Monday, September 30, 2013

Friend's Favourites: Dulu Kala at Beauty World

Good Peranakan restaurants are hard to find...maybe I am being too fussy, being peranakan myself...with access to great home cooked food. But I find good ones few and far in between. My friends KS and Pauline highly recommended this one, located in Beauty World Centre.

Located at level 4, right next to the rather more crowded food court, Dulu Kala, meaning Former Times translated from Malay vernacular that peranakans converse in, has been there for the longest time. I have never tried it before, and with the recommendation of both of these foodies, I had to try it. This is Pauline's husband's favourite restaurant...apparently.

We started off with a dish which is well loved by peranakans, but which is not particular popular with others. The sambal petai.

A personal favourite of mine. The bean is nutty, wonderfully aromatic...well some call it smelly. A strong distinct aroma to the nut will permeate the person who just consumed this bean. At its best, almost heavenly. Dulukala's version was good, but for that afternoon we were there, a tad too sweet, and not spicy enough for me. The bean was nice, fresh, and quite aromatic.

We also had the belachan chicken wing

Nicely fried, with a nice flavour. A tad too saltish to my taste, but this chicken wing retains a juicy tender meat with a light crisp skin.

The leather jacket stuffed with sambal was next

The leathery skin had been removed when the fish was served. At home, we would fry the fish with tumeric infused oil with the skin on. And stuff the fish with loads of sambal. This dish, as prepared at home is rather oily, but superbly delicious. The version at Dulukala is all the more healthy. The fish was served without the leathery skin, and was not greasy at all. The fish was cooked perfectly, nice meat, but I found the sambal lacking, and the shiokness which comes from the tumeric infused oil totally absent. This dish did not make the test for me.

A ladies finger dish was next

In contrast, I found this quite special. The ladies fingers seemed to have been roasted before being pan fried with onions, and chilli. Very nicely done. Full flavour and very delicious.

We also had an omlette

This was rather de rigeur. I would have preferred an omlette which is fluffy within a crisp exterior. But this tasted good, so no complaints.

For dessert, we had chendol

The chendol kinda saved the day for me. But still, it was lacking in which I mean the coconut milk could have been stronger, they could have used more red bean and added attap seeds, and a stronger, bolder tasting gula melaka. But the green chendol is authentic, tender and soft.

I may sound critical of Dulu Kala, as I am measuring by very high standards. But really, the food is quite good. I would rate it as above average for a peranakan restaurant in Singapore, and just below three of my current favourites: Peramakan, Spice Peranakan and Novena 2004.

Dulukala Peranakan Restaurant
144 Upper Bukit Timah Rd
#04-04 Beauty World Centre
6465 2036

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Espresso Joints: La Ristrettos

Quaint, interesting artisenal coffee places have been sprouting all over the island. La Ristrettos is one...situated within a Medical Center...yes, right next to the Doctors' offices.

A bit out of the way to find...but situated on the 8th level of Novena Medical Centre...just upstairs of Square 2.

Looks interesting...certainly the owners are passionate about their coffee. There is a fairly large outdoor seating in landscaped garden just outside, but within, an order counter, and another countertop housing a magnificent espresso machine.

So first off, order some espressos...I had a machiato

Delivered as it should...a double shot of espresso, and marked with foam. Tastewise, quite nice. The coffee was robust, but as I have remarked before, milk tends to mask the taste...but it was promising enough for me to order a ristretto

It takes a brave barista to offer a ristretto. Ristrettos are not easy to pull one after another...but from the looks of the ristretto...I'd say it was less successful than the machiato. The double ristretto was too large in volume, the crema looked light and weak. On the palate, it was ok, tasting more like a double espresso than a ristretto. The mouth feel was not as luscious as I have tasted...for example in Mecca in Sydney.

Kin had the iced espresso...which they call cafe shakerato

A double shot of espresso, shaken violently with ice cubes, and served in a martini glass. Interesting...and surprisingly delicious.

We had food there too...Edward had the spagetti carbonara

Quite nice, I must say. Beautiful, rich, and very nice. Not too much sauce as they tend to do in Singapore, but more like carbonara as served in Italy.

Kin had the breakfast...the Grande...scrambled eggs, sauteed mushroom, bacon, spicy Italian sausage, salad and sour dough...quite regular, and not better than what we can whip up pic for this.

I had a crab capellini...

This was more successful...the capelini was nicely done. The serving had a generous helping of crab meat, and very nice cherry tomatoes. A bit light in taste, which was remedied by a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Quite nice.

Oh, we had a Ceasar's salad as well...with chicken

The salad was great. The greens were very fresh, and crunchy. The chicken breast, grilled I presume was very good. Tasty and still moist and tender. The salad dressing is light, and very tasty.

Nice, quaint place to hang out. The coffees were ok, but not spectacular like the blazing standards set by some of the new Artisanal coffee joints around...I have covered some, and some of the newer ones I will be covering soon. The food range from quite good to very good, though not spectacular. And its kind of a cool place.

La Ristrettos
10 Sinaran Drive
#08-37 Singapore 307506
(Novena Medical Centre)
6397 7165

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resorts World Sentosa Celebrity Chef's Dinner at Ocean Gallery

I recently wrote about my very interesting experience at Resorts World Sentosa's Celebrity Chef Food Safari, where I sampled a six course dinner which was served over 4 different restaurants. I had the opportunity to return to sample the highlight of the RWS Food Hunt which is the RWS Celebrity Chefs Dinner at Ocean Gallery on Sept 18.

The venue is the amazing Ocean Gallery, where the backdrop is provided by a giant window looking into the aquarium.

This event featured a six course dinner prepared by six celebrity chefs, and was limited to 250 pax at $288++ per person, inclusive of the welcome champagne coctail and free flow of the evening's wines.

The quite delicious white and red wines were from Australia's famous Penfolds.

The riesling, was particularly interesting...presented rather dry to the palate than the usual sweet floral accents, and went extremely well with the evening's seafood...

We begin with Le Caviar, prepared by Chef Joel Robuchon

Served in a special Robuchon tin, presented a layer of imperial caviar over crab and coral infusion. The caviar was quite exquisite as was the luxurious crab within.

The second course was a steamed marble goby by Chef Sam Leong.

This was marvellous. The marble goby, or soon hock was steamed very lightly. This is a delicate fish with sublime flavours which is easily destroyed by over cooking or too strong accompaniment sauces. But in this case, Chef Sam managed to control the dish superbly, especially more so considering this is a banquet style event, serving 250pax in one go. The fish was cooked perfectly...very light, done just so. The forest mushroom sauce was a delight and went well.

The third course was a soup...the double boiled cordyceps flower by Chef Li Kwok Leong from Feng Shui Inn.

A hearty, very beautiful soup. Magnificent, but light flavours. And the conch meat was a great delight. The soup also contained a small piece of quail and red dates. Very traditional Cantonese soup with the twist of the conch meat. Quite superb.

Next came the slight disappointment for me for the evening. Cat Cora's slow cooked salmon roulade, Hokkaido scallop and fried octopus

I had a chat with Cat earlier that evening, and she was very excited with the slow cooked salmon . Indeed the salmon was cooked beautifully, but I cannot help but feel that this is not anymore spectacular, as this level of salmon doneness with full flavour and tender, moist meat is quite easily done via the sous vide method. The scallop was a bit overcooked, but what saved the day was the octopus. It was very crisp on the outside, yielding to the bite with a chewy interior which had a nice crunch. The sauce of shellfish emulsion, smoked aioli and sauteed garden peas were able complements to the dish.

A slow cooked beef short rib presented by Chef Douglas Tay from Osia was next

I found this dish to be quite spectacular. I had also spent some time chatting with Douglas earlier that evening...and he expounded on his love for second cuts of meat. He prefers these more difficult cuts to the traditional prime cuts like tenderloin or sirloin, because he believes meat should not melt in the mouth, but should be tender while providing a bite for one to saveur the flavour and texture. Indeed he was successful. The short rib was roasted over 12 hours, and presented as he had intended. Beautiful beefy flavours, with a nice bite while being tender. The crushed macadeamia, with buckwheat, charrd radicchio and Balsamic burnt butter provided an excellent counterpoint to the robust meat. The highlight course for me for that evening.

Dessert was the yuzu mango cremeux, gula melaka streusel, milky lemongrass sorbet prepared by Chef Kenny Kong.

This was the same dessert I had in the Food Safari, and needless to say, it is still as wonderful as the first time I tasted it.

A beautiful plate of petit fours rounded this rather special meal

Decorated with the RWS logo, and made with chocholate...this was quite heavenly. Even the decorative bits in the sculpure behind the petit fours were not only edible but supremely tasty.

Bravo to Resorts World Sentosa for pulling off such a wonderful event. A banquet for 250 guests is already quite a feat, but managing with great excellence a menu pieced together from six chefs with totally divergent cuisines is amazing. Service was superb, with absolutely everything smooth. Thanks to Matt and Khushil from Weber Shandwick for the invitations and Zhi Juan of RWS for hosting this event.

Resorts World Sentosa Celebrity Restaurants
L'Altelier de Joel Robuchon
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Itacho Sushi's Blue Fin Tuna Promotion, now on till Sept 30, 2013

I have written about value for money sushi and sashimi at Itacho before. It is still one of our favourite places to imbibe some raw fish, and recently, they came up with an interesting promotion...they performed the cutting of a blue fin tuna.

The ceremony was performed in Ion Orchard...and as outlined in my Tsukiji article, the entire process is quite spiritual for the tuna master.

As part of the “Bluefin Tuna Festival”, ITACHO will launch a Bluefin tuna promotion at all ITACHO outlets (from 13 – 30 September).

For this occasion, Itacho demonstrated the tuna cutting ceremony in which the master chef filleted portions of the huge fish into tuna blocks, and then into prized cuts of the fish.

These are then used for selection of premium slices for turning them into ruby red sashimi. Tuna cutting is no mean feat and calls for one ranked in the superior skill of Japanese food culinary which requires years of skilled training, precision technique and calculated speed.

ITACHO outlets in Singapore are at ION Orchard, Plaza Singapura, Bugis Junction, Changi Airport Terminal 3, JCube and Star Vista.

Itacho Sushi

Various outlets around the city

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tale of two nasi lemak stalls

Nasi lemak is a quintessential meal for the it for breakfast, or lunch or sometimes even for dinner...or for the addicted...all three meals for the day. Where does one find the best? I cover two famous stalls located almost totally across the island from the other.

First off at Boon Lay...west of our tiny island...this stall was made very famous by Makansutra who gave it a Die, Die Must Try rating.

When I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon about 10mins before noon, there was already a long queue. Based on reputation, I ordered an extra chicken wing, and some sayur lodeh.

How did it taste? In a word, disappointing. The rice was sans fragrance, probably because it was overcooked, and devoid of any coconut aroma. The chicken was not was very hard, and also overcooked...the meat within was dry and unappetizing. The ikan bilis was was also hard, but was not crispy, probably deep fried long ago, and had lost its crisp. The egg was also overcooked. Way over cooked, almost rubbery. Overcooked seemed to be the theme. The sayur lodeh too was bland. And the very highly rated sambal was only remarkable for its boringness. I could not even finish the meal. A very un-power nasi lemak.

Cross over the island to Changi...and the almost equally famous International Nasi Lemak. There have been many mumblings that this stall is now a shadow of its former self. Having eaten there frequently some 10 years ago, when my office was in Loyang, I can attest that they were certainly very, very good in those days. I understand the people running the stall are different from those days.

So how are they now? Also in a word, very good. The rice was light, fluffy, and very fragrant. The chicken wing was crispy outside, very tender and juicy within. The ikan bilis also very ungreasy crisp, as were the peanuts. The egg was not the runny type, but consistent with the way Malay stalls cook theirs...this was totally cooked, but not overcooked. The additional otak I added was the only slight disappointment. It tasted fine, but I think there was too much filler and not enough fish.

Certainly a very different story from Boon Lay...International fully redeemed itself, and was a tasty treat.

Thus goes the tale of two famous nasi lemak stall. I would not hesitate to recommend International, but not the other.

Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak
Blk Blk 221B, Boon Lay Place
#01-106 Boon Lay Place Food Centre

International Muslim Food Nasi Lemak
Changi Village Hawker Centre
2 Changi Village Road #01-03

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where to go for great wanton mee with great char siu: Try Mei Jin Kee

Wantan mee is another favourite of mine which I find easy to find one which is good, but not easy to find one which is truly excellent.

One Monday, I was riding solo, the rain was threatening to dampen my ride, and I had a craving for wanton mee. I rode to Jalan Batu Food Centre, and it was closed for cleaning. I then rode to Eng's Noodles at Tanjong Katong Road...darn, it was Monday, and Eng's was closed. I then rode literally one block down the road, to a kind of deserted food court...when I was there at peak lunch time, there were perhaps 10 customers, and only a wantan mee stall (which also sells chicken rice amongst other things), an economy rice stall and a Thai stall were open.

I spied at the wanton mee stall...the char siu looked beautifully dark and caramelized. So I hazard a try.

Surprisingly good wtm...the char siu is superb...tender, slight crisp around the edges, the noodles done just right, with good bite...the chilli very nice, and the wantons were very was the little bowl of soup. Very nice, and highly recommended.

Will definitely go back and try more of the char siu, and try their roast chicken and roast pork.

Mei Jin Kee
Food Court at Katong Hostel
369 Tanjong Katong Road

Monday, September 9, 2013

Resorts World Sentosa Food Affair Safari

The Food Affair by RWS is an interesting concept where the Resorts World Sentosa's existing collaboration with celebrity chefs is leveraged to bring gourmands a new and interesting treat. On-going from September 14-22, this amazing food fair covers six offerings from the chefs.

I went for a food safari, where we tasted a 5 course set dinner wich is tasted in 4 different participating restaurants, bringing us a very interesting and unique experience.

We started the tasting at the famous L'Atelier by Joel Robuchon...the chef who, collectively through his restaurants around the world has amassed the largest number of Michelin stars.

Set in the beautiful restaurant, we were entertained to a coupe of Champagne, and starters. But first a picture of the beautiful house bread...some of the nicer breads I have eaten for a long while...

The starter was a cold appetizer Robuchon calls Le Crabe

seasonal alaskan king crabs, beautifully cooked and served in on thin layers of turnip (daikon) with a sweet and sour vinaigrette, created by Chef Lorenz Hoja. Very sweet crab meat, and a real treat to the palate, and was marvellous with the tingling of the champagne.

We made our way just across to Osia

Another beautiful we sampled the foie gras

Quite beautifully presented. Encrusted in cornmeal to provide a nice crunch, the foie gras was wonderfully rich, with a light slightly nutty aroma, very smooth on the palate. Magnificent.

We then were ferried by buggy across the RWS to Forest

Not to be out done, the interior was beautiful, and immaculate.

And we tasted the steamed New Zealand cod, with yuzu mushroom sauce

The cod was steamed to perfection, done just right, so the oily fish did not taste oily at all, but smooth, creamy, and very nice...faultless. I found the yuzu had lifted the taste quite nicely, but the soy sauce as a base was a tad saltish for my taste.

We then walked across the car park over to Cat Cora's Ocean restaurant...right inside the Sentosa wall of the restaurant is the glass of the aquarium, and as one dined, one can view the fishes swim by. Magnificent, and a great treat.

We had the mains of a kurobuta pork belly, braised and seared, with fried octopus, sauerkraut puree, cabbage roll and green mustard.

I found the pork to be very tender, but a bit too heavy in fat. The green mustard helped somewhat, but in my final analysis, the cut of pork I was served was a bit too rich. Otherwise, the light crispiness was quite beautiful on the eyes and palate giving way to the very tender pork as one bites into the pork. The octopus provided a contrast to the tender pork...providing some crunch and resillience to the palate.

We also had dessert there.

The yuzu mango cremeux, gula melaka streusel, and milky lemongrass sorbet was quite a delight. Flavours were contrasty, but managed to be deliciously support each other. The ingredients all were distinct, and yet went well together.

We also had a chocholate to end the magnificent meal...

Hot chocholate and a lolipop of chocholate. Very nice.

A wonderful tasting. Many thanks to RWS's Zhi Juan and Weber Shandwick's Matt for the invitation and wonderful hospitality. I would highly recommend readers to try the Food Affair, running in RWS from 14-22 September.

Resorts World Sentosa Celebrity Restaurants
L'Altelier de Joel Robuchon
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Putien's Autumn Menu

I have made no secret on my admiration of the food at Putien. True to the spirit of the city of Putian in China, true to the magnificent ingredients found locally there. And true to excellent tasting food.

The chef has always been faithful in recreating the cusine and with the wonderful stories that accompany.

I was once again invited by Putien to taste the Autumn Menu. Thanks to Kai for your hospitality and for hosting this excellent meal.

We start with poached mutton.

Fresh mutton, lightly roasted, stewed in a superior stock for hours, and then sliced, and served with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. The mutton was resilient to the bite, providing a nice crunch, and the blend of the sauce provided nice support to the light tasting mutton.

An interesting dish of shrimp tossed in vinegar was next up

Tiny shrimps, fully grown are used and tossed with vinegar. The concoction looks a bit like chinchalok, but in this case the prawns remain crispy and fresh tasting as it is not allowed to ferment like chinchalok. I found this dish very refreshing, very nice flavours of savoury and sour. Great dish!

We next had the braised yam and duck.

The yam is carved to look like eggs, and braised with the duck. The flavours are instantly aromatic and very savoury. The duck remained rich tasting, but was void of the unwelcome aroma that duck can sometimes have. But this dish was nicely aromatic. And very mild in flavour. I found the flavour lifted a notch with Putien's La Ma chilli sauce.

One of my favourites for the afternoon is next...a stir fried chestnut and mushrooms

Chestnuts, stir fried with mushrooms and thinly sliced lean pork makes this a wonderful dish. I have always loved chestnuts roasting on an open fire (does it sound like Christmas...haha), but stir fried, the fragrance of the chestnuts with the mushrooms were wonderful. Very homely feel.

We then had a tofu dish

A claypot of bean curd, with hairy crab roe sauce. Silky tofu, made inhouse in Putien is used and cooked in a creamy broth of the hairy crab roe. I found the crab roe provided a punch, but also had a fishy aroma which I found to be beautifully balanced with the Putien La Ma chilli sauce. Very nice. Again, a light, and nourishing dish.

For dessert, a kind of tea with quite interesting ingredients

Not quite a sweet treat like many desserts, but still a great treat. The starfruit provide a light sour pungence that lifted the sweetish syrup, and provided a wonderful backdrop for the other ingredients to shine...the dates, unstoned were plump and sweet. Very nice.

As the Mooncake season was imminent, we had the first mooncake ever to be made by Putien.

Light crispy skin, stuffing of purple potato and very light on sugar. Nice way to end a nice meal.

I cannot help but to recommend this Autumn menu. Very nice, beautiful flavours. Reasonable pricing.

Putien Restaurant
127 Kitchener Road