Monday, August 31, 2009

Men-Ya Kaiko: New Ramen Player!

Ion Orchard's basement food hall is basically flooded with new brands. From full-fledged restaurants to snack counters, most of them are noticably Japanese-themed. For my first venture, I had ramen at Men-Ya Kaiko.

This was one of those micro-restaurants lined along with snack counters but had a seating area at the back. The 1st time I walked past it, the chefs were conversing in Japanese so hey, that should be authenthic right? (Stereotyping, I know) So I took a further look through their open-kitchen concept and it sure looked promising! Apparently, they hail from Hokkaido and had several branches in the area, specialising in miso-based ramen.

Compliementary "tea"

Usually I didn't comment on such things but this was really wierd. It looked like green tea, but tasted like plain water? I had no idea if it was way too diluted or simply just added with colouring, but definitely not something that I would prefer.

Hard-boiled Egg ($1.00)

I was fairly disappointed with this. It would pass as a normal hard boiled egg but failed to retain the special texture of runny york and solid white that the Japanese were well-known for. Just a tad too long in the boiling water perhaps?

Hokkaido Kaiko Ramen ($12.00)

Having chose a soy sauce based soup, it had a distinct flavour of its origin. But it felt more salty after time and you realised that its really of soy sauce and almost nothing else. It came with a single slice of char siew that was slightly harden and tough in texture, as well as bamboo shoots and vegetables. If you are a fan of soy sauce soup, this should be it for you.

Pork Ramen ($16.80)

We chose white miso for this, and I was expecting the milky white pork bone type. Nope, that didnt come, just a rich miso flavour, thats about it. Then again, I had to give commendation to the noodles. Yellowish and translucent like, it was springy and chewy, giving u that "slurp" factor as it danced on your tongue. There were two large slices of pork with a flour coating to it, lightly grilled before served with the noodles. Fatteningly tender, it was my style of pork!

Total price for two was about $35 after taxes, rather expensive when you considered that these were carte orders but after all, maybe more than half of that money went into the hefty rental already. I would say that the noodles were worth a try but the soup was rather for, purists? A set meal from Santouka would probably fall in the same price range, with a personal preference for its better soup and side dishes. And oh, crystal clear water too.
Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swensen’s Dessert Buffet: For the Sweet Tooth!

I’m not really a dessert person. Not that I don’t like it, I would just prefer savoury over sweetness. But when my girlfriend heard of this dessert buffet at Swensens having a 1-for-1 opening promotion, she thought it was too good an offer to resist!

It took a bit of effort to find this outlet because its not exactly inside Orchard Ion, but rather within the MRT station, taking up part of the old Popular bookstore space. And boy, there was a seriously long queue! Apparently many heard about the promotion and rushed for it during the weekend. After about a 30 minutes wait, we were shown inside to seats surrounding the centralised buffet area: ice cream, condiments, cakes and pastries counters. Sugar rush, here we go!

We started off with the cakes, having a slice of almost everything. There were some hits and misses: Mango peach tart was so-so, the peanut butter chocolate was too dried for my liking while the lemon cream one was slightly too sour (my girlfriend like it though), the pecan pie was quite good but I would prefer their range of cheesecake with the walnut one standing out. Done American style, it had a crusty base with bits of walnut hidden among the smooth cheese cream. There were also classic and strawberry versions which I would expect to be as good too!

On to the ice creams! There were so many selections available that we had to go through rounds of elimination to cut down to 5 for the 1st bowl. We had a black sesame one that was very true to its taste, a mango sorbet which was rather fruity, its must-order trademark sticky chewy chocolate , a very rich durian flavour one and the last being a mix of strawberry and something-which-I-forgot. We proceeded to mix and match with a dozen choices of toppings and settled for crushed pistachio, raisins and cornflakes. Icing nice!

They even had a design-your-own-sundae counter which you chose an ice cream base and mix in with your choices of ingredients. We created one with coffee and another one with classic vanilla which was somehow yellow and more rich and creamy than the usual white one. Both didn’t taste particularly outstanding but was still fun to do so!

Lastly, we dropped by the pastries counter that served freshly toasted waffles and pancakes, as well as pre-made croissants, raisin rolls and old-school colour bread that went well with your ice cream!

Total bill for two was $22.11 after taxes, very worth it with the 1-for-1 promotion. It lasts till the end of August, so you still got a week of chance! But I erm, went straight to Old Chang Kee after that for some good ol crab nuggets and gyozas. Too much sweetness to handle!
Monday, August 17, 2009

Tonkichi: Katsu Haven!

Juat the other day I had this craving for some breaded pork cutlet, not the soggy rubber type but a really crunchy full-flavoured one. And one place came straight to my mind: Tonkichi!

Though Tonkichi had been around for years and being a big fan of Japanese Tonkatsu, I had somehow never visited it before. They had two noticable outlets at Shaw Centre and Suntuc Fountain, but recently they opened another branch at the new Orchard Central. With floor to ceiling glass panels, it had a much better view of Orchard Road, dazzling with building and street lights at night.

After placement of orders, we were served with a pounder-like rod and a bowl of sesame seeds. The waitress explained that we could grind the seeds and mixing it with different sauces to our liking. I liked mine semi-grind, with a burst of fragrance while still able to savour the sesame bits. Proved to be a very good dipping sauce later on!

Premium Rosu and Hire Set ($28.00)

Naturally, I went for what they were reputated for. But I noticed they had a Premium grade that costed slightly more, explained by the fact that these pigs were grain-fed, resulting in better texture and flavour. Alright I took their words for it! All the sets were served with generous amount of salad, soup, fruits and for delighted "rice buckets" like me, refillable rice!

Rosu (Pork Loin)

Time for a little lecture on "Know Your Pork!". The loin meat was the one fairly rectangular and flat in shape. It was of a tougher but acceptable texture, with a suitable amount of fats at the side which gave you the sinful Ooomph factor. However, it could be a bit dry for some.

Hire (Pork Fillet)

As for the fillet, it was a thick round lump, consisting only of lean meat but very juicy and chewy, providing a wholesome porky taste. Needless to say, both were coated with suitable amount of quality bread crumbs, deep fried only upon order, served piping hot and crispy with as little remnant of oil as possible. Cravings satisfied! Now could anyone who tried both the premium and normal sets tell me, is there really a difference?

Mix Seafood set ($24.00)

My girlfriend and I shared another seafood set, so we basically tried all the different types of Katsu they offered. What stood out from the set was the deep-fried oyster that sealed all the burstling flavours and juices within. We even had to order an extra so that we wouldn't fight for the only one in the set! Besides oyster, the set also had shrimps, cod fish fillet and a crab cream croquette that were respectably well done.

Total bill for two was $65.70 after taxes. Willingly paid for its thumbs-up quality and experience, but with slight curiosity of whether the extra $4.00 for going premium was worth it. Hire, Rosu, or both? Your call!
Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bedok South Food Centre: Favourite Fishball Noodles!

I spent my Junior Collage days in Temasek, and our favourite period was obviously lunch time, because besides having a canteen with nice and cheap food, we had the freedom to eat outside, most often the Bedok South Food Centre right opposite the road. I went back the other day for a nostalgic spin before University term start!

A lot of times, I would be patronising this uncle. He usually does a one man show during lunch, taking orders, cooking and collecting money. Takes quite some time but we were always willing to queue for his fishball noodles! I think its easier for him these days as he already got more helping hands.

Fishball noodles ($3.00)

And I really loved his fishballs! Every single one was wonderfully bouncy and chewy, while the fish skin wanton tasted smooth and delicate. He probably had his own factory somewhere else because it was selling so fast that his workers had to constantly bring in buckets of them to cook somemore! The noodles were heavier in sauce and flavour compared to other places, and I like his extra effort of mixing everything nicely for you !

Century Egg, Tau Kwa and You Tiao

Another thing that would be good for sharing was Rojak, but I don't usually order the pineapple fruity type, but instead just these 3 items. I always liked the interesting taste of century egg with peanuts and sweet gravy, while the tau kwa and you tiao were lightly toasted before serving. Yum!

Of course, there are plenty of other good stuff in BSFC, like the famed Hill Street Char Kway Teow, forever-long-queue Wah Kee Cuttlefish Kangkong and Niu Ji that sells prawn noodles by day, fried hokkien mee by night. Too bad I didn't had the stomach to eat everything else that night, some other trip then!

On a side note, lessons are starting on Tuesday and I would be staying on-campus. Rather excited to be in a new phase of life and at the same time, worried for my rusty brain. Nonetheless, I would probably be digging up on the many canteens for future write-ups!
Monday, August 03, 2009

Empire State: Looks Familiar?

Up that never ending escalator of Iluma, this will probably be the 1st restaurant to catch your eye. With its decor of cheerful colours, American theme and free snacks while queuing, wait a minute, doesn't it sound like the style of another restaurant?

Yes, Empire state is a sister outlet of New York New York, under the same management but with a different name, colour scheme and slightly tweaked menu. Honestly, I don't really like NYNY, average stuffs served in a hip setting . I could never understand the long queue outside its Citylink outlet after eating there twice. However, it was a sleepy weekday and there wasn't any queue outside this one, so my girlfriend urged me to give it just one more chance.

Seafood Ring ($6.90)

Okay it was my fault for misreading this. I thought they were selling calamari rings so I was surprised to find processed fish paste beneath the crumbs. If you ignore the fact that you could probably get this at any fairprice supermarket and deep fried it yourself, it really ain't that bad.

Squid Ink Pasta ($14.90)

Calamari? Checked. Spaghetti? Checked. Black as, black? Checked. Squid ink taste? No way. This was pan-fried so dryly and heavy in garlic taste that you could blindfold me, feed me this and I will bet its some Chinese chef attempting fusion with pasta in a wok. Credits to the large portion though, they sure are generous with the carbo load.

Chicago Dog ($10.90)

My girlfriend was fairly disappointed when they told her that none of the sandwich options were available, a fact which she complained should have been labelled on the browsing menu before customers walk in. In the end she had to settled for this, a jumbo chicken sausage sprinkled with onions, pickles and mustard cheese sauce. We felt this was overpriced as its not really as large as it seemed to be. It tasted alright though and once again they fill you up with large amount of fries.

Bill for two was $38.45 after taxes. Well to be fair, it wasn't that bad, really. The settings and booth seats are great for gatherings, menu is extensive enough (I hope they have sort out the sandwich problem already) to cater for everyone. But if you are looking for a great tasting meal at reasonable price, oh well. As for me, no more chances.