuppage Plaza. And the menu at first seemed surprisingly limited, specializing in a wealth of chicken parts but really not much else, aside from a few veggies plus a random stick of pork or even duck. But I went ahead with a barrage of some of my yakitori favorites as well as some other chicken parts that I'd never tried before, plus some greens to round it all out.

It was amazing. Wow. Not only were the ingredients of top-notch quality, but everything was perfectly cooked. One had to pay a price for it though - each of the items were single stick servings, and I ordered enough on my own to nearly hit a triple-digit tab. But it was definitely worth it, making this place instantly skyrocket to become one of my favorite yakitori places in Singapore. Only when I looked up this place later did I realize why this was the case: this was actually a transplant from Japan...a Zagat rated place from Japan at that. Either way, I'm coming back, even if they don't take American Express. Perhaps next time I'll give some of those chicken innards a try just for the sake of it.

Sanskruti Pure Veg Food, Lau Pa Sat

Clockwise from left: dhal bati, some little noodle-like thing, gatta, rice, dhal, laddu, chapati

Mmm...that was good. A former colleague of mine (the same one who opened my eyes to the mindblowingly delicious world of chaat nearly four years ago) suggested that we head to Lau Pa Sat today for lunch, as he wanted to show me cuisine from his home state of Gujarat. We thus meandered our way through all of the tables to reach stall number 25, which was clearly very popular given its very long line. We eagerly awaited our turn.

He picked everything out for me, including something called gatta, which looked like sliced hot dogs at first, but instead was made from chickpea flour and sat in an addictively rich curry. He also fixed me up with a special called dhal bati, which was actually from the neighboring state of Rajasthan, and was basically a bowl of crushed wheat balls topped with dhal. One spoonful of this stuff uncovered the delightful taste of ghee, which is probably why this dish is also known to help one fall asleep (probably not the best thing to have during a working day).

We then closed off the meal with a little round ball called churma laddu, which like many Indian sweets was made from a load of ghee and sugar. But this one was different as the sugar was still very coarse, thus giving it a rather grainy texture. Rock on - I'll definitely come back...apparently in the off hours they serve chaat as well.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My Best-Of List: Year Four

OK, it's been four years now. Here thus goes a list of the ten most mouth-watering meals that I've come across over the past year, in reverse chronological order:

Tripod King Hot Pot in Taipei
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong
Shaanxi Cold Noodles in Singapore
Ad Hoc in Napa Valley
A Shizuoka Musk Melon from Japan
Cal Pep in Barcelona
Three Guizhou Men in Beijing
The National Buffalo Wing Festival in New York
Chichacorn from the Philippines
The Borough Market in London

Last year I also put up a mention for a healthy item that was tasty enough for me to eat regularly. This year, my favorite "cholesterol offset" is Mushroom Park in Singapore. We've gone there enough times now that we've nearly reached the stage where we don't even need to tell them what we want, as they know our usual order.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Lettuce Wrapped Natto from Cafe Garb

Lettuce Wrapped Natto

To the uninitiated, this must be a very puzzling post. Who would go to a place named Cafe Garb, and why would one eat natto and okra - two of the most mucilaginous items in existence - wrapped in lettuce leaves? Well, Cafe Garb is actually a chain from Japan that has set up shop at Robertson Walk (11 Unity Street #01-01, 6836-0751). Yes, I know - there have been a lot of stores from Japan popping up in Singapore lately, but to me, that is a good thing.

Clearly in Japan, this was meant to be some kind of a Western cafe. But it really was Japanese, as evidenced not only by the natto above, but also the presence on the menu of that quintessential Japanese pasta dish, supagetti mentaiko. I have a thing for natto, so I gobbled those lettuce cups right up. I liked how firmly they cooked their spaghetti too, regardless if one got the version with Japanese mushrooms, mentaiko, or even shirasu (little sardines like chirimen and tatami iwashi).

Perhaps one of the most amusing items on the menu was the "Baffarow Chicken." (The Japanese description of the dish said that it was a "spicy fried chicken wing with Cafe Garb's original spice recipe.") One would think that it was meant to be a Japanese version of buffalo wings, but it came out with none of that red sauce at all. Instead, these were batterless little wings deep fried with some kind of dry cinnamon-like mixture, as if Colonel Sanders got into a fight at Cinnabon. It wasn't sweet, and it was odd, but I was rather amused by it, especially since they cut the wing at each joint - such that one could actually eat the wings using chopsticks.

Well, if you're not into Japanese adaptations of Western food, then this place will probably seem very strange. I, on the other hand, have been rather curious. Surprisingly, the only thing I didn't like was the most Japanese item of them all: yakisoba, which was so boring that the dish was left nearly untouched. I'd better stick to the other items on the menu.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Beerfest Asia 2009, Singapore

James Squire Amber Ale and Shrimp

With last year's experience at the Singapore Beer Festival still fresh in my mind, I was a bit hesitant to commit to Beerfest Asia this weekend. Indeed, many elements of the program looked eerily similar: tickets were just as high-priced, caterers included O'Briens and Butcher House, and brewers included a number of global brands plus some local ones like Archipelago.

Fortunately, the S$35 (US$24) ticket this time included one beer. And when I got there, it was immediately apparent that this venue was going to be much better. Set on the Formula One track behind the Singapore Flyer, the big tent and open space was finally what I would expect out of a proper festival. I grabbed a bowl of shrimp from some vendor called Kelong Food, and sat down with this James Squire Amber Ale from Australia while a couple of blues bands took the stage, all of which generally worked for me. One of the stalls even had a beer bong (college flashbacks!).

Still, I wished that more of the beers were on tap rather than being in bottles. The food selection was also frustratingly limited; I ended up walking out to Suntec City later to fill up on more food. But this was leaps and bounds better than the Singapore Beer Festival, all with the added bonus of being on the waterfront. If next year's event cranks up the food and draft beer selection a bit more, then I'll definitely be back.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Aoba Ramen at Manpuku, Singapore

Shio Ramen

A lot of buzz has surrounded the new Tampines 1 mall and its Manpuku food hall in Singapore. With so many imports from Japan sitting there, I had an itching to brave the massive crowds as well as the long ride out to suburban Tampines to give some of the food a try. Tonight, I ventured out there...and at the top of my list of vendors to try was Aoba, a ramen shop from Asahikawa.

I was pretty let down when I saw my bowl...the egg was clearly overcooked, and the shio ramen broth was a bore. Fortunately, the chashu was tender, and the curly noodles were super springy. But that wasn't enough to turn around what I was hoping would be a great bowl of fun. Is this the way that Aoba does it in Japan? If so, then maybe I just ordered the wrong thing; looking back, perhaps the shoyu ramen would have been the wiser choice.

With the plastic Manpuku charge card still in my hands, I wandered over to Toku Toku, a chain that is apparently known for its handmade udon in Japan. I was rather bummed with this one too, as the texture of my zaru udon really wasn't that different from some of the frozen stuff that I buy at the supermarket. I was scratching my head here - was I missing something??

Well, there was one thing that I liked: some of the kushiage I got was flaky on the outside yet tender on the inside. And I suppose that I still like Botejyu, which was also one of the vendors here. But with an outlet of Botejyu in the city, there really isn't much motivation for me to make the trek all the way out to Tampines again. Unless if I wanted to buy something from Uniqlo downstairs.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Soramame from Rakuichi in Singapore

Soramame

That was a new one. We all know what edamame is, right? Well, these were a supersized version called soramame, which was from Rakuichi's list of specials today at Far East Shopping Centre (545 Orchard Road #03-11, 6737-0757, with another location on Dempsey Road). At S$12.60 (US$8.50), it wasn't cheap...there were only seven beans in the two pods, making each bean S$1.80 (US$1.20). And frankly, the beans tasted like...well, beans. So it wasn't exactly something to opt for again. But it was interesting to see.

Actually, we liked this place a lot more than we thought we would. I was worried at first given how much effort they put into aesthetics (at least three of our dishes were served on a bed of shaved ice). Fortunately, the food pulled through, with a perfectly grilled gindara teriyaki being enough reason alone to come back. We also enjoyed how the Fukuoka tomato they served had a naturally-occuring tinge of sweetness. But that single chilled tomato was a whopping S$8.60 (US$5.80); I guess that I'm a bit of a sucker for pricey Japanese produce. The lunch sets seemed to be a decent deal at least.