Monday, January 31, 2011

A Selection of Japanese Beer from Meidi-Ya

From left: Suntory The Premium Malt's, Premium Yebisu, Sapporo Winter's Tale Sumiyaki Bakuga Jikomi Limited Edition 2010-2011, and a Mini Sapporo

Here's a selection of Japanese beer that I picked up at Meidi-Ya recently. The Suntory on the left was less malty and more hoppy than the draft version that I remembered having, although that was so long ago that maybe my impression has been skewed by such a memorable name as "The Premium Malt's."

The Premium Yebisu carried a much more pronounced tinge of alcohol. If it were just toned down a bit, I might have liked its otherwise rather hearty taste much more. The blue Winter's Tale Limited Edition was probably my favorite of the bunch. I couldn't really taste any seasonal aspect of it, but it was precisely its crisp and clean nature that I liked.

The little guy on the right is just your everyday Sapporo beer, but just in an amusingly small portion. I'm not really sure what practical use such a small can has, but I surely hope that it's not meant a size meant for children.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Few Sights from Singapore Today

Air Scruff Stretch

Here were some random - if childishly amusing - things that I saw in town this afternoon, the first of which was this neck-stretching contraption available for sale at Millenia Walk. I laugh now, but maybe I should try it first before knocking it.

Siam Kitchen

Next up were these big letters on the wall at Siam Kitchen's Suntec City outlet. Obviously it's meant to just provide a polite hello in Thai, but I had always seen the second word spelled krub instead. The way they've spelled it here probably isn't what one wants to see on the wall at a restaurant, although I guess this isn't the only unfortunate transliteration from the Thai language.

Coo Coo Roo

Finally, here was a stall from Liang Court's new Kopitiam food court. Folks from Los Angeles will be familiar with a rotisserie chicken place called Koo Koo Roo, so it was amusing to see these guys called Coo Coo Roo. They were serving Singaporean chicken rice though (and no, I didn't try it).

Nantsuttei's Karamiso "Nosebleed" Tanmen

Kara-miso Ramen Mouretsu Tanmen Hana-ji Boo

I haven't been to Nantsuttei in ages. It's definitely one of the better shops around town, but it to me it's never been nearly as unique as its neighbor Keisuke, where I almost always ended up instead. But with Keisuke having dropped its ebi ramen, something in the back of my head thought it might be a good idea to turn the other way this afternoon to see if there were anything interesting at Nantsuttei.

Indeed, they've started started offering a karamiso tanmen, complete with four degrees of spiciness and some kind of verbiage involving a fierce nosebleed, if I read it correctly. I went for a #2 ("moderately hot"), which turned out to be hardly spicy at all...and it definitely wasn't anything as uniquely edgy as Kusabi's gekikara ramen. Well, to be fair, the broth was still of high quality; so much that I still got a bowl of rice later to help mop up the remains.

Next time I'll be sure to escalate this to a #3 or #4, as well as remember to tell them to cook the noodles firmer, as this one was way too disappointingly soft. That golden curry ramen and maybe even dragon ramen that I saw them promoting might be interesting too. And oh yeah - next time I'll have to remember to ask for the nori topping; one of the bowls coming out of the kitchen this afternoon had at least five enticing sheets of seaweed adorning it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dubai's ChicKing Fried Chicken, Singapore

One Spicy and One Regular Chicken

A fried chicken chain from Dubai has setup a branch at the new Marina Link extension of Marina Square (6 Raffles Boulevard #B1-16, 6336-3228). The menu looked like a knockoff of KFC, featuring items such as coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and popcorn chicken. I only got a couple pieces out of sheer curiosity.

I liked it. Sure, some of it was a bit greasy, and some of it was a bit dry, but both the spicy and regular batter were tastier than the Colonel in my opinion. Now, I'm not exactly going to go out of my way to clog my arteries with this stuff again, but I sure liked this place a lot better than that Broaster Chicken stuff.

Kogashi Shouyu Ramen from Kusabi

Kogashi Shouyu Ramen

On my way to Hippopotamus last night, I noticed a sign in front of Kusabi's Marina Square outlet featuring some new menu additions. One of them was labeled as kogashi ramen, but the photograph that appeared next to it puzzlingly showed a bowl with white broth. What exactly made it kogashi if there wasn't anything burned in it? The lady behind the counter couldn't answer the question either.

Still, I went back tonight and ordered one on blind faith. It arrived in that murky brown muck above; it certainly wasn't the black color that I was hoping for, but at least it wasn't white either. Then when I leaned in to sniff it, I finally realized what it was all about: it was wok hei, or that lovely scorched grease aroma that one gets from Chinese stir frying. One sip confirmed it: instead of "drinking yakiniku" in Gogyo's rendition, this was more like "drinking Cantonese ho fun."

Cool. It was not only unique, but delicious, in complete contrast to its terrible appearance. With every sip I just kept thinking of greasy noodles from Hong Kong, except of course that these still used ramen - cooked nice and firm, I might add. And while I'm still yearning for Ippudo to bring Gogyo's kogashi down here, I easily still drank this broth all the way down to the last drop. That's another hit from Kusabi in my books.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill, Singapore

Bone Marrow

When I had first heard that this French chain had opened an outlet at Marina Square (6 Raffles Boulevard #01-204, 6338-5352), I had almost no interest in it. After all, it was described as a midrange family restaurant specializing in steak, which to me sounded like Sizzler or even Jack's Place. But today I was in the area and passed by out of curiosity, with no real intent to eat here...that was, until I glanced at the menu and noticed the availability of both bone marrow and steak tartare.


Ah yes - I felt dumb: of course a French steak place would have tartare. I immediately requested it, and paired it with a rather generously sized starter of bone marrow, every single rich morsel of which I mopped up with that bread. The refreshing tartare worked for me too, especially with a pepper mill on each table to assist. Now, I still prefer the spiciness of L'Angelus instead, but this place was a lot better than I thought it would be. I wonder how their steak frites compares to Les Bouchons.

CA Epilogue: Two Buck Chuck vs Three Wishes

Two Buck Chuck

I'm not much of a wine person. Or at least, I'm not that discerning about them. More often than not, the cheapest wine is good enough for me...which is why Trader Joe's Charles Shaw wine at $1.99/bottle in California was cool to find out about. (It's endearingly nicknamed Two Buck Chuck, and has a bit of a cult following too.) I didn't really have time to try this when I was back home, so we brought a bottle back to Singapore (under the duty free limit of course), along with a competing bottle of Three Wishes, which rival Whole Foods launched recently under a directly-aimed slogan of "Chuck the Chuck."

Three Wishes

And now, after having finally opened both bottles, I've determined that I prefer Three Wishes. Two Buck Chuck came off a bit on the harsh side, whereas Three Wishes was much more polished to me. Of course, I really don't know anything about wine, and that was only a comparison of their merlot, so maybe my preference would be reversed for other varieties. But I love this concept of low-priced, non-pretentious yet drinkable wines, and wish that we could get access to something like this over on the other side of the Pacific. It really is cheaper than water.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Korea's Bibigo in Singapore

Tofu and Black Rice Bibimbap

That photo above may look like a boring pile of blanched veggies, but it was actually bibimbap from Bibigo, a chain from Korea that now has an outlet at Raffles City Shopping Centre (252 North Bridge Road #B1-74, 6336-4745). Apparently in other locations it is a fast food shop - and hence the name. But in Singapore they made it a sit-down place, even if they are still using little disposable packets of gochujang hot sauce and sesame oil.

Anyway, I liked it. Rather than taking the usual raw egg route, these guys took a lighter approach, as seen by the availability of tofu and black pearl rice options, making it slightly reminiscient of lei cha fan. And in the same way, I liked how the milder taste made it guilt-free; I will easily come back. But I have to remember to avoid the chicken and rice cake starters - they were just waaaay too sweet for my taste.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Youmenya Goemon, Singapore

Mentaiko Karashi Takana Supageti

I'd been wanting to come down here for a while now but have just been too busy at work to be able to break away for lunch. But today I finally got the chance to come down to the new Marina Bay Link Mall, which in and of itself was surprisingly filled with people and restaurants (man, have I been cooped up for that long??).

Anyway, this is a chain from Japan that has set up shop in Singapore (8A Marina Boulevard #B2-03, 6509-4670), and I liked it enough that I came back again tonight for dinner too. Both times, the noodles were cooked nice and firm, while the sauce - particularly in the shabu shabu pork sesame spaghetti - was loaded with pleasantly rich butter. The cocktail of savory flavors in my mentaiko karashi takana dish above worked well for me too. And service was super fast, which was a huge bonus when one needs to rush back to the office.

Yes, I like this place a lot more than other Japanese pasta places like Bentendo and Pasta de Waraku. It definitely isn't as cheap as Saizeriya, but the tastes here were uniquely punchy enough that I'm coming back to try the other varieties. I just need to remember to avoid the ones with negi during lunchtime unless I want to terrorize the office with dragon breath afterwards.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Osteria Mozza, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Pigs Trotters

We finally made it to the more upscale osteria side of Mozza today. It was physically much livelier than I was expecting, as the wait staff kept shifting around the center of the dining room where a round table in open sight housed various things like silverware, cheese graters, and olive oil. This was also probably one of the only linen-clad restaurants that blasts Pearl Jam, U2, and The Clash overhead. Cool.

Of course, the food was good too, be it the delicate pig trotter pictured above, the pasta that was cooked just right, or the variety of rich and fresh cheeses that we got from their mozzarella bar. All the same, some of the dishes were a bit salty, and it wasn't cheap either. So we'll probably lean toward the pizzeria side in the future.

Paan Puri (not Pani Puri) from India

Paan Puri

A colleague of ours brought these into the office today. Not to be confused with pani puri, these were little Indian sweets meant to mimic betel leaf pan...and indeed features betel leaf paste in the outer layer. I didn't care that much for the rose petal taste in the filling (nor was it as rich as things like mysore pak), but I'm glad I got to try this as apparently it's rather unique even in India.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My First Taste of Makgeolli Rice Wine

Korean Makgeolli Rice Wine

I was looking through the drink selection at the Asiana lounge in Incheon tonight when I randomly picked this one. I can't read Korean, so I wasn't sure what it was, but with the graphics on the front and the white color of the fluid, I figured it was something like a sweet barley drink.

It was only after I tasted it did I realize that it was alcoholic; the staff later explained to me that it was a rice wine. It wasn't very strong and was quite different from soju (and it isn't really anything that I'll reach for again), but it was interesting to try.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Eating Lee's Sandwiches on the Plane

Bánh mì bì

We hauled a couple of Lee's Sandwiches onto the plane today. I tried a new one this time called bánh mì bì, which I thought was supposed to be filled with pork skin but instead was just shredded pork (I guess that's what the label says after all). It thus wasn't as exciting as I would have hoped, despite an interesting bonus of rice powder. But it sure beat those bags of peanuts.

Man, if airlines just handed out bánh mì in flight, then I'd be happy as a clam. Note to self: the SilverKris Lounge at SFO was disappointingly tiny and without much of a food spread either. I'd rather go to United's Red Carpet Club, although at least the SQ lounge has free internet access even for peanut class passengers.