COOL DOWN WITH UNAGI
In summer in Japan, grilled unagi or eel is in hot demand because it is a cooling food. The all-enveloping heat in Singapore this time of year is pretty bad and I escape to newly-opened Ginza Kuroson Takashimaya (03-10 Ngee Ann City, tel: 6235-3785) for Una-jyu ($45).
The set meal comes with a good portion of rice topped with unagi kabayaki, and there is also chawanmushi, miso soup and a matcha pudding for dessert on the tray. Although not as luscious and fatty as the unagi I've had in Japan, this is much more than decent. The sprinkling of sansho pepper on the eel shocks me out of my heat-induced ennui.
I only wish we had a restaurant here specialising in eels. One day, perhaps.
A HEALTHIER CHAR KWAY TEOW?
Say it isn't so. I like the dish black as tar, with lard bits and looking like a gruesome accident.
However, 91 Fried Kway Teow Mee (01-91, Golden Mile Food Centre, 505 Beach Road) does a version that maybe even a cardiologist might approve of. The signboard trumpets the fact that no lard or pork goes into the dish, and after the noodles ($3 and $4) are plated up, some blanched chye sim is spread out on top of the heap, and then there is a sprinkling of crisp fried whitebait.
Despite all the attempts at making the dish healthier, I like how it tastes, which is to say it isn't too cleaned up or earnest. I would like it a little less sweet but the springy noodles are quite a delight to eat. I even gobble up the greens.
CHICKEN RICE FOR THE SOUL
If there is one Singapore dish I cannot go too long without eating, it is chicken rice. It looks plain but when properly made, this is the best kind of soul food.
When I have a hankering, I go to Fook Seng GoldenHill Chicken Rice (Blk 37, Jalan Rumah Tinggi, 01-415). Everything about the dish is done right here. The rice is full of flavour and each glistening grain is delicious and the chicken is does not need soya sauce and sesame oil to make it taste good. A meal with half a chicken, tofu topped with floss, a plate of greens and three plates of rice costs about $26 and change.
I tuck in and sigh with pleasure. Even the soup is not a throwaway component. It is not just water with MSG but tastes of the chickens that have been cooked in it.
CHEAP AND GOOD TENDON
Eating out in Singapore is expensive so I can understand why there is a long line to get into Ginza Tendon Itsuki (101 Tanjong Pagar Road). a restaurant that serves tempura on rice.
The Special Tendon ($13.90), comes with two prawns, two pieces of chicken breast, pumpkin, lady's finger, baby corn, shiitake mushroom and an egg, all deep fried. It is not as refined as the tempura served in high end restaurants, and the chicken pieces are rather dry, but the brimming bowl is good value for money. Better yet, the meal comes with silky chawanmushi with a delicious thickened dashi topping and miso soup. The Vegetables Tendon ($12.90), comes with eight pieces of vegetable tempura.
I try going at lunch time but the line is neverending. So I try at about 7pm on a weeknight and have better luck. My friend and I wait about 15 minutes in line before we are ushered into the restaurant. It is not a place where you linger over dinner. Basically, you order, eat and go, so others can have their turn. Needless to say, you cannot make reservations.
The exhaust system is woefully inadequate. You will smell of fried food when you come out. But at those prices, I am not complaining. I'll be back.
A SIMPLE DESSERT
When I want a chill-out lunch, I head to Black Sheep Cafe (B1-30 Thomson V Two, 11 Sin Ming Road, tel: 6459-5373) . Although it is in the basement, the window lets in plenty of light from the outside, and the casual vibe puts me at ease instantly.
Recently, I have lunch there and cannot resist ordering the Black Sheep Banana Crepes ($9.90) for dessert. The thin, stretchy pancake is folded over, with ripe, caramelised slices of banana inside. A scoop of vanilla ice cream, strawberries, blueberries, toasted almonds and a not too sweet sauce make for a perfect end to my meal.
It is simple and unfussy, and light enough that I am not in a food coma after lunch.