Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Old Mountaineers Cafe, Bar & Restaurant, Mount Cook New Zealand - Decent Food With Awesome Views

 photo L1000832_zpsc8b63ykm.jpg

We were staying at the Hermitage Hotel on Mount Cook enroute from Christchurch to Queenstown and had lunch closeby (very limited dining options available in the entire area honestly). 

 photo L1000821_zpsicgn1cwk.jpg
 photo L1000822_zps0mecktfd.jpg

The Place

High ceilings, lots of timber and a stunning view of the snowy mountains made for a great place to relax and while the time away. 

 photo L1000825_zpshcad2c1f.jpg

Mountaineer's Soup Of The Day - Tomato Coconut Soup (NZD 13.50)

Although the wife found this decent, I found it a little more difficult to stomach because of the tomato and coconut milk (I believe) combination; tart yet sweet at the same time with a rather significant coconutty taste. But hey it was quite a size and definitely soothing on a cold wintery afternoon.

 photo L1000823_zpsfgpefgqt.jpg

The Old Mountaineers' Hamburger with Chips (NZD 24)

I just couldn't pass up on eating burgers so I had the namesake burger. Though it wasn't anything fantastic with the patty a tad on the dry side, it was very decent and definitely something I would order again on a return trip.

 photo L1000826_zpsdr9wc8vj.jpg

Bill

A soup and a burger came up to NZD 37.50 (~ SGD 37 at time of visit) which is relatively reasonable for the area and quality of food. However the main selling point is definitely the view and the laid back amostphere.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: NA (order and pay at the counter)
Food: 6/10
Value for money: 6.5/10

Overall: 7/10

Address: Aoraki Mount Cook Village, Mount Cook 32

Contact: +64 3-435 1890

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm daily Nov-Apr, Tue-Sun May & Jul-Oct

Website: http://www.mtcook.com/restaurant

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine - An Upgrade In Status, A Downgrade In Food Quality

It's been a while since our last visit to Imperial Treasure Teochew and since then, so much has changed. For starters, they relocated from Ngee Ann City to Ion Orchard and included the word "Fine" in their name. Oh and they recently garnered a Michelin star. Exciting times. 

 photo L1000742_zpsg1p2olcw.jpg

Interior

The place is certainly more upclass now and gone are the days of the rather cramp-ish interior with haphazard seating arrangements. Instead tall glass ceilings allow for tons of natural light and coupled with lots of wood, make for a more relaxing and refined dining environment. Do note that if you sit by the windows during the day, be prepared to soak in some heat; a little hot but still bearable.

 photo L1000745_zpsthjxjmpo.jpg

Double Boiled Fish Maw Soup with Shark Cartilage 

This came across as a little starchy and rather sweet. Not quite a fan honestly and rather pricey at $30++ for such a small bowl. The Cantonese restaurants definitely do this better.

 photo L1000746_zpsm5wvdxsq.jpg

Doubled Boiled Pig's Stomach Soup with Salted Vegetables & Peppercorns

The soup was a tad too salty from the salted vegetables but I liked the peppery goodness of the peppercorns. Decent soup overall but I can get a better (and cheaper) rendition from one of the Teochew braised duck stalls that I usually patronise. 

 photo L1000751_zpsax33gfxi.jpg

Chee Cheong Fun

Just for the kick of having some dim sum - a rather average rendition with the skin less than silky and a lacklustre char siew filling. 

 photo L1000749_zpswvq95lhc.jpg

Three Kinds of Marinated Combination in Teochew Style

One of the hallmarks of Teochew cuisine, braised meat. We went with duck, pork belly and intestines and it was seriously underwhelming. The duck was thinly sliced and didn't come across as too tough but the gravy was a tad too sweet for my liking. Though the pig intestines were well cleaned, they lacked the crunchiness that I liked and came across as limp. Not to mention the pork belly with its >50% fat to meat ratio that honestly didn't go well with the sauce. The sole saving grace? Silky smooth beancurd slices hidden beneath. Apparently this is the Hong Kong style Teochew braise with its lighter flavours but I've had much better Teochew braise in Hong Kong. ie. Chan Kan Kee or Hung's Delicacies (which I make a point to patronise whenever I depart/transit HKIA).

 photo L1000753_zpsuhi29sqe.jpg

Deep Fried Cod Fillet with Sauce

I had meant to order the pan fried version but made a mistake. Thankfully it turned out pretty good; crisp on the outside with sweet, flaky flesh on the inside. Ladled with mildly savoury sauce with lots of spring onions. Delicious.

 photo L1000755_zpsnlpgtxuc.jpg

Sauteed Prawn with Egg White in Italian White Truffle Oil

I usually prefer the scallop version but apparently prawns have substituted scallops for good (still can't quite accept that fact). The singular prawn was quite sizable and crunchy and of course the white truffle oil gave the whole dish a rather heady (and amazing) aroma.

 photo L1000756_zps9dp6puhw.jpg

Braised Spinach Beancurd with Assorted Mushrooms

Now I've rather biased towards beancurd and it was quite delicious - crisp on the outside while soft and eggy on the inside. Topped with lots of mushrooms and sitting on a bed of spinach. Definitely my kind of dish.

 photo L1000761_zps1ijzsd9m.jpg

Sauteed String Bean & Minced Meat with Preserved Black Olives

The string bean came across as a little too oily but at least it retained its crunchiness without coming across as overly raw. Average dish at best.

 photo L1000758_zps3ignfll0.jpg

Teochew Fried Fish Noodles

Stir fried with beansprouts, chives and egg, the fish noodles had a nice springy texture to it but was way too oily for my liking. It was also a tad lacking in wok hei.

 photo L1000764_zpsbkrtzhye.jpg

Sweetened Mashed Taro with Ginkgo

And finally, another ubiquitous Teochew dish, the humble but extremely time consuming to make Orh Nee. It looked dry and unappetising on the outside but was actually smooth, fragrant and moist without being too sweet. A great ending to our otherwise underwhelming meal.

 photo L1000766_zpsnr8togdr.jpg

Bill

With a $100 discount, lunch for the 4 of us came to about $232 (~$339 without discount), which isn't quite worth the money in my humble opinion. Food overall was acceptable but some dishes came across as too oily. Service was good but seemed to be shorthanded at times, especially when the restaurant was at full capacity. 

To be honest, even though I'm quite a fan of the Imperial Treasure group (note the number of times I've been to the Cantonese outlet at Crowne Plaza), I fail to understand how this particular outlet is able to achieve 1 Michelin Star.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7.5/10
Service: 7/10 (would have given 7.5 if not for the fact that they seemed shorthanded at times)
Food: 6.5/10 (7.5/10 for the orh nee, beancurd and cod fillet)
Value for money: 6/10

Overall: 6.75/10

Address: ION Orchard, #03-05

Contact: 6736 2118

Opening Hours:


Monday to Friday

Lunch: 11.30am to 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 11.00pm

Saturday

Lunch: 11.00am to 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 11.00pm

Sunday & PH

Lunch: 10.30am to 3.00pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 11.00pm

Website: http://www.imperialtreasure.com/restaurant/Imperial%20Treasure%20Fine%20Teochew%20Cuisine-4

Sunday, October 22, 2017

CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Singapore - Didn't Quite Live Up To The Hype

 photo L1000733_zpsgdfsmldy.jpg

CUT Marina Bay Sands recently earned a star in the 2017 Michelin Singapore edition and we had elevated expectations of a great steak dinner (hopfully even surpassing that of Morton's in Singapore).

 photo L1000734_zps2uta5wg8.jpg
 photo L1000705_zpsx23jsewe.jpg

The Place

We were seated in a semi private enclave with just a single table at one corner of the dining room. I honestly don't know what to make of the decor except that it struck me as rather clinical, unlike that of Peter Luger Steak House in New York, which had a cosy and inviting feel to it.

 photo L1000706_zpsr11dzrec.jpg
 photo L1000708_zpsjc2gaqc9.jpg
 photo L1000710_zpsomeapphj.jpg

Complimentary Bread

There were 3 rounds of complimentary bread; bread sticks, cheese puffs and an assortment of bread from a mobile tray. The sticks were nice - crisp with a strong cheese taste (tasted like goat cheese) while the puffs came across as light, fluffy and mildy cheesey. From the tray I had the pretzel (love the texture - soft, dense yet chewy but extremely salty!) and the onion bread (moist but a touch oily). So much bread to fill you up!

 photo L1000715_zpszouinu1o.jpg

Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Fuji Apple-Yali Pear Salad, Sesame-Orange Dressing

This looked absolutely delicious with a sumptous fat to meat ratio of ~50%. Coupled with a rich layer of sweet maple glaze, it was a sure fire recipe for nausea. Thank god for the sliced apple and pear salad, though sweet, provided a nice refreshing crunch and much needed moisture. I personally think a tarter apple, ie. Granny Smith's, would work better though. 

 photo L1000717_zpsimwef1wp.jpg

Alaskan King Crab & Shrimp "Louis" Cocktail, Spicy Tomato-Horseradish

This was a half sized portion because the chef split the original portion into 2 for sharing. Although I liked the crustecean combination of king crab and prawn together (with a medley of vegetables thrown in), it wasn't spectacular. I've definitely had better.

 photo L1000719_zpsomxmehaq.jpg

Double Thick Iberico Pork Chop, Rhubarb "Moustarda"

I liked how the surface of the pork chop was crisp (a wee bit to burnt though) while the meat (and fat) retained its tenderness and flavour. The meat was also well seasoned with a faint tartness (probably from the rhubarb). Decent but not as good as Gunther's rendition.

 photo L1000721_zpsvufscmew.jpg

Hokkaido "Snow", Tomakomai, Filet Mignon

I had high hopes for this small piece (120g) of premium Japanese steak (heck you would too if it cost $245++) but unfortunately it was disappointing to say the least. Although the marbling was very good, the meat was a little too soft for my liking at medium doneness and it lacked the beefiness that I personally like.

 photo L1000726_zpsraequatu.jpg

Cavatappi Pasta "Mac & Cheese", White Cheddar

It was our first experience with cavatappi (helical tube/cockscrew shaped pasta) but it wasn't a good one. The dish came across as very oily with a mild white cheddar cheese taste. We gave up after a couple of mouthfuls. Bird Bird definitely does a much better rendition.

 photo L1000729_zpsoykew8lz.jpg

Kaya Baked Alaska

Ironically, the Kaya Baked Alaska was the star of the evening. Reminiscent of a durian shell with its spiky edges, this dessert was essentially coconut cake with pandan ice cream and coconut sorbet encapsulated within a meringue on a crumble base and quickly torched. Deliciously sweet and I love how all the flavours come together to remind me of Kaya. Served with a "side" of coffee crumble.

 photo L1000730_zpspwql67d1.jpg

Petit Fours

And petit fours to end off our meal. No great shakes.

 photo L1000735_zpscfubzfz2.jpg

Bill

The both of us spent ~$508 for a rather dissatisfying dinner. Service was good but food in general wasn't great and I fail to see how or why CUT was awarded a Michelin star. At this price point, I am way more inclined to stuff myself silly at Gunther's.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6.5/10 (can get a little noisy and dark)
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6/10 (7.5/10 for the Kaya Baked Alaska)
Value for money: 4/10

Overall: 6/10

Address: B1-71, Galleria Level, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Contact: 6688 8517

Opening Hours:

Sun - Thurs: 5:30pm - 10:00pm

Fri & Sat: 5:30pm - 11:00pm

Website: http://www.marinabaysands.com/restaurants/celebrity-chefs/cut.html

Monday, October 09, 2017

Bird Bird - More Than Just Fried Chicken

Bird Bird moved to the east a couple of months back and I chanced upon it while dropping by Cedele (a few doors down) one afternoon a few months back. I was hooked and made it a point to visit shortly after. Just for the record, I have been there quite a few times for lunch/brunch ever since.

 photo L1000768_zpsnespwviq.jpg

The Place

Bird Bird occupies a corner unit along Frankel Avenue and parking is limited to the private estate behind (however you are free to park anywhere you like as long as you are able to evade the rather frequent patrols by the traffic wardens). The interior is kept simple with cement screed floors and wooden tables.

 photo L1000671_zpsdqv6rxln.jpg

Cornbread Waffles

At $3 a piece, the cornbread waffles were relatively pricey. But by golly, they were worth it. Mildly sweet with a rather significant corn taste and served with smoked maple syrup. Definitely my kind of carbs. Just watch out - they get cold and limp rather fast so eat them while they are hot/warm.

 photo L1000774_zpsq7zbclny.jpg

Black Truffle Mac & Cheese

This was delicious; Al dente macaroni coupled with a light fragrance from the black truffle bits and a not too creamily rich sauce nursing a tinge of zest to keep nausea at bay. Topped with shavings of cheese and croutons for an extra crisp.

 photo L1000665_zpspumiqxak.jpg

Brown Sugar Bacon Chop

I loved this as well. The thick cut bacon chop was seared and coated with a thin, brittle layer of caramalised sugar; sweet with salty undertones. A little different from the renditions of both Peter Luger and Clinton Street Baking, which do without the evident layer of sugar but equally delicious.

 photo L1000674_zps3c7o11cp.jpg

Signature Fried Chicken

Our order of half chicken consisted of 5 pcs from wing to breast. It looked absolutely mouth watering but unfortunately I found the seasoning a little underwhelming and not thorough enough. The meat was tender, juicy and moist but the skin was a little bland and lacked the oomph I was hoping for (in this respect, Southern Bird @ Marina Bay Sands does a better job). The signature gravy tasted like runny mashed potato gravy. Maybe the other chickens taste better?

 photo L1000677_zpslzrscf8z.jpg

Durian Softie Pie

An absolute crowd pleaser, the toasted milk softie had a light browned taste to it without coming across as too sweet. Topped with a generous scoop of durian pudding, white chocolate, sitting on an almond crust base and drizzled with gula melaka caramel for an added sweetness. Delicious and definitely a great way to end off the meal. 

 photo L1000680_zpsbkrhhzqf.jpg

Bill

Brunch cost the 2 of us ~ $81, which isn't exactly cheap but I think it's worth the price for the above average quality of food in general. Service is decent but just be aware that the ventilation isn't great so you will walk out of the place smelling like your meal. Weekday lunch sets offer a much better value proposition so it would make better sense to go during lunch (you can even top up $5++ for a durian softie!)

 photo L1000776_zpsgu2ozc6v.jpg

Truffled Housemade Curly Fries

ps: The truffled housemade curly fries are really addictive; thin and crispy without all the oil (definitely a misperception).


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 6.5/10 (can get a little noisy and ventilation isn't great)
Service: 7/10
Food: 7.5/10 (8/10 for the durian softie)
Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

Address: 97 Frankel Avenue

Contact: 6694 8270

Opening Hours:

Tuesdays - Sundays
11.00am - 11.00pm | Last orders at 9.45pm
Closed Mondays

Website: https://www.facebook.com/birdbirdsg/

Monday, September 25, 2017

Riders Cafe - Nice Respite But Can Get A Little Warm

 photo L1000457_zpsiwmt4c4e.jpg

We had been meaning to drop by Riders Cafe for the longest time but somehow never managed to get to it until one overcast Saturday morning when we decided to go off the beaten track.

 photo L1000459_zpscukohcja.jpg
 photo L1000453_zpskkzuzrew.jpg

The Place

Located at the Bukit Timah Saddle Club in a charming colonial style building, Riders Cafe boasts great ventilation and views of a field and horses (sometimes - not to mention the smells too). Which is great if the weather is cooling (not too common in Singapore though) and you enjoy dining alfresco. The place is a constant buzz so reservations are advisable (I witnessed a few people being turned away without one).

 photo L1000441_zpsgiu6ptwo.jpg

Fried Chicken BLT

The chicken patty was well marinated with spices and came across as mildly sweet but not too dry. Topped with coleslaw, rather weak kimchi mayonnaise and sandwiched between two rather insipid buns. Still palatable though.

 photo L1000444_zpsjcj4ujih.jpg

Riders Burger

I opted for the works; added mushrooms, bacon rashers and an egg. The Angus beef patty had bits of fat in it which made for a nice chewy texture. However the bovine flavours were a little muted and the bacon, a little limp. I liked the smooth creaminess the egg yolk provided though; a sort of gooey glue that brought everything together. Buns needed more butter and time on the grill in my humble opinion. Decent burger overall but no great shakes.

 photo L1000451_zps4ecwgxko.jpg

Death By Chocolate Cake

This was very sinful and oh so good (I'm definitely biased). A luscious slice of moist chocolate cake slathered with mildly viscous chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of ice cream. Watch out for the sweetness overload though.

 photo L1000446_zpsglrpbit0.jpg

Salted Caramel Brioche

Salted caramel brioche topped with a scoop of vanilla (not vanilla bean) ice cream and honeycomb. I liked the flavours; salty yet sweet. Unfortunately the brioche was rather inconsistent in texture - some were crisp while others came across as limp and stodgy. A bigger scoop of ice cream would also have been appreciated as towards the end, the brioche got a little too salty and there was no ice cream left to "dilute" it. Still a decent dessert nonetheless.

 photo L1000456_zpse09zp8r2.jpg

Bill

Our bill came up to ~$74 for 2 burgers and 2 desserts which isn't too expensive but food quality in general hovered a notch above average at best and service, though proficient enough, didn't seem quite friendly. The place is nice but given Singapore's humid weather most of the time, ambience alone isn't a big enough draw for me to return.


Final Verdict:

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

Overall: 6.5/10

Address: 51 Fairways Drive

Contact: 6466 9819

Opening Hours:

Sunday – Thursday 8am – 9pm
Friday & Saturday 8am - 10pm
Closed on Monday

Website: http://www.riderscafe.sg/

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Pier, First (玉衡堂,頭等貴賓室), Hong Kong - A Brief Pictorial

I previously did a comparison between The Haven, a CX lounge in HKIA and SQ's The Private Room in Changi (with ANA's Suite Lounge on the sidelines) so thought I would do a pictorial on newly renovated The Pier @ HKIA.

 photo L1000409_zpsi1lzoqsr.jpg
 photo L1000386_zpsf3xkl7gb.jpg
 photo L1000391_zpsz2a3cnjv.jpg

The Place

 photo L1000395_zpsm2bgoclx.jpg
 photo L1000394_zps5qtvppuq.jpg
 photo L1000400_zpsisvrwwre.jpg
 photo L1000401_zpshh9btugi.jpg
 photo L1000405_zpskfavtwwa.jpg

The Dining Area & Food

It was an early flight out for us so everything was rather fuzzy for me. The food was decent as far as I can remember and service at the dining area was excellent. Personally prefer this lounge to that of The Haven.


Address: Level 6, Terminal 1, near Gate 63

Contact: Not available

Opening Hours: 0530hrs till 0030hrs