Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Madrina Pizza at Queens Road

Pasta...who can resist it? The bane of weight watchers because it packs a wallop of carbohydrates. But I love it...

And use the excuse of my cycling as the need to eat plenty of carbs. In this review, I want to touch on one of our go to places for pasta, mainly because it is very near to our home, but also it is quite good, and we love the quiet ambience on weekdays.

My standard to judge pasta places is the deceptively simple aglio olio...just spaghetti tossed with olive oil, garlic, chilli and some herbs. I usually add some prawns as it goes particularly well with the aglio olio.

Simple dish, yet deceptively difficult. The pasta must be done just right, al dente. The virgin olive oil sufficient, but not too much as it will make the dish greasy. The bits of garlic, chopped parsley were nice, fragrant. And the prawns were superb. Very fresh, crunchy, sweet and tasty.

Kin had her spaghetti carbonara

To our taste too! The pasta was al dente as with the aglio olio. And the sauce was quite rich, creamy...as it should be. The crispy bacon bits and shards of parmigiano completed the dish. We loved it! In true Italian style, the sauce was to be enough to stick to the pasta and no more. Too many Italian places in Singapore leave a pool of sauce after one finishes the pasta. This is not how it is meant to be...in Italy, the sauce is to accompany the pasta, so it needs to be enough, and not too much. 

When Edwards eats with us, these days he is serving his NS...we needed another dish...and to mix things up, we tried (for the first time after years eating here, we always had the pastas...but we tried this time) the pizza.

Pizza with cooked parma ham, with plenty of rucola leaves. We lapped it up too...for some reason, the cooking just suits our taste. The bread was thin, crispy on the bottom, and only slightly fluffy...not chewy at all. The toppings were very good, and the ham was very nice. We found the rucola a bit much, but I am not one to complain about that, as I love it just as a salad.

For us, this little restaurant just works. I try not to compare it to the other Italian restuarants I have eaten, but I dare say it compares well. We will return for many more meals there.
Daily: 11:30 - 14:30
Daily: 17:30 - 22:00

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tiong Bahru Boneless Hainanese Chicken Rice in Changi Village

Interesting name for a shop which is in Changi Village. I don't quite know the origins of the shop, but I would imagine it was in Tiong Bahru at one time in history.

But all the historical aspects is useless if the chicken rice is not good. And as they say, for a good chicken rice, the rice, the chilli and the chicken must pass muster...in that order.

And this chicken rice meets all the criteria, with room to spare. The rice is beautifully fragrant, not greasy, but fragrant infused with chicken fat...not too starchy, nice and chewy as I like it...a bit on the al dente side. 

The chilli is marvellous. That's why I have surrounded the plate with a moat of chilli. Piquant, slightly sour, slightly salty, very spicy. Magnificent.

And the chicken is also beautiful. This single plate version with skinless breast meat...sometimes breast meat can be a bit tough and dry. But not this one...moist, very nice. Fragrant, savoury. 

Excellent plus plus. Highly recommended.

Tiong Bahru Boneless Hainanese Chicken Rice
5 Changi Village Road

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken and BBQ Restaurant in Ngee Ann City

I make no secret of my fondness with the food from Crystal Jade chain of restaurants. From their Hong Kong styled dim sum, to fine dining, and the Korean styled restaurant reviewed here.

Celebratigf its 10th year, the Korean restaurant has moved to a new location at Basement 2 of Ngee Ann City. I went for a tasting of the main dishes, many thanks to Crystal Jade's Samantha for hosting and JJ for invitation.

As a starter, 6 different types of Korean appetizers...but here are my favourites: the Stewed Top Grade Beef Ribs

This is my absolute favourite amongst the dishes tasted that afternoon. The beef is Australian prime beef ribs are tenderly braised for several hours with rock sugar, pepper, sesame, red dates, ginger, garlic, apples, pears, carrots and radish. With the slow simmering, the meat is cooked over the low heat and is very tender, while full of flavour. Absolutely delicious. The radish has also absorbed the beef flavours very well and is very tasty.

Of course, the namesake Korean Ginseng chicken

An absolute favourite in Korea, especially during the summer months, this dish is known for its ability to provide stamina and strength to endure the long, hot months. A fresh young chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, red dates and ginko nuts, and simmered in ginseng water and Korean ginseng. The pot is sealed and steamed for 1.5 hours before combined with a rich chicken stock and boiled slowly for a further 3 hours. 

The taste is marvellous. The meat and rice is aromatic, and the chicken is very tender, while still retaining the flavour. The ginseng root itself was a bit bitter but on the palate gives way to a light sweetness characteristic of ginseng. Very nice.

We also the BBQ.

Shown above, my favourite which is marinated beef short ribs. Marinated over 3 hours in a secret recipe, then broilled over a gas fire for a short while. Very tender, and flavourful. I preferred the stewed short ribs, but this is quite good too.

And a beautiful dessert to end the meal

Known as "baesuk" in Korea as a remedy for colds and coughs, the Crystal Jade version is made the traditional Chinese way with whole snow pears double boiled with chuan bei, dried longans and rock sugar. The chuan bei is a traditional Chinese medicine to treat dry coughs. In the cold version we were served, it was a fitting end to a beautiful meal, refreshing and nourishing. 

Excellent meals to be had. The braised beef ribs will keep me coming back for more...eaten with just a bowl of steamed rice...magnificent. Highly recommended.

Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken and BBQ Restaurant
Mon - Fri: 11:00 - 15:00
Mon - Fri: 17:30 - 23:00
Sat, Sun & PH: 11:00 - 23:00

Monday, July 7, 2014

More Prawn Mee: Joo Chiat Prawn Mee

One of the older prawn mee stalls around, and as I understand a spin off run by the daughter of the famous Beach Road stall, this little stall is tucked in a quiet residential street near Joo Chiat.

It came highly recommended for the flavourful soup and the tender pork ribs...so while I tend to order only prawns for my prawn noodles, I tried the pork rib version this time.

I was not disappointed. The broth is old school...very tasty, bursting of umami, and very flavourful. The prawns were quite large, fresh and sweet, nice bite, and very tasty. The pork ribs were very tender...almost cliche fork tender, and rather nice. The deep fried shallots and pork lard crisps complete the ensemble, making it wonderfully aromatic and very tasty. The noodles were cooked the soft side of a bit over, but not too much, and still had some life in it to have some bite.

Overall, a nice bowl of prawn noodles. The soup, which it was famous for, however I feel is bested by the Penang Kia at Compassvale. The broth there was more robust, even more flavourful. But Joo Chiat Prawn Mee deserves a recommendation.

Closed on Tue, Wed to Mon: 7:30 am - 3:00 pm

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Penang Delights Prawn Noodles

The prawn noodle fascination continues with recommendations from friends. This one by a foodie friend who prefers this over my favourite Wah Kee.

Of course, with recommendation this high, I just had to try it. 

I ordered the speciality Penang Prawn Noodle, they use small prawns, and in a dry noodle

With lots of fried shallots, pork...the whole concoction looks a bit messy. The noodles were nicely cooked...I had the beehoon mee. But the broth were a little too sweet for me. In Penang, the Hokkien Prawn Mee often is cooked with a touch of rock sugar in the broth, but this is way too sweet. This version is the dry version, and they added tomato sauce, something one would NEVER find in Penang. The chilli was also a bit sweetish. The prawns were small, quite sweet and fairly intense in flavour. But overall, this dish does not do it for me. 

We also tried the more regular Singapore style prawn noodle

This goes a bit better with my palate, but the broth was mild, almost tasteless. the prawns were ok, but not exceptional. The broth is similar to the first bowl, a bit too sweet.

A quick look on the blogosphere revealed that it did get good reviews from many respected bloggers, so I guess there is no accounting for taste. And I strike this one as one which, unfortunately the taste does not quite agree with my palate. So no recommendation from me, but do give it a try, it might just be your taste.

Penang Delights

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tale of two Mee Poks: Tua Kong and 132

Mee Pok is one of the standards and staples of the Singapore hawker scene. Some have elevate it to artisanal level. Witness the Tai Hwa in Crawford Lane. And the Jalan Tua Kong.

Originally from Jalan Tua Kong, this veritable shop now occupies the corner coffee shop in Simpang Bedok. The workers wear T shirts bearing the inscription "Art of Mee Pok"

I visit often to this shop. But recently, over a period of a week, I went twice. The first order was $6.50 and the second order $4.50. The first visit, was on a Friday, and I had a rather regular Tua Kong Mee Pok

Unusual in that it had prawns, minced and sliced meat, fishcake. And a very nicely done mee pok. The broth on this dry version was thick and wonderfully savoury, with great umami. And coupled with pork lard and lard crisps make a satisfying meal. The chilli proved to have a strong kick, and very tasty. Though, a bit pricey at $6.50 a bowl. 

A few days later, on the following Friday, we ordered the least expensive option at $4.50:

No sweet succulent prawns. In its place, two fish balls, and the rest was similar. Taste wise this was not a bad bowl. But the question is...what does the $2 buy you? Indeed it is not a lot of money, but proportionally $2 is 45% more expensive. The jury is out on this one.

Not far away, in Marine Terrace, the 132 Mee Pok is another similar styled dish being served. As I queued at the stall, I read on the framed Straits Times report that this was possibly the stall which "invented" the mee pok. The next generation has taken over the business now, and continue to be quite popular.

For this, $5 portion, two very nice, fresh succulent prawns adorn, with fish cake slices, and fish ball. The noodle was done just right. There was precious little gravy, yes I know this is a dry noodle dish, but compared to the Tua Kong version which had a beautiful savoury gravy, this was rather dressed with pork lard...as a result a bit greasy. Taste wise it was superb. Very nice indeed. 

I can recommend the original Jalan Tua Kong version, but not the second one. The 132 version is also recommended if you are not averse to pork lard and a slightly greasier dish.

308 Bedok Road, Bedok Shopping Centre
Open 7.30am – 5pm
Closed Alt Mondays

Block 59 Marine Terrace
#01-105 MP 59 Food House
Open 7am - 4pm
Closed Mondays and 3rd Sundays of the month

Friday, June 20, 2014

Prawn Noodles in Sengkang: Penang Kia

My lunching friends are now crazy over prawn noodles, so I have been going around tasting interesting candidates.

Recently, this little stall in Compassvale made some news when Leslie Tay wrote about it in his facebook page. Immediately the next day, long queues formed. But when I cycled to Compassvale one fine Wednesday morning, at 11:30am, there was no queue. 

They have several kinds of prawn noodles. What they call Penang Prawn Mee is only $3.50, available soup or dry. And the big prawn noodles for $6.50. They also have various combinations with pork rib. I went for the big prawn noodles.

The prawns were cooked on order, so it takes a while...though the cheaper $3.50 dish can be served immediately.

The wait was worth it. The broth is the winner. Thick, savoury, very beautiful flavours. I loved it. Very ince.

The prawns were rather large, and two were presented. They were fresh, had a crunch to the bite, and sweet. Nice. Two slices of lean pork accompanies, just like in Penang. I understand the couple who own the stall were former SQ Cabin Crew, and the wife was from Penang, and her father used to run a Hokkien Mee (as they call Prawn Mee in Penang) stall. When I was there, only the husband was there with a helper.

I found it to be very good. Worth the calories and worth the ride to eat. Its a 45km round trip by bicycle for me. Highly recommended.

Penang Kia
Prawn Noodles

Monday, June 16, 2014

12 Stones Noodle House

I featured Loy Sum Juan as one of my favourite places to eat in the early days of this blog. I followed them from Outram Park to Tiong Bahru Plaza, but when they went to Murray Terrace we went less regularly, as parking is not the most convenient there and somehow I felt the quality of the cooking declined.

They closed in Feb 2014, and the main chef, who is the son of the founder and who ran Loy Sum Juan in the kitchen for many years started out on his own at a hawker stall in ABC.

I loved the har cheong kai at Loy Sum Juan, and he re-created a bone-less chicken version of har cheong kai, and served it atop noodles.

I added some pork chop shown in the foreground with the sauce, and the har cheong kai in the background. The noodles were de rigeur wantan mee style egg noodles. The pork chop was crispy, and the pork was tender and quite nice. Needless to say, the chicken is superb. The batter coating was fragrant, and the chicken tender.

We also tried the ngau lam mien

Braised brisket. I used to love their braised brisket and tendon at Loy Sum Juan. This version, perhaps as a hawker stall with price points to meet, the meat was a rather lower cut of brisket, and there were no tendons. 

I found the food quite good, particularly the har cheong kai noodles. But not really exceptional. I can recommend the har cheong kai.

12 Stones Noodle House
  • Blk 6 Jalan Bukit Merah #01-140
  • Singapore 150006
  • Mon to Sat 11:00 - 15:00, 17:00 - 21:00

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Great Cze Chars: Ga Hock Seafood

Great Cze Chars are not easy to find. Good ones are plenty. So when one finds a great one, go back often, and patronize the store, make sure they thrive.

I have been eating at Ga Hock, right across the road from Dempsey for a while. And have always had great experiences there...for sure its not because of the ambience...as one sits under a shed, with full view of the kitchen.

But the food is good, and that makes up for all of it. Probably the best fish head curry in town, the nyonya styled curry is beautifully aromatic, and served with deep fried bean curd sticks:

May not look like much, but when soaked, the crispy fried beancurd sticks impart a wonderful flavour and consistency in the mouth that is absolutely marvellous. The gravy is thick, piquant, mild spiciness, and very aromatic. And the fish head itself, very fresh...I ate the soft gelatinous parts and they were wonderful, no after taste or untoward smells that a less than fresh fish head will have. Absolutely top class fish head curry, and certainly one of the best in Singapore. The style is similar to the one I tasted in Johor Bahru last year.

If it were only for this dish, I would come back again and again. But the other dishes were rather superb too. The sweet potato leaves in sambal was also excellent.

Deceptively simple. People used to throw away these leaves. But harvest them at the right time, I imagine when young, tender, and fried with great wok control with a wicked sambal, one gets a dish to die for. Very good vegetable dish here. 

So is the oyster omelette

The eggs were light, fluffy, tasty. The oysters were cooked just right...a few seconds more would have over cooked them, and a few seconds less would leave them bloody and raw. But this was very very good. The oysters were fat, juicy, tasty.

We also had the ginger chicken, which required a day's advance order

I guess the advance order is needed as the chicken is probably marinaded over a long time. The frying was, once again superbly done. Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. The slices of ginger were fried till crisp, like potato chips, and were rather nice to eat...the pungent nature of the ginger mellowed with the deep frying into a sweetish, crispy chip. Very nice, though I often preferred their har cheong kai.

And we had some prawns in black pepper

When it arrived, it was a little disappointing, as we had expected large prawns. The prawns were smallish, about an inch in diameter. But it slightly made up for the lack of size by the taste. Fresh, sweet, crunchy, with a crisp outer...it proved to be quite enjoyable.

Ga Hock is highly recommended. One of the gems of cze char cuisine in Singapore. The chefs/cooks exhibiting good taste, and excellent control of their wok and fire to achieve the beautiful consistency of the cooking. Excellent Plus Plus. 

Ga Hock Seafood

794 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 678133
6314 5725

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tonkotsu Kazen Ramen: claim to be the best?

A very interesting ramen style, supposedly originating in Osaka, but the shop only has physical stores in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. Kazen in Japanese means volcano, and the concept of the cooking is based on a funnel like chimney, which is put over a stone bowl heated to 300C. The chimney's funnel releases copious amounts of steam as the soup boils, and creates what looks like a volcano.

Stepping in the shop, I felt I had stepped into a shop in Japan...Shouts of welcome from the staff, the decor all were reminiscent of a small shop in Osaka.

We ordered the spicy tonkotsu ramen in kazen style. It came  with a set of instructions on how to eat the dish.

The hot stone bowl was delivered on our table. They have a version meant to be shared by two diners. The waiter poured about a quarter of the broth into the stone bowl, covered it with the funnel. We had to wait for a minute for the bowl to cook, and the dish was ready to eat. We dished out small portions on our bowls. 

The broth was thick, rich, and unlike many ramen broth, was not salty at all. We loved the mouthfeel and taste of the broth, which is made fresh daily from boiling pork bones. The chasiu was flavourful, rather tender, and quite nice indeed. And within the bowl was a lot of vegetables, mainly cabbage and thick home made ramen. The ramen was made thick, like the fat noodles used in the KL Fried Black Hokkien Mee so that it does not get soggy when soaked in the boiling broth. More broth can be added as the bowl boiled away. The soup does keep hot and remained quite warm throughout. When the ramen was finished, we added a bowl of rice, which, to me was a rather delicious way to end the meal. We loved it.

We also added some fried prawns as a starter...it did arrive before the main course..

The prawns were rather large, and fresh. Not greasy, crispy batter. And the prawns was very sweet and firm to the bite. The egg and potato salad on the side was also quite excellent.

Edward had the fried rice, also served in a hot stone bowl

We found it rather bland, but by adding some seasoning on the table...soy sauce and a tad of chilli, it was rather nice, and the heat formed the rice into a beautiful crispy crust at the end of the meal. 

Very interesting. We will be back to taste the kazen with curry and seafood soon. But based on our first experience, we know we will love it.

Tonkotsu Kazen Ramen

Liang Court Singapore

177 River Valley Road, #01-10,
Singapore 179030

tel :(06)6336-8698

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Restorante Otto: a gem in Italian cuisine

Otto has been one of my favourite Italian fine dining restaurants. Always appropriate, always excellent cooking.

This recent visit, on invitation by Omega Watches in a dinner to show their latest BaselWorld collection, was no different. Except for one dish, which while still ok, did not make the cut of the other excellent dishes served. 

The dinner was a degustation menu. Let me start with the wines. The white is an old favourite from the region of Langhe. 

Nice, dry, with sweet notes, apples, pineapple. Very good with the starter, which were giant white asparagus with parma ham and Montasio cheese gratin.

Very good. I am reminded with the Spargel Konig in Germany when I was there for the whole month of May in 2010. Very nice indeed. And complimented wonderfully with the saltish and savoury parma ham.

The second course was a pan fried foie gras

Magnificent. Two rather large slivers of a top grade foie gras. No veins, all smooth, wonderfully aromatic and fantastic mouthfeel. The tiny drops of aged balsamic vinegar providing a nice counterpoint by cutting the fat.

The ravoili was next

I loved this as well. Dutch veal in ravioli. The meat was very nicely balanced within...bursting as one bites into the ravioli. The pasta itself was perfectly cooked...a nice al dente.

We also had a seared kingfish, but that dish was a letdown after the amazing appetizers, and what was to come next. No pic of the fish. 

But the mains of suckling pig was superb

The very crispy skin of the suckling pig, lacquered with black locus tree honey and aged balsamic vinegar. The meat was also extremely tender, and flavourful. Very good main course which went well with the red wine chosen for the evening.

Not really a wine I am familiar with, but the Vigneto Gallina Vursu Reserva 2006 was quite superb. Dark, fruity, crisp barbaresco, the wine paired perfectly with the suckling pig. 

For dessert, a dark chocolate cake

Served with Haitian vanilla ice cream. The chocolate was as chocholate usually is...marvellous. Dark, a tinge of bitterness but clothed with sweetness, and a rich, oozing mouthfeel. Great way to end a wonderful meal.

Highly recommended for a great Italian meal. And thanks to Omega for hosting.

Restorante Otto
28 Maxwell Road,
#01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
Singapore 069120
Reservations strongly recommended
Telephone +65 6227 6819
Fax +65 6227 8350
Email info@ottoristorante.com.sg

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tiong Hoe Speciality Coffee

Espresso joints abound in Singapore. What a total contrast with 8 -10 years ago. When the coffee giants like Starbucks moved into town and took over the coffee scene.

For many of us, afficionados, this was the dark ages. And prompted us to learn how to roast our coffee in our homes and make espresso ourselves. Thus was born our little group Singapore Coffee Greens. But fortunately, this revolution caught on, and out sprung many speciality espresso shops, owners driven by the same goals to serve freshly roasted coffee, ground on demand, and made with love. The third wave has arrived.

Pride of place, an huge burr grinder with electronic doser, and the Elektra 3 group espresso machine.

 One such curious new wave shop actually arose from the old school Nanyang coffee roasters. Tiong Hoe started out in 1960, and now managed by the second generation. Tucked in the quiet neighbourhood of Sterling Road, I was alerted of its existence by a good friend who lives nearby.

The shop is not really an espresso joint. But rather a shop to sell coffee beans, grounds, and brewing paraphernalia including espresso machines and burr grinders. 

Hundreds of kilograms of fresh green coffee is stored in the room nearby. And the coffee is roasted in a huge roaster in the back. As the company has been around for a long time...the decoration is full of old, beautiful coffee making equipment. Like this vintage test roaster, which apparently has been upgraded with electronics.

The coffees are served for tasting, so there is no prices for the coffees...a small box suggests you tip the barista, a sweet young lady who is very knowledgeable of her coffees. 

The espresso, doppio

Fabulously small...the correct dosage. Thick, syrupy, with a nice, beautiful crema thick and firm enough to support a teaspoon of sugar for at least 10 seconds...viola! Like in Italy! On the palate, it was well rounded. Full bodied, with a mild astringent acid note at the back of the throat, which lingers for quite a while. Quite nice.

The cappuccino came with decent latte art

The milk was nicely foamed, and the art had nice definition. On the palate, the astringent quality of the blend was muted by the milk, as milk tends to do. Not a bad cup. 

Beans are also availalbe. I bought 250g of the blend used in the house espresso

Pulled on my 12 year old machne...Mazzer Mini with Elektra Micro Casa A Leva

The espresso which yielded was quite good. A bit shallower crema than with the big espresso machine in the shop, but I would apply the same tasting notes.

Superb coffees and a great find. And quite a nice relaxing atmosphere to drop in a hot afternoon for a cuppa. Highly recommended.

Tiong Hoe Speciality Coffee
Blk 170 Stirling Road
Singapore 140170
Tel: (65) 6473 1133
Fax: (65) 6473 1187

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hooked on Heads

Hooked on Heads is one of the old shops who have been dishing out delights for quite a while...I am not sure when they began operations, but from as long ago as 2007 I have been visiting this place.

Originally, cooked and served with passion, but my latest experience falls short of all the other visits. Not only did the quality of the cooking falter, but also, and perhaps more dangerously, the attitude of the owner. It is a sad when an old faithful fails. Sad indeed.

We ordered our usual fish fillet curry. Usually this was a beautiful piece of fish, fresh, cooked just so in the wonderfully fragrant curry. The curry was still rather good, but the fish had a foul smell. 

Unfortunate, and these things sometimes happen. But when we told the owner, his reaction rather surprised me, and told me that the passion has left, and the days of the restaurant are numbered. He said, "oh, its the fish belly...if you don't like, don't eat.", and got his server to take back the curry. I am saddened. No apology, no offer to replace with another dish. No interest from him at all.

I have had a taste of the curry, it was still rather good, but not class leading anymore. Happy Fish, a stall in a Food Court is very similar, and I can see the owner of that stall takes great pride in the freshness and the quality of his fish. 

The other dishes were also not class leading...the baby kailan

Was good, but the vegetable was not peak freshness. It lacked the crunch, and sweetness that a good baby kailan has. I will introduce a small cze char stall who does this particularly well soon...and who also does the next dish extremely well...the venerable har cheong kai, But that is another story for another blog post. We push on with Hooked's har cheong kai.

The har cheong kai at Hooked was very good. Crisp, juicy. It was well seasoned, with nam yu and other condiments, giving it a red hue. It remained the saving grace for Hooked this evening. Still very good. 

And we used to love the hae cho

Still quite decent. But a bit lacking...I cannot quite put my finger on any one single component that this dish is lacking a bit. It was perhaps only good...but why eat good deep fried food, when you can get excellent ones? Especially with the attendant health risks associated with deep frying. 

So it is with a bit of sadness, that I see the passing of a great place to eat...at least for me...I probably won't be visiting again soon. Sigh.

Hooked on Heads

Daily: 10:30 - 14:30
Daily: 17:30 - 21:30