Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nicolas Le Restaurant

Nicolas Le Restaurant is yet another restaurant tucked away from the mainstrip and located amongst shophouses in a very interesting area (ex-red light district) of Chinatown. It was just opened a few months ago, by Chef-owner Joanny who used to be the head chef at Les Saison before that restaurant folded. His food came highly recommended by a friend who was a Les Saison regular so I was really quite looking forward to the meal once I got the right company to join me.

The interior of the restaurant struck me as rather resort-like. The high ceiling was lined with dark mahagony wooden beams, the cream-colored walls were decorated with wooden-framed pictures that seemed to be of South East Asian flavour, then there were the cold, grey square tiles that made up the flooring. In fact, the wooden beams became a topic of discussion. We wondered if they were part of the original structure or an added touch by the restaurant.

The meal started with the amuse bouche, a smoked duck breast that I gave up to the friend. Instead, I started on a warm mini baguette served with butter. The crust was not too thick nor crunchy as I prefered but it still tasted great. Isn't it strange that just by increasing the temperature at which the bread is eaten, can instantly increase its yummy factor?

The first course was a bavetine pasta served alongside a plump, pan-seared scallop. They were flavoured by an accompaning sauce that was a tarragon-infused crustacean emulsion. The scallop was one of the best I had eaten. It was very fresh and hence no fishy smell and it was cooked until the insides remained the lightest of pink yet firm. I really loved it and was rather disappointed when it was all gone.

The main course was roasted cod served with a carrot and cardamom bouillon. I love cod for its silky texture and oily mouthfeel and it turned out to be another excellent choice. The cod had just been floured lightly and pan-seared to form a thinnest layer of crisp before being finished in the oven. Again, the fish was seasoned minimally. Instead, the sauce was the main flavouring agent and it did such a wonderful job. I did not know before that cardamom and carrot paired well with cod.

Desserts are an inevitable thing with ladies who lunch. The dark chocolate cake with raspberry coulis was rather pedestrian - good but ordinary. The chilled apple coupe with crunchy almond tuile was more interesting. It was a deconstructed apple pie of sort. Imagine this in the little cup: the bottom was lined with cooked down apple chunks, then topped with a chilled vanilla custard, followed by a sprinkling of sugar cookie crumbs. The different textures and cold temperature made the dessert easy to eat and not too heavy.

The meal ended comfortably full, even with complimentary petit fours and coffee. I thought it was a rather impressive first meal and I look forward to the next.

Nicolas Le Restaurant
35 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089142
Tel: +65 62242404
Lunch: Monday to Friday: 12pm to 2pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday: 6.30pm to 10pm

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tale of Two Hiyashi (Chuka) Ramen

Hiyashi ramen, a Japanese cold noodle salad, is such a refreshing and appetizing dish to have when the weather is unbearably hot, like a few days ago. Hiyashi chuka ramen is made with raw ramen noodles or chukamen, and is served with lots of toppings usually in julienned form. The flavour that binds everything together comes from the dressing and there are basically two types: soy sauce and sesame.

Kadoman - Hiyashi chuka ramen
Kadoman's hiyashi chuka ramen ($15++) is served with a soy sauce dressing, flavoured with sesame oil and seeds. The toppings were rather sparse -- omelette, cucumber, pickled ginger, wakame -- and made more so because I requested for no char siew. But I was happy to find the noodles were pleasing to eat, with a chewy bite. Unfortunately, the dressing became overwhelmingly saltish very quickly and I had to have a drink of water every so often until I got rather bloated.

Do take note that only 10 sets of this cold ramen is served each day and it would be best to call ahead to reserve. Personally, I don't think it's worth the price, and all that trouble plus attitude from the lady waitress really. I would come back for their miso yasai buta ramen though.

Noodle House Ken - Hiyashi chuka ramen

On the other hand, Noodle House Ken's hiyashi chuka ramen ($12+) had a sesame dressing. The noodles were slightly thicker than the former, but no less tastier thanks to the savoury, thick and fragrant dressing that did a good job of coating each strand of noodles with a luscious sheen. The toppings were also very generous -- fishcake, spinach, cucumber, omelette, menya (preserved bamboo shoot) -- and I really appreciated that Ken-san replaced my char siew (I requested for no char siew as well) with spinach without me asking for it.

Miharu and Noodle House Ken remain my top ramen joints.

10 Coleman Street

Grand Plaza Parkroyal
Open everyday
11:30am - 2:00pm
6:00pm - 10:00pm

Noodle House Ken
150 Orchard Road
Orchard Plaza
Tel: (65) 6235 5540
Weekdays: 12 noon to 2 pm, 6 pm to 2 am
Sunday: 12 noon to 10 pm

Sunday, May 25, 2008

717 Cakerie

I love birthdays!


Because there is C-A-K-E!

Ignoring the spastic decoration, this durian cake from 717 durian trading was really excellent! I mean, take a look at the innards:

It was almost 100% durian with barely-there sponge cake layers that was there simply to meet the pre-requisite to deem this a 'cake'. The durian pulp smelled soo good and tasted of good quality. I would imagine so, as the bakery is associated with 727 Trading that sells whole durians and hosts durian parties.

There was not much added cream and although the middle of the cake was still slightly frozen so it was a little icy, otherwise the cake was perfect and a hit with everyone!

This 15cm cake costs $40 and could feed about 10 people comfortably. Do give this a try if you like durian cake too. There are several outlets or you can order online and have them deliver right to your doorstep.

717 Cakerie
Highland Centre
22 Yio Chu Kang Road
Tel : 6487 2777

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Simply Bread

I can't believe I waited so long to try a sandwich from Simply Bread! The outlet at Raffles Place was empty as I was there slightly before the lunch hour, after having finished a meeting nearby. As I walked in, I noted there were a bunch of pre-packed triangular sandwiches and salads for the touch-and-go folks. But I was there for their freshly made sandwiches. The menu is rather skimpy but I suppose it is a good strategy, to keep the focus on the quality of the bread instead.

I debated between the egg mayo and the tuna salad ($8.50) though eventually, the tuna won as I found myself craving for something briney. With each sandwich order, one would get to choose from several options of bread. I chose my favourite - wholemeal sunflower.

A few moments later, my sandwich was delivered together with a cupcake portion of coleslaw.

The toasted bread was crispy on the outside, sturdy but not too dense and prevented the bread from soaking up the liquid from the tuna salad that filled the insides generously. The tuna salad had been pre-mixed with mayonaise and chopped bits of green pickles so it was just a little bit tangy when you bit into them. The large slices of tomatos and green lettuce made eating the sandwich truley a pleasure. It was an all-in-one, savoury, juicy and refreshing experience.

If only there was an outlet closer to work or home, I would find it difficult to pull myself away.

Simply Bread
3 Phillip St.
01-02 Commerce Pt.
Tel: 6557 2856
Opened Mondays to Fridays
8am - 6pm

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Koon Kee

Koon Kee Pub & Bar is a non-descript neighbourhood cornershop. The first impression when I walked in was the retro decorations. I loved the light colored mosaic tiles, whirling metal-caged fans to provide a bit of cooling air, the big rounded refrigerators, the many electric guitars hung up on the walls, the various collaterals from Volkswagen and Vespa. They seemed all over the place but I guess that is the charm of it all. Anyway, I was not there to understand the inspiration but I was there for the food.

Although this place is supposed to be a pub, the menu was nothing pub-like, comprising of mainly staples from Chinese and Thai cuisines.

I was there to try out the famous seafood horfun ($5) and it was really not bad! But of course, sans the long wait time despite the lack of crowd and the less-than-fresh seafood of course.

There was a distinct 'wok hei' that hit the nose at once I lifted the noodles close to my mouth. The noodles were delightfully soft and chewy, making it such a pleasure to eat. The gravy was also rather flavourful and had a good dose of minced garlic that lingered even after the meal. I did wished it was less salty and oily though.

The Malay mee goreng ($5) that the father ordered was also pretty delicious. It was sufficiently wet and had a good balance of sweet-sourness from tomato sauce and spiciness from chili. But for $5, I sort of expected a little more ingredients other than chopped up shrimp and egg.

I guess if I am in the mood to wait around and not in a hurry, I would not mind coming back again just for the noodles.

Koon Kee
66 Yio Chu Kang Road
Opp Serangoon Stadium
12 - 2.30pm, 6pm to 9.30pm
Closed Thursdays
Tel: 62881206

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tomo Japanese Dining - Episode May

Given my short attention span, I would be the first to admit that I never thought I would still be amazed at the food at Tomo after sooo many dinners. But seriously, each omakase never failed to bring about new experiences, new tastes and new favourites.

On my most recent visit, the meal started off strong with a anddelicious homemade cold tofu that had a wonderful texture and flavour enhanced by a murky century egg yolk dressing. There was just something about that savoury sauce that I could not quite figure out so I had to dig the secret ingredients out of Chef Andrew.

Ah ha! He had added a little of sukiyaki sauce and chicken rice chili to give the sauce the extra edge. Talk about innovation!

The Hokkaido Don was another highlight. It appeared to be a mini chirashi of sort, because a small serving of freshly cooked sushi rice was topped with a variety of very fresh Hokkaido selections of top notch quality. Everything was to be stirred together with sticky grated mountain yam (i.e. tororo) with additional flavouring from torn nori and chopped spring onion. I added a wad of wasabi and drizzle of soy sauce and the whole dish just came together like a complete jigsaw puzzle, wholesome, and stomach filling. I especially relished those moments when an ikura or tobiko popped , releasing the freshest of brine.

No meal at Tomo is ever complete without sushi. I would have to ask Chef Andrew for his spicy tuna gunkan again next time. It was soo good! The twist came in the form of crunchy tempura bits mixed in with the chunks of chopped tuna and the sprinkle of sesame just gave it a touch of nuttiness.

Tomo Fine Dining
6 Raffles Boulevard
#02-03, Marina Square, Singapore 039594
Tel: 63384486

Monday, May 12, 2008

La Noce

I guess it is rather scary how focused I could become when I choose to be. Like how I knew I was going to order the squid ink pasta even before I reached the restaurant.

A recent feature on the proliferation of neighbourhood Italian restaurants brought me to La Noce one day. Perhaps it was the built-up anticipation but the restaurant failed to wow me. The food was average at best, although the service was pretty good.

La Noce's squid ink pasta cooked with squid in its own ink ($26) was off the menu but available on request. Slightly unique in that it was a 'black on black' version, i.e. black squid ink pasta cooked with squid ink, I found the pasta much too oily (there was a puddle of oil leftover in the empty dish) and not quite there in flavour. In fact, I had to salt the pasta because it was a little too flat-tasting.

Then there was just too much garlic. I already had quite a bit from the seafood soup. Coupled with more garlic from the pasta, it should not come as a surprise that I had garlic farts later on. Oops!

Before all that though, I started the meal with complimentary bread made from their pizza dough. Thin triangular wedges of crispy pizza bread that had been sprinkled with herbs made a fragrant entrance. It was still warm and made a pretty decent pre-meal munchie.

I was feeling like soup and I do love the Italian seafood soup so I split an order of the zuppa frutti di mare ($14). A thick red soup studded with seafood and cherry tomatos arrived piping hot and looked so appetizing I could not wait to dig in. I was not disappointed with the freshness and quantity of the seafood. Despite all the glaring presence of tomato, its flavour was somewhat muted. But it was overall still a tasty soup; the fresh seafood saved the dish.

La Noce
3 Chu Lin Road
Bamboo Grove Park
Tel: 6877 1986

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Have you gone through the "Roti-boy" phase? The franchise seems to have disappeared now. But luckily, I never really craved for it. Even if I do, I can now make my own. I picked it up from this cake-making course I am taking right now and the recipe I am going to share is from that class.
Do you know that the crispy sweet topping on the Roti-boy is actually a cake batter? I didn't, until the instructor shared that bit of trivia.

Anyway, this recipe makes a very soft bread with a sweet crispy topping. But the topping turns moist the next day, so make sure the ants stay away. The main difference lies with the filling. Instead of using pure butter as filling, we used instant custard instead - less work, less sweet and less bad for you.

Coffee & Custard Buns
(Make 15-16 buns)

Bread dough ingredients:
100g butter, softened
60g sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
15g instant yeast
20g milk powder (optional; adds fragrance)
350g bread flour
150g plain flour
200g water

1. Mix all the ingredients together and beat until a smooth and elastic and shiny dough is formed. Rest the ready dough for 25 min.
2. Cut the dough into 40-50g each and then let the dough portions rest again for 5 mins. Make custard filling.

Custard Filling:
100g instant custard powder (get this from specialty bake store like Phoon Huat)
250g cold milk

3. Mix cold milk and instant custard together and whisk until thick and put in the fridge to set.

4. Wrap the filling with the dough and let rest for another 1 hour. Preheat oven at 200C and proceed to make the topping.

Topping Ingredients:
100g butter, softened
90g sugar
100g eggs (about 2-3)
80g plain flour
20g instant coffee

5. Whisk sugar, butter, eggs together until well-mixed.
6. Add coffee and plain flour and stir well.
7. Using a piping bag, pipe the topping on the bun in a swirling and circular motion until the entire bun is well covered.
8. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 mins.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pasta Brava

It was a well overdue re-visit to Pasta Brava and I had almost forgotten how cosy and homely the restaurant was. The ever friendly Italian owner was amazingly still serving the customers personally and never failed to extend high-strung welcome greetings in a sexy Italian accent.

The menu hasn't changed since the beginning days and while none of the appetizers screamed out loud, we got one to start. The grilled vegetables ($17) somewhat looked like a tired performer, all very routine and expectedly, the taste was just really ordinary.

I had a craving for pasta, squid ink pasta. Pasta Brava's version was spaghetti cooked with seafood and squid ink ($23). Hmm, I haven't had this dish since Zanotti @Bangkok and I was really looking forward to reliving that fresh briney taste of the sea.

Alas, Pasta Brava's fell slightly short in that it was borderline dry and the seafood was not exceptionally fresh. Still, it was savoury enough and the serving was momma-style, huge. But that two points alone won't see me closing one eye to wearing the silly green bib that the waiter thoughtfully put around my neck to keep my clothes clean.

Lesson learnt though, I'd stay with their homemade pastas next time.

Hmm, I need to find me a good black ink pasta.

Pasta Brava

11 Craig Road
Tel: 6227 7550
Mon-Sat: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6.30pm - 10.30pm

(Closed on Sun & PH)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Crêperie des Arts

The crêpe is the French version of a pancake. There are two main types: sweet crêpes (crêpes sucrées) and savoury ones knowned as galettes. I like crêpes because like sandwiches, they can be filled with so many different things that prevents them from getting boring. Besides, they look so pretty with their laced patterns.

There used to be a couple of crêperies in Singapore where I could satisfy a craving (Crêperie Armen and Le P'tit Breton) but both have since closed their operations. But I am happy to share my findings on the latest crêperie in town.

It was a hot and breezeless night and I longed for a cold drink to cool down. The answer was a bottle of apple cider ($26), just because it has always been traditionally served with crêpes. (Anybody knows why?)

The La Rouge ($10.90) was a refreshing salad of tomatos, olives and mozzarella cheese with a rather unique lemon and sour cream dressing. A side order of white baguette ($1.90) slathered with butter made perfect companion for the salad.

With the stomach juices roaring to go, we started off with the galette Saint Caradee ($18.80). It was a buckwheat pancake with "scallops flambeed with lambic and creamy leek fondue". The pancake was quite good, although I somehow felt it could be more nutty and fragrant. The three scallops were very fresh and plump and went well with the creamy sauce. Unfortunately, the seasoning for the creamy leek leaned towards the sweet side, otherwise this galette would have been great.

The vegetarian galette, Locmiquelic ($15.90) appeared to be Atkin diet's worst enemy but totally a carb-whore's best friend. Indeed, I prefered this galette filled with simple but delicious things like sauteed potatoes that retained its bite, homemade tomato sauce and onion fondue.

The last order of galette, Germinal ($16.50), satisfied the carnivores with its filling of sauteed bacon filets, pan fried potatoes and a spicy mustard sauce.

The servings were deceitfully light but we were actually quite full from all the galettes. To their credit, the girlfriends acceded to my request to try at least one of the crêpes sucrées for dessert.

I ordered the simplest one, Mistral ($6.90), a plain crêpe sprinkled with lemon juice and syrup, that would be a good gauge of the standard. The crêpe itself was slightly sweet and had a chewy texture as it should be. But it was overall just too dry. It needed a good pat of butter and it would be good to go.

The laidback decoration of fishing nets and miniature models of sailboats made a very good setting for our all-girls' night out indeed.

Crêperie des Art
44 Prinsep Street
Tel: 6333 5330
Dinner: Tue-Sun: 5pm - 11pm
Lunch: Fri-Sat: 12noon - 2pm