27 August, 2008

Astons Specialities - The Cathay

Anyone who has slight interest in food will probably heard about Astons Specialities.

In fact with its fast expansion strategy, Astons Specialities and Beef Steaks are almost akin to McDonald’s and Hamburgers nowadays.

With Astons Specialities & Astons Prime located in Katong, and the numerous Astons Express outlets located at the heartlands, HFB is happy to announce that a new Astons Specialities has finally come to TOWN and is located at The Cathay Building!

With its simple wood-based furbishing and its signatured chalkboard indicating the Special of the Day, HFB couldn’t resist himself but be tempted by the promotion screaming WAGYU RIBEYE Grade 5/6 - $38.90nett [including 2 side dishes] and end up ordering it along with Sweet Corn and Coleslaw.

The sweet corn patted with butter was satisfyingly sweet – love it! As for the coleslaw, I would prefer the cut of the veggies be thinner, but otherwise it was normal.

Grilled to a perfect charred on the outside and medium rare on the inside, what sets this wagyu ribeye apart from the normal ribeye is the tenderness of the meat - marbled with monounsaturated fats; the natural juices that gushed out with each chew were such a delight! Also, the lingering tint of sweetness on the palate was pure enjoyment.

But coming back to reality, HFB wasn’t fully satisfied with 200gm of meat, and he was harbouring over his dining partner’s Prime Ribeye X’tra Cut ($16.50nett) that was much thicker and bigger.

Besides nicely cooked to medium rare, what HFB found lacking in the wagyu, was ironically satisfied by the X’tra Cut – the “Beefy” taste!

A personal preference, HFB believes a beef should taste like beef and that was somehow missing from the wagyu, or perhaps he is just not used to eating wagyu.

*** So to be accustoming to this rare breed of beef, HFB will be organising an Australian Wagyu Grade 9 Makan Session (Yes you heard it right!!!) on Sep 3 (Wednesday), 7pm at the Astons Specialities, The Cathay. The price of meat is $89.90nett for a 250gm with 2 sides. For those who find it too expensive, or prefer a smaller cut, there will also be Wagyu Grade 5/6 Striploin, 200 gm, for $35.90nett or the above Wagyu 5/6 Ribeye, 200gm, for $38.90nett make available for you. Before you say “Eh, but that’s the same price if we walk-in, no big deal!” The man himself, Mr Aston Soon has graciously agreed to be grilling your Wagyu Beef that evening and even generously throw in a FREE house pour (red wine) for every wagyu ordered. So if you are interested, do email me your name, contact number, the no. of pax and the choice of beef to hisfoodblog@gmail.com now! Closing date for the sign-up is 30 August, Sunday, 2359hrs. ***


Food:4/5 (Nicely marbled beef with enjoyable sides)
Service: 3/5 (Decent service)
Ambience: 3.5/5 (Simple decor and comfortable)
Price: 5/5 ($59.80 is VERY affordable!)
Total: 15.5/20
2 Handy Road
#04-23/24, The Cathay
Singapore 179030

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26 August, 2008

Tampopo - Best (Kurobuta) Pork Cutlet

Relocated to #01-23/24, Liang Court (formerly #B1-50) in April 2008, Tampopo has expanded and found itself a more spacious dwelling within the vicinity.

Completed with sleek modern furnishing with conventional wooden blinds on the sides of the restaurant (that faces the shopping centre), one will be able to find authentic Japanese cuisine such as their award winning Shabu Shabu Ramen, using Kyushu Ramen, and matched with pork bone soup, cooked for 2 days in Tampopo.

However, my purpose that evening was to sample their renowned Top Grade Loin Cutlet ($21.80) that only can be achieved using, what else but the Kurobuta Pork, that is acknowledged for their superb meat marbling (think Wagyu for beef). Even the exclamation of “Oiishi!” wasn’t lavish enough to shower what I deemed to be the perfect pork cutlet in town.

Freshly fried, the light breaded crust was crispy on the outside, yet tender, succulent and a tint of sweetness on the inside – definitely no sign of those dry, overcooked meat you get from elsewhere. A wrench of the lemon and a dip of Hot English Mustard on the cutlet, also seeks to bring out another tantalising sensation to one’s penchant.

For an additional of $4, one can also choose to upgrade to a set that comes with Rice, Pickles, Tomato and Lettuce Salad, Miso Soup and Watermelon to finish off.

A great pity though that the service that night didn’t quite match up to the food. One of their Chinese service staff couldn’t quite understand my non-Chinese friend’s enunciation and the rest of us have to step in and assist her in taking orders.

And thereafter, she had the audacity to walk up to the back of my poor friend, tap him on the shoulder and requested him to pass the food to the other side of the table instead of coming around – not once, not twice but THREE times that evening – I think that’s just plain rude.

And if there wasn’t any worse, my ceramic plate of pickles that came with my set was chipped – even though one didn’t have to eat from it, it just goes to show how thoughtful the management was.

Food:5/5 (Best Pork Cutlet in Town)
Service: 2/5 (FAIL, read above)
Ambience: 3.5/5 (Nice decor, but it was noisy on a Friday evening)
Price: 3.5/5 (Paying for quality rather than quantity)
Total: 14/20
177, River Valley Road
#01-23/24, Liang Court Shopping Centre
Singapore 179030

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22 August, 2008

Prego - Spaghetti & Meatball Eating Challenge

Are you a glutton? Are you greedy? Then Prego’s Spaghetti & Meatball Eating Challenge is just the right affair for you.

Nestled in
Fairmont Hotel Singapore, Prego is a contemporary, chic restaurant that serves hearty authentic Italian fare.

From now till 30 August (YES, you
only have one more week!!!), Head Chef Salvatore Silvestrino challenges you to test your eating prowess with his spectacular offering of Spaghetti and Meatball.

For $12.00 nett only, each participant not only gets a special serving of spaghetti, it also comes with a souvenir photo and a complimentary t-shirt to complement their mouth-filling experience.

On 6 Sep, the top 50 participants will battle it out and compete with no less than Chef Salvatore himself in the final “Eat Off”.

The grand champion stands to win a whole month’s weekend brunch experience for two at Prego valued at over S$1,000!!! And the first runner-up can enjoy a romantic and elegant dinner for two. Raising up to the challenge, HFB dutifully signed up for the event and is proud to proclaim that he finished his plate of pasta in 4mins 05secs *BURP*.

And if you think that is commendable, try beating the current record of 1min 36secs – BRAVO! So what are you waiting for? Gather your relatives and friends and have some fun with this one-of-a kind epicurean adventure. For reservations and/or enquiries, please call 6431 6156 or email dining.Singapore@fairmont.com.

Meanwhile kindly allow HFB to excuse himself as he is suffering from indigestion. Kids, please do not try this at home!

*** If speed eating is not your cup of tea, HFB is also offering one lucky reader a free subscription to La Cucina Italiana, US edition of Italy’s oldest and most popular cooking magazine. All you need to do is write in to hisfoodblog@gmail.com and tell him all about your favourite homemade spaghetti sauce recipe. Winning entry should include step-by-step procedures and ingredients needed to create this sensational sauce. Do be reminded to include your name and mailing address when you submit your entries. Multiple entries are allowed (different recipes of course la!) This contest will run till 31 August (Sun). ***

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21 August, 2008

En Japanese Dining Bar - Okinawan Cuisine Served Izakaya Style

A modern Japanese dining bar well known for its signatured Okinawa cuisine, Yakitori-ya and wide variety of appetisers and dishes, En Japanese Dining Bar carries a wide range of Sake, Beer and other alcoholic drinks in their menu as they are Izakaya-styled, or 居酒屋.

, izakaya Because of the difference in culture, climate and vegetables, the Okinawan cuisine is very different from the mainland Japanese cuisine. Since Okinawans traditionally practiced Shamanistic religion and not Buddhism, pork formed part of the Okinawan diet while people on the main Japanese islands did not eat much meat until the mid-19th century.

As such, one gets to amuse himself with delicious Enoki Bacon Yakitori ($7.00), where nicely grilled bacon was wrapped around a thick bunch of Enoki Mushrooms that was so juicy when chomped.

Another enjoyable appetiser dish was that of the Japanese Styled Beef Carpaccio ($9.00 for half size), consisting of Thinly Sliced Raw Beef topped with Sliced Onions, Spring Onions and Sour Soya Sauce. It was a great harmony between the meat and the intense flavours of the toppings and sauce – a guaranteed satisfaction for all beef lovers!

Having seen prices of their sashimi gone up and slices of their fishes became thinner, I ordered the Imaiyu Salad ($15.00) for my sashimi fix instead. A Fresh Sashimi Salad with Special Blended Vegetable Dressing, chunks of Tuna and Salmon, among others, were scattered copiously within the purple lettuce, rocket and other vegetables. A generous dash of Tobiko also gave it an additional smoky/salty edge to it.

I don’t remembered En having an extensive Sushi menu when I last went but it seemed that they had a shift from the Okinawa cuisine and decided to cater more to their customers from the main stream. Bored of the usual Salmon Belly Sushi, I decided to go Aburi ($3.00 each) instead and have it slightly seared. By doing that it rapidly heats the fat and made the salmon belly creamier and invoked it’s flavour. One also got to enjoy the omega fats trickling down into the sushi rice rendering it tangier.

If all else fail and one is still hungry, that’s where the Unagi Fried Rice ($13.00) comes in. Although slightly greasier than the normal sort, the Smoked Eel brought to the rice a sweeter, and intense fragrance. Generous chunks of eel were graciously mingled over the rice and the serving is more than enough for two.

By and large HFB have to declare that En Japanese Dining Bar is one of his favourite Jap dining restaurant for the value one gets.

Food:4.5/5 (Nothing much to pick on)
Service: 4/5 (Staff were friendly and service was quick)
Ambience: 3.5/5 (Sat indoors and was slightly smoky)
Price: 4/5 ($78.39 - Quality food, value for money)
Total: 16/20
207, River Valley Road
#01-57, UE Square
Singapore 238275

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19 August, 2008

Tai Wah Pork Noodle - Battle of the Bak Chor Mee Giants

While his dad, Mr Tang Chai Chye inherited his late father's Teochew Bak Chor Mee recipe in 1975. The son laid his hands on it 3 years ago in 2005, and opened his own Tai Wah Pork Noodle stall at Hong Lim Food Centre. Faced with a GIANT in the form of the legendary Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee in the same lair, can junior Tang hold his fort and put up a good fight for the acclaimed title of Best Bak Chor Mee in Hong Lim Food Centre?

While the older Tang claims that the secret to his noodles lies in the quality of his black vinegar, I dare dispute that it is their noodles that did the trick. Slightly thicker than the usual Mee Kia we are familiar with, the springy bite and silky texture is so consistent that one can end up slurping just the noodles alone to be satisfied.

With plenty of ingredients – Minced Pork, Pork Ball, Pig Liver, and Sliced Pork – in a $4 bowl of noodles, one cannot help but to fall in love with this bowl of noodles, or so I thought, until I had a sip of the soup and a bite of the Teochew Keow, or Dumpling. The Dumpling Soup ($4) was virtually tasteless with a smidgen of “water” taste – it was diluted and lacked of flavour. The dumpling was also slightly undercooked, with the skin still slightly firm – but the saving grace was the Fried Sole Fish that is found within it that gives it an extra vivacity.

Given time, Tai Wah Pork Noodle @ Hong Lim might dislodge Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee from its standings with its superior supply of noodles, but the lacked of an experienced pair of hands (pay attention to their quick flicks of wrist with every step) means HFB still flavours the legend dispute its recent decline.

Food: 3.5/5 (Quality of noodles is excellent, but dumpling was undercooked)
Service: 3/5 (Slow service)
Ambience: 2.5/5 (Food Centre - Very humid and crowded during lunch)
Price: 3/5 (Price is affordable but disappointed with the $4 bowl of dumpling soup)
Total: 12/20
Block 531A Upper Cross Street
#02-17, Hong Lim Food Centre
Singapore 510531

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16 August, 2008

Vibe Restaurant - Premium Meat Extravaganza

Made a reservation for two at Vibe Restaurant, situated within Pan Pacific Orchard (formerly known as Hotel Negara along Claymore Road, behind Thai Embassy) when they were running the Premium Meat Extravaganza Promotion in July.

Priced at $78 before taxes, we were fortunate enough to be among the first 20 pax to make an advance reservation for that day, and thus enjoyed a 20% discount ($15.60), making it $62.40 per person.

And for that price, we were told that we could indulged in unlimited servings of premium cuts such as US Kobe beef, Wagyu beef, and Kurobuta Pork, Churrascaria style.

We were instructed by the manager to start off with some soup and bread for appetisers, but let me tell you that neither of them was fantastic and the polite gesture was probably a nice decoy to fill up our stomach before the meat takes centre stage.

That aside, they had a couple of other cold cuts and seafood items to distract us – and diverted my attention was, as the Oysters were really unsullied and burly and I had two helpings of it, along with other inconsequential items.

Once we were done with the obligatory appetisers, the manager finally signalled for the Passadors, who came arrived on our table with hot skewers of meat. First up – the Rump Steak, which is a lean cut and was moderately tough. The lacked of fats and marbling makes them dry out when cooked with dry-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling. It tasted quite “beefy” and none of the delicate flavour one gets next.

What is so special about “Wagyu” is because this breed of cattle is genetically predisposed to intense marbling, and produces a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats than any other breed of cattle known in the world. However, I was utterly disappointed when I tasted it – although more delicate flavoured than the rump steak, it tasted more chewy than tender and the “melt in your mouth” effect was lost on me. In additional, I felt it was overcooked, as the meat wasn’t very juicy.

The difference between “Kobe” beef and Wagyu is that Kobe beef comes from Wagyu breed of cattle. But only after rigid production standards imposed in the prefecture of Kobe, Japan, will then the designation/appellation of
Kobe” Beef be bestowed upon the meat. However as land and grain in Japan are expensive, the cattle is now shipped overseas and raised to the exactingly specified Kobe standards – and that’s how US Kobe beef came about. Another meat, which I felt, was over-done; the Kobe beef surprisingly tasted finer and more tender than the Wagyu. This was probably the best meat I have eaten that evening, or was there more to come?

The Beef Rib was intense with smoky flavour, but was deplorably dry and slightly charred for my palate. Didn’t really enjoy this piece of meat very much.

The wrapping of Bacon around the Tenderloin was quite another catastrophe that night – the flavour of the bacon totally engulfed the beef, rendering it a piece of tasteless red meat – a pity I must say since its rather tender even though the “doneness” was well-done to medium well.

The Kurobuta Pork wasn’t as fantastic as I thought it would be. Fat was lacking, rendering the meat not as moist as it should be – not the best Kurobuta Pork I have tasted.

Undeterred by the experience, I gestured for the Passadors and appealed for a special request – Kobe Beef to be done in medium-rare – and boy was I charmed. Allow the picture below to speak a thousand words.

The Grilled Pineapple Coated with Cinnamon Powder and Brown Sugar was a pleasant surprise as a palate cleanser as well as a dessert. Even myself who is not a big fan of the fruit was enthralled by it.

For others, there are of course other choices to end the evening – by their delightful Chocolate Fountain for a treat of Chocolate Fondue, or the cheese plate, which serves a wonderful range of cheese as well as the many choices of cake, mousse or pudding.

Overall, I wasn’t exactly impressed with the quality of meat they served, and a pity that I enjoyed the Oysters more – which kinda defeats the purpose of a Premium Meat Extravaganza.

Food:2.5/5 (Expectations were high, but meat was a disappointment)
Service: 4/5 (Staff were very friendly and approachable)
Ambience: 3.5/5 (Quiet, simple yet classy)
Price: 2.5/5 ($146.89 wasn't really well spent)
Total: 12.5/20
10, Claymore Road
Level 1, Pan Pacific, Orchard
Singapore 229540 [CLOSED]

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