Magma German Wine Bistro – My Favourite Watering Hole

27 05 2012

I first came to know about Magma 2 years ago when I participated in one of Time Out’s Dine Out Tasting Events, in which it was one of the 10 odd participating restaurants. Each of the participating restaurants featured some of their signatures and Magma left the deepest impression, with their freshly baked German Pizza and free-flow of German wines. My friend D and myself were so intrigued by the wine we tried that soon after the event, we paid a visit to Magma. That was the start of my Magma adventures and whenever any friends needed a suggestion for a watering hole, it would always be the first on my list.

As a regular here, I have to say I’m a little apprehensive blogging about this as one of the main reasons why I love the place is because the crowd is thin on weekday nights and is a perfect place to catch up with friends over affordable wines that ranges as low as $25 per bottle. In my mind, having too many people know of Magma will simply spoil the exclusivity and charm of the place. But I guess good food and drink is meant to be shared and Magma should be rewarded for hosting the good times I have had over the past 2 years.

As Magma operates a wine shop within the restaurant premises as well, the wine menu here is really extensive. I estimate that the restaurant carries around 250-300 different wine labels from Germany, a number you are unlikely to find in many other restaurants locally. I have only tried about 5 or 6 though, sticking to the ones that are generally sweeter and not too dry, suitable for unsophisticated drinkers. My favourite one here is the GEWUERZTRAMINER & SCHOENBURGER & RIESLING (Blend) ($37++), a still White wine which has been recommended by “The Local Nose” and attained a “SILVER” in Wine & Spirits Asia 2012. Although Gewuerztraminer (pronounced goose-ter-min-er) is a red grape, the wines gained from it are white, though the colour tone is slightly more golden compared to most white wines. Texture wise, it’s very smooth and easy to drink with floral undertones as it shares similar aromatic compounds to lychees, pairing well with cheese, roasted poultry, roasted fish as well as Flammkuchen (German pizza which will be covered below).

Another wine that provides great value is the ROTKAEPPCHEN Rubin red ($29++), a sparkling red wine which has attained a “Bronze” in “WineStyleAsiaAward 2011”. ROTKAEPPCHEN literally means Little Red Riding Hood in German, named as such because the top of the wine bottle is sealed in a ruby red foil. Again, its on the semi-sweet side and personally, I think it pairs well the Roasted Pork Knuckle here.

For food, I’d highly recommend trying out the Flammkuchen (sometimes referred to as a Tarte Flambee). It is a thin Crispy German Pizza with Sour Cream, Bacon & Onions ($16/$24 for Small/Regular) and is a great accompaniment for a bottle of white wine. Apart from Bacon & Onions, diners can also choose to have other topping mixes such as “Spinach & Cheese”, “Smoked Salmon & Leek”, “Chicken Breast with Tomato, Onions, Apple & Cheese”.

Something you can give a miss is the Beef Goulash with Capsicum, Onion & Spaetzle ($26++). In essence, it is simply an unexciting beef stew with egg noodle or pasta. The beef is the chunky type, not the fatty marbled ones that I like.

The Wildschweinbraten or Pan Fried Female Wild Boar with Forest Mushrooms & Potato Croquettes ($38++) is good too. The meat is utterly tender with a good fat-meat ratio but I wasn’t too excited about the cream sauce though as it didn’t add much value to the dish.

A must-try at Magma is their signature Pork Knuckle with Sauerkraut, Mashed Potatoes, German Mustard & Beer Gravy ($29++ for Roasted Bavarian-style as per picture below). However, the lack of consistency can be an issue as the Pork Knuckle is freaking awesome only two-thirds of the time. On off-days the meat can be a tad too sinewy, and the crackling soggy but I believe it’s still worth taking my chances whenever I’m here. Another good point is that the portions are huge so I usually find trouble finishing it all by myself when I order this for dinner. Apart from the Roasted Bavarian-style, there are other styles available as well for how you want your Pork Knuckle to be done. This includes Boiled Berlin-style ($28++), Roasted Honey Glazed ($34++), Roasted Garlic Flavour ($34++), Roasted Chili Flavoured ($34++).

For amateur drinkers, I think Magma is definitely a great place to start out. The staff are friendly and the owners (a German couple) run the restaurant themselves, so any queries on wine selection or appreciation can be directed straight at them or the staff. And from my interactions with them, I believe it is fair to say they are always happy to educate new drinkers.

Magma German Wine Bistro

2 Bukit Pasoh Rd

Tel: +65 6221 0634





Sweet Salty Spicy – But Mainly Spicy

18 05 2012

SSS is a Thai eatery that dishes up a wide variety of Thai delights in a casual setting.  As it is owned by the same operator and shares its premises with Cafe Epicurious (Rail Mall), diners get the benefit of mixing and matching their food orders between the 2 restaurants. Xinli from the the4Moose (you can view his review of SSS here) and myself were down for a tasting session about a week ago where we managed to chat with the chef/owner for a bit. Coming from a Caucasian background, we were puzzled as to why the he (who requests not to be named) would want to operate a Thai eatery and he mentioned that apart from having some friends who run reputable Thai restaurants in Sydney (Sailor’s Thai) and London (1-star Michelin restaurant Nahm), he felt that there was a major market gap in Singapore’s mid-end Thai restaurants. You can more easily find either affordable Thai eateries such as Ah Loy Thai and Nakhon Kitchen or the fine dining restaurants such as Patara Fine Thai Cuisine and Jim Thomson.

We started off the meal with the Tasting Platter, which comprised of 4 appetizers from the menu. Of the 4, 2 were note-worthy, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Chili Jam & Lemongrass Dressing and the SSS Crispy Rice Cakes with a Warm Chicken & Prawn Chili Dip, and are items that I would order again on future visits. The crabs are meaty and flavourful, and the chili jam was more of a curry cream sauce. The Traditional Prawn & Vegetable Rice Rolls with a sweet Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic looked like sushis’ but apart from the beancurd, it was difficult to located any other flavours. “Miang” is a traditional street snack originating from Thailand and Laos, meaning “food wrapped in leaves”. How it is made is quite flexible as different types of leaves and fillings can be used. The ones offered at SSS use fillings of Prawns & Pomelo on Betal Leaves with a Palm Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic. You are supposed to eat it in one mouthful but that is definitely not easy and it’s quite easy to mess up (as I did) and the dressing can end up all over your hand if you are not careful.

I would have loved to have some Thai Iced Tea, since the meal was course after course of spicy and curried dishes. Milk is one of the few drinks than can alleviate spiciness because of a compound present in it called casein. It effectively disengages capsaicin, a compound that gives off the spicy taste, from your mouth and helps to wash it away. There was no such option on the menu though so I settled for the Lemongrass Juice.

If I’m correct, the Thai name for the Spicy Chicken & Coconut Broth infused with Thai Blue Ginger, Kaffir, Lime & Lemongrass ($10++) is Tom Yum Kai. Nothing very exciting about the dish as the chicken thigh meat was rubbery though the sour tang of the tom yum was a great lead up to the mains.

The Deep Fried Silken Tofu Stuffed with Fresh Crab, Coriander & Minced Pork ($18++) is a bit overpriced to me. Eating the tofu without the accompanying thai chili sauce, you can definitely taste the fresh crab meat but the tofu might be a little bland for some. For me, I thought the milder flavours of this dish was greatly desired amidst all the pungent spices present in Thai cuisine.

Excluding any curries found in the appetizer or noodles section of the menu, there are 5 other types of curries available at SSS. For first timers who do not know which one is their appeals to their palates, I’d suggest opting for the Curry Triplets, which as the name suggests, allows diners to pick 3 of the 5 curries in small tasting portions. For Xinli and myself, we tried the Roast Duck Red Curry with Seedless Grapes & Fried Shallots, Green Curry of Baby Snapper with Apple Eggplants & Holy Basil and Jungle Curry of Scallops & Prawns with Long Green Beans & Sweet Thai Basil ($20++ inclusive of Jasmine Rice). My favourite of the 3 was the Jungle Curry because the prawns were really springy and I’m a huge fan of scallops as well. The jungle curry tasted a little like a belachan chili sauce, reminiscent of what you might find being fried with long beans at a nasi lemak stall. An interesting fact about jungle curry is that no coconut milk is normally used for this dish, as you would not expect to find coconut trees in the Thai jungles. The Green Curry was decent but slightly watered down.

I found the curry in the Chiang Mai Curried Noodle with Chicken & Mustard Greens ($12++) tasting a bit like sweet laksa gravy. It’s rather spicy on its own, but diners will also be given a dip made using sesame oil and spices which you can dip the noodles in. For some reason, the dip makes the noodles more fragrant and quells the spiciness to an optimal level. Personally, I find it a bit too rich to have it all by myself though so I would advocate sharing this.

I was really quite stuffed by now but it just felt inappropriate not to try any of SSS’s Thai desserts, so Xinli and myself shared the Black Sticky Rice with Cashews. In Singapore and Malaysia, we usually refer to this as Pulut Hitam but in Thailand, it is known as Khao niao dam. In retrospect, this was definitely too heavy a dessert so I gave up after 2 mouthfuls since it was very standard fare.

Special thanks to SSS for the kind invitation!

Sweet Salty Spicy

392/394 Upper Bukit Timah Road, The Rail Mall

Tel: +65 6877 2544





San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining & Bar – Expensive Food for a Cheap Experience

13 05 2012

If you have been to Butter Factory, you might have noticed San Sui’s flagship outlet at One Fullerton, which specializes in Sumiyaki. I tend to mix up the various terms of Grilled Japanese foods and I’m guessing quite a few of us are quite guilty of that as well, so I’m just going to list a few terms to clear the air once and for all. Sumiyaki means “Charcoal Grilled” (Sumi meaning charcoal and Yaki meaning grilled). Kushiyaki means “Grilled on a Stick” (Kushi meaning Stick), in short Japanese Satay. Yakitori means “Grilled Chicken”, so it is more specific than Kushiyaki or Sumiyaki which can be used to refer to other types of grilled meats or seafood too. Hope this clarifies things a bit.

San Sui has now opened its second outlet at Clarke Quay, choosing this time to specialize in modern Japanese Dining. I attended their restaurant launch last week and got the opportunity to tour the restaurant and sample some of its food offerings. This is the second restaurant launch that I have attended and based on experiences, it’s usually not very interesting unless you bother to mingle with random guests there (which we did today by mingling with some Japanese magazine journalists). Food and booze were free flow, though not review worthy since it was geared towards atas catering, rather than a preview of what’s actually available on the restaurant menu. Anyway, here’s some pics from that event.

Open Kitchen Area

As we left, we were given a nice little goodie bag as a memento, which had a nice little wooden box-cup for drinking sake in and some $50 dining vouchers for use at their restaurants (subject to a minimum spending of $100).

So instead of just blogging about the restaurant launch, I thought it would be a great idea to include what San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining actually serves so I decided to make a reservation there for a Friday 7pm dinner.

Over the phone, I thought it was unusual when the staff asked if I was going to use any vouchers (apparently there’s also a Groupon deal going on). When I said yes, I was then told that it was full house at 7pm and 8.30pm was the next available time slot which I readily took up. Based on pure conjecture, I hypothesized that they might have implemented a policy dictating a limit to the number of voucher users the restaurant can take during peak timeslots (so as not to risk turning away full-paying customers). I only say this because when I was already around the area at 7pm, I decided to try my luck at the restaurant and see if there was sufficient space to accomodate G and me and true enough, the restaurant was pretty empty and we were allowed in immediately. Personally I don’t believe in discriminating between diners with dining vouchers vs regular paying customers but I guess Goldman Sachs was right in saying Groupon is food stamps for the middle class (source: GSElevator Gossip on Twitter).

I received a message from the management of San Sui shortly after this post was posted so I will be including their comments in purple as tastes are subjective and my palate might not be refined enough to appreciate the subtleties of the few dishes that I tried. Hopefully, this allows for a more balanced and objective blog post. The management have also assured me that they do not discriminate between diners with or without vouchers. From a business point of view, our main aim when participating in group purchase programs is to attract more diners at non-peak hours.

Before I start on the food though, I’m going to make one thing clear. I found the food horrendous and the fact that it costs a bomb just adds oil to the fire. I won’t be back even with a dining voucher. The only thing that is laudable is the plating.

The Warm Foie Gras Bamboo Sushi ($18++) was meh. The flavour combination of Foie Gras, Ikura and Cucumber was actually good but my qualms were that the foie gras wasn’t fatty enough, tasted flat and it was almost at room temperature when it was served, making me question if it had been cooked beforehand and just left at a corner. And considering that I (and most presumably most other people) bought into this dish almost entirely for the foie gras, its imperfections were just amplified further.

The Grilled Colorado Lamb Ribs ($18++) was very disappointing. It’s a great specimen that can be used to highlight the difference between nice marbling and just having a lump of fats and there was an unforgivable “chao ta” burnt taste. I wouldn’t be far off in saying you can get something better off Giant Hypermart’s Grilled Meat section.

Management comments: “The Colorado Lamb Ribs is different from the Lamb Rack, which is a more common cut of meat available at most restaurants. We selected this particular cut for its prized marbling and the ‘chao ta’ flavour you picked up is due to the use of Binchotan charcoal from Japan which imparts to grilled foods a characteristic charred but not burnt aroma and taste. The virtue of this charcoal is that it burns at higher temperature, which seals in the juices during the cooking process.”

I ordered the Kurotara ($40++) aka Pan Roasted Black Cod Fillet with Sakura Pesto, Honshimeji Mushrooms & Wakame Salad for main, thinking that nothing could ever go wrong with Black Cod and San Sui is the first restaurant to prove me wrong. The fish was slightly fishy and almost entirely bland so I didn’t finish it just to drop a hint of my displeasure. I couldn’t detect any Sakura in the Pesto, but that was inconsequential since the pesto sauce wasn’t a good complement to the fish anyway. The best thing about the dish was the salad because I like seaweed.

Management comments: “The Sakura leaf used for the Kurotara possesses a very light and delicate flavour while the homemade pesto sauce is quite different from traditional pesto as besides omitting garlic and Parmesan cheese, we used almonds instead of the usual pine nuts. This renders a mild pesto which does not overpower the light Sakura flavour. We are sorry that you felt it was bland.”

Somen ($38++) is a Japanese Noodle made from Wheat Flour and Salt. It is usually served cold with a dipping sauce on the side but the one here is served warm. Topped with Hokkaido Bay Scallops, Lobster Claw and a Prawn & Shiso Dumpling, I joked to G that it was a high class Wonton Mee and tasted as such. It was better than the Black Cod, though a little too simplistic in both its taste and preparation to pay a premium for.

Management comments: “The highlight of the Somen is to showcase the clean and natural flavours of each ingredient, an elemental virtue of Japanese cooking. The base of the soup is definitely meant to be more broth-like.”

Given the limited number of dishes we managed to try, it won’t be fair of me to say that the restaurant sucks entirely. So I’m just going to say that I’m not going to take my chances there again though I am appreciative that the management took the time to care about my feedback.

San Sui Contemporary Japanese Dining & Bar

3B River Valley Road, #01-06

Tel: +65 6336 7737





New Food App on the Block – Buffet Mania 2.0

10 05 2012

I was so very lazy to switch to an iPhone late last year. I just didn’t see what the hype about it was all about, it seemed like its sole purpose was simply to play games on the MRT. Half a year down and I’m now an iPhone convert myself. The google maps rocks, the 9gag reader app rocks and the camera rocks too but now, there’s a new reason to love the iPhone; food apps.

I’m a fan of food blogger heavyweight ieatishootipost and his iPhone app. Apart from being able to search where you can get the best hawker food (by type) in Singapore, you can also search for his recommended hawker stalls around your current location (as seen by the red pins below). Quite useful indeed I must say.

We also have the indispensable Hungrygowhere app that allows you to search for specific restaurants/eateries, or do a general search for restaurants of a certain cuisine, price range or location. You even get access to reviews and ratings that other diners have written about the said restaurant.

And now, yet another food app has come to town – Buffet Mania 2.0

I managed to get a feel of it during the beta testing period and it has just been released officially today. The value proposition of Buffet Mania is that it caters specifically for buffets. And apart from the standard functions available on Hungrygowhere, where you get buffet recommendations (by area), you also get access to reviews for buffets written by well-known bloggers, so that users don’t have to sift through too many junk reviews that provide little information about what the restaurant actually offers for its dishes and concept.

In addition, you also get access to dining coupons that are regularly updated on the app, which can be used to soften the blow of excessively priced buffets. The coupon system for this app operates in a similar fashion to coupon websites like Groupon or Deal.sg, except that you don’t have to print out anything since its a virtual coupon. As such, there is no up-front payments that are incurred by the consumers (us!), adding flexibility to our dining choices.

And if you are a visual person as most guys are, you can just go to the “foodies” section and click on a food image you find appealing and it will show you the profile and details of the restaurant that serves this dish.

So do food apps really help you make faster dining decisions? Or does the range of dining possibilities leave one even more indecisive? Whatever it is, at least your tumtum is assured of better quality food.





Rumah Rasa – Sedap Indonesian Food?

5 05 2012

Ever since I was a tween, I have always had Indonesian tenants living with me under one roof. Most of them are part of the same extended family and came out to Singapore due to the supposedly better education system. My home hosted 8 of them at our peak, all kids around my age and we would watch anime and cartoons together and play games like Risk and soccer in our free time. It is also thanks to them that I have had some contact with Indonesian cuisine, whenever they brought out food and keropok from Indonesia. Growing up however, I was never a fan of spicy food, though my palate has evolved somewhat since then. So I was glad to get an invitation by Rumah Rasa, a new Indonesian restaurant housed within Bay Hotel located opposite Vivocity as I seldom encounter Indonesian restaurants in Singapore (the only other restaurants in this genre that come to mind is Kintamani Indonesian Restaurant at Furama Hotel and Bumbu Restaurant).

Heading the kitchen at Rumah Rasa is veteran Chef Sharifah, who has previously honed her skills at SATS, Raffles Hotel and St Regis. She comes across as a humble lady with a real passion for her trade, and I was looking forward to be educated on what authentic Indonesian cuisine is really about. The other bloggers present at this tasting were a friendly and relatable bunch, Rachel from Oyster Dairies, Dawn from 365Days2Play, and Peter from Ho Chiak.

Since Rumah Rasa is the hotel’s sole restaurant at this time, the kitchen caters to both room service, dine-ins and takeaways, doubling up as a breakfast venue for guests staying at the hotel. Revelers from St James will be pleased to note that this eatery is open from 6am to 4am daily.

Arriving slightly ahead of schedule, I was first served some Belinjau Chips while waiting for the other guests to arrive. I have had this a couple of times at home, but always thought it was tapioca chips. Belinjau is actually a type of nut-like fruit that turns from green to yellow to red upon ripening. The chips are mildly bitter so I don’t really like to eat it on its own, however it does go well with sambal. To cool of the spicy sambal, I also had a Ais Serai aka “Homemade Lemon Grass Juice” ($6++). Initially, it tasted unexpectedly sharp because quite a bit of carbonated soda water was used to make the drink but it got better as the ice melted. Would have opted for a still version if it was available.

The Soto Ayam Madura ($8++) is appetizing but it is not one of the more spectacular dishes here in my opinion. It’s simply a light and hearty Chicken Consomme with Shreaded Chicken, Beansprouts and topped with a Potato Croquette.

You can’t go very wrong with the Ayam Korma ($14++) aka Chicken simmered in Mild Yellow Curry.

The Tahu Telur Surabaya ($8++) is made using Fried Beancurd and Egg topped with Sweet and Spicy Dark Sauce. The taste is about there, very nice and eggy but what was lacking was the accompanying crispness as it seemed like the Tahu Telur had been left in the open for some time.

The Sayur Lodeh ($8++) is made with Mixed Vegetables in fragrant Coconut Gravy. It’s a personal preference but I prefer mine to be heavy on the coconut milk, so that the gravy is very thick and rich. I felt that the one here is too watered down but apparently, this is how it is done in Indonesia.

One of the better dishes today, the Udang Petai Belado ($18++) or Prawns Stir-fried in Chili Gravy with Petai Beads was fantastic. The prawns were fresh and the chili had enough oomph to make me swelter. As I’m not really into spicy food, my knowledge on the differences between the different sambals is extremely limited so it forces me to go online to understand more once I encounter terms like “Belado”. At the back of my mind, I always thought that sambal just means chili but in reality, there are many different varieties of sambal. Two common types would be Belado and Belacan and they possess very different tastes and origin. Belado has an Indonesian influence while Belacan is more Malaysian. The main difference between the 2 is that in addition to the common ingredients like Chili, Garlic, Lime Juice, Salt and Oil used for both sambals, Belado requires the addition of Tomatoes as a base ingredient while Belacan requires that Shrimp paste be added. So I would think that Belado is slightly more watery, has a brighter colour and less salty (because of the lack of shrimp paste) compared to Belacan.

The Ikan Bakar Rumah Rasa ($28++) is a Charcoal Grilled Red Snapper marinated in turmeric and topped with homemade Spicy Sauce (as stated in the menu), though the wait staff said it was Sea Bass. Not sure 100% which is right but I believe this was Sea Bass. Taste-wise isn’t worth much mention.

Rendang Sumatra ($14++) or Beef simmered in spicy Coconut Gravy was pretty good. Some people like their beef lean and meaty, while other like theirs fatty and tender. I lean more towards the latter. The beef here is lean, but not tough to chew. Out of all the dishes we tasted, general consensus was that this was a clear favourite.

The Paru Belado ($12++) is Crispy Beef Lungs served with Chopped Chilis and Onions, something I haven’t tried before and didn’t even knew could be eaten prior to this meal. I had always wondered why we can eat chicken and pig liver but never their lungs and I just shrugged it off thinking its probably a very dirty organ like fishes gills that we don’t eat. So today was definitely an eye opener. When it first comes out piping hot from the fryer, it really tastes quite good with the chili, crispy like keropok. There was some remnants of a bloody taste though, so if you don’t like organs like liver, you would probably want to skip this.

The Ayam Panggang Berkakak Jakarta ($14++) aka Grilled Chicken served with Rumah Rasa’s Homemade Spicy Sauce is decent, a nice mix of savoury and sweet as the chicken is marinated using palm sugar as well.

I would definitely recommend the desserts here. We had the Deep Fried Banana Fritters served with Vanilla Ice Cream ($8++), which had a very light batter so one can definitely polish this off on your own.

The Es Chendol ($6++) made using Fresh Coconut Milk with Kidney Beans, Green Jelly and Sugar Syrup is great too. A creamy dessert is a fitting end to a spicy meal.

Overall, I felt that there weren’t any dishes that was particularly sedap (delicious), but nothing was incredibly terrible either but it’s indeed a good place for an introductory lesson into Indonesian cuisine.

Rumah Rasa

50 Telok Blangah Road, Bay Hotel

Tel: +65 6818 6681








%d bloggers like this: