Friday, May 25, 2007

Away in Thailand

Dear readers, the hungry cow will be away in Thailand for a couple of days. Stay tuned for the next post on the very recent makansutra kakis dinner!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Best a Steak Can Get?

Hog's Breath has been around for quite some time now and though I've been wanting to try it, things somehow don't work out...until now. Dinner was arranged at their Holland Village branch to meet up with kty (PhD) who was camera shy. It's pretty cool to hang out with your lecturer. Loads to gossi catch-up between the League and him.

Kty (PhD) quipped that most of my posts cover places in the East (he stays in the West). I have to admit that having lived in Bendemeer, now Tanah Merah and soon to be Changi, I'm geographically biased towards the West. Or maybe I'm just more exposed to the East. I'm hoping he'll bring me to check out the West. *hint*

Anyway back to Hog's Breath. A hog is a boar. A pig. But no, I'm not here for pork. It's their much-touted steaks that I'm here for. A cow for a cow.

I ordered their 300g Natural Prime Rib ($32.50) medium-rare, wanting to taste the full unadulterated taste of the meat. I took the option of making my steak a Megacut which means upgrading the size of the steak by another about 100g ($8) Unfortunately, I did not get to see the meat until about 35 minutes later. The staff must have been really busy chasing the Australian cow I guess. Either that or the kitchen couldn't cope with the almost full restaurant.

As the minutes ticked by, so did my hunger and expectation. When the meat had finally arrived, my fork and knife quickly sprung to life and began sawing through the very promising steak.

The insides looked over-cooked and chewing on a piece confirmed it. My heart slowly sank. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when the male service staff popped by to enquire if the mains were alright. I informed him of my over-done steak, which he immediately offered to get it replaced. He came back minutes later with a new piece and explained to me that as their steaks are all cooked for up to 18 hours, the insides of the meat tend not to be bloody.

I related that if that's the case, customers should be informed that the 'rare-est' the meat can get is a medium. I mean don't give me a choice of ordering medium-rare if my meat can't meet that expectation. And hungrily tucked into my dinner. The steak was sufficiently thick and the char grill marks added a nice charred aroma though some areas were too charred for my preference. The beef was flavourful and had a nice earthy taste. I would have liked it juicier and definitely more tender. After masticating through 400g of beef, my jaws are now more muscular.

For sides, I chose the baked potato and salad. The potato was big and I liked the sour cream that was slathered over it. No trace of butter but the sour cream did the trick for me.

I also picked the Traditional sauce to see how it'll go with the steak but it was just ordinary and tasted like brown sauce.

The thing I can't understand was that even using prime ribs which have a higher fat content and cooking for up to 18 hours, the meat was far from being tender and juicy. The other thing being that the steak on Ryan's plate had juices oozing out and looked beautifully pink and tender. I left confused and disappointed.

Hog's Breath Cafe (other branches in CHIJMES & Vivocity)
267 Holland Ave
Tel: 64660145

Chew On This: UOB cardholders get 1-for-1 main courses!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tonkichi Beckons

A nice Japanese place which has good food, comfortable setting and does not burn a hole in the wallet is certainly greeaaaat. That's what I like about Tonkichi. I've been a fan of them for quite some time now and a post on them is long over-due.

This post resulted when Ivy and Ryan had to settle dinner at their respective homes as their respective mums had already cooked. This left Hushie and myself to settle dinner before meeting up with Ivy and Ryan. And as they say, the rest is Tonkichi.

Tonkichi's current promotion is all about scallops- sashimi, tempura or breaded and fried ($3 each). Knowing Hushie likes scallops but shys away from sashimi, I ordered it sashimi. But I'm glad after a bit of coaxing, she gamely popped one piece into her mouth and chewed. Was she surprised that it turned out better than she had thought. I enjoyed the scallop sashimi too. It was fresh, soft and I could just get a hint of sweetness.

Now, just to play it safe in case my get-Hushie-to-eat-scallop-sashimi plan failed, I also ordered one to be breaded and fried.

This turned out to be a mistake. Coating a fresh scallop with bread crumbs and deep frying it was too harsh for the delicate thing. The oil (though not rancid) and the deep frying seemed to have destroyed that fresh, sweet taste. So my backup plan actually backfired! It turns out that Hushie actually preferred the sashimi version.

Tonkichi is well-known for their Tonkatsu and I agree. My Jumbo Katsu ($21) was fried to golden perfection and the meat within was wonderfully moist, tender and had a nice porky taste.

I prefer the ones here compared to say, Tempopo.

Accompanying the Jumbo Katsu were a trio of sauces. I can't remember what their names are but starting in ascending order, the one at the bottom had what I thought was grated raddish in a light, salty sauce. Sort of like the ones used for tempura. The middle one was slightly sweet, tangy and thick. It resembled that used for chee cheong fun. The top sauce was a salsa-like one with a nice acidic edge that I felt helped to cut the oil in the katsu.

This was the dressing that I used for the shredded cabbage salad that came with the Jumbo Katsu. I couldn't make out what the black bits (seaweed?) were but this dressing was delicious. Savoury, light and fragrant, I know the shredded cabage loved every drop.

I upgraded the accompanying miso soup to a Tonjiru soup. This, unlike the normal miso with a few small cubes of tofu and bits of seaweed, had a lot more ingredients. I dug deep into the bowl and uncovered sliced raddish, tofu slabs, small pieces of meat, seaweed, carrots, onions, mushrooms... The interesting thing is that while the soup base tasted quite like miso, the ingredients had imparted their own flavours to the soup. Strips of citrus peel gave it a citric zing and added aroma. There were these konnyaku-jelly-like slices that had blackish specks in them. I'm told by the waitress that it's a 'yam jelly'. While relatively tasteless, I like its springy, chewy texture.

And before I forget my dining companion, Hushie picked the Ebi Fry Curry ($18) since it seems that she was craving for curry after Waraku. This consisted of three breaded and fried prawns (two in the picture, one on my plate), rice, pickles, salad and a bowl of Japanese curry. The prawns were thoughtfully separated from the curry, allowing the diner to enjoy its crisp exterior. The curry was aromatic and sweet with the goodness of carrots, potatoes and onions. Eat the prawns quick as once cooled, the crisp crust becomes slightly hard.

Chilled, fresh sashimi scallops and hot, fried food are a sure good way to begin the holidays. Life beckons.

Tonkichi (other branches at Takashimaya and Isetan Scotts)
Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6339 4231

Chew On This: Fans of Tonkichi should consider signing up for the Pokka Food Gourmet Card. It costs $60 but you'll get back that amount in cash vouchers plus a further 10% discount at Tonkichi. Inside the voucher bundle are also vouchers for free soup upgrade, One-for-one Ramen and offers at Pasta Cafe.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Blue Lobster Encore

That one night was enough to draw me back just three days later. This time I was down with Uncle Gary and Aunty Lily (note: real relatives) and I'll feature items that were not in the previous visit.

The Ceasar Salad with Grilled Chicken was simple but the crunchy greens, aromatic olive oil, bits of hard-boiled egg and cheese made for a yummy starter. The cheese was just a sprinkling, not an overload like some other places, and made this lighter and healthier too. The pieces of grilled chicken (somehow not shown in the above pic) were sufficiently tender.

The next shared starter was the Lobster Ravioli ($15). The ravioli was cooked till al dente but I didn't like the filling which I found to be too floury and bland. Fortunately, the sauce was extremely tasty and would make a good lobster bisque. Full-bodied and with the unmistakable natural essence of the crustacean, I soon realised I was mopping up the remaining sauce with bread.

The fresh lobster flesh was placed atop the ravioli and had just a hint of sweetness. The caviar gave the dish what I can only describe as a 'fishy saltiness'.

Deciding to go for the Premium Trawler Catch of the Day ($30) again, my anticipated moment of joy was turned into disappointment. I should have known better. The choice of fish available that day was John Dory. The fillets were fresh and moist but thin and rather bland. It reminded me too much of those horrible frozen Dory fillets that many restaurants, cafes and even hawker stalls that sell 'Western' food serve. If only Mr Red Coral Trout was still around...

Dad was estatic that he finally got his hands, and teeth, on the Australian Rack of Lamb with Provence Herb & Garlic Rosemary Sauce ($36). And it was not hard to see why. Even I, who is not a big lamb fan, found the meat tender and juicy. A bit of the lamb-y smell was present but thankfully it was not off-putting nor overwhelming. I like the herb crust.

Mum's King Salmon Souffle with Tarragon Sauce ($29) was a bag of mixed reactions. While I found nothing wrong with the salmon patty thingy, I did not like the white foam (egg white/cream?) with its strong tasting parlsey flavour. Most probably something I would not be ordering for myself on future visits. I would rather suck John Dory fillets.

The Iced Ivory Chocolate Souffles with Perles Craquantes ($10) was rather unique. It had this circular block that tasted of white chocolate yet had that dense cheesecake feel. It wasn't as fanastic as the Peach Gratin with Mascarpone Sabayon & Lime Sorbet ($9) though.

Blue Lobster
87 Frankel Avenue
Tel: 6442 5090
Opens Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm
Closed on Mondays

Chew On This: Again! I so wanna chew on this again.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blue Lobster

Mooooo. I'm back. After the horrible three weeks plus of exam stress and deadlines, comes the glorious summer holidays (if we in Singapore even have a summer). And my chance to eat hard to 'compensate' for those Campbell's, hot chocolate and instant noodles-nights.

Aunty Ellen (not my real family-related aunty but we commonly address our seniors as 'aunty' and 'uncle' don't we?) flew in from Hong Kong to visit her mum for a couple of weeks and I thought it would be nice to meet her after not having seen her in a long while. So together with Family, we hopped down to Blue Lobster along Frankel Avenue for dinner.

And what a dinner it was! Great company, lovely food, heavenly desserts, not-to-be-missed promotion and a polished yet relaxed ambience provided one of my best meals in recent history. So be prepared for a long-ish post.

To start things off was the complimentary lightly-toasted focaccia bread. The restaurant people claimed the bread was made in-house. It tasted fresh but I would have liked a stronger dose of rosemary. Good to note was that the olive oil from the bottle on the table provided an uplifting, fragrant touch to the bread. Almost addictive stuff.

The Crispy Crab Cake with Spicy Mango & Water Chestnut Salsa & Lemon Grass Aioli ($12) had chunks of sweet crab meat inside the crispy crust.

I thought the spicy mango and water chestnut salsa went very well with the crab cake, imparting a refreshing sourish-sweetish counterpoint. The lemongrass aioli was weakly infused with the herb and became just like icing on a cake, without the sweetness that is.

I haven’t learnt to appreciate Oyster ($3 each) but Mum said while these were undoubtedly fresh, they lacked the sweetness that she was hankering after.

Aunty Ellen and Sis each ordered the Pan-Fried Black Cod with Saffron Sauce with Mixed Fruits & Red Cabbage, Topped with Sweet Wasabi Sauce ($30). Aunty Ellen, still feeling stuffed from taking a bite before the meal generously gave me 3/4 of her cod. The cod tasted fresh and distinctively oily. The flesh was firm without being over-cooked. I loved the slightly sweet-savoury saffron sauce that was poured over the fish. The mountain of bonito flakes provided an umami taste. Under the cod, it was more like purple cabbage than red but we aren’t here to complain about different coloured cabbage, no?

Mum had the Char Grilled Wild King Prawns with Herbed Butter and Garlic Rice ($35) but she had the garlic rice substituted with a side salad (not shown above) instead.

The prawns, moistened by the herbed butter, were succulent. However, consisting of just three prawns, I felt that this dish was expensive and would not make a substantial meal by itself even though the prawns were relatively larger than the average prawn out there.

Dad was unable to get his hands on the Rack of Lamb as they had ran out. So he took the Char Grilled Hokubee Grain-Fed Beef Sirloin with Truffle Mash & Asparagus, Cepe Mushroom Sauce ($32). Ditto for myself except that I wasn’t planning to order lamb.

It was my first time eating Hokubee (whatever the name means) beef and perhaps because I like my meat tender but yet still retaining a meaty texture, I did not really enjoy this steak. Edible? A definite yes. No question about it. However, I found this Hokubee steak to have a cottony texture and was tender to the point that I got uncomfortable. In fact, it did not feel like eating beef. I prefer some muscle fibers and resistance to my ever-eager canines. A meat too yielding makes it pointless to masticate. Might as well go eat fish.

My second main course was the Premium Trawler Catch of the Day ($30). For that day, it was Red Coral Trout from New Zealand. Tasty and with a slight sweetness, the trout was delicious though not as oily as the cod. Once again, the sauce does magic with its buttery and savoury notes. The Premium Trawler Catch of the Day comes with a grilled wild king prawn.

For a person who would rather go for another main course or side dish instead of dessert, I simply fell in love post-main course. The Peach Gratin with Mascarpone Sabayon & Lime Sorbet ($9) was indeed so damn good. Slices of peach infused with some kind of liquor and blanketed by a mascarpone-cream mixture that helped to provide a rich, creamy background which also tamed the alcohol a little. I don't know what liquor was used but it sure packed enough punch. The lime sorbet was very refreshing and creamy. An excellent palate-cleanser, me thinks.

We liked it so much that we requested for an additional two scoops. And those two scoops came prettily adorned with fresh raspberries, strawberries and chocolate sauce. It was certainly more than what I had expected.

Being a fan of Tiramisu, Aunty Ellen requested for the Feuilletes of Limoncello Tiramisu with Filo, Candy Kamquats and Blueberry Compote ($9). When presented with this dessert, I had actually thought they brought the wrong dessert out. It looked nothing of what I had in mind. This is Tiramisu? And because I was still through my Red Coral Trout, I didn't get to taste this Tiramisu proper. But from the small spoonful of the cream thingy between the filo sheets, the limoncello was certainly there. Aunty Ellen really likes her dessert and though she didn't take to this version of Tiramisu, she was happily eating. And I thought she was full from an earlier bite. Ahh... Behold the power of desserts.

If you look closely, you'll see gold flakes on the top. That provided quite a bit of debate at the table.

Already a favourite with many diners around and also almost as ubiquitous as say, chocolate fountains at buffets, the warm chocolate cake with molten chocolate inside is also available here. Known here as Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Seasonal Berries, Vanilla Ice-Cream & Double Fudge Coulis ($12), this rocks!

It wasn't really sweet over all which I very much appreciated. The floury chocolate cake had a slightly hard crust on the outside but break it with a spoon and out oozes pure chocolate heaven. Dark, sensual and rich, the molten Valrhona chocolate melted my heart. The vanilla ice cream was normal, nothing fantastic by itself but it complemented the rich chocolate well. And so did the tart berries.

Generally so far for me, the desserts here at Blue Lobster are fantastic. Expect heavy doses of liquor (nice!) in some of them. The pretty coloured swirls and sheets of pulled sugar also added a whimsical touch. Chef Jazz who helms the desserts certainly takes pride in her work of art and it is evident that she enjoys what she does. According to her, the desserts here are supplied to and can be found at Fish Tales, Fins and Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro. Oh and Chef Jazz advises against eating too much of the pulled sugar works of art as they can numb one's taste buds, interfering with one's sense of taste temporarily.

In closing, Blue Lobster serves up pretty fresh seafood, good food and fantastic desserts. A bit of fusion influences can be observed in the food here but they have not been conflicting. The chef, apparently formerly from Shangri-La, has solid grounding in his cooking techniques. The ambience and setting is slightly dim and old but it still has that posh yet less formal element. It is cosy enough for a date and casual enough for a good meal between family and friends.

My only gripe was that the Indian gentleman who attended to us could have been more professional in his service, given the restaurant's image. But I applaud him for at least making the effort to chat with the guests and making rapport, even with his out-of-placed prata-stall mannerism. The food also took quite a while to arrive, so be prepared to wait for a bit. Maybe that's what the complimentary bread is for!

Blue Lobster
87 Frankel Avenue
Tel: 6442 5090
Opens Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm
Closed on Mondays

Chew On This: OCBC Platinum and HSBC card holders are entitled to a one-for-one main course deal!