Monday, October 13, 2014

Ikkousha Hakata Ramen, Chijmes, Singapore

Ramen, staple of the working class Japanese. Like making an omelette or egg fried rice, making a bowl of ramen is not difficult. However, it is not easy to make a bowl of good ramen. The springyness of noodles, the intensity of the broth, the consistency of the chasu, must all come together. 

Since its humble beginning in Fukuoka, Ikkousha had expended into a chain of 8 outlets in Japan and 22 outlets overseas. 3 of the 22 outlets are in Singapore. I recently visited their latest outlet located in the refurbished Chijmes. Seating place here is a bit cramped, maybe to emulate the confined spaces of Japanese cities, but in no ways uncomfortable. In some eateries, you get peanuts or some finger food for appetizers. Here you get a basket of hard boiled eggs and you can have as many as you like.  

Appetizers - Hard boiled eggs


Ordering here is no frills. You get an order chit and you tick what you want. The good thing about this place is that even though the menu is not extensive (basically of consisting of various type of tonkatsu), customers is able to customize the texture of the noodle from soft to very hard (sounds a bit obscene) and the taste of the broth in 3 levels (light, normal and Japanese taste). I would also recommend that you go for the large portion for an extra S$1 as the portions are not too big. I went for the light one and it was already potent enough. I would not recommend to go Japanese on this. If you check their Facebook page, there is a competition of the spiciness level going on if you order the spicy tonkatsu. Apparently, the record now is Level 13. 

I do not know much about ramen, but apparently the one served here is the Hakata variety Tonkatsu ramen.
The broth (as I mentioned earlier I went for the light version) is quite agreeable to my palette. Not the super heavy broth that you get in some of the wannabes ramen outlets. According to my server, even if I ordered the normal or Japanese style, the consistency of the broth will still be the same just that the chef will add in more secret recipe sauce into the broth, hence increasing the saltiness.

The noodle itself is springy and chewy. Just nice that you can slurp it in without wanting to bite it halfway, like how you are supposed to eat a bowl of ramen. It does not feel like you are eating a pile of overcooked goo.

The Chasu is made of thinly sliced lean pork belly. Not too thick the cut hence it does not overshadow the noodles and other condiments. You can tell that the chef uses the freshest and best cut of pork that he can find. No dreaded freezer after taste which one tend to get from some ramen outlets (namely Ajisan ramen and mind you, the prices are not too far apart).

A Satisfying meal here would cost you a little south of S$20 which isn't too much taking into account the quality of food you are getting. A meal at Menya Mushashi Ramen might cost you a few bucks less but I am telling you, the taste of sodium bicarbonate in their noodles is overwhelming. I would highly recommend this place if you happen to be near any of its 3 outlets.

Changi Terminal 3, #B2-58 (Inside Ramen Champion)

Block 7, Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #01-104, Singapore

30, Victoria Street, #F1-07, Chijmes, Singapore

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Forty Hands, Tiong Bahru

After the disappointment of breakfast, I need something to cheer me up. May and Tim had planned to have late lunch at Forty Hands, a cafe at Hipster Central that is Tiong Bahru. This was my first visit to Tiong Bahru. Even though I have heard about that area's hipsterness I did not know it was that hipster. At the same road I count 5, maybe 6 hipster cafes, one hipster book store, one hipster provision shop, one hipster curtain and sheets shop, saw one girl shooting with a hipster twin lens reflex camera and me shooting with a digitalized OM camera. Forty Hands is tuck away amongst all these amongst Yong Siak Street. Blk 78 to be exact. The entrance is quite unassuming. You will miss it if you don't look hard enough. 

Open the door and you will be greeted by deco that screams Hipster. Quirky posters, graffiti and the like. I was also surprised by the crowd since it was already late lunch. Quite difficult to get a table but managed to get one by the door.

Hipster Graffiti
Hipster Poster
Hipster Coffee Cabinet

After settling down, we proceed to order. First and foremost, Forty Hands would like to remind you that this is a coffee place. They show their seriousness by having an espresso machine with 3 presses. Since it was a hot day, May and I ordered the iced latte($6.50). Glad to report that the coffee here is as good as they claim it to be. Apparently the boss here have a distributorship of coffee called Common Man Coffee and they use the same beans. The balance between the steamed milk and espresso is just nice. There is a strong yet not overpowering taste and the after taste lingers around with just the right amount. A bit on the fruity side but one of the best iced latte I have tried. Tim said he had enough coffee and decided to get a Mandarin orange flavoured Mexican soda.
Hipster Barista at Work
Iced Latte

The food. Tim and I ordered the same thing. Eggs Benedict served with roasted potatoes($16). This place claims that all the ingredients used here are organic and they even plant their own herbs in the backyard. Our eggs ben consist of pouched egg, organic shoulder bacon, baby spinach all stacked on top of a soft muffin. There are actually 2 versions of eggs benedict here the other being the steak version.

Eggs Benedict
Yes, my dear Sith Kith Cafe, this is how pouched eggs should look like. Pouched for the right amount of time, drained properly and the sides trimmed. The pouched eggs are nicely done. It goes just nice with the Hollandaise sauce, all easily soaked up by the English muffin. Whereas most eggs ben use rockets as their greens, the spinach is a nice twist.   

How pouched eggs consistency should look like.
May ordered something that I have forget its name. Basically it is pouched egg served with sautéed mushrooms and truffle($17). Presentation is nice served in a Chinese soup bowl (those used for double boiled soup) which is placed on a plank with 2 pieces of toast. Basically, you mix the content of the bowl and eat it with the toast.
Pouched eggs served with mushroom and truffle

I have never been a huge dessert person. They have a weird selection of desserts but my attention was caught by the Onde Onde cupcakes and the Chendol cupcakes. Sounds super weird but challenge accepted. Ordered one each to share.   

The chendol cupcake really contained chendol and if you dig deeper, there is actually red bean and gula melaka. Like a bowl of real chendol. As for the onde onde cupcake, there really are shaved coconut inside it and a layer of gula melaka (I somehow managed to not take a photo of it). Tasted weird but in a good way. Since the fillings are already quite sweet, they are actually smart enough not to sweeten the cake too much. So, glas to report that the overall sweetness of the cupcakes are at the acceptable level.

Really got chendol
 A visit here more than made up the disappointment that I have over breakfast. I have always said that to run an F&B establishment, you will only succeed when you are passionate about making good food. This establishment oozes the passion of the owners. It starts off by using the freshest and best ingredients you can get. Whereas at the Kith Cafe, you get the feeling that the owner is just trying to sell as many plates of lousy breakfast as they can. Hence, "the everything here is standard, Sir" statement. The difference, can't be more profound.

P.S. After giving your body sustenance, feel free to pop by Books Actually opposite to feed your mind. It has quite a selection of rare books, especially by local authors.  

The Kith Cafe, Park Mall, Singapore

I had some errands to run in Orchard area this morning, hence did some research on where to have a decent breakfast in that area. Lots of foodies on the interweb recommended The Kith Cafe at Park Mall. Decided to give it a try since it is near Dhoby Ghaut MRT and prices seems reasonable. 

Ambience seems ok. Long and narrow indoor and a squarish outdoor sitting area. Quite standard in Singapore. Decided on the "Big" Breakfast (Take note that I put the big in inverted commas). This is when the first problem cropped up. There are baked beans in the breakfast and I requested the beans to be changed to something. The server just gave me a yaya papaya answer "No can do, Sir. All our things are standard." I wanted to yell at him what if I am allergic to beans and can kill me but decided against it since I do not want to ruin my weekend. I will just leave them aside. I opted for the sourdough and pouched eggs option. Ordered a latte as per my usual practice.   

Let me get straight to the point. This is the worst breakfast platter I have ever eaten. When the order came, the Big Breakfast does look big. However, it is obvious that they cheated. They just stacked the baked beans on greens and place the toasts on top of  everything to make it look big. Talking about the toast, this is the toughest dough I have ever eaten. Takes effort to even pull it off with my teeth. Paul Hollywood would have flipped if he is served this bread. Bacons were over fried and taste like tree bark. Only manage to finish one piece.

Should be named the Stack'o to Make it Look Big Breakfast

Next thing that is just plain wrong, the eggs. I know pouched eggs are not the easiest to make, but boy, the pouched eggs here are just plain wrong. Not only were the eggs undercooked. The kitchen did not even care to drain the eggs properly before serving. When I break the eggs, the running yolk got mixed up with the residue water. John and Gregg would have bitten any contestant who dare to serve this to them.

Yes, that is yolk mixed with residue poaching water. Not oil. 

Water, water everywhere
Anyone who know me well enough knows you won't see any egg left on my plate as long as they are edible. The poached eggs here are so undercooked and when mixed with the residue water from poaching, it tasted nothing but water. The funny thing is that the lady at the table next to me was complaining to her husband about the omelette and another table actually sent his food back because the scrambled eggs were too runny. Note to owner, if you can't do eggs properly, don't bother opening the cafe. I would love to see Gordon Ramsey come here and see what is his reaction.

If you are hoping that the coffee here would be it's redeeming quality, I have news for you. The latte taste like coffee flavoured steamed milk. No aroma, no after taste, no nothing. The salty after taste of the bacon stayed longer then the coffee's.

My conclusion, this is by far the most underwhelming breakfast experience I ever have in Singapore. Even the standard Starbucks breakfast is better than this. The worst thing to spend S$20 on.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dong Seoul Korean BBQ Restaurant, Sri Utama, Segamat

When I was growing up in Segamat, a fancy dinner out is usually to one of the few Chinese restaurants. If we want "western fare", all we had was KFC. Much later on (like when I was in secondary school), we had MacDonald's, and later Pizza Hut. 

However, much had change over the pass year. At the row of shops facing the main road at Sri Utama Commercial Centre, Segamatians now have a choice of premium western fare (Vivo Pizza), Peranakan food, Sushi King (coming soon), KR Roasters and of course Korean BBQ which is the topic of my post today. 

Dong Seoul Korean BBQ is run by a Korean expatriate. This, I was made to understand, is the third or fourth outlet with the first outlet in Johor Bahru and branches in Kuantan. I was told that the owner uses his mother's recipe and all the major ingredients are imported from Korea. The matriarch even stationed herself at the outlet during the opening week to make sure that nothing is amiss in the food preparation process. 

First Visit

Grilled pork. What can I say? They use the finest cut of meat that is available and marinate it to perfection. Not too salty, not to bland. Just nice. Best part is there is no need for us to do the grilling, the servers will do A to Z for you. I have tried a few Korean joints in Jalan Ampang and I dare say this is on par if not better than those. Definitely better then the sorry excuse that is called Bulgogi Brothers. Well, never trust a pork free Bulgogi joint like you should not trust a pork free German restaurant. 

Next, Korean seafood hotpot. As usual, this is out of bounds for me. But look at the prawns, the squid, the enoki etc. I am sure it is choke full of flavours.

The kimchi here, is one of the best I have ever eaten. The cabbage is crunchy, the spiciness not too over powering. There are some version of kimchi were the chili paste taste like it had been over blended in a blender and left too long in the fridge. Things here are fresh.

The meal was ended with a refreshing dessert of fermented rice drink. Never seen or tried this before. It taste a bit like winter gourd tea.

Second Visit

Second visit was over the pass weekend for lunch. Since it was lunch we did not ordered anything fancy. Agnes ordered the sliced beef rice and I ordered the Bibimbap. Beef of course, I am not allowed but I don't think there was any complains from Agnes.

The bibimbap though, well, how should I put it. Ingredients are authentic but then I do not think Bibimbap is their forte. Firstly, I have no idea why they put a thoroughly cooked fried egg on top. Besides that, the dressing is a bit bland and it lacks the heat of Dolsot (hot stone) Bibimbap, which I prefer over normal Bibimbap. Best Bibimbap is still at Bibigo! and best Dolsot Bibimbap I have tried is at Mana Kitchen.

Other recommendations not pictured here are the Pancake (Seafood and also Kimchi)

From the way the restaurant is run, one can tell that the owner is indeed passionate about the business, which is exactly what you need when running an F&B business. Does not hurt when you insist on using the freshest ingredients available and is serious about spreading the food culture of your country. Verdict : Nothing to see here, Gordon Ramsey. However, your attention might be needed few doors down. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Delicious @ Sunway Pyramid

Delicious had always being one of my favourite restaurant chains around Klang Valley. Operated by the E&O Group who runs the E&O Hotel and Lone Pine Hotel in Penang amongst others, you get 6 star hotel quality food at a fairly reasonable price. For those who had been to Delicious long enough, you would know that things had never been so groovy some years back. Quality of food not consistent from branch to branch was one of the biggest problem because each outlet do their own procurement. I still remember some years back that the Bangsar Village outlet was the best and was always packed. I gathered that the management realized the problem and got the Executive Chef of the E&O Hotel in and cracked the whip. Since then, they had set up a central kitchen and standardized all procurements and cooking procedures. Scenes of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmare comes to mind.

During my visit to KL over the weekend, we went to the Sunway Pyramid outlet for brunch. There were some changes to the menu but we stuck to things we were familiar with. 

The Hainanese Chicken Chop had always being a crowd favourite. People write home about the chops at Yut Kee but I think this is much better. Batter is light, fried just nice, not too oily and meat is succulent. Best of all served with thick cut fries. Not the skinny frozen soggy nonsense you get from a lot of restaurants. 

Eggs Royale, a simple dish of pouched eggs and smoked salmon served with Hollandaise sauce. Looked at the shape of the pouched eggs. Hotel standard presentation indeed. It is so round because they trim the sides with scissors after the eggs are cooked. Learned this from watching Masterchef Professional :p

Taste wise, no complaints. Just that the eggs are a bit over pouched.

Cabonara Mafaldine. They did some changes to the pasta menu. Can't remember them having mafaldine (ribbon cut pasta with wavy edges) last time I visited the BV branch. The pouch egg, I think, is an influence of those Japanese fusion restaurants that mushroomed all over the place. A bit of deviation from the true carbonara but still taste good nonetheless with a generous chucks of good quality parmesan.

The Big Breakfast. Comes with a cheese sausage (no idea why they did that, a bit cheesy, pun intended, if you asked me. I would have preferred a good old English breakfast sausage), a piece of toasted brioche, sautéed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, sunny side up and beef bacon (this being a pork free restaurant).

Feeling a bit adventurous with the drinks hence ordered the Apple Cinnamon Chai. Would not recommend this to anyone with diabetes. Had 2 sips and passed it to Agnes. Too sweet.

The Latte. Apparently, they are now using Juan Valdez Columbian coffee beans. Packs much aroma and finishes off with a strong after taste. Quite Good.  

'Yum Yum, when can I start eating with Mummy and Daddy...'
This was also Chloe's first visit to Delicious and she seems very intrigue with the food on display :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chloe Yap at 2 Weeks

There had been a lack of updates on this blog lately. The reason being that I had been busy with the arrival of my little Princess. Nappy changes and feeding time means less no time for trying or visiting our regular eateries.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Chloe Yap at 2 weeks.

Hello, Camera.

Chloe and Mummy

Thank you for all the congratulatory messages and our utmost appreciation to friends and families who had visited little Chloe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Durians, the King of Fruits

Yes, it is the season of durian, the King of Fruits in these parts of the World. For the uninitiated, durian is a thorny fruit found throughout South East Asia. It grows on trees and fall when they ripen. My hometown is very famous for durians. We have a little orchard and I was back over the weekend for some durian feasting

Little Hut in the Orchard

Smoke to rid the mozzies

The first thing my dad always do is to start a bonfire of dried and green leaves to chase away the mozzies. Yes, mozzies here are aplenty and quite aggressive. Insect repellent is essential when visiting the orchard.

Fruits hanging from the tree

Generally, ripe durians will fall from from the trees over night. What we usually do is to walk around the orchard and pick up fruits that we can find lying on the ground. Sometimes durians do fall when we are doing the picking hence the hard hat.
Collection in Progress. No, not sure what's with the hippie pants and pink sneakers

Some people run an orchard for commercial purposes. However, my dad run our orchard out of interest. We do not intend to sell the fruits that we pick hence we do not use any insecticides or chemicals on the trees. What we get is that durians are often half eaten by squirrels. Since the squirrels can't finish the whole durian, we are often left with half of the fruit that is still good to eat as durian flesh are compartmentalised.

Hole left by squirrels
Another proof that our durians are full organic

Counting the harvest

Besides durians, there are other kind of fruits in the orchard. One of the more popular choices are mangoes. Coincidentally, one of the mango trees had bore fruit and was ready for harvest.

Getting the pole ready to dislodge the mangoes from the tree


The Old Work Horse

Bountiful harvest
The skin of the durian is often described as a thorny and hard coat of armour. Access to the flesh of the fruit often involves a machete/cleaver/chopper, a pair of steady, strong hands and nerves of steel.

The flesh of the can be described as custard like with a strong and pungent smell. Some of my Westeros Westerner friends liken the smell and taste to blue cheese but that is over simplifying things. The taste of durian is often complex and varies from tree to tree. Some carries a creamy sweet taste while some are a bit bitter.

Durian is known to be "heaty" in nature. Traditionally, we drink salt water to "cool down" after a durian feast. However, a better alternative is young coconut water. Coincidentally, there were some coconut trees outside of our house and a few were ripe for harvest, or so we thought.

Again, opening a coconut involves a machete. However, instead of precision cutting and prying as with durians, opening a coconut involves pure and simple hacking.