Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cooking / Baking : Christmas 2006

Tis the season for cooking and baking! Ever since I posted about the food I cooked for Halloween, I've had many requests to cook for pot-luck parties... which is how I ended up cooking furiously this Christmas season.

First cooking frenzy was for Christmas at Karen's place... I made Buffalo-Style Chicken Fingers (recipe here). Picked this recipe because it could be prepared the day before, left in the freezer overnight and baked in just 20 mins. I think my freezer container wasn't quite air-tight enough and all the cripsy bits got soggy. Sigh.

I also made Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms recipe (here). This was pretty effortless... but I was a bit annoyed as one packet of mushrooms were mouldy so I ended up only making half the amount that I was planning to make.

And inspired by a friend's suggestion, I decided to try making Baklava (recipe here). For those who have never heard of Baklava, it's a Greek dessert with alternating layers of filo pastry and chopped nuts with honey syrup poured over it. This was extremely time consuming - chopping the nuts, buttering each layer of pastry, doing laying the nuts and filo pasty one layer at a time... I would rate the end result as just barely decent for a first attempt. Not sure if I would try it again though...

Second cooking frenzy was for Christmas Eve dinner at Victor's house. By request, I made Shepherd's Pie which I've made many times before with relative success. And I've made it so many times now that I don't really follow any one recipe strictly... This is real comfort food on a rainy X'mas Eve :)

Also did a portion of Spicy Chicken Wings which I've made many times before... seems to get less spicy each time round as I get lazier with measuring out the ingredients for the marinade... and made more Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms (which were all eaten up before all the guests arrived!).

Christmas baking this year didn't turn out as well as last year. I attempted to make Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (recipe here).

The recipe sounded easy enough... but the biscotti turned out to be more like cookies (i.e. it didn't have the dry-ness that biscotti is supposed to have) so I decided not to give any away... which means that I'm stuck eating a whole container of Cranberry-Pistachio all by myself!

Seems like all the stuff I made this Christmas falls under the category of HKBHJ (ho kua boh ho jiak) - Hokkien for "doesn't taste as good as it looks"...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Food Republic (VivoCity)

This is the second in a series of posts of eating places in VivoCity. I went through a phase of coming here really often... but that was before the festive season set in. I love this place! It's got everything in one place (the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon :) and it's in the West (yay!). The trick in coming here is to come during non-peak hours - like on a Wednesday evening - but of course that only applies during non-festive season :)

I love the Food Republic at Wisma Atria so I was quite excited to check out the latest Food Republic outlet at VivoCity. I read in a newspaper article that one of the most famous bak chor mee stalls had a stall here and I was looking forward to trying it out - but of course with my arse-luck, the stall was closed that day... I was there again recently and it looked like the famous bak chor mee stall has been replaced by an unknown bak chor mee seller... Crap!

No bak chor mee so I ended up trying the famous Depot Road Claypot Laksa $6.50 instead. I've had it once years ago at the original Depot Road stall with C, who used to call it the stomachache-inducing laksa...

Not as spicy as I would have liked it, it was great how there was so much liao (ingredients) in it :) I thought it was a bit expensive though...

We also had Wu Xiang (Ngoh Hiang) - and I haven't had this in ages!

Forgot how much I like the prawn cracker thingy... and the deep fried tofu here is amazing - crispy on the outside and soft on the inside...

Lots of other stalls worth trying here including the Pu Tien Restaurant located inside Food Republic... but I'm not going anywhere near VivoCity till the whole festive season is over!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dian Xiao Er

Chinese food was something I only used to have with family - until a few years ago, when I started going to tze char places and Chinese restaurants with friends. Never noticed this restaurant at Marina Square before, but saw an outlet at Vivo City and decided to try it out...

We ordered individual servings of Double Boiled Winter Melon Soup $6++ to start. It never fails to amaze me how much soup can cost, but having had soup every day while I was growing up, this is real comfort food to me...

Another of my favourite dishes which cannot be found all that often is Seafood Mee Suah $9++ so I jumped at the chance to order it when I saw it on the menu here. It was not too bad but I found it just a tad too oily.

One of their specialities is the Xiao Er Beancurd $6.80++. Always a very healthy meal when I'm eating out with S :)

The real speciality of this place is the Herbal Roasted Duck, but we weren't quite in the mood for duck so settled for the Hunan Chicken $9++ instead.

I don't know what Hunan Chicken is supposed to taste like, but this tasted a lot like Thai-style chicken. That said, I did finish up most of it while S looked on in amusement :P

A good alternative to the usual Crystal Jade or Imperial Treasure - mid-priced and tasty. The downside, there's always a queue so be prepared to wait at least 15 mins during peak hours. Hmm, must remember to come back here to try the Herbal Roasted Duck...

Dian Xiao Er
1 Harbour Front Walk
#02-137/138 Vivo City
Tel : 6376 9786

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tandoor Restaurant

M requested for Indian food for his birthday dinner which is how we ended up here. It was a little more upmarket then I expected, but then I should have guessed since this restaurant is located in a hotel. While the furniture and fittings did look a little jaded, the place still had a very ethnic, exotic feel to it.

Erm, let me pre-empt by saying that the photos are quite blurry due to the dim lighting, and my extremely shaky hands...

We weren't terribly adventurous that day, mostly ordering stuff that we were familiar with - starting with the Chicken Makhani $21+++ (top right), Mutton Curry $24+++ (left), Chicken Vindaloo $21+++ (bottom right).

Ok, to be perfectly honest, I can't really remember which picture is of what dish and I'm just making a wild guess - don't they all pretty much look the same??

The curries all look really spicy right? Not at all! Even the most amateur of curry eaters will have no problem with the curries here... While curries were good, it's not quite my cup of tea. For me, curry means Samy's stomachache-inducing, 'eat till your mouth is burning and you're sweating like crazy' kind of super spicy curries. Different strokes for different folks :)

We also ordered the Chef's Special $40+++ which was a tasty selection of various tandoori meats. I'm not at all a tandoori connoisseur, but then again, it's hard to do bad tandoori...

And we also ordered my recent favourite Indian dish - Palak Paneer (spinach with cottage cheese) $14+++.

I've had Indian food so much recently that the names of the dishes are starting to totally roll off my tongue :) M liked the food here so much that he brought his mum back here a few weeks later!

Tandoor Restaurant
11 Cavenagh Road
Holiday Inn Park View
Tel : 6733 8333

Friday, December 08, 2006

Botak Jones

This place has been featured extensively in the newspapers, IS Magazine and pretty much every food show on TV. Their hook is "damn good food at a damn good price" - American food served in a coffeeshop at heartland prices. Botak Jones himself is Bernie Utchenik, the former owner of Bernie's BFD at East Coast Park and Bernie Goes to Town at Boat Quay.

Because of all the publicity, and as you can expect with kiasu Singaporeans who are always swarming the newest eating places, this place has really been packing it in...

Our first attempt at eating here was abandoned as there was a really long queue snaking around the building and we were way too hungry to wait for our food. On the second attempt, we came here at 6 plus to try and beat the crowd. Not much point though - there was still a 15 minute wait to place our orders and about another 30 minute wait for food. The staff do try to manage customers' expectations by telling them that the food will take at least an hour to be ready...

I ordered the Botak Burger at $4.50. There were add-ons but I just thought that $2 for 2 rashes of bacon was a ridiculous price to pay, and with add-ons, the price of the burger would end up being more restaurant than heartland priced... so I ended up with this -

It doesn't come with any sides, so it looks kinda sad all by itself on that big plate... and the taste of the burger was not at all worth remembering...

We also ordered the NZ Ribeye Steak (200g) $13.50...

... which was a decent size but again taste-wise, it wasn't anything fantastic.

The Cheese Fries $7 were a huge disappointment!

By the time it got to us, the cheese had already hardened... and when I pulled a fry out, the cheese pretty much stayed where it was. Erm, isn't the cheese on cheese fries supposed to be gooey and melted all over the fries, and you're supposed to get some melted cheese when you pick up a fry??

My first thought when I saw the Egg Salad $5 was - "Damn, that's a lot of onions..."

As you can probably tell by now, I think this place is highly over-rated - prices seem reasonable, but they do add up if you want a decent burger... long long wait for food... and I'm willing to overlook all that if the food was good, but sadly that is not the case here. I suspect that all the business they've been getting has caused the quality of food to suffer...

If you want to have very good steaks and burgers at extremely reasonable prices, go check out Aston's instead - watch out for an upcoming post, I ate there again recently :)

Botak Jones
Blk 608 Ang Mo Kio Ave 5
Tel : 6755 1225
Operating Hours : Tuesday - Sunday 12:00 noon til 10:00 pm, Monday closed (check website for other locations)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Brazil Churrascaria

Another birthday and yet another meal at a churrascaria! By pure coincidence, both birthday boys wanted a meat fest so I had churrusco twice in a span of just one week - much to the detriment of my waistline... Ah, the sacrifices I make for my friends :P

This churruscaria has been here at Sixth Avenue for ages but I've never made it here besides one feeble attempt years ago. Feeble attempt as in I was in the neighbourhood and decided to see there were any tables available, but it was full. Nowadays I try to make reservations, which was a good thing since the place was packed - and it was a Monday night!

This is going to be another post without many pictures. It's hard with the way food is served here - waiters come to the table and slice pieces of meat onto your plate... and you eat straight away, right?

Well, in order to get a decent picture of what is offered here, I had to wait patiently for my plate to be relatively full. Took quite a bit of discipline on my part, but here it is -

I cannot for the life of me remember what the different cuts of beef were - but they were all good :) I got to indulge in my love for processed meat and had lots of sausage again... the ham was good too, and the chicken was just so-so.

I have to rave about the salad bar here - huge variety and everything I tried was yummy! In particular, I loved the Fried Spinach Leaves (at least I think it was spinach leaves) - the green leaves were fried to a crisp and just melted away like nothing in your mouth. One of the few times when vegetables are not necessarily healthy :)

There was also Banana Deep Fried in Batter - they were unidentifiable lumps at the salad bar and was pleasantly surprised when I took a bite into it. I'm not a big fan of bananas but LOVE them deep fried - been craving goreng pisang for a while now...

True blue buffet-eaters will say that it's a waste of space to fill up with things like salad and side dishes, but the salad bar here is really too good to pass up. It's a must try! But beware, not everything at the salad bar is veggie - we found one side dish that had what resembled tripe in it!

After a few rounds of meats, we were totally stuffed but the waiters kept coming round to offer us more food and it got a bit annoying having to tell them over and over again that we didn't want anymore. And after such a huge meal, you just wanna sit there and let all the food settle for a while before attempting to move...

At $38+++ for dinner, it was a good meal with a really fantastic salad bar. How does it compare to Vibe? The meats here were just ever so slightly better in quality. But if you're going for variety, Vibe is probably the better choice.

Brazil Churrascaria
14/16 Sixth Avenue
Tel : 6463 1923

Friday, December 01, 2006


If I had an eating theme last month, it would have been Buffet / Churrasco - I went for three buffets, two of which had churrasco. Churrasco refers to the Brazilian style of cooking meat on the "churrasqueira" - an oven with supports for skewers. In "churrascarias" (restaurants where churrasco is served), waiters will go around with the skewers, slicing the meat directly onto the patron's plate. Yup, a real meat lover's heaven :)

No pictures for this post - most hotels don't allow photography of the buffet spread so I decided not to even attempt it here. All you get is a generic picture from the hotel website... and I'll just have to let the words do the talking...

The birthday boy, requested for lots of meat which is why we ended up here - the unique feature of this buffet is that it includes a selection of Brazilian churrasco.

Before you can even get started on the buffet proper, the waiter will ask you for your choice of soup - between one Western soup and one Chinese soup. Great way to start off the buffet as this restaurant does tend to get a bit chilly...

There's a pretty good range of cold seafood here - oysters, prawns, mussels... all very decent-sized and surprisingly fresh too. I started off with a round of oysters and cold prawns, which was not the best idea as the waiters started coming round with the churrasco, and I didn't think it was a good idea to mix the cold dishes with the cooked meats.

The variety of meats included a few different cuts of Beef (rump was really good), Sausages (I love sausages, had about 8 :), Chicken, Chicken Heart (decided to be adventurous and try it - it was horrible!), Fish and a Chinese-style Char Siew. Everything was grilled to perfection and incredibly tasty.

The waiters can be a bit pushy and slice you a serving that's more than you can handle or insist you try what they have (they were really pushing the chicken heart), so be firm and tell them when you've had enough or don't want to try what they're offering. You can also ask for the meats you like and they will bring it round for you.

What I loved was the Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon Sugar - I liked it so much that when I was at a BBQ recently, I replicated it without much problem... YUMMY!

The rest of the buffet looked pretty good - a huge spread of cheese and crackers, salads, a pasta station, a few cooked dishes - but I decided to dedicate what precious stomach space I had to the churrasco :)

The dessert selection was surprisingly extensive. Since it's all served in shot glasses and tiny plates, it's easy to just get a little taste of everything. And if you can still eat some more, have a go at the chocolate fountain with a wide spread of dippers available (fruit, marshmallows and biscuits).

The usual price for the Dinner Buffet is $39+++ for Adults on Weekdays, but there was an offer of 50% off for ladies on Mondays that made this buffet a real bargain for us ladies there that night. Sad to say, ladies, I think the offer ended on 30th November 2006.

For that matter, even at $39+++, I still think this buffet is very worth it for its fantastic spread of churrasco.

Meritus Negara Singapore
10 Claymore Road
Tel : 6831 6686