Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Peaspoon's Black Label Chicken Liver Pate

C says:

A's friend passed us a jar of this heavenly stuff, made coincidentally by one of my old schoolmates PP.

The pate is incredibly smooth - don't expect rustic, slightly chunky pate. It's whipped to an almost airy cream-like texture, which makes it very spreadable, and very easy to eat copious amounts thereof.

I detected hints of alcoholic sweetness too, so I'm not sure if some kind of Sauternes reduction was added, since that's a natural accompaniment to foie anyway. A liked the sweet element; I'm personally more of a savoury person and prefer my pate unabashedly liver-y.

This is obviously Peaspoon's signature item, but I think she does make a few interesting-sounding jams as well. If anyone's keen, do check out her Facebook page here.

A says:

Very good. Check it out if you like sweet pate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


C says:

Clearly we're not the only ones who've heard/read the buzz about new restaurant Char at Guillenmard. So much has been said of their sticky black char siew and crispy roast pork that despite the location, I insisted that we try it one Saturday.

It was a good thing we made a reservation, because the place was packed. I don't think they were prepared for it, because we still had to wait about 10 minutes while they sorted out our table and fended off walk-in vultures who tried to steal tables from under the noses of those of us waiting patiently.

Thanks to online tips, we also pre-ordered a portion each of the char siew and the siew yok. Both cost $5 per 100g, with a minimum order of 300g.

Without further ado, let's talk about the char siew. We never got a chance to try the legendary char siew at Oversea Restaurant before they closed, so we can't compare it to Char's. I can say, though, that Char's is superb. It's everything I thought it would be - sticky caramelised exterior, with fatty, juicy, tender pork inside. It's not for the faint-hearted because the flavours are very intense, but that's exactly what I love about it.

The siew yok was also really tender and boasted incredibly crisp crackling. My one criticism though, is that they're a bit too heavy handed with the five spice powder, which tended to overwhelm everything else.

We also tried the claypot eggplant with minced pork, which was very tasty and went perfectly with hot steamed white rice.

Food is excellent, and the owners are very friendly, but the service staff, though polite, seemed a bit frazzled because of the crowds. Once they sort that out, I think they're on to a winning combination.

A says:

As befitting the name, the char siew is superb. Everything else is above average. The only drawback is the chaos in getting a seat. Even with our reservations,we had to put up with pushy people barging in and just grabbing their own seats. The staff try hard, but they really need a proper greeter to manage the crowds that gather at the door. Once you're finally seated though, the food comes to the table fairly fast, so at least the kitchen is a well-oiled machine.

393 Guillemard Road
Tel: 6842-7759
Tues - Sun: 11.30 am - 2.30 pm; 6 pm - 10 pm
Closed Mondays

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stirling Highway

C says:

We read about Stirling Highway, a new cafe at Ridgewood Condo, a few weeks ago in the papers. The article/review made it sound very promising, and since it was quite close to home, we decided to try it for brunch one Saturday.

Well, either no one else read the article, or the place only fills up after noon, because when we were there between 11 and 12, we were the only table for more than half that time.

They were also severely overstaffed, with 5 people (including, presumably, the owner who was doing paperwork at one table) there to serve our single table of 2. I can only hope that most of them are there on a voluntary basis, to help/hang out with friends; otherwise it would make no sense at all.

We tried the 2 recommended dishes - the Pulled Pork Pancakes, and the Eggs Ben. Having had Strictly Pancakes fairly recently, I thought these fell short. The pancakes sandwiched with pulled pork just made for a rather monotonous eating experience, and I got quite bored halfway through. The Jack Daniels maply syrup packed quite a boozy punch, but was also a little too liquid for my liking.

The Eggs Ben, which comes with both smoked salmon and spinach on top of brioche, fared only marginally better. The eggs were well poached, but they used too much vinegar in the poaching liquid so it just overwhelmed all other flavours.

I was too full for their salt caramel tart, but A went for their chocolate mousse torte. This really looked a lot better than it tasted. Far from being light layers of mousse and cake, it was hard and dry, and almost impossible to cut through with a fork.

The only saving grace is that we chanced upon Poulet Vous a few doors down, which looks like it could have way more potential.

A says:

Given all the great coffee joints, cafes and bistros in Singapore, this place turned out to be a big disappointment. It's perfectly passable, but I'd only recommend it for residents in the area. Certainly not a worth a trip out.

Stirling Highway
5 Ridgewood Close
Unit #G1, Ridgewood Condominium
Tel: 6464-9607

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tsukune Ichigo

C says:

Located behind heavy wooden doors at one end of River Valley Road, Ichigo really is quite the hidden gem. I love the fact that nothing on the exterior betrays the fact that it's a yakitori izakaya inside; diners are there specifically for the food, rather than curious walk-ins.

Unlike places like Kazu or Nanbantei, Ichigo only serves yakitori in the true sense of the word - various different parts of the chicken. So no foie gras or wagyu beef or bacon-wrapped anything. Just chicken skewers, including their signature namesake - tsukune.

I'd recommend starting with their tsukune platter, which offers 5 different varieties, including one topped with cheese, and another with avocado mayo. Their tsukunes are excellent - very refined and very tasty. I personally like the one that includes some chicken soft bone, which adds a bit of textural crunch.

Of their yakitori skewers, we tried the chicken thigh, chicken heart and garlic wrapped with chicken skin. All no frills, with no fancy fixings, and all delicious.

They also had an appetiser with my name written over it (though I appreciate that this may not appeal to some) - chicken skin with cucumber. For me, the best kind of chicken skin is the sort from poached chicken rice, which is the kind used for this dish. The skin was tossed with cucumber and a light soy and sesame oil dressing. Perfect.

They have a few different kinds of pudding for dessert; we tried the milk pudding, which was more like a creme caramel than a milk pudding, but still a very good end to the meal.

I love the authenticity and unpretentiousness of this place. The dedication to perfecting the items in an unelaborate menu really shows, and I hope they always retain that charm.

A says:

Most of the stuff is average but that's besides the point because the chicken tsukune is AWESOME! Plus, the vibe is like the yakitori joints in Japan, except without the smoking indoors.

Tsukune Ichigo
399 River Valley Road
Tel: 6736-1340
Open daily: 6 pm - 11.30 pm

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Strictly Pancakes

C says:

We had to run an errand at Siglap on Good Friday, which is how we ended up at Strictly Pancakes for an early dinner. Besides fairly elaborate dessert pancake concoctions, they have basic stacks of 2, 3 and 5 pancakes with your choice of butters.

I decided on a simple 2 stack with salted butter and maple syrup, and A had the Snuggle Up - basically pigs in blankets, with 2 pancakes wrapped around sausages with garlic butter.

Both were surprisingly very good. The pancakes were light and fluffy, though perhaps just a tad too thick for my liking. 2 of them really filled me up. The pigs in blankets were good too - the sausages had a good snap to them, and the garlic butter was heavenly.

Of course, I couldn't not have a side of chicken wings, and though these were a bit more breaded than I usually like, they were still pretty tasty and, more importantly, juicy and not overcooked.

It was good, but we wouldn't travel all the way to Siglap for them. Luckily, there's another outlet at Prinsep Street so that could be a more viable option.

A says:

Great pancakes. Decent sides. Not expensive. Defintely an option on the rare occasions we're in the area. Looking forward to trying the Prinsep Street branch soon.

Strictly Pancakes
81 Upper East Coast Road
Tel: 64487332
44A Prinsep Street
Tel: 6333-4202

Monday, May 05, 2014

Niseko and Otaru

C says:

In the 2 years since we were last in Niseko, it's gotten even more crowded and touristy, to the point where dining out feels more like you're in Australia than in Japan... Still, Niseko will always be our happy place; we just have to look for less touristy hideaways on our next trips.


No trip to Niseko is complete without a trip to either BangBang or Bang2, the 2 sister yakitori joints that serve some of the best skewers we've had, anywhere. Besides the awesome yaki camembert, this time we tried the grilled king crab legs, and thought we'd died and gone to heaven.

I never really understood the appeal of crab legs, since the ones I've tried have mainly been watery or tasteless. I thought the garlic ones at Crab in Da Bag were pretty good, but the one here completely blew us away. The legs were packed with meat, which was sweet, tender and smokey yet perfectly cooked from the expert grilling.

Tsubara Tsubara Soup Curry

Arguably the best soup curry in the Niseko area, this was a 10 minute walk from the centre of Hirafu, but it was well worth it.

Better than the Soup Curry Lavi chain from Hokkaido, the soup curry here is thin and soupy, yet still packs a spicy punch. Extremely addictive. My only regret was only have one meal here. Next time I need to plan for at least two.

Ezo Seafoods

Just like the Bangs, Ezo is consistently on everyone's list of recommended restaurants in Niseko. We missed coming here on our last 2 trips, so we made it a point to make a reservation here for our last night.

The seafood here is without question incredibly fresh. We had yellowtail, salmon and chutoro sashimi, all of which came with incredibly thick, unctuous slices.

The seafood and squid ink paella was very good, with lovely bits of charred rice to scrape from the pan.The crab legs here were simply boiled and served with a ponzu dipping sauce. Again, the crabmeat was amazingly sweet and meaty, but given the choice of this and the grilled ones at Bang2, we'd pick the grilled ones in a heartbeat.

Otaru is an hour and a half train ride from Niseko, so we took a day trip to visit all our favourite food joints, including Rokkatei soft ice cream and Kitakaro's cream puffs.

Sushi Gen

We stopped at Sushi Gen, the hole-in-the-wall sushi joint for which we have a soft spot. A ordered a set, while I ordered single pieces of my favourites like uni and toro.

All of them were very refined and very good. I love that because it's quite a random place, it's not at all touristy and we can go in, quietly have a few pieces of really good sushi, and pop out again.

Yabuhan Soba

Again, this place isn't along the main tourist street; hidden off the main street, it's an unassuming little haven for really good soba.

I had the cold soba with a hot duck dipping broth, and A had a simple zaru soba. So simple, and a simply perfect way to end our Otaru food crawl.

A says:

Bang Bang and Bang2 are AWESOME. Some of my fav bites in Japan. And best crab legs I've ever had. EVER. And of course Otaru is a fav place for us to get sushi, cream puffs and snacks and ice cream. If only we could go back every year.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Koyoshi and Kigawa, Osaka

C says:

Osaka may be the land of street food, but we also had a couple of non-street eat meals here, with varying degrees of success.

Koyoshi Sushi

Every trip needs at least one Anthony Bourdain recommendation; this time it was Koyoshi Sushi, a tiny little sushi bar run by a sweet little old couple.

We were a bit apprehensive, because they don't speak English, but armed with both a physical phrasebook and a few loaded onto my smartphone, and a perfunctory knowledge of sushi names, we actually managed to get by.

This was definitely one of our more memorable meals of the trip. The space was absolutely tiny - slide the door open and the seats are literally right in front of you. The sushi here isn't fancy and delicate either. They're big, hearty portions with thick, generous slabs of fish.

We ordered omakase, and left ourselves in chef's good hands. The quality was really good - very fresh and tasty, and some items just lightly seasoned to bring out their flavour. In particular, the bonito with thin slivers of garlic was a burst of flavour, and the otoro was possibly the best I've ever had.

Despite being somewhat lost in translation, we had a really enjoyable experience. They were very amused by our attempts to speak Japanese, and somehow, we managed to communicate on a very basic level.


Osaka is also known for kappo cuisine, where the chef prepares the food in front of you, open kitchen style. Chef Ueno, from Kigawa, is known as the father of kappo cuisine, and we read some good reviews of his place, so we thought we'd give it a try.

Suffice to say that it was a bit of a letdown. The kappo experience is somewhat lost if you can't really banter with the chef. And while I appreciate their efforts to provide us with written translations of our food, I think they viewed us more as tourist inconveniences. Maybe they're right, to some extent. While some of the dishes were good, I honestly couldn't appreciate some of the offerings, like the very strongly flavoured nori served with the porridge at the end, or the heavy hand with the mitsuba that tasted disconcertingly like cilantro.

Maybe fancy Japanese just isn't for us. Our palates aren't quite refined enough for the onslaught of different flavours that are part of the whole seasonal dining experience.

A says:

Koyoshi was hard to find but a thoroughly enjoyable experience in a tiny mom-and-pop-style sushi joint. Plus, great value. I'd rather come here than the more commercial places.

Kigawa was good, but I think we were fine-dined out after Kyoto and weren't really blown away.

Overall, in Osaka, I'd stick to the Dotonburi street food for great value. Oh, and the Hanshin Department Store Food Hall. RAWK. Easily rivals any you would find in Tokyo.