SPOTLIGHT ON HIROSHIMA
Every month, Kanda Wadatsumi restaurant in Tras Street comes up with a special menu highlighting seafood from a different region in Japan. This month, it is Hiroshima.
Though the city is probably best known as the place where the Americans dropped the first atomic bomb, those dark days are far behind it.
Hiroshima is not an area that is often promoted here though, which is what piqued my interest. After trying some dishes, I am impressed with the quality of the ingredients, especially the plump oysters, which are flavourful and look really luscious.
I usually prefer the shellfish raw, but the cooked versions at Kanda Wadatsumi are good too. My favourite is the Grilled Oyster On Ceramic Plate ($30), with huge oysters lightly cooked with butter and shimeji, enoki and shiitake mushrooms. The buttery sauce is just what the oysters need.
If that is not enough to satisfy your craving for the shellfish, get the Oyster Claypot Rice ($46) too. The flavour is not very bold, but it is a novel dish for me. You will like it if you prefer light flavours, as you get to taste the shellfish without overpowering sauces.
The less adventurous can go for the Deep Fried Oysters ($24 for five pieces), which is done katsu style with a crispy coat of golden crumbs. They are nice, but there are no surprises here.
Other seafood featured in the promotion include sea eel and octopus, but it is the oysters that will bring me back.
WHERE: Kanda Wadatsumi, 50 Tras Street
MRT: Tanjong Pagar
OPEN: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays); closed on Sundays
NEW DISHES AT THE DISGRUNTLED BRASSERIE
The Disgruntled Brasserie in Ann Siang Road has changed chefs and, consequently, its menu. The concept, however, is still contemporary Western creations served in small and large plates meant to be shared.
Compared with departed chef Daniel Sia, new chef de cuisine Desmond Goh has a less sure hand. But he has some interesting ideas nonetheless.
The Iberico Pork Collar ($32, photo) is a dish I would order again. Poached in caraway milk, it has a firm texture and goes well with the star anise jus. The caramelised cabbage on the plate is good too, but the piece of crackling has been sitting around for too long and no longer tastes fresh.
Salt Baked Beetroot & Smoked Burrata ($16) is a good idea as the baked vegetable loses its earthy flavour and takes on a nice sweetness that contrasts well with the smoked cheese.
I would have liked the Foie Gras & Peanut Butter Miso ($18 a piece) more if the liver is not cooked through. The flavour is good, but it would be so much better if the foie gras was still soft in the middle.
WHERE: The Disgruntled Brasserie, 28 Ann Siang Road MRT: Chinatown OPEN: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays); closed on Sundays TEL: 6808-2184
GOOD-VALUE BUFFET AT WHITE ROSE CAFE
For a good-value lunch, the a la carte buffet at York Hotel's White Rose Cafe is hard to beat. It was previously available only on weekdays, but is now offered daily.
It is priced at $29 an adult and $15 a child.
You can order as much as you want from a menu of 25 local dishes. The promotion, themed Treasured Flavours of Singapore, is ongoing except for the few weeks each year - usually during school holidays - when the cafe features its popular Penang hawker buffet.
For the local dishes, the one not to miss is the Fish Head Curry (photo). The curry is delicious, with a subtle fragrance of coconut, but without the heaviness of coconut milk.
If you order the dish from the a la carte menu, it costs $28 for a half portion and $42 for a whole head.
You get only one order of this for the buffet, but it is a generous serving that should be enough for the table.
Other dishes to try include beef rendang, deep-fried curry chicken wings and stir-fried long beans with dried shrimps. Desserts include chendol, ice kacang and cheng tng.
WHERE: White Rose Cafe, York Hotel, 21 Mount Elizabeth MRT: Orchard/ Newton WHEN: Noon to 2.30pm daily PRICE: $29 an adult, $15 a child; those aged 55 and above get a 10 per cent discount on Tuesdays TEL: 6737-0511
STEAMED DISHES SO SWEET
The steampot, a new way of cooking made popular in Hong Kong, is gaining steam here.
Steam Box in Serangoon Garden was the first to bring the concept here in the middle of last year. Now, there is also Zheng Yuan Wei, which opened at Katong Square in December.
Compared with Steam Box, the ambience of Zheng Yuan Wei is better - the tables are well-spaced. But the menu is smaller and prices are generally higher.
The food is served on steamer trays, with each ingredient on its own tray, and a server helps you put it into the pot and sets the time for you.
While this makes it convenient for the diner, it also means you can eat only one item at a time and there is a wait for the next ingredient to cook.
The reward for your patience is seafood and meat that taste naturally good. They are largely unseasoned - or just lightly touched with some ginger, the best way to taste their freshness. Zheng Yuan Wei, after all, is Chinese for "steamed natural flavours".
A selection of condiments is laid out for you to make up your own dips, with items such as soya sauce, chilli sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic and chopped coriander - similar to what you get at steamboat restaurants.
The meat of the steamed spring chicken ($12 for half, photo) is fresh and firm, which is how I like it. The meat is mixed with ginger strips and wolfberries, so all it needs is a drop of my self-blended soya-garlic-sesame oil dip to season it.
For the Canadian lala ($20), I don't need anything at all - they are sweet au naturel.
The pork collar slices ($10) turn out a tad rough. Perhaps pork belly ($10) would have been a better choice as the fatty cut should mean smoother and juicier meat.
WHERE: Zheng Yuan Wei, 02-08 Katong Square, 88 East Coast Road MRT: Eunos OPEN: 11am to 11.30pm daily TEL: 6344-0396