Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aoki: My Sushi Haven

Aoki is perfection. Aoki is love.

Lunch at Aoki was sooooo good that i almost refused to leave my seat. Fine excellence aptly defines Chef Aoki's masterly finesse and it would be a total misdeed not to extol their virtues.

"tofu" otoshi

Superb sashimi and sushi wasn't the only coup; all that little thoughtful notches and details made them a clear cut above the rest. How nice to have individually unique tea cups and shoyu jars!

Lunch kick-started with a dainty gelatinous otoshi bearing a starchy aftertaste, subsequently washed off by salad greens.

salad with soy vinaigrette

Mazechirashi ($35)

If there is one dish a fervent japfoodie would eat and instantaneously nail as his prospective last meal, this stupendous Mazechirashi could be it. Sushi rice entirely buried under hordes of fresh toppings simply too many to count. There's an assortment of cubed raw fish, delicious castella tamago, lots of ikura, nibs of sweet uni (YUM) and miscellaneous minuscules scented with endearing yuzu touches. At the end of it, you've flown to Chirashi heaven~

Nigiri Sushi Jyo-sen ($30)

Nigiri execution was equally pristine. My eyes lit upon first bite... Soft supple sashimi draped over a clump of sweet vinegared rice. Precisely sliced. Meticulously molded. Ideal rice-to-fish ratio. Utterly complying. Pop one in & you're yearning for another.

I enjoyed chutoro & hamachi and doubly loved the lustrous hon maguro along with rubs of wasabi heat. Also swooped on those tamagoyaki darlings so neatly stuffed & strapped up in seaweed belts. Everyone should know by now tamagoyaki is a testament to the kitchen's skills and i dare say Aoki's sweet delicate omelette reigns over all the countless reels i've consumed. Simply top-notch!

One amazement level down was ikura gunkan, classic tekka & kappa makis which can't go wrong at Aoki-standard; followed by ika and one unduly cooked shrimp both too tough to chew.

my 2 favorites from the platter, tamago so loved.

Pair those premiums with a briney prawnhead-bobbing miso soup, especially crunchy pickles and Aoki-san's freshly grated wasabi and you completely win me over. You just did.

Dessert Trio

Dessert trio shows how an ardent kitchen would travel the extra mile to impress. No watermelons! My lovely tray comprised of a tiny sakura icecream, crystal clear ume wine jelly and a pleasing milk pudding laced with brown sugar syrup. Nothing too huge to feel queasy about.

Off food, i was engaged in Chef Aoki's dexterous slicing and assembling performance a mere armlength away. Highly captivating.

I'm convinced i just had my best japanese meal ever.

Aoki Restaurant
1 Scotts Road
#02-17 Shaw Centre
6333 8015

Thursday, November 26, 2009

French Toast Sticks w Spiced Chocolate Dip

I have been kitchen-frozen for months, ever since my cake mixer died on me and family powers decreed a replacement only after the Alevels. Total bummer when almost everything sweet & indulgent calls for creaming, whipping, fluffing, or all.

One sunday morning i crawled out of bed thinking what can be made without gadget-aided batters or crazy tedious hand-work.... What else but french toasts?Undemandingly fuss-free yet still sweet and indulging~

I hopped out of syrup-and-butter comfort zone to give it a handy french-fry cut and impromptu chocolate dip. It's almost like a fondue concept so user-friendly, that even Ya Kun is offering similar dip-&-eat kaya breadsticks.

What really surprised was how well the spiced chocolate dip turned out. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to infuse cinnamon & star anise into semi-sweet chocolate but they really proved their merits. I love the sweet woodsy scent of cinnamon barks and i can't seem to get enough of it. Alas a few drops of aromatic orange oil... and you're on your way to a new french toast treat!

My belief for french toasts is the thicker the better... which explains why Hongkong-style french toasts are such a hit. If the bread used is too thin, you're likely to get dense flatty sheets after the egg batter seeps through. I prefer using enriched versions, like a milk bread or premium bakery loaf.

This is my own anytime, anyhow recipe. The proportions are adjustable depending on how sweet/thick/rich you like your toasts to be, so play around to find your perfect batter. Just remember to go easy on the star anise... A little goes a long way!

French Toast Sticks with Warm Spiced Chocolate Dip
makes 16 sticks

4 slices THICK white bread (i used Breadtalk's premium loaf)
2 large eggs
100ml fresh milk
3 tbsp fine sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

(Spiced chocolate dip)
150g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise clove
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream
20g butter, cubed
2-3 drops orange oil

Cut each slice of bread square into 3 or 4 equal sticks. Beat the eggs, milk and sugar together into a smooth batter. Stir in the vanilla essence. The consistency can be adjusted by reducing or adding more milk.

Heat a flat, heavy-bottomed pan over low-medium flame and lightly grease the surface with butter. Dip the bread sticks into the egg mixture and ensure all four sides are evenly coated (Do not soak the bread. Remove them quickly once its sides have absorbed sufficient batter). Pan-fry on each side until lightly browned and bread lifts easily, about 1-2 minutes per surface.

For the dip: Place the whipping cream, cinnamon sticks & star anise in a saucepan and warm over low careful heat. Take off the flame, cover with lid and leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Strain away the spices and gently reheat cream. Add in the chopped chocolate and cinnamon powder, stirring frequently to prevent lumps. Once all the chocolate have melted, drop in the butter one cube at a time & add some orange oil. Mix well into a smooth, glossy dip.

Dunk in & enjoy!

Yay the baking hiatus is coming to an end... already awaiting my new cake mixer! Will be sticking to stand mixer for now until my uncle in Vancouver finds me a good KitchenAid deal & figure how to ship it over haha. Let's just pray my oven doesn't decide to go on a strike too.


Say mee-kai.

Restaurants do me a huge favor when they insert a pronounciation pointer beside their names. Talk about moments of mooting 'ab-SIN-th' at Absinthe while Maitre d' Philippe Pau was lingering around; Or years of blazoning my love for (Cedele) SEE-deli's artisanal bakes when the trendsetting cafe was named to read SIR-deli. How embarrassing, elaine.

I learn from lessons. Now i make it a point to unearth all verbal verities before risking ignominy again. And to my greatest surprise, when i quizzed mum about Mykii, she actually answered mee-kai. Spot-on.

I'm picky when it comes to our rare family meals, mindful to ensure our dissimilar food preferences are regarded. Ideally Mykii had the refreshing decor & asian-hinting western menu to please all cards.

Beginning our set lunch with a Creamy Tomato Soup definitely hit the spot. The usually-sharp tomato piquancy is nicely shielded by a moderate touch of basil and cream, making it appetizingly welcoming.

Sis the all-cream pasta fan opted for the Mushroom Linguine ($13.80) in cream sauce, recounted as decent but a tad bland.

I am anti thin fish fillets.
I am anti fish-in-thick-flour-coatings.

When the two happen to superimpose, you get disgruntlement twofold. Their Pan-fried Dory Fish ($13.80) with roasted root vegetables is dunked in liberal batter that a jacket forms. It is not inferior, just bomb-denotating for me. Nonetheless the viscid garlic cream sauce was sugary nice~

I read enough about their Seafood Linguine with Laksa Pesto ($15.80) to summon an order. The condiments in soupy broth resembled your routine prawn-fishcake-taupok laksa, reformed with pasta, squid & clams instead of see-hums. You don't get bubbling hot gravy at your neighborhood coffeeshops too.

Uh-oh Rose meringue unappreciated. Rawish-centered, awfully sweet, artificial barbie pink were just characteristics out of the folks' tray. A pity no choice was offered for the set's dessert.

Reluctant to leave with a dessert grudge, i popped another Raspberry Macaron ($2) down my sugar-well. Here's more barbie pigment in a light acceding shell but i wish they would revise their rickety buttercream.

Despite the disconcerting surge of small cafes, characterized or characterless, i'm loving the service of these modest businesses. They value feedback, earnestly try to ensure a satisfying exit (lest you ruin their reputations haha) and i admit service is a huge hoo-ha to me. Shame on some profit-driven establishments who fail to even take cognizance of diners' dissatisfactions. Small is good.

Mykii Brasserie Cafe
17d Lorong Liput
Holland Village
6468 2838

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mugging mornings

Always a merry breakfast at Starbucks (:

Did you know Raffles City is brewing 24 hours everyday?

Friday, November 20, 2009


Sometime before the exams, i joined Sistafood, myfoodsirens & J2k3 for a lunch at Rakuzen. Its always nice meeting new faces (:

welcome a new Canon EOS user!

Rakuzen is another middling japanese restaurant under the Sushi Tei group. The menu embraced full Sushi Tei aura, except slightly more inventive and pricey.

Salmon Sashimi ($10)

The first salmon sashimi slice i hoisted was especially thick, more like a wedge than slice. Beautiful radiant color, lacklustre substance.. it just fell short of the creamy content i yearned.

Atsuyaki Tamago ($6)

Without qualms i called for Atsuyaki Tamago as though Cupid was lurking... am falling prey to his flirtatious winks all the time! Mr. Rakuzen Tamagoyaki bore a likable puffy body but was desperately in need of a flavor boost.

Stamina Roll ($8)

Spider Roll ($8)

From a list of hilariously-named sushi rolls (think Dai-Dai), the sisters picked the Stamina Roll (eel & avocado maki) and Spider Roll (soft-shell crab maki) as our mains. Both were prosaic but if you ask me, i'll say go for Unagi.

Renkon Natto ($8)

Once acridly bitten at Hokkaido, twice shy, i thought i would shun natto permanently. It's characteristic smell and stringy spiderweb consistency is love-it-or-hate-it.... Until surprisingly, Rakuzen's Renkon Natto ($8) got me shovelling once more! The fermented soybeans are piled over simmered lotus root and conducively mild in taste.

Wanna try natto? Start here.

Maguro Yukke ($18)

Maguro Yukke clinched the heartthrob title that afternoon. The stack begins with creamy avocado, chopped tuna sashimi and bits of black beans topped with demi-glace and sesame seeds. A raw quail egg obediently binds the assemble together. They loved it. Value wise, i found $18++ too much to ask for those unfresh tuna.

It's been a hectic exam week and my congested CompactFlash is waiting to be emptied. Freedom is drawing near.. 9 more days to go woohoo!

9 Raffles Boulevard
#02-14/19 Millenia Walk

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sushi Nogawa

First it was Italian

Then came French

Now, im craving Japanese ever-so-often. Love sashimeeeee!

Project Lure-Dad-to-Nogawa-using-rave-reviews was a success.

Nogawa should ring a bell in your head. For 31 years (since 1978!) they've long earned a reputation in fine Japanese cuisine, under the mighty hands of Chef Yoshio Nogawa. Even Mr President & MM Lee were patrons!

Apart from sashimi premiums they offer a range of wallet-friendly Don sets, including this Shake Don Dad had. A generous bowl of steamed rice scattered with scrambled tamago, cooked salmon flakes & salmon roe; a few of his favourite things. At $15 this is legibly a good run for money.

I went all out for Chirashi Sushi Misaki ($35) hoping for sashimi galore. Ordering Chirashi is exciting. Like a mystery dish. What you get is highly volatile, depending on the day's fresh catch & chef's discretion, so never assume replicas.

Over here, the sashimi & miscellanies are separated instead of having the works crammed altogether. There was top-notch ikura, tamago that required more seasoning, unagi, kani sticks, pink cod floss, and a super tasty brown compote. Over soft mushy rice.

Salmon, hamachi, amaebi & a tiny piece of scallop fresh and good allocated on my sashimi plate.

The set also comes with a small chawanmushi and distasteful cube of gelatinous konnyaku. The latter was ewwwwww.... totally repelling. But nothing bugged me more than subpar rice in any chirashi.

Sliced melons to conclude our sets.

Standalone i have no aversions to Nogawa's fine quality. The cooked set lunches are extremely satiating and value-for-money. Pity was, they lacked the kind of awe which Tatsuya prompts...

Sushi Kaiseki Nogawa
100 Orchard Road
#03-25 Concorde Hotel
6732 2911

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Right Now


Paper-packed period until the 30th. My backlog is piling mad... Haven't blogged about those awesome japanese lunches i had, many buffet adventures, one amazing seafood pasta found, Dad's Pasta Brava birthday surprise, that lovely 3-tier tea with a lovely girlfriend, & all the miscellaneous desserts noshed.

you wouldn't want to know how i gorge out of stress.

blogging will be extremely random this month so..
check back soon! (:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Experience at BLU

Beyond a birthday treat, i received an experience.

A close friend took me to Shangri-La for Kevin Cherkas' progressive cuisine, acclaimed to be maddeningly curious and highly enthralling. Cherkas is no doubt a prominent rising figure, boasting stints at the legendary 3-star Michelin El Bulli, 3-star Arzak Restaurant, 2-star La Broche & Daniel Boulud's renowned Restaurant Daniel. No short of glamor or enthuse.

I was expecting Boomz.

Experience is BLU's fancy name for a 6-course degustation menu. For $139++, you grant the kitchen free rein on your 6 plates (1 teaser, 3 starters, 1 main & 1 dessert) after specifying personal preferences.

Five adjoined rolls strutted in with whipped aioli butter to start our evening rolling. These are average apart from their interesting Potato-Onion & Tomato-Parmesan flavors... the former reminded me of Lay's Sour cream & Onion!

Forest Mushroom "bubble" was niceee. Pop it burst, in released a blobful of virtuous mushroom broth, crunchy crouton circles and a tiny mushroom surfacing towards the end.... how gripping! Who wouldn't like a bubble of delight?

The Lobster "Thermidor" consisting of canadian lobster (roast, foam, reduction), mushroom, tarragon & parmesan crisps was a letdown. While i liked the tender flesh, its reduction was way too salty & intense to do any justice.. it engulfed the sparse lobster juices and crashed my hopes of an anticipated crustacean performance. Ouch.

On second starter my partner hit Foie a roasted liver escorted by szechuan peppered fruit, chopped pistachio and careful dribblings of balsamic glaze. Plate wiped clean.

I opted out of arteries-clogging fats for the Iron Chef Melon Soup, a pleasant rockmelon puree complete with melon fruit, cucumber bits and a snowy white quenelle of white balsamic sorbet planted at its heart. Gawddddd this sorbet totally perked me up. Icy cold & smooth, it instantly evaporated on the tongue to ignite mellow blasts of balsamic.... totally invigorating! ooooooooooo i could slurp on a whole pint of this! <3

But the moment i prodded those fishy scottish cured salmon & caviar, it all blew. Clashed. Incriminated. The taste was just awfully wrong.

Kudos to Eggs Came 1st for transcending beyond a quirky name. Cherkas converts our good ol' Eggie from honest-to-goodness by employing a clever duo-prep technique: poaching + pan-frying.

An egg with character.

The result? You get tenderness of a poached egg synchronous with the pan fragrance of its stiffened base. We were instructed to jab the core and savor all 3 components (white.yolk.broth) within each spoonful. Piquant onion broth, runny egg & crispy crumbs.... the combination can't fault. Just where were my truffles?

Main courses usually unfold the essence of the show but when i ferreted my Monkfish Bouillabaisse for something stunning, i was unrewarded. Not the monkfish medallion. Not the insipid freshwater crayfish. Not the artificially tasting saffron tomato broth. Hmmmm maybe the ratatouille. But definitely not that overworked citrus foam... its a thousand miles behind Au Jardin's elegant whip.

If you take beef, go for the restaurant's prided Beef Mole. Morsels of wagyu beef cheeks undergo a 'forever' 48-hour long braising process, transformed potent black then finished off with a whimsical dress-up of Corn x3 (corn kernels, corn sauce, popped corn), red pepper powder, crispy potatoes & spiced chocolate sauce. Sounds like an adventure already.

Dessert scored. Breakfast like no other.

I first conquered the attention-screaming splash of mango 'eggyolk', followed by creamy musky coconut mousse 'eggwhite'. Digged in further to find little evoking bits and a sharp-tasting fluid, nibbled on the gradually-disintegrating edible 'eggshell', then scraped up all that tantalizing passionfruit cream base mmmm... I was secretly wishing the designs on the plate were real so i could carry on exploring haha.

Just when i thought bewilderment was officially over, the waiter brought forth our acrylic tree Les Mignardises, branches hanging pretty pink fluffies. I swore heads turned.

This was quite a novelty to behold. You get to shovel some chocolate 'soil' pebbles onto a chocolate leaf, savor the bitter cocoa rush, then pluck finger-friendly clouds of strawberry cotton candy for a mild powdery meltdown. Kids would ga over this.

Was i enthralled?

I'm afraid not. Experience is undeniably titillating but the use of harsh sauces spawned a major markdown. Maybe i'm etched towards light delicate sauces like what Au Jardin renders (sauces should enhance natural flavors, not subdue them). Double that with previous progressive dining encounters with Edward Voon and Paco Roncero, a veil just stood between me & Cherkas' victorious magic.

P.S. Sorry for the poor-quality photos but BLU's hostile lighting was really excruciating for photography. Had to use my compact cam (with ISO upped) so this is the best i can deliver.

22 Orange Grove Road
Shangri-la Hotel 24F
6213 4598


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