Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill

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Had been meaning to try out Hippopotamus for the longest time, after reading about and seeing an outlet in Paris a couple of years back. And so we dropped by for an early dinner on a Saturday evening. Apparently the eatery's selling point is its wide range of beef cuts at affordable prices. Honestly, I am not too hung up on the variety of cuts because I am not picky but I do like the sound of affordable. 

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Because the restaurant is located along a rather quiet stretch on the ground floor of Marina Square Shopping Mall,  it offers an "al fresco" dining area alongside the pedestrian walkway as well as seating in the inner chambers which offer more privacy. Exposed brick walls with red, square lights complete the cafe like setup.

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Complimentary Chips

This was served alongside a basket of dry, hard and mildly sourish bread (skip it!). No surprise the chips were the first to go - crisp and a great way to start off.

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US Pork Chops

A very flavourful and well grilled piece of pork that threatened to put alot of "western" restaurants to shame.A pity the meat was a little too dry and tough for my liking. Also, some of the accompanying fries came a little too charred as well.

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Tenderloin "Chateaubriand"

The crème de la crème of the cuts and the tenderest of them all, the Chateaubriand tenderloin (Chateaubriand is actually a recipe involving a particular thick cut of beef) was a little overcooked to medium well, contrary to my request for medium rare. Nonetheless, it was still tender with nuances of bovine flavour seeping through with every bite. I would have liked the flavours to be more pronounced though. Served alongside 2 sides of your choice.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Coming across as a little dense and dry and tasting overwhelmingly of chocolate with a nuance of hazelnut, the cake had tiny crumbs of hazelnut etched atop and sat in a shallow pool of vanilla cream. Brownies, anyone?

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With a 50% discount courtesy of my palate card, dinner was relatively inexpensive at about $34 for 2 pax. I know it's not a fair comparison but at this price point (50% off) and quality, it beats the likes of Astons or any other budget steak house hands down in my humble opinion. However, take the discount away and the value ratio decreases quite a bit. Service was decent but could be a little more attentive (my glass of water was never refilled). All in all, a place I would only return with the 50% off.

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 6.5/10
Service: 6/10
Food: 7/10
Value for money: 7.5/10 (with the 50%)
Overall: 6.75/10

Address: #01-204/205 Marina Square

Contact: 63385352

Opening Hours: 11am - 10.30pm daily


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Sleeping Rhino

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Was rather intrigued by the name, "The Sleeping Rhino", so decided to drop by one evening with the missus for dinner. It definitely helped that there was a 50% discount courtesy of my palate card.

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Interior & Menu

Located on the ground floor of Klapsons The Boutique Hotel at Tanjong Pagar, The Sleeping Rhino offers a view of the surrounding pedestrian walkway and vehicular roads through towering floor to ceiling windows. For a little more privacy, opt for the booth seats furthest away from the windows.

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Complimentary Bread

The complimentary bread roll came a little crusty and warm. Together with a small container of store bought butter, it made for a nice and simple way to start off.

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Pomodoro Penne with Cajun Smoked Chicken

Al dente penne tossed in a mildly tart pomodoro sauce and topped with chunks of savoury cajun chicken - simple yet satisfying. The only gripe I had was the lack of smokiness in the chicken.

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Wagyu Beef Burger

The beef patty was done up to medium well but seemed a little drier than expected. Flavours were decent and I liked the addition of the runny yolk sunny side up atop, which gave the burger an overall smooth and rich finish. Unfortunately the bun was crisp but dry and tasteless.

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Circular in shape, the tiramisu's portion was rather small with the sponge fingers a little too soaked in kahlua. The mascarpone cheese seemed a little diluted which definitely didn't help matters. All in all a very average rendition of this Italian classic dessert.

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Dinner for 2 pax came to almost $38 with a 50% discount ($75.33 without). Overall food quality hovered around the average mark and prices were honestly on the high side for the corresponding quality. Service was good though but that could be due to the fact that we were the only table that evening (although another couple did come in when we were just about to leave).

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 6/10 (6.5/10 for the Pomodoro Penne with Cajun Smoked Chicken)
Value for money: 6/10 (with the 50%)
Overall: 6.5/10

Address:Ground level, Klapsons The Boutique Hotel


Opening Hours: Mon - Sat: 07:30 - 22:00


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hai Di Lao Hotpot (海底捞火锅), Shanghai

It was cold and just the perfect weather for steamboat. But we didn't fancy waiting in line for hours just to have a go at one of China's most famous steamboat places, 海底捞火锅. So we did the next best thing - drop by at about 10pm on a Saturday night for dinner. And lo and behold, the queues were gone (although they did come back towards midnight when we were finishing up)!

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This particular outlet is quite big and can comfortably sit at least 80-100pax. Red velvet like chairs make for comfortable sitting and tall ceilings ensure that the conversational noise level doesn't shoot through the roof.

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There are a couple of soup bases to choose from (each bearing a different price tag of course) and as with most other reputable steamboat joints, you can choose to have 2 soup bases at one go.  Ingredients are fresh and the soup bases are pretty good (the tomato one was pretty interesting). Prices are reasonable (~ 57 SGD for 2 pax) but the real selling point of Hai Di Lao is their stellar service. The wait staff are extremely courteous and thoughtful, mixing up dipping sauces for your food, providing pieces of lens cloth for cleaning your spectacles, covering up your winter jackets with a suit cover and the list goes on. I kid you not, the service rivals that of any fine dining restaurant I've been to. And that, coupled with good food and reasonable prices, are more than enough to make me go back for more.

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 7.5/10
Value for money:7/10
Overall: 7.5/10

Address: 上海市静安区北京西路1068号

Contact: 02162589750、62589758

Opening Hours: 24 hours daily


Incidentally, I had a go at the newly opened Hai Di Lao @ Clarke Quay in Singapore right after my trip back from Shanghai. 

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As a whole, Singapore's sole outfit pales a little in comparison to that of Shanghai. Food quality is not as good and prices are a little higher. Service is equally good though but the waits can be very very long. Read. 2 to 3 hours. 

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Nanxiang Steamed Bun 南翔馒头店, Shanghai

Was in Shanghai again after a 2 weeks break back in Singapore. And seeing that in all my trips to Shanghai, I never once patronised the all famous Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (南翔馒头店), I decided to drop by the outlet closest to my hotel @ Nanjing East Road (南京路步行街).

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The Place

This particular outlet is located on the top floor of the Food Hall building (there is an outlet of 小杨生煎 there as well). Seating is rather limited and if you go during the peak hours, tourists abound and there is no proper queue system for you to order your food.

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Prawn Wanton Soup (10 CNY)

Things were off to a good start with the light, piping hot broth and thin, flimsy wanton skins enveloping the fresh prawns. And at about 2 SGD for a generous bowl, it's great value. 

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Steamed Meat Dumplings (20 CNY)

The signature steamed meat dumplings (小笼包 or 汤包) was a terrible letdown. Dry and relatively thick skin wrapped around a lump of meat and hot broth. Disappointing. Miles apart from that of 佳家汤包, which also happens to be much cheaper.

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Yangzhou Fried Rice (28 CNY)

This was pretty decent with a little wok hei and cubes of ham in lieu of BBQ pork. Only downside was that it had a little too much oil for my liking.

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By Singapore standards, 54 CNY (~ 11 SGD) for such a meal falls under the value for money category. However by Shanghai standards, this is on the higher side with average food (except for the wanton soup!) to boot. In conclusion, contrary to what the guide books recommend, beware the tourist trap!

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 5/10
Service: NA
Food: 6/10 (7/10 for the wanton soup)
Value for money: 6/10
Overall: 5.67/10

Address: Various outlets across Shanghai