Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Last Meals

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck

The past 9 months have been a journey of sorts. In the initial first few months of pregnancy, I could barely eat. Even the thought of food made me feel like puking. I was so tired after work that all I wanted to do was to sleep.

Gradually, as I approached my second trimester, I started to enjoy my food again, albeit more cautiously. I still couldn't stomach heavy stuff like nasi padang and char kway teow. However, I enjoyed the occasional kfc chicken wing and developed a liking for curry buns and mashed potatoes.

Now that I am in my third trimester and almost ready to pop anytime, I have morphed into a ravenous eater trying to make up for lost time. My weight has been on an upward climb (2kg in a week!) and my gynae is getting alarmed. Buffets, chocolates and chips? Bring em on!

It will be a pathetic one month confinement period after our little one arrives. My position will be demoted from a queen bee to a working cow. Even the food I eat will comprise largely of steamed items like fish and vegetables. I am so NOT looking forward to it but know deep down that this is for the greater good of mankind.

Nuff of the sad stuff and back to the food.

Yesterday I decided to give my folks a treat and booked us a table at Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck restaurant in Paragon. Those of you who have read my earlier post on Paradise Pavilion will know I am an ardent fan of Imperial Treasure's Super Peking Duck. It is the best Peking Duck I have ever eaten and worth every single cent of its SGD68 price tag.

Warning: Pls call to reserve the duck beforehand as it sells out quite fast.

There is a certain procedure to eat the duck.

The chef first deftly slices off pieces of pure crackly skin, one for each guest. This is best eaten with sugar (although I'm not sure why). All I know is that it tastes heavenly.

Come to mama

Next, the chef slices thin pieces of the duck (this time with meat attached to it) onto a plate. Dad likes to eat his without the usual crepe and spring onion condiments. Either way, both methods taste equally good.

Yummy on its own

or in the usual traditional style

We topped up an additional SGD10 for the chef to fry the remaining duck meat with eefu noodles. The standard of Imperial Treasure's eefu noodles easily surpasses those we are accustomed to at wedding dinners. Two thumbs up.

Also on our hit list...a wide array of dim sum dishes, all of which were stellar.

Scallop Cheong Fun

Chee Cheong Fun with scallop (SGD5.50).. with melt in the mouth skin that virtually drips off the serving spoon.

Siew Mai

Har Gao

Har gao (SGD4.80) and siew mai (SGD4.40)... Mainstays in every dim sum menu. Not my favorite but decently executed. Eat em while they are hot! (otherwise they tend to taste rubbery)

Wu Kok

Wu Kok (SGD3.60)... The outer casing was feather light and crumbly, giving way to a luscious mess of mashed yam and pork when bitten into. Extremely satisfying

Prawn Wantons

Deep fried prawn dumplings (SGD4.50)... Bursting with the freshness of big juicy prawns.

Sharksfin dumpling soup

Sharksfin dumpling soup... A steal at only SGD7.50 a bowl. A hit with the older folks, especially those who like to see strands of sharksfin in their soup.

Strangely our lone appetiser dish (Assorted Egg, SGD8) arrived last. It looked like a pretty agar agar cake, with alternating layers of salted egg, century egg and normal egg. Though the resulting taste was not particularly memorable, the pretty presentation makes this dish worth ordering at least once.

Pretty palatable

We were too stuffed to order dessert but could catch tantalizing whiffs of fried durian from the opposite table.

Considering how much we ate and the high quality of service we received (our plates were constantly changed and teacups refilled without prompting), I found the bill of SGD174.60 highly reasonable. It also helps that Stanchart now offers credit card dining rebates of 15% up till end April.

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck
290 Orchard Road
#05-42 Paragon
Tel: 67327838

Saturday, March 26, 2011

That Elusive Scone

Room with a View Cafe

Took me awhile to find this cafe as it is located at the upper level of a nondescript shop house along Carpenter Street.

Upon exiting the lift on the 5th floor, I was greeted by a chirpy lady manning the counter. Safe for an ang moh who was enjoying his sandwich, there was no one else. The decor is simple but modern, with clean whitewashed walls and a huge panel bearing a inspirational quote from Aaron Siskind. Prices are a little toppish but this is inevitable given the use of high quality ingredients.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”

Since the cafe is known for its photo exhibitions, I was slightly disappointed to find dull looking pictures of "crystal" formations lining the walls. The previous theme "Europe" would have yielded prettier pictures. The upcoming one on "Food" should also be quite interesting. Guess I had just chosen the wrong time to visit.

There isn't much to choose from the menu, safe for some sandwiches, drinks and a few desserts. I was really looking forward to try the much raved about scones with real clotted cream and strawberry jam. Unfortunately, they had run out- and it was only 12 plus in the afternoon! With the highlight of my meal squashed, I ordered a grilled ham and cheese panini while my kaki had a chicken avocado sandwich. Both were fresh, wholesome and tasty but nothing to go gaga about.

Nice and toasty

Fresh and healthy (save for the chips)

For dessert, we decided to order a slice of carrot cake to share. This was the saving grace of the meal. Everything from the finger licking good cream cheese frosting to the dense rich carrot infused sponge was a delight to the senses. Needless to say, we finished every single crumb.

Yummy is the word

I'm not sure how this cafe is going to hold up given its slightly upmarket appeal and lack of publicity. However, I can picture myself spending a lazy morning curled up on one of the chairs with a magazine in hand, sipping a cup of tea and nibbling on that elusive scone.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Victim of Victor's Kitchen

I've been eating with a vengeance these days. Figured that since I'll be subject to a strict month -long diet regime after I give birth, I had better eat like there's no tomorrow.

Dim sum seems to dominate my thoughts these days. I'm not sure why. For good dim sum, I usually head to old favorites like Royal China and Wah Lok for my fix. This time round, I decided to be more gungho and set my heart on trying an off -the-road joint called "Victor's Kitchen" in the bohemian Purvis St district.

Victor's has been hailed by many food bloggers for its cheap and good dim sum. Don't expect wet towelettes and pristine tablewear here. Everything is flip flop casual and almost grubby. Tables fill up quite quickly during lunchtime but turnover is also pretty fast, facilitated by bossy kitchen helpers and a highly efficient order chit system.

For SGD28, we certainly managed to eat quite a fair bit. The lady who took our orders was kind enough to serve us the right quantity of each item based on the number of people present (you know how some restaurants are so sticky on serving their dim sum is fixed sets of 3), which impressed the hell out of me. For some weird reason though, she was reluctant to provide us with individual serving plates to eat from.

Ice Milk Tea. Ingeniously served separately in a bed of ice to prevent dilution. Delicious thirst quencher, but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary.

Glutinous rice in lotus leaf. Yummy combination of glutinous rice, chicken meat, salted egg and other fatty stuff. Melt in the mouth scrumptious, especially when eaten with the restaurant's sweet chili sauce. A must order.

Char Siew Cheong Fun. My kaki liked this dish but I felt the skin a tad too thick for my liking.

Char Siew Pau. Whilst the skin was light and fluffy, I didn't really enjoy the char siew filling, which was overly sweet and reeked too heavily of rose wine.

Steamed radish cake with XO sauce. Another must try, which could give Wah Lok's version a run for its money. We were blown away by the unami flavors and were glad that we had ordered individual portions for ourselves.

The radish cake even comes with its own complimentary serving of XO chili sauce,(which tastes like hei bee hiam to me). If you want an extra serving, you have to pay SGD1! Frankly, the radish cake already tastes good on its own.

Custard "Liu Sha" Buns Although this was supposed to be a star dish of Victor's. I was highly disappointed when I ripped open the bun, only to discover that the custard filling had already hardened (like egg yolk). It was so unappetizing that I only managed to finish half.

While this was an interesting experience, I think I'm better off eating at good ol Wah Lok or Royal China. The cab fare that I forked out just to get to Victor's offsets its cheap price tag. Also, at least I am assured of higher levels of hygiene at finer establishments (that very night, I experienced a very bad tummyache and almost didn't make it to work the next day)

Hint: After lunch at Victor's, make a quick stop at the adjourning Elias building and pick up a box of scrumptous beancurd tarts and golf ball pineapple tarts from the famous Le Cafe bakery.

Light bites at The Sail

Stumbled upon this hole in the wall cafe on a dreary weekday afternoon. Prices of sandwiches and lunch bento sets are reasonable, starting from SGD8 for a chicken sandwich. Staff sport sunny dispositions and service is brisk. Restaurant even offers free lunch delivery service to my office.

Ordered the much raved about king crab sandwich and found it rather unappealing at first. Portion was paltry and looked like it could be consumed in 5 mouthfuls. Also took issue with the bread, which resembled something you could fish out of a gardenia sandwich bag in a supermarket.

My attitude however changed after taking the first bite. The subtle sweetness of the shredded king crab was well balanced with just the right amount of mayo. Even the use of white sandwich bread was a well thought one as its clean spongy softness mopped up the fillings nicely and did not overwhelm the delicate seafood undertones. Yummy.

As I was still feeling quite peckish after that, I ordered a california handroll. Easily one of the best versions I have eaten but not cheap at SGD5 a piece.

Didn't get to sample my kaki's pork bento set as the portion looked barely enough to feed one. She pronounced it highly tasty and commented that she would not mind ordering it again.

Overall a good place for a quick and light lunch. However, be prepared to pay more if you decide to order sashimi, drinks and dessert.

Hokkaido Sandwich and Sashimi Deli
4 Marina Boulevard
#01-33 The Sail @ Marina Bay S018986
Tel: 65090685

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Nyonya Memories @ Kovan Mall

Stinky but sedap

Kovan Heartland Mall holds little appeal for me. Most of the restaurants comprise of run of the mill franchises (e.g. Thai Express, KFC, Old Chang Kee, Sakae Sushi, Pizza Hut) and there isn't really much to shop and browse.

That is, until I stumbled upon Nyonya Memories restaurant yesterday.

Nyonya Memories (managed by the same folks who run Ivins) is located at the second floor of Kovan Mall. Its shopfront is unassuming, with a small dessert counter fronting the main entrance. Having had a late lunch, Hubby and I weren't feeling exactly hungry but were drawn by the cheap prices, interesting food selection and packed tables.

At SGD7.90, diners get to choose rice with a selection of ayam buah keluak, prawns, fish curry or babi pongteh. Top up an additional SGD3.90 and you will further enjoy a barley drink, itek kim soup and pulot hitam for dessert. Hubby opted for a buah keluak rice set while I ordered the babi pongteh set with top up. Being the greedy gremblin that I am, I also ordered an ala carte serving of chap chye (SGD5).

The ambience is distinctly Peranakan, with Peranakan embellishments, like kum cheng pots and wooden carvings scattered throughout the restaurant's premises. Familiar Peranakan tunes like "Rasa Sayang" also lend further authenticity to the experience. Unfortunately, tables are quite closely spaced together and the floor is grimy. Ventilation is also rather atrocious (even after washing my hair immediately after coming home, I still reeked of rempah).

Hubby's ayam buah keluak rice was first to arrive. It looked like a snapshot from a food magazine, with a dollop of buah keluak paste perched artistically atop a fiery bed of rempah drenched chicken. Every restaurant's version of buah keluak varies. In this case, the assam flavor was more intense. We also found the buah keluak seeds stuffed with a mixture of ground meat and buay keluak flesh. Won't say this is the best buah keluak we have eaten (we still prefer Baba King's sweeter and thicker version) but this was quality stuff nonetheless.

Prettiest dish of the lot

My main course of babi pongteh rice looked less appealing but tasted exceptional. You can seldom go wrong with braised pork belly, especially when it is thoroughly soaked in a lip smacking tau cheo (bean paste) gravy with smashed green chilis and Chinese mushrooms thrown in for good measure. This dish reminds me so much of the version my late Grandma (also a true blue Nyonya) used to cook and warrants a return visit in itself.

Check out the layers of steaky pork

The only lack lustre item that evening was our order of chap chye, which was underwhelming and a tad too salty for my liking. I should have ordered the sambal ladies finger, which is known to be one of the restaurant's signature dishes.

Too salty

Hubby and I are not really big fans of Itek Tim so we skipped the duck, ate the preserved vegetables and drank the soup. The portion for one was super generous and more than sufficient to feed us both. We thoroughly enjoyed the richness of the broth, which was flavored with just the right amount of salt. I also enjoyed slowly savoring the tender strands of preserved cabbage - which taste exceptionally good when eaten with sliced chili padis.

Hearty broth- perfect for rainy days

By the time we were presented with the final course of pulot hitam with yam, I felt like my stomach was going to burst. Thankfully I persevered because after taking the first (small) mouthful, I couldn't stop until I had finished the whole bowl. And it was a pretty big portion too!

This is definitely the best pulot hitam I have ever eaten. I felt immediately drawn into a cocoon of unadulterated bliss. Time seemed to stop as the savoury sweetness of this unassuming (and ridiculously cheap) dessert worked its magic from my mouth to my tummy. My mouth is still salivating as I write.

I would make a return visit just for this

Our total bill came up to a mere SGD28 for 2 pax (they don't charge service charge!) I'm surprised this establishment hasn't yet hit the food radar of foodies. In any case, safe for the smelly hair, I'm pretty darn excited about making a return trip to this restaurant very soon just to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating. Will probably make use of this opportunity to try out other new dishes too.

Interesting reads

What caught my eye this week:
1. Singapore Food Trail opens at Singapore Flyer. Am absolutely thrilled to learn that my favorite nasi lemak from Adam Road is there! (together with alot of other big names)
2. Breast Milk ice cream anyone?
3. What have women, chili and gang fights have in common in Singapore?
4. SGD12 weekday dessert buffet at the uber posh One Ninety @ Four Seasons Hotel (1230-230pm). What a steal!


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