Monday, July 6, 2015

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How many of you have thought about setting up a beach bar for your retirement? Many dream, but few do. Veteran Singapore entertainers Chris Henson and Mark Van Cuylenberg aka The Flying Dutchman have made it happen.

After a few years of planning and looking, they finally built Flyboyz at Lagoi Bay, Bintan. Why Bintan?



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They fell in love with the beach and the view. I don't blame them.




Bintan was also much cheaper than Singapore while being very close. Plus, there's an international airport opening end 2015 here near the ferry terminal. That will bring tourists from Europe and beyond.






Flyboyz is also one of the first F&B outlets to open at Lagoi Bay. It's right next to Lagoi Plaza and walking distance from the newly opened Swiss Belhotel.

Let's take a closer look at the three concepts in Flyboyz - restaurant, retro bar and Cuban open sky lounge.

FLYBOYZ RESTAURANT


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On the ground floor you have a casual diner. It's family-friendly and brightly decorated, with a beach holiday feel.





It's Western comfort food in hearty portions - think 450g beef patty burgers and 18-inch pizzas. They were not kidding when they said, "Be hungry, be very hungry!"

That's beef bacon in the burger, by the way. No pork and no lard here, but no halal certification either because they serve alcohol.





They trained the local staff here to cook. Lots of stuff is made in-house, like the breads and buns, as well as the awesome dried chili flakes. However, the food here still has plenty of room for improvement. Next time I'd skip the pasta and apple pie. The burger looks great but the patty was a little dry and chewy.

Flyboyz just opened in June, so maybe they need a little more time to tweak the recipes.





When in Bintan...try the local Bintang beer. But there's also Corona, Heineken and Guinness Stout.





If you don't take alcohol, try the mocktails - we liked the Mangrove Madness (left), which actually tasted healthy. It's made from mustard greens. orange juice, pineapple juice, and simple syrup. Apparently it's pretty popular in Lagoi. Or you could go for the Ki'st Squash (right): strawberry, kiwi and mint topped with soda. It looks like that one could use more fruit though.





Warm beach, cool drinks, hearty food - elements of a great holiday. The prices though will make you feel you did not leave Singapore. The BigBoyz Burger is Rp199,000 or about S$20. Pizzas are about S$17 (12-inch) to $20 (18-inch). The desserts are about S$10.





HOOBAR




If you grew up with Queen, AC/DC, Depeche Mode, Bon Jovi, U2, Rolling Stones blasting from your stereo, this place will bring you back to your youth. It's retro music from the 70s to early 90s all the way at hoobar on the second floor. Maybe a couple of Top40.





A six-piece resident band plays live music Tuesdays to Sundays.





There's neon graffiti painted by the staff, and a wall of cassettes and CD covers as a retro feature.




Well, photos can't really give you the full picture, so here's a video of the entertainment going on.






CUBA




If you prefer to dance to a different beat, head upstairs to the sky lounge Cuba where they play lively Cuban jazz and salsa music. Dine, drink and dance under the stars. There's lots of tapas-style starters to nibble on, and South American cocktails to imbibe. Oh, plus Cuban cigars too, if you so desire.





Here's what looks to be a Hawaiian pizza. I think it's better than the Rendang pizza, which proved a little too sweet.





These are the Buffalo Wings with the chili heat severely clipped, to our disappointment. When we asked, we found out that their clientele could not take spicy food, so they had to tone it down. I seriously think they should have two versions - namby pamby and DEATH by Chili!

The real highlights are the drinks.




The Kopitini - espresso, creme de cacao, vodka - nice and strong. Caffeine and alcohol together is a potent combination.





This is "Bokep" which is named after the bartender who created it. It's blue curaçao, sambuca and vodka. The hint of anise from the sambuca gave it a lovely spicy sweetness.





Dessert was really fun. They told us they had specially cultivated some "Bintan worms". These fat and juicy creatures are served directly with the soil they live in. One by one, it took us great courage to swallow the soft, wobbly worms, but once we got past that, we found that they tasted surprisingly good.

Poor Gina. She forced the worms down and yelled, "Where got nice?"





Oh yes, every one of us had to try them!





This is what they look like. Amazing! Best dessert ever.

Of course, they aren't really worms, but gelatine noodles in chocolate "soil". The texture of the worms is like firm grass jelly, and the soil is really tasty.  Hands down, my favourite dish here, and I am not even a dessert person.





So it looks like we have new options for getaways in Bintan. Lagoi Bay itself is a budding resort development in Bintan. Most of it is still "akan datang" but we saw some interesting developments, like Treasure Bay. They are constructing a mini Clarke Quay like dining and entertainment area. A lot of the shops are waiting for each other to open. Flyboyz kicks off what hopefully will be a thriving hub at Lagoi Bay.





FLYBOYZ
Jl Gurindam Dua Belas
Lagoi Bay, Bintan Island
Republic of Indonesia

Operating hours:
Flyboyz: 11am to 10pm
hoobar: 5pm til late
Cuba: 11am til late


Many thanks to Flyboyz for the invitation and experience!




Wednesday, July 1, 2015



A good bowl of tendon (tempura donburi or tempura rice bowl) can be so satisfying. That crisp batter light as air, glistening with sweetly savoury sauce...wrapped around juicy vegetables and seafood atop a bed of pearly rice - mmmmh!

It doesn't even have to be fancy. I remember one cold and hungry evening in Tokyo when I was rescued by Tenya, that tendon chain. It was simple, cheap and surprisingly not bad. It made me wish that good tendon was more widely available in Singapore.






But it looks like I'm not the only one who feels the that way. The Ramen Keisuke chain saw a niche opportunity in this, and is launching tomorrow (2 July 2015) a tendon specialist shop - Ginza Tendon Itsuki!

The Ramen King going into tempura donburi? Well, they created Ginza Tendon Itsuki in collaboration with Ginza Itsuki Sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, tapping on their expertise. Keisuke Takeda’s childhood friend Naoki Takaku is chef-owner of Ginza Itsuki Sushi.

This is certainly much more classy than Tenya, but prices aren't too much higher. The menu is simple; there are just two dishes. The Special Tendon (Tempura Rice Bowl, S$13.90) has shrimp and chicken in addition to vegetables. I was surprised to find two large strips of chicken tempura in there, but I guess fish would drive the price up. The Vegetable Tendon (Vegetable Tempura Rice Bowl, S$12.90) is a great option for vegetarians. Both are sets that come with miso soup and a lovely chawanmushi. You'll also get freeflow cabbage pickles.





The secret to good tempura is not so much the ingredients, but the art of frying and the right temperature. They have two fryers - one at 165 deg C for vegetables, and one at 175 deg C for meat and seafood. The produce is sourced locally or nearby countries.

However, Tendon Ginza Itsuki uses a higher grade flour from Japan to achieve better texture. The rice is from Hokkaido, and known to yield a firmer bite. They also cook it with less water. I think that's smart, because the last thing you want in your tendon is overly steamy rice making your tempura soggy.





Here's Keisuke-san himself plating the bowl.

I liked how the batter was light and non-greasy, and how the vegetable items like the baby corn still retained a juicy crunch. The chicken was moist and shrimp suitably juicy.

I am told that in Japan, people consider tempura healthy if it's expertly done. The flash frying at the right temperature and timing cooks the food without loading it with grease, and the batter protects the nutrients from damage.




Speaking of bowls, these porcelain beauties are by Arita, a 400-year old brand from Japan. They are specially designed with a thick and heavy base. This helps heat retention, so that by the time you get to the bottom of the bowl, the rice is still warm. How thoughtful!




There's a nod to local tastebuds here - a deep-fried egg that has a rich, runny yolk bursting from within (sorry I already scooped a bite of that before I took this photo). Oh, they don't do this egg addition in Japan. But I'm betting most locals will love it.

There's no dipping sauce here, the tendon sauce alone suffices for both tempura and rice. Add some chili flakes if you like.







Your rice doesn't come out of a crude, large-scale commercial cooker either. They have four of these high-end rice cookers, so that they can better control the texture and consistency of the rice.

Well, they can still manage to do this since it's a small restaurant, seating only 24 at a time (14 at the counter, and 10 at tables). I also saw the staff measure out the rice and weigh it on a scale. Nothing is left to chance here.

For all the care and effort put into the donburi, I'd say it's really value for money. I only hope the inevitable queues move quickly, because I'd certainly want to come back again.





I'm very pleased to hear that the Ramen Keisuke chain is doing so well and expanding, when so many restaurants are struggling. Ginza Tendon Itsuki is the 8th concept, and it's not stopping there. Keisuke-san now has several other concepts (Keisuke Tori King, Keisuke Gyoza King and Takeda Shouten Sake Bar) at Tanjong Pagar alone, forming a Keisuke "Yokochou" (横丁)  or soul food alley. They are also looking to expand beyond Japan and Singapore. I hear Perth might be a consideration!

Look out also for his first local flavour ramen - the "Laksa Ramen Special" in August celebrating SG50. Proceeds will be donated to the Tanjong Pagar community and the underprivileged.


GINZA TENDON ITSUKI
101 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088522
Tel: 6221-6678

Open daily from 2 July 2015:
11:30am - 2:30pm | 5:30pm - 22:00pm
NOTE: Payment is by cash only. No credit cards


Many thanks to Keisuke-san, Hideki and team for the invitation to preview the restaurant just prior to opening. 





Wednesday, June 24, 2015


"Yes, finally!" Gordon Ramsay himself exclaims as he kicks off the very first evening of operations at his much awaited Singapore restaurant. His Bread Street Kitchen at Marina Bay Sands cements the celebrity chef's presence here and allows us a taste of his brand of cuisine.



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The restaurant is gorgeous. Sleek industrial chic rules the look. It's casual but polished. The whole restaurant itself seats about 149. There's a bar upstairs facing the waterfront. Downstairs, we have this private dining area (photo above) and the lively kitchen dining space (below).



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Foodwise, you can expect classic British-European fare. Bread Street Kitchen here will stay true to its London concept, using artisanal British products and seasonal fare, but also tapping on local ingredients for global flair.



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We can expect to see Gordon back in Singapore more often, but he is very confident of the the leadership he's placed here. Executive Chef Sabrina Stillhart who has been with the Gordon Ramsay group for a decade, was part of the Bread Street Kitchen opening team in London. She leads the 27-strong team here.

I like that their menu is just three pages - do just a few things but do them well. Also, it makes choosing much easier!






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The roasted veal carpaccio with dill pickles, quail’s egg and tuna dressing ($26) is a refreshing cold starter. Tender pink slices of veal topped with creamy dressing, all perked up with the gentle tartness of the pickles. Somehow calls to mind the Italian summer dish of vitello tonato.




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I also liked the potted salt beef brisket, grain mustard, piccalilli, Caraway crackers (S$19) although I suspected the creamy dressing masked some of the flavours. The simple salty slivers on their own would go so well with toast.



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From the hot starters, most of us liked the flatbread with butternut squash, Taleggio cheese, mushrooms, pine nuts, basil pesto (S$20). I shall refrain from skinny pizza comparisons.




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The tamarind spiced chicken wings, spring onions, coriander (S$18) looked promising, but didn't fare so well. Some of us felt it was a little bitter and could do with stronger spice heat and complexity. Good crunch on the batter though.



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A top favourite was the slow-roasted Dingley Dell pork belly, spiced apple puree. My word, the thick slices of meat had the fat so finely integrated, each bite was a juicy and tender epiphany. The best part of course is the golden brown crackling. This is a steal for just S$28!




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Another winner - the roasted black cod with crushed potatoes, salted capers, artichoke, red wine and lemon sauce (S$44). Cod is pricey but they did justice to this delicate fish. Its rich buttery flavours paired well with the heady sauce.




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Good ol' traditional fish and chips, with crushed peas and tartar sauce (S$26). A rather modest piece of fish held in crunchy batter. Loved the peas (so comforting) and the fries (pretty addictive).





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Lamb chops (S$48) from the grill section - nicely seared but didn't stand out in particular.



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There are some lovely side dishes. Macaroni cheese with garlic roasted crumbs (S$16) and spiced honey carrots (S$10) beautifully caramelised will take care of your need to nibble.




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Desserts - what a medley we had. Pineapple carpaccio, passion fruit, coconut sorbet (S$15); Chocolate fondant oozing with salted caramel and mint chocolate chip ice cream (S$20); Monkey Shoulder Cranachan cheesecake with roasted balsamic strawberries (S$18); and a surprisingly intriguing coffee and white chocolate parfait with poached blackberries (S$18). Loved the crunchy flakes on that one.

But the treat to beat is treacle tart with crème fraîche ice cream (S$18, far right). Great shortcrust pastry with a sweet dense filling. It's the classic British dessert - suitably old school and nostalgic. "It's the dessert you want to take to bed!" says Gordon.



Did you know "treacle" was also Ryan Gigg's nickname for David Beckham during their Manchester United days? OK, I digress...



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The bar upstairs has an interactive counter where you can talk to the mixologists. And the view facing the Marina Bay waterfront is just spectacular.



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The drinks here are selected to complement our dastardly sweltering temperature. They also won't be shy with flavours. Tio Abuelo is popular; it's their gin and tonic given a twist with passionfruit.



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This is my fourth time seeing Gordon Ramsay in person - previously he was here for the Singtel Hawker Heroes challenge. He's extremely likeable in person, bustling, energetic, and always awe-inspiring. Lots more photos from my stories here.
http://www.camemberu.com/2013/07/gordon-ramsay-in-singapore-for-singtel.html
http://www.camemberu.com/2013/07/gordon-ramsay-in-singapore-day-2.html
http://www.camemberu.com/2013/07/singapore-hawkers-vs-gordon-ramsay-who.html
https://sg.entertainment.yahoo.com/blogs/singapore-showbiz/gordon-ramsay-chilli-crab-scores-singapore-hawkers-win-181936866.html

I'm glad we have Bread Street Kitchen here instead of a more fine-dining concept. The food is of a reliable quality but it's a more accessible experience. Number of wows may vary depending on your expectations going in, your fan quotient of Ramsay, and how much you miss your university days in the UK.

But no matter what, it looks like Bread Street Kitchen already has fans lining up. They are completely booked solid for dinner through July, so try and go for lunch instead.


BREAD STREET KITCHEN
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
01 - 81, 2 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018972
Tel:+65 6688 5665

Opening hours

Restaurant:
Sunday to Wednesday 11:30am to 10pm
Thursday to Saturday 11:30am to midnight

Bar:
Sunday to Thursday 11:30am to 1am
Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 2am






 
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