Today is Giving Tuesday.
It is a National day of giving and you can play a part in making December 3 to be Singapore's biggest day of giving!
You all may know about our latest ieatishootipost T shirts. Those of you who have ordered the T shirts should be receiving them any time now. Together with TeeFaction.com, we have managed to raise $2000 from the sales of the T shirts. I want to thank Mark from TeeFaction for donating their portion of the profits to our cause. I have had a great experience working with TeeFaction to print these T Shirts. Basically, all I had to do was to provide the design and whoever wanted a T shirt would visit the Teefaction.com/ieatishootipost to order their T shirts. Once the T shirts are printed, they are sent direct. The quality of the silkscreen printing is excellent and there was minimal administrative work on my part!
Over the last few months, we have also managed to raise another $7000 from our various makan activities. I had initially planned to do food drops in Batam, but because of Typhoon Haiyan I have decided to channel our funds to help the victims there first.
The ieatishootipost community will be donating $9000 to Goducate for their work in helping the people affected by the typhoon. I have just spoken with Dr Paul Choo who has just returned from the Philippines. He has a team there who are helping the people there rebuild their communities. They are now focusing their efforts on setting up temporary shelters in order to start up schools and teaching the locals how to to use chainsaws to make planks from the fallen trees in order to rebuild their houses. They are also providing seeds and worms to produce organic fertilizers (vermi-composting) so that they can start growing their own food. You can read more about their work there on their website.
The scriptures say that "It is more blessed to give then to receive". This is a fundamental truth in any culture or religion. I am only citing Goducate as one way in which you can help. There are needs everywhere, both locally and abroad, so there are plenty of opportunities to give. Do give a thought today about how you too can experience the joy of giving!
More info about GivingTuesdaySG.
More info about Goducate.
US Wagyu Karubi Donburi set $33
I often get asked what my last meal would be. The first time I had to answer this question was when Teo Pau Lin interviewed me for the very first "Foodie Confidential" column in the Sunday Times way back in 2007. I couldn't just give a simple answer, so I came up with something a little more "beat around the bushy":
"Who cares about the last meal? There is a heavenly banquet prepared for me on the other side which will make all the Matsuzaka beef on earth taste like bad vegetarian bee hoon" (Sunday Times, 13 May 2007)
If you read between the lines, you would know that what I was trying to say was that my favourite food of all time are slivers of lightly grilled Matsuzaka A5 Wagyu atop of a mouthful of perfectly steamed Koshihikari rice that has been mixed with mentaiko furikake.
Five Piece Sashimi - Part of the Beef Donburi Set
The first mouthful is always a sublime moment for me. I would close my eyes and spend the next minute in meditative introspection. It is not just about taste, but also about sensual textures and seductive sounds. The release of the sweet bovine juices gradually mixing into a mouthful of pillowy warm rice punctuated by the popping sound of the tiny mentaiko bursting between the teeth fills me with insane gratification. For some of us, this may be that one moment of the day when one gets to experience pure unadulterated pleasure! Savour that moment, because soon you would be back in front of the computer to find 50 new emails screaming for your attention!
Japanese Ohmi Wagyu Donburi Kaiseki set $59
I have been going around trying to find good Beef Donburi sets. Amazingly, there really isn't a place in Singapore that does this as a specialty dish. Ok, we do have Yoshinoya but that's a fast food joint. So I asked some of my friends in the restaurant industry for help.
Last week, I introduced Aji Ichi's value for money, sub $10 Beef Donburi set. This week we move a bit up market. Chef Thomas of Hokkaido sushi agreed to do two Beef Donburi sets for me.
The first set is $33 set which features US Wagyu Karubi with Hokkaido yumepirika rice that has been mixed with mentaiko furikake. The set comes with a 5 piece sashimi dish and miso soup.
The 2nd set is for those who really enjoy Japanese Wagyu. Hokkaido uses Ohmi Wagyu which is considered one of the top three Wagyu brands in Japan. The other two being Kobe and Matsuzaka. The Ohmi Wagyu Beef kaiseki set costs $59 and comes with the 5 piece sashimi as the first course, then followed by Ohmi Beef Donburi as well as tempura (another of my favourite Japanese dishes) and fish head soup.
The Japanese Ohmi is, of course, more luscious than the US Wagyu, but the US Wagyu uses the shortrib cut which has a wonderful beefy flavour which I really enjoy! 4.5/5
I love Beef Donburi and if you do too, then I hope these special sets would help satisfy that craving!
Special for Ieatishootipost readers
10% off when you mention ieatishootipost donburi set when you order. Valid till end of Dec 2013.
M Hotel, Level 9
81 Anson Road
I know Chef Thomas quite well and I have designed these sets to include my favourite dishes using quality ingredients while keeping the prices reasonable. I didn't pay for my meals nor am I being paid for my work as food consultant.
Beef Don $7.50
My friend Aston of Aston Specialties really understands the heart of Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are Kiasu (afraid to lose out) and a natural manifestation of this trait is that whenever we buy anything, we want it "Cheap and Good". Nothing is worse that buying an item at what is thought to be a good price and then finding out that your friend managed to buy it cheaper! Aston has exploited this Singaporean trait when he opened his first Astons Specialties along East Coast Road. By providing good quality steaks at affordable prices, he has managed to build a household brand name within a few years and will soon be expanding beyond our shores into Indonesia and China.
He is now trying to do the same for Japanese food.
Aji Ichi has been around for a few months now and I have been tracking its progress. Aston has had some experience with Japanese cuisine when he opened the now defunct Maeda, a joint venture between him and a Japanese chef. But he hadn't quite gotten a good grasp of Japanese food when he first opened Aji Ichi. Since then, he had traveled to Japan twice and is now ready take on the very competitive market for Japanese food here.
If his Beef Donburi is anything to go by, I think he is going to put some price pressure on many of the casual Japanese eateries around.
Aston uses genuine Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture for the rice bowl. This rice is regarded by many to be the very best in Japan and is usually found only in top end Japanese restaurants. The beef is a thinly sliced US plate and chuck that is simmered with a special donburi sauce imported from Japan. At $7.50 for a large bowl that is big enough for an NSman who has just finished a 24km road march (OK maybe he needs 2 bowls).
The beef is very good. It has a good beefy flavour and enough marbling to give it a nice bouncy texture. It can get a little dry if it is overcooked, so make sure you let the chef know if you like your beef a little pink. It is, of course, not as luscious (or as expensive) as Wagyu, so it is not something that you feel you need to slowly savour one mouthful at a time to make your dollar stretch further. Rather, it is something you would quickly wolf down, enjoying the sensation of big, warm mouthfuls of rice laced with sweet beefiness, then sit back and feel really happy that you managed to get so much satisfaction for just $7.50! 4.5/5
Tonkotsu Charshu Ramen $7.90
There has been of late, several local guys taking on the Ramen market. I have written about homebaked dough before and since then, there has been a few other stalls sprouting up in coffeeshops. Aston wants to serve up a bowl of quality Ramen for less than $10. He uses noodles that are manufactured by a Japanese company in Malaysia and has been using a soup base from Japan. However, he wasn't too happy with the quality of the soup and has started to make his own stock using pork bones which are boiled for 24 hours. His bowl of Ramen is tastes better than many of the mass market Ramen you find at the shopping centres, but hasn't quite reach the standards of the good Japanese ones. His normal ramen using the soup base from Japan is $7.90 and for a dollar more, you can opt for the soup he makes himself which is richer and has more body. As my ACS friends would like to say, "The best is yet to be!". For us Saints, I predict that Aji Ichi would be going "Up and On!" 4/5
I am excited that Aston is taking on Japanese food! At $7.50, a bowl, this is probably the cheapest place in town that you can eat Beef Donburi that is made with US beef and imported Japanese Koshihikari rice!
I know Aston very well since the early days when he first started. Since then I have been invited by him to give feedback on his many of his new dishes. This review is written after a few rounds of tasting. I don't pay for my meals but neither does Aston pay me for food consultancy. What we both want is good quality food at value for money prices for all to enjoy!
Blk 139, Tampines St 11
Fu Chan Coffeeshop
11.30am to 3pm
5pm to 10pm
Kopi Gu You (Coffee with Butter)
Coffeeshops like Heap Seng Leong might be a distant memory for some and stuff of legend for others. Most Singaporeans would have probably heard of the uncle in pajama pants making kopi. Some might not even know what a pair of pajama pants look like. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, they bring back fond memories of a Singapore when there was no COE and buses had no doors. Those were the days when blackouts were an opportunity to play with candles and kids were still catching spiders. For Gen Yers, what I just said are just grandfather stories of a mythical past.
77 year old Mr Shi making kopi
Stepping into Heap Seng Leong is like stepping into a time portal. I was immediately transported to a Singapore in the 70's when I was growing up. This place seems to have been trapped in a time warp while the rest of Singapore is surging toward "happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation".
Not only has time stood still, the passage of time in this kopitiam also seems to have slowed down. While the rest of Singapore is in a perpetual rush, the pace of life here is like a leisurely stroll with grandma on a walking stick. Here, you will find old men who would buy a cup of kopi for 70 cents and spend the next two hours reading the papers while being lulled by the rhythmic gyrations of the ceiling fans. The tranquil scene only betrayed by the occasional ringtone of a handphone followed by the broadcast of a private telephone conversation for all to hear.
Here, it is fashionable to be old-fashioned. All the things that you might be a little embarrassed to do at Starbucks, you can do here with impunity. So go ahead and sip your coffee from the saucer! Try some traditional Kopi Gu You (Coffee with melted butter). I know it makes a lot of people cringe but it is no worse than a Coffee Vienna. It isn't something that I would advocate you do at home or anywhere else. But when you are at Heap Seng Leong, you have permission to do it, just for the sake of preserving our culinary heritage. Just don't do it too often.
This is one of the few places left in Singapore that one can catch a glimpse of Singapore past. It is a living museum which I hope will continue to resist the onslaught of progress. As of now, the owner of the premises is happy to let it remain as it is. But all it takes is for someone to buy over the shop and before you know it, it will be selling Italian pizza.
What can we do to preserve this? Can we not confer some form of National Heritage status so that it receives some protection? We need places like this so that our kids know where we came from and what it was like in the past. When all of these places disappear, we will lose a part of us that makes us truly Singaporean. We will become generic citizens of a generic city, just like that generic cup of kopi you find at the generic food court.
Oh, by the way.... our forefathers really knew something. The kopi with butter here is super good! 4.5/5
Heap Seng Leong
Blk 10 North Bridge Road, #01-5109
4am to 7pm daily
Poached Beef Short Rib with Bean Sprouts $15
"This reminds me of a story, looooong before your time, in the Southern province of China......"
I am sure that many of us are familiar with this line from "Under One Roof" which was made famous by Moses Lim's character, Tan Ah Teck waaaaaaay back in the 90's!
Somehow, I still think of the 90's as quite recent. Not like the 70's and 80's which feel like a long time ago. But when you watch episodes of "Under One Roof" you begin to realize how time flies!
Moses Lim, as you know, went on to become quite a gourmand and you can see standees of him recommending restaurants across the island. He also organizes food trips overseas and has recently been made ambassador for Korean food and was even conferred an award in a certain province of Korea. So much for the Southern province of China!
Sliced Fish Porridge $6.50
With such a refined palate for good food, one would expect that his restaurant would serve up food that would satisfy us "Live to Eat" types.
That would be quite a safe assumption.
Singapore Style Porridge is a restaurant that is opened by his daughter Grace together with her husband who is the chef. They started off last year as an air-conditioned place for "Jok", the Hainanese style porridge that we are all familiar with. What makes the porridge different is the way in which it is prepared.
Traditional Hainanese porridge is made with a plain rice porridge which is made by boiling rice and water until the rice is just broken. When you place your order, this plain rice porridge is then cooked in a small pot and this is the stage when the ingredients and seasonings are added. What Singapore Style Porridge has done differently is to take it up a notch by using some of the techniques used for Cantonese style congee. Unlike the Hainanese porridge that uses water to cook the rice, in the Cantonese version, the rice is cooked in pork stock. This extra step produces congee with extra umami. So you can say that Singapore Style Porridge is an Canto-Hainanese porridge that combines the best of both worlds.
The flavour of the jok was very good but I thought that the liquid component lacked a certain level of smoothness. I guess what I was looking for is a a smooth jok ala Cantonese style, with broken rice, ala Hainanese style. Another thing on my wish list is some You Tiao (fried dough sticks) to go with the porridge. To me, that is a very important component of jok! 4/5
Short Rib Beef Hor Fun (Leslie's Special) $15
It was a good idea to use stock to cook the porridge but the problem is the lay person wouldn't be able to tell the difference immediately. The usual response is that the porridge is very nice, but $6.50 is double the price you pay at the hawker centre! It is because of this and the fact that Singaporeans are not used to going to a restaurant just to eat porridge that they have decided to bring in the Cze Char dishes.
The one dish that really stood out for me was the poached beef short ribs with bean sprouts. Unlike a lot of other Cze Char that use mediocre beef cuts, they use a nicely marbled USDA beef short ribs here which makes a whole world of difference to the dish! The beef goes very well with the bean sprouts and is will also go well with a bowl of jok. 4.5/5
I liked the beef so much that I just had to try their beef hor fun, but when it arrived it was their normal beef hor fun ($8) which was not made with the same beef! So I asked them why they didn't use their excellent USDA beef short ribs? Their response is as much the same as every other hawker stall owner and it is that they are afraid that their customers won't be willing to pay so much at a Cze Char place. So I re-ordered a plate of beef hor fun using an extra portion of their beef short ribs ($15) and it was very good! It would have been perfect if the hor fun itself had a bit more wok hei! 4.25/5
NB: The $15 USDA Beef Short Rib hor fun is not on the menu, you need to ask for the "Leslie's Special"
Taiwanese style braised platter $8
Moses Lim's wife is Taiwanese and so when they added a braised platter to their menu, they just had to use a Taiwanese style braising sauce. That meant that they had to specially procure the soy sauce and herbs just to make this dish. The resulting dish is something that has a distinct flavour not usually found locally. Cactuskit loved the dish and especially like the braising sauce over the jok. I am not so used to the Taiwanese flavour, but it was a good braised platter which I wouldn't mind ordering again. I think that it is the kind of thing that would grow on you. 4/5
Prawn Rolls $10
The prawn rolls here are excellent. I know that I have said before that I have never really had a bad prawn roll, but neither have I had one that really stood out. Well, I take it back because the prawn rolls here do stand out. Firstly, they are really big, unlike most other places where you can pop one into your mouth, you will need two bites for this. The meat and prawn filling also has a very nice texture that is tender, yet has a good bounce to it. Moses tells me that they make extra effort to get the bouncy texture by slapping the meat with their hands. They also do the same for the pork balls which they use for their porridge which I thought were also very nice. 4.25/5
Salted Egg Eel Skin $15
If you are looking for a snack that is crispy and full of yummy umami, then the salted egg crispy eel skin is what you are looking for. This is the kind of dish that I would have preferred to take with plain porridge but it goes well with the jok too. Their salted egg sauce is pretty good and it doesn't come with a pool of melted Planta margarine at the bottom which is the problem with a lot of other Cze Chars that I have come across. A nightmare for the health promotion board and certainly not for those who have been chided by their doctor, mother, wife about their cholesterol levels! 4.25/5
The quality of the food here is very good. You can't expect any less from Moses Lim. The simple and comfortable settings make it a conducive place for the family and the combination of Hainanese style porridge with Cze Char is quite unique. I am just not sure how long they will keep calling themselves Singapore Style Porridge? The name is very creative because 真粥道 (Zhen zhou dao - lit real porridge flavour) sounds like its sounds exactly the same as 真周到 (good hospitality) so I am sure they would like keep it. But now that the Cze Char is such a prominent feature, the name just fails to capture the essence of the place!
228 Tanjong Katong Road
12am to 2.30pm,
5.30pm to 9.30pm
Common name: Indian White Prawn
Local name: Ang Kar Hei 红脚虾 (lit red leg prawn)
Ang Kar prawns are one of the most abundant wild sea prawns which you can find at the wet markets. That is why it is the most common prawn that is used by jumbo Prawn Mee places. The shell is thin and the tail is very meaty, so you do get a good amount of prawn meat per kilo. They are easily recognizable at the markets by their shape. Their tail tends to be broad and flat and although they are called "Ang Kah" which means "red leg" in Hokkien, they don't always have red coloured legs. Their colour ranges from a transparent yellowish white to a reddish hue and can grow to quite a large size as shown in the photo above.
Common name: Banana prawn
Local name: Ang Kar Hei 红脚虾 (lit red leg prawn)
There are actually two different species of prawns that are called Ang Kah at the market. It is a little bit of a technicality since both taste almost the same. So if you are not really into these kinds of details, you might want to skip the next bit.
The two species in question are the Indian White (F. indicus) and Banana Prawn (F. merguiensis). They look very similar. The only way to tell them apart is to look at their rostrum (that pointy bit on top of their heads). The rostrum of the F. merguiensis tends to be higher and more triangular shaped than the F. indicus. You can also inspect the 3rd maxilliped of the adult male prawn to confirm. (See fig 54 below. The third maxilliped looks like the first pair of legs. Prawns have five pairs of crawling legs (pereiopods), so if you count the five pairs of legs on the head starting from the tail end, you will find a sixth pair which is not actually the leg, but the 3rd maxilliped. This is considered a part of the mouth)
Graphic from FAO species identification sheets
The flesh of the Ang Kah is very bouncy, crunchy and sweet but it lacks flavour. It is great for dishes where you pan fry the prawn with the shell on and then coat it with sauce, eg Har Lok prawns because the shell is thin and flexible like a piece of cellophone, and it is nice to lick the sauce off the prawn shells and suck on them. They also do well in a prawn curry as the meat is firm. Some people like them as tempura but I prefer something like Sua Lor or Green Tiger prawns for tempura as they are more flavourful.
Common name: Indian White Prawn
Local name: Peh Chi (白刺) (white whiskers)
Sometimes you might come across prawns that are called Peh Chi (白刺 - lit white whiskers) by the fishmongers. These are actually juvenile Ang Kahs which are white in colour with yellowish white legs. Prawn fanciers tend to favour the Peh Chi because of their sweeter taste and more tender texture.
Common Name: False White Prawn
Local Name: 玻璃虾 (Glass Prawn)
When it comes to seafood, freshness is paramount. Prawns are at their best if they are consumed within four days of when they are captured. You can tell that the prawn is fresh by inspecting their heads. Once the prawn dies, the digestive enzymes that are located in the head will start to eat into the flesh in the tail. As a result, the prawn head becomes loose. The digestive enzymes will go on to break down the flesh of the tail which results in mushy prawn meat. One way of preserving the quality of the meat is to remove the heads immediately when you buy the prawns. Either that or cook the prawns straightaway to deactivate the enzymes. I often see cooked prawns being sold in Australia but it is seldom seen here in Singapore as the locals like to see the whole prawn, not just the tail. So the best thing is to buy really fresh prawns from the wet market.
Freshness is a function of the distance the prawn has to travel from the place where it was caught to the local wet market where it is sold. So, prawns from the South China Sea will not be as fresh as the ones caught locally. There are two species of locally caught prawns which are sold by the really good fishmongers. The glass prawns 玻璃虾 and the black prawn 黑虾.
The glass prawns are not readily available everywhere, but I always see them at the Lor Ah Soo market where I shop most often. They are caught by local fishermen and so they are often sold within a day or two of their capture. The old aunties and uncles that I often meet at the market love these.
The shells are thin and the meat is very sweet and they love to steam them and eat them with some soy sauce and cut chillies. They are also excellent for steamboats. At $30/kg, they are quite expensive for medium sized prawns but they are worth it if you are trying to impress your mother-in-law. Buy some glass prawns for steamboat and your life will be bliss. Buy the ones from the supermarket and the next time you ask them to help look after the kids, they might tell you that they have a mahjong game scheduled.
Fenneropenaeus silasi ?(un-confirmed)
Common Name: False White Prawn
Local Name: Orh Hei 黑虾 (Black Prawn)
The other locally caught prawns are the black prawns. They tend to be slightly smaller than the glass prawns and are slightly cheaper ($20+ per kg). But they are still expensive compared to Ang Kahs of the same size which go for around $16 per kg.
I have had difficulty trying to identify the species. As far as I can make out, they are probably the same species as the glass prawns but are caught from a different area. The colour of prawns depend on their environment as they take on the colour of their surroundings. So I suspect that these are the same breed of prawns as the glass prawns but are caught at a different location. It is interesting to note that prawn farmers make use of this fact to engineer the colour of their prawns. They will often paint the tanks black if they want darker looking prawns.
As with the glass prawns, the folks at the wet markets really like these as they are very sweet and tender. Some say they are even sweeter than the glass prawns. They are best prepared the same way, by steaming or for steamboat.
Common name: White leg shrimp, Pacific white shrimp, Grey prawns,
Local name: Huo Xia 活虾 (lit live prawns)
The two most prominent types of farmed prawns in the supermarkets are the Tiger Prawns and the White Leg shrimp. In fact, the White Leg shrimp or Litopenaeus vannamei is the most farmed species globally and is the prawn that you would most often be eating if you eat out. They have become the generic prawn much like how Del Monte bananas are now the only type of bananas that some kids know about. When you eat your next Har Kow (prawn dumplings), it is almost certain that the prawn used is a L. vannamei. At the supermarkets, you can sometimes see them being labelled "vannamei". Most of the time, they are just called grey prawns.
At the wet markets, they do sell a better quality L. vannamei. They are known as 活虾 (lit - live prawns). I have seen them at Senoko Fishery Port where they off the boat still jumping. The advantage of these live prawns is that they are very sweet as they are very fresh. They do lack the flavour of the wild caught prawns but the difference can only be detected by people who know their prawns. The texture of the prawn is nice and bouncy but not as bouncy as that of Ang Kah. When you eat them in Har Kow, they seem to have an almost crunchy texture. That is because they may have been treated with bicarbonate. (You can check this website to see how you can do it at home.)
One of the biggest advantage of these live prawns (and a lot of the other prawns from the wet market) is that they don't get preservatives added to them. The ones you buy from the supermarket might have a preservative called bisulphites added to them to prevent them from going black too quickly. At the wet markets, always ask the fishmongers if the prawns have chemicals added to them. Most of them who pride themselves at selling fresh seafood will tell you that their prawns have no chemicals added. If you think you are allergic to prawns, it might be that you are allergic to the bisulphite rather than the prawn. It may be that you would not get the same reaction if you ate prawns which have not been preserved by bisulphites. (Please do not try this if you get a severe, life threatening reaction to prawns!) These live prawns usually go for around $24/kg.
Common Name: Yellow Shrimp
Local name: Zhong Xia 中虾 (Mid Sized Prawn)
The final prawn in this series of "Coloured Prawns" is this yellow prawn which is known in Malaysia as Udang Kuning. I found them on my trip to Pontian Wholesale Seafood Market. They are beautiful to look at but taste wise, they are not as good as our local glass prawns. I have included it here for your reference in case you come across them. The locals at Pontian wholesale market call them Zhong Xia 中虾 or middle sized prawns whereas big Ang Kahs are call Da Xia 大虾 or large size prawns.
In my next post, I will be talking about Sua Lor prawns. In the meantime, go buy some of these really excellent prawns from your local wet market. Not only will you be supporting a very important local industry, but you will also find that the quality and freshness of the seafood is far superior to what you can get from the supermarkets!
Here is a short video of how you can devein a prawn without having to cut it open. I learnt it from Mom when I was a kid! Thanks Mom!
Read my post about Striped Prawns here.
I wish to thank the following experts for helping me with the identification of the prawns:
1. Prof Tin Yam Chan, Institute of Marine Biology of the National Taiwan Ocean University
2. Ken Loon, The Naked Finn
Butternut Squash Soup $7
Seng Kee Bak Chor Mee uncle is taking a break at the moment while Serangoon Gardens Food Centre is undergoing renovation. In his spare time, he has been sampling some Western Cuisine courtesy of his son, Richard Lee who has just returned from Southern USA where he had been working as a Chef. He is now the head chef at a casual little eatery in Chinatown called Table 24 that has just opened recently.
Mr Lee invited me over for a meal to test his son's cooking skills. He seemed very proud of his son's skills even though he had chosen to go the Western route. He told me that as a kid, his son has never been very interested to learn traditional cooking techniques even though he did enjoy eating dad's food. One thing he did inherit from his father is that passion for preparing good food and that need to have everything done from scratch.
Duo of Gnocchi $19
I like writing about small restaurants like these where the Chef still does most of the cooking rather than just coming up with the recipe and letting his minions prepare it for the guests. I guess that is why I am so passionate about hawker food. At the hawker stall, the uncle or aunty is the one who goes to the market to handpick the fresh produce and than does the preparation of the dish. Thus the dish that is served is really a reflection of that hawker's personality. I am glad that Richard has that same mentality and tries to do everything himself, even to the extent of smoking his own bacon in the tiny kitchen of his!
I had two meals there. Once with Mr Lee senior and a second round with the kakis during a special lunch session where we tasted almost all the items on the menu. There were hits and misses and what I will highlight today are the dishes which we liked.
The two dishes which brought me back to the restaurant for a photo-shoot were the butternut squash soup and the sweet potato gnocchi. Interestingly both are vegetarian dishes! Pumpkin soup is one of my favourite dishes and I especially love the one my mom makes. But I have to admit that I liked Richard's just that little bit better. (Sorry mom!) The secret, I was told, was a little dose of maple syrup which really brought the pumpkin soup to the next level. 4.25/5
The duo of gnocchi was an unexpected delight. Instead of the traditional potato, he used both a purple and an orange sweet potato. The result is a gnocci with a natural sweetness which was balanced with umami from nicely sauteed mushrooms and accentuated with parmesan cheese. The loved the chewy texture of the gnocchi and if you are the type like likes things like Orh Nee (Yam paste) you will like this dish! 4.5/5
Pan seared Hokkaido Scallops with burnt butter dressing $14
A nice starter to order is the Hokkaido scallops. The scallops were very nicely done with a nice crust on the outside while the middle is still sashimi raw. It went particularly well with polenta and the burnt butter dressing. 4.25/5
Chef's seafood stew $9
If you like intense crustacean flavour then the seafood stew is for you. My only complaint is that the sauce was too little and wished it could be more of a soup! But this isn't possible as Richard explained to us that he doesn't add any water to the stew and that all the liquid came from the mussles themselves! It is the kind of dish you want to dish your bread in and mop the plate clean. 4.25/5
Deep Fried Green Tomatoes
I have heard of deep fried green tomatoes for the longest time but never got to try it till now. I must say it is a little bit of an anticlimax. I could taste mostly the crunchy batter and the tomatoes added a bit of zing but I wasn't overly impressed with the dish. 3.5/5
Maryland style Crab Cakes $25
Most of our kakis loved the Crab Cakes. Chef Richard's version is quite different from a lot of crab cakes that I have had in the past in that it is very loosely packed such that it is quite light and airy inside. However, it still came with a nice crust outside which I guess is where his skills like. The crab was nicely seasoned and went very well with the creamy remoulade and sweet fig balsalmic reduction. 4.25/5
Zatar Crusted Swordfish belly $26
Our kakis were equivocal about the swordfish belly. Some really liked it while others like myself did not think much of it. Personally, I felt that Chef failed to bring out the savoury, meaty flavour which one expects from swordfish. Other kakis liked it because of its juicy, melt it your mouth texture. I guess it is something you can order if you love swordfish. 4/5
Chef Richard with his portable smoking gun
I have been to the restaurant twice. The first occasion was with Mr Lee who wanted to buy me dinner. I was so impressed with the pumpkin soup and the gnocchi that I organized another mid-week makan session with the kakis the try the other items in the menu. There are misses of course, but what impressed me about this young chef is his passion for his craft. It is a shame that he hasn't chosen to follow in his father's footsteps. But who knows, one day he might whip up a Western version of his father's Bak Chor Fettuccine that would make his father proud. I would like to see that, won't you?
24 Temple Street
Open for dinner only