Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kebabs n Curries at Mustafa

Lahori Mutton Chop

This place on the rooftop of Mustafa wasn't exactly something that I would think would be any good (171 Syed Alwi Road #07-00, 6419-0750). But a trusted adviser suggested this place for lunch today, and I'm glad that he did. The chaach buttermilk drink here was one of the best that I've had, being not only rich and creamy but also pleasantly spicy, complete with freshly grated ginger inside, if I tasted it correctly.

And those Lahori mutton chops above may look burned, but they were deliciously seasoned and with the added bonus of some yellow grease slowly oozing out of it onto the plate (evil grin). Now, the rest of the things that we got today weren't as memorable (and admittedly I still prefer Bar-B-Q Tonight over this place, even if I like this place's mutton better). Either way, these guys are open until 1 AM, which will make it a convenient place for a late night snack of mutton chops and chaach one of these days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tibetan Yak Meat - Episode II

Mala Yak Jerky

Well there you have it. Our teammate brought in some other yak-based goods this morning, the first of which was some kind of mala-flavored thing in those silver packets. It wasn't very spicy, and was disturbingly gelatinous, actually. Those little things in the blue, on the other hand, may look like candy. But they were little cuts of yak jerky, if you will. I liked these a lot better as they were much spicier.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Epicurean Market - A Taste of Marina Bay Sands

Marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar

OK, admittedly part of the reason why we came to the Sands Expo today was because of the inner groupie in me: MBS grabbed a number of their celebrity chefs from their restaurants upstairs to headline the show. But sitting through their workshops wasn't exactly my reason for coming here either. Instead, it was because they were doing food and wine sampling - cool! That shrimp with caviar above was from Waku Ghin's booth. It didn't use a sea urchin's spiny body as a serving vessel like they do at the proper restaurant, but it was still among my favorites today.

Murgh Makhani Bouches

Other memorable items included Guy Savoy's artichoke and truffle soup, as well as Wolfgang Puck's wagyu sliders. And as a bonus, Daniel Boulud was there in person, while Nancy Silverton was standing behind the Mozza booth too. Of course, the floor included many other vendors (even if many of them tended to be from the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands), including Pita Pan, Caffé B, and Punjab Grill, where that "butter chicken tart" pictured above came from. I was disappointed that the chicken wasn't baked in; they basically just scooped some out of a catering trough into that shell, but it was still tasty.

Jamón Ibérico

Alas, I'm not sure if I'll return next year. The atmosphere just wasn't there, as it was held in the convention center, making it feel more like a cold industry trade show rather than a food festival (cue flashbacks from the Singapore Beer Festival!). Actually, some of the booths along the outskirts of the venue almost seemed like some of those nasty food shows that they have out at Changi Expo from time to time. Well, not all of them; thankfully Culina was there, where we grabbed this delicious 20g plate of jamón ibérico.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Maguroya at Lau Pa Sat, Singapore

Salmon Don

I originally stayed away from this place when I first came by last week, as the menu just didn't look very encouraging (18 Raffles Quay Stall #79). But a post by the Chubby Hubby this week was enough to make me reconsider, as he made it sound rather interesting.

Unfortunately, I didn't like it. That bowl above may look pretty, but the fish was sliced too thinly, the rice was too vinegary, and the wait was just too darned long (for a hawker center, anyway).

Granted, today's special was dirt cheap at only S$6 (US$5), so it's not like one can really complain. But I'd rather go to Ikeikemaru if I had wanted reasonably-priced sushi for lunch. Hopefully the other items on the menu here fare a little better?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spicy Fish on Thai Airways

Fish with Chili Sauce

That was nasty. I took one bite of the fish and nearly spit it back out...it was off-puttingly fishy, and the chili sauce was hardly spicy enough to cover it up. The flight attendant was surprisingly attentive though: she noticed that I hardly touched the meal and asked me if I wanted anything else to eat. It was a nice gesture, but I wasn't really that hungry anyway, considering that I ate at the food court earlier. Also, it was interesting to note that TG used a 777 on tonight's run, which lacked the seatback screens and power outlets that they used on the way up.

The Magic Food Point at Suvarnabhumi Airport

Thai Chicken Rice Stall

Here's an interesting little secret about Suvarnabhumi Airport that I read about online: rather than eating at one of the many tourist-focused restaurants in the airport, one can go down to the food court in the corner of the first floor instead. It's used by the local airport staff; one has to exchange cash for those little paper voucher things. I ended up stopping at this stall, which was just selling chicken rice, but clearly these huge bowls of hot sauce were the things that caught my eye. Most of them were a bit sweet, but nonetheless it was fun to try each one. Next time I'll have to get that "crispy" som tam that I saw at another stall; presumably it's deep fried papaya?

Random Fried Chicken from Bangkok

Fried Chicken

We didn't really stop to eat lunch today. Fortunately, there is no shortage of street food in Bangkok where one can get a snack. And after finishing a meeting in the office, I made my way over to the Makkasan train station to get back to the airport on this (intentional) seven hour layover, upon which I came across this dude selling fried chicken. I couldn't quite put my finger on the exact spices, but it seemed like a blend of cumin, anise, and sansho, if I tasted it correctly. I don't seem to remember that kind of spice mix last time I had fried chicken in Thailand.

BTW, when did this Airport Rail Link start running at only 60 minute intervals? If one doesn't arrive at the right time and ends up waiting around for say, 50 minutes, then that defeats the whole point of having a high speed train to the airport, especially since traffic on the highway didn't seem that bad when I looked out of the window at 5 PM. Maybe next time I'll give that local train a try instead, especially if the timing ends up getting me to my destination more quickly.

The Breakfast Box on TG Domestic

Thai Airways Breakfast Box

Here was the muffin-based breakfast box that was served on Thai Airways domestic this morning. Perhaps more interesting was the fact that they used a gigantic 747 on this very short run back down to Bangkok; I guess this is a very heavily trafficked route. It was interesting to see the business class layout that we walked past while we exited the plane (the galley hugs the right side of the plane lengthwise rather than being a block in the center), as well as of course watch the cool images coming from the front/belly mounted cameras as we landed.

One Last Go at Khao Soi Before Leaving

Khao Soi

We stopped for breakfast at one of the restaurants at Chiang Mai airport before getting on the plane this morning (and interestingly, this restaurant was run by Thai Airways, of all things). They had khao soi on the menu, so I figured that this would be one last chance to eat it before leaving, especially given that my experiences yesterday weren't as inspiring as I had hoped.

It turned out to be basically the same thing. I loaded up on the condiments, which helped a little. But I think the problem is the wide noodles, which I believe are the more traditional Chiang Mai way. Every rendition that I've had outside of Chiang Mai has tended to use skinny noodles instead, which I liked better (and they tended to use boneless cuts of chicken, rather than the drumsticks that keep overwhelming the bowl up here). Anyway, my expectations are clearly a bit warped.

Note to self: the TG lounge at Chiang Mai airport is so tiny that it's actually more comfortable to sit in the main seating area next time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The "Dry" Version of Thai Soup Noodles

Dry Thai Noodles

When I first asked for a bowl of noodles from this lady, she muttered one word in English: "Soup??" I nodded and happily slurped away a concoction similar to last night, all dressed in chili pepper flakes and fish sauce.

But then I needed a little more, and the thought occurred to me, "Wait...if she asked me if I wanted soup when I ordered, that implies that she makes a non-soup version too." So I made a gesture with my arms while saying the words "no soup," and this is what she brought out.

Now, keep in mind that without soup, she had to douse it in that thick dark soy sauce, which was a bit bitter and admittedly a bit of a turnoff, despite my trying to cover it up with a bit of vinegar. I'll stick to the soup version next time.

Hunting Down Khao Soi in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi

One dish that I had to get when I was up here in Chiang Mai was khao soi, a local curry noodle thing that I've been a pretty big fan of. Originally, I was going to go to some local stand that seemed pretty well known, but the hotel's concierge suggested that I come to Just Khao Soy instead (108/2 Charoenphratet Road, 053-818-641), as it was very close to the hotel and I needed to get back quickly for a meeting in the afternoon.

I was a bit disappointed. I'm not sure if it was because this place was unexpectedly touristy (the very long English menu went through pages explaining the history of the dish, etc...and they even took American Express!), or if it was simply because the renditions that I had in the past simply weren't authentic (it was usually outside of Chiang Mai...and many years ago at that). But the thick noodles and gravy at this shop just didn't get me that excited.

To be sure, I tried to go find a local cash-based stall afterwards as another reference point, coming across this guy at the Warorot Market. And interestingly, it generally tasted the same. Well, I started to like it more after I dumped in all of the chili, shallots, and lime juice to try to get some kick out of it. In that sense, I suppose that it is a bit like phở, as your preference of garnish can change the taste significantly. But I'm clearly going to have to practice a bit more to get it right.

Khao Soi

Noodle Soup for Breakfast in Chiang Mai

Soup Noodles

Despite how this thing looks, it was nasty. I just couldn't get it to taste right, despite all of the fish sauce, vinegar, and chili peppers that I tried to spike it with. Somehow, it still ended up being too sweet. I don't seem to have very good luck with noodle soups at hotel breakfast spreads.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Noodle Soup in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai Soup Noodles

Those airplane meals were hardly what one would call a proper dinner. So it was fortunate that right across from the hotel here in Chiang Mai tonight were a bunch of street vendors selling all sorts of stuff, be it seafood, barbecued items, or these soup noodles, of which I asked for a spicy version. It hit the spot, especially with those little chili peppers and cloves of raw garlic on the side. Yum.

A Snack Box on TG Domestic

TG Snack Box

I guess it's not just United that has economy class snack boxes for convenience on short domestic flights. Here was TG's version, which certainly wasn't anything to get excited about. At least it was a short flight. BTW, this was only my second time through Suvarnabhumi airport, and yet my impression of it just keeps getting more worse and worse. Hopefully I'll have a better experience on the way back.

Green Curry on Thai Airways

Green Curry Prawns with Rice

No, of course airplane food can't compare to the real thing on the ground. But I was surprised by the fact that they made this green curry pretty darned spicy; so much that I gobbled this thing up in seconds. More importantly, it was good to see how TG's economy class now has seatback screens and even laptop power underneath the seats. Nice one.

Hakodate's Zundou Ramen at Isetan

Seafood Miso Ramen

I wasn't planning on eating here today. But when I went to Isetan Scotts today to pick up some supplies, I noticed that they were running another Hokkaido Fair, complete with a ramen stall in front that I'd never heard of before. I'm normally not a huge fan of Hokkaido ramen, but I figured that I'd grab a bowl of this seafood version given that it was only available in limited quantities today.

Unfortunately, I'm still not a huge fan of miso ramen. Sure, it got a little better after some of that butter melted into it, but I'm just not a huge fan of that broth, and the curly noodles aren't anything that I go nuts for either. Surprisingly, I still finished the entire thing (and that's despite having just eaten two plates of bún chả at Wrap & Roll less than an hour beforehand!), but I kinda wished that I just got one of those rice boxes instead.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

LingZhi Vegetarian by Tung Lok

Braised Bai Ling Mushrooms with Truffles and Spinach

If you look very closely at the photo above, you'll see little slices of something that I didn't even notice when the dish first arrived at our table. Yes, those are small slices of black truffle; not exactly something that one would expect at this Chinese vegetarian restaurant from Tung Lok. It was a welcome surprise, especially since the most of the other food that came in our set tonight wasn't necessarily anything that would bring me back here right away. But if I were here again, I'd vouch for this dish, as well as maybe one of those green soups in those wooden cups.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pistola on Club Street in Singapore

Rice Bowl

It was bound to happen eventually: Asian tacos have finally arrived in Singapore. These guys (93 Club Street) did the usual complement of burritos, quesadillas, and rice bowls, the last of which was nowhere as punchy as Chego from back home, but was still much better than I had expected. If they decide to open for lunch one of these days, then I may very well be coming by to pick up one of these up. But I'll definitely pass on the tacos next time, as flour tortillas are a huge pet peeve of mine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Na Na Curry Has Finally Reopened

Vegetable Curry Set

Na Na Fish Head Curry was a local Chinese curry stall that I had always had a bit of a soft spot for. And after the Amara Shopping Centre had shut down for renovations, these guys were nowhere to be found. Surprise, surprise; they're back...at the Amara's renamed 100AM mall (100 Tras Street #03-14), right next door to Keisuke's Tori King, and complete with seating of their own. Cool.

Now, I'm not sure if it's because it's been such a long time since I last ate there, but the stuff that they served today was a heck of a lot spicier and richer than I remembered it to be (in a good way!). They've definitely gotten a lot stingier with the bread though, so next time I'm here, I'll be sure to get at least an extra order or two of rice on the side.

Doragon Tonkotsu Ramen at Lau Pa Sat

Tonkotsu Mayu Ramen

Interesting. A bunch of Japanese stalls have clustered next to each other at Lau Pa Sat. A Japanese curry place has appeared at stall #27, while this ramen stall was at #26. I'm not sure if it's because my expectations were extremely low, but this was much better than I thought it would be, with firm skinny noodles and a broth that I drank down to the last drop. Too bad that the tempura at neighboring Marusaya was still terrible; so much for hoping that it might be better during the busy lunch period.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ebiten Tsukemen from Menya Musashi

Ebiten Tsukemen

After seeing the sign for this prawn ramen special at Musashi the other day, my curiosity was piqued. Could this possibly be anything like that magical ebi ramen that Keisuke so heartbreakingly reneged on a couple of years ago? I had a chance to try it tonight.

I liked it, most notably because of that crispy fried shrimp cake thingy, which went down with ease. The broth definitely wasn't the light and aromatic wonder that Keisuke created (this one was grittier with the prawn taste buried a bit deeper), but it was nonetheless still good enough for me to finish to the last drop.

No, it unfortunately is still not a proxy for Keisuke's ebi ramen. But yes, I'll come back for this again, making sure to get the double portions next time. Note that this was at the Kodou outlet at ION Orchard rather than the Raffles City one.

Guy Savoy, Marina Bay Sands Singapore

Petit Fours

Guy Savoy is normally not a place that I would go to, as it simply costs way too much, both in terms of prices as well as the time required to consume all of that food. But when I saw a blurb in yesterday's newspaper that said that they do an express 60 minute lunch on Fridays and Saturdays for only S$55 (US$45), I immediately called to make a reservation (10 Bayfront Avenue #L2-01, 6688-8513). After all, the best way to eat cheaply at an expensive high-end restaurant is to go during lunch instead.

And after finally eating here, I can see why this guy has his Michelin stars. The quality of everything was extremely polished, both in terms of the ingredients used as well as the skills required in the kitchen. S$55 only bought two courses (and not surprisingly, the cost of alcohol immediately blows this price out of the water), but at least it came with three sets of amuse bouche as well as petit fours and sorbet to close...and even some homemade candy while departing. I'll do that again, especially for those delightfully tender beef cheeks in the façon pot au feu.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Yak Meat Candy from Tibet/Sichuan

Tibetan Yak Meat Candy from Sichuan

A teammate of ours went to the western part of Sichuan near the Tibetan border during the holidays, and brought back this yak meat flavored candy for all of us in the office to try. Apparently yak meat is a delicacy in Tibet.

I grunted a bit when I first put it into my mouth, as it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Instead of tasting like a caramelized char siew, it tasted like a savory stir-fried meat dish (and a rather gamey one at that). Keep in mind that this was all encased in a sweet hardshell candy.

But that quickly gave way to a ground peanut flavor, which I didn't mind as much, seeing how I'm a big fan of gong tang peanut candy from Taiwan. Speaking of exotic flavors, apparently one can also get Sichuan mala-flavored candy too. I think he's going to have to bring some back for us to try on his next trip there.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Spicy Cold Noodles from Yoshimaru

Spicy Cold Noodles

This bowl of spicy cold noodles from Yoshimaru looked better than it tasted, mainly because it was off-puttingly sweet; I guess I was hoping for something more like the mainland Chinese version instead. Well, at least it was totally ice cold, and thus refreshing to have in the sweltering heat. Dragon breath alert on this one, BTW.

Chicken Phở from NamNam Noodle Bar

Phở Gà

Here was the phở gà from NamNam Noodle Bar, which they didn't start serving until 10 AM today. It was better than I was expecting, in part because I've never been a big fan of chicken phở in the first place, but also in part because I wasn't that impressed with the beef phở from these guys last time. It was only today that I realized that is because their phở is Hanoi style. I definitely prefer the southern rendition instead.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Singapore's Bombay Cafe by the Beach

Bhel Puri

This was completely unexpected. We were down at East Coast Park this afternoon when I hobbled over to that block of shops near Burger King (1018 East Coast Parkway) to get some soda. Out of nowhere, there was a stall selling chaat. And not just a few measly selections for the sake of it, but a reasonably long selection of chaat at that. When I looked up at the name of the stand, it was Bombay Cafe. Cool - so they opened up a little beachside stall out here too.

I grabbed this bhel puri, which the lady filled up all the way to the max of this Styrofoam takeout box, making it at least two or three times the size that I was expecting (and all for only S$4, or US$3.20). She made it super spicy too, although admittedly all of the flavors were a bit too strong...so much that I practically had to force the rest of it down my throat (all while giving me a delightful dragon breath!). I'll definitely choose something else next time; it's good to know that they are here either way.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Mama Panda Kitchen at the Singapore Zoo

Panda Bao and Long Bean with Minced Chicken

I'm not sure how easy it is to make out from the photo, but that steamed Chinese bao is supposed to be a panda's head. See, we made our way to the Giant Panda Preview at the zoo today, and just after exiting the gift shop lay this panda-themed fast food restaurant, serving not just that azuki-stuffed bun above, but also bamboo rice bowls and also a number of Sichuan dishes, including mapo doufu, yuxiang qiezi, and ganbian sijidou.

Not surprisingly though, these last few dishes hardly featured any Sichuan spices, and thus lacked the punchiness that makes Sichuan food so exciting. Of course, being at the zoo, these guys surely had intentionally toned down the flavors, especially with so many families and tourists patronizing the place. But it would have been interesting if they had kept it more authentic, especially since I'm sure that restaurants near the panda facilities in Chengdu wouldn't be shy on the spices, yeah?