Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tomo Izakaya at Esplanade

Tomo Izakaya at Esplanade Mall
"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon

Tomo means "friend" in Japanese, and this izakaya was introduced to us by a friend of a friend. He did some design work for them (their logo, for one thing), and was impressed with their food. At his invitation, Keropokman, HungryCow and I checked out their newly opened Esplanade branch (main one is at Clarke Quay). The menu is extensive, but we were won over by the meat dishes.

Buta Soki - Stewed Pork Rib with Soft Bones
Behold, buta soki - stewed pork rib with soft bones. I love soft bones! But I think they removed these prior to serving, because we didn't find any. Still, the meat is amazingly tender! Apparently soki has Okinawan roots, and involves boiling the meat (prior to stewing) to remove excess fats. No wonder it tasted delicious without being greasy.

Yasai Tempura
Yasai tempura - a nice medley of vegetables. The batter is light and crunchy, not too oily. Not too bad.

Sushi (Edomae Set)
This is the Edomae sushi set. I think we were too preoccupied with photography, and forgot to eat this early, as it got a bit dry and lost its cold edge in the warm weather.

Buta Kakuni
Buta kakuni - stewed pork belly. Somewhat similar to the buta soki, but with slightly different sauce. Also very, very tender.

Ebi Ten Maki - Shrimp Tempura Roll
Ebi ten maki or shrimp tempura roll. We also had the California roll which looks very similar.

Mentai Cabbage
The manager recommended this dish - mentai cabbage. It's not as salty as I thought it might be, despite the generous portion of mentaiko (spicy or marinated pollock/cod roe).

Dice Cut Cube Steak
I've saved you the best for the last - dice cut cube steak. Chunky diced beef and mushrooms in a savoury sauce. We could not stop eating this when it came.

Check out Keropokman's post here. We will certainly visit the Clarke Quay branch someday - I have to see their award-winning decor. Their S$15 lunch sets are very popular there too, it seems.

Thank you, Casey, and Tomo Izakaya, for the lunch at Esplanade!

8 Raffles Avenue #01-09
Esplanade Art Centre
Singapore 039802
Tel: 6333-0012

Main branch:
Tomo Izakaya @ Clarke Quay
3A River Valley Road
#01-04 Clarke Quay
Singapore 179020
Tel: 6333-0100

Open daily
Sun - Thur: 11.30am – 1 am (Last order at midnight)
Fri - Sat: 11.30am – 3 am (Last order at 2 am)


Monday, June 29, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Kaiseki at Goto

Kaiseki is Japanese cuisine at its most refined - requiring much of the chef's skill, creativity and knowledge of ingredients, cooking methods and presentation to fashion a meal that is harmoniously in balance and pleasing.

At the kaiseki-only "Goto Japanese Restaurant", fresh seasonal ingredients are shipped in from Japan four times weekly to create very traditional Kyoto-style kaiseki meals. Chef Hisao Goto formerly cooked for Japanese diplomats and ambassadors, and is used to the highest expectations for his cooking. He and his very sweet wife run the place at Ann Siang Road.

I'm glad Foodbuzz chose to include my kaiseki idea in June's 24,24,24 series of posts. We had a ten-course kaiseki dinner (S$280+ or US$193+ per person), spanning three hours. Each course was an operatic homage to the blessings from nature. Right off the bat, we discovered exquisite new aromas, textures and tastes. Some of them completely defy definition!

Appetiser platter - kazunoko (in glass), aoume or Japanese plum, anago (sea eel) sushi, tako, zuiki (stem of taro) with ikura (salmon roe), yam with miso, edamame beans
1. Appetisers - kazunoko (crunchy herring roe) in glass, aoume or Japanese plum, anago (sea eel) sushi, tako (octopus), zuiki (stem of taro) with ikura (salmon roe), yam with miso, edamame beans. What a festive platter! I especially loved the aoume, so lovely and sweet.

Goto's wife takes great care in introducing each individual course and item, and she was even kind enough to write down for me the whole menu!

Soup - Ainame (green ling) with junsai, a summer delicacy
2. Soup - ainame (green ling, a fish). This clean-tasting soup had a surprise ingredient in it that tickled me to no end - junsai, a summer delicacy. The young sprouts sport a transparent jelly shield that looks so beautiful suspended in the clear soup. The sprouts themselves are springy and crunchy, whereas the jelly is slippery - what a marvellous juxtaposition!

The best sashimi I have ever had
3. Sashimi - easily the best and freshest we've ever had in Singapore! The presentation is simply a work of art! Served with real grated wasabi.

Uni - sea urchin, served in a regal cup
The intricately decorated cup yields really rich and creamy uni (sea urchin).

Hirame (flatfish)
The hirame (flatfish) has a separate ponzu dip. We loved the Momiji oroshi (spicy grated daikon radish with chili peppers) it came with.

Close-up of the sashimi main portion
Close-up of the main portions - fatty and lightly seared tuna that tastes like steak, kampachi (amber jack), hokkigai (surf clam), tairagai (pen shell), ika (squid), hamo (pipe conger eel), and shimaebi (striped shrimp).

Even the sliced green honeycomb-like stem was an eye-opener - so delicately crispy, it felt as though it was fizzing in your mouth.

Takiawase - steamed lotus root with eel and lily bulb
4. Takiawase (vegetable and fish cooked separately but simmered together) - steamed lotus root with eel and lily bulb. Underneath the brown ginger gelee, you will find the pureed lotus root atop the eel, sliced kikurage and lily bulbs.

Yakimono - Nodoguro (black throat sea perch)
5. Yakimono (grilled dish) - nodoguro (black throat sea perch). Wow, this blew us away. The fish is so unctuous, silken, and tasty. You just want more of it!

Agemono - Manganji pepper, small lady's finger, prawn with potato, ayu (sweet fish), sweetcorn
6. Agemono (fried items) - red Manganji pepper (from Kyoto) and small lady's finger in the foreground. Behind these are prawn with potato, ayu (sweet fish), juicy sweetcorn.

Agemono - Manganji pepper, small lady's finger, prawn with potato, ayu (sweet fish), sweetcorn
You eat these from left to right, with a squeeze of Japanese lime and a special leaf-infused salt. Everything was so cute and so delicious!

Meat course - Hidagyu beef steak
7. The meat course - beef steak. Oh we were thrilled! This is my first taste of Hida-gyu, and it's gorgeous. This beef comes from Japanese black cattle, and is almost as luxurious as Kobe beef.

Pickled cabbage and radishes
8. Rice course - we had lovely pickles, rice with ginger, and miso soup with nameko mushrooms.

Desserts - Custard Pudding, Orange Jelly with Kyoho Grapes, Japanese melon and peach, Melon ice cream
9. Desserts - Custard Pudding, Orange Jelly with Kyoho Grapes (them that taste like wine!), Japanese melon and peach, Melon ice cream. Japanese fruit is such a treat! The orange jelly is very intense.

Warabi Mochi
10. Warabi Mochi - wonderfully soft and chewy. Interestingly, it came with gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup, perhaps a nod to local ingredients.

Not sure if this is the eleventh course, but we finished with a freshly whisked bowl of good matcha (green tea). It refreshed the palate completely. The best thing is - you feel like you've eaten well, but also healthily too.

Goto's decor is stark, simple, yet cosy
Decor at Goto is starkly simple yet cosy (photography was quite challenging, due to the lighting). The place only has a few tables, seating less than 20.

They serve a mini Kaiseki for lunch at S$68+ (US$47+), and two options for dinner - Kaiseki at S$180+ (US$124+) and Chef's Special Kaiseki at $280+ (US$193+). There's a 10 per cent service charge but no taxes. Rreservations are required.

Goto is at 14 Ann Siang Road
This is no doubt my most extravagant meal ever, but one that's also truly sublime. Stepping through these doors is like being transported to Japan for a few hours of culinary bliss. Goto's kaiseki is a celebration of what life has provided for us in nature. It's certainly the place to go for the most special of occasions and with very loved ones.

14 Ann Siang Road #01-01
Singapore 069694
Tel: 6438-1553
Open Tues-Sat
Lunch (noon to 2.30pm, last order 1.30pm)
Dinner (6.30pm to 10.00pm, last order 8.30pm)
Closed Sundays and Monday

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Barracks at House, Dempsey

UPDATE: This place has closed. Downstairs, it's now SIRI HOUSE

Barracks @ House. I am a new fan. Over 20 photos to show you why, so I'll try to be succinct. The Greenhouse, a lush, glass-encased private dining area The Greenhouse. Lush. Sweet. Nurturing life. As the plants feasted, so did we, in sunlit cool comfort.
Spotted. A surprise. Guess which one? Mint Berry Fix, Beetroot Beat, Pei Pa Herbal Tonic. Pei Pa with vanilla and fresh lime is ingenious! Try it to see what I mean.
  Pineapple Pitstop 
Pineapple Pitstop. Cucumber meets pineapple. Detoxes, rehydrates, all deliciously so.

  Ahi Taki Skinny Pizza Ahi Taki Skinny Pizza. Oh, sweet tuna gently seared! Pistachios, port-soaked raisins, avocado, and herb-roasted tomatoes. All cuddling together. My Dempsey dream pizza! Psst, you won't get this at Skinny Pizza Suntec City.

  Wild Truffle Mushroom Skinny Pizza Wild Truffle Mushroom Skinny Pizza. Mmmmmushrooms! Garlic! Truffle oil! Parmesan cheese! Supremely yummy when shared. They've improved the crust (or cracker base) since I last tried them.

  Curry Chicken Babaganoush Curry Chicken Babaganoush Skinny Pizza. Smoky babaganoush, Madras curry chicken, chopped hard boiled eggs, coriander. All Skinny Pizzas are a cracking 18-inches, did you know? Chorizo Almond Skinny Pizza Chorizo Almond Skinny Pizza - a celebration of colours! Roasted chorizo, almonds, grilled peppers, roasted garlic, black olives, red chilies and fresh parmesan. It's a party on a most edible platter.

  Eclectic vintage crockery 
At Barracks you get the quirky, eclectic and sometimes vintage. Furniture, crockery, art decor, etc. Unique.

  Herb Crusted Lamb Racks Herb Crusted Lamb Racks. Beautifully medium rare, with Mediterranean ratatouille and Kalamata olive jus. My favourite main dish - meaty, flavourful and tender - a single bite sent me to heaven.

Bay Prawn Capellini 
Bay Prawn Capellini - a House signature. Rich prawn Bolognese. Braised baby leeks. Micro herbs, pecorino cheese shavings and chili. HungryCow observed rightly that this tastes very Asian, almost like Cantonese seafood noodles.

  Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken A middle-eastern spring chicken with interesting partners: Tomato-berry chutney, yam crisps, sauteed fennel and baby bok choy.

  Meter-long Sausage 
Meter-long Sausage. Chicken, beef or pork, served on rocket with mustard to dip. You'll certainly be talking about it!

  Old-fashioned American Sliders Old-fashioned American Sliders, in five varieties. It's not the sliders but the truffle fries that will make Harold and Kumar new converts! Loved the sweet potato nibblets too.

  The Tiffin Punch - quaint and super refreshing! 

The Tiffin Punch - so quaint and cool at the same time! Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lychee Liqueur, Mumm Champagne, Pressed Ruby Red Grapefruit, Ginger, Lychees! Can you say refreshing? I liked this very much!

  Prohibition Long Island Iced Tea Party Prohibition Long Island Iced Tea Party - the cutest I have ever seen. In the teapot a very strong mix of gin, vodka, rum, tequila, Cointreau and lemon juice. Pour in icy Coca-cola from the jug and enjoy! And now desserts! We had a Godzilla Box, filled with six desserts (of your choice, and you get 15% off too!).

  The BBC - Banana, Brownie and Cheese 

The BBC - Banana, Brownie and Cheese. Nutty chocolate brownies with crispy banana strudels topped with freshly grated cheese. Bizarre? Most of us voted this sweet and salty confection our favourite of the lot. It works!

  Barracks Strawberry Shortcake, and Green Tea Tiramisu (background) 
Barracks Strawberry Shortcake - large, fresh strawberries and vanilla bean cream. Green Tea Tofu Tiramisu in the background - matcha-topped "tau huay" with a light cake base. These were nice, but not my favourites.

  Guiltless Chocolate Almond Cake Guiltless Chocolate Almond Cake. Chocolate cake with layers of ganache, topped with candied almonds. Flour and gluten-free, but still a carb feast! Bit too rich for me.

  MMM - Mango Marshmallow Melt 

MMM - Mango Marshmallow Melt. Fresh mango, mini crunchy pavlova, honey, yoghurt, whipped cream and marshmallows. Sounds too good to be true, no?

  Panna Cotta Agar Agar 

Panna Cotta Agar Agar. Inspired by the Nonya kueh lapis, but using panna cotta in between layers for a creamy difference. Unusual texture and cool presentation. We thoroughly enjoyed this lunch hosted by Janet from Spa Esprit (those are her lovely manicured hands in the photos above). 

Check out Aromacookery's gorgeous post on Barracks, and look out for HungryCow, MilkMilk and Recentrunes reviews when they come out. I also have eight sets of Spa Esprit vouchers to give away, kindly provided by Janet. They comprise five discount offers from different Spa Esprit brands, valid until 8 August 2009. You can click on the picture to see a bigger version. If you'd like one set, just leave a comment telling us your favourite dish at Barracks (if you've been there), or what you like best out of the dishes you see above (if you haven't been there). The first eight to respond will get the vouchers by mail. Once again, warmest thanks to Janet for being such a wonderful host! I'll be back to try the brunch!

8D Dempsey Road (behind the block that houses Jones the Grocer) Singapore 249672 T
el: 6475-778 

Open daily: Weekdays Lunch 12pm-3pm (last order 2.30pm) 
Tea 3pm-6pm serving pizzas, sandwiches and sides only (last order 5.30pm) 
Dinner 6pm-10.30pm (last order 10.15pm) 

Weekends Brunch 11am-4pm (last order 3.45pm) 
Tea 4pm-6pm serving pizzas only (last order 5.30pm)
Dinner 6pm-10.30pm (last order 10.15pm)

  Rainbow cast on a leaf

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crab Buffet at Ellenborough Market Cafe (25 June- 12 Jul)

Black pepper Sri Lankan crab
The Crab Temptations Buffet Dinner is back at Ellenborough Market Cafe! It's only for two weeks, from 25 June to 12 July 2009. This year, Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore sought not just media but food bloggers as well to preview the food and give feedback.

Here are photos of some of the dishes that will be available. These were presented to us a la carte in a private dining room (that I never knew existed). Please note that they are still work-in-progress, so what you get at the buffet may vary a bit.

Black pepper Sri Lankan crab (above). I still prefer black pepper over white pepper for crab, so I was glad to see this.

Salad of Hokkaido Crabmeat with Apple and Walnut
Salad of Hokkaido Crabmeat with Apple and Walnut. This is a starter/appetiser. What's impressive is the very tangible chunks of crabmeat in the salad. Most of us felt this would be best presented in individual portions, instead of in a massive bowl.

Nonya curry crab that's more Indian than Nonya
Nonya curry crab that's more Indian than Nonya, thanks to Masala spices. It's very delicious though, and the flower crabs used were lovely and sweet.

Fragrant Thai Sauce Crab
Fragrant Thai Sauce Crab. Oh, I really liked the tangy, sweet and spicy sauce on this crab.

Crab Risotto
Crab Risotto. Extremely rich and creamy, but a little bland. Maybe it didn't help that we had just been through the spicy and intense flavours of the other dishes.

Wok-fried Sri Lankan Chili Crab
Wok-fried Sri Lankan Chili Crab. What crab buffet would be complete without Singapore's chili crab? Interestingly, the sauce here is not the waterlogged variety you get at most places. It's thick and almost pasty, but deliciously so.

Fried man tou buns
Fried man tou buns. The perfect accompaniment to chili crab. The hotel deliberately sourced mini bite-size buns to go with the crabs, based on customer feedback.

Many kinds of desserts at Ellenborough Cafe
There are also other dishes, local and international fare, at the buffet. We did not see or try these, but the press release mentions Paper Wrapped Chicken with Chili Dip, Braised Beef Brisket with Jade Turnip Vegetables Curry, and Peranakan dishes like Ikan Chuan Chuan (deep-fried mackeral fillets topped with a non-spicy ginger and fermente bean sauce).

What we did get to see and taste are the many kinds of desserts at Ellenborough Cafe. About half a dozen Chinese desserts, various cakes, bread and butter pudding, chocolate fountain, fresh fruits, and...

The signature durian pengat
...of course, their signature Durian Pengat, which has for years drawn people to the cafe. Their version now is much lighter than it used to be, whipped to a delicately airy texture. This just means you can eat more of it without getting "jelak" (satiated)! The taste is still gorgeous.

Kueh dadar prepared a la minute is really quite different!
We were also treated to some "Kueh Dadar" made a la minute. I wondered why they would dedicate a live station to such a simple snack, but once I tasted it, I realised kueh dadar made fresh on the spot tastes so different! It's comfortingly warm and extra soft.

Ellenborough Market Cafe is at Swissotel Merchant Court, Singapore
I remember a time when it was so difficult getting reservations at Ellenborough Market Cafe. You often had to call two weeks in advance. Now with the crab buffet going on for dinner, I'm sure the place will be packed.

The crab buffet costs S$46++ (adult); S$23++(child aged 4-11), and is for dinner only. HSBC cardholders get to dine free with every three paying adult diners.

Warmest thanks to Sok Hoon and Yvonne of Swissotel Merchant Court for being such lovely hosts, and for valuing blogger feedback for the crab buffet.

Ground Floor, Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore
20 Merchant Road
Singapore 058281
Tel: 6239-1848
Open daily
Breakfast: 7am to 10:30 am
Lunch: 12 noon to 2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm
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