Tuesday, December 31, 2013

goodbye 2013.

I thought I should squeeze in a last post so that I can say goodbye to 2013 properly.

It's been one big year for me.

The biggest event was obviously getting hitched - I spent most of 2013 planning it together with R. It was trying at times but it was fun. And it made me learn more about myself; what I was good and worse at. It also made me realise how in some little ways I have changed since I've been with R and moved to Sydney; changes which I like. So 2013 has in some ways, become a year of self-discovery.

It's also been a year of friendships. I've made many new friends over the year and I've reinforced many old ones, or least I think I have. With us all getting older and many friends moving on to different stages in life and some different countries, it's been extremely comforting to know that some friends are friends I will keep for life and who will always have my back no matter what.

And as always, it's been a year of eating. It keeps getting better and better and new experiences keep things interesting. There were many highlights of course which I shall reserve for another post. I hope that it'd stay the same way for 2014 and that I get to travel more.

So I look back on 2013 with much fondness and wish that I remember more of it as it went by too quickly. I'm looking forward to the new year and hope that 2014 will be as crazy good, if not better than 2013.

And I wish the same for all of you too. Have a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Sat Bains @ Momofuku Seiobo

I'd like to think that we got pretty lucky to score ourselves a slot at Sat Bains' 'one night only' dinner at Seiobo. Afterall, I was sharing a room dining with some of the who's who of the Sydney culinary scene. I love it when renowned chefs come to visit and cook at host restaurants in our city as it's always a good way to have an idea of their cuisine without having to buy a ticket halfway across the world. Plus, it's also great to see how their food sort of fits in with what we already have here. Most of the time though, such experiences can go either bad or great and rarely in between. I went to one visiting chef's dinner in Singapore before and it was disastrous when his team tried to use mangosteen in their dessert just because they wanted to incorporate local flavours. And there were the great ones like Ben Shewry whose food I was impressed with when he visited Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit one year and Magnus Nilsson who cooked at Marque during the Sydney Good Food Month. But I digress. Armed with the head chef, John Freeman, from Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham in tow, Sat Bains' collaborative dinner with the guys at Seiobo was a culinary experience that was truly mouthwatering.

 chicken batter
smoked roe

Saturday, December 07, 2013

a sandwich fix at John Montagu.

John Montagu.
144 Cathedral Street
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Opening Hours: 7am - 4pm daily 

It's easy to find sandwiches in this city since almost every cafe serves at least one version of it but it's difficult to actually see a good one. It might seem easy to slap some meats or vegetables between 2 slices of bread (or on 1 if it's an open faced sambo) but it isn't.

I've always said that I love a good sandwich and I'm happy to say that I finally know where to get a really good one now. One of Sydney's newest cafes, John Montagu, specialises in handcrafted sandwiches and they're not fooling around here. Chef Raymond Lim, who graduated from Sydney's Le Cordon Bleu and has worked in places such as Galileo Restaurant in Sydney and Heirloom in Melbourne, is in charge of the kitchen here. It might be a cosy one but big things sure come out of there.

house-cured salmon, avocado, dill cream cheese, salmon roe, rye
with truffled coddled egg

R and I tried a few sandwiches here and enjoyed every single one. I particularly liked the Salmon which consisted of some of my favourite ingredients such as avocado and cream cheese. What's special here is that the salmon is cured inhouse. Curing the fish, and not smoking it, gives the fish a crunchier texture and I liked that I could taste the salmon better. There is an option of adding a truffle coddled egg for an additional charge which I highly recommend as well.

12 hour beef cheeks, cheddar, sauerkraut, spanish onion, house glaze, white

If you're into a heavier option, the Beef Cheeks sandwich is a must-try. 12 hours of slow braising makes this cheaper cut of meat incredibly tender and rich. Cheese is melted in the pan with the cheeks before it is served up. The special bit here is that the chef makes their own veal stock from scratch to braise the cheeks in. The choice of bread for this is good too - soft white bread from Organic Republic to soak up all the juices from the beef. One might think it's a lot of meat but the slight acidity from the sauerkraut and the sweetness and crunch from the red onions help to cut through the richness. R thought about eating another one of these on his own 3 hours after we left - that's how much he liked it.

field mushrooms, truffled parmesan, garlic crème fraîche, rocket, multigrain

There are also a few options available for vegetarians on the menu and one of which is the Mushroom sandwich. Mushrooms are lightly sauteed in a pan and assembled with rocket leaves, truffled grated parmesan, garlic crème fraîche and some multigrain bread. I also managed a small tasting of the Maffra Cheese and Sage Toastie. Maffra cheese is an Australian-made cheddar which has won several awards. Made from cow's milk, this cheddar imparts a sharp yet sweet flavour which makes it an incredibly tasty cheese to enjoy when it's melted on toast.

A sandwich can be as simple and humble as just spreading some peanut butter onto bread or just by adding a slice of Kraft Singles (which I love!). It is also very versatile and can be eaten fresh or toasted with a multitude of fillings and that's why I love it. Anyhow, it's great to see the humble sandwich elevated to new heights at one of Sydney's newest spots and if you're also a fan of a mean sandwich, be sure to hit up John Montagu sometime soon.

P/S: Coffees are available but since summer is hitting us pretty soon, I highly recommend the Elderflower and Mint (from their mini garden!) Soda to go with the sandwiches. Nothing better than a cool, refreshing and slightly fizzy drink to take on the weather!

Disclosure: R and I are both acquainted with the staff at John Montagu.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

New York Eats: Jean-Georges

Trump International Hotel and Tower
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023
Tel: +1 (212) 299 3900

If you're in New York and want to have a fine dining experience with excellent value, there's no place better than lunch at Jean-Georges. Where else can you find a 2 course lunch for USD38 at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant? 

Jean-Georges opened its doors in 1997 and is considered the crown jewel of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant empire. French-born Chef Jean-Georges trained under some famous chefs such as Paul Bocuse before heading to places in Asia such as Singapore and Hong Kong to continue his training. It was there that he developed his love for flavours of the East and shaped his style of cooking today. Housed in the Trump International Hotel and Tower on the southwest corner of Central Park, Jean-Georges' dining room is filled with lots of natural light, bright, clean and inviting. As in a typical 3 Star restaurant, all the staff we met (including the greeters at the entrance) at Jean-Georges were incredibly personal, friendly and professional.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

New York Eats: Per Se

Per Se
The Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle (at 60th Street)
4th Floor
Manhattan, New York

Getting a reservation at The French Laundry was impossible. One hour on the phone and only to get on to a waitlist for not 1 but 3 meal services. Nothing came back. A trip to Napa Valley was in the cards and how could I not visit one of Chef Keller's fine establishments? Then, we decided that it was going to be a visit to Per Se or nothing, so we grabbed the reservation when a slot opened up on the day of our arrival in New York even if it meant that we were going to be more than likely, jetlagged.

After much success with The French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller, one of America's most lauded and well respected chef, opened Per Se in February 2004 to much anticipation (only to close shortly after for 2 months before reopening in May 2004 because a fire broke out). Considered as the urban interpretation to The French Laundry, it received the highest honour of 3 stars from the Michelin Guide in 2005 and has kept it since, making it one of the few restaurants in New York that have the same honours. Interestingly, the name for the restaurant came about because Chef Keller had been asked many times prior to its opening if the restaurant would be like The French Laundry and his answer was that it would not be like The French Laundry "per se" and from there, the name stuck.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New York Eats: Smorgasburg at Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Smorgasburg (Williamsburg)
East River State Park
90 Kent Avenue at N. 7th Street

I love food markets. Whenever I'm traveling and visiting different cities, I always try to put food markets on the list of places to visit. It's always nice to visit the local markets just to get a feel of what locals eat and do. Smorgasburg is practically heaven because it's a whole big group of vendors who get together in one place to cook and they sure know how to do it well. It's all about the eating here - street food and basically casual dining under the big open skies which also means that it can be quite a downer if it rains. It was also where we found the infamous Ramen Burger which shook up the whole burger scene just like how the Cronut did to the world of doughnuts. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

New York Eats: Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare

Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
200 Schermerhorn Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: +1 (718) 243 0050

I wish I had the photos to show because this was one exceptional meal. It was difficult getting a table so you could imagine how happy I was (jumping for joy, literally) when I finally managed to get through to someone some 100 over phone calls later. In fact, I lost count because my trusty iPhone could only record up to 100 on the call list. It was quite a scene as we had 3 phones dialling in at the same time but anyhow, we got there and scored ourselves a 10pm reservation. I know what you're thinking - an 18 to 20 course degustation at 10pm? What time would we finish? But we went prepared and got through the whole meal in slightly over 2 hours which I would say was possibly one of the best 2 hours well spent at a dining table. In fact, it was the most outstanding and memorable dining experience I had all trip.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New York Eats: The NoMad

The NoMad
The NoMad Hotel
1170 Broadway & 28th Street
New York, NY 10001
Tel: +1 (347) 472 5660

Housed within the NoMad Hotel, The NoMad opened its doors in 2012 to much acclaim. It shouldn't have come as a surprise as the people behind The NoMad are the same who took over the 3 Michelin Star Eleven Madison Park from Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group. Like the interiors of The NoMad Hotel, the restaurant was also stylishly decked out, staff were well dressed and the crowd was mostly working professionals, although that could have been because I was there during their lunch service.

The NoMad made it to our list of restaurants to visit purely for this reason you see below.

Roast Chicken for 2
Foie Gras, Black Truffle & Brioche

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New York Eats: Shake Shack

Shake Shack
New York
For the list of outlets, visit http://www.shakeshack.com/home

Shack Burger & Cheese Fries

Who doesn't love a good burger? I know I do. And if you're familiar at all with the "burger scene" in the US, you'd know Shake Shack. Some people might disagree but I'd say this is the East Coast's answer to In-N-Out Burger.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New York Eats: Russ & Daughters, Katz's Deli, Doughnut Plant

Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

Katz's Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow St)
New York,  NY 10002 

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10012

What happens when you're on holiday and there's never enough time to squeeze in all the things you want to eat?... You put them all in one meal!

And that's exactly what happened one morning on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Our first stop was to Russ & Daughters.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

New York Eats: Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin
155 West 51st
New York, NY 10019
Tel: +1 (212) 554 1515
Website: http://le-bernardin.com/

This is the first of my posts about our US tour! And we're starting it off with an enjoyable meal we had at Le Bernardin.

I've always been intrigued with Chef Eric Ripert's food. And even more so recently as I've found myself to gravitate towards lighter seafood dishes (although I still enjoy my roast pork ever so often). R had been to Le Berdardin on a previous visit to NYC in 2008 but I guess he must have liked it enough since he insisted on bringing me there. If I were him, I probably would have been more selfish and insisted that we try some place new. I guess that's why people usually refer to their partners as their "better" half.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


So I've finally pulled off what I've been busily planning for a whole year - I tied the knot! It was a crazy time leading up to it and to be honest, instead of reading up about food, I have spent the whole year getting nose deep in wedding blogs and just checking out pretty pictures that I saw in magazines and the internet. So now that all of that is done and dusted, I've finally bought a new copy of Lucky Peach (hopefully no more Cosmopolitan Bride) and am going to settle into married life slowly.

The exciting thing about getting married (in my opinion at least) is going on a honeymoon and that's where I'm getting to with this post. I just got back from a mini tour of the US and we sure ate our hearts out. In fact, it was an 'eating-moon', not so much of the "honey". In any case, let me get through my photos and hopefully I will have something to share soon. Even if I have no words, I'm sure the pictures will help do the talking.

Sit tight!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

red obsession

Oh hello. It's been a while hasn't it?

I've been busy and currently, I'm knee deep with the Sydney Film Festival. It's my 3rd festival since I've got here and each year there have been films that have captured my attention and imagination. In my 1st, there was Jiro Dreams of Sushi which was just pure food porn although I know there was a greater story behind - one of the art of perfection, succession and a father/son relationship. In the 2nd, there was the story which followed the plans for succession of Michel Bras' eponymous restaurant in Laguiole, France. The documentary resonated with me and brought back very fond memories because R and I had just visited Bras a year earlier from watching the film at the time.

This year's "foodie" movie was not about food per se but about the drink - wine. Maybe it's because I've never been much of a wine drinker so watching and learning about Bordeaux wines have made me wonder - will I appreciate wine better once I've had a taste of the 1982 Lafite? What makes a bottle of wine worth tens of thousands of dollars? How GOOD really is good wine? Wine is really, a whole art by itself and one that I have much to learn about (that is if I know how to drink a little better). Anyhow, I think the film, other than focusing on the topic of wine, really raised other issues such as globalisation. In fact, if you watch the film, you would realise that the movie is not all about wine because the same issues could be transposed into any other situation today. Anyhow, I won't spoil too much of what it's about. Have a watch of the trailer and you'll see. Intriguing and in my opinion, a must-watch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a heartfelt goodbye to Linda's Home Kitchen

Linda's Home Kitchen served its last customers last weekend on 19 Jan 2013. If you've been following and read my first post, you'd know that my mum is Linda. The restaurant was really close to my heart and its closing is somewhat bittersweet. Over the years, Linda's has come to be my second home. In fact, I spent more time at the restaurant more than I did in my own home whenever I was back for holidays. When I was still based in Singapore, it was where I would be right after work (yes, I did have a full time job on the side) and it was where friends would meet me on weekends. Friends asked if I was ever tired but as hard work as it was, it was fun because I've always loved food and meeting people. The restaurant gave me that and I've been blessed to meet many like-minded folks who appreciated the dedication, passion and pride that my mum put in day after day for almost 3.5 years.

We've had the privilege of being a part of important events in our customers' lives - families celebrating their grandma's 60th birthday, golf kakis celebrating a hole-in-one on the golf course amongst others. Birthdays were especially special because I remembered many occasions where customers were surprised by our little gesture of a simple bowl of mee sua with 2 eggs for the birthday boy or girl; a tradition that is practiced in our own home. We've also made many friends out of our regular customers and found distant relatives (and one of them turned out to be an ex-colleague)! Their support has been relentless and precisely why we've been able to say goodbye with a bang.

Having Linda's has been very much a personal journey for all of us. It was almost as if we opened our home out to the public. I've always felt proud and slightly amused when customers asked me, "You mean you get to eat like this at home???!" And when I nodded my head, the reply would always be "So lucky!" I used to have friends visit my home during the Chinese New Year and this carried on for 10 years until Linda's came about. Since then, Chinese New Year gatherings have taken place at the restaurant. My dad, fiercefully proud of being Hakka, managed to share stories about his travels to Hakka provinces in China, the food my grandma used to make in his younger years and more. If my grandma was still around, I know she would feel that my mum has done her old recipes proud. My mum, as tired as I knew she was at times, immensely enjoyed cooking for her customers and got to live her passion through the small operation she had with Linda's. Although the time spent at our actual home was less, our family actually spent more physical time together after Linda's came along. We've actually gained a lot out of this whole experience.

So where do we go from here? I guess we are a bit wiser, my mum will have more time to herself; to travel and eat more and Chinese New Year gatherings will now revert to take place at home. I've never got to say this directly to my mum but I'm extremely proud of her and the steel she has. I can pay to eat at the best restaurants in the world but in my heart, the best food will always be the ones cooked by my mum, in the comforts of our own home.

To our family, friends and customers - thank you for your support and patronage over the years. It has been a pleasure having you in our "home". Hopefully, we've been able to shed light into the world of Hakka cuisine for you. And please don't hesitate to say 'hi' if our paths ever cross. Singapore ain't that big anyway.

To Linda's - you will be sorely missed.

Monday, January 07, 2013

bring on the new yr!

It's been a quiet year on this blog. I thought I would have had more time to write, more time to reflect but instead, I've been loads busy especially in the 2nd half of 2012. There's been many highs but along with that, some lows as well. I've also experienced many firsts and I've got a feeling that streak will continue on in 2013. Despite all that, I've not stopped. I may have stopped writing for a bit bug I've not put my fork down. So here's to more eating and more good fun at the dining table with your loved ones in 2013!