Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ah Hoe Mee Pok

Yes, this is going to be a photo-less post, mainly because my phone battery went flat just as I was about to visit Ah Hoe Mee Pok (Block 710, Clementi West) after church. 

Located in a coffee shop in the middle of a HDB estate, Ah Hoe Mee Pok is quite unique in that it features a Japanese owner/chef at the helm, blanching and stirring mee pok, cooking pork and meatballs, and his daughter helping him to take down the orders.

The stall to the left of Ah Hoe is called "Noodle King", and I noticed that they also sell meepok and "bak chor mee". The only difference was that Noodle King didn't have a queue, while Ah Hoe Mee Pok's line was some 10-12 persons. I guess Noodle King isn't king of its hood after all. But what struck me was the difference in movement and motion. The Japanese chef's actions and motions were very precise: a flick of the wrist here and there, liberally flicking the noodles in the basket so as to ensure that all the water drains out (water is tasteless and so too much water in the noodles will detract from the taste of the sauce), ensuring that the noodles are quickly steeped in cold water to prevent it from continuing to cook, and the like. Whereas the old aunty from Noodle King was rather insipid in her movements - probably as a result of age. 

So how was it? Pretty good, but I can't say I am mind-blown. The sauce featured some use of sesame oil, with less vinegar; it was slightly different from the "local" meepok that I have eaten. It was certainly tasty and very balanced, a good mix of sauces that was quite addictive in leaving one wanting for more. 

Further, the texture of the meepok was spot on: not too hard and not too soft, with a good bite. The ingredients were all fresh - no complaints.

And then you have a pretty tasty soup that is a far cry from the insipid excuses for soup that we find at other places.

Overall, a very good bowl of meepok. I still prefer Tai Hwa, but this was a really good bowl near my house and church. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

MaguroDonya Miuramisakikou Sushi (Suntec City)

Ever since I ate really good bluefin tuna from Sushi Tokami in Tokyo, I have been addicted to top quality hon maguro (Bluefin tuna), not the cheap yellowfin stuff that most restaurants serve you when you order maguro. No, real bluefin tuna is a thing of beauty; it has that deep, rich almost meaty flavour that is more full-flavoured and deeper tasting than all of the yellowfins. In Singapore, only certain restaurants claim to serve bluefin - the top end restaurants like Aoki, Shinji, and Tatsuya certainly; and that's why I do enjoy my trips at Koji since they serve bluefin at a not-so-exorbitant price.

When I saw photos of awesome bluefin tuna from this newly-opened restaurant called MaguroDonya Miuramisakikou, I knew I had to try it, since the tagline was that the restaurant served top quality hon maguro at reasonable prices.

So off we went, on the restaurant's opening day. It was rather empty, as can be seen from the photos - perhaps as we went rather late, close to 8pm.

Service was pleasant and courteous, we were taken care of by the friendly and amicable David who asked us how we knew about the place and was certainly keen to show us all the dishes and to provide us with much needed recommendations. He informed us that they just had a tuna cutting not too long ago, and presented us with this platter of delicious tuna cuts - man, it looked almost like cuts of beef! 

We were presented with some complementary o-toro, which was just sublime, unctuous fats. So delicious.  I mean, just look at the marbling!

We decided to each have a 'set', to be paired with some sides for sharing. I had the sushi set which came with tuna maki, ikura gunkan, uni gunkan, maguro akami nigiri, salmon nigiri, o-toro nigiri, botan ebi, and two types of white fish - I think they were kanpachi and tai though I can't be so sure. Either way, the sushi was good; I loved the delicious akami and the otoro was just sublime with all that fish oils. The price: S$42. 

David brought out a large tuna collar that was left over from the cutting and asked if we wanted to take it - it would be charcoal grilled, he said. Trust me, this thing was massive. We duly obliged...

And soon, about 30 min later, we are presented with this charcoal grilled beauty - the collar of the bluefin tuna. It was seriously huge - good enough for 4-5 people. 

Here's another photo to show you the size of the thing. Meat wise, it was yummy; the tuna meat remained extremely moist, and there were parts of the flesh which were just pink and juicy and tasty all at the same time. We had much fun rummaging into the crevices of the tuna collar in order to pick out the choicest parts. Would certainly order this again, but too bad that a tuna only has 2 collars. This was 8.5/10. By the end of the evening we were just stuffed with fish oils!

We also had some assorted sashimi; there was a platter of 3 types of maguro (akami, chutoro and otoro). Good stuff; I liked the otoro best for its fatty unctuous fish oils; the chutoro was good too. (8.5/10). Not the most top quality tuna since it was partially farmed, but still better than most.

I didn't really like the swordfish though - it tasted rather tough and sinewy, not at all like the choice mekajikis that we enjoy.

Another thing one should order when one's visiting MaguroDonya is the scrapped sushi - it is basically toro that has been scrapped near the bones from the leftovers, and is painstaking work but all of the meat ends up in this huge massive gunkan which boasts good flavour and is certainly good value for money. 8/10

I left the restaurant really stuffed, and full of fish oils, but excited to return - it's encouraging seeing more and more Japanese restaurants coming into Singapore from Japan. It would certainly be lovely if we could see some gastro-izakayas like Kanemasu, Kotaro and Nakamura in Singapore as well, pairing gourmet food with expertly chosen sakes. And certainly the sake scene could improve a great deal, since we often see the same labels at regular Japanese joints (Hakkaisan, Kubota, Dassai, Kikusui are some names that come to mind). But I digress - Magurodonya is a promising new entry into the world of Japanese cuisine in Singapore and certainly worth a visit.
A photo of the tuna collar once we were done with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Park Bench Deli

Ming (ex-Lolla head chef) is a chef that has my respect, for his skills in the kitchen and for his love for food. I was surprised that he had left Lolla, but then he told me that he was going to set up a place serving awesome sandwiches. Naturally, therefore, I was rather enthusiastic when his place - Park Bench Deli - finally opened. Thankfully it's near my office, literally a stone's throw away from Amoy Food Centre, and so I visited them yesterday to try their food.

The decor is certainly quite modern-looking; you step in and there are wooden panels painted in a shade of green, somewhat reminiscent of a "park bench". There's a large open kitchen where customers can view the chefs grilling, sauteeing, assembling etc the sandwiches.

As there were two of us there, we managed to try two sandwiches: the Southern Fried Chicken and the Steak and Cheese. 

Ooh, I really loved the Southern Fried Chicken sandwich, consisting of southern fried chicken with a corn and cabbage slaw topped with Russian dressing. The chicken was certainly tasty and very well-seasoned, fried to a batter-y crisp while remaining light in the process, neither oily nor greasy. The slightly tangy Russian dressing was a good compliment allowing the natural flavours of the chicken to take centerstage, while the salad kept things refreshing. Overall, very delicious and balanced in a good way. (8.5/10)

I also tried the Steak and Cheese sandwich, which featured tender slices of beef which were juicy and well-marbled and tasty, with the beef juices leaking out as well. The sauteed onions were well-sauteed, adding a caramelised sweetness to it. I would have loved a bit more cheese though ! (but because I'm a cheese fan). Still a really decent sandwich: 8/10

Lots of drinks are available as well, including some craft beers and some never-seen-before sodas from the United States. I'm sure this place will be a hit, as evidenced from the throngs of hungry lunchtime diners waiting for their sandwiches. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ginza Tendon Itsuki

Keisuke's latest creation is a tendon joint (tempura on rice) located next to Orchid Hotel (along Tanjong Pagar Road) named Ginza Tendon Itsuki. Many bloggers have already commented on how awesome the tendon is. With such immense hype, I had to try it for myself in order to satisfy my curiosity.

The space itself was lovely - clean decor, light wood, and an airy feel about it. There are only two things on the menu: the normal tendon (prawns, chicken, vegetable tempura) or the vegeterian option. I went for the normal tendon, obviously. 

What I didn't expect was the chawan mushi that came with the tendon - it was sooo good. Really. The chawan mushi had lots of eggy flavour and a really good dashi stock bringing out all the flavour. I was suitably impressed - especially for a complimentary meal. (8.25/10)

The tendon itself was also excellent. You could taste the freshness of the ingredients, light tempura batter, and a tasty savoury and slightly sweet tendon sauce drizzled all over which was rather addictive, as well as firm rice that soaked up all the goodness. There was also a little onsen egg which was also made into tempura - which was a nice change. Don't think it's traditional, but it works. (8.25/10)

Overall, excellent tendon - it wouldn't be out of place in Japan, seriously. Maybe not the most top end tempura restaurant - as the batter was a tad thick and not as light as some of the other places - but still, very good. Right now, as the place is new, there were still seats available, though I shudder to think of the crowd that will stream in once the place gets popular. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Long Chim, Marina Bay Sands

I've been hunting high and low for a restaurant that gives me the flavours from Thailand - unadulterated and complex spices, big bold flavours, authentic stuff - and I think I've found it over here at Long Chim, David Thompson's relatively new restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. 

The ambience was quite beautiful - the place was decorated to resemble a Thai resort of sorts, which made for a relaxing ambience.

For drinks - Thai milk tea's always a favourite; this one had the strong perfume of red roses. Not too strong either. Exquisite. 
The menu is divided into starters on one side, and main dishes and noodles/rice dishes on the other. We decided to have a few main dishes to share, with a starter of the "aromatic beef skewer" that came highly recommended.

One of my favourite dishes at Thai restaurants is the Krap-pow, which is minced beef fried with Thai holy basil and topped with a fried egg. It's the quintessential Thai dish in my humble opinion, and one that's highly popular with many Thais (so I've heard). I've had pretty anaemic versions of the dish in many a Thai restaurant in Singapore, limp insipid versions that don't do any justice to the real thing. Not this one - the rendition here at Long Chim was excellent: lots of wok flavour, deliciously aromatic with lots of fresh holy basil. Excellent and certainly very delicious. (8.25/10)

The famous aromatic beef skewers were excellent. They were cooked to medium, and marinated with cumin and cardamom and other spices and grilled, resulting in tender meat with a complex spice flavour. Exquisite - extremely aromatic and flavourful with all the spices balancing well. It was so good that we ordered a second helping. (8.5/10)

Deep fried squid with sundried tomatoes was next - these were excellent as well; very tasty squid with loads of flavour from the umami, albeit a bit salty. Another winner. (8.25/10)

We had some noodles as well - these were smoky wok noodles with pork and prawns. These were fried very well, great wok hei, very smoky and aromatic. Loved the black sauce that coated the noodles perfectly. (8.5/10)

I am very partial to green curry, and the version over here at Long Chim was simply stunning. Green curry should have the perfect mix of spices to create a complexity of flavour which is tasty and leaves the palate wanting more, while being balanced to ensure that no flavour stands out and that the resulting blend is harmonious. The green curry at Long Chim was all that, and more. The curry was packed with fresh kaffir leaves and aromatic herbs throughout, resulting in a delicious, aromatic curry that was perfect for spooning over rice. (8.5/10)

Lastly - we had the Thai mango salad, which was pretty good as well albeit not as spicy due to my friend's dietary restrictions. Still, a perfectly good rendition. (8/10)

Long Chim is an excellent spot for some authentic Thai food and comparable to some of the top Bangkok restaurants. I am so glad David Thompson didn't try to tone down the flavours for the Singapore palate but has decided to keep the big bold flavours that I so love. Yummy. I'm dreaming of eating more food from the place - I'd have to go back soon and perhaps bring my family or something. Best Thai restaurant in Singapore, I think. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wafuken, Asia Square

The Asia Square food court is a happy feeding ground for me, for its myriad of options ranging from Astons, to Wheat, to Ippudo and Pepper Lunch. There's also Guzman Y Gomez (which I'm not particularly fond of) but what really piqued my interest was this stall named Wafuken. 

It serves sous vide proteins cooked with healthy sides. 

So you have a choice of sous vide chicken, salmon, steak, or wagyu premium steak - and you can have it either as part of a donburi, or as part of a do-it-your-own-style creations where you can also select your vegetables and carbohydrates as well.

I've tried the salmon and the steak, and a friend of mine has tried the chicken. The verdict: the salmon is awesome. Seriously good - pink and soft in the middle with good flavour, and it helps if you add some of that sushi soy sauce or the ponzu, which adds more flavour. 

The chicken - from the little that I tried - was also pretty decent - very soft, especially the breast meat, and still flavourful.

The steak, however, didn't fare so well, mainly because the steak was rather thin. I'd assume that they had cooked it sous vide, but once the outside was seared, the heat perhaps was transferred too quickly to the insides resulting in rather tough meat. Perhaps a thicker cut of steak would be preferable (although one could, understandably - reduce the length / width of the steak to compensate) such that the insides would remain medium rare while the outside layer is seared.

Among the sides, I really liked the grilled mushrooms, as well as the soba which was done pretty well if a bit over. Brown rice was also a good option - healthy. The mushrooms were earthy, the way I like it. Grilled asparagus was great too. Not so much a fan of the baked sweet potato.

Well, wafuken is highly recommended if you work around the area. Check it out. I'd say 8/10 for the salmon, 6.5/10 for the steak.

I'd be trying the chicken soon - hopefully. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sushi Harutaka, Tokyo

Another life-changing sushi meal (apart from the glimpse of sushi perfection at Sushi Tokami during my last trip to Tokyo) was at Sushi Harutaka, which was one of the best, most consistently stellar sushi meals I have eaten in my life. Everything was delicious and so good.

Harutaka himself was a former disciple of Jiro Ono of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame. And recently it has climbed to No. 2 on Tabelog. It has also been awarded two Michelin stars. As such, it was really hard to book - a friend in Tokyo helped us to get a reservation by making a phone call, and even then we had to settle for a 9.30pm seating.

But who cares, when the sushi is that good!

We started off with karei (flounder) - a very delicate fish, but yet with good flavour. It paired perfectly well with the vinegared rice that they use over here at Harutaka - I think the rice at Harutaka has to be my favourite over all that I've eaten thus far, since it is really vinegarish and really pairs well with the fish. (8/10)
Next up, we had aorika (big squid), which was very well prepared: thin cuts are inserted to increase tenderness. Clean and tasty, pairing well with the vinegared rice. (8/10)
Katsugo - young sea bream. Smoked and cured. Again, delicate flavour, but perfectly balanced. (8/10)

Akami (lean maguro) - rich, deep flavour, clean finish, pairing well with the heavily vinegared shari. (8.5/10)

Chutoro fared even better - strong tuna flavour, clean, deep flavours; rich. Not as good as autumn tuna but still pretty solid. We ordered a second at the end. (8.75/10)

Otoro - flavourful, fragrant fish oils, buttery fats and a clean finish. Again, lovely combination of shari and neta.(8.75/10)

Kohada was very multi-dimensional and complex: slightly sweet, very clean, fragrant. Excellent piece. (8.5/10)

Torigai was also very good - a strong yet clean seafood flavour which had a natural sweetness; nice long finish. Very tender. (8.25/10)

Aji - clean and tasty. Rather light. 8/10

A scallop-like kobashira, this was really good, tasting of the natural sweetness of the sea. (8.5/10)

Kuruma ebi - one of the best I've eaten: strong prawn flavour, sweet, tender and rich with a long finish. (8.75/10)

Don't quite remember the name of the next piece - but it was delicious anyhow.

Akagai - done very well. Crunchy, robust seafood clam flavour, sweet yet subtle. Yummy. (8.25/10)

Esaki - lightly torched, and seasoned with a tad of citrus and salt. There's a very flavourful combination of fish oils, with the salty and tangy. It's a fruit that was smaller than yuzu, apparently. (8.5/10)

One of the highlights from my meal at Harutaka was this Murasaki uni from Aomori. Very flavourul - sweet, clean, floral, with the briny taste of the sea that is so characteristic of uni. This was an extremely large piece, as the photos testify. A standout from my meal at Harutaka, and well deserving of a 9.25/10.

The bonito was another standout - lightly smoked bonito, with the smokiness of the bonito carrying through while the fish itself subtly sweet. 8.75/10
Hamaguri - with a slightly sweet sauce. Crunchy, good flavours. 8.25/10

If you've watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you'd know that the apprentice took a really long time to make a great Tamago. Here, the tamago is truly mastered, and it shows - soft, sweet, rich, eggy, and had a custard texture with a slight brown crust providing a delightful contrast. Quite masterful. I ordered seconds. (9/10)

Overall, if there's one sushi ya that everyone should go to - Harutaka would be that sort of place. It's very very consistent, it's consistently delicious and stellar, and there are enough standouts through the rest of the meal to make your sushi experience awesome.