Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruise: Day 2.2 - Sek Yuen, A Taste of Old School KL


Hi!!!! Day 2 of the cruise brought us to Port Klang, so Keropokman and I zipped into Kuala Lumpur (KL) to meet up with some of the nation's best loved food bloggers! There's Umei (I had to borrow this photo from her cos it's still the best), Meena, Nigel (top row), and myself, Keropokman, and Cheng Yi. Jonathan is not in this photo, because I think he's the one taking it! But he's in one of the photos below, you'll see.


Our KL blogger friends brought us back in time
Our dear friends brought us back in time, to the rollin' 50s. Lunch was at Sek Yuen, the icon of old school Chinese cuisine, located along Jalan Pudu. They used to be very popular for wedding banquets and celebratory feasts - it was the place to be seen in.


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Royal Caribbean Cruise: Day 2.1 - Heading into KL, Breakfasts and the Mahathir-Owned Loaf


Rise and shine! It's Day 2 and we have berthed at Port Klang or Pelabuhan Kelang in Malaysia. Here are the views that greeted us as we poked our heads through the curtains of our stateroom window.


Shore excursion. Disembarking at Port Klang
We have been given a shore excursion to Kuala Lumpur (KL), which required us to convene at the Anchors Aweigh lounge at 7.15am! That meant getting up really early!!

Now I am not a morning person. And so it was a tussle between more sleep or waking up earlier for breakfast. We had no idea what they would be serving at Windjammer. Would it be worth giving up precious minutes of sleep for?


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Monday, December 27, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruise: Day 1 - Overeating. Yeah, Already!


Food. That's one of the best things about a cruise. Day or night, there's ALWAYS something available. And it's one of the many ways Royal Caribbean makes you feel so incredibly pampered. Not only is there an abundance of tasty food, but there's variety and good presentation. I was quite touched to see that they catered for special dietary needs - sugarless, eggless, flourless and vegetarian creations. Not all drinks are pre-sweetened, and there's Nutrasweet freely available for diabetics too.

You can see a lot of thought went into the planning and preparation. And then there's the service. Whether at the Windjammer Café buffet-style restaurant, the Romeo & Juliet fine-dining hall, or the little pizza parlour at the Solarium, the staff do their best to see to your needs. Most of the time, I felt like a VIP, almost guiltily so.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Julien Bompard Reveals Christmas Recipes at De Dietrich

How cool to have Chef Julien Bompard teach you personally some French cooking techniques
How cool is it to have Chef Julien Bompard personally teach you some French cooking techniques? It's surreal, and it's awesome. He's both distinguished and affable at the same time, and it's just amazing soaking up pearls of culinary wisdom from this newly knighted chef. Customers of De Dietrich regularly get to see him and other well-known chefs on free weekly cooking classes held at their showroom. I was very lucky to be invited for one such session, and I have two pairs of tickets to give away to their classes!

The class is kept deliberately small, with only 10-12 participants sitting bar-style around a kitchen counter - yes, it's all front-row seats, right before the action! It's all very thoughtfully presented with recipe sheets, pencil for additional notes, bottled water and even Gryphon tea if you fancy a warm drink.


Chef Julien will show you how easy it is to make your own foie gras terrine at home
Chef Julien will show you how easy it is to make your own foie gras terrine and roast lamb rack at home, all in less than 2 hours. It being Christmas he is adding some festive garniture of chestnut, cranberry confit and celeriac puree.

Foie gras is now quite easily available in Singapore, usually in frozen form. You can get it from some butcheries or La Fromagerie at Chip Bee Gardens (owned by Chef Julien and wife Edith). Chef Julien addressed briefly people's misgivings about foie gras. The production these days is more clean and the ducks are not exactly force fed. If you are still unsure about the ethics of foie gras, here's a well-written piece on the truth and misconceptions about its production.

He then proceeded to demonstrate how easy it is to prepare the dishes, and gave a lot of tips, which I will add here in this photo-walkthrough. You can download the recipes at the end of this bumper post (over 30 photos after the jump).

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fish & Chips at The Nautilus Project

Fish & Chips
Someone recommended me the fish & chips at the rather posh and pretty bistro and seafood bar The Nautilus Project up on the fifth floor of ION Orchard. So I brought the family there to try it. Oh yes, it is quite good - the batter is amazingly crisp and the fish is fresh and piping hot. But at S$28++, it is also one of the most expensive fish & chips we've had.

I also could not tell it was Pacific Dory. I'd expected better fish and bigger portions for the price, but this place is positioned as a rather upmarket eatery (it's part of the Society Group which includes Prime Society, Society Bar, etc). Plus, rental at this spot with such great views of the Orchard Road junction must be killer. Still, hubby said the dish was good enough to come back for.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

A KINKI Christmas!

Single Roulade of Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu
Single roulade of tai carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu

Kinki is such a catchy word. It can refer to many things, including the beautiful and historic Kinki 近畿 region (Kansai) in Japan, or the delectable red Kinki fish. I think by now, you will also have heard of Japanese restaurant Kinki at Customs House that's shaking up the Japanese dining scene with its "urban attitude".


It's not Kinki for nothing. Wall mural next to the DJ console, by local urban artist ANTZ
Kinki is also a play on "kinky" and they sure are not afraid to be cheeky. They've taken to serving modern Japanese cuisine in dark, funky surroundings with an industrial edge. This is the manga-style wall mural next to the DJ console, by local urban artist ANTZ. It's a whole lotta hip!


Floor "tattoo" by Chris Garver of Miami Ink
They also commissioned this floor mural featuring a fish tattoo by Chris Garver of Miami Ink fame. We noticed the lighting fixtures above us were in the shape of fish hooks too.



Kinki-Seafood
What about the real fish? It's fresh, all right. The seafood is flown in FOUR times a week from Japan, in order to keep up with demand. Business is pretty good here. Even on a weeknight, the place was packed and buzzing with people, many of whom were having laughs over dinner. This certainly isn't a stuffy or formal Japanese joint. You can chill, relax and enjoy yourself. The wait staff here are friendly and forthcoming, always more than happy to make sure you are well served. 

For Christmas and New Year eves, they have special festive menus. The Hungry Cow, The Little Teochew, a ½ food blog, Keropokman, Momo and I got a preview of what the Christmas Eve menu offered.

Executive Chef Wing Lam who designed the menus, has trained for more than 11 years in the U.S., including at Gordon Ramsay's in West Hollywood. So the dishes here do have a Californian influence, and the chef has innovated with non-conventional ingredients like foie gras, ricotta and pomegranate.


Foie Gras on Toastlet with Ginger and Yuzu
Foie Gras on Toastlet with Ginger and Yuzu. This is the creamiest foie gras I've come across. It's quite mild-tasting, and contrasts very well with the crispy sweet balls that it's topped with. If you don't take meat or are a pescetarian, they are happy to replace this with an alternative, like the tai carpaccio in the first photo.



Assorted Sashimi
Assorted Sashimi (two person portion shown) - and yes, you are seeing otoro in this ensemble, and it's good stuff! For those curious, otoro (fatty blue fin tuna) goes for S$80 for five pieces here.

The five different sashimi on a bed of ice were all melt-in-the-mouth wonderful. It's been a while since I've had sashimi this good. Granted the pieces are not large, but they are certainly memorable. Better a morsel of the divine than boatloads of the crass, I say.



Sushi of Kajiki, Hiramasa, Salmon, and Hirame. Upper left - foie gras with scallop (not in Xmas menu)
Sushi of Kajiki, Hiramasa, Salmon, and Hirame (left to right, center row), all very good.

On the upper left - a sublime nigiri of pan-seared foie gras with raw scallop - this is not in the Christmas Eve menu, but is a signature item they wanted us to sample. It's available separately at S$22 a pair. Yes, just pop the whole thing in your mouth, and your eyes will light up. I'd love to come back for this.



Soft Shell Crab Maki (front); Pork Floss Maki (background)
Soft Shell Crab Maki (front); Pork Floss Maki (background)
The former is wrapped in this unusual skin - I reckon it's seaweed-laced soy paper, and the savoury fragrance is simply alluring. Meanwhile, the pork floss maki has ricotta cheese and avocado in it.


Hokkaido Milk Poached White Cod with Crispy Ginger - sans meat sauce
For the mains, you can either choose fish or beef. Although I always go for red meat, I had a hunch the fish would be better. Wouldn't you too, if you read "Hokkaido Milk Poached White Cod with Crispy Ginger?" And I was right. It was beautifully buttery and tender.


Hokkaido Milk Poached White Cod with Crispy Ginger
The fish is actually served with meat sauce (but you can request them to omit this if you don't take meat).


Set menu main course is Ginger Teriyaki of US Prime Beef Ribeye, but this is US Prime Beef Teriyaki
The other main course is Ginger Teriyaki of US Prime Beef Ribeye, but as some ingredient did not come in on time, the chef gave us the US Prime Beef Teriyaki instead, which is similar. Although well-seared on the outside, the beef is very tender. But it did have a thick wad of fat in the centre - if you love beef fat, this will be juicy heaven for you.


Dessert - Black Sesame and Mochi Parfait
Dessert - Black Sesame and Mochi Parfait. So many textures here - sandy goma (black sesame ice cream), creamy peach, chewy mochi, crispy wafer and soft adzuki red beans. Almost sinful to finish, but go on, indulge yourself.


We also had some items from the a la carte menu to share.


Momotaro Tomato with ginger sesame dressing
Momotaro Tomato with ginger sesame dressing (S$16). It's momotaro! Nuff said!



Spiced Miso Chamame - chamame sauteed in spicy miso, garlic and soy
Spiced Miso Chamame (S$8) - chamame sauteed in spicy miso, garlic and soy. A different take from the usual steamed and lightly salted version (also available, S$6). The flavours were robust, and we could not stop eating this appetiser while we waited for our food.



Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu
Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu (S$30). It may seem pricey but good produce is never cheap. And this was very fresh, no fishy taste at all. The truffle dressing is quite addictive too.



Kinki-Drinks
The bar serves champagne, sake, cocktails and mocktails (from S$8 to $20). The mixologist even customised a couple of drinks just for us. I'll have to say those were the best!



The graffiti continues upstairs on the rooftop bar
There is a new rooftop bar too, decorated along the same vein. As you can see, the graffiti continues upstairs as well. The bar will serve more snack-like items along with drinks.



Red lanterns adorn the entrance to the rooftop bar
Bright red lanterns greet you as the lift doors open onto the rooftop, giving you a decidedly Oriental welcome.


The view
And the view is even grander out here, with the full panorama of Marina Bay. Actually this is also the view you get from your window downstairs when you are dining. This is one of the best reasons to come here. The view is just stunning.

I know I'll be back to check out the rest of the interesting menu items. 

Many thanks to Germaine from Refinery Concepts, and to Foodnews for arranging this gorgeous meal.


Click on the picture for details of the festive dinner menus.

The Christmas Eve menu is S$128++ with a glass of wine.
The New Year's Eve menu is S$168++ with a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne.

They open from 6pm til late at 3am. Reservations are advised.


KINKI
Level 2 Customs House
Singapore 049323
Tel: +65 6533-3471
Lunch weekday 12pm-2.30pm, Dinner weekday & Sat 6pm to 1030pm
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lunch with Long Lost Friends!



Last Friday, I was absolutely thrilled to meet up with my friends Katie and Richard from Hong Kong whom I had lost contact with for almost 20 years! She found me on Facebook. I'm so happy she still remembers me!


Richard and Katie
They have been sweethearts for the longest time - this photo is from 1991, when we last met (it was for school debates). That was my first trip to Hong Kong, and we all had so much fun.


Char kway teow
Anyway, we met up for lunch. Char kway teow, nice, dark and sweet. This is from the corner of Liang Seah Street and North Bridge Road.


Stewed pork belly, tofu and egg
We also had a platter of stewed pork belly, tofu and egg from Yu Kee. Not bad.


Tender braised duck
Yu Kee's signature braised duck was very tender and moist.


Even the rice is fragrant
Even the rice was expertly cooked - each grain separate and fragrant.


The meal was simple but nice, in a shady but breezy al fresco spot. It was lovely catching up with long lost friends, and I will definitely look them up on my next trip to Hong Kong.


YU KEE DUCK RICE

and LIANG SEAH STREET CHAR KWAY TEOW
516 North Bridge Road
Singapore 188740
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Ha~ Birthday, Jolie! You're finally three!

Jolie is three!
"Ha~ birthday to you, ha~ burrday to you, ha~berrday to Jolieee!"

Jolie loves to sing "Happy Birthday" - but she loves pronouncing only the first syllable in "Happy" - it cracks us up each time. Kid can talk in full sentences, but she insists on never correcting this. I think she knows it amuses us. That and "polar bear" which she calls "cola bear"...

Well, today she turns three, and boy does it feel like an eternity and a flash at the same time. My little girl who loves puppies, pyjamas and Play-Doh, is growing up.

She, who used to look like a boy when she was a baby, now is recognisably a girl. This is her (in the pram) when she was 6 months old.

But enough reminiscing...



Christmas comes early - the presents get opened one week ahead!
With Jolie's birthday on 17 Dec, Christmas comes early in our home, and the presents all get opened one week ahead. Ah, here's Nadine again sneakily going for the wall switch for the lights. On-off, on-off...oh the tree is brand new, and we let them decorate it with the baubles.


Porsche Christmas tree ornaments
Oh incidentally, we got some Porsche Christmas tree ornaments that look so cool. Just a couple of stylish strokes to indicate speed. They come in a really nice custom-insulated box. Now these ornaments we put on the higher parts of the tree...the lower rungs get the ornaments yanked off quite regularly...


Opening presents bright and early in the morning!
Presents time! We thought we could wait til dinnertime but there is no stopping kids when they see presents. Bright and early, it was time to open the presents. Look at Jolie, barely awake yet, but shaking her gift.


It was a Toy Story 3 bonanza
It was a Toy Story 3 bonanza for them. They love the movie. So we got them Woody, Bullseye and Buzz Lightyear dolls which they absolutely loved and hugged all day.


The adventure mat
We also got them a lenticular jigsaw puzzle and "whack-a-mole" style adventure mat. It looks like Jolie's found a way to whack all the targets at one go.


Super-extravagant gift of a home spa machine
The most extravagant gift, however, came from a friend's mom who has personally benefited from using it. Thank you, Susan! This home spa machine will fill your bathtub with ultrasonic bubbles strong enough to give you a good massage and boost your blood circulation for a good while. We put it on a gentle setting for Jolie, and she loved the bubbles! Anyone interested can email me, and I can pass you the contact (they give free trials at their office).

So the kids clearly have a lot to play with. Christmas is early for them.

Here's wishing all of you happy holidays and a glorious festive season ahead!

.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Royal Caribbean Cruise: What's Most Priceless?


We're all back on land. And having cruise withdrawal symptoms.

All of us are now congregating on Facebook and Twitter, reliving our experiences and reminiscing about the food and fun times aboard Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas.

I hadn't factored on missing the cruise and companions so much. Now I know why families and big incentive groups love booking cruises. It's really good for bonding.



Yes, we could fill many blog posts about the food and fun, and you will definitely be seeing lots of those, but the most priceless thing we got from this ship was friendship.

So I am going to dedicate the first of my cruise travel posts to all my kakis on board who made it such a memorable trip!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Table 66 - Creating sous vide magic

I have been curious about sous vide. Antonio of Foodie-ah has been conducting all kinds of sous vide experiments on his luscious blog. But I did not know very much about this method of cooking, apart from the fact that it involves gently poaching vacuum-packed ingredients under precise temperatures and timing. This retains all the juices as no moisture is lost, and integrity of the food and flavours.

Yes, but cooking food in a water bath did not sound very exciting to me. However, at Table 66 recently, my tastebuds have been enlightened. I'm impressed with how Chef Vincent Teng (formerly of The Dining Room and Scarlet Hotel) has combined sous vide with other techniques to create some amazing dishes. The fare is generally modern European, with a touch of Japanese.

These are just some of the dishes on the new menu, which Chef Teng took six months to develop. Note that these are individual tasting portions - the actual dishes would be 3-4 times more than what is shown here.


Confit of Tomato Momotaro - basil infused tomato momotaro, mozzarella di buffalo, baby arugula, white sesame vinaigrette, smoked salt flakes
Confit of Tomato Momotaro (S$14) - basil infused tomato momotaro, mozzarella di buffalo, baby arugula, white sesame vinaigrette, smoked salt flakes.

The juicy momotaro tomato has been infused with basil in its sous vide preparation and is such a treat.


Seared Beef Tartare - truffle miso infused creamy egg yolk, chopped spring onion, light wasabi mayo, crouton
Seared Beef Tartare (S$18) - truffle miso infused creamy egg yolk, chopped spring onion, light wasabi mayo, crouton.

Yes, I'm squeamish about raw meat, but thankfully this one is seared on the outside, so it's like a medium rare patty. However, the star is the truffle-infused egg yolk - cooked via sous vide to a creamy consistency. I savoured a small bite of it before mixing the rest with the meat.


Petuna Ocean Trout - poached warm ocean trout in citrus oil, seasonal grilled vegetables, sauteed spinach with pinenuts, chive sauce
Petuna Ocean Trout (S$30) - poached warm ocean trout in citrus oil, seasonal grilled vegetables, sauteed spinach with pinenuts, chive sauce.

Doesn't this looks gorgeous? It also looks like salmon, but this is trout. So very gently cooked but finished in the pan for crispy skin. So not everything sous vide tastes poached or boiled. You can complete the dish with other methods for contrasting texture and flavours.


Lamb Loin - Roasted herb crusted lamb loin, baby carrots, braised savoy cabbage, Japanese curry jus, sumac powder
Lamb Loin (S$34) - Roasted herb crusted lamb loin, baby carrots, braised savoy cabbage, Japanese curry jus, sumac powder.

The lamb is so sweet, moist and tender, thanks to sous vide cooking. It's finished in the oven for that delectable crust, and paired with a curry tinged jus that helped to lighten any gamey lamb flavours.


Pork Belly - sous vide osmanthus infused pork belly with crackling skin, sweet potato pomme puree, braised leeks and pineapple salsa
Pork Belly (S$28) - sous vide osmanthus infused pork belly with crackling skin, sweet potato pomme puree, braised leeks and pineapple salsa.

This calls to mind the Chinese roast pork "siew yoke" but the meat is unbelievably juicy and tender. The skin is finished again in the frying pan for that crackling effect. Roasted siew yoke could never be this moist.

And now we come to dessert. These are full portions, and yes I ate them all!


Peanut Butter & Banana Mousse Praline - peanut butter and banana mousse cake, chocolate feuilletine crust, caramelized banana, crème anglaise
Peanut Butter & Banana Mousse Praline (S$12) - peanut butter and banana mousse cake, chocolate feuilletine crust, caramelized banana, crème anglaise.

No sous vide in this but I loved every single component in this comfort dessert. It all goes so well together - peanut butter, banana, chocolate, cream.




Lavender Panna Cotta - lavender infused light cream custard, compressed strawberries compote with balsamic vinegar and sablée biscuit
Lavender Panna Cotta (S$10) - lavender infused light cream custard, compressed strawberries compote with balsamic vinegar and sablée biscuit.

The sous vide strawberries are extra intense! And again, all the different components go very well together.


Coconut Parfait - flambé mangoes, toasted dessicated coconut, cinnamon sugar and coated filo pastry
Coconut Parfait (S$10) - flambé mangoes, toasted dessicated coconut, cinnamon sugar and coated filo pastry.

Coconut and mango - so very tropical!

Other desserts include a warm chocolate and hazelnut cake fondant, and a cheese platter.


There is a skylight that fills the place with natural warmth
Table 66 is casual, contemporary and chic. I love the skylight that bathes the dining area in natural light. There is something very comforting about enjoying your meal under sunlight.

It's not a huge place - the dining area seats 30, and there is a private room for 10. But even when the place is packed (as it tends to be at lunchtime), you'll still have enough privacy as the tables are set not too close together. The clear acrylic legs on the cushy chairs give a sense of space too.


Table 66 offers great deal set lunches!
There are some very good set lunches at S$29 (note that not all mains may be sous vide dishes). I saw the portions that the other diners were having - pretty generous. The soft shell crab alone looks like a main! I'm certainly coming back one of these days for lunch myself!

Set dinners are available at $66++ for 4 courses. The items available for set lunch and dinner change monthly. Oh, and corkage is waived on Mondays, if you prefer to BYO favourite bottle of wine.


Table 66 at 66 Tras Street, Singapore
Table 66 is located at 66 Tras Street, in a refurbished double-storey shophouse. You should be able to find it near Tanjong Pagar MRT.

Many thanks to Celine of Table 66 and Foodnews for the invitation to sample the new sous vide items and for hosting the lovely lunch.


TABLE 66
66 Tras Street
Singapore 079005
Tel: +65 6225-6690
Operating hours
Monday to Friday: 12pm-3pm; 6.30pm-10.30pm
Saturday: 6.30pm-10.30pm
Closed Sundays
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