Saturday, January 29, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon

After watching Julie & Julia we were extremely inspired to try making Julia Child's signature Boeuf Bourguignon! Bouef Bourguignon is french for Beef Burgundy - referring to the burgundy (or later, came to be any full bodied red wine) used in the beef stew. We used (and slightly modified) her original recipe.

Boeuf Bourguignon for 4

- Hunka stewing beef : 800g, cubed
- Red wine : enough for marinating
- Red wine : 2 cups
- Beef stock : 2 cups
- Bacon strips : 300g, squared
- Carrot : 1, diced
- Onion : 1, diced
- Pearl onions : 20
- White button mushrooms : enough
- Bay leaf : 2
- Flour : 2 tbsp
- Butter : 3 tbsp
- S&P

On the night before, we cubed the hunka beef.

Then we marinated the load of beef in red wine, a crushed bay leaf and fresh ground black pepper. I also added in a sprinkle of garlic salt for good measure. Use enough wine to cover the beef about halfway up the bowl. Give it a good mix and toss before covering the bowl and leaving it overnight in the fridge.

On the next day, the cubed beef is now an awesome dark red. I must warn you to resist popping a piece on the frying pan and eating it right there and then - it SMELLS REALLY GOOD.

The dogs were waiting (but they didn't get any in the end, aww).

On prep day of Operation BB. Bacon strips were cut into smaller squares, and then blanched in simmering water for about 3-4 minutes.

This is really important - the beef has to be dry in order to properly brown as you pan fry it in a little while. So we armed ourselves with paper towels and patted them dry. This process was painful especially due to the marinate - we must have ran through half a roll to dry all 800g of beef!

One of the best things in the world - pan frying the bacon squares in olive oil. Look at the glistening oil and charred bits of pig. So awesome. The fried bacon goes into the pot.

And one of the second best things in the world - we then pan fried the patted-dry beef cubes in the bacon fat. Work through the beef in batches, make sure they don't fry too close to each other. Fried beef cubes go into the pot.

Finally, with the remaining bacon fat and beef juice, we pan fried the diced carrot and onion. Veges go into the pot. We then deglazed whatever fat was left in the pan with red wine and poured the liquid into the pot.

Top up the pot with the rest of red wine so the total was about 2 cups. Then fill in enough beef stock to cover the beef until just a little beef sticks out. We used about 2 cups of beef stock, made from beef stock cubes and hot water.

There are alotta ways to cook boeuf bourguignon - Julia's original recipe called for 3 hours in a Dutch Oven, and you can also cook in a stove top pot. We used a slow cooker instead - and instead of 3 hours we left it for about 3 hours on high, then about 4 hours on low.

After the painful wait for 7 hours, we proceeded to cook the pearl onions and mushrooms. Peel the pearl onions by soaking them in hot water for a bit - the skin then comes off easily. Pan fry the onions in a dash of olive oil.

Mushrooms were fried.

What followed was a traditional french trick. We scooped out the cooked meats and vegetables from the slow cooker, which by now has transcended into the realms of awesome deliciousness.

There's still quite a bit of sauce left over, but it's still a little watery. We thicken the sauce by using a beurre manie - or butter and flour. Melt the 3 tbsps of butter a little, then mix in 2 tbsps of plain flour. You will get a goopy dough like substance. Now mix this dough bit by bit into the sauce, stirring firmly each time until it's homogenous. This magical step thickens the sauce amazingly, turning the watery wine and beef stock into a creamy sauce.

After thickening the sauce, pour back the onions, mushrooms, and the meats and veges and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

To go with the boeuf bourguignon, we decided to be as french as possible and toasted some Batard.

The final product - bouef bourguignon! It was a lot of work, and it took a whole day of cooking (and putting up with the sweet waft of red wine through the house) to get there, but boy was it worth it.

The beef, bacon, carrots and mushrooms were all ultra tender and filled with awesome flavour. The thick creamy wine sauce was full and flavourly, and went so perfectly with the toasted crusty bread. The only issue we had were the pearl onions - these expensive gems were too hard! We should have boiled them for about half an hour before pan frying them, turns out they were too crunchy and didn't soak up the sauce as much as it should have.

It was an awesome experience to cook french style! We'll definitely be doing more french cooking soon :)

Hatched, Evans Lodge

Despite located slightly out of the way, we decided to hop on a bus and brave the increasingly heavy drizzle to have breakfast at Hatched. As you would guess, the menu consists of eggs prepared in a number of ways - fried, scrambled, omelette-ed.

The decor of the place was pretty simple and cute, basically it was all chickens and eggs. Nice little S&P shakers and a little M.C Escher going there.

Much like Ryder's cafe at Turf Club, Evans Lodge is freakin' outta the way if you don't have a car. And as expected, the crowd here falls into a slightly higher income bracket (atas).

I had the Burly Benedict - Eggs Benedict with corned Wagyu beef hash and Mornay sauce - set me back about $17. Standard pricing here for Eggs Benedict was about $12 for one and $17 for two. Breakfast here ain't cheap! Granted, the eggs were perfectly poached and yolky when prodded - which went so well with the salty corned beef on the english muffin. Everything was pretty melt in the mouth though i found the Mornay sauce a dash too salty. Along with the muffins came a little greens, sauteed potatoes and caramelized onions. It was good but I definitely will not pay $17 for this again @.@

I had the Smoked Royale - same deal but with smoked salmon and Hollandaise (the standard issue Eggs Benedict sauce) instead of beef. The salmon was a tad bit soggy and not very inspiring - the Hollandaise sauce was a bit off too. There was just something not quite ... right with this dish! In my book the only way to eat smoked salmon is with capers, sour cream and cream cheese on a bagel.

Colours were nice though - this one came with potato mash instead.

All in all I think the eggs benedict were good but the price / portion / taste ratio was off whack. That and the drizzle -> rain as we walked back to the bus stop, along with the noisy smokey roads on a Saturday morning kinda played negatively to Hatched's favour as well. Don't think we'll be back again!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nando's, Plaza Sing

We've tried going to Nando's before but that damn place always has a queue. Makes you wonder - is this place really that good, or just a victim of the Singaporean queue phenomenon (in which a small queue begets a larger queue and eventually a neverending queue to quench kiasunism)?

Determined to find an answer to my question, we reached the new Plaza Sing branch after 2pm, and there was no queue in sight - we plopped down and started getting some chicken.

Bunny got a quarter and I got a half - both spicy - as I was starving, but we decided that we will both get a third (they should just sell thirds), with 3 bean salad and potato lime leaf skewer. EATTTTT.

Well, peri peri sauce tastes the same whether you get it from Barcelo's, Nando's, or Mustafa supermarket - it was spiceh. It wasn't Ayam Penyet level spicy, but still warranted liquid to quell the fire, which gives rise to the next dastardly initiative that they don't serve drinking water - not even tap. Why don't Singaporean restaurants serve tap water when it costs 0.05cents per cup (going at $2 per kilolitre) taking it literally from the tap, is bullcrud. They probably have higher profit margins selling cheap sweetened drinks than from chicken, and for every bottle of bottled water one buys, you can get ~850 bottles equivalent of tap water. We had to get some apple sugar drink in the end.

Anyway, the chicken was good, but my main gripe was the darn thing was a little too wet. Besides the generous slathering of sauce on top (which anyway is 'free' because the sauce bottles are on every table), the inside was overly juicy and makes me feel like it hasn't been grilled long enough. It was cooked, definitely, but I preferred my grilled chicken dry and slightly crispy on the outside. There was not enough crispiness in my chicken, I'm calling shenanigans.

Good, regardless, but Barcelo's is better on a personal chicken preference. Duly noted though that both places are of similar prices (expensive - for $25 for half a chicken I can get a steak in some places) but Barcelo's portions are notably smaller for some reason.

And the potato lime leaf skewer was strange.

HGW Link : (lawl at 25% recommendation)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

OChre, Orchard Central

Was suggested to go here for a pizza and pasta buffet after a not-too-vigorous gym session. For $22+ (no service charge) and a supposed 20% UOB discount, I would never say no!

On the 11th floor of Orchard Central (coincidentally Ems was having Lobster Porridge downstairs), this snazzy Italian place was situated next to Tung Lok (should give a rough gauge of cost). Twas semi-fine dining and supposedly didn't take shorts and flip-flops, but that didn't stop person A (who came an hour late) from strolling in in said shorts and flip-flops.

For such a nice restaurant offering just $22 buffet (!!!!) on a Saturday lunch, one would expect a bigger crowd. We started to have our suspicions o_O Regardless ... on with the food! The three (later four) hungry post-gym Neanderthals decided to go crazy and ordered :-

Prosciutto - parma ham and rocket aka Pizza 1, which bears strange resemblance to :-

Marinara - anchovies and olives aka Pizza 2, which bears strange resemblance to :-

Funghi - mushrooms aka Pizza 3, which bears strange resemblance to :-

Quatro Formaggi - four cheeses aka Pizza 4, which bears strange resemblance to :-

... you get the idea. To be perfectly honest, the pizza base was pretty awesome. The thin crust was done reasonably well, and you can taste that the pizza is fresh from the oven with the bubbleh cheese nice and crispy. But my main gripe - the toppings were in miniscule portions.

Granted this was a ($22) buffet ... just looking at the Prosciutto, there was just way too little Parma ham (5 clumps on 8 slices), and the amount of rocket served was sad - there was barely 2 strands per slice! And since, you know, pizza without toppings is like bread without spreads, all the pizzas tasted pretty much the same. Could have very well served blank pizzas with toppings in a bowl :)

Still we were hungry (and overestimating of ourselves) and we ended up ordering Pizza 5, 6 and 7.

Not to be outdone, we also ordered one pasta each. And frankly, the pasta was pretty decent. The portions of actual non-pasta material was plentiful, the sauce was flavorful and overall the pasta was yum. But heavy pasta != good buffet value for money. The Linguine w/ Prawn :-

and Tagliatelle with Mussels & Zucchini :-

which unsurprisingly looked the same, both had a thick tomato sauce (i hate those soupy kinds) and were generous with their seafood. We also had pasta 3, 4 and 5 which were more or less similar in flavour (and colour).

Verdict : MediOChre. (AHHAHhhahahaha! See what i did there.)

To be honest, i'm sure the ala carte menu should be good given the prices they charge. And this buffet was honestly cheap! For 5 of us we ended up paying $19 each for 5 pastas and 7 pizzas :)

Lobster Porridge, Orchard Central

My dad was in town, so my sis, bro-in-law and I brought him to Orchard Central for some good old hearty lobster porridge. We initially thought of going to Imperial Treasure at Taka for the oyster version, but decided that it might be too crowded by then.

So off to.. Lobster Porridge! (I swear that's the name of the restaurant)

Ordered this veggie juice thing. Was an interesting concoction, definitely fresh! Had a tinge of sour in it, might be lime. Generous portion too.

There is a 1-for-1 porridge promotion ongoing for (I think) DBS credit cards. We ordered four bowls - for the price of two! And trust me, a bowl might easily feed two hungry adults. In each bowl you will find a whole lobster too.

The broth was very tasty, sans the fishy smell. We actually heaped in small slices of chilli in it, which added a very powerful spicy kick to the dish :D Lobster was a bit too chewy I thought - had bit of difficulty prying it from the spotted shell.

Ref above picture for spotted shell.

We also ordered 1) cod fish with this green gingery garnish/sauce and 2) stir fried chinese napa cabbage. I was too busy wolfing everything down to take photos :(

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fou de Fafa, Capital Tower

It had been a busy week at work for both of us, and on Friday night we decided to unwind a bit at this place:

Tucked away at the bottom of Capital Tower in Tanjong Pagar, this cafe serves what seems to be an assortment of fusion food. The quirkiness of the name is mirrored in the menu and decor (items available on the blackboard includes A Hug, A Slap on the Head, and An Intelligent Conversation - will be sure to try those out next time we go!).

It was quite quiet for a Friday night - but I can imagine it bustling with the lunchtime CBD crowd.

This interesting dish here is the Organic Pancake Lasagne (Vegetarian - but there a choice of Chicken t00). It's actually two layers of pancake (tasted more like a crepe to me), and in between were a whole lot of feta cheese (I suppose to be replaced by chicken if you order that instead). There was a generous lashing of (undeterminable) sauce too. Soft and yummy! We thought this dish may be a bit light on its own (the perfect excuse for dessert afterwards though!).

We also ordered this epic (read: BIG!) chicken-sausage-bacon-egg-avocado sandwich to share. I like how the sandwich is separated into two parts. One half had the meat, and the other half was the vegetarian part of the sandwich. A cool idea, as it is enough to feed two, and if your dining partner is vegetarian this is the perfect compromise!

This was awesome and satisfying! It's really an explosion of flavours and textures. The vegetarian part of the sandwich has a very interesting and yummy turmeric sauce! And the bacon.. well, ah bacon.

Highly recommended! :D What a nice start to the weekend.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Salta Grill, Icon Village

Having stayed 2 weeks sober from proper restaurants, we decided we deserved a spoilage and decided to head to Argentinean restaurant Salta at our newest hangout, Icon Village. This place was positioned strategically next to Quiznos, always raising the moral question of $20 versus $80 dinners. Eventually we relented to Salta after hearing much goodness about this place.

Let it be known that Salta is actually a city (not salt) in Argentinea. Not to say i've heard of Argentinea, but if it's Argentinean ... it makes perfect sense. It's like Peruvia is the home to Peruvian flute bands. While on the topic of lesser known words, Parrilla is actually a method of torture where victims are tied to metal grills and electrocuted. Then as a result of this, it later become used to refer to cooking methods where meat was grilled. Wikipedia claimed that this order was reversed, but of course, who is to say which came first o_O

First surprise of the dinner was a complement of the chef! A generous portion of smoked salmon and capers, cream cheese, caramelized onions, celery, parsley on half a cheery cherry tomato. This was surprisingly AWESOME, because i generally detest celery and parsley, but the flavors of the salmon and cream cheese went so well with the herbiness that after a few chews everything blended so well. I had high hopes after this dish!

The assortment of breads came with a triple serving of what i assumed to be sauces from Argentinea. The breads were exceedingly fluffy, especially the white ones! And the sauces were all unique and tasty. The red one up front reminded me a bit of indian achar - slightly spicy and sour. The yellow one on the left was also a little sour but reminded me a bit more of the indian rasam with vegetables. And the awesome green one at the back was a little like the herb, olive oil and butter you get with escargot. All went so good with the bread.

The Salchicha was AWESOME. The flavor of the pork sausage was unlike any bratwurst or sausages i've ever had - it was juicy and flavorful and slightly charred on the edges.

Look at the glisten, sweet lord. It came with rocket - always a smart choice - and a highly concentrated lemon vinaigrette.

And the star of the day was this medium rare piece of Argentinean cow. This 300g Ojo de Bife (ribeye) looked smaller than the 300g ribeye at Les Bouchons, but the flavor and texture was markedly different. We hypothesized that cows in Argentinea are generally happier and roam freely in the great Argentinean plains - as opposed to French cows who generally sit still, sipping their wine and speaking loudly in French.

The meat was tougher and pleasantly chewy, but also had a distinct unexplainable taste i've yet to taste from a steak before. Maybe whatever marinade or sauce used was different. It was also not as marbled as similar ribeyes i've had.

Look at that healthy pink. There's no other way to enjoy steak than medium rare. We also ordered a side of grilled vegies in the background.

After an amazing appetizer and main, we decided to get the most Argentinean dessert available on the menu, and lo and behold we were flabbergasted when this monster hit the table. Queso y Dulce, literally meaning "Fruits and Cheese", had so much fruit (comprising black berries, rasp berries, blue berries, straw berries, and walnuts which is a fruit), quince jelly and cheese with mint and berry sauce on the plate for $8.

Fruits and cheese are always a good pairing, and the quince jelly had a lightly sweet flavor and odd texture (closest to texture was probably this). Everything went very well but the sheer amount of cheese made it really heavy for dessert, especially if an unsuspecting individual ordered it for himself. Still, we could taste the raw winds of Argentinea wafting in our faces after this delectable delight.

Salta was awesome.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, New Bridge Road

Was a late dinner after a very strange Friday night involving women in orange T-shirts breaking and entering our pub and accosting us with stickers. Regardless, we left the pub late and hungry and lost (mentally and geographically), and after walking aimlessly for 5 minutes realized we were actually next to Central o_O. Ems has been meaning to try the Bak Kut Teh place across Central!

A cliche name for chinese eatery, which are either named after the owners or after a mythical creature. Regardless ...

We ordered a large bowl of lean mythical creature bak kut teh, and as the photo would tell you it's the clear peppery kind. I was never a fan of the black herby Malaysian rendition with the dreaded garlic skin in it, gawd. (Ems says "Hey~!$#", defending her Malaysian blood). But she was soon distracted by the peppery awesomeness of the soup (which we made more peppery by adding - as you would have guessed - salt. I mean pepper). The freeflow of soup helped too.

The pork was so tender that it fell off the bone almost on touch. Yet it was still firm to the teeth ... strange contradiction. Went so good with the chillis and dark soy sauce. Need to visit more good Bak Kut Teh places to build a case for comparison.

We also ordered braised peanuts and salted vegs - which I've been oddly yearning for a while - to balance the meal. It was an extremely satisfying late dinner which was surprisingly cheap too!

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