Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Soup Spoon Union

The Soup Spoon Union is a merger of three brands-The Soup Spoon, The Handburger and Asia Broth Noodle Bar. The union concept brings greater options to diners and offers a larger space to dine in comfort.
However, orders have to be placed separated at the specific stalls and the amount will be billed to an electronic gadget which customers receive at the start and pay at the main cashier. Though the concept sounds like a grand merger, kitchens are still separated; think a microscopic version of a food court.
We tried at least one item from each stall. From the Handburger stall, we had the Dory Fish Burger that comes with caesar salad as a set. 
It was difficult to decide the noodles because the each of the image that flashed on the electronic menu looked hearty and delicious. Indeed the portions are huge and good for sharing. 
Instead of having the more common Vietnam pho, Tom yum goong or ramen, we had Khao Soi ($12.80), a Chiangmai dish of fried egg noodles in creamy curry served with grilled whole chicken leg and topped with shallots, preserved salted vegetables, cilantro, dried chilli and a touch of lime juice. Spicy lovers might complaint that it lacks a fiery punch but one might grow fond of this comfort dish if they do not mind a tinge of sweetness in the curry. 
Also containing a grilled chicken leg, the Indonesian Soto Ayam ($10.80) is essentially glass noodles in a light chicken broth spiced with galangal, lemongrass, candlenuts. It was served with handmade traditional pound chilli, kecap manis, crispy shallots, thick potato crisps and drizzled with a squeeze of lime juice for added citrus kick.
I enjoyed the contrasting textures and the mildly sourish flavours after everything was dump into the bowl and mixed evenly. Although I had not been to Indonesia for the authentic Soto Ayam, I am relief that it does not remind us of Instant Soto Ayam noodles on the very least. 
From the Soup Spoon, it's the Velvety Mushroom Stroganoff ($7.80)which still remained extra thick with chunks of mushrooms. 
It was thoughtful for the company to add a selection of new desserts to the merged dessert menu. The Tea-ramisu is a green tea twist of the classic Tiramisu. Filled with red beans at the bottom, the sponge fingers were soaked in green tea syrup that tasted artificial. The mere speckles of green tea powder dusted at the top could not conceal the sweetness of the multiple layers. 
Hence, what stood out for this visit were the noodles but perhaps the absence of MSG, artificial flavourings and preservatives would be the reason that could draw me back again.
As my visit was shortly few days after it opened, service was rather haphazard for not all of the counter staff manning each stall was certain about the order and payment mode. I also observed that some foreign diners were lost at where or how to order. 
The Soup Spoon Union
Raffles City Shopping Centre B1-61
Singapore 179103
Tel: 6334 3220
10:30am – 10pm (Sun – Thur) 10:30am – 10:30pm (Fri – Sat)
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ikaruga 斑鳩 Tokyo Ramen Street

Down a few shops from Rokurinsha is Ikaruga, another famous shop from Kudanshita. The queue is fortunately shorter and turn over rate of tables are pretty high.The best-selling ramen is 特製らー麺 980yen , a deep bowl of noodles in tonkatsu broth blended with bonito and konbu. This kind of fusion broth is also commonly known as "W-Soup", which claims to remove any odd stench and to cut the richness of pure tonkatsu soup base. The noodles were of medium thickness and required less effort to chew than those burly types. Contrary to most glowing reviews, we found the tonkatsu broth a little too creamy and heavy on taste. 

But the ingredients were excellent. Each slice of the char-siu sliced to perfect inches with the machine at the kitchen were robustly flavoured. flesh tender and not too fatty. Meanwhile, the menma shoot emerged unscathed from the lukewarm broth in a single strand.   

The Spicy Tonkatsu Ramen with eggs (870 yen) did not offer the spicy kick as one would usually expect from food labeled "spicy" in Japan. But fear not, there is free flow of powdery garlic crumbs and shichimi to boost the heat.

The main reason we headed to Ikaruga was to try the unique Cheese maze-soba 850 yen that is only available from 2pm onwards. Served with a raw egg, the soba that still looked and tasted exactly like ramen were scattered with beautiful crumbs of three cheese; parmesan, reggano and red cheddar.  
The egg is supposed to be cracked and mixed inside the red bowl before pouring into the noodles but we skipped the steps and crack the egg right onto the noodles. The outcome is a slimy pool of rich and delicious noodles that is light on the sodium. 
The dipping sauce of the Tsukemen 850 yen is similar to the signature ramen, but more concentrated. The floating layer of Ikaruga's homemade chili oil on the warm sauce adds to the allure and makes the noodles slurp-worthy.
The sheer volume of the noodles implies that one either goes in on an empty stomach or share them with someone else. And if you happen to like cheese and ramen at the same time, have the cheese mazesoba first then maybe come back next time for the usual ramen.  

Ikaruga 斑鳩
Tokyo Ramen Street
B1F Yaesu South Exit, Tokyo Station, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
10:30am-11:00pm (Last Order: 10:30pm) Daily
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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pierre Herme Tokyo ピエール・エルメ・パリ Part 2 : Emotions and Tarts

One can get emotional over Emotion when many flavours are bottled inside the glass. Besides the millefeuilles, Emotions are another series of Pierre Herme's pastries worth splurging than the macarons. However, some of the flavours especially the Infiniment Vanille always tend to get out of control with the sugar.

Emotion Envie (Top Pic)
Meaning "desire" in English, Envie evokes a sense of possession with the strong purple hues of the cassis compote. The colour contrast is also the most distinctive here. Made of violette vanilla mascarpone cream, violette cream, biscuit damande and topped with strawberries, blueberries and framboise. 
Emotion Infiniment Vanille
Although PH's pastries are decent, some can get out of hand with the level of sweetness level. His Infiniment Vanille series are one of the sweetest and I would classify it to the saccharine camp of sweets that I would prefer not to touch again. One bite into the baba rhum cake at the centre and the ultra-sweet juices gushed out without warning.
Emotion Satine
This is literally a delicious and citrusy cheesecake deconstructed. Consist of gelee of passion fruit and orange, cream cheese-mascarpone cream, sables,orange marmalade.
Emotion Montebello
One of my favourite besides the cheesecake because it dominated by the wonderful pistachio. Pistachio dacquoise, pistachio gelee, framboise compote and pistachio mascarpone cream.

Besides the emotions, I have a penchant for their tarts too. They are not exactly like those utterly traditional ones filled with pastry cream and fruits. Each of them has a complex character and the tart shell stays perfectly crumbly no matter how much cream has been piled onto it.  

Tarte Infiniment Cafe
Inspired by vienna coffee, this is the ideal tart for coffee lovers for its velvety cream and alluring roasted beans aroma. Caramelized Pie, mascarpone cream perfumed with Brazil coffee and Brazil coffee nougatine. 

Tarte Carrement Chocolat
Praline mixed with cacao bits, Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Chantily.
Tarte Infiniment Jasmin
Sable crust layered with biscuit sponge accented with Lemon and Bergamote, spread with Jasmine Ganache and followed by Jasmine Mascarpone Cream. 
Tarte Imperatrice
This reminds me of Indian desserts because the tart shell is filled with raisins rice pudding. Topped with generous slices of baked apples. Unlike the rest of the tarts, the base is a pie and not sable crust.

Click here for Part 1 Millefeuilles

Pierre Herme Paris ピエール・エルメ・パリ
Shinjuku, Aoyama and Various Locations.
Visit here for details.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Kamakura Kondo 創作和料理 近藤

Kamakura is an old historic town with lots of shrines, temples and beautiful beach scenery. On the way to the popular shrine, there is a Kaiseki restaurant opened by Chef-owner Kondo, a Kyoto native who is trained in Kyoto cuisine.

He won the title of TV Champion for the Nabe cuisine in 2005 and is a respectable figure in many Japanese cuisine association. His restaurant is actually divided into two concepts- one is a casual restaurant selling set meals and bentos at no more than 2000 yen while the higher end restaurant located just behind the casual deli restaurant, offers kaiseki course from 3500 yen during lunch. 
Depending in your appetite, the most affordable kaiseki course offers a substantial amount of 7 courses. We had the 3500-yen, 4800-yen and 5800-yen kaiseki course and each one started with the same appetizer of tofu with crab meat in a thick brown sauce. 
The second plate that is also similar across all three courses, is a platter of several cold dishes. In the dish is raw vinegared celery topped with shredded crab. 
Taking the centre stage is inari sushi, sweet pickled root vegetables and beans that symbolizes the change of season, two cubes of eggs and a mesmerizing ball of deep-fried plum.  The 3500-yen course is the only course without the sashimi. Each type of sashimi is to be dipped with a different sauce; the usual tai fish goes with the shoyu, the white Hirame fish into the sour transparent white sauce with wasabi, the richest cut-meguro is to be dipped into Kimi-shoyu (the basic shoyu thickened with egg yolk)
The fourth dish is a steamed manju made with minced chicken, plum gluten, gin-an and broccoli
But it is a different dish for the 5800-yen course; soup with a steamed ball of crab roe and mushrooms, yuzu and some very sweet Kyoto carrots. 
Next, the fish dish is a teriyaki buri, steamed daikon with yuzu miso and fried onions for the first two types of course. The 5800-yen course consists of a lightly grilled sweet tai fish, vinegared pink ginger.  
For the main course (yes, it's finally the main course), diners are allowed to pick one out of the three choices available. To maximize variety, we had a different one for each course. The roast beef with miso is the signature dish of Kondo. The flavors of the beef was indeed masterfully handled without being overcooked.  
The yuba hot pot is an extremely light and healthy dish that is enhanced with some ponzu shoyu. The scallop tempura turned out to be quite colorful with the red and white "spikes". They taste like fish balls and are meant to be dipped on the wasabi salt.  
The rice with pickles, chirimen, miso soup.
The chef's creativity continue to shine through the desserts-- a haphazard mix of Japanese and Western dishes. Though there were strange creations such as Broccoli Tiramisu, they blended well with the earlier dishes and were well-controlled in sweetness. 

It comes with an old-fashioned dried fruit pound cake for the 3500-yen course while it comes with matcha warabimochi and custard bavaroise for the 4800-yen course below

And the most diverse dessert platter is reserved for the 5800-yen course. Besides the broccoli tiramisu and the pound cakes, there is the blueberry tiramisu, mikan jelly filled with real mandarin orange, lemon cheesecake. 

Last but not least, Chef Kondo was very generous to allow us to have the Shirasu don meal 1000-yen from his casual style restaurant located nearer to the main walking street even though food outside the premise (even affiliated places) is strictly barred. 
We made the request because shirasu don is a representative local Kamakura cuisine. Surprisingly, the shirasu were much less salty than our usual ikan bilis. A nice treat with the nori and sesame flavoured rice at the base of the shirasu. 
While most Japanese meals end with ocha, Kondo serves some special Chinese tea that helps to aid digestion after a extremely full 9-course.
Given such dedicated customer service and excellent cuisine, it looks like Chef Kondo has secured a solid spot under the blessings of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine which is just a minute walk ahead of the restaurant.
創作和料理 近藤 Kondo
〒248-0005 Kanagawa Prefecture, Kamakura, Yukinoshita, 1 Chome 8−36
Daily Lunch 11.30am-3pm Dinner 5.30pm-9pm
Closed Weds and Every 2nd Thurs
Tel. 0467-25-0301
Click here for official website and menu. 
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[MOVING OUT] Frunatic Singapore Fast Fruit Restaurant

I thought this would be a vegan restaurant with similar concept like The Living Cafe but the menu is crafted around fruits. 
Asparagus and Baby Spinach Drink
There were more fruits than vegetables in the salads but we prefer savoury salads that are made up of at least 80% vegetables. Nevertheless, we still managed to settle on 2 salads out of the limited options. 
Mediterranean , a fibre-rich mix of pomegranate seeds, apples, melons, some unidentified leaves with a sweet ginseng sauce aimed for weight management.The ginseng dressing, which tasted like sour plum and guava purée, were pretty acceptable to me but some may find it odd. 
The Asian Fusion boasts to provide the Yin and Yang balance with dragonfruits, black fungus and something which I've heard for the first time--Ya Pear.
We had everything from the "Chef's Special/main courses" section since there were only 2 options. The Olive Zucchini Lasagna easily outwitted the Spaghetti Meatballs with Cream Sauce (above pic) because the blend of dried oregano and sun-dried tomato sandwiched between the zuchinni pasta tasted like the real tangy meat filling. However, the cream sauce of the latter dish was totally bland and the spaghetti were raw shredded vegetables instead of real noodles. Better skip the spaghetti. 

Olive Zucchini Lasagna

Olive Zucchini Lasagna
The nachos chips ($2.50 for small/ $4.50 for large) with sour cream, tomato concasse and guacamolo are probably the least salted nachos chips in the world but are not addictive enough to tempt one on a second or third helping.  

Every main course comes with a choice of alkaline water and we had hibiscus and lemonade. Those who are used to sugary processed drinks would definitely find this bland but not a bad thing to cut down on sugar intake.
The desserts here are all vegan and rely heavily on nuts.For instant, the tart shell of the fruit tart ($4.90), the cinnamon round ($1.50) and even the chocolate raspberry torte have traces of nuts. They are available in petite-sizes and thus a great way to enjoy many flavours in one sitting (price range from $1.80-$2.80).   

Our favourites were those in the cups--Lime avocado ($4.80) and Strawberry cake ($4.80)
While the Living Cafe is worth a re-visit, Frunatic has not convinced us that fast fruit meals are delicious, though the concept of fast fruits is definitely healthier than fast food.

Frunatic Fast Fruit Restaurant
Relocated to the following address
491 River Valley, Valley Point #01-05/06
Singapore 248371
Tel: +65-6235 3040
Daily: 10am – 8pm
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