August 21, 2015

Food Review: Enbu @ Eat At Seven

It's not a surprise to hear that Japanese cuisine is still enchanting to many foodies in the world. Do you have any idea what Japanese food does to a person who enjoys food? Many modern chefs strive to mimic their single-minded capability to make just one thing and one thing only and repeat it so much it's basically perfect when you put it in your mouth hole. Of course, not just the Japanese do it, but they seem to enjoy bringing things up a notch - especially in their food.

I reckon that it's inhumane the way Japanese cuisine will wipe your mind clean when you eat. That michelin-star meal you had last week? You bite into a perfectly-formed bundle of onigiri, or a glistening piece of sushi, and suddenly your knees are weak and your mind blessedly blank. 

I've had the fortune of doing a six-month stint with a prominent publishing company in Singapore, and their magazines - namely pets, epicure and BiTES magazine. The amount of work that goes into food writing has now well and truly gone into a whole new dimension for me, and  for that I find myself eternally grateful to those I've worked with. 

Now that i've 'graduated' from my internship, I must speak about this spot that I was invited for - a soft launch of Enbu, part of the Eat At Seven concept, which brings forward the major faucets of Japanese cuisine - Enbu being a semi al fresco joint to display warayaki-ya style, cuisine which incoroporates burning fragrant hay, to smoke fish or other meats.

Onwards to the food porn, shall we? 



Fried tofu, with uni sauce ($12)
 
As the writers and PR representatives all congregated for the soft launch over frosty mugs of Kirin, Sapporo and whisky (Coedo was sadly absent), our first appetiser was served. A slab of crisp-fried silky tofu, landing clean on the palate, balanced with a generous pile of bonito flakes with a side of luscious, smooth uni sauce. 

If you don't know, uni refers to sea urchin. They've been making headlines in Singapore for their taste and rarity, and are currently rising in popularity (and cost). Pairing with a delicate tofu with a creamy dip derived heavily from sea urchin is a clever and delicious way to present and alleviate the absentness in tofu that the masses are used to.



Smoked Salmon, with Homemade Cheese Tofu ($12)

I'll be honest, when they served this to me, I felt an immense sense of trepidation. Fusion food --  especially Japanese fusion food -- always made my dining experience a downward spiral, and this was underwhelming to me as a dish. While the concept was a familiar one and worked with its pairing, the cream cheese was otherwise relatively unappetising, bland almost.


Taco Salad ($15)

Things started to get a little tensed as the waitstaff brought out more Western-esque dishes, particularly their Taco Salad. The hype for the diners was the process of trying to get a photo of the live preparation, which basically saw the waitstaff vigorously shaking the mason jar of salad before pouring out the contents into a taco shell, and grating parmesan (which in his words, 'just regular cheese') which basically landed all over the table due to our breezy outdoor seating arrangements.

I don't care for salads that require a simple mise en place of vegetables to be stacked together with little care to their taste or textures together. Especially not when you can see the sauce collecting at the bottom of the jar like an expired can of pickles. Again, underwhelming, but it kept us interested enough until they brought out the big guns. 



Chicken Warayaki with Special Spring Onion Sauce ($12)

Fortunately, things began to pick up when the chef began serving the smoked dishes, the first of which were these towers of smoked chicken on skewers.

Served with crunchy cucumbers and spring onions, wrapped in leaves and dipped in a special chilli sauce, these went down a treat. The chicken was moist with the slightest hint of smokiness from the burnt hay, and the chilli sauce with the spring onions really punched in the flavours. The chilli sauce also reminded us of the Korean gochuchang, a sweet-spicy sauce. 



Katsuo Warayaki ($16)

This dish was my absolute winner of the evening. Served to us on unassuming aluminum packages, we revealed these perfectly cooked pieces of Katsuo, or Skipjack tuna - commonly used for bonito, so it was a surprise for us. Wispy scents of hay and smoked fish only furthered the experience of eating this dish, and they were served with light soy and fresh spring onions with grated ginger and garlic.

To be honest, I probably didn't even need the condiments, simply because this was just so beautifully done, cooked in a way that allows the fish to stand out. Eat At Seven and Enbu have very determinedly ensured that their seafood is fresh - by having their raw seafood flown on the day of consumption, to maintain optimal freshness and taste for the diner.



Jya Jya Men ($13)

Now, when I saw this on my tasting notes, I quietly assumed that this dish would be the Japanese version of 炸醬麵 (Zha Jiang Mian), a Chinese/Korean dish of noodles served dry with a minced meat and fermented soybean sauce, often served with other vegetables. 

I was not wrong in my assumption. 

The noodles were served with just the right amount of bite left in them, with a fragrant sauce, sliced eggs, slices of cucumber, radish and spring onions. An otherwise satisfying, simple bowl of noodles - I would expect no less from a Japanese establishment.



Oyster and Spinach Teppanyaki with Uni Sauce ($15)

Another favourite of the evening, a hotplate of some seriously succulent oysters on a bed of spinach, with a final slather of uni sauce before the trio are baked to give a slight char.

You'd think that the uni sauce would be too much for a velvety protein like oysters. It may be, but it worked for me. The oysters were meaty and briney, their frills crisped up through the cooking process, with the sauce providing a smokey, creamy touch and amplifying the seafood's freshness and texture. The spinach was a clever way to combat any overwhelming richness, but I quite enjoyed this serving.

Evidently, I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take a proper photo - thus this mess (sadface).



Sashimi Moriawase ($60-120)

While we were tucking in, the waitstaff heaved out these giant terracotta pots of sashimi. Plenty of oohs and ahhs to go around as the displays were brought out.
It was meant to be a surprising touch for our dining experience, and it delivered, based on the reactions of my dining partners. An impressive, large pot of fresh, glistening slabs of seafood, comprising of fatty tuna belly, sea urchin, tuna, seabass, snapper, sweet shrimp (my absolute love amongst sashimi) all flown in within the same day of serving. While the presentation is important and otherwise lovely, I am happy to report that the sashimi selection was perfectly on point in both serving and freshness.




Homemade Steamed Tofu ($12)

Our final savoury dish for the evening, I initially thought that this would be chawanmushi, a standard steamed egg dish in any Japanese meal. However, they brought out a heavy-duty steamer, with a bowl of freshly-steamed, house made tofu within. 

This was a simple and delightful way to end our meal - the tofu, an impossibly soft serving, dissolved and melted deliciously, and it also came with an accompanying light shoyu sauce (we had to be very careful pouring the sauce as the tofu was soft enough to break even under the stream of sauce!) which didn't mask the freshness of the pure tofu. An excellent way to cleanse the palate and cut through any residual grease from the long meal.



Mochi Ice Cream ($8)

Of course, no meal could ever be concluded without a dessert. Soft, white pebbles of mochi enveloping sweet vanilla ice cream, served with peanut powder on a brown sugar sauce.

We had to eat these quick, as the heat of our tropical island doesn't allow ice cream to stay around for long! These dessert morsels were fantastic, a quintessentially Japanese way of serving dessert without having to serve the ice cream and mochi separately. The chewy, membrane-thin mochi contrasted with cold ice cream and warm sugar syrup - very pleasant indeed, our table even asked for seconds.



As we rounded up the meal with chatter, tea and an exchange of name cards, I find myself impressed by the concept of Enbu and Eat At Seven. Now opened in Suntec -- which is trying hard to compete against other shopping malls in Singapore -- with head chef Tatsunori Yara at its helm, as well as being backed up by ANA Trading (yes, the airline), it's difficult for this establishment to go under the radar of any food lover. 

I am sure they will enjoy immense success with their pickings of quality produce and excellent Japanese cuisine, and would recommend Eat At Seven, as well as Enbu to anyone. 



Enbu can be located at:

3 Temasek Boulevard
#03-310 Suntec City Mall
Sky Garden
Singapore 038983

Tel: 6238 1630

June 05, 2015

Foodlog: Hong Kong

While I may not have anymore pending reviews from Hong Kong, I do have some foodporn stashed away on both my camera and my trusty iPhone - so here's a recap of my foodlog while I was traipsing through the streets of a chilly winter Hong Kong.

If you think that travelling to Hong Kong during the months of Chinese New Year is not going to work out for you, you're mistaken. While there may be less shops open on the first two days of the Lunar New Year, it doesn't mean there is not hustle and bustle from the streets and by extension, their food.

So, I'm just going to let the image-heavy post speak for itself. Let me know which are your favourites, or if you need further details on any!




Now that you've survived that post - are you ready to sek fan?


May 25, 2015

Food Review: More & More Restaurant (Hong Kong)

This spot, was the very first place I went to for roast meats when I first travelled to Hong Kong.

I used to stay at a hotel nearby, which is built on this slope which is near the wet market which is near the gigantic Times Square Mall. When I exit the wet market, this restaurant is in plain view, with its many customers packing food, particularly for festivities such as Chinese New Year (any occasion in Hong Kong is a reason for a feast). In hindsight, it was a great hotel in a great location, but the hotel gave me bed bugs once and we have also since decided that staying away from Hong Kong Island is a good idea to get away from the crowd. 

You should know, that despite its reputation, it's entirely possible to stay in Hong Kong and not be swarmed by people.

This rule, however, does not apply to restaurants in Hong Kong.


I am familiar with this eatery. I am familiar with the concept of shuffling my way to the front of the entrance so the waitress will notice me waiting for a table. I am familiar with being ushered to a table by an overbearing waitress speaking putonghua until she realises we can speak Cantonese and her face finally breaks into a smile as she excitedly gestures while recommending all the best and most expensive cuts of the day to us.

I am familiar with the loud slam of cutlery presented to us, that comes with a large bowl of hot water and tea, which is decidedly not for drinking, as its for you to give said cutlery a final rinse yourself.

I am familiar with the concept of ordering within the five minutes you sit down, because a menu is not needed when they hang their meats like trophies.

In a way, perhaps this is one of the many reasons why Hong Kong remains close to my heart. There is a familiarity in her customs and her food, and even her language is familiar to me as a Singaporean. It may not make sense all the time, but enough words are caught for me to fathom an understanding of tea from coffee. Additionally, I may not be completely well-versed in Cantonese, but I know how to order food in the language which is sufficient for most my travels.


This establishment has had an increase of price, as well as customers. Its location is a prime spot for tourists and hungry stall workers from the wet market (even when the wet market's third floor holds an entire level of restaurants). This, surprisingly, does not bother me. They deserve a pay rise, and they deserve the additional customers, and most of the time, the price hike doesn't bother me as a tourist.

My parents order quickly, and the waitress scribbles it all down in her thick wad of papers, occasionally muttering and nodding as she pushes cups of tea to us and shouts at the counter to stop shouting, the guests are not waiting for a table, it's a takeaway without barely a flinch from us, or any other guests inhaling bowls of rice and spitting out geese bones in the crowded eatery. There is a silence in the noise, a small peace from the streets as you sit amongst shuffling, sniffling diners, respite from the wet and cold, and pleasant scents of cooking meats. 


Like I mentioned many times before, one always starts their meal with soup. Hong Kong restaurants take their daily soups very seriously so you're a shoe-in with the cook once you order up a serving of some delicious, good-for-you daily soup. I mean it, it's delicious as well as good for you. Their soup is not just meant to taste good it's nourishing, heartwarming, tummy-soothing soup.

We had a huge bowl of the soup of the day, sweetened by lotus roots, tomatoes, sour plums, fatty pork and dry squid. It helps to whet the appetite and also, warm you up if you happen to be in Hong Kong on a wintry, wet, breezy day.


The hot soup also makes you feel better about the impending meal, almost cleansing you for the impending meal of meats, such as the salty roast pork and sweet char siew, arranged out on the plate like a greasy, delicious, meaty, edible fan. Our waitress returns to shove us the bowls of rice, dishes of mustard and packets of sour plum sauces arrive, further escalating and acting as a prelude to the other meats that are due to arrive. 

(It's a lot of meat), but let's start with the roast pork with char siew.



The roast pork (siew yoke) will be diced into even slabs, with each chunk garnished with a single, crisp pig crackling. The meat is clearly divided into a few segments, from a melt-in-your-mouth fat layer, the moist meaty middle, and a saltier last layer of just pure, concentrated flavour and magic. It almost doesn't need sauce. Almost.

This top layer of roast pork also carpets its hoard of sweet barbeque pork, slices of sweet-savoury and amazing char siew again with its distinct layers of fat to meat ratio, with a softer texture achieved through the cooking method. 





Goose. Bigger, fatter, meatier and more delicious than its smaller counterpart, roasted and only served by the chef wielding the main knife (the chopper knife) in the kitchen. Just learning how to cut the meat in the kitchen takes years of practise, before one can be deemed qualified for the position behind the wooden block of grease and meats. Glistening almost unnaturally from its honey-brown skin, dropping goose fat from its darkened, succulent meat.

This is what the people order. Duck meat may be flavoursome and easy to eat, but goose meat is what drives people crazy, especially when the bird is at its fattest in the winter months, providing a heightened quality of meat and fat. Roasted goose, when done right, will have its fat rendered just so, falling off the bone easily without losing moisture in the flesh, with the thinnest sliver of white fat still trapped under the crisp, savoury roasted skin. 

Delicious on rice, since it can run on the salty side after a final dip in sour plum and brown jus.


If by coincidence, you, like me, tend to hate yourself after scarfing down almost half a dead bird and a disproportionate amount of pig meats cooked several ways with rice and soup, there's always the option of some healthy vegetables to make yourself feel better. 

In winter, the kai lan (Chinese kale/broccoli) is in season, and the Hong Kong chefs do this crunchy, bitter-stemmed and sweet-leaves vegetable a lot of justice with very little effort, a quick stir fry with garlic, oil, water and the very important wok-hei (wok fragrance), a mythical remnant of the blackened frying wok, aromatic and impossible to recreate without time and experience, using the same wok over years to achieve.


A short entry, but nonetheless, satisfying for me. 

Remember, always start with soup, end with vegetables. Get in and out of the restaurant as fast as you can, or risk losing your table. Hong Kong people don't have time to indulge your social media updates, they serve you your meal, expect you to love it and then get out for the next customer. 

  

多多餐厅
Hong Kong, 銅鑼灣堅拿道西10號1號舖
+852 2591 5362

More and More Restaurant
10 Canal Rd W Bowrington
Hong Kong
(Left of Times Square shopping mall, head straight and cross the public bus tunnel.)