Friday, July 31, 2009

Red Pig Korean Restaurant, Amoy Street

Red Pig BBalgam Doiji and Samgyebsal

There are a lot of Korean restaurants in Singapore, ranging from posh ones to old school ones and even some downright nasty ones. But this one was unexpected (93 Amoy Street, 6229-7176). I was just walking down the street when I noticed that this restaurant featured an array of those Darth Vader siphons coming down from the ceiling like the ones at Maru. But this was in a much more spartan fashion, with its ugly yet practical metal tables and grills. I was intrigued, as it looked like my kind of place.

One of the cuts of meat that they offered was their namesake "red pig." While it was good, it was so heavily marinated that I prefered the giant unseasoned slabs of samgyebsal pork instead, which achieved a natural bacon-y taste after a bit of grilling. The galbisal was a bit bland on its own, but it was easily addressed with a bit of kimchi and lettuce wrap. They didn't provide any of the scallions and sesame oil dip that I usually look for, but in this kind of a downscale setting, I wasn't complaining.

And that's ultimately how I felt about this place. There were certainly better places around, but I just liked how humble it was (and despite that, they still took American Express - yay!). There had a number of stews and other dishes on the menu too, not to mention a S$10 (US$7) lunch menu. I'll easily come back.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sangokushi Ryoriya, Boon Tat Street

Taiwan Yang Chun Mian

Not long ago, I saw a few ramen banners flying outside from a distance (3 Boon Tat Street #01-01, 6423-0366), and thought that maybe a new ramen shop had opened. It was only after I came by that I realized that this was just another outlet of that Japanese Taiwanese place that I'd passed by so many times at Robertson Quay before. Japanese style Taiwanese food (think: Taiwanese food catered to Japanese palates...or how food would taste if you went to a Taiwanese restaurant in Japan) never really sounded that interesting though.

But since I was here already and needed food, I went inside to give it a shot. I grabbed this bowl of Taiwanese soup noodles, whose broth was very salty and wasn't that localized to Japan. Similarly, the bon bon ji (or bang bang chicken), also turned out to be rather salty. Thus, I figured that I'd try something that was more Japanese than Taiwanese, like a daikon salad. One could see the Taiwanese influence of sliced jellyfish, but - again - this was also puzzlingly salty.

The only things that weren't salty were the gyoza and chahan. The gyoza were frail but very Taiwanese given the chive stuffing inside (dragon breath alert). Through all of this, the chahan was the best. Seasoned just right, this was good enough to rival Ohsho. I might not have found enough here to draw me back right away, but it was interesting to see how popular this place was with the Japanese population. Maybe the food was meant to be salty in order to go well with all of that post-work beer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Joe Pork Porridge, Chinatown Complex

Fish Porridge and Yu Sheng

Mmm...I liked this guy (335 Smith Street #02-82) even better than Ah Chiang's. Even though the grains of rice here were somewhat discernable, it was still a nice goopy sludge. And the thing that I really liked was that they seasoned everything absolutely perfectly (including the sesame oil-heavy yu sheng), whereas I'd be left to my own devices at Ah Chiang...sometimes overseasoning it in the process. It's too bad that these guys aren't around after lunch though.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fish Soup from An Ji in Chinatown

Fish Fillet Noodle

Yep, it's back to Singapore, and back to fish soup again. Tonight we headed over to An Ji in Chinatown, where - among many other things on the menu - was a listing for fish soup. But rather than get the standard sliced fish version, I opted for something they called fish fillet noodles, which came with thick chunks of fish that appeared almost chicken breast-like. They seem to have been stir fried in sesame oil and white pepper first, giving this bowl a fragrant aroma that resonated instantly with me.

It was distinctive enough that this immediately leapt to the top of my list of favorite fish soups around town...and the fact that the tasty broth didn't use milk was all the more impressive (it's interesting that there are so many variations of this dish - it's almost as if one could build a museum showcasing all of the varieties). This was only the cheapest S$5 (US$3.45) version too...I wonder what the top-end S$15 (US$10.35) version gets.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mie Goreng from the Banyan Tree

Mie Goreng

This was a quick plate of mie goreng that we grabbed on the way out today. It was a bit of salty spicy grease bomb, but that's the way it's supposed to be, right? Actually, we were pretty happy with the food at the Banyan Tree, and I'm not quite sure why a number of online reviews bashed it. Sure, we were a bit concerned that an isolated resort like this would capitalize on its captive audience with mediocre food, but we were impressed by most of what we ate, be it the champagne breakfasts with daily egg specials to poolside service and private dinners.

And they weren't skimpy on quantity either: our first night at the resort's Mediterranean restaurant was so generous (not to mention surprisingly good, if too dark to take a picture) that we had to refuse some of the courses toward the end. Granted, the food prices were unnecessarily lofty, but when one is paying these sorts of once-in-a-lifetime room rates, nitpicking on food prices is a bit pointless.

The disappointing thing for me wasn't the food, but rather the TV in our villa. Now, of course one isn't supposed to spend time inside watching TV at a place like this, but it did rain from time to time, and a decently sized flat panel screen and proper sound system would have been expected of a place this expensive. That tiny little old school CRT was sorely in need of an upgrade.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rijsttafel and the Dinner of the Legend

Dinner of the Legend

While the idea behind this trip was - for once - to stay within the confines of the resort, we still wanted to get a taste of Indonesia while we were here (even if Bintan Resorts is really just an extension of Singapore). Fortunately for us, another of the Banyan Tree's private Destination Dining options was one that featured rijsttafel, which, bundled with a storytelling session, was called Dinner of the Legend. They setup another beach canopy, although this time, we sat on a giant futon with our feet in the sand.

The first rijsttafel platter

As if we were Dutch colonists, platter upon platter of food kept arriving. The first one was a set of salads that included gado gado, a dish that I wasn't a big fan of the first time I had it years ago, but tonight I just loved its peanut-ty taste. A second platter followed, this time including udang balado, a dish of impressively fresh prawns sitting in a pleasantly spicy red chili sauce. We pretty much cleared everything aside from a few meat dishes that were just too tough (and overspiced) for our liking.

Serving up the second rijsttafel platterAnd then dessert came, which included bubur ketan hitam, a sticky rice pudding that was less coconut-y than I was hoping for, but none to worry: there was also a giant coconut husk filled with a wonderful es puter jackfruit and coconut ice cream. These all came in huge portions...so much that we felt guilty that a good part of the food went uneaten. In the end, I finally realized why they provided that giant futon with the huge throw pillows: so that we could pass out after all of that food! Sure, this entire deal was a bit touristy, but it was good food, and that couch sure was comfy.

Sights from the Banyan Tree Bintan

Nanas Baby Pineapple

Here were just a few random sights from the Banyan Tree today. Instead of those little bananas from yesterday, today they provided a little pre-cut baby pineapple in our room, coupled with local sea salt. This one wasn't very sweet nor juicy though. I am not sure if it was meant to be this way, or if it just wasn't ripe yet.

Bihun Goreng

Next up are just some random noodles that we got poolside again (albeit at a different pool this time), as well as some steamed rice that I remembered to get with my bowl of soto ayam.

Bintang Beer

And finally, one can't go to Indonesia without some local Bintang Beer. Well, I have to confess that I didn't drink this in my effort to detox after last weekend. But it made for a nice photo.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Banyan Tree's Massage of the Senses

Massage of the Senses

This might sound like a bit of an odd post...why the heck am I writing about massages? That's because this wasn't actually part of the Banyan Tree's spa treatment list. Instead, it was from the resort's Destination Dining section, which featured a number of special dining options in very picturesque settings here on the island of Bintan, be it on the beachside rocks, on a platform over one of the pools, or even on the eighth hole of the golf course next to the South China Sea.

Our choice for tonight was called Massage of the Senses, which started with a massage in a private beach cabana. But then it was followed by a nighttime dinner with a personal waiter at the table setting out front. It was too dark by then for me to get any shots of the food, but we were completely stuffed by this five course meal, which included a very fresh and delicate tasting sea bass that was braised in a mustard-kaffir lime broth.

It really was a massage of all five of the senses, especially given the gentle sound of waves from the beach, as well as how visually stunning the setting was at night with the white tent all lit up (the sight of the two Tiki torches in the pitch black night made me think of Jeff Probst coming by to extinguish my flame though). Sure, there were quite a few bugs out there, but that was nothing that a mosquito coil and some insect repellent couldn't fix. This was otherwise a very unique and memorable experience.

Snacks from Bintan, Indonesia

Soto Mie and Tom Yam Goong

Here were just a couple of quick snacks from our beach resort here in Bintan. The first one was a quick bowl of soto mie served poolside. It was pretty straightforward at first...that is, until I dug into the bottom where several mouse dropping chilis were hiding, half-delightfully (and half-painfully) putting my mouth on fire after accidentally chewing and swallowing them. No wonder why they didn't provide any sambal on the side.

Pisang Empat Puluh Hari

And this was a set of minature bananas that are apparently very common on this island neighboring Singapore. Known as "40-day bananas" (in reference to the amount of time it takes for the fruit to mature), they were a bit of a challenge to eat given not only their small sizes but also their thinner skins. The taste wasn't exactly anything that much better than normal bananas though.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, Ion Orchard

Rosu Katsu Teishoku

Singapore's much hyped Ion Orchard mall finally opened today, and we had a minute in the afternoon to take a look around before the crowds piled in after work. There were a surprising number of Japanese shops downstairs - including a standalone outlet of Aoba Ramen that hopefully will be better than that one out at Manpuku in Tampines. But the one that caught our attention today was Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin (2 Orchard Turn #B4-39, 6509-8101), which - as the name suggests - is a tonkatsu shop originally from the Ginza district of Tokyo.

Yes, another shop from Japan has set up shop in Singapore. I grabbed some standard issue rosu, which was a bit soggy in the middle and a bit thick on the edges. But it was still tasty and of decent quality, and the thin slices of pork we found in the miso soup was a nice touch. It was interesting to see breaded unagi available too, even if that turned out a bit too greasy for my liking.

Apparently these guys were the creators of the katsu sando, although I was puzzled as I couldn't find it anywhere on the menu. Only after we left the restaurant did I notice they were selling little boxed sandwiches at the takeout counter outside. Well, I definitely want to give some of the other places in this mall a try. But I'll need to remember to avoid peak hours (particularly weekends) since I'm sure that this mall is going to be frustratingly packed for a while.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Daboy Backfat Chicharon from the Philippines

Daboy Backfat Chicharon

I busted out an evil laugh when my Pilipina colleague gave me this bag of pork rinds with its big "BACKFAT" label (was that what it was made of, or what it was supposed to give you?). Ohhhh, man. It tasted just like how one would imagine: crispy, full of attached fat, and ridiculously tasty. I'm not sure why the label said that it was "chili-cious" though, as it wasn't even the slightest bit spicy.

Well, fortunately I had enough self-control to eat only two pieces, no matter how much I wanted to gobble up the entire bag. And actually my other meals today were at Thunder Tea Rice and Mushroom Park. So I believe that I earned enough of an allowance to indulge myself briefly in a small bite of this horrendously unhealthy but delicious snack.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Orchard Yong Tau Fu, Cuppage Plaza

Yong Tau Fu

Thanks to whomever recommended this place (5 Koek Road #01-09, 9067-5245). That was easily the best yong tau foo I've had so far. One obvious difference was the quality and selection of ingredients available, including a wide range of greens as well as eggplant in both fresh and fried versions. I passed on the brown sauce, but I loved how they worked sesame seeds into the chili sauce, which gave it an added taste and texture that I enjoyed, even if the sauce was mildly sweet.

Another very notable distinction was the peppery bowl of soybean soup provided on the side; it was far better than that nasty dishwater that one usually gets with this stuff. And to top it off, the proprietors were super friendly. I'll easily come back, but the seating at this place is terribly limited, so I just have to remember to avoid peak hours.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yi Jia Teochew Fish Porridge & Soup

S$7 Pomfret Fish Soup

Located right next to Buddy's Suki Soup at Maxwell Food Centre stall 66 was this fish soup stall. Featuring an assortment of seafood on ice in the glass counter, freshness was the key to its popularity, regardless if one gets the cheapest S$3 (US$2) bowl like I got yesterday, or if one upgrades to the S$7 (US$4.80) pomfret version in the oval-shaped bowl like I got today.

One might argue that the soup was a bit bland, but the thing that I really liked about this place was the Teochew condiments like salted beans and shredded ginger (or even raw garlic if you're not working that day), which helped to break the monotony. They also tossed in one or two small pieces of dried fish bits to give it a bit of an edge.

And while the quality of place's ingredients definitely makes it one of the better shops around town, my preference is still for Han Kee at Amoy Street. All of the bones in Yi Jia's premium pomfret version made the thing a bit frustrating to eat too. Next time, I'll just stick to the cheap stuff.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chin Lee Restaurant, Bedok North Road

Crispy Roasted Suckling Pig

There are a number of Teochew restaurants around Singapore, but I like this one enough that it's worth the ride all the way out into the eastern part of the island for it (115 Bedok North Road #01-285, 6444-5554). One of the keys is the freshness of the seafood here, including the pomfret and prawns that we got tonight.

But I am also a big fan of the terrestrial items, such as this suckling pig, whose crispy skin was carefully separated from the fat and meat...almost like Peking Duck. They also smeared some kind of a Taiwanese sha cha-like spicy paste into the meat, which of course I was all over. I wasn't quite sure how to eat the head though...it was full of fat, although the skin was certainly still tasty.

And probably the most memorable thing here was the Pork Ribs Infused with Coffee. Yep - these foil-wrapped bits of pork were a bit like Guinness Pork, but better than that in my opinion, as coffee is more fragrant. I just wish that they would open an outlet in the city.

Grilled Vegetables from Pasta Fresca

Grigliata Mista Di Verdure

Here were some grilled vegetables from Pasta Fresca. I know a number of naysayers that don't care much for this commercialized chain restaurant,but for some reason this place still works for me, even if the S$13.80 (US$9.20) price tag for this dish is a bit of a ripoff. Then again, I suppose that grilled veggies are usually a high margin dish...and I'm just a sucker for it since I love its simplicity.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ah Chiang's Traditional Charcoal Porridge

Yu Sheng

After being given the tip for this place (65 Tiong Poh Road #01-38, 6557-0084), I was told to keep it a secret, but I liked it so much that I just can't keep my mouth shut. Besides, these guys have already expanded into other locations in Geylang and Toa Payoh, so clearly they have already acheived a popular following. I doubt that a mention of it here is really going to change things.

Anyway, as the name suggests, this place specializes in all sorts of porridge. And they do it the proper Cantonese way, where the grains of rice are pulverized into an unrecognizable goop. Oddly, my fish porridge came out unseasoned, thus requiring me to play around with the soy sauce and white pepper quite a bit in order to bring out the taste. But the pork porridge was full of flavor already.

One must be wondering why the photo above is not porridge then. That's because the thing that I liked more than the porridge was the yu sheng, which came out in paper thin slices and garnished with just the right things, including a healthy dose of sesame oil. Strangely, it was lacking soy sauce too, but with a bottle sitting tableside, it wasn't hard to sprinkle a few drops on. I liked this so much that I immediately went back for two more plates, instantly making this one of my favorite things in town.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wine Connection's All-You-Can-Eat Raclette

Raclette

Cool - the Robertson Walk location of Wine Connection Deli & Bistro (11 Unity Street #01-05, 6238-1279) is doing an all-you-can-eat raclette for S$24.90 (US$17) per person. They used the little heated tray version rather than a melt-the-whole-wheel deal like the Goodward Park did, but it was all the same in the end. There were some T's &C's though - it was only for dinner, it had a four person minimum, and it required a 24 hour advance reservation.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Buddy's Sawasdee Thai Suki Soup

Thai Suki Soup

That was different. We hit Maxwell Food Centre for a quick bite after work when I noticed a new stall (number 67) advertising something called Original Thai Suki Seafood Soup. That alone wasn't really anything to get me excited, but the tagline "it's not tomyum" did make me curious. (That, and a claim about someone named Madam Baibong making this since 1955 - even if I have no idea if that meant anything.) I grabbed a bowl just to give it a try.

It was better than I thought it would be. A brown sauce made it a bit tangy, some pureed chili peppers gave it heat, and little raw garlic cloves provided the kick. Now, this won't exactly be an object of late night cravings, but the fresh taste and chunks of seafood were reminiscient enough of cuttlefish soup from Taiwan (except of course that the broth was much thinner) for me to go right back for a second bowl.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mee Goreng from EsTeler 77

Mee Goreng

This was the mee goreng from EsTeler 77. It was a total grease bomb, and being quite salty and spicy at that. I suppose that's why this stuff can be so fitting as a post-drinking snack.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ramen in a Box from Japan

Sendai Uufuushin Shoyu Ramen

I picked up this boxed ramen on my last run through Narita, figuring that it might come in handy one of these days. It originated from some shop in Sendai, so I knew that it was going to be a step up from the foam-bowl instant stuff too.

But it turned out that the only things that were supplied in this box were noodles, soup base, and lard, leaving out all of the critical garnishes like chashu and menma. I ended up having to pick up a bunch of the other (perishable) stuff at a local Japanese market in order to make this thing complete.

Well, I liked the coarse noodles and rich soup base, and fortunately the pork that I bought was tasty enough that it helped complement the entire bowl, even if I bought the wrong kind of onions. But that took way too much time and effort than it was worth. I should have just left it to the pros.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tawandang Microbrewery, Singapore

Dunkel Bier and Tom Kha Gai

That was unexpected. We were actually intending to eat elsewhere up on Dempsey Hill tonight when I noticed a bunch of red and yellow signs pointing to a new microbrewery. I figured that maybe it was an Australian place or something, but it was nothing of the sort. It turned out to be a big German beer hall from Bangkok, and they just opened up here in Singapore last night (26 Dempsey Road #01-01, 6476-6742).

Now, it sounded very odd at first. Thai-German food?? Upon futher examination, it was really Thai food with just a few German elements: the beer, the big bench-filled beer hall, and the presence of sausages and pork knuckle on the menu (served with a spicy Thai sauce, no less). Otherwise, it was your usual Thai fare on the menu, which wasn't as out of place with the beer as one might expect.

In many ways, this place reminded me of what one might find in a touristy area of in Thailand: a bit plasticky and not exactly fine dining, but fun enough in a relaxed beach vacation type of way where it really didn't matter. This place even had a stage set up where it was obvious that a band would play every night. I'm now very curious to see how rowdy this place can get later in the evening. An eyewitness account would definitely be in order.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Mackerel from Ootoya Singapore

Sumiyaki Shima Hokke Teishoku

Here was the mackerel set from Ootoya. It was a bit saltier and greasier than I was expecting, but that wasn't anything that the freshly grated daikon on the side couldn't fix. It was a satisfying lunch either way.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Spicy Steamboat Fish Soup

Spicy Steamboat Fish Soup

This was the "spicy steamboat" version of fish soup from that Jacky Chan stall. As much as the Thai style hot pot with the flaming chimney might lead one to think that it was tom yum flavored, it wasn't that spicy nor sour, but rather annoyingly sweet. I wish that they didn't deep fry the fish either. I should have just stuck to the basics.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ootoya, Orchard Central, Singapore

Sumibiyaki Saba Teishoku with Hijiki Topping

Another chain from Japan has set up an outlet in Singapore, with this one being at the new Orchard Central mall (181 Orchard Road #08-12, 6884-8901). It specialized in teishoku, or set meals that oftentimes involve rice and soup. It doesn't sound like anything too exciting, but that's exactly what I liked about it. It was simple, affordable, and (generally) healthy.

Besides, I enjoyed the rich taste of my saba shioyaki, not to mention the selection of toppings available for my rice. I'll come back again...as long as I can find my way through the unnecessarily complex labyrinth of Orchard Central, that is.