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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

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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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Dinners at db Bistro have always been very enjoyable. But the one I had a couple of weeks ago was the best because the man himself was in the house! Yup, I’m talking about celebrity chef Daniel Boulud!

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Transforming his French bistro at MBS into db Bistro and Oyster Bar to reflect its ever-expanding culinary repertoire, the affable Chef Boulud has added a brand-new oyster bar in the middle of the restaurant, featuring the freshest seafood from around the world, hand-selected daily by Executive Chef Jonathan Kinsella.

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The new oyster bar offers a wide selection of seafood including freshly shucked oysters from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Boston lobsters and Alaskan king crabs.

tuna tartare, avocado, cucumber

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New menu highlights also include a daily selection of crudo and ceviches, as well as new seasonal seafood dishes such as whole roasted Mediterranean seabass and octopus “a la plancha”. These new selections complement db’s signature dishes including the world-famous original db burger, crispy duck confit and herb roasted organic chicken.

tuna belly, fennel, oscietra caviar

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Our menu that night was a spread of specials for the night as every day, the restaurant offers market specials to highlight the fresh seafood or French inspired classics of the brand.

dover sole, black truffle

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My favourite was the yin-yang-ish dover sole stuffed with black truffle. Chef Boulud made a surprise appearance to shave copious amount of black truffle on our dish individually. Gobsmacked! The delicate fish was the perfect vehicle to bring out the earthy flavour of truffle, so good!

homemade pasta, white truffle

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Executive Pastry Chef Benjamin Siwek sweetens the meal with new desserts such as the chocolate s’mores made with graham crackers, dark chocolate crémeux, chantilly vanilla marshmallows and caramel ice cream. A brand new selection of ice cream sundaes awaits with traditional flavours like banana foster, rocky road and baba rhum.

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But what is Christmas without a festive log cake! db’s wintry version is worth anyone’s precious calories, of course!

chestnut, chocolate, ginger ice cream

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chocolate, blood orange ice cream

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Special thanks to Philicia for hosting dinner!

db Bistro and Oyster Bar
#B1-48, Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Ave
6688 8525

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I’m sure you already know – Epicurean Market 2015 opens tomorrow and will run till 16 August. I’ve been to the previous two events and no way am I going to miss the latest third edition! These are the dishes which I’m eyeing from the celebrity restaurants:

Adrift: californian heirloom tomato toast with vanilla and turmeric, and its signature King crab melt with pimento cheese (pineapple tamarind glazed pork ribs sound interesting too);
– Long Chim: grilled eggplant salad with dried prawn (meaty dishes include beef skewers, charred rice noodles with pork and yellow beans, and deep-fried chicken with plum sauce);
– Waku Ghin: marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and oscietra caviar which is a familiar favourite (though I think the menu is quite boring and repetitive every year);
– Osteria Mozza: grilled octopus (there is also a new cold pasta dish – squid ink chitarra freddi with sea urchin, fresh crabmeat and jalapeno pesto);
– Spago: spicy tuna tartare (looking forward to this the most as it’s a sneak preview ahead of its official opening!)

Stay tuned by my Instagram tomorrow evening for my thoughts on the hits and misses!

Credit: Marina Bay Sands

Credit: Marina Bay Sands

Besides food, the other highlights are:

– Over 35 masterclasses from celebrity chefs and various experts
Farmer’s Market with the freshest produce, including Chef Daniel Boulud’s famous Epicerie Boulud
– Fine wines, spirits and premium coffee
Cocktail Bar and Whisky Lounge by Diageo with mini-workshops by experts
After Party on 14 and 15 August 2015
– Exclusive tasting sessions of LOUIS XIII de Rémy Martin and Single Malt by Glen Ord Distillery
Instagram contest: share your most instagrammable moment with us and stand to win an experience for 2 at the cheese and chocolate bar!

Credit: Marina Bay Sands

Credit: Marina Bay Sands

Epicurean Market will be held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Basement 2, Hall D & E from 14 – 16 August 2015.
Priced at $28 per person for a three-day pass, tickets include a complimentary pair of Schott Zwiesel red wine glasses.

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Fellow unagi lovers, you won’t want to miss the summer unagi festival “Doyo No Ushi No Hi” at Mikuni!

Celebrated in Japan during the sweltering summer season, referred to as “Doyo”, the Japanese believe that the consumption of nutritious eel helps to increase stamina and beat the summer heat. So from now till 31 August 2015, Executive Chef Moon Kyung Soo will showcase a resplendent display of traditionally cooked unagi dishes through a specially curated lunch and dinner set menu. Live unagi can be seen swimming in the huge tanks at the entrance – imported live from the Aichi prefecture and all ready to be eaten *evil laugh*

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Complemented with the season’s freshest items, the delectably presented dishes are a treat for the senses. Although the 5-course lunch is a subset of the more luxurious 8-course dinner, it looks no less impressive!

Mikuni Eel Special Summer Lunch ($120++)
chef’s seasonal selection of zensai, sashimi, sunomono moriawase, grilled eel on rice, kyushu peach ice cream

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My favourite on the dinner menu ($220++) is the appetizer of delicate barbecued eel jelly with tamago accompanied by tangy smoked salmon yuzu, eel yahata maki burdock and addictive crispy eel bone. All parts of unagi can be eaten and this dish demonstrates exactly that – skin, meat and bone are all creatively utilized!

Chef’s Seasonal Selection – 3 Kinds of Zensai
bbq eel jelly, smoked salmon yuzu, eel yahata maki burdock, eel bone

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Out of the 8-course menu, only the soup and dessert have no unagi in it (I’m not complaining). Warm and comforting, this bowl of beancurd skin and shreds of snow crab seems like a savoury version of the Chinese ginkgo beancurd 腐竹 dessert!

Soup
fresh beancurd skin, hokkaido snow crab, mushroom, yuzu

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No words needed when there’s fresh fatty toro and creamy uni! *bliss*

Seasonal Sashimi
hokkaido sea urchin, aori ika, toro, yellowtail, sea bream

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Beautifully presented in a shell, the plump and delicate grilled “salted” eel is far from salty but naturally sweet and luscious! Have to admit that I’m not a fan of the chewy abalone though.

Grilled Salted Eel
abalone, mikuni sauce, wasabi, daikon

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Each well-seasoned skewer of beef is deep-fried in panko before being topped with a piece of unagi, mustard caviar, flying fish roe and uni. Not for the faint-hearted, these golden skewers are Chef Moon’s take on the traditional Japanese recipe!

Skewers
kagoshima wagyu beef kushikatsu, black truffle, mustard caviar

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My seafood version was equally decadent!

Skewers (Seafood)
salmon, scallop, crab, asparagus

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Sunomono Moriawase
eel, scallop, shrimp, ginger flower, seaweed, tomato

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Highlight of the lunch and dinner menu is definitely the unadon (鰻丼), a.k.a. charcoal grilled eel on rice. Presented in an exquisite lacquer box, the finely grilled and aromatic eel takes center stage with its succulent and tender meat. Incredibly soft!

Charcoal Grilled Eel on Rice
mixed japanese pickle, kyushu shijimi freshwater clam miso soup

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Peaches (momo) are in season now so I was not surprised to see it being featured on this limited-time-only menu. Ripe and juicy Kyushu peach goes extremely well with the smooth ice cream made of peach and yogurt! Wonderful and refreshing end to one of the most memorable meals at Mikuni so far!

Dessert
kyushu peach, raspberry, peach ice cream

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Thank you for hosting dinner, Ruth and Laureen!

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

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Three dinners at Candlenut later, I’m convinced that this is now my favourite Peranakan restaurant in Singapore. We have tried most of the seafood (and a couple of meat) dishes on the menu and here’s my list of what (and what not) to order:

Must try:

1. Wing bean salad: had this thrice and still loving the refreshing combination of crisp wing bean, crunchy cashew and herbs tossed with tangy lime dressing!

2. Buah keluak: you can’t leave before trying this classic Peranakan “black gold”! The “buah keluak” or black nuts are soaked and scrubbed for a minimum of 5 days (phew!) and the filling is extracted to form an exquisite marinade. K loves the chicken version, done traditional style with buah keluak sambal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf but I think the wok tossed crayfish rendition is lovely too! And then there’s the homemade earthy buah keluak ice cream, oh my. Made with 80% Valhrona chocolate, served on a bed of salted caramel, chocolate crumble and chilli specks, and topped with warm milk chocolate espuma, this is one unforgettable dessert.

3. Yellow coconut crab curry: the thick creamy gravy infused with turmeric, galangal and kaffir lime leaf is one flavourful bomb on the palate and the blue swimmer crab meat is so fresh! The presentation and taste remind us of Nahm Restaurant’s (similarly named) coconut turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab in Bangkok.

4. Assam sotong: you know me, I don’t like squid usually but the sautéed squid with squid ink, chillies, tamarind and crispy shallots is too good to resist. I’m always amazed at how tender they are! The other squid item on the menu, sambal “choking” sotong (because apparently the kitchen “chokes” every time this smoky, spicy dish is fried), pales somewhat in comparison.

5. Sambal kacang petai: either you love this or you hate it. I belong to the former camp obviously – the stir fried petai beans with tamarind and chilli sambal are not stinky but fragrant! My friends refused to touch them (it’s the smelly tofu syndrome), all the more for K and myself yay!

Worth trying:

1. Coconut charcoal grilled wild caught red snapper: I only ordered this on my last visit and regretted not trying this earlier! The fish fillets are meaty and go very well with the fiery dried shrimp samba.

2. Candlenut satay: the grilled spiced fresh chicken leg skewers are tender but what steals the limelight is the rich homemade pineapple peanut sauce on the side. I love it so much and make sure that there’s always an extra serving on our table. They charge an additional $1.50++ per serving but whatever, just take my money, I want to dip all my food in it!

Skip:

1. Omelette chincalok: fermented blend of salted baby shrimps and folded with spring onions, this omelette is easily replicable and average at best.

2. Chap chye: Nice homely dish of braised cabbage with mushrooms, sweet and dried bean curd, pork belly and black fungus in rich prawn stock gravy, but nothing exciting.

3. Gula melaka king prawns: the coconut butter sauce infused with gula melaka is delicious but $24++ for two prawns? Nah, I’ll pass!

4. Chendol cream and durian soup: Nothing can go wrong with coconut custard, gula melaka sauce and pandan jelly or potent durian ice cream with feuilletine and fresh durian purée right? True, but I find that the portions are too small. Can get better and bigger ones elsewhere!

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Wing Bean Salad ($14++)
salad of wing beans with prawns, crispy fish, baby red radish, lemongrass, chilli flakes, cashew nuts, mint, coriander with lime dressing

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Candlenut Satay ($10++)
grilled spiced fresh chicken leg skewers served with rich homemade pineapple peanut sauce, cucumbers & red onions

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Sambal Kacang Petai ($14++)
stir fried stinky petai beans with tamarind & chilli sambal, crispy shallots

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Yellow Coconut Crab Curry ($24++)
blue swimmer crab meat, turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime leaf

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Sambal “Choking” Sotong ($14++)
wok fried squid with tomatoes, red onion, sambal chilli

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Gula Melaka King Prawns ($24++)
coconut butter sauce infused with gula melaka, lemongrass & roasted coconut, fresh herbs & chilli

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Buah Keluak Local Crayfish ($18++)
wok tossed crayfish with sambal, buah keluak, & kaffir lime

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Candlenut
#01-03 Dorsett Residences
331 New Bridge Road
8121 4107

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Not too long ago, Anti:dote revamped its menu with new handcrafted cocktails paired with a collection of contemporary tapas.

The range of new cocktails at Anti:dote is largely inspired by talented Head Craftsman, Tom Hogan’s daily interactions with guests and people he meets, and every cocktail has a story of its own. There’s The Tragedy of Tom Dooley – a whimsically named concoction of tequila, aperol, lime juice, lavender syrup and egg white; Seger Seelbach – a blend of bourbon, hum, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, topped with champagne; as well as the refreshing Aqua Fresca, comprising mezcal, parsley, sweet turnip syrup, lime juice and Suze liqueur (all $23++ per glass).

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If you are at the bar, you must talk to Tom who’s a firm believer in educating customers of their beverage choices. Expect not just great tasting cocktails, but also an interactive session on the origins of ingredients used as well as the processes and inspirations behind each cocktail. My head was spinning with all the details mentioned – definitely info overload for an amateur drinker like me ha.

Oysters ($16++)
warm ginger sauce, red curry, celery cress

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Cocktails with tapas is a given, of course.

Carlos Montobbio, Head Chef of Anti:dote, will continue to present his own creative style of European tapas with Asian influences. The tapas selection, which introduces something new every two months, now includes delicious little balls of braised eel croquettes with teriyaki sauce and kimchi mayonnaise (my favourite out of all!), succulent oysters doused with warm ginger sauce and red curry, ingenious tuna sashimi draped over salted cod brandade to resemble sushi, and cute little pop-in-the-mouth tender octopus topped with grilled soft eggplant and crispy paprika rice.

From top left, clockwise:
crispy suckling pig, cherry miso caramel, sherry soaked Kyoho grapes ($16);
baked chocolate mousse, extra virgin olive oil ice cream , crispy bread, maldon salt ($12++);
tuna sashimi, salted cod brandade, sesame oil pearls ($16);
assorted petit fours (from $3++);
braised beef cannelloni, spanish onion, black truffle, cèpes béchamel ($16++); and
spanish octopus skewers, charcoal grilled eggplant, crispy paprika rice, confit lemon skin ($16++)

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From top left, clockwise:
scrambled eggs, japanese sea urchin, oscietra caviar ($24++);
kalamata olive spheres, rosemary breadcrumbs ($8++);
black truffle bao, braised veal cheek, foie gras, caramelised shallots with madeira ($20++);
braised eel croquettes, teriyaki sauce, kimchi mayo ($14++);
artisanal potato chips, white truffle and potato purée ($12++); and
hokkaido scallop tartar, peanut tofu, spring onion, chilled tom yum broth ($16++)

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New tapas may be good, but I’m so glad that old signatures such as the super addictive crisp parmesan pizza with olive oil caviar pesto and creamy scrambled eggs with uni are still on the menu! Black truffle bao with braised veal cheek, foie gras and caramelised shallot remains too, if you miss your dim sum or wanna try a 10bucks bao.

Crisp Parmesan Pizza ($12++)
tomato flakes, fresh pesto, olive oil caviar, sweet basil cress

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If I have to use one word to describe Anti:dote, it’d be “fun”! Just be adventurous and order the ibérica “shabu-shabu”. You will know exactly what I mean!

Paleta Ibérica Joselito ($18++)
italian burrata, cristal bread, tomato essence shabu-shabu

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Many thanks to Ruth for hosting dinner!

Anti:dote
Level 1, Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
6431 5315

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