Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hot and Spicy Nasi Lemak

C says:

In contrast to the lacklustre First Soup House [  ], the nasi lemak place next door was a pleasant surprise. It looks quite unassuming from outside, but inside it's decked out in full on Balinese style, and run like a well oiled machine.

They have a selection of nasi lemak sets as well as an a la carte menu with other items like noodles and fried rice.

They asked if we wanted keropok to start with, which I'm a sucker for. A huge plate arrived, but they assured us that we could doggy bag whatever we couldn't finish. The fish keropok was very fresh, tasty and not oily at all. Not bad at all, for $2.

 A had the sambal squid set, and I had the sambal petai. The default sambal that comes with each set is disappointing - neither sweet nor spicy, it was just very bland. The sambal for the squid, on the other hand, was really good. Just spicy enough, and the squid was very tender. The petai and ikan bilis was also tasty but a bit on the oily side.

The rice was good - very fragrant and coconutty. The fried chicken wings were a bit too battered and seasoned for my liking; we may try their roasted chicken wing next time.

We'll definitely be coming back here. In fact, I'm already hankering for more of the fish keropok. It was surprisingly packed on a weekend evening – proof that this is indeed a not-so-hidden gem.

A says:

Very good. Not cheap, all things considered (around $5-7 for a set plate of nasi lemak) but it’s pretty worth it for the air-con, service and quality of most of the ingredients.

Hot & Spicy Nasi Lemak
438 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 6778-4615
Open daily: 7.30 am – 4 am

Sunday, June 24, 2012

First Soup House

C says:

At the end of Pasir Panjang road, towards the Clementi side, there are a few eating places - a Teochew bak kut teh place called First Soup House, and a nasi lemak place called Hot and Spicy Nasi Lemak.

They sell the peppery bak kut teh, not the herbal kind, but we're quite discerning about our bak kut teh and this is nowhere near the standard of our favourites, Founder and Song Fa.

The soup is a tad too sweet, and they add either coriander or tang oh, both of which I really don't like. The pork ribs are quite tender but not particularly meaty, so $8 per bowl of 3 ribs doesn't get you much meat.

The giam chye isn't pretty salty and not garlicky enough - basically, not Founder's giam chye.

This isn't all bad, as long as you take it at face value and don't compare with any others. If I were yearning for something soupy close to home, this'll do.

A says:

Not very good. Pass.

First Soup House
6 Clementi Road, #01-06
Tel: 6779-6966

Friday, June 22, 2012

Osteria Mozza

C says:

After we got a prelude to the potential of the cheeses here at our visit to the Pizzeria, we finally made our way on Friday evening to try the more formal Osteria. It's worth noting that although it's definitely less casual than the Pizzeria, it's still not prohibitively fancy. There's still a reassuring hum of activity, and the vibe isn't too forced or proper.

There's a Chef's Tasting Menu available, at $128 for 6 courses, but we were quite fine dined out after St Pierre so we opted for a la carte. Besides, we were really here for the cheese.

They have a dedicated Mozzarella Bar, with burrata, buffalo mozzarella and other varieties in all sorts of interesting dishes and combinations. After much thought, we decided on one burrata, and one classic buffalo mozzarella.

We tried the burrata with grilled asparagus, guanciale (smoked pork jowl, similar to pancetta) and almonds. I was slightly disappointed that the burrata was just in the form of a slice placed on top of the asparagus. Not quite the flavour overload of the burrata at Valentino then, but pretty good nonetheless. 

We ordered the buffalo mozzarella with 4 condiments - pesto, salsa romesco, black olive tapanade and a caper relish, served with grilled crostinis. Surprisingly, the buffalo mozzarella was better than the burrata. It had much more flavour and texture, and went really well with the pesto and caper relish in particular.

They nicely split the primi portion of pasta for us when they heard that we were sharing. We were torn between a capellini with chicken liver and black truffle, and the one we eventually ordered - the spaghetti with lemon and white anchovies. Because we ordered a main that had chicken liver sauce, we decided that the lemon and anchovy one would provide a better contrast.

I liked the acidity of the pasta, but A found it too tart for his liking. My colleague D, who I only found out much later was also there at the same, had the chicken liver pasta and raved about it. Dammit.

We shared the guinea hen crostone with chicken liver sauce. A piece each of breast and thigh was placed on top of a large crostone, and drenched with a rich sauce of chicken livers. It was topped with a salad of flat leaf parsley, which helped to lighten the dish somewhat, though it was still pretty rich. 

We were pretty full but because the pastry chef in charge of Mozza globally is Nancy Silverton, somewhat of a celebrity in the pastry world, we figured we had to try at least one dessert.

Most of the options didn't really call to us, so we went with the olive oil cakes with an olive oil gelato. They were quite heavy handed with the salt, but apart from that it was a surprisingly light and refreshingly different dessert. The cakes were light and moist, and went well with the gelato.

Overall food was good, but for the price (budget about $100 per person) I'd still rather go to Esquina.

A says:

Good cheese and pasta. Interesting desserts. So-so secondis. I’d say it’s an alright option for a $100 per pax meal at MBS, but it isn’t exactly top of my list.

Osteria Mozza
10 Bayfront Avenue
Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688-8522
Open daily: Noon to midnight

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saint Pierre

C says:

While St Pierre is still part of "chef in black" Emmanuel Stroobant's restaurant group, he now only holds a consulting position; chef de cuisine is now Leandros Stagogiannis, who was previously at now defunct FiftyThree.

Besides an a la carte menu, there are two tasting menus - a 6 course Classic menu for $128, and a 10 course Degustation menu for $148. The Classic menu is just that - traditional dishes and preparations which sound yummy, but perhaps slightly predictable. The Degustation sounded a lot more experimental, so we decided to give that a go.

We were served 2 amuse bouches - the first was a spherification of pesto and tomato, and the next was a shot glass of langoustine puree and beetroot caviar.

I couldn't photograph the first course, because it was prepared tableside and we had to eat it straightaway, but basically the waiter used a siphon to squirt some tomato mousse onto a spoon, then immersed that in liquid nitrogen to blast freeze it. It tasted interesting but I found it a bit on the gimmicky side.

Next was razor clams with a tomato and coriander salsa with fennel, yam crisps and edible flowers. Again, this was just ok, since the salsa all but overwhelmed the razor clams, and at this stage we didn’t have a good feeling for the rest of the meal.

However, from the third course everything changed. Called Langoustine, this had poached then grilled langoustine with a langoustine consommé gelee, cucumber and onions. The consommé had loads of flavour, but what really blew me away was the langoustine. It was just barely yet perfectly cooked, yet it had a distinct charred smokiness from the grill.

Next was a foie gras parfait with brioche, raisins and a fig-port reduction. This was intensely flavourful and wonderfully creamy.

Champignon was next – an ode to all thing mushroom with seared king oyster mushroom, pickled shimeji, enoki and cep puree. This was a tad on the salty side, but there were morsels of Chinese pear to cut through all the umaminess of the mushrooms.

The escargot course came with sautéed snails drenched tableside with a garlic butter sauce, garlic scented oat “soil” and a fresh green salad. This was the second to last savoury course, and the meal was really well paced because both A and I started feeling full at the same point – just as we finished this course.

The Porc dish is the chef’s take on satay – barbequed iberico pork with leek dumplings and pomegranate seeds. The dumplings were a bit like rosti and surprisingly good, and the pork was wonderfully cooked; really tender, with just the right amount of charred fat at the ends.

The first sweet course was sweetcorn with yogurt and a cherry-almond sorbet. This was a good in-between course, because there were considerable salty elements to ease our palate from savoury to dessert.

Dessert was a carrot parfait with coconut ice cream, coconut crumble and mint oil. This was a bit too unconventional for me, but I appreciate their creating a non-chocolate, typical dessert.

It's sad that $148 per person is considered cheap these days, but the influx of celebrity restaurants like Waku Ghin, Joel Robuchon and even home-grown Andre have resulted in $300+ per head being par for the course. I really can't bring myself to fork out that much on a meal, and I'm glad that there are still restaurants like St Pierre that offer good food and a pleasant dining experience, at prices that don't break the bank. 

A says:

I’d still say $148 per pax is expensive. But for the amount of high quality dishes and impeccable service, I’d highly recommended this for a special occasion.

We’ll be back once the wallets have sufficiently recovered.

Saint Pierre
3 Magazine Road
#01-01 Central Mall
Tel: 6438-0887
Mon – Fri: noon – 3 pm; 7 pm – midnight (last order 9.30 pm)
Sat: 7 pm – midnight (last order 9.30 pm)
Closed Sunday

Taste Paradise

C says:

This is probably the last Paradise Group outlet that we hadn't tried (not counting their catering and seafood joints). We started a long weekend of decadent excess with a dim sum lunch at the Ion branch.

They have 2 different versions of chicken feet - the ubiquitous black bean sauce version, and one stewed in abalone sauce. I love chicken feet and decided to try the more interesting option.

When the plate arrived I was shocked at the sheer amount. It was a lot of chicken feet for one person to plow through. The sauce was pretty good but I would've preferred if it had been stewed just a little bit longer, so that the cartilege came more cleanly off the bones.

Their liu sha bao (custard lava bun) is a specialty, and for good reason. The filling was really oozy, with a good sweet-salty balance. There was an interesting dim sum with bacon wrapped with tofu skin, and steamed with silken tofu. 

Another interesting dim sum item was fried cheong fun stuffed with eggplant and minced pork. I liked the different textures - the creamy filling, the slightly chewy cheong fun and the crisp exterior of the fried skin.

One of their signature dishes is their XO carrot cake. This has been recreated in many restaurants but their version is definitely a cut above the rest. The carrot cake cubes are full of flavour and really soft and not starchy, and the XO sauce is pretty spicy and packs quite a punch.

We ordered a token vegetable dish in the form of chilled asgaragus with a truffle and mustard vinaigrette. This would've been ordinary but for the very interesting vinaigrette.

We shared a single portion of their chilled ramen with bacon and truffle sauce. This was a bit strange, because the flavours seemed to be more appropriate for a hot dish rather than a cold one.

Overall, I wasn't particularly blown away. Maybe we had to try more of their fusion items to get a better idea of what they're really good at.

A says:

Maybe we should come back for the really expensive dishes if we want to be blown away. But for a regular meal with cheaper dishes, I’d rate it as okay only.

Taste Paradise
2 Orchard Turn
#04-07 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509-9660
Mon – Fri         
11.30 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 11 pm
Sat, Sun & PH  
11 am – 4.30 pm; 6 pm – 11 pm 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Kungfu Paradise

C says:

Kungfu Paradise is probably the most casual outpost in the Paradise Group. Located mainly in heartland malls (though a new one has opened in Bugis+, the renovated Iluma), this is kind of their version of a cha chan teng. It's a bit gimmicky though, with weird dish/food names like Bumger instead of burger, and Babe Rice for their baked rice. Yes...

Their chicken wings were decent, and the Kungfu Bumger, a snack-sized (but larger than a slider) burger with chicken thigh, mayo and a soft burger bun, was pretty tasty.

We went for their fusion pastas. I had the Hokkien Mee one, and A had the chilli crab. Both were ok - mine was a tad salty but pretty flavourful, but A's got a tad goopy after a while. The laksa pasta that A's brother ordered was actually the best.

They have such a large selection that you're quite spoilt for choice. Service was choppy though - they're generally polite, but also a bit blur. They missed an entire section of our order, and food arrived at erratic intervals. Quality is ok for the price (budget about $20 - $30 per person), but I'm not sure it's worth a long wait in line. One good thing is that they're open quite late (4 am on weekends), so they're a viable option if you have late night hunger pangs.

A says:

There are some interesting dishes such as the surprisingly tasty laksa vongole pasta. And overall, the food is good for the price range, but really, it’s not worth the wait. And the coffee is awful.

Kungfu Paradise
2 Jurong East Central 1
#01-07 JCube
Tel: 6684-4606
Mon – Thurs: 11 am – 2 am
Fri and eve of PH: 11 am – 4 am
Sat: 10 am – 4 am
Sun: 10 am – 2 am 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Fatboys at Pasir Panjang

C says:

Fatboys comes to the West! This home-grown burger chain’s other outlets are at Upper Thomson and Joo Chiat, and a few weeks ago they opened one along Pasir Panjang Road, opposite the Pasir Panjang food centre/MRT station. Finally, no more excuse for us not to try their burgers.

Fatboys offers both a large range of interesting gourmet burger flavours, as well as the option for you to build your own burger at their Burger Bar, which allows you to select the bun, patty, toppings and sauces. This being our first visit, we decided to try their flavour combinations first, and save the bespoke burgers for another time.

I ordered the Bushtucker, which comes with a beef patty, bacon, arugula, beetroot, swiss cheese and garlic aioli. I forgot to ask for the burger to be done medium rare, but it needn't have mattered because it still arrived pretty juicy and done medium. Overall, this was a very good combination, though the beetroot was a bit more like a red cabbage slaw. The bacon in particular was proper fatty bacon with a bit of rind. Old school and delicious.

A had the Wimpy, which is a single patty version of their best-selling double patty Fat Basterd burger. It comes with bacon, cheddar cheese, a fried egg and their special sauce, all on a sesame seed bun. For variety, we decided to try it with the lamb patty.

This would've outshone mine, if not for the tiny bone fragments in the patty. It was a shame because the meat itself was really flavourful, but the bone bits were really quite disconcerting. We brought this to their attention, in case it was meant to be this way (for texture, perhaps...?), but the waitress apologised and said they'd feedback to their suppliers because it was definitely not intentional.

Despite that setback, we were pleasantly surprised by the meal here. The build your own burger has enough choice to keep me busy for at least a few more visits. I want to try their grilled chicken, pork and salmon patties, and I'm looking forward to coming up with all sorts of complementing flavour combinations.

A says:

Good food. Good service. Good times. Pity about the bony chunks I found in the lamb burger patty. And the milkshake’s a bit thick for my liking. I’m one of those weirdoes who likes thin milkshakes.

But overall, a great option for a good burger if you’re in the area.

Fatboys (Pasir Panjang)
122 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 6471-3224
Mon to Thurs: 12 noon to 10 pm
Fri to Sun: 12 noon to 12 midnight