Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ramen Champion at T3

C says:

Ramen Champion has just opened a second, slightly scaled-down, outlet at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. (Yes, that’s the terminal that’s connected to the MRT’s East-West line.) We were here on Wednesday night for a sending-off mission, and thanks to Ramen Champion, didn’t have to endure soul-less airport food.

There are only 4 stalls here, compared to 6 at Iluma. It’s also a bit of a cop-out because out of those 4, 2 of them are Gantetsu and Ikkousha, which also feature at Iluma. So you’re essentially left with just 2 new contenders – Riki and Gensuke. Riki serves Jiro-style ramen, similar to my favourite Bario, and Gensuke is Hakata style using thin noodles, a chicken-based broth and interestingly, chicken chashu.

I’m not a huge Hakata ramen fan, so we both went with Rika, and I also ordered a side of chicken wing gyozas. The chicken wing gyozas were quite interesting – they were like Thai-style stuffed chicken wings, only the filling was a gyoza filing. Pretty innovative, I thought.

I seriously love the Jiro-style of ramen. It’s topped with a mountain of beansprouts and cabbage, and the chashu is sliced rustically thick, not thin delicate slices that disintegrate by the time you stir everything up. The broth is cloudy with garlic, and I think a hearty dose of some good ol’ pork fat as well.

This is not for the faint-hearted – it packs a serious punch and portions are huge after you’ve made your way through all the vegetables. I really enjoyed this while eating it, and I think it’ll probably appeal to more people than Bario, because it doesn’t have the thick chewy noodles that Bario uses (which I actually happen to prefer). Having said that, the overdose of garlic really affected us after – I was gassy all night, and A even had a minor nosebleed, probably from the heatiness.

And I should also point out that I was mistaken. Earlier I mentioned that I wanted either Bario or Taishoken to win, so that we’d have something new in Singapore in the form of tsukemen or Jiro-style ramen. Well, it turns out that a few old school places do already serve one, if not both, styles – apparently at Menya Shinchan at Robertson Quay and Miharu at Gallery Hotel. Still, that’s just a handful compared to the plethora of miso and tonkotsu ramen joints. Once we recover from this recent ramen overdose, we’ll give them a try.

A says:

If you can handle your garlic, then the Riki ramen is awesome. Great char siew too. If I can’t have my tsukemen (dipping style) ramen from Taishoken or Tetsu, then this would be my choice. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lucky Peach

C says:

Being fanboys of Anthony Bourdain, who himself is a die hard fan of Momofuku's David Chang, we knew we had to get our hands on the new food quarterly Lucky Peach, which is a collaboration between, amongst others, David Chang and the guys behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations - Zero Point Zero Productions. The first issue completely sold out during its first printing but McSweeney's, the publisher, has recognised the demand and reprinted enough to hopefully satisfy eager readers.

Simply put, the magazine is just downright cool. It's actually less like a magazine, and more like a collection of food essays. It's printed on thicker stock, isn't comprised of advertisements, and has quirkier features and illustrations compared to regular food magazines. There’s even a recipe written completely in haikus.

The first issue is dedicated to ramen, and guest contributors include Wylie Dufresne, Anthony Bourdain and Ruth Reichl. The writing tone is equal parts informative and irreverent, but always entertaining.

I've just finished issue 1 but already I can’t wait to start on issue 2. You can order/subscribe directly from McSweeney's website, and in case you're wondering, yes they accept international credit cards and ship internationally.

A says:

This is not light reading. But then, nothing from McSweeney’s is. Still, it makes highfalutin culinary concepts much more accessible. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pizzeria Mozza

C says:

Mozza at Marina Bay Sands is Mario Batali's contribution to our celebrity chef dining scene. Comprised of a pizzeria and the more formal Osteria Mozza, a table at Pizzeria Mozza at a half decent hour is almost impossible to snag at short notice. We tried a few times in the past, only to be told that the only available table was at 10 pm or something ludicrous like that.

On Thursday though, we were at MBS for Wicked, which ended just in time for us to nip across and get a table at 10.30. The place closes at midnight, and last orders are at 11.

Since it was late, we took this as an intro to what they have to offer. We'll come back again soon to sample more.

They have a selection of bruschettas - I ordered the chicken liver one, which comes with a slice of crisped pancetta atop each one. The livers were roughly chopped, and I like how they added parsley and lemon, which cut through the otherwise jelak-ness of the liver and brightened the whole dish.

The texture of the pizza here is interesting. The crust isn't super thin, yet it's not thick and doughy either. It's probably quite a high-yeast dough and baked at really high heat, because the edges get very puffed up and crispy. There are quite a number of interesting combis, but we went for something light - the burrata pizza with slow roasted tomatoes and thyme.

The burrata itself was excellent, so much so that we just deconstructed it and had the burrata on its own. The pizza wasn't too bad either; they have a white anchovy one, and one loaded with ther house-made cured meats that I wouldn't mind trying.

A couldn't resist dessert; we decided on a caramel sundae with caramel ice cream, marshmallow sauce and salted peanuts. This was pretty good. The marshmallow cream was quite sweet but the peanuts added a nice element of saltiness.

Food was pretty good in general, but the one thing that stood out was the burrata. When we walked out we peeked at the menu for Osteria, and their dedicated Mozzarella section is now calling to me. 

A says:

I like the pizza but it’s definitely not for people who don’t like eating the crust. The desserts are interesting but maybe I’ll go for a conventional ice cream next time.

Pizzeria Mozza
#B1-42/46 Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: 6688-8522
Daily: noon to midnight

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oriole Coffee Roasters

C says:

Jiak Chuan Road seems to be the newest culinary kid on the block. A tiny lane off Keong Saik Street, it's home to 2 new establishments that opened within weeks of each other - Esquina, a tiny tapas bar, and Oriole Coffee Roasters.

This Oriole outlet comprises mainly a coffee roasting facility, but they also serve old school breakfasts, snacks and cakes.

We tried both their egg dishes - a truffle scrambled egg served with tomatoes and toast, and a pair of 63 degree eggs served with toast soldiers and premium light soy sauce - basically, a high end version of that coffee shop staple.

The scrambled eggs had a nice truffle aroma when they arrived, but they were quite generic hotel-buffet style scrambled eggs - slightly overcooked so the egg forms visible curds rather a smooth creaminess.

I quite liked my soft boiled eggs. I asked for a dark soy sauce and while they accommodated, they also diplomatically suggested that I try it with the light soy instead. They were right; the light soy sauce was actually more mellow and paired better with the eggs.

Their home made kaya toast with butter wasn't too bad, but again I don't think they were vast improvements over what you can get at your local coffeeshop. Their coffee is excellent though. The cappuccino was smoother and more mellow; the piccolo latte I ordered was quite strong and a tad less drinkable.

I would come back here for the coffee, but I don't think the food alone warrants a special trip.

A says:

Great coffee. The food’s pretty good, but really nothing to shout about. Just go if you want good coffee.

Oriole Coffee Roasters
10/10A Jiak Chuan Road
Tel: 6224-5448
Mon to Fri: 10 am – 6 pm

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dim Sum at Paradise Pavillion

C says:

I had one last voucher that I got from signing up for the Paradise Group privilege card - $25 off weekend dim sum lunch (with a minimum spend of $60). We didn’t have a stellar first visit here, but since we had the voucher we thought we’d give their dim sum a try. I’m glad we did – their dim sum offerings were far more impressive than the peking duck and other a la carte dinner dishes that we had previously.

They have quite a comprehensive dim sum menu. In addition to the usual items like siew mais and char siew baos, they have a selection of unique dishes that were interesting and surprisingly very tasty.

We had a char siew snow bun, which I think was steamed then baked so it was light yet slightly crispy outside, with a nice sweet char siew filling. Another interesting bun was a pan fried bun with peking duck, bacon and pineapple. This had so many different levels of flavour, from the smokiness of the duck and bacon to the surprising sweetness of the pineapple. The bun was super soft as well.

The scallop cheong fun was also very good. At most places, the scallop more or less merges with a seafood paste so you can’t really taste anything besides a generic “seafood” flavour, but here the scallop flavour really comes through.

We had a crystal dumpling with peking duck, which was again better than expected. What we were really impressed with however, was the siew mai skewer. They creatively take a couple of siew mais, stick them on a skewer and grill them yakitori-style, complete with a sweetish glaze. This is not for siew mai purists, but I think it really works, because the skin gets a little crispy from the grill, and the sweet (but not cloyingly so) glaze tied everything together.

Their custard buns, with the oozing salted egg lava custard, were slightly disappointing. The filling was good, but the buns were a bit too heavy and dense. We also tried their sesame mochi balls with truffle and chocolate filling. I expected a milk or dark chocolate, but it was actually a truffle-infused melted white chocolate filling that was almost like condensed milk. Definitely an acquired taste, but I like the texture of the mochi.

They’ve somewhat redeemed themselves in my book. I maintain that when they don’t try to overreach themselves with overly fancy fine-dining, and just stick to what they do best, that’s when their food is always satisfying.

A says:

After a disappointing dinner here previously, I was really surprised by how good the dim sum here was. I wouldn’t say it’s very traditional though. My fav dish was the siew mai on skewers. Naise!
Paradise Pavilion
8A Marina Boulevard
#02-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre
Tel: 6509-9308
Lunch: 11.30 am – 3 pm (Mon to Fri); 11 am – 4 pm (Sat, Sun & PH)
Dinner: 6 pm – 11 pm daily

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ci Gusta

C says:

Ci Gusta, an Italian gelato chain, has opened its first Singapore outlet at Anchorpoint, which I thought was quite a surprising choice of venue.

They serve artisanal gelato as well as tenero, which is kind of like a soft serve ice cream. The gelato comes in quite a range of flavours, whereas for the tenero there was only yogurt and mascarpone cheese.

We ordered the waffle with a scoop of salt caramel and one of Donatella - a chocolate hazelnut that tasted like nutella. The salt caramel was good but, like the vast majority of salt caramels out there, could have pushed the boundaries in terms of saltiness.

We tried the crepes with the mascarpone tenero. The mascarpone was really good - tasted a bit like a honey yogurt, and was nice and smooth and not too rich.

Unfortunately, while the ice cream was good, the waffles and crepes were disappointing. Both could've been cooked a bit longer; they were a bit too pale and soggy.

Bottom line? The gelato isn't so good that we'll make a special trip there.

A says:

The yogurt and mascarpone flavours are great. The rest are a bit average. The waffle looks better than it tastes. Luckily, the crepe tastes a lot better than it looks.

Overall, I’d say it’s worth getting some if you’re there, but doesn’t justify a trip.

Ci Gusta
370 Alexandra Road
#01-04, Anchorpoint

Sunday, December 11, 2011


C says:

Time flies so fast it’s scary. We were at Kazu last night with A’s friends, and were really blown away by how absolutely amazing the food was. I can’t believe that our last visit here was back in July 2006. It’s been more than 5 years!

We’ll come back again to take photos and do a proper post, but I was just so impressed that I had to do a quick interim post to highlight some of the best bites of the night.

The cold appetizer of angler fish liver with a ponzu jelly was an interesting choice. The liver had a creamy texture that wasn’t overly unctuous or cloying, and surprisingly didn’t taste fishy at all.
As for the skewers, the chicken hearts rocked. Better than the chicken livers, which were a tad overcooked. The foie gras was excellent too – creamy and well seasoned. There was a pork jaw and apple skewer that was also amazing. The pork was nice and fatty, and the sweet yet tart, slightly charred apple complemented it perfectly.

Dessert completely blew me away. I was expecting to like their salty chocolate ice cream, but wasn’t prepared for the awesomeness of their burnt caramel ice cream. I was literally speechless – it had a wonderful, slightly bitter flavour from the caramel that was scorched just right.

Kazu really takes yakitori to a whole other level; everywhere else just pales in comparison. We’re definitely planning to head back very soon.

A says:

Awesome food and surprisingly great service from our waitress. Definitely will be back once we get over our OD of yakitori. Must have the beef steak and the pork & apple again. If you’re ordering a lot, I recommend ordering the mini-burger and the fois gras, then stuffing the foie into the burger. Yes, I’m a genius. I am also getting very fat. Oh no!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Lawry’s The Prime Rib

C says:

We haven't been to Lawry's in years; to be honest it's never really been on our radar, since prices aren't all that cheap relative to quality. One of A's friends bought us all dinner there on Sunday night for his birthday, so we got to check out the restaurant's relatively new digs in Mandarin Gallery.

Their signature salad is the Lawry's Spinning Bowl salad, so termed because they toss the salad with a signature dressing in a spinning bowl laid over a bed of ice. I guess the ice keeps the greens fresh, and the spinning ensures that each leaf is completely coated in dressing.

I pity the waitresses dressed in the French maid outfits and very unfortunately designed headpieces though. Neither ours nor the one at the neighbouring table did the salad performance with enough conviction to ward off the inevitable snarky comments.

We ordered some starters for the table to share. The seared scallops were ok, but the crab cakes were very impressive.

They're obviously known for their prime rib, but I'm not a fan of slow roasted beef. I tend to prize flavour over extreme tenderness, so I prefer steaks that have a good sear to them but still medium rare inside. I ordered the fillet mignon which was indeed all of the above.

A on the other hand loves prime rib. He had the Lawry's cut, which was 280g, and enjoyed every mouthful. I agree it was good, but I still preferred mine.

Desserts were a bit hit and miss. Their specialty dessert, the crepes suzette which was prepared tableside, was quite underwhelming. The brownie and mud pie were pretty ok though.

There was a slightly awkward moment though, when one of our friends discovered a fly in their red wine. Since we never noticed a fly falling in, we thought it may have come from the bottle. The manager wasn't very apologetic, and kept insisting that it couldn't have come from inside the bottle, and only offered a glass of house red as compensation. It was only after our hostess got quite firm with them, that they relented and either gave a discount off the bill, or didn't charge for the bottle of wine.

So, did this visit change our mind about Lawry's? To be honest, I still maintain that while I'm not averse to going, it still wouldn't be a place that I would consciously choose.

A says:

Lawry’s standard has declined dramatically over the years. While it’s improved somewhat since moving to Mandarin Gallery, I can’t say I’ve been reconverted.

Food-wise, my prime rib was great, and some of the desserts were not bad, but everything else was very ordinary and not worth the price. I guess what you’re paying for is the service with servers dressed up. And honestly, only two of the people serving us were any good. The rest were rather incompetent. Overall, I’d rate this as okay. You could probably consider it if you’re going for a special occasion and you want a bit of drama in the presentation. Just don’t expect too much from anything besides the mains.

Lawry’s The Prime Rib
333A Orchard Road
#04-01/31 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: 6836-3333

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Ramen Champion at Iluma – Part 3

C says:

Finally, Saturday marked our third visit to Iluma's Ramen Champion to try the last contender - Ganttetsu, serving Hokkaido miso ramen. Read about our previous visits here and here. (Iluma is a bit of a mess right now cos they’re renovating, but rest assured that Ramen Champion is still on the 4th floor.)

Their house special is a corn and butter ramen with a special blended miso broth. I expected to really like this, since the first time I tried a miso butter ramen was in Sapporo and I fell in love with it.

For some reason though, this one really didn't float my boat. Perhaps it was their miso blend, or the fact that they added a dollop of minced ginger, but somehow the flavour of the melted butter just didn't quite mesh with the rest of the flavours. The noodles were pretty typical; the char siew was sliced a bit too thin so by the time you mixed everything up, the slices more or less disintegrated.

On a related but separate note, for the first time I felt that same slightly ill, ramen-ed out sensation, that I last experienced after the miso butter ramen we had in Sapporo. Which leads me to the (possibly inaccurate and completely unresearched) conclusion that it's caused by the butter. Strange given that there isn't all that much butter; certainly less than most pasta sauces or even fancy French sauces.

So anyway, we have a winner! Although A's and my choices are different. My vote is a combination of my personal favourite, and a desire to bring in a new style into an already saturated miso/tonkotsu ramen market.

Bario's Jiro-style ramen gets my vote. I love every aspect of it - the broth that's slightly cloudy from minced garlic, the thick chunks of still tender pork belly, the mountain of bean sprouts, the perfectly cooked egg, and even the thicker-than-usual chewy noodles. I even like how they have a half portion of their signature Bario ramen, which is the perfect portion size to satiate your craving without overdoing it.

I submitted my vote in the boxes outside, and just tried voting on Facebook as well. (Actually, I tried to flood the voting channels but you can only submit one vote per Facebook account.) So far, based purely on Facebook votes it appears that Ikkousha has come out tops, with Tetsu in second place. Bario is third and Taishoken is second last.

I find that rather disheartening. I have nothing against Ikkousha, but honestly, do we really need yet another tonkotsu ramen in Singapore? Fine, Bario’s thick noodles may not appeal to everyone, but surely we could all benefit from the introduction of a good tsukemen place? And what better stall than Taishoken, the people who invented the style?

A says:

In order of my personal preference:
1. Tai Sho Ken. I love the light dipping broth. Some may find it salty, but it’s also a refreshing change.
2. Tetsu. The thick dipping broth seemed strange at first but rapidly grew on me.
3. Ikkousha. It’s good, but a bit forgettable compared to the rest.
4. Ganttetsu. I personally find the butter and corn too overwhelming.
5. Bario (didn’t like the noodles)
6. Iroha (Really didn’t like the soy sauce style broth)

Bear in mind that these are based only on each stall’s signature ramens.