Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Straits Cafe



Was presented the opportunity to sample the Chinese New Year buffet spread at Straits Cafe at Hotel Rendezvous, courtesy of the hotel's marketing department, specifically Christina, the marketing manager.



Interior

Straits Cafe's interior is typical of any hotel cafe that does, with its informal decor coupled with simple furnishing and the usual glass counters that display the food and the chefs that put the food together. Straits Cafe goes a step further by offering LCD televisions in certain areas of the restaurant, something which I believe a lot of hotel cafes/restaurants don't offer (Or am I just too outdated?).





Salmon Yu Sheng

The ubiquitous Yu Sheng and my umpteenth one this year, Straits Cafe offers this dish as a DIY at the counter, which means none of the routine rehearsed recitation by the wait staff. I'm no big fan of yusheng so I shall reserve my comments on this one.



Peng Cai

According to the manager, the Peng Cai requires a minimum preparation time of about 6 hours and consists of 15 different items in it - Shark's fin, abalone, dried scallops, prawns, duck web etc. As impressive as the list of ingredients may sound, I honestly didn't quite take to it as everything tasted very soft and mashed up. The flavours weren't immersed or intense enough and everything tasted more or less the same.








The Buffet Spread

Variety
The buffet spread had about 30 items (just a rough estimate) which ranged from sushi and soba to seafood, cut meats, local dishes like laksa and desserts. Not exactly extensive if you ask me.

Food Quality
Food quality was generally average but there were a few glimmers of hope. In particular the laksa and durian pengat were worth a mention, to me at least. The laksa had a smooth creamy coconut milk base that harboured a tinge of sourish aftertaste which I thought was quite nice, but thats coming from someone who eats laksa probably once in 10 years? The durian pengat came across as smooth without being overly sweet and carried a nice hint of bitterness. However, I would have preferred it to be thicker and more concentrated.

Service
Service was generally quite good but as this was an invited session, I'm not sure if it would be representative of the service level in general.

To conclude, I would like to thank Hotel Rendezvous once again for generously extending their hospitality to yours truly.



Likes: The durian pengat
Dislikes: Food quality generally average

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7/10
Service:NA
Food:6/10 (7/10 for the durian pengat)
Value for money:NA

Overall:6/10

Address: 1F Rendezvous Hotel, 9 Bras Basah Road

Contact: 6336 0220 / 6335 177

Opening Hours:

Breakfast: 7am to 10.30am

Lunch: 12pm to 2.30pm

Hi-Tea: 3pm to 5.30pm (Sat/Sun/PH)

Dinner: 6.30pm - 10pm

Website: http://www.rendezvoushotels.com/singapore/dining.aspx

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lai Lai Casual Dining



Jostled with the crowds at Jurong Point's newly opened extension to have a go Lai Lai Casual Dining - a seemingly popular beef noodles cum pseudo Taiwanese eatery. There was a steady stream of people queuing up to get a seat in the eatery so we naturally assumed that this place was of a certain acceptable standard.



The Eatery and Menu

The bulk of the seating at this eatery is open concept, which means that people from the upper levels of the mall can view you from the top and tables are squeezed uncomfortably close to each other to maxmize revenue. And honestly, the cow on the menu looked like it had just been hit by mad cow disease.



Fried Beancurd

This dish was very run off the mill. Crisp on the outside but not soft on the inside, the beancurd was overly deep fried which resulted in a harder then usual exterior.



Pepper Salt Chicken

This dish was another disappointment. I mean, how bad can chicken taste like right? Wrong! The chicken had more flour then meat and came across as tough, bland and oily. Can someone tell me where the salt and pepper went?



Taiwan Beef Noodle

Lai Lai's purported signature/star dish and I have to admit that it was the best amongst all the other terrible dishes. Not that it was anywhere near what I had expected initially when I was still in the queue. The noodles were of the flatter variant and carried a bit of bite but the soup wasn't flavourful enough. The beef pieces, which amounted to about 4 - 5, came across as a tad too tough.



Taiwan Vermicelli

The only time I ate Taiwan vermicelli aka mee sua was when I was still a kid and my grandmother would cook it for me during my Chinese birthday. Though its been a long time since I last ate mee sua, I don't remember it tasting as awful as Lai Lai's rendition. The soup was very starchy and not to mention bland. Ingredients were minimal as well and half of bowl of the vermicelli remained, for obvious reasons.



Bill

On hindsight, the queues were probably formed due to the herd mentality of Singaporeans and definitely not for the food quality. Our dinner cost the 2 of us $30, which isn't expensive for a dinner, but definitely expensive for such quality of food. Never again!



Likes: Nothing
Dislikes: Food quality not up to standard

Final Verdict:

Ambience:6/10
Service:6.5/10
Food:5.5/10
Value for money:6/10

Overall:6/10

Address: #B1-60/61, Jurong Point Shopping Centre

Contact: 6861 1002

Opening Hours: 10am to 10pm daily

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yan Ting Part IV

Returned to Yan Ting for a pre planned dinner in the short space of about a week after the invitational CNY menu tasting dinner hosted by Flickr and St Regis. This decision was actually driven in part by the fact that we could get a 25% discount off the total bill.






Peking Duck

We started off with an order of the ubiquitous peking duck and opted to have the meat diced up and served with lettuce. The relatively lean skin had a nice crisp that resonated with every bite and came wrapped in a rather interesting flour skin that reminded me somewhat of Chinese steamed buns (馒头). However its thickness meant that you got more chewy flour then crispy skin with every mouthful. A good dish to kick start the dinner nonetheless.

I thought that the diced meat served with lettuce was rather run off the mill though. There was nothing really exciting about the meat, which had been chopped into fine cubes and came across as rather salty when eaten on its own. That's where the fresh lettuce leaves come in. Still very edible but certainly not my choice for the "second dish" in future.



Char Siew Pastry

Yan Ting doesn't actually serve char siew sou for dinner but the manager graciously acceeded to our whimsical demands (actually it was just 1 guy and no, it wasn't me) to heat up the oven and bake it for us. Well, it didn't turn out as good as the previous time I had it, which I believe was due to a shortened baking time. Nevertheless, Yan Ting made it happen and I for one, am grateful for that.



Chef Chan Signature Baked Spring Onion Chicken

This dish honestly didn't live up to its name in my humble opinion. The baked chicken was crisp at the sides and reminded me uncannily of pandan chicken sans the strong pandan taste and excessive oil. However I found it a tad too bland for my liking and overall a rather normal dish.



Claypot Chicken with Basil and Golden Garlic

The claypot chicken with basil and garlic, or better known as 三杯鸡, was evidently the more popular dish as compared to the signature baked chicken. The pieces of chicken were lightly savoury and tender without coming across as too moist or dry. I haven't actually tried the "authentic" 三杯鸡 from Taiwan so I am in no position to gauge if its anything like the real deal.



Deep Fried Prawn filled with Fresh Mango

The prawns weren't deep fried per se, but wrapped in beancurd skin then deep fried, resulting in a nice crackling exterior that almost overwhelmed the taste of the prawn within. The mango pieces were a tad sourish and honestly, it didn't exactly jell very well with the beancurd skin. Sweet mangoes might have done the trick though. Still rather tasty though.



Pan Seared Scallop filled with Shrimp Mousse

Though the scallops were quite a size, I found them pretty normal, save for the rather intriguing shrimp mousse portion of the description, which I found out to be just shrimp paste later on. I couldn't quite make out the taste of the scallops due to the strong influence from the mousse. I did like the crispy and salty strands of deep fried flour that came alongside though.



Wok Fried French Bean with Minced Pork and Chilli

This dish had a nice wok hei to it and came with a generous amount of minced meat as well as bits of salted fish. A tinge of sweetness contrasting with the mild saltiness of the fish. Simple yet very nicely executed.



Crispy Garlic Pork Ribs

The pork ribs were crispy but a tad too dry for my liking. And being pork ribs, there were bits of bone in it which marred this lazy man's experience quite a bit. The garlic taste was quite strong which can work either way depending on whether you are a fan or garlic or not.



Deep Fried Cod Fillet coated with Crispy Cereal

We chose this in favour of steamed fish by the weight primarily due to cost concerns. Thats not to say that the cod fish wasn't good. On the contrary, I liked it quite a fair bit. The fish was fresh and smooth with an almost creamy aftertaste while the accompanying cereal added a nice moderately sweet dimension to the fish coupled with a solid crunch.



Dou Bei

Dou Bei is purportedly the "better" cousin of dou miao (豆苗) and to be honest, this is the first time I'm actually trying it out. It didn't actually taste very different from dou miao though, coming across as a little bitter. The only differences were that it was a wee bit softer (but this could be due to cooking methods) and leafier.



Bill

Dinner cost about $484 ($363 after discount) for the 9 of us, which included desserts and expensive tea ($5/pax). Considering the environment, service and decent quality of food, I would say that the price was generally still reasonable. Believe it or not, I liked this dinner better then the previous one.



Likes: Nice place, great service
Dislikes: Certain dishes can be improved

Final Verdict:

Ambience:8/10
Service:8/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10 (without discount)

Overall:7.5/10

Address: St. Regis Singapore, 29 Tanglin Road

Contact: 6506-6888

Opening Hours: 11.45am to 3.30pm, 6 to 11pm

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bistro Senso



I was very much enticed by the 50% discount that Bistro Senso was offering on its ala carte menu during the Singapore Flyer downtime so made a purposeful trip down just to give it a shot. It definitely helped that I had a great experience at Senso Ristorante at club street quite a few years back.



Interior & Menu

The interior is comfortably cafe-ish and decked out in predominantly red and black shades with towering floor to ceilings windows that allow a view of the Marina Barrage, among other things. There is also a al fresco option but being a hot afternoon, the air conditioned indoors definitely seemed a lot more appealing.



Caprese Di Mozzarella Di Bufala

For starters, we had the mozzarella salad, which was decent but nothing to shout about. The cheese was a little too bland but thankfully, still relatively smooth. If it wasn't the salt from the salad which "spiced" things up a little, I honestly don't think we could have finished this dish.



Calamari

The calamari batter was a tad too thick for my liking but the squid had a nice springy texture and didn't come across as overly salty. It didn't seem very oily as well which is a plus point I guess.




Calzone

The calzone aka "folded pizza" surprised me with its humongous serving size. It was easily double the size of any calzone that I've ever tried (not that I've tried a lot though). (Un)fortunately, most of it was just hot air (literally!). When I made a hole in the pizza, the dough sort of deflated and the whole thing was hollow, save for a bed of cheese coupled with a few slices of ham. On the upside, the pastry was nice and chewy, almost like eating roti prata. But the whole pizza could really do with more ingredients.



Lobster and Crab Meat Ravioli

I was rather surprised to see this on the menu as lobster and crab meat are usually quite expensive and this ravioli was only going for $18++ (before discount). The ravioli had crab shreds for filling and I couldn't quite make out any lobster at all. However, thrown into the pot were servings of relatively fresh squid, mussel and prawns, all held together by a lightly sourish and tomato base sauce. Not exactly what I was expecting, but for the price, I really can't complain.



Tiramisu

The desserts proved to be anything but good. For an Italian eatery, the tiramisu was sadly pathetic. The sponge was a tad dry even at the base and the mascarpone cheese wasn't dense or moist enough. And where was the alcohol taste?



Creme Brulee

Only for those with a very sweet tooth best describes the creme brulee. It was mind blowingly sweet even for me and definitely not made from vanilla beans. The texture was uncomfortably smooth, soft and almost creamy, very much like paste. The caramel also looked like it hadn't been torched long enough.



Bill

A very filling meal for 2 cost us to the tune of $90 ($45 after 50% discount). Though we did manage to get 2 full courses (appetiser, main, dessert) for the price, I doubt I will be back in the absense of the discount simply because the quality of food doesn't quite live up to its pricing. Service was good but how hard is it to serve just 1 table?



Likes: Nice place
Dislikes: Food quality not up to par with price

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10 (without discount)

Overall:6.625/10

Address: #01-03, Singapore Flyer

Contact: 6338 8550

Opening Hours: Daily from 10.30am - 10.30pm