Some time back I was meeting up with some friends at Jurong Point for lunch, and we settled for Benten Cafe at the old block (Its so big now that they called it the new and old wings). I had walked past it on previous occasions and always wanted to try its teppanyaki Soba.
They had an open kitchen and dining concept with bright and colourful decor, as well as tall chairs and tables that reminded me of bar dining. We opted for the more conventional seats as we preferred something more comfortable to lean back on.
Soup of the day, Cream of Mushroom
Above average, although there were no signs of mushrooms, its better than your typical Campbell cans/powder.
Salmon Pasta in Mushroom Cream Sauce
My friend ordered this and it was quite to his liking. It looked a bit too watery for me but the portion was rather enough for lunch with hearty portion of salmon.
Teppanyaki Soba with Teriyaki Chicken (Top), Teppanyaki Soba with Grilled Salmon (Bottom)
These two are essentially the same base with different toppings. I had the teriyaki chicken and to be honest, I was quite disappointed with it. The chicken texture was rather hard and while the surface was brushed with teriyaki sauce, it could have been more marinated and tasteful within.
The soba was also overcooked and slightly soggy, didn't have that al dente and springy texture I was hoping for. But again, plus point for its portion as it had generous amount of chicken chop and sufficient noodles for a lunch.
I couldn't exactly remember how much was the bill, but their set lunch ranged from $10.50 to $13.50, comes with a soft drink, choice of salad or soup and a main course. YOu could also top up $2 for a scoop of ice cream. Price and quantity wise, Benten Cafe is okay for a gathering session, but I do hope they will improve on their quality soon!
Our 5 days stay in Taipei was at Rainbow Hotel, located in the bustling shopping district of 西门町. The colourful signboards, street performances and lively crowd reminded me vaguely of Hong Kong, but with different culture and style. Besides cheap buys, cinemas and many speciality shops, there are many eateries widely recommended in guide books!
鸭肉扁 (TWD900 ~ SGD45.00 for 5 person portion and a bowl of noodles each)
Although it says "Duck Meat", what the 50+ years old shop really sell is stewed goose. There's a nice layer of fatty skin attached to it and a chewy texture to the meat. Some of my friends found the meat too tough but I thought it was rather nice, meatier and juicier than duck. You can dip it in their homemade chilli or sweet sauce for some extra kick.
大肠面线 (TWD44 ~ SGD2.20 for small size)
A die-die must try! The gooey mee sua is tasty beyond words with quality noodles that doesnt break easily and a well-cooked broth. The pork intestine is cooked till tender and not rubbery, very fresh and clean with no odour to it. Heavenly on a 14degrees night! Furthermore, they do not provide seatings so you can see an interesting sight of people standing around bowls of piping hot mee sua!
Whatsmore, all the street vendors come out at night and we have endless choices for supper. From 炸鸡扒 to fried dumplings, we didn't even manage to savour everything! With so much entertainment in 西门町 alone, we could easily stay in the district for days and never get sick of it. But of course, there is so much more to explore in Taipei!
I think this deserved a seperate entry from my other Hong Kong write-ups. Gourmet guide Michelin came to Hong Kong last year and 龙景轩 was the only restaurant to be awarded the prestigious 3 star grading. On the night before I left, I had the pleasure of dining there with a family friend!
龙景轩 is a Cantonese restaurant located within four seasons, arguably the best hotel in HK now. (Its even more expensive than the famed Peninsular Hotel..) Located on the 4th storey, the contemporary posh decor, splendid view of Victoria Harbour and professional service contributed a great deal to the overall experience.
Complimentary Starter, 牛腱拼黄瓜
From what I know, Michelin awarded stars according to food presentation and style etc, regardless of the surrounding and ambience. So its a lot more focused on what really matters! The petite size beef shin and cucumber were great to kick start the meal.
Roasted suckling pig is one of my favourite starter at cantonese restaurants, and the variant here was done to perfection with crispy warm skin and almost oil-free. (yes I know its gleaming, but seriously) They added a layer of pancake-like skin underneath which reminded me of eating peking roasted duck.
Baby trotters are not commonly seen in Singapore and I still wonder why. It could be a perfect fit for Kway Chap with its tender texture and chewy skin. Nevertheless, its done teochew-style here, marinated simply in light soy sauce and serving only the tenderest boneless part.
We ordered this out of curiousity because while we had heard plenty, we never knew how fried shark fin tasted like. Well, to put it frankly, we all agreed that its an overrated dish and shark fin was better tasting in double-boiled soup.
Now this dish really sparkled. I have been eating beef brisket almost every other day in HK, but the way they done it showed me how a humble meat can outshine with exceptional culinary skills. "Old-style" actually meant adding of traditional chinese seasonings to give it a herbal flavour, while the brisket easily melts in your mouth. Impressive!
Both were recommended for chicken and pork dish respectively. The chicken had crispy skin that tasted lightly of soy sauce, while the flavour was not only restrained in the skin but continued to immerse through the white meat as well. It was served with sweet sesame balls that balanced the taste.
The kurobuta pork fillet was more of a fusion dish using top-graded japanese black hog and fried with flour coating. Served between pancake, its a nice difference from the usual stewed fatty pork.
A staple of the cantonese to really fill you up in a meal. The rice was not in a sticky lump and skillfully fried into individual grains. Fragrance of chinese sausage and preserved meat could be found in every mouthful.
Complimentary Dessert Platter, 莲蓉酥 and 椰汁糕
We saw this on every other table and wondered why was it so popular, only to realise its served after the main courses. The quantity was picked porportionlly to the number of diners so everyone could have one of each. The smooth lotus paste and rich coconut cream were a great change for the taste bud.
合桃酥 (Top), 杨枝甘露(Bottom)
The walnut pastry originated from Shanghai and was skillfully handmade to look like one. One bite of it and the flaky surface gave way to a chokeful of walnut bits.
This varient of 杨枝甘露 was a pleasent surprise as it was one that actually had a layer of mango pudding at the bottom, topped with watery mango and bits of pomelo. Satisfied two cravings in one!
I think this is the longest write-up I have done so far, and I think its only worthy of the excellent dinner I had. (Minus the Shark Fin, which was more to satisfy curiousity) The Michelin Guide to HK has been hotly debated and criticised for its content, but in my opinion, it is no doubt that 龙景轩 is one of the best Cantonese Restaurant that Hong Kong had to offer, showcasing the art of chinese fine dining to the rest of the world.
Now I just wonder, when will the french people bother to make a trip down to Singapore?
I was being kiasu on Saturday evening as I wanted to get the free tickets to Singapore Flyer, but I underestimated the queue power of Singaporeans as it was long finished given out early in the day. Oh well, since we were already there, my girlfriend and I went to Popeye's for dinner!
First of all, the place was full house and lined with queues even when I left around 9. Secondly, the design of the counters and seats were very awkward that you couldn't form proper straight queues, which leaded to an unsightly and confusing crowd when you entered the place. Those who had been there would probably know what I'm talking about. Luckily the staffs were efficient enough to cut down the waiting time.
The fried chicken was rather different from your usual KFC. I felt that the skin was crisper and had a stronger salty taste to it. I think they added cajun spices and thus giving a different feel from the colonel's secret mix of herbs and spices. I wouldn't say its necessarily better, but more of a change in flavour.
Coleslaw Onion Rings (Add-on of $1.00)
I tried their fries and mashed potatos on other occasions and was delighted with its quality. The coleslaw was also better than you-know-where with a slightly different mix of vegetables and not being finely diced, which you could eat actual strands of it.
The onion rings were more of a disappointment with its small serving and broken pieces of rings. Carls Junior served much better ones.
Now this is the real deal that kept me going to Popeyes! Their warm biscult had a crusty outside, with a smooth and sponge-like texture that collapsed into a rich buttery dough in your mouth. The strawberry jam given went really well with the biscuit as it neutralised the feeling of butter overdose. I didn't know why its called a biscult because its more of like a sponge cake to me, but I guess it didn't really matter to something that tasted so good!
A four-piece meal costed $12.30 and were rather enough for two. But given its relatively troublesome locations and pricier meals, I might just stick to good ole Colonel most of the time. Perhaps when the craving comes, I will drop by to have just the biscuit!