Saturday, December 30, 2006
DH had the Hokkaido set (featuring produce from Hokkaido) and I had a sashimi sushi set, and we shared everything, including a bottle of sake.
His starter plate of 4 different items was unique. Anti clockwise, from bottom right, Marinated Salmon with Salmon Roe, Marinated Herring Roe with dried squid and konbu (kelp), Mixed crab meat with crab miso and Salt cured squid. The squid was very salty, but the rest were very good.
My sashimi platter came next - toro (tuna belly), hotate (scallop), hamachi (yellowtail) and akagai (ark shell). All were excellent and favourites of DH and I.
DH was supposed to receive his sashimi platter of botan ebi, oyster and salmon next. But the botan ebi was sold out and replaced with crab, and the oyster was baked with a creamy golden sauce. The salmon and crab sashimi were sweet and very delicious. The baked oyster, slathered with the Inagiku signature sauce, was fantastic. The large, fat oyster was sweet and tender, and not chewy or overcooked.
Shirako Ponzu (codfish smelt in japanese vinegar), rich and smooth. It was a very generous portion, and DH and I shared it with glee.
My sushi platter was fantastic - (clockwise, from top left:aburi flounder fin, aburi toro, uni, negitoro (diced tuna belly) and ikura. My favourite food in the world is aburi toro. Toro is fatty tuna belly, and when it is eaten as sashimi or sushi, it tastes very rich, and tender and flavourful. Aburi toro is lightly seared tuna belly, usually with a blowtorch. The taste is just phenomenal. It retains its rich succulence, but with an added dimension of smokiness. The searing process really brings out the flavour of the fatty tuna. When you pop the morsel of goodness into your mouth, the juicy burst of flavour is pure delight for the tastebuds.
DH's chawanmushi with seafood gravy, was very interesting as the seafood was not embedded within the chawanmushi as one would normally expect, but placed on top. It had ikura, scallop, prawn, and sea urchin. Steamed sea urchin was a first for both DH and I. It tasted smooth but had less of the sea urchin taste if one ate it sashimi-style.
This was a salt grilled mackerel. We would have gone for flat fish, but we thought that the flat fish was dried, and hence less fresh. Turns out we were wrong as the salt fish was supposed to be fresh too, but the mackerel was nevertheless a good choice. It wasn't dry and tasteless like how some places serve it. This one was delicious. Sweet and tasty and very moist and fatty, every bite was sheer delight.
DH's steamed king crab arrived next. Only the legs were served of course. Sweet and firm to bite.
Then, a very interesting dish. Squid stuffed with rice. Glutinuous rice. Which was seasoned and flavoured with all the juices of the squid. Wow. It was chewy and tasty, I really enjoyed it. We saw this one in shops in Hokkaido, but didn't buy any.
We closed off with a seafood miso soup, piping hot, which they served us the last time. Which gives credence to our suspicions.
Dessert was caramel ice cream served on a slice of japanese apple.
Friday, December 29, 2006
There was a choice of indoor or al fresco seating. As it was quite sunny, with a bit of a breeze, we decided to sit outside. It was a great choice. Sitting by the harbourfront, with a view of the ocean, and a glass of chilled white wine, I felt as though I was on holiday!
The linguine alla alfredo funghi (i.e. mushroom cream sauce) (SGD18) was very good. The pasta was al dente, and the sauce was rich and creamy. It was perhaps, a little too creamy, but DH and I enjoyed it, and it went down very well with the glass of chardonnay (SGD10).
The pizza with cheese, parma ham and rucola (rocket leaves) (SGD23) arrived next. Very very good too. They forgot to sprinkle the leaves on the pizza, but that was easily remedied, and they quickly brought a plate of the lovely greens for us to heap onto the pizza. The air dried ham was salty and a little greasy, it was generously layered over the pizza, I loved it.
An enjoyable meal.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I tried to explain in my defence, that it was because well, this group of friends hadn't been here yet. The truth is, I am enamoured with Chef Willin Low. His cooking, his style, his unassuming manners, his easy-going demeanour.
By sheer coincidence, we bumped into another group of colleagues who were having a team lunch there and generously invited us to join them. Which we did. Hey, free lunch, why not?
It was a set menu of Wild Rocket's signature dishes.
The seared tuna with rocket leaves (also known as rucola) was lovely. The tuna was lightly seared and still pink in the centre, and paired well with the fresh rocket leaves.
The laksa pesto linguine with prawns and quail's egg, a perenial favourite, was perfect. It was fragrant, and not too cloying.
My chosen main of roast lamb cutlet with garam masala dressing was unique and excellent. It was tasty, with the right amount of fragrance and a hint of spices. The lamb was tender, but not too fatty.
The dessert choices - strawberry cheesecake and lava chocolate cake - were both very well done, and I enjoyed my cheesecake very much even though I had tried it just the night before.
Willin, ever the engaging one, came to bid us goodbye as we left. I had a short chat with him, and promised to return. Willin mentioned that they were expanding to the premises next door, with a bar serving drinks too. I can't wait!
My favourite comfort food for breakfast is chwee kuey (SGD1 for 4 pieces). Steamed round rice cakes, with a dollop of savoury crunchy bits of salty preserved vegetables.
I don't get to eat it very often, but when I do, I get a little philosophical about the best things in life being the simple pleasures that one often takes for granted.
This is a favourite stall of mine, at Bedok Interchange #01-132. They add black and white sesame seeds to the topping, making it crunchy and tasty and fragrant. I can finish 2 servings of 8 pieces at once! But today, I exercised a little self restraint, and ate only 6 pieces.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Wild Rocket (Hangout Hotel, 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Tel 63399448) is owned by lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low. My curiosity was piqued after watching an interview with Willin, who seemed to show a genuine interest in cooking, rather just being a mercenary who decided to invest in the restaurant business.
The restaurant is tucked away on top of a hill, and is really rather obscure. There is no way one is able to get there on foot, as I discovered much to my dismay. Parking may also pose a problem, as one had to park along the road outside the hotel. Nevertheless, the dining experience is well worth the trek.
The restaurant is tastefully decorated, with sprigs of dried flowers on each table, and a beautiful centrepiece in the middle of the room. The place was full on a Wednesday night, which shows just how popular this place is.
We shared a few starters, and found them all delightful.
The black pepper soft shell crab was interesting. The black pepper sauce was not too spicy, and the soft shell crab was delightfully crisp, with a creamy interior.
We also shared the laksa pesto linguine. It was very interesting, with a strong aroma of the laksa leaf - daun kesom.
We also had a mushroom soup, and red snapper carpaccio. Mushroom soup was creamy and smooth, with little bits of mushroom. The snapper carpaccio was sweet and tasty, thanks to an interesting tangy dressing.
Our mains arrived. DH and I loved our choice of duck confit with mustard sauce and yam cake. The duck had a crisp skin, tender meat and just the right amount of fat to make it melt in your mouth. It was fantastic! We cannot remember having eaten such a perfectly done duck ever. This was the best.
The grilled beef ribeye was well-done, pink in the centre. However, as it wasn't wagyu, it wasn't as tender as I would have preferred.
The other 2 ladies had seared salmon which looked lovely.
We also shared sides of crabmeat mash, and sauteed oriental vegetables. Both were lovely. The mashed potato contained enough bits of shredded crabmeat to alleviate the boredom of chomping down on plain potato.
We shared desserts.
The strawberry cheesecake was served deconstructed in a martini glass. The cheesecake bit was creamy, and yet light. I think it was the non-bake version that I have tried to make before. Then there was bits of biscuit crust, and some berries at the bottom.
The chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream was a good choice too, served warm, with a molten chocolatey centre.
DH's dessert of brownie with brandied cherries and orange zest was a typical choice for him - he loves chocolate and orange, and thinks that it is a great combination. I like my chocolate dark, and without any bits interfering with its taste. Nevertheless, it was lovely, and was definitely a bigger portion than my cheesecake.
Willin is such a lovely gracious person. He came out to personally serve our mains, and stayed to chat for a short while. I'm definitely going back.
Oh! and one more thing, I am very very glad we met up with our group of friends, as one couple had wonderful news to share! I am so excited for them, and wish them all the very best.
I personally like the dining concept, and find the food there very very good. There is a wide variety of cuisine to choose from, in a hygenic, clean, air-conditioned environment. So I don't mind that the prices are a little more expensive (average prices are about SGD7-8 per person).
We ordered a 2 person kway chap set (SGD7.80) with added items like braised peanuts, salted vegetables, extra pig stomach and intestines (for SGD 6 more). Kway chap is a meal of thin, flat rice noodle sheets in a savoury broth, eaten with braised pork (or in my instance, braised duck) and pig innards like intestines and stomach and other things like firm tofu (tau kwa) or beancurd puffs (tau pok).
The rice sheets were smooth, and thin, and yet also resilient to the bite. I really enjoyed it. The broth was tasty and not too salty.
The braised stuff went very quickly, savoury and delicious. The pig stomach was my favourite!
I will be going back!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
This time, we ordered a huge 1.8 l bottle of sake (SGD 90), as we were quite sure we would be returning soon. Again, we were served our sake in cute little bamboo cups.
Then we started with octopus in mild wasabi dressing (tako wasa), which we enjoyed immensely the last time.
We then ordered our favourites - 2 types of jyo karubi (bbq and salt, SGD 25 per portion), gyu tan (SGD 16) and grilled hamachi cheek (SGD20, only small size available).
We then ventured onto some new items recommended by our server.
The cream croquettes (SGD15 for 2) were lovely. Crispy on the outside but not at all oily, and creamy smooth potatoes, onion and cream on the inside.
The beef intestines (SGD12) were also very good. Soft and chewy and very tasty. They tasted a bit like squid, but the texture was better because it was less rubbery.
We also tried the monjya yaki (SGD 17, wet okonomiyaki), which I was very keen to try. We ate it off the hotplate with little metal spatulas. Interesting presentation, and it sure smelled lovely whilst it was being fried. I still prefer the okonomiyaki though.
Dian Xiao Er (Vivocity #02-137/138 Tel: 6376 9786) specialises in herbal roast duck, and the picture of its succulent roast duck is prominently displayed throughout the restaurant.
The decor of the restaurant is quaint, as the interior resembled a traditional inn lifted out of a martial arts (wuxia) novel, where scholars and travelling swordsmen stopped for a rest.
We ordered the 2 person set (SGD 35) and XO seafood fried rice (SGD9.80) to share.
The set came with the signature herbal roast duck, which was very good. The skin was crisp and light, and there was no hint of grease or fat in the duck (which would have made it soggy). The duck was slightly more chewy as a result, but I didn't mind that.
The stir-fried spinach with salted egg and preserved egg was good too. I liked the fact that the bits of salted and preserved egg were not itsy bitsy miniscule bits, but proper chunks that one could bite into.
The soup of day was corn with pork ribs. It was flavourful, and not bad at all.
The best dish in the set was actually their Mongolian pork ribs. It was fantastic. It was probably fried before it was tossed in the wok and coated with that yummy sauce, as it was crispy on the outside. Slightly spicy, slightly sweet, slightly smoky and very tender. My favourite.
The fried rice was delicious, with a good smoky wok-hei flavour. There were generous portions of prawn and beansprouts in it.
The portions were generous and neither my friend nor I could finish it all. Worth a return visit, at least for the pork ribs.
And indeed he was.
Aerin's is well-positioned near a water fountain, with a cheerful, open-dining concept where diners are separated from shoppers by only some potted plants. Foodwise, it was pleasant, but not outstanding.
Our starter of calamari (SGD12) came with a salsa of cherry tomatoes and sliced onion. The batter of the calamari was light and airy, but the chef's light touch was also manifested in his seasoning. Which resulted in calamari and salsa that were too bland. The salsa was fresh, and therefore would have been good if it were more tart. We discovered a battered fried mini octopus, tentacles separately battered and all, on the plate which amused us. Calamari by definition, should be battered squid rings, not octopus. DH said it looked like a fried spider. Fortunately, it didn't taste like one.
DH's steak sandwich (SGD18) main was pretty good, the steak was well-marinated and tender. It came with flatbread on it rather than the usual types of bread, but it worked well.
My main of Aerin's tagliatelle with mushrooms in cream sauce (SGD18) was interesting. It was topped with diced smoked salmon and some salmon roe, which provided a unique dimension to this dish. I have been toying with the idea of adding smoked salmon and salmon roe to my pasta, and was wondering how this combination would work with a cream sauce. The verdict? As the smoked salmon and salmon roe are both rather salty (with a bit of a sea-side tang?), I would make sure the cream sauce is less salty to compensate.
We shared a dessert which was part of the Xmas set, and wasn't generally available, the sticky date pudding with toffee and some brandied sauce (SGD9). It was not bad, not too sweet, and I could taste the alcohol in it. It could have been better however, if the pudding were richer in taste and texture. It was more like a fruitcake, rather than a proper pudding, I'd say.
DH's latte (SGD4.80) arrived, and it was so pretty! I liked how they bothered to add a little pretty design.
Monday, December 25, 2006
As it was the festive season, we decided to splurge and treat ourselves to an omakase meal with Nogawa-san at his mainstay restaurant Akane (Japanese Association, 120 Adam Road, 4th storey, Tel: 6467 2768). Omakase loosely translates to "we place our trust in you", and it means we left it to the chef to decide what to serve (and charge, gulp!) us.
We were served a complimentary portion of ikura (salmon roe), very sweet and fresh.
We then started out with a sashimi platter - laden with the freshest and sweetest goodies. The usual toro and buri (large hamachi), with the interesting additions of geoduck, ark shell, botan ebi (sweet sea prawns), flounder, sardines. We were also served 3 different dipping sauces - ponzu, ginger and spring onion, and the usual wasabi - and advised on which ones would go best with which sashimi. I liked the botan ebi best, as it was very sweet and fat, not like the usual anaemic amaebi prawns that we get at other restaurants.
Then a very sweet soup with Hokkaido crab. Only the crab legs were served. It was meaty and flavourful, and we savoured each mouthful.
A nimono (simmered) dish of red snapper with burdock root. Burdock root, also known as wai-san, is sold at traditional chinese medicine halls, and is known to have healing properties. It was sweet and tasty.
The buri teriyaki was unusual, and a tad dry, to be cooked teriyaki style.
We also tried ankimo (angler fish liver) in ponzu. The richness of the liver was cut by the vinegary ponzu.
The shirako (codfish smelt also in ponzu) was a very generous portion, and DH and I shared it. It was smooth and rich and silken in texture. Very very good indeed. The last time I tried shirako (albeit pufferfish smelt, rather than codfish), it was very watery and curdlike, not like this firm ridged version.
Sushi followed. About 10 different types of sushi served one by one. 2 types of toro - raw and seared with a blowtorch - 2 servings of flounder fin, buri (again!), mackerel, octopus, ikura (salmon roe) and uni (sea urchin). The flounder fin was crunchy, tasting almost like shellfish. It was served with a squeeze of lime and yuzu shavings. Very interesting.
Then miso clam soup. Very rich, and hearty.
And here is DH's dessert.
And my dessert of shiratama azuki. Hmmm, there are less rice balls compared with my version.
All in all, a satisfuing meal, whipped up by the master himself. He was affable and jolly, and he came out from behind the counter to chat with us, and give us his name card. All in all, very memorable.