Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goto Kaiseki


This was a magical, stunning, sublimal experience that transported us right back to Kyoto. Kaiseki (懐石)is a multi-course elegant and refined dining experience inspired by the seasons, each course an exquisite homage to the freshest offerings from nature, and artistically showcased on beautiful crockery.


Our first course of five mini delicacies had us exclaiming in delight. From the wondrously smooth handmade tofu with a tiny dab of freshly grated wasabi, the crunchy grilled bamboo with miso, the lightly tangy pickled lotus root with plum paste, the superbly tender raw ika (squid) with vinegared cucumber, to the unbelievably tasty chawanmushi with morsels of anago (sea eel), each delicacy was a teensy culinary revelation.


Then came the sashimi. Beautifully glistening cuts of yellowtail, scallop, ika, and hirame (flatfish), presented like jewels in a treasure box. Stunningly fresh and bursting with exquisite flavour. I can't remember how long it was since I've tasted sashimi like this.


The tempura - pumpkin, yam, prawn, whiting fish wrapped with seaweed, and shiso pepper - coated in a light-as-air batter was still piping hot and tantalisingly crunchy when it reached our table. Just a mere squidgen of lemon to perfume the seafood was enough.


The stewed dish came as a deepfried arrowhead root stuffed with anago (sea eel), served in an ankake sauce with nameko mushrooms and chopped carrots. I've never eaten arrowhead root before so this was very interesting, although I didn't quite care for the somewhat slimy texture of the sauce.


We were expecting the usual rice dish with pickles on the side next, but out came this marvellously pretty miniature chiraishi of pickles and stewed vegetables. The accompanying bowl of miso soup was so extraordinarily flavourful and rich with umami goodness that we drank every last drop.


The last course of dessert comprised a trio of grapefruit and jelly with yoghurt, brown tea pudding with a "suprise" gula melaka base, and sliced tropical fruits. I loved the slight bitterness and aroma of the brown tea pudding, which was complemented perfectly by the sweet gula melaka syrup.

A completely breathtaking and very very special experience that defies description. Lunch kaiseki (six courses) at SGD68, dinner kaiseki at SGD180 or SGD280 (eleven courses). What more is there to be said? Go to GOTO. I am dreaming up excuses to return for dinner real soon.

14 Ann Siang Road
Tel: 6438 153 (reservations essential)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

screening room

screening room

A luxuriously indulgent day.

Breakfast of al-dente spaghetti tossed with mushroom and summer truffle spread and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Two hours of therapeutically blissful massage at The Sensory Suite.

Cosy tête-à-tête lunch with D at the screening room. A very cool destination venue with integrated film theatre, bar, and bistro. Loved the chi-chi boho vibe and the luxe feel of the bistro. The three course set lunch, priced at SGD28.50, came with a starter of either yusheng (Singaporean-style raw fish salad, a nod to the Chinese New Year) or tomato soup (with cumin, basil pesto and labne cream). This was followed by pan-fried red snapper with spicy couscous and herbed butter, and ended with dark chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Food was of a very decent standard, with interesting mediterranean / east-asian influences, and the great company and conversation made it taste even better.

screening room
12 Ann Siang Road

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skinny Pizza

This was really unimpressive, a damp squib. The so-called skinny pizzas are nothing more than various toppings heaped onto a thin cracker crust - therein the name. Our choice of braised veal cheek, onion jam, spring thyme and sage (SGD25 for 12 inch size) sounded impressive on paper but the combination fell completely flat (pun intended), with the flavours failing to pop individually or harmonize collectively. The veal cheeks while suitably tender, were tasteless and overwhelmed by the too sweet onion jam. As for the cracker base, all I can say is went 'crack'. I wouldn't be coming back for seconds!

One has to admit though, that this is a brilliant business model, since the crackers seem to be all pre-made, which means there is no need to hire anyone to roll pizza dough or purchase a pizza oven, or even cook! All the staff need to do is to assemble different ingredients - probably cooked in a central kitchen somewhere - and heat up the entire concoction, which takes like a grand total of 5 minutes. In short: Premium prices + no chef / cooking skills required + no specialised kitchen equipment + fast crowd turnover = lotsa $$$$$ for the owners!

Skinny Pizza
Wheelock Place, #03-04

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spanish-style Fried Fish?

Jose Andres style fried fish

Spanish is currently the flavour of the month in our home, all thanks to the irrepressibly exuberant José Andres, celebrity chef and host of the PBS programme "Made in Spain".

In one of the episodes, José whips up a easy dish of fried fish which we replicated using a red snapper fillet. It's as simple as rubbing some salt and lemon juice over the pieces of fish, dunking them in flour, dredging in beaten egg, and then deep-frying till they are golden. Upon frying, the egg-flour coating forms a crispy crust which protects the fish inside from the high heat, ensuring that it remains beautifully succulent, moist and juicy. I don't think this technique is particularly Spanish since there are practically identical methods used elsewhere (British Fish and Chips, anyone?) but it was certainly yummelicious, easy and quick!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar

Yoshimaru Hakata Ramen

There has been a profusion of ramen bars popping up on the island recently, some a lot better than others. This is great news for those who love food ... hang on... that would mean practically all Singaporeans! Since I had made arrangements to meet a friend at Holland Village, Yoshimaru Ramen Bar was a convenient lunch spot. Yet another franchise imported from Japan, and operated in Singapore by the Jumbo Seafood group. I opted for the traditional Hakata ramen, with thin noodles (SGD11). My bowl of ramen was not fantastic, but better than what I was expecting. The broth was half-decent even if it was lacking in oomph and depth - on further reflection, it probably had not been simmered with pork bones for sufficiently long, or horrors, relied on artificial flavouring. But that tasty tamago made up for it - perfectly cooked, with soft whites and a creamy, slightly runny yolk. I preferred my noodles with a lot more bounce than what Yoshimaru was serving up though.

I wouldn't mind coming back here for a quick meal in future, although for me, Miharu still hits the spot (well Santouka and Menya Shinchan are close contenders). Interestingly, I have observed that individual tastes on the subject of ramen can be very subjective to the point of zealousness, so what appeals to me (extremely rich and oily broth, thick bouncy and chewy Hokkaido noodles) might be hated by another (for example, dear W in France). So go out there and eat noodles! You never know what you might stumble upon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Restaurant Week Singapore

Loosen your belts, Restaurant Week is coming to Singapore!

The concept is simple and hardly new in other cities - during one heady week from 22 Mar to 28 Mar, participating restaurants offer special three course menus at SGD25 for lunch or SGD35 for dinner. Sweeeet. (Although there are additional charges of SGD15 for lunch/SGD20 for dinner for certain restaurants. Mostly the ones that I wanna check out. )

A quick scroll through the list of participating restaurants revealed the usual suspects offering mediocre fare but also sterling names like Fifty-Three, Tatsuya, Otto, Absinthe. Unfortunately when I logged on to the online reservation website, they were already fully booked for every single slot (lunch, dinner, every day) of Restaurant Week. I wasn't that slow off the mark, so this made me wonder if the restuarants had made available only a very limited number of covers for this event.

Eventually we did manage to make reservations for two restaurants that we had been wanting to try (more than one, why not?) . My buoyant mood at having scored reservations couldn't be spoilt even by the appalling language and punctuation on the website ("during the Restaurant Week Singapore we can enjoy three course high class menu's for only s$35,-!"). Not very "high class" indeed.

Apparently members of the public can only make bookings from 23 Feb but this link (purportedly for AMEX cardholders) seems to work:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Le Figue, Camden Medical Centre

Perhaps it was the sheer incongruousness of having a French fine-dining restaurant located in a medical centre which piqued my curiosity. So it was, that Le Figue was the restaurant of choice for this month's lunch escapade with Y.

The three course set lunch was a good deal at $28.

Le Figue salad

My salad of red cabbage, frisee lettuce, confit cherry tomato and lightly battered and fried whitebait came beautifully plated, a sight for the eyes indeed. The cherry tomatoes were wondrously sweet and intense but I didn't care much for the rather tasteless whitebait. However, the curious lack of any dressing as the unifying touch to pull all the ingredients together meant that this salad felt like a mish-mash of disparate elements and tastes.
Y went for the french onion soup with gruyere cheese and a herb crouton. I thought that it was rather too salty for my tastes but she assured me that it was delicious (and so did two dainty Japanese tai-tais at the table next to us, judging from their evident enjoyment of the soup).

Le Figue chicken

My main of chicken ballotine stuffed with creamed spinach and wrapped with parma ham, served over a bed of chickpeas cooked in duck fat was a wonderful marriage of tastes and textures. The parma ham wrapping had been grilled to a savoury thin crisp which melted on the tongue while the chicken meat was beautifully moist and succulent.

Le Figue fish

Y also fared well with her sous-vide sole fillet served with celeriac mousseline and a medley of vegetables. The meltingly smooth and tasty fish didn't require any sauce to go along with it, which was just as well seeing that both of us didn't like the creamy unctousness of the mousseline (in Singlish, it would be described as too "jelak").

Le Figue Dessert

Lunch ended on a sweet note with the dessert of pear tart with vanilla ice cream, which had the most unbelievably buttery and crumbly crust.

To sum up, there were certainly many high points and the dishes were well executed, but stopped short of the wow factor, perhaps not surprisingly given that set lunches are usually not the best gauge of a chef's creativity and sense of adventure in food. As you can tell, I am getting a little bored here.....

Le Figue: 1 Orchard Boulevard, Camden Medical Centre, #01-01/02

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two Little Visitors for Chinese New Year

Sunbird 1

Every day our balcony garden is visited by two happy little sunbirds. It is such a joy to watch our little visitors chirp away merrily and flit from pot to pot.

Sunbird 2

Wishing all Health, Happiness, and Good Tidings in the New Year!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

KFC sells Egg Tarts?

KFC Portuguese Egg Tart

Isn't it really strange that KFC of all places, sells Portuguese egg tarts? I was sufficiently curious to go and check it out after finding out about it. These were quite decent, with a flaky filo pastry (although not quite buttery enough) and nicely quivery custard that was not too sweet. At only SGD1.30 each, this is one snack that wouldn't break the bank! Not all the KFC outlets stock the egg tarts, so check out their website at for the detailed listing.

Afternote: On second thought, perhaps this is not so strange afterall, seeing that the McDonalds outlets in France sell macaroons!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spice Peranakan, Biopolis

After Wong Ah Yoke of the Straits Times gave Spice Peranakan a glowing review last year, this place was apparently packed with crowds for a couple of months, no mean feat given its ultra-remote location in Biopolis. Haha, behold the power of the WAY effect. Since I try to avoid wasting time queuing at media-hyped new places, I waited till the initial frenzy had dissipated before checking this place out. The restaurant serves decent-priced set lunches - $15 gets you a meat / fish dish, a vegetable dish, steamed white rice, a dessert, and a soft drink or coffee/tea.

My friend Mel and I both had the Ayam Tempra– braised chicken in a tangy-sweet and subtly spicy dark soya gravy, with soft brown caramelized onions. This was good stuff with deliciously gooey gravy sweet from the onions and sugar (apparently very easy to cook too! I append a recipe here for WY to consider. )

Vegetable dishes were chap chye - a light mixed vegetable stew of cabbage, carrots, beancurd skin, black fungus and mushrooms; and sayur lodeh - mixed vegetables stewed in a mild coconut curry. Unfortunately these were very ordinary due to insufficient taste and body in the stock. The dessert of pulut hitam (sweet black glutinous rice pudding with coconut cream) was passable but nothing very much to shout about.

All in, I think Spice Peranakan is probably good enough for a decent bite if you’re in the area, but not worth making a special trip to Biopolis for. This wouldn’t be challenging my faves for Peranakan food, Chilli Padi and Peranakan Inn (both in the Joo Chiat area), anytime soon.

Spice Peranakan
20 Biopolis Way
#01-01 Centros

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sun Fong Bak Kut Teh, Kuala Lumpur

I have a thing for clear Asian-style soups, served piping hot. So how could I resist when some colleagues wanted to have Bak Kut Teh (pork ribs served in hot broth), even after I had already eaten two dinners within 2 hours? (Long story but in short I had gobbled down a quarter grilled chicken from Nandos, a bowl of assam laksa from Little Penang Cafe, and two spoonfuls of Mdm Kwan’s Nasi Lemak, all located at KL Convention Centre by this point...)

A short cab ride from the KLCC later, we made it to Sun Fong Bak Kut Teh at Jalan Imbi just as the skies crashed open and truckloads of rain came pouring down. Perfect weather for drinking soup! Sun Fong is really rather touristy and many Malaysians think that it is overpriced and not as good as other places but it was the most convenient for us.

The version of Bak Kut Teh served here is in the Hokkien style – dark and herbal in taste, rather than the Teochew style (lighter and peppery) more common in Singapore. Our order (about RM24 for a two person serving) came bubbling hot in a claypot packed chock-a-block with all manner of porky cuts and offal: belly, ribs, intestines, liver, kidneys. This certainly made for interesting eating although I contented myself with just drinking soup to save my much-abused stomach. This was pretty gut-warming and the taste of herbs and ginger in the broth was nicely balanced and not too strong as to be off-putting to me, although my personal taste preference still runs towards Ya Hua’s Teochew style Bak Kut Teh. They also sell sachets of their soup mix for cooking at home (10 packets for RM60…pricey!).

Sun Fong Bak Kut Teh: 35 Medan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur (Tel: +603-2141 4064)
Open from 5am to 12 midnight

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kluang RailCoffee

I have been travelling this entire week in Malaysia for work and hence the paucity of posts. But as everyone knows, there is good food to be found everywhere in Malaysia and hence it was scarcely any hardship at all. In Johor, we made a special detour for the famous Kluang coffee, located in a very humble coffeeshop just next to the railway station.

Woah! This was good proper "kopi", strong, rich and fragrant, accompanied by charcoal-grilled toast slathered with kaya and slabs of butter. I bought some back home to brew too - 300grams selling for only 6 Malaysian ringgit (SGD2.50). But the unexpected scene stealer? The tiny nasi lemak packages on the table (70 sen each). Simple stuff, nothing fanciful - just some coconut rice accompanied by a devilishly good sambal chilli - but oh! so wonderfully addictive. And sometimes that is all that one needs.
Kluang Rail Coffee
Stesen Keretapi Kluang, Kluang, Johor
33, Jalan Manggis, Kluang, Johor

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mattar Road Seafood BBQ

A "three-chopstick" rated stall by Makansutra, famous for its seafood dishes, located in the eastern part of the island, but despite living in the area most of my life I had never tried Mattar Road Seafood BBQ before.

For dinner a couple of weekends ago with my parents, we ordered the white pepper crabs, grilled sambal stingray, grilled sambal sotong, and a fried vegetable dish. After our heightened expectations, the food turned out only a-OK. There was nothing spectacular or particularly memorable about the sambal chilli or the white pepper sauce (not enough fire or kick!!!), although the crab was sweet and meaty. But at the unbeatable price of SGD68 for 4 persons, it's really more than decent if you're looking for a simple and reliable seafood meal.

Mattar Road Seafood BBQ (the signboard contains a typo and has it down as "Matter" Road)
Blk 51 Old Airport Road (Old Airport Road Hawker Centre)