30.11.14

Medz Bistro & Bar, Orchard Central

For a while, rainbow-hued layered sponge cakes were all the rage. One of the earliest purveyors of the very instagram-able confection is Medz, the Mediterranean-style, Marche-like, restaurant over at Orchard Central. In addition to the "rainbow cake", the sprawling restaurant also offers up a decent array of French-inspired desserts, all of which are really pretty. But, they're more style than substance, fairly sufficing but forgettable.

The Medz Signature Rainbow Cake ($6.90) was a pretty concentration of colours, fluffy enough sponge, but unmemorable.

The La Opera ($5.90) was probably the best of the lot. Dense, moist and balanced.

The Red Velvet ($4.90) was dewy but insipid.

The Salted Caramel Cheesecake ($5.90) was terribly pedestrian, moderately lush, but lacking in oomph.

The Chocolate Truffle Cake ($6.90) was commendable, nuanced and rich.


Medz Bistro & Bar
181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central #B2-01
Tel: 6238 9028
Open daily from 11am to 11pm
Website: www.medzs.com.sg

29.11.14

Hai Di Lao, Clarke Quay

Hai Di Lao, the famed steamboat chain hailing from China, arrived on our shores with much fanfare. Equally legendary is their ridiculously unbelievable 4-hour-long waiting time. Even if they've just opened up an outlet at 313 Somerset, the original branch at Clarke Quay requires a waiting time of at least 2 hours on good days. Unless you're dining over lunch, or anytime after 11pm. Apparently, those are the times to visit if you abhor waiting. We took a leisurely lunchtime sojourn and drove out to Clarke Quay to celebrate a friend's birthday. Another plus point: free parking over weekday lunch hours!

Because we didn't have to wait for a table, the snack and mani stations weren't opened; there was no need for such freebies to distract us from rumbling tummies. No biggie, I'd take no queue over free snacks any day!

Still, the frills were all there; the rubber hair-ties to tame flyaways, the plastic ziplocks to protect your phones from drips, the microfibre cloth to clean your spectacles, the aprons to maintain your pristine clothing. All complimentary, of course.

And, the stellar service standards blew us away; this was one of those occasions where the hype was totally lived up to. Our waitress was ever so smiley, and always seemed to magically apparate to assist in skimming the scum, or help form those perfectly shaped balls of fish paste or prawn paste, or simply to recommend the must-trys in the mind-boggling array of ingredients on the iPad self-serviced menu.

Service aside, the food was excellent, albeit a smidge pricey considering that there's no cooking involved here. The ingredients were sparkling fresh, and the soup bases, the mala and chicken, were robust and rich in depth. I was never a fan of mala, as I've always found mala hotpots to be overwhelmingly spicy; the numbing chilli obliterated any other flavour. 

But, Hai Di Lao's Sichuan Spicy Mala soup base was addictively good; it was layered and I could actually taste the peppercorns and dried chilli elements grounded in the chicken-and-pork bone base. The Chicken Soup ($22 for split soup hotpot), on the other hand, was sapid with the sweetness of wolfberries, earthy shitakes and oyster mushrooms, and the heady distinctiveness of half a black chicken.

The sauce station, where you get to mix your own dips from a melange of aromatics, herbs, spices and sauces.

From right to left: a Putien-like chilli sauce; vinegar

From left to right: chives; coriander; light Soy

From right to left: minced celery; cut chillis; sesame paste; crushed peanuts; soyabean sauce; crisp soya beans

From left to right: minced garlic; barbecue sauce; chinese chives flower; sesame oil; crisp soya beans, soyabean sauce; crushed peanuts

From left to right: ground beef; beef sauce; preserved sichuan pickle; chilli oil; crushed garlic; barbecue sauce; chinese chives flower; sesame oil

From left to right: Korean-style chilli sauce (gochujang); mushroom paste; fermented beancurd sauce;  seafood sauce; fried ground beef

From left to right: oyster sauce; Korean-style chilli sauce (gochujang); mushroom paste; fermented beancurd sauce;  seafood sauce

My personalised dipping sauce: 1 part mushroom sauce, 1 part seafood sauce, 1 part barbecue sauce, half part sesame oil, 1 part sesame paste

Crisp Seaweed strips for dunking into soups

Scallops ($12 for full portion)

Cod Fillet ($7 for half portion)

Red Tilapia ($18 for whole fish)

Crispy Fish Skin ($4 for half portion) - great to dunk into the soup just before slurping it down, it lends a slight crunch

US Beef Slices ($9 for half portion) beautifully marbled and mild

Pork Belly ($14 for full portion) - skip this and get the black pork instead if in a pinch

Black Pork ($16 for full portion)

Give the Spicy Pork ($7 for half portion) a miss, the black pork is so much better, and once dunked in the sichuan soup base, becomes spicy anyway.

Luncheon Meat ($4 for half portion)

Shitake Mushrooms ($3 for half portion)

Oyster Mushrooms ($3 for half portion)

Fried Tofu Skin ($3 for half portion)

Deep Fried Tofu Puffs ($3 for half portion)

Chinese Cabbage ($2 for half portion) always a safe option as steamboat greens

Spinach ($3 for half portion) - be sure to dredge these out as soon as they are wilted. They make the soup bitter if they're left in to soak too long.

Crown Daisy ($3 for half portion) - or tung oh, which I hate, so my very sweet friends indulged my preferences and put these in only at the end

Although not pictured, the mashed meat ($11 for half portion) and handmade noodles ($4 for 1 person portion) are must-trys. The former because they were just delicious, like incredibly fresh prawn/fish/spinach/squid balls; and the latter just for the show.

Fruits



Hai Di Lao
Clarke Quay #02-04
3D River Valley Road
Tel: 6337 8626 / 6337 8627
Open daily from 10.30am to 3am

27.11.14

Sauteed Green Beans and Corn

This is another easy peasy 10-minute vegetable dish. To shortcut the cooking process, you can pre-cook the beans first by dumping it into a pot of boiling water for about 3-5 minutes, and draining before frying, without the water, at step 2.



Ingredients (feeds 6):
600gm fine French beans, washed with ends trimmed
2 cups sweet corn kernels
2 cloves garlic, minced (can up this to 5 cloves if you like)
3 tbsp butter (get the best French butter money can buy, it makes a difference)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
Dash each of oregano, thyme and tarragon
1/4 cup water
Salt to taste


Directions:
1) Fry garlic in olive oil-butter combination until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

2) Add beans and water, and fry for about 10 minutes.

3) Add corn, and stir through for another 5 minutes, with sugar and herbs. Salt to taste before serving.


25.11.14

Sausage Fusilli in Tomato-Cream Sauce

I love pink sauce-based pastas. It's just the perfect marriage of the tart and rich. The cream mellows the bright tomato sauce, and the tomato sauce, in turn, lightens the heavy cream. This dish has just 4 simple steps, which makes it a cinch to whip up for a party. And the yummier the sausages used, the more sophisticated this appears! For vegetarians, you can switch out the sausages for mushrooms and/or zucchini. 


Ingredients (feeds 6-7):
8 cups fusilli (or any other small shaped pasta you like), dunked in boiling salted water till 1 minute to al dente, and drained
200 ml double cream
10 cups marinara/tomato pasta sauce
550 gm sausages, diced to 3/4" cubes (approx 5 large sausages, I used Johnsonville beer brats here coz they're AWESOMESAUCE)
1 tsp olive oil
Optional: 3 tbsp grated Parmesan, and more for sprinkling


Directions:
1) Fry sausages in oil till just cooked through. Set aside.


2) Heat marinara sauce through, and add cream, stirring through, on medium heat.

3) Add pasta.

4) Return sausages, add 3 tbsp grated parmesan, and toss through.

5) Salt to taste with a sprinkle of parmesan and milled black pepper, when serving.


24.11.14

Ronin

When Kang first suggested going to "Ronin" for brunch, I was tickled. Having just watched 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (yeah yeah, I know, I'm a little late to the game, but I don't go to the cinemas anymore, and the dvd/blueray was only released 2 weekends ago), I was bewildered that someone would name a bistro after 'Ronan', a lesser-known comicbook villain that only exploded onto the public's consciousness after what was arguably the best movie of the year hit the theatres.

So after a hilarious, albeit lengthy, exchange, it turns out that the cafe's name is what you'd call a Japanese samurai without a master - absolutely no correlation with what the cafe is about.

Ronin the cafe is what you'd expect of just about every other coffee joint: dark, eclectic, industrial and totally hipster. The fact that the facade is completely hidden speaks volumes as to its wannabe pretentiousness. But, at least the service was warm and smiley. I'd almost expected the wait staff here all to be moody and brooding.

The menu's decidedly limited, with up to only 10 items available on any given day. Not a lot of choice, but heaven-sent for the perpetually-undecided. Please note that this is a cash-only establishment, so be sure to to pad your wallet accordingly.

The Scrambled Eggs on Toast ($9) was incredibly silky, but slightly undersalted. I've read online reviews proclaiming Ronin to serve up the best scrambled eggs on the island, but I maintain that Wild Honey retains that coveted title. Add-ons like the juicy Pork Sausage ($4.50) and succulent grilled Portobello Mushroom ($3.50) made this a much more substantive meal option.

Kang made his Scrambled Eggs on Toast ($9) vegetarian with half an Avocado ($3) and Portobello Mushroom ($3.50).

A must-try here, the Brioche French Toast ($14.50) was sumptuous; it was thick and fluffy and eggy and caramelised perfectly. This was paired with a softly braised green apple, grilled back bacon, a knob of hazelnut butter and sticky sweet syrup.

We asked for, off the menu, left to right: Raspberry Jam ($2) and Fig Jam ($2) to spread atop our toasts. These were lovely, chunky and sweet. 

The Latte ($4.20), while creamy, was too milky and lacking in potency.

A better option would be the Wicked ($5.50), essentially a hot mocha peppermint. This was like drinking a liquid form of After Eights dinner mints.So luscious.

The Iced Ero Tea ($7+), an earl grey tea infused with fresh thyme, was a refreshing thirst quencher.


Ronin
17 Hongkong Street
Open on weekdays from 8am to 6pm;
weekends from 8am-7.30pm;
Closed on Mondays
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