Friday, August 29, 2008

Bangkok - Zanotti

Zanotti has been around for a long time for as long as I can remember - I think I first went back in 2002, and 6 years later, it's still doing a roaring business. And from the consistent excellent quality of the food, I can see why. Unfortunately, no photos in this segment, since the wait staff were instructed specifically to say no food pics, but couldn't tell us why. I was not in a difficult mood so that was that. I was more focused on enjoying the great food.


1. the deep fried crustacean platter, which aside from the only crustacean the prawn, had fish and squiddlys. So well battered and fried to a crisp but retaining the moisture and freshness of the seafood on the inside... puts a lot of tempura to shame!

2. the beef carpaccio on a generous bed of arugula and topped with an even more generous amount of freshly peeled (yes it is bigger than grated) Parmesan. Lovely burst of flavours when you have a combo bite.. and lightly flavoured with a good extra virgin olive oil.


1. the minced beef ravioli with white truffle oil.. so simple yet so tasty.

2. the evergreen lobster tagliatelle with thyme, and a hint of cherry tomatoes.. light, tasty with such a kick from the lobster laced sauce.

3. superb thin-crust pizza with tomatoes and Italian sausage. None of that over-salted s^%t but tasty porky goodness. Garnished with a sprinkle of chilli flakes for the extra kick. Yeah!


1. Classic Tiramisu - the real thing with real Mascarpone and an abundance of it.

2. a classic custard from Piemonte - Bunet Piemontese - sweet eggy heaven with a nutty border for bite.. such flavoured texture in the combination. Unusually good - I like!

You hungry yet? I can't wait till I get to Bangkok again..

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bangkok - Baan Kanitha

Back in Bangkok after such a long time, I had to get my fix of decent Thai food and so reservations were made in advance at Baan Kanitha, still one of my favourite Thai haunts. And after all this time, it is still good. And they even have frosty drinks to cool you down with - I had my Thai orange juice, ice-blended. Perfect for a humid evening.
The usual starter platter signature of Baan Kanitha was brought out. While not spectacular in taste, it definitely keeps the diners busy with loading the leaves with the variety of condiments and popping them into your mouth without spilling or making a mess - good conversation piece with tourists.
But it is really the rest of the stuff that I am here for. The tom yum soup looks fiery but is really laden with all the prawny cholesteric goodness frrm the huge prawn swimming in the bowl, with its brain mashed into the superior stock. Sounds gross but tastes heavenly..
The yellow curry squid was eggy curry goodness and surprisingly not cloying given its richness. Perfect with steamed rice, especially if you are hungry. You can easily down 2 bowls before you can say "curry".
The other star of the evening was the deep fried cotton-fish, with julienned mango dressing. The fish was aptly named since the flesh was as soft and cottony. With the fresh mango juliennes in fish sauce drizzled over, a perfect bite with the ice cold frosty.
Although desserts sounded enticing, it wasn't enticing enough since that was already a lot of food for 2. A very enjoyable meal for anyone visiting Bangkok, and looking for a nice and comfy place to enjoy a bit of local fare.

Singapore - Hachi

Yes, this is the outfit of the friendly chef who used to operate out of the now defunct Orchard Emerald. Hachi is now at Mohd Ali Lane, just off Club Street. They have taken over the premises which used to house Ikukan.

I had lunch today at Hachi and had the set lunch of Unagi and Sashimi. Nice light combi which had lightly grilled eel, basked in the barbeque sweet sauce. The sashimi was white fish topped with salmon roe, nice change from the usual. While lunch was not spectacular, it wasn't bad for the price. In any case, in an area which has pretty limited choices for Japanese cuisine, it does add to lunch options. Also, the impeccable service with offering to call us a cab to take us back to our offices and sheltering us into the cab from the pouring rain, is not service we find in abundance of these days. Savour the moment..

Hachi is best known for its Omakase - chef's surprises - and I will certainly be back to taste. It's been too long and is probably time for another review. And hopefully, as with previous good experiences, it will live up to its name.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Singapore - Marutama Ramen

The Central on Eu Tong Sen Street is just one of those malls you might give a miss and I have all this time... but the reviews of restaurants in there have made me think twice. I finally got round to going there today and it was a toss up between the famous Ramen or the Hanbaagu.. tough choice but given that it was a drippy day, the Ramen sounded more inviting and less heavy. Plus, since we were there closer to 2pm, NO QUEUE! Ramen it was!

The menus are all in Japanese but thankfully there were pictures. Also, our friendly waiter who hardly spoke English was helpful enough to recommend the favourites - the chicken soup ramen which comes with one piece of char siu. Toppings were available - he recommended and rightly so, the yummy seasoned egg, which was a good shoyu braised duck egg with a soft centre.. mmm... The ramen is thinner than the common one you would find at Ajisen or Miharu and similar to the Teochew/Chiu Chow skinny noodles but so much more springy with an al dente bite. Swimming the rich chicken broth, you really didn't need anything else.

The stewed pork belly was also a winner - soft meat easily separated from the fat so we had a good cut, without having to indulge the fat bits. But of course if you dare to take the whole thing, it does melt in your mouth.. no need to bite and chew.

Hearty goodness and in my opinion, the current (as at the date of this post) winner in the "best ramen" category for Singapore.

Singapore - Jia Wei

Stepping off a plane, I just wanted something close to the airport and nothing fancy... Flattie suggested trying a new Chinese restaurant in the East at the Grand Mercure Hotel. Hmm.. not quite the "nothing fancy" I had in mind, but they had enough home-style comfort food to satisfy.

Aged cucumber with spare ribs was the soup of the day. Pretty flavourful although it could have done with a little less salt so that the taste of the old cucumber could be more apparent.
The cod steamed with snow vegetables (Shanghainese preserved vegetables) was a tad overcooked, which is quite hard to do given the oily texture of the fish. So the overall taste suffered since snow vegetables are too light to lift the overcooked fish. Tasty enough to finish but barely so.
The poached Amarath vegetable ("heen choy") with 3 eggs were competent enough and did the job in satisfying the need for some fiber intake.
The sweet and sour pork was competent by Singapore standards but the pork had a hint of the "smelly pork" syndrome. Not overwhelming since the tart sauce masked it fairly adequately and was good enough to get me through enough of the rice in my bowl.
All in all, a good alternative dining option for the East Coast but nothing exceptional. Might be worth a second visit to check out the other specialties before casting my final vote.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hong Kong - Shiro

Shiro is upscale conveyor belt sushi and other Japanese delicacies.. in fact, the only thing it has in common with other conveyor belt sushi joints is the conveyor belt - 2 to be exact. The rest of it is just oozing hip, trendy, fashionable with a welcoming bar. And what better location than next to Lane Crawford inside trendy Pacific Place Mall.

The menu is pretty extensive and is more than just sushi.. even drinks were 3 pages long. We had a hard time trying to keep to the time and of course stomach capacity - didn't want to be belching uncomfortably in the cinema afterwards nor falling asleep at the Red Cliff - of course, that would be hard to do with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung..

We ordered a sampling off the conveyor belt - tuna, whitefish and octopus combi topped with cod roe - one with and one without the rice; sea urchin with raw squid; and the evergreen soft shell crab roll. All very good and fresh and none of that "I've been sitting on the conveyor belt all this time" taste.
Then, the specials off the menu streamed in..

Salmon roll topped with chopped fatty tuna and a gold leaf for good luck; then the torched mirugai claim with sweet miso sushi.

The Taraba crab claw salad topped with an "onsen" egg, when broken mixed with the sweet miso for a delicious dressing;

The spinach with sesame sauce came as twin towers densely decked with toasted sesame seeds standing tall in a bowl of sesame gravy was surprising as tasty as it looked.

Our mains of Wagyu beef cheek over a huge radish ball - a mistake which turned out ok since we were headed for the Wagyu beef cheek in a creamy omelette sauce. But the Taraba crab claw tempura saved the day! 6 lightly battered and crisp claws served with cucumbers and green tea salt.. mmm, mmm...
No room for dessert was my verdict - popcorn is another category!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hong Kong - Hana Sakazuki revisited

I had blogged about Hana Sakazuki back in April but wanted to introduce some new goodies.

First up, Japanese greenhouse tomatoes that even a non-tomato lover would love. So prettily bright red, juicy and served with a pinch of salt makes for a fresh and delicious appetiser.

The sushi is good as ever.. still the best outside of Japan!

What was surprising good was the grilled chicken - yes, it sounds so boring but was so competently done you would not think it was just chicken. Of course we were told it was Japanese free-range chicken.. yes, it makes a difference guys! Accompanied by Japanese mayo, it was like eating tasty KFC but more juicy, succulent, and all the wholesome goodness without the grease, fat and guilt. Yums!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shanghai - Tenya

One of the best kept secrets in Shanghai has extended to a few outlets - 6 to be exact. Once known only to a few as the place to eat all the Toro that Shanghai has to offer, is now an institution and they have even ventured beyond Shanghai to neighbouring Suzhou and a little more up north in Beijing. Despite its rapid expansion with the first back in July 2005, they have certainly come a long way. Yet, its prices are still reasonable.
There are 2 set toro courses with the only difference being that the more expensive one comes with toro sushi done 5 ways. Both courses start with 3 cuts of toro - otoro, chutoro and toro-shio. Such buttery creaminess and full of flavour. So well cut that the sinews did not get in the way of an easy chew.

Next up, steamed Taraba crab legs, so fresh that the meat literally slides off the shell.

Then, the hot pot where you can swish slices of the fattiest part of the fish in the adashi stock which is further flavoured by more crab legs, cod fish and a variety of vegetables and tofu. Perfect for a winter's day but in summer, where it is hot and humid now, the airconditioning was thankfully strong enough for it to be enjoyable. The rumbling thunder outside also added to the atmosphere.

The negi-toro rice was very good despite the fact that they do not use premium quality rice but the taste of the combination of chopped up toro, crisp seawood, chives, and with soya sauce over it, was good enough to make you forget the rice, which in the grand scheme of things, was tasty enough.

The usual way to end most Japanese meals is with ice cream and this one did not disappoint. We did not get the usual green-tea and was pleasantly surprised by the aromatic coffee ice cream sprinkled with finely ground coffee powder, adding bite and more aroma. Great finish!

Singapore Thian Hock Keng Temple

No food here but I thought I'd share some photos I took on the walk to Teo Heng (see previous post). This famous temple is still attracting the bus loads of tourists and on a clear blue sky day, I could not resist playing tourist.

The last picture with the clear blue skies is taken with the mosque next door in the foreground and not part of the temple - just in case you got confused with the architecture!

Singapore - Teo Heng

One of the oldest Teochew/Chiu Chow stalls around serving good old fashioned home-styled dishes like steamed fish, squids, braised pork and intestines, fried fish cake, etc., this gem had relocated from the old Lau Pa Sat (and I mean old - remember the hawker centre on Robinson Road with a big open car park by Robina House). I was elated to find it after all these years and got my fix only for the second time this week. And it is still wholesome goodness as Gramma (bless her soul) used to make.
I had the staple steamed fish for one - the only size that fit me was a "boon tong" from Malaysia - so says the friendly owner who sat with me for a short while after he was done entertaining his rich businessmen clientele who like me beat the crowd by lunching at 2. The "boon tong" looks like a "seklar" (a local mackeral whose flesh can sometimes border on tough cotton) but this "boon tong" was oh so tender and of course, uplifted by the braised salted vegetables on top of it.

I also ordered the fried fish cake which tasted every bit manually beaten (none of that machine stuff) and was tender yet bouncy, and very fresh. The nice owner also threw in some stir fried cabbage, probably figuring out that I needed the fiber. Even the rice was just the way I like it - (well defined grains, not mushy, and excellent when the soya sauce gravy where the belly pork has been braising for a while, was lathered over it).

What an excellent way to load up before hitting the road for China again..

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Singapore - Le Bistrot

A pleasant surprise at Stadium Walk.. a casual French eatery serving good classic cuisine. And the crowd on a Tuesday night is testament to its quality. We started with the classic French onion soup, which I think I've said before, is my test of a good French restaurant. Good rich beefy broth and topped generously with a giant crouton and gratinated Gruyere - almost a meal in itself. And you will find at Le Bistrot, that portions are not quite French so you need to be hungry to have the 3 course meal.

Not knowing, we ordered the "Poor Man's Caviar" a combination of chicken liver, eggplant, garlic and creme fraiche. The layers were served in an airtight glass kitchen container and toast. It was pretty good except that personally, I would have prefered a lot more chicken liver, and to be more accessible that at the bottom of the pile. We had to doggy bag this since we had to leave room for the others.
Of course, being a bistrot, if I was not going to have Steak Frites, I must at least have the Frites. The crispy fries did not disappoint, and were garnished with an herb salt. Very good!
Our main was the duck confit served with a honey wholegrain mustard sauce and a tasty mash. The duck leg was perfectly roasted with the fat gone from under the skin, making it crisp on the outside but moist on the itself. And none of the heavy greasy feeling.
To finish, we chose the creme brulee served 3 ways - vanilla bean, earl grey and dark chocolate. Each was good in its own right but being a classicist, my favourite was the vanilla bean. The crisp caramel over the top could have been thinner and crisper though. And they could have decided whether to serve hot or cold, rather than room temperature.
Friendly and good professional service also added to the experience - something hard to find in Singapore these days. All in all, a good experience worthy of a second time! I'm elated that the repertoire in the East Coast is growing!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Singapore - Cova

Yes, this great Italian patisserie and restaurant has made it to Singapore at last! Tucked in the back of the Paragon Shopping Mall where Olio Dome used to be, it boasts an indoor and "outdoor" (within the mall) area. No smoking allowed anyway..
We started off with the Parma ham and Arugula pizza - good quality Parma (seasoned just right and not chewy), and the aromatic Arugula (none of the fake breed whcih can be too punchy).
For mains, I shared the breaded veal escalope with arugula and Italian cherry tomatoes. Competent but not the best, it was a good-sized portion though. I thought it was a bit gamey and while I don't mind it all, may not suited for people who are more sensitive to gamey meats.
What I thought was better was the Papardelle with Duck ragout. A very tasty duck stew poured over al dente pasta made for a hearty meal.
We ended off with the cake made famous by Cova, the sponge and fresh cream with fruit combination. This was a little disappointing since the sponge was not as fluffy as the one I've had in Hong Kong and Milan and there was no choice of fruit (the strawberry one is THE BEST). But mango was ok too and would have been made better if the cake had been chilled better. Room temperature cream just didn't go down too well.

Singapore - Nogawa Sentosa

I try not to disappoint when asked about food and so when an American colleague said "'let's go Japanese", and coupled with a first visit to Singapore, what better place than to take a leisurely drive to Sentosa, where she can see the transformation the island is going through and eat at one of the better Japanese restaurants in "town".

It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday afternoon and so we got in without reservations. Of course at Nogawa, I have to have the Sushi Moriawase since it does have probably the best vinegared rice around. My colleague goes with the safe Salmon, omelet and cod roe bento rice box. To share, we got a large oyster which was juicy and crunchy at the same time and succulent accompanied with a tangy ponzu sauce. The seafood and pumpkin gratin was also good and my colleague who loves anything in the squash family, licked every morsel of the pumpkin clean.
Great booster for an afternoon of serious shopping!!!

Singapore - Restaurant Ember

No pictures in this segment since I was at a business dinner but just when I thought good western food was dying in this country, I am pleasantly surprised by Restaurant Ember, the modern continental restaurant at Hotel 1929 in Keong Saik Road, one of Singapore's red light districts. The eclectic neighbourhood adds to the character and the all glass restaurant offers a glimpse of the outside world as you dine.

Of special mention, the mushroom soup - one of the best - full of the porcini flavour and just enough cream to balance but not overly heavy. Accompanied by the freshly baked rolls, mmmm........

While not a big fan of fish cooked in the western way, I did order the Chilean seabass in a bacon ragout. Surprisingly well done and not overcooked, the ragout lent itself with the smokiness of the bacon and onions and was a light yet tasty main course - very little guilt element!

Rounding off with the molten chocolate cake - yes, we've been there done that - but this was a very competent version and definitely worth the calories if you are a chocolate fan.

Pics are promised on my next visit where I hope to try more from their menu. Yes, it is definitely worth a next visit.

Singapore - Izakaya Nijumaru

Eating in Japan very often is about squeezing into their Izakayas and having "little eats" with your sake, beer or shochu. These places are rarely posh and squeaky clean but full of character simply because of the characters that populate these places.. from different walks of life, usually the working class, coming in to de-stress after a hard days' work. The food therefore is more hearty than refined cuisine.

Tucked into a corner on the 2nd storey of Cuppage Plaza, the Izakaya Nijumaru attempts to bring this slice of Japan to the Japanese workabees of Singapore. Even the Chinese and Hokkien speaking wait-staff have expanded their language repertoire to include Japanese to cater to them and somewhat adding to the atmosphere.

The menu is not hugely extensive but does what it does competently - and to increase the alcohol intake of its guests.

Although it's not known for its raw cuisine (and does not serve sushi since the don't make the rice), we start off with the Sanma (Pacific Saury) sashimi, which is the "catch (or flown in) of the day". Roughly chopped up but a good size to enjoy the moist and fat fish, it was pretty good even if not the best. The choice of wasabi or minced ginger/ chopped spring onions to go with your shoyu was also available without request.

The butter grilled squid was a succulent combination of garlic butter and squid juices although the squid was a tad overcooked and bordered on rubbery in some parts but the sauce accompanied by more Japanese mayo was a nice sinful combo which would help you down more sake than you can say sake.

To round off, we had the katsu curry rice and stir fried mixed vegetables. Although the pork cutlet was not the best cut (it's not black pork) I've had, the curry tasted every bit home-cooked and rich in the stock it had been stewing in all day. Coupled with the red pickles, very very good.

Almost like being transported back into a back street in Tokyo and enjoying as the locals do..

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Singapore - Majestic

A meal at Majestic has not disappointed and after a lapse of just over a year, I went back for a visit with some colleagues. The set menus had changed and I didn't see my favourite lamb chops with fried carrot cake, which I had been thinking about. Yes, you heard it.. Majestic specialises in Chinese food, served Western style and portions. I don't want to risk calling it "fusion" since I think it's much better without what I think is a misconceived and preconceived label.

This visit, I went with a comparitively healthier Set Menu A and still enjoyed the experience. For starters, there is the thinly-sliced marinated in five spices ox tougue served on a bed of rocket and drizzled with balsamic. Interesting and tasty enough but no "Wow" as you might imagine from the pic.
A tasty shark cartillage soup followed. With a rich stock as a base, you could feel the collagen hang from your lips with each spoonful! Pretty good although I thought there was a tad too much of a pepper hint. Hmm...
Next up, a jumbo sized prawn deep fried to a crisp and drizzled with mango salsa was yummy.. and there were enough juices left in its head to cause a swirl.

The steamed Chilean seabass topped with Chinese "mui choy" (sweet preserved vegetables) was clean on the palate yet tasty. The fish however, was a tad overcooked but the bouncy texture of the seabass saved it from being too chewy.

My favourite of the evening was the abalone with noodles served in a really superior stock and topped with chopped kale. The noodles were very al dente and the stock was so good I wanted to pour every drop into my mouth. The use of tiny abalones did not detract from the taste and made for convenient consumption, no need to saw up with a fork and knife.

Dessert was Majestic's signature ice cream with sago and avocado puree, drizzled with Gula Melaka (Asian molasses). This is reminiscent of the famed Indonesian dessert Es Avocado andmade for a sweet ending. However, more avocado and gula melaka would have done it for me more. Or even, just the avocado and gula alone would have been best.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Singapore - Thai Village Sharksfin

Every once in a while, I am politically incorrect and find pleasure in indulging in sharksfin... and so, when the need to watch The Dark Knight lands us at one of the few cinemas in town with tickets, we find justification in eating in the best restaurant in the complex - Thai Village Sharksfin Restaurant at the Leisure Park in Kallang. One of the institutions still going strong in our nation. While it isn't going to be the best in quality, it probably is pretty darn good in value.

Chinese spinach with 3 eggs in superior broth
made special by the garnish of crispy silver fish

The chicken special which upon tasting is just a pretty competent oyster sauce chicken served sizzling in an old wok.

The accompanying dishes to the meal were not the focus although they are pretty competent. But between the satisfying signature green chilli sauce and the seafood fried rice, this politically incorrect evening turned out gastronmically correct.