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All posts for the month March, 2017

Tino’s Pizza Cafe 堤諾比薩

Published March 22, 2017 by piggie

I only get to know about Tino’s Pizza through Tiong Bahru Plaza’s promotion, and its premise there is well hidden in the new annex area that I would have otherwise probably not getting inside unless I can see any shop that draws my attention.

Initially, I thought it was the franchise from some European country but I was rather surprise to find out its origin. Guess where? Taiwan! So that explains the traditional Chinese name on its sign board. Quite interesting isn’t it? But how good can a Taiwanese Pizza gets?

Me and my dining companion initially intended to share a regular size pizza. Oh, wait. Tino’s Pizza has a very fascinating way in terming the size of their pizzas. They offer their pizzas in either Neapolitan or Roman, which literally means Thick crust and Thin Crust respectively. The fact that the former is sliced into 6 pieces and the latter 8 pieces, as well as more costly for the Roman version, could very well means the latter should be of larger size.

Just then, my dining companion saw a different promotion leaflet on another table, offering personal pizza set meal with a drink (soft drink, iced/hot black tea or Americano) for only S$9.90++ (weekday lunch time only), which of course, let us try two different flavours. That sounds like a good idea! We ordered a Mr. Tino and a Sicily Seafood Pizza each. Oh, by the way, I had their iced black tea while my dining companion a hot Americano, and their black tea was served in a conventional bubble tea plastic cup, sealed of course. First sign of a Taiwanese proprietor. Take note, their black tea is plain tea, no sugar, though I suppose you can add sugar or syrup as you wish, but I couldn’t be bother with that.

Mr. Tino

Mr. Tino, as the name suggests, is their signature pizza. It comprises chicken or beef bacon and pepperoni, oyster mushrooms, capsicums, shredded onions, oregano and black olives. The pizza looks simple, but the ingredients are evenly spread, and I found the taste was remarkable. And if you require some extra cheese or chili flakes, they are readily available on the table.

Sicily Seafood

Sicily Seafood pizza offers an oceanic taste completed with tuna, calamari, shrimps, capsicum, basil, and padano. The highlight is the use of basil in bringing out a mint taste to the pizza, and I thought I found the seafood reasonably fresh too!

Tino’s pizza range is not really plenty, but they do have some interesting flavour, such as what I would call dessert pizza, yes, sweet pizza with honey, fruits, oreo etc. You just have to give them credit for the creativity!

Menya Sakura 麺屋桜

Published March 22, 2017 by piggie

Chuka Soba Special, S$14.90++

Menya Sakura is yet another new ramen restaurant in the scene. In their grand opening special, they introduce a 3-day one-for-one promotion starting with this, Chuka Soba Special at S$14.90++ on Mon, 20 Mar 2017. They were offering Tonkotsu Ramen Special (S$13.90++) and Tonkotsu Tsukemen Special (S$18.90++) one-for-one promotion for the next two days respectively. I asked my dining companion on her choice and she settled on Chuka Soba Special on day 1. I didn’t voice any disagreement though I actually prefer trying their Tonkotsu Ramen.

Hailing from Nagoya by founder NAGATANI Hideto, my first impression was nothing spectacular given the fact that Nagoya is not a major ramen battleground when compare to the likes of Hokkaido and Kyushu, where pretty anywhere else are more inclined towards Shoyu-based ramen (actually, also the signature in Asahikawa, Hokkaido). However, when the name NAGANUMA Sho comes up, it’s a different ball game. Chef NAGANUMA was the former executive chef of Hide Yamamoto in Marina Bay Sands, and currently helming Menya Sakura. I’m really interested to see how can he brings out the difference in this highly competitive ramen market.

My personal preference has always been Tonkotsu, Miso, Shio, and Shoyu ramen in that order, preferable with a tint of spiciness. It doesn’t help when Soba is also my least favourite noodle, behind ramen and udon. I tried my best not to carry prejudice, but whatever little prejudice I have was completely wipe out the very moment the noodle was served, right before I even have a chance to take a look. Yes, I ain’t bragging, the broth fragrance just hit my nose before I can even lay my eyes on the noodle, and I can never imagine a Shoyu ramen (oops! I mean soba here) can be that good! Now, I’m beginning to apprehend why Shoyu ramen is more popular in Japan, though, however, I didn’t ever tried ramen (or for that matter, soba) as good as this in Japan despite visiting there no less than 7 times in the last decade.

Menya Sakura claims Chuka Soba special is their most popular ramen in Japan, with a rich flavourful soup made with Saba, Niboshi, and other ‘secret’ ingredients, paired with 4 pcs Nori seaweeds, 3 pieces tender charsiu (chashu), a whole Aji Tamago egg, along with bamboo shoot and leeks. The broth tastes a little salty though, but as Menya Sakura claims they don’t use MSG, it’s still bearable for me. Well, if this is the same standard they have in Japan, they certainly earned their bragging rights. Notice I haven’t mention the noodle? Wait, was that really soba? My dining companion and I almost wanna rub our eyes and summon the waitress over to verify whether the chef had mistakenly used ramen noodle instead? OK, I exaggerated a little bit here. Simply put, it’s that good! No, simply outstanding (for a soba, that is), putting them on par with the so-called soba I tried at Menya Takeichi in Suntec City. It was very smooth, chewy, and most importantly for me, lack the usual buckwheat texture of conventional soba. Somehow, over an amazing 3 days, I probably tried the best soba I ever tried, twice (the other one being Yomoda Soba)! And I’m starting to get disillusion over how good soba can get. I ain’t disguising the fact that I’m practically a novice when coming to soba, which I used to dislike because of the buckwheat texture.

Apart from the broth and noodle, the charsiu was reasonably thick and chewy, retaining what I feel is the ideal texture and flavour a good charsiu shall possess. Wait till I come to the Tamago. Usually in ramen, how good the Tamago depends on how runny the egg can get and the flavour it brings. Menya Sakura’s Tamago is truly outstanding, somewhere between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg, upon biting, the texture was so remarkably molten and flavourful, gosh I’m seriously running out of vocabulary to describe this, it’s so good I feel like ordering a few more of it!

As a side note, the restaurant also offers free kimchi and ice water for diners.

In conclusion, all I can say is, Menya Sakura makes their ramen simple, but taste heavenly good!

2nd Visit

Premium Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with Jumbo Aburi Chashu, $15.90++

Menya Sakura ‘tempted’ me for a 2nd visit with their 1-for-1 new Premium Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen promotion on JPassport, simmering tonkotsu for more than 12 hours, along with their original aged Shoyu sauce, including 1 piece of seaweed, bamboo shoot, leek, and one giant piece of Aburi Chashu (Aburi meaning partially grilled), a pretty thick one at that, with special Umami paste on top. Their selling point is undoubtedly the thick chashu, with a good texture and tasted rather flavourful. The broth is notably too salty in my opinion, but at least I don’t feel a strong urge for water after eating, a good testification on their claim on not using MSG. Menya Sakura claims to be using ‘Hirauchi’ noodle, supposingly flat, though I don’t really find it flat, but it’s quite smooth and great to slurp actually. Overall, I find it above average, in part due to the saltiness of the broth, but it tastes much better when I added the ramen pepper provided on the table.

I noted that Menya Sakura changed somewhat since my first visit. Now they pre-charged the bill before you even see your ramen, and seems like they no longer provide free kimchi.

Menya Sakura 麺屋桜
69 Boat Quay
Singapore 049857
Tel: +65 94693366

Opening Hours:
Mon – Sat : 11:30hr ~ 20:30hr

Ikkousha Hakata Ramen 博多一幸舎

Published March 22, 2017 by piggie

This is not my first time visiting Ikkousha Hakata Ramen (first time to their Tanjong Pagar outlet though), but this is a tasting invitation where I’m obliged to provide the sponsor a link to my review, so I have decided to start a new post to distinguish from my previous visit. Previously, I had tried their God Fire Ramen as well as Red Tonkotsu Ramen, both on the spicy side. For this tasting invitation, me and my dining partner were treated to their standard Tonkatsu ramen.
Ikkousha Hakata Ramen can’t emphasize enough their broth are painstakingly made by simmering pork bones over long hours, distancing themselves from some ramen restaurants who saved these troubles by using broth essence. And I can testify that, because upon entering their outlet at Tanjong Pagar, I can immediately smell a strong scent, that can’t go wrong.
Upon ordering, Ikkousha gives diners the choice to choose the firmness of the noodles, as well as the denseness of the broth, along with other optional toppings. We left all options at normal, and added a plate of Gyoza because we felt uneasy to walk off without paying anything.
Before the ramen were served, let me touch on the condiments on the table. Ikkousha offers free-flow hard boiled eggs, along with Spicy Takana (Leaf Mustard), Furikake (rice seasoning), ginger, sesame, pepper, and a large jar of ice water. In a moment, I shall explain why I mentioned these.

Gyoza, S$5++

Our gyoza came almost immediately. Ikkousha’s gyoza are tiny, apart from the bottom where gyoza skin are crisply fried, the gyoza generally retains tenderness.

Tonkotsu Standard, S$12++

When our noodles were subsequently served, along came the scent of genuine pork broth. Although I am not really a fan of strong pork scent, but to retain that signature flavour, that means they can’t add too much spices to overpower the broth, however, something still needed to be done to neutralise the stink scent of pork bone. On the kitchen side, MSG sounds like a simple solution without altering too much of the flavour, but on the dining table, that’s where the condiments come in for diners to customise to their preferred taste, though that’s very much the same practice in almost any ramen restaurant elsewhere. As a Tonkotsu ramen restaurant hailing from Kyushu, naturally Ikkousha uses the thin and chewy Hosomen as their noodle, which, I understand, is proudly house made. The broth is sweet, and adds much flavour into the noodle. Their chashu are thinly sliced, I guess that allows its texture to blend with the broth easily.

Per my usual practice, I finished all my broth, but I felt the urge for more water after that. Good thing Ikkousha provides a large jar of ice water on the table conveniently.

Official Website:
http://www.ikkousha.sg/

Yomoda Soba (よもだそば)

Published March 19, 2017 by piggie

First and foremost, allow me to stress this is a sponsored article, but I will nevertheless stay neutral in this review. Let me start by giving a brief history on Yomoda Soba, but to begin with, I need to elaborate on Japan Food Town, where Yomoda Soba (よもだそば) and other 15 authentic Japanese restaurants are located.

Japan Food Town can be found inside Isetan level 4, Wisma Atria, it is a collaboration between Cool Japan Fund and The Japan Association of Overseas Promotion for Food & Restaurants. The former comprises organisation such as ANA, Isetan, JTB, and many other established corporations. When it was first opened in Wisma Atria last July (2016), it was met with much fanfare. Just like Eat at Seven in Suntec City, which also involves ANA, I feel it can hardly goes wrong, I trust ANA to select the best of Japan for diners here. ANA is a 5-stars Japanese airlines, and they would risk tarnishing their image and reputation otherwise. So, naturally for the first few months at least, I was expecting Japanese chef to helm the restaurants (or maybe they are here to stay for the long haul? I don’t know), pity I didn’t have the opportunity to visit until now, and my visit is certainly not disappointing.

The name Yomoda actually came from a Matsuyama (Ehime, Shikoku) dialect, meaning a jovial friend who loves to see the funny side of things. The soba restaurant is hailed from Tokyo, but its proprietor is actually an Ehime native, that explained. Frankly speaking, Soba is actually my least favourite Japanese noodle, I still prefer Udon and ramen anytime, provided of course, the noodles are done genuinely (definitely not the terrible Singapore flavour, particularly for Udon). Soba is probably the most economical noodle one can find in many parts of Japan, but personally, I don’t quite like the overpowering buckwheat taste.

Tempura Seiro Soba, S$23++

As an invited guest, I am allowed to choose between their Tempura Seiro Soba Set (S$23++), or their Tendon set (S$20++). Both sets include their signature soba, but I selected the former anyway. Seiro Soba is served cold, in Japan it’s marvellous for Summer, when diners dip their ice cooled soba into a bowl of cold dipping sauce, and usually enjoyed with an assortment of tempura. My Tempura Seiro Soba comprises a variety of prawn, braised pork, chicken, paprika, pumpkin, and kidney beans, dipped in tempura batter and fried. Yomodo claims their soba is Sarashina Soba, using only the inner part of buckwheat, which is why their soba noodle looks a little whitish instead of the conventional green colour, and handmade on-site using buckwheat from Nagano, a prefecture famous for their soba too. Yomodo’s soba is moderately springy, not so strong on buckwheat taste, for me, that’s really great! But having said that, they do offer traditional-styled soba such as Kitsune Soba, Hanamaki Soba (and also the less conventional ones such as Tomato Asari Soba, Hot Spicy Soy Milk Chicken Soba) too. Pardon me, I ain’t a Soba expert, you can refer to Japan-Guide for further elaboration. In addition, they also serve a thinner version of Sanuki Udon. As for their Tempura, it was crisply fried, not excessively oily, and the goodness within is mesmerising, it’s definitely fried on the spot, not pre-fried like my favourite Udon restaurant in Singapore did.

Yomoda Soba claims to import their flour, sauce, and rice from Japan. That’s probably one of the reasons why their prices (and probably likewise the other restaurants here) are much more than their outlets in Japan.

Yuzu Sorbet, S$5++

I didn’t want to walk away without paying anything, so I ordered a Yuzu Sorbet after my meal. It has a rich citrus flavour and plenty of fruit pulps, pretty appetising! Yomoda Soba serves free plain water, other than that, they have limited range of cold drink and dessert. But being a traditional Japanese restaurant, you can expect lots of sake!

Yomoda Soba (よもだそば)
Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Rd
Singapore 238877
Tel: +65 62623467
Website: http://www.japanfoodtown.sg/stores/yomoda-soba/

Opening Hours:
Daily – 11:30hr ~ 21:30hr

Tokyo Sundubu(東京純豆腐)

Published March 6, 2017 by piggie

eatatsevenPerhaps I should have mentioned this when I penned my review on Menya Takeichi, but before I go on to Tokyo Sundubu, allow me to briefly elaborate Eat At Seven, which comprises seven Japanese eateries (including Tokyo Sundubu, Menya Takeichi et al) in Suntec City, hence the name. Eat At Seven is a collaboration with All Nippon Airways, which is almost as good an assurance that these eateries are more than decent back in Japan to get selected in the first place. And in my opinion, Tokyo Sundubu certainly impresses!

Merely judging on the number of Michelin-star restaurants in Tokyo, I guess it is safe to assume that Japan has overtaken France as the culinary capital in the world. But Japan cuisine isn’t just your sushi, ramen, and Kaiseki ryori. External influence, such as western cuisines, have been constantly redefining Japan’s culinary path as early as from the 17th century, which is one big reason why I love Japanese cuisines, retaining the heritage while embracing innovation and fusion. It is based on fusion where I feel Tokyo Sundubu excels.

Tofu in Japan can be quite a delectable cuisine. Japan has no short of stream water, these lighter water makes tofu smoother than the one we have here. Some famous restaurants (notably in Kyoto) specialise in tofu are selling their tofu set meal at a premium price, and I somehow cannot help wondering whether their tofu is made of gold! I didn’t try those famous restaurants though, but I did try tofu from a renowned hotel restaurant in Hakone, it was indeed softer, smoother. But whether it’s worth that kind of price is another question altogether.

Tokyo Sundubu claims they made their tofu in-house, but I don’t know what kind of water they are using, nevertheless, their tofu did taste soft and smooth. Even though their selling point is the tofu, they knew very well mere tofu alone probably is not sufficient to grab a pie from Tokyo’s highly competitive culinary scene (just like any movie needs supporting casts too), so they came out the idea of integrating it with Korea stone pot, along with a rich variety of other optional ingredients such as beef, chicken, seafood etc, which is why I was saying earlier that Japan’s culinary scene is dynamic, more so than many other countries in the world.

Chicken Sundubu, $14.00++

Chicken Sundubu, $14.00++

Their hot pot basically comes in a selection of 5 spicy level, with Japanese standard at level 2, and Singapore standard at level 3. I suppose level 1 is mildly spicy, while anything more than 3 is a genuine test on your readiness to undertake a chili challenge rather than appreciating the goodness of the ingredients inside. I had their basic Chicken Sundubu at level 2, and found its spiciness adequate. My dining companion ordered Asari Clam Sundubu ($16.00++) at level 3, which I found to be a bit over spicy, but for me still manageable. I like spicy food, but not to the extent where the spiciness overpowered my taste bud and render the food almost tasteless, it’s not that I cannot take it.

And by the way, due to the volume and colour of the spicy broth, the content inside are not particularly visible, that’s how it was served, and the appearance for my partner’s Asari Clam Sundubu looks almost identical. Let me scoop out the ingredients for a more appealing presentation:

chicken_sundubu-p_20170226_121341The restaurant was not crowded during our visit, but even then that probably ain’t the reason why the chef didn’t make it more presentable the way I did. As a customer, I want the ingredients to stay immersed longer to make sure it stays hot and properly cooked too. For that reason, it’s difficult to distinguish my companion’s order from mine without scooping out the ingredients, hence I won’t bother posting another picture of it here. The difference is that, the Asari Clam Sundubu has more clams, naturally, but probably no chicken (if I remember correctly). In fact, to be honest, I find their chicken more tasty than the clams. I do love seafood, but frankly speaking, their natural sweetness will all be masked over if the taste of the broth is too strong, likewise for the spicy level. Nevertheless, let’s not deviate from the fact that in Tokyo Sundubu, tofu is the spotlight (and in part, the stone pot), other ingredients are mere supporting cast. As for the rice, I can only tell it’s Japanese grains, but the restaurant didn’t mentioned whether it’s Japan grown, or specifically, which prefecture it came from.

大華豬肉粿條麵

Published March 1, 2017 by piggie

taihwa-p_20170219_135416這家大華豬肉粿條麵對於新加坡人來説,應該無須多加介紹了,尤其在其入選2016年米其林指南之後,更可算是新加坡頂級的B級美食了。即便在其入選之前,在非繁忙時段我前往光顧也須要排上近半小時的隊,現在更加不必說,這次在周末用餐時段前往,排了近1小時,還看到老外、韓國人等,令我好奇的是,他們知道該怎麽訂餐嗎?因爲雖然攤位名稱為豬肉粿條麵,但其實他們的經典是新加坡所謂的肉脞麵,多爲所謂的麵薄(Mee Pok)及麵仔(Mee Kia),而且多爲乾麵爲主,反倒很少見人叫粿條麵。

taihwa-p_20170219

每碗麵大概等上3分鐘,但一般上每個人最少叫兩碗,算算看要等多久?

我每次前來都是叫乾麵,自從1、2年前光顧過之後,現在最低價錢調高$1,感覺上麵條的份量也比以前少了。以前叫$4還吃得飽,現在$5吃了還覺得肚子餓。口感方面,麵條不是自制的,不過頭家經驗豐富,麵條燙得恰到好處,加上豬肉、豬腰、肉碎、肉丸、扁魚片、適量的醋與醬汁後,口感非常豐富,在新加坡是很難找到這麽令人滿足的口感,即便是老闆的親戚。

説到這裏,據聞早年在大坡吊橋頭營業的大華豬肉粿條麵是由三兄弟合作的(其歷史可以追溯到1932年,不過70年代之前的我就不曉得了),頭手就是現在大華豬肉粿條麵的老闆,三兄弟中的老二。後來因爲某些因素,三兄弟分了家,老三後來輾轉在珊頓大道、到現在所在的芳林巴刹與熟食中心同樣售賣肉脞麵,招牌名稱為⌈大華肉脞麵⌋,而且名氣也不小。至於老大,據説當年僅是從旁協助,并未親自烹煮,但幾年前老大的兒子在怡豐城另起灶爐,在未經二叔同意之下沿用昔日的招牌(至於水準…我朋友吃過後搖搖頭,我也就無意嘗試了),後來兩家人甚至對簿公堂。所以現在大華豬肉粿條麵的官方網站强調“獨一無二,毫無分行”。

也許我去的時段不對,但今時今日,已經很難見到昔日頭家親自掌厨了,不過對我來説,大華豬肉粿條麵的水準沒明顯的差別。這次光顧,就是頭家的兒子掌厨。

吊橋頭大華豬肉粿條麵 Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Block 466 Crawford Lane #01-12
Singapore 190465
Website: http://www.taihwa.com.sg/

營業時間:
每天 09:30hr ~ 21:00hr
每月第一個及第三個周一休息

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin

Published March 1, 2017 by piggie
Katsu Curry, $17.00

Katsu Curry, $17.00

I know Tonkatsu from Japan tastes great, yet Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin truly awed me. With a history dating back to 1927, this Tonkatsu restaurant from Tokyo’s premium shopping district is still a revelation! I confess Singaporeans are spoiled for choices sourcing for food on this tiny island, and I probably won’t have visited Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin if I wasn’t attracted by their 90th anniversary 50% off set meal promotion.

How Ginza Bairin here works is, you pay for your order before grabbing a seat, there would be no service charge. I actually intended to order their conventional Pork Loin Katsu Set ($17.00), but even arriving shortly after lunch hour, I was still told ‘sold out’. Really? How amazing! I settled for the Katsu Curry somewhat reluctantly. I’ll explain. First and foremost, I’m not really a fan of curry, much less Japanese curry. I prefer local Indian curry, and to a certain extend, Thai curry too. But I always find Japanese curry lacks the punch, the spiciness. Basically, it’s sweet. Not that it doesn’t taste good, but that’s the Japanese’ taste buds, a flavour they are grown accustomed with, not me. Most significantly, Ginza Bairin’s selling point is their Tonkatsu, imagine submersing the crisply fried Tonkatsu into a sinful coat of curry and loses its crisp…

Well, good thing the chef at Ginza Bairin seems to read my mind 😛

Their curry and rice are served partially segregated so that I can still feel the fragrance of Japanese rice, with the Tonkatsu nicely placed on top of the rice, far from the curry sauce. Like that, I can dip it into the curry sauce only when I wanted, while at the same time savouring the golden crisp of the deep fried flour skin. In other words, I am tasting a varying flavour of it! Now coming to the spotlight, that Tonkatsu, it’s extraordinary juicy, with the pork so sweet I began wondering whether it came from Japan? I couldn’t resist double checking my receipt to see if I ordered Black Pig Katsu Curry by mistake. For those who are still not yet aware, Japan probably serves the best pork in the world, just like their renowned Wagyu. In Iberico ham, Spain probably has its own bragging right, but that is cured ham after all, it’s a different league altogether. The best pork in Japan comes from Kagoshima, notably their black pork (Kurobuta), which even the locals there struggled to find it in Tokyo, or otherwise at a much premium price.

I got so much obsession that I brought the old folks back over the weekend. However, this time round, the queue was some 15 meters long! Looking at the rate it was snaking, I anticipated a wait of no less than an hour. Forget it, back another day.

2nd Visit

I revisited Ginza Bairin in mid April 2017.

This time, for Ginza Bairin’s 1-for-1 birthday treat where my friend and I ordered their Iberian Pork Katsu Curry ($21.50) and Black Pig Katsu Curry ($20.00) respectively.

Black_Pig_Katsu_Curry-P_20170422_140241

Kurobuta Katsu Curry, $20.00

Identical to my previous order of Katsu Curry? Well, I couldn’t tell the difference in taste too. Granted, I might have long forgotten the taste of their Katsu Curry, somehow, I feel my previous order tasted better though. But there’s really lots of factors contributing to the differential, such as a different cook, how long has the pork de-frozen etc.

Iberian_Pork_Katsu_Curry-P_20170422_140215

Iberian Katsu Curry, $21.50

All pictures above looking similar huh? We ordered different meal just so we could taste the difference between Kurobuta (Black Pig) and Iberian Pork. But truth be told, we could hardly tell any. Japan is famous for Kurobuta, but not Iberian pork actually. Typical Iberian pork (Jamón ibérico) are seasoned like bacon, a generic way the Iberian peninsula natives pride themselves for over thousand years, and genuine Iberian ham ain’t probably gonna come this cheap.

Bottom line, unless your taste bud can really taste the difference, or else you will find their normal Katsu Curry good enough.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin (銀座梅林)
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard #B4-39/40/41/42
Singapore 238801
Tel: +65 65098101
Website: http://www.ginzabairin.sg/

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