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Sunday
Feb162014

Eat In No. 52: Broiled Salmon with Mustard and Crisp Potato Crust

One of the better recipes I've tried in recent weeks is for this broiled crusted salmon dish from Cook's Illustrated: Best Recipe.  The flesh stays flaky and moist while the oily flavours meld extremely well with the mustard.  Will be made perfect with a well-rounded Californian chardonnay or nicely cut through with an NZ sauvignon blanc. 

To get a suitable piece of fish, get a fillet that is of more or less equal thickness throughout so that it is cooked evenly.  Maybe about an inch thick.  You really do not need a sashimi grade item, NTUC standard is ok.  Right after you get it out of the packet, run your fingers through the flesh and extract out any bones.  For about 1.5kg worth of fillets, you need

Ingredients

3 slices of white bread with crusts removed

110g of high quality potato chips, crushed into dried oats-sized chunks.  I used Kettler's honey mustard

6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill.  Remove leaves from stem.

1 teaspoon olive oil

0.5 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Method

-Pulse your bread slices in a food processor until dried oats-sized pieces.  Lay them on foil or baking paper and put them into a 200 deg C oven for about 5 mins until golden and crisp.

-Adjust the oven rack to the top portion of your oven.  About 8cm from the top.  Change oven setting to broil

-Prepare foil just slightly bigger than your salmon fillet(s).  Maybe with an inch of foil as a border all round.  Once fish is on foil, with the skin down, rub the fillet evenly with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

-After that prepare the dry mixture by mixing the bread crumbs, potato crisps and dill.

-Then pop your fish into the oven for about 10mins.  Observe it carefully so that it doesn't burn.  The top should turn out spotty brown.  Use a knife to check the flesh at the thickest part, it should be opaque.

-Remove the fish form the oven, spread evenly with the mustard and press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly onto the fish.  

-Following this, the recipe calls for the return of the fish to the oven for a minute.  But I just used a torch to give a nice controlled char to the crumb mixture.  In the previous attempt, a quick trip to the toilet during this stage resulted in some extreme chao tah.

You can serve your fish using the foil.  Or transfer it to a serving dish.  To remove the foil, use a spreading knife or a thin long knife, hold the foil while you slide the knife beneath the fish to separate the skin from the foil.

A nice way to make this into a Xmas item is to add maybe some chilli flakes to add that red speckle to the green of the dill.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday
Dec152013

Eat In No 52: Burrata and Fresh Tomatoes

Contrary to popular belief, burrata is not buffalo mozarella.  The former is made from fresh cream and mozzarella cheese (cow's milk) while the latter is really made from buffalo milk.  Burrata comes in a pouch form, the outer pouch being hard curdled moz cheese and the inside a combination of moz cheese and fresh cream.  Buffalo moz, on the other hand, comes in springy balls.  By all accounts, burrata is the more artisan product.  It has a rich buttery taste that goes well will breads and pastas.  One of the more more popular ways to serve it is with tomatoes. 

This makes a tremendously simple Xmas dish.  Forget complex baked turkeys and million-ingredient stews.  All you need are:

High-quality tomatoes on the vine

Burrata

Flaked sea salt

Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Aged balsamic vinegar (25 to 30 years)

Freshly chopped basil

Extra virgin olive oil

All you have to do is to arrange it as such above.  I got my ingredients from Marketplace at Raffles City.  The balsamic vinegar was the most expensive ingredient by weight but it was so excellent.  The consistency was like kecap manis.  The Maldon sea salt was also exquisite and I used it liberally on the tomatoes.  The burrata pouches came in at 10 bucks a pop.  So simple as it is, this dish is not cheap.  But then, it makes a really elegant Xmas starter.  Unlike me, you can take much more meticulous care in more elegant presentation to impress that date.  

Next time, I might try using a butane torch to slightly char the tomatoes.  If you do try that, let me know!

 

Saturday
Sep282013

Eat In No. 51: Baked BBQ Ribs

Let's be clear about this: To achieve the Tony Roma's kind of fall-off-the-bone meat (even Tony Roma's fails sometimes) in your pork ribs, you're gonna need lots of patience, skill and time.  Like what the Yanks have during Fourth of July celebrations or when their government goes into furlough.  They slow-smoke the pork, then tightly wrap it in foil, and unwrap for further cooking and all the while having a heated debate on the type of smoking chips, the quantity of cider and the quality of BBQ sauce to use.

Truth be told, LIM PEI BO SEE KAN.  With a 2-year old pressing Play-Doh into your toes and an infant wailing away, you really do want to appease the stressed-out wife ASAP.  So to get your ribs done moderately well in the least amount of time, you should:

Ingredients

1 to 1.5kg pork ribs/baby back ribs.  I got mine at MMM

Cajun seasoning powder

Paprika

Garlic powder

Black pepper

Any sort of BBQ sauce

Ketchup

Honey

Method

-Combine the Cajun, paprika and garlic powder in the ratio or 3:1:1.  For example, 3 tablespoons of cajun, with 1 tablespoon of paprika and garlic powder each.  Add in suitable amounts of chilli flakes if you want some heat.  I used one teaspoon of the powder mixture for every 3 ribs.  Season again with black pepper.

-Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 mins, overnight preferably.

-Heat your oven to 180 degrees C.  Put a thick foil layer over your oven tray, put on your ribs and then proceed to slather on the BBQ mixture.  This mixture is 2:1:1 for BBQ, ketchup and honey respectively.  Be extra generous with the sauce.  The excess with collect at the bottom of the tray with the meat juices and can be used to serve with your ribs later on.

-Into the oven for about 40 mins.  Once a cut in the center reveals no pinkness, then you are done.  Serve with baked beans, and colseslaw.  

Ok, granted, its not super tender or what.  But even frozen ribs will yield easily to this recipe.  Best to eat with your hands in front of the TV but still serve-able at a sit down dinner using fork and knife.  Don't forget the collected juice and sauce mix.  You can touch it up with a bit of corn starch and butter and it goes like a charm.

Friday
May242013

Eat Out No. 52: Gordon Grill

It was a concidence that we decided to step into Gordon Grill on the public holiday of 1 May, a Wednesday.  We were surprised that they had their weekday Big-on-small lunch menu on a public holiday.  Essentially, this menu allows you to go for the options of a) 3 appetisers + 3 soups + 1 main + 2 desserts or b) just one from each section with a bigger portion.  At 3 courses for $50 and 4 courses for $60, this was seriously a steal.  Even before the food arrived, I told myself that I would gladly pay this price even if the food turned out 6 upon 10 for fine dining fare.

The first dish that arrived was a roasted duck foie gras with raspberry ice (sorbet) and caramelised apple.  I think some surprised additions were hazelnut cream and the basil mash.  The liver was well-executed and could stand on its own.  The great accompaniments (I thought the apple was not necessary) elevated it two notches. 

Then came this wonderful lobster bisque which I'm sure was chocked full of cholesterol but then the slippery evil C was what gave the soup (and your hawker centre hay mee) that rich texture.  The soup was aromatic, full of ocean and had a great balance of cream and stock.  Anotehr winner.

Shortly after came the cold angel hair pasta with king crab, farmed caviar and white truffle vinaigrette.  On the side you see there are sakura shrimps.  In all aspects, I did not enjoy this dish.  Chiefly, I think it was done in by the white truffle oil which killed a lot of the subtleness of the king crab and the caviar.  The caviar, far from the highest grade, was hardly discernible.  And the sakura shrimps seemed like a last minute addition.  I thought simple olive oil, with pasta and caviar, a bit like how Garibaldi does it, would have been much better,

However, we are next redeemed by a winner form the mains section.  Australian lamb chops with stewed cocoa beans and black olive glaze.  In every sense, this was perfect, even right downn to the alfafa garnish that lent some hint of that garden-y taste.  The chops were of the perfect cut and perfectly executed, the meat had a good sear around it and was of the right firmness such that it left the bone with ease yet had a good chewiness to it. The cocoa beans and the olive glaze were outstanding complements as well.

Not wanting to be outdone by the lamb, the beef held up its own as well.  This was the US Black Angus beef with braised cheek in rich Bordelaise sauce with silky mash.  I particularly enjoyed the freshly grated hoseradish, what a great way to eat your steak.  The contrast between the steak and the beef cheek was also excellent.  The Bordelaise sauce, made up of red wine, butter, shallots and demi-glaze (veal stock) was rich and outstanding as well.  Although how genuine it was as a Bordelaise I probably couldn't tell with my unrefined palate.

Lastly of course was dessert.  Just nice, with four items on the menu, we could try every one with a two-person order.  So we have here a guanaja chocolate parfait with raspberry sorbet and sour cherry sauce, a mango "pain d'epice" with Grand-Marnier scented orange sorbet and pear rhubarb compote, a granny smith apple tart with caramelised nuts and vanilla ice cream and a kaffir lime creme brulee with lemon curd ice cream.  We particularly enjoyed the creme brulee and the mango pain d'epice, the flavours were intriguing and adventurous.  All in all, the desserts were excellent in their own right.

Service-wise, it was 10 out of 10.  The maitre d', a local chap, was warm, friendly, make excellent chatter with us and knew his menu well.  All the service staff were attentive and helpful.  Despite it being a PH, the restaurant was largely empty, so it was quiet and comfortable , just like how the missus likes it.  

I think we'll be back soon to try their meat trolley.

Food 8.5, Service 10, Ambience 8, Value for Money 9

Friday
Mar292013

Eat Out No. 51: Nadaman at Shangri-La Hotel

If you need a quick and healthy way to blow a couple of hundred on a meal, kaiseki is certainly top of the list.  Largely similar to the western concept of degustation in haute cuisine, kaiseki is the Japanese equivalent of an imperial banquet; only perhaps at a higher level of finesse and sophistication.  And the more elaborate type of known as cha-kaiseki which precedes a taditional Japanese team ceremony.  

It is given in any kaiseki menu that the ingredients and hence dishes change with the seasons and indeed even on a weekly or monthly basis.  So you can somewhatbe assured that your produce is served at its peak.  I thought it more environmentally friendly as well since you don't artificially create infrastructure like greenhouses or refrigerators to preserve off season food.

So we gave our maiden go at kaiseki at Nadaman at Shangri-La hotel as we had a credit card deal for a nights stay there.  To be fair, kaiseki menus are also available at Akashi, Kumo and Wahiro as well.  We gave the Aoi kaiseki (Aoi means blue) because we didn't see a need to blow an extra 50 dollars on wagyu beef portions, a familiar fixture in most upper end dining establishments and fine supermarkets.

Appetiser

Mugwort and sesame tofu, sea urchin, lily bulb with bonito broth jelly

Boiled spinach and yellow leek with sesame

Simmered conger eel and boiled rapeseed

Boiled prawn caviar, burdock, grilled egg and deep friend green beans

Soup

Clear soup with oyster and fish cake, seaweed, bamboo shoots and carrot

Raw Fish

White meat fish and medium fatty tuna sashimi

Sliced yellow tail with onion dressing

Grilled Dish

Grilled tile fish with sake, egg plat and baby yam with miso paste

Simmered Dish

Simmered and deep fried minced lotus root, clam, black fungus and green pea

Rice

Boiled white rice with Sakura shrimp

Pickles and red bean miso soup

Dessert

Black sesame pudding, raspberry with caramel sauce

The stand-out dishes to me were the appetiser and the grilled dish.  The bonito broth jelly was thoroughly excellent, so subtle and yet fragrant.  It complemented the tofu very nicely. The fried green beans that accompanied that tamago was a surprise.  It tasted, excuse me, like KFC fried chicken.  I think a serendipitous blend of proteins and enzymes there.  I also enjoyed the drilled egg plant and baby yam with miso paste.  The execution was quite brilliant.  The veggies were grilled to perfect, soft inside yet firm enough to remain on the stick.  Their slight sweetness was a great contrast to the saltiness of the miso.  I could could honestly eat twenty skewers of that any day. 

To be sure, there were some let downs and cost-cutting.  You can bet that anything that goes with onion dressing is likely to be less fresh.  Also, I found little synergy in the boiled white rice and sakura shrimp.  But then again, I wouldn't take my own judgment was full-proof.  Japanese cuisine is probably the most exquisite in the world; a true gourmet and connoisseur of it certainly cannot be made of someone raised on a diet of char kway teow, big macs and swensen's.  Who knows, some of these kinds could be out there screaming bloody murder that I said sakura shrimp and white rice do not go in the month of March.

But all in all, I thought $160++ was pretty worthwhile.  Service was excellent and meticulous and the green tea was fragrantly refreshing.  And, without doubt, the ingredients were all incredibly fresh. Ambience and decor was ordinary but it was quiet when we went there at 9pm.  Not having an MRT beside the hotel was probably a plus point.

 Food 7, Service 9, Ambience 6, Value for Money 7