Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ah Hor Mee Pok

Ah Hor Mee Pok is one of those old school places, frequented mainly by retirees hoping to get their share of a taste from long ago. As for young punks like myself, it's a reminder that food doesn't have to be posh to be good - alot of good food is found in these nooks and crannies, the skills of these chefs have been honed by time and tradition, and the proof is in the eating.

As with the case of Ah Hor, I've tried visiting this place many times but was always unable to locate it - but this time, going with F, we found it, located in a run-down coffee shop at the bottom of an industrial-looking building, just a stone's throw away from Mustafa Centre. 

We ordered the usual - from a sprightly old uncle who was wearing his "shades". Fashionably sensitive. 

And how was the meepok? Good - the sauce was an interesting and flavourful combination of buah keluak, belachan, and chilli - was pretty tasty and savoury. The teochew dumplings were really fresh - and I hear they're made in house. The only grouse I had was that the noodles were a bit too overcooked - a tad more al dente would have been perfect.

Overall, an excellent bowl, but not exceptional. (8/10) Hui Ji's version shades it by a tad.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Naked Finn

I've heard of the Naked Finn from a couple of sources (mainly from friends / acquaintances on Instagram)- all of whom have told me that the place serves really good seafood at affordable prices. On a lonesome Monday night, I decided to check out the scene. I made my way down to Gilman Village and found myself in the middle of a secluded forest-land, a lonely road lighted up by some flickering lamps. Naked Finn in its awesome isolation rose, timidly, on the right side of the road, where cars would park illegally, to heck with the police. It was like a little shed, a little hut - reminiscent of those 'ghost houses' at university. Thankfully, the inside was done very well - very modern, as you can see in the photo to the left. High bar stools and all. However there were only two tables indoors - and a couple of others outdoors, as guests sipped cocktails amidst the cool windy January breeze.

As this place started out as a cocktail bar, I decided that I had to try the cocktails. So I did, ordering a Rock Melon and Hendricks, which went surprisingly well. My friend had a very refreshing cocktail as well although I can't for the life of me remember what it is now. 

We ordered the Estrella set for two - which was SGD120++. It started off with some bamboo clams - these were not-overdone, with good texture, and helped by some chopped fried shallots. Not much depth of flavour here, although competently done. Maybe some garlic might help. (6.25/10)
Next up was a twist on one of Singapore's best-loved zhi char dishes, sambal kangkong. This was done almost Thai style - with lime juice, and again the fried shallots. Not bad, pretty refreshing. (6.5/10)
We were then served some cold vermicelli - which was paired with some lime for a rather interesting mix. The vermicelli was pretty tasty in and of itself, with the addition of the lime, and of some savoury ingredients. (7/10)
Tiger prawns were up next, grilled. The owner, who spoke to us later on, told us that tiger prawns have very little flavour - that's why they have to do so much with it. That's actually very true - the flavour isn't as nice as some of the other sea prawns. As tiger prawns go though, it wasn't bad. (7/10)

Razor clams in broth came next, and this was not bad. Very hearty broth, with a very homemade feel to it. As though it's something that your mother would cook for you in bad health (save for the clams of course). The broth was delicate and infused with the sweetness of clams, although it could have been more salty. (7/10)

The dishes got better from here. Pan fried barramundi was done quite well - never overcooked, with an interesting seasoning of thick sweet sauce to highlight the flavour (a bit like kicam manis). (7.5/10)

Char-grilled baby squid was just delicious - with a tad of sea salt, the flavours were deep and complex, a mixture of smokiness, tenderness, and the requisite tinge of sea salt. (8/10)
And finally, the piece de resistance - the grilled African lobster. My word this was nothing short of amazing - the lobster, it was revealed, comes from Mozambique / Africa, and it's simply grilled without any seasoning save for some butter that they put on the grill. The end taste is unbelievable - creamy, sweet, smoky, with that char-grilled flavour, umami, delicious, with lots of depth of flavour - tasty - I could go on describing. The head / roe was particularly delicious to eat - and I really love chewing on the bits as they absorb the flavours.. Delicious! (9/10)

Naked Finn's definitely a recommended place. Go soon before the crowds come! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fatien - Bar A Vin

Fatien Bar A Vin is the sister outlet to La Maison Fatien which has long been one of my favourite outlets to dine in. I haven't had a chance to visit their sister outlet until last Friday when the name of this place suddenly popped up in my head, as an option for good French food without needing a reservation. I was working late and as such, forgot to make the requisite reservations. But it wasn't an issue, since Fatien Bar A Vin was relatively empty on a Friday night. I guess not many people know about the place for now, which is a shame because the food is amazingly good - but whether I'd want more people to know about it - till the point where I'll have to make a reservation? I would say yes because I want them to succeed - their food is great at an affordable price point that it would be a shame if it had to shut because of a lack of traffic. Hence, promoting the restaurant via this blog is one of the ways to help them in a little way.

At Fatien Bar A Vin, you get fantastic food at an affordable price point. The food is typical bistro fare, to be accompanied by a myriad of wines, many of which are offered by the glass. From their house Fatien label in Burgundy, I had several delicious wines, most notably a Beaune which was fruity, aromatic and full of cherry softness.

Indeed, the food was excellent. We started of with a rilette of 3 kinds, accompanied by crusty bread, the 3 kinds being salmon, pork and duck. It was an extremely generous portion for SGD18 - almost a never-ending supply. The pearl onions and gherkins were a nice touch too. The salmon with dill was up to scratch and so was the duck and pork, with added texture from some gelatinous bits. Overall: 8/10

What was really good was the Onglet Steak, which was just fabulous. The beef was really very beefy and flavourful - well seasoned. It was very tender as well, and accompanied by the most authentic rough-cut pommes frites and a shallot confit of caramelized shallots. This is one of those dishes that transports you back to Paris or Burgundy where one would sit by the sidewalk cafes, savouring steaks over a glass of wine. (8.75/10) It came with tomatoes on the vine which were ridiculously sweet. Amazing stuff.

The dessert was again very good - apple tarte tatin, excellent in execution, caramelised with the puff pastry having good crisp texture. (8/10)

Overall, Fatien Bar A Vin comes highly recommended especially considering the value. Very good! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ah Hor Mee Pok Tar

A fellow foodie of mine, ice, used to run a public food blog, skinnierthantheoriginal - which readership has since been restricted to only invited guests, which was a pity since I liked reading her stuff. I do recall that she had raved enthusiastically about Ah Hor's meepok tar, waxing lyrical about the buah keluak and chilli sauce that they use. I had tried to come once before but was unable to find the coffee shop but today, I found it! In fact it's just a stone's throw away from Mustafa, in a small dingy coffee shop with alfresco seating (along a busy one-way street). A quick glance around and I figured that most people at the coffee shop were eating the meepok and most of them appeared to be rather old, probably retirees.

Well, having heard so many rave reviews, I had to give it a shot which I did. I must say that it passed the taste test - the sauce was indeed very good and went well with the noodles. There was use of buah keluak imparting a savoury flavour to the sauce, and good amounts of chilli to give it the requisite kick. However there was no pork lard which may have elevated the sauce to another level. The meepok was alright although I wish it had been cooked less so such to allow it to become more al dente - it was already rather soft. The fish balls were good, very fresh; and what I liked was the 'her geow' i.e. dumplings which were, I heard, homemade. They were very good.

We ordered a bowl of dumpling soup to share in order to enjoy the dumplings more. 

Overall Ah Hor is a really old school place selling a good bowl of meepok tar. It's these kind of old hawker stalls that really makes my (food) day - and it's imperative that one eats these stalls soon, because you don't know how long they're going to be around for, especially if their children do not decide to carry on this business. When such a day comes, hankering for the past and a good old bowl of meepok tah done the traditional way would be of little use. Hence the call to go to eat these old-timers' stalls now.

Rating: 8.25/10