Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dian Xiao Er



Saw that Dian Xiao Er was rather empty one afternoon while I was at Vivocity so popped in for a quick lunch. Legend has it that a Xiao Er (waiter) at a roast duck restaurant combined herbs with roast duck to help his bedridden master recover. The master showed remarkable improvements in his condition and emerged even stronger than before, thus giving rise to the Herbal Roast Duck, which Dian Xiao Er is known for.



Exterior & Menu

All of Dian Xiao Er's restaurants are painstakingly designed to replicate the teahouses of ancient China and the outlet at Vivo certainly looks the part with its wooden beams, grey brick walls and red Chinese lanterns. Tables and chairs were of the wooden variant as well and honestly I felt that everything was cramped too close for comfort. Overhearing the adjourning table's conversation proved too easy for comfort.



Soup of the Day

The soup of the day was lotus root soup, which came across as light and sweet with chunks of meat and lotus root inside. Definitely a great way to start off the meal.



Poached Spinach with Century and Salted Eggs

This method of cooking usually uses 3 types of eggs but I guess Dian Xiao Er decided to go without the normal egg, using only century and salted eggs. I found the vegetables a tad too soft for my liking and the taste struck me as rather ordinary.



Herbal Roast Duck

There have been many claims that a trip to Dian Xiao Er is never complete without ordering the legendary herbal roast duck. I didn't quite attest to those claims though, finding the duck to be less then extraordinary. Maybe I'm just picky but it was really way too sweet for my liking, even though the skin was crisp and the meat firm. Strangely enough, the duck tasted to me like 九层糕 or nine layered cake sans the texture.



Old Style Steamed Fish Slices

I don't know what does old style entail so I shall not comment, but the fish wasn't exactly fresh and that definitely didn't sit well with me. There was really alot of fish leftover when we were done.



Bill

Overall the lunch didn't impress me much and it wasn't cheap either, standing at about $49 for 2 pax. Quantity is sufficient but there is much room for improvement quality wise. Until then, I guess I won't be returning to Dian Xiao Er in a hurry.



Likes: Decor
Dislikes: Food wasn't fantastic

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

Overall:6.5/10

Address: #02-137/8 VivoCity

Contact: 6376 9786

Opening Hours:

Mon - Fri
11.30am - 2.30pm
5.30pm - 9.30pm

Weekend and Public Holiday
11.30am - 3.00pm
5.30pm - 9.30pm

Website: http://www.dianxiaoer.net/

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Outback Steakhouse



I realise that I've never written anything about Outback Steakhouse despite quite a few visits to to the restaurant both in Singapore and overseas, so here goes. Popped by with my gf on a not so quiet Thursday evening.



Interior & Menu

The interior is cosy and cheerful with wooden booth seats for extra privacy. Signs and stickers adorn the wall with overhanging lamp shades for a casual laid back atmosphere. Interestingly, while Outback is supposed to embody the spirit of the Australian outback - rugged, friendly and casual, this successful chain actually started out in the US and the owners have never stepped foot into Australia! So much for authenticity I guess.



Cheese Fries & Complimentary Bread

The complimentary bread was relatively huge and came served on a cutting board with a knife and butter. I thought it was rather average tasting though.
I'm a sucker for fries and cheese so anything that combines these two ingredients together works magic for me. It definitely helped that the fries were chunky and crispy while the cheese was thick and had lots of bacon chips in it.



Prime Minister's Prime Rib

At 8oz, this is one of the smaller prime ribs that I've had (I usually prefer a 10oz or 12oz). Slow roasted in an oven, the medium rare rib was succulent and tender but I did find it a little too fatty. It could have done with a dash of salt and pepper as well to complement the natural beefy taste of the rib. There's an option to add on homemade mushroom sauce or peppercorn sauce, but at $6.90 a pop, I'd rather pass.



Sizzling Chicken

The sizzling chicken had me salivating at the fragrance it emitted at the table. However I did find this dish a little lacking. The boneless chicken came across as a tad too dry though still reasonably fibrous. Nothing special but still very palatable.



Chocolate Thunder from Down Under

Warm and rich chocolate sauce drizzled over soft and moist pecan brownie with a nice smooth scoop of vanilla ice cream. Whats not to like?However, at $15.90++ for this dessert, I had expected a humongous slab of brownie topped with yet another humongous scoop of ice cream, enough to stuff 2 people. What I got was really disappointing, size wise. To be fair, the brownie and ice cream was bigger than usual, but only by that much. A very nice and sinful dessert!



Bill

$111 for 2 pax is certainly on the high side for a hearty but relatively unimpressive dinner. Food quality is above average at best but what I like is the casual setting and friendly service. Soft drinks are free flow if you order a glass, so please don't spend unnecessary money by ordering 2 glasses when you can order 1 glass to share, alongside free ice water.



Likes: Hearty food, casual setting
Dislikes: Expensive

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

Overall:6.75/10

Address: #01-99 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard

Contact: 6837 3242

Opening Hours: 1130am - 1030pm daily

Website: http://www.outback-sea.com/_sg/about.asp

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Peach Garden @ 33



Dim sum was on the cards again and this time it was at Peach Garden at OCBC building. Peach Garden appealed with its location, promise of a great view as well as its stellar reviews for dim sum.



Interior & Menu

Perched on the 33rd floor of OCBC building at Chulia Street, Peach Garden offers a birds eye view of the surrounding area if you manage to get a window seat of course. The interior oozes class with its traditional Chinese wooden decor complete with thick carpets for that touch of exclusivity.



Appetiser

This was really weird tasting to me because it had cordyceps in it, which reminded me of maggots. I shall not attempt to elaborate more.



Steamed Siew Mai with Phoneix Prawn

A staple in any dim sum offering, the siew mai was quite different in the sense that there was alot of prawn in it and though fresh, it overwhelmed the taste of the pork. I'm not really complaining though. What I didn't appreciate was the prawns not being fully de shelled, with the tip still showing. I guess the purpose was to show that it was a whole prawn in the siew mai.



Steamed Fresh Prawn Dumpling

You can't really go wrong with Har Gao and Peach Garden wasn't just about to challenge that notion. The skin, though a little too thick for my liking, was rather chewy and enveloped a dollop of nice crunchy prawns.



XO Carrot Cake

Okay this wasn't exactly very good, with the carrot cake a tad too soft and salty. Portions were very small as well for the price ($8). On the upside, it wasn't too oily and came across as rather fragrant.



Baked Spare Rib with BBQ Sauce

I've actually eaten this quite a few times from Peach Garden so it was no surprise that it was good as I remembered it to be. Crisp along the edges with a nice sweet aftertaste from the BBQ sauce while succulent and naturally sweet on the inside. But at $7 a pop, I don't exactly find it value for money.



Steamed Rice Roll with Prawn & Steamed Rice Roll with Char Siew

I hate to say this but both the steamed rice rolls aka chee cheong fan, were substandard. For one, the cheong fan's texture tasted rather coarse, not silky and smooth as I would have expected. To put it in perspective, there are a lot of hawker stalls out there that sell the same quality of chee cheong fan.



Boiled Porridge with Century Egg and Pork

The porridge was salty and between the 8 of us, we almost couldn't finish 4 bowls of it. That probably says alot. And strangely enough, the pork tasted more like chicken.



Steamed Xiao Long Bao with Conpoy

Average average average. The final verdict that most of us handed down. The skin was a tad too dry and thick while the juice within wasn't flavourful enough. Probably the only saving grace was that the pork taste wasn't too overwhelming.



Baked Mini Egg Tart

Flaky with a nice and not too sweet custard filling, the mini egg tarts were rather decent but not outstanding. For one, the crust was tasteless and at $1.30 each, its a total rip off.



Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

I personally thought that the flour was a little too thick for the bun, which made it quite a chore to eat. The char siew filling was decent though but it wasn't enough to make me write this dish off.



Steamed Yolk Cream Bun

A signature dish of Peach Garden and rightly so. The delicious smooth molten custard gushed out as soon as an opening was made in the moist bun skin, making for a messy but delightful dish. However, as with the BBQ pork bun, I did find the flour a little too thick as well. One thing I also found lacking was the presence of egg yolk sediment in the molten custard, which would have given it a slightly salty taste and a rougher texture. But all in all, an excellent eat nevertheless.



Baked BBQ Pork Pastry

After the excellent BBQ pork pastry aka char siew sou I had at Yan Ting, nothing else comes close. And Peach Garden's rendition was in no position to contest that claim. Though decent, the char siew did seem a tad too sweet for my liking while the pastry came across as flat.



Bill

An uninspiring dim sum session for 8 cost to the tune of $178 after a 15% discount. Service overwall was rather terrible save for a few rather nice gestures by 2 ladies who I presume to be the owners. Prices are still rather reasonable and if you can look past the hits and misses and generally slightly above average dim sum, you will probably like Peach Garden. As for me, I'll be happy to stick to my regular haunts.



Likes: Great view, not too expensive
Dislikes: Food quality only a wee bit above average, service wasn't up to par

Final Verdict:
Ambience:8/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10

Overall:6.75/10

Address: #33-01 OCBC Centre, 65 Chulia Street

Contact: 65357833

Opening Hours:

Mon - Sat: 1130am - 230pm & 6pm - 10pm

Sundays & PH: 10.30am - 3pm & 6pm - 10pm

Website: http://www.peachgarden.com.sg/index1.html

Sunday, July 20, 2008

First Thai



Fresh with the memory of Bangkok's excellent Thai food and armed with a craving for Phad Thai, I headed down to First Thai at Purvis Street, which purportedly serves up authentic Thai food at reasonable prices.



Interior & Menu

The place sits right at the front of Purvis Street, making it easy to find and plays neighbours to Yet Con, which is next door and Chin Chin just across the road. Decor is very coffeeshop like save for the nice green olden style windows that look out to the main road. There is no airconditioning at this eatery so be prepared to sweat it out on a hot day. If the place is full, you'll probably have to share a table with someone or queue up outside the shop. Do note that you will not be seated until everyone in your group is present.



Tom Yam Soup Individual Serving ($7)

This is one of the better tom yam soups that I've tried in Singapore and at $7 a pop, it really isn't too expensive given the amount of ingredients in it. Light and sourish with a tinge of spiciness. But I would have preferred it a little spicier. And thats coming from someone whose spice tolerance level is rather low.



Pandan Chicken ($8)

Ok I got to admit that this isn't exactly cheap, at $8 for 4 bite sized pieces of pandan chicken. The chicken, though nice and juicy, didn't exactly wow me probably because of its rather mild taste. There was no burst in the mouth melody of flavours that I experienced while eating it in Bangkok. But still a nice eat nevertheless.



Phad Thai ($8)

One of the highly recommended dishes and purportedly one of the best in Singapore, the Phad Thai was actually quite good. Lightly sweet with a firm and chewy texture. However, it was a little too wet as compared to what I had in Bangkok. The ubiquitous dried shrimps were also missing. I know that dried shrimps are optional but they give an added texture and introduce a much appreciated salty dimension to the dish. Personally I still prefer the Phad Thai from Sweet Salty Spicy Food Market & Thai Canteen.

The cost of food sufficient for 1 pax stood at $23 (no GST, no service charge), which is still acceptable given the quality of food. However, drinks cost me an additional $8 which is terribly expensive. $3 for a glass of coconut juce, $4 if you want less ice. 50 cents for warm water and 50 cents for ice only. So technically if you wanted ice water, it will be $1/cup. Theres the more expensive option of bottled water though, starting at $2 (without ice). Sorry but I think its a rip off, especially when its only a coffeeshop. If I ever visit again, I'll be sure to bring my own water.



Likes: Above average quality of food, price of food not too expensive
Dislikes: Place can get quite warm, drinks are expensive

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

Overall:7/10

Address: 23 Purvis Street

Contact: 6339 3123

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 12-3pm (2.15pm last order)

Dinner: 6-10pm (9.15pm last order)

Closed on Alternate Mondays
.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fresh Bulggogi



Had the opportunity to partake in a food tasting session at Fresh Bulggogi, courtesy of Benny, the marketing manager for Zingrill Holdings, which also owns and operates the Breeks, Seoul Garden and Zingdo chains of restaurants.




Exterior, Interior & Menu

Located on level 3 of the viewing gallery at Changi Airport Terminal 2, Fresh Bulggogi spots a fresh lime green and black facade and plays immediate neighbour to Fish & Co. The interior (at least where I sat) consists of booth seats that can seat 4 pax very comfortably or 6 pax if you happen to be smaller in size. The concept of Fresh Bulggogi is built upon that of Seoul Garden save for 2 major differences. First, it only has an ala carte menu with no buffet option. Second, the food items sold are slightly more upmarket, with stuff like half shell scallops, sashimi grade salmon, just to name a few. It also serves up quick meals like Bibim Baps for time strapped customers who are in a hurry to catch their flights. For customers who dread perspiring while having steamboat, this place eliminates the problem by placing the pot in a dug in enclosure and installing cool air blowers right above the pot level. This prevents the heat from dissipating upwards and keeps the surroundings cool.



Pine Mushroom Salad with Prawns

Honestly the salad wasn't to my liking and was rather lacklustre in my humble opinion. The pine mushrooms tasted rather bland while the prawns were rather small in size and barely sweet. However there is one positive remark I must make and that is the effort put in to remove the prawn intestines. Not many places, even high class restaurants, bother doing so.



Deep Fried Assorted Mushrooms

This was actually comfort food for all of us. Assorted mushrooms coated with batter and deep fried till crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside. Very nice and chewy but I did find the batter a wee bit too thick. A little more moisture in the mushrooms would also be much appreciated.




Kimchi Jjigae with Sliced Salmon (김치찌개)

Unfortunately, none of us at the table could fully appreciate this humble Korean stew. It was essentially vegetables, mushrooms and rice cakes in a kimchi broth. According to wikipedia, Kimchi Jjigae is best cooked with older more fermented kimchi, which creates a much stronger taste and also contains more beneficial bacteria also found in yoghurt. The salmon slices were passably fresh but tasted rather weird with the kimchi broth.



Garlic Chicken Bap

A classic Korean dish and one that I've eaten a couple of times, the garlic chicken bap was surprisingly quite decent. For starters, the kimchi was lightly sour and spicy while the chicken was well marinated and you could actually taste the marination. Add the fact that the rice was moist and a little sticky and it made for a rather nice dish.





Premium Set C (Chicken Breast Meat, Beef Bulggogi, Chicken Bulggogi and Sliced Beef)

For our steamboat, we had a choice of 2 soup bases, kimchi and chicken, of which we chose the latter. I wouldn't go as far as to say the broth was great, but it was decently sweet yet light.
We had the premium set C for the sliced beef. Seriously, how bad can steamboat get? Everything tasted relatively fresh but the thinly sliced beef did look a darker shade of red as compared to what other tables were getting (this is based purely on our observations). The set is meant for 2 but in case the ingredients are insufficient, there is always the ala carte top up option.



Chicken Bulggogi & Korean Rice Cakes

2 of our top up options, the chicken bulggogi, which the Koreans eat with lettuce and the rice cakes, which look like sliced fishcakes but tasted to me like chewy kueh when cooked.

Honestly, I know nuts to nothing about Korean food but personally I found the food overall to be rather decent, maybe not wholly authentic but certainly very edible. Prices are on the high side ( the damage for 4 pax was about $165 inclusive of 6 juices/soft drinks and 4 ice cream desserts) but thats to be expected since its at the airport. Oh and take note that they do not serve sky juice. Service was friendly but the place did seem a little short handed at times.



Likes: Minimal perspiration while eating steamboat
Dislikes: Service a little slow

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

Overall:6.67/10

Address: #03-6059 Viewing Mall South, Changi Airport Terminal 2

Contact: 62221339

Opening Hours: Daily: 1130am - 10pm

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