Sunday, December 28, 2008

Silk Road

Silk Road, located on the 2nd floor within the Amara Hotel, Tanjong Pagar, has been one of my favourite Chinese restaurants for over 2 years. They specialise in cuisine from Sichuan, Shaanxi, Beijing and Liaoning.
Their menu is incredibly vast, and I must admit that I was almost never disappointed by anything I picked from it. Their cooking is consistently of very high standards, especially their dumplings and noodles. I love the open kitchen concept, which adds a twist of action to a comfortable, softly lit and spacious environment. Service needs a bit of work to match the food, but considering the fairly reasonable prices it's something that most would be prepared to accept.

A snack is regularly served as you sit at the table. It is either steamed peanuts with tofu or this pickled vegetable. I love the steamed peanuts, while I find this pickle slightly salty.


My all time favourite, and one dish I must order every single time I visit this restaurant is the shaved noodles. They are served both dry or in soup with beef or seafood. I recommend the dry shaved noodles with beef ($6). These noodles, as the name suggests, are shaved directly from the dough and they have an irregular, rough texture.

The Shenyang combination dumplings ($8) are filled with vegetables, pork and prawns and they are very juicy and tasty even without the sauce provided, which is quite strong in garlic.

The Fried french beans with pork ($13) is one of my favourite Chinese vegetable dishes, and Silk Road serves a very authentic version of the dish as opposed to the sweeter version that is more commonly served in Singapore. The savoury and crispy pork accompanies well fried and textured green beans.

Out of all, the Sichuan eggplant with bean sauce ($13) is the one I enjoy the least. I find that the flavours are too overwhelming and they cover up the delicate aroma of eggplant. Although the dish might be authentically done, it wouldn't be my first choice.

I ended the meal with 2 Chinese desserts. The Yam paste with Gingko nuts ($5) was very smooth and delicate, served warm and well balanced in sweetness.

I love the cotton cake with coconut ($6), consisting in extremely soft and fluffy textured squares of steamed egg white lightly sweetened and dusted in dry coconut flakes. This dessert is recommended if you are feeling full after the meal and you need to end it with something sweet. It is so light that you won't feel aggravated by it!

The total bill was $102, including an Eight Treasure tea ($3) and 2 soft drinks. There is very little to argue about this restaurant. Their food is consistently top notch, offering a variety of regional dishes that are not commonly served in Singapore, the ambience is pleasant and quiet and it's reasonably priced.

Website: http://www.silkroadrestaurants.com/about.html

Summer cocktail

What's best than a refreshing cocktail on a beach on the Italian coast. This is what you call a typical Italian cocktail, very refreshing, simple, based on Italian products that are readily available in Singapore.

All you need is:
  • Limonata San Pellegrino (available at any Cold Storage)
  • Fernet Branca
  • A slice of lemon for decoration
  • Ice


Put 4 ice cubes into a tall glass, pour 1cm of Fernet Branca into it, and top with limonata San Pellegrino. Stir and decorate with a slice of lemon.

Mentaiko Pasta

Although some Italians might not agree, I like some of the original pasta combinations that the Japanese came up with. In particular, mentaiko or tarako pasta is a winning combination of Japanese flavours.

For this recipe, I used a fairly classic way of making a seafood based pasta sauce, as if I was making Pasta alla Bottarga. I also added a seared scallop and a slight regional touch of green chilly on top. The other peculiarity is that I used organic wholewheat farro pasta. Farro is a particular type of Italian grain. You can buy this type of spaghetti at the most popular "Cold Storage" branches.

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large sheet of Nori seaweed
  • 1 Mentaiko egg
  • Olive oil
  • Green chilly for decoration
  • 250 gr. of Farro organic wholewheat spaghetti or alternative
  • 2 scallops
  • a dash of white wine
  • dried chilly flakes
  • salt

Peel a few cloves of garlic and crush them slightly maintaining their overall shape. Wash and remove seeds from a couple of green chillies, and cut them in Julienne strips. Trim a large sheet of Nori seaweed into very thin strips.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add a handful of rock salt (the water must taste salty but not too salty). In a skillet, sear the scallops until ready and wash with some white wine during their cooking. Remove the scallops and set them aside, put the pasta into the boiling water and stir well.

Cover the bottom of skillet used to sear the scallops in olive oil, heat it for a few seconds and put the whole garlic cloves into it, adding some dry chilly flakes. Let the garlic slowly turn golden keeping the oil temperature under control, then add a dash of white wine and evaporate it. Add some starchy water from the pasta and keep topping up as the water evaporates and the sauce thickens. This will help you balance the consistency of the sauce, making it juicy and non oily. Remove the garlic, put the chilly into the sauce, cook for a few seconds, remove from the sauce and set aside.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and mix the seaweed into the sauce making sure it's well stirred in (be careful as nori tends to stick together in lumps), then put the pasta into the skillet and stir well. Serve the pasta onto plates and unevenly stir in the mentaiko while on the plate (mixing the mentaiko into the skillet would cook it and spoil its tangy flavour). Finally, top with a scallop and some green chilly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gohanya-Tsubaki An

Located in the middle of Boat Quay, Gohanya-Tsubaki An is well known by the local lunch crowd for its relatively low priced Japanese menu. Run by some Japanese ladies, the restaurant differentiates itself by serving home-style Japanese cooking for the lunch crowd.


The Oyako Don ($18+) came with a very classic Japanese potato salad and mashed pumpkin salad. The pumpkin salad was a nice combination of sweet mashed pumpkin, raisins and crunchy vegetables.

The Oyako don itself was certainly above average (compared to other restaurants on the same price range). The egg was half set and juicy as it's supposed to be, the rice was moist and the sauce gently added flavour bringing all the ingredients together.

The fried chicken curry ($18+) set was as good as it can get. Crispy, succulent chicken, sweet Fukujinzuke pickles and a thick, mild and sweet curry sauce with chunks of potatoes and carrots.

Finally, we were served a Honey Pudding dessert (included in the meal), which tasted more like a honey pannacotta. The serving is very small but just enough to end your meal with a light sweet note.

I didn't find this restaurant particularly cheap, and although the dishes are authentic and the menu quite consistently proposes a home cooking style, I still believe prices should be a bit lower. On the positive side, a soft drink and a tiny dessert are included, and there isn't too much competition in the area serving a similar sort of food.
The bill was $39.60 in total, so expect to pay an average of $20 per person for a basic meal. This is not a restaurant that will surprise you, however it will consistently deliver simple, authentic Japanese dishes.

Gohanya-Tsubaki An
Address: No. 3 Canton St #01-01/02
Tel: 6334 3510

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pietrasanta

Here I am, once again on my quest for the best Italian food in Singapore. Wearing my Italian hat, I grabbed my courage to try another Italian restaurant which might hopefully be a wonderful new discovery.

Pietrasanta is located in what I consider one of the best locations in Singapore. Portsdown road is a long, dark and isolated road with some new interesting establishments (Klee and Laurent Bernard), and Pietrasanta is one of them. Housed within a colonial property, the restaurant has a large hall with high ceilings, a long terrace and a wonderfully relaxing courtyard. All three are dining areas and they offer a slightly different ambiance.
The restaurant claims to serve Tuscan food (Tuscany is a beautiful region in Italy, notorious for its culinary specialities). Will it deliver its promise?

We were given the menu and a long vocal selection of "specials" by the waitress. Shortly after, the order was professionally taken by one of the owners. He was knowledgeable and very helpful with the food selection and recommendations.

The Grilled Scamorza with Parma ham ($18.90) was incredibly gnummy. This is a real classic. I love scamorza and I was delighted to be able to have this in Singapore! This was a special and it might not be available on a regular basis, depending on availability of the cheese. For those who don't know, Scamorza is a typically Italian medium matured smoked cheese. Particularly nice when grilled and accompanied with ham.

The Acciughe fritte (deep fried anchovies, $22.90) is a typical home cooked dish. My mother used to make it often, and I was beaten by the temptation of having home food. I would rate it ok, although not the best. The anchovies were tasty, but slightly soggy and not as crispy as I would have hoped for. Overall I was quite pleased with the starters, enthusiastic about the fact that they had some typical Italian products, not always available at your average Italian restaurant. I was eager to get to the pastas!

The Squid-ink tagliolini with tomato sauce and crab meat ($24.90) were quite amateurish. This was a deep disappointment, after the nice starters. The tagliolini were not very professionally made, and they were totally overcooked. Soft and soggy, they were served with a tomato sauce that I would only expect from a beginner trying to cook Italian food! The sauce was messy, with an excess of garlic and tasteless, runny tomato. It hurts when you are paying $22.40 for pasta you could have at any average cafe'.

The real scandal was the spaghetti with prawns ($24.90), another special of the day. I really don't know where to start... beginning with a positive note, the prawns were succulent and juicy. Besides that, the pasta was what I would consider shameful to any Italian chef. Just looking at the spaghetti lying on a pool of oil (without even tucking into it) I could visibly tell that they were precooked. Precooked! I can accept having precooked pasta at TCC, but not at a "Tuscan restaurant" where I am paying such prices! Not only it was precooked, but badly cooked the second time, as the texture was quite raw and just weird. It has been ages since I had precooked pasta, and it did bring back memories! What a shame... the sad thing is that obviously people can't tell and chefs can get away with such shameful shortcuts.

Luckily, we only ordered one main dish. The Grilled Swordfish ($28.90) was served with salad and potatoes on the side. One of the potatoes was undercooked, and the fish would have been fresh and tasty if it wasn't so excessively greasy. Perhaps a twist of lemon would have helped, but as it was every mouthful felt oilier and oilier...

After the bad experience with the pastas and main, we weren't in the mood of investing into desserts and decided to end the meal. The bill was $150.05 in total, including a bottle of water and no wine. I never mind spending for good food, but given the amateurish quality of what we had, I felt totally ripped off.

Au revoir Pietrasanta, shortcuts might do magic with some naive customers, but not everyone!

Pietrasanta
5B Portsdown Road
#01-03 Wessex Estate
Tel: 6479 9521

Cassis - Saturday Brunch

UPDATE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.

I have already reviewed this restaurant before, but I wanted to go back and check out what executive Chef Eric Guilbert has prepared for the new Cassis lunch menu. Some items remained the same since last time I visited Cassis, but there are some new dishes and overall the new version is more interesting and appetising.

I started off with an Asparagus "Vichyssoise" with vegetarian caviar and smoked salmon tataki. Compliments to the Chef, as this dish was absolutely phenomenal. An incredibly light and foamy sour cream that disappears in your mouth, topped by a savoury vegetarian caviar, was accompanying slices of seared fresh salmon. The whole thing was immersed into an unprecedented delicate asparagus creamy soup. The subtle balance of flavours of this dish can only come from a very experienced Chef.

The other starter was a Mozzarella Bavarois with pesto marinated grilled vegetables and crispy Parmesan. I loved how Italian traditional classic flavours and modern French cuisine were successfully combined. As you can guess, the highlight of this dish was the mozzarella Bavarois. I am not sure how it was prepared, but it was a very interesting Bavarois-like textured mozzarella, accompanied by all time favourite Italian vegetables such as peppers, zucchini and aubergines.

The Veal Blanquette, linguini pasta, Olives and Vegetables was a meaningful example of French interpretation of pasta. I liked the fact that pasta was prepared in a French-style, without compromising on quality. The veal was tender and tasty, while the handmade linguini (which were actually more like fettuccine) were served into a creamy and buttery emulsion.

My Red snapper fish, potato puree, winter vegetables, sweet yellow curry sauce was a classic and well executed dish. The snapper was tender and succulent, topped by its own light and crispy skin. The mild curry flavoured sauce added a twist of flavour to the puree and vegetables, as the fish was so perfectly cooked and seasoned I wouldn't want to dip it into any sauce.

I ended my meal with a Cassis jelly and Bavaroise on a fine Sable Breton, almond milk ice cream and fruity meringue. Although I always tend to go for chocolate based desserts, I enjoyed this combination of temperatures, sweet and sour flavours and velvety and crunchy textures. Description and presentation of this dessert are a real temptation, and taste matched expectation.

We were also served a complimentary plate of sweets prepared by the patisserie next door, run by the same owner. The service was incredibly attentive. The staff did their best to make me feel at ease although I went late and they were almost closing.
The final bill for 2 people was $65.05, including a 2 course ($25.50) and a 3 course ($29.75) set lunch. This is an absolute bargain. I don't think you can get this quality of food, ambiance and service for this price anywhere else in Singapore. If you can, let me know as I will be there in no time! I have visited this restaurant 3 times, and I never left disappointed. I can only recommend Cassis for its ambiance, top service and consistent excellence in French cuisine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Flutes at the Fort - Saturday Brunch

What's unique about this restaurant is its prime location. Situated right in between the main road and Fort Canning, it's walking distance from town offering a very relaxed and green environment. It's an ideal place to go for lunch if you happen to be around the area and you feel like taking a break from the buzz of town.

Their Brunch Menu includes a good variety of French-style dishes with a selection for kids and it's reasonably priced at $25++ for 2 courses and $32++ for 3.

The mushroom salad was served with warm mushrooms, goat cheese and rocket. The mushrooms were quite juicy and tasty, and overall the dish was ok although not outstanding. It lacked of that extra touch to distinguish it from the rest.

This deep fried squid was served on a bed of rocket and cherry tomatoes and topped with mayonnaise. The squid was crunchy and non oily, although not particularly soft. Once again, an OK dish, although nothing you couldn't have at a regular cafe'.

The Eggs Benedict with bacon were the highlight of the meal. Two poached eggs topped with hollandaise sauce on toasted soft bread, accompanied by 4 rolls of nicely roasted bacon and a rocket and tomato salad.

Finding a good egg benedict is not easy, and I have to say this was very well done. Excellent sauce, well balanced in sourness, perfectly poached eggs and crispy bacon to go with. Out of the dishes I had, this is the only one I would come back for.

I ended with a Pavlova accompanied by fresh fruits and topped with raspberry sorbet. This dessert was light and refreshing, with a good combination of fresh fruits including rhubarb and topped by a moderately sweet custard cream. The sorbet topping contrasted the rather sweet meringue with its cool sourness balancing the overall result.

The bill came to a total of $78.86, including a bottle of sparkling water, 1 x 2 course and 1 x 3 course meal. I would be interested to try this restaurant in the evening to taste what their regular menu is like. the brunch menu is nothing outstanding apart from the eggs benedict, but you still get your value back in terms of attentive service and relaxing environment. You probably wouldn't come back for the food itself, but I still believe that the price is reasonable when related to the whole package.

Website: http://www.flutesatthefort.com.sg/
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