Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chicken with Potatoes on SQ from CGK

Chicken with Potatoes

This was the meal on the way back from Jakarta. The chicken was a bit boring but at least the mashed potatoes were nice and buttery.

Oh - and I forgot to mention yesterday on the way in that I'm liking the changes in the Visa on Arrival process now: the visas now only take half a page, and we finally get a dedicated line so that we don't need to get into the normal immigration lines afterwards like we used to.

But the air is still pretty darned stuffy at that airport. It was so comforting to step onto that 777 this afternoon where it was properly air conditioned.

Mie Ayam at the Premier Lounge in Jakarta

Mie Ayam

Here was a bowl of mie ayam, which was made to order here at the JAS Premier Lounge at Jakarta Airport. It was pretty boring compared to that version that I had outside last time, perhaps because the chili sauces here were uninspiring. I liked the soto ayam here better, even if it was a bit salty. At least it looks like this lounge has been refurbished...it's a lot nicer now than I remember it to be.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Le Seminyak, Jakarta, Indonesia

Sate Lilit

A local client brought me here for a quick bite at the Pacific Place mall (Level 5, unit 38, 5140-0610) in Jakarta. As the name suggests, they were serving Balinese food...except that being in Jakarta, it was halal, so there was no babi guling to be had. They still had a bunch of the other stuff though, be it sate lilit, bebek betutu, or ikan bakar jimbaran. Yes, the food was fine, but it still wasn't the same as being in Bali itself.

Indonesian Chicken with Rice on SQ

Indonesian Chicken With Rice

It's nice to be back on SQ again. In contrast to that flight from last week, this had a few more inches of legroom, a hot meal, and of course no denial at the lounge this time. And to my surprise, this meal was delicious. Boringly called "Indonesian Chicken with Rice" by the flight attendants, it featured yellow nasi kuning with tender cuts of chicken sitting in a spicy coconut gravy. I gobbled this one up in seconds.

Lingzhi Mushrooms at Crystal Jade

Vegetables with Lingzhi Mushrooms

Here were some veggies topped with lingzhi mushrooms, which Crystal Jade was selling at a whopping S$20 (US$16). Presumably it's expensive due to the type of mushroom, which was admittedly tasty. But I don't know if it's the same stuff that I've seen used for medicinal purposes?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Limoncello Pizza & Grill at the Rivergate

Trippa al Forno

La Braceria has always been one of our favorites. Bollicine was too, when they were still around that is. So when we heard that the La Braceria folks had taken over Bollicine's vacant spot at the Rivergate (95 Robertson Quay #01-19, 6634-5117), it was a no brainer to come here. But to our surprise, it was fully booked last night, forcing us to come here for lunch today instead.

I'm not sure if I understand why though. Sure, the quality was as good as I would have expected of La Braceria; the tripe that I had today was tender and tasty. But there were still some basic ingredients that Bollicine had that I liked better, be it the quality of the bread and olive oil there or the branzino which they did en papillote rather than the one that Limoncello did. And yet Bollicine had very few customers, even though it was at the same location and pretty much the same price points...and had arguably even better decor and service.

I suppose that the La Braceria name and publicity helped. That, and the fact that they added a bar, wine cellar, and pizza oven outside. (Interestingly, they were offering four stalks of Spargel here for S$28 or US$23.) Well, the menu here unfortunately did not feature those sausages that I love so much from La Braceria, so I'd still prefer to make the trek up to Bukit Timah for that. I sure miss Bollicine either way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yoshinoya Singapore's Spicy Daikon Topping

Spicy Daikon Beef Bowl

It looks like Yoshinoya is trying to play around with some new toppings again, this time with one featuring mushrooms and another one featuring "spicy daikon." That of course just turned out to be kimchi, which was a bit of a turnoff for me since its strong taste just overpowered the delicate beef bowl taste that I like so much. But the introductory prices for these bowls are actually cheaper than the normal beef bowls, so I'll just order one of these and brush the kimchi off to the side.

More Peanuts and Guava Juice on MH

Peanuts and Guava Juice

Here was the usual peanuts and guava juice on the return leg on MH. I made sure to give them my KrisFlyer number this time on the assumption that they would be more likely to credit the miles for the codeshare partner itself rather than the codeshare partner's alliance. Anyway, tonight's flight was delayed as they were waiting for connecting passengers, which still made me wonder if I should have just taken the bus.

Lot 10 Hutong Heritage Food Village in KL

Some Kind of Beef Noodle

Whoa - that was a heck of a lot better than I was expecting it to be. See, I've never really had a great experience with hawker food in KL. But my colleagues wanted to come here for lunch today; a Malaysian tycoon put all of his favorite hawkers into this air conditioned basement (50 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 2782-3840)...and apparently on a rent-free but commission basis. It turned out that I really liked the food.

I didn't take down the names of the individual stalls nor dishes, but my colleagues basically grabbed a bunch of various noodles and porridge. Most of it was in a dark sauce that I wouldn't have thought I would have liked, but it turned out that it wasn't the sweet concoction that I assumed it to be. Instead, the dishes were rich, aromatic, and quite frankly, delicious. I'm definitely coming here for lunch next time I'm back in town.

Epilogue: In retrospect, now I remember one of the things I liked so much: it was Hokkien Mee in that smoky dark Malaysian sauce, which made it completely unlike the Singaporean version. Of course, those little bits of pork lard in there never hurt either.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Naab Iranian Fine Cuisine, Kuala Lumpur

Lamb Koobideh

Just as I was running out of inspiration of places to eat here in KL, it occurred to me that there were a number of Middle Eastern restaurants around. One building next to the Grand Millenium Hotel in fact had an entire row of shops varying from Moroccan to Lebanese. My favorite of course is Persian, so we made our way down to the end of the street (130 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 2143-3949), which incidentally was a shop that one of my colleagues recommended too.

I was a bit concerned at first since it was on a touristy drag in the middle of the city, but it kinda made sense as this was apparently a place that Middle Eastern tourists would go to when on vacation here. And the good thing was that the food turned out better than I thought it would be, with two delicious eggplant appetizers to start: mirza ghasemi with a fried egg on top as well as a more unique kashk o bademjan topped with dried yogurt and garlic. The dough drink I got was nice and rich too.

And when my perennial favorite koobideh came out, it reaffirmed our decision to come here. The lamb was moist, the rice came accompanied with butter, and the raw onions even came in both red and white varieties. Now, the portions still weren't the gigantic ones that I was thinking of (and the rice was a bit dry), but nonetheless I left here stuffed. I now have a new preferred place to go to when I head up to KL.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phang Yuk Yat Bak Kut Teh in KL

Malaysian Bak Kut Teh

This is only my second time having Malaysian bak kut teh, but somehow it is growing on me. A former colleague brought us here (19 Jalan Medan Imbi, 2148-9334). I didn't think I would like this place: when the food came out, there was a strong whiff of medicinal Chinese herbs. But it hardly tasted that way when I drank it, and the tender pork was much tastier than I was expecting. The veggies in the soup were a nice touch, and I liked the soup here better than that shop down the street too. The only thing I wasn't a big fan of was the intestines, which were face-clenchingly bitter.

My First Malaysia Airlines Codeshare

Peanuts and Guava Juice

No, the peanuts and guava juice on tonight's flight weren't anything to get excited about. But it was an interesting experience on a codeshare with Malaysia Airlines. The flight was booked through Singapore Airlines, so I thought that the usual SQ processes would apply, especially since it carried an SQ flight number.

As it turned out, I could not check in at the SQ counter, thus forcing me into the MH lines without a priority queue. I could not get into the Star Alliance lounge because I was on an MH operated flight, and MH wouldn't let me into their lounge because my status was with Star Alliance. The check-in agent took my United number but somehow I suspect that they won't be able to give me those miles. I probably should have given them my KrisFlyer number instead.

Well, it's not like it's that many miles on this short hop to KL anyway. And after all, Changi is such a nice airport on its own that lounge access really isn't anything that beneficial. But I'll definitely try to stick to a proper SQ flight next time...or even better, take the bus since I can be much more productive that way. Note to self: Tai Wah has an outlet in Terminal 2 now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Spargel Season at Marché


It's Spargel season again, and Marché certainly wasn't afraid to haul some in from Germany and charge nearly S$20 (US$16) for this plate. Yes, it was tender and delicate, but I'm still not sure if I get what all of the fuss is about. Maybe I just haven't had the right rendition yet.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Amusing Things from a Saturday

Sangaria Hop Aroma Non-Alcohol Beer

Here was a Japanese beer that I picked up from Daiso this morning. It wasn't anything exciting, but hey, being non-alcoholic meant that I didn't need to feel bad about drinking it with breakfast. :)

Banchan with bong bong and ssack ssack

I wanted to show the bibim naengmyeon that we had from Dal-In tonight (17 Boon Tat Street, 6225-1006), but the guy pulled out his scissors so quickly that I couldn't get the shot (it was impressively refreshing and spicy though). So instead, I'm appending this photo, which was centered on the banchan, but should have focused more on the Korean grape and orange juice drinks, which were amusingly called bong bong and ssack ssack respectively. The grape juice actually had little peeled grapes coming out of that little hole in the can, while the orange juice was surprisingly pulpy.

Doraemon Pokemon Disney and Hello Kitty Kamaboko

Finally, we've seen ANA's logo on kamaboko, but how about your choice of cartoon characters? Meidi-ya had a selection of Doraemon, Pokemon, Disney, and Hello Kitty. No, I didn't buy any.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another Mango Shootout: Vietnam vs Myanmar

From left: Vietnamese R2E2 and Burmese Santa Lone

Time for another mango comparison. This time, we found these big Vietnamese mangoes on the left for S$2.99 (US$2.40) at Giant, and compared them to Burmese Santa Lone on the right for S$2.50 (US$2.00) from Tanjong Pagar Market. The Vietnamese one was clearly bigger, and provided a ton of juicy flesh that was respectably tasty too.

But the biggest surprise was the Burmese ones. They weren't as rich as Indian alphonsos, but they were so amazingly sweet that it almost seemed as if they injected sugar water into them or something. Awesome. No wonder why the little sticker on them carried taglines like "World's Best Tasting Mango" and "Pride of Myanmar." I'm gonna have to go buy more of these.

Buttered Sunflower Seeds from China

Sunflower Seeds With Butter

That was different. We got these at a gas station today...they were sunflower seeds in their shells but they did them up in butter, sugar, and spices like anise, cumin, cloves, and licorice. That made them surprisingly addictive, even if it seemed a bit artificial...kinda like movie theater butter. Anyway, these were from some factory in Guangzhou, it appears. And I liked them better than the way they do them back home, kinda like the way I like local Farmer's Brand peanuts.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Salad Chicken McGrill from McDonald's

Salad Chicken McGrill

That was nasty. I had less than five minutes to eat lunch today, and the only thing around that could serve me so quickly was the Golden Arches. And the healthiest thing on the menu appeared to be this salad, whose chicken was terrible. Sure, it was moist, but it was too moist; it had none of that aroma or texture that I would have thought to accompany a product with the word "grill" in it. The veggies were pretty much just the same stuff that they put into burgers, making it not much more than just the sandwich without the bun...a bit like a salad at Subway. Well, at least it was fast.

Mee Rebus from the Sun Coffee Planet

Mee Rebus

I don't exactly eat a lot of mee rebus, but I have to confess that I kinda liked this today. The chili peppers had some kick and the noodles weren't too soft. Plus, it was dirt cheap at less than S$4 (US$3.20) in the air conditioned comfort of this 24 hour shop across from Great World City.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My First Taste of Bacalao al Pil-Pil

Bacalao al Pil-Pil con Jamon Langostinos

Remember that San Sebastian episode of A Cook's Tour where they kept swirling earthenware so as to emulsify olive oil with pieces of bacalao? That's a quintessentially Basque dish, and we got it here at Bilbao Restaurant & Gastrobar (111 Somerset #02-16, 6737-0150). It wasn't cheap, but there probably isn't anywhere else in Singapore that makes this either.

Now, the photo above isn't the best illustration, as the fish is obstructed by the prawns that these guys paired it with, but I really liked the pronounced olive oil taste that came through in that thick yellow sauce. Granted, my experience with Basque food is very limited (and I didn't really get to try much else here tonight either), but a Basque friend of ours liked this place, which says enough that I'll come here again to give the other stuff a try.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

My Best of List: Year Six

It's now Year Six. As usual, here is a list of the ten most memorable meals from the past 365 days. In reverse chronological order:
XOCO in Chicago, Illinois
Mustard in Little India, Singapore
Boulette's Larder in San Francisco, California
Bismillah Biryani in Little India, Singapore
The gekikara ramen from Kusabi in Singapore
Pizzeria Mozza at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
Santi at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
Hantengri in Beijing, China
Alphonso mangoes from India
Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas
And the honorable mention for a healthy item that is tasty enough for me to eat regularly? Interestingly enough, Marché, a place that I rediscovered recently for being able to get a salad or vegetables.

Orechiette on United Again

Orechiette pasta with pesto cream sauce, eggplant, and sun-dried tomato

As much as United has a tendency to repeat certain things on its menu (i.e., omelettes, filet mignon, and prawn appetizers), I'm glad that they are all into this pasta thing. Tonight's version with eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes was light yet tasty, even if there was less pesto than last time. They still provided parmesan cheese for you to sprinkle on, and the pasta wasn't overcooked either.

Precious Congee at HK Terminal 1 Airside

Fresh Mushroom and Chicken Congee

Actually, I wasn't even looking for porridge tonight. For some reason, I got the craving for a quick bowl of wanton mee, and was hoping to grab something at the food court on my way out to the gate. Unfortunately, the only shop serving noodles at this food court was Chen Fu Ji, a shop commonly found across Singapore. So in an attempt to try to find something more unique, I tried their next door neighbor (Level 6 West Hall Airside Food Court, 2261-0586), which carried a peculiar name of Precious Congee (surely it sounded better in Chinese).

Perhaps more peculiar was a section on the menu deemed "fresh" congee. I wasn't sure what that meant, especially since I can't imagine that implies that the other congee wasn't fresh. At one point, I almost flinched and left when I guessed that "fresh" meant that it was done on the spot, and hence wasn't stewed all day into a grainless sludge like I prefer. But I still went ahead with it, and fortunately it was the tasty Cantonese goop that I wanted. My only gripe? The chicken was still attached to little bones, making this frustratingly difficult to eat before rushing to the gate. Oh well.

Draco Beer from the TG Lounge in HK

Whisbih Draco Super Premium Beer

This was just a random beer that I found in the refrigerator at the Thai Airways lounge in Hong Kong. The can proudly bragged about being "imported" yet conveniently had no mention of where it was made, so I thought maybe it was something like Blue Girl beer. But a quick search suggested that it was from Taiwan, of all places. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and was certainly better than Taiwan Beer.

Anyway, as a follow up to the Hong Kong UA vs TG lounge discussion, I still prefer the RCC instead. Even if they give you a toothbrush here, the showers in the TG lounge are much smaller and don't have a toilet attached. There is a fancy shower head with multiple jets but it was pretty useless and in fact a bit painful. Assuming that I can get a proper internet connection at the UA lounge next time (it was down last time, which is why I came here today), then I'll still go to the RCC.

Friday, May 06, 2011

A Vegetarian Spring Roll on United

Vegetarian Spring Roll with Ginger Soy Sauce

Interesting. Our starter today was this single spring roll rather than the usual prawns. It wasn't exactly Vietnamese gỏi cuốn; it was thick and stubby, featured red onions rather than spring onions, and was completely vegetarian. But at least it had mint in it, and one has to give them credit for trying at least. It just strikes me as a bit of an ambitious choice given the challenge of keeping the rice paper fresh when caterers had to pack it into an airplane hours earlier.

Gold Coast Dogs vs. America's Dog at ORD

Polish Dog

I needed to stop by Terminal 5 at O'Hare before checking in this morning, so I took advantage of my presence there to hit up Gold Coast Dogs at the food court again. This time I got the Polish sausage, which was delicious despite the fact that the guy burned the tail end of my dog to the point where it was split open. But it's precisely because these guys flame grill these things that I like them so much. Unfortunately, it was kinda sad that those tomato slices were - yet again - so pathetically wilted. It didn't suggest much care that these guys put into the food, but the sport peppers still provided a spicy kick that blew past any of those concerns anyway.

Chicago Dog

It was only on my way up from the shoe shine in the tunnel to the C gates in Terminal 1 that I realized that there was a big hot dog shop there called America's Dog (if it's been there for a while, then I must have been too distracted by the nearby Red Carpet Club or even the Billy Goat Tavern previously). Even though I didn't need anything more to eat, it was hard to resist when their signs boasted of being voted the number one hot dog in Chicago. I thus grabbed the namesake dog, which was not flame grilled and thus not that much different to me than the many other stands around the airport. But it would be interesting to try some of the other stuff on the menu, which seems to include varieties like a deep fried hot dog as well as one slathered in buffalo wing sauce. Mmm...

Chilaquiles at Rick Bayless' XOCO

Wood-Oven Chicken Chilaquiles

Yes, I know that I was just here last night. But there was a sign I saw that said that they opened at 8 AM for breakfast, and some of the things they had looked delicious, so I made a note to come down here for breakfast this morning. This serving of chilaquiles was small but sufficient. Had I known it was this small though, I would have gotten some churros to go with it. I still love this place either way.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Rick Bayless' XOCO in Chicago

Wood-Roasted Chicken Pozole

Every time I watch Mexico: One Plate at a Time on TV, I can't stop myself from salivating. So it was fortunate when I realized that I wasn't too far from Rick Bayless' outfits in Chicago today. And while my initial intention was to go to his famous Frontera Grill (or even alleged Obama family favorite Topolobampo), something about his casual shop XOCO next door appealed to me tonight, so I went there instead (449 North Clark Street, 334-3688).

Actually, I know exactly what it was that appealed to me: he had Mexican soups there. I grabbed a pozole, which was surprisingly conservative when it came to garnishes, but the light broth was strikingly tasty, while the heat from the ground chili peppers provided a nice lingering burn after I was done. Rock on.

I'm definitely coming back to his shops next time I'm in town. There were so many things that I noticed tonight that looked amazing, be it the churros and chocolate, big selection of local craft beers, or even some kind of a Mexican vanilla soft serve. Besides, any shop that provides you with sparkling water on tap clearly knows how to resonate with my heart. That was awesome - and not just because today is Cinco de Mayo.

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria, Chicago

The Malnati Chicago Classic

I've always found it a bit difficult to like Chicago-style pizza. Pretty much every rendition that I came across in the past was loaded up with too much boring dough, which just didn't appeal to me. But after coming to Lou Malnati's tonight, I finally understand why people like this stuff so much.

I don't know if it is unique to this shop (they've trademarked "their famous Buttercrust"), but I'd hardly call the pizza crust here "dough" or "bread." It was so rich and crumbly that it was more like the crust you'd find keeping an apple pie together (or possibly even the lardy crust in a Cantonese egg tart), and it was so delicious that it was worth the 30 minute wait. The sausage, cheese, and sauce were really just incidental.

OK so now I get it. While it's the toppings that appeal to me when it comes to New York pizzas (and arguably even proper Italian ones), for Chicago, it's all about the crust. And I guess that's why Mario Batali's Mozza is so awesome as it does a kicka$$ job of both. Just don't get any of that run-of-the-mill cheap delivery stuff that is so common across the rest of the US.

A Fruit Plate on United Domestic

Fruit Plate

No, it's not like this was a special plate of fruit or anything. It was just unexpected given how we didn't get any meal on the way down. I guess this return leg via O'Hare was long enough to serve food.

Za Za Cuban Coffee, Orlando Airport

Clockwise from right: quesito, tostada, and café con leche

I made sure to try to grab some of that Cuban coffee for breakfast at the airport this morning. The café con leche was more like a latte rather than those little café cubana espresso shots, but they still featured that awesome sugar that made this thing so easy to drink all the way to the last drop.

To go with this, I grabbed a tostada, or toasted Cuban bread slathered in butter. It was pretty boring on its own, but the idea was to break it apart and dip it in into the coffee, which made it much more palatable. I also got a quesito, which is apparently Puerto Rican rather than Cuban. Either way, how can a pastry featuring a filling of cheese whipped with sugar and eggs not be tasty?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Shrimp and Grits from Florida

Shrimp and Grits

I needed a quick top-up meal tonight and grabbed this serving of shrimp and grits. The yellow stuff may look like scrambled eggs, but it was just grits made yellow by a very rich cheese. I was kinda hoping for a more basic version instead, but this was still tasty (and the shrimp, from Cape Canaveral, were fresh).

Monday, May 02, 2011

Cuba Libre, Orlando, Florida

El Pollo Del Solar

I have no idea how authentic this was (9101 International Drive, 226-1600), as my knowledge of Cuban food is very limited. But I suppose that this lime and garlic marinated chicken did the job, even if it wasn't nearly as punchy as the Cuban chicken that I know from Versailles in Los Angeles. Either way, the service tonight was friendly, and a few mojitos never hurt either. I am assuming that this place is completely unrelated to Cuba Libre in Singapore.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bringing a Potbelly Sandwich on the Plane

Original Italian Sandwich on Thin-Cut Wheat Bread

No layover at Dulles is complete without stopping at Potbelly Sandwich Shop. I'm so glad that I did too; for some reason, they didn't serve any food on the connecting flight out of Dulles tonight, so this ended up being my dinner on the plane. And while I got the "thin-cut" bread this time, it was just as amazingly delicious as I remembered it to be, with the mayo/mustard/oil combo plus pickles, peppers, and seasonings creating an explosion of flavor. Hands-down, these guys make some of the best sandwiches ever.

The Japanese Meal on UA 804

The Japanese Meal on United

I usually try to avoid the Japanese meal on United, but I ended up getting it today as it was the healthiest thing on the menu. Fortunately it was a lot better than I remembered, as they finally dropped that smoked salmon nigiri from last time, and the soba was firmer than I was expecting. I didn't really care for the vegetable maki nor the hot salmon main course, but at least I remembered to save the tsukemono for later this time.

Note to self: next time you are headed to Dulles, try to avoid UA 804 until United finishes upgrading its 777's. I knew I'd be getting the old business class seats on the way up to Narita, but was hoping that at least the long haul to the US would be using an upgraded plane. Instead, it was the old seats without normal power outlets and those small screens that you could not pause. And there was barely any connection time in Narita either, which meant no shower (nor are there any showers in the Dulles RCC).