Friday, May 31, 2013

SUR Nuevo Latino Kitchen : Round I

There was a time when French cuisine seems to be the hallmark of quality  western food in Singapore. But with the entrance of Spanish and the recent South American food, it is no wonder that the local news has marked 2013 as the year of Latin food.

Sur Nuevo is a homely Latin American kitchen opened by ex-MBS pastry chef, Alejandro Luna and and his close friend, Vitelio Reyes. "SUR Nuevo Latino" which means South New Latin, suggests that diners will be greeted with tantalising dishes inspired by Peru and Venezuela, the hometown of the chefs.

I having been plotting a visit after hearing very good reviews about it. And indeed, the entire meal was excellent, perhaps would be one of the best places I've dined in and written about so far. I've always associated Latin American cuisine with street grub food but this place totally transformed and elevated my dining experience.

 Of course, not every journey begins on a smooth note.  We thought we would fall in love with their highly popular Ceviche ( raw seafood marinated in citrus-mixture) but unfortunately not. The concentrated chilled lime, hot pepper juice and shaved red onions could not eliminate the fishiness of the raw fish chunks.  The sweet potatoes were  a temporary comfort but they were not as soft as we preferred.

Torte de Maiz ($17)--twice baked corn soufflé with mushroom ragout, was the shortest soufflé I've ever had but with the texture was soft and moist. As a starter, the portion is small. Each component was either very sweet or very salty, especially the crumble of rare Peruvian cheese Queso Fresco.  But they were a perfect match when eaten together.

The Arepitas, were a Colombian street food consisting of deep-fried plump cornmeal patties stuffed with filling. But the downside is the mini palm-sized portion for $8 each. Better to come during lunch if you like regular size.

The version of Avocado and chicken coated in a light and creamy mayonaise was quite plain whereas the Queso blanco was simply dominated by the savoury cheese. It became tastier when we mixing both types of arepitas together.

The spicy pork sausages in this Chorizo Carupanero ($18) were not spicy at all as kids who can't take a single tinge of spice chomped through the pot of sticky rice thrown in with bell peppers and white cheese.

Pisco Sour Cocktail ($15) : Boozy and Sweet
I believed we underestimated our appetite that day as we had not even reached our main courses. The Pescado Frito ($26) made a spectacular appearance with a whole fish encased in a crispy golden brown skin served with fried plaintains (not potato wedges) and refreshing coleslaw. 

Looks dry and lifeless? Wait till you dig your fork into the tender and fresh meat. This was the first dish that everyone concurred that it was excellent, and perhaps better than the Thai-style fried Garoupa. The specially concocted hot pepper cream sauce (warned by the chef to be extremely spicy) was not intense so we had to compromise with the next best option-Tabasco sauce.

Our 2nd main course-Pollo ala Brassa ($28) was one of the best grilled chicken which we came across in Singapore. The succulent meat beneath the lightly salted and peppery chicken skin complemented the bed of sweet corn purée. Nearly mistaken the green Mojo de Ajo sauce to be wasabi but its garlicky and limey taste never fail to awake our palates.

After so much food, we are still far from the end. For the savoury dishes, the main courses were so satisfying that I recommend skipping the first few appetizers and go straight for them. The climax was the DESSERTS! Not because I am a dessert fan but those here are really SUPERB. So allow me to pause a little while to digest....

Now are you ready for the desserts? Click here to continue.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mouth Restaurant : Dim Sum

Mouth Restaurant has revamped their menu since last year and the new items are reinterpretations of traditional dim sum. The Family went to its newly opened branch at Plaza Singapura during a weekend high tea session from 3-5pm but sadly, many items like the squid ink bun and their signature Xiao long Bao were not available.

The Rainbow Har Gao in 6 (top pic-$9.80) mimics the concept of multi-flavor Xiao long Bao. The skin was of the right thickness but the individual flavor of shrimp meat was not distinctive as its pork counterpart in XLB.

Do not mistaken this Squid Ink Seafood Soup 7.80 for herbal jelly.
The base is a egg white custard, topped with a thick soup that is rich and tasty.

The best thing I can remember is their Baked salted Egg Yolk (3 for $5) Unlike typical steamed bun, the mildly sweetened outer crust is crisp like a HK-style Bo Lo Bun, that released viscous and creamy golden lava.

Though some might find it to be much more greasy than usual kind, but who will say no to custard buns?:)

The Sweet Potato Roll $3.60 and Tako Cheese Croquette $4.80 sounded special but turned out to be dry, starchy and pedestrian.

Instead of the usual Chee cheong fun, we ordered the XO-style Pan Fried version with prawn and charshu $8.80. It turned out to resemble stir-fried kway teow. I like the slightly browned surface of the rice rolls that makes this dish fragrant but the taste of XO-sauce was not amplified. 

Some of the mandatory dimsum items included the chicken claws w chilli $3.90 and the Spare ribs with pumpkin $4.50 and the Fried Beancurd skin roll $ 3.20. 

The  Sauteed Premium scallops, wild mushrooms in XO sauce were slightly overpriced to me at $26 even though those jumbo scallops were fresh and not overcooked. The combination of crunchy celery and slimy fungi made this dish less boring.

Conclusion: Higher chances of securing popular dim sum items if we were to come in the morning. Would be more keen to revisit for their revamped ala carte dishes, which were in our memories, more delicious than the dim sum. Some items are creative but their quality vary. Hopefully my favourite egg tarts that were nowhere to be found, can appear on their dimsum menu one day...... 

Mouth Restaurant
#02-01 Plaza Singapura
Mon-Fri : 11.30am-10pm
PH/Weekends : 11am to 10pm

Latest Promotion from 地茂馆 Facebook :
"From May onwards, Mouth Restaurant is offering "40% off a la carte dim sum" for breakfast and high tea and "50% off Peking Duck" for lunch and dinner. 

Do enjoy these great offers, please look out for the coupons that come together with your OCBC credit card bill statement. The coupons are printed on the second page and do bring along the original coupon to redeem. 
Please refer to the coupons for more terms and conditions for each offer."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Teo Chew Street Bak Chor Mee

Do you like Bak Chor Mee? I enjoy the dry meepok version with lots of chilli and black vinegar. I don't remember queuing at least 25min for a bowl (except for Tai Hwa) and I guess this stall has broken the record. 

Why the queue? Because the uncle prepares bowl by bowl, from boiling noodles to the meat. And after each bowl, he cleans his working table with the super water jet hose. His wife takes the order. Watch the uncle in action on ieatishootipost. Prawns and wanton dumplings which used to be available were missing from our bowls.

So speaking of the taste, it is lighter, less salty or sourish than most outside. It could be  personal preference but I think more splashes of vinegar and chilli would do some magic. The folks find that both the mee pok (thin yellow noddles) were undercooked--perhaps due to the rush in cooking, but the springy bite suit my liking.

The best part of bak chor mee I look forward to is always the pieces of crispy flat solefish 扁鱼 and pork lard that impart fragrance to the noodles.
So conclusion, is it worth the queue? Yes if you have time. If not, I think you may want to skip it and go to other places.

Chinatown Complex Food Centre #02-23
12.30pm-9pm Daily except Mon and Tues

Encore: 美食番外篇

Hits 赞: Qing Qiao Hainanese Laksa (Unit#02-008)

On that day, the folk ordered from this shop which surprisingly tasted very yummy. The laksa gravy is rich, pungent and perhaps can rival the famous Katong laksa. Not sure what a Hainanese laksa should taste like but the one here won't leave you disappointed.

If you google for this stall, you won't get much results but more about another laksa stall "Terry Katong Laksa" which serves a healthy no-msg laksa . I haven't try Terry's version yet but for now, I am contented to uncover another rare gem at this hawker.
Misses: Shanghai Chee Cheong Fun Stall (Unit#02-174)

The factory-made skin turned out to be dry and the average homemade sauce did not help much. Save your stomach for other food.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Latin Quarter

Many Singaporeans are familiar with buffets but how about a South American themed buffet? The sister outlet of La Barra, The Latin Quarter has recently opened at Science Park, serving authentic Latin American cuisine at only $13.90 nett.
Being a chickpea fan, I was very happy to spot this ingredient in some dishes here. For example, the versatile bean is tossed into the Ensalada de Garbanzos (salad on the right), together with tomatoes and avocado. Alternatively, the Fresh Salad (left), dominated by cucumbers in yoghurt & chipotle dressing, looks simple but the innocent red onions would surely leave you with a dragon breath.


Out of the three mains, my favourite was the Brazilian Fish Stew. The fish simmered in an aromatic gravy of coconut milk and spices, turned out to be smooth,gloopy and fresh. It was creamy rather than spicy, but packed more character than the Chicken in Coconut Milk(below)


Would not it be strange if there were no rice to go along with the hearty stews? Besides the familiar white and yellow rice (top pic), the Mexican-spiced tomato rice (above) is something more unique and tasty . But the uneven cooking resulted in some grains being stickier and clumped together.

Another emblematic Colombian dish which I would recommend is the Red Beans with pig trotters.  No visible traces of pig trotters as they have been cooked down for long hours.  Though I doubt green bananas were added to this dish as called for in some recipes, the beans stew were vaguely sweet and just cooked till the right softness.
The combination of corn and ginger might sound odd but surprisingly worked for this Corn soup with ginger piccadillo. Mildly sweet with gritty corn and ginger mince that was not overwhelming fiery. The crunchy black beans were my personal add-on from the selection of condiments that include sour cream, green chilli and cheese.

Among the sides, those with heavier taste preferences may find the Egg & Potato Tortilla slightly bland but salt & pepper have been stationed by the side for diners to add accordingly.

Don't be deceive by the dull-looking deep fried yellow potatoes called Papas Criollas as their skins were well salted with soft roasted  insides. Hard-core French fries lovers might be unconvinced but these small buttery balls tasted better than fries to me and they were not oil-laden.

I also enjoyed the Yucas Fritas, deep-fried cassava, boasts crunchy and airy texture despite the fact that Cassava were actually fibrous tapioca-lookalike roots. They were nothing near starchy nor greasy, and should make a great snack with some beer.

Add extra $2 for Pura Fruit Shakes (usual $4.50) with flavours including  Soursop, Blackberry and Lulo- a native fruit in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

Speaking of beer (though its bright day-time and you do not mind returning to office half-sober), they have Colombian lagers such as Aguila and 12 international selections of wine. Otherwise, I think the Latin American fruit shakes here might be a healthier and even more economical choice.

Selection of Colombian Coffee made from renowned Juan Valdez brand

As a dessert lover, I wished there were more dessert items in future. Nonetheless, the Mango Yoghurt Parfait provided a sweet and tangy ending to the meal. Since their menu changed weekly, you are in luck if you get to try the Tres Leches, a very classic Mexican cake soaked in 3 milks :sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream.

For those who prefer to enjoy lunch within the comforts of your office/house or in front of computer, choose from the buffet selection and pack them into bento box for only $7.90 nett.

Overall, this buffet serves up quality food that would easily keep the hungry stomachs of office workers and students full and satisfied. The location at Science Park may not be very accessible but at $13.90, this is perhaps one of the best fuss-free lunch deals that offer variety. With the menu changing weekly and rotating every 2-3 months, it is no wonder that they are already attracting customers who are returning regularly to check out their new food.
Thank you Sera and Kelvin from Little Colombia for your gracious invite and hosting!
The Latin Quarter
87 Science Park Drive #02-02, Science Hub
(Nearest MRT : Kent Ridge/Buona Vista)
Mon-Fri, 12noon-5.00pm
(buffet ends at 3pm and hi-tea menu from 3-5pm will be introduced soon)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Old Bibik Nasi Rendang @Lavender Food Square

I thought the Nasi Rendang from this stall called Old Bibik was sold by Malays or Peranakan auntie until I googled and found out that they were opened by two male Singaporean Chinese. The recipe of the stew comes from the grandmother of the young owners in their thirties, and thus the name Old Bibik. Their signature is beef rendang, but we went for beef and chicken combo set ($6.50). It comes with rice, wedge of omelette and papadum.

The mildly sweet gravy of the rendang went well with the rice, and the flavors seemed to penetrate the beef better than chicken. The add-on peranakan stir-fry long beans for 50cents were cooked till the right degree. But still the star was the beef, which was so tender having been cooked for 2 hrs. Not too dry nor limp. My only quibble was the soggy papadum that had "leaked wind". Remember to ask for more Balachan chilli..they are simply SHIOK!

Here is another worth-to-try hawker stall which has cleverly ride on the wave of social media with their FB page :  

Old Bibik Nasi's Rendang
380 Jalan Besar Road, Lavender Food Square #01-30
Mon-Thurs: 12pm-11pm
Fri & Sat:12pm-1am

For other food at Lavender : wanton mee / prawn mee / pancake
Extra 番外篇:

This was not on our list but ordered because I was craving for Rojak.

At $4, the portion looked small to me as the ingredients were squashed together. The peanut gravy had the acidity that we wanted and most of the taupok and you tiao were crunchy.

Well, not the best but somehow passable plate of rojak that you can find at Lavender Food Square. Perhaps their curry would be much better than their Rojak but it was the only stall offering Rojak.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Albert Street Prawn Noodles @ Lavender Food Square

If you visit Lavender Food Square, the Albert Street Prawn Noodles is another stall with long queues. Besides the original prawn noodles, their selection of prawn noodles is quite amazing. From Pig Tail, Pig Intestines to Scallop, these prices start from $5.   

Our noodles ($4) lavished with the fried shallots, taugeh (beansprouts) and some pork lard failed to impress. Probably because they were not the spicy version. However, it was saved by the robust and slurpy prawn broth with a layer of reddish shine. According to Makansutra yahoo, the stock is boiled with not only prawn heads but also old hen chicken.

Somehow, I felt that we've not had the real stuff from this stall. So for the next visit, we would definitely go for the $5 claypot sized version which boasts larger-sized prawns and warmer soup! 

[P.S. If you spot something familiar at Old Changi Airport Hawker, some say that it is helmed by the relatives of this stall at Lavender, which is the 正宗 or original one.]   

Albert Street Prawn Noodle
380 Jalan Besar, Lavender Food Square #01-10
Opening Hours: 10am – 3am, Closed on alternative Thursday

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Buyan Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar

Last October, I visited two participating restaurants namely, Ochre and Covelli, during the Singapore Restaurant Week for the $35 set dinner offer. Coincidentally both are Italian restaurants and their food were quite memorable. But at the SGW held in March 2013, I decided to venture into the unknown and pick one I have never tried--Russian Cuisine.

So, Miss K. and I embarked on a Russian lunch escapade at Buyan, named after a mythical Russian island in one local fairytale. To maximize the variety, we ordered different items from the 3-course lunch($25) menu. The unique Russian black rye bread served with velvety butter that resembled mini billiard balls were signs of a good meal ahead.

The first appetizer was Kharcho, a spicy Georgian lamb soup filled with rice grains and chunks of lamb. I usually do not expect much spiciness from western food but this soup had quite a robust peppery flavor.

The 2nd appetizer was a classic Russian bite, Pelmeni (cold dumplings stuffed with mixed meat fillings). The unleavened dough skin made with just flour and water was indeed thick and chewy. However, the overall taste surpassed its dull presentation as the filling had a pleasant savoury taste without any strange odour.

I thought the portion of the main course-Blinis with creamy chicken filling was only sufficient for kids. But unexpectedly, these traditional Russian pancakes had a sweet allure that matched perfectly with the savoury mushroom dip. The sauce was so delicious that we requested for more.

The Buckwheat kasha with Mushroom and Onion surprised us with its fine grainy texture. It tasted like a healthier version of fried rice as it is less greasy but yet extremely aromatic. Kasha generally means buckwheat but it can include cereal, mill, wheat,barley and oats.

There was only one option for the dessert-Milk Kissel, a mixed of milk and raspberry jelly. Though this was not fanciful western-style plated dessert, I like its gloopy texture and the fact that it was not too rich or sweet.

Fortunately, the restaurant agreed to change one of the set dessert to a dessert platter without any additional charge. Though the Milk Kissel made its appearance again, there were new faces such as the Napolean (vanilla Millefeuille with  fresh berries) and the Honey Cake. Both were excellent in their own arena; especially the Honey Cake which is more similar to a crunchy Baklava than a cake.

Conclusion: The $25-lunch menu may vary with the $35-dinner menu but the quality and portion of the food are similar. This was my first try at Russian cuisine, thus I had no previous reference to compare with. But we enjoyed the meal as it is easy to get used to the taste of Russian food (no particular exotique ingredients like bear paws, etc...). I would definitely return to try not the dinner, but the lunch deals at SGW, especially when there are more interesting cuisine worth trying.

Buyan Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar

9 & 10 Duxton Hill, (S)089953
Lunch: Tues-Fri 12-3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm 
Bar Open till late
Closed on Sun
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