Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chiuchow Garden: Teochew Dinner in HK!

My trip back to Hong Kong last December actually lasted only for a week, but somehow I managed to stretch the write-ups allll the way till April (oops). Anyway, the last dinner of the trip was eaten with my grandparents so we settled for something that the elders will approve of; Teochew food at Chiuchow Garden!

Located at Taikoo City, Chiuchow Garden is the Teochew arm of Maxim's Group, whose empire includes the fast food chain Maxim's and a series of Cantonese restaurants. Having gone through a recent rebranding exercise, many Chiuchow Garden branches have been renovated with a touch of elegance, yet retaining its mid-tier pricing.

Stewed Goose Slices (卤水鵝片), Braised Ribs in Wine (酒香紅炆肋骨)

Almost a must-have starter in teochew meals, the tender slices were nicely done without being overly salty. The braised ribs too were very well marinated with the strands of meat easily separated from the bones.

Stir-Fried Prawns with Beef (鲜虾炒牛肉粒), Olive Fried Rice(杬菜肉碎炒飯)

Crunchy prawns with beef cubes that even the grandmas could easily chew on, while the fried rice was a real underdog that had all the components of a good fried rice: Dry grains, "wok hei", flavoured and not oily.

We also had oyster pancake and steamed fish that night but the shots turned out really bad (too much haste to avoid letting the grandparents wait!), not that they were memorable anyway.

Dual Crystal Dumplings (雙色水晶包), Red Date Cake (紅棗糕)

The restaurant's specialty desserts! Dual here referred to Red Bean Paste and Lotus Paste, both had good smooth texture without being overly sweet, though the skin could be a little bit thinner. The other one was also very well done with a texture akin to Kueh Lapis Sagu (九层糕) and a natural red date flavour.

Teochew Kungfu Tea

Cleansed our palate with this! Apologies that I couldn't give pricing as I have lost the receipt (again), but I think a dinner here would probably cost about SGD30odd per pax. And with that, I have wrapped up all the food posts for HK Dec 2011. Next up, Bangkok bites!

Chiuchow Garden (潮庭)
1/F, City Plaza 4
18 Taikoo Shing Road, Tai Koo
Tel: 2885 0212

Taken with Nikon D70
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Black Stump: Impromptu Christmas Eve Dinner!

Last year's Christmas Eve dinner venue was completely random. Dad needed to rush work so we hanged around Tsim Sha Tsui while waiting for him, soaking in the lively street atmosphere. Then we strolled to the nearby Lam Kwai Fong-equivalent to see what was good, eventually settling on Black Stump!

Being the first restaurant on the happening One Knutsford Terrace, Black Stump served mainly Australian food with a couple of Italian choices here and there. It was also one of the few restaurants that night that didn't force an overpriced set dinner upon its diners. We were glad that tables were available immediately though our alfresco seats did pose a little problem that was the complete opposite of Singapore: Th weather was really cold so we tried hard to inch near the heat lamp!

Complimentary Bread

Served warm to our delight, the monstrous size reminded me of Morton's famed Onion Bread. A little hard on the surface, it was fluffy inside and went nicely with salted butter.

Blue Swimmer Crab Cakes (HKD108 ~ SGD18.00), Fried Calamari (HKD78 ~ SGD13.00)

I'm a lazy person when it comes to crabs, so these fresh, chunky crab lumps suited me just fine. The meaty calamari were hot and crispy, well paired with chilli mayonnaise. Decent stuffs!

Beef Carpaccio (HKD128 ~ SGD21.30)

Oh wow, I certainly wasn't expecting such a good Italian starter in an Australian restaurant! Slightly thicker than the usual carpaccio, it was undoubtedly fresh with a drizzle of aromatic truffle oil, a zest of lemon juice and flakes of savoury parmesan cheese. Very memorable!

Linguini Vongole (HKD148 ~ SGD24.60), The Bushman's Dream (HKD148 ~ SGD24.60)

Served with juicy little clams, the pasta tasted a tad undercooked in the fish stock. The thin-crust pizza, fit for a bushman with its toppings of minced beef, pepperoni and ham slices, was really way too thin for our liking, with each bite akin to munching on biscuits.

Wagyu Beef Pie (HKD138 ~ SGD23.00)

Thankfully, we had this to make it up! Encrusted in a doughy pie skin, the warm fillings consisted of beef cubes that were very tender and flavourful, best eaten with a drenching of meat gravy. Accompanied by hot fries and salad, I would gladly trade the previous mains for two more of this!

Chocolate Fondant (HKD68 ~ SGD11.30)

Given the cold weather, we thought this would be perfect to wrap up the meal, as the rich, hot chocolate flowed out after a small poke. Satisfying!

Total bill for three was HKD 1225 ~ SGD204 with a bottle of house white, not too bad considering how everywhere else were charging about SGD100 per head. Impromptu attempt paid off!

Black Stump Restaurant
G/F., One Knutsford Terrace,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Tel: 2721 0202

Taken with Nikon D70
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sabatini: HK Old-Timers' Favourite Italian!

In Hong Kong, there are some classic restaurants that people fondly remember even as time goes by. Say Yung Kee for their goose (even without the star now) and Lin Heung Teahouse for their traditional dimsum. And when you ask about Italian food, Sabatini will come up most of the time!

Located at the equally old-school The Royal Garden hotel, Sabatini prides itself in traditional Roman cuisine that has captured Hong Kongers' over the years. Equally nostalgic is the restaurant's countryside decor, giving cozy, home-like feeling while maintaining a certain touch of class. Service was expectantly polished and non-intrusive, as the five of us were well-taken care of throughout the meal.

Complimentary Bread, Antipasti Buffet

While a dinner here will cost you nothing less than a fine-dining establishment, the three-course set lunch was relatively affordable at HKD350 (~SGD58), with a choice of main course, desserts and read well, free flow of antipasti. Now even though the bread basket was good, we took that minimally to save space for the spread!

While there weren't extensive choices, those available were of very good quality and I haven't even eat some of the more exotic ones before. My personal favourites were the eggplant, drizzled with olive oil and lightly grilled to bring out the natural sweetness, and the excellent pairing of uber-sweet melon and parma ham. Many, many encores of them!

Prawn Risotto, Crabmeat Ravioli

Ordering different main courses so that we (or rather, I) could try more things, the risotto felt a tad overcooked with its lumpy texture. The ravioli skin, on the other hand, was done just right with flavours greatly enhanced by truffle oil.

Pan-Seared Salmon Steak, Grilled Pork Chop

Nothing much to rave about here, just a very good slab of fatty salmon with smokey crust. The pork chop, however, was rather boring and tough to chew.

Pan-Seared Tuna, Fettuccine with Prawn

Again, a good fresh fish with perfect pink centre, while the fettuccine gave little surprises with its straight-forward taste and texture.

Grilled Baby Lamb Rack

Finally, my own choice of mains that was juicy, tender and relatively light in gamely stench. Almost tempted to gnaw on the bones!

Just when we were done with the mains, out came the dessert trolley to showcase today's selections. We sure had a tough time deciding!

Tiramisu, Strawberry Tart

The first one was unfortunately a letdown; too dry and cream-overloaded for my liking. The tart fair much better with its sweet berries and flaky skin.

Cappuccino, Petit Fours

Time to wrap it up! Bite-sized almond cookies to go with the fragrant cuppa. You will need that burst to fight off food coma!

While there wasn't anything that stood out for the wrong reason, our lunch at Sabatini went on flatly without elements of surprise. Apart from the exquisite antipasti spread, I didn't think Sabatini's legendary status was justified. Give it a another shot for dinner? Let me think about it!

Sabatini Ristorante Italiano
3/F, The Royal Garden
69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, April 13, 2012

Wee Nam Kee: Quick Chicken Rice Fix!

When I say that I'm craving for chicken rice, what I really am referring to is the fragrant rice. Those who have been reading this space will know how much I complain about the lack of real chicken in Singapore. Anyway, while the dish is a sure-have at coffeeshops and food courts, I thought that getting a good one is a different case altogether. Thankfully I have Wee Nam Kee to count on now!

Located at Marina Square, Wee Nam Kee is one of the mini restaurants on the food court level and also the busiest one from our observations. Serving basic plates of Hainanese chicken rice and a range of ala carte dishes, what I thought was particularly attractive was that they didn't charge GST and service charge. 17% discount? Like!

Tom Yum Soup (~$6.00), Kangkong Belacan (~$7.00)

Sharing the soup between the girlfriend and I, we thought that it was a generous portion with plenty of seafood within. While fiery enough, the slightly sweet aftertaste didn't go too well with me. Obligatory greens, on the other hand, was nicely fried with a "wok-hei" flavour.

One Quarter Roasted Chicken (~$8.00), Chicken Rice (~$0.80)

With a layer of gleaming skin, the chicken was thankfully tender even at breast meat. What particularly struck me was the quality of the soy sauce that it was drizzled with, bearing much resemblance to superior ones used by Cantonese to steam fish. Rice too, was very well done with a fluffy texture and plenty of ginger/chicken oil flavour. Craving satisfied!

Assam Fishhead ($~20.00)

In fact, the rice was so good that we returned on a separate occasion to just have the rice with fishhead, cooked in assam sauce as we wanted something different from the usual curry. And we are glad that we did too, as the appetizing, sourish taste went really well with rice. Easily polished off two bowls!

Apologies that I couldn't remember the exacting pricings (lost the receipt), but it was very reasonable given the service and quality of food. Heck, I would be most willing to pay a dollor more for a plate of chicken rice than to settle for flat-tasting ones at food courts. Time to go with a bigger crowd to try more dishes!

Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurant
6 Raffles Boulevard, #04-102B
The Gallerie, Marina Square
Tel: 6333 9830

Taken with HTC Sensation
Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ramen Champion: Ikkousha's All-Rounder Ramen!

Updates have been a little slow lately, thanks to working by day and rushing school projects by night (which by the way, I can almost taste my last lessons in NTU already!). But there's always time for a good bowl of ramen so here's another quick visit to Ramen Champion!

Tori Karaage ($5.00)

After all the eye-opening attempts at Bario's Jiro-styled ramen and Tetsu's Tsukemen, its back to familiar grounds at Ikkousha, where the Hakata-styled creations is the earliest type of Japanese ramen that I have eaten and one that has captured my tastebuds faithfully over the years. This time, the girlfriend and I also shared a side order of fried chicken strips that were well-marinated and juicy at every bite. A good change from the usual gyozas!

Hakata Ajitama Ramen, Regular ($13.00)

And I'm glad to say that the lead exceeded expectations too! While I have no shortage of experience with good Tonkotsu (Pork Bones) soup, Ikkousha's version was very addictive with a grainy texture. Together with excellent thin noodles, a runny egg and a slice of tender charsiew, it was one bowl of ramen that was thoroughly enjoyable from start till the very last drop of broth.

Best one yet? Maybe. Two more to go!

Ramen Champion (Hakata Ikkousha)
201 Victoria Street
Bugis Iluma #04-08/09/10
Tel: 6238 1011

Taken with HTC Sensation
Sunday, April 01, 2012

Pantry at the Stables: Dine in Tranquility!

This is an invited session

Making a trip to Singapore's countryside is an oxymoron because as we all know it, almost every plot of free land is either reserved for army training or for future BTO launches (that, I might need!). A couple of years ago, Dempsey Place was the closest you can get to "countryside" but even there is getting overcrowded these days.

Thankfully, we still have a quiet corner on the island where horses roam (not freely though) with no towering buildings in sight. And the latest dining establishment there? Pantry at the Stables!

Located near Bukit Timah Saddle Club, Pantry at the Stables is the second outlet opened by Marmalade Pantry, offering all-day dining with new creations and old favourites from their menu. Now I have to make this clear upfront that unless you miss your route march days, it is practically impossible to come here without a vehicle as the restaurant is located deep within the long and winding Fairways Drive. But once there, you will be greeted by natural gardens and pretty horses that occasionally cross your path.

While the restaurant has an alfresco area that makes great for hanging out on a cool evening, the tasting dinner was held inside the colonial-styled house, renovated with a clean and simple decor. I was told that the weekend brunch sessions are always fully-booked and so it is a complete different sight for weekday dinners. Perfect for getting away from the crowd!

Sweet Red Pepper and Tomato Soup ($10.00), Mexican Chicken Salad ($22.00)

With a slightly thickened texture, the soup whetted our appetites with its light, sourish flavour. The salad too was a pleasant surprise as the blend of crunchy tortilla, creamy avocado and refreshing salsa came nicely together. Good start!

Pan Seared Haloumi ($21.00), Crab Caesar ($22.00)

Pretty colours here! Topped with a small pile of watercress, the plump, juicy tomato slices complemented the cheese cubes well. The last starter was something that I could chew on everyday; healthy greens with lumps of crabmeat and cheese flakes sprinkled generously. A big win over meatless salads!

Daniel ($9.00)

Before the mains came, we had a round of drinks which seen me choosing myself. Unfortunately, I could only taste the banana in my smoothie although it was also blended with orange, soy milk, honey and yogurt.

Basque Chicken ($30.00), Pan Roasted Red Snapper ($28.00)

On to the mains! Serving tender chicken chunks, what I thought stood out was actually the accompanying brown rice, as it was seasoned with cinnamon powder which one would usually associate with sweets. Interesting attempt! The snapper, on the other hand, didn't give much surprises with its firm meat and herb crust.

Fish & Chips, Steak & Eggs ($38.00)

The restaurant also serves a $38++ 3-course set dinner menu that changes fortweekly, though there was nothing spectacular about the dory on our visit. The other combo, however, was really to my liking as the buttery strips of pink beef were as good on their own as to be used to mop up runny egg yolks. Hearty treat!

Spaghetti Carbonara ($24.00)

The one that has been highly recommended and I can see why! With no special ingredients added, it was how each individual component added up to make the pasta excellent. Narrow spaghetti cooked to perfection, savoury bacon bits, cream sauce that didn't overwhelm and a whole poached egg that gave the finishing touch when you break and blend in. Very, very yums!

Granny Smith and Stem Ginger Pudding ($13.00), Sticky Date and Toffee Pudding ($12.00)

Desserts time! While both puddings were more moist than one would find elsewhere, it suited me just fine as I preferred the ginger one for its spicy aftertaste. Besides, it came with salted caramel ice cream that was way better than vanilla!

Sea Salt Caramel Cheese Cake ($8.00), Cupcake Selections

The cheesecake was like a more solid version of the ice cream, big enough to be shared around the table. No space for the pretty cupcakes ($4.50 each) already? Pack a few home for breakfast then! Surely starts your day right!

While Pantry at the Stables' location might put off some, I'm pretty sure it will attract even more. Beside tucking into decent food, the opportunity to enjoy what's left of Singapore's precious countryside is well-worth the extra effort in making a trip down. Carbonara-ing with horses popping by? Sounds good enough for a return soon!

Pantry at the Stables
55 Fairways Drive
Singapore 286848
Tel: 6467 7748

Special thanks to Ivy from FoodNews for the invite!

Taken with Nikon D70