30.6.15

PappaRich, Plaza Singapura

Malaysian export PappaRich is one of the better eateries offering authentic Malaysian street food in a comfortably upmarket, albeit casual, setting. Short of hopping onto a plane to Malaysia's culinary hotbeds KL or Penang, PappaRich is really the next best thing this side of the causeway.

Serving greasy street food at hearty portions and reasonable prices, it's little wonder the chain restaurant is frequently packed. Unsurprisingly, service was awful; we never got served any water, getting a server's attention was an impossible task, and just about every wait staff sported a glum grimace. I'd asked to hold off the parsley/spring onions/coriander, and they took off ALL of the vegetables...my noodles missed their beansprouts and kangkong. Notwithstanding the woefully lackadaisical service, the Malaysian fare at PappaRich was pretty commendable. We'd been craving the Hokkien mee back in Penang, and PappaRich's rendition did well in scratching that itch.

A must-try, the Chicken Satay (8.90 for 6) was so succulent and flavourful, it rendered the accompanying peanut sauce redundant.

The Pappa Prawn Mee ($9.90) was a lovely blend of rich shrimp stock and chilli spice, generously studded with fresh prawns and poached chicken slices. The robust broth was wonderfully comforting on a cool rainy night.

The Pappa Fried Mee ($8.90), imbued with the smoky accent of the wok, was equal parts sweet and spicy and savoury. It wasn't the most outstanding, but it passed muster.

The Pappa Chicken Chop with Curry Sauce ($12.90) had beautifully crisp skin. I liked the creamy curry gravy, but thought the fried rice rather pedestrian and fried egg slightly overcooked.


PappaRich Malaysian Delights
Plaza Singapura #01-35
68 Orchard Road
Tel: 6735 9323
Open daily from 10am to 12midnight
Website: www.papparich.com.sg

29.6.15

Shinji by Kanesaka, Raffles Hotel

For japanese haute cuisine in Singapore, there's always that one name that gets thrown up regularly: Shinji, a name synonymous with excellence. Distinguished as the finest Japanese restaurant in all of Singapore (it is the highest ranked on just about every dining list there is), Shinji is one of those places that is reserved for special occasions, the food here being absolutely sublime, and the bill costing a pretty penny.

At $300 a pop for the cheapest omakase dinner option, Shinji is also renown to be the most expensive Japanese restaurant in Singapore. The multi-course meal is well worth it though, sparkling fresh, immaculately finessed and exquisitely plated. 

The restaurant, a pinewood-ed space of tranquility, is split up into several dining rooms, each one kept small so a single chef can helm it, and each room it can be switched up into a private space. 

Service was intuitive, attentive, and unobtrusive. The waitresses were stealthy like ninjas, I never really saw them around, but my teacup was always filled to the brim, and barely a second after we whipped out our credit card, they appeared with the bill! We actually looked up to see if there were cameras in the room watching our every move.

I've got this thing for the strong silent type (the Hubs is like that), so it wasn't a surprise that we liked our chef, Yoshi-san, very much. Pensive and reserved, his cherubic face belied his quiet demeanor and formal bearing. When a bourgeois woman jokingly asked the chef if he could deep-fry the fish, we noted the insult flash affrontingly across the chef's placid face. Despite the saying that "the customer is always right", I would have cheered if the chef had thrown her out the restaurant. She was churlish and loud and crass. Then again, my dinner wouldn't have been that hilariously entertaining. She was an enormous braggart (pun intended), so I learned her entire job history, how old her kids are, where her kids go to school, which country club she's in, that she hadn't played golf in ages, the juicy rundown of ex-classmates at her school reunion, who got fat, who got divorced, who lost their hair, yadda yadda yadda.

First up on the Omakase Wa ($300) was the sea eel appetizer with a chilli yuzu jelly and seaweed pearls.

Next up was a shooter of slimy Mekabu seaweed, soft Japanese yam and crunchy radish drenched in a pool of ponzu.

Shima Aji (Yellow Jack) sashimi, rich and sweet

The creamy sweetness of the sea urchin was a wonderful complement to the milky chew of the squid.

Clockwise from top left, sesame tofu block topped with a snow crab dice; grilled ayu fish; aburi barracuda


I really liked the Flying Fish sashimi dressed in peppery basil strips and sesame seeds.

Lightly battered and fried garoupa settled on a bed of velvety tomato sauce dotted with baby corn and asparagus

A refresher of micro tomatoes, corn and eggplant

Red Snapper (tai) - firm, delicate taste

Grant fish (it's like seabass) - milky and soft

Chu-Toro (medium fatty tuna) -melts-in-your-mouth

Otoro (tuna belly) - incredible marbling

Horse Mackerel (Aji) marinated in shoyu and slicked with lime for balance

Conch Shell, umami much like abalone, marinated and scored because it's so crunchy - not my favourite seafood

Uni (sea urchin), brushed with sweet sauce to enhance its sweetness.

Marinated Tuna - firm and clean

Tiger Prawn (ebi) - cooked and sliced into 2 for the womenfolk for more dainty dining

Eel (anago) - done 2 ways, the first sprinkled with sea salt with yuzu for a piquant finish

The second brushed with sweet sauce

The sushi finisher - Tuna Maki, Tamago, White Radish

A comforting Miso Soup enriched with sakura shrimp

A fruity saccharine round-off to the substantive dinner, a slice of musk melon with a couple of cherries



Shinji by Kanesaka
Raffles Hotel #02-20
1 Beach Road
Tel: 6338 6131
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.shinjibykanesaka.com

25.6.15

Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh, Chui Hui Lim Club

It'd been disappointingly underwhelming first experience at the Rangoon Road outlet of famed bak kut teh joint Ng Ah Sio eons ago, but I finally get the fuss the Hubs makes about "the best pork ribs soup around".

We'd originally wanted to make a revisit to Chui Hui Lim Teochew Cuisine but they were completely packed, so we ended up at Ng Ah Sio next door; dinner fortuitously turned out to be a pretty outstanding affair. 

Perhaps it was the lack of a crowd that immediately pleased us - no long waits or queues. Or perhaps it was the spiffiness of the eatery - it was a bright, cushy space, with air-conditioning! Or perhaps it was the diversified menu: I'd previously griped about the lack of variety at bak kut teh restaurants, but this Ng Ah Sio offers a bunch of local classics like mee siam, chicken rice, laksa, and breakfast staples of kaya toasts and soft-boiled eggs amongst their repertoire. 

The mainstay, its Signature Spare Ribs Soup ($9.80) was fantastic; the broth was as peppery as it was rich in depth of flavour.The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and fresh - no "porky smell" here!

Undoubtedly influenced by its Jumbo affiliation with Chui Hui Lim Teochew Cuisine (their Teochew braised duck is AWESOME), the Braised Duck ($14 for 1/4) at Ng Ah Sio was sparkling fresh, tender and swimming in the most heavenly braising sauce.

The Blanched Lettuce ($5), drenched in a sesame oil-soy emulsion, and brightened by copious lashings of fried garlic bits, was simplicity at its finest.

The Mee Rebus ($7.80) was pure soul food. The gravy was thick and robust, redolent of blended nuts, dried shrimp and spices. I loved that the frills were done well too; the hard boiled egg wasn't overcooked like many other mee rebus renditions, the prawns succulent, and fried baby shrimp delightfully crunchy.



Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh
Chui Hui Lim Club
190 Keng Lee Road #01-02
Tel: 6250 4537
Open daily from 9.30am to 9.30pm
Website: www.ngahsio.com

24.6.15

Song Kee Fishball Noodle

Fishball noodles is one of those hawker foods which illusive simplicity belies the hard work and technical skill required to make it. A humble dish rooted in Teochew-immigrant origins, it primarily comprises al dente noodles slicked with just the right balance of shrimp-based chilli, oil and soy, and painstakingly-made balls of fish paste and flour. It's not a dish I regularly eat when I'm homebound, but for some reason, will definitely crave for the second I touch down on foreign land.

Song Kee Fishball Noodles is one of the top purveyors of this simple but comforting hawker dish. My PMS-induced cravings had insisted on fishball kway teow soup in the middle of the night, barely an hour after dinner, so the very indulgent Hubs curbed his House-of-Cards binge and accompanied me out to supper. We didn't think we'd have to wait very long, since we were having an early supper at 10 pm on a Tuesday night, but wow were we wrong. Although the coffeeshop was only at a 80% capacity, our noodles still took about 40-excruciating minutes to arrive. The Hubs suspects they may have been swamped catching the damn fish.

On the upside, the 90's mandarin songs, and 60's English oldies, wafting through the stuffy coffeeshop were quite the nostalgic throwback. Just when I thought I knew everything about the Hubs, I discovered that he knows the lyrics to Fen1 Shou3 Ba4 by Taiwanese rocker A-Yue. By heart. My ACS-schooled, needs-translations-when-I-give-Mandarin-directions-to-taxi-drivers, Hubs, actually listened to Chinese music way back when. If you ever met the Hubs, you would have found that LOL-hilarious. 

We were prepared to hate this place, being "allergic" to waiting and all, but the Fishball Mee Pok ($3.50) was actually worth the wait. Dotted with deliciously sinful cubes of crunchy lard, and balanced with a shrimp-y chilli, the noodles were excellent. The highlight was the fish dumpling, swaddled in a thin chewy skin and stuffed with a garlicky flavourful mince. I would return just for this alone. The fishballs, was a little heavier than I'd expected, but sufficiently springy and smooth in texture. The fried beancurd, stuffed with fish paste, was also homemade like the rest of the stellar toppings.

The Fishball Kway Teow Soup ($3 for small) was the perfect catharsis to my soupy craving. The lard-accented fish broth was delicate, so I wasn't parched although I wolfed down the entire bowl. I also loved how the slippery rice noodle ribbbons slid down like a dream.

An excellent recommendation by the exuberant proprietor, the Fishball & Fish Dumpling Soup ($5) will make the margins of returns more worthwhile.


Song Kee Fishball Noodles
532 Upper Serangoon Road
Open Thursdays to Tuesdays from 7pm to 2am (or whenever it sells out, sometimes by 1am);
Closed on Wednesdays

23.6.15

Hashida Sushi

Hashida Sushi, while a relative young 'un in the Japanese fine-dining scene, quickly became a firm favourite amongst the discerning of palate. Hailing from Tokyo, the teeny-tiny (it's got a grand total of 19 seats!) galley of a restaurant made waves when it launched its first-ever overseas offshoot in Mandarin Gallery. Frequently featured on 'best of' lists, and consistently lauded with culinary awards, Hashida Sushi is known for its decidedly-limited, omakase-only menus that showcase the very best of the season.

Despite the apparent lack of variety, the food here is exceptional, finessed by chefs who are knowledgeable and utterly charming. There are just 3 menus for lunch, the $80 Tsubaki, $120 Ayame and $250 Hiiragi Omakase. The Tsubaki and Ayame menus are nigiri-centric, the Ayame being the premium option with an additional chawanmushi and uni.

Service is typically Japanese - gracious, intuitive and obliging to a fault. Most of all, I love that the staff aren't pushy: the waitress discouraged us from ordering the full omakase, informing that we'd be too stuffed otherwise. And when we were deliberating over the Tsubaki and Ayame (we like chawanmushi, but aren't fans of uni), recommended that we get the $120 Ayame, but swop the uni out for some chopped tuna, because it'd be more expensive to order a chawanmushi on top of the $80 Tsubaki. How's that for service! I'm always impressed when a restaurant shows integrity like that.

First up was a chilled starter of Steamed Japanese Yuba (beancurd skin) layered with ikura, bonito jelly and freshly grated wasabi. This was clear, mild and refreshing.

The Chawanmushi was next, baby-bottom smooth and contrasted with sweet corn, grilled scallop, baby lady's fingers and caviar.

The 1st of 6 nigiri was the Shima Aji (yellow jack), simply brushed with shoyu to highlight its rich fattiness.

The Kamasu (barracuda) was aburi-ed to flesh out its mild flavour.

The Aji (horse mackerel), also burnished lightly with shoyu, was wonderfully springy and umami.

The Tai (seabream), marinated in ponzu and sprinkled with yuzu zest for a fruity finish, was my favourite, a lovely balance of meltingly fatty and chewy textures.

The Tairagigai (penshell), a cousin of scallop, was torched to counter its distinctive bitterness.

To fill you up, there's the chopped tuna mini Donburi, laden with briny ikura pearls, seaweed slivers, and a dollop of grated wasabi for heat. Absolutely sumptuous and scrumptious.

The Asari Clam Miso Soup was next, which helped to clear the palate with its comforting broth.

The Chu-Toro (medium fatty tuna) was a smash hit. Then again, you can't go wrong with melt-in-your-mouth fish like that.

The Tamago was more akin to an eggilicious cake, having achieved amazingly fluffy and airy textures.

The dessert offerings made for brilliant palate cleansers, a peeled sour grape (yes, there's actually such a thing!), regular green grape, and tart strawberry. 

Our adorably dimpled chef, Hitoshi-san, who masterfully sliced into the humongous tuna slab. We could have been happy eating this alone. How gorgeous is that slab of fish??


Hashida Sushi
#02-37 Mandarin Gallery
333A Orchard Road
Tel: 6733 2114
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 7pm to 10pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: hashida.com.sg

22.6.15

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse

Growing up, a night out at Mohamed Sultan meant an alcohol-hazed hedonistic all-nighter. Fast forward a decade: the drinking holes are gone, and so are the revelers, replaced by restaurants that span the casual to the fine upscale. A few doors down where Madam Wong's used to be is Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, an Italian steakhouse centered upon Australian wagyu cattle.

The hunting lodge-styled restaurant is masculine and sophisticated, awash in blood reds and sombre blacks, and decked out in hardwoods, faux animal skinned rugs, and antler-chandeliers. Hannibal Lecter would feel right at home here, I thought. Or both George Bushes.

For a steakhouse, the pastas were flawless. You'll be remiss if you didn't try them. That said, the steaks were a must-try, get the bone-in steaks to share if you've got at least 4 persons in your group.

Service was upbeat, attentive and warm. Our water glasses were never left parched, and the wait staff sported wide grins with a twinkle in their eyes.

The Coniglio ($25), a tagliatelle tossed in a full-bodied rabbit ragout, mixed mushrooms and pancetta, was exquisite. I love bunnies (as you can well tell from my moniker), but wowoweewa, this was truly glorious. It's a little difficult to feel guilty when this was so awesomely good.

The Risotto al Tartufo ($35) with porcini, parmesan and generously littered with black truffle shavings was intoxicatingly delicious. Creamy, balanced and wonderfully comforting.

The thick-cut Fiorentina Manzo ($188), a massive 1.1 kg wagyu-holstein T-bone, was incredibly tender and juicy. I loved its full-bodied decadence, but 2 in our group found it a smidge too fat. Just look at that beautiful charring!

This was served with a quartet of Sauces - left to right: Black Pepper with balsamic reduction; English Mustard; Dijon Mustard and Salsa Verde. I didn't have any use for the sauces, because I liked the steak as is, but a swipe of mustard went a long way in cutting through the fatty lace.

We got a couple of sides to complement the steak, and the Asparagi ($15), perfectly grilled asparagus sticks imbued with a heady smoky aroma, made for excellent fibrous crunchy greens. 

The Gnocchi e Funghi ($13), a mushroom medley with chewy potato gnocchi, and tossed with butter and thyme, was unfortunately laced with parsley. Good thing we had a parsley lover in our midst or we'd have sent it back.

Good rustic crusty bread sided by with chicken pate and olive oil. Simple but well done.


Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse
25 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 6735 6739
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12noon to 2pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.bistecca.com.sg

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