Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best food experiences of 2014

It's about 10 minutes to midnight, so here's a quick recap of the best things I've eaten in 2014:

1. Sushi Tokami - undoubtedly the best meal this year; I had the taste of the most awesome maguro ever, paired with deliciously tasty rice. Life changing sushi.

2. Jaan - such elegance from a high-end Singapore restaurant.

3. Aoki - their mazechirashi never fails to impress me.

4. Pince and Pints - One of the new restaurants that have lived up to the massive hype. Fresh, delicious sweet lobsters.

5. Labyrinth: creative mod-Singapore cuisine

6. Gaest - delicious Nordic sandwiches.

7. Dibs Bistro - creative cuisine bursting with flavour.

8. Le Bistrot Du Sommelier's cote du boeuf, amazing stuff.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Jaan @ the Swissotel, Singapore

I have been meaning to write about Jaan for the longest time, but I always kept putting it off until now, since I want to write about my top meals of 2014. And certainly, my meal at Jaan was exceptionally good. Located at the 69th floor of Swissotel, Jaan has been one of the top European restaurants in Singapore for a while now. Truth be told, I hardly eat out at fine dining places because I am reluctant to spend the $200 or more required to savour a fine dining degustation meal in Singapore, whereas if I were overseas - the considerations are different, perhaps because you've already spent much more for flight and accommodation so what's SGD 200 more? (And well - to be honest - I only take one or two long holidays per year). Therefore, I haven't been to the likes of Andre, Joel Rubuchon, Guy Savoy, Osia, Gunther's, and the like. And, of course, I have not been to Jaan, until now. 

(One of the other reasons why I don't frequent fine dining places so often is that the price of a great fine dining restaurant overseas is often far less expensive than the comparable establishment in Singapore. I went to Ledbury for their set lunch which was great value; and Jean Georges' is only USD40 for lunch, and Azurmendi in Bilbao was only EUR135 for exquisite top notch food which would blow away any restaurant here. And well - perhaps I'm biased, but I would rather go to Eleven Madison Park as compared to - Joel Robuchon Singapore. But okay, I'm digressing). 

But hey, it was a dinner worth remembering. I would stick out my neck to say that the food in Jaan is amazing, and certainly comparable to any of the top Michelin restaurants around the world, in terms of creativity, elegance, flavour, and the whole combination of the sum of its parts which makes the dining experience memorable and enjoyable.

The dining room wasn't as big as I expected: just a small room, perhaps 10-12 tables at the most. I really liked the industrial, geometric roof, which was an interesting juxtaposition to the glittering chandeliers - a combination of industrial and elegant, perhaps.

We started off with some canapes: they were really pretty, especially them Parmesan twirls. Delicious nuggets of cheese things. 

Things got even better with the next course: an amuse bouche of wild mushroom tea and walnuts. This was very delicious, with a rich and earthy mushroom flavour. Digged this. (8/10)

Then it was time for the first course: Gilardeau oyster with edible flowers, dill, and herbs. The oysters were superb: briny and sweet and slightly mineralish, paired up with some dill and edible flowers to provide a tinge of the herbaceous. Absolutely yummy. (8.5/10)

Next up, one of Jaan's signature dishes: Jaan's garden; a refreshing garden vegetable salad of fennel, carrots, broad beans, and other seasonal vegetables, paired together with a delicious light dressing. Vegetables are in vogue now (see L'Arpege) and well, vegetables are cool when they come from proper farms! Too bad - flavourful vegetables are so rare these days. (8/10)

A complimentary dish was served to us: 55 min poached egg with nuts; one of their signatures. Great balance of texture and flavours, although well I've been eating too many sous vide eggs these days. (7/10). This was alright. 

One of the star dishes of the night (probably my favourite dish): arctic char, a very clean tasting fish - with an elegant almost Japanese-like simplicity about it; paired beautifully with a light mushroom sauce. This went superbly well with the rich American chardonnay that was paired with it, with notes of toffee, spice, caramel, and retaining much acidity. I wonder what the chardonnay was because it was enthralling. A superb combination. (8.75/10)

Another "meat" dish: Mangalica pork. I loved the tasty fat bits. Paired with an elegant St Julien. (8/10)

Some elderflower grape jelly sorbet to cleanse the palate; refreshing.

We ended off with strawberries and yoghurt: a lovely light dessert, again very refreshing and with the taste of summer. A light ending to a great meal. (8/10)

Overall, the food at Jaan is quite praiseworthy. Very delicious cuisine, inventive, expertly presented, and if there's one word to use to describe it - it's elegant. The chef used to be a farmer (if I recall correctly) in France and hence his affinity with vegetables and other ingredients from the ground; and the respect for produce really shows. I would definitely come back here again, if the price was a bit less astronomical! It was about SGD200 with the Feed at Raffles card - which is rather good value for the quality of the ingredients, but far too pricy to be consuming this on a regular basis.

One of the best meals of 2014, as 2014 draws to a close. Happy new year all!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Common Man Coffee Roasters

Common Man Coffee Roasters, Martin Road (CMCR) would probably rank as one of the top few selections for a really good brunch in Singapore - as it ticks all the right boxes, namely:

(1) inaccessible location - you'd need a car to get there since it's miles away from any public transport;

(2) cool decor - the interior is really funky with shared seating - bar stools; industrial lighting; 

(3) an eclectic menu featuring all-day breakfast, Turkish breakfast, vegeterian options, burgers, and coffee prepared a myriad of ways.

Certainly, as it is the brainchild of Harry Grover of 40 hands and the Spa Esprit Group - both of them are responsible for many of the top cafes in Singapore.

My friend and I had 2 breakfast items each: I had the Organic Eggs Benedict with beef cheeks while my friend had the Turkish breakfast, which came with eggs, pita bread, olives, and other turkish offerings.

I'm not able to comment on the Turkish breakfast as I didn't have much of it, but my organic eggs benedict was done very well. The eggs were a golden orange as opposed to limpid yellow, and had much more flavour; and it was paired up with a well made hollandaise sauce,  on top of some beef cheeks, and bread. Everything was pretty delicious. Some rocket to cut the fattiness was in order too. Altogether: 8/10. The only gripe I had was that it was really expensive. This dish was about SGD25.

The coffee was good too: had a "bastard" blend cappuccino which was fruity and fragrant. 

CMCR's a great place for brunch, if you have an unlimited budget, or are slightly less budget-conscious. I guess we could make the same dish at home for far less - and it would probably taste just as good. Sigh, I guess we pay to be seen at a "hipster" joint. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Takumen, Boat Quay

Singaporeans including myself can't get enough of Japanese food; and it looks like the ramen craze looks like it's set to continue for a very long time - no letting off steam. A new ramen joint featuring six different types of ramen just opened at Boat Quay, named Takumen. The six different types of ramen come from many different proprietors in Japan (which makes me wonder how these proprietors teach the one central kitchen at Takumen to prepare their specialties) - which makes for an interesting experience as you have variety and can come back to try other types of ramen, which makes for more fun.

The space was also pretty cool - a very comfortable restaurant indeed especially considering that it's ramen.

I've visited Takumen twice and both times I was impressed. The first time, I had the Do Miso Ramen which was a pork and chicken broth with miso. Quite an interesting taste - it's not pure miso nor pork but rather somewhat a more nuanced taste - derived from the combination of ingredients. Special shout out goes to the egg which was done very well. The noodles were slightly thicker than I would have liked; but still a delicious bowl. (7.75/10)

The second time, I had the more traditional Honda Shoten Ramen - this is from Kyushu and it's done the traditional Kyushu style, with thin hard noodles and a rich hearty tonkotsu broth. This one didn't disappoint: it was savoury and rich and with the slightly gelatinous texture of a good broth. I quite enjoyed this. The only downside was that the egg was slightly overcooked. (8/10) Some pink ginger was there to cut the richness.

One of the main downsides to Takumen is that it's pretty pricey. A bowl of ramen would set you back at least SGD20 - and that's really almost twice the price of an equivalent bowl of ramen in Japan. I wouldn't mind paying about SGD 15 for ramen, but 20 is somewhat pushing it already.

I guess - at this time, if I had to choose my favourite ramen in Singapore, it would still be Tonkotsu King Four Season's "King" ramen - that is downright delicious. I still have to go and try Sanpoutei one of these days. Cheers and have a great week everyone, and a blessed Christmas. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marutama Ramen, Liang Court

Was over at Liang Court so I ventured into Marutama not having much expectation, as I was severely disappointed the last time I ate at the Central branch. But - to my surprise - this turned out pretty alright; good flavour on the chicken even though it's not as robust as I would like; but the egg was sooo deliciously good. I had an extra egg (2 eggs in all). The ramen was the way I like it - very springy and thin. Delicious. 7/10

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Koji Sushi Bar, China Square

I am an avid follower of @myfoodsirens on Instagram, and therefore when she posted - on her Instagram - that she was at a hidden lunch spot which sold very good chirashi-don, it wasn't going to be much of a secret anymore, at least for me and my folks. We're talking about Koji Sushi Bar, a new hole in the wall shop that is a stone's throw down from Platypus Lobster Shack, along the same row albeit towards North Bridge Road and away from China Street. It just recently opened in November 2014 and is run by the same guys behind Satsuma at Gallery Hotel, which unfortunately closed down.

The entire place has a really open feel: it's an open kitchen with counters all around. Quite an intimidating place, I would think, if I were a chef - since there's almost no privacy at all. The sakes were handscribbled on a chalkboard to one side of the bar, with quite an extensive selection.

This place specialises in chirashi and nigiri sushi sets, which is well, apt for its name. Some of the sushi sets were pretty affordable. For example, a set for S$9 gives you (1) sea bream; (2) swordfish; (3) bluefin tuna; (4) sweet prawn and (5) salmon. Not bad for S$9! If you ordered ala-carte, this would have set you back S$20 or more.

And what impressed me was the quality. The neta (fish) was excellent; with a very good quality of fish. The sea bream had full of good fish oils, very clean tasting and flavourful; swordfish was good; the bluefin tuna a revelation, since there was that deep flavourful taste that had that "metallic" depth that I like about a good bluefin tuna (comparable to a mid-level sushiya in Tokyo perhaps); the sweet prawn was alright; and salmon was alright as well. Don't really fancy salmon.

And you can also order the expensive sushi set for S$23 which comes with (1) chutoro; (2)  shima aji (3) kampachi; (4) hotate and (5) anago. Everything was good: the chutoro full of oishi fish oils; shima aji was flavourful too; and especially good was the hotate. Everything was done very well - the rice was not too big, and they even have the brush for you to brush your own shoyu (just as what is done in the top sushi restaurants where they'd brush the shoyu for you). 

Overall - the nigiri gets an 8.25/10 from me. You can tell how good the fish is by the aftertaste that lingers in one's month long after the meal has ended. In the end, I finished 4 sets altogether - which made for 20 pieces of sushi. You will note the exquisite colour of genuine bluefin tuna in this photo here. 

We also bumped into my ex-national service mate who is the owner's brother; and so he let us try their fresh saba (mackerel) which was very delicious as well; sweet and complex.

And eat set comes with a choice of salad or soup. Both were good - the salad had a light tasty dressing and the soup had good kelp flavours. 

Great new sushi joint for me to satisfy my craving without breaking the bank! I think I may go back today, haha. Worth a visit!