Wong Ah Yoke Food Critic recommends

Din Tai Fung, Sumiya, Shisen Hanten, and Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant

Deep-fried Handmade Tofu With Water Chestnuts & Mushrooms ($8.60) at Din Tai Fung.
Deep-fried Handmade Tofu With Water Chestnuts & Mushrooms ($8.60) at Din Tai Fung. PHOTO: DIN TAI FUNG

CELEBRATORY DISHES

My friends and I order the same dishes every time we go to Din Tai Fung. For me, these would be the chicken soup, beef noodle soup, fried rice with pork chop and dumplings in spicy sauce.

But a new selection of 12 dishes to celebrate the Taiwanese franchise's 12 years in Singapore has some items

I am adding to my list. These dishes are available only at the Paragon outlet for the time being. This is where Din Tai Fung always launches new items before the more popular ones are introduced to other outlets.

Those I like include the Steamed Assorted Mushroom Dumplings Infused With Truffle Oil ($11.30 for six), which has a mix of mushrooms such as shimeiji, shiitake and enoki wrapped in xiaolongbao skin.

The cold appetiser, Refreshing Bittergourd Marinated With Black Bean Sauce ($5.50), lives up to its name. It is not only refreshing, but also delicious with just the right level of saltiness in the black bean sauce.

The Deep-fried Handmade Tofu With Water Chestnuts & Mushrooms ($8.60, above) is also very good, with mashed beancurd mixed with the vegetables and formed into patties before being deep-fried. There are such varied flavours from the ingredients and different textures as well.

WHERE: Din Tai Fung, B1-03 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road MRT: Orchard WHEN: 11am to 10pm (weekday), 10am to 10pm (weekend) TEL: 6836-8336 (no reservation)



PHOTO: SUMIYA

OLD-STYLE GRILLING AT NEW OUTLET

Sumiya's new outlet in Suntec City has something the original restaurant in Orchard Central doesn't - irori genshiyaki, an old Japanese style of grilling where fish, either whole or cut up, is skewered and propped vertically around a stack of glowing charcoal (left).

The result is fish with a smoky, sometimes crisp, exterior while the flesh remains tender.

The new outlet also has a fish-drying machine that semi-dries the seafood before it is put around the grill. The drying effect intensifies the flavour of the fish, but does not get it as hard as prolonged sunning does.

Try the Homemade Dried Bluefin Tuna Skewer ($6.80 each) and Blackthroat Sea Perch ($68).

You can also find popular dishes from the original outlet, including the Fresh Bluefin Tuna Sashimi Steak-style ($68), where the tuna is sliced in such a way that you get three levels of fattiness - lean akami, semi-fatty chutoro and fatty otoro - in one piece of fish.

WHERE: Sumiya, 03-332/333 Suntec City (Sky Garden, North Wing, Tower 2), 3 Temasek Boulevard MRT: Esplanade WHEN: 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30 to 10pm, daily TEL: 6235-1816



Fish Fillet With Pickled Vegetable ($30). PHOTO: MANDARIN ORCHARD

NEW EATS

Shisen Hanten, the Sichuan restaurant at Mandarin Orchard, has updated its menu with new dishes as well as seasonal items.

Autumn brings with it delicacies such as Hokkaido hairy crab, which is quite different from hairy crab from China. It is golden and more bristly than hairy. And the meat is not as sweet, though there is more of it.

The crab is used for one of the restaurant's regular dishes, Foie Gras Chawanmushi ($24 a person), replacing the king crab soup that is normally poured over the egg custard. The hairy crab makes the dish taste heavier and richer because of its roe. However, I prefer the light and sweet flavour of king crab.

New dishes that are noteworthy include the Stir-fried Oyster With Spring Onion, Ginger And Szechwan Chilli ($32), with the shellfish coated in flour and deep-fried before being tossed with chillies.

There is also a very good Fish Fillet With Pickled Vegetable ($30, left) that is served bubbling in a hot stone bowl. The fish is smooth and tender and the sour broth is really appetising.

No meal at Shisen Hanten is complete without its signature Chen's Mapo Doufu ($22). It is made with soft and silky tofu and the

spice level is a perfect balance of numbing Sichuan peppers and hot chillies. It's a dish that has been on the menu since day one, but is always worth ordering.

WHERE: Shisen Hanten, Level 35 Orchard Wing, 333 Orchard Road MRT: Ochard/Somerset WHEN: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10pm, daily TEL: 6831-6262



Pancakes With Warm Maple Butter ($18). PHOTO: CLINTON ST. BAKING COMPANY & RESTAURANT

SOUTHERN AMERICAN GOODNESS

Despite being a latecomer on the all-day breakfast restaurant scene, Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, just by being a franchise of a famous New York brand, gets foodies here a lot more excited.

For me, the food is not that different from what other breakfast places here serve, except for a more Southern American slant. And, like all American establishments, servings are huge.

What I'll be happy to wake up to every morning are the Pancakes With Warm Maple Butter ($18, left). The stack of thick, fluffy pancakes comes with homemade maple butter that is subtly sweet. Among toppings such as banana walnut and chocolate chunk, the blueberries' tartness make everything just a little less heavy.

The Southern Breakfast ($18) is good too, especially the cheese grits and the fried green tomatoes. Not many people would remember the 1991 movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, but that was my introduction to this excellent Southern favourite and the version at Clinton St. is good. The tomatoes have a slight bite and come covered in a golden layer of Japanese panko or breadcrumbs.

My disappointment is with the Chicken & Waffles ($21). Only chicken breast is used - that's the part I do not enjoy. The one here is less dry than most, but it is still a boring cut.

WHERE: Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, 31 Purvis Street MRT: Bugis/City Hall WHEN: 8am to 6pm, daily TEL: 6684-4845 (no reservations)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe