Sunday, September 18, 2011

Singapore - DB Bistro Moderne

Ladies who lunch are fab.  It's been so busy that I've forgotten how to enjoy a leisurely lunch.  And so on the eve of a holiday, it doesn't get better.  

Daniel Boulud, one of the celebrity chefs who've set up shop in Singapore, has his bistro in the newish Sands integrated resort down in Marina Bay.  It's a comfortable place to dine in, with warm lighting, dark wood interiors, reminiscent of a old-style Parisian bistro but with modern fittings.

I ordered a home-made lemonade, which was overly sweet.  And cloyingly so.  I don't know why I didn't send it back since it was almost like drinking undiluted cordial.  Must have been the holiday mood..

Bread Basket
No complaints with the bread basket, which eased the hunger pangs of a late lunch.  Soft, with a nice chewy texture.  If only they used better butter..

Tarte Fine Provencal
I wasn't quite sure about this one.  My favorite bit was the smoked Mozarella melted over the top.  The chewiness of the cheese allowed the savory smokiness to linger and bring what was otherwise lacking in flavor to the tart.  The chopped up tomato and eggplant under the cheese was ratatouille like and while you could tell the 2 ingredients, didn't taste of much more.  Maybe it's just me, but the combination of the 2 just wasn't enough.  The squirt tail of Sauce Vierge on the side didn't add anything either.  Pleasant enough but very person-next-door.  Wouldn't order it again.

The Frenchie Burger
The burger on the other hand was total Yums.  A good quality beef patty topped with a confit pork belly (like bacon but thicker and better)!  The other condiments of caramelised onions, Morbier cheese (a French Mozarella) and cornichons added to the experience but did not distract.  It was really about the 2 meats.  I was a little apprehensive about the black pepper bun at first but happy it did not add too much spice.  And of course the fries were nothing short of good.  Even towards the end of the meal, they retained their crispiness and were extremely full flavored.  Probably deep fried in fat, but that's how you get that quality, so really can't argue with that.

Gourmet burgers are the way to go here so next time I want my fix, I know where to go.  Will I be a lady who lunches again soon enough?

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
2 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: +65-66888525

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Singapore - Osteria Italia

We chose to eat early and not have to struggle with reservations on a Friday night.  Especially since we had been turned away once.  The expectation hanging over the place was inevitable.  We sat down to efficient and professional service from who we guessed is probably the lady owner.  If not, they probably have some great incentive scheme going for their employees.  Iced water was poured promptly and drinks orders taken while she left us alone for a little while to pore the menu.  

A typical menu of a casual Italian eatery, offering up appetizers, pastas, pizzas and a small selection of meats/seafood.

Amuse Bouche
Our amuse bouche of a tomato crostini drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with a solitary Parmesan shaving was good.  The tomatoes were sweet and the Parmesan a decent quality.

Caprese alla Bufala
Buffalo Mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes
The Caprese was actually very good.  Fresh tomatoes and Arugula (with the right amount of spiciness) matched with a creamy Bufala and it all came together with the aged Balsamic, which provided a sticky sweet finish.

Cartoccio di Mare
Seafood wrapped in tin foil
I was a little puzzled by this one.  The spaghetti was perfectly cooked, with just the right touch of bite.  However, the seafood was a big letdown.  It just wasn't the freshest and as a result, there was no sea taste at all in the tomato-based sauce.  I came away with the feeling that the seafood was separately cooked from the pasta and sauce inside the foil, which misses the point of a Cartoccio.  It probably wasn't the case, but it tasted like so.  Such a shame.

Wagyu Beef Cheek braised in a red wine sauce
The beef cheek was a little better and infused with the goodness of the red wine it was braised in.  End result: a melt-in-the-mouth piece of meat.  However, for non-beef lovers, don't order this since it is rather gamey since there wasn't enough done to cover that off.  My other complaint was that the chef was a little heavy handed with the salt and you couldn't take as much sauce as you want without feeling a little dehydrated afterwards.

I didn't have dessert since I was distracted by the durian mooncakes available 2 shops away.  Overall, it's a comfy laid back joint, and I might go back.  If I do, I would try the other items on the menu since what we ordered didn't really blow us away.  Bruno's is still my choice Italian joint in the East but Osteria has some potential.  The chefs are really quite good, as long as the produce they have to work with improves.

201 Telok Kurau Road
#01-06 Kurau Court
  1. Tel: +65 6346 3970    

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hong Kong - 聯合興食館 Luen Hop Hing

Tennis buddies touted it as the Chiu Chow beer place.  Well, as it turns out, it was true.  Down and dirty in Lok Fu, the neighbouring enclave to Chiu Chow territory of Kowloon City, we ended up at a bustling (read 100 decibel noisy) place and this was past 10pm on a Saturday night.  Early for some I suppose but whatever it was, everyone who was seated was guzzling European lagers, draughts and stouts, and chomping down traditional Chiu Chow delicacies.

I ordered myself an Erdinger, as did the rest of the 12 of us.  So they loaded 20 bottles into a blue plastic pail filled with ice and plonked it table-side, complete with bottle opener.  Yes, help yourself to more...

We started of course with Chiu Chow essentials:

Coagulated Pigs' Blood with Chives 韭菜豬紅
This actually tastes better than it sounds or looks.  The texture is akin to a firm curdy tofu with a little bite, really what eating blood is all about.  Tasteless by itself, but immersed in a peppery soy gravy with chives, it's the quintessential starter to a get-down-and-dirty Chiu Chow meal.

Braised Phoenix claws with peanuts 花生鳳爪
Another staple but not my favourite way to eat chicken feet.  The Cantonese do a better job braising it in an abalone sauce.  In contrast, this version was a tad tasteless.

Steamed Grey Mullet 蒸烏頭
This was quite good and had enough salt rubbed over it to enhance the taste of the fish.  In any case, it is served with the Chinese version of Miso ie. a preserved yellow bean sauce, if you like a savory beany finish.

Braised Goose 鹵水鵝
Competently done, quite tender and juicy.

Braised Spring Vegetables with Pork 春菜煲
Until D introduced this to me, I never realised this was a Chiu Chow dish.  My Cantonese side generally doesn't like my vegetables cooked to death so I treat this more like a meat dish.  It's actually very tasty from braising with the garlic and pork.  Of course, I haven't figured out what "spring vegetables" are but am guessing it's the mustard green family just by looks alone.

The King of Stir Fries 小炒皇
This is a classic dish with no classic ingredients.  My theory is that it is really whatever in the good old days of the larder which had to be used up and so, clever housewives just threw everything in the wok and over a high heat, stir fried everything to a fragrant and glossy finish.  But whatever made it into the wok typically goes great with a piping bowl of Chiu Chow porridge.  This one had chives, with crispy silver fish and cashews.

Steamed Eel in Black Bean Sauce 豉汁蒸鱔
Unlike the Japanese variety, this eel when cooked is a crunchier texture and addictive with the very tasty black bean sauce.  Only snag is that this creature has a lot of tiny bones that you have to be careful of.

Deep fried Stuffed Pigs' Intestines 釀豬大腸
This one was a big let down.  I'm a huge fan of deep fried pigs' intestines especially those you see at street stalls since they are double deep fried (and yes, doubly unhealthy).  This one was a little chewy and not crispy enough but the use of a shrimp colloid stuffing was inventive although not enough to make it a winner.

For the benefit of the men, we ordered some meat even if these were by no means very Chiu Chow.

Grilled Cumin Pork Ribs 孜然排骨
I like Cumin grilled meats.  Reminds me of the new frontier.  This was a good attempt, but they overdid the bicarbonate on the meat.  A shame since all that was left was the taste of Cumin and little else.

Sweet and Sour Pork 咕撈肉
This was not the usual rendition since they gave it a Chiu Chow twist by using a sauce derived from salted sour plums.  Interesting but nothing to scream about.

Preserved Mustard Greens with Grass Carp Claypot Rice 梅菜鯇魚煲仔飯 
To finish, a little bit of carbs from a claypot rice.  A popular dish in winter but we figured the air-conditioning was strong enough.  Often times, fellow diners get too impatient and open up the pot too quickly.  This time, I watched it like a hawk and hit anyone with my chopsticks if anyone's fingers went near.  And we were all rewarded with ample rice crispies we scraped from the sides of the pot.  Perfect texture against the sweet vegetables, and smooth flesh of the fish.  Great way to finish.

The food ain't the best but there is enough variety so just stick with the staples.  The choice of beers is another novelty.  Overall, I would still say it's yet another successful down and dirty post tennis dinner.  Ace.

Shop 4, Lok Fu Shopping Centre
198 Junction Road
Lok Fu
Tel: +852-2337 2038