Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Spotted Pig, NYC

The Spotted Pig is famous for being one of NYC's first gastropubs. Smack in the west village, the entrance to the pub is really extremely non-descript, hidden behind shrubbery in a neighbourhood that is largely residential. Having been recommended the burger here, I trooped down there the second day after I had landed in NYC to try the food there (actually wanted to try out Pearl's oyster bar but I went there too late circa 3pm and the kitchen was already closed). But Spotted pig was fine - they were open all day. 


The place really reminded me of a traditional british pub - lovely decor, red walls and lots of paintings - wait, scratch that british pub thing - actually more like a french bistro. Very delightful interior - especially with a textured ceiling and all. And apparently it's a celebrity hangout and you're supposed to see loads of celebrities there, well I didn't see any. Loads of beers here too as well, and well, some cask ales. A friend of mine told me that the cask ales here were delicious so I had to try some. I loaded up on this Spotted Pig Ale made specially for them by Brooklyn Brewery, and I have to say this was just delicious. Very clean, fruity, easy-drinking bitters-style ale, went down so easily. And so balanced as well. Highly rated - perhaps 8.5/10.





And how did the spotted pig burger fare? well, sadly, not as well as the beer - it was a simple burger, just beef with roquefort cheese on top. Well I really love roquefort cheese actually but in this case the meat was really too mild and was just blown away by the blue cheese such that I could hardly taste the meat. well if that's the intended effect then I guess the purpose worked - I'd much rather taste the beefiness of a burger though. The fries, however, were top notch - shoestring fries, with loads of rosemary - so darned addictive, and I nearly finished the entire portion of the mountain of fries, if the server hadn't asked to clear the plate. It was just as well, because I was starting to get really full by then.  The burger's an overall 7.5/10, the fries 8.5/10.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keen's Steakhouse

(These posts are not in chronological order - just what I like blogging about at this point in time).


The night before I left NYC, M decided to bring me to eat US beef, so we ended up at Keen's Steakhouse which is apparently the oldest steakhouse in New York. It's one of those places where JFK, MJ, and other famous celebrities have been to, and they have personally signed off their names on the pipes that are displayed at the door. And of course, having operated since the 1800s, and having sold their 1 millionth "mutton chop" in the 1930s, they probably didn't need those endorsements, but still, I guess it's a nice touch to their establishment.


M was feeling a little ill, so we opted to share 1 prime rib and 1/2 a mutton chop. And of course, we ordered an appetizer. M really loved his bacon, and I have to say this was some monster bacon indeed - thick, with caramelized fats, it was a joy to eat but wow, the arteries! The arteries indeed!! Still - maybe a 7.5/10 (I'm not extremely fond of bacon to be honest!).
I was amazed at the size of the prime rib - it was huge. The prime rib was, well, beefy - had a good solid beefy flavour throughout and was quite tender. However, I don't enjoy prime rib as much as I did steak - always prefer a more charred flavour to my meats which you get with steak but not with prime rib - but still, that was pretty good prime rib. (8/10)




The mutton chops were delicious - quite a robust lamb flavour, more robust than lamb, these mutton chops were well, broiled, and then served with some "Bok choy". It was an interesting change from the regular steak I'd have, but it was good, no doubt. (8/10)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ninth Street Espresso, New York City

Here's the start of the New York City posts, as I start reviewing the places that I've been to whilst plowing through the Big Apple. As I am supremely tired and lazy, I will leave the 3-star Michelin reviews till later, and I'll start with the coffee reviews. First up, is, I believe, the best place to have coffee in NYC right now - Ninth Street Espresso. Located at East 9th street, near Avenue C (in the Alphabet City), Ninth Street Espresso's coffee was just amazingly good.

First up, the space was rather nice - there's a large seating area where students sit around with their laptops, or friends hang around to talk about life, etc. There are a couple of photos here which show you what i'm talking about. Being far off the  beaten track, in the Alphabet City, I was probably the only tourist.
The barista here was also very friendly, as we chatted a little about coffee. They use a proprietary blend called Alphabet City Blend roasted by Dallis Brothers, an NYC roaster. 

The coffee was downright amazing. As an espresso, it was just delicious - juicy, toasty at the end, complex, chocolatey even. I'd give it a 9/10 without hesitation. It's a blend of Brazils, so I hear.

And as an espresso with milk (5 oz), it was equally amazing - the blend was very toasty / smokey, with a winey taste, and full bodied and dark through the milk - toasty, roasted, rounded, sweet at the end, and dare I say complex. Again a full on 9/10. 

Ninth street espresso is a definite must-go for any caffeine junkie in NYC, even though it's really off the beaten track (you have to walk past Tompkins Park to get there). 

Cheers!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

John Dory Oyster Bar, New York

Apologies for a lack of updates - it's because I'm in the Big Apple, i.e. New York City! Yeah I have been literally eating through the streets of New York, and I figured it's time to bring you some updates. First up, I've decided to share with you my experience at the John Dory Oyster Bar, located at the Ace Hotel (29th street, Broadway). The Ace Hotel is really quite hip, with a big lobby with many persons just hanging out there and playing with their laptops.

The John Dory Oyster Bar has a lovely decor, with high ceilings, a few merlins perched on the walls, dark furniture, and even some 'lava lamps' - as you can see from these photos here. 


The lava fish tank or whatever you call it adds a rather cool vibe to the place - and there's the aforesaid merlins.  

But enough about the layout - I was here for their happy hour, and I'm glad to say that the oysters are excellent! The happy hour means that you get 6 oysters plus an oyster stout, for US$15. This wasn't bad - the oysters that were given to me were from Prince Edward Island (if i remember the waiter correctly), and these were small and very briny, but with a clean finish. I could eat quite a few of those (7.5/10). The oyster stout that the oysters were served with was also delicious and paired very well with the oysters. 



But of course, i wasn't satisfied at eating only the prince Edward oysters, so I ordered a few "speciality" oysters. First up, I ordered one East Coast Oyster (can't remember the name now), a Kumamoto from the west Coast, and a Kusshi. And I really really loved the Kumamoto - it was clean, metallic, sweet, and very intense. No wonder the Kumamoto has been called everyone's favourite oyster. It was just delicious. And the same for the Kusshi - the Kusshi was just very sweet and intense, rather floral, slightly briny, and with alot of umami, almost mushroomy taste. Just awesome! (9/10) (I love oysters, by the way).  

The oyster addict in me grew and grew and was waiting to be subdued, but it wasn't to be, so I ordered another 3 - this time, a Blue Island (from Long Island), the abovementioned Kusshi, and a Sugoku. The Blue Island was nice and mild, and sweet; the Kusshi as I said was sweet, intense, floral, briny - one of my favourites, and the Sugoku was very sweet and creamy, slightly mineralish. Awesome oysters. I really loved all these "West Coast" oysters and they were just a joy to eat. (9/10).


In NYC there's just so many good oyster bars - I have yet to check out Pearl, Mermaid, the Grand Central, etc, to say the least - but John Dory at least for me does the job in searching out the very best oysters and serving them to me unpretentiously, letting the natural flavours which God had put into each oyster do the talking. I enjoyed this tremendously. And the ACE hotel is a lovely place - there's stumptown as well! 


UPDATE 

I visited the John Dory Oyster Bar again - and this is unusual because i rarely go back to places especially since there's so much to do - but my friend B was working near the Ace Hotel and so I decided to grab something with him here. As you can see, the place looks really different by day. It's bright and cheery and the high ceilings and colourful furniture does the job of making the place look whimsical and arty, in line with the theme of the Ace Hotel.





And the fish bowl is still here, but now - it's no longer glowing but it actually looks pretty normal .




Having read so much about April Bloomfield's Oyster Pot Roast with Uni Crostini, I ordered one, and this was just delicious - seafood bisque flavours, with loads of butter, vermouth (?) , into a rich stock which was waiting for bread to soak all the juices - and some uni crostini which went very well - uni and butter, who would have guessed. Great dish and rightfully deserves the applause. (8.5/10)













These were the monster bread rolls that were used to soak up the soup - nice and buttery. 
























We ordered some oysters to share, and since that day i have been craving the kusshi and the kumamotos. We ordered 2 kusshis each and 1 kumamoto each. This time however the kumamotos completely outshone the kusshis. The kumamotos were very sweet, intense, with the taste of the sea. Just delicious. The kusshis were a bit flat that day. Still, it's a lovely oyster bar, this. 



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Coffee Roundup - 11 September 2012

My last coffee roundup was rather controversial because perhaps it was the first time someone actually did a writeup on the various coffee outlets in Singapore and ranked them, at least on a broad scale, into various tiers. The reason why this has been done is because, to be honest, it would be far too difficult to actually rank them 1-10, because, truth be told, alot of this whole "Ranking" business is extremely subjective. If you ask a food blogger what the difference is between a 7.5 and a 7.75, or a 1st or 2nd place ranking, he can only answer, sadly, that it's really all about impression. There isn't any art to it, really, except that it's all a matter of feel. But if I ranked coffee outlets from 1-10, it may create alot of unhappiness all around, and besides there are plenty of coffee outlets whose owners I consider my friends, and so - tiers is the way to do it.

Ranking Criteria

Primary Criteria

Quality - this goes without saying - the coffee has to have good aromatics, be flavourful and not be one-dimensional; well-extracted; the milk in a cappuccino or a latte has to be well foamed, i.e. microfoam. (Joints are rated from *** symbolising excellence, to * which symbolises mediocrity. ** = good).

Consistency - the coffee cannot be super good one day and horrible the next - there has to be some semblance of consistency. (same ranking system)

Secondary Criteria

Food - coffee always goes well with food, so I guess I will talk a bit about the food that the coffee joint offers. However this is not always the key consideration especially considering that there are joints which sell coffee without food. (same ranking system)

Ambience - a lovely ambience always helps. (same ranking system)


TOP TIER (In no order of merit) - excellent places

Nylon Coffee Roasters
Located at Everton Park, Dennis and Jiamin do a great job of ensuring that every cup is well-extracted. The flavours are complex, ranging from toffee, to spices, dark chocolate, milk-chocolate, etc. and the milk is done competently. No food here. Small set-up, seating for only 4-5 max. 
Quality: ***
Consistency: **1/2
Food: none
Ambience: *1/2


Strangers' Reunion
Located at Kampong Bahru Road, Strangers' Reunion is run by Singapore Barista champion Ryan Tan. The stranger's blend is one of the best in the country in terms of giving a very well-balanced, rounded cup, especially in a magic. Sometimes there are consistency issues but overall, pretty good. Waffles here are very good.
Quality: ***
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: **

Toby's Estate
Toby's Estate, I believe, has emerged from its consistency issues that had dogged it previously. At its best, few places can hold a candle to it especially once they bring out their COE-grade coffees which are really sublime at times (the Guatamala El Tambor comes to mind). Suhaimi and Alvaro are very passionate about their java and it shows. The food is alright - good eggs benedict although the scrambled eggs can be a bit more creamy. Very nice ambience.
Quality: ***
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: ***

Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Papa Palheta's new flagship and I must say the decor is amazing. Very good attention to detail, with a coffee bar right in the middle. There is beer served as well and a wide range of eats. The bakes look very promising. Coffee wise, a nice 'nuts and bolts blend' which is nice and jammy and far more interesting than the terra firma (in my humble opinion). 
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: ***

Smitten Coffee and Tea Bar / Henry's Congressional
Grouped the two together since they are really the same outlet run by the same folks, Darren and Hongyuan. Coffee's always on the bright side, fruity and tasty. One of my regular hangouts. Henry's congressional is great since they have a great range of bakes as well as draft beers - the coffee cake is delicious and so is the flourless chocolate cake, and they have lovely beers especially the jungle ale (also served at Chye Seng Huat by the way). 
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: **
Food: ***
Ambience: **




MIDDLE TIER - good places!

Jewel Coffee
My apologies for bringing Jewel to middle tier, but I somehow think their coffee doesn't really excite me anymore. Perhaps it's because I always order the same thing, but then perhaps their supplier doesn't provide then with the type of beans that only comes when you have a roaster. But I hear they are getting a roaster in which will probably improve things. Having said that, though, the food is excellent, and the orange flourless cake is delicious - and their extraction is always spot on and the milk too. 
Quality: **
Consistency: **1/2
Food: ***
Ambience: *1/2

Sarnies
I go to sarnies alot also, but the coffee is quite inconsistent. Pav is a great barista and personality but sometimes the coffees aren't quite up to the mark, some harsh or bitter tastes. When it's on form though, their blend is excellent. The food is great - muffins, bagels, scrambled eggs, all very good.
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: *1/2
Food: ***
Ambience: **

Liberty Coffee
Terence's start-up is a nice little indie joint at Rangoon road, and is pretty lovely. The Speakeasy blend is dark and full bodied and quite tasty as well. Pauline's cakes are too die for - especially the gula melaka pandan cake or the valhrona chocolate cake.
Quality: **1/2
Consistency: ** (they don't open all the time anyway)
Food: ***
Ambience: **

Papa Palheta / Loysel's Toy
Haven't been here in ages so perhaps it's not a fair comparison, but Papa Palheta deserves to be visited by virtue of being the outlet that started the whole 3rd wave coffee movement. Terra Firma is alright - if a bit boring. Consistency has been an issue.
Quality: **
Consistency: *1/2
Food: none - (except at Loysel's)
Ambience: **1/2 (where the happening people used to go)

Oriole Coffee Roasters
Wasn't that impressed with the coffee here to be honest - yellowbird blend didn't blow me away. They have nice eggs though, and a nice variety of local delights.
Quality: **
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2


LOWER TIER - Still more catching up to do vis-a-vis- the rest

Jimmy Monkey
very inconsistent and I think something is lacking in their roasting- usually I get a very overextracted shot, and there's a sweetness that's lacking about it. The food is alright but the place gets very smelly sometimes.
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: *
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2

Highlander Coffee
Consistent coffee, but nothing exciting. I think the supremo blend hasn't changed in years. Guoli is a great fella though, love talking to him. If only they'd...innovate!!
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: **1/2
Food: *
Ambience: *


Forty Hands
The coffee has been getting worse and worse - have tried it a few times and it was always overextracted. Hmm. And the problem about 40 hands is that it's horribly overpriced. Good brunch though.
Quality: *1/2
Consistency: **
Food: **
Ambience: *1/2




NOTE: Before anyone thinks of serving a writ on me for defamation, please be minded that the above represents my opinions solely. Under the law of defamation, opinions are not actionable.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Omakase @ Teppei Japanese Restaurant

For the regular readers of the blog, you'd know that Teppei is one of my favourite restaurants and one where I am a regular at. I know everyone, have eaten there countless times, many times alone as I stumble home from gym sessions nearby - and sometimes with the colleagues to eat their tempura set lunches. But till today, I have never tried their Omakase - and I have heard many good things about their Omakase - so I went with N today to try it.

First up, we were given a salad, with bamboo shoots, which was rather like the regular bamboo shoots we get every lunch as a side dish.

Next up was some edamame, this time cooked with some sea salt. Made alot of difference!

i'm not going to rate these two dishes since I guess they are more "amuse bouche" rather than anything substantial.






First up, we had some crab, which was sliced and marinated - quite nice, a very delicate flavour. (7.5/10)
























This was followed by a tofu in stock, which was comforting to say the least - a tinge of wasabi brought it over the edge. (7/10)


























Sashimi was next, with each piece of fish extremely fresh. The salmon was delicious as usual, the tuna alright; there was tai as well. Special mention goes out to the salmon belly - always delicious - the scallops were very sweet, and I just loved the chu-toro - lovely fish oils just oozing out into my mouth. (8.5/10)





















Next up, some egg plant in a rich stock - again, very nice. The egg plant was seared, and had a nice blend of textures - crispy outside and soft inside. (7.5/10) (i'm not a big egg-plant fan)
























We had a big prawn tempura next, and this one was again up to Teppei's high standards - very crisp and light batter, and fresh prawn. (8/10)

























Hokkaido crab was next - this one was deep fried in salt - pretty nice, definitely. (7/10)


























Next up was wagyu and chicken soup - delicious. The wagyu was tender and the chicken soup again full of umami. Good flavour combinations. (8/10)



























Was very impressed with the soup which came later on - soup with clams. Very delicious / refreshing. The stock was just so comforting and flavourful and was well balanced by the use of Japanese lime (says Teppei the chef). (8.5/10)























I finished off with the Fried Rice which was good, definitely! Next time I order this I will go with the sashimi rice which was what my friend ordered - far more value for money! haha. but fried rice was great as well. (7.5/10)






















The best thing about this Omakase? The cost - something like this would definitely cost more than $100 in a high-end restaurant, but at Teppei, all this was mine for just $50. It is seriously good value for money and I would not hesitate to go back many many more times just for the omakase. It's just homely, hearty food cooked very well. and when you have such a lovely charming cast of waiters and chefs whom you know and who like you, dining there becomes a treat every time, as though you were dining at your own home.








Saturday, September 8, 2012

Shimbashi Soba @ Paragon

Sorry, fans of the blog, for want of update - it's been a long time! This meal dates back from two Thursdays ago, after my grueling workout at FitnessFirst. I had Shimbashi Soba with M (an old friend who now doubles up as my Body Attack instructor) and they had one of these set meals which was pretty good value for money, and very delicious - there was a mix of sushi - eel and tamago - some slices of salmon sashimi which were fresh enough, some tempura which was quite light, and the soba was just fantastic. Shimbashi Soba serves probably the best soba in Singapore and this one was excellent - very light with a just-right firm texture which went very well with the sauce. 

(8/10) - Decent especially if you're in town.