Friday, March 27, 2009

Revisiting some Italians

Over the past months and few weeks, I’ve been doing ‘comfort’ eating. I’ve been eating at familiar places and in particular I’ve been eating at the same Italian places. Whilst I love trying somewhere new, sometimes nothing beats knowing exactly what you are going to get even before you open the front door of the restaurant. Here’s the rundown.


I’ve been back for three different types of sittings in the past few months. Once for a no-holds-carbs-evening-out with the girl friends, second for a private party for a friend who turned the big three-O and lastly for a lazy Saturday lunch. And on all three occasions and after all these years, I still think the food and the ambience is amazing. Have a bowl of pasta, split a pizza, nibble on the menu seasonal anchovies or settle down with the grilled to perfection steak Florentine (this is really awesome!), you can’t go very wrong.

Buko Nero

I have been a bit of a manic with this hole in the wall. After my first meal there, I made sure I had a table for every month of the year. I’ve dined there with all sorts of permutations. A table for two, three, four, five and six persons but I’ve never eaten there by myself. I’ve had their set lunches, the set dinners, the daily special pastas, the regular menu, ordered my own and nibbled at other people’s courses, ordered almost half the menu and sharing it and after all that experimenting, I’ve settled for my own ‘menu’ – a soup (either the soup that is on the board or the default porcini mushroom soup laced with truffle oil), a pasta (a toss up between the specials, default choice of spicy prawn spaghetti and the other rival pasta on the printed menu) and a serving of ham and cheese crostinis to share. Dessert is optional. The rational behind my mania: I like what they do and I like what it stands for: small, intimate and food made with love. There are some things that sometimes irritate me, in particular the long almost irrational waiting time between courses, but I overcome that with good company and some patience.

Da Mario's

Since it’s re-opening on the opposite side of its original location, I’ve been there three times on three consecutive weeks and I’m very sad to report that Da Marios has lost its ‘al dente’ touch. Visit after visit was a downhill tumble, and so I don’t think I’m going back for a long long while. On my first visit, we were served tepid appetizers and limp pastas and the waiter almost looked shocked at my replied, “to be honest, the soup was under seasoned and tasteless and the courses were tepid” to his question on how our appetizers were. After our pastas, I decided that my dessert allowance was better spent elsewhere (even though I remember that they have a gorgeous tiramisu). On my second visit, my pasta was still too soft but the bruchetta gave me a slight glimmer of hope. On my third and final visit for this year, our pastas were still limp but I had the wisdom to stay away from the capellini that was close to gloppy on my first visit and to stick with its fatter and flatter cousins – spaghetti and linguini – but they were still cooked beyond the point of al dente. I can’t figure it out. Are they cooking these to ‘Asian noodle’ standards? Why can’t I get some al dente pasta here? But maybe there is a way around it, I can tell them to undercook my pasta and it might turn out ok but seriously, I trust not the service here - on my third and possibly my last visit, a seemingly innocent request to get our bread warmed, where I was left irritated with the stupid answer they gave me and cold bread and was the final straw. This was third time, not so lucky and I’ve had it here.

11 Jalan Bingka
Tel: 6462-0555

Buko Nero
126 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6324-6225

Da Mario’s
60 Robertson Quay
The Quayside #01-05/06
Tel: 6235-7623


Monday, March 16, 2009

Tenshin: An Art Mastered

I have a deep fear of de
ep fat frying and most frying for that matter. A pot of hot fat coupled with my usual sense of clumsiness, are a bad combination together. As a matter of fact, I just managed to land a few splutters of hot oil yesterday and so I’m nursing some burns. And so, with regards to cooking, I love most of it but if someone else could do the frying for me, please be my guest.

Tenshin I would say is a confident restaurant. In this age where we praise super foods and organic, deep fried is generally relegated to bad food; you have to be really confident that what is served is top quality deep fried food that has nothing to do with the greasy tag that can make you feel sick in the stomach.

Here frying is an art form. The work is hot, intense and precise. It starts with a basket of fresh ingredients that are then lightly coated with a barely there tempura batter. Working in pairs behind the copper shield the tempura masters swiftly drop the ingredients into the hot oil and then pulled up at an exact moment and then instantly set in front of you. Each item so perfectly fried. Hot, light and crispy and integrity of the ingredient preserved through the cooking process that allows you to taste its absolute essence - I don’t think I had ever really tasted a matsutake till I ate at Tenshin: I could almost taste and imagine the earth that it grew in.

Seasoning is left up to you. Sea salt or flavoured salts – curry, green tea – or swish your tempura around in tempura sauce with grated daikon. And then wash all the goodness down with hot tea, this helps to aid the digestive process.

Bits and pieces of my lunch:

The mini kaiseki set that consisted of a salad, a sashimi plate, tempura of three types of seafood and three types of vegetables + separate order of uni, scattered tempura rice served with pickles and miso soup and dessert.

1 Cuscaden Road
Regent Hotel #03-01


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Soup for the soul: s-o-t-o-a-y-a-m

Chicken soup, essentially chicken bones and tough bits boiled with a permutation of vegetables and spices. Coloured with turmeric and spiked with a pounded melage of aromatics and spices, the Indonesian version is one of my favourites. This is one of my favourite things to eat in Bali – Soto Ayam from Made’s Warung. Their version is heavily flavoured and packs a small punch of heat. Stir it around with your spoon and scoop up the crunchy sprouts that lie beneath the vermicelli, it is all very good together.

Made's Warung
Jln. Seminyak,
Seminyak, Bali