Sunday, January 28, 2018

Farm to Table (sort of) Tajima Wagyu at Stellar @ 1-Altitude.

👍 Unique farm to table (sort of) Aussie wagyu, food's good, view is amazing.
👎 Pricing is a little steep, perhaps.

Stellar @ 1-Altitude is pretty unique among Singaporean restaurants that it sort of has a farm-to-table concept going on. Obviously, Singapore doesn't quite have the necessary agricultural land available, so instead, Chef Christopher Millar raises his own cattle in conjunction with the Tiana Park farm in Australia.

We paid the restaurant a visit for a 100 Gourmet dinner menu, which as expected, does focus quite a bit on different cuts of these Tajima (cross bred) Wagyu cattle. In between beef courses we're also treated to some terrific seafood and other lighter dishes, though which were generally pretty good!

Stellar at 1-altitude

Perched up high on the 62nd floor of the 1 Raffles Place building, Stellar @ 1-Altitude has amazing views over the rest of the city - if you manage to snag a table by the window. We weren't so lucky, so we settle for admiring the rest of the modern, elegant interior decor - and concentrating on the cuisine. We start with an amuse bouche of Tuna Tartare: A refreshing start to cleanse the palette and whet the appetite.

Stellar at 1-altitude Amuse Bouche

The first course is a Crab Meat Salad with a cherry tomato. We're not sure which part of the world this tomato comes from, but it's a lot sweeter (and less tart) than your average tomato, so it flavours the crab meat salad wonderfully. I'd go as far as to say that the tomato was the star of the show, with the crab meat taking a back seat.

Stellar at 1-altitude Crab Meat Salad

We then move on to the togarashi spiced Tajima wagyu tri-tip, truffle mascarpone, olive soil, and black radish. We couldn't really taste the togarashi (japanese chili pepper), and the lone slice of black truffle had already lost most of its aroma, but the rest of the dish was stellar. This dish also demonstrates, perhaps, the strength of the Japanese black steer's genes: Tri-tip is normally a very lean muscle, but here it's juicy, slightly fatty, lean, while still maintaining a nice beefy taste.

Stellar at 1-altitude Tajima Wagyu Tri-Tip

A seafood dish is next: Loch Fyne Rock Rose Gin marinated salmon, with oyster, avocado, and ikura. Except that we don't eat oysters, so Chef substituted even more ikura instead. Overall, we thought that this dish was the weakest of the night: Salmon was great, with a nice bite to it, but the (plain) avocado and sesame seed cracker was a mediocre accompaniment.

Stellar at 1-altitude Loch Fyne Rose Gin salmon

We move back inland then with a Tajima wagyu chuck tender over the coals, sea urchin, wasabi, and Paris mash. Paris mash? Well, it's apparently a fancy name for an ultra-creamy, ultra-buttery mashed potato. It's really good. The wagyu chuck tender is also really good - fatty, tender, beefy, juicy - and very lightly seasoned as to let the flavours of the beef take center stage. the sea urchin, therefore, is somewhat out of place, even if its briny goodness is terrific on its own.

Stellar at 1-altitude Tajima Wagyu chuck tender

The last course of the night is the pickled and braised Tajima wagyu beef cheek, roasted cauliflower cream, and porcini. To us this was the star of the night; the melt-in-your-mouth beef with those complex, braised flavours that only (relatively) long cooks can produce. We also thought that the earthy flavours from the mushrooms were a perfect complement.

Stellar at 1-altitude Braised Tajima Wagyu beef cheek

To finish off the meal, Stellar @ 1-Altitude has its pastry / dessert chefs create what they call Dessert Art at your table. The pastries / cakes themselves are already completed, of course: They're assembled and finished on a huge flat plate in the middle of the table.

We chose to have the Rocher (Almond Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel sponge, Orange mousse) and Rosemary Lemon Tart (Madagascar honey lemon curd, macerated pineapples). Both desserts are pretty good; if you're a chocolate lover you'll really dig the flavours and textures of the Rocher; if you're looking for something a little more refreshing, the tartness of the lemon curd and pineapples are cut perfectly with the honey.

Stellar at 1-altitude Dessert Art Rocher and Rosemary Lemon Tart

The 6-course dinner above 'retails' at s$180++, which is perhaps a little on the pricey side? As is quite common with fine dining restaurants, lunch starts from a much more reasonable s$48++, though, so you could perhaps pay them a lunch visit before deciding on whether to commit to dinner.

Stellar @ 1-Altitude is open 7 days a week (lunch only on weekdays). Click here for reservations, and do try to get a table by the window. Non-halal.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

List of all Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman's Dessert Shops!

We've got a new favourite TV show on Netflix: Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman! Netflix markets it as a "Netflix Original," but we're not sure if it's really an original, or if it's just an international broadcast of an old/existing Japan TV series.

In any case, the entire show is based on a Manga: Saboriman Ametani Kantarou, in which book Salesman Kantarou plays hooky after his sales visits to visit dessert shops around Tokyo, eat sweets, and make orgasm faces.

Yes, really.

Kantaro Sweet Tooth Salaryman List of Shops Kantaro Sweet Tooth Salaryman List of Shops

The plot and storyline is a little absolutely bonkers in the way only Japan can be, but the introduction and descriptions of the various desserts and sweet shops are amazing. If you're looking for a list of the exact places covered in the TV series - perhaps if you're paying Tokyo a visit soon - we've got you covered! Unfortunately given the limited time, we could only cover about a third of the shops, though. Do leave us a comment if you've experienced any of the rest!

Ep1 (Anmitsu): Hatsune (初音), Ningyocho - [tabelog]
Ep2a (Kakigori): Amaikko (甘いっ子), Nishi Ogikubo - [tabelog]
Ep2b (Kakigori): Kouriya Peace ((氷屋ぴぃす), Kichijoji - [tabelog]
Ep3a (Mamekan): Irie (いり江), Monzen Nakacho - [tabelog]
Ep3b (Mamekan): Umemura (梅むら), Asakusa - [tabelog]
Ep3c (Mamekan): Akasaka Sagamiya (赤坂 相模屋), Akasaka - [tabelog]
Ep4 (Fruits Parfait): Kajitsuen Libre / Riiberu (果実園 リーベル 新宿店), Shinjuku - [tabelog]
Ep4b (Dorayaki): Seijuken (清寿軒), Kodemmacho - [tabelog]
Ep5 (Pancakes): Coffee Tengoku (珈琲 天国), Asakusa - [tabelog]
Ep6 (Bavarian Matcha Cream): Kinozen (紀の善), Iidabashi - [tabelog]
Ep7 (Savarin): Cafe Recherche (カフェ ルシェルシュ), Yamate - [tabelog]
Ep8 (Ohagi): Takeno to Ohagi (タケノとおはぎ), Sakura Shimmachi - [tabelog]
Ep9 (Eclairs): Rue de Passy (リュードパッシー), Gakugei Daigaku - [tabelog]
Ep10 (Caramel Pudding): Esse Due (エッセドゥエ), Akasaka - [tabelog]
Ep11 (Chocolate): Minimal (ミニマル), Yoyogi Koen - [tabelog]
Ep12 (Mont Blanc): Waguriya (和栗や), Sendagi - [tabelog]

As of today The Sweet Tooth Salaryman has only aired 12 episodes on Netflix; Check it out if you haven't already! We'll certainly update the map (and this page) when/if more episodes get released.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Hanwoo (Korean Beef) BBQ at specialist restaurant Daedo Sikdang (대도식당)!

👍 Great, reasonably-priced seared Hanwoo Sirloin with pickled radish fried rice.
👎 The restaurant pretty much only serves this one dish.

Hanwoo (한우) is sort of the Korean equivalent of Japanese Wagyu: It's a breed of cattle native to Korea. It's a little difficult to get Hanwoo beef outside the country, though, so we've never been able to do a comparison ... until now!

We're not sure which of the gazillion restaurants in Seoul serve the "best" Hanwoo, but we eventually settle for the Mapo outlet of Daedo Sikdang (대도식당), which is a specialty franchise that really focuses on Hanwoo Sirloin, BBQ (cast iron pan) style:

Verdict? I have no idea what "grade" of Hanwoo Sirloin we had (or even if such grading exists), but it was delicious! The meat was noticeably less tender, and less greasy/fatty (and therefore having a far less oily mouthfeel) than an A4/A5 Wagyu, but on the flipside it also felt and tasted a bit meatier/beefier.

The other dish we had in the video was the Kkakdugi Fried Rice (Kkakdugi: Cubed radish pickles/kimchi). It's cooked in the same cast iron pot used to sear your meat, so it's beefy, oily, and sour/tangy (from the pickled radish) at the same time. A great finish to the meal.

Best Hanwoo Korean Beef BBQ specialist Daedo Sikdang

Daedo Sikdang is a small franchise and has a few outlets around Seoul. The main branch is near the Wangsimni area; use Mangoplate to find the outlet most convenient for you. As with many other Korean restaurants, English isn't spoken (well), but sign language and pointing to menus works well! Non-halal.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Daemyung Vivaldi Park Ski World (South Korea) - Winter 2017/2018 Review

👍 ~1 hour travel time from Seoul makes it day-trippable. Lots of indoor, underground activities (and restaurants) for non-skiiers, or for in-between runs.
👎 Mostly man-made snow, only 11 (fairly boring) slopes, proximity to Seoul means it's super crowded during peak periods.

Let's get one thing out of the way: If you're an advanced ski'ier or snowboarder (or even a strong intermediate) looking for fresh powder, off piste, and long scenic thigh-burning runs, you will be disappointed here.

But if you're a first-timer or beginner looking to just dip your toes in the world of ski'ing for a day or two before continuing for the rest of your Seoul/South Korea itinerary, then Vivaldi Park Ski World could tick quite a few boxes very satisfactorily!

The park is entirely purpose-built, so the complex has a bit of a "theme-park" look & feel. What you lose in character, though, you gain in efficiency: The ski complex and all the accommodation towers are linked up via the basement. The basement, in turn, houses a dozen or so cafes and restaurants, a supermarket, a few shops selling souvenirs and clothes, and an assortment of attractions/activities like an electric go-kart track, carousel, VR arcade, bowling alley, table tennis, movie theatre, billiards tables, and handicraft studio. The adjoining Ocean Park does double duty as a jijimbang (Korean Spa) in winter, so there really is a LOT to if a few of your travel party doesn't want to hit the slopes.

Vivaldi Park Ski Map

While it's possible to DIY your ski trip here, we decided to go through Koreal Trip (in conjunction with JSki): Paying ₩260,000/night for a 4-person Maple Family Room, plus ₩70,000/person/day for the ski lift ticket plus gear rental (skis, boots, poles, jacket and pants only). Consider topping up ₩22,000/person for a 1-hour group ski lesson if everyone in your group is a beginner or first timer.

The advantage of going through Koreal Trip / JSki is, of course, a less stressful trip as they'll arrange everything for you (they'll even help you with your hotel check in while you're out skiing on the first day).

Vivaldi Park Ski World Slopes

Of course, not everything's clear and sunny skies. Being so near to Seoul, Vivaldi Park attracts a ton of visitors from Seoul, making it ridiculously crowded on the weekends, holidays and other peak periods. And given that there are only two beginner slopes, the 30-45 minute queues for the lifts can get pretty annoying. The slopes are also limited (2 beginner, 5 intermediate, 4 advanced/expert, 1 half-pipe), and are 'boring,' so once you're a comfortable intermediate, this place can really only be a "practice your technique" hill rather than a "cruise and enjoy the scenery, twists and turns" one.

Nevertheless, it's still a great place for a weekday (or two) detour from Seoul to get some snow under your feet. Let us know in the comments below if you've got any other questions!