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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Breaking News: Zhong Guo opens 2nd outlet!

imagePeople living around Bukit Merah can consider themselves lucky as ‘Zhong Guo‘ just opened a new outlet at Bukit Merah Food Center. The menu is the same as the one at the Chinatown Complex Food Center outlet so it’s still all about noodles and dumplings. Enjoy, enjoy!

Cabbage and fried pork is all I need.

imageA friend and I were catching a movie tonight and wanted to check out ‘Tonkichi’ for dinner beforehand. I ordered the ‘Minced Katsu‘ as appetiser and the ‘Loin Katsu‘ as main. The little fried minced katsu pieces were pretty greasy but quite tasteful at the same time.  The batter on the loin was also more oily than I would have preferred but the pork was juicy and soft. Great stuff, just wished it wasn’t dripping of oil so much. I loved the accompanying cabbage, delicious and crunchy with a light soy based dressing.

I pretty much liked the food down here, service had some smaller hiccups but besides that was fast and kind. The place itself was less impressive, simple setup and felt busy and loud when packed but I  probably will still come back here if I allow myself to some fried stuff again.

Tonkichi とん吉
350 Orchard Road
4F Shaw House
Singapore 238868
Vietnam
Tel: +65 6835 4648
http://www.sapporolionsg.com.sg/tonkichi/

Stroll down Bak Kut Teh Lane.

imageI only had been to the shop on Balestier before but tonight looking for a quick meal I went to Rangoon Road for my pork rib dinner.

I was positively surprised to find my preferred leaner version of ribs on the menu which I knew from ‘Ng Ah Sio‘ but had never recognised at ‘Founder’s’ before, so this was what I was going to have. The meat was nice and tender with quite big chunks of pork that were easily nibbled off the bones. The soup was rich and had a good flavour, just wasn’t as peppery I would have wished for.

So this branch is actually quite nice place with some outdoor seating, a big menu of tasty dishes to chose from and is less crowded than their original shop. However I like my ‘Bak Kut Teh‘ as pepper loaded as possible so I might be walking a couple of houses down the road for my next round of pork tea.

Founder’s Bak Kut Teh Cafeteria 发起人肉骨茶餐馆
154 Rangoon Road
Singapore 218431
Tel: +84 6292 0938

“Know One, Teach One.”

imageBack in Ha Noi my brother had found another restaurant he wanted to try out, ‘KOTO’ (Know One, Teach One), a non-profit restaurant that offers vocational training and employment primarily to former street kids in Vietnam and was founded by Jimmy Pham.

Even though trying another pho was tempting but after all the disappointments over the last couple of days the ‘Duck in Five Spices‘ sounded much more appetising. The duck breast was fabulous, juicy, perfectly medium broiled and blow-torch-charred. The panfried crisp potato patty was well seasoned and a great side working together nicely with the meat, sweet and fruity chutney, glazed relish and the savoury rich gravy.

This is a great place with simple interior, super nice staff and all above delicious food. All this combined with a good cause and you have a place I would surely go back to again to also try the Vietnamese signatures from their menu.

KOTO Restaurant Hanoi
59 Van Mieu Street
Dong Da District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 4 3747 0337
http://www.koto.com.au/

Never give up on your pho.

imageWe arrived at Cat Ba Island early morning after a long trip involving three buses and one boat and before heading out looking for some appropriate accommodation we wanted get something nice and filling into our bellies. Since we had just booked a couple of days climbing at Asia Outdoors at the Noble House we just stayed for breakfast at the ‘Good Bar’ downstairs.

Not giving up hope to be able to find a great one, I ordered another ‘Pho Bo‘, which again was rather tasteless. The soup had bland flavours with only a slight hint of cinnamon; noodles were plenty though and the meat was super lean, juicy and with great texture. Overall it wasn’t too bad and for breakfast the light flavours were actually quite fitting.

imageFor seconds I had the ‘Banana Chocolate Pancake‘ which was outstandingly awesome. The pancake itself was thin and buttery, topped with the perfect combination of banana and chocolate, which was of the darker kind, so it all wasn’t too sweet either. So good it made me order this nearly everyday during our stay in Cat Ba and will as well if I should ever come back here.

The Good Bar
Đường 1 Tháng 4
Cát Bà
Cát Hải, Hải Phòng,
Vietnam
Tel: +84 31 388 8363
http://thenoblehousecatba.wordpress.com/

Simplicity is key.

imageMy brother had done his research and suggested to go to ‘Bún Chả Đắc Kim’ in the Old Quarter for lunch. Like most street style food stalls it didn’t look very appealing at first but whilst we were debating if we should give it a try or venture for something else we recognised that this place had quite a turnover in customers and so we sat down on their miniature plastic stools and tables.

Wondering what should happen next and before really ordering anything the lady of the house just started dishing up. There were delicious little and perfectly spiced grilled pork paddies and fatty thin grilled pork slices in one bowl, some crunchy root vegetables in a light sweetish sauce in another. Into the latter we added a mix of red chili and freshly chopped garlic to jazz things up a bit and gulped it all down accompanied by mountains of cold rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. Also part of this set meal were some pork spring rolls which were seriously the best I have ever had, the skin was super thin and crisp without being oily at all and they were stuffed with a fantastic mix of pork mince, spices and crunchy cabbage. Simple and outrageously good.

I would come back here anytime when up in Ha Noi again, just ignoring the general hygienic threats of sampling street food and eating fast to avoid major back pains from the tiny dining furniture should do the trick. This was my favourite meal of the entire trip, I miss it already.

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Bún Chả Đắc Kim
1 Hang Manh Street
Old Quarter
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3828 5022

Breakfast Pho.

imageAfter the soupy disappointment from the night before I spotted a pho station at the breakfast buffet of the ‘Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi’ we stayed at. This soup was different, even though nothing compared to ‘Pho Hoa’ in HCMC it was still miles ahead of yesterday’s bowl. The chicken soup, still light, had hints of cinnamon, giving it this distinct fragrance I love so much about pho and as it was breakfast I simply overlooked the fact that the noodles here were actually pretty soft as well. The added bunch of crunchy sprouts however ,made up for their lack in bite and even though the condiments were also limited to chili and lime here, the spice nicely kicked my butt and woke me up good.

This is a great hotel conveniently located in the business district of Ha Noi and the breakfast selection at the ‘Mangosteen’ nicely mixes Vietnamese and international cuisines. The pho was obviously not the most unique bowl I have ever had but this breakfast version made me curious to taste their à la carte bowl as well.

Mangosteen Restaurant (at Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi)
83A Ly Thuong Kiet Street
Hoan Kiem District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3822 2800
http://www.moevenpick-hotels.com/en/asia/vietnam/hanoi

Mediocre start with a nice safe.

imageIt was my first night in Hanoi and waiting for my brother to arrive later that night a friend and I went to get some grub at ‘Quan An Ngon’ around the corner from our hotel. The setup looked promising with a nice outside garden filled with tables and different stalls offering all sorts of Vietnamese favourites.

As a must start of every Vietnam trip and because it was rather chilly outside I started with a bowl of hot ‘Pho Bo‘. Unfortunately this turned out to be rather boring, even though the soup was warm and comforting it lacked that special taste and was not really different to any sort of ordinary chicken soup; no cinnamon and besides lime and chilli sauce no condiments to add. The noodles were pretty soft too and only the beef slices were nicely lean, soft and tasted kina nice. Not my greatest find but I had already heard that pho in the north is very different and less unique compared to the type you get down south.

imageNot fully satisfied I tried to turn things around by ordering ‘Bánh Xèo‘, the Vietnamese street style pancake I knew from HCMC and the street food festival in Singapore. When it came I was quite happy to see lots of greens on the plate as well as some rice paper to wrap it all up in. I knew this only as lettuce wraps but couldn’t wait to give it a try anyway. It turned out to be quite good, the crispy pancake, the basil and mint and the crunchy sprouts all worked quite well together and were fun to eat too. Overall this was a tad dry and nothing I would really call a taste explosion but still quite satisfactory and actually managed to reconcile me over the letdown with the pho.

This place is probably a good start for visitors to try out many different Vietnamese delights and phase into the local cuisine at an obvious clean place with friendly English speaking staff and a nice beer garden atmosphere. There are many other dishes to try here so I might come back and give them another shot when I’m in Ha Noi the next time around.

Quán Ăn Ngon
18 Phan Boi Chau
Hoan Kiem District
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3942 8162
http://www.ngonhanoi.com.vn

Ballsy Xiao Long Bao in Da’an.

imageMy food fanatic friend A. recommended this place to me that he found during his last Taiwan trip and tonight a colleague helped me hunt it down just across the street from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Da’an. ‘Hang Zhou’s’ is quite a rustic place with low tables and tiny chairs and still had many customers enjoying their dinner here, despite the late hour we arrived.

We started up with the signature dish, the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ (小籠湯包). These  were gigantic huge dumplings but tasted quite nice; the dough was a bit thick though and I had better soups as well but overall pretty good and dirt cheap too and I especially liked the big help-yourself-bucket of finely chopped ginger which I loaded up on heavily. The second basket were the ‘Shrimp Shiaomai‘ (蝦仁燒賣) and these were even bigger, maybe even too big and again this fusion of soupy xiao long bao topped with a shrimp which suits me much better than the  shao mai dim sum versions I had before.

imageAs little contrast to all those enormous dumplings we ordered the ‘Marinated Beef Rolls‘ (大餅卷牛肉) which reminded me of a creative adaption of peking duck. They were delicious, slightly dry tenderloin rolled in crispy pancakes, together with some crunchy cucumbers and onions and glazed with a sweetish plum sauce. Actually it was exactly like peking duck, just with beef, ‘Peking Beef‘ so to speak?

Even though I found it quite ballsy of these guys to call the website of their shop “thebestxiaolongbao.com“, I still kinda liked the place – unpretentious, a bit dirty and service along the bare minimum but none in an overly bothering way and most importantly the food was tasty and cheap as well. Thanks for the recommendation dude.

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Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao 杭州小籠湯包
No.17, Section 2, Hángzhōu South Road
Da’an District
Taipei 106
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2393 1757
http://www.thebestxiaolongbao.com

Nothing beats the original.

imageI wasn’t too excited when my colleagues planned on taking me out to ‘Din Tai Fung’ as I did have it quite often before and rather wanted to try things I couldn’t get in Singapore instead. But the table was booked and of course I didn’t want to complain being treated for dinner and so lovely colleagues brought me to SOGO to enjoy some dumplings and noodles.

I was stunned and surprised as the food here was just so much better than in the outlets in Singapore. The ‘Spicy Wonton‘ were amazing, the ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ simply perfect in taste and appearance and the ‘Shiao Mai‘ were much more like xiao long bao themselves, soupy goodness topped with a shrimp and actually the first version that I truly enjoyed. As dessert we ordered the steamed ‘Tapioca Dumplings‘ which I wasn’t really looking forward to but another surprise, they were pretty darn delicious, heavy and stuffing but delicious and not too sweet either. Thanks for a great evening and maybe I’ll suggest a refresher training for the Singapore branches once I’m back.

Din  Tai Fung 鼎泰豐
B2 Fuxing SOGO Department Store
No. 300, Sec. 3 Zhongxiao East Road
Da’an District
Taipei 10654
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 8772 0528
http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/

Pancake with a view.

imageI was back in Taipei and since besides beef noodles there are also countless Japanese restaurants down here I chose ‘Dohton Bori’ at the Att4fun mall in Xinyi for some proper ‘Okonomiyaki‘ tonight.

I was tempted by the kimchi okonomiyaki but decided to go for the original one with pork. It was pure torture watching them preparing it in front of me  for the next 15 minutes, during which my hunger grew bigger and bigger. When it was finally ready I started digging so fast that the first half disappeared in just a few seconds. It was great, the dough was fluffy and light and I particularly enjoyed the crunchy pickled ginger bits. Just the pork wasn’t nice at all and tasted like old grease so I picked it out and left most of it back on the side of my plate.

Despite the smelly clothes after and the little pork incident I actually quite enjoyed my pancake and the show effect of the live cooking paired with stunning views of the 101 across the street put ‘Dohton Bori’ on my “come back to” list.

Okonomi-Yaki Dohton Bori 道とん堀 / 道頓堀御好燒
5F ATT 4 FUN
12 Songshou Road 松壽路12
Xinyi District
Taipei
Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 7737 8885 ‎
http://www.dohtonbori.com/tw/

Everyone deserves a second chance.

imageI was at a ‘Paradise Dynasty’ restaurant before and remembered that I wasn’t too impressed with it but my hungry colleagues simply overruled all my suggestions and was I glad they did.

The ‘Xiao Long Bao‘ had super thin skin, pumped up with soupy porkness, not too strong, very delicate actually. We also had a red colored sichuan version that kicked in nicely and was in fact quite blazing and tongue numbing.

imageMy very own personal dish was an awesome bowl of ‘Spicy Dumpling Noodles‘ which was stuffed with springy mian and delicious soft jiao zi, sprinkled with fresh cilantro and spring onions, all drenched in a super nice soya-chili-oil-mix together with some more of that bad ass sichuan pepper. Not overdone and still highly enjoyable, really a great dish.

I was glad we ended up here and in the future I will not give up on a place so fast just because of one disappointing meal. I’ll have this again.

Paradise Dynasty 乐天皇朝
3 Gateway Drive
#02-13/14 Westgate
Singapore 608532
Tel: +65 6465 9271
http://www.paradisegroup.com.sg/

Bari-Uma opened at United Square.

imageUnited Square had a new ramen shop in their basement – one of the ‘Bari-Uma’ branches – and my mate and I wanted to go check it out tonight.

I wasn’t up for the full on tonkotsu action so I ordered the lighter ‘Shoyu Ramen‘ which tasted nice enough but was nothing too exciting and unfortunately again not sufficiently salty. Will I ever have a desert in my mouth again? As ordinary as the broth was as extravagant were the condiments, the chashu/pork belly was flame grilled and had this awesome and unusual smokey flavour and they did a great job boiling up some perfect flavoured eggs as well. Unfortunately the noodles fell a bit short behind such standards and hardly made an impression on me but the deliciously different ‘Boiled Gyoza‘ were top and sure made up for it.

Trying new ramen I tend to set my expectations very high and even though ‘Bari-Uma’ didn’t quite make the bar it is still good having another reliable ramen source so close by and since I haven’t tried their signature ‘Tonkotsu Ramen‘ yet there’s still some things to discover here.

Ramen Bari-Uma ばり馬のらーめん
101 Thomson Road
#B1-08 United Square
Singapore 307591
Tel: +65 6354 3711
http://www.with-link.co.jp/eng/index.html

Now that’s a proper brunch.

image‘Alte Kanzlei’ in Stuttgart is a very nice and popular place for brunch and lunch and so we found ourselves stranded within a crowd of people and without a reservation. The fabulous waiter though spotted a soon to be available table for our group and after an only 10 minute wait we already sat down. Off to a good start.

It wasn’t lunch time yet so I was looking for something smaller and after discovering ‘Weisswurst‘ on the weekend menu I didn’t have to look any further. The sausages were darn good and well seasoned considering we were outside of Bavaria. They obviously had used an “opferwurst” (victim sausage) – a sausage cut open into the broth so the gets saturated with salt and doesn’t drain the taste out of the other sausages – so the ones I got to eat were still hearty and delicious. The brezel maybe was a bit dry but added nicely to the saltiness of the whole thing and that all topped with some sweet and grainy mustard. Washed down with an extraordinarily refreshing ‘Spezi‘ and I was home.

It was a really nice place, bright and warm, bustling and yet the waiters went out of their way to help us. The food was appetizing and service efficient, friendly, funny and fast; screams for a repetition.

Alte Kanzlei
Schillerplatz 5a
70173 Stuttgart
Germany
Tel: +49 (0)711 294 457
http://www.alte-kanzlei-stuttgart.de/

There’s still hope.

imageI was back home for hardly one week and even though it was just for a couple of days I already craved some Asian food. Doing a bit of research online brought us to ‘coa’ (cuisine of asia) in central Stuttgart. At first I was pretty sceptical about this place as it offered a big mix of dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, India, China etc. and I would have felt better if they were specialized in just one type of cuisine but now we were here already, so what?

We had some Vietnamese ‘Summer Rolls‘ which were quite tasty actually but I didn’t really get the fact that they just served the ingredients and we had to assemble them ourselves, one of those weird “food experiences” I suppose. We also had the ‘Shao Mai‘ which I didn’t like but then, I never really do. As main we both ordered their ‘Pho‘ and I had ankle-height-low expectations that this was going to be any good. What a nice surprise it was then when it turned out being pretty delicious. The broth was super good, full of that cinnamon I miss so often and there were many herbs like coriander floating around in it too. The noodles weren’t anything too fancy but the meat was softly tender and super lean.

They messed up our orders a couple of times so we had to wait quite a while for our food but the staff handled the situation fairly clever by throwing in some free espressi at the end of our meal. Generally I must say though that eating here actually made me pretty happy. It was probably not the best pho I have ever had but it can easily keep up and even outdo some of the bowls I tried in Singapore and it’s always fantastic to find some decent Asian grub in good old Germany. I’ll remember this one.

coa – cuisine of asia
Lautenschlagerstr. 23
70173 Stuttgart
Germany
Tel: +49 (0)711 2184 2566
http://www.coa.as/