17.5.16

Hock Lam Specialties, ION Orchard

The famous Original Hock Lam Beef Noodle empire has landed in the heart of the shopping belt, deep down in the food basement of ION Orchard. I'm a big fan of its sister restaurants: the CBD original at Far East Square and Southern outpost at Alexandra, so I was curious to see if this lux-ed up branch would fare as well.

It didn't. The ION Orchard offshoot has clearly watered down the bone of the classic Hock Lam flavour, making it less distinctive, but a lot more commercial. The food is a little clumsy too, with braised eggs that were overdone, and rubbery beef that was less than sparkling fresh. The lackluster fare may be why the casual diner was barely filled with people, even though it was a peak lunch period on a busy weekend.

The Australian Beef Ribeye Noodle Soup ($9.90) was commendable, even if it was notably more delicate than the robust herbal overtones of its other outlets. The Braised Egg ($1.50) top-up was awfully disappointing though, it'd been hard boiled to oblivion.

The Beef Ribeye & Brisket Dry Noodles ($9.90) had Australian ribeye slices which were tender, and stewed beef shanks which were unfortunately, stringy and dry, and blanketed with a gloopy, not smooth, gravy.


Hock Lam Beef Specialties
2 Orchard Turn
B3-18 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509 5429
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.hocklambeef.com

16.5.16

Portico Prime

I'd a rather unimpressive lunch at Portico sometime back, and had written it off there and then. So when a couple of friends raved about Portico's food, I scoffed, unconvinced. But when yet another foodie friend waxed lyrical about her anniversary dinner at Portico Prime, Portico's second outlet at Dempsey, I thought I'd give the intrepid restaurant another shot.

I'm glad I listened to my friends: they'd said that Portico's dinners fare much better than their set lunches. My second-chance dinner at Portico Prime, nestled in the lush Dempsey Hills enclave, was outstanding. Not a wrong move with every dish. Execution was fantastic, and each plate was a colourful kaleidoscope of textures and flavours.

If I had one gripe, it would pertain to the indoor premises, which was stifling and humid, despite the tall ceilings, open-concept layout and supposed air-conditioning. The wait staff explained, apologetically, that the exhibition kitchen annexed to the dining hall contributed to the stuffy heat. I think they could do more to turn up the AC, and better ventilate the space.

The Seared Hokkaido Scallops ($14), whilst salty on their own, were perfectly countered with the crisp cos lettuce beds of grated pecorino, a lovely runny sous vide 63C egg, dehydrated bacon, and brown anchovy mayo. An sublime starter to the meal. 

A must-try, the Chilled Truffle-Scented Angel Hair ($14) crowned with avruga caviar, crunchy kawa ebi shrimp, and dehydrated kombu shio was intensely aromatic, and insanely delicious. This was generously portioned, but despite so, this was so damn good I was quite reluctant to share.

I'm a big fan of locally sourced produce, so the Pan-Seared Pulau Ubin Barramundi ($19) immediately caught our eye on the menu. The fish was moist and flaky, its skin beautifully crisp. Roasted ratte potatoes were flecked with semi-dried tomatoes, and seasoned with a wonderfully citrusy carrot ginger puree swirled with trout roe beurre blanc.

The Portico's Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek ($21) was simmered in mulled wine for an unctuous fork-tender finish, set on a bed of pommery mustard mash, dotted with sauteed white button mushrooms, and brightened by yuzu compressed nashi pear cubes. It looked a right mess, but wow was this heartily fantastic.

We were on a bit of a carb-binge so we added on a side of Pommery Mustard Mash Potato ($7.50), so airy and fluffy and light, with the barest bit of mustard for a delicate bite, and slathered with a morel beef sauce for extra oomph.

Complimentary starters of freshly baked herbed bread with whipped butter.



Portico Prime
10 Dempsey Road #01-20
Tel: 6474 7427
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 11pm;
Fridays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 12midnight;
Sundays from 11.30am to 10.30pm
Website: portico.sg

12.5.16

Sacha & Sons, New York Delicatessen

While Jewish delicatessens are a dime & a dozen in cities like New York, they're rare these parts of the world. If ever you're craving good Jewish-style meats, you best get acquainted with the local Jewish community. Or head to Sacha & Sons NY Delicatessen, perhaps the only Jewish-friendly deli in all of Singapore. In spite of the monopoly, Sacha & Sons does a pretty bang-up job.

The menu is lengthy, abundant with foods that are exotically peculiar like latkes, blintzes, kugel, matzo, schmaltz, or knishes. Ask, if you can't be bothered to google; the smiley staff are knowledgeable and on hand to provide personal recommendations. A tip is to stick to the sandwiches containing pastrami, which was one kind of delicious, using USD-grade brisket that'd been dry-cured, spice-rubbed, smoked and then steamed for a melty lusciousness. It's glorious!

Note that the meats are available for takeaways. We've taken away the pastrami to form part of our charcuterie board for dinner parties, which was received very well.

A recommendation, the Grilled Reuben ($20 for 150gm) was a brioche sandwich layered with pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, sided by a pickle to cut through the hearty heft of the sandwich, and a refreshing coleslaw. Too bad the coleslaw was laced with parsley.  

The no-frills variant of the Reuben, the Classic Deli ($18 for 150gm) was simply set with pastrami and mustard, and we opted for toasted rye bread. Without the accoutrements, the scrumptiousness of the brisket really shines through. 

The Classic Matzo Ball Chicken Soup ($10) served with a sesame-d bagel had a wholesome homestyled flavour to it, with matzo balls so soft and scrumptious. I finally get why Harvey Specter's day can't begin until he's had his bagel - this was excellent. Handrolled, boiled, and baked fresh in-house on a daily basis, this was delightfully chewy and wonderfully flavoursome.


Sacha & Sons NY Delicatessen
333A Orchard Road
Mandarin Gallery #03-02
Tel: 6735 6961
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 10am to 9.30pm;
Fridays & Saturdays from 10am to 10.30pm
Website: sacha-deli.com.sg

11.5.16

Sungei Road Laksa, Jalan Besar

Many are familiar with Katong's style of laksa, but I find the hawkers brandishing the brand to be a little heavy-handed with coconut milk. I can hardly finish a small portion without getting overwhelmed by the cloyingly saccharine overtones.

In this regard, I much prefer the restrain displayed by Sungei Road Laksa, another illustrious heritage hawker whose style of laksa is distinguished by the use of charcoal to fire up the brick stove. Sungei Road Laksa may serve up one of the simplest bowls of laksa, without modern adornments like eggs, prawns or otah, but what they lack in frills, they compensate with freshness and quality. And if you ever thought what the biggie was in using charcoal fire, Sungei Road Laksa will change your mind; it's immediately evident that the smoky char of the fire imbues each bowl of laksa with an irresistibly heady aroma.

The queues may be legendary but clockwork-efficient production of the noodles ensures the line moves fast. But if you're really averse to waiting in line, the best time to hit up Sungei Road Laksa is after the peak lunch hours on weekdays. There's hardly a queue then. 

The standard order Laksa ($3) loaded with beansprouts, fishcakes, and cockles was seriously good. The cockles, though petite, were swimmingly fresh and succulent, and lend a briny accent to the rich and robust gravy.

I'm not a big fan of cockles, so we got a portion of Laksa ($3) sans cockles, which potent gravy was unadulterated by the seafresh taste of cockles. Be sure to ask for an extra helping of the glorious sambal chilli, this added a kickass punch to the creamy gravy.

The stall facade.


Sungei Road Laksa
Jin Shui Kopitiam #01-100
27 Jalan Berseh
Open daily from 9am to 6pm; 
Closed every first Wednesday of the month

10.5.16

One & Only The Palm, Dubai

Dubai, a bustling metropolis Middle Eastern Hub, is teeming with luxury hotels along the likes of chain hotels like the Ritz, Oberoi and St Regis. So, where best suits to stay?

First, you decide if you wanna stay in the city center or outside the city on the Palm Jumeirah Island. Personally, I prefer staying on The Palm. It may be a good 20-minute car-ride distance from the city, but the sea/beach views are way more relaxing than a sandswept monotonous skyscraper-view.

Thing is, the island itself is also littered with a million luxury hotels. But, if you're looking for the ultimate in luxury and money isn't really an objection, I'd highly recommend One & Only The Palm.

Our plan was always to cocoon ourselves in our hotel in Dubai, as touring the city, which would only take an afternoon, was a secondary purpose to visiting Dubai. Hence, the choice of accommodation was paramount. And as we'd previously stayed in One & Only in the Maldives, we knew to count on the chain's Dubai property to provide a pampering and luxurious stay.

True to form, One & Only The Palm didn't disappoint. It was perhaps, one of the very few hotels that's nicer (and cleaner) than my own home. Which is no mean feat, as the Hubs is quite the clean freak. (For context: it's our policy to, as much as possible, only stay in hotels/resorts/apartments at least as nice as our home, because it's really not worthwhile to pay good money to stay in a place that's less comfortable or not as nice as my own home. I may as well stay home then, am I rightttttt??)

If you're concerned about it being too far removed from civilisation, One & Only The Palm has got a sister property, the One & Only Royal Mirage right on the mainland, which can be reached very easily by speedboat shuttle transfers. And yes, hopping onto a speedboat will get you faster to the mainland than a car.

The hotel's Andalusian-Moroccan aesthetic is opulent without being garish, sumptuous without being vulgar. 


Reception

It's at the tip of one of the palm's leaves. The grand cobble-stoned driveway leading to the front of hotel.

We don't see this very often around this parts, but isn't this just gorgeous? And in my favourite colour too! Clearly the guests here have good taste.

The check-in counter

The foyer, where you're processed for check-in

Where you are served welcome drinks

While savouring the beautiful view of the outdoor veranda which overlooks the main pool

The concierge - alternatively, each villa is frilled with a personalised butler, who will arrange any tour requests you may have


Amenities

The main pool is cladded in marble, which is scrubbed every day. It's probably cleaner than the pool in my home!

The fitness center also houses a Guerlain spa

The full service spa also holds a nail studio and hair salon, outposts of the famed pedicurist Bastien Gonzalez and stylist to the stars Alexandre Zouari respectively

There's also an adults-only pool annexed to the fitness center

The beach, though man-made, is calm and clean

The small-ish business center cum library from which you can borrow CDs and DVDs should the multiple international movie and cable channels on tv isn't enough.


Palm Beach Mansions

There are three accommodation concepts, the Manor House, the Beachfront Villas, and the Palm Beach Mansions, the last of which was where we stayed - Mansion 5.

The courtyard of Mansion 5, with heavy swing doors

The main foyer of Mansion 5

There are suites on the ground and second levels, the second storey suites have its own balcony, while the ground floor suites have its own pools.


Palm Beach Junior Suite with Pool

We stayed in the massive 1000+ sq ft, very plush Palm Beach Junior Suite with its own private pool. Prices start from AED8900 (S$3300) per night for double occupancy. There's a walk-in closet, and sitting area.

The sun-drenched room looks out into the pool deck

The marble-everything bathroom, which also looks out to the pool deck. Don't worry about privacy, there are remote-controlled blinds that roll down.

The huge steam shower on the opposite end of the toilet.

Love love love the gigantic soaking tub

Toiletries from the ultra luxe Acqua di Parma range

The pool deck, with a large covered patio should you be inclined to dine alfresco. We had many a room service meals here.

I spent many hours reading and drinking by the pool; Dubai in January is enjoyably cool. Yes, cooler than Singapore. With a high of only 24C and lows of 18C.

Georgie Bear, still on New Zealand time, is an early riser, and loves watching the sunrise

Polar covering up to avoid a heatstroke from the searing afternoon sun

The hallway entrance

The mini bar, with a wide range of coffee capsules

Welcome fruits and chocolates that were pretty decent


Restaurants & Bars

All of the dining concepts at One & Only The Palm are curated by three-Michelin starred chef Yannick Alleno. Note that all restaurants have a minimum of a smart casual dress code.

Stay by Yannick Alleno - the fine-dining concept serving exquisite French fare. Full writeup here.

Zest - the all-day restaurant serving international cuisine. The lowdown on meals here and breakfast here.

Our favourite table at Zest

101 Dining Lounge & Bar - the late-night option for cocktails and grub.It's perched over the Marina, at the far end of the resort. You can opt for a buggy or take a short stroll over. Review of the food is chronicled here.

You can an awesome view of the Dubai skyline on the way over to 101.

The private function room adjacent to the main lounge. 

The restaurant has an outdoor lounge and indoor dining area.

It's accessible by boat, which is also where you hop on to get to One & Only The Palm's sister property, One & Only Royal Mirage.

Best get there early, about an hour before sunset, to enjoy the in-house band. They take requests!

The Lounge - off the main reception, where you can enjoy small bites and a full drink menu.



One & Only The Palm
Website
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