Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chinois by Susur Lee

C says:

We're big fans of Susur Lee after watching him on the second season of Top Chef Masters. He was previously a consultant chef for Club Chinois and now he's back, again in partnership with the Tung Lok group, to open Chinois by Susur Lee at Resorts World Sentosa.

Most of you would know that because of A, Chinese food usually isn't quite our thing, and coupled with some lacklustre reviews that we've heard about the place, it definitely wasn't on our to-go list. Still, I had some Tung Lok dining vouchers that I had to use by end September, and when we realised they were valid for the a la carte menu at Chinois, we thought it was the perfect opportunity.

I like the decor - kind of an understated chic. It's classy without seeming too poncey, so you don't feel too out of place if you don't dress up. Having said that, I was quite horrified with the family who, between them, came in wearing torn denim shorts and a plain white tee more suitable for sleeping in.

There are a few set menus available, ranging from $80 to $120 per person, but we had to order a la carte to use the vouchers and I'm glad we did. We got a chance to try and share a bigger variety of dishes. Bear in mind that portions are quite small; we didn't eat all THAT much.

We started with the soya duck tongues with XO chilli sauce. Unlike the ones that we had at Jade Palace, the tongues here didn't have any bone or cartilege. They were perfectly stewed so they were soft but still had some texture, and served with a home made XO sauce and dried chillies. This was extremely tasty and at $10, pretty decently priced.

Their signature dish is a crab claw stuffed with abalone served with an uni sauce, but unfortunately they'd sold out so I'd recommend pre-ordering it when you call for your reservation. We ordered the other uni dish on the menu, a braised uni and asparagus broth that had amazingly complex flavours.

Being a Chinese restaurant, most of their signature dishes are in the seafood rather than the meat category. We ordered two fish dishes, both of which were outstanding. The marble goby with black truffle had an intensely flavourful sauce, from the truffle, garlic and a superior broth base. If we thought that was good, the oven baked cod was even better. It was served with egg white, salted egg yolk and a black vinegar reduction, which was both sweet and tart, that really brought the dish to life.

The baked mushrooms with a morel and soy milk broth were ok. The broth was interesting but the dish as a whole was quite ordinary. What did impress us, was the steamed tofu with preserved vegetable and garlic. It came with a fragrant soy sauce commonly served with steamed or fried fish, and it was so simple but the flavours were excellent.

The roast lamb loin with braised eggplant and jasmine rice was a bit of a letdown. The lamb had quite an overwhelming five spice marinade, and generally this was nowhere near the standard of the fish.

I have to reiterate that portions were small, so at this point A was still hungry. We ordered two more appetisers - a seared foie gras with smoked duck breast, and momotaro tomatoes with crab meat.

The tomatoes were pretty much an elevated crab mayo salad, but the foie gras was very good, especially if you don't like overly fatty foie. Somehow the one here was quite light so it wasn't too rich and jelak.

The dessert menu is quite interesting, with a mix of both Asian and Western desserts like a chocolate lava cake. On hindsight we should have had dessert here rather than the disappointing gelato at Candylicious.

Service was very good, with most of the waitresses able to speak good English. At lunch time they have a Dim Sum menu that looks pretty interesting too. Overall I was very impressed, and prices aren't prohibitive either. The total bill, before our voucher use, was $190, which granted isn't cheap but is no more expensive than a fancy dinner at most non-celebrity restaurants these days. I definitely want to try their dim sum next, and of course their signature crab claw.

A says:

I think the reason some people have been disappointed by this place is because they go expecting their usual Chinese-style meals. So the first thing you should know is that this isn’t going to be your conventional Chinese fare. It’s by no means molecular or fusion, but the flavours are interesting enough to be very unique.

Hits include the duck tongue, foie & duck breast, steamed tofu and the two fish dishes.

Everything else was by no means bad, just a bit mediocre, especially the lamb and tomatoes with crab.

The service is great here. And ambience-wise, the place looks quite classy, yet the atmosphere is fairly relaxed, which may be from the very eclectic customer mix. There were some well dressed patrons mixed with some people who looked like they just got off the boat. Although I hear this is common for restaurants at Resorts World. (I wonder how the Joel Robuchon customers dress).

Overall, a very good experience. I’ll definitely be back at some point, especially for the fish and duck dishes.

Chinois by Susur Lee
Hotel Michael, Resorts World Sentosa
26 Sentosa Gateway, #02-142/143
Tel: 6884-7888
Lunch: 11.30 am to 3 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm to 11 pm

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Roadhouse at Dempsey

C says:

Man v Food fans, we have our own burger challenge right here at Roadhouse in Dempsey - the Terminator, a 1 kg burger consisting of a whopping 5 200g wagyu beef patties. The challenge is to finish the entire burger on your own, including all sides, in under 20 minutes. If you do, it’s free; otherwise you have to pay $48 for the opportunity. Note: if you want to pass on the challenge and just share the Terminator with friends, it actually costs $68.

We had dinner here with A’s friends but everyone chickened out of the challenge in the end. On hindsight, given the size of the portions, I think finishing the burger won't really be a problem; it’s finishing it in the 20 minute period that’ll really be the challenge.

While waiting for everyone to arrive, we had some onion rings and the parmesan buffalo wings. The onion rings were huge, and covered with a thick but still very light batter. The buffalo wings come in 3 spice levels – Hot, Fiery, and Call 995. Needless to say, I went with the Call 995, and was very glad that I did. It had a good level of heat but not unbearably so. Any less than this would’ve been a letdown. I like the added element of parmesan cheese on the wings; added a nice savoury dimension.

A ordered the Juicy Lucy burger, which was a traditional burger with lettuce, tomato and pickles. Clearly they don’t use frozen patties here, because they acceded to our request for medium-rare doneness. I was pretty impressed with the burger – juicy and quite flavourful. I was just a bit surprised that for a 200g patty, it was rather small and not exactly very filling.

I had the Kurobuta BBQ ribs, which are apparently cooked sous vide here so they’re nice and tender. I ordered a half rack, since that’s usually more than enough for me when we have ribs at Tony Romas, Chili’s and the other usual suspect chain restaurants. Clearly, the portions here are not American diner portions because my half rack of ribs consisted of all of 5 ribs in total. They were good though – meaty, tender and glazed with the right amount of bbq sauce that had just the right balance of flavours.

Needless to say, we had room for dessert. A had the mudpie, and I shared a triple nut salted caramel tart with M. I don’t fancy mudpies very much, but the tart was pretty good. Another of our friends had the S’mores pie that was very good, albeit quite jelak, according to him.

Roadhouse definitely has potential, and I think we’re definitely going to return. Interestingly though, 2 of our friends had the same dish – the Chargrilled Monkfish – and had completely different views and experiences. M had nothing but good things to say about hers, that it was perfectly cooked, juicy and seasoned well. P, on the other hand, didn't enjoy it at all, and said hers was overcooked and dry. It’s surprising and slightly worrying that the same dish could elicit such different reactions on the same night, and for the same table.

A says:

The food is good, but the portions are actually quite small. Shockingly so given its reputation for having a 1kg burger. In fact, only the desserts come in impressive portions.

Overall, I like the casual vibe of the place and the service is pretty good so we’ll be back. A word of advice though, try not to sit near the kitchen at the back. You may end up smelling a bit greasy if you hang out too long.

Roadhouse at Dempsey
#01-07, Block 13, Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476-2922

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ippudo Tao

C says:

We’re usually quite slow to jump on the bandwagon of any new establishment. We prefer to give them a while for any kinks and teething problems to be ironed out, and to wait for queues to abate somewhat. Case in point – Ippudo, the ramen joint at Mandarin Gallery where queues of over an hour were par for the course when they first opened.

I’m not sure if the Mandarin Gallery branch still attracts long lines, but they’ve opened a branch called Ippudo Tao at UE Square. This outlet serves ramen as well as yakitori, but the ramen menu isn’t as varied as the one at Mandarin Gallery. Still, I’ll happily trade fewer ramen options for some grilled skewers and most importantly, no queues. We called on Sunday evening and easily got a reservation (I’m not sure if the Mandarin outlet accepts reservations).

We started with a deep fried young corn, since you don’t see that on menus very often. The corn was very lightly battered and topped with some herbed garlic. Interesting but not something we’ll order again, at least not before trying other things on the menu.

As for the yakitori, we tried the tsukune and the pork belly. The pork belly was nice and juicy; as for the tsukune, it was a bit too refined for me. I like my tsukune to have some texture from the chicken cartilage and stuff, but this was too smooth and didn’t have any bite.

We tried the original Ippudo Shiro, which was tonkotsu broth and Hakata-style noodles (thin and straight), and one of the Ippudo Tao specials – the Tao Kuro, with thick chewy noodles served in tonkotsu broth with added miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. I preferred the Shiro, which was lighter yet had a more complex flavour. The Tao Kuro packed more of a flavour punch, but was more one dimensional.

I remembered reading that they serve fresh garlic, but didn’t see any on the table. I asked them about it and sure enough, they brought a dish of garlic cloves and a garlic press. Choose one, stick it into the press and squeeze directly onto your ramen. The fresh garlic really packs a punch so use sparingly. And maybe not on a first date.

Because the ramen here was pretty light, we didn’t feel ramen-ed out the way we sometimes do after a particularly rich bowl of ramen. In fact, I think our ramen fatigue, which has plagued us since Hokkaido, has been somewhat lifted, and now I feel like venturing to Iluma to try the Ramen Champion stalls.

A says:

Great service and very good food. What I especially like is that the ramen isn’t overwhelmingly salty or thick like other places. This is probably going to be my favourite ramen place for a while.

Ippudo Tao
207 River Valley Road
#01-55/56 UE Square
Tel: 6887-5315
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 3 pm; 5.30 pm to midnight
Fri and Sat: Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 3 pm; 5.30 pm to 2 am
Sun: 11.30 am to 11 pm

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Smiths Fish and Chips

C says:

A number of people have raved about the British authenticity of Smiths Fish and Chips, but we were loath to travel all the way to Tanjong Katong Road and hunt for parking, just for fish and chips.

So we were extremely pleased to find out that they recently opened an outlet at Balmoral Plaza. Apparently, so were many others, because the place was packed when we ventured there fairly early on a Saturday evening. We were a bit concerned that we’d either have to stand up and eat, or brave the haze outdoors, but the turnover is pretty quick and by the time the queue moved we managed to snag a table.

It definitely brings to mind an old school English fish and chip shop, just a lot brighter and cleaner. You queue up to place your order, and the portions are served in a completely no-frills manner, wrapped in plain waxed paper. There’s quite a comprehensive menu, from cod to haddock to dory to halibut, as well as sausages, chicken and salmon fishcakes. There’s even baked beans and mushy peas for the sentimental expat longing for a taste of home.

We ordered the cod and the haddock. At $18 and $17 respectively, prices are not exactly cheap. The cod was better than the haddock, in my opinion. The flesh was flakier, more moist and more flavourful. The chips were quite a let down. I know British chips are traditionally thick cut, not the shoestring fries that we’re used to, but a good chip can still be crisp outside and fluffy inside. These were just fried chunks of potato. Needed lots of ketchup, but hey, at least they use Heinz.

All in all, it was a bit underwhelming, and not really worth the price, in my opinion. The fish and chips at Two Fat Men are way better value, and assuming Greenwood Fish Bistro still has their promo of $10 for takeaway fish and chips, I’d much rather have any of those instead.

A says:

The atmosphere’s a bit crowded and chaotic. And the fish & chips we had, even at the $17/18 price range was above average at best. The batter was awesome though. And if I wasn’t concerned about having a heart attack, I’d just order multiple portions of the batter scratchings for $1 each. But overall, there’s nothing here that leaves me with an overwhelming urge to come back.

Smiths Fish and Chips
271 Bukit Timah Road
#01-02 Balmoral Plaza
Tel: 6737-9313
Open daily: 12 noon to 11 pm

Iron Chef Roll Cake

C says:

This is part of Isetan Scotts' Autumn Kyushu Fair, which is on from now till 19 September. Billed as a recipe collaboration with Iron Chef Sakai, it combines a super light sponge cake roll with a creme caramel-like pudding in the centre.

Out of the 4 flavours available, only 2 are pudding rolls - the maple syrup and matcha green tea. Two others are regular roll cakes - plain and chocolate.

We bought the maple syrup pudding roll, which was amazingly light notwithstanding the pudding centre. It had just the right amount of cream, and a distinctive yet not overwhelming maple syrup flavour.

Because of the pudding centre, the shelf life of the cake is at most 2 days, but trust me, it's so good that you won't have any trouble finishing it in less than that.

A says:

Super light, super tasty. The pudding centre is a bit weird at first, but the contrast in textures makes it much more interesting than a normal roll. I might try the green tea one if we’re in the area next week.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hong Kong Street Sin Rong

C says:

We read a pretty good review of this place in The Sunday Times a few weeks ago, and since it’s just a few minutes’ drive from home, we decided to give it a try.

Call us predictable, but we ordered the exact same dishes that were reviewed – the “sum lo” hor fun, Mongolian pork rib and chicken with salted egg yolk.

Sum lo hor fun is the recognisable dish offered at any establishment that also sells fish head bee hoon. A simple mix of fried hor fun, sliced fish and beansprouts, the dish looks deceptively plain but when executed well, it can be extremely tasty.

I was slightly disappointed with the one here. Perhaps I was comparing it to the more famous ones from the Holland Drive XO Fish Bee Hoon (which has since relocated to Dover Crescent) and Ka Soh, but I found the one here a bit lacking in the flavour department. There wasn’t enough gravy coating each strand of hor fun so it dried out pretty quickly, and the hor fun didn’t have enough wok hei. In addition, I found that the sliced fish wasn’t as fresh, and some slices were even un(der)cooked.

They pretty much redeemed themselves with the salted egg yolk chicken though. To me, this dish is a no brainer. I love fried chicken, and I love anything cooked with salted egg yolk. It’s usually prawns or squid, so it’s refreshing to have it paired with fried chicken here. I was totally happy with this, but A was less keen because the chicken wasn’t deboned.

Finally, the article’s third recommended dish was the Mongolian pork rib. This is a bit like the usual zi char staple pai guat wong, but with a twist. The sauce has a hint of cream and other spices, giving it a slight Western slant. The combination of flavours takes a little getting used to, but all in all this was pretty tasty too.

Some hits and misses so far, but overall we had a good impression of the place; enough to make us want to come back to try a number of other dishes on their rather comprehensive menu.

A says:

Not as good as the old Holland Drive/now Dover Crescent XO Fish Bee Hoon place, but still pretty good. Plus they have a much broader menu (and they give you a physical menu that’s easy to read as well). Thumbs up for some casual zhi char in Pasir Panjang.

Hong Kong Street Sin Rong
118 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 6474-7088
Open daily: 10 am to 2.30 pm; 5 pm to 10.30 pm

Friday, September 02, 2011

Chili’s at Resorts World

C says:

A lack of half decent restaurants in Resorts World that were still open at 10 pm led us to Chili's on Friday night.

I've forgotten quite how huge American diner portions are. I shared two half racks of baby back ribs with W, A had his own Country Fried Chicken, and I ordered a portion of Buffalo Wings. We ended up doggy bagging almost all the wings cos it was a struggle to even finish the main courses.

We had a half rack of Original BBQ, and half a rack of Honey Chipotle. The ribs were very meaty and surprisingly pretty tender too. I preferred the Honey Chipotle sauce - it wasn't overly tart or sweet, and had a nice smoky undertone from the chipotle. Most importantly, unlike the BBQ sauce, it didn't drown out the taste of the meat.

The chicken was thicker than usual country fried chicken, but I think that's probably what made it so tender. Not something I'd normally order but it was very juicy and tender and the seasoning was good.

The wings were a bit of a disappointment. The flavours were quite muted, so the buffalo sauce ended up tasting almost like ketchup. I think the wings were also a bit overcooked; they were a bit stringy and not juicy at all.

Still, I guess Chili's has never pretended to be anything other than what it is - a dependable chain restaurant where you can get pretty decent generic fare. And as long as you don't go expecting anything else, you won't be disappointed.

A says:

For what it is – a generic American chain restaurant – it’s great. I like the selection of regular fare like ribs and country fried steak. Too bad they don’t have a decent iced tea.

Resorts World Sentosa
26 Resort Gateway
Tel: 6835-9077
Mon – Thurs: 11.30 am to 10 pm
Fri: 11.30 am to 11 pm
Sat: 11 am to 11 pm
Sun: 11 am to 10 pm