Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cheap & Good!

This year, prices of flour, maize and wheat have hit the roof due to unfavourable weather conditions leading to poor harvests and demand overstripping supply. To add oil to the fire, the sharp increase in oil prices has driven the cost of everything up.

But tough situations simply showcase a BIG God who is more than able to provide.

It is said 'Seek and you shall find.' In this case, it found me without much of me seeking. Jeremy brought me to this hawker centre for kway chap but this mee rebus stall caught my attention. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the prices for the bowl of mee rebus.

$1?? Intrigued, I joined the queue and ordered the next bigger serving at $1.20. Yes, I had that much faith in 20 cents. The $1.20 portion reminded me of my primary school tuckshop food and if I had wanted, I could have finished the noodles in three mouthfuls. But at this day and age, $1.20 was definitely a steal. It even came with a whole boiled egg to boot. I've eaten $2.50 mee rebus elsewhere that serves only halve an egg.

The taste of the gravy was tasty with dried shrimps, shallots and tau cheo (fermented beans). Do squeeze the lime and drizzle a little kicap manis to enhance the yummy-factor. The other good point was that they actually blanched the beansprouts well. Raw and undercooked beansprouts are a big turn-off for me.

Good food at low prices are such a gem these days!

Selera Kita Mee Rebus
#01-217 New Upper Changi Road Block 58 Market And Food Centre
Opens: 9am - 5pm (Monday to Thursday)
9am - 2pm (Weekends)
Closes: Fridays

Chew On This: Because a meal doesn't get any more delicious at this price point.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Eating!

The hungry cow wishes one and all a Blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year filled with love, success and joy! And of course, plenty of food.

Year End Cook-Out

The year end holidays means time off academia and time to cook. Throw in the fact that with Christmas and the New Year's squeezed in this period of weeks, the whole festive mood spurs me on to cook for the League... not that I need motivation to cook for my good friends anyway. After moving to my new place about 2 months ago, it was also a good chance for the League to visit.

So I came up with an 8-course dinner for the 8 of us. I didn't have a theme and just cooked up anything that I fancied.

Devilled Egg & Cream Cracker Chicken. The use of cream crackers to coat the chicken was inspired from my late grandma's pork chop recipe.

Prawn Bisque with Spinach & Cheese Ravioli.

Baked Potato Skin with Garlic Mash. This was a modification of the recipe from Epicurious.

Chermoula Grilled Sea Bass with Grilled Asparagus. The chermoula, which I had learnt from Chef Samia at Coriander Leaf, was delicious. It's a really good marinate and the smell was incredible!

Simply Beef with Roasted Red Peppers, Onions & Garlic. This salad/salsa was also learnt from Chef Samia. It seems that the reason why people like or dislike this salad/salsa is the same- cumin.

It was at this point that most people were too full for the upcoming pasta. So we skipped it and went on the dessert, Purple.

Purple refers to the Ondeh Ondeh that we made using purple sweet potatoes.

I was busy preparing the other dishes and so couldn't help in making the Ondeh Ondeh but I'm glad they all had fun mashing, mixing and rolling.

My "floor manager" even got an itch for bowling.

The final result looks more like the Ondeh Ondeh we know but due to a little kitchen 'miscom', it was no where what the original should have been. The skin was too thick and not springy enough. Other than gula melaka (palm sugar), we tried 72% chocolate but it didn't go well. All in all, we all had fun! The original recipe was based on the Baker's.

Thanks for coming and allowing me to cook! We should have more cook-outs man. Cheaper than eating out too. The immense satisfaction and joy from cooking for one's loved ones go beyond words.

Oh and the celebrity of the night?

Missing dearly:
Cherie: In Taiwan.
Jas: My guess, it's still that darned table.
Marcus: In Australia.
Eugene: Pilot needed to do refill elsewhere and so couldn't land.

PS: Thanks for the pics, Ryan!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Good Dose of Meaty Vibe

Tis the season for big feasting. Falalalala-lalalala.
Cuts of beef grilled on big skewers. Falalalala-lalalala.
Sausages, ham, fish and lamb. Falalalalalalalala.
Don't forget the Parma ham. Falalalala-lalalala.

Or so goes an old Christmas song. I recently had a meal at Vibe that made me sing. And I'm about to sing its praises.

Located in Negara on Claymore which is just behind Pacific Plaza and Shaw House, it is in town yet far from any of that shopping madness that throbs in Orchard. Established as a business hotel for business travellers, it exudes class, comfort and peace. You won't find kids screaming, running around and dipping their fingers into the chocolate fountain. It's a good vibe already.

The buffet dinner ($42++) starts with warm bread rolls and a dish of a very fragrant olive oil with a drop of balsamic vinegar. After which we helped ourselves to the starters and appetisers.

What a sight it was to behold an entire leg of Parma ham. Probably the best of the starters distractions, the rolls of Parma Ham and wedges of rock melon tested temptation and destroyed diets. I love the contrast of the salty Parma Ham and the sweet juicy rock melons. This alone would be already make the price of this buffet worthwhile. Salami and chorizo deserve mention too.

Seafood on ice were also available for seafood fans. While the prawn was plump and sweet, the crab's flesh was a little mushy and insipid. But we're not here for seafood no?

Two soups were available that evening, one Western and one Chinese. We tried one of each. The Western soup was supposed to be Cream of Mushroom (as announced by one wait staff) but what appeared seemed more like a Cream of Potato soup of sorts. It was bland and forgettable. The Chinese soup turned out to be Salted Vegetables & Duck instead of Corn & Pork Ribs (once again the same wait staff). But this was one good Salted Vegetables & Duck soup! Robust and with the salted vegetables balancing out the gamey duck.

More distractions on the buffet table includes mix mesclun leaves, baby spinach, grilled oyster mushrooms, marinated asparagus, fried stuff and an odd smoked salmon with (mini) pancakes. Neither awful nor fantastic. Distractions I say!

Warm food such as cheese tortellini, seafood ragout, stir-fried vegetables, fried rice and Feijoada, the Brazilian bean and pig stew also vied for attention which I gave a bit of. More distractions...

For carbo, there was a choice of pasta to be done in three different ways. The aglio olio and tomato sauce ones were not worth the stomach space. Go for the carbonara instead. Al dente spaghetti was cooked in a cream sauce with bits of bacon. Yummy.

Despite knowing that these were all simply there to distract me from the main star of the dinner, I went back for seconds and thirds of some of the better distractions, Parma Ham included. To beat temptation, eat it.

Finally the chef made his rounds with skewers after skewers of grilled goodies. I realised that taking photos of all that the churrasco had to offer was very challenging indeed. Either I had to take individual pictures as they arrived on the plate or I could stockpile the entire offerings before taking a group photo. But both ways, it was a torture to hold on to the camera instead of the fork. So the picture above is not representative of all the grilled items served that night. There was a total of about 13 or 14 items and included the expected beef rump, beef hump, ham, leg of lamb, sausage, chicken, fish, bacon-wrapped beef and pork ribs among others. In general, they were salted enough to bring out the taste of the meats without being close to salt-me-to-death level.

The popular grilled pineapple was welcomed at the table. But one thing that made me uneasy about the one here was that it had a floral, almost lavender aftertaste. Personally, I found it weird.

Then I was held spellbound when the chef presented the beef ribs.

While ribs gave me an impression of a skinny bone with skimpy bits of meat on it, the beef rib painted a very different picture. A very thick slab of meat was attached to a big flat bone. Sufficiently tender and more importantly, full of flavour, it was excellent! The slightly charred and crisped up outer side of the meat added a nice touch.

After chewing away the meat, I picked the bone up with my fingers and gnawed at the marmite-black sticky bits. Ok ok, I know I'm at a 5-star hotel and I'm supposed to eat in a civilised manner. But look at the freaking thing! Could you blame me? I shall never forget the beef ribs I had here. Pork ribs just don't cut it anymore. :p

Desserts had a relative sizable range of puddings, cakes and mousse but I think the cup of hot tea at the end of dinner was more comforting.

Vibe does not have an extensive buffet line like those at other 5-star hotels but I find the smaller-quantity-better-quality concept here working well. After all, even with four stomachs, there's a limit as to how much of the buffet spread can enter this hungry cow. This is one buffet that I really like!

All I want for Christmas is my grilled beef ribs! My grilled beef ribs!

Negara on Claymore
10 Claymore Road
Tel: 6831 6686

Chew On This: Now till the end of the month, Vibe is having a promotion offering premium meats like Waygu, Black Angus and Kurobuta on the grill! Dinner at $68++ for this premium meat fest. UOB cardholders enjoy a 15% discount, platinum Visa cardholders enjoy 20% off.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December Grand Makankakis Dinner 2007

After missing the monthly Makankakis dinner for the past five months due to school commitments, I was happy to be able to make it for December's. It was after all the year's last Makankakis dinner.

So it was that evening that saw a record of 106 Makankakis descend upon Cafe de Amigo. It was nice meeting Makankakis that I haven't seen for months. And also children of a Makankaki that I've heard of but not met. I'm glad Yi Ling and Kok Yong were able to join in this dinner. Hopefully, it was fun enough for them to return for more.

Food was served to the tables that were filled first. A great move I say! The table I was seated at got filled up pretty fast so a big thank you to all for coming early. Bread was served to pacify hungry stomachs. But I felt it was very average bread whose presence could hardly be felt.

Dinner started proper with the Duck Trio. Beginning with the item in the foreground, this deep-fried breaded thingy resembled fried cheese. Being rather bland, I didn't take to it. Besides, the duck was elusive, undercover perhaps. The middle item could be pan-fried duck liver. Or at least it was pan-fried something that was quite tasty. The item at the background comprised of slices of duck (finally something in the Trio that I can finally identify!). They were a little cold and lifeless.

Phew, it took a bit of effort to finally clear the starter. It sure didn't start off with a bang.

Then the Lobster Bisque made it's warmth felt. Thick, creamy and with small bits of crustacean (lobster I hope!), it was comforting all the way down to the stomach. However, it had a rather strong alcoholic punch to it. The cream did smother some of the harsh edge of the alcohol but I still would have preferred it toned down a bit. Wow. I'm actually complaining of too much alcohol.

As stomach-filler, the Pasta Carbonara did provide the carbo but to be honest, it was bad. The pasta was too soft and the cream made it cloyingly difficult to even continuously slurp up two mouthfuls. Jelak is an appropriate word.

For the choice of mains between the Leng Fish Fillet and Rack of Veal, no surprise that I chose the latter. A thick, beautifully pink slab of meat (free bone included) made my eyes twinkle. Taste wise, it lacked in this department. Alas. What a waste to tender pink flesh. The mashed potato that kept vigil by its side was great! A distinct buttery aroma was very pleasant and it had bits of potato that gave it texture. Yummy.

The last course was dessert, Mini Apple Pie. I added the Kueh Lapis. Thought it would be nice to bake something for the Makankakis, it's the holidays anyway. I remember Cafe de Amigo serving up really good apple pies that were freshly baked (must wait 15-20 minutes) during my last visit eons ago. The mini version was decent and paired with the ice cream, even better. Talking about ice cream, I didn't know Kueh Lapis tasted good with ice cream too! Having baked about five days in advance, the Kueh Lapis was kept in the fridge till this dinner. I think that could have made it more dense that usual. Oops. Hopefully, the Makankakis didn't find it too bad. Desserts were washed down with late bottled vintage port which I had brought to share.

Being a BYO dinner (as with all Makankakis Dinners) there were lots of wines at the table to taste and I took a quick snap of the line-up of bottles that Alfred had arranged.

Towards the end of the dinner, Ivan came round to pour me a bit of this. My first time tasting Sauternes. Complex stuff but really easy to enjoy. Thanks man!

On the food front, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. I had many yummy memories of dining at Cafe de Amigo long ago back in Specialist Shopping Centre. Oh well, maybe the kitchen was overwhelmed that night causing the food to suffer. It's no joke hosting 106 people for dinner and I thank Tommy and his staff for ensuring that it was smooth-sailing. Not forgetting the organisers (Uncle Tony!) who had to liaise and handle the headache aka logistics.

Thankfully I'm a food blogger and not strictly a critic or reviewer. The food that night to a critic or reviewer would have been disaster. For a blogger like me, it was a good dinner which I enjoyed because of even better company despite not so good food. Nice ambience, live jazz, wines, Makankakis...I had a good time. It's the experience man!

Cafe de Amigo
Funan DigitaLife Mall
Tel: 6835 0238

Chew On This: In the restaurant, there's a small stage with live jazz performed by different musicians each day! Definitely value-added compared to pipped music found almost everywhere else.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Olio Surprise

This Olio Restaurant and Cafe at Suntec City's basement fountain has long intrigued me when they first started quite a while ago. Long pointy spindles emitting a quirky blue light hang from above the bare ceiling while the 'magic' front glass panels appear clear till you fix your gaze at one spot and start walking a few steps, give it an aura of mystery.

A display case showing off their huge sandwiches, pretty cookies and yummy-looking tarts and cakes never fail to catch my eyes every single time I walk by. Sure, it makes a great advertisement platform. I had expected the food to be the normal cafe fare but when I stepped in for dinner yesterday, the menu was rather fusion. Hmm...not exactly what I was hoping for but the blue lights that some kind of powers that made me stay.

Deciding to share an appetiser, we ordered the Potato Wedges with Tomato Relish ($5). Experience dictates that cafes will open up a bag of frozen commercially-available potato wedges, throw two handfuls in a deep-fryer and viola.

What arrived at the table was not far off from this figment of past experience but I must say at least Olio bothered to sprinkle some dry herbs over the wedges. A huge plus point was the huge mountain of wedges! And they were all pipping hot! The aroma of hot, freshly fried spiced spuds was simply heavenly. The tomato relish was essentially mayonnaise with bits of I-don't-know-what. Tangy and creamy it complemented the wedges well. Mustard works too.

The Portofino Pizza ($14.90) had a ready-made commercial base, giving the edges a tasteless, floury, almost biscuit-like crunch. Eeks. Thankfully, the pieces of prawns and squid were miserly as the seafood were not exactly fresh. I would try another pizza or order another two heaps of potato wedges instead for subsequent visits.

As if to salvage the meal from that point, the Capellini Miso Salmon Fillet ($14.90) was the superhero of the evening. Sure, the salmon fillet was just a little tough from being in the pan for a tad too long but I can overlook that. After all, the firm capellini below the salmon fillet played an outstanding supporting role. A barely-there sweetish cream sauce coated the capellini in a thin layer, making this cream pasta lighter than those soaking in a pool of heavy cream. There was a very subtle miso taste that combined with a bit of cream, seaweed and flying fish roe to give a savoury touch. The fish roe added a nice poppy-crunchy dimension.

I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this pasta from Olio. The Potato Wedges and Capellini Miso Salmon Fillet more than made up for the average Portofino Pizza. Olio's a cozy place with affordable (none of the main courses are above $20) interesting food that looks to change the stereotypical 'cafe food'.

Olio Cafe
#B1-033 Fountain Terrace
Suntec City
Tel: 6238-1109
Opens: 11.30am to 9.30pm (Sun-Thurs)
11.30am to 10.30pm (Fri & Sat)

Chew On This: Citibank cardholders enjoy a 1-for-1 promotion for the pastas, pizzas and entrees. Now, that's a a good deal for two stomachs people!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

KTY et el nibbles Prata Kayu

Seeking some filler after the hamburger steak at Sunset Grill & Bar, KTY et el headed to Jalan Kayu for the famous roti prata aka roti canai, paratha, crepe, pancake (depending on where you hail from).

To gauge the standard of a roti prata, I prefer to order kosong (plain) as it'll allow the unadulterated taste of the dough to come forth and also without any other ingredients, the original crispness and texture can be appreciated without distractions. The Prata Kosong (70 cents) here was nowhere near the one I had eons ago. No longer small, crispy and fragrant. Sad.

Everyone knows the flavour that eggs can bring so I also ordered a Plaster ($1.50). No, Handyplast is not served here.

A Plaster has an egg cracked atop the prata and fried. The fried egg turned out more cooked than I liked, leaving just a trickle of gooey yolk. But that trickle added a nice tasty dimension to the otherwise flat prata.

Even the curry which can give an average roti prata a boost was rather diluted and impotent.

Thankfully the Mutton Murtabak ($5) had a golden crisp skin encasing minced mutton and onions. Not that it was fantastic. But better than the limp pratas.

Oh dear. I wonder what had happened here over the years.

Thasevi Food Famous Jalan Kayu Prata Restaurant
235, 237 & 239 Jalan Kayu
Tel: 6481 1537

Chew On This: During their heyday, their signature small, super crispy roti prata was so successful that it got the other prata places emulating their style. This led to a string of 'Jalan Kayu' roti prata stalls. Everyone wanted to benefit from association with this name. That is history now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

KTY et el Flies to Sunset Grill & Bar

The last KTY et el trips were to Colbar and Gone Fishing. This time, it was another adventure finding the place.

For off the beaten path restaurants, few places can beat Sunset Grill & Bar I reckon. It's super ulu in an old army camp and at night some of the roads do not even have street lights! When I was about to reach the restaurant, I suddenly thought of my friend Neil. I bet if given the chance, he'll run amok with a rifle and play CS in the aeroplane hangers.

But back to Sunset Grill & Bar. KTY et el decended onto the premises and after a few minutes at the table, the surroundings seemed so unlike Singapore. Small planes landing and taking off in the near-by field, wild dogs running around among the tall grass, the absence of car horns and the hustle and bustle of the city, plenty of lush fields, trees, the sunset, the mosquitos... Hey wait a minute. Is that 1800-XDENGUE?

Wearing jeans was a smart choice and ignoring the mosquito coils that surrounded the outdoor seats, we made our orders.

Dinner for me was the Hamburger Steak ($18.50) which was served with baked potato or fries and coleslaw or seasonal vegetables. The hamburger steak was nicely seasoned and juicy but it was hardly enough to be satisfying, size-wise. The accompanying sauce was dominated by black pepper and was redundant, I felt. The baked potato and seasonal vegetables were average but added some much needed starch and fibre.

Honestly, I enjoyed the company and environment more than the food that night. It's really getting hard to find such places in Singapore anymore.

Sunset Grill & Bar
Republic of Singapore Flying Club
140-B Picadilly
Seletar Airbase
East Camp
Opens: Daily at 4pm. Last order at 9.30pm.
Closes: Tuesdays

Chew On This: My small ears heard that this place may be forced to close due to the development of the area for the aerospace industry. Catch it while you can.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My Carbo Place

I heard that one should carbo-load before a marathon. So even for the half marathon of 21.1km, I decided to load up on them carbo.

Besides waking up at 3am on marathon day morning to chomp down two baked Russets and two bananas, I went to my favourite carbo-loading place in Race Course Road on Friday.

Lunch at Banana Leaf Apolo was mainly rice (carbo-loading mah), and came with two vegetable sides plus papadum. All these were free-flow and was just $3. This is pure carbo-loading at its best- huge quantity, cheap and delicious. The two vegetable sides are changed according to what is available and what was scooped out of the twin tin containers on this visit was cabbage and some kind of gourd. The papadum did not disappoint too, being crisp and having small bits of cumin.

But rice, two veggies and papadum were feeling a little lonely so we decided to also order other dishes.

The Chicken Masala ($4 per thigh) was tender and I especially loved the spicy spice girls paste. The only thing was that it was tender to the extent that some of its flesh probably fell off its bone and not onto the plate when it was scooped up. Alas.

This bergedil-looking Fried Fish Cutlet ($1.75) is a good thing to order. Slightly fluffy and with a sharp taste that hits the palate in a pleasant way, it perked up the taste buds.

Another dish we ate was the Black Squid ($7). The squids were a little squishy and could be fresher but otherwise it was a dish that provided a bit of sweetness to all that spice around. Blackened by the squids' own ink, the thickish gravy was delicious.

I like the varied and liberal use of spices in the South Indian cooking here and every dish brings with it a different depth of the spice spectrum.

If not for a certain Miss NIE Chan who was sick on that day, Curry Fish Head would have made its appearance on the table. But like samonella in chocolate cake, one can't quite predict illness. I'm happy that her FYP poster thingy is finally over! Congrats and recoverquicklysowecangopiggingout!

Oh and by the way, the carbo-loading was all worth it. Energy well-spent.

The Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant
54, 56, 58 Race Course Road
Tel: 6293 8682

Chew On This: Despite fierce competition from its neighbours, The Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant still manages to retain its interesting clientel mix of locals of different races, Japanese, Australian, Taiwanese, African etc tourists. Unlike one of its main competitors who has decided to go a bit upscale with zen furnishing and a polished look, I like the old marble table tops, spice-in-the-air smell and that more down-to-earth comfort.