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Hokkaido Izakaya

Hokkaido Izakaya has potential. Not everything I tasted was great, but there’s enough to make me happy enough to want to make a repeat visit.

Certified by the Hokkaido City Council to promote Hokkaido produce in Singapore, Hokkaido Izakaya gets its produce from just four cities – seafood from Yakumo Town (a town which faces both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean); vegetables and cheeses from Furano City (that lavender place!); wines and beef from Kamishihoro City (where cows outnumber people); and oysters from Akkeshi Town, the leading oyster producing area in Japan.

So, authenticity checked?

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Authentic or not, two appetizers didn’t agree with my palate – scallop liver with sesame oil and cubes of cream cheese marinated with miso. Too creamy but to be fair, if you like shirako and ankimo etc, you will probably enjoy these.

Scallop Liver ($9++); Cream Cheese ($7++)

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Actually, make that three unimpressive appetizers. The cucumber slices dressed with konbu were fine but certainly nothing interesting to warrant an order.

Cucumber ($5++)
with salted konbu seaweed

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Served warm, the potato salad uses Hokkaido potatoes and is mixed ‘live’ with egg, shredded vegetables and a generous spoonful of mayonnaise. Check out the video here haha.

Potato Salad ($9++)

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Chicken wings = essential bar grub I suppose.

Chicken Wing ($6++)

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I love tamago so naturally I love this! So soft and fluffy, good stuff. Will have to ask for butter on the side next time because smothering it with butter is overkill after a few bites.

Japanese Omelette ($10++)
mixed with milk

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While not the best value-for-money dish in the house, the grilled scallop was tasty nonetheless.

Grilled Scallop ($10++)

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I’m usually not a fan of starchy food but Hokkaido potatoes are really delicious! Especially when fried like these croquettes.

Potato Croquette ($8++)

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Hokkaido is famous for its milk and other dairy products so don’t be surprised when your hotpot comes with a milky broth. This comforting pot overflowing with salmon and vegetables is perfect for a cold rainy day. We also had smoked salmon belly (not pictured) which was excellent too!

Milk Hotpot ($18++)
salmon, assorted vegetables

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The lunch menu comprises of their signature soba, handmade in the restaurant using 100% buckwheat flour imported from Hokkaido. The kakiage tempura soba has a great presentation but the kakiage was quite a letdown as it was not as crispy or airy as expected.

Hot Soba ($14++)
kakiage and prawn tempura

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By the end of dinner, I had enough of potatoes but dessert also involved this prized commodity! Served with butter and vanilla ice cream, the steamed potato was a heavy ending, not recommended unless you are still hungry. There’s vanilla ice cream with corn sauce on the dessert menu which I’ll try next time and report back.

Steamed Potato ($7++)
vanilla ice cream

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My thanks to the Food News team for hosting dinner!

Hokkaido Izakaya
95 Tanjong Pagar Road
6221 7118

Kwee Zeen

Inspired by the artisanal brasseries lining the French Riveria which gives diners a beautiful riverfront view, Kwee Zeen similarly offers a dining experience with an unrivalled backdrop of the South China Sea.

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It took me a moment to realize that this used to be The Terrace where we had a superb gourmet Sunday Champagne Brunch a couple of years ago. Like The Terrace, Kwee Zeen has upped the champagne brunch game by introducing a Magnifique Sunday Champagne Brunch, featuring an extravagant spread of epicurean indulgences and free flow of premium Taittinger Champagne.

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Highlights include a hearty selection of succulent live seafood, foie gras cooked a la minute, fromage and charcuteries, tandoor, and not forgetting desserts on trolley and handcrafted truffles of unique flavours!

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There’s even a DIY caviar counter complete with blinis, ikura, creme fraiche and other garnishes.

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Don’t miss the interesting cured salmon marinated with coffee! I wouldn’t have imagined this pairing but it works.

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Even the gourmet cheese selection was overwhelming. 32 variations, take your pick!

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Okie, the highlight of brunch for me was not the champagne, not the oysters, not the lobsters, not the caviar, not the cheese…

It was the one and only DUNGENESS CRAB!!!

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I was planning to try all the different kinds of crabs available but the chef helming the crab station confidently placed one whole crab on my plate and told me “just try this, you won’t want to try the others after this”. I nodded and smiled but was secretly thinking I’d be back to try the others after this! Well, I was wrong, she was right! This huge dungeness crab was amazing!!! Super meaty and that fresh roe!! I polished off two of these monsters and didn’t have much tummy space for anything else but…

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Desserts, what else!

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Compared to The Terrace, the sweets selection has definitely been pared down. There’s the usual cakes, mousses, jellies, ice cream, crepes etc, nothing particularly memorable.

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That said, I do love the assorted truffles here! So much so that I probably downed 15 of these handmade and of good quality chocolates oops #whatdiet Black sesame, oolong, durian, coconut, dulce de leche, those are some of my personal favourite flavours!

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Magnifique Sunday Champagne Brunch is available every Sunday, from 12.30pm to 3.30pm:
$168++ per adult with free-flow Taittinger Champagne & wine
$138++ per adult with free-flow soft drinks & juices
$58++ per child (aged 5 to 11 years old) with free-flow soft drinks & juices

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Our thanks to Pearly for spending Sunday with us!

Kwee Zeen
Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa
2 Bukit Manis Road Sentosa
Singapore 099891
+65 6708 8366

Bochinche may be an Argentinian restaurant but trust me when I say that pescetarians (and even vegetarians) can dine very well here too. It’s not all about meat on the dinner menu as Head Chef Fabrice Mergalet has added several new items, including three vegetarian small plates. Granted, they may be intended to complement Bochinche’s popular meat dishes but the sweet roasted beetroot with goat’s cheese and grilled pumpkin with braised kale and yogurt are tasty enough on its own. There’s also a refreshing salad of watermelon paired with mozzarella cream and sun-dried tomato.

Other new small plates menu items include the Hokkaido scallops tiradito with an intriguing pairing of tomato water and for meat eaters game for bold flavours, perhaps go for the crispy chicken skin with liver parfait, candied walnuts and grape chutney – I wish there’s a pescetarian version! Old hot favourites such as the classic provoleta with almonds and oregano honey (a must for cheese lovers!) as well as the signature veal sweetbreads are still available on the menu.

Please don’t leave without ordering the crab croquettes – moreish fried balls of tightly packed crab meat with spot on seasoning, major love! It was my favourite that evening and that alone makes me decide that dinner is indeed more exciting than brunch! Don’t get me started on the tender meaty grilled octopus and delicate dover sole. Just go!

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Roasted Beetroot ($16++)
goat’s cheese, tarragon, oats crumble

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Hokkaido Scallops Tiradito ($21++)
tomato water, avocado, yuca

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Watermelon Salad ($14++)
mozzarella cream, sun-dried tomato, pumpkin seeds

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Iberico Cold Cuts ($22++)
selection of lomo, chorizo, shoulder 30 months

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Crispy Chicken Skin ($18++)
liver parfait, walnuts, grapes

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Crab & Humita Croquettes ($16++)
spicy criolla sauce

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Classic Provoleta ($17++)
almonds, oregano honey

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Grilled Octopus ($19++)
green peas, mussels escabeche

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Catch of the Day (market price)
dover sole, lemon

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Ojo de Bife ($55++)
300g rib-eye

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Dulce de Leche Creme Brulee ($17++)
banana split ice cream

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Milk Cake ($14++)
passion fruit sorbet, toasted almonds

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My thanks to Pamela for inviting and hosting dinner!

Bochinche
22 Martin Road
6235 4990

It’s all about girls and dolls on Hina Matsuri, a day traditionally celebrated in Japan on 3 March when families wish their daughters success and happiness in life. In line with this time-honoured festival, Mikuni pays tribute for the 4th time through Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo’s culinary interpretation – an impressive lunch bento thoughtfully arranged to be a feast for the feminine eye and palate that’s only available from 1 to 10 March.

Starter
organic japanese green salad, snow crab, orange, blueberry, black sesame

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Priced at $120++ per person for lunch, the Hina Matsuri bento features an array of elegantly crafted dishes in a dainty tiered box and a complimentary glass of amazake (sweet rice beverage). When the three tiered boxes were carefully served, everyone went “waaaaaaa!” as they were indeed a sight to behold. I wanted to take mine home but Chef Moon said the box is really expensive lol. What I could take home was the menu – prettily printed and designed as a bookmark.

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Pulling out the three drawers was like opening a treasure box filled with edible gems! The top drawer housed a beautiful layer of Mikuni’s signature truffle kanpachi served with a distinctively indulgent black truffle sauce. I’ve tried this before during the past Savour events and the top notch quality has never changed. If it’s your first time at Mikuni, this is a must try!

Sashimi
kanpachi sashimi, truffle soy sauce

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The second drawer is a showcase of eight traditional Japanese appetizers with my favourites such as grilled miso cod, unagi and tamago. Be on the lookout for one quail egg – it’s been cutely disguised ha. The most surprising element for me was the abalone. I usually don’t like abalone because of the chewy texture but I have to say that this slow-cooked version was not rubbery at all. In fact, quite delicious I say.

Assorted Appetizers
8 traditional hassun: grilled miso cod, slow-cooked abalone, eel, octopus, umeboshi plum, asparagus, japanese pickles, miso egg

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I felt sad when the third drawer was revealed as that meant that the end was near. The default chirashi don unveiled is Miyazaki wagyu beef on rice but Chef Moon pampered me with uni instead since I’m a pescetarian. So fresh and creamy! The medley of colours artfully decorated atop sushi rice was lovely too.

Rice
uni chirashi don, seaweed, shrimp, tamago

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The tempura was not oily but not as impressive as the other dishes for sure. I’m generally a big eater (when I want to) and this bento filled me up nicely about 80%. Just right for lunch without the food coma afterwards, I guess.

Tempura
prawn, sweet potato, fish, pumpkin, green bean

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Rounding off the meal is Chef Moon’s rendition of a sweet ending with premium Shizoka musk melon and salt ice cream. The tinge of saltiness in the ice cream seamlessly enhanced the sweetness of the melon, interesting!

Dessert
shizoka musk melon, salted ice cream

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My thanks to Chef Moon and the Fairmont team for hosting us!

Mikuni
Level 3, Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
6431 6156

2016 CNY at CÉ LA VI

If traditional is not your style, how about going fusion this CNY?

At CÉ LA VI (formerly KU DÉ TA), Executive Chef Frederic Faucheux has created a festive menu that puts a modern spin on the Chinese heritage which diners can enjoy against Singapore’s magnificent skyline.

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Toss to abundance with his rendition of the Prosperity Yu Sheng Salad with scallop, salmon, tuna, white fish and assorted vegetables, including crispy fried lotus root chips, a delicious alternative to the traditional golden crackers (which I’m not a fan of and yes I know I’m in the minority ha). This bountiful platter is then generously drizzled with spicy plum dressing infused with Japanese chili garlic sauce.

P.S. Is tossing yusheng 57 levels above ground supposed to make us more huat this year?

Yu Sheng Salad
scallop, salmon, tuna, white fish

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The salt and pepper squid is one of the signatures, must try!

Salt and Pepper Squid
smoked chilli glazed, garlic

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Grilled Char Siew Pork Cheek
pickle achar, sesame

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I was kind of disappointed with the coral trout as there is nothing special about it. Just very light and healthy.

Steamed Coral Trout
cherry tomato, dashi, daikon

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Flavored Spring Chicken
plum powder, calamansi

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I love sea cucumber even though it is pretty much tasteless on its own. This is a classic dish loaded with collagen and the gelatinous texture of the braised sea cucumber is perfect.

Braised Sea Cucumber with Scallop
shiitake, broccoli

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By this time, food coma has struck but wait, there’s still dessert!

Golden Egg Fried Rice
XO sauce

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Creatively using symbolically-auspicious ingredients, Pastry Chef Ariane Jimenez rounded up the reunion feast with an orange-shaped dessert featuring Cointreau diplomat cream at the heart, covered by candied kumquats, along with a base of chocolate sesame sablé and garnished with orange dacquoise. A sweet start to the new year, aye!

Orange and Sesame Dàn Gāo
orange dacquoise, candied kumquats, cointreau diplomate cream, chocolate sesame sablé

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The CNY menu is available at $168++ per person (minimum of 2 guests), with an option of wine pairing at $128++ per person.

My thanks to the CÉ LA VI team for hosting lunch with a view!

CÉ LA VI
SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, Tower 3
1 Bayfront Avenue
6688 7688

I don’t quite get the hype and raves over National Kitchen. Most of the dishes are average-nice but definitely nothing spectacular nor memorable. For a truly kickass Peranakan meal, I’ll head to Candlenut any day!

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Standard starters such as achar and rojak were good but not great. If you like refined hawker dishes, it’s time to make a reservation here.

Sambal Timun Nanas ($4++)
pineapple and cucumber with chillies, onions and lightly sweet rice vinegar

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The most special item we ordered was the “kimchiam” salad. I have never had this combination before – boiled prawns, sweet and slightly tangy starfruit, chewy dried lily buds, all tied together by a spicy chilli dressing. Interesting!

Sambal Kimchiam Udang ($15++)
lily buds tossed in a sweet and spicy dressing topped with prawns and starfruit

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Rojak ($7++)
guava, sour mangoes, rose apples, pineapple, cucumbers, julienne of pink ginger flowers, jellyfish and crispy crullers tossed in a sweet, sour and mildly spicy sauce

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We were expecting the chicken buah keluak to be served with a thick fragrant gravy (maybe I went to Candlenut too many times) but the diluted version here was disappointingly akin to… Chicken curry?

Buah Keluak Ayam ($23++)
classic nyonya spicy and tangy chicken stew and buah keluak nut infused with fresh root spices of lengkuas and turmeric

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I first tried the meatless meatballs back in 2013 at Violet Oon’s Kitchen and liked them a lot. Fast forward two years, the walnut and cheese “meatballs” turned out too mushy on my visit and could really do with a crisp crust.

Meatless Meatballs Rendang ($15++)
walnut and cheese dumplings braised in spices flavoured with kaffir and bay leaves in a coconut cream sauce

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The description of “cod in laksa sauce” already had me salivating and thankfully, the execution was exactly what I imagined it to be. The fresh slab of fatty cod went very well with the sinfully rich and creamy laksa sauce. May be overwhelming for some people but it’s right up my alley!

Cod in Laksa Sauce ($34++)
baked cod in a creamy laksa sauce drizzled with coriander pesto

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National Kitchen by Violet Oon
1 St. Andrew’s Road
#02–01 National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing)
+65 9834 9935

My first yusheng of the Monkey Year was at Jade Restaurant where Master Chef Leong and his culinary team prepared a feast for the eyes and tummy!

Eight-Happiness Gold Rush Salmon Yusheng
champagne jelly, olive oil, peach dressing

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Jade’s signature yusheng with wobbly handmade champagne jelly, edible gold leaves, salmon, olive oil and peach dressing is always a sight to behold. During this festive period, dine-in orders of yusheng will feature calligraphic drawings complemented with auspicious greetings created by Chef Leong. So spot the two cheeky monkeys on your plate!

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Priced at $68++ (5 pax and below), $98++ (6-8 pax), $138++ (9-12 pax), orders should be made one day in advance. I’m going to ask my mum to order for our family gathering yay!

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My favourite dish is eight treasures fortune pen cai, a twist from the traditional featuring premium seafood such as abalone (I’m not a fan!) and fish maw (sooo good!) braised in a rich flavourful broth for approximately 3-4 hours in a claypot. I like that it is served individually instead of in a massive pot #portioncontrol

Eight Treasures Fortune Pen Cai ($58++ per pax)
six-head whole abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, chinese cabbage, flower mushrooms, roasted garlic, roasted pork

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Actually, now that I think (or rather, write) about it, my favourite dish may be the simmered boston lobster with ginger milk instead! (Yes, I’m a fussy and fickle-minded eater ha) Imagine fresh lobster meat simmered with milk, ginger, butter and a hint of lemon before being drizzled with a geneous serving of fragrant ginger milk gravy. It sounds a tad heavy but tastes surprisingly light and the sweetness of the lobster comes through.

Boston Lobster ($88++ per whole 700g lobster)
simmered with ginger milk

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If you need the daily dose of meat, try out the new roasted duck marinated in foie gras sauce and Chef Leong’s specially created sour plum guava jelly.

Roasted Duck ($23++ for quarter portion; $46++ for half; $92++ for whole)
foie gras sauce, sour plum guava jelly

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The best thing about the roasted duck is that it comes shots of refreshing guava granita and tart sour plum jelly!

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When Chef Leong wants to impress, he really goes all out. Look at this beautiful and delicate handmade golden bird sculpture crowning the dessert platter! Painstakingly assembled over 5 days using gelatin, wow.

Desserts
pan-fried rose-flavoured water chestnut cake
honey peach pastry ($26+ per box of 8 pieces)
sweet potato pandan-flavoured ‘nian gao’ tart ($28+ per box of 8 pieces)

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Although the sculptures stole the show, we still wiped out the ‘nian gao’ tart, buttery baked honey peach pastry and pan-fried water chestnut cake! These goodies are available as takeaways till 22 February 2016.

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My thanks to the Fullerton and Jade teams for their hospitality!

Jade Restaurant
The Fullerton Hotel
1 Fullerton Square
6877 8188

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