Time Out’s Dine Out Tasting Event @ Fullerton Hotel

28 02 2011

I have always aspired to attend a fancy dinner party, the type where everyone comes in their prom-like dresses and tuxedos, walking gracefully down a flight of white marble steps donned with a red carpet into a grand ballroom, where waiters go around with silver platters of petite-sized nibbles and glasses of champagne. No doubt this imagery stems from watching too many glamorous Hollywood events on television, but still, a boy can dream…

Though Time Out’s Dine Out Tasting Event was located in Fullerton Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, it was far from the fancy dinner party I had in mind. No tuxedos or prom dresses, I even spotted a guy in shorts! Still, with 14 eateries (actually 13 because Zento was a no-show) showcasing their unique culinary styles, I knew that I was in for a treat. Just think about it, as every eatery prepared roughly 3-4 dishes, we had over 40 dishes to choose from, talk about a spread! And what’s more, it’s a buffet with free flow wine (more than 10 types to choose from by Baws Winery and Magma), Margaritas (by Cafe Iguana) and whiskey (by Baws Winery)!

Starting off with Fullerton Hotel’s own Town Restaurant & Bar, I had their Laksa which I thought was very well done, very thick and rich broth. They also served Bak Ku Teh and Chicken Rice which I didn’t try (who eats such stuff at a standing buffet anyway?).

Jim Thomson evokes an imagery of perhaps a whiskey or bourbon label, but definitely not a Thai restaurant! Located near Dempsey, it is one of the more expensive Thai eateries in Singapore. An ala carte meal would probably set you back by $60 per pax. That night, they had something like a kueh pie tee, some mince meat over a fried shell. I also tried their Rice Crackers with Spicy Meat. I felt that these dishes were somewhat forgettable. Didn’t manage to make a round back for desserts so I didn’t try the Mango with Sticky Rice.

One of the most highly raved about Italian joints in Singapore, Ristorante Da Valentino whipped up 2 simple Italian dishes, Beef Lasagna and Chicken Pasta in a tangy tomato base. The Lasagna was pretty good, but the chicken pasta had a zing which was a tad too sourish for my liking.

My favourite dish that night had to be from Magma. In France, they call it Tarte Flambee, but in Germany, it’s known as Flammkuchen. Cooked ala minute, these thin crust “pizzas” came out piping hot topped with sour cream, lardons and onions. I couldn’t get enough of it and this was probably why I didn’t manage to try more of the offerings from the other restaurants. Very savoury and palatable, I thought the Flammkuchen went well with one of the sparkling red wines from Magma (can’t remember the name but will definitely find out soon. I can only recall it costs $29, really affordable!). That same sparkling red happened to be my favourite wine of the day!

Another eatery worth mentioning is Vanilla Bar & Cafe. I really enjoyed their mini Vanilla Dirt Cakes. Cream Cheese layered with Orea Crumbs, high on taste and aesthetic appeal!

As for the rest of the restaurants, namely Krish, Al Qasr, Perla’s, Moghul Mahal, Cafe Iguana, Nazt and Marble Slab, I shall I let the pictures do the talking…

Had a wonderful time at this tasting event and will am already looking forward to next year’s.

Bon Appetit!





Izakaya Nijumaru – Is it still a Secret?

24 02 2011

Despite being around for quite some time, I’d still consider Izakaya Nijumaru a tightly held secret amongst the food blogging community, relying solely on word of mouth in garnering its loyal following over the years. If I hadn’t read about it while food blog surfing, I’d definitely have been oblivious to this hidden gem myself.

Izakaya Nijumaru has a simple dining concept; tasty food at affordable prices while offering an extensive selection. The menu is almost entirely in Japanese so if your romaji sucks and you have no idea what’s the difference between an aji and an ika, you will probably find it much easier to just talk the menu through with one of the many “aunties” who are standing around, though they will probably just recommend you something super generic and safe like the Nijumaru Bento or the Unajyu Set.

Started off the meal with a Japanese staple of Chawanmushi($5++). Silky smooth with no visible trapped air bubbles, that’s all I can ask for and that’s what I got.

Ever heard of Japanese Yong Tau Foo? Well, today’s my first time trying it. It’s called Oden($8++) and comes with 7 pieces, from fish cakes, egg, konnyaku (yes its not only used to make Japanese Jelly if that’s what you are thinking. There’s a fine dining chinese restaurant called Xi Yan on Craig Road which serves Salivating Chicken with Konnyaku Noodles which is rather good, but that’s a story better left for another day…) and some other types which are unknown to me. I can imagine this would go down really well on a winter’s day.

I like the Nijumaru Bento($20++). It’s created for people just like me, people who want a bit of everything, from assorted sashimi to tempura, braised pork belly and grilled saba fish. The sashimi was fresh, especially the salmon. I also loved the grilled saba fish, lightly charred and fatty. Was expecting much more from the braised pork belly though, I felt it was a rather tough and rubbery to chew. Tempura was decently executed.

Unagi lovers will be pleased with the Unajyu Set($20++). Two thick slabs of unagi over a generous bedding of rice. The unagi was really quite charred on one side, but my friend dismissed this quickly and rebutted, “aiya same as eating bbq”. Guess it was just too irresistible for my soon-to-be doctor friend, despite being acutely aware of its carcinogenic properties.

So if you are ever hankering for a casual Japanese meal in town, I’d recommend you give those casual Japanese chains you know so well like Sushi Tei, Sakae Sushi or Waraku a miss and try Izakaya Nijumaru instead. After all, every meal is an adventure!

Bon Appetit!

IZAKAYA NIJUMARU

5 KOEK ROAD, #02-10 CUPPAGE PLAZA

TEL: +65 6235 6693





Novus Restaurant, Bar, Cafe & Courtyard – Service Faux Pas

22 02 2011

In contemplating what constitutes an affordable set lunch, Novus (with its $28/$38++ 2/3 Course Set Lunch) would definitely not be one of the few places that comes to mind, especially when more established players such as Gunthers, The French Kitchen and Au Petit Salut charge at similar if not cheaper rates. Yet, located just opposite SMU, it was one of the few restaurants I could afford to dine at without being (too) late for my next appointment…a project meeting during recess week sighs.

Window view from inside Novus. Nice clouds 🙂

With a cuisine that borders on the contemporary, would Novus prove itself to be an avant-garde in French cuisine or simply all sizzle and no steak?

Located within Singapore Museum, Novus is separated into 2 dining segments; the Restaurant & Bar for fine dining and the Cafe & Courtyard for casual dining. I was initially led into the cafe when I asked one of the waiters if that was Novus but quickly realised the mistake upon seeing a menu consisting mainly of sandwiches and pastas.

While the Cafe & Courtyard had an open concept with the optimal use of natural sun as lighting, the Restaurant & Bar had a more private feel to it. After settling down inside the restaurant, my friend Raina and I were only given the set lunch menu after probing the staff, who had previously provided us with simply the ala carte menu. When passing us the menus, somehow the waiter had a nonchalant and unapologetic look that severely irritated me, and it didn’t help that service remained crappy throughout the meal as I will describe in vivid detail later.

Raina and I had the 3-Course Set Lunch at $38++. I thought that the selection of mains available was pretty decent, ranging from angus beef cheeks, duck confit, snow cod and trio of berkshire pork belly, pork cheek & pata negra ham just to name a few.

We were first served a basket of complimentary bread which I found so-so.

For our complimentary amuse bouche, we were served Heart of Palm with Grape in a Vinaigrette dressing. A bit too acidic for me since I hadn’t had my breakfast then.

For appetizer, the Foie Gras Lassi V2.0 was a combination of goose liver parfait and yoghurt. Something interesting about Novus is that it provides a small information card along with the courses as they are served (very much aligned with the museum theme which has information stands for each exhibit) and it went as such: “The goose liver is marinated with port wine, Sherry, Madeira and Brandy. It is then combined with shallots, thyme, butter and eggs and slow poached to create a goose liver parfait”. While the combination was good, I would have preferred if there was a greater accentuation of the foie gras, as the lassi overwhelmed it somewhat.

When I saw the Norwegian Salmon treated like a Salad, it totally reminded me of the Tuna Carpaccio Salad I had at The Lighthouse @ Fullerton Hotel just a few months back, think it’s because the same black serving platter is used. For this dish, the Salmon was cooked sous vide, meaning it was cooked under low temperatures over an extended period in a vacuum, thus allowing the salmon proteins to remain intact and keeping the fish tender. As such, the Salmon tasted much like sashimi which I found very gratifying.

For Mains, I would highly recommend the Hickory Smoked Black Angus Beef Cheek. The beef cheeks were tender as butter and went amazing well with the mushroom creme. The portion was also rather generous. My only grouse is that it wasn’t served warm enough. The Triple Cooked French Fries that came along with it was really tasty as well.

As for the Crisp Duck Leg Confit, the portion was rather miserable though it could be due to the fact that it was deboned and hence looked unsubstantial. The duck meat was moist and tender, better than most of the duck confits I have come across for this aspect though this came at the expense of a skin that was not as crisp.

For Desserts, the Fruit Jelly sounded novel with the description “Assorted Berries & Fruits in Champagne Jelly & Elderflower Sorbet”. Unfortunately, it was really unpalatable and I gave up after 3 small spoonfuls. The jelly was really sour with an aftertaste of wine gone bad and the Elderflower Sorbet was exceedingly too sweet for one to bear.

Chocolate Test had the description “50% souffle, 68% Mousse, 80% Sorbet”. No idea what that meant, perhaps that’s the optimal proportion in which we are to eat them together for each mouthful? Unlike the fruit jelly, this was really outstanding. I dare say it’s even more enjoyable than the chocolate souffle at Laurent Bernard’s Chocolatier, which is the benchmark to beat in my opinion.

While the food was a mix of hits and misses, I’d like to reiterate on the dismal service standards here as mentioned earlier. First, menus not distributed properly. Second, waiter didn’t bother to write down our orders and had to come back amidst the meal to reconfirm our dessert orders. Third, request for warm water was ignored and cold water was served instead which we quickly corrected. Fourth, friend’s cup remained empty for a really long duration. Fifth, diners (not exclusive to ourselves) were left unattended with no staff in sight over quite a few occasions and during the few times where staff were present, they often missed out our desperate cries for attention. Sixth, my query on what sauce was used for the Salmon Salad was dismissed quickly with a “Basil” which was definitely erroneous as it sure didn’t taste like it. Seventh, the waiter stood by using eye power instead of pulling out the chair for my dining partner or me, and not offering an extra chair to put our bags (I was lugging 2 bags and a laptop). Not that I’m being a snob or fussy pot (much), but there’s just a basic level of service you’d expect to be accorded with when dining at a “fine dining” venue which was evidently lacking here today.

Ok, just to add some balance to my critical comments, a plus point for service is that Novus gave out a free muffin each to every diner, in a nice box with a Thank You note inside. Ate the muffin for supper at home, it’s not too bad with a pleasant fruit-cakey taste.

On hindsight, food was ok. I definitely wouldn’t mind paying $28++ for a 2 course if I could leave out the fruit jelly.

Bon Appetit!

NOVUS RESTAURANT, BAR, CAFE & COURTYARD

93 STAMFORD ROAD, #01-02 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

TEL: +65 6336 8770





DB Bistro Moderne – A Winning Gamble in MBS

20 02 2011

If you are looking for “atas”, posh and excessively ostentatious, DB Bistro Moderne will probably not be the place for you. It really is simply a bistro, which according to the dictionary means, “a small informal restaurant serving wine”. Yet, such a phrase definitely doesn’t do justice in describing DB Bistro Moderne, the latest of Daniel Boulud’s (of famed New York 3-Michelin Star restaurant Daniel) creations.

While DB Bistro Moderne supposedly serves French American fusion (easily detected from the furnishings), apart from their Burgers, I find it quite difficult to see where the American influence fits in within the menu. As for the ambience, the feeling I get here is casual and cosy, the staff are polite, attentive and more than able to answer any queries about the food. Lunch Sets are available for $38/$48 for 2/3 Course but this time I was here for dinner (mid terms finally ended today yay!). My friends and I got here before 6.30pm on a Friday night and there were only counter seats available for those without reservations, so do make a reservation to avoid being turned away.

And here, Chef Boulud in the flesh!

Dinner started off with a few variants of warm complimentary bread.

We shared a Tarte Flambee($16) which resembled a thin-crusted pizza. Topped with Fromage Blanc (a creamy soft cheese), finely diced bacon (aka lardons) and onions, we found this to be a really pleasant appetizer.

For our other starter, we had the Foie Gras Terrine($26). Normally, I’d prefer foie gras to be pan fried rather than to be made into a terrine but this one here really got me thinking. Creamy, dense and slightly briny, I could just eat it alone but it goes even better when eaten with the brioche and who can forget about the mildly sweet quince (fruit related to apple and pear) which also complemented it really well.

For Main, the Barramundi Grenobloise($35) was really awesome. The skin of this Asian Seabass was pan-fried till a nice shade of crisp golden brown and the meat had a very delicate and simple flavour which was paired nicely with a brown butter sauce. While I usually stay away from cauliflower, DB Bistro Moderne does a fine job converting my dislikes into likes.

Although it was a tough decision, I felt that the Coq Au Vin($31) edged out the Barramundi slightly to become my favourite dish of the night. Coq Au Vin is a tradition french classic of chicken braised with wine, mushrooms, onions and pork belly and the one here was served with a side of noodles, albeit of a French nature. What I loved most about this dish was the gravy and the chicken skin. Even as I ate, I could not figure out how to best describe the gravy. There were just so many flavours interacting and complementing with each other simultaneously that it’s almost impossible to decipher the individual constituents or describe the resulting flavourful amalgam.  My only grouse was that the chicken meat could be a tad more tender but apart from that, it truly was an amazing dish.

Chef Boulud was seriously being overindulgent in creating the Original DB Burger($38), tucking a thick sirloin patty filled with Braised Short Ribs and Foie Gras between 2 halves of a parmesan bun (whose interior was brushed with some wasabi). While the idea is a novel one, I found it to be more style than substance. The short ribs was unsensational and foie gras overcooked and almost tasteless.

For Desserts, I was attracted to the sound of Coffee Rocky Road Ice Cream present in the Profiteroles Au Cafe($15). I liked it how the waiter started pouring hot chocolate sauce on the profiteroles only upon serving such that the ice cream would not melt so quickly. Apart from that, this was run of the mill with the coffee rocky road proving to be just a slight deviation from the norm.

The Clafoutis Tout Chocolat($15) or more commonly known Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake came served with Chocolate Sorbet and Vanilla Ice Cream. The chocolate cake was topped with some berry jam glaze which I thought was a nice touch. Didn’t care so much for the chocolate sorbet as I did the full flavoured vanilla ice cream. However somehow, flourless chocolate cakes don’t give me the same oomph I get from “floured” ones.

My dinner experience here was truly remarkable and I can’t wait for a revisit.

Bon Appetit!

DB BISTRO MODERNE

10 BAYFRONT AVENUE, #B1-48 THE SHOPPES MARINA BAY SANDS

TEL: +65 6688 8525





Fish & Co – Insights on their Valentine’s Day xoxo Platter

12 02 2011

Back in Pri School, Valentine’s Day meant absolutely nothing to me. Heck I didn’t even know what date it fell on till I reached Junior College! I guess that’s just what happens when you enroll into an all boys secondary school. Thus in Junior College, I made it a point to celebrate V-day as much as possible, so I did my best to make someone else’s day while depleting my cash reserves in the process. I remember getting more than 10 gifts for friends and classmates, some of whom were guys! After accruing 10 years in school without ever celebrating a single V-day, this was just my way of saying, “Thanks for being around, you made some difference in my life”.

With Valentine’s Day looming ever closer, we begin to see its tell tail signs even if no one talks about it…Online bulk purchase coupon websites such as Bigdeal.sg with oversubscribed deals on bouquets of flowers, implementation of overpriced V-Day Special Menus and men with lost looks frantically scurrying up and down the malls in a last ditch attempt to come up with a presentable obligatory V-Day gift. Love is in the air once again…

Yet for many of us, V-Day is also synonymous with Singles Awareness Day. But as what one of my older cousins said to me during Chinese New Year when I told him I was currently single, “It’s better to be single than to have a lousy girlfriend”. He said this using a Chinese proverb so it sounded a lot more chim then. Still, it sucks not to have a V-Day date, doesn’t it? My only consolation is that my mid-terms are next week which will probably keep me preoccupied.

2 weeks ago, I received an invitation from Fish & Co for a tasting session of their Valentine’s Day xoxo Platter. It was initially meant to be a bloggers event, where invited bloggers would all head down to the Glass House for this promotional event. I was pretty excited at first, as I was really looking forward to meeting fellow food bloggers. However, given the poor response from the online community, the event couldn’t go through and as such, Fish & Co simply mailed us the vouchers so that we could go to the various outlets at our own time own target.

While most restaurants typically try to bank in on this celebratory occasion, Fish & Co is by far the first eatery I have seen offering a special V-Day menu at a discount from normal menu prices. Their xoxo Platter for 2 goes for an affordable $39.95++, which includes 2 exotic drinks, 2 Seafood Chowders, a Platter for 2 and a hot fudge Chocolate Cake for sharing.

Carefully thought out wordplay has also been used to name these 4 courses.

Prelude to Sensations – Sweet Nothings (exotic drink). In reality, this was a Peach-flavoured Soda Drink.

For Play – Hot and Steamy Seafood Chowders. Hosting chunks of fish, clams, shrimps and carrots, this was a hearty way to kick off the meal.

Main Inter-Course – xoxo platter for 2; A generous array of seafood such as crispy salmon served with spicy mango vinaigrette, grilled peri-peri prawns and fried calamari coupled with blue mussels in tomato & pesto sauce, all served on a bed of paella rice and coleslaw. The Salmon and Paella Rice was a little dry for my liking and the blue mussels possessed a (too) soft instead of the preferred chewy texture, probably a result of overcooking. On the other hand, the peri-peri Prawns, Calamari and Coleslaw were all palatable and the portions given for the platter was indeed sizable.

Sweet Highs – Sexy Fudgy Chocolate Cake. Who can say no to a sweet aphrodisiac that sets the mood for later?

Apart from the xoxo Platter for 2, the ala carte menu is still available. It was probably a mistake that I ordered the Fried Calamari($9.95) as a starter given that this was repeated in the above mentioned xoxo platter. My favourite Fish & Co starter is definitely still the Mussels in Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce.

Something that you can never go wrong with would be Fish & Co’s Fish and Chips. The New York Fish & Chips($15.95) comes stuffed with Parmesan Cheese and topped with Lemon Butter Sauce. There’s something about the Fish & Chips here that I find dear, might be the combination of the light crisp batter, well complemented lemon butter sauce and smooth Dory fillet.

There is currently a Dessert Promotion going on as well, so we had an order of the Mudslide($2.95). I didn’t read its description but it tastes like a toffee chocolate cake. Not particularly fantastic but more than acceptable given its price point.

The xoxo Valentine’s Day Platter for 2 is available across all Fish & Co. outlets  from 11th to 14th Feb and the
1st 100 couples whom order the xoxo set meal on Valentine’s Day will also get to receive a “Spin the Bottle” raunchy fun game* & a limited edition Fish & Co. pouch for FREE.

A very special thanks to Fish & Co for coordinating this tasting session.

Bon Appetit!

FISH & CO

9 PENANG ROAD, #01-24 PARK MALL

TEL: +65 6334 1858





Jing Long Seafood Restaurant – A Coffeeshop Turned Restaurant Success Story

2 02 2011

When Mum told me we were going to lunch with relatives at some Bedok North Restaurant, I immediately thought of Chin Lee Restaurant (coincidentally I will be heading over for lunch there this coming Sunday yay!). So when I found out it wasn’t, I was slightly disappointed because I really enjoyed my previous meal at Chin Lee.

She told me it’s this restaurant called Jing Long and I thought to myself, “just another typical chinese restaurant with an awfully corny name” because initially I thought it was worded as 金龙, meaning Golden Dragon, and with the abundance of Chinese Restaurant’s named along the lines of Golden Peony, Peony Jade, Dragon Pheonix etc, you can’t really blame me.

The real name of the restaurant was actually 金隆. My Mandarin sucks but I think it means prosperous and then again, that’s pretty much what every other chinese restaurant name means anyway, be it literal or metaphorical.

Anyway, having come across too many overpriced CNY menus, I got to say that Jing Long’s menu is pretty value for money. Our party of 12 pax had their 9-Course Set Menu priced at $368++ and added an extra dish as this menu was meant for 10 pax.

The CNY staple dish, Yu Sheng. Instead of the customary Salmon, I think it was Saito Fish (of Malaysian Origin) that was used instead.

Though the Sharkfin was lacking in both quantity and quality (we all love thick chunky ones with more bite, don’t we?), the thick broth was actually very flavourful.

While most dishes from Chinese Restaurants can be replicated at home, I find that one of the most difficult endeavors would be steaming a fish as perfectly as what you would get in restaurants. At home, I have always encountered times while the fish tail is steamed perfectly, the mid-section tends to have uncooked areas, and if the mid-section is steamed perfectly, the tail would be overcooked. Somehow, Chinese Restaurants are able to get the best of both worlds so as usual, I throughly enjoyed the Steam Red Grouper here.

We proceed on to the Roast Chicken Crusted with Sesame Seeds. The Sesame Seeds added a nice crunchy crisp but I found the chicken meat rather dry and bland.

We also had a lovely serving of Braised Sea Cucumbers, Fish Maw, Topshell and Mushrooms, topped with an umami rich gravy. Love the sea cucumbers here, rather soft and springy which is the kind I like, in contrast to the really chewy bitable ones.

I love the colours of the Scallops and Assorted Peppers, though I found the Scallops not as plump and fresh and I would have ideally hoped for.

The extra dish we ordered was Jing Long’s signature Coffee Pork Robs. Really tasty with a nice tender texture, the hint of coffee was barely discernible. This is one dish which will thrill both coffee and non-coffee lovers alike.

However, if I had to choose my favourite dish of the meal, it definitely had to be the Chili Butter Prawns. It was genius to fuse chili and butter, 2 highly popular ingredients in local cooking to come up with this awesome dish. The sauce coating the prawns was so darn tasty and I was desperately sucking on the shells to maximize this experience, not forgetting to suck on my fingers one at a time after I was done shelling the prawns of course. To get this excited over prawns, imagine what would happen if crabs took its place instead…swoons…

A passable Lotus Rice with Chinese Sausage. Adding sambal in it adds an extra element on the taste factor.

The meal ended on a high note with a pleasant and simple Mango Sago Dessert.

Just like Chin Lee Restaurant, Jing Long Seafood Restaurant is another Coffeeshop turned Restaurant success story serving unpretentious affordable Chinese cuisine.

Bon Appetit!

JING LONG SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

BEDOK NORTH AVENUE 2, BLK 412 #01-152

TEL: +65 6442 9398








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