Friday, July 31, 2009

Mentaiko Pasta

We had bought some mentaiko (spicy cod roe) during the Isetan Hokkaido fair. After having mentaiko on toast for breakfast for a few days, a goody portion of it was still sitting in the freezer. Since we also had sakura ebi in the freezer, it was super easy to whip up some mentaiko pasta using this cheery recipe from Chubby Hubby.

10g dried Sakura ebi
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tbsp butter
2 sacs mentaiko (I used 1 sac and found that more than adequate)
1/2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise1
1/2 tbsp prawn oil (I used normal oil)
cappellini or linguine for 2

Cook the pasta in a big pot of vigourously boiling, generously salted water. When al-dente, drain and set aside. While cooking the pasta, saute the diced onions.

Put the butter, prawn oil and the mayo in a mixing bowl. Scrape the mentaiko out of the sacs and into the bowl. Tip in the sauteed onions, and mix all the ingredients together. Mix the sauce with the pasta. Toast the Sakura ebi and toss. Garnish with nori (dried seaweed) strips.

A very umami dish full of the essence of the sea, although I think I was a tad too enthusiastic with the butter, and since I had no nori on hand, replaced that with the shredded bonito. Good for an indulgent weekend lunch.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bonta, UE Square

I was at Bonta with a friend a few weeks ago. This Italian restaurant had been on my radar for sometime now, so I was delighted when the friend pointed out that they were having a special 1-for-1 promotion for set lunches. Never one to waste a good dining deal, we hotfooted it down to the Robertson Quay area which has become a veritable enclave for great dining places, mostly Japanese (Menya Shinchan, Shunjuu, Satsuma Shochu, Miharu).

The restaurant is rather small, and perhaps because of this, tables are packed very close together (one could eavesdrop shamelessly and terribly easily on the conversation at the adjacent tables). Decorated in a clean and modern but not overly ostentatious style, with lots of warm browns and oranges, the ambience was cosy and inviting. Unfortunately not the service. First, they only gave us the ala carte menu and we had to call another waiter to also show us the set lunch menu. Then, they pretended that the 1-for-1 $38 offer was only applicable to those who had expressly reserved it for this purpose which is just so terribly insincere and casts a bad impression. Eventually the waitress agreed that we could order the 1-for-1 set lunch, by which time we had already decided that we would just go for the usual $28 lunch since the courses looked much better than the promotional menu (which was really a cheapened down $19 per person option).

Anyway. Selections settled, the bread came quickly and we both swooned - it was piping hot, studded generously with feta cheese, sundried tomatoes and nuts, and so savoury that I wouldn't mind eating it as a main course. There was a lovely mashed olive in olive oil dipping paste which frankly, was not strictly needed but really nice to have anyway.

Grilled Calamari salad for my starter - not bad at all. The calamari was slightly charred which really brought out the fresh seafood taste, and the peppers being pre-grilled, were very sweet. This was then followed by my chosen main course, ricotta-filled ravioli, with shaved parmesan cheese. Yes, very sinful and "cheesy" indeed. Pasta was cooked to the precise shade of al dente-ness, and the cheese used was of good quality. That I did not feel extremely stuffed after consuming this "full of cheese" dish is a good sign in my books.

Finally, dessert of expresso panna cotta, which was nicely quivery and not too sweet. And they offered us the choice of decaf coffee too.
Overall, a nice lunch place, good for comfort and familar options. However, if you're looking for a place with an edge, that is different from the rest, that excites with a new twist, creative approaches - well I didn't find it at Bonta at lunch. Maybe the extra prices charged for ala carte dining would give that extra fillip too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eulogy for Grandma

Enjoying the dry ice theatrics with dessert, at Taste Paradise, Sep 2006

My grandmother passed away on Tuesday at the age of 94, nearly three and a half years after her first serious fall that gave her a hip fracture, which was followed by a series of strokes. In the last year of her life, she was unable to move, to speak, or to eat except by a feeding tube, and had to breath assisted by an oxygen machine. Yet, we knew she was conscious and (somewhat) aware of her surroundings, for she invariably responded to me with a soft moan whenever I called her.

I was close to my grandmother, as she lived with my family several months each year, sharing the same bedroom as me. As a child, I would follow her around everywhere, and since the kitchen was where she spent much of her time cooking, it became one of my favourite hangouts to watch her and keep up an incessant stream of conversation. She made the bestest soon kueh - a kind of dumpling with thin translucent skin made of rice and glutinous rice flour, stuffed with shredded turnip, diced bamboo shoots, dried shrimp, mushroom and pork. I became extremely adept at shaping and making the soon kueh as it was in such high demand among my uncles and aunts and their families, that grandma, my mum and I had to churn out a couple of hundred soon kueh every couple of months. It was from my grandmother, that my love for food first started. Never compromising on the quality of the raw ingredients, never taking any shortcuts no matter how many steps or how tedious the process was, driven by her love for us, she uncomplainedly cooked whatever her grandchildren requested to eat.

Our sadness at her passing was accompanied by the relief that she had finally been released from whatever suffering that she had to go through in the last years of her life. For the most part, she lived a good life, bringing up 7 children, and had many grandchildren and great children. She lived to see me get married to E, and enjoyed many good family meals with us, a source of great joy and happiness to her. So we have no regrets, except to accept that it was time for her to go and join my grandpa. So good bye, my beloved ma-ma.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Picnicking at Ballet Under the Stars

It’s amazing how beautiful yet how simple a picnic can be. Pack a mat, cheese and crackers, crusty bread with cold meats, and a bottle of chilled wine. Bring along a good book and your loved one and there you have a recipe for happiness. Simple luxury I call it.

A picnic is even better when it’s combined with Ballet Under the Stars (BUTS), the quarterly outdoor ballet performance put up by the Singapore Dance Theatre at the Fort Canning Green. Last Sunday’s picnic menu consisted of home-made mushroom soup (blended fresh shitake mushroom, shallots and ground hazelnuts); roast chicken breast (immersed for 3 hours in special herb and spice brine solution and roasted with streaky bacon); salad of baby romaine lettuce, yellow pepper, carrots and sugar snap peas with balsamic vinegar dressing; swiss cheese and hummus with crackers; white chocolate oat cranberry cookies; and an assortment of fresh fruit. All washed down with sparkling white grape juice and Bundaberg lemon lime bitters.

The entire experience was all too lovely for words. Lounging on the warm grass-lined hill staring at the sky, feeling the light breeze ruffling one's hair, sampling different delights from the spread of food, and of course, not forgetting the very wonderful performance by the SDT dancers. I absolutely loved the item ‘POP!’ which was a series of dance segments with classical moves, set to pop music from Annie Lennox, Tom Jones and so on – witty and engaging, and a total breath of fresh air. If only every Sunday could be as good as this….


Colbar, short for Colonial Bar, I guess as all the expatriates used to hang out there for beers and western food? Tucked away along the quiet Portsdown Road, this is simply old-school nostalgia that is real charming. You gotta love the idyllic and bucolic feel of the place, a rarity in super-urbanised Singapore. The rickety folding tables, the wooden chairs, bottles of chilli and ketchup and HP sauce on the table, ginger ale and cider, just magically transports one back into the good ol' days of the 70s.

The food is decent Hainanese cooking with a large range of local dishes (fried rice, chicken curry, hor fun) and western dishes (steak, sandwiches, omelettes, sausages). Also serves wonderful drinks that seemed to have passed out of fashion with the ravages of time, like ginger ale, sinalco, gunner. My most recent order of chicken curry had a very "mum's home-cooking" feel to it, and I also like the steak with mushrooms and chips - the food is nothing to shout about, but it gives you a warm fuzzy heartwarming feeling. Not as cheap as your regular coffeeshops but who cares when you get a free time travel experience?

Whitchurch Road, Wessex Estate (Closed on Mondays)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to Get Ready for Work in 5 Minutes

The Japanese are amazing. This is so farneeeee!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Love Ying's Handmade Jewellery

My latest acquisition from Ying, whom I blogged about last August. This is such a stunning head-turner - reminescent of the glowing sun, and it sparkles softly when it catches the light! I really love Ying's creations - made with real semi precious stones, gold-filled chains and wires - all priced super affordably. I have to control myself from buying every piece that she makes! Do check out her blog at

Note: Photos reproduced with kind permission from Ying

Monday, July 13, 2009

No Bottled Water for me, please

I don't subscribe to this. I think restaurants should serve tap water free of charge. Pushing expensive San Pellegrino or Evian or Vittel onto suspecting customers under the innocent query of "still or sparkling?" is just an odious way of earning large mark-ups for zero value-add.

Yesterday's Sunday Times had an article on restaurants that did not serve tap water, and they interviewed the managing director of an Italian restaurant who defended her position thus "Our patrons are serious diners and come for our food, not to taste water. It's the customer with a budget who insists on tap water." (quoted from Sunday Times).

Well, I can be sure that I would not ever patronise that particular restaurant. Precisely because I am at a restaurant to taste the food and not water, that's why I don't see why there's a need to drink carbon-unfriendly bottled water at ridiculous markups. None of the high-class restaurants in Singapore or overseas that I've eaten at - Les Amis, Iggy's, Jaan, Gunther's, Au Jardin just to name a few - have ever received my request for ordinary water with anything but warmth and grace. Needless to say, the restaurant in question does not fall into the above exalted company. Nuff said.

Death by Steak

One porterhouse steak and one beefsteak tomato salad between the two of us, to be precise. As usual, E and I struggled to finish the fit-for-hungry-Vikings portions at Morton's, even as a sharing portion. No one understands steaks like Morton's - quality beef aged to bring out the flavour, grilled to juicy medium-rare perfection. Beefsteak tomato was superb too, very sweet with nary a tinge of sourness, complemented perfectly by the blue cheese dressing - sharp and strong but not overly acrid or pungent.
At least I had the excuse of having eaten a sticky date toffee pudding all by myself before dinner to explain why I was able to eat so little :).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Marmalade Pantry

Having heard so much about the famous "best in Singapore" sticky date toffee pudding from Marmalade Pantry, I was resolved to try it the next time I was in the area. It was opportune that my salon shifted to the building next to Palais Renaissance so I hoppitty hopped down to this chi-chi place on Saturday afternoon just before my facial.

This was indeed a place where the beautiful people hang out (by the way, i am not one of them). All very chi chi looking and idly flipping through the weekend newspapers / society magazines while having a late lunch (it was 3 pm by the time I got there) - even the wait staff were good looking! I knew what I wanted so I just ordered the sticky date toffee pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and settled down for a calorie-laden fest. $12 seemed very reasonable to pay considering the prices at some of the other mid-range coffee/dessert places nowadays.

The sticky date pudding was warm, sticky, moist and covered with lots of toffee sauce....yums. The vanilla ice-cream was very good - I could taste the flavour of real vanilla and not artificial extract. Strangely enough, it was only in the first two mouthfuls that I was thinking "can understand why this is considered one of the best in Singapore", but this turned to ennui after a while as the pudding felt rather heavy on the palate and cloying. Most probably me and not the fault of Marmalade Pantry since a) my eyes were larger than my stomach but yet I had it all to myself and (b) I don't have a sweet tooth!

A good way to spend the afternoon people watching, especially when there's so much eye candy around.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Merlion

Someone in the office sent this hilariously funny video around. I wanna go travelling too!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Les Amis

The recession is good news for foodies like me who like to eat at nice restaurants but yet don't want to spend astronomical sums of money. Even the local stalwart of fine dining Les Amis has had to lower her prices in recent months, after the fat expense accounts of corporations and bankers dried up.

Ever opportunistic, we seized the chance to try out their set lunches, priced at a very value-for-money level of $38 for 2 courses or $48 for 3 courses. We were initially rather awed by the restaurant décor, which was in a fairly severe and formal fashion. Tables were placed a little bit too close to each other than ideal, but it’s great for eavesdropping on the rich tai tais and businessmen dining out. Service was extremely excellent – warm without being overly effusive, attentive without being overly fawning, with waiters that have the uncanny knack of knowing what you want, at the exact moment you want it.

As we sat down we were given a choice of warm bread with a pat of butter (no fancy spreads here! It’s real traditional). This was followed quickly by the amuse-bouche of smoked salmon on crispy pita bread squares. For starters, E had the B.L.T of Hokkaido scallop, with marinated heirloom tomato and Iberico ham. He pronounced it delicious, while I wasn’t so wowed by it since good quality ingredients will give you a good result any way (the mark of greatness is to rise above your ingredients!) My starter of cream of morel mushroom soup with sautéed quail breast and ramp leaves ravioli was interesting but tasted fairly normal.

The good stuff started coming out with the main courses. E ordered the slow-cooked Atlantic salmon with home-made farfalle – I guess it was cooked “sous-vide” or under very slow controlled heat conditions in vacuum, to have achieved that kind of melty smooth texture. But in my opinion, it was my choice of main course that really took the cake. Many customers had raved about the crispy skin pork leg (sounds terribly Chinese doesn’t it?) and wow, wow, wow, was it really good! The skin was crackling crisp, with a layer of soft melting fat, and perfectly seasoned soft and tender meat underneath it. A mélange of flavours and textures exploded in my mouth – salty, savoury, crackling, unctuous…. Served on a bed of sauerkraut. I honestly didn’t want to share any at all with E but eventually had no choice. This is a MUST order if you see it on the menu at Les Amis.

If that isn’t enough incentive to get you down to Shaw Centre pronto, ladies who lunch on Mondays or Tuesdays get to enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne (moet & chandon!) with every 3 course or 4 course lunch ordered. What a perfect start to the work week.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Huffin' and Puffin' away

I had not managed to get in a run for 3 plus weeks, and the deterioration in my cardiovascular fitness is shocking. Yesterday, I struggled to do a 3 km run at a fairly slow pace (what used to be my recovery pace), which would have been a literal walk in the park less than a month ago, since I was doing 7 - 8 km every two to three days at a much faster pace (more than a 1 min faster per km). Going to have trouble with the Shape run which is coming up in 2 weeks time! Given this state of affairs, will be happy if I can even complete the 10 km under 1 hour 30 min although my PR is 1 hour 10 min.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cicada Bites the Dust

Portsdown Road is a magical place at dusk. I drive along the bendy roads, with hardly another car or pedestrian in sight.

And it was on one of these drives that I spotted that Cicada had closed down, and a new restaurant, Soprano, was in the midst of springing up to take its place. Yet another one bites the dust, not that it's any great loss, since the food there was very average at best.

North Border Bar & Grill, Rochester Park

I have walked past North Border many times when making my way to other restaurants in Rochester Park, but just never had the urge to try it before. Perhaps it was the tacky, cheesy cowboy decor. Maybe it was the sad-looking rooster carved on its entryway. Or possibly it was just that I was obsessed with other restaurants at the time.
Anyway, a lunch catch-up with an ex-colleague that I had not seen for a long time provided the perfect excuse to finally check out North Border. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The outdoor al-fresco area had hardly any of the eecky texan decorations, and fringed by beautiful, luxuriant and relaxing greenery. A little bit of the jungle in the urban city.
North Border serves very good value-for-money set lunches. $20.90 for 2 courses, $23.90 for 3 courses, and $28.90 for 4 courses: mains actually include ribeye steak. However, will not be giving any reviews on food quality for now. I would have to go back again to try their options, as to give a review based on my choices (seared ahi tuna salad and bouillabaisse) would not be too fair. What on earth was I thinking, to order french fish soup in a tex-mex restaurant?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Deli Nosh at Seah Street Deli

A pleasantly serviceable dinner at Seah Street Deli, Raffles Hotel. Deli style food, yes, but not too bad for all that! I had the "Broadway" - quarter roast chicken and half a slab of baby back roast ribs, smothered with barbeque sauce and served with a side of sauteed mushrooms. Maybe it was the barbeque sauce that made the food taste good - the chicken was a little dry but the pork was so tender that it dropped off the bones with just the slightest nudge. At an unbelievable price of only $11 after my Feed@Raffles 50% discount :-)