Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mak's Noodles & Ice Lab

December, January, February has always been intensive months for my stomach every year. There's a lot of feasting due to the festive mix of Christmas, Birthday and Chinese New Year. And thanks to my Hong Kong trip this year, I quite reached my quota with the body insisting on light food like porridge. Hence the trip to Mak's Noodles was done with the intention of having some good authentic porridge like they do in Hong Kong at other Michelin starred wonton mee outlets like Ho Hung Kee. Ironically, I would only return to Ho Hung Kee for their porridge. As it turns out, I went to the Centrepoint outlet and was disappointed to find out that congee is only available at the West Gate outlet.

I have never eaten Mak's Noodles before despite visiting Hong Kong 4 times. Hence this meal is really to find out what all the fuss is really about. Given that Mak's Noodles originated from Hong Kong and that Hong Kong wonton mee is more popular for their soup base version, we pretty much picked all the soup dishes.

We settled for Wonton & Dumpling Noodle Soup ($8.50) and Wonton & Beef Tendon Noodle Soup ($9.50). My conclusion after my third attempt trying Hong Kong wonton mee is that it's not my thing. I still prefer the local dry version tossed with chilli or sweet sauce, garnished with char siew and vegetables. To be fair, the wonton are big and the prawns are fresh and crunchy. The dumplings are also rich in flavour and Mak's Noodles spared no expense on the ingredients. The beef tendons based on fussy pot's feedback is really tender. (I don't really eat beef so I didn't try) Above all, the noodles were springy and crispy. That said, I didn't like the soup base which I feel is an acquired taste. Besides the noodles, we also ordered a double boiled soup with shrimp roe ($3.50). While the soup is light and the shrimp taste is present, I just feel the soup didn't measure up to other type of better tasting soups in Hong Kong. Being a strong advocate that one of the wins Hong Kong have over Singapore is their boiled soup, this one left us thirsty after the meal which leaves me to question how much MSG was added. 

Mak's Noodles is worth a go if you wish to try authentic Hong Kong wonton mee without the aeroplane. I can attest that their rendition is exactly how Hong Kong Michelin star wonton mee taste. While I probably won't be back for wonton mee, I will be sure to pop by Westgate to try authentic Hong Kong congee which I so sorely miss. 

Mak's Noodles
176 Orchard Road Centrepoint #01-63/64
(The Westgate outlet has a wider menu)

Today feels like try foreign food day. Mak's Noodles offer really small portions, so it's almost certain there will be room for desserts. I picked Ice Lab, which is opened by Korean actor Shin Jung Hwan. It was impeccably decorated and you feel like you are in Korea because of the Korean staff serving you. 

We picked Mango Bingsoo ($19.30) as it is one of the recommended flavours and I've eaten Mango Bingsu at Nunsaram at Orchard Central and Snowman Desserts (the one who started my love for Bingsu) at Nex thus it'll be easy to compare. This one is by far the worst! In my view, whether a bingsu tastes great is based on the milkiness of the milk shavings, if the fruits and ice cream blend in with the milk shavings and the sauce that goes with it. The one at Ice Lab tasted like mango ice kachang with kiwi randomly added into the mix. The milk shavings was sweet ice with nothing that give me indication they are milk shavings if I never ate bingsu before. To top it off, the kiwi tasted sour and fussy pot totally didn't touch them after one bite.

I probably won't be back again if I want my bingsu fix. I'd rather walk a few more steps and satisfy my bingsu craving at Nunsaram where I first convinced Fussy Pot what the fuss over bingsu was about. Please please please don't make this your virgin bingsu experience if you haven't eaten Bingsu before. It's not a good representation of good bingsu. 

Ice Lab
#01-01/02 321 Orchard Road

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Recommended food from my last Hong Kong trip

Before the trip, my travel companion has been whining, "Hong Kong nothing to do one, just eat and eat only." Then there will be the question, "why you like to go Hong Kong so much?" Because... I like to eat!

I have been to Hong Kong 4 times in total. The last trip being my most memorable. There's always this noodles I must eat on every trip found in Maxim Palace. Maxim Palace is the Hong Kong equivalent of the Imperial Treasure in Singapore. I must say, their food is really good! The multiple times I have been there have always left me wanting to return for more. Their E Fu noodles, ordinary as it looks, is the best E Fu noodles I have ever had. 

Maxim Palace
B13-B18, B/F, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Sheung Wan 
(Currently there's a more popular outlet at Central, but I still like the Sheung Wan one best)

While we are on the topic of Chinese food and dim sum, I tried the 3 Michelin Star Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hotel. While the food is executed competently and service was awesome, I can't help but feel a deep sense of disappointment. From my experience, my interpretation of the 3 stars was 1 for food, 1 for service, 1 for ambience. Nothing very wrong with that however I kinda was expecting the Michelin stars to be graded purely for food. Having took the trouble to order the Chef's recommendation, 3 Michelin stars really left me not very impressed. To be fair, service was impeccable. ALL the staff can speak good English and know the food well. The quality of food. cutlery and view was nothing short of premium. My only gripe was I was there for the food more than anything else...

Lung King Heen
8 Finance St, Four Seasons Hotel 
(Lunch is from 12pm-2pm, you can make reservations online)

One surprise of the trip was Tomato Cheese Noodles. Honestly I first tried something similar during my first Hong Kong trip at Lan Fong Yuen and it really was nothing impressive. This tomato noodles doesn't taste spectacular either, but it is comfort food I can enjoy on a cold tiring day. One amusing thing the owners told me was that their main customers are Singaporeans. Considering their obscure location in a run-down building, it's funny how we tourist can keep their business going. 

Star Cafe
36 Basement Champagne Court Block A 16 Kimberley Road (Next to Mira Hotel)
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong 
(There's another famous tomato noodles, typical Dai Pai Tong, Sing Heung Yuen, which I was lazy to try the other round)

Another highlight of my trip is the High Tea (Afternoon tea in Hong Kong context). The original plan was to have enjoy the view atop the 103th floor at Ritz Carlton, but alas the window seats were full. We settled for high tea at Intercontinental Hotel and it was a pleasant experience. Unlike Singapore, the high tea offered at Intercontinental Hotel carries seasonal themes. In my case, I was served the Christmas High Tea. My biggest gripe with high tea is that I always never finish the food. I don't enjoy desserts and the sweet part of the high tea usually is meant for my dining companion. That said, the standard of the high tea is pretty high, the scones are soft and fluffy and the savory does not come across as "jelat". Fussy Pot practically finished her half of the sweets so I suppose it's pretty good. I took one bite of mine and that's it. Haha! 

Lobby Lounge
Intercontinental Hong Kong
18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Shui 

Australian Dairy Company is another place I will be back again when I do make my 5th visit to Hong Kong. The steam milk is fantastic and the scrambled eggs on toast is uniquely Hong Kong. To be honest, prior to the visit, I was pretty adamant that the hype is exaggerated. But after eating the scrambled eggs on toast with its unique creamy buttery taste, I'll subject myself to the long queue and rude staff again. Being lactose intolerant, dairy products better be good to make the sacrifice. Trust me, the steam milk here is. 

Australian Dairy Company
47 Parkes Street 
(Closed on Thursdays)

Kam's Roast Goose is one of the places I went twice in a single holiday. The double visit actually highlighted their inconsistency in food quality. My first visit was after a long day of eating and seriously I was full when I arrived. The goose was so good that despite me and fussy pot being full, we finished the entire plate. Worth every bit of the 1 star Michelin they earned. The second visit however was pretty disappointing. The meat was hard and nowhere near the tender meats we found so much joy in eating. 
Honestly after the second visit, I'm not even sure if their Michelin star was a fluke. Anyway to enjoy your goose there be sure to order thigh meat the next time you visit.

Kam's Roast Goose
226 Hennessey Road

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Food, Play and the Birthday [Edited]

And so this week was birthday week... and the usual treating by friends and celebrations took place. With this in mind, I thought I'd try a different angle and write with more breathe instead of depth in this post.

Bottura is a new Italian restaurant which sprung up from the newly renovated Suntec City. It was a pleasant surprise from my friend, bak bak (Hokkien for meaty) because it's a place I told myself I gotta try. 

Being more of a mains lover, we decided to forgo the antipasti and headed straight for the serious food. 2 pasta and 1 pizza (bak bak can really eat, it's okay). The pasta we picked were tagliolini zebrati con gamberetti e zucchini ($22) and linguine alle vongole ($20). Both dishes were cooked to perfection. Pasta al dente and sauce rich enough to appreciate the flavor but not overpowering till the pastas tasted the same. Being a hardcore pasta fan, I'm extremely particular about pastas. Bad pastas typically have pre-made sauces or even when cooked by the chef are diluted and stingy with the ingredients or time spent that you can't tell the ingredients used to produce them. This one is none of the above. 

For pizza, we chose frutti di mare ($22) This is a traditional seafood pizza topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, calamari, salmon, clams and shrimp. The taste was light, yet sufficiently distinct that you can appreciate the individual ingredients that topped the pizza. I felt the crust wasn't the best I've eaten but definitely could pass off as a very traditional stone baked pizza.

Bottura definitely passes off as a good traditional Italian restaurant that is smack in the heart of town. As they are relatively new, there're deals available on groupon, and other deals websites which you can capitalize on for now. I'm already a Bottura fan, and definitely I'm incentivized to keep them in business so that I can keep eating. 

Bottura (Closed Permanently)
#02-472/473/474 Suntec City Mall
North wing between tower 1 & 2

Aside from pasta, there's my favorite bak chor mee which I must have on my birthday. This stall hasn't been discovered by the blogosphere at large yet as it just found its way into this obscure coffee shop in Serangoon last year. 

28 Noodles is run by this old husband and wife team. At $3, it's the most generous serving of bak chor mee I've ever eaten in Singapore. What I like about this bak chor mee is what I deem (my own perspective) as old school bak chor mee taste. When I was living in jurong 20 years ago, I recalled eating a bak chor mee which was riched in its bak chor taste and had very Q noodles with chilli that goes well with the bak chor. I recalled it tasted heavenly. When I grew up, I tried to find a similar bak chor mee but have never succeeded till I chanced upon 28 noodles. This is the exact same taste and even with its anonymity, it'll take you half an hour to buy it so be prepared to queue.

28 Noodles
Block 204 Serangoon Central #01-104

And finally, I thought I share about my staycation experience which I was very happy about. Capri by Frasers is located within 1 min walking distance from Changi City Point. It's a service apartment with a small kitchen for cooking, a very spacious room with enough floor space to play board games and a big enough toilet that won't wet the entire floor when one uses it to bathe or wash up. 

Service was good too! Fussy Pot arranged a cake to be delivered and a cake was prepared and served up right after check in. In fact, this staycation was very different from the others I've had because the kitchen gave us room to explore cooking without having to clean up! 

Boy did we have fun. Angel hair salmon pasta with Chinese wonton and ah balling. We bought glutinous rice flour, wonton skins and all the necessary ingredients to have a fun and memorable cook-out activity. The damage to the pocket was fairly manageable as well. All in all about $180-$200. You may wish to have your next singapore stay over at Capri by Frasers :)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bistro Du Vin

I was first introduced to Bistro Du Vin about 2 years back by a friend who proclaimed this place her favorite French restaurant. Back then, I tried to have my Christmas lunch there but failed because it was fully booked. Being not a particular French food aficionado, it took me till today to finally check this place out...

Bistro Du Vin is a French restaurant under the Les Amis group. We had the set lunch menu at Bistro Du Vin and I'll recommend it as a place that is value for money. It's one of those places where you pay reasonable prices for pretty good food. The set lunch goes at $34++ per pax. Not exactly the cheapest dining in town but for the cosy ambience, 3 course meal with premium ingredients, it's considered cheap in its own way. 

We kicked off the meal with complimentary warm bread and butter, very typical in European restaurants. For starters, we chose foie gras ravioli with roasted hazelnut and portwine sauce and mushroom velouté with creme fraiche and truffle scented oil. Both dishes were executed excellently. There was feedback from my dining companion, fussypot, that the portwine sauce was a little oily but it was otherwise a very satisfactory dish. The mushroom velouté explained to me in layman terms by the staff as very thick mushroom soup, was rich in its mushroom taste with the truffle oil not lost amidst its richness.

For mains, fussypot had braised beef "bourguignon" with carrot, bacon, pearl onions and mashed potatoes while I had overbaked spring chicken with sautéed mushroom and bacon. The beef was cooked till tender and fussypot could even discard her knife and simply dined with her fork. She did complained that she was disappointed by the hard pearl onions which was supposed to be cooked together with the beef till soft and infused with the taste of the dish. I like everything about my spring chicken dish. Chicken was tender, mushrooms were adequately sautéed and bacon (note the singular) was crispy. It's definitely a satisfying dish. Having said that, the spring chicken whilst good only succeeded in making me remember the restaurant but not the particular dish. 

Desserts were baked apple tart on puff pastry with coffee and cardamom ice cream (changed to honeycomb ice cream) and chocolate & caramel tart with raspberry sorbet. I've eaten multiple renditions of Apple tarts and I like this one the least. The puff pastry was not hot, the apples were crunchy but difficult to cut and I felt the dish was generally difficult to eat because everything besides the ice cream was hard. The issue of hard did not end here. The chocolate & caramel tart was frozen too hard to eat enjoyably. I believed the caramel was meant to flow out when cut open but it was solidified with the chocolate. Both plates we were served with were chilling cold which gave us the impression that the food was prepared in advance and left in the fridge. I always felt that hot tarts with cold ice cream was a match made in heaven. I fail to appreciate cold tarts with cold ice cream...

On the whole, I found the visit to Bistro Du Vin satisfactory and I'm willing to give them another go. For the price I paid, I felt it was good value as the portions were not miserly at all. They even provided coffee and tea to end off the meal. While I didn't feel any dish particularly stood out, I felt the restaurant as a whole stood out if I compared this establishment to many other value for money French dining. You may want to consider Bistro Du Vin if you wish to celebrate a special occasion at a presentable place and keep your budget under $100. 

Bistro Du Vin
1 Scotts Road, #01-14 Shaw Centre
Lunch is from 12pm - 3pm (last order at 2pm)

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Atmosphere Bistro and Bar

The start of a new year brings inspiration to try something I've never tried before. While we have always seen really pretty looking 3D latte art online, it actually isn't that easy to find any in Singapore... let alone good ones. The original plan was to go for the McRitchie tree top walk, another first, before heading to Atmosphere for brunch. Unfortunately carriage (my car) is still in hospital and we had to settle for a refreshing walk along East Coast Park...

I have to disclaim that I am really anal about food. I do pride myself for bringing my companions to GOOD food, appraised by the companions of course. Hence prior to most organized outings, I take great effort to research on the food before I head there. One pain point I always encounter especially with the food blogosphere is the lack of quality control. Value for money food is mistaken as good food. Instagram worthy food is also interpreted as good tasty food. Sometimes it riles me because the trip can end up being disappointing and time is a commodity we can't replace. 

Atmosphere Bistro at ECP serves decent food. Nothing fantastic but anyway, I personally feel the highlight shouldn't be food. I came here specifically for the 3D latte art. The Eggs Benedict ($17) and Classic Big Breakfast ($20) which we tried met the minimum standards eg, runny egg yolk, brioche bread toasted just right, etc... I felt the scrambled eggs were a bit diluted and so were the baked beans. Taste wise, nothing to lure me back here for seconds. 

The 3D latte art didn't disappoint. Instagram worthy and it did attract praise from whoever who have seen this picture. Yes, I will come back here for coffee with new companions just for the experiential effect. Take your fill of photos to make it worth your trip because you may not touch the coffee much after that if you don't really like sweet coffee. (By the way, 3D latte art would cost you an extra dollar)

If you aren't fussy with food and don't mind paying a bit more, this is a great hangout for morning cycling at ECP and insta-worthy coffee for brunch. 

Atmosphere Bistro and Bar
920 East Coast Parkway #01-25/26/27
Brunch is only available on Sat, Sun and Public Holidays 
(You may try their Alexandra Village outlet for weekday brunch)