Monthly Archives: April 2011

Il Lido Easter Sunday brunch

Parma ham in rockmelon cups

It’s been a while since we’ve been to Il Lido.  It’s got a much more relaxed atmosphere than Beppe’s other restaurant, Forlino, and I think that allows you to enjoy the food and your company better.

There was a special Easter Sunday four-course brunch served that day. On the menu:

A selection of classic Italian antipasti including zucchini flower stuffed with prawn and gazpacho, parma ham, caprese salad, calamari and asparagus flan.  Every single one of these was absolutely delicious.  A perfect combination and balance of delicate flavours, beautifully presented.  I could have just eaten these for the rest of the meal.  My favourites were the parma ham, which was served in delicate rockmelon cups, and the asparagus flan which was like a souffle of asparagus air.

Pappardelle with duck and orange

For first course there was a choice of homemade pappardelle with duck and orange or pumpkin gnocchi with prawns and pesto.  I had the pappardelle (it’s always hard for me to go past my favourite pasta) and for the first time had duck and orange together.  I know it’s a classic combination (duck a l’orange) but for me the sauce was a bit on the thin side and not robust enough to work with the thick pappardelle pasta.

Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks

For second course there was a choice of Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks, spring lamb with creamed truffle potatoes and goose liver sauce or Black Angus beef tenderloin with crispy polenta, Montasio cheese, radicchio and barolo wine.

Surprisingly no-one on our table of ten ordered the beef, so it was fish and lamb all around.  I had the cod and it was cooked perfectly and was tender and flaky, and worked very well with the sweetness of the cream leeks.

Desserts were also very well done with classics like chocolate fondant, creme brulee and meringues and almond biscotti.

Add freeflow champagne overlooking Sentosa golf course and that just about tops a pretty perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Il Lido Restaurant and Lounge
Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866 1977


		
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Carrot Cake

One for the kids (full of nutritious carrots), for those allergic to dairy (without the icing) and also a general all-round favourite cake (I personally think because of the icing).  This recipe is from the Edmonds “Sure To Rise” cookbook.

Ingredients for the cake

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil)
  3. 2 cups plain flour
  4. 1 cup sugar
  5. 3 tsp baking soda
  6. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  7. 3 cups carrot, grated
  8. 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
  9. 1 tsp grated orange rind
  10. 3/4 cup crushed pineapple

Ingredients for the icing

  1. 2 tbl butter, softened
  2. 1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 cup icing sugar

Method for cake

  1. Beat eggs till thick
  2. Stir in oil
  3. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon into the egg mixture and combine
  4. Fold in carrots, walnuts, orange rind and pineapple
  5. Grease and line the base of a 23cm ring tin
  6. Spoon mixture into tin and bake at 180C for 50 – 60 mins or until skewer comes out clean
  7. Leave in tin for 10 mins before turning out on to wire rack
  8. When cold, ice with cream cheese icing

Method for icing

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until light and creamy
  2. Mix in icing sugar and beat well to combine
  3. Lick beaters 🙂

Bilbao – the sequel

Marinated olives

Keen to check out the restaurant that let brought me Iberico ham from a supermarket, D and I went to visit Bilbao at TripleOne Somerset.

It’s a strange location in a strange shopping centre. There is indoor dining in airconditioned comfort but open to part of the shopping centre, so I think lacks ambience, or outdoor dining, which D and I just can’t do in the current heat of Singapore, but is enclosed and I think would be a much more authentic dining experience.

Iberico ham with fresh tomato puree 

The menu looked fantastic though.  We were feeling indecisive so opted for the tapas which allowed us to sample lots of dishes on the menu, thinking if they were good, we could always come back to try the main courses.

We ordered marinated olives, mixed paella, chorizo, sliced Iberico ham, Cochinillo and calamares.

The paella was really bland and the chorizo came sliced and fried, and I think it was meant to be cooked in white wine, but really it tasted like someone had just splashed white wine over the cooked chorizo before serving.

Cochinillo – rolled suckling pig

Even the Iberico ham didn’t have the depth of colour or flavour as the one that I was able to purchase in the supermarket. It was as if it was not aged as long, but the tomato puree that was served with it, along with toasted bread was absolutely delicious.  Light and refreshing and sweet to complement the saltiness of the ham.

The Cochinillo – a roll of tender suckling pig wrapped in crispy skin and deep fried was lovely, served with a drizzle of vinaigrette.  To be fair though, deep fried suckling pig would be good any which way.

It was quite disappointing to have all those dishes and to have the standout being the side condiment on another dish.  I think for tapas, Tapas Y Bodega is still our favourite in Singapore.

Bibao 
111 Somerset Road #02-16 Singapore (formerly known as the PUB building)
Tel: 6737 0150


Din Tai Fung

xiao long bao – steamed pork dumplings

I’d never really understood the obsession with xiao long bao – steamed pork dumplings .  I’d only ever tried it during yum cha and I think it was the dough which I always thought was too thick.

Then I discovered that Din Tai Fung – the celebrated Taiwanese restaurant awarded one Michelin Star and ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by the New York Times – was in Singapore.

My friends back in Sydney used to trek to Ashfield to Din Tai Fung and always waxed lyrical about them – so I decided to visit the outlet at Raffles City.  And now I realise what the fuss is all about.

Everything is hand-made on the premises, from the dough to the filling(s) and I watched in wonder at the chefs all rolling out the individual dumpling skins to almost paper thinness but thick enough to hold the dumpling filling which is minced pork and soup (created by wrapping a piece of aspic inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin-gelled aspic into soup).

You have to time eating your dumplings well – too soon and the hot soup might burn your mouth.  Too late and the soup becomes too cold.  But at just the right time, when you break the skin in your mouth (you have to put the dumpling whole into your mouth) releasing all the ingredients and flavours to mix, it’s just heaven.

The “replacement” dumpling for the broken-skinned one from our original order (look carefully at the photo above, you can see it !)

I’ve been often enough now to know that the rest of the food on the limited menu is also very good, but go for the hero of the show.  They are clearly passionate about perfection – the last time I went they even sent over a single dumpling because one of our original order had a broken skin.

Be prepared to wait though, the place is almost always packed, to the point where at peak times they won’t even seat you unless your entire table are present.  I think it’s worth the wait though.

Din Tai Fung
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-08 (there are 6 outlets in total throughout Singapore)
Tel: 6336 6369


Overeasy

Blueberry and banana pancakes

Celebrating a very late birthday with a friend, last Friday we went to Overeasy at One Fullerton.  That place has really got it right.  The entire strip of restaurants and bars along there barely has any customers, and Overeasy – an American restaurant – is mobbed.  Then again, Overeasy is run by the same people who also brought Singapore the likes of Loof, White Rabbit and the insanely popular Butter Factory.

The vibe there is excellent.  Great tunes keep feet tapping and the food keeps the tummy lined so the patrons there can drink more and be merry.

And how could you not be – the staff do well considering it was a mobbed Friday night (are my standards lowering from being in Singapore for four years now I wonder), the aforementioned music old skool cool and you get a fantastice view of Marina Bay Sands.

Add to that the pancakes which my friend was determined to have that night.  I seem to be on an unintentional pancake mission of late. Nevermind – I’m more than happy to sample pancakes because I love them. And these were really very oddly great.  Odd because it’s strange to be eating pancakes in an outdoor bar at 10 in the evening (Overeasy serves all-day breakfasts), great because they are well, great. And I think the odd surroundings and timing make them seem even more good.  Three small pancakes, fluffy and perfectly cooked, covered in strawberries or a blueberry/banana topping.

We also tried the chicken wings which were a little greasy for my liking – might sound strange saying that about deep fried wings but Que Pasa/No 5 manages to make them perfectly crunchy without the additional grease, and the battered fish which were more batter than fish.

I’d not go there specifically for the food, but I’d definitely try the pancakes if you’re there.  Add a “giant laser” show (it’s not really, I just wanted to write that haha) off Marina Bay Sands and it all makes for an easy way to spend a Friday night.

Overeasy
One Fullerton
1 Fullerton Road, 049213
Tel: 6423 0701

Open Mon-Thu 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-3am; also open Sun

Pulau Pangkil

Impressive first view of Pulau Pangkil from the boat

Our good friends recently organised a surprise 40th birthday getaway at Pulau Pangkil – an idyllic private island off the coast of Pulau Bintan in Indonesia.  How lucky are we to be in a region where hiring an entire island is at our disposal ?

It’s a bit of a trek to get there – ferry from Singapore to Bintan, then an hour on a dodgy bus along some very offroad terrain, then another boat to the island.  But once you get there, you forget all of that.

Cooking one of the many dishes for dinner – barbeque satay and chicken wings

The island has running water and electricity, and for the 10 adults we had on the island, there were 15 staff – most invisible, but they tended the “driftwood palaces”, the kitchen, the play areas, and most importantly, lit the mosquito coils.  The entire island does not have airconditioning, but the cool sea breezes and fans in your rooms are adequate and the beds are snuggly wrapped in mosquito netting.

Prawn and bean curry

The food we ate there was spectacular.  Each night there was a different meat being barbequed over hot coals, lots of vegetables and a nice mix of traditional Indonesian cuisine and, I guess more western cuisine.  So it was things like baked hot potatoes and stir-fried tempeh, which gave the entire group good choice of what took their fancy on the day.

Tomato and avocado “salad”

A few favourites during our four day stay was a curry with green snake beans and prawns, a delicious avocado and tomato “salad” that was generously dressed with lime and fish sauce with coriander and mint, amazingly tender snapper fillets – how they managed to cook it and serve it whole, even with a fish basket, is incredible – and satay.

The portions were generous – think we all came back a few pounds heavier, but we left happy, tanned and relaxed (I would have said “chilled” but we were all grateful for the airconditioning in the ferry on the way back).

I didn’t organise it – their site is not the easiest to navigate but here are the contact details:

http://www.pangkil.com/contact.html


Pancakes at the Rocks

Buttermilk pancakes with vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup

Well, theoretically, we were at Harbourside, but it was one of the franchises of the famous pancake house from the Rocks.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Pancakes at the Rocks to eat – my family and I used to go when I was a little girl, and my sister and I would both order the kids pancakes – the Mad Hatter (a pastry-wrapped square beef patty on top of a pancake) and Alice in Wonderland, which was a pancake topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with hundreds and thousands. It was always such a fun experience.

The menu has changed a lot, the old restaurant is still there and they’ve clearly flourished because now they have three franchises (with more opening soon).

We decided to go to Harbourside just because it was closer than the Rocks, but the franchise lacked the old world charm of the wooden stairs and the actual location at the Rocks.  Which meant the pancakes had better be spectacular.  And which they sadly were not.  I stuck to their “famous buttermilk pancakes”.  So famous they now sell the pre-mix to the public.

I ordered the two stack, and two enormous pancakes turned up with a large scoop of ice-cream on top, dusted liberally with icing sugar, with maple syrup on the side. The pancakes tasted really heavy and doughy – the opposite of my idea of a good buttermilk pancake which is light and fluffy.

The service was good although the ambiance of the place is extremely loud – there are no soft furnishings at all so all the sound gets trapped in the room and bounces around the wood and glass which makes for a not too pleasant way to enjoy your food.

If you want to experience Pancakes at the Rocks, I’d recommend you actually go to the original at the Rocks.  Perhaps the surroundings make you a little more forgiving for what are pretty average pancakes.  I think I’ll just live with my memory of the fun I used to have as a little girl.

Pancakes at the Rocks – the original
4 Hickson Rd, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: 02 9247 6371
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week

Pancakes at the Rocks – Darling Harbour
229-230 Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour
Tel: 02 9280 3791
Open: Sunday – Thursday 7am till 1030pm | Friday and Sat 7am till 12midnight


Makoto, Sydney

Scallop and salmon gunkanmaki

A colleague recently took me to Makoto in Sydney.  It was the perfect plan.  We were both a bit frazzled from being in a full-day meeting, so the intent was to grab some quick sushi, which we both love, then back to the hotel.

What I didn’t plan on was just how delicious the sushi was – which made us stay a lot longer than we originally planned to.

Soft-shelled crab handroll

Makoto has got to be one of the best sushi trains I’ve been to.  The sushi trains you get here in Singapore don’t even compare. OK, Makoto has the benefit of fresh seafood from Sydney, but it really ups the ante with “regular” dishes like lobster or abalone gunkanmaki where the rice is wrapped in seaweed and the topping is placed on top, and dishes like soft shelled crab handrolls use beautifully crisp, lightly battered crab that you can actually see – not the usual soggy oily mush you get in Singapore sushi trains.  I

I left all the ordering to my colleague and why not, the dishes kept coming, each one of them a delight.

Get there early though – we did, and nabbed the last two seats at the counter.  An hour later there was a queue outside the door, and Liverpool street is not a very nice place to stand.

Makoto Sushi Bar
19 Liverpool Street (World Tower, corner Liverpool and Pitt)
Tel: (02) 9283 6767

Lunch
Mon to Fri 11:30am – 2:30pm
Sat to Sun Noon – 3pm
Dinner
Mon to Sun 5:30pm – 10pm


Masterclass with Chef Andre Chiang

Chef Andre Chiang

D came home from one day to excitedly tell me that one of the boys he plays soccer with, and who works at the Asian Food Channel, had told him about a masterclass series that AFC were organising.  The first one was with Chef Andre Chiang and we went last night to the AFC studio on level 7 of Orchard Central to watch the chef in action.

Coincidentally, D had the pleasure of eating at Restaurant Andre last week for a friend’s birthday, and which I missed out on because I was in Sydney, so he was familiar with the sort of food that was going to be cooked last night.  Me, on the other hand, was left to discover Chef Andre’s method of combining flavours that I would never have dreamed would work, but absolutely did.

Heirloom tomato gazpacho with vanilla oil and basil flowers

The first dish was an heirloom tomato gazpacho with vanilla oil and basil flower.  Chef Andre was friendly and comfortable in front of an audience, and walked us through the recipe, peppered with hints on how to get the best out of the dish.  In his own restaurant everything is done by taste and not by recipe, and these hints helped flesh out the recipe and gave us all hope that we could recreate the intensely flavoured, perfectly sweet/acid balanced dish, at home.

36-hour braised short rib with mushroom fricasee and celeriac-apple mousse

The second dish was a 36-hour braised short rib with fricasee mushrooms and celeriac -apple mousse.  Again, Chef Andre talked us through the composition of the food, how he prefers to prepare his food (simply, nothing fancy, letting the produce be the star).  We got to sample each dish he demonstrated, thanks to a team of invisible chefs in the back room.  This dish was delectable.  The braised short rib was meltingly tender and was perfectly balanced with the celeriac and apple mousse, which was lighter than a potato mash (although served with a potato on top).

Snickers 2011

The final dish was snickers 2011 (too hard to explain on an already lengthy post but think coffee/chocolate/hazelnut flavours).  It was about as close to molecular gastronomy as you can come without actually calling it that.  Watching him cook it was fascinating and my love of science and chemistry made the demonstration so interesting to watch.  Not sure I would actually cook this at home, it was far too complicated and my home cooking has seen me move to simple dishes that mean I can spend time with my friends rather than in the kitchen, but the final product was gorgeous.  I will happily let the experts do all the work and sit in their restaurant to eat works of art like this.

The session was such an enjoyable way to spend a Monday night.  The food was amazing, and paired perfectly with wines from the South of France.  It made me want to get to Restaurant Andre quick smart to sample more delights from this young and talented chef,  and also inspired me to invite friends over for dinner to try to recreate these dishes at home.  Loved it.


Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

Picture perfect morning at Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe

It’s really very difficult to beat a perfect day in Sydney in Autumn or Spring. The weather just makes everything look like it’s been colour enhanced with its azure blue skies and there’s a breeze that gives a hint of cool respite from the sun.

This morning was one of those perfect days and we decided to take advantage of it and grab breakfast down at the Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe at Balmoral Beach.

Mid-way through my breakfast fry-up – scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, sausage, portabello mushroom, roasted tomato and potato rosti

Bathers’ is a Sydney institution – one of those iconic restaurants that have been around for as long as I can remember, making indoor beachside dining even more sunny than outside.  In addition to the spectacular views this place has, the rest of the dining experience is just spot on, starting from the friendly and efficient staff who are ever attentive and seem to magically appear when you are ready to order, but you never noticed prior to that moment.  It’s also comforting to know that it’s also had the same chef for the last 12 years, with chef/owner Serge Dansereau still at the helm.

I stuck to my standard big breakfast – scrambled eggs on toast with roasted tomatoes, bacon, pork sausage, portabello mushroom and potato rosti.  It turned up shortly after I ordered, the eggs perfectly cooked juuust on the right side of runny, the bacon cooked to salty perfection – it all looked so appealing that I immediately tucked into the food before I remembered to take a photo.

Blueberry pancakes

My sister ordered the blueberry pancakes.  I had buttermilk pancakes from Pancakes at the Rocks earlier this week, and found them very doughy and not at all what I remembered.  The ones at Bathers’, on the other hand, were amazingly light and fluffy, not too sweet, with fresh blueberries cooked into the pancake like little treats with each mouthful.

A stroll along the beach after makes for an absolutely perfect Sydney morning.

Bathers’ Pavilion Cafe
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, Sydney
Tel: (612) 9969 5050