Thursday, December 31, 2009

Singapore - Via Mar @ SAM

Spanish cuisine is still not an often thought-of cuisine in Asia, though it has gained in popularity over the last decade, with increasing tourism to Spain.  Consequently, there are probably not enough benchmarks for the uninitiated like me, who have not stepped foot into Spain.  It is unfortunately often the 3rd choice I never get to behind Italy and France.  And OK, Rafael Nadal just isn't on my list of favourite persons.  

So D's choice of Via Mar was somewhat refreshing.  That meant some apprehension also since this was untried and I hadn't seen any reviews.  The setting is very nice,  on the grounds of the Singapore Art Museum, on the Waterloo Street side.  There is also an al fresco area for those willing to suffer the humidity.  Despite the hour, we were the only table at lunch and it wasn't until we were half-way through that another couple joined us.  On the bright side, we just had more attentive service.

First up, our tapas of Chorizo slices dunked in a garlic-infused olive oil.  A nice starter with the warm sliced baguette served, but just a tad salty for me.  The sodium level would be acceptable with a nice cold jug of Sangria, which we did not have.

The seafood paella was touted to be a special and in my opinion, a Spanish benchmark.  It was pleasantly tasty enough and decked out generously but somehow, I just wasn't sure of its authenticity, especially with the hard-boiled egg quarters (although I do like them!).  Overall, the dish did not come close to a "wow" for me - the seafood could have been better cooked so as to be more juicy - most of it lost their taste somewhere but unfortunately not in the rice.  Suspicion:  parboiled then decorated over the rice???

The recommended dessert of the pear soaked in red wine, with chocolate sauce and strawberry ice cream was surprisingly very decent.  Of course, the pink pear was the main character who stole the show.  Heavily laced and pretty, it still retained its crunch and went well with the chocolate.  The strawberry ice cream in my opinion was superfluous.  I think a strawberry sorbet would have fared even better to make this an excellent summer cooler.

71 Bras Basah Road
#01-03 Singapore Art Museum
Singapore 189555
Tel: +65-6423 0900

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Singapore - La Braceria

Where food and wine is concerned, PH - - is definitely in the know.  So I don't know why he was stressing at our lunch today.  So Pietrasantra was closed on a Tuesday.  I have never been but M & I both thought La Braceria certainly was no backup plan.  It was simply good ole hearty Italian - no fuss, just great food.  And all this, with no opportunity to look at the menu!  So I haven't the faintest clue what else they serve!  PH just walks in, standing and chatting with Fabio, who happily contributed the menu for our great lunch.  Certainly, a place where everyone knows PH by name.

First up, the fish carpaccio.  This is not your regular cottony type white fish.  This was cod, and so on top of fresh, it was slightly crunchy, with a nice firm bite to it, and took in the flavours of the rocket, cherry tomats, and extra virgin very well.

Our other appetiser of the braised tripe in tomato sauce was a burst of flavours and textures.  Sweet yet tangy from the tomatoes and carrots, there was a hint of herb but not overpoweringly so.  The tripe was braised soft, yet with a slight chewiness so that as you grind away, the flavours become even more distinct.  Best outside of Roma that I've tried.

I was told the seafood linguine is not on the menu but I highly recommend you try to ask for it.  If that doesn't work, beg.  A very synergised dish, you would not think the linguine was not a fruit of the sea, because it simply took in all of the scampi, scallops and shrimps.  Just imagine the complexity when all that is tossed with garlic and tomatoes over heat.

And just so we can exceed our meat quota even more, the perfectly executed medium rare T-bone.  Reminds me of Florence's bistecca, but not served on a chopping board and perfectly sliced so we could just lift it piece by piece and eat like civilised persons.  If I wasn't leaving room for dessert, I would have liked to pick up the bone and enjoy the best bits.

Frankly, if you ask me, the molten chocolate cake is done to death and face it, it's just boring.  But we decided we had to order it because it was the only smell which caught my fancy when our neighbouring table was tucking into it, as we sat down to lunch.  Reason: the flambe over the alcohol which above the aroma, adds a perfect dimension in taste.  And it is also very rightly moist and ok, if you never eat molten chocolate cake again,  you need to eat it here and only here.  Easily the best I've had in Singapore.

I will be back next time.  Maybe I get to check out the menu or why bother, just ask friendly Fabio.

No. 5 Greendale Avenue
Tel: +65-64655918

Monday, December 28, 2009

Singapore - Jones the Grocer

Dempsey Hill is a great locale to hang out but it hasn't been at the top of my dining experiences in Singapore.  But when you're in an easy mood, it's easy to give it a second shot.  Especially during the festive season, and you prefer to be far from the madding crowd, easy parking becomes an easy option.

Today, M and I went to Jones the Grocer, actually reluctantly given our previous visit when it first opened.  We sat down and pored through a limited lunch menu, and 2 pairs of eyes zoomed in more than quickly on the Wagyu burger.  M is very persuasive and so I threw my "no more meat before the year is up" notion out of the window.

OK, no regrets.  It's by no means the best I've had, but it was very enjoyable.  Especially when I've been poked and prodded for about 3 hours while having fasted from 9pm last night, the burger was just what I needed, washed down with my long black.

Although a Wagyu burger, it wasn't such that the marbling took over.  It was actually very lean for Wagyu, giving the burger enough of a meaty bite, which I like in my burgers.  Open face makes a lot of sense if you don't want too much carb, and laden generously with a beefy tomato and lots of rocket, with caramelised onions to lend a sweet finish with the aged balsamic, a full finish without feeling the after effects.

Very nice...

Dempsey Hill 
Block 9 
#01-12 Dempsey Road,  
Singapore, 247697 
Tel:  +65 6476 1512 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Singapore - Yoguru

After much feasting, it's always nice to try and cut back.  Desserts are a good start, but do you really want to do that?  After all, it's still the holiday season!  I like Yoguru and it's a great healthy fix for those who still need  to satisfy their sweet tooth.  With fresh cut fruit toppings, and nuts, and cereals to top of your choice of original or Yoguberry or both if you can't decide, it's an excellent way to top off a meal.  OK, enough advertising.

For those who grew up with Yami Yoghurt like I did, this is also a great to reminisce with!

Kallang Leisure Park
5 Stadium Walk, Unit 01-01A
Tel: +852-63448860

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Singapore - PS Cafe (Palais)

I am 3rd day lucky - it is my 3rd day back in Singapore and I finally got to eat something which could be at least close to the sort of quality which corresponds to the price.  It ain't cheap by any means but one should not come away feeling cheated at least.

The folks behind PS Cafe might finally have gotten the kitchen to live up to its always-enticing menu.  While previous experiences at its Dempsey outlet always leaves one feeling bewildered at best, the Palais outlet could finally break that barrier. It's newest outlet is set in the tai-tai enclave of Palais Renaissance and suitably set on Level 2 - just across from where they all do their hair.  Spacious amidst a black-&-white interior, they also manage a "garden" area which is a great place to wile away a lazy weekend brunch.

Portions are hearty so best to share if you want variety.  D and I suitably partnered for the task at hand.

The Eggs Benedict were very well done with the eggs poached to perfection, sitting atop a slightly mild and sweet ham (a tad too thin for my liking), set on an English muffin.  The Hollandaise was just nice, and the Balsamic was a very nice touch, cutting across the creamy richness.  And of course, a very generous garnish of rocket for fibre and a third dimension.

The stack of banana pancakes were competent albeit a tad dry.  Although the honey was good, there wasn't enough of it to go round, because of the dryness.  Choice for PS:  moister, fluffier pancakes or use maple syrup, which is less thick and easier to soak up.

Of course, no one can resist fries, not least fries laced with truffle oil, which incidentally is all you smell when you sit in the cafe, because it is a popular order.  And they did live up to the smells on our clothes.  Thin and crisp, and wonderfully decadent from truffle odour, very nice with my lemon and basil soda.

With this, cast aside all prejudices and give the place a go.  If they keep up standards, definitely the place to be seen, and be fed while at it.

390 Orchard Road

#02-09A Palais Renaissance
Tel: +65 6887 2207

New seasonal faves

I look forward to Omakase meals at trusted restaurants because in a world like ours, pleasant surprises are few and far between.  And at Hana Sakazuki, the sashimi/sushi chefs are real teases - we put up with it because they treat us very well indeed.

On this cool Winter Solstice night, as the delivery truck of the day's spoils was pulling away from the valet station, we made our upstairs and were prepared to be surprised.

Tonight's winners:  the Gindara sushi.  Fatty and melt in your mouth, unadulterated by the usual smokiness from the grill.  Full-bodied, and surprisingly tasty beyond just the taste of melting fat, definitely a seasonal treausure.

In contrast, our Ankimo liver was grilled to a golden brown, edges just ever-so-lightly crisp and dusted with spring onions, and resting on a bed of Ponzu seaweed.  The guilt-free foie gras we have all been waiting for.  A sight and taste to behold.  Superb!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hong Kong - Hot Pot Season! 愉記 - my personal fave!

Hot pot shops make a slaughtering this white season in North Asia.  Of course, every region has their own specialties and defining characteristics and Hong Kong is no different.  Having tried a few over the years, it is ironic that the one I like best is in my own backyard in Happy Valley. 

愉記 (Yu Kee) - the English translation is my own.  There is oddly no English version of the name.  But so what.  When you think about the quintessential Hong Kong hot pot, it's about the beef, the soup base and of course, the ability to concoct your own dipping sauces with the variety of condiments they present you at the start!  Soya-sauce based with a splash of vinegar, topped with thick sesame sauce, and given the added kick with freshly cut chillies and coriander and spring onions.  For the brave, there is also fresh or fried garlic bits!

Yu Kee may not always have the best beef but it is pretty darn good.  And coupled with the best satay soup base, it is already half way there.  The other special is the crunchy carp chunks - if you like fish, ask for the belly parts - smooth and crunchy at the same time.  

Of course, the shrimp, cuttlefish, and other freshly made meat balls are competent and tasty too.  

My personal thing is to have a half-and-half (no not milk).  Half satay and half clear soup base like (coriander and century egg works).  Enjoy the above good stuff, add other flavour enhancing or texture making ingredients like radish, fresh bean curd sheets.  End off with satay-laced vermicelli (my Singapore roots) and instant Nissin noodles (my Hong Kong influence).  

Burp up all with a regular bottled Coca Cola .... ahhhh....  let it all settle before putting on your hot pot smelling coat and heading out to brave the cold once more. 

Shop B, No. 13 Yuk Sau Street
Happy Valley
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2574 7111 

If you must, try Hotpot Instinct only for beef.  Hop Hing is good old fashioned tasting and pretty good but be warned, you don't get to concoct your own dip.  Soya sauce is your only friend - I had to pay for additional spring onions, vinegar and chilies.  

Hotpot Instinct  火鍋本色
G/F,52 Tang Lung Street
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2573 2844

Hop Hing Hot Pot  合興火鍋
No. 4 Lung Kong Road  龍崗道4號
Lung Fung Lau  龍鳳樓
Tel: +852-27166007

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hong Kong - Pierre

I took a while to write this post as I wanted to figure out my new MacBook Pro and how best to present the culinary delights at Pierre, which I thoroughly enjoyed on my birthday.  Of course, the slideshow alone would have been an easy way out!  Alas, still no IT luck!

So, I bring you some of the more amazing dishes from the wondrous night.  Of course, don't get me wrong, it was about a 98% perfection, the 2% just a matter of personal tastes.  It is therefore no wonder that Pierre Gagnaire maintains his status in the culinary world.  It was a little pricey, but you do leave very satisfied and in ecstacy.  And portions are certainly generous enough to leave you rolling home afterwards..

The 2 Entrees we had were the highlights of the evening.

Les Langoustines: 
Mousseline: with green pepper; curry sauce, dried yellow grapes. 
Grilled: French “grenaille” potatoes and dried white mushrooms. 
Tartare: like a biscuit, celeriac cream; unctuous spicy grapefruit syrup.
Pan-fried: with shredded pine nuts; spot of caramelised soy sauce; slightly acid carrot julienne. 
White velouté and amber jelly, shell powder.

Langoustines were beautifully done - in either style, very succulent and juicy, yet still retaining its bounce.  These are probably the best I've had in treatment.  With the exception of the curry, which I did not like very much, the rest of the company was excellent and enhance the flavours of the langoustines even further.

La Charcuterie fine:
Crispy toast, soubressade velouté and apple marmalade. 
Foie gras soup with amontillado, citrus and chilli sorbet, boudin noir; small grilled sausage. 
Small cubes of cooked ham, creamed curry, celeriac julienne.
Bresse chicken Pojarsky with tarragon. 
European ham assortment (Parma, Bellota, Bigorre), colonatta fat and black bacon.

If you prefer a richer meatier flavours to begin with, don't miss this excellent entree.

Crispy pie with a velvety cream topped off with white truffle.  Sheer decadence in the 2 bites.  Unfortunately, not very big. 

The foie gras soup has got to be one of the best ideas around.  The rich piece of liver swimming in a foamed broth, and topped with a blood and other pork sausage was a decadent burst of a gorgeous variety of meat flavours.  You had to be there...  

The European ham assortment was a combination of good meats on a bed of sauerkraut.  Clever delicate balance.  

Le Turbot:
Slice of turbot roasted on the bone.
The fillets are cut then cooked in shellfish juice.
Provolone, pear, celeriac gratin with Colombo.
Pochas and hummus like a condiment.

The turbot while good by most standards, seemed to be an anticlimax after the 2 amazing entrees.  I probably won't order it again given the other selections.

Roasted saddle of lamb from Lozere, bunch of fresh herbs, crusty olives; aubergine, lamb sweetbread, girolles.
Béchamel tuila, green pepper, garlic paste with vadouvan.
Lamb chops, tamarind on a green square of herbs.
Cold courgette cream soup with tarragon.
Condiment: Roquefort cheese.

The lamb saddle was most out-of-this-world.  Even more so than the main event of the chops, which were delightfully tender and juicy.  But the saddle was just so tasty, I was actually putting on top of the lamb chops and eating both as a combination.  Probably wrong but it was good!

Strawberry jelly; marshmallow and crumble.
Crystal salt.
Milk chocolate crunchy parfait.

Of course, no French restaurant is worth its sugar without dessert.  And the vanilla souffle certainly did not disappoint.  If you've never had souffle, this would be a good place to have it.  But of course, after you've had it here, you can't have it at most places afterwards.  You decide!

Definitely worthy of its Michelin accolades.  Well worth the visit and all the calories money could buy here!  

25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 
5 Connaught Road Central 
2825 4001

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hong Kong - Sushi Imamura

1st birthday splurge courtesy of M - visiting for 4 straight days of golf..  some people have a great life...  

Omakase at Sushi Imamura - a first time experience that didn't fare badly at all.  The Cantonese speaking Japanese chef was friendly and accommodating although we did feel bad for not observing and engaging him.  But M and I just had too much catching up to do.  And we were eating just a tad slowly.

He offered up many different fishies but the most memorable was a "Mok Hau" (Cantonese) fish, thinly sliced and served up with a ponzu sauce, which you smash the liver into for a unique and very smooth tart finish.  Quite something!

Seasonal delights like Ankimo liver was also very good, especially since we are well into the cold season.  

Crunchy and sweet oyster, laced with more ponzu.  So succulent even the oyster-unfriendly would like this.

The Botan ebi was also very fresh and sweet, and of course, the treat of eating the head deep fried or grilled afterwards is a real treat. 

The winner of the evening was the baked Shirako - cod sperm sacs.  The smokiness from baking it coupled with the light soya it was served in, is ok, I hate to say it in the same paragraph as "sperm", orgasmic!


The other winner was the salt grilled Shishamo.  I hadn't had it eaten this fish a while since I exceeded my quota a long time ago, but eating it again reminded me why.  Imamura's treatment was worthy - lightly done with the flesh light and flaky and the roe coming loose easily as you break the fish gently with your chopsticks.

While not the best I've had, I did come away feeling satisfied and happy.  Definitely worth a visit.  Perhaps next time, I promise to pay the chef more attention.

16/F, Continental Diamond Plaza
523-527 Hennessy Road
Causeway Bay
Tel: +852-2836 0056

Happy Birthday!

Although late, I want to thank C for hosting an excellent home-made dinner on a precious Saturday and taking time to send birthday greetings too!  Thank you for kickstarting the celebrations for me this year.  

The evening's menu:

Carrot and orange soup with crusty bread
Garden greens
Coq Au Vin with roast spuds

And dessert from Cova - the yummy strawberry cake with creme fraiche and fluffy sponge on the outside.  

I love birthdays..