PEr FYI

December 10, 2017

El Nacional, Barcelona…ambience and garlic prawns alone makes the visit worthwhile

Tapas is undoubtedly the best kind of food. You get to sample loads of dishes and share the experience with friends.

Once a car park, El Nacional is now an open-concept, gorgeous space ” restaurant emporium” that houses four restaurants and three bars. A unique atmosphere, the setting alone makes the visit worthwhile. Needless to say, we tried La Taperia, the tapas restaurant.

The small plates here are boldly flavored and actually portioned to share. Paletilla Iberica de Bellota (Acorn-fed Iberian shoulder ham) was top notch. Even better was Calamares a la Andaluza (Squids Andalusian-style). Navajas a la Donostiarra (razor clams, San Sebastian style) is another mouth-watering dish. Heuvos estrellados con jamon Iberico (fried eggs with Iberian ham) was executed with flair. An ordinary-sounding offering of Gambitas de Huelva fritas (Fried little shrimps from Huelva) was an unexpected success. Other great dishes to try are Pan de coca con tomate, aceite y sal (flat bread with tomato, oil and salt), Bomba de la Barceloneta (Barceloneta bomb), Croquetas de jamon Iberico (Iberian ham croquettes), The classic Spanish tapas dish – Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic prawns) was the dish of the meal. Pink, deliciously plump prawns covered in glossy garlic oil. We order a second plate immediately.

Those who live locally are lucky, others should be willing to travel. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 23, 2016

Harum Manis, Jakarta…overpriced-poor-pretentious food

Let us not beat about the bush: this is overpriced-poor-pretentious food.

Despite being a traditional Indonesian restaurant, their menu is in 3 languages – Indonesian, English and Japanese.

The food, like the restaurant’s patrons, looked good from a distance but on closer inspection turned out to be rather unappetising. The prawns were perfectly decent, but the bebek panggang spesial Harum Manis (braised & char-grilled baby duckling over multi-grains) was revolting. The soto betawi khas harum manis (hearty coconut cream soup, filled with beef shank, beef tripe, beef sweet meat, potatoes, tomatoes, green onion, sliced lime and small chili sauce) was not as good as its off-the-shelf equivalents in Hero or Ranch Market.

The food served up in Harum Manis is a disgrace. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 12, 2016

Cafe de Hong Kong, Singapore…It can be good, but it’s not going to blow your mind or anything

Cafe de Hong Kong sounds like the name of a char chaan teng and it looks like one, too, with bare functional tables.This is, after all, a zi char place full of Cantonese staples.

From that menu we ordered bonito flavoured spare rib which arrived as something intense and deep and savoury and powerful and, to be more precise, thoroughly yum. As dish descriptions go, braised pan fried prawn and mushroom omelette is never going to win a literary prize. Mind you, it was accurate and tasted compelling. There was another thing to try: garlic flavoured roast chicken. And… oh, you get the idea.

The extensive menu at Cafe de Hong Kong remains unexplored. I’ll leave it for another day. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 11, 2016

Tsunami Village, Penang…Nothing on the menu would drag me in again

Dining out at a waterfront restaurant is all about simple pleasures. But not just any table will do — the food, after all, has to live up to the setting.

Here, the baked lobster with cheese, crab salted egg and prawn wine are more like upscale pub grub. It is good in the way seafood is good – but it lacks complexity, sophistication and the wow ­factor. The others are a mixed bag. The clam kam heong’s sambal was nice but the clams were so small, they might as well serve a couple of magnifying glass with the dish. The fried chai tak with garlic was so-so while the fried mix ho fun and mee hoon was the only well-executed dish.

Nothing on the menu at Tsunami Village would drag me in again to pay with my own money. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 13, 2016

Addiction Aquatic Development, Taipei…not pilgrimage-worthy

Is the experience is actually worth the money? It’s questionable. If you are looking for fresh and good quality rather than value for money, go for it.

The restaurant makes it a point to emphasize the freshness of the seafood. That’s the good news.

The bad news is I had a less-than-stellar experience at the bizzarely-named Addiciton Aquatic Development. Despite its very passionate reviews, the seafood tends to fall somewhere between bland and unremarkable.  None of this freshness matters much. The final bill was hefty and I was still hungry and highly disappointed. Frankly, I have trouble understanding what the fuss is all about.

Sometimes, the chorus of public opinion isn’t a good thing. I was unimpressed. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 10, 2016

Taling Pling, Bangkok…one of Bangkok’s very best

Taling Pling is the real deal: there’s plenty of substance to back-up the style. No, really: This is some of the most astonishing, delicious food available anywhere.

Dig into reasonably priced specialties like crispy pork lardons omelette – deep fried omelette that’s filled with crispy golden pork belly bits which gives a good, salty depth of flavour to this robust dish . And it is pretty damn great. The spicy Thai fish cake with cucumber salad is delicious and will ensure a palate-obliterating assault of spice, and the  tom yum river prawns with young coconut, lemongrass and lime is a must-order. If you’re after next-level pad Thai, get the one here. No sickly sweet stuff here – just a plate of excellent fried rice noodle with prawns, beansprout and peanuts. Infinitely better than your average pad Thai slingers everywhere else in Bangkok.

This is no hole-in-the-wall joint—go here for a rare mix of downtown cool and credible, funky Thai cooking. And the predominance of local Thai customers is a reliably good sign. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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June 25, 2016

Gyoza-Ya, Singapore…Gyozas softer than your lover’s thighs

Gyozas are the best quintessential comfort food; they are packages of joy in each bite, and generally inexpensive. They are usually a sideshow at most Japanese eateries. But over at Gyoza -Ya, these doughy half-moons have been turned into the main event.

As you would expect from the restaurant’s name, there’s a decent list of gyoza – pork, vegetable, crab, prawn. The pan-fried beauties here are delightfully plump, succulent, and juicy. Their edges seared to crisp filigrees, their seasoned interiors dense and my fav, the pork ones are pork-heavy. Service is swift and super friendly and the menu un-intimidating. Bottom line? Gyoza-Ya doesn’t serve up haute cuisine, but it does make for a pleasant spot in which to indulge in a not so- light lunch or dinner, at wallet pleasing prices.

They are (to borrow a description) “softer than your lover’s thighs” and yet I won’t want to share them with my lover. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 29, 2016

Bandar Djakarta, Jakarta…perfect setting by night, sauna by day

There are few more satisfying experiences than eating good food by the sea. Sitting on the water’s edge overlooking a jetty, this informal place has amazingly fresh fish and macho barbecuing.

Kerang kampak steam bawang putih (steamed scallop with garlic) was a simple, delicious and low fat dish. The udang bakar madu pedas (spicy honey grilled prawn) were succulent, tender, mouthwatering. The glaze perfectly complements the natural sweetness in the shrimp. Cumi saus telur asin (squid with salted egg sauce) was simple yet flavoursome although a tad dry.

The atmosphere is truly perfect at night. At lunch, it can be stark contrast. You can dine indoors in the airconditioned room, but why woud you come to a place like this to do that? This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 19, 2016

Nara Thai Cuisine, Bangkok…Incredibly average

Back in the Thai life again. I just can’t help it.

I feel like Thai seasoning – one of the most complex, magical and downright thrilling food cultures in the world – normally has a KICK of balanced acidity and flavor, which makes it so appetizing, but Nara Thai lacks that altogether.

Here, in dishes such as kung pad pong karee (fried prawns with yellow curry), tom yum kung, kai jiew nua phu (Omelet with crab meat), Gai Hor Bai Toei (chicken pandan), everything was so predictable and make no impression at all.However, the Nara coconut ice cream with assorted Thai sweet condiments is very special and certainly looks the part. Damn, I’d happily eat this baby every day.

I have to say I think Nara Thai is incredibly average. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 9, 2016

Somboon Seafood, Bangkok…fried curry crab is heaven on a plate

One of Bangkok’s utterly superb and most delicious restaurants, Somboon is a classy place with outstanding Thai seafood with Chinese influences. Some mighty fine exhilarating Thai flavors, excellent service, pleasant setting and the price is right.

So, what’s to love?

As a matter of fact, every dish is rich in flavour. Coconut, lemon grass, basil and chiles are employed to magical effect.

The innocuous-sounding, obsession-worthy fried curry crab (Pu Pad Pong Gari) , cooked in a fragrant medley of spices and aromatics is gloriously unique. It’s a curry that hums with the power of a jet turbine and the finesse of an Apple Watch, fueled by radioactive levels of heat and subtle layers of sweet, salty and sour that creep down the back of the throat…its spicy punch set off deliciously by the fat, sweet crab meat. It’s definitely not what you sometimes get at other crab restaurants. Next time I’m here, I also really want to try fried curry crab meat where the meat is separated from the bisected crab body.

More intricate is the steamed fresh water prawns with garlic. No section of the tongue was left unstimulated. The stir fried baby cabbage with crispy pork is a textural delight and one of the best I have ever had. This is one of my benchmark dishes for most Chinese restaurants.

Run, don’t walk to this critically praised and nationally recognized Thai seafood restaurant. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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