Wednesday, July 23, 2014

28HK has unveiled a new menu

28HK, that uber cool cocktail bar at Hong Kong street, has come up with a new menu which features classic comfort American food. This is a burger which was pretty delicious - seasoned with salt and pepper, this was aged beef which had a robust and sweet and funky taste with lots of depth that comes from aging beef. At least I thought it was aged. Gently paired with some deep fried gherkins on the side, Nice. 8/10

The drinks are always good here but be prepared to pay 20 and up per drink.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Shinzo Japanese Cuisine - overpriced Japanese.

There are some places that offer true, authentic, good value-for-money food, such as my favourite Teppei, or Chikuwa Tei, or Aoki's set lunch; places that don't try to rip you off, but offers good value for what you're paying.

One place where I certainly did not find that at was at Shinzo Japanese Cuisine operated by Lawrence Chia, brother of Ronnie Chia of Tatsuya.

To cut the long story short, we were in a party of about 10 or more people. Some of them ordered the most expensive omakase set which I understand to be about S$190 per pax. On a budget, I opted for the S$167 (which is, in my opinion, pretty expensive). So, I expected to eat until I dropped - or at least; to have a variety of foods - in various styles - which would also leave me feeling satisfied.

I was so wrong. 

To be fair to Lawrence, it started off on an alright note. We were presented with some fish liver tofu which was alright - although the liver taste could have been stronger.

The next course was sashimi - and this was not bad; there was sea bream with truffled Japanese seaweed, one piece of chutoro which was quite heavenly, a yellowtail, and an ebi. Not bad - and quite delightfully presented.
We moved on to a plate of fish - this was just lightly seasoned and grilled, to be eaten with some radish and lemon. I thought to myself - this was alright.
And then - some Japanese eggplant which came in a creamy sauce. Not bad, although the eggplant seemed to be overwhelmed by the sauce and I could hardly taste the sweetness.
And after that - there was just course after course of sushi; and that was it. If you really wanted to know what was served:

The yellowtail was not bad - good fish flavour.
Seared otoro was - predictably good; with the fish oils coming through.
Then you had some akamai, garnished with some sesame seeds.
And after that - a piece of squid - done with some sesame seeds.

Next up was a piece of snow crab which was pretty good; quite sweet meat.

After that - mentaiko sushi with swordfish that was torched.

And a delightful piece of uni.

And then, ikura.

Squid came next.

I can't remember what the next piece was, sorry. Oh yes - Anago! Thanks rubbisheatrubbishgrow! 
Okay, I mean - it seems to be alot of fish - and this would have been pretty awesome if I were eating a sushi omakase. But when the chefs were feeding those who ordered the S$190 sets all the good stuff such as snow crab, a whole sea urchin, and they finished off with more sushi, fried rice, noodles, etc - so that they were satiated, I was thinking; hey! I'm not full! Where's the next dish! Where's my food! Where's - some noodles or something? Hell, you could give me a plate of lowly salmon maki and I'd be happy! What...but no - there's no other food left. No fried rice, no ramen, no soba, no nothing. 

Certainly there were perhaps 10 pieces of sushi and that's great. Wow. But hey, seriously, I expected better for that kind of price. 

No wonder Teppei is such a wonderful place - for S$70 I ate like a king. For S$80 - course after course. In contrast, Shinzo's food may be refined especially the sushi, but it left me high and dry. In the end, I walked over to BK Eating House and had a bowl of meesua-tar. Man, I was happy. I finally had a smile on my face.

Come on, I know that food costs in Singapore are high and all that, and the cost price of the food that you gave to us at the dinner is probably about S$50 at most. And I pay S$100++ for your service? Hell no.

Sorry, not going back. There are tons of other good Japanese places that I'd rather spend my money on. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Le Bistrot Du Sommelier, Armenian Street

Wow, I realise that I haven't actually blogged about Le Bistrot Du Sommelier, a French bistro-style restaurant located at Armenian Street. The chef Patrick used to helm the kitchen of Au Petit Salut at Chip Bee Gardens, which was where I first had a taste of good fine homely French food, before even travelling to France. Over the years, Le Bistrot has been renowned for serving tasty and delicious French food done in a rustic style, such as their onglet steak, and various rillettes and foie gras preparations. Not haute cuisine by any stretch of the imagination, but then again - haute cuisine is rather pretentious anyway and labourious to eat every day.

We made a last minute booking so there wasn't space at the proper restaurant, but we managed to snag a table at the Rillette bar upstairs. I found it to be a rather cool space, high ceilings and loads of space to have a fun night out.

We ordered a combination platter of rillettes and terrines: there was a rabbit rillette which was quite tasty; and a pork terrine which was well, a little short of my expectations, honestly - as it was a little flat (7/10); but what saved the day was the foie gras terrine, which was delicious: smooth and fatty, earthy; with the foie gras taste in an absolutely smooth terrine. Great with the brioche that they serve it with. (8/10)

What really blew our mind away was our main of Cote du Boeuf - This was super shiok (delicious in Singlish): very buttery in taste, perfectly done to a medium rare, absolutely superb, tasty stuff. (9/10). What I really liked were the ends where the fat had caramelised and melted. Yums!

I was really impressed with the wine that I chose, a Cote Rotie Rene Rostaing 2010 Cuvee Classique (Ampodium), and this was really delicious. On the nose, a massive and complex nose of butter, bacon, spice, meaty aromas and black pepper, some earth and spice, and a palate of dark plums, black and red fruits, slight spice and chocolate; great structure, some sweetness, bacon and leather. Very elegant for a Cote-Rotie, almost Burgundian for its purity. Delicious stuff. (9/10).

Overall, I can't fault the food here - it's homely, rustic, delicious and tasty food done well. And a great wine list to boot as well, which befits the name of the place. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pince and Pints, Duxton Road

I'm sure all of you have heard of Bonito Chico / Love Bonito, which is one of the first blogshops to become a viable, successful, booming business. My old churchmate Frederick married one of the owners of Love Bonito and has been working there ever since; and recently he's opened a Lobster joint called Pince and Pints, located at 31-33 Duxton Road. Even though it's only been open a week, it's been fully packed day-in day-out and I must say his publicity team has really done a fantastic job. I heard that the queue starts forming at 4.45pm before it opens at 5pm, and by 6pm, the wait is 2 hours; and after 7.30pm, they stop taking new customers since the queue is about 90-100 people. That's really good business isn't it! Fred calls it a "happy problem" and I have to say, I'm inclined to agree. 

He advised me to arrive before 5pm - maybe 4.30pm, in order to beat the crowds, and so today I popped down at the advised time to wait for a space to eat. You can see - from the photos - that I've managed to take the photos of the empty restaurant, but it wouldn't stay empty for long because a great snaking queue started forming outside the restaurant at around 5pm. 

Pince and Pints basically does only lobsters - done 3 ways: either steamed/grilled ; in a lobster roll; or in a 'chilli lobster' which is kind of like a chilli crab, complete with mantou. I am a sucker for Lobster Rolls, so I ordered the lobster roll which came with fries, garlic aioli, and some salad tossed with a homemade dressing and some Parmesan cheese. I must say the lobster roll was extremely delicious and sublime - one of the best I've had in Singapore and comparable to those in New York (Red hook; Luke's lobster), and in some ways surpassing those. The magic's in the bread: they butter the bread roll and lightly pan fry it such that the butter is absorbed into the bread; and it's topped with some very fresh, sweet and succulent lobster meat that's lightly tossed in mayonnaise, and garnished with some spring onions. This was outstanding and already a winner. (8.75/10). There were thick large chunks of lobster meat - can't go wrong!

Accompanying the lobsters is a large variety of wines, cocktails, and alcohol beverages. Good stuff. I enjoyed the Gewurtztraminer that I ordered: refreshing and slightly off-sweet. The Dark and Stormy cocktail I had was good as well: lightly spiced ginger beer and rum. 

I spoke to Fred and was informed that he visited Boston and New York, speaking to many lobster suppliers and trying their produce, before narrowing down the list to a few - before importing the lobsters from the suppliers that he favours. The quality of the lobsters is certainly evident from the lobster meat that I had, and so much so that Ken from Naked Finn - who certainly knows his seafood - also obtains some lobster from Fred. 

Anyway, it's great to see a place serving lobster roll - which is one of my favourite dishes. Pince and Pints is certainly highly recommended - if you can beat the queue! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Azurmendi, Spain

The property is stunning
Man, it's already the second half of 2014 - how time flies! I had a great holiday last year, around August 2013 - when I visited a dear friend in London and we took a plane to Spain to begin exploring the Basque region of Spain, ending up at Barcelona through a really eventful drive through Pamplona and the Aragones region.

I love Spain and it's one of those relaxed places where you can simply let your hair loose and enjoy the weather and the laid back atmosphere and not have to think too much.

And speaking of food, the produce there is insane. I reviewed Akelare, the 3-Michelin starred restaurant located at Donostia (San Sebastian) quite long time ago, and this is a review of Azurmendi which is another 3 Michelin star restaurant located about an hour off Bilbao, in a little farmhouse of sorts overlooking a garden where they grow their own vegetables. How cool is that!

We arrived at the courtyard "entrance" you see on the right, awaiting our entry into the main dining area. You immediately notice the modern architecture, and you feel as though you were in a greenhouse of sorts, with a natural airiness about the place.

The whole emphasis is on freshness and flavour, just as with every other good restaurant. 

The picnic basket
We started off with a "picnic basket" which comprised peanuts, "txakoli and spicy fruit" and homemade smoked anchovies. The txakoli (a Basque white wine) was stuffed inside those balls on the top left, which then burst with the txakoli. The homemade smoked anchovies were interesting - they were smoked with rosemary for quite a long time and the flavour was outstanding, smoky and pretty intense flavour of the herbs. 

smoked anchovies
Here you see a close up of the anchovies - they were rolled up in a pot for about a month I believe, and you have the herbs (rosemary) that accompanied it, giving it that intense flavour.

a picture of the kitchen
Afterward, we were led by the manager into the kitchen to see how everything operates. You have the meats section, the cold cuts section, the desserts, and so on. Everything well organised. Pity the chef Eneko Atxa wasn't around!

homemade milk bread
We started off with some homemade milk bread - sweet and soft, a little like Japanese milk buns. Nothing much to shout about but a nice touch.

We then sampled one of Eneko's signature dishes, named "Huevo de nuestras gallinas, cocinado a la inversa y trufado" - or in English: "egg from our chickens, cooked inside out and truffled". Basically you have a warm egg infused with a truffle inside - this was delicious, with the egg combining well with the truffles. It reminded me a little of Brand's essence of chicken (I don't know why - perhaps that's my culinary reference point) but it was certainly interesting and not just gimmicky for the sake of it. (8.5/10)

Next up was a potato and truffle in a cone. This was interesting, with the truffles infusing the potato with flavour. Another light and flavourful dish. (8/10)
Moving up, we had something that's known as "The Garden" - here there was some tomato puree, tomato pudding covered in dried beetroot which acts as the soil. The vegetables had that natural sweetness that you don't get here in Singapore and it was a creative and delicious dish. Good contrast between the various ingredients: (8.25/10)

I was very fond of the next dish: confited lobster with herbs (spring onions and olives). The lobster was just delicious with a lovely full and rich flavour with a smokiness from the grilling preparations. (9/10)

Next up was caramelised cauliflower with lamb sweetbreads and cauliflower puree; with potato pillows (in between) stuffed with garlic. Another very solid dish. I can still recall how this tastes; the slight gaminess of the lamb - fried - combined with the sweetness of the caramelised cauliflower and with the interesting milder flavours of a cauliflower puree. Interesting. (8.25/10)

Next up: "Betizu" cow tail raviolis, wrapped in corn bread with a legume broth. Here we have really robust and flavourful meat, and an even more intense sauce. As the ravioli was made with corn bread the texture was not as smooth - slightly rougher - but it made for an interesting texture combination. Another delicious dish. (8.5/10)

Next up: squid and squid ink. Wonderful barbequed flavour from the squid. (8.25/10)

And the mains were coming to an end: this was a confited baby pig with avocado. The meat was just top quality meat : very porky with great depth. Wonderful and one of my favourite dishes (8.75/10)

The mains came to an end, and we had these smoked chestnuts with a "vine shoot scent". Interesting and certainly quite unique. (8/10)

Next up: coffee pudding, rum and farmhouse milk. The coffee pudding was excellent, full of an intense espresso flavour. Paired with rum ice cream. (8.5/10)

We rounded off the meal with some petit fours.

I had an espresso which was competently done.

Overall Azurmendi is a winner and thoroughly deserves its 3 Michelin stars. One of the top restaurants I've been to, and I'd say that, in terms of overall consistency of the food, it edges out Akelare. Based on the two meals (at the two restaurants) in August 2013, I'd say that Azurmendi is probably the more creative of the two. Exceptional food and well at 135 Euros, it's affordable compared to what you'd be paying at a top Singapore restaurant. I have heard that Eneko opened a second outlet "Aziamendi" in Phuket so if you can't fly so far to Bilbao, you can go to Phuket!

Txorierri corridor, exit 25
Larrabetzu (Larrabetzu/Lezama highway exit) Bizkaia