Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marutama Ramen, Liang Court

Was over at Liang Court so I ventured into Marutama not having much expectation, as I was severely disappointed the last time I ate at the Central branch. But - to my surprise - this turned out pretty alright; good flavour on the chicken even though it's not as robust as I would like; but the egg was sooo deliciously good. I had an extra egg (2 eggs in all). The ramen was the way I like it - very springy and thin. Delicious. 7/10

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Koji Sushi Bar, China Square

I am an avid follower of @myfoodsirens on Instagram, and therefore when she posted - on her Instagram - that she was at a hidden lunch spot which sold very good chirashi-don, it wasn't going to be much of a secret anymore, at least for me and my folks. We're talking about Koji Sushi Bar, a new hole in the wall shop that is a stone's throw down from Platypus Lobster Shack, along the same row albeit towards North Bridge Road and away from China Street. It just recently opened in November 2014 and is run by the same guys behind Satsuma at Gallery Hotel, which unfortunately closed down.

The entire place has a really open feel: it's an open kitchen with counters all around. Quite an intimidating place, I would think, if I were a chef - since there's almost no privacy at all. The sakes were handscribbled on a chalkboard to one side of the bar, with quite an extensive selection.

This place specialises in chirashi and nigiri sushi sets, which is well, apt for its name. Some of the sushi sets were pretty affordable. For example, a set for S$9 gives you (1) sea bream; (2) swordfish; (3) bluefin tuna; (4) sweet prawn and (5) salmon. Not bad for S$9! If you ordered ala-carte, this would have set you back S$20 or more.

And what impressed me was the quality. The neta (fish) was excellent; with a very good quality of fish. The sea bream had full of good fish oils, very clean tasting and flavourful; swordfish was good; the bluefin tuna a revelation, since there was that deep flavourful taste that had that "metallic" depth that I like about a good bluefin tuna (comparable to a mid-level sushiya in Tokyo perhaps); the sweet prawn was alright; and salmon was alright as well. Don't really fancy salmon.

And you can also order the expensive sushi set for S$23 which comes with (1) chutoro; (2)  shima aji (3) kampachi; (4) hotate and (5) anago. Everything was good: the chutoro full of oishi fish oils; shima aji was flavourful too; and especially good was the hotate. Everything was done very well - the rice was not too big, and they even have the brush for you to brush your own shoyu (just as what is done in the top sushi restaurants where they'd brush the shoyu for you). 

Overall - the nigiri gets an 8.25/10 from me. You can tell how good the fish is by the aftertaste that lingers in one's month long after the meal has ended. In the end, I finished 4 sets altogether - which made for 20 pieces of sushi. You will note the exquisite colour of genuine bluefin tuna in this photo here. 

We also bumped into my ex-national service mate who is the owner's brother; and so he let us try their fresh saba (mackerel) which was very delicious as well; sweet and complex.

And eat set comes with a choice of salad or soup. Both were good - the salad had a light tasty dressing and the soup had good kelp flavours. 

Great new sushi joint for me to satisfy my craving without breaking the bank! I think I may go back today, haha. Worth a visit! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sakari Sushi Restaurant, Orchid Hotel

One of the blogs that I follow quite religiously is The Travelling Hungryboy which is run by American-Asian Brian Ma, and his brand of writing is very candid and informal which makes it fun to read. He also updates very regularly, which is a particularly important trait for a food blogger. He recommended "Sakari Sushi Restaurant" as having a very good chirashi, so I decided to pop by on my day off - one day after coming back from Japan - to see what the hype is all about.

But the first time I came, I didn't have the chirashi; I was blown away by the awesome sushi at Sushi Tokami (which you can read my review here), so I wanted to see what Singapore could offer. I guess perhaps expectations should be toned down due to the quality of the fish, but I wanted to see what this place was about. So I said to Chef Paul (also known as "Sushi Paul"): Omakase please!

We started off with squid (ika) - good texture, chewy but not being too firm. The meal was off to a good start. I would have preferred more vinegar in the rice but that's always a matter of personal preference and I know Singaporeans don't like too vinegared rice. 

Next up, a fish which had a gelatinous crunchy texture, perfumed with some yuzu and ikura. A good dish though I wish I could still recall its name! Never mind. It was good. 

We were then served with a kampachi (or was it hamachi - my memory is failing) which was quite good; flavourful.

The kohada was well-prepared, flavourful, tasty - with good fish oils. 

I particularly enjoyed the shako (or mantis shrimp), which had great crustacean flavour, very prawny. After all it's a giant prawn - it had a good seafood flavour.

Next up - sea eel (anago), which had good flavour; certainly well-seasoned.

We were then served with negitoro, seasoned with some spring onions. A pretty flavourful dish, good quality of tuna. 

And we ended off with some bonito with ginger. Good.

Overall, the sushi omakase at Sakari Sushi was pretty good, although I think the price was relatively high especially for lunch, if we were just to eat the sushi omakase alone. I guess you always pay a premium for omakase anyway. Certain pieces - like the squilla (shako) and the anago - were very good, quite comparable to what you will get in Japan. I thought the rice could have been more flavourful as I do appreciate more flavour in sushi rice, to pair with fish. But then again I think it would make much more sense to do dinner - if we are eating sushi omakase - rather than for lunch, since a comparative sushi omakase at Shinji or Hashida would set you back S$300 per person.

Now, moving on to the chirashi don, which I had on a subsequent occasion. It was good! A small bowl - almost a miniature Aoki bowl but at 2/5 of the price, But it was chockful of ingredients that you would not normally see in a chirashi don, for example - Kohada. Very fresh fish, a good assortment; and you could tell that the fish was of a much higher grade than some of the other places. And at S$22 (average) - it was good value. I would come back for the chirashi don lunch, certainly. This for me is a 8/10.

As you will note from the photos, I have had the chirashi a few times. Haha. 

The ambience of Sakari is quite "zen" - there are lots of bricks on the wall and a pleasant woody atmosphere throughout. I guess, as it's not so popular yet, it's a good place for a pleasant conversation. 
Would recommend.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pantler, Telok Ayer Street

It seems that one of the recent trends in the Singapore food scene is the opening of specialised artisan patisseries and boulangeries - offering premium cakes and utilising top-quality ingredients (and often charging prices to match). Flor Patisserie, K-Ki, Patisserie Glace, ABC Boulangerie, have opened; and they compete with more established brands such as Gobi, Plain Vanilla, and the like. One of the most anticipated openings was the opening of Pantler, whose baker and owner used to work in the Hyatt in Tokyo. Now given that the cakes standard is Tokyo is second to none, the presence of a chef who arrived from a five-star hotel in Tokyo is - certainly and hopefully - a badge of quality.

And I think it didn't disappoint. I've been to Pantler on 2 occasions already as it is very near my office. The decor of the place sports a zen-like interior - minimalist walls, lots of black, sparse interior decoration. The focus of the display really showcases the cakes well.

The first time I arrived - I had a citron tart, which was pretty good, featuring a good balance between the tartness and sweetness and a good crumbly base. (7.5/10)

The second time I visited - which was this afternoon - I treated myself to a Pear Tart. This was really quite superb, featuring very pure flavours, the right amount of sweetness (could be less in fact) and very ripe fruit. The flavours of the Bartlett pear was spot on, and there was the almond / fragipane filling below the pear slices which were delicious too. (8.5/10)

There are many other cakes on offer - including many interesting species like a "ruby" tart featuring grapefruit, and Hyatt's famous chocolate layered cake. Next time!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sakuraya, West Coast Plaza

One of the places that have recently become a favourite of mine is Sakuraya, located at West Coast Plaza. I'm quite fortunate as my church is literally next door from West Coast Plaza, so Sakuraya is extremely convenient for me - as a quick "snack" after music practice, or after church. 

The concept is somewhat like a "fish market" - you select your piece of sashimi, and they slice it up for you for dine-in. They also offer some donburis, including my favourite barachirashi, which comes - as you will note in the photo - with all sorts of assorted ingredients including tuna, tai, hamachi, tamago, etc, all chopped up into bite size pieces. Eating the barachirashi is a pleasure in itself, as the small size of the pieces of fish leads to better mouthfeel. 

The rice could be far better though: it is usually quite hard and lacks the vinegary taste of a good sushi rice which I enjoy. Overall: 8/10

S and I are "sashimi" buddies - we would enjoy a large plate of sashimi every time we get to dine at Sakuraya. This was Norwegian salmon and hamachi. The hamachi was really good, full of fish oils (as it's coming to winter time): 8.25/10. This time the salmon wasn't so up to par, being rather powdery in nature rather than being smooth. 6.5/10.

This is a place that I patronise quite often, and I thank God there's such a place near me. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mezza9 Champagne Brunch, Hyatt Singapore

I'm usually not a big fan of buffets - since, you know, I get full pretty fast and buffets tend to have substandard food i.e. not plated well, not much taste, and the "pig" in me just wants to eat more and more leaving little room to savour the intricate flavours of the food (if there are indeed such flavours). It was M's birthday, and he said he booked champagne brunch at Mezza9 @ Hyatt - and what's better than some champagne and free flow of oysters! 

The selection was ginormous - there was an appetizer station featuring freshly-shucked oysters, lobsters, crabs, large prawns, jamon, rock melon, and some salads; a Chinese station where one could order sio-bak and pipa duck amongst other roasts; a grill station where there was pasta cooked to order and other meats such as lamb leg, striploin, pork belly, etc; a Japanese station where we had access to sashimi (yellowtail; salmon belly; swordfish; hamachi all included), sushi, miso soup, etc; and of course, a dessert selection, as well as a cheese room. All this came with free flow champagne (Perrier Jouet), red wine, white wine, etc - and juices if you'd like. The price is SGD138++ which is I thought a pretty reasonable deal considering that a wedding dinner would already set you back SGD180 and the food isn't that good anyway (for most wedding dinners).

I munched through the seafood first - the oysters were really good for a buffet, freshly shucked to order which meant that they were fresh - briny, slightly sweet, and delicious - man I'd love to have some more even as I'm blogging. 
The littleneck clams were great too - quite delicious. Then we had some lobster (not that nice); crab (was good - rather sweet); and prawns, of course - big and fresh. I had some jamon with rock melon too - all that washed down with the champagne. 

And of course, I had a plate of sashimi as well: very fresh swordfish replete with delicious oils; yellowtail was great as well, very fresh and with lovely fish oils; salmon belly is always a treat sine it's extra fatty - the tuna was slightly disappointing even though it's bluefin tuna (I guess the experience at Sushi Tokami has killed tuna for me forever).

Also tried some yakitori - the chicken balls were not bad, and so were the pork that was grilled with leek.

We moved on to mains, and the striploin was good - I requested that it be charred longer on the grill to bring out the flavour and it went well with the red wine sauce. What was a highlight was the pork belly - succulent pork fats on the outside, crispy skin, and very strong flavours of pork. Washed down well with the cabernet sauvignon.

To finish, I visited the cheese room, and asked for a cheese sampler. I sampled five different types, which were artfully presented on my plate with some bread and chutney, and arranged from mildest to strongest. All of them were great, very fine cheeses from boutique producers in Switzerland and France. Yummy. The cheese was one of the highlights, sampling cheese washed down with the cabernet sauvignon which made a good match.

The restaurant also provided a cheesecake provided for M's birthday, which was a nice touch. And the cheesecake itself was great (I'm a big fan of cheesecakes, poor waistline of mine).

Overall, one of the best buffet experiences in Singapore and certainly if I were rich I'd be eating here more often. Ha. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Seryna, Shinjuku

Just a quick post before I head to Sentosa for Adult Playground organised by a friend of mine. This was shabu-shabu at Seryna, which has a pretty affordable lunch set at about Y5000 which featured wagyu beef (look at that marbling) and crab! 

The crab was good stuff, sweet and of good quality - and the trick is to blanch it in the shabu shabu water for about 2 minutes. The beef was very well-marbled as well. 

A shout-out to the great sesame and ponzu dipping sauce - never knew the combination was so good.

(I'm never a big shabu-shabu fan since I much prefer the sweetness of a sukiyaki. This was good though).

Value for money: go during lunch, as the price skyrockets during dinner. 

The view from the Shinjuku outlet, located ontop of the Sumimoto building - is fantastic too.