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the farewell feasts

been so utterly busy settling pre-trip administration that its been difficult to blog about all the good food i’ve been ingesting that’s been seriously threatening my diet regime. -_-.. but i suppose there’s something about eating great food that makes you want to share it with the rest.. so here goes:-

new ubin seafood kinda exists in a shady-looking area amidst car-repair workshops (which explains the rows of cars in various states of disrepair, some with obvious vandalism signs) so i guess if u wanna call it hidden, you could. its definitely a foodie’s place, considering this would be the last place you would expect a good zi char restaurant to exist. so there.

for the uninitiated, zi char translates loosely as “cook-fried” (which doesn’t make much sense i suppose), but describes a category of chinese food that involves huge fires and big woks to completely “fry” the food and imbue the essence of the “wok-heat” within. (gosh, translations don’t exactly make sense). well, nowadays the definition is kinda loose, but it essentially describes all sorts of dishes that are to be shared among many and eaten with rice/mantou etc..

so new ubin is pretty cool because it seems to have incorporated some western influences and modern amenities – first with a decent air-conditioned eating room (which apparently is fully-booked quite far in advanced during the weekends. we went on a weekday and it was mercifully less crowded), and then also with obvious western styled dishes mixed into their menus.

one of their signatures is the rib-eye beef with caramelized onions, a side serving of wedges and a plate of fried rice fired from the remnants of beef portions and beef oil ($56, see picture above). and boy.. this dish seriously trumps many major western restaurants in terms of the flavor, texture and savoriness of the beef. we ordered the beef medium  and gosh every bit was utterly delicious, meaty, tender and juicy with tons of flavors locked within. providing caramelized onions and mustard certainly didn’t hurt as well. then we come to the fried rice — fellow foodie laishan swears by it as one of the best fried rice she has ever tasted, and honestly i concur – the rice is fried just nice, lending the rice grains a certain level of “kou-gan” (loosely translated as ‘mouthiness’ or a certain bubbly efferverscent texture) and the beef ingredients (fried to a crisp) form the perfect juxtaposition to the rice grains. this dish is obviously blardy unhealthy but its utterly irresistible. this is a must order.

and you know what’s best? this place has no corkage charges and people are known to bring bottles and bottles of wine to enjoy it with this amazing rib eye beef. and honestly, with servings meant for 2 – 3 and the additional acoutrements, $56 is a pretty darn decent price. western restaurants ought to shudder in fear.

another signature is their fried hokkien mee ($24), in which a ‘small’ order comes served in a gigantic plate that can serve up to 7 bowls of glorious, seafood-broth drenched noodles that taste pretty awesome. again, you can choose to be blardy unhealthy and add tons of lard into the dish (i opted out), but its delicious on it own, with generous servings of ingredients like squid, barbecued pork and so on. the noodles are chewy and well cooked. yummy!

creamy sauce flower crab with fried mantous 

besides these, we ordered salted egg squid ($18), kang-kong fried in belachan, and flower-crab in creamy sauce paired with mantous and it was enough to fill 5 of us up completely. (we regretted getting 2 bowls of rice to share) once again, its utterly unhealthy food but also quite irresistible. to be honest, im not a fan of crab and i can’t discern between awesome seafood and just ok seafood so i shan’t comment too much – i just know i enjoyed the interesting and original creamy, slightly spicy sauce that the crab was cooked in, which made for a delicious dip for the mantous. (and gosh, i absolutely love those fried mantous)

all in all, a very delicious expensive that is obviously gut-busting and cholesterol racking. laishan mentioned that she could feel her arteries clogging as she gobbled down the salted egg squid so eat in moderation k? it might be quite unhealthy, but in moderation, the meal was utterly satisfying and didn’t leave one with that greasy, jelak feel that you sometimes get when you have gobbled down copious amounts of fats and such (i.e. like a gigantic kfc meal).

its not exactly cheap – we paid $35 a person for the meal (inclusive of orh-nee dessert, which we didn’t particularly like) but to be honest, considering the spread of food that we had eaten, it’s a decent price. overall, a good recommendation and a better place to bring your ang-moh friends to expose them to awesome, authentic singaporean food instead of the more expensive options of like no signboard seafood or ah hoi’s kitchen. 8.0/10

new ubin seafood (sin ming) |  Block 27 Sin Ming Road (behind Block 26), #01-174 Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A | local, chinese

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i-phone shots.

im getting lazy hor? the introduction of an iphone makes toting around with a camera very leh-chey unless it’s some super major atas restaurant.. (but then those usually dim lights to such an extent that you’re pretty much taking night shots -_-) ah well, this post wasn’t pre-planned, but just that a casual lunch with my parents @ li bai was so surprisingly and pleasantly good that i felt compelled to blog about it.

so, li bai’s this cantonese restaurant located at the basement (i dont know why the address says GF) of sheraton towers – the decor and furnishings are pretty simple but echo an understated luxurious sense. mind you, the staff benefits here must be pretty awesome because some of the waitresses/captains have been working here for more than 7+ years since we first patronized this place. and as you can expect it, service is pretty darn excellent and personalized.

come here for their dim sum, which is intricately made and packs some serious nuanced flavor. the actual look of the dim sum might seem ordinary but the taste is nothing but. see above image, from top left clockwise, sui jing gao (water crystal dumpling – essentially different chopped vegetables wrapped in a crystal clear dumpling sheet), pan fried turnip cake, abalone spring roll and har gau (prawn dumpling).

i think har gau can be used as a standard to judge a dim sum restaurant’s worth since it is found everywhere, and boy does li bai come out with flying colors. the prawns are fresh and have that additional oomph and flavor locked within that really negates any need for additional chilli sauce or the likes. its also perfectly executed as the skin doesn’t flake or stick to the sides.

spring rolls are often the de facto dish of lousy american chinese food often really greasy and stuffed with semi-stale vegetables. so it came as a pleasant surprise that this humble dish was transformed at li bai to be a delicate, nuanced and utterly flavorful piece of confectionery, not the least bit oily. having abalone stuffing within didn’t hurt of course. =)

the other two dim sums similarly had such nuanced flavors locked within them and i’ll be willing to say that they taste much better than the average dim sum you can find here or even in hong kong (someone is gonna kill me.. hee).

we also ordered a noodle dish, that being a seafood crispy noodle – this is a must try at chinese zi char stalls or restaurants by the way – crispy wok-fried noodles that are immersed into a rich flavorful broth just before being served such that the noodles maintain their crispness by also soak up the broth. li bai’s rendition was well balanced, and what surprised me was how delicious the seafood ingredients within were. in particular, the cod fish was utterly flavorful and melted in your mouth – i’d seriously be willing to pay quite a bit for an entire dish of that cod. other ingredients like scallops and prawns were also juicy and well executed.

seriously, come to li bai for a great dim sum and cantonese feast. it’s not cheap, but its worth it. a small crispy noodle dish that serves 3 – 4 goes for $20, whilst the dim sum dishes are between 5 – 8 bucks for a plate of 4. (nice thing is also that they allow you to customize it to be say a plate of 3 or 5, depending on how many people you have, which removes the last piece syndrome eh?) 9.0/10

li bai restaurant | 39 scotts road, ground floor, sheraton towers, singapore | dim sum, cantonese, fine dining

a case of mistaken identity.

there’s a funny story to how my family ended up in cherry garden for my birthday dinner. you see, i had sampled food from peach blossoms @ marina mandarin during the cornell hotel school asia pacific conference and had found the offerings from the new HK chef to be pretty awesome, and so had planned to bring my parents there. so, when my parents asked me where i would want to go, i simply said “marina mandarin, peach blossoms”. but somehow, this mandarin business is super confusing, what with mandarin oriental, marina mandarin and mandarin gallery. lol. and my parents were more familiar with mandarin oriental and well.. absent mindedly booked at cherry garden @ mandarin oriental.

so we ended up there. and i was kinda annoyed initially, complaining that my parents should check which fruit i referred to next time. haha. but to their credit, all this nonsense of peach blossoms and cherry gardens and mandarin stuff.. is seriously confusing.

anyways, its not as if cherry garden is at any rate worse, so let’s get on with it. to be honest, the ambience in cherry garden trumps peach blossoms – cherry garden has a modern interpretation of a traditional chinese inn, mixing ultra-modern glass paneling and stone walls with traditional elements like wooden arches and pavilion-styled roofs. the servers seem to be mostly from china, and are pretty professional — one server accidentally spilled a dollop of  tea on my tablecloth and insisted on changing a fresh one for me. however, it must be noted that i was kinda annoyed with their semi-audible comments of “ta zai pai she me (what’s he photographing)” whenever i whipped out my camera to take photos of the dishes. like.. seriously, deal with it. its an occupational hazard. and its free publicity. =)

so, we ordered the orchird set menu, which was $78 per pax (min 2 people). let’s start the show.

first up was the chef’s special appetizer of the day (see picture above) which happened to be wasabi prawns and drunken chicken. the wasabi prawns were big and juicy, bursting with flavor and with just the right amount of wasabi that was not too overpowering. and the prawns were pretty big and satisfying for an appetizer. the drunken chicken was smooth and tasted pretty decent as well. i’d note though that i found no relevance between the two dishes that were plated together – its not as though we’re expected to eat both together, which is something you would assume if you found yourself in a french restaurant. hmm, the difference in food cultures eh?

double -boiled shark’s cartilage soup with shark’s fin and honshimeiji mushrooms

i apologize to the animal lovers out there, as i really did not know the menu include shark’s fin. =( but oh well, since the damage is already done, let’s just tuck in alright? now, you know there was a time where i thought double-boiled simple meant boiling twice, but one of my friends later kindly corrected me that double-boiled essentially means placing the ingredients (in this case the shark’s fin) within a ceramic jar that is immersed in a water bath in a pot that is then boiled. essentially, its using two layers of boiling to protect the special ingredients. cool eh? the soup was amazingly nuanced and flavorful, with every spoonful bringing out immense subtle flavor and texture with the shark’s fin.

braised fish fillet with tofu and capsicum in black bean sauce

ahh innovation (at least to me)! never really tried a combination of fish (cod in this case) and tofu with black bean sauce but i must say, this was an inspired pairing. the black bean sauce nicely coated both fish and tofu and brought the two seemingly disparate ingredients together to create a dish with great flavor (from the black bean sauce) and different levels of texture on the same bite (fish and tofu). nice stuff.

oven baked boneless spring chicken in barbecue garlic sauce

this dish puzzled me for a few reasons. when it was first served, i questioned the rationale of an atas restaurant serving something that looked as though you could buy it off a western hawker stall for possibly 1/4 of the price. then i also questioned the notion of asking us to eat this chicken (tendons and all) with just a pair of chopsticks, when it seemed to be begging for a fork and knife to operate on. ahh well, those initial questions aside, the chicken was juicy and well flavored, the barbecue sauce being just right and the flavor seeping into the entire piece of chicken. but yeah i rather eat this with a fork and knife please?

stir fried rice vermicelli with seafood, silver sprouts and yellow chives

this dish is worth its money — look at the luscious scallops and prawns! the vermicelli was perfectly balanced and tasty, and i liked how the shredded egg strips brought a freshness and change in texture to the dish. yummy. and i don’t know whether its an odd practice, but i like to add vinegar to my noodles after the initial few samplings, because i think the vinegar adds a different and equally tasty twist to the noodles (usually i do it for e-fu noodles, but it seemed to work here as well)

refreshing sorbet with herbal jelly, aloe vera and assorted fresh fruits

ahh.. a healthy way of ended a sumptuous meal. the sorbet had the right amount of sourness and complemented the herbal jelly, aloe vera and fresh fruits perfectly. its a simple dessert to be honest, but its good and hmm.. the use of herbal jelly and aloe vera is kinda unique. upon looking at the photo i realised i actually ate watermelon without feeling like puking because these watermelons had no seeds! haha

so overall, nice ambience, good food at an acceptable price range. come here for an family celebrations and the likes for guaranteed good food. 7.25/10

 cherry garden |  5 Raffles Avenue, 5F Mandarin Oriental Singapore, | chinese, cantonese, family, upscale

fatty meat

asian kitchen is this mid-range chinese chain restaurant that is found at malls like nex and ion. with its contemporary design and layout, it almost feels as though it is catered for tourists and well.. non-chinese who crave some asian flavour. to be honest, i think i suck at reviewing chinese restaurants simply because I can describe nuance as how I would describe other cuisines. now this ain’t taking anything away from the chinese cuisine, considering how many amazing dishes there are, but just.. something about chinese dishes makes it difficult for me to judge. i just know i love stuff with “zhup” that i can smother on my white rice. to me, “zhup” is everything.

ahh.. i have digressed. ok back to asian kitchen. to be honest, i find the prices here pretty reasonable, and the food very flavorful and sufficient to keep u satiated and happy. let’s kinda break it down. the trademark barbecued pork (see above) was crispy but tad too fatty and gave a slight “jelak” feel. i’ve had better, crispier and less-health-worrying barbecued pork but this ain’t too better. (and to be honest, i think it’s nicer than crystal jade’s barbecued pork, which can be slightly tasteless)

eggy bowl rice, $5

this is essentially for a single person’s portion, though you can share with two people if you are having alot of other dishes. i like the “zhup” of the eggy bowl rice, though it couldn’t completely permeate every portion of the rice. overall, this has a home-cooked, simple feel to it and is quite satisfying.

crispy duck roll

good stuff – not too expensive and really tasty. i liked the crispiness of the roll and how all the flavors came together well without a sense of greasiness that you get with those panda express-style spring rolls.

soup- spinach, wolfberries, egg and pork

for the health conscious! this likewise has that homecooked, satisfying feel to it, and tasted pretty good. and it felt pretty healthy to boot.

hmm.. all in all, a very simple, contemporary chinese eatery that serves unpretentious home-cooked, tasty food at not too bad a price point. worth a visit if u are at those malls and hungry for some hearty, satisfying chinese food to share with your family or friends. ohh, and service was attentive and good as well. 6.5/10

the asian kitchen (lu gang xiao zhen)2 Orchard Turn, #B3-22 ION Orchard | chinese, home-cooked

high class hawker food.

my mom loves this place. its her favorite version of hawker food – sanitary, air-conditioned and delicious food…lol, and of course it comes at a higher price, almost two to three times the price of what you would pay were you to order something similar from a hawker center. some might instantly scoff at the notion, and find it incredibly dumb to eat at such a place, but hear me out.

space @ my humble house is sited right outside the more atas humble house at esplanade. it’s like the poor-sister version of the more posh, artfully designed restaurant, with quirky chairs and poetic names tagged to their dishes. no.. the design of space @ my humble house is more spartan – minimalist but still stylish, with green apples used as a wall installation to lend it an artsy feel as well. its the kind of restaurant that rich people head to for like a executive power lunch or for some pre-show quick dinner. kind of a cool, tranquil ambience if i may say.

food-wise, its an interesting menu of common local delicacies like hainanese chicken rice, rack of lamb bak kut teh and the works. what sets it apart and somewhat justifies the price (of cos besides paying for the ambience) is the ingredients that have gone into the dishes. a simple porridge is transformed into claypot jasmine rice with crabmeat and shrimp in consomme ($12) for the health conscious (like my mom), whereas common carrot cake is paired with crabmeat, luscious whole prawns, juicy scallops and egg ($14).

rock and roll salad ($14) – chicken salad with fresh garden vegetables, strawberries, mandarin oranges, walnuts, almonds and raisins topped with a honey mustard dressing.

the salad was refreshing and nicely balanced in terms of flavors, the crunchiness of the walnuts (i think they were candied) and almonds paired well with the fruits and vegetables. its a good starter to order and share.

seafood laksa ($14) – rice noodles with fresh rock oysters, luscious prawns, cod slices, scallops, and stuffed bean-sticks in a spicy and fragrant laksa gravy.

i think part of the reason my mom loves this place is that it is genuinely a healthier rendition of local fare – the laksa doesn’t feel overly oily, though i did feel like it’s not as shiok as the normal ones because it wasn’t spicy enough and the coconut milk was slightly overpowering. but the noodles, fried oysters and cod slices were super appetizing and left you wanting for more ingredients.

zhajiang mian ($10)

my sis called it the best zhajiang mian she has had in her life, and well, i really do like it as well. the noodles are just the right level of ‘Q’ and the mean sauce is addictive. and honestly the price point ain’t that steep in this case…

pumpkin creme brulee with a mango sorbet ($10)

 loved the pumpkin creme brulee though i did wish that they used a traditional ramekin and had a larger surface-area worth of the burnt sugar since the combination of the burnt sugar and the pumpkin cream was really good. the mango sorbet was alright, though it wasn’t impressive. im not too sure whether i was supposed to combine both to eat, since it didn’t really seem to make sense.. hmm, to me, the dessert felt more like two different dishes plated together, and lacks the rhapsodic harmony found in french desserts.

all in all? ignoring the price point for now, the food is really decent, with a certain healthier, and more expensive touches to traditional dishes. one needs to switch a mentality when approaching such a restaurant, to soak up the atmosphere, slow down and breathe in the aroma of some oolong cha, enjoy a quiet chat with friends whilst eating some delicious and (hopefully) less calorific versions of your favorite fare. if you come here with the notion of comparing the value of the food you imbibe with hawker centre food, you are gonna be one disgruntled, unhappy diner. oh.. and yeah this place is good to bring the more elderly ang-moh who want to try local fare but might not have the stomach to take the real stuff. oh.. and try mama leong’s chicken rice, it’s really pretty good. lol 7.5/10

space @ my humble house | 8 raffles avenue, #02-25 esplanade mall | local, upmarket, ambience

precious lil’ things.

i really miss Sunday dim sum after church service with my parents. we would head round to places nearby the church, like carlton hotel and feast on intricately made, colorful looking tapas-style dishes that were truly good. my old favourites include har gau (steamed prawn wrapped in crystal skin that goes surprisingly well with chilli sauce), mei yan yew (some sweet, flaky almond-infused pastry), nai wong bao (bun filled with piping hot, decadent custard sauce that oozes out once you bite deep enough — its almost like the chinese dessert-take on the soft-boiled egg) and of course, the requisite pei dan zhok (fermented egg, chicken strips porridge). yummy

so since my sis is finally back, i guess we decided to reprise old traditions and headed to the cathay restaurant for some good ol’ dim sum. bring it on man! so cathay restaurant is like any prototypical large chinese restaurant with a spacious interior filled with round tables, amidst posters of old chinese cinematic greats, film noir style. the service is decent, i mean, bustling waitresses taking your orders in cantonese is what you expect right? so shush and lets get to the food.

xo fried turnip cake with bean sprouts — i wished it would be tad spicier but nevertheless it was every bit the tasty, with the XO sauce and fried egg really elevating the flavors of the turnip cake.

   scallop and prawn gau — this is like har gau but even better. refreshingly tasty.

zha leung — this is typically made by stuffing dough fritters into chee cheong fun skin and dipped with some peanut sauce, but the restaurant re-interprets this dish by shrinking the dough fritter into some crispy, flaky layer and placing it within the chee cheong fun skin. unexpectedly good stuff! we ordered a second helping of this cos the first one was gobbled down too quickly.

all in all, happily satisfying, especially with the company and the sweet notion that the entire family was around. =) its decently priced i suppose — bill came up to around $20 a person for quite a lot of dim sum in a pretty fancy Chinese restaurant. 7.5/10

the cathay restaurant2 Handy Road, #02-01 The Cathay | chinese, cantonese, dim sum

jing-du pai gu (loosely translates as well.. capital pork ribs)

the show must go on ehh. so despite my absence of an appetite thanks to my illness, my mom felt like a sumptuous dinner at jiang nan chun @ four seasons and well, we braved 1/2 an hour of traffic into orchard road (i hate singapore traffic more and more) and relaxed in the posh surroundings for some tasty cantonese dishes.

there are many reasons jiang-nan chun scares me, chiefly being that the menu is stunningly expensive in my opinion, because dishes are served by portion/by person but the price per person is often in the range of 20 – 40.. in a sense, i really don’t know how to order dishes to share in this restaurant as per common chinese eateries, but my mom seems to know the proportions well and often orders just right. another is probably that the patrons here have no qualms ordering large orders of exquisite dishes paired with fine wine, to the point where i’m kinda overawed in this place. ah wells. pretend la.

anyways, despite the high price point here, service is excellent and the food is really good. i mean, im still not convinced the home cooked-style dishes here beats out say, paradise inn in terms of overall flavor, but you really to see the effort translated into the food, and the freshness of the food served. take the jing du pai gu i had, which would literally melt in you mouth as you chewed on it (thanks to the fatty layer) but yet still maintain a certain sense of freshness and sense of healthiness (i say healthy in a very general sense). delicious stuff.

jiang nan chun also serves free pre-appetizers and desserts to complete the meal which really sweetens the deal. and yes, the service is really unparalleled. my dad had ordered guilin gao thinking that it would be the normal non-sweet (well, add your own syrup-style) dessert, so when it turned out to be guilin gao immersed in ching teng, my dad’s poor diabetic soul couldn’t really take it, to which the waitress promptly came over, understood the issue and assurred us she would ask the chef to prepare another immediately without the ching teng. all of which was done in a disarming and polite manner. i’m impressed.

ok.. these kinda places are reserved for birthdays of older relatives and the likes imo. =) i mean, food’s good, but as i said, i’m not at that level of buying power yet. =) 7/10

Jiang Nan Chun | 190 Orchard Boulevard, s248646 | chinese, cantonese, high-end, healthy

*postscript: i WANNA be healthy soon!