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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Penang Trip: 2 Sister’s Char Kuey Teow, Yam Cake, Hokkien Noodles @ Penang Day 3

It was 9am and Penang Island was still soundly asleep.  Quite a surprise actually as  I thought the older folks would be out and about doing their yam cha routine.  At least it was a quiet easy drive until we hit the busy Macalister Road. As we drove towards our destination, the “legendary” status 2 Sisters Char Kuey Teow, I was super excited.  Having slept early the night before, my tummy was rumbling and this made me wanted it even more bad.  But being a tourist on this island, I was lost.  Various times the GPS pointed us to the right location but yet, there were no visible signs of the coffee shop called Lam Heng Cafe.  That was because…it did not have one.  Really a FML moment as we had to drive a few rounds and THEN the road got super busy!  Your best bet is to look out for the hardware store next to this obscure eatery.


Almost directly opposite Loh Guan Lye Hospital (Park behind the hospital in the derelict bungalows)

185 Macalister Road, Georgetown

Opening Times: Breakfast and Lunch

Closes on Mondays


Bloggers, tourist and I believe a decent number of Penang-nites still have an unwavering loyalty to the name of the 2 Sisters Char Kuey Teow.  Known for their atrocious behaviour towards impatient customers and to a certain extent their relatively expensive fry-up, they have been in the business for a long time now. While I have no numbers, I am guessing at least half a century?  Walking in, the place was actually quieter than expected and to my dismay, there were no two sister’s but an elderly man.  It was then that I found out he was the son/nephew of one of the ladies which have stopped cooking as she was over 70 years of age now.  Amazing.  Her sister, unfortunately have passed away.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnlike most Char Kuey Teow in town, the 2 Sister’s version is less burnt but still packed great flavours.  It was tasty and the prawns were without a doubt very fresh.  That little bit of crab meat failed to justify its RM5 price tag compared to the RM3.50 charged around town.  In terms of providing taste, it was a very minor component.  Given its legendary status and publicity, I was expecting a little more “oomph”.  No, this was not bad in any manner and I believe this is still better than most places in KL, but considering the hype surrounding it, I was not blown.  Just a simple decent plate of delicious noodles.


Also famous besides the 2 Sister’s Char Kuey Teow in Lam Heng Cafe is the neighbouring Yam Cake stall.  I have seen various Singaporeans posting around the internet that the motto when travelling to Penang is to eat the 2 Sister's Char Kuey Teow and pack heaps of yam cake.  Some even commended the lightness of the yam cake which made it so delicate that its condiments had to be packed separately so as to not destroy the yam cake.  A bit of an exaggeration IMHO.  But hey, a little drama adds colour to the experience, no?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But I will be honest here.  It was good.  As described by most as fluffy and delicately prepared, I could feel it.  The yam was cooked perfectly. Consistency was smooth and the generous toppings of dried shrimps, fried shallots and scallions really gave it a boost of flavour and fragrance.  It was yums!  I remember it being RM3! Not bad at all!


Dad’s also decided to give the Prawn Noodles here a shot.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADad says the noodles here was simple and traditional.  Its flavours captured the basics of the Prawn Noodles.  Flavoursome broth rich in flavour with the usual suspects; hard boiled eggs, shallots, pork slices and prawns. Dad seemed to enjoy this quite a fair bit.  He left a bit for me and I was contented with it.  It tasted right but I could not tell the difference between the one we had here and the one we had later on.    Would I eat it?  Definitely a yes.


This breakfast which most would consider fat, full of carbs and unhealthy felt great.  The morning heat was rather mild so eating all this sort of food was still bearable and very enjoyable.  However, I did not get the hype surrounding my hawker fare today.  Yes it’s flavour was good but is it cream of the crop which most claim it to be?  I find it hard to agree.  However, if I am looking for great food all in one place, I would definitely come to Lam Heng Cafe.  Start with a Hokkien Mee, continued by a yam cake and finish off the meal with the 2 Sister’s Char Kuey Teow was something I could have easily done all by myself.  A Malaysian serving is no more than half a serving in Australia haha.



Friday, July 26, 2013

Penang Trip: A Heritage Experience @ 1881 Chong Tian Lou

As it claims,  1881 Chong Tian Lou  is Malaysia’s only heritage hotel.  Like a time warp, it allows diners and hotel guests alike to experience the past with the refurbishment meticulously conducted using vintage furniture and selected fittings.  Housed in a 13 decades old concrete work, this new establishment was previously a hotel for rich traders and merchants back in the 1800s hence its name 1881 Chong Tian Lou.   For me, this was my first proper meal in Penang.  The last two days that was filled with hawker fare has left my stomach craving something better and perhaps less hawker-ish.  Mind you, my choice of coming here was based on a Penang lass’s recommendations of what Penang folks would have. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My pictures of the interior were really horrible but I think I managed to salvage one I took from a sitting position! Some of the vintage mirrors hung on a wall.


Being an upper class Chinese restaurant, the service was prompt and the manager was outmost helpful.  I immediately felt welcomed as I stepped in.  The menu was presented to us and the tea service was always there although in the end we preferred to serve the tea by ourselves. For tonight’s meal I was to follow the recommendations of the chef as well as a few Penang bloggers.


We started with the sharks fin soup which is an age long delicacy in my culture and something which my parents enjoy having.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For me, sharks fin typically meant meaningless luxury as this tough strands of protein like other Chinese delicacies such as abalone are typically tasteless.  However, it was the broth and other ingredients that typically makes the dish stunning.  In the case of 1881 Chong Tian Lou, the flavours in the soup were simply amazing.  The long list of ingredients included dried scallops from its unmistakable sweetness as well as a rich bone broth with generous amount of crab meat and roe.  Among ourselves, we agreed that this is probably one of the best sharks fin soup we have ever eaten with generous clumps of fin present.  Its nearest competitor would be the one at Overseas Restaurant @ Imbi, KL which cost RM20 per bowl.  Here we paid RM80 for a medium serve which scooped up 8 bowls similar to the one in the picture. Smashing value IMHO.


Our next dish was the chef’s specialty bean curd dish @ RM15 (small serve).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs good as it looks, it actually tasted great.  The bean curd itself was no stunner but by all means meet the standard of being sufficiently smooth and soft on the side.  Its sauce though was yummy-liciously Malaysian.  Salty with a slight hint of sweetness and chilli, it was meaty with generous amounts of mince and diced prawns.  Topped with scallions, it was fragrant and down right tasty.  Something that goes perfectly with rice! Definitely a thumbs up dish!


The next dish to hit the table was the Sambal Fried Four Heavenly King @ ~ RM15 (small serve).   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere appetizing vegetables are concerned, little can fault with a sambal stir-fry.  The sambal for this dish at 1881 Chong Tian Lou is fragrant with a Nyonya influence which means it has a mild sour-sweet flavour.  Vegetables were cooked right!  It was soft with a slight crunch!  At this point, I was rather happy be eating here.  All was going well and the price was rather affordable by KL standards.


Our next dish were King Prawns in Soya King Sauce for RM22 (small serve)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was another chef’s specialty.  It is a rather basic fry up but sometimes simplicity is key to perfection.  Very little to hide but it has got to be spot on.   Fortunately this was the case.  It was nice, sticky and well caramelised.  This made the prawn shells finger licking good and once it was peeled, a revisit to the plate to mop up the sauce was necessary :)!  While 4 prawns seems rather little, its large size more than made up for it.


Our last dish was the braised duck in preserved mustard sauce @ RM30 (half a duck)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABraised dishes with preserved vegetables and melt in your mouth meats is a match made in heaven. In fact, slow-cooked pork belly in preserved mustard has got to be one of my favourite dishes of all time!  When I pricked the duck with my fork I knew I was in for a treat. It easily went right through and this means that the duck was braised sufficiently!  True it enough it was very soft and smooth.  Definitely a benefit of braising under low instead of rapid cooking.  But the disappointing bit of this dish was the preserved mustard sauce.  It did not have the flavour I was looking for.  It was not salty or sweet enough to complement the duck.  In fact, the vegetable was not as soft and as fragrant as I expected it to be.  As a result I was forced to use some soy sauce to salvage what would have been a great dish if it was seasoned well enough. 


After a progressive meal of well-prepared dishes, I was gutted that the experience did not flow through to the end.  The bill came to a total of RM190-ish with a bulk of the bill coming from the soup as well as Malaysia’s terribly dated 10% and 5% taxes.  For three people, it felt terribly worth it especially when you consider the ambience, service and ultimately the food we had today.  1881 Chong Tian Lou has put some memorable flavours on the table today.  The tofu was delicious and the Sambal Fried Four Heavenly King was spot on. The soy prawns despite its very basic cooking felt complete.  So, it broils down to how bad the duck was.  In practice, seasoning is always crucial but technique is equally important too.  To say that many places have perfected their braised meat with preserved vegetables would be an absolutely lie as I know deep down, that most only achieve mediocre outcomes. Hence, I am forgiving enough to rate this dish decently as an OK. 


Tonight’s eat at 1881 Chong Tian Lou was extremely satisfying.  In fact, it even best most of the restaurants in KL without a doubt.  No wonder my Penang friends in Perth are always homesick when it comes to food!  Definitely worth a revisit!


38 Jalan Pintal Tali, 10100 George Town, Penang Malaysia

+60 4-263 1881



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penang Trip: Hameed Pata, Fort Cornwallis @ Day 2

While Chinese food predominantly dominate the food scene in Penang, the island is no less famous for its Mamak style food.  One place in particular that hits the spot light among foodies is  Hameed Pata.  Located in a large canteen style shed, this little eatery serves up Mamak favourites such as Mee Sotong, and Mee Rebus which are best complimented by a freshly blended coconut shake from the stall next door called Jalil’s.  The address is located below:

Padang Kota Lama Food Court (next to Fort Cornwallis)

Jalan Padang Kota Lama 10200, Georgetown


Opens at 11.30am and closes on Sundays

Since we just had our breakfast at Toh Sun Cafe, we decided to take it slow and only ordered one of Hameed Pata’s specialty each.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mee Sotong for RM4 is your typical fried noodles with a gravy that is rich and thick.  The flavours are great with the sauce being sweet, salty and spicy altogether.  Add that squeeze of lime and its a home run for most.  For me though, I liked the sauces but despite it having great flavour, I did not feel the motivation to finish up or order another.  This is like an Asian Carbonara that tastes good but gets stodgy after awhile.  It becomes uninteresting.  But really, it got off in great style and flavour but never really ended its race.  The squid on the other hand had a sauce which packed greater sweetness and a decent chilli kick but this type of chewy squid is never quite my kind of thing.


Mee Jawa @ RM6 was my dad’s pick.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADad who is a big fan of Mee Jawa found his noodles lacking anything kind uniqueness that sets this place apart from others. Its sauce felt like a thinner version of the one used for the mee goreng.  For me, I wanted more of the crispy prawn bits that add texture to this noodles.  To put it together this was simply OK.   Travelling many hours from KL where I live, I expected more.

pixzBut when all else seems impossible, it was the drink made me happy.  The coconut shake as recommended by many others was lovely.  Never thought that ice cream and coconut juice along with soda when all mixed together could taste so awesome!


And some photos to end this post.  Taken from the surrounding of Fort Cornwallis :)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Shelter for the soldiers.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome random cannon structure pointing towards another ally structure.  Seems legitimate to build another building there.  Imagine if the cannon was operable. Just add some Malaysian mischief for a different picture.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOld school ammunition store.  Look as if it was meant to contain explosions!

While I would love to recommend visitors to visit the Fort which is an important landmark, its deplorable condition makes it a hard to recommend!



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Penang Trip: Toh Soon Cafe @ Day 2

While most cafes have at least a decent establishment from which food is served, Toh Soon Cafe does otherwise.   This old time charmer located along a back alley on Campbell street has been here for ages from the looks of it.  But while many might associate old to rusty, Toh Soon Cafe still attracts a large crowd daily showing that the folks still have what it takes to remain competitive.  Its customers range from Penang-nites and their families looking to start their day to teenagers as well as inquisitive foodies like myself.


No. 148, Lebuh Campbell, George Town

Pulau Pinang 10200, Malaysia

Closed on Sundays it seems

This placed is famed for the usual suspects such as the butter and kaya toast as well as hard boiled eggs.  Other Malaysian delights served here includes packed Nasi Lemak as well as curry puffs.  While the large crowd clearly shows that this place is popular, is the food really as good as it seems?  Well, to find out I ordered my staples.

The first thing we had was the pre-packed Nasi Lemak which should not have been more than RM1.20 each :)!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am not sure whether the Nasi Lemak here were packed by the Toh Soon Cafe itself or brought for sale by another vendor.  But really, I could not be bothered about such details after my first spoonful  The coconut rice is cooked perfectly grain by grain with its fragrant just right.  It is simple but you would be surprise how many people still make blunders cooking rice.  What made me even more chuffed was the anchovies used here.  Coming in at 10am, I expected the typical sad anchovies that have turned soft because it was pre-packed but I was wrong. It was still crispy and went well with the mildly sweet sambal! Totally yums!  Both my mom and dad were pretty impressed.


The next one was a simple kaya butter toastOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While I have again mentioned “simple” kaya, I have not had any good ones back home in Perth as most of the ones sold are either too sweet or have no fragrant =/.  The toast that day was presented like little planks and had a decent spread of butter and kaya between them.  Prepared the old way, this was toasted in a charcoal oven which gives it that good old charcoal flavour albeit very minimal.  For me, this tasted good although I was expecting more kaya as the toast was rather thick.  But would I make my way to Toh Soon Cafe just for the toast?  Probably not.  Yet, there is something terrible nostalgic about having toast prepared in such a manner.   Not like I was born while my mom used a charcoal oven.  No, I had electric and gas but still, there is just something about such places that keeps me keen.


Last but not the least is the obligatory soft-boiled eggs.  A significant or at least common breakfast food across the globe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA dash of soy and pepper followed by a quick stir creates a magical flavour which I have always loved.   I really enjoyed this.  However, it would be an overstatement to say that the eggs at Toh Soon cafe were the best as I found the egg yolks not runny but was rather solid.  But to highlight it as a major problem would be rather petty.  It was just good old eggs in the end.


Once we were done, we walked away without paying more than RM20.  The included drinks, toast, and nasi lemak for three people along with eggs for me! I was like WoW! Cheap cheap!!  Even by KL standards, it was really cheap!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fiesty lady in green was the lady running the show for her bosses where money and orders were concerned ;)!  Quick and efficient she was.


By the end of the meal, I was not so convinced that this little eatery was worth the hype when judged solely based on the food that we had that day.  Yes, the Nasi Lemak was great but that was about it.  Even then, the Nasi Lemak might have came from elsewhere. The toast was noteworthy and the eggs were passable.  Our drinks came fine though dad lamented the quality of his coffee.  He said that it was nowhere near the standards of a typical kopitiam.  However, add in all the memorable things which humans often overlook such as the history of this place, its setting, simplicity and suddenly, it becomes an emotional eat.  Its charisma is overflowing with dedication no longer seen.  Yes, they have foreign workers serving the goodies, but ultimately it was the old timers that were preparing the food.  Furthermore, coming out of bed to such convenience is always nice.  At the end, I was sold.  Definitely worth a revisit.  So there you go, my little review on this charming little place called Toh Soon Cafe in Penang.  Definitely a noteworthy eat along with the Hawker fare on Kimberley Road.



Monday, July 22, 2013

Penang Trip: Kimberley Road @ Day 1

Ask most foodies which state in Malaysia has the best food, and most will mention Penang.  This Northerly State is a mix of old and new with English settler influences clearly noticeable as heritage roads named after famous figures who landed on the island.  In fact, my dad told me that the older generation Lee’s came from Bishop Street.  Food is gorgeous here, with my trip of 4 days to Penang mainly revolving about overindulging in what the internet claims to be the best of the best of Penang eating.  So how do these “highly recommended”  places that got the internet buzzing, fare?  Reaching late in the evening, I headed out to Kimberley Street located in the earlier parts of Penang to find that while most places were relatively quiet on the street, a small section was full of activity.  The place is the area surrounding Sin Guat Keong Coffee Shop on Kimberley Street.


Sin Guat Keong Coffee Shop

86 Lebuh Kimberley, Georgetown,

10100 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Open from : Morning but the stalls reviewed below only opens in the night


While the place is filled with hawkers, one hawker that was noticeably more busy than the rest was the man cooking up Fried Kuey Teow.  With his stall  emanating a fragrant which is from the by-product of oil used to fry mantis prawns, my stomach was growling!


No quick shutter speed will catch this man in calm moments.  His orders are never ending!  We had two orders of Penang Fried Kuey Teow that night, a simple one without mantis prawns (RM3.60) and another one with the lot (RM6.60). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hype or not?  I reckon not.  This old school fry up has got to be the finest of my trip.  Its “wok-hei” or stir-fry flavour was plenty.  This is something I definitely miss eating when I am in Australia as the fried noodles often come out oily but in terms of fragrance, nowhere near the final product achieved in Malaysia.  At this stall, the chef puts in a small slice of squid which gives the noodle an extra layer of flavour which was pleasant though the squid itself was not nice @@!  What I did not find impressive though, was the additional mantis prawn which close to double the price of the noodles.  The mantis prawns were good flavoursome protein, but for a simple dish of noodles, I preferred it to be less complicated.  The normal prawns were definitely fresh and good enough.


Another popular eat in the area was the braised chicken feet and innards in a rich soy with a bowl of noodles.  This was just a few stalls away from the Char Kuey Teow hawker.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am not sure what this translates to but taken from Vkeong’s Food blog it is called Sky Emperor Chicken Feet Kuey Teow Soup.


While innards and chicken feet is strange in Australia, it is a delicacy back home.  With the feet cooked till super soft and tender, I can understand why locals come in droves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChicken feet combination with soy eggs and innards (RM10).  While I am no big fan of innards, mom and dad reckon that the ones here did not stink which is definitely a positive feedback.  The chicken feet for me were deliciously soft and the sauce was rich though it lacked a stickiness that I am more familiar with.  Eggs were braised in soy but I could not find the saltiness it needed.  Dad reckons this is a typical Penang style of preparing chicken feet where it had a subtle sweetness than a salty sauce.  But fret not, it came with a small saucer of cut chilli and soy.  It went nicely together!  For those who dislike both innards and chicken feet, there is also an option for soy chicken wings and thigh which looked absolutely delicious too!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Kuey Teow soup that came with it was nice and dad preferred this over the chicken feet.  Crispy garlic oil with finely diced scallions gave this soup a delightful fragrant.  But I understand the pairing of braised chicken feet and the Kuey Teow soup.  They were meant to compliment each other though the chicken feet did not taste all that great.


As we were about to go back to the hotel, a motorcycle pulled up with the sign “famous” Yong Tau Fu.  Feeling overly enthusiastic and confident about my stomach space, I decided to order a plate to share.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While I did not find it special, the Yong Tau Fu were of decent quality and his garnish of fried garlic was generous.  I guess back in KL we have high quality Yong Tau Fu in Ampang! 


We had our dinner rather early and finished while the sun was still up.  Kimberley Street was still well lit and it was a good thing.  The old charm of this bountiful street was still clear as ever.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Keep a look out for Part 2 of my Penang trip! ;)



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bites: the Old Crow @ Northbridge

Northbridge and its ever growing number of eateries are an interesting scene for foodies like myself.  Every now and then,  I see something open but am extremely skeptical to go in and try despite their great ratings and rave reviews.  Blame me not as a few places have left me disappointed.  Fortunately though, the Old Crow on William Street was not one of those eateries.  Our waitress for the night have a pretty cool accent.  I assumed she is Scottish and Bel agreed though Jordan reckons a little more Irish.  Shit you not, but she was helpful and super cheerful which made our night great.   More importantly, she was keen to explain all the things we needed to know about the food we ordered while making a few great recommendations too.


Our night started with free complimentary bread with in-house whipped butter:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The joy of free things.  Especially those that actually taste good.  So where do I start?  Deliciously crusty on the outside and  fluffy on the inside.  WoW!  Definitely awesome but the butter despite its rich and creamy texture felt lacking in flavour.  Definitely needed the salt that was on the table.  Great stuff :)!


Next, we ordered the ChimichangaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Chimichanga or the fried tacos were so yummy.  The pulled beef had lovely flavors and the shells were so crispy.  At the base, Old Crow puts a corn salsa and a guacamole to create the perfect Mexican wave.  Old Crow style that is.  An American creation which I have not tried anywhere else but in Perth.  Not bad for starters!  Hot sauce gave it that extra kick but beware of the little pockets of oil that sipped through the openings!  A little scary!


Our first shared plate came out looking really awesome.  The chargrilled octopus on a tomato base with some chick peas and a dollop of sour cream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This dish ticks a few boxes.  Presentation was top notch for $14.50, the sauce was awesome such that I started using the complementary bread to mop the plate and the chick peas were great accompaniments despite me not understanding it presence.   But for me, the octopus was a little overdone.  It became chewier than it should be. While I was not bothered, I was expecting a little more.  Perhaps too much haha.   I wanted something that when cut through, would feel like a warm knife cutting through butter!  Maybe only this can be done with squid.  No idea @@!


All share plates were $14.50.  This was the Duck Parfait


My choice for the night was the duck liver parfait.  Ever since my encounter with Foie Gras a few years back, I started eating these little nasty things which taste absolutely fabulous.  No I will not eat them Chinese style, but OMG when it goes parfait, I am usually sold.  This creamy parfait did not disappoint.  The seasoning was good and it felt decently rich but not as rich as I expected!  Jordan lauded its lightness where he can go for many rounds but fat ass Bel and I still preferred it to be more decadent as we would still got for more even though if it was very rich.  Typical fat ass problems here hahaha.  During dinner I was told that Brioche is the best bread to go with parfait.  True enough, this pairing made it a race to see which melts in your mouth first.  The bread or the parfait.  Great stuff for sure!


I was pretty stuffed by then.  The Chimichanga, squid and the parfait.  Even Bel was full.  But Jordan who was on my #yolo trip to Sydney was not.  No wonder he was the perfect companion to my Sydney foodie tour!  If you would like to see what we had  check out My Sydney Foodie Trip in 36 hours.  Despite being full, we braved on to finish what we ordered.  Our first main to share was the Blackened Pan Fried Fish in a delicious seafood broth.P7150029As much as it look great, it tasted great.  The broth was to die for and the overall flavors that constituted this dish was spectacular.  Fish was really fresh and it had a  skin that still packed that bit of crunchiness.  It was yums!  I am still really trying to find a way to describe the broth.   I know the seafood flavors in there were what some people would call bursty.  It was really flavorful.  But I want to say something else.  Maybe it had a very pronounce shellfish taste?  Whatever =.=!  More importantly, a big change is needed here.  The clams.  They were horrible ='/  Jordan found them bearable but definitely not fresh.  But the rest were good :)!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our next main was the onion tart.  In terms of flavors, these one did not lack onions.  The sweetness of the onions were there but other than that it needed an extra touch of salt.  Having a slow cooked egg was nice especially when the egg is runny and gives the tart moisture.  But one needs to be mindful that a tart which is already so delicate and subtle in flavors does not need a bland element anymore.  Unfortunately the slow-cooked egg was that “bland element”.  Having said that though, the tart still has it merits especially its delicious crust and as mentioned before, the beautifully cooked onions!


Our side of Cajun Spiced Crispy PotatoesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While the Duck Parfait at Cantina 663 definitely did better than the parfait here, the potatoes at the Old Crow trashed Cantina’s buttermilk fried potatoes hands down.  These were literally crispy and the lovely cajun spice gave it a beautiful flavor that turned these blend carbohydrates into something magnificent.  Homemade dressing was highly commendable and we just loved every bit of this.  No wonder the waitress said that these were absolutely gorgeous.  I agree!



My friends love their dessert and there was no way we were going to walk out from here without some.  Especially after I have read the Queen of Bad Timing’s post on the chocolate and peanut butter lava cake served here!  See her post here P7150045Seriously.  This was the BOMB.  If anything at all, I felt like this dish by itself makes the whole trip to the Old Crow worth it.  Not like the rest of our meal was not good but this was seriously yums!  I am not a big fan of chocolate but do a peanut butter-runny chocolate combo and I am officially a convert.   The cake was cooked just right at the top and it was super runny on the inside!  I have always  loved the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  It always feel as if the saltiness and nuttiness of the peanut butter tend to help the chocolate shine.  This works almost all the time!  Maybe that is why top chefs tend to put a pinch of salt into their chocolate cakes and sort!  On the side was the Old Crow’s homemade three milk ice cream.  The three milk consisted of condensed milk, full cream milk and coconut milk.  The perfect combination for a heart attack lol.  The flavors were good! But in terms of consistency, it did not feel as silky as an ice cream should be.  Still, it was not too bad!


We also shared another dessert which was the Old Crow’s Apple Pie with Nutmeg Ice cream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This looked just simply wonderful.  If you love spice, you my friend are going to be a big fan.  I like spices but only to the extent where the fragrance gently tease the sense of my nose.  This though was on a whole new level.  Layer after layer, I felt as if my taste buds were being suffocated.  I think they were way too generous with the cinnamon dusting.  It was too intense but to some, it might be a new found heaven.  For me, I needed water.  A lot of water to wash it all down.  This was clear as Jordan clearly did not mind this although between Bel and I, we were dying @@!  Putting spices aside, one other thing that could be improved was the filling IMHO.  I think the caramelized apple cubes on the inside needed a little more moisture to give it that lovely slightly runny sticky consistency.   As it stands, it was a tad too dry!  Other than that, I could not fault with anything as the pastry became slightly soft thanks to us being too engrossed with the peanut butter and molten chocolate cake!


So how do I sum up my experience?  Really good.  I have been to a few places in Northbridge that has a similar vibe in terms of ambience but none really took off the way the Old Crow did with their food.  The food here was good and nothing here felt too obliging.  Considering they have only been opened for three weeks now, I am hell impressed!  At the Old Crow, it was a mix of cultures which makes dining an amazing experience.  Oh and considering I am a non-alcoholic, I felt right at home with their large choices of mocktails, juices and soda.   Not to mention decent prices too! Juices were $4 while sodas were around $3!  Service without a doubt was friendly on a relatively peaceful Monday night.  Like most have commented, the Old Crow felt like something Northbridge needed for a long time now.  So to the geniuses behind this new establishment, I thank you!



The Old Crow on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bites: Pertica Siam @ Rivervale

Thai flavors are no stranger to my tongue and I simply love the flavors of Thai cuisine.  Their food is usually a fusion of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.  To me, it has all the great flavors that tingle one’s taste buds in a pleasurable manner.  A new Thai restaurant has opened in town and I was excited to find out that it was opened by my colleague’s friends.  Booking was no problem as we knew the owners.  Rocking up at 6.30pm, the place is actually quite small so be prepared to squeeze a little!


Food on the menu is unmistakably Thai.  But are the flavors authentic?  I guess this might not be the right question as the owners are Thai.  So perhaps, it broils down to; can they cook?  Our first appetizer today is the boxing chicken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFried chicken.  Who can say no to one?  Vegetarians are an exception hehe.  These crispy delights are moreish and we enjoyed every bit of it.  The marinade felt more Chinese as it was just simple salt, and pepper.  Coming from the Thai’s maybe I was expecting a Pandan Chicken where the lovely marinade of spices makes dipping sauces totally redundant. Other than that the chicken felt a little rare as it was cooked just right. A slight bloodiness sipped from the bone as it was not cooked through.


The crispy tofu in tamarind sauce.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was not quite sure what to expect when we ordered this.  It felt very plain.  The sauce had the good mix of flavors from sugar, fish sauce and vinegar but the tofu was bland.  It felt rather normal this one.


Then came the tom yam.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe version at Pertica was whitish and not red in color.   I suspect that they did not use a Thai shrimp paste that gives the soup a beautiful shrimp flavor with some sweetness.  But do not be fooled.  The soup was bloody spicy as my friend asked for “hot”.  Definitely worth ordering.  To me, the seafood in there felt pretty fresh as the squid did not stink like the ones I normally get in S&T where the mussels and squid are absolutely horrible. 


For our mains we called a few dishes to share:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Beef Massaman would be one of the best ones I have tasted.  It was just sublime.  The sauce as far as I was concerned was aromatic and rich.  Something that is complemented with plain steamed rice.  It was that good.  The potatoes were delicious too as it was soft but still firm enough to hold its shape.  But that is where it stops.  The beef chunks were ridiculously chewy.  It felt like the cut of meat used was not right or it just was not cook long enough!  Definitely a bummer here!


Other than this, we also ordered the duck curry which was another fabulously presented dish.  I think that one fared heaps better than the beef Massaman in terms of how the protein was prepared.  The duck slices were still tender and juicy.  Spot on!


While we were looking through the menu, Ness could not take her eyes of the word “crispy pork belly”!  You know a true pork eater when you see one and Ness definitely loves her pork.  This was the “crispy pork belly”  with Kailan vegetables.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo me, the pork belly would definitely be crunchy if not for the vegetable stir fry.  Simple put it this way yeah.  For foodies’ sake, do not call something what it is not.  It annoys me so much.  This for me was a beautiful dish if not for its deceptive name.  The pork was yummy and the kailan just went so well with it.  For a vegetable dish, it was superb!  But when the pork is not crispy, I felt disappointed.


We also ordered a Som Tam and a Larb Gai (chicken larb) for our salads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Som Tam barely made it through the passing mark.  Its delightfully crunchy vegetables were somewhat not complemented by the sauce.  It came out lukewarm which is another sad thing.  I was expecting it to come out slightly cold but not too cold.  Also, the typical strong flavors from the lemon/lime/vinegar was not there.  I wanted that punch of flavor so badly but I did not get any.  This similar error followed onto the larb where it was mediocre.  The seasoning was wrong and I needed more flavor.  A lot more flavor.  Give me lime lime lime, sugar sugar sugar and fish sauce please.


One of the last dishes which came out was the Pad Thai.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The noodles were spot on and all the ingredients were top notch.  My request this time?  Minus a little sugar please.  It came out a little sweeter than desired not but nothing too dreadful.  It was still yummy as far as I was concerned!


Compiling my experience at Pertica together, I realize that the food here is actually above average.  It taste good but in many departments it felt lacking that little bit more which distinguishes perfection from good.  Or in the case of the Som Tam and Larb, a pass to a delicious.  It needed that extra oomph.  Flavor flavor flavor.  Sweetness was a little overboard with the Pad Thai too which made me a little dubious of the market Pertica aims for.  Was it a faux Thai restaurant or an authentic place for keen eaters like myself?  In terms of pricing, everything was reasonable around the 15-20 mark.  However, if you intend to share among a group (in my case 7), you will definitely need to order at least 2 serves of each dish as it was rather small.  For the tom yam, at least 4 to share among everyone.  Service here was another issue which might be due to them being new.  It was slow and the service felt understaffed.  However, despite these issues I am very happy to say that I have something to eat nearby my place.  If Pertica lifts their game, I would definitely be a frequent customer as Northbridge parking is now such a bitch.  Not to mention the unnecessary traffic jam along Newcastle St. Or William St. where I had some totally FML experiences recently.



The Pertica Siam Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bites: Koko Black @ Claremont (revisited)

Chocolates to me are like KFC and all those other sinful foods.  No, they (chocolates) are not as unhealthy as KFC, but they are cravings which needs to be cured.  Not by some lame alternatives of course.   One of the favourite places my friends go to is Koko Black.  Unlike other chocolatiers in town, it is still exclusively located in Claremont Quarters.  And guess what?  Prices are up.  Most drinks by 50 cents if I recall correctly ($5.95 to $6.50).  Not sure when though.  Putting prices aside, I  had one of the best chocolate tarts there. It was simply sublime.


The tart came with a beautifully short crust and a warm jug of Crème anglaise.  Imagine this.  Pouring warm Crème anglaise on the tart, the chocolate melts.  The chocolate starts to run when scooped.   Best of all, Koko Black does what it do best.  Create good quality chocolate which is rich, creamy and out of this world. Then we have the silkiness of the Crème anglaise along with a whiff of vanilla.  My god.  It was just fantastic.  I have been a sucker for chocolate tarts recently.  Be it mousse, baked or ganache.  There is just so much to eat!!!


While I am only semi-partial to Koko Black’s hot drinks, their rendition of a chocolate tart with that touch of Crème anglaise showed finesse which to my tongue, was art.  Delicious.



Monday, July 8, 2013

Bites: Harvest Espresso @ Victoria Park (revisited)

Some habits never die they say.  I have long been a fan of Harvest and this season’s menu did not disappoint. Harvest Espresso has now set gone into its winter phase which captures the best produce in season and I am once again sold.  It looks good, taste good and eats right.  Their tarts are still top notch and its ever growing inventory shouts creativity.


In my last visit, I ordered the Cauliflower and Corn fritter, fresh zucchini & herb salad & sumac labneh.


The cauliflower is a winter gem.  Put it in the hands of Harvest Espresso’s chef and you have the perfect match.  These more-ish fritters were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  Just my sort of thing.  The acidity of the zucchini and herb salad was appetizingly good.  With the sumac labneh which is a yoghurt based concoction, it was just yum!  For me, I loved all the flavors on the plate.  If I had to retract an ingredient, it would definitely be the source of protein which were the eggs.  Gooey yolks is a beautiful thing but in this dish it toned down the strong bold flavors (acidity) of the labneh which is not quite my preference.   Also, with that extra drizzle of oil around the place the dish felt a little oily towards the end! Nonetheless, it was still very delectable!


The little darling ordered a dish that typically represented her.  The French toast, poached pear, mascarpone and almond flakes with maple syrup.   Best part of the dish was that it taste as good as it looked!IMG_1888

For starters, they used a brioche which was just perfect to soak all the syrup!  It came out warm and felt like a good hearty replacement for a winter soup.  The pear was poached just right although it could go 1 notch softer which still did not present a problem.  Also, do not look down on this dish as it is actually pretty big!  She could not finish and so I took over. With such delicious offerings, I could not bear to see it go to waste.


Another great seasonal menu by Harvest Espresso.  I cannot wait to see what magic they conjure the next season.  Nothing less than splendid I would expect :)!



Harvest Espresso on Urbanspoon