Sunday, June 27, 2010

Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine

C says:

After A realised that Chinese food really ain’t that bad after all, after the dinner at Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck, W introduced us to her favourite Imperial Treasure incarnation, the Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine at Great World City. After a very enjoyable meal there a couple of weeks ago, I decided to bring my family there for dinner on Sunday.

I ordered a number of the same dishes that W did, cos I figured she knew best. So we had the double boiled soup of the day (it was lotus root, pork and dried oyster), which was flavourful and satisfying as only the Cantonese can do their soups. We even enjoyed the pork that was used to boil the soup. It tasted really good with the in-house hae bee hiam.

We ordered a small plate of the grilled pork neck starter, which was prepared char siew style. This was good because it wasn’t as fatty as the belly pork char siew at Canton-I, and it had a nice bite to it, from the texture of the pork neck.

We tried the scallop fried with egg white and truffle oil, which we’ve been eyeing since seeing it being served to other tables at Paragon. This isn’t cheap – a medium portion is $42 but it was really good. Unlike most egg white dishes of this nature where you need a few drops of Chinese vinegar to enhance the flavours, it wasn’t necessary with this dish because of the truffle oil.

Another dish that was really well executed was the very simple pan fried garoupa with broccoli. I admire how they can cook fish and vegetables with almost no sauce, and yet incorporate so much flavour.

A couple of dishes weren’t as good as the Paragon branch – the peking duck, for one. I guess the Paragon branch is called Super Peking Duck for a reason. The duck there costs $18 more, but you get the different cuts of skin and meat presented on different platters, and the skin is light and crisp. Plus you get to roll the duck in the pancakes yourself, so you can choose which cut of meat/skin you prefer. Here, it’s rolled for you and there’s no distinction in the cuts of meat. The pancakes were also a bit on the soggy side.

Also, the fabulous mee pok with truffle oil isn’t on the main menu here, but we spotted it in a set dinner menu so I asked for a small portion. It was still good, but somehow it lacked the oomph of the one at Paragon. Maybe because since it’s not a regular item on the menu, it’s not prepared as often and the kitchen isn’t that used to it.

Service here is a lot better than at Paragon, and for this reason I’ll probably keep coming back here, unless I specifically want a good peking duck. Here, I don’t feel like I’m a second rate citizen just because (a) I’m not a regular and (b) I don’t speak Cantonese. All the waitresses were very friendly and accommodating, even though I had to order/communicate with an elaborate system of sub-standard Mandarin and finger pointing.

A says:

Excellent location for a family dinner.

Imperial Treasure Cantonese Cuisine
#02-06 Great World City
Tel: 6732-2232
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shin Yuu

C says:

The gang had a belated birthday celebration for me on Saturday. During the planning stages, we were at quite a loss for a suitable place, since we’re now a group of 10 plus 4 kids. I suggested Shin Yuu, an a la carte Japanese buffet restaurant at Greenwood, based on a couple of recommendations. They have a private room, and we thought that would be good for us to make as much noise as we wanted. As it turns out, when W called to book, they told her our group was too big for the private room so they seated us in the main restaurant.

The buffet here is definitely good value - $35++ per adult for dinner. The items on the menu all sound pretty good, but when they eventually arrived, it became evident that it’s quantity over quality.

Their handrolls were very disappointing. The nori tasted and felt soggy, as though it had been left in the open for ages, and the rice was pretty mushy as well. Their aburi salmon sushi was pretty tasteless too, and nowhere near the standard of the one at Z’En. They had an aburi cheese roll which again sounded good on the menu, but in reality was very disappointing. The cheese was more like a creamy cheese sauce, unceremoniously dolloped on top of maki rolls and torched.

There were a few good items, like the beef short ribs and most of the chef’s specials. The chef’s specials are not on the menu, and only one order of each is given per table. There was a braised oxtail that wasn’t too bad, and the tuna belly nigiri sushi was quite good too. Some specials fell flat, like the grilled sanma fish that was all bone and overcooked, and the grilled fish cheek that had a distinctly watery texture and not much flavour.

What I didn’t like was that although they had desserts, they weren’t on the buffet menu and you have to pay separately. Again, a contrast with Z’En where the buffet includes ice cream, creme brulee and cheesecake.

The service is a bit of an oddity. The owner Gary is quite a character, and on hindsight I don’t think he meant to be rude; it was just his mannerism but before we realised that, he did rub some of us the wrong way. He came out all flustered, and told us to cancel our entire order of handrolls because we’d ordered too much. While I appreciate that we shouldn’t waste food, the way he conveyed it did put a dampener on our spirits, and we kinda lost our momentum after that point.

Overall, it may have been cheap but after a while we just stopped ordering/eating because the food just wasn’t very tasty. In the end I don’t even think that we each ate our money’s worth. This is a far cry from the a la carte buffets at either Z’En or En Dining. In conclusion, I would gladly pay the $15 or so difference, for markedly better quality.

Update: I just found out that the dinner buffet is $48, not $35 as I initially thought. That makes it the same price as Z'En, in which case it's not even value for money any more. For the same price I would pick Z'en in a heartbeat.

A says:

The good reviews got me hyped, and thus, disappointed. It’s… okay…

Shin Yuu
16 Greenwood Avenue
Tel: 6763-4939
Lunch: 12 noon to 3 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ramen Santouka, Central

C says:

I blame A for my waning interest in ramen. This used to be my default Japanese comfort food, but lately after A declared that he was off ramen, preferring udon and soba instead, perhaps subconsciously that’s rubbed off on me. I find that I’m now drawn towards the clear simplicity of a good udon soup, compared to the oily richness of a ramen. Don’t get me wrong – for someone whose ultimate comfort food is a bowl of instant noodles, I will always appreciate a good ramen. I just don’t have the fervour that I used to, or enough of a craving to join the queues at each newly opened ramen joint on the block.

Which is probably why it took us this long to try the acclaimed Ramen Santouka at Central. Since we were here at about 8.30 pm for a late dinner, there wasn't much of a queue so we took the opportunity to try it. We ordered a shoyu ramen and a miso ramen, and a side order of aburi pork cheek.

I liked the springy texture of the noodles, and I preferred the shoyu broth because it was tasty without being too strong. The sliced pork that comes with each bowl was a bit perfunctory though – tender but not particularly flavourful. I ordered a side order of braised egg, which was also a bit disappointing. The inside of the egg was cold, it didn’t have much of a soy-infused flavour, and the yolk didn’t have that almost set but not quite runny texture.

The aburi pork cheek, which is only available at dinner time, was the star of the show. The pork was meltingly tender without being too fatty, and quite heavily seasoned, though the chargrilled aburi flavour masked any overly salty flavour.

This place is certainly not cheap though. The bowls of ramen are quite small, so a total bill of $46 for 2 small bowls of ramen and 4 slices of (albeit delicious) pork is a bit on the high side.

I dunno… maybe Baikokhen at North Canal Road will restore my ramen fixation. Until then, I think my new quest is a perfect risotto.

A says:

Fabulous pork cheek. Everything else was blah. At least the ramen wasn’t super salty like most Hokkaido ramens.

Ramen Santouka (Central)
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#02-76 The Central
Tel: 6224-0668
Open daily: 11 am to 9.30 pm

Monday, June 21, 2010

Al Borgo

C says:

Al Borgo is located at Alocassia Apartments along Bukit Timah Road, where the old Shell gas station used to be but is now a mini dining hub with Al Borgo, Le Bon Marche and Estivo Gelateria. Apparently after Italian restaurant Borgo closed down, one of the owners decided to start Al Borgo on his own.

We came here on Monday because our first choice, Le Bon Marche, was closed. We wanted something simple so we just shared a starter and had a carb each.

I like that without us prompting, the waitress gave us the list of specials for the evening. As a result, we switched our starter from a smoked cheese to the octopus salad special. This ended up costing more than our pasta mains, but it was quite good. The octopus was very tender and the salad was just lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. This was a good start to the meal.

A ordered the tagliatelle with scallops and cherry tomatoes. This wasn’t too bad, a bit like a glorified aglio olio with scallops, but it needed some grated cheese to add flavour. At least they were generous with their grated cheese, and it was proper cheese too, not that nasty powdery sort.

On hindsight perhaps not the best choice for a restaurant that hasn’t been tried and tested, but I went with the porcini mushroom risotto. While this wasn’t undercooked like the one I had on my second visit to Osvaldo, it was quite dry and stodgy, and didn’t have that elusive ooziness that is the hallmark of a really good risotto.

Because the risotto was so heavy, I didn’t have space for dessert, nor even for gelato at next door Estivo. The service here was good though, so I don't think we’ll write them off just yet. Their pizza menu looks very comprehensive and a glance at some pizzas that came out of the kitchen looked promising. The jury’s out till we give the pizzas a go.

A says:

Awesome octopus salad. The pasta was so-so. I’d be interested to come back to try the pizza. Will post an update when we do.

Al Borgo
383 Bukit Timah Road
#01-02 Alocassia Apartments
Tel: 6737-3546
Lunch: 11.45am–2.30pm
Dinner: 6pm–10.30pm (Closed on Tue)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

CM-PB (Contemporary Melting Pot & Bar)

C says:

Another place that tries too hard with its name. Located at the old CMPB premises at Dempsey, they’ve “cleverly” retained the name but it now stands for Contemporary Melting Pot & Bar. Even the address is annoying. “Dempsey 6ix and 7even". Sigh. Anyway, the menu looked interesting, with some creative pizza flavours and posh twists on local food, so when some of A’s colleagues decided to have dinner together, we suggested this place so that we could finally try it.

Among the 6 of us, we ordered a number of starters so we got to sample quite a few. We had the fried chicken wings (of course) – nothing outstanding and frankly I would’ve been just as happy with the Ikea ones… The cod brandade fritters were interestingly presented as lollipops, and served with a wasabi mayonnaise. The deep fried calamari rings weren’t too bad either, with the rings being quite tender and not rubbery.

Some of the mains on the menu looked hideously overpriced - $34 for a Foie Gras burger? Or even $26 for the CMPB burger when I’m pretty sure it can’t top the $25 Morton’s one? We decided to share the pizzas instead, since those were what caught our eye to begin with, and were recommended by V.

The pizzas range from $20 to $26, and for $26 you can order a Half and Half. In true atetoomuch fashion, the other couples shared a pizza between them, but we had one each… A had the smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and rocket, and I had a Half and Half – shredded duck with mushrooms and mozzarella, and wagyu beef with sautéed mushrooms and white wine reduction sauce.

The pizzas were good but not great. The toppings were quite tasty – I particularly liked the beef, which was very tender. The duck was a tad too sweet. Unfortunately the pizzas were let down by the crust, which was a cross between a thin Italian crust and a Skinny Pizza-esque crust, but not in a good way. It was thin but hard and flat, and pretty chewy.

The desserts were described very well on the menu, but reality fell kinda short. The goreng pisang with ice cream, which was probably intended to be a high end twist on a banana split, was very lacklustre. The fried banana fritters were overbattered, but what took the cake was the ice cream. Instead of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, which are traditional banana split flavours, there were 2 pale-coloured scoops and 1 lightish brown/purple scoop.

Between our 6 palates, we figured out that one was honey and raisin/fig and one had bits of gingersnap cookies, but for the life of us we couldn’t figure out the third. It tasted like some sort of stone fruit, but not quite peach or nectarine. When we asked the waiter what the flavours were, he proudly declared “vanilla, chocolate and strawberry”. ??!! When we asked him to check, cos no way in hell were any of those flavours “vanilla, chocolate and strawberry”, he came back with the unsatisfying answer that he didn’t know because they have many ice cream flavours, including plum which may have been that elusive one.

Nothing here was downright bad, but at the same time there wasn’t anything that would make us come back. Another Dempsey joint with more form than substance.

A says:

Pizza is passable but desserts were a massive fail. Sigh...

I think it’s a cool place to have casual after-dinner drinks but not for anything else.

Block 7, Unit 01-05

Dempsey 6ix and 7even
Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475-0105
Open daily: 11 am to 12 mn

MOB (Most Original Burgers)

C says:

We really have no dining karma with VivoCity lately. First it was the horrendous King Louis Grill a few weeks ago, and now MOB. I saw an ad for this in a magazine and with a name like Most Original Burgers, it looked interesting so we headed there on Saturday after catching a movie. We’d loaded up on nachos during the show so we only shared one main and a side between us.

The concept is interesting. They have a dish called Goodfellas, which consists of 3 sliders which you can custom make. The bun is joined up so you can only choose the one bread, but you can choose 3 different fillings. We had the original beef burger, a sloppy joe and the Korean beef bulgogi.

This was so disappointing it’s not even funny. The bun was hard, dry and crumbly. The beef patties were dry and had almost no taste, and the sliced beef bulgogi was chewy and sinewy.

A ordered a chocolate milkshake, which was just a tasteless chocolate milk slushie. I think we were deliberating whether this should be a “Not recommended”, but this pseudo-milkshake made up our minds.

A says:

Decent service but the food was yuck yuck yuck. The milkshake was massive fail!

MOB (Most Original Burgers)
1 Harbourfront Walk
#01-52 VivoCity
Tel: 6376-9681
Open daily: 10 am to 11 pm

Friday, June 18, 2010


C says:

Absinthe is another place we’ve been meaning to try for ages, and with the prospect of a 4-day long weekend looming, I was in the mood to celebrate. Again, we came here hoping to take advantage of the UOB Chef’s Creation menu, but were open to their regular menu if the UOB one didn’t entice.

Unlike the very impressive UOB menu at Otto, at Absinthe it seemed almost an afterthought. They didn't even have a printed menu. When I asked what the UOB menu offered, the waiter said it changed every day, and today it was foie gras and duck breast. It sounded rather boring, so we went with their $98 degustation menu instead.

Starter was a salad of Hokkaido scallop carpaccio with bottarga (mullet roe). The scallop was very fresh and sweet, but it tended to be overpowered somewhat by the strongly-flavoured bottarga. Instead of having every mouthful with the bottarga, I preferred interspersing it with bites of just the scallop, so that I could appreciate the flavour of the scallop properly.

The next course was quite forgettable. Before it arrived we forgot what the menu said, and after dinner it took me a while to remember it in order to write this post. It was a clear vegetable soup with cheese ravioli. The ravioli were quite small and dainty, but didn’t pack much of a cheesy punch.

Next was the foie gras course – seared foie gras served on a blini with morello cherries. The waiter told A that even if he doesn’t like foie gras, this dish will convert him and I think to some extent it did. This was an example of a simple, unfussy dish that was executed perfectly. Best foie gras that A’s had, so he says.

Main course was a choice between seared tenderloin, and pan roasted sea bass. A wasn’t inclined to share his meat, so we both ordered the beef. My one issue with the dish, and actually with the cooking here in general, is that they’re quite heavy handed with the salt. Don’t get me wrong, I think salt is a necessary element in cooking to bring out flavours, but when I consciously notice that a dish is salty, I think that’s a bit overseasoned.

They have an extremely enticing cheese trolley, filled with all sorts of stinky and oozy cheeses. Unfortunately, we were too full but we’re fully intending to come back, have just a starter and main, and overload on the cheese.

Of course, we couldn’t go to Absinthe and not have their absinthe, just for the heck of it. The waiter recommended a cocktail of absinthe, sugar and water, so we shared one as an after dinner aperitif. Never again… it was almost torture trying to finish it; tasted like cough medicine. Give me sissy drinks like sangria or mojitos any day.

The service was excellent, but food wise, it was good but nothing really seemed to blow me away. We’ll be back though, if nothing else then to partake in that awesome cheese trolley.

A says:

The service was excellent when we got there but it became hard to catch the waiter’s eye once the restaurant filled up. The food did reach our table at a surprisingly good pace so I think the kitchen did a good job.

Like C says, the food was awesome although a tad on the salty side. It did make me like the foie gras and I’m looking forward to coming back, especially to try the cheeses.

48 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6222-9068
Lunch : 12pm - 2:30pm (Mon - Fri)
Dinner : 6:30pm - 10:30pm (Mon – Sat)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

King Louis Grill

C says:

Let me just start out by saying that this place was not our choice. We met A’s parents at Vivocity for dinner, and since they got there first, we asked them to pick the place. A’s dad was enticed by the “one dines free with every two paying diners” promo, but turns out that it’s limited to weekdays. Anyway since we were already there we decided to give it a go.

King Louis Grill is a cheesy theme restaurant that isn’t even very Arthurian. Perfunctory suits of armour in the corner, tiaras on the waitresses and calling the dishes “Queen Elizabeth’s Feast” or “King Arthur’s Platter” do not a medieval theme make. The restaurant took over Hog’s Breath Cafe on the 3rd floor, next to Daiso and Imperial Herbal, and they’ve retained most of the decor, just adding a few cheesy elements in a lame attempt to make it themed.

But enough about first impressions. If the food had been good, I’d be more than willing to overlook the peripheral details. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. We ordered one of the Queen’s Platters for 2 to 3 persons, comprising lamb chops, rib eye steak, BBQ pork ribs and roast chicken. The platter was definitely substantial enough for more than 3 persons; 4 of us were struggling to finish it.

The food itself was very lacklustre. The lamb was overcooked and chewy. The steak, when we asked for medium rare, was a combination of medium and well done. The ribs were tender but smelt kinda funny, like it was on the brink of going off. The only thing that was half decent was the chicken, because honestly, how far wrong can you go with roast chicken? There was a mound of potato wedges, and boiled (read: overcooked) vegetables.

Yes, at $71.90 for a platter large enough for 4, it seems pretty value for money. But when you think about it, the quality is on par with most hawker centre Western food stalls, so on that basis, $18 per person for that kind of quality is kind of a rip-off.

Needless to say, we’re definitely not coming back. Not voluntarily, anyway.

A says:

C’s being a bit harsh but yeah. It’s not really great for restaurant standards. The best thing I can say about it is that the portions are huge.

And given that only one server gave us good service, I’m forced to add this to the not recommended list.

King Louis Grill & Bar
1 Harbourfront Walk
#03-07A Vivocity
Tel: 6276-0862
Open daily: 12 noon to 10 pm