Friday, December 30, 2011

Taiwanese Goodies at Lai Lai Casual Dining (nex)

The darling and I chanced upon 来来红烧牛肉面, or it's not-entirely-accurate English translation of Lai Lai Casual Dining the other day. It's a simple, no-frills eatery serving quick and cheap Taiwanese staples. Prices on the menu look cheap, too, so let's find out if the food's any good!

You can order ala-carte but the set meals of a "main course" + side dish + drink are much better value. Glancing around the restaurant it does seem like most of the other diners have also gone this route so we play along.

The drinks (Guava and Pineapple juices) are served first - nothing much to say about them as they're clearly poured from a can. Or a carton.

You can choose to have meat, tendon, or both with your Beef Noodle. It's decent tasting and the meat is tender, but I didn't feel that it was any better than the noodles you'd get at any of the Taiwanese stalls at kopitiam, food republic or any other random food court.

The Taiwan Noodle also offers you a choice of meat - you can choose from fish slices (pictured below), meatballs, and a couple of other choices that I forgot and is also unimportant anyway because this noodle soup isn't worth wasting stomach space on - it's bland and uninspiring.

Our two side dishes were the Salt & Pepper Chicken and the Braised Cabbage. I've sampled many salt & pepper chicken at different Taiwanese joints but this one takes the cake ... for being bad. It's overcooked, dry, and has barely any hint of either salt or pepper. At least the cabbage was pretty nice: had a strong taste of being braised with dried oyster (which I dig).

With the price coming in at around $17 per person, this mediocre experience doesn't even qualify as good value. Taiwanese food seems to be less strongly seasoned & flavored than our local food, so if you've got simple tastes you might find the food here suitable to your palette. The rest of us should take our money & spend it elsewhere.

Lai Lai Casual Dining has quite a number of outlets - I know of outlets at Nex, Jurong Point and Leang Seah.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fish & Chips and Tom Yam Spaghetti at Hob Nob Cafe Bar

Hob Nob Cafe Bar is a little hidden gem in a corner of Singapore's iconic Orchard Road. Nestled comfortably on the 3rd floor of Far East Shopping Centre, it's a small and cozy 20-seater (at most) joint where you can kick back with some solid food to relax after a day's worth of shopping.

Liquid refreshment - Iced Bailey's Cream ($6.80) and Orangina (SGD3.30). If you're wondering why we hardly have any alcohol on the blog, it's because neither myself nor the darling have any measurable alcohol tolerance. Well, we can sort of polish off a Bailey's Cream-sweetened coffee between us, but not much more than that :P

For starters we share the Mussels for SGD11.80. There was a longer and better name for the dish but I sort of forgot what it was, sorry! Something-something garlic cheese baked mussels or other. Came slightly overcooked, and I would have preferred a little more moisture - a garlic butter sauce to slurp with, perhaps?

The fish and chips (SGD9.80) came highly recommended - it's supposedly one of Singapore's Top Ten, but I found that rather hard to believe. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, in fact for a breaded fillet of Dory it was pretty solid. But "top ten" good? I'll reserve judgement since I haven't had tried many other fish n chips elsewhere in the island republic. To me beer batter trumps breaded fish n chips any day of the week :)

The Tom Yam Seafood Spaghetti (SGD14.80) was surprisingly very good. I'd have preferred the pasta to be slightly more al dente, but the seafood was fresh and the cream-based tom yam sauce was good! Sour and Spicy just like any good tom yam soup is. If you're not a strong chili eater do request "not so spicy" though, because even this wimpy hotness level already gave quite a kick.

For under SGD20 per person (excluding drinks), Hob Nob is pretty good value for money. It's also in the much quieter Far East Shopping Centre, so it's perfect to get some chow in a quiet and peaceful environment - because you won't get that in any other (decently priced) restaurant along Orchard Road. No queues, too!

To get to Hob Nob Cafe Bar from the Orchard MRT Station, walk through the underpass from Ion Orchard to Wheelock Place. Take the escalator up to ground level, exit, and you should be able to see Far East to your left (i.e. moving further away from the main shopping areas). Non halal.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Garlic Lovers Dream at Nantsuttei (Ramen joint)

We continue our recent Ramen obsession by joining the queue in front of Nantsuttei on a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant is small - probably only seats three dozen ramen slurpers - which results in a 15 minute wait (which actually isn't so bad considering it's a weekend).

Nantsuttei's USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is the ma-yu (fragrant garlic oil) that is liberally added to each bowl of ramen. This ma-yu is made by frying garlic seven times, which does raise a niggling thought about carcinogens and all that but hey, it's not like we're eating this every day, right?

There isn't that much choice on the menu - quite a few of the menu items are just the same basic ramen bowl with different choices of ingredients. Anyways were were quite amused by the ramen eating guide - sorry for the slightly blur picture but it's basically look and smell --> taste noodles --> soak the chashu --> savour the soup --> finish everything!

We place our orders and while waiting, are a little annoyed at the choice of chopsticks used here. Disposable bamboo ones are fine, but when you're charging $20+ per person, couldn't you have chosen any other brand of chopsticks that isn't soft, irregularly curvy, and with so many small bits of bamboo hanging/coming off?

Instead of our usual gyoza we try the Yude Won Ton (SGD6.00). This is described on the menu as coming with a "special sauce" but as far as we could tell it was just a very salty soy sauce. I made the mistake of liberally drenching the wonton in the sauce and ended up with my tongue getting overwhelmed by the saltiness.

For the Ramen, the darling has the Negi Ramen (SGD15.00). That black sauce you see floating on top is the ma-yu/garlic oil. If that's not enough garlic for you, or if you're fearing an imminent vampire attack, you can request for as many (free) cloves of garlic as you wish - these come with a garlic press so you can squeeze and add as much crushed garlic as you desire.

The ramen comes with a creamy tonkotsu-type broth, which is pretty nice but a little lacking in flavor compared to the flavor champion Ippudo, or even Santouka.

My choice was the Kara Miso Ramen Mouretsu Tanmen Hana-ji Boo (SGD16.00). A combination of pork & miso broths with fried ground pork and hot pepper (you get to choose how hot you want it), this bowl was a lot more tasty! A little too tasty though, because once the noodles are finished, the broth combined with the chili makes it difficult to drink on its' own.

Overall, we found Nantsuttei to be above average, and at about SGD20 per person, pretty par for the course for 'specialized' ramen joints in Singapore (i.e. lots of soup and noodles but hardly any meat).

Nantsuttei is in Millenia Walk. If you're not familiar with the mall, you won't find it listed on the mall directory - head to the third floor of Parco (the department store) and you'll see it at the right hand side of the "food court" there. Non halal.

Our Ramen Rankings:
Superb!: Ippudo & Santouka
Delicious!: Nantsuttei & Tampopo
Solid: Shin-Sapporo, Keisuke, Gantetsu, Gensuke, Riki & Ikkousha
Below Average: Marutama & Menya Musashi

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eighteen Chefs - Noble Cause, Subpar Food.

Eighteen Chefs is a restaurant (chain) with a difference - its' founder Benny Se Teo started the restaurant with the aim of providing troubled youths and ex-convicts a place to earn an honest living, and thus act as a stepping stone to re-integration into society. Is there any restaurant out there with a cause more noble than this one?

Unfortunately, that's about all the good I can say about it. The restaurant is a "no frills" concept which means that you have to order at the counter, pick up your own condiments & cutlery, etc. Which in itself isn't a bad thing, as long as the food is good.

Main courses can be ordered with a Combo - the Combo B (SGD3.80) adding on a can of soft drink and a bowl of the soup of the day. We're guessing today's soup was cream of vegetable - emphasis on the "guess" bit because the soup was pretty much plain cream soup with some onion and other unidentifiable random vegetable bits floating around.

In hindsight, the Snack Platter (SGD11.30) was probably not the best of choices; we were hoping for some creativity but found absolutely none. The fries, chicken & fish nuggets and onion & calamari rings tasted pretty much exactly the same as if you had picked up frozen bags from the local supermarket and deep fried them at home.

For SGD6.50, the Bolognese Cheese Fries was the only dish we ordered that was decent. Yes, I know it looks a little messy, but it had a very nice balance of meat, bolognese sauce and two different cheeses. Not gourmet by any measure, but would do nicely as an afternoon tummy filler. The fries did get a little soggy towards the end, though.

My Tom Yum Seafood Aglio Olio (SGD13.80) was another disappointment. I've never been served Aglio Olio with Fusilli. Nor have I ever been served tougher pieces of squid (the bits of squid in the dish were literally like chewing on rubber). The peas were a questionable choice as well, and the mussels weren't cooked with the pasta but just placed on top (very plain tasting, hardly any seasoning). At least the prawns were fresh!

Overall, at about SGD18 per person the darling and I come away with a bitter taste in our mouths. No matter the charity angle, food needs to be good in order to warrant a second visit, which will most likely not happen. Shame too, because we did see some interesting fusion items on the menu like the Cheese Baked Chili Crab and Root Beer Battered Fish & Chips.

Eighteen Chefs has three outlets in Easpoint Mall, Tiong Bahru Plaza (covered in this review) and Fusionopolis Way. Certified Halal by MUIS.

Bear Day Out - Exploring Singapore's MRT!

Hi hi!

Chiaki here, hijacking this blog because I don't know how to create a new one

Anyway today Natsuko and I went to take MRT on our own! We were looking at the signboard but it was a bit of a problem because bears can't read!

Well a friendly passer-by told us to take the "Pasir Ris" MRT, so we sat down to wait for the next train ...

Then another friendly lady with a loud voice told us the train was coming so we went to the door to get ready to board. It's funny though because we couldn't see the lady at all even though her voice was so loud.

There was a very nice corner for us to sit! It's nice being small so that both of us could share one seat!

But halfway through the journey an old lady asked us to move because we were sitting in the "reserved seat." It wasn't our fault! Bears can't read so we didn't sit in her seat on purpose. So I had to stand up and hold on to the hand rails because the train driver wasn't very good, the train was jerking so much.

Finally we reached home, it was so fun learning how to take the MRT by ourselves :)

Chiaki and Natsuko are the Disney Bears (originating from Tokyo DisneySea) and were originally named Duffy and Shellie Mae. They share more of their adventures and misadventures on their FaceBook pages here and here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Koo Kee Dumpling & Ramen House - Chinese Ramen?

I have to admit to being somewhat confused about Koo Kee Dumpling & Ramen House. After all, "Ramen" normally is used to describe the Japanese version of the noodle soup dish - even Wikipedia agrees. So it was surprising to find out that Koo Kee wasn't a Japanese restaurant - it was a Chinese one!

The restaurant serves cuisine somewhat similar to Dragon-I or Din Tai Fung - there are some Chinese style dishes available on the menu but the main draw is La Mien (Chinese style noodle soup) with some dim sum. My choice for the night is the La Mian with Ginseng Chicken (SGD8.80). The noodles are utterly ordinary; however the soup was surprisingly very good! Unlike the Korean-style Sam Gye Tang which most places serve bland & tasteless, this bowl was full of delicious chicken & ginseng flavour. I ended up only eating half the noodles but slurping up all of the soup.

Everything sort of goes downhill from there, though. The Juicy Meat Dumpling (小籠包, SGD6.00) was decent taste-wise, but the dumpling skin on the top was too thick and left too much of a "dough" taste in the mouth.

The darling has the Shanghai Fried Noodle, which at SGD12.80 is the most expensive La Mian dish on the menu, and we can't figure out why.

I mean ... this is what her reaction was to the dish:

The noodles were very oily, and tasted very bland. The darling had to overload the noodles with chili just to make them edible.

Overall we would not recommend this joint ... unless you're in the mood for some ginseng chicken soup.

Koo Kee is located in the basement of Parkway Parade, just in front of Cold Storage. Non-Halal.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dessert Exploration ::: Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

WooHooo~ At last here is a dessert recipe to share with my readers...

This is specially for Mango Lovers or Mango Pudding Lovers out there!!!

Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

I have tried so many brands of Mango Flavor Pudding Powder and this (Nona Pudding - Mango Flavor) is the one I would say this is the BEST among those that I have tried. Those who have the privilege to taste would second on how delicious this turns out!

dear loves it too!!!!

Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

Nona Pudding - Mango Flavor (1pack = 400ml)
Boiled Filtered Water
150g whole Sweet Mango

Peel & cut the Sweet Mango into cubes, when done it will approx come up to 100g of sweet mango cubes to be used.
Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

Wondering how i get all my mangoes to be so sweet & ripe?
Click here to view our tip on "how to speed ripen mango?"

Take a big bowl and pour out the Nona Pudding Powder then measure the Boiled Filtered Water and stir till all dissolved. Fill half of the Nano Mango Mixture in to the molds / bowls / serving dish. Add in the Mango Cubes and scatter them around.
Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

Pour the other half of the Nano Mango Mixture slowly so it won't disturb your mango cubes distribution that you just did.

Place it in the fridge for 30mins - 60mins to chill & set.

Serve it with a mini side jar of evaporated milk if anyone wants to drizzle and enjoy it with the Mango Pudding.

Smiles on all faces. This huge portion has x4 of this recipe here. With BIG help from dear we made it for our Cell Group Christmas Pot Love.

Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

Click here for our blog page Desserts & Drinks for more recipes. Hope you will be inspired~

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to speed ripen a mango?

What do you do with when you're mangoes are not ripe enough to serve your guest?

Not ripe enough to use to make your Mango Pudding?

Not ripe enough to use in your cooking dishes?

Don't panic, let me share my experience here. An easy way to speed ripen the mangoes!

Most of the time, mangoes that are shipped and sold at your local stores before it is fully matures to prevent damage during transportation and prolong the shelf life. Normally, hard mangoes will ripen on their own if it is left alone 3-4days at room temperature.

Things you need:::
1 Brown Paper Bag
Paper Clip
1 small Apple (Optional)
8 or more hours
How to speed ripen a mango?

Step 1
Put the mangoes in to the paper bag.
Mango releases natural ethylene gases that helps it's ripen doing this it traps the gases around the fruit in the paper bag to speed the process.

Myth::: You can level up the speeding process by putting a small apple in with the mangoes.
How to speed ripen a mango?

Step 2
Fold the top of the paper bag and secure with a paper clip.
How to speed ripen a mango?

Step 3
Open the paper bag after 8hours, to check on our mangoes.
Many Varieties turn a deep peachy-yellow when ripe, but some remain green.

Step 4
Hold the stem end and give it a sniff. It should smell fruity and sweet. Slightly soft to the touch too. If it doesn't put it back into the paper bag and check on it again in another 8hours.

A little kitchen tips from me to you... ^^

Mine turns out pretty well... See!!!
Mango..Mango..Mango Pudding - everyone loves it~!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ramen Hokkaido Santouka - Awesome Pork, Decent Ramen.

So anyways, after the previous blogpost on what I thought to be the best Ramen we've tried so far, I had a question on how it compares to Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. Santouka is another pretty accomplished ramen chain, with dozens of outlets in Japan and a dozen more in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Having never been there, the darling and I head over to the outlet in The Central, hidden away in a 2nd floor corner behind a Nasi Padang shop to try. Like any Singaporean food outlet worth its salt, there's a queue to get in; but thankfully this one is rather short at about 15 minutes (on a weekday night).

What's made Santouka rather famous is of course its' Tokusen Toroniku Ramen, which is slices of tender braised pork cheek (the advertising materials claim that each pig only yields 300gm of this prized meat) in your choice of shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, or spicy miso soup base.

I have to admit that the pork cheek was uber tender, and with a layer of fat that just melts away in your mouth. Extremely awesome, and by far the best pork-meat-type accompaniment I've ever had with a bowl of ramen. However, the 'edges' of the pork (the brown areas in the photo) are very salty, and so depending on your level of sodium resistance it could very well be too salty.

The noodles and soup flavor, however, falls short of the brilliance of Ippudo. You do get a lot more soup and a lot more noodle, but the noodles turned a little too soggy for our tastes halfway through, and the shoyu base that we tried was also a tad bit on the salty side.

At SGD19.50 per bowl (add SGD1.00 for spicy miso flavor and another SGD1.50 for an egg), Santouka doesn't seem cheap but it's got comparable value for money due to the generous serving size. The braised pork cheek also doesn't disappoint! Definitely go with the miso soup base though, because the saltiness of the pork combined with the saltiness of the shio and shoyu bases resulted in the darling and I having a slight sodium overload.

Overall we liked the generous serving size, the pork and the relatively short queue; but for overall taste and quality our vote still stays with Ippudo as Singapore's best Ramen (for now).

Hokkaido Ramen Santuoka has two outlets in Singapore - one in The Central (Clarke Quay MRT) and the other in Orchard Cuppage Terrace (Somerset MRT). Non Halal.

Our Ramen Rankings:
Superb!: Ippudo & Santouka
Delicious!: Nantsuttei, Tampopo & Keisuke Tonkotsu King
Solid: Shin-Sapporo, Keisuke, Gantetsu, Gensuke, Riki, Ikkousha & Bario
Below Average: Marutama, Menya Musashi & Menya Iroha

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ippudo - Singapore's Best Ramen?

Why do we like ramen so much? Is it because that the Japanese-style ramen has its roots in noodle soup from China? Whatever the reason, there are dozens of ramen chains around, of which Ippudo is King - it's the largest ramen chain in the world! With such solid credentials, there's no way the darling and I can pass it up, so we head over to the Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road to queue. Yes, to queue. Like every other half decent eatery there will be a queue - Ippudo's is about 30 to 40 minutes for a weekday dinner.

We're finally seated, and notice that privacy isn't one of the selling points of the restaurant. There are too many big tables and too few small ones, so the bigger tables are pretty much communal tables with multiple groups of two or three. Small matter, though. We start off with the Gyoza (SGD6.00) which is ... decent.

On to the ramen! Ippudo's customization angle is that you can choose how well done you want your noodles - soft, hard, or in between. Personally I like mine medium. Anyways my order is the seasonal Spicy Black (SGD18.00), which is a tonkotsu and miso based broth with chili oil and black pepper to add that spiciness "kick." Tonkotsu is considered a very strong/flavorful broth, and the addition of all the other ingredients can give you a flavor overload if you like your soups a bit more "clear," but otherwise it's delicious!

The darling has the Akamaru Kasaneaji (SGD17.00 after adding an egg). This, too is a tonkotsu base soup blended with miso and is also quite a strong flavor, with nice thin noodles and a slice of pork belly.

Overall we find Ippudo possibly the best we've tried so far in Singapore; however the quantity of the noodles and toppings borders on the ridiculous (one slice of chashu and one slice of pork belly for each bowl respectively. One!) Other minus points would be the noise & lack of privacy, and having to queue for the better part of an hour.

In any case, if you're in a mall around Somerset MRT station and find yourself hankering for some slurpy noodle goodness, I don't know of any better ramen shop in the area.

Ippudo is in the Mandarin Gallery, which is the shopping arcade of the Mandarin Orchard Hotel. Non-halal.

Our Ramen Rankings:
Superb!: Ippudo & Santouka
Delicious!: Nantsuttei, Tampopo & Keisuke Tonkotsu King
Solid: Shin-Sapporo, Keisuke, Gantetsu, Gensuke, Riki, Ikkousha & Bario
Below Average: Marutama, Menya Musashi & Menya Iroha