Monday, April 29, 2013

Epilog: cafe in a bookshop

Curious little cafe...inside the bookshop Prologue in Ion...aptly called Epilog.

Interesting tucked in a corner, bright, airy. Very nice and relaxed environment to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee or lunch.

I dropped by for lunch, craving for some laksa

The laksa proved quite superb. A little small in the serving size. But the soup was magnificent in colour, and the beautiful fragrance hits the nose almost as the dish was being served. The soup had ground dried prawns within. Very nice.

Two large, succulent, and fresh prawns, rather generous fishcakes and taupok. Quite nice laksa. Though not as good as the one by Laksania, this one satisfies quite nicely as well.

The laksa set costs S$6.50, and comes with a pot of tea, which on its own is listed on the menu at S$6.00. I elected a Lavender Earl Gray...quite a beautiful brew...clear, clean on the palate. Wonderful fragrance. The pot serves perhaps 2.5 full cups. Nice.

Recommended. I understand they have an outlet in Orchard Central as well.

epilogue café @ ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn
#04-16 ION Orchard
6509 8627
Opens daily: 10:30am – 10:00pm

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Friends Favourites: Mondo Mio's Chocolate Lava Cake

Another Friend's Favourite today...this time from my good friend and cycling buddy Caroline.

She was totally enthusiastic in recommending me the chocolate lava cake from Mondio we dropped by one afternoon after lunch.

Looks ordinary? Well, while not the ultimate I have eaten, this chocolate lava cake is one of the better ones around. The cake "container" is soft and airy. The lava oozes out with ease. But the taste of the lava is well balanced...a nice balance of sweet and bitter, and the richness of the chocolate is rather good.

Certainly worth a visit to sample if you are a fan of the lava chocolate cake.

Mondo Mio
30 Robertson Quay
6736 2503

Monday, April 22, 2013

Friends Favourites: Johor Bahru Eats Part 2

Part two of the walking tour of Johor Bahru conducted by bloggerTony Johor Kaki.

I started the walking tour with Tony, who is passonate about steet food in Johor...not only because there is plenty of excellent food to be eaten, but also so few are documented. He draws out the hawkers and writes their stories, as well as make recommendations on the food.

We continue today with the walk in old town Johor Bahru. Next is a heritage shop, selling bread and cakes.

Only two of these bakeries exist in JB. Equipped with a wood fired oven, similar to the pizza ovens. The baking is done in a stone oven, fired with wood. The products, fragrant...with stuffed breads, and what we went there for...Tony's favourite banana cake.

We started to queue for this amazing cake, and were third in the queue...amazingly, the cakes are baked two cakes a time. Hot out of the oven, cut and put into the time we bought our 3 packets, that round from the oven was finished. People in the queue behind had to wait for the next oven load.

The taste was sublime. A bit smoky, especially the nicely crisp top, but within, very moist, beautiful aroma. Very nice.

Next stop is the highlight of the day for me. Kway Teow Thng...

This is not your run of the mill variety Kway Teow Thng. This is one with the works. All for a princely sum of MYR16...about S$6.50.

Chock full of wonderfully fresh ingredients...beautiful, magnificent oysters, pig kidneys, fresh pork, pork liver.

Cooked in a wonderfully flavourful broth made with huge pork bones slowly boiled over a charcoal fire. Magnificent.

Even the noodles are special..smooth, soft, luxurious. Magnificent. Must try. BTW, they have versions for as little as MYR5.

And to cool down, we dropped by a shop selling a brew not found in Singapore...toddy...a fermented brew from the nectar of the palm.

A bit sourish, served at room temperature. The brew was surprisingly cooling during the heat of the day. And very refreshing and thirst quenching.

I have tried fresh, chilled toddy in Penang was an even more wonderful drink...served cold, it was like a cold beer on a hot day...lighter in flavour than the one I tried in JB.

Thus ended our first JB tour with Tony. Certainly not our last. There are so much to explore. And our only regret was we could only eat so much in a day...we will be back. Soon...I hope.

Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory
13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.456931, 103.764222
Daily 8:00am to 6:00pm (Closed on Sunday)

Ah Hua 亚华 kway teow soup (Restoran Sekee 司機)
30, Jalan Segget, Johor Baru Town
GPS: 1.458202,103.764383
Daily 7:30am to 2:30pm (closed on Saturdays)

Kedai Tuak Awam
Along Jalan Sulaiman, downtown Johor Bahru
GPS: 1.464262,103.761633
10:00am to 5:00pm

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Friends Favourites: Johor Bahru eats

This installment of Friend's Recommendations will be in two parts. Part 1 is published today, and Part 2 next week. This is a rather special post, as it introduces the street food of Johor Bahru, the border town just across the causeway in Malaysia. Our guide is the famous blogger Tony Johor Kaki.

Tony is one passionate blogger...his passion is to tell the stories of the hawkers and street vendors in Johor. Hence the name Johor Kaki. Visit his blog for a more complete picture of the exploits...all very interesting.

We met to do part of his walking tour of the old town Johor Bahru. Today's post will feature two selling beef noodles, and another with laksa.

First the beef noodles.

Beef noodles...using a mix of fresh beef, chilled beef and frozen beef...depending on what flavours and texture this hawker wants to bring out in the particular order.

We ordered a dry version and a soupy one...

Very robust tasting. The soup stock was quite beefy, with subtle herbal flavours. The meat was very tender.

I particularly liked the tendons...very tender. The soup version was a bit more run of the mill.

Interesting first taste of JB. Though for me, the highlight of our walking tour was to come later...this was a good first taste. In comparison to what we can get here in Singapore, I feel, perhaps we are not so different. I still prefer the Nan Zing Zhou, which I have blogged about here.

Next, a short walk away is a stall selling laksa.

The laksa is the lemak style, using coconut milk, but not as strong as the version we get in Singapore as personified by the Katong Laksa. Here, the offering is more similar to what is known in Penang as Kari Mee..

The soup is more spicy rather than rich coconut. The ingredients are first rate. I particularly liked the deep fried fish balls. The bowl came with lots of tofu, and fresh cockles. Superb tasting. The noodles were also nice, soft.

The tour continues next week.

Ah Yong Beef Noodles @ Restoran Yong Mui 永美茶餐厅-家乡牛腩面
Off Jalan Lumba Kuda
GPS: 1.460827,103.767247
7:00am to 3:00pm (Closed on Wednesday)

Tan Kee Cathay 国泰 Laksa
149, Jalan Lumba Kuda, 80300 Johor Bahru (inside Restoran Shang Ji)
GPS: 1.461162, 103.767403
8:00am to 3:00pm (Closed on Mondays)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Beanstro

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is one of the larger chains coffee shops in town. Known for their coffees and teas, and snacks, they decided to go into the foray of full meals. They went a big way, hiring an executive chef, and branding these restaurant styled CBTL as Beanstro...a play on their name and bistro. Each of the Beanstro outlets have a dedicated kitchen to prepare and cook the food onsite.

I was invited by Vincent Chang, CBTL's Senior Director of Business Development and Controller for a tasting. I understand Vincent is a fan of this blog, and contacted one of his suppliers who is a good friend of mine to arrange this tasting.

I went to the tasting with my friend who made the arrangement and another. Our party of four tasted this meal...quite a lot of food.

We started with calamari

Quite nice. Calamari rings, breaded and deep fried.

Followed by a cheese appetizer

I found the cheese to be very mild, and as it was deep fried, a bit greasy.

And a salad

Nice slices of tuna, lightly seared on a bed of vegetables with a very light nicoise sauce.

For mains, I had the steak burger

I had expected a steak, grilled and sandwiched in bread with condiments, but this was done with sliced beef. I feel it makes the sandwich a bit more difficult to eat, as the beef slices tend to slide all over. The flavour was robust, but the meat a bit on the chewy side. I would have preferred a more marbled cut.

My friend had the squid ink pasta

I had a taste, and it was not bad. I prefer pasta with squid ink sauce, as this normally has more oomph than a squid ink infused pasta. But in this case, it was the latter, done with aglio olio and clams.

And two of them had burger

And we shared a lobster pasta

I found the pasta a bit undercooked, rather hard. But the slipper lobster is superb. Very fresh, sweet. The sauce very nice, tingling, spicy.

For desserts, warm chocholate cake

Quite de rigeur. The crust was a bit dry, but within the moist chocolate oozed. Not as smooth as the best I have eaten, but not bad.

Creme Brule

And bread pudding

I find the desserts to be large servings...and the presentation a bit boring as each dessert was presented in a cup, on a almost exactly the same as the other.

Overall, satisfying food...appropriate for the target level, I guess...which is mall style quick eats (not fast food).

Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road # B1-37 Ngee Ann City
6235 1610
Mon - Sun: 8am - 11pm ...Fri,Sat & Eve of PH: 9am - 11pm.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

sQue: a place for beer and food?

I saw a review at one of the local TV programs talking about Emmanuel Strobant's latest venture...known as Sque...a place for beer and meat. Interesting methot.

So I dropped by one hot afternoon with a good friend to sample the delights on offer. There was a large outdoor dining expected, the angmo expats were hanging out there. And within the two smaller air conditioned eating areas, hid many of us locals.

Beer was the order for the day...many varieties were on tap, and even more available as bottles...and as this was a Belgian influenced location, we had some beers. I opted for the very British Fullers, while my dining companion had a brew called Pure Blond...which we understood was Aussie.

Deep, almost amber, I have had the Fuller's brew at Public Houses in London, where the beer is served at room temperature...well English room temperature in an unheated cellar...typically about 23-25C. Cold to the skin, but not ice cold. Sque chose to serve this at almost ice cold temperature...for a more refreshing drink in our hot weather.

My friend chose the Pure Blond

Lighter in hue, golden. Lighter. Refreshing.

We shared a plate of deep fried calamari

Nice long strips, deep fried with some batter. The squid was tender. The batter was light, not overbearing, but was slightly greasy.

For mains, I had the beef ribs

Quite a substantial rib, I must say. Well marinated, with a coating of sauce. I found the meat to be a bit chewy, but full flavoured. Very hearty. Deep, deep beefiness. It came with a side of vegetables and mushrooms.

My friend had the sea bass

Nice piece of fish. Fresh, beautifully cooked. Crisp skin, on a bed of mashed potatoes. I tried a sample, nice fresh fish, the skin was a delight, crisp. Very nice.

We did not really have room for dessert...well actually, we did, but she wanted to go to another place across the river for some hot lava chocolate cake...but it was not to be...the place serving the cake was closed by the time we arrived, and would not open till 6pm. For the curious, of course, we had our desserts, but a rather more modest Brownie with ice cream at Book Cafe.

Overall, a delightful place for some nice beer in the afternoon, and good food. Recommended. The afternoon beer was on 1for1 Happy Hour offer, but the food was on the pricey high end European styled restaurant...but not totally unjustified.

sQue Rotisserie & Alehouse
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#01-70 The Central
+65 6222 1887

Monday, April 8, 2013

Friend's Favourites: From the Pek Kio Market

I started a series of friend's recommendations...this is the second installment. This post features chee cheong fun, horfun and ohr neng, a recommendation by Elgin Yap.

Pek Kio...also known as Cambridge Road Market is a veritable treasurehouse of good eats. I have already blogged about Wah Kee Prawn Noodles, and the carrot cake. I have also written about the wonderful chwee kway, which alas is no more. But in its place, has sprung a Hong Kong style Chee Cheong Fun...made in-situ...something not common these days of high convenience.

The flat noodles are made from ground rice gruel, steamed delicately...they were very smooth, clean tasting. The light soy sauce which accompanies does not steal the limelight from the smoothness of the noodles. One can add prawns, or char siew. I tried also the prawn version...not bad, the prawns were reasonalby fresh, crunchy.

Just a few stores away, is a curious horfun place...the name of the stall is smaller than the advertisement which proudly proclaims "$2.50"! Cheap, but any good?

Quite interesting. My reference for this is the one at Hui Wei at French Road, powerful wok hei, beautifully crisp beehoon in the ying yang version. Magnificently fresh and sweet seafood. This one is different. No wok hei, no ultra fresh seafood too. And at first taste, very mild, and perhaps even a bit plain. But the lightly flavoured gravy grows on one. Subtle, engaging. The hor fun is just the flat rice noodles, no ying yang to provide textural contrast. But were smooth and ok. For me, does not unseat the throne occupied by Hui Wei, but offers a different interpretation.

From the same stall, is this magnificent ohr neng

Ohr neng is the Teochew version of just a plain oyster omlette. As compared to the perhaps more popular ohr chien aka ohr luak...which uses a tapioca flour to provide some goey filling between the oyster and eggs. I vacillate between either, sometimes preferring one over the other.

This ohr neng is one of the better ones I have eaten. Not greasy at all, and does not leave one with the impression of a pending heart attack after consuming the plate. But a pleasant oyster after taste, rich, full bodied, melded almost seamlessly with the beautifully fried egg. Superb. Worth the calories and cholesterol/saturated fat...if only to be indulged no more than once a quarter...

Thanks to Elgin, I found a wonderful ohr neng. And two other eminently edible dishes. More Friend's Favourites soon.

Hong Kong Style Chee Cheong Fun
Tong Siew Fried Horfun and Ohr Neng
Pek Kio Market (Cambridge Road Market)
41A Cambridge Road

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Best laksa in town? Try Laksania as a potential candidate

Laksa is a traditional dish served by divers peoples of the region. We have Singapore laksa, Kelantan Laksa, Indonesian Laksa, Penang Laksa and some other innovations which have crept up over the years inspired by the traditional laksas of the region.

So it is interesting that an eatery has sprung up...I guess no more than a couple of years ago, specializing in all kinds of laksa. One hot and sweaty afternoon, I headed down with a good friend to try the laksa...I had originally thought to try the Kelantan version, as I have never eaten one before, it wasn't a good idea as I would not have a reference to blog on. I also decided that imposing a high standard on the Penang Laksa may be tried what Laksania (the name is a play of words...Laksa, being the dish, and nia...being the Hokkien term for only) call their signatures.

Ordering is through a counter, like a fast food joint, but this is no fast food joint...after ordering and paying, one is given a number and the dishes served at the table.

We tried the Special Singapore Laksa

Superb. Fragrant, rich tasting. The noodles were the rough bee hoon...thicker than regular vermicilli.

Flavours deep, with dried shrimp, shallots, local spices cooked with coconut milk. One of the better laksas I have eaten. I must confess I am not a fan of the (becoming ubiquitious) Katong I find them too rich, and lacking in deep flavours. But the Laksania version thrumps the Katong Laksa in all the important and critical areas. Hits the spot for me. Love this laksa. So very highly recommended.

We also tried the Laksa Goreng...

Interesting too...same thick rice noodles. Probably the same sauce is used to fry the noodles. Egg added. Tasted like a beautifully fried noodle dish...similar in essence though not in style as the Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee, but with the twist of a rather strong (I use this in the most positive sense) undertone of the laksa flavours. Very nice too.

For a bit of meat, we added the Chicken Satay

Huge (for satay...more like kebab sized) chunks of tender chicken on skewers. Fully marinated in laksa sauce. Wonderful aroma, nicely barbecued. A curious sauce...a bit creamy, but with more than a distinct hint of laksa leaves was served. I prefer the satay au naturale...sans a sauce. Loved it too.

The drinks were a bit more mixed...I had a rather bland lemongrass, and my lunch companion had a chendol. I guess nothing to be impressed with, especially after being swept off our feet with the marvellous laksas and satay. High marks for the food, and very much recommended.

201 Victoria Street
6636 9776
Outlets also in East Coast and Nex Mall.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Thai Table: reasonably authentic Thai Food in Bedok

Thai Table is an interesting Thai restaurant along the row of shophouses along Jalan Pari Burong.

Jumping to the conclusion, I found the food to be rather authentic, but not spectacular, and the wait staff seem entirely Filipino. I asked for "prik nam pla"...cut chilli in fish sauce, the waiter did not understand until I asked for the same in English.

Anyway, we tried the following...first otah

Quite nice...steamed otah. Rich tasting.

The Thai mango salad was also quite good

Very light dressing. Nice, crunchy mango. As was the mixed vegetable

Lightly stir fried with fragrant fish sauce, the vegetables were fresh, and stil very crunchy. Lovely dish.

I had a phad phet kapow moo

Standard Phad Phet. One of my favourite dishes. Nicely done. Though I still prefer the one in LeWu's at Bukit Timah Rd. But this one satisfies. Maybe I am easier to satisfy as this is one of my favourites...

My dining companions had the pineapple rice

I tried a spoonful...quite nice. Fragrant, well fried. Prawns were quite fresh, sweet and crunchy.

And the other had a beef noodle

The broth was nice and beefy. The noodles and beef I did not try.

Interesting little place. Cozy, comfortable. And reasonably authentic Thai food.

The Thai Table
20 Jalan Pari Burong
Picardy Garden