Fat Cow @ Camden Medical Centre – Holy Cow of a Set Lunch

6 10 2014

What I miss most about student life is the ability to partake in unhurried set lunches at “atas” establishments, at a fraction of the price of dinner service. Though even back then, it wasn’t easy to find restaurants that actually had set lunches worth going for, as the less dear set lunch prices usually meant getting certain items that were a poor excuse for a course. That’s what was so amazing with my first lunch visit to Fat Cow, a not so well kept secret of a Japanese Beef atelier. A typical dinner here easily runs into the $150-$300 range per pax, while set lunches are priced extremely reasonably between $26-$48++, which includes a salad, miso soup, chawanmushi, a choice between 12 main courses and dessert. Better yet, the set lunch is also available on Saturdays!

I first heard of Fat Cow from J almost 3 years back, after it had taken over the premises from Le Figue, a reputed French restaurant back in the day. It’s regretable that my first experience had come so late, for this is a gem that one should always keep close to heart.

*If you are planning on dining ala carte here, do download the Entertainer Singapore 2014 App, which contains three 1-for-1 vouchers on Main Courses here. The use of 1 Voucher already saves more than the 1-year subscription cost to the App.

Reception Area / Bar

Below is what a typical set lunch here looks like, with a partially eaten salad and sans the dessert. As mentioned above, there are 12 main courses to choose from for set lunches here, ranging from Tempura Dons, Chirashi, Sushi, Miso Cod, Kurobuta Tonkatsu, Beef Curry but most popular would be the Fat Cow Donburi (below) and the Fat Foa-gura Don.

Set lunch with half eaten salad and sans the dessert

The Fat Cow Donburi ($39++/set) comprised of A3 grade Charcoal-grilled Wagyu laced with truffle oil, with a perfectly poached onsen egg on the side. Freaking orgasmic is all I can say.

The Fat Cow Donburi

I really enjoyed the Fat Foa-gura Don ($43++/set) as well, which was grilled wagyu and glazed foie gras over rice. The beef is served in cubes with slightly more bite compared to the thinly sliced beef from the donburi and I feel that this allowed for a greater realization of how tender the beef actually was. The oily, decadent pieces of foie gras was executed expertly and not overcooked, definitely something I would consider ordering if it was available as a standalone side dish. While I could go at this all day, some might find this dish slightly unctuous. Well, that’s their loss.

Fat Foa-gura Don

Feedback from E was that the Chirashi ($48++/set) was decent as well, though from her facial expression, I could tell that her pleasure points fell short of the ecstasy I was feeling. Lucky for her, we also ordered some ala carte grilled wagyu, so not all was lost that day.

We tried the grilled Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g) from Saga prefecture which is on the northwest part of Kyushu island and the grilled Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g) from Shiga prefecture. Unanimously, we all preferred the ribeye because the marbling was evidently better and had a richer flavor compared to the sirloin.

Now some people might ask, why do I pay in excess of $200 for a wagyu steak at those fancy schmancy restaurants when the same wagyu steak only costs $50 at Astons? The reason is because most likely, they aren’t the same. There are 3 things to look for when getting down and dirty with wagyu that might explain this price differential. Firstly, is it a cross-bred wagyu from Australia/US or pure-bred wagyu from Japan? Drilling down even deeper, wagyu really refers to Japanese beef, of which there are multiple breeds from the different prefectures (best known would of course be kobe) and each commands a different premium.

Secondly, assuming it is a purebred Japanese wagyu that we are looking at, the meat is then categorized by 2 grading metrics, one that looks at the yield of the meat (ratio of meat to the total weight of the carcass) and one that looks at the quality (marbling, meat colour, texture, fat colour).

For the yield metric, the beef is categorized either as A, B or C, with A (having the most yield) usually derived from a purebred Japanese wagyu. For the quality metric, the beef is then scored from 1-5, with 5 being the best. In addition, there is also a beef marble score (BMS) that is related to the quality metric, that scores the marbling on a scale from 3-12, where an A5 wagyu would have a BMS of between 8-12, an A4 wagyu would have a BMS of 5-7 and an A3 wagyu would have a BMS of 3-4.

Top: Saga Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g), Bottom: Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g)

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

To end off our set lunch, we were provided with a scoop of Honeycomb Ice Cream and it was delish. Again, something that I wouldn’t mind ordering ala carte if it wasn’t part of the set lunch.

Given the flawless and reasonably priced set lunch, I can openly say that this has now become my top 2 favourite set lunches locally, the other being Ember (though I haven’t had the chance to revisit after Chef Sebastian left earlier this year).

 Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard, #01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre, Singapore 248649

Tel: +65 6735 0308

Website: http://www.fat-cow.com.sg/





Salt Grill & Sky Bar – Where Memories are Made to Last

8 06 2014

You have to agree that to a large extent, the best litmus test of what constitutes a great restaurant lies in whether or not one remembers the food eaten there, a couple years down the road.

Having been at Salt Grill & Sky Bar two years back for restaurant week, the vivid image of an amazing appetizer, the crab omelette with enoki mushrooms is still left imprinted in my mind. It’s no wonder it’s been kept on the menu through the years as one of the restaurant’s signatures.

I was back here again for an unraveling of the restaurant’s new menu offerings and post-renovation works. Shan’t bore you too much with the nitty gritty details and let the pics do the talking of the restaurant layout. Essentially, the key difference is the repainting of the pillars to a more rustic hue and the relocation of the Sky Bar from the 56th storey (where in its place is now a private dining area) to the mezzanine level (between the 55th and 56th storey).

Private dining area on the 56th storey (2nd level of the restaurant)

As mentioned above, the restaurant is perched on the 55th and 56th floor of Ion Orchard, providing a spectacular view of the Singapore skyline. You can even see MBS in the distance. To access the restaurant, diners will have to take a private lift from the 4th storey of Ion.

Evening view from the restaurant

As this was an invited tasting, most of the dishes served today were tasting portions rather than full portions, just in case you are wondering why the portions look so petite.

The complimentary Bread selection here is made in-house and served with olive oil and dukkah (a mix of Macadamia, Cashhew, Sesame, Cumin, Coriander and Salt).

To kick off our meal, we had the Coconut broth with Sydney spice (Kaffir lime leaves, Lemon Myrtle, Tumeric, Ginger, Galangal, Chili, Garlic and Salt), which tasted much like an amalgam of a rich frothy seafood bisque and green curry. An interesting blend that definitely aroused my appetite.

One of my favourite dishes that night was the Sashimi of Kingfish, ginger, eschalot & goats feta ($33++). While the preparation for the dish is seemingly simplistic, the flavours brought forth were in perfect symphony. I liked how clean the sashimi tasted, indicating it’s freshness. The sweet ginger also paired well with the fattiness of the kingfish. I would already have given it full marks without the feta, as I felt that the pungency of the feta added little extra value.

While not terrible by any standards, the Baby vegetables, goats curd, ginger bread crumbs, dried black olives ($31++) came across as the least impressive among the dishes I had that night.

As a blast from the past, the ‘Glass’ Sydney crab omelette, enoki mushroom & herb salad, miso mustard broth ($33++) remained stellar as ever, with sheets of velvety omelette encasing slivers of sweet crab meat that complemented the briny broth well. The earthly enoki mushrooms also added a nice crunch to the overall texture of the dish.

The Tea smoked quail, almond cream, prunes, grains, grilled shallot, sorrel ($31++) was noteworthy too, made even more impressive by the fact that well-executed quail can be rather hard to come by. I particularly like the flavours of the Earl Grey Tea that was infused particularly well onto the glaze, interestingly it reminded me of the deepness your senses perceive from a Garrett’s Caramel-flavored popcorn sans the sweetness.

In the case where diners are interested to order a steak, the staff may wheel out a trolley of the different cuts available, facilitating the decision making process for diners. For ourselves, we had the 300-day grain fed Sirloin from Rangers Valley, New South Wales, which was marinated with Moroccan spice and served with sauté spinach, eggplant puree and red wine sauce ($74++). With a marbling score of 2+ (out of a possible 5) based on Australian grading standards, what I got was an average quality cut of beef that wasn’t extremely marbled and still required some chewing. Personally, I thought this was appropriate for such a cooking style and as a main course, as an overly marbled piece of beef often leaves one feeling awfully oleaginous after just a few slices.

Another one of Luke’s signatures that we tried was the Liquorice parfait, lime ($18++). While I’m not fans of liquorice, overall the dessert proved to be a success. The outer layer of the parfait was liquorice flavoured but the inner core of the dessert tasted somewhat like an extremely mild frozen cheesecake which effectively toned down the liquorice.

From the various drinks I tried, I would highly recommend the Salt cooler ($14++), a mocktail concocted from Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lychee, apple, cranberry juice and lemonade. Extremely refreshing without the envisioned tartness nor astringency from the berries.

The restaurant’s signature cocktail is known as The Australian by Luke Mangan ($18++), made from Lime segment, lime leaf, ginger, cognac, gin, cranberry, shaken with Luke’s syrup. Found it a little on the strong side with strong hints of lime.

Cocktails of the day are sold at $15++ and the one featuring that night was The Chocolatini, made from Vodka, white chocolate sauce, green apple syrup and creme de cacao white (Usual Price, $18++). Similar to The Australian, I found this a little on the strong side. On the plus side, this Chocolatini was really thick, unlike some watery versions I have had in neighbourhood bars.

Before calling it a night, I would also recommend having a Grasshopper ($18++), a cocktail made from Creme de menthe, creme de cacao white and milk, tasting much like an “After Eight chocolate” and minty like Colgate, leaving your palate cleansed from the hearty meal.

Grasshopper (Left), Chocolatini (Right), Half-drank Salt Cooler (Far right)

Special thanks to Salt Grill & Sky Bar for the invitation. You made my Wednesday night.

Salt Grill & Sky Bar

2 Orchard Turn, 55 & 56 Floor Ion Orchard, Singapore 238801

Tel: +65 6592 5118





Ito Kacho – A Japanese-Korean styled BBQ that promises to salivate

21 01 2013

Having spent a white Christmas and New Year’s in Korea, I must have gone through quite a few BBQ meals but being on a budget, sad to say I didn’t get to have much premium fare this time round and I was craving some good quality wagyu and kurobuta badly (the black pigs in Jeju Island just isn’t the same as the ones from Japan). So the invitation to dine at Ito Kacho, a Japanese-Korean styled restaurant that specializes in BBQ meats, arrived at the perfect moment.

Barely a month old, it seemed that there were already a few who were in the know of this joint when I dined there on a Thursday night, unperturbed by the relatively extravagant fare (they specialize in wagyu after all). I guess Ito Kacho clearly illustrates the distinction between affordability and value, where an average meal costing $100 while unaffordable by normal standards, might still be considered to be of great value given the premium ingredients used. Of course, it’s possible to dine at Ito Kacho whilst on a budget to, if you stick to items such as their Kurobuta Ramen ($15.80++) but if you are planning to go for their signature BBQ, do be prepared to spend more as they offer mainly premium cuts of meat.

They take their meats really seriously at Ito Kacho. Nothing is left to chance and their Wagyu is air-flown in chilled rather than frozen, ensuring that the nice marbling doesn’t get damaged during the thawing process.

I’m not a fan of kimchi so I would personally avoid ordering the Kimchi Moriawase ($9.90++) aka Assorted Kimchi – Chinese cabbage, cucumber, white radish or the Namuru Moriawase ($8.90++) – Cinnamon fern, white radish, spinach, beansprout. The notion of paying for something that is usually given out free at Korean restaurants just doesn’t seem all that appealing.

The Dashimaki Tamago ($6.90++) wasn’t as sweet as how most Japanese joints do it so it’s great for those who love a mild eggy flavour. Personally however, I would rather save the stomach space for the noteworthy BBQ.

From bottom right clockwise: Kimchi Moriawase, Namuru Moriawase, Dashimaki Tamago

Likewise, the Jikasei Potato Salad ($11.80++) or Homemade Potato Salad was nothing to shout about, very much similar to all the other more affordable potato salads available elsewhere.

Here’s where the fun begins. For beef, we sampled the Wagyu Tomobara ($36/$49++ for 80g or 120g) which is the short ribs also known as kalbi (in korean) or karubi (in japanese), the Wagyu Kainomi ($22/$29++ for 80g or 120g) which is the flap or bottom sirloin, and the US Jo-Karubi ($22/$29++ for 80g or 120g), listed in order of decreasing preference. Wasn’t as charmed by the US Jo-Karubi as it was a little too chewy compared to the wagyu.

What’s so different about wagyu from other types of beef you might ask? I guess there’s many answers to this because they are really worlds apart. Some might metaphorically coin wagyu as beef foie gras, supple and delicate because of the substantial amount of fats that interlace between the lighter than usual colour of beef. For “normal” types of beef, you have a choice to cook it rare all the way to well done but the same cannot be said for wagyu. Given the high fat content, the fats start melting really quickly upon cooking and medium rare should be the furthest you should grill it for so as not to lose the luster of the fats. Personally, I guess when I do go for wagyu, I’m looking for the melt-in-your-mouth feel while for “normal” beef, I go for the immense meaty flavour that materializes when you begin to chew on a piece of steak.

From bottom left clockwise: Wagyu Tomobara, US Jo-Karubi, Wagyu Kainomi

It’s always a joy to eat wagyu but thread carefully, as many restaurants are guilty of sullying the name of the almighty wagyu by using a cheaper cut of cross-bred wagyu, which I believe does not offer the same flavour and texture as the pure breed ones from Japan. The commandment in George Orwell’s  Animal Farm stating that “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal” than others holds true for wagyu as well. Apart from the issue of being fullblood (aka cross-bred) or purebred, another issue one contends with when ordering wagyu is the Grade and Beef Marbling Score (BMS), which both relates to the quality of the wagyu. The Grade (scored from 1-5 with 5 being best) is scored based on marbling, shine & colour, texure & grain and sheen & quality of fat, while the BMS is scored from 1-12 (with 12 being best) and this quality gauge is a key determining factor on how wagyu is priced.

A separate matrix is used to score USDA (US Department of Agriculture) beef, which is usually categorized as “prime”, “choice” or “select”, in order of decreasing quality. The “prime” grade would be the Japan equivalent of a minimum of a Grade 3 or Marbling Score of at least 5.

The Kaisen Moriawase ($36++) is catered for seafood lovers, where you get a good mix of King Crab, Giant Tiger Prawn, Hokkaido Scallop and Squid. Not a fan of King Crab but definitely took to the grilled prawns and hokkaido scallops which were fresh, evident from its sweet flavours and firm textures.

The Boneless Chicken Leg ($9/$12++ for 80g or 120g) is worth ordering as well, which was naturally tender and made even more flavourful with the marinade.

We also tried the Tsubo-Zuke Kurobuta ($19++ for 180g), which is a cut from the collar or neck of a pig. Unlike the beef we had earlier, the pork collar had been marinated for a more pronounced flavour. I wouldn’t have thought that anything would come close to the wagyu earlier but I think that this grilled kurobuta was definitely on par in terms of palatable-ness and tenderness.

We had the Ishiyaki Bibimbap ($15++) as a staple. Nothing extraordinary, just the usual rice mixed with minced Meat, vegetables  dried Seaweed and sesame. I would actually recommend skipping this and just opt for white rice to go with the grilled meats since you can find better Bibimbaps elsewhere.

We ended off the tasting with a simple scoop of Ice Cream ($5.80++). There’s 4 flavours to choose from such as Black Sesame, Matcha, Vanilla and Chestnut (in descending order of preference) and I would suggest sticking to either the Sesame or the Matcha.

What Ito Kacho specializes in, it does really well. Other peripherals might not shine but that’s easily overlooked as you distract yourself with the ooohs and ahhhs of the sizzling BBQ meats.

Special thanks to Ito Kacho for hosting the tasting and Hungrygowhere for coordinating the event.

Ito Kacho

333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery #04-08

Tel: +65 6836 0111








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