It was our monthly dinner again and we decided to have some cze char for a change. Being the pampered strawberry generation (草莓族) aka Gen Y we were, an air-conditioning prerequisite was thrown into the equation. And we finally settled on Orchid Live Seafood or OLS for short.
We opted for the outlet at Jalan Kelulut, in the sleepy Seletar estate just off Yio Chu Kang Road on a hectic weekday evening. Parking posed a problem as the parking lot in front was rather small and there were quite a fair bit of vehicles but we managed. The interior of the place is like any typical heartland Chinese restaurant with just the basic decor and pictures of the food adorning the walls.
Deep Fried Baby Squid - This was an additional order on top of our set menu and got us off to a decent start. A rather miniscule portion of extremely crispy squid mixed in with tons of onions made it more of a snack than a main in my humble opinion. And it honestly tasted very similar to the packets of dried squid snack that are sold in supermarkets.
Smoked Duck - The smoked duck was a tad too thinly sliced and rather lacking in chewy fats. The meat also lacked a certain smokiness that made this dish pale in comparison to that of Wo Peng.
Mixed Vegetables - Our quintessential greens for the evening; Decently stir fried mixed vegetables with a tinge of wok hei.
Steamed Patin Fish - The fish was fresh but the meat wasn't really sweet. Decently executed but doesn't really stand out.
Lobster Porridge - And the undisputed star of the evening, the lobster porridge. The broth was watery yet tasty with the individual grains of rice still visible. Cooking the lobster in the broth infused a crustacean sweetness to the latter and made for a very homely and delicious porridge. Only small gripe I had was that we had 1kg of lobster to share between the 5 of us but as lobsters have pretty heavy shells, neither of us got much meat.
Dinner for 5 pax coupled with a couple of drinks cost us just shy of $230, which wasn't really expensive per se but food quality, for the most part, hovered around average (save for the lobster porridge). Service was decent but I'm not sure if I'll return, especially with other air conditioned cze char places offering better quality cooking at around the same price point. Unless I develop a craving for lobster porridge of course.
It all started with a glossy, eye catching brochure that promoted a limited time, upgraded set menu for AMEX Platinum Charge Card members (pay $120 for the $180 set). And being the ever gian png (greedy) Singaporean, I immediately called Tóng Lè to make a dinner appointment.
Perched on levels 8 and 10 of OUE Tower, just adjacent to the majestic Fullerton Bay Hotel (where Clifford is located), Tóng Lè offers a panoramic view of its surroundings via a revolving base (think Prima Restaurant and the now defunct Top of the M). 1 full revolution takes about 2 hours and unfortunately, the revolving mechanism wasn't working too smoothly during our visit and knocking sounds could be heard periodically.
Our host graciously arranged a private dining room for us on level 10, offering a nice walled up area to take in the view at our leisure. Only minor issue I had was that the rooms were separated only by partitions, which made noise level a concern. I could make out what my neighbours were talking about but admittedly, you'd have to raise your voice a fair bit for you to be overheard. Didn't seem to faze either of my neighbours though.
Chilled Australian Lobster Topped with Kaluga Queen Caviar - I'm honestly no caviar connoisseur but Kaluga Queen's farmed in China caviar did hit the right notes for me. Tiny, firm pearls that popped gently when consumed, releasing a salty and pleasantly fishy flavour; Eaten with a mother of pearl spoon, no less. Beneath the caviar sat a layer of chilled, crunchy and sweet lobster and a floor of sweet mango cubes and diced chilli. When eaten together, the sweetness of the mango provided a balance to the saltiness of the caviar whilst the diced chilli added a mild heat. Excellent start!
Doubled Boiled Superlative Shark's Fin with Bamboo Fungus in Shark Cartilage Broth - I wonder about the use of words like "superlative" in menus but nonetheless, the shark cartilage soup was flavourful yet light without leaving a layer of sediment on the tongue. Coupled with generous portions of delicate shark's fin and bamboo fungus, it made for a pretty good soup.
Braised Cave Bird's Nest with Crab Meat and Winter Melon Puree in Saffron Broth - The wife had this and it was rather interesting as I usually associate bird's nest with the sweet variation, never the savoury. Relatively generous strands of bird's nest floating atop a thick, mildly sweet saffron broth with hints of winter melon and bountiful shreds of crab meat. Savoury yet sweet.
Steamed Wild Ocean Fish with Ginger and Tangerine Peel - Portions were really small for this but the fish was very fresh and came served on a piece of beancurd skin in a pool of soya sauce. Simple and nothing too fancy.
Chef's Homemade Sorbet - An interlude with a roselle sorbet taking center stage. Sweet yet mildly sourish and topped with pop rocks for that burst of sensation.
Braised Live South African Abalone & 48 Hrs Braised 'Dong Po' Pork with Vintage 'HuaDiao' Wine - The abalone was quite a size (I reckon at least a 3 or 4 head); Firm and crunchy, drizzled in a mildly savoury sauce and sitting prettily on a bed of vegetables. The accompanying block of dong po pork was beautifully braised with a thick, moist chunk of meat capped by a firm layer of fat; Mildly sweet with a hint of 花雕酒. Excellent!
Hokkaido Scallops with Organic Millet - The wife doesn't take beef so she got the Hokkaido scallops in lieu of the wagyu. And it was a seriously bad choice. The scallops were huge but tasted like they were coated in flour and pan fried, which gave it that icky elastic surface and took away the natural sweetness of the sallop. The organic millet and rice crisp was decent though; crisp with a hint of capsicum. Could do with a little less salt though.
Claypot Emperor Rice with Pan Seared Kagoshima Wagyu, Foie Gras and Poached Quail Egg - I had the wagyu and it came in the form of a patty (sadly). Crisp on the outside, the patty was overcooked but a little too soft on the inside. And the overcooking extended to the foie gras as well. Disappointing to say the least.
Hazelnut Chocolate Bar Topped with Yam Paste & Gingko Nuts - And finally, desserts. Aesthetically impressive but lacked the flavours to end the meal off on a positive note. The chocolate bar sported bits of hazelnut entrenched within its smooth and creamy texture that had a mild bitterness to it whilst the the yam swirls were more for show than anything. Special mention goes to the gingko nuts, which seemed to have been deep fried, giving it a fleeting crisp, shrivelled exterior. All form, no substance.
With a singular mocktail and an upgrade discount, the total bill for 2 pax came just shy of $300. Definitely not mind-blowingly expensive but while the quality of ingredients is undeniable, the execution for a couple of the dishes leave much to be desired. Service, however, was excellent and I'll definitely be happy to return if something is done about the quality of execution.
It was a public holiday lunch at East Ocean Teochew Restaurant with the family; A much vaunted restaurant where we usually purchase our supply of deep fried fish skin from (only available during Chinese New Year). And after so many years, we finally got down to trying their dim sum.
Situated on the fifth floor of the upclass Ngee Ann City at Orchard Road, East Ocean had a large crowd of people milling outside, waiting for a table. Thankfully we had reservations but even then, we had to get in line to approach the wait staff for our table. The place was rather noisy which definitely isn't great for conversation.
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly - Sporting a crackling crisp skin and a good fat to meat ratio, the roasted pork belly did seem a little wobbly and lacked finesse. But still pretty good in my humble opinion.
Steamed Har Gao - Crunchy prawns enveloped in relatively thin, translucent skin. Pretty decent as well.
Steamed BBQ Pork Rice Rolls - The cheong fun was average; Relatively thin skin but lacked silkiness. Chunks of BBQ pork evident.
Steamed Siew Mai - Topped with a smattering of roe and a green pea, the siew mai didn't overwhelm with its porkiness, probably due to the low fatty meat ratio.
Pan Fried Carrot Cake - The pan fried carrot cake was awfully soft and mushy; Almost gross. No wonders it didn't have many takers.
Steamed Carrot Cake - Now the steamed rendition came out slightly better. Soft sans the silkiness with the topping of dried shrimp, dried sausages, onion etc failing to boost the inherently bland flavours. Palatable but not great.
Mini Steamed Glutinous Rice - Great consistency in the rice but sorely lacking in flavour. Need I say more?
Deep Fried Beancurd Skin - The beancurd skin wasn't crisp enough and the prawn paste lacked flavour. Starting to see the trend?
Deep Fried Silver Fish With Salt - This dish was a serious joke. The layer of flour amassed around a single silver fish was so dense that all I could taste was flour. I certainly didn't order deep fried flour!
Century Egg Congee - Starchy yet flavourful, the porridge had bits of meat and a rather generous serving of century egg. Pretty nice considering how terrible the previous few items were.
Steamed Custard Bun - This was probably one of the best dishes that afternoon; Runny custard that wasn't cloyingly sweet with a hint of egg yolk sediment. Only gripe I had was that the salty contrast wasn't evident enough.
Baked BBQ Pork Bun - Think polo bun (菠萝包) with BBQ pork. Crusty, semi sweet top with bits of BBQ pork filling. Pretty decent but would have appreciated more pork and a little more viscosity in the filling.
Steamed Custard Layered Cake - I've never had this at a dim sum restaurant before and honestly, I found it rather insipid. Dry layers of cake sandwiching dried, overly sweet custard that just made me give up after my third mouthful.
Baked BBQ Pork Pie - Though the BBQ pork filling was chunky, it could have done with a little more gooeyness (as with the BBQ pork bun) whilst a little more butter would have helped the pastry.
Mini Egg Tart - The egg tarts showcased a flaky pastry with a smooth and semi sweet custard center. A pity the pastry just wasn't buttery enough. Still a decent eat nonetheless.
5 of us racked up a bill of about $142, which isn't too expensive given the quantity of food we had. Compare that however, to the quality of food that Wah Lok offers at a similar price point and the result is clear; East Ocean just doesn't measure up. There are more misses than hits and I'll probably just stop by for my yearly fish skin purchases, nothing more.
I had an off day so popped by for an early lunch at Three Buns @ Potato Head Folk, apparently the latest and greatest F&B joint, fresh off the beaches of Bali.
Housed in the iconic, former Tong Ah Building (東亞) along Keong Saik Road, Three Buns @ Potato Head Folk offers takeaway and alfresco dining on the ground floor, table service on the second and a cocktail bar on the third. The kitchen is also located on the ground floor so you can pretty much have a good view of the workings if you choose to sit along the passageway.
Dining alone, I didn't quite fancy any table service and wanted a look at the kitchen hence I made myself comfortable on one of the tiny wooden bar chairs along the passageway. On hindsight, that probably wasn't a great decision as passers-by kept bumping into me due to the rather narrow path. And lets not forget about the afternoon humidity and heat.
Naughty Fries - Naughty fries. How catchy. Instead of the usual rectangular shaped strips of fries, these came in wide, thinly shaved pieces and topped with the likes of Parmesan, spiced Bearnaise, shallots, parsley, chopped spring onions and a smattering of mildly spicy hot beef chilli. Apart from the rather interesting Asian twist to an otherwise Western dish, it was essentially Carl's Junior's chilli beef fries with a little more finesse; Fresher tasting with a slightly spicier kick. $9 gets you a sharing portion for 2pax.
Baby Huey - A thick and juicy but mildly overcooked 150g beef patty topped with melted cheese, lettuce, spiced mayo, pickles and 'Notorious T.O.M Sauce' (whatever that means). Served up between two soft and fluffy buns (like the one's from Triple O's), this was one pretty good burger. I personally liked the mild tanginess of the of the whole burger and the crunchiness provided by the pickles. An abundance of sauce made for a very messy burger but it was all good. I'm definitely trying out the double patty burger on my next visit!
A rather sweaty but filling lunch cost me about $37, which seriously isn't cheap by any standards for a burger, fries and an iced coffee (which incidentally tastes like the $1 ones at a local coffeeshop. But don't quote me on that as I know nuts about coffee). No service charge was levied because it was pretty much self serve but I assume a 10% service charge would be tagged on if you were to sit on the second floor. The burger alone is worth a revisit though!
It was a Saturday afternoon and we wanted some lunch. Pepper Steakhouse seemed to offer a rather decent lunch proposal on a weekend so we settled for it.
Located at a corner of Great World City, Pepper Steakhouse sported a sombre interior with dark leather bound seats and wooden tables. The place was empty when we walked in but started filling up when the clock struck noon.
Soup of The Day - A tad runny but at least the mushroom taste was still apparent. The accompanying slice of toast was bland and the grill marks were apparently just for show.
Pork Loin - The pork loin honestly looked gorgeous but the old adage holds true; Appearances can be deceiving. Spotting a weirdly soft texture (I had expected something tougher with more bite), the pork was topped with a layer of mushroom and melted cheese. All were bland and could do with a little more salt or flavour.
Sirloin - Done medium as per my request, the sirloin was a tad too salty for my liking and a tad soft as well. Having said that, the sweetness of the meat was sufficiently evident and all in all, a pretty decent piece of steak.
Tiramisu - The tiramisu's sponge to mascarpone ratio was largely skewed in favour of the mascarpone and a teetotaler's version at that. The coffee taste was apparent but the mascarpone wasn't rich enough. Still a decent eat.
Sticky Date Pudding - Not many places serve sticky date pudding so I usually make it a point to order one if I spot it on the menu. Topped with chocolate sauce, Pepper's rendition of this classic English dessert was palatable at best; The pudding wasn't spongy enough while coming across as a little too dry and dense and lacking the oomph factor. Maybe a scoop of ice cream would have done it good.
Weekend lunch was relatively cheap for the quantity and variety of food, at about $22/head. However quality of food hovered around the average mark though service was acceptable. I don't suppose I will be back again but I guess it might be a cheaper alternative amongst the higher end options at Great World City.