Saturday, December 31

Yee Cheong Yuen Noodle Restaurant

31 Lorong Liput (Holland Village)
T. 6468 7737

This is somewhat of an institution in Holland Village. I remember eating at this noodle place way back when I was in university, when it was a rundown coffee shop and orders were placed by waiters barking them back to those whipping them up. Things have gone a little upscale now, with AC and a nice service counter complete with art-directed pictures of its signature dishes.
Specialties here include the Ipoh hor fun (flat rice noodles), char siew (roast pork) noodles, and curry noodles. We tried the shredded chicken hor fun, served with a thick black sauce – the taste was alright, but a far cry from my university days. This is not surprising, considering its now run by the enterprising younger set (not sure if they put their hearts in the cooking). We also had the dumpling soup, and not surprising also, those fat succulent dumplings have now shrunk in size. I doubt if I will make a special trip just to eat this, but I suppose if I happen to be in the neighbourhood, and need a quick bite, this would be one convenient stop.

Friday, December 30

Sun Hong Muk Koot Teh, Kuala Lumpur

No. 35-41 Medan Imbi

To ensure that we could try everything and anything during our short stay in KL, we were very careful to watch the portions we ate just to make sure that there was room for the next food stop. We had started at Mei Sin for the appetizers, and quickly proceeded to this landmark ba kut teh (pork rib soup) restaurant for the mains. The ba kut teh here is served in a herbal stock and dressed with mushrooms and cabbage. This is a nice change for me since I just love my veggies. We also had a pot of liver and kidney to go with it. This was cooked with plenty of ginger and reminded us all of the soup that our mothers and grandmother used to feed us when we were little.

Mei Sin Coffee Shop, Kuala Lumpur

Along Jalan Medan Imbi


We hit this coffee shop on the recommendation of a friendly Malaysian who insisted that there are many must-"eats" at this place, and boy was he right. For a start, we had the fried kway teow (fried rice noodles) that was plenty delicious; we moved on to the shredded chicken hor fun (rice noodles) and that was just as good, especially with the dark sauce that came with it; and finally the prawn noodle soup that was served in hearty prawn broth.



Maggie Goreng, Kuala Lumpur

Yes, we were stuffed with way too many meals already, but we just had to try this local favourite: Maggie goreng. Hence the four forks on the plate of noodles. Essentially, it is instant noodles, Maggie Mee to be specific, fried with egg, veges, bits of the instant seasoning, some mysterious chef's ingredient and anything else in the kitchen. It’s usually found at the Indian coffee shops. Have it with the tea tarik (pulled tea). It’s quite a good pairing.

La Bodega, Kuala Lumpur

14-16 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru
T. 603–2287 8318

We decided to have tapas for a change after so many local Malaysian meals. La Bodega serves a pretty mean selection of tapas – our list included the lamb meat balls, spicy grilled beef sausages (that tasted very average), cold octopus salad (delicious), patatas brava (spicy potato wedges), escargot, and the chicken pate. The later was the best of the lot, especially when spread on a thin slice of toast, though the lamb meat balls were pretty good too.

We also tried the paella but found it too moist, and a little lacking in flavour. Along with a jug of sangria, our bill came up to a modest RM190 / US$56 for four.




Madam Kwan’s, Kuala Lumpur

4th Floor, KLCC

This is a nice rest stop for those days when you are shopping and need a tasty bite at KLCC. The food here is generally what you will find in the typical hawker centres and coffee shops, except that are all housed in one menu and you don’t have to go running from place to place to savour it all.
My choice pick here is the assam laksa or Penang laska. This spicy and sour dish is usually served with a dollop of prawn paste and generous shavings of cucumber and pineapple on top. This may not be the very best that I have tried (the good ones come with chunks of tuna) but its pretty darn good still. Prices here are a tad higher than that of the food court / hawker centres. The assam laksa was about RM 12 / US$3.20.

The nasi lemak (coconut flavoured rice served with a chicken curry and sambal) was pretty delicious as well; as was the Malaysian style Hokkien mee, that is well coated in the sweet dark savoury sauce.













Weng Hing Coffee Shop, Kuala Lumpur

Along Jalan Imbi

This is a ubiquitous looking traditional coffee shop that serves some of the most amazing breakfast items. My favourite here – the cheong fun (steamed rice rolls) served in a sweet and savoury sauce.

Other must tries: the Malaysian style fried kway teow cooked with plenty of bean sprouts and minus the dark sweet sauce commonly found in the Singapore version; the wan ton mee; and a new discovery – a mee sua (Chinese longevity noodles) soup with innards, and a minced meat noodle. Oh, and the ice tea here is good too. Great way to start the day.













Thursday, December 29

Restaurant Seng Kee, Kuala Lumpur

Along Jalan Sultan (in Chinatown)

This place serves yet another unique, to be found in KL only dish, that I have yet to find in any other restaurant, in Malaysia or otherwise. My must-have dish here is the claypot lo shi fun (or rats’ tails, a Chinese pasta also known as mee tai mak). Its cooked in a fragrant dark sauce and served with minced meat and a raw egg on top, and served up in a sizzling hot claypot. You have to stir it all up quickly to let the heat cook the egg, and bring all the flavours together. I usually eat this with an order of Ampang yong tau fu (fried yong tau fu served with a savoury dark sauce), stir fried bamboo clam (they only had clams this visit) with curry leaves and way too much garlic (in a good way), and the fried intestines that taste more like chewy jelly fish.

There is just so much food in Chinatown, but that much that we can eat, so we made room for just one more – grilled stingray with loads of sambal (chilli pesto) cooked in foil over a charcoal fire (RM12 / US$3.20), bought from a road side stall right up the road from the restaurant. Yet another satisfying meal.

West 57th Street Café by Zang Toi, Kuala Lumpur

1st Floor, Sungei Wang, Bukit Bintang

This is a very unusual café set up in the middle of the mall, near the young Malaysian designer row. The food and desserts here are nothing to shout about, but it does serve a really interesting 57th Street ice tea punch (RM5 / US$1.30). Its tea mixed with tiny chopped fruits, mint leaves and stuff - a nice refreshing break after long hours shopping in the mall. Plus the set up is nice. Great place to rest your feet.

Restaurant the Fruitti Stall, Kuala Lumpur














Along Jalan Imbi

We chanced upon this ages ago when exploring the eating places along Jalan Imbi and Jalan Medan Imbi. It is a Hong Kong style café that serves a variety of hot and cold desserts and dim sum selections. We have always been too full to eat anything beyond the desserts. Firm favourites: the mango ice, kiwi ice and the star of it, a dessert called “mat to loh” or ice with everything on it. This visit, I tried the rose logan (a fruit) drink, which tasted a little like the logan tea that is served during Chinese New Year but with a hint of rose flavour. Quite a nice cool down after the greasy lunch at Oversea.

Oversea Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur

84-88 Jalan Imbi T. 603-2148 7567

The first time I ate at Oversea Restaurant, it left quite an impression with its claypot salted fish and Chinese bacon. It is a dish that is so greasy, you are practically guaranteed a heart attack the following day. But the smell and the taste are so divine, especially when stirred into plain white rice, you will die happy. I have since returned countless time to relive this, and over the years have tried a variety of their dishes.

For one, their soup of the day is always good. This lunch, we had a double-boiled pork with scallop soup that showcased the full flavour of the scallop and mushroom. We also had the spinach with minced crab and egg – quite yums; and the steamed cod – which is normally good, but was not so fresh today. Other recommended dishes, the stewed pork, fried melons, and the steamed pating fish (a local Malaysian freshwater catch). My total lunch bill for four came up to about RM200 / US$52.

Pine Garden's Cake


Blk 529, Ang Mo Kio Ave 10. T. 64576159

I remember the first time I tried the cakes from this bakery, I felt like Augustus from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A piece in each hand, just waiting to refill the enraptured mouth as earlier pieces made their journey down the gullet. The cakes aren't fancy, honestly. Just so light, and so wonderously unctuous. And as someone pointed out the other day: REAL. Fresh cream in between layers of sponge, as opposed to heavy mousse over a base layer of sponge or nut crumble. To me it's traditional cake, and I feel sorry that it's oftentimes passed over these days in favour of more fancy, mousse alternatives.

But I am among the guilty as well, so in an effort to make up for lost time, I trooped down to Ang Mo Kio the other night and picked out six different varieties to take home. And among the finalists were, clockwise from the upper lefthand corner: triple layer chocolate cake (nice rich chocolate, yum), peanut roll (2 yums), lychee martini (not what you'd expect, very delicately balanced, also 2 yums), vanilla cream (surprisingly not very good, 1/2 yum) and orange chocolate slice (the orange essence doesn't come across so well, they would've done better using real orange juice, but yum). But my favourite here is the blackforest cake (not in picture). Because every component takes its place quite amicably: the cherries though soaked in rum are not overpowering, the cream, fresh but not heavy, and the sponge, chocolatey and not dense. Winner with 3 yums!
And by the way, each slice only costs S$2 (US$1.20) on average, a kilo-cake costs about S$30 (US$18) and for an extra S$10 (US$6), they'll deliver any amount to your doorstep. Now is that a great deal or what?!

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Tuesday, December 27

Prestat

Ground Floor, Raffles City Shopping Centre

Only one word comes to mind when I think of the newest chocolaterie to hit town: Overpriced. Sure, the packaging's bright and regal, and pushes all the right buttons--fun, cheery, exciting--oh, but the pain of paying $56 (US$33) for 12 champagne truffles, or $14 (US$8.40) for a small 300-odd gram bar quickly dispels it all. And then you start to notice other things...for example, the truffles come pre-packed: if they were fresh(ish) maybe I'd consider, but pre-packed always says 'possibly very old' to me. And the darkest chocolate on offer is still comparatively sweet with only 63% cocoa. I'm all for paying a premium for quality, but this feels like a raw deal.

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Wednesday, December 21

Ajisen Dining

Parco Bugis Junction
T. 6338 9312

Rarely does one come to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant to be impressed. I've had better experiences here before, but this latest visit was slightly disappointing. On the menu, the promotional sushi set seemed to be a really good deal – any 5 plates of sushi that is S$4 and below for S$15.80++, with miso soup and chawanmushi thrown in. But it's funny how it wasn't surprising when what was delivered turned out to be a significantly watered down version of what you would get if you had ordered the items individually. For example, the makajiki sushi that I got came with slices of fish that was too thin and dry to be anything but satisfying, while the salmon roll thing came with too much mayo, as if to beef up its appearance. Still, it is a nice change from all the other conveyor belt sushi chains, just that the chances of you getting a good meal out of these places are getting increasingly random.

Tuesday, December 20

Happy Chef Western Foods

Tai Hwa Coffee Shop,
Block 466 Crawford Lane

The first time I saw this place, it was just thronging with people crowding around its giant menu board. Though I am generally more inclined towards my favourite bcm (ba chor mee – minced meat noodle) right next door, I made a note to try it soon.

From what I know, the folks behind Happy Chef are Hainanese (generally known to be the great cooks) and they used to run a very successful Western food shop in Australia. But they chose to move back to Singapore and now we have chicken kiev right in the heartlands.

We ordered this and sirloin steak at a more than reasonable price of S$6 (US$3.50) per portion. As expected, what we had was Asian-style Western food, not unlike those that you would find in Han’s and Jack’s Place. The food tasted alright, but nothing so spectacular that would bring me back for seconds. A friend who had tried the chicken skewers a few days ago was quite enamoured by it. So how do we explain its drawing power? – my guess is its very affordable prices, extensive menyu, and for those of us who grew up with this style of cooking, memories of when we were little again.

Ya Kun

Available islandwide

What used to be a treat as it can only be found in one and only place – the old hawker centre right across from where Lau Pa Sat sits now - has sprung up all over the island (and further afield too!) owing to the power of franchising. The good thing is, Ya Kun has done it well, ensuring that there is fairly consistent quality in the food whichever shop you go. The toast that is burnt just right, thinly sliced and nicely patted down with yummy home-cooked (well, at least it still tastes home-cooked) kaya (a type of coconut jam) and a wad of butter; eggs that are steeped in hot water just long enough to cook it a tad; and coffee and tea, done traditional coffee shop style. The new menu has also been updated to include toast with butter and sugar (yet another breakfast item I used to have at home), french toast with kaya, and, in select places, the traditional brown bread with ice-cream.

Monday, December 19

Ristorante Da Valentino

24 Jalan Bingka. T. 6462 0555

I would like to say we came here with no expectations, but I guess on a subconscious level it was too much to ask. With Cantina's renown for unpretentious, homestyle earthy Italian cooking, it was difficult not to expect more of the same from Chef Valentino at this, his new four month old establishment. And to be honest the food was good. Just not great.

We had the quatro stagioni pizza: artichokes, olives, ham, mushroom, tomato and mozzarella, a lovely blend of flavours, and not overwhelmingly heavy despite the number of ingredients. I would've preferred if the olives were not whole; delicious though they were, each tart burst was momentarily overpowering. Also, the pizza crust was a bit soft, and it would've been nice to be able to pick the slice up without it collapsing from the weight it bore. As for the chef's speciality: baked chicken pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, well it really didn't seem all that special without the sun-dried tomatoes. But those were sweet, sharp and smooth bits of heaven I have to say.

And of course, what would dinner be without dessert? Lemon tart didn't make the mark cos it was too thick and eggy, profiteroles on the other hand weren't too bad at all. Refreshing even, and that's not typical for profiteroles. Of course, I am partial to chocolate, and this had plenty.

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Ichiban-tei

60 Robertson Quay #01-13 Quayside. T. 6733 3923

Ramen has never been a favourite of mine as I find the noodles too starchy and just too cloying beyond a few mouthfuls. However, this place provedto be different. The distinction - the rich flavoursome broth and its chashu (pork) slices that was cooked so tender they melt in your mouth. We savoured the tonkatsu ramen in a thick creamy broth that we slurped up in no time, the chashu ramen that was served in a clear broth, and the miso chashu ramen. I can’t quite decide which one I prefer more as they were all as tasty!

We also had a plate of gyozas (Japanese style pan-fried dumplings). It didn’t look terribly exciting but tasted pretty good – juicy and, with crunch in every bite. Prices are wallet friendly – each bowl averages S$10 (US$6) – while appetizers start from S$4 (US$2.50).

Rich and Good Cake Shop


24 Kandahar Street. T.62943324

I still don't believe it. I have never been one to rave over traditional old-style bakeries. Sure, I loved the free smells, enjoyed the way each bite would rekindle yet another childhood memory for my parents and grandparents, appreciated the gumption to let the quality of the food speak for itself and not to give in to flashy marketing tactics. But I never imagined that I would find one that truly stirred me. After all, what could they put together that my grandma couldn't beat if she tried?

Tsk, such is the shame of arrogance. And in the folly of the disbelieving, I have been to the shop almost every weekend since I found it, bought the same kaya roll and, depending on what's available on the day and whom I'm with, durian roll, chocolate roll, mango roll or cream puffs. It's almost as if I'm searching for shortcomings, but each time I try to pin something on it, nothing sticks. The kaya roll, bright green sponge enveloping a thick layer of green kaya (egg/sugar/coconut jam), is just too light and luscious, the durian roll so rich and pungent. Sure, the cream puffs and chocolate roll don't quite make an impression, but for once, it just doesn't matter.

Each footlong swiss roll costs $5/US$3 (or $6/US$3.60 for the durian and mango). I carry the pricelist in my handbag.

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Zuko!

17 Upper East Coast Road. T. 6241 5669

There's been much hype about this place in recent weeks, and the many news reviews they've received are proudly displayed in the front window. But from a dessert perspective (and rightly or wrongly, this tends to be my litmus test), this place just doesn't meet the cut. The homemade Belgian chocolate ice-cream was sweet, which in itself isn't necessarily a condemnation, just not a smart move given how Haagen-Dazs' bittersweet version has already shaped general perception of how this should taste. My bugbear was that this was also so thick it lost its form, and instead brought to mind a cakey milkshake. So don't have the ice-cream. Also don't have the Chocolate Mousse Paradise. This was a nice size and properly dense, but tasted, and crumbled like hardened chocolate cream from days of yore. I was not impressed. Still, there was a group of very satisfied, albeit slightly high, ladies who left just as we arrived, and their obviously contrary experience stops me from being unequivocal.

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Tuesday, December 13

Geylang Lorong 3 Frog Porridge

Geylang Lorong 3

Inspite of the location being better known for other trades, this neighbourhood is actually a treasure trove of good food. I have heard of this frog porridge (rice gruel) place many many times but never had the chance to come try it owing to the drawing power of the “anchor” frog porridge stall on Geylang Lorong 9. I decided that tonight would be an exception. The attraction of frog porridge is the way it is cooked just right in a claypot, with or without dried chillis (that gives it that kick), in a dark sticky sauce that you lace your porridge with. This place in particular serves it with a “lighter” porridge as compared to Lorong 9. Plus points, the Lorong 3 venue has plenty of parking, is located in a brightly lit stall (in fact, it looks at least three stalls wide), and in addition to the claypot frog porridge, serves up an array of dishes normally found in a zhe char place (casual dining place where dishes are cooked to order). We tried the long beans with minced meat and the hot-plate tofu and both were … delicious.

Saturday, December 10

Guan Kee Kueh Chap

Blk 211 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh #01-01, Hup Huat Coffee Shop


I assure you that this is not a fear factor food series. For those of you who are not averse to eating kueh chap (stewed innards served with bowls of flat rice noodles), its actually a pretty delicious indulgence. One of my favourite places to eat this is located in Toa Payoh.

We got to know the chef when we were kids when he was serving this at a coffee shop right behind our house. He has since moved and continues to dish it out the way we like it. Though kueh chap is usually eaten with a variety of stewed innards, tofu and chai buay (stewed salted vegetables), we usually keep our selection simple – intestines, tofu, eggs and chai buay. They go with a slightly sour chilli dip (this is crucial in determining if one is a credible kueh chap stall), and bowls of large flat rice noodles. Seems a bit hard to imagine how everything tastes, but its definitely worth at least a try!

Thursday, December 8

Balestier Frog Porridge

Wan Lee Food Court, 567 Balestier Road

This is one area that I would come by late at night as there is always the promise of a selection of good food – chicken rice, ba kut teh (pork rib soup), tradjtional Chinese desserts, noodles and frog porridge. This is a stall that is a branch of the famous frog porridge in Geylang Lorong 11. Though it does not have the oomph that the one in Geylang is renown for, it still makes for a great supper spot for evenings you are too tired to deal with the traffic in Geylang. The claypot frog is usually cooked with plenty of dried chillies (though you can also opt for a non-spicy version) – so that it is altogether sweet, a tad salty and spicy. Use the thick sauce to lace the plain porridge that comes with it, and it makes for a gorgeous meal late at night. And fear not, the frogs actually taste plenty good, like very tender chicken. Prices are manageable, we spent S$30 (US$18) on 2 claypot frogs accompanied with a claypot porridge.

Wednesday, December 7

Chilli Crab Dip at Penny Black

26/27 Boat Quay. T.6538 2300

There is no need to suffer the torture of breaking apart and digging your way through your chilli crab anymore -- Penny Black has a brilliant chilli crab dip with huge chunks of meat that gives all the pleasure without any pain. It's appropriately thick, spicy and bears the requisite bright red colour of authenticity. And with thick potato wedges to dunk in it, it's fusion food at its most basic. With a pint of Strongbow cider to wash it down...Ah. (That deserved a pause.) Can't promise you won't get your clothes dirty though - guess that's just part of the chilli crab experience! But next time you're out for seafood and you notice someone's being atypically restrained with the chilli crab, trust me, this is why.

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Johnson Duck

Ghim Moh Food Centre, Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road

We found this place while making a quick pit-stop for lunch. The roast duck (slices of roast duck) dressed with a thick black sauce with rice and some cucumber slices on the side was tasty. But I usually steer clear from these stalls as I find the all meat dish too overwhelming. Good thing Johnson Duck had a second stall right next to it that had a rather extensive menu, and we managed to put together a complete meal with double boiled watercress soup and vegetables (bean sprouts).

Ghim Moh Food Center makes for a rather satisfying visit if you are in the mood for good ole hawker food. This place is also known for its fried kway teow (flat rice noodles fried with eggs and sweet dark sauce), Ipoh hor fun, chew kueh (steamed rice cakes), ... If only we had the stomach to try it all!

Sunday, December 4

Ser Seng (Turtle) Restaurant

29 Lorong Bachok (Off Geylang Lorong 21)


I realise that I am venturing into a different territory with this dish (both with the location and the food type) but this is really one of the best turtle soups that I have tried, anywhere. Served piping hot in a claypot, the soup is very well flavoured with just the right amount of herbs. The chewy bits of meat are accented with an accompanying chilli sauce that hints of a dash of white vinegar. I also like the jellied pieces which I am told is the skin. They all go rather nicely with either white or yam rice. Needless to say, we cleaned out the claypot in no time, soup and all. The restaurant (its more like a rather spartan coffeeshop) serves a black chicken soup as well that I have yet to try, in spite of my numerous visits to this place (I just cant not have the turtle soup when I am here). And it appears to be equally popular with the diners. Prices start at S$10 (US$6) for the individual portions and S$35 (US$20) for the claypots.