Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hachi

Friday night saw me catching up with a couple of colleagues (one ex-, one based overseas) over dinner at Hachi. I was warned the restaurant was in a non-descript location but I still felt lost for a minute as all I saw were beauty parlours and no restaurant. Taking a risk, I walked towards a screen door because I thought it looked Japanese and to my surprise, it automatically opened. I stepped in slowly and stuck my head behind more screen panes and luckily, dining tables greeted me and I knew I was in the right place.

Upon sitting, I was given a hot towel to prepare my hands for the meal ahead. I was asked if there was anything I did not eat, which was very thoughtful. In case you are wondering why the question, Hachi does not have a menu; chef-owner Watanabe-san will take care of you.

The appetizers followed very quickly - all 3 of them. There was boiled vegetables, in this case caixin, with a splash of dashi and sprinkling of bonito flakes. Nothing exciting. There was also a small serving of a rather unusual vermicelli, either stir-fried or tossed with some cream and roe. It was not outstanding and I thought it was out of place, served no real purpose other than an additional item on the menu. Lastly, we had a couple of raw oysters splashed with ponzu and served with pickled Japanese cucumbers. The latter two ingredients added a slightly sourish element, presumably to eliminate any stank that the oysters might possess. But in this case, it was unneccesary as the oysters were fresh. And to my delight, they were not "disgustingly" big and I slurped them down greedily.

Next, a serving of very fresh hamachi sashimi sliced to an ideal thickness was quickly devoured as well. Flavours of the sea were enhanced with a dab of freshly grated wasabi and dip of soy. Next up was another unexpected dish of macaroni salad that had bacon in it so Watanabe-san got me a grilled fish that appeared to be dehydrated before it was grilled and lacquered with a sweetish sauce. It was quite delicious.

Then we had another pre-prepared dish of marinated shisamo. Fried pregnant smelt appeared to be soaked in a soy sauce broth with together with pickled onions and ginger such that the shisamo attained a chew-factor. I loved it; definitely one of my favorite cooked dish for the night.

Noodles in a very light but tasty broth followed and I thought we were wrapping up as I slowly sipped on the hot soup and ate the chewy noodles. But I was wrong to assume so and next was another platter of mixed sashimi. There was tai (snapper), ameabi (sweet prawn) and maguro (tuna). Oh, there was also herring roe that tasted less saltish as compared to Sushi Yoshida's so I ate it all this time. By this time, I was rather full but then grilled unagi appeared. The fatty fish with a sweet sauce did not fail to satisfy. By this time, I was really stuffed and the waitress appeared to ask if we had enough. But the chef was already starting to prepare another course of snowcrab legs. That would be the last course, we emphasized. Sigh, maybe because of my state of fullness, the last course failed to really make an impression. The crabs were sweet and meaty but the flesh stuck onto the shells, making it a chore to remove. I thought this was the most disappointing dish.

Overall, I had an enjoyable dinner and I like the fact there is no menu and you really have no idea what to expect. There was a very home-y feeling as the clients that filled the restaurant seemed to be all regulars and a few even came in casual home clothes. I thought the cooked dishes also has that home-cooked element, but enhanced by a nicer presentation.

The meal for 3 of us, inclusive of tea, came up to about $90 per person. Not exhorbitant, I thought. You may wish to check out the enlarged set of pictures here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sushi Yoshida - this time, for chiraishi



I could not block the pictures of a recent lunch that NinjaHK indulged at Sushi Yoshida so when the girlfriend agreed to meet up for a good and long lunch in view of Christmas (hey, this jolly well qualifies as a justification okay?), I managed to convince her to switch from another Japanese joint she had in mind, over to Yoshida's.

I wanted to try something different this time and decided on the chiraishi set since the girlfriend was going for the sushi set. As before, we started with a chilled soft-boiled tamago, which had too-firm-a-yolk for my liking this time, that gathered flavours from the bit of wasabi, scattering of nori and an appetizing yuzu-scented soy sauce broth. I was hungry and this only got my appetite raring to go.

When the mains arrived, you should have seen our eyes lighted up as we saw the lucious array of seafood being brought before ourselves. The girlfriend was delighted with her sushi, citing the unagi and negitoro maki as her favorites.

For myself, out of the entire box of fresh seafood, I did not really care for the herring roe but it was a matter of personal preference more than it was nasty or bad. It was just way too salty! The other one being the surimi kani; I could do without fake crab, really. But all others, I savoured each bite and it would simply be too difficult to nominate a favourite.

The chiraishi had a bed of flavoured sushi rice that was unusual in that it was offwhite but tasted gratifying and not excessively sourish or sweet. That helped set a strong foundation for the chiraishi. Bits of seasoned shiitake mushrooms, pickled radish and nori were scattered over the rice to add flavours. After all the seafood had been consumed, a bit of gari (pickled ginger) saw me greedily polish off the remaining mounds of rice. It was simply too good to go to waste.

I warned the girlfriend to keep silent on this lunch venue but I realise I am now telling the whole world. Hahaha.

Just a sidenote: Yoshida-san was there but was standing outside rather than working wonders in the kitchen. Dang!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hong Kong and Krispy Kreme

Hello all,

I am back from my vacation to Hong Kong/Macau. As this trip was more a shopping expedition rather than a foodie one, we had random eats with no specific targets in mind.

Most of my meals were nothing so memorable, comprising mainly of standard fares offered at cha chan tengs and chinese restaurants. Specifically, in view of my choosy tastebuds, I loaded up on oodles of noodles, har gows (steamed shrimp dumplings) and cheong fun (steamed rice rolls).

People close to me know I love little meals, primarily because I would be hungry quickly, leaving me with room for random street snacks. When in HK, I go for the egg tarts. The best one I had this time around was a Portugese version from a street leading up to St Paul Ruins in Macau. The pastry shell was so overladen with butter, it tasted fried and crispy, which was perfet contrast to the warm and soft custardy filling.

The other noteworthy snack were a couple of Krispy Kremes that we accidentally chanced upon, while checking out SoHo area. Though full from breakfast, we could not give up special deal the store was offering before 12pm - one original glazed + one special + coffee for HK$26. Thus, the sister had her first tastings of a KK donut.

For me, the first sight of the familiar green/white storefront reminded me of the late night drives during college, about35 minutes away, just for a couple of freshly fried KK donuts. First bite in, I was still amazed at how wonderfully soft the donuts were. A few more bites later, when the donut was more or less done, I wonder why the hell the donut was made so small!

As I made a mental note to give that feedback to KK, I found myself handing over HK$10 for another.

Krispy Kreme can be found in 2 locations but the one I went to was at:

CENTAL STORE
51 Elgin Street
So Ho
Phone: 2580 8338
Open 7am until Midnight

Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu for Hope III


Menu for Hope III
Originally uploaded by Skinny Epicurean.

Yes, if you are a compulsive fblog reader like me, you may find this oh-so-familiar, even to the point of predictable. But if you still do not know about this annual charity campaign, read on.

"A Menu of Hope" started 3 years ago, by the notable fblogger Chez Pim. This year, the beneficiary of all the donations is the United Nation World Food Programme.

Details on how this charity event works can be found at her site. Basically, what we can do is to donate a certain amount of money in exchange for raffle tickets. You may then allocate the number of raffle tickets towards a prize, all of which are sponsored by restaurants and bloggers.

Because of the scale of this project, there are regional hosts for better management. Asia Pacific is hosted by Helen from Grab Your Fork. Do check out her site for more details on the programme and prizes.

Having gone on my first missions trip to Cambodia a few months ago, I feel strongly about helping the less fortunate, especially the children, who would be the pillars of the world tomorrow. Cliche, but I agree. It is not by choice they are born poor and so, please give them a chance to live life to the fullest. Make yours a special Christmas offering.

Here is the link to make a donation today. I urge you to give with a willing heart. If you do win a prize, that will be a bonus! Thank you and wish you good luck.

*I will be on vacation for a week; no posting in the meantime.*

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chocolate Chip Apple Cake

Ah, it has been quite a while since I baked. It must have been the overdose from the housewarming. When I baked over the weekend, I realised I really missed working the ingredients.

I was not in the best of mood before the weekend and ended up spending the weekend sorting my thoughts through. Finally came to terms and as a signal of closure, I baked all the negative vibes away.

Yet the practical side of me did not just want to bake anything, but something good enough for breakfast the following day. The Chocolate Chip Apple Cake is a winner. Found in the Scharffen Berger website (I am a big fan of their products), I baked a batch for the first time, and it turned out wonderful to both sight and taste.

As usual, I cut back on the sugar and it was the right move. It was just sweet enough. The cake is moist and tender from the little bit of acid (I substituted vinegar for lemon juice) and the bits of apples and walnuts contributed a balance between crunchy and mush. There is little butter used but the chocolate chips added that bit of naughty and indulgent feel of eating this for breakfast.

Go ahead, you know you want some.

Chocolate Chip Apple Cake
(makes 16 regular cupcakes or one 9x13 pan)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar plus 3 tbsp reserved for topping
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp ea baking soda, powder, salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice ( I used vinegar)
1 cup milk
2 to 3 small apples, peeled, cored, chopped to measure 3 cups
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts, plus 1/2 cup reserved for topping (I obmitted the walnuts for my topping)
4 oz semisweet chocolate, choppe (I used chocolate chips)
1/2 tsp cinnamon reserved for topping

Method:
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 9x13 cake pan or line your muffin tins with cupcake paper.

Cream butter and sugar with a electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time. Add in lemon juice. Then beat in the milk.

Mix together flour, baking soda, powder, salt. Add to the butter and egg mixture until just combined.

Add walnuts, apples, chocolate chips to the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan.

Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 3 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the cake.

Bake for 40 mins for cupcakes or 45 to 50 mins for a sheet cake, until the cake is firm, and toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Cool on a rack.

The cake tastes wonderful just out of the oven, and stays moist for the next couple days. But it probably would not last that long.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Original Sin



One of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Singapore, not that there are many to begin with, is Original Sin.

I had a birthday voucher to use up and decided to meet up with a college friend for a casual, girly catch up lunch. It turned out less than casual and very much more solemn but I digress.

During weekdays, they have a set lunch that comes with a choice of fresh juice and a main as well as a fixed dessert. I ordered a ruby-something juice - it had beetroot, ginger, carrot and apple? Anyway, only the carrot flavor was distinct. But I felt healthy instantly.

The main was a mediterranean wrap - a giantic tortilla spread with a puree of pumpkin and chick peas, speckled with feta cheese and bundled with carrots, more beets, cucumbers, lettuce and eggplant. Very light, full of texture and very healthy! The baby spinach was drizzled not with balsamic, but a rather unexpected Asian twist of "kecap manis", a type of thickend sweet soy sauce. I don't see how this dish can be called Mediterranean in any way but then, a name is a name, it did taste good to me.

Check out their food; I recommend the mezza plate, grilled mushroom, and the tofu patty thing. But they really should consider introducing new things.

ORIGINAL SIN
Blk 43 #01-62 Jalan Merah Saga
Chip Bee Gardens
Tel : 6475 5605

Yoyogi



Thursday saw me at Yoyogi during lunch. How I wish my stomach virus was non-existent, then I would probably be able to tell you for real, how lucious the salmon sashimi you see featured here was, but unfortunately, I can only relate the words out of JM's mouth - really fresh and soft!

I came across a few threads on this restaurant and was intrigued enough to give it a try. As shared, their set lunches as well as a la carte are really competitively priced. I suppose they have to, given the intense competition along that little stretch of Mohd Sultan road. To make my point stronger, guess how many other Japanese restaurants I had to pass before I got to my target? 4!

Not wanting to upset my stomach virus further, I made myself order the saba set (S$10.50) where every component was deemed safe to eat but exchanging the chawanmushi for cold tofu (never a fan of that custardy/eggy thing). But I sort of regretted my decision when JM ate hers and thought it was very smooth and savory. Oh well.
Fighting the urge to order a set with sashimi was difficult but I passed the test of temptation with flying colors as I remained unwavered even as JM relished her order of a la carte sake sashimi ($10.80) and sheer delight was showing up all over her face.

Because I could not get to eat any sashimi, the rebellious part of me ate every single morsel of food in my set, going against the strict order from the doctor to half my food intake. Ha! So there doc!

I did not regret my order though. The saba was grilled to a crisp on the outsides without drying out the insides. The flesh was fatty as it should and I really liked the seasoned scallop fringes (what are they called in Japanese anyway?) that they serve as an appetizer.

What I found rather disturbing was the uncomfortable feeling I got as soon as I stepped into the restaurant. Somehow, the sheer space of the restaurant, the fake-kimono-clad waitresses, the thick M'sian-accents I hear constantly, they all got to me in a rather negative way. I don't know what that means but I reckon I will not rush back again.

YOYOGI JAPANESE RESTAURANT
33 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-05
Tel: 6887-4669
Closed on Sundays