Quest For Food

A Rojak of Food & Social Commentary In Singapore (and sometimes beyond)

Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen (East Coast)

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Address: 135/137 East Coast Road, Singapore 428820
Date of Visit: 10 July 2009

The name of the place does not exactly inspire great expectations in the quality of the food. It conjures up an impression of a place just newly started up by some young aspiring restaurateur (normally scion of a rich family) who had made a trip to Thailand and made friends with some cooks and thus decided to create his own food empire back home. This incidentally would be how a significant number of our more well known eating places in Singapore are started.

The other common factor for the beginning of a cafeteria/pizzeria/bistro would be the marriage of a local person (normally female) with an expatriate (normally French, Italian, American…)  who will then hit on the idea of bringing their home cuisine (from France, Italy or USA…) into this country. More often then not they will be successful and appear in a family portrait shot on the back page of the Sunday Edition of our newspapers as a feature of the latest eats around town. Sigh…Singapore is indeed predictable.

Back to Tuk Tuk. My mother had suggested it as a place to treat my father and my grandmother. Reviews from hungrygowhere suggested that the place was well received for its food. I was skeptical but well…what the heck…food is food.

We started with the Clear Tom Yam Soup (S$10).  It was spicy and kept warm by the simple solid fuel flame underneath the pot. My grandma, the champion chili eater in the family, commented on the spiciness of the soup – an indication of the potency of the concoction.

An ongoing promotion meant that we had the Pineapple Rice for free when we order at least 3 dishes from the ala carte menu. They were acceptable as all free things go. My query would be on the pineapple bowl – where would the pineapple flesh be going? I did not happen to see any pineapple desserts feature prominently. And the rice itself had a fair amount of pineapple mixed it but not significant. Hmm…food for thought (erm…pun not intended).

The Minced Meat in Basil (S$8) is a popular one among Thai food lovers. The family had commented that the meat was on the salty side. I had no such complaints though.

The Omelette Oyster (S$12) was the crowd favourite. Our little Hokkien family loves egg. The Oysters were also not too bad and were well cooked by the hot pan – this alleviated my mother and my wife’s fear of big raw cockles. And my Grandma loved the bean sprouts that were found cooked underneath the egg.

The most expensive dish of the night was recommended by the waiter. The Crispy Seabass with a side of Mango Salad (S$30). Unfortunately, the only good thing was the Mango Salad and I do not even like Mango. The flesh of the fish was devoid of much taste – akin to eating cardboard… If you want to get fresh fish, go to the Marine Drive market and buy from the stall run by a Teochew woman and her husband (heh ..heh..please note that this is a plug for my relatives).

The speciality of the place was the Baked Crab with Beehoon (S$25). The noodles came soaked in quite a bit of the flavour of the crab.

The Crab itself was fresh. It was not a bad way to end the dinner.

All in, a pretty decent place, with decent prices. Oh…and the restaurant does not impose any 10% service charge. This was communicated to me by the above mentioned waiter …after I had already signed for the bill. A bit late I say.

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Written by questforfood

July 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Thai

Tagged with ,

Royal China Restaurant

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Address: Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Date of visit: 5 July 2009

It was a surprise that I found out that the Royal China restaurant at Raffles Hotel was a branch of the famous chain found in London. My wife had patronised the London outlet and was full of praise for the food served there. I myself had visited the Raffles Hotel restaurant quite a few years back (again with the wife, then girlfriend).

I was instantly attracted by the baby blue decor of the place. Call me a wuss (or as how the Japanese women like to call their sissified men as Herbivores), but I do appreciate the effort placed into turning the place into a icy/cool winterscape-like  wonderland/palace.

Unfortunately, my party was led past the cool dining areas and into a dowdy area decorated in what I would describe as shitty brown. I exclaimed internally a decidedly un-herbivorous curse of “nabeh”.

What was the occasion you might say for my wife’s extravagance (you guessed it. In keeping with the trend of the new genteel male in society, my wife was footing the bill. kiak kiak)? Birthdays. Particularly mine and my dad’s.

However, I have always viewed birthdays as more of a mark of the passing of time rather than of a mindless celebratory event. One in which there are equal chances of my moaning about opportunities passed, reflecting on the success obtained (if any), hoping for a tepid and uneventful but safe journey the coming year; or anticipating the instigation of changes that could render the next birthday a more significant milestone. In short, birthdays are days for contemplation and melancholy for me.

Except when meal time comes along. It is great than our race has managed to elevate feeding into an enjoyment. Our experience started off with the Fried Cod Fish (?) Appertiser. We had heard the waitress mumble something to the effect that the dish was free. This made the item more palatable and somehow more delicious. However, we were to find out later that it had a cost of S$8 tagged to it. *knn*

The Royal China Special Chee Chong Fun (S$4.80) was 3 rice rolls wrapped with different sorts of fillings – Prawn, Scallops and Barbeque Pork. Good for tasting.

The next dish was the Vinegar Pork Feet (S$8.00) – a supposed favorite of pregnant ladies . I might be a Herbivore/house-husband wannabe but this dish was just too girly for me. It was both vinegarish and sweet. Quite an unacceptable combination for me. My wife and my mother slurped it up. This dish may proof to be an effective method to test the real gender of a person in the most subtle of ways.

The next dish was my favourite Dim Sum item done in a new way – Yam Dumplings with Prawn rather than pork stuffing (S$4.80).

This was followed by the disappointment that was the Crispy Duck Fried in some Popiah Skin (S$14). The duck meat was overdone and tough. This resulted in each portion being very dry and devoid of any flavour or moisture. Avoid this dish at all cost.

We had thought that the Multi Layered Cake with Salted Egg Yolk (S$4) was a savoury dish. It wasn’t. It proved a blessing as it provided a good interlude to all the salty stuff. My appetite was revitalised after taking in the sweet and aromatic cakes.

The Phoenix Claws (or chicken legs, S$3.60) was normal.

Next came the Kurobuta Pork (S$8.80). Succulent, Soft, Tender, Fatty. Thus, meaning it was fabulous.

The final dish of the meal was the Lobster Noodles Cooked in Scallots and Spring Onions (S$68, promotional price. Orignal price is S$88). There was just enough for a party of 4. I love the wet texture of the noodles and the freshness of the lobster meat. None of the crayfish passing off as lobster nonsense that you get in some other restaurants. This was the real deal. Excellent. Comparable to the famous dish found quite ubiquitously in top restaurants in London.

It was a truly an enjoyable dining experience – reasonable in cost too. Highly recommended.

Written by questforfood

July 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Chinese: Dim Sum

Margarita’s – Mexican Food

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Address: 404 East Coast Road, Singapore 428998
Date of Visit: 4 July 2009

It was a treat from my wife – dinner at Margarita’s which specialises in Mexican food.  A glance at the menu revealed that the prices were in the mid-upper range. No problem with that as my wife was feeling generous. Heh heh.

News about Foreign Talent waiters who are unable to communicate in English has been brought up in the media in recent times. The waiters here were quite young and the one taking our order was pleasant and sufficiently articulate in English.  No issue about that here.

Speaking of Foreign Talents, there was quite a number of mixed race couples at the restaurant. The predominant combination would be a Caucasian male with either a Chinese, Filipino, Indian or an Asian female. Damn…I wish I were an Asian female getting whisked away to probably financial freedom by a moderately overweight and older Caucasian expatriate working in a mid sized MNC whose idea of beauty was drastically different from the normal standard of my countrymen (thus explaining the said Caucasians acceptance of my below average to mediocre looks).

It was at this point in time that I felt a sharp pain at the back of my throat. A decidedly weird and uncomfortable sensation. Thoughts immediately spring to that of the H1N1 flu epidemic. My wife inched erm..a few inches away from me and looked at me with mock horror. I had to lower my voice in case some over-zealous patron overheard me and called the government to haul me away.

Thankfully, the pain passed. And dinner was served. Rather prompt service I must add. The portions looked quite small.

The Beef Fillet (S$36) came in a tower comprising three slices of steak on a bed of mash potatoes. The gravy accompanying it was of a creamy sauce with mushrooms seasoned in tequila. It was Good. The beef was tender. The mash potato and gravy was savory. The taste of alcohol was distinctive in the funghi.

We chose the filling of shrimp for the Quesadillas (S$22.50). The prawns were fresh and the dips of Guacamole and Sour Cream added an oomph to the dish.

My wife added a Sangria (S$14.90) to the mix. It was pretty exorbitant in pricing and I blame our government for their taxation of alcohol imports – you will have noticed that I like to blame the government for pretty much everything. ha.

Our dessert was the Chile Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ice Cream (S$14). The coconut ice cream was refreshing in that the it was hard to detect the taste of coconut. The cakes were slightly bitter. This proved a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the syrup. A very nice end to dinner.

The bill came up to over S$100. No thanks to our government tax of 7%.

Written by questforfood

July 4, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Western

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Shangri-La Birthday Promotion “Flash Your Age”

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Well, I had a brilliant idea of treating my dad to a poshy posh dinner at Shangri-La for his birthday this 10 July. Of course, I had a cunning scheme to make use of the Shangri-La birthday promotion that supposedly provides a discount on the food items equal to the current age of the celebrant. Details here: http://www.slsrewards.com.sg/promotions/en/index.aspx

Of course, things would be more complicated. The first telephone conversation with the reservation officer (RO) went like this:

morning 4 July 2009, today
me: hi, I would like to enquire about your “Flash Your Age” promotion.
RO-1: Morning, certainly. Which date would you want your reservation on?
me: (thinking to myself that things were going quite ok) erm…10 July.
RO-1: (rather quickly…as if by reflex?) sorry sir, our outlets are fully booked for that day. In fact, we are fully booked until 3 August.
me: (damn…) erm… ok thanks.

On putting down the phone, I had my next brilliant and cunning scheme to celebrate my wife’s birthday in mid August using the promotion..heh heh. Thus, the next call.

me: hi, I would like to make a reservation under  your “Flash Your Age” promotion.
RO-2: Morning, certainly. Which date would you want your reservation on?
me: mid august (date blocked out as wife is sensitive)
RO-2: (rather quickly…as if by reflex?) sorry sir, you would only be able to make the booking within one month of the birthday. That means mid July, sir.
me: ah? erm..ok. Thanks.

Then it struck me and my wife (meaning my much more intelligent wife caught on to it and told me… ) that the window of availablity for the promotion seems to be only open exactly one month prior to the birthday.  For those who are confused, you can refer to the dates in bold – does it seem too much of a coincidence that their outlets are booked up to 3 August, exactly one month from 4 July.

The strategy for securing a reservation would maybe involve calling Shangri-La at the exactly stroke of midnight one month prior to the birthday. right…well done Shangri-La.

Written by questforfood

July 4, 2009 at 3:57 am

Posted in Editor's Notes

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Zhi Char Face Off: Joo Heng vs Sik Wai Sin

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I am a firm believer of the value of luck. In fact, I feel that each individual is allocated a limited supply of luck – inevitably some of these individuals would be entitled to more luck than the rest. I probably do not belong in this category. This stems more from the fact that I have not won any prizes in the lottery or been willed an enormous sum of money from a long lost relative than that I have met with major misfortunes (not yet, at least…touch wood).

However, I do think that our current leaders of this country are in serious deficit with respect to luck. Right after our Prime Minister’s first successful election, there was great optimism that the boom times would be here to stay. The government announced that the golden years were here, big investments were made in marquee banks (Citibank, UBS etc etc), the building of two casinos was started, and the first night F1 race was successfully organised in the country.

Then.. the sub prime crisis came and our government/country’s investment in the banks seem to be in trouble. The plans for the casinos seem to be badly affected too with major shareholders having difficulty raising funds. And seemingly, the F1 now is in crisis with one team already pulling out and others maybe following suit. The country is in a technical recession (although one of my friends says that there seems to be a conscious effort to term this as a downturn…this is because a downturn carries with in an implicit future of an upturn according to said enlightened friend).

Maybe our leaders should get some help on Feng Shui. Judging from their mugshots, they do not seem to have the countenance of a particular lucky group. Failing which they would have to depend more on actual hard work and sound policies to tide this country and its citizens through this turmoil – and in doing so earn their keep with regards to their million dollar salaries.

As with individuals, restaurants need their share of luck to be successful. Joo Heng and Sik Wai Sin are two rather successful eateries that serve similar types of dishes.

Joo Heng Restaurant
Address: 360 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427605
Tel: +65 6345 1503
Last Visit: 21 Sept 2008

Joo Heng is unique that it has two shopfronts adjacent to each other. One of them is recently renovated and has nice down lights and classier furniture. The other is just a normal coffee-shop setting with air conditioning added.

This is the nicer section of the restaurant. The place is popular with the residents around the area.

They have a few dishes that are “starred” in their menu. Their Seafood/Prawn Ball Beancurd (S$12) being one of them. If I could adore an inanimate object, this would be it. The Tofu was silky smooth, the gravy was savory and full of flavor and the prawns extremely fresh.

We also had the Deer Meat cooked in Spring Onions (S$18). It was rather pricey which could mean that it was authentic deer? When I think deer, I think of the Walt Disney charactor, Bambi. It doesn’t put me off from enjoying the meat though. The meat has a consistency tougher than both beef and pork. It could be due to the exercise the deers get from frolicking around and looking regal until the point when they are shot, killed and butchered by the hunters.

Our regular concession with vegetables was the Sambal Kang Kong Potato Leaves (S$8).

On another trip there, we went for the Sweet and Sour Fish (S$10). It was above average with the discernible fresher fish used by the chef.

I am not a fan of Bittergourd. I try to avoid it when either my mother or my mother-in-law cooks it. However, the Bittergourd with Pork Ribs (S$10) served here seems to suit my taste better – it could be that the stove fire they use is much more intense, or that they season the ingredients with more salt/sugar/MSG or it chould be that I am a sucker for food that comes from a menu.

Sik Wai Sin Eating House
Address: 287 Geylang Road Singapore 427605
Tel: +65 6744 0129
Last Visit: 15 November 2008

Sik Wai Sin is located in our country’s major red light district. It was once ranked as a top 50 restaurant by our newspaper. It thus serves as a popular haunt for clients looking for a treat for their senses – both gastronomic and erotic.

It is rather hard to find parking around the area unless you have the luck of a old man that had just found out he was the first client to a virgin prostitute that was just starting out her career by giving out huge discounts.

We went for a spread of some of their signature dishes.

From clockwise,  the Xi Yang Vegetable Soup, the Beancurd and Prawn (I like), the Sweet and Sour Pork (ok), the Beef stirred fried with vegetables, the signature Steamed Minced Pork with Salted Fish (superb) and a Fish dish (ok).

It was a delightful meal in a old world setting of traditional restaurateurs cohabiting side by side with workers of the world’s oldest profession (note that the below picture is that of the restaurateur and not the person of the latter description). Total cost came up to $20 per person for a party of eight.

Verdict: Joo Heng vs Sik Wai Sin
Ambience: Joo Heng (but only by half due to its renovated erm…half)
Service: Evenly matched at being totally functional
Food: Evenly matched at being totally superb
Value For Money: Sik Wai Sin

Written by questforfood

December 8, 2008 at 2:05 am

Posted in 2008

The Prime Society

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Address: Blk 10 Dempsey Road #01-20 Singapore 247700
Date of Visit: 7 November 2008

It was a Friday evening chill out dinner. A must deserved break after the seemingly endless work week. The office chaps and I bravely heeded our Senior Minister’s call to spend more money to prop up our flagging economy. There was no need for elaborate and complex fiscal policies for us, no need for a safety net for those living near or below the poverty line, no need for charismatic leadership to bring us out of this “technical” recession (ok lar…to be fair…I have not been catching up on the news on what our gahmen is doing for us…so this is a casual comment and it should not be taken too seriously hor). All we as citizens need to do is to spend more loh…

So we headed to the aptly named The Prime Society restaurant that seems to specialise in steaks and meat in general. The interior of the place was made up to be some sort of country house/mansion. It was huge – with the echos and the high ceilings. There was also a bar placed as the centre-piece in the erm…centre.

The long wooden tables added a touch of old style fine dining.

And the brick and mortar pillars and walls created a nice ambience. We spied that a major proportion of the clientele of the place seems to consist mostly of non-Singaporean families. I guess they were also doing a part for our country’s economy. Along with the mostly non-Singaporean staff, we seemed to have been transported to another country (erm…like Indonesia or Philippines).

We started with the Wine. Devils Creek Merlot (S$63) – sweet and fruity, almost like a dessert wine, Thorpe Shiraz (S$68) – more conventional.

I went for the Rib Fillet 300gm (S$48). Each of the steaks there had a rather lengthy description of the breed of the cow, the land in which they graze on and the type of grass/grain they are given. Quite impressive.

I suspect this only works for imported cows/meat. The effect would probably be lost with description of our local produce, e.g. “Bastard pig with unknown heritage, reared in the drains of Muar, Malaysia, hand fed by strangers and the local kampong kids and occasionally seen trawling the buckets of human waste for edible bits”

The steak came with Roasted Potatoes that were cut into edible pieces – a nice touch. We had to pay extra for the sauce. Each sauce costs S$2. I had the Bearnaise – a buttery/mayonnaise type of condiment.

My steak was done excellently. It was tender and had a good balance of fatty stuff and the meat. It was very much worth the price – anything for our economy = ).

Each of us chose different steaks:
– T-Bone Steaks 500gm (S$54)
– Rib on the Bone 500gm (S$52). This had a nice smoky and bah kwa kind of taste. Good.
– Eye Fillet 200gm (S$43). This was the smallest of the steak that was served. Do not choose this unless you wish to finish your dinner much faster than the rest of your dinner party.

Along with different sauces of Blue Chez Avocado Sauce and Pepper Sauce.

Some of us had the Pork Ribs (S$38 for the full rib and S$26 for the half rib). They were also substantial in size.

We then proceeded to Ben & Jerry’s – the Dempsey Hill Branch.

This had a similar country style setting, with the bricks and the fireplace and the dark wood wooden beams and furniture.

We toned down on the spending by sharing the ice cream, figuring that we had provided enough help to corporate Singapore already.

Thus a night of merry making and dining ended and I proceeded home… alone. It was a sudden change from the bustle of the day’s activities. The night was quiet and the entire neighbourhood asleep. Lazing in bed, watching Friends on Starworld, I caught the faint sound of bells – not the western kind, it was more of those small hand held bells carried by taoist priests…when they are leading those zombies (the chinese kind).

Initially, I put it down to the heavy dinner and the probable intoxication due to the wine drinking. Then I heard it again…. It was unnerving and a bit “pee in the pants” inducing. Then I realised the taoist bell sounds came from the starting segments of the Friends programme prior to and after the commercial breaks.

So…although this has nothing to do with food and I hope that I am not encroaching on the territory of that Russell “Ghost Story Writer” guy, I would like to request Starworld to relook into their segments and remove that bloody taoist bell sound …seriously man….what has bells got to do with Friends….sheeesh

Written by questforfood

November 9, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Posted in 2008, Western

Breakfast Face Off: Scruffy Murphy’s vs Delifrance vs Yip’s Cookies

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I am alone in the country. The absence of my partner has very much limited my foray into new restaurants and eating outlets. Other downsides include a recent development in which I get really soppy when watching dramas/movies. I am not talking about the traditional tear-jerkers here.

I spent my weekend watching Hellboy II, Hancock, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Each of these movies managed to illicit intense feelings of loneliness in me and wistful thoughts for the return of my partner.

Erm…Let me explain. Hellboy II because Hellboy was in a relationship with a girl. In Hancock, Will Smith was pretty much alone and was yearning for company (I know guys who hated this movie…but it touched me quite a bit…damn). In Zohan, Adam Sandler got the girl at the end.

I hesitate to think of what a real romantic movie would do to me now…

Any hoot, here are some places that the missus and I visited for breakfast previously.

Scruffy Murphy’s Cafe-Pub
Address: B7 Marine Cove, 1000 East Coast Parkway, Singapore 449876
Tel: +65 6449 7717
Last Visit: 7 Sept 2008

Scruffy Murphy’s is located along the East Coast Beach. I guess it functions primarily as a pub. However, during the weekend mornings, the place will be invaded by families (both local and expatriates) looking for a place to relax and have a morning cuppa.

In the shelter of the eatery, patrons can be spectators to the multitude of people engaging in roller-blading, cycling, jogging, posing along the beach front.

Our item of choice was the Big Breakfast (S$10.50). You will get Sausages, an Egg Sunny Side Up, Baked Beans and Toast with Bacon. We added Fried Onions for an additional S$2.

We also had the Chocky Fix (S$5). It was essentially, 2 pieces of toast with Chocolate Spread. A disappointing and rather pricey item.

Delifrance Breakfast All You Can Eat
Address: Parkway Parade, Basement
Last Visit: 8 Jun 2008

We, being Singaporeans eager to get a good deal, were drawn by the All You Can Eat Breakfast Promotion at Delifrance.

Did you know that although the Delifrance chain was started out in France, the Asia Pacific operations was at one time controlled by one of our local Government Linked Companies (GLC, info referenced form Wikipedia).

Of course, the Delifrance chain has always tried to create an atmosphere that would mimic what the locals think a French bakery should look like.

Thus the liberal use of French colours. I wonder what Singapore’s main cultural/social export would be. I suspect it could be our unique form of governance – maybe we will see more countries having their statesman and politicians dressed all in white.

The All You Can Eat Breakfast costs S$7.95 and ends at around 10 – 10.30am (better to give them a call before making a trip down). To put right any expectations of a fabulous spread, please refer to the picture below which shows the “buffet” section. It consists of around 4-5 plates of pastry (both savoury and sweet) and a jug or two of juice. If you can spot them, they are placed on the table along the wall.

To supplement the Buffet, the wife ordered the Le (I note that this creates a double entry of the term “the”) Traditional Set Meal (S$6.30). This was some cheese pastry and comes with egg.

I on the other hand gorged on the buffet stuff to get my money’s worth. Heh.

Yip’s Cookies & More
Address: 384 East Coast Road, Singapore
Last Visit: 17 Aug 2008

This place is tucked among the same row of shophouses as the famous Beach Road Prawn Mee that is not located at Beach Road.

Sorry for the blurry photo. We were the only customers dining in and any photo taking would be quite conspicuous,

Our breakfast fare would include Tea, Curry Puff, Char Siew Puff and a slice of Chocolate Cake. I admit the Cake isn’t regular but it did give an umph to the start of our day.

The Curry Puff was quite spicy and rich. Not that bad. Char Siew Puff was average. Our total cost came up to around S$10 plus.

Verdict: Scruffy Murphy’s vs Delifrance vs Yip’s Cookies
Ambience: Scruffy Murphy’s (the Sun, Sand & Sea)
Service: None
Food: Hard To Tell (being hungry in the morning does nothing for differentiating being good and bad food)
Value for Money: A Draw Between Delifrance & Yip’s Cookies

Written by questforfood

November 2, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Posted in 2008, Western