12.7.18

Sushi Mieda

Remember how I said before that price usually correlates to how good a Japanese restaurant is? Well, it's obviously not a rule set in stone, and Sushi Mieda, unfortunately, falls into that category of an overpriced and overhyped washout of a dinner.

The Singapore outpost, at the revolving OUE Tower at Collyer Quay, is the first overseas venture of the one Michelin-starred, Hokkaido mothership, Mieda. I guess that's the problem inherent of most affiliates of Michelin-awardees, the principal chef who propelled the original to Michelin stardom isn't around here to whip up any Michelin-quality magic.

What a pity, because our Mutsukari Kaiseki ($300) dinner actually started out pretty decent...but then devolved into a middling, almost mass-market quality, entirely forgettable meal. Unsurprisingly, the four of us went on out to have prata for supper, right after dinner.

The appetizer, a trio of roasted baby yam and eggplant, tempura fish and beancurd jelly was great. Loved every aspect, and polished them all off.

The sashimi course was shaky, at best. The goldeneye snapper, lightly torched on the skin, was delicious, but the other two were pedestrian, at best. The slices were jagged on the edges, a sign of a hesitant hand, and I needed to drown them in soy, wasabi and lime to mask the less-than-sweet taste.

The next courses that followed fared way better: the Monk Fish Liver, steamed in a melange of soy, sake, mirin; and Braised Octopus, treated with soy and sugar, were fantastic. The liver was not livery at all, and the octopus was mild and delicate. A sprinkle of grated yuzu zest lent levity.

The Grilled Unagi, burnished in an exquisite teriyaki sauce, was fantastic. The light smoky and sweet notes of the glaze complemented the seafood.

When the Sushi course arrived, my heart sank. One look, and we could all tell it was NOT gonna be good. These were as unappetizing as they looked, clunky in execution, lacking in finesse and less than sparkling fresh. The ones at the top, namely the Chutoro, and Maguro (lean tuna), and the bottom ones, the Maki (maguro and kanpyo pickles) and Tamago, passed muster, but the rest, like a Tai (snapper), nodoguro (black throat sea perch), Anago (sea eel), and that pangolin-looking nigiri were impossible to keep down. Suffice it to say, none of us finished our sushi course.

The Uni and Ikura Mini Chirashi was overly vinegar-ed, we were not fans.

After that bummer of nigiri duds, the dessert of a Japanese musk melon and oranges was a godsend, a refreshing cleanser that was much needed to clear our palates.



Sushi Mieda
OUE Tower Level 10
60 Collyer Quay
Tel: 6634 3233
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.sushimieda.sg

10.7.18

Bon Juk, Seoul

Bon Juk is a major household name for porridge, and as ubiquitous a breakfast stop as Ya Kun in Singapore. With dozens of branches spread out all over the city, Bonjuk is insanely popular with Seoulites. The Four Seasons concierge had recommended us the one within strolling distance from the hotel, and so we checked it out one mid-afternoon.

Unfortunately, they'd run out of the crab porridge by breakfast time, which was a real pity, because the juks we ended up having were middling and entirely forgettable. The silver lining, and highlight of the meal, turned out to be the jangjorim banchan. The soy braised pulled beef brisket was superb, its salty and slightly sweet flavour added a much-needed spark to the plain, staid gruel.

The Beef Bone Porridge (8,500KRW), studded with tiny vegetable cubes of carrots, sliced shitakes and spring onions, was so incredibly light I dumped the whole saucer of jang-jorim into the bowl just so it had some taste.

The Mushroom Oyster Porridge (9,000KRW) fared much much better, as the molluscs lent a rich savoury note to the juk. Note to self: wake up early to get the crab porridge. Or else get the Hubs to wake up early and takeaway said porridge back to the hotel for breakfast, aha!!



BonJuk Gwanghwamun-jeom
105 Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu,
Sejong-ro 204-1, Seoul
Tel: +82 02 733 6288
Open daily from 9am to 10pm

9.7.18

Summer Pavilion

Summer Pavilion is one of our favourite restaurants for Chinese cuisine. Consistently impeccable, the food marries the sophistication of fine dining with the unpretentious comfort of homespun flavours.

And, for such an elegant, upscale setting, the vibe is totally unfussy, and utterly unassuming. I mean, the strikingly stunning chinaware is from Richard Ginori, which is like fancy schmansy to the hilt.

And while most people have big family dinners here, there are a good number of somewhat-private-ish booth seats perfect for cozing up with a loved one on a date-night.

We also like the service here, attentive but unobtrusive, efficient but warm, and unfailingly gracious. With the trifecta of flawless food, beautiful ambience and faultless service, it's little wonder the venerable restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star for both years since the awards was launched in Singapore.

A specialty that's a must-try, the Marinated Tea Leaf-Smoked London Duck ($45 for half-portion) was just fantastic. Redolent with the smoky aroma of tea leaves, the meat was deliciously juicy and skin, paper-crisp.

The Summer Pavilion Barbecued Iberico Pork ($42 for small) steeped in a spiced honey and soy marinade, was luscious, albeit a smidge gamey.

The soups at Summer Pavilion are exquisite and although all of them are amazing, a couple of our favourites are the Double-Boiled Chicken Soup ($16 per portion) with spongy bamboo pith, a plump black mushroom, and Chinese cabbage.

And the Braised Diced Seafood Soup ($20 per portion), brimming with the umami richness of scallops, prawns, fish, and conpoy. For crunch and texture, there was bamboo pith, pine mushrooms, egg-white drop, and kailan slivers.

A chef's recommendation and another must-try, the Sauteed Dong Xing Grouper Fillet ($126 for 600gm) looked deceptively, at first blush, like a whole, still-intact fish. But it'd been deconstructed, and then "reconstructed". This was scrumptious, the fish was perfectly flaky, a purposeful light touch was employed in the seasoning, and the shredded sweet peas, beansprouts, carrots and cucumbers lent a refreshing counter.

The Braised Beancurd ($28 for small), smooth like a custard, topped with bamboo pith, carrots, Chinese black mushrooms, and poached choy sum, was slathered in a velvety oyster sauce gravy. Wonderfully comforting fare.

Another Chef's specialty and also a dish I always order, is the Lobster Poached Rice ($20 per portion). I love the textural contrast of the crispy rice puffs, soft steamed rice, and springy lobster flesh. Add to that the sumptuous lobster-based broth, and you get unadulterated decadence in a bowl.

The Hubs loves the Black Pepper Seafood Fried Noodles ($32 for small), liberally dotted with akagai clam, squid, shrimp, and heady with the punchy kick of black pepper.

Another one of my favourite dishes here is the delicate Shredded Chicken & Mushroom Vermicelli Soup ($10 per person) enlivened with preserved vegetables and chilli shreds. If you're seeing a pattern here, yes, I love soups: soup with rice, soup with noodles, and just good ol' plain soups, thick and thin.


Summer Pavilion
7 Raffles Ave
The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore
Tel: 6434 5286
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website

Migabon, Seoul

Porridge, or 'juk' as the Koreans call it, is another thing on my to-eat list whenever we return to Seoul for our yearly visits. And although the Koreans generally eat this for breakfast, I typically eat this for a late lunch or dinner. I'm staunchly in the brinner camp, and also, erm, I'm rarely awake before noon.

Migabon is situated just upstairs from Sinseon Seolnongtang (I swear that piece of real estate has the best fengshui), and while it draws a healthy tourist crowd (seeing as it's ranked pretty high on tripadvisor, which may be in part due to its convenient locale in the shopping district of Myeongdong), the porridge here is outstanding.

Korean juk is like a cross between Cantonese congee and Japanese zousui. It's loaded with ingredients a-plenty, but thick and smooth and mild.

Most would order the abalone version, but I would steer you to the King Crab Porridge (10,000KRW) instead. Barring any seafood allergies, this was far superior a choice than the almost stodgy abalone porridge. The sweetness of the shellfish just balances out the sesame seeds, crushed seaweed, and spring onions so much better. This was pure comfort in a bowl, and wonderfully exquisite. And that kkakdugi (radish kimchi) was amazing. So incredibly delicate and refreshing.

We also ordered the Ginseng Chicken with Wild Sesame (15,000KRW) which was just so-so. The glutinous rice was excellent, but the chicken hadn't stewed long enough, and the broth was lacking in depth of flavour.

The restaurant front for reference. It's the green one with the big big word "粥" on it.


Migabon
2F, 2-23 Myeong-dong-gil 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-809, South Korea
Tel: +82 02 752 0330
Opens daily from 8am to 4pm; 5pm to 10pm
Facebook Website

8.7.18

Two Plus Korean BBQ, Seoul

Two Plus is our other favourite Korean barbecue restaurant in Seoul (the other being Han Wa Dam). A new-ish contemporary Korean BBQ joint that's recently become popular in Korea, it's got about the same number of branches as Han Wa Dam. A big plus, it's also walkable from the Four Seasons.

And like Han Wa Dam, Two Plus specializes in 1++-rated Korean Hanwoo beef. For background: Hanwoo beef, like Japanese wagyu, has different grades: namely 1++, 1+, 1, 2, and 3, in descending order. And therein lies the backstory of the restaurant's moniker, Two Plus, because it exclusively serves 1++ Hanwoo beef that's graded one with two pluses, geddit??

A second plus (pun intended): the prices here are a smidge cheaper than at Han Wa Dam.

The Aged Ribeye (44,000KRW for 150gm) balanced heft and fatty sumptuousness. This was simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and char of the coal rounded this off with an intoxicatingly smoky aroma.

The Aged Striploin Diamond (39,000KRW for 150gm) was a carpet steak that rolled out into a juicy hunk of full-bodied opulence. Even though I'm generally partial to ribeye cut, this was just exceptional.


We also had some Bulgogi (29,000KRW for 150gm), which was served on a griddle with a broth moat to catch all that delicious beef jus. Absolutely glorious, and a must try. 


But this, the Beef Brisket Fried Rice (22,000KRW) was some kind of wonderful. It's like a cross between a paella and claypot rice, where the beef-studded rice, redolent with the kick of gochujang and tang of kimchi, was spread flat on a sizzling cast iron pan, so the bottom gets all charred and crispy. Insanely good. This alone warrants a return visit. Which we did. The very next day. 

The Hubs loved the Spicy Intestine Casserole (12,000KRW), which was lively with a tinge of sour, heady and spicy. So apparently the Koreans, like the Chinese, love eating intestines. But unlike those intestines you find in Singapore, even in the best of the kway chap stalls, the Koreans really clean the crap out of them intestines. Seriously, squeaky clean. If I didn't read the menu, I would never have known there were intestines at all: there was not one whiff of that bung-like stench. 

I preferred the Egg Souffle (4,000KRW) at Two Plus, it was thick and dense, but airy and light. Also, because I'm not crazy about pollack roe.

There was a bunch of banchan too, but I wasn't nuts about them. The Spicy Lettuce Salad had coriander leaves, which made it an immediate write-off.

The Spicy Chive Salad was better though, simply because no coriander leaves aha!!

The Kimchi here was decent, robust and vibrant, but it just couldn't compare to Han Wa Dam's version. If I had to rate this, it'll be a close third behind Sinseon Seolnongtang's kimchi.

I liked the Water Kimchi, it was piquant and lent crunch to the bbq-ed meats.

Best of the lot was the Roasted Pumpkin, sweet and earthy and absolutely lovely.

The Pickled Radish and Cucumbers was decent, refreshing and snappy.


Two Plus Korean Barbecue
B1 Seoul Finance Centre, 97 Mugyo-dong
Jung-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82 2 3783 0607
Open weekdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5pm to 10pm for dinner;
weekends from 11.30am to 10pm

Korean Restaurant Sinseon Seolnongtang, Seoul

Sinseon Seolnongtang stood out for the most unexpected reason, they made the most delicious kimchi. Well, second-best since we discovered Han Wa Dam anyway.

We were picking up our yearly supply of face masks in Myeong-dong, and looking for a place to park our fannies. It was close to our dinner reservations at Two Plus but we thought, a light snack of soup and dumplings couldn't hurt. (famous last words really, we struggled to finish dinner and practically waddled back to the hotel, tummies a-budging and belts unbuckled)

The specialty here is Seolnong-tang, or Seolleongtang, an ox bone soup that's stewed so long the collagen is leeched out those bones. That's what gives the soup its characteristic milky appearance. It's light and delicate, almost plain, and totally unlike the typical robustness of galbi-tang or any of our local beef soups.

We had the Baekse Seolnongtang (11,000KRW) which was like a jacked-up ox bone stew, with ginseng, dates, licorice, chestnuts and antlers which lent a distinctively earthy complement to the broth. This was topped with slivers of brisket, leek, spring onions, and enoki. In part because I love Korean ginseng, I much prefer this to the standard seolleong-tang order.

The Sinseon Jjinmandu (6,000KRW) was a surprisingly scrumptious; the steamed dumplings, fat with mince and chopped spring onions, were juicy and flavoursome, but nuanced.


Ooh but the highlight here, and a gem of a find, was the Kimchi, it's the reason I first fell in love with kimchi. Seriously, my life's marked by this tea break at Shinseon Seolnong-tang: before kimchi, and after this life-changing kimchi. This was the bomb-diggity, the perfect balance of sour, tart, spicy, savoury and tantalising. I confess I had like 6 portions of this.

The restaurant facade for reference.


Korean Restaurant Sinseon Seolnongtang
2-2 Myeongdong 2-Ga, Jung-Gu
Seoul 100-701
South Korea
Tel: +82 02 777 4531
Open 24 hours

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