Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Windowsills Pie: Eat Humble Pie

Similar to cupcakes,  I would seldom buy pies because they can be made at home easily without any sophisticated equipment like the airgun or blowtorch. But words about this Singapore pie shop which opened in 2011 came into my ears and it seemed that many people found their pies very good. 

So how good were they? In a typical local Patisserie,  there are usually a mixed of good and some rather average or poor items. Though the pie crust was not consistent across all flavours,  it is difficult to find fault in almost all the 6 out of the 8 Windowsill Pies tasted.
My favourite is this Banana Cognac Almond Brittle ($7) even though I tend to avoid banana desserts.  Though caramel juices at the base, the shortcrust pastry remained flaky and the bittersweet balls of almond brittle added extra crunchiness. Perhaps they could consider selling packs of almond brittle besides pies.

If you like milk chocolate pudding, marshmallow and Graham crackers, the S'mores ($8) is the one to go. This pie structure was the sturdiest among all but the home-made Graham crackers were unfortunately too soft.
The classic lemon meringue tart was given a beauty makeover into Lemon Strawberry Pie($7).
Tube-shaped strawberry compote lined the pie base topped with luscious lemon custard. Though I find the meringue too sweet, the excellent lemon curd makes it one of the best lemon pies/tart in Singapore.
Another of my favourite is the Sam Willows ($7.50), as the light fruity pear chantily cream nicely contrasted with the peanut butter mousse base. The guilt of eating this might be lesser if compared to a chocolate + peanut butter combination.
 The Grasshopper ($7) , a new item, is a mint chocolate mousse on top of a flourless chocolate cake topped with salty cookie crumbles. Well, the crumbs aren't that salty but the mint  flavour is a refreshing treat and reminds me of the classic Andes Mint but I wonder if anyone can try mixing mint with something else other than chocolate......

Last but not least, the pumpkin pie with bourbon whip cream ($7.50) is a truly rustic one but the pie crust was comparably softer than the lemon strawberry slice. The pumpkin filling was not mixed with spices so it was a pure bliss of just naturally sweet vegetable with the cream that does not really recalls of any alcohol.
Pourover coffee ($7 for 2)
It is rare to come across sweet pies specialty shops like this and this also shows how much the dessert scene in Singapore has changed these years. Though they do have some latest additions of savoury bites, I believe I will still be attracted to their sweet items, especially if they have any new creations. Strangely, the decor reminded me of Little Red Riding Hood but I liked it a lot.
Windowsill Pies
78 Horne Road
(p.s. no taxes or service charge :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lai Huat Seafood : Must Try Sambal Fish

Lai Huat Seafood is a local zi char which started in Tyrwhitt Road in 1990 had moved from to Horne Road. It seems that there is another one at Rangoon Rd which claimed to have opened since 1963 . How they are related is not the main question but the food.

It is no wonder that the walls are plastered with so many celebrity photos and newspaper report. the eatery is just next to the road and looking at the Sambal fish at every table, I know I am in for a good feast.

Die die Must Try is the Sambal Belanchan Pomfret ($28) if you are a spicy eater. Buried under a pile of Sambal belachan, the deep fried pomfret was super crispy or to put it clearer, Crunchy to the bones.

Nothing beats the Sambal version here and is totally different from Sambal BBQ stingray. It was choked full of savoury dry fried hae bee (虾米) that is fried till fragrant, with the chilli oil soaked through the skin. When it was first served, I thought why so little Sambal? compared to the sole fish version ($20). But it was actually more than sufficient.It is so spicy and salty that it needs to go with rice , unlike Sambal stingray which can go without it.

The black pepper crayfish ($18) stings your tongue but is not too fiery. The meat became slightly tough because this was deep fried rather than stir fry.  Skip this if you want to reduce the risk of "heat" stroke (assuming that one has ordered the Sambal belachan fish) but one certainly won't regret having this as well.

Stir fry Kailan ($6) remained crunchy under the starchy gravy but could do with less salt. In fact, this applies to all the dishes we've had that day.
For something lighter but not too much, the golden beancurd ($8) is not the average deep fried Chinese tofu or silky Japanese tofu. Mixed with some thing that resembles squid-like paste, the tofu is like a dense cotton that has a umami taste on it's own. It's good without the Thai sweet and sour dip but I prefer to coat some on it to cut through the greasiness.

In short, although Lai Huat's menu items might be limited, at least each is of decent quality that  explains why people from all race, flocked there every now and then to satisfy their sambal crave. The boss lady, Lao ban niang, who we thought was just in charge of taking drink orders, was actually a very friendly auntie and wished us gong xi fa cai before we left. Might be just a simple gesture but it was sure a sincere one that customers would remember.

Lai Huat Seafood Restaurant
72 Horne Road
Tel 6299-3024
open 5pm to 12midnight daily, except every alternate Tuesday

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Antoinette: CNY Sweets 2013

In just 2 weeks time, it will be the Chinese new year festival when most people indulged in their bak kwa and their favourite cookies such as pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit.
But for this year, I will shelve aside all baking plans and not have any self-purchase cookies in my house (unless given by some generous soul)
This year, I am replacing them with Antoinette's Mandarina ($9/$45 for whole)
 After leaving in room temperature for about 20min,  the ultra-silky-ice-cream like milk chocolate mousse reached the perfect texture and the sweetness is cut through by the Mandarin orange custard and a pillowy dark chocolate sponge
I particularly adore the shiny dark chocolate and orange glaze around the cake which makes it even more appealing to the eyes. The caramelised almond pieces hidden at the base is an additional bonus for a crunchy bite.
The seasonal limited edition Mandarin Orange Macaron($2.50) may not be the best ones in town but reminds you that Chinese new year is coming.
For other CNY edition macarons, the chocolate yuzu flavour ($2.70) by Obolo (not Antoinette) promised better texture .

But out of all these, I like the King's Cake or Galette De Rois ($5 per slice) a traditional puff pastry filled with almond paste by Antoinette the best.  Having tried at least 2 others( Tiong Bahru bakery and TWG)  this year, this is so good that I am naming it the King of the King's cake.
Why? Simply because the layers of puff pastry holds its structure and kept the air holes well trapped in between, a good sign of a well baked pastry that do not require extra baking time in the oven( which I usually do as most pastries are underbaked like a chewy rubber) What's more its the most affordable deal out of all. 

Though I know these things might not appeal to traditionalists, but I'm pretty sure one would not regret trying them. Yes, they might appear sinful but I doubt they are any less sinful than what we have been eating during the festive season.

Palais Orchard
CNY Brochure here
Obolo (Chocolate Yuzu Macaron)
Rochester Mall

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Satsuma Shochu Dining Bar

Our failed quest for Okinawa food at Mimigar led us to this dark and rather nostalgic izakaya called Satsuma Shochu, which is of course known for its shochu ( a distilled alcoholic beverage made of sweet potato, rice, barley, etc). It brands itself as the first and only shochu specialty restaurant in Singapore. The menu  is a fuss free booklet with no pictures and the items are extensive for an izakaya. 

Once settled down, the vegetables stick bowl with saikyo miso (sweet miso) was served which would have been rejected if we had known each had a hefty price tag of $5.
But if we were to ignore this, all of the food here were exceptionally satisfying and it was not surprising that the place is yet another one with numerous good reviews and recommendations.
The Tebasaki, grilled chicken wings, ($7 per order of 2 skewers) are smaller than those commonly seen here but were tender juicy with a tang of lemon.

Other grilled fish items include the Aji, horse mackerel, which arrived fresh on that day and the fish was recommended to be served in two ways.
 While half of it was grilled with salt, the rest was served as sashimi.
Something which is unlikely to be served at an izakaya will be this Spicy Mentaiko Spaghetti ($15) as the cream is not overpoweringly rich and there is an aftertaste  of spice from the Mentaiko.
The Kaki Saikyo Miso ( Oyster with miso) is another interesting way to have your oysters sweet yet smokily grilled.
And strangely, it was the Mentaiko dishes here that outshined the rest. The Mentaiko Tofu Gratin($12) came in darker shades of pink and had the mild spicy kick that makes it a level higher than the ones by Ajinomori (read post here) and Namjya Monjya (read post here).
What surprised us was this plate of big deep fried balls topped with mayonnaise. This is actually Okonomiyaki ($6 per 2 skewers) in dark golden batter that was by far one of the crunchiest fried food.
 For more spicy food, the Beef and Kimchi hotpot ($18) was a hearty portion with raw egg yolk. The kimchi based soup, which was choked of mushrooms and other vegetables, tasted sweeter than it should. Do leave the raw pinkish beef slices in the pot to be cooked longer for better flavour.
Sadly, the sweet potato dessert, Daigaku Imo was not available but the Hot Yuzu Tea ($3) that was gently sweetened with honey was a nice substitute to end the meal on a warm note.
In short, the food here especially the Yakitori, Mentaiko spaghetti and the Okonomiyaki balls are all listed as their signature dishes and indeed they were memorable. Unfortunately,  we did not try their wide varieties of shochu since none of us know how to appreciate sake . 
Satsuma Shochu Dining Bar
The Gallery Hotel (near Robertson Quay)


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sweetspot: Eating Lego Bricks

Lego is something that accompanies the childhood of most people and now it has been turned into an art exhibition which has been held since last year and will end this April at the Art Science Musuem, Marina Bay Sands. But the main thing is not the arts but the cakes at Sweetspot. How time flies as the previous post was all about Chocolates in 2011. 
Photo Credit : Nathan Sawaya, MBS
In conjunction with the exhibition : Art of the Brick, Sweetspot located at MBS has come up with this Lego cake, which looks exactly the same as the latest item at Canele Patisserie.

Though enrobed with a green chocolate case, this consists neither matcha nor pistachio.

 But is simply a very sweet white chocolate mousse with tangy raspberry compote and a layer of sponge cake. The texture was smooth and everything fits well, but not convincing for a second try.
Compared to the lego cake, Whipsands, a chocolate caramel cake, would leave one yearning for more.

Sweet Milk chocolate with thick gooey caramel and candied cashew and an addictive layer of crunchy praline at the base.
The Sweet Thyme and Orange sounds special and worth trying if you don't mind herbs and spices in cakes. The mandarin orange cream centre sitting on a hazelnut meringue sponge cake is surrounded by a thyme-infused white chocolate mousse. The sweetness of the white chocolate mousse overshadowed the taste of thyme though.
This Chocolate Cherry Cake is simply a blackforest cake renamed, just that the cherry did not taste artificially sweetened. Certainly not an extraordinary cake.
No matter how poor the food may taste, I usually tell people to go for a try because taste is subjective. But this Lychee rose mousse with raspberry could not have been produced by the same team which came up with the delicious creations above.
It was not mousse but like a chewy rubber which could be due to too much gelatin powder. It is just too simple to be priced as the most expensive cake among the selection.
Fortunately, the eclairs here are at least not too disappointing. I've tried the coffee one and the matcha one shown here is generously filled, like eating a green tea burger .
Basil Cookie : Champion of the Sweetspot Christmas Cookie Competition 2012
This was my Nth visit but I will still be back. One thing good about the shop is that some items, besides their signature chocolate paradigm, often change after a certain period. Apart from this, they have macarons, bread and chocolate truffles just like a typical Patisserie. Did I forget to say that their giant macadamia peanut butter($2.50) cookie was sinfully delicious too?:)
Marina Bay Sands Hotel Lobby Tower 3
Daily : 7am-10pm

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wah Lok at Carlton

 Wah Lok has been around since 1970s and is renowned for its Cantonese cuisine and dim sum. After a recent renewal of the restaurant, the place now greets diners with stylish silver interior
I am not a keen fan of expensive ingredients and thus I cannot comment on the taste of some food but those who had them enjoyed the delicacies.

Cold dish of Pig trotters with clear sour and spicy dip

Barbequed Meat with Mustard- A Cantonese classic

Three-Head Abalone with oyster sauce and broccoli
Mee Sua with Crab in Huatiao Stock ($12) was originally with Mee Sua with Lobster($22) but with opted for crabs since they were cheaper and the stock base remains the same.
This was surprisingly simple but flavorful and mildly sweet. It was highly recommended by the staff and now by me because it is a nice change from the usual Yi Mian or fried noodles/rice.
 Steamed Bamboo Clams with Garlic

Braised Tofu with Spinach and Sea Cucumber(Per portion)
It was quite hard to find fault with this dish but nothing spectacular. Ignore the sea cucumber and you can quite easily cooked them or have them at local zi-chars. It chanced upon us that many Chinese dishes included oyster sauce. Seems like the Western brown sauce has found its long lost twin in China.
The signature XO sauce Cod Fish in Banana leaves ($12) was overrated. The small portion of cod sat on sliced  mushrooms surrounded by the  healthy fish oil. But the banana leaf did not seemed to fuse with the fish and neither was the xo sauce strongly distinguishable.
Hokkaido Scallops in Golden Sauce was better than the fish. The scallop was undeniably meaty and cooked to right doneness but the thin layer of fried flour batter wrapping the scallop was unnecessary.
The golden sauce still left me with question marks as it was described to contain some mustard but tasted more like mildly diluted salted egg yolk sauce with fresh scallions.
This deep fried golden brown Durian Tempura is an irresistible sinful must have for durian fans
One quite special dessert which is actually like a decorated dim sum is the Osmanthus Jelly with Custard puff pastry. The cashew-shaped puff called 美人腰, oozes of sweet flowy custard that is less filling than a salted egg yolk bun.
In short, the quality of Wah Lok's ala carte dishes truly lives up to its numerous awards and good reviews(even though most are for dim sum). However, what makes this place different from other Chinese restaurant here is the top-notched service by the service staff. It was not just simply our table that was lucky to be served extremely well but we notice how the staff attended to the needs of others and asked their opinions of the food. With such dedicated service,  how can one not return for its dim sum?
Wah Lok
Carlton Hotel 2nd flr

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