Friday, May 25

Goiz-Bargi, San Sebastian

I'm sure you have all experienced having had a great meal at a restaurant the first time, going back only to realise that it's not as good as you remembered. Am happy to tell you that's not the case here. Skewered prawns grilled with a garlic, onion and pepper salsa. What a delightful crunch. Brilliant the first time. Brilliant the second time. (And for a friend, brilliant the last 10 times). Now that's what I call a gift.

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Munto Jatetxea, San Sebastian

Becoming a local now, and starting to limit myself only to one (or two...okay, sometimes 3, but that's max!) pintxos a bar. The famous one here is the foie a la plancha, which is basically the same as foie gras. But this one is nice cos it's really smooth and soft, and they put a sweet grape salsa on top which gives the loveliest accent. Also discovered mosto, which is grape juice just before it becomes wine. So still alcoholic, but beautifully rounded. And sweet of course. But you all know about my sweet tooth already.

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Casa Gandarias, San Sebastian

I imagine my first meal in paradise would be catered from this bar. The pintxo pictured above, la solomillo, has so entranced my dining companions that it has become the wager in a number of friendly bets. And for me, just seeing those enraptured expressions is enough to know that this is really damn good. Other stuff that's amazing here: the brocheta cordero (lamb kebab) and how could I forget...the grilled octopus. Okay, so it's 3 things that keep us going back. I really don't have the words. None of us do-our meals here are the quietest ever.

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Casa Alcalde, San Sebastian

I really should've known better. This place had "tourist" stamped all over it..but no, we went in and we ordered, and what's worse, we ate so much in the hope that maybe we'd just picked the wrong ones before, and maybe the next one would be better. Didn't happen unfortunately. Thing is though, the Canadian guy next to us was having the time of his life. So it wasn't bad at all. Just that we'd had much better elsewhere.

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Thursday, May 24

Cola Cao, San Sebastian

All over the city

It's really common for someone to order Cola Cao in a cafe/bar in San Sebastian, and I always thought it was a local speciality. Guess what? It's instant hot chocolate. In Caravansarai they're so unapologetic about it, they actually just give you the sachet with a cup of hot milk. But at Bideluze, where this photo was taken, they put a bit more of an effort into making it look special. The cup is lined with chocolate, and the packet is emptied into the bottom. Then they pour in hot milk and serve it to you with a few Marie biscuits. You decide how much to stir. Its a comfort drink you know, and feels so nice on a cold, rainy day.

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Giroki Taverna, San Sebastian

This place is a favourite after-class hangout. You only see pintxos in the photo but really, its plato combinados are great too. It is most famous for the Carolina. That's a bocadillo with a fillet of chicken (and I mean a whole chicken) fried in breadcrumbs, lettuce and mayo. It's H.U.G.E. But it only costs 3.50 euros (S$7.10). That may seem expensive to you, but given that you could feed 3 people with one, it's really nothing. Of course, I had one to myself, but then, that's just me being extremely greedy..and naive. Another thing I adore here is the crepe with cheese and mushroom.
Yum yum yum yum yum. Best thing after a hard day at school.

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Plaza Cafe, San Sebastian

Plaza del Buen Pastor 14
This place is literally right next door to Caravanserai and I sometimes come here for a change of environment. It's a bit more expensive though quality-wise, it's definitely better. Locals swarm the place for late-morning breakfast on the weekends. That night I had an ensalada mezcla (mixed salad). It was all good, and there was so much of it too! But I think my favourite bit was the asparagus stem. Call me johnny-come-lately, but it was the first time I'd had sweet yet juicy asparagus!

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Caravenserai Cafe, San Sebastian

Corner of Calle San Bartolome 1 & Plaza del Buen Pastor

My first dinner at San Sebastian was a melt-in-your-mouth ham, cheese and egg sandwich here, and every time I think of this place, my mouth waters at the memory of that first meal. As far as typical bars or cafes in San Sebastian go though, this is not one of them-it's more familial and even a little touristy. But I come here often cos its close to home, its cheap and food is not bad by San Sebastian standards. Plus the staff recognise me now and are very forgiving of my poor Spanish.

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Wednesday, May 23

San Sebastian

So I'm here in San Sebastian, Northern Spain and the heart of the Basque country. It has a reputation of being one of the culinary capitals of the world, and having been here a while now, I understand why. Its been 3 weeks so far, and have not had an average meal yet! Food is taken very seriously here. Unfortunately all the centuries-old gastronomic societies that litter the city are only privy to men, and you have to be specially invited to boot. First time I've envious of a man.

In any case, here's my list of must-trys. Problem is, once I've found a place I like, I keep going back! But I persevere..Some definitions to start:

pintxos: The tapas of the North. Actually its more like sushi, but on bread. Every bar in the city has its own speciality. Costs about 1.50 euros for a regular one, but the more special the toppings the higher the cost. Tourists are identified by the piles of pintxos on their plates: locals usually just have one per bar. What an incentive to bar-hop!

bocadillo: This big mama of a sandwich I'm sure was meant to provide rocket fuel for anyone not intending to eat for the week following. But the locals seem to like it. Have had a couple which were sublime, and then rolled home after.

plato combinado: A balanced meal-a meat, two veggies and some carbs most times. Just as the doctor ordered.

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Monday, May 21

Grape Juice, Hyderabad

All over Hyderabad

Another Hyderabadi institution is grape juice. Being typical, diahorrea-fearing tourists, we asked our waiter if it was mineral water that they used in the juice, or tap water. His reply: "Sir, its grape juice, no? Only grapes." And boy, he did mean just grapes, skins and all. Thick, rich and straight from the press..with texture like that, it's unlikely that there was any machinery apart from the hand involved. Can you imagine puting grapes into a juicer one by one? It'd drive me crazy. Nonetheless, it was a much appreciated beverage in the heat of summer. Though if you're like me, you'd probably finish it in less than five minutes!

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Persis, Hyderabad

Paradise Hotel, Hyderabad

Ok, so I'm back from my extended hiatus. This was just too good to not blog about. Hyderabad is famous for dum biryani, and I daresay I now know why. And without exception everyone we asked in Hyderabad said Persis was the best place to have it. Oh boy, what an experience. It was moist, not oily, and tremendously flavoursome..and I promise one of my dining companions was moved to tears. But because it comes to you on a plate, you miss out on the faint-inducing first smells, from when they break the dough seal on the pot. Ok, just to explain..the traditional way of making biryani is to cook the meat with the rice in a copper pot and cover the top with a dough seal, and stick the whole thing in the oven. And you break the seal just before eating. Apparently in the old days this is what the labourers took to work with them everyday cos the seal kept the food warm until they were ready to eat at lunch.

Oh yes, and we had some wonderful kebabs to start as well.

Please. Don't miss this.

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Tuesday, May 1

Gim Tim (Chinese restaurant)

Gim Tim
Blk 157 Ang Mo Kio Ave 4, #01-546
T. 6459 7766

This is such a disaster of a restaurant. Touted to be excellent, we had come here for lo hei (Chinese New Year tossed salad. And apologies I have been behind in my posts) and a nice meal with the family. What we were served instead were dishes that were nothing out of the ordinary, non-descript even. The kong ba pao (braised pork in dark sauce served with steamed buns) for instance were so fatty, it was beyond human consumption. For a meal for six, the bill was nearly S$300 / US$200. Not worth a penny for food that I cannot even remember.


Foo House (Local pub food)

Foo House
6 Jln Pari Burong
T. 6445 3110
Closed Mondays

This is a great find. Located in the middle of nowhere (Simpang Bedok is a fair distance to me), is this hole in the wall pub cum restaurant that serves a really mean Hainanese pork chop. I was impressed. The pork chop was nicely breaded, crispy includes a soup (and it was a very nice and light pumpkin soup) and coffee or tea costs S$9.80 / US$6.50.


Legends, Fort Canning Club

This is a classic case of a "nearly made it" dining spot. I had high hopes for this place. For a start, it had a gorgeous location right at the edge of Fort Canning, in an old colonial building. What more can one ask for… As for the food, the only dish that impressed was the lamb (top right). It tasted flavoursome and tender. The other dishes were either ordinary, or just lacked that little bit more to make it good.

I was also not impressed with the mish mash of china that was used that evening. The plating for a restaurant of this standing could also do with some improvement. To come back… I don’t think so.

Emperor’s Soup

Emperor’s Soup
348 Joo Chiat Road
T. 6440 8348

Friends of mine were raving about this place for quite a while, but I never got around to tasting it till today. Nice soup, hearty and full of flavour. The brinjal with pork floss was suitably addictive (bottom left). The pan-fried cod-fish (bottom right) though was a huge disappointment. Even after two attempts to get the dish right, the fish was still mushy to the bite. Nice but not nice enough to draw me back a second time.

Sofra Turkish Café and Restaurant

Sofra Turkish Café and Restaurant
100 Beach Road #02-42, 6291-1433

Sofra serves a variety of middle ground Turkish food. The variety is commendable, and the food quality fairly consistent. This is where I would come to whenever I have a craving for Turkish dishes. I had the baked eggplant (brinjal) for lunch. It was a tad steeped in oil but tastes good nevertheless.

Carrot Cake Chwee Kway

Carrot Cake Chwee Kway
Clementi Central Food Centre

I’ve heard loads about this place – man with the straw-hat who dishes up an incredible chai tow kueh (a savoury carrot cake stir fry). And depending on his mood, he can be serving either chai tow kuey or chwee kway (steamed rice cakes with preserved turnip).

We had chai tow kueh this afternoon, trying both the regular and the “black” version (chai tow kueh doused in thick dark sauce). It was nice enough, but I was far from being blown away. I still prefer the chai tow kueh stand in AMK, which never fails to impress with its delicious and fragrant rendition of the dish.