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.

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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.

Enbu 炎舞

Published April 24, 2017 by piggie

It seems like I’m pretty addicted to Eat at Seven of late. Enbu is yet another of Eat at Seven’s element, but probably the most neglected one because of its secluded spot. In fact, it was the very first Eat at Seven restaurant when it opened although its location on roof top almost gives the impression it doesn’t belong to them. Enbu is an izakaya styled restaurant presumably partially related to Tomo Izakaya in Clarke Quay. As such, other than the food, they also carry a wide range of Japanese sake.

What makes Enbu special is their use of charcoal for grilling, or more impressively, straw-grill (warayaki). They claim to be the first (and probably only) restaurant in Singapore doing so.

Enbu Grilled Original Chicken Pattie with Ponzu Sauce, $15++

I must have left my spectacle at home when I read their menu but missing out on the straw-grilled items, anyway, I ordered Enbu Grill Original Chicken Pattie with Ponzu Sauce. The meal came with refillable tea, miso soup, a salad (if I remember correctly, I believe it’s avocado salad), and the main course. In my opinion, the Ponzu sauce definitely makes the meal more appetising. In fact, I have to credit them for the seamless effort in their presentation, which truly makes the main course such a fine piece of art!

Enbu Grilled Original Chicken Pattie with Half Boiled Egg, $15++

Their Enbu Grilled Original Chicken Pattie with Half Boiled Egg is just as impressive. Japanese love to stir egg yolk onto their rice, which gives a sweeter taste overall.

The above items are only available during lunch hours, but come during the night, I assure you the restaurant ambiance will be simply exceptional!

During my visit, JCB card holders are entitled to 1-for-1 promotion (until Jun 2017) on selected items. It’s actually quite worth it!

2nd Visit

Well, now that I learned Enbu is actually well-known for their straw-grill cuisines, what I intend to order for my return visit is pretty straightforward, one of the straw-grilled items on their menu!

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Straw frame Grilled Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce, $14++

I ordered Straw frame Grilled chicken with Teriyaki Sauce. I must confess I have never tasted anything straw-grilled before, as such, I have totally zero idea how it would taste like, but full of anticipation. To be honest, I found straw-grill pretty much a gimmick, it’s quite unlike charcoal-grill where one can virtually smell the difference, though I do find the chicken delicious. And as before, Enbu’s presentation is awesome! In fact, take away the somewhat distracting term ‘straw-grill’, and this meal excel on its own right, with Teriyaki sauce of adequate sweetness that doesn’t take away any spotlight from the chicken.

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Spicy Straw-Fire Grilled Chicken, $14++

On appearance, there seems to be no significant difference between this order and that I elaborated previously. It was suppose to be spicy, somehow I don’t find it so. Again, I couldn’t tell of any straw-grill aroma.

P_20170501_132356-Mixed_Diced_Sashimi_on_rice_with_Yuzu_Pepper_Sauce

Mixed Diced Sashimi on Rice, with Yuzu Pepper Sauce, $17.50++

This is basically Kaisen-don (seafood rice), and the seafood sashimi are fresh and flavourful, and the Yuzu Pepper Sauce is delightful!

Enbu 炎舞
3 Temasek Boulevard #03-307
Suntec City Mall
Singapore 038983
Tel: +65 62688043

Opening Hours:
11:30hr – 15:00hr,
17:30hr – 23:00hr

Hi Leskmi Nasi Lemak 榮興椰漿飯

Published April 23, 2017 by piggie

Singapore has its fair amount of great Nasi Lemak, and Hi Leskmi definitely deserves to be among the best. Exactly why they have such strange name (which doesn’t synchronise with their Mandarin name anyway) is pretty puzzling, but hidden inside a residential area in Whampoa, Hi Leskmi is actually well known among food hunters in Singapore. Somehow, I suspect, its location (particularly the lack of MRT connection) probably put off more patrons to their stall. However, come lunch time you will see a snaking queue forming outside, though waiting time is reasonably fast.

As can be seen from their signboard, they typically offer 3 types of set meal for an affordable price of $3.00, but you can order your own a-la-carte selection possibly for a little bit more. Hi Leskmi’s signature lies in their green-colour rice, presumably cooked with pandan leaves and of course, coconut milk. The rice is very fluffy and flavourful enough to make you return for more.

Set B, $3.00

In addition, it ain’t just their rice that is good, they did well with their egg and peanuts too! Their egg was still runny and the peanuts demonstrate crispy freshness, while the chili is a great blend of sweet and spiciness. Still, I must reiterate, I feel it’s the rice that has stolen the show.

Set A, $3.00

My friend ordered set A, the difference being the choice of chicken wing or fish cake. Set C comes with Otak.

Hi Leskmi Nasi Lemak 榮興椰漿飯
90 Whampoa Drive #01-24
Singapore 320090

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