Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Singapore's Best Cheap Sushi? Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru, Liang Court.

Today, our quest to find the ordinary (wo)man's Holy Grail of Sushi - that perfect balance between cost and quality - brings us to Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru in the basement of Liang Court. Much has been said of how this sushi restaurant serves quality sushi at reasonable prices, so we pay a visit to see if it can unseat our current favorite Tomi Sushi.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru iPad Ordering System

There isn't much of a queue on a Sunday night, so we're seated pretty quickly. Ikeikemaru is a kaitenzushi restaurant, but interestingly they've also added an iPad ordering system. Glancing at the sparsely populated belt it's perhaps safe to assume that the chefs have decided to make most of their sushi to order instead of filling up the conveyor.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru

One advantage of this, of course, is that you get freshly made sushi that hasn't been sitting on the conveyor belt for ages. We had some salmon, aburi salmon, aji (jack mackerel), tuna, shima aji (white trevally), kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) and madai (red sea bream). We thought that the fish was mostly generously portioned and fresh, and we liked the relatively small size of the hand-formed rice ball.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru Kinmedai

On the down side, our orders arrived in a plate-by-plate trickle. It's not exactly fun for a hungry person to need to wait 5-10 minutes in between bites. Also, while the rice was nicely vinegar'ed, we thought that it wasn't quite packed enough and fell apart too easily especially when handled with chopsticks.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru Salmon

Prices are reasonable, but not quite cheap. Granted, you could stuff yourself silly on SGD1.80 inari (beancurd skin) sushi, but if you order off the "today's recommended fish" menu, expect to pay SGD5.80 or SGD6.80 per plate.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru Aji and Shima Aji

We ended up with a SGD62.85 bill for two people, which is okay, but you'd pay roughly the same price at Tomi Sushi and get a lot more food thrown in.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru Honmaguro Tuna

So overall we can't quite wholeheartedly recommend Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru. While the sushi is above average, we don't like the long wait times and prices are a little on the high side for a conveyor belt sushi place. Still, if you're in the area and feel like eating some nice sushi at prices that won't break the bank, you probably won't be disappointed. Non halal.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

French on a Budget at Saveur (Far East Plaza)

France is undeniably the country that has contributed the most to Gastronomy, so much so that Haute Cuisine and fine dining establishments around the world are dominated by French, French-inspired, or French fusion menus. For instance, a quick glance at the Singapore list of S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2013 shows that Seven of the top 10 are French!

Eating French in our area of the world is typically expensive as heck though, unless you make a trip to Saveur. It's a no frills establishment that (in their own words) offers quality yet affordable French cuisine to the masses. Can "Affordable" and "French cuisine" really exist in the same sentence? Let's find out!

The Soup of the Day is a Chicken Veloute with rilettes, foie gras butter and toast (SGD5.90). (A Veloute is a soup that's been thickened with egg yolks, butter and/or cream). Didn't taste this particular dish so I can't really comment on its' quality, but portion-wise it's rather small.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Chicken Soup

Two servings of Foie Gras - Pan-seared duck liver served with creamy lentils & pickled pearl onion (SGD7.90) and with apple-infused port wine and vanilla bean (SGD9.90). We thought that the liver was seared and seasoned nicely and the accompanying ingredients were chosen well. Go for the former if you prefer a more savory flavor, or the latter if like a little sweetness. A point to note is that this is duck liver, so it's naturally less rich and fatty.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Duck Liver Foie Gras

I'm not sure if Saveur's Pasta tossed with chilli oil, fine-chopped Japanese konbu & sakura ebi with minced pork sauce really qualifies as French cuisine. Nevertheless it's pretty good, and nicely portioned as a starter. Can't really find much fault with this especially considering the SGD4.90 price tag.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Pasta with Konbu and Sakura Ebi

Our final starter, the Salmon Confit was likewise an absolute steal at just $9.90. Purists will probably be all "Sacrebleu!" at calling a piece of salmon a confit, but it's still a solid dish regardless. I don't think I've ever had Salmon cooked this well - soft, juicy and absolutely delicious.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Salmon Confit

Moving on to the main courses, then, and we open up with a proper confit - Duck leg confit (SGD10.90). Unfortunately we did not enjoy this dish. Although the mashed potato was sinfully creamy, the duck leg was dry and excessively salty and a huge disappointment.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Duck Confit

Ditto the Roulade of chicken thigh stuffed with foie gras-infused chicken farce, creamy basmati rice & parmesan sauce (SGD9.90). While the chicken and rice were pretty decently cooked, there simply wasn't anything outstanding enough to offset the small portion. Plus, basmati rice? In French Cuisine?

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Roulade of Chicken Thigh

Our Pork belly served with creamy green lentils, soft boiled egg & natural jus (SGD9.90) had a nice flavor profile, but was let down by somewhat poorly cooked meat (excessively firm) and a horrendously chewy skin.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Pork Belly

I think it's somewhat telling that all four of us didn't have much mood for desserts despite being still a little hungry; but we did still order a Chocolate and Hazelnut (Chocolate mousse with crushed hazelnuts, broken raspberries, roasted rice puffs, chocolate tuile & praline, SGD7.90) to share. This dessert ended up being not too bad, actually, and came in a pretty sizeable portion.

Saveur Budget French Cuisine Chocolate and Hazelnut Dessert

So more misses than hits at this budget French joint. The total bill after taxes came up to about $108 for four pax - and to be honest at this price range we think that Saveur is actually pretty okay. We can totally see ourselves coming back for lunch or dinner if we happen to be in the area; but it's not good enough to purposely make a trip.

Saveur has two outlets - in Orchard and in Bugis. Operating hours are different at both outlets so check out their website before you visit. Non-halal.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tomi Sushi Novena - Possibly the Best Cheap Sushi in Singapore!

Getting a craving for sushi in Singapore (or in Malaysia) can put you in quite a quandary. Typically the cheap places (i.e. pretty much every single local kaiten-zushi chain) are crap, and the good places are expensive. The well-heeled among us might not need to think twice about shelling out $450 on omakase at Shinji by Kanesaka, but the rest of us normal folk need to scrape by on more reasonably-priced establishments.

Tomi Sushi Novena Best Cheap Sushi in Singapore

So we're always on the lookout for not-too-expensive places with decent sushi, and for now Tomi Sushi seems to fit the bill perfectly! Tomi Sushi originates from the Niigata province in Japan, is staffed by Japanese itamae and uses only Koshihikari rice (the most expensive, and considered the best rice in Japan). Plus they give you two different kinds of shoyu!

Tomi Sushi Novena Best Cheap Sushi in Singapore

Such credentials normally come with sky high prices, but we're pleasantly surprised that our Nigiri Sakura set comes in at just SGD 28 for eight pieces of nigiri sushi, tamagoyaki, chawanmushi, salad, fish-miso soup, fried chicken and some fruits. Throw in the complimentary green tea and you've got a solid amount of food for not too much money.

Tomi Sushi Novena Best Cheap Sushi in Singapore

Quality and taste-wise, the food is generally solid and pretty delicious. We don't really care much for the normal maguro (tuna) - I'm not sure what happens in the process of flying the fish over from Japan, but most maguro we eat here tend to be a little dry and flaky, unlike the smooth texture of the ones we ate in Japan. We adore the melt-in-your-mouth chuu-toro (medium-fatty tuna belly) though, and like that the sushi has been lovingly hand-formed by human hands rather than a machine plopping down rice balls on a tray. Oh, and the chawanmushi is light and silky smooth, too.

Tomi Sushi Novena Best Cheap Sushi in Singapore

At SGD 32.95 per person after service charge and taxes, we come away very satisfied, and do believe we've found our favorite decently-priced sushi restaurant in Singapore. If you've got any suggestions for good, cheap sushi in town do let us know in the comments; otherwise Tomi Sushi has two outlets - Velocity @ Novena Square and Parco @ Millenia Walk. Non halal.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen at Paradigm Mall, Kelana Jaya

KL's Ramen Craze seems to have plateaued off a little with a slowing down of new entrants into the market of late. Only time will tell when the next Japanese Ramen Chef decides to set up shop in our corner of the woods; in the meantime we're going to review a Ramen place that we had never gotten round to eating at - until now!

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

It's in a corner of the somewhat maze-like Paradigm Mall in Kelana Jaya, and has a pretty par for the course decor. The Ramen served here is of the horikiri style, whatever that means, and was developed by Chef Teruhisa Shimizu over in Japan.

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

The gyoza we ordered was pretty interesting in that it comes with all the rice web attached. This crispy layer tastes not unlike roti tissue without the sugar. It's an interesting, solid and very competent take on gyoza.

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

Moving on to the ramen! Confusingly, Large and Regular sizes on the menu both cost the same and are 'exactly the same' (according to our waiter). So you only get a choice of Large/Regular vs Small, despite there being three sizes listed. I settle down with a Large/Regular Ultimate Tonkotsu Ramen (MYR 21.90), which comes with the works - egg, bamboo shoots, seaweed, chashu, bean sprouts and spring onions.

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

We also try small portions of the Tonkotsu-Miso Ramen (MYR 15.90) and the Shoyo-Miso Ramen (MYR 14.90). All three of these bowls had just the right amount of noodles, and a very well cooked, melt-in-your mouth chashu (roast pork). However, the soups were nowhere near hot enough - they were bordering on lukewarm - and all three were pretty weak and lacking in depth and flavor.

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

The Rainbow Tsukemen (MYR 18.90, small) was even more disappointing. We thought that the dipping sauce was too weak and tasteless, and barely finished half of the noodles. Check out that overcooked egg, too!

Goku Raku Ultimate Ramen in Paradigm Mall

At MYR 108.45 for four people after service charge and taxes, we thought that the ramen here simply isn't good enough to stand with the other bigger ramen chains in town, and will almost certainly not be back for another try.

Goku Raku Ramen has two outlets in KL - Paradigm Mall and Mid Valley. At time of writing SGD 1.00 is MYR 2.42. Non Halal.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Japan Honeymoon Trip Report - Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

Honeymoon trip report! We covered three major cities in Japan this time round - Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. In the third and final part of this mini travel report series we'll write a little about our itinerary in Tokyo and hopefully it'll help you if you're planning a future trip too :)

Previous Post in this series: Two Days in Kyoto

Day One: We took the Nozomi Shinkansen from JR Kyoto station to JR Tokyo station - ¥13,500 by reserved seat. The trains themselves aren't that fast by today's bullet train standards, but what's amazing is the sheer efficiency of the system. We counted about 7 or 8 trains departing at the 9am-10am time slot, and you could literally buy a ticket and be seated on the next train 5-10 minutes after reaching the station.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

Anyways, three hours or so later we're depositing our bags at our Tokyo hotel - Hotel MyStays Asakusabashi. It's pretty well located - a couple minutes walk from the JR Asakusabashi station, and at ¥8,700 per night is pretty good value, too.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

We immediately head over to Sensoji temple to get some food into our bellies - a bowl of Ramen and Zaru Ramen (cold dipping noodles). Definitely not up to par with the more famous ramen chains, but still delicious all the same.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary
Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

After lunch we window shop around Nakamise Shopping street for a bit before heading to Kagetsudo right next to Sensoji for their uber famous and uber delicious Melonpan. It's a little hard to describe just how much better this melonpan is compared to pretty much every other melonpan in the country. Yes, it is that good. Don't turn up too early though as they only start selling at around 2.30 in the afternoon.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

We then head to the nearby Tokyo Sky Tree complex. As it's peak tourist season there's a bit of a queue; we arrive at 3.30pm and are given queue tickets for a 5:30pm entry, so we go to the Tokyo Skytree Town for some more shopping. If you're looking for Tokyo-specific omiyage (souvenirs), here's a great place to shop.

Going up to the Sky Tree itself was a pretty fun experience, too. There are two levels - the main Tembo Deck at 350m and the Tembo Galleria higher up ta 450m. Honestly speaking you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between both heights, so saving a bit of cash and staying at 350m could be a wise option.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

Day Two: In our previous trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market we missed the Tuna Auction by over an hour, so this time we're determined to turn up early. We get the hotel to call us a taxi - about ¥4,500 - and reach Tsukiji at 4.15am. It seems that we're just in time, too, as the allocated spaces for the day were fully taken up about 10 minutes later.

Was the taxi fare and early morning alarm clock worth it? Well ... it was eye-opening seeing the sheer size of some of the Tuna - and the sheer number of Tuna on sale. Was also a lot of fun watching the auctioneer at work, even if we couldn't quite figure out what the hand signals were or how the bidding worked.

Tsukiji Tuna

We finish our 2nd auction viewing and head over to join the queue at Sushi Dai. we visited once before in August 2011, and the queue was about one and a half hours. Today, though, we had to wait for a frankly ridiculous four hours (!!) The only explanation we have for the difference is that with April being peak tourist season, most of the diners were tourists and hence take a much longer time to eat. You know, taking photos and all. So be warned - Sushi Dai is OK for a 2 hour or less wait, but anything more than that and you're just wasting too much time.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

Having only 3 hours sleep the previous night, we headed back to the hotel for a siesta before heading to Takashimaya Nihonbashi to ogle at the awesome Depachika - literally "department store basement," which is a huge food, sweets, and other groceries hall.

Day Three: Shinjuku Gyoen. For being smack in the middle of Tokyo, this beautiful park is hugely impressive - we'll just let the next few photos do the talking for us.

Shinjuku Gyoen in April
Shinjuku Gyoen in April
Shinjuku Gyoen in April

We then adjourn to the nearby Move Cafe for some lunch and cute latte art :) Word of warning though, when we turned up none of the staff could speak any English, so communicating with them could be ... difficult.

Three Days in Tokyo Itinerary

In the evening we head over to Odaiba, primarily to see the life-sized Gundam in front of Tokyo Diver City. Even though we didn't do any proper research before hand, we were lucky enough to be there right as the uh ... Gundam show came on. It's perhaps not that impressive - there's music, some lights, some steam, and the Gundam's head moves, but not much else.

In any case, other than the airport, Tokyo Diver City has by far one of the most impressive array of omiyage (souvenirs) we've come across, so it could be worth a short detour here to stock up. In the evening we take yet another depachika tour - this time to Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi. Do note that unlike department stores in Singapore or KL, Japan's department stores typically close earlier - around 8pm - so do plan your time accordingly!

Day Four: We take the train to Narita airport for our flight back to Singapore.

So that concludes our three days in Tokyo, and our itinerary for the 8 days in Japan. If you've read this far we hope that these short write-ups have given you at least an idea as to what you could do in Japan. If you've got any questions do leave us a comment below!