Sunday, May 30, 2010

Two Fat Men

C says:

Two Fat Men is KH’s casual bar that has taken over the space that was occupied by Tian Mi Mi along East Coast Road. Being non-Eastsiders, I was never inclined to drive all the way to the East for desserts, but after sampling the food at Two Fat Men tonight, I’m definitely planning another trip soon, on the pretext of visiting S and her twins :)

Besides serving designer and artisanal beers (as well as a kickass Toffee Apple Cider that I could guzzle all day), Two Fat Men serves bar bites and simple meals with a slight twist. In addition to the usual offerings like wings and burgers, they also pay homage to KH’s professional roots, with a menu of Thai street food favourites.

Everything that we had tonight was delicious, but in particular the Grilled Pork Neck with Tamarind dipping sauce was outstanding. Slices of pork neck, a perfect cut for its blend of fat and meat, chargrilled to perfection and served with a tangy sauce that cuts through the meat. This is perfect bar food and I would imagine beer drinkers going through plate after plate of this.

The burger is also really good. Simple (so obviously don’t expect chi-chi bistro type burgers) but very well executed, and this was even without the optional cheese and bacon, which we forgot to order. This reminded us of our favourite Renaldo’s burger from days gone by.

They do two types of wings here – St Louis marinade and Buffalo wings. I actually prefer the former, but we did feedback to KH that he could afford to make the Buffalo wings a bit more aggressive, both in flavour and in heat.

The basil chicken fried rice is a less greasy version of this popular Thai dish, and I like the healthier spin that they’ve put on this. It may be less oily but it’s still very flavourful and the chicken is very tender.

The tom yam seafood soup here is authentic, and not for the fainthearted. It packs quite a flavour punch, with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and lots of heat. They’re very generous with the seafood too – 2 large prawns and lots of calamari. KH may introduce a noodle version of this dish if Two Fat Men eventually opens for lunch – I’m thinking of starting a petition because an instant noodle version of this dish is my idea of absolute heaven.

If you still have room for dessert, they do a mean brownie with ice cream here too. The brownie is cake-like rather than fudge-like; just the type I like. It’s light and almost like a very good chocolate cake. A perfect end to a great dinner.

Once a month, they do beer tastings where, for $25 a person, you get free flow of 5 different beers. They just did British beers this month; on 9 June they’re doing German beers. Do check them out if beer tasting (or simply getting sloshed) is your thing.

I’m really happy that KH has decided to do this instead of Tian Mi Mi. I think it has lots of potential to be a great neighbourhood chillout spot, and I wish him all the best, and I’ll certainly be swinging by more often.

A says:

Excellent value for money. The dishes, except for the mediocre wings, were great. I especially like the greasy burger.

As per our last visit (when it was still a dessert joint), my only complaint is the lack of parking in the area. Damn East-siders.

Two Fat Men
376 East Coast Road
Tel: 6346-0046
Open daily: 5 pm to 3 am

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Old Hong Kong Kitchen (Novena Square 2)

C says:

On hindsight, this may not have been the best choice for lunch, fresh from last night’s awesome experience at Imperial Treasure. But since we had our dental appointments in the vicinity, and A had a recommendation for Old Hong Kong Kitchen from a colleague, we decided to try it post-dental today.

They have quite a varied menu, including peking duck, but what we were here for was the dim sum. We ordered a siew mai, chicken feet, a char siew chee cheong fun, a pan fried chee cheong fun, steamed carrot cake, porridge, a soup and a custard bun.

Portions here are absolutely massive, and as a result we were struggling to finish everything. Unfortunately that’s the only thing that I really remember about the meal. No one dish really stood out, and I couldn’t help but think that for everything that we ordered, we’ve had better versions of it elsewhere, like Victor’s Kitchen, for example.

My conclusion is that it’s definitely value for money, because prices are quite reasonable and you get really big portions, but the food itself isn’t very refined.

A says:

Very good value with large portions that aren’t as bad as C makes them out to be. And the large portions make sense if you’re dining with friends or family. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a place to take a group of 4-8 for mid-range dim sum.

Old Hong Kong Kitchen
10 Sinaran Drive
#02-08 Novena Square 2
Tel: 6397-7023
Open daily: 10.30 am – 11 pm

Friday, May 28, 2010

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck

C says:

We celebrated B’s belated birthday on Vesak Day at the Imperial Treasure peking duck restaurant at Paragon. I’ve never been here, but both W and S are regulars so we happily left the ordering in their good hands. Thanks to them, I had one of the best Chinese dinners I’ve had in a very long time. This could well be this year’s Shin Yeh for me.

Knowing that they always sell out, W pre-ordered two peking ducks between 10 of us, and a large tureen of “lai tong” – the daily double boiled Cantonese soup. Everything else was ordered when we got there. The starters were really good – there was a crunchy pig’s ear terrine, very good jellyfish, and a crispy fried whitebait that was one of the best I’ve had, whether at a Chinese or Western restaurant.

Of course, at a restaurant that proudly calls itself “Super Peking Duck”, this is clearly the star of the show, and it really didn’t disappoint. Each order of a whole duck ($68) gives you 3 different cuts – the premium skin, slices from the breast, and slices from the leg/thigh. The premium skin is so good that they advise you to just enjoy it dipped into sugar. The rest of the slices, you can roll up with the cucumber, chives and crepes into the usual peking duck rolls. They even serve the meat on very cute duck-shaped plates.

We initially thought we overordered when all the duck arrived, but it’s so good that even though it’s quite rich and fatty, it’s also very addictive and very easy to keep eating. Needless to say, we polished off every platter of meat and skin, as well as the sang choy pao dish that was prepared using up the rest of the duck meat.

Everything else we had was also delicious, from the amazingly flavourful double-boiled soup, to the spinach tofu and even the simply fried nai bai vegetables. What really blew us away though, besides the duck, was the noodle with mushroom and truffle oil. The truffle oil added a Western twist to the otherwise very Asian meepok dish, resulting in a killer flavour combination.

Service here isn’t great though, and that’s already with the caveat that we were there with Cantonese-speaking speaking regular W. Imagine if A and I tried going there on our own... Even with a reservation, all 10 of us ended up standing outside the restaurant for a good 20 minutes while they scurried around trying to get our table in order. Once we were seated though, the waitstaff were very attentive and service was good. The challenge is just getting through the main doors.

A says:

Very good food. Very slow service. Surprising for a restaurant this small (and relatively pricey) that they have so few servers. The waitress we had when the restaurant finally cleared out was very good though. If only we had her earlier in the night.

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck
290 Orchard Road
#05-42/45 Paragon Shopping Centre
Tel: 6732-7838
Lunch: 11.30am to 2.45pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11am to 3pm (Saturdays), 10.30am to 3pm (Sundays)
Dinner: 6 to 10.30pm daily

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Otto Ristorante

C says:

TGIT! To celebrate a much anticipated long weekend, we had dinner on Thursday at Otto Ristorante at Red Dot Museum. When we surfed the online menu beforehand, both the $88 Degustation menu and the $128 Gourmet menu looked extremely enticing, but Otto is also on the UOB Chef’s Creation list, where 25 chefs create a special menu for UOB diners - $68 per couple for lunch, and $128 per couple for dinner.

Now, I’m generally a bit wary of promotional menus, because sometimes I don’t know if they cut corners, and you don’t get to fully experience the restaurant the way a full fledged diner would. The thing about the UOB Chef’s Creation menu is that it doesn’t apply to walk-ins; you have to call up to pre-book. But what if I don’t like what it consists of? Somewhat of a Catch-22. Luckily, when I mentioned this to the lady who took my reservation, she confirmed that I could just pre-book it first, and if I didn’t like it, I won’t be obliged to have it, and can just order a la carte instead.

When we got there, the Chef’s Creation menu looked a lot better than expected, and with 5 courses, it was a steal at $128 for two. It seemed a no-brainer to have it tonight, and we figured if the food was good, we can come back and have the other proper menus. We started off with an amuse bouche - a wrap with parma ham and cheese. Not too bad but nothing spectacular.

First course started out the meal on a good note. Slipper lobster wrapped in Tuscan cured lard, with an artichoke puree and home made potato chips. To be honest, they got me on the Tuscan cured lard. I decided to unwrap one of the pieces to try the lard on its own and wow, what a flavourful and also textural mouthful. The lard was quite strongly seasoned with rosemary, and as a result it flavoured the entire dish, perhaps a tad too much but overall it was very good.

Next up was blue swimmer crab and avocado timbale with chopped tomatoes. This wasn’t too bad but a bit forgettable, because right now I already can’t quite remember how it tasted, compared to the other dishes.

The pasta dish was hands down the best of the night. Veal ravioli with a morel mushroom sauce. The ravioli was really flavourful, the pasta was soft and silky, and the morel mushroom sauce kicked ass.

The main course was actually a choice between roasted sea bream, and grilled rib eye. Normally we share so that we get to try as many dishes as possible, but tonight we both felt like steak so we ordered the same thing. The beef was quite rare, which I generally don’t mind, but some parts were a bit sinewy and chewy. Good, but not as great as the ravioli.

Dessert was a trifle with ricotta cheese, candied orange peel and dark chocolate sauce. I know this wasn’t A’s favourite cos he doesn’t really get the chocolate-orange combination. I quite liked it – the trifle was very light and the orange flavour was fairly subtle anyway, but for some reason I was really full by then. Must have been the latte that we had with dessert.

Service was excellent. Everyone was friendly and polite, food came bang on time, and the “door bitch” wasn’t even a bitch at all. She was the one that took my reservation, and remembered that we wanted to check out the UOB menu before committing. Very impressive.

I must say, when we ate at Julien Bompard during Restaurant Week, it really didn’t inspire me to return, but on the other hand this meal totally did. We’ll definitely be back for the other tasting menus and who knows, this could be another strong contender for 2010’s list.

A says:

Excellent. Good food and great service. In fact, it’s the best service I’ve had in Singapore in awhile. A definite contender for best find of 2010 if our return visit is as good.

Otto Ristorante
28 Maxwell Road
#01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
Tel: 6227-6819
Weekday lunch: 12 pm – 2:30 pm
Weekday dinner: 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
Sat: 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

C says:

A is finally out from the army, and having suffered particularly bad food this time round, being the good wife that I am, I’m allowing him to choose our dining venues for a while. This means no Chinese and no chicken for some time.

Japanese is thankfully on the menu, so today we finally tried something new on our to-eat list – the katsu sandwiches at Ginza Bairin in the basement of ION (near Food Opera).

The katsu sandwich is delicious in its simplicity. Super soft white bread (no crusts), a thin breaded pork fillet in between and lightly sauced with a sweet yet tart vinegary katsu sauce. Very addictive indeed.

We also tried the mini pork burgers. These are adorable – only 3 cm in diameter, the sign proudly proclaims. This needs to be eaten in one big mouthful, otherwise the cherry tomato half will squirt, and while it’s pretty good, the katsu sandwich is definitely better. I found the burger bun a bit on the hard side.

I decided to try of their recommended dishes – a soup udon with tempura pork belly. Two thin slices of pork belly are battered and deep fried, and served with a simple soup udon. At first I removed the pork belly, not wanting to get it soggy. But I found the pork belly a bit bland on its own, and the soup a bit on the salty side. That’s when I realised that it’s probably intended to be eaten together, and sure enough the tempura pork belly tasted much better after it had absorbed some of the soup.

The katsu sandwich is still the best dish here, so it’s probably good for a snack, but not a main meal given the host of other choices at ION.

A says:

I love katsu sandwiches. And although the ones here are pre-made and a bit cold, they’re still very good. Definitely will be back.

Btw, you have to place your order at the outside counter before taking your seat. I wonder what happens if you can’t find a place to sit by the time your order comes.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-39/40 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509-8101
Open daily: 11 am – 10.30 pm

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oriole again

C says:

A’s been in the army for the past week and has another week to go, so understandably we haven’t really been in the mood (nor had the time) to be very adventurous. So for brunch this morning we decided to head back to Oriole to try their brunch offerings.

Hmmm... if today had been our first visit to Oriole, I’m not sure that we would’ve been quite as exuberant about it as we were two weeks ago. Our food took ages to arrive, and when it did, nothing really blew us away. The chargrilled chicken tikka bites that we shared tasted fine, but they were overcooked and quite chewy. Compared to chicken breast, chicken thigh is quite forgiving and it’s generally quite hard to overcook it, so the fact that these weren’t tender and juicy was a little disappointing.

Tempted as I was to have the scallop risotto again, I decided to order something off the brunch menu instead – the huevas rancheros, which was a Tex-Mex mish mash of crispy tortillas, spicy chorizo, sour cream, cheddar cheese and a fried egg, amidst a tomato sauce. I ordered it thinking it sounded interesting, forgetting that I generally don’t like Tex-Mex food. Needless to say, this didn’t really do anything for me.

A also had a brunch item – the smoked salmon scramble on thick toast. He liked the thick toast element, but I actually thought that a thinner, crispier base would’ve worked better with the creamy eggs. It needed some texture/bite; the soft toast just blended in with the egg and salmon a bit too much, resulting in each forkful being slightly one-dimensional and mushy.

We ordered the famous coffee – the Piccolo Latte, which was a pretty good cup of coffee, but not great. It was pretty complex and had a curiously nutty aftertaste.

Well, this was a slightly subdued repeat visit, but not bad enough to kill our enthusiasm for it completely. Besides the slowish service, I think it’s just a question of what you order. We’ll give it at least one more chance, cos it’s quite a pleasant place for a Sunday brunch.

A says:

Service here is actually very slow. We had to wait almost 25 mins for our food. At least our coffees came very quickly and we got water this time.

I had high expectations of the food considering our last visit here. Sadly, it was only okay. Good, but not great. I guess it depends on what you order. And there’s lots more on the menu I want to try.

Oriole Cafe & Bar
96 Somerset Road
#01-01 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238-8348
Mon – Sat: 11.30 am to 11 pm
Sun: 10-30 am to 11 pm

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Oriole Cafe & Bar

C says:

Finally! Third time’s a charm. Out of the 3 new restaurants we tried over the weekend, this is the only one where I can say with certainty that we’ll be back. To give A credit, he’s been suggesting that we try Oriole for ages, but for some reason I’ve always been a bit hesitant because of the predominance of sandwiches on their regular a la carte menu. But head there for Sunday brunch and there’s also a separate brunch menu that opens up a whole host of other options.

We were toying with a number of choices, but eventually A had the Oriole burger. We had to see if the $24 burger here could rival the $25 godfather of burgers at Mortons Bar. The verdict? It was a very good burger, but tasted more home-cooking than Morton’s gourmet burger. And for a $1 difference, I’m afraid it’s a no-brainer. Morton’s is still the undisputed champion.

I ordered the Chef’s special risotto, firstly because I can’t guarantee that it’ll be available when we come again, but also I had an unsatisfied risotto yearning after last night’s sea urchin one that didn’t quite hit the mark. The one here had seared jumbo scallops with pumpkin, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic glaze.

I’m glad to say that my risotto craving has finally been satisfied. Today’s was oozy and perfectly cooked. The pumpkin added some sweetness, the gorgonzola added an incredible flavour, and the balsamic glaze gave it a sweet yet acidic note that prevented it from going overboard on the richness. And the scallops? Perfectly cooked and with a wonderful smoky char.

The coffee here is supposed to be very good too, since the place is owned and run by Singapore’s National Barista Champion, Keith Loh. It was only after our brunch that we realised their specialty is the Piccolo Latte – A had a cappuccino and I had a flat white, so note to selves: order the Piccolo Latte next time.

I’m so glad we ended the weekend on a high note. The ambience here is very pleasant too – bright and airy, with friendly waitstaff and a chill, laidback vibe. Oriole has a sister restaurant next door called Bedrock Bar & Grill, but that one’s slightly higher end, both in terms of the menu and the prices, so for now I think we’ll stick to Oriole.

A says:

Great. I really like the place, even despite its slight poser vibe.

The service is friendly although just a tad slow (and they didn’t offer us water).

Food-wise, the menu is full of stuff I’d like to try. The burger is great but not as good as Morton’s considering the similar price. And I’d say Spruce’s burger is better. But my side of wedges rocked (and I’m not usually a big fan of wedges). So as far as the burger goes, I’ll probably work my way through everything else first.

For now, I’m looking forward to coming back. It’s a definite contender for new finds (for us) of 2010.

Oriole Cafe & Bar
96 Somerset Road
#01-01 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238-8348
Mon – Sat: 11.30 am to 11 pm
Sun: 10-30 am to 11 pm

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Roast at One Rochester

C says:

Round 2: another attempt to discover a potentially great new find of 2010. We decided on Roast at One Rochester, the restaurant’s latest attempt at reinvention by introducing the concept of communal dining. The intention is to go with a group of people, and order sharing portions of their dishes so you get to bond over the food and try more dishes at the same time. M did find it a bit ironic, given that the concept of communal dining has been par for the course for Asian dining for centuries...

Anyway, how it works is – for a flat sum of $65 per person, you get a Nibbles platter to start with. Then depending on the size of your group, 2 to 3 persons can select 2 mains from a list of 6, and 4 or more can select 4 mains. Then the dessert platter is another large platter for sharing.

The evening started pretty well. The Nibbles platter is fairly decently sized (the photo is a portion for 2 persons – we had 2 of those for our party of 4). There are crudités with sour cream and olive tapenade dips, a game terrine with cornichons, foie gras parfait, prosciutto and new potato skins with sour cream and ikura. Generally, there wasn’t anything in the platter I didn’t like, but I was particularly fond of the olive tapenade and the foie gras parfait.

Our mains took a very long time to arrive, and coupled with the heat of being outdoors, our mood started to diminish. When they finally came, they were alright but weren’t particularly inspiring. The grilled cod fillet was decent, but we’ve had better fish elsewhere. I had high hopes for the seared king scallops with smoked sea urchin risotto, but while this was better than the fish, it didn’t blow me away either. There were only 3 scallops for 4 people, and the risotto was a bit too al dente and I couldn’t detect much sea urchin flavour either.

The 2 meat dishes we ordered were the baby chicken wrapped in prosciutto with a pine nut, raisin and truffle stuffing, and braised beef short rib with mashed potatoes. I normally steer clear of ordering ‘boring’ chicken when dining out, but I must say that the chicken was, in my opinion, the best main of the evening. The chicken was tender and very flavourful. The beef had some potential but while it was fork-tender, the actual flavour was quite ordinary and texture-wise it was a bit stringy too.

The Grand Assiette dessert platter had 5 items – pavlova with mango sauce, espresso crème brulee, a panna cotta scented with either longan or lychee, a chocolate and raspberry cake, and lime soufflé. I liked the crème brulee and the panna cotta; I could barely eat a few mouthfuls of the rest. The pavlova was a bit meh, the raspberry was way too tart for the chocolate cake, and the lime soufflé took tart/sour to a whole new level. It was a good palate cleanser but I could only manage a few spoonfuls.

I think the ambience also contributed (or rather didn’t) to our dining experience as a whole. We’re not used to al fresco dining so we couldn’t really enjoy our dinner since we were sweltering. Plus the lighting was very dim so we couldn’t see what we were eating at all. Not the most convenient when you’re trying to navigate pieces of roast baby chicken, bones and all.

The Nibbles platter was the best dish of the night. I wouldn’t mind coming back, but I’m definitely not in a hurry.

A says:

The good – olive tapenade dip and herb crumb stuffed olives in the nibbles platter.
The bad – They were fully booked with large tables and a wedding. So service was painfully slow.
The ugly – It’s FARKING hot. I hate outdoor dining. Just because of that, I probably won’t be back.

Roast at One Rochester
1 Rochester Park
Tel: 6773-0070
Opening hours: 6 pm to 1 am