Saturday, August 19, 2017

[Media Invite] Nanjing Impressions 南京大牌档 @ Plaza Singapura

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Nanjing Impressions is located at Level 4 of Plaza Singapura. Its decor is purposeful and diners would probably feel like that they have been transported back to the olden days in China. It was interesting to explore the cavernous space and to take a closer look at the carvings on beams, the little touches here and there.

dining space
private room
What exactly is Nanjing cuisine? For one, it has familiar flavours that's similar to Shanghai or Suzhou cuisine. However, I've learnt that Nanjing cuisine leaned towards showcasing of the excellence of knive-works (刀工) of the chefs, and an overall balance of flavours. The signature eats of Nanjing included salted duck (盐水鸭) and "lion's head" (狮子头) meatball.

menu
南京雨花 or rainflower tea

Nanjing's Yu Hua (雨花 ) tea is light in colour and has a clean yet strong mellow taste. Otherwise, there are some specialty tea that one could order as well. I had a chilled 酸梅汤 (suan mei tang) as this brought back memories of Beijing.


酸梅汤

Have you tried the Chilled Drunken Virgin Red Crayfish? (how would one knows if the shellfish is supposed to be a virgin?) But I supposed the name came about from the 15-year vintage huadiao wine marinade of Nu-er Hong (女儿红) or Virgin Red.

Chilled Drunken Virgin Red Crayfish @$33.80 (12 pcs)
The crayfish doesn't really have much meat in them but the marinade was superb.The sweet 
and aged taste of the nu-er hong plus the saltiness from the plum was to my liking. Nice.

Jinling Signature Salted Duck @$32 (medium)

Salted Duck (盐水鸭) will inevitably turned up if you do a search for Nanjing cuisine.At Nanjing Impressions, diners will get a chance to taste this 400-year old recipe which involves 10 precise steps from dry rubbing, seasoning. brining to hang-drying. These gets translated into delicate texture and well-balanced taste.

"Was it noodles?"  That was the reaction when fellow diners tasted the beancurd julienne. Soft yet it held itself well when picked up using chopsticks.

Sesame-scented Beancurd Julienne @$8.80/portion
Poached "Lion's Head" Meatball @$13.80/portion

I liked the meatball as it has a melt-in-your mouth texture. The adequate fats ratio helped, I think. Best to share the fist-sized meatballs with at least 2 more pax!

yummy meatball
Baby Rooster Stew with Special Sauce @$23.80

The Baby Rooster Stew had a familiar homely taste to it. Served with sesame bun which was good to mop up the thick sauce with.

I believed that I was smitten by the simple dish of fried rice cake drizzled with palm sugar. Meant as a savoury dish but it felt like a dessert to me! Imagine deep fried tokbokki that's crispy on the outside and soft, chewy mochi-ness on its insides. Sweet!

fried rice cake with palm sugar
so chewy, so good
If you are only in the mood for something light and quick, here are a few good options. Could get the Celestial Roast Duck Dumplings for very light bites. This is not xiao long bao, so don't expect any juice to burst out of its skin! The skin was slightly thick and neatly pleated into 20-folds. The meat inside tasted more like pork though it was roast duck in it.

Celestial Roast Duck Dumplings @$5.80/3 pcs
Another deceptively simple but good dish was the Jinling Noodles in Light Soy Sauce Broth. The broth was so good! The thin noodles were easy to slurp and the hot broth was comforting. The soy sauce tasted abit like those that were used for Hongkong style steamed fish.

Jinling Noodles in Light Soy Sauce Broth @$4.80/portion

One dish that I couldn't wrap my head around was the Madam Chiang's Nutritious Beauty Porridge. Sweet soy milk porridge with lily bulbs and Chinese yam. A beauty food (or food to helps you become a beauty?) and named after Soong Meiling (was First Lady of Republic of China). I think I still prefer savoury porridge.

Madam Chiang's Nutritious Beauty Porridge @$6.80 per portion

Ended the night with the Osmanthus-scented Steamed Sponge. It has a slightly denser body and chewy. The fragrance of osmanthus was rather mild and the sweetness was gentle.

Osmanthus-scented Steamed Sponge @$4.80/portion

Thank you Stella and Nanjing Impressions for hosting the dinner and HGW for the invite. I have enjoyed learning more about Nanjing cuisine.

Nanjing Impressions 南京大牌档

Location: 68 Orchard Road, #04-46-51, Plaza Singapura, 238839
Contact:  6352 7877
Website: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/singapore/nanjing-impressions-orchard-river-valley/

Business Hours:
Daily: 11am to 10pm (last order: 9.30pm)

Performance time:
Live “Suzhou Pingtan” performance (storytelling through singing with 3 stringed lute and pipa)
Tue - Thur   6pm – 8.45pm
Fri - Sun    12pm – 2pm / 6pm – 8.45pm

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Refinery @ 115 King George's Avenue

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The nearest MRT would be Lavender, although Grab/Uber provides good alternatives to get there from where ever you are especially when there's promo available. The place is nestled amidst non-food shops and pretty easy to miss. The block number is displayed prominently and that was my landmark to find this place. There's a couple of large black barrels outside so that might be a guiding factor as well.

The place is spacious with high ceilings. Ample seatings are available for couples as well as large groups of 10 to 12 pax. Reservation is encouraged especially on weekends after 12pm.

bar and drinks area
mural

We visited on National Day and they were doing brunch menu with some National Day dishes. Would recommend to get the coffee baller. Quite yummy. Plus, add one shot of Auchentoshan whisky for $3. Valid with coffee order till 31 August 2017.

coffee and whisky

Liked the warm milk served in a sake flask. Choose if you'd like a macadamia/vanilla coffee ball. For non-coffee, there's choco version as well.

Coffee Baller (Macadamia) @$8.50
pour in the hot milk
stir for yummy iced milk coffee
hello whisky

For food, we got poutine and karaage for starters and for mains, we had the hambagu steak and eggs, chicken not-so-little waffle and the wild mushroom risotto.

Cheesy Poutine @$13
Yes, it's common to eat Poutine with chopsticks at The Refinery. Haha! The poutine was rather oriental with all the shallots and spring onions and soy-based sauce. Could do with more cheese though. This one is for lovers of soggy fries.

The chicken karaage was more popcorn chicken-like as opposed to karaage. Abit too bite-sized. Larger piece would be great. The togarashi (唐辛子) mayo dip was nice.

Chicken Karaage @$14
Let's head on to the mains. Had high anticipation but not all delivered. Didn't like the spaghetti-like sauce on the waffles as it was too sweet. The meat texture from the chicken karaage was actually better when compared with the chicken on the waffles. The parmesan waffles was also a tad burnt.

Chicken Not-So-Little Waffles @$24
Wild Mushroom Risotto @$18
Hambagu Steak and Eggs @$26

The best main dish was actually the wild mushroom risotto. Pretty safe flavours. The hambagu steak was promising with its presentation and the thick patty. But the herb taste was too overpowering.


Would recommend The Refinery for the coffee baller.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

[Media Invite] Provisions @ 7 Dempsey Road

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This is the new kid in the Dempsey block. Opened in July 2017 by the talented Justin Foo and KC Rahmat. Justin takes care of the kitchen while KC is head bartender, crafting locally inspired bespoke cocktails.

Chef Justin has trained at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Ottawa, and his resume included a 2-year stint with Andre Chiang. He became the Head Chef of Senso Ristorante and Bar by the age of 24. Justin is a classically trained French Cuisine chef and at Provisions, Justin is returning to his Asian roots. KC has 14 years of experience in F&B and being half-Thai, he has an affinity in using herbs and spices in the drinks that he crafts.

Provisions
What's up, board?
let's eat

The concept is much like a Provisions store where one could get a knick knack or a snack. Provisions @ Dempsey offers much more and you could chill and relax at this cosy establishment, with hearty Asian foods such as claypot rice, assortment of skewers and a couple of drinks.

No GST, tips are welcome
hello

Feel free to wander in and you might just find that item that reminds you of childhood days. Or, you might catch a glimpse of Chef Justin in his kitchen.

Chef at work

The bar has something interesting and I spied a contained of house brewed makgeolli. Alas, it was still in its experimental mode and yet to be ready. There were also a couple of infused liqueur and perhaps, it could be the base for some of the cocktails? In any case, the bar seemed like a happy place!

smiley crew at the bar

Started off with some cool drinks. From its cocktail curated menu, we had the crowd favourite of Bantai Bandung (pretty in pink), the Passionately Dark and Stormy and the Heard It Through the Grapevine. The Bandung is of aged rum based, similar to Dark and Stormy while mine was the gin-based Grapevine.

(left to right) Heard It Through the Grapevine ($15), Bantai Bandung ($14), Dark & Stormy ($17)

The bandung started on a sweet note and finishes off with that expected liqueur taste. I loved the combination of gin, grapes, rosemary, lemon juice and tonic in the Grapevine drink. Refreshing and suitable on a hot and humid night.

For a salad-like starter, we tried the Scallops & Scallion. Large, sweet pieces of raw scallops tossed in the expected chili, soy, scallion and calamansi. Was there some calamansi peel in there? It carried a hint of bitterness.

Scallops & Scallions @$12
KFC @$10

Order up the KFC, and you might be thinking of Korean Fried Chicken? Nah, this version meant Korean Fried Cauliflower. Definitely finger-licking good and reminiscent of fried chicken but it is still vegetable, after all. Shiok and fills you up, fast. Oh, while it is best eaten hot, do watch out and try not to burn your tongue while enjoying this tasty appetizer.

yep, that's a cauliflower in my KFC

If I'm at a drinking place, and feeling just slightly peckish, most likely I'd go for the skewers. Easy to eat and one could enjoy a variety. The standard order of chicken thigh and chicken heart, please. At Provisions, there's plenty of choices. Purple Taste recommends beef sirloin, sotong, chicken anything and everything, and pork belly.

beef sirloin (@$10), prawn (@$9), Chicken thigh (@$5)
pork belly (@$7), pork jowl (@$7) and chicken heart (@$4)
The best was beef sirloin, which was nicely done with a pink center. Tender meat and seasoned well. The chicken heart tasted of dry rub; chili, cumin and garlic while the pork intestine was of soy-based marinade. Pork belly was a very nice piece of char siew and had a good fats to meat ratio. Yums!

sotong @$8
pork intestines @$5

For something more hearty, there's always the claypot rice. There are a couple of variety and we tried the seafood claypot and the oyster omelette rice. Again, some of us preferred the seafood rice and some the oyster omelette rice. All-in-all, both are quite popular orders at Provisions.

(front) seafood rice @$16 and (back) oyster omelette rice @$18
The rice was tasty and pork meat that was in the seafood rice was really good. Splash a dose of chili sauce onto the rice for a lift of tangy-ness.

If you are in a group of 4 pax, would recommend having at least 2 claypot rice and 4 to 5 skewers to share. Of course, do try the dessert before calling it a night. We had the cempedak and coconut and the pisang sundae.

cempedak & coconut @$8
The grilled cempedak was very sweet and served with gula melaka and crunchy peanut bits. Coconut ice-cream and warm jackfruit makes a good hot & cold duo. The pisang sundae had a small pleasant surprise in-store for us.

Was pretty pleased that sweet ripe banana was used and the vanilla ice-cream ball was huge. Try the batter and tell me what it reminds you of? A very nice touch for this dessert.

pisang sundae @$8

Thank you Jonathan (wom_sgpr) for the invite and Provisions for hosting the tasting.

Chef Justin will be introducing new items in his menu soon, so watch out for it!

Provisions

Location: 7 Dempsey Road, S 249671
Contact: +65 6250 7090
Websitewww.unionbridgelifestyle.asia
Business Hours:
Tuesday - Thursday: 4.00pm - 1.00am
Friday & Saturday: 4.00pm - 2.00am
Sunday: 10.30 am - 3.00pm
Closed on Monday

Sunday, August 6, 2017

[Media Invite] Cha Thai @ 80 Telok Ayer Street

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Exit from Telok Ayer MRT and the place is just across the station entrance. A quick run through of its menu revealed that Cha Thai offers popular Thai dishes. It prides itself in making everything from scratch, including the sauces. One could expect consistent quality at this place. Was also informed that chef uses western cooking techniques for its Thai-origined dishes.

Cha Thai shopfront
Beside its entrance, Cha Thai has a take-away counter where one could order up selected noodles/curry, appetisers, dessert and drinks to go. Dabao'ing boat noodles and milk tea? No problem!

take-away menu

On our day of visit, the place was fairly relaxed on a weekday night before 730pm. The people at this area seemed to like having their dinner slightly later?

interior
Thai Milk Tea @$2.90

For the first visit to any Thai restaurants, my drink order would always end up being Thai Milk Tea. Liked that the version at Cha Thai was not too sweet. However, there was an interesting drink on the menu that caught our eyes. Ordered the Butterfly Blue Pea drink and it turned out to be good. Dining companion likened it to lemongrass drink with colour! It has a dark purplish hue when served. A very refreshing drink on a hot day.

Butterfly Blue Pea @$2.90
If you felt like eating noodles in a Thai restaurant, what would you be ordering? For most of us, that would be pad thai. At Cha Thai, the ubiquitous pad thai is presented with two large prawns. The prawns were firm to bite.

Pad Thai @$22
Or, if you prefer something soupy, the Boat Noodle was pretty satisfying too. Cha Thai's Boat Noodle is served in large bowl and the soup was so flavourful that you'll want to drink it all! The thick looking soup base was cooked with 14 different types of herbs.

Boat Noodle @$18

We were in a fairly large group consisting of 9 pax and thus, ordered up some appetisers and mains to share. Communal dining coming to the fore.

Crispy Prawn Cake @$15

The prawn cakes were really good. Four pieces of bouncy goodness packed with chopped prawns. It was served with plum sauce but most of us had it as it was. So good!

Creamy Crab Roll @$15
Fried crispy springroll sticks served with crab cream sauce. The sauce had a pale bright yellow colour, creamy and sweet. Strips of crab meat can be seen. Lovely but am liking the prawn cakes more.


If you don't fancy the deep fried stuffs, then how about a plate of appetising tangy lemongrass prawn salad? It has all the right flavours that awakened the tastebuds. Didn't get to try the prawns as they flew off the plate pretty fast!

Lemongrass Prawn Salad @$28

Let's have some curry, tom yum and meat for our main courses. For curries, the must-try here is the Prawn Panang Curry. A luscious bowl of thick red curry where one gets sweet, savoury and spicy all at once. The lychee was interesting. Loved this and best eaten with piping hot steam rice.

Signature Tiger Prawn Panang Curry @$28

The spice in Cha Thai's dishes were fragrant and pleasantly mild. Of course, we had to try the tomyum. As the curry and tomyum were served together, we had some trouble differentiating between the two! Have a look at the photos and you'd see what I meant.

Tom Yum Soup (thick) @$28
Of course, the tomyum soup was served with fishballs and the soup was not as thick as the curry. Just can't get enough of the combination of lemongrass, bird eye chilies, herbs, mussels and mushroonms. Similarly to the curry, one only needs a bowl of rice to go along with these goodness.

But we got to have some meat, so let there be some! To be precise, we had two pork dishes and one fish. The grilled pork was of firm texture. Nice and those cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes made this dish somewhat like a salad.

Saute Grilled Pork with Basil Leaves @$22
Mango Salad with Fried Fish @$19

My favourite was the Simmer Pork aka Braised Pork Knuckles (猪蹄). The version here is served with vegetables. But the skin, I could eat all of those soft collageny skin. Yummy!

Simmer Pork @$22

In general, I've enjoyed the taste of all the dishes tried at Cha Thai. Flavours were strong but not too overpowering. Price is more premium but one gets the desired quality.

The heavyweight of our main course would be the Baked Tiger Prawns Claypot Noodles, good for 4-pax. The baked crab version requires pre-order. Go straight for the glass noodles. All the umami'ness are in there.

Baked Tiger Prawns Claypot Noodles @$159


Ended the night with some sweet dessert. Hot or cold, it is your choice. The cold dessert of red ruby with its slightly muted colours were nice on a warm night. The rubies were crunchy with the waterchestnut in it. We were informed that the 'real' colour of the rubies for this dessert should be slightly pale and not those bright coloured ones that we often get.

Red Ruby (front) and Thai Bubur Cha Cha (back)
I was taken by the hot bubur cha cha. The yam was so good! Of course, it helps if its colour is that nice hue of purple. It sure suit my taste! The sweetness was right, the chewiness of the yam and the slightly harder azuki beans made up the components of this delicious treat.

i yam what i yam~
Or, if you are still feeling a tad hungry, how about having a light snack of Cha Thai's Toast? They have the charcoal and normal breads. For the dip, there were two; thai milk tea and pandan. Our camp were divided on this. Some preferred the milk tea, some the pandan. Was quite evenly distributed in fact. For the toast, there was no discernible difference in taste. But black toast coated with the dip made it quite instagrammable.

Cha Thai Toast @$8

Thank you to the good folks of HGW for the invite and Cha Thai for hosting the tasting, especially to Ms Leah Sirijindapan for your hospitality.

Check out Cha Thai's Hungrydeals here.

 
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