Saturday, April 30, 2011

Anar, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore

Hummus with Beef

I'd been looking forward to coming here ever since I heard that a Persian restaurant from Dubai had opened up on Sentosa (26 Sentosa Gateway #01-291, 6884-6989), even if it looked a bit fancy. Reviews that I had read about its other outlets weren't very encouraging either, but I was hopeful that a shop coming from the region might provide a properly sized bed of rice.

Well, the good thing was that the food was better than I thought it would be. The flatbread came straight out of the oven crispy and hot, making starters like this hummus and baba ganoush go down easily. And the kubideh that we got was tender and tasty. But in an attempt to dress up the presentation, they only provided a slice of tomato stacked up with other veggies for color rather than the entire fruit straight from the skewer. The rice was just a small portion, and they didn't provide any somagh to sprinkle on either.

At least they gave a very nice olive oil for us to drizzle on the hummus, and honestly we did leave satisfied in the end. It was definitely a nicely decorated place too, with a wait staff that did the job to boot. But I'll probably still end up going to Shiraz if I need my kubideh fix.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bengali Food from Mustard, Little India

Chicken Rezalla with Luchi and Maacher Paturi

I've been told by mutiple people to come to this place (32 Race Course Road, 6297-8422) over the years. Only yesterday did I finally make it down here with some colleagues, and I liked it so much that I came right back again today. They serve Bengali and Punjabi food as a result of two friends that started the place, but we stuck purely to the Bengali side. It was named Mustard after all, which I learned is a key Bengali ingredient. In fact, I was surprised to find that one of the mild mustard dips we got with a fried fish appetizer was kind of reminiscient of some whole grain mustards from Europe (but definitely not that mass produced French's yellow mustard that one squeezes onto hot dogs in the US).

Well, it was really another fish that brought me back here the next day: the maacher paturi, or a fish smothered in mustard and steamed in a banana leaf that was so amazingly tender that I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Once it came out, I singlehandedly cleared the entire fish together with a couple of deep fried luchi flatbreads in just a couple of minutes. Yes, it was that good. See, the great thing about Bengali food is that it is not the spicy salty stuff that one might normally associate with "Indian food." Instead, it's very seafood based, and kept lighter as a result. In that sense, it's kinda like the epiphany I had earlier this month about food in Xiamen being so light and fresh that it was completely unlike the heavy oily stuff that one usually gets in Beijing. I definitely prefer the former.

Now, there were of course some interesting twists. That white curry pictured above, or chicken rezalla, featured a whole chili pod that was apparently the result of outside influences, while the curry itself was so rich that I nearly passed out - in a good way. It was unlike other curries that one might normally think of with a bunch of spices ground up to give it a dark color. This was heavily yogurt-based, providing a unique tanginess at the end that I just loved. Other key highlights here included the chingri maacher malai curry, or prawns in a delicious coconut sauce, as well as aloo jhuri bhaja ar cholar dal, or lentils with a shoestring potato topping. It actually wasn't as magnificent as I imagined it to be, but I'd still order it again. Either way, this place rocks, and I'm definitely coming back for that maacher paturi. And I'm keeping that entire fish all to myself. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yaki Miso from Shimbashi Soba

Yaki miso and tsuke miso

That was awesome. See, one of my favorite Japanese bar snacks is yasai sutiku, or basically crudite with a bit of savory miso paste as a dip. But these guys brought out two kinds of miso, one of which was on a little wooden paddle and grilled over a flame, giving it a delightfully smoky aroma. And yes, the other miso was good too, with a smooth and comfortingly hearty taste. They've really gotta provide more veggies though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chahan from Keisuke in Singapore


Here was the chahan from Keisuke. I liked the abundant smoky oil aroma, and they provided pretty generous chunks of meat in there too. I seem to remember liking Ohsho's version even more, but it's hard to say that given that it's been a while since I've eaten there. This was a worthy contender either way, especially when it's only S$6 (US$5).

And I'm glad that at least Keisuke's shoyu ramen survived the shop's menu overhaul last year. With that new order form that they have, it makes it easier for me to tell them to make sure my noodles are cooked extra firm, with the bonus more of that lovely oil on top. It just goes so well with that soy sauce and bonito flavor combination underneath.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dinner on Air China Tonight

Beef with Noodles

The dinner selections on the return flight today were for either seafood with rice or beef with noodles. I grabbed the latter, which was better than I thought it would be given previous experiences with Air China. But that potato salad-thing in the corner was kinda nasty. I didn't even bother finishing it.

Gulangyu Island in Xiamen, China

Fishball Soup

Xiamen continues to surprise me. There's a little island called Gulangyu that is just a five minute ferry ride away from downtown, making it a convenient place for my lunch break before scrambling off to the airport. With its colonial architecture and lack of cars, it reminded me a bit of Catalina back home. The main thing I was told to get was fishball soup, which I found pretty quickly after getting off the ferry. I wasn't expecting these to be so chewy, nor so small compared to big ones used in Taiwan. But it was fine, especially with an unexpected dash of cumin on top.

Barbecued Seafood

As I proceeded further inwards to see what else was available, I was surprised by all of the street snacks available, be it little sesame candy to freshly squeezed orange juice to savory steamed rice dumplings. There was lots of seafood available of course, including live specimen held in tanks outside sit-down restaurants as well as little snacks put on a streetside grill. The crab looked great but would have been a struggle to eat given how small they were, so I grabbed that skewered squid instead, complete with its inedible pen, as I found out after finishing it. Its earthy, spicy sauce made it tasty, but word to the wise...don't wear a white shirt like I did; the brown sauce splattered onto my clothes when trying to bite off a piece, eliciting a few swear words from me in public.

Clockwise from bottom: clams, five spice meat, and some jelly stuff

On my way back, I stopped at one more shop to round out my meal, getting not only an order of clams (I just can't resist), but also some strange jelly-like things that were apparently also very local. Well, the mustard and vinegar seasonings made them taste better than they looked and sounded at least. Anyway, I've come to realize what an underrated destination Xiamen is. Gulangyu had the street food culture of Taipei but put it in a cleaner and cozier Catalina-like place. There were definitely little differences though; milk tea was available all over the place, but instead of those big tapioca pearls and a fat straw like they do in Taiwan, they gave you a spoon to scoop out the raisin bran that they had puzzlingly put into it instead.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grand Harbour Restaurant, Xiamen, China

Some Kind of Chashaobao-like Thing

This photo isn't even really illustrative of the food we had tonight; it just happened to be one of the few photos that I got that looked half-interesting (310 Huandao South Road, 799-9999). Anyway, this was part of a giant banquet of seafood from Xiamen tonight, and I liked nearly everything that they served here, be it a bunch of shellfish like lobster, crab, and clams to some kind of a chicken whose mildly tough meat was tastier than any other chicken I've had before. Even the noodles and vegetables that they provided were delicious (the thing above was some kind of hollow bun featuring sweet pork inside...a bit like a cha shao bao).

I have to confess that Xiamen is nothing like I thought it would be. It's refreshingly laid back compared to the big cities that I've been to in China, and the food has been much lighter too. I pointed out to one of my local dining companions that I was expecting most food in China to be salty and oily, whereas the food here was very delicate and pure. Perhaps to no surprise, he said that was because locals here are adamant on having the freshest seafood, and putting too much oil on it just covers up its naturally savory taste. I couldn't agree more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nan Pu Tuo Su Bing from Xiamen

Nan Pu Tuo Tarts

The same check-in guy at the hotel also recommended I make my way to this place for some unique kind of tarts. It was actually quite an adventure to get here; the cabbie had to talk his way through the guards at Xiamen University since this one-and-only shop is on campus.

Or perhaps more precisely stated, it's at the Nanputuo Buddhist temple near campus. These are vegetarian as a result, and hence was nothing like those lard-ridden egg tarts from HK, despite the similar appearance. The pastry was thin, but the coconut filling that I chose kept me happy. If I understood them correctly, these are baked fresh daily.

Li Da Xuan Sha Cha Mian, Xiamen

Sha Cha Mian

This was a bit of an adventure. When I told the hotel check-in desk about that great shacha noodle that I had earlier today for lunch, they suggested that I go to another shop, which they wrote down on a piece of paper. I thus went there after my afternoon meeting for a quick dinner, but it turned out to be closed. After a number of twists and turns, the cabbie finally took me here as a fallback (59 East Jiangtou Road, 552-9058)‎, which he said has been around since he was a kid.

It once again took me a second to figure out the system. The guy finally opened up this cooler where a variety of meat and offal sat on ice for you to choose from. I picked a few relatively tame items and let him have at it. Their version turned out to be less punchy than I was hoping for, but nonetheless I still drank that savory dark soup until it was dry. And it was all for only 15 RMB (US$2.30).

Huang Ze He Peanut Soup Restaurant, Xiamen

Sha Cha Noodles and Peanut Soup

That brown tub on the left may look kinda nasty, but it totally brought a smile to my face after I tasted it. See, I'm a huge fan of Taiwanese shacha sauce, and when I got some local shacha noodles from Xiamen today, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But it turned out to be exactly the briny spicy stuff that I like so much...and it was only now that I realized that this stuff is actually more common across the Fujian and Chiuchow areas rather than just Taiwan. It was definitely pure shacha sauce instead of TK Noodle's rendition though.

Actually, this shop (22 Zhongshan Road, 202-4670), as one can tell from the name, is better known for that small dessert cup in the upper right corner of the photo rather than the noodles. It was basically a mildly sweet peanut soup that is very common around here. It tasted like it sounds, and wasn't anything that blew me away, but it was a refreshing thing to have after that bowl of savory noodles. Perhaps more amusing here is the old school paper ticket system that they use here; it took me a second to figure out how to pay, order, and get my change back.

Breakfast on Air China

Breakfast on Air China

Breakfast on Air China this morning consisted of a choice of a Western or Chinese breakfast. I grabbed the latter, which to my surprise was nothing but a tray full of plain porridge.

Sure, there were some pickles on the side to give it a bit of flavor, but honestly even the free porridge at the lounge in Changi was better than this, as that was more of a Cantonese fish congee rather than this plain rice stuff. It was interesting to find some kind of a minced ham filling shoved inside of the bread roll though.

Speaking of Changi, I was surprised to see that renovations in Terminal One were still ongoing after all of this time, making this place look pretty downscale compared to the other terminals.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Banganapalli versus Alphonso Mangoes

From left: Banganapalli Mangoes and Alphonso Mangoes

It's mango season now, so we went down to Mustafa to check out their selection. We of course grabbed some of those kicka$$ alphonsos, but they also had another variety called banganapalli, which we bought as a comparison. The verdict? Alphonsos by far. The banganapallis were very light in flavor and had nothing of the rich milky sweet taste of the deep orange alphonsos.

To be fair though, the banganapallis we had weren't very ripe, and actually one of the other alphonsos we had wasn't ripe either, thus making it sour. But the ripe alphonsos were still awesome, thus easily justifying the S$13.90/kg (US$5.50/lb) price over the S$8.90/kg (US$3/lb) banganapallis. I think it's time to go back and buy a box of those alphonsos while they are still in season.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Medzs, Orchard Central, Singapore

Grilled Seabream

A new place at the basement of Orchard Central finally opened today (181 Orchard Road #B2-01, 6238-9028). It was basically like Marché but featuring Mediterranean food rather than Western European. They weren't afraid of acknowledging where their inspiration came from either; the greeter handing out those charge cards at the front told me straight up that it works "like Marché" with its various food stations and electronic payment system.

Yes, just like Marché, they had little things on each table to indicate whether it was taken or not. Just like Marché, they had utensils and napkins placed on wooden stands around the venue. And perhaps most amusingly, just like Marché, they were offering rösti, which isn't exactly the most Mediterranean of dishes. But they probably figured that rösti was a huge reason for Marche's success, and hence they couldn't do without it either, as inconsistent with the theme as it might seem. (Well, it was also a bit strange that they were selling pizza and pasta through the Greek station, among other weird things, but that's just nitpicking.)

Eccentricities like that aside, one thing that will bring me back here again is the taste of the food, particularly that grilled seabream above, which was perfectly seasoned, as well as their homemade pasta, whose texture was just right. In fact, I had lunch here earlier today too, and I liked it enough that I came back for dinner despite all of the teething problems they were having on their first day (charging my card properly, preparing my food quickly, etc.). The salad and juice bars here were also a bit sad compared to Marché (and the pizza was atrociously limp), but I'll put up with that if the rest of the food can taste as good as it did today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pesto Orecchiette with Eggplant on United

Orecchiette in pesto sauce with eggplant and sun

Cool - United is still doing a decent midair pasta on the connection out of Hong Kong. Tonight's selection featured an orecchiette that wasn't as overcooked as the pasta from last time, and also with a pesto whose garlic was not overpowering. And with that tasty shredded cheese topping, I gobbled this up in seconds. But unlike the long haul leg out there, this route is still featuring those small wilted salads and teacups with saucers.

Curtis Stone on United

Some Two Colored Beet Salad from Curtis Stone on United

Thank God my upgrade went through on the return leg. In business class today, they were featuring food from Curtis Stone instead of the usual Charlie Trotter and Trader Vic's. Not only did I enjoy this salad of his in spite of my dislike of beets, but I was also surprised by how amazingly tender the Hunter's Style Jidori Chicken was in my main course. Indeed, his dishes all featured ingredients that I never would have expected on an airplane.

More importantly, it was nice to see United breaking away from its usual routine. Instead of that tiny rice-bowl-sized salad paired with a prawn starter, we got a properly-sized plate of greens now. Instead of the usual slice of cake for dessert, we got a gigantic ball of ice cream that came covered in a playful chocolate hardshell. And instead of those little cup-and-saucers that they previously used for coffee and tea, we got real coffee mugs. Bravo! I wonder - is this by chance a result of their merger? I've never flown Continental before so I wouldn't know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boulette's Larder, San Francisco, California

Scrambled Eggs with Seafood Pavé

After an unsuccesful attempt yesterday, I managed to grab breakfast here (1 Ferry Building Marketplace, 399-1155) before scrambling to the airport this morning. And I'm so glad that I did. This was not only the best meal of the trip, but was probably one of the best meals that I've had in a while...and this is all coming from someone who normally skips breakfast.

The key difference here is the quality of the ingredients. All of it just shone through, be it the quality of the eggs and butter or the herbs and seafood in the little crabcake-like pavé. Yum...I wish I had eaten here every morning this week. Oh - and in case you're wondering, a "larder" is basically just a pantry, as I just found out myself. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Underdog in the Sunset District, SF

Vegan Smoked Chipotle Dog and Cole Slaw

A place carrying a tagline of "The Organic Sausage Joint" isn't exactly anything that would normally interest me. But I still came down to this tiny little place (1634 Irving Street, 665-8881) since they had a wide selection of sausages that seemed worthy of a try. I was a bit surprised by how spartan they were; they came out naked in a bun, leaving it to you to choose from a variety of mustards as well as the usual sauerkraut, relish, and onion toppings. But the Spicy Italian dog that I got worked for me.

Unfortunately, that's when I decided that one wasn't enough, and that it'd be worthy to venture over to the vegan side of the menu to see if those would be any good. Yep - those were vegan hot dogs, made with organic soy and wheat. I'll pass on those next time, as this smoked chipotle dog was dry and certainly nothing that inspired me. I'll still come back for the meat versions, although I'll probably just go to Showdogs if I don't need to go way out to the Inner Sunset.

Breakfast at Cowgirl Creamery, San Francisco

Baked Egg & Cheese Sandwich

It wasn't my intention to come here two days in a row. I actually came down to the Ferry Building looking for breakfast at another shop, but they weren't open yet. So I came here and grabbed this baked egg and Gruyère cheese sandwich, featuring kale, mushrooms, and pancetta on Acme Bread. This savory little thing came out piping hot and was exactly what was needed on this drizzly overcast morning in the city.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taqueria El Farolito, San Francisco

Regular Carnitas Burrito

The first time I had one of these foil-wrapped burritos in the city, I couldn't understand why everyone up here loved them so much. I mean, the thing was just loaded up with so much rice and beans that it was just stuffing my belly without much taste. Tonight I took the BART down to the 24th Street Station to this place (2779 Mission Street, 824-7877) in the hopes that maybe a proper San Francisco burrito from the Mission District would be different.

Unfortunately, this thing was...well, loaded with tons of beans and rice. The carnitas were not crispy either, although at least those grilled jalapeños kept things fun. Next time I'll see if I can get them to tweak things a bit like they do at La Costeña (they did ask if I wanted "everything" in my burrito after all). There is also another shop just down the street in the other direction called La Taqueria that apparently doesn't use rice; maybe that will be more to my liking.

Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick & Milk Bar, SF

Grilled Cheese & Soup Lunch

My meeting this morning was within walking distance to the Ferry Plaza, so I popped on down here to see what I could grab for lunch before my afternoon meetings started. To my surprise, I didn't really care that much for the Farmer's Market stalls in front today, but nearly everything inside looked great. I finally settled on a grilled cheese sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery (One Embarcadero #17, 362-9354), a cheese shop that now has an extension for food and milk. And the grilled cheese sandwich that I got was delicious.

The bread was light and toasty while the rich cheese played nicely with the watercress and pickled onions that they put in there today. My set included a soup that featured cottage cheese dumpling-like things inside, which helped cleanse the palate. The only letdown was the glass of milk that I added. From a place like this with a "milk bar," I figured that I'd get some super rich and thick glass of milk, but it turned out to be much lighter than I was expecting. That's fine though - it was just a glass of milk.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sam's Grill & Seafood Restaurant, SF

Baked Clams Elizabeth

I've never heard of Baked Clams Elizabeth before. But this old school seafood place here in San Francisco (374 Bush Street, 421-0594) was apparently known for it, so I grabbed it just out of curiosity's sake. Contrary to its appearance, it wasn't covered in cheese and cayenne powder, but rather bread crumbs and paprika, as best as I could make out. It wasn't anything for me to get excited about, but at least the clams were fresh, and the savory juice at the bottom was - as always with clams - fun to drink. Similarly, the dungeness crab cakes that I got as a starter didn't blow me away, but they did the job.

I'd rather go to the Tadich Grill though. It's too bad - Sam's looked exactly like my kind of old school seafood joint here in San Francisco especially with its wood furnishings, tuxedoed waiters, and daily printed menus...not to mention sourdough bread awaiting at each table. But the food was a bit too tame for me...and interestingly there was no cioppino on the menu today either. If I come back, I'll definitely try the fish - it seemed to have been a popular item here.

Singapore Noodles on United Airlines

Singapore Noodles

I couldn't hear what meals they were announcing on that muffled PA system in Economy Class today, so I just randomly picked the "noodles" that my neighbor got, in part simply because I didn't want the alternative omelette. Only after I got my tray did I realize that these were laced in curry powder.

Yep - they were Singapore Noodles, which one can't get in Singapore. Those white strips on top were not cheese, but rather some kind of processed mystery meat. Anyway, it worked, especially since it's been a while since I've had this stuff.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Church's Texas Fried Chicken in Singapore

Two Piece Chicken Set

I've never been to a Church's Fried Chicken before. But they've opened a few outlets in Singapore under the name Texas Fried Chicken (presumably to avoid seeming religious, even if Church was just the founder's family name). Anyway, we popped by one today and ended up liking it. The meat was super juicy while the skin stayed crispy - and the batter was also much lighter than others. The biscuit was similarly airy yet tasty, while the coleslaw also worked. I'll definitely go for the spicy version next time though; the original version was a bit of a bore. And yes, I liked this place better than ChicKing.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Daily Set Lunch at Nijumaru

Buta Katsu Ni Ranchi Setto

This thing is a total steal. Sure, there are plenty of S$10 (US$8) set lunches out there, but this was from Izakaya Nijumaru, and thus featured proper quality food rather than anything watered down. And even though Kushigin downstairs also has some quality lunch sets, Nijumaru is super fast, which is really the most important thing for me during a busy work day. I just wish that my office were a bit closer to here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Goin' Large at Thaksin Beef Noodle

From front: the S$7 version and the S$5 one

I opted for the biggest S$7 (US$5.50) option at Thaksin Beef Noodle today, in part just to see what the difference was between that and the S$5 (US$4) version in the background. One definitely gets more portions - so much that the logo on the bowl isn't visible anymore. The pile of basil that they put on top was so generous that the overhead fans actually blew a few leaves off of my bowl too. Even though I didn't finish the mildly sweet broth, I'll get this one again - and I'll also get the S$0.50 (US$0.40) upgrade for more veggies.

De Burg, 10 Ghim Moh Road

Plain Beef Burger 100g

We needed a quick snack this afternoon, so we followed a suggestion to come down to this open air "coffeeshop" (10 Ghim Moh Road #01-78, stall #3), as apparently they had good burgers. Despite all of the praise we had heard about these guys, I wasn't getting my hopes up, especially after being scarred by Botak Jones in the past.

But this turned out much better than I had thought, with respectable ingredients all properly prepared and assembled into a tasty treat (yes, better than Freshness Burger). We only got a small 100g plain beef burger, but this was encouraging enough that we'll easily come back to try the other stuff on the menu if we are ever in the area again.

Bavarian Breakfast Set from Marché

Bavarian Breakfast Set

I haven't been to Marché in ages, especially after they left Suntec City. But somehow we randomly ended up at their 313@somerset location this morning, and we were very happy that we did. Not only did we forget about the huge abundance of beatifully fresh vegetables that they have there, but interestingly, they were doing this Bavarian Breakfast Set from 10 AM - 12 noon today, featuring Weißwurst, Weißbier, a pretzel, and hot chocolate. Cool.

Now, the single Weißwurst came on a plate rather than a pair in the usual warm water bath, and the pretzel was more like cheese covered bread, but it still worked for me (the rösti came separately though). We're definitely coming back for all of the other stuff they had on display, including raclette. It will also be interesting to see how that new Mediterranean food area turns out at Orchard Central next door when they open later this month.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Kurobuta Shabu Shabu from Sho Teppan

Kurobuta Shabu Shabu

I had always been kinda curious about this place ever since ION Orchard opened (2 Orchard Turn #B3-19, 6509-9969). But I never went in since I wasn't convinced that it would be any good; they strangely used those black iron pots on those individual hot plates even if you weren't ordering nabe. Still, we caved into curiosity tonight and came down here.

The good thing was that the meat was better than I thought it would be, with its thick cuts of kurobuta fat being arguably better than Tampopo's rendition. But they put the veggies into the pot by default, and didn't provide any ponzu sauce either. No, it's nothing that I'm likely to come back for, even if it was cheap. When I realized later that this was from the guys at Tajimaya, it all made sense.