Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Manhill Restaurant



Had dinner with my gf and her family at Manhill Restaurant, sibling to the renowned Hillman Restaurant at Kitchener Road. One interesting point to note is that both places are owned by the same family and have exactly the same menu.



Exterior & Interior

Located along Pasir Panjang Road, Manhill is hard to miss with its huge neon lighted signboard screaming its presence to passing motorists. Its really hard to imagine a restaurant located at such a nondescript place where housing developments are minimal and factory buildings aplenty. Its even harder to imagine such a huge turnout at the restaurant during the weekends, which essentially means that reservations are almost necessary and mind you, the place can sit close to 100 people! (my estimate).



Menu



Chye Sim in Oyster Sauce

A very normal dish. Decent but not fantastic. The vegetables did come across as a tad too soggy though and the oyster sauce seemed a little runny.



Chicken in Paper Bag (Boneless)

As with the Zi Bao Ji at Hillman, this was excellent. Well marinated and cooked to perfection - tender meat with simmering juices encapsuled within the paper bags. Just watch out of the price because it certainly doesn't come cheap.



Crab Meat with Beancurd

An average dish and nothing more. The crab meat was plentiful but of inferior quality and the beancurd was your run off the mill kind.



Pot Roasted Pork with Sea Cucumber

As mentioned in my entry on Hillman, claypot dishes are a specialty at both Hillman and Manhill and rightly so. The Pot Roasted Pork with Sea Cucumber was hot favourite with the sea cucumber being soft yet retaining its firmness and the gravy tasty with all the goodness from the sea cucumber and roasted pork. The roasted pork was a little too fatty for my liking though.



Eight Stars Pot

See here for my writeup on this dish. Sorry but I'm being lazy here.



Fried Pork Ribs in Chinese Style

The young chap (who I presume to be the owner's son) was promoting this dish as one of the signature dishes of Manhill, apart from the Chicken in Paper Bag and I should have slapped myself for listening to him. The texture of the pork ribs was a little too soft and moist for my liking and came across as too sweet. And I wasn't the only one who thought so.



Bill

We were stuffed up, all 9 of us. Best thing was, it only cost $180. A reasonable price to pay for the quantity and quality of food, if not for the finger licking good chicken and claypot dishes. However I reckon Hillman edges Manhill slightly out in terms of food quality. And its much emptier as well.


Likes: Above average food, inexpensive
Dislikes: Inaccessible location, poor ventilation

Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:6.5/10
Food:7/10 (8/10 for the chicken)
Value for money:7/10 (without discount)

Overall:6.75/10

Address: 99 Pasir Panjang Road

Contact: 64746835

Opening Hours: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 10.30pm daily

Monday, August 27, 2007

Romano Ristorante



Mention Italian restaurants and Senso, Garibaldi, IL Lido etc come to mind almost immediately. These are a few the big players in the Italian dining scene and most people would have probably heard of some, if not all of them. However, these restaurants only form one half of the spectrum - the fine dining portion. The other half, which is the casual dining portion, is made up of restaurants relatively unknown to most people (I happen to fall into this category). Here's where Romano Ristorante comes into the picture. Branded as a casual Italian restaurant (the first I've seen), Romano is wedged between a row of shops in the sleepy estate of Thomson Hills.



Interior

The casual branding is obvious the moment you step into the restaurant. The place looks more like a pizza house with its wide walkways, rough granite floors and homely atmosphere. To complete the picture, the solitary waitress is dressed up in a polo t shirt and a pair of jeans. Pets are allowed as well!



Menu



Bruschetta

The Bruschetta was a little different from the usual ones that I've come across. Interestingly, the base was garlic bread and the diced tomatoes were loaded on top after the garlic bread had been toasted. Surprisingly, the bread was really well made, soft and fluffy on the inside yet retaining a little crisp on the outside. Very unlike normal garlic bread which tends to be hard along the edges. In case you are wondering if the combination of garlic and tomatoes go well, let me assure you that it does. The garlic taste was rather faint and not the least bit overwhelming, complementing the sweetness of the tomatoes. Only gripe I have about the Bruschetta was that the tomatoes didn't really look very fresh and wasn't as juicy as I had expected.



Calamari

The calamari was coated with too much batter, rendering it a little too greasy from all the deep frying. The squid was chewy but the batter made me sick after a few mouthfuls. Luckily, the watered down tomato puree was nice and tangy without coming across as too strong, providing the sole consolation for this dish.



Chicken Milanese

I was a little disappointed by the Chicken Milanese to say the very least. Coming as a recommendation on the menu sort of raised my expectations a little higher. With all its seemingly wonderful preparation methods and ingredients, it tasted nothing more than a slab of chicken breast meat wrapped up in egg. Aesthetics wise, it portrayed a very messy image when I first set my eyes on it, with its myriad of not too pleasing colours. Very palatable, but not something I'll order again.



Fettuince Pollo E Funghi

An above average dish, but could have been better. The Fettuince was a wee bit too cooked (about four fifths instead of the three quarters rule of thumb) but the cream sauce was thick and tasty without being too rich. The chicken slices were nicely seasoned and grilled but was a tad too salty.



Tiramisu

I don't really fancy Tiramisu and Romano's rendition wasn't about to change my preference though I must comment that it was one of the better ones that I've tried. I personally liked it for its fluffiness and lightness on the palate. The cream to sponge ratio was quite balanced out which made eating it rather enjoyable.



Oreo Cheesecake

I'm sure the humble Oreo Cheesecake was never a staple Italian dessert but more of an addition to suit local tastebuds. After all, not many people can say no to an Oreo Cheesecake. Romano's offering was a little sticky yet not coming across as too cheesy. Pity about the soft Oreo wafer base though, which resulted in a loss of overall texture and form.



Bill

Plenty of homely and comforting grub for 2 pax, all for just $61, which is very worth it in my opinion. Throw in the fact that the environment is laid back, service is warm and there is no dress code and I'm a regular. Sure, the food is neither top notch nor fine, but what Romano lacks in finesse, it more than makes up for with heart. Having said that, they need to work on some of their dishes though, maybe tweak their recipes a little?



Likes: Filling portions, not expensive, decent Italian food
Dislikes: Rather secluded, some items are merely average

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

Overall:7/10

Address: 10 Jalan Leban

Contact: 64536818

Opening Hours:

Tues - Thurs
11am - 3pm (Lunch)
6pm - 10pm (Dinner)

Fri & Eve of Public Holiday
11am - 3pm (Lunch)
6pm - 10.30pm (Dinner)

Sat, Sun & Public Holiday
11am - 10.30pm

Closed on Mondays

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ellenborough Cafe

Its been a while since I last ate at Ellenborough Cafe, probably about 3 years or so. Just for the record, Ellenborough used to be the buffet venue of my choice when they still were charging something to the tune of $26/pax for dinner. Had the opportunity to revisit when one of my friends initiated a get together dinner there (It helped that she could get a 50% discount as well).

Well, since I dislike buffets and I am rather inapt at doing a writeup on it, I shall leave it to my amateur photographs to tell the story. Please pardon my photos, both quality and quantity wise, as it was a bad field trip for me.



Slipper Lobsters



Seafood Counter



Dessert Counter



Outdoor Counters



Shark's Fin Soup & Durian Pengat

Honestly, I think the standard of the food has gone south while the prices have steadily gone north. The shark's fin soup used to be decent but now its just a bowl of salty watered down starch serving with a couple of strands of shark's fin. The famous Durian Pengat, which used to have me going back for more (think 5-6 helpings), is now ridiculously sweet and diluted. Variety of food has stayed constant and I'm pretty sure that they have been serving up the same few dishes throughout the years. The additional outdoor counters are only there due to the restaurant having some anniversary promotion and even then, the food is really not up to the mark.



Bill

$223 for 5 pax (before discount) is pure madness for some common and average tasting fare. However factor in the 50% discount ($22/pax) and it will probably be worth it. No prizes for guessing if I'll be back.



Likes: Its a buffet!
Dislikes: Pricey, average food, average spread

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:6/10
Value for money:6/10 (without discount)

Overall:6.5/10

Address: Merchant Court Hotel, 20 Merchant Road

Contact: 63372288

Opening Hours: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30pm to 10pm daily

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Szechuan Kitchen



Was on leave on a Friday so dropped by Szechuan Kitchen with my colleague (who also happens to be on leave) for some dim sum since we were in the vicinity. Szechuan Kitchen is not to be confused with Szechuan Court, which I had the privilege to dine in sometime back. Szechuan Kitchen serves up dim sum and other simple dishes whereas Szechuan Court serves up exquisite Cantonese fare at a relatively higher price of course.



Table

Tucked away on the third floor of Raffles The Plaza and just next to Szechuan Court, Szechuan Kitchen very much resembles a small teahouse with its wooden furniture and paneling. Not that I'm complaining though. The teahouse look gave it a humble and down to earth feel. Only quirk was its table placement, which had a passageway in the middle for passers by to walk through.



Deep Fried Prawn and Banana Wrapped in Bean Curd Skin Roll

I've never ordered this dish before and to be honest, I sort of regretted it. The bean curd skin was crispy but oily and I couldn't quite taste the banana taste, probably due to the minuscule amounts present. The prawns were fresh though, but had their sweetness curtailed by the taste of the bean curd skin.



Steamed Pork Dumpling with Chinese Cabbage and Dried Scallop

The steamed pork dumpling aka Siew Mai was quite well done - tasty yet light on the palate. No oily residue or overwhelming pork taste to contend with. Definitely one of the better Siew Mais that I've tried.



Steamed Bun with BBQ Pork

A rather average rendition of the Char Siew Bao. The pastry was a little too thick and the Char Siew filling a little too sweet. Luckily it was served piping hot, which served to cover up most of its flaws (It helped that we were starving too).



Steamed Prawn Dumpling with Century Egg and Pink Ginger

This has got to be one of the weirdest Har Gao that I've ever eaten, with the addition of ginger and century egg. I appreciate the sense of innovation, but I really dislike ginger, especially when it comes in a sizable piece! That aside, the skin was relatively thin and not too starchy, with the prawns being fresh and crunchy. If only they would do something about the ginger. Oh and did I mention that there was no taste of century egg whatsoever?



Deep Fried Bacon Roll with Golden Mushrooms

My personal favourite, the Deep Fried Bacon Roll with Golden Mushrooms. As the name suggests, the golden mushrooms are wrapped with a layer of bacon and then coated with flour before deep frying it to a crisp. The result? A nice crispy layer of batter complementing the slightly salty bacon roll with the added crunchy texture of the golden mushroom. Even my colleague liked it!



Pan Fried Carrot & Radish Cake with Chinese Sausage and Dried Shrimp

Disappointing sums this dish up. True, it was softer and silkier than your average carrot cake but it was so soft that it became a little gross. Nowhere close to the likes of Royal China or Wah Lok.



Baked BBQ Pork Pastry with Pork Floss & Cheese

Another innovative dish from Szechuan Kitchen - Char Siew Sou with cheese. The pastry had a distinct hearty oven baked taste but the Char Siew filling was a little bland. However, this was where the pork floss came into play, breathing a light sweetness into the whole dish. I could detect the presence of the cheese as well, but in a more subtle milky variant. All in all, an innovation well done.



Bill

The bill came up to just over $40 (before discount, $20 after discount) for a non filling dim sum lunch for 2, which in my opinion, is relatively expensive for the quantity and merely above average quality of food. Service was generally faultless but could have been friendlier.



Likes: Rather innovative dim sum offerings
Dislikes: Pricey, merely above average food

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10

Overall:6.75/10

Address: Level 3, Raffles The Plaza

Contact: 6431 6156

Opening Hours:

Lunch
Monday to Friday - 12:00 noon to 2:30 pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays - 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm

Dinner
Daily - 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bai Jia Seafood Restaurant



Seems like more and more $4.80/dish air conditioned Cze Char places are popping up all over Singapore to take advantage of people's penchant for bargains. Bai Jia Seafood Restaurant at Kovan is one such new entrant, following in the footsteps of Ding Xian Lou.



Exterior & Interior



Menu

Located along the row of shophouses just next to Kovan MRT, Bai Jia is rather popular with the residents of the area, as evident by the long queues almost every evening. The interior is surprisingly modern for such an eatery but rather small, which probably explains the long queues outside.



Black Pepper Beef

The beef portion was small and it was a little too sweet for my liking. The black pepper taste was also overwhelming I couldn't really make out any beef taste. I would have believed it if they had labelled this dish as pork instead! Such was the texture and taste.



Prawn with Minced Garlic

I counted 5 prawns sliced into half to make 10 portions. Gimmicky I should so. The prawns were your average sized prawns and didn't taste sweet at all. The only good thing about this dish was the gravy, which was lightly sweet and garlicky. Oh and they didn't bother to remove the intestines (the black thing on the spine of the prawn), which made it rather gross.



Crispy Chicken with Orange Sauce

This dish seemed to rather interesting as I've never tried chicken with orange sauce before. Alas, it was a let down from the minute I set my eyes on it. For one, portions were tiny, as expected. The orange sauce was a little sticky and had a faint orange taste to it, very much like the sauce that comes in lemon chicken dishes, except that this was a lot weaker. The fried chicken was a little too overcooked, rendering it hard and a little too chewy for my liking.



Kailan with Garlic

A very run off the mill rendition of this dish. You can't really go wrong with something as simple as frying a vegetable with garlic. Its edible but certainly not fantastic. The kailan looked a little weary as well, an indication of not being too fresh.



Braised Beancurd

What can I say? Another disappointing dish. The tofu was waterlogged with the gravy, which was fine, but the gravy itself was rather bland and watery. Palatable, but barely.



Bill

The 3 of us spent about $32 for an unsatisfying dinner (we had to adjourn to MacDonalds for more food). My take on this? I can get better food in a non air conditioned environment (aka coffeeshops/hawker centres) anyday, so I definitely won't be back.



Likes: Its air conditioned!
Dislikes: Average food, small portions

Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:6.5/10
Food:6/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6.25/10

Address: 943/945 Upper Serangoon Road

Contact:6281 2950