Nakiryu 1 Michelin star instant ramen review – a collaboration between Nissin and 7Eleven Japan

Nakiryu means “Screaming Dragon” in Japanese and they’re the second ramen shop to get a Michelin star after Tsuta. The ramen they do is very different from the light tasting Tsuta – Nakiryu’s tantanmen is unapologetically heavy, spicy and rich. I’ve eaten a previous version of their instant noodles (also by Nissin) in 2016. This was before they’ve won their Michelin star and the Nissin version then was in cup noodle format with all the seasoning and dehydrated protein bits inside the noodles. There was a sachet of hot oil to finish the ramen with and it tasted really good and nutty.

Their latest is a collaboration with 7Eleven Premium Japan. The recipe has been refined and inside the bowl ramen is a packet of powdered soup and dehydrated meat, a sachet of hot oil and a pack of finishing oil. You’re only supposed to put the powdered soup + dehydrated meat inside with the noodles when hot water is added. The other two goes on top of the lid to absorb residual heat and they’re only added when the noodles are done.

Nakiryu’s broth is so thick and creamy it’s almost like a starchy stew! There’s also bits of dehydrated meat inside to add texture. This is a type of ramen called tantanmen which is a Szechuan inspired ramen dish. It’s spicy and flavorful and there’s nutty undertones in the soup base. This isn’t a refined and gentlemanly ramen like Tsuta – the Nakiryu instant ramen is overpoweringly in-your-face.

I liked it but the previous discontinued cup version had a better ratio of dehydrated meat to noodles. The portion in this variation seems miserly in comparison. The powdered soup base also didn’t fare as well as Tsuta’s liquid soup base. I must compare these two as they’re both Michelin starred ramen outlets that produced an instant ramen version by 7Eleven Premium. I’m glad I tried it but both Mandy and I felt it’s overshadowed by it’s much superior and delicious tasting Tsuta instant ramen sister product. Or maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate these Japanese-Szechuan flavors – I was also decidedly unimpressed by 2 Michelin star Shisen Hanten.

Nissin x 7Eleven Premium Japan x Tsuta Japanese Soda Noodles – 1 Michelin star instant ramen review

Tsuta is the first ever ramen shop to get a Michelin star in 2015 and they’ve retained that star every year since. They recently did a collaboration with Nissin and the 7-Eleven Premium line of instant ramen to produce a ready-to-eat version of their famous noodles, sold exclusively at 7-Eleven Japan. As a Michelin star chaser, I owed it to myself to taste this interesting instant ramen. I shipped a few bowls in via personal shopper at a cost of around RM 400, which works out to RM 45 per bowl. Spoiler: It was damn worth it!

As the name suggests, Tsuta doesn’t serve typical ramen – they do soba noodles in ramen style. The broth they use is a chicken and clam combination, which is a lot less heavy than the typical pork stock. They’re also famous for finishing all their ramen with truffle, and this holds true for their faithful instant ramen adaptation too! This isn’t just a meagre drop of truffle you can barely taste – the broth is richly infused with truffle flavor and it shines through with every slurp of the ramen.

There are 4 packets of inside the bowl – a vacuum packed sachet of bamboo shoots, a piece of dehydrated pork belly with green onions, a sauce soup base and a foil of truffle oil. There are no powdered flavorings here. The thin, curly noodles look different from most ramen too. You’re supposed to put the dehydrated chasiu + green onion into the noodles and add hot water for 3 minutes. All the other packets go on top so it gets indirect heat and they’re only added after the noodles are cooked.

I love the light tasting broth that’s packed with umami flavor. You can really taste the seafood and chicken in it and there’s yummy notes of truffle in every mouthful that elevates this instant ramen head-and-shoulders above all its peers. This is truly the best instant ramen I’ve ever eaten – no contest. My housemate Mandy loved it too. Nothing comes close, not even its sister 7Eleven Premium instant ramen by 1 Michelin star Nakiryu. Tsuta’s instant ramen is breathtakingly delicious! 🤤

Nuromen Café Uptown PJ – Sarawak beef noodles from Kuching

I went to check out Nuromen Cafe with my housemate Mandy last night. I saw a video on Facebook and told her about it. To my surprise, she said she’s been there many times! I was puzzled coz she just arrived in KL 3 weeks ago and I’ve been out with her almost every time. I know I haven’t been here. It turns out that Nuromen Café in Uptown PJ is the official branch of Nuromen in Kuching. It serves Sarawak style beef noodles and Mandy’s a regular at the Kuching outlet.

As an illustration of how small the Sarawakian community is, a friend tagged the artist who drew this mural (also from Kuching) when I posted it on Facebook yesterday. Both Mandy and I are from Sarawak too. I guess Sarawakians just have an incestuous tendency to stick together.

I miss Kuching style beef noodles. I believe Open Air Central Market in Kuching serves one of the more definitive versions. That was my first experience back when I was living in Kuching as a kid. My sister was actually born in Kuching and our family lived there for the first 7 years of my life. I was born in Sibu due to an accident – my mom went into labor when they came to Sibu for Ching Ming. That’s also why my birthday is in Ching Ming. Haha.

Nuromen Café also serves a few Sarawak classic drinks like Teh C Special (RM 4.50) and Teh C Pandan Special (RM 4.50). This drink was created by a coffee shop in 7th Mile, Kuching. We got both to try. It was diluted, not the best representation of Teh C Special.

The interesting thing about Nuromen is the way they do hot pot style beef noodles. You’re given a simmering bowl of beef soup a la hot pot and you cook your own beef slices inside. It’s a cross between hot pot and beef noodles. Mandy told me she usually orders this to eat with rice. You can also pair it with noodles.

We ordered their signature Premium Sirloin Beef Platter Special (RM 42) – it’s a set for 2 pax with 160 gram premium sirloin beef slices, stewed beef, assorted vegetables and beef stock. Nuromen claims all their beef is sourced from Australia and NZ. It’s not local beef or Indian buffalo. This set comes with the more premium marbled sirloin cut. The beef slices are ultra thin so it cooks in just a few seconds.

There’s a separate bowl of cooked stewed beef. We didn’t quite like this. I think my buffalo stew is way better.

I also made a separate a la carte order for 100 grams beef slices (RM 11.50). This is a leaner cut of beef. I wanted to see the difference between the sirloin and regular beef. We preferred the sirloin.

Of course, it’s not beef noodles unless you have noodles. You can order their garlic tossed kolo noodles for RM 3. This is the classic beef noodle pairing. I love the strong scent of garlic and the familiar smells and aromas. This is my kind of comfort food. The noodles are the proper kind we use in Sarawak too.

The staff gave us free ice cream when they saw we’re finished with our meal. This happens in Kuching too according to Mandy. It’s a nice touch.

The food at Nuromen Cafe is pretty good – some misses on the drinks and stewed beef but their signature noodles and beef slices are legit. The bill came up to RM 68.50 for two with drinks. It’s an authentic Sarawakian taste that we’ve both missed. We’ll be back for sure.

Restoran Kar Heong SS14 – best chicken rice in Subang!

I am a huge fan of chicken rice. I had a dark (?) period in my life where I ate poached chicken rice every single day for lunch for almost a year. And I enjoyed it! Haha. There was a really good chicken rice place at Pusat Bandar Damansara back then. I’ve also eaten Michelin Bib Gourmand award winners in Singapore like Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Tiong Bahru Boneless Chicken Rice. I consider myself a bit of a chicken rice connoisseur.

Restaurant Kar Heong in SS14 is one of my favorite chicken rice places around my condo (the other being Kong Sai). It has a stellar reputation among Subang-ites and their white chicken is very tender and juicy! The best benchmark for great poached chicken lies in the breast – it should be soft and succulent instead of dry and stringy. Kar Heong does perfect white chicken with moist meat and slippery skin. We shared ½ chicken between the two of us.

The chicken rice here is also extremely flavorful. There’s so much taste packed into every grain that it’s almost like an umami bomb. This is the 1% of chicken rice – rich, superior and piquant. A lot of people drizzle black sauce or their chicken gravy on top. I prefer the latter – I adore the combination of soy sauce, sugar and coriander stalks that makes up the sauce you see at the bottom of poached chicken. It’s perfect with rice. Kar Heong has good garlicky chilli sauce too.

Mandy also ordered a side of roasted pork. The roast pork here is decent but not the best I’ve had. I feel like the fat to meat ratio is a bit off. I don’t enjoy overly fatty pieces of pork belly. It’s not the worst, but doesn’t rank among the best siu yuk I’ve had in Klang Valley.

Kar Heong is my favorite place to have chicken rice in Subang. I can’t vouch for their roasted chicken though coz I only like poached chicken so that’s what I always order. I also enjoy Restoran Kong Sai in Puchong (their original shop is in PJ). This place has the edge in the chicken rice while Kong Sai’s dipping sauce is better. I haven’t found a better place, but if you know of one, please leave a comment below.

Ayam Gepuk Pak Gembus, USJ 21 – the viral spicy chicken!

Ayam-Gepuk

I was pleased to see this new F&B outlet opposite my condo. Ayam Gepuk Pak Gembus is the famous Indonesian chain of fiery chicken where they use up to 100 cili padi to make their spicy chicken coating. Their main Malaysian branch in Gombak went viral recently and in a testament to scalability, they’ve rapidly opened smaller outlets around Klang Valley. This is an official branch, not a copycat. I love spicy food and I’ve always wanted to try this infernal creation.

Ayam-Gepuk-Pak-Gembus-USJ21

The menu is very streamlined – there’s only one item on offer here but 4 sets from RM 7.90 to RM 10.90. The cheapest one just has ¼ chicken + rice + RO water while the most expensive one throws in tofu, tempeh, chicken liver, chicken stomach, and fried cabbage. Their fried cabbage is insane so I highly recommend the RM 10.90 set. You can get free refills of rice, RO water and unlimited chillis.

Ayam-Pak-Gembus

Their ayam gepuk is the main draw and I had mine with 35 bird eye chillis. The chillis are pounded and mixed with oil and other aromatics before being spread on the ¼ chicken. They don’t use very spicy chillis – these are more flavorful than spicy. It’s a salty and umami rub that goes very well with rice. It burned my lips for an hour after though. I enjoyed the chicken and their delicious fried cabbage. The latter had crispy edges and a distinct taste of char that I love!

However, be warned that they do not have the capacity to deal with large crowds. Each dish is prepared individually and they only have one prep station so it takes ages for food to come out. There was a long queue to order and pay at the cashier too. The chickens are also tiny, but Malay poultry tend to be on the smaller side for some reason. It’s worth a try though!

Burnt Ends (1 Michelin star) – a pleasant gastronomic experience with newfound friends

Burnt-Ends

Burnt Ends was the first Michelin star restaurant I went to during my last trip to Singapore. I flew in at 3 pm and took a quick shower before turning up for my reservation at 6 pm. It’s one of the new Michelin star winners in 2018 and #12 on the S.Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list (#61 on World’s 50 Best Restaurants). I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chef Dave Pynt and the Australian style BBQ they serve here. They go back to basics and cook with real fire. This restaurant has a 4-ton brick oven as the centerpiece and diners are seated in a row flanking the kitchen.

Burnt-Ends-Singapore

I was stationed next to an older couple and they struck up a conversation with me. They ended up sharing their food so I did the same. That’s one of the best things about community style dining – sometimes you meet like-minded foodies and experience a wider range of dishes. They ordered expensive items like Leek, Hazelnut and White Truffle (SGD 75) while my orders were a magnitude more pedestrian (Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs – SGD 22) so it was nice of them to share.

Asparagus-and-Burnt-Cream

Asparagus and Burnt Cream (SGD 14). I ordered a selection of different starters, mains and desserts to get a feel of their cooking. This was my first appetizer. The asparagus was cooked perfectly – moist and still slightly firm. There’s a buttery sauce to go with it and the crispy panko crumbs sprinkled on top adds a nice texture. If you haven’t noticed, all the dishes here are BBQ-ed in their huge fire pit.

Salt-and-Pepper-Pork-Ribs

Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs (SGD 22) came in a huge portion for an entrée. The boneless pork ribs were topped with pickled cilantro, which adds a nice vinegary taste to the smoky pork ribs. They go very well together! Eaten on its own, the pork ribs wasn’t spectacular but the addition of the pickled aromatic herbs elevates it to another level. Good stuff.

Leek-Hazelnut-White-Truffle

Leek, Hazelnut and White Truffle (SGD 75). This was ordered by the couple beside me. The offered me a portion complete with white truffle. I liked the combination of the soft leek, earthy truffle and toothsome hazelnuts. I was very surprised my favorite dishes turned out to be their vegetable dishes. It’s done very well!

Burnt-Ends-Plating

I like the casual environment in Burnt Ends. The chefs cook and plate in front of you and Chef Dave often introduce the dishes personally. The food is sometimes placed in front of you from right opposite the counter where the cooking happens, though shorter limbed chefs require the help of waiters to do that. It’s a different ambiance than fine dining restaurants so don’t come expecting that.

Burnt-Ends-Sanger

I couldn’t resist ordering their famous Burnt Ends Sanger (SGD 20). This is pulled pork shoulder, coleslaw, and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun. The flavor combination is decent but I didn’t feel this was anything special. It tasted very average to me. I gave half to the couple beside me coz there’s no way I could finish this entire thing and still eat the rest of dinner. I wouldn’t order this again.

Octopus-Hummus-Harisa

Octopus, Hummus and Harissa (SGD 24). This was from the couple. I love the slightly charred octopus! It’s tender too, not chewy like how octopus can be if not cooked properly. I’ll definitely get this next time I’m in Burnt Ends. Very good.

Bone-Marrow-Bun

Bone Marrow Bun (SGD 12). Hooooly shit! Hands down the best thing I’ve eaten that night. So sinful! So delicious! This is a brioche bun *slathered* with bone marrow before going into their fire pit. It’s so rich I tasted durian notes inside, which is impossible. Fucking good stuff! I’m salivating just thinking of it right now. I highly recommend this to go with your steak. Excellent.

Burnt-Ends-Tenderloin

Tenderloin, Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow (SGD 28 per 100 gram). This is a 95 gram portion for SGD 26.60. They show it too you before it’s cooked.

Tenderloin-Burnt-Onion-Bone-Marrow

It was served super rare – just the way I like it. Check out the inviting color!

Burnt-Ends-Rare-Tenderloin

I also enjoyed the bone marrow sauce and pickled herbs served on the side. It helps cut down the richness of the steak. This one went swimmingly with the Bone Marrow Bun.

Top-Sirloin

The couple gave me a slice of their Top Sirloin. This is an off-menu item, so I don’t know how much it costs. I suspect this cut of meat is pricey. They’ve been here before and asked for it. It’s really good! Too bad I was so full at this point I couldn’t eat more. They couldn’t finish their order too and asked me to help but I couldn’t stuff more than a slice down my throat coz I was at capacity.

Burnt-Ends-Birthday

It turns out it’s the lady’s birthday! She’s in her 50s! Very well preserved!

Chocolate-Fondant-Smoked-Ice-Cream

Chocolate Fondant and Smoked Ice Cream (SGD 12). Beautiful! The chocolate fondant is perfectly done with an oozing rich, chocolately center. The smoked ice cream is so intensely flavored they must have used smoke extract to make the ice cream. I refuse to believe such strong flavors can be infused naturally! It’s delicious. I love the flavors in the smoked ice cream and how well they go with the chocolate fondant. I’m a fan of peaty Islay single malts whisky though, which has a similar taste profile. I know some people don’t like peaty malts. If that’s the case, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this.

Burnt-Ends-Oreo-Chocolate

Oreo (SGD 3) and Chocolate (SGD 5). The chef gave me these desserts for free. Oreo is Burnt End’s take on the Oreo cookie. I found it quite meh at first but as I chewed the super crispy biscuit, it released more flavors and tasted better and better! Nice. The chocolate is cold and had a butterscotch filling. It’s very creamy and rich. Yums.

Burnt-Ends-Marshmallow

Marshmallow (SGD 2) arrived as another complimentary bite when I paid my bill. I like how they serve this hot, toasted marshmallow on a warm plate. There’s a nice crusty and crispy exterior and a melty interior. It’s not just one dimensionally sweet too – there’s citrus notes in the marshmallow!

Burnt-Ends-Menu

Here’s a copy of the menu! I was searching for it before I was scheduled to come and couldn’t find it. Do note that the menu items changes every day though.

Burnt-Ends-Us

I enjoyed my Australian BBQ dinner at Burnt Ends. The proteins are mostly good but the vegetable dishes were the real star of the night! I didn’t have space for their King Crab and Garlic Brown Butter (SGD 95) but I’ve heard great things about it. I’ll just go for that and their Bone Marrow Bun next time. It sounds like a sinfully delicious pairing! I also enjoyed talking Michelin starred restaurants with the couple beside me, who’re also into fine dining. It was a very pleasant dinner. My bill came up to SGD 118.35 (RM 359) which is reasonable. I will be back.

Shinji by Kanesaka – 1 Michelin star sushi with excellent service

Shinji-Birthday

I celebrated my birthday at 1 Michelin star Shinji by Kanesaka in Carlton Hotel, Singapore. I lied. It’s not my birthday. In my defense, the Shinji staff gave me a juicy opening by asking if I was celebrating anything special when I made the reservation. Wanting to see what they do, I said it was my birthday. I know, I’m terrible. I did feel slightly bad after the whole shebang they did for me. More on that later!

Shinji-by-Kanesaka

There are two Shinji restaurants in Singapore – one at Bras Basah (Carlton Hotel) and the other at Tanglin Road (St Regis). Both have a Michelin star! I went to the one at Carlton Hotel coz they have a really good value SGD 75 sushi lunch. This Hana tier is only available here and has 9 pieces of sushi and other dishes. I got way more than 9 pieces but I’m uncertain if that happens to everyone or coz it was my “birthday”.

Shinji-Carlton-Hotel

The chefs are all from Japan and even the waitresses are all Japanese! Service was extremely courteous and attentive. The waitresses stand behind you and refill your complimentary green tea before it even has a chance to run low. Finger towels are provided and replenished once dirty. They do everything with a warm smile and a kind word. The chefs can all speak English well enough to understand the questions you ask.

Shinji-Singapore

I was seated at the long sushi counter by request coz I wanted to see the chefs working in front of me. I like the idea of having each individual sushi delivered to me once it’s made instead of being put on a platter like you’ll get at the tables. I saw the sushi chefs using ice cubes to rub down their table every now and then and I wondered why they did that. The chef said it’s to keep the working area wet.

Tuna-Soy-Bean-Skin

The meal started with a bowl of lean tuna with soy bean skin and vegetables. There’s some seaweed and sprouts. It’s a complimentary starter that goes very well together. The flavors are mild but umami enough to whet your appetite for the proper sushi courses.

Spanish-Mackerel

Spanish mackerel was the first sushi. It’s very, very smoky. I asked the chef how it’s possible that a raw piece of fish tastes so smoky and he said they hold the mackerel on top of a binchotan grill – not low enough to cook it, just enough to absorb the smoke aromas. Interesting.

Chutoro

Next up was chutoro. This is the medium fatty part of the tuna. The fat gives the fish a nice texture. I actually prefer chutoro to otoro. Delicious.

Otoro

Otoro sushi came after and it’s a super fatty cut of tuna. The piece of tuna literally melted in my mouth. Yum.

Bonito

Bonito. The chef dipped the fish in shiso leaf shards before putting it into the shari (rice). You can see the flakes at the bottom of the fish. This was the least impressive sushi to me taste wise, but still good.

Aji

This is aji or horse mackerel. There’s a strong onion flavor from the onion oil that they brush on top of the slice of fish. The fish is topped with a thin slice of sea kelp. Mmm…they go swimmingly together. Geddit? Haha.

Saba

No, I didn’t post up the same sushi by mistake. This is saba or mackerel. I also wondered if the chefs made a mistake by serving two identical pieces of sushi to me, but they said the fish inside is different – one is aji, the other is saba. No matter, it was delicious.

Squid

Squid sushi was insanely creamy. Very yummy. The chef put a dab of wasabi underneath the ika (squid) so there’s a nice kick to this. One of my favorite pieces during lunch. I love raw squid.

Tiger-Prawn

This is the only item that wasn’t flown in from Japan. It’s local tiger prawn sushi. Wow! I love the sweet sauce they cook this prawn in. It’s perfectly cooked, very tender, not rubbery at all. The tiger prawn is also naturally sweet. Excellent.

Negitoro-Gunkan

Negitoro gunkan. Negitoro is a combination of tuna offcuts and spring onion. These are the stray pieces of tuna you’ll get after cutting off beautiful slices for sashimi and sushi. Perfectly edible, just not as nice looking so it’s chopped up and mixed with spring onions. I like it.

Shinji-Pickles

These are radish pickles. The chef grated lemon zest over these carefully before serving it to us. It’s a highly unusual flavor combination that I’m not used to. Not my favorite thing but I’m glad I tried it. It also acts as a palate cleanser of sorts.

Anago

Anago or salt water eel. This is a very delicate and mildly flavored piece of sushi. I could barely taste anything. Highly unusual. Maybe this is the effect of the pickles from the previous course. The eel slices are very generous and tasty though.

Nameko-Soup

This was followed by a soup course to warm the stomach. The soup is filled with nameko mushrooms and tasted very peppery. It’s perfect after the bland-ish anago sushi. I can see they put a lot of thought into the entire course.

Tuna-Roll

The chef asked me if I was still hungry after my soup and I told him I can still eat. This tuna roll was a complimentary course to fill you up if you’re not full. It tasted quite pedestrian but I understand the purpose of the course. You don’t want customers to leave hungry. It was the only dish that the chef provided soy sauce for. I appreciated the gesture in ensuring I leave full and happy even though the roll wasn’t anything special. Two thumbs up.

Tamago

Lunch ended with the obligatory tamago (egg omelet). Shinji’s version tasted more like a jelly than an omelet. The texture was very interesting! Unusual but delicious. I enjoyed this unorthodox take on the tamago.

Birthday-Dessert

I asked for the bill and was puzzled when it didn’t arrive in a timely manner. Before I could prompt the waitress again, the lights turned off and the chefs disappeared, only to reappear seconds later with funny hats and lighted candles. Omg! I totally forgot I said it was my birthday when I made the booking two months ago!

Shinji-Birthday-Plate

The people seated around me smiled and wished me a happy birthday. I’m not much of a blusher but I can feel the initial warmth of a flush creep up my neck. I was embarrassed they made such a big deal out of it. Embarrassed but happy. And touched! I had to blink to chase away a tear that threatened to escape my eye. The crème brulee and ice cream wasn’t anything special but the gesture certainly meant a lot. I left a very happy man.

Shinji-HB

I highly recommend Shinji by Kanesaka but not coz they gave me such a wonderful birthday experience. I thought the sushi was great and the ambiance was wonderful. You won’t find stuffy, forbidding chefs here that glares at you if you don’t eat the sushi promptly. The chefs and waitresses are very friendly and approachable. You can ask them questions about the sushi and they’ll answer you to the best of their limited English. Is it the best sushi I’ve had? No, that honor belongs to 1 Michelin star Izesushi in Otaru, Hokkaido. But is it better than places like Nobu in KL? By leaps and bounds! The SGD 75 Hana set is superb value too. I only paid SGD 88.30 (RM 269) after tax. I’ll be back for sure.

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.

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.



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