Monday, March 30, 2015

Zzapi Pizza Bar @ Balmoral Plaza

Was at Balmoral Plaza, Bukit Timah recently and noticed this new pizza joint. Zzapi looks familiar and realized that previously, it was located at Valley Point. Decided to grab dinner and a drink from there.

outdoor area

Happy Hour till 8pm, so had a glass of red for $8++.

main subject out of focus, but everything else comes to clarity - sounds like life

Food came fairly quickly and portion was good.

deep fried calamar and shrimps @$15++
osco busco risotto (specials)
parma ham pizza @$24++

The deep fried shrimps were of a good size. However, it was lacking in taste.

Had wanted to get a risotto and was asked if we would like to try an off-menu item. Game on.

The risotto was enjoyable, moist and tasty. Plenty of veal too. Best parts were those with some fats.

Pizza was alright, but we were too full to finish.

The place closes at 11pm on a Friday night.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gan Yakitori 岩やきとり @ Star Vista Part III

Quiet dinner at Star Vista.

sapporo draft beer @$8++, cabbage with miso (complimentary)
cosy interior
what shall I have today?

To go with beer, how about some hearts, liver and chicken yakitori? Preferred the heart, as the liver was not as soft as expected.

chicken hatsu and liver @$2.80++ each
chicken thigh and negima @$2.80++ each

Those sticks were just enough to line the tummy, so ordered a bowl of oyakodon.

chicken oyakodon 親子丼 @$11.80++

The oyakodon was served piping hot, with tender and smooth chicken meat. Yums. Rice was soft and sauce was not overpowering.

Skyve Wine Bistro @ 10 Winstedt Road

Was at Skyve again. Friend was not hungry, so we had snacks.

"What do you want to eat?" Very simple. Chicken wings. But of course, if we were having main course, then I'd like to have the delicious spicy kalbi beef shortribs.

Skyvers Wings and Truffle Fries @$12++ each

Piping hot wings to go with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux).

Cab. Sav. @$18++

The wine tasted ripe and tannic. Truffle fries was half-half. Liked the salty flavour and strong truffle scent  but the potato was soggy, almost as if it was lifted out of the fryer a tad earlier.

Then, we had dessert. Ordered a tiramisu but it came out looking like an opera cake. Served with a shot of crushed coffee ice and one strawberry.


The cake base was crunchy, biscotti was nicely cruncy as well but the cake was too dense to be a tiramisu.

Was it really a tiramisu? I wonder...

Paid about $50 per pax.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | Wangbijip 왕비집 @ Myeongdong 명동

When in Seoul, eat BBQ! That was part of the plan, and it was opportune that Wendy's friend would be joining us for dinner. Wendy is someone whom I've known since university days. We were hostel mates, "Wheel of Fortune" (am not sure how many of you remember this!) virtual contestants and basically, one who will remember each other's birthdays, though we only meet twice a year. Wendy was my travel buddy to Seoul, last year.

"Meet at Exit 9 at Myeongdong at 8pm. Don't be late." she warned.

Arrived at Exit 9 wifi-less and mobile phone pretty useless. Time was 8.05pm. No Wendy.

Oh no, did she get mad and left already? She is particular about timeliness after all. Waited for about 5 minutes before running around Myeongdong station for signs of Wendy. No luck. Gave up at 820pm.

Should've asked her earlier where's our dinner venue. Sobs. To head back to hotel, or to roam around Myeongdong? Chose the latter, 'coz already there mah.

Was wandering around aimlessly, feeling cold, hungry and anxious, thinking of whether I should eat the streetfood or head to one of those brightly lit restaurants or whether Wendy was angry, or... when I noticed a familiar looking tote bag. Of all the different paths we could have taken, the time that had lapsed, the many shops that one could've gone into, I bumped into Wendy and her friend. It was a "wow" moment for me.

Hence, she brought us to Wangbijip (she did the research), a Korean restaurant specializing in grilled meat (galbi).

restaurant's entrance, go up the stairs beside the beauty shop

There was a queue and so we waited for 15 minutes before getting a table. The menu was simple. For grills, there's a choice of pork and beef. Wendy doesn't take beef, so we settled for pork belly. One portion each. Plus a kettle of makgeolli.

No problem ordering as the staff is conversant in Mandarin as well.

waiting for our food
side dishes 반찬
spring onion salad with raw egg
we are so ready

Wangbijip's staff will do the cooking, but their attention would be divided as there is no one person assigned on a per table basis. So ours was impatiently flipping the meats then left it over the grill for quite a while as he went away to do the other table. But it was alright, as the pork belly still tasted better in Seoul than back home.

we're almost there
gorgeous meat

The restaurant was full of tourists actually. To our left, was a family from Singapore and to our right, was probably from Hong Kong. 

The pork belly was so good. Wrapped a hot one with the fresh crunchy lettuces, accentuated by the tangy kimchi and a dab of that gochujang. Yums! 

pot of rice wine

It was a tiny pot, but we poured about 6 to 7 small bowls. My dinner kakis claimed they'll drink, but pssshh, not true lo...

cheers 건배

Did about 3 bowls and feeling a good buzz. Offered one bowl to the Singapore family and that was it. Done.

all grilled pork belly, should taste like this
What was so good about the grilled pork belly? The meat was not frozen and cooked just right. Fatty and oily enough to sizzle, tender and every chew entices even more. 

The meat was about ₩13,000 per pax and the makgeolli was about ₩5,000.

Paid about $20 per pax.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tburu Bar & Grill, Sushi Restaurant - Orchard Gateway@Emerald | Restaurant Week March 2015

Tburu is a month-old fine dining Japanese restaurant, located at Level 5 of Orchard Gateway@Emerald. Orchard Gateway@Emerald is where we find the Crate & Barrel shop. Took the lift to the fifth floor and you will see the entrance to the restaurant.

Tburu entrance
would you like to dine with me?

While Tburu may be new, its owners are veterans in the F&B scene. Having owned restaurants in Hong Kong, and in Singapore; One on the Bund (defunct) and the currennt KIKU Kappo Izakaya Restaurant at Duxton.

menu cover

Ordered a Kirin draft beer that was served in a rather unusual looking mug.

Kirin draft beer (@$11+)
Counter seat offers a clear view of what the chefs are preparing, plus you get to see seasonal items from Japan.

looking at ya, fishes from Kyushu

Chatted with the chef while waiting as I was rather curious about the odd looking fish that was staring at me. Learnt that the middle one is called Kawahagi 皮剥ぎ, or otherwise also known as leatherjacket fish. The skin can be grilled and good as beer food, while its flesh is for sashimi. Was told that Kawahagi's liver is fattiest in Autumn.

First course in the Restaurant Week set was the "Truffle Kanpachi Carpaccio". Sort of like Japanese fish, Italian styled.

Truffle Kanpachi Carpaccio

The dipping sauce was not needed since the fish slices had been adequately sprinkled with sea salt. Every mouthful was a delight. That burst of saltiness from the ikura and sea salt, plus the kanpachi flesh was firm and oily. Yums.

While waiting for the next course, a complimentary plate of crunchy Japanese cucumber キュウリ was brought out. The housemade miso has other ingredients mixed into it, was a tad dry and not overly salty. Can be eaten on its own.

housemade miso, toasted sesame and Japanese cucumber

Next was an ala-carte order of a grilled item.

can you guess what this it?

The smoke escapes and whiffs of rosemary floated passed and dissipated faster than you saying, "whoa".

grilled A4 wagyu oyster @$22+

The meat could do less time on the grill as it turned out to be rather chewy. Hints of rosemary was evident in the meat.

Next item was continuation of the Restaurant Week set menu; The Bincho-tan Charcoal Grill Platter.

roasted potato and garlic
kurobuta belly, mentaiko tori, yasai

The kurobuta belly was oily and that's how it should be. Nicely grilled till its edges are a slightly charred. Loved the smokiness of the meat. Mentaiko tori was so soft and succulent. Usually I won't order ginkgo for yakitori and I still won't.

For yakitori, was quite interested in the pork intestine and duck tongue. Perhaps, next time? Was informed by the maître'd that most grilled items in the menu is priced per stick for individual portion, and the lamb chop and iberico collar offers a bigger portion as it is meant for sharing.

For the last course, it was Tburu Makimono.

Tburu Makimono
salmon and eel makimono

Dainty morsels of balanced taste.

For RW dinner sets here, there is definitely space for something with more carbs. Was informed that the Dan Dan Somen was the top item ordered by regulars.

Tburu is a quiet, unhurried place with elegant settings.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | Dr. Bang Masan Monkfish 方박사아구찜 @ Sinsa-dong Ganjang Gejang Alley

Ganjang 간장 means soy sauce and ge means crab while jang means condiment.  Ganjang gejang simply means raw crabs marinated in soy sauce. Yup, that's right, raw crabs. Sounds like something that Andrew Zimmern would eat? Actually, this seasonal delicacy was rather yummy. It was on my "die die must eat" list we visited Seoul in late Oct last year.

Was at Sinsa-dong 신사동 Ganjang Gejang Alley to find a place to lunch at. Convenient as plenty of shops sells the same stuffs, so we didn't know which one to choose. For tourists, Pro Ganjang Gejang is often cited. Their service staff was uniformed and looked like valets.

We wanted to find out if their prices were similar, so we went around asking about the prices. Outcome was yes, most have priced their ganjang gejangs similarly; 2 small crabs for 55,000 with banchans. Usually, the minimum order is 2 small crabs.

Finally found a place that can do two small crabs for 50,000, inclusive of rice. On top of that, we requested for one crab in marinated soy style and the other one spicy yangnyeom gejang 양념게장 style.

Dr. Bang Masan Monkfish
dining area
Yes, this is another place where one needs to remove their shoes.

side dishes with the crabs

Not a whole lot of side-dishes, just 4 types. The konbu and blanched cabbage were eaten as wraps. The soup was bean paste soup with some vegetables that tasted like dried vege that's used to boil soups.

soy sauce marinated crab 간장게장
yangnyeom gejang 양념게장

Raw marinated crabs have very soft flesh. Very much like raw shrimps. To eat it, one simply squeezes it from bottom up and suck on the soft tasty flesh. Plastic gloves are provided so that your hands don't get too dirty.

We squeezed out some of the flesh onto the blanched cabbage (or konbu) and wrap it with some hot rice. The hot cold combo with soy or spicy, tasted awesome! For the soy crab, put some rice onto the shell, top it up with roe and mix well. The umami taste was just heavenly!

rice with millet

The spicy version was very shioks and its spice level was about a scale of 3 out of 5.

Enjoyable experience. Saw the locals indulging in a pot of red stew with noodles. That should be the agu jjim 아구찜, a braised spicy monkfish. Huge pot meant for 2 pax. Ganjang Gejang Alley was used to be known for its agujjim, but nowadays it is more popular for raw marinated crabs.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Travel | Seoul 28 Oct - 2 Nov 2014 | San Nae Ri 산내리 북촌점 @ Insadong

Was in Seoul last year during autumn, and was looking for hanjeongsik 한정식 or Korean table d'hote to try. Had to abort first attempt at Samcheonggak as we failed to secure a reservation. Second attempt was a walk-in at this restaurant in Insadong, called San Nae Ri (山内里).

signboard to San Nae Ri

There were plenty of locals that day, and we were the only tourist in sight. Informed the lady at the door that we would like to lunch there and she motioned for us to wait a while. Was watching the other customers and seemed like this place is popular with elderly folks!

A table was available for us, so we were ushered inside pretty quickly. This place requires guests to remove their shoes, prior to entering the dining area.

dining room

Our dining room was quite spacious and there were just three other tables occupied. Menu is in Korean, and service staff speaks only Korean. My friend does not take beef and as with most hanjeongsik, the lunch full course menu does contain beef dishes. Staff was helpful though we had difficulty in communication. As there were 2 dishes that contain beef, she would change one item to soup while one of the beef main course item remains.

Course menu starts from 30,000 and minimum of 2 pax. Individual set meals of one main dish, served with rice and side dishes are available too with quite affordable price tag.

The cold dishes were served first. Quite like the tangy white kimchi. Salad was refreshing with the sesame dressing. The portions are meant for 2 pax but in actual fact, the portions were more than generous.

white kimchi
salad in sesame dressing
meat salad

We could not figure out what kind of meat it was but it tasted tender, almost like venison. Very likeable.

Next dish, was an icy cold dish of frozen fish slices with spring onions, cucumber, spicy sauce and topped with ground peanuts. Truly exotic and can't help wondering if we were eating this the right way...

cold dish - sliced frozen fish

Thankfully, the next seafood was spicy octopus and it tasted very good. Very tender and pretty spicy. Served with blanched kongnamul 콩나물 or bean sprouts.

spicy octopus 낙지볶음

Next up, the main course of braised beef ribs. So glad we didn't trade this dish away as it was excellent! (and it was all mine! *hiaks hiaks*)

braised beef ribs 길비찜 with mushrooms

The ribs were huge and the meat was fork tender. So yummy and flavourful. The mushrooms were meaty too.

peppery fish soup

Originally, beef doenjang jjigae 된장 찌개 is in the menu, so we exchanged it with this soup. Tasted quite peppery, which was nice in cold weather.

fried fish with spicy sauce
fried pumpkin

The fried fish was rather dry, and not much flavour. The fried pumpkin, on the other hand, was fantastic. So sweet, and soft. Almost like a dessert.

We were already feeling full by then. Little did we realise, the course meal comes with rice set.

kimchi soup, blanched spinach, kimchi, pickles and rice

The rice was so good. How can we not eat the rice? Plus the pickles, and the spicy kimchi really did work up the appetite again. It was like a dilemma; can't eat anymore but felt the need to finish. The soup was tasty too. Loved the bean paste soup~

Lastly, we were served a bunch of grapes and a cup of omija. The grapes were super sweet. Similar to kyoho grapes.

to end the meal

The meal costs 60,000 nett for two pax, and both of us ended up being super duper full! An interesting experience indeed.

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