Category Archives: Seafood

More Marvellous Sainte Maxime

The best oysters I have ever had (fine de claire No3)

OK if you are ever in Sainte Maxime, in addition to La Maison Bleue, you mustmustmust go to La Reserve, on the main stretch facing the sea.

I went specifically because I wanted oysters (tick) and also a bouillabaisse (tick), which not many cafes served (they serve mostly the more simple soupe de poisson).

La Reserve is a restaurant, rather than a cafe, although everything in this town has that wonderful seaside-relaxed feel to it.

Oysters on the menu were Fine-de-Claire. I am a huge fan of oysters and try them almost every where they are offered. These, arguably, were THE best oysters I had ever tasted (backed up by the fact that the next night we tried the same oysters at another restaurant and they simply weren’t as good). Hard to describe why they were the best – the balance of the sweetness of the oyster and the saltiness of the sea was just PERFECT. I smile just thinking about them now (and my eyes have gone into a reminiscent blurriness).

Deboning the dazzling array of fish for my bouillabaisse

So, I had pretty high expectations for my main course – the bouillabaisse, and I was certainly not disappointed. The waitress appeared with multiple pieces of crockery, and then proceeded to debone an amazing array of local fresh fish, caught that day, onto a soup plate, before ladling a rich seafood broth from a tureen over the deboned fish.

ladling the rich seafood broth over the deboned seafood

I literally ate myself into a food coma. I simply had to eat as much of that dish as I could in one seating – it was, in a word, divine.

My amazing bouillabaisse at La Reserve

We also watched as other French classics such as beef tartare was prepared tableside to each person’s liking. I think the other testimony to La Reserve is that we went probably at the tail end of “the season” – not a lot of tourists were around, yet La Reserve was at full capacity with locals. Lots of cheek kisses and friendly conversation surrounded us. Happiness !

Restaurant La Reserve
8 Place Victor Hugo, 83120 Sainte-Maxime, France
Tel:+33 4 94 96 18 32


La Maison Bleue, Sainte Maxime, Cote D’Azur

 

Moules mariniere 

Last year we spent our vacation in France – in the French Riviera and Paris. This is the first time that we have been to the South of France and we were looking forward to indulging in their famous hospitality and wonderful produce and food.

One of our favourite places to eat was in Sainte Maxime, where we were staying a quiet seaside town across the gulf from the glitz and glamour of St Tropez.

La Maison Bleue is charming and bustling at the same time, with sun-dappled seating, just behind the main street of Sainte Maxime. The few waitstaff are busybusybusy – but still are able to say “bon appetite” with a smile, and pause long enough to explain what was on their cheese plate that day (and why they loved it).

They have a limited menu of simple dishes, spectacularly made.

The standout of our visits – we loved it so much we went every few days for a light snack (and maybe a bottle or two of the local rosé wine) between meals – was the moules mariniere. A big steaming bowl of mussels in white wine, served with (what else in France) a deliciously crusty baguette to mop up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

I have made moules marinere before – but they have NEVER tasted this amazingly good. The mussels are much smaller than ones I am accustomed to. Around Australia and Singapore we have easy access to the much larger New Zealand mussels. And as with a lot of shellfish, I find a lot of times the smaller they are, the sweeter their flavour. Even D, who usually immediately zooms in on the meat part of the menu, favourited this dish. Each small mussel filled your mouth with their juicy sweetness.

La Maison Bleue’s fish soup, served with the traditional rouille, croutons and cheese, was also superb. Make sure you book, as this gem fills up quickly.

La Maison Bleue
48 Rue Paul Bert
Sainte Maxime, France

Tel: +33 4 94 96 51 92


Restaurant Cal Pep, Barcelona

Assorted fried seafood – crispy deliciousness

An absolute must-go for tapas when in Barcelona. Get to Cal Pep early – you can’t book, and the word is out – the 20 stools in the front room were full as soon as the doors opened for lunch at 1.

We chatted to the waiter at the counter, asked for our favourites (pimentos, clams) and then left it to him to recommend, based on what produce they had that day. There didn’t seem to be an enormous range – the waiter explaining that ingredients are kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on freshness. Just the way we like it.

Every dish was a stunner. Josep Manubens Figueres, the chef and owner (“Pep” is a common Catalan nickname for Josep), ensures the seafood at his tapas bar is the freshest that is available every morning at the fish auctions along the nearby Costa Brava every morning.

Cooks wait patiently until the first order comes in, and then they come in flying, thick and fast, with no reprieve, and what I can only describe as “organised chaos” ensues.

Chick peas with fried spinach and jamon

The dish of deep-fried seafood – lightly floured small fish, squid, calamari rings and small prawns – came out crispy and tasted of each individual piece of seafood, not just randomly of oil. The chick peas and vibrantly green spinach (not at all overcooked or gloppy) had bits of fried jamon, imparting the dish with its flavour and providing a nice contrast in texture.

There was just one meat dish – a speciality of the house – botifarra de porc amb foie d’ànec fresc, pork sausage with foie gras and port wine, served in inch-long slices over white beans.

Saffron milk cap mushrooms cooked on the grill

We also tried for the first time some mushrooms we saw at the Boqueria, the saffron milk cap. Bright orange in colour with deep green stains (which apparently appear when the mushrooms have been handled) – the flavour is mild and the texture is almost “crunchy”.

Simplicity is the key to the beauty of each dish – with every plate, there was nothing that didn’t absolutely have to be there.

Remember to get there early – or be prepared to stand impatiently behind diners like us. Their schedule is complicated, so check their website to find when they are open.

Cal Pep
Plaça de les Olles, 8, Barcelona
Tel: 011-34-93-310-7961


Salmon and brown rice pie

All I wanted to do was to change the name of my blog, including the URL. It seemed simple enough at the time but WordPress won’t let me delete the old one, so until I figure it all, out I’m duplicating my posts on both URLs, so apologies if you are receiving notifications twice – I promise I’m looking in to it !

Back to food though, it rained most of yesterday in Singapore – very odd, as usually the tropical storms here are torrential, but last, at most, 30 minutes, then the clouds seem to magically disappear, exposing the warm blue sky again. I’ve been here for five years now yet I’m still surprised that it can be grey and wet outside and still 30C/86F. But while I am cool and dry in my apartment, it makes me feel like it’s winter, and I feel the  need to eat some warm comfort food.

So I decided to make a salmon and brown rice pie. Feel free to substitute with tuna, white rice, even pasta – this is a very versatile recipe.

Ingredients makes enough to feed six hungry people

  1. 3/4 cup brown rice, rinsed
  2. 1/4 cup quinoea, rinsed
  3. 2 cups water
  4. 450g tinned salmon (I had red but you could also use pink)
  5. 1 tbs grain mustard
  6. 1 red onion, finely diced
  7. 1 cup plain yoghurt
  8. 1/2 cup sour cream
  9. 1/4 cup milk
  10. Salt and pepper to taste
  11. 1 cup grated cheddar cheese plus another 1/2 cup for topping
  12. 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Cook the rice first. Add the water to the brown rice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 25 minutes
  2. Add the quinoea, give a quick stir, and cook for a further 20 minutes
  3. Preheat oven to 180C/350F
  4. Mix the cooked rice with the the rest of the ingredients except the cheese for topping and breadcrumbs
  5. Line a deep, 11″ pie dish with the salmon/rice mix and press down lightly
  6. Mix the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs together and scatter over the salmon/rice mix
  7. Add a couple of blobs of butter on top to help it all brown
  8. Cook in preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown
  9. Let cool slightly before slicing up into wedges and serve warm with a fresh green salad
  10. It’s filling, but don’t despair – you can eat it the next day – it’s still yummy cold from the fridge

Waku Ghin’s signature sea urchin with botan shrimp and Oscietre caviar

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of my favourite chefs from my visits to Tetsuya’s in Sydney – back in Rozelle and also when it moved to Kent Street. I have always admired his ability to pair pure and distinct flavours so beautifully. I finally got to go to Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands this week, and what a treat it was.

Your meal is served primarily in small 8-seater rooms in front of a teppanyaki grill and with your personal chef for the evening. Counter seating is always my preference – it gives you an opportunity to talk to the chef, see the produce, watch him cook, and also sneakily take a peek at what others are ordering to inspire you to try new things.

With a set 10-course degustation menu, you don’t get the chance to do the latter, but we did get a preview of the first course from the other couple who were seated in our room and who had arrived before us. By the third course, the team at Tetsuya had deftly managed to catch the four of us up so we were all served the remaining savoury courses at the same time.

Chilled white asparagus soup with white miso and Oscietre caviar

We started with a chilled cream of white asparagus soup with white miso cream and Oscietre caviar. What a way to start a meal. The soup was so silky and so full of flavour of the delicate white asparagus you really wished there was more (that was the common theme for all the dishes during the evening, actually).

Second was Waku Ghin’s signature dish – marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietre caviar, stunningly presented in a half shell of sea urchin. To be eaten with a mother-of-pearl spoon, you are recommended to eat every mouthful with a bit of all three, and with each you get the sweetness of the prawn and sea urchin and the explosion of saltiness from the caviar. This has got to be up there as one of my favourite dishes ever.

Slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant

Third course was slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant and a chicken stock reduction. Our chef explained to us how they made the chicken stock and the laborious and complex processes to ensure only the clean flavour of the chicken was extracted and reduced. An odd pairing with fish and eggplant, and I think the chicken stock reduction tied the dish together well.

Australian abalone with fregola, rocket, seaweed and tomato

Next up was fresh Australian abalone, simply seared on the teppan and served with fregola, tomato, rocket and seaweed. This was about as rare as I have ever had abalone, miles away from the more chewy abalone you usually get at Chinese banquets. This was fresh and succulent and sweet and presented in this way almost was like eating it straight from the sea.

Braised Canadian lobster with tarragon

Braised Canadian lobster came next, quintessentially French-style, in a stock made from the lobster shells, finished with butter and tarragon. Again, the lobster was cooked so that it was just to the point past being raw, allowing the sweetness and the tenderness of the lobster to shine.

The beautifully marbled Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll

Two beef dishes followed. The first was charcoal grilled fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed  beef with Tetsuya’s own-brand wasabi mustard. The chef seared these in front of us on the teppan before slicing them into bite-sized pieces of beef so tender you felt that you could cut it with a butter knife. Nothing fancy here, just a fillet of beef on your plate and tasted great with or without the wasabi mustard.

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll with wasabi and citrus soy

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll from Shiga Prefecture came next. Just looking at the gorgeous marbling on the raw beef filled the room with oohs and aahs. I think it was because we knew that that marbling would be melt-in-the-mouth flavour once cooked. It was served with freshly-grated wasabi, fried garlic slices, thinly sliced Japanese negi and a citrus soy dipping sauce. Similar to the fillet, I tried the beef on its own and then with a little bit of all the condiments and in this instance, the inclusion of everything made the marvelous wagyu sing in your mouth.

Consommé with rice and snapper

Final savoury dish was a consommé with rice and snapper followed with a palate-cleansing cup of gyokuro, tea made from green tea that has been grown in the shade. A touch of yuzu zest to the consommé lifted the dish making it a clean and refreshing end to the meal. And the tea, which was brewed with water at just 40C had a distinct savoury, seaweed flavour. Absolutely perfect example of umami.

Selection of exquisite petit fours to end a perfect meal

We were almost sad to be moved out of our private dining area to a more traditional dining area to eat have our final two courses of dessert – mostly because it was an indication that the meal was coming to its end. I have to be totally honest and say that Tetsuya’s desserts have never wowed me the same way his savoury dishes do, and this was no different. We were served a cold soup of strawberry with lychee and coconut and what turned out to be my birthday cake, a milk chocolate cake with caramel and citrus. Both were delicious – as were the petit fours, but my memory of Waku Ghin is firmly, and happily, within the walls of the private dining room.

Waku Ghin
Casino Level 2
Access lifts located:
B1 & Opposite ArtBox at Level 1
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8507

Open for lunch on Fridays 11.30am – 1.30pm
Dinner two seatings 6pm and 8.30pm


Pan-fried snapper fillets with lemon-herb-mustard asparagus

I am really beginning to enjoy buying my seafood and vegetables from my local wet market. And my two favourite stall owners have stopped laughing at me trying to speak to them in my terrible Mandarin – either my Mandarin is getting better, or they recognise me, either of which is good.

This morning my fish shop had the freshest looking snapper – he kindly filleted both sides of the tail of a large snapper, the rest to be sold as cutlets. Then across from them at my vegetable stall there were the largest, juiciest looking asparagus spears I have seen in ages. I simply had to have them, and so that decided what was for dinner tonight.

Ingredients for two

  1. 2 snapper fillets
  2. 6 large spears of asaragus
  3. 1 tbl lemon juice
  4. 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tsp honey
  6. 1 tsp dijon mustard
  7. 3-4 basil leaves, chopped, plus a few small leaves for garnish
  8. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Normally I would snap the woody ends of asparagus off but these were so big I just trimmed the ends and added the spears to a hot pan, drizzled generously with olive oil and seasoned with salt – I find this method enhances the flavour of the asparagus rather than leaching it out when you boil in water
  2. Turn the asparagus over as they char
  3. While the asparagus is cooking, lightly coat the snapper fillets with oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook on a hot pan, skin side down first, so it crisps up, then flip over and cook the other side until just cooked through – you don’t want to overcook such a beautiful piece of fish
  4. Mix the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, dijon together and whisk till emulsified. Stir through chopped basil
  5. Serve fish with asparagus on the side and drizzle the mustard dressing over the asparagus with a few fresh basil leaves to garnish

 


Crab-crazy

Dry-style salted egg crab 

Strange heading but we do like our crab in Asia, and especially so in my household. After the delicious salt-egg sauce crab at Mastercrab, I wanted to try to find a dry-style salt egg crab and we recently went to Seafood Paradise at the Singapore Flyer for this.

One thing that makes Seafood Paradise unique is that they offer to deshell your crab for you. You can look at this two ways. I recall many years ago in Malaysia, driving for an hour to get to a steamed crab “hut” (because that’s all it was, just an outdoor space that served steamed crabs), where you sat down at a table with cheap plastic stools, were served whole steamed crabs on a wooden board, and were given a plastic bib and a hammer – and told to go nuts. And boy did we – with gusto. The whole experience of being able to make as much mess as possible brought out the child in us all, and it was one of the most messy and fun experiences I recall.

Eating that same crab in a fancy restaurant requires much more restraint and skill, often still ending up with bits of crab flying everywhere or slipping out of your hands onto your (or someone else’s) lap. So the offer of the restaurant deshelling the crab, and serving the meat served in the shell was too good an offer to refuse. How posh and spoiled we felt !

The impressively deshelled crab in white pepper sauce

Having said that, I have to say that once it was presented to us, flesh neatly contained in the shell of the crab, much to my own surprise, I found out that part of the enjoyment (for me, anyway) of eating crab is dealing with getting the fiddly bits of delicious crab meat out of the frustrating shell. Who’d have thought ? (We still ate it all – there is a surprising heat from the white pepper sauce that goes well with the fresh spring onions)

Luckily the main reason for our visit, the dry-style salted egg crab, came in the shell. The waiter actually recommended that we enjoyed the crab in the shell, as this style is about enjoying the combination of the lip-smackingly salted egg yolk baked on to the shell, with the sweet crab meat inside. It’s one of those dishes that’s rich to the point where you can’t eat too much but really wish you could.

Either way, I’d totally recommend this place if you’re looking to enjoy crab – in any of the many styles they offer. Afterwards, you can take a leisurely stroll around the Singapore Flyer to walk off your dinner, and as a bonus even ON TO the F1 track near the pit stop area.

Seafood Paradise @ the Singapore Flyer
30 Raffles Ave
#01-01 Singapore Flyer
Singapore 039803
Tel: 6336 5101

Opening Hours:
Mon – Fri: 11.30am – 3.00pm / 6.00pm – 11.00pm
Sat, Sun & PH: 11.30am – 11.00pm


Corta Sconta

The beautiful courtyard at Corta Sconta

Venice is a bit of an anomaly with the rest of Italy – it’s one of the main cities, but few people wax lyrical about the cuisine or share all of their great food experiences there. The locals cater to the masses of tourists, so expect to find trattorias with lots of pasta and pizza options on the menu, and expect to pay a premium to eat anywhere within sniffing distance of St Mark’s Square or with a view of/near a canal.

However, there are some definite brilliant hidey holes and Corta Sconta is one of them.

Carpaccio of sea bream and tuna 

For a start, the entrance to the restaurant is a bland blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole in the wall, but walk through the small indoor seating area and you’ll pop out the back to the most gorgeous courtyard. It feels like you have entered a secret garden, where some diners eat alone with their books and a glass of wine, amongst groups of locals catching up over never-ending spritzers – a refreshing mix of Aperol and prosecco.

There is a standard menu with a list of fresh pastas, made on the premises – sauces are whatever is available that day, which the owner and hostess, Rita, will happily share with you.

Steamed local clams with white wine and ginger

The daily menu consists of dishes made from strictly seasonal products – with the great option of letting them choose for you.

We started with a tuna carpaccio marinated in balsamic vinegar and sea bream marinated in orange. The fish was delightfully fresh and firm and I loved the sea bream but thought (secretly) to myself it was a shame to marinate gorgeous tuna in such a strong flavour as balsamic.

Next up we had clams steamed with white wine and ginger which were awesome. The sweetness of the clams were released into the broth that was quickly mopped up by crusty bread.

Sardines and prawns – two of the “six fish from laguna”

Third (and for us, final) dish was a dish consisting of “the six fish from Laguna” – the Venetian Lagoon. The six “fish”- recommended to be eaten from the more delicate to the more robust flavours – were cuttlefish roe, mantis shrimp, spider crab in cream on top of crusty squares of bread, prawns, octopus and sardines. Most were simply steamed and served with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon.

We really did consider ordering some of the pasta dishes we saw served at other tables but by this stage both of us were full of seafood and prosecco but if you can squeeze it in, based on the quality and flavour of what we ate, I would definitely recommend it.

There’s such a strong feeling that the family are cooking for you, their friends, at Corta Sconta – it’s a place where you could easily spend the entire afternoon to escape the hustle and bustle outside.

Corta Sconta
Castello 3886
Calle del Pestrin (Arsenale)
Venice
Tel: tel 041 5227024
Email: corte.sconta@yahoo.it


Master Crab

Master Crab’s salted egg crab

You had better cook a good crab dish if you want to call yourself Master Crab. That’s what I thought when my friend told me where they had had incredible crab recently. The “restaurant” is actually a tze char stall in a coffee shop. Tze char literally means “cook and fry” and it means that you order off a menu that is similar to a restaurant, just in a coffee shop environment.

There is no airconditioning, cheap plastic tables and chairs and fluorescent lighting that makes you feel like you can get a tan while you eat. Absolutely no frills, and where you can call to book a table, but when you get there, you get the feeling that it’s on a first come, first served basis, as this stall is all about turnover.

We were on a crab mission, though – in particular salted egg crab, so luckily it was a cool evening and they had a table for us to eat. We tried to order two crab dishes – salted egg and white pepper crab, but we were told that there was a minimum of two crabs per type of sauce, and each crab weighed just under a kilo.  With just three of us, we thought we’d stick to one (salt egg) and then order other dishes.

Some of the dishes we had were pretty disappointing – the sambal kankong – chilli water spinach – was really overseasoned and overcooked, and the crispy baby squid was too sweet.  The fried rice, on the other hand was delicious. Lots of wok hei (see my attempt at an explanation of this here).

Now to the crab.  I’ve subsequently heard that other crab dishes here are only so so, but the salted egg crab, my goodness, it’s worth it to visit just for this dish alone.

Firstly the crab was super fresh. The meat was flaky and sweet and smothered in a golden yellow sauce that is finger licking good. It’s rich and thick and has a wonderful balance of salt (presumably from the salted egg) and sweet and it is, quite simply, magnificent. I love pretty much anything with salted egg, and I wondered if it was too Asian for D’s more Western palate, but he loved it almost more than I did !

I am now wanting to try Let’s Clap ! At Railway Mall where they apparently do a dry version of salted egg crab. That would be such an intense taste sensation.

So is Master Crab the master of all crab places ? Absolutely, if what (and all) you want is salted egg crab. Leave everything else for another place.

Master Crab Seafood Restaurant
Blk 19 Ghim Moh Road #01-229
Tel: +65 6314 1868

Open Daily 5pm – 10.30pm


Standing Sushi

Shiro maguro (white tuna) and sake (salmon) sashimi

Standing Sushi is one of the best places to eat super good sushi in Singapore.  Their shiny new premises at Marina Bay Link Mall are a bit more difficult to get to than their now-closed outlet at OUB Centre, but I quite liked eating somewhere that wasn’t 2 feet away from the crazy hustle and bustle of lunchtime at OUB Centre/Raffles Place MRT.

The menu was very simple – sushi, sashimi, donburi, salads and maki – I don’t recall any cooked food.  One of the recommendations from the friendly waitress was shiro maguro –white tuna – something that I have not ever heard of before.

The chef served this sashimi style, marinated for 5 hours in his secret blend of sauces before slicing and serving on a plate with equally generous slices of salmon.

The texture is smooth with the same softness of fresh salmon sashimi and has a slightly salty taste (presumably from the marinade).  It was absolutely delicious and I wonder how different the texture and taste would be when the fish is served unadulterated and fresh.

Sashimi platter with prawn, squid, octopus, salmon, tuna and white tuna

We also had the sashimi plate and the sashimi salad.  Every piece of seafood, from the usual salmon and tuna, to the more unusual prawns and squid and scallops was wonderfully firm and sweet, needing just a little dip into our soya sauce with wasabi.

If you are looking for somewhere to eat fantasticly fresh seafood, this is the place to go.  It’s not situated in the main corridors so looks out for it – it’s behind the Four Seasons Gourmet Market.

Standing Sushi Bar
Marina Bay Link Mall
8A Marina Boulevard
B2-51 Marina Bay Link Mall
Tel: (65) 6634 7068

Opening Hours – Mon-Sat 11.30am – 9.00pm
Closed on public holidays and Saturdays following public holidays on a Friday