Tag 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


Pasar Bella

Giant paella being cooked

Hurrah for Pasar Bella ! It’s been open for a few months now, and we finally went yesterday to our utter delight. Finally Singapore has a selection of good food purveyors, offering beautiful cuts of meat, deliciously smelly cheeses, organic vegetables, fresh seafood and yummy bites – all under one airconditioned roof.

Despite the fact that most of the produce is imported – it still gives me the same feeling as a true farmers market where everything is sourced locally. Or one of the European markets like the Mercato Central in Florence where you have the similar stall after stall of everything good to eat.

Bone-in Rib-eye Steak

We found James’ Butchery & Co where we bought a ridiculously large bone-in rib-eye steak. And after chatting with James, ended up buying lamb chops, thick rib-eye and striploin steaks, beef brisket, and osso bucco with the intent of going back next time to try the pork and chicken that he has to offer. Amazing. James also gave us advice on how long to finish the bone-in rib-eye in the oven, after searing well on the stove first (15-20 minutes for medium rare).

The Cheese Ark is a dark cavernous room where four obviously cheese-loving women will tell you anything and everything about the cheese they offer. We bought cheeses that we’ve never even heard about and enjoyed them last night after dinner.

Vibrant green and purple kale

Of course every market needs to have organic produce and at the Organic Grocer I was delighted to finally find the elusive-in-Singapore, kale ! That’s been pan-fried and served with the steak last night, been added to a soup today, and currently baking in the oven to make kale chips. Yes, I’ve been waiting eagerly for a long time to get my hands on this delicious leafy vegetable.

The AMAZING roast pork belly at Roast & Host

By this stage we had our hands literally full and we will happily make the trek to Turf City again, but an honourable mention needs to go out to Roast & Host by Keith and Kin. We’d worked up quite an appetite after all that shopping and we followed our nose to Roast & Host. Ribbons of crispy crackling greeted us. It was so popular that they couldn’t cook the pork quickly enough for demand and we had to wait a while before we went back and were rewarded with the most awesome roast pork.

Happy happy happy is all I can say – well done and THANK YOU to the organisers of Pasar Bella !

Pasar Bella
PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah Singapore
200 Turf Club Road Singapore 287994
Tel: +65 6887 0077

Open daily from 9.30am – 7.00pm


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


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


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


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


Australia Day lunch from the Sydney Fish Markets

Cooked large king prawns

Such a famous name, such a fantastic array of fresh seafood, so disappointingly “grotty” – the only word I can think of to describe the place.

I do love walking around the Sydney Fish markets, looking at the amazing selection of fresh seafood, but I’d highly recommend taking away and eating it in the comfort of your own home, or taking to a picnic somewhere more scenic (of which there are plenty of options in Sydney).

Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters

Australia Day in Sydney was last Wednesday and I went with my dad to pick up lunch before I flew back to Singapore.

We kept the selection simple – fresh cooked large king prawns, a dozen Sydney Rock oysters and another of Pacific oysters, tuna and salmon sashimi, with some fresh damper rolls, lots of lemons and salad ingredients to make a fresh salad of avocado, roma tomatoes and cucumber on a bed of mixed leaves, dressed simply with a good squeeze of lemon juice and drizzled with olive oil.

Our deliciously simple salad

Nothing to cook (Pete did make his own seafood sauce of mayonnaise, tomato sauce, lemon juice and salt and pepper), just simply plated up and served with a nice cold bottle of prosecco for us to enjoy the sweet sweet flavours of the sea in front of us. Happy Australia Day !