Monthly Archives: February 2011

Redemption at Inagiku

Seared swordfish and salmon roe sushi

In the need of redemption after our recent disastrous visit to Itacho Sushi, we decided to visit our failsafe Japanese favourite, Inagiku at the Fairmont Hotel.

It was one of those Fridays where we just wanted to eat top quality Japanese food and drink sake, so we chose the seasonal set – that way the decision as to what we would eat would be left to the restaurant and we could focus on the eating and drinking part.

(from left to right) Swordfish, tuna belly and salmon sashimi

To start with we were served delicate home made tofu followed by our sashimi – slices of mackerel, salmon, toro or tuna belly and swordfish.  Ah…the joy of really good sashimi – that clean taste, accompanied with that rich/buttery flavour of the sea.  It’s so hard to put into words just how good it is but let’s just say my faith in Japanese food is once again restored.

This was followed by our sushi dish – swordfish again, but this time seared lightly, tuna and salmon roe.  Seated at the counter, we got to watch the chefs make the sushi, from slicing to hand-moulding the rice, to arranging the fish on the rice, which I think helps you appreciate the skills required to do this.

Teppan-grilled Australian wagyu fillet steak

Australian wagyu fillet followed, perfectly medium rare and served with grilled vegetables and a delicious steak dipping sauce.

Final course before ramen and ice-cream was the tempura.

A little bit of everything, done to perfection, with slightly over-attentive wait staff (who were always on hand to top up our empty sake glasses) meant that we left very happy and slightly drunk.  Wonderful.

Inagiku
3rd Floor, 80 Bras Basah Road
Fairmont Hotel
Tel: 6431 6156


The elusive burger no more…

My homemade burger

Inspired by a post I read on Chubby Hubby on burgers, I decided to make burgers for dinner tonight (clearly on a much less posh scale).

Burgers have always been a bit hit and miss for me – they seem to turn out dry and I have struggled with getting the sort of flavour that you get in burger joints without overseasoning the meat or without lashings of sauce in the bun.  And getting good (or sometimes any) burger buns easily in Singapore is also a challenge.

So I decided to give them another try and just go with what I could get my hands on in the supermarket.

The one thing that I did take from Chubby Hubby’s post was to mix beef and pork mince together instead of just beef.  The end result of what I’m about to write below was excellent – a juicy and tasty burger – hurrah !  Not bad for a Wednesday night dinner at home.

Ingredients (makes about 6 generous patties) (ps these measurements are as close as I can make them especially the seasoning so adjust to taste)

  1. 300g beef mince
  2. 100g pork mince
  3. 1 red onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 egg (raw)
  5. handful mushrooms, chopped finely
  6. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  7. 1/2 – 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 tbs tomato sauce
  9. 1 tbs steak sauce
  10. freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Mix everything together with your hands (so satisfying)
  2. Shape into palm-sized patties (I made them to fit the buns I bought from the supermarket) and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes
  3. Fry in a pan for 2-3 minutes each side (for the thickness shown in the photo above)
  4. While patties are cooking, lightly toast the buns
  5. Top the pattie with whatever you want – we had lettuce, tomato sauce, mustard and pickles but you could add cheese, onion jam or even just onion rings

More Bistrot du Sommelier

Beef tenderloin with mushrooms in cream sauce and mashed potato

After our wonderful introduction to Le Bistrot du Sommelier, we headed back there again last weekend with some friends, keen to try other dishes.  We recognised chef Patrick Heuberger from Au Petit Salut which inspired even more faith in this gem of a place. He explained that he left Au Petit Salut to open something smaller and more intimate, and he really has nailed it with this charming bistrot.

I ordered the tenderloin in a cream and mushroom sauce.  The steak was tender and tasty and the mash it was served with could not have been silkier.  I would have ordered the Cote du Boef but Patrick explained that the one supplier he uses for this particular dish was sadly affected by the recent crazy weather in Queensland.

Welsh lamb fillet for two with potato gratin

The Welsh lamb (for 2) looked so good it made me wish I ate lamb (don’t ask, I just don’t like the smell of it, but can totally understand anyone who says pork, which I can’t live without, has a similar smell).  It came served with whole roasted garlic cloves and a generous layer of herbed butter on top, and was cooked to medium-rare perfection.

We also ordered the duck confit and the onglet steak at our table which were both also delicious (and we had frites envy from the crispy shoe-string fries that came with the onglet steak) but I think the tenderloin and lamb were the winners of the evening.

Must-have profiteroles

Actually, I tell a lie, the profiteroles we ordered to share between three of us who could squeeze in any more food was the winner.  Crisp, light choux pastry sandwiching large scoops of rich vanilla ice-cream, covered in molten dark chocolate and slivered almonds.  A sweet-tooth’s dream.  And a chocoholics dream.  Just a dream.

If you like rustic French food, this is the place you want to go to.  Just remember to book.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier
46 Prinsep Street, #01-01 Prinsep Place
Singapore

Tel: +65 6333 1982

Open Mon-Sat: 6pm – 11pm

 

 


L’Operetta

Cutting the burrata

I’d read about L’operetta and wanted to try this Italian restaurant that served authentic pizza from Naples, with a Japanese owner and chef.

It’s at the end of what I call the “dead zone” of Boat Quay – the section past BQ Bar to the bridge, but its overtly opulent and brightly lit decor is at least sure to attract some attention from those coming from the bridge end of Boat Quay.

Friday night, and the place was 30% full when we got there at 8.30 …  Hmmm …. the waiter (who we found out started that night) had difficulty finding our reservation … Hmmm … Took us a while to even get our menus and wine list … Hmmm …

Then things turned around.

Burrata with prosciutto, baby tomatoes and arugula

Not long after we’d ordered, the Japanese Maitre D (also MD), Taka, came and started chatting to us about the Burrata he was serving.  Burrata is an epiphany for me – mozarella cheese made not from milk but from a mix of mozarella and cream, encased in a mozarella skin, imported from the heel of Italy (where he pointed to the heel of his very cool shoes), Puglia. Fresh, rich, creamy-as-hell, this thing is absolutely gorgeous.   Served with thinly shaved prosciutto, arugula and sweet sweet baby tomatoes, this pillow of cheese seemed almost to fill your mouth with more cheese than you put in there Definitely one to share because of its richness, and the size of the dish, but oh so good.

For some reason I didn’t go for the pizza and ended up ordering a sea urchin and grey mullet roe pasta which came disappointingly with lots of brocolli in it, and I think that flavour overpowered the delicate uni flavour I was expecting.  The uni and grey mullet roe did add a creaminess to the pasta, but perhaps not the best dish to complement the burrata.

On the other hand, the pizza that D ordered, totally did.

Napoletana-style wood-fired pizza with mozarella, prosciutto and rocket

Read the ieatishootipost post for details of the pizza (and watch the video!).  It is definitely different from what you can get in Singapore – the dough is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and chewy – almost naan-like.  And the toppings are simple and delicately flavoured.

The pizzas are all under $30.  The place is fun and the chef comes and chats to the tables to get feedback on the food.  And they have burrata :).  I just wish I worked around the Raffles Place area – that’s where I’d be lunching.  But I’ll be going back there again.  Oh yes.


Pumpkin Soup

If you want a simple, warming and nutritious meal on a weeknight that’s easy peasy and quick to make, this is a terrific soup to make.

Ingredients (for four)

  • 1 small pumpkin – any that you have access to in your supermarket but butternut makes for a creamier soup
  • Chicken stock
  • Cream and olive oil to serve

Method

  • Cut the skin off the pumpkin and cut into small chunks
  • IF you have time, drizzle with olive oil and roast in an oven at 200C for 40 minutes as this makes the soup extra sweet
  • If not, simply pop the pumpkin into a soup pot and cover with just enough stock to cover 3/4 of the pumpkin.  If you want a thinner soup, add more to cover the pumpkin
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender
  • Blend until smooth and creamy
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve with a good dollop of cream and a drizzle of olive oil and a nice crusty loaf of bread

Itacho Sushi

Tobiko and toro sushi – flying fish roe and tuna belly sushi

Itacho sushi, a Hong Kong Japanese cafe chain has just hit the shores of Singapore, with one opening at our local shopping centre at Bugis.

Our standards for Japanese, especially after our recent super-gastro trip there, are probably ridiculously high, but I was hopeful that there would be a solidly decent Japanese restaurant which we could easily walk across the road on a Saturday for a quick lunch.

Boy was I wrong.  Itacho offers food that looks and sounds fantastic on the menu, but looks vastly different when it appears on your table, and the taste is … disappointing to say the least.

We started with the prawn tempura, where the batter was quite nice, but the prawns were clearly soaked in soda bicarb, giving them that odd crunch.  We also ordered seared tuna belly sushi, which tasted like it had come from poorly frozen fish and tasted watered down, and tuna sashimi.

Itacho claims to fly some of their fish direct from Japan, and the tuna sashimi was one those that was marked as such in the menu.  It was served to us in thick, unevenly slices, atop grated daikon and with a shisho leaf, but with no other presentation at all.  It was almost like they just chucked the slices on to a bowl.

The tuna tasted remarkably better than the tuna belly, but again, had that watery taste in your mouth.

Proof that all the advertising in the world will bring the customers the first time around but definitely doesn’t guarantee a return visit.

Don’t even bother.

 

 


Gong Xi Fa Cai !

Yu sang – prosperity salad

Happy Lunar New Year !  This post is dedicated to the star of our Chinese new year dinner – yu sang, or prosperity salad, which we started our dinner with at the Red House at Robertson Quay.

Yu sang (also called lo hei in Cantonese) is essentially a raw fish – usually salmon or mackerel – mixed in a salad of shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments.  As with most special Chinese dishes, the dish is named after the key ingredient – in this case, fish – which, when pronounced, has another meaning – abundance.  So the serving of yu sang during Chinese new year is to wish everyone an abundance of prosperity, vigour, health…all the good things to start a new year with.

Steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles

The salad ingredients are presented and as the server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces, they say auspicious wishes as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added. For example, the sweet sauce they add is meant to wish all at the table sweetness and harmony in their lives, the oil that is added wishes a smooth year ahead, and the fish wishes abundance.

All the diners at the table then stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying their own wishes for the year out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner’s growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.

It’s such a fun way to celebrate the lunar new year.  And it helps that the salad is delicious !

Braised tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms

Red House is quite unique in it’s interior design – it felt as if we had walked in to a restaurant that was housed in a large warehouse and that had started to fit it with the usual Chinese restaurant design – lanterns, wooden tables and chairs etc, but had only completed the fish tanks and the private rooms.  The main dining area felt almost unfinished with industrial steel fans on the ceiling.  The acoustics of the place are not great for the large tables they have in there, meaning you have to really shout and also making hearing your friends/family difficult.  The food is not bad – I think there is a pretty decent standard for seafood restaurants and the dishes they prepared were good, but no greater than any other Chinese seafood restaurant available around Singapore.

Lobster noodles

We ate the set menu on offer, which consisted of stir-fried asparagus, steamed razor clams with garlic and glass noodles, steamed prawns, chilli crab, braised home-made tofu topped with seaweed and mushrooms and lobster noodles.  All good.  Although nothing that stood out.

The benefit of eating at Robertson Quay is all of the bars that have popped up around that area, where you can take a slow stroll by the river to get to.  If you’re lucky like we were last night, there will be a lovely cool breeze, making it even more pleasant.

All in all a wonderful way to herald in the lunar new year.  Gong xi fa cai everyone !

Red House at The Quayside
#01-13/ 14 The Quayside
60 Robertson Quay
Tel: +65 6735 7666


Sticky gooey oven-roasted pork ribs

I was in the supermarket this morning when I spotted the most “meaty” rack of pork ribs I have seen in a while.  I simply had to have them, and given that it’s a weekend, I have lots of time to prepare and marinade them to be roasted in the oven tomorrow for a Monday night dinner treat.

A little planning ahead is all that’s needed.

You need about 4 good sized ribs per person (more if you’re greedy)

Prepare ahead this barbeque sauce (I got this recipe from Fransisca on CD Kitchen – it’s the same as Tony Roma’s Blue Ridge Smokey sauce)

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup ketchup
  2. 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  3. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/8 cup molasses
  5. 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  6. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Makes 1 1/2 cups (plenty for two people)

Method

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat, and whisk until smooth
  2. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until sauce has thickened
  3. In the meantime, remove the membrane from the bony side of the ribs and then simmer the ribs for 50-60 minutes so they’re soft and tender
  4. Cover the ribs all over in the barbecue sauce and place in a foil-lined baking tray meat side up
  5. Save any left over sauce in a covered bowl
  6. Cover with foil and let marinate in the fridge overnight

THE NEXT DAY

  1. Preheat oven to 160C
  2. Use the remaining barbecue sauce to cover the ribs with a really really thick layer of the sauce
  3. Pop into the oven for an hour – the idea is that you want to dry the sauce on the ribs to give them that wonderfully sticky gooey texture
  4. Serve with coleslaw, corn on the cob and an oven-roasted potato (which you can just pop into the oven with the ribs)

Beef and Guinness pie

It’s been a while since I’ve cooked beef – and a recent trip to Sydney made me crave a good meat pie (I managed to squeeze in a Pie Face meat pie at the airport before I flew out teehee). My supermarket had some lovely looking chuck steak, so it’s beef and Guinness pie for dinner tonight.

This dish is really very easy, but you need to make sure you have ample time to slowly braise the beef in the Guinness so that a) all the meat fibres break down, giving you you meltingly tender beef and b) so the flavour of the Guinness can really get into the meat.  From start to finish, you probably need 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Ingredients (for two)

  1. 250g chuck steak – cut into 1 inch cubes
  2. handful mushrooms – cut into 1 inch cubes
  3. 6 shallot onions – whole
  4. 2 tbs olive oil
  5. 2 tbs plain flour
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1/8 cup tomato sauce (or just a good squeeze to taste)
  10. 1 can Guinness
  11. Puff pastry sheets

Method

  1. Mix the flour, salt and pepper together
  2. Lightly coat the cubes of beef in the seasoned flour and fry in batches with the oil over high head in a heavy-based pot. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan – you want to seal and brown the meat, not boil it.
  3. Once all the beef has been browned, set aside, and using the same pot, gently sweat the onions over low heat for about 5 minutes.  Scrape all the yummy bits left in the bottom of the pot from the beef.  They will add flavour and colour to the stew.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes
  5. Add the beef, bay leaves and tomato sauce and pour in enough Guinness so that it just covers the meat.
  6. Cover and bring to the boil then lower the temperature so it’s barely simmering, and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Peek in halfway through and taste it for seasoning.  Add to taste if you fancy, but remember the flour was already seasoned.
  7. Once the beef stew has cooked it should have reduced down to a nice thick gravy and you can either simply put one sheet of pastry over the pot or portion out the beef stew into single portion oven-safe bowls eg ramekins or Corningware and then cover each individually with puff pastry.
  8. Brush the edges of whatever dish you are baking in with beaten egg yolk and seal the edges of the pastry with a fork.  Brush the top with the rest of the egg.
  9. Slash a few cuts into the pastry lid to allow the steam to escape or you might end up with soggy pastry
  10. Pop into a preheated oven at 200C for 10 – 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown
  11. Serve with buttered peas and corn

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

Roast chicken with 40 garlic cloves served with potato gratin

What a great start to the lunar new year we’ve had.  First we found great tapas, and then last night we managed to secure a reservation at a charming French bistro that has been fully booked the last four times we’ve wanted to visit.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier is at Prinsep Place, nestled in the middle of a row of shophouses that have been converted to bars and other restaurants.

It’s a busy, bustling restaurant, and based on last night, where all tables were full, I’d definitely recommend making a reservation to avoid disappointment.

And there’s a reason why it’s so busy – it’s great rustic French food at its best.

Foie gras terrine with fig jam and brioche

D and I could not go past the duck foie gras terrine for starters, which I’d actually recommend sharing between two (unlike last night where greed too over and we ended up too full from ordering one each) – it’s a very generous slice of rich, intensely flavoured foie gras terrine served with a fig jam and brioche.  This paired so perfectly with the Sancere we ordered.

There is a beef menu where they serve 4-5 specials but for some reason D and I departed from our usual French-fare of duck and beef, and ordered the roast chicken stew with 40 garlic cloves and pan-roasted snapper fillet.

The roast chicken arrived in a claypot, stewed with white wine, onions, herbs de provence, and 40 garlic cloves, that had stewed into a sweet, mellow sauce that was crying out to have a crusty baguette dunked in it.  But as with most bistrots, you are rarely short of carbohydrates, and this dish was served with a potato gratin (which was cooked with cream and nutmeg that you could smell and taste – yum).  Exceedingly rich, this would have been tough for me to finish after the foie gras terrine I’d just eaten.

Snapper fillet over crushed potatoes with tomato salsa

Luckily I (for once!) let my head rule over my heart with my order of snapper fillet, which arrived with a simple “salsa” of chopped tomatoes, onions and basil, all over crushed potatoes that had been drizzled with olive oil.  A sprinkle of fresh tarragon leaves over the fish gave each mouthful a refreshing aniseed flavour which I surprisingly loved given that I don’t usually like strong anise flavours.

We were so full that we couldn’t even think about dessert although the profiteroles have our name on it for next time 🙂

There is indoor and outdoor seating, and tables are very close together, which means you tend to overhear conversations from neighbouring tables (perhaps not the sort of place for an intimate dinner for two) and we heard that they now do not allow BYO.  Which is a shame because that’s just so, “bistrot”, although their wine list is pretty extensive and reasonably priced.

We had to walk home because we couldn’t fathom sitting down in a taxi with such full bellies, but a lot of our conversation home was about what a great find this bistrot was and what we would order next time.  And the next.  And the next.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier
46 Prinsep Street, #01-01 Prinsep Place
Singapore

Tel: +65 6333 1982

Open Mon-Sat: 6pm – 11pm