Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ah Meng Kopi at Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo entrance

We took the kids to the zoo for the very first time this weekend. I love the Singapore Zoo and its open concept. I have fond memories of childhood visits filled with wide-eyed wonder. But one thing that's been a little lacking there has been the F&B choices. So my interest was piqued when I was invited to see the new outlets - Ah Meng Kopi and Ah Meng Restaurant.

As most Singaporeans know, Ah Meng, celebrity orangutan and longtime zoo icon, passed on in 2008 from old age. She had been with the zoo for about 40 years. I think it's really sweet of the zoo to name the new eateries after her. I can imagine how much the staff must miss her, and want her to live on in some way.

Ah Meng Kopi at entrance of Singapore Zoo
Ah Meng Kopi is located right next to the ticketing booths, outside the entrance. There's ample al fresco seating. There's no air-conditioning, but it was cool enough in the shade. They open from 8am onwards, so you can have breakfast here before you head on into the zoo. Or you can have some tea before you leave.

Kaya Toast
Butter and kaya toast (S$1.90) - a bit like Ya Kun's style, with thinly sliced bread toasted almost crisp. These were not bad at all. Even Nadine, who normally hates sweet stuff, enjoyed these and asked for more. They have a variety of toast - butter & sugar, jam, peanut butter, jam AND peanut butter, etc. There's also a toast set that includes half-boiled eggs and coffee.

Chicken floss toast
Toast with chicken floss (S$2.50) - no pork floss or any pork/lard products here. This is the only "savoury" toast item. Hubby liked this, but I thought it was a bit dry.

The Laksa is not bad!
The laksa (S$6.90) is actually quite good! Thick, rich and flavourful, with two completely shelled crystal prawns hidden beneath. They also offer curry chicken with French loaf, and nasi lemak but those were sold out and awaiting replenishment when I was there. In fact, even my bowl of laksa was the very last one.

Iced Kopi-O, Coffee Shake and Tea Shake
But by far the must-haves are the ice-cold drinks. Simply because the weather is such a scorcher these days, and it is so easy to get dehydrated walking in the heat. The staff were flexible enough to accommodate special requests like a no-sugar, iced black coffee (Kopi-O with ice added, S$1.80, see blue mug). We also had an Iced Kopi Shake and Iced Teh Shake (S$3.50 each, pretty much the milky versions with ice). Thank god for the generous large mugs!

I'll blog about Ah Meng Restaurant tomorrow. Warm thanks to the Singapore Zoo for their kind invitation.

Singapore Zoo (next to entrance)
80 Mandai Lake Road
Singapore 729826
Open Daily: 8.00am – 7.00pm

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dallas Restaurant & Bar

Dallas is at 31 Boat Quay
It was a massive outing today at Dallas Restaurant and Bar. More than 40 foodies braved the sweltering heat at Boat Quay for Ladyironchef's food event. He's celebrating his blog's second anniversary (congrats, Brad)! My first time going for such a huge food outing. It was fabulous meeting Fen and Yuan, Jaime La Nourriture and her friend, Arlyna, Mike, Aromacookery, Keropokman and Momo.

Ladyironchef's special menu
Brad of Ladyironchef arranged a special menu for us at S$23++. It offered tasting portions of many dishes, including the signature baby back pork ribs.

Salt & Pepper Calamari
One of the things we noticed about the first dish is how "kid-friendly" it is. The Salt & Pepper Calamari is not too salty or peppery, and even the chili dip was not spicy at all. It was still a tad too greasy for me, but kids never seem to mind that.

Actually, almost all the items would be popular with kids! I should have brought Nadine. But never mind, she will guest-star in this episode, bringing you fun Tex-Mex words a la Dora the Explorer!

Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas
Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas. Very savoury filling wrapped in thin tortilla skins, and grilled until nearly crispy. Not unlike a grilled cheese sandwich.

Nadine: Say it with me!
QUESADILLA : keh-sah-DEE-Yah!

Nadine: Say it with me!

The shredded pork filling has been braised 3 hours
Shredded Pork Tacos. The Australian owner tells us the pork has been braised with herbs and spices for three hours. I seem to detect some Asian or Chinese elements in the flavour, which I felt clashed with the Mexican condiments.

Nadine: Say it with me!

Baby Back Pork Ribs in 3 flavours
The much awaited baby back ribs came. There was some confusion with the three flavours, as we could not make out which was which, even with the help of the staff. Well, the one we think that's "Alabama" had strong garlic notes, with pineapple for sweetness; and the "Berry" was slightly tart. I liked the "Fiery" best. But overall, I still prefer ribs that are a bit more fleshy and moist.

Tempura Barramundi with Thai Herbs & Naan Jim
Tempura Barramundi with Thai Herbs & Naan Jim. We had trouble getting this dish to be photogenic. But it turned out to be more tasty than it looked. The fish was very tender. The sauce is extremely unusual. It looks like your Thai-style chili sauce, but has coconut, coriander and other Thai-based spices in it. We had trouble looking up what "Naan Jim" means, but I think it could refer to the Nam Jim Thai salad dressing. See another recipe here.

Dallas Wings, with hot sauce or ranch dip
Dallas Wings, with hot sauce and ranch dip. Thoroughly deep-fried and crispy - some may find these a bit dry. As we ate this, our table burst into an impassioned discussion about CP Foods, especially their Mexican Wings.

Nadine: I love chicken wings!

Corn & Crab Fritters with Chili Glaze
Corn & Crab Fritters with Chili Glaze. These are really breaded potato cakes with mashed bits of crab and corn in them. The "chili glaze" is oddly a curry mayo dip. Personally I think these went better with the Thai-style chili dip.

Beef fajitas
Beef fajitas, with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. I cannot remember if the beef is from 120-day grain-fed beef, but there sure were some fatty globules in there. Interestingly, the treatment tasted a little like rendang. Laced with sweet onion and jalapeno slices.
Nadine: Say it with me!
FAJITA : fah-HEE-tah!

Breaded mushrooms with Cheese and Garlic Mayonnaise
By now you probably think you're seeing double. Breaded mushrooms with Cheese and Garlic Mayonnaise, another round fried item similar to the crab fritters. But these were quite juicy and tasty. They signalled the end of the nine-course meal which left us all very full. We had a quick look at the posh bar and al fresco balcony upstairs before leaving. Thanks for organising this, Brad.

Today's post has been brought to you by Ladyironchef and the letter "N" (Nadine!)

31 Boat Quay
Tel: 6532-2131


Friday, March 27, 2009

The Hour to Vote Earth

Are you joining Earth Hour? Switch off your lights and non-critical appliances between 8.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, 28 March 2009. Have fun in candlelight, play hide-and-seek or simply look at the stars (with less light pollution)! But don't stop there. Earth Hour will be meaningless unless we actively do our part to reduce our carbon footprint.

An hour of darkness
to ponder eternity;
Together we'll make it
A pledge for humanity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jing - Weekend Brunch (Part 2)

Chili Crab
This is the second part of our Jing weekend brunch. First part on appetisers, dim sum and soups is here in the previous post.

The menu actually allows a single serving of chili crab, which itself is worth more than the price of admission. We didn't expect much for crab served in an a la carte buffet but were pleasantly surprised that it's even better than what's served at No Signboard and Jumbo (East Coast). And they gave us a huge, meaty crab too - the fried mantou buns look tiny next to it!

We also requested the single serve of deep-fried "soon hock" (either soy or Thai style) but they ran out of that quite quickly.

Steamed Fillet of Chilean Seabass with Mei Cai or Preserved Mustard Leaves
I'm sure we've all had "mei cai kou rou" (braised pork with preserved mustard leaves) but this is the first time I've seen preserved mustard leaves paired with fish - in this case, steamed fillet of Chilean Seabass. Surprisingly, it works very well. The leaves lend a gentle salty-sweetness to the fish.

Signature Wasabi Prawns
Jing's signature wasabi prawns - competently done but I seem to have had better elsewhere. Prawns are big and fresh though.

Pan-seared Beef Strips with Sesame Sauce
Clearly a dish with Korean influences. It even comes with a small kimchee garnish on the side. Pan-seared Beef Strips with Sesame Sauce. Commendable because the meat is very tender and flavourful.

Fish Fingers for kids
Jing is certainly geared for families - they have a special section on the menu just for kids (but who says adults can't enjoy them too?). Fried fish fingers, french fries and chicken wings (very gently) flavoured with shrimp paste. The fish fingers are almost cottony-soft. Nadine and Jolie liked these.

Sweet and Sour Pork
Possibly my favourite dish. Perfectly done. Pork pieces fried just right, firmly crispy on the outside, tender within. The sauce too, was expertly concocted. Would have been awesome with some rice.

Fried String Beans with Minced Pork, Mushrooms and Dried Shrimps
The token vegetable dish. Fried string beans with minced pork, mushrooms and dried shrimps. A little too wet and salty for my liking.

XO Chili Sauce Carrot Cake
I wish the XO chili sauce carrot cake had more of a spicy kick to it. And it's the first time I've had carrot cake with the egg still runny in places. Perhaps a boon to some, but I prefer eggs fully cooked (even better yet, crispy!).

Stewed Ee-fu Noodles with Mashed Eggplant and Shrimp Roe
I love ee-fu noodles but haven't found many places that do it well. This stewed ee-fu noodles with mashed eggplant and shrimp roe looks a little one-dimensional because of the colour. Not bad, but still not my ideal version.

Rice Noodles Braised with Sliced Beef and Egg or simply Beef hor fun
"Rice Noodles Braised with Sliced Beef and Egg" or simply "beef hor fun". I didn't order this, but it came to my table by mistake (the staff were very overworked and harried). I don't know what it tastes like (they took it away) but at least you get to see what it looks like.

Yummy Trio of Sweet Bites
You have to end with some deliciously sweet fresh fruit, and perhaps more bite-size pastries (which were all excellent). More egg tarts? The curry puff-shaped item in the centre has a sweet green filling - like pandan lotus paste. And the cashew-nut topped cookie also has a filling - either lotus paste or the stuff inside "lao puo bing" or wife's biscuit. All three I really liked. They were not too sweet.

In addition to the dessert station, they also have homemade vanilla ice cream - with real specks of vanilla seeds! They came around offering this to each table. Always welcome with the kids.

Interior of Jing, and yes, that's the chef
Chef Yong Bing Ngen came out to mingle with the guests every now and then. Gently sweaty but always poised - his commanding presence is unmistakable.

I'm guessing Jing's best meals and service come from a la carte orders on weekdays when there isn't such a huge crowd. But at this price (S$36++ per person) for the brunch, I am more than happy with what I got. Check out the full menu here. I just hope it doesn't get more crowded than it already is!

One Fullerton, #01-02/03
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213
Tel: 6224 0088
Opening Hours:
Lunch - 11.45am to 3pm (Last order - 2.30pm)
Dinner - 6.30pm to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jing - Weekend Brunch (Part 1)

I think by now many people know about Jing's weekend brunch (S$36++ per person, S$18++ per child, see full menu here). It was nearly full when we made our reservations (we got the second last table) on Sunday. It's a really generous menu (inclusive of Chinese green or jasmine tea), and made us wonder how they manage to eke out any profits. Nonetheless, the brunch is a lovely way for the whole family to sample Chef Yong Bing Ngen's culinary prowess without breaking the bank.

There are nearly 30 photos, so I will split the posts into two. Today I will focus on appetisers, dim sum and soups. Tomorrow I will feature the mains. Pardon the hastily-taken photos. The kids were extraordinarily naughty.

Crispy Marinated Duck
Interestingly, there are a couple of stations serving appetisers and desserts. A chef will carve you some crispy marinated duck at the BBQ meats station.

Deepfried Fish Skin
You can help yourself to little plates of deepfried fish skin (possibly of Chilean seabass). These are oddly placed at the dessert station but no matter. They are addictive. Nadine polished off an entire plate.

Flaky Mini Egg Tarts
We also started with some flaky mini egg tarts from the dessert station. At first I thought hubby had taken too many - six on a plate. He rarely takes so many of an item at a time. But I soon found out he was on to something. The six were not enough! I had to get my own. The flaky pastry is light as air, and the custard gorgeously tasty. Perfect level of sweetness.

At the BBQ meats station, we have some cold items too. The jellyfish is cured in a different way from the Japanese chuka kurage. Bits of Chinese celery or parsley add an unusual hint. The beef shank is intensely flavoured too.

I think there were some braised duck wings on the same plate as the beef shanks, but we didn't take those.

There is a giant claypot of "pork knuckle with ginger and egg in sweet vinaigrette", a.k.a. vinegar pork trotters, bubbling hot at the meat station. I took only a small portion. It's sweet, tart and richly savoury all at once. Good appetiser but can be very filling. I wish I tried the egg too, but there's just too much to eat at the brunch.

Drunken Chicken
The drunken chicken is like white steamed chicken with just a hint of wine. That's the last of the meat station items. And now for dim sum, which they do beautifully.

Good Char Siew Bao
The char siew bao is excellent. Soft, fluffy skin with hearty fillings that aren't dyed that garish red. Almost as good as one restaurant that does it with kurobuta pork.

Deep-fried Scallops Wrapped in Filo Pastry
These look like entire scallops but they're not. It's a sliced scallop topping for a prawn base, wrapped in shredded filo. It's all delicious, though.

Steamed Beancurd Skin Rolls with Pork and Shrimp in Abalone Jus
To complement the deepfried and steamed items, we had steamed beancurd skin rolls with pork and shrimp in abalone jus. The gravy is fragrantly savoury.

Shrimp Dumplings
Their shrimp dumplings are more than decent. Delicate, translucent skin with entire shrimps within. Fresh and good.

Ham Sui Kok or Deepfrired Dumplings with Chicken, Ham and Dried Shrimp
Fans of "ham sui kok", rejoice (hello, Julia)! It's a classic dim sum item but rarely found in Singapore. Look for Deepfried dumplings with chicken, ham and dried shrimp or 家乡咸水角 on the menu. The skin is quite thin and even, and they held their shape firmly while still being soft and chewy inside - that must be a feat to accomplish. Fillingwise though, I still prefer the ones from Man Fu Yuan.

Hot and Sour Soup
Each table is allowed two choices of soup. We went for the "tantalising hot and sour soup", which was rather thick. I didn't have enough time to evaluate the taste, because dishes were coming fast and furious.

Fish Maw Soup with Crabmeat
The other soup was "fish maw with crabmeat" soup, which was also rather thick. Plump chunks of crabmeat and shredded fish maw adorned the soup. But I think it had some medley of vegetable or pumpkin puree as well, which I thought clouded the flavour a little.

There is a wooden deck for alfresco dining overlooking the bay
After the dim sum, we took a break outside on the wooden deck, which features alfresco dining overlooking Marina Bay. Great place for kids to expend some of that restless energy!

Tomorrow, I will post the mains we had, including one whopper of a chili crab! Yes, chili crab for this price too! Amazing.

One Fullerton, #01-02/03
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213
Tel: 6224 0088
Opening Hours
Lunch - 11.45am to 3pm (Last order - 2.30pm)
Dinner - 6.30pm to 11pm (Last order - 10.30pm)
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