Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: beef

New York City 2012: Shake Shack

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This probably needs no further elaboration from me. Even if it does, a quick Google search should suffice. I’m lazy, and weaving together repeated bits of information into a paragraph free from plagiarism is utterly banal.

I just want to get right in to the meat of things, right here, right now. Chop chop. It’s like I’ve got a ticking-time bomb counting down the seconds before I self-implode or start gnawing at my keyboard in desperation for a Shack Burger. I need to get this out of the way because just the memory of the taste of the beef patty can induce seizures and hallucinations in me.

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Gourmet burgers need to get out of the way, for the same reason that souped-up hawker food and deconstructed table staples need to stop since the simple things done right will always, always take the limelight. I’m not carelessly waving aside the time and effort it takes to craft a molecularly-gastronomic xiao long bao (there is much to be respected and admired in such endeavours), but all I’m saying is when I want a burger, I want a burger in the truest sense of the word – beefy, cheesy, unctuous, eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head-till-you-see-your-brain good.

My first encounter with a Shake Shack burger was the Shack Stack ($8.85USD) – a burger with a single beef patty, a battered and deep-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with melty cheese, a couple of slices of juicy tomatoes, and crisp lettuce. This was after waiting in line for 15 minutes and waiting 10 minutes for a table. Shake Shack is popular, and with good reason. I shared the burger with a friend, and if there was one lesson that I learnt, it was that I was going to get a double burger with the works, fries and all to myself the next time round. And those Yukon crinkle-cut fries were confoundingly crisp, fluffy, yet slightly springy. I don’t even eat fries, but these were criminal.

DSC_1515Behold, the Double Smoke Shack ($8.80USD), a double-beef-patty wonder with melted American cheese, Niman Ranch all-natural applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry pepper, and Shack Sauce. See, when I make promises to myself, I keep them. Under other circumstances, I’m probably not as resolute.

So here’s why Shake Shack burgers are maddeningly good: it’s all in the beef. For the nutrition diehards, this is 100% all-Angus beef, with no hormones or antibiotics. To be honest, that doesn’t explain its taste, but to some people, that description gives the burger a little extra shine. I’m usually particular about details like that, but now I’m just concerned with the fact that, without a doubt, the beef was grain-fed (that could only explain its richness), freshly ground, moist, chunky, pink, and griddled till crisp on the outside. I’ve heard things from friends about there being bits of liver in the patties, therefore explaining its superior beefy taste, but I haven’t found any information on that. If Shake Shack had the option of just ordering beef patties, I’d do just that, because words cannot completely describe how good they are.

Then there’s the potato bun, vibrantly yellow and softer than brioche. It’s the perfect vessel for drinking up all the delicious beef fat that trickles out of the patties. Things still get messy anyway, so grab a handful of serviettes just in case.

I’m also tiring of spamming adjectives at this point, so if you’re ever at Shake Shack, just order this sterling burger combination. Truth be told, I’m just getting hungry now, and I want to get away from the laptop. The glistening cheesy patties are driving my digestive enzymes crazy.

DSC_1893According to friends, the milk shakes are fantastic. Don’t listen to me, because I’d never order a milkshake in this lifetime, or in any other. I’d rather drink melted ice cream.

As a general rule (both for myself and for anyone reading), if an establishment manages to get me to return more than once, it’s got my golden stamp of approval. I had Shake Shack three times, because if I’m ever going to eat fast food, I’m only going for the best and will go all out.

So if you’re ever in New York, or some of the other neighbouring states, you need to hit up Shake Shack. That’s an order, under oath of reading this post.

I need to clean up the drool now.

Locations and Menu can be found at www.shakeshack.com

Le Bistrot du Sommelier – Reliable Bistro Fare

It’s been a while.

I’m aware that I’m not quite done waxing lyrical about Dario Cecchini, but I recently had great French bistro food, so this bears much gushing. Brace yourself. If I were to let it wait any longer, I fear that it may end up the way of all my other posts – abandoned or forgotten in a sad heap on my dashboard.

Now let’s just say that while bistro food in France is of unparalleled quality, Le Bistrot du Sommelier comes pretty darn close. I take my hat off to them.

I’d been here once, back when they were still at Prinsep. Dinner that night was cloaked in darkness, sitting at an outdoor table, with the only lights coming from the ghastly orange street light nearby and the pink neon sign from the next-door tenant. While I would have preferred to view my food in their natural colours, the food was spectacular. I vividly remember the unctuous, maddeningly tender joue de boeuf (beef cheek), garlicky cuisses de grenouilles (frog legs), and les profiteroles the size of my fist. Each.

Their new restaurant at Armenian Street now has two storeys and an alfresco area, and might I add that the second storey houses a rillette bar. When I first got wind of it, I swore I could have spasmed in sheer joy. Think of it this way: You can’t serve rillette at such affordable prices if it’s not homemade. These cured meat mixtures can be imported, but it’s easier to make a large batch to store – the longer the better. You can’t deny the appeal of homemade French charcuterie.

So, I mentioned its affordability. Now hold on to your seats, because you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere that serves charcuterie at such a price.

We ordered the Duck Rillette, as pictured above, at 100g for $10. I know! What sorcery is this?! Rillette anywhere else could run upwards of $15. It’s everything a good rillette should be. Salty, creamy, slightly chilled, and chunky. We schmeared it on bread, shovelled it in our mouths, and if we had ordered any more, I would have face-dunked in. Should you think that 100g is pricey, well, consider that it comes with a bowl of the cutest petits cornichons (baby gherkins), and imported French bread (I assumed so since they tasted like they were frozen before). 100g was sufficient for two people, and why would you want to order more when they have such a large variety of charcuterie?

Other than duck, they’ve got pork, rabbit, mackeral, and salmon rillettes. As if things couldn’t get any better, they have terrines and pâtés and saucissons. I was thrilled to spy an interesting Piegeon Mousse with Port Jelly (but alas, it was pricey), and wild boar sausage. 

Speaking of saucissons…

Iberico Ham. Cured for 18 to 24 months. $13 for 50g.

I’ve never seen Iberico at such a price. But wait! That’s not all! They have the option of Iberico de Bellota, cured for 30 to 36 months, at $20 per 50g!!! The questions that ricocheted off the walls in my head were something to the effect of, ‘How is this possible?!’, and ‘Where did they get it from?!’, but eventually settled on ‘You know what, I don’t care! It’s Iberico! Bring it on!’.

Cue the dramatic fanning and subsequent fainting.

I’m aware that all this gushing is a bit unbecoming, but the exclamation marks are only apt, for a fullstop would not give proper glory, laud, and honour to Iberico ham. I promise I’ll sound more proper onwards, now that I’m done hyperventilating.

I went almost giddy with delight when I saw that they served Pâté Lorrain, a mixture of meats baked in puff pastry. But it happened that they were sold out, so we got the Smoked Pork Bun Pâté ($6.50), which came as a palm-sized round of brioche, encasing a ball of pâté. It was moist, and was definitely tasty, but I was more enamoured with the thought of the Pâté Lorrain that we unfortunately couldn’t have.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier is known for their beef dishes, with an entire side menu of beef specialties on top of their already extensive charcuterie and main menu. The classics would include the côte de bœuf (a thick, bone-in rib steak), joue de bœuf (beef cheek), and tartare de bœuf (beef tartare)

That said, we got a Cassoulet Canard ($34) instead, a duck leg stew with a massive slab of tender pork belly, pork sausage, and white beans. I can’t quite think of anything else that could embody rustic, hearty French fare than a stew. The portion was generous, and the meats just sublime. It wasn’t out-of-this-world, but it was an excellent execution for sure.

Through the course of our meal, we had ginormous soufflés, fist-sized profiteroles, and deliciously burnt crème brûlées floating by our table, but we decided on a Gateau de Crepes ($14), essentially a stack of crepes filled with subtly sweet chestnut cream in between its layers. It’s not quite a powerfully sweet Mont Blanc, but it certainly was delicate and fluffy and had an adorable tumble of roasted French chestnuts.

So there we go – bistro fare at its best. Bistro ambience too if I should mention. The walls are a warm yellow, painted on brick, and it’s noisy and bustling with the clinks of wine glasses floating above raucous laughter and (if you listen hard enough) the gentle lilt of occasional French exchanged among the wait staff. Although we didn’t have any wine, it’s safe to say that for a bistro named after a wine steward, their wines should be exceptional.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier gets packed most nights, so reserve in advance. But if I wasn’t looking for a full meal, I could easily step in, head up to their second floor, and sit myself down at their Rillette Bar. It’s amazing, and that’s something to head back for, if not for the fact that it’s a road away from where I’m usually at every day. I don’t say this often about most places, but this is a reliable restaurant, and perhaps as authentically French as one could get. So, well, the gushing won’t end here.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

Address: 53 Armenian Street

Tel: 63331982

Opening Hours: Mon- Sat, Lunch 12 to 3pm, Dinner 6 to 11pm

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Turkish cuisine remained much of a mystery for the better part of my awareness, since I must admit that I carelessly bunch Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian and Lebanese all under the gigantic umbrella of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m horrid, I know. It’s like how Chinese food is no different from Japanese, Korean or Thai to plenty of people. But I have an excuse, and you must grant me this at least: I have never had Turkish cuisine in my entire life, because if I had, I would have been making pita bread all my life had I known that homemade, freshly made flatbreads were just so darn good.

Doner Kebabs roasting on vertical spits.

We have some pretty good Middle Eastern restaurants scattered over the island, most of which I’ve heard are congregated in Haji Lane and Arab Street, some in East Coast, and a couple others on Bussorah Street. And I’ve never been to a single one. I know! What’s wrong with me?!

Well, Sofra is located in the unobtrusive and dowdy-looking Shaw Towers along Beach Road. It’s a reasonable, 8-minute walk from Raffles City, or cut through Bras Basah complex to shave of a couple of minutes. Here, I’m telling you that it’s just 8 minutes to exotic and affordable food (‘exotic’ because anything and everything else is shiny and new outside of Koufu and Kopitiam).

Chefs.

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