The Song of India Deepavali 2018 Set Menu (1 Michelin star): A lament for the restaurant that fails to impress

The-Song-of-India

I was in Singapore over the Deepavali holidays and made a last-minute decision to check out 1 Michelin star The Song of India’s Deepavali Set Dinner. I thought it would be apt to have a specially curated Indian meal in light of the season. I was wrong. Except for a few bright spots, the meal was very mediocre. There were lots of executional errors like food being served cold. Not slightly warm a la fine dining or room temperature. Cold, like the curries in a run-down mamak who didn’t turn on the bain marie as a cost cutting measure.

Song-of-India-Restaurant

Dinner started inauspiciously when the front counter couldn’t find my reservation. I showed them an email from The Song of India confirming my booking and the lady went to ask a supervisor before seating me. It’s of ill portent that the dining room only had 2 other tables occupied. I could have gotten a table just by walking in. The restaurant looked very beautiful though.

Walnut-Appetizer

The Song of India’s Deepavali 2018 Set Menu cost SGD 79++ and started with a complimentary amuse bouche described as a walnut. I couldn’t tell you what the flavors were coz they were entirely forgettable. I must add that I wrote notes on the food and there was a blank spot after walnut. I couldn’t find anything positive to say.

Song-of-India-Papadom

Roasted papadoms came next with mint sauce, mango tamarind sauce and pickled mixed vegetables. The papadoms were rolled up and crunchy but I found it hard to dip it into the sauce. I could taste salt and not much else. Mint sauce was meh. Pickled vegetables was overpowered by sour notes. The mango tamarind sauce was very nice but I suspect a lot of that has to do with my love for sweet things.

Nagaland-Bamboo-Shoot-Soup

Nagaland Bamboo Shoot Soup. Young bamboo shoot infused broth sprinkled with edible flowers and herbs. This soup tasted hearty and creamy but it was merely decent, not delicious. There’s lots of flavor from the unique herbs and the rolled up piece of crispy bread tasted like a croissant. I’m not sure what the unadorned grape tomato is there for though – palate cleanser after the soup? Puzzling.

The-Song-of-India-Deepavali-Set-Dinner

Chargrilled Laksa Flavored Chicken Kebab and Sambal Barramundi Tikka served with traditional Deepavali savories as the starter. This was a confusing creation of cold chicken and overcooked fish with random splashes of neon pink and yellow sauce. I think the sauces were colored just to look Instagrammable and the design of the 2-inch-high “plate” with bits of foliage inside prioritized looking good over practicality. There was a side of Indian dried nuts with murukku, avocado and pickle sauce. I liked the taste of the creamy avocado sauce but I found the proteins on this plate dry and unappetizing.

I waited more than 45 minutes between my starter and main. That’s a ludicrous amount of time considering there were not many customers. I suspect this was why a lot of my main dishes were cold. Perhaps my waiter forgot my order while he fussed with a large group that just came in. I had to prompt him about it, and my empty water glasses required multiple requests to be topped up.

Deepavali-Songs-Art-Palette

Deepavali Song’s Art Palette. Coorg Mangalorian Fish Curry. Country Style Bihari Chicken Curry. Nargisi Quail Egg Kofta. Spinach Kasundi. Amti Dhal. Saffron Goli Pulao. Aam Ka Panna. The last one was a roasted raw mango shot that’s quite good. Unfortunately, all the dishes in the main were cold when it arrived. The saffron pulao was near inedible when stone cold. I contemplated sending it back but didn’t relish another 45-minute wait so I just ate it. The taste of the lamb and fish curry was good despite being cold. I also liked the paneer with the naan bread. Speaking of which, that was what saved the meal – a basket of hot naan bread came with the mains and helped raise the general temperature of the food when mixed together.

The-Song-of-India-Naan

I really enjoyed the naan bread here. OMG! They’re delicious! Fresh from the tandoor oven and piping hot. The flavors are amazing! I don’t know what herbs they use inside but it’s so good I’m half tempted to come back just for the naan despite their other shortcomings. There are two kinds – Rajasthani Jowar great millet naan was my favorite. So yums. It’s seriously mindblowing. I’ve never eaten better naan in my entire life. They go especially well with the paneer. I also found the taste of the quail egg kofta nice. Too bad it’s rubbery and cold.

The-Song-of-India-Deepavali-Dessert

Dessert was Mishti Doi Brulee (lightly sweetened frozen yoghurt from Bengal), Saffron Gulab Jamun Cheese Cake and mini bites of The Song of India’s Mithai Collection 2018. I enjoyed the creamy and slightly sour frozen yoghurt. I also love the gulab jamon cheesecake. That’s seriously brilliant. It’s a gulab jamon (saffron sugar water soaked ball) inside a cheesecake. It looks good, but more importantly, tasted wonderful. It’s cray cray! However, the special Deepavali sweets were a disappointment. I’m staggered to see them selling these Deepavali sweets. I wonder who buys them coz all I taste is sugar and not much else. It’s very one dimensional, but the other dessert elements were perfect.

Mithai-Collection-2018

My problem with The Song of India was due to the overly friendly waiter. He constantly strove to make small talk about inane things until I had to ask him to stop. This exhibits a lack of what the Japanese call mindfulness i.e. being aware of cues and body language to discern that I didn’t want to talk. I was busy writing notes about my dinner and taking photos. He struck up random conversations even after I told him I needed time alone!

The-Song-of-India-Singapore

This got better after another group came in but he started neglecting my water and food after fretting over the large group. He also kept asking me to give him a good review on TripAdvisor. I’ve read this complaint on the site and thought management put a stop to it. Nope. The waiters are still doing it. Not only that, he asked me twice to mention him (Rohit) personally in the review. “Helpful to my career”, he groveled with a sleazy grin. He mentioned his name is in the receipt again when he passed it to me. The service is not just inept, it’s disreputable at times.

The-Song-of-India-HB
Did you notice the open utility closet behind me? I can see your brooms, bro.

I cannot in good conscience recommend The Song of India. I wanted to try the first Indian restaurant to get a Michelin star in the region and ended up utterly disappointed. The food was cold and mostly forgettable, except for the wonderful naan and their delicious desserts. I saw Andy Hayler mention this in his review and thought they bucked up. They haven’t. Service was unpleasant and slightly seedy. The bill came up to SGD 93 (SGD 283) for 1 pax. Don’t waste your money.

Empire by Zouk: A hip-hop club above the clouds at Genting

Empire-by-Zouk

Interesting anecdote: Do you know what the biggest draw in Vegas is? It’s their nightclubs. I’ve read about this recent pivot to mega clubs with big name DJs with interest. It seems that shifting preferences in the younger generation has made nightclubs a very lucrative business. Casinos have the funds to bankroll these huge events with multi-million dollar light and sound systems, so they’re natural partners.

Empire-RWG

I was in Genting over the weekend to check out the launching of Empire by Zouk. Empire is one of Zouk Genting’s two club outlets, and one of the newest concepts introduced under the Zouk umbrella. The idea behind Empire stems from a hip-hop themed, dual club-lounge that is reminiscent of the upscale, private lounges in New York. I know some hip hop kaki who would love the music here.

Empire-Zouk

In true Zouk fashion of having separate areas to cater for different tastes, Empire will be dedicated to hip hop. Spanning 5000 square feet, Empire will seamlessly have an urban blend of art, fashion and music. Designed in homage to the global cultural reach of the genre, Empire drops with swagger from the Bronx-inspired graffiti to Compton-infused flows.

Empire-Genting

It will also be perfect for a private party for anyone looking to throw a blowout for up to 500 people with a bar and 20 tables. A 20 feet long LED screen takes center stage to illuminate the club behind the DJ console which will host the best DJs in the world including guest DJs from Zouk Singapore.

Empire

Global leaders LEDs Control who have played a part in clubs worldwide created the massive piece to make the club a visual feast. At 6000 feet above sea level at Resorts World Genting, Empire will be the new hip-hop central of Malaysia, bringing street beats and urban vibes. Visitors can then end the night by staying at one of the seven hotels spread throughout Resorts World Genting.

Genting-Empire-Zouk

Empire by Zouk will be open from 11.00 pm to 3.00 am and is located at the Zouk Atrium, Level G of SkyAvenue, Resorts World Genting.

Summer Palace Weekend Brunch Menu (1 Michelin star) – excellent food, impeccable service

Summer-Palace

One of the biggest challenges I have with Chinese restaurants is their minimum seating requirement. This can be up to 10 pax in older days but it has shrunk to a more reasonable 2-5 pax in recent years. I wanted to try the popular Weekend Brunch Menu at 1 Michelin Star Summer Palace, but it requires a minimum of 4 pax to order it. This means I must convince my sister and her family to join me! Good thing she was up for it.

Hand-Pulled-Noodle

I was 1 hour late to lunch coz I took the wrong bus. I must be the only person ever to take a bus to a Michelin starred restaurant. Haha. My sister drove here but I wanted to get something important done (i.e. sleep in) so I came separately. The Weekend Brunch Menu (SGD 56 per pax) started with a complimentary appetizer. This is a flat, hand-pulled noodle served with XO sauce and fish pieces. It was served at room temperature – acidic and bright. It whetted my appetite nicely.

Wasabi-Mayo-Prawns

Deep Fried Prawns with Wasabi Mayo. What a strong start to brunch! Everyone at the table gushed about these delicious prawns, even my dad. I had to scheme to get more than my fair share coz there were 6 pieces in total. I ended up popping 3 of these babies into my mouth. The wasabi adds a faint kick to the delicate, naturally sweet prawns and made me want more. There are bits of mango inside too – sweet, crispy, tender, savory, this dish hits every single taste bud and texture. 10/10.

Baked-Chicken-Tart-with-Baby-Abalone

Baked Chicken Tart with Baby Abalone. Omg! Just wow. Perfectly cooked baby abalone on top of buttery tarts. The crust is very crumbly and rich and the abalone was soft, tender and flavorful. We were all super impressed by this dim sum. Simply amazing. Too bad there was only 1 tart for each person. I could easily demolish the whole plate myself.

Pork-Dumplings-Dried-Scallops

Steamed Pork Dumplings with Dried Scallops. This is an upscale version of siu mai. It’s very nicely done. The dim sum at Summer Palace is elegantly constructed. It tastes refined, like your rich, well-traveled and beautiful aunt who doesn’t look a day over 30.

Deep-Fried-Prawn-Rolls-Mango

Deep-fried Prawn Rolls with Mango. I love the rolled and deep fried wrapper. It’s so crispy! There’s a side of sweetened Japanese mayo as a dip and everything comes together perfectly. It’s delicious and contemporary – like your cool, edgy brother who married a hot Brazilian and now has beautiful, blended babies. I love how the quartet of dim sum offerings has 2 steamed and 2 baked/fried offerings so you have textural variety.

Prawn-Dumplings-Bird-Nest

Steamed Prawn Dumplings with Bird’s Nest. This is very refined! As cultured as your young sister with long, straight, black hair who dresses in qi pao and plays the er hu. The sweetness of the prawns go well with the bird’s nest, which adds a pleasant texture to your chew.

Mushrooms-Zhen-Jiang-Vinegar

Sautéed Mixed Mushrooms in Zhen Jiang Vinegar. I’m told this is a famous black vinegar from China. It’s the base for this dish of assorted mushrooms. This is as delicate as your second cousin who never leaves home without an umbrella to shield her fair, white skin from the sun. It stands head and shoulders above the disappointing version by Crystal Jade Golden Palace.

Fish-Maw-Double-Boiled-Soup

Soup of the Day was Fish Maw and Chicken Double Boiled Soup. The fish maw was the highest quality I’ve ever tasted! This ain’t the cheap swim bladders your grandma uses for her daily soup. It’s a huge portion that’s slippery and full of collagen. I liked the intricate balance of Chinese herbs in the soup too. Very good.

Signature-Roast-Meat-Platter

Chef’s Signature Roast Meat Platter. Suckling Pig. Roasted Duck. Honey BBQ Pork. Jellyfish. I liked the crispy skin of the suckling pig but the roasted duck was too oily for me. Maybe I was beyond full at his point so I didn’t appreciate the rich flavors. I can see why the jellyfish it there – the acidic marinate and clean texture helps cut through the fattiness. I did enjoy the Honey BBQ Pork though. It’s done very skillfully.

Steamed-Soon-Hock-Superior-Soy

Steamed Soon Hock in Superior Light Soya Sauce. Excellent! I love the fish in Chinese restaurants and this was a whole marble goby in delicious, sweet and coriander-scented soy sauce. The waitress portioned this nicely for everyone, with an additional portion of the head as extra. I devoured my portion and the head, even though I was stuffed.

Poached-Vegetables-Superior-Stock

Poached Vegetables with Superior Stock. The food here is of such high quality even their vegetables are delicious! The plain flavors were a welcome addition after the previous oily course. I like how well they thought through the sequencing of the courses and dishes. Despite being simple, it was tasty.

Fried-Rice-Prawns-Honey-Pork

Fried Rice with Prawns and Honey Pork. We were all filled to the brim at this point so we only had a small tasting portion. Each individual grain of rice was visible and there’s lots of goodies like prawns and BBQ pork inside. It’s a bit too oily for me. My niece and nephew enjoyed it though so we packed this home for them.

Chilled-Lemongrass-Aloe-Vera

Chilled Lemongrass with Aloe Vera in Lime Juice. A sweet end to a heavy brunch! There’s a lot of different textures in this bowl and the complexity of flavors is surprising. It’s not just sugar syrup but goji berries and other Chinese herbs in the dessert. We all enjoyed the refreshing end to the meal.

Summer-Palace-Us

All of us had nothing but good things to say about Summer Palace. Service was attentive and friendly. The food was excellent. My brother-in-law paid for the meal so I didn’t know the exact figure, but I peeked and it was slightly over SGD 300. The kids had some dim sum before I arrived, as well as drinks, and we all had Chinese tea. My sister said Din Tai Fung can be more expensive sometimes so it’s really great value. I personally think SGD 56/pax for this amount of high quality cooking is a steal so if you can scrounge together a party of 4, I highly recommend Summer Palace’s Weekend Brunch. No wonder every single table was occupied. We all left happy and full.

Genki Sushi Dai Man Zoku Menu @ Sunway Pyramid

Genki-Sushi-HB

Genki Sushi used to have a presence at 1 Utama before all their outlets were shuttered due to the main franchiser pulling out. I like their sushi, which I find better than a lot of the quasi-Japanese chains out there. Genki Sushi is a real Japanese franchise. You’ll be surprised at how many Japanese F&B outlets in Malaysia are wholly local. Some are even based out of Kepong! That’s about as Japanese as my mom.

Sushi-Genki-Sunway-Pyramid

It’s been a few long years but now they’re back in Sunway Pyramid. They’ve just been open a week and I went to check them out on the Tuesday public holiday. The big thing is their 1.5 times bigger sushi serving (compared to other restaurants) at RM 4.80/piece. They call this menu Dai Man Zoku (big satisfaction) and I ordered a few items from this selection.

Genki-Sushi

I was told their Jumbo Crab Stick is really good. I didn’t want to like it coz I knew it wouldn’t be real crab meat at just RM 4.80. It’s surimi but it still tasted really good. I enjoyed it very much despite my reservations. It’s very flavorful. I also ordered the Prime Salmon Belly, Red Shrimp, Grilled Eel and Yellowtail from the Dai Man Zoku menu. Salmon Roe Gunkan and Scallop from their Premium Collection (RM 6.80/piece) was delicious as well. The scallops were exceedingly sweet and delicious. Two thumbs up.

Sushi-Genki

It also featured in their Trio Sashimi (Salmon, Scallops, Surf Clam) for RM 22.80. I finished up with a Grilled Eel Mini Don (RM 12.80). They’re more expensive than other local sushi chains but their toppings are way more generous than the razor thin slices of Sushi Mentai or the fat, square, rice-heavy offerings of Sushi King. Genki Sushi is one of the better conveyor belt sushi restaurants here. They’ve even revamped their delivery system to a bullet train called Kousoku Express that sends food straight from the kitchen to your table.

Labyrinth (1 Michelin star) Pre Theatre Menu – a very average dining experience

Labyrinth

I have a soft spot for progressive cuisine. My favorite restaurant to date is Gaggan. I enjoy the modern take on Indian food – licking plates and eating with my hands felt fun and liberating. I was also impressed by Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin. Thus, I made sure to include Labyrinth in my latest Singapore trip. Labyrinth has 1 Michelin star and does a modern take on Singaporean cuisine, using many techniques from molecular gastronomy to propel local Singapore food into the 21st century.

Labyrinth-Muruku

I came here with a friend for their Pre Theatre Menu (SGD 68) which is the same as their lunch menu, served at 6 pm. You’re directed to a lounge when you arrive and served murukku and apple flavored water. Service is a little stiff and formal from two of the waiters, like they aspire to a caricature of what they imagine French Michelin-starred restaurants are like. Having been to France and dined at Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, I can assure you it’s not like that over there. Some staff are really friendly though.

Labyrinth-Singapore

Unfortunately, one of the Indian or Malay waiters had a really bad case of halitosis, like there were pounds of ripe old tonsil stones stuck somewhere in his throat. That was a real turn-off in a meal setting. I usually don’t comment on things like these unless it affects the dining experience, and this did. I had to hold my breath while he explained the dishes and wait for the nauseating miasma to disperse before I could get started on my food. It was a real struggle.

Oolong-Tea-Egg

Dinner started with Oolong Tea Egg. This is described as “Uncle William’s quail egg” and it’s one of their signature items. It’s a quail egg with a liquid interior yolk which is not the yolk. The liquid has been injected into the egg to replace the yolk. It’s very smoky. I liked this.

Nasi-Lemak-CCF

The second snack is “Nasi Lemak” Cheong Fun – chicken skin, ikan bilis and egg yolk gel. It’s a soft pillow of chee cheong fun (CCF) that tastes like nasi lamak due to the spicy anchovy sambal inserted inside. The egg yolk gel coats the CCF bite to add some creaminess and the crispy shard of chicken skin provided a nice texture. Decent.

Heartland-Waffle

Heartland Waffle ended the trio of snacks, described as local chicken liver pate and goji berry jam. The waffle is soft and fluffy. Pay attention KFC! This is how you should do a waffle!! It has a strange, intense flavor from the liver and goji berries that I didn’t like at first, but I enjoyed it after chewing for a while. It’s very tasty. This is the best one out of the three starters.

Mantou-Coconut

There was a complimentary snack described as coconut butter with deep fried buns. These are the same mantou you’ll see served with chilli crab in Singapore. It was a nice flavor but it’s not ready for prime time yet. The butter was very hard to spread. My friend called this “experimental” which is the best way to describe the dish. I told her I’ll be stealing that word for my blog.

Ang-Moh-Chicken-Rice

The plates sequence started next with “Ang Moh” Chicken Rice. This is another one of their famous dishes which features home-milled rice flour, grandma’s chilli sauce and braised chicken. There are chilli strands on top of the dish, which reminds me of A Noodle Story. The dish tasted interesting but it’s not my favorite thing. It is remarkably similar to one of my failed meal prep dishes – creamy chicken.

Nippon-Koi-Farm-Silver-Perch

Nippon Koi Farm Silver Perch is described as “Fish Bak Kut Teh”. It’s herbal pepper broth, ulam raja and textures of black garlic. You’re served the fish first…

Fish-BKT

…then the BKT broth is poured out of a teapot tableside.

Labyrinth-BKT

This was my favorite dish of the night. The fish was cooked well and tasted good. I enjoyed the crispy vegetables on top of the fish. I thought the deep fried vegetables were a little too oily but overall, this creation has very nice flavors. I love the sweet herbal soup.

Indonesian-Pork-Collar

There are two options for your main. My friend went for the Indonesian Pork Collar. It’s char siew, mixed greens, kale and pickled bak choy. I liked the fatty char siew and the flavored dust. It’s delicious but I don’t think I’ll enjoy eating the whole thing since the fat and sugar will be a bit cloying after a few mouthfuls. The pickled bak choy is very important for cutting through the rich flavors.

Toh-Thye-San-French-Poulet

I had the Toh Thye San Farm French Poulet (SGD 10 supplement). This is a Cantonese style roast chicken with glutenous rice and egg yolk from Freedom Farm. There are two parts to this dish – the fillet of roasted chicken and the medallion of sauced chicken inside glutenous rice. I liked the latter but the former tasted a bit plain. I thought it was sous vide chicken but the waiter told me it’s been cooked for 5 hours at 55 degrees Celsius in the oven with sugar on the skin to crisp it up. There are crispy prawn cracker crumbs on top, which I thought was a nice though.

Labyrinth-Rosella

Next up came the palate cleanser called Clam Leaf Snow made with rosella meringue and textures of grapes before the dessert course. Our waiter even brought out a rosella plant so we could see what it was made from, but this felt more like a rehearsed, robotic scene than a genuine attempt to add value, which I experienced at Waku Ghin and Shinji.

Clam-Leaf-Snow

I did enjoy the palate cleanser though. It was quite good for something meant to just reset your tastebuds. I particularly liked the fruits at the bottom.

Cristal-De-Chine-Caviar

The dessert course was Cristal De Chine Caviar, basically a modern interpretation of kaya toast. It is made with kaya ice cream and Sing Hong Loong toast. This was excellent! I love the crispy bread the nice caramelized kaya ice cream. The kaya is salted too so there’s burnt notes and salty notes. I also enjoyed the hot (bread) and cold (kaya ice cream) temperature play. The edible miniature maple leaf was a nice touch. 10/10. I’ll eat the hell out of this if they served it separately.

Labyrinth-Petit-Fours

Labyrinth ended the dinner with a duo of seasonal treats. The petit fours were durian macaron and chiffon pandan. The durian macaron is very strong tasting. Even though I like fresh durian, I’m not a fan of durian desserts. It’s a no from me. The chiffon pandan was a plain, unsweetened hunk of cake. I think it’s supposed to be a palate cleanser after you eat the tiny durian macaron.

Labyrinth-Us

The bill came up to SGD 172 (RM 524) for two. The dishes at Labyrinth tries to be creative for the sake of being creative. A lot of the techniques were unnecessary and forced into the dish to provide some pizzazz. The smoke-and-mirrors felt like an attempt to divert your attention away from the very average food. There was nothing extraordinary about the taste or execution of most dishes. It did not make me want to return. Labyrinth would have gotten into my Bottom 3 if not for Shisen Hanten, The Song of India and Crystal Jade Golden Palace.

Crystal Jade Golden Palace (1 Michelin star) – a disheartening set menu dinner

Crystal-Jade-Golden-Palace

I’ll like to tell you a tale of extreme disappointment. Let me preface this blog post by saying Crystal Jade Golden Palace was the worst Michelin star restaurant I’ve been to in Singapore. The food was very mediocre, and the prices were incommensurate to the ingredients and experience. I wanted my itinerary to include one homegrown local chain, so I came here despite warnings and objections from other people. My dad has been to this exact outlet and said it was disappointing. He never says things like that.

Crystal-Jade-Set-Menu

I was seated just inches from the waitress station so there was constantly movement and noise around me – shouted orders, staff getting chopsticks, water refills. Crystal Jade Golden Palace tries to squeeze so much revenue out of the outlet that there are chairs and tables where there should be none. I came here to try their SGD 48 set meal but was told that it’s only available for lunch. This wasn’t stated at all on their website or menu. The dinner menu starts at SGD 78 and it doesn’t look as appealing.

Crystal-Jade-Edamame

I went for Executive Set Menu C at SGD 88 instead. It took me ages to decide coz nothing in the menu items sounded appealing to me. I didn’t think there was anything special about the dishes but I silenced the inner voice telling me to run and picked one almost at random. I was offered edamame beans, which was charged at SGD 2. Even my tap water incurred a SGD 1 cost!

Teochew-Marinated-Appetizer-Combination

Teochew Marinated Appetizer Combination (Two Varieties). The deep-fried ball thing was very ordinary. It made no impression whatsoever. I don’t even know why there’s a rice cracker beneath it as it adds nothing to the dish. The slice of duck with vinegar was likewise forgettable. It’s just a plain, below average piece of meat doused with vinegar. If I didn’t like the kind, grandmotherly waitress serving me, I might have been tempted to cut my losses and leave right now.

Fish-Maw-Thick-Soup

Crab Meat & Fish Maw Thick Soup in Teochew Style. This is a very fatty soup. It tastes like it’s made of pure collagen. So thick! So viscous! I felt I can overturn the bowl like a DQ Blizzard. The soup stuck to my mouth and coated my lips with intense flavor. I was at the border of loving it and hating it. I’m not sure how to feel. I’m confused! I’ve been reflecting on the soup for a few days and decided I love it as I’ve been craving for that insanely thick mouthfeel since. This was the best dish of the night.

Baked-Cod-Fish

Baked Cod Fish with Miso Sauce. Did this taste delicious? No, it was merely competent. There’s nothing special about the dish. The tapioca chip and sprig of parsley looks out of place. To be fair, this wasn’t bad – I enjoyed the creamy, sweet sauce with the fish. But that’s the thing, it’s just acceptable. Adequate. Average.

Vegetable-with-Wild-Mushroom

Sautéed Vegetable with Wild Mushroom. This one really pissed me off. It was literally a few scraps of carrot, peas and mushrooms in an unremarkably bland sauce. The only thing of note is the deep fried enoki mushroom, of which there were 2. The size of this vegetable dish is more or less the area of a credit card, and not much thicker!

Handmade-Noodle-with-Baby-Abalone

Stewed Handmade Noodle with Baby Abalone. The noodles were overcooked and under-seasoned. There was a lack of any appreciable flavor in this dish. The baby abalone was serviceable but there was nothing particular about it. The dish was edible for sure, but so middle-of-the-road that any hawker center could do a better job. I was so hungry I finished everything anyway.

Mango-Puree-with-Pomelo

Chilled Mango Puree with Pomelo & Sago. This looks and tastes like a lazy cook decided to randomly toss in several leftover ingredients to increase the average cheque size. It was below my already lowered expectations, if that’s even possible. A sad end to a depressing dinner. The bill for dinner came up to SGD 107 (RM 327).

Maids-Leftover-Chicken
(This is a photo of the chicken and noodles I ate at home immediately after this dinner to illustrate how hungry I was)

Dinner would have been cheaper if I had ordered a la carte. I’ll have a more filling meal too, but I wanted to check out their set menus, which is supposed to highlight their best dishes and abilities. Maybe that was my mistake. I had to destroy a bowl of leftover chicken and noodles my sister’s maid cooked when I got home coz I was still very hungry. The portions were way too small!

Crystal-Jade-Golden-Palace-HB

I don’t mind paying for exemplary food. My most expensive dinner was RM 1,615 at Gaggan and I walked away a very happy man. I recommended Gaggan to my sister and all my friends. I even sang praises to random strangers who didn’t ask. But it really makes me angry when I pay good money and receive middling, ordinary and subpar food. Crystal Jade Golden Palace was a letdown of epic proportions. I cannot un-recommend it enough.

Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff – the second to get Bib Gourmand

Rolina-Singapore-Curry-Puffs

Rolina was the second ever curry puff stall to get a coveted Bib Gourmand award in the Michelin Guide Singapore this year. The first was J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff. Interestingly, J2 claimed in an interview that most curry puffs are similar so they didn’t know why they were selected. Haha. Since I’m giving out anecdotes today, the name of Rolina is a mispronunciation of Novena. Chinese speakers regularly say “Rolina” instead of “Novena” so they used the Singlish pronunciation as their stall name.

Rolina-Traditional-Hainanese-Curry-Puff

Rolina only has two types of curry puff – Sardine and Curry Chicken & Egg. They both go for SGD 1.50 each. They’re much smaller than J2’s curry puff and the crust is different. These babies are handmade and the crust is buttery and thin. There’s a decent amount of stuffing inside too. The owner was exceedingly friendly and courteous. I found this unusual in a hawker center stall but most welcome.

Rolina-Bib-Gourmand

I brought some back to Malaysia but it’s not as nice after reheating since the skin doesn’t keep its crispness. It’s much better when it’s hot and fresh. The buttery crunchy skin is an important part of what makes a curry puff good. I liked both the curry chicken and sardine but the sardine one resonated with me more coz it’s spicy. It’s a lot spicier than I expected. Very good.

Nouri Singapore (1 Michelin star) – Teishoku lunch at a superb restaurant

Nouri-SG

Nouri is one of the new restaurants who received their first Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018. I was excited to check out this place. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. The main seating inside the restaurant is a large white marble dining table which flanks the kitchen. The chefs literally plates in front of you so you can see them working while you eat. Chef-owner Ivan Brehm was there to cook and explain the dishes to all the customers.

Nouri

I love places like this coz I’m a total food nerd. Burnt Ends have a similar setup. The same restaurateur group is behind both. This makes the dining experience more intimate as you can see the elements that goes into your dishes and talk to the chefs while they’re preparing your food. I was here with my dad for their “Teishoku” style a la carte lunch. You choose the main (vegetable, pork or fish) you want – appetizers and desserts are included.

Rice-Sourdough-Basil-Butter

The meal started with a slice of rice sourdough bread made in-house with basil butter. The bread was warm and crusty – delicious! I like how easily the basil butter spreads. This is a minor thing but some restaurants – even Michelin starred ones – serve cold butter that’s nigh impossible to spread. Both my dad and I loved this.

Brazilian-Street-Snack

Chef-owner Ivan called this complimentary appetizer a Brazilian street snack. He explained that many people here think it’s Indian but it originates from South America. The caviar-like pearls on top are okra seeds. That’s ingenious! There’s tons of flavor in both the crispy lentil filled bite and the exquisitely nuanced frothy base with oil. It’s so yummy my dad couldn’t hide his approval.

Nouri-Seafood

I went for the Seafood (SGD 44) which is described as locally caught parrotfish, physallis beurre blanc, watermelon radish salad, red vein sorrel. There are 4 side dishes included with every main. I’ll explain them later. The grouper was mild tasting, but the Cape gooseberries adds a nice acidity to the dish. The creamy sauce was excellent. It’s overall a more subdued main dish with clean flavors.

Vegetable-Restaurant-Broth

Vegetable “restaurant” broth. This simple sounding side dish is made of 7 different types of organic vegetables. It’s served hot in a double walled shot glass you can pick up and slurp. I really enjoyed the intense and varied flavors within, as did my dad. He was very impressed.

Organic-Watermelon-Radish

Organic watermelon radish with black pepper sauce had dashi jelly, Tahitian vanilla and wild whole green pepper mixed in. I thought that was very interesting. It’s an unusual flavor combination but I like it.

Sambal-Ikan-Bilis-Acaar

Yacon and tapioca with sambal ikan bilis and red chilli achaar. This small side dish is absolutely packed with flavor! The anchovy sauce is so intense tasting. It goes very well with the creamy element and milder tasting tapioca. Excellent combination. My dad liked this a lot.

Snowpea-Beetroot-Salad

Snow pea and beetroot salad with fermented tamarillo dressing was done competently but the light flavors made this more of a palate cleanser. Nothing wrong with that, the different intensities in flavor help balance things out.

Nouri-Vegetable

My dad went for the Vegetable (SGD 32) which was described as 48 hour caramelized orange, aged carnaroli rice, roasted yacon, Carles Roquefort. Roquefort Carles is a famous unpasteurized artisan blue cheese. It was intense! So rich and complex. We both loved it! There’s bits of orange fruit to cut through the strong flavors sprinkled on the dish. We both enjoyed this tremendously. The carnaroli rice is very different from our rice – each grain is distinct and firm. Very well executed.

Pickled-Lemon-Cranberry-Ice-Cream

Dessert was pickled lemon and cranberry ice cream with clove and creme fraiche. This was a sublime end to our lunch. The bright, acidic flavors of the ice cream finished the meal on a delightful note. I always feel acidic desserts work better than chocolate ones. My dad, not being a big dessert fan, finished everything on his plate. That’s how splendid it was.

Chef-Iven-Brehm

The service at Nouri was extremely good. All the waiters and chefs were very friendly and attentive. I dropped my napkin and they promptly changed it. Chef-owner Iven Brehm came over to introduce every dish and served us personally, which was an excellent touch. One of them remembered I wanted to take a photo with Chef Ivan and prompted me as we were about to leave. The prices for lunch was very reasonable too! We spent SGD 102 (RM 310) in total. There’s a SGD 5 charge per pax for their water but I don’t mind it at all. I’ll definitely be back for dinner! I feel Nouri has great potential to move to 2 Michelin stars in the future.

Nouri-Singapore

Nouri
72 Amoy Street, Singapore

Sneak Peak: Probably The Best Party 2018 by Carlsberg, The Roof

Karaoke-Party

Carlsberg has the best events. You’ll never lack for delicious food, refreshing beer and great company. I was lucky enough to be part of 300 people invited to a preview of “Probably The Best Party”. Carlsberg showcased the First Prize of a promotional campaign for guests and media. I repeat, this will be an actual one-of-a-kind experience for 50 lucky winners and 80 of their friends. You’ll get to choose a venue and theme of your choice if you win. You’ll be the most popular guy in your friend list!

Oriental-Party

There are five themes that winners can choose from – Oriental, Kollywood, German, Sports or Karaoke Party. The Roof was transformed into a magical wonderland to give the guests a taste of what the winners will get to experience. There are also different themed food at each venue e.g. Indian food at Kollywood, Bavarian fare at German, snacks at Sports.

Fresh-Fish-Prawns

I started out my night with the Oriental Party at Yezi. I did a detailed survey of all the themes and decided this offered the best selection of food items. You have slices of fresh fish and huge prawns ready to go into the steamboat broth. I probably ate 4 plates of fish slices, but none of the shrimp coz I’m lazy to peel them. It was delicious! I tried all their soup bases and my favorites are the truffle and Shaoxing wine ones.

Yezi-Fish

I managed to glean the recipe of their delectable dipping sauce from the owner. It’s coriander stalk boiled with soy sauce and sugar. Simple, yet yummy.

Oriental-Pole-Dancers

The first performance of the night was a duo of Oriental pole dancers who mesmerized the crowd. I believe the only eyes not on them were watching through a viewfinder or mobile phone screen.

Kollywood-Party

Kollywood Party @ Ballers was home to a really hype Indian performance that had the guests dancing along. I was tempted to as well and would have if I wasn’t carrying my backpack from work. I came here straight from the office.

Chicken-Dance

German Party at Signature had a band and the Carlsberg promoters got everyone to do the chicken dance. I had fun singing along to the band. Crowd favorites like YMCA were played and we did the hand movements to go along with it.

Sports-Party

Sports Party @ SCORE features sports themed performances and had footballers doing tricks.

German-Party

Karaoke Party at Play was where we adjourned for the rest of the night. This was my favorite theme due to the insane performance by Mad August. They played everything from Cantonese rock classics to Nirvana. It was excellent. We drank and sang along and had tons of fun.

Yezi

There were lots of interactive activities like Loudest POP Challenge, Giant Stein Challenge etc. The free flow of beer and food made it a very festive environment. We were given a pass to get chopped at each station for a goodie bag which we were supposed to redeem at the end of the night. I promptly forgot to do that coz I overindulged in the amber fluid. I could barely get into a Grab as it was. An excellent night of fun! I had a blast.

Games

BTW, there have already been three lucky First Prize winners in this promotion! These 3 will be partying with 80 of their friends in the upcoming weeks. The campaign runs till end of November and there will also be three Grand Prize winners who will each enjoy an all-expenses paid trip with five friends for “Probably The Best Winter Party” in Copenhagen, Denmark. I would rather win this than the First Prize party coz I’ve never been to Denmark. Haha.

Carlsberg-Girl

Grab your chance to win “Probably The Best Party” by checking the inside of the bottle caps of big bottles when you enjoy Carlsberg or Carlsberg Smooth Draught at participating coffee shops and food courts. If you drink at bars and pubs, you can check your Gift Cards when you’re there.

Best-Party

Supermarkets, hypermarkets and ecomm platforms are not left out coz the Gift Cards will be included in the inner panel of Carlsberg and Carlsberg Smooth Draught 6-can packs! You will also receive a Gift Card for purchases RM 15 and above at convenience stores.

Carlsberg-Best-Party

There are 47 more lucky First Prize winners to go! Don’t miss out on this chance of a lifetime to host Probably The Best Party for 80 of your friends for free! Follow www.facebook.com/CarlsbergMY or visit www.probablythebest.com.my for more information.

PUTIEN Kitchener Road (1 Michelin star)

PUTIEN-Michelin-star

My dad and I are both Heng Hua from Putien. The Heng Hua diaspora is one of the smallest groups in Malaysia. I thought it’ll be a great idea to bring him for dinner at PUTIEN, Kitchener Road. PUTIEN serves authentic Heng Hua cuisine. They have many branches in Singapore and Malaysia but only the original Kitchener Road one has a Michelin star. I’ve also been to the PUTIEN in Sunway Pyramid. I’ve met many people who swear by the food here and it’s the only PUTIEN they’ll eat at.

PUTIEN-Kitchener-Road

I asked my sister to call them coz they only accept phone reservations but for some reason they didn’t have my name on the ledger when we arrived. Luckily, we were able to share a table with another duo. The Kitchener Road outlet is exceedingly packed – I saw a guy trying to secure a 30 min slot via walk-in. He claims he’ll be able to finish eating and be out within half an hour!

PUTIEN-Pomelo

I ordered a few of their signature dishes to try. PUTIEN furnished us with complimentary pomelo from Putien in China as an appetizer. It was pink and sweet with very little bitter notes. I also like the attention to detail – they served it on a bed of shaved ice.

PUTIEN-Sweet-Sour-Pork

PUTIEN Sweet & Sour Pork with Lychees (SGD 13.90 for small) is their flagship and it tastes amazing! I love sweet & sour pork but a lot of the dishes in zi char restaurants are done as a mere afterthought with not much attention paid to it. It has become a pedestrian dish but PUTIEN’s version has a crispy exterior wrapping tender whole pork chunks with a delicately sweet sauce. It’s well balanced and very moreish. 10/10! It’s the best version of sweet and sour pork I’ve ever eaten. I love the lychees too. Yum.

Bian-Rou-Soup

PUTIEN Bian Rou Soup (SGD 4.80/pax) is something my hometown of Sibu is famous for as well. It’s minced pork in a wrapper but PUTIEN does a higher end version of it. The pork is chilled, never frozen, and pounded using a mallet instead of a chopped with a cleaver. The wrapper they use is gossamer thin and delicate. It’s very good! It tastes like the ones we get in Sibu but a lot more sophisticated – better rice wine, higher quality vinegar etc.

PUTIEN-Homemade-Tofu

Homemade Bean Curd (SGD 10.90 for small) was my dad’s selection. He loves tofu and he’s a bit of a tofu connoisseur. It’s something he always orders when we have dinner, so I’ve also eaten a lot of tofu by proxy. This is very exquisite – soft, yet firm tofu with a nice textured “crust”, an intricate silken sauce and well-balanced flavors. It tastes like one of my dad’s favorites from Rejang Park in Sibu but superior in execution. Delicious.

100-Second-Croaker

“100-second” Stewed Yellow Croaker (SGD 13.80) is another one of their famed dishes. It’s a type of fish found in Putien that has been steamed for just 100 seconds in a claypot. Unfortunately, this fish has a lot of bones. By a lot, I mean every single minute piece has 100 bones inside. You’ll probably not enjoy this if you don’t like bones in fish. Neither my dad nor I liked this, which wasn’t really helped by the lack of flavor.

PUTIEN-Heng-Hwa-Beehoon

Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon (SGD 9.80 for small) is a must order here. This is a Chinese National Intangible Cultural Heritage item and the noodles are milled by hand in Putien. There’s quite a lot of seafood under the dish – clams, prawns etc. The noodles are nicely textural with a bit of a bite and there’s a lot of smokiness. Lots of wok hei. It goes very well with their sweet and sour lychee pork.

PUTIEN-Spice-Mum-Chilli-Sauce

You must add the PUTIEN Spice Mum Chilli Sauce to the bee hoon to kick it up a notch. Their chilli sauce is excellent! Spicy, acidic and appetizing. I even bought a bottle to bring back home. It usually retails for SGD 6.80 but they had SGD 1.80/bottle promotion as part of their 18th anniversary celebrations.

PUTIEN-Chopsticks

The cashier gave me a pair of PUTIEN branded chopsticks as a free gift when I paid the bill! I thought that was cool. I love food related souvenirs.

PUTIEN-Us

PUTIEN Kitchener Road has very attentive service. I told our waitress I’ll serve myself coz I wanted to take photos first. The waitress noticed I wasn’t using the bowls they provided for the 100-second croaker and told us it tastes better with the soup and served us when she saw I was done with my pictures. The food was also delicious! It tastes super familiar to us, which means the food in Sibu is authentic Heng Hua too, despite being away for several generations. Everything tastes like home but better executed! The bill came up to just SGD 67 (RM 200) which is very reasonable! Recommended!

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