Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marche: Good ol Rosti!

Anyone remembers this restaurant that used to be at the top floor of Centrepoint, I think the name was Market Place or something? As far as I could remember, it was the first place that allowed you to go to different boutique hawker stores, scan a card, eat then make payment at a counter when you leave.

The idea kind of failed as Singaporeans didn't embrace paying 8 dollars for a plate of chicken rice (and still wouldn't I guess). Fast-forward many years later, Marche is however thriving with the same concept but very different cuisine!

We visited the new outlet at Somerset@313 for an early weekday dinner, beating much of the after-work crowd. While they did provide plenty of seating space, the variety of food counters seems to have reduced (or so I thought) and with only one line at each counter, waiting time could build up at hot favoruites like Pork Knuckle and Rosti.

Homemade Lime Juice (Large)($5.20)

Soured naturally, this was a good thrist quencher but my grip was that while the glasses were previously plunged in buckets of ice, the fast turnover simply meant that the drinks were not chilled enough when customers took them.

Stirred-fried Mushrooms and Brinja ($4.90), Smoked Salmon Crepe ($10.90)

The vegetables looked promising as they gleamed under the light. Though very juicy, they fall short of my expectations with little taste and certain parts being undercooked.

I had a very well-done crepe at its Vivocity outlet previously, but I just couldn't remember what was it or the ingredients involved. I ended up choosing the smoked salmon which was served on the crepe instead of rolled-in. Tasted alright but didn't satisfy the memories I was looking for.

Rosti ($5.50) with Garlic Pork Sausage ($6.90), Mushroom Salami Pizza ($13.90)

Ahh.. the classic! Its still fun to watch the chefs pan-frying and flipping Rosti before your eyes! Buttery and lightly salted, the potato strips are crispy on the surface and firm on the inside. I could polish off this comfort food simply with sour cream! Interestingly, the sausage costed more than the Rosti itself and with less satisfaction derived. Also, the portion really seems to be shrinking over the years with a Rosti of smaller and smaller diameter..

Now I certainly didn't expect the pizza to be so good! Made upon request, the cheese was meltingly wonderful, with thin crunchy edges and a soggy centre that soaks up all the juicy goodness. Yum!

Price for two was $50.60 after taxes. Admittedly, the overpricing and average quality of certain items does make you think twice about coming back. But I guess in Marche, its all about sharing the menu and enjoying the experience. Wait till the next Rosti craving then!

Taken with Nikon D70
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ippudo Ramen: Strong Newcomer!

Boy oh boy, the ramen scene in Singapore is really heating up eh? Straits Times even ran a special report on the more popular ones around. While I didn't get to read that, I'm quite sure that my favourite Santouka is on the list! And the one that is currently making a wave now? Ippudo!

Located in Mandarin Gallery, Ippudo is arguably the busiest shop in the otherwise rather empty arcade. We were there at about 6:30pm and a small queue was already forming. By the time we left at 7plus, the queue outside could easily warrant an 1 hour wait!

Decor was hip and trendy with a striking red and white theme and a chandelier hung from the centre of the dining hall. Also, you will likely dine at long/round communal tables unless you have that many people to take up one yourself. Service was typical of Japanese restuarants with the usual politeness and speed.

Gyoza ($6.00)

This is one of the smallest gyoza I have seen! While the skin had that nice hardened crispness, the meat filling was barely there to make out its taste. At $1 per piece effectively, I felt that it wasn't really worth the price.

Shiromaru with Egg ($17.00), Akamaru ($15.00)

Shiromaru consisted of their classic tonkotsu soup base with in-house thin yellow noodles. I liked how the noodles were served slightly undercooked and slowly simmered in the soup for a good firm texture. Despite its creamy colour, the soup was decent but not as rich as I hoped it would be. The stiff lean pork loin was also not to my liking while the egg was good enough with its liquid york.

Now I pretty much favoured Akamaru over its counterpart. Topped with miso paste and garlic oil, the soup was thicker and heavier with an enhanced layer of flavour to it. Another major difference was the inclusion of pork belly, simply melting in your mouth with its tender meat and sinful fats. Now that was a good bowl of ramen!

Rare Cheese Cake ($7.00)

Unlike the Japanese sponge version, this one was really dense and sour like how a cheesecake mixure will taste before baking. The biscuits crumbs on top added a nice crunchy touch as it didn't have a solid base, while the honey and strewberry (I think) sauce drizzled at the side balanced out the sourness rather well.

Green Tea Ice Cream (Complimentary to OCBC Cardholders)

This was really interesting that while the taste was distinctively green tea, the texture was more like eating a chewy mochi rather than an ice cream!

Bill for two was $52.97 after tax. While I found the side dishes slightly expensive, the price of ramen was justified by its quality. I would be back for more of its outstanding Akamaru, if I have the time to queue!

Taken with Nikon D70
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wendy's: Was Expecting Better!

We have some of the big companies to thank for pulling in major food brands. Breadtalk did a fine job with Ding Tai Feng and Carls Junior, and while I'm still waiting for someone to revive A&W or bring in the insane Fatburger, Kopitiam has made Wendy's landed on our shores!

The first branch opened with much fanfare at Lau Pat Sat, I was there on a friday noon and managed to just beat the lunch crowd. Queues were snaking with only two counters and indoor seating capacity was rather limited, the whole area is only about all that you see with a narrow corridor on the other end.

French Fries, Baked Potato with Broccoli and Cheese

Out of habit, I popped some fries into my mouth first and was stunned, unpleasantly. It was lukewarm with harden coating and dry, coarse fillings. Honestly, I couldn't remember when was the last time I had lousy fries but well, here it was.

The other side dish was so much better with a hot fluffy whole potato poured over with thick cheese sauce and pieces of broccoli (They could be more generous with the broccoli though). Makes a real filling snack on its own!

Fish Fillet ($6.25 with drink and fries), 1/2 Pound Double with Cheese ($7.85 likewise)

Girlfriend thought that the fish fillet was alright with juicy fillet and soft toasted bun, decorated simply with lettuce and tartar sauce.

My 1/2 pound was well, a total disappointment, and it all boiled down to its uninspiring beef patties. Dry, tough and almost tasteless, it became quite frustrating to chew on after sometime. Come on, I'm sure Wendy's didn't rule in America with this kind of patties! Where's all the juiciness you rant about in the posters?

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to come in at non-peak timings (an hour before 12 noon) after all, my theory is that the slow turnover left the fries hanging stale for quite sometime, same goes for the pre-cooked patties. Peak hours will probably prompt fresh batches of the items. A quick check on the US website shows that Singapore has trimmed down the menu quite abit too.

Honestly, the burger experience was so bad that I stubbornly went for CJ the following night, just to feel a good fast food burger again. Give Wendy's another shot? Well.. I don't see one coming any soon!

Taken with Nikon D70
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Starz Restaurant: Buffet @ Hard Rock Hotel!

Have you been to Resort World yet? No I'm not keen on the Casino at all, but rather the exciting lineup of restaurants available. Hard Rock is one of the newest theme hotel that has been open to public, completed with funky layout, amenities (They got a private beach/swimming pool!) and of course, a buffet place!

Starz's decor was modern comtemporary with purple/green armchairs and yellowish lightings, reminds me of The Line albeit a different colour scheme. They had long tables that were suitable for large groups, as well as cosy pod-like booths for smaller gatherings, though the person sitting smack in the middle might find it troublesome to get to his food!

Selection-wise, I would say that it wasn't very comprehensive, but does have a few speciality live stations and items that stood out pretty well. But if sashimi is a must-have for you at buffets, I have to warn that there wasn't any here at all.

While there are choices of other cold appetisers and hot dishes, the first three basically sums up the stuffs that I kept returning for. Desserts-wise, the range (and taste as well) of cakes were not outstanding, but they did have very enticing gelato ice creams!

Foreground: Chilled Mussels, Prawn Salad

Apologies for the colour, as this was the first few shots that I didn't account for White Balance. The cold seafood selection was rather fresh with my favourites being the bite-size mussels. There was also this salad that had good crunchy prawns, pity that they didn't do a refill of this.

Mini Wagyu Beef Burger, Parma Ham with Melon

My oh my. I went on a roll for this! Though it wasn't of the melt-in-your mouth quality, the wagyu patty was juicy and flavourful, on a bed of sauteed mushrooms and in between toasted sesame bun. Eaten best straight off the chef's grill, the ones in the late few rounds was less desirable left standing cold. How many I had? Clue: It was an auspicious number!

Parma ham is another love of mine, amazing how something cured can goes so well with sweet melon. More please!

Roasted Beef, Chinese Soup of the Day

While looking overly pink, the cut-on-demand meat dish was rather good with charred linings and tender centre. The soup sadly, was too bland for my liking, resembling water that was simply boiled with vegetables.

Curry Chicken with Basmati Rice and Egg Prata, Indian Cracker

Usually I try to avoid rice at buffets, but I was really impressed with the basmati rice here. The colourful, long grains were pleasently dry and infused with the aroma of indian spices. Curry chicken was abit too oily but the meat chunks were succelent and well simmered.

Prata-wise, don't ask for the plain ones as they are really just supermarket frozen types slapped on the stove upon ordering. But egg pratas were a different case altogther as the chef fold fresh pieces right in front of you. I couldn't remember the name of the cracker, but I suspected that it had bits of peppercorn and was rather nice to nibble on.

Fresh waffles with Tiramisu Ice Cream, Desserts Selection

Crispy hot waffles! You can ask the staff to add scoops of ice creams and decorate it anyway you like! As it was the CNY period, desserts include mini goodies like almond biscuits and cashew nut cookes. There were also cute mini donuts!

Apple strudel would taste better if it was warmer while the Apple Crumble was pretty alright. The other cakes I tried (chocolate, green tea) were really just average sponge and cream cakes.

Complimentary TWG tea

At $39++ for weekend dinner, Starz is really a steal in the hotel buffet category. Wagyu beef and parma ham at this price? Well worth the admission ticket to Sentosa! Just don't expect too many items on the menu and enjoy the hip ambience!

Taken with Nikon D70
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Itacho Sushi: The Handmade Difference!

Foreword: Finally, my first write-up taken completely with D70, still got plenty to learn and hope you guys like the shots!

How often do you eat sushi? No I'm not referring to supermarket prepacks, or those playing merry-go-round on a conveyor belt. But the traditional sushi that you order and see the chef handcraft one before your eyes. Never knew where to find one? Go for Itacho!

Situated at Ion Orchard beside Dunkin Donuts, Itacho helms from Hong Kong (Never visited any while I was there though) with the aim of providing quality sushi at affordable prices. While the queue was rather long on a Saturday night, we waited for a reasonable 20 minutes and was lucky enough to get counter seats!

Most employees are distinctively Hong Kongers as I listen to them speak internally, while sushi chefs were friendly enough to make daily recommendations and ask for feedbacks. Small hiccups with mismatched orders and water refills can be overlooked with the bustling business!

Softshell Crab ($6.00), Yasai Tempura ($4.50)

First up, some appetisers! Both tempuras were well-battered and crunchy, served with warm dipping sauce. I particularly like the soft shell crab with its juicy meat and creamy crab roe!

Salmon Sashimi ($3.60), Crabmeat Chawanmushi ($4.00)

Freshness of the sashimi was really commendable, my only regret was that I never ordered the Salmon Belly instead (Girlfriend: "Fattening leh.."), next time! Chawanmushi, on the other hand, was only average with the crabmeat serving more of a gimicky visual effect than actually enhancing its taste.

Scallop & Avocado Roll ($3.60), Spicy Salmon & Beancurd ($0.80/piece)

I loved the way they paid attention to aesthethic details with finely shredded chilli decorating my sushi roll. The scallop was succulent and sweet, being a surprising good combination with buttery avocado. The other one was very similar to the chinese Tau Kee topped with minced salmon. Interesting!

Roasted Salmon Roll ($3.50), Grilled Pork ($1.00/piece), Roasted Fish Dorsal ($2.00/piece)

More salmon! This time with the surface roasted with blowtouch! Fish roe was huge and juicy, pity there wasn't many of them. The grilled pork looked lonely here, but it was so tender good that I ordered seconds! The fish dorsal was another nice one that has a slightly crunchy texture that reminded me of cod fish.

Curry Lobster ($1.80/piece), Tuna Salad ($0.90/piece), Ebi Tempura Handroll ($3.00), Tamago ($0.90/piece), Crabstick ($0.80)

Chunky lobster meat and Japan curry? A first-time for me that works well! Tuna and handroll wasn't outstanding, but with the firm, chewy texture of hand-mould Japanese rice, they sure beat machine-compressed ones!

They say that you need to go back to basics to test the skills of a chef, and the tamago passed with appropriate sweetness and eggy aftertaste. I'm a sucker for crabstick, and this is definitely better than your steamboat ones!

Whole Sea Eel ($6.00)

Prized find of the night! About 8 inches long, the flesh was so soft and distinctively fine that it simply dissolved when rolling your tongue, leaving a lingering light, sweet aftertaste. Thoroughly impressed, it was worth every penny!

Sweet Potato ($3.00)

Looked good with black sesame, tasted good with hardened sugar coating, but it was the only item that I thought was way overpriced for its portion. I think you could buy a whole bag of it at the market!

Bill for two was a just nice $60 after taxes. With dedicated chefs, eye-pleasing presentation and memorable taste, Itacho serves up excellent sushi with prices reasonably higher than the fast food joints. I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

Now, anybody want a go at that Wagyu Beef with me?

Taken with Nikon D70