Monday, September 23, 2013

Gurney Drive

C says:

As the name suggests, Gurney Drive offers Penang specialties, from char kuay teow to assam laksa. It's a good thing we went when we did, because a few days after our visit, the ceiling collapsed at JEM (which has been riddled with problems since before it even opened), and the mall is now closed indefinitely. We were there with A's folks for a rather early dinner, so we weren't all that hungry and ordered some stuff for sharing that we maybe otherwise wouldn't have.

We ordered a plate of their Penang Lor Bak, which had a portion of ngo hiang and fried tau kwa. I didn't have the tau kwa but the ngo hiang wasn't too bad. The sambal chicken wings were quite disappointing. Despite being described as being marinated with sambal, I could barely taste any sambal at all. In fact, it was just a generic, somewhat tasteless fried chicken wing.

Their "must order" Penang prawn noodle soup wasn't too bad, all things considered, though the soup was a bit thin until you mixed in the chilli paste that came with it.

The sambal seafood grill had its highs and lows. The prawns were quite good but the squid was really rubbbery. And as for the Penang char kuay teow, like the prawn noodle it was quite tasty, but just seemed to lack that extra oomph.

The food generally is decent, and at least prices are fairly reasonable. Service is excellent, which is a rarity these days in chain joints like this. If we ever go back to JEM though, I don't think we'll be making a beeline here.

A says:

The coffee and service are decent. The food is passable. Compared to the other Malaysian-style diners, it's not as good as Old Town, but better than PappaRich (which has good food but horrible coffee). And certainly better than the Singaporean branch of Madam Kwan's (which is bad in every way possible).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

L'Entrecote Express

C says:

Bruno Menard has opened a scaled-down version of his wildy popular L'Entrecote (at Duxton Hill) within the premises of &Made, at Pacific Plaza. Although the decor of the restaurant is now split, with half the restaurant now resembling the cramped bistro-like vibe of the Duxton joint, you can sit anywhere and order off both menus.

Almost all our favourites from the Duxton outlet are available here, with the one exception of the salted caramel waffles. Both the pate and the truffle brie are the same as the original, which is to be expected since I imagine they're probably made/sourced centrally.

Unfortunately, I think the steak frites fell a bit short, compared to the one at Duxton. The shoestring fries were quite tasteless, and the meat too was quite flavourless. At least the sauce seemed constant.

My main grouse isn't with the food, but with the pacing. I guess we were there early and the kitchen didn't have much to do, but having all our food arrive at once - yes, both starters and the main - doesn't seem like a smart thing to do. I don't see why they couldn't have waited to serve the steak. After all, neither the steak nor the fries were served hot, so they could at least have held it back till we were more than halfway done with our starters.

On the bright side, a peek at the &Made menu showed quite a large selection of new burgers, plus a brand new "create your own burger" section. When we come back here, it'll be for &Made, not L'Entrecote.

A says:

The food's good, but the fact that the steak came almost right after the starters kind of threw me off. It's definitely an option only if you're craving French bistro fare around Scotts.

L'Entrecote Express/&Made
9 Scotts Road
#01-04/05/06, Pacific Plaza
Sunday to Thursday 10AM to 10PM
Friday & Saturday 10AM to 10.30PM

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


C says:

Another place that we definitely wouldn't visit without the FAR Card discount, Mikuni took over what used to be Inagiku at Fairmont Hotel. Mikuni has some fairly elaborate set lunches, featuring their signature teppanyaki dishes, but we decided to try their Grand Tasting dinner menu for our first visit. At $220, the menu isn't cheap for what you get, but with the FAR Card 50% discount, it becomes somewhat more reasonable.

Before dinner, we were served some home-made shrimp chips that were quite tasty. First course was a soft tofu with uni and truffle that was pretty good, though the truffle may have overwhelmed the flavour of anything else. The soup course was some sort of a fish chowder, which had a faint bitterness that tasted a bit like fish liver.

The sashimi course was, a bit disappointingly, a seared tuna tataki with garlic chips and ponzu sauce, rather than a proper plate of fresh sashimi. For a supposedly fine dining Japanese restaurant, this seemed like a bit of a cop-out. The garlic chips also overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the fish.

Next up was abalone with sliced eringi mushroom, slathered with a slightly dubious cheesy sauce, served with an edible deep fried baby crab. The braised dish was, to A's horror, a whole braised kinki dish in a sweet soy sauce. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard to debone and eat, and the fish was really fresh and sweet.

Next was tempura of sea prawn, with head and tail included. The texture of the prawn was almost like crayfish or lobster, and of course I appreciated that the head was included. I think the tail section could have been fried a bit more though - the shell near the tail was a bit tougher, so it didn't crisp up enough to be crunched up very easily.

The Kagoshimya Wagyu beef was admittedly delicious. The meat was perfectly cooked and really flavouful. The same couldn't really be said about the Hokkaido corn fried rice though. It was completely bland, and was only edible after we added some miso soup, and the onsen tamago from the soup, to the rice.

Dessert was a fresh momo peach, which I think was a really good, simple way to end the meal.

Was I impressed? Overall, besides the beef, nothing really blew me away, and if not for the 50% discount I would have said it wasn't worth the money. But given how expensive it is to eat out anywhere these days, with the FAR Card discount it's pretty decent. We'll try to come back for their lunch sets and, if time permits, perhaps once more to try their a la carte offerings.

A says:

The food is good, but for the price, I expected to be blown away. Sadly, I was very let down. Totally not worth it.

Level 3, Fairmont Singapore
Tel: 6431-6156
Open daily
Lunch: 12:00pm to 2:30pmDinner: 6:30pm to 10:30pm

Thursday, September 05, 2013


C says:

It's about time we posted about Esquina again. For those of you who are averse to their no-reservations policy, good news - they now accept reservations at lunch time! That, combined with a wallet-friendly set lunch ($33 for 2 courses, $40 for 3), should be more than enough to convert any Esquina cynics.

The set lunch is definitely a great deal - sitting at the counter watching the dishes come out of the kitchen, I can vouch for the fact that just as much care goes into preparing and plating the set lunch dishes as the regular a la carte ones.

A had the gazpacho with black olive burrata and heirloom tomatoes, and I had the slow cooked egg with curried rice and potato foam. A liked his dish because he likes all forms of gazpacho, but my egg and rice dish was exquisite. The curry was pronounced but not overpowering, and the oozy egg yolk from a perfectly slow cooked egg... mmmm.

A's main course was the roasted rump steak, and I had the pan fried snapper with sauteed prawns and a prawn bisque. Mine definitely was much better than A's, which was more ordinary. The snapper was perfectly cooked and really flavourful with the prawn bisque.

We had the same dessert though - the chocolate tea ice cream with a sacher sponge. Pity we couldn't swap the other set lunch dessert (the sliced manchego cheese with toast) to the very enticing-sounding churros on the regular menu. We'll try it next time.

We wouldn't be atetoomuch if we didn't add something to the set lunch selection. We ordered an additional dish - the honey chicken wings with artichoke foam and a bacon and oat crumble. Another classic Esquina-style dish, with intensely flavourful components and a killer sauce.

Quality is still excellent, but I hope it doesn't get too crowded at lunch time now. It's still my default go-to place whenever I have a precious day off work.

A says:

Still my favourite place to eat (lunch) in Singapore.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

New contenders at Ramen Champion

C says:

Ramen Champion at Iluma bid sayonara to Menya Iroha, Aoyama and, more disappointingly, Taishoken, the place that first introduced us to tsukemen. In their place are 3 new contenders - Buta God, with a slightly sweet tonkotsu broth and shabu-style sliced pork rather than chashu, and the two that we tried - Muso, and Menban Yamagishi Kazuo.

Menban Yamagishi Kazuo offers the lone tsukemen offering amongst the 6 current stalls. Unfortunately it's not as good as its predecessor Taishoken. Yes, they're very generous with the chunks of pork in their dipping sauce, and the sauce itself is duly complex with lots of bonito flavour coming through. But somehow it just lacks oomph. I'd rather go to Menya Musashi for tsukemen.

Muso serves the Jiro-style ramen found in Tokyo - characterised by a rich broth, lots of garlic and mounds of vegetables like beansprouts and cabbage. Previously Bario was the only stall here to serve it. So is Muso a worthy competitor?

Unfortunately not. To me, it doesn't even come close to Bario. The broth is simply salty, and doesn't have the depth nor the subtle sweetness of Bario's broth. I happen to like Bario's thicker noodles because I think they go well with the strong flavour of the garlicky broth. And both the beansprouts and the pork at Muso aren't particularly memorable either. I'm definitely staying true to Bario.

For a laugh, I thought I'd share the above photo. This is what happens when A's friend's pretty wife moseys over to Bario, flashes them a smile and asks for "more beansprouts". Heh.

A says:

Meh, my two favourite stalls are gone. And the new ones aren't really doing it for me. Unless I'm going with a big group that wants variety, I'd rather go to Menya Musahi for my tsukemen-style ramen.