31.7.16

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Until a couple of months ago, I've never had brussels sprouts; I'd thought that they were just greener cousins of artichokes, which I hate.

Then that fabulous tabbouleh at Artichoke changed everything, the nutty buttery notes of the charred greens were so addicting. And I discovered how easy it was to cook them. A big bonus: brussels sprouts are deliciously healthy. I now find myself whipping up these vegetables for supper most nights. It sure beats pigging out on lard-laden Hokkien mee in the dead of night and then being guilt-ridden all through the day after.

These are the most basic of recipes for cooking brussels sprouts, which you can vary a million ways. Like cauliflower, they take a similar flavouring profile, so crisped bacon, garlic butter, or dukkah/dukka will pair beautifully with these roasted greens.


Ingredients:
Brussels sprouts
Really good extra virgin olive oil
Salt


Directions:
1) Prep the brussels sprouts, you can leave them whole, with the tough ends trimmed off, and a small cross-incision cut into it. Toss with however much olive oil you want, and salt to season.

2) Or you can halve the brussels sprouts, with the tough ends cut off in a v-shape.

3) Pop it into the oven at 200C for 30-45 minutes, turning them over at the mid-way point for even charring.

4) Ready to serve, sprinkle with more salt as needed.



30.7.16

White Restaurant (The Original Sembawang White Bee Hoon - fka You Huak Restaurant)

I'd heard such a lot of rave reviews of "that Sembawang white bee hoon", but never got around to making the trek up north. The distance, coupled with purported nightmarish waiting times, was quite the effective deterrent.

But then one day after hitting the Island Gym off Upper Thomson, we thought we'd hit up the famed cze char eatery, since we were in the area. Or so we thought.

Turned out, Upper Thomson was a good 25 minute drive, through horrendous traffic and a ridiculous number of traffic lights, from White Restaurant (rebranded from its previous coffeeshop moniker You Huak Restaurant).

So, was the white beehoon worth the distance? While the cze char was commendable, in that familiar old-school way, the food wasn't uniquely outstanding. However, the production-line style of operation meant that service was run with Japanese-level efficiency. Orders are taken at the reception, even before you're seated, so dishes are churned out swiftly. Turnover is brisk, because the harsh florescence and spartan utilitarianism of the restaurant doesn't quite encourage lingering. All things considered, including that face-licking encounter with the fluffiest goldie taking his evening walk, White Restaurant makes for a worthwhile cze char option, but only IF you're in the area. I don't think it's worth a drive far north for anyone not within its hinterland.

The Meat & Seafood Roll ($10), despite assurances by the front-of-house that it was free of parsley/coriander/cilantro/spring onions, arrived, lush with coriander leaves. Obviously, not my favourite dish.  But if you're a fan of these herbs, pair them with the house chilli blend available on every table instead of the insipid gloopy Thai chilli sauce accompanying the rolls; the piquant spice is distinctively more complementary.

The Sweet Potato Leaves ($8), stir-fried in sambal, was fragrant with dried shrimp, robust and scrumptious.

The Sambal Sotong ($12), contrasted with green capsicum and tomatoes, was perfectly cooked, firm but yielding.

The Seafood White Beehoon ($10), with crunchy greens, egg scramble, fresh prawns and squid, was delicate and nuanced, the faint sweetness of a seafood stock having steeped into the rice noodles. To kick this up a notch, drizzle that punchy table-side chilli and stir it all over.


White Restaurant 
The Original Sembawang White Beehoon
(You Huak Restaurant)
22 Jalan Tampang
Tel: 9843 4699
Open Thursdays to Tuesdays from 11.30am to 10.30pm; Closed on Wednesdays
Website: whiterestaurant.com.sg

27.7.16

Los Primos

Los Primos was a recommendation by a Spanish friend; and when a Spaniard endorses a Spanish restaurant, you best heed that endorsement and head straight to that Spanish restaurant.

A casual open-aired concept under the same group that owns popular Italian trattoria Cugini (which also happens to be its next-door neighbour), the Club Street tenant is balmy and relaxed. Weekday afternoons will find this cosy spot a tranquil respite in the heart of the central business district, whereas nightfall brings with it the buzz of the executive crowd.

The food was indeed fantastic, with big hearty flavours the result of fresh produce effortlessly finessed. Save for the slightly off-kilter menu descriptions, every dish was a slamdunk. Not one wrong move by the incredible exhibition kitchen here. And while prices are relatively steep, portions were surprisingly ample. Service can get a little frazzled during a full-house, but remains well-meaning and reasonably efficient.

The Pulpo a la Gallega ($19.90), a tepid tapas of perfectly cooked octopus and boiled potato ringlets slathered in olive oil, and seasoned with a dash of paprika, was scrumptious. This was by far the best rendition of octopus ever, so good that it'll convert the most hardened of octopus-haters.

The Croqueta de Jamon Iberico ($14) of a quartet of deep-fried croquettes studded with jamon nubbins was less creamy than expected, but no less delicious. This was addictive as hell, and I would have eaten all of it if I didn't have to share with my mates. I'd recommend doggy-bagging these home for binge-watching Netflix.

The Gambas al Ajillo ($18.90), in spite of the menu's representation of prawns sauteed in virgin olive oil and garlic, was set in a saucy pool of white wine and sweet shrimp stock enlivened by dried chilli and onions. This was deliciously rich and unctuous; I mopped up every last drop of that awesome sauce.

Don't let the inky appearance of the Calamares en su Tinta ($16.90) scare you off. The squid, stuffed with a meaty filling, walked the fine line between firm and soft textures. It was finished with a moreish squid ink, peppery arugula, and blistered cherry tomatoes.

The Tortilla Espanola de Chorizo ($14.90) was a traditional Spanish omelette with onions and sausage. Beautifully charred and crisped on the outside, the thick patty was lusciously moist inside.

Another eggy dish, the Huevo Estrellado ($13.90) turned out to be a potato hash egg scramble with coloured peppers, onions, and juicy jamon; the menu had stipulated one of the components a soft boiled egg. Like the one at FOC. Or La Taperia. Forgivably insignificant inconsistency aside, this was awesome and would make a most delightful brunch food.

A daily special, the Bunuelos de Bacalao con Alioli de Pera ($16.90) contrasted zingy salted cod fritters with a delicately refreshing pear aioli, roasted nuts and peppered heat of the rocket leaves.

The other special, the Presa Iberica con Salsa de Pimienta Verde ($22.90) was a meaty platter of grilled acorn-fed Iberian black pig tenderloins. The smoky redolence was boosted by the subtle spice of the peperonata with green peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes, while a cool aioli lent a lively balance. 

The Pastel de Chocolate con Helado Casero ($15.90), a molten chocolate cake paired with homemade ice-cream and fresh strawberries, was as vanilla as it gets, but it was commendable.


Los Primos
81 Club Street
Tel: 6423 1773
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Fridays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 1am for dinner;
Saturdays from 6pm to 1am for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.losprimos.com.sg

26.7.16

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine

Gunthers is my all-time favourite French restaurant. A bastion of consistency and reliability, the food is elegant if a tad traditional, and the service, warm and gracious. Regular prices may veer towards the extravagant, but their Set Lunches are a steal, at only $38++ per head. If you can get away from the humdrum of a working week day, Gunther's makes for a perfectly languid respite.

A fail-safe, the Carpaccio of Wagyu Beef "Tartare" Style was as exquisite as it looked. This was fresh, and balanced in its complexity.

A favourite of mine, the Grilled Scallop, beautifully seared to a lovely gold, was diced and slathered in a garlicky herb butter sauce. Absolutely smashing.

The Mushroom Cappuccino makes a wonderfully comforting soup, all velvety and frothy in texture and earthy and creamy in flavour.

A vegetarian option for an entree, the daily special Gunther's Creation, was a layered cake of Potato Gratin strewn with tempura-ed enoki, baby romaine, and Hollandaise sauce.

The Tomato Rice, simmered with an umami seafood broth, was finished off with a medley of sparkling fresh octopus, shrimp, fish, and squid. I loved the restrain shown here.

A more substantive option, the Grilled Pork Shoulder, bearing a gorgeous char, was plated with cous cous and roasted root vegetables.

Because the affable chef had extras of his signature special, we were gifted complimentary Suckling Pig, glazed with berry balsamic and sided by fresh leek. This was just about the best crackling ever, with luscious meat underneath.

For dessert, I had the Cheese Platter (supplement $10) highlighting the most popular (and distinctive) of French diary (from right to left): comte, brie, camembert, roquefort, accompanied by dried fruits and nuts.

The Fine Apple Tart (supplement $8) a la dragee, was a sliver of wholesome apple goodness crusted with a thick candied coat, and contrasted with a Havana rum & raisin ice-cream.


Gunthers Modern French Cuisine
36 Purvis Street
#01-03 Talib Centre
Tel: 6338 8955
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.gunthers.com.sg

25.7.16

Carne Guisada (Mexican Beef Stew)

I love stews; it's like the easiest thing to make, super comforting, and allows you to prep it the night before, leaving you oodles of free time on party day itself.

This is a Mexican-style beef stew, so I've used a mix of beef and vegetable stock, with a light Mexican beer that I found in Meidi-Ya, as a soup base. A tip is to mill black pepper all over prior to serving; the spice seems to really bring out the flavours beautifully.


Ingredients (feeds 4-6 pax): 
1 kg stewing beef, cut into 1" cubes
2 green peppers, diced into 1" cubes
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced finely
1 large onion, minced
1 garlic bulb, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground oregano
1 tbsp spicy paprika
2 bay leaves
2 cup beef stock
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups Mexican beer
Olive oil


Directions:
1) Brown beef in fat, salting liberally and taking care not to overcrowd the pan.

2) Set aside in stewing pot.

3) Fry onions in 2 tbsp beef fat drippings and oil until translucent.

4) Add garlic, and fry till fragrant.

5) Add tomatoes and jalapeno, and stir for 1 minute.

6) Add mixture into browned beef, and add cumin, chilli powder, oregano, paprika, bay leaves, with stock and beer. Simmer for at least 45 minutes.

7) Add peppers in the last 10 minutes before serving.

8) Serve with a wedge of lime and freshly ground black pepper.


24.7.16

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce, Leek & Thyme

This is an easy-peasy dish that uses leek and fresh thyme to lighten the pungency of gorgonzola and contrast against heavy cream. The sweetness of sweet potatoes make a wonderful complement to stinky blue cheese.


Ingredients (feeds 4-6 pax):
1kg sweet potatoes, diced into 1cm cubes
Olive oil
Salt
2 tbsp butter
2 leeks, pale green parts only, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves only
1.5 cups gorgonzola
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups toasted walnuts, unsalted


Directions:
1) Coat sweet potatoes liberally with salt and olive oil, and roast in pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2) Saute leeks in melted butter with thyme, 1 minute.

3) Crumble gorgonzola and melt into cream swirled into the mixture.

4) Assembly time: pour the leek-thyme-gorgonzola cream mixture over the semi-roasted sweet potatoes.

5) Crumble walnuts all over. Roast at 170C for 20-25 minutes until cheese bubbling or until walnuts are browned and toasty.

6) Serve with a liberal sprinkling of freshly milled pepper.


19.7.16

Min Jiang, Goodwood Park Hotel

In spite of Min Jiang's longevity, it's not a restaurant we frequent. Their extensive menu is quite a hit-and-miss affair, and you'd really have to pick carefully for a commendable meal. This time round, we opted badly, and each dish comprised a jarring element, which made for a lackluster dinner.

The appetizer of Szechuan Chicken ($12), simply poached and served chilled smothered in a spicy-piquant sesame-soy-chilli sauce, passed muster but was far from outstanding. The version at Shinsen Hanten bore more harmonious flavours.

The Claypot of Braised Beancurd with Assorted Seafood ($28 for small) would have been wonderfully homestyled but for the less-than-fresh fish and overly treated prawns. Suffice it to say, we left the pieces of fish behind.

The Fried String Beans with Minced Meat ($18), enlivened with preserved mustard greens, was lacking in the smoky char of the wok.

We saw this served at just every other table, but we didn't quite take to the Stewed Ee-Fu Noodles with King Prawns ($16 per person). The XO sauce clashed terribly with the punchy heat of the ginger slabs. It was one ingredient too many; I would have much preferred the noodles slicked with just XO sauce, sans ginger.

The 'Min Jiang' Style Fried Noodles ($20 for small) was much better received. Classic fare done right, with a simple, uncomplicated appeal to it.

We should have taken our cue from the Braised Peanuts ($3), which unwonted sweetness was disconcerting. It heralded the disappointing dinner.


Min Jiang
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
Tel: 6730 1704
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner

18.7.16

Morsels

The fringes of Little India have started getting gentrified. What was once the hub for many mechanical mom-and-pop shops have given way to a number of notable hip cafes and bistros, amongst them, Morsels, a rustic restaurant styled like an English countryside cottage. 

Helmed by twin darlings of the local culinary scene, Petrina Loh and Bryan Chia, Morsels manages an effortless fusion of the east and west with such seamless flair that dishes appear like it was always meant to be married. The food is inventive, and fresh, with nary a whiff of contrived pretentiousness. Best of all, flavours at Morsels are grounded and comforting.

Think fusion fare in tapas sharing portions, so budget 6 dishes, including dessert, per 2 persons. Morsels practices impeccable timing, with only one dish served at a time, closely followed by the next only after you're done, so the petite doll-sized tables don't ever get overcrowded with all of the dishes arriving at once. I love it. The languid pace of savouring the dishes is such a refreshing change-up from the clipped dining pattern regularly turned over by most local establishments. 

As you'd expect of a restaurant on the fringes of Little India, carpark lots are limited and a parallel parking nightmare. A tip is to park at the open-air public carpark next to Sim Lim Tower, take the traffic junction across Jalan Besar, and onto Mayo Street on the other side. 

The Zucchini Pancake ($12) layered with a wobbly mound of gorgonzola panna cotta, and a delicate weave of miso honey vinaigrette was a love-it-or-hate-it dish. Mostly because of the striking pungency of the gorgonzola custard. I like my blues, so this was quite the winner for me.

A must-try, the Grilled Wild Sri-Lankan Green Tiger Prawns ($26), imbued with a fragrant char, was contrasted against a zesty smoked strawberry gazpacho flecked with a fermented chayote salsa, and pulut hitam cracker. Incredible balance shown on this plate.

A signature here, the Steamed Venus Clams ($24) were small but plump with seafresh goodness, and dunked in a creamy fig broth, and spiked with homemade kimchi and pickled wakame. The crusty toasts on the side were great for mopping up every last drop of that sumptuous soup.

The Grilled Hungarian Mangalican Pork ($29) was luscious, and even without the Asian ginger sauce, cauliflower puree, kombu salt, would have been delicious on its own. This was sided by a ginger-sesame dressed baby kailan salad evocative of the local chicken rice.

Another must-try, was the Grilled Fish-of-the-Day, a Barramundi ($26) set above a mound of soba noodles slicked in a umami nori pesto and tare sauce, and topped with micro greens and ikura.

The fork-tender Ume Sake Braised Black Angus Short Rib ($30) was exquisite, the heft of the red meat complemented by the dry sweetness of the liquor. This was paired with okinawan sweet potato, poached baby bok choy and koji wasabi.

Yet another must-try, the 'Morsels' Signature Milo Tiramiso ($15) was glorious. Served kitschily in a mason jar, the concoction was rich but well-balanced.


Morsels
35 Mayo Street
Tel: 6396 6302
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm;
Closed Sundays to Mondays
Website: www.morsels.com.sg
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