Wednesday, August 27, 2008

whole cakes are so boring

congrats to you if you can identify all the slices of cakes on my birthday dessert platter !

Nara Japanese Restaurant

Chiraishi Don Set $20

Nara was actually a chance encounter..longchong and i went all the way to novena to try Matsuo Sushi at Goldhill Plaza (which wasnt open during the public holiday dammit) so we grudgingly settled for this oh but what a blessing in disguise! Having tried both I conclude that I would rather pay abit more for better quality fare and not having to queue outside in the hot sun (for Matsuo has a notorious long lunchcrowd queue and there's no indoor waiting area and of cos no reservation policy for lunch)!

Nara is actually quite a small and quiet restaurant and it was quite dark inside. it wasnt crowded at all (thank god cos the seats are quite close to each other) and hence the waitress was rather attentive.. as I was dying for the chiraishi at Matsuo, it was a brainless choice for me to choose to have it here as a substitute instead..

this is one of my first few encounters with the chiraishi don - which started off this craze to check out all the chiraichis in all the famous jap restaurants (nogawa here i come ) so you can imagine how good this was (actually, i thought so until i found an even better for value one which i will blog about soon, if i can bear to share the secret place ) ..

the chiraishi don appeals to me for its colour and presentation in a sturdy lacquer box. i do prefer the fish to be thickly sliced (unlike the chopped up ones in en dining or shin kushiya) as i still stand by my opinion that the chopped up ones are the ends and bits and pieces of spare parts the restaurant needs to get rid of (ok ok Tatsuya's was an exception).

there was salmon, tuna, yellow tail, swordfish, octopus, fish roe and some other species i couldnt identify. what was interesting and different from the other chirashis i tried is that this came with sweet beancurd (which i really really like!!) and pink sugar. it was a sweet lovely addition to the rice and fish.. although i wish there was some tamago in the don!

the set came complete with a seaweed appetiser (as captured in the corner of the above photo)miso soup, yellow and purple pickles, some mushroom appetiser and chawan mushi(the other appetisers as captured in the photo below). oh, i was tempted to choose the sashimi set too but apparently the rice was the normal rice and not the Japanese sticky rice as in the chiraishi so i opted for the latter

Salmon Teriyaki set, $13

longchong had this, and the salmon was really smooth and sweet..oh well to me teriyaki sauce makes all the meats very tasty, and as long as the fish is not too bony i won't have any complaints..she was quite happy with her fish though the meal wasnt very filling...we went off to starbucks after the meal and she had another bagel (which the waiter got wrong and so she had double servings of bagel haha)

oh yes, the ever so generic water melon that came with this meal was accompanied by a super sweet rockmelon !! oh it was REALLY SWEET, much sweeter than the rockmelon soup at iggy's, oh why do the fruits from Japan in Isetan cost so much!! their exotic squarish watermelon and champagne grapes, oh i really do wanna try those peculiar and exotic fruits!

Nara Japanese Restaurant

167 Thomson Road

Goldhill Centre

Tel: 6256 6568

Daily: 11.30am - 2.15 pm, 6pm - 10.15pm

Sunday, August 24, 2008


easily one of my best lunches ever..and the pampering is not only for my tastebuds..the service was impeccable, friendly, unpretentious and ever so forthcoming.. the general manager ever so ready to offer to describe the dish and he couldn't suppress his amusement at 3 photo snapping girls gushing with excitement everytime a dish emerged from the kitchen..
and cos of the L-shaped layout of the restaurant (allowing us to spy on the other diners' food!!), the whole affair was rather intimate, with the small seating capacity we had all the attention we needed, without being intrusive at all. and with the open kitchen concept, it really completes the entire experience because as much as I enjoy seeing the chefs (very quietly!) putting their heart and soul into their food, I'm sure the chefs themselves appreciate how the diners are equally amazed by their excellent fare. That to me, is the epitome of fine dining, the 2 way flow between the diner and the chef, with the service staff being the link, providing recommendations and running commentaries with gusto, and faciliating the feedback from the diners. Oh, what a very intricate 'food web ' that is!

first the olive bread, one of the 2 choices - the other being the plain baguette - which M warned wasnt I had 2 servings of was served warm and crusty, with the unforgettable aroma of freshly home-made bread. dipped with olive oil or lathered generously with butter, this really excited my palate for what was to come as I mulled over the menu...which can be found on the iggy's site, by the way!


Sweet corn cappucino, chocolate raviolo

The first complimentary amuse bouche. The sweet and frothy corn soup was light with a light hint of milk, with the surprise bitterness of a chocolate glob right at the bottom of the cup..oh i do love starting my meals on a sweet note..reminds me of the times when i eat in reverse ie eat desserts before my mains because the lure of the sweets is too great to resist

Cauliflower mousse, sea urchin and shiso jelly

Our second complimentary amuse bouche. Oh this is a genius in a martini glass. the sweetness of the shiso jelly with the saltiness of the sea urchin, with the wobbly texture of the cauliflower mousse, this eccentric use of sea-urchin layered in between imaginative ingredients really blew us away.

Sakura ebi cappellini with konbu and home-made scampi oil

We all joked that this cappellini will be bigger than my very puny of a burger - my main dish later..oh, i really won't mind having copious amounts of this as my main! the pasta done al dente - very fine strands indeed - with the crunchiness and saltiness of the fresh sakura ebi, i really enjoyed every bit of this.


Squid ink risotto with charcoal-grilled calamari

This is actually my first risotto..i'm a recent rice convert - i used to only eat noodles outside shunning rice dishes - and wow rice wont taste the same ever again! the rice was plump and i could taste the burst of each grain, releasing the squid ink sauce. Im not a particular fan of squid, prefering it fried in batter - yes as i said in my previous post i only eat crunchy crispy fried calamari and nothing else..


Home-made wagyu beef burger with white truffle sabayon

...and a grand total of 4 fries stacked up ceremoniously (ugh i hate thick fries i need a smaller potato-crispy crust ratio so yess potato wedges are quite a nighmare)
burger in its full glory..

and its innards..hey i didnt use my hands okay, I used the knife and fork - so i could savour every bit !!- and do you see how very chopped up the beef is? well i like my beef more dense - like the relish burger patty and the brewerkz beef patty - but perhaps the wagyu beef in this burger being more marbled and fatty, was slightly too mushy for me as a patty. Nonetheless, the truffle sabayon's aroma was unmistakable (and M was super jealous cos she kept smelling it but she couldnt detect the truffle aroma in her gnocchi) and the stringy onions made it a fine burger indeed. well, a burger is a burger, to me a burger should be a monster, with a mean dense patty, plenty of cheese (which this lackss!!!), and the veggies (which this lacks too!!) no im not corrupted by big macs


Rockmelon soup, earl grey chocolate, fresh dill and summer flowers

Our third COMPLIMENTARY amuse bouche(oh, do keep coming.), the predessert. oh i really won't mind closing my meal with this - but of cos more is always better haha - but this was extremely refreshing after all that oily food..and what a very pretty dish! it was a heart-break digging into the chocolate. i couldnt really taste the earl grey in the chocolate but who cares! the bitter dark chocolate was such a nice close after sipping the rockmelon soup, enjoying the roughage of the fruit fibre. and no, i didn't eat the flowers though they were edible (my other lunch partners ate every single part of the dish)

Champagne jelly

Champagne jelly and sorbet with elderflower foam

I usually don't like bubbly but since this is their signature dessert i had to give this a try! oh i do love alcohol only when it comes in the form of dessert (think of rum and raisin and the baileys icecream from udders!!) so needless to say i really love this dessert - though m said that the elderflower taste reminded her of ricola..what you see right on top is the elderflower foam- soft and fluffy, I really had to dig through the layers of icy sorbet to reach the wobbly jelly right at the bottom of the martini glass.. it was really refreshing!

m's dessert of Pina colada soufflé, coconut ice-cream and iced pina colada.. i pinched some of the souffle and it really tasted as good as it smelt - i almost wanted to switch my dessert to this after i saw one of the other earlier diner's dessert and saw the monstrosity of it!
ice's dessert of Chocolate cylinder, French toast with home-made maple ice-cream and iced mocca. i also tried some of the french toast and the sugar bits on the toast made it so very crunchy and tasty! her maple ice cream was melting all over the shop - in retaliation to all the phototaking - oh but iced mocca was really a potent one, with a surprise finish of mini chocolate balls right at the bottom. what a very fun dessert!

this souvenir rendered my previous phototaking of the menu useless..can you believe they actually printed out our personalised menu for keeps? oh im rather sad my post is coming to an end, this post is such a joy to pen cos it really brings back such good memories..anyone wanna relive these moments with me again?


1 Cuscaden Road #03-00

The Regent

Tel: 6732 2234

Mon-Fri: 12pm-2pm, 7pm-10pm Sat-Sun : 7pm-10pm

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cafe Iguana

Crispy, individual tortilla chips layered with black
beans, rice, roasted jalapeño chiles, sour cream,
guacamole and melted cheese $16.99,$ 21.99
Cafe Iguana really made me such a Mexican food convert! the first time I ate here was actually with the surgery team (can you imagine the consultants actually suggesting this place??!! and eventually turning red on magaritas??) and the second time round i had a late dinner here with the mountains and both meals were equally memorable...because of the nachos! oh my, im getting so hungry looking at this photo cos every bit of it was so yummy..the salty and crispy nachos with the soft and mushy guacomole and sour cream and salty cheese..oh im such a carbo junkie lapping everything from the rice to the black beans! the jalapenos tops it all with the spiciness. i could finish the whole $21.99 version for my dinner man..but of cos we shared all our dishes cos everything came in super big portions..we ordered 2 mains and 2 appetisers for 4 (very big) girls and it was just about right...downing the meal with only 2 magaritas..yup u got that, 2 drinks for 4 people proving we're really not much of a drinker

Soft Tacos
Handmade corn tortillas, traditional shredded
cabbage garnish, lime cream and pico de gallo
and side dishes of beans and lime-scented
cilantro rice
Smoked Salmon $21.99
We found this a bit too floury..the soft corn tortillas was sooo thick (can u see the many many layers of it?)and there was so little smoked salmon and cabbage garnish (yeah maybe its called garnish for a reason) in comparison..but i really like the cilantro rice and beans alot..see its really a huge portion

Left: Ancho Dusted Fried Calamari - Tender fried squid with mole verde $12.99

Right: Quesadillas -Flour tortillas filled with cheese or cheese &
mushroom or cheese & poblano chiles $11.99

I always thought that quesadillas are like super thin pizzas folded in.. (and calzones are like giant curry puffs instead of folded pizzas) and these quesadillas are really thin indeed..we ordered the cheese and mushroom one and i must say 2 of my friends voted this as their favourite for the night (i still stand by my nachos) because this dish was simple and done well, the tortilla being crisp and complementing the cheese. Didn't really use the tangy dip much though, the quesadillas tasted good on its own.

On the other hand the calamari was so soggy! isnt fried calamari supposed to be was really sogged up by the mole verde.. the dish should be renamed tender squid with mole verde instead..i should have noted the TENDER adjective as a warning rather than get all excited by the calamari word..

Mexican food has all these exotic names for its dishes (just like japanese food it takes a while to learn the new food language) .. i'd wanna try these the next time when i come back (in addition to my nachos):

Chimichangas=Deep fried flour tortilla filled with grilled vegetables and cheese and served with
lime-scented cilantro rice (sounds like Mexican spring roll to me)
Grilled Prawns 21.99
Shredded Steak 19.99
Grilled Chicken 18.99
Grilled Vegetables 17.99

Burrito(In Cafe Iguana this is served with lime-scented cilantro rice,b0rracho beans and cheddar mozzarella)= flour tortilla wrapped around one of the following fillings:
Red Snapper 20.99
Shredded Steak 19.99
Grilled Chicken 18.99
Grilled Vegetables 16.99

(sounds like Mexican popiah right?)

Fajitas= Sizzling platter served with flour tortillas,sautéed onions and peppers, sour cream and
Grilled Prawns 24.99
Flank Steak 23.99
Grilled Chicken 21.99
Portobello Fajitas 20.99
Grilled Vegetables 19.99

This looks like hotplate and looks rather dramatic with the sizzling meats..i think i had the grilled prawns one on my previous visit..

with these new additions to my mexican food dictionary, i shall check out Magaritas at Dempsey(highly recommended by some people) and Cha cha cha at Holland Village (recommended by the Hongkong elective students) very soon!

30 Merchant Road

#01-03 Riverside Point

Tel: 6236 1275

Mon-Thu: 6pm - 1am

Fri & Eve of PH: 6pm - 3am

Sat: 12noon - 3am

Sun: 12noon - 1am

Matsuo sushi

Chiraishi don, set $15 +

after reading up about the weekday lunch deals at Matsuo sushi i was really craving for this chiraishi don thats their lunch special on mondays and fridays..just like the korean bibimbap phase, im going through this chiraishi don phase right now going around trying all the chiraishis at all the restaurants! Matsuo was actually closed on Vesak day when i was gonna try it first with longchong some time back (we travelled all the way to novena for this!!! and we had such a hard time finding the place until a couple- who're regulars there and were equally disappointed!- told us it wasnt open) we settled for Nara restaurant instead, which was a blessing in disguise actually, shall blog about this place soon..

3 of my friends decided on the same lunch deal also..what a very pretty sight!

comes with chawanmushi (which has a piece of unagi inside), miso soup and the ever generic watermelon..i think the fish quality is not that fantastic though..there's salmon, salmon belly, tuna, squid, octopus, fish roe and the cooked items include the prawn, unagi and tamago, topped up with pickles and ginger and a very dense looking wasabi.. well for 15 bucks we cant expect premium fish nor huge slabs of fish either i guess , this set is just good value for money, thats all.

Unagi Don

another friend decided on the unagi don..i think this was around 18 bucks, he said that it tasted similar to the one he usually has at the NUS engineering canteen at about a quarter of the price..oh well i guess one cant really go wrong with unagi since the fish is perpetually drenched in sweet sauce anyway.. unless its really that stale so much so that the sauce cant mask the fishiness and it has bones to boot! no but this one doesnt disappoint, i might wanna go and try the unagi when its available in the lunch set since it also comes with salmon sashimi

Salmon Teriyaki

Another friend chose this and i think it was around $12.50..i thought that the salmon was rather small (compared to the size of the chiraishi!) but she said the fish was quite well done, succulent without being too oily and the sauce was just sweet enough

Will be back to try the other lunch deals especially the unagi rice! need to conquer all the japanese set lunches around!

Matsuo Sushi Restaurant

1 Goldhill Plaza


Tel: 6356 2603

Daily 11:30am - 2:30pm, 6pm - 10pm

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hong Kong Desserts

This is my third visit to this shop (and i don't do many repeat visits these days since i wanna try out more new eats) cos i really like the desserts here and so i've been bringing friends here..i chanced upon this place whilst shopping at Far East Plaza, and there're many small shops tucked into this corner, many still looking very new..high turnover syndrome i guess.
My first visit was with short a year ago, and we shared a Yang Zhi Gan Lu, Mati with Lotus seed and Beans, and a set of 3 Durian Ban Zai.. we were still hungry after that so we shared some skewers.. made to order at this counter thats now replaced by a fruits and drinks counter..honestly who'd come all the way here to eat fruits ?!

i liked that the menu had illustrations and even labels of must try!..everything looks so colourful and yelling to be tried..even though im not a real fan of these dessert soups (ice-cream and cakes anytime man) everything on the menu stilll appeals to me..

Mati with Lotus Seed and Beans (Cold/Warm) $2.50

I had mine warm, and I think it tastes like a less starchy version of tau-suan, with the crunchiness of the waterchestnut adding more bite to the soup. It was not too sweet, and I certainly miss the youtiao that normally tops such soups.

Yang Zhi Gan Lu $3.50

M and A (who joined us for desserts) had this.. i didn't choose this as I had this during the previous 2 visits and I wanted to try the other desserts. We agreed that this was really good, it was sweet but not overpoweringly so, and it was not too creamy nor curdy. There was added crunchiness from the longan and sago.. this is a must try for mango sago fans out there.

Durian Ban Zai (3 pieces) $3.80

Oh i really really love this!! This is like durian-filled mochi/dumpling...the skin is super soft and slightly chewy, and it just melts in your mouth..there's also the mango flavour which i tried on my first visit and i didnt eat it again because i think the mango is a little too artificially sweet.

inside has durian pulp and coconut cream..

Polished Glutinous Rice with Durian $3.50

This is like Durian ondeh ondeh! super chewy rice wrapped around durian pulp, this one has no coconut cream inside though.. but the coconut shreds on the rice itself more than make up for the cream..this comes in other flavours like Mango, Lychee and Honeydew.

the many layers of durian goodness.. during my third visit M commented that the durian didn't taste as fresh though..i really wonder how long they keep their glutinous rice and ban zais (they were on display in the fridge counter)

this was what K and i had on my second visit to the shop..she was a mango fan so she really loved the Yang Zhi Gan Lu..i think that these 3 desserts are great for sharing between 2 people, and are the best of what this shop has to offer anyway. There's the sweet and creamy mango sago, chewy Durian glutinous rice, and the soft Durian Ban Zai, so you'd never get sick of the same taste or texture!

I really like this shop because unlike other Hong Kong cafes, they specialise in desserts and hence their shop doesn't smell oily (think of all the french toasts and fried luncheon meat and instant noodles) , and they're good at what they specialise in. I wanna try their other desserts like their Coconut Bean Cake and Rice cake with Red Beans.. some of their dessert names are direct translations of some fanciful chinese names like Bai Yu with coconut, or Pear with Chuan Bei, Red Dates and Aloe Vera.. hrmms..the Chinese give some dishes over-the-top the phoenix claws = chicken feet.. so when its a direct translation i'd be rather suspicious as to what goes into the dish itself..

Nonetheless, an interesting list of desserts and drinks, will be back when im in town looking for a cheap and refreshing dessert.

Dessert Solutions

Far East Plaza #03-89

Tel: 67385116