PEr FYI

June 16, 2019

Baikohken, Asahikawa Ramen Village, Hokkaido…oodles of noodles

Not all ramen are created equal. There are salty, brown-coloured, broths and milky-coloured ones. But which restaurants really strike the perfect balance of flavoursome soup base to soft, silky noodles to extra ingredients? What is the secret that sets one ramen join apart from another? Who is top of the broths?

My mission to find the best ramen took me to Asahikawa Ramen Village in Hokkaido. The broth is pretty rich here. For the full-on indulgence, go for the charsiew ramen miso. Make sure to add in the butter, just because you can. The gyoza is a worthwhile side.

Overall, the food was good but not memorable but I can think of 50 other places I can get the same or better quality ramen. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 15, 2019

Paste, Bangkok…tastebud-smashing Thai food

Talk about fusion: Michelin-starred Paste must be the only restaurant in Bangkok that mixes traditional tongue-blasting Thai recipes written centuries ago with an innovative and creative twist. It matters not. Paste has wowed me with ingenuity and authenticity.

The triumphant water melon, ground salmon with fresh shallots and roasted galangal powder (served at the inauguration of the temple of the Emerald Buddha in the year 1809 King Rama I) was light, delicate, intriguingly moreish and a mishmash of surprising flavours . What’s not to love about that? It was one of those dishes you eat in smaller and smaller mouthfuls to ward off that moment when there’s none left. The smoky southern yellow curry with premium Australian spanner crab, hummingbird flowers, Thai samphire and turmeric had levels of deep flavors that just kept revealing themselves spoonful by spoonful. Get the chiang rai jasmine rice perfumed with organic jasmine flower to go with the curry.

Paste’s dishes are a jumble of flavours, but nothing about this place is a mess. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 5, 2019

Mammy Pancakes, Hong Kong…good but not great

Egg waffle also known as eggettes or egg puffs or egg cakes or bubble waffle is a popular snack in Hong Kong. It’s like what macarons are to Paris or what biscotti is to Italy. Nobody loves egg waffles like Hongkongers do, so much so that there’s an egg waffle festival held in Causeway Bay.

Mammy creates ton loads of flavours like chocolate chip, pork floss, seaweed, white sesame, matcha, cheese and everyone’s most / least favourite salted egg yolk. They are airy and light, super crispy on the outside, and warm and fluffy inside. It is a Michelin recommended snack shop.

Decently nice but I wouldn’t waste 30 minutes of my life queueing for it. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 2, 2019

Wang Dae Bak, Singapore…at last, a Korean with real Seoul

It is an expression of Korean culture and Wang Dae Bak delivers that in spades. It has amazingly authentic K-ambience where the food arrives rapidly and the bill doesn’t faintly depress you. It feels like a rare, special place, offering familiar Korean flavours.

The menu covers a tight edit of all the things you’d expect to see. The marinated prime rib and marinated shoulder were incredible renderings. The spicy chicken is a little greasy, but satisfying for all that. The seafood pancake is bang on. The downside is that the very hard and tough pork rib didn’t reach the heights of everything else.

Over the speakers, K-pop boys sing on, but I only have ears for this shameless pork. A visit to Wang Dae Bak is dinner deep in Seoul where the smoke gets in your eyes, your hair and your memory. And I like it there.

If you are ever nearby, you know what to do. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 19, 2019

Teshikaga, Sapporo…cure your ramen cravings.

In the heart of Sapporo’s red light district, Ganso Ramen Yokocho, the “original alley”  – a long narrow alley which features 17 popular shops offering different flavours of miso ramen. There are mutterings about noodle strengths, and the mammarian wobble of one soft-boiled egg over another. The problem is that, as with so much in Japanese culture, once you get past a certain quality threshold it’s very hard to distinguish one thing from another.

The one I ordered – the all the shoes  miso ramen – snow crab, barbecued pork topped ramen with miso (bean paste based soup) is a vivid flash of colour. The broth is a lovely shade of rust with a kick. The barbecued pork meat is soft, the fat beginning to melt away into the broth and respectable noodles come with a lovely bite.

With the kitchen directly in front of you, you can watch your bowl get assembled from start to finish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 18, 2019

Tsui Wah, Singapore…covers all the bases

This iconic cha chaan teng (tea café) from Hong Kong that had humble beginnings as a bing sutt (ice cafe) at Mongkok in 1967 has landed in Singapore.

The taste combination of the signature sweet condensed milk and the fragrant crispy bun was fantastic, but the weak crispiness was a bit of a let down. King prawns with XO sauce in tossed noodles is the one to go for here. The noodles were springy and the prawns were super-fresh. Wantons with shrimp roe in fish soup is also a favourite. Within the simple delicious broth, the wantons – fat, plump, and bursting with shrimp – are a winner.

What to avoid: Seafood curry with steamed rice & stir-fried instant noodles with pork chop and assorted vegetables on sizzling plate. Unless you really need to satisfy the sudden urge for curry, there are much better places to go that won’t leave you full of regret. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 11, 2019

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Shanghai…a coffee-lover’s Disneyland

Once upon a time, Starbucks prompted millions of consumers to do away with cheaper instant coffee for a more expensive specialty product. With this Reserve Roastery, it is third-wave coffee.

Upscale, and they feature cocktail bars, bakeries, snake-like tubes that transport beans across the store and unique elements, this roastery is completely unlike a typical Starbucks. There are tons of food and coffee options, plus plenty of places to sit and stay for a while with staffers navigating selections the way a sommelier might do with a wine list.

Indeed the food and drinks are, well, a few stars better than your standard Starbucks offerings. My personal favorite is the dark chocolate mocha, which is just sweet enough with a good bitter bite from the espresso. Milanese bakery Princi provides the food, notable ones are cheesecake lampone, carrot loaf cake and torta princi.

Looking around, I see coffee fiends pilgrimage here from all over. You’ll hear different languages, see a spectrum of generations, and many different styles of clothing. If you’re a coffee lover, you won’t want to miss this stop.

This massive, gleaming roastery is the Starbucks Mecca. Translation: Be prepared to be awed and overwhelmed. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 1, 2019

Restoran Kapal Layar, Langkawi…Not satisfying. Only satisfactory.

Restoran Kapal Layar does not set any new paradigms. It is satisfactory instead of satisfying.

The presentation of almost all the dishes was underwhelming and unremarkable. While it is not the epitome of any particular trend, most of the food coming out of its kitchen is quite ok. If I were to recommend one meal that captures some of the energy in the Langkawi dining scene right now, I might come up with reasons not to mention Restoran Kapal Layar. It is an outlier.

This is essentially an IKEA cafetaria. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 28, 2019

Tai Hing, Hong Kong…the most unpleasant thing I could have ever put in my mouth

Let me be clear: what is supposed to be highly rated Cantonese roast meat in Hong Kong, turned out to the most unpleasant thing I could have ever put in my mouth.

To comprehend the complex awfulness of this Tai Hing meal, think of the actor Rowan Atkinson, in his famous “Steak tartare” skit, contorts his face a thousand different ways while choking down a grayish patty of raw meat. The initial flavor was bland. It was dry and hard. I felt my eyes water up as I chewed. I tried to swallow. I felt my entire GI tract prepare to purge. And then I regained my composure and pulled an Atkinson, which is to say: I spat the nasty bits into a tissue paper and almost stuffed it into my laptop backpack.

Decidedly way below average. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 27, 2019

Suage+, Sapporo…soup curry: Japan’s most underrated dish

Soup Curry – heavy, saucy and comforting – is one of Japan’s most underrated dishes.

Start by choosing the type of curry base you want…here choose your kind of curry from Crispy “Shiretoko” Chicken & vegetables – chicken (boneless), potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, boiled egg, maitake mushroom, green pepper or Braised “Furano” pork kakuni – braised pork belly, potato, carrot, eggplant, pumpkin, young corn boiled egg. The broth is soupier than traditional Japanese curry. Then, select your desired spice level. Chicken-me chose the mild version. Next, choose the amount of rice you want and request any additional toppings. Most locals scoop rice onto their spoon and dip it into the curry, but you won’t be kicked out if you ladle the soup curry over your rice instead…like us.

It’s a spectacle of color that tastes as good as it looks. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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