Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oca Grassa

C says:

My faith in beef has been somewhat restored. New(ish) restaurant Oca Grassa on Bukit Pasoh Road is a charming Italian restaurant specialising in beef - specifically, their star dish, the Florentine steak. The menu lists a 1.2 kg cut, but you can ask for an 800g cut which is perfect for 2 people to share.

What sets their steaks apart is their unique technique of both curing and aging them in-house. When we went, they had two different types of Florentine steak available - aged for differing periods of time. We went for the longer one (either 14 or 30 days, sorry can't remember), since I wanted a full-on beefy experience.

The steak is grilled and served on a disc of Himalayan rock salt, imparting even more flavour and char to the meat. It also acts like a hot plate of sorts, and they provide you with an empty plate to transfer meat if you don't want it to carry on cooking. The steak comes with roasted new potatoes, and confit onions and garlic.

Wow. The combination of the curing/aging process and the flavour and char from the salt disc, makes for an intense flavour experience that made me very happy indeed. I enjoyed the sirloin part of the Florentine for its flavour and ring of very tasty fat; A predictably preferred the tenderloin side.

Their other offerings are worth a mention too. The bread comes with a tomato and basil jam, with a glass of olive oil and home-made balsamic jelly. The texture of  the balsamic jelly is a bit strange, but the syrupy flavour more than makes up for that.

They were out of their char-grilled foie gras starter, so they recommended one of their daily specials - a tortellini filled with foie gras and pork jowl, served with a mushroom and truffle emulsion. This was really good, particularly the sauce which we completely lapped up.

We managed to get a table at fairly short notice on a Friday night, which is good for us but not very good for the restaurant. It was about 3/4 full by 8+, but I somehow expected more of a demand for a table. We'll certainly be back, because at least for now, I think I've found my default place to satisfy my beefy cravings.

A says:

Fantastic. Great food and service. Will definitely be back.

Oca Grassa
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6534-9854
Mon to Sat: 12 noon - 3 pm; 6 pm - 12 mn
Closed Sundays

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Tai Hwa" Bak Chor Mee at Ghim Moh Market

C says:

I recently found out that a relative (possibly a son but this isn't verified) of the legendary Crawford bak chor mee had opened a stall in Ghim Moh market. Given that the Crawford outlet proudly displays a sign saying they're the one and only with no branches, I assume this latest one is also likewise not an official outlet.

Nevertheless, we decided to try it one day, given (a) how convenient it is for us compared to driving and parking at Crawford, and (b) the queue would almost certainly be less than the almost 1 hour wait.

I managed to find the stall without much effort, and there was only 1 person in line. It's manned solely by the guy so if he needs any toilet breaks, the stall is empty.

Prices are $1 less than at Crawford - I ordered the medium bowl for $5. For the most acuurate taste test possible, I ordered what I usually do at Crawford - dry mee pok, with more chilli and vinegar.

So how did it compare? Well, it definitely wasn't as good, but I expected that. The question is - just how far off was it?

Noodles: The noodles weren't as "kiu" (al dente), which is Crawford's trademark. Here, the noodles were quite soft, without much springiness or bite.

Ingredients: You can't really go wrong with liver, minced pork and pork balls. If I had to criticise, it would be that the wontons here had a bit too much skin.

Soup: Fail. Maybe it was early in the day (11am+), but the soup had absolutely no flavour at all. Not even close to Crawford's rich, sweet soup.

Seasoning: Besides the noodles, one could say that this is the most important aspect of bak chor mee. Because I asked for more chilli and vinegar, I got a pretty tasty and flavourful result. Still, it was definitely lacking something, and I can't quite put my finger on it. It didn't have the savoury umani-ness of Crawford's - I reckon it could be the chilli blend, or maybe Crawford adds some secret tare-like concoction to each bowl; who knows?

All things considered, I'd say it was about 65-70% of the original. Given how much less of a palaver it is, I'd say it's acceptable for a quick fix to satisfy a craving, but I'd still go back to Crawford if I had time to kill.

A says:

It's okay. Good but nothing special. And at least there's no queue.

Friday, December 20, 2013


C says:

We celebrated our 10th (!!) anniversary at good ol' Ember. Judging by the clientele (ourselves included), Ember clearly doesn't bother trying to be the coolest place to be; it works on maintaining a consistent standard of excellent food, attracting regulars who want a good meal without the bells and whistles of the latest place to "be and be seen".

Because we went on a weekend, we didn't get to order the $100 4-course menu that lets you build your own menu from the a la carte selections - that's only available from Mondays to Thursdays. Luckily, their $88 menu happened to have "our" dish - the Chilean seabass so we both opted for the set.

To start, we had the crab cakes and the scallop carpaccio. The crab cakes definitely outshone the scallop, mainly because they were so aggressively flavoured in comparison.

For the next course, we had the deep fried tofu with foie gras mirin sauce, and the lobster bisque. Both are some of our favourite dishes there, as they represent exactly what we love about Ember - nothing fancy, no unnecessary ingredients, just very balanced flavours and great execution.

The Chilean seabass with bacon and mushroom needs no introduction, and as always, was comforting and satisfying. The beef tenderloin with red wine sauce was good too, but my loyalties are with the seabass.

Finally, A had the banana tart with vanilla ice cream, and I had the pear tart with Baileys ice cream. I think kitchen was in a bit of the weeds at this point, because all the tables seemed to be waiting for their desserts. Eventually they arrived - A's was better than mine this time. The pear tart was weighed down somewhat by the streusel topping.

I know we rave about Ember every year, but I love how a meal there, while not chi-chi or particularly current, is dependably always satisfying. A bit like us, eh?

A says:

Always awesome. Definitely a reliable favourite.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our trip to Hong Kong

C says:

We took a whirlwind eating trip to Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago (one reason for the silence on atetoomuch, sorry!). Although Hong Kong definitely has loads of posh European restaurants, we decided to focus our attention on what they do best, and what simply cannot be replicated here.

Dim, sum, cha chan teng, dun nai (steamed milk) and more dun nai. Even A has been converted; the glorious early winter weather certainly didn't hurt. Can't believe it's been 6 years since our last visit - we'll definitely be back again a lot sooner.

Tai Ping Koon Restaurant

The famous dry fried beef noodles were just so-so, but the Swiss sauce chicken wings and more importantly, the TPK Roast Pigeon, were absolutely divine. The wings were some of the best soy-braised ones I've ever had, and the pigeon was tender, gamey and flavourful all at once.


Australian Dairy Company

Best cha chan teng ever, hands down. The steamed egg (the yellow one) was a bit heavy, but our first mouthful of the dun nai (steamed milk) was bliss. Their scrambled egg sandwiches are also the best we had in Hong Kong - buttery, creamy and eggy.

Pity they're located all the way in Kowloon, or we'd be here every day.

Yee Shun Milk Company

Second best dun nai, and much more conveniently located near our hotel in Causeway Bay. We actually had this twice in one day. They do a cold and a hot dun nai - A prefers the cold because it's like ice cream. I much prefer the hot because you can really taste the flavour of the milk.

Their macaroni soup with luncheon meat and pork chop sandwich were average. I heard that Lan Fong Yuen is better but they changed their opening hours and we missed them by half an hour, grr. Next time.

Kau Kee

Last time we came, we never made it to Kau Kee, and I've been regretting it for 6 years. Finally, I got closure. Their beef brisket noodles are unlike any I've had in Singapore. Firstly, they use fresh yee mien, which is pretty hard to come by and has a really light, springy texture. More importantly, here the broth is a clear yet flavourful beef stock, not the thick spice-laden sauce that you get when you order ngau lam mien here.

The beef brisket is also super tender and flavourful. A had his with hor fun but I think the unanimous consensus is that the yee mien rocks. A couple at our table had a delicious-smelling curry version, so next time we come back I'm going to be torn between the two.

Tim Ho Wan

We've still never managed to go to either of Tim Ho Wan's outposts here (Plaza Sing and Toa Payoh). The most central one in Hong Kong (for us) is the one in the basement of Hong Kong Station, where everyone goes after they've done their Airport Express check-in.

We had their 4 Heavenly Kings - the char siew bolo bao, cheong fun, carrot cake and steamed ma lai gao. The carrot cake and ma lai gao in particular were very good, but I can't help but feel that the char siew bao at Che's was better.

Che's Cantonese Restaurant

Cousin L recommended this dim sum restaurant in Wan Chai. The food was generally good, but their char siew bolo baos deserve special mention. They're overall better than the ones at Tim Ho Wan - more refined, the pastry is thinner and more buttery, and the char siew filling is tastier too. Best part is - the restaurant takes reservations.

Via Tokyo

This is a random mention. On the way back to our hotel we kept seeing queues outside a shop called Via Tokyo. We eventually realisde they sold soft serve ice cream/parfaits, so we tried the vanilla soft serve one day. It was absolutely divine - really thick, creamy and very fine. Best soft ice cream outside of Japan. Another must visit.

So there you have it. The highlights of our Hong Kong eating trip.

A says:

My must-visit place is Australian Dairy Company for egg sandwich and steamed milk. Queues are long but move fast, and it's worth the wait.

Also great is Che's, where the char siew bolo bao is better than Tim Ho Wan.

C left out the great value for money meals at - Tsui Wah. A definite reliable chain char chan ting.

And as usual, the best ice cream comes Via Tokyo. Love it.