Monday, October 26, 2009

Singapore - Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria

My impressions of Southern Italy are of homeliness and heartiness - all about simple treatment of fine produce from the good earth and sea around.  With a classic white and blue themed fixtures and fittings, reflecting the style of that area, Cugini attempts to bring all that good stuff to Singapore and does a decent job of it.  Although service was a little spotty when we got in, as they were busy, we got to enjoying a little bit more attention as the night wore on. 

The menu is rather large and so being our first time, we went with all of our waiter's suggestions. 

The Bresaola (hand cured beef) with lemon oil and shaved Parmesan, served on a wooden board, lived up to its presentation.  Tender and well cured (without being just salty) thinly sliced beef was lifted by the abundant rocket leaves and good quality Parmigianno.  I would have preferred a little bit more cheese than the 4 slices but didn't want to push my first visit!

Since Cugini emphasises Sardinian cuisine, we tried the Sardinian style spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, chilli, mullet roe (which Sardinia is famous for), and Mediteranean prawn.  The taste is something which even locals who are not initiated into Italian cuisine can enjoy.  Very reminisent of the local Hokkien prawn mee, and even had some "wok hei" to it.  Enjoyably tasty even if a tad local for my liking but Sardinia is one of the places I haven't had the privilege of visiting in Italy so perhaps..

Our Cugini pizza was served as a pretty decked out forest of fall colours with generous toppings of fresh tomato, mozzarella, tomino cheese, Italian bacon and rocket.  More rustic in style with a slightly thicker and chewy base (which I enjoy) it was an excellent combination of distinct flavours.  Although the base can get tough as it cools, it was still a high quality pizza. 

Our dessert of the Sardinian deep-fried pastry filled with cheese and citrus flavoured honey was good but I would have ironically preferred to have started the meal with it than end with it since it is a little heavy.  Softly chewy like Mozzarella but with slightly more pong, it went well with the honey.

All in, the produce is certainly good quality - from the cured meats which are flavourful, to the cheeses, they are in themselves worth another visit.  Understanding that less is better with fine produce is the key to enjoying nature's bounty.

87 Club Street
Singapore 069455
Tel: +65-6221 3791

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hong Kong - a day in Central

The amazing thing with Hong Kong's central district is not that it houses THE financial centre of Asia but that it still coexists with a collection of long-standing businesses in old shophouses, much of which is the heart of Hong Kong's cuisine.

You can start the day at Sang Kee for a breakfast of congee and fried vermicelli.  This congee institution has been around for much of Hong Kong's modern history and is famous for its fish congee and pig's giblets congee.  The fish in particular is extremely fresh and despite it being a river fish, has no foul muddy taste.  Accompaniments of a ginger/spring onion soya sauce is excellent with the fish.  Do also order the fried vermicelli, well fried to envelope each strand with a tasty stock and with hardly a grease trace.  Dace fish cakes are also good and springy. 

After Sang Kee, take a walk to Lan Fong Yuen for a taste of one of Hong Kong's oldest and quintessential Cha Chan Teng.  Sip on smooth silk stocking milk tea (the cold one is excellent with even ice cubes made from the tea so there is no dilution), while biting into a thick toast smothered with peanut butter and condensed milk, the stuff our childhoods were made of..  And if you have room, or are just greedy, try their famous chicken chop with tossed Nissin noodles, served with a ginger/spring onion condiment for a little bit of tasty innovation.


After you're done with soaking in the neighbourhood, you can choose from a myriad of restaurants or continue the theme by dining on classic Cantonese fare at Lin Heung Lau.  Check out  Dim sum isn't bad but here's a glimpse of what you have to battle if you eat there!


Sang Kee Congee Shop
G/F, 7-9 Burd St,
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2541 1099

Lan Fong Yuen 
No. 2, Gage Street
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2544 3895/ 2854 0731

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hong Kong - Chez Patrick

After being given a tour of the area by E, I thought I would go back and explore the Star Street area restaurants having started with Cinecitta last week.  This time, I decided to try Chez Patrick, located off the beaten track in the "quietest" corner on Sun Street. 

It's a great little set up, very quaint and reminiscent of an eatery in France.  And Patrick does his thing with the meet-and-greets.  He comes across as kinda shy and so not a whole lot of conversation unless you really engage him.  The food was fine but not overly impressive for some of the hype I've seen.  Maybe Patrick has his good and bad days.  I went on a neutral day, I think.  Competent but not a whole lot of soul.

The fish terrine amuse bouche was well, fish.  Nothing else to be said.  But the freshly baked rolls were good.  They might have used better butter but I was happy enough. 

Patrick's signature appetiser of the foie gras trio was interesting for the presence of a foie gras ice cream profiterole but it was my least favourite.  I had trouble enjoying cold liver.  But I did like the baked foie gras profiterole, which make it less greasy yet retaining the full bodied richness of the liver.  The terrinne was decent also but not unexpected.  The dark chocolate/balsamic vinegar sauce is a nice touch. 

The mains special of the evening was veal steak with a cheese crust served with a rich wine sauce, accompanied by each of a beetroot and potato mash.  The quality of the meat was not as good as I would have liked.  Not to say that it was bad but it was just a tad tough.  The cheese crust was tasty but overall, not a dish I might order again.

C's fillet mignon in a similarly rich wine sauce, on the other hand, was more impressive.  A better piece of meat, and had excellent companions - escargots, what tasted like cheese polenta and a baked cheese stick.  The common presence of beetroot really didn't do much for either of us.  But the steak was certainly enjoyable. 

The best parts of the evening were the desserts.  Far superior to the savouries, these were perfectly executed. 

The star was the apple and almond tart, served with a vanilla and calvados ice cream.  Of course, served warm, the tart was almondic in fragrance, lightly crisp, with a slight chewiness, the combination was delightful and not overly sweet. 

The chestnut cake with chocolate sauce and a maple like ice cream was also very good.  Looking every bit like a chocolate cake but so different in taste - much more delicate and brought home by the good quality chocolate sauce. 

Chez Patrick would be worth another shot if you like the neighbourhood enough but there seem to be many other choices.  But otherwise, it is a quaint place to have a traditionally French home-style dinner at and there aren't that many choices if that's the criteria.  And hailing from Burgundy, the wine list was certainly quite illustrious.  Hopefully, I go from neutral to good next time. 

G/F, 8-9 Sun Street
Wan Chai
Hong Kong

Tel: +852-2527 1408

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hong Kong - Irori 酒處

I stumbled on this last weekend and it was a good find!  Always been under my nose - considering how often I'm in Causeway Bay - but never heard of it.  Well, the power of the internet ...  is just powerful.  And so, armed even with recommended dishes from other bloggers, off we went in search of a non-descript building on Yiu Wa Street.  Good thing it's a short street.

We started with the pumpkin salad - 2 ice cream scoops of mashed pumpkin with bits of hard boiled egg.  Very similar to a Japanese potato salad but I just like spuds more.  Wasn't bad though.

First time - so a cautious order of Hirame sashimi. 

The sashimi was fresh and there was a generous serving of condiments.  Well cut with no stringy bites.  Bonus:  we got what I believe is the thin muscle of the dorsal fin, on the side of the fish.  Higher in fat content, juicier and softer, and a richer finish.  Very good.

Next up: the minced tuna canapes topped off with nothing but rich Japanese mayo.  Decadent richness and surprisingly not oily at all but a superbly good combination.  Served on slices of baguette, the fusion was interesting in a positive way.

The novelty of the joint was the grilled mochi balls with a pizza twist.  With bits of tomato and bacon on the inside, the combination is quite yummy.  Only complaint: took a lot of chewing to down 3 balls.  I think a max of 2 per person would be perfect, greed factor aside.

My favourite was the vinegared mackeral pressed sushi, Osaka style.  Very high quality mackeral and not vinegared to a pulp, this was almost catch-of-the-day fresh, with a nice twist of acid, nudged against a decent bed of rice interspersed with torn Perilla leaves, topped off with a glossy translucent seaweed, adding to texture.  Definitely one of the better ones I've eaten outside of Japan.  I would go back alone just to have this.  The 6 pieces would make a nice light lunch for one.

A quiet place to hang out above the hustle and bustle of Causeway Bay, with interesting concoctions and they even have baby bottles of sake for the less initiated (or if you need to drive). 

2/F, Bartlock Centre,
3 Yiu Wa Street
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2838 5939

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hong Kong - Cinecitta

The menu was enticing enough but as we walked through the doors, it was deserted!  Oh-oh...  but too late, since we didn't really want to be rude.  Granted it was only 7.30 on a Friday evening...  and most would presumably still be getting to a happy state at the neighbouring bars in the Star Street neighbourhood..  The restaurant is known for and is spectacular in size with silent black-and-whites playing right of bar as you enter. 

There wasn't a whole lot of options since I was on medication but we did agree on sharing a couple of items.  It was 2 hits out of 3 so we thought we did pretty good.

The beef carpaccio dusted with fresh parmesan, and strewn with rocket and fresh artichokes was actually very good.  The thinly sliced beef was not at all streaky and rolled into the accompanying bounty well.  A nice combination of flavours with nothing overpowering the other.  A team effort!

The Gnochetti with "Guanciale" ham and black truffles in a carbonara was decadence epitomised and the sort of luxury on the palette I haven't enjoyed in a while.  A wondrous combination although best to share since it can get overly rich on the senses if in abundance. 

The "miss" of the evening was the chicken roll in the mains section.  While decent enough, it just wasn't what we expected and we could just as well have ended dinner on the 2nd course. 

An enjoyable place, and decently priced.  I might just go back to try the other interesting pasta combinations.

9 Star Street
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2529 0199