Menya Kanae Hokkaido Singapore 麺や かなゑ

Published November 14, 2020 by piggie

Menya Kanae has recently opened a new restaurant at Novena Regency (where??), and with some exclusive ramen.
Since they were offering 1-for-1 on selected ramen during their opening weekend, me and my dining partner were tempted to try their signature Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen ($19.80++), which is by default spicy, and include ingredients such as flame-seared tiger prawns, charshu, half ajitama (runny egg), bamboo shoot, seaweed, and sakura ebi tempura flakes.

Due to the promotion, we waited slightly more than an hour before we managed to grab a pair of seats, but in my opinion, this is unlikely to be repeated after the dust are settled. Still, this was significantly shorter than the 150m queue outside Ippudo Westgate I encountered the evening before, which I literally gave up, unwilling to wait for what I felt could take 1-2 hours.

First and foremost, I need to comment on Menya Kanae’s location (currently there are 2, I am referring to their Novena Regency here). If you aren’t driving, then chances are, many may not want to walk across from Novena MRT station to Novena Regency just to try their ramen. In fact, their outlet at Orchard Central Hokkaido Marche is more walkable if not for some exclusive menu here.

Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen, $19.80++

As I mentioned, their signature ramen is Tokusei Sapporo Ebi Tonkotsu Ramen. On their menu, it is listed as spicy, although non-spicy option is also available. I can take such spiciness level, but I strongly recommend avoiding the spicy version. Reason being, if you want to pay premium for prawn broth, then at least you wanna smell and taste the aroma right? And not compromising on just another broth overpowered by excessive chili powder which almost numb your taste bud. Japanese hardly receive to such spiciness, so it must be an attempt to customise according to local flavour no less. Unfortunately, the broth of this ramen gave me such an impression. Eventually, whether prawn shell was used in the broth or not simply became inconsequential, because the aroma was just not there, neither was the taste. Noodle wise, they are using Hokkaido-styled conventional thick, round noodle, which I feel is reasonably firm. Charshu was what I found pathetic, just 2 tiny strips of charshu, makes me wonder whether they deliberately sliced it in half to make up for the number. Though, to be honest, I find it nice probably because they are using pork belly, and actually, since they flame-seared the prawns anyway, might as well do it for the pork belly too. Tiger prawns are reasonably large, tasty and flavourful, possibly the best ingredients in the bowl. All in all, I find this spicy version just mediocre, which is more so the reason why it’s hard to tempt me driving here, or take a long walk from Novena MRT station. If anything, I’ll probably visit more of their Orchard Central branch, more convenience for me in any way. That said, if Menya Kanae is relying on their spicy ramen, or prawn broth ramen, to boost up popularity in their Novena Regency outlet, I personally feel they ought to do more.

Belle-ville Pancake Cafe

Published October 18, 2020 by piggie

Strawberry and Mixed Berry Pancake, $14.40++

This must be my discovery of the year!

My dining partner and I were looking for something lite after a heavy lunch followed by a coffee break, so that we could effectively conclude dinner. Actually, we were more of like searching for their competitor (ie Kyushu Pancake Cafe, whom I had actually attempted to visit their outlet in Takeo Onsen when I was touring Kyushu early this year), when we discovered Belle-ville, which I had passed by dozen times, but never ever notice it under my poking eyes. In fact, it passed off as an American establishment to me, and I was like, well, I had tried one of the best American pancakes in New York (Clinton St Baking Co), how good can this be? Especially that particular New York restaurant famous for their pancakes has now opened up their first oversea branch in Singapore after I visited The Big Apple in 2013.

But this time round, we had wanted something lite, and we found one of Belle-ville’s local franchise located in the vicinity, and I must reiterate we went over without much expectation.

Belle-ville serves meringue Millefeuille Pancake (Millefeuille means thousand-layer in French), with toppings such as fresh cream, Azuki red beans, butter, and ice-cream depending on what you order, or you can also add on to customise your pancakes. As can see from the picture above, my order is Strawberry and Mixed Berry Pancake, and you get to choose whether you want toppings on top only, or have them sandwiched between different pancakes layers as well, the latter of course, will command a higher price. Mine is the latter with 4 pieces pancakes, I feel the volume was just enough for our sharing.

Our pancakes were served with strawberries and Hokkaido cream on top, along with a piece of mint leaf, and of course, with strawberry and mixed berry filling in-between. While I expected the pancakes to have little distinction from McDonald’s Hot Cakes, I was utterly wrong there. Slicing it was very effortless! It was like soft and fluffy, a bit like melt-in-your-mouth type of texture. Next, freshness of the berries don’t lie, the sweetness is such a great complement, which truly brings the satisfaction up a few levels. I think, to say I have never tried pancake this great is not an exaggeration. Belle-ville’s pancakes are indeed softer and tastier, fully bringing out the sweetness of the eggs used, while Clinton St Baking Co is more on the savoury side, and with more firmness. But if I really have to pick side, I will stick with Belle-ville. In fact, I was so satisfied that I made up my mind to be back, as soon as the next day!

Belle-ville Pancakes is hailed from Osaka, and Singapore is their first oversea venture. I reckon that they have probably been here for 2 years, or maybe more? But nonetheless, my recommendation is to try them. They have more than just strawberry and mixed berry pancakes of course, which in my opinion, will be the real test for any doubters, because unlike more conventional pancakes, this one here is more difficult to maintain the quality due to fruits having their own season and even then, not all fruits taste the same. Let me assure you that this visit was not sponsored and if I can recommend it, it’s definitely worth a try!

Tsuta 蔦

Published October 3, 2020 by piggie

Currently, there are only 3 ramen restaurants attaining Michelin star in the world. All three of them are based in Tokyo though, but two of them have franchises in Singapore.

Tsuta is the first ramen restaurant in the world to have been awarded Michelin star for their restaurant in Sugamo, and the first Michelin star ramen restaurant that came to Singapore back in 2016. When they just started off at Pacific Plaza, the queue can easily stretched for hours, that reveals how much Singaporeans value Michelin recommendation, perhaps somewhat obsessed, if I may put it that way.

I didn’t join in the fanfare to rush for Michelin treat… too much hassle, I can never apprehend such commotion. Basically I am not one willing to queue for hours, be it on cuisine or the latest Apple gadgets. But when Tsuta came out a somewhat irresistible promotion, and my dining partner pestered me to try, I’m game.

Tsuta hails from Tokyo, where Shoyu ramen is the main genre, and it’s also Tsuta’s forte, naturally I would love to try that in my primitive visit. However, my dining partner was having that same idea, hence I settled for their Shio ramen instead, thinking that we could try out their different broth. By the way, for some reason, Tsuta call their ramen “soba”, but the texture just ain’t conventional soba for certain. That said, actually, it’s not uncommon in Japan that some ramen restaurants in Japan call their ramen “soba”, but usually if I didn’t do any research, I would avoid such restaurants because soba is really not my cup of tea.

Shio Soba, S$15++

Let me begin with their Shio ramen, and by the way, abnormal to most ramen restaurants I patronised, the differences between Tsuta’s Shoyu and Shio ramen are not just the broth. Tsuta created a sublime distinction that truly brings out the characteristics of both flavour, and I ain’t showing off my writing flair here, far from it, I feel my vocabulary can hardly justify such distinction. But I’ll try!

This is unlike any Shio ramen I had tried in the past. Most ramen restaurants probably focus on the mild salty broth, but Tsuta emphasise on aroma, and they did it with brilliant success. Firstly, there is leek and green olive puree in truffle oil, mint leaves, onion, bamboo shoot, and of course, charshu, with thin Kyushu-styled noodles. Going by the first few ingredients, I guess we can have some idea that the broth must have an intense aroma, oozing a complex elegance not found elsewhere. While I can’t tell if the noodle texture has anything special, I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed the aroma as I ate, be it the truffle or minty smell, eventually finishing every drop of the broth.

Shoyu Soba, S$15++

I’m not sure if I can uncover too much on their Shoyu ramen (or Shoyu soba, whatever they call it), after all I had only tried half a spoonful of the broth. The noodles came with bamboo shoot, leek and black truffle pureed in truffle oil, onion, and charshu. The aroma is sophisticated, probably due to the complexity of their soy sauce, which I understand from Straits Times, was made from Wakayama soy sauce and Chef Yuki ONISHI’s own Shoyu. The broth is also made up of dashi with beef, vegetables, clams and other ingredients. Hence, I can only say it comes with complexity and a remarkable flavour.

Teriyaki Tori Paitan Soba, S$11.80++

On another day, in another outlet, I tried out their Teriyaki Tori Paitan Soba. Again, Tsuta call their ramen soba, but it’s ramen noodle, not the soba noodle we commonly know. In this case, the broth is rich chicken broth, with thin noodle, baby leaves, sweet corn, mushrooms, and yellow onions. As expected, there is no pork charshu though, merely 2 slices of thick chicken meat, and at least the texture of the chicken in my bowl came somewhat tender and chewy. Personally, I applause Tsuta’s effort to implement teriyaki chicken in a soup noodle, but it’s a tall order. I feel sorry that such combination fails to bring out the full extent of Teriyaki flavour, diluting its flavour in the broth in the process. I would find more satisfaction having Teriyaki chicken first, follow by a conventional bowl of ramen. I must confess I have a bigger love for Tonkotsu broth, and I do find the broth of this ramen satisfying, however, this is not the standard I anticipated from a Michelin chef. At best, it’s only moderate. But to be honest, my dining partner likes this over their award-winning Shoyu soba (or ramen, whatever), in part perhaps due to her dislike over truffle aroma. But get me wrong, this isn’t a poor ramen, just decent in my humble opinion, somewhat reflected in its price.

Ramen Hitoyoshi

Published September 9, 2020 by piggie

Hitoyoshi is actually a small town in Kumamoto, Kyushu. Although Kumamoto city has some very famous ramen restaurant, but the same cannot be said on Hitoyoshi. It is, in fact, famous for bento sold by an old uncle on the station platform, and is otherwise known as a transfer station for some of Kyushu’s popular sightseeing trains. That said, I doubt Ramen Hitoyoshi has anything to do with this scenic Kyushu town.

Ramen Hitoyoshi is actually a local ramen chain. I understand their owners had worked for some famous ramen restaurants, notably the popular Keisuke franchise, hence I more or less knew I can expect a decent Tonkotsu ramen over there. Ramen Hitoyoshi somewhat adopted a similar practice of Ichiran Ramen in Japan (Why ain’t the ramen chain in Singapore yet anyway??), letting customers customise their noodles in terms of broth richness, oil level, thick or thin noodles, noodles texture, as well as a range of additional toppings and side dishes. Indifferent to Ichiran Ramen however, they don’t offer partition seating, and they offer free marinated bean sprouts and sweet corns.

Garlic Tonkotsu with Ajitamago, $13.90++

Their menu basically has three main ramen categories, namely the Original, Spicy, and Garlic, all of them tonkotsu based nonetheless. I went for their Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen with Ajitamago ($13.90++). My bowl of ramen came with a large but thin piece of charshu, black fungus, spring onions, and of course, two halves of a runny egg.
I always feel Tonkotsu broth goes well with thin noodle, so it’s a no brainer for that category. And I selected normal hardness, my noodle turned out to be chewy as expected. The garlic aroma is not that overpowering, just nice to my liking, or else my dining partner would be grumbling because she hates that smell.

Spicy Tonkotsu with Ajitamago, $13.90++

My dining partner ordered Spicy Tonkotsu with Ajitamago ($13.90++). At first, I thought they simply added chilli into the noodle. Nope, their chilli paste tasted more complicated, if I’m not wrong, there are minced meat within, possibly dried shrimp, so it’s far more flavourful than just chili. Overall, the broth is more appetising than conventional tonkotsu, but it’s very spicy too.

In general, I’d say the quality is good. But I still have that mindset that local ramen shouldn’t cost as much as a conventional Japanese ramen restaurant unless they have some unique signature, which unfortunately Ramen Hitoyoshi doesn’t possess enough.

At time of writing, J Passport members get to enjoy a free drink on the house for their first visit.

Website: https://hitoyoshigroup.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RamenHitoyoshiSG/

Ramen Nagi

Published July 26, 2020 by piggie

Before I begin sharing my Ramen Nagi experience here, I’m sure many fellow local Singaporeans aren’t sure how to pronounce their name correctly in Mandarin. The word “凪” does not share the same pronunciation as “风”, instead the actual mandarin pronunciation should be the same as “止”. It is more of a Japanese Kanji which has the meaning of the wind stops.

Ramen Nagi set foot on Singapore shore in Oct 2017 with much fanfare and long queue. I have been patiently awaiting for the commotion to die down and for their subsequent promotion, but the latter was never to come. After all, why should a popular ramen eatery resort to such promotion when their business is blooming?

Chef IKUTA Satoshi was not crowned the champion of Tokyo Ramen of the Year 2012 without a reason amidst Tokyo’s extremely vibrant ramen industry, and oh, he did it for 3 consecutive years too! On record, he was the first chef who served a different ramen everyday for 365 days (eh? including major Japanese holiday too? orz…), kudos to his creativity and as such, one can expect stepping into one of his ramen franchise and anticipating to be fascinated. It is, I believe, such creativity that evolved Japanese ramen from their Chinese origin in the first place, and I’m certainly excited getting bewildered on what kind of ramen I can get without prior reading review from other patrons.

Black King, $15.90++

We were given an order sheet upon seated, and I had settled for their Black King ramen, carefully selecting a different broth from my dining companion just so we can taste the different broth.

Ramen Nagi also allow patrons to choose their preference of the broth, noodle, garlic, vegetables, pork etc. Yes, you can choose not to include charshu, or change it to pork belly. In my case, I’m wondering how would the chef recommendation turn out to be, so I selected omakase.

My ramen comprised of pork belly, green onion, black fungus, and thin noodle. Come to think of it, I wonder whether the chef truly select based on his recommendation or depending on what is more readily available? And will there be a chance whether I could have ended up with no charshu nor pork belly at all?

Nevertheless, my broth also came with a condiment ball of minced pork, black sesame, and special Nagi spices, which truly takes the black garlic and squid ink broth up a few notches. I have tried black garlic broth ramen at another famous establishment locally before, I have to say, that was a pretty disappointing experience, with the flavour and excitement gone half way through the meal, and it ended up rather bland and soulless. Good thing Ramen Nagi didn’t disappoint, the aroma of the condiment serves the noodle and broth well. As for the pork belly, I have to confess, I find it a little too fatty to my liking, but my dining partner loves that anyway. I would probably have preferred the charshu instead. As for the noodle, it is as usually chewy.

Red King, $15.90++

No prize guessing, red means hot. To be honest, I was quite puzzled why my dining partner chosen this when I am the one obviously having a better tolerance towards spiciness. Well, I know she’s perhaps a little reluctant to try the black garlic flavour because she has a distaste for it, but out of the 4 main ramen on Ramen Nagi’s menu, she could also have chosen the basic Original Butao King ($13.90++), or the olive-inspired Green King ($15.90++) instead (At time of visit, Ramen Nagi’s more fanciful Veggie King series ramen were not available).

The Red King came with a ball of miso-infused minced pork in special Nagi spices, as if the broth itself ain’t hot enough, these really brought out the fire in the broth! And, as she also selected chef’s recommendation, she got pork belly as well as spring onion (or the option of charshu and cabbage), black fungus, and Kyushu-styled thin noodle too. My dining partner put aside some of the miso ball, never mind the minced pork inside, for otherwise the noodle might be too hot for her to handle. I have heard of ramen which plays to the tune of spicy challenge, but really, when the hotness reaches a certain level, it’s no longer about enjoying the taste anymore, it becomes a test for your endurance level. Bottom line, I feel Red King is about hotness, even for someone who loves spicy food, I feel the broth, made up of garlic, chilli oil, and cayenne pepper, may be excessively overpowering and thus masking some of the food taste.

Kanshoku Ramen Bar

Published July 19, 2020 by piggie

Prior to me trying truffle ramen at Suparakki Ramen, I have actually been eyeing Kanshoku Ramen (Bar) for sometime. But them not having any promotion was the reason why I didn’t try them earlier, until today.

For a conventional Tonkotsu or Shoyu ramen that starts at $13.90, it has better demonstrate some extraordinary edges for it to be worthwhile. But really, what propelled Kanshoku Ramen to much fanfare cannot be further from their Truffle Ramen, be it dry or in broth. Kanshoku Ramen is actually a local set up since 2014, so that takes away some authenticity and have to be complemented with creativity. I guess that’s how their Truffle Ramen came about.

So, me and my dining partner went in with only one thing in mind, their truffle ramen, one dry and one broth, so as to try and experience the best of both world in one sitting.

Truffle Broth Ramen, $17.90++

This is their most expensive ramen on the menu, needless to say, it has to be distinctive. Served with shaved Italian truffle, truffle pate, and blended with truffle oil, the broth is simply aromatic, didn’t quite overpower the nature of the Tonkotsu broth, but adding a finest that quite make this the king of all broth. Truffle, after all, isn’t being known as one of world’s three best ingredients without a reason. This is really not a Japanese thing, but the epitome of Europe’s finest delicacy easily overshadow the Japanese signature in this ramen, then again, let’s remember, that Japanese cuisines have a hugh influence from the continental, and they are very efficient in transforming an imported cuisine to make it their own, and better it in many ways.

To be honest, the couple thin slices of truffles are too little to whet my appetite, but then again, to ask for more is synonymous to asking them to increase the price. Other than that, there are two small, thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth charshu, cabbages, sesame, in addition to what I had mentioned in the above paragraph. Their noodle is my favourite Hakata-styled, thin and chewy, if anything, I find its quantity too little comparing to conventional ramen vendors.

Truffle Ramen, $16.90++

For me, this is really special! Slices of shaved Italian truffle, truffle pate, and truffle oil truly spice up the chewy Hakata-styled thin noodle, and because it doesn’t come with broth, I feel the noodle is able to absorb a gigantic portion of truffle flavour, and with the sous vide egg providing a magical touch, the result is absolutely spellbinding! Naturally, I couldn’t help comparing with Suparakki Ramen’s own Truffle Ramen, but this one really brings it up a few notches. It’s less oily, tastier, and the torched charshu possess that added savoury missing from the broth version, complement the noodle magnificently.

In fact, after this, me and my dining partner had our coffee and fries elsewhere, and the remaining truffle aroma still lingering with the fries so well, that we couldn’t help suspecting the fries were sprinkled with truffle oil too!

添好運

Published July 13, 2020 by piggie

在新加坡的美食登入米其林殿堂之前,世界上最便宜的米其林美食當屬香港,就是港式點心餐廳《添好運》。那時,添好運還未曾涉足新加坡。而米其林的游戲規則是,所頒發的獎勵是不能和其他分店共享的,也就是説,香港港鉄站的添好運不能沾深水埔添好運米其林1星的光環。我曾經試過深水埔的添好運,當時只覺得口感中上,價錢倒算得上實惠。那時心想,要是這樣也能摘得米其林1星的話,那我要對米其林的遴選標準質疑了,尤其是我覺得香港稻香超級漁港的點心更爲出色。後來添好運於2013年開始涉足海外,新加坡市場就是其擴張的第一步,剛開幕時掀起的旋風讓饕客甘心排隊3小時捧場,可見其受歡迎程度不止於香港。

我不是2013年的跟風者,第一次在新加坡吃大概還是2018年的事,當時還是朋友邀請的,那時早已經沒有排隊數小時的瘋狂。而這篇食評則是2020年中嘗試的,也不是在其獅城大廈的旗艦店,若不是想帶媽媽試試,或許也不會前來。

酥皮焗叉燒包,$6.80++

第一次來添好運的話,務必嘗試其鎮山之寶–酥皮焗叉燒包。我第一次在香港嘗試時只覺得一般,但是這回感覺有改善,醬汁更爲鮮甜,更能襯托外酥内軟的麵包,也正由於這相得益彰的口感,為添好運贏得不少口碑。還記得其獅城大廈旗艦店剛開業時,店家還限定酥皮焗叉燒包的外賣數量,以確保堂食的顧客有機會嘗試,當時的情況真不知該說是瘋狂還是誇張,也許該歸功於米其林指南剛染指新加坡的效應吧!

豉汁蒸肉排芋頭,$5.50++

其實,這名稱簡稱排骨就夠了。但是你知道的,一道菜色若是有個意氣風發的名堂,定然能爲其生色不少。言下之意,就是説除了排骨之外,其他也沒什麽值得贊揚的。這道菜是媽媽點的,雖然媽媽厨藝出色,但不知爲何她點菜的眼光總是那麽教人大失所望。有一回在杭州,她找的一家餐館,讓我吃了畢生最難忘、最難吃的一餐後,之後很長一段時間我都自己點餐了。

言歸正傳,媽媽很拿手蒸排骨,她蒸的排骨色香味俱全,相比之下,就覺得添好運的排骨平平無奇。首先,我很納悶這道菜爲什麽要加芋頭?芋頭原本無味,而不知是不是爲了響應吃得健康,添好運的豉油偏淡,總覺得芋頭和排骨根本格格不入。除了肉質還算有些鮮甜,實質上在新加坡隨便找一家點心店,其口感大概都勝過添好運的排骨。

鮮蝦水餃湯,$6.80++

港式水餃是出了名的,所以我也點了這道水餃湯讓媽媽嘗試。添好運的水餃餡料除了鮮蝦之外,還有竹筍、黑木耳等,口感爽口扎實,非常受用!但是若要挑剔的話,我嫌那湯頭平淡。不過這不僅是添好運的因素,基本上大多數港澳的面家都如此。新馬一帶的水餃沒那麽出色,倒是湯頭略勝一籌。

鮮蝦燒賣皇,$5.00++

港式點心一般上少不了水餃和燒賣,而添好運的燒賣除了賣相佳,口感也著實不錯,内餡混合了豬肉和蝦肉,非常彈牙美味,再加上枸紀子點綴,賣相更上一層樓!

美味燜鮮竹卷,$6.00++

單看圖片,很容易認爲這和一般的炸竹卷類似,其實口感南轅北轍,其重點在於“燜”字,因此口感絲毫不會酥脆。我知道其他點心餐館絕大部分都是將鮮竹卷拿來炸,强調其酥脆口感,但是沒想到添好運炸後再用燜的方式居然還能帶出另一種風情,再加上内餡鮮嫩的豬肉和蝦肉,在獨特醬汁的帶味下,益發帶出其色彩。

鮮菇蒸腸粉,$5.50++

這又是另一道媽媽叫的失敗之作。如果是我叫的話,我大概會選擇叉燒或鮮蝦内餡。不知道媽媽是爲了替我省錢還是不想吃那麽多肉,總之這道腸粉很可惜,完全不入味,即便沾了很多豉油,口感還是非常平淡,不禁讓我再次懷疑,是不是因爲健康因素而使用了少鹽豉油?有一點媽媽和我都認同的,就是換做使用冬菇口感絕對會更好。

香辣蝦仁炒蘿蔔糕,$8.80++

添好運的蘿蔔糕我在香港吃過,口感只是一般。但這道香辣蝦仁炒蘿蔔糕卻很特別,加入了芹菜、豆芽、青葱、和炒蛋,整個口感就起了翻天覆地的變化,真的色香味俱全,是我所吃過的最好吃的白蘿蔔糕之一。可惜這道菜色僅在今年6月中旬推出2個月,之後還有沒有機會嘗試就看緣分了。

 

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai

Published March 1, 2020 by piggie

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai, formerly at Liang Court, have now shifted to Great World City (oh wait, I have just learned that Great World City has amended its name to ‘Great World’ as I am penning this review).

Many thanks to JPassport on the food tasting invitation for this opportunity to re-visit Nirai-Kanai at their new site, and even though I have personally visited them twice at their former premise, this time I brought along a dining partner new to Okinawan cuisines. I thought since I have reviewed them previously, let’s also hear what someone new to Okinawa cuisines has to say, along with my personal take on items that I have not tried previously.

The name Nirai-Kanai actually means the god’s world in the distance of the sea, that’s got to be a reminiscence to the location of Okinawa, which is situated in the middle of East China Sea. Despite being a part of Japan, Okinawa is very unique, even in the eyes of Japanese, not just in terms of climate, but culture and culinary too! In fact, when my friend took a look at their menu, her first comment was, “I thought this looks like a Chinese cuisine menu!”

Well, she ain’t wrong, because in history, Okinawa, or rather the former Ryukyu kingdom, had Chinese heritage. And since the WWII, even American culture has integrated into their lives. Thus, making Okinawa looks like a foreign land even to the Japanese. As such, don’t expect Okinawa cuisine to possess that meticulous presentation usually associated with Japanese cuisines, they taste significantly different too!

Alright, let’s get into the food! 🙂

Umibudo, $14++

Soon as we were seated, we were immediately served Umibudo, which literally translates into sea grapes. Sea grapes, otherwise also known as Green Caviar for its look and taste, is in fact a unique kind of seaweed with a soft and succulent texture. It is served raw and has a mild savoury taste on its own, every bite seems to release the favour of the sea! It is not unique to Okinawa though, but having it raw means that you will appreciate it coming from cleaner water, and Okinawa is known to have pristine sea. As such, Okinawa’s sea grapes are overwhelmingly regarded as the premium grade. Those who desire a more intense flavour can also dip them in the accompanied Ponzu sauce. In addition, having these here also offers us a perfect opportunity to sharpen our pathetic chopstick skills! LOL!

Okinawa Soki Soba / Soup Noodle with Simmered Pork Rib (S), $7.60++

Disregard the name ‘soba’ here, this is Okinawan-styled ramen! Japan occasionally use the term soba even for ramen, and Nirai-Kanai uses thick, flat, egg-noodle here, in fact the unevenness of the noodle suggests it’s probably handmade, and Nirai-Kanai imports them directly from Okinawa! Their noodle has a firm but chewy texture, and because of its unevenness, it makes the noodle easier to retain the light broth. As you can see, in contrast to conventional Japanese ramen, in place of the charshu is their simmered pork rib, and this is a very different flavour from conventional ramen, if I may say, it’s resembling more towards Chinese noodle with a humbling but hearty taste.

Rafute / Simmered Pork Belly (S), $9.80++

I’m sure my dining partner must be kidding when she asked, “Where’s the Kong-Bak Pau?”

While general Japanese would probably preferred having pork belly grilled, Okinawan had them simmered. And unlike our Kong-Bak Pau, the light soy sauce is less sinful and complicated than our local’s black sauce version. But let’s not be disillusioned by its presentation, the pork belly are said to have been slow-cooked in three Okinawan seasonings, namely Awamori (Okinawa distilled liquor), Okinawan brown sugar, and soy sauce, the end result is a very sophisticated flavour that massively brings out the taste of the pork belly. It is said that this was also a royal cuisine from the former Ryukyu kingdom, a must try for anyone new to Okinawan cuisine!

Chinbin with Whipped Cream / Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes with Whipped Cream, $9.80++

The last item in our tasting menu is my overwhelming favourite, Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes. Brown sugar from Okinawa is very famous for its deep, rich flavour, made from sugar canes grown in fields blessed with rich minerals. It has a wide range of health benefits, and presents widely in Okinawan cuisines, possibly one reason why Okinawan tend to live a long life expectancy.

The Brown Sugar Pancakes here comes with whipped cream, but it’s sweet enough on its own, and serves as a delightful dessert after meals.

That’s all for the tasting menu, but we have also ordered Okinawan Pancake with Leek and Red Ginger, as we don’t feel like walking away without paying anything.

Okinawan Pancake (Leek and Red Ginger), $9++

This is another of my favourites which I was eager to introduce to my dining partner. I love bonito, and thought she likes it too. But I forgot she dislikes leek, which ended up, she only took a few slices here. Nonetheless, I love to see the bonito flakes ‘dancing’ when it was served, and it goes well with or without the supplied sauce. Taste wise, it’s completely different from the Brown Sugar Pancake, the latter is sweet, while this is savoury. To me, it’s like flavour of the sea in a pancake!

Alright, I have come to the end of this review. Once again, I would like to express my thanks to J Passport and Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai for the invitation. You know what, after trying Okinawan cuisines at Nirai-Kanai, if you are lucky enough, you may get to try them in Okinawa too! In collaboration with Okinawa Prefectural Government Singapore office, Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai is having a “Dine and GO Okinanawa” campaign, offering a chance to visit Okinawa for free, with return direct flights, along with 20kg baggage pax to every diner visiting between 15 Feb – 15 Mar 2020.

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai
1 Kim Seng Promenade #01-107/108
Great World (City)
Singapore 237994
Tel: +65 63394811
Website: http://niraikanai-sg.hungry.jp/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/niraikanai.sg/

Opening Hours: 11:30 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:00

Ginza Anzu

Published February 17, 2020 by piggie

Before I begin, allow me to reiterate that this is a food tasting invitation by JPassport.

Ginza Anzu was formerly located in Wisma Atria, but has recently joined the hype in moving to Great World City, which is fast replacing Liang Court in becoming the next Japanese town. No prize guessing, the name itself probably already suggested where Ginza Anzu is hailing from, in fact, their outlet in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi 11F regularly attracts a queue outside, and now also have oversea restaurants in Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, and of course, Singapore. What makes Ginza Anzu fascinating is that, they aren’t just a restaurant chain, they have their own farms as well as contracted farms, and their businesses encompass livestock, vegetables, food processing, and food machinery too (Hence, some claim they are from Kyushu, which is also not wrong, considering most of their enterprises are actually originated there). This way, they epitomise a farm-to-table concept, and managed to achieve good control over consistency and quality on the ingredients they use. In addition, they proudly proclaim that most of the ingredients used in Ginza Anzu are imported from Japan. I’m not sure about their restaurants elsewhere, but at least for their Singapore outlet, it’s worth noting that they are also importing premium pork from America.

For this food tasting session, we were allowed to select one from the Ginjo Pork (吟釀豚) Katsu set, and the other one has to be Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set. Any sake lovers here? I know what you are thinking… Nope, I have asked, but the Ginjo Pork has nothing to do with sake. Over here, it’s simply their term referring to selected premium pork that has undergone an unique ageing process.

The main difference between the Ginjo Pork sets is, the Fatty Loin set is using fatty pork sirloin, whereas the Fillet set is using tender and leaner fillet. So, we had their Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set as well as the Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set.

Soon as we placed our order, we were promptly served vegetable salad and radish pickles. My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed the pickles while I love their salad, along with the creamy shiso dressing. The salad is free-flow, but good thing we were only given one bowl to share though, as our upcoming meals kept us so full that we would have struggled to finish two sharing. In any case, our 2-seater table was too small for two set meals, there were hardly any space for the salad and pickles, which ended up, we needed to join another table.

Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set, $28++

The Hot Pot Pork Loin Katsu Set came really fast, perhaps aiding by the fact that we were visiting during off-peak hours on weekend. It comprises breaded pork loin cooked in savory dashi broth dressed in egg swirls, pickles, rice (plain or brown), soup (miso or pork belly). If not for the fact that we weren’t allowed to order both Ginjo Pork Katsu sets, I probably won’t have ordered this, I anticipated the broth to rinse away the taste of the tonkatsu entirely, but it didn’t. It still retains the flavour to a certain level, and not excessively soaky. I genuinely believe that’s the best tonkatsu that goes with broth! On the other hand, the aroma from the egg complement the meat real well, and the pork remains chewy throughout. We were allowed to select between Miso soup and Pork Belly Soup for our meals, in fact the latter is also Miso soup but the added pork belly sure sweetened the broth. As for the rice, they are using Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture, possibly the land that produces the best rice on earth. Ginza Anzu claims that they select rice that was grown where natural water flows, and in Niigata, which is a heavily snowing region, that is as good to say melted snow water fertilises the paddy field. The best part is, rice is served free-flow for the set menu.

Ginjo Pork Fatty Loin Katsu Set, $38++

This is definitely the highlight from Ginza Anzu. Thick, juicy pork loin is fried to a golden crisp with the bread crust, and there are two different sauces to go along with, one sweet, and the other sour. Diners are given tiny bowl of sesame, which they can grind, and add respective sauce to go along with the tonkatsu. There’s also mustard to go with, but alternatively, if you are a bit more adventurous, you may wanna try it with the salad dressing too.

I find that the meat texture is rather firm, but with some fat portion to balance it. What impressed me was not so much on the meat, but the soft breaded crust. Not only it wasn’t oily, in fact it barely stick to the meat, but it has an interesting mixture of fluffiness and crispiness, quite indifferent from the common tonkatsu I have ever tried.

Other than the tasting menu, we had also ordered a side and a dessert to share.

Japanese Special Tofu, $6++

I won’t call this Tofu cheap, well actually it’s probably due to the labour cost in making them, more so if they import ingredients from Japan. Like many Japanese tofu, Ginza Anzu’s tofu has a coarse texture, which when you apply the condiments, such as the accompanied ginger paste and spring onion, or even the Yuzu soy sauce, it makes them easier to retain the flavour. Solely for Japanese tofu fans, which we happen to be!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Sweet Potato, $6++

Last but not least, their premium Vanilla Ice Cream has a rich vanilla aroma, and since my dining partner and I are both Japanese sweet potatoes lovers (seriously, I’m one who would purchase bags of sweet potatoes at rock bottom prices whenever I visit Japan, not from Donki!), and her favourite ice cream flavour happens to be vanilla too, we thoroughly enjoy this heavenly combination! In fact, this is one I’d like to order on its own even if I’m not having meals in their restaurant.

Towards the end of this review, I strongly recommend trying their Service Lunch ($15++) if you find them available. It’s limited to 20 sets per day between 11am to 2pm. Personally, I have not tried it, but the price is attractive given the presentation and ingredients shown, and this is what I’d love to try for my next visit.

Once again, I would like to express my thanks to JPassport and Ginza Anzu for the food tasting invitation. Although I’m not obliged to stress, but it pays to become a JPassport member especially if you love Japanese cuisines. As of now, Ginza Anzu is offering White Coffee Pudding to JPassport member who visit them for the first time and order at least one main course. At the time of my visit, their White Coffee Pudding was already sold out, so go early to avoid disappointment.

Ginza Anzu
1 KIM SENG PROMENADE, #01-113/114
Great World City
Singapore 237944
Tel: +65 62623408
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GINZA-ANZU-SG-680761165437943/
IG: https://www.instagram.com/ginza_anzu_sg

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 11:00 hr – 22:00 hr

Pink Fish

Published December 28, 2019 by piggie

To be honest, when I first visited Jewel Changi Airport, I have mediocre impression about Pink Fish. My first take was, it’s just another restaurant. But when I later learned of their motto, I’m sold.

It’s about sustainability… and MORE!

Firstly, Pink Fish uses biodegradable packaging and utensils, including the disposable bowls used. From business point of view, they eliminated washing and save on manpower, quite similar to what major fast food restaurants are doing. After all, Pink Fish’s concept is modelled after fast food restaurants, and with all items on their menu central around Norwegian Salmon. Pink Fish’s sustainability also applies to the food on the table, they claim that their salmon are ASC-certified, and sourced from suppliers committed to responsible farming from within Norwegian fjords. It is also stated that the carbon footprint per kilo farmed salmon consumed is considerably lower than all comparable meats.

Pink Fish at Jewel Changi Airport is their first oversea venture, and their menu are designed by one of the founders cum award-winning Chef Geir Skeie (Bocuse d’Or World 2009 winner). Bocuse d’Or World is akin to the Olympics of culinary skill (mainly dedicated to French cuisines) for chefs, while Michelin awards are focus on restaurants.

Chef Skeie drew inspiration from his many oversea trips, and developed his menu into 4 major categories, namely Burgers, Salad & Wraps, Raw, and Soups. Each of them are further laid out into Asian, European, and American. In a way, this is very similar to their menu in Norway. And their pricing mainly relates to the quantity of salmon (by weight) you desire in your bowl.

I meant to share my meals with a dining partner, so as to try as many dishes as possible in one visit, so we do away with the burger which is difficult to share, and order one each from the other categories. Similar to fast food restaurants, you order your food via the counter, or otherwise, you can also scan their QR code to download an app to pre-order. I did it at the counter, but perhaps because they took quite long to prepare my order (despite relatively dense customers), the food are served to our table.

Salad & Wraps European, 50g, $10.90

Our food are served all at once, but let me begin with the European Salad, which comprises grilled salmon, Tzatziki, Feta cheese, olives, and Quinoa. The Tzatziki sauce is quite appetising, it goes well with the grilled salmon as well as the accompanying veggies. The salmon are quite thick though, so the internal are still semi-raw, giving a contrasting texture upon every bite. The Feta cheese is salty, so overall, the taste is rather salty and sour, which brings out a great balance with the grilled salmon.

Raw Asian, 50g, $10.90

This is akin to Japanese donburi, comprising Japanese sashimi salad with raw salmon, Yuzu, Miso, Edamame, and rice. Frankly speaking, this may struggle to compete among the best of Japanese donburi, but I can see the Edamame and salmon sparkling with glamour of freshness, overall it really gave me a very Japanese homely feeling.

Soups American, 50g, $10.90

Their American soup is made of chili bowl with salmon, beans, coriander, and tortilla chips. While I confess the chili soup is spicy, and I do like it, but I feel there are few underwhelming points. Firstly, the tortilla chips should not be dipped inside the soup upon serving, because the crispiness is long gone before we can finish them, and the rest of the chips really do not taste great being soaky. Though the salmon taste good, but the coriander leaf is reduced to mere decorative purpose, its aroma is overpowered by the strong chili presence. I have to admit I was somewhat influenced by other reviewers prior to our visit, and if I haven’t read those, I’ll probably go with the other versions, which really sound better just by looking at their ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, like I said, the chili soup still taste good, but other ingredients apart from the salmon are a bit mediocre, or at least, done the wrong way. I guess there are probably some constraint because the idea of the restaurant is for a fast turn around, so the food have to be pre-prepared in a compromised manner to ease efficiency.

As a parting shot, I find Pink Fish’s pricing reasonable given its overall quality, its premium location, and Chef Skeie’s accolades. While I personally feel there is room for improvement, I suspect some of those are limited by operational constraints that I cannot foresee. I will be back to try their other items on the menu.

2nd Visit

I returned to Pink Fish in Jan 2020, barely one month after my first visit, and they had already changed their menu. Gone are the continental segregation, and now simply classified into Burgers, Poke Bowl, Salad & Wrap, Kids, and Sides. Price wise, likewise, depending on the quantity of the salmon you order, but this time, they do away with the weight, and simply classify them as small, medium, and large. As for the burgers, they are charged at $9.90 each, because the patty size is fixed.

I brought along old folks and kid this time, what I’m trying to say is, there’s a variety in age group, and some of them can be pretty fussy. We ordered a wide range of items, most of them combo deal, which cost $4 more and comes with standard soft drink or mineral water plus one of the listed sides (Chips, Soba noodles, Broccoli & Edamame Salad, Rice, Quinoa). My aunt wanted plain rice as side, which tempted me to ask, “You serious? I’m letting you try something unconventional, and you are asking for plain rice?” Anyway, she would insist with that, very well then.

Hot Massaman Curry

This is the Hot Massaman Curry that one of the old folks ordered, which comprises mushroom, potato, coriander, and cooked salmon. Actually, the term ‘hot’ does invite some discrepancy here, this is an European (chef) take on a Thai cuisine, how hot (spicy) can it get? Same thing, don’t expect the soup to be piping hot (here I mean temperature), it’s warm enough, better than lukewarm, and the fussy old folks ain’t complaining. I am not saying it’s excellent, but it certainly didn’t fail. I only managed to steal a gulp late into the meal, and I find it quite appetising, and the chunky salmon nowhere near raw as some diners described online. Ok, it may be a hit or miss, and there may be a different chef in-charge, fair enough.

Tangy Black Pepper Burger, $9.90

This was what my aunt ordered. I suspect she was just fancied by the name ‘black pepper’ (she probably loves black pepper crab, LOL!). Nonetheless, it comes with black pepper sauce, mango salsa, lettuce, and of course, salmon patty. She loves it! The salmon patty was grilled to a crisp exterior, while the interior retains its chewiness, and together with the other ingredients, the combination was rather flavourful for an otherwise bland-tasting salmon. And that’s coming from a fussy person, not me.

Rich Caesar Salad

This was what I ordered for myself. From their menu, I thought they have a wrap version, but I could be wrong. And why adding ‘Wrap’ in the header and showing a picture of it when it’s not available? Nevermind. The Caesar Salad is nice, with ample portion of sliced onions, Parmesan cheese and croutons to supply the savoury and crunchiness, although I personally feel the grilled salmon chunk comes better in the form of raw Salmon cube for a salad instead, but after all, they only use salmon fillet for their salad & wrap, whereas salmon cubes are use for their Poke Bowl and Stew.

Quinoa, $2.90

I asked for Quinoa as my side, it’s the healthier choice, and I certainly feel it’s the best to complement most of the items on their menu. I let the old folks tried mine, and they sort of agree too. As for my niece, she had soba noodles with her parents’ Massaman Curry and said it was nice. It certainly looks tasty comparing to conventional Japanese soba, and although I couldn’t help suspecting she could have been courteous, if so, for a 10-years-old, she must be pretty mature.

I came to aware that some diners complained online Pink Fish is a tad too pricey, while I can’t deny that and the restaurant was meant to be some sort of fast food after all, but bear in mind the location, its rental, and the chef’s accolades, it’s unfair to peg the price with McDonald’s or Subway in Singapore. Notably, Pink Fish emphasise on responsible farming, it’s akin to comparison between organic and non-organic ingredients price tags, you will find massive difference in price even in supermarkets, one simply can’t expect restaurateurs to absorb the difference. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t defending for the restaurant, and there may be cheaper and/or tastier ones out there, and criticism on the food quality is fair, but if one wants to compare, make sure it’s apple to apple.

Pink Fish
78 Airport Boulevard #B1-261/262
Jewel Changi Airport
Email: SG@salmoncompany.com
Website: https://www.pinkfish.sg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pinkfishSG/

Opening Hours ~
Daily: 10:00 hr – 22:00 hr