Sunday, April 29, 2007

Buono Pizza Bar & Italian Restaurant

Tucked in a corner in a sleepy part of the Serangoon Gardens estate, Buono Pizza Bar & Italian Restaurant is a new addition to the "vibrant" dining scene in Serangoon Gardens. Secludedly located and hidden from view unless you happen to drive past (which is very unlikely unless you stay around there), it offers a respite from the mad crowds that throng Chomp Chomp and other eateries during meal times. Getting there can be quite tricky though if you drive. The street is a one way street which means you have to enter from the adjourning lane and make a turn. During my visit, I had a hard time trying to locate the place as it had no signboards or indications whatsoever of its existence.



Interior



The pizza maker at work



Menu


The interior is sparsely furnished and gives you that cosy homely feel with its wooden furniture and concrete flooring. The main draw though, is its huge oven where the pizza maker does his magic.



Complementary Garlic Bread


Freshly toasted, it was served piping hot but I did find it a little too bland and hard. I've always believed that garlic bread should have a strong and fragrant garlic taste and smell, but thats just me.



Crudo Di Scampi - Thin slices of prawn lightly marinated in orange cream on calamari tossed in pesto sauce


In all honesty, the prawns looked a little undercooked to me. That aside, the pesto sauce was a little too overwhelming which made me a little nauseous after a while. Well, according to the owner, this dish is still undergoing some tweaking, so maybe it will be better in future. Oh and yes, $13 for such a small serving doesn't quite cut it.



Buono - Homemade pork sausages, mushroom, rocket salad, mozzarella on a bed of cream sauce



A closer look


This pizza is listed under the recommendations section and though quite good, I believe more can be done to bring it up a notch. The crust was a little burnt around the edges and the combination of the mozzarella cheese and cream sauce was quite a nausea inducing formula. The more you eat, the more it gets to you. I personally found the rocket leaves a nice addition to the pizza because of its light refreshing taste. On a high note, the pizza was quite a size and for the price, I would order this anytime over pizza hut or canadian pizza.



Lava Cake - Warm chocolate cake with a molten chocolate center served with a scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream


This dish was served with the outer layer already broken and the molten chocolate oozing out. But the owner apologized so lets just leave it at that. The texture of the cake veered more towards pudding rather than cake which was quite unsettling. Also, the molten chocolate wasn't warm enough. Overall a rather mediocre rendition.



Bill


A meal for 2 set me back by about $47, which isn't expensive for an Italian restaurant, but certainly expensive for one which operates out of a sleepy neighbourhood and only offers slightly above average food at best. Service is good and personalised though, which might serve to retain some customers, but definitely not me.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:6/10 (7/10 for the Buono)
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6.5/10

Address: 27 Lichfield Road

Contact: 67335646

Comments: Enter via Walmer Drive or Alnwick road

Carls Junior



My first entry on Carl's Junior. Yes I know it's very common but please bear with me as I seldom eat Carl's Junior, with the last time probably being around mid 2005 when I first learned of their existence.



Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger



First looks



Another look


I had their Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger, which was quite a size, relative to other fast food outlets in Singapore. The beef patties were a little juicy and moist but I couldn't quite taste the natural beef flavours as it was masked by the strong greenish looking sauce. The bun tasted ordinary and overall it was a decent eat and extremely satisfying.



Chilli Fries


Funny how the chilli fries weren't spicy and tasted of curry instead. Not impressive, but I'm a sucker for fries, especially for ones which have gound beef and cheese in it.


Rating: 6.5/10

Address: A few outlets. Check out their website at http://www.carlsjr.com.sg/site for more information.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Xiao Xuan Feng



Dropped by Xiao Xuan Feng at Tiong Bahru Plaza for dinner with my gf. This newly opened Chinese eatery, whose staff comprises entirely of folks from China, serves up authentic Chinese dishes whipped up by their numerous Chinese chefs. I couldn't quite pin point the region the food originated from because they seemed to be scattered from all over.



The chefs at work



The airconditioned sitting area



The nice teapot!



Menu


The interior is nothing fanciful but there are hints of nostalgia like the age old weighing scale on display as well the the old tin can balanced out by a weight at the end of a pulley system which used to be for putting money. Culinary displays are also part of the draw, with a few chefs exhibiting their expertise in full view of the customers.



Broccoli with Shrimp


From what I saw on the menu, the snapshot of this dish looked pretty appetising. Horror horror when it arrived. The dish looked like it had shrunk a few sizes and the huge juicy crustaceans I had been expecting were reduced to nothing more than your average sized shrimps. Okay okay I know the name stated shrimps, but the picture seemed to suggest otherwise. Anyways, the broccoli was nicely fried, light on the taste and crunchy. The shrimps were very bland and looked a tad pale, which pretty much says how fresh it was. I suspect the broccoli had been around for quite a while as well, judging from the black bits (rotten) on parts of the flower.



Golden Crispy Chicken


This was supposedly a highly regarded dish but I thought otherwise. The chicken was first flattened and then fried (pan fried I believe), so what you get is a very flat and nicely arranged plate of chicken pieces. No problems presentation wise, but taste wise, it reeked strongly of reused oil. The poor chicken was literally drenched in oil. You don't see the oil at first, but eat on and you will. The accompanying sauce tasted somewhat like a milder version of the prawn paste used in Rojak.



Egg White with Scallop


Prima serves a kick ass version of this dish. Xiao Xuan Feng's rendition was nowhere in sight although it honestly tasted quite decent. The egg white wasn't smooth enough and I could barely make out the scallops. As with the previous dish, this dish, though steamed, was ridiculously oily at the base, so much so that I literally felt my arteries clogging up with every spoonful. Gross.



Xuan Feng Signature Puff (Durian)


This was probably the only outstanding dish amongst the myriad of mediocre food that night. But then again, it does need a little reworking. The skin seemed to be made from starch with an outler layer of bread crumbs and was quite chewy. It kinda reminded me of those round sesame coated balls with tau sar filling in them which you can get at any you tiao stall. The durian filling seemed to be a rather runny version of the puree, but was really good - rich and sweet. Could be more coagulated though.



Sweet Dried Longan


Normal stuff. Nothing fancy. I liked the addition of wolfberries though.



Bill


$46 for 2 pax can get me better food elsewhere. But whats most important is that I won't feel so unhealthy. The food at Xiao Xuan Feng is not too bad taste wise, but extremely laden with oil, which isn't exactly a good thing. Service is very good, something which I certainly didn't expect. I might be back to try their signature ramen, but then again, I fear for my heart. So maybe not.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:6/10 (7.5/10 for the breaded durian)
Value for money:6.5/10

Overall:6.625/10

Address: #01-15 Tiong Bahru Plaza

Contact: 63770220

Before I end off, allow me to present a parting shot of the oily residue beneath the steamed egg white with scallops. You be the judge.



Residue from the steamed Egg White with Scallops

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nexus Gourmet Revisited



It's nice to revisit eating places, especially competitively priced ones that serve decent grub and with enjoyable company to boot. Was back to try out the pizzas at Nexus Gourmet, which were sold out the last time I went. However, no such luck there. The pizzas were still sold out.



Interior



Complementary Garlic Bread


Once seated, we were served complementary garlic bread, something which I don't recall having the last trip. The bread was a little hard and bland, probably a result of toasting dry bread too long. The garlic spread could have been a little stronger. Oh well, its free, so no complaints there.



Spaghetti Neapolitan



Another look


This dish was a poor substitute for my pizza, but it had to do because there really wasn't much left on the menu for me to choose. The spaghetti was surprisingly nicely done, soft yet retaining a bit of bite. The sauce came across as light and not too rich, yet retaining a delightfully light tomato taste. Overall the whole dish was rather unsatisfying, in part due to the fact that there were no ingredients in it. A healthy choice though!



The Lamb Shank I never got to try


I couldn't resist taking a shot of this beautifully done lamb shank. A pity I didn't get the chance to try it. So would those who have tried it please give your comments? ;)



Brownie with Ice Cream


One of the slightly better than your run off the mill brownies that I've tried. Not too rich but barely moist. The texture could have been spongier (is there even such a word?). The ice cream was quite smooth and had nuts in them which was something different I guess. Overall, nothing to shout about, but this should stuff those brownie cravings for a bit.



Creme Brulee


Sometimes I think that I'm really a mountain tortise (Sua Ku) because there are so many things which I've never tried. This was one of them. Please don't get me wrong. I've tried tons of Creme Brulee, just never one that's hot. It has always been cold, cold and cold, so it was a rather eye opening experience for me. Well, the truth be told, I didn't quite take to it. The pudding was reasonably smooth but the oranges were a little too sweet and imagine how warm sweet oranges taste like. I'll just leave it at that.



The bill


Dinner for 5 pax - $103. Time spent - priceless. Although prices have gone up quite a bit since my last visit, the prices are still relatively reasonable. Thanks for the company and dinner guys!



Comments: Please refer to my previous entry here for the address and contact details.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hai Tien Lo Part III

Dinner yet again at Hai Tien Lo with my gf and her family. I'm eating there so often that I'm getting rather sick of it, so I guess I'll lay off Hai Tien Lo for a couple of months. Nevertheless, allow me to briefly showcase the wonderful food I had on my last visit.



Crispy Chicken


I like chicken, especially those with crispy skins. This dish got me salivating with its tender and juicy meat beneath paper thin skin that crackled with every bite. It didn't come across as too salty or bland either and was a hit with all of us.



The skin



The meat


Had this the last time round and found it quite good. I'm pleased to say that standards have been maintained. The meat was still as chewy and tender as before and the crepes complemented the lean skin very well.



Beancurd with Shark's Fin and Crabmeat


For the price, this is a big draw. The shark's fin is genuine and although barely making it past the average quality mark, it is still very decent shark's fin. And it comes in sizable pieces as well. The tofu was silky soft and a real treat with the shark's fin and pieces of crab meat.



Stir Fried Asparagus


Nicely fried with a little spiciness to add to the flavour. It had a slight wok hei taste and was of the right crunchiness, not too soft nor hard.



Steamed Live Prawns


How bad can steamed live prawns get? The prawns were very fresh but a little smaller than what I had expected. But then again, it goes by weight, so I guess I don't really lose out.



Sakae Cod Fish


Interestingly, I couldn't taste the sakae in this dish. The fish was fresh and sweet while the gravy was a little starchy, sweet and sprinkled with small pieces of strawberry and mango to boot. When eaten together, the fruits gave the fish a natural kind of sweetness which sought to blend with the sweetness of the fish. A nice touch and certainly a nice dish.



Bill


Dinner for 5 pax came up to about $266. Worth it? You decide.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:8.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:8/10
Value for money:7/10 (Without discount)

Overall:7.75/10

Address: 37th Floor Pan Pacific Hotel

Contact: 68268338

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Grand Shanghai



I have always wanted an excuse to visit Grand Shanghai, after numerous recommendations by my parents, who obviously have taken a liking to this flagship Chinese restaurant of Grand Copthorne Hotel. Well, the opportunity presented itself in the form of a one for one set dinner offer from UOB and I was more than glad to accomodate. Known for its unique Ye Shanghai decor, the restaurant is always packed during weekends for functions or dinner, which explains the difficulty I had in trying to secure a table for my gf and myself.



Exterior



Interior



Another shot of the interior



Menu


Just in case you get lost trying to locate Grand Shanghai, it doesn't lie within the hotel itself but in the adjacent building(they share the same underground carpark though). Its exterior doesn't garner much attention but step in and be transported back in time to the 1930 - 1960s where nightclubs were a rage. Everything from the tables, lamp shades, dark wood flooring and two blade fans down to the toilets, were reminiscent of a typical nightclub. Pretty much like those you see on TV when Shanghai Triad was aired. Completing the picture was a beguiling songstress belting out a repertoire of popular tunes from that era.



Cold Dish Combination



Check out the egg yolk


A cold dish always gets the appetite going. Consisting of a slice of chicken, half an egg with roe, deep fried eel and strands of jellyfish, it was just short of terrible in the presentation department. There was no proper placement of the food and no colours to bring out the dish. No garnishes, nothing. That aside, the chicken was cold and rather normal, but nothing to shout about. The deep fried eel was crispy and sweet, which was a rather good way to start things off. A pity about the minimal portions though. The jellyfish was springy and tasted strangely like eating a softer version of beef tripe. Not that its bad, but its just slightly different. Last but not least, the egg. I had problems with this one although I'm a big fan of eggs. It looked every bit a hard boiled egg, just that the egg white was softer and more jelly like. The egg yolk, on the other hand, was a gooey semi solid mass which reeked strongly of raw egg. Top it up with loads of fish roe and you get something that's unbelievably raw and has the occasional pops (I just love biting into the fish roe). I believe (I'm just speculating, don't quote me) that the egg was boiled at a temperature of about 60-70 degrees Celsius for a moderate period of time to achieve such a texture.



Braised Superior Shark's Fin in Brown Sauce



A nice plate of beansprouts to go along


The heavyweight dish of the set menu. This dish alone costs $45 in the ala carte menu! I'm not sure if there's any difference though because I haven't tried ordering it ala carte yet. But it was good. The fins were of moderately good quality and were rather plentiful. The brown sauce was light on the palate and not too starchy. The accompanying plate of beansprouts (with fried Yunnan ham I believe) tasted best when eaten with the soup and not alone.



Braised Spare Ribs "Wuxi" style



Look how easily the meat came off


A rather humble dish, but it's beauty lies in it's simplicity. A single rib served with a stalk of vegetable and a bread stick man tou. The meat came cleanly off the bone without much resistance and was tender. The gravy played a key role in this dish without it coming across as too strong but instead played on its subtlety, allowing the meat to slowly soak up the essence and diffuse through with every bite.



Deep Fried Cod Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce and Pinenut


I didn't find this dish too fantastic. Sure the batter was nicely done and tasty, but it masked the sweetness of the cod fish, which was really a pity. It would have probably tasted the same if other types of fish were used.



Shanghai Fried Rice


This wasn't from the set menu. We ordered in it in the event that we weren't full from all the dishes in the set. I didn't find it spectacular at all, even though it was one of the recommended dishes. The rice tasted strongly of pepper and nothing else. The ingredients didn't provide any visual appeal nor did they add any taste into this dish. So basically its bland plus bland, which still gives you bland, save for the strong dosage of pepper.



Shanghai Pork & Crabmeat Dumplings



Another look


The Shanghai Pork & Crabmeat Dumplings aka Xiao Long Bao got me really excited as I had heard much about them. My expectations proved to be this dish's undoing as I didn't find it good, much less fantastic. For one, the skin was a little too thick and it just didn't have that explode in your mouth kind of feeling. Decent, but I've had better.



Mango Sago


A pretty much standard dessert everywhere you go. This one was a little different in that they added milk into it, making it a little more coagulated and sweet. A small but nice twist to the this very common dish and a great way to end dinner on a high note.



The bill


My gf and I chalked up a bill of $106, which is really quite a bargain considering the quantity (we couldn't finish the food. Blame the fried rice!) and quality of food (The food isn't exactly very refined like Hai Tien Lo, Summer Pavilion, Wan Hao or Min Jiang @ One North, but it's delicate enough). The place itself is a very refreshing change from the usual Chinese restaurants and comes with live entertainment. Not exactly the place where young people might want to go, but definitely great if you want to bring your parents/grand parents for a walk down memory lane. Service is quite good and please remember to always make reservations in advance or be prepared to wait/turned away.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:8/10
Service:8/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:7/10

Overall:7.625/10

Address: Level 1 King's Centre, 390 Havelock Road

Contact: 68366866

Comments: Closed on Mondays

Website: www.grandshanghai.com