29.8.11

Tung Lok Signatures, The Central

This is a great place for a quickie dinner after work. There's always availability, even at the last minute, which is good for people like us, who hardly ever make reservations because we're always deciding on a dinner venue at the last minute. The food's consistently delicious. And service is always efficient and knowledgeable.

Today, we had the Braised Mixed Vegetables ($18), baby white cabbage, brinjal, broccoli are matched with juicy Chinese black mushrooms, premium shimeiji, flavoursome beancurd skin, springy clear vermicelli, and stewed with preserved beancurd paste for a pungent sweetness.


The delicate Braised Fish Maw ($24) with kailan beancurd, egg white drops and freshly shredded crabmeat is great for people watching their diet. Light but still tasty.

The Fiance, ever the consummate red meat-lover, got the Pan-fried Ribeye Beef ($14). Robust and lipsmackingly juicy. A little salt and pepper was all it took to season the full-bodied USDA aged meat.



Tung Lok Signatures
The Central #02-88
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Tel: 6336 6022
Opening Hours
Lunch: 11.30am to 3.00pm (Mon to Sat); 11.00am to 3.30pm (Sun & PHs)
Dinner: 6.00pm to 10.30pm (Daily)
Website: www.tungloksignatures.com/

27.8.11

Por Kee Eating House

Por Kee Eating House is another one of those old-school cze char eateries, located in one of those old HDB estates. With very limited spaces in the spartan air-conditioned area, most of the makeshift tables are placed outdoors just beside the open-air carpark. The fare's rustic, familiar and, while it isn't spectacular, it's fairly decent. However, like Sin Hoi Sai, another cze char eatery a stone's throw away, the prices are quite "ka-ching" (i.e. a tad pricey). I'd say that this is an alright place for cze char, only if you're looking for a cze char supper place (it opens till 12.30am) because there are better cze char places that are more value-for-money.

The Fried Beef with Spring Onion and Ginger ($14) while reeking of artificial tenderizer, was still firm enough not to disintegrate upon biting it. That said, this was fairly tasty, the mix of ginger and spring onions cut through the heavy flavours of the starchy oyster sauce.


The much touted Champagne Pork Rib ($16) was quite a disappointment. While the sticky caramelised champagne coating on the ribs was quite delectable, the marinade didn't soak through the entire rib. Also, the ribs were quite tough and took a bit of chewing to get through the meat.


The Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves ($10) were commendable, spicy, flavoursome and wilted just right. A gripe: we found a piece of unwelcome twig/root left in the dish, not fatal but not nice either.



Por Kee Eating House
69 Seng Poh Lane #01-02
Tel: 6221 0582
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 12.30am

26.8.11

Pepes, Flavours of Indonesia

If you're in Takashimaya in the middle of the lunch peak hours during the weekends, there are very few restaurants that you can dine at, without reservations. Pepes is one such restaurant. Don't worry, it's not that the food at Pepes is not good. In fact, I think the food's pretty delicious. A bit pricey, but not any different from its predecessor, Sanur, who used to occupy the same spot in the shopping mall.

The Ikan Pepes ($13.95) is like a more upmarket version of the humble otak. A deboned fillet of chunky fish is smeared liberally with otak spice paste then wrapped in curry leaves and grilled on a banana leaf for extra flavour and aroma.


The Sayur Lodeh ($8.95) is a creamy concoction of mixed vegetables in blue ginger and candlenut accented coconut milk.

We like the Tahu Telur ($12.95) here. Tofu cubes are coated in scrambled egg and fried to a towering crisp, then drizzled with sweet and spicy kecap manis. A helping of refreshing cucumber strips cuts through the heaviness of the thick sweet black sauce.

The Lemongrass Ginger Fizz ($4.50) is a wonderful way to round of the meal, lemongrass for a sourish tinge and ginger to quell a full stomach.



Pepes, Flavours of Indonesia
#04-16 Ngee Ann City
391 Orchard Rd
Tel: 6836 3456

25.8.11

Swa Garden Restaurant

It's not difficult to find good Teochew restaurants in Singapore. Come to think of it, I've never had a bad meal at any Teochew restaurant here yet. It could be that many of our earliest settlers from China were Teochew, so together with their penchant for hard work, they also brought along their heirloom recipes and set up many Teochew restaurants here.

The Teochews are known to be fastidious in their requirement for the freshness and quality of the ingredients, as very little flavouring is used to prepare Teochew dishes. This translates to food that's very delicate, a lot lighter than other types of Chinese cuisine. 

Swa Garden has been a stalwart in the Teochew food scene, with a heritage that spans decades. The old-school decor is evident of its age. Stark white plastic chairs, harsh fluorescent lighting, faded curtains flanking the doors to the restaurant that have seen better days. But, nobody comes here to enjoy the ambience. It's the simple, delicious fare that draws its customers back.

Swa Garden's Teochew Braised Goose ($18) is a must-try. It's not often that we get goose meat in Singapore, and even when we do, it sometimes turns out gamey. Swa Garden's rendition is one of the best I've ever had. The goose is thoroughly marinated so the braising liquid has totally permeated the entire meat. It's tender, tasty and super fresh, totally devoid of any gamey taste.


I love thick Fish Maw Broth ($14), this was simply seasoned with conpoy for a distinctively umami seafood tinge. Fish maw was plentiful and diced fresh seafood, prawns, crabmeat, squid and mushrooms lent texture and flavour.


Although the Teochew Steamed Pomfret ($65) is a must-eat of any self-respecting Teochew, I've gotta admit that I've never really been a fan of this thin fish. Even when I was a kid and my Gran would steam the most amazing pomfrets for family gatherings. Still, Swa Garden's version is very commendable. Delicate seasoning using the barest of ingredients, plum for a hint of sour, chilli for some heat, and mushrooms for a woodsy taste, the focus was on the freshness and natural sweetness of the fish. Despite the well-done dish, I still thought that the $65 pricetag was a bit too much for a fish that had so little flesh.

We loved the Four Treasure Beancurd ($14) for its silky textures and wonderfully light flavours. The beancurd wasn't your typical plain white tofu, but a delicious seafood based tofu, flash fried so the crust is a little crisp, then slathered in a luxurious egg-drop, mushroom, sliced chicken and sugar snap peas gravy.


The Stewed Eight Variety Vegetables ($15) is possibly the best classically vegetarian
dish I've ever had. The gravy was incredibly rich in flavour, probably from all that braising, so it was smooth and sweet. if I had to choose, this was probably my favourite dish of the night.

The Sweet Yam with Gingko Nuts ($3) was a very nice way to round off the fantastic meal. Sweet but not overwhelmingly so, soft and smooth in texture.



Swa Garden Restaurant
540 Macpherson Road
Tel: 6744 5009
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10pm for dinner

24.8.11

Hwa Ji Bak Kut Teh, Boon Tat Street

The thing about eating any kind of food that's hot and soupy in nature in Singapore is that the eatery has got to be air-conditioned at the very least. This is not to say that we're a spoilt, pampered bunch, but really, drinking copious amounts of steaming hot soup in our extremely humid and hot weather is not an experience I'd recommend to an out-of-towner.

This is why I was delighted to find yet another air-conditioned bak kut teh place near my office. I really didn't want to go back to the office a sweaty smelly mess.  

We had some Prawn Rolls ($5), which had a nice chunky texture, the mince wasn't too pulverised. It was moist inside, with crisp golden skin. Good, but fairly ordinary.


The Preserved Vegetable ($3) were also commendable, softly braised but not too salty. Pieces of garlic lent aroma.


The Pig Liver and Spine Meat Soup ($5.50) is great for women who need more iron in their diet. Although I'm not a fan of liver, but this was barely poached, so it was still tender and soft. Great texture. The soup, while reeking of hints of MSG, was still tasty and had depth of flavour.



Hwa Ji Bak Kut Teh
31 Boon Tat Street
#01-01
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 8am to 9pm

22.8.11

Patara Fine Thai Cuisine

We had dinner at Patara Fine Thai recently, along with Ry and Ernie, who was back for a visit. Patara Fine Thai, along with Sabai and Thanying, are one of the few notable fine-dining Thai restaurants in Singapore. It was a good place to catch up, Ernie loves spicy food and our lively chatter didn't sound out of place in the noisy restaurant. That's the one thing I noticed about fine-dining Thai restaurants, they all tend to be relatively boisterous places. You'll be hard pressed to find one that's quiet and requires diners to speak in low tones. Maybe there's a correlation between spicy food and loud diners.

While the food at Patara was authentic and delicious, the prices weren't as palatable as the food. I was quite shocked at discover that plain white rice cost $3 per person. This was really quite ridiculously expensive, in my view.

The Kong Thod Saweuy ($19) was a trio of deep-fried appetizers comprising prawns wrapped in rice vermicelli, chicken and vegetable spring rolls and golden pouches. My favourite was the sweet juicy prawns with crisp fried vermicelli twirled around it for a textural contrast.


The Phad Pak Bung Kapi ($19) was a well fried dish of still crunchy stir-fried morning glory with aromatic shrimp paste, garlic and chilli.


The Gang Khaw Wan Gai ($24) was a creamy goodness of chicken green curry with sweet basil and bird chilli.


The Pad Gaprao Moo ($22) is a fragrant minced pork dish stir fried with basil and red chilli for aroma and heat.


Apart from the usual tom yum goong, the Ka Poa Pla ($17) is my next-favourite Thai-Chinese soup. The full-bodied thick fish maw broth is filled with crab meat and quail's eggs. I love it for its delicate, seafood-based flavours.


The Khao Tang Naa Tang ($15) was a delectable snack of crispy Thai crackers served with a dip of minced chicken and prawns simmered in light coconut cream.


While the Sen Jan Phad Thai Goong ($19) was a tad sweet, a sprinkling of red chilli flakes gave the Thai-style fried rice noodles with prawns a much needed dimension of spice and heat.



Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
163 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Mall
#03-14
Tel: 6737 0818
Open daily from 12noon to 3pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.patara.com.sg

21.8.11

Swee Kee (Ka-Soh) Fishhead Noodle House, Amoy St

Swee Kee Fishhead Noodle House, or more commonly known as "Ka Soh" by regulars, is one of those old-school restaurants that's been around for ages. Most of their customers are regulars who've been eating at the restaurant since the 70's. While their food is generally familiar, comforting and still quite delicious, old-timers generally acknowledge that the quality has definitely dropped over the years.

The Deep-fried Seafood Beancurd ($8.50) was a nice combination of mashed seafood paste and beancurd constituents, battered and fried to a golden crisp on the outside but retaining moisture inside.


The Stir-Fried Kailan with Garlic ($6.50) consists of crunchy greens coated in a garlicky sauce that's both aromatic and delicate.


The Sliced Fish Noodle Soup ($5.90 for the 1-person portion), while substantial and fragrant, was lacking in depth of flavour. That said, the fish slices were fresh and plentiful.


Swee Kee (Ka-Soh) Fishhead Noodle House
96 Amoy Street
Tel: 6224 9920
Open daily from 11.45am to 2.30pm for lunch and from 5.30pm to 10.45pm for dinner
Website: www.ka-soh.com.sg

20.8.11

Szechuan Court

Szechuan Court is Fairmont Hotel's anchor Chinese restaurant. Despite its name, it doesn't just just serve Sichuan food. The red-hued restaurant also offers up Cantonese classics. While Sichuan food is known for its bold and fiery flavours, Cantonese cuisine is renowned for its delicate and mild food.We'd previously dined at Szechuan Kitchen, an offshoot of Szechuan Court focusing on simpler items such as congee, rice and noodle dishes in its pared down menu.

The food's a mix of hits and misses and dinner wasn't particularly satisfying as an experience, so it really isn't worth it eating here if you don't have the Feed-at-Raffles 50% discount card. There are better places to have such Sichuan-Cantonese food such as Peony-Jade

The Braised Beancurd ($28) with roasted pork belly and mushroom is a Cantonese dish. While the pork belly was indulgently yummy, snow peas addictively crunchy, and the sliced Chinese black mushrooms were plump and juicy, the beancurd was a little waterlogged.


The Pan-fried String Bean ($24) with minced chicken was terrible. The string beans were fried way too long so they were completely limp, to the point of disintegration.


This was probably the only dish I agreed with. The Braised King Oyster Mushroom ($26) in superior stock and organic fried garlic and spinach. The sweetness of the wolfberries balanced out the naturally metallic taste of the spinach, and the stock was rich in depth without being cloying. The king oyster mushrooms lent textural contrast to the soft spinach, while the crisp fried garlic slices brought aroma to the dish.


We also had 2 soups, the Braised Crabmeat and Fish Maw in Superior Broth ($28) which we liked very much with its depth of flavour, thick consistency and plentiful fresh ingredients.


We didn't quite like the Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup ($12), it was just starchy without any depth of flavour, a bit too sour and a bit too light on the spicy elements.



Szechuan Court
80 Bras Basah Road
Fairmont Singapore
#03
Tel: 6431 6156
Open Mondays to Fridays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch
Weekends and PH from 12noon to 3pm for lunch
Daily from 6:30pm to 10:30pm for dinner

18.8.11

Oriole Cafe & Bar

Oriole Cafe & Bar is one of my choices for a late-night dinner. The low-lights of the restaurant, softly tuned down-tempo music and groovy vibe invokes that sense of relaxation. It helps that the food's pretty alright too. And, with the current Amex 1-for-1 promotion, it makes even more sense to eat here. 

The Bangers & Mash ($16) is one of the better ones I've tried. The grilled English pork sausages were moist and juicy, and I liked the chunky meaty texture. I appreciated that the mashed potatoes weren't the generic, instant types, and the onion gravy was rich and aromatic without being cloying.


The Fish & Chips ($17) were also well done. Snapper fillets were fresh and sweet, coated in a thin but flavoursome batter, and paired with thick hand cut chips, tartar sauce and malt vinegar.


Although I'm not usually a fan of panna cotta, the Vanilla & Pear ($7) was very pleasant, it was dense but wobbly, and sweet without being saccharine, pears were poached al dente in red wine, and topped off with crushed amaretti for a little edge.




Oriole Cafe & Bar
96 Somerset Road #01-01
Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 8348
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 11pm, and Sundays from 10.30am to 11pm

17.8.11

Imperial Treasure Windows of HK, TripleOne Somerset

Windows of HK is Imperial Treasure's take on Hong Kong fast food. A small selection of congees, rice, noodles and roasts make up the Cantonese influence of the menu. And then there's the quintessentially Hong Kong-style western food where cheese-covered baked rice dishes and luncheon meat instant noodles with sunny side up eggs predominantly feature.

I understand that this is supposed to be modeled after self-serviced Hong Kong canteens, so you order at the cashier and make payment on the spot, and the wait staff will deliver the dishes to your table when it's ready. Iced and warm water are available at a water counter, but you'll have to get it by yourself. I really don't mind popping by the water counter to pour my own glass of plain water from the water jugs, but what's the point of employing so many waitresses to stand around shuffling their feet and staring off into space if they cannot even ensure that the iced plain water jug is filled. When I tried to get some iced plain water, the water jug was empty. After the waitresses were told that the water jug needed to be filled, they just filled it with room temperature water. And when we asked for ice to be put into the jug because it's supposed to be iced plain water, they just didn't bother. 

Then, when I'm eating, they kept coming over to try to take away our unfinished dishes. Seriously, when I need the staff to do their job, they don't. But I need to be left alone to finish my meal, they are ridiculously over-eager to clear my plates. This would have been a very nice place to dine, if not for the lazy, lacking in initiative and direction staff.

That said,the food was good and does keep with up Imperial Treasure's high standards. Because TripleOne Somerset is generally lacking in foot traffic, the restaurant was barely filled when we had dinner there on a weekday. 

The Roasted Pork & Duck with Rice ($7.50) was really delicious. Roasted pork had a nice crackling and just the right fat-to-meat ratio. Loved the duck, it was juicy, tender and flavoursome.


The Sliced Fish Congee ($6.50) was simple, tasty and comforting. Fish was plentiful and fresh, while porridge was smooth and delicate.


The Soya Sauce Chicken ($12 for half) was yummy, even if it was a tad bloody, at certain parts. It was tender, succulent and flavourful right to the bone.



Imperial Treasure Windows of HK
111 Somerset Road
#01-K1/24/25
TripleOne Somerset
Tel: 6732 8798
Open daily from 11am to 9pm

15.8.11

Cherry Garden

Cherry Garden's one of my "secret hideaway spots" for exquisitely refined food in peaceful, elegant surroundings. I've eaten here so many times, and I've never been disappointed. The food may, admittedly, be a little on the pricey side, but the quality of the food and the generous portions more than make up for the somewhat fine-dining prices. To top it off, I love the service here. The wait staff are always attentive but never intrusive, and warm and knowledgeable.

In fact, the great service extends to the entire service staff throughout this hotel, rated travellers' favourite hotel in Singapore by Tripadvisor. From the cleaning auntie who pushes the lift button for you, to the doorman who opens the heavy doors with a ready smile, the service here is top-notch and without compare.

Today, we rested our work-weary selves down in plush oriental chairs and were welcomed with an Amuse Bouche, a chilled grilled unagi, chewy and soft to the bite.


The Marinated Jellyfish Salad ($8) made for a refreshingly great appetizer. Jellyfish was cooked perfectly, bouncy and springy, and the soya sauce marinade was very light, so it really complemented the mildly sea-fresh flavours of the jellyfish.


The Sweet Corn Soup ($10) with minced chicken and egg white was pure comfort, silky egg whites intertwined with sweet corn kernels and tender morsels of chicken mince.One of the best versions of this Chinese classic.


The Sea Treasure Soup ($10) was surprisingly more controlled than I'd expect of a seafood-based soup. The unami flavours were nuanced and balanced, and diced zucchinis lent colour and texture.


The Sauteed Monkey Head Mushrooms ($20) with assorted vegetables and pine nuts was something I'd turn vegetarian for. This was so delicate, and the light seasoning brought focus to the natural sweetness of the crunchy vegetables.


The Stir-Fried Chicken Fillet ($22) with shallots and spring onions was a heady dish packed with flavour. Chicken was smooth and succulent, and the rich, slightly wine-ish sauce was intensely aromatic.


The Stir-Fried Asparagus ($22) with Hong Kong kailan and honshimeiji mushrooms in spicy XO sauce was packed with flavour, and complemented the slightly peppery taste of asparagus.



Cherry Garden
The Mandarin Oriental
5 Raffles Ave
Level 5
Tel: 6338 0066 / 6885 3030
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner

13.8.11

Sabar Menanti Restaurant, Kandahar Street

Any local Malay worth his weight in beef rendang will know that THE PLACE to go to for nasi padang in Singapore is Kandahar Street. There are about 3 nasi padang stalls along the short street lined with conservation colonial shophouses, all of which serve up really delicious and cheap Malay fare. They are usually packed by 12 noon, and I would usually advise dining there by 1.30pm, or be prepared to eat the leftovers. However, come Ramadan period, the area gets real lonely during lunchtime as most Malays are fasting then.

Sabar Menanti serves up Minangkabau padang food, which is really just nasi padang, as we know it. This venerable restaurant has almost 50 years of history and that translates to age-old recipes that have been passed down for generations.

I love that I can eat an unbelievably good meal at an equally unbelievable pricetag here. A full meal for 2 persons, with rice, drinks and 6 dishes, amounts to only $19. 


The Spinach is my favourite dish. It's so simple. Sliced fiery red chillies, sweet onions are all it takes to brings out the clean, mildly metallic edge of the vegetable (spinach leaves a slightly metallic aftertaste because of its high iron content, and for those who've forgotten their periodic tables, iron is a metal.)


While the spice paste in the Chicken Rendang were complex and addictive, the chicken was a tad bit dry and tough. I think maybe frozen chicken was used instead of fresh chicken.


The Fried Eggs may look elementary, but the green chillis, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet thick black sauce) add a layer onto the perfectly done eggs. The yolks were still soft and/or runny inside.


The Sambal Fishcake was delectably bouncy, with a thick slathering of fiery sambal that's both sweet and spicy.


The Beef Rendang was better than the chicken version, the beef was still moist, and braised real well, it fell apart easily. The rendang spice paste had a smokier, slightly charred edge to it.


The Sayur Lodeh is for people who love their braised vegetables firm and crunchy, and not soft and limp. This was rich, savoury and creamy.


I particularly liked the thirst-quenching Iced Plum Juice, which was loaded with bits of jelly and a cute sour plum. Great for those feeling bloated after a full meal.


Sabar Menanti Restaurant
48 Kandahar Street
Tel: 6396 6919
Open daily from 8.30am to 6pm
Website: www.sabarmenanti.com.sg/index.html
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