May 31, 2016

Occupy Amber: Amber x André

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A mere two hours after a very interesting session with the two chefs, I'm back in the very same private room at Amber for the "four hands dinner" with Richard Ekkebus and André Chiang of Restaurant André.  I was privileged enough to have snagged a table, and unlike a few hours ago, my stomach was now rumbling and I was ready to eat!

We started with a series of snackings, and I was pleasantly surprised that the person introducing them to us was none other than Sudarampai (otherwise known as 'Pam') - André's wife.  Quite a nice change from the rude Singaporean girls André brought with him two months ago...

Foie gras, raspberry and ginger bread chupa chup, by Amber - this was a classic snack from the restaurant that had already been retired... and only brought out of retirement on special occasions.  Richard felt it would be nice to have the lollipop and the Hokkaido sea urchin on the same menu one last time.  Obviously this is something very familiar to many of us, with the coating of raspberry providing a nice dose of acidity to work with the smooth and very fatty foie gras in the middle.  The gingerbread adds a little crunch, as does the thin wafer of beetroot.

Occupy Amber: an afternoon with André and Richard

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In conjunction with the publication of his book Octaphilosophy, Chef André Chiang has embarked on a tour with the publisher Phaidon to promote the book.  Hong Kong was the last stop on the Asian leg of the tour, and two "four hands" dinners were planned - where both Restaurant André and Amber would contribute dishes.  I had the good fortune of snagging a table for tonight.

A few weeks ago, I received a separate invitation to join the chefs this afternoon.  The publisher and the hotel were inviting members of the media for an afternoon tasting session, as well as a Q and A session with the chefs.  This was a pretty good opportunity to get up close and personal with the chefs behind the restaurants that took the #3 and #4 spots on the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants, so I was only too happy to accept this invitation.

Since this was a book tour, André started by showing us his copy of the limited edition box set - with the book encased in 8 separate layers of wood, and where each layer would have to be removed by pulling in 1 of 4 different directions.  This was produced in an edition of 50.

May 27, 2016

Another Prüm evening

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Some 6 years after the first time, I was once again at a wine dinner with Dr. Katharina Prüm - the winemaker of Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm.  I didn't hesitate to sign up when I first found out about it, because I've been such a big fan of their wines.  The added bonus was that tonight's dinner was held at Zhejiang Heen (浙江軒), a Shanghainese restaurant with a Michelin star that I have never been to.

The crowd tonight was much larger than I had expected, which was a testament to the success of the organizing wine merchant.  I arrived late and Dr. Prüm was already in the middle of her speech.  Pretty soon the waitstaff would start to bring out food from the kitchen, following the preset menu.

Zhejiang Heen signature appetizers: smoked fish, black fungi in Zhejiang vinegar, pickled radish, Ningbo crispy fried eels, transparent bean noodles with shredded chicken, smoked egg (浙江軒冷盤:長江燻魚, 香醋雲耳, 醬香蘿蔔, 寧波脆鱔, 雞絲粉皮. 煙燻蛋) - so we start out with a plate full of different appetizers.  The smoked fish was not too sweet, had a pretty crunchy exterior but remained pretty soft inside.  Black fungus came with good acidity from the vinegar.  The pickled radish was pretty salty with a little sweetness and a hint of spice on the finish.  The crispy eels were pretty tasty.  The noodles were OK, and the smoked egg wasn't bad.

May 26, 2016

Dim sum with the professor

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So the globetrotting, jet-setting economics professor is back in town, as he continues his travels through Asia this year.  He is on his way to Singapore, while I had just come back from the Lion City.  Thankfully we are able to meet up in Hong Kong during his last few hours here.  I figured I'd take him to have some of my favorite dim sum items in town, especially since I myself haven't been back to Fook Lam Moon (福臨門) in a while.

I decided to order multiple rounds of small batches so that we would not have ALL of our food on the table at the same time...

Steamed dumplings with prawn (鮮蝦蒸粉果) - very delicious. With fillings like prawns, ground pork, bamboo shoots, chives, carrots, and mushrooms.

May 24, 2016

Singapore trip 2016 day 4: A heavy Rocket assault

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For someone who can't seem to get enough Peranakan food - and who insists on hitting Candlenut on each and every trip to Singapore - it seems strange that I've never managed to get to one of Willin Low's restaurants.  So I decided it was time to address this issue, and got my ass to Wild Rocket for lunch today.

I must admit that I was a little apprehensive when I looked at the menu online.  What Malcolm Lee does at Candlenut is to update Peranakan dishes by using premium, non-traditional ingredients... or employing modern techniques to cook them.  But I love his dishes because they stay true to Peranakan flavors - or at least I think they do.

Willin's menu at Wild Rocket, though, lists things like beef carpaccio, pesto linguine, beef short rib... which don't sound like the kind of flavors that I was looking for.  But I know that my friend Chubby Hubby is a big fan, so I went ahead and pre-ordered the omakase menu.  As it turns out, not many people are crazy enough to take the full omakase at lunch.

Pomelo salad with tiger prawns and frozen coconut dressing - once the scoop of coconut dressing ice cream has been mashed up, mixed with the ingredients, and started melting, the flavors were indeed very familiar.  The salad came with string beans, prawns, pomelo, deep-fried shallots, peanuts, mint, dried cranberries, and crunchy cubes of chayote.  Very nice, but the flavors of the dressing were a little heavy and punchy for a first course.

May 23, 2016

Singapore trip 2016 day 3: Ode to Odette

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Not having spent nearly enough time with my friend Chubby Hubby and his lovely wife S at the party for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in Bangkok, I figured it would be good to catch up over dinner while I'm in town.  As S handles PR for quite a few of the top restaurants in town, I was not the least bit surprised when they offered to host me at these places.  Not wanting to take advantage of too many freebies - as I always prefer to go on my own dime - I arranged to meet up with them only at Odette.

I'd had a taste of Chef Julien Royer's cuisine when I came to Singapore this time last year, shortly before he left JAAN to start things up here.  I enjoyed my meal very much, so I was pretty confident that I wouldn't be writing up a post trashing the chef's food after I had just eaten a free meal there - and putting my friends in an awkward position in the process.

I was pretty distressed to find out yesterday, though, that Chubby Hubby had come down with a case of stomach flu.  Naturally he was still recovering and purportedly having porridge tonight, so poor S was left with no choice but trying to entertain me while listening to my drivel all evening.

Chef Julien came over to greet me, and when we were ready - after I confirmed to the restaurant that I have no dietary restrictions - the procession of yummy bites started arriving.

We started out with a smaller platter of nibbles...

Singapore trip 2016 day 3: 3 desserts for lunch

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For the last couple of years, there has been one restaurant which I insist on visiting during each and every trip to Singapore.  That restaurant is Candlenut, and is my top recommendation to anyone looking to visit the Lion City.  I simply love the modern Peranakan cuisine that Malcolm Lee is doing at this place.  For the first part of my trip this year, I even went so far as to stay in the Dorsett Singapore... so I could just walk out of hotel lobby and into the restaurant.

Since my last visit, the restaurant has decided to switch to a tasting menu format for dinner.  That is actually bad news for us "regulars", because we've gone through most of Malcolm's repertoire and would prefer to cherry-pick our own dishes.  On this trip, given that I am coming to eat by myself, I decided to do lunch instead.

What I actually love most about Candlenut are actually the desserts.  So before I even stepped foot inside,  I had already made up my mind that I was gonna order THREE desserts... and take just one savory dish to start.

I was sweating a lot when I walked in, so I ordered myself a calamansi juice.  I had forgotten that they serve it straight up without adding any sugar, and provide a small pitcher of syrup on the side.  I like that.

I debated about which one savory dish to order, and after checking my past blog posts to make sure I don't repeat the exactly combination, chose to order the beef cheek rendang.

May 22, 2016

Singapore trip 2016 day 2: Industrial seafood

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I pinged my friend L and told her that I was coming in town again, and wanted to see if we could meet up for dinner.  Seeing that I was already scheduled to hit a couple of fine dining places in town, and this being Sunday night and all - when many of the city's finer establishments don't open - she proposed taking me to New Ubin Seafood.  I've been hearing quite a few Singaporean friends mention this place, so I figured I owed this place a try.

FYI, New Ubin Seafood actually isn't on Pulau Ubin... or anywhere near it.  The owners have relocated the restaurant to Sin Ming Industrial Estates, which is kinda smack in the middle of Singapore.  So I made sure I got my Google Maps working on my phone as I went north in a taxi.

We were led to the wine cellar in the middle of the restaurant, where our table of four would be seated.  It feels claustrophobic, but L had insisted that we book this room... because only VIPs who receive permission from the owner get seated in this air-conditioned room.  Well, A/C is always nice to have in Singapore, especially when most of the restaurant doesn't get it.  But wine cellars are normally kept at a temperature that falls below my comfort zone so I did feel a little chilly.

I left the ordering to the locals, with the exception of one dish that I was craving for.

May 21, 2016

Singapore trip 2016 day 1: disappointing birthday dinner

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I try to meet up with my friends Mr. and Mrs. Ho every time I'm in Singapore.  We've been friends for a long time, and have shared many culinary adventures together - including that fantastic dinner at elBulli.  This time around we're celebrating Mr. Ho's birthday a little early, so after some discussion we decided to get ourselves a table at the Tippling Club.

Tippling Club has, of course, been regarded as one of the top restaurants in Singapore for the last few years.  My first impression of the restaurant wasn't a good one, as it was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal about cryptic menus - leading me to write a post about my pet peeves regarding menus.  Nowadays the Tippling Club has entered the ranks of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for the last 3 years, and certainly would expect to bag themselves a macaron or two when the Rubberman publishes their first Red Guide for Singapore next year.  So it moved to the top of my hit list.

We started the evening at the Ho residence, where I saw the kids and their bunny before bedtime.  As was customary, Mr. Ho also opened a nice bottle of white wine as an aperitif.

2006 Beaucastel Blanc Rousanne Vieilles Vignes - lots of tropical fruits like mango, ripe and sweet on the palate.  Drinking deliciously.

After a nice stroll, we arrived at the restaurant and were seated at a table near the bar area, in full view of the open kitchen.  One could choose from either the 5-course or 10-course menu, but the whole table most take the same number of courses.  Given that both Mr. Ho and myself wanted the full 10 courses, Mrs. Ho gave in and joined us for the full experience.

Singapore trip 2016 day 1: Thanks a lot, Tony Bourdain! (again)

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So I'm back in Singapore on my annual conference trip, and as usual I'm spending a few extra days here to meet up with friends... and EAT!  As I have arrived at lunch time, I headed out to find some food as soon as I dropped my luggage off in my hotel room.

Believe it or not, I actually don't eat much Hainanese chicken rice (海南雞飯) in Singapore.  While that may sound sacrilegious, the reality is that the dish is available readily in Hong Kong, and what's on offer in Singapore isn't necessarily significantly better than what I can get in Hong Kong.  So I usually save my stomach space for specific restaurants I want to try out in Singapore, or for food that I can't easily find outside of Singapore.

I've heard about Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (天天海南雞飯) at Maxwell Food Centre for years, but never really had the urge to go.  When all the tourists seem to be heading to just the one place that they've all heard about for this iconic dish, that often spells like a serious land mine best avoided.

As it turns out, I'm staying within walking distance of Maxwell Food Centre at the start of this trip, so I figured I might as well scratch this one off the list...

May 20, 2016

Two nights with David Lai: Étienne in da 'Hood

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So... two nights after seeing David Lai at Fish School, I paid him a visit at Neighborhood tonight.  Étienne de Montille is in town and arranged a dinner at the restaurant - featuring wines from Domaine de Montille.  I was happy to have the opportunity to see Étienne again after our lunch together last year.

Hello Kitty noticed that the set menu for this evening was presented in red leather menu holders by Prada.  This was a nice touch, but a little surprising coming from the Man in the White T-Shirt.  Maybe a feminine touch from the missus, then...?

After an initial round of tasting, we sat down and prepared for the feast...

Gougere - the jamón inside the gougères was a nice surprise.  Pretty nice to start dinner with this!

Quick roast duck

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Quick stop at Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝) for my favorite roast goose for lunch.

Roast goose on rice (燒鵝飯) - I usually take my goose over a bowl of soup noodles, but decided to have it over simple steamed rice today.  Can't sing enough praises for this goose...

Blanched morning glory (通菜, 全走)

May 18, 2016

Two nights with David Lai: First School lesson

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I seem to be the unofficial ambassador for David Lai's restaurants among my group of friends, since I keep getting requests from friends to take them there.  As it happens Winnie the Chew has not been to either Fish School and Neighborhood, but since I'm attending a wine dinner at Neighborhood in 2 days - and my last visit to Fish School was some time ago - I figured we should go fish.

As we opened our first bottle of wine, though, I had a shocking realization - my SLR didn't have a memory card!  I normally check this before taking the camera out, but neglected to do so.  So while my friends very kindly and patiently waited, I ran around the neighborhood in circles in search of a store that would sell such a thing.  Thankfully I managed to find one.

Winnie the Chew was a little worried that, given 休魚期 had just started 2 days ago, what kind of seafood would be available to us.  I, of course, had supreme confidence in the Man in the White T-Shirt, and he arranged everything for us with the restaurant's new Chef's Selections menu option.

Babylonia - it's been years since David served me babylonia, and this buttery sauce was pretty damn tasty.

May 12, 2016

Is it really THAT hard?!

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The boys of MNSC gathered for another dinner tonight, and not surprisingly our host the Ox chose the Pawn Kitchen by Tom Aikens as the venue.  The food from Tom Aikens has always been solid, and I wondered what would be on our menu tonight.

House-made ricotta, broad bean, green peas, sorrel emulsion - the ricotta here has always been tasty, but now they've taken it up a notch by replacing the olive oil with sorrel emulsion - which adds a nice touch of acidity.  They've also introduced some texture to the normally smooth spread with the inclusion of broad beans and peas.  Gone are the dried herbs of old, and now we have chives and pea shoots.  A very, very tasty way to start.

May 11, 2016

Deep-fried Burgundies on sticks

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It has been some time since I last saw V, and seeing as his birthday is coming up, we decided to meet up for dinner at Hidden Kitchen (秀殿).  I was kinda in the mood for a casual place without a set menu, where we could just pick and choose... and (hopefully) not stuff ourselves.

We arrived and were seated at the opposite end of the L-shaped counter from where I last sat.  That means we were right in front of the deep-fryer.  Fortunately the restaurant has installed a powerful range hood that envelops the deep-fryer and funnels the air up to the ceiling (and presumably expels it outside), so we didn't get too much interference from the smell.  This was important because we had brought a couple of nice bottles...

Baby sweetfish (稚鮎) - nice to get these babies the length of my middle finger... They were a little bitter since all the guts and the head were still intact.  Still nice.

May 7, 2016

The first journey

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Ta Vie 旅 has been open for about a year, and the Tiggers still haven't had a chance to visit Sato-san at his new digs.  So I took the opportunity to check out some of the new seasonal dishes that have appeared on the menu since my last dinner there.  It's always good to come back and visit Sato-san and Takano-san.

It appears that the restaurant now has its own custom bottled still mineral water from Azumino (安曇野) in Nagano Prefecture (長野県) - where Sato-san comes from.

Sweet corn puffed mousse with aburi botan shrimp in shrimp consommé jelly - one of the signature dishes here that's been added back to the menu.  The Hokkaido corn was nice and sweet, with crunchy and starchy kernels embedded in a fluffy and ethereal mousse.  The botan shrimp (牡丹海老) in the center was still mostly raw after a light torching, and tasted very sweet against the strong and savory flavors of the consommé gelée.  Of course, when you combine everything together in one mouthful, the balanced achieved is just about perfect.


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