Food Picks: Rong Cheng bak kut teh makes comeback, kamameshi restaurant Hanare by Takayama opens, Keyaki offers kaiseki menu for winter

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Rong Cheng bak kut teh back with three new stalls

If you are a fan of Rong Cheng Rou Gu Cha, you will be glad to know that founder Lim Hai Chay, who retired five years ago, is back with three new stalls.

Mr Lim, who is in his 70s, opened an outlet with his new disciple in Ang Mo Kio in late October and another in Bedok last Friday (Nov 26). A third will kick off in Tampines on Dec 16.

Mr Lim started Rong Cheng in Sin Ming Road in 1976 and introduced what he calls "dragon ribs", which are loin ribs with a long bone, to the peppery soup. The dish is the signature item at the new stalls and is definitely worth the premium price of $9 for the juicy, flavourful meat. The dish with normal pork ribs costs $6.50.

There are other dishes worth ordering too, such as the pig liver soup ($5.50). There is no funky smell and the liver is not overcooked.

The braised pork trotter ($6.50) is also a good choice. Mr Lim does not boil it till it falls off the bone, so the skin stays a little gelatinous and the meat has some bite. Order it even if you don't think you can finish it. Leftovers are perfect for frying with beehoon.

Signature Dragon Rib Soup. PHOTO: RONG CHENG ROU GU CHA

Instead of the simmered kiam chye or salted vegetable sold at other bak kut teh stalls, Rong Cheng offers mui choy ($1.50). The sweet preserved vegetable goes well with the trotters.

Where: Rong Cheng Rou Gu Cha, Block 505 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8; Block 59 New Upper Changi Road; Block 201C Tampines Street 21
MRT: Ang Mo Kio/Yio Chu Kang; Bedok; Tampines
Open: 8.30am to 9.30pm daily (Ang Mo Kio); 9am to 8pm (other outlets)

Hanare by Takayama opens

Kamameshi at Hanare by Takayama. PHOTO: HANARE BY TAKAYAMA

Chef Taro Takayama, known for his high-end kappo restaurant Takayama in Downtown Gallery in Shenton Way, has opened a casual concept in Takashimaya Shopping Centre called Hanare by Takayama.

It specialises in kamameshi or kettle rice, a rice dish cooked in a small iron pot. Cooked with dashi, the rice is topped with ingredients like unagi, abalone, ikura and wagyu.

For lunch, the kamameshi comes in sets ranging from $48 for ikura to $72 for slow-cooked abalone. Each set includes chawanmushi, sashimi, miso black cod, soup, pickles and dessert.

At dinner, the rice pots come with just soup and pickles and are cheaper, ranging from $32 for grilled kinmedai (a deep-water fish) to $56 for abalone. But the menu offers more a la carte items like braised pork belly with onsen egg ($32) and deep-fried tile fish ($48) to complement the meal.

The abalone kamameshi I tried is delicious, with the rice infused with the subtle sweetness of the shellfish. The pieces of fresh abalone are tender enough to bite through, but still have enough chew for me to enjoy their unique flavour.

But if you prefer a stronger flavour, the wagyu set ($58) offers delicious slices of beef coated with a sweet sauce.

Where: Hanare by Takayama, 03-07 Takashimaya Shopping Centre, 391 Orchard Road
MRT: Orchard
Open: Noon to 10pm daily
Tel: 8298-9369

Keyaki's winter kaiseki menu


Not many Japanese restaurants here offer kaiseki, which is a formal Japanese meal featuring seasonal ingredients prepared in different ways. Keyaki at Pan Pacific Singapore is one of them.

Its Winter Special Kaiseki, priced at $165 a person, is a six-course meal showcasing seafood from Japan.

The meal starts with kobachi, a small plate comprising a whole raw scallop with touches of yuzu kosho served in a hollowed-out yuzu fruit - an excellent starter to wake up the appetite. The next is a sashimi course featuring three types of fish chosen from what is available that day. Then come the cooked items, starting with a grilled kinki fish that I love for its sweet meat. It is paired with green onion or negi from Shimonita in Gunma Prefecture, a town known for producing negi that boasts fat and sweet white stems.

The meat course features US beef simmered with onion miso and served with winter vegetables. The meat is less pricey than Japanese wagyu, which helps to keep the price of the kaiseki down.

It is also less fatty, which leaves you room to enjoy the last savoury course of deep-fried snow crab, tempura-style, on rice. An accompanying bowl of miso soup helps to wash everything down before a simple dessert of Japanese fruit and daifuku mochi.

Where: Keyaki Japanese Restaurant, Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard
MRT: Promenade
Available: Till Jan 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm daily
Price: $165 a person
Tel: 6826-8240

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