Friday, April 30, 2010

Orechiette on United Airlines

Orechiette Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce, Eggplant, and Sun Dried Tomato

It turns out that I was wrong in assuming that the in-flight meal was going to be forgettable. This was one of the better things that I've had on United...and it even featured pesto sauce, the item from the previous leg that I just bashed. This time the pesto was spread out lightly enough that it was more complementary and enhancing rather than overpowering. But those sun-dried tomatoes - another worn-out cliche in my opinion - were a bit too much, so I just left them on the side.

HK Airport's Taiwan Beef Noodle

Taiwanese Beef Noodle and Milk Tea

This shop (2261-0883) is near the United gates at Hong Kong airport. I've always been a bit curious - and all the same a bit skeptical about how good Taiwanese beef noodles could be in Hong Kong. But after that tiny snack at Caviar House (and in anticipation of a forgettable meal on United next), the thought of a bowl of hot soup noodles before boarding sounded pretty good.

It was better than I thought it would be, as the broth contained just the right blend of spices for me to feel satiated. The noodles were a bit soft and the beef wasn't of super high quality, but frankly that was to be expected. After all, it's not like I could expect something as specialized as Chuan Wang in Taipei.

Tsarina from Caviar House & Prunier at HKIA

Tsarina

I'm a big fan of the salmon here. But I have never gone for their caviar (despite it being in their name) given how expensive it is. Today, I figured that I'd finally pamper myself; it was Friday night after all. I grabbed what they called the Tsarina, which was one of the lowest-priced items in the caviar section of the menu. It was a whopping HK$550 (US$70) for nothing more than what is pictured here: smoked salmon on a blini and topped with ten grams of pure salted Malossol caviar. Man, at these prices, this thing had better be good.

Well, it wasn't bad at least. I haven't exactly developed enough of a palate to be able to discern between good and bad caviar, but it was creamy and bursting with a savory taste of the sea. Having some of that delicious salmon underneath never hurt either. But was it really worth US$70 for what was effectively just a little snack? Hardly. It was just a guilty indulgence to satiate my curiosity rather than my stomach. But I will come back for the salmon without hesistation.

Charlie Trotter's Chicken Breast on United

Grilled Chicken Breast with Eggplant Strewn Quinoa

It's time for another Charlie Trotter meal on United, this time being a grilled chicken breast with quinoa. I was a bit annoyed by the arugula pesto smeared on it. There wasn't anything wrong with the taste, but I'm just a bit tired of pesto sauce.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More From Billy Goat Tavern at O'Hare

Polish Sausage

I told you I'd be back. At first, I grabbed a Polish sausage, figuring that they would do it up Chicago-style. Instead, it came out as nothing more than just a grilled dog in a bun. I guess it shouldn't have been that surprising given the very spartan approach that these guys take with burgers. And just as with those cheeseburgers, I had to use the very limited condiment station to dress it up. So despite the Billy Goat Tavern being the Chicago-based icon that it is, this thing was not a Chicago-style dog. It was tasty though.

Italian Beef

After getting some work done in the lounge, I went out to the gate for boarding, only to realize that the flight was delayed nearly an hour. Well, that was the perfect chance to head back here to grab an Italian Beef, especially since that Polish dog wasn't quite enough. Their Italian Beef wasn't drenched in as much juice as the one I had at Al's #1, but the giardiniera hot peppers still helped make this otherwise plain sandwich a pleasure to eat, all to be complemented with some Old Style beer (hey, it sure beats PBR).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cuban Sandwiches To Go, Orlando

Cuban Sandwich

One of the other things I had to get when I was in Florida was Cuban food. Orlando isn't exactly the hotbed of Cuban food like Miami is, but apparently this shop (1605 Lee Road, 407-578-8888) knew how to do it right. So after a long day of events I took the chance to quickly head out and try one of these Cuban sandwiches.

On paper, it didn't sound like anything too interesting. And when it came out, it looked like any old ham and cheese sandwich with some pickles and mustard. But when I bit into it, I finally figured out what all of the fuss was about. It was the bread: light, airy, and crispy...almost like a very thick wafer or something.

The bread was so appealing that I devoured the thing, even though I wasn't really that hungry and still had a business dinner scheduled later. I don't even really remember the meat inside as I was too obsessed with the bread. Apparently lard is one of the things that goes into the baking process, which definitely explains a few things.

Epilogue: one thing I forgot to get here was one of those little Cuban coffees, so I picked one up at Orlando airport on the way back home the next day. I was surprised by how super sweet it was - in a good way. I could easily get more of those, if they didn't make me bounce off the walls, that is.

Johnson's Soul Food Diner, Orlando

Fried Catfish

Oh man, that was good. It's not often that I get the chance to have Southern food. But this morning there was a break in the program, so I popped out to get a quick bite at Johnson's (595 West Church Street Suite E, 407-841-0717), which is apparently pretty well known around here.

I opted for the fried catfish, which was more lightly breaded than I thought it would be, and it hardly needed that Southern hot sauce and spicy vinegar that was available on each table. My sides of collard greens, deep-fried okra, and a Southern bean mix all were cleared in seconds too, as was that crumbly sweet corn bread. Mmm...simple and delicious comfort food indeed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Johnnie's Hideaway, Orlando, Florida

Stone Crab Claws

Being in Florida, there was one local thing that I absolutely had to try: stone crab claws. And this steak and seafood place (12551 State Road 535, 407-827-1111) had a raw bar up front that I could just pull myself up to and order away. I grabbed a small appetizer portion just as a taster.

To my surprise, my first bite was completely tasteless. There was no natural flavor in that meat, assuming that one kept it naked without the sauce that accompanied it. If I dug into a deeper section of the claw rather than the exposed meat on the joint, I finally got something that was a bit reminiscient of dungeness crab from back home, but it was still so mild that there really wasn't much joy to be had from eating them. Well, at least the meat was fresh and firm.

Actually, the restaurant itself was fine. Service at the bar was super friendly and fast, and the wedge salad came with some impressively thick cubes of bacon. I just wish they had more local things on the menu to try out, given that I probably won't go for the stone crab again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gourmeto's Pizza, Orlando, Florida

Pizza, Buffalo Wings, and Miller Lite

Oh man, I haven't had to order this kind of stuff in a long time. Our flight got diverted to West Palm Beach tonight given that thunderstorms had shut down Orlando airport for a couple of hours. By the time I finally got to the hotel, I was exhausted and hoping to grab a quick bite at the bar. But the bar had stopped serving food, so that meant it had to be room service (this hotel is in the middle of nowhere and there's absolutely nothing walkable from here).

But they started shutting down room service at midnight due to the recession, so the only choice was a list of delivery places. One of the only places open this late was a place called Gourmeto's (8216 World Center Drive, 407-465-1818). And what kind of food is usually delivered at such a late hour? None other than pizza in a cardboard box. I added some buffalo wings in order to meet the minimum delivery criteria, and suddenly college flashbacks came screaming back to me.

Well, the good thing was that it came very fast and was still piping hot. And I actually didn't mind it as much as I thought I would, even though it was totally soggy after sitting in that enclosure all of this time. (It's been a while since I've had any Miller Lite too.) It definitely wasn't healthy, but I guess it was a quintessential American late night delivery experience. Maybe I should try to get a rental car.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rigatoni from United Domestic First Class

Rigatoni

This was the dinner served in United's domestic first class tonight. If it looks like a smashed up plate of reheated pasta, that's pretty much what it was, with mushy noodles and nothing exciting to speak of, even if it was a bit spicier than I thought it would be. I guess it was better than a snack box.

Billy Goat Tavern at O'Hare

Single Cheezborger and Coke

Here's an updated shot of the "cheezborger" from Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern, except this time it was from their outlet in O'Hare rather than in the city. It's been so long since I've had this though that I forgot how to order it, making the mistake of only ordering a measly single and getting a pretty boring burger out of it in the end...not to mention dragon breath from those onions. Next time I should probably try out their Italian Beef or a hot dog or something.

Tropical Barbecue Chicken on United

Tropical barbecue chicken with herb basmati rice and green bean, carrot, pepper saute

I was pretty bummed when I saw the menu on United today. It made me regret not getting that bowl of noodles from the newly reopened noodle bar in the ANA Lounge. Filet mignon was back on the menu (and I didn't want the Japanese meal either), so I was left with this chicken; it sounded like it might have been from the Trader Vic's menu, but I don't think it was.

Well, it was better than I thought it would be, with its gigantic yet still tender and half-decently moist chicken breast. But part of the problem might have also been the distraction of those meals that Adam Richman was eating on the screen there. It was good to see some of my favorite TV shows available on United either way.

Satiating the Taiyaki Cravings...Sorta

Taiyaki

For some reason, one thing that I've really been craving over the past week or two has been taiyaki, which is of course one of those Japanese sweet red bean-filled snack things made into the shape of a fish. After lunch, we found a shop called Daruma (6-12-17 Ueno, 6803-2122) that was making them fresh. I'm not exactly an expert on this stuff, but I assume that this was considered to be one of the better renditions of it, as they really brought out the taste of the azuki beans. I was hoping for something just a tad sweeter and mushier though.

Kamatama Udon from a Rakugama Outlet

Kamatama Udon

This was just a random place that we stopped at while wandering near the Ameyoko bazaar (6-3-11 Ueno, 5807-1940). It was a pretty cool shop: file into line at the counter, tell them which version of noodles you want, grab your choice of deep fried goods on the side like squid and pumpkin, add your garnishes, and then pay up. I went for this kamatama udon at the top of the list, which was served hot and topped with an egg yolk, even if the lady messed mine up and popped it. The sanuki noodles were very thick and chewy, making it much more pleasureable than that frozen stuff that one gets at the market. That worked for me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kaikaya by the Sea, Shibuya, Tokyo

Grilled Fish

That was different. This funky little place (23-7 Maruyama-cho, 3770-0878) just a little further up the hill from Gonpachi was packed to the brim tonight. It was an izakaya of sorts, but with a very clear fusion slant, as seen by the wall decorations and the La Cuisine Japonaise tagline outside. We basically told the chef to go for whatever he wanted, and he plucked out a bunch of various items, like some mini spring rolls that were probably Vietnamese-inspired, as well as a mayo-covered prawn that was presumably Chinese in origin.

What I liked more were these local fish that were done up in a Mediterranean style of olive oil and garlic (even if it was a bit too much of the latter), as well as the sengyo no carpaccio and a sizzling garlic steak with a touch of freshly ground wasabi root on the side. The big chunks of meat in the tuna jaw as well as the huge family-style bowl of miso soup at the end were also a bit more appealing to my taste.

Sure, the purist in me wasn't that excited about the less traditional dishes that they served, but everything was very fresh and of high quality. Perhaps more importantly, this cozy and crowded place had so much energy that it made for a fun and rowdy environment, and that was probably the thing that I liked more. That, and maybe a bit more of that steak.

Various Items From Across Tokyo

Kirin Salt and Lime

Here were a few random things that we came across in town, the first of which was this salt and lime drink from Kirin that I saw at a convenience store. A salt and lime drink didn't exactly sound very appealing, so I didn't try it, but it was interesting to see. Was it perhaps meant to be mixed with something else?

Nikumaki Onigiri

Next was this stand called Ganso Nikumaki Honpo (2-7-5 Shimokitazawa, 5790-9703) selling onigiri, but instead of seaweed, they were wrapped in pork with the option of a cheese topping that is toasted on the spot with a little torch. It tasted exactly like how one would imagine a rice ball wrapped in bacon and topped with scorched cheese would taste like. These guys were open past midnight so I'm sure that all of that sodium and cholesterol would come in great after a number of drinks.

Ichigo Azuki Mochi

And finally, here was some kind of an azuki mochi that had a strawberry shoved inside. The strawberry was so naturally sweet and juicy that it reminded us that we had to get more Japanese fruit when we were here.

Shodai Keisuke at Shinatatsu Ramen Street

Tontoro Chashu Kuro Ramen

Cool. A number of ramen theme parks are around now, where a collection of different shops are set up right next to each other. "Theme Park" is a bit of a stretch though; this one underneath the train tracks on the southwest side of Shinagawa station was really just a collection of shops rather than the plasticky Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. And they didn't seem to be offering mini bowls to allow one to taste from multiple shops (at least, not the one I went to). But I never really got a proper lunch today and was ready to faint, so food was definitely in order.

Interestingly, two of the shops here recently just set up shop in Singapore: specifically PARCO Marina Bay newcomers Nantsuttei and Keisuke. I naturally gave Nantsuttei a pass, but the Keisuke outlet here was technically Shodai Keisuke, featuring a different bowl than the shrimp head-based one that we get back in Singapore. This guy apparently picks one specialty for each of his shops, and I was curious to know how his other stuff tasted. I thus grabbed a bowl of his tontoro chashu kuro ramen, which was right at the top of the menu (or rather, the ticket vending machine).

It was awesome. Right when it came out, it smelled of freshly ground sansho (otherwise known as Sichuan peppercorns). The noodles were perfectly firm, which I gobbled up so happily that I took their suggestion of also getting a bowl of rice to dump into the remaining broth. This thereby collected a lot of the pieces at the bottom - most notably the potent sansho fragments, which left my tongue numb in the process. Thumbs up; I like this even better than that ebi ramen.

And that really leads to an interesting thought, if I might digress a bit here. If I read it correctly, this guy basically picked ebi ramen for his shop in Singapore because he figured it was a bit like local prawn noodles. But that is precisely the problem, as locals are so passionate about their favorite prawn noodle hawker that they can't help but make comparisons to it, most likely in a negative manner. It might have made sense for him to go the other direction: bringing something more unique like the bowl above. It would be much more distinguished than Nantsuttei, whose tonkotsu broth is blurring a bit in the shadow of Ippudo or even Santouka. Well, I still like his savory and fragrant ebi ramen, but hopefully the Singapore menu will get a bit of expansion after things settle in a bit.

Oh - and back to the Shinatatsu strip mall in Tokyo; no, I didn't try any of the other shops given that this was a full bowl (not to mention that extra bowl of rice as a closer). But the shop next door, Tetsu, was already getting a line forming at 4:30 PM, which made us wonder whether we should have also gone there to give the tsukemen a try. Well, maybe next time.

Breakfast from Sukiya in Japan

Gyudon

There were a couple of Sukiya outlets nearby this morning, so I popped out to one quickly for breakfast, as I was starving. I grabbed this negi version, which came with a little metal egg strainer so that one could dump only the yolk on top. This bowl did the job (and I liked the variety of options here), but I still prefer rival Yoshinoya (or even Matsuya), as the taste here is a bit less polished. It makes for a fast, cheap, and convenient snack though, especially with the price wars that they seem to be going through these days.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Returning to Gogyo, Tokyo

Gyoza

If those gyoza look like the tiny ones that Ippudo sells, I guess that's not really much of a surprise given their heritage (they also had Ippudo's Goma-Q here). Of course, we were really chasing our long sought-after kogashi ramen tonight. And the second time around, it became very clear that my preference was for the more polished shoyu version; the miso version was just a tad too coarse for me. I liked the shoyu one so much that I kept putting my head down to the broth later to whiff up that beautiful aroma. I wonder how the tsukemen here tastes - it looked pretty good from a distance.

Grabbing A Quick Snack Before Dinner

Yaki Sakana

Even though we were on our way out to dinner, I knew that it would be a while before we ate. So we stopped at a couple shops on the way to the train station for a couple of quick items to hold us over, the first of which was this little stand grilling fish on a fire. We grabbed a chunk of gindara, which probably would have been better had we eaten it more quickly rather than letting it get cold. But it was rich and did the job.

Giant Dim Sum

Some guy inside was also steaming a bunch of buns, with these pinkish ones being made from prawns. They tasted pretty much like they looked, which was almost dim sum-like in nature. This guy was also selling gyoza that looked pretty good, but I exercised restraint by just sticking to just a taster of that prawn thing.

Bacon Potato Pie from McDonald's Japan

Bacon Potato Pie

We weren't intentionally going to McDonald's, but we had a bit of time before our train was going to leave Narita. So when we passed by the Golden Arches, we noticed that bacon potato pies were back on the menu. The last time I had one of these was almost ten years ago, and for some reason they stopped selling them for a while, so I was pretty happy to see these mashed potato and bacon filled treats with a crispy exterior again. I think it's my first time eating them sober though. :)

Chicken with Noodles on United

Chicken With Noodles

This was the meal served in United's economy class on the way up to Narita this morning. No, it wasn't anything special, but it sure beat those darned snack boxes. We also got some crustless tuna fish sandwiches before landing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TWG Tea Company, Singapore

TWG Tea Sandwiches

Whenever I passed by this place in the past, I was always rather curious. It was very upscale with its table linens and classily-dressed wait staff. The gigantic canisters of tea stacked up high on its wooden shelves were emblazoned with a classic-looking logo and a date stamp of 1837, suggesting a company with a long-standing heritage, perhaps being English in origin.

It was only after I looked it up now that I realized that this was a Singaporean company that was started just a few years ago. Positioned as a luxury goods brand where one can literally pay thousands of dollars for tea, it is now being carried by Harrod's, Dean & Deluca, and is even served in Singapore Airlines' first class cabins. Why 1837 then? It was the year that Singapore's Chamber of Commerce was created (think: tea trade), while TWG stands for The Wellness Group, a company that previously had investments in spas as well as upscale tea.

Anyway, the list of tea available here was like a huge wine list, including everything from typical English teas to a full range of Japanese, Chinese, and even African varieties (I didn't spot any fennel nor artichoke ones though). Oh - and yes, that set of vegetarian tea sandwiches pictured above hit the spot; it was exactly what I would have expected at tea time. I'd rather come here than go to Lawry's for their afternoon tea.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Italy Epilogue: Candy and Fennel Seed Tea

Vivident Fruit Blast and Fennel Seed Tea

This is a bit late, but better late than never, I suppose. Here were a couple of little things from that last trip to Italy, the first of which was simply gum that I bought in my effort to dump change at the airport. It had some kind of a fruity gel inside the gum, but with a hard shell on the outside; a bit like Fresh'n Up meets Chiclets. I liked it...and it tasted a bit better than it sounded.

The second was some kind of an herbal fennel tea bag. Well, to be more specific, it was pretty much just ground up fennel seeds that one could run hot water over to create a fairly weak tasting drink. It tasted just like the fennel seeds that one might find at the cashier on the way out of an Indian restaurant. Maybe one could steep it together with those artichoke tea bags from Vietnam for a vegetable tea of sorts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Quick Lunch from Shunjuu

Charcoal Grill Set A

I was in the neighborhood today and figured that I'd pop into Shunjuu (30 Robertson Quay #01-15, 6887-3577), a place that I didn't like too much of a number of years ago but hoped that maybe it had gotten better, especially since I had a good experience at their sister restaurant Satsuma not long ago. And given that I was in a rush, I quickly picked this set to see how it would fare. The good thing is that it was fast, and the taste was better than I remembered it. But I still preferred a piping hot bento from Kushigin instead, even if they were a bit slower.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Phở 66, Kiu Leong Tong, Singapore

Phở

Another phở shop has opened in the CBD. Well, sorta. It is technically outside of the CBD (241 Cantonment Road, 6509-0933)...just south of the Pinnacle@Duxton. And it's not really a shop; it's a hawker stall. So I wasn't really getting my hopes up given my last experience with such a place.

Fortunately, this one was a lot better, with a broth that was full of flavor. The meat quality left a lot to be desired, but hey - at S$4 (US$3), one can't expect much. They also pre-garnished your bowl; I prefer being able to pick from a selection of fresh herbs instead. Well, this would do for a quick snack, I suppose.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

International Travel Tips Inspired by Clooney

It's funny - every time I go through airport security now, I think of Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air, especially since I can identify with many of his practices, be it how he packed his bags or how he accumulates miles. But there were a few other things that that weren't covered, presumably since the story was based on domestic flights. I thus put together a quick list of some of the other things that I tend to do when I'm on the road, which of course tends to be internationally-focused instead:
(1) Choose your luggage based upon the destination. Wheeled bags are great when going somewhere with lots of pavement, but they can be annoying when walking down an old cobblestone street in Europe or to a remote and rugged beach in Southeast Asia. That's when bags with convertible backpack straps are handy - all while keeping two hands free in the process.
(2) Showers are the key to long haul flights. Getting rid of all of that airplane aroma during a layover (or before getting on a long haul, especially if one has been in a long day of meetings beforehand) is theraputic beyond words. Narita, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Munich, and even Auckland airports have great Star Alliance lounges for this. The US can be a bit of a pain if I'm not connecting to a domestic flight, but SFO at least has a third-party shower facility in the departure hall that one can pay for, even if it is a bit grimey.
(3) Rather than reading the newspaper or in-flight magazine when waiting for other passengers to board, I always take advantage of the permitted cellular connection before the door closes to clear emails, read online news, or maybe even do a quick IMDb check on whether or not a particular movie on that flight is worth my time later. Filling in immigration and customs forms can be done during takeoff and landing when electronics can't be used.
(4) Get in the immigration line that is closest to the locals. The latter will usually clear faster than the foreigners, and the officers will usually then route some of the foreigners over to the local lines after that.
(5) If you're unsure of how vehicular traffic treats pedestrians in a country, just cross the street by being hot on the footsteps of a local. One could do the same in terms of finding food: just look for locals rather than tourists. A lack of English comprehension at a restaurant is a good thing.
(6) Always unfold your shirts right when you get into your hotel room and hang them in the shower to let the steam loosen them up a bit. This one isn't anything too revealing for many travelers, but I find that it's particularly important when traveling internationally, as far fewer hotels outside of the US keep ironing boards in the room.
(7) Get Nokia Maps, or at least some other form of handheld navigation that doesn't make you look like tourist toting a bunch of guidebooks. This also comes in handy in a taxi in case the driver doesn't know where to go, or simply just to make sure that he's not taking you on a long route in order to increase his fare.
(8) When traveling to the US, always have a stash of one dollar bills tucked away, as they come in handy when you need to tip housekeeping, the bellman, concierge, etc. A few non-penny coins are also helpful if you're renting a car, since the last thing you want to do when you get to a parking meter is to have to find someplace to break a $20 bill.
(9) Conversely, look for places to dump coins at the departing airport on the return leg. I don't mind saving excess foreign currency for the next run back to that country, as long as they are lightweight notes. Coins, on the other hand, are annoying given their weight and lack of value. So I'll usually find a store at the airport to buy some local treats with my loose change. Donation boxes are of course fine too, although they can be harder to find. Kudos to Lufthansa for their in-flight collection program.
(10) And finally, attain elite status at all costs. This is the primary reason why I'm such a mileage whore in the first place - it's not for free flights, but rather for lounge access (see #2 above) and upgrades, as well as of course the ability to leverage priority check-in, boarding, and even call center lines. And in the event that I really need to check a bag, then it's helpful to have your bag unloaded onto the carousel first.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tonkatsu from Saboten Singapore

Negi Mizore Rosu Katsu

Yep - I'm back at PARCO Marina Bay again. This time, I wanted to check out Saboten (9 Raffles Boulevard, #P3-01, 6333-3432), a tonkatsu chain from Japan that has landed here. It was your typical tonkatsu shop, with loads of finely shredded cabbage, a number of condiments on the side, and sesame seeds under mortar and pestle. I grabbed my with a shredded daikon mizore topping, which came with a little serving of ponzu sauce.

It was fried just about right, with a crunchy outside and juicy inside, and the tonkatsu sauce went well with it. The dressings for the cabbage also allowed me to clear several bowls with ease. I nearly want to say that I prefer this place over Tonkichi, although the oil combined with my fatty rosu cut made this just a tad too greasy (and I prefer hojicha over the genmaicha that they serve after dinner here). The service here was pretty attentive and courteous though. I should get the leaner hire next time.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Beef House, Fengshan Food Centre

Beef Ball Noodle

We weren't planning to come here. We just happened to be in the neighborhood when I noticed this old favorite of mine, which I haven't been to in ages ever since the Killiney Road location shut down. With an outlet of theirs now in front of me (85 Bedok North Street 4 #01-251, 9852-4078), I figured I'd get a bowl of what I refer to as "Wall Street Journal meatballs."

They were pretty much the same thing as before, although for some reason I just didn't get that excited about them anymore. Maybe my tastes have changed over the years, preferring Indonesian bakso over this instead. Well, if I'm out here again, then I'll have to remember to try the dry noodle version; it looked pretty good and might renew my interest in this place.

Ebi Ramen from Keisuke Tokyo in Singapore

Ebi Ramen

Maybe it was because of last night, but for some reason I was craving ramen again this morning. And I was a bit curious about that Keisuke place across from Nantsuttei, as it looked like theirs was based on shrimp heads instead. I thus hopped on down to PARCO Marina Bay to give this chain from Tokyo a try (9 Raffles Boulevard #P03-02, 6337-7919). Indeed, right when I walked into the place, it smelled like shellfish...in a good way. It was like walking into a Western seafood place where simplicity and freshness ruled.

And that was exactly what I got when the bowl arrived too. Right away I could smell the spices and shrimp emanating from it; it was a bit like the fragrance of cioppino or lobster bisque, but with a very thin broth. The Sunday Times said that this guy used to cook shrimp consomme at a French restaurant, and that is exactly what this stuff was, except of course that it was filled with noodles and a few strips of yuzu...and ironically, a piece of chicken rather than shrimp. The flavor of the broth was in fact so sophisticated that I drank it to the last drop (something that I couldn't say about Nantsuttei last night), which finally unveiled the shop's logo at the bottom of the white bowl. And yes, this was much, much lighter than local prawn noodle.

Empty!In many ways, I don't even think of this as ramen - not in the traditional shio / shoyu / miso / tonkotsu kind of way at least. It was in many ways more European, and was arguably more upscale too. Frankly this made this more memorable than Nantsuttei, which was starting to blur a bit into the rest of the increasingly crowded ramen scene here. I'll still go to Nantsuttei if I'm really craving a more traditional and brute-force taste. But the delightful smell of this consomme is really sticking around in my head, and I already want to go back for more.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Nantsuttei, Millenia Walk, Singapore

Negi Ramen

If that looks like a huge pile of onions in that bowl, that's because it is. And what perhaps was even more pronounced at this shop was the garlic. The gyoza was practically stuffed with garlic, while one could also request a raw garlic press to go along with the ramen like I did. Thus, the main impression that I have of this Japanese chain's new outlet at the new PARCO Marina Bay in Singapore (9 Raffles Boulevard #P3-06, 6337-7166) comes down to garlic and onions.

Well, one can have a less pungent experience by getting the basic bowl without all of those onions on top. And even if that black oil on top is garlic-based, it was actually rather mild. Actually, one of the things I liked the most about this place was that the tonkotsu broth was very easy on the sodium, and yet was still rich and savory enough to enjoy thoroughly. I'll easily come back (despite the chashu being too lean for my taste), as long as I don't have to interact with any other human beings afterwards.

Ayam Penyet from a Roadside Shack in Batam

Ayam Penyet

I spotted this stall yesterday and made a mental note to myself to come down here when I got a chance. And this morning I still had a couple of hours before having to get on the ferry home, so I popped on down the street to see what was available. It was the usual wooden roadside shack with corrugated sheets overhead, flies swarming, and not much else around. They didn't have any soup available yet, but they said that they could do some ayam penyet. The lady went in the back to get the job done.

It was better than I expected. The chicken was fried perfectly with a thin and crispy skin (as was the chunk of tofu), while the sambal sauce helped facilitate their ingestion. Even more enjoyable was the little block of fried tempeh, which was just short of stinky to be flavorful enough to enjoy.

I was a bit confused about the orange bowl on the side, which looked like plain water but I assumed to be some kind of soup. When I took a sip, it turned out to be indeed nothing but tap water. The man saw me and immediately scrambled to bring me a little jug of water - only then did it dawn on me that the bowl was meant for washing my hands in, and probably wasn't the best thing in the world to be drinking. We'll find out in a little bit whether my stomach agreed with that or not.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Rezeki Rumah Makan & Seafood, Pulau Batam

Gong Gong

We're back at this restaurant on a neighboring island of Indonesia again, but this time with a proper name and address. Well, maybe not an address since I really couldn't find any street names around here, but this was at the end of Batu Besar at 1.15345°N by 104.13988°E.

We got a number of the same things as last time, including those little gong gong conch shells above, chili crab, plus some sort of crayfish. The fried calamari here were still perectly seasoned, but we forgot to get that barbecued fish that we got last time. A repeat visit will have to be in order then, especially since the sambal sauce here is so pleasantly spicy without being too stinky.