Friday, November 29, 2013

Seow Choon Hua Restaurant : Traditional Foochow Cuisine

My father said he brought me to eat the fish balls here when I was 5 but honestly I have no memory of this. Seow Choon Hua has been around for more than 70 years and is one of the few places in Singapore that you can try traditional Foochow cuisine.

But now, I'm back at this place, which specializes in handmade Foo Chow fish balls. These are definitely not your typical QQ fish balls that you can bounce or throw like ping pong. 

Made with fish paste coming from four different types of fish, each golf-ball sized fishballs are dense and cottony. Meat filling is flavourful though some might find it a little too salty. Precisely because they are handmade, I had to be forgiving when I picked one with literally no meat at all.
The Spicy Dry Mee Pok $4.50 looks more like wan ton mee style than Bak Chor Mee style Mee Pork. Less chewy and firm, they did not have much spicy kick. 
Even if you are not pregnant or under confinement, you can order this bowl of Red Wine Mee Sua $5.00. Compared to the Hakka version, this one is less sweet. 
The broth did not smell overwhelmingly of the "Ang zao" and was not oily at all, though the flavours did not penetrate into the chicken. I think it would be acceptable even to those who are afraid of the wine.If you like to make this dish at home, they sell bottles of "ang zao" or the red glutinous wine lees (红槽)
Besides Foo Chow fishballs, we had the 福州燕皮 Foochow Yanpi $4.50, which is another traditional dumpling made with pork. Think a fusion of 60% wanton and 40%Siu Mai. The resilient skin was stuffed with filling made with minced pork and water chestnuts. Very meaty and no less delicious than the Foochow fishballs.
Lastly, despite knowing that I should not overestimate our stomach space, I stubbornly ordered another dish-the Abacus balls. It's steamed and so significantly less oily. But flavour wise, it still lacks the punch from shallots, diced mushrooms and sesame oil. 
Teochew Ah Pa and Hakka Ah Ma find that the Foochow fishballs and noodles taste different from that in the past. Perhaps due to a change of cooking hands. Nonetheless, I liked the Foochow fishballs here and hopefully I can still enjoy them when I'm old.

Seow Choon Hua Restaurant
33 Sultan Gate Singapore 198481 (Nearest station: Bugis)
Tel(65) 6298 2720 
10am–10pm (daily)

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Patissierie Ravi'e Relier パティスリー ラヴィルリエ: Osaka No.1? Japan No.1?

I broke my record queuing time of 1 hour for this patisserie shop that hailed from Osaka.
I queue.

 We queue.

Let's all queue

The queue was a big surprise because it is really rare to have people scrambling desperately for the cakes at the weekly rotating patisserie booth at Isetan Shinjuku. I had no clue that this shop is currently ranked No. 1 Sweets Shop on (tabelog), a food review website that is based on the reviews and voting score of the users. This imply that the chef has beaten many local and overseas big names like Sadahoru Aoki and Hidemi Sugino.
Chef-owner Hattori Yukihiro (Photo Credit:Isetan Osaka)
Born in 1972. Worked in various restaurants and patisseries in Gifu, Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo etc. Loves coffee. Opened his shop in 2009.

So how does his cakes fare? Well, honestly, the design of the cakes is quite attractive but the textures are limited because they are mainly constructed with mousse, sponge and a chocolate glaze. Take for example this beautiful green standing tower named Pierre Temptation ピエール・タンタシオン¥525.

Pierre Temptation ピエール・タンタシオン. The pistachio mousse was very sweet and so was the cherry jelly in the center. The groittine cherry fruits were not reeked of alcohol and the base is a sticky pistachio sponge. The most outer chocolate glaze is dotted with pistachio nuts.

Téméraire テメレール¥470
Inside this macaron dacquoise wall is caramel buttercream and apricot orange gelee. The top and bottom layer is a succes (chewy almond meringue). The dacquoise wall is dotted with nuts.

Overall taste is close to a hazelnut coffee mousse cake and flavours are much balanced than the earlier pistachio gateaux. But I wish it was dusted with less icing sugar.

The most disappointing one was this chocolate cake called "Brunette Chocolat" ¥480.
I thought there would be some crunchy layers hidden within this but it was made up of caramel chocolate cream centre, milk chocolate mousse and a chocolate sponge. Though the outer layer is also dotted with almond nuts, the texture is quite uniformly soft. And it was again too sweet as a chocolate cake.


On the other hand, the baked goods were more impressive than the cakes. The plain butter sables(3 for¥210) were much fragrant and buttery than the matcha diamants(3 for ¥158). But I also enjoyed the ultra thin sandwich cookie called "Linz" ¥189 that is filled with chocolate spread (available also in framboise flavour).
Overall, I did not find any thing particularly outstanding about this shop, except the biscuits. But I could have possibly selected the wrong cakes that day. Nonetheless, the queue was formed perhaps because that was the first time it appeared in Tokyo (so people don't have to travel all the way to Osaka).  

Photo Source: ychocolat
Given that this shop has clinched and is still currently the top rank pastry shop on tabelog with a high average score of 4.2/5 ( it is not easy to achieve this), you might be interested to visit his shop in Osaka when you are travelling there.

Patisserie Ravi'e Relier パティスリー ラヴィルリエ
Osaka City Kamiyama Cho 2-6 ( 6 min walk from Exit 3 Nakazaki Station via Osaka Municipal Subway Tanimachi Line)
〒530-0026 大阪府大阪市北区神山町2-6
大阪市営谷町線中崎町駅3番口 徒歩6分
Hours: 11am-8pm
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Grand Hyatt Tokyo Christmas Cakes 2013 : Share the Love

Christmas is always a big festive event in Japan and it is common for department stores, hotels and individual pastry shops to roll out their Christmas goodies way in advance. This year, Grand Hyatt will be offering 10 indulgent cakes to mark the milestone year of the hotel's tenth anniversary. But besides indulging in festive treats, X'mas is also a season of sharing the love to people around you. The Love Tree takes center stage as a charity Christmas Tree adorned with heart-shaped ornaments. 
Each ornament costs ¥500 and this is part of the various ongoing promotions that aimed to raise funds for the children of Tohoku through the Kids Earth Fund programme
So what's Kids Earth Fund all about? Founded in 1988, it runs on a very innovative idea of "Kids helping Kids" through the medium of children's art. KIDS EARTH FUND supports children throughout the world who suffer from the results of war, poverty and environmental contamination.  A Christmas Charity Cookie (¥600) printed with children's artwork is also available as individual package or in Christmas hamper.  At the media preview session, delicious canapés and hot food by the hotel's banquet team were served. The food might not be related to the Christmas theme but the quality is so excellent that they deserved to be mentioned.  Scallops on Potato Mash in Black Truffle Sauce topped with Black Truffles 
Uni Custard 
This cherry look-alike is actually a ball of Foie Gras!
Lobster Meat with Cream Cheese
A Pot Pie with black fillings of mushrooms and prawn
One never expect that this crab roll draped in avocado sauce actually contains Green Apples!
Tender Pink Beef with Grated Ginger and Porcini Mushrooms
Salmon Tartare with Black Caviar in a refreshing lemon dressing 
Roast Beef with Cranberries and Roasted Potatoes. A very christmas dish indeed!  
Returning to the Christmas Cakes, they were created by award-winning chef Okazaki Masahi. He clinched the prestigious top award in a 2012 International Pastry Competition "Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie", beating strong contenders from Swiss (2nd place) and France (3rd place) 
One of the new item is this Buche De Noel : Bitter Chocolate Mousse, Orange Cream and Crunchy Hazelnut Base ¥10,000 (Limited to 80 sets) 
Cross Section of Buche De Noel
Highly recommended as it is not too heavy and boasts multiple textures! Christmas Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) ¥3800 Made with the premium chestnuts from Kumamoto, the cream has preserved the natural sweetness of flavour of the chestnuts. This stands head and shoulder over many good chestnut tarts in Tokyo. 
Berry Pudding 12cm/¥3500
A Brioche Wall soaked with mixed fruit syrup of red wine, orange juice and raspberries. 
NEW Strawberry Mousseline 12cm/¥3800
Buttercream and Custard Cream Cake Topped with Strawberries and Wrapped with Strawberry Meringue Sticks. 
Cross Section of Strawberry Mousseline
This might be easily confused with Strawberry Shortcake but is actually a classic French Cake "Fraise"
NEW Fruit Tart 12cm/3800cm The Strawberry Short Cake 12cm/¥4200, 15cm/¥6000, one of the all-time popular cakes at Grand Hyatt. 

Chocolate Chantily Cake 12cm/¥4200, 15cm/¥6000
For the cheese lovers, there is the Ricotta Cheese Tart topped with Petite Cream Puffs 12cm/¥3800

And a personal favorite of mine besides the Buche De Noel is this Caramel Dome 12cm/¥3800. Sable Base, Caramel Mousse, Almond Sponge, Cream Beurre, Rum-soaked Raisin.
But if I were to pick one that surprised me, it would be the mango trifles. The sturdy ring around the mangoes is not chocolate but biscuit! Inside the crunchy wall is layers of sponge and chantily cream.

The mango trifles are part of the Florentina Natale Assort ¥6000, which includes half-sized strawberry shortcake and a chocolate ganache cake.  
Besides the regular cakes, there are also various assorted Christmas Hampers and traditional Christmas Bread such as Panettone, Stollen and Baumkuchen on sale at Florentina Pastry Boutique.  

If you are staying in Tokyo this holiday, why not pick a cake and share them with your loved ones?  

Fiorentina Pastry Boutique (1F) 
フィオレンティーナ ペストリーブティック 
Reservation 1 Nov-8 Dec 
Pick Up Dates 16-25 Dec 
Bread on sale from 1 Nov-25 Dec
For more info:
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