Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: Japanese

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar – Eye on the Maki

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Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I am alive and well, much to the disappointment of many, I’m sure.

This writer’s block of mine, however, I have underestimated. I had likened it to passing a brick out my behind, among other unsavoury metaphors, and have woefully declared to all unfortunate enough to listen to my rants that I’d much rather endure physical pain. My friends have gotten the brunt of my frustration.  They still love me though, I hope.

I realise I need to start small. So this is me, attempting (once again) to sit myself down on my metaphorical ceramic throne, and do the deed. It’s a small consolation for me if you happen to find this hilarious. It turns out that I’m still capable of entertaining.

Over the past few months, I have been frequenting Koh Grill & Sushi Bar at Wisma Atria. It’s a gem of a place within Food Republic. A friend had insisted that I needed to try this, and that, in spite of knowing of my sky-high benchmark for Japanese food,  she was still willing to place a huge bet on this place. Well, thank you Joyce. You have ruined me.

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It’s impossible to dine at Koh Grill & Sushi Bar without ordering the Shiok Maki ($16.80 – first picture). This maki is not to be trifled with. Make fun of its name only once, and never again after you’ve eaten it. It has been named appropriately.

Its core is stuffed with unagi and avocado, and then wrapped in a thin layer of rice, draped in thick slices of salmon, drizzled with mayo, and blowtorched to a sizzling marvel. I have not come across another maki with all my favourite ingredients. Admittedly, I could do without the mayo, but that mound of tobiko (flying fish roe) is almost too good to be true, and I suspect that they must have very chummy ties with their suppliers. There can’t be any other possible explanation for being that generous! I’ve thought very deeply about it.

This is a maki that has been thoughtfully created and balanced with much textural deliciousness. It’s crunchy, gooey, moist, and incredibly flavourful. I have brought many friends along for a meal there, and I have seen them being reduced to slobbering messes in front of me.

Contrary to its name, the Crappy Maki ($18.00 – second picture) is another wonder. It’s stuffed with crispy soft shell crab, crunchy seaweed, topped with layers of swordfish belly, and finished with the mandatory shower of roe. The Pi Tan Maki ($15.00 – not pictured) is another crowd-pleaser, and if the thought of century egg sauce makes you cringe, then all I can say is…well, get over yourself and eat it. Take my word for it.

There are plenty of other dishes on the menu, but due credit must be given to what I think are the rockstars in this sold-out concert. It’s obvious that the makis have been lovingly crafted and contemplated on in both the flavour and textural departments. I adore such attention to food.

I also wanted to keep this a secret. There may well be a death warrant hanging over my head by now, but it’s helping the brick on its way out.

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar

Address: 435 Orchard Road, #04-21 Wisma Atria Shopping Centre

Tel: 91803805

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Aoki – Other-worldly Set Lunch

It’s a little difficult to wax lyrical about Aoki now for two reasons, the first being that this lunch was more than half a year ago, and the second being that it’ll only be about another week before I fly of to stuff my face proper with sashimi in Japan. But see, this post will never go up if it doesn’t right now, because I’m afraid Aoki will lose its charm, its Zen minimalism, its serenity, after I get back.

Aoki is under the Les Amis group of restaurants, but stands out in its austerity, and although it is situated in the row of the Les Amis Empire (as I like to call it) to the side of Shaw Centre, its easy to waltz by without a second glance, if you even gave it a glance to start with. I had to peek past the drapes, and ask if it was indeed Aoki, before proceeding into dark corridor and into its hushed interior, half expecting to be walloped over the head and taken to see the Yakuza.

I didn’t dare snap pictures of the interior. And if you’ve been in Aoki, you’d understand why. The entire restaurant seats no more than perhaps 28 people, with private rooms hidden out of sight, I’m sure. All you’ll see are three or four partitioned tables, and then the sushi counter down a short flight of steps. It’s so small that any new arrival warrants everyone’s attention. I wasn’t about to whip my camera out anytime soon.

It’s minimal, furnished in lightwood, lit mostly by the bright ochre lighting atop the counter seats, and shrouded in a reverent sort of silence. Yet, the activity is a sight to behold – hushed, diligent, confident, and directed, from wait staff and Sushi chefs alike. It’s another world, where time slows down, where you sit back and let people take care of you, and where you’ll notice thin rice cloths hanging from the ceiling, swaying lightly in gentle drafts.

I made reservations a few days in advance for lunch, where their lunch sets go for $35++ in contrast to their dinners that rocket past $100. I’d advise that you do, for the counter seats especially, because these seats give a show more spectacular than a conveyor belt of listless-looking sushi. You see the chefs in action, blowtorches blazing, razor-sharp knives deftly slicing equally portioned slices of sashimi from slabs of fish, and the swift, almost effortless formation of sushi. It’s $35++ for amazing quality food, and meal-time entertainment. You don’t get that at many places.

Read more of this post

Rakuzen

There’s never a dearth of Japanese restaurants in Singapore. But if it’s quality you’re looking for, then perhaps this very abundance is going to be more of a hindrance than a help since most seem to be aiming to outdo the rest with even-more-value-for-money menus while ditching quality. I will admit that I do sometimes cave in for more wallet-friendly sushi, just because they’re there and I’d gnaw a finger off if I didn’t get any.

Rakuzen, as I was pleasantly surprised to find out, has most of its ingredients imported directly from Japan, from its sashimi to its rice. No middleman is involved, so all you get is quality food without the burden of carrying any extra costs because of reselling. Their lunch and dinner sets are especially notable for that value-for-money quality that seems to be a constant criteria for most people.

Their second outlet at Tampines opened on the 14th of September, just a month or so back. The restaurant is welcoming, bright and airy, with light wood finishings and a pleasant ambience, and when I was invited to dine there for lunch on a weekday, I must say that their lunch crowd looked incredibly promising. It’s no wonder, really, when their set lunches (usually bentos) start from $14 onwards. 

This beauty right here is but one of Rakuzen’s Special Broiled dishes, the Fire Mackerel ($16). The saba arrives lightly scored in diagonal cuts and is marinated for at least two hours with tangy rice wine vinegar before being wrapped in konbu for extra umami.

Now, I love pyrotechnics. Put me anywhere where there’s a light show, flames, and sizzling fat, and my eyes will be satisfied. All dishes from the Special Broiled section of the menu will arrive looking pristine and … pure … before a wait staff – armed with a blowtorch – starts searing each piece, the skin blistering and charring, releasing a beautiful smoky aroma, and then suddenly your dish has attitude. You know, the golden-brown, crisp, yet fatty and tender kind.

It’s your choice whether to drape a thin slice of sweet, pickled ginger over the mackerel, but personally, I loved how there was sweet crunch with smoky, tender fish. A slice of the saba alone is light, delicate, doesn’t particularly reek distinctly of mackerel, and should be savoured with the ponzu sauce that accompanies the dish.

We weren’t served this first, of course, we started out with appetisers, but I felt that this was one of the highlights of the meal and I have to share the cool stuff first.  Read more of this post

Simmered Kobocha Squash

Simmered Kobocha Squash

 

 

I’ve been toying with the idea of bringing bentos to school for lunch.

That’s right, bentos.

Those Japanese-type of colourful boxed lunches (with some special containers that come with a slot for your pair of chopsticks and a compartment for an ice pack to keep your lunch cool even by the time you eat it) that take packed lunch to a whole new dimension altogether. It’s only recently that this bento craze has been circulating the far reaches of the blogosphere thanks to Just Bento (such a lovely site and a good read), and in between gawking at Mickey Mouse-shaped slices of carrot and getting completely mind-boggled at seaweed cut-outs of Barrack Obama, I must admit that I thought these people utterly crazy.

Well obviously it’s time-consuming.

Planning meals, buying ingredients, cooking ingredients, stocking up on rice and other foodstuffs that can be frozen or refrigerated, preparing that boxed lunch every day…

That’s like telling me to go grow wheat and make my own corn flakes.

But hey, who knew that throwing together a few liquids and cubes of pumpkin, letting it blip away on the stove while you go grow your wheat plantation would taste so darn good?!

And this recipe’s completely bento-friendly, nomnom-ish yummy out of the fridge – especially out of the fridge – and so easy you’d begin to get curious about the other possible, quick-fix dishes that the Bento Realm has come up with while you were chowing on listless, dull kopitiam food. Read more of this post

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki

It’s been a while since I’ve made this.

Can anything be simpler? Well besides an omelette. But where’s the fun in that?

I wasn’t looking for a quick egg fix. Trust me to make what could have been a five minute crack-beat-salt-pepper-pour-and-cook process into something long-winded but I needed something to nibble on, and my notes weren’t exactly very tasty. I tried.

I wanted sushi, but as much as I always have some odds and ends (I occasionally find things like squares of Godiva and packets of Toggis squirreled away at the back of the fridge, I might find the Templar treasure there someday) I didn’t have sushi. I mean, not that I made sushi in the end or anything, but this was close, just without the rice. And the adorable belt of seaweed.

There are plenty of people who can’t stand this sweet omelette, and that’s why they’re my friends. I’m there to put them out of their misery and administer instant relief. The things that they push around on their plates in disgust are those I gobble up. My presence is always valued since I eat everything they’d rather see incinerated and the ashes scattered into the wind. Ok, I apologise, Martyr Syndrome, gotta feel like I can save people because I can’t save my grades.

Anyway, I’ll get back to what drove me to roll around eggs in a pan (charming, isn’t it?). If you’re feeling as peckish as I am, caffeine running through your veins and the ends of your pens gnarly and twisted from all that gnawing in frustration, make some sweet Tamagoyaki nibblets. Omnomnomnom.

Now go.

And stop chewing on your stationery.

Same goes for you Christine
Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki

I do not possess saintly egg-rolling skills and can never fathom how those in restaurants and supermarkets get so fluffy and perfectly yellow. It takes practice but the outcome’s always a treat to eat. Keep your stove heat on low and be patient. I wasn’t, which explains the slightly overcooked, browned bits in my tamagoyaki, but they’re yummo anyway. Here’s a video to inspire, if not send you into spasming awe, of a master chef in action.

Makes 10-11 slices

Equipment:

1 sushi rolling mat.

1 rectangular tamagoyaki frying pan. (I used a pan about 7 x 6 x 1 inches. I think Daiso probably has smaller ones.)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp japanese light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs dashi stock*

Directions:

1. Have ready a small sauceplate of oil and a brush or a piece of kitchen towel soaked lightly in oil.

2. Have your pan heated up on low heat and brush it with a little oil.

3. Beat all the ingredients together with a fork or chopsticks, but not too vigorously to prevent formation of bubbles.

4. Pour about 3-4 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the pan, just enough to coat the bottom in a thin layer while rotating the pan. When it looks set but not runny, roll it up with a pair of chopsticks or a spatula to one side of the pan. Try to get it as compacted as possible like so:

 

Rolled to one side.

6. Brush the exposed side of the pan with a little oil and repeat the pouring process, lifting the bottom of the rolled up egg to allow the new layer to coat the bottom so that it adheres to it.

7. Once the layer looks set, roll the cooked egg to the other side and repeat the entire process until you’re out of the mixture.

8. Once done, tip the tamagoyaki onto a sushi mat and roll it up firmly, securing it with a couple of rubber bands and placing is on a ventilated surface to prevent condensation (a plate or wire rack works fine). Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before placing it into the fridge to chill it or to slice and nibble immediately.

 

Sushi Mat

Notes: *The dashi stock I have at home is in powder form. I mix about 1/4 tsp of dashi concentrate with 3 tbs of water. If you don’t have dashi stock, simply substitute it with water. It’s not all that crucial.

Europe – Day 1 (Hello Bern!)

 
Bern Station

So what’s worse than 12 hours of ass-cramps, neck aches and a swollen bladder while trapped in a flying tin can? 12 hours of ass-cramps, neck aches and a swollen bladder while trapped in a flying tin can with a gassy seat-mate. How does anyone generate that much gas anyway? I will not accept answers regarding low air pressure and gas expansion. It can’t be that simple.     

Mommy and I arrived at Zurich airport past 8am and managed to limp past immigrations on our stiff legs to buy train tickets to Bern. Touchdown in Zurich and I’m already all set up and raring to start chomping my way across Europe, even if my queasy, jet-lagged stomach wasn’t quite ready just yet.   

Poppy Seed Pretzel

Poppy seeds are banned in Singapore because of their morphine content, says wikipedia, which answers a lot of my frustrations with trying to find any here. False positive tests for opiates or something or the other. Creepy. Although that would probably help to explain why the Europeans are happier than Singaporeans. They tasted like sesame seeds to me.      Read more of this post

Want cheap ramen?

A noodle spree cannot be styled into a classy picture. Period.

Forget about my hunt for Singapore’s best ramen.

Why spend an average of $15 in one sitting, to pick out the subjective best from what seems to be dozens of new ramen joints flowering up all over the country, to guzzle high sodium, fat-saturated soups and slurp up ramen portions which are clearly out of my league? And they seem to all be, to quote Anthony Bourdain, “A hideous, generic sprawl of soul-destroying sameness”.

If I want to find the Best _______ (insert appropriate latest food fad), I’m not about to sacrifice my health thank you very much.

But that isn’t to say I’m never eating ramen out ever again, only that I’ll do so when I feel like it. And hey, if I happen to stumble across the ramen that blows my socks off to the Land Of The Rising Sun, well good for me. I’ll be sure to let you know all about it.  

In the meantime, I think my current ramen, udon, soba windfall from Scotts Isetan on Saturday should tide me over till my future fateful encounter.

Read more of this post

Mitarashi Dango

Mitarashi Dango

It is easy to forget the other aspects in life when one is caught up in the flurry of university applications and the inevitable paranoia of starting down the wrong path at the crossroads. And by ‘other aspects’ I am actually just referring to my dreadfully late blog posts. 

What do people do with late blog posts though? Harden their resolve and plow right on, typing out scatchy details and different variations of ‘It was great…I think’, that at the end of the day when they view their completed post, they feel like they’ve created an entire fictional account and proceed to quickly hit the ‘Move to Trash’ button? 

Someone, please do enlighten me – I’d like to feel normal.  Read more of this post

Tampopo

Tampopo

I’d passed by Tampopo several times before on my increasingly frequent –and hence the inversely proportionate number of updates  – trips down to Clarke quay, and never once has its presence made an impact on me. You would think it odd, really, that large, bold letters, almost obnoxious with their neon green halo, would have failed to grab a second or two of my attention during all my Japanese grocery shopping indulgences in Liang Court, Meidi-ya.  

You can’t miss it.  

Unless, of course, you enter Liang Court from entrances other than the one from Clarke Quay, because even to park there, you would have to drive by it on the way into the car park.

The only reason why I knew of its existence was because of one fateful Sunday family lunch in which we decided against waiting for twenty minutes for a table and ended up dining at BOTEJYU Okonomiyaki on the second floor.  Then coincidently, the class boys wanted to have a Sunday dinner there on the fifteenth of Chinese New Year, out of the blue. Since my family hadn’t any plans that day, camera in arm, I was dispatched under strict order by Ashley and my mom to return with a review or not return at all. An insane ramen craving does this, I am aware, and if I weren’t curious myself from the numerous positive reviews of Tampopo smattered all over Hungrygowhere, I wouldn’t bother, even if it meant I would be relegated to the corner with liquid food to last me.  

Chilled Sesame Soba

Chilled Sesame Soba

My computer’s finally up and running and I’m a few posts behind. And, you know, if things really can’t get any worse, it was confirmed today that the 2009 A Level results will be released on Friday. Oh joy. 

It’s never meant to be easy. This is merely a rite of passage, as they say. 

Well in that case, I’m sure it’s not too late for me to join a tribe where they just pierce something, or cut something off. Because I suppose I could survive without a limb. See, now that’s a rite of passage – done the proper, predictable way. You know what to expect, and if they’re kind, they’ll count to three for you. 

This isn’t a rite of passage. 

This is purgatory – torturous and excruciating, where the seconds stretch on into hours and where the probability of suffering from an apoplexy is high up in the upper quartiles. 

Feel free to pee in your pants, because life’s like that you see, you just have to let some things go. 

Let’s spend these last few days relishing in what life is and never will be again. (ie. EAT) Read more of this post