Monday, October 29, 2007

Itchy-Ban-Boshi

Oops. I just realised I had forgotten to post up on Eugene's Birthday! So this is where better late than never comes in and here it is.

Eugene arranged for dinner at Ichiban Boshi Wisma and boy have I not seen him for quite a long time prior to this. The League took this opportunity to catch up, especially with Eugene.


For dinner, I chose the Business Gozen ($14.90). Don't ask me why there's a 'business' in the name of this set. Beats me as well. But the variety that was listed on the menu was rather appealing- salmon sashimi, grilled mackerel, assorted tempura, chawanmushi, appetizer and rice set. Plus the serving of fruit and miso soup, it all seemed very substantial.

While I was expecting the appetizer to be pickles, it turned out to be a small cube of tofu with some salty mushy unidentified stuff on top. With regards to the rest of the items in this set, I would say they were mediocre. Nothing really bad but also nothing that would entice me to order it again. But I do appreciate the variety and the affordability.

Since David Copperfield may not be coming over to Singapore anymore, I thought some of the League members may have potential to enter his trade...or not.

Amateur Cherie tries her best.


Neil, the Master, shows how it should have been done! Haha. Let me indulge in some silliness while exam fever creeps up. Arghhh.


Ichiban Boshi
#03-15
Wisma Atria (various other branches)
Tel: 6734 7277
Opens: 11am to 10pm (last order at 9.30pm)

Chew On This: Ichiban Boshi literally translates to 'the first star'!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Non-Pot-Sticking Pot-Stickers


Located on the same floor as Sin Kee, this stall serves up really valued-for-money guo tie ($4) otherwise translated as pot-stickers. Though in a way, they can't really be considered pot-stickers as they were fully fried and I bet they hardly even touched the bottom of the pot, much less stick to it.

I initially thought that it would be one of those guo tie that is first pan-fried and then partially steamed by ladling some stock or water over them before covering with a lid. These would turn out to have a golden-brown, fried bottom with firm tasty fillings encased within a supple, slightly chewy layer of skin. Zilch. Not the ones here though.

The guo tie's here were more like fried wantons with thick skins. I found them a tad too hard from the deep-frying. The filling was sufficiently tasty and the vinegar with ginger helped to perk things up a bit. But nonetheless, I can't refute that at $4 for 10 pieces, it's certainly valued-for-money. Give it a shot if you want something fried and cheap but don't expect guo tie.


Special Shanghai Tim-Sum
#02-480
Margaret Drive Food Centre

Chew On This: Apparently, this stall has been serving guo tie (at least their version of it) way before the dish made its way into foodcourts here!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Memory of...

Chee Wee (1984-2007)

Pegasus Platoon 3, Section 1 has lost one fine man. I'll always remember him as a cheerful, happy-go-lucky chap who was also super fit. What he was in life, contrasted too greatly to what he was in death.

Life is too fragile to be on two wheels.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Night Come Fragrance

While 'Night Come Fragrance' sounds like the name of some sleazy nightclub in Geylang, it really is a popular Western food stall with zero sleaze. That being said, I reckon Calvin Klein will not make 'Night Come Fragrance' an eau de toilette in his fragrance line any time soon... unless he foresees the notes of chicken chop and pork cutlet to be desirably cool in a bottle.

But what this post is about is the stall known as Ye Lai Xiang (literally Night Come Fragrance). After hearing many good comments on this place, I was bent on giving it a try when I entered Margret Drive Food Centre recently.


The Chicken Chop (~$5.50) came with crinkle-cut fries, mixed vegetables consisting of peas, maize and carrots and one of those buns commonly found in local Western food. While the sides were nothing worth mentioning, the chicken chop itself was tender and tasty. A sauce which tasted like a mix of ketchup and brown sauce with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, was poured over the chicken chop. Its tangy and slightly sharp taste helped to cut some of the oil.


Even better was the Chicken Cutlet (~$5.50). A fairly large slab of chicken was crumb-coated and deep-fried to a golden brown. Juicy and with the nice fragrant coat of crumbs, this was certainly addictive. Once again, the sauce slathered over it provided a nice touch.

While I won't come here just for this, I definitely won't mind ordering its items the next time I drop by for the chicken rice upstairs.


Ye Lai Xiang
#01-560
Margaret Drive Food Centre
Opens: 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Closes: Not too sure which day. You'll have to try your luck!

Chew On This: Shutterbugs beware! This uncle here doesn't like people taking photographs of him and his stall. He told me off matter-of-factly in a rather brusque tone after my flash went off. He can be a little eccentric but it's not his attitude that I'm here for anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Moist, Black & Slippery.

Before anyone thinks of worms and the like, I should say that unfortunately this cow isn't into eating such exotic food.

The moist, black and slippery I was talking about refers to the Char Kway Teow over at Margaret Drive. This famous stall almost always has a long queue of people lining up for a plate of this local favourite. JiaLARD can attest to that and I have to thank Daniel who queued up for it while I went around scouting for more food.


The Char Kway Teow (~$3) dished up by the solo man who runs this stall was nicely moist and delicious. A mix of slightly sweet and savoury notes tickled my taste buds with each mouthful. The serving of hum (cockles) was generous and fans (not me) of it will surely be satisfied. But I would have liked more sweet sauce in here though.

In my humble opinion, this is one of the better Char Kway Teow in town.


Hai Kee Teochew Cha Kua Teow
#01-550
Margaret Drive Hawker Centre
Opens: 5 to 10pm
Closed on Sundays and public holidays

Chew On This: This man behind the Char Kway Teow here is Teochew and must be one of the few in Singapore who whips up a fairly good plate of Char Kway Teow.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Old School Chicken Rice

Sin Kee is another old school chicken rice instituition in Singapore. Like most of the other famous chicken rice stalls (Boon Tong Kee, Loy Kee, Swee Kee, Wee Nam Kee, Ming Kee etc), it has a 'Kee' in its name. I really have no idea what's the connection between 'Kee' and chicken rice. Kee siao ah.


But the chicken (~$12 for 1/2 a bird) here is really good. Plump. Juicy. Tender. Supple white breast that made me wonder if SK2 had gone into the poultry market. The meat also had a pleasant 'chickeny' taste which made me feel like eating the whole bird. The fragrant soy sauce mixture that was splashed over the chopped chicken was truly alluring.


After savouring the chicken on its own, try it with the chilli sauce, dark soy sauce and minced ginger. The chilli sauce was a tad too sour for my liking. But still this dependable trio hardly fails.


As for the rice (~30-50 cents), it was nicely flavoured with chicken stock and ginger. The grains were soft and yet sufficiently firm. I was happy too that it wasn't too oily.

Sin Kee's certainly an old school chicken rice instituition that serves up good chicken rice in an equally old school hawker centre. Atheletic chickens need not apply.


Sin Kee Chicken Rice
#02-548
Margaret Drive Food Centre
Tel: 6471 0355
Opens: 10.30am-9pm
Closed on Monday

Chew On This: For those with weak stomachs, it may be more advisable to eat chicken rice earlier in the day (assuming they cook the chicken in the day). A chicken that was cooked in the morning and left to hang till it reaches your plate at 7pm will be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. They love supple white breast too. Just some food for thought.

Note: The prices here are as best as I can remember. I apologise for not being able to state the exact price. Exams are coming and memory space is limited.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old School Snacks


Looooooooooong before the first Takopachi even bounced onto our sunny island, there was Hum Chim Peng- a fried Chinese snack popular with the locals. It's almost like a donut (in the oriental sense) without a hole.

Seeing such an old skool stall selling this old school snack in Margaret Drive Market, I knew I had to try some.


The Hum Chim Peng (60 cents for the with tau sar) here had a nice doughy bite without being too dense while the sesame seed-studded top added fragrance. But I didn't really like the tau sar (red bean paste) which I found a little too sweet and lacking a red-beany punch. Anyway, I actually prefer the savoury, lightly-spiced salty variant.

What I really loved at this stall was the Butterfly (50 cents if I remember correctly). Nonono, I'm not referring to the winged insect but rather another fried dough snack that has a shape not unlike that of the butterfly (left in the first picture). The one here smelt really good and had that slight sweetness that seemed to combine with a little oil to coat the oral cavity with pleasure.


Also worth trying are the Sweet Potato Slices ($1 for two or three). Although it was a pity that they weren't hot, the starchy smooth insides provided much joy to starch-lovers. I bet their taste would have been revved up a notch if they were eaten straight off the hot wok of oil.

Donuts may have people queuing up recently but nothing beats a good ol' Hum Chim Peng or Butterfly or You Char Kway, especially when attached to childhood.


Nü Huang Zhen
#01-558
Margaret Drive Hawker Centre
Closed on Mondays

Chew On This: This stall has been around for almost 40 years! And it may not be around for that much longer either. The auntie there related that she took over the stall from her ageing parents and is carrying on with the business but will eventually bring it to an end. Alas. A probable lost of a part of childhood for many.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Protein-Packed Saturday Lunch


Everybody loves carbs, or so some might say. But there are times when one feels really carnivorous and just need WANT meat. For times like that, there's always churrascaria to fall back on.

Churrascaria, a Brazilian cowboy barbecue, is truly a meat fest. A big chunk of meat is usually salted, skewered and grilled. Nothing too complicated, bringing out the original flavours of the meat.

Out of the seven or eight places offering churrascaria here in Singapore, I've only been to Carnivore at CHIJMES and Samba at the old Big Splash Complex. Hence, I wouldn't qualify to comment on the standard of churrascaria here or else where for that matter, having just eaten churrascaria thrice.

The attractive lunch pricing together with the fact that it's in Katong Village which I've never stepped into before, attracted me there for lunch last Saturday. The interior of the restaurant had reddish brick walls, stark concrete ceilings and wooden floors. In addition, the Brazilian paraphernalia placed around certainly gave a 'Brazilian Outback' feel with a homely touch.



Seeing that Samba has outlets in Sao Paulo and a Brazilian chef who takes care of the meats and their grilling, I would assume that it should be fairly authentic... until the chicken char siew came along.


It had a red hue and a sticky layer which was too sweet for my liking. Nothing like the regular char siew. But being a Brazilian place, I don't think anyone should hold it against them. Probably just an effort to please local palates.

The meat items came regularly at short intervals. When the passador brought the pork ribs to the table, a heavenly smell wafted in the air. It was the smell of freshly roasted meat. Tender and fragrant, I wished they would just offer the whole rack. But one should be gracious and not deny other diners the chance of a rib or two yea?

Then came the pork sausage which had a dense meat filling encased by a skin that 'snapped'. Flavourful. The garlic beef was a little tough and needed a bit of effort in chewing. Honestly, I was disappointed with the beef that day. I guess dinner I had at their old Big Splash Complex offered more beef items and of a better quality.

On the bright side, the lamb was really good. This cow hates to admit it but the lamb surpassed the beef items that day. It had a rich flavour without the nasty strong taste that is often associated with lamb. I'm no lamb fan but this I had seconds... and thirds.

The grilled dory fish was also delicious. Moist and lightly marinated, its soft flesh was a respite from all the other meat.


The grilled pineapple was dusted with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg as pointed out by Ewan, my east side khaki and makan buddy. This was an instant palate cleanser which helped one to engage in more meat. I knew fruits were friends.


Another grilled fruit served was the banana. This was my first time having a grilled banana in churrascaria. Its soft flesh that exuded sweetness made it perfect for dessert!


Besides the churrascaria items, there was also a cold and hot selection of food. Over at the cold food section, one could get dishes like potato salad, alfalfa sprouts, pickled papaya, sauteed mushrooms, chickpeas and greens.


Food items available at the hot food counter included mashed potato, spaghetti, stews, potato wedges and sauteed eggplant and long beans. Do give the Feijoada a try. It's a popular Brazilian stew of black beans and pig ears but the one here had trotters instead of ears.

Overall, $22+ for a Saturday lunch with about 10 to 12 meats is certainly worth it. During the weekdays, the lunch price drops to $13.80+ with an offer of about six meats.

I'm planning to go for a churrascaria dinner maybe at Mama Lucia or Vibes when the next protein craving comes. I so regret not going for the special churrascaria offered at Vibes that featured various premiere meats such as Black Angus and Wagyu. But my friend Ivan did so for those who want an account of that event, head here for a good review.


Samba Brazil Steakhouse
86 East Coast Road
#01-37/39
(Katong Village)
Tel: 6348 8406
Opens: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm daily

Chew On This: Fans of Archipelago Beers would be happy to know that their range of beers are served on tap here!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Italiano Fantastico

Italian food seems to be highly popular with Singaporeans, perhaps only losing out to their Japanese counterpart in terms of popularity. For some strange reason, spaghetti has become a common homecooked food in most homes. In fact, it could be more common for a Malay home to cook spaghetti compared to Chinese dishes and vice versa for all the races here.

Now while that is some food for thought, I should be getting to the real food. One of my favourite Italian places in Singapore is Trattoria Lafiandra. Nestled in Prinsep Place which have seen quite a few businesses come and go, most would have walked by the pavement outside without ever noticing it. Such a pity.


The pastas and pizzas here are really good. Take the Spaghetti con gamberi e zucchini ($21.90) aka spaghetti aglio olio with prawns and zucchini. Perfectly al dente spaghetti was tossed in olive oil which was flavoured by the garlic slices, prawns and chilli bits. Really simple but nonetheless delicious.


Another pasta, the Tagliatelle al Salmone e Gorgonzola ($18.50) aka flat ribbon pasta with fresh salmon, white cream sauce and gorgonzola cheese, was also a winner. Although I normally shy away from cream-based pasta for fear of being 'creamed to death', this one here actually beckoned for another forkful. Surprisingly un-heavy, the cream and gorgonzola sauce clinged onto the flat ribbons of pasta. I only wished for bigger chunks of salmon instead of the bits that were served.


Our choice of pizza for that night was Pizza Carpaccio ($19.90) aka tomato, mozzarella with thin sliced tenderloin and parmesan slivers. The beef was really thin! And it had a slight floral aftertaste. This is my first time experiencing a floral aftertaste when eating beef. Have my tastebuds gone bonkers? The slivers of parmesan added a nice touch to the tomato base, bringing depth to the pizza.

But them Italians do not just eat pizzas and pastas (although I know of quite a few Singaporeans who could swear to live on them).


Life's a wee bit more fun with meat. The Bistecca de Manzo al pepe verde ($26), aka grilled beef ribeye with green pepper sauce and brandy, was another creamy dish that surprised me.


I normally like my steaks with minimal seasoning but here, the beefy flavour melded with the richness of the cream sauce and the slightly sweet, peppery green pepper corns. I could forgive myself for ordering a God forbidden cream-sauce-slathered steak. Now I pray that they use a thicker piece of meat.


Non-beef eaters should ask about the Catch of the Day ($22). On the day that I had dinner there, it was a grilled whole seabass. The fish was fresh and its flesh was only slightly sweet. But it could be a tad boring for those seeking stronger flavours. The cubes of roasted potatoes on the side were scrumptious but were too small a portion!


For dessert, we shared a Tiramisu ($8.90) which had coffee, liquer and marscapone cheese. It was decent but nothing worth shouting about.


Still feeling that I needed a bit more carbo (don't believe the Atkins people), I ordered the Pane con aglio ($4.50) aka garlic bread. Butter was very generously spreaded over the baguette. In fact, a little too generous. The baguette and butter tasted good but a pity the dominant butter downplayed the taste of the garlic. It's not often that I end a meal with garlic bread, but hey, carbos with herbed butter do make a good end to a good meal.


On the wine front, the Veneto Maculan Pino & Toi 2005 IGT ($60) smelt wonderfully of apples and pear. A relatively dry and pleasant white.

Trattoria Lafiandro is a cosy Italian restaurant run by Cataldo Lafiandra, an Italian, who also does the cooking. Indoors or outdoors, wherever you sit, it'll be a great place for some good Italian food. Cataldo, or Aldo as he perfers to be called, is really friendly and when he has a bit of time, will fleet from table to table to have a small chat as well as to ensure that the food is doing fine. And in my opinion, the food that night was indeed very fine.


Trattoria Lafiandra
46 Prinsep Street
#01-01 Prinsep Place
Tel: 6238-8746
Opens: 12-2.30pm, 6pm-12am

Chew On This: For those who are interested in BYO wines, corkage is charged at $18 per bottle.