Friday, March 29, 2013

Shanghai Airlines: Breakfast and Dinner

Sometimes it is good not to have any expectations at all. For instance, our recent trip to Shanghai had us booked China Eastern Airlines and while the carrier itself was really not that bad based on my previous experiences, our particular timings (both back and forth) happened to be operated by Shanghai Airlines. Besides the perk of departing from Terminal 3, there was, well frankly, no other perks at all.

With no in-flight entertainment system and rather old cabin facilities, we did somehow manage to get emergency exit rows without requesting for both inbound and outbound flights, giving us extra leg space and erm, two tables each.

Omelette Set, Fried Noodles Set

Our outbound flight departed just past midnight, perfect to arrive early in the morning at Pudong International Airport with a full day to play with. The in-flight meal timing, however, was a little awkward at about 2am. Contemplating to just sleep through it, we decided to get our money worth anyway.

The western selection had a huge chunk of "egg cake" and a chewy sausage, while the noodles fared slightly better in taste. Accompanying sweet pastry was pretty moist and good and the fruit slices were just nice to be diced into the yogurt.

Seafood Noodles Set, Sea Eel Set

On the way back, my soggy noodles was quite a sad mess, while the girlfriend's fish option was alright with eggy rice. Forgettable smoked duck salad and vacuum-packed carrot, by the way.

Cheapest full-fledged option to Shanghai with holiday-friendly timings, but if budget airlines were to start flying there, I will choose them over this anytime, even if I have to pay extra for food and legspace. Oh well, Shanghai eats coming right up!

Taken with Nikon D70 and HTC Sensation
Friday, March 22, 2013

Gattopardo: A Toast For My Valentine

It's that time of the year again when the boys (not so) willingly pay for overpriced flowers and teddies, with florists and retailers being clear winners of the over-commercialized occasion. Restaurants too are leaving no mercy to slaughter us. My booking for this year's Valentines dinner was actually my 7th choice when the first 6 were either fully booked or offered exorbitantly-priced set menus only. At last, Gattopardo seems to be the one to head to with my lovely girl.

Located within the rather secluded Fort Canning Hotel, the Sicilian restaurant ran by Garibaldi Group had a casual vibe with both indoor and alfresco seatings available. Expectedly full house for the night, I was promised ala carte menu over the phone alongside its Valentines' Day set menu. Well they weren't exactly truthful as we soon realised that it was only a partial menu with selected items. Better than nothing still.

What I did like about the restaurant was how they were thoughtful enough to bring you to a table setup first for a polaroid shot with your date, giving complimentary sparkling wines for the night regardless of the menu you go for.

Complimentary Bread, Nivole Moscato D'Asti ($45.00)

Oops for the overexposed bread shot, but you didn't miss out much as it was pretty run of the mill. And since they had our favourite sweet wine on the very extensive wine list, why not?

Amberjack Belly Tartare with Sea Urchin and Smoked Caviar ($32.00)

Sharing their signature starter, the tartare was tastefully presented on a cold stone plate. As the fresh and creamy raw fish was delightful to be paired with delicate caviar, I thought that the sea urchin was a tad letdown with its stale, fishy taste. Just our luck maybe.

Angel Hair Pasta with Grey Mullet "Bottarga" Roe and Sea Urchin ($34.00)

An obvious choice when the girlfriend is a fan of angel hair pasta, it was rather interesting with its dry yet slightly creamy texture (no fishy urchin here) and sprinkles of savoury roe.

Arrotolata ($28.00)

Now this was a really unique pizza. Filled with delicious chunks of suckling pig, juicy poricini mushroom and refreshing rucola salad, it was then rolled up and baked with smoked mozzarella. The sweet grape sauce was also a perfect match to balance out the saltiness and greasiness. Awesome stuff.

Complimentary Cookies

While we were too full for desserts, they were again very nice to give each table a box of mini cookies, which frankly tasted a lot like the ones from Famous Amos.

Total bill for two was $163.60 after taxes. While Gattopardo was far from where I had originally intended to go (7th, apologetically), it did a fairly good job with its own mix of complimentary teasers and interesting dishes. Worthy of a return to try out its full menu!

11 Canning Walk
Hotel Fort Canning
Singapore 178881
Tel: 6338 5498

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, March 15, 2013

Halia at Raffles: New Life in The Old Dame

This is an invited session

Despite the boom of bigger, more posh hotels, there is always this old-world charm about Raffles Hotel. The quaint corridors and pretty courtyards always tempt me to spend a night here, if not for the painfully expensive room rates. The restaurants are pretty much legendary too, with The Long Bar conjuring Singapore's most well-known cocktail and Royal China (though technically not under the hotel's management) being popular for dim sum for years. Now, with Halia imparting some of its ginger magic, dining options seem to be more exciting than ever.

Taking over the old space of Seah Street Deli late last year, Halia at Raffles Hotel is the dressed down cousin of the fine dining restaurant at Singapore Botanical Gardens. Sitting in the wooden themed hall with greeneries incorporated here and there, I was invited to try out its ala carte menu earlier this week.

For those who like a pre/post meal tipple, the alfresco bar will be a pretty attractive place. If you think that the bathtub in the middle is a mere quirky decor, think again; the tub comes with a fully functional Hendrick's Gin dispenser, perfect for private parties and events. Do anything but bath in it, alright?

Singapore Sling by Hendrick's ($28.00)

We unwind the evening with a remake of the signature cocktail, this time with Hendrick's Gin and a secret mix that brought out strong orange-y flavour. A tad expensive at that price if you ask me, but the Long Bar original won't cost you any lesser either.

Polenta Coated Asparagus ($9.00), Potato Fries ($8.00)

Finger food first! As an Asparagus lover, I found these deep-fried sticks excellent to munch on with its crunchy texture and unique batter, going well with tangy lemon mayonnaise. Who doesn't like piping hot fries by the way? All the more better when dipped in Truffle Aioli too.

Celeriac "Lasagna" ($12.00), Cured Hiramasa Kingfish ($25.00)

Interestingly, the savoury dishes here are classified into Small Plates and Big Plates, where the former are good enough for one person's main course (or shared as appetizers), and the latter being bigger portioned for sharing.

We started the Small Plates with their vegetarian creation with a twist, replacing plain pasta with celeriac sheets for that distinct raw flavour, smelling and tasting even better after being tossed with mushrooms and truffled oil. Now this is one vegetarian dish that I will have second helping!

The cured fish, on the other hand, impressed in presentation rather than taste as I didn't find the chewy fish and assortments particularly attractive.

Oriental Pulled Duck ($18.00), Foie Gras Salad ($23.00)

More fusion attempts as the chef combined traditional duck confit with Japanese Soba, where the rich, intensive duck meat was paired well with light, refreshing noodles. Definitely a thumbs up.

While I will usually love anything that comes with the pan-fried liver, I thought there were too many things going on in the salad with its mix of apricot chutney, ginger and blueberry. Less is more, me think.

Wagyu Beef Carpaccio ($24.00)

And here's my personal favourite for the small plates. While this Italian dish wasn't anything new, it did stood out with its thin slices of excellent raw beef, and cleverly accompanied by chilli lemon salt and truffle aioli. Both thumbs are up for this!

Halia Chilli Crab ($25.00), Baharat Chicken Leg ($28.00)

On to the big boys! The first one, a Halia classic, fused the chilli crab with pasta and was perfect for those who prefer not to get hands dirty. Interestingly, this item is also available for room service at the hotel.

Chickens are not (and never will be) my type of meat, but this one was slightly more interesting with its heavy rubbing of spices and bed of creamy butternut squash puree.

Lamb Rack with Javanese Spices ($49.00)

Now these were good stuff. Tender meat that was marinated really well with South-East Asian flavours, taken with bits of sweet red pepper relish and smooth eggplant puree. Nope, I wouldn't want to share these!

Seafood Gratin ($26.00)

And yet, my vote for the favourite Big Plates goes to the seemingly underdog. While it really was, in essence, a huge casserole of baked pasta, it was also pure comfort food with its thick, cheesy flavour. The other winning factor was the usage of Pignolina, a type of short, grain-like pasta that resembled rice, giving what I thought was the best of both worlds; al dente bite with rice-like texture.

White Chocolate Mousse ($12.00), Ginger Nougat Parfait ($10.00)

I was almost in food coma by then but the girls at the table got expectedly excited at desserts. I didn't quite fancy the first one, being not a huge fan of chocolate mousse, while the second one of huge blocks of ginger nougats were pretty interesting.

Chilled Strawberry Soup ($12.00), Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10.00)

Another one with excellent presentation as sparking wine was drizzled prior to serving. My first impression was however marred by the dope of balsamic vinegar that didn't got mixed evenly, though the overall sourish flavours were good to cleanse the palate. The moist pudding was also to my liking, as its hot, sticky sweetness was nicely complemented by vanilla ice cream.

While Halia at Raffles Hotel isn't exactly the type of place to impress your date, the casual environment, good food to boot will be ideal for meal gatherings, especially when the dishes are pretty much share-friendly. Another fine gem to the Raffles collection? Very likely!

Special thanks to LeRoy and Jael of Foodnews for the invite!

Halia at Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road
#01-22/23 Raffles Hotel
Tel: 9639 1148

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, March 08, 2013

Fukuichi: His and Hers 6th Anniversary

I wouldn't exactly say that time flew past, but the girlfriend and I have in fact already been together for 6 wonderful years. So we pampered ourselves with a staycation at Mandarin Orchard (More on that next time, if I remember) and had a lazy afternoon in town.

Dinner was originally planned at Seki Restaurant but were forced to change when they had a emergency closure due to a kitchen failure (Oddly, they stayed closed since then). Keeping to the Japanese craving, we eventually made reservations for two at Fukuichi.

Located at the 2nd floor of TripleOne Somerset, I have heard several good things about the Japanese restaurant while the large billboard of Dr Leslie Tay's review at the entrance is hard to miss. Casual and rather bustling on a Saturday evening, we got ourselves a quiet corner beside the private room but were still well-attended to by the friendly staff.

Salmon Sashimi ($15.00), Chilled Sake ($28.00)

As fresh as we would have expected, I remembered reading that the Singapore owners are in the fish export business. It has been quite a while since we last had Japanese rice wine, so we asked for recommendations that was easy to drink. The mild sweetness and refreshing aftertaste suited us just fine.

Shitake Tempura ($12.00), Soft Shell Crab Tempura ($9.00)

Coated with a fluffy batter, the mushrooms were delightfully juicy with a firm bite. The crab too, was also among the better ones we had eaten with its meatiness and crispy skin. Goes well with a dash of lemon juice too.

Grilled Eggplant ($16.00), Marinated Gindara ($18.00)

Having ate a similar dish in Hong Kong, I thought the version here was less desirable. While the miso paste on top was rich and intensive, it hardly seeped into the plump brinja which lead to the bottom being watery and bland. The cod fish, on the other hand, was simply outstanding. With its light but notable marination of miso and rice wine, the melt-in-your-mouth texture was very much enjoyable.

Seafood Paper Pot ($25.00)

As the girlfriend craved for something hot and soupy, this seafood broth suited her just fine. The amount of goodies in this was good enough to be shared among two too.

Total bill for two was $138.05 after taxes and 10% Citibank discount. While the ambiance wasn't exactly what we had in mind for an anniversary celebration, Fukuichi did had decent dishes to boot. At the end of the day, who you dine with matters much more than than what you had dine. 6 more awesome years? Come on, make that 60!

Fukuichi Japanese Dining
111 Somerset Road
TripleOne Somerset
Tel: 6271 5586

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, March 01, 2013

Sky on 57 II: Second Time Lucky

I never thought that I will return to Sky on 57 this soon. After a rather feeble first attempt, the restaurant was on the "been there done that" list. Well, almost.

The story went that I was finding a lunch place to celebrate my promotion (yay to that) with the girlfriend and that the other meal-with-a-view restaurants has either been visited before or heard of a bad review. Since she haven't been to the MBS Skypark restaurant yet and it did impress with the western creations, no harm for another go on our half day offs.

Though the clouds were pretty gloomy that afternoon, it certainly didn't dampen our mood. While I had made a reservation, we still couldn't get the best tables facing Marina Bay Waterfront though the restaurant wasn't exactly packed. Service was expectantly professional as we were served by one waiter throughout.

Complimentary Bread

These little pre-meal munchies tasted as good as I have last remembered, leaning slightly towards the onion bun for its fluffy texture, Before I forget, we opted for Still Water at $6.00++ per person. At least it was free flow so, drink up then.

Slow Cooked Egg and Smoked Salmon, Hiroshima Oyster Fritter

Sharing a 3 Course ($50.00++) and 4 Course ($60.00) set lunch, the girlfriend immediately went for her favourite runny egg as starter, delighted by the creamy Asparagus emulsion and savoury salmon slices. I too was impressed by the presentation of mine, then sinking my teeth into a hot, juicy oyster in light crispy batter. Excellent stuff.

Herbal Bah Kut Teh Broth

The only forgettable course because it was, quite straightforwardly, an overpriced Asian dish. No peppery kick from the soup and the minced pork dumpling was you know, dumpling. Next.

Pan roasted Canadian Halibut, Grilled Angus Beef Steak

The girlfriend's fish was firm and fresh, best paired with the mildly-flavoured Shaoxing emulsion, while the sliced cabbage reminded me much of German Sauerkraut in a non-sourish manner.

As for my main course done medium rare, it was well-marbled with a nice fatty edge, retaining its juicy, beefy flavour. Much likable on its own or eaten with the onion compote, the Szechuan sauce was however not distinctive enough. A very good steak indeed.

Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream, Berry Cupcake

Picking from the dessert trolley, the first one was decent but nothing outstanding, while the girlfriend preferred the cupcake that was a tad sour for my liking. Oh how I wished they had the Pineapple Carpaccio!

Total bill for two was $150.66 after taxes. Pricey lunch definitely, but a much better experience than the first by picking the right courses. If you ask me, avoid the Asian creations and your meal will be very much memorable.

Sky on 57
Tower 1, Sands SkyPark
Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688 8857

Taken with Nikon D70