Monday, April 28, 2014

Exploring the new Tiong Bahru Eats [Food Diary]

Read: More Food Diary entries.

The past few weeks I managed to check out two different Japanese spots along the hipster Yong Siak Street area as well as sample Open Door Policy's new menu. I happen to live in the area, so my new April eats were quite convenient in terms of location.

78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19, Singapore 162078
Tel: +(65) 6438-4567

Visit Date: 1 April (dinner)
NOMsrades: Denise Tan, Rebecca Lynne Tan, Darius Chia, Jeremy Chee
Verdict: I'll be back.

Denise rounded up the troops for a round 2 outing, this time with lots to chew on (last time, we had a Gin Ramble around Singapore with East Imperial and Tanqueray10). Bincho is one of the latest hip badboys on the block, though with all the cries about local eateries being pushed out, Bincho owner Loh Lik Peng has sought to preserve what he can. Upon arriving at Bincho's address, you'll find a preserved mee pok stall still occupying the front of the shop space by day (and according to my Anglo-Chinese School alumnus eating buddies that evening, the famous Hua Bee Mee Pok rivals the greatness of ACS' cafeteria's version of olden days). Come nightfall, Bincho emerges into life.

Yakitori, Denise reminds us, is often used as a catch-all term for skewered foods, but its original meaning is grilled chicken. At Bincho, we went through nearly every part of the chicken. Nothing on this chicken goes to waste: head, shoulders, knees, and toes... on certain days, you may even be offered grilled cock's comb.

I never had a huge fondness for chicken, but Bincho revives an appreciation for the most common poultry on the planet.

The restaurant offers 3 different Omakase sets and 1 hotpot set for diners to choose from, along with a limited (and pricey) a la carte menu. The menu changes frequently, but always revolves around tori (chicken). Sakura Seven $60, Fuji set $80, Bincho $120, Miyabi Hotpot $65 (min 2 pax); Lunch donburi sets $20-25.

Further inside Bincho, you'll find a narrow bar for your cocktail tipples.

5 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168643
Tel: +(65) 6223-9003

Visit Date: 7 April (dinner)
NOMsrade: Alex
Verdict: I'll be back, due to personal location convenience and value. My companion on the other hand, would not.

We were looking for something Japanese, something new, something casual, something that wasn't going to break the bank on a random weekday night after work. I had read ieatishootipost's favorable review of Ikyu, so we dropped by to try it out. In my book, the restaurant checks off all of those boxes. I was satiated as far as a mid-range Japanese restaurant in Singapore could offer, but my dining companion begged to differ.

19 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168650
Tel: +(65) 6221-9307

Visit Date: 21 April (lunch)
NOMsrades: Karen, Skii (hosted for media)
Verdict: I'll be back... because I'm curious about the burger I didn't get to try last time.

Open Door Policy has been around much longer than the other two restaurants, but the shabby chic restaurant has a new chef helming the kitchen, complete with a whole new menu. Chef Daniele Sperindio is from Italy, his accent is as evident of his Italian origins as is the heavy Italian influence in the menu.

Here's a list of my favorite dishes below.  If you're new to ODP and can't decide on what to eat, you can request for the 'FEED ME' sharing plates, for a special chef's selection at $51 per head. There is also a 5-course tasting menu at $68 per person.

Glazed iberico pork belly with sweet potato gnocchi, crushed cashews, and butternut pumpkin sauce
I have mixed feelings when it comes to the sous vide process. When first announced that a meat is sous vide, I scoff a little inside, "Cheater's method!" I think to myself. But often times, I end up finding myself enjoying the perfectly cooked meat so much so that I ponder the idea of acquiring my own sous vide for home. ODP's iberico pork belly is brined overnight, slow cooked for 12 hours, then seared and glazed with balsamic and soy. The gnocchi was unfortunately undercooked inside, but the dish satiated overall. S$30

Hand-made chorizo tortelli with fried sage, 
burnt butter sauce and spinach
Given the distinct smoky-salty nature of chorizo, I had expected the filling to overwhelm the pasta dish, but each bite was a sinful delight. The tortelli skin too, had a delectable supple texture - al dente as it should be. S$25

Seared Scallops with cauliflower couscous and preserved lemon
This was my favorite dish that afternoon. The pan-seared scallops are imported from Hokkaido, and the boudin noir (blood sausage) serves surprisingly well next to shellfish.  $24

Crumbed Mediterranean Anchovies with red onion jam and caper berries
Not depicted here, but worth a mention.  Like the chorizo tortelli, I was also pleasantly surprised by the balance of ingredients and flavors of the anchovies with red onion jam. Anchovy can be quite unappealing because of its supremely 'fishy' flavors, but these Italian anchovies are subtler and go well in ODP's interpretation. S$24

All photos provided by respective venues, Bincho, IKYU, and Open Door Policy. All photos depict the dishes as they are served accurately.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sushi Suicides

A conversation with my friend Yvonne about "seppuku worthy" sushi (as she put it) reminded me of these pages from Anthony Bourdain's Get Jiro. Released this summer by DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint, the chef’s first foray into the graphic novel genre is a playful collaboration with writer Joel Rose and artist Langdon Foss together with José Villarrubia.

Synopsis: In a not-too-distant future Los Angeles where master chefs rule the town like crime lords and people literally kill for a table at the best restaurants, a bloody culinary war is raging.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Culinary P-p-paparazzi

This month's column of Esquire is something most of you can relate to. The love/hate relationship chefs have with obsessive food camwhores. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Word Abuse — VARIETY vs VARIETAL [Guest Post]

Here are some pro-tips in wine speak by my favorite Singaporean Wine Writer, Kenny Leong.  Visit his site at The Word Count. (original post here)

by Kenny Leong

In my years of reading magazines and materials and speaking with writers, PR professionals, wine dealers, bloggers, educators, and virtually everyone who has anything and everything to do with food and wine, I've come to the conclusion that the two most abused and misused terms in our field are:

1) Molecular gastronomy
2) Varietal wine/grape

It's funny, because these are people (instead of your pedestrian "foodies") that you'd think might actually understand the words they're using.

I'll save "molecular" for another day, since that's a bit more complicated than "varietal", and I'm a bit, uh, nervous about the looming deadlines this week.

The second is much easier to understand. A lot of people say "varietal" when they mean "variety", and rather surprisingly, even people who've been in the wine industry for many years still make that mistake.

First, we need to understand that:
Variety → noun
Varietal → adjective

A variety is a thing, an object, whereas "varietal" describes a thing or object, such as a bottle of wine. In other words, in common wine terms, a variety refers to the grape, while a varietal is a contraction of "varietal wine", meaning a wine that's made from a single (or from a dominant) grape variety.

Variety → Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Riesling, etc.
Varietal wine → Chateau Whatchamacallit Pinot Noir, Domaine Whathisname Riesling, etc.

So if you're referring to the botanical variety (there!) or cultivar of the grape, it's "variety". And if you're referring to a wine made from a single grape variety, it's "varietal wine" or "varietal" for short.


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