Watami

31 03 2010

The salient features of most casual dining restaurants are usually the sub-par food quality and the tardy service. Hence, expectations were definitely non-existent when I decided to sample Watami’s lunch sets priced from $8.90++.

All lunch sets come with a not so appetizing salad. The lettuce was old and dry.

The Pork Cutlet in Sizzling Drizzled Egg Set($9.80++) was surprisingly good. The cutlet came separately from the raw egg and you pour it into the hotplate whenever you are ready which effectively obviates the issue of a soggy cutlet. Only very slightly paler in comparison to Tonkichi, the pork was juicy and the batter crisp, just the way it should be.

The Ginger Pork Stone Pot Rice Set($9.80++) was like a hotplate shabu shabu which I found pretty average and simple.

The Chashu Ramen & Small Chirashi Set($12.80++) was really feeling, best for those who intend to carbo-load. I liked the Chirashi, a decent mix of unagi, tobiko(flying fish roe), tako, tuna, salmon with shreds of tamago over rice. Anyway just basic side info about the basic roes found in Jap cuisine. In ascending order in terms of size, Mentaiko(Alaskan Pollock Roe) is usually pink or red and slightly smaller than Ebiko, Ebiko(Shrimp roe) is the really small orange coloured ones, Tobiko(Flying Fish Roe) usually comes in orange(sometimes in yellow or black) and is slightly larger than the Ebiko and lastly the Ikura(Salmon Roe) which are the large red ones.   

The Chashu Ramen on the other hand was way disappointing. How did a semi-cooked lava yolk turn into a hard boiled egg? Moreover, the Chashu was tough and chewy, the soup salty and the ramen pretty much tasting like a badly done Maggi Mee. Word of advice, Stay Away…

Unless I’m desperate for a Buta Hire Katsu(Pork Cutlet), I would probably give Watami a miss in future. The food here was way too casual for me…

Bon Appetit!

 

 

WATAMI (THE CENTRAL @ CLARKE QUAY)

6 EU TONG SEN STREET #03-82/83/85/102/108/109

TEL: +65 6323 3398





Songfa Bak Ku Teh (New Bridge Road)

31 03 2010

I am usually pro air-con but there are some foods that just taste better when eaten out in bustling coffeeshop settings(even when clad in office wear). Just to name a few, BBQ stingray, satay and BAK KUT TEH!

Songfa Bak Kut Teh is one of my more recent discoveries and I have come to realise it is actually quite famous and especially popular among the working crowd around the Clarke Quay area.

There are 2 distinct forms of Bak Kut Teh, the clear peppery ones and the black herbal ones. Songfa falls under the former category which coincidentally is also my preferred type. Bak Kut Teh($5.50/small) came as a trio of fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with refillable soup. The pepperiness of the soup was just to my liking, not intense enough to be choking but still enough to give me a kick. Good stuff.

Even in the absence of the Bak Kut Teh, I’d have to admit that the Braised Pig Trotters($5.50/small) is reason enough to return.

Of course, to achieve guilt-free status from such a porky lunch, we also ordered a Oyster Sauce Kai Lan($3/small) to share.

If you are indeed a Bak Kut Teh lover, you have to come down personally to try this and if you are not, still come down to try it and you will instantly transform into one!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

SONGFA BAK KUT TEH

11 NEW BRIDGE ROAD #01-01

TEL: +65 6533 6128





Kyomomoyama

29 03 2010

If you had read the The Sunday Times Lifestyle Food Section yesterday, you would have come across the article regarding the large number of new Japanese eateries conglomerating at Millenia Walk which deeply excites me. However, there is yet another mall which houses an extensive number of Jap eateries that I think is worthy of mention – The Central Mall @ Clarke Quay. Diners looking for casual Jap dining are definitely spoilt for choice here, with Waraku having a strong foothold with all of it’s 3 branch types here(namely Pasta de Waraku, Waraku Casual Dining & Mr Curry), highly raved ramen shops Santuoka Ramen and Marutama Ramen, Watami, Kyomomoyama, Azabu Sabo, Jap fusion restuarant Ma Maison and last but not least my favourite casual jap dining restuarant Sun with Moon all situated within the mall. 

Today’s lunch brought me to Kyomomoyama, a Jap restaurant that first opened shop in Taiwan(or so I have heard). The simple yet elegant decor and polite staff had me always assuming that dining here wasn’t so much casual dining as it was casual paying through the nose. It was only today that I realised that Kyomomoyama offers very decent and afforable set lunches starting from $6++. Quite unbelievable and it made me question on the quality.

 

The Salmon Don($6++) was first to arrive. I was surprised that there was such a generous combination of grilled as well as Salmon Sashimi. For this price, it was indeed worth the money even if the salmon was thinly sliced.

The Sushi Set($6++) was pretty awesome too. 10 sushis for $6? People might have mistaken me from shopping at the Jap corner of Fairprice. Oh did I mention that lunch sets come with a decent Miso Soup too? I actually felt quite bad because it felt like I was shortchanging the restaurant.

Food here was a steal with uncompromising service and quality. The staff was also sincerely amicable and warm. Notwithstanding the fact that I haven’t really tried out much of the menu, I’m sure it is pretty decent. After all, if they could do it with $7, just imagine the indulgence when you do start throwing your $10 bills at them.

Bon Appetit!

 

6 Eu Tong Sen Street

#03-87/100/101/110 The Central @ Clarke Quay

Tel: +65 6534 8001





Grand Shanghai

28 03 2010

Today is the last day of Singapore’s Restaurant Week(22-28 Mar 2010) and guess what, this totally slipped my mind till late last nite and hence I haven’t been able to claim my piece of the pie in trying out some of Singapore’s most atas and fine restaurants at a fraction of their original prices…and thus I rant.

I was hoping that a relaxing Sunday luncheon at Grand Shanghai @ Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel would be able to appease my non-participation in Restaurant Week.

I really love the ambience here, it’s very chic and retains the classic old-school charm of a typical classy Shanghai restaurant. During dinner, a live band will be performing on stage and customers can request for songs(as in those chinese or dialect songs, not Bad Romance by Lady Gaga since the band uses traditional chinese instruments). Clad in cheongsams with a graceful air about them, the singers never fail to blow the crowd away.

  

The Sharksfin Soup with Crabmeat($28++/pax) was splendid. The broth was thick and savoury, the fins were intact and crunchy and there were very generous chunks of fresh crabmeat(unlike those brittle shreds found elsewhere) hidden at the base of the bowl. Yummmm…

Fancy something lighter on the palate, then the Jinghua Ham Soup($10/pax or $28/small pot) is for you(actually I can’t remember the exact name of this dish). The milky broth was sweet, salty and amazingly replete with umami goodness. It was pretty obvious that long hours had gone into the boiling process of what I guess must have been tonnes of pork bones, Jinghua Ham, Bamboo Shoots and Baby Xiao Bai Cai to create such a flavourful stock. The wad of Beancurd Skin was also essential in toning down the myriad of flavours present in this dish and keeps one from getting overwhelmed. This milky broth actually reminded me of a tonkotsu ramen broth, except that I haven’t had one so rich and orgasmic before.

Most chinese restaurants serve a mean Crispy Chicken or Peking Duck but instead of these more abundantly found dishes, one of Grand Shanghai specialities is actually the Crispy Duck($30++/half duck). It was the embodiment of a Chinese version Duck Confit, albeit a lot drier and tougher(probably because a shorter curing process was involved nor was it cooked in it’s own fat). The Crispy Duck here is eaten the same way as to how you would eat a Kong Ba Pao(Belly Pork with Bun) but I didn’t really enjoy it, I’d still prefer the conventional Peking Duck or a French Duck Confit anyday.

I know that it’s so been there done that but I could never resist a nice fatty Cod Loin, despite it being one of the easiest fish to cook due to it’s natural fatty taste. The Deep Fried Cod Fish with Garlic($12/piece) had a piquancy originating mainly from the garlic which I thought added a simple yet effective dimension to an otherwise nice but boring dish. On the other spectrum, the Steamed Cod with Egg White and Scallops($12/piece) held back on the spices to successfully capture the mild sweetness of the fish(hidden under all the egg white in the pic). My only gripe was the case of the missing scallops…since I didn’t see nor taste the presence of any.

I really enjoyed the Braised Sea Cucumber with Shrimp Roe($36/portion). They used my favourite type of Sea Cucumbers…the large and soft ones and they were well braised with an infusion of thick saporous gravy. It was so smooth and melt in your mouth that one can easily mistake it for a lump of pork lard, sans the calories and cholesterol. However, I did feel that the shrimp roe was redundant and was only around to make the dish sound more posh. Mum also mentioned that the Spinach was overcooked but who cares really? It’s the Sea Cucumbers I’m here for anyway.

  

After eating healthy “pork lard”, I deserved a reward of the real deal and it came in the form of the Braised Pork Knuckle in Brown Sauce($22/portion). Anyway, do you know the common similarity between drug abuse, smoking and eating Braised Pork Knucles? It’s because you know it’s going to come back to bite your ass sooner or later but you do it anyway because it’s awesome(not insinuating that I support drug abuse or smoking though…I’m a neutral and don’t take sides on such sueable issues :p). So yes, the Pork Knucles were awesome, especially the fats, sinfully silky smooth as it slides down your throat with no risk of choking whatsoever, well worth to the last calorie…

 

Of course, we also had a Fried Dou Miao with Garlic to wash down all the cloyingly unhealthy rich foods. Frying Dou Miao is child’s play(I think), guess it’s pretty standard fare so no comments about it.

As always, food here was good, if not great. Service though was very questionable. Most of the time, we ended up refilling our own tea and I could detect a not so subtle tiresome attitude from the wait staff after we asked if we could doggy bag some food since we overordered. I really hope that this was a once off drop in service standards because my previous visits had been most memorable(somehow especially the Drunken Chicken). After all, dining here is not a humble affair and hence I have no wish to be treated humbly.

Bon Appetit!

 

GRAND SHANGHAI

392 HAVELOCK ROAD, 1ST FLOOR GRAND COPTHORNE WATERFRONT HOTEL

TEL: +65 6836 6866





Food For Thought (Queens Street)

26 03 2010

I truly envy the tai-tai lifestyle in all of it’s wonder and am desperately searching for the apparently absent term describing a male tai-tai which I strongly desire to be (The closest I can come up with is bum). Anyway for bums and tai-tais alike, I believe that this idyllic artsy fartsy cafe aka Food For Thought is a godsend. It is the kind of cafe where the staff are friendly and you can just sit back and relax, enjoy a nice sandwich while watching the world go by. What’s more, Food For Thought is what I would call a “Socially Aware Cafe” as it supports causes such as the education of East Timorese children through the selling of various novelty items and trinkets within the restaurant.

A relatively new establishment, Food For Thought @ Queen Street(located next to SMU’s administration building) is just over a month old(I think) and serves a different menu(I would say slightly more upclass) from the Food For Thought @ North Bridge Centre. It’s interior design falls under the contemporary and modern category with the glasses on the ceiling very reminiscent of the design @ Mad For Garlic in Suntec City.

The Chai Spiced Brulee Salmon($22++) was served with Smoked Red Capsicum Risotto & Mango Ginger Chutney. The Salmon was really well executed, a crisp surface unvealing a pink flesh so soft and tender with no hint of overcooking. The Chai Spice gave the Salmon a not so mild sweetness which I felt could have been done without. I didn’t fancy the risotto, a tad too salty for me. Since I’m no mango nor ginger fan, I didn’t really appreciate the Mango Ginger Chutney as it tasted like jam to me but JH and AD really liked it…at least it made the taste of the risotto less overbearing.

The Really Good Steak with Blue Cheese Butter($25++) was served with Rosemary Garlic Fries and Honey Shallot Raisin Chutney. I think Food For Thought made a mistake in my order though, what they served me was just Average Steak with Blue Cheese Butter. Ok, I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to deciphering the different cuts of beef(striploin, sirloin, tenderloin…you get the picture) but I think mine was a sirloin. I’m quite a fussy steak eater and I love the occasional well marbled steak. The one here was too salty and the cut of meat was what I would expect from Astons. Then again, I shan’t continue ranting since you can’t get an awesome cut of beef for $25 anywhere else anyway. The fries were alrite but had I not taken a second look at the menu, I would have mistaken the Honey Shallot Raisin Chutney for plain old caramelized onions.

The most delectable main we had today was definitely the Basil Almond Pesto Chicken Linguine($13++). The pasta was a serious al dente which could rival any decent Italian eatery. The plethora of colours originated from the zucchini, tomatoes(which were amazingly sweet) and chicken chunks(very tender and moist despite being breast meat) and the flavours from each ingredient, though subtle, mesh together to create an exceptional dish. I really can’t stop harping about the pasta, it was really that good and didn’t leave me with any unctuousness!

The mains here were really quite filling but we had strength in numbers and hence decided to share the Carrot Cake($6++)! I’d prefer a warmed Carrot Cake instead of the chilled ones sold here but I’d have to say this Carrot Cake has it’s merits. The cream cheese was really thick, slightly sour which suit me just nice but the cake itself was a bit too hard, unlike the softer and lighter cake batters that I love. Overall, still enjoyable.

I used to think that you can’t have it all but Food For Thought has proven me wrong. It has shown me that it’s possible to have great food, pleasant ambience, friendly service and still leaving room for a heart for the needy. Hmm I guess my dining options around Queen Street requires no more food for thought.

Bon Appetit!

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT(QUEEN STREET)

8 QUEEN STREET

TEL: +65 6338 9887





Shimbashi Soba

24 03 2010

Whenever people ask which is my favourite Italian eatery or Brunch place, I get totally stumped. Not for the lack of but rather the overwhelming number of choices that courses through my brain (I swear you will see the blood vessel on my temple pulsating from the rush of blood to my head) but whenever someone asks me where my favourite Soba place is, the answer is just so simple and “shouting in my face” obvious, Shimbashi Soba…

There’s something that’s just so zen about enjoying a bowl of cold soba with a side of sashimi. The fluid wrist motions, a quick immersion, swishing in the dipping sauce and the gentle slurping all makes for a soothing, tranquil soba meal. Yes, to me peace of mind was always only a Shimbashi Soba away…

A sister restaurant to Shin Kuriya, Shimbashi Soba @ Raffles City shares it’s premises as well as staff with the former. The real life application of economies of scale I suppose? Anyway, I think it’s a really great idea as they are able to balance out their staffing needs should any one restaurant get too hectic. I also love it that their Buckweed Soba is handmade by a skilled Japanese chef so you know it’s truly authentic.  

J had the Shokado A(Salmon Sashimi, Teriyaki Chicken, Assorted Tempura, Choice of Cold/Warm Soba or Udon, Fruits @ $23.80++) while I had the Value Shokado(Fried Tofu, Deep Fried Chicken, Assorted Tempura, Choice of Cold/Warm Soba or Udon, Fruits @ $19.80++).

Starting with the appetizers, I didn’t really like my Fried Tofu in Mushroom Sauce much. Step 1 to a great Fried Tofu: The Tofu must retain it’s crisp batter till eaten! Sadly, the tofu here was on the soggy side that I might have actually preferred an unbattered tofu instead. Would save on the extra carbs at least…and it would have been much smoother anyways.

The Salmon Sashimi didn’t disappoint with it’s thick masterful cut. Just look how it glistens in the lighting. It’s a pleasure to eat you!

Actually, Shimbashi Soba is quite the cheaterbug. The Teriyaki Chicken only differs from the Deep Fried Chicken by means of…THE TERIYAKI SAUCE! I liked the latter more thus proving More doesn’t mean Better. Why would I want to desecrate my unadulterated crispy deep fried chicken with sodium saturated teriyaki sauce?

There’s nothing very special about the Assorted Tempura(Prawn, Ladies Finger, Mushroom). My prawn was overbattered and the batter was not as light nor crisp as I remembered munching on at the Paragon branch.

Now, the moment of truth. Is the Cold Soba as good as I remembered it? Chewy and Q Soba – Check! Pleasant and not overpoweringly salty dipping sauce – Check! Crispy Batter Crumbs, Seaweed and Spring Onions to boost the flavour and texture – Check! As I slowly went through my checklist, it inevitably hit me that while the basic fact remains that the soba was good, it still fell short of what I was used to eating here. A fluke or the simple case of differing standards between the 2 outlets? Or maybe it was because I came for dinner early and they used soba that had been prepared during lunchtime and hence not as fresh? Or maybe I was still full from my lunch at another Jap restaurant?

This is usually what happens when you arrive at any eatery with heightened expectations. You are just setting yourself up for utter and sheer disappointment. Yet, I still carry the hope and belief that Shimbashi Soba has what it takes to be my number 1 Soba place in Singapore…at least for the Paragon branch.

Bon Appetit!

 

SHIMBASHI SOBA (PARAGON)

290 ORCHARD ROAD

#B1-41 THE PARAGON

TEL: +65 6735 9882

 

SHIMBASHI SOBA (RAFFLES CITY)

252 NORTH BRIDGE ROAD

#B1-06/07 RAFFLES CITY SHOPPING CENTRE

TEL: +65 6337 8852





Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant

21 03 2010

Shin Yuu literally means Family & Friends. I’m not sure why the owner named it so, but I assume it is because the staff are friendly and are able to foster a bond that makes the dining experience here akin to dining among family & friends. Being a relatively small and humble Japanese Buffet joint, there is nothing too fancy about the decor here. Lunch Buffet is priced at an affordable $35++ while dinners are priced $48++(though they do throw in some complementary premium items such as puffer fish, tuna belly and tenderloin steak from time to time).

Sashimi is a great starter to any meal. The Sashimi Moriwase here consists of Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Octopus and Kingfish(quite uncommon in Jap buffets). I especially liked the Salmon which I found to be fresh and with a nice fatty flavour, boasting a quality hardly found in buffets.

The Shin Yuu Special Chawanmushi was topped with Ikura(Salmon Roe) and proved to be very light and refreshing, with the savoury roe complementing the smooth texture of the steamed egg well. Although I did spot some air bubbles within the chawanmushi,  my party of 6 still loved this simple dish and had seconds. 

I was pleased with the staff’s gesture of a nice complementary serving of Tuna Belly Sushi. The brownish sauce tasted like a thicker version of Kabayaki Sauce and was indeed tasty. Shin Yuu’s Special Aburi Sushi was good to the last bite with little wonder as to why it is one of their specialities. The seared salmon had a smokey charred flavour and the mentaiko(cod roe) added a special touch to an already well executed dish.

Despite being a signature dish, I found the Shin Yuu Special Sakana Chiizu or Dory topped with Cheese forgettable. The Shake Teriyaki or Grilled Teriyaki Salmon fared better. Tender pinkish flesh with crisp salmon skin in sweet soy, eating it was a delight. 

Although the Ebi Tempura was well fried and lacking the oleaginous aftertaste, I couldn’t find it’s oomph factor. Likewise, the Hotate Mentaiko proved little more than eye candy, interesting to look at but failed to tingle my taste buds.

It was my first time hearing of Japanese O-lua(Oyster Egg). It certainly looked like and tasted like one too but it was actually the Shin Yuu Special Ebi Miso Mayo Yaki(a mouthful I know). Pretty interesting but I would still go for the traditional hypertension inducing hokkien oyster omelette anyday.  

I enjoyed the Wafu Steak tremendously. Cooked medium, I was delighted at how tender it was. The wafu sauce wasn’t overwhelming and I was able to savour the natural sweet and beefy flavours. We had seconds and then thirds!

Being a buffet, there are actually many items that I haven’t mentioned such as the Miso Pork Cutlet, Chicken Karage, Soft Shelled Crab, Grill Squid, Soba, Garlic Rice etc. There were also many items such as the Grouper in Sweet Soy(a whole baby grouper which bordered more on chinese than jap cuisine) that is atypical from the generic Japanese Buffet. I would say these items are pretty good for buffet standards but not something I would return specifically for.

On the other hand, what I would come back for is the well executed sushi, fresh sashimi, smooth chawanmushi, tender steak, awesome service and great value. 

Bon Appetit!

 

Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant

16 Greenwood Avenue, Hillcrest Park

Tel: +65 6763 4939

 








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