Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Walk in the Park

Tired of being cooped up at home and not actually getting any work done, I took my new camera for a walk. Sunday afternoons are busy periods for the Botanic Gardens, but it was still possible to find some peace and quiet there. It felt good to be out in the sunshine, amongst God's creatures, and then some... (yes it is possible to get weary of fine dining...)

the eponymous residents of Swan Lake (mute swans, sadly named)

"Hmm, I wonder if that's edible..." (pink-necked green pigeon)

"Sometimes one needs to get off the treadmill of life and do some contemplating...y-up..."

He may have a short neck but... (radjah shelduck)

... the girls still flock to him. (ok I'm kidding - those are lesser whistling ducks)

Hey, where's Wally?

not quite birdsong

and then the light faded...

time to head on home
What I wouldn't give to live this close to nature on a daily basis. Ah well, a stint in Ubud will have to do.
(here are more pix of the Botanic Gardens, from a previous visit.)


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tales from the City: Verily She Said Unto Me

Yea the food at Veritas is good, so sayeth the cat.

warm rhubarb and apple crisp, white pepper ice cream, port reduction and toasted walnuts

for more photos, check this out.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tales from the City: Divine Providence

HM continues her eating ways...


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tales from the City: A Square Bagel?

looking remarkably like kaya toast...


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tales from the City: The Big Sandwich

This is the first picture from New York City, where HM is now. Talk about droolworthy!

check out the amount of pastrami, not to mention the size of that pickle!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wildly Civilised

Brunch - like high tea, the word conjures up images of excess and indulgence, and hours of slow grazing. Perfect for Sundays and birthdays. On the spur of the moment, HM had reserved a table at Wild Rocket, one of these hip restaurants that foodies have been raving about, for Sunday brunch, and roped in ES and KKN for the celebrations. Would the restaurant live up to its hype?

The restaurant is situated on the ground floor of cosy Hangout Hotel (yes, that's right, the hotel where the Singapore Idol finalists were cloistered). Incidentally, the drive up Mount Emily, courtesy of
ES' limousine service (thank you, ES!), was an illuminating one; I had no idea that the vicinity was so full of rustic nooks and corners. The restaurant's decor was modern, with just a whiff of retro. With lots of light coming in from the glass frontage, it was a pleasant enough space for brunch.

foccacia and olive oil

While we waited for our food, and KKN, to appear, we were kept occupied by the foccacia which was delightful. It was so light it resembled sponge cake in texture.

pan seared tuna and rocket salad

grilled tofu and baby spinach salad

We opted for two appetisers to share. Of the two, ES preferred the grilled tofu and baby spinach salad, for its soy-based Japanese inspired dressing, while HM and I both liked the tuna salad.

my laksa pesto linguini with tiger prawns and quail's egg

HM's wild rocket burger

ES' willoughby bangers and mash

KKN's scrambled eggs and beef sausages

Of the mains, while the sausages were good, the two that stood out for me were the linguini and the burger. The laksa pesto was actually spicy, not just token heat, and the sweet tiger prawns played off the sauce very well. The burger was even better, the patty being very very juicy.

Then came the desserts.

pandan panna cotta

coconut ice with gula melaka (left) and strawberry cheesecake with maple walnut icre cream(right)

Four of us shared three desserts. The pandan panna cotta was interesting although not everyone's cup of tea. As for the strawberry cheesecake, true cheesecake lovers will love it, but since none of us are hardcore fans, we found it a little too cloying. The big hit was the coconut ice cream with its traditional taste partner - simple but effective.

the damage

All in all, it was an enjoyable brunch. The setting was comfortable. The food was well executed, and at its best when kept simple. Prices were affordable. Correspondingly, the portions were relatively small which, depending on one's preference, could be both boon or bane. Smaller portions mean one can mix and match courses. However, as HM would say, such restraint doesn't a good brunch make. In that sense, Wild Rocket is almost too low key, compared to a place like P.S. Cafe which offers a much more full-on full-blown brunch experience. Still, at least it didn't pretend to be oh so cool, a plus point in my book.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Swear It Was So Good...

HM and I hadn't planned for yet another major meal, but we were downtown and at a loss about where to go and what to eat for dinner. God knows we weren't keen on another ang mo meal, not after the huge dinner at Churchill Club (see previous entry), and not before the next day's brunch treat at Wild Rocket (see latest entry). Nevertheless, we both felt the need for something nourishing, something that would fortify us. Nabe or Japanese hotpot seemed like a good choice.

the real thing

We have always liked Kuriya at Shaw Centre - busy but not hassle-y, a step up from the conveyor belt and family type restaurant but not pretentious, and always excellent value for money, given the freshness and quality of the ingredients and standard of cooking and presentation. Not surprisingly, we could not get a table straightaway, not without a reservation; they managed to squeeze us in forty minutes later.

As always, the set menus which offer the best value for money were all tempting. Having set on our hearts on nabe, we settled on the kani nabe (king crab hotpot) set for two.

prawn with Japanese cucumber, ikura (fish roe), and baby squid and bamboo shoot in miso

assorted sashimi - sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), shime saba (mackerel), ama-ebi (sweet prawn)

king crab legs

the highlight - kani nabe or king crab hotpot

One of the highlights of the meal was the sashimi which was very fresh. The ama-ebi were a real treat, being incredibly sweet. Of course, the focus of the meal was the king crab. This was my first taste of king crab and I really enjoyed the sweetness of the flesh. However, as HM noted, the texture of the flesh is somewhat "rougher" than, say, the Sri Lankan crabs, and also less "crabby" in taste. Still, dipped into the killer dipping sauce, it was delicious. Then came the hotpot itself. As with all steamboats, the best part was right at the end, when the soup stock was richly flavoured by the crab, the cabbage, the tong hou and the mushrooms. Spooned over udon, or just slurped up on its own, it was just the thing we needed to chase the blues away. We left completely and utterly satisfied, especially since the bill only came up to $90 including taxes and service, edamame (soy beans still in the shell), green tea and matcha (green tea) ice cream.


A Step Back in Time

Tanglin Club - bastion of old money and colonial privilege, where the list of past presidents reads like a Who's Who of Malayan history (anyone remember J.W.W. Birch of bathtime stabbing fame?). How on earth did riff-raff like us end up at such a notoriously exclusive club for dinner? Believe it or not, we had our parsimonious friend, KKN, to thank. KKN who comes from a respected and respectable family (we're not sure what happened to her...) is a member of the club. Of course we were there to "make use" of a $50 discount voucher she had managed to get her hands on...

strangely teutonic (sorry, Churchill, old man...)

It was obvious from the first moment we stepped into the Churchill Room, Tanglin Club's fine dining restaurant, that we were somewhat underdressed. We were in fact in officewear, but the other guests were in evening wear. One look at the menu though and we were put at ease. Prices were quite reasonable, for fine dining, that is. Entrees were from SGD$22 to $36; only the wagyu beef was priced higher.

bread basket

We nibbled on the bread while dithering over the menu. Of the lot, the appetizers looked the most exciting. Some of our choices included:

duck salad with camembert cheese and cranberry sauce

lobster bisque

crisp foie gras on a bed of roast potato slices and balsamic vinegar sauce

There was also an hor d'ouvres bar which one could opt for, instead of ordering ala carte.

sashimi and salad, from the hor d'ouevres bar

The appetizers were all impressive. HM particularly liked the camembert cheese in her duck salad, and the foie gras was pure melt-in-the-mouth goodness. Another of our dining companions, SGN, declared the lobster bisque the best he's ever had.

Then came the entrees. In addition to steak flambe, buttered monkfish and vegetarian lasagna, we also had:

lobster and scallops on the half shell with basil and garlic

veal tenderloin and lobster tail with grilled vegetables

No one had any complaints about their food, although the grilled vegetables were wasted on the non-vegetable eaters in our group. I certainly enjoyed the veal which was really tender.

We had just enough room left for dessert, so we ordered one each.

my crepes suzette with macadamia brittle and vanilla ice cream

HM's warm lava chocolate cake with homemade ice cream

SGN's creme brulee

ES' walnut crusted brie with truffles

and KKN's apple pie ala mode

The desserts were a fitting end to a luxurious meal. Sated, we sat back to enjoy our coffee and chocolates. Things looked like they were going to draw to a close; most of our fellow diners had left. Little did we know that the proceedings that had been, up to that point, staid were about to take a turn.

after-dinner choccies

Suddenly, a crowd of distinguished-looking uncles and aunties, dressed to the nines, descended on the restaurant and swooped onto the dance floor. The pianist who had been tickling the ivories gave way to a (possibly Filipino) band. The latter promptly swung into a mixture of sentimental favourites and golden oldies. Think bar mitzvah band. The couples rumba-ed, tango-ed,waltzed and rocked, and rolled enthusiastically, to an eclectic mix of Johnny Be Good, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Tennessee Waltz and even The Moon Represents My Heart. For a moment there, we did worry about the possibility of dance-induced back injury and heart attack, but we figured there was most likely a doctor or two in the house, maybe even an orthopaedic surgeon or cardiologist, so we sat back and admired them for their ability to be light on their On Pedder-clad feet. And the music was sing-along-able. Poor SGN though, the youngest in the group, was mercilessly ribbed for attributing the Bee Gees' "Smile" to Westlife (sure, Westlife covered it, but that's so after the fact. Tsk, young people these days...) It was all hugely entertaining.

When we finally left, I couldn't help but note with irony that a motley assortment of senior citizens doing the Conga to La Cucaracha in a retirement home would have been pathetic but, here, in the lap of luxury, it was a celebration of life. Such is the power of money.

(HM, KKN, ES, and SGN: you may want to check these out.)


Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Black Pig Rules

It's been a really busy weekend where food is concerned. We've been out to eat with friends and family, and to a party as well. Still, with Monday looming, we felt we needed a little comfort food, and what better than a steaming bowl of ramen to enhance one's sense of well-being.

One of our favourite Japanese restaurants is located in the basement of Liang Court. Well, it's actually two restaurants in one - Tampopo and Tomton. One specialises in ramen while the other is hugely popular for its katsu don. As far as we're concerned, it's one dining experience, because we always order one bowl of ramen and one katsu don.

shabu ramen

katsu don shio (or shio katsu don?)

The restaurants' success lies in their use of specially imported pork from Japan, pork from the "black pig" or the Berkshire breed. I'm not sure if it's the equivalent of kobe or wagyu beef, but it's soooo succulent. The soup stock is apparently lovingly brewed for two days, from pork bones. We slurp up every last drop of it every time we have it. Then thin slices of the pork are tossed into the bowl of noodles together with bamboo shoot, vegetables and chilli to make for a totally shiok bowl of ramen. As for the katsu don, the katsu is consistently good. It's not just that the pork is mouthwateringly delicious, the batter is so light and crunchy. Tonight's was the shio version, meaning the main flavouring agent was simply salt. Served with a bowl of rice that was topped with slivers of celery, rocket and parsley, the taste of the pork was allowed to stand out. Simply put, simpler is better.


Family Dinner

Having the occasional dinner with my parents gives me the opportunity to check out eateries on the eastern half of the island. Except for special occasions, we usually end up at one of the hawker centres and zhi cha stalls in the area.

Just the other night, we checked out Sin Ho, a zhi cha stall in a coffeeshop at the corner of Bedok North Road and Bedok North Avenue 3. We had intended to try a newly opened restaurant just downstairs but it was chock-a-block with a wait time of at least 30 minutes, so we went round the corner instead.
One look at the crowd, or rather the lack thereof on a Saturday night, and we had an idea what to expect. There were maybe five or six tables filled, so this wasn't some traditional favourite or a hotspot du jour.

With moderate expectations, we ordered the following:

bitter gourd with pork ribs

tofu with chye por (pickled vegetables)

spinach stirfried with top shell

steamed pomfret

Of the lot, the only real disappointment was the bitter gourd with pork ribs. For some reason, it was surprisingly bland, odd for a dish that is usually served with salty and flavourful black bean sauce (tau si). The top shell and spinach was at least passable, typical for zhi cha stalls. The fish was well done - fresh and flaky - but the highlight was really the tofu with chye por. The tofu was deepfried while still exquisitely soft on the inside, and the chye por was a nice touch.

To sum it up, it wasn't a gem of a find, not by a long shot, but it was pleasant enough for a family dinner.

(To my sister, S: if you want to see the folks digging in, look here.)


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Still Simple After All These Years

There are times when a bowl of plain porridge is just what the soul needs. Fortunately, life in this part of the world means one can always find one somewhere, somehow, at any time of day. I would hate to have to live anywhere where the only eat-out option is a fancy-schmancy restaurant or some place which charges ten bucks or more for a bowl of noodles. Those are nice in their own way but, hey, it's good to have a choice...

Having said that, I must admit that no meal with me is exactly a simple one. (For an explanation of that, please refer to this entry.) Here's what we had at Joo Seng Teochew Porridge Stall (that's not the actual name of the place but it's the one opposite Beauty World):

salted egg - mushed into warm porridge, these are divine...

stirfried bitter gourd with egg - Joo Seng does this dish well

fish cake - every Teochew porridge stall prides itself on its house style

steamed pomfret - a Teochew specialty, simply cooked to bring out the freshness of seafood

minced pork in spicy black bean sauce - indispensable, 'nuff said

preserved vegetables - our only concession to the need for fibre...

That's for two people. As HM pointed out, tables with four or five people ordered less than we did. Ah well - 'twas a good meal.

Total: SGD $18.70 inclusive of three bowls of plain porridge but not drinks.