29.9.18

Wolfgang's Steakhouse

Like every other person who learned that one of the culinary options at the Intercontinental Robertson Quay was the world-renowned Wolfgang's Steakhouse, I thought it was yet another concept of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's group of restaurants. Like a sister restaurant to the sublime Cut by Wolfgang Puck, maybe?

Apparently not.

While oft-confused for the other, Wolfgang's Steakhouse is instead, somewhat "related" to another steakhouse heavyweight: Peter Luger. Wolfgang's Steakhouse is named for Wolfgang Zwiener (zwee-ner, not a rhyme for the male appendage, please), a head waiter at Peter Luger Steakhouse who, for decades, served Tinseltown's biggest luminaries.

I've never been to Peter Luger, but I sure liked Wolfgang's Steakhouse. The steaks were fantastic, even if the sides were a little bit of a hit-and-miss. I wouldn't say it's the best, but I think it ranks a close second to joint firsts Ruth Chris and Cut.

And service was exemplary, our server was jovial, attentive in spite of the restaurant's full-house. and knowledgeable...the Malbec he'd recommended was, notwithstanding my love for Malbec, so. freaking. good. Suffice it to say, I was a very happy camper that night.

The Crab Cake ($38) was luscious, meaty and sweet, but couldn't quite beat Ruth's Chris' version (because, all.that.butter...yums). That being said, this was still one of the better starters.

The Tuna Tartare ($38), sided by a beefsteak tomato, avocado, toasted crostini, Japanese cucumbers and arugula, boasted clean, clear, refreshing flavours,

The USDA Prime Porterhouse ($370 for a 4-person cut), dry-aged in-house, was sumptuous, juicy (I mean, look at all that jus!!) and lipsmackingly delicious.

Ditto for the USDA Prime Ribeye ($128), full-bodied and fragrant with the smoky char of the grill. It was scrumptious. This makes one of my favourite ribeye steaks ever.

For those abstaining from red meat, there's a bunch of seafood options, like the Broiled Lobster ($192.52 for 3.5lbs). It looked herculean, but it was really mostly because of the shell. The flesh was succulent and sweet, but I wished they added butter to this though. That would have kicked it into high gear.

The womenfolk needed some fibre to cut through all that decadence, so we ordered a couple of vegetable sides. The Broccoli ($15), crunchy and mild, was slightly under-salted.

The Asparagus ($18) wasn't as toasty as I'd like, but it was redeemed by all that glorious melty butter. Butter makes everything better, I swear. I dunked the broccoli in that too.

The Lobster Mac & Cheese ($25) was superb, gooey, cheesy and oh.so.indulgent.

I don't usually eat pie but the Pecan Pie ($18) was exceptional. Served a la mode, it was like Autumn on a plate. A must try.

The Hot Fudge Sundae ($18) looked a hot mess but boy was it yummy. Another must-try.

The complimentary bread with softened butter was forgettable. It was served cold and dismally uninspired. Feel free to skip this if avoiding carbs.


Wolfgang's Steakhouse
1 Nanson Road #02-01
Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay
Tel: 6887 5885
Opens daily from 11.30am to 11.30pm
Website: wolfgangssteakhouse.sg

27.9.18

Blue Label Pizza

So we'd just watched this rom-com "Little Italy", which chemistry between leads Emma Roberts and easy-on-the-eye Hayden Christensen (say what you will about his disaster role as a young Anakin Skywalker in the gawdawful Star Wars prequel trilogies, but mannnn, he's sizzling hawt stuff) played sideshow to the real star of the movie: pizza. Like Burnt with fine dining and Chef with food truck cubanos, watching this made us crave pizza. Like, we were struck with a serious hankering for pizza by the time the credits rolled around. And at 11 o'clock at night, no less.

Lucky for us there was Blue Label Pizza, a late-night pizzeria that possibly serves up the best pizzas in town. Here, the Italian classic is given a modern twist, so you get hipster toppings like kale and manchego, and bases studded with sesame seeds. IT WAS AMAZING. We're not big on pizza, but we both agreed, while stuffing our face with pizza, that Blue Label Pizza made carb-loading satisfyingly, and not at all guiltily, worthwhile.

One gripe though: I'm not a fan of the space. The tight, stunted space, already claustrophobically cramped with its low ceilings, was exacerbated by the furnishing of high tables and bar stools. I would have thought it made more sense to fill out a small, low-hanging restaurant with shorter tables and chairs that were lower to the ground. Clearly, the architect didn't get the memo on scale parity. The Hubs felt like Gulliver in Lilliput.

A signature and an absolute must-try, the Blue Label State Fair Fries ($25) were just out-of-this-world. Idaho potatoes are treated three ways: brined, boiled and then fried. but the kicker was the frills: a black-pepper spiked veal jus (insanely good I tell ya), fried egg aioli and shaved black truffle. So damn good I could cry.

Many places tend to churn out overwhelmingly synthetic smelling truffle dishes. But the Black Magic ($38) was surprisingly balanced and nuanced. The heady pungency of manchego was a wonderful contrast to the black truffle cream and truffle sprinkles, while jamon iberico and asparagus lent texture and another dimension.

A must for meat-lovers, the J-Dog ($32) was an explosion of bold, stout flavours. The trinity of pork sausage, bacon, and pepperoni, was set against the spice of jalepeno and tang of red tomato sauce. Also, the crust was outstanding, and what I initially thought was just sesame seeds had been given a punchier boost with cumin.


Blue Label Pizza & Wine
28 Ann Siang Hill
Tel: 9821 9362
Open for lunch from Monday to Friday from 12-2pm;
dinner from Monday to Saturday from 6pm to 12midnight
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.bluelabelpizza.com

25.9.18

Chow Mein Tagliatelle

I'm a big fan of using western ingredients in Chinese cooking. This is a fusion of Chinese-style fried noodles (admittedly already b@stardised) with Italian noodles. It may look like a lot of steps but it's a lot easier (and faster) than expected to whip up!!


Ingredients (feeds 2-4):
1 cup tagliatelle (or any other string pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine will do)
1 head round cabbage, sliced into strips
3 cups julienned carrots
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets, makes about 5 cups
500gm chicken fillet, diced and marinated for at least 3 hours (marinade recipe below)
1 head garlic, minced
3 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp sesame oil
oyster sauce
light soy
sake
ground white pepper
1 tsp dark soy for colouring
sesame seeds to garnish
fried shallots to garnish

Chicken marinade:
1.5 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp shaoxing wine
dash of white ground pepper
1 tsp sugar

Sauce for noodles (pre-mixed in a bowl):
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tbsp light soy
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
2 tbsp water


Directions:
1) Fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2) Turn heat up to medium-high and add cabbage, tossing all over until wilted, about 2 minutes.

3) Add 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp light soy and a dash of white ground pepper to season. Dish up and set aside. 

4) Fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

5) Turn heat up to medium-high and add carrots.

6) Add 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp light soy and 1 tbsp sake to season, and fry till wilted and seasoning sauce is all absorbed. Dish up and set aside.

7) In the meantime, you can start blanching the broccoli in salted boiling water, about 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

8) Also start cooking the pasta in boiling water, until about 2 minutes before its cooking time.

9) In the meantime, fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium-low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

10) Turn heat up to medium-high and add chicken, together with 2 tbsp of its marinade.

11) Add 1 tsp of dark soy for colouring.

12) Also, at the same time in a large pan on medium-high heat, toss together the pre-cooked carrots and cabbage.

13) Add blanched broccoli.

14) Add pasta, and pre-mixed sauce for noodles, stir together until sauce is just about almost all absorbed.

15) Add chicken to toss through at the end.

16) Serve with garnish of sesame seeds and fried shallots.


Asian Warm Vegetable Salad with Ponzu-Sesame Dressing

We always think of salads as a western concept, but salads can be an Asian thing, too. Like this warm vegetable salad redolent with garlic, soy, and sesame flavours, it's distinctively Chinese in style with the sauteed vegetables. There's the warm and soft, contrasted against the cold crisp of the mesclun greens.


Ingredients (feeds 2 as a main, 4 as a side):
1 package of 150gm mesclun leaves, washed and spun dry
600gm mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of white buttons, Swiss browns and portobellos)
2 cups carrots, julienned
1 large zucchini, diced
1 head garlic, minced
3 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp light soy
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp sake
fried garlic to garnish

Dressing:
5 tbsp ponzu sauce
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp wholegrain mustard


Directions:
1) Fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2) Turn heat up to medium-high and toss in mushrooms with 1 tbsp light soy, 1 tbsp oyster sauce. Fry until water released from mushrooms is almost all evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

3) Fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4) Turn heat up to medium-high and toss in carrots with 1 tbsp light soy, and 2 tbsp sake. Fry until carrots are slightly softened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

5) Fry 1 tbsp minced garlic in 1 tbsp canola oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

6) Turn heat up to medium-high and toss in zucchini.

7) Add 1 tbsp light soy, 1 tbsp oyster sauce and fry until zucchini is just softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

8) Assembly time: set out mesclun base, dot with fried mushrooms, carrots and zucchini. Drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle generously with fried garlic bits.


24.9.18

Yan

The National Gallery will forever be known to me as the old Supreme Court. As one of the last batches of lawyers freshly minted in its courtrooms, I've fond memories hanging out in the bar-room of old. It was exuberant place of stimulating debate, sagely counsel, and just plain ol' salacious hearsay.

The stately building, granted conservation status as an important heritage of Singapore, has been refurbished into an art museum and a popular destination for families with young 'uns. Not my scene, of course, but the slew of dining options at the National Gallery are quite the draw. Like I always say, food is what attracts Singaporeans near and far. You can build a mall in the godforsaken nowhere, but fill it with restaurants galore, and the crowds will come.

Sitting next to Aura at the top floor of the National Gallery, Yan Restaurant appears incredibly popular: The restaurant was a full-house even on a typically sluggish Monday night for dinner. It's little wonder, as Yan's modern Cantonese fare was impressive. And for a white-tableclothed, fine-dining restaurant, the food at Yan is surprisingly hearty and unpretentious. And while the menu's fairly extensive, I'd recommend sticking to the contemporary stuff; it's a wonderful blend of the familiar flavours of Cantonese cooking with an unexpected twist for refinement.

We shared the single-portioned House Special Baked Pork Ribs ($13.80) as a starter. Flecked with black olives and slicked with a honeyed glaze, this was fall-off-the-bone luscious.

The Shark Cartilage Broth ($18) loaded with a couple of fat, juicy wantons, was silky and exquisite, without leaving that milky film of collagen.

A must-try, the Braised Chicken with Chilli & Enoki ($22), served bubbling in pre-heated claypot, was absolutely smashing. It was pure comfort food, I was sorely tempted to order steamed white rice to go with.

The Braised Bamboo Pith with Mushrooms ($22), slathered in a velvety oyster-based sauce and topped with chewy beancurd skin rolls, was delicate and scrumptious. One of the most polished versions of this classic.

Another must-try, the Bi-Feng Tang-Style Sri Lankan Crab ($120 for 1.2kg) is the closest thing to Hongkong's Under Bridge Spicy Crab. Littered with batter crumbs, popcorn nubbins and robust with the heat and spice of fried garlic mince, dried chilli and peppercorns, this was sumptuous.



Yan Restaurant
1 Saint Andrew's Road
National Gallery #05-02
Tel: 6384 5585
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.yan.com.sg

9.9.18

Shoukouwa

After that disaster of a dinner at Sushi Mieda, the Hubs was turned off sushi for a spell. I, on the other hand, couldn't wait to exorcise that dinner with properly good sushi. And where else better to do that than Shoukouwa, Singapore's most distinguished Michelin-studded Japanese restaurant.

There's just two omakase menus for dinner, the Miyabi for those of the genteel appetites at $320, and for the gluttons, the 19-course Hana ($480), the latter which we had, because #FatLifeChoseMe. I use "course" loosely, because they were mostly single mouthfuls of sushi. And while Shoukouwa is priced at the very top of the range, dinner was indubitably worth every penny. Well, of the Hub's wallet, that is, heh.

Shoukouwa was subliminal. The seafood was unbelievably fresh (any fresher, it'd be alive and kicking), and treated with an almost reverent restrain by Shoukouwa's chefs. It was exquisite in its straightforward, uncomplicated approach. A bonus: the menu comprised my favourites, and none of my dislikes, so there wasn't a need to replace the akagai this, or surf clam that. All things considered, Shoukouwa was the perfect antidote to curing a bad sushi-resultant aversion to Japanese food.

Service was faultless as well. The pace of dinner was Japanese train clockwork-precise. The chef, and the staff, took the time to elaborate how each fish was prepared, what cut of the tuna we were eating, and even took out an iPad to illustrate what the fish in its whole form looked like. Great learning for sushi virgins, less so for the experienced regulars.

And then there was the world-class entertainment, courtesy of this epically pompous buffoon and his young date. We'd already noticed them when they sauntered in, one a pot-bellied, over-the-hill Caucasian with a grey horseshoe for hair, and the other, his vapid, clownishly-made up barely-coherent SPG. But we really sat up and took notice when he very sagely explained to his date that the abalone had been steeped in sake for 3 days "to disinfect it". He then asked, without irony, the chef "since when was bonito a fish?". And when he saw the chef searing the tuna nigiri with white-hot coals, he educated the airhead that it was "to heat up the fish". I thought they hit peak stupidity when they got into a conversation about different "sal-men car-viars", but then they queried the chef how he kept the eels so soft, I was sorely tempted to tell them it's coz the Japanese massage their eels with baby oil. They were so odious, so repugnant, it's remarkable the chef kept his composure. I mean, we were barely keeping it together giving our friends a blow-by-blow account of dinner. There's the ill-informed, but they weren't it. They were simply obnoxious, which only served to aggravate their dismally low IQs.

First course was the Makogarei, marbled flounder sashimi, clean clear light.

Next up was the Kinki Ponzu, kinki fish poached shabu-shabu style and drizzled with ponzu sauce.

The Mushi Awabi was a plump juicy abalone steeped earlier in sake for 3 days (not to disinfect it!), steamed, and then draped in a velvety rich abalone liver sauce.

The Katsuo Norisyouyu, of bonito, was topped with a soy-sauced seaweed.

The Kegani, was a medley of steamed hairy crab, Mozuku seaweed, uni, shrimp, and shiso flowers.

And we get to the sushi courses: Kasugo - baby seabream. Special mention must be made of the sushi rice at Shoukouwa: they serve the most perfectly seasoned morsels of vinegar-ed rice ever. Honestly, even without the fish, I would be happy eating just the sushi rice.

Kinmedai - golden eye snapper

Akami - tuna

Chu-toro - medium fatty tuna

The Otoro (fatty tuna) which confounded the jack@ss with the chef's sear-treatment.

The Uni (sea urchin) was, in the words of a reviewer after dining at a New York sushi restaurant opened by a sushi chef trained by Jiro Ono, arguably the best sushi master in the world, "like frozen yoghurt that tastes like the bottom of a sailboat".

The sushi courses were punctuated by the Nodoguro, a grilled black throat sea perch served with sushi rice. Simplicity at its finest.

Hotate - scallop seasoned with Himalayan salt

The Ikura, of salmon roe was enlivened by the bed of soy-dressed sushi rice.

I usually prefer cooked shrimp, but the Botan Ebi (sweet shrimp) was incredible: the sweetness was so delicate, so exquisite, it was almost like sweet milk.

Anago - sea eel burnished with sweet teriyaki

Misowan - miso soup

Tamago - omelette

We rounded off the gut-buster of a dinner with the dessert course, or Mizugashi, with an impossibly sweet musk melon and iced grapes.



Shoukouwa Restaurant
1 Fullerton Road
#02-02A One Fullerton
Tel: 6423 9939
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Sundays from 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.shoukouwa.com.sg
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