PEr FYI

March 29, 2020

Biku, Bali…decent, but not one to rave about

When I stepped into this buzzy restaurant that’s set in a 150-year-old teak joglo (Javanese wooden house), I wasn’t sure what to expect.

A promising opening move would be the calamari in Balinese curry sauce – served with kangkung vegetable and steamed rice which is so appealingly savoury. If you were on vacation, you would order tray after tray of these. The sop buntut – oxtail soup with vegetable and steamed rice is not a dish that is likely to have been stirred by generations of sainted grandmothers since the dawn of time. The broth is rich yet lightened to springtime levels through tactical doses of lemongrass and cilantro. There had better be nasi goreng at any restaurant that is even playing at being Indonesian. There is, in the Nasi goreng special – Indonesian style fried rice served with chicken sate, krupuk, fried egg, the rice fried just until it crackles a bit between your teeth. It has a gentle but genuine spice undercurrent that would be welcome in more of the cooking. Of course there is Mie goreng – fried noodle with chicken and egg.

Few dishes really come forward as the kind of knockout that everybody will talk about later. But if there are few stars on the table, the contrast of flavors, colors, textures and techniques makes the meal into a memorable ensemble piece. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 22, 2020

Restaurant and Bistro The Kitchen, Koh Samui…‘I would rather choke on my food and die than go here again.’

The moment I entered Restaurant and Bistro The Kitchen, I suspected, from looking at the expressions of the other diners, that I was in for a slightly stiff ride. One can tell a great deal about the meal ahead simply by gauging the atmosphere at other tables, well, alarm bells ring.

From the characterless tom yam khung, to the actively repellent wanton shrimp soup, I like to think the staff made these up as a prank, and were watching to see if I would be an obedient foodie and play ball. Let us never speak again of the khao ob sapparot – fried rice with pineapple and vegetables. Service, it must be said, is chaotic, so if one wants terrible food delivered quickly, accompanied by several other unappetising dishes you hadn’t ordered but other diners are currently waiting for, The Kitchen is for you. I walked out in revolt and was still in dire need of some lunch.

I’m a great believer in the best reviews being the shortest ones, so the succinct version is: ‘I would rather choke on my food and die than go here again.’ This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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February 22, 2020

Hakkasan, New York City…you’ll die poor but happy

New York’s Chinese food scene is a diverse beast. There’s pork ribs to sweet, stir-fried-whatever-you-can-think-of, Hong Kong Dim Sum, the classic Peking duck and of course the comforting staples including noodles and fried rice (and way, way more) at eateries both high end and super casual.

With its innovative Cantonese cooking, Hakkasan is still the benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. Their stylish interior and moody lighting attracts all kinds of beautiful people.

We started with hakka steamed dim sum platter – scallop shumai, har gau, prawn and Chinese chive dumpling, black pepper duck dumpling. The pastry was perfect in give and texture, just elastic enough to encase generous bites of flavour-packed meat and seafood. The stir-fry black pepper beef ribeye with Merlot was equally good, the melting tenderness of top-quality meat turning the clichéd staple into a luxury – Chinese takeaways should weep with shame. We also enjoyed the hot and sour soup with chicken, shiitake and pomelo, spring onion and fried egg rice and the tofu, aubergine and Japanese mushroom claypot with chili and black bean sauce

You’ll die poor but happy. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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November 3, 2018

Le Boky, Geneva…light on quality Chinese

Every food-loving traveller has an intimate relationship with Chinese food.

With a long, long list of menu items, even the pickiest eaters will find something to sample at le Boky. For all the food it has to offer, Le Boky is light on quality Chinese. You don’t come here for inventive, contemporary eats — you come for familiar plates of fried rice with roasted pork and chives and fried Japanese tofu with salted duck eggs , served quick and hot.

You want frills? You came to the wrong Chinese. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 10, 2016

New Ubin Seafood, Singapore…steak is a melt-in-the-mouth delight.

This restaurant is bang on the money. It is a Zi Char place. It is not a steakhouse. No indeed. But the steak is so unashamedly good.

The main event is the US Black Angus ribeye steak served together with sea salt flakes and fried rice caramelized with beef drippings. What’s the steak like? Simply perfect. Affordably priced. A melt-in-the-mouth delight. Its intense, juicy twang – offset by a small pile of caramelized onions and Idaho potato wedges – is an education in how good beef can be.

Another lip-smaking items on the menu is the orh chien oyster omelettes with fresh live oysters. The fish roe – deep fried with petai and sambal, served with chinchalok is also chest-thumpingly good. Only item NOT to order is the utterly disgusting salted egg squid.

All in, this is a purist’s encounter with beef, and it is as uncomplicated as it is excellent. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 25, 2015

Happy Fortune Chinese Restaurant, New York City…a decent hole in the wall Chinese place

I’ve never tried Chinese food in New York…..until now. The entrance is a bit dingy with poster board notices and doesn’t look very inviting at all but this is a decent hole in the wall Chinese place.

Looking around, I guess hot pot must be a big deal here but we ordered dishes from the ala carte menu. The steamed pork juicy buns (8) siow long bao have plenty of flavourful soup inside and has a soft skin wrapping it. Some places have a thicker skin but this is not the case here. The roast duck with hand pulled noodle was pretty good but the roast duck, which was served in the bowl of noodle soup was soggy. Despite its name the pached seafood (fish, shrimp, squid) in chillli broth was not spicy at all. They gave a generous slick of chilli oil instead of adding chili into the broth. The interestingly named mixed seafood on fried rice turned out to be sweet and sour sauce on one half of the fried rice and hor fun gravy on the other. Gravy is more than just a condiment; it’s liquid comfort and this is in interesting dish.

The kitchen does gets things wrong, but when it’s on song – the food is fairly delicious.  This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 13, 2013

Jakkajan Seafood, Phuket…I was impressed by the atmosphere and food as I was disappointed with the prices

This is a hidden gem in Phuket. Jakkajan Seafood is made up of a handful of open-air bamboo beach huts, right along beach of the Andaman sea. It’s  great little place to grab fresh seafood, just don’t go there expecting something fancy and you will not be disappointed. Yes you eat outside on pick-nick tables that’s part of the fun and you can dress in shorts, bathers, flip-flops, sarongs, pareos, etc and eat good seafood right on the sea.

Did I just say good seafood? It needs correction. It is GREAT seafood. The Fried sand crabs with salt and chilli, fried fish with fish sauce, seafood tomyum, fried rice with crab meat and shrimps rocked me to my core. The grilled shrimps are spectacular. However, the local vegetable with dried shrimp spicy and sour shrimp paste was average fare.

The downside is that, in addition to being mouth-watering, Jakkajan Seafood is also eye-watering, thanks to the cleverness of the owner in overpricing the food just because we are foreigners.  

It’s hard to beat this place for spectacular atmosphere and excellent food and I was as impressed by the view as I was disappointed by the prices. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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