Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Senmi Sushi at Emporium Shokuhin

Was really excited to hear of the opening of Emporium Shokuhin, located at the new wing at Marina Square. We visited yesterday and was suitably impressed - it reminded me of a supermarket in Japan! Rows of fresh seafood and dry-aged meat, with dried produce and dairy as well.

The emporium is massively huge - it consists of a number of different restaurants (Senmi Sushi, which I am going to blog about in this post), Burosu Honten - a ramen joint, Umi + Vino - a seafood and wine bar, Tsukeru - a shabu shabu outlet, Gyuu+ - a meat joint, and Takujo - an omakase joint.

Senmi Sushi does have a lovely ambience: a long sushi bar where you can watch the chefs prepare the sushi and chirashi bowls, and light wood which is so Japanese-like. Orders are taken through a touch-screen pad (probably an iPad) which makes for convenient ordering. The prices were not too prohibitive: swordfish sashimi going at S$8 for 3 pieces and salmon sushi going for less than S$2 per pop. For bluefin tuna, akami sushi was sold for S$5 - still pretty alright.

We ordered some nigiri to start: a trio of hotate (scallop), akami (lean bluefin tuna), and tamago (egg custard). I am happy to report that all of them were very very good, as good as many a joint in Japan. The akami was rich, deep, and flavourful (I somehow preferred it to the o-toro that I ordered later on, which was more fatty but did not have such a deep taste), the scallops were sweet and meaty, and the tamago was sweet and fragrant. Altogether, very good! (8.75/10) One thing that they can learn from one of my favourite places (Koji) is to have a special sushi sauce for brushing, rather than using the generic shoyu, since a special sushi sauce would have more flavour as it would be combined with mirin and reduced to form a nikiri.

We also ordered the chirashi don (S$18) - for S$18, this was pretty generous. The fish was of top quality - the chutoro was fatty, melt in your mouth, very rich; the salmon was also very flavourful, more so than other salmon; and the scallops - wow it was really good, so succulent and sweet. A special shout out goes to the hamachi (hidden from view) - also very tasty. (8.5/10) 

The only failing - in my view - is that they didn't give us fresh wasabi and we were forced to use the powdered / paste stuff instead, nasty little things. 

Do I prefer it to Koji's? Hmm, it's a tough fight. But I have to say - Senmi Sushi is excellent in its own right. It is authentic, is at a good price point, and is absolutely delicious. Do I wish that it had its own hikiri sushi sauce? Hell yeah. Did I wish it had fresh wasabi instead of that green looking weird crap? Hell yeah. But - overall - for what it is - it's pretty darned good. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ah Hoe Mee Pok

Visit Ah Hoe Mee Pok (Block 710, Clementi West) twice - since it's located very near my 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. (8.25/10)

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.

I came back a second time and this time his daughter was preparing the meepok. The photo above is from the 2nd time I visited. A very good bowl too! Very well done - the mushrooms and abalone were spot on. And this time I requested for more vinegar and the sauce really hit the spot.

Also ordered some dumpling soup to go along with the meal. It was all good - very rich soup.

Overall, a very good bowl of meepok. I still prefer Tai Hwa (by a small margin), 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.