Sunday, February 28, 2010

Otokomae Johnny Tofu from Japan

Otokomae Johnny the Tofu Maker Blowin In the Wind

I bought this really just for the amusing text that I saw on the label: "Johnny the Tofu Maker, Blowin' in the Wind." Afterwards I realized that I had bought other varieties from this Otokomae ("handsome man") brand before, and that "Johnny" was just another type. Apparently the quirky marketing and naming is intentional - these guys even have a theme song and merchandising.

Anyway, the previous ones I had from Otokomae were rich and creamy, and this one was too: full of fresh soybean taste - with a hint of sweetness along with it. And just as with the others, it was so tender and creamy that one should just eat it with a spoon straight out of the pack. It was a bit too rich, in fact: just one of these was enough before I got a bit inundated by it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Double Happy Bak Kut Teh, Zion Road

Bak Kut Teh

Stall 29 at Zion Riverside Food Centre always fascinated me a bit. Sure, it was just a bak kut teh stall, but they also had some little fish for sale along with it. And when I usually went there, the fish were already sold out...the little ones, anyway. Either that, or the place was closed altogether, as they don't seem to be open for dinner. Today I came down here early enough that they still had some of the little ones left for breakfast.

So how was the fish? Pretty much just like it looked: cold and lifeless, but in a good way, where nothing but the fresh clean taste of the fish shone through, perked up perhaps with just a little squeeze of lime and/or that garlic chili dip on the side. My conscience certainly thanked me for eating something so simple. I only brewed my tea to half-strength this time too (and I'm still a bit jittery).

The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have fish for dinnerAnd oh yeah, the bak kut teh was fine: it wasn't as peppery as others, but in some ways that was a good thing, especially with that scallion garnish. I couldn't help but chuckle at Captain Oveur in Airplane! when I was through with the fish though.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Trying Shatangjie and Amakusa Oranges

From left: Sihui Shatangjie, Cheapo China Brand, JA Karatsu Amakusa

I guess it's hard to avoid oranges these days, eh? That's particularly true for the one in the middle, which is just a commonplace mandarin that one passes around during the ongoing Chinese New Year holidays. To me, they are boring, tasteless, and something to be used as more of a symbolic gesture than anything that one would actually want to eat.

But then I got a huge box of those little guys on the left, which apparently come from Sihui in Guangdong. Despite their little golf ball-like size, these were pretty much just minature mandarins...and thus were fortunately still easy to peel, if similarly boring in taste (and annoyingly carrying seeds at that). I prefer tangier ones instead.

And that leads to the Japanese orange on the right, which came in a gigantic (and as usual, expensive) gift box. While they looked perfect on the outside, unfortunately they were not the kind that one wants to peel - and they came with seeds too. They were more tangy than the others, but I still prefer the much punchier mikan variety from last month - or dekopon instead.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Noodle Place Restaurant, The Centrepoint

Wanton Mee

When we heard that a chef from my beloved Mak's Noodle in Hong Kong was now here in Singapore (176 Orchard Road #01-53, 6733-3171), we came right on down to see how it would fare.

The good thing was that the noodles were pretty much the firm and eggy stuff that I was looking for. And the broth, while missing the chives, more or less did the job too. But the shrimp (today, anyway) were just not as fresh as what I'm used to getting in HK. And the dry version of this dish came with some goopy sauce on the side rather than shrimp eggs sprinkled on top.

Oh well - maybe I'll come back to try some of the other things on the menu, but I probably won't be getting the wanton mee again...unless it's just for the noodles.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ramen Play, 313 Somerset

Tonkotsu Ramen

The thought of a shop called Ramen Play from the folks behind BreadTalk didn't exactly get me very excited. But this place (#B3-04, 6634-0051) turned out to be better than I thought it would be.

The pork, while sliced shockingly thin, was pleasantly rich and smoky. The garlic, chive, and chili condiments on the side provided a bit of an edge when needed, even if the consumption of them meant instant dragon breath.

And the tonkotsu broth was rich and comforting enough that I couldn't help but finish it to the last drop, in spite of my original plan to avoid what was basically just fat and sodium remaining in the bowl. I'd better eat nothing but salads for the rest of the weekend though.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chong Pang Huat, Zion Riverside Food Centre


This probably wasn't anything too exciting in the realm of satay. But what interested me was the fact that this Chinese vendor at Zion Food Centre stall number 18 offered a pork version: something that seemed out of place for a dish that I normally associate with Malaysia or Indonesia. I've never been a big fan of that sweet peanut dipping sauce though.

Fortunately, these guys also sell local chicken wings, which thereby came with that garlic chili sauce that usually accompanies chicken rice. I ended up dipping my satay into that instead. And ironically, I ate the chicken wings without sauce given how great the grilled skin tasted on its own...or at most with a little squeeze of lime for some extra bite.

Takoyaki Caramel from Japan

Takoyaki Kyarameru

I swear - this wasn't intentionally a streak of weird flavored candy. But another colleague who just came back from Japan brought these with her: takoyaki-flavored caramel. It tasted more like the brown sauce than octopus, but either way, it wasn't exactly anything that I enjoyed, especially since the gooey texture stuck to your teeth, making the odd taste linger on (she also had an oyster-flavored candy that didn't taste much better). Then again, I really shouldn't be one to talk; after all, I'm the weirdo who likes garlic cookies.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Red Bull Flavored Mentos from Indonesia

Mentos X

Ugh - that was disgusting. A teammate brought these back from Batam and asked if I wanted to try one. They weren't explictly labeled as having a Red Bull flavor, but it was clear from the ingredients, color, and "Mentos X" branding that it was going after the same concept. Even before biting into it, it tasted like Red Bull (as if Red Bull didn't already taste bad enough - now there is a type of candy to induce flashbacks of a bad hangover). Nasty!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Forlino Italian Restaurant, Singapore

Homemade Squid Ink Tagliolini with Sea Urchin Sabayon and Semi Dried Cherry Tomatoes

Chinese New Year is usually a period when most shops in Singapore are closed, and thus food availability is limited. But this year is a bit of an exception, as the start of the lunar calendar fell right onto Valentine's Day; most restaurants are not going to shut down on the biggest revenue generating day of the year. Our reservations were at Forlino (1 Fullerton Road #02-06, 6877-6995).

This perfectly cooked squid ink pasta was one of the courses in tonight's set menu. Pretty much everything served tonight was enjoyable enough that we'd consider coming back on a normal night, even if the Pop Rocks in the dessert seemed a bit clichéd.

What was perhaps more interesting to me was the venue itself, which was on the grounds of the former Centro, the nightspot at One Fullerton from a long time ago. It was a bit surreal to see the dance floor now transformed into a fine dining establishment. The last time I was on that staircase leading up to the venue, I was in a much more intoxicated state.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bak Kwa for Chinese New Year in Singapore

Sliced Pork Bak Kwa

I bought a pile of bak kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang for Chinese New Year. This sliced pork version was thicker and tougher than I would have hoped for though, even if it still carried the aroma of grilled caramelized meat. Maybe next time I should get the minced pork version to see if it can be a bit more tender. I think it is slightly cheaper too, if I remember correctly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Trader Vic's on United

Sesame pink peppercorn salmon with lime leaf beurre blanc, mushroom rice cake and julienne vegetable slaw

United was offering two selections from Trader Vic's tonight. I opted for the "sesame pink peppercorn salmon with lime leaf beurre blanc." It tasted better than it looked, with a rich and tender cut of salmon plus some mushroom rice underneath to go with it. But in retrospect, I probably should have loaded up on something back at the airport when I could have. It was disappointing to find that United is still using the old business class seats out of Narita too - I would have thought that nearly the entire fleet was converted by now.

Musubi from the ANA Lounge at Narita

Musubi, Beer, and Sake

Crap! The Noodle Bar at the ANA Lounge is being refurbished! So in the absence of free noodles, this time I grabbed a couple of musubi along with the requisite drinks from the sake bar and automatic beer machine. They tasted like they looked. The showers featured Shiseido products this time though.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Trotter's UA Beef Short Rib...But Differently

Soy and tamarind glazed beef short rib with a crispy potato cake and baby bok choy tossed in sesame vinaigrette

Today's Charlie Trotter selection on United was this "soy and tamarind glazed beef short rib." When I first saw it, I was pretty bummed as it just reminded me of those cuts of filet mignon that United used to serve so much. But when I finally cut into it, I realized that this wasn't anything like that. It was so tender that it just fell apart, and the tamarind sauce provided a welcome bit of tangy-ness that I really enjoyed, especially when complemented with that potato on the side. Yum.

It was only afterwards that I realized that my last Charlie Trotter meal on United was also some form of beef short rib...but prepared differently. Either way, I'm liking this Charlie Trotter arrangement. And in contrast with the previous times, the flavors in this meal were done perfectly rather than being overloaded.

La Costeña, Mountain View, California

Chico Burrito

This was an unplanned visit. It was only when I was stuck in traffic on the way to the airport that I realized that I hadn't eaten breakfast. I figured that La Costeña was probably open (2078 Old Middlefield Way, 967-0507), and that I could grab a quick burrito before getting back on the road. Besides, there's just something so cool about this little Mexican grocery store with the beat-up burrito counter in the back and patio furniture hugging the street outside.

Actually, I was never really that big on burritos, as the local San Francisco variety were usually too much of a boring and unnecessarily gigantic clump of beans and rice. Yet sometime ago, I discovered the right combination of ingredients that made it work for me, and my choices in this morning's chico-sized burrito made it one of the most satisfying ones that I've had in a long time. The carnitas and guacamole fueled its savory and rich taste, while the generous spread of fresh jalapeño peppers provided a critically spicy yet refreshing kick that brought it all together.

I seem to remember liking La Costeña's neighbor La Bamba better in the past, but now I'm having second thoughts. Either way, I've become a bigger fan of these Mission-style burritos and definitely plan to get more next time I'm back in the Bay Area.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Original Joe's Italian Restaurant, San Jose

Hamburger Steak

That may look like a horrifically charred slab in the photo, but in fact this is so deliciously juicy that I never order anything else when I'm here. The simplicity of this hamburger steak is part of the appeal: it is nothing but ground beef mixed with chopped onions and hardly any seasoning, thus allowing one to focus on its natural taste. This place (301 South First Street, 292-7030) was one of my usual late night places back in the day, and it's been ages since I've been back.

It's not even an Italian restaurant like the name suggests. It's American...and very old school American, which is actually part of its charm. I love the fact that they have counter service, tuxedoed waiters, and decor that has clearly persisted through the decades. Some folks that I've taken here hate this place, but I just love its character, especially when they are flame broiling meat on a grill.

Anyway, I gobbled this thing up like it was nobody's business. I can't complain when they bring out sourdough bread either...and something is just so amusing about being able to select your sides from not just the usual baked potato and French fry options, but even a small plate of spaghetti or ravioli. I opted for a (barely) healthier plate of vegetables though given all of the red meat that I was going to be consuming.

A Lox Sandwich from House of Bagels

Bagel and Lox Sandwich

This was just a quick bagel and lox sandwich from House of Bagels, a local chain of bagel shops. It wasn't anything to go nuts about, but it was exactly the refreshing taste I needed to get another long day started.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

All You Can Eat Pancakes from IHOP

All You Can Eat Pancakes

OK, so IHOP isn't exactly a place that I would normally go to. But there was one right across the street from the hotel, and I needed a quick jump start on the day. They were promoting an All You Can Eat Pancake special at $4.99, where they basically kept refilling those pancakes until you told them to stop.

I'm not that big on pancakes in the first place, so I didn't even ask for more; maybe if they were blueberry pancakes I would have felt differently. But I definitely wanted those crispy hash browns, perhaps the result of watching the Hot Potato Cafe episode of Kitchen Nightmares last night (Hulu rocks, BTW).

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Menudo from Taqueria Tlaquepaque, San Jose


Yes, I'm intentionally eating Mexican food again. I'm in San Jose after all, and what could be more fitting to eat here than Mexican food? Well, maybe Vietnamese food. And coincidentally enough, this bowl of menudo came out in a jaw-droppingly gigantic phở bowl; I was expecting something maybe only a third of its size.

Actually, I wasn't sure what to expect from this place (721 Willow St at Delmas, 408-287-9777). The name made me think that it was some beatup little taco shop, but when I got inside, it turned out to be a sit-down place...complete with combo platters. Fortunately, there were some special items on the menu, particularly this menudo, which was only available on weekends until 3 PM.

It was delicious. Unlike my first time, I now remembered to load up on the cilantro, onions, lemon, and chili peppers (sounds like phở, eh?). And while I'm normally not huge on tendons, the ones in here were stewed to such a degree of softness that I didn't mind eating them together with the tripe and hominy inside. I still prefer pozole, but I can totally see why this spicy thin broth would make for perfect hangover medicine.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Rosita's De Basilio Deli & Market, Alviso

Carnitas Plate

I was told that this was a cozy place run by a family (5168 N 1st Street, 408-942-0749) , so I got my hopes up into thinking that they were serving Mexican dishes like pozole. I was thus a bit bummed to find them touting Tex-Mex restaurant-style combo plates with rice and beans today.

Still, I went ahead and got a carnitas platter, which was on the salty side but nonetheless fresh enough for me to clear the entire thing. The cordial proprietor's warm welcome further added to the homey feeling of the place. I couldn't stop thinking about taco truck fare though.

Mi Grullense Taco Truck, Oakland, CA

Mi Grullense Taco Truck

I haven't been to a taco truck in ages. But in the past year or two, these things have been hyped up, in large part thanks to Kogi, the Korean taco truck in SoCal that uses Twitter to announce its locations. They were on a break when we were last down there, so today I made sure to head straight out to Oakland's International Boulevard after landing. There were tons of trucks out there - all of the proper Mexican variety too, and this one in the Goodwill parking lot at 30th Avenue looked like a handy place to stop.

From front: carnitas taco and lengua taco

Yes, this was definitely proper Mexican food - none of that Tex-Mex combo platter stuff. I grabbed two tacos as a quick morning snack: one featuring carnitas plus a lengua version to boot. And it was awesome. I was so happy eating these perfectly seasoned and piping hot things, all to be balanced by the garnishes on the side. The carnitas were rich and crispy while the lengua was silky smooth. And the best thing was that these were just over a buck a piece.

A Salmon Breakfast at Caviar House & Prunier

Duo of Salmon

The food at the HKIA Red Carpet Club didn't look very appetizing this morning, so I popped on out to my favorite Seafood Bar by Caviar House & Prunier in hopes that they might be open. Fortunately they were - and with a breakfast menu featuring items like scrambled eggs with salmon.

I went with a simple plate called Duo of Salmon, or basically Scottish salmon and gravadlax together. It wasn't exactly filling (nor cheap at HK$208 or US$27), but it was refreshing enough to provide just the little snack I needed before subjecting myself to airplane food again. One of these days I'll have to scrounge up the funds to give that super pricey caviar here a try though.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Charly T's Food Journeys, Singapore

Quarter Chicken

Rotisserie chicken normally isn't anything to get too excited about, but my teammate mentioned this place to me today (20 Handy Road, 6336-7789), pointing out how they were open until 2AM on Friday and Saturday. That tip came in handy tonight, considering that I skipped dinner and went straight to pounding beers after work. Naturally, I needed some food afterwards.

It hit the spot. The trick was in the selection of savory sauces as well as sides that didn't taste as cafeteria-like as one might think they would be. Actually, I have to admit that all of the alcohol probably impaired my judgment, but I'm still confident enough to say that I prefer this place over Kenny Rogers any day of the week. And it's great that they are open late, seeing that roast chicken only carries half of the guilt of other typical post-drinking options.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Xing Chen Bak Kut Teh, VivoCity

Bak Kut Teh

Bak kut teh is not something that I would normally think of getting at a food court, but this one at the themed-up Food Republic at VivoCity was better than I thought it would be (1 HarbourFront Walk #03-01 Stall 4). The broth was extra peppery, while the pork was tasty and tender enough to fall right off the bone. Founder or Ya Hua are still my preferred choices, but this might be a place I'd take visitors who prefer a bit more of a sterile environment.