Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sumiya, Orchard Central

So apparently, Sumiya has revamped itself as a seafood place instead of one specialising in meats. Located at the 12th floor of Orchard Central, Sumiya now sits in the space that Kuriya Penthouse once occupied. The ambience was pretty laid back and chill, featuring high ceilings and a haphazard style that brought some edge to the party. 

And how was the food? Well, they were having a bluefin tuna promotion today, and so we had the chance to grab some of the odd cuts that they were promoting. Apparently they have links to a fish farm in Japan which rears bluefin tuna, and the tuna is shipped whole to the restaurant, so we were able to enjoy some of the rare parts of the tuna including the meat from the tuna head, the "dark" meat near the bone, and so on. 

We ordered the "mixed chunks" tuna sashimi, which came with akami, otoro, and chutoro. It was a heady combination, and some of the stuff was just ultra-delicious, especially the akami. For bluefin tuna (hon maguro) I'm a big fan of the akami, as that's where the flavours lie, in that blood red deep, robust and full-bodied "blood" tuna taste. This one was good, pretty deep flavours indeed. The chutoro and otoro were good as well. We later found out that it was farmed tuna but we honestly couldn't tell. 8/10.

We also ordered some grilled yellowtail collar - these were done competently and served with the customary radish and lemon; albeit I found the meat slightly tough in parts. 7/10

We ordered some "crazy" chicken meat, nicely grilled with enough scallions to cut through the richness of the chicken. Nothing too fanciful here, just solid grub. 7/10

Aburi tuna skin was served with a ponzu dressing. It was certainly very refreshing, and full of collagen. Interesting contrast between the tart ponzu and the smoky aburi flavours of the tuna skin. 7.25/10

We ordered some blood-tuna meat simmered in its own blood and served with ginger. I kid you not, this tasted like pork with ginger, a homely dish that most Chinese families would serve with rice. If you blindfolded me, I'd have guessed pork. Interesting! 7/10

We ordered two helpings of the tuna head meat sashimi, which was lightly torched. These were just plain delicious, with a luscious mouthfeel and juicy fish oils and a robust tuna flavour, rich and deep. Thoroughly enjoyed this one. 8.25/10

One of the specialties here was the double-steamed rice in bamboo with eel and ikura. These were simply delicious. The rice was double-steamed in a bamboo pot, and was extremely soft and flavourful having a subtle sweetness about it, having absorbed all the flavours of the eel and ikura. It was such an enjoyable experience tasting the rice and enjoying bits of ikura saltiness bursting out and combining with the fragrant rice. The eel, while being very tasty, was almost unnecessary, that's how good the rice was. A dish I'd certainly come back again for. 8.25/10

Monday, March 2, 2015

Nobu-Ya, Fortune Centre

After so long, I finally managed to try Nobu-Ya (Middle Road), a little hole in the wall in Fortune Centre (Middle Road) that's reminiscent of the many izakayas in Tokyo or indeed in other parts of Japan. It is reputed to offer some of the best izakaya fare on this little island, and so I did not hesitate to suggest it when a few friends needed a place to chill and hang out.

Ambience wise, there's nothing much to boast about: it's just humble chairs and tables (stools, more like). But I guess that's not the draw here. There's a huge sake list of many reputable brands - and even a Japanese sake sommelier - so just ask him and he will be happy to recommend something.

Sapporo is on draft, and it tastes pretty good; much better than many a Sapporo I have had elsewhere. We started with chicken kara-age; crispy and fried on the outside. Not bad though probably not the best I've eaten due to their preference for using breast meat. 7/10

What I really loved, however, was the buri sashimi. Buri is the yellowtail when it has grown to a large size - more than 5kg and I first had the chance to try it at Sushi Tokami when it was soooo delicious. Here, it was just as good; super oishii, very tasty; lovely fish oil flavour. Yummy - I wanted to order more of these. The fish flavours were just so clean and yummy. 8.5/10

We also ordered the buri cheeks - which was done shio style. These were pretty good as well: crispy and with clean fish flavour. 

Next up: vinegared Tako (octopus) - pretty yummy. It was very refreshing, and it tasted really good. The tako itself was slightly chewy but not hard at all. Good stuff. 7/10
I really enjoyed the braised beef tendon; it was braised in a delicious sauce which I was only too happy to slurp up. The beef itself was of course flavourful. 8/10

One of the highlights of the meal was ankimo (monkfish liver) just steamed. The flavour of the ankimo was just awesome; think foie gras but lighter, with the flavour of the oceans - of intense fish. Very distinctive flavour and something I really enjoyed. I shall have to hunt for more of these. 8.5/10

We then had some other braised beef - these were good, it flaked well but we were all in agreement that the tendon edged this. 7/10

Some fish tempura was ordered: quite delicious, fresh, well prepared.

A cod hot-pot followed. A comforting dish certainly, especially with the copious amounts of sake we were drinking; the fish was fresh and the broth comforting.

The Matsuki beef was great. Even though this was a small portion, rest assured that the flavour packs a wallop - almost like liver in terms of taste. A very raw, wild, kind of flavour which I really enjoy in beef. (8/10)

Lastly, shio snapper. An ugly sight but the fish was perfectly grilled; just tender, just past the point of being "cooked", and not at all tough. Perfect grilling. 8/10
Overall, Nobu-Ya has shot up to one of my top izakaya joints in Singapore, and is certainly worth a visit for its relatively wallet-friendly pricing, extensive sake list, and delicious Japanese izakaya fare. And with the constantly rotating seasonal menu, you wouldn't be bored.

Two thumbs up!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

ARIA, Sydney

I am a big fan of the performing arts and thus found it a must that I watch a performance at the Sydney Opera House - I actually managed two performances, Tosca and an orchestral performance of Schumann 1 and 2 plus Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. Pretty good stuff overall.

But this is a food blog - I shall leave my musings about concerts to another time. ARIA is located just beside the Opera House. I started off with some complimentary bread and an amuse bouche of peaches with goat cheese. Competent though not exactly stunning breads.

It was already close to 11pm so I decided to just have a main course and dessert. I ordered the David Blackmore Flat Iron steak with watercress. This was actually very good: very delicious beef - beefy seared flavour and some delicate notes of sweetness from the fats. Paired with some lovely watercress. The beef jus was rich and went very well with the meat, every morsel an oohhhh. Superb. I really enjoyed this. (8.5/10). I ordered it medium-rare and on hindsight should have done a medium so that all the fats would be thoroughly rendered.

The accompanying mash was good (light and fluffy) but probably not as good as LP's quality meats' which was far more flavourful.

I had a passionfruit souffle which was delicious (no photo here as my phone had died) - it was quite tart and beautifully balanced, with passionfruit seeds and all. It was infused with a bread ice cream and all of that was yummy. (8.5/10). The flavours were all quite harmonious and the texture of the souffle was light.

Overall a good meal.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rockpool, Sydney

I had very high expectations for Rockpool, one of Sydney's legendary fine-dining establishments, although many friends have mentioned that the food didn't live up to the hype. I had to see for myself what the fuss was about in any case, and made a lunch reservation last Thursday.

In relation to the decor - rather impressive; as the picture shows, high ceilings, starched white tablecloths, paintings, in the vein of a luxury European ballroom. Quite exquisite. The service was great as well; in typical Australian warmth, you are greeted with a smile and made to feel at ease and welcome. Can't fault neither the ambience nor the hospitable service.

I opted for the set lunch pre-fixe as a way of gauging what the kitchen had to offer. Along came the bread which was quite good: crusty on the outside and soft on the inside and paired well with their range of butter and olive oil roasted tomato. 

There wasn't any choice for the set lunch: the first dish I had was a linguine with crab. The linguine had the consistency of a risotto, warm and creamy, and topped with some roasted roe and a herb reminiscent of coriander albeit more tangy (suggestions?). I guess it was comfort food but I wasn't impressed - this wasn't a 3-hat worthy entree. It made me rather full (jerlak). 6.5/10 at best. 

I hoped the mains would fare a little better - it was a duck confit. This was decidedly Asian: the duck was cooked with star anise and cloves and perhaps a hint of Hoisin sauce (I'm guessing). It was paired with rice wrapped in an omelette. It was competently done, but the flavours were far too familiar: I felt like I was eating cai fan or something like that, or like something my mother would make. Also not impressed. 6.75/10 (this was marginally better than the entree).

The best dish BY FAR had to be the date tart - this is Rockpool's signature and has been on the menu for at least 20 years. Superb and sublime, I can see why. Creamy custard with dates, encased in a buttery crust. Delicious. (8.5/10). Too bad the rest of the dishes were not up to par. 

Truth be told, I would have wanted to book Quay or Est - I decided on Rockpool because I didn't want to pay the amounts that they were charging at Quay or Est. I guess the oft-quoted phrase "you pay peanuts you get monkeys" may have applied in this case. Ah well. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chur Burger, Surry Hills

Argh, I missed my flight from Scoot back to Singapore, all because of a stupid burger! I headed to Single Origin Roasters and Chur Burger before heading to the airport - bad mistake. I reached the Scoot check in to realise that all the officers had already gone: I didn't know that the check-in counter would be closed 1 hour before the departure time. Hence, there was no way for me to get on the plane. An expensive AUD500 lesson indeed.

Anyway, back to food: the Chur burger was really good! Very flavourful beef, lightly charred and smoky, with a great tasting sauce to accompany everything; but the secret was in the patty, it was delish. (8.25/10)

LP's Quality Meats, Sydney

A famous food writer in SG mentioned that a good meal was to be had at LP's Quality Meats (Chippendale, Sydney) so I dutifully checked it out. Located in some sort of back alley, this was a cavernous communal dining room of sorts with an industrial appearance - long sharing tables and the like. After all, it was a meat place so I guess the decor was rather apt.

I visited LP's Quality Meats with a friend of mine, and we ordered, as entrees, the chicken liver pate. Man the pate was super good; it was very tasty, rich, creamy, and with a balanced liver flavour, quite sweet, but yet quite light at the same time i.e. not cloying or overly rich. Superb. This was undoubtedly a (8.5/10). Went very well with the homemade bread.

For our mains, we shared a beef short rib and a half-chicken. The beef short ribs had been cooking for over 10 hours in the smoker, and the quality of the meat really shone through - smoky, tender, rich and juicy at the same time, the meat fell apart without much resistance. Great. 8/10.

I actually marginally preferred the chicken, which retained its moisture and had a lovely smoky flavour to it, the skin being a highlight. 8.25/10.

A special shout out goes to the mash , which was extremely tasty; all the cooking juices had gone in to making the mash. 

For quality meats in Sydney, LP's the place. (LP = Luke Powell, who was the former head chef of Tetsuya's). 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chat Thai, Sydney

This is going to be a picture-less post since my iPhone ran out of battery.

I attended the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra's performance of Schumann 1 and 2 and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on Saturday night (Valentine's day), and I needed something to eat thereafter. Decided to check out Chat Thai since it's reputed to be the best Thai in Sydney. Headed over at 11pm - there was still a queue. Fortunately didn't wait long, I was ushered to my seat some 15 min later.

Ordered the som tahm (papaya salad) and the Pad See-Eu (kway teow with kai lan and chicken with dark sweet sauce). Managed to snag some Pad-thai from a couple next to me who generously offered some. And mango-sticky rice to finish off.

The som tahm was excellent, one of the best I've eaten. Lots of flavour, lots of fish sauce, sweet, savoury, tart, all combined together. Great stuff. (8.5/10)

The pad-see-ew was alright, I would have liked it a bit sweeter to get more of that caramelised taste of the kway teow. Still, it was not bad, good wok-hei. (7.75/10).

The pad-Thai was great; enough sweetness to coat the thin noodles, addictive; good crunch from the beansprouts, and everything going together very well. (8.25/10).

Mango sticky rice: good stuff as well. (7.75/10).

This is pretty darn good Thai and I can see why the lines are long every night. I can't imagine myself waiting 1 hour or so for food though!