Proud East– Pop Up Japan

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I miss Japan. That much I can say. So upon invitation to check out ProudEast’s new Japanese-themed popup, I could quite literally feel my belly slowly move upwards. Not that belly-lurching could be any good, in any which way or form, it’s just that I knew all those juices were undeniably angry,  screaming for some oriental nosh. And you can indeed get that sort of thing here in London, little miss dressed-up International, though at hard-shelled prices pasted on seaweed I could get for two cents at my local oriental store back at home. Eat Tokyo (of which there are several outlets here) is pretty worth most bites of sweetly-vinegared rice, but there’s a certain degree of delicacy, an intricacy lacking that, to me, is so intrinsic to Japanese cuisine. Of course culinary chains aren’t meant to be all whimsy, but I can’t help it. Even the most chain-like places in Japan were more like fanciful culinary arenas, where sumo wrestlers gracefully dance and jiggle. But London is London and some things don’t change. Here was a chance to put my worn tastebuds to good use.

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Seated along the blossom-lined path of Regent’s Canal, Proud East describes its pop up as ‘fusing Tokyo’s dynamic cultural hub with century old customs’. True enough, I was greeted with rich reds splashed amongst a contemporary monochrome palette. Lanterns. Clean wood. Sharp lines. Now if only there was a Japanese lady, but you can’t have it all, right?

I started my little self-made food sequence with their Aki Ban Cha, a light and fragrant green tea (though the lady who served it didn’t know what it was). They have a selection of three teas on offer, and mine stayed warm and life-giving for the hour I was there. There had to be some sort of meditation in case anything else went awry.

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Shimeji and shiitake hiyashi (cold) ramen

The star, the silver, the gold. The Hiyashi Ramen, which I chose to eat with shimeji and shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and homemade kimchi (hit the jackpot here! Not overwhelmingly spicy, delicately sour). Commending the traditional cooking method of soaking in cool water; the noodles turned out cold, bouncy and firm. A tender bite, mildly sweet and lusciously dressed in that supple, slippery ponzu (soy and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit like a light yet more bitter version of your typical orange). Though I keep eating eggs, dairy and meat to a minimum, hats off to the bright orange yolk tenderly cooked to perfection. A wobbly and ready-to-burst onsen egg would’ve fared even better, especially on this cool base. Well-cut, lovingly-marinated vegetables rounded up the savoury notes with an innate fresh and tangy zeal. I took it all quite seriously as the flavours were almost mesmerising, crisp silhouettes in my head. Almost as good as Tonkichi back at home in Singapore. I liked how they provide free chilli oil and white vinegar too on the side. The noodle volume was a little overwhelming for someone like me, but so worth it when priced at £9.50.

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Salted caramel miso ice cream sandwiched between two layers of chocolate guinness cake (unwrapped)/ upstairs gaming and lounge area

I wasn’t expecting this to be wrapped up and sealed with ‘Happy Endings LDN’, which did sound a bit weird for obvious reasons but compelling all the same. The ice cream alone is its saving grace, for I did taste miso streaked through the marshmallowy fluff of ice cream. Sweet and pillowy. The easy sort of eating, say if you want to grab something unusual (albeit fast-melting) on the go.

The whole concept is cute– you also get to play games upstairs, watch some arthouse Japanese films and indulge in some sushi and sashimi making classes. As they mention, ‘Proud East’s open plan kitchen will be taken over by one of the finest London restaurants, Tonkotsu, with a tantalising menu including fresh Gyoza, Crab Korokke, Chicken Kara-age and Tonkotsu’s signature dish, their intensely flavoursome and creamy Ramen’. Some serious immersion going on here and this spot will satisfy your Asian tooth for as long as you like, just until it ends in about 10 weeks. So get your butts here guys.

 

Review: Paddy Hills

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Another day, another café. I’ve done a little review on Paddy Hills before, but I could not pass up the chance to visit again to sample a few items on their new menu. When I stepped through the entrance doors, I was reminded why, when I first visited more than a year ago, I kept telling myself, ‘come back, you gotta come back’. I haven’t done a review in aeons, but this place deserves one, and more to come.

Having been to many a ‘hip’ café before, safe to say that Paddy Hills lives up to its hyped name. A little off the beaten track at South Buona Vista, interior brimming with rustic majesty, flooded with wood and light. Tiles, the most beautiful navy wall, smiles. A close friend and I sat down excitedly, and were first served drinks.

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Iced Matcha. Creamy, thick, rich. This reminded me of Haagen Dazs’ green tea ice cream blended with a little milk. Perhaps just a little too sweet for a sustained sip, but refreshing nonetheless.

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Bubbly Yuzu. This fared well for the both of us. The bubbles added a lovely flair, but it was the perfect ratio of sparkle to sweet of the drink itself, combined with the textural difference of plum and grape jello, that really made this a special, whimsical drink.

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Berry Muffcakes! Complete with vanilla bean ice cream cubes, magic mango balls, a garden of berries, chocolate sauce and chocolate crumble. OK, these are not part of their new or limited-time-only menu, but I just have to throw these in because… I mean, can you not see the pictures above. It’s just ridiculous. After trying these the first time a while ago, I immediately started writing about them because I was so enamoured by its spot-on texture and toppings. I’ve had my fair share of hotcakes and this was by far the best I’ve tried. Friends, I do not joke. Crispy, robust edges, fluffy, pale yellow cakey belly, a firm, browned bottom. Not too sweet, either. There’s nothing more you can ask for.

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Winter Truffle Fries. Golden fries, shaved pecorino, and shaved black truffle. Some truffle aioli on the side, because what’s lush without sin? Truffle fries have a bit of a confusing rep because it’s true you can’t actually taste truffle; its expensive scent enhances the whole fry-eating experience. For a limited time only, I implore you all to get your hands on these absurdly crisp, golden strings of heaven. If you’re like me and enjoy crispy-only fries, as if they were fried through and through and then fried just once more, then get your foodie selves down to Paddy Hills stat (yeah, they definitely beat PS Café’s).

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Truffle Breakfast. House-cured salmon, soft scrambled eggs and shaved truffle on a bagel, with house-cured bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and arugula.

I don’t consume much meat, but I daresay the few bites I took were tender like none. The bagel was crisp and chewy; eggs silky, creamy and buttery without being cloying or gloopy. The milky, more earthy flavours of truffled egg and mushroom complemented the cured meats which cut through with a blaze trail of umami. A king-sized, well-balanced dish.

As the meal came to an end, it started to darken outside. The light all at once was harsh, then subdued. The sky gradient followed the rise and defeat of our appetites, as we looked despondently at our leftovers. Full, happy, done.

 

Paddy Hills

38 South Buona Vista Road

Weekdays:  10 30am-5pm, 6-10pm
Weekends: 9am-5pm, 6-10pm

6479 0800

 

 

Blueberry Danish+ exciting news

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New season of the Great British Bakeoff? Yeah, almost started sweating. Just so happened that the dawn of another exciting slew of episodes coincided with my mum’s genius decision to buy the ever-charismatic Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake cookbook. So there I was, eagerly thumbing through, and I finally settled on his recipe for raspberry danishes. Having never experimented with proper danish pastry before, I figured it only wise to follow his method step by step, in true apprentice fashion. Tweaked it a little to use the ripe, slightly tart blueberries I had instead, and dressed it up with homemade frangipane and a salted caramel glaze instead of the stated recipe’s citrus-based one. I now fully understand why people labour over laminated dough; all those hours folding, pressing and refrigerating are truly worth it in the end. The result proved to be gold– flaky, golden pastry, buttery and beautiful. Not much sugar needed, just let the dough do the talking. Anyone who’s keen on trying laminated dough, be it this/ croissants/ pain au chocolat etc, should definitely try this take (this is easier if you live in a cold country, but if not, please make sure that air-con is on full blast!)

Before I get on with the details and modifications, I want to share something pretty exciting with you. Ever since kindergarten I’ve always wanted to write a book, be it on something big or small, short or long, personal or informative. There’s something about holding a book– reading, absorbing, loving it, that beats few other physical and mental experiences. Having finished a recent research internship that served well to enhance this innate lust for creative and relatable matter, I was immediately compelled to start. Though I shan’t disclose any details, I do plan to include a few new surprise recipes in this personal project!

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Blueberry Danish with a Salted Caramel drizzle (makes about 25 pastries)

Ingredients

For the dough: 

one batch of Paul Hollywood’s Danish pastry dough 

 

For the frangipane (adapted from Martha Stewart’s ‘Bostock’ recipe):

50g (2/3 cup) whole, raw almonds

100g (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar

85g (6 tbsp) softened, unsalted butter

1 egg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon salt

 

For the salted caramel drizzle:

50g (around a half cup) white sugar

47g salted (!!) butter

1 1/2 tsp fine salt

120ml (1/2 cup) heavy whipping cream (either single or double is fine)

 

Extras:

a punnet of fresh blueberries, to be used before and after baking.

4 heaping tbsp of marmalade

 

Directions

Make the dough according to Paul’s instructions (so perfect for beginner’s and what a wonderful result you’ll yield!). Top tip: make sure you’re in a cool environment, to prevent any of all that butter from melting. Preserve the future of your unbaked dough.

Modifications:

During the last fridge prove, preheat your oven to 200C and start on the frangipane and salted caramel for the drizzle. For the frangipane, process the almonds and sugar  together in a food processor until you get a texture close to coarse meal. Add the rest of the frangipane ingredients and blend until smooth.

For the salted caramel, heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon. Continue to do so until all the sugar melts into a pool of dark, glossy amber liquid. Once this stage is reached, add the salted butter. It’s a pretty vigorous reaction, this one. Stir with spoon to help the melting process. Once all the butter has melted, slowly add in heavy whipping cream. This part is even more vigorous that the previous one; it will spit and rise as it starts to boil. Let the mixture boil like this for another minute before taking the pan off the heat. Let cool for another couple minutes before stirring in the salt. For the icing, mix with enough icing sugar so you get a thin drizzling consistency.

Once the dough has finished proving in the fridge, ready around 3 baking pans and cut out some parchment paper to fit each. Remove the dough from the fridge, lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough till it’s about 7-8mm thick. With the help of a ruler, cut out squares measuring 7x7cm. At each corner, use a sharp knife to cut diagonally towards the centre, about 3cm in. You should get what looks like a box with 4 straight scores running from each of the 4 corners, without any of the lines overlapping since you don’t cross the middle. Take one corner and fold it towards the middle, then alternate with the remaining 7 corners, so you end up with a 4-segmented parcel. Put a teaspoon of frangipane on each pastry, then plop 2-3 fresh blueberries on top. Beat an egg and brush the exposed pastry with the egg wash.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Once out, brush with warmed marmalade (simply warm the marmalade in the microwave for 20 seconds), then drizzle on the salted caramel icing. Add more fresh blueberries, and devour immediately or soon. These can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, just remember to toast before consuming.

 

 

 

The Lokal

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I wanted to write about this place for quite a while now, but I had to visit twice, you know, just to be sure. Also, with exams just round the corner, it’s been rather hard for me to justify an hour so in front of my computer doing something other than school-related research. It almost feels irresponsible, but then I remember how weirdly satisfied I feel each time I click on that ‘publish’ button, and anyway, it’s a nice break from the books. OK, it takes quite a lot for me to label something as a favourite, but there you go, and there it is. Any place I visit more than once says quite a lot on my part, to be perfectly honest. The Lokal at 136 Neil Road is not your typical stop-by hooter shoot. Aussie-inspired and run by the group heading Sarnies, another popular spot along Telok Ayer which I have yet to visit, goodness gracious. I feel a slow joy ebbing through me as I type, just because I so thoroughly enjoyed my first experience there. It is precisely 10.42pm at night and I am drooling just looking at the picture above.

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At more than $5, you would think that this cup would cost you more than what you might benefit from, but trust me, it’s beyond worth the price. This cappuccino in particular has dark chocolate undertones and a subtle, nutty aftertaste. The foam is a dream, the art intricate and professional. I always feel a little wary when I talk about coffee, because I am a complete amateur when it comes to distinguishing between flavour, roasts and extraction degrees, but this is undoubtedly good bang for your buck. Holy shucks, the things I would do for one right now. It lasted me a good hour too, and I relished the thick layer of creamy foam at the very end, scooping it up as if they were bits of airy treasure.

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toasted banana bread with caramelised bananas, homemade yoghurt sauce, toasted macadamias and orange zest– $12

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I kid you not, this is one of the top 3, ok no, 5 things I have ever tasted in my life, alongside others such as foie gras terrine I had in Bordeaux two years ago. It’s way up there, my friend. I remember putting the first forkful into my mouth, making sure to have a bit of every component impaled on the tips, before the taste bud shock thrust me into immediate, unexpected pleasure. I had to close my eyes for just a second, and that is rare, even for me. The homemade yoghurt sauce was what elevated all the flavours of the banana bread, which would have otherwise been overwhelmingly sweet drenched in inches of toffee syrup and even more of the stuff oozing from the slippery, soft sides of those well caramelised bananas. I appreciated the maintenance of a slightly firm interior and rich, caramelised outer layer, instead of being greeted by a flopping about of wet, ripe banana all over the place, yellow dotted guts and all. The nuts provided a hearty crunch, the bread itself wonderfully saturated, beautiful and dense. Each forkful was soft and tender, thanks to the loving bath of toffee, which would’ve been even better with a touch of fleur de sel, now that I think about it.

Fruit salad with homemade yoghurt and white chia seeds– $9
Fruit salad with homemade yoghurt and white chia seeds– $9

This was happily consumed on my second visit, alongside the same, oh-so-loyal capp. At the back you may notice my mother’s avocado, homemade ricotta cheese (don’t you just love the homemade theme running through here?), pomelo and toasted almonds on sourdough ($18). The fruit salad was predictably good, the yoghurt thin and tangy, eventually mixing in with the juices collected from all the fruit. I got a generous helping of watermelon, melon, exotic dragon-fruit and berries. They went all healthy and wholesome with the addition of chia seeds too, and it was only then that I acknowledged the existence of white chia, aside from black, which I enjoy at home in things like oatmeal and atop toast with avocado, honey and maldon. It’s the perfect dish to really fill you up, since the chia seeds expand upon contact with water and sit nicely in your stomach for as long as possible. How adorable. Little jelly balls. What I enjoyed more was the smashed avocado dish, although the avocado itself could’ve benefitted from a touch more seasoning, with coarse salt, lime and pepper. Chilli flakes, even. Just something to move it away from normalcy. That aside, the sourdough was gorgeous, poached eggs (which we ordered as a side for $6) were decent and the homemade ricotta was an effortful and effective addition. Breakfast fare aside, I’m duly keen to try out their sandwich options, which include handcrafted roast beef on rye and chicken varieties. They even have ‘toasties of the day’, and that in itself should make your toes tingle. Does for me, anyway.

I think it a little silly to say ‘I’ll be back’, because that’s just a painfully obvious statement, and anything painfully obvious simply does not deserve to be stated. There. Go.

The Lokal

136 Neil Road

Singapore 088865

Kilo at Pact

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This one’s specially for Felix(:

I had been meaning to come here, though to me, Orchard Central isn’t the most particularly ideal destination. All these escalators, all these random jutting corners, as if the designers only thought properly about the layout after it was all set up and built. But fusion food? I was up for the stuff. And so was he.

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Donburi salmon rice bowl (all rice bowls come with sweet corn, radishes, sugar peas, wasabi sprouts, shimeji mushrooms and cherry tomatoes) – $17
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salmon avocado ‘sushiro’– $17

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They are currently having a set lunch promotion, whereby you can get either a salad, sushiro (I love how they do a nice play on our grotesque accents here) or rice bowl, together with a citrus iced tea and a choice between two desserts– basil panna cotta or a lemon tart with fresh cream. All for around $20++. Since we were in a rush for a movie (I teared up an embarrassing amount during The Fault in Our Stars, though I might have enjoyed it more if it weren’t for the mediocre book), we just ordered two mains, but each was satisfying enough!

I thoroughly enjoyed my donburi salmon rice bowl, a relatively new addition to the menu. They also offer pork belly, beef short-rib and roasted vegetables with tofu options. The salmon could have been more tender and with a little teriyaki marination, for otherwise it was a little dry and bland. You know, it’s always easy to put ‘sweet corn’ in the menu, and I could almost imagine them pouring the bright yellow stuff out from a can, but these kernels were as crunchy as the almost-burnt crusts of toast and as sweet as can be. The avocado was a nice touch, but it was a little lonely green sliver amongst the mounds of superior vegetables, and should have been accompanied by some sauce or other– I’d say a sweet soya or shabu-shabu variety. Anything, really. The highlight of the whole thing was most certainly those sweet, marinated shimeji mushrooms. Tender, sweet and fresh, and paired perfectly with the more hardy stance of brown rice. I chose brown because I enjoy its chewy wholesomeness and frankly I get enough sushi rice in my life already. Everything was dandy, but a little overpriced. 17 bucks demands serious business for a bowl of rice, fish and vegetables. Let’s be real.

That being said, the portions were perfectly satisfying, and I think I shall return for the set lunch option. The sushiro Lix ordered was proper huge, served with nacho-style chips (which I thought needed more seasoning, whatever brand they’re sourced from), and wasabi and soy. The ambience here is lovely; there was gorgeous, soft light streaming through the wide top-to-toe windows that early afternoon, but they could do with more tables to accommodate more people.

One thing is for sure though– lunches with this guy are the best.

 

 

Rating: 4.4/5.0

Kilo at Pact

#02-16/18
Orchard Central
Singapore