January 24, 2013

Montreal: Satay Brothers

I'm getting hungry as I type this post. Really, really hungry. You see, Southeast Asian cuisine in Montreal is as elusive as above-zero days in the Canadian winter. Just imagine my exhilaration when I discovered Satay Brothers at Atwater Market during fall! And to my delight, they've recently opened a temporary restaurant at 3911 Saint-Jacques Ouest for this winter.
Laksa was never a regular fixture in my diet back in Singapore. Perhaps it was partly due to the lack of coconut-milk-laden dishes in Montreal, but Satay Brothers' laksa had me falling head over heels with this spicy rice noodle soup. I slurped up every drop of the oh-so-very-lemak (or aromatic) chicken gravy with much relish. Ask for the triple spicy if you can handle the heat.
I love love love steamed pork buns. Or as it's more commonly known in Singapore, kong bak pau. Satay Brothers' nailed this Hokkien classic with tender soy-braised pork belly sandwiched in a spongy homemade bun, finished a kiss of sweet hoisin, sprigs of coriander and thin cucumber slices for crunch. A worthy substitute for my favorite Westlake pork buns back at home.
And for dessert, how about some... Nonya kueh? Oh joy! I ended off both visits with a generous square of kueh salat- a coconutty steamed cake of rich pandan custard atop sticky glutinous rice, warmed before serving.
Ironically, I found their namesake satay below par. Not that there was anything wrong with the tender chicken skewers- it's just that they weren't quite authentic. The marinade needed more sugar, and I like my meat with more chew. More importantly, the smoky aroma that only a charcoal grill can imbue was missing. On the other hand, I had no complaints about the fresh and tasty peanut sauce.

I'm being greedy here but a square of ketupat (a type of rice dumpling) would make a lovely addition!
Mee rebus traditionally comes with a robust, sweet gravy that's thick enough to cling on to the yellow egg noodles. Sadly, Satay Brother's rendition was watered-down and bore closer resemblance to a spicy beef soup.  
There's nothing quite like the taste of home. Thank you Mat and Alex Winnicki, for bringing Singapore's vibrant hawker food culture to Montreal.

Satay Brothers on Urbanspoon

January 15, 2013

Montreal: Cacao 70

I sometimes live in food obsessions. My recent chocolate obsession found me feasting on chocolatey treats every single day, from fudgy brownies to Lindt's fabulous sea sat chocolate bar and chocolate chip cookies. Two months later, my cravings finally came to a halt after a post-Cacao 70 chocolate coma. Not that the food was terrible- my tolerance for chocolate isn't high enough to withstand having chocolate for dinner.
The aptly-named Sharing Sharing came with a quarter of a marshmallow pizza, waffles and a chocolate fondue. A chocolate fondue with a personal miniature grill, that is. We were definitely tickled by the novelty of making s'mores at the table. Add some of those crunchy chocolate pearls for an additional crunchy sensation! It was a pity that the dry brownie squares and boring wafers seemed to be there solely for variety's sake.
Chocolate marshmallow pizza sounds like a fantasy come true, doesn't it? Truth to be told, it wasn't as dreamily delicious as it sounded. While I liked the concept of topping the pizza with a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate, the marshmallows could have benefited from a couple more minutes in the oven for more ooze. A crunchy crust would have striked a better contrast with the gooey toppings too, as opposed to the soft pizza base. I reckon it's worth ordering for the novelty though! 
While I appreciated the effort taken to caramelize the banana slices on the side, the waffles could have been softer and more crispy.
Being greedy as usual, I suggested sharing an additional crepe. Alas, our calories would have been better spent on a cup of hot chocolate than the soggy raspberry milk chocolate crepe.
Perhaps Cacao 70's strengths lie in their chocolate drinks? The fondue aside, I wasn't blown away by the chocolate confections on offer. I'll return for a drink on a cold winter night, maybe.

Cacao 70 on Urbanspoon

January 13, 2013

London: Veeraswamy

In an act of reverse colonization, London is home to some of the best Indian food in the world, thanks to its large population of Indian residents. A Zagat search for good Indian food near Picaddily Circus suggested a visit to Veeraswamy, said to be the oldest Indian restaurant in the United Kingdom still in business today. Established in 1926, the establishment has hosted famous personalities such as Winston Churchill, Gandhi, and Charlie Chaplin among others.
Diners are whisked upstairs via a private lift into an elegantly-furnished dining space, not unlike an Indian palace. Twinkling chandeliers and colorful Maharajas turbans adorn the ceilings, and fresh rose petals are scattered on tables lined with white linen. Ask for a window seats for a view of the bustling Regent Street. 
Veeraswamy's menu walks through culinary traditions from all over India, ranging from Kashmir to Punjab. Amongst the dishes we ordered that evening, the Chicken Tikka Lababdar (£20) was the pick of the lot. Served in a cast iron vessel on warming lights, the sensationally aromatic curry goes down in my memory as one of the best things I've ever eaten. No drop was spared- we mopped up every last drop and sang lavish praises between bites.
The slow-cooked Hyderabad Lamb Biryani (£25) is said to be a dish from Veeraswamy's original menu in 1926, and one can certainly understand why it has been retained on the menu till this day. Tender lamb is nestled within the aromatic rice grains, which are saturated with the seductive flavors of saffron and ghee. Yet, the basmati rice is light and fluffy, with nary a trace of grease.
I've never had paneer as fine as that in Veeraswamy's Butter Paneer Lababdar (£19.50). The freshly-made cheese is seared with cumin and mint and is partnered with a rich onion and tomato sauce.
Grilled on a banana leaf, the mint and cumin marinated seabass was charred to moist, smoky perfection.
Speciality bread basket (£10.50), a selection of three decently fluffy naans. 
Dining at Veeraswamy is a pricey affair at about £40 per head, with a minimum spending levy of £25 per pax. But I'll be back for their curries in a heartbeat the next time I'm in London.

Veeraswamy on Urbanspoon

January 8, 2013

Wild Honey II

Remember Wild Honey's no-photo policy? I haven't been back since my first visit in late 2010, and it's good to see that they've revised that ridiculous rule. But the all-day breakfast joint continues to attract snaking lines of people on weekends.
A flat white for me, and a cappuccino for the friend. Just your average cup of joe.
Maybe it's just my sense of wanderlust, I like how the items on the menu are named after distant places. Egg Benedict may be an ubiquitous mainstay on brunch menus, but it sounds a lot more memorable when called a European breakfast, doesn't it?

Wild Honey's Belgian breakfast ($22++) is dished up with a tropical twist. Ditch the maple syrup- it ain't as fragrant as it ought to be. Instead, savor the dish with the aromatic coconut creme patisserie sandwiched between the thick Belgian waffles. Grilled mango chunks and a flourish of nutty toasted coconut flakes complete the vibrant melagne of flavors. Now, if only there was more of that luscious coconut cream..
D liked his Tunisian ($22++)- a sizzling pan of spicy shakshouka with chorizo sausage and two fried eggs, paired with buttery brioche and Israeli salad.
C had the Norwegian ($26++)- smoked salmon eggs Benedict on wholewheat brioche, with avocado, asparagus spears and pearls of salmon roe.

As with my previous visit, I found the food at Wild Honey to be just decent. I'm not too sure if the cafe's rustic and cozy ambience justifies a $30 splurge on overpriced eggs, but I certainly wouldn't wait half an hour to brunch there on weekends. Then again, the aura of all-day breakfast is ever-enticing...

333A Orchard Road
Mandarin Gallery #03-02
Tel: +65 62353900
Hours: 9am-9pm (Sun-Thurs), 9am-10pm (Fri, Sat and evening of PH)

January 2, 2013

Nana's Green Tea Café

The once-insipid F&B offerings at Plaza Singapura have finally been revitalized with the opening of its new wing. As much as I love desserts, picture-perfect Japanese parfaits weren't good enough a reason to venture all the way to Nana's Green Tea in JCube. Naturally, the matcha zealot in me was delighted when the tea house relocated from the far west to Dhoby Ghaut.

Yours truly was intrigued by the cleverly designed interiors of the café. The open-concept space is furnished with four rows of suspended square frames which bestow a sense of privacy to its occupants, complete with wooden fittings and warm lighting.
nana's green tea
Prepared from matcha imported exclusively from Kyoto, my matcha latte with kuromitsu syrup was refinedly smooth and refreshing. But at $7.50++, I had expected more than just a kid-sized serving. While the parfaits call for a revisit, I'll probably head somewhere with more substantial portions for Japanese desserts unless Nana's adjusts its serving sizes.

68 Orchard Road
Plaza Singapura #03-80/82
Tel: +65 66844312
Opening hours: 11am-10pm