Monday, August 25, 2008

Tasting Tetsu

The Japanese restaurant that has been constantly raved about on the food-blogosphere recently is Tetsu. Their PR approach has reached several food bloggers and some have just organised their own blog dinners there. So this cow was happy to trot down to check out the place and for a tasting session at Tetsu's invitation.

The interior of Tetsu was beautiful with modern Zen appeal and clean lines. A large glass window panel allowed plenty of light in, making the ambience cheery and bright. Though for taking photos, it can be rather harsh backlighting when the afternoon sun beams through.

For the food section of this post, do note that some food items may be in tasting portions and are not representative of a la carte portions.

The starters of Mekajiki Tataki (above left) and Kami Tofu (above right) were a good way to start the meal.

The Mekajiki Tataki consisted of firm swordfish slices that had been aburied by a torch and paired with a light ponzu sauce. I would have preferred a more smokey flavour but I guess the chef wanted to keep the taste relatively clean.

The Kami Tofu was delicious! A creamy century egg sauce was balanced with lots of chopped spring onions and slathered onto a cube of smooth tofu. The tofu had a subtle soy taste to it and later Chef Ken revealed that he did use soy milk in the tofu.

Both starters had clean, refined tastes that would make me wanna consider up-sizing them for my next visit!

A few ala carte dishes were selected and shared. The Buta Misozuke grilled pork tenderloin had a very good skin- crisp and blistered on the outside revealing a juicy (duh) fat layer. The meat was slightly tough and full-flavoured. Those who don't like their pork porky should order something else.

The Roll Sushi was another of their special dishes. Apparently four types of seafood had gone into the sushi, which arrived topped with tobikko and surrounded by a sesame coat. I found it ordinary and the seafood mixture could have been much less stodgy.

The Tempura Teishoku was served with assorted Japanese pickles, miso soup, rice, salad and assorted tempura. It came wth dessert too (scroll down to dessert section)! The assorted tempura had the usual prawn and vegetables but also a very tasty white fish. The batter was light and the tempura items were well-fried without being dry or oil-logged. Absolutely no trace of rancidity in the oil.

The other main course was the Hire Katsu Set. It came with the same sides of pickles, miso soup, salad etc as the Tempura Set. The designer salad was refreshing and tasty with quality greens in place of old boring ice-berg lettuce. The Hire Katsu (breaded pork fillet) was also decent though not the best I've had. My main gripe was the strong taste of white pepper that had overwhelmed the flavour of the meat.

Instead of rice, we tried the cold udon and what an udon it was! Flown in from Japan, this Inaniwa udon was a little slimmer and had a good springy bite. Al dente udon I say. It had a bit of texture on the sides which helped the sauce cling on a bit, while remaining generally smooth. This has got to be one of the best udon I've eaten in recent history.

Dessert time!

The Goma Ice Cream could do with a stronger flavour of black sesame but the main irk here was the small shards of ice crystals.

Next up was the Kisetsu No Ice & Warabimochi Monaka, a dessert of vanilla ice cream, green tea, fresh raspberry and azuki beans clamed between a pastry shell. The pastry shell was from Japan too but tasted pretty much like a pastry shell to me. Cold ice cream, sticky azuki beans and crisp pastry shell. Sounds hard to go wrong here.

The Kokonatsu Milk Purin was essentially a coconut milk pudding with fresh fruits. The pudding was a little too firm and its slightly sweet coconut milk taste was so subtle that one could have just missed it altogether. A pity the tartness of the fresh fruits added a confusing dimension which just wouldn't intergrate with the coconut milk pudding.

Not all hope was lost on dessert when the knight in ...erm... algae green armour arrived at the table. The Matcha Mochi had a delightful bite with a good green tea flavour. Lying below it was another surprise...

A transparent jelly that was as fun to eat as it was to snap!

Besides hot tea, we were treated to some Umeshu which was excellent given the hot weather outside.

For a restaurant that prides itself in deep-fried food such as Tonkatsu and Tempura, it was the more humble, simpler dishes of Mekajiki Tataki, Kami Tofu and Inaniwa udon that won my heart. One unique thing about Tetsu is that deep-fried items are prepared and fried in front of customers who sit at the counter- a 'LIVE' experience that few others can boost of. The service, ambience and presentation of the food are faultless though I feel some of the food could do with more tweaks.

The Hungry Cow thanks Pris and Rachael of Beam Consultants and Chef Ken for the kind hospitality, invitation and time.

#03-18 Tanglin Mall
Tel: 6836 3112

Chew On This: Tetsu has a private room which can comforably seat 16 people. It comes with a projector for those who need to discuss business over lunch. It's not called power lunch for nothing eh.

Friday, August 15, 2008

June Makankakis Dinner 2008

In the month of June (not too long ago), the Makankakis descended on Wo Peng Restaurant for our usual monthly dinner.

Dinner kicked off with Cold Prawns with Lime Sauce. I would have preferred the prawns to be more chilled but then again preparing a dinner for 80+ people is no easy task, especially for a rather small restaurant.

The second dish of Dried Scallop, Caviar, Diced Winter Melon Soup was sufficiently tasty from the dried scallop and resembled the ever-popular Shark's Fins Soup in many Chinese restaurants. The 'caviar' was most probably referring to the Tobbiko that was scattered on top. Small orange balls that burst to add a briny touch to the soup. Interesting.

For a country that loves chicken, chicken is a must. The Whole Kampong Chicken with Ginger Scallion Sauce was much leaner than the usual chicken and was also less meaty. But it had a stronger flavour and this went very well with the ginger scallion sauce which was very aromatic and robust. TTC went on to reveal that the sauce was made with a special kind of ginger.

When this dish made its appearance, I honestly had no idea what it was- Stir fried Fresh Fish Maw with Green Chilli . The 'strange' looking things turned out to be fresh fish maw. For me, it had an acquired texture and taste. I still like my fish maw fried and cooked in soups and stews.

The Deep Fried Cod Fish Fillet with Salt & Pepper was one of my favourite dishes that night. Though the seasoning overpowered the natural taste of the fish, the explosion of spiciness and savouriness was almost like the NDP fireworks in my mouth. Not that it was extremely spicy, but that it was flavourful!

Another excellent dish that followed was the Stewed Pork Belly with Pumpkin. It was so good, it prompted for an order of another bowl of rice. The pork belly was fatty (duh) but melted away in my mouth. Stewed for several hours in the pumpkin, the pork belly was really tender and the gravy flavoured the soft, starchy flesh of the pumpkin well. For many, this was clearly the star of the dinner.

The last savoury dish served was the Steamed Crab with Glutinous Rice. The glutinous rice was nice and sticky though a tad salty which overwhelmed the crab.

Desserts were a duo comprising Glutinous Rice Ball and a (Osmanthus/Green Tea?) Jelly. Both provided a sweet ending to the meal but were otherwise forgettable.

As a final round up, a few shots of Grappa chased away that Monday blues. Glad that Karen and Wayne could join us. Yay! Their very first Makankakis dinner and I can predict with many more to come!

Wo Peng Restaurant
476 Macpherson Road
Tel: 6747 9892
Opens: 11.30am-3pm, 6.30pm-11pm daily

Chew On This: Wo Peng's Chef-owner Juliam Tam was formerly from Furama Palace. In fact, the amicable Captain May was an alumni of the latter too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Bak Chor Mee Surprise

Bak Chor Mee (minced pork noodles) is definately on my list of comfort food. There's just something about the mix of chili, oil and black vinegar that strikes a chord with both nose and tongue.

Instead of my usual Hokkien Mee here at Bedok Food Centre, I had decided to try the Bak Chor Mee instead. My $3 order of Mee Kia Tar (thin noodles in a dry-style) was surprisingly good. The noodles had a nice firmness and the balance of chili, soy sauce, oil and vinegar was spot on.

The small bowl of soup tasted of the sweetness of pork and the two pork balls were delicious with a bit of dried flat fish in them.

Not too bad at all. I hope this is not just a one-off thing but I'll have to return again to decide on that. Okayyyy, now to go queue for my Hokkien Mee.

Sin Bedok North Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle
Bedok Food Centre (Eastwood)

Chew On This: and run across to join the queue for a $2 bowl of the famous Cheng Tng!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Mid Lecture Break

It's the first week of school and Tricia who had just returned from Sydney passed me a little something in a brown bag. A dark chocolate frog is great for uplifting moods especially during dry lectures, not that Prof Mark Featherstone was anything near boring. Thanks for the cocoa treat!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Meat Meals at Espirito Bistro

Meat-lovers would like the idea of a gourmet butchery selling grilled meats and roasts on site. At Espirito Santo's Parkway Parade branch, they have portioned out about a third of the shop space and converted it into a bistro.

Looking past the hearty-sounding sandwiches (it was a very difficult choice) and the interesting-sounding Brazilian specialties (it was pure meat that we sought) on the menu, we decided on a pig, a bird and a cow.

Before the meats arrived, lunch was ushered in by a serving of complimentary squares of olive-studded bread with an accompanying pesto dip. I don't normally rave about complimentary bread but this one here is making me break my norm. Warm and spotting a nice crust with a chewy interior, the bread was good on its own. The bits of black olives added just a slight flavour but dip it into the pesto and a sunny burst of fresh basil and olive oil erupted.

I thought the way Dad decided on his order was quite cool. He simply ignored the menu and walked straight to the display counter where all the goodies were. Visuals are sure better than mere words and this is especially true as one grows.

The Roasted Pork Rack with Crackling Skin ($22) was meaty and tender. The outer parts were lean and tended to be a tad dry while the portion nearer the bone was juicier. The crackling skin had a taut bite and upon repeated chewing, fragrant oils coated the palate with a slight salty edge. It was similar to the skin on a good siew yok (Chinese roasted pork).

The Hungry Cow went for, no surprise here, beef. The Premium Aged Australian Ribeye ($27) was unfortunately not as good as the sound of its name. I found it a let-down as the steak was heavily marinated and slathered with a full-flavoured brown sauce. The herb marinate had taken away the sweet beefiness. Maybe the next time I should request for my steak to be only seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.

On this rare occasion where the pig was decent and the cow a flop, it was the bird that stood proudly. Mum's order of Free Range Chicken Leg Roasted with Rosemary, Garlic, olive Oil and Lime ($15) was fantastic! With a leg this big, the size of the chicken must have been more like a turkey on steroids. Thankfully, the flesh was succulent and flavourful. The marinate of rosemary, garlic, olive oil and lime was simple enough to enhance the natural taste of the chicken.

Each of the above order came with mashed potatoes that was uninspiring but the sauteed vegetables of carrots, zucchini, button mushroom, cherry tomato and asparagus were sweet and a delicious break from all the meat. An interesting garnish was the thin deep-fried swirls of sweet potato and spring onion (I think) that adorned each main course mentioned above. It was just slightly salty and fragrant.

For a casual bistro (in a butchery no less), the service was good with special mention of one particular wait staff who made it a pleasure for me to have dined there. Kudos to you for your attentive service that would have shamed even other full-fledged restaurants.

Espirito Bistro
Parkway Parade Shopping Centre
Tel: 6440 8867

Chew On This: There's a Working Lunch Menu featuring a set lunch option for those seeking Mondays to Fridays lunches.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Singapore Food Festival 2008

I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email invitation to the opening of the Singapore Food Festival 2008. Apparently, bloggers are now considered part of the media too. :) With the increasing dependence and popularity of the internet, maybe it's no surprise that a new wave of media has slowly emerged.

Among the crowd there, I spotted Makansutra's K.F. Seetoh, Wild Rocket's Willin Low, food bloggers Chubby Hubby & S and the Sunday Times food critic Wong Ah Yok.

The opening celebrations began by a Char Kway Teow fry-up by Guest-of-Honour, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade and Industry. It was a cameraman's favourite as one does not usually see a minister in an apron working the wok seen by the small crowd with big flashes. A shout of 'ai hiam mai hum' (chilli but no cockles) was even heard. But it was all in good fun.

Besides Mr Lee, the Singapore Tourism Board also held their own with their CEO whipping up Rojak, a local salad of fried dough fritters, pineapple, turnip, beansprouts, smoked beancurd puffs, among others, tossed with peanut, sugar and a squeeze of lime in a piquant prawn paste sauce.

The Singapore Food Sampler made its way to my table. It was almost like a Singaporean degustation offering. Mini portions of Char Kway Teow, Chicken Rice, Laksa, Roti Prata and Satay provided a taste of our local hawker fare. It's a really good way for tourists to sample their way through Singapore!

And it can't get any more Singaporean than Tiger beer, who sponsored the beer for that night. Oh yes, a really cold Tiger on a hot day/night is a pleasure.

Thank you Candy for the invitation and to all the people who made the Singapore Food Festival possible!

Chew On This: In line with the retro old skool theme of that night, each guests was given a goodie bag that was made of brown paper and had a red-and-white-striped string attached.

Here's a view of its contents. Rather heavy it was.

Among the goodies is the cool first day cover stamps which is a collaboration between Singapore and Macao. Selected dishes of both countries are featured on the stamps and guess which prominent dish represented Singapore?