Sunday, June 5, 2016

Modern, Creative, Fancy Chinese (Cantonese) Cuisine at Kai Garden, Marina Sqaure.

Chinese restaurants can be a bit indistinguishable, sometimes, with different restaurants across different chains and cuisine types sharing many similar menu items. So it was quite refreshing to hear that Chef Fung Chi Keung, formerly from Mandarin Orchard and the Paradise Group, has struck out on his own and established Kai Garden restaurant in an attempt to put a few modern, creative twists on traditional Cantonese Cuisine. Suitably armed with an excuse to spend (i.e., a special occasion), we paid the restaurant a visit last weekend to sample Chef's cuisine.

Kai Garden Marina Square

The creativity starts off with one of Chef Fung's signature appetizers - Chilled Cherry Foie Gras ($24): Chilled balls of foie gras pâté shaped to resemble cherries. It's a very amusing and playful start to the dinner, but your enjoyment would really depend a lot on whether you like pâté in the first place. The darling and I are huge fans of pan-seared foie, but not the minced variety, so this was taste-wise a bit "meh" for us.

Kai Garden Marina Square Chilled Cherry Foie Gras

We move on, then to the Crispy Whole Peking Duck ($88). The duck itself is superb, with crispy, fragrant skin clinging on to just the right amount of fat underneath. What's unique about the rendition here at Kai Garden are multi-coloured pancakes (the different colours coming naturally from adding charcoal, beetroot, lettuce and pumpkin respectively), and a variety of different dipping/spreading sauces.

If you're a traditionalist you'd probably stick to flavouring your pancakes with the regular sweet & tangy peking duck sauce, but if you're up for some experimenting, there are mixed, black pepper, sesame and seafood (with crab meat) sauces as well.

Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck
Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck

Did I mention that the skin of the duck is oh-so-crispy? Definitely one of the better peking ducks in town.

Kai Garden Marina Square Peking Duck

Next up - the Live Garoupa in Lobster Soup. This is by far the most well presented (Chinese cuisine) fish dish I've ever been served. The fish is brought to the table with its fillets pre-sliced and still raw, poached in the umami lobster broth, and immediately served in individual portions.

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

The lobster broth is a just-right, perfect accompaniment to the delicate, perfectly-cooked fish slices. It's just the right consistency (it's a soup/broth and not a bisque), and is just flavourful enough to accompany, and not overpower, the fish. The dish tastes just as amazing as it looks.

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

The rest of the fish - bones, head, etc - is then taken away and cooked with salt & pepper so as not to go to waste. This sort of excellence doesn't come cheap, though - the fish is "seasonal price" on the menu; during our visit it was a staggering $20/100gm (this 1kg fish alone cost more than all the other dishes combined).

Kai Garden Marina Square Garoupa in Lobster Soup

Another of chef's creative takes on traditional Chinese/Cantonese dishes: the Sweet and Sour Pork on The Rocks ($22). Yes ... this is essentially fancy gu lou yuk (咕噜肉). Nevertheless the meatball is delicious, with an interesting core of fresh milk and coconut milk, surrounded by minced pork with a crispy honey shell. I don't really understand what the ice is for, though.

Kai Garden Marina Square Sweet and Sour Pork on The Rocks

Just to check off the food pyramid checklist - the Wok Fried Hong Kong Kai Lan ($20), which had quite a bit of oomph on the flavour department thanks to the umami from the anchovies.

Kai Garden Marina Square Wok Fried Hong Kong Kai Lan

A final tummy filler: the meat from the peking duck, stir-fried with mee sua ($18). Competent and well-executed, if a little bland / normal compared to the rest of the menu.

Kai Garden Marina Square Duck Meat with Mee Suah

Additional costs to the bill: Chinese Tea & tid-bits ($17.40 for 6 pax), service charge and GST, which pushed us up to $450 for 6 people. Other than the Garoupa, I would say that Kai Garden's menu items are good value for money, considering the taste, quality, and effort involved to prepare and present.

The Garoupa, on the other hand ... it was a very accomplished dish, and one of the better fish renditions I've had in a long while, but it is pricey as hell.

In any case, overall my family and I were thoroughly impressed with the effort Chef Fung is taking to try and revitalize / modernize Cantonese dishes, without departing too far from how they are expected to taste, and would not hesitate to recommend the restaurant.

Kai Garden is on the third floor of the Marina Square mall (same wing as the food court). Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Non-halal.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

BBQ Meats at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, Kampong Bugis.

Roasting over a proper fossil fuel - be it wood, or charcoal - is one of the best ways of cooking meat (and other foods). With the right cut of meat, and the right fire or charcoal, the intense heat coupled with the smoke & other aromas from flare-ups from the fat drippings give a wonderful taste that other cooking methods can't match.

Unfortunately, BBQ'ing is also one of the most troublesome cooking methods. It takes a lot of effort to book a pit and start a properly hot fire, which simply doesn't make sense if you're only feeding two mouths. So we were thrilled to find out about Camp Kilo Charcoal Club - a newly opened charcoal-grilled BBQ restaurant at Kampong Bugis!

Camp Kilo Charcoal Club BBQ

It's testament to the Kilo brand that within a week of (official) opening, the restaurant is already full house at dinner. It has a very casual, hip-and-happening vibe, and the dining area is al-fresco (outdoor only). Orders are placed at the counter - menu items will probably change in the future but for now there's Poussin Chicken (young, less-than-a-kilogram birds; $10 for half, $18 for a whole bird), Whole Roasted Pig ($12/100gm), Crispy Pork Belly ($10/100gm) and Pork Ribs ($15 for ½ a slab, $30 for a whole slab).

Camp Kilo Charcoal Club BBQ

There's a complement of side dishes on menu, too - we tried the Brussels Sprouts ($14), which were sweet & spicy, with a hint of bitterness, and crisp from added rice puff balls.

Camp Kilo Charcoal Club BBQ
Camp Kilo Charcoal Club BBQ
Camp Kilo Charcoal Club BBQ

The BBQ meats overall, while being very reasonably priced (I'd go so far as to say they were cheap) and generally very competently cooked, were a little compromised taste-wise. For example, the crispy pork belly was succulent, tender and tasty, but the skin wasn't as crisp/cracking as a Chinese sio bak; The ribs had a terrific house BBQ sauce but could have done with a longer cooking time in a proper smoker. The chicken was perhaps the star of the show: juicy, moist, with just the right amount of char on the skin.

We're also not huge fans of al-fresco dining in the Singaporean heat; but having air conditioning would inevitably mean a hike in food prices, so that's perhaps a reasonable sacrifice to make.

Camp Kilo Charcoal Club is on the ground floor of Kilo's Kallang headquarters - i.e. one of those places in Singapore where you really need a car (or taxi) to reach. Apparently they only open on Fridays (from 5.30pm) and Weekends (from 11am). Reservations accepted for Large groups; Non-Halal.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Tiramisu Hero, Jalan Besar - Terrific Décor, Mediocre Tiramisu.

If there was ever a restaurant/cafe best described as "style over substance," The Tiramisu Hero would be it. Located in the up-and-coming gastronomic neighborhood of Jalan Besar, this cafe specializes in - what else? - Tiramisu. Decor is quirky and homey, and yet somewhat strangely romantic. It's a very nice place to impress a date, or to just relax and spend a couple of hours in air-conditioned comfort. There's even a mascot: His name is Sir Antonio.

Tiramisu Hero Mediocre Tiramisu

The Tiramisu comes in two sizes - MommaHero ($7.50 for normal flavours, $9.50 for premium flavours), and PapaHero ($17/$21) (MommaHero is just about right for one person). There are a dozen or so flavours, some of which are mighty interesting - for example, Milo, Horlicks and even Durian. We play it safe and go for Chocolate and Lemon Lavender.

Tiramisu Hero Mediocre Tiramisu

With so much effort spent on branding, a killer website, and gorgeous decoration, it's a shame then that the Tiramisu itself is mediocre at best.

For starters, both our jars had no booze. Apparently only the original and Baileys flavours come with booze - the other jars are all non-alcoholic. Is it possible to add alcohol to the non-alcoholic flavours? We don't know, because it wasn't clear on the menu and it wasn't suggested by the waitress. But fine, chalk this one down to us not being "in the know."

Secondly, the savoiardi/ladies fingers were exceedingly dry, having obviously not been soaked in espresso/any form of liquid long enough. Or at all. It follows, then, that the fingers had no coffee taste ... or any other taste.

Tiramisu Hero Mediocre Tiramisu
Tiramisu Hero Mediocre Tiramisu

So ... all style, no substance, and a bit of a pricey disappointment, then (The cafe also serves up an assortment of hot dishes, but we didn't try any of them as we were here for dessert).

The Tiramisu Hero is at 121 Tyrwhitt Road; open 11am-10pm daily. Non-Halal.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Beef Chili Recipe (to make Chili Cheese Fries, Fully Loaded Nachos, etc)

Chili Cheese Fries and Fully Loaded Nachos are one of those dish that we order frequently when we're at Carl Jr, Tony Roma's, Morganfield's, Hard Rock Café, etc.

This is also known as a great super bowl or party snack. The Beef Chili can be made ahead of time and place in the freezer or fridge. When it's the day you want to enjoy it you can warm it up and it'll be ready for the final presentation touch up to make Chili Cheese Fries, and Fully Loaded Nachos.

Serves 4 pax
Beef Chili Ingredients
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 diced Yellow Onions
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon White Pepper
500g Ground Beef
1 cup of Kidney Beans
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 tablespoons Garlic Powder
1.5 cups Beef Broth / Chicken Broth
1.5 cups of Tomato Paste / Pasta Paste
1.5 tablespoons Flour

1. Heat the pan with Vegetable Oil.
2. Saute the Yellow Onions with Salt, Sugar, Pepper until soft/transparent for approximately 2 mins.
3. Add Ground Beef, Cayenne Pepper Powder, Cumin Powder, Dried Oregano, Garlic Powder and cook until the beef is done and no pinkish beef can be spotted.
4. Combine Flour with Broth / Chicken Broth.
4. Add Kidney Beans, Broth mix, Tomato Paste / Pasta Paste and bring it to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to simmer for 30 to 40mins, occasionally stirring to blend, which will thicken the mixture.

Chili Cheese Fries
460g Frozen Fries (adjust to the volume to be consumed)
220g grated Cheddar Cheese / Monterey Jack Cheese (Optional)
1 cup Sour Cream
Pickled Jalapeno Pepper (Optional)

1. Deep fry Fries and season with Salt.
2. Heat oven to 200°C Top Broiler mode.
3. Place Fries in bottom of Glass Baking Dish, top with Beef Chili and sprinkle Cheese.
4. Bake for 5mins or until the top are slightly browned.
5. [Optional] Remove dish from oven, garnish with Pickled Jalapeno Pepper, Sour Cream and serve immediately.

Fully Loaded Nachos
500g Nachos (adjust to the volume to be consumed)
220g grated Cheddar Cheese / Monterey Jack Cheese (Optional)
1 cup Sour Cream
Pickled Jalapeno Pepper
Black Olives
Corn Kernels

1. Heat oven to 200°C Top Broiler mode.
2. Place Nachos in bottom of Glass Baking Dish, top with Beef Chili, Pickled Jalapeno Pepper, Black Olives, Corn Kernels and sprinkle Cheese.
4. Bake for 5mins or until the top are slightly browned.
5. Remove dish from oven, garnish with Sour Cream and serve immediately.

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