Friday, September 28, 2007

Inagiku



Inagiku or 稲ぎくis purportedly one of Singapore's finest and also Raffles International's sole flagship Japanese restaurant. Known for its exquisite Japanese food that can even placate the most discerning of tastebuds in a classy environment no less, Inagiku is unfortunately known for its extremely steep prices to boot as well.



Centrally located in the heart of town, on the third floor of Raffles City Shopping Centre, Inagiku is settled in the far obscure corners of the mall, providing a tranquil respite from the mad crowds that throng the area, especially during meal times. A simple yet hush hush interior greets you as you make your way through the seemingly small entrance and into the confined carpeted area filled with expensive wooden furniture. Personal conversations here can be quite impersonal, given that the tables aren't exactly very far apart from each other.



Menu



Katsu Hotate

The Hotate (Japanese for scallops) really redefined the boundaries of size in my tiny world of scallop consumption. It was huge and I mean big as a saucer kind of huge. Okay I exaggerate but I've honestly never seen a scallop of such a size. Superbly fresh without the rawness of fresh seafood and sweet with a pleasantly smooth texture, the Hotate was nothing short of excellent, which explains the price tag of $26 for 2 pieces of it. Oh and then we have the rice which was not too sticky and wet yet lightly sour with a little bite.



Tamago

This is actually a very common dish and is present in most, if not all of the Japanese eateries/chains in Singapore. What this means is that most of the time we are subjected to a varying standard depending on the place we choose to eat. I personally sweared off Tamago for a while due to the multitude of bad experiences I had from various places. Inagiku's rendition renewed my faith in this dish. Aesthetics wise, it was already a winner with rice stuffed neatly into a slit in the egg and topped with huge fish roes that reminded me of little colourful pearls. The egg itself wasn't too sweet and the roe added a dimension of taste to the dish. A simple dish at its finesse.



Tempura Moriawase

I'm sorry but my picture really doesn't do justice to the Tempura Moriawase, but then again, it didn't look the bit impressive when it was served, all jumbled up and scattered around the platter. Please do not be misled by its disheveled appearance though as Inagiku is very well known for its Tempura and rightly so. The batter was light as air and seemed to melt upon contact with my tongue. Amongst all, the Ebi Tempura stood out with its fresh and succulent meat beneath the excellent batter.



Kurobuta Tonkatsu

With the repertoire of stellar dishes being served up, I had expected the Kurobuta Tonkatsu to be nothing short of excellent. But it was not to be. I was sorely disappointed with what tasted like a piece of meat being cooked in second hand oil. Sure, being Kurobuta pork, the meat was tender but the oil taste from the batter was rather overwhelming.



Lobster with Inagiku Original Golden Sauce

I personally consider the Lobster with Inagiku Original Golden Sauce the epitome of my dining experience, or the Pièce de résistance if you wish, at Inagiku. As with the Tempura Moriawase, my photos certainly do not do it justice (time to get a new cam). The lobster was quite a size, weighing in at more than three quarters of a kg (for the price, it better be!). Ocean fresh and sweet with the flesh nicely grilled till slightly burnt and complemented by the excellent Inagiku golden sauce, which tasted very rich in flavour and a little creamy. Add the fact that the lobster was topped with molds of roe and you have a must have try dish. Watch the price though.



Bill

Honestly, would you pay close to $400(without discount) for such a meal? You can clobber me and I'll still say no. However, I can take scant comfort in the fact that it cost me $192 after a 50% discount, a price which is definitely more affordable but not something I'll be willing to pay unless I strike it rich of course.



Likes: Excellent food in general, good service
Dislikes: Very pricey, selection is rather limited

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:8.5/10
Value for money:5.5/10

Overall:7.25/10

Address: Level 3, Raffles The Plaza

Contact: 64315305. For reservations, call 64316156

Opening Hours: Daily 12pm - 230pm (Lunch), 630pm - 1030pm (Dinner)


Monday, September 24, 2007

Borshch Steakhouse & Pub



Had dinner with my parents at Borshch Steakhouse, a Russian restaurant run by a Hainanese (How weird) and just a mere 10 minute walk from our house. Not much is known about Borshch (I tried googling!) except for the fact that its been around since god knows when. I probably wasn't even in existence then!



Interior



Menu

Going to Borshch for a meal is akin to stepping into an air conditioned grilling area as you walk out of it reeking strongly of cooking fumes. It certainly doesn't help that the place is rather small and crampish which only serves to contain the fumes.



Cream of Mushroom and Garlic Bread

Whats a meal without soup? The cream of mushroom soup was thick and starchy and tasted exactly like the can of Campbell soup I have sitting in my kitchen cabinet. In the same vein, the garlic bread was unremarkable and was merely slices of unevenly toasted but crispy baguettes spread with a thin layer of butter atop.



Shrimp Cocktail

I honestly don't know what to make of this appetiser as the shrimps were really tiny! Not that they tasted fresh either, masked by the overwhelming and over generous salad dressing.



Grilled Pork Chop

For a Hainanese run eatery, I would have expected a reasonably good dish of pork chop and Borshch didn't disappoint. The grilled pork chop was evenly grilled with a nice slightly chewy texture to boot. I did find the slab of meat to be a little too fatty though.



Sirloin Steak

I was rather skeptical about ordering a steak in such a place, especially when Astons was just next door. However, skepticism soon turned to mild appreciation as I subjected the steak to the taste test. First of all, the steak was done as per my request, medium rare. Second, the meat was fibrous and a tad tasty even without the accompanying gravy. Portions were also quite respectable for the price. I also personally like this dish for the fact that a small mold of butter was allowed to sizzle in the hotplate to give the meat an added boost in terms of taste and smell.



Fancy Pancake and Peach Melba

The desserts were lousy. I couldn't see or taste what was so fancy about the pancake save for a tiny slice of banana wrapped up in the middle. The ice cream in the Peach Melba had ice chips in it and tasted familiarly like Wall's tub ice cream. Four words. I can do better.



Baked Alaska

No visit to a Russian eatery is complete without an order of the famous Baked Alaska, which is essentially ice cream and sponge cake encased within a thick layer of meringue which is then briefly placed in an extremely hot oven to firm the meringue. Borshch's rendition was a slight variation of the original concept, opting to pour a small quantity of rum onto the meringue and flambéing it till it turned a shade of burnt. I personally found it quite good, with the meringue frothy and blending well with the sponge cake and ice cream. Then again, not many places in Singapore do up this dish so its hard to form any basis for comparison. Please note that this dessert is meant to be shared.



Bill

A decently satisfying dinner for 3 cost almost $60, which isn't too expensive to pay considering that the mains were decent and so was the Baked Alaska. Service is practically nonexistent though so please do not expect any. Now, they really should do something about the ventilation.



Likes: Reasonably priced, some dishes are decent
Dislikes: Non existent service, some dishes are bad, bad ventilation

Final Verdict:
Ambience:6/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:7/10

Overall:6.375/10

Address:58 Serangoon Garden Way

Contact: 62804351

Opening Hours: 11.00am to 3.00pm & 6.00pm to 10.00pm Daily

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Szechuan Court Part II



Dropped by an old friend since my gf and I were in the City Hall area and our stomachs were crying out loud from lack of food. The old friend that I refer to is none other than Szechuan Court, which I had the chance to do a writeup on some months back courtesy of my friend who works at Raffles.



Exterior & Interior

One of the more traditional Chinese restaurants decor wise, that I've been to, Szechuan Court has nice booth seats shrouded by thin translucent curtains that can be drawn to create a more intimate eating area amidst a third story view of the neighbouring Esplanade (Its quite good actually!). Coupled with a lush red sofa and red film partitions, it shouts oriental through and through.



Menu



Braised Homemade Egg Beancurd with Shredded Abalone

Whenever I see the word homemade, my expectations inch up a notch, for better or for worse. In this case, it was for the worse. The beancurd was smooth and silky but barely tasty. Texture wise, it tended more towards the Tau Pok side, which I personally don't really fancy. The accompanying gravy was thick and starchy but I couldn't hardly make out(both visual and taste) the dried scallops.


Camphor Wood and Fragrant Tea Leaves Smoked Duck

I remember ordering this dish the last time I was here and was very much unimpressed by it. This time was no exception. The duck, though crispy, was way too dry and didn't have any tea taste whatsoever. The meat this time round was a little too overcooked as well, unlike the previous visit where the meat still retained a reddish hue.



Cod Fish Steamed with Superior Soy Sauce

The fish was fresh and sweet but a little too soft. I would have personally preferred the meat to be a little firmer. Another thing which I didn't really like was the fact that the fish came with its skin attached. I know that most fishes are served with their skin intact but this is probably the only place I know of that does it with cod fish.



Szechuan Fried Rice with Shrimp

A most excellent fried rice and definitely the highlight of the evening. Each grain of rice was homogeneously coated with egg and fried till lightly charred, giving rise to a nice and even Wok Hei taste. Thought slightly drier than your normal fried rice, it was a pleasure to eat and didn't come across as too difficult to swallow, especially with the generous serving of prawn cubes.



Bill

A still decent dinner emptied our pockets by about $46, after a 50% discount. Take away that discount and I definitely will not return, not for the quality of food. Will you? On a side note, service was acceptable, but could have been better and faster.



Likes: Conveniently located, food is decent
Dislikes: Can be pricey, service can be slow

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10 (without discount)

Overall:6.875/10

Address:3rd Floor, Raffles The Plaza

Contact: 6431 6156

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 12 pm - 2.30 pm (Mon - Fri)

12 pm - 3 pm (Sat, Sun & PH)

Dinner: 6.30 pm - 10.30 pm (Daily)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Raffles Creamery



Raffles Creamery is yet another ice cream outlet that offers the create your own ice cream plus toppings option. The other two places that I know of are Ice Cream Chefs and Cold Rock Ice Creamery at East Coast Road and Holland Village respectively.



The stall

Located at the courtyard of Raffles Hotel just behind Seah Street Deli, Raffles Creamery is the latest "culinary" offering from the grand old dame. A brightly lighted counter adorned with glass jars filled with various condiments greet you in the middle of the courtyard in accompaniment to 2 smiling waitresses who seem to get really flustered with the sudden influx of customers.



The flavours



Rocky Road Ice Cream with Banana Jelly & Oreos

I had the Rocky Road ice cream with toppings of Banana Jelly and Oreos. To my surprise, they didn't offer to mix it up for me nor did they ask me if I wanted it mixed up. It was simply take a scoop of ice cream, put some banana jelly and oreos by the side and there you go. Honestly, I was shocked. So much for offering a mix in option. That aside, the ice cream was really creamy and smooth but thats not exactly a compliment as the taste of milk was quite overbearing. And the so called "imported from Germany" banana jelly tasted like chewy candy with a banana taste. Now how special is that?



Bill

I paid almost $6 for a scoop of ice cream with 2 seperate condiments. It isn't expensive but without the novelty factor, I could have gotten better ice cream from Ben & Jerry's for the same price. Last I checked, no revisits are in my schedule.

Rating: 6/10

Address: Raffles Hotel

Opening Hours: Daily - 11:00 am to 10:30 pm

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Cathay Restaurant



Cathay - a name synonymous with movies of the past era. What most people don't know is that Cathay actually operates a rather niche eatery in its premises which goes by the name of The Cathay Restaurant. Started in 1940, the restaurant served up European fare but switched to Chinese food in 1951 and was purportedly Singapore's finest Chinese restaurant at that time.



Exterior



Interior

Situated on the 2nd floor of the spanking new Cathay building, The Cathay Restaurant embraces the modern with its unpretentiously upclass decor yet retains his heritage by showcasing portraits of movie stars from the golden era. Retro-ish (if there's such a word) I must say.



Menu



Doubled Boiled Shark's Bone Cartilage with Bamboo Fungus

I've always been a fan of shark bone soup and The Cathay Restaurant's rendition didn't disappoint. But then again, it wasn't outstanding either. The soup was tasty but did come across as a little too milky for my liking and left a slight starchy residue on my tongue after every mouthful, which I personally found a little unsettling.



Deep Fried Spring Rolls

This is not your usual spring rolls because it comes with fatty pork, mushrooms and turnip as ingredients. Found it rather normal in spite of all the ingredients, probably due to the overall blandness but the skin was nice and crisp though.



Siew Mai

Interestingly, the Siew Mai had this predominant mushroom taste owing to the fact that one of the ingredients in it was a sizable chunk of mushroom. This is something rather unique but I personally found it a little too "mushroomy", totally eclipsing the traditional pork taste that I associate with Siew Mai. Just an individual preference I guess.



Pan Fried Pork Chop with Special Sauce

The pork chop was very well marinated as evident by the lightly sweet flavours each bite held. However, the pork was a tad on the chewy side which made eating difficult and there was a slight overuse on the amount of Chinese celery as I found the taste pretty evident, to the extent of being a little overwhelming.



Poached Seasonal Vegetables

Funny how poached seasonal vegetables would turn out to have beancurd in it. Not that I'm complaining though. The beancurd was tasty but wasn't firm or silky enough to make the premium grade cut. The vegetables tasted like they had been blanched in boiling water and served up with gravy.



Special Homemade Noodles with Mixed Seafood

I honestly don't see or taste anything special about the homemade noodles. Sure, it was chewy but that was it. Beansprouts and fresh average sized prawns graced the dish which tasted to me a little like Hor Fun due to the slightly smoky and starchy gravy. Having said that, the gravy was really too weak to make much of a difference, especially when the noodles were practically tasteless. I had to resort to adding soya sauce.



Double Boiled Dried Apricot with Sea Coconut and Red Dates

If you get a kick out of having a sugar rush, then this dessert is probably for you. It was insanely sweet and I must say even for a sugar fanatic like me, I had a hard time trying to finish it. I attribute this to the extra sugar they added into the syrup on top of the sweetness from the already very sweet apricot.



Bill

With a 1 for 1 offer from Standard Chartered, I only had to fork out about $55 for 2 pax, which I feel is rather reasonable given the acceptable quantity and decent quality of food. If the standard of the dim sum is anything to go by, food quality at The Cathay isn't exactly top notch, but its refined enough to warrant another visit. Not without a high percentage discount though.



Likes: Nice decor, food is decent
Dislikes: Can be pricey

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:7/10
Value for money:7/10 (with 1 for 1)

Overall:7.25/10

Address: #02-01 The Cathay

Contact: 67326623

Opening Hours:

Mon - Sat: 11.30am - 3pm (Lunch) & 6pm-1030pm (Dinner)

Sun - 11am - 3pm (Lunch) & 6pm - 1030pm (Dinner)

Website: http://www.thecathayrestaurant.com.sg/