Fat Cow

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That’s the thing about personalised invitation cards. The epitome of real effort. My grandfather is still cool enough to do this sort of thing, even if, you know, he doesn’t quite know the name of the young woman beside me. Or such an example is common enough. You can’t expect the elderly to be superhuman too. Oh, but I do love him so. Charming and comely old man. Singapore’s No. 1 bowler back in the day, and with such a flying passion!

Anyways, no, this isn’t a Heston Blumenthal clone, or any cuisine of the sort. Japanese-inspired steakhouse right here.

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Japanese leek with ponzu jelly and sesame dressing
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sliced bream with black truffle

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That salad was a crisp concoction made by the Tangy Japanese Gods.

I was pretty scared to touch the carpaccio, which looked about 0.001mm thin and as delicate as my dad’s hairline. But I did anyway. It was still frightening on the tongue, as it close to evaporated once it hit the buds. Moist, a little bland, but the truffle made it boom with musk and sophistication.

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The fried zucchini flower was a light break during the rage of courses that night. The batter was airy but separated a little too easily from the flower, and its thickness merged with the flower made it seem almost incongruous. But a joy all the same.

It’s easy to talk about meat, but the steamboat here was magical. Each chopstick slip of the red, raw stuff was a ticket to the most tender slivers of melt-on-your-tongue premium beef. Boiled in a soup which starts off tasteless but ends off sweet, reduced and wondrous. I can almost feel the bubbles tickling my throat. Dip it in the pastel orange-clad shabu shabu sauce, maybe a little more in the soup, add a hint of rice and off you go and enter another mental state altogether.

Repeat.

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Porridge. I saw it on the menu and passed it as some filler idea. But then again, if it’s on this menu, it’s got to good, right?

Right. And I was.  No really I swear. It’s the best savoury porridge you will try in your lifetime. There’s writing your will and then there’s coming here to have just one bowl of this. As they say here, it truly is shiok. Nourishing, warm, glutinous. The consistency of a wilted lemon curd, with soft, popping granules throughout, and healthy dollops of tender mushroom, shallots, garlic and chives. I need to stop here because my mouth is watering. Also, because I’m rather angry at myself for having the smallest stomach in the world, so by this time during the meal I could finish a paltry fraction of that small bowl.

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I don’t like mochi on its own, but the little translucent cuboids here were paired with a sticky, gooey gula melaka to reinforce its glutinous texture. The matcha and peanut dippings helped a fair bit, too. My favourite was that yuzu, which reminded me of white angels for some reason. I receive strange and non-sequitur connections whenever I’m faced with beautiful or delicious plates of food.

Rating: 4.8/5

Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard #01-01/02

Camden Medical Centre

6735 0308

Tonkatsu Ma Maison

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appetiser: cold daikon radish and soy

Another one of those pre-rain Saturday late mornings spent with my ever-starving mother. Now that Chinese New Year’s just round the corner (well tomorrow, to be precise, not that I’m ever good at remembering specific dates let alone consider history as one of my principal passions), I knew many cafes I wanted to try out were all closed. Five and Dime, no. House at Dempsey, no. Jones the Grocer… Let’s give it a shot. And so we scurried over to Mandarin Gallery, expecting our bellies to be greeted and filled up by a wholly Western spread.

I still remember my uncle exclaiming all the glories and wonders of this jewelled Japanese eating house, tucked away in the quite aisles of Mandarin Gallery, hushed and hidden from the calamity of the bustling outside world. Order and serenity restored. A disguised quietness lending savoury appeal.

The entire box of tables and chairs outside the main eating area was totally filled with reserved signs, like ghosts waiting to be settled in graves. A little weird, but that was the first thought which came to mind. Black, black everywhere. The fact that I paired hot pink lipstick with bright red cropped pants was also probably a contributing factor in my aberrant mental state. Sometimes outfits lend a little more attitude than necessary.

Mine certainly did.

And I still haven’t changed out of it.

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cold tofu

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The little pot of soy sauce came with the icy block of tofu, so we assumed that the tofu lacked enough flavour in order to be eaten by itself. After pouring a generous amount, we realised we made a terrible mistake, for the purity of that pasty cuboid was lost amongst the stinging saltiness. I picked instead at the untouched scallions and crumbled white bits. I just love tofu; that firm and angular belly begging to be cut through, refreshing any palette it chances upon.

Even the edamame had a lovely sprinkling of salt to partner the sweet, al dente bean within.

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five fried oysters set
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fried oyster (2 pieces) and white fish (2 pieces) set, with brown rice

I got brown rice whilst the maman got white, since I find the taste and woof of brown grains to be twice as pleasing and interesting. Sticky, with a nice bite and reluctance to give in totally. We gave our orders to the amateur waiter, only to have our rice choices mixed up later, with my mum getting brown rice and me, white. Woe betide us all! Not the best first impression, considering how our food didn’t even come at a quick enough timing. Sitting at the counter, we could clearly witness the camaraderie going on between the chefs as they chopped up tonkatsu, joked with each other, mixed dressings and radishes.

Those oysters were mighty flavourful, packing in a lot of heart in a smaller than usual portion size. A good squeeze of lemon and a magnanimous drizzle of tonkatsu sauce and you’re pretty much good to go. Tuck in, maybe with a smidgen of rice soaked in a little frothy soup.

And I can now declare that the tonkatsu sauce here is officially the best I have ever tasted.

Some lack enough Worcestershire and ketchup, others are simply not tart and sweet enough. This had the perfect balance of everything, right down to the consistency and the way it coated everything with a strong tang. What a privilege.

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inside the baby oyster

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The soup is thicker than what you would get in a typical Japanese set meal with miso soup. This had bits of shitake, stringy unidentifiables, tofu and radish. Comforting and a tad more complex. Hot delight to shake up the frigid air all around.

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The lady called it black forest and something else (was it roasted tea?) jelly. I never took a liking to any sort of jelly in the first place, though I took a bite nonetheless. Despite being a tad watery and bland, the individual flavours could be picked out carefully if one paid any attention to doing so at all.

Tonkatsu here is quite something. I’m taking my dad here next time.

I promise.

Rating: 3.8/5

Tonkatsu Ma Maison

333A Orchard Road

#02-35/36 Mandarin Gallery

Tel: 67334541

Ministry of Food

NEX, Serangoon. Don’t bother asking me what NEX stands for or who came up with it. So elusive. Terribly bizarre.

That’s where we were heading. I crossed my fingers for decent finds, considering the fact that I had no idea what to expect and how I hadn’t stepped into any other part of Singapore other than around the bustling lights of Orchard Road for a painfully long time.

Yesterday was the official first session of the Culinary Appreciation Society, so we were put into a few groups to visit a myriad of different places. This society has the words ‘culinary’ and ‘appreciation’, so that was good reason enough to join. Mind you, savoury over gorging, as goes my motto. I highlight right here to all food chums: Japanese food can throw my control right out the window sometimes.

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And here I present to you banana fritters with vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream, slivered almonds and a gruesome maraschino cherry (if it’s one thing I’ll never be able to tolerate, it’s maraschino cherries).

On a partially full stomach, I was only willing to share little edible trinkets here and there, whilst gobbling down everyone’s available (and hopelessly neglected) caramelised onions. Onion Chomper is destined to be my middle name, both in this life and the next. I swear on my life. Those banana fritters were fried to a crisp, lava-hot texture and consistency, which went wonderfully with the frigid vanilla accompaniment. Not real vanilla bean ice cream or anything similar, of course. One mustn’t expect too much in order to be pacified or satisfie. Those after-school munchies got the better of me though, so I sacrificed some ordinary pleasure.

Two choices here: heavily ‘breaded’ or ‘crispy’. The crispy ones turned out like mini sweet spring rolls, whilst the breaded resembled dessert-like frozen orange fish fingers waiting to be drenched in some white chorus of a sauce. Almost incongruous, but yet fit in reluctantly. A little boy wearing a pink hat, I should say. Most unfortunately, Ruru and I agreed on how they went soft, cold and soggy after a while, failing to uphold a sustainable crisp factor. The beauty never lasted, but the slivered almonds were an appropriate accessory. And to be perfectly honest, they should have served it with a knife and fork, to cater to the common motion of the common human hand.

You can see the second picture right there, a golden halo praising the wonders of the almighty Japanese ramen. Not my choice, but I picked at it with high hopes. The bowl hid a dozen treasures locked within a thick, sodium-choked translucent broth. The meatball I tried was lacklustre and seemed to have lost all its flavour in the heat of the noodle-themed excitement. Broth was salty but almost addictive. I found more satisfaction in its brown-mirror like visual appeal, poking around just to see the appealing ripples. I’ve had more round tasting, chewier strands before, though perhaps I’m not the one to propose a full-blown review on this dish, since I’m not the biggest fan of noodles in the first place. Let’s not stubbornly claim the superiority of a single personality!

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Now what I do love are the extended features of this gargantuan menu.

Sorry, my mistake.

Three menus. Or was it four? Someone correct me. I felt like a helpless baby seal standing amongst schools of fish, scared of picking the wrong one, yet at the same time half-ready to pounce on each choice out there. Frustration tingled and the displayed visuals were magnanimous. Too much and annoyingly kind. I watched on as one member wolfed down an entire pizza whilst another savoured some smoked salmon aglio olio. This was the food community I have come to know of in one unpretentious evening; just one group with a gluttonous inclination and adventurous spirit. Other groups hopped down to Prata Wala, a famous and apparently extremely brilliant prata place, Carl’s Junior for some puzzling reason and many other little stops.

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Good company is a plus point, elevating the entire scene, whilst juxtaposed with multiple dishes. I looked sadly at all the ordered glasses of water. 30 cents for such orders? Dear.

May I also quietly add that some people had to wait quite a long while just to get simple (and mediocre) dishes such as soft-shell crab. On the whole, it was a decent introduction to what I may expect to come in the following weeks, and I’m so pleased to be part of a group which shares the same passion for noshing. To really just enjoy having our heads buried in menus or in a bowl or plate of some delicacy or another. We shall unite in appreciation, and gastronomic absurdity.

A pleasure and privilege indeed.

Rating: 3.2/5

Ministry of Food (MOF)

23 Serangoon Central

#02-01/02/03 Nex

66344610