Monday, April 21, 2014

Star Yong Kwang Seafood

Some Cze Char hawkers gain a notoriety because the food they cook is amazingly good. Sin Huat in Geylang is one of them. And I am begining to think so is Star Yong Kwang.

I understand this cze char stall has been around for a long time. And now being run by second generation, possibly third generation of the original founders. The stall occupies some 4 stalls at one corner of the Alexandra Food Centre. Orange T-shirted assistants hang around the stall, and they are rather ruthlessly efficient, unceremoniously plonking down the plate ordered, and demanding payment when the last of the dishes is served, even when one is in the middle of eating...a practice I find to be rude. They should either collect up front, or after one has had the chance to enjoy one's meal. Sigh, but we do put up with these kind of hawkers, especially if the food is good.

So is the food good? Well, kinda. The sambal sting ray, is rather superlative.

The fish is very fresh, beautifully barbecued, with a touch of charring on the thinner parts of the fish, and a light crisp finish to the skin, while the thick flesh of the stingray is wonderfully moist and tender. But the star is not the fish, but the fantastically hot and tasty chilli sauce which smothers the fish. And the slice of lime with cliced onions accompanies the dish perfectly.

I find this sambal stingray to be quite exceptional. And certainly one of the best I have eaten.

The sambal kangkong was also quite excellent, the cook exhibiting mastry of the control of his fire and wok.

However, the hae cho was pittiful

Even with a cursory inspection, the lightness of the tone of the hae cho was suspect. It did have a crisp skin though. The insides were a bit hard...I hesitate to say tough, because it is not, but neither is it soft, tender nor juicy. The pork within was packed tightly. Tastewise it was nothing to talk about. Not good.

I saw many people ordering the salted egg yolk pork ribs, perhaps that's for another day. As there were only 2 of us for this dinner, we could not have ordered any more. The sambal stingray is certainly worth it, as was the sambal kangkong. But avoid the hae cho. For only the stingray, I highly recommend it.

Star Yong Kwang Seafood
Alexandra Village Food Centre
120 Bukit Merah Lane 1
#01-04

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hippotamus revamps menu with premium beef offerngs.

Steaks have a certain primeval attraction. A thick, juicy, steak always make a wonderful meal. Recently, the French chain Hippotamus, which has been around in Singapore for some 3 years revamped their menu, now carrying premium beef.

I was invited for a tasting of the new menu. Many thanks to Cheryl of Touch PR & Events for the invitation and to Andrew of ABR for hosting.

As a regular media tasting lunch, there was lots of food...lots. We started with a prawn, tomato and guacamole appetizer:

Quite interesting. The two prawns were very fresh, nice, crunchy, sweet. The tomato and guacamole provided a nice rounding to the taste of the prawns. Quite nice.

We next tried a French styled comfort food...a poached egg with red wine

I found this to be quite superb. The egg was wonderfully done...the white was just cooked, and the yolk still a bit runny within. The tangy wine sauce provides a nice counterpoint to the richness of the yolk. And two strips of crispy bacon makes this a very nice savoury treat.

A French Onion soup was next

Very typical in France, nice, rich, sweet almost caramalized onions in a thick savoury broth, and served gratinéed with croutons and cheese. The cheese was nice and crusty, nice flavours.

We also sampled the beef bone marrow

Quite typical bone marrow. Fat, rich, and taste quite nice with a pinch of sea salt.

Then on to the main events..we started with the gourmet burger

The burger is served on a freshly toasted ciabatta bun. Hand chopped beef patty, caramalized onion, and the usual tomato. Not as good as &Made, but quite nice. The best part of the burger was it was completely non greasy.

And the beef cuts came...first two different cuts of wagyu, both which are secondary cuts. Often graded prime cuts of wagyu is too rich and fat for a full steak. I always find a cut of A5 wagyu to be overly rich. So it was interesting to serve secondary cuts, which in a regular USDA Prime beef would be used for braising or slow cooking. But perhaps, as wagyu is so much more tender in the first place, these secondary cuts, if cooked properly may be nice, tender and still remain flavourfull.

The wagyu flank steak

The wagyu is Australian sourced. And as apparent in the photograph, have little marbling. But the meat was tender, juicy and very flavourful. Very nice. But the hangar cut was better!

The French call this the onglet, it is derived from the diaphragm of the cattle. And if highly textured, muscular, as can be seen in the photograph above. The meat was very tender, juicy despite the lack of marbling. And though it was grilled in a gas oven, there was no flame taste, and the browned maillared parts were superbly aromatic and wasalmost crusty, crisp. Very nice indeeed.

We also tried the bone in sirloin...this was not a wagyu cut.

Normally sirloin is not served bone-in. But the bone allows a certain flavour to linger on the meat. This is like a T-bone with the tenderloin part taken out. I foudn this to be quite nice. Good texture, tenderness and taste. As can be noted in the photograph, the meat is quite a bit more marbled and fatter than the wagyus.

For desserts, a curious deconstructed strawberry cheesecake

From bottom up, cookie crumble, cream cheese topped with fresh strawberries. Quite good, and interesting presentation to hold the deconstructed cake.

But I preferred the French Toast Nutella

A thick slice of sweetish Japanese bread, coated with egg, fried, and still quite moist and un-greasy, drizzled with Nuteella and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Loved this.

Overall, I was impressed with the food being served. I had eaten at the restaurant once or twice before, while those visits were not bad, the experience and food was rather average, and not memorable. I even tried the outlet in Paris at Boulevard de Cappucines. But this tasting, especially the hangar steak left an indelible impression on me. A very positive one. So I am now putting Hippotamus Singapore on the Recommended list.

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill
6 Raffles Blvd, Singapore 039594
63385352

Monday, April 14, 2014

Menya Musashi

On of my favourite foods is ramen. I just love it. And ramen does travel well...Singapore versions of famous ramen from Japan tend to be almost as good.

Today's review is on such very famous shop in Shinjuku, which I had the pleasure of sampling once. Named after famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, this shop has turned into a chain store in Singapore, with some 8 outlets.

Each boasting of their own noodles. Interesting. As was Musashi-san himself...whose story is incredible, and the subject of numerous entertaining tales on samurai lore. He is also the hero featured in many of the patches in the Japanese celebrated raw denim jeans maker: Samurai.

But I digress...back to the ramen. We ate this meal at the Star Vista outlet, so it was thick square shaped noodle with Tokyo-Ueno style soup with chicken and pork. Very interesting.

First off, white charsiu ramen

The broth was thick, almost collagen like in texture, very flavourful...almost bursting with pork bones and chicken. Very nice, albeit a bit too salty and perhaps a touch too fat. The ramen itself was cooked very nicely, and the thick noodle was good at picking up the broth, allowing it to coat every strand for good flavour. The egg within was cooked perhaps a touch over...both yolk and white are cooked through, but still tasty. Very nice.

We also had the red charsiu ramen

Although the colour of the broth was significantly different, interestingly the taste seemed to be very similar. I really could not tell much difference, perhaps the red was a bit more spicy, but only slight.

The unusual ramen was the Akiba curry ramen, which is famous in the Shinjuku outlet

This one was as different as the first two were similar. The broth was thicker, with a mild curry flavour. This was not as sweet as traditional Japanese curry, nor as spicy as Indian or others. But a nice pork bone flavour still underwrote the entire palate. Again slightly salty. The thin shreds of pork added provided a nice texture, and additional flavour. The egg this time was whole, and perfect - the whites were a jelly like consistency, and the yolk slightly runny. Very nice. Every slurp of the broth made me want more. Interesting and very addictive.

Each of the ramens were a set, with accompanying side dishes, we had the octopus, gyoza and fried chicken.

Suffice to say, they neither outshone the ramens, or were not able companions.

Overall, the ramens were delicious. I love the curry ramen, and will be back for more. And also to try the Tsukemen ramen as well as the black ramen. Recommended.

Menya Musashi
THE STAR VISTA
1 Vista Exchange Green
#B1-08
6694 2515

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Comfort food: Cze Char by Kok Sen ...best of the traditional Cantonese eateries?

More comfort food, as I am still withdrawing from the overload of very good European food...today, the quintessential Singaporean table, with Cze Char, also variously spelled Zi Char, Tzu Chao...etc.

Kok Sen, the subject of today's review is an old stalward of the craft of the ferocious fire, and the wok. Food is typically Cantonese styled, and indeed very good...one of the best in the trade.

We begin with the less good...so to speak...yee mee with fish slices

Slightly less successful than the other dishes which I will introduce in a moment...but throughly enjoyable still. The yee mee is a bit bland. The fish was nice and fresh, and the gravy also a bit on the mild side. But this slight disappointment was completely overwhelmed by the black bean beef hor fun, which was next:

Redemption indeed. Bursting with flavours, deep dark...very tasty. The wok hei was powerful, charring parts of the hor fun and the vegetables, but yet the beef remained tender...juicy and very very nice.

The yong taufu was also superb

The gravy was rich, and very tasty, the yong taufu itself was home made, fresh, and very flavourful...superb with just plain steamed rice.

The standard cze char dishes are also done nicely, the hae cho

Nice and non greasy, great flavours. Crispy outside due to the deep frying and crispy bits of water chestnuts within which are fresh and almost raw. The prawn paste stuffing was perfectly cooked, and the flavour of the prawn was evident and very nice. Proof that the cook has great control over his fire.

As was the har cheong kai

Beautifully fried, the seasoning was nice too. Though in the case of the HCK, not the best I have eaten.

We also tried the sambal fish, which was also superb

The fresh fish slices deep fried till crispy outside but still very nice and juicy within, coated with a wonderful aromatic, piquant sambal sauce.

And the obligatory vegetables, spinach in a soup of 3 kinds of egg

Quite standard as was the sambal kangkong we ordered.

Overall, an excellent place for great tasting meal. The place is rather crowded during lunch time, but this kind of restaurant is not for lounging around to enjoy the ambience. But purely for the great tasting food. Service was swift, efficient, and polite, but not pampering. Highly recommended.

Kok Sen Restaurant
30B Keong Saik Road
62232005
Daily: 11:30 - 22:30

Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy Fish

Comfort food is on my mind, as I return from a week of feasting during dinners in Basel while attending BaselWorld 2014.

While the dinners at wonderful restaurants like Le Cheval Blanc at Trois Rois Hotel in Basel are very good, I long for comfort food. On landing, the first meal back home in Singapore I headed to one of my little secrets for comfort food, which I share with you now.

A little stall in a Food Court is often no indicator on how good the food is, and many...myself included, often overlook these stalls.

I just love the fried fish with curry noodles.

The fish is very fresh, nicely seasoned...lightly. And the batter nice and light, deep fried till very crisp. The curry was marvellous. Wonderful aroma, beautiful flavours, reminiscent of the Indian curries I used to eat as a child. The curry was not overly rich with coconut milk, in fact I guess there is probably none. Not overly spicy. Just nice.

Another of my favourites in the stall is their deep fried garoupa in a sweet sour sauce.

The fish, was as usual superbly fresh. The batter again very light. The fish deep fried to perfection, crispy on the outside, and very nice and juicy, tender meat. The sauce was also superb...just the right amount of sweet and sour, and tinge of heat from the chilli. This stands almost equal to the specialist sweet sour fishes served by top restaurants. Very good indeed.

In fact, almost all the fish dishes and seafood dishes are excellent at this stall. The seafood ee foo mien in a claypot is also superb.

One of my favourites when it comes to comfort food. Very reasonable prices. Highly recommended.

Happy Fish Stall
Koufu, Basement 1, The Anchorage..

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Putien introduces the Spring Menu

It is no secret that Putien is one of my favourite restaurants. The flavours and authenticity of the ingredients are quite incredible, and the lengths the chefs take to get this authenticity is unparalleled in a Chinese restaurant in Singapore.

So the spring menu by Putien is no different. The ingredients are air flown in twice weekly from the city of Putian in china. And the preparation is done in the traditional and natural methods and retain the flavours of the ingredients. I went to a tasting of their Spring menu, and was pleased with the food presented.

Broad beans are reaped in Putian in spring, and this process is munual so as to ensure the fragile beans retained their soft texture.

Simply sauteed with just a dash of salt, the dish is very light, delightful flavour.

Putian leeks stir fried with prawn cakes

Very natural tasting. Sweet, quite delicious. The prawn cakes are made just with prawns, no fillers and the taste and texture is very nice.

A slew of bamboo clam dishes were presented. They were all very nice, I particularly loved the omlette and the garlic versions. But here are the photographs of all I sampled. First, just plainly salt baked.

Natural tasting, sweet.

One of my favourites, clams steamed with garlic.

Supremely sweet. Very aromatic fragrance and flavours. The garlic was excellent...I love garlic, so this dish is right up in my alley.

With spring onions

With a wonderful savoury soup

Steamed with rice wine

And deep fried with a light batter

We then had the famous putian beehoon, done Putien style

One of my favourites. The beehoon is finer, more wiry and have a harder and springy texture than the Thai style beehoon we get for example in the ones served as breakfast in many hawker centres.

And for dessert, a loquat flavoured jelly with a preserved loquat. Loquat is plentiful during spring, and have a sourish sweet taste. But this tasting is a bit early in the year for loquat.

Another winning menu by the chefs at Putien. They remain one of the most interesting and authentic tastes in the industry. Highly recommended.

Pu Tien Restaurant
127 Kitchener Raod
67496338

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rocku Yakiniku Restaurant

Rocku is a fun place. Built like a large dining room, each table with its own smokeless charcoal grill. It has been a popular venue for the younger set to have a good meal, and catch up with friends. The venue provides live band entertainment 5 nights a week. And from March, every first Sunday, it turns to be a Cosplay styled venue.

Guests will be entertained by Cosplayers from Singapore, China, Malaysia and Korea. And if you come dressed in a Cosplay costume, you get 50% off their $29.90 Yakiniku buffet.

The discount will be moot if the food is not good...but I was pleasantly surprised that the food is actually very good.

I particularly liked the wagyu beef. The regular buffet features Australian beef, US pork. But we wanted to try the premium wagyu (not part of the buffet)

Nice cuts, no marinade, perhaps just a touch of salt. The beef was nicely marbled, and grilling over the hot, smokeless grills at the table proved to be easy. And made a delicious meal

We also had the seafood platter, which is part of the buffet promotion

Here the marinade is quite well done. Grilling the squid, salmon, mussels and prawns were a treat.

As were the buffet, but to be ordered as a la carte garlic fried rice

Wonderful fragrance. The rice was a bit on the wet and sticky side, but it was nicely aromatic, and tasted very good.

An in addition to the good food, we were entertained by the Cosplayers:

All in the name of a fun evening, good food and drinks, and nice entertainment. Kinda of a different style of establishment as I am used to blog about, but one which I enjoyed all the same.

Rocku Yakiniku
Bugis +
201 Victoria Street
#04-06
6634 3313
www.rocku.com.sg

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fatboy's The Burger Bar

Who doesn't like a good burger? This quintessential of western meals is a favourite, especially amongst the youth and those on the go.

Convieniently packaged, a bun, meat patty, some vegetables, cheese...tastes yum, and easy to eat on the go...except when it comes to premium burgers...where the patty is large and thick, and when assembled, the burger is at the verge of toppling over and collapsing. Most are so large, it is not possible to hold it on one hand, and bite over to get a mouthful of bun plus meat plus veg plus cheese...

But we still do love a good one. I covered &Made and the Landing Point burgers as my reference standard for Singapore. Today, I touch on Fat Boy's Burgers...one of the mainstays of the gourmet burgers in the city...we don't talk about McDonalds or other fast food burgers (yes, I did review Carl's Jr once).

So how is it? The ordering experience is interesting...many options available, on the bun, patty (beef, pork, chicken, lamb), cheese type, vegetables (tomato, pickles, lettuce), sauce, and other additions. I ended up with a cheese burger with all the veg, and a barbecue sauce, with fries and a soft drink.

The burger is rather big. The bun, with black and white sesame was very fluffy, light, soft, but grilled till there were crisp edges. The patty was a large beef patty, minced meat, but tastes gorgeous. The cheese was provolone. Really a nice burger. Juicy, tasty. Very nice.

The fries

In my view, a bit less successful. They were freshly fried, yes, but they were a bit thick for me. The outside were crisp, but not quite enough...not like the superb fries one gets at L'Entrecot or even their burger place &Made. The potato within was a bit powdery.

But overall, excellent burger experience. In my opinion, better than Burg's, but still below the standards served at &Made. But bear in mind, Fat Boy's is almost half the price of &Made, where they hand chop the pattys, and of course with higher quality meat cuts. So for the price of Carl's Jr, I think this is a better, more tasty and more satisfying experience.

Fatboy's The Burger Bar
Many locations island wide

This meal tasted at
Far East Plaza #01-16
Monday - Thurday: 1600pm - 0000am
Friday - Saturday & PH: 1200pm - 0000am

Monday, March 10, 2014

Whampoa Keng Fish Steamboat Restaurant

Fish Head Steamboat, or yee tau lor is one of the healthier dishes on our staple diet of hawker foods.

And Whampoa Keng is one of the better ones around. The main restaurant is in Balestier, but a little bird told me that their outlet in Rangoon Road is better, so we went to sample the restaurant, and found it to be quite excellent.

Located in a quieter part of Rangoon Road, with quite a few parking spaces available when we arrived for a late dinner at about 10pm, the restaurant was rather large, but almost full when we got there, though most of the diners were at the end of their meals, as we were about to start ours.

We began with the hae cho

This was truly superb. The deep fried prawn/pork/crab/tofu ball wrapped in a thin bean curd skin had no hint of grease, and the skin was supremely crisp. While the inside was succulent, juicy, and wonderfully tasty, with the intermigling of the flavours of the ingredients culmulating in a delicious whole. Ho Chiak!

We also had the har cheong kai, or prawn paste deep fried chicken

Much has been written about this dish in the blogosphere, especially prominent blogger Leslie's recommendation. I found the chicken to be good, but not spectacular. All the ticks are in the right places. Crispy and light, ungreasy batter: check. Nice succulent meat: check. Flavourful chicken: check. But some I found the balance of spices, herbs to be a bit out...only very slightly, mind you...so still a very good and enjoyable, but I think the chef has to seek to find that balance to make it spectacular for me.

And to the piece de resistance, the fish head steamboat

A very traditional steamboat pot, heated with glowing charcoal was served. The fragrance as it landed on our table was superb. The bubbling soup was very good. The broth had a very robust savoury flavour, full of umami, and yet had a light, slight creamy mouthfeel with a touch of spice. Magnificent.

The chunks of garoupa slices, of which there were more than chunks of fish head, despite the name of the dish was truly spectacular.

Very fresh, so the flesh was firm, with a slightly springy texture as one sinks one's teeth into it, with the skin a bit more than the meat. Very sweet, and excellent fish.

Definitely one of the best fish steamboat I have eaten. I at the original store in Balestier some years ago, and left unimpressed, but this visit left me wanting more and yearning to return. Soon.

Whampoa Keng Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant
116/118 Rangoon Road