Friday, July 22, 2016

If you thought the Bib Gourmand awards had a few funny names in it...well, wait til you see the full Michelin star list. The guide has always had its bashers and critics but it's still the most iconic and coveted rating for restaurants. So to see this list for Singapore...

I think Lennardy put it well here in his post:

Yes, many of these restaurants deserve the star(s). Seven out of 10 of my predictions came true, and those are crowd favourites anyone can come up with. But as Lennardy put it, "there are some very questionable restaurants on the list."

3 Michelin stars 

Joël Robuchon Restaurant (Resorts World Sentosa)

2 Michelin stars

Restaurant Andre (Bukit Pasoh Road)
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Resorts World Sentosa)
Les Amis (Shaw Centre)
Odette (National Gallery Singapore)
Shisen Hanten by Chen Kentaro (Mandarin Orchard Singapore)
Shoukouwa (One Fullerton)

1 Michelin star

Alma by Juan Amador (Goodwood Park Hotel)
The Kitchen at Bacchanalia (Hong Kong Street)
Beni (Mandarin Gallery)
Candlenut (New Bridge Road)
Corner House (Botanic Gardens)
Crystal Jade Golden Palace (Paragon Shopping Centre)
CUT (Marina Bay Sands)
Forest (Resorts World Sentosa)
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles (Crawford Lane)
HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice Noodles (Chinatown Food Complex)
JAAN (Swissotel the Stamford)
Lei Garden (CHIJMES)
OSIA (Resorts World Sentosa)
Putien Restaurant (Kitchener Road)
Rhubarb Le Restaurant (Duxton Hill)
Shinji by Kanesaka (Raffles Hotel)
Shinji by Kanesaka (St Regis Hotel)
Summer Pavilion (Ritz-Carlton, The Millenia Singapore)
Sushi Ichi (Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel)
Terra Tokyo-Italian (Tras Street)
The Song of India (Scotts Road)
Waku Ghin (Marina Bay Sands)

I don't know. I'm naive. Maybe when they get more local reviewers and do not take sponsorships (especially those that may involve a conflict of interest), we can have a more impartial list. And do it before all credibility is lost. Wait, oh, it's too late?

The beef fillet Rossini style came shielded in this dramatic glass dome

Meanwhile, I'll go back to binge-watching Suits and wondering what the **** stormtroopers are doing in the Maldives ocean. Noooooooo!!! This is a much bigger travesty!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Japan Food Town is the next foodie wonderland with 20,075 sq ft dedicated to Japanese food. It may be located next to Food Republic at Wisma Atria, but make no mistake - this food hall is NOT a food court. It features 16 shops, each a specialist in particular area of Japanese cuisine.

The prices are fairly reasonable as the ingredients are shipped via Naha airport in Okinawa Prefecture, which is the one closest to Singapore. They are even able to bring in premium ingredients like Matsuzaka Beef, Kinme-mai Rice, and Kindai Maguro to Singapore.

However, not all shops are open yet; four more will start by end July or August.

So here is a quick look at what's available for now:

Yomoda Soba

The texture of the soba is what impressed us most - it's practically al dente! Each mouthful is so enjoyable, you can't help but slurp happily and loudly too. Even the tempura is well-made.

This is a tasting portion. Sorry I didn't take the photo of the plastic model of the full-size portion, but I'll definitely be back to shoot a few bowls.

Yomoda means "easy-going" or "carefree" in Japanese, and is often used for friends, to see the lighter side of life. That warm and happy atmosphere is what you'll get here.


Machida Shoten Ramen

Machida prides itself on serving the ramen just the way you like it (firmness, thickness, etc) but its real appeal is the incredibly rich stock. The Yokohama-style yellow noodles are dense but a good match for the thick tonkotsu and shoyu stock. Miso and spicy options are also available.

Check out also the whimsical wall art done by a Japanese comic book artist.


Shabu Shabu Tajimaya

This is a tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) shabu-shabu with a choice of six different broths. Prices range from S$24.75 (lunch, fixed amount of meat) and S$43.90 (90-minute dinner). Sukiyaki is also available at the same price. Wagyu and first class wagyu options cost a bit more.


Inaniwa Yosuke

I fell in love with inaniwa udon when I first tried it in 2008, so I am extremely happy to see more of this kind of udon here anytime. The udon at Yosuke is thin, smooth and silky with a pleasantly chewy bite. The shop (known as Sato Yosuke in Japan) has a history of 150 years, and its artisans take three days to handmake the udon. Interestingly, they have a sesame dip in addition to the usual shoyu.



Sabar serves top quality Aomori mackerel done many different ways - sashimi, sushi, grilled and aburi (torched). Its name sounds like "38" in Japanese, so they have 38 seats, 38 dishes and a premium dish priced at S$38.


Bonta Bonta


Who doesn't love onigiri? These are not your normal onigiri though; they are made using Kinmemai Rice, a lower calorie brown rice buffed in a way that retains the flavorful and nutritious sub-aleurone layer and germ. Fillings include familiar favourites like tuna mayo, salmon, mentaiko, pickles, teriyaki salmon, kombu (seaweed) and wasabi salmon mayo.

Dassai Sake Bar

This is the first official pop-up Dassai Bar outside of Japan. An array of Sake and Sake-based cocktails will be available, including their most luxurious sake, Dassai Beyond which was served in the United States' White House.

Rang Mang Shokudo

It may sound like an Indian restaurant at first, but this place serves "artisanal fried chicken" giving Korean fried chicken a run for their money. You'll be spoilt for choice with the various flavours like yuzu pepper; green onion and salt; honey mustard; and black vinegar. The chicken is marinated six hours in butter milk and twice fried.


Hokkaido Izakaya

You may already know Hokkaido Izakaya from its outlet in Tanjong Pagar. They bring in Hokkaido's best flavours from land and sea, including seasonal produce from the towns of Yakumo, Akkeshi, Furano and Kamishihoro in Hokkaido.


Tsukiji Sushi Takewaka

The Edo-style sushi looks great, and the fish is flown in from Tsukiji. But tastewise, the samples were not particularly memorable.

Tempura Tsukiji Tenka

I wanted to like this one, but it was hard to gauge from the small tasting sample. Others thought the tempura was soggy. Maybe they need time to settle in. I'll have to come back and test a full-size portion.

Osaka Kitchen Teppanyaki

I'll have to come back for this one, as they ran out on opening day. Wagyu teppanyaki and okonomiyaki cooked right in front of you. And yakisoba too - all flavours deeply associated with Osaka.

Yakiniku Heijoen

This yakiniku shop is probably the one I look forward to the most. Because Matsuzaka beef.

There's also Ginza Anzu next to it which will be serving tonkatsu and produce from their own farms in Kyushu; Japanese Sake and Fruits (self-explanatory); and Nabe Saizen, the offshoot of the two Michelin-star kaiseki restaurant in Tokyo headed by Chef Haruhiko Yamamoto.

So there's plenty to explore, although the hordes of people there in the first few weeks must be pretty formidable.

Wisma Atria Level 4
435 Orchard Road
Singapore 238877
Tel: +65 6694-6535
Opening Hours : 11 am – 11 pm

Thanks to Japan Food Town for inviting me to the launch ceremony.

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's the 50 Cent Fest! No, I'm not talking about no gangsta rap. Chinatown Food Street (7 Smith Street) is going to be transformed into a 1950s/1960s pasar come 30-31 July, with prices that match. Yes, come grab your favourite nostalgic dishes for just 50 cents.

There are more than 30 specially-curated hawker dishes, including rare or long lost dishes like Kok Kok Mee, UFOs, Ice Ball and Rickshaw Noodles. More than half of these dishes will be sold at a mere 50 cents to resemble the prices of the past. You might remember the saying - "50 cents is bigger than a bullock cart wheel!"

This event is part of this year's Singapore Food Festival (SFF).

OK, so it looks like not ALL the dishes can be 50 cents; some are in multiples of 50 cents. Let's take a look:

List of Food Items (50 cents in red)

Char Kway Teow $0.50: Kosong (without Egg) / $0.50 x 2: With Egg
UFO (Fried Oyster Cake) $0.50
Kok Kok Mee $0.50
Sweet Noodle $0.50
Rickshaw Noodle $0.50
Ice Ball $0.50
BBQ Chicken Wings – $0.50
Fried Carrot Cake (Black) – $0.50
Charcoal Fire Toast Bread – $0.50
Steamed Glutinous Rice (Sweet and Savoury) – $0.50
Steamed Bee Hoon – $0.50
Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf – $0.50
Roti Prata – $0.50
Satay – $0.50 per stick
Rose Syrup Drink with Basil Seeds – $0.50
Chin Chow Drink – $0.50
Green Bean and Barley Soup – $0.50
Cheng Teng – $0.50

Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls $0.50 x 2
Rojak on Wheels $0.50 x 2
Mee Teh $0.50 x 2
Ngor Hiang Platter: Prawn Fritters, Pork Rolls, Pork Liver Rolls, Egg Rolls, Pork Sausage – $0.50 x 2
Fried Rice – $0.50 x 2
Steamed Cockles – $0.50 x 2
Oyster Omelette – $0.50 x 2
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee – $0.50 x 3
Bak Kut Teh – $0.50 x 2
Braised Duck Rice – $0.50 x 2
Prawn Noodle Soup – $0.50 x 2
Pigtail and Kang Kong Soup – $0.50 x 2
Sliced Fish Bee Hoon – $0.50 x 2
Laksa – $0.50 x 2
Bird’s Nest Drink – $0.50 x 2
Vinegar Pork Trotters – $0.50 x 3
Chilli Crab – $0.50 x 4

See the PDF of the food items with descriptions here

It'll be a blast from the past; you can try the services of a letter writer or street fortune teller. Visitors can also bask in the lively atmosphere with performances by opera singers and martial art professionals. Families can also enjoy black and white movie screenings.

Event Venue and Timing

Chinatown Food Street, 7 Smith Street, Singapore 058921
30 July 2016, Saturday: 3pm – 11pm
31 July 2016, Sunday: 11am – 11pm

Cash terms only

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The buzz is on about "The Peranakan" that just opened at Claymore Connect (Orchard Hotel's shopping arcade revamped into a sparkling new mini mall).

Chef Raymond Khoo who has had 30 years experience in F&B came out of retirement to do Peranakan cuisine using his mother's and godmother's recipes.


I was really curious because there aren't that many good Peranakan restaurants around anymore. Some have gone downhill, and others have had to add in non-Peranakan dishes to draw customers who aren't used to Peranakan flavours.


What's authentic is hard to gauge, as every Peranakan family has their own variation that they swear by. Babas and bibiks are known to be fiercely critical of commercial attempts at their heritage food, "My grandma/grandaunt/aunt/mom/cousin makes the best (insert name of dish); this one is terrible! We should just eat this at home, so much better..."

I'm not Peranakan and didn't grow up with the food so I had to rely on those who did - my friend Belinda who brought me here. She has tastebuds quite similar to mine too, so that's a bonus.

But firstly, take a look at the decor that everyone is gushing about. It is OTT over-the-top chinois chic! It's bold and bright, with colourful wallpaper, opulent screens, shiny decorative mirrors and chandeliers galore.

Raymond designed the decor himself, to reflect the personality that Peranakan food is known for - bold and intense flavours.

But despite the setting, the food is remarkably well-priced with most vegetables at S$12, meats at S$17-19 and seafood below S$30. Desserts are mostly S$3-5!

First thing we had to test? The sambal belachan - the mark of how good a Peranakan restaurant is. Oh, this thing kicks ass. Be warned: it is extremely spicy but you won't be able to resist shovelling more into your food. The belachan is not overpowering but lends a nice smoky umami hit. My mouth is watering at the memory while typing this.

We began with the Kueh Pie Tee Set (S$20) which comes so beautifully presented on a congkak board: braised turnip, shrimp and coriander go into perfectly crisp "top hats" and decorated with the homemade cili cuka (vinegar chilli) and sweet sauce.

It's always fun to make your own. I loved the cili cuka, and I wished there was more servings to eat it with. Actually I wound up just taking the leftover turnip and dressing it with the chilli. Yums.

A photo posted by Catherine Ling (@camemberu) on

The Peranakan also has Tok Panjang Feasts (S$45/65 per set, inclusive of dessert and coffee/tea) which harken back to the days when an array of specialty dishes were laid out on long tables for honoured guests or special occasions.

Raymond customised ours to showcase dishes that are not commonly seen:
* Sotong Masak Asam (tamarind squid with "belimbing" or starfruit)
* Satay Babi Sum Chan (skewerless satay using fatty pork belly)
* Ayam Sio (normally this is done with "itek" or duck, but this is with chicken, simmered with coriander and palm sugar)
* Kuah Lada Ikan (stingray in pepper stew)
* Nasi Ulam (cold rice mixed with a chopped herb salad).

There's also a fairly salty Chap Chye, Ayam Buah Keluak, Itek Tim (duck soup with salted vegetables and sour plums), Ayam Goreng Ketumbar (turmeric and coriander fried chicken) and Ngoh Hiang (two types: prawn and liver). Get some extra rice to balance out the strong flavours.

My favourite items from the lot are the Sotong, Stingray, and Ngoh Hiang (prawn). The Ayam Buah Keluak is seriously robust if you like buah keluak. The paste is tightly repacked into the shells (each shell contains the meat of two fruit). And you get such pretty little silver spoons to scoop it out.

The nasi ulam is not bad, but I can't help pining for the version I had long ago elsewhere (not a restaurant). It was drier and had more chopped herbs and dried shrimp.

These Tok Panjang dishes are all available on the a la carte menu too. For the unusual dishes, I think it may be better to try fewer at a time, as the intense flavours can get muddled when combined. The set menu as it is has more mainstream items, but may be changed up a bit in the coming weeks.

The Bakwan Kepiting (Crabmeat Ball Soup, S$9) has huge meatballs made from crab, pork and prawn in a rich broth with julienned bamboo shoots. Ray uses prawn stock (probably from roasted prawn heads), so there's a strong seafood aftertaste. It's also much like a consommé.

Ray has some vegetarian items too.

This is "Mutton" Rendang. The mock mutton does have a meat-like texture. The rendang is like a hybrid of Malay rendang with assam - it's tasty but a little too tangy for a rendang.

This dish blew our minds! Assam Pedas "Codfish" with a whole codfish steak made from soy dressed in the most intense and complex tamarind gravy ever. This is super SHIOK!

Hands down, this was my favourite dish, and Belinda's too! The good news is, the same addictive sauce is used for fish head, king prawn and other Assam Pedas dishes! This gravy and some rice would make a glorious dinner!

Dessert looked simple but was fabulous. The Pulot Enti Durian (glutinous rice with durian puree) completely stunned us. The durian was simply exquisite; it was so fragrant, refreshing and moreish all at the same time. Ray uses only Malaysian durians, and doesn't "dilute" them with cheaper variants from elsewhere. And this dessert is only S$5! Oh, and I see you can have the durian puree added to other desserts like Pulot Hitam, Bubur Cha Cha Cha, Bubur Kacang Hijau, and Chendol Melaka too!

The Pulot Enti Kelapa (glutinous rice with gula melaka coconut, S$3.50) is also lovely, with a rich topping of shredded coconut. The glutinous rice is stained naturally blue using bunga telang (butterfly-pea flowers).

You could also go for the BB's Kueh Tart Extraordinaire (S$1 each) - pineapple tarts with perfectly crumbly, buttery thin crust. The filling is nice but a little too sweet for me.

Round off the meal with Malaccan coffee or tea. These are served with a kueh bahulu (a baked sponge-like mini-cake) instead of a cookie, along with jars of sugar, condensed milk and evaporated milk, so you can create your own kopi C, kopi siu dai, and so forth.

Chilled drinks include Kumquat with biji selaseh (foreground) and Lemongrass/Pandan (background) which is sugar-free and very light.

For some people, Peranakan food is an acquired taste. Ray says the uninitiated may be surprised and overwhelmed by the cacophony of intense flavours.

On the whole, I like The Peranakan for some dishes, and I know I definitely will be back for the durian dessert. Belinda, my Peranakan expert, also liked some of the dishes, as the familiar tastes swept her back to her childhood. That alone is a good indicator.

The Peranakan also offers a six-person degustation menu (S$85 per pax) that has to be ordered in advance. If you're after the ultimate, book the Chef's Table which seats eight for an omakase experience (S$188 and S$288 per pax, requires seven days advance notice).

They are also planning a high tea set, so watch out for announcements on Facebook. From the photo they shared with us, it does look like a real treat! I see kueh kosui, ayam buah keluak toast, goreng pisang, kueh salat, satay babi pau, sambal prawns, mee siam, and kueh pie tee!

It looks like celebrities are already descending on The Peranakan, and even filming there (photo from The Peranakan's Facebook page). The restaurant has only been open for just a month! That's Ray (above the boy) with (left to right) Zhang YaoDong 张耀栋, Jesseca Liu 刘子绚, Justin Khoo and Pan Lingling .

442 Orchard Road,
Orchard Hotel - Level 2
Claymore Connect
Singapore 238879
Tel: +65 6262-4428
Open daily 11am to 10pm

Many thanks to Ray for his invitation and hospitality

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow needs no introduction. It serves one of the best char kway teow in Singapore. But I'm probably biased because it's the kind that I prefer - dry rather than soggy, savoury rather than sweet. It's a bit more like Penang fried kway teow than the local variety that tends to be doused in sweet dark soy. Some people prefer the wet, sweetish type.

And I love that he is so generous with his ingredients. Go for the S$4 portion (above) and you'll see. There's so much seafood, Chinese sausage, fish cake, cockles, egg, bean sprouts and chives that you can hardly see the rice noodles!

What's admirable is the old man at the stall fries the kway teow in small batches - no more than two or three portions at a time - so that each plate gets perfect wok hei and attention. There is no other way to fry a good plate of kway teow (unless you have eight arms capable of segmenting and individually frying

Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow
On one of the days, the old man had run out of kway teow, so he fried one for me with just yellow noodles. It was still awesome. Just for comparison, this is the regular S$3 portion.

Old Airport Road Food Centre #01-138
51 Old Airport Road,
Singapore 390051

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