Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Making Reservations One Month in Advance

And getting mightily frustrated by the logistics of trying to figure out which are the days that we can make it; which restaurant is closed on which day; and which restaurant is more conveniently located. The perils of trying to book Michelin-starred restaurants in a city famed for food!

Where am I going? Secret will be revealed...

But not in this post though.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breaking the Monday Blues at Tao's

I suffer from bad Monday blues, so a nice Monday lunch is always a very much welcome and wonderful fillip to the start of the work week. This week, we were lucky enough to celebrate a colleague’s promotion at Tao’s in PoMo plaza (formerly known as Paradiz Centre).

Tao’s is the sister restaurant to both Hokkaido JuJu Hotpot and Dozo (an upmarket version of Tao’s). All three share similarities – 6 to 7 course “degustation-style” set menus, attractive pricing, and creative presentation. While there was not much ambience to speak of at Tao’s (our seating was in fact outside the restaurant, in the main basement atrium of the mall), I was happy and satisfied with the lunch I had.

The starter of bacon and mushroom gratin, served with thick toast (my favourite!), arrived piping hot from the oven. This was very addictive - cheesy and creamy – and I ended up eating two pieces of toast and cleaning up the entire platter.

Next was the salad dish – I chose smoked salmon salad, which came with mayonnaise dressing (yikes, I prefer a light vinaigrette instead) on top of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and some olives - this was very ordinary and not worth ordering next time. Followed by a cream of mushroom soup, which was alright if nothing to shout about (perhaps they should have skipped the cream and just used mushrooms).

After this onslaught of dishes I was already feeling 70% full. But then out came my main course *DRUM ROLL*, the highly recommended slow cooked pork back ribs. This was really yummy. The ribs were cooked till meltingly tender and dropped off the bones with just the barest hint of gentle prodding with the fork (is that why the term “fork tender” was invented?). The marinade, which was Chinese in flavour – hoisin sauce like, complemented the ribs so well, sweet but with a hint of acid to cut through the fat. So of course I had to finish up the ribs since it was so good. Tao’s also offers roast steak or lamb cutlets. I “stole” some lamb from my neighbour WY to taste. While it was somewhat overcooked, the lamb was nice and flavourful, and not too gamey or tough.

Obviously I was at bursting point by then, but luckily the dessert of brownie with vanilla ice-cream was a small portion (this was of an average mass market quality). All that food was washed down with my chosen beverage of ice summer peach tea, which was very refreshing with hints of chamomile and some pieces of canned peaches floating in the tea.

The best part was, this 6-course set lunch only cost $19.80 – a real steal! Even more unbelievably, the restaurant had a promotion with DBS credit card, which gave us a further 20% discount.

If only ALL Mondays could be like this, I would be a most happy camper.

1 Selegie Road, PoMo, #B1-19

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Freshly Hatched

I was pretty egg-cited when I read about the imminent opening of this all-day breakfast cafe some weeks back in Business Times Weekend, and dashed down last week, just 3 days after it opened.

Located in a cosy nook in Evans Lodge, near to Botanic Gardens, the cafe's decor is cheery and inviting. Almost like an upmarket boarding school dining hall, seating comprises mainly of long wooden trestle tables along which diners jostle comfortably side by side. Egg-shaped portholes in the wall cast warm sunshine onto the tables. All very comforting and convivial, as befits a place serving comfort food.

The menu comprises largely of egg dishes - fried, scrambled, boiled, mollet - any way you name it, and is priced very reasonably. My Burly Benedict (one poached egg with mornay sauce, a good-sized piece of corned wagyu and a side of sauteed potatoes and tomato) cost $12, while my companion's Le Rossini (scrambled eggs with truffle oil and a whopping slab of seared foie gras, with toast) cost $18. Some rough patches to be ironed out for both cooking and service standards: my food was cold when it arrived, the foie gras wasn't very tasty, and a couple of the service staff seemed a tad clueless at times. On the positive side, the eggs - both scrambled and poached versions - were cooked just right, soft and fluffy and oozing nice creamy yolk respectively. Hopefully, Hatched will have ironed out its teething problems, given a couple of months, for it is a nice place to hangout and a good alternative to The Wine Company.

Evans Lodge, 26 Evans Road

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hooha over Steak Hooha! cafe, which brands itself as having "the best beef in the region". This restaurant has a out in the boondocks feel to it, given its location, and is done up in the American diner style. We sat outside in the balmy night air for the very prosaic reason of keeping an eye on the car which was parked illegally by the roadside (there is a frustrating lack of parking spaces in the area), although there was not much ambience to talk of.

There was a hugely astonishing variety of food on the menu - ranging from local items like laksa, satay, fried rice, to western dishes like pizza, pasta, steaks ... etc ... which made me a little suspicious of the quality since I always feel that restaurants that specialise in a smaller number of dishes can focus better and do those well, rather than stretch themselves too thin.

Anyway, on to the food. I ordered what I had come for - steak! 200 gm of tenderloin, done medium rare, with black pepper sauce on the side ($34.90). This included two sides of stewed vegetables in a tomato based sauce, and mashed potato. The grilling skill of the chef was simply superb! My steak was very juicy and succulent and done perfectly medium rare. However, it lacked the depth of flavour and sweetness that comes with properly dry-aged meat and was not salted. This might not have mattered much to most of the diners around me who I observed to be dunking sauce over their steaks, but since I eat steak neat sans sauce, the quality of the meat did make a difference. Can't beat Morton's ... by quite a long way.

Nevertheless, above average food with fairly reasonable prices. An option to consider if you're in the region.

Hooha! Cafe
220 Pasir Panjang Road
Pasir Panjang Village

Monday, September 21, 2009


Fridays are my favourite day of the week, how better to celebrate the start of the weekend than to enjoy a slow lunch at a nice restaurant? Our pick last Friday was Prive, located at the very glamorous Keppel Bay Marina, on a teeny-tiny man made island just next to Vivocity. Perfect for gawking at the rich and famous and the shiny white yachts bobbing serenely in the waters.

Oddly enough for such a stunning and uber-chic location, the restaurant itself was windowless and had a boxed-in feel, not helped by the low ceiling. Wonder why the restaurant let such great views go to waste? While the furnishings were obviously plush and luxe, the decor was somewhat characterless. No matter, we were there for the food, so this did not detract from our enjoyment of the day.

We were there for the very good value set lunch ($32 for 3 courses, 4 choices for each course, and includes coffee / tea) - this started off on a good note with an assortment of warm delicious bread (sourdough, hard roll, and foccacia), followed by an amuse-bouche of tomato and capsicum gazpacho. Simple it might be, but with its slight tanginess this was a refreshing treat for the palate, sparking our appetites for what was to follow.

I chose the ocean trout confit (with citrus emulsion, ponzu jelly, fennel salad) for my starter and WOW, this dish was beautiful to look at and even more beautiful to experience.... The smorgasbord of flavours melded wonderfully together, giving a beautiful Asian hint to this dish, and the texture of that fish, oh! so smooth and melting that it quivered and slithered right down my throat in one second.

W chose the furikake crusted tuna tataki (with julienned konbu and carrot, sesame seed), another dish with a strong Japanese influence to it, which I thought was okay but not fantastic. Y had the broccoli soup which I didn't sample, since thick soups are not to my liking (maybe that's why she keeps on ordering soups when eating out with me, haha!)

For my main, I went with the sous-vide chicken roulad (with celeriac puree, snow pea salad, brazil mushroom emulsion) since I adore anything cooked under a slow heat. As expected, the texture was very soft and smooth, and both W and Y had nothing but praise for it .... but the devil in my head couldn't help but compare it to my own brined chicken which I think is even more succulent and tasty. I also felt that there was also a bit too much stuff happening on my plate, for instance, the brazil mushroom emulsion didn't add anything to the overall taste and feel of this dish. The chef would have done better to put fewer distractions on the plate!

W's main of slow baked golden snapper (with squid and ratatouille cannelloni, scented shoyu beurre blanc) fared less well. We both agreed that it tasted slightly fishy, although the skin was nicely crisp.

While Y decided upon her usual pasta dish of fettucine aglio olio (with prawn, onion, garlic, chilli, italian parsley), which was alright although the sakura ebi and scallop cappellini that I had the night before at One Rochester seemed to be better.

Desserts, always a difficult choice. Y had the best pick of the day, with her trio of citrus sorbet (blood orange, orange, lemon). That blood orange sorbet was downright addictive - in W's words, "like a very delicious and sweet grapefruit". W opted for the red bean creme brulee (red bean paste, black and white sesame tuile) which was rather good. Less happily for me, my dessert turned out to be the blooper of the meal - apricot gratin (almond pain gene, tahitian vanilla honey glaze) - it tasted like a super ordinary cake with a little bit of almond and honey flavouring, and the apricots weren't caramelized sufficiently to bring out their sweetness either.

Overall, the three of us had a good and definitely value-for-money lunch at Prive, despite the uneven quality of some dishes. When their attempts at infusing Asian flavours into western dishes work, they pull it off in spades and the diner is well-rewarded for taking the risk. It is a place that I would go back to again as a destination dining locale (despite the bizarre lack of windows), although taking care to select the right dishes.
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oyster Omelette, "Or Luak"

I whipped up this easy one-dish meal as a Sunday lunch treat, seeing that I was having cravings for the hawker centre favourite of Oyster Omelette, which is better known as Or Luak. I modified a recipe featured in the Mar 2007 copy of Simply Her magazine - this is the low oil and healthy version which only has 180 calories per serving but still tastes good!

Serves 2 to 3
1/2 cup oysters (i used frozen)
5 tbsp sweet potato flour
100ml water
1 tbsp light soya sauce (i used fish sauce)
1 tbsp Chinese wine
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 spring onions, cut into 3 cm lengths
chopped garlic
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 sprigs coriander leaves (also known as chinese parsley or yuan sui), chopped
Chilli sauce and a wedge of lime, to serve (i used nandos hot sauce)

Season oysters with a splash of Chinese wine. Mix sweet potato flour, water, light soya sauce, salt, Chinese wine and pepper. Heat oil in large non-stick pan over a very hot fire, and saute garlic. Pour in sweet potato flour mixture, and wait for about 20 seconds or longer, until flour mixture becomes crisp at edges. Crack eggs over. When eggs are set, add oysters and spring onions. After 10 seconds, stir and break up omelette. Serve garnished with coriander and squeeze the lime over.

N.B. Use a large pan and hot fire, to ensure that the sweet potato mixture is spread thinly and can crisp well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

One Rochester

One Rochester is truly enchanting. From twilight, when the day slowly fades into the night, the sky turns from the palest shades of blue, to violet streaked with amber, and then to the deepest velvety indigo. Lush trees and palms gently sway and rustle in the breeze, fairy lights strung from the tree branches transport you to a magical grotto, while the musical twinkle of water in the background and flickering candles slowly lull your senses into a state of almost hypnogogic relaxation.

Dinner here with friends, to chill out and talk about important things in life. By sheer coincidence E was also at a place called Rochester - although some 15,000 km away in Minnesota, on a work trip. I opted to have the cappellini with sakuri ebi and grilled scallops in scampi oil ($28), which called out to me as soon as I flipped open the menu (it must be memories of that Iggy's dish) A great pick, very tasty and moreish, in a generous serving size. If they had used fresh sakuri ebi instead of dried, and cut down a little on the oil, it would have elevated the dish into the realm of the very special. The desserts were lacklustre (we shared a dessert platter at $20 for 4 types), which is somewhat of a shame since this place would be great for hanging out with friends over shared desserts.

Come for the ambience, which is worth the out-of-the-way location and frustrating parking, but the food is more than decent, at prices that wouldn't break the bank.

One Rochester
1 Rochester Park

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chicken-broth Ramen at Torisho Taka

Given that earlier positive experience with the kurobuta pork and the positively dreamy cheesecake, I decided to quickly return to Torisho Taka to check out whether their chicken-broth ramen stood up to the stalwarts of Miharu and Menya Shinchan nearby.

True-blue ramen aficionados will be horrified by such sacrilege and insist that ramen broth must be made with pork bone – a chicken-based broth is but a poor imitator and pale whimper of the real stuff. Well since I was not so fanatical about ramen, I was pretty open about trying chicken-broth ramen, figuring that since Torisho Taka is a “chicken specialist”, this would probably be one of the better ones around.

Sorry to say, I was rather disappointed, since the chicken broth was comparatively bland and mild. Yes, I could taste the chicken, but this was akin to a little baa-baa bleat compared to the full-bodied roar of Menya Shinchan’s oily but oh-so-full-of-rich-pork-flavour broth. The egg was done to the right level, with oozing creamy yolk and soft white, but again it lacked taste and depth of flavour, likely because it was prepared using the relatively weaker chicken broth. Indeed having eaten *the best* stuff it is very difficult to settle for less. Nevertheless, lunch ended well with that dreamy cheesecake again.

So if you are going to Torisho Taka for lunch, skip the ramen and have the wagyu beef which my friends pronounced as buttery and very good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

About Life

Sharing this beautiful cover of the Sam Hui classic by my favourite singer Emil Chau: 浪子心聲

命里有时终须有 命里无时莫强求

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No more getting lost

This is a really nifty and useful navigational tool for Singapore locations. Simply choose your mode of transportation (car, bus, taxi, mrt) and key in your location, destination, and settings like departure time, whether you wish to avoid expressways or erp, and voila, it shows you the recommended route!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Durian Cake and Blue Ginger

For my mother's birthday celebration last Sunday, we got a durian cake from the famous Jane's Cake Station at Jalan Kayu, as I had no time to bake cakes this year (see the 08 cake and 07 cake). My mum loves the durian cake from Jane's as it has a strong fragrance and the sponge is moist and soft, although I think they use a bit too much buttercream in the filling and for decoration. At $38 for the small size cake, it's pricey so I am thinking of getting next year's cake from Goodwood Park Hotel, which judging from their durian puffs, should be even better :-)

Later that evening, we went to Blue Ginger restaurant along Tanjong Pagar road for dinner - peranakan food served in 'semi fine-dining' style. We sampled a huge variety of 9 dishes in their special dinner set menu at $90 for 4 persons - including ayam buah keluak (my favourite candlenut stewed chicken dish), assam fish, and a super rich and fragrant durian chendol. While the quality of the fare was fairly good, I do think that Blue Ginger's standard has dropped somewhat in recent years - for instance, the ayam buah keluak was a bit more sourish than I would have liked and the assam fish could have benefited from a more concentrated and textured fish stock. While Chilli Padi (located at Joo Chiat Place) serves up great tasting peranakan food, however, since we go there so often, a change to Blue Ginger is nice once in a while!

Monday, September 7, 2009


A little something to cheer me up late on Saturday night. This frozen yogurt is delicious, with just the right tinge of tartness and sweetness, and a super smooth and creamy texture. Like ice-cream, but much healthier! It is so light that I actually felt quite virtuous even after gobbling down a whole lot of it. We got the large Yoguberry (with a mix of acai and blueberry) at only $5, sans topping, and the two of us small eaters had to struggle to finish it.
Yoguru is located at Kallang Leisure Park, near the Indoor Stadium. This is actually a nice little mall to wander around in, with ample parking, no crowds, quaint boutiques and a cinema and supermarket to boot.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Classy Lunch at Torisho Taka

Torisho Taka by Aoki is part of the venerable Les Amis group of restaurants, however not many people know about it. Tucked away discreetly on the second floor of Gallery Hotel, sliding the simple wooden door open will transport you to a quiet, tranquil, and definitely very posh looking interior. While Torisho Taka specializes in yakitori, however, for lunch, the grill is not fired up and only set lunches or the dishes on the ala carte menu are available. The three of us dithered for a while over whether to order the wagyu beef or kurobuta pork. Eventually the kurobuta won out and we all ordered different variations (kurobuta don, kurobuta with teriyaki sauce, kurobuta with ginger). All sets include a light wafu salad, chawanmushi, pickles, dessert (no question about it, just go straight for the cheesecake option), and premium tea. They were priced affordably too, starting from $22 from the ramen sets, while the Australian kurobuta and wagyu sets were about $30.

My kurobuta pork was juicy and oily and served on a bed of soft, fluffy and super fragrant Japanese rice- Oiishi! One of my dining companions fared less well with his teriyaki kurobuta, which was a little tough, so he might have gotten the less fatty cut of meat. The chawanmushi drew nothing but praises from all of us – über silky smooth in a wondrously tasty chicken broth, in fact better than Tatsuya’s chawanmushi that had been my favourite so far. It was only later that I realized that Torisho actually stands for “chicken specialist” so perhaps we should have ordered the chicken dishes or the ramen in chicken broth. And that cheesecake! Drool… it was the best Japanese version that I’ve tasted, light but still rich and creamy…I ate it very very slowly, bit by bit, so that I could stretch out the enjoyment.

Service is absolutely beyond reproach, as expected from a Les Amis restaurant. As we were eating, the place slowly but steadily filled up with what looked like (very rich) regulars, much to our surprise, so it looks like it’s a well-kept secret among the tai-tai community.