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Phontastic!

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Pho Ga (Update March ’16)

We came here tonight prior to catching a movie at the Cinemaxx on the others side of the road. My brother in law originally intended to bring us to the running sushi place next door but that joint was bursting with people and no free seats were to be seen. Not having much time before the movie started we improvised and swiftly opted for their sister restaurant that cooks up a variety of Asian inspired wok stir fries, that were my definition of Asian cuisine about 8 years ago.

In the tradition of good germanized Asian food, I set my mind on ‘Ente Kross’ (crispy duck), a friend’s fitting name for a common fried-to-the-death-duck dish (not literally of course). Other than in Asia, where people love their fatty and chewy bits, Germans, in general, are not too fond of excessive fats and wobbly textures so those duck dishes are crisper than crisp, probably a bit dry yet still kinda delicious. Almost decided, I browsed my the pho bo on the menu and got indecisive again. When I am confused at a restaurant nowadays I tend to ask the staff for their recommendation given my shortlist of dishes. The lovely waitress was pretty quick in swaying me into the direction of the big bowl of piping hot Vietnamese soup, filled with lots of goodies; there were lime wedges, loads of those flat rice noodles, greens like herbs and scallions and deliciously tender beef slices. I was only missing some chili padi but they were also just one request to the waitress away.

As far as the broth goes I was pretty impressed. As always I would have wished for some more cinnamon flavor but since I mention that every single time that I am eating pho, I’m not even sure anymore if it’s actually supposed to have such a strong flavor or if it’s just in my head. The sriracha added a ubiquitous and intensifying heat to it all but the fresh chili just gave out free right hooks for my taste buds. It almost gave me the hiccups, which in my case stands for a proper chili experience and at the same time signals that I’m very close to crossing my line of tolerance. I was slurping and sweating away and felt quite happy to see such a decent bowl of pho in a place that I wouldn’t have expected it.

Dish Update March: I recently came here again during a shopping spree in town, and this time, I ordered the pho ga with chicken. I’m not 100% sure if it was the same broth, I would maybe say it was a little less intense but the chicken was just delicious; white meat that was somewhat tenderized, lightly panfried and kicking out some proper chicken aromas. A nice changeup and still healthy enough.

The place is no thrills, functional and clean but because of the open kitchen you might take a nice little food scent home with you depending where you were seated. There are tables for couples and groups with benches, meant for quick meals and not for lounging around for hours. Service is mostly nice, especially our waitress was super attentive and later even checked if I was actaually happy with my final choice. As a result of the streamlined menu, the kitchen runs very efficiently and fast and the food we had was great and cheap. You can never go wrong with an affordable delicious pho now can you? Nice one.

Get Your Grub On!

Mai Wok (open everyday)
Bertoldstr. 53
79098 Freiburg
Germany
http://www.maiwok-freiburg.de/

Momofuku Tour – Part 2.

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Cold Beef Ramen (Seasonal Special)

After our delicious fried-chicken-sandwich-stopover at Fuku we went just a few doors down to Momofuku Noodle Bar to have some of those tasty sounding chashu buns, our friends had been raving about while eating their crispy chicken; I love these foodies. Unfortunately, they were just about to close for their afternoon break before dinner service so we checked, when they’ll be open again and went for a little bar in the area to bridge the waiting time with some happy hour drinks. We were back at the door like 20-30minutes after they had re-opened and the place was already full and bustling with people. I must say, I came here with high hopes but very low expectations. You never really know how these hyped places turn out to be. So let’s see.

We started with a couple of beers, a few glasses of sake and some dishes to share. The spicy cucumbers were nicely done and slightly different from how I know them. Someone smashed the hell out of them and they seemed a little bit fermented, covered in that red Japanese chili pepper mix (togarashi) and some crushed almonds. Pretty nice actually. The chashu buns, the actual reason we came here for, were great. Finally, someone got that meat to bun ratio right. Two thick slices of beautifully and soft pork belly with some crunchy lightly cured cucumbers and a sticky hoisin sauce. That’s the stuff and I still regret not having tried the brisket buns too. Then came the first real surprise of the evening. I was wondering why my friend had ordered the rice cakes here and reckoned it would just take up unnecessary space in my stomach, that was reserved for that big bowl of ramen we had coming but oh my gawd, I’ll be eternally thankful to him for doing that. I don’t know how they created this texture, fry or maybe pan fry them until literally rice-crispy-crisp on the outside and teeth-sticking chewy on the inside. Then they all lay around in an absolutely insane and hard-to-define cream sauce, that was wonderfully savoury with a sweetish touch, that reminded me a bit of okonimyaki sauce. I really have to work on my palette again to become better in identifying single flavours, but for now, it was good enough for me just eating and enjoying that amazing dish. The kitchen had added even more layers of texture and flavor by sprinkling scallions, bonito flakes and tobiko over it all. The only ingredient I was indifferent about was the chicken. Anyhow, best rice cakes ever.

After this, my low expectations rose into the sky and thankfully I had the best yet coming. For the bowl, I ordered one of their seasonal summer items, a cold beef ramen dish that sounded just right for a hot day like today. The looks instantly brought back memories of Matador, with its’ perfectly rose slices of roasted beef. The meat was delicious just a bit hard to bite off from, so I ended up eating it by slice and mouthfuls. Not that I cared. The chilled or rather cold broth was light with some citrusy flavors like yuzu or ponzu. This was so refreshing that I would have actually preferred to take it outside to the street and eat it in the warm summer sun. The noodles had proper bite and bounce that reminded me of Korean Naengmyeon not only because that’s a cold dish too. Just the egg, however perfectly made, somehow felt a bit out of place to me. I loved everything about this, the unique aromas and the innovative approach of taking something traditional and transforming it into something entirely new without losing the slightest bit of awesomeness. A dish definitely in my top 3 for the year and one that makes me want to live here and see what else they come up with next.

To the Noodle Bar itself, it’s a rather simplistic and minimalist setup, with light colored wood and mainly long sharing tables, like a bar exactly. On our table getting in and out of my seat was a bit of a hassle though, climbing over other people’s bags and stuff and I also found it a bit too cold inside (having a coolish dish as well). This places is crowded and the air is bustling of chatter from a cool mixed crowd hanging around before heading out to town. Thankfully there are many more Momofuku shops and concepts for me to try out during my next trip to New York but this one’s a definite keeper. Thanks, your food made me smile today.

Get Your Grub On!

Momofuku Noodles Bar (open ever day)
171 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/noodle-bar/

Last call Boston.

imageI said I was coming back here, I just didn’t know it was going to be so soon but when I told the boys where I saw some amazing looking crustaceans, a plan was made rather quickly.

This 500 grammer looked stunning, neatly arranged and cracked at the right spots for easier access. The flesh was so fresh it effortless loosened from the shell, sweet and just right, neither dry nor too raw. I actually preferred claw over tail because of its’ extra nice soft texture and dipped into that garlic lemon butter it came very close to perfect, if it would have just been a little warmer.

imageBefore the main act we also tried some of their starters. I had a ‘French Onion Soup‘ by myself as the others were stuck in traffic for quite a while and I was just starving. It was strong, rich beef stock, full of red wine flavour with a hot cheesy crouton floating in it that left me with a memorable mouth burn. When the others finally arrived we ordered the ‘Bone Marrow‘ as well, which was another win, well done, decadent buttery with some sea salt, capers and parsley. Just great. I like this place more and more, so see you there soon.

The Market Grill
208 Teok Ayer Street
Singapore 068642
Tel: +65 6221 3323
http://themarketgrill.com.sg/

Fish balls are still weird.

imageFriends came back to town for a visit after moving to the U.S. last year and to give them a proper welcome we all met at ‘San Laksa Steamboat’ down on Telok Blangah Road. I hadn’t been here before and therefore came with my old steamboat and laksa prejudices in tow.

As usual the order placing went a bit crazy and our table quickly filled up with heaps of little plates with some more and some less exciting dishes. Actually the whole thing was surprisingly delicious, the laksa broth gave it a kicker which was much more appealing then an ordinary and rather boring soup would have been and it wasn’t too heavy or creamy either and also hardly thickened up during the cooking and dipping. In terms of little dishes some of my favourites were the thin lean ‘Beef Striploin‘ (牛肉) slices, that were a big surprise and the ‘Beancurd Skin‘ (豆腐皮) which was perfectly soaking up that coconutty broth. I was also a big fan of all the greens and mushrooms we threw in and even the ‘Fish Balls‘ (鱼丸) weren’t totally horrible, the ‘Fuzhou Fish Balls‘ (福州鱼丸) in fact, the ones filled with pork mince, were actually quite tasty and nearly converted me tolerating them from now on. What honestly was super good though was the ‘Fried Fish Skin‘ which we must have re-ordered around three to four times cause everybody loved it and it disappeared as soon as the waiter let go of the plate. Crispy goodness.

San’s is a simple place in a pretty inconvenient location and with hardly any parking in front but if you want to get a nice twist on your usual steamboat experience you should make your way down here anyway. Enjoy.

San Katong Laksa 叻沙火锅海鲜馆
404 Telok Blangah Road
Singapore 098840
Tel: +65 6275 7069
http://www.sanlaksa.com.sg/

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

Under the bridge.

imageFinally it was ‘Bak Kut Teh‘ night since I had heard so much about the fantastic K.L. herbal pork ribs that I always neglected to try because I was a very patriotic supporter of the peppery version that’s so popular in Singapore. Anywho, my old colleague friend, who lives down here now, picked me up and we took a little ride to ‘Ah Wang Bak Kut Teh’ in a picturesque location at a roadside, under a bridge. A bit f@#&ed up but in a “don’t judge the book by its’ cover” kind of way, still comfortable, not yet repellent.

That dish they served was brilliant, even that I could’ve lived without the thin layer of beancurd skin, the broth was amazing with a dense and strong herbal pork taste. The ribs were lean, soft and satisfyingly meaty and we also ordered some enoki mushrooms aside which made a fantastic add-on to the soup that I haven’t had before. I loved this stuff and all in all it was a lovely evening at a lovely dodgy place. Off to dessert.

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Ah Wang Bak Kut Teh 亞旺肉骨茶
No. 32, Batu 4 1/2
Jalan Klang Lama
53320 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Tel: +60 13 2282 288

What’s up with all the ‘Expresses’?

imageWalking around the foot outlet cramped basement arcade connecting Mid Valley and the Gardens Mall seeking for some dinner inspiration gave us a severe case of sensory overload. We were tired and couldn’t really make up our mind and since my friend just wanted something light and healthy we ended up at ‘Zun Express’ a Chinese herbal soup place. The ‘Ginseng Herbal Chicken Soup‘ I had was actually pretty good, I mean it was just boring chicken soup but seemed to be perfect when you’re down with the flu or something; strengthening I guess and the little chicken meat that was in there was tender and tasted ok. All in all this wasn’t a very filling experience and I skipped the rest of the non soupy dishes on the menu because despite them all being called healthy, 99% also had the word “fried” in their description. Let’s just say I was happy there was a ‘Hui Lau Shan‘ just around the corner to fill up the leftover space with awesome moussy mango.

The Zun Express 尊厨
Lingkaran Syed Putra
The Gardens Mall
Lot LG-231, Lower Ground Floor
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia