Friday, August 27, 2010

New menu from Friends at Jelita

C says:

The good news is that Friends at Jelita has revamped their menu considerably, and added a selection of light bites and pizzas. We welcomed the change, because we sometimes want a quick meal after work on a Friday before doing our grocery shopping downstairs, and having their regular menu was sometimes a bit of a palaver.

The not-so-good news is that I think they still need some time to refine their offerings. While nothing that we tried was outright bad, it was all a bit lacklustre and could do with some improvement.


Firstly, the chicken wings were listed as fried chicken wings on the menu, but when we ordered them, they said there was a change and they would be baked chicken wings instead. We ordered them anyway, but while the marinade was pretty interesting, somehow it didn't really work. The wings were cooked through but I would’ve liked a bit more texture. They seemed a bit soft, and while I would expect that from stewed or braised wings, it didn’t quite gel with the slightly charred aroma.


Another variation on the menu occurred with the tofu. It was described as a crispy tofu with century egg sauce, but when we ordered it, they’d changed it to a cold silken tofu, because the sakura tofu was apparently the highlight of the dish, and by deep frying the subtle flavour was lost. I did appreciate the flavour of the tofu, but a bit more sauce would’ve been nice. Right now, the bites with the century egg sauce were good, but on its own it was quite plain. A light soy sauce would’ve gone nicely, I thought. The century egg sauce itself could also have been better. I think they over pureed it, so it became slightly thick and gummy.


We ordered something called a Tarte Flambe, which turned out to be a simplified version of the Alsace Tart that we had at Bon Marche, with onions and Marche smoky bacon. However the crust on this was a bit odd – light at first bite, but then it gave way to a residual chewiness. It felt as though they made their own crust and hadn’t let the dough rise enough or something.


Because the crusts were similar, we had the same issues with their pizza. We tried the pork jaw and apple pizza, which would’ve been pretty good (albeit quite oily from the pork jaw) if not for the dodgy crust.

So much for making this more of a regular pre-grocery dinner place. I give them a while to (hopefully) sort their new menu out, and in the meantime explore other Friday night casual options.

A says:

Still good service but the food's relatively average. So… ummm… yeah… That’s all I can say.

Friends at Jelita
293 Holland Road
#02-04 Jelita Cold Storage Building
Tel: 6463 1011
Open 12 noon to 10 pm daily

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sevenatenine

C says:

I daresay we’ve found a new impromptu place for Friday night dinners after work. We were here on Saturday night before catching a late show at Esplanade, and amongst the frenzy of some of the restaurants like Ichiban Boshi, this place was a surprising oasis of calm, and we managed to get a table immediately.



They have both light bites and main courses here, with both Western and Asian choices. We decided to have more of the tapas, and just shared a main. To start, we had the organic beef carpaccio, the lamb shish kebabs and the jalapeno dusted fried chicken wings.


All 3 items were good, but it’s no surprise that the wings stole the show for me. They were crisp on the outside and juicy and succulent inside, and seasoned with just the right amount of spice.


We had the saffron seafood risotto (probably cos I was deprived of it the night before at Oso), which on hindsight was probably not the smartest thing to order at a bar. The portion was huge, and the entire dish just lacked salt, or much flavour at all. In my defence, good risottos have popped up in rather unlikely places like Oriole, so it wasn’t that way off to order it here.


We ordered a portion of churros for dessert. The portion was HUGE but these were great. Light and crisp, dusted with just the right amount of cinnamon sugar, and a nutella dip – they took a while to arrive but were worth the wait.

They have some pretty good cocktails too. I had a decent ginger mojito, but A’s affrogato martini, which was basically a spike coffee float, was a perfect sissy drink for him. We may try one of their Asian mains next – A was eyeing one of the North Indian offerings, but I think I’ll stick with their tapas.

A says:

Surprisingly good. And sizable portions. It’s definitely an option for when we hit the Esplanade next.

Sevenatenine
#01-10/12 The Esplanade
Tel: 6338-0789
Sundays to Thursdays: 5pm to midnight
Fridays & Saturdays: 5pm to 2am

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oso Ristorante

C says:

This is our first time back to Oso since they moved to their current swanky premises at Bukit Pasoh Road, from their original, slightly more humble beginnings on Tanjong Pagar Road. They are now located next to Absinthe, with the ground floor being a bar area and the dining area upstairs.

The UOB Chef’s Creation menu sounded pretty decent – chicken liver pate, mullet roe pasta, truffle risotto, meat or fish, and dessert. But because we had heard so much about the burrata there, we decided to forego the UOB menu and went for a la carte options instead.


We shared the burrata to start, as well as an item from the Summer Truffle promotional menu – scallops with shaved black truffle and white asparagus. The burrata was quite deconstructed – a large square platter with a whole burrata, with sliced tomatoes served separately, and the salt and pepper was also separate for you to sprinkle according to your preference. The burrata was good, but I found the one at Valentino’s to be much better. The one here was served a bit too cold, and wasn’t as creamy and oozy inside as Valentino’s. Also, the inside was almost cottage cheese-like in texture, and taste-wise it was like cream cheese. Maybe I’m just used to the one at Valentino’s as a benchmark.


The scallop dish looked very impressive, but seemed to lack any sort of distinct flavour. The black truffle didn’t really taste of anything at all, nor did the white asparagus, and the scallops were quite ordinary – the scallops at Ember are definitely better seared and more flavourful. In fact, that became somewhat of a theme throughout dinner – everything was ok, but we’ve had better versions of each dish elsewhere.


I ordered the roasted venison loin (after passing on the risotto on account of too much cream and carbs in the rest of our selections), which was tasty but slightly tough.


No thanks to Anthony Bourdain, who has waxed lyrical about the delicious simplicity of a simple aglio olio pasta with shaved bottarga (cured mullet roe), we decided to order the tagliolini with chilli, lemon and shaved bottarga here. Because of the combination of flavours, this tasted disconcertingly like a hae bee hiam pasta from Relish/Wild Rocket – good but certainly not what we had in mind when we ordered it.


We shared a panna cotta with black pepper caramel for dessert, and finally this was something that we were actually quite impressed with. The panna cotta was quite light, and though it sounded a bit strange, I really liked the black pepper caramel sauce.

Maybe it was what we ordered, but all in all, I think I was just slightly disappointed because I expected more.

A says:

Good food. Good service. And if you don’t order too many of the specials, it isn’t really astronomically priced.

I still wouldn’t say it’s my favourite though.

Oso Ristorante
46 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6327-8378
Lunch : 12pm - 2:30pm (Mon - Fri)
Dinner : 6:30pm - till (Mon - Sat)
http://www.oso.sg/

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spruce Taqueria

C says:

After reading so many reviews of this Spruce offshoot, singing its praises and heralding it as the greatest thing since sliced bread, we took the opportunity to try it for lunch today, since we had the afternoon off work (the Taqueria is only open on weekdays from 12 to 3).

It certainly was not what I expected. I thought it operated from the same premises as Spruce, but it turns out it’s within the same compound but slightly further up the hill. Honestly, being a Spruce establishment, I was expecting something with at least some chi-chi vibe, so the reality couldn’t have been further from what I imagined.

It’s literally just a shack, almost like a trailer. A couple of metal tables and chairs are outside, and there’s also a bar counter lining one side of the trailer. You place your order at a window, and a lone cook fires up your tacos inside.

We started off with 2 sets – one with a pork carnitas (a traditional pulled pork) quesadilla, and one with grilled snapper tacos – both served with a drink, tortilla chips and salsa, for $9 each.


I wanted to try the snapper taco because I’ve read so much about Californian fish tacos so I thought I’d find out what the fuss was about. I think it’s an acquired taste, because although this was quite good, it didn’t really blow me away. I think I expected something a little more fresh and clean tasting, and I found the snapper quite heavily spiced and seasoned.


The quesadillas were hot pockets of cheesy goodness. They were crisp, tasty and just the right amount of cheesy without being overwhelmingly heavy.

Both sets come with freshly fried tortilla chips and home made salsa. Their chips were really good – hand cut, rustic and actually pretty healthy-tasting. I would’ve liked the salsa a little spicier, but the guacamole on the tacos was delicious.

As usual, our eyes were too big for our stomachs. When the sets arrived they looked quite small, so we promptly ordered a la carte servings of chicken heart quesadillas (the daily special), a beef tongue taco, and a short rib taco. Both the heart and the tongue had a good texture, but I liked the juicy tenderness of the slow-cooked short rib. We polished everything off and were too full to have a proper dinner. The tacos are deceptively heavy, since each is made with 2 flour tortillas, a generous dollop of guacamole and stuffed quite full of your chosen topping.

After trying supposedly authentic tacos (i.e. not from Taco Bell), I think I find them a little too heavy and doughy for my liking, which is probably why I prefer the thinner, crispier quesadillas. If we’re ever here again, I’d like to try the quesadillas with mushrooms and roasted poblano chiles. But given the option, I think the tuna tartare at Spruce Restaurant has a louder siren call than anything at the Taqueria.

A says:

The fact that it’s at the top of the hill and not the Spruce restaurant itself threw me off. But the laidback kiosk and picnic table setup won me over.

The tacos are great value at just $3 each. The quesadillas are expensive at $6 each but taste so much better. Also, the watermelon & lime drink is worth a try but it’s not really my thing.

The short opening hours are a bit of a pain, but we’ll definitely be back if the opportunity comes up.

Spruce Taqueria
320 Tanglin Road
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm (weekdays only), closed on public holidays

Monday, August 09, 2010

Takeout pizza from Al Borgo

C says:

We rounded off a lazy National Day weekend by getting a couple of the pizzas at Al Borgo to go. They have quite a wide selection of interesting pizza pairings – a whole page each of tomato-based pizzas and white pizzas.


We tried one of each. The tomato pizza was in the form of a pancetta pizza. Yes, this may have been predictable but it was still very good. They’re very generous with their toppings, and this came loaded with cubes of smokey bacon.


The white pizza we tried had sliced beef, porcini mushrooms and gorgonzola. This slightly more unlikely pairing was also quite yummy, if a tad on the rich side. The beef was tender, and again they were very liberal with their ingredients.

The pizzas here are somewhere in between thin crust and Rocky’s-style normal crust. As a result, a 12-inch pizza can get quite filling, and after polishing off 2 fully loaded ones, I felt absolutely ill that night.

At around $20 per pizza, this is good value for money given the sheer amount as well as quality of the toppings. Just don’t expect the most refined execution.

A says:

Very good. And very filling with a generous helping of toppings. It’s not the absolute best in terms of taste, but probably the best in terms of overall combination of size, quality and value.

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)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Pudong Kitchen revisited

C says:

We dragged W and M to Pudong for lunch today, after finding out that W used to frequent the place (albeit quite a while ago) with her folks. Turns out that the dishes that caught our eye from a neighbouring table during our last visit are actually some of the house specials – the stir fried eel, and the edamame with preserved vegetables.


Apart from a few slightly bony pieces, I really liked the eel. It reminded me of the claypot eel dishes I used to have during my childhood, at old school restaurants like the one at the old Hotel Equatorial. The one at Pudong isn’t served in a claypot and is lighter on the garlic, but that suits me fine. The eel wasn’t fishy at all, and the whole dish just had a very simple yet umami feel to it.


I was slightly disappointed with the edamame dish, because originally it’s supposed to come with bean curd skin “tagliatelle”. Instead, I think they were out of bean curd skin so they served the dish with konnyaku tagliatelle instead. Flavours were still good but the chewy texture of the konnyaku threw me off slightly.


We ordered the lion’s head, which essentially is meat balls with stewed cabbage. The dish is so named because it’s traditionally served as one big meat ball, surrounded by the stewed cabbage, hence giving the appearance of a lion’s head complete with a huge mane. It deviates from the norm somewhat here, with a few smaller meat balls mixed together with the cabbage. This was quite good but I found it a little too sweet. I would have preferred it slightly more savoury.


We had to have the xiao long bao and the guo tie, and at the last minute we also ordered the scallion pancake, which was one of the best dishes of the day (after the eel...). The pancake was crisp and not oily, nor did it overwhelm with too much spring onion.

Overall, while I wasn’t disappointed, I can’t say that I was especially impressed. Plus service wasn’t exactly stellar and some of the dishes took absolutely ages to arrive. More importantly, I think it’s going to be an uphill task trying to convince A to come back.

A says:

It’s ok, but still quite expensive, and I’m not sure if it’s really a destination restaurant. Maybe if we feel like some “Chai-neese” after work, but that’s about it.

Pudong Kitchen
271 Bukit Timah Road
#B1-02 Balmoral Plaza
Daily: 11 am to 2.30 pm; 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm

Friday, August 06, 2010

Wild Rocket

C says:

The last time we came to Wild Rocket together for a non-brunch meal was more than 4 years ago, when it first opened. Since then, it’s grown by leaps and bounds, from a fairly humble local restaurant to a bona fide dining destination for foodies the world over.

I must admit we weren’t tremendously impressed during our first visit, and over the years much preferred their burger and brunch items at Relish instead. Recently though, A and I came here separately for work events, admittedly spurred on by its growing international acclaim and honourable mention in the New York Times. That’s when we realised what the fuss was really about, and made a point to come back together for a timely return visit.

At dinner, you can either order a la carte, or have tasting portions of some of the highlights of the menu. There’s either a 4-course set dinner, or a 6-course tasting menu. If you order the latter, there’s a minimum of 2 per table. I would recommend the tasting menu, as it offers a good introduction to the “Modern Singaporean’ aspect of Wild Rocket. It’s a very reasonable $72 for the 6-course tasting menu, but as an added sweetener, that same menu also counts as the UOB Chef’s Creation menu, so you can get it for $128 per couple till 31 October 2010.


The amuse bouche (not part of the 6 courses) was a kueh pie tee cup filled with truffle shitake mushrooms. A preferred the laksa pesto pie tee that he had when he came for lunch, but give me anything with truffle and mushrooms and I’m a happy girl.


First course was a chicken consomm√© with their take on a Foochow fishball – a tang yuan (glutinous rice ball) filled with minced meat. The texture was slightly stickier than I would’ve preferred, but maybe because mentally I was expecting the texture of a fishball instead. The consomm√© was bordering on salty but very flavourful.


Next up was baby octopus salad with a Chinese miso panna cotta. Each individual element was good, but eaten together (as you’re advised to), all the flavours really came together. The panna cotta left a very lingering, familiar taste – salty yet almost buttery, and till now I still can’t pinpoint what it reminded me of.


The pasta course was A’s favourite – cannelloni filled with tau yew bak (soy braised pork) ragout. The sauce had a very rich deep flavour, the meat was tender, and the sprinkling of slightly burnt cheese on the pasta was a winner.


The fish course was very interesting – roasted Chilean seabass with winged beans, prepared with a light cincalok (fermented shrimp) sauce. The fish was moist and perfectly cooked. To me, I think this dish was the most creative of the night, and seemed to really define what Wild Rocket is all about, and what it’s come to stand for – Chef Willin Low mixing Western and Asian ingredients with flavours that we’re all used to, but prepared in completely unexpected ways.


In comparison, the meat course almost took a back seat (this also seemed to be the general opinion when I had my team dinner here). They seem to be much more adept at their fish courses than their meat ones. Tonight we had seared ribeye served with kalian and oyster sauce. It was good, especially the charred fatty bits of steak, but I found the meat slightly chewy and overall the flavours didn’t impress as much as the previous dishes.



Finally, dessert. The tasting menu came with a Lychee Martini White Chocolate Tart, which A had. I changed my dessert to the one on the 4-course menu – a deconstructed Salted Caramel Kaya Banoffee Pie (do you blame me...?). It cost $2 to switch but it was worth every cent. I found mine far superior to A’s. Sure, the tart was quite good and at least the sweetness of the white chocolate didn’t overwhelm the fairly pronounced lychee martini flavour. But everything in mine was fabulous, from the gula melaka whipped cream to the caramelised biscuit chunks to the caramel and banana. If I had one criticism, it was that they could still afford to push their caramel just a tad saltier. But maybe that’s just me.

I’m very impressed after tonight’s dinner. The cooking doesn’t try too hard, and kudos to them for taking the “Mod-Sin” concept but not overdoing it or falling on the wrong side of gimmicky. At the heart of it all, it’s still just simple flavours, executed well. We’ll definitely be back.

A says:

Great! Although I still wouldn’t call it my favourite restaurant. I don’t know why it’s taken so long for us to return.

Wild Rocket @ Mount Emily
Hangout Hotel
10A Upper Wilkie Road
Tel: 6339-9448
Lunch: 12 noon to 3 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm
Sunday Brunch: 11.30 am to 3 pm
Closed Mondays
http://www.wildrocket.com.sg/

Monday, August 02, 2010

Keisuke Tokyo

C says:

When we visited Parco at Millenia Walk on a Monday evening after work, we were stunned to find that the two ramen joints – Keisuke and Nanntsutei – which are renowned for having snaking queues on weekends, were practically deserted. We were going to make our decision based on the lack of a queue, but since both were empty, we decided on Keisuke because they have a crab stock ramen that was billed as a limited item.

Keisuke’s ramen is quite different from the usual sort that we’ve come to expect. Instead of pork bone or chicken broth, here they specialise in shrimp broth and now, crab stock as well. We both ordered the special crab ramen – me because it’s the sole reason I chose Keisuke tonight, and A because there wasn’t anything else on the menu that he fancied.


I was quite surprised when the bowls arrived; I guess I expected more of a lobster bisque type of broth, but instead it was really thick – a bit like the consistency of lor mee... With lor mee not being one of A’s or my favourite foods, it was with some trepidation that I took the first mouthful.

Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the noodles were slightly thicker than expected, almost like hokkien mee yellow noodles, but after you taste the crab stock you realise why the normal thinner noodles just won’t cut it. The crab stock is so thick and flavourful that thinner noodles would just get lost in it, and won’t be able to stand up to the potency of the stock.

The stock itself tasted like a whole boatload of crab shells had been crushed, made into stock and further reduced to distil the very essence of crab. The flavours are certainly not shy, but I really got into this and surprisingly, so did A.

We had it with the half boiled egg but next time perhaps I’ll try the prawn wantons instead. On hindsight they’re famous for prawn ramen, so I guess their prawn wantons will be good too.

A says:

Very interesting. Flavours are good but the texture is just too much like lor mee for my liking. And considering the rest of the menu is from prawn stock, it’s not high on my list of places to revisit.

Oh, I must add that the service is excellent too.

Keisuke Tokyo
9 Raffles Boulevard
#P3-02 Parco Marina Bay
Tel: 6337-7919
Open daily: 10.30 am – 9.30 pm