Sunday, March 30, 2014

SANTORINI: La Maison




There are some posts that have sat around at pre-publishing status for months because I never got around to posting them. As time goes on, I feel I won't do the restaurant or the post justice because my memory of each dish has faded. Nonetheless, I never forget how a place makes me feel. Thinking about it now, my days in Santorini, post-final exams and pre-graduation, were really some of the most blissful. 

La Maison is a 10 minute walk from where my friends and I stayed in Imerovigli, one of the villages in Santorini. It may not have been one of the cheapest but it was definitely worth every euro. Fresh from our flight in from Athens, we were flushed with excitement and absolutely starving. 

A quick search on trip advisor led us to La Maison. Trip advisor really is a hit and miss thing. After all, taste is a subjective thing and when writing a review on trip advisor, excellent service can make you forget how bad the food was. Despite this, I think we really hit the jackpot with La Maison. In early June, the weather wasn't blisteringly hot nor bitingly cold and the place wasn't too overrun with annoying tourists with big cameras (much like myself). 

In a nutshell 

If you're planning a summer trip to Santorini: 

1. Go in early June; 
2. Don't rely solely on Trip Advisor for trip advice; and
3. As biased as this may be, refer to Cafe Creatures for my recommendations. Some restaurants we tried on our 8-day trip relied too much on the view and too little on their food to get by.
4. Lastly, bring a pashmina that stuffs easily into your backpack/tote for windy evenings! 









Sunday, February 16, 2014

Green Tea Chiffon Cake


I adore green tea flavoured desserts. Whether it's ice-cream, macaroons or tiramisu, if you permeate the dessert with green tea, I will be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. When this chiffon cake recipe popped up on my Facebook stream, I bookmarked it for a free day. The "free day" came almost a year later, a week ago from today, when I finally realized I needed a break from my work, sleep, eat routine. 

As I have recently been abruptly thrust into the reality of a working life, I can now relate my posts to the working crowd. I completely understand that most people wouldn't drag themselves out of bed on a weekend to bake. If, however, you're a 9-6 (or later) worker bee and find yourself feeling a sudden, inexplicable urge to bake (or your girlfriend thinks it will make for a "fun" couple activity), one advantage of having this chiffon cake for breakfast is that it's full of matcha powder and therefore caffeine, which is bound to keep you up on lazy mornings on your way to work. 

Either way, it was incredibly satisfying to bake, but I think I will stick to more sedentary things like online shopping or vegetating in front of a tv screen next weekend. 

Sift matcha powder, cake flour and baking powder together 

Whisk 6 egg yolks together

Whisk egg yolks and matcha/flour mixture together until lusciously creamy

Whisk 6 egg whites in a clean, non-oily metal bowl at high speed with your mixer (trust me, doing this by hand is extremely exhausting) until stiff peaks form 

Stir in 1/3 of the fluffed up egg white into the creamy matcha mixture, then fold in the next 2/3. 

Pour everything into the chiffon pan!

Bake for 30 minutes at 170 degrees until toothpick comes out clean, then flip over to cool. DON'T rush to take it out of the pan! 

Voila! Yummiest, fluffiest, softest cake ever. 
GREEN TEA CHIFFON CAKE RECIPE 

Ingredients:

            6 egg yolks
            6 egg whites 
            1/2 cup sugar
            6 Tbsp. (80 ml) vegetable oil
            8 Tbsp. (120 ml) water
            150 g cake flour 
            2 heaping Tbsp. matcha powder (I bought mine at Liang Court's Meidi Ya) 
            1 tsp. baking powder
            Chiffon cake pan

Instructions:

1.     Preheat oven to 340F (170C).
2.     In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and add 1/3 of the sugar. Then add oil and water and whisk all together till combined.
3.     Sift cake flour, matcha, and baking powder together and add to the egg yolk mixture in 3 separate times. Whisk until totally incorporated, making sure there are no lumps.
4.     Using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium low speed (speed 4) till opaque and foamy and bubbly.
5.     Add 1/3 of the remaining sugar and continue whipping. After 30 seconds or so, increase the stand mixer speed to high (speed 10) and add the remaining sugar slowly in small increments until stiff peaks form. 
6.     To check on stiff peaks, pull up your whisk and see if you can make strong 'peak' that stays still without bending down.
7.     Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the flour mixture using spatula until the mixture is homogeneous.
8.     Fold in the rest of the egg whites in 2-3 increments and mix gently but quickly until the mixture is homogeneous.
9.     Pour the mixture into the ungreased chiffon cake pan. Tap the pan a few times on the kitchen countertop to release the air bubbles.
10.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
11.  The cake must be cooled upside down; (I simply flipped the tin over on a plate) then leave until cake is completely cool before removing it from the pan.
12.  Use a thin sharp knife or thin spatula and run it around the cake.
13. Place the serving plate on top and flip over. The cake should pop out easily.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

SINGAPORE: Open Door Policy

Roasted field mushrooms on toasted brioche with truffle puree

The appeal of Open Door Policy is it's location within Tiong Bahru with it's indie-style shops and cafes. It's not fantastically furnished, nor is it very spacious, but the food was a pleasant surprise. I'm crazy for anything with the word "truffle" on it - as long as I see it on a menu, everything else fades away and deep down I know, no matter what other options I may glance at, when the waiter arrives, the first words out of my mouth will be "truffle [insert dish name here], please". 

It's a hit and miss situation really. The chef may add too little truffle oil, or surrounding flavours may overpower the truffle, or a pasta's undercooked texture may distract from the truffle's aroma.  When done right, however, the truffle fuses perfectly with each ingredient's flavour, sinks into each texture and fills your senses with its fruity nuttiness with every mouthful. This is what I tasted in Open Door Policy's mushroom brioche with truffle puree. Mushrooms and spinach are a classic combination, and paired with truffle puree on fluffy soft brioche, the dish struck a delicate balance between simple and decadent. 



 
48 hour braised beef cheek with mochi potatoes, carrot puree & pea tendrils


Open Door Policy's beef cheeks flaked and melted onto the tastebuds like warm honey. I would have definitely roasted the carrots for longer though, so that they would caramelize and soften, before serving. 


One complaint would be that the cushions which pass for chairs (pictured below) shouldn't jut out past the actual wooden platform below them; it means the tables are uncomfortably far from the seat and pulling the tables nearer would make getting out of the seat a hassle. A minor detail but nonetheless makes all the difference to a dining experience. 

Other than that, ODP is the kind of place you can bring a friend to on a lazy afternoon and have coffee (and great tao sar bao) with afterwards at Forty Hands across the road. 







19 Yong Siak Street
(Yong Siak View)
Singapore 168650
Tel: +65 6221 9307

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

SINGAPORE: Group Therapy Cafe


You know how when you're hungry, everything tastes good? Well, I turned up absolutely starving at Group Therapy cafe and for once, my hunger did nothing to sugar coat the food quality. I had been pleasantly surprised by the warm colours and rustic-looking signs and plants that adorned the cafe and I was pleased to see that it was relatively empty at 10.30am so it was massively disappointing that each dish churned out was frustratingly mediocre. 

Some cafes thrive with carefully constructed dishes made by cooks with real passion, and some cafes simply exist to fill a demand as Singapore's cafe culture thrives. Group Therapy cafe undoubtedly belongs in the latter. Its recipes are sorely in need of an update: the avocado and smoked salmon sandwich went down like glue in my throat; the eggs benedict might have looked impressive but the hollandaise sauce was so cloying that I barely noticed the poached egg below. Though the eggs were warm, my sister commented that she'd visited Group Therapy cafe the previous afternoon and they'd served their eggs benedict with cold eggs. 

Group Therapy might have had potential with a certain charm, but atmosphere alone isn't enough to disguise the complete lack of passion or real investment in its food menu. 

BLT croissant plate 





Group Therapy's key lime crumble: a poor excuse for a dessert. 

Group Therapy Cafe

49 Duxton Road
089513

Monday, August 19, 2013

SINGAPORE: PS Cafe at Dempsey


I came back to Singapore thinking I had, in London, successfully weaned myself off dessert. How naive I was. The first chance I had to visit PS Cafe at Dempsey, I couldn't help myself from ordering my favourite Flourless Orange Cake. I love any cake that starts with "flourless". It implies "carbless" and makes me feel a little less guilty. Unfortunately, I've tried making flourless banana and chocolate cake before and what they take away in flour they put back in egg yolk so I'm not so sure it's particularly sinless.


PS Cafe's flourless orange cake melts into your senses in a burst of sweet citrus and comfortingly warm sponginess. As much as I love London, the London cafes never did know how to heat their cakes up before serving them. They were usually left out to dry on counters without any transparent lids which always irked me. On the other hand, it's always a pleasure to have your cake served warm but service at PS Cafe was slow on a Sunday afternoon and the ice cream was disappointingly melty. 


This milkshake really seemed like 5 scoops of vanilla ice cream blended together with oreos. It was so luxuriously decadent I could only manage about 4 teaspoons full before stopping. 


PS Cafe's interior is wonderfully bright and spacious; it's floor to ceiling glass panes look out to Dempsey's greenery. It's really the perfect spot for a photoshoot so I was lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with Andrea Cheong from The Haute Heel on her latest blog post. I never get as much fun from photographing food as I do people and Andrea was a pleasure to work with - don't forget to check out her blog for your daily dose of fashion! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Top 5 Personal Favourite Affordable Restaurants

So, I've graduated and I'm back from London for good now. Unfortunately, I am still suffering from withdrawal symptoms. I miss not being able to walk in the cool summer sunshine to get to the tube (yes, I even miss the tube - it was my last vestige of complete independence) or to waitrose to buy my favourite yogurt (the yogurt selection in Singapore is dismal). And it saddens me to think that I now no longer live 10 minutes away from a train station that could take me to Paris in three hours. I would go on but I risk spiraling into despair. 

Nevertheless, if these things could have lasted forever, I wouldn't appreciate them nearly as much as I did. This post will be my last on London and I'm going to reveal the restaurants I enjoyed most - those that my friends and I would visit after a 5 hour stint at the UCL library or just wanted something hearty and inexpensive to fill our grumbling stomachs with.



In no particular order -

1. Koya


Koya is one of the first Japanese places I visited upon landing in London and remains my favourite with consistent honest to goodness udon. Tonkotsu and Bone Daddies have since cropped up in Tottenham Court Road but the soup at Tonkotsu isn't always served scalding hot the way I prefer and Bone Daddies' ramen soup is far too salty. Go early to avoid queues, but don't worry, they aren't as long as the ones stretching out from Burger & Lobster and Bone Daddies at dinner time. 


See the blog review here!


49 Frith Street  
London W1D 4SG

2. Texture


I've only been here once but for two courses and the promise of a Michelin starred meal at 20 pounds, it's very good value for money. See the blog review here! 

34 Portman Street
London W1H 7BY
020 7224 0028


3. Naru



This (relatively) little known restaurant serves the best spicy chicken and korean green tea. Bite-sized and tender, the spicy chicken is coated in mouthwateringly succulent sauce with a zesty tang. The bimimbap rice is fluffly, light and a delightful complement to the chicken. 

I'm surprised Naru isn't always teeming with people but that's one of its charms. I wanted to keep this place to myself for as long as possible so I selfishly refrained from blogging about it, until now that is. 

230 Shaftesbury Avenue
London WC2H 8EG
02073797962

4. Gold Mine 

Gold Mine has the most succulent, tender roast duck and my personal favourite "House Special Tofu". If you're an Asian living in London, I need say no more - you've probably already been. I've probably eaten here more than 10 times. My mother brought me here when we touched down in London before I enrolled at King's; I had a friend who made it a point ALWAYS to eat here whenever he visited from Warwick [which he did regularly] and having another good friend who lives in Queensway meant we ended up at Gold Mine alot. 

102 Queensway
London W2 3RR


5. Yalla Yalla

Hummus and Baba Ganoush [from my instagram]

It doesn't seem so from the lack of Mediterranean/Lebanese food on Cafe Creatures but I actually adore Mediterranean food. I cannot get enough of hummus (I tried to make my own once but I think I'm going to stick to commercially made hummus). Yalla Yalla does the creamiest, most velvety hummus peppered with pomegranate seeds and the most flavourful Baba Ganoush that comes with piping hot pita bread. It's always a long [30 minute plus] wait for a table if you go past 7pm but, at the risk of sounding cliche, it's worth the wait. 

1 Green's Court
London W1F 0HA
020 7287 7663


For those of you lucky enough to be studying abroad in London, don't complain about the weather, don't curse at the tube and don't judge that crazy person on the bus - it'll all be gone before you know it. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

LONDON: Top 5 Personal Favourite Restaurants


I graduate on the 22nd of July. With the onslaught of parents drawing ever nearer, I've been asked by friends for recommendations on where to take them. So, I decided to compile, in no particular order, a list of my personal favourites. As you can see, I have a predilection for japanese food, but for a Chinese fine dining experience, you can't go wrong with Hakkasan. I'm sure there are plenty more restaurants that belong on this list, but these are the ones that I've actually tried (though not all were reviewed on Cafe Creatures) and come away inexplicably happy from. 



Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA 

You can see my review here! 




1A Argyll Road
High Street Kensington
W8 7DB

See my blog review here!

3. Roka 



37 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RR

See my blog review here! 


4. Tetsu 

Fatty tuna handroll [taken from my instagram]
It took 3 months of waiting to get a reservation here, but it was entirely worth it. With only about 10 seats in the whole restaurant, each person is personally served by the chef. I don't usually like tuna sashimi, but the one prepared for me at Tetsu slid down my throat like a luxurious clotted cream. 


12 Jerusalem Passage 
London
EC1V 4JP


I haven't reviewed this restaurant even though I've been brought here thrice, but La Petite Maison has never failed to deliver an immensely satisfying meal. It's unpretentious, yet the food is exquisitely prepared; passion flows through the food and onto your tastebuds as smooth as a hot knife slicing through butter. 

I even bought an autographed copy of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook (Notes from my Kitchen Table) after one lunch here. 


54 Brook's Mews
London W1K 4EG