Thursday, April 21, 2016

Five Nines at Keong Saik Road

Interesting name for a restaurant...999.99 (Five Nines)...the reason? The owners (Japanese) were gold traders, and the highest purity for gold is 999.99 (24ct gold). They have since retired from the gold business and started this restaurant. Headed by a Japanese Head Chef Masanao Saito, the restaurant served Japanese inspired modern European food.

Seating is available at tables, as well as a bar counter overlooking the open kitchen.

For the evening meal, we had A La Carte, and ordered the following...portions were shared by 2 pax.

We started with the Burrata and tomato salad ($14)

The burata was excellent. Mild as the fresh burrata often is, this Italian delicacy was complemented very well with the tomato salad.

We also had the Seabass Carpaccio & Truffle Salsa ($16)

Nice dish. The seabass was very fresh, and lightly cured. A mild aroma of truffle lingers about the plate. And the halved cherry tomatos were sweet with a tart aftertaste which went very well with the fish. 

As it was the season for asparagus in the Northern Hemisphere, we had the White Asparagus & Sous Vide Egg ($16) 

The sous vide egg was perfectly done, as it usually is. We found the white asparagus to be full flavored, if a bit on the fibrous side. But the slices of ham were the perfect foil to the egg. Nice one.

Then to the main courses. First up, one of the more popular dishes at Five Nines. The Lobster Gratin ($29)

A whole lobster, with the meat removed from the shell (yes, the claws were empty, the meat removed and used as filling with the cheese gratin. The first 20 servings for each day is offered at an incredible price of only $19. 

We found the lobster a little on the small side, but the taste more than made up for it. The lobster was probably live, and the meat was sweet, succulent and very tasty. 

Next is another popular dish. The Smokey Lamb & Eggplant ($22)

Two chops were served covered by a glass bell filled with smoke. We were told the smoke was made from burning apple and cherry wood, and it was quite a spectacle as the waiter lifted the bell, and the wonderful smokey aroma filled the table vicinity. The meat was beautifully cooked. The lamb was well marinated, and did not have a gamey flavor, but one which is nicely aromatic with a smokey nose. The meat was tender, and not too fat, but still flavorful. This was my highlight dish for the evening.

And then some starch...Truffle Cream Risotto & Foie Gras ($19)

The risotto was a bit unusual. It was a little softer than expected, with the characteristic Italian al dente bite being mostly absent. And the truffle cream was light and did not get in the way. Nice touch by the chef to achieve this balance. The foie gras was excellent. It was cooked just right, probably pan fried till crisp on the outside, while still soft within. The fats bursting out as one presses it against the palate, exploding in a wonderful flavor that only foie gras can provide.

Then the desserts. The Tiramisu ($8) first.

Looks like almost every tiramisu in the world. But looks can be deceiving. The taste was wonderful. The texture was very light, with a good touch of cream from the mascarpone, and the alcohol. Very nice tiramisu.

But I was more impressed with the Raspberry & Chocolate ($9)

A small scoop of raspberry ice cream accompanies. The cake itself was a very dense chocolate and was excellent. A must have for the chocolate lover.

The restaurant was nearly full when we were there for an early dinner on a Saturday evening. And although they do not enforce it, two seatings are generally observed. The restaurant opens at 6pm and the second seating is approximately 9pm.

A nice restaurant, with good food at reasonable prices. If we had to nit pick, it would be that the servings tend to be a bit smaller than expected. Perhaps we were getting too used to American serving sizes...and perhaps its asking for a bit much as the prices were actually quite reasonable for food of this quality. 

Five Nines
29 Keong Saik Rd, 089136
Phone: 6221 7098 (reservations recommended for weekend evenings)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

SabX2: The real Soi 19 Wanton Mee in Pratunam, Bangkok

Recently this new genre of wanton mee called Thai Wanton mee caught on in Singapore. One of the first stalls which started this is the Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee we reviewed a while ago. I am a regular there these days, and prefering their black sauce version, and usually order the large portion with more noodles, and ingredients like Chinese sausage.

But I note that the AMK version is not like the one in Bangkok in which it is suggested to be modeled after. The famous Soi 19 WTM in Bangkok goes by the curious name of SabX2, and is located at Petcheburi Soi 19. Literally just across the road from the popular Platinum Shopping mall.

There is perpetually a long queue at the shop. Interestingly, it is a double fronted shop house with the cooking station outside, and the dining area in air conditioned interior. When we were there, the patrons seemed to be exclusively Singaporeans.

And it was crowded. Took about 15 minutes for us to move to the head of the queue, and another 10 minutes after we ordered to be served. They used to offer a regular portion and a deluxe portion, but now only the B100 deluxe portion is available.

Portions were very small, and in each a bit of wanton noodles, chye sim, wantons, char siew and a rather generous portion of crab meat. The noodle was served in a little soupy broth, not quite like a soup, but more like a sauce (portion size).

The noodles have a firm bite. Very qq or al dente. The wanton skin had a smooth, rather luxurious mouth feel. Quite nice. The char siew was one of the stars. Very tender, almost melt in your mouth. Nice porky flavour, but not the in-your-face kind where it can sometimes tend to be overwhelming. A nice sprinkling of crispy pork lard is mixed in, and the crab meat is very sweet and adds a nice dimension.

Overall, very enjoyable. I guess B100 is rather expensive for a small portion of wanton mee in Bangkok. The place is well blogged by other Singaporean bloggers, so explains the reason why it seemed to be completely patronized by Singaporeans. Service was brisk, not particularly polite, and communication was in Mandarin. For me, nice bowl of wanton mee with a twist. Curious about the origins of the name though.

SabX2 Wanton Mee
Address: 4/32-33 Soi Petchburi 19, Pratunam, Bangkok, Thailand
Contact: +66 2653 9618
Opening Hours: Daily 9am-3pm

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Burgers at Wildfire: new outlet at 313 Orchard

I have eaten at the burgers at the Wildfire outlet at Evans Road several times...the venue for late night haunts after cocktails where they serve no food. And when I received the invitation to try out the new outlet at 313 Orchard, I went.

We sampled a lot of food, including several kinds of French Fries, appetizers, and burgers...oh yes, beers and sake too. But the standouts for me were the following:

Sinful, sinful...chicken skin, deep fried.

But oh so good. Crispy, tasty, lovely. I can do without the dip...just eat it like it is. The skin comes with tiny slivers of chicken meat, and provided a wonderful contrast. Love this dish!!

And a rather interesting deep fried pickles...

But the burgers are where the real stuff is...famous for their Full Blood Wagyu burgers ($26), but also for the reasonably priced Portobello and Friends 

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Arugula, Semi-dried Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Grilled Squash and Zucchin with French Fries. $19. 

Salivating yet? Well the burgers are excellent. The beefy taste, wonderful aroma, luxurious umami filled mouth feel is superb. Very nice burgers. 

And wash down with some beers. This one from Lost Coast, on the tap

Highly recommended. And now in a much more convenient location than Evans Road (even though the outlet is actually in the former Dining Room of Eusoff College, where there are many fond memories).

Wildfire Burgers 313@Somerset
313@Somerset #01-28, 313 Orchard Road, Singapore 238895 (Somerset MRT)
Tel: +65 6509 4408
Opening Hours: 12pm – 11pm (Sun – Tues), 12pm – 1am (Wed – Sat)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Omakase at Kakure with Sake pairing

The world of sake is rather mysterious to many of us. Navigating around the various wine appellations is quite a big challenge where reference material in English is readily available. Trying to navigate sake is much more a challenge as there is little reference in English, and many of us already have a difficult time reading the label. It is thus a godsend that a knowledgeable sommelier is on hand to attend to the selection and pairing. 

An extension of omakase restaurant Ki-sho, a space was added for a sake bar: Kakure. Housed in the same amazing black & white bungalow as Ki-sho, Kakure has one of the largest sake lists in Singapore as well as a special barfood menu expressly created for the bar by Ki-sho's sake-loving chef Hamamoto. 

Their sake list has been carefully curated in a partnership between Ki-sho’s chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto and two kikisake-shi or certified sake sommeliers.  

It was thus with great pleasure that we were introduced to Makato Iwabuchi, one of the two Japanese Sommeliers at Chateau TCC. Makato-san was trained as a French wine sommelier before making the switch to specialize in Japanese alcohol. A veritable gentleman, he was knowledgeable, conversant and had the great sensibilities required to work with the chef de cuisine to pair the dishes. 

What followed that evening was spectacular. This is an invited tasting, and we thank Cyndiana and the team at Food News for the invitation and hosting. 

The sake bar is upstairs, and discrete. We began with the some tasting bits which remained on the table throughout.

This was an assortment of pickles, from right to left: Young Ginger, Wasabi Yam, Spicy Sea Kelp, Yuzu Pickled Radish. Interesting flavours and textures. I found the yuzu pickled daikon (radish) to be most agreeable. 

Thus we began our first course, Tsubugai Shellfish and Smoked Salmon:

The shellfish is a Japanese sea snail, and had a typical shellfish texture, much like abalone. And smoked salmon was delicately and thinly sliced. A light smokey flavour was present. 

This first course was paired the house sake, Tatenokawa Junmai Daiginjo, Nakadori Ki-sho Label ($458++ per bottle. Polish rate 18%. From Yamagata.)

Interestingly, it was served in a large Bordeaux style glass. And Makoto-san took trouble to rotate the glass at a 45 degree slant to ensure breathing. The sake was very clear, transparent. Served cold.

The sake is made with Yamadanishiki sake rice, one of the best if not the best sake rice. It is sometimes also written as Yamada Nishiki.

The second course was Anago Tempura.

Fresh anago eel tempura with plum and Shiso leaf. The anago was a real pleasure, succulent, fresh, and the characteristic oily mouth feel was present. The tempura batter was very light.  

This was paired with the second sake, we had the Dewazakura Daiginjo Nama ($450++ per bottle. Polish rate 40%. From Yamagata.)

For the third course, we were presented the Saba Misoni 

Simmered Mackerel in Miso Sauce. This is a beautiful dish. The saba was marvellous. My cut was the belly, and it was deliciously fat. And was cooked to perfection. The meat was not flaky, and very smooth. The miso sauce provided a beautiful counterpoint. To pair, it was the Junmaiginjo Murika "Kei" ($136++ per bottle. Polish rate 55%. From Shimane.) 

As the fourth course, we were served the Classic Kyoto soup flavoured with homemade Bonito, Seaweed, Dashi stock, 

Chicken Consomme, served with radish and tofu. Another marvellous dish. Very light on the palate, and very comforting. The pairing sake was the Hououbiden Winecell 2014 Junmai Ginjo ($278++ per bottle. Polish rate 55%. From Tochigi.)

Then the fifth course arrived. And this, to me was the masterpiece: Buta Kakuni

Braised Pork Belly from the Kagoshima Prefecture. The pork was perfectly cooked. Often times, pork belly is stewed to an inch of its life until the fats and oils come apart from the meat. In Peranakan Malay, we say, "sudah pecah minyak", literally the fat has broken. But this pork belly was stewed just the point where the fats are about to burst open, but not quite. And will only spill its contents at the gentlest provocation provided by pushing it with one's tongue against the pork on one's upper palate. Ever so gently, the fat releases a plethora of flavours, and nearly overwhelms the senses. Excellent. To pair, a slightly more robust Masuizumi Zenkoji Junmai ($155++ per bottle. From Toyama.)

The sake had a champagne hue, and had a rather pleasant honey like after taste. 

For the sixth, we had a noodle dish:  Ikura Cha Soba

Matcha cold noodles served with fresh Salmon roe and topped with Japanese seaweed and spring onions. The macha soba was quite delectable. Nice to the bite, and with a slight taste of the Japanese green tea lingering. Complimented well with the ikura. For the sake, Tenmei Junmaishu ($140++ per bottle. Polish rate 60%. From Fukushima.)

For desserts: 

A matcha mochi, a macha cake and a kind of wafer macaroon. 

The evening was a marvellous one. The ambience of the venue was truly magnificent. A very beautiful place. And the food was certainly top class. The dishes were haute cuisine style, very small degustation portions. But were prepared with quality ingredients, and very well cooked. Chapeau to the chef, whom we did not meet that evening. 

But this was a sake lair, and it was the sakes which were the stars.

We continued to chat and tried to absorb the atmosphere of the sakes, but truth be told, most of it is beyond my current state of appreciation. But appreciate it I did. I had certainly enjoyed all the sakes that were served, but would be totally clueless to be able to select the right sake for the food being ordered. The Japanese Sommelier had come to good use, and he exercised his craft perfectly. 

Chateau TCC
29 Scotts Road
Level 2
Singapore 228224
Reservations: 6733 5251
Website: Opening Hours
6.30pm – 1am
Mon to Sat

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Market Grill: Lobster Rolls and more

The fad of lobster rolls are all but almost over. But there are still great tasting, and there are still a few places who serve a value for money roll. One is Pince and Pints and the other The Market Grill.

I dropped by after not visiting for a while, and found the place to be just as cozy as my last visit.

The grill still offers great steaks...we saw the grillmaster hammering out several during our visit there, and they all looked great...and one of the advantages (disadvantages?) of sitting next to the display grill is the smells and sizzles can be experience in close quarters...mouth watering.

We sampled the Lobster Roll...

Served with fries, and a small salad. The brioche bun is buttered, and toasted on the grill, and a (we understand) 500g of lobster, boiled, deshelled, coated with some lovely herbed mayo pommery sauce. The lobster is cold in the hot bun, and the contrast creates a wonderful sensation in the mouth.

We found the lobster tail to be very chunky but a bit on the tough side. And the pincer meat to be extremely soft and tender. $45 for a serving is quite good value for money, we think.

We also tried the burger

The Chef's original recipe chargrilled burger is with 200g of chuck patty and served with creamed Portobello mushroom, bacon, romaine lettuce. The bun is the typical sesame seed bun. Very juicy, thick patty, with strong beefy flavours. The bacon was crisp and full flavoured. Very nice burger. The 200g patty version we had was $34, and they offer a smaller 150g patty version for $25.

Overall a nice grill. They also have steaks, as we mentioned, lamb and fish. 

The Market Grill
208 Telok Ayer Street
Singapore 068642
Monday - Saturday
Lunch 1130am - 230pm
Dinner 6pm - 10pm
Closed on Sunday
No reservations policy

Saturday, November 14, 2015

18 Grams Roastery Lab – Wan Chai, Hong Kong

There used to be a few places I usually go to for espresso in Hong Kong. When they are good, they are exceptional, and way better than those in Singapore. We found one near where we were staying for Watches & Wonders, and thought it worthy of a writeup.

Curious name, a friend who is not an espresso geek asked. Not at all, 18 refers to the amount of beans in grams one usually measures for a standard pull of double espresso. Of course, this differs from machine to machine, from bean and roast to the other. For eg, on my Elektra Leva a Casa, on my home roasts, I typically pack 20g of powder into its portafilter. But 18g remains a text book standard for a doppio.

Roastery Lab also is interesting. They do have traditional classical espresso and coffee, including slow cold drip, but also some experimental ones. Like Nitro Espresso.

Yes, this is not so novel anymore...Chye Seng Huat Papa Palheta makes one. But it is still pretty avant garde. Looks like a dark beer, served from a tap. But smells like coffee, and taste like coffee. Nitro coffee is slightly efferverscent. The coffee is treated with high pressure nitrogen, chilled in a keg and served on a draught with a foamy head like a Guiness. The mouth feel is rich, creamy, and seem a touch sweet and less acidic than cold brew. 

And a bit more experimental, perhaps, but a very simple sparkling espresso..

Cream soda in a glass with ice, and over it, pour a double shot of espresso. I found this a much nicer drink than the Nitro. All the espresso elements are still there, and the bubblies from the cream soda make a nice mouth feel. Smooth, with the full taste of the espresso showing. First time I have come across a drink like this, but one which has a low barrier to entry as this can even be attempted at home. 

We also had the traditional espresso...a doppio ristretto

Quite excellent. Note the beautiful mottling on the crema. The crema was thick and rich. The ristretto was very viscous, powerful on the nose as it is on the palate. Beautiful long finish. Excellent cup.

I also tried the picolo latte, actually I had this as my first cup, as I always try to avoid disappointment with a new place. As milk often is a good mask for the sins of the barista.

Superb cup. Just the right amount of foamed milk adding the requisite richness and body to the espresso. This gave me the confidence that the barista knows what she is doing to order the ristretto above.

I also tried a machiatto.

Perfectly executed. The touch of milky foam on the espresso was just right. Nice.

I also had breakfast there, and found the Eggs Benedict with ham to be quite superb.

Hollandaise sauce was good, and the eggs poached to perfection. Probably poached sous vide. Comes with a nice side of fruits. 

Upstairs the very small cafe, it sits perhaps 8 pax max downstairs, is the roaster and a small dining area.

Very nice espresso place. Worth a visit every time in Hong Kong. Centrally located just a few minutes walk from either Admiralty or Wanchai MTR station.

18 Grams Roastery Lab
10 Johnston Road, Wan Chai
Tel: +852 2520 5100
Fax: +852 2345 7367
Sunday-Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Day Before Public Holiday: 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.