Friday, March 20, 2009

Tonkichi - Dontaku Reincarnated

What is about deep fried pork that make us Chinese drop down on our knees and surrender? I had heard about Tonkichi from a few of my friends who must pay homage when in Singapore. Its quite different from other Japanese restaurants. If you are hoping for sashimi, maki or sukiyaki, you will be sorely disappointed. The theme here is deep fried and pork. Is it any wonder that the place is packed at three in the afternoon? We had to queue for 15 minutes but I was reassured over and over again by Cuz and co that it was well worth the wait. I am told that they used kurobuta pork which is basically the pork equivalent of Kobe beef. I ordered katsudon of course. I haven't had katsudon since Dontaku. Oh Dontaku, how I miss you. Cuz and co ordered some potato croquettes and tonkatsu. The sets come with unlimited rice, miso soup and very finely shredded cabbage which is lovely with the vinaigrette. I don't know how they deep fry the meat but its super crispy, not oily and it definitely does not have that awful reused oil taste and smell. In a nutshell, if comfort could be formed in a bowl it would be this. The first bite was like coming home after a long absence. The pork was tender and juicy on the inside. And the fluffy rice was moist with chup, onions and egg. Sigh. Definitely swoon worthy. I'm glad this place is not in KL, I think I would have trouble staying away. So if you are in Singapore, head on over and indulge in some deep fried goodies. Click here to visit their website. 

While we were wandering around, I came across this poster and thought of Hairy Berry. Too bad we missed you HB!   

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saving The Best For First

When I was a child I used to love mixing up my food. It took me a long time to realise that layhdies did not eat like that. I loved mushing up the vegetables with gravy and creating a bowl of chup-py rice. I love gravy, I am part Hakka after all. When it came to chicken, I always saved the best, the drumstick, for last. It was only until calories became a factor that best came first. Always. If it ain't worth the calories, I ain't eating it. So I am going to blog about the best meal in Singapore which happened on the last night of our holiday. I had heard many good things about Ember. Its attached to a boutique hotel called 1929 in Chinatown. Its a small restaurant that seats not more than 30 I reckon. Be advise that you need to book in advance and that their opening hours are very restricted. Lunch from Monday to Friday. Dinner on Friday and Saturday only. Now I remember why I never made it to Ember all those other times. This trip I made it a point to plan out our meals. After a disgusting pre-show meal at the National Library the night before, we were really looking forward to Ember.

Its a sizeable menu considering how small the space. The space is modern but cosy with surprisingly well lit tables. How blogger friendly! They served us piping hot tomato bread from the oven which I made a point to not eat too much of but we still asked for a second loaf. What makes this place different from the fine dining restaurants in KL is the service. The service here is very personable. I believe the manager actually touched my shoulder when she was talking to me. It was done so naturally that it did not feel out of line. It friendly and familiar vibe not associated with these kind of restaurants. I enquired about one of the starters which had piqued my interest. "Crispy tofu with foie gras-mirin sauce and truffle oil". Does that not sound gross to you? In my head, the combination just didn't seem to work. She assured me that it was a house specialty and I should definitely try it. Must've been the shoulder touching thing because I believed every word she said. There was an option of adding deep fried stuffed zucchini flower for an extra SGD5. What the heck, I wasn't about to scrimp now. When the tofu arrived, I contemplated the foie gras sauce which was in an unfortunate shade of something that did not belong on a plate. The moment the sauce hit my tongue I was in shock. "This sauce is FUCKING INSANE!", was what I said to Hunky before shoving some tofu and sauce towards him. It was quite an amazing dish. The tofu was delicate on the inside but completely crispy on the outside. There was also a thin layer of paper thin mushroom slices between the tofu and crispy crust. The subtle, almost bland tofu complimented the intense sauce so well. It really was as exquisite as the manager had described. The zucchini flower although delightful, merely paled in comparison. Hunky's scallop and parma ham salad was lovely and light on the palate. The scallops were lightly seared and plump like a well fed cherubic baby on the beach. 

For my main course I had the Chef's special for the evening which was miso crusted lamb rack. It was served with a tiny serving of potato gratin and what tasted like teriyaki flavoured aubergine. I was told that it was a special sauce which ingredients cannot be revealed. But the manager did tell me that the aubergines were "specially grown...from Gent-ting". Anyway, the chops were served medium rare which was a tiny bit bloody for me. They were flavourful but I don't think you can really go wrong with a good piece of lamb anyway. Hunky ordered pork of course. If there is pork on the menu, he will zoom in on it. When the belly pork arrived, it looked subdued and almost plain compared to my robust chops. Pan roasted belly pork on a bed of savoy cabbage with pomme puree and pork jus. It was simply, in Hunky's words, "Fucking fantastic! Best roast pork EVER!". I must say it was particularly nice piece of belly pork with just the right amount of meat-fat ratio. The tender succulent meat flaked off with a mere caress of the fork. Fanbloodytastic I tell you what.

Hunky managed to fit dessert in. I don't know where he finds the space and where does it all go? So unfair! I can put on weight just looking at cake. He ordered (also his default dessert if available on the menu) warm valrhona chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream. According to the expert, the one at Tanjung Jara is still the best. Overall, its one of the best meals I've eaten in awhile. We both agreed that it was even better than both our favourite restaurants - Frangipani and Cilantro. Service could be better. Apart from the manager, the other wait staff were not great. Still I highly recommend the place. Even if its just for the tofu dish, simply because its so unique.  
We payed SGD200 for both of us with a two glasses of wine & bottled water. Ember is located in Hotel 1929, 50 Keong Saik Road, Chinatown. Tel +65 63471928/1929

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pork Ribs Ala LTG

One night when Hunky and I were feeling hungry and flicking channels, we stumbled upon License To Grill on AFC. My brother loves this program. Hell, I think he gets as turned on by LTG as he does Nigella Feasts. I think every man wants a kitted out bbq grill. It just reeks of testosterone and machismo. On the other hand no woman wants to stand infront of the grill and smell like smoke and meat. Although, I'm sure this could be bottled into a successful fragrance guaranteed to intoxicate any hot blooded man. Anyway, back to the program, Rob Rainford was roasting a killer rack of pork ribs in his giant shiny grill. Hunky was salivating and collecting a small puddle of drool around him. With that image imprinted in my head, I found myself wandering into the haram section of Tesco. Which by the way, is an ocean of calm compared to the pasar malam-like atmosphere in the halal section. And there it was, a 1.5kg rack of ribs waiting to be carted home. I didn't watch the whole program so I had no idea what he marinated the ribs with. I decided the safest bet would to do a pseudo Chinese style. For the marinade I used honey, salt, soy sauce, kicap pekat, star anise, black peppercorns, sesame oil and crushed garlic cloves. Its hard to gauge how tasty it should be but the marinade was a good consistency and tasted very intense. I then left the ribs soaking in the marinade for 2 days. It wasn't meant to take so long, we just haven't been home for dinner. 

Into the oven at 180C for 1 hour. I'm always paranoid about undercooking pork. I turned the meat twice and basted it with more marinade. It was perfectly cooked but all the sugar caramelised and burnt fairly quickly. I didn't even use the grill function. I think I will cover it with foil next time for the first 45 minutes. Anyway, it was very tasty even if I have to say so myself. Ahem. Hunky was a happy camper. I made some mash and a grapefruit salad to accompany the pork. The mash was too heavy for the pork actually, for the first time ever Hunky and I hardly touched our mash. For me, I would've preferred it with a little bit of gravy but hey, it was a great meal to end the week.