‘The day I made a chef …’

[This post is guest written by my travel blogger friend who blogs here. The following is her experience at the same omakase that we shared. I am posting it here as-is so readers can read about the same experience but from two different points of view. Her signature style is no capital letters at the beginning of  sentences. Enjoy!]

The Day I made a Chef Cry (well, almost)

that was not my intention, i promise. my friend (owner of this food blog) and I wanted to try out the omakase dinner at this japanese restaurant. she had been there for a meal and liked the food. we arrived at the restaurant from different places but were the same, late. anyway, my friend said they called when i asked her to let them know we would be late. when we finally stepped inside the restaurant, we were ushered to a private room (meant for six people)! ooh, i liked the service already… we ordered their hot yuzu drink and the wait staff told us she would inform the chef to start preparing our starter. in an omakase meal, you get served what is available for the day. after a short wait, the starter came. it did not disappoint. for starters (pardon the pun), it was visually stunning and it tasted as good as it looked. 

Minced pork and chicken on mini baguette slices

  after a promising start, we were then treated to chawanmushi with sea-urchin, oyster tempura and springrolls… that was when it started – i ate the springrolls and steamed egg but left the sea-urchin and oyster untouched. the wait staff was surprised. i told them it was my fault that I did not alert them that I didn’t like sea-urchins and oysters. 

the next course was delicious – it was a croquette of crab meat in an amazing sauce, with a side of salad (I couldn’t tell what it was. perhaps it was hollandaise, but I could only guess). it was absolutely superb. 
 

Real crab meat inside

 


sashimi next. Nothing to write home about but it was fresh and it was asthetically pleasing. chomped them down with fervour. Loved the wasabi – wondered if they made their own? 

 
the pièce de résistance finally arrived! slices of wagyu beef, sandwiched between two slices of foie gras, flanked by this delicate piece of daikon which was filled with rice (i earlier thought it was sauteed onions. seriously. how embarrassing.) and cherry tomato halves. unfortunately, i had to give the foie gras a miss. not eating foie gras is a choice and a dietary consideration. that got sent back as well. again, the wait staff gave me a look, as if to ask, why?? we were really full by then, but as i told my friend, i always have room for dessert. and rightly so. 

 
it was matcha madness – matcha crème brulee, matcha ice-cream and slice crepe on a matcha cake base. green tea heaven, luckily we didn’t order green tea earlier as we loved the hot yuzu drink, which was served in a glass teapot and refilled once with hot water. 

of course, the spanish (or in this case, japanese) inquisition was inevitable. the young japanese chef wondered why i did not eat the stuff that i had left behind. were they unpalatable? we asked if we could meet him so we could thank him for the meal and also explain why i had passed on the sea-urchin and the rest. he was apologetic, i was even more apologetic and had to reassure him that i enjoyed his wonderful culinary creations. he understood and soon left as it was the end of his day. i get that chefs are kinda egoistic when it comes to their creations and want people to appreciate them. but I did not send the food back uneaten intentionally. woah. next time, i have an omakase meal, i will have to tell the chef the long list of food I do not eat… yes, there will be a next time. we have decided we will eat here again. i hope the chef reads this.

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Shiok a do do?

Shiok is a colloquial term for something that tastes so good it has a kick in it. It is usually used with food though at times, it can also be used in relation to a good game or an enjoyable event. Shokudo, on the other hand, means dining or cafeteria or eating place. The title is a play on words.

The outlet at Heartland Mall has been opened for about three weeks at the time of posting. We came here for lunch.

Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice from the Taste of Hanami menu

 

Wrong order

The reheated version. Huh?

  

The correct order


I had their lunch special which I was quite happy with. There was a mix up in their orders which I did not notice at first. We were served tako balls which we clearly did not order and we told them so. Then I was mistakenly served cappucino which I did not realise was a mistake until I noticed that the coffee was rather cold. I thought it was a little odd that the milk in the coffee was barely warm. I mentioned this to a staff who proceeded to warm up the remainder and served it back to me again! By now I was quite shocked. For a cup of coffee that cost $5.80, I thought the least they could do was to replace it. So I asked them for a new cup, explaining to them that milk that goes into cafe latte has to be a certain temperature but not boiling hot. It turned out the tip was not necessary and the result was my corrected original order. It was then that I realised that I had been given the wrong order before. But they made good and that was important. 

My friend had the Mt Fuji Curry Omu Rice and it was not a good choice. The patty was of poor quality and too salty. The curry was also too oily. She didn’t finish her meal. 

The Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice was clearly the better value and tasting of the two. Oishikatta deshita! I’ll be back for that.

Being as new as it was, the cafe was still trying to cope with its running during the busy times. There was a nice, smiley uncle who enthusiastically refilled the tea and he made everyone feel welcomed – never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.

Shokudo, #02-00, Heartland Mall, 205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205.

The deli next door

This place was recommended by a friend who was recommended by her friends. The irony is I have driven past this place numerous times on my way to my favourite porridge place without realising what was in this little cafe. I often see a lot of people at the bakery next door and did not notice this little joint at all.

So today, a friend and I decided to check it out. Located in a HDB area, the cafe is small, the food is economical and complete. The array of food ranges from appetisers, mains, sides to desserts. One orders and pays at the counter. With the costs being kept down, one can get really good food here. It is the kind of place where one leaves after eating; not the kind where you would sit and read for a while. This place turned two this year.

There was one dish which we saw other customers trying and which we wanted to try if we came here again, which we will. It was wok-fried laksa, a fusion dish that looked really good. I’ll post the picture of the dish and a short review the next time I visit.

Next Door Deli, 529 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10, #01-2369, Singapore 560529. Tel: 6458 6180.

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Beef steak

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Grilled chicken that was good value. I especially liked the mashed potato as it tasted like it was home made.

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Margarita Chiffon cake which was quite good actually. The margarita syrup was packed separately and one would just pour it over the cake.

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The little cafe after the customers have left. Simple and cosy enough.

Mackerel Fusion

This restaurant is located among several restaurants at Tebing Lane along the Punggol Park Connector. There are many cyclists who come through here. But not all who come are cyclists though. Many come just for alfresco dining or a pleasant night out. Other restaurants in the area serve western food with alcohol. This place serves local and Chinese food.

This is one of the strangest fusion meals I have ever had. The fish was served with vinegar and sliced ginger, like they do with some Chinese dumplings except that this was not Chinese dumplings, and there was coleslaw and fries on the side. I sampled the coleslaw and the fries and decided not to have them. But the mackerel tasted really good with the vinegar and sliced ginger so I was happy. Next time I do something like this at home, I am going to have the fish with vinegar and sliced ginger. I did not take the coleslaw and fries as they seemed to confuse the taste a little. But I like what I discovered.

Ah Dong Teh House, 10 Tebing Lane, #01-03/04, Singapore 828849.

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Crackers were served before one’s meal.

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On an earlier occasion, I ordered claypot rice. The food was okay. For great food, there are other places that one can go to. For local Chinese food after some exercise, this place has it.

Fused but not enough

We decided to try this place as we have not been here before. The place was new. It seems to be an Indonesian fusion food place where they try to put a twist on traditional food.

We ordered satay chicken which looked more like teriyaki chicken with peanut sauce. The spaghetti laksa sauce was not strong enough to flavour the spaghetti. Tahu telor was not soft enough on the inside. The tahu or tofu was simply too hard. Tahu telor is not easy to make to begin with. But in what we were served, only the crispiness and the black kicap (sweet soy sauce) saved the dish.

For dessert, we had chendol with jackfruit. The jackfruit has a strong flavour of its own and the gula melaka was not strong enough unless that was done on purpose. Even my root beer float did not have enough root beer in it and because of that it tasted more like ice-cream with root beer! I expected my root beer in a mug, with enough root beer in it, definitely not in a plastic cup.

There seems to be a trend where young foodiepreneurs are putting a twist on traditional foods. This is interesting as food evolves and there is a following among the younger generation for such food. Niched properly, such places can succeed and sustain themselves. The challenge however lay in how much of a twist they can spin on the traditional recipes whereby the link is still noticeable but the dish is really a new dish in its own right. For the dishes we tried here, they just did not seem to have gone far enough. I have reviewed two other places in two other posts, Fusion seems to be In and Local Fusion Food. The challenge truly lay in moving sufficiently away from the old without losing the link completely.

The place was quiet, hip and it had free wi-fi. It’s the kind of place that I would go to again because it was nice and quiet and there were a couple of tables outside that were probably for smokers but were also conducive for quiet conversation or reflection. They do not charge 10% service charge as the food is ordered at the counter so price-wise, they are affordable and this works a lot in their favour.

This location has many other good eateries so one can be spoilt for choice. I applaud the attempt as I think that every generation will have its own kind of food that they like and am game enough to come back and try their nasi lemak spin-off the next time.

RS Deli, 224R Upper Thomson Road 574369. Tel: 6455 1242.

I expected this in a glass and not a disposable cup. I also expected it to be root beer float and not ice-cream in root beer. It needed more root beer to fit the name.

Tahu telor is not easy to cook. Here the tofu was simply too hard. I liked the crispy bits but the tofu was lacking.

This looked good but lacked one thing. The laksa sauce did not get into the spaghetti enough. It needed a bit more time for the flavour to get into the pasta, unlike rice noodles which tended to absorb flavours immediately and would get soggy easily as well.

This tasted more like teriyaki chicken instead of satay chicken. I expected peanut bits in the sauce as well but there were none unless Indonesian satay is only served with smooth peanut sauce. The ketupat (rice cake) was a little dry but the peanut gravy would have countered the dryness easily. Cucumber pieces were fine.

This dessert confused me a little. Was this an attempt to mix chendol (the green stuff) with gula melaka (though a lesser amount) and jackfruit? The other surprise was that it was not served in the same way as it was pictured though that was not so critical but it affected the presentation. I don’t think that chendol and gula melaka mixes well with jackfruit unless they reduce the chendol and gula melaka so that the focus is on the jackfruit which may be what they were trying to do here. The challenge then is in how much to reduce or add.

Fusion seems to be In

I was a little ambivalent about this place, like I was ambivalent about my order. I ordered the bee tai bak fusion which I kind of regretted because I was not sure what I was eating. Perhaps the die-hard rice fan in me only liked what they have renamed as rice pasta done a certain way and this fusion did not fit the bill. But the other burgers were fine and one has to have a slightly open mind to appreciate the different fusion of foods here like the char siew pork served on homemade focacia bread. I probably would try some of their burgers next time rather than the fusion which I had. More traditional western food like pasta and spaghetti are also served as well.

Opened by the same folks who opened Wild Rocket, this place is hip and modern and caters to a younger and more adventurous crowd. This type of food seems to be a growing trend and it is encouraging to see young adults being adventurous and trying new things and making a business out of it.

Relish It, 501 Bukit Timah Road, #02-01 Cluny Court. Tel: 67632945.

Chicken Nasi Lemak with Anchovy Sambal Burger – this was nice and I think because it resembled nasi lemak very closely, with the ingredients repackaged. The sambal was nice and made my bee tai bak palatable. I would probably order this next time if I come here again.

Grilled Portobello Tofu Burger. This is a vegetarian burger and is surprisingly nice.

Wild Rocket Beef Burger?

Thai Basil Pesto Bee Tai Bak – local rice pasta, tiger prawns, haricot beans and pine nut. I am not sure I liked this. It was too oily as I am used to eating the bee tai bak (rice pasta) lightly sauced with mainly soy sauce. I found this too oily and the taste was also a little weird. It was made palatable only because I ‘stole’ some sambal from someone who ordered the nasi lemak burger.

Blue Cheese and William Pear Beef Burger. This too was nice.

Basics plus some

This was an unexpected combination of food. Runny half-boiled eggs eaten with a dash of light soy sauce and pepper (I don’t eat it with dark soy sauce, sorry, and I don’t know when people started eating it with dark soy sauce as I’ve always eaten it with light soy sauce since I was a child), kaya toast and crab meat patties.

The interesting bit about this combination of food is that I’ve not eaten it for a long time and to eat it again, albeit for dinner, was nice as a light snack. The crabmeat patties were more to add bulk to the meal as we were out cycling and needed a little more energy for the exercise.

This place used to be a Japanese restaurant before but it is now a more local as well as Asian food place.The place is also affordable. On weekends, the queue builds up rather quickly as people come out for their leisure activities and exercise.

10 Tebing Lane, #01-08, Singapore 828836. It is opposite Popeye’s.

Half-boiled eggs. This was not how it was served. We had already ‘burst’ the yoke when this pic was taken.

Good ole kaya toast set (the half-boiled eggs were part of the set).

Crabmeat patties which were Thai. It was a little too spicy for me but then, I do not take things that are too spicy.

The inside of the patty. The patties had chilli sauce right on top of them when they were served, which we had to remove.

Local fusion food

It was a Friday night in a pub area of town. Many people were going out to chill and there was this pressure to finish the meal quickly and leave. The increasing noise level as more customers came in was also not conducive to a nice dining experience.

The day before, I had wanted to revisit a place for nasi lemak. On reaching the place, I realised I had left my wallet at work. Dang! The next day, I decided to see if there was another place that had great nasi lemak and I found out about this place. Unfortunately, this place is closing on March 3, about the time that this review would have been posted. One of the reasons was the high cost of rental in this place and shortage of good manpower. Indeed, my friend ordered a glass of mango rose beer (one of their own crafted beers) and the cost of the beer was close to the set dinner we ordered. This is to be expected in an area like this. And they allowed a beer sampler, which was nice. One would need to do a roaring business of drinks in order to survive here for long.

By its name, this is a fusion place of local food (mixed with western ingredients) and beer (the hint coming from the barrel part of the name). Wines are also served here. It is basically a place where one can enjoy good local place in air-conditioned comfort, at higher prices but not exorbitantly high, for a place in this location. The local food here can be found elsewhere for less. To pay for such food at higher prices, even if the food is fancier and more upmarket, eaten in air-conditioned comfort, requires a paradigm change. There were the added appetiser and desserts but what drove me to this place was the nasi lemak. So this review will begin with the nasi lemak and move on to the meal as a whole.

The chef used good rice for the nasi lemak. The lemak or coconut fragrance in the rice was rather light. It was a little hard to taste after the strong garlic flavour in the appetiser, which was a lettuce and mushroom wrap. If there had been less garlic, it would not have taken away the taste from the rice as much. The garlic in the appetiser overpowered the taste of the coconut in the rice. The mushroom was obviously a high value item, but its combination with lettuce plus the strong garlic flavour took away from the dish as a whole.

The five spice pork and beef rendang were good however, as were the desserts of tiramisu made with kueh balu (nyonya sponge kueh) and another banana dessert. I’ve elaborated on these where I’ve posted the pictures.

The meal in itself was carbo heavy(due to the rice) and the added sweetness of the desserts(calorie laden). The food converted to sugar very quickly. This is something to be aware of and not a criticism of the food itself as we found our eyelids rather heavy shortly after the meal. Perhaps if they had served coffee as part of the meal to go with the yummy desserts, it would have been a nice added touch (and the coffee would have kept us awake).

From hindsight, we could have done with less rice and perhaps one less dessert. We could definitely have done with one less salad. If we had ordered one set dinner and settled for ala carte signature-like dishes for the other items, our experience may have been more pleasant. If I have time, I’d revisit this place again.

Wok and Barrel, 13 Duxton Hill Road. Tel: 62200595.

Lettuce and mushroom wrap. I couldn’t work out which part was the wrap. Perhaps the lettuce were wrapped around the mushroom. The garlic taste was overpowering and I love garlic usually.

Nasi lemak with five spice pork. There was a choice of sweet sambal and spicy samba on the respective cucumber slices. The coconut in the rice was not strong enough but may be fine for a predominantly Caucasian/westernised dinner crowd. The spices had indeed gone into the pork and this was good.

The beef rendang was spicy and nice. The beef itself was tender and flavourful. The coleslaw was on both dishes and unlike coleslaw which is usually made with mayonnaise, this one had a sourish vinegarish taste to it. I liked the concept but it seemed just sour unlike achar (pickled vegetables) which is sweet, sour and spicy. I was not sure if this added to the meal as a whole or took away from it. On its own or just eaten with plain rice (which people who have simple bellies are inclined to do) this coleslaw would have been great.

Tiramisu made from kueh balu (Nyonya light sponge cake). Nice.

Banana dessert. Nice as well.

A different kind of ambush

A friend introduced this place to me for a weekend lunch. It was fairly new. The prices were really reasonable and the food was mostly European, which was a good change. I ordered the salmon salad while my friend ordered a pasta. Both meals were fine for the price that we paid for them.

The menu was in the form of newsprint and the famous quotes were quite entertaining. I went back on another occasion and ordered the baby mackerel salad and rosti which were both quite nice as well. The rosti was a little oily but still quite palatable.

I also ordered the coffee which I regretted. Like so many other places I’ve been to, coffee seems to be an afterthought. Coffee beans actually do not cost that much, compared to the price of a cup of coffee but little thought goes into making a decent cup at many of these restaurants.

All in all, the ambush was not bad. The weekday set lunches are better value than the dinners.

Ambush, Junction 8 Shopping Centre, 9 Bishan Place, Bishan. Tel: 6353 3960.

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