Monthly Archives: December 2009

Min Jiang with family

Really a place for large family get togethers and business meals, this restaurant is the resident Chinese cuisine restaurant at the Goodwood Park Hotel.  I haven’t had a chinese banquet in a looong time (all my friends are already married or don’t celebrate at Chinese restaurants) and gosh I miss them !  But also not having had a banquet for so long, I marvel at just how much they think people can eat in one seating.

Before I continue, why are Chinese restaurants always have the air conditioning set to “sorry, I turned down the thermostat and it got stuck” temperature?  It really spoils the experience and the food gets cold, mighty quick.  And if the courses take a long time in between each course, the patron is left drinking endless cups of hot tea to keep warm, filling up valuable stomach space and making them take frequent trips to the washroom.

After an inordinately long wait for the first course, though, the subsequent courses came quite quickly, and then came, and then came…and then came.  I had to leave after the fourth course (I skipped the sharks fin) and was already at bursting point, and there were still 5 courses to come !

Perhaps having eaten some of the best banquets I can think of, the food at Min Jiang was pretty unimpressive.  The cold meats were a bit all over the place.  Pieces of chicken and duck with char siu slices, cold jellyfish and a marinaded baby octopus that would have fit into a greek salad.  I won’t comment on the sharks fin but third course was pretty fatty duck pancakes (and I like my duck fat), followed by a slightly tough, BIG slice of fish and then what tasted like Singapore chilli prawns with a stale man tou.  I did, however, like the dessert – it was an almond jelly set in a young coconut with longans and the delicate flavours really worked for me.  Normally I steer clear of almond jelly – it’s a bit overpowering for me, but I could just taste the almond and it was as tender and soft as the flesh of the young coconut.

Not sure Min Jiang rates there with the likes of Crystal Jade Golden Palace just around the corner at Paragon, but as my parents were staying at the Goodwood Park Hotel, a convenient reintroduction to the good old Chinese banquet.

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Merry messy Christmas !

My entire family (mum, dad, sister, brother in-law, niece) arrived yesterday in Singapore and we’d arranged to celebrate Christmas lunch at the Hyatt Mezza9 to a) avoid the mad crush of cramming 7 adults in our flat and b) to allow me to enjoy the company of everyone without having to lift a finger in the kitchen.  As it turns out, the table we ended up getting at Mezza9 was so “cosy” that we would have had plenty of space at our place anyway, but would we have had the superb spread of food that we enjoyed today ?  No way.  We’ve also been wanting to try the Christmas brunch since we got here a few years ago.  Comes around only once a year, after all, but we’ve always had last minute changes or we’d tagged along to lunches other people had organised.

It was a full house at Mezza9 today with all the Christmas orphans left in Singapore all champagned up and creating a merry cheer in the restaurant.  The atmosphere really was festive, with some patrons dressing up in Santa outfits and everyone dressed in truly “smart casual” – none of the random flip flops and three quarter length pants that can sneak in on a normal Sunday brunch.

The food was, as usual, stellar, and today we had some festive upgrades – suckling pig instead of just roast pork, chilli crab in the chinese section, turkey (I was sad to see no goose as I would have loved that), ham, roasted pork belly and roast beef, and Christmas pudding.  The pork belly and ham were the winners for me – both were melt in the mouth tender.  For D it was a second helping of smoothly whipped mashed potatoes and delicious portabello mushrooms.

The service was a little slow to start – I think they really struggled to try and seat everyone at once, but once seated, the staff found their groove and soon it was all working like the smoothly oiled machine the Sunday brunch at Mezza9 is.

Queues were long for pretty much everything, but on Christmas day, does that really matter ?  Especially with all that free flowing champagne.  Long live the Sunday brunch !


Feeling Christmasy

All the Christmas specials are on tellie at the moment, and don’t we just love them.  Christmas came early this year with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “A Christmas at River Cottage” and Jamie Oliver’s latest Christmas special.  The entire River Cottage series is just one feel-good episode after another – they always leave us with smiles on our faces.

But last night was Jamie’s Christmas special which showed you what to do with your turkey leftovers.  Now remember I roasted a turkey for the first time this week and there is LOTS of turkey left over.  The winner was a sweet leek and turkey pie – think chicken and leek pie – but Jamie’s tip was to roll our your puff pastry, sprinkle cooked chopped chestnuts and sage over half of it, then fold the non-chestnut bit over and roll it thin again.  GENIUS.

That’s for dinner tonight – will let you know how it goes !

Hmm…I’m not convinced of the pastry – the sage was overpowering (even though I only put a few bits in) and I couldn’t taste the chestnuts…but at least all the turkey’s used up !


A wine whine

I am pretty much a novice when it comes to wines, but I do like to drink them. We went to Carrefour the other day and decided to buy some new wines – our whites normally are sauvignon blancs from NZ and reds are usually pinot noirs or cabernet sauvignons from Australia because it’s what we know. We bought a Sancerre sauvignon blanc and opened it last night with dinner. The nose was lovely – sweet and syrupy, the first taste was crisp and dry, and the finish…well it kind of ended there. It was almost as if we hadn’t drunk the wine at all – odd !


Gobble gobble gobble

I cooked a turkey yesterday. For the first time. In fact, I can’t recall when I even ate it last. D has been saying that he misses it for so many years now, and I was at home, so I thought, what better than to spend a whole day cooking ?

It truly is a whole day affair, and people say to get the family involved, blah blah blah, but to be honest, in my house there’s only one cook at a time in the kitchen, so don’t attempt unless you seriously have the entire day.

I have had years of roasting a chicken once a week, so in my mind, it was just a bigger version, right ? Noooo. Turkeys are bred to be lean, and because they are so big, you have to ensure that it doesn’t dry out while roasting.

Essentially, you need to steam the bird until it’s cooked, and then let it brown in the oven at the end.

I really dislike handling raw meat, in particular, poultry, and here they vacuum wrap a lot of their poultry, so that when you cut the plastic open, all these raw juices flow out – it’s really quite horrid. Washing the bird normally gets rid of this and I have to admit I struggled to handle a 5kg bird and it took a LOT of paper towels to pat it dry.

I had a bit of a giggle when I was trying to wash the bird – every cavity I washed there seemed to be something stuffed in there – giblets, the neck, a gravy packet, some string – the bird that gives more !

After waiting for 5 hours for it to cook, the turkey was finally ready – all nicely browned, roast potatoes looked deliciously crispy and it was 9pm so D and I were absolutely ravenous.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I found the meat, although nice and juicy and tender, was lovely with lots of gravy and cranberry sauce, but without, seemed quite flavourless. Guess that’s just turkey.

Would I do it again ? Not in a hurry…it really just is a big b*stard chicken. I can’t believe households do this once or even twice a year !  But this year, I did it.  One less thing to cook in my life … so, Merry Christmas !!


A tipple at Tippling Club

Well we did not partake of the matching cocktail menu along with our degustation – we had Henriot, Brut Souverain NV champagne and a lovely Domaine Roger and Perrin Chateauneuf du Pape 2006 but when chef Ryan Clift explained some of them to us, we certainly were intrigued.  A dazzling selection of the weirdest and most wonderful cocktail concoctions were available, but we stuck to what we knew (and left the drinking to the very loud Americans seated a few chairs away from us).

Tippling Club is somewhere D has wanted to try for as long as it’s been around and we finally went there for his birthday this year, with Kelly and Joe, our favourite foodie friends.

We’d read the reviews, mostly good, some bad and to be honest, I have to say that the food by itself does not, for me, anyway, make it a worthwhile experience.

The venue itself is odd. Tucked away next to its sister company, House, the place is walled by plastic sheets with a large, poorly lit counter and some tables for which I have no idea would be used for – The Saturday night we were there there were ten other patrons, all seated at the counter.

The four of us were seated at the corner counter, which meant that we were sat just that little bit far away from each other, which I think makes it not conducive for discussing the food, which is what it’s about, for me. Food for me is something that should be shared, rarely enjoyed alone, but then perhaps that is only me.

The music choice was absolutely terrible. They had a DJ outside who played music that was then piped into the restaurant and it was a) too loud for that intimate kind of atmosphere and b) just horrible – music and food have such an integral part to play in enjoyment of both and the music that was playing was jarring and repetitive. I think another patron complained and it was changed but still nothing which complemented the restaurant at all.

The waitstaff in general were very very good. Attentive and discrete, they explained the menu (there is the local, five course menu, or the more french inspired, ten course menu. The chef, Ryan Clift, was kind enough to say that as the restaurant was not that busy, he would “allow” us to select a combination of the two – usually everyone in the group had to order the same menu.

Ryan Clift is an intense, very serious individual and his partner Matthew Bax was just uncomfortably friendly.

Matthew seemed to try to make conversation with us as he was serving our wine, but somehow it just came across as very insincere.

Ryan, on the other hand, although I think takes himself and his art far too seriously (although I suspect all “artists” do and at least Tippling Club has withstood the test of still being around in Singapore after a few years with no sign of closing).  He explained that his new menu was going to be inspired by the pairing of food tastes and smells and that he was recently awarded a grant from the government to explore the olfactory promotion of food.

I’m flipflopping a bit here as I’m trying to capture our experience which of course is incomplete without some mention of the food.

Matthew was very quick to say that chef Clift DID NOT CONSIDER his food “molecular gastromony”, despite the fact that the food is prepared in exactly this way – learning the science behind the food and serving foods in unexpected flavours and textures.

The food itself was certainly interesting.  I cannot in all honesty say I loved all of it but I appreciated the work that went behind creating some of the dishes and would have liked to hear more of what went into preparing the food than simply just telling us what we were eating as it was served.

The Amouse Bouche has been written up many times – the fizzy grapes, calamari with a basil emulsion, charred green peppers with a soy wasabi and iberico ham which, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with.  Fizzy grapes, were fairly unimpressive but again, if someone had explained to us how this was really different from soaking grapes in champagne, it might have helped.  The calamari rings were cold and greasy and chewy but oh my goodness, that basil emulsion.  Superb.  So much flavour and completely unexpected way of drinking it through the straw.

Second course was a 62 degree poached egg served with bacon mayonnaise, with thyme, parmesan crisps and roasted tomato puree.  I am not a fan of “googie” eggs.  For some reason I need my yolks to be solid (I know, heathen) but this was absolutely perfectly cooked and you had the sensation of a whole cooked breakfast in your mouth.  Wonderful.

Third course was seared Hokkaido scallops, servied with braised fresh aloe vera in soya sauce, peanuts and a film of vinegar.  Scallops are one of my favourite things in the world (although I do indulge in them due to them being unsustainably fished) – the scallops themselves were lovely but all that palaver around it was pretty unecessary and some things, like the peanuts, simply didn’t work well with the rest.  The braised aloe vera just added the flavour of salt and I found that all too overpowering for something as delicate and light as the scallops.

Fourth course was a foie gras … mousse… I guess?  It was more solid than a mouse and wrapped around a sour cherry sauce which actually was really lovely – except that it was served on a bed of overly salty eight spice crumble and cherries on the side.  The crumble would have worked if it weren’t so damn salty – foie gras to me should always just be served with sweet things, like a sautern sauce, or apples or raisins – I think the sour and sweet of the cherries along with the over seasoned crumble took away from the flavour of the foie gras.

Next course was a lobster where the ravioli was like very thick rice paper – it almost dissolved in the consomme which was poured over the ravioli.  Very nice, again, but too much consomme made it really messy to eat.

The next course was gorgeous – before this course we had some time with the chef who we were asking about his various experimental looking creations in the kitchen.  I have to say that it’s great to see the creator at work, and he explained that the government had given him a sizeable grant to work on how food and smells work in conjunction with each other.  So when the vegetables came, with a layer of “porcini soil” on top, that was impressive enough, but the chef came along and sprayed an atomiser of “the smell of the humidity in the garden” – it was incredible !  He also mentioned that he was changing his menu to have winter vegetables and a colder “smell”.

The next was a palate cleanser called “no-J” – orange tasting juice with pulp but with no oranges !

Main course was a grade 9 wagyu with beetroot and coppa ham which was fairly unmemorable, but only because it was marred by the chef serving us an extra, off the menu dish of seared top grade wagyu – from one of the cows that had actually been fed beer and massaged !  I have to admit, I think we got the extra course because they thought I was some sort of secret food critique because we were asking so many questions.  But wouldn’t everyone that went ?  That’s the beauty of this sort of establishment – the wonder of the food concoctions.

First dessert was a forgetable nitro ice something with jackfruit  and pomelo, but the next was a winner – chef’s interpretation of lemon meringue pie with no egg, butter or flour – it also happens to be one of my favourite desserts and it was suberb. Final dessert was a pear tartin sorbet with a pear jelly outside of the sorbet, to look like the shape of a pear.  This was served with a puff pastry crumble and a taglietelle of pear that the boys said reminded them of the smell of leather shoes.

I did like the fact that they asked us for our details (they didn’t ask for any feedback) and the next day we received an email from them thanking us for coming and sharing a cocktail recipe with us.

Overall, I wouldn’t rush back to Tippling Club, but I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, or perhaps because something as special as this isn’t something you want to do again in a hurry. It IS a little on the wanky side – there is a strict no photo policy and they just seem a little full of themselves – which I might accept from the chef but from his partner the wine guy ??


And on to Rome…

Before I get to Tippling Club, I want to say how damn easy it was for me to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  And how much more user-friendly WordPress is !  And also I wanted to include our trip to Rome last September.

APART from the fact that I seem to have lost my entire post on Rome !!

OK I will persevere, and I might even put some pretty pictures in, because that reminds me of what a wonderful time we had there.

After Positano we drove to Naples and then we caught a train to Rome.  I want to remember the romantic train ride, but for some reason (which D reckons is “sleep”) I cannot !  Shame.

I do recall arriving at our hotel – which was tucked away in a very small, dark alley.  This kind of freaked me out initially but then I realised that Rome is simply made up of these sorts of alleys, and there is a thriving cafe scene, where locals go – guess the tourists stay in the light.

It was a pretty weird setup – 2 flights of stairs and then what I can only say resembled an apartment, of which they rented out the rooms.  It was so weird.  Clearly it was new, even the safe had not been secured in the cupboard but I’ll say one thing for that room we rented – the bed was a tempur mattress which made it wonderfully comfortable, especially since travelling you always end up sleeping in weird beds that you’re unused to.  I swear all hotels should have them.

But I digest…

Food-wise, Rome is somewhere where I think you have to definitely avoid the touristy places.  We went to a few places on recommendation from D’s colleagues and clients – one which was apparently at the place where Brutus stabbed Caesar, where I had suckling pig that was pretty average.  Mirabelle, which was a lovely location – overlooking the Vatican – tables were very close together and although I recall the food to be lovely, it was pretty forgettable, and I had foie gras and duck – some of my favourite things in the world !  We also went outside of Rome – I can’t remember the area but I keep thinking of Sardinia – obviously we didn’t actually go to Sardinia, but we went to a little taverna which had lovely food but unfortunately the night we went there was a major football game on so we were literally the only ones in the restaurant.  We forgot about that though, when they brought out the grappa.

Ice-cold, syrupy goodness in two flavours – one was the normal one and the other was… I want to say wheat ? Anyway, I do recall walking around the Piazza Navona near our hotel absolutely giggling girties.

I always like to wander streets and get lost when we travel.  You always seem to stumble upon some really great stuff and here we managed two places.  The first was where we spent our last night over dinner.  There was a tiiiny little restaurant near our hotel called Pietro Valentini Ristorante, and the thing which caught our attention was the fact that he boasted to be the King of Truffles.  When we walked into the restaurant, we were almost overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of Pietro and his daughter in-law, Simone, and the wondrous smell of truffles.  There is a tray full of the biggest, fattest looking black truffles and oh. my. gosh. it smelled goooood.  Before we ordered we were served a three cheese bread, cut from a gigantic loaf – this is hearty Italian food and hospitality at its best.  While we were waiting for our entrees, the other good news was the place was full of local Romans – always a good sign.  My entree was mozarella stuffed zuccini flowers, D’s was calamari – both crispy light.  Mains were steak for D and mine was a pasta which has freshly shaved truffles over it – I can’t even remember what sauce it was the truffles were so good ! In fact, it was so good that D committed a crime by ordering pasta after his carne.  Dessert was called Fantasty Ravioli which is a chocolate filled ravioli that is then deep fried, so the chocolate inside becomes smooth and molten….We were pretty drunk but last Christmas we received a Christmas card from the restaurant, so we can’t have made such a bad impression.  This meal really made my visit to Rome amazing.

The other little find was a tiny little supermarket in one of the streets near the Pantheon (I get chills just writing that word down I love that place so much).  Normal supermarket, but keep wandering around and you find a meat deli section where D and I had our first taste of Iberico ham.  I do wish the man behind the magical counter sliced it thinner but I think it just meant that you had to really work and chew at the ham, which seemed to warm and release the flavours even more.  We left with so much cured meat from there it was hilarious – lucky we weren’t flying back to Sydney where we would have had to eat it all at customs.

We had superb weather the entire time we were there – it seemed to cool down significantly in Rome from Amalfi, so we also enjoyed many walks through the Campo Di Fiori – fresh produce markets, where, again, is full of tourists but also locals.  And as we are early risers, we got to wander around in the warm morning sun watching the locals buy their produce to cool for the day – fresh borlotti beans, soup mixes, fresh salad mix.  Just wonderful.

I have always loved Rome and it’s inspired me and D to travel to the other parts of Italy to go on a gastronomic tour of the country !  ps the Vatican, you can keep.


Positively Positano.

Positano is truly breathtaking, but no-one tells you that for all its beauty it’s a bit of an effort getting around, but I guess that’s part of its charm. We stayed around the corner from the main part of Positano at La Rosa Dei Venti and for me there’s always that first step into any hotel room that makes me go “did I do good?”. The room was perfectly adequate – until the porter opened up the doors to our balcony. The view from that balcony was absolutely spectacular. Once we settled in, we took the “easy” 400 steps down to the beach, which lead to the main part of Positano town. There are no piazzas to speak of, just a small winding pathway – reminded me of Ikea actually but with less plastic furniture. The town itself is very very touristy, which, after Amalfi, was a little in our faces. We wandered around a bit and then realised we had to trek those 400 steps back up to our hotel. BUNS OF STEEL. Or at least burning buns.

Breakfast was served on our private balcony. I honestly cannot think of anything more idyllic. Breakfast could have been horrible (it was not) but in that setting, it was delicious.  I recall absolutely perfectly cooked soft boiled eggs – white was cooked, yolk just on the right side of googie.

We wandered around the next day, snuck into the Hotel Sirenuse to see where the rich and famous stay and ate that night at San Pietro. To be honest, the food was great, but nothing to write home about but the experience was again, magical (apart from the main hostess who had body odour !). Pre-dinner drinks were served on the balcony at sunset with crudites, which was probably my favourite part of the evening – it was meant to be relaxing but the anticipation to find out what more this restaurant had in store for us was almost overwhelming. I do recall a perfectly cooked fillet steak that we enjoyed with a lovely bottle of Amarone and D started his meal with a chilled tomato soup with a basil pesto and deep fried courgette flower which was so delicately flavoured and worked so well together.

A short day trip to Capri was made happy with being on those incredibly coloured waters and then a HUGE crusty roll of freshly shaved ham, mozarella and roma tomatoes….a yummy way to end the trip.

 

La Rosa Dei Venti
Via Fornillo ,40
84017, POSITANO (SA)
tel :+39.089.875.252

Il San Pietro di Positano
via Laurito, 2
84017 Positano – Italy
ph. +39 089 875.455


The year I missed, and our gastronomic trip to Italy, starting with Amalfi

This post is going to be a long one, but I think it’s important for me to remember our wonderful trip to Amalfi and Rome last September.

We flew in to Naples to be greeted by Tonino, a dashing (and highly popular, judging by the two mobile phones he was talking to whilst driving us through the impossibly winding roads through Amalfi) Italian. The crazier thing was that the roads were barely two cars wide, and the car he was driving us in was manual transmission.

Amalfi is a tiny town on the Amalfi coast. Small and quaint, it lacked the overt glamour of Positano but it was there that we were able to purchase fresh basil, Vesuvius tomatoes that smelled…wonderfully like tomatoes should – not like the almost plastic ones you find in the supermarket, fresh mozarella, proscuitto and ham with a crusty loaf of bread and a local bottle of wine. These we enjoyed on the balcony of our hotel, at the top of the hill, overlooking the coastline, with the sun on our faces – it was heaven.

One tiny street packed full of touristy shops, and snuggled inbetween were fruit and vegetable stores and meat stores where the locals obviously bought their daily food. There were a few alleyways, where we found the Piazza Dogi, and where that night we ate at the Trattoria da Barracca drinking a crisp Serrocielo dei Feudi di san Gregorio 2007 while we tucked into fresh roasted fish and a seafood stew.

I need to mention we took a ride up the hill to Ravelo (where we later realised was where our friends Richard and Nikki were married) and we wandered up the winding alleys to the Villa Cimbrone – some crazy Englishman decided he wanted to make it look like an English garden – and it works ! Best moment was the Terrace to Eternity, a natural balcony with a sheer cliff – breathtaking.

We ate along the beachside the next day and then hired a taxi driven by Salvatore Americano a crazy 60 year old Elvis impersonator who told us about his three failed marriages and that the three things that make him happy are good food, good love, and good “going to the toilet”. A clearly wise man. He drove us to Positano – which I think I might actually write in another post.


It’s been a long time…

…since I wrote anything – but I want to capture all the smells and tastes of the food I am fortunate enough to experience, from the top-end Japanese to the best vegetarian beehoon (with the crispy fried bits).

It’s been crazy at work these past few months and I for one will be glad to see the end of 2009, but I digest (typo and keeping it)…it’s the silly season so let’s get out there and eat, drink and be merry !

First stop – Tippling Club this Saturday for D’s birthday dinner, with Kelly and Joe. Wonder which extreme it will sway to, bitterly disappointing or exquisite?