Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Smuggled Seeds Espresso, Perth WA

Was in Perth for the weekend to catch up with a good friend as well as escape the Singapore heat and humidity in favour of Perth's cold and dry climate, if only for a mere 3 days. And we dropped by Smuggled Seeds Espresso, a coffee specialty joint in Leederville (where Sayers is located), on a beautifully sunny but chilly Saturday morning.

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The Menu

Located along Oxford Street, Smuggled Seeds is a tiny hole in the wall and can only fit up to about 10 pax or so. We were a group of 5 so thankfully there was the sole sofa seat and 2 cushioned stools to comfortably accommodate us.

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Twice Roasted 'Char Siu' Pork Belly (AUD 16)

This dish came highly recommended and though I was initially doubtful about serving up char siu and poached eggs on a bun and calling it brunch, skepticism soon turned into appreciation. You get two slices of wonderfully crisp but a tad over toasted ciabatta; One topped with the glistening, moistly tender and mildly sweet pork belly with a great fat to meat ratio to boot. And the other, topped with two quivery, beautifully slow poached eggs that achieved that perfect runniness. Just wow!

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Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake (AUD 5)

I ordered the chocolate & peanut butter cake off the cake stand and it honestly wasn't much to shout about. The cake was a tad dry and it tasted a little like my favourite Reese peanut butter snack sans the intensity of flavours. I'll give it points for being made in house though, as evident by the rough finishing around the edges of the cake. 

Although Smuggled Seeds specialises in coffee (and no I didn't try any coffee because it's not my cup of tea, literally), I must say that they do very respectable mains at relatively reasonable prices. Throw in friendly service and I'll definitely be dropping by again on my next visit to Perth.

Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10 (small but relatively cosy)
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7/10 (8/10 for the char siu pork belly)
Value for money: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.25/10

Address: Shop 2/226, Oxford Street, Leederville, Perth, Western Australia

Contact: +61 8 9444 5510

Opening Hours:

Tue - Fri: 7:00 am - 2:30 pm
Sat - Sun: 8:00 am - 1:00 pm


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tóng Lè Private Dining

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It all started with a glossy, eye catching brochure that promoted a limited time, upgraded set menu for AMEX Platinum Charge Card members (pay $120 for the $180 set). And being the ever gian png (greedy) Singaporean, I immediately called Tóng Lè to make a dinner appointment.

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The Place & Our Set Menu

Perched on levels 8 and 10 of OUE Tower, just adjacent to the majestic Fullerton Bay Hotel (where Clifford is located), Tóng Lè offers a panoramic view of its surroundings via a revolving base (think Prima Restaurant and the now defunct Top of the M). 1 full revolution takes about 2 hours and unfortunately, the revolving mechanism wasn't working too smoothly during our visit and knocking sounds could be heard periodically. 

Our host graciously arranged a private dining room for us on level 10, offering a nice walled up area to take in the view at our leisure. Only minor issue I had was that the rooms were separated only by partitions, which made noise level a concern. I could make out what my neighbours were talking about but admittedly, you'd have to raise your voice a fair bit for you to be overheard. Didn't seem to faze either of my neighbours though.

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I don't remember the name of this cocktail but it was pretty refreshing with the watermelon, mint and some other stuff. 

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Chilled Australian Lobster Topped with Kaluga Queen Caviar

I'm honestly no caviar connoisseur but Kaluga Queen's farmed in China caviar did hit the right notes for me. Tiny, firm pearls that popped gently when consumed, releasing a salty and pleasantly fishy flavour; Eaten with a mother of pearl spoon, no less. Beneath the caviar sat a layer of chilled, crunchy and sweet lobster and a floor of sweet mango cubes and diced chilli. When eaten together, the sweetness of the mango provided a balance to the saltiness of the caviar whilst the diced chilli added a mild heat. Excellent start!

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Doubled Boiled Superlative Shark's Fin with Bamboo Fungus in Shark Cartilage Broth

I wonder about the use of words like "superlative" in menus but nonetheless, the shark cartilage soup was flavourful yet light without leaving a layer of sediment on the tongue. Coupled with generous portions of delicate shark's fin and bamboo fungus, it made for a pretty good soup.

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Braised Cave Bird's Nest with Crab Meat and Winter Melon Puree in Saffron Broth

The wife had this and it was rather interesting as I usually associate bird's nest with the sweet variation, never the savoury. Relatively generous strands of bird's nest floating atop a thick, mildly sweet saffron broth with hints of winter melon and bountiful shreds of crab meat. Savoury yet sweet.

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Steamed Wild Ocean Fish with Ginger and Tangerine Peel

Portions were really small for this but the fish was very fresh and came served on a piece of beancurd skin in a pool of soya sauce. Simple and nothing too fancy.

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Chef's Homemade Sorbet

An interlude with a roselle sorbet taking center stage. Sweet yet mildly sourish and topped with pop rocks for that burst of sensation. 

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Braised Live South African Abalone & 48 Hrs Braised 'Dong Po' Pork with Vintage 'HuaDiao' Wine

The abalone was quite a size (I reckon at least a 3 or 4 head); Firm and crunchy, drizzled in a mildly savoury sauce and sitting prettily on a bed of vegetables. The accompanying block of dong po pork was beautifully braised with a thick, moist chunk of meat capped by a firm layer of fat; Mildly sweet with a hint of 花雕酒. Excellent!

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Hokkaido Scallops with Organic Millet

The wife doesn't take beef so she got the Hokkaido scallops in lieu of the wagyu. And it was a seriously bad choice. The scallops were huge but tasted like they were coated in flour and pan fried, which gave it that icky elastic surface and took away the natural sweetness of the sallop. The organic millet and rice crisp was decent though; crisp with a hint of capsicum. Could do with a little less salt though. 

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Claypot Emperor Rice with Pan Seared Kagoshima Wagyu, Foie Gras and Poached Quail Egg

I had the wagyu and it came in the form of a patty (sadly). Crisp on the outside, the patty was overcooked but a little too soft on the inside. And the overcooking extended to the foie gras as well. Disappointing to say the least.

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Hazelnut Chocolate Bar Topped with Yam Paste & Gingko Nuts

And finally, desserts. Aesthetically impressive but lacked the flavours to end the meal off on a positive note. The chocolate bar sported bits of hazelnut entrenched within its smooth and creamy texture that had a mild bitterness to it whilst the the yam swirls were more for show than anything. Special mention goes to the gingko nuts, which seemed to have been deep fried, giving it a fleeting crisp, shrivelled exterior. All form, no substance.

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With a singular mocktail and an upgrade discount, the total bill for 2 pax came just shy of $300. Definitely not mind-blowingly expensive but while the quality of ingredients is undeniable, the execution for a couple of the dishes leave much to be desired. Service, however, was excellent and I'll definitely be happy to return if something is done about the quality of execution.

Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 6.5/10
Value for money: 6/10 (without the discount)
Overall: 7.25/10

Address: Level 8 & 10 OUE Tower, 60 Collar Quay

Contact: 6634 3233

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm

Dinner: 6.00pm – 11.00pm

Closed on Sundays


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Prego, Bali

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The wife and I did a getaway to Bali for a couple of days and decided to park ourselves mainly at our excellent hotel, Westin Nusa Dua (very good treatment of SPG Platinums by the way), for some relaxation time, spa and chow. One of the restaurants we frequented was Prego, the resident Westin Italian eatery, which incidentally, shares the same name as the Italian restaurant in Fairmont Singapore (is Prego really such a common name?).

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The Interior & Al Fresco Sitting Area

Helmed by new Italian chef de cuisine Alessandro Molini (he came on the job the day before we dined), Prego sports a spacious interior in soothing tones with a rather laid back vibe. Tables are spaced relatively far apart from one another, allowing for more personal space. 

However, the beauty of the place lies in its limited al fresco sitting area in my humble opinion. The individual platforms extend out into a small pool (lights in the pool turn on at dusk make for a more romantic experience) and face a beautifully manicured lawn. There, all is calm save for the occasional invisible buggy driving past behind the wall of vegetation. Although we dined at the peak of noon, the area was surprisingly cool, probably due to its location in the shade of the building as well as a constant sea breeze.

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Complimentary Bread

Crusty on the outside, softly chewy on the inside and served up piping hot. The tomato salsa dip provided a nicely mild tartness. Pretty good start.

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Watermelon Juice

Here's a random shot of my drink just because I am a sucker for watermelon juice.

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Looking absolutely delicious with a crispy batter and minimal oil, the calamari was quite a let down honestly. The batter was too thick, so much so that I couldn't make out the chewiness of the squid. But on the upside, at least it tasted fresh and devoid of the rancid oil taste that usually plagues calamari dishes. Served with a less than spicy, "spicy" tartar dip.

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Although the presentation looked a little haphazard, the penne was done al dente and mixed in with a not too rich cream sauce and generous bacon bits. Decent.

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Roast Chicken with Black Truffle

Mildly crisp skin coupled with moist, juicy meat and a lingering taste of truffle (from the shaved of black truffle atop); Decadent but no great shakes. Still a decent eat nonetheless.

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A Group Shot Of Our Food

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A quintessential Italian dessert, the tiramisu was about 20% sponge and 80% mascarpone. The mascarpone cheese was creamy yet light whilst the sponge wasn't overly soaked in Kahlua. Overall a pretty nice and smooth ending to our meal.

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After a 15% SPG discount, the bill came up to IDR 565,250 (~ SGD 60), which honestly was a great price for the quantity and decent quality of food in a 5 star hotel (the same amount of food in Prego Singapore would cost at least double that). Service was nothing short of excellent as well. Throw in a great ambience and the both of us left the lunch happy and satisfied.

Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7.5/10 (if you sit outdoors)
Service: 8/10
Food: 6.5/10
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 7.25/10

Address: The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali

Contact: +62 361 771580

Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Lee Kui (Ah Hoi) Restaurant Part II

Dropped by Lee Kui for lunch with the family for some Teochew grub to celebrate Mother's day. My last visit a few years back was pretty decent, albeit expensive so the restaurant never really featured in my return list. But as fate would have it, there we were, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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Nothing seems to have changed in the few years, with the decor still retaining its 70s/80s nostalgia. Let's not forget the steel frame chairs with the red cushions.

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Pork Leg Aspic

The 猪腿冻 was served chilled amidst a plate of ice, coming across as nicely gelatin and mildly salty. Only small issue was that the pork was a tad too cooked.

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Sliced Pork Feet

I'm honestly not a big fan of pork feet (分蹄) because of the wine they use but the meat was really lean though.

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Prawn Roll

The prawn roll aka heh zhor was pure prawn with no meat or liver mixed in, boasting a crisp exterior with a nice shellfish taste and mildly chewy texture. Nice!

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Oyster Omelette

The omelette had minimal flour with a relatively generous serving of plump oysters. Only gripe I had was that the dish was a tad too oily for my liking.

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Deep Fried Chitterlings

Deep fried till a charring crisp on the outside, the pig intestines were chewy (due to the fats)  on the inside and rather bland as a whole. Could really do with more salt. 

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Braised Duck Slices

A quintessential Teochew dish, the braised duck slices were a tad dry although the gravy sported a rich yet mildly salty/sweet flavour. Served on a bed of sliced beancurd which went great with rice.

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Stir Fried Kailan with Garlic

I love the colour of the kailan; vibrant and fresh looking with a nice wok hei. However it did come across as a tad too oily whilst the dried sole fish (tipo) was a tad too soft for my liking. 

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Teochew Yam Paste

Another quintessential Teochew dish, this orh nee was one of the better ones I've tried; Fragrant with a natural smoothness and topped with a chunk of pumpkin and some gingko nuts. Nice!

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The 5 of us chalked up a bill of about $187, which is comparatively expensive for the decent quality of food. I'll probably stick to eating at Chin Lee in future. On a more positive note, Lee Kui finally accepts credit cards so no more having to struggle with wads of cash for big dinners.

Final Verdict:

Food:6.5/10 (7.5/10 for the orh nee)
Value for money:6/10


Address: 8/9/10 Mosque Street

Contact: 6222 3654

Opening Hours: Daily: 11am–2.30pm, 5pm–10pm