Sunday, May 25, 2008

Park Thai

It seems to be a winning recipe- eateries amidst greenery. Singaporeans take to eateries surrounded by lush greenery and with locations that are away from it all. One Rochester, Dempsey Hill, Mount Sophia, Labrador Park, Old Seletar Airbase.... and now Hort Park off Alexandra Road.

I haven't had time to explore the park yet but on the surface, it seems like an interesting place to check out. On my visit, there were photography exhibition, displays, information boards and the features of an eco-friendly home. But time was tight and I could only insert dinner. In fact, it was dinner that brought me there.

A big glass door swings open leading to the wooden, contemporary Asian insides. It exuded class and comfort, yet being in a park, one would not feel out of place dining in berms and sandals. But while the atmosphere was cosy, I felt the place was a tad too dim for dinner...perfect for lounging though.

No visit to a Thai restaurant would be complete without Tom Yum Goong ($15). I was slightly taken a back to find that this was actually meant for one person. So unless you don't mind sharing, be prepared to order a bowl each. The broth was additively sourish at first and ended with a spicy, slightly bitter finish. This really got the appetite going. The King prawn's flesh was sufficiently fresh and meaty but not fantastic.

For a salad, Yam Moo Yang ($16) made an impact. It featured grilled pork with Thai herbs. I enjoyed the juicy, slightly sweetish slices of pork that could pass of as a Thai char siew. As for the 'foreign' leaves and herbs, it wasn't my kind of salad leaves. Too wild, too herby.

Fans of green curry should order the Gaeng Kiew Wan ($24 for chicken). They also offered a $30 version with soft shell crab instead of chicken. But that's for another time. The green curry gravy was aromatic and soothing with the natural sweetness of coconut at the forefront. Ladle some gravy on rice and enjoy! The chicken came in three oval-shaped pieces. It tasted like chicken breast but was unbelievably tender. I could imagine a chicken-tofu combination to like this. I was actually baffled by it. Was it minced chicken that was mixed with other ingredients and compressed together? Hmmm...

Pla Krapong Hoi Bai Tong Yang Prik Ta-Khrai ($30) is a mouthful to handle so I simply point. The English translation of that in the menu is (hold your breathe now) Spicy Thai Bbq Seabass Fillet Marinate with Red Curry Paste and Lemongrass Wrapped in Banana Leaf. Looking like sambal stingray, it didn't disappoint. The spice paste was fragrant with shallots, chilli and other aromatics. The seabass fillet was firm and the slightly charred banana leaf added another aromatic dimension. Unfortunately, the grilling made the bottom portion of the fillet too tough. A real pity.

A choice of Khao Hom-Ma-Li aka jasmine rice ($3 per person) or Khao Kong aka brown rice ($3 per person) perfectly goes with the food here. Hey, at times like these, this free-flow serving of rice would cost a bomb!

The Phad Thai ($18) here is also pretty good with a generous dash of fish sauce.

For dessert, we shared a Sung Kaya ($14) which was a coconut pudding with shavings of fresh coconut. Soft and slightly sticky, it was rich and sweet. But I couldn't handle more than three mouthfuls. Too rich for me.

In a nutshell, the food may be a little expensive for Thai food here but what they offer is generally good and the ambience is worth checking out.

#02-02 Hort Park
33 Hyderabad Road
Tel: 6476 9000

Chew On This: In the day, I suspect the natural sunlight filtering into the restaurant would make this a bright and cheery place. For dinners, I would recommend making a reservation for a place outside. There are nice seats and dinner would be by the pond/pool.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chill Yo!

Is it me or is the weather getting hotter? Even without the sun at night, the heat seems to still creep in. If it's global warming, the spike in the number of people blasting their air-conditioners will certainly add oil to the fire.

So in these hot days, I found bliss chilling out with a cup of yogurt in hand in cool (read air-con) comfort. Instead of blasting your air-con at home, go to a shopping centre. That way, the air-con is shared by more people....communal usage...maybe it'll be as energy-efficient as taking public transport?

Anyway, back to the yogurt. It's from Yoguru, located at the revamped Kallang Leisure Park. There is a choice of Original or YoguBliss, with the former being frozen white yogurt sans flavouring and the latter currently being a Pomegranate and Pink Dragon Fruit combination. I opted for the twist ($3.80 for regular) which features both the Original and YoguBliss in a swirl.

The Original was nicely tangy and creamy. Good even just on its own! The YoguBliss was rather light in taste and had just a hint of the pomegranate. Dragon fruit (pink or not) is beyond my taste buds. The topping of Honey Nut with Almonds ($1.20 for one topping) added a nice counter texture to the smooth yogurt but lacked a certain aromatic nuttiness. I would have preferred wheat germ. :)

Nonetheless, it was still a very delicious treat especially in this sweltering heatwave. Oh and it made me feel really healthy too.

Ah Kallang Leisure Park brings back memories of my cricketing days....

Kallang Leisure Park
Tel: 6344 8860
Opens: 12pm-10pm (Sundays to Thursdays)
12pm-11pm (Fridays and Saturdays)

Chew On This: Yoguru is Korean for yogurt!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prawns from the River?

Jackson Kopitiam, or more affectionately known as Jackson Market to my family, used to be a regular Sunday haunt for lunch considering its close proximity to Elim Church. Together with my family, my cousins, auntie and uncle have fond memories of chomping on fishball noodles, sambal stingray, pork porridge, ngor hiang, char kway teow etc on a sunny and hot Sunday. Western food was had at the now-defunct Dolphin's Steakhouse just across the street.

Ah memories... Now Jackson Kopitiam is also no longer around. But across the street there is River South (Hoe Nam) Prawn Noodles, one of the most raved about prawn noodles on the island. Strange that I've never noticed it's existence till lately.

My first order was the Prawn and Pork Ribs with chor bee hoon (thick vermicelli) in soup ($4). Oh yessss...the soup had a thin orange foam on the surface. Presumably from all the boiling of prawn heads and shell. It was a good sign, for the soup was prawny-ly rich but yet rather light and clean tasting. Totally different from the robust, in-your-face soup from my favourite Beach Road Prawn Mee in Upper East Coast.

As if following some kind of ritual, my second order was for a dry version of the Big Prawns with Yellow Egg Noodles ($4). Sad to say, the chilli was too sharply spicy for the noodles. The heat overwhelmed everything else. No pork lard or vinegar could save it.

But the good part was the prawns that came in another bowl with soup that was more flavourful. I find that noodles in soup tend to dilute out the taste of the soup.

And the prawns here came without their shells (which I guess they strip away to use for the soup). How convenient! I was a little disappointed with the size especially since the stall called it 'big' but it was still decent nonetheless...just not what I would expect of 'big'. Size is indeed relative. The flesh was meaty, sweet and had an incredible bite, not in the super-crunchy chemically-enhanced way. For me, this has got to be the best prawns in my prawn noodle escapade so far!

Their business card is on almost every table. Serious business and a good move me thinks.

Chew On This: For those who like lots of ingredients in their prawn mee, you'll be glad you can pick from intestines, stomach, baby abalone, canned clams etc etc.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ramen at a Bargain

Rice prices has made newspapers headlines in almost everyday. Along with rice, wheat, soy beans, corn, sugar, flour etc have also greatly increased in price. Eat less? Eat cheaper food? I say be wise and eat within your means.

Thank God there are still affordable options out there.

The extended wing of Centrepoint Shopping Centre has a basement lined with food stalls and restaurants. But it's like a maze quietly tucked away in the madness of Orchard Road. And out of this maze, I discovered Sumi Yakitori by pure Singaporean instinct (read promotions).

The light dinner started off with a plate of raw veggies ($1/person including towels). I eat salad but shudder at the raw thick cabbage leaf. Mum enjoyed this though and I was more than happy to pass her my share. The dipping sauce, in which the waitress instructed us to squeeze the lemon into, was like a dark miso-shoyu paste- salty and savoury.

The Tonkutsu Ramen ($8) brought a very comforting feel. It was so familiar. Uncannily like Chu Qian Yi Ding instant noodles with the aromatic sesame oil. But I would have preferred a richer broth and the ramen itself was too cooked for my liking. The thick and juicy cha-siu was a delight though.

I'm not a fan of tomatoes (ketchup is different :p) but decided to try the Momotaro Ramen ($8) anyway. The soup was a clear soyu broth and the cubes of momotaro tomatoes added a slight tangy note to it. This was delicious and it seems to grow on me. As for the purportedly organic momotaro tomatoes, I still think they tasted like normal ones....which is to say, not something I enjoy.

Sumi seems more like a Japanese grill kind of place instead of ramen house. So we decided to order a few grilled items to see what it offers.

The Fresh Tiger Prawn ($3.50) had blackened legs but fortunately the flesh was protected by its shell. The flesh was sweet and firm but a tad too dry.

Shishamo ($2) aka smelt, was average, neither outstanding nor horrible.

The Tako ($3) aka octopus was a stick of small, chew-till-teeth-drop morsels. It was a case of too hard, too chewy for me.

Then comes the Sweet Corn ($2.50) to save the day! Each kernel was plump and burst with sweet juices upon nibbling. The nice smokey aroma by the grilling was evident and complemented the natural sweetness of the corn well. This alone would have erased the damage done by the Tako.

Lady's Finger ($2) could have been another potential winner but it was too heavily salted, over-riding the flavours of the lady's finger and bonito flakes.

Another good item to order would be the Sea Scallops ($6.50). Reasonably fresh and succulent, its saline-sweetness from the sea was boosted by charcoal smokiness.

In a nutshell, don't expect ultra fine Japanese food here. It's more like a budget ramen place with a few stars from the yakitori menu. To put things in perspective, it almost felt like paying food court prices at a restaurant for the ramen. (Refer to Chew On This section below.)

Sumi Yakitori
Centrepoint Shopping Centre
Tel: 6836 0912

Chew On This: Sumi Yakitori is running a buy-one-get-one-free ramen promotion for both lunch and dinner! So this effectively makes a bowl of ramen to cost about $4. I think some food courts would feel the heat.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Decent, Affordable, Away-From-the-Crowd Set Lunch

Opposite the ever-crowded Bugis Shopping Centre, the streets of Tan Quee Lan, Purvis and Liang Seah often contain some of the over-flow crowd. But there are gems of peace and quietness amidst the maddening crowd. One gem is Cherie's Pan, located on Tan Quee Lan Street and opposite the 7th Storey Hotel.

I discovered Cherie's Pan when it was the venue for grandma's recent birthday. The dinner will be covered in another post soon.

I was so happy of finding a quiet little place that's not ultra-ulu (remote) and dishes up very affordable food that I went back to try their lunch sets.

The Lunch Set ($9.90nett) was very simple. It consisted of a Soup of the Day and a choice of one main course- Fish & Chips with French Fries & Coleslaw, Spaghetti Carbonara or Oven Roasted Cajun Chicken with Mashed Potato & Salad, Lemon Butter Sauce.

The Soup of the Day during that visit was Pumpkin Soup. The natural sweetness of the vegetable shone and the soup wasn't overly creamy or thick. The accompanying piece of toasted baguette with pesto tasted good dunked in the soup.

We shared an ala carte order of the Beef Fajitas with Capsicums, Onions, Sour Cream and Mexican Tomato Salsa ($7.50). Alas, this turned out too dry for me. A tad more of the luscious sour cream and a bit of juice in the strips of beef would have made this better.

Moving on to better things. The mains for the set lunch soon arrived. The Oven Roasted Cajun Chicken was a juicy piece of chicken thigh that had a smokey, spicy flavour. Delicious. A pity the dollop of mashed potato was so tiny, it became so conscious of its size and hid behind the leaves. Talking about leaves, the salad did contain a nice mesclun mix with radicchio and watercress! I had expected the generic iceberg. Brownie points! Btw, where's the lemon butter sauce?? I guess I never did miss its absence. The chicken was already tasty enough.

What about the Fish & Chips? Well, the fish had a thin, crisp batter and was moist, if a bit tasteless. But HOT fried food can't really go wrong. So chomp on the coleslaw and slather some tartare sauce on the fish. It's still really decent.

The portions may be a little on the small side but hey, who's that complaining of being sleepy after a heavy lunch? At $9.90nett for a set lunch in a quiet, air-conditioned spot away from the crowd yet still near civilisation, it doesn't get any better than this.

Cherie's Pan
21 Tan Quee Lan Street
Tel: 6835 7969

Chew On This:

For those with kids, crayons are available at each table. Doodle away!