Saturday, April 30, 2011

Riverside Bistro, Phnom Penh

First day of seven in Cambodia! By the time we had checked in and deposited our bags in a little inn in Phnom Penh, it was close to 2pm. Famished and dehydrated, we chose Riverside Bistro along the touristy Sisowath Quay for a late leisurely lunch.

We got a rude awakening that we were in foreign land when we saw that Angkor Beer was ~ USD 7 for a jug. ONE WHOLE JUG - for that price you're lucky to get a pint in Singapore! With the 35-40 degree celsius weather bearing down on us, nothing gets much better than ice cold beer T_T

Eager to start trying some local fare, we ordered some Cambodian rice paper rolls (~ USD 3) to start. In the pics they looked pretty similar to the Vietnamese rice paper rolls.

Prawns and lemongrass and sweet chilli, just like its Vietnamese counterpart, but this was also packed with spring onions, cucumbers and mango, giving it an amazing crunch and sweet tang! The paper skin was also more chewy and less sticky than the Vietnamese ones, awesome!

Talking about popular (touristy) Cambodian fare, the first item that comes to mind is the fish amok (~USD 7). Marketed as fish cooked in coconut milk, lime and basil, the look of the dish and consistency is actually much more closer to Thai otah. Just that instead of the spicy and lemongrassy tang of the Thai otah, it's replaced with heart clogging volumes of coconut milk.

Twas awesome though - sweet and surprisingly flavourful, the amok spice, coconut milk and basil work together harmoniously to make this mushy dish, with mashed bits and large chunks of fish lying in wait to be devoured by yours truly.

Bunneh had the obscene sounding Sach Ko Chror Nouch, grilled beef kebab marinated in lemon grass with a side of pickled stuff. This dish came looking simply amaazzinnn - two generous kebab strips with large chunks of marinated grilled beef wrapped around long beans. Really ... interesting sauce it was, it was like salty satay sauce, without peanuts. I felt the sauce was kinda strange but she loved it!

The beef was soft and so flavourful from the marinade - it tasted like a blend of green curry and satay sauce which I found to be yum!

The food was an interesting start to our tour of Cambodia though we came to realize over the next few days, Cambodian food has nary any (hot) spice in them at all D:

We stayed to savour our beer on this hot hot day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bergs, Far East Square

I can safely say that burgers are (one of) our (many) weakness(es!). When temptation presented itself in the form of a Groupon deal, we seized the opportunity to check out this place for a discount (bless these websites). For $10, you get a 'gourmet' chicken burger, an iced lemon tea and a serving of fries. A day after acquiring two vouchers, we sauntered into the Far East branch, eyes a-shining with expectations of a satisfying dinner of big juicy burgers.

Our expectations couldn't be further from the truth.

Orders are placed at the counter, and then you sit down to wait for your meal to be served. After about 15-20 minutes (could have been longer), a burger was dropped off at our table. It came wrapped in a brown-bag.

This was the bear's order: Porto Polo - Tender Chicken with Spicy Portuguese Marinade, Homemade Peri-Peri Sauce, Swiss Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion & Aioli. It came semi-lukewarm (you take 20 minutes to serve and it's not even completely warm?), and the abundance of sauce had already accumulated and soggified the bun.

Waiting for 20 minutes and serving me a lukewarm burger? Un-bloody-forgiveable. They have a serious flaw in their workflow here, and I just failed to comprehend WHY a burger made on the spot can be lukewarm. Not that I expected the burger to be piping hot, but the sauce was below room temperature, the patty slightly warm, lettuce cold and the whole burger just failed to hold any flavour together. Besides, the home-made peri peri had no inkling of spice in it, and the portuguese marinade was just strange.

After a bit more waiting and repeatedly reminding the staff, we were presented with my order. I had chosen the Budgie Smuggler - Grilled Chicken Breast, Orange Honey Marinade, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Sweet Chilli & Aioli. To be honest - this tasted strange in a bad way. The so-called orange honey marinade was instead masked by a salty soy-like sauce. I did not detect any aioli nor sweet chilli. Couldn't say much for the grilled chicken either as my tastebuds were overwhelmed by the funky saltiness. I almost felt sorry for myself for having to eat this!

Honey-orange went really really strange with the chicken. I like their exploratory behaviour with meat and sauces but ... no.

Our sides of fries came last - after some more fervent reminding that our sides were still missing after finishing about 85% of our burgers! We soon discovered though, that the best was saved for last. This. This was probably the highlight of our meal, which says a lot (or very little) about their burgers. We polished this off eagerly (and gratefully!)

BERGS positions itself as a gourmet burger joint - and to be fair, I would have to (reluctantly) give their other burgers a go before I can fully judge. However on first impression this has not been the greatest of experiences: flavours were not balanced well, service left much to be desired.

HGW Link:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cocotte, Wanderlust Hotel

Tucked away in the mess that is Little India is Wanderlust, a quite-recently established boutique hotel. I had (sneakily) arranged for a mini getaway here for a night's stay - and indeed the artsy interior and setup of the 'capsule' rooms was an experience unlike any other: think Nespresso coffee machine, ipod speakers and a bathtub just by the door.


By the lobby is a French restaurant named Cocotte. Apparently this means:

cocotte [kəʊˈkɒt kə- (French) kɔkɔt]
1. (Cookery) a small fireproof dish in which individual portions of food are cooked and served
2. a prostitute or promiscuous woman
[from French, from nursery word for a hen, feminine of coq cock1]

I hope this restaurant takes its meaning and inspiration from the first definition above.

The restaurant itself is quite nicely laid out - it is actually meant to be a 'communal' dining concept, which we did not really engage in but hey.. we're all about the food here! (can I also declare my love for the blue checkered napkins)

Small french rolls were served as a complimentary starter (to what was to be an amazing meal). They had the texture and hardness of a baguette. Yum.

We decided on some escargot, being French and all. This was displayed as the day's special, and we were expecting the baked sort with garlic herb butter sauce in those holey dishes (ah, so presumptuous). So when we were presented with 6 mini escargot pies, we were a bit confused. Bear literally announced 'what the heck' aloud, but was soon emanating sighs of delight. These were really special - each escargot is burger-ed between puff pastry, with parsley cream and tomato coulis. How can escargot be eaten any other way now?!!?

Holy shitastic. That's all I need to say about this stellar Bouef Bourguignon. Generous portions of beef chunks, marinated overnight in red wine, coupled with pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms, bacon and garlic potatoes. And the sauce. The SAUCE. SAAUCCEEE. The sauce was really really magnificent - not overly winey like ours turned out to be, the beef stock was really prominent, every sip was DEEEEEEPPPP in flavour, and the beef was soooooo tender it feels like it has been stewed for days. Simple yet complex, perfectissimo.

I picked my main from the blackboard special of the day. This was a breaded veal escalope, with some garlicky potatoes and small balsamic-y salad. I usually don't go for deep fried breaded things as a main course but this was done very nicely. The breaded veal was nice and tender, and the crumb didn't fall all over the plate. Wasn't too overwhelming and oily as is usually the case for deep fried breaded things. This is one of those dishes that is just what it is - no complex flavours, no hidden subtleties.

Was rather expensive though - the mains were high $30s each, and the escargot was around $20. We were also charged $10 for a bottle of Fiji still water! Yikes. Regardless, the food here is awesome, and truly french.

HGW Link:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sushi Tei, Raffles City

Armed with a $30 voucher and a free-and-easy Good Friday, we decided to go to Sushi Tei for lunch. Sushi Tei for me has always been that 'decent' mid-range Japanese food chain. We arrived close to 12pm, and there was already quite a number of people - mostly families.

To start, we had the sashimi salad with sushi tei dressing. I had earlier discovered that this dish gives you quite liberal amounts of sashimi (salmon, tuna, octopus, squid, other random fish) and is therefore excellent value for money at <$10! I particularly like the dressing, which is a bit light and miso-infused. We tossed in half the dressing and dunked the rest of the sashimi in wasabi soy.

I was recently converted to loving Nattou (納豆) - that little fermented bean bugger. Stinky, sticky, mushy and lovely, it's a good start to a sushi set. Sushi tei's one was ok.

We finally decided to delve into the realm of aburi (炙り) - which basically means flame broiling with a flamethrower. The white slab of swordfish (めかじき)combined with a light taste of burnt fat gave it an interesting taste! Unfortunately swordfish doesn't have much fat to begin with, it was good nonetheless but we both preferred swordfish raw.

We also ordered dashimaki tamago (だし巻き卵) - and while it is essentially a compressed/folded omelette, this was sweet (from dashi), fluffy and soft. Much nicer on its own methinks (without any sushi rice getting in the way).

Aburi salmon roll to complete the aburi experience! This was much yummier than the swordfish version - there is just something divine about slightly charred, flaky salmon that melts in your mouth. However there was just too much going on here - the salmon is wrapped around avocado, crabstick and cucumber, and then topped with roe and drizzled with some mayo thing. Would have been much better by itself, or with rice. But then again this is some sort of in-house specialty, so..

Still feeling peckish, we ordered the 'up' unagi (上鰻). I was delighted by the generous portions - but upon first bite realised it was cold from the sushi belt. Still good, but should have been a bit warmer for total enjoyment!

This interesting little Champs-Élysées sushi was fried prawn roll with fish floss. Crunchy fried prawn wrapped with a little mayo, and coated with mucho fish floss. I quite liked it but Bunny didn't really fancy. Should refrain from ordering sushi without raw fish next time.

Pleasant and cheap sushi (because of the voucher!), Sushi Tei's standard has been quite consistent and they do have interesting items on the menu from time to time. Being mid-range (which for japanese food, is already expensive), don't be expecting too much!

HGW Link:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mouth @ Work, Shaw Towers


Mouth restaurant is a pretty well known chinese restaurant in Singapore - having two branches in the Chinatown area serving Dim Sum and Cantonese / Hong Kong food. A lesser known version - Mouth @ Work at Shaw Towers, intends to bring Mouth restaurant's level of cuisine to an 'office' environment, catering cheaper, set lunch style menus to the working crowd.

I have to say, the first time I heard of Mouth @ Work, it's hard not to think that the name simply refers to chewing. Only after I finally went in did Bunny enlighten me about how it's a cheaper version of Mouth restaurant, literally, at the work place. Double entendré! Pretty smart - regardless we were a little wary when we waltzed in and there was not a single soul on a Thursday night (next day was Good Friday too). Lord please don't let this be a sign of things to come.

They had an executive set meal, which ranges between $8.50 - $9.90 depending on choice of main. Each set comes with a starter - from around 10 types of dim sums or small portion of Cantonese style dishes - and a dessert. We both had an meal and also ordered the well reviewed custard bun and a har gao to share.

Well the custard bun came first, and it was a strange sight - we were used to seeing the white bouncy ones, and here came these small, flat, baked crispy buns. Bunny was a little disappointed and lamented how strange they were, but anyway we decided to bite into it. And once we did, oh my god, whattttt theeeee helllllll. Like the last 30 seconds of Death is the Road to Awe, the custard bun literally KABLOOMED in my mouth, the butter and salted egg exploded, such copiousness, such deliciousness, it was unbelievable.

The crust was crispy, almost like a thin crust Po lo bun, and while the custard inside was not custardy (viscous) enough, you can literally taste so much salted egg yolk bits, and the BUTTER. My god. Heavenly.

I had the shredded meat and century egg congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥). It came in a cauldron-sized bowl and was so full of.. things! Every time the spoon dipped in, out comes chunky shreds of pork and liberal pieces of century egg. The congee itself was smooth and well-mushed and the flavour was enhanced by a wee bit of sesame oil. Wish there was more bits of yew char kuey though. Otherwise there is little fault in this dish! Recommended to share between two persons, actually.

My side dish had the manliest and most disgusting name ever - Tyrant's Saliva Chicken (霸王口水鸡) - I had reservations but I manned up and ordered it anyhoo. And when it came, let's just say it matches the name. Cold chicken steamed in presumably Mr. Tyrant's saliva (or some sauce), with LOTS of chilli oil, spring onions and sesame seeds. And wow, it was good. Chicken was very very flavourful, sweet and not too salty with an immense spicy kick.

My main was the rice with pork belly and mei cai (梅菜卤肉饭) - generous portions of well roasted then braised pork belly, mei cai, and a single strand of leafy green veg - as though that would counter the imminent treat to my aorta. The pork was HEAVENLY-ly soft, pork fat so melty and so bad for you (I ... ate some). The pork chunks seemed to self replenish in the massive bowl, but the soft fluffy pork and rice steeped in sauce just kept me going and going.

Maker help us.

Bunny's side dish was the Wild Bacteria Crystal Bun (野菌水晶包), and this interesting little gem (... heh) was packed with wild mushrooms and various forms of fungi and vegetables.
The flour skin is a bit gelatinous and starchy, providing that chewy/sticky-ness. It got a bit too sticky as it was cooling in the tray and we had trouble rolling it around ( like Katamari Damacy) to pick up on chopsticks. Still a unique and yummy dish.

Har gao was interesting too - each were stuffed with crab meat instead of regular ole prawns.

While there isn't that 'crunch' from prawns, the crab meat offered a unique, softer bite. I actually do prefer the prawn rendition better.

Dessert of the day was mango pudding. Perfectly wobbly, it was soft and sweet and sufficiently mango-ey, a perfect ending to an epic meal.

In summary this place was surprisingly fantastic, we overcame the initial scare of empty seats and strange custard buns and were treated to awesome Cantonese cuisine and Dim Sum - and again did I mention the set meals are $8.50++ for one side one main one dessert? Though a chat with the waiter revealed that they do get busy during lunch time, this place deserves more publicity.

HGW Link:
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