Saturday, March 23, 2019

Kafe UTU Revisited @ 12 Jiak Chuan Road

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Back again after a month or so, and this time to try some new items in the dinner menu with the rest of the foodie gang. It was a somewhat deja vu moment as we sat at the same table as we did, one month ago! Here is the link to previous visit.

While waiting for the last person to arrive, we ordered up our drinks with half the group opting for mocktails and the other half preferred the alcoholic ones.  That night, we left our drinks selection in the hands of Ivan, the Head Bartender at Kafe UTU.

He asked what would I prefer. I said, "Gin based and slightly sweet. Make it special."  After a long while, my drink arrived in a dainty tokkuri (徳利) and it came with a little cute heart. How'd they know I like Japanese stuffs? *winks*


The Alcoholics


Gin-based Special #1
I liked the special gin mix that was not too strong, sweet and refreshing. Thank you Ivan for the thoughtful creation.

Grapefruit Negroni
Whiskey-based  Special #2
Rum-based Special #3


The Mocktails

Fruit-based and refreshingly tangy
Watermelon-based with egg white
Tiki drink
Berry refreshing

Can you guess which of the above mocktail was for a guy? Hehe.

But where's the food? One word of advice, do place your food order quickly before the kitchen gets really really busy with the avalanche of orders.

KIDOGO (BITES)


Malindi Croquettes @$12

I think the Malindi Croquettes came to our table by mistake but we ended up ordering two more plates of it. Smallish in size, but it packed a punch in flavour. Best eaten when served. The insides are super soft and creamy, with a nice golden crisp batter. Pause for 5 seconds after the first swallow and notice the rising burn. Wow, it was deceptively spicy! Well, the menu did say Habanero...but guessed we just didn't noticed it. But it was shioks!

fresh cassava leaves, ginger, garlic, Habanero, House spices, Bechamel

Pan Con Tomate with House Smoked Anchovies & Garlic @$18

The tomato cold soup was as how we remembered it, and the difference was in the toast. The smoked anchovies added another dimension to this.

SALADS


Roasted Pumpkin Kale Salad (V) @$20



FROM MAMA AFRICA



West African Charred Aubergine Stew with Angus Beef Cheek (served with basmati rice) @$30

We loved to hear the origins of the dish and the aubergine turns out to be Kurt's favourite birthday dish! Can easily understand why, as the beef cheek has a pleasant smokey flavour yet tender with each bite. Moist with the Liberian sauce, its spices were pleasant and delightful when laden ontop a spoonful of basmati white rice. Yums.

Moroccan Lemon Chicken Tagine @$29

Yes, there was no tagine (طجين) for the Moroccan Lemon Chicken Tagine dish. The tagine is a shallow earthen pot which is often recognised for its upside down cone shaped cover. It's ok not to have the tagine though because the chicken was still very delicious.

The star of this dish, got to be the quinoa. Superbly moist, flavourful and delightful with the onions.

Macanese African Chicken with Mango Salsa @$29


The Macanese African Coconut sauce looked a tad oily but we did not care a bit. Cut a small piece of that chicken, swirl it all over the sauce and into the mouth it went. Lovely.

The Macanese African Chicken With Mango Salsa is served with quinoa, and the quinoa in this dish was rather interesting as well. It was made into a patty and pan-fried, which resulted in a nice crust on its outer part much like the taste of scorched rice.

We also had some of the favourites from the previous round; the Swahili Fish Curry and Liberian Peanut Chicken Stew. These two dishes paired so well with the basmati rice.


PASTRIES


We ordered our previous favourites; the carrot cake and the soft serve ice-cream. Malindi Halwa was added after Kurt shared more stories of how this dessert snug into the menu. Yes, we do love stories especially if it was about Sheiks, master craftsmen and their favourite dessert.

Malindi Halwa @$10

"Would it be too sweet?" I was thinking in my mind. "How does Kafe UTU's version of Halwa taste like?"

Halwa is sweet confections made in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. There's flour based halwa, nut butter based halwa but this texture was something unfamiliar. I felt like I might be eating a cube of watermelon (based on visual), but it tasted of spices and a pleasant sweetness with a light but not so bouncy texture. The Kafe UTU's halwa is made of dragonfruit juice, hazelnuts and cashew nuts,  macadamia, pistachios with Malindi spices. There's yoghurt on the plate for a slight sour taste. There's crisp spiced Dukha filo too. Interesting!

Carrot cake was a crowd favourite, but soft serve ice-cream is life! The flavour on that night was dark chocolate. Previous visit, we had coffee soft serve.

UTU Soft Serve Ice Cream @$4

SIPPING GIN

One shall not pass a chance to savour some sipping gin. Sipping gin is basically a gin that is good enough to drink neat.

Cheers to Good Food, Good Drinks and Good Company~

Procera Gin
Procera Gin, is an African craft gin and has African botanicals from Morocco, Kenya, Somalia, Zanzibar, Madagascar and Sierra Leone. It is the first and only gin crafted with African juniper.

Lovely aroma, strong and pleasantly smooth on the throat.

Kurt asked if we would like to try something that is currently not on the menu yet. Would we be too full since we were done with dessert as well? And miss a chance to try new menu? No way. And that was how we ended up with more food.

Off menu special Nigerian Beef Suya

The meat was tender, marinade was on point and the crispy homemade chapati provided the contrast in texture to the tender flavourful meat. Eaten like a wrap with pickled thinly sliced cucumbers and piled with as much kachumbari as you like.

lovely onglet

Once this makes its appearance in the menu, hesitate not. It was delicious.

All in all, expect to spend between $40 to $60 per pax for a drink and a good meal.

An enjoyable Friday night out with Kris, Elle, Rachelle, Tiara, Shermaine, Alvin, Hence and Ivan. Thank you Kurt for your hospitality, and team UTU for taking care of us that night.


Kafe Utu

Address: 12 Jiak Chuan Road Singapore 089265
Contact: +65 6996 3937
Websitehttps://kafeutu.com/

Business Hours:    

Kafe Utu
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Sunday: 8am – 5pm

Utu Lounge
Closed Monday
Tuesday – Thursday: 6pm-11pm
Friday & Saturday: 6pm-1am
Sunday: 1130am - 5pm


Saturday, March 16, 2019

[Japan-Nagoya] Nagoya-meshi 名古屋めし or What to Eat in Nagoya Part 2 - Breakfast Nagoya Style at Komeda's Coffee

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Yes, we are going to talk about Nagoya breakfast, the Ogura Toast. Interestingly, it originated in 1921 at the Mitsu Ha cafe in the Sakae area of Nagoya. It was created after the shopkeeper of Mitsu Ha noticed his customers dipping their toast in zenzai (sweet red bean soup). Thanks to his keen observation, am glad that we now have this delicious ogura toast in existance.

Komeda's Coffee
morning service

Had woken up early, gotten dressed and went out to hunt for the cafe to enjoy the typical Nagoya-styled breakfast. Alas, the cafe that I wanted was not open yet that day. Hence, I wandered around and found Komeda's Coffee at ESCA underground shopping center.

As with typical Japanese cafés, Komeda's also offers "morning service" (モーニングサービス) or "morning set" (モーニングセット), which is a low-cost breakfast menu available only during selected morning hours and in our case, from 7 till 11am.

The cafe looked pretty packed and was slightly worried if there'll be any seats for me. Waited for about 5 minutes and was greeted by the staff. "Smoking" or "Non-Smoking"? I think that's what she asked. Oh, no wonder I smelled cigarette smoke somehow. "Non-smoking, please." I said.

She acknowledged and asked me to wait. 5 minutes later, a table was available as the previous occupant had finished his breakfast. I was brought to a table big enough for 4 pax. Ooh, such luxury. An oshibori (warm towel) was brought out along with a glass of iced water. Just nice, as it was drizzling earlier.

oshibori (おしぼり) and iced water

Staff was rather nice and let you have your own time before deciding on what to have. It was rather easy for me to decide. Set C of Ogura toast set with hard boiled egg.  At Komeda's Coffee, you just need to order a drink and then the breakfast set is free. Coffee was about ¥560.

Set C - Ogura Toast 小倉トースト with coffee
The milk was strong, hence I only dripped a few drops for a taste. Japanese coffee tend to be slightly more acidic.

coffee au lait

The thick toast was awesome. Spread with delicious golden butter (salted, of course), which by then had gently seeped into the toast, so I just needed to top it with a big spoonful of adequately sweet red bean paste before getting a big satisfying bite out of it. Yums.

delicious toast

Lovely breakfast and good value for money.



Komeda's Coffee

Address: Japan, 〒453-0015 Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya, Nakamura-ku, Tsubakicho, 6−9, エスカ地下街内
Contact: +81 52-454-3883
Websitehttp://www.komeda.co.jp/
Business hours:
Daily: 7am to 10pm

Sunday, March 10, 2019

[Japan-Nagoya] Nagoya-meshi 名古屋めし or What to Eat in Nagoya

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If one had Googled about what to eat in Nagoya, the results will likely include foods like kishimen, cochin chicken, miso nikomi, tebasaki and ogura toast. Did a two-days stay in Nagoya and managed to try some of the local delicacies. This was my second time in Nagoya and the first was just a one-night stay so this time round, extended to another night.

Was travelling solo as Shermaine decided to do her own route hence, we parted ways in Asakusa. The next morning, I took the Shinkansen from Kinshicho to Nagoya. As with JR-Pass, am able to take Shinkansen Hikari which was about 2+ hours to Nagoya.



Stayed at Nagoya Liberty Hotel this time round. About 10 minutes walk to the train station and a rather old-school hotel.

Nagoya Liberty Hotel
room
Now that am all settled in for the accommodation, next would be food. The ESCA underground shopping is just about 6 minutes walk away hence, that became my favourite food destination in Nagoya. That, or Family-Mart or the train station where there's plenty of food as well.

Here are some that were bought from Nagoya train station. There are many wings with different restaurant and food kiosks.

Minomisho JR Nagoya Station (food kiosk)

tamagoyaki and karaage from Minomisho Nagoya Station
lovely rolled egg omelette
The take-away set of rolled egg and karaage was close to ¥700. The karaage was lacklustre because it was rather hard and cold. While the omelette was also cold, it had a nice flavour which was a good balance of savoury and sweet.


Furaibo ESCA 風来坊 エスカ店


Furaibo Tebasaki (Chicken Wings) @ ¥590
small fried wings with salt, pepper and lemon

Furaibo seemed packed during dinner, so did a takeaway since am dining solo. There are options for half a dozen or a dozen wings. Opted for the former and ate in comfort in the hotel. Picked up an apple sochu from convenience store as accompaniment. The wings were small, cold and lacklustre. Hmm, am I missing something here?

Luckily, I had a packet of strawberries bought from the department store. When in Japan, I'd make sure to buy strawberries. But often times, it was scarce since it was not in season. Happy that I found some and it was so juicy and sweet! Yums. It lasted me two nights.

strawberries 
いちご

Next installment, let's checkout some Nagoya restaurant food.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

[Japan-Tokyo] コンビニ Konbini foods, are they as good as what others say?

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The term Konbini/Conbini/Combini コンビニ means convenience. Hence, konbini food simply means convenience store foods. Yes, food/snacks from stores such as 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, amongst others. Japan's combini culture is attractive as everything is so convenient. We all know that convenience stores in Japan has everything. Well, almost. But it does have things that most travellers would want/need in some point in time.

For me, that'll be foood~ and yeah, an umbrella too.

Family Mart @ Kinshicho

I bet you have heard about their fried chicken. And, you'd probably had eaten them too but pardon me for being late into the game. Haven't been visiting Japan for the longest time.

fried food counter at Family Mart

Nope, does not know what those words are but I knew what I wanted. A piece of that golden fried chicken square. Of course, I didn't know which was which because there were two that looked similar. So I just pointed to the one at the top tray.

Family Mart Chicken @  ¥180

Ate this baby as soon as I bought it. And, it was still piping hot! Of course, I was a tad famished by that time, which was close to 1pm. Oh boy, it was an amazing first bite. So juicy, tender and tasty! There were some fair amount of fats surrounding those meat, hence it could get oily. But so good eating it at 22 degrees celcius. Yums!

love at first bite

Also tried Lawson's version of the fried chicken (I got the spicy version) when I was in Nagoya but Famichiki was the better version, hands down. Reason being Lawson's version had slightly drier meat and slightly dough-y taste of the flour. Oily-ness level was almost the same for both.

Lawson's Spicy Fried Chicken @ ¥150

Having a Family Mart so close to the hotel (5 minutes walk) that I was staying in Kinshicho, meant I could do breakfast or a light dinner or midnight snack on a whim. Another combini food that got me intrigued, is the tamago sando (egg sandwich). I just got to try it myself.

I was at the store around 8am and bought an egg sandwich a cup of Family Mart's latte. The store has a small section where customers could sit and eat their food. The seats are facing the outside of the store, so one could watch the world go by while sipping coffee.

たまごサンド とコーヒー Egg sandwich and coffee
egg mayo sandwich on fluffy white bread

Lovely taste from the egg sandwich and loved the fluffy bread. Not too heavy but enough to fuel the first few hours of the day.

Another must-buy from the konbini would be the oden. Oden is a one-pot dish consisting of several ingredients, much like our yong tau foo. The oden in convenience store can be easily found at the front of the cashier counter. The styrofoam bowl (of two different sizes) and tongs to pickup the ingredients and ladle for the soup are all there. Self-service.

Let's take a look of what I had for dinner. It was my first time having oden so I think I was a tad excited to try. Went for 5 items and placed them all in the large bowl. Put in the soup and go to the counter to pay. They'd put on the cover for you and pack the sauce, if you need. There's hoisin sauce and yellow mustard in tiny packs.

Oden おでん

Had picked out daikon (because I heard that this is a must-have ingredient for oden), the tamago (hard boiled egg), two Nerimono (some kind of fish paste/meat paste item), and the Kinchaku (the one that looks like a fried beancurd pouch).

The daikon was expectantly soft and had absorbed the flavours of the dashi. Juicy and easy to eat. It was kind of hard to stop myself from drinking up all the dashi. It just tasted so flavourful.

I think I got a deep fried hanpen which is a type of fishcake but I was also confused because of the airy and fluffy texture that it has. It has seaweed in it, and everything about this piece was just so intriguing! Amazing. Oooh, the pockets of air in that piece was good to bring up more dashi with each bite. Just dip and bite. So goood!

半片 so good!
Here's a video of the oden feast.




Was kind of surprised when the weight of kinchaku was felt when I tried to pick it up with the chopsticks. Why was it so heavy? Took a bite and there was mochi in there! Wow. Unexpected but it was still a good combo, surprisingly.

Another surprise was the meatball piece. It had a cheesy center. So cool!

The only not surprising item was the egg. It was a regular hardboiled egg. I thought it was going to be a lava egg.

cheesy meatball

To end the meal, wash it off with with a Chu-Hi which is a shochu based cocktail. When drinking, might as well get a snack to go along with it. All in all, a very filling and satisfying meal, complete with an alcoholic drink and a 'dessert' of sorts. About $10 for dinner.

Horoyoi ほろよい
seasonal snack of butter sweet potato crackers

I love konbini foods so much, I got to have it again and this time with onigiri.

breakfast in bed - oden, onigiri, juice and coffee

Being a noob in onigiri unwrapping, it was a mess once I got it wrong. Amazing how the seaweed stayed crispy. Lovely flavours and good for breakfast.

mentaiko onigiri 

Yes, I love my convenience store foods and drinks for its adequate selections, affordable pricing and fuss free.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

[Japan-Tokyo] Tendon Tenya 天丼てんや @ Asakusa 浅草

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After we were done with the sightseeing at Asakusa, we actually walked back and forth for about, I think at least 2 km before deciding on the place to rest our legs and to appease our growling tummies. Reason being, we wanted to check out the stretch of restaurants and to have our own top pick before putting it to vote. Yeah, just 3 of us in the party and already it was complicated. Oops.

Sensō-ji 浅草寺 at night
Kaminarimon 雷門

Ok, so what did the long walks yielded? Shermaine's friend Johan decided to try Tendon Tenya. Yass to fried tempura rice bowl!

Tendon Tenya looks like a fast food joint and it has upstairs seats as well. Often times, the ground floor would be filled up hence, the staff would try to usher the guests to the upper floor. We got ourselves a table downstairs because too tired to climb up and down the stairs. The wait for a table was about 10 minutes.

shopfront
drinks menu

We ordered more or less the same thing. The basic tendon has prawn, okra, pumpkin, squid and white fish for just ¥540. Additional toppings like scallop cost about ¥130 each. The scallop was pretty small hence, may be more worth it to add white fish meat for just ¥100 per piece.

delicious tendon 天丼 with miso soup
Tendon with maitake mushrooms, okra, prawn, and squid with additional scallop @ ¥720

The food was delicious, the sauce was minimal but I think it was adequate to flavour the rice. The deep fried tempura was not the crispy crispy type but overall it was still delicious. Loved the maitake mushroom!

For drinks, we drank up the complimentary cold roasted tea that's available on the table. Self-service ya.

iced tea

Tasted good, reasonably priced and fuss free.

Tendon Tenya 天丼てんや

Address: 〒111-0032, 1-9-2 Asakusa Taito-ku, Tokyo
Contact: 03-5828-5918
Business Hours:
Weekdays: 11:00~23:00
Saturday: 10:00~23:00
PH: 10:00~23:00
 
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