Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hong Kong - Steik World Meats

The Hong Kong economy is certainly robust again and it is once again difficult to get reservations, especially for a Friday night.  Most good quality steak houses were full - so you either have dinner at tea or at supper, if you are desperate.  I don't usually eat steaks at unknown places since I'm determined that my red meat quota is never wasted.  So it wasn't without apprehension that I confirmed our reservation at Steik.  

When you get there, it is a pretty decent place to dine.  Very soft lights (which explains the photos), nice cushy booth seating, and larger than most restaurants tables.  There's also a nice bar area akin to Morton's.  The menu is actually a pretty fun one, and larger than most meat houses.  Even if you're not a meat fan, you can still get a good selection going.

The Crab and Lobster Bisque was a nice start to dinner.  Served with sides of lobster butter, fresh grated parmesan and croutons, it was a delicate balance of crustacean and cream.  Even with a generous portion, you will not feel too bloated after so that your main course is affected.

We shared the pan-seared foie gras with toasted brioche and peach chutney and were very happy.  Appropriately distributed when serving, we each got our own plate, which was still a generous portion.  The liver was so very well seared and sealed to a delicious crisp while the inside was still pink and creamy.  Not greasy in its delivery, it went well with the slightly tart peach chutney.

My main of the Japanese Saga Sirloin Grade A4 was served sashimi style, carved up to 6 pieces laced with Japanese Alfafa.  Very nicely marbled but still retaining enough meat for bite, it was very easy to chew and melts in your mouth pretty effortlessly.  Those who like more meat may not fancy this and want a huge slab with more potential for chewing but this is perfect for those who like their beef but don't like the devouring process too much.  And the good news is, Japanese beef marbled like so, does not have saturated fat, and is generally healthier for you!  At least that's what I read and believe!

C's main of the slow-braised Wagyu beef cheek with potato puree, bacon lardons and red wine glazed shallots was also tasty although in today's context, a little less ordinary.  The combination is a hearty one and if you like your stew, this is a very nice rendition.  

T's choice of the pan-fried snapper fillet with herb gnocchi, char-grilled asparagus and lobster butter sauce was in her words, very very good but the cream got to her in the end, and it is a little heavy for those who cannot take to cream well.  But it is a very generous portion and might be better shared.

The sides of shoe string fries and the wild rocket salad with shaved parmesan were nicely done while not spectacular.  

To finish, and we were pretty finished by this time, but insisted on having at least one dessert.  Our unanimous choice of the Warm Chocolate Fondant with strawberry cheesecake ice cream was a nice variation and although not the best, it was a happy finish to a happy meal.  

Certainly a nice alternative to the established steak houses around the region and well worth a visit.  Windfall that we did.  And if you have clients or visitors to entertain, it certainly isn't shabby at all.

Shop 314, K11
18 Hanoi Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2530 0011

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hong Kong - Cheong Kee

Friday night...  after a wonderful dinner, my eyes are closing as I'm looking towards the weekend.  Saturday routine will begin with a late start, and of course a trip to Cheong Kee for lunch.  Try not to wrestle with me for their favourites, please.  

I never make it early enough for macaroni, stewed chicken wings and sometimes their glorious and purportedly first-to-market thick toast with spreads of your choice.  Their staples are butter and sugar crystals, a wondrous combination and guilty but good from the first bite.  The equally guilty and in my book, a better one is the peanut butter and condensed milk version.  

So I think I will stick to my usual tomorrow..  a bittergourd omelette paired with chicken chop or (battered fish fillet - see below).  

Or should I have the corned beef omelette and pan fried fish cake..  or if I feel a sore throat coming, the snow vegetable and pork slivers with vermicelli...  oh dear, decisions decisions.

But you know what?  Whatever you order, it's going to be darn tasty.  Biggest difference, their supplies are top notch and their chefs are so well trained that the foods are not greasy at all.  I mean, which cha chan tang uses imported eggs from the US, and that's just the start of it.

So don't fight with me and order something else please.  And let there be seats so I don't have to wait too long.

See you tomorrow!  Can't wait.

Shop 1 & 5, 2/F, Wong Nai Chung Complex, 
2 Yuk Sau Street, 
Happy Valley
Tel: +852-2573 5910

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Good mornings..

Yoghurt...  a lot of goodness to wake up to.  Easier on the body in place of milk in my opinion especially now where variety is the order of the day.  At the better supermarkets, you can literally spend minutes poring through the various types of fruit and then again every brand has a different recipe - I like the moderately creamy, slightly tart with no overwhelming aftertaste to speak of.  Not quite the consistency of frozen yoghurt (a great dessert), breakfast yoghurts should be more akin to "eating milk" but without the heaviness like so.

Citysuper and Mamie Nova have ignored my pleas to bring back their honey yoghurt back.  It's been 8 long months.  Yoghurt mornings have not been the same.

But I have found a new friend - German to be exact.  Landliebe is his name.  We are getting to know each other but cherries seem to be his thing.  This might be the start of a wonderful relationship.  We had a mid-morning rendezvous..  I'm not waking up to you yet but it could be soon...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hong Kong - Sushi Hiro

Never lunch in on a Monday..  makes the work week seems that much longer.  Don't need a whole lot of excuse to eat well..  who needs one?  With those basic rules in mind, my new project buddy E and I head off to Sushi Hiro to enjoy a no-surprises good-quality sashimi and sushi lunch.

Instead of hitting the menu for lunch sets, we decided to treat ourselves to an assortment of the day's catch or shipment, as it were.  As recommended by our friendly server, these included Botan Ebi (shrimp), Hamachi (yellowtail), and a very good cut of Toro (in the foreground).  All generous thick cuts and extremely fresh.

As any good restaurant does, there is no waste and the shrimp head and tail are deep fried and re-served as an unhealthy little munchie.  Too bad there was no sake to accompany it.  It was a little too well fried and greasy for me, but acceptably tasty since it was very fresh in the first place.

For our main, E and I shared the 9-piece sushi platter.  Ordinarily, this hits the spot immediately, but since we were spoiled by our fantastic sashimi starter, today's platter seemed more ordinary in quality than usual since the cuts are no where near the sashimi grade.  Still happy with the variety although the Uni (sea urchin) was conspicuously missing today.  With the miso soup and chawanmushi (which we were too full to get to), we were rather happy with ourselves.

Ending with a Japanese-style coffee, we were ready to brave a long afternoon of meetings once again.  Happy Monday!

7/F, The Toy House
100 Canton Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong

Tel: +852-2377 9877

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Singapore - Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck

Finally, the real McCoy in Singapore.  None of the chew to death duck skin and meat, nor the fake egg crepe that many Chinese restaurants serve.  Imperial Treasure's latest venture brings the quintessential dish of China's capital to Singapore and does a pretty authentic job of it.  It isn't quite the standard of my favourite at Grand Hyatt Beijing's Made in China but 6 hours south of Beijing, Imperial Treasure's outlet at the Paragon can satisfy a craving.

The duck is carved table side fresh from the oven and the chef is pretty impressive with his knife skills.  Quick and deft, he quickly separates the various cuts into different plates for us.  The first piece is pure skin, fragrant from the fat which has melted away, but leaving a glistening finish and a perfect crisp, you dunk this into the sugar plate, put in in your mouth, and smile.

One cut is skin and meat in equal thickness..  not my favourite since the meat here is closer to the breast, and not tender...  but the skin makes up for it.

This cut works well in the soft and slightly chewy crepe, giving it a nice bite and contrasted with the fresh cucumber and the julienned spring onion to give it some heat and kick.

The other cut which I quite like on its own has less skin but tender dark meat...  great to savour if you have a glass of Burgundy in hand too.

Although we don't get a second course in Beijing, Imperial Treasure does offer the option and we went with noodles since it was Grandma's birthday.  They do a mean flat egg noodle (or mee pok if you are from these parts) stir fried with Shanghainese snow vegetable and the duck slices.  The nice crunch from the vegetables and bean sprouts are a nice contrast to the al dente noodles and meaty slices.

Unfortunately, we weren't too impressed by the other things we ordered.  The appetisers of "kao fu" which is a Shanghainese special of braised gluten with kidney beans, and the other of "bang bang" chicken was less than ordinary and frankly, a waste of space.  We were actually thankful for our vegetables never showing up.  Good thing they served the duck first!

The only other dish we liked was the sea perch with chillies done Hunan style - one of the late Chairman Mao's favourite dishes.  The oily fish went well with the chilli and sichuan pepper laced soy based sauce and fortunately was very tolerable in terms of the heat factor.

All in all, a great place to visit for the duck but needs work on the other dishes and the service.  We would really have liked our vegetables - that's why we ordered it;  and better service wouldn't hurt too - aside from the duck, which I pre-ordered cleverly so we wouldn't have to wait (it takes an hour to prepare), they need to know what the chefs are good at and do a better job of suggesting dishes to order, and not just push the usual Cantonese stuff, which does not really complement the place.

290 Orchard Road
#05-42/45 The Paragon 
Tel: +65 6732 7838 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Singapore - Teochew Traditional Seafood Steamboat

It doesn't get cold in Singapore so it fascinates me that people still like their hotpot or steamboat as it is more commonly referred to here.  The perpetual rain does not send temperatures plunging but the slight decline is apparently enough to kick in that steamboat craving.  And so, off we go to this new place in Joo Chiat that some have raved about. 

The offerings are akin to a Hong Kong hot pot - that's why it's called Traditional Teochew I suppose.  The nicely marbled beef was impressive although I would have charged more and loaded up the plate.  8 pieces is probably enough for only one person if you like your beef.  The different types of wantons, squid "cake", meat and fish balls are all made in-house, we were told, and their house special - kway teow made from fish.  Fresh and decent quality.

There is only one type of soup stock and people like it.  It is a stock made from shark bone and is chock a block with lots of vegetable and other goodies.  It is tasty but a tad salty for my liking.  The Hong Kong style stock is generally tasteless and is largely used as something for the food to swim in before it is used for feeding.  Here, the stock can be drunk from minute 1, when it gets to a boil at the table.  Subtle differences but whatever it is, the salt content needs to go down a notch.

Don't overload on the steamboat and leave room for the very crispy pork knuckle.  Nicely deep fried to a crisp with the nice chewy collagen and firm meat in contrast, my only complaint was that the marinade was pretty ordinary so the gamey smell may overpower for some.  Pickles took the place of sauerkraut but could have been better pickled though..

Overall, good comfort food in decent, clean surrounds.  Worth a visit if you like hotpot/steamboat.

176 Joo Chiat Road
Tel: +65-63488924

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Singapore - Tomi Sushi

Biggest sales pitch: direct from Niigata and in business since 1954.  Niigata is a "food brand" in itself, the region rich with abundant produce including seafood, rice, soba, persimmons, pears, and even edamame.  So with this great promise in mind, we head to Tomi Sushi, among the 6 or 7 Japanese eateries which have just started business this week at the new wing of Millenia Walk, above Parco the department store.

Decor is very family restaurant style with the light pine-coloured wood theme, and is very bright.  A little disappointing since it looked too clinical but the positioning is good value so ok, overlook that.  The menu is not large, apparently slated to grow when operations become more settled.  We stick to what's been touted.

Edamame has become rather "mass market" and bland in a lot of places that I don't order it anymore.  But here, they bring in the Niigata variety and is served with the branch still intact.  Very flavourful and just darn good quality. 

Niigata is famous for its ichiyaboshi or overnight dried fish.  So we ordered the one made with Akauo - a type of red fish.  Remember to order lots of sake since this is in essence salted fish.  You can't eat it neat as we found out.  Well grilled but we were quite numb from the salt.  Thank goodness for the grated radish and pickled ginger to give it a bit of relief.

The Tokujyo Nigiri which is the premium platter was decent value boasting 2 pieces of Otoro!  Other goodies were the botan shrimp, uni and sea eel which I liked a lot.  The others were ordinary but good enough quality.  The rice was the other big sales pitch for Tomi, using only Koshihikari rice, also from guess where:  Niigata!  It is definitely better than your ordinary sushi joint, since this is well defined grains, but still fluffy and sticky enough to hold.  Tomi is generous with the rice, slightly too much, making the sushi larger than most places.  If you are looking for value, you do get it here, but I found it just a tad big.

If you like Anago, or sea eel, Tomi does a nice one with a sweet glaze over.  It's pretty addictive.  They have the whole eel option also but 2 of those and you might be done for the evening. 

Another bonus was that they serve bottled coke!  I love bottled coke and am happy to see it in Singapore again.  Must be at least 20 years since I last sighted it here.  It's not the classic variety like they have in Hong Kong but it's still great!  Happy days are here again..  I am going to have coke here again, since this formula beats the canned one hands down.

PS.  another service snag - took 3 asks for water to arrive and as we approach closing, the head waitress gets boistrous and loud.  Almost like an obasan sheperding her little helpers to clean up, but we found it just a tad annoying.  Might have been forgiven in a noisy Chinese restaurant, but in a quieter Japanese establishment.. go figure.

Parco Marina Bay
9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk
Tel: +65-63334633

Friday, April 2, 2010

Singapore - Oomphatico's

I hardly get to this part of Singapore.  If I do, the default place to meet seems to be the Dempsey area, which really for all the hype, you have to admit, is overrated for the food.  But Tanglin mall is so hmm...  domestic and unhappening.  True but if you want a spot of quiet, this isn't bad. 

So when BL suggested Oomphatico's, I had to check it out first.  I don't come back to Singapore that often and every meal counts.  The menu looked promising...  very much like when you're in the US, and this is quite like a lot of the new bistros sprouting over with a bit of everything.  Staples are usually safe.  We sat down to order our fancy juice combis and waited....

As we waited and waited.. the Parma Ham with Prosciutto and Rocket thin crust pizza arrived.  Very nicely done.  Crisp and slightly chewy dough for bite, the tomato based tasted slightly spiked but in an interesting way..  But we were distracted by our lack of fluids to investigate..  Both hams were of decent quality and not overly salted and of course, well balanced by the slightly spicy and fresh rocket.  Still waiting.. 

Thankfully, our juices arrived before our Oomphatico's club sandwich did. We were quite parched already especially since we spiked our pizzas with chilli flakes and a touch of Tabasco. I downed my Oomphatuation of apple, pomegranate and grape and finished more than half of it at one go.

The club was presented skewered on a stick - interesting but not enough to take us away from our pizza.  It looked a little dry but when we finally sank into it, were pleasantly surprised.  The bread was fresh and crusty on the outside but a nice chewy testure of the inside and smeared with a thin layer of butter.  Eggs and bacon are always winners with me.  The only thing we didn't like was chicken breast chunks.  I like dark meat although the saving grace was that it wasn't too dry for breast.  Still took me a while to chew through.  By the way, you can hold the sandwich and eat through the layers so we deconstructed it ourselves and sawed our way through with fork and knife.

To finish, we decided to abstain from sugar and went for coffee instead.  My Ristretto was not wow but nicely done and had no bad aftertaste - with a little hot milk, I was a happy camper.  Ready for my night of the invading conference calls.  :(

PS.  bear with the service.  Friendly enough and apologetic enough but needs lots of work and because there is an outdoor and indoor area, there aren't enough pairs of eyes manning the entire area and it can work you into a frenzy if you need something in a hurry.

163 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Mall
Singapore 247933
Tel: +65-67339088

Singapore - Wahiro

Wahiro has a new home and I just visited.  So new not mnny know it's new address.  So don't head to Katong Mall anymore.  The new place has a nicer entrance with Japanese style drapes barely covering the sake fridge but the interior looks and feels the same, just bigger.  So it's still kinda coming home...

The menu has a few new items but the layout is the same with the seasonal stuff on one page right at the front. 

The abalone in soy was tender and sweet (by itself and in the soy it was sitting in.  Great start and accompaniment to Sake.  Made up for the tomatoes which were probably prematurely harvested and too unripe and tart for my liking. 

The tempura was of some young root of a plant not dissimilar to a tree branch was of course tastier (not that I've tried eating off a tree).  Served with a little green tea infused salt, it was nicely done, lightly battered and not greasy. 

Sashimi was Sayori or Half Beak.  Smooth in texture and very slightly cottony but with a little bite, and a delicately sweet aftertaste.  Don't overdo the soy and wasabi though.  Easier to eat than Sardine since there are less bones to deal with.

The Hamachi sushi at Wahiro is almost always a firm order.  In my many years of patronising the place, I've not had a bad experience with this piece of fish.  They don't get the best cuts but they get a decent one and I think it's easier to cut up than others. 

The friendly sushi chef (not always Wahiro san who tends to man the Goldhill outlet) does unfortunately botch some of the others (on this trip the Spanish Mackeral sushi was a botched job - I almost gagged because the skin would not break no matter how much chewing I did while trying to look respectable and the rice ball did not help in letting any air in).  Perhaps I was blue for about 5 seconds although no one noticed. 

We did like the scallop and salmon miso gratin served on a shell.  The miso was of the sweet variety and combined the 2 contrasting textures of the crunchy scallop and cottony salmon well. 

To finish, I had the new dish of Inaniwa Udon in a light and warm broth served with a perfect yolk which you mix into the noodles with spring onion and minced ginger.  A nice warm finish although it is a bit much for one by the time you get to this part of the meal.  Best shared.

New venue, old familiar favourites.  Don't expect perfect execution but this is a nice homey place where everyone is friendly (though not always professional but the low turnover suggests good employment?) and you get good value authentic Japanese fare for decent prices. 

50 East Coast Road #01-01,
Roxy Square Shopping Centre
Singapore 428769
Tel: 6342 2252