Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Victor's Kitchen

C says:

After the stellar dim sum and dun nai (steamed milk) that we had in Hong Kong, we were wondering where we could go in Singapore that could measure up. I recalled that Victor's used to serve some versions of dun nai so we thought we'd try our luck.

Alas, they no longer do; probably too labour intensive. They still serve pretty damn good dim sum though. Their king prawn har gow is packed with really fresh prawns, and lots of them, and the char siew bao is really light and fluffy.

2 items we had deserve special mention - the steamed carrot cake with XO sauce, and the HK Silk Stocking Iced Tea. The carrot cake is the best I've had - it's soft, smooth and you can really taste the radish, lup cheong and dried shrimp. Almost doesn't need the XO sauce, though it does add an additional flavour element. Don't expect the texture of the pan fried variety though - this is really soft, without much bite, but I think that's precisely why it's unadulterated and so good.

The milk tea is served inside an ice bath, which keeps it cool without diluting it - genius. The tea is the perfect strength, milkiness and sweetness. I daresay better even than what we had in HK.

Even the ambience is like being in HK - elbow to elbow seating and efficient but brusque waiters. As good as it gets, I think. But my dun nai search continues.

A says:

Awesome carrot cake and milk tea. And the milk tea here is better than in Hong Kong cause it's sweeter. I'll definitely be back more. Just have to remember to go early to avoid the inevitable queue.

Victor's Kitchen
91 Bencoolen Street
#01-21 Sunshine Plaza
Tel: 9838-2851

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crab in da Bag

C says:

Atetoomuch’s year is definitely off to a good start! We tried Crab in da Bag the other night and liked it so much that I’m already planning a return visit soon.

Located at Big Splash at East Coast Park, Crab in da Bag, as its name suggests, primarily serves seafood cooked in bags, with your choice of seasonings and other accompaniments like potatoes, sweet corn and bratwurst sausage. Reservations are recommended because they do get pretty crowded, even on a Sunday night when we went. Also, their tables are all quite large, so smaller parties will probably have to share tables.

If you order individual seafood items, each will be cooked in a separate bag with your choice of seasoning and accompaniment. We decided on tiger prawns with sweet corn in garlic butter, flower crabs in their signature Caboodle mix (combination of local and Louisiana spices with butter and garlic), and squid with their Ultimate Curry mix.

They’re really not shy with their seasonings. All of them packed a big flavour punch in different ways. The seafood was all very well cooked, and with the nutcrackers and scissors provided, not that difficult to get at. Having said that, I think we’ll try the King Crab legs the next time. They looked huge and very meaty.

They also do a Caboodle Boil for a larger group of 4-5, with a selection of seafood all boiled in one bag, which you then eat with a selection of sauces/dips. I actually think it’s still better to order the seafood separately – that way, you get a wider selection of seasonings, plus I’m sure it still tastes better to have the seafood actually cooked with the seasoning, rather than boiled and dipped into sauces.

This is definitely not a first date place – you’re given bibs and are just expected to dive into the seafood with your hands. And trust me, things will get messy. I love it though. It’s refreshing knowing that everyone is being just as barbaric as you are.

It’s also a very difference experience from Naked Finn, which serves high-end seafood varieties and their preparations are simple, to highlight the seafood. Here, it’s all about the seasoning, because I think while the seafood is good and pretty fresh, it certainly isn't artisanally sourced or anything. It’s just a straight-up good, fun seafood meal.

A says:

All da seasonings were great. Next time, I'll get a side of bread to soak it up, especially all da garlic bits. Da service is slow but they are very friendly and helpful.

If I had to find something to complain about, it would probably be that there's no cheap non-alcoholic beverage option. I guess they have to make money somewhere, though you'd think they'd have saved on cutlery costs by having no plates.

Crab in da Bag
Block D Unit #01-25
902 East Coast Parkway, Big Splash
Tel: 6440-0083
Opening hours: 4 pm - 11 pm
Closed Mondays

Monday, January 20, 2014

Esquina 2.0

C says:

Esquina recently unveiled a new look and new menu. They've now included a second floor, which they open up on busier nights. Because it's located away from the kitchen, I assume it's less of an interactive experience than sitting at the bar counter, but perhaps some people may prefer less frenzied, sit down dinner experience.

They've also revamped the menu, with the dishes now divided into Snacks, Soil, Sea, Land and Desserts. They also have some daily specials, but for the time being they're not offering their set lunch.

From the Snacks, we had the pork crackling with salt cod and smoked herring roe, and the dashi poached oysters with onion foam. The pork crackling was good but I'm not sure that it's a sustainable dish. It's so light that it kept billowing in the breeze of the fan, and the couple next to us had one of theirs fly off the plate as they were being served, and had to get a replacement plate. I can just imagine the challenge getting these upstairs from the kitchen to the second floor.

From Soil, we had the heirloom tomato salad with watermelon gazpacho (A is a sucker for anything with gazpacho), smoked anchovy and avocado. It was interesting to see how different the various varieties of tomatoes could taste, though I expected and hoped that the anchovy would be a bit more aggressive.

From Land, we had the ox cheek and tongue with blue cheese gnocchi, fried broccoli and hazelnut and tarragon pesto. I loved the broccoli, which was fried till the florets were nicey browned. The meat was very rich and tender, but got a bit heavy after a while. On the other hand, the pan fried foie gras with little nuggets of smoked eel was fabulous.

We had another meat from the specials board - a duo of lamb with a braised lamb shoulder and seared lamb rack. This was excellent. I liked the differing tastes and textures of the lamb shoulder and the lamb rack. This came with charred green onions and a manchego mashed potato, which had a slightly odd, gummy texture from the cheese.

Finally, from Sea we had baked cod with salt cod, smoked mussel and potato chowder. The texture of the fish itself was a tad dry, possibly overcooked, but the chowder more than made up for it with really intense smokey goodness.

A last minute addition to our order turned out to be one of the best dishes of the night - the flame-grilled sea trout with heirloom carrots, pistachio crumbs and crudo lardo (yes, a literal translation of that is raw fat). Thin slivers of lardo were placed on top of slightly cured trout, then flame grilled with a blow torch. The result was the best possible surf and turf combination.

We were definitely too full for dessert, and as always, we left making a mental note to be back again soon.

A says:

OMG so good.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lunch at Mikuni

C says:

2013 has flown by, and before we know it, our FAR Card will be expiring. Before it does, we had to try lunch at Mikuni, since 50% off a $70 set is pretty reasonable.

Of course, we also decided to splurge on some sashimi, and ordered the toro, kanpachi, hotate and mekajiki. This was pretty good, with the hotate in particular being very sweet and creamy, but I don't think I would have paid full price for this.

I ordered the bone-in pork robatayaki set lunch, and A had the Australian beef set. The pork was far superior. The pork was lightly smoked, and had just enough fat to give it lots of flavour, and some lean layers to balance it out.

The beef was very disappointing. It was a classic example of bland, tasteless beef that's all too common nowadays. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, but it had no flavour or character.

Suffice to say that without the FAR Card, there's no way we'll be coming back here.

A says:

Good, but totally not worth the price.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Atetoomuch's Best Food of 2013

C says:

A belated happy new year, everyone! It's time once again for our Best Of list. Our cut-off date for our Best Of contenders is literally 31 December 2013, so places like Ubin Seafood won't get a mention till next year's list.

In alphabetical order then, here are my picks for the year's best bites:

Central Hong Kong Cafe

Whenever we run out of ideas for places to eat, or just want something quick, simple and comforting, Central at Star Vista is our default choice. Most of the things we've tried are very tasty, but their sliced fish noodle soup alone gets them my vote.


Given how often Esquina keeps changing the menu and specials, almost every visit is a brand new experience, so this is one of two old favourites that I have to keep mentioning.

Guzman Y Gomez (GYG)

This deserves a spot just for converting me - a previously die-hard Mexican food hater . I guess not all Mexican food is drenched in sour cream and refried beans, Tex-Mex style. The burritos and quesadillas are excellent, but my default lunch time option now is the Grilled Chicken salad. A salad where the protein is almost the main event is definitely my kind of salad.

Jewel Cafe at Rangoon

I'm still upset that Jewel in Shenton Way no longer has the awesome chicken wings on their menu, but that's somewhat balanced out by the incredible carbonara at their Rangoon Road outpost. This is quite possibly the lightest and best carbonara I've had.

Oca Grassa

I know we've since discovered Ubin Seafood's steak, but to be fair, Oca Grassa's Florentine served on the sizzling Himalayan salt disc was a pretty outstanding steak. It did break our run of bad beef, and for that it's on my list.

Redring wanton mee

I'm not a big fan of wanton mee (I much prefer bak chor mee), but I love everything about Redring's version, from the al dente noodles to the smokey char siew to the clean yet umami sauce.

Tamoya Udon

This no-frills, self-service udon joint in Liang Court serves some of the best udon I've had. The noodle texture is perfect, the broth is uncomplicated but flavourful, and customise your udon with the self-service toppings bar, complete with tempura batter bits, wakame and grated daikon. Their tempura and chicken karaage rock too.


The food has some misses (steer well clear of the beef tartare don), but there are more hits, plus their Happy Hour oysters and salmon sashimi are possibly the best deal in town.

The Naked Finn

Fresh seafood, sublime bee hoon, great cocktails and a chill, unpretentious environment. What's there not to like?

Their awesome prawn noodle soup now starts at $18 rather than $28. But the downside is that it's now only available for weekday lunches, as they've stopped supper service.

Two Fat Men

We keep coming back here even thought it's in the East and parking is a pain - two factors that usually discourage us from visiting, let alone revisiting, a place. But the food here is well worth it. The chicken wings and grilled pork neck are beyond amazing, and we've recently discovered their kangkong and grilled squid too. And their drinks are fab.

That's it! And if the first couple of weeks are any indication, I think 2014 may be an even better year. Here's to a great year ahead, everyone, and may we never waste our calories on crappy food.

A says:

We keep going back to the same places so I don't think these will all be new or that surprising.

Charlie & Co. Best burger under $20 in Singapore. Try the Classic or Mighty Charlie. Unfortunate location in the Ion basement means it may not be there long, so give it a try while you can.

Tamoya Udon. Best udon in Singapore. No doubt about it.

Jewel Cafe. Good food. Great coffee. Affordable. And not packed with hipsters or posers.

Naked Finn. The seafood is phenomenal. Some items are a bit pricey though. But the beehoon and coconut sorbet are so worth it.

Oca Grassa. It's almost impossible to find good steak in Singapore without breaking the bank. Oca Grassa's one is fantastic, and while still expensive, won't leave you in debt.

First Love Patisserie. I love creamy mille crepes. And this place (I go to the Ion one , but they now have a branch at Raffles City) has a great one. Granted the one at Lady M is better, but it's also more expensive. So if you want a good $6 mille crepe, this is my choice.

Baker's Talent. This small shop in Clementi has great Golden Sands (molten salted egg yolk and sugar) buns for just 90 cents a pop. I get one almost every week. They've got other cheap and good buns too.

And of course, old favourites Esquina (almost every bite is awesome), Ember (consistently good food and service) and Two Fat Men (serious flavour on a budget).

Monday, January 06, 2014

Ubin Seafood

C says:

I can't believe that the best steak and ribs that we've had in ages was at a seafood restaurant - what's going on?!

I was understandably apprehensive about recommendations to try the rib-eye steak at Ubin Seafood. Who can blame me? Ubin Seafood is a frenetic seafood restaurant in the heart of Sin Ming Industrial Estate, amongst car repair shops. I had my misgivings, but we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt one rainy Saturday night.

OMG. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is the best beef that I've had in ages. I thought Oca Grassa was good, but this really takes the cake. US certified Angus rib-eye, chargrilled, then cut into cubes and served on a platter with wedges, caramelised onions and, the best part, fried rice cooked with the beef drippings.

Where to begin? The rice was like a delicious version of claypot rice, with crispy bits of beef fat that were reminiscent of the charred bits at the bottom of claypot rice. This went perfectly with the sambal belacan that was provided.

The beef was outstanding. It was tender, juicy and perfectly cooked. There was a good char, and it was seasoned just right with salt and pepper. For some reason, almost every cube of meat had a bit of fat on it, which gave the already sweet meat an incredible flavour, and not a single piece had any sinew or gristle on it. The steak costs an unbelievable $12 per 100g; granted, their minimum size is 550g, but that's still $66 for one of the best steaks I've had. I think my beef search is officially over.

Something else I've been trying to find in Singapore are good ribs. My idea of good ribs are basically like Naughty Nuri's - flame grilled, and tender but with still some bite to them. Not the overly braised kind that are slathered in BBQ sauce, which end up tasting (and looking) like pulled pork. Ubin does a pretty decent version, thought not as awesome as the steak. The ribs were just slightly overcooked, but otherwise all the elements were there. And sauce served on the side, as it should be.

In comparison, the sweet potato leaves fried with sambal were a bit lacklustre, though maybe it's because they didn't quite go with the rest of the dishes. On hindsight maybe a simple asparagus dish may have been more appropriate.

The place is teeming with huge tables of families tucking into plates and plates of seafood. Going as a couple is definitely not efficient - their minimum orders of items like prawns (minimum 300g) is somewhat prohibitive to us trying many dishes. Unless you're there solely for the steak, I think 4 is the bare minimum. It's perfect for large groups, and best of all, they have a BYO policy on alcohol too.

Parking's a bit of a bitch though, and that would be the only thing preventing us from coming here regularly. Well, that and the fact that they affectionately call the fried rice "Heart Attack Rice"...

A says:

Early contender for best of '14. Awesome. If only parking was easier.

Ubin Seafood
Block 27 Sin Ming Road, #01-174
Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A
Tel: 6466-9558
Mon – Fri: 11am – 2pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm (Last Order)
Sat & Sun: 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm (Last Order)

Friday, January 03, 2014

Rakusaba and Ramen Burger, The U Factory

C says:

Located at Block 39 in Gillman Barracks, The U Factory is a pop-up collection of experimental establishments, ranging from shops selling quirky arts and crafts items, to cafes and restaurant concepts. Most of the shops are closed by 7 pm, and the F&B outlets either open during the day (Maison Ikkoku Cafe, The Bakers’ League and The U Cafe), or only in the evening (The Travelling COW’s Ramen Burger and Rakusaba). We were there after work on a Friday so we only tried the Ramen Burger and Rakusaba.


This collaboration between Preparazzi and Eastern Craft Beer is a reinvention of the humble laksa, serving it tsukemen-style. Instead of bee hoon, you get a thin hand-made la mian, for dipping into a thick pork and prawn-based laksa broth. Accompaniments are cucumber and lotus root pickle (like achar), salmon otak, soft egg topped with sambal, and pork confit.

Overall, this was very good. The laksa dipping broth had loads of flavour and was thick and rich, and of the accompaniments, the pork belly was outstanding. The meat was confit-ed so it was nice and tender, but still with some bite, and the chef took a blow torch to it right before serving, so there was a nice charred, smokey flavour too.

The noodles were a bit on the thin side, and had a tendency to get a bit clumpy. Also, as with tsukemen ramen, you can also request for a fish broth soba-yu to add to the residual broth to drink it like a soup. In theory, that is. In practice, both of us didn't have any dipping sauce left after we were done with the noodles. They were nice enough to give us a bit more, together with the soba-yu, so that we could try the diluted version. The fish-based broth made for a rather interesting flavoured soup, but the laksa broth on its own is much better.

Ramen Burger by The Travelling C.O.W. (Chef On Wheels)

This was a bit of a disappointment. The concept is similar to MosBurger’s yakiniku rice burger – crispy ramen discs form the burger “buns”, with a choice of teriyaki chicken, bbq chicken or beef bulgogi as the filling.

We tried the beef, which was very tasty, albeit a bit hard to eat since you had to eat entire slices because you can’t bite through them. The ramen buns were a letdown – they got soggy pretty quickly and just tasted like crispy sang mien.

I wouldn’t mind checking it out the other cafe concepts as well. And before the pop-up closes at the end of January, we’ll be back for one more laksa tsukemen fix.

A says:

The pork that came with the laksa was incredible. And the way it's served is very interesting. However, while it's good for a change, I think I still prefer my traditional Katong Laksa.

As for the ramen burger, the filling was good, but the ramen used to replace the bun was pretty bad. Unless you want a gimmicky meal, I'd skip it.