Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Surf 'N' Turf

Was in the vicinity of Funan today so decided to check out Surf 'N' Turf with my gf as I had the OCBC $20 discount voucher. The place was empty except for one couple when we arrived at about 1900hrs. We were greeted very politely and shown to the table of our choice. After a discussion with the friendly waiter, we ordered the Prawn Thermidor and the Hickory smoked BBQ half chicken set meals, which included a soup and a soft drink. Both of us chose the mushroom soup.

The mushroom soup looked like it was made from fresh grated mushrooms, but to my dismay, it wasn't. I could hardly taste any mushroom at all and the soup sort of clumped together, which could only mean that it came straight out of a can and the cook didn't stir enough. Taste wise was still acceptable.

The Prawn Thermidor looked good with its creamy sauce over rice and lots of prawns on top. It tasted like baked rice which I do fancy quite a bit. But too much of the creamy sauce made me and my gf pretty woozy and the prawns weren't really fresh, though they didn't taste bad - frozen prawns is my guess. The Hickory smoked BBQ chicken had lots of meat and sauce to boot, but the sauce was a little too strong for my liking. Having said that, I think its pretty alright overall.

To wrap things up, we ordered the mudpie, which was quite a size - comparable to the one at NYDC. Honestly, I've never been able to differentiate between mud pies and this one tasted like the one I had at NYDC some years back. But at $8.90, I guess its cheaper than the one at NYDC.

Now here comes the reason why you should visit this place. The price isn't cheap - standard Swensens kind of price, but service is excellent (I'm only talking about the Funan outlet) The waiter was friendly, obliging, but never intrusive. To top it off, he even offered me (without my knowledge until I received the bill) the 40% discount on the dessert promotion which was only available after 2030hrs even though I ordered the mud pie at about 1950hrs! Some people might say I'm cheap, but hey, I'd say its the little gestures like these that count.

I'm not promoting this place, as in my humble opinion, the food is just average. But its the service that makes it shine. So take your chances. :)

The pictures are below, but sorry for the low quality pictures as I didn't bring my camera with me today, so had to resort to using my handphone camera.

Surf 'N' Turf

The menu

The menu again

Cream of mushroom soup

Hickory smoked BBQ chicken

Prawn Thermidor

The mudpie

The bill

Final Verdict:
Service:8/10 (This rating applies to 1 waiter only, as we were served only by him)
Value for money:6/10


Address: Funan Centre 2nd floor. No reservations required.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thien Kee Steamboat

Went to Golden Mile with my parents last night for steamboat at Thien Kee Steamboat, which was supposedly one of THE places to go for good steamboat. Thien Kee has been around at the basement of Golden Mile Complex for ages and the fading façade is testament to that. When we got there at about 1930hrs, the whole place was packed to the brim with people, with tables being set up in the isles and literally anywhere where there was an empty space, even right up to the lift and stair doors! With a little luck, we managed to get a good seat in the main restaurant itself near the aircon vent. We had the small steamboat order for 3 pax @ $23, 10 sticks of pork Satay, Hainanese Chicken @$8, drinks and chicken rice.

The ingredients for the steamboat were pretty miserable quantity wise. 2 small platters of meat mixed with liver, cockles, fish and fishballs with another 2 platters of vegetables and 2 eggs. Upon cooking, the food tasted normal, nothing fantastic. The Hainanese chicken was a little too cold and bloody for my liking and the chicken rice was a little cold as well. However, it wasn’t very oily which is a plus point to me. The Satay was the highlight, with hardly any visible charred parts, fat and juicy. The gravy was also good, with lots of crushed nuts in it and no visible layer of oil. Comparable to the wonderful Satay gravy that I had in Karjang, (Not sure about the spelling, but its in Malaysia and famous for its Satay) just that the one at Karjang is very much thicker.

Very filling dinner, but at about $42 for 3 pax, not exactly very cheap considering the quantity and quality of food. But then again, it’s not terribly expensive as well. The air conditioning is a good thing, as things tend to get sweaty during steamboats and service is fast and snappy. Although I feel that its way over hyped, I do recommend trying it before it goes the way of the Dodo. And oh yes, listen out for the cries of “Ma Pi Po”, something which I haven’t heard in a while. ;)

Something interesting I saw on the wall

What we ordered (minus the satay)

The delicious satay

Our food in the process of cooking

Final Verdict:
Ambience:5/10 (None to speak of)
Service:6/10 (Not exactly very friendly, but fast and efficient)
Food:6.5/10 (7.5/10 for the satay)
Value for money:6.5/10


Address: Golden Mile Complex Basement. Ample parking @ Golden Mile complex.

Yan Palace Restaurant

Whilst studying in Canada, my friends and I used to “Yum Cha” every weekend morning without fail and it was often very fun with all the food and interaction. When I came back to Singapore, no one I knew practised that and thus the habit slowly died down. Up early and feeling nostalgic on a Sunday morning, I decided to visit the long standing Yan Palace Restaurant for some dim sum and roped in my gf to help with the eating.

Finding the place wasn’t too difficult as it was just next to Hong Lim food centre and parking was a breeze with the multi story carpark just next to it. (Its $1/hr even on Sundays though) When we got there at about 1100, the restaurant was almost packed with people. (The restaurant could seat about 100+ people easily) The interior looked like that of a typical Chinese restaurant of yester year. As we were only having dim sum, a list was provided for us to tick off the types of dim sum we desired. We ordered the Mini egg tarts, Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Shanghai pork buns), century egg with pork porridge, Char Siew Sou (BBQ pork puff), Har Kaw, Siew Mai, Chee Cheong Fun with BBQ pork and Chee Cheong Fun with prawns.

The mini egg tarts at first glance, looked totally unappealing with its slightly dark crust. But as they say, goodness comes from within. In the case of this egg tart, it was literal. The custard wasn’t too sweet and very smooth. The crust was a little hard and had a little milky and oven-baked taste, just like a cookie. Very good I should say! I like this crust better then Tong Heng’s one, but Tong Heng’s custard still prevails. The Xiao Long Bao was disappointing, being too dry with no hint of juiciness at all.

I’ve never liked century egg and all the variations that come with it. But I tried the century egg with pork porridge after some cajoling by my gf and I liked it. The porridge was very sticky and didn’t have the century egg taste at all. (I avoided the century egg) In fact, it tasted like very good pork porridge with deep fried crispys. Next up was the Char Siew Sou, whose crust I like very much due to the oven baked taste that separates it from its other competitors. However, the char siew filling was not up to the mark. It tasted a little watery and didn’t have the real BBQ pork taste. The Siew Mai was good, not too salty and with lots of prawns and lean meat packed into it. Har Kaw tasted normal, but a little expensive in my opinion, given its size and taste.

Last up was the Chee Chong Fun, one with BBQ pork and other with prawns. I liked the one with prawns a lot better as the BBQ pork was practically tasteless. The Chee Chong Fun itself wasn’t too soft, unlike good Chee Chong Funs.

At about $32 for 2 pax for dim sum, it’s a little on the high side, but take comfort in the fact that quite a few dishes at Yan Palace Restaurant are well worth the money. However, do note that the dim sum range is not extensive and they do not serve the dim sum in pushcarts, unlike Red Star. (I’ll do a formal review soon) Nevertheless, Yan Palace Restaurant has found a fan in me with their egg tarts. I’ll be back to try out their long forgotten Zhu Jiao Chu.

Yan Palace Restaurant

The menu

The interior

Century egg with pork porridge

My favourite egg tarts

Char Siew Sou

Chee Cheong Fun with prawns

Chee Cheong Fun with BBQ pork

An overview

The bill

Final Verdict:
Food:7/10 (8/10 for the egg tart)
Value for money:6.5/10


Address: Blk 531 Upper Cross Street, Hong Lim Complex. Ample HDB parking available.

Li Bai

Upon repeated recommendations by my friend, my gf and I decided to give Li Bai, the flagship Chinese restaurant of Sheraton Towers Hotel, a try last night. (My friend happens to be one of the senior managers of the hotel by the way) Everything was arranged for me courtesy of my friend, ie. the reservations, request for menu etc. So it was with high expectations that we made our way to Li Bai to honour our 7pm dinner appointment on this lovely saturday evening.

Located at the basement of Sheraton Towers, the entrance to Li Bai is a little discreet and not visible to people who are walking down the stairs. The diners in the restaurant are in full view through the floor to ceiling windows though. Once in, we were greeted and politely shown to our table by the Asst. Manager. There were a limited number of tables and most were occupied by families. The chairs were made from black leather and together with the black mao suits that the serving crew donned, gave a very business like atmostphere. Add the wooden beams and subtle lightning, you get a very classy environment.

We had the set Menu A, which at $68+++ per pax, came with fresh scallops salad, double boiled shark's fin soup with Yunnan ham and winter melon, pan friend fillet of beef steak, braised beancurd topped with crabmeat and fungus, fish noodles with king prawn and cream of mango and sago.

The scallops salad was zesty and tangy, which according to the waitress, was made by using lemon and chilli, which was pretty impressive. The scallops were really fresh, but its taste was overpowered by the sauce, which I feel is a pity. Next up was the shark's fin soup. What can I say, except that this was really really well done. The fins were in abundance and the soup was light and not too salty. The fins were of quite a premium grade and were simply delightful! The yunnan ham was a little too salty though, but I guess it did give the soup an extra flavouring. The winter melon was nice and soft and blended well with the soup. Following the soup was the pan fried fillet of beef steak. It was thinly sliced, a little sweet and chewy. Something different from the beef that I've tried. My gf's roasted duck(she doesn't take beef) was really good. The skin was crackling cripsy and the meat was firm and tasty.

I'm a sucker for beancurd and the beancurd with crabmeat and fungus didn't disappoint. The servings of crabmeat and fungus were generous and the gravy thick and starchy, complementing the soft and quivery home made beancurd. Thumbs up for this dish as well. The last dish of our main course was the fish noodle with king prawn. I personally like this dish best. The noodles were thick and chewy and the gravy was full of flavour. The king prawn was nicely presented and freshly succulent. But alas, goodness comes in small portions. The dessert of cream of mango and sago was nicely chilled, but tasted ordinary and somewhat out of place from the exquisite cuisine we had consumed earlier.

Well the dinner cost me a leg for it, standing at $162/- for 2 pax. Good place to patronise if you like a classy environment to impress, or would like some fine cantonese cuisine. Service was good, but a little too hurried if you ask me, probably due to the full seating. Try it if you have spare cash to burn. The food is well worth it.

The table set up

The interior

The menu

Our order

Yam Slices

Fresh scallop salad

Shark's Fin soup

Shark's Fin soup again

Pan Fried Fillet of beef steak

Roasted Duck

Braised beancurd topped with crabmeat and fungus

Cross section of the beancurd

Fish noodles with king prawn

The Long Jing tea

Cream of mango and sago

The bill

Final Verdict:
Ambience:8/10 (Very sombre and classy)
Value for money:7/10


Address: Sheraton Towers basement. Reservations recommended. Parking (self, not valet) is complimentary with a meal at Li Bai.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pow Sing Restaurant

Had a go at Pow Sing Restaurant near my house last night as both my gf and I were ravenous and too lazy to travel. Chomp chomp was out as it was madly crowded. The place was packed to the brim when we got there at about 2030hrs. We ordered 2 plates of chicken rice and a Nonya Tofu to share. The dishes came pretty fast and service was efficient but not really friendly. The chicken was average and portion size was adequate. I particularly liked the Nonya tofu, which was a little crispy on the outside and soft and smooth on the inside due to it being deep fried.

Bill came to about $18 for 2 pax, which was quite affordable I guess. All in all, a good place to fill your stomach in an air conditioned environment minus the exorbitant prices.

The Nonya Tofu

Nonya Tofu again

The chicken

The bill

Final Verdict:
Ambience:6/10 (Very noisy, like your usual coffeeshop)
Value for money:6/10


Address: Serangoon Garden Way

Friday, September 22, 2006

Szechuan Court

Met up with a few friends in town for a leisurely dinner at Szechuan Court @ Raffles The Plaza last night. As we strolled into the restaurant at about 1945hrs, we were shown to our table – a nicely done semi private area that had a glowing view of the Esplanade and translucent curtains by the side that you could pull for more privacy. With its red façade, it truly made for an oriental style theme. There were only a handful of such tables around and credit goes to my friend who got us such excellent seats. The waitress who attended to us was also friendly and patient enough to give her undivided attention to us for a whole 15mins whilst we were contemplating on our orders. After some hassle, we decided on the Szechuan duck smoked with camphor and tea (can’t remember the exact name), which was a specialty there; Coffee Pork Ribs, as recommended by the waitress; Spinach with 3 types of eggs (century egg, salted egg and normal egg), again recommended by the waitress and not on the menu; pan fried cod fish with garlic; deep fried bacon rolls with golden mushrooms, a special order not on the menu and Szechuan red bean paste pancake.

The coffee pork ribs were average and I couldn’t taste any coffee at all, although I could see a sprinkling of coffee at the side of the dish. (Think it was more for decoration purposes) Tasted like your normal pork ribs at cooked food stalls. The smoked duck was another let down. It wasn’t smoked with tea homogenously. The upper portions had no taste of tea whatsoever, whereas the lower portions near the ribs had a strong tea taste; too strong in fact. However, the duck skin was nicely done and crispy throughout and it came with these cute looking “man tous” which was soft and chewy on the inside, but a little dry and floury on the outside.

I personally dislike century egg, thus the spinach with the 3 types of eggs didn’t sit well with me. But I’ve got to admit that it’s something not commonly seen. And I found the spinach a little too soggy for my liking. The bacon rolls with golden mushrooms were nice with the mayonnaise, but I found it difficult to bite through the golden mushrooms, which were clumped together. This dish seems more like what you would have for dim sum and not dinner. It was commendable nevertheless. The codfish was good, with the slightly fishy taste countered by the minced garlic. The flesh was soft yet firm.

Red bean paste pancake has always been one of my favourite desserts and the Szechuan red bean paste pancake didn’t disappoint. The top was coated with sesame seeds, which exuded a nice fragrance. The flour was chewy without being too thick and the red bean paste filling was smooth and not too sweet. This is comparable to the one I had at Thomson Village Delight, if not better! To wash it all down, we had their “liang cha”(herbal tea) concoction of sugar cane and “luo han guo”. It was warm and sweet and provided a good end to the meal.

At about $37 a head ($18.50 after 50% discount), I found the price pretty reasonable for a restaurant of its standing. I had expected to pay something to the tune of $50/head before discount, which is pretty minimal for other fine dining establishments. Do try it out if you like a nice place to enjoy a leisurely dinner at a wallet friendly price. Remember to reserve those pretty little semi private dining areas for that special dinner. And oh yes, I understand that the management of Szechuan Court is contemplating an increase in their prices soon, so give it a try before that becomes a reality. ;)

Entrance of Szechuan Court

Our table

Our table again

The menu

The appetisers

Coffee pork ribs

Deep fried bacon roll with golden mushrooms

Cod fish with garlic

Szechuan duck smoked with camphor and tea

Spinach with 3 types of egg

An overview of our dishes(1 dish is not in the picture though)

The smoked duck up close. Notice the smoked portions

The delightful Szechuan red bean paste pancake

The bill

Final Verdict:
Food:6.5/10 (8.5/10 for the pancake)
Value for money:6.5/10 (Without discount)


Address: Raffles the Plaza 3rd floor. Reservations recommended.