Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dong! Dong! Dong! 1, 2, 3. Suntec City Level 3.

It's no secret that we Singaporeans love Japanese food. Maybe it's because Jap food is seen as trendy. Or because it's promoted as healthy. Or because we just simply like the way it's beautifully plated and presented. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that we love our sushi, sashimi, tempura, udon, teriyaki, yakitori, miso...

Those who want to combine their love for Japanese food and buffets should really try Kuishin-Bo. It's my favourite Japanese buffet restaurant and I like the fact that the buffet items are fresh, tasty and have a certain standard. Of course, don't compare it to high-end Japanese restaurants. But it certainly is a notch above more common family Japanese restaurants found in most shopping malls.

The spread is good and everyone can find something that he likes. While I'm certainly not going to ramble off the whole list of goodies offered at the buffet, I'll post about certain highlights and this should give a fairly good representation of what to expect there.

There is a teppanyaki counter offering salmon, dory, beef and chicken. Take your pick, clip the small number clip provided to the plate and return to your seat. Once teppanyaki-ed, your food will be brought to your table. I like the beef. It wasn't scrawny scraps of dead cow. What they offered were cubes of ribeye. Once cooked, they were juicy, tender and beefy. The salmon was also nice and the dory fillet, unlike many fishy versions out there, was fresh. But I found the chicken pieces too fatty for my liking.

Kaminabe is available here and seems to be a favourite among many. The Japanese paper steamboat comes in a choice of seafood, beef and chicken. I asked for the beef option and was so satisfied with it. Feeling that the beef slices were insufficient, I later skipped to the teppanyaki counter and grabbed more of that glorious ribeye cubes. And to the steamboat, I added them. The soup base was miso and became fiercely beefy as the soup boiled over time, fuelled by the solid fuel that seemed to last forever.

The sashimi, sushi and seafood sections were side-by-side. For sashimi, there was salmon, tuna and snapper. Perhaps I'm biased but I found the salmon sashimi the best. The tuna and snapper were fresh and firm but nothing beats the smooth, oily texture and slight sweetness of salmon. The sushi available ranged from basic cucumber, pickles to popular salmon, egg, prawns, tuna and... I can't remember all of them. I should hightlight the tuna belly battleship. Yes, that's what Kuishinbo named it. Fatty pieces of tuna belly were minced and set on rice, wrapped round with seaweed to complete the sushi. I haven't had this before and so felt it was rather unique. From the seafood section, I fed most on the crayfish (Alaskan crabs are available for dinner). They were of average size but their flesh was fresh, firm and sweet. The ever popular edamame was also part of the buffet spread. (Refer to picture at the start of this post.)

For hot food, I ate shishamo (the delicious pregnated fish), tempura prawns, softshell crabs and veggie, yakitori and tonkatsu. The grilled squid was especially good. A small whole squid skewered on a wooden stick and grilled lightly. The basting sauce was salty and savoury. Yum! The tempura prawns and veggie (sweet potato slices and lady's finger) were good. No disgusting rancid oil aftertaste or soggy batter. The softshell crab was too oily for me but luckily I had a cup of chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg custard) which instantly made me feel much better.

This is actually beef udon in a very small claypot although it looks deceptively like a regular claypot in this picture. The last-minute splash of egg white made this look messy and hardly appealing. But they actually tasted quite good. And the tiny portion comes in handy for those who want to eat a wide variety but get filled up fast.

For desserts, the green tea ice cream is a must eat! It's more like softserve (aka 7eleven's Mr Softie type). It melts fast so be quick to spoon, lick and swallow before it melts into a pool of green cream. Smooth, not too sweet and with the clean, refreshing green tea flavour showing, this is a great way to cool down after all the teppanyaki and tempura.

Be creative and do what I did by adding the green tea ice cream into a glass of Sprite and ta-da. Green tea float.

Mochi is also available at the dessert counter. These soft and chewy glutinous rice balls give the selection more variety and are more interesting than the chocolate fountain (yes, they do have one). For those who cannot get enough of green tea, there is also the rather unique green tea cheesecake.

Kuishin-Bo is one of those buffets that has left me satisfied and wanting to come back for another round. The price may be a little steep for a non-hotel buffet but considering the quality and variety of food served, I think it is well worth it.

Adult Lunch
Mon-Fri: $23.80++
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: $25.80++

Adult Dinner
Sun-Thur: $31.80++
Fri, Sat, Public Holiday Eve & Public Holiday: $39.80++

Suntec City Tower 1
Tel: 62387088

Chew On This: Worried about the GST increase? Let Kuishin-Bo soothe your worry as they'll be asborbing GST for those who dine from Mondays to Thursdays. Currently, civil servants will only have to pay $28.20++ (4 pax & above) or $26.80++ (10 pax & above) for dinner on Tuesdays. And the Ladies will smile about Wednesday dinners as it's Lady's Night and they'll be charged $25.80++. So come and eat before the promotion ends.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

To all my readers out there, Merry Christmas! It's the time of the year again when we do Christmas shopping (yes, it's another great excuse), when turkey is suddenly the most popular bird and when friends and family wine and dine together.

Of course, like all celebrations, Christmas brings along some foods for the festive season. Roast beef, turkey, baked ham, Christmas pudding, gingerbread cookies...ah the joys of Christmas. But more importantly, the reason for the season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ into this earth. That's precisely why there is a 'Christ' in 'Christmas'.

Chew On This: Whatever you may be going through, Jesus be your light and answer. The Hungry Cow prays that Jesus blesses you with divine health, joy and love this Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pontian Noodles

I had originally wanted to get my fix for the famous mee soto but because of the long queue and my hungry stomach, I decided to grab a bowl of Pontian Wanton Mee ($3). It was my first time trying Pontian Wanton Mee and so was understandably curious about it.

The bowl of noodles looked normal. While the char siew was scrawny and the wantons forgettable, the noodles were pretty good. Springy in texture and neither soggy or floury, I enjoyed it (doesn't matter if it's homemade or not). I paid a dollar or so more for extra fried wantons. These were not exactly good. The skin was thick and had flour remnants inside. If I should go back, it'll be definitely for the noodles.

Quan Ji Cooked Food Stall
Bedok Interchange Food Centre

Chew On This: This stall claims that it has 60 years of history and claims that their handmade noodles won't turn soft even when tau pau-ed (take-away).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Healthy Comforting Warmth

Christmas is just around the corner and the crazy heavy downpour isn't what most would hope for. Snow, I'm sure, would be a different thing. But why not make the best out of the rain. Certain foods are best eaten on a cold, rainy day. Steamboat and porridge comes to mind.

Feeling that I should eat something healthy after all the sinful makaning the past few days, I decided on Alishan Taiwanese Porridge. It's like Teochew Muay where you order the dishes you see on display and eat them with porridge. Although plain porridge was available, I opted for the sweet potato porridge. I would also urge you to do the same. The long grains were soft without being super mushy and there was a nice fragrance of rice. The small bits of sweet potato also added a slight sweetness to the otherwise plain porridge.

As for the dishes, I tried the braised duck ($7), otah ($5), chai poh omelette ($6), sotong with chili sauce ($4)and stir-fried long beans ($3). These were for three persons. The braised duck tasted pleasantly gamy but one too many pieces and your jaws will have a good workout. The otah did not come wrapped in a leaf but rather was a huge slab of otah on a plate. I found it too rich in coconut for my liking. And I wish there were chunks of fish in it.

The chai poh (preserved radish bits) omelette was well executed. The omelette was thick and fluffy, with crispy edges. The chai poh was salty but it went well with the porridge. I have to admit that it was oily but it's only through a very hot wok and overly sufficient oil that the omelette can achieve this standard.

The sotong (squid) with chili sauce was a little cold and squid being bland by itself, needed the Thai chili sauce to prep it up. If you are into Thai-styled chili sauce which tastes of a mix of spicy, sour and infused with lemongrass, then this should be fine for you. The stir-fried long beans with minced pork was a tad oily but otherwise was also a good dish to complement the porridge.

So gather the family or a few friends and brave this cold rain for some sweet potato porridge. If you need to eat more (because it's porridge and porridge seems less filling than rice), just go ahead and order a few bowls. He who feels pai seh (embarrassed) goes home hungry. Certainly not me. I finished my seven.

Alishan Taiwanese Porridge
1008 Upper Serangoon Road
Opening hours: 11am - 1am daily

Chew On This: The sweet potato porridge, priced at just 50 cents per person, is free flow and this place opens past midnight, haven't you always been looking for a place which serves simple, good food that is also light on the stomach and wallet?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cheesecake Ecstasy

Cheesecakes are getting common but a really good cheesecake is hard to come by. My good friends would remember that slightly a year ago, I had a huge, HUGE cheesecake craving. At the end of just three weeks, I had devoured a total of 26 different slices of cheesecakes. It was pretty comprehensive as I stuck my fork into cheesecakes from places like Starbucks, Olio Dome, Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf, Hilton Hotel, Secret Recipe, River Gauche, Cafe Gelare, McCafe, NYDC, The Cheesecake Cafe among others. But few could bring me to seventh heaven.

Back from Indonesia, my mum brought back a cheesecake that simply blew me away. It was from her friend, Lea, the Indonesian home-based baker. With ingredients such as French butter, Madagascar Vanilla Beans and Fleur de Sel, it was a power-packed cheesecake.

The cheesecake was made such that there was a strawberry halve and a blueberry halve, with fresh strawberries and blueberries dotted on each respective halve. (Quite a good idea for those who cannot decide on which flavour to order.) The cheesecake was favourably dense and wonderfully flavoured with the cream cheese and vanilla. It had weight in the mouth yet slid so smoothly down the throat. I love it for being sweet, tart and a wee bit salty at the same time. The vanilla was unlike those artificial essence which when compared to the real pod, seems harsher in taste. It was fragrant and sweet-smelling. Lemon juice which was another ingredient, provided a touch of citrus and helped to cut the richness of the cream cheese. The cookie base was neither brittle and dry or wet and soggy. It was a good balance of crumbly and being just slightly moist.

I had thought of eating just a slice but after the first bite, I gobbled almost half the cake. A cake this good should not be eaten in moderation. Moo!

Lea also bakes Tiramisu, cupcakes and camomile cookies! I bet they all taste good. People who have tried should let me know. Now, I wonder if she does overseas delivery to Singapore...

Cakes & Co

Chew On This: For those who want to know a bit more about pricey gourmet ingredients, Teo Pau Lin and Violet Oon did a comparison between them n their earthly counterparts. Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Flog Exchange!!

This may seem a little last minute but I actually just got wind of it too. This is a great and fun idea for the festive season.

Sam of Hinata Diaries and Joone of Nibble & Scribble are organizing a Christmas Flog Exchange.

All you have to do to take part is send an e-mail to them at christmasflogexchange@yahoo.com.sg with your name, blog, snail mail address and wish by this Thursday, December 14. We will publish the completed wish list the next day (Friday, December 15), after which you have one week to sign up to fulfil someone else's wish. Needless to say, you only get to make a wish if you're gonna fulfil someone else's in return :)

To keep things fun and friendly, you can wish for anything food-related that's under S$20. It can be something specific (e.g. a box of organic
cherries) or something that requires a bit of creativity on your wish fulfiller's part (e.g. "the best cupcakes you've ever eaten").

Of course, feel free to spread the word on your own blogs and get more people involved! Depending on the response, they will either organize a gift exchange get-together or a simpler blogging-by-mail exchange (hence the request for your snail mail address).

Monday, December 11, 2006

Joo Heng

Joo Chiat is really fascinating. After all, the area is as famous for it's food and peranakan culture as it is notorious for it's massage parlours and dingy budget hotels. Now the area is trying to dump off it's sleazy association. Is it a coincidence that red-light districts happen to also boast some of the best food spots? After all, where there are people, there surely must be food to sustain them right?

One thing I've noticed about the Katong-Joo chiat area is that small Cze Char restaurants are almost always packed especially during dinner. Most of these places look like they have been around for 20 odd years and exude an old-world charm. Joo Heng is one of these places and I popped in for lunch on a weekday.
There were a few tables with office workers tucking into their food. Other than that, the place wasn't really crowded. Good because there was no need to queue or wait for a table or for the food to take ages to arrive. Dinner may be a different scenario though.

Our table of three ordered a Watercress Soup ($6 for small), Prawns with Beancurd ($12), Stir-fried Bittergourd with Pork Ribs ($8) and Hae Zho ($8).

The Watercress Soup tasted really different to me. Neither better or worse. Just different. I was expecting the unmistakable flavours of pork, red dates and watercress to hit me but there was none. After deforestation of the watercress I then realised that what remained at the bottom of the bowl was fried pieces of snakehead fish, and not pork ribs.

The auntie recommended Prawns with Beancurd which she said is one of their signature dishes. And I loved it! There were only three prawns for our table of three, so that works out to one prawn per person unless the other person really loves you or is allergic to prawns. But the prawns were big and had a very crunchy/springy bite. I'm not surprised if they soaked the prawns in lai sui much like many restaurants around. The beancurd was not those round eggy ones. Instead they were more like sliced chunks of beancurd with an egg coating. Delicious.

Stir-fried Bittergourd with Pork Ribs is a commonly found dish but no less popular. While I liked the fact that the bittergourd slices did not have that extremely bitter taste associated with not blanching them in salted boiling water before cooking, I found the pieces of pork ribs too small. Otherwise, the dish would have been better with generous-sized pork ribs drenched in the black bean sauce.

Joo Heng's Hae Zho (think ngoh hiang) was filled with tasty minced prawns, chestnuts and pork. Each piece was fried till crispy and the skin was not too salty. Great when dipped into the sweet sauce that accompanied it or with a dollop of balachan. I would have preferred the filling to be more roughly chopped than finely minced for a better texture.

Talk about balachan, Joo Heng's balachan is one of the best I've tasted in recent history. It was hot and slightly sour, full of the aroma of the dried shrimps.

Come for a good homely meal and forget about the red-light status surrounding this place...Unless that is what you are seeking for in the first place.

Joo Heng Restaurant
360 Joo Chiat Road

Chew On This: When asked if the food they serve are Cantonese or Teochew, the auntie said cham-cham (mixed).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pizza & Pasta by the Waterfront

It was my first time at VivoCity, Singapore's latest and biggest shopping centre. I've heard quite a bit about the dining places there and thought it would be good to see them for myself. I headed to VivoCity with Karen for dinner and thought of surprising Shiming who was there with her friends. But in the end, the surprise backfired when we realised that she had already left for home. So much for a surprise...

I found Vivo's layout confusing. There are only a few floors but the shops are arranged in small loops such that I ended up walking in circles without covering much ground. There are many makan places there and some even have the extra benefit of having a waterfront spot. One such place is Modestos and I was glad I had dinner there.

It was quite obvious that the tables that had a waterfront view were mostly occupied. Who in his right mind would want to sit facing the huge, cold mall? we managed to secure one such table which had a nice view of the tourist boat ferrying people around against the backdrop of the lighted Sentosa bridge and the colourful cable cars that looked like lighted boxes moving up and down an invisble line. Karen seemed rather easy when ordering food. Not wanting to make a choice, she left it up to me. So after finding out a bit of her preferrence, we settled for the Risotto Primavera E Zafferano ($21) and the Pizza Proscuitto Crudo ($21 for a regular).

The Risotto Primavera E Zafferano does not look pretty. Yes, it even looked kinda like puke to a extent. BUT it tasted oh-so-good. Each grain of rice was plump and had absorbed all the goodness of the saffron, butter, cheese and dried porcini mushrooms. It was certainly a good combination of ingredients that provided a heady flavour without being cloyingly rich. The only thing I didn't appreciate were the small cubes of carrots in there. I must say I'm biased against the orange root but chomping on those carrot cubes just brought out a taste I much dislike.

I was happy that the Pizza Proscuitto Crudo was able to get rid of that horrid taste. Modestos has a reputation of churning out great pizzas and this one is one of them. The thin crust was smeared with tomato puree and topped with cheese and parma ham. Simple and elegant. The slightly charred base also added a nice smokey touch to complement the salty parma ham. I took a whiff and detected a faint but distinct olive oil fragrance which indicated that they could have drizzled some over the pizza. Mmm...I could have shouted "Ma Ma Mia!"

And I have to add that service was really good except for the lady (not in uniform) who stood at the entrance and brought us to our table. But I choose not to let one person spoil the night of otherwise great service.

Tel: 63769808

Chew On This: UOB card-holders get a 1-for-1 promotion on pizzas and pastas. I certainly enjoyed this promotion and hope that you will too.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Work in Progress

I've upgraded to Blogger Beta version and I'm changing the layout a bit. Please bear with me as I tweak and experiment around. I've also included links to the food blogs that I read quite regularly so ya, do check them out. A Google search box has been added so that you, the reader, can search for a particular food, location or word in this blog. This can be quite helpful when looking for a specific post/article that was published some time ago. If you need to find something in Google, just use the same box and Google it!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fry Me Not

Ampang Yong Tau Foo created quite a stir a couple of years back and Singaporeans who take to this style of Yong Tau Foo, in which all the items are deep-fried, swear that the deep-frying makes the food more pang (fragrant).

I can see the Health Promotion Board people shaking their heads in unison. This is one stall that certainly won't get their stamp, or pyramid in this case, of approval. Although I've got to agree to the saying that 'everything fried tends to taste good', I feel that there are some food in life that are not meant to be fried or at least not everything fried. Yong Tau Foo is one such food.

The place is set along the long stretch of road that starts from East Coast Road to Upper East Coast Road, passing through Siglap and Katong. This stretch is my favourite foodie road as there are countless grazing grounds for me. Vietnamese, Local, Thai, British, Italian, Japanese, German, Indian etc food can all be found here. With cafes, bars, kopitiams, restaurants, bakeries, coffee houses and specialty shops all littering this road, it is one of the gems that make the East stand out.

Okay so back to the Ampang Yong Tau Foo. The place is simple and kopitiam-like. For those who haven't been here before, the sequence is you walk right in to the Yong Tau Foo counter, grab whatever pieces of food you want (each costs 60 cents), pass it to the auntie and smile.

The Yong Tau Foo here is standard in the sense that there isn't a choice of having it in soup or dry, with kway tiao or bee hoon. All picked items are deep-fried served with a sauce and accompanied by a bowl of chor bee hoon. The selection of Yong Tau Foo was quite good. There were stuffed tau pok, tau foo, red and green chilies, brinjal, yam, fishballs, fried wanton, ngoh hiang and the works. I was quite shocked to see that they even deep-fried the bittergourd! Only the xiao bai cai was spared. Thank you for sparing the poor leafy green. The pieces of deep-fried Yong Tau Foo were oily as expected but at least the oil didn't have that rancid taste.

While I found the Yong Tau Foo so-so, I seemed to enjoy the bowl of chor bee hoon more. The thick strands were smooth and springy, delightful to each bite. A light broth with minced chicken gently flavoured the chor bee hoon. A bowl of this made a simple and light breakfast. In fact, I went for another.

Fu Lin Ampang Yong Tau Foo
721 East Coast Road

Chew On This: This place is not certified Halal but it does not serve pork. Good to know for those piggy-friendly folks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Last Paper Day

The 1st of December marks the end of exams and the beginning of the much awaited holidays. It also called for the League to gather once more for more causal banter and even more nonsensical theories that seem to spring out of nowhere as we do a bit of catching-up. Potential Nobel laureates and in some cases terrorists...hmm.

After KTV at Smith Street, we strolled around Chinatown before meeting up with Ewan. We had actually wanted to check out the Viennese coffee place on Neil Road but had apparently walked the opposite direction...Which led us to settle at Qun Zhong Eating House. Ewan had previously eaten here and said the food was pretty good. And in we went.

The place was small and packed. Thank God we had arrived after the dinner crowd otherwise I could just imagine the queue outside. For a place that does not bother to decorate or have some sort of interior design and still being so packed, I thought the food must be good. Ewan placed the orders and we ended up having a mini noodle degustation for seven people. A far cry from the time he had ordered two $18 claypot rice from the famed Chinatown stall which left the stall uncle and the people around us slightly stunned if not amused.

The menu was small and offered a few noodle and dumpling dishes. The Zha Jiang Mian ($4) was a bowl of noodles drenched in a pork-based sauce. While the noodles were okay, the sauce didn't really impress me much. It lacked fragrance and depth.

The Suan La Mian ($5) or Noodles in Sour & Spicy Soup was also disappointing. To be fair, I never was a fan of Sour & Spicy Soup. And this version didn't win me over. The thick gooey soup was not spicy. Only a trickle of chili oil gave a spicy illusion. Perhaps Jessica Alba can do a better job. ;)

The last noodle dish was Noodles in Preserved Vegetables & Pork Broth ($4). This fared better than the Suan La Mian. The soup was tasty with influences from the preserved vegetables and the strips of pork.

When noodles failed that night, I looked towards the dumplings. The Guo Tie ($7) or what the Americans call 'Potstickers', turned out to be the knight in shinning armour. Instead of the common ones where by the filling is fully enveloped in the skin, these were semi wrapped, displaying the meat filling. The way they executed this here was exactly the way I like Guo Tie to be. Pan-fried so that the base of the dumplings would have a crisp, golden brown tan and with the addition of some stock into the pan and covering it, the steam created would penetrate through the Guo Tie, cooking its insides. The filling of pork and Ku Cai was savoury and the Ku Cai did not have that overpowering smell that I dislike. Yummy. Very Yummy.

A quite similar tasting and rather weirdly-named Chinese Pizza ($9) was probably their take on Chong You Bing (a fried crispy onion 'pancake'). I would have preferred something less soggy and more crispy. The one I had in Taiwan was the equivalent of our Jalan Kayu Roti Prata. Think crispy and well-fried with fragrant onions embedded within the dough.

Xiao Long Bao ($7) = Little Dragon Dumpling?? Well, literally translated that is. I found the skin of the Xiao Long Bao too soft, without the slightly chewy texture which probably explained why they broke easily. Or according to 'experienced hand' Ewan, we simply didn't use the correct technique. The meat filling was all too soft, almost melting away in my mouth. But I would have preferred a bit of resistance and bite. Personally, not good compared to many others around.

For dessert, we shared a Dou Sha Jian Bing ($9). The middle layer of sweet red bean paste was sandwiched between two outer layers that were nicely browned on the outside while retaining a chewy glutinous inner surface. At this price, one could probably buy two bowls of their noodles but I doubt one would be able to get the same satisfaction that this dessert brought.

Qun Zhong Eating House
21 Neil Road
Singapore 088814
Tel: 62213060
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm
Closed on every Wednesday.

Chew On This: This place has its own Japanese and Korean clientele! My guess is the Sake bar next door could be a reason.

PS: The photos were taken using my camera phone (which I will blog about soon) as my digital camera is with my Sis who is in Israel right now.