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Friday, June 11, 2010

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck, Singapore

We share an excellent Peking duck meal with a popular food blogger in Singapore.

imperial treasure super peking duck restaurant singapore

Back when we were planning to come to Singapore, I reached out to a few Singaporean food bloggers that I wanted to meet in person. Unfortunately, they were going to be out of town that weekend that we were coming. I commented about this to our friend Mike, who told us to contact LK, the blogger behind the popular blog Food For Tots. LK happened to be a Malaysian from Penang, living in Singapore.

So I sent LK an email and, after a few rounds back and forth, arranged to meet up at the Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck Restaurant in the Paragon Mall on Orchard Road. We arrived there, not too many hours past our dim sum meal at Noble House. Though we had never met before, we did know what each other looked like from our respective About pages. (Aren’t About pages helpful? ;-) ) Then we entered the restaurant where we were shown to our table.

You Gotta Get the Duck

LK and her husband said they had heard good things about this restaurant but haven’t had the Peking duck yet because this kind of meal calls for a larger party than just the two of them. So when we contacted them about a meetup, they thought that it would be a good excuse to try out the duck. They made the reservations, and the duck was served not long after we were seated.

Like any good Peking duck restaurant, the chef will carve up the duck right at the table. First he removed just the skin off the breast, which he did with deftness and skill. The shards of roasted duck skin were thin and crispy, like duck-flavored tortilla chips.

Next came a couple of platters of duck slices featuring both skin and duck meat:

imperial treasure peking duck slices

Notice on this cut that the fat hasn’t completely rendered out of the duck – there is still a nice, juicy, delicious layer of duck fat between the crisp skin and the tender meat. It makes for a deliriously good bite when that melted duck fat envelops your tongue.

imperial treasure peking duck slices 2

The duck was served with shredded green onions and sticks of raw cucumber along with the obligatory hoisin sauce. Instead of the typical steamed bun to wrap the duck and veggies, Imperial Treasure served up some small, thin crepes. All the better; you don’t fill up on bread, so you can eat more! :D

imperial treasure peking duck wrap

The remainder of the duck meat was taken back and then incorporated into a wonderfully tasty duck meat and noodle dish. The dish wasn’t just a homey mish-mash of ingredients, but it was subtle and sophisticated. The noodles had good flavor on their own while the vegetables were prepared simply to showcase their flavors. Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture of the dish to show you how good it looked :-(

Other Excellent Dishes

Though we were there to sample the duck, we also ordered a few other dishes. Here are deep-fried silverfish, battered up and fried crispy like tempura.

deep fried silverfish

A couple of dishes were recommendations by the wait staff. This dish of bamboo clams and asparagus looks simple, but the clams were prepared stunningly well. They weren’t chewy at all, but tender – almost like cod or other white fish. Definitely a highlight dish that we’d want to try again.

bamboo clams and asparagus

Also recommended was this tofu, spinach and mushroom dish. You can’t really see in this picture, but there are two different kinds of tofu in this dish. The bottom layer is actually a tofu incorporated with blended spinach. Served with the fresh mushrooms on top, this dish was a revelation.

imperial treasure spinach tofu

We were quite stuffed by the end of the meal, and had a hard time deciding what, if anything, to get for dessert. But again the wait staff was very helpful. They suggested this trio of dessert creams. Bottom left is the roasted walnut cream. Bottom right is an almond cream which was thickened with egg white. The top dish, though is the winner. DURIAN cream.

Oh. My. God. So good. Soo goood.

durian pudding walnut cream almond cream

This meal wouldn’t be possible without our gracious hosts. Throughout dinner, we “talked shop” a bit about food blogging, but mostly just discussed what life in Singapore is like. LK and her husband are very kind and friendly folks, and we are honored to have met them. Do check out the excellent Food For Tots website and check out her impressive breadth of recipes. Let them know Nate and Annie sent you!

Aloha, Nate

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Dim Sum @ Noble House, Singapore

Sunrise over Singapore

sunrise over bukit batok

Although Kuching is known for a lot of good food that you cannot find in West Malaysia (or anywhere else) like Kolo Mee and Sarawak Laksa, Kuching is decidedly not Cantonese in its cuisine. If you are looking for any sort of Cantonese food, wait until you get to KL or Singapore. Especially if you want good dim sum. The advice given to us by locals about getting dim sum in Kuching is, “don ‘t even try.”

So when we were planning to go to Singapore, I had a major hankering for dim sum. I was determined to get me some really good dim sum. Not just any ordinary dim sum but really good, Hong Kong-style dim sum. (After all, this dim sum meal would have to carry me over until the next time I got to KL, Singapore or Hong Kong.

Laying Plans

With that in mind, I called my cousin 2 weeks before we left for Singapore to let him know that we were coming and to let him know that I was hankering for dim sum. He was more than happy to oblige. He made reservations at Wah Lok at the Carlton Hotel (supposedly one of the better dim sum places in Singapore) for the Friday we arrived. He also invited my mom to come along.

So I called my mom to let her know and to warn her not to make any plans for that afternoon because we were going for dim sum. I was gonna get myself some dim sum and then some!

Plans Unlaid

You know how “the best laid plans of mice and men go oft’ awry”? Well, on Wednesday night, I get a call from my mom. Wouldn’t you know it, another aunt of mine was so excited to see us, she decided to make popiah and invited all cousins, some of whom I had not seen in over 10 years, to come to her home That Very Friday for lunch!

“So what do you want to do?” my mom asked. “We could still just go with that one cousin for lunch but then you’d miss out on getting to see ALL your cousins.”

You know when someone gives you a choice that’s not really a choice at all? How could I possibly insult my aunt who had gone through all this trouble to prepare a feast and gather the family for us? And how could I miss this opportunity to catch up with all my relatives?

Resignedly I told Mom to call that one cousin to cancel the dim sum reservation and come over to the house. GUNFUNIT!

Making it Up

So did we have fun with the relatives that Friday? Sure we did. And did I regret not going for dim sum at the Carlton? Sure I did.  But in the process of the conversation with my relatives, my aunts got wind of my hankering for dim sum so they all decided to take me to dim sum for lunch the next day. Just not at Wah Lok, but another place called Noble House.

(Isn’t it nice to be treated so well? This only happens when you don’t come around to visit so often ^_^)

So, yay! I was finally going to get me some dim sum! Several of my cousins and aunties came along - after all, dim sum is a meal best shared by many. They said that the last time they were there, it was very good (though it had been several years since).

Eating it Up

Was the better than anything we could get in Kuching? Definitely.

Better than my hopes and expectations? I wouldn’t say that. I have had better dim sum in Hong Kong (duh) and even in San Jose (Dynasty).

Did I stuff myself full of dim sum? Of course. :-d

But on the whole, only some dishes were real highlights like the char siu bao (that alone made the dim sum memorable – my kids ate three each!)

char siu bao at noble house singapore

The yam puffs were delicate, fragile crispy bites filled with just the right amount of savory-sweet filling to make you want another.

taro puffs at noble house singapore

The cheese balls were an interesting deep fried fusion of broccoli, shrimp paste, cheese and croutons. I would have eaten 10 of those except I was already so full!

inside cheese ball at noble house singapore

deep fried cheese ball at noble house singapore

The rest were pretty standard, good quality dim sum. Nothing that would make you speechless but nothing that would make you upset. Overall we ate everything and we didn’t complain. It was a parade of food, from the chicken feet…

chicken feet at noble house singapore

…to the har gow…

har gow at noble house singapore

…to the pork in bean curd skin…

pork in bean curd skin at noble house singapore

…and the radish cake…

radish cake at noble house singapore …followed by the cheong fun…

cheong fun at noble house singapore

…and the fried tofu…

deep fried tofu at noble house singapore

…and finally the shrimp and banana fritter.

shrimp and banana fritter at noble house singapore

Worthwhile?

Yes, my craving was satisfied. But more than that, the company of family turned what I would consider good dim sum meal into a really great and memorable meal. I can’t complain. What more could I have asked for? We got fun, we had food, we had family. I got to hang out with cousins who I hadn’t seen in years. I got to meet my nephews who I hadn’t seen since they were knee-high and now were towering over me.

I do still wonder how Wah Lok’s dim sum would have been. I suspect the dim sum would have been better there, but then again the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The good news is, we’re close and there are opportunites to go back. I look forward to the next time I get to share a meal with my Singapore family.

Thanks guys for making it so fun!

Cheers, Annie.

singapore family

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Hibiki Restaurant, Singapore

We’ve been deprived.

hibiki restaurant singapore

In California and Hawaii, we’ve been spoiled for good sushi. Whether it was Tokkuri Tei in Honolulu, Akane in Los Altos, Sakae in Burlingame, or the inimitable Sushi-Man in San Francisco, we feel that we’ve experienced some of the best sushi around. Despite the fact that Kuching is known for its fresh seafood, however, it is not known for having good sushi restaurants.

Our friends Mike and CW both told us to bypass the local Kuching sushi restaurants and just wait until we get to KL or Singapore. Well, we made it to Singapore, we were looking for a place to have dinner after our trip on the Singapore Flyer, and we found the Hibiki Japanese Restaurant on the ground floor of the Singapore Flyer terminal. Let’s have some sushi!

Sushi, or Not Sushi? That is the Question

Well, it turns out that Hibiki restaurant is more of a Japanese buffet restaurant instead of a sushi joint. At least, a Japanese buffet was all they had on offer that night. No ala carte!

Nowadays, we eschew buffets because Annie and I don’t really eat that much and neither do the kids. We never get our money’s worth like we used to when we were ravenous teenagers. But what the heck, we’re on vacation! We decided to just go for it.

The buffet system at Hibiki is not what you’d normally expect. Instead of having all the food laid out on a long table at room temperature, you just tell the waitress what menu selections you want and she’ll run back to the kitchen where they prepare your order. It’s a little slower this way, but at least the food is at the correct temperature.

First to come out was this chawanmushi, a savory steamed egg custard with mushrooms. It was very light and tasty. The kids gobbled theirs right up.

Chawanmushi at Hibiki Restaurant, Singapore

chawanmushi hibiki restaurant singapore

Hibiki doesn’t have much in the way of sushi, but they do have some maki (rolls) like the inside-out California roll and soft-shell crab roll. They also had some sashimi selections, including salmon, swordfish, and amaebi (sweet freshwater shrimp). The salmon was amazingly fresh, while the amaebi were quite enjoyable. We ordered a few more plates of these.

Sushi and Sashimi at Hibiki Restaurant

salmon and amaebi sashimi hibiki restaurant singapore

Annie’s mum ordered up some shrimp and veggie tempura. Also quite nice, but I think the batter was on the heavy side.

Shrimp and Veggie Tempura at Hibiki Restaurant

shrimp tempura hibiki restaurant singapore

We ordered a few grilled items as well, including the asparagus wrapped in pork belly (awesome!) and this nice chicken yakitori. Both these items got extra callbacks.

Chicken Yakitori at Hibiki Restaurant

chicken yakitori hibiki restaurant singapore

There were a few misses among the dishes, like a dismal agedashi tofu (no bonito shavings? come on!), a boring tabemono, and a grilled unagi fail (too much ginger, didn’t taste right). Service was okay, but the two waitresses got slightly overwhelmed when tables started filling up and they were preoccupied running back and forth from the kitchen. The dessert course was this tart pomelo-flavored jelly, which, though a bit sweet, was a nice save.

Pomelo Jelly at Hibiki Restaurant

pomelo jelly hibiki restaurant singapore

With all said and done, we came out a few pounds heavier and about 150 Singapore dollars lighter. Quite full, but not quite satisfied because we still didn’t get the sushi we wanted. At least the weather outside was nice and balmy so we could walk off (a bit) of dinner.

Here’s a shot of the Singapore Flyer from the ground level at night. Like the Flyer, we’ll come ‘round Singapore again. Maybe we’ll find some really good sushi next time.

singapore flyer at night

Aloha, Nate

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Singapore Flyer

Annie’s mum is from Singapore, and we haven’t seen the Singapore side of the family in over 4 years. With the long weekend created by the Wesak Day and Gawai holidays in Sarawak, we had a great excuse to book a trip over to see the relatives. On the first day we arrived, Annie’s aunt invited all the cousins over to her house for some popiah and other good food.

We had a good time hanging out at Aunty’s house and catching up with all the relatives. In the late afternoon, we had to catch a taxi to our next destination. Here’s Esther and Daniel’s reactions to what they saw:

daniel esther taxi

The Singapore Flyer

Off in the distance is the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye. At 165 meters high, it is (currently) the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. Along the outside of the wheel are 28 enclosed capsules from which people can stand and view the Singapore city and coastline during its half-hour rotation.

singapore flyer from street

Though it was crowded due to the Wesak Day public holiday, the line moved steadily through the various gates and rooms up to the boarding platform. You have about 30 seconds between the time the capsule doors open and the staff usher you inside, and the time the doors close. Then, it’s up, up, and away!

Waiting to Board the Singapore Flyer

singapore flyer boarding platform

As the wheel turns and the capsule rises, you see more and more of southern Singapore’s landscape. Actually, there isn’t much land to see, as most of it is covered by high-rise buildings. Singapore is the world’s 3rd most densely populated country, even higher than Hong Kong! To the east is the Marina Bay Golf Course, and the East Coast Parkway runs off into the distance towards Changi Airport.

east coast parkway and the marina golf course from the singapore flyer

Directly north of the Flyer is Marina Bay. The Merlion Statue right in front of the Fullerton Hotel is dwarfed by the Singapore Central Business District’s skyline. The Merlion used to face open ocean before land reclamation projects created the Marina Centre and Marina South areas. So much has changed as Singapore has built new land and new developments!

Singapore Central Business District

east coast parkway and the marina from the singapore flyer

In fact, those developments continue as we speak. To the west of the Flyer is the Marina Bay Sands integrated casino resort. Joining the three high-rise buildings is the SkyPark, an interesting boat-shaped feature that will have the world’s longest elevated swimming pool. Across the Expressway is the Garden at Marina South, a redevelopment of the Marina City Park which will include a climate-controlled conservatory.

marina and tanjong pagar terminal from singapore flyer

We returned to Earth just as the sun set.

singapore flyer at sunset

By then, we were ready for dinner. We didn’t have any plans, so we decided to check out what was available right there at the Flyer’s terminal. There was a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen outlet, but I didn’t feel like fried chicken. Then there was the O’Leary’s Sports Bar & Grill, but they were closed for a private function. So, we decided to try out the Hibiki Japanese Restaurant…

Which we will talk about in our next post!

Aloha, Nate

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