(Only in Summer) Refreshing Bear-shaped Shaved Ice at Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」

Summer is my second least favourite season, but funnily enough, I found myself melting under the sweltering heat of Tokyo’s summer this year! Always on the lookout for kawaii (i.e. cute) themed food and also in search of something to cool me down, I managed to find a place which satisfied both criteria!

Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」 typically sells ice cream throughout the year, but in summer, they also offer shaved ice desserts (kakigori) on their menu.

These were no ordinary looking kakigori and they were shaped like bears’ heads and aptly named as “Bear Kakigori“「くまちゃんかき氷」! Various flavours were available and I was in a dilemma as to which one I should order, as I wanted to try everything!

Still undecided, I then asked the guy at the counter to recommend me a flavour, since it was my first time there. He told me that both the white one (milk) and the green one (matcha) were good. After some quick deliberation (‘cos there was a queue behind me), I decided to go with Shirokuma (literally translated as “white bear”), which was milk flavoured shaved ice with a scoop of milk ice cream for its snout. You can choose whether to have a “small mouth”, “large mouth” or “big mouth” and this will determine the scoop size of the ice cream for the bear’s snout. I went with the “small mouth”, as I had just finished lunch and wasn’t sure if I could finish the dessert if I went overboard with my order.

Seating is quite limited at this shop and as it is usually packed with customers, the only seat I could get was a bench outside the shop, which meant that I had to eat fast before the ice started to melt under the heat!

I do have to say that this bowl of shaved ice is just too cute to be eaten! However, it was really refreshing and tasted great! Apricot was used for the ears and the eyes and nose were actually black beans!

Do give this a try if you visit Tokyo during summer!


Address:

Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」
〒150-0013 東京都渋谷区恵比寿1-6-6 土田ビル1F
1F, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0013, Japan.
[Map]

Tel: 03-5449-0037

E-mail: info@ice-ouca.com

Opening Hours:
Spring & Summer (March to October)   11:00~23:30 (last order at 23:00)
Autumn & Winter (November to February)   12:00~23:00 (last order at 22:45)

Getting There:
3-min walk from Ebisu station (both JR and Tokyo Metro lines).

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Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

River Wok – a place to discover Indochina cuisine from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia

River Wok, a new restaurant that specialises in Indochina cuisine, just held its official grand opening celebrations on 3 May 2018.

Helmed by Executive Chef Kantha Chookiat, who has over 30 years of culinary experience in the region, the restaurant’s menu features traditional favourites and reinterpretations of well-known dishes from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. The Thailand-born chef has earned recognition among many distinguished individuals, having served Singapore’s late Founding Father and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and royalties like Prince Edward, the Princess of Monaco and the King and Queen of Sweden. Having drawn inspiration from his travels all around the world to places like Germany, Indonesia and India, his food has earned him the title of “Indo-Chinese Treasure” in Cuisine and Wine Asia Magazine.

The restaurant is located in the vicinity of Robertson Quay and diners can choose to either dine al fresco, with a view of the Singapore River, or…

…dine indoors, where it is much cooler (i.e. for those who don’t like the warm and humid weather).

All diners will be served with some crispy keropok, whilst waiting for your food to arrive.

I’m not familiar with Laotian food, so I was glad to have the opportunity to try some of the dishes.

Koi Pa Salmon ($18)
A Laotian dish consisting of marinated Norwegian Salmon sashimi cubes, with Asian herbs in chilli and lemon juice.


This sat in a crispy shell, which made it feel as though you are eating kueh pie tee, but with a different filling. The standard serving comes with three of these wanton-like shells. Traditionally a different fish is used in this dish in Laos, but since the fish cannot be found in Singapore, salmon is used in its place.


Nam Khao Hor ($14 – this is the non-vegetarian version)

Laotian hand rolled rice paper with lemon marinated minced chicken, roasted rice crumbles and greens.


As I had never tried Laotian food before dining here, I had always assumed that rice paper rolls were uniquely Vietnamese, so I learnt something new from dining here! The ingredients were a well balance of flavours and I enjoyed the crunch from the roasted rice crumbles. Hmm…I concluded that I prefer Laotian fresh rice paper rolls over the Vietnamese version!

The dish pictured above was a tasting size, but the normal serving comes with four pieces.


Yam Tuapoo Goong Sod ($16)

This is a traditional Thai Wing Bean and Tiger Prawn Salad, which also includes shredded chicken, boiled egg, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli paste, coconut cream, topped with fried shallots and roasted grated coconut.


The wing beans were crunchy and I thought the salad was refreshing, with a hint of spiciness. My hubby on the other hand felt it tasted too “green”, as he isn’t a big fan of veggies. I would recommend this to those who do like crunchy greens and want a spicy entrée.


Pho Bo (Wagyu) ($26)

A premium version of the traditional Vietnamese dish, as it is served with sliced Wagyu beef, which is then cooked at your table after you place them into the rich and flavourful clear beef broth. Bean sprouts, herbs and some veggies are served on the side, so that diners can add to their liking.

If you want to ensure that your beef gets cooked, don’t wait too long before putting them into the bowl, as the soup is still hot when it arrives at your table.

The tender slices of wagyu beef made this classic Vietnamese dish feel so luxurious!


Gaeng Phed Ped Yang ($22)

Roasted duck in a rich and flavourful Thai red curry with Thai eggplant, pineapple, grapes, cherry tomatoes and white beech mushrooms.



I loved the rich fragrance of the coconut gravy and felt that the various fruit that were added to this dish gave an extra dimension to the flavours. Overall, the curry was a little on the sweet side, but I really enjoyed it even though it was my first time having duck curry and I concluded that it’s probably my new favourite curry dish!


Banh Chuoi ($12)

A savoury Vietnamese dessert consisting of banana fritters and black sesame ice cream, served with some gula melaka sauce drizzled over.


Just two words to describe this – goreng pisang!! The black sesame ice cream went down well with the fried banana. If you are an unadventurous diner, this would be a safe dessert to order.


Khao Neow Ma Muang ($10)

A traditional Thai sweet sticky rice pudding paired with slices of sweet mango and coconut cream, with a sprinkling of black sesame over the top.


The rice ball reminded me of eating ketupat, except that this was made using glutinous rice and when we cut into it, we found that it was still warm! Remember to leave room in your stomach if you want to order this dessert – I was stuffed from all the earlier dishes and thus was trying to find a spare slot in my stomach to be able to digest this! Loved the sweet slices of mango, which accompanied this dessert (but then again, I’m biased to anything that’s mango)!


More pictures from their Grand Opening celebrations…

The lions from the lion dance troupe had earlier left an auspicious message on the ground, shaped using mandarin orange segments. This was followed by some traditional Thai dance performances.

Various canapes were served, but I only managed to try some of them.

Indonesian Chicken Satay and Vietnamese Sugarcane Prawns

Both were tasty morsels and some other guests agreed that the satay was really good! Satay is available in the restaurant’s menu at $28 for a dozen sticks, including cucumber, onion and rice cake.

Roast Beef with Caramelised Onions and Truffle Sauce

Chicken Balls with Tamarind Sauce and Rice Crumbs

This was really good and very flavourful!

Passion Crush
A cocktail comprising a mix of cointreau, rum, kaffir lime leaves and passion fruit.

It was quite a pleasant combination of flavours.

Smokey Sunset
The presentation was interesting and this cocktail consists of Grand Marnier, lemongrass, spiced rum, lime and orange juice.

I found the taste of the lemongrass rather overpowering and the alcohol was rather strong. It was my least favourite out of the three cocktails that I had tried.

Coco Bay
This concoction is served in a young coconut and contains lime, coriander, coconut cream and gin.

My favourite cocktail of the night, as I found the flavours very pleasant and easy to drink. This cocktail is available at the restaurant, but if you can’t find it on the menu, do enquire with the wait staff.


VERDICT

Overall, the food was much better than I had expected. It was my first time trying Laotian food and I did like it! However, the dishes that really stood out for me were the Duck Curry and the Pho Bo with Wagyu.

This place is good for those who want a variety of food, as there is a selection of different dishes representative of the different countries (i.e. Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia).

Address:
River Wok
80 Mohamed Sultan Road, The Pier, #01-12, Singapore 239013.
[Map]
Opening Hours: Daily 12pm to 11:00pm (Last Order at 10:30pm)
Telephone: (65) 6732 1126
Getting There by MRT:
9-min walk from Fort Canning station
15-min walk from Clarke Quay station

Disclaimer: This was a media tasting session, but all opinions expressed are entirely of my own.

Categories: Asian, Eating in Singapore, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indulge your Taste Buds at Cempedak Island

Cempedak Island’s chefs have excellent cooking skills and produce some amazing food, so I couldn’t help but to dedicate a post just on the food itself!

We jumped straight into lunch when we arrived at the island and were immediately impressed by the food and also the polite and friendly service by the wait staff!

You can either dine at the restaurant itself or at more “private” tables located nearer to the water’s edge. Three of these tables are available on a first-come-first-served basis.


The dining menu is handwritten on little blackboards placed on the table, which is located at the entrance of the restaurant and usually only the menu for the current meal and the next will be displayed, unless the boards haven’t been changed yet, to show what you can expect for the next meal.

Apparently, the menu is fixed for each day of the week, so if you are staying there long-term, you will probably see the same dishes come the same day in the new week. However, guests always have the option to request the staff to prepare something else to their liking, but you’ll have to give them advance notice so that they’ll have ample time to prepare it.

With the aim to prevent food wastage, a standard portion of food will be served to all diners, but those who have larger appetites can ask for second helpings. If you like a particular dish and want more of it, the staff will also gladly oblige to your request.


Saturday Lunch

Soto Medan

This was a really tasty soup, with fresh ingredients and a rich chicken broth that is much more flavourful than the average Soto Ayam that you’ll find in Singapore. I have to say that it was a nice start to the meal!

Steamed Fish Pepes with Sautéed Veggies and Sweet Corn Rice

This Gurame fish was fresh and very meaty, plus it was almost a complete meal by itself! Prior to this, I’ve never had steamed Gurame before, as most places usually serve it deep fried “flying fish” style.

I was extremely impressed by this dish as it was deboned for us! This was probably my first time being served with a whole fish (except for a missing tail) without the fish bones! However, I still found a bone near the stomach area, so you’ll still need to be careful when you eat the fish, as the kitchen staff could have missed removing a couple of the bones.

Nonetheless, I felt like I was being pampered by the extra effort that was put in for our dining experience! (and this was only our very first meal there!)

The sautéed veggies were a nice accompaniment to this main course and we found sweet kernels of corn hidden in the mound of rice on the plate.

Do note that one fish serves two persons at the table.

Strawberry Tartlet

Haha…fancy a western dessert to end an Asian meal! I had no complaints as it was good and tasted exactly like how a strawberry tart should be. However, it felt more like a chocolatey strawberry tart to me, as its pastry shell was lined with chocolate. The plate was also decorated with a strawberry coulis, which we mopped up and devoured together with the tart.

Coffee/Tea

We ended our meal with some coffee and tea. There are several standard options that you can choose from, so do check with the staff for the complete list of available choices.


Saturday Dinner

Breadsticks

These are served at every meal only during dinnertime, so I won’t be repeating the picture of the breadsticks in the subsequent meals listed in this post. There are two types of breadsticks served, one flat and one a bit roundish, like an oversized pretzel. I preferred the flat version as it had more flavour in them. Bread is also served at the same time as the breadsticks.

Tuna Salad

Not being a fan of tuna salads, I was initially wondering whether I should have this for dinner, but since I didn’t ask the staff to prepare something else, I decided to just try whatever was on the current day’s menu. To my surprise, it was really good and my hubby was shocked that I actually ate it!

Grilled King Prawn with Nanyang

Loved the presentation with the three fresh and plump king prawns intertwined and stacked to make a “prawn tower”, which sat atop rice mixed with wild ferns (paku pakis), seasoned with Indonesian spices. Melinjo cracker bits were scattered next to it.

We couldn’t quite figure out what the “Nanyang” meant in this dish, but overall the harmony of flavours could bring a song to my lips.

Papaya Gaul (pictured below on the left)
Lemon and coconut sorbet, with fresh papaya hidden beneath.

I don’t like papaya and had informed the staff during the previous meal, so they suggested replacing it with mango and I was fine with that, as I love mango! The combination was very refreshing and I loved my dessert! (pictured above on the right)


Sunday Breakfast

It isn’t everyday that you get breakfast with a view (yes, we managed to get one of the “private” tables this morning!)

We were served with a selection of fruit, as well as pastry.

The items labelled as “pastry” were served in a quaint little basket, which I absolutely adore!

Bread Butter Pudding
Somehow this looked more like a muffin to me.

Sarang Semut
Literally translated as “Ant’s Nest”, this cake derived its strange name due to its cross section resembling the appearance of an ant’s nest.

Although the piece of cake doesn’t look appetising, its dark brown colour is due to the caramel in the cake and its taste is actually quite nice! In terms of texture, it was springy to the touch and chewy, so it wasn’t exactly my favourite choice of cake, but I have to say that this cake probably requires some skill to be able to create the nest-like appearance.

I would consider this to be one of those experiences where you travel to a foreign country and try their local food, which is unfamiliar to you.

Mango Lassi
A blend of fresh mango and yoghurt.

As my stomach sometimes doesn’t agree with yoghurt, I opted to just have the mango juice by itself, so as not to jeopardize the rest of my holiday. Pure fresh blended mango juice is just heavenly! (oh yes, I am biased to mango)

Cempedak Style Nasi Goreng with Sunny Side Up

A hearty breakfast and the fried rice was delicious.


Sunday Lunch

Indonesian Food – (clockwise from top left:) Ayam Bakar, Udang Sambal, Yellow Fish Curry, Beef Rendang, Nasi Kuning, Urap; with Sambal Bilis Kacang and some extra sambal chilli (upon request) in the centre.

This was a seriously huge lunch for two people! Judging from the reactions that I happened to notice around me, most people were taken aback when presented with the portion of food at this meal!

Here’s how it looked after I put a bit of everything on one plate!

The Sambal Bilis Kacang (i.e. spicy anchovies with peanuts) was so good that we asked for a second helping! My other favourites were the Ayam Bakar (i.e. grilled chicken) and Beef Rendang, but I was too stuffed to ask for more.

Pisang Goreng with Coconut Ice

This was a nice and sweet ending to the meal, although I would say that the fried banana may have been a bit heavy, especially after such a huge main course!


Sunday Dinner

Calamari Salad

A refreshing salad with the calamari and crackers providing a different dimension of crispness from the vegetables.

BBQ Lamb Loin with Cous-Cous and Pita Bread

I was initially quite skeptical about this main course as I generally don’t like cous-cous, but this was really good!

The lamb was tender and the pomegranate seeds provided an extra crunch to each mouthful. Overall, the entire dish was a burst of flavours on the taste buds.

Spicy Chocolate Tart

This chocolate tart came with a surprise message, as we were celebrating our wedding anniversary a few days earlier with this trip. There was just a hint of spiciness in the chocolate and it was quite nice.


Monday Breakfast

Pastry:
Kue Apam
One of the traditional cakes in this country, it tasted alright but wasn’t exactly my favourite of cakes.

Strawberry Muffin
This wasn’t the best muffin that I’ve had in my lifetime, but it will taste just fine if you aren’t a fussy eater.

Melon Madness
A blend of rock melon and yoghurt.

Again, mine was just pure melon juice without the yoghurt.

Pulut Hitam

Fancy having this as a main course! I usually think of having pulut hitam as a dessert, but this version only had a small amount of coconut milk over the black glutinous rice and was topped with cubes of fresh mango. It was a savoury dish and was quite filling.

Omelette, Mushrooms, Roasted Tomato & Toast

This mushroom omelette was cooked just right and it was a satisfying breakfast.


Monday Lunch

Indonesian Beef Spring Rolls

Crispy spring rolls with a beef filling and the combination of ingredients had a nice balance of crunchiness.

Chicken Taliwang, Sauteed Vegetables and Steamed Rice

An Indonesian style roast chicken, which was quite nice.

Lemon and Basil Tartlet with Lemon Sorbet

The lemon sorbet tasted similar to the one from Saturday night and the tart was alright, but nothing to rave about. Overall, it was nice citrusy ending to the meal.


Monday Dinner

Broccoli Orange Salad

I liked this salad, as it had a nice balance of flavours.

Poached Fish, Sauteed Asian Beans and Baby Potato

The fish was minced and shaped like the potatoes on the plate! Although it didn’t look that appetising, the fish was well marinated with Asian spices and the flavours shone through.

Chocolate Indulgence

A plate for sharing, but we were reminded we could ask for more if we wanted extra. It was a little too sweet for me and not really the type of chocolate that I like. I felt that the taste of the macaron could be improved and probably the best thing on the plate were the slices of banana, which were slightly caramelised.


Tuesday Breakfast

Pastry:
Carrot Cake
This is one of the better versions of carrot cake that I’ve tasted.

Onde-Onde
Not the usual type of Onde-Onde that I’m familiar with! This one is coated with sesame seeds and was quite chewy.

Jamu Beras Kencur
A herbal tonic of sorts and somewhat an acquired taste, this was served warm.

Pineapple Crepes

Absolutely delicious! The crepe filling was juicy and the pineapple was cooked with spices like star anise. Overall, it was a savoury delight!

Soft Baked Egg with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Toast

This one took me by surprise, as it sounded ordinary, but tasted so wonderful! The tomato sauce really whet my appetite and the medley of flavours pleased my stomach so much that I felt tempted to ask for seconds! I’ve never been as satisfied with a breakfast egg dish as I have with this one!


Tuesday Lunch

Rujak Segar

An appetising salad that whet my appetite for more food!

Grilled Butterfly King Prawn with Coconut Rice Cake and Veggies

Here’s another look at the dish with the coconut rice cake.

The prawns were not overcooked and were done just right, while the coconut rice cake was more like an enhanced flavoured ketupat.

Bubur Sum-Sum

It was my first time having this dessert, which seemed more like a type of rice pudding, served with a palm sugar syrup.


Apart from water, the beverages served during breakfast, plus coffee and tea, are included in the meal package. All other drinks are charged separately.

These were some of the drinks that we had tried…

Homemade Sodas

Soursop Soda – this wasn’t great as I felt it needed more soursop in it.

Mocktails
Alice’s “Drink Me” Potion (fresh pineapple, coconut cream, rosella syrup) and Island Temple (rosella syrup, lemonade) – both drinks were quite refreshing.

Banana Fantasy (banana, milk, honey) – probably a banana lover’s dream come true! Haha.

Juices
Orange and Pineapple – freshly squeezed juices that tasted great!

In order to be eco-friendly, instead of plastic straws, bamboo straws are used for the drinks. It was my first time encountering these bamboo straws, which can be washed and re-used.

In conclusion, the food on the island exceeded our initial expectations and there were more hits than misses! The wait staff were very friendly and polite, plus they took time to explain what the dishes were and also tried to remember our food preferences. Overall, the dining experience was great!

Categories: Indonesia, Riau Islands, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Porridge Weekday Set Lunch at Wan He Lou (萬合樓)

Always on the lookout for a good deal, when I saw this lunch promotion, I immediately contacted some of my foodie friends to go try it!

Apparently Wan He Lou (萬合樓) has been known for their lobster porridge, but I have to say that since the restaurant is located at a part of Singapore that I hardly frequent, it was the first time that I’d heard of this restaurant.

Although the lunch set is priced at $12.80++ per person, the food isn’t served in individual portions.


Signature Lobster Porridge (招牌龍虾粥)

This isn’t the Cantonese style of porridge, but rather the Teochew style where you can still see the grains of rice. The broth had a seafood flavour, but it wasn’t as rich and flavourful as I had hoped it would taste (I guess my expectations were set too high). My friends on the other hand loved it! The serving size shown in the photo is for 3 persons and you will get about 3 bowls each. There wasn’t much lobster in the porridge and we got about one piece each.


Golden Shrimp Roll (酥炸鲜虾卷)

The filling was nice and it reminded me of something that you would get as part of a cold dish at a Chinese dinner. Unfortunately, the skin of the shrimp roll was limp and a little soggy, so it would have been much better if it was crispy.

Prawn Paste Chicken (虾酱鸡)
Yumm…this was quite tasty and my favourite out of all the dishes that we had.

French Bean with Minced Garlic (蒜蓉四季豆)
A simple stir-fried vegetable dish and it was alright.


The next dish is served when you dine in a group or 4 or more, but they gave it to us even though there were only 3 of us.

Tofu with Crispy Salted Turnip (菜莆脆豆腐)

At first we we’re trying to decipher what was “crispy salted turnip”, then we realised that it was actually “chai poh” (菜莆) but deep fried until it was crispy! It was an interesting twist to the tofu dish and created different textures in your mouth.

If you dine in a group of 6 or more, you will get an additional dish of Cereal Prawn (麦片虾) at no extra charge.

Overall, it was quite a value for money set lunch, but go with a bigger group to make your money’s worth.

I loved the lanterns that were used to decorate the interior of the restaurant, but my friends thought they were a bit dated.

Address:
Wan He Lou (萬合樓)
65 Maude Road, Singapore 208347.
[Map]

Opening Hours:  Daily
Lunch: 11am to 2:30pm
Dinner: 5pm to 10:30pm

Telephone: +65 6294 8057

Getting There by MRT:
7 min walk from Jalan Besar station
9 min walk from Farrer Park station

From 1st June 2018 onwards, Signature Lobster Porridge Set Lunch includes:
• Wan He Lou Seafood Gyoza
• Prawn Paste Chicken
• Stir Fried Green Dragon Vegetable
• Signature Lobster Porridge

Dine in groups of 4 persons and above to enjoy additional dishes!
• Crab Meat Tofu (group of 4 pax and above)
• Herbal Drunken Prawn (group of 6 pax and above)

Terms and Conditions:
• Reservations must be made through HungryGoWhere website, mobile app or Hungrydeals and this promotion must be selected.
• Valid till 31st July 2018 on weekdays during lunch only.
• Valid for dine-in only.
• Not valid on Eve of and Public Holidays.
• This offer is not valid in conjunction with other ongoing promotions, offers, vouchers and discounts and/or privileges.

Categories: Chinese, Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sama Curry’s Lunch Promo

Hokkaido is famous for its soup curry and yes, the gravy is drinkable by itself, unlike the thicker Singaporean/Malaysian/Indian curries that most people are familiar with. It’s interesting that one of the Japanese soup curry restaurants has set up shop in Singapore!

Sama Curry offers a choice of 4 different soup bases – Tomato, Coconut, Shrimp and Japanese.

When I visited, there was a lunch promotion, which had a limited choice of soup curries that could be ordered, but it was inclusive of a side dish (choice of Shrimp Gyoza or Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese) and a drink.

We asked the wait staff for her recommendations on the soup base and she said it was down to personal preference, but she did explain that both tomato and coconut were creamier, whereas the other two were much lighter in soup consistency.

This was the regular menu:

After making our selection of curry, we had to decide on the level of spiciness (from 0-30, with 30 being the spiciest level!)

Instructional guide on how to eat the soup curry:

My friends and I ended up ordering the following:

Marathon Chicken (tomato)
チキンと野菜カレー (トマト)
Spiciness Level: 5

This was my choice, as I love tomato soup, although initially I couldn’t fathom how a combination of tomato and curry would taste! Surprisingly, it was really good! (and in my opinion, the best out of the 3 soup bases that we had ordered)

The chicken leg was very tender and could easily be removed from the bone. I liked that the veggies were pan fried before being added to the curry, as that added another dimension of flavours to the dish. In addition, the tanginess of the soup curry made it quite appetising and I liked it very much! My friends each took one spoonful of my curry to try and the spiciness seemed to hit at the initial mouthful and thus they were a little worried, as they had ordered levels 13 and 15 for theirs.


Special Soup Curry Udon (coconut)
特別スープカレーウドン (ココナツ)
Spiciness Level: 13

This was rather rich and your taste buds may get tired of the flavours halfway through. The soup curry was creamy, but in terms of flavours, my preference leans towards our local curries if I want to have coconut-based ones. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that spicy and didn’t have that same initial impact on the first mouthful as what we had experienced with the tomato (and that was only level 5!)


Special Soup Curry Udon (shrimp)
特別スープカレーウドン (エビ)
Spiciness Level: 15

The shrimp soup curry was indeed a thinner soup than the previous two above and it had a strong seafood taste. As for the spicy factor, when we took the first mouthful, we didn’t feel a thing and were quite surprised as it was level 15, but before we had enough time to react, the burning feeling of the chilli suddenly hit us! It’s the same effect as those mala (麻辣) chilli dishes, where the chilli burn has a delayed impact. My friend seemed to enjoy this, but I still stand by my preference for the tomato based one.


The side dishes that came with the lunch sets included a choice of Shrimp Gyoza (2pcs) or Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese (1pc).

Shrimp Gyoza「エビ餃子」

If you order this ala carte, 6 pieces will be included in one serving, but as part of the lunch set only two were given. I felt that the filling tasted similar to those Japanese shumai that can be found at the supermarket’s frozen section.


Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese「北海道芋餅」

This was not bad and even my non-cheese loving friend liked it! It was a little chewy and tasted more like potato rather than cheese. As part of the lunch set, we were given one piece, but if you order this ala carte, you will get two pieces.


Overall, the food was good and I would highly recommend the tomato soup curry, if you are a fan of tomatoes!

Address:
Sama Curry
68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura, #06-11/12
Singapore 238839.

[Map]

Telephone: 6445 2033

Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm

Nearest MRT station: Dhoby Ghaut

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lunch Sets at Katanashi An「型無庵」

Katanashi An「型無庵」 is a hole-in-the-wall Japanese izakaya located nestled between some old shophouses. I had heard that they serve reasonably-priced ochazuke lunch sets only on weekdays and thus went to check them out.

At the very moment that I stepped in, I was greeted in Japanese by a Japanese wait staff and ushered to one of the few remaining empty tables in the pub restaurant. Lunch hour can be quite packed, so do try to arrive before 12pm to get a table.

月曜日から金曜日までに居酒屋「型無庵」はだし茶漬けのランチセットがあります。

The lunch menu is limited and revolves around the theme of ochazuke, with different variations available, including some monthly specials. In this instance here, the “tea” is actually dashi broth and thus referred to as dashi-chazuke.

I was amused by the drawings on the disposal wet tissues that were provided at the table. When I looked around, I could see different designs on every table. Hmm…I wonder how much time the staff spend daily to draw them?

According to the information given at the table (see photo above), the food can be eaten in two ways, but I prefer to follow the Nagoya-style for eating unagi hitsumabushi and thus eat this in three different ways!:
(1) Scoop the rice and its toppings into a bowl and eat it as it is.
(2) Do the same as (1), but eat it together with pickles.
(3) Pour the dashi broth over the rice before eating. It will be like having rice porridge (but with firmer rice).

You will find a marked contrast in the flavours, especially between (1) and (3).


The lunch sets typically come with two side dishes of seasoned seaweed and tofu, plus a teapot containing dashi broth. Some roasted rice pops, pickles and wasabi are also provided as additional toppings. My preference is to use the roasted rice pops as a topping for my “porridge”.

Tori Sansai「鶏山菜」– $12
Roasted Chicken and Japanese edible wild plant

This was surprisingly good! The chunky pieces of chicken were tender and had a nice flavour.

All 3 methods of eating go well with this set.


Salmon & Maguro「サーモンと鮪」– $15
Fresh Salmon Sashimi & Fresh Tuna Sashimi

My friend ordered this and she liked it, but didn’t use that much of the soup broth, as she preferred just eating it chirashi don style.


毎月もランチスペシャルセットがあります。三月のは豚そぼろセットと北海道丼セット (鮭、ホタテ、かに、いくら)。

These were the monthly lunch specials for March:

Buta Soboro Set「担々豚そぼろ」– $12
Spicy Minced Pork & Takana (Japanese pickled vegetables)

Mmm…this reminded me of a Chinese dish (i.e. 梅菜扣肉). It was extremeful flavourful and the combination of ingredients tasted better without the soup stock, so I decided to consume them separately.


Hokkaido Set「北海道丼set」– $20
Fresh Salmon, Scallop, Boiled Kani (Crab) & Ikura (Salmon Roe)

The seafood was fresh and I felt that just eating the main dish by itself was extremely satisfying (i.e. without the dashi stock).

If you still want to try it with the “tea”, then my advice is to leave out the salmon and the scallop, as those taste much better when eaten raw (i.e. after you pour the soup stock over, the sashimi will be cooked and thus leave a different feeling and taste in your mouth!), but at the end of the day it is down to personal preference on how you wish to eat it.

Regardless of which method was used to consume the food, it was value for money as the prices were nett, the ingredients were fresh and the service was friendly. Simple fare and yet satisfying.

美味しかったですね!

Address:
Katanashi An「型無庵」
1 Boon Tat Street, #01-01, Singapore 069611.

[Map]

Telephone: 6221 5101

Opening Hours:
11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm

Nearest MRT Station:
Telok Ayer

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Invited Tasting] 8-Course Omakase Menu at Big Sake Bar

In conjunction with Big Sake Bar’s first year anniversary, an eight-course omakase menu has been introduced and it features premium ingredients like grade A4 wagyu beef and otoro, plus an optional sake pairing option, with a choice from three seasonal sakes to suit the different customer preferences.

Located at the Concourse Skyline Building, Big Sake Bar is an izakaya concept restaurant, which boasts a large selection of over 40 different kinds of Japanese sakes and whiskeys. When I first stepped in, my eyes were immediately drawn to the back wall with all the various bottles on display!

The rest of its interior has pre-war Japanese beer posters on its brick walls and is reminiscent of a nostalgic era.

This Japanese gastropub’s trademark “大” (Japanese kanji character for “big”) emphasizes its philosophy, to be “big on food, big on service, big on sakes”. It is run by three good-looking young men, (from left to right) Co-Owners Jeremy Goh, Daniel Kwok and Head Chef Andy Quek.

In order to preserve the freshness of the ingredients and to ensure a great experience, Big Sake Bar will only seat six guests at the main sushi counter each night for their new omakase menu.

This will ensure that diners get to enjoy the full omakase experience as they watch Chef Andy at work. You can even chat with the friendly chef between courses, especially if it’s immediately after the dish has been served to you (i.e. before he starts to get busy preparing the next course).

Big Sake Bar’s new omakase menu will be available for a limited time only from 23rd October to 31st December 2017.

8-Course Omakase Menu
(Available for Dinner from Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 11pm, with advance reservation)
SGD$88 nett per person for the eight-course omakase menu.
SGD$108 nett per person for the eight-course omakase menu with sake.

Century Egg Tofu

This to me is somewhat of a fusion dish as it is usually found on the menus of Chinese restaurants. The century egg has been marinated with Chef Andy’s secret sauce, which is sweet and masks the strong flavour of the egg, so those who aren’t fans of the “100-year-old egg” may find themselves liking this! In addition, the silky smooth tofu is made in-house by the chef and is topped with sprinkles of crispy tempura flakes and slivers of spring onions. Overall, it was a nice start to the meal.


Sashimi Platter

This comprises of botan ebi, mekajiki (swordfish), salmon and aburi (i.e. seared) salmon. The seafood was fresh, the prawn was plump and firm and my favourite was the aburi salmon.


Wagyu Beef Sirloin

At first glance, this may look like a humble dish, but these are slices of grade A4 Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Sirloin flown in from Kyushu, Japan and is definitely a must-try! Although the accompanying ponzu sauce complemented the flavourful beef, I felt that it tasted just as good on its own. The marbling of the meat wasn’t overly fatty and was just right. For more information on beef grades, you can click here.


Sushi Platter

When we first set our eyes on this dish, the initial thought was on what that strange spiky thing at the far end was! It’s actually the prawn head from the botan ebi sashimi that we had earlier and a clever re-use of ingredients so that nothing is wasted.

We were told to start off with the shoyu ikura (salmon roe) and work our way down from left to right to gradually build up the flavours.

I don’t like eating ikura in Singapore, as it usually tastes a little fishy in the country’s hot and humid weather, but the one here was quite alright to me. The next morsel to chomp on was a piece of maki, topped with yuzu infused tobiko and the flying fish roe was really fresh and crunchy. Following on was the tamagoyaki, which was a bit overly sweet to me and I couldn’t really taste the flavour of the dashi stock in it (I’m quite particular when it comes to tamagoyaki, as this is one of my personal favourites).

The final bite was a challenge to eat as it was a deep fried prawn head, sat atop a blob of mentaiko mayo sauce. Now this is the typical sort of unusual food item found at Japanese izakayas and goes well when downed with alcohol. Don’t worry, it’s really crispy and you can swallow everything, plus it’s extremely flavourful! The trick to eating this is to chew off all the protruding sharp ends, which are very crispy, then munch carefully until you reach the main section of the prawn head.


Wagyu Beef Maki

This is actually a temaki (i.e. hand roll), made with wagyu beef as its key ingredient. The beef was seasoned with salt, which made it a little salty, but when eaten together with the other ingredients in one bite, the flavours actually went well together. I much preferred the previous beef dish to this one, although this was good too.


Negitoro Don

This dish uses otoro (the fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the very underside of the fish – this cut is fatty almost to the point of falling apart and can literally melt in your mouth) and is topped crisp green onions sitting atop a bed of premium Japanese rice from Akita prefecture in Japan. A raw quail’s egg is served on the side and you are supposed to add the egg into the rice bowl and mix well before eating.

Thus, I poured the egg in and voila – this is how the dish typically looks like at most restaurants in Japan:

This particular dish is probably what most Japanese will consider to be luxurious, as it contains the most precious part of the tuna.


Asari Miso Soup

People usually think of miso soup as an ordinary and simple soup dish, but the flavours of the soup stock may vary and the ingredients found in the soup may differ too. This one contained plump and firm asari clams, enoki mushrooms and cubes of tofu and the white miso-based soup had a fuller body and flavour, as the stock was made from boiling the clams.


Goma or Yuzu Ice Cream

We had the yuzu ice cream and its zesty flavour was really refreshing, plus it contained bits of peel, which gave each mouthful an extra dimension. It also helped to cleanse the palate from all the flavours from the entire meal.


(Optional) A tokkuri「徳利」 of guests’ choice of sake from a selection of three premium sakes, Toyo Bijin, Nabeshima “Pink Label” or Karakuchi Ki-ippon. Diners will first do a tasting of all three sakes, then pick their favourite one to accompany their meal.

From Left to Right: Karakuchi Ki-ippon, Toyo Bijin and Nabeshima “Pink Label”.

More information on the three different sakes:

Masumi’s Karakuchi Ki-ippon「純米吟醸 辛口生一本」 is a delightfully dry junmai ginjyo (milled to 40-50% removal of each grain of rice) from Nagano Prefecture. The word “karakuchi” means “dry” and this sake is said to be popular with drinkers.

Toyo Bijin「東洋美人」, a junmai daiginjyo (milled to at least 50% removal of each grain of rice) from the Sumikawa Shuzojo Brewery in Yamaguchi prefecture, has a clean entry with a slight sweet finish. This was previously served to President Vladimir Putin during a dinner party at the Japan-Russia summit meeting in December 2016 and it is said that Putin enjoyed the taste of this sake.

Nabeshima “Pink Label”「鍋島 特別本醸造 ピンクラベル」 is a tokubetsu honjozo (milled to 30-40% removal of each grain of rice) from Kashima City in Saga Prefecture. It is a refreshingly sweet sake, with slight effervescence and an excellent aftertaste. This was my personal favourite as I like my alcoholic beverages to be on the sweet side.

Regardless of which sake you choose, all of them go down well with the entire meal.

Overall, the meal was quite satisfying, the ingredients were fresh and my favourite dish was the Wagyu Beef Sirloin. Surprisingly, I did actually enjoy that crispy prawn head although it looked more intimidating than appetising – do give this a try and you may find that you’ll want seconds!


Address:

Big Sake Bar
302 Beach Road, #01-02 The Concourse Skyline, Singapore 199600.
[Map]

Getting There by MRT:
Nicoll Highway station exit A, take the connecting overhead bridge to cross the highway to get to The Concourse (about a 5min walk)

Seating Capacity
Indoor Table seatings – 24
Indoor Bar counter – 6
Outdoor – 12

Contact/Reservations Tel: +62912700 / 96567105

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 5pm–12am
Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays.

Email: enquiry@bigsakebar.com

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese, Media Invite | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minions Cafe in Singapore

After seeing the various posts about the Minion-themed pop-up cafes in Japan during the course of the year and wishing I was there to visit them, at last one has opened in Singapore and so I went to check it out.

This pop-up cafe is operated by The Guest Cafe & Diner, the same group who often operates different themed pop-up cafes in Japan.

The dining area isn’t that big and is decorated with minion plushies, balloons, decals and other stuff that are easily removable.

There is also a shop within the cafe premises and they sell Minion memorabilia, some of which are exclusive to the cafe.

A photo spot is available for both cafe diners, as well as those who have purchased merchandise at the shop. You will need to have made your payment, then show your receipt to the staff manning the photo booth.

As for the food, here are some of the items that I had ordered:

Menu:

If you order anything from the food or dessert menus, you will be given a limited edition placemat.

Those who order the “Minion Riceball Party” will be given a balloon on a stick as a souvenir to take home. These are some of the possible designs you may get (randomly given).

A limited edition coaster will be given with every drink order.

The desserts look cute and if you order the “Minion Pudding”, you can take home the bowl – i.e. the same bowl that your mango pudding is served in, but they will give you a new one in a box.

Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew – $20.90

This plate was definitely a carbo overload and there was more rice on the plate than there was cream stew. I usually like to soak my rice with gravy, but there wasn’t enough of the stew to go with the rice. In addition, there were only two small slices of chicken in the stew, along with some carrot, potato and broccoli. The minion’s face atop the rice is actually made using edible rice paper, which is tasteless.

A small salad is served on the side in a minion bowl.

Minions Vacation Plate – $23.90

This is supposed to have a Hawaiian theme and same rice that was used in the previous dish mentioned above, is served on this plate, but at least in a more manageable portion for smaller eaters. The hamburg steak tastes like a hamburger patty from the supermarket’s frozen section. As for the prawns, they had a bit of seasoning over them and were served with rosebuds which I guess were edible, but they were really hard and so we didn’t touch those. Our biggest surprise was the cold soup, which tasted like it was made from green peas and we even found a green apple flavoured gummy bear in it!

S’more and Minion’s Ice cream – $16.90

Desserts were probably more pleasing than the main courses in terms of taste. This came with 4 pieces of Digestive biscuits and a big portion of marshmallows, topped with mango sorbet. I found it to be less sweet if you scoop a portion of the marshmallows onto the biscuits and top it off with some of the mango ice cream.

Minion Pudding (comes with an original Minion Cup) – $24.90

Initially I had thought that the entire bowl would contain only mango pudding, but when I scooped my way down to the middle, I found that there were cornflakes and quite a fair bit of cream and cake underneath, which meant that the mango pudding only occupied the topmost layer. Unfortunately, the cornflakes had lost their crispness and so it made this overall a little disappointing.

Upside-down Minion Jelly Soda Drink – $12.90

Visually it was colourful, but it’s actually a whole cupful of jello, which tasted a bit strange and the soda was tasteless.

Be Bad Cafe Latte – $8.90

At least this cup of latte tasted normal, but we didn’t like the design of the latte art and it was stated on the menu that the designs are random and diners aren’t allowed to choose.

Coasters are given (for you to take home) with any drink purchase.

Verdict:
Full marks for the presentation of the food and the cuteness factor. However, although the ingredients are fresh, much could be improved taste-wise and overall the prices are on the high side.

Address:
Minions Cafe
Orchard Central, Level 3

Dates:
23 November to 31 December 2017

Categories: Cafe, Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Review] Addams Family Musical in Singapore (2017)

Direct from the UK, The Addams Family have recently moved into the MES Theatre at Mediacorp and have brought along their entire clan, who are classified as being either living, dead or undecided.

For those who are still unfamiliar with this musical comedy, it is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the creators of multi award-winning Jersey Boys, with music and lyrics by Tony Award nominated Andrew Lippa.

Differing from the TV series, in this musical, Wednesday Addams is all grown up now and has a shocking secret that only her father Gomez knows – she has fallen in love with a sweet young man (Lucas Beineke) from a normal respectable family. Having been pleaded by his daughter to keep his “cara mia” Morticia in the dark, audiences will get to see whether Gomez manages to keep Wednesday’s secret until the two families meet for dinner, which turns out to be an eventful evening. Will love triumph or will there be disastrous consequences?


Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

Playing the iconic role of Gomez Addams is established actor, Cameron Blakely, who was recently seen in Singapore’s season of Les Misérables as Monsieur Thenardier and also has a string of theatrical and film credits to his name. He seemed at ease with the role and sounded very convincing with his Spanish accent.

The role of Gomez’s beloved wife, Morticia Addams, is played by Rebecca Thornhill, who joins this show direct from the West End production of Mathilda The Musical, playing Mrs Wormwood to great acclaim.

If you had watched the previous run of this musical in Singapore in 2013, which was from the USA, this current production showcases a brand new orchestration and presentation. The sets look different in this West End version and it has also scaled down on the number of props used as compared to the Broadway version. According to the producers, having fewer props makes it easier for the show to go on tour.

Opening set:

Music is played live and you can find the musicians in the orchestra pit. Now this is what the real musical theatre experience should be like!

It’s funny how my favourite scenes in the musical have changed with this UK production. My new favourites are the opening scene and “Pulled”.

Wednesday Addams is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, who previously played Éponine in Les Misérables. Apart from having an impressive theatrical and acting credit, she also has a strong social media following.

I loved her vocals, especially in “Pulled” and found that this song seems to grow on you, as I was even singing it when I got home.

25-year-old Grant McIntyre made the role of Pugsley Addams very believable and I wouldn’t have guessed his age if I didn’t know it!

Full Disclosure – this scene is one of the highlights of the show, so do pay attention otherwise you might miss the plot!

Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

Excerpts from the musical:

There were many comedic moments in the show and I especially liked the part when Uncle Fester, played by Cory English, took a dig at the members of the audience who were seated at the cheapest seats!

During the night that I watched the show, somehow the audience didn’t get it when Lurch, played by Dickon Gough, broke out in song. I guess probably only true Addams Family fans will find it funny, as they will know that this butler usually only speaks in a series of grunts and groans.

I was somewhat horrified to find that “Thing”, whom I’ve always known to be a hand, turned out to be an arm in this show!

Despite feeling unsettled by the new interpretation of “Thing”, another one of my favourite songs is “Crazier Than You”, which features Wednesday and the Beineke family.

Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

I thought the sound system at the MES Theatre was excellent, as we could hear every single word that was being spoken and sung. However, during some of the group scenes, the lead singer sometimes gets drowned out by the other vocals and thus I felt it could have been better if the sound balancing was tweaked a little.


Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

The cast members divulged that they had injected some of their own interpretations to their characters. I thought they all did a great job!

Family ties are extremely strong in the Addams Family, so do come and meet this kooky family. I’ll leave you with parting words that the entire Addams clan will articulate to you,
“It’s family first and family last
And family by and by
When you’re an Addams
You do what Addams do or die!”

Venue:
MES Theatre at Mediacorp
[Map]

Getting There by MRT:
One North Station – take exit A and walk towards the left for about 11min.

Show Dates:
15 Nov 2017 – 03 Dec 2017

Show Times:
Tues – Fri: 8pm
Sat & Sun: 2:30pm & 8pm

Ticket Prices:
$65, $95, $135, $165 (excludes booking fee)


Special thanks to Mediacorp Vizpro for the invite to The Addams Family musical!

Categories: Media Invite, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toripy「トリピー」: Tottori Prefecture’s mascot

Tottori Prefecture「鳥取県」 is well-known for its pears, which they name as 20th century pears「二十世紀梨」 and thus it’s not surprising that its mascot has incorporated some pear elements.

Toripy「トリピー」 first appeared in 1997, as a mascot at the Yume Minato Expo「夢みなと博覧会」 and since then he has been a tourism mascot for Tottori Prefecture (in case you’re wondering why I used “he”, that because according to his biodata, this mascot is of the masculine gender).

He is part pear and part bird, but please don’t ask me to attempt to guess what kind of creature that makes him. Regardless, I do think he is cute!


(photo of Toripy and a tourism official taken at the Japan Rail Cafe, when they visited Singapore as part of a Tottori promotional event)

Categories: Japan, Tottori Prefecture (鳥取県) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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