Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kung Fu Paradise- no kick

Bedok Point just opened some months ago. Given the densely populated surroundings of Bedok estate, this mall comes as a welcome relief of sorts to heartlanders from the mid income group who do not mind forking out a little extra moolah for air conditioned dining in the East.

As a food themed mall, easily 80% of its occupants comprise of food outlets,.The usual suspects like Sushi Tei, Killiney Kopitiam, Old Chang Kee, Four Leaves and Yoshinoya dominate. However, also evident are a handful of new entrants like Gong Cha, Paradise Inn, Mr Chicken Rice and Ayam Penyat Ria.

One new entrant which particularly stands out is Kungfu Paradise (a relatively fresh addition to Paradise Group's growing chain of restaurants) strategically located just by the main entrance of the building.

Kungfu Paradise's dining concept is tailored for the young, with its cute moniker, hip chairs, eager young servers in kakis, funky chopsticks and glossy Cafe Cartel-like menu. Captivated by the excellent copywriting in the menu and broad range of Asian and Western dishes, Hubby and I decided to give the restaurant a go.

Check out the chair!

After settling in and admiring the decor, we decided to order a lemongrass drink, a chicken chop noodle (for myself), a lemon chicken rice (for hubby) and a seafood platter to share. We were famished and really looking forward to our meal.

The lemongrass drink failed to stir our tastebuds. Its flavor was weak and unimpressive. We much prefer Baba King's version.

When the seafood platter arrived, we tucked in with gusto. Of the 3 sides featured (calamari rings, wedges and cheesesticks), the wedges and calamari rings were first to disappear.

Couldn't really make out the freshness of the seafood since everything was fried to a crisp. It wasn't the best seafood platter we had eaten but was satisfying nonetheless. The accompanying sauces of cheese, salsa and cheese were a nice touch but tasted convoluted when matched with the wrong side.

Our lemon chicken rice and the chicken chop noodle arrived in quick succession.

My chicken chop noodles

Hubby's lemon chicken rice

Upon closer inspection, we realized that our battered chicken pieces had probably been mass fried and smothered with different sauces and marinades prior to serving. After awhile, the chicken pieces tasted the same. Whilst the runny egg went really well with the noodles and rice, we couldn't help but feel let down by the quick fix method of food preparation and absence of vegetables, which looked like forlorn side garnishes with little nutritional value.

Even for fast food lovers like Hubby and myself, the overdose of deep fried oily food was too much for us to bear. We do not remember feeling this forlorn after a meal at KFC or Macs . It would have been good if the server who took our orders had forewarned us beforehand- perhaps we had just ordered the wrong combination of dishes?

In any case, Hubby and I will not be coming back to Kungfu Paradise again. For the price we paid, we were disappointed with the value and wish the eatery put more love into their cooking rather than advertising.

Food News

Interesting stuff has been happening around the are some of the noteworthy ones this week

1. Malaysia's No 1 Char Siew is coming to Singapore. Kay Lee's - watch out!
2. Oyster Bar boss at Customs House turns violent on customers?
3. Interesting eats at Cluny Court
4. 1 for 1 dinner buffet at Greenhouse, Ritz Carlton for ladies on Weds nights
5. Food for a dollar in New York- v good photography..makes me feel like doing a Singapore version

Saturday, January 22, 2011

CNY Special (11 must-eats in 2011)

People often ask me- do I prefer Chinese New Year or Christmas?

When it comes to food, the answer is obvious- Chinese New Year of course!

A cute and cheapo SGD10 God of Fortune I bought from Mini Toons (with a movable hand) at Bedok Point. Huat ah!

Chinese New Year is the time I stuff my face silly with all kinds of yummy goodies and cakes. There are just too many to choose from.

Over the years, I have also amassed a list of other must-orders from various shops. Here are my top picks this year. (hint: Click on the underlined text to access more info on the respective restaurant/product and its underlying CNY promotion)


(1) Pineapple Tarts: I usually order the open faced ones from Joyous Pastries. However, you need to order way in advance in order to secure a bottle just before Chinese New Year. Needless to say, I have given up. Thankfully, this year, I chanced upon an excellent closed face version from a random makeshift booth at Raffles Exchange called "Jus Bread". The pineapple filling is laced with cranberry for extra kick and the top crust has some addictive cheesy bits on it. Yum.

Cranberry pineapple cheese tarts from Jus Bread

Centre P's DIY pineapple tarts look especially delish this year. However, at SGD28.80 per bottle, they are a little too pricey for my budget.

Sunnyhills Pineapple Cake from Taiwan also makes its debut into the Singapore market this year (I hear they have opened a makeshift stall in Funan) I'm a big fan of their pineapple cake but find the shelf life (2 weeks) rather short. Also, one small piece packs alot of calories and can really fill you up. Packaging is simple but strangely attractive.

(2) Bak Kwa: Blame it on shameless consumerism but I'm a sucker for Lim Chee Guan bak kwa and consider Chinese New Year incomplete without it- even if it means taking leave to queue and paying through my nose. Lim Chee Guan only sells the traditional squarish pieces in sliced pork style. If you want minced pork (which user cheaper miscellaneous cuts of the pork but is purportedly softer), you can only get it in "gold coin" form. I paid a runner to queue up for 11kg of bak kwa for me this year. At SGD62 per kilo, the total bill (excluding runner's transport and cost) came up to SGD682!

(3) Kueh Bolu: True Blue easily trumps its competitors with kueh bolu that looks as good as it tastes. Love the spongy soft interior and the crisp melt in the mouth texture.

Kueh Bolu from Bengawan Solo has disappointed me tremendously this year. It's dry rubbery texture left me chewing for a good 5 mins before I could gulp it down. Chew yourself silly folks

(4) Green Pea Cookies: Started developing an affinity for these ugly looking cookies 2 years ago and have not looked back since. The ones hawked by "Little Nonya" at Raffles Exchange boast just the right amount of bite and flavor (salty-sweet).

A little on the powdery side but otherwise nice...the one sold at Bengawan Solo is also decent

(5) Nga-Ku Chips: If you haven't tried these before, you are missing out on one of the most addictive Chinese New Year munchies ever! I'm too lazy to fry my own and order my stash from a fish soup auntie at Golden Shoe Carpark. At sGD18 per bottle these babies don't come cheap. I'm seriously thinking of frying my own next year.

These lovelies are only available during CNY

(6) Love Letters: Traditional charcoal baked love letters seem to be disappearing from the market. The best ones I have tried this year hail from Mirana Cake House. Although they come in the modern folded form, they taste equally delish to me.

Bengawan Solo still prepares the traditional "cigar" version in an auspicious red tin

(7) Chocolate chip cookies: Haven't found anything that can beat Famous Amos so far.

(8) White Rabbit candy: A Chinese New Year must-have since childhood days. This popular candy came under fire some years back but has since sprung back into the market with a vengeance. Available in 3 flavors: Creamy Candy, Creamy Milk Candy and Creamy Milk Toffee

(9) F&N Orange: Artificially colored a frightful orange and guaranteed to give you an instant sugar buzz. No drink= No luck!


(10) Yu Sheng (Quick Note: Do you know Yusheng originated from Singapore?):

Yusheng (SGD28, small from Big Eater Seafood). Nothing to shout about but a pretty palate of (mainly artificial) colors. A little too sweet for my liking

The traditional Beng Thin of the better ones I tasted. Comes with battered yam sticks and jellyfish. Really dig the retro looking ang pow which is perched at the side of the platter (used to contain salt and pepper)

Soup Restaurant serves theirs with the biggest mountain of carrots (which come in irritating long strands). Consistently good yusheng which does not disappoint.

Some other reliable places to get your yu sheng fix this year:
Din Tai Fung- uses smoked salmon (Citibank customers get a sizeable discount)
Standard Yusheng 2-5pax: SGD36.80/ SGD28.80 (for Citibank cardholders)
Deluxe Yusheng 6-10 pax: SGD56.80/ SGD48.80 (for Citibank cardholders)

Xi Yan Its tri coloured yusheng doesn't come cheap but looks delectable. If you have extra moolah to spare, try their salivate chicken and momotaro tomatoes too.

If you like your yusheng brimming with fresh shredded vegetables, check out the one at Paradise Inn. The Paradise Group offers reasonably priced Chinese New Year takeaways and set menus this year which do not cost an arm and a leg.

(11) Poon Choi: Poon choi seems to be picking up in popularity. Almost all restaurants sell them now. I'll be ordering mine from Soup Restaurant this year. At SGD238+ for an Abalone Pot and Yusheng that serves 10 pax (you get a further 10% discount with a Citibank credit card), this deal is too good to resist.

Soup Restaurant's Abalone Prosperity Pot failed to live up to expectations. Abalone slices were thin and pathetic and the remaining ingredients cheapo and lack lustre (huge florets of brocolli, beancurd, pig skin, mushroom and cabbage).

Another attractive deal can be found at Prosperous Kitchen which is likewise throwing in yusheng with every Prosperous Fortune Pot purchased (SGD198.80+).

Equally tempting is the imperial sea treasures pot (SGD188) from Marina Mandarin. Order and pay before 23Jan11 to enjoy a whopping 20% early bird discount.

Other places which caught my eye are Crystal Jade (which seems particularly proud of the number of ingredients in its Poon Choi) and Majestic Restaurant (SGD240+ for 6 pax, further 10% discount for DBS cardholders).

We had our department CNY lunch at Paradise Pavilion lately. The Poon Choi was droolworthy and full of yummies like abalone, sea cucumber and scallops. Portions were also very generous. The restaurant charges SGD388 for a portion for 10.

the luxe Poon Choi we had for our department CNY lunch..brimming with all the good stuff you would expect in Poon Choi. Thumbs up!

Since I love pork (esp fatty pork), I was also quite tempted to order the Jiangsu braised pork belly from Min Jiang at Goodwood Park (SGD218 for 6 pax). As extracted from the restaurant's mailer " Braised for eight hours then steamed for another four, the pork belly is exceptionally tender and an absolute delight paired with whole abalones, dried oysters, black moss and flower mushrooms)".

I'll probably be updating this list more as and when I find more noteworthy places. Pictures will be added in due course too.

In the meantime, bon appetit and do drop me a line if you know of any other yummies that I may have inadvertently missed out.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Breakfast Bites

Hubby is not a morning person. Occasionally, when he does get up early, I never fail to pounce on the opportunity to go out for a nice breakfast with him.

Here are our favorite brekkie haunts:

Crisp prata (kosong), milo "bing", fried chicken wings and mutton curry from some coffeeshop in Jalan Kayu

Chwee kueh from Jian Bo Shui Kueh at Tiong Bahru food centre. The charred radish bits are fried with lard- sheer sin.

Comfort food- Kaya with butter toast from Ya Kun with 2 half boiled eggs and milo "bing"

the best outlet is still the one at far east square

My latest find? Breakfast with the birds and the bees at Casa Verde, Botanic Gardens.

Casa Verde is run by the Les Amis Group, which also operates the venerable Au Jardin. Accessibility can be a tad challenging without a car as the cafe is about a 20 min walk from the main entrance of the Botanics.

Love the relaxed vibe about this pretty bistro, which manages to blend perfectly into the green foilage of the Botanics without compromising on creature comforts (clean toilets, efficient staff, comfortable seating). Dog owners and ang mohs usually occupy the al fresco area while the air conditioned indoors are ideal for spoilt brats like Hubby and myself, who develop grouchy tendencies when over exposed to Singapore's infamous tropical heat.

Indoor seating please

The Western selection is more extensive than the Asian one, featuring delectable options like strawberry pancakes, sandwiches and scrambled eggs. Hubby and I however felt decidedly Asian that morning and opted for mee siam instead. For SGD9 bucks we were rewarded with a huge bowl of mee siam and a steaming cup of soy bean milk, which is pretty good value.

I really enjoyed the mee siam, which was choc a bloc full of yummies like a full boiled egg, beansprouts, fresh prawns and a molehill of bee hoon. The tangy assam gravy was well balanced with just the right amount of sugar. Coupled with a swig of freshly squeezed lime juice, every single bite felt like a new experience in itself.

Gorgeous glorious mee siam

Since mee siam can be quite a heavy dish in itself, I initially harboured some doubts over the cafe's pairing of mee siam with warm soy bean milk. Wouldn't something more refreshing like a glass of lime juice be more fitting? My doubts were however allayed after taking a sip of the soy bean milk. The flavors were thick, rich and robust, creating a protective film that tamed the spiciness of the mee siam. This is one pairing that has certainly shifted my food paradigm.

A trip to Casa Verde would not be complete without a stroll in the vicinity. Feeling highly satiated after breakfast, Hubby and I spent some time acquainting ourselves with the surrounding flora and fauna, (ever heard of cycads?) stumbling across some ailing earthworms and humongous red ants along the way.

Casa Verde is an excellent place to spend a lazy morning with a book in hand. Newspapers and assorted magazines are readily available within the cafe's premises for customers to leisurely peruse. Parking can get a little tight on weekend mornings but should be generally manageable on other days. Light clothing and mosquito repellent are must-haves if you are planning a walk thereafter.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Turning Thirty at Sin Huat

It has become a custom of sorts to have crabs during my birthday. We have tried a good number of different stalls in the past years- Black pepper crab from Eng Seng, creamy butter crab from Seafood Paradise, chili crab from Jumbo, crab bee hoon from Melben and the list goes on.

Since turning thirty is a momentous occasion of sorts, I didn't just want to settle for any ol crab this time. It had to be 100% good and if possible, the best in Singapore.

After sniffing around for ideas, the answer became increasingly obvious- Crab with vermicelli from Sin Huat Eating House at Geylang. Many of the reviews I read came with disclaimers- enter at your own risk, beware of the obnoxious Nazi chef, don't be tricked into over-ordering, be prepared for a long wait, tanks are crusted with algae etc. However, most reviews also consistently gave two thumbs up to the vermicelli crab served in this dingy eatery.

If even Anthony Bourdain was willing to throw in his vote of confidence, surely I should at least give this place a shot?

It was thus with a little trepidation that Hubby and I meekly made our way to Lorong 35 for our crab dinner, decked in our scruffiest tee shirts and flip flops. There is something slightly magical about sitting cross legged by the roadside, sipping from a crummy plastic cup of artificial tasting lime juice and watching the world go by.

Danny, the "bogey man" cum owner chef soon made his appearance at our table to take our orders. His voice was gruff, his eyes piercing and his aura unmistakably authoritative. I could almost sense a seriousness about him that could only come from someone fiercely passionate about his craft.

There isn't any menu to peruse from so make sure you know what you want beforehand. I ordered a serving of vermicelli crab, kailan and black bean scallops. Somehow I also managed to diplomatically decline Danny's suggestions of gong gong ("Sorry I don't eat gong gong") and roast pork ("Just had it for lunch. Maybe next time") without ruffling his feathers. Phew.

Since the business setup is pretty much a one-man show (save for some bossy aunties and semi clad ah peks who double up as servers and drink assistants), Danny collects orders en mass from the various tables before cooking all the dishes at one go.

True to Danny's style, food is served on a simple silver platter with no bells and whistles.

First to arrive were the scallops in garlic and black bean sauce. The scallops were fresh and simply steamed, with a slight sweetness about them that was overwhelmed by the gooey richness of the garlic black bean sauce. The use of garlic was so generous that I swear it took a full day for me to cure myself of dragon's breath. Sadly, this dish was my least favorite of the lot, as the over elastic rinds of the scallop seemed bent on challenging my back molars, resulting in an unpleasant squeaky sensation that I still can't seem to get out of my head.

It's not burnt, its just black
When the kailan dish arrived next, I could not help feeling unimpressed. It looked like something mom could easily whip up for dinner. What was the hype about? After taking the first bite (with eyes closed, hoping to detect some hidden flavor), I think I somewhat got it. The vegetables were flash fried with ginger, garlic and XO sauce before being quickly served to diners piping hot, thus retaining their crisp texture and wok hei undertones. Don't get me wrong though- at the end of the day, this is just a simple dish of fried vege executed really well.

It also just so happens to be the only vegetable dish served in the restaurant (thus accounting for why everyone usually ends up ordering it).

Is there really magic in the kailan? Go figure
Things reached a climax when the crab arrived. The crustacean looked magnificent in every way, with strong mighty claws (translated to meaty in foodspeak terms) and a fiery red hue. In its heyday, it must have been a true Romeo. Dripping off its back like jewels were strings of glorious gravy soaked vermicelli. Not wanting to prematurely soil our fingers, we tucked into the vermicelli first and only paused occasionally to extract the bits of shell hidden within. The flavors were complex, charred and brimming with the briny richness of the sea without coming across too fishy.

Here's looking at you crab

Good crab is typically determined by the firmness of its flesh and natural sweetness. In this case, Romeo did not disappoint. When pried open, every single pincer burst forth with plump strands of fresh crabmeat. The flesh did not stick to the shell- indicating excellent control of temperature. Perhaps the Singapore Tourism Board should appoint Danny to be the chief purveyor of quality crabs.

Dinner damages didn't turn out as hazardous as we expected. Our total bill came up to SGD101 comprising:

SGD60 for the crabs
SGD25 for the scallops
SGD6 for the kailan
SGD10 for peanuts and drinks

As we were leaving, the sour faced aunties even surprised us by wishing us Happy New Year. Apparently, even grouches have their soft spots.

Would I come back again? In a heartbeat.


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