Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marutama Ramen

I had a crave for Ramen, and I spent quite some time researching where to go. In the end, I decided to try a little restaurant that I have been observing for quite some time and never had the opportunity to try. Marutama Ramen is located at the 3rd floor of Central, Clarke Quay. I have noticed long queues in front of this rather narrow little restaurant, and I was curious to find out what's behind its popularity.

Each bowl of ramen costs $12 without any extra toppings. The Char-Siew ramen was served with 3 slices of pork, as I added the extra 2 slices for $4. Initially, I was not impressed by the noodles as they are so thin. Although I prefer more body in the noodles, I enjoyed this ramen as I ate more and more of them. The generous spring onion, seaweed, tender charsiew, all well balanced onto a very tasty soup. Some might find it salty, but this is how it's supposed to be, so that the noodles can pickup the flavour.

My dining companion chose this kakuni ramen with extra Ajutsuke tamago. The egg is very tasty, slightly running inside. The kakuni is pork belly braised for a long time (buta kakuni), extremely tender and flavoursome. I think I am going to choose this, next time!

The chef serving the ramen was actually Japanese, and I liked the fact that we ate our ramen at the counter, just like in Japan. This place is not cheap (we spent $42.35 for 2 bowls of ramen), but given that good, cheap ramen just like in Japan don't exist in Singapore, unfortunately you have to pay for quality and authenticity. I have only one negative comment to make: I with they provided a choice of thicker ramen!

Marutama Ramen
177 River Valley road
#02-01 Liang court
Tel: 68372480

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Braise - Saturday Lunch

UPDATE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.

It's been a while since my last time I visited this restaurant, which I have already blogged about. I did like their old Sunday brunch a-la-carte buffet menu, which now has become a "tapas" menu. However this time I chose the a-la-carte lunch instead.

I still love their interior design, which is particularly bright and spectacular during lunchtime, when you can enjoy a view on Palawan beach.

The Cod Brandade with Cured Salmon, Avruga Caviar, Poached Quail Egg and Rocket salad was not the most impressive starter. I wasn't impressed with the salmon, but the Cod Brandade was very good.

I didn't like the King Prawn Ravioli, Light Prawn Bisque with Lemongrass Chervil Veloute. The dish, although perfectly cooked, had a "food court" taste and smell. The soup that the ravioli was served with, reminded me of "mee rebus" or similar. I appreciate that this might be exactly what the chef was trying to achieve, but I am not a big fan of it, so it might just be me.

While I wasn't particularly impressed by the starters, the mains were a totally different experience. The Pan Seared Kurobuta Cheek, Sweet Potato Chips, Apple Spheres and Herbs Oil was absolutely phenomenal. Since they ran out of cheek, we were served a tender piece of belly, together with its crispy roasted skin. The pork stood on a bed of finely chopped vegetables and surrounded by a tasty demigras, mashed potatoes ans mustard on the side.

I chose a Cod Fish with Miso Crust, Lardons, Balsamic Onion, Green Pea, Served with Truffle Vinaigrette. The generous chunk of cod was perfectly cooked, extremely juicy and tender, and covered by a layer of subtly flavoured, thick sauce. I particularly liked the sauce that was served on the side. It looked like an olive paste and it did have a subtle taste of olives, but it was more complex than that and it perfectly complemented with the fish.

The meal ended with a Selection of French Cheese. 5 cheeses were accompanied by a mix of dry apricots, raisins and nuts. All cheeses were pretty good, although the "cheddary" one was the one I enjoyed the least. I thought the small pieces of apricot were a very good match.

The meal cost $81.35 in total, including a bottle of sparkling water. I consider this an excellent price for a meal of this caliber.
Overall Braise is still a very good restaurant, offering good food at a reasonable price in a stunning environment. The starters didn't set the enthusiasm as much as they could have done, but the mains won it back. I will definitely be back to savour these dishes or others, as they are well worth it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cooking with friends 1

Evan, Dave and I got together for a cooking session amongst friends. It was the first time I did this, and I am sure it won't be the last, as it was a really touching experience. We were all new to this and so enthusiastic that both David and I decided to cook 2-3 dishes each, which kept us busy for quite a few hours chatting and working together for this fantastic homemade meal!
Everyone gave their best and it was a revelation. I didn't know that Evan was a professional dessert maker, and her dessert definitely exceeded my expectations. It was a refined delicacy that I would have expected to find in the best dessert shops in Singapore, in the order of magnitude of Obolo or Canele'.
I also learnt a lot from David, who showed us some molecular cooking techniques. He made truffle sand to accompany the scallops, and also made a very classic dish with a twist, which I have to say was executed to perfection.
Overall, I am looking forward to our next gathering. There is a lot more to learn, and a lot more fun to be had!

David's beautiful raw scallops with truffle sand and tobiko on top. The truffle sand melted in your mouth releasing the truffle scented oil, while the scallops had a subtle zesty kick.

My crab and prawns linguine. I haven't blogged about this recipe yet, but I will. The crab meat is enhanced by the flavour of the "fumetto di pesce" created from the prawn shells. The sauce itself is made on the fly while the pasta is boiling.

David's fried Camembert was a very classic and gnummy dish. I loved the wrapping, such a delicate replacement for the more common breadcrumb batter style... the cheese inside wasn't over melted, and it perfectly retained its texture. The combination of sweet (jam), sour (salad) and salty (cheese) was perfectly calibrated.

My rotolone caprese was just a quick alternative presentation of a classic Italian combination: tomatoes, mozzarella and basil - accompanied with some Parma ham, all rolled together.

The pasta alle erbe is not new to this blog, as I posted the recipe before. It wasn't in my plans to make it, but since Evan wanted to have some homemade pasta, I chose this recipe as it was slightly more interesting and fun to prepare in a group. We made a really small portion as we were already fairly full by then :)

...and the gran finale: evan's émotion ispahan was a complex 3-layered dessert. A base of lychee gelee, raspberry gelee, white chocolate cream scented with rose petals and topped with one of her macarons. Just the macaron by itself was a masterpiece. I understood then why people buy macarons from her! I would :) Initially, when she suggested making over 10 serving of this dessert I thought it would be a waste, but it wasn't. 6 of them disappeared straight away, and the rest disappeared in the following couple of days.

Evan's blog is much more descriptive on this event, and she posted some great pictures too! Please go and check it out. Hopefully you will see more of these postings in the near future!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Italian Cheeses 1: Scamorza e Primosale

I bought these two varieties of Italian cheese from Quattro Stagioni.
Scamorza cheese is a cow milk cheese from south Italy. It can be either smoked or unsmoked, and I bought the smoked variety. I am not crazy for this cheese on its own, but I like it when grilled and paired with classic Italian products such as sun dried tomatoes, olives, preserved mushrooms or Parma ham.
I lightly grilled this on a frying pan and complemented it with strips of sun dried tomatoes. I will do this again. A well spent $4.10!

Primosale is a type of Pecorino cheese (Italian goat cheese) salted and aged for only about a month. Silky and tender in texture, its relatively simple flavour pairs a very mild saltiness with a hint of sourness. Definitely recommended to those who like fresh cheeses. As always, this is best enjoyed at room temperature, so let it rest outside the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before savouring.
Unfortunately it is quite expensive, as I paid $5.90 for a a very small slice.

Quattro Stagioni Deli

Unfortunately, Quattro Stagioni is now CLOSED.

I have been patronizing this little Italian delicatessen located at the basement of Liang Court for about a month or so, and I believe it deserve some attention. As a matter of fact, I haven't found another deli quite like this one anywhere else in Singapore. The variety and authenticity of the products they offer and the freshness of the dairy products is quite extraordinary for this corner of the world.

Their repertoire of products and ingredients ranges from authentic Italian salt for making pasta to fresh "treccia di mozzarella di bufala", from niche Italian spirits like Aperol to good quality pastas. In particular, as far as I know, they are the only ones in Singapore you can by bottarga from.

If you are Italian in Singapore, you will definitely love this place. You will be able to find some of those nostalgic products you have been missing since your last trip to Italy, or a good replacement for those "compromise" products you had to utilise when cooking Italian food in Singapore. If you are simply a fan of Italian food and products, then drop by this place. I especially recommend trying their cheeses!

Katsu-don at Liang Court

I was at Liang Court today to do some shopping, and I decided to give the food court a try. I am referring to the food court located at the basement, next to the Japanese supermarket.

I tried the donburi stall right in front of the cashiers, and I ordered a dish which I used to have quite regularly while I was in London, but I haven't been eating for years.
For $11 I thought the food was just fine, as it's supposed to be: with the rice being quite moist and juicy, mildly flavoured, and the egg randomly scrambled and half-set.
If you are a donburi lover, then this is a good place to eat-and-go. I wish they also had raw-fish donburi (like negitoro don, for instance!) but unfortunately I haven't seen those very often in Singapore. I don't think they are particularly popular with the local crowd.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mentaiko linguine

I finally found pasta De Cecco in Singapore at the basement of Liang Court for $2.85. I decided to test their linguine with some Mentaiko I also bought from Liang Court.

I added to the recipe some spring onion (instead of the classic nori seaweed), and a quail egg.

The recipe was basically a "aglio olio e peperoncino" base (the base is mostly similar to many of the recipes documented on this blog), and I added the mentaiko, spring onion and quail egg on top. The main thing to watch out for is not to add the mentaiko on top too soon, to prevent it from cooking with the heat from the pasta.

Clearly, for such a simple recipe, ingredients need to be fresh and the pasta itself of good quality. I have to say pasta De Cecco didn't disappoint me, it is as good as I remembered it. Its firm texture and porous surface make it particularly indicated for this type of recipe.
If you happen to come across this brand, I highly recommend it. I think it's also sold at the Italian delicatessen located at the basement of Liang Court.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rotolone spinaci e ricotta

Rotolone spinaci e ricotta is an Italian classic which I probably haven't eaten for over 15 years. After seeing the picture on a magazine, it brought back memories of the last time I made this when I was still a student back in Italy. The nostalgic moment gave me the inspiration, and I got started right away...

The recipe is quite simple. All you need is the following:
- 250g ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 1 bag of fresh Spinach (I bought the pre-packed one from Cold Storage)
- some breadcrumbs (Japanese panko is always best!)
- grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese

For the tomato sauce, please see my sunday gnocchi recipe, as you can use the same sauce.
The ingredients to make the pasta dough are not included in the list above. You can use the standard recipe (100g flour for 1 egg, a pinch of salt and olive oil).

Quickly boil the spinach, remove excess water and put into a blender. Once the spinach turned into a paste, put into a bowl together with the ricotta, some Parmesan cheese, salt, nutmeg to taste, pepper. Add some beaten egg and mix until the paste is smooth, then add a handful of breadcrumbs to make the mixture firmer.
Make a couple of sheets of dough, then lay them flat and join them onto a large cloth. cover evenly with the mixture and then roll slowly and cautiously. Finally, wrap the cloth all around the roll, tie it tightly at both ends and put into boiling water for about 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, make sure the tomato sauce is ready.

Remove the roll from the water, unwrap and cut diagonally into regular slices. Arrange the slices onto a baking tray, cover with Parmesan and a bit of pepper (see picture above), and put into an oven on grill. Let it grill until the top is nicely brown and crispy, then remove from the oven, arrange on a plate with the tomato sauce and some basil for decoration.

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