Spring & Summer

2 Jun

More and more exquisite restaurants and cafes have been popping up in Bangkok in the recent years, mostly serving fusion food of some sort: Thai-Italian, Thai-Japanese, Thai-French, you name it. Y and I visited Spring & Summer, on Sukhumvit Soi 49, just two sub-sois away from  Samitivej Hospital, in the Japanese-y area of Sukhumvit Road.

Spring & Summer is an old house converted into a classy restaurant. Mains are served in the “Spring restaurant”, and dessert in the “Summer chocolate house”, although you could just sit in one place and have all of the above. At night, if you aren’t afraid of mosquitoes and bugs, I’d recommend relaxing out in the spacious “Winter bar” garden on a beanbag with a cocktail in hand.

We ordered a Tuna Tataki Salad as a starter. Presentation was simple, yet amazing. We loved the extra large wooden fork and spoon that came with the dish, for us to toss the salad in. The dressing was a delicious soy wasabi vinaigrette, which worked perfectly with both the greens and the tuna sashimi. Sadly, the star of the dish – the tuna – was not as fresh as we would have liked it to be.

Crab and Artichoke Angel Hair Pasta

I always like angel hair pasta because of its thin texture, and I tend to order it whenever it is on the menu. This time, it was something different – not the more typical truffle oil drizzling in Gianni’s, not the mind blowing cold pasta in il Lido. It was stir-fried Thai style – spiced by chili and herbs, and zinged by artichokes. The sun dried tomatoes and olives added a delicious Mediterranean twist to the dish. Flavors were extremely well-balanced here, but the dish could have been better, because the stir-frying made the pasta overcooked, barring on mushy.

This huge plate of chili glazed baby back ribs has a more interesting name in Thai: ซี่โครงหมูต้องห้าม, which literally means “cautioned ribs”. When the waiter presented us with this dish, our eyes widened at the size of it: two half-stacks of ribs with a thick chili glaze served alongside a huge onion basket. The ribs were delicious to a mind-blowing extent. The juicy meat fell of the bone with just a flick of the knife. The only downside to the ribs were the chili glaze, which we found to be too sweet. As for the onion basket, it cleansed our palette well, although it could have been crispier.

Despite us being extremely full from the main meal, we HAD to move on to dessert, because Spring & Summer makes such wonderful chocolate treats!

This plate is christened Better Than Sex. I can imagine why the name, because the baked chocolate mousse was soooooo delectable, so chocolately, so addictive. We couldn’t get enough of it, and almost fought over who got the last bite. The vanilla ice cream was homemade, with a twist of banana in it, which I did not particularly enjoy, because of the slightly artificial taste that banana flavorings always have (I don’t like banana flavors in general). But oh, did I mention the yummy salted caramel drizzle that runs along the circumference of the plate? Too good.

This was another aptly christened plate: Chocolate Bravo. The lava cake was so perfectly executed: the crust was thin, yet moist, and so much sinful dark chocolate oozed out from the inside. It was served alongside a dollop of chocolate mousse, which rightly did not steal the limelight from the lava cake. Bravo, indeed.

On top of these, the friend had a Strawberry mojito (which was too syrupy) and I had a pineapple and tropical fruits smoothie (which was not too shabby).

For the first time in my blog, I will be splitting my verdict between the mains and the desserts, just because it would be fairer that way.

My verdict: 2/5 spoonfuls for the mains (for the prices charged, I’d be expecting higher standards), and 5/5 spoonfuls for the oh-too-heavenly desserts. I’ll definitely be coming back for the desserts, after a meal somewhere else first. Or maybe, just a meal of chocolate dessert here 😉

Prince Coffee House

22 May

Recently I’ve had a few batches of friends visit me in Singapore…and they all asked me the same question: Where can I get good local food? Honestly, I’m not much of a local fare girl. I’m not into laksa or chicken rice or mee siam, and the only local fare I like is probably bak kut teh. So it had been quite difficult for me to take friends to awesome places to have awesome Singaporean food. One day, I heard about Prince Coffee House, and thought it might be a hidden treasure where my friends could explore the supposedly wonderful Singporean fare. (I’m sorry if I reek of cynicism regarding local fare!)

Prince Coffee House was established decades ago…between the 60s and 70s. They started out at Beach Road, where Prince cinema was located…and thus their name. They then moved to Coronation Plaza, and since life always comes full circle, their address is now 249 Beach Road. It was a bitch to find; my friend and I walked up and down Haji Lane and Arab Street for a good twenty minutes, before we realized that it was not in either street, but in between Haji Lane and Arab Street. If you stand along the main road and stare at Park Royal Hotel in front of you, you’re probably right infront of Prince Coffee House. It’s right by the main road!

Ox Tail Stew

This dish was the in thing back in the day, but as my parents tell me, this is too much a hassle to make, and so it is pretty hard to find ox tail stew nowadays. This was my first ox tail stew (although I’ve had ox tail soup, which was as different from it as apples and pears), and I was impressed. The meat came off the ox tail just like that. So tender, so moist. As this was the tail of the ox, there was not much meat. So if you, like me, can’t appreciate  muscles/tendons/fats, and don’t not know how to gnaw at the bone, you’d probably be eating only 1/8 of the dish. As for the gravy, it was thick and creamy (my guess is from the bone marrow) and laden with stock. To make this heavy dish wash down easier, the ox tail stew was served with broiled carrots and beans. The mash was nothing fancy.

 

Sweet and Sour Pork

We were impressed by the battered pork – so crisp on the outside without having too much flour, and so moist and tender on the inside, like a great katsu. However we found the sweet and sour sauce too sweet for our liking. This was served with chips, although they were nothing to rave about. Just your ordinary chips.

Beef Hor Fun

Next up was stir fried noodles with beef in thick gravy. I was hoping for more wok hei, you know, that wonderful burnt aroma you get if they fry their noodles right before adding on the gravy. Although the wok hei was minimal, I would say this was a pretty decent dish of hor fun, with gravy not too thick nor overly salty, and the beef was perfectly tenderized. Absolutely amazing with picked green chili!

These three are their most popular dishes. There’s also the chicken pie, which we were not impressed by. They took a chicken pie out of a foam box from the fridge to show us the size (about 7 inches), and although it is homemade, it did not look too impressive as it looked rather dry. We planned to order a yam cake, but decided three large dishes were good enough for two to share!

The food was pretty good, but as to whether this no frills, old school coffee house made me a changed woman regarding local fare, the answer is no, unfortunately.

My verdict: 3/5 spoonfuls

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

16 May

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since my last post – my sincerest apologies! It’s summer now, and I’ll try my best to keep this blog alive once again.

Recently people have been talking about this brunch place in a hardware store…So I decided to try it out. Chye Seng Huat Hardware is a coffee and brunch cafe by the guys behind Papa Palheta, and located at 150 Tyrwhitt Road. It’s around the Kitchener Road and City Square Mall area, for those who can’t orientate themselves. I recommend driving, although parking may be rather problematic.

Enter CSHH and be greeted by a coffee bar, with patrons sitting around baristas experimenting with different ways of brewing different coffee. We sat by the coffee bar, and watched the brewing, although less than ten minutes into our meal we were rather put off by how extreme their actions and mannerisms were. Words simply can’t describe it. We decided to just concentrate on our conversation and food…although the food was, unfortunately, nothing to rave about.

Our ham omelette with extra cheese was overcooked for our liking. Thank god for the extra cheese, or else the omelette would have been rather dry.

Again, the scrambled eggs were overcooked, despite how at first glance we thought they looked pretty runny. We ordered extra mushrooms, for $2, if I recall correctly. We had but that miserable portion of poorly sauteed shrooms!

The pan-seared dory, on the other hand, was one of the the highlights of the day. It was perfectly seared, and the fish melted in our mouths. Mildly-seasoned with herbs and salt, this butter sauce was sinful and delightful.

Initially we were hesitant to order chicken patties, thinking they might be burger patties. To our surprise, it was delicious! This was the other highlight of the day. They were made of ground chicken, mixed with lemongrass and chili, and served with Thai sweet chili sauce. Extremely oily, but extremely addictive.

For dessert we ordered a French Toast (we can never resist French Toast!). I found it lacking in egg, and could have tasted better had they added some cinnamon for a twist.

If you like sweet and savory pastries, perhaps the walnut baklavas might interest you. Although they were rather pricey – two for $6.50 – they are bursting with the sweetness and the savoriness baklavas promise. I found them up to par with baklavas I’ve had in Europe, although I’ve yet to have baklavas from Turkey, arguably the land of the origin.

I was tempted by the almond croissant, since I have not had very great almond croissants since Mirabelle closed down. Unfortunately, it was just a normal almond croissant; nothing to rave about.

To close my meal, I ordered a signature blend, long black (aka Americano). It was extremely (overly) citrusy for my liking, although I was intrigued by the aftertaste of tofu.

I would consider this a no-frills brunch place (seen from the presentation of food, and no service charge), with little to choose from the menu. Beats me why they are always so crowded! Perhaps because it is not too expensive…for this meal we spent slightly over $70 for 5 dishes, 1 croissant, and 2 baklavas. Or perhaps because of the novelty of a hardware shop cafe.

My verdict: 1/5 spoonfuls. CCSH a detour? Skip it. In the area? No harm trying, if there’s a parking space nearby and a table available.

Leonardo Ristorante

15 Feb

After a freezing cold visit to the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau, I was dying for a warm and hearty meal. Somehow, we stumbled upon Leonardo Ristorante at Szpitalna 20 (Stare Miasto), en route to Krakow’s city center. I must say this is truly a hidden treasure, as it is difficult to imagine how such a cozy and excellent restaurant could be sited in such a quiet area of the city, and underground, at that!

Cozy little place, isn’t it?

We were surprised with an amuse bouche of finely minced and pounded tuna on a bed of rockets. It was light and VERY juicy, leaving us lingering for more.

Salad with smoked duck and mango witch mustard and honey vinegar

I typically stay away from garden green salads, but this time, I couldn’t stop myself from ordering it, because of the smoked duck. Living up to my expectations, the duck was perfectly smoked, smelling of charcoal and not tasting too salty. The mango mustard and honey vinegar made boring garden greens that much more palatable. (I love my vegetables, but I can get picky.)

Traditional Polish sour rye soup with bacon, sausage, potatoes, and egg

This sour rye soup, aka zurek in the native language, is a must-order when in Poland. It has a distinctly sour taste which comes from the “sour leavening” of rye flour and bread crusts. It is typically served with sourdough bread, hard boiled eggs, and smoked meat, like sausages, bacon, or ham. This was THE dish that satisfied me after a long, cold day at the concentration camps.

Speaking of bread, we were served with a delicious bread basket, but surprise surprise, what had me was not the bread basket, but their homemade olive oils that were served with the breads. There was an onion-infused olive oil, and a sun-dried tomato-infused olive oil. The latter was the hero of the day. Whoever knew that adding sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary into a bottle of extra virgin olive oil could taste so delicious? When we got back, we decided to make our own sun-dried tomato-infused olive oil. Haven’t tasted it yet, though, but I’m hoping it tastes as great as Leonardo’s!

Roasted sea perch fillet with shrimp ravioli

The sea perch fillet was fantastic. It was so fresh, so juicy, and so perfectly roasted. Shrimp ravioli seems to be Leonardo’s signature dish. It is served as a side on more than three dishes on the menu. Unfortunately, we failed to appreciate it, and thought it simply tasted like minced shrimp in cream sauce, wrapped in a ravioli skin.

Veal sirloin with vegetables in tarragon sauce

This dish was another winner. The chef so skillfully executed the delicate veal sirloin, such that it did not turn out tough, but instead, almost melted in our mouths like the amuse bouche did. I just kept eating, and eating, until the plate was clean.

Pear strudel with vanilla sauce and ice cream

During the entire Europe trip, I had more than my entire year’s quota of strudels. But this pear strudel definitely was the most memorable. Wonderfully crispy layers of filo encompassing the warm and juicy pear and cinnamon stuffing. The warm vanilla sauce was a plus, adding to the moistness and pairing ever so perfectly with the cinnamon flavors.

Chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce and ice cream

While we were expecting a souffle, we were instead presented with a lava cake. We were disappointed, because we wanted to see how the pastry chef executed the souffle alongside the strudel, given the need to serve a souffle within 30 seconds of it leaving the oven. However, upon digging into the lava cake, our disappointment evaporated. The dark chocolate was so rich, and the cake so moist. The acidic raspberry sauce so perfectly complemented the thickness of the chocolate, making the entire dish easier to gobble down – and gobble down we did.

What bugged us was the crazy silvery and sugary thing that was served on both dessert plates. True, it did make the plate look all so Christmasy, especially when it glistened under the warm yellow lights. But we found it a bit of an overkill, as it competed slightly too much with the delicious dessert the pastry chef made, making it slightly difficult to eat the strudel and the lava cake without getting silvery streamers all over our hands and mouths.

I must say I was thankful we took the less-travelled route from our hotel to the city center. If we had taken the main road, we would have completely bypassed the inner streets, as well as this magnificent restaurant. Definitely a favorite on my list, and I would make a detour just for a meal at Leonardo’s, should I be in Poland again, even if I were not in Krakow. Pricing-wise, it was very reasonable (although comparatively costlier than other Polish eateries) – a main course was priced at about 52 Polish Zlotys, which is roughly 10 GBP, and 20 SGD.

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

2 Feb

Hello folks! Sorry for having disappeared for so long! So much has happened since I last blogged. I’ve been away, holidaying on another continent, diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorders that prevented me from having even the slightest bit of lactose and alcohol, and trying to readjust from holiday mode to school mode, since school started and has already been hectic. Chinese New Year’s round the corner, and Restaurant Week’s coming up in a few weeks…I guess everyone is in a gastronomical mood!

When I was in London, M and I visited Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – his flagship restaurant at Royal Hospital Road, awarded 3 Michelin stars. I must say it was the most heavenly meal I’ve tasted, and I felt like I was in heaven, for that 1.5 hours of dining.

Upon stepping into the cozy restaurant of about 12 tables, we were welcomed by a battery of waitstaff, who ushered us to our reserved table, and asked us if we’d like a champagne.

On the front page of the menu was a painting of Gordon Ramsay himself, working in the kitchen. Boy, we’d kill to try HIS cooking, although Clare Smyth, his head chef (and first female chef to be awarded 3 Michelin stars), is amazing at what she does.

We weren’t served a break basket, but had a waiter who brought a large tray of 5 different types of ciabattas and focaccias for us to take our pick, every now and then. Among the most memorable were the onion, olive, and potato (my favorite).

Amuse Bouche – Pumpkin Soup with Ricotta Cheese

When this was served, I was intrigued by how it was merely a round of ricotta in the middle of a large round dish, and a long strip of crispy pastry on the side. I loved the presentation. Then, the waiter started pouring pumpkin soup into the bowl, and explaining the dish to us. I loved it even more.

The pumpkin soup was smooth and full of squashed pumpkin goodness, and blended perfectly with the ricotta. The crispy pastry was topped with bits of bacon, pistachio, onion, garlic, and other herbs I could not identify. I wished they had given me two strips of it!

Then came the smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek velouté. Upon slicing open the large ravioli, the soft boiled egg yolk burst, running into the leek sauce, creating a thick, flavorful gravy for the entire dish. Just like the amuse bouche, the leek sauce was poured in at the table, while the waiter explained the concept of the dish.

The salt cod brandade tartine, noir de bigorre ham, piquillo peppers, olives, confit tomatoes and quail’s egg was a sight to behold. Look at the vibrant colors! The savory ingredients sat atop a piece of crispy thin and slightly sweet pastry – the savory and the sweet blended to create a wonderful experience for the taste buds.

My main course was a spiced free range Devon duck with Swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions. Fascinating name and wonderfully executed (perfectly seared on the outside and pink on the inside), but this might have been the most “disappointing” course. Technically, it was not at all disappointing, but the other dishes simply stood out more than this one did. This one simply tasted like a Chinese-style spiced duck, because the amongst the spices used by the chef was the Chinese 5-spice.

I absolutely loved the roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham, spinach, marjoram, basil, coco bean cassoulet and pickled mustard seed. I thought it was absolutely ingenious to wrap the rabbit in chorizo, blending in the meaty game with the juicy Spanish sausage. The coco bean cassoulet was a wonderful starch-alternative, which I couldn’t stop eating until it was all gone. The most amazing part was the presentation of the pickled mustard seed and herbs as grapes. Too beautiful!

We had a full-bodied red wine which the sommelier recommended to go with our mains, and I must say they complemented each other really well! Pity I forgot the name of the wine.

Before we were served with our desserts, the waitstaff surprised us with a flute of mango-jasmine smoothie, to cleanse our palettes. To date, I can still taste the freshness of the sweet and slightly sour mango, and the scent of the jasmine, blending together to create the most delicious smoothie I’ve ever had.

After the smoothie, the excitement continued – we were served both the tiniest and largest desserts ever served to us in the history of our lives.

Blackcurrant Fennel and Yoghurt Génoise with Violet Sorbet

This was the tiniest dessert I’ve had (the photo is misleading!). At the same time, it was the most refreshing and unique dessert I’ve tasted. It was not technically a genoise, because it was made of layers of jelly and mousse in addition to sponge, but the various usages of the blackcurrant in the cake was mind blowing. The violet sorbet was so light, so thirst-quenching. Who would’ve thought of making violet sorbet? I was dying for more by the time I finished my dessert. Thank God M had a HUGE dessert that required some assistance.

Banoffee Pie Souffle Banana & Salted Caramel Crumble

Seriously, I’ve never seen anything quite so large as this! It was a souffle as wide as a cappuccino mug, standing at about 5 or 6 inches tall! It was a wonderful mix of banana and chocolate and salted caramel, especially at the bottom, where the salted caramel was. On the side we had a vanilla bean ice cream, which was refreshing – perhaps to help us digest the souffle? But yet, the souffle was so large the both of us struggled to finish it!

And after they cleared our dessert plates, we had a smoking cold bowl placed on our table.

It was strawberry ice cream in white chocolate coating. My guess is it was created using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) – it’s the in thing nowadays! You simply drop anything into a pool of laughing gas, and it solidifies in a matter of seconds. I once watched a video where a man dropped an eraser into laughing gas, took it out, and broke it in half!

Anyway, back to the petite four – for the first time in my life, I loved the strawberry ice cream. The white chocolate was too sweet for my liking, though.

The most awesome was of course, this dish of dark chocolate ganache and lychee flavored Turkish delights. If I wasn’t too full by this time, I’d have ordered another dish of this!

To go with the desserts, we ordered, again on the sommelier’s recommendation, a mildly sweet moscato. I loved it so much I remembered the name: Moscato D’Asti 2011. It was so fragrant I couldn’t stop sniffing at it. And it was mildly sweet, with hints of grapefruit. A shout out to dessert wine lovers out there!

After this meal, I seriously question the possibility of having another meal that would ever make me this satisfied and happy.

To conclude, 3 stars from Michelin, 100 spoonfuls from guiltygoodness!

Saveur

3 Nov

Sometimes, craving strikes. I crave foie gras, duck confit, paired with chocolate and champagne at midnight. But is there ever a bad time to crave such delicacies?

I was introduced to Saveur by a good friend, who told me once about two Singaporean guys who graduated from culinary school, and decided to open a no-frills French eatery in a coffee shop in eastern Singapore – in Ali Baba Coffeeshop. The two chefs have since expanded and moved to Purvis Street, where they still continue to whip up no-frills French fare in quaint little shop houses.

Angel Hair Pasta with Minced Pork – s$3.90++

I love angel hair pasta when it’s not overcooked and tastes like mee sua. It is springy, and not a dish overladen with carbs. At Saveur, it was done perfectly. I was pretty shocked when the dish arrived, with twenty-something little dried shrimps sitting on top of my angel hair pasta. But it turned out wonderful, and nowhere near what I expected dried shrimp to taste like! What I could use was more of that minced pork white sauce, which was absolutely delicious. And hey, such good pasta for just $3.90?

Crispy Duck Confit with Orange Segments and Shittake – $9.90++

My friend was raving about the confit of duck at Saveur, so I thought I should give it a shot. Turns out, he was right. The portion was just right – a size I could finish after an entire portion of pasta. The duck was crispy on the outside and absolutely moist on the inside. It is a signature dish of Saveur, and yes, it absolutely lives up to its name, despite the slightly disappointing mash. I must say, this was the first duck confit I’ve ever finished on my own.

Initially, I had ordered a foie gras starter, because I was longing for that oily and creamy texture that stays in your mouth even after you’ve finished the dish. All too unfortunately, I was served a pathetic looking dish, of what they actually had the guts to call foie gras, and charge $9.90++. It was a deep brown, two inches long, one cm thick, looking all too sad that it had to come out of the body of a duck.  Thankfully, the waitstaff at Saveur were generous enough to retract the order.

Towards the end of my meal, I saw seared salmon being served to another customer, who happily tucked into the dish, and seemingly enjoyed it. Definitely a must try the next time! Oh,did I mention I was coming back?

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

Chef D’ Table, Revisited

12 Oct

I wasn’t intending to blog about Chef D’ Table, given that I’ve blogged about them before, until I was devastated by the food they served me today.

Chef D’ Table used to serve the best focaccia breads around – warm, moist, fragrant, and slightly salty. Today, they screwed up so badly and served me hard focaccia. I could hear thud thud when I knocked my fingertips against the toasted bread.

Cold Salmon Roulade with Asoorted Olive Salsa and Port Wine Rasins Compote

Next came the award-winning dish of cold salmon. Not too sure how this managed to win awards, given that the salmon was on the bland side (coming from a person who doesn’t take salty food), and the fish wasn’t fresh – it reeked. In the chef’s defense, the salsa and compote was intriguing and rather delicious.

Roasted Orange Duck Leg With Sauteed Wild Mushroom and Asparagus

I don’t know what to make of this duck. It was stiff, and tasteless, except for the  orange cream sauce, which I found overwhelmingly sweet. The sauteed mushrooms and asparagus were great, but hey, that’s just a side.

Grilled Beef Loin Fillet with White Bean Puree and Parma Ham Chip

I believe beef loin fillets are a speciality of the chef. Beef loin fillets have never left the menu since the first time I came here a few years back. Over the years, the beef loin has evolved, started looking better and better, and came with more and more delicious sides. Although this isn’t one of the nicest looking beef loins Chef D’ Table has ever produced, the sides were delicious.

Disappointment number one: Ordered the beef to be done medium, but it came well. Ridiculous. The wait staff took it away unapologetically, and said matter-of-factly that the wait will be 7-10 minutes. In about 3 minutes, he came back and said that he gave us another table’s order, since it was already in the oven. Still no apology.

I guess the oven was the reason why the beef came overcooked. If the oven’s hot, how do you not overcook the beef? Anyway, this second dish came medium-well. I wasn’t allowed to kick up a fuss.

Anyway, about the white bean puree – so called – I’m pretty sure it wasn’t white bean puree. It tasted like potatoes. Mashed potatoes. But delicious.

Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

I found the panna cotta on the dense side, and lacking tastes of passion (fruit). The raspberry coulis and mango coulis were nice, as typical of Chef D’ Table.

Homemade Baked Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis

Smooth and light, and a real delight to the friend. But being the picky cheesecake eater and baker I am, I didn’t like how the dessert chef decided to cut down on cheese cost by adding in flour.

I was actually hoping for a mille-feuille on the menu. The last time I came, that was really amazing. None for me this time 😦

My verdict: 1/5 spoonfuls. Disappointing meal with barely mediocre food, and terrible service. Used to be so much better, and worthy of high praise. No more, unfortunately.

Click here for the previous entry on my delightful visits to Chef D’ Table.