Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ba Xian, Tower Club

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It was the F1 weekend again and we didn't fancy going into town for our dim sum fix. And so we decided on Ba Xian, the flagship Chinese restaurant at Tower Club. It helped that they were offering a 50% discount on dim sum for weekends only.

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The Interior & Menu

The lifts take you up to the entrance of Tower Club on the 62nd floor. From there, you take an internal lift from the club's lobby to the 63rd floor where Ba Xian is located. The furnishing is plush with full length windows that look out into the South China Sea. There are capsule like seats for 2 that offer a somewhat quirky dining experience. 

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Crispy Cuttlefish

Nicely seasoned but the flour coating was a tad too thick for my liking and so was the oil content.  Makes you sick after a while.

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Pork Belly Char Siew

The BBQ pork belly had a  proportionate fat to meat ratio which made for great texture. However, the meat was rather bland and lacked any sweetness that I would usually associate with char siew.

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Roasted Pork Belly

Although I love my sio bak, this was honestly a little hard to stomach and both of us were struggling to finish all 12 cubes of it. Sure, the skin was crispy but it was a tad too thick and dry for my liking. Also, as with the char siew, the meat was almost tasteless. A little more salt perhaps?

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Pork & Century Egg Congee

Apart from the sticky texture of porridge that I personally like, this dish was average tasting with quantity of ingredients bordering on miserly.

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Prawn with Crab Meat

Generous serving of prawns and crab meat stuffed within the crispy deep fried shell but strangely enough, there was a rather strong ginger aftertaste which I didn't like. Thank god for mayonnaise.

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Sweet Corn Cake

This was the first time seeing sweet corn cake on a dim sum menu so thought it would be interesting to give it a go. Alas, it tasted like normal carrot cake with sweet corn and tiny bits of Chinese sausage embedded within. Texture wasn't exactly smooth but overall still palatable.

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Chee Cheong Fun

The chee cheong fun came in 3 varieties of filling - char siew, scallop and prawn. For starters, the cheong fun was a little too thick but I was impressed by the generous amounts of scallop and char siew within. This was one of the rare occasions where I could actually make out the texture and taste of the scallop wrapped within. That said, the prawn filling was rather underwhelming though.

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Siew Mai

Served with a slice of topshell, the siew mai was decent without coming across as too oily.

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Har Gao

Instead of the de facto prawn taste that I was expecting, the har gao tasted overwhelming of vegetables instead. And the thicker than expected skin didn't help matters.

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Mini Egg Tartlets

After the repertoire of dismal dim sum items, we almost gave up but decided to give the egg tarts a shot. It was decent without the custard being cloyingly sweet whilst the pastry had a nice flaky texture but lacked the oven baked taste that I personally like.

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Bill

Even with 7 items at 50% off, the two of us still managed to chalk up a bill of $94, which is terribly expensive for the quality of food. Service and ambience is great but that hardly justifies the ridiculous price tag. So much for the positive online reviews.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 5.5/10
Value for money: 5.5/10 (dim sum only and with 50% off certain items)

Overall: 6.75/10

Address: Level 63, Tower Club

Contact: 67373388

Opening Hours: Daily: 12:00 - 14:30, 19:00 - 22:00

Website: http://www.tower-club.com.sg/ba_xian.php

On a side note, at least we had some decent desserts at All Things Nice @ Suntec. Pretty expensive for common place desserts though!  

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Signature Chendol & Sweet Potato Balls with Mixed Beans


This will be my last post for the year so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ding Wang (鼎王麻辣鍋), Taipei

It was a hot summer evening but we were adamant about eating steamboat, taking a 2km trudge from our hotel in the heat to 鼎王, a famous hotpot place in Taiwan.

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The Place

There are currently 9 鼎王 outlets in Taiwan, with 4 outlets concentrated in Taipei alone. Advance reservations are highly recommended as the outlets are really popular with the locals and if you don't fancy a one to two hour wait for a table. Do note that reservations are held strictly for only 15 minutes and if you are late, you join the queue at the door.

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The Food & Bill

There are 2 choices of soup - Pickled Chinese Cabbage Soup (酸菜汤) and Mala Soup (麻辣汤). You can choose to have 2 soup bases if you wish but for the Mala soup, there is an additional top up required. It was summer so we skipped the Mala in favour of the picked cabbage soup base. And boy was it good! The soup was lightly sourish and salty with loads of cabbage and pork simmering within. The ingredients we ordered were pretty good in general as well. And the best part? An absolutely satisfying, tummy bursting meal cost the 4 of us to the tune of NTD 2166 (~ SGD 92) which is cheap by many standards. In my books, this now ranks as the top steamboat place, followed by Hai Di Lao in Shanghai with Hai Di Lao Singapore wrapping up the top 3.


Final Verdict:
Ambience: 7/10
Service:8/10
Food: 8/10
Value for money:8/10
Overall: 7.75/10

Address: 台北市中山區長安東路二段131-1、131-2號

Contact: 02-2507-8018

Opening Hours: Mon to Sun - 11am to 4am

Website: http://www.tripodking.com.tw/

Monday, December 02, 2013

HY California

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Dropped by HY California @ Marina Bay Sands for lunch one weekday afternoon. This visit was prompted in part due to my previous visit to Hide Yamamoto and my curiosity was piqued when I learnt of the existence of a cheaper alternative - HY California.

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Interior

HY California offers indoor seating with a couple of counter seats and tables as well as al fresco dining along the pathway. Full length panels offer patrons who decide to sit indoors, a view of the pathway outside and plenty of natural light if you happen to dine during the day - a win win situation.

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Chicken Bento Set

There are various bento sets available for lunch but the sirloin beef bento set that I was aiming for had only 1 portion left so I went gave it up to my colleague and went for the chicken option instead. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing with small plates of sushi, sashimi, chicken, salad and tempura neatly placed within compartments in a wooden tray. Taste wise, everything came across as average and wouldn't seem out of place at "lower end" eateries like Sakae Sushi or Ichiban Sushi.

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Bill

Lunch for the 4 of us cost about $96, which isn't really expensive but the general consensus is that food quality hovers around the average mark at best. I can understand that HY California is a casual eatery but the service level, food quality and pricing somehow fails to convince me why I should choose it over the likes of Sushi Tei or Ichiban Sushi/Boshi.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10
Service: 6.5/10
Food: 5.5/10
Value for money: 6/10 (set lunch pricing only. Dinner pricing is a different story altogether)

Overall: 6.25/10

Address:#01-86 Marina Bay Sands

Contact: 6688 7426

Opening Hours:

Monday-Thursday: 12:00pm - 11:00pm

Friday & Eve of Public Holiday:
12:00pm - 1:00am

Saturday: 11:00am - 1:00am

Sunday: 11:00am - 11:00pm

Website: http://www.hideyamamoto.com/california.html

Monday, November 25, 2013

Salt Grill & Sky Bar

Restaurant week was upon us again and we finally had the opportunity to try out Salt Grill & Sky Bar for lunch during the weekend. Having stayed at Hilton Sydney and dined at Luke Mangan's Glass Brasserie slightly over a year back, we were excited as to how his restaurant would fare in Singapore.

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The Place & Restaurant Week Menu

Perched on the 55th floor of the iconic Ion shopping mall along Orchard Road, Salt offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area through floor to ceiling windows that culminate in an arced top that allows natural sunlight to flow in, which makes the place a lot cheerier. I personally like the expanse of space that the restaurant offers, just perfect for that lazy weekend brunch.

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Complimentary Bread

The complimentary raisin bread wasn't anything to shout about but it was decent - warm and crusty with a lingering aroma.

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Truffle Fries

This was an additional side and boy oh boy, was it sinfully delicious. Hot crispy fries topped with a generous serving of grated Parmesan cheese and doused with truffle oil. What's not to like?

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Crab Omelette, Enoki Mushroom and Herb Salad, Miso Mustard Broth

The omelette was stuffed with shreds of crab meat and topped with enoki, fried shallots and parsley whilst sitting prettily in a pool of miso mustard broth. What was nice about this dish was the oriental feel from the shallots and parsley coupled with the salty tinge from the miso broth and of course the creaminess of the omelette.

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Pan Fried Gnocchi, Corn, Asparagus, Zucchini, Parmesan, Thyme, Truffle, Verjuice Dressing

This is honestly the first time I'm trying out a seemingly vegetarian gnocchi dish and it was surprisingly tasty. The corn provided a natural sweetness whilst the shaved Parmesan topped it off with a nice cheesy aftertaste and fragrance. Overall a rather light dish and only gripe I had was that the gnocchi did come across as a tad too soft for my liking.
 
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Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin, Mash, Pumpkin, Grains and Seeds, Red Wine Jus

Contrary to what I had requested for, the beef came almost well done instead of medium well. However the meat was still relatively juicy and tender but lacked the beefy goodness that I personally like. Grains and seeds added a nice crunchy texture to the dish with the pumpkin puree providing a touch of sweetness.

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Warm Hazelnut Cake, Hazelnut Biscotti, Praline Ice Cream

And finally, the finale - an excellent warm hazelnut cake that looked uncannily like Bengawan Solo's banana cake, just alot crustier and drier with hints of hazelnut. When paired with the toffee sauce, biscuit crumbs and of course a scoop of ice cream, it was comfortingly good and ended the meal on a relatively positive note. 

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Bill

It being Restaurant Week, prices are $40++/pax for lunch with the truffle fries contributing $13++ to the bill for a total of almost $110 for 2 pax. Pretty reasonable in my humble opinion but at this price point, I still prefer Ember's food. However Salt has the distinct advantage of ambience and a great view to boot. I will probably return for lunch in the not so near future.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7/10
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Address: #55-01 & #56-01, ION Orchard

Contact: 6592 5118

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 11.00 – 14.00 (Last Order)
Dinner: 18.00 – 22.00 (Last Order)

Brunch (Weekend)
11:30-14:00 (Last order)

All day menu: 14:00-18:00

Website: http://www.saltgrill.com/