Category Archives: By Cuisine

Tian Jin Hai Seafood Restaurant

Steamed Sharks Head
Tian Jin Hai Seafood Restaurant
600 Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue
Singapore 829734
Tel: 9768 8818
Website: http://www.tjhseafood.com/
Opening Hours: Lunch 1130 – 1430 hours; Dinner : 1730 – 2300 hours; Weekend & P.H 1100 – 2300 hours

Tian Jin Hai is no newcomer to the food scene here. In fact, the seafood stall had quite a following during its 10-year tenure at the Kopitiam MacPherson at Jackson Centre.

When the hawker centre was closed in September last year, owner-chef Francis Yeo, 51, went on a month-long holiday in China and the plan was to reopen in the Rochor area after that.  But when he returned, he found that the shop space would not be ready for another four months.

Not willing to sit idle, he went hunting for another location. Chance took him to the Marina Country Club in Punggol where a restaurant space had been left vacant for more than a year since Taiwanese chef Huang Ching-biao’s Chinese eatery closed down. Yeo took it over and reopened Tian Jin Hai last December.

Although the seaside restaurant is not air-conditioned, it is a far cry from the cramped, sweltering Jackson Centre. It has a view of the Johor Baru industrial zone and the spacious premises can fit 30 tables and a bar counter.

And instead of hawker centre-type tables and hard stools, you now find tablecloths and cushioned chairs. But now that it is no longer a hawker stall, prices have gone up accordingly, from a couple of dollars to as much as $10 more.

Nonetheless, you can get a good meal here for about $35 per person, which is comparable to what you pay at other local seafood restaurants.

The dish to go for at Tian Jin Hai is the unique steamed shark’s head (starting from $30 each) which Yeo claims to have created.

It is an unusual dish as the head has no meat at all. Instead, stripped of its skin, it comprises a cone-shaped bone to which are attached thick slabs of what look like a firm gelatin and have the texture of sea cucumber.

Yeo steams the shark’s head Hong Kong-style in a lightly sweetened soya sauce. It sounds very simple, but the sauce is just perfect for the dish, covering up whatever bits of fishiness it might have without being overpowering.

The crab dishes here are pretty good, especially if you like your crabs huge and meaty. The crustaceans are priced at $40 a kg, no matter how they are cooked. Although the chilli crab here is very popular, I prefer the crab beehoon.

The giant crab (about 1 to 1.6kg) comes sitting on the beehoon and broth in a deep dish. It is not overcooked and you can taste the natural sweetness of the plump slivers of meat. The broth is delicious too and the beehoon soaks it up like a sponge.

Another winning dish is the salt-baked red tilapia ($35 a kg).  The whole fish, scales and all, is packed in salt and baked. When ready, it is removed from the salt crust and the scaly skin on both sides is carefully separated from the meat in whole sheets.

The fish is served standing on its belly, propped up by the sheet of scales on each side. This dramatic presentation, plus the white colour of the fish’s exterior, prompted Yeo to name the dish xueshan feiyu in Mandarin, which translates as ‘snow mountain flying fish’.

Looks aside, the fish also tastes lovely. It does not have any of the muddy flavour that characterises freshwater fish and the meat is smooth and moist.

Some of the cheap dishes are also done well here. The fried kangkong with cuttlefish ($10), for example, is cooked with just enough spiciness in the sambal.

The only drawback of the restaurant is its remote location. But there is a convenient way to get there even if you don’t drive.

The club runs almost hourly shuttle bus services from morning till 11pm to and from Punggol MRT station, as well as Compass Point, Rivervale Mall and Punggol Plaza during lunch and dinner hours.

Personal Note:

I’ve eaten at their stall in MacPherson Road for a long time and especially loves their chilli crabs there.  Standard has dropped a little over the years but still, it remains quite tasty. Am glad that I managed to find them again; although this time they’re located a bit further, I’ll be sure to visit them.

If you are adventurous, do try their famous steamed sharks’ head.  Personally, I have not tried it before because I find the smell of the dish too fishy to stomach.

 

Heads or Tails

Heads or Tails Toast
Heads or Tails
01-37 Market Street Car Park
Tel: 6438-6428
Opening Hours: 7.30am to 7.30pm, Mondays to Fridays; 8am to 1pm on Saturdays; closed on Sundays

This master franchise of a chain from Bangkok offers Thai-style kaya, which is slightly different from local versions. The kaya is more watery – like custard – and lighter on the palate.

Opened earlier this year in Tangs’ food hall, it relocated to Market Street Car Park last month. Besides plain kaya, it has kaya flavoured with yam, pandan and vanilla (all at $1.70 per slice).

For those who want something more substantial, it also sells three Thai dishes every day. These include Thai curry, beef ball noodles and Thai mee pok (all at $4 each).

Must-try: Chilli paste with chicken floss (left, $1.70). The paste, the same one that the shop uses to make tomyam soup, gives you a kick like no other floss toast. There is also a hint of hae bee hiam.

Note :

This review was extracted from ST Foodies Club.

Sungei Road Laksa

Sungei Road Laksa
Sungei Road Laksa
Blk 27 Jalan Berseh #01-100
Jin Shui Kopitiam
Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm, off on 1st Wednesday of the month

They’re the ones who made eating a bowl of laksa without chopsticks famous. Charcoal-cooked laksa, topped with fresh cockles (I counted at least 7 in my bowl) and slices of fishcakes, all these make up a good bowl of laksa.

I’ve eaten this laksa since my growing up days and I think the laksa has been thinned in recent years.  Probably because Singaporeans are more health conscious these days, and the laksa is not so lemak now.  Still you can’t help but slurp up every spoonful of its flavourful gravy.  At S$2 a bowl, the portion is good for a small eater only. 

Jones The Grocer

Pork Sausages Tapas Stilton Blue Cheese Tapas Portobello Mushrooms Tiramisu Cake Rogers Beer
Jones The Grocer
Blk 9 #01–12 Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476 1512
Opening Hours: 9.30am to 6pm, Mondays and 9.30am to 11pm, Tuesdays to Sundays
Website: http://www.jonesthegrocer.com/store/singapore
 

We first visited Jones the Grocer a few months back but as it was after our dinner, we had a walk about the store just to see the range of products that they had.

We loved what we saw, so bf and I went to Jones the Grocer on 16 Apr 2008 to have dinner.  Now, my 1st gripe of the evening started.  Not so much their fault I guess since they do not know if I’m a grocery shopper or diner.  But the waiters at the front door could at least be friendlier.  I had to approach them to ask for a table for 2 and they just told me that it was free-seating.  It being a Wednesday evening, there wasn’t much of a crowd, so we managed to get a nice table to ourselves.

Then my 2nd gripe began.  The menu was not as extensive as we expected it to be.  Given its wide range of pastas, sauces, herbs and all, we expected the menu to be wow! Instead, they had about only 8 main dishes on the menu, out of which 2 were pastas. And mind you, Jones the Grocer does not handle special requests.  For example, we wanted aglio olio (something which we thought would have been easily done since they had all the raw ingredients there) but the answer was “sorry, we can’t do that for you.  There are only 2 pasta dishes on the menu.”  Then I didn’t want peas on my pork sausages and the answer was again “sorry ma’am, we can’t separate the peas.”  Geez!

In the end, we finally settled on our order and we had pork sauages with mashed potato, peas and onions in caramelized gravy (S$21.50), tapas stilton blue cheese & tea soaked figs (S$9.50), tapas baked mushrooms with rocket salad (S$7.00), tiramisu (S$8.50), 1 glass of Pegasus Finale (S$12.00) and 1 bottle of Little Creatures Rogers beer (S$10.00).

Don’t ever order the pork sausages unless you like boiled pork sauages which has a strong taste of pig liver and an unnatural sourish taste (something like spoilt food) in it.  It would have probably tasted better if it’s sliced and then char-grilled with stronger sauce to mask the liver taste.  Definitely a please do not ever try!

The tapas stilton blue cheese & tea soaked figs was a much better choice.  It was my first time tasting blue cheese and I must say I enjoyed it immensely.  The cheese was saltish and you can actually taste a hint of a flavour that’s something like yeast.  Very smooth and creamy and the cheese taste isn’t that overpowering.  BUT the cheese didn’t go too well with the biscuits we were served (can’t remember which type of biscuits it was).  Could have done better with crispbread instead.  It was also my first time tasting tea soaked figs – you can’t taste the tea in the figs but what you get are soft figs.  Still, this dish is definitely much better than the pork sauages.

The tapas baked portebello mushrooms with rocket salad was another disappointment.  I don’t think the mushrooms were baked but boiled.  They even boiled the rocket salad which really spoilt the taste.  Am not too sure what type of cheese they put on top of the mushrooms but it was certainly bland and did nothing much to enhance the flavour of this dish.  The only thing I loved about this dish was that you could smell the portebello mushrooms as the dish was being served. 

The tiramisu was again another disappointment.  We were served tiramisu cake not the tiramisu dessert.  Too much cream and too little rum in this cake made it a huge disappointment.  I was so looking forward to having a good tiramisu dessert.

The glass of Pegasus Bay Finale was a delight for me.  I love dessert wines and this one didn’t disappoint me.  This wine came from New Zealand and it has a golden hue with hints of dried apricots, peaches, honey, scorched almonds and an aroma of beeswax.  Overall, a sweet and rich wine.

The bottle of Little Creatures: Rogers beer is a smooth drinking amber ale with an interesting mix of malts.  An Australian beer with a very strong taste of something like saffron.  Very different from the local beers that we’re used.

Service is not attentive at all; we were given a single glass of plain water when we first sat down.  No refill of the water glass at all even though the crowd was very sparse.  True, we did call the waitress a few times to place different orders but not once, did she top up our water glass.  Used cutleries were cleared pretty fast but as we had ordered more dishes, no replacement of the earlier cutleries were given and we had to take them from the seats beside us.

Overall, bad experience at Jones the Grocer.  I don’t think I’ll attempt another trip back to eat here, and if you must, I would recommend having a go at the tapas (although it’s a hit or miss) or having the cheese platter (S$19.50).  Choose from a list of Australian or New Zealand wines with a sprinkle of French wine.  I think we’ll be better off buying the premium raw ingredients from here and then troop off home to cook.

Ristorante da Valentino

Valentino Valtulina costine di agnello stufate agli aromi
Ristorante da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka (near Rifle Range Road)
Singapore 588908
Tel: 6462 0555
Opening Hours: Noon to 2.30pm and 6pm to 11pm from Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays
Website: http://www.valentino.sg/index.html

The story: Ten years ago, Valentino Valtulina, who prefers to be known simply as Valentino, was working in a restaurant in Italy when his boss told him that an Italian restaurant in Singapore was looking for a chef and asked him if he was interested. Then 23, he jumped at the chance.

In Singapore, he worked in restaurants such as Cafe Cafe and Casa Roma and also as an executive chef at Cantina. Two years ago, he opened his own restaurant with his wife Patricia.

Valtulina, who applied for permanent residency in 2005, says that he likes Singapore as it is a vibrant and bustling city.

He says the people here like to eat and enjoy fine dining, so he was comfortable with going ahead with his 45-seater restaurant in Bukit Timah.

The food: Try the signature dishes which include costine di agnello stufate agli aromi ($33.90), stewed lamb ribs in light tomato sauce and aromatic herbs.

The dessert, torta chantilly ($8.80 per slice), which has strips of custard and cream-topped sponge cake sandwiched with chocolate and vanilla cream, is Valtulina’s favourite. It is baked by his sister, Perla, who opened the nearby Pasticceria Da Valentino, a pastry shop, in August last year. 

The restaurant also has pastries and pizzas besides pasta dishes.  Check their website for the full menu.

Note:

This review and pictures were extracted from ST Foodies Club

The Roti Prata House

The Roti Prata House
246M Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574370
Tel: 6459 5260
Opening Hours: 24 hours a day

My family and I were in the vicinity, and we spotted The Roti Prata House.  The signage said “Recommended by The New Paper” and we were thinking it must be not bad. So we went in and ordered 4 crispy roti pratas and 1 nasi goreng with ikan bilis and mutton keema.  We also ordered 3 drinks – 1 teh alia (tea with milk and ginger), 1 teh chino and 1 ginger tea.  I’m not sure how much each item costs individually but we paid S$10.30 on the whole. 

To my horror, the roti pratas came out exactly not what I expected!  I wanted roti pratas that are crispy, somewhat expecting them to be like the Jalan Kayu version (that was mum’s expectation too).  When the poor guy was serving the roti pratas to us, mom kept commenting, “I prefer the Jalan Kayu ones.”  I could understand as the ones that were served to us were brown literally.  Crispy pratas, true, but they never mentioned that they deep fried the pratas to make them crispy!  Imagine when you bite into the pratas, a wee bit of oil oozed out.  I think they used cold pratas and deep fry coz not only was it a bit oily, it came out as chewy too.  I was hungry so I had to finish the pratas but it was definitely a horrific experience. 

Dad enjoyed his fried rice with ikan bilis and mutton keema.  Actually, it wasn’t mutton keema per se.  They just fry the minced mutton together with the rice and gave him ikan bilis toppings.  Not bad really except that they put a lot of pepper in the fried rice, probably to mask the mutton taste. 

Drinks are totally out of this world – in the sense that they are all too sweet.  Mum’s ginger tea came out like the teh alia – she was expecting plain tea with ginger.  More a miscommunication I think.  And she said it was too sweet – she doesn’t take sweet stuff, so it really depends on your taste.  No complaints from Dad so I guess the drink is okay for him.  My teh chino was half milk tea and additional milk on the bottom half.  Overall, it was too sweet for me even though I had a sweet tooth.  It’s better to ask them not to make the drinks too sweet and then later on, if you want to sweeten the drink, you can always add more sugar (which is easily available on every table). 

I finally found the New Paper article on the web (http://www.singaporefood.com.sg/rotiprata/) but just keep in mind that the crispy roti prata is not what you see on the web.    ST Foodies Club also recommended the pratas here (http://www.stomp.com.sg/stfoodiesclub/lifeeats/Hawkers_RotiPrata/index.html). 

Sadly, I won’t recommend the crispy pratas here.  You can definitely find better quality pratas elsewhere.

La Strada

 Pollo Novello Arostito Risotto Dell Giorno
La Strada (part of Les Amis Group)
1 Scotts Road #02-10
Shaw Centre
Tel: 6737 2622 (for reservations) / 6737 2555 (for pizza take-away orders)
Opening Hrs:      Lunch: 12.00pm to 2.30pm (last order); Dinner: 6.30pm to 9.30pm (last order); Closed on certain public holidays; please call to check.
Website: http://www.lesamis.com.sg/webtop/index2.html

 Bf and I went to La Strada on 1 Apr 2008 (Tue) for dinner.  Kind of last minute decision – and I was dressed in shorts & t-shirt.  Too casual I must admit!  Bf kept assuring me that it’s alright – but I didn’t feel good.  Fortunately the staff let us dined there. As usual, after pondering for a long while, we finally settled on the drinks order – a glass of Michele Chiarlo (Italy) “Nivole” Moscato d’Asti 2007 (S$19++) for me and a shot of Hennessy VSOP (S$16++) for bf.  I love dessert wines – so this glass of wine was perfect for me, smooth-bodied and sweet. Then we ordered the Caprese (S$22++), Risotto Dell Giorno (S$30++) and Pollo Novello Arostito (S$35++). 

We were given a few cheese bread-sticks and a small plate of olive oil to start our meal with.   We were then given a piece of warm bread on the side.  No butter was given – Italians dip their bread in olive oil.  Nothing to shout about as these are pretty ordinary stuff. 

The Caprese is made up of buffalo mozzarella with confit Scillian cherry tomatoes, basil agar agar and char grilled ciabatta bread).  We love this starter dish a lot, so very often than not, bf would order this especially when we dine in an Italian restaurant.  Basically, there is not much difference in the Caprese served in any other Italian restaurant as the basic ingredients are the same and you don’t need to cook this dish – just cut and serve.    Again, nothing to shout about.  BUT instead of cherry tomatoes, we were served the normal tomatoes and instead of basil agar agar, we were given basil leaves.  Still, these are minor slights that did not affect the overall good taste of this starter.  The buffalo mozzarella was not overwhelmingly cheesy and was soft to the palette.   

Next, we were served the Pollo Novello Arostito (oven roasted French baby chicken with savoy cabbage, pancetta parcel, filled with shallot and roasting jus).  I love this dish very much – the chicken was roasted just nice with a little crisp on the outside and tenderness on the inside.  This was the highlight of my meal there.  Unfortunately, I did not see/taste the pancetta parcel and if there was shallot, you could hardly taste it in the chicken.  There was definitely no roasting jus on my plate.  It was more like diluted oyster sauce on my cabbage and plate.  Still, the chicken was the star and it tasted great! 

The Risotto Dell Giorno (risotto of the day was done with 3 types of mushrooms – can’t remember which ones they are but one of them is Portobello mushroom).  Risotto is a traditional Italian dish made with rice.   I didn’t quite like this dish – it was served with a brown sauce and it didn’t look appetising.  When I tasted it, it was a bit saltish.  Couldn’t figure out what the sauce was but it just didn’t do for me.  I prefer my risotto rich and creamy. 😛 

Overall, food is a hit or miss.  It’s either you like it or you don’t.  Service is excellent though.  We told the serving staff we were sharing the food and they very kindly separated the portions of each dish for us, so that we were served individually.  This was done without us having to ask for it! They remembered the guests who dined there before – it was bf’s 3rd visit and my 1st and the staff remembered him!  Yes, I would still return to this place again and the Pollo Novello Arostito will be one of my favourite dishes – a huge plus point.   Service is attentive without being intrusive – which is another plus point. And staff who takes initiative gets another plus point.

Astons at Prince Georges Park (NUS)

Astons
27 Prince George’s Park Blk 8 Level 1
(Foodgle Food Court)
Tel: 6776 2832
Opening Hours: 11am to 9.30pm
Website: http://astonsspecialties.blogspot.com/           

 After hearing all the fantastic reviews about Astons, I was elated when I found out that Astons had a branch in the west!  So arming myself with an empty stomach, I skipped and hopped to Prince George’s Park on 26 Mar 2008 for lunch. 

I didn’t have a hard time looking for this place as I am quite familiar with the venue (if you want to visit there, I would advise taking the free internal shuttle bus from NUS – either Service A1 or A2.  The bus will drop you off in front of the PGP residences.  Just go down the flight of stairs and keep right.  You will see Red Dot Café.  Besides this café, there’s another short flight of steps.  At the end of the steps to your right, you will see a glass door.  Go inside and you’ll end up in the Foodgle Food Court.  Keep walking along the rows of stalls – Astons is somewhere in the middle.) 

Looking at the menu was a difficult thing coz there were so many food I wanted to try.  I did balked at the high prices especially for the beef steak (almost S$10!) so I finally settled on char-grilled chicken.  I didn’t know that the meal came with 2 sides and the person taking my order wasn’t that helpful either.  He simply asked: “What sides do you want?” and waited while I pondered.  He should have offered suggestions as to what sides they have instead of waiting.  This poor service left me a bit peeved!  Anyway, I ordered the side of fries & coleslaw and he gave me a receipt and told me my queue number was XXX.   This is an excellent idea as I can go search for a seat and get my order only when it is ready; sort of like waiting for the doctor. 

My 2nd disappointment came when I saw my order.  I did order char-grilled chicken but what was served to me looked like an ordinary chicken chop with some sort of brown sauce on top of it.  And to think that I paid S$5.30 for that when I could easily get a similar meal at half the price elsewhere in NUS. 

This char-grilled chicken didn’t have the tell-tale signs of being char-grilled at all.  By this, I meant you should be able to see the criss-cross black marks on the chicken that says it had been char-grilled.  The one I had looked like simply grilled.  This is a great difference to me as the taste of char-grilled and grilled chicken is simply opposite side of the poles.   

The only saving grace of this dish was the generous amount of coleslaw and the great tasting fries.  The fries were fried to the crisp and they probably put some red chilli powder on it.  These are the skinny fries (not the chunky ones).  Think of Long John Silver’s fries but the skinnier version of it.  It’s not too spicy at all; the chilli powder gave it the reddish look and just a touch of spiciness on your tongue.  

Perhaps I will come again to try the beef steak or maybe I should somehow make a trip to Astons @ East Coast.  But never again will I try the char-grilled chicken at PGP.  Save your $$ for elsewhere. They have 3 other outlets mostly in the East.  Check their website for more details.

Chong Pang BBQ Seafood

Extracted from Chong Pang's website
Extracted from Chong Pang’s website
 

Chong Pang BBQ Seafood

200 Turf Club Road #02-01
Tuf City
Tel: 6323 6653
Website: http://www.chongpangbbq.com/
Opening Hours: 4pm to Midnight, Monday to Friday; 12pm to Midnight, Sat, Sun & Public Holiday

Remember the good ole days of cheap bbq seafood at Marina South and you come out smelling like a bbq pit? Alas, the restaurants there have all moved out and raised their prices. 

Chong Pang now charges S$16 (Mon to Fri) & S$18 (Sat, Sun & Public Holidays) per adult including free flow of soft and hot drinks (excluding beer) when it used to charge S$13 per head.  I guess it works out to be a good deal if you drink a lot and eat a lot.

Nevertheless, I shall brave the smells and the higher prices and attempt once more to eat here.  If you’ve already eaten here, please drop me your comments! Thank you.

 Update on 19 Aug 2008:

Chong Pang moved again and this time, to Turf City.  They should be opened by 1 Sep 2008.  Check the website for details. No idea about the pricing yet.  Hope they don’t increase too much! 🙂

Update on 5 Sep 2008:
Chong Pang has opened its doors at Turf City.  I’ve updated the new website add, new opening hours and new prices.

Update on 24 Mar 2009:

Finally I managed to make it to their new place at Turf City.  It’s located at the left hand corner of the building, so it’s not that difficult to find.  But I find the variety of food depleting (less meat and vegetables, no desserts, no satay, no fresh live prawns).  Still, it’s cheap, given that you pay S$16 for a buffet including unlimited flow of soft drinks.

 

Monster Mash

Monster Mash
26 Lorong Mambong
Holland Village
Singapore 277685
Tel: (65) 6463 4610
Website: http://www.monstermashcafe.co.uk/

Extracted from Monster Mash’s website: “We’re not going to give you some poncey, ‘aren’t we funny’ narrative here, we leave that stuff to everyone else. What you need to know is Monster Mash is a British ‘retro’ Café, we give you what you’ve been wanting for years – great food, first class service and value – ‘top nosh at half the cost’ – ‘nuff’ said really!”

Having fallen head over heels with the British fish and chips on my first London trip some years back, I am really looking forward to tasting it again without having to go to London.  I’m just putting this up for the time being without any reviews till I get myself a bite of the famous fish and chips.  Just bear with me as I have a poor memory and I really don’t want to hitting myself on the head should I forget where this restaurant is.

But if you have already visited it, please feel free to drop me some comments.  Thank you!