Saturday, February 26, 2011

Serenity, Vivocity

On the day of the king's speech, we popped by Serenity for lunch. We were the first few to be there (a good thing too, our orders got to the kitchen first, ha!) - upon seating, hordes of families started swarming in.

As we were starving and could not survive the 30-minute paella wait, we decided to pacify our stomachs with cod fishcakes as tapas. The texture was unlike regular fishcakes we are generally acquainted with - it was a bit floury/creamy/flaky on the inside. Definitely a good change. However the cod-ness was not very pronounced. Still good with the squeeze of lemon and the olive oil dressing from the tiny salad.

When half an hour passed we kept shooting glances at the 20 or so servers (ok I exaggerate, but there were a LOT of them) standing around the restaurant to demand our main course. Finally we were presented with this:

Behold the Paella Valencia - the portion was deceptively small but as we plowed through the pan, we realised it was just a bit more than enough for us. Ingredients were plentiful - we didn't have to fight over mussels, prawns, chorizo and chicken - and the saffron rice was oh-so flavourful. Oh it also came with some aioli sauce which went really well with the paella. We also enthusiastically scrapped off the burnt rice bits from the pan and were duly rewarded with nice charred chewy bits (that got stuck on our teeth, but nevermind). Though we both agreed that Don Quijote was by far better!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Keisuke Ramen, Millenia Walk

Having not had ramen in a while, and refusing to keel to conformist Ippudo (which still does deserve an entry, if that damn place lets us in), we decided to check out funky ramen places at Millenia Walk, Parco. This place has two ramen places just steps away from each other - Nantsuttei, which sells the usual Tonkatsu stock ramen and etc. and some specialties like Dragon ramen (which has real dragon (not komodo) in it) - and Keisuke, which sells ramen with funky soup bases like prawn and crab stock.

After scouring the entire menu, we could not find the prawn stock written anywhere - either those Amaebi are hiding from us or they simply did not have it on their menu anymore - I decided to go with the crab stock miso ramen and ajitama. And holy shit was I surprised when this monster came.

To date I have not had a ramen stock that packed so much flavvooourrrrr in it - it was just living and breathing CRAB. Feels like i'll get pinched on my lip just sipping the soup - the ramen stock was thick and taste was very pronounced. Granted they weren't too generous with the ingredients inside - besides the egg there was some strands of sliced chilli, 2 or 3 pieces of chashu, bamboo and that extra negi on top cost me $1.50. It's also the chinese small spring onion instead of the usual ramen big fat ones. The noodles were also pretty strange in the sense that it's closer to the flat, lor mee kind of noodles in both look and texture, as opposed to the usual ramen.

Bunny had the tonkatsu chashu ramen, which she loved! The soup was rich and not overly salty (unlike Baikohken) and every noisy slurp was a delight. Noodles were 'normal' (like literally, you can choose the hardness level - and also the amount of oil) and this was just the right amount of chewiness.

One thing i thought missing was the traditional ramen gaban pepper that you can find in some places, although they did have bonito flakes (those strange living flakes you find on takoyaki) and jars of pickled bean sprouts for your sprinkling pleasure.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Veganburg, Jalan Eunos

After a evening of attempted cycling at East Coast, bunny suggested we go 'healthy' and check out this vegan burger place named rather uninspiringly as VeganBurg. This place was easy to get to by train, being just 5 minutes from Eunos MRT, but finding parking near this spot was rather horrendous.

This place was packed with healthy people, and we were lucky to find a seat indoors. We had 4 set meals with 4 funky juices - Orange Passionfruit, Cherry Berries, Beetroot Carrot, Spinach Wheatgrass.

Brightly coloured beverages! No doubt that additional colouring was used, but they were good and fruiteh / vegetable-like.

The mission of Veganburg, on a cup.

And lo-and-behold the glorious burgers arrived suspiciously on army-issued mess tins - guess it's saving the planet in a way by reusing junk! Two of us had the Smoky BBQ, which was a mushroom patty, lettuce tomato and alfalfa on rye bread. The BBQ sauce was yummy but I felt the mushroom patty was strangely lacking in mushroom flavour, but the burger overall was still really really good. Can't really be compared to actual meat like the Fat Basterd, but amazing what burgers vegans can produce!

The Tangy Tartar tasted surprisingly similar to the ubiquitous fillet-o-fish, which was not a bad thing. Even the patty was suspiciously fish-like - but was a tad bit more crunchy. Each bite was yummeh (can't go wrong with tartar sauce) but I may have been expecting a little something more out-of-the-ordinary.

One thing I enjoyed though, were the fries! Homemade and double fried - the only way potatoes should be consumed :D

Tau Kwa Pau, East Coast Road


One of the best local delicacies and only found at 2 shops in East Coast, the mishmash of tau kwa, cucumber, fish balls, eggs and bacon bits with sweet sauce and chilli ... *drools*

Saturday, February 19, 2011

ReStore, Tanjong Pagar

It was a dark afternoon, half starved and grumpy and with the flying spaghetti monster threatening rain on our heads, we were still determined to check out this nifty little hideout called ReStore.

Part vintage-furniture store, part cafe, this tiny establishment is located in Tanjong Pagar. One blink of an eye and you may miss this place.

We stepped in and were greeted by a single Japanese woman, who capably managed customers who were viewing the furniture as well as minding the kitchen. Later we found out that she started out purely on the furniture sales, but then was convinced to bring in her own homemade bagels and waffles to sell to customers. These food are served atop tables which you can later purchase if you take a fancy to it.

The menu is limited, but each item executed well. Famished, we ordered:

Wholewheat bagel with maple syrup walnut cream cheese ($5.50).

Note the wooden board it is served in. The bagel was slightly over toasted (we heard "oh-no!"s and scraping of excessive burnt bagel-parts in the kitchen) but was both crunchy and chewy. The cream cheese was very yummeh! The sweet and salty combination and the occasional crunch of the walnut was perfect.

We also ordered waffles!

We waited so long for this dish, but found out it was handmade from scratch. While we were expecting a huge pile of waffles bathed in maple syrup, this was not meant to be. What we got was actually even better! The waffles were slightly crispy on the outside, and exceedingly fluffy inside. It comes with a little pot of syrup and some whipped cream on the side. We also got an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream to go with it. This was just simplicity done perfectly. While these may be some of the best waffles I've ever had, I wouldn't pay $12 for this again.

Might be worth a revisit if we are in the area. Otherwise, items are slightly pricey and as mentioned, limited. Probably not a full fledged lunch place - more like a nothing-to-do-on-a-Sunday-and-I've-got-$20-to-splurge-on-waffles-and-bagels-and-tea place.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Herb Crusted Salmon with Beurre Blanc (and kisses fondant)

After being inspired by Junior Masterchef, we took it upon ourselves to recreate a dish some ridiculous 4 year old cooked on the show.

Herb Crusted Salmon with Beurre Blanc for 3

- Salmon steak : 3 slabs
- Italian herb seasoning
- Bread crumbs : enough
- Oyster mushrooms : 1 bag
- Red pepper : 1, chopped
- Russet Potatoes : 3, dunked in hot water for ~5mins and squared
- Olive oil : copious amounts
- White wine : 1 cup
- Shallots : 2, diced
- Garlic : 1, diced
- Butter : 200g
- S&P

As the fish doesn't take long to cook, the vegetables were prepared first. We call them vegetables but there was no green at all in sight - we decided to go with roasted oyster mushrooms, red peppers and potatoes. Everything was chopped into bite size and tossed in liberal amounts of olive oil, Italian herb seasoning and S&P. Place in oven-friendly dish, roast on high for about 30 minutes. Do check on it from time to time, turning it so that the top bits doesn't burn, and also everything is cooked through just fine.

While the vegies are roasting away, prepare the breadcrumb coating for the fish. A shallow wide pan is useful for this. Mix copious amounts of breadcrumbs with the Italian herb seasoning (so that you can see enough green bits of the herb amongst the crumbs - we really don't have exact scientific measurements here). Sprinkle some S&P, and then mix in some olive oil.

Here's the fun part. Put the salmon steaks in and start coating them. Here we left the skin of the salmon on, but I suppose you could remove them. Try to ensure the entire surface area of the salmon has sufficient breadcrumb mix. With the excess breadcrumbs, pile them on the fish - we found out this will not burn into an unsightly burnt goop in the oven, if there is enough olive oil in the mixture and if the tray goes in at the bottom of the oven. Fish goes in for 10 minutes.

Rubbidy rub rub.

Welcome to Four Awesome's lesson in french cooking. We made beurre blanc (failed but more on that later), which in french means white butter. This sauce is essentially an emulsion of white wine and butter, and you may know emulsion is the chemical process by which many great sauces like Mayonnaise and Hollandaise is made.

The basic concept of emulsion is combining two liquids that do not combine naturally, in this case alcohol and butter (and in the case of Mayonnaise, egg yolk with oil and vinegar). So to make beurre blanc, we had to first reduce the white wine with shallots and garlic in a saucepan, till the white wine is 70% reduced (which we didn't). After which, cube 200g of butter (in case you didn't realize, was one freakin' block) into 5 parts. Vigorously whisk in the butter cube by cube and you should get a homogenous pale yellow sauce.

As we realized our emulsion wasn't working, we decided not to use all the butter and instead ending up with a oily winey buttery sauce. Which was still awesome anyway.

And the finished product - herb crusted salmon with failed beurre blanc and roasted vegies. YUMMEH.

Salmon does not take long to cook - after 10 minutes the salmon flakes easily and surprisingly absorbed the herbiness well. The natural juiciness of the salmon coupled with the soft crumb crust just goes so well with the decadently buttery sauce. Not to mention the dry roasted vegies in butter = win.

Kisses fondant

- Giant hershey's kisses : 1
- Plain flour : 1 tbsp
- Eggs : 2

For dessert we decided to make use of the massive Hershey's kisses bunny got for christmas. So we melted the whole damn thing in the microwave.

To the chocolate goop we added 1 tbsp of flour and 2 slightly beaten eggs which will thicken the mixture further.

We wanted to bake the mixture in 2 ramekins for 20 minutes. Alas we were alarmed with warnings that it had burnt (because it looked brown ...) and we took it out after 10. Still looks good!

The sides and the top had a nice and firm crust layer but the inside was overly lava-ey because it hasn't been cooked enough. Anyways the Hershey's trademark artificial taste was pretty strong in this one, but it was still a sinful way to end a nice home-cooked dinner :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Black Sheep Cafe, Mayo Street

Found this place on HGW by chance and decided to snoop around. Some of the reviews mentioned that an Indian chef serves affordable French food here. This is a little restaurant tucked away somewhere near Sim Lim, right across a Malay mosque.

Black sheep with a little chef's hat! (OK this has got to be a reference to the actual .. erm, Indian chef - a completely unracist statement btw).

There is no GST or service charges here! We chose to order the foie gras (after much deliberation between this and the baked brie cheese), and were not disappointed when the eager waiter placed this upon our table. The liver was fatty and velvety smooth, with just the right amount of charred-ness. Interestingly there was a side of achar which added a quirky tang to the dish. However the achar is a bit strong and should not be eaten with the awesome goose liver.

Bear thought that foie gras could be cooked and charred a little longer. This one in particular was not cooked completely, and therefore was mushy and sinewy when bit into. Ones that are cooked thoroughly would be harder and more firm to the bite, but still melts like butter when chewed. Either way, this was decadence.

The highlight of our dinner was this duck confit. The skin was nice and crispy and meat tender yet firm. Every bite packed a load of flavour, and was very well complemented by the mango chutney thingamajig. The portion was quite generous too. We both liked this very much!!1

We also ordered the braised lamb (sheep?) shank. It looked really yum, but turned out to be a little bland. It probably could have used a generous sprinkling of black pepper and maybe little more herb. This dish was somewhat lackluster :(

But the biggest disappointment was the damnable souffle. They have a different flavour everyday - just so happened today was Kahlua day. We suspected something was amiss when it arrived poofed up like that, and with ice cream (!?).

Granted, souffles are supposed to rise when baked due to the fluffed egg whites. But a massive malgrowth like this is rarely seen. We theorized that the chef probably used self raising flour instead of regular for the extra omph.

Anyway, upon inspection, this mountainous heap revealed a soggy mess inside. It was way too WET and definitely not souffle-like at all. If our understanding of souffles are accurate, they should be light and fluffy inside. This just wasn't it! Maybe the ice cream was a distraction ...

Ugh. You can see just how soggy it is from all the nasty bubbles. Again we theorized that our particular souffle had too much kahlua, but we didn't taste much kahlua at all. Also almost everyone else in the restaurant ordered the souffle, and got pretty much the same thing. The bunny thought the best part of this dessert was .. the ice cream. Hello!?

Even though our dinner took a slight turn for the worse, we decided that we would only come back for the duck confit, and maybe try the brie and pork cheeks. The service was also very good - waiters were warm and friendly: something other cafes/restaurants should emulate! It also wasn't crowded and wasn't too expensive - the mains were about $22 - $25 (ex. steak and seafood) and with no GST and service charge, the price / portion ratio was good!

Ah Loy Thai, Shaw Towers

T'was Saturday and deliberating between funky ramen at Millenia Walk and the awesome Thai food at Shaw Towers, we eventually keeled and decided Thai food was a much wiser and cheaper choice. That and the heavenly Tom's Palette next to Ah Loy Thai had just undergone major renovation made the decision a given too - what better way to douse Tom Yam than with some Salted Egg ice cream?

We arrived just before 1pm, and they start cooking at 1pm and as a result we were glad to see the place near empty when we arrived. 5 minutes past 1 and there was a queue, yikes.

We decided not to order the green curry but again chose to stick to Thai staples. Was slightly disappointed with the first dish - Chicken with Basil - felt the chicken could be cooked longer and as such was still sinewy at parts. Also despite the lavish amounts of basil, some chillis and presumed soy-like sauce, it was remarkably bland and un-spicey.

Then the second dish rolled around - sambal sweet potato leaves. Granted you can't really go wrong with this, but the spiciness and saltiness was just right and it wasn't too oily. I've had far too much kang kong-like dishes that were slathered with enough oil and salt to choke a walrus, but this was just right. Yummeh!

The tom yum soup was arguably ... well not arguably, it was plain awesome - this is one of the better if not the best tom yum soup I've had locally. As you may be able to tell, this has a little coconut milk in it, so those who prefer the clear, devilishly spicy kinds would be a tad disappointed. The amazing thing about this soup though was that the amount of coconut milk was just nice to obtain a Spice / Anti-Spice equilibrium - the spiciness kicks you in the face, but shortly after, the mild milky sweetness takes it away. Not to mention the soup was loaded with lotsa fresh seafood! Pure win.

And surprisingly, one of the best renditions of calamari I've ever had across multiple cuisines - there's just something about the way Thais cook their squid. This one in particularly was butter squid and so was not overly slathered in batter ala the usual calamari, but the slight crust and the soft yet chewy squid beneath combined with the overly buttered flavour is simply so terribly sinful and irresistible. And the raw thai mango went surprisingly well!

Best part about this place (besides the location) was the price - for 4 dishes, 4 plates of rice and 3 drinks we barely paid $10 per person, with no GST and service charge. Portions of food seemed less generous but after working through 4 dishes we realized it was just right - with just enough space for ice cream at Tom's heavenly parlour.

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