Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Singapore's Best Dimsum? - at Yan Ting, The St. Regis Singapore

I think it's sometimes a double-edged sword for a restaurant to get a "Best cuisine in (wherever)" reputation. Because when first-timers go and try, they do so with sky-high expectations and if the food isn't mind-blowingly good, they can come away disappointed.

So it's with controlled optimism that the darling and I join some mates for a dim sum brunch/lunch at Yan Ting - St. Regis Singapore's Chinese restaurant. There's an all-you-can-eat option available, but at over SGD100 after taxes we decide to go ala-carte instead.

(side note ... these candied almonds are delicious).

Being a restaurant in a 5-star hotel, there's no pushcart being pushed around the room (your food is steamed only upon order) and you don't have to pour your own tea, but other than that the staple of dim sum baskets available on offer are quite standard fare. There's the usual culprits like Siew Mai, which was pretty good and Hong Kong-sized (i.e. Large), and the sort-of-miserably-small Har Gao ... and other assorted dumplings.

And if you're wondering why I haven't added the Chinese words, it's because me semi banana / twinkie and I don't want to end up putting the wrong words :P

I'm not sure how long the Lou Sar Bao (Steamed Custard Bun) has been available on our shores ... I'd never even known it existed until I was introduced to it by a mate in a Hong Kong dimsum place 2-odd years back. Since then it seems every single dim sum place serves it.

The darling and I also thought that the Char Siu Sou and Egg Tarts were very good! The egg tarts, especially so (if perhaps a tad bit on the sweet side).

... we weren't as convinced by the Fried Carrot Cake and the Chee Cheong Fun though. The noodle roll in particular was strangely ... lukewarm, which put it in stark contrast with the rest of the piping hot, freshly steamed goodies.

We thought that the dim sum overall was pretty solid. And the prices, considering the surroundings, was pretty reasonable as well - we clocked in at SGD26/person. We haven't eaten at any of the other famous dim sum places in Singapore yet, though, so we can't really make judgement as to whether Yan Ting lives up to its' reputation, but as long as you're not too picky an eater you would probably be at least satisfied.

Know of any other "die die must try" dim sum places in Singapore? Let us know in the comments and we'll go take a look!

Yan Ting is in The St. Regis Singapore, on Tanglin road. It's sort of walking distance from the Orchard MRT station (maybe 20 minutes?), or you could just drive or take a cab. Non-halal.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Kaiseki Set at Hokkaido Sushi

I'm sure by now all of us have come across restaurants offering deals on those group buying websites like Groupon. Truth be told, I've never bothered buying deals off any of the sites, because, you know. Why would a good restaurant need to offer discounts on these sites?

Then I came across a coupon offering a blistering "62% off" on a Spring Kaiseki Set at Hokkaido Sushi Restaurant. What caught my eye was that this joint won AsiaOne's People's Choice Award for Best Japanese Restaurant in 2008. No matter how also standard wouldn't have dropped that much in a few years ... right?

Anyways the deal was $39.90 for what the restaurant claims is SGD105.00 worth of food - drinks not included though so we add on a Yuzu Citrus Tea/Drink and a Green Tea (which came out to about $6 or so).

The Wafu Salad ($6.00) and Homemade Pitan Tofu (SGD5.00) are served first. Wafu salad had some crispy tempura batter bits to add some crunch, but otherwise was quite ordinary. The Tofu comes paired with a brown sauce made from century egg, which actually tasted overall very nice even though I'm not a big fan of century egg :)

Kanpachi (Amberjack) Sashimi with Truffle Oil (SGD20.00) is up next and we're very surprised at how well the aroma and taste of the truffle oil complements the fresh raw fish. So much so that we comtemplate buying a small bottle of the stuff and bringing it with us to drizzle on our sashimi wherever we go.

As we steal glances at the tables around us, it seems somewhat obvious that the restaurant gets a big portion of its sales from coupon websites - almost every table seems to have started off with the same salad and tofu. Food isn't bad so far, though, so we're not complaining :)

After the sashimi, the Hokkaido Hotate Kakiage (Deep Fried Scallop with mixed Vegetables, SGD18.00) is rather ... run of the mill.

Moving on to the Hokkaido Ikura Chawanmushi (SGD15.00) - basically chawanmushi with salmon roe. The egg custard itself was decently smooth; and the salmon roe added a nice, oily, juicy, salty aftertaste.

Salmon Mentaikoyaki (Grilled salmon with Spicy Cod Roe sauce, SGD18.00) was up next - and was a pretty juicy salmon fillet topped with a mayonnaise-based creamy cod roe sauce. Too creamy, in my opinion - the taste of mayonnaise sort of overpowered the rest of the flavours, in my opinion.

The last dish in the set is the Yakitori Don (SGD22.00) - nothing much to comment, to be honest - it's a rice bowl with some chicken, nothing really special over any other chicken rice bowl at other Japanese places. Oh, and a bowl of Miso Soup (SGD5.00), too.

Finally we get to cleanse our pallets with a Mixed Fruits platter, which is almost certainly sourced "locally" (locally as in, from cheaper sources other than Japan).

We were overall pretty satisfied with the meal for the price of SGD40/person, but we are not really convinced of the so-called "original value" of the food (and the resulting 62% discount figure). Doing some google'ing shows that the restaurant's modus operandi now seems to be mark up the ala-carte prices, package them into a set meal, and then advertise them at a big "discount" to the various coupon buying websites.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not really - just be properly forewarned and pre-buy your meals off a coupon website, and you probably won't be disappointed.

Hokkaido Sushi is located in the M Hotel, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT station. Non halal.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tea Tasting/Pairing at the Marmalade Pantry with Dr Leslie Tay.

After water, tea is the most widely drunk beverage in the entire world - more than 5 million tonnes of the dried leaves are produced annually. It's good for you, too - it's chock full of antioxidants, flavanols, flavonoids, and polyphenols. So when Dr. Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost organized a high tea tasting / pairing over at The Marmalade Pantry, the darling and I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about this leaf!

The afternoon was structured like how a wine-tasting/pairing session would be like - four different teas, paired with four different food portions, designed to complement and bring out the flavors in each other. We're concentrating today on Dilmah's Watte Single Region Teas, which are the same tea plant grown in four different altitudes/climates.

The darling and I know nothing about tea, so it's great that Dr. Leslie is on hand with his projector to moderate and guide us through the pairing session. Different teas have different strengths and character, and generally speaking a light tea would go well with a light tasting meal, whereas heavy, sweet desserts would need a heavier-tasting tea to wash it down with. We're also supposed to look out for three 'categories' - taste, texture, and components (how well the tea and the food complement each other).

We also were lucky to have Dilhan, son of Dilmah Founder Merrill Fernando, who took the microphone quite a number of times during the session to impart some of his tea knowledge! We learn that how 'strong' a tea is depends a lot on the sunshine, temperature and humidity that the plant is exposed to - which is why the different Watte teas taste so much different despite being the same plant grown in the same region.

We start off with plants growing at 5,500-6,500 feet (above sea level) with the Ran Watte. It is a very light tea, slightly dry, with a slight hint of herbal/floral sweetness.

It's paired with Citrus cured salmon with tea smoked cream cheese on brown toast, and we're surprised that the tea did enhance and bring out the flavors!

Moving down the hills, we proceed to the Uda Watte (5000ft). At these elevations the richer soil and more exposure to sunlight result in a stronger, earthier taste, and is more suitable than the Ran Watte for adding milk. This was paired with Pork belly pot stickers with XO sauce - this was my favorite nibble of the day.

Incidentally speaking, the ideal way to have your milk tea is to add the tea to the milk, instead of the other way around. This apparently allows the milk to gradually warm up, and prevents the breaking down of the milk proteins.

Next up, we pair Cocoa ribs with garlic confit and steamed buns with the 3000ft Meda Watte. This tea is even stronger, being probably a little stronger-bodied than the "everyday" tea bags that we brew. The darling makes a remark that the taste is quite similar to the Chinese Pu Erh tea.

The final pairing is the Oyster po boys with celeriac slaw, broiche buns, with the sea-level Yatta Watte. We've been having our teas sans any sugar or milk to fully enjoy and appreciate the differences of each tea, but this cup is too earthy and strong for me.

As a special 'bonus' tasting, we also get to sample Dilmah's very luxurious Uva Highlands Seasonal Flush (2011). The abridged version of what makes this tea so special is that the winds, weather, sunshine and rains came together perfectly in this region. On 9th August 2011, only 500kg in total of tea leaves were harvested. We thought that this tea was the best of the five we had today - very flavorful without much bitterness from the tannins. Had a wonderful aroma, too!

Each of us got to go home with a goody bag of some of Dilmah's more mainstream offerings :P

While we're in no way tea connoisseurs, I think that the session has managed to up our appreciation of the beverage quite a few notches. At the very least, we now know that there are quite a few varieties of black tea that can be comfortably slurped without sugar and milk overpowering all the aromas and rich textures!

Thanks to Dr Leslie for organizing the event and being and awesome host, and the Marmalade Pantry at the Stables for the lovely nibbles. Totally worth the $30 that we paid.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ramen Champion's Gantetsu and Gensuke - Changi T3

Update: I understand that Gensuke has now been replaced by a new shop that serves spicy szechuan-style soup base with deep fried chicken cutlet.

A little while ago we blogged about Ramen Champion over at Changi T3, and we mentioned that there were four different ramen chefs serving up four distinctly different styles of Ramen. During that trip we only were able to stomach offerings from Riki Ramen and Ikkousha - so today we're finishing off the other two stalls!

Starting off with Gensuke's Ajitama Ramen (SGD13.50), which unlike most other ramen places, serves up an unashamedly chicken-based broth. Much better tasting than Marutama, the broth has a very strong chicken taste without being very salty.

We also added on a side order of "chicken cha shu" (SGD4.00). Despite it's interesting name, it's really just sliced chicken thigh meat.

Gantetsu seems to be the most popular of the four stalls here (judging purely by the queues), so we're excited to order the King Cha Shu Men (SGD15.00). We dig in and find the noodle soup rather ... disappointing. It's not half-bad, just that the soup wasn't as flavorful as some of the other tonkotsu broths we've had. It's got a pretty strong pork taste, but that comes from the addition of liberal amounts of pork fat floating on the surface of the broth, rather than the taste of the broth itself. The cha shu was also relatively dry and tough.

If we were slightly disappointed by the ramen, the Gyoza (SGD5.00) ruins the entire night. Mushy and tasteless, with a thick, chewy skin, could probably challenge for Singapore's Worst Gyoza honours.

Like we mentioned in our earlier post, Changi T3 attracts quite a sizeable weeknight crowd, so you can expect a 10-15minute queue. 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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Joy of Easter::: Easter Bunnies Lollipop Craft.

Easter Day is round the corner. I was browsing around the internet and found this cute Art & Craft Paper Bunny Pops Craft..! Once upon a time, I use to love doing art & craft so much that I'll make presents instead of buy them.. While browsing around to feel the Easter mood my eyes laid on this adorable bunny holding a lollipop to represent an Easter Egg, I tried to hold back but my itchy hands and heart begin shopping for the supplies.. Secret plans were made to make and give to dear and my colleagues at office.

Easter Bunnies

Click here to download the PDF from www.freefuneaster.com
Important to print out using a colour printer so you will have a nice cute pink nose for the rabbit.

Easter Bunnies

Shop and make sure you have these.

Fuzzy Pom-Poms
Chenille Stem *Fluffier the better. :P
Facial Cotton *for the arms can be substitute with 2 Fuzzy Pom-Poms
Printed Bunny
UHU Glue
Marker Pen

Easter Bunnies

Cut out the paper bunny using a scissors. Then use the penknife to cut a plus sign at each circle. The above supplies is enough to make 1 Easter Bunny.

Easter Bunnies

Insert the stick of the lollipop onto the cut plus signs as shown to create a "3D" effect of the face.

Easter Bunnies

Glue the paper feet to the bottom of the lollipop.

Easter Bunnies

Now for the arms. The size of this type of facial cotton that I have is approximately 3cm x 2.5cm which I cut them into 3 pieces 1cm each. Cut off all the edges & add 2 black lines with the marker pen to create a more "arm" look. Of cause this process can be easily replace with 2 Fuzzy Pom-Poms, however cost will be higher.

Easter Bunnies

Take the back of the open end and squeeze some glue on it then place it on both sides leaving it looking like it is holding on to the "Easter Egg".

Easter Bunnies

Twist the Chenille Stem to make it look like a "M".

Easter Bunnies

Take the twisted Chenille Stem and wrap them around the end of the lollipop stick. One end twisted above the bunny head and the other end below for support and padlock to avoid the ears falling off. Adjust it till it looks like cute rabbit ears!

Easter Bunnies

Glue a Fuzzy Pom-Pom to the back to create a support. Allow time for your craft to dry. If your bunny cannot stand. This fuzzy tail will be the secret to make it stand!

Easter Bunnies

Look at the Easter Bunny gang that is ready to bring smiles to everyone face.

Hopefully we did make as many of our friends happy. I made 40 Easter Bunnies!!! Can you break my record?
No matter how few or many you made share it with us by leaving at the comment below. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ramen Champion's Riki and Ikkousha - Changi T3

After a two-month break, we're back on the trail for finding the best Ramen in Singapore! Today's post is about Ramen Champion over at Changi's Terminal 3!

Ramen Champion's concept - the restaurant itself doesn't have just one resident ramen chef, but four! Four different chefs, four different styles of Ramen from four different places in Japan means potentially awesome variety! I'm not sure if this outlet is the same as the one over at Illuma, or whether there's any sort of competition going on between the chefs, though.

The portions are full-sized bowls though, so sadly unless you're a huge eater (or coming in a large group), you'll need at least two (or more) visits to sample all the ramen on offer.

For our first trip, we try Ikkousha's Hakata Ajitama Ramen. Like its' name suggests, this shop originates from the Hakata region and serves up tonkotsu i.e. slow boiled pork bone broth. It turns out to be a very flavourful, if a tad bit salty, broth served with thin noodles. We think that the broth is actually quite nice, but the noodles were a bit too soft/soggy for our liking.

Next up, the Nitamago Riki (Shoyu broth) Ramen. This one comes with a surprisingly thick and springy noodle, which we like. The broth, however ... was a little odd. It was a bit herby and tasted not unlike West Malaysia-style herb bak kut teh broth. Plus a lot of pork fat bits floating around. The combination somehow doesn't really ... gel, in our opinions, especially with the choice of vegetable accompaniments - taugeh and cabbage.

Ramen champion comes in at a very par-for-the-course SGD15-SGD16-ish/pax. Changi T3 attracts quite a sizeable weeknight crowd, so you can expect a 10-15minute queue. 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