Monday, August 29, 2011

Tao's Restaurant, POMO

Stumbled upon Tao's on HGW one day and was extremely curious about their six/seven-course meal offerings at very affordable prices. The dining concept is basically a degustation-esque menu made wallet-friendly to the general public:
'One price, one menu, many selections'
(from the main website) pretty much sums it all!

Another Monday off for us - yay! - so headed down to POMO for lunch. At $19.80++ per pax for 6 courses ( for each course besides the first there's about 5-6 choices to pick from), we were a bit apprehensive about what to expect, but our minds were put at ease when the starter arrived:

{ Course 1 : Bacon & Mushroom Gratin }
This small dish of bacon and mushroom baked in cheese was simple and good, familiar comfort food. Not too overwhelming or salty for me. The accompanying bread was soft and fluffy.. kinda reminds me of those kopitiam kinds, haha. I liked this very much and polished everything clean - although I think some might find it a bit too filling for a starter (I hadn't filled my tummy and it was close to 1 pm, so it may just be that I was famished).

Gratin came slightly warm and not piping hot which was alright since we weren't about to wait - granted you can't really go wrong with two of the world's greatest ingredients - bacon and cheese - I felt it was a simple comforting dish, the saltiness of the cheese and bacon goes so well with the soft fluffy bread. NEXT!

{ Course 2 : Farm boy Splendour }

I had the farm boy splendour which I was told to be a chicken salad - cold sliced smoked (?) chicken with mango, sesame, lettuce and japanese sesame dressing. I thought the combination was rather interesting albeit a little sweet. Appetite whetted.

{ Course 2 : Prawn Roll with Pork Floss }
Prawn rolls were alright, although I don't really remember prawns in there. It was memorable for the pork floss and mango sauce, which I never thought could go well together. Was quite light, fresh and sweet.

{ Course 3 : Iced Grape Mallow Tea | Iced Grassjelly Mint Tea }

Iced grassjelly mint tea was exactly what it was. I felt it could have been a bit more minty - maybe they could have squished the mint leaves for fuller flavour instead of just throwing them in.

Quite a large pot of ice cold flavoured tea - both were a little sweet but the ice cold shots of tea from the ornate teacup in between your japanese, western, vietnamese foods was rather fun actually lol.

{ Course 4 : Japanese Fish Consomme }

This was good ole' clear soup. Quite nice balance of flavours - sweet, salty, even a bit woody/smokey (?). Might have been wee nicer with a dash of pepper though (ah I know, sue me).

Felt the consomme was done really well - reallyyyyy rich in fish flavour (which is the point) but thought it could be a little warmer. Must be hard to juggle the crowd and all the food, but still! Tastes a little similar to O-den or Obinmushi.

{ Course 4 : Cream of Mushroom }

Oh wow! This was really good, actually one of the better-tasting ones I've had here. There is no doubt that this was made from scratch with a LOT of mushrooms. My only gripe is it is not creamy enough! It was runny, albeit runny with chunky blended mushrooms.

My eyes lighted up upon first sipping this godly bowl of liquid mushroom - tasting 100% homemade with 100% real mushrooms (none of that Campbell crap taste at ALL), it's like you can feel the beat of Mother Earth with every sip (in a good way). So earthy and naturally mushroomy, definitely one of the best mushroom soups I've had locally (at this price) my only gripe being I wished it was a littttleeeee bit thicker. It was a little watery IMO but heck, this was a star.

{ Course 5 : Slow-cooked Pork Back Ribs }

My choice of mains was not an easy decision to make! Torn between ribs and steak, I settled for the former only because I haven't had ribs in a long time. And good heavens, this was REALLY YUM. And it was a sizeable hunk of ribs too! Meat was tender and easily fell off the bone. Perfectly marinated, I didn't actually use much of the sauce on the side. It was just delicious and I highly recommend this! Oh and sweet potato mash was a nice change to regular mash :)

Right about now we were already decently impressed with the food we've been served keeping in mind the price - $19.90, 6 courses. If I was in any other restaurant, the previous 4 courses would have set me back $19.90 already. Then this monster came - wtf - this whole plate of pork ribs? Seriously?!?! This plate alone is worth way more than that - ultra soft pork flaking away from the bone with slightest touch, yet juicy and slightly crispy on the side - soooooo sublime. The sauce had a miso taste to it which surprisingly paired well with the pork, which was already so tasty by itself thanks to the rub. Fan-fucking-tastic.

{ Course 5 : Marinated Rack of Lamb }

Oh right I had a main too, god daymn. 3 generous chops, fatty and well marinated, juicy and perfectly cooked to the right texture consistency. Again a not-so-simple dish done right, but a gripe (again) was that the mint sauce was too watery and thus I couldn't get it to 'stick' to me lamb. Arr.

Mmm this was really yum too! Almost cooked to perfection - not too well done nor undercooked for me, so you get optimum chewiness although it takes some effort to saw the meat off the bone. Mint sauce could have been a bit thicker/gloopier, but taste-wise this overall was very memorable. I must insist however that I preferred the ribs over this!

{ Course 6 : Creme Brulee }

Creme brulee was quite good, I thought it was the right sweetness and texture. It would have been better for me if there was more crispy caramelized top.

It was quite alright - decent but nothing too outstandish.

{ Course 6 : Yang Sheng Poached Pear with Date(s) }

Poached pear was not particularly fantastic. Don't think it was poached long enough as it didn't turn out soft or sweet enough. Might have been nicer too with a drizzle of poaching liquid. Still this was something new and different for me, and I didn't not like it.

Hmm .... no ... just no. Didn't like this one bit to be honest - the pear wasn't poached long enough I felt (still hard), wasn't chilled long enough (was room temperature, or maybe it was meant to be served hot, but still it was warm) , and finally not much flavour to the pear itself. I realize it's supposed to be ginseng-y and I commend their take to the good ol' poached pear but I still prefer mine sweet with raspberry coulis :)


I cannot stress how much of a great experience it was for both of us - food was good, and there was a lot of it! A delicious six course lunch for $23 nett per person is reason enough to check this out. Service was friendly and attentive too (a good change from other places that require the flailing of arms for at least 5 minutes to capture a waiter's attention). We will surely return to try the other dishes!

Definitely a great experience and at that price, was rather surprising - and the multi-course meal and little wait in between courses means they cater to the working crowd nearby as well if they can afford lunches just over an hour. Concept is pretty stellar and I hear they change some menu items every couple of months. While their menus had some hits and misses (for dessert ... stick to something that won't go wrong, like ice cream!) the money/value ratio and their rather epic main courses gets a full quadruple paws from us.

Main website :
HGW Link :
Rating (out of 4) :

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gurney Drive Restaurant, Suntec City

Being approximately 52% Penang-ite myself I had high expectations of this place. To date, I have not eaten anything remotely close to Penang food in SG - and I do often crave for the awesome sour and fish-laden bowl of assam laksa which seem to elude most S'poreans tastebuds, gah.

Had to try this place that proclaims itself to be Gurney Drive, rather than driving 8 hours up north to the other small island.

As you step inside, you are greeted by a shelf stocked with tau sar pneah on your right. To my approval, it is one of the 'better' brands known to most Malaysians.

{ Penang Lor-Bak ($3.90) }
Pork wrapped in thin homemade beancurd sheet

It took some effort from our parts not to order the whole menu. We decided that we'd try the more 'signature' dishes - and to start, we had the penang lor-bak. Something like ngor hiang but not quite, and better! This was okay, a bit too salty for my liking but quite close. The sweet lor sauce was a bit off though. Tofu was yummy!

While looking undeniably ngor-hiang-y, the taste was anything but - all pork, and deceptively gao in the braised flavour, went fantastically with the sauce and chilli. And that fried tofu was awesome.

{ Penang Assam Laksa ($5.50) }
Penang laksa cooked in appetising traditional Assam gravy

Ah, the measure of any good Penang food for me is the assam laksa. This is actually the best version I've had in SG (note: do NOT eat the one at Laksania). While not truly authentic, this still satisfied my nostalgic craving quite well. The laksa noodles are clearly wrong.. it shouldn't be so thick and starchy. In any case, the addition of the black and sweet prawn paste really makes a difference, so don't skimp on it! You will find generous bits of crunchy cucumber, onions and pineapple and herbs too. I would have wanted a bit more fish in there, all mushed and encapsulated in the sour gravy.

Comparing the Laksania Express Penang laksa to this is like ... like ... best not to say. While clearly no fight to ones you can find in Penang itself, still way better than others I've tried locally - lotsa fish, raw vegies and onions. My only gripe was not sour enough!

{ Penang Fried Koay Teow ($6.90) }
Wok-fried with fresh prawns, cockles, Chinese sausages, bean sprouts and egg in chef's own creation of special sauce

While not a fan of char kway teow (however way you spell it, CKT) completely because of how bad it is for you, the ones I had in Petaling Jaya completely blew me away. Unlike your sweet Singapore version, in the absence of sweet sauce you can taste all the ingredients in the CKT - your lap chiong, cockles, spring onion, crunchy bean sprouts and the LARD. Jesus christ. Again not as good as your Penang or PJ version, but it's a go-to place for non-sweet CKT.

I stole a few bites of the CKT - this was not the Singaporean sweet-black-sauce nonsense, but not quite Gurney-Drive-standard either - which is not a bad thing really. I enjoyed the smokiness of the hot wok in the noodles. There were quite a bit of liao inside, good value for $7.

Not 100% Penang standard, but we found the food quite acceptably Penang-esque (the chef is from Penang - I checked). Definitely stop by for some lor bak and nice coffee.

Main Website :
HGW Link :
Rating (out of 4) :
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