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.


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)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

7atenine - Lunch Unlimited

UPDATE: 7atenine is now Southbridge Jazz @7atenine. They no longer do lunch, and open only from 5pm til closing. So there's no more Lunch Unlimited. Their menu and chef are different now too.

7atenine outdoor dining lounge at Esplanade Mall
Chic hangout 7atenine at Esplanade Mall has only been open since Dec 2008 but is fast becoming a popular chill-out spot. This alfresco bar/restaurant/bistro serves what it terms "Latin Asian" - marrying the tapas concept with fusion Asian cuisine. Chef Florent Gerardin and consultant chef Emmanuel Stroobant have worked out an array of creations from the land, sea, and sky along with sides and "gattsuri taberu" (eat like there's no tomorrow) mains.

Freeflow of juices - orange, lime, cranberry, pineapple, and I forget what else
If you love variety, value and surprises, you will love their Lunch Unlimited (a steal at S$37++ per person). Chef Florent will pull together a symphony of 20 dishes. You won't know what you're going to get, and some dishes may not even be on the regular menu. Freeflow chilled juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea complete the deal. Available daily from noon to 2.30pm.

Of course, with 20 mystery dishes, there are bound to be some you like, and some you don't. Let me just quickly dive into what we had. The dishes change daily, so what you see here may be different from what you get.

Cream of Celery
We started with various appetisers. This "Cream of Celery" had a jelly celery base, and a deeply savoury cream soup topped with chili oil. We liked it. Do not be deceived by its small size, it can fill you up more than you expect because it is very rich.

Potato salad
Potato salad - this tasted quite rustic and woodsy.

Pasta salad
Pasta salad - the shell is al dente all right, but a little dry. I cannot remember what the filling tasted like, it was rather mild.

Smoked salmon, vegetarian caviar and blinis
The salmon looks like sashimi but is salty and cured. I had the whole plate because this was too fishy for hubby.

Tomato something
Now this tomato tart or something other was hubby's favourite. He liked it all, from the beautifully treated tomatoes to the crumbly biscuit base. I wasn't that impressed. I think the herbs in it reminded me of pizza somehow.

Mushroom tempura
Their mushroom tempura is piping hot and very juicy within. Simple but good. I just made mushroom tempura myself the night before, and mine did not have that much juice inside. Makes me wonder if they soaked the mushrooms before putting them in batter.

Beef rolls on hot stone
Now I have seen photos of this very pretty dish on other blogs, but those were of much thinner beef slices. I think they experimented with thicker slices here but the stone was probably not hot enough. We were not sure what cut of meat this was either as it was very gamey. It tasted almost like liver.

Pan-fried seabass with pumpkin puree
Pan-fried seabass with pumpkin puree. Crispy (and boneless) fried fish is usually fine by me. But this piece was way too fishy for hubby.

Ah, the risotto. Not the seafood or mushroom version, but still very comforting. They got the flavours and texture just right. Tiny bits of garlic added more "mmmmh" factor.

Crispy pork belly
All hail kakuni-style kurobuta pork belly! This is not in a fajita like the version stated on the menu. It's encased in a shell of caramelised sugar that you have to crack through to get to the pork. The pork was tasty enough - I just wished there was enough lean meat (about two-thirds of the cube was pure fat). What was out of place was the applesauce it sat on. Pork and soy, yes. Pork and apple, yes. But pork, soy and apple is a bit too complicated.

Chicken kebabs
The chicken kebabs were a little cold and underdone (still translucent in the center). They replaced it with a more thoroughly cooked version, and that turned out to be way better.

Pasta with daily vegetables
This is how pasta with just vegetables can taste so good. Heartwarming and sweetly rustic. We were quite full by this stage, but still finished this carb-heavy dish.

Beef brisket
The beef brisket is delicious. Tender and beautifully braised. I almost regret not going for a second portion.

Wasabi cod croquette
How fun these look! Garlic infused cod croquettes. On their own, they are a little bland, but taken with the wasabi mayo dip, they are a party in your mouth. Love the painted toothpick skewers.

Beef sashimi
The organic beef sashimi looks like carpaccio. We are not fond of raw meat, unless it's fish. But I braved my first bite of raw beef. The meat on its own seems oddly flavourless but relies on other ingredients (manchego cheese, salt, chili powder, tomatoes and onions) for body. The thin shavings do melt in your mouth though.

Signature chili con carne
Now for what is probably my favourite and most memorable dish. The signature chili con carne, with wagyu beef and edamame beans (braised for 36 hours apparently). It has a spicy kick to it, and robust flavour. This is the way I've always wanted chili con carne to be. This is excellent.

Be careful when eating this though. The jar and its contents are very hot. Everything is perched rather precariously on the wooden display. I accidentally toppled the jar while fiddling with my camera.

I normally do not have quick reflexes a la Angelina Jolie in Mr & Mrs Smith (catching the falling wine bottle), but I really wanted to save this. I caught the jar and some of its precious cargo with my left hand. The extreme heat forced me to let go. Oh, what a waste! But the staff cleaned up very efficiently and promptly gave me a glass of ice-cold soda to stop the scalding. And a whole new jar to enjoy.

Churros with Nutella dip
And now we come to desserts. There were four. First up - churros sprinkled with vanilla sugar, and served with a Nutella dip. Rather soft and fluffy for churros but enjoyable nonetheless. What can I say...Nutella = magic.

Café triple trifle
This was good too. Café triple trifle. Espresso jelly, almond crumble, milk foam and coffee ice cream. So many textures in one. The abundance of foam makes this feel very light though.

Strawberry shortcake with raspberry ice cream
Strawberry shortcake with raspberry ice cream. Hubby loved this, so I let him have most of it. The cream was a bit too dense for me.

Chocolate fondant with lime sorbet
Yummy. Chocolate fondant with lime sorbet. Yes, the melted chocolate oozed out nicely when you break this open. Rice crispies lent crunch and the tart lime sorbet helped cut through the rich chocolate nicely.

So there you have it. Twenty dishes that took up more than two hours. The presentation is stunning and faultless. They do vegetables and sauces beautifully. The meats for this session were a little hit and miss. The desserts are worth saving room for.

I would like to give a big shout out to Kesh, their "Diva of Decadence" who attended to us with discreet and dignified aplomb. His genuine warmth made us feel very welcome. He also had no problems with my taking photos for my food blog (I'd asked for permission), and even allowed us a table with better lighting. He also gave us a tour of the restaurant's various sections.

Unfortunately, the frosty blonde manager or maître d' (I can't tell from her title) was not as agreeable. She gave Kesh a hard time, and then questioned me about taking photos (even after getting my blog namecard). I had to explain what a food blog was before she reluctantly acquiesced and left us alone. Her attitude marred this lunch experience right from the beginning. Personally, I would have been quite happy not to take photos, if that had been the restaurant policy. It's not my loss.

I'm not sure why some restaurant staff are still so behind in understanding food blogs and how this new media actually drives business to eateries. After all, it was reviews in blogs like MilkMilk (many visits!),  Some Like It Haute, and Ladyironchef that made me decide to spend my Saturday at 7atenine.

Well, Lunch Unlimited has been interesting, but if we were to come back, we'd go a la carte so we can zero in on the items we want. And I'll need a laptop to show the blonde some food blogs.

8 Raffles Avenue
#01-10/12 Esplanade Mall
Singapore 039802
Tel: 63380-789
Open daily
Mondays to Thursdays: noon till 3pm, 5pm till midnight
Fridays: noon till 3pm, 5pm till 2am
Saturdays: noon till 2am
Sundays: noon till midnight
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