Friday, June 30, 2006

La Strada Pizzaria

Pizza Napolitana
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
I got a postcard from Les Amis earlier in the month, informing of their newest concept - La Strada Pizzeria. Being an Italian-style pizza fan, I immediately pinned La Strada on my radar screen but was hindered by lack of an opportunity. Luckily, I was to meet up with an old uni friend last evening so I suggested we give La Strada a try.

La Strada was a combination of 2 concepts - the ristorante, catering to the upper-crust much like Garibaldi, and the pizzaria, located next door, occupying the space of what used to be the Lazy Gourmet Deli. At the pizzeria, the menu was kept primarily to a selected few pizzas of the usual combinations and even fewer pastas for those who so wish to have that in a pizzaria. The pizzas offered was in a standard size of 12" and fixed prix at S$18.

I got the napolitana (tomato salsa, olives and anchovies) to satisfy my craving for salt, while my friend got the prosciuto and rocket. After 8-10 minutes, our pizzas arrived. The first bite, I went "ok, why is the pizza so lukewarm?" Then I thought "wow, the crust is really thin!" But I did not feel blown away by that fact. In fact, I started to question if there can be such a thing as "overly" thin because the wedge of pizza was already limping downwards sans the outer-and-unadulterated-by-sauce crust. I also noticed there was NONE of that yeasty aromatic that never fails to whet up an appetite for me. Not surprising, I only ate 3 slices leaving me not so full. In comparison, I easily ate 5 slices of pizza at Papi, even with their slightly heavier crust (and could have eaten more). The salt-craving was satisfied though. Haha, I was needing some water when I got home.

La Strada is up against heavy competition and not looking good. We were one of the 2 tables occupied in our hour at peak period (7-8pm). Service was good; how can they not when there were only 2 customers? Between Papi and La Strada, I will pick the former hands down. Sadly, I do not wish to say this, but really, I don't see a reason to return to "the street".

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Uzumaki Wasabi Soft Serve

After reading an article from Straits Times a couple weeks ago on this new Japanese soft serve ice cream, Uzumaki (meaning "swirl") located at the basement of Bugis Junction, I could not wait to give it a try and finally I did!

While trying to find the place, I actually walked past the green make-shift stand at first. Anyhow, I managed to find it - it is right across Corochan, and got myself a wasabi soft serve in a waffle cone.

There was a promotion going on for wasabi flavor (u.p. $3.50, now $2.80) but really, I chose that because I was intrigued by the sound of "wasabi ice cream". Besides the waffle cone, you can get your ice cream in a cup or a regular cupboard-like cone.

As with most Japanese products, the way the icecream was served was rather interesting. The server will take a cup of ice cream of your choice, peel off a sticker at the bottom to reveal a hole, place it in this contraption and press down to squeeze the icecream out of the hole at the bottom, into the vessel of your choice and creating a swirl at the same time.

I must admit the artificial green hue was slightly disturbing initially but once I got past that and tasted the ice cream, I thought it was really was good! It was surprisingly sinus-clearing (I did not think I can still attain a "kick" out of the wasabi in icecream) and the cone was also a rather creative and localised take on our Chinese New Year love letters, very crispy and slightly flaky (in a good way).

This made a good post-lunch dessert though I was definitely stuffed in the midst of eating it. But it was quite good to let it go to waste so I still ate it all up, albeit too slowly. A really unique offering and I recommend it as a definitely must-try for all icecream and wasabi lovers!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sticky Cinnamon Buns

Sticky Cinnamon Buns
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
I am not sure what inspired me to make these sticky buns; I just did. The smell of cinnamon and yeast fills the air as the buns are cooling. But alas, I am stuffed from dinner to dig into one right now. That would be so heavenly. I hope they will still make a good breakfast tomorrow morning. Can't wait!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Japanese Grilled Mackerel or Saba

I blogged about my soft spot for japanese grilled mackerel or the saba and one kind reader/blogger suggested it would be easy to make my own.

Since then, I checked out various supermarkets to see where I could possibly get saba. There are a few places - Cold Storage at Takashimaya, Isetan Supermarket, as well as the very convenient Jason's supermarket right at my office block.

Today, I went and bought a piece, which is already pre-salted. When I got home, I gave it a rinse before slapping it onto the grill. Viola, less than 15 minutes later, I had a piece of fabulous, skin-blistering piece of saba. Wonderful aroma and deliciously fatty as well. A squeeze of lemon helped to cut the oilyness. I really could eat a few more.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Butter Cake

Father's Day always coincides with my dad's birthday so we usually kill two birds with one stone and have a single dinner to celebrate both occasions together. We had the dinner last night, nothing fancy as dad preferred, simply at a new cze char stall somewhere in Ang Mo Kio.

Since we have not had cake, I baked him his favourite, butter cake, made slightly decadent and a little fancy with a strawberry crumble topping. My dad is such an easy-to-please person. Something so simple like a butter cake with a good cup of local kopi can satisfy him. While the cake was cooling, the entire house was scented with cinnamon. I know this will be good and I can't wait to dig in tomorrow. After dad has his share of course.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Snackish in the afternoon

These raisin oatmeal cookies were baked last night and brought as a Friday treat for the office today. But I could not resist popping a couple when they came out of the oven. They were such a perfect pre-bedtime comfort food, especially good with cold milk.

These slightly soft and chewy cookies are the ultimate - wonderful cinnamony aroma that never fail to burst out everytime I open up the box.

Notice the huge (half-eaten) raisin on the side? Those raisins were a gift from a blogger and they were really plump and moist. Delicious on their own but even more so as a partner in a perfect marriage with oatmeal in the cookie.

Another couple of those cookies got me through my peckish stomach this Friday afternoon.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Farfelle with French Bean and Blue Cheese

This photo may not do the pasta justice but you have to believe me, this recipe is simple and the result is simply delicious, the only caveat being you have to like cheese.

Since I am currently obsessed with cheese of all sorts (sans sliced cheese), the recipe caught my eye when I was browsing the web. Here is my modified version but it is close.

Farfelle with French Bean and Blue Cheese
(serves 2)

4 oz farfelle
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 tbsp chopped garlic
4 tbsp cream
2 oz blue cheese
20 french beans, cut into diagonal sections
1/2 small tomato, diced

1. Boil pasta accordingly. Set aside with some pasta water.
2. Blanch french beans and set aside.
3. Heat a large shallow pan. Melt butter.
4. Add onions and garlic and sautee until fragrant and onions are soft.
5. Turn heat to low. Add cream, blanched beans, cheese and pasta.
6. Stir around to melt the cheese and coat everything together. If it seems to appear sticky and pasta is not coated, add a bit of reserved pasta water and toss further.
7. When done, turn off heat and add in chopped tomatos. Give it one more toss before serving.
8. Pepper if you so desire but I'd just dig in.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A good time at Papi

Cheers to Colin who humoured me and made a guess where the pizza was from, but no, it was not from Valentino. Perhaps if I reveal the pizza's name, it will ring a familiar bell? Papi - anyone?

Papi is the new pizza pasta trattoria owned by the same folks over at Oso Ristorante. The restaurant had a open concept woodfired oven in the middle of the room so the smell of fresh bread instantenously greets anyone who walks through the doors. Of course, I left smelling of a yeasty scent too.

Onto the food, I knew I had to try the pizza so I just went for the one that caught my eye. Who can resist a pizza with "whole egg, mozzarella cheese and black truffle sauce"? I certainly could not! We had to wait a good twenty minutes for our pizzas to arrive but it was worth it.

About 12 " across, papi had a really thin and even crust that remained crispy even when cold. The tomato sauce was spread thinly and the mozzarella cheese was not overwhelmingly thick. The areas with the black truffle sauce were saved for last and savoured as they added an extra earthy flavour and really intensified the experience. My only gripe would be the uneven distribution and somewhat stingly use of truffle sauce. At S$20, papi was one of the most expensive selections and I do not think it was too much to ask for more generous dabs of truffle sauce. If you look at the dark patches of sauce in the picture, you see some big, some small or worse, some areas none at all.

The whole egg in the middle was a novelty to me but I must say, it tasted really quite good together with the rest of the pizza. I truely enjoyed the papi and it has been a while since I sat down to a really good pizza. With such a big group of us, of course papi was not the only flavour we ordered. There were a couple others with meat on them so I ate only one other one, salmone (S$17), that had smoked salmon, mascarpone cheese and arugula. That was delicious as well, with the marscarpone melting from the heat and almost dripping. I must add that while the papi managed to hold up even when cold, salmone tasted most divine just out of the oven. Having said all that, I managed to wolf through three slices without effort, greedily ate a fourth and still managed a fifth in our attempt to avoid food wastage.

There were also some really interesting pastas on the menu which my friends ordered and proclaimed delicious as well. I so have every intention of keeping those options for my next foray.

5 Mohd Sultan Road

Monday, June 05, 2006

My first Uni at Tsukuji

Kaisan Don at Tsukuji
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
I knew I had to make at least one ritual visit to Tsukuji Fish Market (TFM) in my life. The week I was in Japan was Golden week and that meant many public places were closed for the holidays, including TFM. Luckily for me, God is good and I found out the market would be partially open on my very last day in Tokyo.

In the morning, after my obligatory breakfast (it is my quirk - I need to have breakfast first thing in the morning), I packed up our belongings ready to check out. Then we headed out to the crowdless streets of Ikebukero and took a train to Tokyo City. From there, we strolled the streets casually, stopping by a police outpost to ask for the direction towards TFM. There was direct trains there but we had time to kill so we walked instead. After 1/2 hour, we found ourselves in the vicinity of the market! My heartbeat started to escalate; I had waited for this moment for ages, since I started watching food-tv and Japan Hour. We headed straight into the heart of the wholesale market, taking everything in. There were many stalls selling fresh fish, tsukemono, bonito flakes and beans of different variety and forms.

Sneaked between these stalls were food stalls, selling sushi, ramen/soba noodles and tempura. A selected few sushi restaurants had a line of hungry folks waiting to get in as soon as the doors were opened for business. But I chose to go with a humble street side stall with only 6 stools fronting the owners while they prepared the food. There was a line of people too, but it was all right for me to wait because I was not that hungry to be impatient. After about 20 minutes of waiting in line, I was finally seated and shortly after, I was given this bowl of kaisen don (JPY900). Every bit of seafood looked so fresh and succulent I wanted to breakdown and cry. But heck, that can wait after. The truth was I did not know where to start. Everything looked good. In case you are a sucker for details, from 12-noon, we have 2 sweet ebi, tamago, ikura, uni on a shiso leave, 2 slices maguro, 2 slices tai (?), 2 slices sake, topped off with a cluster of pickled young ginger slices, a couple slices of Japanese cucumber and a dollop of wasabi. Underneath the fresh seafood was still-warm Japanese short-grain rice, lots of freshly toasted nori slivers and sesame seeds, just perfectly seasoned to go with the rice. The kaisen don was delicious and unforgettable, for the lack of better words. It was my first time eating uni too, and let's just say it is not my cup of tea. But I am glad I tried it although I did contemplate leaving it aside. After this surreal experience, I found myself turning up my nose at sashimi-offerings from our mid-ranged Japanese restaurants. I don't think I can ever go back, there.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Saba Shioyaki

Saba Shioyaki
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.
Saba shioyaki or grilled mackeral is one of my most freqently ordered dish in a Japanese restaurant. Most places do a decent job but I had really lousy ones where they deep fried the fish instead of doing a slow grill. The really good ones though, grill the fish to a perfection. The flesh is thoroughly cooked yet retains the juiciness from the fat. The skin of the fish is intact, brown to a crisp yet not burnt. When doused with a squeeze of lemon to cut the oiliness and eaten with a dollop of grated daikon, give me a bowl of Japanese sushi rice and leave me be in my happy corner.

When I have a hankering for it, I would go for lunch at Sun or Sun and Moon to satisfy the craving. The one pictured above came from the latter location. If I had time and a date, I would prefer Ikukan, along Club St. because if Sun is good, Ikukan is excellent!

Now I regret sharing that.