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Sunday, 31 January 2016

{Invited Tasting] Dinner at New Fut Kai Vegetarian Restaurant (新佛界素食馆) @ Jalan Besar

282 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208945
Tel: 6398 0836
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newfutkai
Opening Hours: 10.00am to 3.00pm, 5.00pm to 10.00pm (daily)

New Fut Kai Vegetarian Restaurant (新佛界素食馆) is situated at Jalan Besar, and has been serving delicious vegetarian cuisine to the vegetarian and non-vegetarian communities for the past decade. Their menu is extensive, from mock meat to mock seafood, even comprising of local delights such as vegetarian satay and spanning across other cuisines such as serving briyani rice!

They also offer home catering services so if you are having an event, do look for them. The catering menu is here.

Ambience is home-styled, comfortable but not extravagant; design leans heavily on Chinese flavour, with big round tables and wall decor items. Service was average but polite enough. There is an alfresco area for dining as well, if one doesnt mind sitting at the small alley beside the restaurant.

They have recently launched their new Vegetarian Steamboat menu  with interesting soup bases such as Savoury Soy Milk, Taiwanese Sha Cha or Laksa. There is even the traditional Charcoal Fish Head Steamboat.  This is an invited tasting and I am honoured to be able to try these new items.

While waiting, we were served drinks - Barley and a special Tangerine Orange Plum Drink, the latter was homemade and very highly-recommended with its notes of sweet and tartiness mixed into one. Appetisers were peanuts and "Achar" (pickled vegetables).

We started with Braised Vegetarian Shark's Fin Soup with Bamboo Fungus (SGD$12.00 for small / SGD$18.00 for medium / SGD$24.00 for large). The soup was smooth and not too thick; slivers of bamboo fungus simulated shark's fin and gave the soup a tasty flavour that brought it very close to the real deal.

Next, Deep Fried Abalone Mushroom with Pumpkin Sauce (SGD$12.00 for small / SGD$18.00 for medium / SGD$24.00 for large) - the abalone mushroom was battered and crispy on the exterior, with a tender and moistened interior. The pumpkin sauce was thick and saccharine, and as a result the dish was very tasty.

The star of the night was the Charcoal Fish Head Steamboat, served with enoki mushroom on the side.  Personally, this was my favorite dish of the night. The broth was delicious, tasted like the soup cooked with real sliced fish. The vegetarian / mock fish was made of beancurd skin and springy in texture. There were quite a fair bit of vegetables in the soup, making it a balanced meal.

Braised Asparagus with Lily and Shimeiji Mushrooms (SGD$12.00 for small / SGD$18.00 for medium / SGD$24.00 for large) was another seemingly simple but utterly delicious dish, crisp and fresh with the sweetness of sweet peas, asparagus, carrot, shimeiji mushrooms and crunchy lily.

Following that, we had the Sambal Hotplate Fish, served with limes on the side. This dish resembles a fish dish in an uncanny fashion, especially the appearance. One of my dinner companions nearly forgot that he was at a vegetarian restaurant, and began to look out for bones in the mock fish dish. Anyway, it was made of soy, so there was a crunchy texture to it, as well as a sweet taste, heavily obliterated by the delicious spicy sambal atop. I enjoyed it immensely because I can take very high level of spiciness, but feedback from other companions was that the sambal was too thick.

Then we had the Braised Vegetarian Ribs with Coffee (SGD$10.00 for small / SGD$15.00 for medium / SGD$20.00 for large). The tender, soft, mock meat was held together by sugar cane stick, and redolent of coffee's aroma.  It was a little too soft as compared to the real ribs, but overall flavour was robust.

Desserts time! We had the Red Bean Soup which was homemade - the kitchen would only start preparing this dish upon order, and there has to be 2 bowls minimally before they would prepare. It was not too thick - just the right amount of creaminess and smoothness.  Sweetness was well-balanced so it wasn't cloying, and the lotus seeds added crunch to the hot dessert soup.

Finally, Longan Sea Coconut, served cold. This was a refreshing and nectarous bowl of cold delight after a full dinner; loved how the sea coconut slid past the tongue so sweetly and silkily.

Overall experience at New Fut Kai Vegetarian Restaurant was amazing - food was quality and well-portioned, tasty and simulating their real counterparts strongly. Service was not affable but definitely above my expectations; ambience was cosy and comfortable. Thank you Lester and New Fut Kai for the invite!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Dinner at Little Fish Shop @ Nex

23 Serangoon Central, #04-15 / 16 Nex, Singapore 556083
Tel: 6634 7941

A spin-off, or branch of Greenwood Seafood Bistro (review here), the Little Fish Shop is truly a hidden gem tucked away on level 4 of Nex Shopping Mall - just when I thought I knew Nex well enough!  Little Fish Shop is the expansion into the heartlands, serving quality, fresh and affordable seafood dishes from around the world.

Complete with quasi-classy decor of mirrors and sophisticated tones, this restaurant was inviting, comfortable and cosy all at once, giving me a pleasant surprise when I stepped in.  Yes, I was meeting the other two girlies for our tri-annual catching up dinner.

Service was affable enough, with only two service staff on duty it was a little slow though; and unfortunately there were a lot of "unavailable items" that night. The recommendations for replacement were good though.

We started with Mussels (SGD$16.95) for appetisers, cooked in broth. It was exploding with fresh sweetness upon contact with the teeth; springy and chewy, soaking in the goodness of the tasty broth. The mussels were huge - probably one of the largest the three of us have seen / eaten so far, and utterly palatable. If only there was more broth...

For mains, *Janice wanted the Salmon from the "Premium Fish" section but it was unavailable unfortunately. The recommendation replacement was Ocean Trout (SGD$24.95) from the same section, pan-seared.  It was served with 2 sides, so *Janice opted for mashed potatoes and chips. Her feedback was that the Ocean Trout was good, but bore a striking resemblance to salmon in aesthetics and palatial aspects, as well as the creamy, flakey texture.

*Amelia opted for the Ling Cod (SGD$26.95) originally listed under the "Premium Fish" section but we were informed that this particular one fell under the "Trawler Catch of the Day" section hence the difference in price as well. She opted for char-grilled preparation and sides of grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes.

I had wanted the Black Cod Chillean Seabass, which was also unavailable thus, replaced by the Ling Cod (SGD$26.95), having been described to bear resemblance to the cod and catfish (doesn't sound right huh). I opted for pan-seared doneness and sides of fresh green salad and chips. The fish did taste like catfish - the more taut version of it, a little creamy as well, but nothing like black cod. Regardless, the fish was fresh and tasted good; chips were crispy and greens were refreshing.

It was a hearty and delightful meal, a cross between its more elegant flagship at Bukit Timah and, say, Fish & Co, portions were generous and the ambience was brilliantly catered for a good dinner to be had, amidst the heartland chain restaurants.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Chilling Out at RedDot BrewHouse @ Dempsey Hill

25A Dempsey Road, #01-01 Singapore 249691
Tel: 6475 0500

Proclaimed to be Singapore's first commercial microbrewery, RedDot BrewHouse's history traced back to 1997 when the founder Ernest Ng was first introduced to beer brewing by 2 South African soldiers in Kruger National Park. He chose the pack with the red dot to brew, and thus began his first ever beer-brewing journey.

RedDot BrewHouse sits in a distinctive historical spot at Dempsey Hill, a dilapidated barracks restored to the beauty it is today. A second outlet opened at Boat Quay in 2010, also situated in a beautiful historical building. Atmosphere is chilled, relaxing and yet beautiful artistic pieces adorn the various corners of the restaurant / bar.  A live band plays in the evenings as well. As for service, it could get a little slow and servers are not too attentive.

The Beer served here is unfiltered and unprocessed (straight from the fermenter), and thus retains all the yeast nutrients, original flavour, and unique aroma.  You would see from the menu very specific description of each beer (colour, bitterness, alcohol content) as well as food pairings. That is a very thoughtful gesure, especially for patrons who are not familiar with beers.

There were four of us on this Saturday evening - the Bro, the SIL, a friend *W, and I - coming especially for the famous Monster Green Lager Beer - made up of green spirulina, which consists of lots of health benefits such as boosting of immunity system and regression / elimination of AIDs virus.  Unlike the usual beer, this one was very low on fizziness; it was very smooth to ingest, like liquid silk, and was sweet in flavour.  I found this absolutely tasty and beautiful.

Piqued by curiosity by the red beer served at other tables, we ordered a jug of RedDot SG50 Beer to try as well - dragonfruit steeped in lager, imparting a reddish hue to celebrate Singapore's birthday. This one was also very smooth in texture, but the flavour was pretty bland.

I finished the night with a Lychee Mojito (SGD$16.00) - a twist to the usual Lime Mojito, which is also available on the menu. This is one of the better Mojitos I have tried, in all the lounges and bars I have been to - surprisingly. Flavour was robust, saccharine, and the lychee added a lovely tinge.

Foodwise, we settled for light bites as no one was hungry, so we started with 2 servings of Nachos (SGD$4.00).  These felt and tasted like those you could get in packs off supermart's shelves, or at the movie theaters, and were served with tomato salsa. I ain't complaining since I love Nachos no matter handmade, or pre-packed.

The Crispy Baby Squids (SGD$12.00) were not your typical calamari - they were whole baby squids deep-fried to a golden brown with crackling texture, like the ones you get at Chinese seafood restaurants. Battering, if any - was ultra light. These were addictive so we ordered two servings of them.

Next, Flying Pig - Crisp Bacon Strips (SGD$8.00) - literally your breakfast bacon served in a basket, oven-baked to a beautiful golden hue, and was so crispy it melted on the tongue. They were unstoppable once we started munching on them.

The Spicy Zing Wings & Drumlets (SGD$13.00) were another good dish to pair with beers - crispy, spicy and moistened inside - especially when they were brought to the table piping hot.

Finally, Truffle Fries (SGD$12.00) - tossed with truffle oil, and sprinkled with a small dash of parmesan cheese. Fries were crispy, redolent of truffle oil's aroma; we loved the soft touch of parmesan in the mix.

Overall, the food items were all scrumptious, and quality "bar grubs", especially well paired with good beers. I also loved the fact that all the items came with individual, unique dips that were very well-suited to the dishes , i.e. the dip for the baby squids enhanced the taste dramatically, and was customised for it. Experience here at RedDot Brewhouse was superb, making this another soon-to-be favorite haunt.

And why not, since Green Lager Beer is beneficial as well? Lol.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Dinner at Sopra Cucina Italian Restaurant @ Pan Pacific Orchard [Revisit]

10 Claymore Road #01-02 Pan Pacific Orchard Hotel, Singapore 229540Tel: 6737 3253

This is a revisit to Sopra Cucina Italian Restaurant, also *Charmaine's favorite.  For full review of my past visit, click here. Anyway, this restaurant offers a menu that serves up Sardinian Cuisine, and boosts of a beautiful decor which is an ode to the glamorous days of post-war Italy.  Service alternated between warm and cold - depending on who you were dealing with, and during peak or non-peak hours.

While waiting for *Charmaine to arrive, I polished off a couple of  Red Wine. Their Happy Hour ends at 19.00 hours - but during the Happy Hour, one could get a glass of house wine at a mere SGD$9.00 and Prosecco at SGD$10.00.

The complimentary Bread was very delicious - fresh, utterly crispy, and went absolutely well with the olive dip.  I usually abstain from consuming much bread before a meal, especially if I knew I was going to have a heavy main course - but these bread slices deterred the usual resistance.

Both of us coincidentally settled for the Seafood Fregola (SGD$28.00) - a conscous-like roast semolina pasta with seafood.  In my last review, I described the grainy pasta to bear similar texture to barley grains, and the feeling remained the same even as I was consuming the delicious pasta now. The gravy was rich in flavour, infusing the pasta sumptuously with its goodness; the seafood consisted of scallops, prawns and squids-  generous portions that served only to enhance flavour and texture of the interesting pasta.

Too bad we were too full to tackle desserts - I would've loved to try Tiramisu or something.  I will definitely return for sure, for that.

Poem: Dreamers' Catch

She touched the base of my neck, 
Asked if I never slept a wink, and, 
"You have dreams every night." 
I do, and I replied her that, 
Adding, "Doesnt everyone dream?" 

"Yes, but not every night," she said; 
And went on to diagnose me deeper; 
Searching for the roots of the issues, 
That plaque the sweetest of slumber, 
From pillows to Morpheus' cold arms. 

But I need my dreams, even if they 
Turn out to be the darkest nightmares; 
No dreamcatchers could ever rob, 
Me of these feelings bringing me alive, 
Sometimes showing me the future. 

I shall keep my dreams, close to me, 
The meanings and the signs I get, 
Even if it means nightly rendezvous, 
Oh come to me, come and speak to me, 
Open my eyes to what eventually dawns.

Copyright  © thearcticstar 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Nuptial Series (xv) - Food Tasting for Banquet Dinner Menu

So now we have come to the exciting time - sampling of dishes for the wedding banquet dinner. We had a table of 10, comprising of family members from both the groom and bride's sides. The tasting session we selected was for a weekday evening at 7pm. Our names and the Ballroom of Tasting were flashed on the electronic notice boards so we knew exactly where to direct our "tasters" to.

The Tasting Ballroom was set up beautifully - with 2 round tables. I am not posting photos here for obvious reasons, but anyway, one table was furnished lavishly to let us see how the VIP decoration would be like, for the actual day. The table we conducted the food tasting was more simple in decor, but still comfortable, nonetheless. We browsed through the tasting menu, chatted with the coordinators and checked out the available colors for table cloths.

Tasting session commenced. We started with the usual "Cold Dish", but ours comprised of interesting items, not to be divulged of course.  Our hotel replaced Shark's Fin Soup with Lobster Soup automatically, which was very fine by us.  The tasting session was rather impressive, even the pickier relations liked it (I had deliberately asked along a couple of relatives I would classify as "gourmet" to come along to offer critique) - lots of rich items, seafood dishes and all were tasty.  Portions were satisfactory as well.

The tasting session comprised of 8-10 courses (depended on which package the couple signed up for). We ended with dessert of Yam Paste with Pumpkin and Hashma / Hashima. The Chef came in to introduce himself and asked for feedback. We provided some, so that changes could be made to a couple of courses to accommodate our guests (for the actual day) better.

For the rest of the Nuptial Series:
Part (i)  - The Proposal
Part (ii) - Solemnisation procedure
Part (iii) - Solemnisation venues
Part (iv) - Finding the right photography studios
Part (v) -  Hunting for the suits and gowns
Part (vi) - Bespoke (tailored gown) - Review on Kelly's Bridal
Part (vii) - Pre-wedding photoshoot in Vancouver, Canada
Part (viii) - Pre-wedding photoshoot in Singapore - Loov Production
Part (xii) - Decorating the Wedding Banquet Ballrooms
Part (xiii) - Guest Lists and Inviting the Guests
Part (xiv) - Dowry and Demands Discussion

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dinner at Alkaff Mansion Ristorante

10 Telok Blangah Green, Singapore 109178
Tel:  6510 3068

Alkaff Mansion is a 19th century colonial bungalow located on a hill, built in 1918 by a prominent member of the Alkaff family as a weekend home for parties and socializing. This 2-storey Tudor-styled bungalow served as the headquarters of the World Buddhist Society and then went through a series of being developed, restored, conserved, returned to government, opening and closure of restaurants.

Today, Alkaff Mansion Ristorante occupies this beautiful property restored to the glory of yesteryear, complete with a sleek garden with fountain, as well as open terrace for al fresco dining. This exquisite, award-winning Italian restaurant serves up authentic Italian fare for lunch, dinner and weekend brunches. They started a Grigliata Grill concept lately as well.

The interior is grand, elegant and romantic, complete with dim lighting and large chandeliers, a modern touch to the carefully-restored vintage floorings of the colonial mansion. Tables are well-spaced, and choice of furniture is luxe and comfort combined, making for a good dining experience. Private dining rooms are available as well. Service is a little slow and has room for improvement.  Music was also American pop at one point, which was a little odd against the posh Italian settings of this retaurant.

We started the meal with some Bread and Olive dip. The bread was a little hard but had a distinct fragrance to it.

For starters, we had the Pan-seared Hokkaido Scallops (SGD$28.00) with Cauliflower Purée and Avruga Caviar. I needn't describe the popping sensation of the delicious caviar - tiny but robust. The scallops were orgasmic - springy in texture, contracting firmly under the knife and expanding juicily again thereafter, catching the teeth with its delicious flavour.

For mains, *V had the Homemade Veal Ravioli (SGD$28.00) in Alba Truffle Cream Sauce and Porcini Mushrooms. The pockets of minced veal was utterly soft and smooth, melting lusciously in the mouth with the robust, solid truffle cream. The mushrooms added flavour and texture to the creation, bringing it one step closer to heaven.

I chose the Porcini Mushroom Risotto (SGD$28.00) Superfino Aquerello with Thyme.  Flavour was distinctive and sapid in an earthly manner, with the aroma piercing the senses sharply; the dish was smooth and creamy - a little too creamy; the risotto became like congee literally.

For desserts, *V chose Vanilla Affogato (SGD$9.00) which was a literal scoop of vanilla ice-cream with espresso doused over it, served in an ice-cream bowl. Presentation of this drink / dessert was disappointing, but probably this was "authentic Italian way" of doing it? Flavour was not bad - smooth, with coffee aroma made creamy by the vanille ice-cream.

I chose a drink instead, a berry cocktail whose name eluded me, filled with sweetness of various berries mixed together.

Overall, we enjoyed dining at Alkaff Mansion Ristorante and would like to return to try more items while basking in the luxurious ambience.