2010 was dedicated to my future career.
I spent the first 6 months working in a pastry kitchen, next 4 months preparing for school, last 2 months settling into school. It was one rollercoaster year for me but i hope where i am now is a joyful decision.
Being away for 2 months, i truly learnt
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
It does. I missed all the food & people i love (or once loved).
The New York dining scene is no doubt many levels ahead & fed me with fabulous nosh but nothing beats memories of home. Here's my round-up of favorites from Singapore...
Me, my Egg Tagliolini & Chef Pavanello in the background..
I need not dwell more because the word is awesome (see 2009 appraisals). Awesome breads, awesome pastas, awesome Chef, awesome service for 2 years in the running. They do a delicious Blue-swimmer Crab Scrambled Egg with white truffle shavings that i love. One of the best places to splurge for your annual white gold.
Sage's Mushroom Cappuccino
One soup etched deep in my mind (and tastebuds) is Sage's Mushroom Cappuccino with truffled scrambled egg. I've had many excellent soups but nothing comes close to the nirvana this takes me to. Smooth, full-bodied fungi flavor with the perfect balance of creaminess. Flawless execution.
Favorite Main Course:
Ember's Chilean Sea Bass
Some things don't change with time. Take for instance, Ember's signature dishes and my unwavering faithfulness to one of them. Pan-roasted Chilean Seabass with mushroom bacon ragout & yuzu truffle sauce. Possible disappointment rate: 2% (..when the portion is too small)
Favourite Restaurant Dessert:
Gattopardo's Citrus Cream
I'd never imagine a modest-sounding Citrus Cream with vanilla crumble & chocolate sorbet would blow me away like this one. In every mouthful the zest-lifted cream blended spotlessly with the buttery crumble crisps and divine chocolate chills.
Top 5 Favorite Japanese:
Tiny sushi killers.
Sitting by Shinji's sushi counter dawns an invisible oppressive force upon me. Chef is king & the game is in his hands. I'll carefully observe his every move and obediently consume any creation he places on my sushi stand, as long as they come out from his adept palms.
The room temperature fish leans on the warm side after being pressed onto your sushi, and is remarkably good. They offer some rarer sightings like Kuruma-ebi, Kinmedai, Nihama and ends it off with a decent japanese dessert. Keep popping but watch your wallets. I'm a Shinji fan.
Mazechirashi Lunch. Arguably the best rendition on our island.
Not all Chirashis are created equal. A premium bowl of Chirashi does not necessarily depend on premium sashimi. It requires premium effort. Some restaurants dunk the most unworthy parts of fish into your bowl, and attempt sliding away with some processed wasabi & convenient slices of omelette, or none. When a few chefs walk the extra mile, the difference is obvious.
Aoki's medley of sashimi truly defines assortment and carries occasional surprises with it (smile for insanely fatty otoro sometimes!). What sets them notches above the rest is the ala-minute preparation: diced-to-order sashimi, optimally soaked in soy marinade and drained before being scattered over quality rice. Bits of marinated mushroom & kanpyo loiter among the rice while delicious castella tamago cubes blanket over. Finished with Ikura and blobs of Uni without fail. Lunch fit for a king.
Who ever overfills uni like that? (:
Here's my tiny secret: Occasionally i reward myself with a Sushi Omakase here. Chef Wai pretty much understands my idea of sushi heaven and i can safely entrust him to give me the freshest on hand. Sometimes he runs out of ideas and asks, "Would you like to pick the last 2?". My answer comes out like a mantra.... oooo-neee (uni) please.
I'll usually receive my fatty otoro without request, which i so adore for its immoderate ratio of fats. He once did a dual-version (raw & aburi-ed) and i clearly saw why toro should be eaten unaltered for maximum pleasure. They serve two species of Uni (my ultimate fave!)- hokkaido bafun & kyushu uni. My advice: go for Bafun.
They also serve a neat awabi nigiri, which unlike tough ones elsewhere, is slow-cooked 5x more tender then topped with a tasty liver sauce (he adds a squeeze of truffle oil for me too). Or imagine Shiro Ebi Gunkan crowned with a heap of creamy uni. Shiokness.
This place Dad & I crossed paths with magically kept us drawn in for more. Chef Shiraishi is a joy to watch. His slow & steady approach has taken him a long way through. You can literally feel the passion for sushi-making in him as you observe how he meticulously slices (almost) every sashimi and molds nigiris personally. The sushi may not be my #1 but this place certainly holds alot of Daddy-&-me memories.
My usual order is the Chouchin Bento: a heavenly combination of quality Chirashi with seasonal cooked items. My favorite gindara is permanently part of it.
One must-try here is the Usuyaki Tamago. Unlike Castella & Dashi Maki Tamago which propels toward dense and eggy, this traditional edomae-style egg is light-as-a-souffle cheesecake. The result of a tedious and time-consuming process of blending fishpaste with egg, then slow-cooking over a very low flame. Few chefs are making it now and I'm still on the hunt for more.
Finger-sized sushis topped with silky, flawlessly-clinging raw fish are a hit with regulars. Even the tamagoyaki alone satisfys me.
Chef Kevin serves up a mean range of traditional sushi using seasonal fish. And beware, his sushis & affability can be addictive.
Top 3 Favorite Cake/Desserts:
#1 Sticky Date Toffee Pudding, Marmalade Pantry
Softness, sweet spikes, vanillary licks. Drown in saccharine rush.
#2 Warm Ginger Pudding, P.S. Cafe
Ginger+Dessert was never a well-loved combination until P.S. made them right. A dense, warm fibrous pudding floats on lovely Earl grey creme anglaise and a creamy vanilla bean icecream finish. Melt down and dig in.
#3 Strawberry Tofu Chiffon Cake, Patisserie Glace
Moistness is key.
#1 Raisin Cream Cheese Buns, Barcook Bakery
My addiction. I can rise early, take a train down to Chinatown, queue up for ONE piping hot fluffy bun, savor it in 5 bites, rejoin the queue for another *repeats cycle*. That's the Barcook Power.
#2 Otto Ristorante's Breads
Odd but true, restaurant bread baskets mean a great deal to me. Otto is an exemplary example. In the past i was faithfully enthralled by their Onion Focaccia. Today, i drown in the charm of almost every variety they serve: still wonderful Onion Focaccia, nice crusty Olive Bread and cushiony Walnut Bread. 15 slices easily downed.
Favorite Ice Creams:
#1 Apple Pie Ice Cream, Tom's Palette
My self-control disappears when i meet good icecream. And Tom's Palette's petite sizes do me no deed. Chronos & Eunice constantly churns out outstanding tubs of icecream injected with familiar yet wacky flavors (think Salty Yuzu to Wasabi Lime to Salted Egg Yolk).. Apple Pie is my perpetual fave among all.
Their creations, attitude and passion deserve a salute.
#2 Blueberry Bonanza & Strawberry Supreme, Ice3 Cafe
What draws me to Ice3 at least once a week?
1) Freshly-made waffles. The best ever.
2) Comforting icecreams
3) Perfect supper chill-out ambience
Favorite Almost-Daily Reliance:
Natural medium/large cup with diced papaya or pumpkin seeds. Anytime.
Favorite Dim Sum:
High-class outlook with quality Dim Sum. The amazingly soft fluffy dough of their Char Siew Bao is difficult to mimic. Blue is just the right color for them... the Tiffany of the Dim Sum World.
Favorite Hawker Stall:
Punggol Nasi Lemak
Nostalgic dinners. Nasi Lemak as a child, Nasi Lemak as a teenager, Nasi Lemak as a young adult. My very-predictable plate includes sambal okra, sotong balls, otah and/or deep-fried wantons. Now they've become suppers too.
Have a blessed & awesome 2011 everyone!