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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bites NLD: Indonesian Cuisine @ Si Des, Spuimarkt

Being so far away from Asia, I very often crave for good Asian food.  Thankfully, the Netherlands is a place that many Indonesians called home due the Indonesia-Netherlands special relationships.  For those who did not know, Indonesia was a Dutch colony in the past!  Like always, eat where the locals eat and when my Indonesian friend Johnny recommended Si Des in Spuimarkt, I knew where I was headed for my next meal.

I spoke to the lady at the counter and she told me that Si Des has been in business for many years now giving me great expectations of the food it served.  After being convinced that I could finish two dishes by myself, I ordered a Gado-Gado and the Ayam Kremes.  The Gado-Gado is a classic Indonesian salad consisting of eggs, blenched vegetables, tofu and cucumber.  Topped with a rich and chunky peanut sauce, this salad was absolutely mouth watering.

Biting into a mouthful of Si Des’s Gado-Gado,  you get the layers of textures and flavours you would expect from the wholesome salad.  Crunchy vegetables, sweet peanut sauce and chewy tempeh are all important parts of the bigger picture.  While everything was yummy, I felt that only one element was missing!  That is a slightly oily-chili-ish touch to its peanut sauce!

Next up was the Ayam Kremes, a deep fried chicken thigh topped with a mountain of tasty crumbs.

Served with a side of rice and a small bowl of sambal, my mouth salivated on first sight.  The crispy chicken paired with the fragrant sweetish crumbs were yums!  The chicken was tender, and sambal aromatic.  What more can you ask from a simple meal of fried chicken and rice?  Surely it was not rocket science that this pairing tickled my fancy, but how often do you get something so simple done so well?  Not very often I would say.

My lunch at Si Des was a delicious one.  I did not quite try the other offerings like the Mie Bakso, Mie Ayam, Beef Rendang and such but for what I had, Si Des impressed.  The food was affordable, filling and delicious.  Just one week later, I re-visited Si Des and tried their Ayam Panggang or Grilled Chicken.  Again it was a simple, and delicious meal.  Do note that my friend who has the Chicken Curry and Rice was not too impressed.  I do admit that it looked a little sad too.  


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bites NLD: Traditional Dutch Food @ Moeders, Amsterdam

Ever wondered what the average Dutch family has for dinner? If you are thinking bread, cheese and maybe potatoes you are probably not too far away.  To find out, I brought my friend Sam and the his bride Steff to one of the most popular Dutch diners in the heart of Amsterdam. The restaurant is called Moeders which simply translates to Mothers in English.  Come in, be seated and gaze at the nostalgic walls filled with hundreds of pictures of mom.  Be sure to make a reservation as plenty were turned back when they tried coming in impromptu.

The menu is rather short and does not requires much thought, but why not ask the waiter for a recommendation? We did eventually ended up with the Hollandse Rijstaffel or Dutch Ricedish (19 Euro per person).  And no it is not a dish of rice.  One by one little pots of stew, potatoes, relish and vegetables came out.  Eventually the table was filled to the brim. 

The essence of the meal of a Dutch Stamppot which was mash mixed with different types of vegetables and served with a protein.  Moeders’s beef stew was tender, meaty and absolutely hearty.  Pour it over boiled potatoes for a delicious warm meal.  Then add some relish and red cabbage to give your taste buds an explosion of flavours.  There were two types of beef served and I felt that besides the stronger hint of bay leaves in one, I could not really differentiate the two significantly.  In saying that, the stew with smaller chunks of beef had more melt in your mouth fat-juicy bits whilst the larger chunks were much leaner.  

Besides the beef, there was also a serve of smokey bacon and bratwurst served with apple sauce and sauerkraut.  Needless to say, they were rather tasty morsels of food but it was a tad common considering I had just returned from Berlin haha.

To keep the dinner interesting I also ordered the large serve of Father’s (Vaders) Spare Ribs with a side of slaw and frites.

The spare ribs at Moeders was clearly not what I expected.  When a restaurant puts spare ribs on their menu, I automatically process a meal that is smokey, and charred with sweet barbecue coated flesh that simply falls of the bone.  At Moeders, the ribs were coated in generous amounts of hearty brown sauce that was not smokey at all, and the meat was still a little tough but not too tough giving the spare ribs some bite.  While it was nowhere near the best rib I have ever had, it still was a decent one.

Moeders introduced me to world of Dutch cuisine and it was a very pleasant first attempt.  With the drizzly weather coming in at full throttle, I can imagine Moeders being incredibly popular with their hearty meals.  The flavours of the main dishes were slightly monotonous but there was always something to elevate the enjoyment.  The Rijstaffel for example always had an element beyond salty like the sour sauerkraut or the sweet and fruity relish. Do note that the food we ordered should have only fed three.  But considering how stuffed we were at the end of the meal, I believe it could have easily feed one more!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

London: Home-Style French Cooking @ La Poule au Pot, Belgravia

My colleague Jacques has a European heritage that traces back to the South of France.  Despite the typical stereotypes of the French being impatient, poor in service and fussy with food, he was nothing like that.  In fact, he was very un-French by being every bit hospitable while I was staying with him, and ever so patient when we were colleagues at work.  Which make me wonder about his taste for food and I was about to find out. One the last night, he recommended a little French place called La Poule au Pot for dinner.

This little restaurant could not be any less pretentious with its simple outfit and French waitstaff.  This gave me a good vibe about dinner that is going to be unsophisticated but honestly good.  At La Poule au Pot you have a choice between seating inside and outside, but as the sun was still up, I could not resist seating outside by the square and see the evening go by.

Complementary crudites with a mustard dipping sauce.

This is one of those moment where I would say “I do not normally enjoy my vegetable raw, but when I do they are bloody good”.  And I am not being an el-cheapo here just because it was free.  But the depth of interest grows when you put out an interesting platter.  Some peppers, carrots, fennel and some red turnips. Vibrant colours.


Basic but vital.  Not with the butter but with the stews that were about to come :)

Beef Bourguignon

Coq Au Vin

Put both dishes together and you might find the two dishes fairly similar.  It contained good amounts of red wine, tender protein, sweet root vegetables and was absolutely hearty.  But each dish had its own distinctive taste with the Beef Bourguignon having a heavier, much more meaty finish whilst the red wine flavour was a lot more pronounce and present in the Coq Au Vin.  All of the vegetables were soaked in delicious juices and the dish really benefited from the slow cooking which resulted in melt in your mouth chunks of beef.  The Coq Au Vin on the other hand is cooked for a much shorter time which means the alcohol does not all dissipate.  This produces a tender chicken with a wine-stained skin.  Oh boy they were delicious.

Some greenx for the table

Apple Tartin to finish.

Thick layer of caramelised apples was paired with a lovely short crust.  But the highlight for me was how the apple dessert was not sugar laden.  Instead you get the ripe flavours of the apples that was sweet with a mild tartness.  Sensational. 

My over all satisfaction with the meal was high.  The lack of presence by the Foie Gras or Truffles at La Poule au Potwas a great thing as I was treated to what good home-cooked French food should be.  My meal was authentic, simple and humble.  The bill too was decent as it totalled just under £60!  When it comes to service though, it was only modest at best due to the lack of friendliness from the waitstaff!

La Poule Au Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, October 18, 2015

London: Reminiscing NYC @ Shake Shack, Convent Garden.

One of the most random eats I did in London was at Shake Shack in Convent Garden.  It simply happened when I walked past by the market for the second time.  Seeing a Shake Shack and nothing eating there is almost like sinning!  So despite being  stuffed from the breakfast I had before, I decided to order the single Shack burger and a Salted Caramel Shake (they ran out of peanut butter !@#%).
First bite in and I was over the moon.  The yummy patty sandwiched between a shiny-sweet bun with a drizzling of secret "Shack Sauce"  was still as amazing as I remembered it to be.  Shake Shack's patty was simply scrumptious and this was a very basic combination that did wonders when it came to flavours.  Every bite was reminiscence of my trip to NYC last year.  It was sensational.  So much better than the gargantuan Shack Stack which I had last year. It is amazing how the folks at Shake Shack can mass produce something that tastes so good!  No meal at Shake Shack is complete without their Milk Shakes.  So if you are ever deciding between skipping the cola for an ice cream or vice versa, I tell you now to put both aside.  The milkshake at Shake Shack is the best of both worlds.  Thick, creamy and rich in caramel, it was slightly sweet but every bit yummy.  Good old fat ass moments I have to say.

For some reason, I was not so impressed when I first had Shake Shack at the Grand Central shop.  But a re-visit to its original location in Madison Square convinced me of Shake Shacks cult status.   Re-visiting Shake Shack in Convent Garden and I was convinced for the second time, that this is a truly delicious burger.  Definitely come here for a treat!

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, October 15, 2015

London: Amazing Chorizo Hash @ the Riding House Cafe, Oxford Circus

It was a Sunday morning and it was time for breakfast.  But with the Delaunay breaking my bank the other day, I decided to stay away from bloggers' suggestions and instead depended on my robot partner Siri.  First on her list was an Australian place called Granger & Co. in Notting Hill but it was an hour wait.  With not time to waste,  I asked again and Siri recommended the Breakfast Club in Oxford Circus.  Alas, it was another one hour wait! For the third and final attempt, Siri recommended the Riding House Cafe just a few minutes walk from the Breakfast Club.


At 9.20am, there was no queue which means my friend Jacques and I were seated immediately.  Its morning breakfast menu was charming with all the usual suspects but I could not go past the first item I saw on the menu, the Chorizo Hash Browns for £10.

Crisp on top and soft on the inside, the Hash Brown infused with Chorizo flavours was every bit amazing.  Each mouthful comes with a whiff smokey paprika hit.  In certain parts you have slices of  Chorizo which gave the dish a meaty bite.  To finish was some simply garnished spinach leaves, poached eggs and a large mushroom.  Definitely no complains from me.

After all meat we had yesterday Jacques have something light and went for the Bircher Muesli (£4.50).
While I could not make much out of it.  I knew he enjoyed it very much. But that was probably because he was scared of all the eating I made him do the day before haha.   Nonetheless, the lush berry topping and sticky muesli looked promising!  

The Riding House Cafe was a surprise candidate during my trip to London, and it served me a sensational brunch.  Not to mention a rather cheap one too!  Including tea, I think the bill came up to £20 for two of us which was rather cheap compared to my meal at the Delaunay the day before.  Jacques thought the same too! He commented that compared to the Delaunay, the Riding Horse Cafe was a place he would return to over and over again.  

P/S: When I was leaving at 10.45am, there was a small queue outside.  But it was nothing compared to the Breakfast Club and Granger & Co. I went to earlier!

The Riding House Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, October 5, 2015

London: Delicious Roast Duck and Pork @ Four Seasons Roast House, Bayswater

The Four Season Roast House is easily an iconic symbol of the East in London.  With its celebrity like popularity, the Four Season Roast House name has spread back to the east as far as Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.  In fact, there are a couple of branches in Malaysia, and Bangkok; perhaps even more!  Coming to London, I knew I had to taste for myself whether the Four Season Roast House is the real deal or plain hype.

At 2pm, I walked in and asked a table for two.  Believe it or not, there were no seats just yet.  Do not even bother asking for a wait duration too as the long list of names and unpredictable customer behaviour make it impossible to gauge.  But thankfully, it only took some 25 minutes before Jacques and I were seated. For lunch today, the Frenchman was going with my suggestion.  We each ordered roasted meat and rice along with a piping hot bowl of wanton soup.  A classic Cantonese lunch.

My choice of roast is none other than my staples, the crispy roast pork and juicy roast duck for £8.50.  It is decent pricing when you consider the fact that London is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in.  
But money is only figure when it comes to food.  Its the taste that makes a fact.  As far as anticipation goes, the roast meat at Four Season Roast House ticked some very important boxes.   For starters the Roast Pork was well seasoned at the bottom whilst at the top, it was thin, shard-y and crisp!  First bite in and you get that sensational crunch.  The proportion of fat and lean meat is around 35-65 which is decent but can get a little too fatty towards the end!  Over all, it was tasty!

The Roast Duck on the other hand, was equally impressive.  On the outside you get that beautifully roasted skin while its flesh was still mildly juicy and very tasty.   While the meat themselves were delicious, I did not like the sauce which they put on the rice.  It was a little too sweet which masked the natural flavours of the roast meat.  Instead, I wanted something a little more savoury from the juice of the meat that can be served with the rice.  I would not mind if it was a little more herbed too.

The wanton soup for £3 was the perfect way to wash down this meal of roast meat which can leave your mouth feeling greasy.   This salty-slightly peppery soup filled with tasty morsels of prawn wrapped in wanton skins was rather basic but is still every bit quintessential of the Cantonese cuisine. Topped with finely slices scallions, it was delicious.

The Four Seasons Roast House served me some serious Roast Pork and Duck that day.  But was it worthy of all the long queue, newspaper publicity and hype that has been bestowed to it?  For me, definitely NO.  If you have eaten in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and even Australia, yes AUSTRALIA, you will not be fully impressed.  The quality displayed by the Four Season Roast house was almost flawless but its overly sweet sauce was a let down.  It needed more balance on the plate.  

See my other delicious Roast Duck/Pork posts which includes my 2 Perth favourites, a Malaysian Chinese Classic and my Michelin starred adventure in Hong Kong.  Also in the list below is what I believe is the best Soy Chicken I have ever eaten, a shop located in Melbourne.

Four Seasons Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 2, 2015

London: the Full English @ Delaunay, Convent Garden.

London is one of the world’s most international cities and it's food scene is sensationally vibrant.  But because EasyJet arrived some 3 hours after my intended arrival, I was too tired and decided to sleep my hunger out.  Never trust something that calls itself "easy".  Thankfully, it did not take long before the morning came and I was prepared to eat.  For this,  I brought my host/colleague Jacques to the Delaunay, an elegant top class establishment with suited up waitstaff in Convent Garden. 

What better way to start the morning with some tea and a Jam Doughnut (£3.75).  While it was really quite a basic Jam Doughnut, I still enjoyed every bit of it! I am a sucker for these things haha.  Fluffy, sugary deep-fried doughnut balls filled with a fruity jam.  Damn!

After finishing the doughnut, our breakfasts arrived.  Jacques and I decided to go for two very different breakfast which the Delaunay offers.  Mine was the full English while his was the Viennese breakfast.  The main difference?  His was a traditional Austrian breakfast platter of charcuterie with a bagel, egg and accompanying sauce of mustard whilst for me, it was the good old fry-up.

The Viennese breakfast (£11.50).

For the full English breakfast (£16.50), you have all the usual suspects.  Streaky bacon, juicy sausages, fried eggs, shrooms and a decadent black pudding.  The only odd element which I feel did not deserve to be on the plate were the baked beans.  Not because it was not a proper element of a full English, but simply because it looked so “out-of-the-can” which it probably was.
While everything was prepared well on the plate, it was the black pudding which I enjoyed most.  The black pudding was crisp on the outside but on the inside, it was mildly creamy with all the seasoning of herbs making it really tasty and unlike the ones in Australia which tend to be seasoned heavily, the one here was seasoned moderately which helped accentuate the meatiness of the pudding!

While the breakfast was really quite enjoyable, it was not a cheap affair!  It was perhaps we had our breakfast quite quickly and did not quite take the proper time to absorb the wonderful place the Delaunay was.  You will realise there were people there earlier than you still sipping their same pot of tea even though you have finished your breakfast.  My choice of breakfast that morning might seem odd to those who know me considering I have sworn to never eat things I could make at home.  This includes omelettes, bacons, sausages and the list goes on. But coming all the way to England means I had to try their iconic morning starter, the full English breakfast.  Thankfully it was delicious!

The Delaunay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato