Sunday, April 29, 2007


545 Orchard Road
Far East Shopping Centre, #01-11
Tel: 6737-0757

Hastening my walking pace, I was eager to get to my dinner destination to avoid the impending thunderstorm and furthermore I already ten minutes late. My dinner party was already seated at the sushi counter, so as I sat down, they hungry and eager to get dinner started, passed me the menu and their dinner decision, ‘we think we’ll just do an omakase dinner’. Sure, why not that sounds like a good idea, so we closed our menus, looked up at the chef and uttered, ‘omakase’.

As we nibbled on the appetisers of ikura shioyu zake, kodia mozuku and tatami iwashi shishito, the three of us were rather convinced that we had uncovered another Japanese dining gem that is tucked away in a dingy building. The cliental for the night were mainly regulars, where they walked in, asked for the chef’s recommendations for the day and dictated their menu from that rather than the menu. So it seemed like our choice for an off-the-menu chef’s menu seemed like the right way to go.

This ex-Kuriya team, seemed eager to impress and serve with a sense of earnestly. In the raw, they presented us with a huge sashimi platter and stock-full of sea creature goodies that consisted of: fresh uni, toro, hotate, angawa kanpachi belly, salmon belly, sayori, kodia, sowa gain kareage and ark shell, served with freshly grated wasabi, all of which made me happy and I could have finished off with a steaming bowl of hot soup, but they were not done with serving us yet, a good thing too because I would have missed out of the other cooked courses.

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In the raw, the freshness was unquestionable. Cooking-wise, the kitchen crew showcased a fair bit to us. The first of which was our sumiyaki course of ginko nuts, Japanese tomatoes and a nasu dengaku and the remaining half of the kodai, from our sashimi course, that simply grilled with sea salt. Along with that we were served the deep fried head and tail of the sayori and ebi that were served with a miso paste that would make fabulous bar food that I could crunch all night long with an ice cold one. Following that was a simmered dish of anago that tightly wrapped burdock root that I think had too much burdock that made it too aggressive against the gentler anago. Next we moved on to what I would term the ‘garlicky’ section of our dinner – scallop wings and roe and mushrooms teppanyaki with a garlic sauce and salt-baked whole garlic served with miso sauce.

At this point, the three of us won over by this place, there was no question about quality and its taste were simple and authentic natural flavours.

Next up was sushi. Maybe it is presumptuous on my part, but I was expecting them to place the sushi plate in front of me along with a personal mini mount of pickled ginger and pickles (which were very yummy), instead we were served a plate consisting of five different types of aburi sushi – o-toro, hirame, kimedai, amaebi with mentaiko and anago.

What got us all tickled during the night was the knife-work that went into preparing a simple dessert of a single Japanese imported strawberry and a slice of muskmelon. I might have much liked to have popped more of those strawberries in my mouth compared to the time he took to cut and garnish, but nonetheless, I think it is one of the cutest desserts I’ve seen this year.

As we got to the end of the meal, full and happy-bellied, we wondered at the impending financial damage. Nonetheless, we were convinced that we had found a gem and that a return visit was going to be booked in our calendars. So whilst waiting for the bill, we chatted a little with the chef, thanked and assured him that we had thoroughly enjoyed meal. At least we did until the point when the bill, which was the final blow for the night … I was not expecting to drop something slightly shy of $300 for a no-occasion-mid-week dinner - let’s just say my wallet now needs a band-aid. Oh, and the return visit has taken a rain check until my wallet and I have recovered.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Post-Work Pepper Inspirations

My new job has seen me work longer hours, and it is because of this fact that I feel a need to do something for me when I get home each day. So recently, I’ve been bitten by a post-work baking bug. My first baking good of the week was an experiment of chocolate and Szechuan pepper cookies, which tasted alright but they had a texture that was closer to a thin sponge cake than a cookie and in disgust I threw them out, only to be accused of wasting ingredients. Puzzle and still rather determined to make good that cookie, I had a sudden pepper-related inspiration for a new cookie favour, orange and black pepper cookies and that was slated for my post-work activity last night.

So today I was rather gleeful since I managed to turn out a rather delectable product that was well received by my colleagues, even the one who thought I was a high-energy nutcase.

“When did you make these?”
“When I got home from work last night?”
“Aren’t you tired?”
“No I guess I’m rather high energy in that sense”
“Are you one of those insomniacs that don’t sleep and bake through the night and keep your neighbours up because of all the baking aromas that float into their room??”
“No! Just eat the cookie and tell me if you like it...”

So I guess if you are up and about tonight, you are try making these –

Orange and Black Pepper Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

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1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 g unsalted butter, cubed
125 g icing sugar
4 egg yolks
Grated zest of ½ orange
Pinch of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
250 g plain flour
4 tablespoons crushed black peppercorns

1. Using the paddle attachment, combine all ingredients except the peppercorns with the mixer on a low speed.
2. Add pepper and mix for another 30 seconds
3. Roll a teaspoon of batter in between palms to form a ball then gently flatted on baking sheets.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree C for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer onto cooling racks until completely cooled.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Il Lido

Il Lido
Sentosa Golf Club
Bukit Manis Road
Singapore 099892
Tel : 6866-1977

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Since it has been open, I’ve heard mixed reviews from food proxies and hence was not in away great way compelled to make the distance but the news of the new resident chef helped to sway the decision. That being said, I never made it there whilst the ex-Pontini-now-Pontini’s-Chef de cuisine-again was there, I cannot provide a before and after picture.

The food is good, well crafted and fresh quality ingredients, but I was a little disappointed. I had higher expectations for the menu seemed rather conservative and against the hip and stylish décor, and it is probably for this lack of distinctiveness that I honestly do not find a big push-factor to cross the bridge and to make a return. We ordered the menu “classic”: pan roasted goose liver with green apple, honey & hazelnut sauce, home made tagliolini with live spiny lobster and green asparagus tips, USDA prime beef tenderloin, white asparagus, anchovy & garlic sauce and molten lava dark chocolate cake, white chocolate & coffee gelato, deep-fried zucchini flowers with goose liver and robiola cheese, classic Italian antipasto platter, fettuccine with crab, porcini mushrooms, pachino tomatoes and grey mullet bottarga and spaghetti with sea urchins and spicy zucchini.

Whilst the view, service and the food were agreeable, the menu prices seemed to have factored in a large cost of rental of your table for the evening. In fact, was most memorable of the night was the couple beside us that sat uncomfortably, whom seemed too shell shocked by the prices, ordered plate of pasta each—the fettucine and the spaghetti—and that was all they had that night, no starters, no desserts. That dining experience lasted somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes and did cost them something between $70 to $80. That is some expensive real estate, no?


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Arrrgh.. Oh for the love of noodles

Marutama Ra-men
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#03-90, The Central
Tel: 6534-8090

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Had I known better, I would have acted faster. Just last week, CH had asked if I had about this new ramen shop that had opened up at central, to which i answered no. But when i headed down today there was a long queue, whaaaaat??? Didn’t this place just open? Seriously, I even observed that the paint on the menu wasn’t even completely dry! My mystery was answered when I later found out that just yesterday BT had ran a story about the Japanese eating hub that Central has turned out to be yesterday, and I was caught up in the foodie mob that had been biten by the curiousity bug.

So as we waited it out with others in the queue, with a growling stomach and a the common sentiment that one other waiting diner uttered 'well since we are here, we might as well wait for a while', my only comfort at that moment is that, this noodle shop draws Japanese that are willing to patiently wait for their bowl.

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My current favourite ramen shop is Ken’s Noodle House, which is fantastic for post-drinking and comforting after a long late night at work. There the stock is good, the soft boiled egg is divine and their cold miso noodles used to be one of my favourite lunch meals when I worked nearby. After having lunch at Marutama, I think it gives Ken’s a good run for its money. At Marutama, I had Ramen char siu with an additional soft boiled egg and a side serving of kakuni (pork belly braised in soy sauce). My bowl of noodles and hot stock glistened from the layer of oil or maybe it was chicken fat that topped the soup for flavour and to aid the noodles in sliding down your throat. Comparatively, they both have robust stocks – Ken’s uses pork and Marutama uses chicken – I liked both, but if I have to pick a side, I think I might lean towards Ken’s. As for soft boiled eggs, both are on par. Where Marutama has an edge is its noodles, it is slightly skinnier than the strands at Ken’s but what makes it a winner is the perfect ‘QQ’ texture that it has. The owner is also fastidious about the quality of his noodles, as he refused a takeaway request that a friend of mine made because it would have ruined the quality of the noodles, so as a compromise that same friend returned with a container to take away a bowl of soup, without the noodles.

So was the bowl of ramen worth standing in line for? Yes, it was good and since I’ve been there and spent some time observing the cycle and the peak of the lunch hour, the next time I’m going back, I’m going to try to beat the crowd.

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