Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brasserie Wolf - Lunch

Your options are limited if you want to have French fare on a late Sunday afternoon. Wolf is one of them, since they are open all day during weekends, and their lunch set menu is available until 5pm. I previously had the dinner set at Wolf and I wasn't disappointed, so I decided to try their lunch menu. They offer 2 courses for $25 and 3 courses for $29.

The Goat's cheese tart was light and soft, not as cheesy as I imagined it.

As a light starter I would recommend the vine ripened tomatoes. The seasoning was well balanced and the mozzarella was tender and juicy. This was a simple, traditional Italian classic.

The chicken roulade would have been quite nice, although chicken and crab meat are not the best combination for my palate.

The roasted pork tenderloin in port wine sauce was slightly too mild and the pork could have been juicier. The mushroom polenta was tasty and helped balancing off the flavors.

The total bill was $70, inclusive of drinks. I would say that although none of the dishes stood out the food was simple and tasty. It was a fair deal and I would not rule out going back there again.

Wolf Brasserie
URL: Wolf Brasserie

Marhaba

Sometimes I miss the Lebanese food I used to have in London. I used to have my daily lunch at Al-Dar on the King's Road, and their Moutabal and sandwiches are some of my favorites.
Today I decided to adventure myself in the Arab Street area to try to find a Lebanese cafe' where I can enjoy that sort of dishes. After scanning the place, I finally decided to try Marhaba, which is not specifically Lebanese, but serves Arab food. Next time I will try Beirut, which is a Lebanese restaurant located right in front.

Their Hummus ($5.90) was pretty good, served with 4 slices of bread. The bread was good, but didn't taste freshly made on the spot, as in some Arab restaurants.

I really liked their Baba Ganoush ($6.00), which had the right coarse texture and a light smoky flavor. I would go back for this dish alone.

The Shwarma sandwiches were quite thin and didn't have much meat in them. The sauce was right and the bread not bad, but they were mainly made of bread and vegetables.

Prices were very reasonable, but it did take quite a long time for the food to come. The total bill was $36.00 including drinks. The food was pretty good for the price, and I would recommend it for the Baba Ganoush and Hommos, although the sandwiches could be improved on.

Mahraba
11 Bussorah Street
Tel: 62988220

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lan Zhou La Mian

This has been one of my top 5 favorite eateries for over a year. I regularly come to eat here every week or so, as I love the simplicity of northern Chinese cuisine.
This place is cheap, authentic and as good as this food can be. It's open until late and you know you can reliably come here anytime for a healthy snack.
Just yesterday I tried for the first time "Qun Zhong", a similar eatery located in Neil Street (5 minutes walk from Smith Street) which has nicer xiaolongbao and zhajang mian very similar to the ones served here. I will blog about it after my next visit.

The highlight, as the name of this eatery suggests, is their lamian. I am crazy for authentic Zhajiang Mian, and theirs certainly is one of the best. Besides the rich sauce, generous with minced pork and thinly sliced cucumber, their hand stretched noodles are something special. They have a firm bite like no others, and according to the master, this is his own secret recipe.

The xiaolongbao is juicy, thin dough, just like it's supposed to be.

I particularly like their fried dumplings (Guo Tie), mild, crispy and juicy. Highly recommended.

Another good reason to try this place is their lime juice, which is the best I had to date. Clean and sharp, delicately sweet, with a subtle bitter flavor. If you like this drink don't forget to try it there, as their version is different from the standard Singapore lime juice.

LAN ZHOU LA MIAN
19 Smith Street
Tel: +65 63271286
Open: Noon to 10.30pm daily

Tippling Club - Desserts

I ended up at the Tippling Club with a group of friends for drinks and desserts. the drinks were phenomenal, although very pricey. On the other hand, we had an excellent deal with the desserts. The 4 of us paid for 1 dessert each, and we got a taster of each of the 4 desserts (4 of the plates pictured for each dessert!).

I was highly impressed with the desserts, in particular the snowball. I loved the contrast in texture and temperature between the outer and inner layer of the ball.

Overall very experimental, very successfully executed. A must-try. I will be back!

Caramelized Pineapple with three textures of yogurt. I liked the crumble and spongy texture.

Sorry, I had a drink too many... I can't recall the exact composition of this crumble... but I remember I enjoyed the foam on top.

Yuzu snowball. My favorite one. The contrast in textures and temperatures is unique.

Pear tart. I am not a big fan of tarts, but this version was certainly interesting.

Tippling Club
8D Dempsey Road
Tel: +65 6475 2217
URL: www.tipplingclub.com

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Otto - Pasta Dinner

I went to Otto to try their pasta with a few fellow bloggers and foodies. The restaurant is spacious and pleasant, although unfortunately the lighting is a bit too dim to take proper pictures (reason why I am not including any pictures with this post). Otto's forte is their pasta. so we decided to just stick to that, and order a few dishes and share them amongst us.
The Chef introduced us to the special of the day, which was a "vongole with saffron emulsion". We decided to order the recommendation, as well as the "sea urchin spaghetti", "veal ravioli", "tagliatelle with wagyu beef and foie gras ragout" and "linguine with Boston lobster".

Overall, we were quite unimpressed with all the pasta dishes that we tried. The best on was probably the linguine with boston lobster, which was served with a very rich tomato sauce (although on the menu it says 'light tomato gravy'). I personally do prefer the tomato to just "stain" the lobster rather than be the main body of the sauce as in this case, but that's just a matter of personal preference.

And from the lobster pasta, we only go downhill. The second best was the ravioli with veal. The ravioli was actually well executed, with a thin dough and well textured veal inside. The sauce was ok, but the whole dish was ruined by a generous dash of truffle oil. And as you can imagine, that's all it tasted of.

Third best was the tagliatelle with ragout. Once again, it could have been slightly better if it wasn't "enriched" by another dash of the all time favorite truffle oil (which we decided to nominate the ketchup of fine dining), which perhaps was required due to the fact that there was nothing in the sauce to bind the flavors together. It tasted like tagliatelle simply sauteed with cubes of wagyu and foie gras, but all the flavors were isolated, rather than smoothly brought together by some stock based sauce. It really seemed like a failed attempt to create a sauce for the local Asian taste.

4th on my list was the day's special. The vongole was a weird variety of elongated shellfish with a spike o red roe. It didn't look anything like vongole to me. Besides that, the spaghetti were composed of a cream based sauce, long green beans, completely covered in chopped raw red peppers. I am not sure why they did that, since raw red peppers, cream and clams on pasta don't seem like the best combination to me. I don't think this would go down too well back in Italy :) Anyway, my principle remains: no cream on pasta, but even worse when it's done on seafood! As expected, no seafood flavor at all could be tasted in that rich, creamy sauce.

Finally, the "sea urchin spaghetti with bottarga" was probably the worst out of all, to the extent that if I was given a full serving I would have returned it to the kitchen. What went wrong with that? Quite a few things:
- No taste of sea urchin or trace of it could be spotted in that pasta.
- The bottarga was just there to show that it was there, however not adding any value to the taste.
- The sauce was again cream based rather than olive oil based, suffocating any real flavor that might have been there, including the traces of bottarga
- I could only taste (and smell) 2 things from this pasta. Garlic and sweet. The sweetness was not originated from the sea urchin, it really tasted like added sugar. The garlic was so overwhelming it could be smelt from the distance, and that should never be the case with pasta served in a restaurant. It can be understandable at "Spageddies", but not in a proper Italian restaurant.

Overall a disappointment from a food perspective, although the evening was incredibly enjoyable due to the good company and great conversation about food & life. Luckily, we then rescued our palate by going to Tippling Club for some out of this world desserts!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shibaken - Saturday Lunch

In reference to my previous post, this is one of those places that would deserve more attention.
A bright, spacious and relaxed ambiance brings the focus of this restaurant onto its kitchen, which is fully integrated into the dining experience. The square counter directs the attention of the diners onto the Chefs, who carefully prepare beautiful dishes right in front of their eyes.

I have been to this restaurant before (about 2 years ago) and I had a pleasant dinner. I decided to try this again for lunch. They have a few options (3 - 4 courses) priced at $38 and $45 respectively. I went for the 4 course option, and my partner ordered a la carte. Note that they only charge an additional 10%, instead of the ordinary 17% (only one +). We spent a total of $87 for a delicious, relaxed lunch. The mystery unsolved is: why were we the only ones? Well, I am not complaining for having two skilled chefs dedicated exclusively to satisfying my fussy palate!

The beauty of this place is observing the Chefs at work.

Wakame and beansprouts salad with fresh tofu and edamame.

A taster of 7 starters. The soba with bottarga (karasumi) is one of their signature dishes, and highly recommended. I also enjoyed the cream cheese tofu and hamachi with fennel. Overall, a well balanced selection of well prepared cold starters.

Burdock root soup, with a dash of truffle oil.

Salmon with mushrooms and beetroot puree'. Unfortunately the only fish dish on the lunch menu. I am not a big fan of salmon, but the dish is quite enjoyable.

This was a very good tenderloin with red wine sauce and parsnip puree'. I would say this is the most recommended dish out of the ones on the lunch menu.

I definitely liked this grapefruit jelly. Grapefruit and bitter taste lovers are going to like this dessert, as it's light and very low in sugar. The jelly is well textured, with chopped bits of grapefruit zest inside. A honey ice cream and fresh berries complement the decoration.

Shibaken
1 Nanson Road
#02-02A The Gallery Hotel
Tel: +65 6836 1613

Back Blogging again!

As some of you might have noticed, I have taken a long break from my food blogging activity. I had a busy period with moving to a new flat + renovation + work... and I had to take a break because of all that. Blogging is like going to the gym, you have to keep it going... you stop for a month, and it will take another few before you get the strength to start it all over again.

It has been about 7 months since my last post, and quite a bit has changed in the Singapore food scene since then. From my perspective, unfortunately, for the worse. I have seen quite a few good restaurants failing and shutting down. Some of the good lunch and brunch offers have either doubled in price or disappeared... In my view life for the restoration business has become tougher in Singapore, especially for those who want to deliver something special.

If you want to open a restaurant and you want to succeed, you are more likely to do so by selling burgers and fries or sausage, egg and beans Italian food that goes beyond your average carbonara or lasagne.

Clearly, we haven't yet reached the critical mass that can appreciate authentic or innovative food. It's extremely sad to see less than mediocre cooking succeeding, while genuine efforts to create something special don't seem to be rewarded. I would have plenty of examples for this, but I don't want to quote specifics. Just look around...
If mediocrity is all we are going to encourage, that's all we are going to get, it's going to grow around us...

Going forward, I will continue to post both restaurant reviews and recipes. I decided to slightly change the format of my reviews, which will be less verbose and focused on the details of every single dish, in favor of a more direct recommendation about the overall experience.

Happy reading!
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