Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flying Wings at Sunset Grill

Since the Sunset Grill and Pub was featured on a couple of local television shows and the Sunday Times a while back, this place has been packed for such a remote location. Tucked away in a little corner of the Seletar Airbase - with no signs giving any hints of how to get there - this place exudes plenty of laid-back charm.

The food here is rather good but the real kicker is the out-of-city ambience. Sit back and enjoy the famous buffalo wings with a mug of ice-cold beer and watch the sunset. If you're lucky, you'll see some small planes taxi-ing past and taking off. The buffalo wings are extremely spicy - we had to take Level 1 as E doesn't really take too much spicy food, but I think even I would only be at best able to cope with Level 3! Look out for the "hall of fame" above the bar where some brave intrepid souls have gone all the way up to Level 30. Call early for reservations as they are fully packed on weekends.

Oxtail Stew in a Slow Cooker

The penny finally dropped when I accidentally discovered yesterday that oxtail stew cooks beautifully and better in a slow cooker (it's so self-evident on hindsight that not to have thought of it earlier appears stupid). I had to go out to the supermarket to get some carrots and onions for the stew and couldn't leave the oxtail simmering on the stove in case of accidents. So I put it in the slow cooker, and lo and behold! It was cooked till wonderfully tender and with none of the watching and hovering that would usually have been necessary in the usual stove-top cooking.

Recipe for Two
Two huge oxtail chunks
2 cloves (not bulbs!) of garlic (can be omitted)
1 bay leaf
a teaspoon of black peppercorns, crushed
half a teaspoon of dried thyme (one teaspoon if using fresh) or rosemary
some beef or veal stock (substitute with water)
half a carrot, diced
one celery stick, diced
one big red onion, sliced and sauteed till soft in butter
red wine (4 tablespoons)
salt to taste

Sauteed the oxtail chunks in butter until well-browned on all sides. Add the beef/veal stock (or water) and bring to the boil. Transfer into a slow cooker and add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns, leave the slow cooker on the "high" setting, for about 3 hours. One hour or so before serving, add the diced carrots, celery, and sauteed onions (you can't add these in too early as they will disintegrate), and the red wine. Salt to taste before serving. Voila! Easy oxtail stew in 5 hours with very minimal actual cooking.

Note: I don't use much carrots or onions as I much prefer my food to be savoury rather than sweet, but there's nothing wrong in using a lot more carrots / onions if your preferences run that way.

Cassis, Rochester Park

I chanced across this restaurant quite by accident, when I was trying desperately to find a suitable place to hold a work event. Cassis, in the almost-hip-and-happening Rochester Park, had just opened its doors for three months and was helmed by a very young chef Eric Cuilbert who had earned one Michelin star in his former establishment. Add to that the very friendly and professional service in making arrangments for the event (private room? customised menu? Special parking arrangements? No problem!), and the fact that it's in the lovely environs of Rochester Park made me happy enough to forget the appalling service I got when making enquiries at Infuzi and Da Paolo.

Menu Listing

Warm Mushroom Soup Emulsion with Pan-Seared Scallop and Escargot Ravioli or
House Smoked Salmon "Mille Feuille" of Crisp Potatoo, Mesclun Salad, Chive Cream

Five Spice Crispy Chicken with Egg Noodles in Soy Sauce, Mange Tout and Preserved Ginger or
Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Shallot White Wine Sauce, sauteed Potato Gnocchi and Asparagus Spears

Molten Valhrona Dark Chocolate Cake, Pistachio Cream Anglaise, Home-made Vanilla Ice Cream or
Honey Nougat Terrine, Feuillete of Chocolate with Coffee Sauce or
Home Made Ice Cream and Sorbet (Tahiti Vanilla / Caramel / Coffee / Strawberry / Pineapple)

My verdict? Some promising dishes and some hit and misses. The mushroom soup was very good and the escargot ravioli was cooked to perfection. My five spice crispy chicken was a letdown though - chef should stick to french cooking as it just didn't shine and was oddly sweet, although I have it on the best authority from the waiter Dano that the Red Snapper was "mmmmpph". The molten dark chocoate cake was pronounced to be extremely excellent, and I found my choice of homemade strawberry sorbet to be wonderful as well.

Cassis definitely merits another visit in a few more months, so that it has some time to iron out the kinks and rough edges. I can't wait to try more dishes!

Monday, June 9, 2008


Shashlik is a wonderful place with really good food and a great dose of "olde Singapore nostalgia". Run by Hainanese, the restaurant is tucked away on the 6th floor of Far East Shopping Centre, outside Borders, and is a veritable institution amongst many generations of food-loving Singaporeans. It is superbly crowded on weekends so make your reservations early. They are known for their "shashliks" which are basically meat fillets served on hotplate with accompaniment of salad vegetables, as well as other western dishes. My beef shashlik was close to perfect - tender, juicy and so tasty.

Our dining experience there was also pretty hilarious since our friend Peter is British and he found a strange familiarity with the food... and asked where did the Hainanese learn their Russian cooking from....the answer was the British!

I was inspired enough to dream up this cheaterbugs' version of Shashlik's well-known Baked Alaska dessert, which I intend to try out some day:
- Buy an Arctic Roll (cake-wrapped ice cream)
- Make some meringue by whisking egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks are formed
- Pipe the meringue to fully cover the sides and top of the Arctic Roll
- In a separate bowl, pour out some brandy and set fire to it. Doesn't work with wine as the alcohol content is too low.
- Pour your "bowl of fire" onto the Meringue-covered Arctic Roll. It should burn for a while more and impress your guests greatly.
- Eat after the fire has gone out and the meringue is nicely caramelised.

N.B. (1): Strangely, I've always thought that Baked Alaska was called Alaska Bomb (!).
N.B. (2): Sorry, no photos available as Shashlik is so dark that pictures will come out extremely grainy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Teochew Pastries from Thye Lee

This is a very traditional shop that sells Teochew pastries, which are very difficult to find nowadays. My mum's family has been frequenting this place for many years - my mum's wedding pastries were bought from this shop more than thirty years ago, and my own wedding pastries were also bought from Thye Lee. My favourite is the "La Piah", literally translated as pork lard bun, which comes with a smooth filling of lotus seed paste wrapped in a flaky, crumbly crust. It sounds artery clogging and it probably is, but I much prefer this any day to the hokkien style tau sar piah. They also sell other traditional Teochew snacks such as sesame rice and peanut crackers and yes, they still take wedding orders.
Thye Lee is located at Blk 108, Lorong Ah Soo. Another well known Teochew pastry shop is Chop Mui Lee, at the Outram Park / Chinatown area.