Saturday, July 26, 2008

Singapore - Santaro

Set in the Amara Sanctuary Resort on Sentosa, the quiet surrounds were a refreshing change from the traffic I had to battle to get to Sentosa on a Friday night. But stepping into the restaurant, we got worried. There were only 2 tables occupied at 8.30 on a Friday night.. ok, too late for Plan B so we sat ourselves down at our waitress' beckoning. Also, the whiff of manure (which I found out later was actually from the outside - my companion thought it might belong to the peacocks..) did not whet my appetite at all. I had to take a real hard look at the menu now...

Too full for an Omakase dinner, we ordered a selection from the ala carte. Disappointingly, some of the seafood we wanted like geoduck and sea urchin were not available, so our sushi selection got scaled back to Toro, Anago and Kampachi. Pretty good and fresh although the rice was a tad disappointing - the vinegar seemed to be missing and was a little bland. But the fish was enjoyable nonetheless.

Next up, the tempura selection was very well done. Although the presentation was not so professional with grease paper soaked through, and the tempura just piled on top of one another served on white plate, the taste did not disappoint. We had a selection of shrimp, 2 types of white fish, Japanese green peppers, eggplant and sweet potato. The light batter coating made it easy to down and washed down with cold sake, a VERY nice combi.

The oysters baked with mentaiko were creamy goodness. Although the oysters were a tad overdone and chewy, the rich sauce of mentaiko and Japanese mayo was good enough to make me overlook the sub-standard oysters.

The inaniwa udon with Wagyu beef made for a satisfying finish. While not the best I've had (see Hana Sakazuki in Hong Kong - my previous post, which is the best I've had - they use Hida beef there), it was pretty darn good. Even though I was quite full already, I slurped everything up.

I had no room for dessert which was just as well since only green tea and sesame ice creams were on offer... unusual for a restaurant of this purported calibre.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hong Kong - snacking in Causeway Bay

A lazy Sunday afternoon meant chilling at home given that summer at its worst was here.. so it wasn't till 5pm that we were brave enough to see the world and have a very late lunch at Mi-Ne Sushi at Pak Sha Road in Causeway Bay. Given the time, we did not have to queue. This conveyor belt sushi joint is easily one of the best because of the well vinegared rice. While the fish is not premium given its price, it's pretty decent and great value. Often the creations are also unique to them. For example, the trio of herring, bonito and angel shrimp;

and the aburi combo of eel, salmon belly and scallop;

The regular winner is the tempura cuttlefish with a green tea salt laced lemon on the top.

After a good 4 hours of a good consumer walkabout with many bags to show for it, it was off to a light dinner of Yunnan "mai seen" back on Pak Sha Road, a non-descript hole in the wall next to Mi-Ne. Here you can choose various toppings from the regular meats, to the more funky innards and various bouncy balls made cuttlefish, pork, etc. You can also choose to have a clear soup, mildly, medium or fiery spicy. Comfort fast food from China. Better if you can get past the non-existent and absent minded service though. It is after all, not the Golden Arches.

All good, when washed down with traditional desserts along Percival Street at another hole in the wall shop, serving in my opinion, one of the best Green Bean Sweet Soups around. I will remember to get the name and address for you next time.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hong Kong - Tofa

Tofa in Kau U Fong, a new-style Chinese restaurant, was transformed from the previous MeiLanFang by its owners. Closed to the public to celebrate Anthony's 3oth birthday, we made it there halfway through dinner. The food was all Chinese but served the Western way - from a tofu dumpling stuffed with the world's species of mushrooms, to orange spare ribs laced with cointreau and crispy "sang" noodles with seafood. The traditional peach shaped longetivity bun obviously drew applause given the guests...

The entertainment came after dinner where a cross dresser entertained with a few Canto and jazz numbers, and a very sporting birthday boy also did a duet. The purple-themed evening off course meant purple wigs, feathers and other such paraphanalia.

A touching speech by the birthday boy thanking his parents, partner and close friends drew tears from some and paved the way for cake cutting and more dancing with the cross dresser who was also a popular target for photos.. The cake, although made a little warm from the heat of the 30 candles, was very good despite melting creme fraiche..

I need to remember to ask Nelson where he got the cake next time. Thanks for a great time, Nelson and Anthony! May you have many more hapy birthdays together!

Hong Kong - Tuscany by H

To complete the last in the trio of restaurants by Harlan G, we went to his Italian offering at D'Aguilar Street in Central, just across from LKF Tower. And I have to say, it is now my favourite Harlan's restaurant. And saying "Hi" to Harlan had nothing to do with it.

Despite an interesting array of daily specials, we decided to stick to the menu and order the "H" marked specials, it being our first time.

We started with the beef carpaccio accompanied with porcini mushrooms and a rocket salad. Tender paper-thin slices of beef were lifted by the fragrance of the porcini and rocket. A bite into the mouthful with all 3 components was definitely as appetising as it's meant to be.

The Tuscan Seafood soup with garlic and mountain herb crostini was heartwarming. The stock used to make the soup had enough variety of seafood to make you think you were by an Italian coast without being "fishy". The use of cod instead of more flaky fish was also a good touch since it stayed firm and did not crumble.

We started our 2 main events with the wagyu beef cheek ravioli with foie gras and black truffles. Such decadent trios combined to perfect heartiness and did not make for an overly rich aftertaste. Which was excellent for this meant we had enough room for the next main..

The Veal Chop "The way I (ie. Harlan) Like It" crushed in Tuscany bread crumbs and almonds topped off wtih arugula, cherry tomatoes over a bed of creamy sage mash potatoes was a meal fit for a Viking. Served with the bone and very tender, it is no wonder Harlan looks every bit the towering chef that he is! Although huge and definitely big enough to be shared, it was again not heavy at all, and was every bit bone lickin' good.

Although the desserts looked promising, we did not have room for more especially since we were headed to a birthday party for cake, but we promise to be back again to complete our experience.

Hong Kong - Tasty Congee

One of the things with living in Hong Kong is the access to staple Cantonese light eats. The best is probably its congee - best known for its creamy texture and the multitude of "toppings" as it were even if this is all dunked in from piggy innards to century eggs and other less funky stuff like fish and beef slices topped with an egg (even if in these avian flu times, raw may not be best).
The congee albeit the main event, comes with a whole host of other "sides" even if these are heavier options. The natural being the dough fritters, wanton noodles and rice rolls (cheong fun). Don't make the mistake of calling it a "fun cheong" especially in Hong Kong, since the recipient may not be too pleased with being called a "dumba$$"!

One of the best secrets at Tasty Congee at King Kwong Street in Happy Valley is the rice roll omelette - so simple but yet so good! For those of us who grew up in Singapore, think fried carrot cake but substiute with rice rolls. Dunked in dual sauces of sweet and peanutty sesame, definitely good stuff!

If you are more adventurous, try the carp skin salad and the pig trotter noodles. All yummy goodness to transport you back to a traditional Hong Kong. And like its name, it is TASTY!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hong Kong - Agnes B le pain grille

With the help of a good friend who remembered to make reservations 4 days in advance, I finally got the opportunity to dine at the quaint Agnes B le pain grille in Causeway Bay. Such anticipation since I had just landed from a hectic work weekend from Wuhan, China. And it did not disappoint.

With all the rush, I started with a refreshing strawberry, peach and apple concoction over Badoit - french still water. Very yummy even if a little sweet. Au naturel though so zero guilt there! We pored over the menu and was a little disappointed to be told they did not serve crepes for dinner. That did not stop us in our tracks. What follows is an exemplary display of French cafe favourites, starting with te classic French onion soup. A rich beef bouillion with generous helpings of caramelised onions topped off with a melted gruyere crouton. Heartwarming.. Contrast with the cool Nicoise salad with seared peppered tuna, hard boiled eggs and anchovies, perfect balance.

Next up - the wondrous special of the day - stewed pear stuffed with a foie gras mousse, served over a bed of raspberry sauce. Although big, it wasn't heavy because of the abundance of fruit, cutting through the rich creamy mousse.

The baked escargot with a garlic and basil pesto baked over a bed of sea salt was very fresh and crunchy in texture. Although the pesto did little to lift it from being slightly one-dimensional, the slug was fortunately good enough on its own.

Our main course of the roast lamb was grilled to perfection - nice crisp on the outside and pink on the inside. Very tender indeed and not gamey at all. The balsamic was a nice touch and lifted it from being too monotonous without an overwelming gravy.

We ended with 2 desserts. The baked apple tart came highly recommended by 3 waiters and it did not disappoint. The thin apple slices fanned out prettily over a crisp base topped off with a scoop of caramel ice cream. The other dessert of crepes with lemon and sugar was not bad at all - very al dente crepes with a light drizzle of lemon juice and icing sugar, but paled next to the apple tart.

Anyone dying for a slice of Paris in the bustle of Hong Kong should visit. Down to the decor of the purposely aged fixtures and fittings, to the French coffee counter and the enticing dessert display, you just may find yourself humming "I love Paris.." unwittingly. Ooh la la..

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Singapore - Shashlik

T'was a night of nostalgia on Wednesday passed.. My US colleague visiting Singapore this week had been googling for food places in Singapore and enquired about paying Shashlik - the institution of Russian food in Singapore a visit. My my, Shashlik brings back childhood memories of special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
I was surprised to see the restaurant 80% full on a week night! Guess that in these new times, there is still a place for the old maid! I felt heartened!!
We ordered among other things, the beef shashlik of course. While it wasn't as good as it used to be, or palates have become sophisticated and Hainanese renditions of western food does not cut it anymore, it brought back many good memories of celebrations gone by.. sigh..
My highlight of the evening were the blinis (Russian crepes) in brandy butter sauce. The old thrill of having it made at your table added to the novelty - although the blaze was not as huge as I had hoped. The old waiters used to really "burn the house down". The very al dente blinis soaked in what seemed like a whole bottle of brandy laced with orange juice was an excellent way to end the meal. Forget the Baked Alaska, this is an adult's dessert.
While my colleague (who spent 4 years in St. Petersburg) assures me that the food was definitely not Russian, we were all tickled to step back in time and enjoy a night of reminiscing...

Singapore - Satowa

Back in April, I wrote about a new jewel in the making - Satowa at China Square Central.

Having gone back a few times since for lunch, I have to say that it is a very credible Japanese offering for the neighbourhood, which boasts more mediocre fare than anything else. It can be elevated to gem status in the CBD lunch offering category.

Of worthy mention is their excellent value set lunches which feature their specials. In my opinion, the Yorkshire pork cutlets win hands down. Very tender and succulent and made to bite size, even ladies are fooled despite it being deep fried. They are so light and accompanied by the traditional Worcestershire sauce, makes for a good lunch option. If you don't like things deep fried at all, do try the seafood curry, which has to be home made and not those you find in a Japanese convenenience pack. Good hearty goodness.

All set lunches start with a 3-style appetiser. The chilled chawanmushi is a regular feature and is got be one of the smoothest ever. In our land of hot and humid, the chill is welcome and wakes up the appetite. All sets also end with dessert and the current feature of watermelon sorbet, although not always good, is decent enough to end the meal on a not-too-heavy-and-sweet note. Happy lunching!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wimby Delights

It's Finals day!!! Oh my god... am sooooo nervous. So much nervous energy I spent 2.5 hours on a tennis court then came home to make a simple but yummy stir fry noodle dish using dou chian - a Malaysian-made product which has the thickness of mee pok (chinese fettucine) made from soya beans. The beauty of eating noodle stir fries at home is that your system deals with much less oil given our stoves are not industrial strength. Accompanied by a lime-drizzled dou ban sauce, hearty home-cooked goodness. The stuff that tennis players need before a great victory. GO FEDS - am rooting for YOU!!!!!!!

Singapore - Kandagawa

With a queasy stomach and recovering from a recent bout of flu, I did not think it wise to go out and gorge on an omakase meal at Goto, although I have been wanting to try it at the recommnedation of a fellow foodie.. so back to something more hearty and less heavy. Back in time also to the stuck-in-the-70s Hotel Royal on Newton Road for Okinawan cuisine at Kandagawa.

We started with the thinly sliced sardine sashimi, which is always fatty enough to be smooth but not too heavy like fattier fish.

Then fiber with a crunchy spinach salad topped with garlic and bacon chips - a balance of good and evil.. mmm...

Rounding off with staples although these were the highlights of my meal - a simple bowl of white rice topped with marinated anchovies and peppercorn - a dish reminscent of my childhood where I had eating issues - hard to believe. So tasty and easy to down.

The richer mentaiko pasta, with twists of salted pork, celery, onions and green peppers oh so good. Hits the spot!

Not wanting the usual green tea ice cream, we drove to a nearby gas station and picked up a tub of B&J's Dublin Mudslide, making it home in time to catch the winning set by Venus for her 5th Wimby title over sister Serena. May history repeat itself on the men's final on Sunday too. Go FEDDY!!

Singapore - Wimby Weekend!!

It's Wimbledon season again.. with matches starting at 1pm GMT, which is 8pm Singapore/Hong Kong time, who wants to head out for dinner and miss seeing Roger Federer play! So it's either ordering take-out or DIY. Rather, it's geting flattie to head to the supermarket to pick out the barramundi and kailan sprouts. And then.. a simple pan-fried fillet with capers, fresh chili, garlic and anchovies add to the flavour accompanied by a bed of fried in the previous juices kailan! Go Feds!!! Make it a 6th crown in a row. YOU ARE SIMPLY THE BEST!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hong Kong - Nobu

In short, a better than expected experience. Never one to enjoy "fusion", the interpretations were certainly delicious and not too funky. Very fresh ingredients, friendly competent service all made for a positive visit, deserving of a repeat.

The freshest hamachi with jalapeno fanned out on a platter of soy ponzu, crunchy rock shrimp tempura on a bed of salad were very light but satisfying. The rolls were also good, with their signature seafood roll outdoing the uni and foie gras combination. If the latter had the 2 flavours a little more distinct rather than meshed together, the wow factor would have been much higher. Unfortunately, the choice of blending them before rolling them made it lukewarm since the hot foie gras cooked the uni. We ended our mains with the grilled cod marinated in miso. Melt in your mouth goodness bursting with omega-3 I'm sure... health food can't taste so good, can it?

The only dish which could have easily been a miss rather than a hit was the dessert of peanut crumble with beer ice cream in a jasmine peach tea soup. Yup, a big mouthful of a description but surprisingly a pleasant blend of diverse flavours. The beer ice cream ensured that the dish was not cloying, and the peanut crumble of course added fragrance and crunch. The tea soup which did come in a tea pot reminscent of a dobinmushi was interestingly a sweet tea infused with peach.

Great meal with a stunning view of Hong Kong's well lit skyline. Wouldn't be anywhere else..