NY DELI EXPERIENCE
There is a striking neon sign in Sacha & Sons, a newly opened New York-style deli in Mandarin Gallery, that says: Hey! What am I, chopped liver?
There is nothing wrong with being chopped liver, if it is as delicious as the version the deli serves.
Sacha & Sons takes the place of the successful brunch spot Wild Honey, which has moved next door, and both are owned by Guy Wachs and Stephanie Hancock, who have lived and worked in New York.
The Chopped Liver ($14) is like a coarse pate pepped up with caramelised onion, chopped egg and chopped pickles. It is so good I take to eating forkfuls of it, after the bread that comes with the order runs out.
A good way to sample the all-important deli meats is to order a Specialty Platter. The meat and smoked fish ones cost $65 for three choices and the dip platter costs $40. These serve two and come with the deli's delicious and perfectly toasted bagels, house-made pickles, coleslaw, sliced onion and tomato.
I go for the meat one and pick pastrami, corned beef and roast beef, all hand-carved like in the best New York delis. The pastrami, made with beef brisket from the United States, is easily the best. I wish it were sliced a bit more thinly, but that would be quibbling. Instead, I enjoy the streaks of fat, the peppery bite and the sheer joy of tucking into something that is not easy to find here.
The roast beef is unadorned with spices and such, but has such a profound flavour of the meat that I lap up slice after slice. On the day I go, some slices of corned beef are a little dry. I trust they have fixed that.
Both the pastrami and corned beef are available in sandwiches too, with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing (from $17).
The owners are serious about bringing the deli experience to Singapore and make all their pickles, the chopped liver, salads, soups, sauces, dressings, jams, ice cream, cakes and pastries.
It shows in the taste of the food. I have not grown up eating New York deli food, but some things you don't need a taste memory to enjoy.
Where: Sacha & Sons, 03-02 Mandarin Gallery, 333A Orchard Road MRT: Orchard Tel: 6735-6961 Open: 9am - 9.30pm (Sun - Thu), 9am - 10.30pm (Fri, Sat & eve of public holiday)
With meatball-centric restaurants proliferating in the United States over the last couple of years, it was a matter of time before one opened up in Singapore.
The people behind Sarnies in Telok Ayer Street and The Lokal in Neil Road have opened Club Meatballs at China Square Central.
For $19.50, diners can choose the meatballs they want from a section of the cheekily written menu called Pimp Your Balls, then choose a sauce from On Your Balls and an accompaniment from Below Your Balls.
Of the meatballs I try, the Wagyu Beef & Rosemary ones stand out. The five generously sized meatballs are flavoured just lightly with the herb and the meat is juicy. What is even better is the tomato and basil sauce, so bright and appetising, tossed with well-made fresh pappardelle. I would go back just for this.
Alas, the Iberico Pork & Fennel meatballs are dry and the Fish, Coriander & Chilli ones, made with salmon, not much better. It is the accompaniments that save them. The chunky mashed potato I pick for the pork balls is perfectly seasoned and comforting, and that onion and red wine sauce has deep caramelisation that makes it sticky and deeply flavourful. A zingy salsa verde brightens up the salmon.
The solution to better balls will hurt the waistline, alas. Fat is the key to juiciness.
Where: Club Meatballs, 01-35 China Square Central, 20 Cross Street MRT: Telok Ayer Tel: 6222-8660 Open: 11am - 2.30pm (weekday), 5 - 9.30pm (Mon - Sat), closed on Sun & public holiday Info: www.facebook.com/clubmeatballssg
FRESH KOREAN NOODLES
Ramen shops are everywhere in Singapore, but restaurants that sell just Korean noodles are harder to find.
Guksu, which opened last month, is trying to change that.
The 96-seat restaurant at Suntec City focuses on Korean noodles, with small eats on the side.
Like at Club Meatballs, diners can customise their meals.
First, they pick from three types of noodles, made daily at the restaurant using head chef Kahng HeunSung's grandmother's recipes. So Meon is the thinnest, while Kal Guksu are flat, wide noodles. Somewhere in between is Jung Meon. Then, pick a broth: anchovy, prawn, clam or beef.
The Doenjang Beef Guksu ($13.90), cloudy with bean paste, is rib-sticking and the broth so flavourful I drink every drop. The sprinkling of slightly bitter, powdered mulberry deepens the flavour of the soup.
Digging into the bowl, I find sliced wagyu beef, boiled egg and vegetables. The Kal Guksu is thin and springy. Make haste. Left sitting in the hot broth, it turns soggy quickly.
For $4 more, I get a side dish and tea. I opt for Deep Fried Garlic Soya Drumstick, expecting a drumette. What lands on the table is a proper chicken drumstick. Its crisp coating is a delight and so is the sweet-and-spicy soya sauce and pile of finely chopped garlic on top. However, I have a quibble about the slightly mushy texture of the chicken. It tastes like it has been tenderised. Skip that step and it will be much better.
Where: Guksu, 02-385 Suntec City Convention Centre, 3 Temasek Boulevard MRT: Esplanade Tel: 6334-7950 Open: 11am - 10pm daily Info: www.facebook.com/guksu1945
Bounce and spring are the attributes people look for in fishballs, but the ones at Fishball Khin are something else altogether. They have a soft texture, which tells me they are made with more fish than flour.
This eatery, which opened earlier this year in Ang Mo Kio, serves noodles and fish soup, with its signature fishballs and fish ravioli or her keow.
A $7.50 bowl gets you a generous serving, with chunky fish slices, three of those delectable fishballs and three her keow.
Come Chinese New Year, I would like to buy masses of the fishballs to dunk in steamboat.
Where: Fishball Khin, Block 574 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, 01-1825 MRT: Ang Mo Kio Tel: 8198-6868 Open: 9am - 9pm (Wed - Mon), closed on Tue