Friday, August 25, 2006

Koko Black Hot Chocolate

koko black hot chocolate
Originally uploaded by varf.
Loved this stuff from Koko Black in Melbourne. Just fabulous! Same goes for the mocha; I don't think I'll ever order another local "mocha" again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bolshoi baby

bolshoi baby
Originally uploaded by varf.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

SUN with MOON, and a pale reflection of

The Reflection
It was perhaps unfortunate that we chanced upon Ministry Of Food / My Izakaya on their first day of operation, while hunting around for an afternoon snack in the newly, snazzily redone Marina Square yesterday. Their menu offered Japanese cafe-restaurant type food and desserts, so J and I decided to give it a try.

First problem - no baby chair. As this was their first day of operation, the waiter explained, they had forgotten to buy baby chairs. No worries, we said, we'll just carry the baby. And so we proceeded to order our food.

"I'll have the Shiratama Kurizen, please."
"That's a dessert, sir."
"Yes, that's fine." (Yes, I can read your menu perfectly well thankyouverymuch.)

J ordered a Tofu Avocado Salad ($6.80).

Our food took some time to come. J noted that the kitchen staff (the place had one of those long peek-into-the-kitchen service counters) seemed to be having trouble with a bento box that had been sitting on the counter since we arrived. Uh-oh. "Five minutes," J said to me, after we had waited for a bit. "In five minutes, if the food doesn't come, we're out of here."

My Shiratama Kurizen ($6.50) arrived shortly after, a cold combination of white rice-flour dumpling balls in a bowl of red bean, topped with soft-serve ice cream, like the kind you get at McD's. Exactly like that kind, in fact. Ummmm. As I dug into the dessert, a few things came to mind - the red bean was too sweet, the shiratama balls weren't very good, and the odd combination of sweet red bean and slightly-salty(!?) soft-serve left something to be desired.

J had this to say about her salad: "If I can tell you what they used to make the dressing, then I can make this at home. And if I can make the same thing at home..." Wasabi and mayo. Uh-oh again.

We decided to pay up quickly and leave, so we called for the bill.

"What cards do you take?"
"Which do you have?"
"Do you take Amex?" I ask, fishing out my card.
"Mastercard, sir."
I flip my wallet open again.
The waiter's hand glides down, hovers close over my open wallet and points to a card inside. "Maybe this one, I think."

Shell shock!

I signed the unevenly-torn charge chit haphazardly, still a little stunned at what had just transpired. J was busy feeding Ethan, so we had to stay put for a while.

The same waiter then came over with a tray and asked, "Can I clear your glasses?"

Not "May I top up your water?" as I was expecting.

Thanks for the unasked-for 15% discount, but I don't think I'll be going back to MOF.

SUN with MOON - The Real Deal
To make up for yesterday's fiasco at MOF, we decided to have lunch today at SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Café.

J and I have been fans of Japanese cafe-style afternoon snacks, especially after sampling Tokyo's delightful confectioneries during a trip some years back. We've regularly taken advantage of Shimbashi Soba's (at Paragon, B1) special $5 afternoon dessert + coffee/tea offer, often indulging in their cream anmitsu that's normally worth $8+ during regular meal hours.

A couple of weeks ago, we walked into SUN with MOON at Wheelock Place for tea.. and were hooked. We were seated next to the window, watching traffic navigate the Orchard Boulevard and Scotts Road junction on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Ambience and service was great, and the Marron (Japanese chestnut) and Chocolate parfait I had then was definitely up to par.

Today, there was a 20-minute queue for lunch. J left her name and cellphone number with the reservations counter and we went off shopping until they called us. No physical queueing necessary.

Seating at the restaurant is divided into different sections, with distinctive styles in each section ranging from egg-cup chairs to booths to sushi-counter seating. There are a number of cosy tucked-away corners, perfect for chilling out with friends. Unfortunately, today we were seated in the dimly-lit section near the front, not exactly one of my favourites, but with today's crowd I'm not complaining.

I ordered the Komachi Bento set ($25.50), an 8-dish selection served in a basket: crab salad, tamagoyaki, tori karaage, two small sushi rolls, unagi kabayaki, grilled beef roll stuffed with mushrooms, agedashi tofu and a salmon and avocado rice paper roll topped with salmon roe. Accompanied by udon. Matcha ice cream and coffee came later. All good!

J had the Shogayaki & Tomato Salad set ($13.80), which turned out to be grilled pork slices in ginger sauce, with tomato salad, miso soup, rice and pickles. And a cup of tea after. I sampled a piece of the pork, not bad at all.

The food came quickly after ordering, as usual. It surprised me greatly on our first visit, that the food tasted as good as it did despite having arrived as quickly as it did. It's as if the entire restaurant functions like a well-oiled machine, effective and efficient without compromising on food or service quality. Superb!

And then there was one
Perhaps I'm making a very unfair comparison here. Granted that MOF is still extremely raw, while SwM has been around for some time and already has two outlets in Singapore (first branch is at Chijmes). But hey, these are two establishments with fairly similar offerings. And it's a cruel world out there.

Maybe someday there will be a rematch, but it probably won't be on this blog.

'Cos I'm recommending SUN with MOON to my friends.

SUN with MOON Japanese Dining & Café
501 Orchard Road
Wheelock Place
Singapore 238880
Tel: 6733 6636

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pacing the train

pacing the train
Originally uploaded by varf.
Racing just to keep up. Pretty much describes my last couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fire panic

For one heart-stopping, gut-wrenching hour, I thought my Mac's firewire ports had completely died on me. And I'd moved all my photos to a firewire-only external enclosure just a month ago.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

食源味 NOMIN Seafood Restaurant

NOMIN seafood restaurant
Originally uploaded by varf.
Last Sunday, we made a reservation at NOMIN seafood restaurant after it was featured both in the papers and on the telly (Chnl U), though I'd neither read the feature nor watched it so I had little idea as to what to expect, other than that it was a cze char place.

NOMIN is just one of a slew of terraced eateries along Teck Chye Terrace, accessible from Tua Tow Road just off Upper Serangoon Road near the Upper Paya Lebar Road flyover.

Parking was horrible. Teck Chye Terrace is not a particularly long stretch, and is a one-way service road that fronts the row of shophouses; when we got there, both sides were lined with vehicles with the shophouse side double-parked all the way, leaving just a narrow channel for pick-up and drop-off traffic. We eventually parked at the tail end of the Serangoon Stadium carpark, and walked 5-odd minutes up Boundary Road to the eatery.

NOMIN was featured for its CPF (crab-prawn-frog) hotpot, but we'd completely forgotten and ended up ordering the other cze char dishes on the menu instead. I don't remember the exact names of the dishes, so please don't quote me if you decide to use this as a reference for what (not?) to order!

The spinach in superior stock topped with prawn floss was an instant favourite. The spinach itself had a nice texture, well-cooked, firm but not crunchy, and the stock was deliciously rich (I wonder if they used MSG). Prawn floss worked well as a complement.

I didn't try the crab meat shark's fin soup, but my brother thought it was value for money. Don't remember how much it cost.

NOMIN: honey pork ribs 排骨王
Originally uploaded by varf.
The pai kuat wong (排骨王) was good. The pork pieces came thick, juicy and tender on the inside, sweet and fried crispy on the outside. One of the better ones in my experience.

NOMIN: prawn crispy noodles 生面
Originally uploaded by varf.
The prawn crispy noodles (生面) was well-received; J especially liked it. Sauce was thick and flavourful, noodles crunchy, eggs just slightly runny - nice. Prawns were well cooked and tasted fairly fresh.

But it went downhill from there.

The stewed chicken with dried scallops (干贝鸡) was a so-so thing, with the stew masking out the taste of everything else in the pot. To be fair, the chicken itself was tender and did practically melt off the bone, but I'd be fairly reluctant to order this again.

NOMIN: cuttlefish kang kong
Originally uploaded by varf.
I didn't try the cuttlefish kang kong since I don't like (1) chilli (2) kang kong, but the others felt that it was only so-so.

The dried scallop tofu (干贝豆腐) looked fairly interesting. Impression from the first bite was decent, until the aftertaste began to set in - there was.. something.. that I didn't quite like. Rest of the family didn't like it much either.

NOMIN: butter prawns
Originally uploaded by varf.
The butter prawns, quite frankly, sucked. I usually like to load up on the crumbs for this dish, normally an intense taste explosion of butter and spices. But in this case, my spoonful of crumbs tasted like a spoonful of solidified cooking oil. Not pleasant.

NOMIN: prawn balls 虾枣
Originally uploaded by varf.
The he zhor (虾枣) was a disappointment. Over-fried, too crunchy and way too oily! That we had to wait quite a while for this dish due to some mix-up didn't help one bit. Yuck.

Clearly, there's some substantial variation in the quality of food at this joint. We do intend to come back and try their famous CPF hotpot. But if that doesn't meet the mark, then it's fairly unlikely that we'll be back for a third time.

食源味 NOMIN Seafood Restaurant
31 Teck Chye Terrace
Singapore 545731
Tel: 6286 3291

Saturday, March 25, 2006

MIN JIANG at one north

min jiang @ 5 rochester park
Originally uploaded by varf.

table @ min jiang
Originally uploaded by varf.
This entry is a little bit overdue, as I seem to have been putting it off for one reason or another. Better late than never?

We had dinner at Min Jiang at One North about two weeks ago. The original Min Jiang firmly established itself at the Goodwood Park Hotel; this new branch occupies one of the repurposed black-and-white bungalows of Rochester Park (which seems poised to be the next happening dining/entertainment row, with One Rochester Park already partying in full swing).

The parking area on the grounds was limited, so instead of surrendering my car key to the valet (I have had bad experiences with valets and my manual-shift car), I opted to park at the nearby multi-storey carpark and walked back to the restaurant. Although some diners conveniently parked along the road just opposite ACJC, flagrantly ignoring the road markings.

Seating is a mix of outdoor and indoor tables on the first floor, with intimate lighting and sufficient elbow-room. There's a bar counter on one side of the indoor setup, with stairs presumably leading to more rooms on the higher floors.

Min Jiang's proffered cuisine is Szechuan (Sichuan to some), one that I'm neither particular familiar with nor fond of because of its leanings towards spiciness. I wanted little to do with the dishes that appeared overly spicy, so there were some dishes we ordered that I didn't sample that night.

We started out with the drunken chicken, guo tie (锅贴) and xiao long bao (小龍包), all of which were pretty ordinary. Nice, but definitely ordinary.

I had the old cucumber (老黄瓜) soup, which was rich and tasty, if a wee bit pepper-ish. Though I guess I shouldn't have expected it to come with anything more than a single piece of old cucumber.

deep fried soon hock @ min jiang
Originally uploaded by varf.
The deep fried soon hock was well executed and tasted good, its skin crispy and meat still tender. Loved the presentation - not many places bother when it comes to deep fried soon hock.

The camphor-wood and tea smoked duck was served Peking Duck style, placed with cucumber in a thin wrapper skin and brushed over with the familiar thick, heavy sauce. However, the sauce was overpowering and mangled the aroma of the duck, which stood extremely well on its own merit.

Diced lobster "wong kum" style - though I'm sure that's not the actual name of the dish - went down quite well, despite the slight spiciness of chilli. Rich and chunky lobster pieces coated in salted egg yolk and fried; I can still recall its fragrant aroma and taste. J didn't like it.

dong po pork @ min jiang
Originally uploaded by varf.
Dong po rou is supposed to be mouth-wateringly tender, as a result of cooking the fatty layered pork over a slow fire. In this case, the fat did indeed melt in the mouth, but the meat wasn't quite as tender as I'd expected it to be. The sauce was thick and fairly spicy, so I didn't have much of it. Unfortunately, what I did experience was a fairly sharp nausea reaction after tasting this dish. My stomach has this strange sensitivity to certain foods, not exactly sure what triggers it. :(

I'm a fan of slightly-burnt rice (the cantonese call it fan jiew) and the next dish was something like a seafood hot-and-sour soup over slightly-burnt rice. But it was too spicy for me, plus my stomach was still reeling from the earlier nausea reaction, so I gave it a miss. The kai lan was pretty nicely done though, and helped calm my stomach's writhings.

honey glazed pork rib @ min jiang
Originally uploaded by varf.
Our final dish was the pork rib, glazed with some concoction of what seemed like honey and mango. This was supposed to have been served rather early in the meal, but there was a mix-up in the kitchen and we ended up having to chase for it after the other dishes had been served. The meat was succulent and juicy - my kind of pork rib.

Apart from the food which wasn't exactly outstanding and drew mixed reactions, service was fair but somewhat rough around the edges. Presentation and ambience were good. As for price.. definitely upmarket.

And given my personal disposition regarding spicy food.. I'd think twice about going again. What's the point if I don't really appreciate spiciness?

keeping ethan busy
Originally uploaded by varf.

MIN JIANG at one north
5 Rochester Park
Singapore 139216
Tel: 6774-0122