Monday, July 31

Da Paolo Bistro

3 Rochestor Park T. 6774 5537

This place is just gorgeous. The ambience is amazing with the greenery and huge open places. No sense of the crowd even when its busy. Food though is average. We had the aglia olio that tasted great at first, al dente and full of garlic, but got dry very quickly. The grilled cheeses were good also but became somewhat cloying after a few more bites. The dishes filled us up all too quickly and we passed on dessert – only to find out later that that’s what they are really good at. Next time, maybe.

Thursday, July 27

Chongqing Szechuan Cuisine, Hong Kong

G/F 27-29 Elgin Street, Soho, Central T. 2810 8868

Cute little restaurant on Elgin street that serves beautified Szechuan dishes. I was taken by the simplicity of the starter: halved cherry tomatoes serve with a dip of vinegar, chilli and oil. Gorgeous combination that was sweet, tangy, salty and spicy all at once.

Love the ko shui zi – shredded chicken served on top of spicy glass noodles. We found the roast mutton a tad gamey. The asparagus stir fried in salted egg rather divine though my sister insisted that a similar dish with bittergourd tastes far better. The won ton (dumpling) in chilli oil was a tad ordinary though. Great meal overall.

Hang Fa Lau (Desserts), Hong Kong

Causeway Bay

This looks like the beginning of another food trail. They are right next door to Tai Hing Roast which makes it way convenvient when planning your main and dessert courses.

Here’s where I always hit for desserts of the other variety when I am in this neighbourhood: the almond cream, walnut cream, peanut cream, red bean soup, green bean soups – hot or cold with add on-s such as lotus seeds, dumplings, seaweed. They also have a range of hashima (I call it frog’s spit) type desserts. Always good.

Tai Hing Roast Restaurant, Hong Kong

Causeway Bay

I felt like roast goose today – hence the little adventure, wandering around the tiny streets of Causeway Bay searching for Tai Hing. (I didn’t want to go to the overrated Yung Kee).

The roast was not bad. I just like the taste of the roasted skin. You can have it with either noodles or rice. Better yet, order the set, and they give you a portion of the soup of the day, usually a typical Cantonese style doubled boiled soup. Slurrrppp... Prices are ok - we paid about US$6 each for the meal.

Wednesday, July 26

Hui Lau Shan (Desserts), Hong Kong

All over Hong Kong

It serves hundreds of varieties of hot and cold desserts, but my favourite is the mango pudding. A soft wobbly pudding filled with chunks of mango, served with even more fresh mango, and drizzled with a mango puree. All fresh with non of that out-of-a-box taste. Oh and I almost forgot to mention, and a giant scoop of coconut ice-cream (this is the one part that I cant quite figure out and always tell them to leave out) Sounds like too much mango? Never.

I am all the more thrilled that they have introduced a mango series. I am now hooked on the pomelo mango dessert: base of mango pudding, drowned with mango puree, topped with chunks of fresh mango and a generous sprinkling of pomelo sacs. All servings are generous. Prices, reasonable HK$20-25 / US$2.50.

Tuesday, July 25

Tau Fu Fa (Soy Beancurd), Hong Kong

Off Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok

One of my favourite rest stops always is this soy beancurd stall at one end of the Fa Yuen Street markets. Its oh- so-soft and delicate, and eaten with a sprinkling of brown sugar that gives it that ever so delicious crunch. I just can't get enough of it.

This is the one place I know that also serves cheong fun (steamed rice rolls) with a peanut sauce. You can add to it some of the usual red sauce and the chilli sauce but the peanut sauce with rice roll combination, is just so divine and can only be found in Hong Kong.

Other items to try: the curry flavoured fishballs that are way tiny (size of quail's eggs) and different type of noodles for the meal on the go.

Lin Heung Teahouse, Hong Kong

160-164 Wellington Street, Central
T. 2544 4556

Ah.. one of my favourite places for dim sum in Hong Kong. So the food is far from delicate, is chock a block of the fat that makes it tastes so good, the service a tad rough with waiters who would throw plates at you, the table always wet as they don’t take too much care with the hot water when refilling your teapot, and on occasion you have to go running after the dim sum lady to get what you want. But so what???

The ambience is to die for – old style tea house where the diners, look like they have been sitting there for hours, nibbling on the dim sum while pouring through the day’s papers. Service staff wailing out their wares to you as a fresh batch of dim sum emerges from the kitchen. I just love it.

And the food – it may be far from being finely crafted but I dream about the lotus paste paos here, stuffed with the creamy paste and a chunk of salted egg yolk, and the hor yip fan (fried rice wrapped in lotus leaves, then steamed) so frangrant from the salted egg they use to fry the rice. Not for the faint hearted. A simple command of Cantonese will be very useful. Prices are way easy on the pocket. Average cost per person, in inspite of the overordering, was US$6.

Monday, July 24

Xi Yan Sweets, Hong Kong

1 G/F 8 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai
T. 2833 6299

Ok, this trip to Hong Kong was planned way too last minute for me to organize reservations for the renowned Xi Yan. Good thing is they opened a dessert store that serves food as well, and takes in walk-ins like me.

We ordered up quite a storm: spicy chicken salad with glass noddles – ok; carrot cake in xo sauce - ok; pomelo salad – rather Thai in taste; soybean skin salad – ordinary; beansprout salad – also ordinary; winter melon in broth – rather interesting and one of the better dishes; dan dan mian (noodle in meat sauce) – rather bland.

Desserts though were a different experience altogether. The dumpling in ginger soup was nice light and addictive. But what totally blew me away was the lychee ice-cream wrapped in a crepe. The lychee ice-cream was sooo amazing it tasted just like fresh lychee but only in ice-cream form. If anything, I will be back, not for the food but most certainly for the desserts. That lychee ice-cream!!!

Ye Shanghai, Hong Kong

Level 3, Pacific Place T. 2918 9833

Gorgeous place for lunch. Nice view with plenty of light and plenty of delicious Shanghainese dishes: the stir fried fresh water prawns were tiny but plenty fresh, the thinly sliced pork with dark sauce, a sweet sour sauce fish that was sweetened mainly by the fruit in the dish and veges of course.

What stood out for me was the dessert – a fried glutinous rice pancake that was charred but crispy, smoky and flavourful. It had bits of lotus seeds and some other things in it but the chewy, crunchy, burnt taste was interestingly delicious, especially when eaten with a sprinkling of sugar.

Wednesday, July 19

Hong Sheng Seafood

Along Cactus Road, Selertar Garden (off Yio Chu Kang Road)

I love finding fab restuarants tucked in neighbourhoods that no one, but the residents, thinks of looking into.

Hong Sheng was far from empty when we arrived and the food took 20 mins to arrive. Still it took us away from the crowds and offered a really nice change.

Its serves mean black peppper and chilli crab dishes with just the right kick from the spices though my mom did find the crab a tad soft (I happen to like it that way). Its mussel with sambal (hot chilli paste) was deliciously spicy and tender (You have to love mussels to know what I am talking about).

Other tasty treats: sweet and sour pork, pig’s tail stew (according to father and brother); fish maw soup; and steamed cod. I found the fried chicken and stewed duck dishes ordinary.

Café Rosso

17D Lorong Liput T. 6466 8637

It was a lovely breakfast – gorgeous coffee with thick foam at all that tastes delicious; soft fluffy scrambled eggs with a mix of spicy sausages on the side; and oh-so thick pancakes. A treat for the tastebuds, but a stress on the wallet. All the lovelies were not cheap. The scrambled eggs with sausage plus coffee and juice was S$18 / US$11 while the hot cakes were S$9 /US$6.

The cafe serves fabulous cakes as well.

Monday, July 17

Le Papillion

28 Maxwell Road, #01-02 Reddot Traffic Building T. 6327 4177

Ok, so Le Pappillion has been receiving mixed reviews – but more good than bad. Its fairly new on the scene, and from what I have heard and tasted, the chef is still refining the offerings.

I opted for the degustation menu (averagely priced at S$85 / US$50) with six courses excluding the quaint little starter of rolled zucchini with balsamic and the strawberry sorbet before the main couse.

Highlights for me were the watermelon topped with a mix of goat cheese, pinenuts and basil; the crab salad in a light broth with melon; the strawberry sorbet which reminds me of the frozen strawberry dessert I used to love as a kid; and the seafood broth (below). Main couse of beef tenderloin was a bit on the chewy side while the dessert of chocolate tart tasted ordinary (head the establishment was missing a pasty chef). Which leads me to conclude that the Chef Anderson is far better with dishes that work with fruit, which though refreshing does not appeal to everyone. In anycase, its worth a second visit to see how the menu evolves.

Min Jiang

22 Scotts Road, Goodwood Park Hotel T. 6730 1704

It has become sort of a tradition for me to dine here at least once in July: a one time favourite dim sum hunt that continues to serve good quality dim sum but have seem to have fallen behind in popularity in the face of all the many new restaurants constantly cropping up.

Nevertheless it remains an excellent option for the likes of me, who want good dim sum but minus the endless buzz of a packed restaurant.

You can never go wrong with the daily soup here – double boiled for hours and tasting just like how my grandmother would have made it. Other favourites include the char siew pao (roast pork bun) that is amazingly fluffy on the outside, and lovely, moist and rich on the inside; the cheong fun (flat rice rolls) stuffed with char siew (roast pork) is also very fine to the taste; the har gow (prawn dumplings) so crisp and fresh, you simply have to taste it; steamed tofu with prawn and the soft carrot cake. Yums…

Tuesday, July 4

Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup Restaurant

136 Sims Avenue (between Lorong 17 & 19)

I am always on the lookout for a good claypot rice. I love the smoky flavour of rice cooked in a claypot over a charcoal fire. This place serves it Hong Kong style, with loads of lap cheong (waxed meats), salted fish, a salted egg and chopped up chicken that had more bone than chicken. The claypot rice was lovely alright, but still a notch below the ones buried in Chinatown complex.

What was interesting was that this place, unlike other claypot restaurants, was more like a zhe char restaurant with many other specialities – the renowned black chicken soup that appeared deathly black had a pleasant herbally taste to it; gorgeous stir-fry intestines that was chewy to the bite, the first such dish I have tasted outside of Malaysia; the steamed pating (fresh water fish from Malaysia) that tasted very rich. Total bill for all these dishes plus a few more was about S$80 / US$48 for four.

Hjh Maimunah Restaurant (Nasi Padang)

20 Joo Chiat Road T. 63485457

I was excited when I walked in here, enticed by the aroma of the spices and enthralled by the extensive selection of dishes. This was such a find. It was hard to contain my excitement as I made my selection of dishes (urghhhh…. So many dishes and such a small stomach) from the extensive array of way too many delicious looking items.

The three of us quickly agreed on an ikan baker (chargrilled fish served with fresh chilli sauce, chopped onions and a dark sauce - top), jack fruit curry (this was fab), tahu telur (a tofu dipped in egg and then deep fried), beef rendang (a dry beef curry), brinjal stir-fry, sambal goreng (a stir-fry of lentils and string beans), ikan pepes (fish packed in spices, wrapped in banana leaf and then grilled - lower left), and tapioca leaf in light curry sauce.

Sounds way too much? Not for us. Our plates were cleaned out in no time and we were soon tucking into the hot tea. Total bill for the spread: S$28.50 / US$16. I will be back, soon.

Monday, July 3

@ home with Aries (Private Dining)

24 Petain Road T. 9751 2886

Dinner tonight was at this old conservation shophouse in the Jalan Besar area. Unusual address made more interesting when I was told that it only had 1 table and we were the only guests.

Welcome to Singapore’s culinary underground – a small but growing number of self-taught chefs who are offering to cook in a private dining setup. Not a new concept in places like Cuba and Hong Kong, but very much in its infancy here.

We started with a light salad accompanied by a gorgeous basket of freshly baked bread and breadsticks. This was followed by a dish of angel hair pasta with fresh pesto with a sprinkling of sharp mimolette cheese. The combination was just superb. The sharpness of the cheese upped the ante on the dish.

Next up was a Alasce foie gras on crostinis that was nice and rich on topped with a wine jelly, and a veal rack of gigantic proportions. The richness of the food and the size of the dishes proved too much for us and we conceded defeat.

The beauty of this place is that like a house, it has separate living and dining areas. Which also means that we could crash on the sofa, right after dinner, barely able to move very much more than required to reach for the summer crumble dessert that left everyone speechless.

Special mention also of the wines that accompanied the meal. I am not much of a wine connoisseur but whatever we drank that evening – riesling, cab merlot and the ice wine were simply divine.