30.10.18

Three Buns by Potato Head

It's not often that we eat sinfully indulgent foods like burgers or steak, (u know, coz we now prefer a diet of light soups and salads more conventional of older folks) but every once a veryyy blue moon, we actually crave a good juicy burger.

And where else to satisfy that craving but newly opened Three Buns, an offshoot of hipster burger joint Potato Head Folk. I usually stay away from new launches but Potato Head is a well-established purveyor of the best burgers in Singapore. So we figured, can't go wrong!!

The menu at Three Buns is a little more adventurous than its Keong Siak parent Potato Head. And a lot more Asian: so expect ingredients such as pork floss, fried shallots and miso-this or dashi-that. We liked it, the unabashed East-West fusion worked.

One thing I've noticed about the Potato Head stable of restaurants: service is invariably great. Our servers were, without exception, smiley and cheery. And the clubby hip-hop music just added to that groovy, upbeat ambience.

Excellent food and service aside, this is hardly a first-date place. Well, not unless you're totally fine scaring off your tinder-swipe-right guy with all that meat-jus dribbling down your chin. But...of course, if your date still digs you after seeing all that slobbery mess, then, he/she is a keeper for sure.

The beautifully charred Crackalacka Corn ($8), seasoned with paprika mayo, oro del maso parmesan, toasted brioche crumbs, calamansi, and chilli, was a complex punchy riot of deliciousness.

The Miso Dirty Fries ($9), loaded with miso bernaise, smoked chicken sausage, floss, and pickled chilli was scrumptious.

I love fried shallots and would highly recommend any of their burgers with bawang goreng, like the Smokin' B Boy ($23). A sumptuous 150gm hunk of black Angus beef patty, slathered with bbq ketchup, dingley dell black beer, smoky mayo, then topped with treacle streaky bacon, lashings of bawang goreng, smoked cheese and sandwiched between fluffy brioche toasts. Absolutely glorious!!

The Burning Man Burger ($23) had a smidge more kick, with gochujang ketchup lending a subtle spice, and dashi mayo rounding it off with a umami accent. Melty cheese, bawang goreng, perfectly medium black Angus beef patty and toasty brioche completed the yummy ensemble.

I like that the drinks at Three Buns use metal straws. It makes me feel good and saintly when imbibing. We took our waitress' suggestion: the refreshing and not too sweet Strawberry Fields ($18) with bombay sapphire gin infused strawberries, peach liquor, and a base of tonic water.


Three Buns by Potato Head Folk
60 Robertson Quay
#01-01 The Quayside
Tel: 6909 7838
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 5pm to 12midnight;
Saturdays & Sundays from 10am to 12midnight;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.threebuns.com/singapore/

29.10.18

Balestier Hui Kee Wanton Mee, Zhongshan Park

We hardly, if ever, eat at a food court. More often than not, the food is sub-par to whatever you can get at an actual hawker centre. Yes, there's the air-conditioning, which in sooo much more comfortable than the sweltering heat of our tropical "alfrescos"...but I'd rather sweat it out with properly good food at a hawker centre than eat mediocre food , sweat-free, at a food court.

That being said... I recently heard that there was excellent wanton mee to be found at a food court in Zhongshan Park (which is surprising coz the mall isn't really renown for its dining options), and so, we just had to check it out. Besides, it's where we like to do our grocery shopping (PSA: the NTUC here is da best!! And while the supermarket is under its 'Finest' brand, prices here are akin to the regular ol' standard NTUC brand...also, parking for the first 2 hours is free on weekends!! #cheaptrillsinlife), so it wasn't too much trouble popping by whilst picking up toilet paper.

Anyways...apparently, this Hui Kee Wanton Mee was a 2nd-generation spinoff from the now-defunct original at Balestier Market opposite the mall. I like it, and the Hubs loves it (and he's no fan of wantan mee, so that's saying something), and we've returned several times to pick up takeaways.

What stood out in the Wanton Mee ($5) was the char siew (barbecued pork). These were thick slices, luscious and flavoursome, with just a hint of smoky char. Ooh, the chilli too, which punchy robust notes slicked the springy noodles and pulled the whole dish together. The wantons were a little forgettable, but the chilli really helped enliven it.

The Combo Plate ($6) is what I call the dieter's option. Sans noodles, this was simply the "meat" of the dish slathered in that fantastic chilli sauce.

The stall facade for reference, but really, you can't miss it. It's the only wanton noodle stall in the tiny food court.



The Original Hui Kee Wanton Mee
Food Fair @ Zhongshan Park
20 Ah Hood Road
Tel: 9628 4668 / 9720 3691
Open daily from 9.30am to 2.30pm;
and 3.30pm to 7pm
Facebook Website

28.10.18

Zucchini-Tapenade Pasta Salad with Sausage & Maple Glazed Carrots

As u can well tell by now, I love pasta salads, it comes together quickly, and makes the perfect one-dish (healthy!) meal for those busy bee weeknights. And while we get just the one season here in the tropics, this warm pasta salad is perfect for a nippy Fall day.


Ingredients (feeds 2-4 pax):
1 cup fusilli pasta
3 cups sausage, diced to 1 inch cubes
2 large zucchini, sliced to 1cm-thick semi-circlets or 3/4cm thick rings
1 large carrot, sliced to matchsticks lengths
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive tapenade
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp maple syrup


Directions:
1) Fry sausage in non-stick pan (you don't need oil in this case), until just cooked through, about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

2) With the drippings from the sausage, fry carrots until just wilted, about 1 minute on medium-high heat.

3) Turn heat down to medium, add minced garlic, and maple syrup, stirring through. Salt to taste.

4) Push carrots to the edges, add zucchini, fry till about cooked through, about 1.5 minutes. Salt to taste.

5) In the meantime, cook pasta in salted boiling water, until 2 minutes before instructed cooking time.

6) Drain into bowl, and add tapenade and olive oil, tossing through.

7) Return all ingredients into the pan, toss through.

8) Add cooked pasta to the pan, and serve warm.


27.10.18

Magic Square

Much has been raved of Magic Square, the incubator at Portsdown Road for promising young chefs. But I would beg to defer: in the same way I would prefer not to have my hair cut by a trainee hairdresser, I have to confess I wasn't crazy about Magic Square. It's not to say that the food was bad, but it very much feels like I'm an experiment for said chefs to hone their skills.

Also, perhaps the chef was having a bad day, but his sullen demeanor and lifeless intonation didn't exactly inspire enthusiasm for his food. He seemed, at best, reluctant, and at worst, irritably testy, to present his menu. That irritation was most obvious when he stopped, mid-sentence, to glare with pursed lips, at a few diners who failed to pay rapt attention to his dead, monotonous description of some dish. I don't blame that group of talkative diners, the chef appeared so uninterested about his own food, how could he reasonably expect that anyone would be excited by that? And really, this may be some kind of a school for budding chefs, but I wasn't aware it was for us paying diners too. It felt like we were thrown back to our student life and being made to eat, supervised by a strict disciplinarian of a teacher. If I wanna talk to my dinner dates instead of learning about the conception of your dish, it's really my prerogative. And I may be wrong here, but the chef didn't look like he was even happy to be cooking.

The saving grace was how cheap the meal was, because we were definitely still hungry after those 9 amuse bouche-sized "courses". And it made commercial sense coz dinner was really more a sampling of the chef's talents, and in the same way you'd pay a discounted rate for a trainee hairstylist, the price reflected the chef's training wheels.

Less than a memorably great meal aside, I could definitely see potential. The point of Magic Square was really to help chefs perfect their craft in a formal set-up, which goal, I reckon, has been realized. And I would count this as my digestive system doing its part in supporting such a "charity project" for the year, so now, I'll like to return to restaurants more worth the work I put in at the gym, please.

Dinner started off with a palate cleanser of some sort, sliced rose apple seasoned with tamarind, rempah curd, lemon balm, torch ginger and jambu air juice. Clean and fresh, with a subtle heat from the ginger.

The next was grilled prawn heads and baked amaebi prawns under a 60C heat lamp, served with chrysanthemum petals, honey, fresh pomelo, white fungus and bitter lemon.

The chef explained that his philosophy of reducing wastage, and so used ingredients typically discarded. Like with the XO-sauced Beef Tartare, it was studded with fermented scallop abductor muscle, which would typically be discarded, and served it with bits of garum or the skirt of the scallop which is also typically discarded, and topped with a fried betel leaf.

Typically a bait fish and atypically used in cooking, the local black-barred halfbeak gar fish (Hemiramphus far) was treated 3-ways: first, the bones were removed, Japanese-style (whatever that means), then cured and dried, and finally layered with fish paste and char-grilled. This was served with lime to counter the muddy flavour of the fish.

This was the only dish I really liked: a cross between a mantou and prata burnished in fish sauce caramel, and served with a cauliflower curry and homemade ricotta. It was inventive, and the East-West fusion was executed seamlessly.

A riff on “chao tar mee sua”, wheat flour noodles were cooked in fish stock and then crisped into some kind of rosti-like pancake. This was topped with Scottish razor clams, and wisps of deep-fried kailan. I don't usually eat mee sua, but this was pretty commendable.

The last savoury course was a charcoal-grilled Aomori grain-fed beef ribeye that'd been marinated in fermented rice, and served with a mole rempah of chocolate, fermented black beans, satay sauce and sambal.

The first of two desserts was a charcoal-grilled Taiwanese mango marinated in kaffir lime oil. yogurt and Taiwanese macau pepper in a whey broth with lime juice. This was quite delightful in that the flavours were robust and lively.

The last dish of the night was a hybrid of an Indian cardamon kulfi and a Teochew pumpkin “orh ni”. topped with cardamon flavoured sable crumbs. Not a fan, the texture was alright but it was almost tasteless. I didn't get the kulfi now the orh ni in this.


Magic Square
5B Portsdown Road #01-02
Tel: 8181 0102
Dinners start at 6pm sharp (don't be late, because it's communal dining, dinner can only begin when every diner has arrived)
Facebook website

25.10.18

Chui Xiang Kitchen

Have I already mentioned that I love my foodie friends?? Because oftentimes we get stuck in a rut of only eating at the same few restaurants, it's such a refreshing change-up to have our food-obsessed friends steer us to their family's favourite haunts. In fact, many of our current go-tos started off as recommendations from our friends.

Chui Xiang Kitchen is a cze char discovery courtesy of a colleague-turned-friend, who's quickly turning out to be some kind of savant with regards to unknown, underrated gems (he'd previously suggested the fantastic Gu Ma Jia). It's apparently been around for years, but as with Gu Ma Jia, I'd have never known it was there if he didn't tell me about it.

It's located along the same row of shophouse eateries as Casuarina Curry and Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood, and in fact, Chui Xiang Kitchen is right next to the latter. Frankly, I'm stumped as to why Ban Leong Wah Hoe appears so much more popular than Chui Xiang Kitchen when the food at Chui Xiang is generally much better finessed.

Big big plus-point: it's near the club, so we usually hit this up after whacking a few balls at the range.

It's been a while since we had marmite pork ribs (this was one of our must-orders at Siang Hee which current location at Serangoon Garden is so frikkin' far to get to!!!), and it was great to find that Chui Xiang's Marmite Pork Ribs ($14 for small) were excellent. The ribs were tender and flavourful, the sweet-sticky marinade having seeped right into the bones. For sure a must-try.

Another must-try, the Teochew-style Cabbage Chicken ($18) was comfort food at finest. Stuffed with chestnuts, wolfberries, red dates, and white fungus, this was fall-off-the-bone tender and wonderfully nuanced. Better than Huat Kee's version, I feel.

Remember Ocean Curry Fish Head at Toa Payoh, before they sold it to the Chinese?? It was the gold standard of Chinese-style fish head curry. And now finally, I've found a worthwhile substitute at Chui Xiang. The swimmingly fresh Curry Fish Head ($28), creamy and choc-a-bloc with lady's fingers, brinjal, tomatoes, cabbage, and beancurd puffs, was rich, punchy and sumptuous.

The Hotplate Tofu ($12 for small) was simple, homespun fare. The seafood was sparkling fresh, sweet and cooked perfectly.

The 'Fu Rong' Omelette ($8 for small) generously laced with barbecued pork dice, shrimp and mushrooms was commendable.

The only dish that fell flat was the String Bean Minced Meat ($10 for small), it was lacking in 'wok hei' and a little too salty. They'd added too much preserved vegetables (mei cai) to the minced pork.

Also a must-try, the Seafood Hor Fan ($5 for small) was scrumptious and smoky with 'wok hei'. Ingredients were plentiful and the egg-drop gravy was absolutely glorious.


Chui Xiang Kitchen
126 Casuarina Road
Tel: 6458 4567
Opens daily from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5pm to 10.30pm for dinner

24.10.18

Braised Vermicelli with Kurobuta Pork

This is one of my favourite comfort-food dishes. And because it's got vegetables, carbs and protein, it makes for a great one-dish meal. While slicing and dicing may take a bit of work, you can easily prep all that beforehand, and get this whipped up in a jiffy on a busy weeknight.


Ingredients (feeds 2-4pax):
3 rolls dried vermicelli (rehydrate this by soaking in water for at least 15 minutes)
5 cups lightly packed shredded carrots
1 large head cabbage, sliced into long thin strips (I used Japanese cabbage, it's sweeter)
4 cups lightly packed shitake mushrooms, sliced
500gm kurobuta pork, sliced and marinated in tare
4 cloves large garlic, minced
1/2 cup dashi stock
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy
salt to taste
dash of ground white pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
fried shallots for garnishing
sesame seeds for garnishing


Directions:
1) Fry garlic on medium heat with canola-sesame oil blend until fragrant, about 1 minute. Careful not to let the garlic burn.

2) Turn heat up to medium-high, add carrots, toss through until softened, about 2 minutes.

3) Add shitake, stir through, about 2 minutes.

4) Add cabbage, toss through until wilted, about 2 minutes.

5) In the meantime, fry pork in separate pan until cooked through.

6) Add vermicelli to the main pan with the vegetables. Stir through.

7) Add sauce mixture of dashi, chicken powder, oyster sauce and light soy, with half a cup of water. Let the glass noodles simmer and soak up the sauce.

8) Once the sauce is almost all soaked up, add cooked pork and stir through.

9) Salt to taste, add pepper, and garnish with sesame seeds and fried shallots before serving.


19.10.18

Meta

Meta has quickly shaped up as one of our favourite restaurants in Singapore. We've dined at the restaurant thrice now, and their food invariably impresses. Everytime we return at the turn of each season for their new menu, we're always excited.

The food's inventive, unexpected and extraordinary, yet manages a grounded unpretentiousness. For sure, Chef de cuisine Sun Kim has long evolved past his training in French-Japanese cuisine, and definitely come into his own. I'd venture, the cuisine at Meta is very loosely, some kind of international fusion. Like, who'd have thought to cook Spanish sweet prawn in Japanese dashi, zing it with Thai kaffir lime, and serve it with Southeast Asian prawn sambal-ed Korean rice. It's just genius how Chef Kim assembles seemingly disparate ingredients and forges a menu that's utterly unique. Ooh, and the chef understands balance like no other (okayyy maybe except for Beni's Benji Yamanaka), every single dish was exquisite and nuanced.

A quick caveat: this was the Summer Degustation Dinner ($158 for 7-courses) we had a few months back. I know, I know, I've gotten way behind on my blogging so this menu isn't available anymore heh. But hold your horses, their Autumn menu is now in season and I'd attest that that too, was phenomenal.

First up was a quartet of complimentary amuse bouche: a Sago Tapioca Chip layered with gochujang-marinated octopus, ikura, garlic aioli, kelp, and a dusting of nori powder. Clean, fresh and briny.

Next up was an insanely delicious Mushroom Tart, set against charred broccolini, and crowned with oodles of aged parmesan wisps. I would be perfectly content to eat like a hundred of this babies instead of dinner.

The Wagyu Beef Tartare was marinated in sweet-ish bulgogi, cut with creamy egg salad, oscietra caviar, and served swaddled in a crispy nori conelet.

The last of the small bites was a Scallop-dotted Chawanmushi, buttressed with juicy clams, and jazzed up with fresh dill and dill oil. That last bit really reined the flavours in, and together, the gestalt was magic. So, so, good.

Japanese Bonito sashimi was given a fruity twist with orange wedges, an umami oomph with oyster katsuobushi powder, and a wee bit of bite with horseradish, and endive.

A velvety smooth Foie Gras Mousse was blanketed with a rich port sauce, topped with beets, and crispy buckwheat nubbins, and enlivened with basil jus.

Sweet Carabinero Prawn was seared in prawn oil, kept light with kaffir lime, and sided by butternut squash puree, Korean rice tossed with hae bee sambal, and brussels sprouts. And for those who love sucking on prawn heads, Meta's rendition was a treat. The head was separated, cooked in dashi for maximum flavour and then pan-roasted for maximum crunch. Absolutely scrumptious.

Because I worked out hard at the gymmie, I supplemented with the Pasta-of-the-Day (+$30), fresh tagliatelle flecked with diced scallops, and tossed in a clam-juiced white wine sauce and fresh chives. Slivers of chilli padi lent a punchy heat.

Spatchcock breast, moist and tender, was slathered in a luxurious miso dashi butter, and padded with garden peas, lily bulbs, and bacon bits.

The Slow-cooked NZ Lamb Loin, finished on a binchotan grill, was garnished with black beans which were sauteed with garlic and onions, then fermented in oil for added pizazz. Zucchini puree, charred garlic chive shoots, and natural jus complemented the sumptuousness of the meat,

The 'lime in the Coconut' song rang in my head when the first of two desserts arrived. Below this heap of what looked like basic, austere shaved ice, which was really Coconut Granita, was a melange of caramel brittle, burnt pineapple chunks, the most amazing pandan-infused sticky rice, and kiwi sorbet . Clean, clear, refreshing and sweet.

The second of the dessert courses was a Black Sesame sponge set against chocolate banana cream spiked with kahlua, licorice ice-cream, and slabs of charcoal meringue. I'm not big on banana but this was awesome.

Rounding off the dinner was a duo of Passionfruit Macaron, and Banana Cream Choux. Fantastic stuff.


Meta
1 Keong Siak Road (even though this Summer menu was executed at their previous premises at 9 Keong Siak Road)
Tel: 6513 0898
Open Mondays to Tuesdays & Saturdays from 6pm to 11pm for dinner only;
Wednesdays to Fridays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: metarestaurant.sg

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