Sunday, May 27, 2012

Singapore - Bistro du Vin

I don't know how well the Les Amis Group is doing with its mid-range concept restaurants but you have to applaud the effort they've put into trying to bring good old fashioned food at reasonable prices into Singapore.  Bistro du Vin brings classic French brasserie type fare in a setting reminiscent of many a Parisian eateries.  Only snag is in the heat and humidity, just the thought of al fresco makes me sweat already.  And indoors is the closest you'll get to Paris, with booths and sidewalk chairs, in a dark mahogany and maroon wall setting.  Nicely done.

Lunch is great value and offers up quite a large variety from the regular menu.  In addition there are specials too, making it quite easy to find something everyone likes.  And at S$30 for 3 courses, it's quite a steal.

Salt cod brandade on toast, soft boiled egg
I hadn't had salt cod brandade since Girona last fall so this was a nice way to recall one of the better vacation destinations (especially cuisine wise) in my lifetime.  This version had a nice bite of cod to it with every mouthful and wasn't too salty at all. Using the egg to bind it all together, it was a great way to wake up the appetite and a nice twist to the usual eggs benedict.

Duck leg confit, brussels sprouts and mustard sauce
So well baked, the skin was a beautiful golden brown crisp and was the star.  The meat was just a tad dry but you really couldn't complain too much since the dish wasn't greasy at all.  Brussels sprouts were lightly sauteed without too much butter and retained good crunch (the way Cantonese eat their veggies).

Creme Brulee
Dessert was competent.  I prefer my torched top to be thinner and a little more brittle so it doesn't stick to the teeth as much but again, this wasn't bad at all.  A pleasant finish to a gossip girl kinda lunch.  Coffee needs improvement though.

Honest food at honest value.  Worthy of a dinner visit next.

56 Zion Road
Tel: +65-68366313

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hong Kong - Hana Sakazuki 花盃日本料理

It was a good night to be at Hana Sakazuki.  Even with our ferocious appetites, we couldn't exhaust the selection at the sushi counter.  The unique time in nature where seasons change (in this case spring to summer) means nature offers up the produce from both seasons.  As we move into the season of shell fish, we were therefore lucky to get a lot of fish still that was really good.

I won't go as far as to say Hana Sakazuki is my Japanese canteen but it is an awesome place to go to for the best and freshest sashimi, and at decent value.  Just make sure you're lucky enough to get a place at the counter since the chefs are a real friendly and chatty bunch.  They love sharing your drinks with you too. 

Here are highlights from the evening.

Fresh oyster from Hokkaido

Okinawan sea grapes salad

Scallop 2 ways - with crab paste and with sea urchin

"Right mouth" fish


Octopus - suction tentacle and flesh with sweet mustard miso

Chilled but not frozen shrimp - yes there is a difference

I missed the name of this semi-fatty but sweet fish.

Grilled fish roe

Yellow tail amberjack with Yuzu pepper

Deep fried Botan shrimp head

Grilled Botan shrimp

Missed the name of this one - blow torched to lend a smokiness to the fat. Ponzu reliefs the fattiness

Silver cod 
Hokkaido sea urchin


Akamutsu - blow torched

Grilled ox tongue
I've never been disappointed by a meal here.  They are only limited by shipments which they bring in everyday in time for dinner.  There are rarely limitations here.  Perhaps there were limitations in the immediate wake of the tragic tsunami last year, but it's more than recovered then thanks to a fervent regular crowd of customers.  Keep them coming, I say, and keep supporting Japan by eating Japanese.

2/F, Ming An Plaza Phase II
No. 8 Sunning Road
Causeway Bay
Tel: +852-2577 9799

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hong Kong - iDelicious 好知味菜館

Once in a while, you find a restaurant which resonates with your past and brings a certain familiarity that is welcome.  iDelicious reminds me of many a Chinese restaurant I've dined at on the mainland, which tries to bring you the chef's take on the food that is representative of the cuisine of popular cities like Beijing, the greater Shanghai area and of course spicy Sichuan.

The place isn't fancy, like those many mainland eateries, but was comfortable with the air-con working overtime.  The exhaust isn't the best since we came out still smelling like dinner afterwards.  But the servers were a fun and friendly bunch, egging you on to order the specials while trying to do so via a witty repartee.

We got a private room, which looked more like a store room with space for a table of 12.  No ventilation, no decor, just a large table with chairs to accommodate us all.  We sat away from the main dining area which boasted apple green walls and black and whites of old Hong Kong.

What to order:

口水花甲 Steamed clams with a Sichuanese soy/sesame sauce
Served cool, this will as the Chinese name suggests, get you salivating immediately.  Not as spicy as its true Sichuanese cousin, this still packed a punch and is an excellent starter.

酒醉鵝肝 Goose liver in Huadiao wine
This was another awesome starter.  The liver was so smooth and captured the essence of the Huadiao perfectly, with which it was easily to have quite a few pieces.  If you have a big group, you'd probably do better friendship wise, if you have 2 orders.

酒醉乳鴿 Pigeon in Huadiao wine
If for some reason you don't like liver, there is a pigeon version.  But really no match for the liver.

菜乾豬肺湯 Dried bokchoy and pig's lung soup
An old Cantonese fave, they did this one pretty perfectly.  While it may sound gross to the uninitiated, this is really a richly packed soup full of umami flavors one would not ordinarily experience.  This is the combination of sun-dried vegetables, lots of lean pork and the slightly crunchy slightly fatty slightly chewy goodness of lung.  Even if you don't eat any of the ingredients (not uncommon) I'll bet you will enjoy the soup itself.

紳士雞 Gentleman's chicken
The signature of the restaurant and a great photo opportunity.  More a novelty than anything else, I've had better roast chicken elsewhere.  Not bad but perhaps compared to other things on the menu, it may not be what I'd order on a repeat visit unless I was bringing first-timers.

Other dishes that weren't bad but not a wow:

Crispy Brisket
This was lightly battered and deep fried, to retain a tender brisket inside.  Enjoyable.

Stir fried Hangzhou Tiger Chillies with thinly sliced pork and scrambled eggs
Good with a bowl of rice and there's enough heat to keep tongues wagging, that is if you're brave enough to eat the chillies too.

大澳三寶 Deep fried vegetable trio
This was a Chinese take on yasai tempura - with long beans, eggplant and yam.  Definitely a fun way to eat your vegetables even if not the healthiest.

水煮魚 Sichuan fish pot in hot oil
The taste on this wasn't too bad, obviously milder than in Sichuan, but for some reason, the consistency was a tad thick and gooey.  The fish wasn't bad but it was actually the mung bean noodles slathered in the flavored oil that was the addictive part of things.  An "ok".

While execution wasn't perfect in every instance, the variety here made for an enjoyable experience.  A great option if you're in the vicinity.  And if you're into name dropping, the chef is apparently the apprentice of a famous chef from an established Chinese resto group in Hong Kong and has won quite a few awards.

G/F, Wang Fung Building
31A-B Chi Kiang Street
To Kwa Wan
Tel: +852-2364 1220