The Sushi Bar, NAC: Wouldn’t Order Anything Fried

When my family hit up The Sushi Bar at Ngee Ann City, I let out a “FINALLY. We made it!” It was hard to ignore the new branch of the famed Japanese restaurant in Far East Plaze. On Instagram, bowls of their Wagyu and Chirashi Dons were everywhere. As a social media whore, The Sushi Bar slowly became high on my FOMO-Bucket-List. Now I have two pictures from the restaurant on my IG gallery and not ashamed to say, pleased as a punch! 

For us first-timers, my parents and I thoroughly enjoyed many dishes. However I realised these were centered towards the raw dishes. For example, their Chirashi and Aburi Chirashi Don, Wagyu Beef Don, and even the uninviting-looking Pitan Tofu which tasted so good. I definitely preferred our lunch venue to Sushi Tei that specializes in terribly under-seasoned food. My first thought whenever the eatery is mentioned: soy sauce. However I had a big gripe with The Sushi Bar. I simply could not ignore the smell of rancid oil from all the deep-fried dishes we ordered. It was an off-putting smell that rendered me unable to go for seconds. What’s up with that? However we will still return. The fresh and thickly-cut sashimi is too hard to resist. Plus the sauce in the Wagyu Beef Don was most addictive. Not even the slow incompetent service (tables of crockeries left unclear for a long time after the diners left) will deter us.  

Our lunch – The Good & Must-orders!

Pitan Tofu

 


Weekend rocks! 🐮

A photo posted by A Rabbit Afoot (@yyangchen) on

 Aburi Kaisen Chirashi Don ($26.90)

Salmon Aburi Roll ($14.90)

Grilled Hamachi


The above items satisfied us immensely. However those below, order at your own risk. 

Tonkatsu Curry Rice

 Dragon Roll ($25.90) – love the idea: Japanese Prawn Tempura rolled with rice topped with slices of eel and avocado but the Tempura reeked of rancid oil…

A Sacred Cupcake From Magnolia Bakery New York City 

 All the way from New York City, say hello to cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery!!!

A partner in my firm got a kind friend to hand carry this half dozen box of babies to Raffles Place for him. As obssessed about cupcakes as me, initially he hid them from me. But a kind friend knew this was not going to happen. I walked straight into his office to look for the paper bag.

You have no idea what it took for me to get my grubby hands on one. Just one. Ten full minutes of negotiations, threats, nagging, then finally a promise. The promise to get more for him when I visit NYC at the end of year. It was tough work but I did it! A Double Chocolate in my hands. Behold my lunch…

The verdict? The chocolate cake base was bone-dry, I am not going to lie. But that chocolate buttercream frosting was as smooth as water and as rich as 70% dark chocolate. Every bite of the lucious frosting made me forgive that base. Worth the ten minutes of my life haggling for it!

An Italian Fine Dining Dinner @ Da Luca Italian Restaurant

Da Luca Italian Restaurant serves up homely Tuscany food in hearty portions. Helmed by Chef Luca, formerly Garibaldi and Gunther, this cosy restaurant located in Goldhill Plaza is a gem for us Centralers. I have visited Da Luca many times. On every visit, their big plates of pastas and grilled meat platters are my must-orders. Then guess what? My ex-secondary classmate married the Chef! A while back, she promised us something different from the restaurant’s usual offering: an Italian Fine Dining experience. One Friday evening, we finally got the pleasure to experience it. For S$135, we were presented and spoilt-rotten by a splendid six-course dinner. The filling courses show another side of Chef Lucas and his incredible ability to present a multitude of textures and flavours on a single plate. During our visit, it was also truffle season!  So that evening I ingested more truffles than my entire life before. Let me show you my dinner that evening:

We began with a glass of cold bubbly Prosecco and shared this bottle of Red.


It was a fine start.

Then a basket of homemade Foccacia Bread arrived. Warm, crusty outside and pillowy-tender within; I dare you to stop at just one slice.

For appetizers, we were served a Chilled Capellini Pasta with Truffle Emulsion served with Raw Scallops. Those who frequent Gunthers will find this dish familiar. Chef Luca spent some time there and this was pure evidence. Throwing in fresh raw scallop, I slurped up this surprsingly-refreshing carby dish in no time. My excuse for the lack of control with carbohydrates that evening: marathon the next day.

Slow-cooked Eggs with Burrata Cheese, Iberico Ham & Black Summer Truffles with Espagnole Sauce. To eat, mix this all up thoroughly.

Slow-cooked Spanish Octupus with Tomato Confit in Bagna Cauda. This dish surprised me big time! I associate octupus with spanish cuisine but to find in the italian cuisine was pretty uncommon to me. This combination of textures and flavours blew my dining companion away! Two pieces of perfectly-cooked octopus atop a savoury butter garlic anchovy sauce then to throw your senses around, subtly sweet tomatoes. Perfect.

Ravioli Di Carne Con Funghi E Pana: Chef’s Ravioli Stuffing with Sausages and Mushroom Cream Sauce topped with unabashedful amount of thinly-shaven black truffles. This flavour bomb pasta was extraordinary. Rich luscious mushroom sauce with savoury sausage ravioli swimming in it, I still dream about this… Unfortunately we only enjoyed a tasting portion that evening. But good news, this dish is a mainstay on the restaurant menu. If you are not on the fine dining set, be prepared for a huge plate of this rich luxurious goodness. Wait, what? Sure, I will join you too!

After the preceding heavy carb dish, the healthiest dish of the evening arrived: Pan crusted Chilean Codfish with Wilted Baby Spinach & Sweet Tomato Confit. This was ace!

This Smoked A4 Miyazaki with Balsamic Reduction & Grilled Hokkaido Corn brought out our carnivorous selves.

For dessert: Fondente Al Cioccolato Con Gelatio Al Torroncino (Molten Lava Chocolate Cake with Torroncino Ice Cream). Fine, this might not be the most exciting or creative dessert around. But this clasic dessert was a heartbreaker. Fudgy and filled with underdone molten cake, my selfishness came through when I realised my dining companion had little (sorry, Sam!) The two types of Gelato that accompanied the cake may not have been made in-house but why bother when Alfero Artisan Gelato is your good friend?! So for the first time, I tried one of Singapore’s best Gelaterias. The two flavours we had, Pistachio and Hazelnut, were rich and addictive. I cleaned plate. Can you blame me?


If you are interested in an Italian fine dining experience too, do call up the restaurant in advance to reserve your experience. Buon Viaggio! May you have a delicious time too.

Big Mama Korean Restaurant: Big & Bold Flavours – Love!

I love Big Mama Korean Restaurant in Tiong Bahru! Flavours here are big, bold and downright satisfying. If you have a massive craving for Korean food, like me last week, Big Mama will undoubtedly satisfy that craving. Two Sunday lunches ago, my family got out of our Japanese-food-comfort zone (I am soo sick of Sushi Tei!) and went out for Korean. For selfish reasons (cupcakes in Tiong Bahru that turned out to be a disappointment), I suggested Big Mama Korean. We have been to Big Mama before, years ago, and knew it to be good. Today I am incredibly happy to announce, the food is still fab!

Big Mama’s kitchen was mighty efficient. My sister arrived first and placed our orders. By the time we landed in the restarant, there was a spread awaiting us. This meant we picked our seats according to the dishes we preferred.

Guess which seat I picked?

Oh yeah!!! I have had a massive craving for Kimchi Pancake for god-knows-how-long so Big Mama’s vemilion hue pancake was calling out to me. After plonking myself right in front of it, I had no regrets for my hangry conduct. The Kimchi Jeon was shiok to another level!

On first bite, the unmistakable sourish taste paired with spiciness was immensely gratifying. Plus the pancake was served thin and perfectly crisp around the edges. Containing a generous amount of fermented cabbage with generous prawns, I promise you, you will reach for thirds, at least. The pancake was so well-seasoned that I completely forgot about dipping into the soy sauce on the side. That good.

The free and refillable of Banchan (side dishes) served alongside was pretty remarkable too. When I was done attacking the Kimchi Pancake, the Banchan got my full attention. I could not get enough of the lotus root slices in a thick sesame sauce. And the acorn jellies topped with soy sauce and scallions, a rarely seen side dish in Singapore, was much appreciated. In all, the Banchan dishes were a great addition to our meal. We got seconds for some of them.

We ordered another Korean pancake that afternoon: Buchu Jeon or Seafood pancake. The traditional and more common Korean pancake, I did not get to try this as my attention was solely on the Kimchi Jeon.

In the middle of the long table was a huge bubbling pot of the Korean Army Stew, Budae Jjigae. A thick spicy stew filled with nothing but nutrition-less ingredients, forget calories and say HELLO to p.l.e.a.s.u.r.e! Containing luncheon meat, sausage slices, baked beans, Korean rice cakes, instant noodles, and Korean dumplings, Mandu. There was an empty-calorie deliciousness for us all. No fighting necessary. I’m salivating just thinking about this pot…

Midway, Big Mama’s famed Dakgalbi arrived and the Budae Jjigae was cast aside (pun totally intended). Described as a “pan fried seasoning chicken with vegetables, rice cake, sweet potato, and spicy sauce”; all you need to know is that if you don’t order this, your heart will never thank you for it. Every ingredient was swathed in this thick and ultra-spicy scary-red sauce. Again, only one word to describe this: shiok!


But that’s not all. When you are almost done with the cubes of tender chicken and cabbage, you ask for two portions of rice. The friendly staff at Big Mama will either come around with a trolley of condiments or take this big pan away. What they do next is almost magical. They dump the metal bowls of rice into the pan, then add in a generous dose of kimchi, laver, sesame oil, and seaweed before mixing it up big time with the fire turned on. Lots of sexy sizzling sounds can be heard. If they mix it up next to you, feel your saliva drippling out your mouth. When the pan of fried rice is served back to you, liberate yourself from the confines of dieting and just indulge…

There is however a massive problem with Big Mama’s Dakgalbi: it is hard to go slow. And you want to go slow because the crispy bits of burnt rice will form below. That will be one of the nicest reward for your patience.

Later, for some strange reason, it seemed like food was not enough for my family of six adults so a Grilled Mackerel (Godeungeo Gui) was ordered. Oh, how we got onboard with Big Mama’s lovely rendition of this fish! Seemingly simple to execute, this mackerel was a juice-master. Utterly morish, we were well-impressed!

During our lunch, for those who enjoyed Korean food, Big Mama turned out to be a dependable source of comforting Korean grub. Craving comfortably satisfied. On the other hand, for those who did not normally enjoy Korean grub, they left totally disappointed. It seems the flavours of every dish just tasted the same. My friends, if you similarly enjoy the awesomeness of Korean food, I am sure you will feel positively strongly about Big Mama.

OSIM Sundown Marathon 2015: A Quick Recap

On Sunday morning at 1am, I abandoned my comfortable bed and raced in my first ever Sundown Marathon!!!


I prepared for this race by sleeping a lot during the day on Saturday. Having slept enough, I was so ready for this race. At the same time, thought due to the lack of unbearable heat, this race was going to be less tough. I was quite wrong. Running at 1am through to 6am was no joke. The entire time I was fighting sleepiness. As I discovered, my body clock automatically shuts down at midnight.

From the race route, one can see a large part of the run was in East Coast Park. The Park was dark and quiet. This meant me constantly finding ways to distract myself. If not, I would naturally close my eyes and drift off. However the wonderful sea breeze and sounds of waves were so calming and more then made up for it. 

As this was my second marathon, there was much to compare with my first, Standard Chartered in December 2014. I have no pictures from this race as I did not bring my phone. It’s new and still precious. But here is a quick recap from Sunday’s race.

Pros:

  • One steep hill at the start of the race (Republic Avenue, 3km mark) – anyone who has ran Stand Chart knows at the 37km mark, the Benjamin Sheares bridge is the most tedious! That climb alone will make or break your target time. So this hill at the start was godsent! After climbing it, the route was mostly flat or downhill. Woohoo!
  • Ample Gu Gels and Bananas!!!! <– This was my first time refueling mid-run with Bananas and I am so happy to note, provides as much as energy as gels.
  • Iced-cold 100 Plus at every Hydration station <– Thank you Organizers, you guys are the best!!!
  • Ample Hydration Stations – It felt as if, they were everywhere!
  • Distance markers at every km <– So grateful! No checking of watches necessary.
  • Mostly flat/ downhill <– No hill surprises. My legs were very grateful!
  • Ample cheer-ers. There were so many “cheerleaders” along the route <– Thank you, Organizers!
  • Wide routes – no banging or shoulder rubbing with other runners; ACE!

Cons:

  • Dark! The Hydration Stations were poorly lit (can’t blame the organizers.. but at times, I did not realised the stations were there until it was directly in front of me.)
  • 1am start <– Thought of my lovely bed the entire race.
  • More than one loop <– Loops will test your willpower… you run one side knowing the U-turn is somewhere in front and in the meantime on the other side of the barrier, you know fellow runners have “turned”. You will feel both desperation to turn and longing to be on the other side – very dark feelings… There were two loops during the race. One in East Coast Park and other at Gardens by the Bay East. Both were long and painful.

Toilet tip: if there is anything I learnt from Stand Chart and Sundown is: make sure to use the ample toilets in East Coast Park before you leave. The route after ECP is long and toilets can be hard to come by. I assure you, once you use the toilets in the Park, you will leave feeling refreshed. The run afterwards will be less arduous. 

The best part of Sundown was definitely the organization of the race. The race organisers did a splendid job! Hands down, beat Stand Chart! Having said that, I don’t foresee running this race again. The midnight run was just too difficult. I don’t love running enough to leave my bed.

[UPDATE]

Final timing, a sub-5. Yeesss!

Catering by Shelter In the Woods: W.O.W.

Have you guys heard of Shelter In the Woods? Well, I did not until last night. At a networking session held by Lexus at its car showroom on Leng Kee Road, the restaurant catered all the grub. When the emcee first announced dinner was to be provided by Shelter In the Woods, my immediate thought was a hipster cafe. And so it couldn’t be all that good. Yours truly, the country bumpkin, could not be more wrong! From the Canapes provided throughout the evening to the little plates of main course, every dish was excellent. I also learnt during the evening that a dinner at the restaurant was not cheap: around $80 per pax. That’s fine-dining! No wonder the food that evening was so luxe. Check it out. 

We began with Canapes. My girlfriends were killing it! The deep-fried prawn dumpling with a whole prawn was the favourite of the lot.

For dinner: Roast Pork. Each plate comprised of two types of pork: shredded pork shoulder with cubes of crispy pork belly accompanied by smooth mashed potatoes and wedges of grilled pineapples. Impressive! I spent a good part of the evening promoting this dish.

Roast Beef. Two tender pink slices of roast beef with a mini Yorkshire Pudding (so cute!) and grilled vegetables. This was very popular.

On another table, Sesame & soy glazed Chicken Drumlets. Superbly crisp and juicy, I had to pull myself away from this spread before I grabbed a third.    

The little plates were too cute! Wonderfully attractive presentation.

For dessert: the plumpest, most robust Rose Macarons I have ever seen in my life. If you are into Rose flavour, you would have adored these.

Mini Choux Puffs.

What a surprising wonderful evening. Test-drove two cars then ate a scrumptious dinner with tons of bubbly. Thanks Lexus!

Plain Vanilla Bakery Cupcakes: Overhyped

In Singapore, when one thinks of a good bakery to obtain cupcakes, one’s thoughts will be Plain Vanilla Bakery. Am I wrong? PVB offers some seriously chic packaging with the ultra-neat and uniform cupcake frostings across the myraid of interesting flavours. The linkage between good cupcakes and PVB will inevitably happen. Except just this past weekend, my experience with PVB rendered me unable to understand this linkage.

Some of you may know recently, my cupcake obssession was reignited. After consuming copious amount of another bakery, PVB seemed like the next natural step to measure up the bakery against one of Singapore’s finest. I made cupcakes from PVB happen by suggesting my family’s Sunday lunch take place in the rarely-ventured area of Tiong Bahru. We went to Big Mama Korean Restaurant. Big Mama was amazing (a post on it coming up!) and after lunch, I braved the hot weather and walked over to PVB. Excited, I purchased 24 cupcakes in one shot. While paying for the first two dozen, I decided to purchase another dozen. So in 15 minutes, I purchased 36 cupcakes. I must have made some kind of impact to their sales for that hour. Although there were hiccups with the purchase, for the sake of one of Singapore’s best ahead of me, I beared up with the service.    

But after six cupcakes (Red Velvet, S’more, Pineapple Meringue, Carrot, Cookies & Cream, and Vanilla), I was full of regret with having plonked down good money on them. I will no longer understand the linkage between good cupcakes and PVB. In fact, I am still peeved about the expenditure.

My main gripe was the quality of the bakes. After trying six including filled ones, I found all the cupcake bases to be dry and crumbly. After every bite, I reached for water. Hey, aren’t cupcakes supposed to be mini cakes, not scones? Even if I wanted a scone, I would have gone to Cedele for one. At the same time, the flavours were forgettable. I don’t remember any exceptional ones to be honest.

Another problem was the gritty frostings from underwhipping. However that flaw did not extend to the meringue-topped ones like the June specials: S’mores and Pineapple Meringue. Quite frankly, if you have gritty meringues, you shouldn’t even open a bakery. Another annoying quality of the buttercream: the crustiness that forms on the surface areas exposed to air. Forget about fluffiness, I was lucky to chew a smooth bit. 

Side note about the service: Usually I would ignore the service standards in Singapore as I have very very low expectations. However yesterday afternoon I was surprised to learn how much can happen in a span of 10-15 minutes. After purchasing the first 24 cupcakes for $88 and payment made with a credit card, I decided to get a dozen more. To save time (string-tying takes a while), I paid for the dozen before choosing the flavours. Then as I was happily picking the flavours, the girl behind the counter suddenly said the “special” cupcakes were $0.50 more. So she would also have to charge me extra including the first batch ordered. My patience was thinning at that point. But that was still fine as it was just $5.50 and I had a $10 note. As I handed over the note to her, she says THEY DON’T HAVE SMALL CHANGE in their till. And so was my $4.50 change in coins alright? I nearly fainted. My choices then and there were: 1) accept $4.50 in coins; 2) charge $5.50 to my credit card; or 3) give $10 and not expect change. Quite frankly, I was just desperate to leave so I chose option 1. After payment, I learnt THEY DONT DO PLASTIC BAGS. By then my 36 cupcakes were packed in boxes of 2x12s, 2s, 4s, and 6s, as I was bringing them to different parties and locations. The most “convenient” option for me was for the two 12s to be tied up together, and the others in one stack. It was ridiculous and punishing for those purchasing in big batches! Ask my family how terrible I looked with my hands holding two stacks of boxes, and no free hand to hold an umbrella. They will also tell you about my make-up-soaked-perspiration dribbling down my neck. I will never forget the shocked look on their faces when I arrived back in Big Mama where they were waiting. 

I am so unimpressed with PVB. But even more disappointingly, it seems these days a good cupcakes in Singapore are few and far between.