Friday, August 31, 2007
First time at Shimbashi Soba. I have never wanted to step in there in the past, for some reason, despite the healthy claims of buckwheat noodles, made fresh on the premises. I had the Soba Gozen set which consisted of tempura, decently fresh sashimi, deep-fried chicken teriyaki (exceedingly sweet and salty), some tasteless whitish cube (mountain yam concoction maybe), sushi and a bowl of their signature handmade soba in a smoky-flavoured hot broth.
Hubby's set meal A had fried fish cutlets, sashimi, same deep-fried chicken teriyaki and bowl of hot soba too. He didn't think the food was anything special. I thought they were all right, decently done but a little on the pricey side. The soba tasted OK - you could taste the fresh-made difference and the rough edges of the cleaver-shaved noodles. They had some good bite, slightly al dente but not if you leave them in the hot soup for too long.
We also got a side dish of homemade fried tofu. The three triangular pieces buried under bonito shavings were not terribly special. I could happily eat regular tofu fried the same way at a fraction of the cost.
Service was also a little spotty (and it wasn't crowded when we were there). The place tries to have a modern touch to it, decor-wise and choice of ambient music (Norah Jones instead of Japanese music). The food however, does not tempt me to return. I think Tatsuya's set lunches probably give you better satisfaction at pretty much the same price.
290 Orchard Road
#B1-41, Paragon Shopping Centre
I haven't gone near Beard Papa in a long while, so I don't know how long they've had this strawberry flavour (for the longest time, we only had the vanilla cream puff). We weren't expecting much but it scored a "wow" for us with its perfectly balanced taste of tart and sweet, with strawberry that tasted real, not artificial. Only the Japanese can do something like this. Thumbs up!
Takashimaya basement and Bugis Junction basement.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Am I on a baking spree? Well, baking something once a week is not a lot...although it's more than I've ever done in my entire life. I tried a really simple apple crumble recipe, something idiotproof for a baking noob like me. The end result was too sweet for my liking. I'd halve the sugar and double the fruit, if I ever make it again.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
If you've ever wandered the basement of The Central (at Eu Tong Seng Street above Clarke Quay MRT station), you may have encountered this corner outlet called Da Pai Dang offering Chinese-style street food. Most of the staff seem to be from Mainland China.
I took a gamble on their tender beef noodles (S$5.50). Fairly generous serving of fatty braised beef. But the noodles smelt so strongly of ammonia, like hair-dye chemicals, it was inedible. It was also too soggy.
I don't think I'll be back to try the rest.
Where oh where can I get decent roasted barley tea (mugicha) that I can brew at home? Can't seem to find many loose leaf types but a lot of the instant tea sachet variety - so I tried one. Major error. The sachets smelt like cigarette smoke! Unless you like the aroma of burnt coffee cum tea, this is one brand you should stay away from.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Finally a journey to the West! Got the chance to come to Eng Kee today, it's a humble little joint lauded for its fried beehoon and accompaniments. Indeed the stall was so humble-looking, non-descript and tucked away in a corner of a quaint old coffeeshop that I almost thought it was closed and abandoned. There was not a lot on display, maybe they had just started putting items out (I was there shortly after they opened).
Fried beehoon/mee is commonly breakfast fare but this stall only opens from 4pm onwards. The beehoon is rather plain, not terribly tasty and certainly didn't have any bean sprouts as touted in some eating guide. It's not as good as the one at the old Holland Village food centre, which cooks its beehoon in flavourful stock. The mee is just slightly better and more peppery.
The sambal chili sauce is very critical in this dish, often the saviour of these dishes. Here it is just slightly above average. The ngoh hiang (five-spice fried vegetarian sausage roll?) is okay, decent.
The real STAR here was the crispy fried chicken wing. Piping hot, with crunchy skin and plump, juicy flesh. Now this, I would pack home by the dozen! A very happy discovery. If KFC could do chicken like this, they'd be on my speed-dial permanently.
Block 117 Commonwealth Crescent #01-711
(near the renovated Commonwealth Crescent Food Centre and Market)
Open 4-11pm; closed Sundays
Saturday, August 25, 2007
OK, bread experiment no.2 - this time a little more traditional, with proper kneading and such. I followed Delia's online recipe - which was really easy.
To be honest, I had more fun doing this than the no-knead bread. The kneading process (only three and two minutes) was like PlayDoh fun. This bread turned out just as well - crisp crust with soft fluffy insides. Less chewy and more dense (the air bubbles are smaller). It tasted delicious on its own, and even more so with a dab of butter.
Friday, August 24, 2007
OK, so that I don't waste this post just patting the blog on the back, here's a video clip of Christopher Walken demonstrating roast chicken and pears. Apparently he loves cooking! I <3 this guy - eccentric to the core and funny! He's quite subdued here though.
Nothing like his Fatboy Slim "Weapon of Choice" dance. I never knew he started out in song and dance. Weird but wonderful.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Man, I haven't had grilled chicken chop in the longest time. Today I indulged. I like it really crisp on the outside - this one was done quite well on the underside (pictured) but not so on the skin side. Don't really care much for the brown sauce it usually comes with. Prefer to add chili sauce!
Well this is obviously not haute cuisine, but moderately satisfying. At S$6 with two competent sides, it's cheap and cheerful. Pat's Western Delight, the western stall at the Banquet food court (Level 3) in Parkway Parade, always serves up stuff on huge plates (more than a foot in diameter). I remember they used to be quite decent, before the renovation (can't say the same about the other stalls). This is the first time I've gone back to them since. Would not mind trying the other stuff they have some other day.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I haven't tried many places at the UDMC Seafood Centre at East Coast, the seafood hub of Singapore (nor visited it too many times). Mainly because seafood is expensive! Well, on this day (two Sundays ago), I originally wanted to try out the famous Mattar Road Seafood BBQ but hubby did not want to suffer a crowded place with no air-conditioning. So off to UDMC we went, and specifically Jumbo.
Oh yes, the black pepper crab was good! Huge Sri Lankan crabs with claws on steroids, yielding plentiful meat that was finger-lickin' good. Drenched in savoury pepper sauce (we wished there was more - is there a world pepper shortage or something?) and with shells cracked at just the right places, we barely needed the tongs. Dang, I'm craving for more right now...but they were pricey, at $43.20 for a 1.2kg dish. Ouch.
The rest of the dishes were crap. Just look at the cereal prawns (S$16). Seems like the chef just dumped half a tin of Nestum cereal into the thing. This is also the first time I've seen prawns shelled for this dish, and there weren't many either, maybe five or six only. Blandest version I've ever tasted.
The mee goreng (S$8) came with generous bits and pieces of fish, prawn and squid but was not spectacular. The Punggol Mee Goreng we had at Greenwood Ave is leagues above it.
These greens had seen better days, I thought. Some pieces were kinda browning already at the ends. Sure the stir-fry was not badly executed - veges still crisp to the bite - but again, not something you'd lust after.
I'm a sucker for those fried mantou (fluffy buns) that always are served with chili crab, so I asked for a couple, even though we weren't having chili crab. The waitress kindly offered us a bowl of the chili crab gravy as a dip. Well, it was an unexpectedly HUGE!!!!~1 bowl. For two tiny buns. Not that I'm complaining. The sauce was sweet and fairly tasty but not really that great, so we were glad we chose the black pepper crab and not the chili one.
One thing I liked there was simple harnessing of tech for greater efficiency. The wait staff use PDAs to take orders and the kitchen get those immediately - no delays with walking to-and-fro using paper chits. Before you know it, food starts arriving at your table shortly after orders are done. If only it was better food (the non-crab dishes). Well, I hear Jumbo's quality varies from outlet to outlet, so you may have a different experience elsewhere (we were just too lazy to wander far).
JUMBO SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Block 1206 East Coast Parkway
#01-08 Seafood Centre
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
We had this on Sunday but I couldn't bring myself to post it til today (and even so, it's with some difficulty). The "jelak" (over-satiated) feeling is still with me, so can't really bear to look at another pizza.
But anyway, this is our first taste of the much-discussed Artz Pizza, which now delivers (limited areas)! The guys behind this joint are the folks who started Al Forno (which they sold off) and the first to bake pizza here in a traditional wood oven.
The Salamino pizza tasted better of the two that we had. Yes, both came piping hot with thin crusts and fairly good quality ingredients. But our first bite (and subsequent ones) still lacked the "wow" factor.
Hubby hates prosciutto (he thinks it smelly) but I love it. Strangely, the mushrooms smelt stronger than the ham. They were still half-raw, most of them. But this was not what bugged us - there was this other smell (some sort of tiny shredded leafy herb perhaps) that was very strong and did not agree with us. We could not figure out what it was. This applied to both pizzas. It wasn't the crust, mozzarella or the tomato base.
Well, Artz Pizza will always have its fans. I'm just not sure I'm an instant one. Maybe we didn't choose their best pizzas. Maybe their food tastes better eaten fresh on-site at the restaurant. Will I try it again to find out? I'm not sure. Anyway, I shouldn't be eating so much pizza! :P
All pizzas are 12-inch. Order one and get the next at half price. Order two pizzas and get the third one free. Fifteen types available. Delivery is free (no minimum order required).
Call: 6345-1111 (to find out delivery areas)
Delivery hours: 4:30pm - 10:00pm daily
Monday, August 20, 2007
I love a good mee goreng - spicy fried noodles - and have been looking for the ultimate version but as Bono sings, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."
There's mee goreng Indian style (see above). The one here is not too bad - it packs a fiery-hot spicy punch and isn't too sweet. Dry with good wok hei (breath of wok). Not soggy despite being a takeaway. It's from a stall called Ramli Indian Muslim Food, at a neighbourhood coffee shop at Block 59 Marine Terrace (the one closer to the wet market).
There's also the Chinese style mee goreng, usually chockful of seafood and slightly sweeter with more onions and tomatoes. Also usually more "wet" than the Indian version. Tastes almost like noodles in chili crab sauce at some places.
The one above is from Parkway Parade's basement food court. Also not the best I've had but decent when you wanna have a quick fix.
So anyone with recommendations for great mee goreng (Indian and/or Chinese), you are most welcome to share!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Sometimes when you really don't know what/where to eat but prefer an air-conditioned place - a buffet can be a good way to find something for everyone. We didn't want to go far or dress up beyond casual gear, so we decided to give Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel opposite Parkway Parade a try.
Ooh good choice! They had a large spread, a little bit of everything, justifying the S$30 per person price tag (which I had earlier thought to be a little steep for a suburban hotel eatery).
Seafood lovers will be glad to know there are mussels, prawns and crabs on ice, along with sashimi (salmon and another fish, probably tai/snapper). I didn't take any crabs though (prefer mine spicy hot with black pepper!). well, sashimi also not the freshest. Prawns too, and a bit overboiled. Mussels OK. No oysters on the rocks but there was some hot oyster forestiere (gratin-style with cream and bacon)
Hubby skipped the hot Asian dishes completely but I just had to try some. Most were decent stuff, I've had worse in places like Greenhouse (Ritz-Carlton), The Line (Shangri-la) and such. Although very simple and light, the fish maw soup was quite delicious. Strangely, they placed a huge bowl of sambal belachan next to the wok-fried beef. Both went well with the noodles (which are almost ee-fu like!). Oh, there was a really delicious green bean soup with sago too.
A huge hunk of ham sat on a carvery. It was a bit too salty although well-flavoured and spiked with cloves. You can have it with some fruit jam - I didn't try what it was.
The western soup - cream of mushroom with butter - I also liked. It's a non-pretentious soup, but a satisfying one. Creamy, savoury and hearty. Goes really well with those thick, crisp, garlic croutons. Next to it were some breads, muffins, pastries and a small cheese platter. Also the English muffins with poached egg, which I did not try.
There were two a la minute stations manned by the same chef - he does both the Italian pasta and the local laksa. Hubby's carbonara turned out quite delicious, very thick and creamy too. Nice in small portions like above.
The laksa is also decent, albeit slightly watery. The sambal chili helps to add more flavour. I also added the mussels and prawns from the cold seafood as extra garnishing. Looks better, no?
Desserts - now the durian pengat (or mousse) is the star of the show, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it's partly my pregnancy craving, but it was sublime! OK, maybe not as fantastic as the one at Merchant Court Hotel, but this came really close. It's almost like sweet, creamy, mashed durians - you can see (and taste) the threadlike bits of durian flesh. Darn, I wanted a second helping even though I downed a whole bowl. We even gave little Nadine a taste - and surprisingly she didn't spit it out (like she does with all food now). Will she be my future durian kaki (hubby's side of family hates durian)?
Other desserts - hits and misses. Some too dry, some too tart, some too sweet. The bread and butter pudding was not bad with loads of cream, it had this really homemade feel about it. I didn't try everything (other cakes, waffles, ice cream, doughnuts). Free-flow juices (orange, grapefruit and pineapple) with coffee and tea round up the buffet.
In summary, this is a nice, casual place to bring the family (I think one dines free with group of four, not sure if tied to specific credit card). Kinda comparable to The Straits Cafe at Rendezvous Hotel. If you're not too fussy about quality of food, it's a nice place to relax and enjoy a weekend lunch.
Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel Level 3
50 East Coast Road
Breakfast: 06.30 am - 10.30 am
Lunch: 12.00 pm - 02.30 pm
Dinner: 06.30 pm - 09.30 pm
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Today the D.A.D.S. (Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome) fathers-only group held its first meeting, an exciting one that turned up many suggestions, concerns and ideas. Hubby told me one plan was to set up a social enterprise which would provide community and business/job opportunities for people with Down syndrome, a means to help them achive further independence. There are also some projects already underway in various spheres, things we never knew about.
Less exciting are the food options around Bishan Junction 8 (the Down Syndrome Association has a branch located at the office block, where the meeting was held). Lots of eateries abound but none too good. We thought we'd give Din Tai Fung a try to see if it may be better with time - we had both found it disappointing many years ago when the Paragon outlet first opened.
Food arrived quite quickly enough, despite a full house. Of course, some stuff like the appetisers, were ready-made and just had to be delivered to the table. For this dish, I only liked the seaweed and tanghoon (mung bean vermicelli).
A big, generous bowl (small, $6) of hot and sour soup that looked good but wasn't. You can add your own vinegar and szechuan pepper oil to try and save it but it still doesn't quite work.
Bland soup, bland dumplings, bland noodles (overly soft too). Wonder if their fried rice is equally bland.
Actually the only things worth eating here (out of all the stuff we had) were the xiao long bao (XLB) and steamed dumplings. Above is a small portion (six dumplings).
The crabmeat and pork dumplings were quite tasty. The steamed dumplings held their shape well and had thin skins. Soup within quite a mouthful too. Pity these dumplings are gone in a flash.
Oddly, I kept getting smears from under the table. Who on earth spread soy sauce all along the bottom? Bleah.
Well, a filling lunch but not the most satisfactory. Pretty much confirmed that we can skip Din Tai Fung (in Singapore anyway) in future.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I'm really quite late to the no-knead bread scene (first popularised by the NYT in Nov 2006) but thanks to Greedy Goose's post, I was introduced to this exceedingly simple method just in time before I caved in for a breadmachine!
I followed a mixture of this online guide and the NYT video instructions above. Yes, no kneading necessary - indeed a six year-old could do this! But is it painless? Unfortunately, there's a different kind of pain - a lot of waiting involved (time does the work for you in creating the gluten structure usually acquired by kneading)! An agonizing test of patience before you can sink your teeth into freshly baked bread!
* After mixing the dough (the easy part), you gotta let it sit for 18-24 hours (I waited only 19hrs)
* Then you shape it and let it rise again - another 1-2 hours
* Pop it into Pyrex bowl with lid in hot oven - wait 30 mins
* Remove lid to let crust brown - 15-20 mins
* When finally baked, you still have to let it cool an hour at least before slicing!
So this is the end result. Heh, I think I went a little overboard with the flour on the surface, so it's not quite the golden brown crust. And my Pyrex bowl was probably too small, so the bread's become a giant ball. But hey, I'm proud of it! Tastes all right for a rustic loaf - chewy crust and soft insides with a tiny hint of sourdough.
Unlike many baking bloggers out there, I am totally a stranger to baking (having grown up without an oven). Even making bread from scratch seems intimidating but now that I've investigated it a little bit more, it's actually seems quite easy and intriguing. I'd even like to try some kneading now - looks fun! Oh what will I put in my next loaf - sundried tomatoes, bacon, cheese, curry? Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
On my way to Noodle House Ken's today, I got distracted by Kushigin which I have been meaning to try. They have some very reasonable lunch sets (various combinations starting from S$10 for kushi age or maguro tataki to S$18 for unajyu).
Since it's a yakitori joint, I had to try some of its grilled goodies. I chose the Yakitori-don and Inaniwa Udon set (S$13). Lots of pickles to go with the rice and an appetiser of sliced lady's fingers/okra in some sticky-gooey fermented soybean-mountain yam concoction, topped with shredded bonito. A bite of that and a slurp of the noodles - bliss! The udon was nicely done, soft but with tensile bounce, in comforting dashi stock with slice of sweet beancurd and wakame (seaweed). Even the spring onions tasted good.
And the yakitori? Wonderful! There was bacon-wrapped okra, quail's eggs, chicken with leek, and tsukune (grilled chicken meatballs - at least I think they were chicken). Each offered a different taste but all were well-seasoned and grilled to aromatic perfection. The rice too, was good quality, proper Japanese short-grain rice - unlike what I got at Akashi.
I'd love to come back and try the grilled eel or salmon. Prices look pretty reasonable for a la carte too. If not mistaken, could be less pricey than Wahiro's sister joint Kushiyaki. I need to try Kazu too...someday.
5 Koek Road #01-01 Cuppage Plaza
Mon-Sat: 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-12am;
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tonight I get to cross off another place off my "to-eat" list and I'm glad I did so. Hubby and I finally made our way to Cafe Oliv for a supper bite (late dinner rather). They are open til midnight but I don't think they get that much business after dinner hours. We were the only customers there at 10pm and they seemed surprised to even see us walk in.
Still, the place looked cheery to us and service was extra attentive. We had starters of the famed salted egg coated soft-shell crab as well as cheese wedges. Both were fried piping hot and crisp. The crab was delicious! It was a party of savoury, umami and seafood flavours. Went very well with the flavoured mayo that came with it. I think some of the salted egg went inside the shell though (but not a bad thing). By the way, the orange juliennes you see are not carrot but deep-fried sweet potato. Interesting touch.
These were fine - just your usual wedges. However, I did wonder how come potatoes cost more than crabs for the starters.
This was the highlight of the evening. Very yummy ribs atop flavourful mash. The meat was soft, sweet and fell away easily enough from the bones. Parts of it were charred and caramelised til crispy (they grill it just before serving, for that effect). I'm not sure if they actually do import this special cut of ribs from Germany, which includes soft bones at the end but my hopes for cartilage were more than met. There was probably more soft bones than meat - you could literally pull out complete soft bones from the ribs - wonderful for me, as I'm a soft bone fanatic! So in addition to my proteins, I think I satisfied at least two days' worth of calcium! Half slab for S$15.90; Full slab for S$25.90 (I'm going the whole hog next time).
The other main dish we shared was the tenderloin. Nice, tender chunk of meat but there was something in the marinade or seasoning that tasted odd...maybe some herb or spice. Too creative? Sigh...really good beef doesn't need seasoning more than salt and pepper. The ribs were much better.
Wash all that greasy grub down with some pure fruit juice! They carry this range of Mountain Fresh Fruit Juices that aren't made from concentrate, have no added sugar or water, no preservatives, no artificial flavours or colours. Oh, in addition to coffees, teas, juices, they have a variety of beers, wines and even champagne!
Well, all in all, a really good place I wouldn't mind coming back to. Good food, cosy ambiance, nice soft chairs and pleasant service. There's also no service charge or GST.
220 East Coast Road