Monday, October 31, 2011
Places are really closing faster than I can try them. There I was at Geylang Lor 17 to check out the famous Jia Xiang Ho Po Hakka Lei Cha Fan (rated six chopsticks in the Makansutra guide). I had seen it a couple of times when I went to Old Mother Hen, and assumed it would always be there. But it was gone. In its place, some refurbished food court, with a 24-hour dim sum joint.
I was incredulous. I literally called up the owner and they confirmed that they were not selling anymore for the time being. Devastated, I wandered around in a mindless stupor, kicking myself for not coming earlier. But I didn't wander far. Just over at Lor 15, comfort food beckoned - kway chap! This 富成潮州卤鸭果汁 stall at Tai Say Eating House I'd seen numerous times too, but no one seems to have reviewed it much.
Well, the kway chap (S$3.50) fared better than my expectations (which admittedly were not very high in the first place). The innards were clean and came in a lovely gravy. The only let-down was the "kway" rice sheets. The soup did not come piping hot, and the rice sheets did not taste as smooth as I've had elsewhere.
They have braised duck too, and lots of strange parts I could not identify. The whole coffee-shop looks rather run-down and old school. But some might just find that adds to the appeal of the place.
Tai Say Eating House
Corner of Geylang Lorong 15 and Sims Avenue
Posted 1:11 PM
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
"Let them eat cake!" Well, Marie Antoinette may never have said those words often attributed to her, but she apparently did love pastries. As such, she is the inspiration for Chef Pang Kok Keong's new Parisian pâtisserie, salon de thé (tea room) and restaurant, Antoinette.
Chef Pang is well-known for his desserts (most famously at Canelé, and the Les Amis Group), but Antoinette has superb savoury selections as well. But I'll start with dessert, because they are just so pretty and exquisite!
The Saint Honore L'Amour (S$8.50 per slice, S$38 for 500g, S$75 for 1kg) is a rosy elegant tower of red fruit compote and rose petal cream filled profiteroles sitting on an almond tart base. If you love rose-flavoured desserts, this one was made for you.
Antoinette (S$9 each, S$40 for 500g, S$80 for 1kg) is a sweet nod to the last queen of France. Smooth milk chocolate infused with earl grey tea envelops a hazelnut feuillitine enhanced with dark chocolate earl grey tea crémeux. Yes, basically there's lots of earl grey, chocolate, and hazelnut.
But the most interesting thing is the raspberry coulis "cherry" on top. They went to quite a lot of trouble to create this. The raspberry juice had to be frozen first, and then coated with the "bubble" casing and brushed with an edible pearlescent sheen.
Choclicieux (S$9.50) is a popsicle-shaped treat made with dark chocolate, hazelnut nougatine, dark chocolate biscuit and almond chocolate glaze. When it was brought to the table, everyone thought this was ice cream. But surprise! It's a treat that's even richer and more decadent.
There is a beautiful display case at the front of the shop. Your familiar favourites from Canele are here too - the Royale, Mont Blanc, Strawberry Shortcake, macarons and so on.
The decor is aptly decadent and deliberately luxurious, as Marie Antoinette was certainly famous for her rich tastes and excesses. But it's designed to feel like a cosy home too. Sink into plush, custom-made velvet chairs for an intimate tête-à-tête, next to a mock fireplace and a birdcage filled with blooms. Bronze lamps cast a romantic glow, and the ceiling that resembles a gold chocolate bar reflects more opulence. It isn't a large space - it fits only 27 patrons - but that only adds to the exclusivity of the place.
Antoinette has quite a selection of custom-blended teas, such as Earl grey d'Antoinette; Fleurs confiture d'oranges, and French apple tart (all S$9 per pot). The taste and aroma of the teas I found very gentle but pleasant. Even the teapots and crockery are all quite ladylike, and embellished with the initial "A".
All right, that's it for dainty desserts and lovely teas. Let's check out their savoury items, which I would gladly come back for.
Scrambled egg gratin with tomato fondue, Paris ham, sauteed mushrooms and parmesan cheese, served with pain de mie toast (S$15). Supremely hearty and satisfying - my kind of breakfast! It will possibly be the only meal you will ever need for the entire day.
If you prefer a sweet start instead, I hear the French toast with crème Chantilly (about S$10.50) is really good. You can have it with maple syrup, salty caramel, caramelised banana or hot chocolate.
There are various sandwiches too. This is the Antoinette Burger (S$18) - pan-fried apples with chicken leg patty, pommery mustard mayonnaise, butter luttuce, onion chutney, tomatoes, chips and petit salad. You could also opt for Club Antoinette (S$18), a triple decker of pain de mie toast, yuzu crab mimosa, omelette, tomato, chips and fresh lettuce.
From the pasta section comes the interesting Gnocchi carbonara (S$16.50) with caramelized bacon, white wine cream sauce, poached egg and aged parmesan cheese. Chef Pang's dumplings are made without potato! It's a mixture of gruyere cheese, herbs, egg and flour that are blanched and sauteed in clarified butter until golden brown before being tossed in the sauce. Fried cheese dumplings! Yes!
Please note that most of the savoury stuff is in tasting portions. Like this Ballotine de poulet a la Grand-Mère (S$26, left) and Bouef Bourguignon (S$28, right). I thought I would automatically like the beef (it's wagyu beef brisket!) more than the chicken, but the roasted chicken roll was surprisingly tasty. Crisp skin wins. It comes with a Chasseur sauce (white wine, tomatoes and mushroom). Probably still more refined than Grandma would make, but pleasing nonetheless.
For a lighter meal (or if you are just adding on healthy greens), try the Salade Antoinette (S$14.50), which gives you mixed greens with crabmeat, boiled egg, tomatoes, pine nuts, toasted brioche cubes and a zesty yuzu dressing.
Chef Pang has always been fascinated with breads, so there are a few varieties like brioche, pain de mie, and a baguette that takes 24 hours to proof, so that it's more crisp and flavourful.
The 24-hour baguette with Serrano ham, emmental cheese and French butter (S$14). Tasting portion shown here, of course. Sometimes all I need is good bread and cheese.
Antoinette at Mandarin Gallery is Chef Pang's second outlet. The first one is at Penhas Road and is much larger (that one takes reservations, Mandarin Gallery does not). There will be a third outlet at Scarlet Hotel, which is slated to open in November.
It was a great pleasure meeting the effusively cheerful Chef Pang. I like what he's done with Antoinette, and look forward to more of his Sugar Daddy Group ventures.
333A Orchard Road
#02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: +65 6836-9527
Open daily 9am to 10pm (last order 9.30pm)
Original branch at Penhas Road
30 Penhas Road (off Lavender Street)
Mon-Thurs: 11am to 10pm
Fri & eve PH: 11am to 11pm
Sat: 10am to 11pm
Sun and PH: 10am to 10pm
(last orders all half hour before closing)
Thanks to Noelle of Sixth Sense Communications for inviting and hosting us, and to Chef Pang too for the dinner.
Posted 5:51 PM
Monday, October 24, 2011
It was an evening of mystique, surprise and delight.
A whispered invitation led me to a mystery meal held in an intimate setting. Only about 20 of us had the privilege to taste Chef Anthony Genovese's specially crafted "Food for the Soul" menu at the Decanter, St Regis Singapore.
This is the first ever Underground SupperClub by DBS Indulge (the bank's card dining platform) and it's another series of experiential dining that will gets you dining with renowned chefs in an intimate after-hours setting. There are six of such sessions in the pipeline, and each will feature a different theme.
Underground supperclubs have been popular in the West, but only recently gained traction in Singapore. Many of these are held at private homes or roving premises, and diners sometimes sign up without knowing what will be served and where (until the day of the event). The element of mystery and surprise is all part of the secret dining experience. The DBS Underground Supperclub looks to combine this with the opportunity to dine and interact with a famous chef.
Ooi Huey Tyng, Senior Vice President and Head, Cards and Unsecured Loans, DBS Bank, welcomed everyone to the exclusive supper. The guests included the Attaché and Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Singapore, the Managing Director of St Regis Singapore, Asian Food Channel management, select media and members of the DBS team.
Chef Antony Genovese (right) is owner of two-Michelin starred Il Pagliaccio in Rome. He was at St Regis for the three-day "Italia Mia" celebration of food, art, music and culture. He was assisted by a familiar face, Alexandre Lozachmeur (left), who is now Chef de Cuisine at Brasserie Les Saveurs.
Chef Genovese turned out to be quite an interesting character. He was born in France, but his parents and grandparents who were from South Italy always reminded him he was Italian. We found out a lot more about him, and how he loves Asian food (he lived in Penang for two years), especially Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It was nice that he made his way round the table to chat with the diners. I hear that normally he is much more reticent back in his restaurant in Rome, preferring to stay in the kitchen.
I'm sure you've spotted the lovely ingredients on the table - those are for the starters (and how I wished I could have the whole tray). Here they are:
Nduja, Freselle, Guanciale, Pecorino Cheese. The nduja was a fiery red Calabrian salami that's as spicy as it looks (which is pretty rare for most cured meats). It's divine! I fell in love with it. The pecorino too is impeccable; I couldn't have enough of it. I may have missed the guanciale (fatty pork cheek bacon) but the freselle (a crispy South Italian bread) was cute, almost like a biscuit. Anything crunchy, me like.
We were also given a teaspoon of the most amazing olive oil (see first photo of the chefs personally pouring the oil). It was so smooth and light, not oily at all.
The Italian cultural attache said this was the highlight. Truly "al dente" pasta. It's cooked and yet with just the right amount of bite at the center. Very simply, a mouthful of wow.
Potato Ravioli Dumplings with Nduja Salami & Figs. The dumplings were a burst of warm, soothing comfort on the tongue. The kind that make you close your eyes and think of home.
The potatoes were just mashed with a fork and flavoured with nduja oil (that's what gives them the orange tinge), and wrapped with a skin made from water and flour (no egg!). The clear greenish yellow liquid you see is "tomato water" (which I would encounter again in Tomonori Danzaki's masterclass the next day). It lent the dumplings a spark of fruity tang. The pureed fig quenelles gave a lovely sweet contrast (plus tiny crunch sensations from the seeds). Fantastic.
Caramelized Lamb; Aubergine; Pinenuts, Capers & Anchovies Chutney, served with mashed potatoes.
Everything on this plate was amazing. The lamb had been marinated and steamed before it was pan-seared. So it was really tender in the middle and gorgeously caramelized on the outside. The mixed chutney of pinenuts, capers and anchovies were an intense party of flavours - savoury, nutty, tart and umami.
But the biggest surprise of them all - the mashed potatoes. They were flavoured with the most fragrant vanilla! You'd never think to combine the two and yet, after having a taste, you feel as though potatoes and vanilla are as natural together as can be.
We also had excellent wine pairing for the evening. The dumplings went nicely with a Langhe Roagna Bianco from Piemont, Italy. The lamb set married the Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo, Frescobaldi, Tuscany (2003). And the dessert wine was Passito di Noto, Planeta, Sicily, Italy.
The sweet course consisted of "Clafoutis, Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Lemon Marmelade" and pieces of possibly champagne jelly as well as rice crispies coated in chocolate and caramel.
I liked that there was quite a bit of variety in the meal, in every course. And each course held pleasant surprises to be had. I now understand why they chose Chef Genovese. His Italian cuisine is not run-of-the-mill, and still has the capability to surprise even jaded palates.
I wonder which chef they will line up next. What's your dream supper like? Dinner with Andre Chiang at his home? A mini kaiseki with Kunio Tokuoka? Have Daniel Boulud personally cook for you? Oh wait, I had that already.
Well, I'm glad for these events that bring greater value to cardholders, beyond discount dining (quite honestly, 1-for-1 deals lost their lustre really quick). The earlier DBS Masterclass series featuring cooking classes by culinary maestros is already a phenomenal hit, and is often sold out. I expect the Underground SupperClub to be even more popular and highly prized given the intimate, small-number setting. The good news is, I hear DBS is not restricting this to platinum or any special strata of cardmembers. Any food enthusiast is welcome, on a first come, first served basis. Keep a look-out for it!
Most gracious thanks to Edmund and the DBS team for the privilege of experiencing this inaugural supperclub dinner.
Posted 11:38 PM
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Stellar at 1-Altitude reigns as one of the 'highest' restaurants in Singapore. At level 62 or 275m above sea levels, it certainly conjures up an image of being very "atas" (Malay for "up", slang for upmarket). But surprisingly, it's a lot more casual than I expected. I immediately liked the white decor and high ceiling - it's got an air of summery chic, and beckons you to relax. It might even cure you of acrophobia.
Group Executive Chef Christopher Millar has also crafted a menu that's fine-dining, but not too intimidating. There's charcuterie, sushi and sashimi, an oyster bar, wood-fired grill and rotisserie, plus patisserie selections from 1-Caramel. It's a modern mix, but not fusion.
I spied this leggy beauty from afar, the moment I stepped in. Hello jamon! Ah, things were looking good right off the bat.
We started with an indulgent appetiser of twice-baked Gruyère soufflé (S$20). Beneath the mozzarella crust is an incredibly light, moist and flavourful cheese soufflé. Drizzle on the accompanying cheese sauces (especially the blue cheese). Never say no to more cheese.
But if cheese is not your thing, you can go for the seared Hokkaido scallop and octopus (S$24), which is as pretty as a garden. The octopus has been done sous vide style for that unusual tenderness. But the nice surprise here is the steamed ginger custard (that cream pudding-like thing on the shiso leaf) topped with just enough Sevruga caviar. It's beautifully smooth and comforting at the same time.
But what is truly stellar here are the sushi and sashimi. Here are two boatloads of breathtaking pleasure.
Sashimi: Omakase Taster (S$55 per person). Very fresh and beautifully firm.
Lovely sushi creations - these are deliciously well-thought out combinations. From top to bottom:
Lobster roll with flying fish roe, avocado and moro miso (S$28)
Swordfish roll with fresh crabmeat, prawns and aka miso (S$20)
Spicy tuna roll with bonito flakes and spring onion (S$24)
And salmon belly nigiri to round things off.
Kudos indeed to the sushi chef (left), as well as Chef Millar (right) who took the time and trouble to explain each course to us. I detect a dash of the quirky and offbeat too, underneath the professional veneer.
The Charcuterie taster (S$48) would be my kind of three-tier afternoon tea. Forget cakes and scones. Jamon (Iberico and Serrano), saucisson, parma ham, terrines, mousses, a salmon rillette and a lovely foie gras parfait - infinitely better. All nicely served with homemade pickles, quince compote and rustic bread. The jamon did taste a wee bit more gamey than I've had elsewhere, but it's still a little slice of heaven.
Truffled risotto with poached Maine lobster (S$48). The very strong truffle aromas overwhelmed this dish. There's an entire lobster claw as well as chunks of lobster in here, but overall, the portion is still smallish. Then again, maybe that's just right for risotto, which can fill you up all too quickly.
Slow roasted suckling pig with Iberico jamon and fig stuffing (S$48), which also comes with cubed Kurobuta pork belly, fried apples, apple & pear jelly and crackles. I think I was too full by now to really appreciate this. Yeah, I'm guilty of polishing off the cheese souffle and lots of their rustic bread (but no regrets).
But there was still this 800g 'Tomahawk' rib eye (S$140) that challenged us to finish it. It's a war-cry not to trifled with, but we hear there are patrons who have conquered this dish alone. To me, it was just too much brute quantity, and I was glad to have others sharing this with me.
I actually found the sides more interesting - portobello with morel cream, smashed peas and mint, and truffled kipfler potatoes. Oh, and there's some bone marrow too.
Finally, we reached desserts. Here are some of the signature items, all S$16 each, made by 1-Caramel (previously at Handy Road but now moved to 1 Rochester Park).
Chocolate Seduction - probably the best of them all. Layers of hazelnut chocolate mousse and praline feulletine, Valrhona orange sauce and warm chocolate almond lava cake. It's really quite simple. Hazelnut + chocolate = win.
Trio Fraise is for strawberry lovers. Berries in champagne jelly, chocolate dipped strawberries, and this cake made from layers of fresh strawberries, vanilla genoise and strawberry mousseline coated with golden brown puff pastry (background).
Tropical vodka trifle. Pineapple gazpacho jelly with pineapple sponge cubes with crystallized baked almonds topped with coconut sorbet. Tastes like...a Pina Colada.
Tropical Teaser (S$16) - mascarpone on coconut crumble, topped with mango and berries. Paired with lemon sorbet between macarons. The mango was too tart, so this became a dessert with too many sour elements.
One good thing about dining at Stellar is...going to 1-Altitude after that! And here's a tip - Stellar diners can bypass the long queue downstairs, and also skip the cover charge. Just take the separate lift up. Sundays are Jazz Sundays where set dinners are at $55++ and diners
will be entitled to 50% off all housepour drinks at 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar.
The views from the world's highest al fresco bar are phenomenal.
You have 360-degree panoramas from your vantage point all the way up on the 63rd floor. Even the Marina Bay Sands looks tiny!
It's a great way to end the evening. Man, I was kicking myself for not bringing along a tripod for night photography. But I guess that's another good reason to come back.
Level 62, 1 Raffles Place (former OUB Centre),
Entry by side elevator
Dress code: Smart casual. No shorts or bermudas, flip-flops or slippers.
Tel: +65 6438-0410
Mon to Fri: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 6pm to midnight
Sat, Sun & PH: 6pm til midnight
Thanks to Lily Hamid and Chiew Yen from the 1 Rochester Group for inviting and hosting us.
Posted 3:04 AM
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Wow, it's Chef Wan, live in person and bringing you delicious goodies! This is one of the most fun cooking demos ever held at the AFC Studio. Datuk Chef Wan is easily Malaysia's most prominent and entertaining cooking celebrities, and he is also one of the world's most prolific in terms of cooking shows. He has so many series and episodes, you'll likely find him concurrently on different TV stations in Malaysia (especially during festive seasons).
Well, this was a Tupperware party, but it wasn't just Tupperware engaging Chef Wan for a demo. I never knew this, but Chef Wan's childhood is deeply intertwined with Tupperware.
He related (with a lot of humour) how his family of many siblings depended on his mom's side income from organising Tupperware parties and sales, since his dad's salary was meagre. Oh, his mom is a Nyonya from Singapore, incidentally. Chef Wan himself sold Tupperware to his teachers! And oh, how glam it was to come to school with sturdy plastic containers when others could only wrap their lunches in newspaper. Over the years, Chef Wan has also tried to help less fortunate women gain financial independence or assistance by getting them to sell Tupperware.
Tupperware has also grown to include many more products than just lifetime-guaranteed plastic storage. Christine Wong from Tupperware Brands introduced the various lines, which now include TupperChef cookware, kitchen gadgets, TupperClean solutions, Natur Care health products and BeautiControl skincare. It's pretty much still a direct sales business, but I hear there is a showroom at their office (85 Defu Lane 10, #01-00; Tel: +65 6285-2988). You can sign up as a member for discounts.
Does this look like Tupperware to you? Well, it is! The Tupperware "Fast & Easy Cooking Set" is a great starter set for newly weds, or housewarming gift. It comes with the TupperChef Fryer, Turbo Chopper (the shiny red canister in the middle), Serving Spatula (not pictured cos Chef Wan was using it!) and Spoon, Multi-purpose Shears, and TupperClean Stainless Steel and Copper Cleaner.
We all liked the Turbo Chopper, and wish it was sold separately, but it only comes with this set! Chef Wan demonstrated with great hilarity how it works - no electricity needed, just pull a cord and the blades spin and dice your ingredients. It chops 288 times in less than 15 seconds - even Chef Wan says he can't chop that fast.
Anyway, Chef Wan demonstrated three dishes using the various items. All the recipes are available here on Tupperware's website.
Here he is using the 38cm Tupperchef stainless steel wok to cook Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Prunes and Olives. It's got a special 3-ply bottom for better heat distribution, and a high-domed cover.
One of the ingredients is the Ras el Hanout, the exotic Middle-Eastern spice blend that truly makes the dish. Every shop and family in Morocco has their own secret blend, which can feature as many as over a hundred ingredients. But here's a sample from Kayotic Kitchen, and from About.com.
Moroccan Chicken Tajine with Prunes and Olives. Kalamata olives and sweet prunes added the savoury and sweet notes to the dish.
Throughout the whole session, Chef Wan kept us in stitches. We were so busy bursting into laughter, we could barely take photos.
Next up was Arroz a la Cazuela (Spanish style Seafood Risotto) - see Chef Wan coming around with a pot of it in the first photo. It smelled so fabulous!
This is the portion they had pre-prepared in the kitchen. It was good but later on, we got to try the one cooked by Chef Wan.
Arroz a la Cazuela (Spanish style Seafood Risotto) as cooked by Chef Wan. Oh my goodness, was this the same recipe? It tasted so much nicer!
And now for dessert - Chef Wan made a cake from scratch.
Chef Wan drizzling butterscotch dressing onto his apple cake. Ah, the aroma of freshly made butterscotch...
Hot Spiced Apple Cake with Butterscotch Dressing - simple but delicious!
A happy Chef Wan with a cake well done!
His latest book "The Best of Chef Wan: A Taste of Malaysia" compiles the best recipes he has encountered from all over Malaysia.
The one and only Chef Wan. It was a great honour meeting the very creative and enthusiastic man. He's more colourful than our shirts!
Thanks to Tupperware and The Right Spin for the invitation to this phenomenally entertaining event.
Posted 7:34 PM