A group of friends, checking out the food scene and talking bout stuff.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Royal Pavilion: Pockets of Love for your mama this Mother's Day

04:44 Posted by Unknown No comments
Mother's day is exactly a week away. Cantonese restaurant Royal Pavilion at Park Regis, helmed by Hong Kong Chef Chung Ho Shi, has recently unveiled their Mother's Day menu, aptly named "Pockets of Love'. That's what your mum should receive from you especially on her special day. (And every day too, of course!)

We taste tested the menu to find out whether it's what good mothers deserve.

What would an Asian restaurant be if it didn't serve a dish passed down by our former Colonial masters, with an Asian twist? As you can see, these aren't typical chicken pies with a flat top crust. The top crust on these Baked Chicken Pies in Black Truffle Oil is similar that of a Bolo Bun. The black truffle oil definitely sets these apart from the others out there, complementing earthy flavours of the filling encased within.

The Baked Swiss BBQ Snow Buns resembled Tim Ho Wan's charsiew baos. A slightly buttery outer layer baked to a light golden brown.

Cutting through the bun revealed a filling of aromatic charsiew, but there was nothing outstanding about its flavour. It's rather typical of a safe charsiew filling, but better to be safe than screw it up, right? One thing though: The bao would have been better if the outer layer was baked a little longer for a satisfactory crunch as you bite through it.

At first glance, you'd be duped into thinking that these are tiny curry puffs, but they're actually Baked Cod Puffs in Black Pepper. As cod is already naturally rich in flavours, you don't really need much seasoning. These were subtle yet not entirely bland, and thankfully, the cod wasn't dry. After a few savoury items, these helped to refresh my tastebuds a little. I love a good flaky crust too and they nailed it.

Man oh man, the Steamed Foie Gras and Meat Dumplings were an absolute delight. Sad to say, there were actually minimal amounts of foie gras in it, but the flavour was very much present in the broth in the xiao long bao. The only gripe I had with it was that the skin was thinner than paper. Just picking the bao up with my chopsticks caused it to split open, with the broth flowing out onto my plate. What a shame. After all, the best way to eat a XLB for me is to pop the whole thing into my mouth and let the soup ooze out! It was also a tad too big to comfortably fit into one's mouth, though it's not impossible. I'd recommend flipping the whole XLB upside down onto your spoon, pour a little black vinegar over it, and eat it whole. Let it cool down first or you'll scald your tongue.

Royal Pavilion also served up some dainty dim sum for lunch. They've got Steamed Spicy Dried Shrimps, Minced Pork and Eggplant dumplings, Steamed Fresh Scallops, Asparagus, and Egg White Dumplings, Steamed Fresh Crab Meat and Minced Shrimp Dumplings, as well as Steamed Mixed Vegetable Dumplings for the vegetarians.

I found the skin of these dim sums a little too thick and gelatinous for my liking. Hopefully they'll experiment more and try to find a good balance for these, and the xiao long bao.

Here are some close-up shots:

We also had the Stir-fried Coral Clam with Asparagus in "Lao Gan Tie" Sauce.  What's Lao Gan Tie, you ask? It's Royal Pavilion's version of an XO Sauce. However, theirs is more sweet than spicy. The clam was tender with a perfectly bouncy bite.

Who wouldn't recognise the Classic Cantonese Claypot Rice with Waxed Meat & Chinese Sausages This was a bit problematic for me but maybe it's because the claypot rice I'm used to is darker in colour. For this dish, the rice and the black sauce came separately, to be poured in as you mix up the sauce and the meat. This technique however doesn't allow the rice to fully absorb the flavours of the dark sauce and the meat while it's still simmering. It seems like they let the rice cook first in the claypot, then carefully arranged the cured meats and sausages on top. When I had a spoonful of rice and meat, all I could taste was how bland the rice was and how salty the meats were. Perhaps this is a slightly healthier option for mothers who shouldn't be eating food too high in sodium content, and they can decide how much sauce they want in their rice.

This is the highlight. The Royal Smoked Duck with a deliciously crispy skin that's not too fatty and not too oily as most roast ducks tend to be. Eat the skin!

We wrapped up our meal with a Fish-shaped Panna Cotta in Mango Sago. The Panna Cotta had a rich, fragrant coconutty flavour that went perfectly with the mango sago. Can't go wrong with that.

If you have no idea where to take your mum out to lunch or dinner, consider Royal Pavilion for an all-rounded, east-meets-west dining experience that's still traditionally rooted in its Cantonese roots.

Royal Pavilion
23 Merchant Road, Level 1, Park Regis, 058268

Tel: 6818 8851

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Anti:dote at Fairmont: Novelty bar bites that take you on a culinary journey

Agua Fresca
ingapore's cocktail bar scene has been exponentially growing over the past couple of years, and one bar that's been gaining traction is Anti:dote at Fairmont. Head bartender, Tom Hogan has been manning the bar since it first opened, and he unveiled his brand new cocktail menu this month, designed and hand-drawn by himself. Did you know that he is a fine arts graduate?

For a start, we had the Agua Fresca, made of Mezcal, parsley, sweet turnip, lime juice, and suze liqueur. A clean, crisp concoction with a welcome tang to whet our appetites.

Working closely with Hogan is the Spanish head chef, Carlos Montobbio, who's responsible for the bar bites, designed to complement the new cocktails on the new menu. Along with the new cocktail menu comes an array of new dishes as well. This plate of braised eel coquettes with teriyaki sauce and kimchi mayo may look unremarkable from the outside, but each ball certainly packed a punch, especially when dipped in the piquant kimchi mayo. The eel filling wan't minced, it was chopped into little pieces, so I got a nice bite of fish with each coquette.

Chef Carlos has been working in Singapore for close to two years now, and it's the first Asian country he had ever been to before leaving Spain. He's developed a passion for Asian flavours which he infuses in his dishes. This is a serving of oysters with warm ginger sauce, red curry, and celery cress. Each morsel of oyster still retained its ocean freshness, with the slight heat from the dressing tickling my tastebuds.

This was a pleasant surprise for me, because it isn't what it looks like, Nope, not sushi. It's actually salted cod brandade topped with tuna sashimi. Those tiny orange balls on top of the tuna aren't salmon caviar. They're sesame oil spheres. How clever! If you're worried that fish on fish would be too overwhelming, this is actually pretty subtle, with the sesame oil spheres lending it a delightful aroma as they pop in your mouth. However, the cod was so finely blended and emulsified with the potato in the brandade that I could barely taste it.

Monte- Cachaca, fine sherry, homemade falernum, lime.
Mixed reviews all around for this cocktail that could be a little herb-heavy for those who are averse to um, herbs.

Ah, the famous crisp parmesan pizza topped with tomato flakes, fresh pesto olive oil caviar and sweet basil cress ($16). It's been on the menu from the start as well as a hot favourite of Anti:dote's patrons, and I could see why. While thin and tiny and a little pricey for its size, it was robust in flavours-- sweet, salty, and herbaceous. An elegant mini version of the classic margherita pizza. Replacing the typical bread crust with only parmesan cheese is a genius move, methinks.

The paleta iberica Joselito, Italian burrata, cristal bread, with tomato essence shabu-shabu is again, another delight of a dish. The iberico ham needs no introduction, everyone knows it's good. What needs highlighting is the cristal bread, a Spanish style ciabatta with a light and airy centre reminiscent of a youtiao. Eat this with chopsticks. Pick up a slice of ham and burrata along with a piece of bread, and dip it into the tomato essence emulsion and you have a party in your mouth. The crispness of the bread combined with the general softness of the other components of this dish make for a wonderfully textured mouthfeel.

Here's another new dish, the braised beef Cannelloni with Spanish onion, black truffle, and cepes bechamel. Visually unappealing, but you can't go wrong with braised beef. Thankfully, it wasn't dry, and the black truffle really came through.

One of the best dishes of the night was definitely this crispy suckling pig with cherry miso caramel and sherry soaked cherries. A perfectly crispy crackling with very tender meat.

The much-raved-about black truffle bao with braised beal cheek, foie gras and caramelised shallots with Madeira was sadly a little disappointing for me. I could barely detect a hint of foie gras, and the sea salt sprinkled on top of the buns harshly cut through and overpowered the flavours of the filling as I felt myself chewing on grains of salt with each bite.

Another brand new item on the menu, a twist on the pork adobo, coated with a thin dough crust topped with thin slices of garlic. This was the winner. I love a dish that has contrast in textures and the buttery crust with the juicy pork won me over. Unlike the vinegary Filipino  PorkAdobo, this one let the natural flavour of the pork shine through while the vinegar was just there as a supporting character.

Dainty little cakes.
Seger Seelbach- Bourbon, hum, peychaud bitters, angostura bitters, Champagne.
The Tragedy of Tom Dooley
I know I haven't talked much about the cocktails in this post, but this is important: there's one thing you need to order before you leave Anti:dote, and it's The Tragedy of Tom Dooley. Everyone at the table unanimously agreed that this was the best drink of the night. Made of Tequila, aperol, lime, lavender syrup, and egg white, it's inspired by Tom Dula, who was framed for the murder of his girlfriend. Some speculate that it was his ex-girlfriend who murdered his  girlfriend, and then committed suicide, leaving Dula as the main suspect. A tragic backstory for an utterly lovely drink. It went down so smoothly. Don't the red dots on top of the egg white foam remind you of blood splatters in a gruesome murder scene?

The new cocktails and new dishes complimented each other wonderfully, and were every bit an exciting journey through a fusion of Spanish and Asian flavous, each dish more intense than the last. It got a bit overwhelming at some point that a palate cleanser of sorts would have been nice. But the next time I come back, I'd go straight for the pork dishes, and the crisp parmesan pizza for variety if you must.

80 Bras Basah Road, Level 1, Fairmont, Raffles City, 189560

Tel: 6431 5315

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Ippin Cafe Bar - Humble Japanese home-style dishes that'll surprise you.

04:33 Posted by Unknown , , , No comments
If you're ever in the vicinity of Clarke Quay/River Valley/Mohamed Sultan, you'll notice many Japanese restaurants lining the streets. Most of these restaurants are rather pricey, but take a walk opposite UE Square (across Hakata Ippudo to be more specific) and you'll find an unassuming, humble little family-run Japanese eatery called Ippin Cafe Bar tucked in a corner.

Once you step inside, you'll be greeted by the cheerful Ayumi Fujishiro, who runs the restaurant. You'll also notice Japanese condiments, ingredients and food products lining the shelves. But I'll talk about why they're there later. Let's get to the food first.

Here's the Deep Fried Oyster Set ($24) with sides of Hatcho miso soup, Nikujaga pork and potato stew, salad, and rice cooked with barley to reduce carb intake so you'll have a healthier meal. 

The oysters were lightly battered and fried to a crisp golden brown, and paired very well with the wasabi egg mayo dressing. But here's the thing: I'm not gonna lie, the oysters were pre-battered, pre-fried, then frozen. But don't worry, they didn't smell or taste of the stink that sometimes comes with oysters.

The pork and potato stew we sampled was lacking in pork but it still remains a hearty side that'll fill you up, especially with the generous serving of potato.

 This is the Grilled Oyster & Veggies in Ponzu Butter Sauce set ($20).

If you prefer something light, this is for you. The juicy oysters were grilled in a fragrant ponzu butter sauce.
 The Miso Udon Noodle with Oyster Set ($15) was very tasty. It may look simple, but something about the sauce it was cooked in gave it so much flavour. As someone who prefers strong, vibrant flavours, this hit the spot for me. But imagine my surprise when I found out how it was made.

This is how. From a pack of instant noodles that comes with the deliciously flavourful sauce. Add veggies and meat and there you have it! There's nothing wrong with eating instant noodles of course, I eat it all the time. But I had expected more, coming to an F&B establishment that charges above $10 for each dish. I had expected them to make the sauce themselves, perhaps with a family recipe passed down from a grandma. After all, Ippin is a home-style eatery.
A three-pack instant noodles (shown above) costs $7. Was it really worth $15 with sides of Kobachi and dessert? I don't think it was, but you do the math.

The Oyakudon set ($15) was pretty simple as well. And as I had caught on to the secret to their dishes, I asked about the stock that's used to cook this dish– it's a pre-packed dashi stock.

Towards the end of our meal, Chef Naomi came out to speak to us. She candidly said, "Honestly, I'm not a very good chef. But I'm very lucky to be able to use these great products to cook."

I appreciated her honesty and candor. And I guess Ippin's selling point is in their exclusive Japanese food products. It's not only an cafe, it's also where you can purchase some Japanese food products you can't find anywhere else in Singapore. If you want to recreate a dish you've tasted at Ippin, you can just ask about the ingredients, buy some off the shelves, and cook it at home if you so wish to.

Ippin Cafe Bar
18 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 238967
Tel: 6733-4794
Hours: 11am-11pm

Friday, 6 February 2015

Chabuton - Premium Tonkotsu Ramen at not so premium prices.

08:00 Posted by Unknown , , No comments

Being crowned "Best Ramen Chef" and receiving a Michelin star is a pretty big feat for someone who just makes ramen. So I guess you can say we're pretty blessed that chef Yasuji Morizumi has decided to bring this exclusive ramen to our shores.

Billed as the Premium Tonkotsu Ramen, it has the usual shebang of bamboo shoots, japanese leek and soft boiled egg. But what makes it special is that beautiful marbled Kurobuta pork that bursts juices into your mouth. Gutted that only a small piece was given, perhaps they should offer more for a separate charge.... Oooh.. and their luscious blend of tonkotsu and chicken collagen broth went down a treat too. We were instructed to slurp it up instead of mixing everything together, so that we'll get the difference in flavors. The mouthfeel was definitely not as thick and gravy like, and the taste isn't as "meaty" (sorry, inside joke) as a full on tonkotsu broth you can find in places like Gumshara, Sydney. Noodles were cooked to perfection. Firm and springy and you definitely expect nothing less from a famed chef. Our egg came out nicely and way better than our first try...

So there you have it kids. Do check it out and it's on for a limited time (17 Jan - 31st March 2015) and costs only $18.90

313 Orchard Road #B2-01
t: 66368335
Opening Hours:
Daily 11 30am - 10pm

Friday, 23 January 2015

boCHINche - Meat you there.

Now if previous reviews are anything to go by, you would know Bochinche as an Argentinian restaurant that's popular for two things. Meat and sharing plates. I finally got the chance to check this place out in place of the poor ol' missus, who was stuck at work while I got to sample some of their new wares. 

We started off with the Chilled Pea Soup, Shallots, Yoghurt and Chopped mint ($8). This is one of their new, healthier (#eatclean) menu offerings. Though it looks velvety smooth, there was a slight grainy bite to it which I felt gave it more character. The mint gave you a cool minty freshness as an aftertaste, just like smoking Marlboro menthol light cigs (I kid, it's way better and healthier than cigs). The shallot rings giving it a mild sweetness while the breadcrumbs added some crunch. Only way to make this dish better is to add ham in! Cos who doesn't love green pea and ham soup? RIGHT?!

Next was Crab on toast, Humita (sweet corn), Pickled turnips & Chopped coriander ($19) Crusty bread is slathered with sweet corn puree before being topped with white and brown crab meat (which have different textures) and pickles. It was a challenge to take everything in one bite but if you do, it's worth it. Gutted we only had one each as I was left scraping my plate.

Now this Iberico Lomo and Chorizo (50g each) aged for 30 months comes with house pickles and focaccia bread and costs only $15! Nothing much to say about cold cuts apart from how excellent it will be for pairing with wines or their signature Bloody Marys. The pickled vegetables helps cleanse your palate too if you ever find it too rich (as if).

Sides of Creamed spinach with mozzarella cheese ($9), Chips "Provenzal" ($10) and Flat mushrooms with gremolata ($9) are available too if you ain't full from all that meat you're about to order. My pick of the lot are the chips. It's tossed with garlic and parsley, and so fluffy and moist on the inside.

Try as I might... this was the most flattering shot I had of their Bife de choizo Sirloin Steak (I blame the wine getting to me) grilled with sea salt. ($49 for 300g). Though perfectly cooked medium rare with a robust flavor, the meat could have used a weee bit more resting time as evidenced by the juices on the plate. That fragrant chimichurri sauce they gave with the steak though... blimey, blew me away. Definitely gave the meat a lively lift. This is available at their grocer too!

The Lemon Sole with Tarragon & Lemon Butter ($39) is a french classic done well. The meat is mild and sweet, charred on the outside, yet still firm and moist on the inside. That home made butter sauce was so good that I lapped it up with the chips as well.

Moving on to desserts. We had the "Dulce de leche" Creme Brulee & Banana Split Ice Cream ($17). Order this if you're crazy about bananas. That scoop of ice cream is an amalgamation of everything you would find in a huge banana split bowl, sans cherries, while that thick, charred sugar crust gives way to an artery clogging cream heaven of "Dulce de leche" custard, or evaporated sweetened milk. I bloody love this cos I love banoffee pie and all things bananas anyway. Just wished they gave me a small biscuit waffle to scoop that up...

The Milk Cake, Passion Fruit Sorbet and Toasted Almonds ($14) is a different dessert altogether. That cake is so light and moist yet packs a punch. The accompanying scoop of sorbet gave me a good wake up slap as I was getting groggy from all the wine I was having. A dish made with finesse and worthy of your calories.

boCHINche still have starters and cold bar dishes for sharing, but when it comes to mains, they're tweaking it to include larger dishes for starving men with huge appetites. If you do cook, head down to their grocer area and you can find many of the items on their menu and spices available for sale.

Do click on their facebook page for information like Friday free flow wines or their Saturday booze brunches, which I'll definitely be checking out very soon.

22 Martin Road
#02-01 Singapore 239058
Tel: 6235 4990

Friday, 12 December 2014

Stirling bar & grill at Cheong Chin Nam

00:46 Posted by Unknown , , , , , 1 comment
Stirling has opened for a couple of months and is a few doors down from the famous Al-Ameen. With the new MRT station slated to open in the next few years, expect this place to be the new Holland Village with the numerous options available, and cheaper prices too!

The Grilled Halloumi Salad ($9) with baby spinach, tomato and capsicum salsa was a refreshing start to the dreary afternoon. Most of us were expecting a huge chunk of cheese on top of the salad, instead it came out nicely chopped up and plopped over a fresh mountain of leaves. The salsa added the needed acidity and juices to mix the greens with.

The Bacon Wrapped Asparagus ($11) topped with sauteed capsicum and sun dried tomato was a clear favorite among all and all 3 plates were wiped clean quickly. That streaky bacon bursting fat juices in your mouth while the capsicum and tomatoes gave it a variance in textures and flavors. The asparagus felt a bit too limp to me, but i guess that's what you get with tiny things.   

Now if you're looking for a place to drink I highly recommend coming here. They have archipelago beers on tap and a large selection of bottled UK craft beers & ciders too. And a redonkulous $2 slider promo to tempt you to further part with your hard earned money.

They look like a whale was trying on skinny jeans, but apart from that... I can't really fault anything that costs $2.

The Grilled Watermellon ($12) wasn't that grilled afterall.. What little charred bits I found actually added a different dimension that left me moreish. The parma ham added some saltiness while the rocket helped to give it a clean finish.

The Delicieux Duck Breast ($25) with creamy truffle mushroom, pencil asparagus and oven baked baby potatoes were... for a lack of a better word, poor. The breast meat was on the verge of turning grey and it wasn't rested enough, hence the amount of blood/juices you see on the plate. The flavors though, were good. The truffle sauce gave it a richness it deserved while that orange slice gave it some acidity to cut through all that meat on the plate.

Now this was what we came down for. Their signature Ribeye steak ($29 for 200g/ $35 for 250g) that's slow charcoal grilled before finishing off with high heat. Because of that you don't get the line charring you would expect from a grill. The steak is topped off with avocado butter, served with truffle fries and alcohol infused vegetables. Biting into this, you know they've not messed around with it much. The meat was tender but could use just a tad more resting time. Definitely value for money.

To me, the Crispy King Salmon ($23) was the definite winner of the day. This mess on the dish is actually fork crushed potatoes, creamy dill and leek sauce. The crispy skinned salmon gave way to a beautiful pink on the inside which left everyone wanting more. I cheekily stole more from the other side as this was too good to resist.

The restaurant has sofas to laze around and an al-fresco area that shows live sports as well. Do check out their facebook page as they have live music, although not that often due to licence restrictions.
The menu does have some hits and misses but noting their prices, this is a pretty decent place and we'll definitely be back.

Stirling15 Cheong Chin Nam RoadSingapore 599739Tel: (+65) 6469 9096Website: www.stirling.sg