Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Food Bloggers Dinner 2007!

Where: Le Papillon
When: 1st September 2007, Saturday, 7.30pm
How much: $60 nett

RSVP by 27th August 2007 by email - please also state dietary restrictions.

See you there!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ma Maison: Oishi & Kawaii

Ma Maison
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Central #03-96
Tel: 6327-8122

200 Victoria Street
Bugis Junction #02-51
Tel: 6338-4819

If I tried to sum up this place in one word, it would probably have to be kawaii. Not the pink, fluffy, hello kitty kawaii, but a cute that has a distinctive charm about it.

This little cornershop is located in a rather hard to find spot in Central. When I called to ask a friend for directions, he said, ‘it is very hard to find, just think it is located at the far end at the building and you should find it’. It was hard to find, despite being 10 minutes earlier than my dinner date, I spent a good 15 minutes wandering around the building before I finally arrived, 5 minutes late. But as I was told, if you approach it from the river, you should see its signage from the outside, and it should not be difficult to locate. But I digress.

Ma Maison @ central is the second branch in Singapore, the original set up shop in Bugis. The draw is the “hamburg” that is a meat patty without a bun and served with a special homemade brown sauce or you can elect to go with grated daikon and a Japanese sauce. For the past two weeks or so, I’ve been obsessing about having a hamburg, and so I managed to drag a few friends down with me.

Eating at Ma Maison is fun. The interior is dark and woody and every table is accessorised with lamp looks a little kitsch, and the food is happy – the hamburg somehow evokes childhood memories for me. I had the standard hamburg (160 g), serving sizes go up to jumbo (300 g), and the regular brown sauce because I was partial to having an egg on my patty. The plate was simple, an ice cream scoop of mash along with obligatory vegetables for me to have a square meal and the main attraction, the almost perfectly round smiling egg that laid on the juicy mince patty, a very classical feel in it. No stacked food, no microgreen garnishes very straight to the point, but then again, it is not fine dining, but there is a charm to it that appeals to me. Presentation aside, the mince patty was succulent and the homemade brown sauce was rich and sticky, very yummy, very happy food.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Braised Beef Cheeks

I recently agreed to do some cooking for my cousin who lives in a black and red house and made a face when I suggested cooking a fish course for her main course. Fine. So something meaty it shall have to be.

I debated about going with a standard braising recipe that I have off my head or going with something fancier, more robust, structured and developed in taste. I went with the latter and decided, the French Laundry was going to be my guide. I love the book, let’s face it, it is food porn but above that it holds cooking wisdom. That being said, I have had a really bad experience with it when I watched my lobe of foie gras melt away in the oven, so should I attempt at cooking from it again?

I did, and I nearly lost my eyebrows in the process. Take extreme care when making the red wine marinade, the recipe calls for you to flame it to burn off the alcohol. I tried to err on the safe side by using a long bamboo satay stick to flame the boiling liquid in my stock pot, but I was starring down into the pot when the flames shot back… so I had to quickly retract… I really nearly burnt off my eyebrows, so, take care. Other than that, this recipe is rather friendly and the result, a rich flavoured beef cheek that is meltingly tender.

Braised Beef Cheeks
Serves 4

2 Wagyu beef cheeks, about 550 g each
Red wine marinade
Salt and pepper
Flour for dusting
2 cups veal stock

Red wine marinade
1 bottle red wine
½ cup carrots
2/3 cup leeks
½ cup onions
3 cloves garlic
10 sprigs Italian parsley
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf

1. Prepare the red wine marinade. Bring everything to the boil and flame to burn off the alcohol.
2. Trim the top flap of the meat from the cheeks as well as silver skin.
Place the pieces of meat in one layer in a tight-fitting container. Pour the marinade over and around the meat, cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 150 degree C.
4. Remove the meat from the marinade. Strain the marinade into a pot, reserving the vegetables. Bring the marinade to the boil and skim impurities that rises to the top. You should have about 1 cup marinade. Remove from heat.
5. Coat the bottom of a large pot with oil and heat over high heat. Pat cheeks dry, season and dust with flour. Brown for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, remove and place in a roasting pan, and it should fit snugly in one layer.
6. Drain fat from the pot, add vegetables from the marinade, and sauté over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Place vegetables over meat and then add reserved marinade and veal stock and water to cover the meat with liquid. Bring to a simmer over the stove.
7. Cover with parchment lid, transfer to oven, and cook for 3.5 to 4 hours until tender. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
8. Remove cheeks from liquid. Wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or up to 2 days overnight, strain liquid into a tall container and let it stand for 20 minutes to remove fat. Strain liquid, and save ½ cup to reheat before serving and reduce the rest by half.

* Recipe adapted from French Laundry

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's Fresh, It's French & It Rocks

1 Habourfront Walk
#01-163 Vivocity

Sometimes all it takes is ham and cheese to make me happy. And I trust I’m not only one that shares this thought. The numerous permutations that this trusty combination has taken humble or posh, is well, countless. The French have their croque-monsieur and the croque-madame if you are in an eggy mood, the Italians are the land of ham and cheese and the ubiquitous ham-kaas tosties in the cafés Amsterdam… these are just a few that I can think of at the moment.

I have good memories of cutting out of class to hang out with KD, to share a cuppa, which is usually accompanied with a ham-kaas tosti (probably the most often used dutch words by us) where we talked about everything and nothing. Whilst I very unfortunately do not have that privilege anymore, I’ve found a good equivalent. This ham & cheese rocks my lunch-time world: the ‘authentic’ tartine from Fre(n)sh Café.

Excuse Me, Are You a Flogger?

Once a year food bloggers on our tiny island gather to share a meal, not to mention that so far they have been terribly delicious. Keeping with this two-year old tradition, this year should not be any different. So if you are a food blogger from this tiny red dot or from anywhere else in the world that will be in Singapore on the 31st August or 1st Sept (to be determined), drop me an email if you are interested, I'm trying to get a feel of the group size before determining the venue.

Let me know:
(i) preferred date
(ii) dietary restrictions
(iii) questions & suggestions.

More details to be published in the next two weeks.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Bontá Italian Restaurant & Bar
207 River Valley Road
UE Square, River Wing #01-61
Tel: 6333-8875

Whilst there seems to be some sort of exodus from Garibaldi, their staff and more specifically their wait staff don’t disappear from the food and beverage scene. The most recent place that they have been spotted or have turned up at is the new Italian restaurant, Bontá.

My initial excitement was overtaken by some scepticism when I realised where the restaurant was located. Over the past two years or so, I’ve seen this corner unit change numerous hands … so will this place survive the bad luck that has seemed to have overcast this place? Well… I think it would.

The service is great! They make dining out for the uninitiated friendly. Backed by a good knowledge of the menu and they make most of the menu sound delicious and they have a warmness that would put anyone at ease.

Among the starters, we had the potato and wild mushroom soup was nothing much to write home about, but the foie gras was very well prepared, nice and pink in the centre. But I would say, be bold and have the sardines and if that is a little too fishy for you, the ocean trout crab roll with avocado is also a good choice as assured by the waiter, ‘if you don’t like it I’ll return it and bring you something else’. And he was right, it was smooth in my mouth and the rich tasting ocean trout matched the milder crab.

The homemade pappardelle, braised oxtail in arrabiata sauce was yummy. The oxtail benefited form the long slow braising process, and together with the sauce, it beautifully coated the yellow ribbons of pappardelle.

The goose liver ravioli was indulgent, but not for the faint-hearted. Squares of foie gras enfolded between pasta sheets and covered with a thick creamy cheese sauce… good but trust me when I say it is rich.

The other mains of seafood risotto and lamb chops with eggplant puree, sweet and sour shallot, tomato salsa and balsamic glaze were good.

Other high recommended dishes here are their lobster dishes – lobster tartare and angelhair – because they have a lobster tank, so they are murdered on your order. We skipped this and dessert this time, but I reckon I would probably return. So maybe this place has a good fighting chance of turning the tide of bad luck that has shadowed its predecessors. Oh and they serve really good bread, that alone is worth a return visit.
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