Monthly Archives: January 2010

Jing at One Fullerton

There’s a small group of friends here in Singapore who have lived in Sydney and crave the all-favourite yum cha (dim sum here in Singapore).  I’ve tried a few here, from Crystal Jade at Paragon, to the two Lei Gardens (at CHIJMES and Orchard) and while the food is lovely, all seem to have a very upmarket feel to them, where dumplings are ordered by the piece from a menu.  For me, the experience of yum cha enhances the enjoyment of the food.  The hustle and bustle of people all trying to talk over each other as they tuck in to their bamboo steamers to grab the next siew mai or har gau, the trolleys trundling through the tables, where you get to see what’s on offer, allowing you to try food you haven’t tried before, it’s even the curt but ever-so-efficient staff, where turnover is their primary goal.

On a recommendation from Kelly, a small group of us decided to try Jing, at One Fullerton.  Jing is award winning chef Yong Bing Ngen’s second joint venture with hotelier Loh Lik Peng. Chef Yong is well known for serving up excellent modern Chinese food and made his name first at Pan Pacific Hotel’s Hai Tien Lo, and then at the Majestic Restaurant (where he won many many awards).

They have an a-la-carte menu, but on weekends, you can order off the menu, buffet-style.  A few items like desserts and the peking duck can be selected at a counter, where the skin is carved and served to-order.The restaurant itself is modern and warm, unlike the usual stark Chinese restaurants, and I think the whole making people get up and walking around in itself greatly relaxes the vibe of any place.  It’s a full house, and now we know why.

The variety of food available to you to order is dazzling.  Not all of them strictly yum cha, to be fair, for example you can get chilli crab.  I ordered the first round – usual staples of siew mai, har gau and pan-fried carrot cake and the like and all of them were well executed, especially in this buffet-style.  Sydney standards are pretty high, given that yum cha chefs in Sydney can earn up to $100K and are in high demand to serve the never ending queues of people waiting to be seated, and our table talk focused purely on how good the dim sum at Jing was.

Last orders are at 2.30, and by then, my friends and I were well and truly happy and full of dumplings and soft shelled crab.  A lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, I see many more visits to Jing with my friends.

JING
One Fullerton, #01-02/03
1 Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213

Tel: 6224 0088

Opening Hours
Lunch – 11.45am to 3pm
Last order – 2.30pm
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More Senso

After a wonderful dinner last Thursday at Senso for the first time, we found out that they do a Sunday brunch and were eager to give it a try.

In the middle of the Singapore daytime heat, I was hoping we weren’t going to eat in their lovely courtyard (I’ll keep that for evenings), and thankfully, we were seated inside with blessed airconditioning.  In fact, no-one was sat outside, and that made the ambiance of the inside, cosy and bustling.

The brunch at Senso consists of buffet-style antipasto, entree, dessert and cheeses and you order pastas and meat/fish from a menu on the table.

The antipasto I could quite easily have stuck to.  Nothing fancy, but good cold meats, bruschetta with olive tapenade, marinaded vegetables.  The entrees were roasted pig hock, and a “pork sausage” (that was all they could tell us but it was a very “meaty” sausage with a different texture to what I think of associated with sausages.  It had a very soft consistency almost like black pudding) that was so full of flavour.  A good selection of cheeses were available – the usual suspects – goat, brie, camembert, parmesan, gorgonzola, and a washed rind – which was so soft it was practically melting on the table and for desserts there was a selection of just-on-the-right-side-of-set panna cotta, wonderfully light tira misu and an apple tart on an almond meal base.  There was also a coffee mousse, which I thought was a bit repetitive of the coffee-infused tira misu but nonetheless was light and creamy.

Our table ordered a sample of all four pastas.  As usual, all four came out solid.  The pastas were just cooked to al dente, tossed in basil pestos, olive pestos, bell pepper and tomato sauces.

By this stage we were all too full to even sample all four of the meats and fish dishes, but we caved and ordered the veal milanese which was the standout for the day.  Lightly crumbed and pan-fried, it was so tender it practically melted in your mouth, and the squeeze of lemon cut through the oil with refreshing zing.

The ever-attentive waitstaff were on hand to top up our glasses of prosecco and help out in any way they could.  With the outstanding food and service, Senso is quickly going to become my staple Italian.

Senso Ristorante & Bar
21 Club Street
Singapore 069410
Tel : 6224 3534


the queen & mangosteen

Odd name, pretty good “gourmet British pub”.  I’m not sure if it really reminds me of a British Pub, but it’s a nice gastrobar.

A favourite of a friend of mine, I went there for her farewell last night.  Although it’s located at Vivo City, which I still think is a really out-of-the-way shopping centre and I can’t quite figure out why everyone seems to rave on about how great it is, the view from the alfresco bar is sensational.  Looking out over the water to Sentosa, the panorama can only get better when Resorts World is open and operational – I’m sure patrons will also be able to enjoy nightly fireworks.

I’m not a beer drinker at all, but the the Queen & Mangosteen is apparently a microbrewery, and the most ordered beer last night was the “Samui” – a crisp, flavourful, but light ale.  Very refreshing drink when you’re outdoors in this Singapore heat.  I don’t know if it’s because my friend knew the manager/owner but the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, quite rare to be found in the service industry here in Singapore.

In the days of yore, I used to subscribe to the “eating’s cheating” mantra on a Friday night, but these days, I need to eat something before I drink or it’s night night by 9pm.  The Queen and Mangosteen is a place where the nibbles are all pretty good.  Chips are thick cut and crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, the onion rings are lightly battered, the chicken wings not too oily and the whitebait was floured and crispy and lovely with the dipping sauce (it definitely could have done with some seasoning when eaten without the dipping sauce though). I didn’t get a chance to look at the rest of the menu but the diners inside looked like they were enjoying their risottos and steaks.

The vibe of the place is relaxed and friendly and the music is slightly retro.  Our group took up a large part of the outdoor area, so I’m not really sure if it’s busy enough to have enough ambiance for me for a Friday night – perhaps it’s a good place to start your weekend, but again, it’s a long way away from anything else.  (I do recognise that being in Singapore has quickly made me acclimatise to the close proximity that everything is here, and where anything where you cannot easily get a taxi and/or is more than ten minutes drive is a long way away for me, so take that last comment with a pinch of salt.)

The Queen & Mangosteen

1 HarbourFront Walk
#01-106/107 VivoCity

Tel: +65 6376 9380


Sensational Senso

I can’t believe there’s an Italian restaurant that’s been around for ten years (Senso was established in 2000) that I’ve heard good things about, and that I haven’t been to.

A late attempt to make a reservation at Oso, one of our favourite Italian restaurants, failed (unsurprisingly, all tables were already busy at 9pm), and we decided to go to Senso instead.  D had gone there for his work Christmas dinner last year and could not say enough good things about it.  He waxed lyrical about their slow roasted wild boar in red wine pappardelle, and a white truffle ravioli which he had had.

We were seated in the courtyard set in the middle of the restaurant and I think that’s where the charm of this restaurant begins.  I think because you’re surrounded by the air-conditioned part of the restaurant, you forget you’re in Singapore, and with the breeze of the night, you really are transported into the feeling that you’re sitting in a courtyard in the middle of the Italian countryside.

Add the friendly and attentive waitstaff and the so-helpful sommelier, Mr Najib and the experience gets better still.

I was quite in the mood for a good pasta and scanned the menu for the much anticipated wild boar pasta, which I wanted to pit against the same dish at Oso.  To D’s disappointment, the entire menu had been seasonally updated, and there was a distinct lack of any meat-based pasta dishes.

We started off with pan-fried buffalo mozzarella wrapped in parma ham and served with an olive tapenade.  The mozzarella came wrapped tightly in a blanket of parma ham which was pan-fried till crispy, leaving the mozzarella inside slightly soft and gooey and reminding us a lot of the texture of pan-fried haloumi.  The olive tapenade was almost unnecessary but it did add a soft salty flavour to every other mouthful.

I followed this with an open ravioli with pan-seared scallops and lobster with ostrecia caviar.  D had tagliolini with lobster, tomatoes and basil.

My pasta came to me looking like a soft pillow – the top sheet of ravioli covered two perfectly cooked scallops and a lobster claw – so sweet – with a light cream sauce.  It was so light I pretty much inhaled it.  D’s was a good solid pasta where the sweetness of the lobster brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes.  Absolutely wonderful.

The wine which we had to accompany our meal was recommended by the sommelier – apparently one of the few wines left over after they had a Christie’s wine auction on-site during the F1 season.  It was a Podore Castorani 2006 trebbiano d’abruzzo.  I’ve never even heard of this variety but it matched our pasta perfectly.  Straw coloured, the aroma was full of fruit and berries, with a strong sweet first taste that evolved to a crisp dry wine in the mouth.

I’m thrilled to find out that Senso do a Sunday brunch – all the Italian you can eat with freeflow prosecco – what more could you ask for ?  Is going to the same restaurant twice in the space of four days too soon ?  I don’t think so.  Not when it’s this good.

Senso Ristorante & Bar
21 Club Street
Singapore 069410
Tel : 6224 3534


Empress Chicken

We picked up a free-range, antibiotic-free and hormone-free Empress chicken from Huber’s yesterday.  I haven’t had easy access to any other chicken than what’s available at Cold Storage and at $22 for this chicken, it’s about three times the price of what I can get at Cold Storage.  And that’s not even an organic chicken, which I was hoping to buy yesterday.

But preparing the Empress chicken tonight for roasting really reminded me why we should all try to avoid cage-reared chicken.

It didn’t have that awful slime that I get with the Cold Storage chicken when I took it out of the bag and the chicken looked so plump-breasted and firm.  Even the shape of it made me think that this chicken had to work at walking around, perching, stretching its wings, and that made a really “nice”, for want of a better word, visual in my head – that the bird had a good, natural life, before it was prepared to be cooked in my oven (I know that sounds odd, but I’m not quite ready to go meat-free yet).

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of our favourite TV chefs and a firm supporter (along with Jamie Oliver) of free-range chicken really made an impact with his chicken run series.

Now I am trying to find out if Sakura chicken, which apparently is only available through NTUC, and is hormone/antibiotic-free, is also free-range.


I miss a good cafe breakfast on a Sunday morning

D and I used to enjoy a leisurely stroll to our favourite local cafe on a Sunday morning – a prerequisite to where we needed to live was to be no more than five minutes away from a good coffee.  In Darlinghurst, it used to be Tropicana Cafe, a bustling, busy cafe which made the best fried eggs ever, or Ten Buck Alley, which had arguably one of the best baristas (and therefore coffee) in town (with Latteria on Darlinghurst Road being a close contender for best coffee).  When we moved to Chippendale, it was Cafe Guilia where we would spend our Sunday mornings reading the papers.

People move, things change, and Singapore is a hard place to find a good coffee still (we have resorted to a Nespresso machine at home to try to achieve this), but pretty good breakfasts can be found, perhaps not as conveniently around the corner.

Normally we frequent Jones the Grocer up at Dempsey, which, being Australian, and pretty much exactly the same as the Jones’ that we used to go to, makes me happily reminiscent of being back home.

This morning, actually in the hope that we’d get some groceries at the same time, was breakfast at Huber’s at Dempsey.  Coffee, disappointingly weak, but the breakfast was delightful.  It’s a much quieter experience than eating at the packed and bustling Jones, and because it’s a little away from the main cluster of cafes and restaurants at Dempsey, it feels like you’re in a quiet ranch-type retreat, especially surrounded by all that foliage.

Huber’s is first and foremost a butcher and they’ve added a bistro where you can eat outside on the balcony (it’s shady and breezy for those of you like me who dislike eating in the heat), where you can get all the ingredients in your meals, inside.

The breakfast menu is limited, but who can complain when one of them is eggs, fried or scrambled, with bacon, pork sausages and grilled tomato?

The eggs have a deep orange colour (indication of being from happy, free-range hens who have the option of eating pigments found naturally in plants in the wild) and are perfectly cooked – the fried eggs had cooked whites with enough “wobble” in the yolk to dunk your bread, and the scrambled were light and fluffy and not overcooked.

The bacon was thinly sliced and not overly salty, which meant you could actually taste the flavour of the bacon, the tomatoes tasted like, well, tomatoes, and the sausages were lightly herbed pork sausages.  Even the bread we ordered in the bread basket was a light sour dough.  Perfect accompaniment to bring all the ingredients on the plate together.

And when you’re done eating, wander around inside and go nuts with all the wonderful meat they have in there.  We walked away with some spanish jamon and salami for pizzas, and a free-range, hormone-free chicken (I would have liked to be able to get an organic one, but this will have to do, in Singapore, for now).

Well that’s dinner for two nights sorted this week then !

Huber’s Butchery & Bristro @ Dempsey
18A Dempsey Road
Singapore 249677
Tel: 6737 1588


Lovely to come home to

I walked into the flat tonight to be greeted not only by my husband (on his final day of leave) but by the close-your-eyes-breathe-in-and-smile smell of a warm, rich tomato bolognese sauce – the beginning of a lasagna which he casually mentioned he would be cooking for dinner tonight.

I have to admit it irks me when someone else is using my kitchen (my attempts at self improvement over the years has not helped my control-freak nature in the kitchen), and it also irks me that he uses my recipe book (which, admittedly, he bought me for Christmas years ago) and then adds his own tweaks to the recipe, but oh. my. god.  Just the very smell of it has made me hungry and rushing him to make the bechamel sauce so that we can eat – I cannot wait !

Will write more once it’s been devoured!

True to smell, it was delicious – and doubly so because someone cooked it for me.

Original recipe is by Stephanie Alexander – I’ve made a few tweaks as I like my sauce thicker.  My recipe below – give yourself a good 2-3 hours to cook from start to finish:

For the bolognese sauce:

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

800g minced beef

200g streaky bacon, chopped

4 teaspoons plain flour

1 cup of red wine

800g tinned tomatoes

4 tbl tomato paste

2 bay leaves

nutmeg and seasoning

Saute onion, celery  and garlic in oil in a large saucepan until softened.  Add bacon and fry for a few minutes before adding beef to brown.  Sprinkle in flour and stir until well mixed.  Add wine, season with salt and pepper and nutmeg and increase heat to boil off the alcohol.  Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaves and simmer for an hour, stirring from time to time.  Season to taste.

For the bechamel sauce:

600ml milk

60g butter

60g plain flour

salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

Heat milk to scalding and set aside.  Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the flour and cook, stirring, to make a roux.  Gradually add in the hot milk and sir until sauce thickens and is very smooth.  Cook for a further 5-7 minutes  on low.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 180C.  Oil a baking dish and line with pasta.  Cover pasta with a third of the bechamel sauce, and then cover this with a third of the bolognese sauce.  Add a second layer of pasta, another portion of bechamel, more bolognese and then the third layer of pasta.  Cover with the last layer of bechamel and bolognese and sprinkle generously with grated cheddar and parmesan cheese.  Bake in the oven about 45 minutes, when the lasagna is golden and bubbling.


The beauty of porridge

Well, congee to be exact. Perfect comfort food when you’re feeling under the weather, and today, I am definitely feeling under the weather.

Nothing fancy – just plain white congee with preserved vegetables which I always have a stash of in the pantry “in case”.
Ahhhh….


Nanbantei

A friend decided to have our last lunch with my sister, her husband and their daughter before they flew back to Sydney, at Nanbantei.  At the top of the escalators on the fourth floor of Far East Plaza, I’ve been there for dinner and I would say that it’s a close contender to one of my favourite yakitori bars, Kazu (for both, make sure you sit at the counter).  For lunch, they have bento box specials which looked pretty good.  I ordered the sashimi bento which came with udon noodles.  The sashimi was disappointing – I guess I am lucky enough to be used to super firm and fresh sashimi, this one just didn’t make the grade.  The udon noodle soup was far too salty, and this was with my tastebud killing cold.

If you fancy going, I’d stick to the yakitori, especially the potato and cheese (which is the one thing on the menu that Kazu doesn’t have).


Shhhh…happy new year

Was our phrase at midnight on new year’s eve this year.  Both D and I said goodbye to the last decade and hello to the new, in bed, thinking the other was asleep and not wanting to wake each other up to open the bottle of champagne we had bought to celebrate.  Gotta love getting sick on holidays.

Ah, Penang.  I go there not for anything other than my granny lives there and it was nice to have a holiday together with my family, and see four generations together.

I know people always bang on about how amazing the food is in Penang, but to be totally honest, unless you are willing to travel for miles and often ages due to traffic, in that blistering heat, I’d rather find food close by.  And I guess staying at Batu Ferringhi, the touristy part of Penang, you’re not going to get great authentic food easily.

Our first night of eating was at a nearby hawker centre which truly was average.  We were hungry and indecisive, so we pretty much ordered at least one dish from every stall.  The one standout was the chilli stingray, which came not smothered in a rich red sambal, that we are more used to from Singapore, but a thinner, less processed version of limejuice, chilli, sambal belachan, sugar, onions and garlic.  It was knock-your-socks off hot, but absolutely delicious.

On our last night, we went with my uncle and his family to a restaurant further up the hill, called “Restoran End of the World”, named, I assume, because it’s pretty much at the tip of Telok Bahang, and not because eating there will be the beginning of the apocalypse.  It was essentially a koptiam specialising in seafood (it is located near a fishing village), and boy did we order (and eat!) a lot of that.

After a short wait, we started off with fried rice and fried noodles, and then the food just kept coming.  Crisply battered calamari, pipis and “chu chu”, a strange conical seasnail (which I have to admit I only eat because it reminds me of eating it when I was very young), mantis shrimp, oyster omelette, cereal prawns and the two absolute standouts, a fried fish “ikan hantu” covered in that same chilli stingray sauce and simply steamed local mud crab.

The ikan hantu (which means devil fish because it looks pretty mean and ugly) was delicate and tender and was partnered so well with the sweet chilli sauce.  At the other end of the spectrum, steaming the crab did the crab complete justice – nothing at all distracted from the incredibly sweet flesh of the crab.

I’m sure Penang is still full of wonderful local delights, but for me, the need to travel to the padang just to eat the Penang laksa under that sweaty, heat-containing “roof” is not really a big puller for me.  I’m sure my relatives who live there would vehemently disagree with me – everything is “the best” in Penang to them – but for me…maybe not so much.