Saturday, May 31, 2008

Singapore - Aoki

The stairs down to where it all happens was almost like going into one of the Prada stores in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui where there is an anticipation of things to come... we were lead to our seats at the sushi counter so we can also be entertained by the chefs at creation.

The menu was pretty extensive with seasonal offerings also so we took a while to place our order.. during this time, we felt the discomfort of being watched over by 3 to 4 wait staff... the attentiveness was just a tad overdone, where a slight twitch of the body resulted in someone bending over and a "yessir" or "yes maam". I never thought I'd say this but we were grateful when the restaurant started filling up and the wait staff to guest ratio was no longer 3 to 1.

Surprisingly, the food came fast and furious, which was unlike the inital deliberate service. We couldn't eat fast enough, especially the hot food, which got cold pretty quickly from a healthy draft.

We started with the baby squid in miso sauce - tender, fresh squid with the sweet miso, which was not cloying. Good start to break the hunder pangs from 3 solid hours of tennis. The uni or sea urchin served in its own thorny shell was spoonfuls of creamy goodness with just enough hint of the brininess to keep you thinking of the sea. The Ayu (sweet fish) tempura was a combination of light batter with the natural sweetness of the fish and did not feel oily or heavy at all. My main event was my chef's sushi platter which was a selection of the choicest cuts over well marinated sushi rice. Of worthy mention was the sea eel, which was seared just right and painted with just enough sauce, as well as the fatty tuna roll, which was a nice blend of chopped tuna and chives rolled and chopped into 6 bite-sized pieces. I ended the meal with sakura ice cream, almost as light as a sorbet, and at the mistakenly charged price of $56, has got to be one of the most expensive in the world. Thankfully, that mistake was caught and I have since seen my refund on the recent credit card bill.
The meal did end with a record time of exactly an hour, but perhaps the chef was training for the F1 race this September...

Bangalore, India

Given my challenged digestive system, I avoid Indian food most of the time... except of course when I'm in India. On a recent work trip, 2 places are worthy of mention both for the unusualness of the cuisine (outside of India that is).

The first is Karavalli at the Taj Gateway Hotel, said to be one of the best, if not the best seafood restaurant in Bangalore, serving up varied seafood dishes from Southern Coastal India. Stepping into Karavalli is said to be like stepping back in time into a Mangalorian home. Antique furniture and decor only served to add to the suspense that this place likes to do things in the good old fashioned way especially when it comes to the cooking. The menu is extensive and has the most seafood dishes I have ever seen on an Indian menu. We had a sampling of tiger prawns and fish for appetisers, which were deliciously light. The main course was a thali - set meal with Indian breads, a variety of curries and sauces, served on a banana leaf platter. All of this washed down with a lime soda with sugar made for long afternoon of meetings back in the hot humid afternoon - NOT!

The second is Zaman at the Ista Hotel. Zaman, a fine dining Indian restaurant with a contemporary decor serving North Indian food. Not too stuffy given its glass showcase of mouth-watering kebabs! Great place to relax and have a great meal, minus the singer, who by my Indian colleagues' standards, was killing the poultry without the need for a knife. Our attempts to be polite failed and we finally insisted on moving to a quieter corner, when the captain told us that she has been paid to continue singing for the night. The restaurant was promoting Punjabi cuisine when we visited but still had its regular menu. We had 2 curries of chicken and lamb, which were both excellent, as well as a spinach puree with generous cubes of cottage cheese. The naans were soft and served straight from the tandoor, making for a satisfying way to fill ourselves for a great night's sleep back in our rooms, without needing to brave the Bangalore traffic once again.