House of Peranakan Petit, Tiong Bahru

House of Perankan Petit is possibly going down as one of the year's most wasted eats. A waste of calories, and a waste of time; I walked out of the restaurant, post-dinner, crabby and dissatisfied.

The cooking was clunky and uneven, and scarcely authentic. And what's baffling was how the restaurant managed to draw a full crowd on a regular weekend, notwithstanding its limited capacity. Even more mystifying was its glowing online reviews, and longevity in the brutal world of F&B, which tends to weed out the crap.

That said, service was hospitable and well-meaning. Even if they lacked knowledge of the menu, forgot to hold off the parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves, and were a clumsy mess (they'd spilled a black soy braise on my white skirt while clearing the table, but apologetically offered complimentary Perrier to dab out the stain before it set). 

Despite assurances to the contrary by the waiter who took our order, the Otak Otak ($12) was laced with coriander leaves. I couldn't eat this, so my friend doubled up as a rubbish bin. But, he couldn't finish this either; it'd stayed in a steamer about a minute too long and reeked of a fishy odour.

The Nonya Chap Chye ($10), a melange of cabbage, beancurd skin, black fungus, and glass vermicelli stewed in bean paste, was decent, if a little pedestrian.

The tamarind in the Assam Prawns ($18) lent a delightful piquancy to the sweetness of the tiger prawns, which were plump but less than sparkling fresh.

The spicy coconut cream slathered over the Scallop Lemak ($28) was commendable, but then was let down by the overcooked scallops.

I get that the Claypot Chicken ($16) was meant to be a comforting homey staple but it was amateurish. In a way that a teenager in a Sec 1 Home Economics class would be able to do this. So even if this was nice, I didn't think its price point was worthwhile.  

The Babi Pongteh ($16) used lean pork stewed in taucheo and garlic. I'm totally on board with the the healthy, "no fatty pork belly" direction the restaurant intended to take, but only if the pork was cooked well and remained moist. Instead, the lack of fat layers highlighted how dry and stringy the pork was.We didn't finish this.

The soups lacked depth of flavour. The Itek Tim ($10), a classic salted vegetables, duck and pork rib soup was grimacingly sour, without the balance of a rich duck flavour.

It was a blessing in disguise that the Bakwang Kepiting ($8), a crabmeat broth with a stuffing blend of prawns, crabmeat, pork, and bamboo shoots in a crab shell, was small in portion. It was too damn saccharine.

We really wanted to give the Pulot Hitam ($4.50), a dessert of black glutinous rice pudding swirled with coconut milk, a fair shake, but this was watery and lackluster. This was the Hubs' favourite dessert but he actually declined a second mouthful.

House of Peranakan Petit
42 Eng Hoon Street
Tel: 6222 1719
Open Wednesdays to Mondays from 12noon to 3am; Closed on Tuesdays
Website: houseofperanakan.com.sg


Sanpoutei Ramen, Holland Village

Sanpoutei Ramen was a superb recommendation by Lips, and one of the better ramen I've eaten in some time. Taking over the spot previously tenanted by the dreadfully crummy Ramenplay, Sanpoutei Ramen is one of the more distinguished dining options in the Holland Village enclave.

My pick of the soup-based options, the Rich Tori-Spicy Miso ($20.80) was a silky chicken broth buoyed by punchy spicy accents. The up-sized version was loaded with 5 slices of grilled pork belly chashu that was meltingly delicious, ajitsuke tamago of soy-marinated soft-boiled egg, braised cabbage, and minced chicken. Particularly noteworthy was the noodles, delightfully springy and chewy; and none of that soft mushy crap favoured by the local palate. This is, in my opinion, one of the best chicken soup-based ramen.

The pork-bone soup base, Tonkotsu Ramen ($17) was velvety and thick, topped with 2 slices of chashu, soft-boiled egg, kelp, and crunchy black fungus. This passed muster, and I liked that it didn't have leave that annoyingly cloying milky film on the tongue, but I still thought it was rather stodgy.

Its hyped signature, Niigata Shoyu Ramen ($15) of shoyu base was overrated. The shoyu had traces of a bitter-fishy undertone, due to the ground sardines blended into the soup. So where the sardines was supposed to lend a umami appeal, the pairing clashed badly and was off-putting. This was exacerbated by the alkaline rawness of the bamboo shoots. Suffice it to say, most of the soup and bamboo shoots were left untouched.

Another must-try was the Japanese version of the local dry mee pok, Maze Soba Aburi Chashu ($14). Slicked in a spicy sardine oil-shoyu sauce, the noodles had a lovely springy and chewy texture. Here, the sardines fused well with the sauce. The noodles would have been excellent on its own, but there was a side of chicken broth, probably for those who prefer their ramen soupy.The aburi-ed chashu was shredded here, for easier blending into the noodles.

We supplemented the noodles with a Butariki Niigata Rice Mini Don ($5), a modest rice-bowl flush with decadent strips of charred pork belly, crisp nori, and a raw egg yolk. Well-executed but unmemorable.

The Edamame ($6) was outstanding. I know this seems like the most regular of appetizers to rave about, but the beans were sizeable, not like those anemic ones served by many a ramen shop, exceptionally flavoursome, and salted to perfection.

Sanpoutei Ramen
253 Holland Ave #01-01
Tel: 6463 7277
Open 11.30am to 11pm
Website: sanpoutei.sg


The Peranakan

We're always on the lookout for good Peranakan restaurants. We're both part Peranakan and short of inviting ourselves to our relatives' homes every other weekend for a throwback to our childhood, we've had to make do with satiating our cravings commercially. We've heard good things about The Peranakan, a new-ish restaurant in the recently revamped Claymore Connect, the mall annexed to Orchard Hotel and previously known as Orchard Hotel Shopping Arcade. So, after the initial furore of The Peranakan's official launch died down, we popped by for a visit.

The Peranakan is an intricate and vibrant, if a little kitschy, wallpapered tribute to the Peranakan design sensibility. And with a trove of Peranakan knick-knacks strewn around the restaurant, it almost looks like a museum. I was skeptical, wondering if the food was going to be a cheesy and underwhelming affair. The restaurant's half-capacity on a Friday evening didn't exactly bode a stellar dinner either.

Thankfully, the food impressed. It's not the best we've ever had; those superlatives are reserved for our beloved Maks' cooking, but the traditional fare at The Peranakan was wonderfully homestyled. In fact, the seafood Hokkien mee and sambal belachan were practically indistinguishable from the Hubs' Chek Joe's version.

Service was a little eager, but generally unintrusive. Although they'd forgotten my request to hold off the coriander leaves, the staff made sure to remake the soup proper (instead of just lazily taking out the greens), and offered profuse and sincere apologies.

The Kueh Pie Ti ($10), a DIY platter of fried flour top-hats, poached prawns, and stewed turnip was excellent. The julienned turnip was a bit uneven, but the stock was mellow and nuanced.

One of the best renditions around, the Sup Bakwan Kepiting ($9) was sweet but balanced, and the balls of crabmeat, pork mince, and chopped shrimp were juicy and meaty.

The Ayam Buah Keluak ($22) was heady and thick, jazzed up with a subtle heat, and I liked that they only served succulent thigh meat.

A must-try, the Sambal Udang ($27) was absolutely fantastic; the sambal was robust and bold, while the prawns were sweet and fresh.

Another must-try, the Sambal Sotong ($19) with ladies fingers was cooked to perfection.

A dish I haven't seen for some time, the Ikan Goreng Sumbat Sambal Belachan ($17) was a duo of tenggiri stuffed with sambal, deep-fried, and drizzled with kecap manis. Bony but exquisite.

The Hei Bi Hiam ($1.50 per person), served with sambal belachan, was addictively good. Like Pringles, you can't stop at one!

Another must-try, the Pandan Gula Melaka Chiffon Cake ($6.50) was an airy fairy confection showered with grated coconut and smoky-sweet gula melaka syrup. Ask for extra gula melaka, they'd happily oblige.

The Green Lime Juice ($6.50) and Passionfruit Soursop Juice ($8) riddled with biji selaseh for a seedy crunch, made for refreshing thirst quenchers.

The Peranakan
442 Orchard Road
#02-01 Claymore Connect @ Orchard Hotel
Tel: 6262 4428 / 6262 4728
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.theperanakan.com


Braised Cabbage with Mushrooms & Pork

This is a dish that'll probably resonate with a lot of local kids. It's quick and easy, taking up less than half an hour to prep and cook. It's not the most wholesome dish, but I like to believe that the central ingredient of cabbage makes up for the canned stewed pork.

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1 whole beijing cabbage, cut into 2" squares
1 383gm can of stewed pork (it's that yellow coloured can widely available in NTUC)
1 can champignon mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
Light soy sauce for seasoning

1) Fry garlic in canola oil till fragrant, less than 1 minute on medium-high heat.

2) Add stewed pork, breaking it up into smaller pieces.

3) Add mushrooms and chicken stock.

4) Add cabbage and toss to wilt, then cover for 5 minutes to let cabbage braise. 

5) Season with soy as necessary for taste.

Spicy Harissa Tagliatelle with Zucchini & Poached Egg

This was a quick weekday night pasta dish that I modified from the shashouka recipe. It's hearty, robust, and packs a spicy punch. For those staying away from carbs, up the zucchini noodles, and leave out the pasta. 

Ingredients (feeds 4):
1 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 411gm cans diced tomatoes
4 tbsp harissa paste (you can get this from Culina)
2 tsp cumin powder
10 saffron threads
2 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into thick noodles (I used both green and yellow for colour)
4 eggs
Tagliatelle, use however much you like, or don't (pre-cooked in salted boiling water for only 1-minute)

1) Fry garlic in olive oil until fragrant, less than 1 minute.

2) Add tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, breaking it up into smaller pieces as you go along.

3) Add harissa paste, stirring it through.

4) Add saffron and cumin, stirring through.

5) Add zucchini, tossing through to cook, about 2 minutes.

6) Add pasta and poach eggs in the mixture, about 3 minutes.


Le Nu Chef Wai's Noodle Bar, Vivocity

Beef noodles are a staple of most Southeast Asian countries, each with their own spin. It's called kuai tiao nuea nam in Thailand, whereby flat rice noodles are served in a steaming hot bowl of heady, watery broth seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Vietnamese pho bo uses similar rice noodles, but its broth is comparatively muted, spiced with black cardamom, fennel seeds, cloves and enlivened by refreshing mint or purple basil. Laos 'foe' is a fusion of the Thai and Vietnamese styles, where classically Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, fish sauce, and galangal flavour the broth, while toppings such as mint and purple basil are a deference to Vietnamese influence. In Malaysia and Singapore, laksa noodles are slathered in a thick and rich gravy redolent of thick soy sauce and star anise.

In Taiwan, beef noodles are so beloved as a national dish, it has its own festival. I love love LOVE Taiwanese beef noodles, it's subtle like pho bo but grounded in the earthy heft of five-spice powder and Asian medicinal herbs.

A French-Chinese wordplay on the moniker "The Cow", Le Nu is a Taiwanese beef noodle bar concept under the Paradise Group. As the only Taiwanese beef noodle specialist in Singapore, I was eager to see if it'll hold its own against its Taipei counterparts.

While I didn't think Le Nu was an authentic take on, or even on par with, Taipei's offerings, Le Nu's beef noodles were pretty decent on its own. Just leave your preconceived notions of Taiwanese beef noodles at the door. Like, I would simply think of LeNu as serving a good bowl of beef noodles, in a style entirely of its own. The broth was too full-bodied, too flush with soy, and its herbal accents too cloying, to be reminiscent of Taiwanese beef noodles. I mean, the Taiwanese beef noodles we love in Taipei, easily at first look, is notably clearer in appearance.

The Braised Wagyu Beef La Mian Noodles ($14.80) was potent and robust, but more elegant and less heavy than the local Teochew soupy style, and the wagyu was, for a less-than-$15 bowl, adequate.

The Braised Fresh Beef Noodle ($10.80) which beef stock was spiked with chilli, was lively and delicious. The beef was found wanting though, chewy and sinewy, and I'd suggest forking out an additional 5 bucks for the wagyu option.

The Braised Pork Ribs with Scallion Dry Noodles ($9.80) passed muster but was forgettable. The la mian, pulled in-house, had a lovely chewy consistency.

I really liked the Long Jing Tea Lava Egg ($1.80), which boasted a lovely aroma of tea leaves.

Ditto for the Poached Chinese Cabbage in Soy ($4.80) which possessed a delightful crunch.

LeNu Chef Wai's Noodle Bar
1 Harbourfront Walk #02-91
Tel: 6376 9039
Open daily from 10am to 10pm
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