Monday, March 26, 2007

Ju Shin Jung East Charcoal BBQ @ East Coast Park Tennis Centre

According to the Korean expat community, and the food blogger community, Ju Shin Jung is considered one of the best - so DH and I, together with Baby, decided to hop over to the branch at East Coast Park to check it out. The original restaurant is at West Coast Highway, opposite Haw Par Villa. The branch at the east is next to Long Beach Seafood at the Tennis Centre in East Coast Park.

DH and I had considered leaving Baby at home, since a BBQ place didn't seem an ideal place to take Baby, with the smoke and hot grills. But he looked so forlorn as we left, clinging to the metal gate separating us, that DH and I relented and decided to take Baby along. We rationalised that, if the place really turned out to be unsuitable, we'd just go somewhere else.

The restaurant was located where a billiards and amusement centre used to be, so it was actually very spacious and open, and not at all cramped or smoky like I expected. Best thing was, there was a little corner at the side for the children with at least 3 kiddy ride machines. Baby loves kiddy rides! He was therefore happily entertained for the rest of our meal.

They served DH and I about 10 - 12 free side dishes which included spicy kimchi, non-spicy kimchi, fishcake, potato salad, chilled tofu, spicy octopus salad, cold kimchi soup. These side dishes were free of charge and refillable upon request. I think that is quite nice.

We ordered: Marinated beef short ribs (SGD32), beef tongue (SGD30), ginseng pork (SGD30) and a seafood pancake (SGD20).

Well, I think that servings were certainly generous, it was a whopping big plate, and the slices of meat filled the whole plate. However, the meats could have been more tender, given the prices that we were paying for it. Then again, I've come across cuts of meat that were just way too fatty, giving the desired tenderness and flavour but which are just way too taxing on the heart and arteries. I guess, these meats were lean so not as tender. They were quite flavourful nevertheless.

The service was a bit spotty too, since they were staffed mostly by mainland Chinese, who were eager to please but not that efficient. They mixed up our order and brought the wrong wine instead, they were supposed to grill our meats for us but disappeared for too long, so some of the meats were overcooked (beef tongue should be quickly seared and eaten!) and one waitress dropped a slice of the beef tongue down the grill (woah, that's at least 1 dollar down the drain, my dear girl!)

DH ordered a bottle of Matchsoon Gold (SGD30), a lovely Korean Plum Wine with gold flakes inside! Served cold, it was sweet and quite refreshing, not to mention really pretty with the cute flakes of gold dust floating around inside.

DH says the other place he has been to, Yakiniku Daidamon at Keypoint Plaza, Beach Road, serves the same food, but buffet style so we can eat as much as we like for only SGD60 per head. So we might check that place out sometime. Will keep you all updated!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Marche @ level 3 Vivocity

Everyone is familiar with the Marche dining concept where you get a card at the entrance, pick whatever food you like at the stations, and pay at the end of the meal when you leave.

This Marche is owned by the Movenpick group, and is different from the previous 2 Marche restaurants in Singapore (Suntec and The Heeren) where they were owned by a franchisee.

This franchisee has gone on to set up another restaurant with a similar concept called the Vil'age. It should be a breach of the franchise agreement somehow. I heard that a commercial settlement was reached between the parties though.

I came here with a big group of friends and found that they had ample seating for even large groups of people, and also lots of cosy little alcove seats. Nice.

Foodwise? It seems that they have chosen to focus only on swiss / european foods - spanish paella, italian pasta, their trademark rosti and sausages, german pork knuckles - which is different from the previous franchise -owned restaurant which served some asian food as well.

I had the mushroom soup (SGD4.80 for a large portion) - creamy and savoury. Not bad. It wasn't as warm as I would have liked though, and it was a pity that the croutons were stale and not at all crispy.

Then I had the lamb chops (SGD15.50) which came with mashed potatoes on the side. Not sure if the potatoes were a freebie or not, as not everyone who ordered the chops had them. Maybe the guy was just being nice. He certainly was very chatty, as he showed me his battle scars on his fingers from cutting meat and handling the hot pans. The potatoes were very smooth, almost tasted as though they were from a mix, not a single potato chunk in all 3 scoops (yes I finished it all). The lamb chops were quite fatty to begin with, so yes, they were quite tender.

The drinks were expensive, ranging between 3 - 5 dollars per bottle. I had a rootbeer for SGD3.90.

No service charge of course.

Overall verdict? Not bad, and worth a shot if you have a big group of people with diverse tastes.

Happy Feet!

Please meet my new friend, Happy Feet!

Happy Feet contains 8 glasses of water, which is the recommended daily consumption of water by the WHO.

I am happy cos Happy Feet brings a cute and cheery feel to my office! Wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Teng Zhai Chok @ home

"Teng Zhai Chok" is literally translated as "floating boat porridge" and this dish is so named because there used to be people who lived on boats and who would cook this porridge by putting all the ingredients they had with them into this porridge. This dish has gradually evolved and the ingredients in the porridge is now pretty varied depending on dialect and custom and the produce available at the neighbourhood market.

DM (which stands for Dear Mom, for those who don't kn0w) cooked Teng Zhai Chok for dinner last night. A labour of love, as DM had to soak the rice grains, the day before and cook the porridge (and dried scallop too I think) on slow fire until the grains are all broken down and one gets a thick rice gruel the consistency of glue.

Then DM adds cuttlefish, braised peanuts, fish, chicken, firm tofu, preserved spicy sze chuan vegetables (also known as za choi) (all our family favourites) and carefully cooks this delicious concoction until it is infused with all the flavours of the ingredients.

The fun part is when one gets to add a variety of condiments that DM lays out on the table: fragrant sesame oil, light soya sauce, parsley, spring onion, fish or chicken or pork floss, crispy white bait and a spicy pork bean paste.

As for me, I added crunchy chicken floss, crispy white bait and a dollop of the pork bean paste. Aaaahh.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Yummy Desserts Galore

Ji De Chi (literally translated to: Remember to Eat) @ Upper Cross Street

After a satisfying lunch with a dear friend at Chinatown, we tried this new dessert place (there are quite a few of these traditional dessert stalls in this area).

It serves many different types traditional HK style desserts like steamed egg custard, papaya with white fungus etc etc. All very lovely.

I had 2 desserts:

The almond paste with a cute pink glutinous rice ball (crushed peanut filling). The almond paste was not too sweet, and very rich and smooth. It was very thick and not watery, so I really liked it. SGD2.30 per bowl (each ball costs 30 cents), takeaway costs SGD2.50 each not including rice ball.

Then I had the steamed milk custard with ginger. It was very nice, warm for the tummy. I think the ginger juice can be a little spicy for those who are not used to it, but I quite liked it. This one was more expensive SGD3.50 (I think it was supposed to be a house specialty).

My dear friend had a papaya with fungus and almond seeds for SGD2 (which can be served warm or cold) and which looked very good too.

Toast Box @ level 3 Vivocity outside Food Republic

This is the peanut butter toast (SGD1.80), shared by 3 girls.

It was after a heavy lunch (we shared ngo hiang bee hoon, carrot cake and sheng jian bao (a type of pork bao which is lightly panfried at the bottom)) so there was no way I could have eaten this all by myself.

It was not bad, but I felt that the layer of peanut butter was too thin. The bread was soft and fluffy on the inside, so it was too bad that they were so stingy with the topping. Just charge 2 dollars and give a bit more can?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Brotzeit German Brewery and Restaurant @ Vivocity

This place offers a number German beers and drinks like the apple juice with sparking water which I had, and a very wide selection of traditional German food.

This is their sausage platter, meant for 2 to share, but I think it wouldn't have been enough for even me alone. It was a nice selection of sausages, some were more meaty than others. Some were spicy and some were a bit soft. The smaller sausages were better, they had a spicier kick and taste and the casing had a more snappy bite.

This was a serving of the goose liver sausages, served with sour cream, dill and some berry compote. There were also potatoes and fried onions on top. It was not bad, I could taste the liver, but it was all mushed up and minced (as sausages are) so I don't think I like it that much. I like my foie gras as whole pieces, not pate-like.

Dessert of rum and raisin pancakes. they were very nice, not overly sweet, and it had a nice touch of creaminess to it. I would have liked a sprinkling of cinnamon to make it more fragrant though.

This is the bavarian chocolate creme with strawberries and fresh cream.

I'd say that the food here is very beautifully presented, which one wouldn't expect in a German bar. The quality of food is above average, as some of the sausages were not that great. However, I have not tried their other signature dishes like the pork knuckle (not on the menu but it is a special order item, and is always on their blackboard list of special items).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Melbourne Munchings Part 4

Last day in Melbourne, we had lunch at the Richmond Hill Larder and Bistro, and it was AWESOME.

I stopped by on the first day to buy cheese back for supper and it was great. This place was also featured in DH's Melbourne guide so we decided to come back for lunch. We really enjoyed it.

DH ordered the spaghetti with wagyu ragout, and shaved truffles (they forgot the truffles and we had to send it back).

My crabmeat risotto with avocado cream was excellent. I am so loving risotto right now. Ever since the Perth trip, where I also tried really good risotto.

We shared a mediterannean starter of soup with lima beans and tomato and I am not sure what else. (This one, may be it was a mistake ordering it, looks like the chef put all the stuff that was expiring into a pot and cooked a soup with it, no?)

This one, was the best!!!! we ordered a cheese platter (choice of 3 cheeses from 5) for AUD29. It was so good. From left: Goat's cheese (very creamy and melty (unlike the last one I bought, which was more crumbly) with a peppery flavour), delice the bourgogne (which translates to delight of burgundy, it is a double cream cow's cheese, with a very very rich buttery flavour) and blue cheese (which was fantastic and our favourite among all three. the blue veins were a little crumbly and crisp, and had a heavenly aroma).

Bak Chor Mee, Funan IT Mall Basement Foodcourt

This particular stall has been recommended by many friends, so since DH wanted to get a new Windows Professional 2007 (student version) (which we didn't manage to get as it was all out of stock), I followed him there and then got him to buy me the bak chor mee as a treat for trudging around the place with him.

The mee pok was springy and fragrant and the chili was spicy enough to give a good kick to my tastebuds. This was teochew style because it had a good dose of vinegar, giving the noodles a tangy taste, which I liked. No ketchup in this bowl (I think that is another popular style, but it's not the teochew way). The nicest thing about this place was that they let you help yourself to as much fried lard bits as you want, so you can pile it on if you don't count calories or cholesterol.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Melbourne Munchings Part 3

Over the weekend, DH was able to tear himself away from business and join me and Baby, so we managed to explore more parts of Melbourne.

We took the yarra river taxi to Docklands (AUD25 for a family day pass, and you take as many trips as you like, there are 8 stops along the yarra river), where there were many waterfront apartments and eateries.

Blue Fire Churrascaria

We thought it would be nice to have a churrascaria by the waterfront, how lovely is that?

The style was a little different. The meats were served by only one passadore, and didn't come out till after they had served (and we were finished with) the grilled flatbreads and dips and the baked vegetables. A sneaky little ploy to make sure we didn't eat more of the high value meats if you ask me.

We ordered oysters to start: 2 each of the following: Tequila with chili and lime (served cold), Kilpatrick (bacon worcester sauce and cheese and baked) and something with salsa (served hot also).

DH had a lime margarita (which he thought would be frozen, ie like a slush, but came with ice cubes in it instead) and I had a lime caipirinha which I thought was very good, there were many wedges of lime and lemon in this thing so it was very tart and refreshing.

The grilled vegs were all very sweet, I tried the sweet potato and the corn. DH took only a tiny bite of each, as he didn't want to waste stomach space, or fall into the sneaky trap of the restaurant.

Didn't take any photos of the meats, because the selection was not as varied as in Singapore (one cut each of lamb, beef, chicken, pork, sausage, swordfish and squid). No chicken hearts and no selection of cuts of beef etc.

Grossi Florentino 80 Bourke Street

This place is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Melbourne, serving fine Italian cuisine.

We came with baby, and I felt a little bad having a little one run around and disturb the rest of the diners. The waitstaff and all were very nice about it though, and even brought me and baby to the kitchen to say hi to Grossi, the chef-owner (He was a very dishy Italian chef, are they all this goodlooking? Or am I just partial to a man who can cook well?)

DH had the degustation menu (AUD150) and I ordered a starter and a main ala carte.

His starter of wagyu carpaccio was very nice, but one couldn't really taste the richness or succulence of the wagyu when it's sliced that thin. Wagyu is best eaten slightly seared i think, to bring out the richness of the fat by melting it a little. sort of like toro, best eaten aburi style. The carpaccio was served with shaved parmesan cheese and also a cold goat's cheese dressing. I liked the taste of the cheeses, very refreshing.

Then DH had langoustines (which is a shellfish, a bit like lobster) and it was, as you can see, very artistically scattered around the plate. It was fresh and succulent and refreshing.

DH's next course of scallop with roast pork was very good. The pork was not the crackling crispy skin type as we would eat here, more like slow roasted (as the skin wasn't at all crispy), but it was very flavourful. The mash is sweet potato? it was sweet.

DH then had their risotto with morton bay bugs (a species of crayfish) and fennel and another herb (saffron?). It was a signature dish here, and it was very well executed. Tender and sweet crayfish paired with firm to bite risotto.

What is this one? I can't really remember, but I think it could have been a quail or bird of some sort.
This one was FANTASTIC. It is slow cooked lamb, with summer vegetables. It was tender, it was not strong smelling, it was flavoursome. Perfect.

I had the duck and porcini mushroom tortellini (stuffed pasta) with rich duck jus. It was very nice, very fragrant, and a little sweet. I am beginning to notice that the chef quite likes to put a sweet tinge to his dishes.

My main of beef fillet was very very tender, and also a little sweet, maybe cos of the caramelised onions. There was foie gras on the top, but not a whole piece, more like shavings of it. It was also very good, although I didn't think it was better than the one at Cantina Cecconi, so I would go for that one, since this one was almost twice the price.

The dessert, which we didn't take any photos of, were eaten in a hurry as by then Baby was getting restless (naturally!). There were 3 types of sorbet ( as a palate cleanser) - lime, blood orange and dunno what else. the first 2 were tart and the last one was sweet.

Then DH's last course was a chocolate lava cake with souffle. very nice. I only had one bite though. I tried a little eensy weensy bit and then took Baby to walk around and came back to find that DH had scoffed the lot. So I guess it must have been good.

All these were eaten whilst Baby was running around, pullling chairs, talking and laughing (it was no easy task, I tell you). We had to take him for walks around the restaurant, to keep him entertained and out of trouble.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Asia Grand Restaurant @ Asia Hotel

Asia Grand Restaurant is at Asia Hotel (37 Scotts Road, Tel: 68870010) and it's pretty much an old-style Chinese Restaurant, which one seldom finds anymore. As it's situated in a pretty old and dingy hotel, I think one might not even venture this way very often.

The food here, however, is exceptional, and well worth the pilgrimage.

The set for 10 was I think SGD888+++, and the dishes served were all traditional Chinese favourites like suckling pig and sharks' fin soup, but all done so well, they were worth all the calories.

The first dish of Lo Hei, was unexceptional to me, but that could be because it was only my 7th Lo Hei in as many days.

The sharks' fin soup was a bright orangey hue, because it was cooked with real crab roe. It was loaded with many strands of thick sharks' fin and it was lipsmackingly good. (Now, all you environmentalists out there, don't lynch me okay, I don't go out of my way to order it, but I eat it if it has been ordered so that the poor shark would not have died in vain... alright I know it's a self-serving argument... but I also eat chicken and other meats okay, and foie gras too... so it's not fair to the rest of them if I single out only the shark and not eat its fin).

I was really happy at this stage but then... whoa! The suckling pig was FANTASTIC! It was not like the suckling pig with a layer of fat at the bottom, not at all. It was just a thin crisp of pork crackling, no hint of greasy fat at all. Wow. It's like eating a pork flavoured potato crisp!

This is the abalone with mushroom and spinach. I think the abalone was the smaller slice you see above, and the large slice is a type of mushroom (or maybe it was the other way round). It was really very delicious.

The lobster with garlic and spring onion was great too, very fresh and succulent.

The crispy sang mein (fried crispy noodles with hot gravy over it) with seafood was very generous. It contained prawn, scallop, squid and mushroom.

I didn't take photos of the dessert but it was a glutinous rice ball with sesame filling in almond paste (I love almond paste, it's so light and sweet and it's apparently very good for the skin too!). There was also another plate of pastries - nian gao (brown glutinous rice squares) lightly pan fried (or maybe steamed) and dusted with peanut powder.

I really loved the food here, and i think the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food served. Actually, I think I enjoyed the company a lot more, I lunched with a group of really fun girls, all with a great sense of humour... You know, maybe that was why the food just tasted so wonderful.

This was another one of those meals where I was literally too full to walk out... (then how did I leave, you ask? I rolled out of course!)

Modesto's @ Vivocity

This is really fantastic.

Modesto's at Vivocity has always been a favourite of mine. Partly because it is not as crowded as other eateries in this megamall, and one is always assured of a seat here.

The food here is also pretty good, with crispy thin pizzas and generous pastas.

This is the restaurant special, the linguine Modesto's, and boy was it good.

I've had it as a 1 person serving (SGD24) or as a 2 person serving (SGD48, or may be a little cheaper), and both times it was excellent.

It has lots of seafood like prawns and squid, including a whole flower crab (if you order the 2 person portion), and the best part is that it is cooked with juicy whole black olives, so it imparts a smoky salty taste to the pasta. I love biting into the olives. It's great! Funny how I used to pick the olives off the Pizza Hut pizzas I used to eat. Then again, those olives were dry and tasted like cardboard bits. Now that I am older and financially more able to afford better olives, I think I really like the taste of olives.

Melbourne Munchings Part 2

Pavilion Cafe inside Fitzroy Gardens

I brought baby to the Fitroy Gardens to run around, and to see birds and flowers and the miniature Tudor houses in this place.

We had a mid-morning brunch of omelette with ham mushrooms and cheese, and a hot chocolate. It does look very lovely doesn't it? The cheese was gooey and stringy and quite nice. Too bad it got cold very fast. Also the toast at the bottom was too burnt to eat, but I wasn't interested in eating bread so I didn't make any fuss about it.

The waitstaff kindly made Baby a free cup of babycinno, which is milk foam with some chocolate flakes on top. But he didn't like it. Should have asked them to use mommy's milk instead! *wink*

Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Block Arcade, Bourke Street Mall

This is a very famous cafe serving cakes, pastries, teas and coffees. I stopped here for tea at about 430 pm on a weekday and it was CROWDED. Baby was asleep so we managed to manouvre ourselves into a corner table, where I had the pumpkin scone with cream and fruit coulis and a Hopetoun blend tea.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Melbourne Munchings Part 1

I didn't realise Melbourne is such a melting pot of races and cultures. I met Indonesians, Vietnamese, Iraqis, Greeks and other nationalities when I was there.

As such, Melbourne has lots of restaurants serving up different cuisines.

Cantini Cecconi - 73 Flinders Lane, Melbourne City

We came here for dinner as it was recommended in the visitor's guide on Melbourne that DH bought.

It was an open concept kitchen in the middle of the restaurant, and it served some very unique and delicious dishes.

DH and I shared a fantastic starter of lasagne of porcini mushroom, chicken livers and black truffles. It was velvety and delicious, and the black truffles were still very fragrant. Pity about the chicken livers, if they had used foie gras, the dish would have been elevated to my hall of fame! Although of course, the cost would probably have tripled. It is easily my favourite dish of the meal, and possibly this trip.

Then I had a great swordfish on potato mash - crispy skin and exterior, tender and flakey meat on top of fluffy and light mash.

DH's beef was not wagyu, but it was very tender and delicious. It was really very good, tasty and richly succulent.

We then shared a tiramisu, which was divine. Smooth, and creamy. It was so good, that we couldn't resist taking a big bite each, before taking this photo.

We couldn't finish our wine, and brought it back to the hotel to drink with the cheese that I had bought earlier that day. I bought a brie, a crumbly goat's cheese and a blue cheese. Lovely. Especially with the wine!

Piazza Vittoria

I went to Victoria Market with Baby on one of the days that DH was busy. It was a lovely market, with fresh produce and deli meats, dips, nuts on one end, and trinkets and handicraft and other things on the other end. I didn't venture into the handicraft section. I just bought organic veg to cook Baby's porridge,some lovely fruits like mango, strawberries and blueberries and some nuts and nougat.

Then Baby and I adjourned to Piazza Vittoria (Victoria Plaza) just across the road for some Italian. I ordered the cannelloni (a rolled pasta filled with spinach and ricotta) smothered in cheese and tomato and then baked). It doesn't look like much in this picture but it was delicious.

Mini Restaurant (side street off 137 Flinders Lane)

We stumbled upon this place whilst searching for a restaurant featured on the in flight magazine on the way to Melbourne. And boy was it good!

It was a basement type restaurant, as many restaurants in Melbourne are.

And, it served modern Greek cuisine. This was my favourite restaurant.

We shared some starters:

panfried cheese with lemon and some yoghurt dip. It was hot and cheesy and delicious. The lemon and yoghurt added a little sour tang, so that it wasn't too overwhelming.

The tuna carpaccio came with some tart dressing, with sugar crystals on it, so it was a harmonious paring of very interesting tastes and textures. Fresh fish, sourness, sweetness, and the crunch of the crystals. DH liked this one a lot.

The prawn was, to me, quite asian. It was rolled in bee hoon and fried, like some of our dimsum things that you get at Chinese restaurants. The green dip was made with coriander, cumin and some other spices that may have been exotic to Australians, but were comfortingly familiar to this Singaporean.

The grilled quail was tasty, a bit like bbq chicken wings, I've tried this in Hong Kong many times, but DH has never eaten quail so he was keen to try.

My main of pistachio encrusted lamb rack was fantastic. I decided on this upon stepping into the restaurant and seeing many diners tucking into this delicious looking dish. And it tasted even better than it looked. The lamb was very tender and tasty and the pistachio bits on top were crunchy and yummy. The veg with yoghurt dressing was light and delicious. The mash at the bottom was couscous I think, a little grainy, creamy and tasty, and everything went very well together.

DH's main of spatchcock (a little speckled chicken, so I am told), was okay, tender and tasty and was served an a bed of tasty spinach. It however paled in comparison to my yummy lamb.

All the photos above were taken with my trusty Nokia camera!