Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hong Guo, Bugis Junction

Under special parental recommendation (and also because we were craving noodles after subliminal messaging from Kungfu Paanda 2) we traipsed into a strange restaurant called Hong Guo (红锅 or Red Pot) at Bugis Junction. This is one of those places that we would never have gone in as passer bys - not a huge fan of chinese restaurants in general, and given the choice we would rather be eating bugs or burgers.

Hong Guo is based on story from Yunan about this cross bridge mee sua (过桥米线) - basically this studyholic studies way too much and forgets to eat (废寝忘食). So the wife drops a chicken by accident in the pot of soup and discovers an ancient chinese way to keep warm using the layer of oil (落汤鸡).

So as our story begins in Yunan, we take a quick trip to Szechuan for their chicken!

Szechuan style spicy chicken (~$7). What a huge plate - very generous portions of deep fried chicken with more chilli than chicken, peanuts, ginger and spring onion. Spicy as alllll hellllll, soooooo awesome and it was quite value for money!

The main dish ($8) was the 'traditional' cross bridge mee sua, the bowl of chicken soup with the huge layer of chicken fat on top, with all the raw ingredients required for the dish. Supposedly the layer of oil keeps the soup piping hot, so that once you chuck the raw ingredients they cook before your very eyes o_O unfortunately I guess they didn't have much faith in this and so the only ingredient here which you can't eat raw was the eggs and fish, which don't require much cooking anyway.

Other reviews I've read comparing this place to the 'authentic' one in Yunan was that, in Yunan the soup was 100% boiling hot and the soup was also filled to the brim. While I can make do without filling the soup to the brim (since our stomaches are South East Asian and not Yunanese), the soup could have been much hotter (somehow). I also read that the bowl material was wrong (supposedly the original ceramic bowl held the heat better). Regardless ... we dumped the raw ingredients into the abyss.

We stirred for a bit to let it cook and took a bite and ... whoa the soup was actually f**king tasty! Though it was just a rather imba chicken stock. Ingredients wise, there's not much to comment - it was very simple ingredients - seems a lot but actually isn't (the illusion of tiny plates). I guess the best bits were the noodles or the dried shrimp (hebi).

We actually picked out the dried chilli bits from the szechuan chicken to go with our noodle soup - I would also recommend this combination :D

The noodles were good, but ... yea they were good! At the end of the day, it's just a bowl of noodles, I wouldn't go around and tell my friends "Oh my god, holy shiznit there's this crazzzzyyyy place you HAVE TO TRY". But yea it was good, not too expensive, and the chicken was awesome.

HGW Link :
Ratings (out of 4) :

Friday, May 20, 2011

Onaka, Rochester Park

Once again armed with a discount voucher, we ventured into the unknown called Rochester Park to hunt down this strange beast called Onaka. Optimum Nutrition And Kitchen Arts (also meaning stomache [お腹] in japanese o_O) is an organic cafe which also holds cooking classes to cook said organic food in organic ways. So how organic will our dinner be ... we were about to find out.

The cafe was almost empty - I noted with some apprehension that the staff outnumbered patrons (usually not the best of signs). However true to the fourleggedfoodie spirit of trying anything new once and keeping an open mind (or two), we plonked ourselves down at the outdoor seating area.

Reading the menu is like reading a guide book to a foreign land: an invitation to somewhere strange and (potentially) exciting. Organic food for me always meant an elitist and obscure culmination of unpronounceable food ingredients. Onaka fortunately attempts to break these down into somewhat more regular-human terms.

Deciding to start with something refreshing and different, we ordered the Chilled Watermelon ($6) (chilled watermelon puree, spicy tomato juice, zucchini pearls, garlic flakes). It's really a gazpacho, or "cold soup" as described by our waitress.

Was certainly a good change from the hot soup starters we were used to. Every spoonful was extremely flavourful, although the sourness of the tomato seemed to overwhelm the watermelon flavour. The garlic twang started to put me off after about the 4th or 5th spoonful. The chunks of sundried tomatos could have been a little softer too - was a bit out of place in what we hoped was a smooth concoction.

Then we also had the Multi V Aglio ($16), as we both felt the need for some Vitamin-laden organic goodness. This was balsamic glazed vegetables, garlic, dehydrated chilli red peppers, olive oil, parsley, organic linguine spaghetti (how can you not have linguine?!)

This, as it turns out, would be the best dish we've had that night. The chunks of veggies were roasted to near-perfection - most memorable were the eggplant: hard and firm on the outside, but soft inside. The flavours were amazing for this, coupled with the abundance of olive oil. We kind of wished it was made spicy (maybe provide a small shaker of chilli flakes?).

The only things I remembered were the awesomeness of the eggplant and the sheer copiousness of olive oil. The eggplant were just ... rather perfectly grilled / roasted, to an interesting consistency of firm yet soft when chewing - it's kinda like chewing through air pockets, like a tofu fry. And the olive oil, jesus christ, they must have emptied a bottle in there, because there was so much of it!!

I had the [quote]BIG PLATE[/unquote] of Gratin of Portabella ($22) - portobello mushroom stack, roast peppers, zucchini, aubergine, sundried tomatoes, formaggio di buffala, basilico, napolitana sauce, herbed quinoa. Whoa ... that's a lot of ingredients on that menu, and since it's a big plate, I was hoping for a massive platter of portobello goodness!

Well ... not quite what I had in mind. I guess the phrase portobello mushroom stack was misleading - while I thought it implied a stack of multiple mushrooms, what came was a stack with a single mushroom, and basically a single piece of every other ingredient D:

Flavour was pretty good I suppose, the cheese tomato mushroom zucchini aubergine layer with the napolitana sauce was quite an experience, with every chew a combination of so many different textures and flavours. I guess the only sad thing is that after 6 bites all of them was gone. The herbed quinoa - kinda like couscous - was not bad as a filler but don't go expecting an actual serving of carbohydrates.

When this came to our table, I went "Oh." This was literally a "big plate" - not much on it though! Felt slightly cheated, but must say it was quite tasty and you can tell the ingredients are of good quality.

They had asked if we wanted dessert but after the meal we were not convinced enough to pay $7ish for what I assumed would be a tiny piece of organic cake. We left still slightly peckish and I have to shamefully admit we had a post-dinner snack at Old Chang Kee afterwards rendering our healthy dinner unnecessary. I guess as an organic, healthy place it did do the job well - maybe leaving hungry was the intention!

HGW Link :
Rating (out of 4) :

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sarang, Orchard Central

I was never a fan of korean food, but regardless it was a friend's dinner choice before his one week sabbatical to Nepal. This interesting spot lies atop Orchard Central (you know, that strangely empty mall next to 313?) - interesting how? I suppose it's one part overlooking a good portion of Orchard area if you sit close to the edge, one part non-stop display of scantily-clad women (and occasionally effeminate men singing about less pants) in their respective korean MTVs on the projection screen.

They served this strange green cracker - looks like what you'll get if you deep fry rigatoni and rolled it in green coloring and seaweed. I suspect it was supposed to be seaweed crackers but twas pretty tasteless to be honest!

Determined to get a little drunk we settled for the Makgeolli ($20 for 750ml) - milky sweet rice wine - before the influx of Soju later. My first korean rice wine - it is actually, rather sweet and milky, and tastes a little like stronger beer. Was pretty interesting sipping this in the bowl-cup things that you were supposed to drink them in, with Wondergirls providing mild distractions in the background.

Chicken Bong Bong was a Szechuan style dish with peanut sauce and cucumber.

That, however, clearly looks like fried chicken.

As I later found out, it was supposed to be [Chicken BonBon] - I guess to the gastronomically aware the menu typo can be rather confusing, but regardless the fried chicken was rather epic phail in my opinion. It tasted rather unspectacularly like those instant fryable chicken you can pick up from the freezer section, albeit with a little spice on it. For almost $10 you get 2 full wings and a platter of average fries, rather a disappointment I must articulate.

The Budae Jjigae (or army stew) was rather lovely though - the soury spicy kick of the hot stew soup coupled with 'modern day ingredients' [quote] wikipedia [/unquote] such as hot dogs and spam, I thought it was much better than my chicken stew to be honest!

After an evening of subliminal marketing courtesy of 3 hours of korean MTVs, we finished the meal with another bottle of soju and left half drunk lamenting about the artificial perfection of korean women.

Though again not being a fan of korean food and kimchi as a whole, I may be rather biased in my judgement - but I have had much better korean food elsewhere so this did leave a lot to be desired!

HGW Link :
Rating (out of 4) :

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Just Acia, Dhoby Ghaut

Bumbling out of Dhoby Ghaut MRT station one evening, we decided to have dinner nearby before hopping over to PS to order a cake for dad's birthday celebration (I do highly recommend the strawberry shortcake from Rive Gauche - delicious!). We walked past this place which was proclaiming set meals with free flow of drinks and ice cream.

We did a quick check on HGW before determining it safe to waltz in for a seat.

It was quite packed with a fairly younger (student) crowd. The seating space was spread out quite a bit, and we were led to a rather concealed area to be seated. Orders are taken at the table, and I believe at this point you should be handed dessert cups and glasses for drinks, but we were not given any (more on this later). And then you can go help yourself with hot chocolate / floats / ice cream. Set meals also come with a side of miso soup and small serving of kimchi-like pickle.

Set meals are generally just-over or just-under $10, which with the aforementioned package sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Mains were mostly korean / fusion style with a singaporean touch.

Bear went for the sambal salmon fillet on rice ($8.90), explicitly stating that he wanted it super spicy.

Came this monster of a plate with japanese(-like) rice topped with two surprisingly generous portions of pan fried salmon glazed in sambal with such copiousness I felt bad for it. Besides the two strands of leaves, a strangely trippy lotus root and a lemon wedge, I could barely see the rice under the huge hunk of salmon. And I dig in ...

... and surprisingly it wasn't half bad! The sambal used was the kind you find basted over ikan bakar, which goes oh-so-well with any seafood in general, including the rather dubiously choiced salmon. To be honest I've only ever had salmon japanese style - either raw, aburi-ed, in soup, or baked miso-style, and who would have thought it was go well with sambal?

The damn thing was truly spicy too, and the very slight crisp in the generous salmon portion was rather welcomed. Yum!

I had the spicy chicken set ($7.20), which was similar in taste to Korean bulgogi. Chicken was quite tender and the marinade was tasty and sufficiently spicy. Was quite a generous portion too. All in all, I did enjoy the dish on its own.

Can't say much else about the drinks/dessert and service to be honest. Hot drinks are obtained from a push-button dispenser, and I could not bear to drink my 'cappuccino'. It tasted like creamer diluted in hot water. Ice cream is the F&N Magnolia type, which I probably would have enjoyed better if I was 3 years old. Let's just say all the flavours tasted the same, despite being of various colours.

Service irked me a bit - I was greeted with looks of confusion when I asked where I can get cups and bowls for my ice cream and coffee, having had no luck finding them at the main station/ various counters. It was insisted that I should have this on my table. When I waved a hand to indicate my table a couple of feet away and it was plain as day that my table had no cups nor bowls on it, the waitress actually frowned and walked right to my table to, I don't know, make sure I was not hiding crockery full of diluted creamer and green ice cream. Having inspected this horizontal surface under her nose, she reluctantly handed me the cups and bowls as if regretting to part with them.

Turns out I should not have bothered getting ice cream and coffee anyway.

In summary, ice cream and coffee was rather craptastic.

In short, the mains are alright but don't stay for the frills! Unless you enjoy your coffee without actual coffee in it, and can stomach eating ice cream of undeterminable flavours.

HGW Link :

Rating (out of 4) :

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