Monday, August 28, 2006

“There is this small little shop along Killiney Road that serves the best beef rendang”

Warong M. Nasir
69 Killiney Road
Singapore 239526
Tel: 67346228

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I apologise for the bad photography

Thankfully in this instance, there was no case of broken telephone. A friend told me that her friend had the best beef rendang ever at this small little shop along Killiney Road. That same friend then went to eat there and verified that indeed it was the best beef rendang ever. Passing on that piece of information, I told my parents, for this week’s Sunday lunch, we have to go to this small little shop along Killiney Road that has best beef rendang ever. We went and so now I am passing on the message to you: there is this small little shop along Killiney Road has the best beef rendang, ever.

Beef rendang to me is never short of flavour. Depending on the spice composition and coconut milk to meat ratio, there will be slight variations in terms of taste and richness, but one thing for sure is that it will never be bland. More often than not, however, whether in its dry or wet form, beef rendang tends to err on the chewy side despite the long and slow cooking process.

Tenderness is where the beef rendang here places itself second to none. Upon first contact with the fork or spoon, the meat gently peels away with little resistance and is absolutely tender. The “tender” visual of the rendang creates high expectations for its potential tenderness and it does not disappoint as it slowly dissipates as gently chew with spoon grains of hot white rice. An absolute winner.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Stylish Gloss on Chinese Food

After a lunch of grazing on a few communal plates at The Majestic Chinese restaurant, I had some thoughts about modern Chinese food in Singapore today.

The idea of modern Chinese cuisine was initiated in Singapore by Club Chinois, Tung Lok Group of Restaurants. Nouvelle chinois cuisine painted a stylist gloss on Chinese food. Individual portions and stylish platings alongside a ‘fusion’ style of cooking incorporating ingredients from other cuisines that were traditionally not used in Chinese cuisine. More restaurants have taken on this label of modern Chinese, innovating and pushing the flavour boundaries. That, however, has also lead to a near duplication of some dishes, such as the now ubiquitious wasabi prawns.

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Nouvelle chinois cuisine has also caused a minor revolution in Chinese restaurant décor. Forks and spoons were no longer just serving utensils, they made their way to the standard table setting alongside the soup spoon, chopsticks and the nifty holder that prevented them from making any contact with table. As Humble House, which was designed by Zhang Jin Jie, an established artist, Majestic Restaurant finds its home in the über chic restored Majestic hotel. The much talked about décor here and the swimming pool ceiling did not do much for me, but what I liked was the huge kitchen window that allows you to privy into the matters of the kitchen and to watch the cooks dancing to their own kitchen rhythm.

The food although elegant and delicious, read Chubby Hubby’s and colin's mouthwatering review here, lacked some sort of distinctive identity. My case in point is the foie gras and Peking duck skin pairing served with a wasabi prawn, which was a well executed combination of rich sweet flavours and crisp textures did not really offer any interesting interpretation. The strength of this restaurant lies in the mix of contemporary and classic offerings that can be paired and served without much confusion.

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Foie Gras with Wasabi Prawns, Taste Paradise

Another modern Chinese restaurant that I have recently dined at is Taste Paradise, where I thought the food was excellent. We started off with a similar rendition of foie gras with wasabi prawns as the one in Majestic Restaurant, it was just as indulgent even without the extra silver of crispy Peking duck skin.

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Homemade carrot cake, Taste Paradise

Our next plate was their signature homemade carrot cake. I don’t have a clue how Chef Fong made it, but its texture was exquisite—soft, smooth and slightly springy. I’ll agree with Wong Ah Yoke that to date the best plate of carrot cake I’ve had, and at that point in time, I was sure I was going to come back for more.

A plate of Thai-styled deep fried white bait arrived next. It was an interesting hybrid of a Thai mango salad and the conventional deep fried white bait served as a dim sum or appetiser in a Chinese meal. I liked this for its refreshing flavours and its play on the cold and hot crunchy elements on the plate.

From the meat department, we sampled the popular baked lamb rack in red wine and beef cubes cooked French style, which were tasty and tender. The only disappointment was very unfortunately the finishing bowl of homemade mee sua with seafood in superior broth that was too starchy. But other than, Taste Paradise offers some creative sounding and interesting tasting dishes, while others such as the homemade carrot cake in particular, are simple and refined that taste like paradise.

Majestic Restaurant
31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 65114718

Taste Paradise
48-49 Mosque Street
Tel: 62262959

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meet the Floggers 2006

If you haven't heard, Colin from Only Slightly Pretentious Food is organising this year's Singapore f-loggers get together. The details are as follows and please RSVP with colin by the 14th August 2006.

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Venue: Sage the Restaurant
Date: 25th August, Friday
Time: 7.30pm
Cost: $60 nett

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

La Strada

La Strada Ristorante
1 Scotts Rd #02-10
Shaw Centre
Tel: 6737 2622

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potato and fontina cheese tart with porcini and celery salad

As I continue on my Italian binge, my indulgence was at the spanking new Italian joint by the Les Amis group, La Strada. First of all, if you plan to go, make a reservation. The Les Amis Group has adopted a new, and very American-style, reservation system where there is a central hub that takes all reservations, hence you have to call during working hours, that is the only time they seem to pick up the phone, and even when I did leave my name and number, no one returned my call. I was prepared to wing it, chancing that they would have a table on a weekday lunch, but my lunch date, firmly said “no, it gets crowded”, and he was right, it packed a full house for lunch.

The menu offers classics with a slight fuss. On the other spectrum of home-styled Italian food, La Strada offers a spectacle interpretation on some classics. Who knew the foam would find its way into the Italian cuisine as well? With today’s obsession about El Bulli, molecular gastronomy and the espuma, this is actually the first time I have had flavoured foam served to me in an Italian ristorante. Antipastos come elegantly plated, while with regards to secondi, there really isn’t much you can make fancy with pasta and risotto, unless you employed extra kitchen staff to make twirl pastas and to pile them in a “jenga" vertical stacks, but after that labour, the food might arrive cold.

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strozzapretti with duck sausage, rabe, shaved parmesan and a hint of chilli

The food spoke with clarity and confidence. The plates had straightforward flavours that have integrity that not masked or hidden by any overpowering sauces. My nonconformist interpretation of broccoli consisted of: a single ravioli that encased a creamy purée that was boiled to al dente and then pan-fried for a slight crisp, a crispy tempura of broccolini and a goat’s cheese foam, working together to create a variety of textures and gentle flavours, excellent. And the other entrée of potato and fontina cheese tart with porcini and celery salad and was fresh tasting. Following that we had a serving of pasta each, where we tried the duck sausage and rabe, which was delicious and hearty tasting with the slight bitterness from the rabe, but the sausages were slightly overcooked and dried out, and a special vegetarian request for a pasta of the chef’s choice of penne with a vegetable ragu, perhaps unimaginative but nonetheless well executed.

My lunch date, H is a fellow avid foodie, is someone I thoroughly love dining out with because I can be a shameless greedy person, I have come to realise that we have different stomach capacities. Although I was satiated after my 2 course lunch, he needed more, and he was unwilling to eat alone, so for this visit, after our 2 courses, there was no more to come that is, no dolce.

I like this establishment, La Strada much more than its former occupant, The Canteen. That being said, what question comes next is that, seeing how it is still a Les Amis Group Restaurant, how much is it going to set you back? It does come with a hefty price tag; you pay for a package, quality food and location. Lunch alone, with 2 courses and a cup of cleansing ritualistic Japanese tea cost me $60, I would say, it's worth it for a special occasion.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bread Therapy

“Push, stretch and fold, push, stretch and fold, push, stretch and fold…” sometimes there is nothing more therapeutic than doing performing a mindless repetitive action that has a constructive end product.

Now I understand why I’ve been warned, “If you start baking bread, you wouldn’t stop!” While pondering over issues that troubled my mind, there was nothing better than kneading dough. Maybe it’s a need to feel in control of something when other things seem beyond your control, but kneading dough, this very tactile activity, is very good for the soul. Not to mention, you can freshly baked bread to consume with a thick spread of nutella or peanut butter if you still feel blue after your own bread therapy session.

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Sesame Flatbread
Makes 4 flatbreads

200 g bread flour
½ tsp sea salt
3 g dry active yeast
170 ml tepid water
1 Tbsp olive oil + a little extra
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

1. Place flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
2. Dissolve yeast in water. Slowly add water to flour, kneading to bring the dough together.
3. As soon as it comes together, turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth, then cover with a cloth and set aside to rest for 45 minutes.
4. When dough is ready, divide into 4 equal portions and roll out on a floured surface to circles of about 15-20 cm in diameter.
5. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds. Bake in a preheated oven at 230°C for 5-10 minutes. Each bread should partially bubble up and colour slightly yet not be crisp.

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