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.

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

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