Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Revisited (2014)

I'm happy to be back to this gastronomic city - Ho Chi Minh. And just like the previous visit, it was again love most especially for its delightful cuisine. Forget about the chaos and madness that the streets bring, (primarily attributed to its hundreds of busy motorbikes); because foods certainly made up for that about a hundred folds too.  
My favourite hotel in the heart of HCMC - Rex Hotel. Luck was on us on the day that we checked in because we were upgraded to a Governor's Suite. Look how spacious and serene the room was! 
First stop, is always the must have "perfect duo" - Beef Pho and Fresh Coconut Juice. This combo alone is more than enough to satisfy my wandering palate. 


One of the great things that I appreciate about Vietnamese Cuisine is the abundance of soup dishes and hefty servings of vegetables and herbs. Truly healthy meal at its best!

Although Vietnamese food is not really known for very spicy stuffs, they do have their own concoction of hot sauces and condiments. These three are the most popular and widely acceptable. 
My foodie find on this trip - an ice cream in a butter format. I don't know if its common, but it was my first time to have tried it and I was just amused with its shape yet delighted with its creamy taste. 
Although local Vietnamese coffee is touted as one of the best in Asia and perhaps in the world, I was still ecstatic that finally Starbucks have opened two stores in the city. Must I dare say that at least in South East Asia, Vietnam has the best Starbucks coffee version. The coffee is smooth, has a distinct strong, likeable kick and very soothing mouth-feel. It's just totally different and better compared to other Asian countries' offering. 
 I won't mind having this busy view, so long as it's complemented with a perfect, warm cup of coffee.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

Happy New Year everyone!!!! It's a brand new year and so as our hopes, aspirations, plans and objectives for the days ahead. I hope you had a fabulous celebration and welcomed the new year with a big bang! I am extremely delinquent in updating this blog recently but I am vowing to make big changes and an ultimate revamp of it soon. So while I prepare and execute my plans, let me share with you how we celebrated the New Year's Eve at home. 
This is the table setting for this year.
The beauty of the flowers never fails, so I made sure they are part of the centrepieces. As all Filipinos would know, it's our tradition to put numerous fruits on the table (12 kinds to represent the 12 months of the year, but others put 13 or even more) to symbolize prosperity. 
Fruits and flowers really make a very nice centrepiece. 
Some gold coins to make the coming year more prosperous.
There's a sweet surprise for the little ones too.
Because 2014 is year of the horse..

This is the entire feast, our Media Noche in Filipino language. For the New Year, we opted for a Seafood theme since Christmas was more on meat.
Rocky Road Brownies Cake - it's my first time to make this goodie and I am extremely happy of how it turned out. Isn't it lovely? This can easily be a scene stealer from your table.
A very simple Potato Salad with Creamy Sesame Dressing makes a good starter.
Seafood Boil Southern Style - inspired by the increasingly getting popular Seafood in a bag. Finally, I found the perfect time to do it at home and it was indeed a star of the feast.
Aglio Olio Spaghetti with Shrimps and Mushrooms - it's a very light and simple pasta to prepare so it perfectly complemented the rest of the dishes in the menu.  
Baked Sea bass with Fennel - succulent and tender, infused nicely with a wonderful aroma and taste of fennel; this is a very healthy and light dish. It's believed that serving whole fish in new year will bring in prosperity and that all your wishes for the year will come true. In Chinese, the word for fish is "yu" which sounds like the word for abundance hence, it has a symbolic meaning to wealth.
The daughter specifically requested for this - Classic Fish and Chips (I used Cod Fish and it's by far the best fish that should be used for this dish). 
 BBQ Ribs - the only meat in our repertoire to completely stuff the tummy.
 
 
The new year has really started. Wonderful feasts have been prepared and shared with loved ones and friends. Now, it's time to gather all the luck and kick-start the fulfillment of your 2014 goals!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our Taste of Life - The Christmas Edition

Hi everyone! I'm extremely delighted to share with you that the Christmas edition of Our Taste of Life Online Magazine is out now! Do check it out and I hope it'll inspire you more to look forward to the Holiday preparations.

http://glossi.com/sherra/59554-our-taste-of-life-2nded?sb=anon-a94d8c3d9772558124bb286670754d90
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora

The opening of world renowned Lady Iron Chef - Cat Cora's, restaurant in Singapore definitely made a buzz and waves of reviews around the island. Being owned by "the" first and only Lady Iron Chef, it's already a big brand not to resist. So when I heard about it, it was certainly one of my must visit dining places for this year. The perfect timing came yesterday to celebrate my birthday with the family. I've made the reservation more than a month in advance to ensure that we got the front row seat near the aquarium. Fortunately I did, because the kids really enjoyed watching the marine animals while waiting and devouring their food. Also, I wanted a not so formal dining experience hence, I opted for a lunch visit instead of dinner. (Read: the restaurant is more strict in their dress code during dinner).
A 3-Course Set Lunch Menu
This is what the restaurant promises to provide you and as far as the underwater dining feel is concerned, it did deliver.  
I love how the hues inside the restaurant adhered to the Ocean theme. That's why, more shades of   blue can be seen.
Even the cutlery stand and the towel resemble the colour of the ocean.
Kids enjoying the view
For the ambiance alone, this restaurant definitely has something worth seeing. For those who love the sea and its creatures (like us), it could be more than enjoyable. The restaurant is not big which is just nice so it wouldn't have that frenzy feel even when it becomes full with patrons. You can still have some privacy while dining.
Beyond the ambiance, for any restaurant, we always rate the dining experience based on the foods being offered, aren't we? First, I highly commend Ocean Restaurant, for serving only sustainably sourced seafood. With that concept, it makes dining here more worth while. Although there were a lot of negative reviews written about the foods in the restaurant, I will say otherwise. Generally, it's not that bad at all. I've been to worse of the most pretentious dining establishments and Cat Cora's Ocean Restaurant is still nowhere near that. I must admit that not all food choices are worth raving about but it's neither too bad that you'll dread coming back to the place.
42 C Sous Vide Salmon - Textures of Lemon and Dukkah Spice, this appetizer definitely sets a good start for your meal. Everything on the plate blends perfectly well in terms of texture and taste. That explains why it's one of the signature dishes.
Mesclun Salad - Roasted Beetroot, Goat Cheese, Walnut & Lemon Vinaigrette, one of the choices in the starters too. The husband ordered it so I was not able to taste it but according to him it's acceptable.

Braised Boneless Wagyu Short Rib - Celeriac Puree, Sautéed Mushroom & Caramelized Oatmeal, this was the perfect choice for the main course. I read a lot of good reviews about this dish so I made sure I ordered it. The meat is so tender and soft, it's done very well. This could have been perfectly executed if not for the bitter after taste of the caramelized oatmeal and slightly salty, burnt note from the sauce. For this one, I'd like to make a shout out to the restaurant for the improvement of the crusting on top. This is a very good dish meat but the other accompaniments are not doing good justice to it. I hope they make a review of the dish and make adjustments on the other ingredients that go with it.  
Chocolate Passion - Banana Stew, 68% Cocoa Ice Cream & Passion Fruit Espuma, I opted for this dessert because it looked like among the choices, it has more taste dimensions. It's sweet, sour and creamy. Good enough in itself but it's short of wow factor to provide a sweet ending to a memorable meal. I guess it's the dessert menu that really needs big improvement as this is where I had a hard time choosing an option (not much choices perhaps?). 
Kids Meal : Fish Fingers served with Ice Cream
On the whole, Ocean Restaurant is about having a unique dining experience. It doesn't translate into food alone but it's on the entirety of the restaurant including its advocacy, the ambiance and the cordial service of its staff. Your overall take on it will vary depending on the choice of food and how high you want to raise the bar for a celebrity chef like Iron Chef Cat Cora. As for me, I visited without any expectations at all but still, I went home filled with a wonderful experience.
 
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora
S.E.A. Aquarium
Resorts World Sentosa
Tel No. (65) 65776688
 
Lunch:
11.30am – 2.30pm
(last order at 2.15pm)
Snack:
2:30pm - 5:30pm
(last order at 5:15pm)
Dinner:
5:30pm - 10:30pm
(last order at 10:00pm)
                               

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jamie's Italian, Singapore

More than three months since Jamie's Italian opened its doors to the Singapore food community, the buzz about the restaurant hasn't died down a bit; much less its long queues of diners. We were fortunate enough to have tried it just a few weeks after its opening and with more than an hour of waiting time, I'm sure the first question that comes to our mind is that - is it worth it? Precisely what my friends and colleagues asked me after our dining experience. To date, there are mixed reviews about the restaurant. In general, I would say just like any other food place anywhere in the world, it's also a case of a hit and miss. I know this might be a bit disappointing owing to the well established celebrity status of Jamie Oliver. This is the least that we could expect from one of his chains. However, it's also the kind of restaurant that you would want to be more lenient about and give it another chance. Again, maybe because the brand "Jamie Oliver" has something to do with it. At any rate, he seemed to be one of the sweetest and charming chefs around. So, essentially you want to negate all the doubts.

 
Personally, the first thing that I would commend this restaurant of is the ambiance. It's relaxing and calm even though the place looked totally busy. It's a nice place to have friends and family around. It's also very evident how Jamie Oliver connected the restaurant to his advocacy of sustainability. There are potted plants and fresh herbs all over. Woods are everywhere too. From the tables, chairs and ceilings down to his famous serving plates - the Jamie's planks.  
 


 This was the Q on a Sunday, lunch time (30 minutes before the restaurant opened).
Good thing though, the restaurant was sweet and generous enough to offer some antipastis to the people on Q while waiting.
 The Entrance
 This is the fresh pasta and bread section - where all breads and pastas are made everyday


You would also see a lot of Jamie Oliver's merchandise inside the restaurant albeit, I find the cook books a bit more pricey than in the local bookstore. Hence, I'd rather get my copy from the likes of Kinokuniya. 
 
 The bar section
 Freshly baked breads!

The pasta maker
 While waiting for your table, you can browse and peruse some of Jamie Oliver's cook books.


One proof that this restaurant  had indeed thought about young diners, kids can select their food from no less the 3D - slider. Even I, had fun perusing the kids' menu. What a brilliant idea!
We were seated at one of the tables near the salad and antipasti section. This is the well lit area hence, the perfect setting for families.

The main course preparation area.

A row of real good looking hams!

Now on to the main thing - the foods! These were some of the foods that we've tried from the wide array of choices in the menu.
 
Appetizers:
Apple Slaw, $8 - Radishes, walnuts, candied beets, mint & lemon with yoghurt
Fish Plank, $17 - Cured & Crispy Fish, Italian Cheeses, Pickles and Crunchy Salad
Happy Fish Fingers, $11.50 - Fish fight friendly fish fingers with zingy lemon mayo

Mains:

Tagliatelle Bolognese, $15 - Ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & Parmesan with crunchy, herby breadcrumbs
Lamb Chop Lollipops, $29.90 - Bone-in grilled lamb chops served with a creamy artichoke & mint sauce, roasted nuts, chilli & fresh mint
Rump Steak Salad, $25.50 - 180g aged grain-fed Angus steak with crunchy fennel, watercress, mint, chilli, garlic, horseradish & lemon

Desserts:
Creamy Panna Cotta, $9 - Lovely wobbly panna cotta served with a fruit compote
Tiramisu, $11.50 - Coffee-flavoured trifle with orange mascarpone & chocolate

Out of this selection, we were glad that we got more hits than miss. The Fish Plank boasted a very interesting repertoire of good starters. The Pasta was at its freshest and the Bolognese sauce complemented it just right. I am not a big fan of Lamb Chops, but I would take Jamie's Italian's an exception. The meat was so tender and juicy sans the off, satiating after taste. This, was definitely good! True to its name, the Happy Fish Fingers will certainly make any kid and kid at heart happy. The polenta chips that went with the fish fingers was wonderful, no wonder it's very famous. If not for the overly done steak, the Rump Steak Salad was another well executed dish. The mix of salad greens was really nice. For the dessert, the creamy Panna Cotta is a must have! It has everything that you would expect from a Panna Cotta - right texture, balanced sweetness and creaminess, paired with a well blended fruit compote; it's simply divine! Sadly, you can give the Tiramisu a miss. There's nothing extraordinary about it.
On the whole, trying out Jamie's Italian dishes is still an experience to be had despite issues on its service and some of its food offerings. There's still so much more to explore from the menu. Although it's inevitable that expectations will be high, I am quite certain that you'll be able to find something that will satisfy your discriminating taste buds. Anyhow, so much is at stake on a Jamie Oliver's brand thus, people behind it will not just sit on their laurels to make the restaurant live up to what its patrons call for.
 
Jamie's Italian
1 HarbourFront Walk,
VivoCity, #1 165-167
Singapore 098585
+65 67335500

12.00pm to 10.00pm Sunday to Thursday
12.00pm to 11.00pm Friday/Saturday