Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Japanese Food in a European-style Cafe: Ma Maison, Parco Millenia Walk.

Ma Maison Restaurant and Cafe sort of advertises itself as French Japanese Fusion. Which in my opinion isn't quite accurate. The layout & deco of the restaurant does have very strong European influences, but the majority of the menu is firmly entrenched in Japanese Cafe territory.

Take, for example, this Omu Rice (SGD14.80), which you can order with a choice of several different sauces. We went with the "regular" brown sauce. The Omelette was nice and fluffy (like scrambled egg), and generously layered over tomato rice with bits of chicken. Nothing fusion about this dish, it was most certainly Japanese.

Same story with the Tonkatsu Set (SGD19.50). For a jack-of-all-trades type of cafe we're pretty impressed with the crispiness of the deep fried pork loin, although it does fall a little short of the dedicated tonkatsu joints like Saboten.

No fresh sesame seeds to grind here, just a straight-up tonkatsu sauce. And a salt crystal grinder for extra taste - which we didn't need as the food's plenty tasty already.

Ginger Ale - SGD4.00. I'll never understand why we all let restaurants get away with charging four times the price of a canned drink just because it's served with a glass full of ice (yes, I'm guilty of this all the time).

Overall at slightly over SGD20 per person, Ma Maison serves up some nice solid Japanese cafe fare in a very nice & pleasing environment - perfect to take a date. Music was soothing and chosen well to suit the decorations, too ... although the standard Japanese-style shouts of "いらっしゃいませ" every time a patron walks in is a little at odds with the ambience.

Ma Maison has three outlets - Bugis Junction, The Central, and Parco @ Millenia Walk. Non-Halal.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chinese Cuisine at the Airport - Crystal Jade Shanghai Restaurant

I'll never understand why Airports around the world are almost universally expensive - like how McDonald's at KLIA's LCCT (supposed to be a Low Cost Terminal) costs way more than any other McDonald's around Malaysia. One thankful exception to this is Singapore's Changi Airport, which not only has dozens of eateries, restaurants, cafe's and other shopping open to the public, but the prices aren't jacked up at all.

Which, of course, means that it makes perfect sense to travel to the Airport for makan sessions even when you don't have any upcoming flight ... for example, to celebrate Colleague A's birthday and have Colleague B's farewell lunch at Crystal Jade Shanghai Kitchen.

We ordered some dimsum - the xiao long bao was solid but perhaps slightly inferior to more 'dedicated' places like din tai fung.

There was also some random popiah-style items of which I forgot to take down the name :(

Moving on to the bulk of the meal, though, was the four seasons-style dish opening up our nine-course, eight-pax set lunch menu. Go easy on the rice, because the portions are big.

Next up: Chicken Soup, which reminds me a lot of the chicken-based sharks fin soup I had at the Spring Deer Restaurant in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. Hearty and thick, without being too starchy, it was pretty good!

Duo of stuffed bun. The steamed version had some minced meat in them; the deep-fried buns were filled with shredded turnip and carrot. My opinion is that there was too much bun for too little filling.

I'm not so sure about liking the shrimp dish, either. I like that they came pre-peeled, but taste-wise really nothing to shout about.

I found the next dish both amusing and interesting - at it's core, it's flavored crispy roti canai/prata sprinkled with chicken floss. Not too sure how authentic this is with regards to Shanghai cuisine, but it was actually pretty nice to eat.

The crispy fried duck was a mixed bag. On one hand the skin was nice and crispy, and the duck was nicely flavored without too strong a "duck" taste, but on the other hand the dish didn't come with any sauce to compensate for certain cuts (namely the breast areas) that were very dry.

This next pork dish ... I eat it sort of often, but as befitting my awesome "food blogger" credentials, have never found out what the dish is named :P ... it's similar to tong po braised pork but yet different ... ha ha! Let me know in the comments if you know what it is :)

The spinach with beans was a bit of a let down as the spinach was tough and required way too much chewing.

The meal ends with a dessert of red bean paste pancake. I thought that it was pretty well done, with nice and crispy fried pancake filled with hot steamy red bean paste ... but it would be much better if it was lotus paste instead. Due to personal preferences :)

Overall, I thought the food was pretty solid, although there were a few let downs like the steamed/fried buns and the spinach. Can't comment on the value-for-money portion though as a couple of senior colleagues fought over the bill and I couldn't grab hold of it to see how much the lunch cost :(

Crystal Jade Shanghai Restaurant is on the 3rd/4th floors in the public area in Changi Airport Terminal 3. Non halal.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

40cents sushi at Itacho Sushi (Changi T3 Outlet)

Itacho Sushi is one of the more recent international-sushi-chain-stores to set up shop in Singapore. What's interesting is that this chain doesn't originate from Japan, but instead has its' roots in Hong Kong where it has over a dozen stores. Itacho seems to try to propose to the value for money segment - they have a "daily specials" menu which changes regularly - when we went to eat at the Changi Airport Terminal 3 outlet the headline grabber was 40cents-per-piece Soy Sauce Salmon sushi. Which was sold out at 1.30pm. Ah well :)

Their menu is predominantly sushi based, and is traditional rather than creative. That's fine, though, as long as the fish is fresh and the riceball is good. We'll soon find out!

Starting off with the Oo Toro (fatty tuna at SGD7.50 per piece), which arrives pink and nicely marbled, sitting on a nicely-sized rice ball. And by nicely sized I mean relatively small, which I like. I'll never understand why many sushi places around like to serve huge two-and-a-half mouthful rice balls. If anything, from a business decision shouldn't the rice ball be small so that customers don't get full so quickly and order more?

The Salmon Lobster Salad Roll (SGD3.60 per plate) was nice as well, the cooked lobster imparting a nice crunchy texture to the sushi.

Spicy Sakura Inari (SGD1.90 each) and Salmon (SGD1.20 each) Sushi. The Inari sushi was interesting - came wrapped in a juicy Inari (fried beancurd skin) and topped with spicy tuna salad, Tobiko (flying fish roe) and deep fried baby shrimp. Interestingly enough, Inarizushi is also commonly known as おいなりさん (o inari san), which is apparently the name of a Japanese Shinto Deity.

Our final sushi dish, the Swordfish Sushi (SGD3.50 each) was not to our liking. The fish itself was very "wet" and somewhat tasteless when chewed. Sort of like a flavorless, tougher butter fish. Would not order Swordfish again.

Deep Fried Gyoza with Curry Salt (SGD2.40). Sprinkling of the curry salt gave it an interesting spin, and being deep fried, the gyoza skin was a lot crispier than regular gyoza's.

Whole Sea Eel Sushi (SGD6.50). If you've never eaten sea eel (Anago), it tastes very similar to freshwater eel (Unagi), but has a less firm texture - bordering on mushy. Itacho's version comes perched on a rice ball, and relatively lightly brushed with kabayaki sauce.

Overall, we found the sushi to be above average, and pricing to be pretty acceptable value for money. However, the restaurant's popularity does mean long, snaking queues at peak times. The Changi outlet we visited this round also had too few wait staff, and so it took pretty long to get anything and tables remained uncleared for way too long, much to the obvious discomfort of the poor people waiting in line for a seat.

Itacho Sushi has four outlets in Singapore - Ion Orchard, Plaza Singapura, Bugis Junction and Changi Airport Terminal 3. Non halal.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dim Sum fit for a King's Wallet at Xin Cuisine (Concorde Hotel KL)

It's a good thing that marriage is (supposed to be) til death do us part - so that the Wedding only needs to be a once in a lifetime affair ... because planning for it is a huge headache!

The darling and I are scouting hotels and restaurants in KL to hold our wedding banquet next year - which brings us to Xin Cuisine in the Concorde Hotel, KL. We're here primarily on a scouting mission, checking out the Ballroom and the pre-event areas, but there's also no harm in catching some Dim Sum for lunch :)

Past the doors, the nice entrance corridor opens up to a high ceiling'ed, nicely decorated dining hall. The restaurant can seat a couple hundred diners, and most of the tables are occupied - a full restaurant is (almost) always a good sign!

We're seated in the smoking area because the non-smoking area was full, but it's OK cos nobody was smoking anyway :) ... the 12pm-3pm lunch session is primarily dim sum with some small roasted meats and noodles available for order. We open up with the Minced Pork Congee (with Century Egg, $9.50). It's decent - possibly slightly above average tasting but the congee was a bit too starchy for us.

Moving on to the dim sum with the Prawn Dumpling (RM10.50) - solid but not spectacular, tasty but not delicious.

The Steamed Fish Ball (RM8.50) also falls into the same boat of being merely an above average performer.

Some more seafood next with the Scallop Dumpling coming in at RM13.50 - one can't help but think that the scallops could have been slightly bigger for being over RM5 each; and the relatively bland taste of the scallop was overpowered by the much stronger tasting (and seasoned) meat in the dumpling.

Our last sampling was the King Siew Mai (RM10.50), which is like a pork siew mai topped with a whole, fresh prawn.

We feel that while the dim sum offerings we tried were pretty good, above average tasting and used fresh ingredients, we simply can't stop thinking about how much it costs. After tea and taxes the bill came up to RM67 for the both of us - is the added ambience, service, and slightly more luxurious ingredients worth the steep premium over other places like Jin Xuan? We're not quite convinced.

Prices above are in Malaysian Ringgit. As of time of writing, SGD 1 = MYR 2.41

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Salad Exploration ::: Fresh Garden Salad served with Deep Fried Chicken Cubes

Salad can go with every thing! Since dear and me are now starting to eat healthy. No carbohydrates but Fresh Garden Salad with Deep Fried Chicken is one of the dishes. May we suggest and post more exploration and match in the salad journey.

Fried Chicken served on Salad

Follow this recipe for the deep fried chicken, however, cut them in cubes to make it similar to the above picture. Place them aside to cool.

Place the mixed salad in the mixing bowl, pour in your favourite salad cream sauce & mix it up evenly. Dish it into the serving plate. Top up the fried chicken on top and drizzle a little more salad cream sauce, place a few tomatoes to spice up with color & serve.

Enjoy this simple recipe!

Click here for our blog page Cooking Classes for more recipes. Hope you will be inspired~

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kurobuta Shabu and Tonkatsu Ramens at Tampopo (Takashimaya)

On HungryGoWhere's Top 10 Ramen list, Tampopo is firmly entrenched on the #1 spot - in fact, it's got over double the votes over second placed Ippudo. A feat made even more impressive by the fact that Tampopo isn't a dedicated Ramen joint - it's a Japanese joint serving all sorts of assorted cuisine (sort of like an izakaya without the beer and tatami mats.

The darling and I paid a visit to the Takashimaya (Ngee Ann City) outlet during the Winter Hokkaido Fair. One of my favorite munch munch foods is Shishamo, and delightfully order the Hokkaido Giant Shishamo on the menu for SGD11.80 ... only to end up extremely disappointed. Far from being giant, the fish turn out to be a very normal-sized 3.5", which is a total rip-off when we're paying over SGD3 each!

Putting our disappointment behind us, we move on to the noodles! Starting with the Kurobuta Shabu Ramen (SGD15.30), which is unique in that instead of the typical yakibuta, the meat comes shabu shabu style in a pretty rich tasting tonkotsu broth. Portion is big too - you get a lot of noodle and meat for your money.

I do recall spending a little extra on "additional meat" though.

The Tonkatsu Ramen (SGD15.90) is, as its' name suggests, a bowl of ramen with a nicely breaded and deep fried pork loin. Complete with layer of fat, too! We found the soup base a lot stronger tasting and slightly spicy. Tonkatsu itself was above average, although not as good as some dedicated places like Saboten.

Putting aside the disappointment of the not-at-all giant shishamo, Tampopo serves up some pretty solid ramen. In our opinions it's not quite as good as Ippudo or Santouka (which are both dedicated ramen-ya's), but if you're in the area you probably won't be disappointed.

This outlet of Tampopo is in the basement of Takashimaya. Don't be confused with the sister restaurant on the 4th floor - that one is Tampopo Grand and is a more upmarket establishment. 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

Juice Exploration ::: Orange + Carrot + Green Apple Juice

It's time to add a fruit into the Carrot + Green Apple we learnt that day!

That will be adding Orange! :)

Carrot Apple Orange Juice

Proportions to make it taste good!
2 parts Carrot
1 part Green Apple
1/2 part Orange

Carrot Apple Orange Juice

Chop them up and then juice them in your juicer. I love to chill my fruits so I do not need to add ice which will dilute the juice when it melt.

Let's learn a little about oranges.

Carrot Apple Orange Juice

Health Benefit of Orange Juice
Vitamin B
Vitamin C
Vitamin P
Boosting the immune system
balanced metabolism
excellent blood pressure
lower bad cholesterol levels
bring some relief to those who suffer from arthritis pains
can be used as a part of weight loss program
Prevent Kidney Stones
Prevent Ulcers and Reduce Risk for Stomach Cancer
Protect Respiratory Health
Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis
help with lung and skin disorders
helps with indigestion, constipation and all digestive problems
good cleanser of the internal system
calms the nervous system
making it effective in treating nervousness, anxiety and insomnia

How to choose oranges in general?
Choose the ones that has smoothly textured skin and are firm and heavy for their size. It will have a higher juice content, than those that are either spongy or lighter in weight.

How to store oranges?
- At room temperature or in the refrigerator. It generally can last two weeks with either method and retain nearly the same level of their vitamin content. The best way to store oranges is loose to avoid it being exposed to moisture, as they can easily develop mold.
- Orange juice and zest can be stored for later use. Freeze the freshly squeezed orange juice then store them in plastic bags in the freezer. Orange zest that are dried should be stored in a cool, dry place and a must too in an airtight glass container.

Note to take
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking orange juice as the acidic can weaken our tooth enamel.
- It is recommended to eat a slice of tomato or cucumber after drinking acidic juices.

Health Benefit of Carrot Juice
Vitamin A
Vitamin B
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Physical exhaustion
improving our eyesight
Functioning of our immune system
Strengthening our bones and teeth
Good cleansing effects
Positive effects on our hair, nails and skin
Important for metabolism
Decreasing bad cholesterol levels in the body
Relieve spasms
Strengthen our blood vessels
Anti-aging properties

How to choose and store Carrot?
- Refrigerate carrots in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks. Avoid storing carrots next to apples and pears as it would speed up the ripening process.
- Choose carrots that are smooth, firm, and crisp, with deep color and fresh, and green tops. Avoid carrots that are split, wilted, have begun to sprout, or have soft spots.

Green Apple
Health Benefit of Green Apple Juice
Low in calories
Lowers the bad cholesterol level in the body
Prevents the formation of blood clots
Burn excess fat in the body
Reduce blood sugar in the body
Protect against diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer
Prevention of harmful bacteria growth in the intestine
Reduce teeth cavities
Reduce bad smell causing bacteria in the mouth

How to store Green Apple?
- Refrigerate green apples. Avoid storing with other fruits or vegetables as it will speed up their "roommate" ripening.
- Choose green apple that round and firm. Avoid green apple that are soft and discoloration.

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