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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bites: South American Ribs @ Subidoo, Subiaco.

A week of sudden rib cravings led me to dine at two American diners last week.  First was a meal at Ribs & Burgers in Perth city and the other at Subidoo in Subiaco.  The latter was my pick to meet up with a few colleagues over dinner.

To start we ordered a main size buttermilk fried chicken with spicy mayonnaise.

These crispy boneless chicken came out promising.  It looked crispy on the outside but it was missing the outer crust with a deep crunch. What also felt lacking was the memorable buttermilk fragrance.  Subidoo’s buttermilk chicken had a thin layer of crust rather than a crunchy batter. In saying that it came out really tender and still yummy.  Apparently buttermilk works as a tenderiser too!

Fish Tacos; battered fish, slaw, and chilli aioli.

This unsuspecting taco is one of my surprise favourites at Subidoo.  Its flavours were spot on! You have the acidity of the slaw, the creamy mayonnaise and the crispy fish.  Sounds like a sure win does it not?  However, it could be super-sized though to make it real American if you get what I mean.  The tacos were a little small.

That night we had three serve of ribs which allowed us to sample all their specialties.  The first of the three was the beef back ribs.

The full rack for $30 was a steal.  Imagine thick and juicy fall of the bone meat that is tender, slightly fatty with its edges mildly caramelised. Basting was rich, and its flavours all worked so very well together.  Delicious.  

The other two rib dishes were based on pork.  The Five Spice Ribs and the Cuban Style BBQ Pork Ribs.

The Asian inspiration in the Five Spice Ribs were pretty obvious.  It had notes of tamarind and was topped with some chilli.  The Five Spice flavour was present and to bring all the flavours together you have that fruity sweetness from the palm sugar which carries a natural caramel flavour.  It was decent but I did not feel quite as impressed as I was with the beef ribs!

The Cuban style BBQ Spare Ribs was also something which I felt tasted OK but did not really live up to my expectations.  With all due respect, I did not get the smokey BBQ flavours one would normally expect.  Perhaps it has something to do with the Cuban style barbecue? Never had that before haha.  

As a side, we also had the chargrilled corn.  Boy, these were so good.  Sweet corn perfectly cooked and simply oozing with the chipotle sauce.  The added sprinkling of cheese made dreams come true and it was all a very common flavour that everyone on the table enjoyed.  Except AC of course as he does not like cheese at all!

Subidoo is a nice place to catch up with friends over a meal in Subiaco as its casual and airy diner means you have a lot more space without the feeling of suffocating.  But if you are here for the ribs which is the specialty of Subidoo, you will feel disappointed (with the exception of the beef ribs).  The plate of porky ribs did not feel as though there was enough love present in the process of preparing the dish. Clearly enough from the picture, it felt as though the sauce and the ribs were two separate components from start to end.  Sauce poured on top of dry ribs?  I wanted ribs tenderised by slow cooking.  Then set it on a grill and baste it with the sauce repeatedly to initiate the fusion between meat and sauce.   Subidoo’s execution of the pork ribs was mildly flawed but its lack of attention to detail made it deplorable.   In hind sight, I would return anytime for those gorgeous beef ribs!

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Bites: A quick lunch bite @ Jun, Perth City.

Whether its a cheap lunch alternative or  an authentic dinner bento, Jun is a venue not to be missed.  Its large clientele of Japanese during lunch hours especially is clear indication that this basement diner is doing something right. 

This lunch we ordered several of their punch specials which includes the usual suspects Chicken Karaage, Chicken Katsu and another Chicken dish called the Tatsuta-age.  These chicken dishes are comparable to your suburban Japanese takeaway but in massive proportions.
The Chicken Tatsuta-Age

The Chicken Kara-age

Confused about between a Kara-age and Tatsuta-age? They are both fried chicken right? So I thought! But no worries Google the source of know-it-all tells me that,  the Kara-age does not necessarily need to be marinaded but the Tatsuta-age always is!  More importantly, Tatsuta-age uses a tapioca starch instead of the wheat flour used by Kara-age.  This results in a more crunchy slightly chewy fried batter that is very similar to that of the Taiwanese XXL Fried Chicken.  Hope that helps!


The Chicken Katsu

Most people prefer would rather pay an extra $3 premium for Jun than dine at Taka during lunch, and there are legit reasons for that.  This includes Jun spending more time and love in the preparation of their food,  and top class Kara-age.  If you come in at night, expect to be treated to some tender braised soy pork belly and amazing skewered meats.  During lunch that day, the only thing that did not really deliver was the Chicken Katsu and the rice as it was a little wetter than I would have liked it to be! The Chicken Katsu on the other hand had a batter that way too thick!  It felt way over the top.  But for those who had the Kara-age or the Tatsuta-age, it was all good :)!  Note, come early and sit first!  Late comers wait longer and it reduces the pleasure of dining at Jun.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Bites: The best Salmon and Mandarin Pudding @ Harvest Espresso, Victoria Park

Harvest Espresso has changed its menu to respect the produce in season and the winter style of dining.  Their approach is the perfect way of dining where everything is ripe, and full of flavour. New on its menu was a hearty braised beef, a crispy skin salmon and a decadent orange dessert. 

Last winter, they served a beef dish that was slightly underwhelming i.e. the beef pie that did not really tickle my fancy.  But how about this Winter's slow braised cheeks with celeriac puree, PX and remoulade salad?  To start, it was a very hearty combination on the plate complimented by a sensational plating which gave it a hint of sophistication.  Love the contrast of the shiny dark-ish brisket and the remoulade salad at the top!

In essence, the braised beef could have easily be the best winter dish but there were a few slip ups starting with the tougher than expected beef cheek indicating that more braising time was required.  I liked the sauce but found it needing more inspiration beyond the rich PX flavour.  I wanted a sauce combining perfectly caramelised root vegetables and some other element of sweetness to drive the dish home as the PX sauce had a noticeably bitter note to it.  The beef cheeks were nice but it was no heaven.

The next dish was the Crispy Salmon Fillet with braised leeks, butter lettuce jus, toasted buckwheat, and Hon Shimeji mushrooms.

Another dish which reaped the benefits of the slow cooking process.  This was the best fish dish Harvest Espresso has ever served to me.  It was the perfect fish dish with the salmon skin perfectly crispy.  Add the plump and juicy mushrooms along with the buttery melt-in-your-mouth leeks and I was in heaven.  A dish like this is a dish that does not want to make you put your fork and knife down.  Just eat eat eat and eat!!  How can one forget the finer details of leak ash which was a nice touch which gave a hint of smokiness.  It was very mild though!  Probably due to subdued sensations attributed to the winter chill!

The classic mushroom omelette is a dish that never grows old with the season.

Its creamy centre, and generous ingredients make it an all time staple.  Noms!

The sweet ending of the meal is none other than Harvest Espresso’s steamed Mandarin Pudding. Harvest Espresso's Mandarin Pudding has made its way across the whole Instagram for the period I was away at work.

Thankfully, it lived up to the hype with the bright orange sponge coming out super light and fragrant.  Its accompaniment of toasted muesli, jelly, subtle coconut cream and earl grey crumble was a combination where you get all these little flavours working together to give texture, flavour and fragrance.  This was an absolute stunner of a dish.  This Mandarin Pudding from Harvest Espresso was loved by all.  Smashing!!

No conclusion needed here.  All you need to do is visit Harvest Espresso this weekend!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Singapore: Classical French Dining @ Les Amis in the Shaw House, Singapore.

Les Amis was my final lunch before I left Singapore. This traditional French diner serves the classics with a modern presentation and a pinch of Asia.  Holding a spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant and previously featured in The Worlds 100 Best Restaurants, this was another highly acclaimed restaurant that got me excited and coming from Jaan at Swissotel just the day before, I was prepared to be absolutely blown.

The first dish Les Amis had for the table was the Foie Gras terrine with mango chutney.

The assemble was modernly presented on a long tile but the terrine tasted mediocre at best.  Its seasoning was decent but it not spread well across the bread.  I was actually hoping for a more pate finish that simply melts in my mouth.  Thankfully enough, the slightly tart but ripe flavours of the fragrant mango provided a consolation prize finish.

Pan seared scallops served in “nage”, and salmon roe

Plump scallops in a buttery emulsion.   Each of which was cooked perfectly with a thin crust on the outside with its sweetness and juiciness maintained on the inside.  Need I elaborate more?  Perhaps the complexity of the nage was a little understated and the fragrant of the wine was not pronounce  but otherwise it was perfect!

Ocean trout cooked unilateral, cabbage and olive emulsion

Ocean trout was hard to fault and it was probably the least mentioned dish that day.  Besides enjoying the layers peel off one after another, I really appreciated the subtle undertones of the emulsion which complemented the trout.  One fault which I did not understand was why the skin was not removed and crisped to a shard before being placed back on top!  It would have made it all the better!

For the mains, Les Amis presented us with a choice of the “Pork” aor the “Chicken”.

Pork from Carpathian Mountains with charcuterie sauce and mashed potato.  This was not mine but I wished it was! Presentation was flawless and its taste was yums!  Very simple, and fuss free but the substance was there.  Surprisingly tender for something so lean.  The side of mashed potatoes were “OK” but not as buttery as how Joel Robuchon does his.  Palatable nonetheless.

Traditional Roasted Chicken, confit potatoes, cabbage with mustard and jus.

Just yesterday after dining on the best poultry at Jaan at Swissotel,  I was simply flabbergasted to be served a bird like this at Les Amis. Technically, it was edible but in a restaurant like this, everything felt wrong.  The presentation was crap, the salad was bitter and the chicken was under-seasoned.  Generally the French are very light on their seasoning and it works but in this instance, it just killed the chicken. Twice! Note: the potatoes were edible. 

Alphonso Mango, sugar sphere.

Keep the best for the last they say.  Perhaps Les Amis has picked up that habit too.  This impressive looking dessert had all the bells and whistles to make heads turn.  A quirky-glossy sphere that just intrigues.  When it reached the table, seeing the sphere slowly crumble under the knock of the spoon was as addictive as popping the bubbles of a bubble wrap.  The mango flavours were lovely and the sorbet on the inside was just superb.  I have always preferred lighter more refreshing fruity desserts over sugar laden chocolate ones.  The Alphonso Mango was right up my alley.  But with all sugar shards, expect it to stick in between your teeth!

To finish our meal at Les Amis, we were served served hot drinks and some Palmiers.

These butterfly shaped pastries were right on the dollar to finish the meal. Sipping tea made the experience all the better.  But was the Palmier all les Amis had to offer to finish the meal? =/!!!!

To sum up the lunch, Les Amis is a restaurant that promises classical fine dining without kicking up a fuss.   Its techniques were simple and some of it worked.  I can imagine this is what retirement feels like.  It feels great but a little sedentary and all of it, very rational.  Not much fireworks in the food Les Amis presented to us today.  The execution was fair but it did not really sweep my peers and I off our feet.  My main of chicken was a clear disaster but other dishes like the fish was slightly blend but still yummy.  My dining partners were clearly left divided between the scallops and dessert of Alphonso Mango.  But for me, I felt that neither was good enough to dampen my disappointment at Les Amis.  For a restaurant that boast a position higher than Jaan on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list, I expected a lot more.

See my review of Jaan here.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Singapore: Modern French Dining Above the Clouds @ Jaan, Swissotel

After surging 72 floors to Jaan, I was guided to my seat and was instantly awed by the views from the table.  The service was friendly and the waitress stowed our coats away.   Jaan is no stranger to the fine dining scene and is highly ranked among its peers.  In Jaan’s recent assessment, the gastronomic institution ranked 74 in the The World’s Best Restaurant List 2015 and 11th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List.  But like always, numbers only mean so much if substance is not there.  So where does Jaan stand already congested Modern French dining scene?

The menu for today was the Artisanal degustation which is promises nothing but the best from the Chef.  For an added sense of excitement, the menu was not listed out.

The starter was a platter of “snacks” 
Attention to detail alert!  The crisp puff, the charcoal bread and the Chef’s interpretation of hummus with crackers, everything was creatively put together. 

Chef Julien’s “My Hummus”.  Can I have a jar to take home please?

The amuse bouche 
Mushroom emulsion with tea.  A frothy delicacy with little bits of crunchy puffs for texture.  

HOKKAIDO UNI, cauliflower, ‘Oscietra’ caviar
It’s been awhile since I was served something so pure, and so clearly composed.  The smooth, sweet and briny flavours paired sensationally with the creamy cauliflower puree.  Add the buttery, and mildly salted caviar for a food coma.  This was a very rich course but it did not leave the mouth tasting foul.  Top notch! On the side were some soldiers topped with micro-herbs and what I presume was cheese.  
Not sure why the soldier was served because the dish of Uni by itself was already heavenly by itself!

BEETROOT COLLECTION ‘Burrata artigiana’, honeycomb, horseradish
The beet root course is what one calls “perfect timing”.  After back to back indulgence from the hummus, mushroom foam and Hokkaido Uni, this dish provided a salvation like none other.  The inspiration from the plate made me reminiscence the Asparagus Course from Amuse.  From the beetroot Meringue, to the sorbet to the pickled beets, it was faultless.  The pairing of honey and buffalo cheese with the beetroot was unmistakably text book material but its something that drives the taste buds to a climax.  Even my dining partner JH was impressed by the substance on the plate!

ORGANIC EGG “JARDINIER” Garden peas,black garlic
Ham, peas and eggs, is a simple yet extremely classic dish native to several European countries.  To finish, it was topped with truffles, Jamon and pork crackling.  Execution was perfect.  Think buttery crushed peas, crispy crackling, and runny yolk, all of which was serenaded by a note of truffle.  No words required here.

CRISPY SKIN AMADAI Kabocha, in-house salsa
This is Jaan’s signature dish., the crispy skin Amadai.  The dish sports an unmistakably unique feature.  Its edible scales stick out gracefully on the plate which played a more textural role than flavour.  In one sentence, the Amadai was prepared very nicely with an in-house salsa but the Amadai was the least impressive course at Jaan.  When a fish course is a restaurant’s signature, I expect the same initial wow factor Testuya Wakuda’s Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout delivered.

HAY-ROASTED PIGEON White corn, foie gras, cabbages, cumin
This is Chef Julien’s forte,  a game bird from the Bresse province in France (info from others). Served medium, the presentation was absolutely sexy! To this day, I still imagine the juicy slices of pigeon breast!  On my first bite, the whiff of smokiness clouding the whole dish was mild but recognisable.  The gaminess of the bird was mild but add a small bit of Foie Gras and it lifted the game to a whole new level.  Boy this was great! 

Palate cleanser

CHOCONUTS ‘GRAND CRU’ Tastes & textures
Chocolate, chocolate, everywhere chocolate.  This is probably what I need on my final two days of work each swing.  But having it 72 storeys above ground at Jaan in Swissotel felt like the perfect setting.  Whilst I am still a bigger fan of the Death by Chocolate served at Petite Mort, the Grand Cru delivers a kick of chocolate in each bite.  Every element on the plate delivered a sensation of differing creaminess, sweetness, and texture.  Each of which easily earns a place on my tongue.  From the bubble texture to the reach mouse and brittle logs, it was booms!

APPLE sorbet, mint
Apple sorbet, crystals, and jelly.  It is hard to appreciate the course with its simple looks but as said before, looks can be deceiving.  Apple and mint to finish was smart thinking by the chefs at Jaan.  A description I use plenty of times, the dish delivered a finish that was clean and crisp.  

MIGNARDISE or simply, Petit Four.
The small oven creations were Jaan’s final course finished with a whimsical sense of creativity.  With the pouring of dry ice, a mysterious cloud hid a platter of what would eventually be revealed as Chocolate Macarons with mushroom filling, marshmallows, CanelĂ©  and Chocolate pops filled with mint.  Technical faults were present across the board but after being so impressed by the Artisanal dego, I thought I would grant Jaan leniency.

If people call Jaan a good dining experience, I think the good just got better.  The level of dining I experienced was not one that comes by everyday.  From a Michelin perspective an easy 2 stars which is very close to a solid 3.  Dish after dish, JH and I both commended the thought that was presented with each course. From the pigeon smoked in hay to the beetroot collection and even more so with the ham,pea and eggs, these were simple yet enjoyable pleasures!  The execution of each course was flawless and the presentation was made artistic.  My only disappointment was the course of AMADAI fish which clearly showed that just because it looked great does not mean it taste great.  But then comes the humble bird which was Chef Julien's favourite and it absolutely sealed the deal at Jaan.  Dining with such food on the 72nd floor also made it feel as though you were dining in heaven.  This brings back good memories of me dining in Sepia, Sydney and Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon.  Happy days! To Chef Julien and his crew, thank you.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Singapore: Indian Galore @ Tekka Centre, Little India

Singapore is a superb one stop eating destination if you are looking for hassle free dining. From the hawker delights to the pinnacle of fine dining, this busy republic seem to have it all!  In this post, I took a morning trip with my resident aunt for some delicious hawker fare in town.  

First stop was Hong Lim Food Complex which boast two levels of affordable hawker fare. I started with the Outram Park Char Kuey Teow stall as everything else was still close at 9am!
Fresh out of the wok, the noodles cost just a little over $3 for the lot.  The noodles come out coated with egg and a dark caramelised coating. Juicy cockles are part of the fare but Singapore’s Best Char Kuey Teow felt a little lacking in that final bit of kick that stems from a good frying in the wok.  Instead, the Fried Kuey Teow was a little wet and had a slightly creamy coating from the eggs.  It was decent by all means but I found my adventures to Penang 2 years back to be more hearty and it got more tongue wagging too!  See my three Fried Kuey Teow reviews from Penang below:

Once we were done, I started looking around for the famous Heng Kee Curry Noodles but was told that they do not open until closer to lunch.  Oh well!  My aunt then brought me to Tekka Centre on 655 Buffalo road in Little India just a few MRT stations away for more awesome eating.  As I enter the food court, I started drooling! There were so many stalls around and I honestly wanted to order everything!

I started with one of my biggest cravings the  Roti Canai or if you prefer Prata.  Doused with fish curry and a spoonful of sinfully delicious Sambal at Prata Saga Sambal Bermuda.  This cost no more than 80 cents and holy crap it was lovely.  Thin, and middle crispy with little pockets of air the take in all that lovely curry.  

To help fend off Singapore’s hot weather was Chendol!  This drink is served with a splash of coconut milk and a generous scoop of palm sugar.  Super delicious as I would expect it to be as the palm sugar used was of high quality as it had that slightly savoury fragrant.  Even the green stuff known as Chendol was super fresh unlike the ones in Perth that comes out of the can.  

To finish was a serve of Indian Rojak at Temasek Indian Rojak.  On the plate we had the customary cuttlefish, hardboiled eggs, fried spiced batter, fish cakes and all that other yummy goodies!!  To top if off were some freshly chopped vegetables with a bowl of peanuty-mildly sweet Rojak Sauce.  It was a little oil but like all Indian Rojak, it is simply something that you would expect!
Believe it or not, at this point I was thinking of whether I should go for the Mutton Briyani that was simply staring at me from no more than 20 metres away.  Yet I did not go for it as I knew I had to reserve my stomach for my lunch later on.  But I definitely wold when I come back to Singapore next time as this place is promising from the Mamak and Indian food I have tasted!  

If you are a Malaysian like myself, you are almost certain to downplay the success of the local Singaporean hawker scene which is very similar to Malaysia.  But this is definitely not true!  While the Char Kuey Teow is mediocre by Malaysian standards the Roti Canai, Chendol and Indian Rojak that I had puts most Mamaks in Malaysia shame!  Definitely a return for me.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Singapore: db Bistro Moderne, Marina Bay Sands

db Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands was my first meal in Singapore.  Lauded for its big mouth burgers and some French classic dishes, I was pretty gutted to have not tried the one in Manhattan, opposite the hotel I lived in after missing out on the 3 Michelin Star restaurant Daniel. So when my host suggested to have dinner in MBS’s db Bistro, I  was super keen.

db Bistro Moderne at MBS sports a very casual dining layout accented by red/white leather seats, vintage tiles and chic fittings.  The menu is extensive and they have introduced a new seafood platter, something which the wait staff were quite keen on selling.  Coming from Australia I was totally not biting the bait as I knew good seafood is cheap back home.

The complimentary bread basket:
Looking back when I had it was super delicious because it was 8.30pm and we had not eaten anything since lunch.  But thinking it through, the course was at best a decent bread basket with French butter. 

Our shared appetiser  of Tuna Tartare - main size ($30)
I love my tartare be it steak or fish and the one at db Bistro was pretty good.  However, I tend to prefer my tartare with minimal seasoning yet the Harissa marinated tartare proved to be a surprisingly good addition.  Its pairing with the cucumber and cool mint yoghurt paired to give the tartare a nice finish.  No fishy taste if you are concerned ;)

Duck confit, with a bean cassoulet and watercress salad ($42)
The serve was generous and the perfectly caramelised skin was superb to look at.  Its flavours were well-balanced and not overly salted. While the duck confit was a standout by itself, the bitter greens and mediocre bean cassoulet accompanying the dish did not settle well with JH’s palate.  

The Original db Burger Burger ($42)
This is easily the most talked about burger in Singapore.  Its patty made of fine mince consisting of sirloin filled with braised short ribs and Foie Gras is one of the juiciest in the business.  But its $42 price tag excluding tax also gives it bragging rights as it was the most expensive burger I have ever eaten only to be beaten by Robuchon’s Foie Gras burger at Joel Robuchon's Kagoshima and Foie Gras burger at Le’ Atelier.  But when it comes to flavour, its was yummy!  You get the creamy Foie Gras, juicy mince and finished with a melting note from the fatty ribs.

All in all, db Bistro Moderne was a really decent place for dinner that evening.  But was it as good as most people suggest it to be?  Perhaps not.  Even my dining companion JH who is usually proud of this db Bistro Moderne joint felt poorly about the Duck Confit that night which lacked attention to detail with the poorly finished bean cassoulet and bitter wilted greens.   The price tag in addition was not the cheapest too.  Without desserts, the price tag came close to a hefty $140.  


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bites: French Toast Decadence @ Sixteen Ounces , Victoria Park.

Home is where the heart belongs they say.  I have been living in Rivervale for over 4 years now and my affection for Victoria Park is never ending.  From the impromptu pop ups on Leonard street to the innovative Harvest Espresso and the ever so precious dinner places like the Prophet and A Spicy Affair, this suburb has got to be one of the finest in Perth.  During my short brake, I finally took the effort to bring my camera and my parents to my newest muse, Sixteen Ounces.

I have been to Sixteen Ounces several times now and their signature Brioche French Toast with Caramelised Bananas and Smoke Bacon with a generous drizzle of salted caramel is a must to share around the table.
The smell of butter is unmistakable once this beauty comes out from the kitchen.  This mini tower of three Brioche was just super sexy and hits all the right notes in my mouth.  Fluffy Brioche French toast, super sweet bananas and salty bacon.  To finish was a fine balancing act in a close to perfect salted caramel.  I was sold.  For some reason though, it felt as though it was missing a notch of nuttiness in it preparation.  Maybe its just my slow winter taste buds!  Be warned, its a little too heavy for one so it’s better shared as a dessert for all!

My other breakfast was the pulled beef, pan fried potatoes and corn kernels served with poached eggs.
This dish felt like a humble farm styled breakfast that packs great flavours.  Pan fried tuber slices, buttered kernels and a sensational pulled beef that felt more like a classic Italian Ragu. Cutting the poached eggs, its gooey yolk brought everything together.  In essence, it was a beautiful mess.  I sure wished they gave more pulled beef! This dish was yummy!

My breakfast with my parents that morning had some interesting elements on the plate.  Each were equally impressive and nothing felt too “try-hard”.  The elements in each dish were simple but they complement each other well.  It was great meal in all honesty.  Do note that the prices at Sixteen Ounces are relatively cheaper than its counter parts but its serve is not the largest too! Very similar to Hylin on Railway Parade.

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