Sunday, 26 March 2017

Will The True Peranakan Please Stand Up


The Unwavering Search For Authentic Peranakan Food Beyond Home

 
This blogpost was written by my brother Jerome to celebrate our love for Peranakan cuisine.  So do excuse the poetic ramblings of his experience at The Peranakan, located at Clamore Connect along Orchard Road.  He had obviously been whacked in the head with food coma and was in a state of delirium as he wrote this post while shoving wee cups of Kuih Pie Tee into his mouth.  Here’s his story:




Born and bred Peranakan, food has always been a focal point in my family and a gastronomic spread is a sine qua non for all occasions. We celebrate joyous occasions from the Chinese New Year to birthdays, to engagements and weddings through food. Any  Peranakan would confess that home-cooked Peranakan food is unparalleled.  Mom’s THE number 1 culinary genius of Peranakan fare.  My hunt for good Peranakan cuisine across Singapore over the years have resulted only in disappointment.

I was pleasantly surprised when my mother, a finicky eater and fastidious self-professed custodian of this culinary art form told us that there was a relatively new Peranakan restaurant that was worth a visit.  Brimming with excitement and ignoring the very real possibility of getting into a state of postprandial somnolence, I visited this eatery recently over three separate sessions (almost back-to-back) in an enthusiastic attempt to savour the extensive menu offerings.

The quality of the fare here truly matches up to what I have grown accustomed to from my days of youth and left me yearning for more. A consistently impeccable standard of service demonstrated by the serving staff made every visit such an awesome experience and actually made us feel like we were dining in the company of good friends.

 

Kuih Pie Tee

The Kuih Pie Tee was a definite crowd-pleaser and served as a great start to the culinary adventure. Traditionally served deconstructed, the mild sweetness from the julienned turnip coupled with an appetite-whetting house-made zesty chili paste made for an exhilarating blend of flavours in the crisp shell.




Sambal Pisanag Jantung


The Sambal Pisang Jantung is a rarely seen Peranakan "salad" that is regrettably disappearing from so many menus these days and is almost at risk of becoming recherché. A true heritage dish, this welded the banana blossom with shrimps to form a truly spectacular culinary creation.


Ayam Buah Keluak


Just as the Japanese have their fugu and the Icelanders have their hákarl, Peranakans do have a potentially deadly ingredient in their culinary repertoire too. The Buah Keluak, a fruit from the Kepayang tree is poisonous if not prepared correctly. The Ayam Buah Keluak, a much-loved delicacy amongst Straits-born Chinese was a pleasant combination of tender chicken with this ambrosial "Peranakan black truffle". It was meticulously prepared to exacting standards here and the flesh of the Buah Keluak infused the gravy with its rich and smoky flavours to make this an absolute stunner that cannot be missed. If you could have only one dish (which I sincerely hope not), this had to be it. Noteworthy too was that unlike other eateries that mixed the flesh of the Buah Keluak with minced meat in an effort to cut down on the tedious preparation, the ones here were
filled with only the delicate kernel within the shell.


Ayam Sioh


I thoroughly enjoyed the Ayam Sioh too. This flavourful staple had a delectable sweetness from the combination of palm sugar and red sugar. The ketumbar (coriander powder) added so much depth of flavour without over-powering the dish. The more commonly encountered version used duck meat and was known as "Itek Sioh". The Ayam Sioh served  here was a refreshing change indeed for those who might not like the gaminess of duck.



Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa


Fans of poultry would also love the Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa. The former was a dish of fried chicken flavoured with turmeric and coriander whilst the latter was a spice-filled curry elevated to another level with the aromatic tang of lime leaves.




Sotong Masak Asam


Seafood aficionados would be thrilled to bits with the Sotong Masak Asam. This was squid cooked in tamarind with palm sugar and starfruit. A mix of sweet and citrusy notes to tease the palate, this definitely had a lot going on in a single dish without being overwhelming. Another squid item to look out for would be the Sambal Sotong which had just the right mix of spice to complement the springy freshness of the seafood.


Sambal Belachan and Cincalok


When revelling in Peranakan fare, it would be near sacrilegious to pass on the sambal belachan and Cincalok. These are necessities associated with this form of dining and the fine folks here did a brilliant job with combining the latter in an egg dish known as Telur Goreng Cincalok. The robust mixture of fermented krill with fresh lime juice, chili and shallots paired marvellously well with the savoury and fluffy omelette.


Chendol Melaka and Pandan Gula Melaka


What is a great meal without the equally decadent desserts? Both the Chendol Melaka with its velvety palm sugar syrup and Pandan Gula Melaka cake would undoubtedly serve as a fitting cap to a dining experience here. The dessert was a rather unique sweet treat of pillowy soft cushiony chiffon cake crowned with a drizzle of that luscious palm sugar syrup (Yes, we do have a sweet tooth!) and desiccated coconut.



Verdict?  -  BELLY ‘MUST-COME-BACK-AGAIN-AND-AGAIN’ TERRIFIC

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Not A Magical Meal


 
Themed Restaurants

 
How many diners would go to a themed restaurant and expect to be served great food?   Thankfully, we didn’t.  We decided to step into the magical world of Platform 1094, a Harry Potter / Wizard – themed café that had just sprung up near our hood, just for the sheer fun of immersing ourselves in a Hogwartish atmosphere and perhaps, whish our wands around to turn a bucket of truffle fries into a 2-bucket portion.

 
Well, can I just say for the record that the restaurant IS Platform 1094, and not Platform 9¾.  So never mind the quality of the food, the look and feel of it is as far from Hogwarts as Daniel Radcliffe is to Daniel Craig.

 
Step up to the Platform



Platform 1094

 
The first indication of  having been transported from the street off Serangoon Road to a magical place is to open the glass door to a shelf full of wizardry paraphernalia from the Halloween costume shop that says Mrs Lich Wands, Trinkets and Curios.  Cute.  Some of my friends who had been to the restaurant encouraged me to put on the witch’s hat, robe and brandish a wand.  No thanks.
You want to be Harry Potter or Voldermort?



After settling down at my table, we were served water in lab beakers while we browsed through their menu. So far, still cute.
Yup, its water. Not a pee sample.


We had decided to start off with some drinks.  The hubby ordered Mr Lich’s Flaming Brew which looked like a goblet of lemonade and blue curacao torched with a spoonful of bacardi and sprinkled with cinnamon powder to create some sparks of magic.  If it was not an alcoholic drink, kids would be thrilled with it.  For old fogies like us, we cupped our faces in our hands and rolled our eyes to the fact that it was such a lame gimmick that tasted like cough syrup.
So Tacky.  Blue Tack...see what I did there? Get it? Get it? 


The boy ordered the Butterscotch Ale which was a white foamy liquid topped with sugared star sprinkles.  I thought it was a pretty, girly, frou frou drink and a good one for my boy who was allergic to alcohol and believed in unicorns.

Unicorn Milk


Not enamored by the drinks, we then went on to the food, hoping to be mesmerized by the magic of their culinary skills even if everything else from theme décor, to service to drinks fell flat on their faces.

As I was an avid nibbler, we ordered almost everything from their list of appetizers.  We had the Spam Fries, which was strangely breaded and deep-fried but still tasty.  It’s Spam Fries, you can’t go wrong with Spam Fries. We also ordered the Truffle Fries, Platform Wings and Meatballs.  So far, these were just ok. One could really not find fault with anything deep-fried right?  The meatballs however were a heap of cheesy, tomatoey mess that looked unappetizing and way too over-saucy.
Spam Fries


A bowl of glob they called Meatballs



We also had their Mushroom Soup and Carrot and Beetroot Soup which were served in black cauldrons.  How witchy. So cute. These, I had to admit, were delicious, hearty and substantial as a meal on its own.
Mushroom Soup in a cauldron





Truffle Fries saved the day


For main course, the hubby had the Da Bomb Burger.  It was Da Bomb alright.  It was Da Bomb in his face.  No doubt the serving was huge.  However, it was a huge disappointment because it was too dry, and the patty was almost tasteless that he had to douse it in ketchup.  The accompanying french fries was served stone-cold.
The Burger that bombed


The boy had the Pesto Mayo Pork Ribs.  Although the meat on the ribs was tender and fell off the bone, he felt that the pesto mayo marinade made the pork ribs too saucy. In his words, “It was okay. Edible.  But I wouldn’t travel all this way for this.”

A plate of glob they called ribs


Now, that was how we felt about the restaurant, the drinks and the food.  Let me tell you about the service.  I am most finicky about service.  Quality of food and drinks can be improved.  However, with the lack of long-standing, good service staff faced by most restaurants in Singapore, I often wished that most restaurant owners would invest in proper training and nurturing of their service staff.

 
Customer Service

At Platform 1094, the staff were not engaging enough.  This was a themed restaurant.  Customers would be visiting this restaurant in the hope of having a fun meal.  Could we have some life please?

Our dishes, beakers, and cauldrons were left piling on our table as we polished off each dish.  Staff were walking past our table and had not had the common sense to remove the dirty dishes.

Could someone please take these away?


When a staff took our order, and it was a long list of order, he seemed to be struggling to remember everything that we ordered. So I asked him if he would like to write them all down.  However he said, “No need.”  Well, he was wrong, because we were accidentally served with yet another bucket of Spam Fries that we had not ordered. 

When I tried to make a reservation earlier for dinner at 6.30pm, the staff that took my call said, “Sorry we are fully booked for dinner.”   So I decided to ask if I could then make a reservation for 5.30pm, perhaps we could be there for drinks and see if we wanted to stay on for dinner if it was not too crowded.  He said that was ok as the restaurant would not be too busy then.  He was right, the restaurant had more life than my underpants at that time.  But even when we finished our meal at about 7.30pm, I still had more life in my underpants.  There were several empty tables around us with reserved signs on them.  What a waste!  If I was a restaurant owner, and I knew that I could have the potential of filling my restaurant throughout the evening, I would never tell a potential customer that the restaurant was fully booked for dinner.

I know this post may be quite scathing about the restaurant.  To be fair, I had no high expectations of the food when I had decided to pay Platform 1094 a visit.  However, from the décor, to the service to the food and drinks, at least try to score on a couple of winning factors that would bring your customers back right?  I would not think of coming back just for the Carrot and Beetroot Soup served in a cauldron. Really.

 
Verdict?  -  BELLY ‘FALL-FLAT-ON-THE-FACE’ DISAPPOINTING

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Nasi Lemak At The Coconut Club


Is It Really That Expensive?

I came across a few blog posts about this new kid on the block along  Ann Siang Hill which "serves that expensive Nasi Lemak". I am not a Nasi Lemak fan but the amount of press about this local dish which was priced at S$12.80, got me really curious, and ready for that hike across the CBD to find out why it was worth that hefty price tag. I think I found my answer.

 Value For Money

The Nasi Lemak came with Ayam Goreng Rempah which was a  perfectly marinated fried chicken that was crispy on the outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis,  peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough.  It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown  Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres like the one at Changi Village or at Adam Road.

But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback? 

e outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis, peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough. It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres in Changi Village and Adam Road. But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback?e outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis, peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough. It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres in Changi Village and Adam Road. But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback?
Verdict?  -  BELLY WORTH IT

 
About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.