Shunjuu Izakaya – Defining Sumiyaki

26 09 2012

Shunjuu Izakaya is a sake dining bar specializing in sumiyaki, and carries over 40 types of sake. Having discovered it over summer thanks to one of my NUS law friends (who had been frequenting this place during her law internship at the expense of her associates, jealous max…), I decided to organize a friend’s birthday dinner here given that my virgin experience had been a positive one.

I have mentioned this before in one of my previous posts but I think now’s the perfect time for a refresher course on Grilled Japanese foods 101, whose terms we are so guilty of mixing up. 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. Robatayaki (meaning fire-side cooking) refers specifically to a method of cooking; hearthside grilling.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Shunjuu doesn’t seem to receive much publicity nowadays but back in the heyday, it used to be a major contender for dining awards, evident from its wall of fame. I guess extra publicity is redundant now anyways, since a full house during weekends is more or less assured for this sumiyaki heavyweight. So, reservations are recommended. The general consensus is that dinners here can work up to quite a fair bit but I believe that with strategic orders and abstinence from booze, dinners under $40 are still very possible, which in my view is reasonable given the quality of the food.

We took up a very friendly auntie staff’s suggestion and got the Tofu with Century Egg Sauce topped with Ebiko. It was a great opener to the meal and on hindsight, we should have gotten individual portions and not go through the pains of having to share something so tasty.  A similar one can be found at Fukuichi Japanese Dining at TripleOne Somerset, which happens to be one of their signatures.

For first timers to the restaurant, it’s really easy to get lost on what to order so I would suggest going for the prix fixe sets which comprise of an assortment of 5 grilled items, and further supplementing the meal with additional orders. There are 3 different sets available, of which Set A and B are meant for 1 pax, while Set C is meant for 2 pax.

For Set A ($20++), you get a stick of Beef Short Ribs, Asparagus rolled with Pork, Chicken Meat Ball, Golden Mushroom rolled with Beef, and Pork Belly.

The Golden Mushroom should have been rolled in beef but due to its unavailability, we got ours rolled in pork instead, which turned out great and is definitely one of the highlights from Set A. My other favourites from the set are the Chicken Meat Balls and the Beef Short Ribs. I usually scoff at meat balls but the ones here are clearly legit, hands down best chicken balls I have had the pleasure of eating.

from left: Chicken Meat Ball, Pork Belly, Asparagus rolled with Pork

Golden Mushroom rolled with Pork, Beef Short Ribs

For Set B ($28++), you get a stick of Grilled Ribeye, Scallop rolled with Pork, Rice Cake rolled with Pork, Chicken Wing, and Goose Liver. The star would be the Goose Liver, whose wobbly interior is encased by a smoky lightly charred surface. Less memorable items included the Scallop rolled in Pork. I could hardly discern the bland scallops whose flavour was overpowered by the savoury marinade from the pork. The Grilled Ribeye was also slightly too chewy for my liking and was not as tasty as the Beef Short Ribs from Set A.

from left: Chicken Wing, Scallop rolled with Pork

From left: Goose Liver, Ribeye, Rice Cake rolled with Pork

Apart from the grilled items, Shunjuu does their staples amazing well too. The Udon with Sesame Sauce ($7++) is served chilled which contrasts with spicy sesame sauce it is served in, causing a tingling sensation to the throat as one slurps it down. The spiciness of the sauce is of a right level which makes the dish super addictive.

The Garlic Fried Rice ($8++) is worth ordering too, as the pearly grains are evenly cooked with bits of aromatic crisp garlic bits garnishing the dish.

My favourite staple though is the hearty Fish Porridge ($12++), which is on a totally different league from what is available from hawker stalls. It has a naturally sweet flavour and creamy consistency, with very generous chunks of Salmon and Mackerel.

Instead of having desserts at Shunjuu, I would recommend heading to Laurent Bernard’s Chocolate Bar just opposite for their ice creams there chocolate tart.

Al Fresco area of Laurent Bernard’s with Shunjuu in the backdrop

Another enjoyable dinner at Shunjuu Izakaya cements Shunjuu’s status as one of the best sumiyaki restaurants around. Competition is stiff however, so next stop for sumiyaki will be Kazu at Cuppage Plaza, where we learn who defines sumiyaki best.

Shunjuu Izakaya

30 Robertson Quay, #01-15 Riverside View

Tel: +65 6887 3577





The Clan Restaurant – Classy, Lucious & Noteworthy

14 09 2012

Being inconspicuous is the new cool for the dining scene in Singapore, something The Clan Restaurant is trying to emulate but for someone who frequents Bukit Pasoh Road road often enough (for the affordable wines at Magma Restaurant a couple of shops down), The Clan Restaurant sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

There is no shortage of good great food along this stretch, with Oso and Majestic Restaurant just down the road, and Ember, Bistro Soori and Esquina on the adjacent lane. Daring as it might seem in choosing to locate here given the stiff competition, I had little doubt that The Clan Restaurant would be able to pull it off, and fabulously well at that. After all, it is helmed by Executive Chef Ken Teo, formerly of fusion restaurants Dozo and Tao’s Restaurant. Having eaten twice at both these restaurants, I was expectant of a mind blowing meal should The Clan be anything like them.

The Clan Restaurant claims to serve modern European cuisine, though Asian influences are evident within many of their dishes as well. Prices are not cheap per se with 5-Course Set Lunches and 6-Course Set Dinners going for $42.80++ and $62.80++ respectively, but definitely affordable given the quality and quantity of food. Ala carte is available as well, with mains at the $20ish range and all other courses at the $10ish range but I would suggest going for the sets which works out to be way more affordable. You wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the courses anyway.

From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t all look that spacious but once you are in, it feels like a labyrinth. With a seating capacity of 110, I really wonder if the restaurant can handle a full house. There are 2 levels to the restaurant. The 1st boasts an open concept kitchen that allows diners to view the kitchen action whilst enjoying their meals, while the 2nd floor is a little more dim and cosy to cater for more private moments.

1st Floor Seating Area

2nd Floor Seating Area

While waiting for 1 of my friends to arrive, we starting munching on the complimentary bread, which is served with a tasty dip made of sour cream and a hint of truffle oil. With the dips being this good, we weren’t shy to ask for extra helpings.

Before the 1st course, we were served an Apple Sorbet to whet our appetites.

1st Course: Chef’s Starter

Our first course was the Chef’s Starter ($18++), comprising Salmon Mousse Cone, Pan Seared Scallop with Asparagus & Truffle Foam and a Foie Gras Chawanmushi. Apart from the visual appeal, there was nothing fantastic about the powdery salmon mousse as it tasted like it could be bought off the rack from Cold Storage. The Scallop was seared well but I’m not sure if it was prepared some time ago since it didn’t feel as warm as it should be. What I loved most was the Foie Gras Chawanmushi, a smooth steamed egg custard with just enough foie gras blended in to tease the palate.

2nd Course: Cold Dish

The Cold Dish Course is only available for the set dinners, and is the only thing that differentiates the set lunch from the set dinners. C chose the Alaskan King Crab with homemade Karashi Dressing ($20++). The crab was pretty much left unadorned, methinks to allow the natural sweetness of the crab to shine through.

According to the wait staff, one of the more popular cold dishes is the Oyster in 3 Ways ($18++), which I didn’t manage to try since oysters aren’t ideal for sharing.

For myself, I had the Beef Carpaccio, Truffle Mustard Salad, with Truffle Teriyaki and Horseradish Sauce ($16++). I enjoyed the thin slices of marbled raw beef very much, and thought it went well with a light dab of the sweet teriyaki sauce and truffle mustard (which tasted like mayo). Just be sure not to be too liberal with the teriyaki sauce, as The Clan is with its liberal use of Truffle and Foie Gras in naming the dishes on its menu, as it might overwhelm the delicate beefy flavours.

3rd Course: Sides

The Kurobuta Pork Belly Confit with Pork Cracker & Passion Fruit Sauce ($14++) fared well in terms of moist tender meat, but failed in terms of crackling. I initially expected the belly to be slightly fattier, as the slab we had was rather lean. I want my fat meat!

I was rather taken by the Herb Encrusted Mushroom Escargot ($14++) as the snails were nothing short of plump and juicy.

The Deep Fried Foie Gras, Balsamico Reduction and Cheese Foccacia was somewhat a disappointment. I recently had the Deep Fried Foie Gras at Alkaff Mansion and thought a replication of that would have made my night. However, The Clan’s rendition was off by a mile. My main gripe was that the batter was too thick and drowned out the foie gras. A simple pan-seared one would have sufficed.

4th Course: Soup

I perceive mushroom soups in a negative light. To me, it’s usually something watered down that you get, alongside a drink from a $5 add-on upgrade to a set meal. The Cepes Mushroom with Truffle Paste ($9++) from The Clan however, is far from the cheap mushroom soup you find in such places. It’s chock full of flavour yet not overly thick, retaining a smooth consistency that just warms your whole body as you sip on it. It’s heaven in a bowl, one of the best mushroom soups around surely. I would go back just for this.

Not as awesome as the mushroom soup but nevertheless tasty was the Crab Bisque Cappuccino with Truffle Foam and Prawn Twister ($9++). Very airy and big on flavours to the extent that some of my friends found it too rich and sweet, but it agreed with my palate.

5th Course: Main

T had the 48 Degree Poached Salmon with Japanese Broth, Dehydrated Wakame and Leek Confit ($22++). While the salmon is cooked perfectly in a sous vide style, resulting in a fork tender texture, the flavours are awfully subtle, a huge contrast to the previous dishes that took some getting use to.

I had the Kurobuta Pork Jowl in Pistachio Puree, with Pickled Zucchini and 64 Degree Egg Yolk ($24++), reminding me again of the chef’s history at Dozo where a very similar dish in the form of Kurobuta Pork Cheeks is served. By the way, Jowl is just another word for animal cheeks. The marinade encrusting the pork cheeks added depth to what might have otherwise been a mere savoury dish, and coating the meat with egg yolk balances the flavourfulness of the dish.

Another dish reminiscent to that at Dozo’s is the 48 Hour Beef Short Ribs on Hoba Leef, with Madeira Sauce on Lava Stone ($27++). It’s no surprise that Chef Ken brought this idea over with him, especially since it’s a crowd favourite. The boneless beef ribs are served sizzling atop a hot stone that cooks the beef slowly, leaving the extent of doneness up to the individual to decide. The beef is extremely tender so chewing is kept at a minimal.

6th Course: Dessert

I thought the Madeira Cheese Panna Cotta ($9++) was a pleasant ending to the meal, with the smooth custard topped with a syrup made using madeira, a sweet fortified wine.

One of the more boring dishes I had today was the Chocolate Lava with Raspberry and Homemade Hazelnut Gelato ($9++). Not the best chocolate lava cakes I have come across, but it does its job of satisfying a sweet tooth.

As it was my friend P’s birthday, the staff arranged for a complimentary cheesecake. It tastes alright though it’s rather dry but who’s to complain when it’s free right?

95% of the 75 votes on Hungrygowhere gave The Clan recommend ratings, something almost unheard of and makes one question the authenticity of the votes. However, real votes or not, it’s hard not to love this place. They take care of the small details, like holding 6 different brands of sparkling water and that speaks volumes. In essence, The Clan offers fine dining fusion food that works without burning a hole in the pocket, very much living up to its motto of “classy, lucious and noteworthy”.

The Clan Restaurant

18/20 Bukit Pasoh Road

Tel: +65 6222 2084





Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cakes – SunnyHills vs Din Tai Fung

11 09 2012

I always thought that feasting on Pineapple Cakes was only meant for Chinese New Year, but it seems that the Taiwanese trend of having Pineapple Cakes for Mid-autumn festival is also picking up here. I recently received 2 packages of Pineapple Cakes, one from SunnyHills and the other from Din Tai Fung, and I shall provide some insight on their gift packages for this Mid-autumn Festival.

Helming from Taiwan, SunnyHills is possibly one of the most well-known Pineapple Cake brands in Singapore, with its Singapore branch located within the iconic Raffles Hotel. SunnyHills doesn’t simply operate a bakery and retail shop, but goes all the way upstream within the supply chain, where it also manages pineapples farms in Taiwan to ensure quality control of its pastries.

Priced at $25/$37.50/$50 for 10/15/20 pieces, SunnyHills Pineapple Cakes are made using New Zealand Butter, Japanese flour, eggs from a local Taiwan farm and pineapples from their Pineapple Estate on Bagua Mountain, Taiwan, without the use of preservatives or additives. You know as with all pineapple tarts, it’s always the case of personal preference. So compared to the ones from Din Tai Fung, I prefer SunnyHills’ Pineapple filling, which has chunkier pineapple bits and is also more tangy and less sweet.

As for Din Tai Fung’s Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cake Gift Set ($24.80 nett), it consists of 8 Pineapple Cakes, and 2 boxes of Jasmine Green Tea as a complement to the pastries.

Just like SunnyHills, Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes are free from food additives, preservatives and trans-fat, making it a safe and healthy snack. Songshan pineapples, which are known for their special aroma and low acidity, are used to make the pineapple fillings, resulting in a sweet jam that isn’t too tangy. What I like about Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes over SunnyHills is that its pastry has a more buttery texture.

So as cliche and PR friendly as it might sound, I guess there’s no clear winner between SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung just yet.

Oh by the way, DBS/POSB cardmembers get 15% off with the purchase of 2 or more boxes of Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cake Gift Set, and an additional 5% discount for purchases of 6 boxes and above.

At the same time, Din Tai Fung has also launched a new dish, the Truffle Chicken Soup ($19.80++), which is only available at the Marina Bay Sands, Paragon and Resorts World Sentosa outlets. I headed down to Paragon to see what the fuss was all about and I have to agree that this is one hearty soup with strong umami flavours, recommended for fans of their existing chicken soup who don’t mind spending a couple extra bucks for the added experience. I’m not sure if truffle oil was added into the soup or if the few slices of black truffle are just that fragrant, but the aroma of truffle was very discernible.

On a side note, my mum actually goes through the arduous process of making homemade pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year (which taste way better than any tarts you can find outside), so I know how time consuming it is to make the pineapple jam. So if anyone ever offers you a homemade pineapple tart, do take the time to savour the fresh ingredients and love that has gone into that little parcel.

Special thanks to SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung for the Mid-autumn gifts sets / meal and have a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

SunnyHills

328 North Bridge Road, Raffles Hotel Arcade #03-05

Tel: +65 8522 9605





Swensen’s – A Weekend Breakfast Alternative

8 09 2012

I haven’t been back to Swensen’s since my Junior College days more than half a decade ago. I guess just like with all the cafe cartels, seoul gardens and sakae sushis that we students used to frequent, these joints no longer seem as cool as compared to chilling out at those hipster standalone cafes that serve gourmet coffees. However believe it or not, on my recent trip to Swensen’s, I actually found the new breakfast menu promising enough to warrant future return visits, especially when the breakfast sets are priced so reasonably. Their breakfast menu is only available during weekends and public holidays between 8am to 11am for all outlets except the outlet at Changi Airport Terminal 2, where the breakfast menu is available everyday from 3am to 11am to cater to travelers.

One of my favourite breakfast sets is the All American Buttermilk Pancakes ($9.90++), which comprises of pancakes served with a side of maple syrup, honey butter cream, chicken sausages, hash brown and sauteed mushrooms. Every aspect was done competently and the pancakes were thick but light. Mushrooms were delicious as well as I suspect it was sauteed in butter. In addition, all breakfast sets come with a cup of coffee and tea to wash down the hearty fare.

You can opt to do away with the peripherals and just get the Simply Pancakes ($6.90++).

The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich ($9.90++) is essentially a ham and egg sandwich. What I love most about this sandwich is that a sweet airy Japanese Bread is used, whose texture is in between that of bread and spongecake. The set also comes with a side of BBQ Baked Beans, similar to what you can get at Astons. My only gripe was that the egg was slightly bland and dry.

The same Japanese bread is also used to make the Classic French Toast with Honey Butter Cream ($10.90++), so the toast turns out really fluffy as well.

As with most of the breakfast sets here, you can opt to have the Simply French Toast ($7.50++) without the accompanying hash brown, sausages and sauteed mushroom.

What I find spectacular from the Swensen’s Sunrise Omelette ($10.90++) is not the omelette per se but the Ciabatta rolls. They are included in some of the breakfast sets and they are awesome! Not only were they served crisp and piping hot, but honey butter is also pumped into them for a sweet finish. Instead of having the eggs in an omelette style, you can also opt to have your eggs scrambled or sunny side up. My advice is to go for the scrambled.

Good Morning Sunnies ($11.90++)

Ciabatta Rolls pumped with Honey Butter

For those on a heavy protein diet, there’s also the Hearty Steak & Eggs ($14.90++). You get what you pay for so don’t go expecting top quality beef but I would say its good enough for a casual meal. Plus you get yummy caramelized onions…

No western breakfast place is complete without the ubiquitous Eggs Ben and the ones here are served with Smoked Salmon ($12.90++). While a little too sour for my liking, the density of the Hollandaise was about right and my eggs weren’t overpoached.

There’s also the Eggy Delight ($6.90++) for the kids, where you get sunny side ups, grilled chicken sausages and potato smiles. All the kids breakfast sets come with a glass of fruit juice too!

Apart from the western breakfast sets, there’s also 2 sets that cater to local palates; the Fish & Century Egg Congee ($9.90++) and Prawn Bee Hoon Soup ($11.90++). The congee wasn’t available so I only had the Bee Hoon Soup which I found very forgettable as the bee hoon hadn’t infused the flavours from the soup and hence tasted bland. Anyhow, the chicken soup base wasn’t fantastic to start with.

Overall, I would say that Swensen’s really exceeded my expectations this time. The food is in general above average for cafe breakfast standards, prices are really competitive and the seating capacity is ample to avoid the long weekend queues. If only the breakfast menu hours are extended past 11am on lazy weekends…

Special thanks to Swensen’s for hosting this tasting!





Toast Box Present “Lim Kopi for a Cause”

3 09 2012

This year, Toast Box embarks in its second year in partnership with ABLE – Abilities beyond Limitations and Expectations Ltd, a charity organization that strives to enable and empower the physically challenged community to be reintegrated into the main stream society in Singapore.

By donating 30 cents for every promotional set sold in the months of August and September, Toast Box’s “LIM KOPI for a Cause” Campaign hopes to generate S$20,000 of funds that will go towards financing ABLE’s assistance programs, beneficiaries with acquired or congenital physical (motor) disabilities as well as their families and caregivers.

Toast Box fans can contribute by delighting in any of Toast Box’s new offerings as below, all of which are priced at a promotional rate during this period:

  • French Toast Butter Kaya / New Hebi Hiam Thick Toast + Kopi @ $3.00 (U.P. $3.50)
  • French Toast Butter Kaya / New Hebi Hiam Thick Toast + Kumquat Jelly @ $4.00 (U.P. $4.50)
  • Curry Chicken + Kumquat Jelly @ $6.30 (UP $7.30)

New Hebi Hiam Thick Toast + Kumquat Jelly @ $4.00

French Toast Butter Kaya + Kumquat Jelly @ $4.00

Curry Chicken + Kumquat Jelly @ $6.30

Apart from the above set meals, Toast Box will also donate $2 to ABLE for every Coffee Brew Set sold in August and September.  The set includes: 1 Toast Box Coffee Brew (a convenient hand-held coffee making apparatus) and 250g of Toast Box Coffee Powder.

Coffee Brew Set with 250g Coffee Powder @ $25

I personally love Toast Box and if I can do my part for charity over their kopi and toast, that’s just awesome.








%d bloggers like this: