Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shoga-yaki Don from Meidi-Ya Singapore


Here's a bowl of shogyakidon from the donburi vendor right outside of the Meidi-Ya supermarket in Singapore. Actually, this was a half-sized bowl, as it came in a combo set with some sanuki udon. The ginger-based mixture was sweet, but not so much that it turned me off. Instead, I was able to wolf those tender slices of pork down in seconds. The only drawback? Those green onions provided me with enough dragon breath to terrorize the rest of the office with after coming back from lunch.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tong Garden BBQ Sunflower Seeds

Tong Garden BBQ Sunflower Spicy

These were some local sunflower seeds...that were interestingly coated in flour first. Deep down inside, I guess that I was hoping that the seasoning would make it something like Boy Bawang, but the natural flavor of the sunflower seed dominated the taste of these. If that were the case, I'd rather just eat straight sunflower seeds instead.

Tomatoes or Kumatoes?


I don't know if I understood this one. These tomatoes looked unripe (or even spoiled?), but were apparently intended to be this way, as they were some kind of cross-bred variety from Europe. It was supposed to be stronger in taste, which it was, but I didn't find it so pronounced that I was motivated enough to get these "kumatoes" over regular tomatoes.

Indeed, I've been more impressed with Japanese produce instead. These were similarly expensive though: S$7 (US$5) for a box of six. And the labels suggested that these came from Malaysia rather than Europe, so I'm not sure what the deal was. Maybe I'll do a side-by-side taste test some other time to really try to pin down the difference.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Healthy Menu at Tonkichi

Ton Shabu Seto

I don't know how long Tonkichi has had this on their menu, but it was interesting to see that they had a healthy section that featured things like this ton shabu set. Just as with the proper version of shabu shabu, this cold salad featured the requisite goma-dare and ponzu sauce for one to dip those thin slices of lean pork into. It wasn't anything to go nuts over, but I suppose it really was healthier than tonkatsu. It was amusing to see deep fried vegetables in the same "healthy" section of the menu either way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Low Sodium Meal on SQ

The Low Sodium Meal on SQ

Whoa - that was a lot better than I thought it would be. Coming off of that horrible Oriental Vegetarian meal on the way up, I figured that the special Low Sodium meal that I requested on the way back was also going to be unappetizing. But I actually kinda liked this thing.

It may have been low on salt, but it wasn't nearly as bland as I thought it might be. The natural taste of the fish went nicely with the rich potatoes and rice, while the crudités and cut fruit would be my preference over the salad and cake that are usually provided in these trays anyway. The low air pressure in airplanes is supposed to hamper our sense of taste too, right? That made this all the more impressive.

Perhaps more interesting was the fact that this came from CX's catering department, which I've had many a forgettable meal from before. If Low Sodium meals out of Singapore are similar, then I may have found my new thing on airlines...all while staying on the healthy side of the fence in the process.

HK's Café de Coral vs. Fairwood

Some pork and soup set

I normally try to avoid Café de Coral, a local fast food chain that is quite big around Hong Kong. But I was so exhausted from our adventures last night that convenience took a much higher priority over quality today. And the thing that I so desperately needed to help soothe my aching stomach was a hot bowl of soup, which came with this rice set. The pork was so unattractively tough that I barely ate the stuff, although the soup was what I needed, even if it was a bit salty.

Wanton Mee

I still wanted more soup though, so upon reaching the airport, I skipped past my usual A. Hereford Beefstouw and Caviar House, and found Fairwood, which is apparently one of Café de Coral's rivals. This piping hot bowl of soup also helped calm the system, but for some reason, it was also really salty. I'm not sure why.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gourmet Burger Union, Hong Kong

Double Truffle

Going all the way to Hong Kong to eat burgers isn't exactly something that I'd typically do. But one of our buddies from London mentioned that Gourmet Burger was a big British chain that was pretty good. And after an afternoon of golf with the fellas, a meaty greasy burger sounded just right. So we made a pit stop here (45 Cochrane Street, 2581-0321) on the way back.

After we went upstairs though, our English friend said that it didn't seem right. It was not the full service restaurant that he was used to, and the menu wasn't quite the same. And when he got the food, he was suspected that this was a knockoff instead. After taking a closer look, we realized that this wasn't the Gourmet Burger Kitchen that he was used to from back home, but rather Gourmet Burger Union, which interestingly also featured a very similar logo of concentric circles.

Well, even if this wasn't the same chain, I still liked my burger. One could go the custom route, but I went for a pre-configured Double Truffle, featuring truffle creme, Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, and rucola, which worked for me. Sure, the patty was tiny and the fries weren't anything to get excited about, but the way they put all of these flavors together, I was quite happy.

Luk Yu Tea House, Hong Kong

Luk Yu Tea House

This might seem a bit weird given that there isn't any food in the photo. But that wasn't because I didn't like the food. It's just that this place (24 Stanley Street, 2523-1970) was so old school that it was kinda cool, with its ceiling fans, wood paneling, and table linens. And as if it were right out of a Hong Kong gangster movie, a local tycoon apparently got shot by hitmen at a booth right next to ours a number of years ago. This place definitely isn't short on character.

Well, gruesome things aside, this place is known for its dim sum. The approach to food was very traditional, which meant that it was very purist and of high quality. But it also meant that it was a bit too minimalist, making me prefer the fuller flavor of other places instead, including Lin Heung, a similarly old school place that is in the same neighborhood. This place was definitely worth coming for the atmosphere alone though.

Back to HK, Back to Ho Fun

Beef Ho Fun

This is probably getting a bit routine now, but here was another plate of beef ho fun, a requisite item of mine on any trip to Hong Kong. This random shop's version wasn't anything great though. It lacked the scorchiness that I look for in this dish.

I probably should have known just by looking at the chili oil on the table, which was in tiny containers with even smaller spoons instead of the usual greasy metal tin. Well, I just needed some food to soothe a hungover stomach, so in that regard it did the job at least.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Oriental Vegetarian Meal on SQ

The Oriental Vegetarian Meal on SQ

Ugh. That was kinda nasty. I figured that I'd try something else on my next SQ run, all while trying to eat a bit healthier. So I got this Chinese vegetarian meal, whose tofu (?) thing in the middle came out piping hot. Still, this boring thing didn't exactly put any smiles on my face.

Sure, it was a special meal, so one couldn't expect much. But had I known that they'd be serving a creation of Sanjeev Kapoor on tonight's flight as a standard selection, then I wouldn't have gone through the trouble of ordering a special meal. At least I was lucky enough to have gotten a plane with the new economy class seats.

Back to Singapore, Back to Fish Soup

Fish Soup

So...being back in Singapore, I'm back to fish soup again. Actually, not really. I just happened to be at Far East Square today and this was a random shop called Hong Hu Express that I stopped at on the fifth floor for a bite. Fish soup just coincidentally seemed healthy enough. It wasn't necessarily anything to get too excited about, but the ikan bilis on top provided a bit of a twist in flavor and texture.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trader Vic's on United

Shredded Chicken in Thai Green Curry Sauce, Jasmine Rice, and Roasted Mushroom and Vegetable Medley

Crap. Had I known ahead of time that United would be serving something that I actually wanted to eat, I might not have eaten that bowl of rice earlier at the airport. Today United was serving a couple of dishes from Trader Vic's, a pseudo-Polynesian place from California that I had never eaten at before. Granted, I never really had any huge desire to go to the restaurant in the first place, but if they were serving in on the plane then I figured that I might as well taste it.

My choice was this shredded chicken in a Thai green curry sauce. Living so close to Thailand, I hesitated in getting this from a "Polynesian" place that I suspected would butcher its authenticity. But I ended up really liking this, precisely because they altered it a bit. It was far more rich and creamy than I was expecting...in a good way, and I shoveled the entire thing immediately into my belly, even though I wasn't the slightest bit hungry.

So yeah, that was a pleasant surprise. Between this and Charlie Trotter, it was great to see United mixing their menu up a bit, and I hope they continue to do more. But I was also surprised to find them still using the old business class seats all the way through this run to the US. I guess the 777's that they use on the Japan routes are generally not high on their priority list for refurbishments?

Another Negitoro Don from Narita

Negitoro Don

Yep - I grabbed another negitoro don from the ANA FESTA food court at Narita. That little bowl of soba from the ANA lounge was too small to last me through the rest of the night, especially if I wasn't sure if I were going to eat much of United's dinner. Besides, the food court was en route from the ANA lounge to the United gates. So I stopped off for a bite before getting on the plane. It was speedy, refreshing, and delicious.

The ANA Lounge at Narita Airport

Sansai Soba

Hey thanks for the tip! The ANA lounge at Narita really is better than United's Red Carpet Club. It was huge, and featured not only a sake bar in the back, but also a noodle bar on the other side. Now, the noodle bar selection was fairly limited, with only three toppings for your soba or udon. The bowls were small, and my noodles were a tad overcooked. But heck, it was free, and at least it was a proper little soba shop window rather than just leaving some self-serve noodles out in a buffet spread for you to pick up. One can't help but smile at the little ANA logo on the slice of kamaboko fish cake too.

If one really wanted to make a comparison, I suppose that a weaker part of the ANA lounge is the lack of H2O-branded toiletries that United provides for its showers. If one wants both fancy soap and noodles, then it does present a bit of a conundrum. But I don't care about the soap, so I'll definitely make the extra effort of heading all the way down to Satellite 5's big ANA lounge. Besides, they have the cool Japanese beer machine that United has too.

Tim's Cascade Style Potato Chips

Tim's Potato Chips

I didn't bother eating on the plane today, especially since Charlie Trotter's mustard thyme scented chicken was being served again. But I couldn't resist nibbling on a bag of these local chips from Washington. I used to eat Tim's chips almost every day when I was staffed in Seattle years ago, but I hadn't come across these since then.

And they were still just as good - if not better - than I remember them, with a super thick and crunchy cut yet full of potato-ey flavor. I like these even better than Kettle Chips, and couldn't resist when the flight attendant came by and asked me if I would like another bag. Rival Lay's might betcha can't eat just one of their chips, but for Tim's, I'll betcha can't eat just one bag.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anthony's Restaurant, Sea-Tac Airport

Oysters, Chowder, and Beer

Nice. Even if I wasn't able to get my shellfish breakfast today, at least there were places at the airport that I could get my fixing at. Anthony's has a number of restaurants in the area, including this outlet at the airport (Central Terminal, post-security, 431-3000). Both their full service restaurant as well as the fast-food fish & chips stand had lines forming, so I went straight to the bar instead, where I plopped myself down with a local Mac & Jack African ale as well as some clam chowder, dungeness crab cocktail, and a dozen oysters.

While the clam chowder was much thicker than I was expecting, it still went down quickly, together with the fresh oysters and crab. And being at the airport, everything came out super fast, making these guys a speedy way to get a taste of the Pacific Northwest, even if one is only in transit. One of my favorite things in the world is a raw bar and local beer from the West Coast, so I was happy as a clam (no pun intended) sitting here before my flight. It's probably a good thing that I don't live in the area though, or else my cholesterol would be sky high from all of that shellfish that I so easily fall victim to.

Anyone Wanna Drink Some Nitrous?

NOS Drink

This was rather amusing. I saw this at a random liquor store here in Seattle amidst a bunch of other energy drinks. The NOS cartridge-like bottle caught my eye and elicited a smirk on my face. Now, this caffeine-sensitive body of mine wasn't motivated enough to taste it, but it was interesting to see nonetheless.

Beecher's Handmade Cheese, Seattle

Dungeness Crab & Flagship Sandwich

I didn't intend to come here (1600 Pike Place, 956-1964). I actually came down to Pike Place Market in hopes of getting some fresh shellfish for breakfast. But to my dismay, most of the shops weren't serving food until 11 AM.

Fortunately, I stumbled across these guys, who were making cheese in the window. And they had a cafe that was selling grilled cheese sandwiches, including this one that featured dungeness crab. Hey - if I couldn't get the original beast, then at least I could get it in sandwich form, right?

It pretty much tasted like it looked. The mild cheese went well with the delicate crab meat and was all hot and toasty in that bread. But in retrospect, I should have also grabbed some of that mac & cheese that they seemed so proud of. Maybe next time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Elliott's Oyster House at Pier 56, Seattle

Happy Hour Oysters

I avoided coming here at first (1201 Alaskan Way, 623-4340). Everything on the outside just reeked of a tourist trap, being on the waterfront amid souvenir shops and boat tour packages. But a local friend of mine recommended this place when I asked for a good raw bar in Seattle. And it had decent Zagat ratings, so I took a deep breath and ignored everything that my gut was telling me to just go in for a try.

The good thing was that they were offering a so-called progressive oyster happy hour, where oysters were only 50 cents at 3 PM , gradually increasing by 25 cents every 30 minutes until 6 PM. I grabbed a dozen local oysters plus a $3 glass of their house amber ale, neither of which blew me away but were fresh and tasty enough for me to be satisfied.

I also got a plate of their house cured Copper River sockeye lox, as I was told that this Copper River salmon was only available one month out of the entire year or something. I was a bit let down by this one though, as their curing process ended up a bit on the sweet side, which didn't sit with me personally. Nonetheless, one couldn't beat the beautifully sunny waterfront view in June to go with some cheap beer and oysters, the last two items of which alone would have been enough for this ale and shellfish lover.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quinn's Pub, Seattle

Marrow Bones, Escargot, Bordelaise, Baguette

Whoa. I had heard that this place was good, but I didn't realize that it was going to be *this* good. A self-billed gastropub in the middle of the laid back Capitol Hill area (1001 East Pike Street, 325-7111), Quinn's is run by the team behind Restaurant Zoë, one of the most popular restuarants in the city. And while I was quite happy with all of the beer that they had on tap, I was more impressed by the food, which could be had in small plate fashion to go with your drinks.

What caught my eye right away was the bone marrow, which I was really after given how I was unable to get it at St. John in London. It was cut longitudinally, making it easy to extract the rich marrow with your hands using the bread. At first, I wasn't sure about the Bordelaise sauce and escargot that topped it, but it fared fine in the end, with the latter hardly even tasting like snails. We also grabbed a bit of beef tartare, which was tender and spiced up nicely.

But the thing that was so good that I had to interrupt our dinner conversation with an exclamation of sheer delight was the pork belly Cobb salad. It was already tasty enough from the generous chunk of Stilton cheese on top, but it also featured a slice of the most tender and flavorful pork belly underneath. Sure, it was due to the layers of fat, but ohhhh was it tasty. My reaction was similar to my first time eating Kobe beef: one of pure joy. This is another one of those places that I would easily go to all the time if I lived nearby.

Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, Seattle

Salumi Muffo

Yep - this was that Batali family sandwich shop where Bourdain did his show at a few years back (309 Third Avenue South, 621-8772). I made sure that I made a beeline straight for this place upon leaving the airport, especially since they are only open Tuesday to Friday from 11 AM to 4 PM. Indeed, I arrived just before 11 AM and there was already a line forming at this narrow little shop in the Pioneer Square area.

Fortunately, they came out with a plate of samples to tease us while we waited patiently in line inhaling the wonderful aroma that emanated from the place. I ended up grabbing a "muffo," which I assume was short for a muffeletta, featuring a variety of meat and cheese with some kind of an olive spread in ciabatta-like bread. The quality of ingredients made this thing a breeze to eat as I inhaled this thing in seconds.

But combining all of those different types of cured meat meant that it was harder to taste the qualities of each type on its own, so next time I'm going to try some of the more dedicated sandwiches. I guess I was hoping to taste more of the spiciness of the finnochiona that they handed out in this morning's samples, but its taste got lost amidst all of the other flavors going on in that muffo.

Back to Eating on United

Key Lime and Honey Chicken Breast with Mango Lime Sauce, Jambalaya Rice, and Green Beans with Macadamia Nuts

OK, at least this United meal on the leg out of Narita wasn't as bad as the one out of Singapore. I was a bit concerned that this "Key Lime and Honey Chicken Breast with Mango Lime Sauce" was going to be covered in a heavy, sticky, and excessively sweet sauce, but it was so mild that I ended up eating the whole thing despite having just had that meal at the airport earlier.

Eating in Transit at Narita Airport

Unaju Set with Melon Soda

The food on United out of Singapore this morning wasn't anything to get excited about, so I passed on most of it and saved my stomach so that I could eat while I was transiting at Narita Airport. Now, this unaju set from the ANA FESTA food court wasn't exactly anything to go nuts over either (nor was the 2500 Yen or US$27 price tag much of food court pricing), but I sure preferred this over what was being served in-flight.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Han Kee, Amoy Street Food Centre

Fish Soup

No, this isn't turning into a fish soup blog. But with Amoy Street Food Centre not far from the office, I headed out to this shop (Telok Ayer Street #02-129) on the word of a previous tip.

I'm glad that I came, as the fish was fresh and sliced in generous portions. While the broth wasn't the naturally white color that I look for, it was still a bit murky and full of flavor...so much that I slurped down the whole bowl in seconds without even noticing the difficulty of trying to eat the thick bee hoon noodles with chopsticks.

Now, this dish isn't exactly anything that I'll go nuts for, but it is healthy, and this shop was better than some of the others that I've had so far. Too bad that they are only open from 10-3 Monday to Saturday. Note to self: eat something else next time too, since this stuff burns off in your stomach very quickly.