30.11.09

Crystal Jade Kitchen, Suntec City Mall

People sometimes ask me how do I stay in shape since I eat a lot (and I do mean a lot), and I tell them that I exercise and contrary to popular belief, I do eat in moderation. I'm very sensitive to my stomach and I think I'm a great listener to the sounds my stomach makes. I don't eat if I'm not hungry. I just don't believe one has to eat all three meals a day if one isn't hungry at all 3 mealtimes.

Today was one of those days where I wasn't hungry, so I took some soup and nibbled off the BF's dinner at Crystal Jade Kitchen. He ordered the Dry Wanton Noodles ($7.80). This came with 5 plump and juicy prawn wantons and choy sum (also known as cai xin or Chinese flowering cabbage). The noodles were al dente perfection and retained a nice bite to them (some would say the noodles were very "q").


 So you see, I'm not such a glutton afterall.

Crystal Jade Kitchen
3 Temasek Boulevard,
B1-013, Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6338 3511
Open daily, 11am to 10.30pm
Website: www.crystaljade.com

29.11.09

SICC Bukit Pastry Corner

The BF got the Opera cake ($3.60) in addition to our usual selection of 6 chocolate eclairs. He usually varies our weekend dessert indulgence by buying a different pastry together with the ubiquitous eclairs.

This was rich and decadent without being overwhelmingly saccharine. This classic French dessert is made up of layers of nutty almond sponge soaked in a light coffee syrup, ganache and coffee buttercream, and topped with a very pretty gold-speckled chocolate glaze.


Bukit Pastry Corner
Singapore Island Country Club, Bukit location
240 Sime Road
Singapore 578774
Tel: 6461 7439
Open on Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 10pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 10pm

28.11.09

Starbucks Coffee, Suntec City Mall

I love toffee. It's not as sickeningly sweet as caramel, but not as ordinary as chocolate. I would drink hot toffee everyday back when Coffee Bean used to serve such a drink. Unfortunately, they took it off their menu several years ago. I suppose it's because it's not a very popular drink amongst locals here.

Luckily, come Christmas time, Starbucks serves Toffee Frappuccinos ($6.40) and toffee lattes as part of their festive offerings. Toffee is just such a festive drink, it's like liquid Christmas. I guess this is what Butterbeer (a popular beverage of the wizarding community in the Harry Potter books. Yes, I'll readily admit that I love the Harry Potter books!) would taste like, albeit laced with alcohol, if it were a real drink.



Starbucks Coffee Company

3 Temasek Boulevard
#01-126 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6339 3519
Open Mondays to Fridays and Public Holidays from 7.30am to 11pm
Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 11pm
Website: www.starbucks.com.sg/

27.11.09

Marks and Spencer Four Cheese and Red Onion Crunchy Combo Mix

After lunch with Ernie at Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant, we stopped by Marks and Spencer at Wheelock Place for some munchies. This branch has one of the larger food halls in Singapore, although if you've ever been to London, their food halls there are comparable to a mini shopping mall.

This branch had my favourite flavour, the Four Cheese and Red Onion. I love the varied textures of the Crunchy Combo Mix ($5.50) and the distinctive flavours of Mozzarella, Cheddar, Red Leicester and Mascarpone cheeses coupled with sweet red onion make for delectable treats to munch on. And they are cooked with healthier sun kernel oil, so there's less guilt in snacking these gourmet treats.

And they are cooked with healthier sun kernel oil, so there's less guilt in snacking these gourmet treats.

Marks and Spencer
501 Orchard Road
Wheelock Place
#B2-00
Tel:6733 8122
Open daily from 10.30am to 10.30pm

26.11.09

Economic Noodles, Albert Court Temporary Market

Economic noodles is one of the mainstays of local cuisine. It's cheap, simple and satisfying. This stall at Albert Court Temporary Market (soon to be relocated back to its original premises at Queen Street on 1 December 2009) has one of the best versions of economic noodles. I've catered from them before for a Halloween party and everyone loved their Fried Bee Hoon and Fried Mee. It's fried fresh everyday over extremely high heat, which explains the 'wok hei' flavour.

Oh and their chicken wings deserve a shoutout as well, they are marinated overnight so the seasoning has had time to really soak through the wings. The skin is crispy and crackling and the insides are incredibly juicy, succulent and flavourful.

By the way, this stall is one of the few places on the island that still serves authentic pork luncheon meat. This is the real deal, not the artificial, rubbery, made out of fish meat ones which are insipid and unpalatable.


Update 16 December 2009: We revisited the stall upon the reopening of the food centre after the renovations. The noodles are as good as ever. I could eat this everyday and be happy. Who says cheap food can't be tasty?


This is what the actual store facade looks like at the permanent food centre.


Update 10 December 2011: the husband and wife duo are no longer frying up this store, and it has since been taken over by someone else also selling the same thing. It's awful though. Terribly fried noodles with no flavour or wok hei at all. 

Economic noodles stall
Albert Court Temporary Market
#01-04
Please note that they will be moving back to Blk 270 Queen Street on 1 December 2009

25.11.09

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do, Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous post.

51. If there is a service charge, alert your guests when you present the bill. It’s not a secret or a trick.
[Not applicable in Singapore. Besides, diners in Singapore can read. Well, most of them anyway. In fact, most Singaporean diners can and will nitpick at the bill.]

52. Know your menu inside and out. If you serve Balsam Farm candy-striped beets, know something about Balsam Farm and candy-striped beets.
[Most staffers are guilty of this. They seldom know the ingredients of the dish. Worse still, they are unable to articulate the dish itself.]

53. Do not let guests double-order unintentionally; remind the guest who orders ratatouille that zucchini comes with the entree.
[See Rule 52.]


54. If there is a prix fixe, let guests know about it. Do not force anyone to ask for the “special” menu.

55. Do not serve an amuse-bouche without detailing the ingredients. Allergies are a serious matter; peanut oil can kill. (This would also be a good time to ask if anyone has any allergies.)
[See Rules 52 and 53.]

56. Do not ignore a table because it is not your table. Stop, look, listen, lend a hand. (Whether tips are pooled or not.)

57. Bring the pepper mill with the appetizer. Do not make people wait or beg for a condiment.

58. Do not bring judgment with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested.
[Actually, cooks are guilty of this. But seriously, any foodie worth his or her salt will taste the dish first before asking for condiments.]


59. Do not leave place settings that are not being used.

60. Bring all the appetizers at the same time, or do not bring the appetizers. Same with entrees and desserts.
[Unless at a fine dining establishment, this is really alright. There aren't any strict rules to eat dessert before the mains or that diners can't share appetisers. If your diners are hungry, just bring out whatever you have first.]

61. Do not stand behind someone who is ordering. Make eye contact. Thank him or her.
[See Rules 40, 41 and 43.]

62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.
[Too eager.]

62(a). Do not let a glass sit empty for too long.
[Too lazy.]

63. Never blame the chef or the busboy or the hostess or the weather for anything that goes wrong. Just make it right.

64. Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.
[Yes, even the wealthy will want to know the price.]

65. Always remove used silverware and replace it with new.
[See Rules 12, 13, 25, 28, 30.]

66. Do not return to the guest anything that falls on the floor — be it napkin, spoon, menu or soy sauce.
[See Rules 12, 13, 25, 28, 30, 65.]

67. Never stack the plates on the table. They make a racket. Shhhhhh.
[See Rule 33.]

68. Do not reach across one guest to serve another.

69. If a guest is having trouble making a decision, help out. If someone wants to know your life story, keep it short. If someone wants to meet the chef, make an effort.

70. Never deliver a hot plate without warning the guest. And never ask a guest to pass along that hot plate.
[Simple basic common sense.]

71. Do not race around the dining room as if there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency. (Unless there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency.)

72. Do not serve salad on a freezing cold plate; it usually advertises the fact that it has not been freshly prepared.

73. Do not bring soup without a spoon. Few things are more frustrating than a bowl of hot soup with no spoon.

74. Let the guests know the restaurant is out of something before the guests read the menu and order the missing dish.
[See Rule 11.]

75. Do not ask if someone is finished when others are still eating that course.

76. Do not ask if a guest is finished the very second the guest is finished. Let guests digest, savor, reflect.

77. Do not disappear.

78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work — until questions like this are asked.

79. When someone orders a drink “straight up,” determine if he wants it “neat” — right out of the bottle — or chilled. Up is up, but “straight up” is debatable.

80. Never insist that a guest settle up at the bar before sitting down; transfer the tab.

81. Know what the bar has in stock before each meal.

82. If you drip or spill something, clean it up, replace it, offer to pay for whatever damage you may have caused. Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest.
[See Rule 32.]

83. Ask if your guest wants his coffee with dessert or after. Same with an after-dinner drink.

84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.

84(a). Do not let an empty coffee cup sit too long before asking if a refill is desired.

85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

86. If a few people signal for the check, find a neutral place on the table to leave it.

87. Do not stop your excellent service after the check is presented or paid.

88. Do not ask if a guest needs change. Just bring the change.

89. Never patronize a guest who has a complaint or suggestion; listen, take it seriously, address it.
[Unless the guest has been an @ss, then serve sneezers. Just kidding!]

90. If someone is getting agitated or effusive on a cellphone, politely suggest he keep it down or move away from other guests.

91. If someone complains about the music, do something about it, without upsetting the ambiance. (The music is not for the staff — it’s for the customers.)
[This is really subjective. Some guests like jazz, some don't. As long as the volume is low and non-intrusive, it really is alright.]

92. Never play a radio station with commercials or news or talking of any kind.
[See Rule 91.]

93. Do not play brass — no brassy Broadway songs, brass bands, marching bands, or big bands that feature brass, except a muted flugelhorn.
[See Rules 91 and 92.]

94. Do not play an entire CD of any artist. If someone doesn’t like Frightened Rabbit or Michael BublĂ©, you have just ruined a meal.
[See Rules 91, 92, and 93.]

95. Never hover long enough to make people feel they are being watched or hurried, especially when they are figuring out the tip or signing for the check.

96. Do not say anything after a tip — be it good, bad, indifferent — except, “Thank you very much.”

97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.
[See Rule 23.]

98. Do not wear too much makeup or jewelry. You know you have too much jewelry when it jingles and/or draws comments.
[See Rule 7.]

99. Do not show frustration. Your only mission is to serve. Be patient. It is not easy.
[This is difficult. Especially when the diners have been @sses. One word: sneezers. You can smile at them that way.]

100. Guests, like servers, come in all packages. Show a “good table” your appreciation with a free glass of port, a plate of biscotti or something else management approves.

Bonus Track: As Bill Gates has said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” (Of course, Microsoft is one of the most litigious companies in history, so one can take Mr. Gates’s counsel with a grain of salt. Gray sea salt is a nice addition to any table.)

View the article here - 20091105 NYT Part 2

24.11.09

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do, Part 1

Came across this brilliant article by Bruce Buschel in the New York Times, 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do. This article is basically one restaurateur's opinion of a code of conduct for restaurant staffers, sort of like the Legal Profession Act for lawyers.

I've added in some of my personal comments. Looking through these rules, I seriously doubt anyone will even attempt to follow all of them. Seriously, how many waiters/waitresses do it as a long-term career?

1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.
[Conversely, I've encountered a number of restaurants who train their staff to shout out (in succession depending on each staff's reaction time) an incoherent welcome greeting (usually in some garbled foreign language). It's not necessary, and the sincerity is lost with such shout-outs.]

2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, “Are you waiting for someone?” Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would like to sit at the bar.
 
3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.
[I've encountered this several times in restaurants. I simply cannot see any logic in such a policy. Would any restaurant like to comment on this?]


4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.
[This is really not necessary, unless you're at a top-notch fine dining 3 Michellin star restaurant. Or an uptight snob who thinks that everyone owes them a living.]

5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before guests are seated.
 
6. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.
[I always think I'm being judged by restaurants when I order tap water instead of bottled water. But seriously, drinking bottled water is a little pretentious. What's wrong with tap water in Singapore? It's one of the cleanest in the world!]

7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
[Actually, I think this is fine, unless a waitress is flirting with a diner's boyfriend, blatantly in front of the female diner. This is the reason why most waiters/waitresses are exceptionally good-looking. Good looks = more tips. However, this is not applicable in Singapore where there is a fixed service charge, so there's no need for an appreciation of beauty when tipping.]

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
[Unless they have been rattling on for an hour.]

9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.
[I've personally encountered this in Singapore. I think it's largely because our service staff are not very eloquent. Unless it's the manager, who usually is a better conversationalist.]

10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the specials.
[I personally think this is fine. In fact, I sometimes ask the staff what their personal favourites are.]

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.
[I actually appreciate if a staff tells me in advance what the kitchen is running low on. It shows initiative.]

12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.
[H1N1! SARS! The Practise Good Hygiene Movement!]

13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the handles.
[See Rule 12.]

14. When you ask, “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.
[This is generally done in most restaurants in Singapore, and some cze char places if you know the owner well enough.] 

15. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”
[This is quite similar to sales staff, when asked whether there is a shoe in a particular size, lies that the stock is out, without having seen the shoe. Lazy, lazy, lazy.]

16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves.
[This is quite subjective. Sometimes if a staff doesn't pour it for the diner, the diner gets upset. Sometimes if they pour it, the diner doesn't like it.]

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
[I don't see a problem with this. It's the restaurant's indirect way of telling you that others are waiting for the table. Most mid-priced restaurants in Singapore are eat-and-go types anyway. Go to a coffee joint if you want to linger.]


18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”
[No biggy, most diners (at mid-priced restaurants) are quite easy-going and let's face it, restaurant staff wouldn't be serving food if they had a photographic memory.]

19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread.

20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.
[I can't see the logic in this either. Would a restaurant care to explain this policy as well?]

21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.
[This is an absolute no-no. A deal breaker for any restaurant. Even the cze char ones.]

22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two.

23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.
[Only required of service in a top-notch restaurant. This is quite onerous.]

24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.

25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing them on the table.
[See Rules 12 and 13.]

26. Never assume people want their white wine in an ice bucket. Inquire.


27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.

28. Do not put your hands all over the spout of a wine bottle while removing the cork.
[See Rules 12, 13 and 25]

29. Do not pop a champagne cork. Remove it quietly, gracefully. The less noise the better.
[Yeah but there are way too many movies that teach this erroneous method. And the F1 drivers on the podium after a win.]

30. Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle.
[See Rules 12, 13, 25, 28.]

31. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by.

34. Do not have a personal conversation with another server within earshot of customers.
[Especially if you are complaining about another diner. That's just done in bad taste.]

35. Do not eat or drink in plain view of guests.
[Especially when the restaurant is understaffed.]

36. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage.
[Ditto for scented candles. Leave that for the bedroom or bathroom.]

37. Do not drink alcohol on the job, even if invited by the guests. “Not when I’m on duty” will suffice.
[Depends. If it's a gastrobar, being able to hold your own would probably get you more tips.]

38.Do not call a guy a “dude.”

39. Do not call a woman “lady.”
[What's wrong with calling a woman a "lady"? Unless the woman isn't a lady but a dude.]

40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.
[People are seldom THAT sensitive. If they are, then it's THEIR problem.]

41. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do. 
[Nothing wrong with saying "No problem". See Rule 40.]

42. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.
[See Rules 40, 41.]

43. Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant.
[See Rule 10.]

44. Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic.
[TMI.]

45. Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests.

46. Never acknowledge any one guest over and above any other. All guests are equal.
[This is really obvious. Some staffers will fawn over one supposedly rich diner over another supposedly middle-class diner. You never know if that supposedly middle-class diner has an expense account larger than a third world country's GDP.]

47. Do not gossip about co-workers or guests within earshot of guests.
[See Rule 34.]

48. Do not ask what someone is eating or drinking when they ask for more; remember or consult the order.

49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.
[A bit obvious. But again, not applicable to Singapore.]

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.
[Also a bit obvious. Also not applicable to Singapore.]


View the article here - 20091029 NYT Part 1

23.11.09

Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice & Restaurant

The BF and I brought ZM and ED to eat chicken rice, since ED said he liked the Singaporean dish. We brought them to Wee Nam Kee, one of my favourite joints for chicken rice and regular cze char. Wee Nam Kee does a very commendable version of chicken rice, although I'm not sure if it's the best. This eating place is regularly packed with repeat customers, and I think it's largely due to the fact that it's cheap and good. For Singaporeans, those 2 are the twin pillars for a successful food business.

We got a whole chicken (about $32) because there were 4 of us, although factoring in ZM's diet, you could say that there were 3 and one third stomachs.We got half a Steamed Chicken and half a Roasted one. I love Wee Nam Kee's chicken, it's succulent, silky, plump and without that artificial-tasting gelatinous layer I so dislike.




What's chicken rice without the Rice? Wee Nam Kee's rice is sufficiently flavourful, perhaps not as great as Thien Kee's version, but this provides a milder and more neutral platform for the cze char dishes and chicken.

 
We also got the Hotplate Beancurd ($12.85), fried egg beancurd with prawns, baby corn and mushrooms, smothered in a spicy bean sauce with minced meat, on a bed of egg scrambled on the hotplate. This is one of my favourite dishes because of the generous ingredients (there were about 5 large prawns!) and the luscious savoury gravy is just fantastic to slather onto hot steaming chicken rice. Unfortunately, ZM hates prawns so fortunate me got to eat his share. Yay.



We also got Snow Pea Shoots (dou miao) simply fried with garlic ($9.65). This was simple and classic, yet tasty, redolent of homecooked fare by a very skilled grandmother.


We actually managed to finish almost everything, save for a couple of pieces of chicken. This is the first time I've seen ZM eat so much!


Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice & Restaurant
275 Thomson Road
#01-05 Novena Ville (opposite Novena Church)
Tel: 6255 6396
Open daily from 10am to 2am

22.11.09

Yuan Ji Zhen Zhong Fried Carrot Cake, Albert Court Temporary Market

You know how I've said I don't believe in queuing up for hours to buy food? I still don't. There's this stall at Albert Court Temporary Market that sells carrot cake with a horrendeous queue. I've always pitied the people standing in line and wondered about the carrot cake to warrant such devotion. However, one fine day when there was a conspicuous lack of a queue, curiosity got the better of me. I decided to try the black version of carrot cake to see if it was really that great.

Oh after taking a bite, I can somewhat understand the perpetually long queues. The Black Carrot Cake ($3 for a medium portion) was soft and smooth and wonderfully aromatic, with the wok hei fragrance coming through every savoury bite. This was honestly one of the best versions I've ever tried.


Update 16 December 2009: We revisited the stall upon the reopening of the food centre after the renovations. Still the best black version of carrot cake around. Soft and fresh and smoky and eggy. Absolutely delicious. Be sure to only patronize this on weekdays at night though, because the morning and afternoon shift is manned by some young Chinese guy who's not very proficient at frying. It absolutely has to be this old, bespectacled, wife-beater-clad man and his very skinny wife manning the stall. Little wonder the queue only starts when the husband and wife duo start business. There's never a queue in the afternoon when the young guy is manning the stall.


The actual store facade at the permanent food centre.



Yuan Ji Zhen Zhong Fried Carrot Cake
Albert Court Temporary Market
#01-07

21.11.09

Angel Horse Teochew Fish Soup, Albert Court Temporary Market

I love soup, in particular the clear ones. This fondness for delicate flavours is probably due to my Teochew and Cantonese heritage. Although I usually prefer chicken stock to fish stock, this stall at Albert Court Temporary Market does a really yummy version of fish soup. I actually think this stall has the best fish soup on the island. The sweetness and depth of the soup stock is derived from hours of simmering fish bones over a low fire, and not from milk which most other stalls use to artificially enhance the flavour of the soup.There's a reason why this stall is so popular, there always seems to be queue.

The stall owner is a particularly sweet lady who has an amazingly photographic memory. She will always remember to hold off the coriander and garland chrysanthemum (tung oh) and replace it with lettuce instead. The Sliced Fish Soup ($4 for a medium portion) comes with silken tofu, tomato, sliced fish, lettuce and garnished with crispy fried onions and seaweed. 


The fish is unbelievably fresh and smooth, with nary a hint of fishiness. That's a hallmark of good Teochew cuisine, quality ingredients and a light hand with seasonings to emphasize the natural flavour of the ingredient.


This stall serves the unusual combination of salted bean sauce with sliced chili padi (tiny chilies), despite packing a punch, does not overwhelm the delicate freshness of the fish.




Angel Horse Teochew Fish Soup
Albert Court Temporary Market #01-09 (until 30 Nov 2009)

From 1 Dec 2009 onwards, this stall will be relocating back to its original premises at:
Blk 270 Queen Street
Unit 01-95

20.11.09

Spizza Delivery

The monsoon season is here a little early this year and it has been raining terribly most evenings. We decided to order in from Spizza and curl up on the couch in front of the telly. I usually refrain from blogging about takeaway food because when set against a cheap plastic background, the dish, no matter how flavourful, usually looks awful. The integrity of the dish becomes compromised when it is packed. However, pizza is unique in that it manages to retain that photogenic quality despite travelling through a drizzle.

We got the Combo B set, which consists of 2 pizzas, 1 pasta, 1 starter and 1 garlic bread at $64 nett.

The first pizza was the Quinta (usually $22), tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, egg and black truffle sauce. This was wonderfully aromatic, earthy and addictive. It's been said that some people are so pretentious that they will take a liking to a typically disgusting piece of crap if you give it a fancy French name and place an extortionate price tag on it. It's like "The Emperor's New Clothes" for food. Truffles, despite the hefty price tag (black truffles can go up to US$383 per pound), really do live up to the hype. They instantly jazz up any dish with that luxurious mushroom flavour. The thin crust was a little soggy which was to be expected due to the transit period from the restaurant to my home.


We also got the Tara (usually $22), tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, egg, bacon and button mushrooms. This was good but not spectacular, largely because it was compared to the Ricciotti version (but we recognised that it wasn't a fair fight because Ricciotti was a dine-in whereas Spizza was a delivery). We also felt that the bacon could have been cut into bite-sized pieces instead of the inconvenient long strips.


For the pasta, we got the Ravioli (usually $14), filled with spinach and ricotta in a tomato based sauce. The picture isn't pretty or particularly appetizing, but it tasted surprisingly good. The mild sweetness of the ricotta was a nuanced balance against the slightly bitter spinach and the tomato base was rustic and homestyled. Italian cuisine in its simplicity.


The one thing about deliveries is that you don't actually open up every box to check against every order so invariably, you'll end up accepting deliveries which can turn out to be a mistake. We actually ordered the breaded mozzarella cheese but ended up with some kind of salad. We couldn't figure out which one it was because it obviously didn't have chicken breast, calamari, portobello mushrooms, mozzarella, parmesan, or tuna. Still, it obliged us to eat our greens, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. 


There were hits and misses, but I would still pick Spizza over any other generic thick crust pizza joint. They generally have better ingredients and are more authentic. Their crusts are also thinner and crispier, with that distinctive wood-fired accent.

Oh and we got a $5 dining voucher, which can be used with a minimum spending of $25 when dining in or for home deliveries. This was a nice touch.


Spizza Delivery
Tel: 6377 7773
Open daily from 12pm to 2pm and 6.30pm to 10.30pm
http://www.spizza.sg/delivery.asp

19.11.09

Thien Kee Hainanese Steamboat Restaurant

It was a rainy, disconsolate, grim, dingy and depressing day. And like a rainbow peeking through the thunderous and gloomy clouds, my good friend KW called me out for steamboat to celebrate his birthday. Chicken soup that was the perfect antidote to a dismal day. I'm so thankful that my friends are always so supportive of anything and everything I do. They really are a pillar of strength, even if I don't always need or ask for it.

There were another 2 of his very funny chums that came along to celebrate KW's birthday, along with the BF of course. They were all such fabulous company and great for unloading.

Even on a Wednesday evening, Thien Kee was a full house. 

We ordered the all-inclusive set today ($40), with pig liver, cockles, squid, sea cucumber, fish balls, fish maw, sliced pork, sliced fish, vegetables and eggs. The 4 boys are really not fussy or picky eaters like I am. Besides, the cockles are the birthday boy's favourite item. Largely because they are unbelievably fresh, juicy and clean to the taste.


We also ordered an additional dish of Sliced Beef and Tripe, because the boys love their meat. The beef here is robust, hearty and tender, even without any hint of seasoning, artificial tenderizer or obvious marbling (it is a cheap place afterall so there's no such thing as kobe or wagyu here). And KW is such a sweetheart, I see him about 3 times a year now, and yet he still remembers that I hate coriander, and he automatically painstakingly removed every single piece of the disgusting herb. Together with the BF pitching in of course.



We also got a cooked dish, the Sweet and Sour Pork. Thien Kee really does an admirable rendition of this dish. The pork was crispy yet tender and succulent, and the piquant tomato-based sauce was tangy, sweet and savoury all at the same time.



We also ordered half a Poached Chicken. This was great as always, silky smooth, moist and packed with flavour. They separated the dish into 2 plates for convenient sharing, so we didn't have to stretch over each other.


Of course both the BF and KW removed all the coriander. They are really such sweethearts!


The bill was $105 for 5 persons inclusive of drinks and rice and tissues to stuff our faces silly. We really did finish every last drop of that wholesome, honest-to-goodness soup. Wonderful friends, basic comfort food, it really is the simple things in life that lift a dreary day.


Thien Kee Hainanese Steamboat
B1-20, Beach Road
Golden Mile Tower Basement
Tel: 6298 5891
Open daily from 11am to 11pm

18.11.09

Ricciotti, The Riverwalk

I mentioned before that we might have enough budget for 2 L.A. Lunches in November. At the last minute, I decided to call for an L.A. Lunch to Ricciotti for some authentic homestyle Italian food. I figured that my very loyal colleagues would gladly cancel their appointments for a free lunch, and boy was I right. Despite the short one and a half hours' notice, about 12 colleagues turned up!

On Tuesdays, Ricciotti has a 1-for-1 pizza promotion for lunch. It works out to about 20 bucks for each person, inclusive of appetisers and dessert! How's that for value?

We've learnt from the last time we were at Ricciotti (whereby we had one pizza per person) that 1 pizza to share between 2 to 3 persons was more than sufficient. It was a herculean task to stay awake that fateful afternoon.

We ordered the well-loved Pizzotto ($22.50), a decadent medley of bacon, mushrooms, pomodoro, mozzarella cheese and a slighty runny egg on top. This was easily the most popular pizza around. Please note that you will have to break the yolk and smear it all around before digging in. This is the pizza version of a cabonara pasta, rich and satisfying.


We also had another favourite, the Al Crudo ($25.50), with rucola, parma ham, pomodoro and mozzarella cheese. The saltiness of the parma ham was balanced out by the crisp and slightly bitter rucola. And oh, the parma ham was really lovely, it was delicately sweet yet profoundly salty.


We also got a seafood-based pizza, the Gamberi E Funghi ($22.50), with prawns, mushrooms, pomodoro and mozzarella cheese. The prawns were very fresh and crunchy and sprinkled with herbs. Too bad there wasn't enough prawns. We packed one of this for the colleagues unable to join us and Darren-the-motormouth-Gan sneakily took a prawn from the pizza, which left a very noticeable gap. We decided to say that the prawns were "lost in transit".


We also got the Salame Piccante ($21.50), with spicy salami, pomodoro and mozzarella cheese by request of ZM.


I love Ricciotti's pizzas, they are all wood-fired for that earthy fragrance and thin crusted (so you can eat more). The toppings are unfailingly fresh and scrumptious.

We also got the Margherita ($17.50), basil, pomodoro and mozzarella cheese, for Yas, who needed a vegetarian option. For someone whose limit is 1 or 2 slices of pizza, she managed to eat 3 whole pieces.Yes, it was that good.

A few of us also got the soup of the day, Minestrone with Chicken and Parma Ham ($8.50), served with a toasted crusty bread. Ricciotti does not have a regular soup menu, they only have a soup of the day which changes daily so you'll have to eat whatever's available that day. I personally love minestrone, it's simple and rustic, yet so comforting. This came steaming hot, which is always a plus point, but it was a little ordinary. And the portion was huge, enough for 2 to share.


We also got a mixed starter to share, the Fritto Misto ($14.50), a combination of the Suppli (rice balls stuffed with beef ragu and mozzarella cheese), Calamari (deep fried squid rings served with spicy tomato sauce) and Pollo Fritto (breaded chicken tenders served with mustard sauce).


Today's Calamari, though a pretty sight, was very rubbery. I spat mine out. It was just unpalatable.


The Suppli was not bad, but not spectacular either. This was a meaty twist to the classic breaded mozzarella balls. The beef ragu tasted a little insipid. It was all due to Darren-the-Motormouth-Gan's talk of "balls". And the vision of overflowing cheese didn't help.


The Chicken Tenders were easily the best of the selection and true to their namesake. Chicken breast meat was coarsely ground up without the overly processed texture. The crust was fried to a crisp whilst the meat retained its juiciness.


Although we were all stuffed (belts were being loosened at this point and postures were all reclining already), we still had space for desserts. Ricciotti is afterall well known for its desserts.

I got the Soffiato ($8.90), a warm dark chocolate souffle served alongside a scoop of cold chocolate chip ice cream. This was rich without being cloying. The dark chocolate added a bittersweet twist to the otherwise saccharine treat. And I love the juxtaposition of the cold ice cream with the warm souffle.


Yas ZM ate the Panna Cotta ($7.80), a smooth (and wobbly) vanilla pudding in chocolate shell with sabayon (egg whites beaten with alcohol to make a fluffy mousse-like consistency) and chocolate jelly. This was so smooth and creamy.


A couple of my other colleagues shared 2 scoops of ice cream, the rum and raisin and chocolate chip flavours. I didn't try this but according to my colleague, she liked the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the chocolate chips, and the creaminess of the ice cream. He liked the fact that the rum and raisin ice cream wasn't too sweet.


I love Ricciotti's 1-for-1 promotions. They make pigging out so easy on the wallet. Get this, the bill for 14 persons, excluding the one intern who was "watching his diet", came up to only $280.85.

Please note that the Tuesday lunches are their 1-for-1 pizzas promotions, and Wednesdays are their 1-for-1 pastas promotions, although, in my view, their pizzas are better than their pastas.

I have to take this time to thank my very supportive colleagues for always reminding me to take the photos before I eat and providing detailed and colourful opinions and reviews about the dishes, despite most being gluttons. You all are great!


Ricciotti
20 Upper Circular Road
#B1-49, The Riverwalk
Tel: 6533 9060
http://www.ricciotti.com.sg/

17.11.09

SICC Bukit Pastry Corner

We've realised that Chocolate Eclairs are usually sold out by the time we finish at the gym on Sunday evenings, so as a matter of strategy, we decided to buy the eclairs first before going to the gym.

The BF managed to buy half the remaining eclairs ($5.20 for 4 pieces) at 6pm on a Sunday evening and requested the staff to keep them refrigerated until he could pick them up after gym. True enough, by the time he was done at the gym, there were no more eclairs left.

They were as addictive as always, fresh and light chocolate cream in a soft fluffy pastry.



For variety, the BF also got a Lemon Cheesecake ($3). The cheese was creamy and smooth, with the distinct lemony flavour balancing out the rich cheese. A fresh raspberry and wafer made out of pure chocolate topped off the delectable creation.



Bukit Pastry Corner
Singapore Island Country Club, Bukit location
240 Sime Road
Singapore 578774
Tel: 6461 7439
Open on Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 10pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 10pm

16.11.09

Sia Kee Duck Rice

Sia Kee Duck Rice occupies the same coffee shop as the famous Sin Huat Seafood (the one with the infamous perpetually dour-faced Food Nazi owner) at Geylang. During the day, Sin Huat is closed, but Sia Kee Duck Rice (and this other turtle soup stall) pack the coffee shop. I've always thought that this particular location must have good feng shui to have all 3 stalls raking in business. Please note that it's advised to patronise this stall on rainy days because it's cooler then. Otherwise, be prepared to really sweat. Oh, Sia Kee is a lunch only place because they sell out by about 3pm everyday, but at least you know that the duck is fresh.

Sia Kee serves the best, if not one of the best Braised Duck on the island. Duck can get quite gamey if not in the right hands. We got the 3-person portion because the 2-person portion is too small for the BF and I. Every portion comes with beansprouts, beancurd, peanuts, braised eggs, cucumbers, fish cakes, duck meat and innards smothered in a thick gravy. You should let them know if you don't want certain items. The BF and I usually ask them to hold off the innards.


The duck is tender and moist, the beansprouts are fresh and cooked through and the peanuts are braised till soft. The gravy is the best part, stewed to a velvety consistency and luscious. We smeared a dollop of gravy with every spoonful of rice. And the beansprouts are done really well, because even I, who usually doesn't eat beansprouts, will happily eat them all.


The Braised Rice is aromatic and matched the duck perfectly.


The Sambal Chili packs a punch, with lime juice added for that acidic tinge to balance out the rich gravy and duck. Okay, I thought it was spicy, but the BF, who eats chili padi regularly, obviously didn't.



Soup is also served. This was slowly simmered with duck bones for that umami flavour. Cabbage and some tau pok are added for extra sweetness and texture.


The bill was $28 for 2 persons.

Sia Kee Duck Rice
659 Geylang Road
Lorong 35
Tel: 9690 6606 / 9690 9099
Open daily from 11am to 7.30pm

15.11.09

No Signboard Seafood Restaurant, Geylang

My latest crave is white pepper crabs, which is an offshoot of the previous crave of black pepper crabs that lasted about 6 months. I actually have to eat crabs at least once or twice a week. I know it may seem excessive, but I don't eat female crabs, only the male ones, so there's less cholesterol. A doctor told me once that male crabs are actually all protein and it's not as heart clogging as one might think. Aha!

A savvy gourmand would know that the Geylang branch of the No Signboard Seafood is the best. The quality of this branch is generally acknowledged to be a cut above the other outlets.

They are renowned for their White Pepper Crabs, and according to them, the inventors of the signature dish. We got 2 white pepper crabs ($42 per kg) today for dinner. White pepper is milder than black pepper and has a more subtle taste and aroma which complements the delicate sweetness of the crab meat.




A closer look at the gargantuan crab claw.



For carbs, we got Seafood Crispy Noodles ($6 for a small portion). The dish was different from the ones I've tried because of the gravy that slathered the noodles. The noodles retained their crispness and had a nice bite to it. Seafood was plentiful and fresh. 





This was smothered in a very silky eggy gravy, we practically licked the plate clean. The egg whites were cooked to the point where it was just three-quarters done, viscious without being runny or rubbery.




We were treated to complimentary Ice Jelly with bits of soursop at the end of the meal. The soursop added an acidic tinge to the dessert which was refreshing and balanced out the peppery aftertaste of the crabs.



The bill was $113.31 for 2 persons.


No Signboard Seafood Restaurant
No 414 Geylang Road
Tel: 6842 3415
Open daily from 12 noon to 1am.
Website: http://nosignboardseafood.com/
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