Sunday, May 30, 2010

Korat Thai Cafe, Orchard Towers

Pla Nam Tok

After randomly watching Merrilees Parker's old Thailand episode of Planet Food on TV this afternoon, we got the idea of getting Thai food for dinner tonight. But going down to E-Sarn on Sixth Avenue on a crowded Sunday night would have been suicide, so we went to Orchard Towers instead...and this time checking out that other shop on the third floor (400 Orchard Road #03-28, 6736-2282).

It was fine, as the tom yum soup and veggies were pretty much what we were looking for. I was surprised to find them doing nam tok using fish, which could have been fresher, but one couldn't exactly expect much at a place like this. Besides, when one throws that much lime juice, chili peppers, onions, fish sauce, mint, and rice powder on top, there was no way it could taste bad, especially when further distracted by those crunchy deep-fried fish bones as a bonus.

Well, one reason for choosing this shop over Jane's is that there is much more open seating without getting all choked up by spicy cooking fumes. But that's of course if you don't mind sitting in the midst of all of those dodgy establishments around it. Note to self in case I need this in the future: their hours are 6 PM - 4 AM on Fri/Sat and 4 PM - 3 AM the rest of the week.

Wonton Mee from Canton-i, Singapore

Wonton Mee

This Cantonese chain from Malaysia with the funny sounding name at the top of ION Orchard never really got me excited before (2 Orchard Turn #03-14, 6509-8368). But last night when flipping through the menu outside, it looked like the wonton mee might be a worthy contender to my favorite Mak's in Hong depicted in their professionally-produced menu, anyway. I thus came by this morning to see how it would fare.

It was better than I thought it would be, particularly the wontons, whose firm fresh shrimp were pleasantly fragrant...and much better than Noodle Place over at Centrepoint. The noodles were also satisfyingly firm enough for me to get a second bowl. I would still much rather go to Mak's if I could, but this is probably the closest thing I've found without having to head up to HK. Next time I should try the dry version to see if they do the shrimp egg thing here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pizza from La Noce at Valley Point

Margherita Pizza

I was never really a huge fan of La Forketta. And even when this place took over their old premises (491 River Valley Road #01-01, 6877-1986), it looked like any other Italian place, so I never really rushed to come here. But one of the few things I liked about La Forketta was the oven, which of course these guys got in the process. The lady told me that pizzas would only take five minutes, which worked out well for me given that I was in a bit of a rush and yet wanted something fresh and light. As promised, this this thin little thing came out within a few minutes piping hot.

It did the job. After all, it was just a margherita pizza, so it really couldn't get much simpler. But the margins these guys are making on this stuff is amazing. The pizza was S$18 (US$13) while the glass of house red was S$12 (US$8.50). Considering that this had nothing but the fewest of ingredients, they no doubt made some good coin off this. Well, the taste was good enough that I'd consider coming back to try their other stuff, even if at face value it really didn't seem that different from all of the other Italian restaurants around here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My First Alphonso Mangoes from India

Alphonso Mangoes

On my first visit to Rajasthan, I was told by my colleagues to get a box of local mangoes to bring home, as they were in season and considered to be some of the best in the world. I failed in that attempt. But tonight, as we were passing through Mustafa in Singapore, we noticed boxes and boxes of Alphonsos available, so we picked out a couple of individual ones to see what the big deal was.

They didn't look like much from the outside: they were stubby and frankly kinda ugly, unlike the slender perky ones from Thailand. But after cutting into the deep orange inside, it was a lot more encouraging. Indeed, the taste of the flesh was rich that it was almost milky in nature, and of course being extra sweet and juicy too. I now understand what all of the fuss is about, and I like them much more than the Thai version.

Now, I'm not exactly any mango expert, but this has instantly become one of my favorite kinds of fruit. Indeed, I liked it enough to consider going back to Mustafa tomorrow to buy an entire box. It's not cheap, but thus stuff is apparently only in season from April to May, so time is running out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nando's Singapore, Bugis Junction

1/2 Hot Chicken Only

This was an unintentional visit (200 Victoria Street #01-85, 6338-6555). I got on the wrong bus when I left for lunch today, and in a very roundabout way I somehow ended up near Bugis. So I figured that I'd go check out Nando's since I was in the neighborhood anyway (and ironically, across the street from the now defunct AJ's Piri Piri Chicken).

Well, it was pretty much the same spicy grilled chicken that I got in best as I can remember, anyway. But for some reason I really wasn't that satisfied with it this time. Maybe it was because I ordered double portions without a drink nor sides. Maybe it was because I was too stressed with the pile of work that lay ahead of me in the office. Or more likely than not, maybe it was simply because my tastes have changed.

It's funny - I whined for so long about how much I wished these guys were in Singapore, and when they finally got here, I really didn't care anymore. Oh well. At least it's better than Barcelos.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to Noodle House Ken, Singapore

Shio Ramen

Man, I haven't been here in ages. But after a late night at the office, I needed some food, and ramen sounded pretty good. This beat up little shop is one of the few places around that serves it so late. My shio ramen was admittedly a bit discouraging at first (my expectations have no doubt been warped by my preferred version at Baikohken), but it's nothing that a little bit of countertop black pepper and sesame seeds couldn't touch up. It was also nice to find horenso goma available on the side, whose greens made this at least a bit more guilt-free than the usual gyoza companion.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Trader Vic's Tikka Chicken Breast on United

Tikka Chicken Breast with Warm Mango Chutney, Raisin Rice Pilaf, and Edamame Bean Stir-Fry

It's time for more Trader Vic's on United. I went for this chicken breast, which was seasoned more nicely than I expected. But that mango chutney, raisin rice, and edamame stir fry were just too weird and tacky for me. It was in many ways my greatest fear about food from this pseudo-Polynesian restaurant. The first meal may have proven me wrong, but this meal proved me right. I should have listened to myself: eat a full meal at Narita before boarding a flight back to Singapore on United.

Perhaps the bigger letdown was the plane that was parked at our boarding gate. My heart just sank when I saw that 777, as I forgot that United was still using the old school business class seats on this leg. My inbox was overflowing with work and I had planned to use the full 6-7 hours to crank away at a laptop, which would not be possible anymore given the old power outlets. Crap - what a huge loss of productivity. As much as I love routing through Narita for the food and facilities, I need to remember to route through HK next time in order to get the new seats with normal power outlets.

Udon from the ANA Lounge at Narita

Kitsune Udon and Pocari Sweat

Here was a little bowl of udon from the ANA lounge at Narita. The kitsune was sweeter than I was expecting but nonetheless it was good to hit up the noodle bar again. Actually, this time I ended up at the smaller lounge in Satellite 4 rather than the big one at Satellite 5. But it still featured a noodle bar, sake bar, and showers.

The Washoku Zen Selection on United

Washoku Zen Selection

I haven't been too impressed with Japanese meals on United, so usually I'll veer towards something else on the menu. But that "something else" on today's flight was that very same Charlie Trotter chicken with pesto and quinoa that I got last time, so in some ways I had no other choice but to get this.

Fortunately, it was a lot better than I was expecting, with a bowl of soba that wasn't soggy, a tray of tasty grilled chicken that was piping hot, and even a cute little bottle of Geikkeikan sake to go with it all. I'm still not a big fan of the smoked salmon that they keep using, but I guess that in-flight catering can't serve anything raw. Either way, this may be worth gettting again in the future.

I'll have to remember to save the tsukemono next time though. I was a bit puzzled at first since they brought all of the cold items out first, including the tsukemono, but without any rice to go with it. I thus ate it first without realizing that the rice would (and should) come later with the hot chicken.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gold Coast Dogs at Chicago O'Hare Airport

Gold Coast Char Dog

I finally made it over to Terminal 5 (773-462-0125) at O'Hare in order to find out why these Gold Coast guys had won so many awards. It was definitely a step up from the everyday carts in the rest of the airport (despite the wilted appearance of that tomato slice), as the dogs came with the option of being char grilled. Next time I'm interested in trying some of their other stuff, like the jumbo dog, Polish dog, and even Italian Beef. And hopefully it will be easier to find the one in Terminal 3 rather than having to take that airport tram all the way over to the International Terminal.

Note to self: the RCC at the lower end of the B gates has good Boingo reception whereas the one at the C gates does not, so go to the former first before going through the tunnel if you have a C gate flight.

Corned Beef Hash for Breakfast

Corned Beef Hash Plate

Here was a quick plate of corned beef hash from a local shop near the hotel. It could have been just a tad crispier but was still good enough to shovel down with some fresh orange juice on such a nice clear Saturday morning in Chicago.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicago's Weber Grill Restaurant

Weber Grill Resturant

Yep - that's right. The folks behind the Weber grill have opened a few restaurants in the Chicago area, featuring food grilled on none other than industrial-strength Weber grills over hot charcoal. I initially only looked at it as a source of amusement rather than being any place that I actually wanted to eat at, but a local mentioned in passing that this place was very good, so I came by tonight to check it out.

Unfortunately, the grilled steak skewers that I got were uninspiring, with nary a char mark to be seen. Sure, it tasted fine, if suspiciously tender, and I liked the wedge salad that I got with it. But the skewers just seemed like something that one grilled in his own backyard. I can only assume that the rest of the menu is much better given the competition from all of the steakhouses around here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An "Afternoon Box" from United Express

United Express First Class Afternoon Box

For some reason the flight attendant called this an "afternoon box," but it ended up featuring the exact same things we got on the way down here. I still didn't get that wine to go with it though; I had way too much work piled up in my inbox to be able to indulge.

Torchy's Tacos, South Austin Trailer Park

Green Chili Pork Taco and Mexican Coke

This place f*ckin rocks (1311 South 1st Street, 512-366-0537). Normally I shun Tex-Mex in favor of proper Mexican food, but one could argue that this isn't really Tex-Mex either. It's something so uniquely good on its own that I just can't stop thinking about it. Why? Well, as they put it, they have "Damn Good" tacos.

This little stand just blew me away with how delicious their tacos were, particularly the so-called Democrat, which featured a shredded beef barbacoa that was so tender, rich, and even sophistically-seasoned that it disappeared into my mouth in no time. The Fried Avocado Taco, while tasting less unique than it sounded, nonetheless still went down in seconds. My least favorite? The Green Chili Pork Taco...not because there was anything wrong with the taste, but just because it was the most traditional of the ones I tried, relatively speaking that is.

This has instantly become a must-visit for me next time I'm in Austin. Note the Mexican Coke that was available here, something that is prized north of the border because the bottlers in Mexico still use real sugar rather than the American corn syrup-based version. It seemed a bit smoother, but honestly I really couldn't taste that much of a difference.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas

Brisket, Sausage, and Beans

That was awesome...both in terms of food and experience. Inside this giant barn-like structure (619 North Colorado Street, 512-398-2361) sat rows and rows of wooden benches with paper towel rolls perched on top of them. Walk all the way into the back and there were these huge pits where meat roasted away. The main choices were the leaner shoulder meat or the fattier brisket that you ordered by weight. It was thrown onto a couple pieces of butcher paper along with any other meats (like sausages) and paid for on the spot.

But it didn't end there. In order to get sides like beans as well as drinks, one had to go to a different counter in another room and pay for those. And perhaps most interestingly, they provided a plastic knife, but no fork, as one was supposed to use his hands. I awkwardly used a combination of sliced bread together with a stabbing action of the knife, which wasn't very effective but certainly amusing and which ultimately got me through.

The other interesting thing here was that they didn't provide any barbecue sauce, the idea being that good meat shouldn't have to hide behind it. And indeed, this stuff didn't need it. The brisket was so tender and well-seasoned that I gobbled it up with ease (the sausage was fine too, but the brisket was really the star). I was never really a fan of sweet barbecue sauces anyway, so this was right up my alley. I'd much rather eat here than at the Salt Lick.

A Chick-fil-A Sandwich For Lunch

Chick-fil-A Sandwich

With little time in between meetings today, convenience took priority over cuisine. At least there was a Chick-fil-A nearby. Last time I had it, I couldn't really understand why people liked it so much, and I figured that now I could give it another chance.

I still didn't really see what was so good about it though. It was really just fried chicken shoved into a bun with a few pickles. Sure, it came out piping hot and tasted fine (and it got a little better after adding some of that Honey Roasted BBQ sauce), but it's nothing I'll really get cravings for. The greasy salty combination would probably be pretty satisfying after a number of beers though.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

United Express First Class Snack Box

United Express First Snack Box

Man, if United provided snack boxes like these on those HK runs, I'd be all over them. I was impressed by what they included in this one: everything from Moroccan olives to Italian breadsticks (and it wasn't me that propped everything up into a nice display - they brought it to me like that). My only regret was not getting a glass of red wine to go with it on this little regional flight.

A Quick Chicago-Style Hot Dog From O'Hare

Chicago Hot Dog

Here was just another Chicago-style hot dog from one of the many stands at O'Hare. I had forgotten how big the pickles were. Well, it was exactly the quick thing I needed to wolf down before connecting to my next flight.

Warning: Seafood Preparation Ahead!

Seafood Preparation Warning

That was odd. While skimming through United's in-flight entertainment system on this morning's early flight, I noticed the parental warning underneath the Bourdain episode. The first three sounded typical: adult themes, language, and alcohol. But the fourth one was odd: seafood preparation. Huh? When did seafood preparation become unsuitable material? Is it too graphic or something?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shin-Sapporo Ramen, Suntec City Mall

Shin-Sapporo Miso Ramen

I was already on my way down to Keisuke at PARCO Marina Bay when I got this very timely tip to head over to Suntec instead to try out this new place (3 Temasek Boulevard #01-223, 6836-3538). I was pretty disappointed when I got there; based on appearances alone, it looked like the food might be as bad as Great World City's Black Ramen.

So I don't know if it was because my expectations were set so low, but this was a lot better than I thought it would be, with surprisingly springy noodles and a broth that I drank down to the last drop. The service was prompt, and they even had those little mini cans of beer, which was all I really wanted on a Monday night.

Normally I might say that I would come here again if I happened to be in the area (shopping at Carrefour, perhaps?), but the problem is that Keisuke Tokyo isn't that far away, and I'd much rather go there, even if many around here disagree with me. Besides, the gyoza at this shop were depressingly soggy.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Saturday Special from Soprano


These guys (7 Portsdown Road, 6472-2100) are run by the Donna Carmela folks, and it shows in the menu, which similarly features pages upon pages of pasta variations. Today's three-course set meal for S$18 (US$13) included a run at an antipasto spread, followed by a selection of pasta plus a dessert. Too bad those S$5 glasses of wine are gone though; the house red they poured me was S$8 (US$5.75) today.

Friday, May 07, 2010

My Best-Of List: Year Five

It's now Year Five. As usual, here is a list of the ten most memorable meals from the past 365 days. In reverse chronological order:
Shodai Keisuke in Tokyo, Japan
Antica Macelleria Checchini in Chianti, Italy
Pastificio in Rome, Italy
La Costeña in Mountain View, California
Ibu Oka Warung Babi Guling in Bali, Indonesia
Bánh Xèo Mười Xiềm in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tadich Grill in San Francisco, California
Weißwurst and Weißbier in Munich, Germany
Dinner of the Legend from the Banyan Tree Bintan
Daboy Backfat Chicharon from the Philippines

And the honorable mention for a healthy item that is tasty enough for me to eat regularly? A salad from Mescluns is my preferred choice of lunch in Singapore, even though I'll usually go elsewhere if that place is too busy at lunchtime.

Sticker Shock at the Long Bar, Singapore

Jaw-dropping Prices

My jaw just dropped when I saw this sign. S$29.45 (US$21) for a Singapore Sling?? Really? Granted, this was the Long Bar at the classy Raffles Hotel (1 Beach Road, 6412-1816). And sure, with that you got those endless buckets of local peanuts in a unique colonial setting where you could throw the shells on the ground. And maybe that price includes tax and tip too.

But seriously, US$21 for a drink?? Well, I suppose that if one is a tourist passing through town then this place is obligatory (and I've certainly been guilty of indulging in unnecessarily overpriced things). Can't one get this for free on SQ though?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Teochew Olive Rice from Soup Restaurant

Teochew Olive Rice and Samsui Chicken

Olives aren't exactly something that one thinks of when it comes to Chinese cuisine, but apparently preserved ones get used from time to time. And in light of Thai olive fried rice, I guess that the concept doesn't seem that strange. Well, regardless of how olives entered Asian cuisine, I'm rather fond of the Teochew Olive Rice from Soup much that I shoveled a ton of this stuff into my mouth tonight before even touching their famous Samsui Chicken. It's light yet flavorful and hits the spot.

On a separate but related note, I wonder why Soup Restaurant doesn't rename itself to something like Samsui Restaurant or something a bit more reflective of its local heritage. I'm sure that everyone coming to Singapore eats the usual things like chili crab, while Samsui dishes from Soup Restaurant often get overlooked, despite how unique they are. I'll try to remember to bring visitors from out of town here more often.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Drunken Cockles from Putien, Singapore

Drunken Cockle

If that looks like a lot of garlic, it was. And normally I hate dishes that are drowning in garlic (well, almost all of them, I suppose). So I was surprised when this item from a chain of restaurants in Singapore called Putien turned out to be refreshingly good. These cockles were served cold, and the garlic wasn't as overpowering as it might look, thus keeping it nicely in check. It was only after we paid the bill did I realize that these were called "drunken cockles" must have been a really light rice wine or something if there were any alcohol in it.