Thursday, May 31, 2007

Menotti: More Desserts

Affogato Hazelnut, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Yeah, we did it again. Menotti for desserts, despite that heavy meal at Seah Street Deli earlier. This time round, three different things. The Affrogata Hazelnut, which is espresso poured over hazelnut ice cream and various nuts, very delicious combination. This was the best of the three.

Tiramisu, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We also had the Tiramisu, which I was OK with but hubby didn't like. Multi-layered light mascarpone cheese cake soaked with coffee and heavily dusted with cocoa. Not too sweet but not too memorable either.

Baba', originally uploaded by Camemberu.

The Baba' was an "accidental" order. I was merely pointing out to hubby how he would absolutely love the Jamaican rum in that sponge puff and the server dutifully assumed I wanted it. Well, at least hubby really did enjoy it. The custard and fruit went well with the rum.

Has anyone else noticed that Menotti seems to be mostly filled with women?


Seah Street Deli - BEST Burger EVER!

Texas Burger, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

This has got to be the Holy Grail of all burgers in Singapore. Seah Street Deli's Texas Burger (S$21.75) offering a giganormous 12-ounce (nearly 350 grams!) beef patty with hickory BBQ sauce, smoked bacon, sauteed peppers and onions, melted cheese, pickles and veg (lettuce, tomato). Comes with a choice of side dish - the fries are good. It's a *huge* portion, easily shareable between two people. But size isn't everything about this burger - the taste as well is superlative...oh my, it's almost like eating steak! I'd be very sad the day we have to reduce cattle-farming to battle global warming.

Reuben Sandwich, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We also shared a Reuben sandwich (S$17.95), again a generous serving of American style beef pastrami, sauerkraut, wholegrain mustard and melted Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread. I chose wedges for my side. Nice and crispy on the outside, meltingly good on the inside. The Reuben was also good but after I'd had a bite of the Texas burger, I quite easily forgot about it.

Service was fast, friendly and impeccable, even though the place was packed at lunchtime today. The iced tea is free-flow (you can ask for syrup to be served separately).

Seah Street Deli styles itself after New York delicatessens (complete with jukebox) but it's always looked a little dark for me. Perhaps it's the black and white tiles, dark chairs and whatnot. This joint is a little pricey for the size of my wallet but that burger is worth every cent. I am definitely coming back, cholesterol quotas be damned.

Seah Street Deli
Raffles Hotel #01-22
1 Beach Road


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

King Fish Head Noodle

King Fish Head Noodle, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I never believed this Marine Parade Food Centre stall was really famous (despite its "Famous Kallang Leisure Park Fish Head Noodle" claim). But apparently it got featured on TV. I noted quite warily that it has also branched out into doing ramen and other noodles. Spreading itself a little thin or was there a truly skilled cook behind the counter? Only one way to find out.

Fried Fish Noodle Soup, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I went for some fried fish noodle soup with thick beehoon. It came in a large ramen-style bowl in mock lacquer (red and black melamine). My first whiff of the soup gave me a frown. It smelt like boiled rice or beehoon water. And didn't look far from it. Pale, sickly and wan. I dredged up the submerged lettuce and tossed in some red sliced chili to add some colour. The taste? OK, slightly better than it looked, and it grows on you slowly but it's still very light. Sort of the food you'd want when you're feeling under the weather (think bland porridge). Pity they gave such a measly portion of the fried ikan bilis. I really needed more. The fish too was not very tasty, either not very fresh or well-fried. Oh well, I won't need to try this in future anymore.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prata in the Library?

When I first heard about it, I could not fathom how the public library could allow roti prata to be served within its premises. Coffee, fine. Sandwiches, fine. But prata? I imagined oily and curry-drenched fingers staining the books and magazines. I had to go see this. Turns out, this little cafe nestled (and mostly sealed up by glass) within the Jurong West community library does serve various types of prata to visitors (and it was packed too, at lunchtime on a weekday).

I tried the prata kosong, prata with egg & onion and prata with banana. I have to say it's not the best I've had (a bit too floury and soft) but the curry is decent and saves the meal. You are to eat with fork and spoon, so that takes care of the oily fingers, I guess (oh, but the best way to enjoy prata is still with fingers!).

Kaya Toast, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

They also serve kaya toast and limited sandwiches. I think they're trying to mimic Yakun's style (superthin slices of bread toasted til crisp) but the generic kaya and all-too-thin slice of butter fail to impress. What I've noticed are popular are the really large cups of hot tea and coffee.

I've never had high expectations of cafes/eateries within libraries but I suppose this place is fine for a quick bite if you don't intend to wander far from the premises. And dangit, why is a Jurong West library so much better than the Marine Parade one!?


505 Jurong West St 51 Hawker Centre

What on earth am I (an East-Coast dweller) doing in the boondocks of Jurong West? Well, just for the fun of it. I visited an old pal's favourite haunts for food - Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup) and Chicken Porridge at said hawker centre.

We were there a bit too early at 11.45am for the bak kut teh and were told it'd be half an hour before the pork ribs would be ready. So we attacked the chicken porridge first.

Two bowls of hot porridge (each with a raw egg) with a plate of moist steamed chicken (all S$10) arrived fairly quickly. Not as thick as congee but more substantial than Teochew porridge. Fairly light-tasting, so I added the soy-sesame dressing from the plate of chicken to the porridge (yeah, I like my stuff really savoury!).

A lot of people went for the fish porridge (the fish slices were served separately topped with some crunchy-looking crackers).

Da Po Bak Kut Teh, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Finally the bak kut teh (S$3.90) arrived. It's the clear type (Teochew style?) and with 5-6 generous pieces of ribs in one bowl. We were literally the first served. Unfortunately, that also meant the pork ribs did not have the benefit of stewing in the hot soup for a few more hours, so the meat did come a bit chewy (go at 5pm and it should be be falling off the bone). The part I really enjoyed was the soup. It was incredibly peppery and I could have just eaten that and the rice drizzled with the dark soy sauce and chili padi.

Da Po Bak Kut Teh (#01-45): open daily noon to 10pm

Soh Kee Cooked Food (#01-44): 9am-7pm; closed Mondays; open only half-day Sunday


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Werner's Oven Laugen Brezel

Werner's Oven Laugen Brezel, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

I love the breads at Werner's Oven. Bought a farmer's (very multi-)grain loaf and a laugen brezel (soft chewy pretzel - love those coarse salt crystals). Also brought home some sweet pastries - cherry streusal, butterkuchen and sour-sweet cherry muffin.


Thai Express: 'New' Dishes

OK, 'new' as in 'new for me'. I haven't been to Thai Express in such a *long* time. These 'new' dishes probably have been on the menu for quite a while. Anyway, the Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab Tanghoon (S$12.90) piqued my interest. I've been hankering for some black pepper crab but just too lazy to go eat it.

Black Pepper Tanghoon, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Turns out it's more like black pepper tanghoon topped with a couple of deep-fried soft shell crabs. They gave me a large meaty female crab with roe - ah, such a pity, as crab roe is wasted on me. I don't like it at all, it reminds me of uni (sea urchin roe) a little. I spent a lot of time dissecting the crab and scraping the roe away (oh are those screams from rabid roe-lovers I hear?). The dish kept a piping hot temperature for a long time (not sure if it's the function of the double pot). The tanghoon was potently flavoured but watch out for those huge thick slices of ginger and garlic.

We also took the Kailan with Shrimp Paste (really sambal belachan). The taste was superhero strong and over-powering! Not necessarily in a bad way, but extra sweet, salty, spicy and all flavours augmented. Bits of dried shrimp added savoury bite. Really need lots of plain rice with this. Hubby lapped this all up.

Thai Express's quality can vary from outlet to outlet, and even within the same outlet from time to time (as chefs move on, I guess). The Siglap branch today served a watered down version of their regular tom yum goong and even the som tum was not quite the same. I think I'm going to cook tom yum and som tum more regularly at home.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Garden Slug at Telok Kurau

The Garden Slug at Telok Kurau, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

A casual diner with a name that made me do a double take. The Garden Slug? Cute. With a mascot that just makes you smile. And hey, walking distance from where I live! It's in a quiet locale, at Bright Centre (Lorong L), just off Telok Kurau Road. I looked at the menu on its website, a review by Paolo, and decided to try it out.

It's not too difficult to find, just look for the banner on the corner of the street if you're lost. A cheery, pleasant, cafe-like venue with bright colours, a lounge sofa, free Internet access and shelves of not just magazines but books for you to enjoy (I hear you can even borrow these to take home!).

Service was prompt, welcoming and friendly. This joint seems to be started by three young entrepreneurs. I always like supporting new ventures like these. Just like Avis, they seem to try harder. So how was their food?

Bangers and Mash, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We ordered Bangers and Mash, The Steak and a Rustic Bolognese to share. Yeah, yeah, I was hungry. The Bangers (two herby Polish sausages) and Mash (S$10.90) came really swiftly and looked promising. The skin was grilled nicely and had a good bite but the centre of the sausages still felt a little cold, so we asked them to cook it a bit more thoroughly. It came back with extra gravy. Anyway, the sausages were tasty without being overpowering (herbs detectable but not too strong). Very generous with the mash.

Rustic Bolognese, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

The pasta dish (S$9.50) did not look like what was presented on the menu. It was again, a very generous portion but sadly, a little underwhelming. There was a certain unidentifiable herb sweetness that didn't go well with the rest of the dish. And the carrots had a sour tinge, like they had been boiled with a dash of vinegar. Spaghetti also less al dente than we would have preferred. Maybe I should have chosen the Gooey version with loads of mozzarella.

The Steak, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Now the Steak (S$16.90) came sizzling hot. Mmmmh, this was good. Hubby and I both agreed that this regular steak was nicer than Aston's wagyu version. The tomato-onion-risotto side was quite delicious. It cut through the greasiness of the steak and refreshed the palate. The mash was the same one as the bangers dish. Hubby liked it. It was very soft but yet had chunks of potato that lent some bite. I liked the bits of potato skin that came with it.

Bite of Steak, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

We had to have ours done medium well since my pregnancy outlaws raw-ish meat. But I was quite happy with what they did. Charred well on the outside but still juicy and tender on the inside. Seriously, it was so tender, I could cut it with my spoon! In fact, they didn't even give us any steak knives...just an ordinary dinner knife for one of us.

The Steak, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

There was again a strange herb or seasoning (different from the pasta one) that lent a unique flavour to the steak. We couldn't quite figure out what it was but it was fine. I felt the steak didn't need the brown sauce. That slab was good enough on its own.

For dessert, we shared a strawberry with vanilla gelato (hand-churned) and cream (S$5.50). Very nice end to the meal. The gelato was light and airy, not too sweet at all. Strawberries were sweet with just a hint of tartness.

Coffee, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Hubby had a coffee as well to round off the meal. It was good. Strong and full-bodied. Tasted extra good when taken with a bite of the dessert.

Popsicle Brownies!, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Oh they had these on display at the entrance near the cashier. Popsicle brownies. Yum-looking but we didn't try them this time. Maybe next time.

Portions here are huge and fairly value-for-money. I think we had too many dishes (oh greedy me!). I like the quiet, hidden niche atmosphere and think it's great for casual dining. They do delivery and cater for events and functions as well.

55 Lorong L Telok Kurau
#01-59/61 Bright Centre
Singapore 425500
Tel: 6346-0504


Singapore Food Expo 2007

SFE2007, originally uploaded by Camemberu.

Want to see denizens of a first world country throng like starving refugees, grabbing slivers of food and drink samples like there was no tomorrow? Come to the Singapore Food Expo where this happens without fail every year!

I like to see new F&B products launched but even I couldn't take the jostling crowd. Actually the photos above are of the more sane areas, where I had some room at all to wield a camera.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House

This is from the North Bridge Road branch (opposite Bugis junction, between Liang Seah Street and Middle Road). My second time eating their noodles (first time round was sheer disappointment). Since hubby says he likes them, I gave them another try. In fact, I tried the upsized version S$4 instead of the S$3 previously.

Hmm, a little better. The highlight is really the crispy dumplings, tasty despite being more wantan skin than meat. The char siew is fine too, at least it's not the thin slices of superdry flavourless meat dyed red. The noodles are all right, done to QQ consistency but the sauce is where it falls flat. While the dish looks good, something is sorely missing. It just does not have that umami oomph. If only they used better stock as a base...or whatever it is that goes into really good Malaysia/KL-style wantan noodles.

So, in conclusion...go for the S$4 serving if you're having it at all. But still, don't expect to be completely satisfied.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Sushi Kikuzawa: A Very Long Lunch

UPDATE: This place has changed management and its name to Sushi Kanazawa, and moved to 360 Orchard Rd, #02-13, International Building, 238869

Sashimi platter, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Today was a real treat! I finally stole away to Sushi Kikuzawa for a nice sushi buffet lunch. Had heard many nice things about this restaurant but never got the opportunity to try it until today. It's a tiny sliver of a place upstairs at International Building. We sat at the counter and were served immediately with edamame starters and warm takenoko wakasani (stewed bamboo shoots). Soon to follow was the plate of sashimi (you only get one portion) - one slice of ika (squid), two slices of shake (salmon), three slices of maguro (tuna) and some whitefish. The salmon was sweet, sweet heaven but the tuna wasn't very well-cut (a bit sinewy in some parts). The whitefish proved somewhat nondescript but was not unpleasant. As for the squid, it's not my favourite but what Kikuzawa served was quite acceptable - not too chewy.

This was followed by a small bowl of delicious broth with chicken pieces, radish, fried tofu and a gingko nut. Yummy appetiser.

Saba and Something, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
We were swiftly presented with this duo of saba (mackarel) and some fish of white flesh that I forgot. These went down quickly into our hungry tummies. Fresh and not fishy.

Aburi Shake (Seared Salmon), originally uploaded by Camemberu.
The next item is a highlight at Kikuzawa's - aburi shake. Seared lightly with a blowtorch on top, this item married two different taste dimensions of fatty salmon flesh - very gently-cooked and raw. Umai!!

Ikura and Uni, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Ikura (salmon roe) and uni (sea urchin "roe" but really its reproductive organs) arrived as a pair. Both extremely rich in flavour. I've grown to like ikura (in small amounts) but I can't say the same for uni. Maybe I just don't have the tastebud receptors required to fully appreciate the prized gonads of the hermaphrodite sea urchin (incidentally also a prickly object I stay away from when diving). This completely foreign, briny, bitter metallic taste always brings a mini-shock to my senses.

Kajiki (Swordfish), originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Kajiki or swordfish was up next. Nice, smooth and creamy but it still isn't a favourite of mine. Good thing I'm not addicted, as its mercury levels are one of the highest.

I was glad to hear and smell the blowtorch in action again. This time, unagi (river eel) arrived warmed and with a caramelised top - inimitably sublime! It came with awabi (raw abalone). Wow, a sushi buffet that included abalone?? To be honest, I am not a fan of abalone, I don't even like it cooked but I gave it a go. Surprise, had none of the tough chewiness of the cooked version. Instead, what greeted me was a more powdery softness and a taste almost akin to fish cake (sorry, this must be sacrilegious to fans of this expensive shellfish). Unfortunately it also carried a strong, fishy after-taste.
I think I must have been too distracted by the heavenly unagi to hear what the next two items were (the junior-looking sushi chef was also very soft-spoken and did not always announce what he served). One tasted like finely-mashed sardines (very light in flavour) and some shellfish, possibly nama-hotate (raw scallop).

Chawan-mushi, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Chawan-mushi arrived in a generous bowl. Piping hot and lighter than clouds, the steamed egg was extremely smooth and soothing. Not too salty either. I think they only prepare/steam this on order, unlike some places which (I suspect) give you a reheated bowl.

Salmon in Ponzu Sauce, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Another warm serving arrived - this seemed to be salmon poached in ponzu sauce. My friend got a nice one (pictured), and I had something full of bones (big and small) and much harder to eat. In fact, the whole meal, the chef served my friend better-looking stuff for most of the items!

Negi-toro Temaki, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
A handroll! Mashed tuna with spring onions. A lot of rice and not enough tuna but still tasty. Actually handrolls would be a good way to fill up customers, so I'm not sure why the chef only gave us one.

Hokigai (Whelk), originally uploaded by Camemberu.
OK, I wasn't too happy to see hokigai (sea whelk) since I had a bad sashimi one at Keyaki recently. But this one was much fresher (and sliced much thinner), so it had none of the offensive chewiness. Not much taste either though.

Kakigai (Oyster), originally uploaded by Camemberu.
When oysters came next, I was surprised. This would be my first as sushi. I love oysters but I'm kinda avoiding them since I'm pregnant. My friend doesn't like oysters so it was a while of trying to pass it to each other in vain. I prodded the thing to see if it was cooked (it looked so) but it felt stone-cold. My friend then bravely decided to pop his into his mouth and so did I. Oh, the familiar burst of smoky flavour - no regrets. It was more delicious than it looked.

Kazunoko (Herring Roe), originally uploaded by Camemberu.
I like kazunoko (herring roe) which is fish roe that comes in one crunchy piece. Very fresh and very yummy. I only wish the portion was larger. The gunkan (boat-shaped) sushi here is quite miniscule. But that allows you to go for more variety.

Ika, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Oh no, we should have told the chef no squid! Another round again of trying to pass the sushi to each other, but we ate our own servings in the end. I'm not sure why I'm still squeamish about squid. It's virtually tasteless. I think it's the texture. You mash it in your mouth but some parts of it still stubbornly refuse to be masticated. Hmm, it's not unlike nata de coco, come to think of it, but I like nata de coco.

Ama-ebi, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
OK, ama-ebi (raw sweet prawn) I passed to my friend. I have never liked it and suspect I never will.

Tamago, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Ah, tamago, this is sometimes called the true test of a sushi chef's skill! It takes patience and expertise to get it right. The tamago here was very good - a perfect balance of sweet and savoury (some places make it too sweet). A generous slice that looked quite different from the sickly yellow, almost plasticky stuff that you sometimes see.

By this time, the chef had noticeably slowed down his pace of serving items to us. Still, this next one was a delight. Seared scallop with a dash of lemon (no need for dip, said the chef). Another multi-dimensional treat of savoury and sweet.

Maguro with special sauce, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
This one was nice. Tuna seasoned with a special sauce and sesame seeds. Melted in the mouth. No sinews this time.

Again, something new - sayori (half-beak), a seasonal item. Delicious with all its toppings. I wonder what the fish looks like...I keep visualizing the parrot fish (with their beak-like mouths).

Tobiko, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
We requested for tobiko and this cute little gunkan came. Nice but I wish there was more tobiko. Oh, the seaweed used here is fantastic. Extra dry and crisp, it's probably lightly toasted before being used in the sushi.

Sweet Salmon, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
We also asked for salmon. Sure, it's a plebian choice but it's just extra tasty here.

Our last sushi order, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
OK, by this time, the chef had slowed his serving pace to a halt. I think we breached their breakeven point some time ago. But we weren't totally FULL we requested a final four sushi items. That wonderful aburi unagi, shake, ikura and kazunoko. There were still items on the menu that we hadn't tried but we just couldn't resist an encore of these four.

Kazunoko with Ikura, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
I played with my kazunoko (herring roe) a bit. Put three ikura (salmon roe) on top for eye candy and flavour. Went quite well! Oh, there's some fish floss underneath the herring roe piece too. Good way to add flavour.

Mango Pudding, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
Don't be disappointed by the lack of choice in desserts. There's only pudding but oh, my lord, how divine this lovely jelly-like concoction was! Excellent texture - not creamy or mushy but firm with lots of bounce. Very refreshing. Smelt like it was made from nectar of the gods. A superb way to round off a great meal. They only had mango flavour today (normally there's an assortment including lychee, papaya, pineapple, strawberry, apple and peach). But we were more than happy. Plus, we had fun with its uber-jiggly nature.

Udon, originally uploaded by Camemberu.
My friend still wanted more. We asked for udon and cold tofu. The udon arrived but they forgot our tofu. We decided to end this with another mango pudding.
I think Kikuzawa and staff were glad to finally see us go. But hey, gochisosama deshita! And we will certainly be recommending friends here for excellent value-for-money sushi. While not top-of-the-line quality, the sushi here is infinitely better than any of the conveyor belt chains. I think this is an excellent place for those who want an introduction to the different varieties of sushi (more than 40 available here). My friend, for example, had never ventured beyond salmon sashimi/sushi prior to this (not even maguro/tuna!). I was quite surprised he ate everything here. Bravo!

Prices: S$29 for lunch buffet; S$39 for dinner buffet (Mon-Fri)
Weekends and public holidays, add about S$10 more. They have a membership card promotion: for every six stamps (one buffet = one stamp), you pay only S$10 for the next buffet.
They also have fixed lunch sets and various other meals (unagi, chiraishi, etc). Shochu, beer and sake available to wash all that sushi down, although free-flow green tea is served.

360 Orchard Road
#02-13 International Building
Tel: 6738-3833

Open: 12noon - 3pm; 6-10pm
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