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Japan Rail Cafe (Tottori Night)

Published September 14, 2017 by piggie

Photo credit: Japan Rail Cafe

This is an invitation from JPassport for Japan Rail Cafe’s Tottori Night, held over two days from Mon, 11 Sep 2017 at their premise in Tanjong Pagar Centre, conveniently located just beside Tanjong Pagar MRT station on ground level. Part of the requirement for this invitation is to blog about Tottori prefecture, so I will be touching on a little extra apart from the promised food… Tottori Kani Chirashi Don!

About Japan Rail Cafe

To start with, Japan Rail Cafe is a very interesting concept and the brain child of JR East Japan, it is also the first of such creation in the world. It’s more than a cafe really, comprises of mainly three sections, notably restaurant, retail corner, and a JTB counter. JTB counter there sells most of the JR rail passes you will ever need for your Japan holiday (perhaps some theme parks tickets too), including those beyond JR East Japan’s network (ie. JR West Japan, JR Hokkaido, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku etc), some possibly available for a higher prices in Japan, but many of such passes are not even available there. The retail corner sells thematic items related to rail travel in Japan, and also stocks regional Japan produces including fashion, accessories, food etc. The beauty in it is that, many of these items are also seasonal, on display according to different monthly theme that the cafe is projecting. So chances are, if you see them on display this month, you probably won’t see them again next month. Hence if you find something that you really fancy over there, grab it immediately, and don’t even hope they will slash prices to clear stock, which I haven’t seen any to date. To be honest, most of these items are Japan made, therefore commanding a premium prices on their workmanship and quality. The restaurant part is really the unique section. On any normal day, it functions as a restaurant. But for a few days in a month, a couple of hours each time, they transform into an event location, hosting a series of activities to promote interest in Japan. And despite JR East Japan’s involvement, the cafe actually goes beyond East Japan region, such as San’in region for this month, which is completely outside JR East Japan’s territory. It’s safe to say they are acting to promote tourism in entire Japan, focusing on a different region each month. They truly intend to showcase Japan is more than just the Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto that we know. The cafe’s tiny Community’s Corner also provides a wide number of travel guide books for patrons to browse for free, pity most of them, and in fact the better ones are in Japanese, so unless you know the language, these are as good as alien books to you. A unique thing about their menu is that, they change it periodically, sometime according to the different region they are promoting. Therefore, they don’t have a ‘fixed’ menu, using their free monthly tabloid as their menu instead, sort of creative in my opinion! But that also means, if you find some cuisine or drink you absolutely love, again, you may or may not find it available next month, so maybe you need to communicate your support by blogging about it, patronising Japan Rail Cafe over and over for it, I don’t know! LOL! Anyway, the cafe also engages some Japanese as waitresses, probably as intern, as such you can expect a pleasant Japanese hospitality there.

Tottori

I ain’t making this up, but my very first impression as a child on Japan was on Tottori prefecture’s famous 20th Century Pear. No I didn’t try them, but for some reason I couldn’t remember, I regularly saw those carton boxes with Tottori pears inside. Since then, I have travelled to Japan 8 times, however, I was never able to squeeze Tottori inside my itineraries. Being remote was one big reason, and mainly because I found it hard to find sufficient itineraries there to justify a long detour from where Shinkansen (新幹線) plies.

Photo credit: JR West

Getting There
Tottori is located on the west side of Japan, facing Japan Sea in a region known as the San’in region rather than the more populated Sanyo region where Japan’s bullet trains traverse. I did intend to visit San’in region back in 2011 while I was travelling in Hiroshima, but I found out it’s too time consuming and costly, it’s all mountains in-between! By rail, Tottori is actually more accessible via Okayama or Kyoto’s Tango Peninsula. But if you are travelling on certain JR rail passes, you won’t have to pay extra going via Okayama on JR railways, that’s all I can say without going into complicating details here. And if you are keen to get to Tottori by rail, Japan Rail Cafe actually have a dedicated counter to answer your enquiries as well as the selling of rail passes. There are of course, domestic flights from major cities in Japan, and if you know the approach, the more economical highway express buses. Needless to say, you can also self-drive.

Attractions

To be honest, I don’t consider myself knowing a lot on Tottori, though I do know a few notable attractions including Tottori Sand DunesMIZUKI Shigeru Road, Mitokusan Sanbutsuji Temple, Tottori 20th Century Pear Museum, Gosho AOYAMA Mango Factory (read: Detective Conan). After viewing the night’s presentation by our host, Misa MIYAGAWA, I got to learn a few more, the love station Koi-Yamagata, and the pink train at Wakasa station!

Tottori Sand Dunes: Riding a camel or paragliding? Or you can have them all!

Mitokusan Sanbutsuji Temple

Tottori Nijisseiki (20th Century) Pear Museum

Koi-Yamagata station (Photo credit: Sanin Tourism)

Wakasa station Pink Train (Photo credit: Gigazine)

Believe me, I can go on for many hours elaborating these attractions, but I do not want to deviate too far from the subject of this blog, that is, food or its relevant experience. So, allow me to just share some pictures taken from internet (from Tottori Tourism, unless otherwise stated), those interested can click on my link above (no worries, no ads content) or simply google them online or turn to Tottori Tourism homepage. And if you know these attractions’ Chinese terms, can probably learn more from Taiwanese bloggers, truth be told, they are in general, the best bloggers on Japan.

Food

Toriby!

I love those crabby hats!

I only learned Tottori is famous for crabs 2 years ago, during a trip to Tokyo where I chance upon Tottori’s mascot, Toripy and the delicious looking Matsuba Kani from Tottori. Seriously, until then, I only know Tottori produces pears. Back then, I found out that Tottori has another name, Kanitori-ken (蟹取県), which loosely translated into a prefecture where you can ‘collect’ many crabs!

What I only realise tonight, is that Tottori is the largest producer of Matsuba crab, close to 5 times more than Hokkaido despite having the least population in entire Japan!

Patrons were promptly served iced tea and a Tottori Chelae

Invited patrons were presented with brochures on Tottori and some postcards, served iced tea and Tottori chelae upon seated. How did the chelae taste like, you asking? Well, it tasted like plastic, very artificial. Just kidding, it’s a pen!

Tottori Kani Chirashi Don, $25

We weren’t kept to wait for long before the spotlight dinner was served, their new Tottori Kani Chirashi Don! Comprising cucumber and omelette cubes, lotus root, salmon roes, and of course, the main cast Tottori Matsuba crab meat, the freshness goes beyond doubt! I can tell from the salmon roes, its sweetness was so overpowering that it’s about as fresh one can get in Singapore. The crab meat, being the focus, was tender, chewy, and one bite, all the satisfaction began smearing out from my facial expression. Of course, knowing the price of a Matsuba crab, one cannot expect a very generous portion of it in the bowl, but it’s enough to make a difference. There’s two ways in appreciating this cuisine, the first is to eat it as it was served. The second, is to pour radish broth (See the tea pot there? Inside is not tea hor) over it, and eat it as soaked rice. Actually the way I see it, there will be a third, depending on when you add those condiments such as sesame, wasabi, and seaweed flakes into the rice, before or after adding the broth. And I must say, no matter how you enjoy it, you will find this very fulfilling!

Having said that, I have strong reason to believe this has to be strictly seasonal, because Japan is very conscious about sustainability, and they actually have windows for crab harvest, giving time for the crabs to re-produce. Hence, enjoy it while you can, I may be wrong, but this ain’t likely to stay on their menu for long.We were also given small sampling of Tottori’s Pink Curry. I know what you are thinking, artificial colouring? No! The pink colour was achieved by using beetroot, another specialty in Tottori. And you are thinking only a train and a train station in Tottori can be pink?? Far from it! In fact, San’in region is promoting itself as a romantic region, so what better colour to use than pink! Actually, this pink curry is the invention of Brilliant Associates, believed to have drew inspiration from a French Renaissance-style manor located in Tottori called Jinpukaku. Typical of Japan, Jinpukaku has its own representative characters which are the four beautiful regal sisters, namely Ririka, Sarika, Marika and Yurika who are dressed in French renaissance clothings. Ririka is the youngest child fancied by everyone; Sarika is the third child who loves to draw; Marika is the second daughter who is cheerful, vivacious and loves waltz; while Yurika is the eldest sibling who loves to play the violin. Out of the many colours, pink is a traditionally feminine colour which seems to best suit the image of these four pretty, sophisticated, and aristocratic ladies so it was chosen to colour the curry! (Source: Jpninfo.com)

Host Misa Miyagawa with her Tottori counterpart in introducing Tottori Pink Curry. I couldn’t help focusing my attention on the crabby hats they wore.. Looks like two walking yummy crabs! Gosh, I was drooling :P…

However, according to our host, Risa Miyagawa, Brilliant Associates could have co-related the four sisters’ ‘華麗’ (pronounced similar to ‘curry’ in Japanese) dresses to curry, hence using them on their packaging.

Nevertheless, this certainly reminds me of Western Australia’s Lake Hillier! So how does it taste like? Don’t expect it to go anywhere near the spiciness of an Indian curry, more towards Japanese curry naturally, slightly sweeter in my opinion, and very much retaining the same savoury.

We were also served some sake samples as our host continued her presentation, believing to be Nokyo (野花) Ume sake, a plum wine. I understand that the plum used in Nokyo is of a very special species, grown only in specific area in Tottori. Upon ripen, it is then soaked in sake barrel of Junmai sake for more than 2 years, giving the sake a rather fruity aroma. It is recommended that the sake serve chilled (5-10°C) on the rock, or warm (40-60°C). We were first offered chilled Nokyo, I noted its fruitiness. Pardon me, I ain’t a sake drinker, am afraid that’s all I can describe about it. Minutes later, we were served Nokyo again, this time warm. Interestingly, now it exudes a very intense fragrance and rich aftertaste, a complete contrast to what I had just tried a little while ago. Am I really trying the same wine? You bet. Such is the characteristic of Nokyo.

Find out more from Umetsu Shuzo (梅津酒造) if interested.

新甘泉from Hirooka Farm in Tottori

Any Tottori event is not complete without trying out their famous pear, though in this case, not the 20th Century Pear we know. Ladies and gentlemen, let me present… Shinkansen!

Huh? Shinkansen? No, not the one (新幹線) you know. But yes, it’s Shinkansen (新甘泉) I mentioned, somehow they share the same pronunciation in Japanese. I don’t know how the name comes about really, but the word ‘甘’ in Mandarin means sweet, and I suppose you can relate ‘泉’ to juicy. It was indeed sweet and juicy. And it is a relatively new species too, having developed as a cross-breed between 20th Century & Chikusui (筑水) pears back in 1989. Apparently, Tottori didn’t sit back and rely just on their famous 20th Century Pear they reportedly ‘borrowed’ from Chiba prefecture (but never return, lol).

Our host was obviously overjoyed seeing Toripy

Oh, no prize guessing who’s the VIP… and it’s here to give out prizes! By the way, Toripy is also a cross-breed, between a bird and a pear. That’s why you will see a black ‘antenna’ out of its head, resembling a pear.

As for the prizes, I’d really hope the organiser would be giving out the crabby hat and Toripy plush, in the end, they gave away something more costly, such as Matsuba Kani from Tottori!

Special thanks to JPassport for the invitation, and Japan Rail Cafe for the hospitality.

Japan Rail Cafe
5 Wallich Street, #01-20,
Tanjong Pagar Centre
Singapore 078883
Tel: +65 63855422
Website: http://www.japanrailcafe.com.sg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JAPANRAILCAFE/

Opening Hours:
11:00 hr – 21:00 hr

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Bake Cheese Tart

Published September 9, 2017 by piggie

After 1 year, the cheese tart craze from Hokkaido’s Bake Cheese Tart has finally subsided, no more lengthy queue outside their ION Orchard franchise, and it’s definitely a good time to try!

When a friend accompanied me in acquiring these cheese tarts, she briefed me on their procedure, that the staffs will show me they really pack in 6 pieces per box before wrapping, and they would also share various way in appreciating these pastries. They would repeat these procedures each time she purchased, without fail. Hence, partly the reason for long queue then. In fact, it’s so popular that they now have 4 outlets in Singapore! My friend used to queue 2 hours for these, some even queued for 3 hours. Holy God! Ain’t these people having better thing to do? The price for one cheese tart ain’t cheap though, @ $3.50, or 6 for $19.50, at these prices, it has better taste good. And it sure does!

Bake Cheese Tart only comes in one variant, their standard cheese tart, yet that was enough to summon a craze to queue for hours. In fact, I like it so much I’m worry once the fanfare is over, they may diminish from our shore. However, they do offer 4 different ways to appreciate their cheese tarts, they even include a printed card in my packaging to remind me of it! I’m impressed, I almost had the impression as if I’m getting it in Japan:

  1. Eat fresh upon purchase.
  2. Fridge it before consumption.
  3. Freeze it and eat it like ice cream.
  4. Reheat it in a toaster over and eat it as if fresh.

Well, three ways actually. The forth is actually a replication of the first.

From the fridge

I tried one as soon as I got out from their shop, freshly baked! I love that semi molten cheese, so flavourful and typical of Hokkaido’s aroma. I later tried eating it straight from the fridge, the cheese flavour is still there, but the texture is like cheese cake, its taste less exquisite. After this, I don’t wanna try it from the freezer. My conclusion, as well as my friend’s, we prefer it freshly baked.

Many thanks to Bake Cheese Tarts for the free cheese tarts! ~ <(^@^)> ~

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka らーめん山頭火

Published September 9, 2017 by piggie

It is not my first visit to Santouka, but since this is a new menu tasting invitation by JPassport, I would like to start a new post and segregate it from my previous visits. Nevertheless, like I always did, I reiterate my desire to faithfully express my opinion regardless whether it’s sponsored or not.

According to my correspondence with JPassport, my understanding is that me and my dining partner can each choose one main from their new menu. So we decided we would each order a different item and share among ourselves just so we can taste both.

But Santouka’s manager at their Clarke Quay Central branch was very generous and threw in their Toroniku Ramen as well. That means two of us gonna share 3 portion of ramen! I stare at my dining partner bewilderingly, but alas, I thought if their Roast Beef Ae Soba is just what it seems to be, then probably we can finish them all. No and Yes, allow me to elaborate shortly.

Special Iberico Tokusen Toroniku Ramen in Shio broth, $21++ (S)

Special Iberico Tokusen Toroniku Ramen was first served. Regular patrons to Santouka would already have known, that this is one of Santouka’s signature ramen, nothing new really. It features premium roasted pork cheek from Iberico pig, both attributes are considered premium in their respective categories, and hence reflected in the ramen’s price. Before I go on further on the charshu, let me briefly touch on the noodle first.

Santouka claimed to have tested many different types of noodles before settling on medium sized round noodles, which they found to have good flavour and aroma, most importantly blend well with their soup. The broth comes in 4 flavour options, namely Shoyu, Miso, Kara-Miso, and Shio. Santouka hails from Hokkaido, Asahikawa to be exact, from where Shoyu ramen is typical. However, it’s Shio ramen where Santouka really prowess. While typical Shio ramen presents a clear appearance, Santouka’s came a little creamy, and their broth is rich enough to infuse flavourful taste to the noodle as they claimed.

Japan ain’t really known for Iberico pork, but Kurobuta. The former are usually found in Iberian Peninsula (literally Spain and Portugal), and is considered rare in Japan. It’s worth noting that Iberico pork are usually cured for years and sold as ham (read Jamón ibérico), hence its hefty price tag, but these days you can probably get frozen Iberico pork from upmarket supermarkets or gourmet stores. Even if it’s not cured, its prices are still a few notches expensive than the Kurobuta, which is itself already considered a premium type of pork. And for every pig, regardless Iberico or any species, there’s only about 200-300g of pork cheek, which is relatively rare and probably the most tender meat you can get, that’s why even Santouka can only afford to serve them in limited quantity each day.

Santouka’s roasted Iberico pork cheek offers an adequate proportion of saltiness and sweetness, and to avoid its flavour being wash away by the broth, it was presented on a separate plate, allowing patrons to savour it in its best glamour.

Santouka Tantan Men, $15++

Santouka Tantan Men is a new addition on their revised menu launching soon on 18 Sep 2017 in collaboration with their anniversary here. Served in a Tonkotsu broth, and with respect to the amount of chilli oil present, it only offers a slight hint of spiciness reminiscing conventional Sichuan Tantan noodle. Santouka is obviously distancing themselves from replicating a direct Sichuan version, this makes sense, they aren’t a Chinese restaurant after all. They infused their broth with a strong sesame presence, which created a somewhat nutty flavour. And then instead of using charshu in a conventional ramen, they replaced it with minced meat in Miso paste, along with pickled veggie. Overall, this is rather appetising!

Roast Beef Ae-Soba, $17++

Hold on a second, did I just mention appetising? Wait till I try this!

For a start, I wonder what does Ae mean? I mean, I have tried Maze Soba, Yaki Soba… But Ae Soba (和え蕎麦)?? I couldn’t find an answer, but I guess it either means dry soba or self-made soba.

Anyway, the soba was presented somewhat like Yaki Soba (fried soba), except that the noodle wasn’t fried at all. I believe it was lightly rinsed and drained from the broth, and served dry along with veggies, poached egg, and of course, roast beef as its name suggests. The overall taste of this is somewhat like salad + noodle.

I understand that Santouka uses the same noodle they would use on their ramen, so actually, it’s not really soba noodle they are using. But they ain’t the only one, many other ramen restaurants here did likewise. Personally, I prefer that, because I don’t quite like the strong buckwheat texture in soba noodles to be honest, although I still eat them somewhat.

Looking at the picture alone, you would naturally guess the beef takes centre stage huh? In our humble opinion, no. The wonder of this noodle lies in the little jug in the background, or rather the dressing inside. It’s an interesting cohesion of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and mild pungency all roll into one, exuding a brilliant taste that makes this noodle totally wonderful!

Unable to subdue our curiousity, we summon the manager for an ‘explanation’. She would proudly reveal the use of onion, Kikkoman sauce, wasabi paste, but that’s as far as she would go, the rest, I suppose, are ‘trade secret’. 😛

It has to be that good, that my dining companion, who usually hates onion, finished all the dressing onto the noodle.
The beef was served medium raw, and was quite tender. But I was wondering, why limit this noodle with beef? I think they could have gone with chicken, pork, and seafood as option too. Having said that, I must confess, the noodle was rather generous compare to what I saw from their menu. We struggled, but finish it because we already ate a bowl of ramen each before this, prompting the manager to comment we must have been very satisfied with our meal. True indeed!

Green Tea Ice Cream, $3++

After our meal, we felt as if we had buffet. But we top up with a Green Tea ice cream each so as not to leave the restaurant without paying anything. Their Green Tea Ice Cream although lack fragrance, offers a strong and pleasant Green Tea taste. I know the presentation looks bland, but guess that’s why Santouka will be repackaging this into something more eye-catching comes 18 Sep 2017.

Not available as yet, but definitely more appealing huh?

That concludes my visit on 07 Sep 2017, but do follow Santouka on JPassport for any forthcoming promotion!

Special thanks to JPassport for this tasting invitation.

Tomi Sushi 富寿し

Published August 31, 2017 by piggie

Osusume Lunch, $45++

Hailing from Niigata, Tomi Sushi has a history of 63 years since started off in 1954, and Singapore is their first and only oversea venture since 2010. To date they have 4 outlets here, including Echigotei. Despite having no Michelin accolade to brag with, Tomi Sushi associates themselves closely with one important ingredient in making good sushi, Niigata Koshihikari rice. Among Japonica there are different grades, the best among all is definitely Koshihikari, notably those from Niigata’s Uonuma. Tomi Sushi claims that they use Koshihikari rice from Niigata, but stop short of saying whether it’s from Uonuma, which cost a few dollars more per kilogram. Chances are, they aren’t. Nevertheless, Koshihikari from Niigata alone is enough justification of its premium status. The reason Niigata’s rice is so famous is because the area has massive snowfall. After winter, the snow would melt and dissolve into and fertilise the ground, and along with good climate, able to cultivate possibly the best rice on earth. As a result, other by-products using Niigata’s rice garner rave review too, notably their sake.

Niigata is located on the west side of Japan, facing Japan Sea. As such, Tomi Sushi imports their fish from Niigata as well as from Tokyo. Hence, depending on season, sometime they may have special import that you won’t find on their menu, needless to say, for a premium price. I guess that’s where they stand out from some competitors.


After a long introduction, allow me to finally comment on the food. My friend and I were promptly served hot tea as soon as we were seated inside their Millenia Walk branch, and we each ordered their Osusume Lunch (おすすめランチ), notably the most expensive item on their lunch menu. This is a set meal as well as Chef’s recommendation on their menu, with Maguro Chutoro and Maguro Otoro being the highlight among the sushi.

Maguro Chutoro (3rd from left), Maguro Otoro (1st from left)

Less than 10 minutes later, the sushi platter came first, with the main meal coming briefly afterwards. I have no intention pretending to be a sushi expert here, I’m definitely not. But I did learn somewhere that normally, diners are suppose to start from sushi with a lighter colour, towards the darker one (usually also stronger in taste), in-between eat a piece of ginger and sip tea to rinse off any remaining taste from the previous sushi, just so diner can fully appreciate each single piece of sushi. So I had to save the best for last, starting from the maki roll first. Oh, just to clarify, the restaurant certainly didn’t have such requirement, they know most of the non-Japanese diners here don’t know such ritual. I usually don’t bother such practice in any normal sushi restaurant either, but this certainly is a premium one. Firstly, the freshness was never in doubt, my friend called and found out their last shipment came just a day ago. Secondly, their sushi rice did not come with excessive vinegar taste. Thirdly, the rice didn’t split easily away from the fish upon consumption (Trust me, even a Japanese chef in a Tokyo restaurant can fail this! LOL). Now, come to the taste of the Maguro Chutoro and Maguro Otoro, which means Fatty Tuna and Extra Fatty Tuna from different part of the fish respectively. I have to reiterate I am no expert, and this is the first time I try premium tuna like these. I do find both having a softer texture, slightly tastier, but I couldn’t tell much difference between the two, if anything, the former is probably firmer.

The spotlight of the main meal must certainly be on the tempura. The prawns taste fresh, and the tempura flour is thin and crisp that my dining partner find this better than that from Tempura Kohaku. I guess I would just say each has its own merits. Personally, I love the Shiso leaf tempura, so crisp and retaining some mint flavour of the leaf. Salad was appetising, and their Chawanmushi though looks thin, but has quite a handful of ingredients within.

Apart from the meal, Tomi Sushi also takes pride in providing different soy sauce for sushi and sashimi respectively, going into such meticulous details is truly exemplary!

Penang Place

Published August 30, 2017 by piggie

Penang Place first started in Jurong East, and has since moved on to Fusionopolis before settling now at Suntec City. My friend and I saw a new tenant in Suntec City and decided to give it a try over a busy lunch hour. Although there was no queue and with spare tables available, we were warned by the waiter it could take about 30 minutes if we were to order a la carte. Sure, no issue.

We ordered Penang-Style Mee Goreng and their famous Penang Char Kway Teow, intending to share among us. Eventually, our order were served within 10 minutes, which really surprised us, prompting us to wonder whether they pre-fried the noodles and probably re-fried it with ingredients upon ordering. But that’s just speculation, and is not important as long as the dishes taste great. Fair statement?

Penang-Style Mee Goreng, $10.90++

Their Mee Goreng was served just shortly before the Kway Teow, it has a fragrance of wok hei and nicely presented with lime, cuttlefish, potatoes, tofu, prawn fritters, egg. The sweetness is perfectly done and overall, quite appetising! On a whole, of course, their ingredients are better than most hawker fare one can find.

Penang Char Kway Teow, $10.90++

The Kway Teow was only served briefly after the Mee Goreng, understandably, the appearance is a bit less flamboyant, but given the fact that it once earned “the best Penang Char Kway Teow in town” from Business Times, I expected it to taste better, even if just moderately. Reasonable? However, despite the presence of prawns, squids, eggs, bean sprouts, both me and my dining partner felt it lacked cohesion, it looks stale, and it tastes stale, which is why I suspect might be because the noodles were pre-fried, but lost the texture after been left luke warm for sometime. Their Mee Goreng at least has the sauce to cover it. But the Kway Teow tasted slightly dry. I had tried Penang Char Kway Teow in Penang which I chanced upon, from an ordinary coffee shop, not even a famous stall, it tasted much better, not to mention cheaper. OK, fine, I understand the absence of lard just so our Muslim friends can also enjoy it, or probably using less oil for a healthier meal. However, allow me to share a hard truth, that their competitor along the same stretch offers the same dish cheaper and better, no lard too! And I had actually blogged about that last year. I really wonder what made the Business Times correspondent declared this “the best Penang Char Kway Teow in town”. Very very far from it. Either their standard dropped, or possibly the correspondent had never tried good Penang Char Kway Teow before. Or maybe just my luck, we encountered a trainee chef? Another possibility is that they had taken from the buffet pot and re-presented it on a platter. I know I’m bold, but this is at best, mere average, I hope they improve their standard if they want to continue using that tagline.

By the way, they serve buffet too!

Penang Place
3 Temasek Boulevard
Suntec City Mall, West Wing
#02-314/315/316
Singapore 038983
Tel: +65 64677003
Website: http://www.penangplace.com/
Email: catering@penangplace.com

Opening Hours:
11:30hr – 14:30hr,
18:00hr – 21:30hr

Hattendo 八天堂

Published August 4, 2017 by piggie

I came to know Hattendo during a Japan Rail Cafe event late last year, when they were still under renovation (they actually started business here in Jan 2017), but I didn’t try it until recently. Hailing from Hiroshima with a history dating back to 1933, I really regret didn’t hear of it during my my three visit there since 2008, but actually their outlets in Hiroshima prefecture are based in Mihara, some 70km away from downtown Hiroshima. I thought it was just another ordinary pastry when they ventured into Singapore, and how wrong I was!

Prior to trying Hattendo, I thought what wrapped underneath was some type of biscuit. I was wrong. It’s more like soft bun. They do offer more than just these cream buns of course, but undeniably, cream buns are their forte. Hence naturally, I’m trying their cream buns for a start.

Not sure if there’s any minimum quantity for a box purchase, but they included two ice pack in mine to keep the bun cooled. If you haven’t guessed by now, that gives you a strong hint what its content is like. I was told the ice pack can last for 2 hours, then you will have to keep them in fridge, and the buns have to be finished by the next day.

Each of these cream bun cost S$2.50, but 5 of these in a box cost S$12.00 nett. Their pricing here is surprisingly cheaper than what you will be getting in Japan, at ¥250 (before tax) each. I suspect they may be localising some of the ingredients here, anyway since it tastes this great, I won’t have mind. In general, Hattendo has 5 basic flavours, including Azuki Sweet Bun (Red Bean, clockwise from top left), Custard, Whipped Cream, Chocolate, and Matcha. Recently, they also launched a Melon bun for a slightly higher price, the filling will still be the same, just that the soft bun is replaced by Hong Kong styled melon bun.

The cream bun is indeed a bun, at least on the exterior. Be warned (and I hinted you on ice packs, remember?), don’t leave it in the open for too long before you consume it. Inside, was something with texture like molten ice cream, probably because I ate it as soon as I brought them home, which was still not as bad. It’s actually best to fridge them for some time before consumption, otherwise, you will find that the content melted and before you knew it, you may need to clean yourself and/or mop the floor. Now I understand why my friend told me it’s best to consume from their store (So that’s why they have seats in their outlet! Just kidding, it’s a café really, with their coffee created by Itsuki Coffee from Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture).

As for the taste, it’s rich, creamy, and flavourful, miles better than the ice cream produced in this region, and quite unlike those world renowned premium ice cream, if you know how Japanese ice cream tastes like, you will know what I mean. Among them, only the Azuki Sweet Bun contains beans, the rest are very much just cream.

Notice the packaging indicates ‘Singapore’, which makes me wonder whether if it tastes much better in Japan. Mihara, where Hattendo originated from, is not a place where tourists normally stop by, unless you are going to/fro Hiroshima Airport, and that’s where you will find the nearest Shinkansen station. Anyway, they have an outlet right at Hiroshima Airport too (Oh, the airport is hidden deep inside the mountain by the way, very far from city center)! Come late October, SilkAir will fly Hiroshima, and if you fly there, do try out Hattendo there and let me know the difference! By the way, Chugoku (where Hiroshima prefecture is) is really a nice place to visit, I would say right after Kanto, Kansai, and Kyushu, ahead of Hokkaido because the latter is only wonderful over summer. Chugoku is a gateway to many hidden gems in Japan that many Singaporeans have yet to uncover! Oh, before you get the wrong idea that this article is sponsored, I assured you it’s not, and certainly not from SilkAir, LOL! I just got excited whenever the topic involves travelling in Japan, not just Japanese cuisines, and I actually write a lot better on travelling than food review! 😛

Hattendo 八天堂
7 Wallich Street #01-05
Tanjong Pagar Centre
Singapore 078884

Opening Hours:
10:00hr – 21:00hr (Mon~Fri)
11:00hr – 20:00hr (Sat~Sun, PH)

Bali Thai

Published May 29, 2017 by piggie

Thai Honey Chicken Set, $9.80++

I was a little skeptical when I stepped inside Bali Thai, shall I regard this as Thai food? Or do I regard it as Balinese cuisine? Well, it’s actually both.

I wasn’t really a big fan of Balinese cuisines in the first place, but I do like Thai food after a couple of visit there. Naturally, it’s their Thai cuisine I ordered. I was anticipating a blend of sweetness and sourness for the Thai Honey Chicken set I ordered, but it’s just pure sweetness, nothing sour, and somehow I felt the sweetness overdose. The chicken was thinly sliced, crisply coated with flour and fried, complemented with cashew nuts and lettuce as well as a sunny side up. Personally, I feel a tint of sourness could have made it better (or perhaps I should have ordered their Sweet Sour Chicken set instead).

Basil Leaves Minced Chicken/Beef Set, $9.80++

My dining partner, having tried their Thai Honey Chicken set previously, opted to try out their Basil Leaves Minced Chicken set this time round. It is appetising, however, it is also very spicy, to such extend the hotness overpowered almost any other taste, numbing the taste bud and rendered the lettuce, basil etc as good as bland. Solely for those who can take very spicy food, and so to speak, that’s coming from one who can take spicy stuff.