Monday, July 19, 2010

Food Art @ Central Food Festival

During this year's Food Festival, the Central shopping mall situated along the Singapore River came up with quite an interesting idea to celebrate the festivity by using food to create art.

Check out these cool art pieces on display!

Chef Daniel's Kitchen @ Iluma

With the recent increase in variety programs featuring local chefs as either judges, mentors or simply as cooks displaying their culinary skills, there is a growing recognition of these chefs as celebrities.

Banking on their growing popularity, it seems only natural that they become the 'living, walking and breathing' advertisements for newly opened food & beverage establishments. One such restaurant is adaptly named "Chef Daniel's Kitchen" after the experienced chef - Daniel Koh.

The restaurant is located on the 7th storey of the new shopping complex, Iluma, situated directly opposite Bugis Junction. Due to perhaps it's roof top location which is unaccessible via the escalator, the restaurant might still be unknown to the majority of shoppers in the vicinity.
In an effort to draw more customers, the restaurant came up with a reasonably (and affordably) priced daily lunch and dinner set meal at $10.50 nett and $28 nett respectively. The former includes a soup and bread as the starter, 1 out of 16 mains to choose from, one dessert and a free soft drink. The latter also includes a similar starter, 1 out of 7 mains to choose from, a dessert but no mention of any free drinks.
I went for the lunch set meal and although we were quickly shown to our seats having made a prior reservation, the service was somewhat lagging. After having given our orders, we were made to wait about 15 minutes before the drinks were served. Soup of the day was a tomato-based vegetable soup with a slice of herbs & onion bread. The bread was soft and tasted fresh but there was nothing to brag about the soup.
For our mains, we ordered grilled chicken with chips, beef stew and lamb stew. The portions were 'just nice' and priced at $10.50 nett for a set lunch meal, there was not much grounds for us to make as much as a whimper except that another slice of herbs & onion bread was served, soaked in each bowl of stew. Again, the mains tasted just like how a piece of grilled chicken or beef stew or lamb stew is expected to taste. Nothing extraordinarily delicious.

grilled chicken with teriyaki sauce served with french fries
beef stew with carrot, celery and potato
lamb stew navarin

As for the dessert, without any introduction from the waitress, I'm guessing I tasted a spongecake base topped with raspberry-flavoured mousse cake slice. Well, it tasted ok to me but I would have been more excited if it was a chocolate cake slice instead.
I would rate the overall dining experience a 5 out of 10. It would be an affordable and additional option for nearby office workers to dine there but advance reservation is strongly advised. The other wise thing to do would be to study the online menu prior to arriving and to give your orders once you are seated to minimise the waiting time.

A short note to those who are expecting chef Daniel to be in the kitchen whipping up a storm for you at $10.50 nett - "Hello? Please stop dreaming and wake up to REALITY hoh!".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World Cup Mania @ BreadTalk

BreadTalk is probably the only bakery I know of that is always up-to-date with the latest local or international happenings.

Previously, with the F1 night race in Singapore, all the BreadTalk bakeries were decorated with F1 cars assembled from bread. Next, with the showing of the movie "Sex In The City 2", they came up with the "Spring In The City" buns. And more recently, with the World Cup matches in South Africa, they came up with at least two cake designs - one modelled after the football and another modelled after the football field.
These cakes or buns might not taste extraordinary nice or better than others sold elsewhere but it's the creativity and effort put in that impresses me and has me going back for more.

I am already looking forward to their new launches in celebration of the Singapore National Day on the 9th of August 2010.

Meanwhile, BreadTalk is currently celebrating their 10th year in the business and all buns are selling at a discounted price of $1.10. Go grab some before the promotion ends. :)

Streets Café @ Raffles City Shopping Centre

This is one of the many Hong Kong cafés that has been sprouting all over the island in recent years. Despite so, the restaurant still manages to attract it's fair share of customers during mealtimes.

I, for one, am quite a fan of such Hong Kong cafés. I simply love the slightly bitter milk tea which is somewhat unique to them as well as the thick toasts with it's crispy bread skin and soft inner layer.
For a fuller meal, I would normally order from the Nissin noodle list. My two favourite selections would be the so-call 'original' Nissin noodle soup accompanied by a sunny-side up and some luncheon meat slices or simply the Nissin noodle soup topped with a thick slab of tender pork chop. Although this is a common noodle item in all Hong Kong cafés, it can be quite a challenge to find one that cooks the instant noodles to the right springy consistency coupled with the right soup base and the nicely cooked toppings. The Streets Café in this instance, is not one where I would recommend the ordering of any such noodles. :[

So on my recent visit, I proceeded to order rice with sweet & sour pork which comes with a sunny-side up as well. The meat was not in the typical sweet & sour pork form if you know what I mean. Instead, it's in the form of a meat ball. Nonetheless, it tasted like what it's supposed to taste - all thanks to the sauce - and there's not much to compliment or complain about.
In addition, the restaurant has also incorporated some dim sum dishes in it's menu and this made the place ever more cantonese-like.

Komala Vilas

I've been patronising this little South Indian Vegetarian Restaurant in Little India since my NS days in 1994, although I do not go there on a regular basis, I do like to bring overseas visitors there and whenever I find any reason to go there. This restaurant has been around since 1947 and has been popular with the local indian and non-indian populations alike!

I've always ordered the same thing when I dine there: The South Indian Vegetarian Meal, Paper Thosai and the Marsala Thosai, so much so that I don't even know what the other dishes are called after all these years! If I find a good thing, I'll stick with it!

So just yesterday, I found another reason to bring a friend there since it was his first time eating in Little India! Faithfully, I ordered the South Indian Veg Meal for him and a Marsala Thosai for myself, complete with 2 Lassis (Yoghurt drinks).

South Indian Vegetarian Meal - It's $6.70 and all-you-can-eat free refill for rice and all the accompanying dishes. I rarely go beyond the first serving as you can see, they do tend to give a lot of rice! I've no idea what goes inside those little side dishes but they are all wonderfully cooked with lots of Indian spices. They are not very hot but with lots of flavor! There's even a small cup of soup and a ginger sago dessert that goes with it.

Marsala Thosai - $2.70. A tad more filling than the paper thosai, the Marsala Thosai is filled with potatoes cooked with spices to the right consistency. I like to eat it with the curry best (middle), not so much with the coconut based dip on the right hand side. For the price, it's definitely 2 thumbs up!

And of course, they say: "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", so I always wash my hands clean and tuck in to my food with my fingers when I am there!

Lookout for the bright yellow sign that says "KOMALA VILAS VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT" along the main road of Little India!

Big Mango vs Little Maltese

I bought this super-sized mango at Cold Storage for $5++ and was pretty certain that it'll be so much bigger than the face of my soon-to-be 11 years old maltese.

It would be great if I had remembered to weigh it because with the dog at merely 4kg, the difference in weight might not have differed much.

But one thing's for sure - she'll definitely love to stink it's teeth into this fat, juicy mango! :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

记得吃 - Part 3

Next up on my 记得吃 dessert conquest list is the Banana Snow Ice.

The generous serving of banana flavored snow ice topped with peanut bits, nata de coco, thinly sliced banana and pearls had me grinning from ear to ear.

The wonders of the snow ice dessert lies in the snow ice itself. Aside from having the wonderful snowy melt-in-your mouth texture, the snow ice itself already carried the individual flavors, making the drizzle of any sweet flavored syrup totally redundant. I would have been more than satisfied even if there were only the snow ice and sprinkled peanut bits. The other toppings were simply bonuses.

I'll defnitely be back for a fourth time...perhaps I'll try the chocolate snow ice then! :)

Annalakshmi @ Chinatown Point

I came to know of the restaurant Annalakshmi through the Channel 5 program, Buffetlicious. It is just another typical Indian vegetarian restaurant if not for it's "Eat What You Want and Give As You Feel" philosophy made possible by the service of voluntary staff. Yes, you read it right! There's no fixed price for the food charged in the restaurant. Simply pay whatever price you feel is right or affordable to you!

Despite the airing of the program on national television and the 'reassurance' from the restaurant's website, it still sounded too good to be true to me. Hence, a trip was made to the branch at Chinatown Point.

Upon arrival at the restaurant slightly after noon, I was expecting to find it crowded with hungry customers looking for a cheap deal. On the contrary, it was not even half-full and only after being attended by a polite waiter did I realised that the tables were all fully reserved. I was about to make my hasty retreat in disappointment but was instead offered a reserved table with the condition that I free it in an hour's time. The deal was struck and after being shown to my table, I was delighted to be offered a list of drinks ranging from lassi, pineapple juice, lime juice etc other than plain water!

The buffet spread didn't really have the "wow" factor unlike it's hotel counterpart. Nevertheless, with a choice of 4 different types of rice, some 5 to 6 varieties of accompanying gravy, fried lady's finger, papadam (my absolute favourite!), sweet yoghurt dessert and freshly-cut water melon, it definitely more than satisfied my hunger pang on a Sunday afternoon.

Note: For those naan-lovers, it's only available during the dinner buffet. Lunch buffet (11am - 3pm) and dinner buffet (6pm - 9pm) at Chinatown Point are only available from Friday to Sunday. Reservation (6339 9993) is highly recommended.

I brought with me a somewhat sense of skepticism but left feeling good, knowing that there's still a strong belief of goodwill and charitableness in people. It's a nice feeling to know that not everything is about dollars and cents in this realistic world. :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Curry Hor Fun @ OldTown White Coffee

Besides knowing that OldTown White Coffee originated from Malaysia and that local host cum comedian, Mark Lee, introduced it to Singapore, I pretty much know next to nothing about this growing franchise restaurant.

The last day of June 2010 marked the first time I stepped into the restaurant at Toa Payoh Central. What welcomed me was a wave of warm air and no sign of any waiters or waitresses. If not for my determination and curiosity to locate just one serving staff, I would have walked out of the restaurant instead of venturing further in. Upon reaching the counter, I realised that there's an adjacent part of the restaurant hidden from view at the entrance where it's so much cooler and alas, the 'hidding' place for the serving staffs. :)

The restaurant was relatively empty at 6.30pm in the evening and it was no problem finding myself a comfortable seat at a round table under a revolving ceiling fan - which sort of reminded me of the settings in a typical coffeeshop in the 80s, albeit more hygienic now.

The menu is typically made up of the usual Malaysian fanfare of noodles, rice, nasi lemak, toast breads, drinks and almost certainly, a great selection of white coffee.

I ordered the Curry Mee which is one of the recommended dishes in the menu but proceeded to change the noodle to hor fun instead in my attempt to have a less fattening meal.

My order was served to me promptly within 10 minutes and the redness of the curry gravy raised an alarm of the spiciness which I might not be ready for. The hor fun was submerged in a sea of red with two juicy, floating tau poks on the surface. It was only after digging at the base of the bowl with chopsticks that I uncovered some chicken shreds, beansprouts and a few pieces of curry leaves amidst the lump of hor fun.
The curry gravy is definitely potent in both look and taste so I'll advise full attention and concentration while eating rather than making small talks in between mouthfuls. It tastes like curry noodles no doubt but it doesn't differentiate from curry noodles sold in food markets elsewhere.

However, I can see myself coming back for the thick toast bread just for the sake of comparing it to those sold at the numerous Hong Kong cafés in Singapore.

Almond Jelly With Longans

Almond jelly with longans is one of my all-time favourite dessert. Despite so, it was not until recently that I finally decided to try making it myself after being a little fedup with the stinginess of the dessert stalls for heaving so much shaved ice on the few sparing cubes of almond jelly at the base of the bowl, topped with three, perhaps 4 pieces (if you are lucky) of preserved canned longans.

Longans are in season and I managed to get my hands on some fresh longans at NTUC Fairprice before heading to the baking section where I found three brands of almond jelly premix powder on sale. The most expensive brand cost $2.20 while the cheapest brand (Hollyfarms) cost a mere $1.55 - which is a whopping $0.65 or 30% price difference!

In the good spirit of wanting to validate whether quality is indeed proportional to price, I proceeded to make my purchase on two packets of almond jelly powder - the most expensive and the cheapest brand.

The almond jelly making process is fairly simple and straightforward if one were to dutifully follow the cooking instructions at the back of the packet. It simply involves the dissolving of the powder in boiling water, the pouring of the almond solution into a jelly mould and refrigerating it till the jelly is formed.

The end result:
* Hollyfarms yielded more almond jelly - approximately one more mould of jelly
* The more expensive brand yielded somewhat whiter and more porcelain-like almond jellies while Hollyfarms yielded more natural and normal-looking almond jellies (I definitely prefer the appearance of the latter).
* Taste-wise, it's not so much of a difference but I would rather prefer the Hollyfarms almond jelly as I find it to be slightly denser and closer to my personal liking.

Morale of the story: Good ingredients/food doesn't necessarily come at a higher price tag.