20 Memorable Meals in 2014
2014 has been a very delicious year for me. There are so many new and rising restaurants. Seriously, it’s so hard to catch up and I only have a stomach. But through blogging, it has definitely brought me to many interesting places. Some of them come from higher end restaurants, while others are humble hawker stalls. Not all of them are new, in fact many of them have been around for some time, it is only now that I discover them.
These 20 places serve me the most memorable meals in 2014. If you are wondering, this post is written solely based on my own opinions and I am not paid to feature any restaurants. They either left a great impression on the food, or their overall experience is simply unforgettable. Dining at these places make me happy for many reasons, and I thank all the chefs and service staff for serving such a great meal!
What is the best meal you had in 2014?
1. Crackling Suckling Pig @ The Disgruntled Chef
Still the talk of the town well into its fourth year, The Disgruntled Chef continues to inject more colour and culinary inspiration in their revamped menu. A hot favourite is Crackling Suckling Pig ($68) with sauerkraut puree and pickled mustard seeds. With a pillow of soft fat left intact under crackling skin, the pork was succulent and tender while the skin was thin and crunchingly crispy. I also like their Grilled French Quail ($32) with frisee salad, crispy bacon and poached egg.
2. Hainanese rice noodles @ Bangkok
Two years ago, I went to Bangkok and wrote a blogpost on “10 Must Try Food Places in Bangkok“. This year, I flew to Bangkok to continue 10 Must Try Food Places in Bangkok (Part 2)! We paid for all the meals on our own and no monetary compensation was received. It is also nothing about getting the hits, really, but I am happy to be sharing delicious finds with everyone and am also happy to see that these hawkers’ efforts pay off.
The most memorable meal during this trip is this Hainanese rice noodles along Thanon Mahannop. Owned by a Hainanese couple, they sell homemade rice flour noodles with either clear soup with sio bak or braised pork with salted vegetables (40 baht each). Pair it with the spicy chilli sauce, it has the fragrant prawn sauce added into it. I also enjoyed their herbal mutton stew (150 baht). There was much finesse in it. All the spices and herbs were so delicately balanced, the mutton wasn’t outrageously gamey.
3. Superior Stock Clam Bee Hoon @ Diamond Kitchen
Diamond Kitchen looks like any other Chinese restaurant. The dishes in the menu is nothing spectacular. Whatever you have tried here, can most likely be found in any other Chinese restaurant. But these simple dishes stand out in terms of flavour. Their Superior Stock Clam Bee Hoon ($12 small, $18 medium, $24 large) is unbeatable. The bee hoon is well braised in rich stock and topped with a lavish serving of clams. It has a wealth of umami on the palate with the bee hoon soaking up all the flavours.
4. Teppanyaki @ SHIMA
After a month-long renovation, SHIMA reopens. Teppanyaki remains the signature cuisine of SHIMA today, featuring quality produce prepared with time-honoured recipes that were passed down from the early Japanese Master Chefs. We tried their popular weekday Teppanyaki buffet lunch ($49.90++) which comes with free flow salmon sashimi, tempura, assorted meats, seafood, vegetables, garlic rice, miso soup and dessert. Premium beef at SHIMA is sourced from the best farms in Japan and America, and Wagyu-lovers can feast on top-notch A5 Wagyu ribeyes from esteemed farms in Kagoshima ($140++ per 100g) cooked to preference.
5. Stingray @ Hong Chang Eating House
Located along Braddell Road, Hong Chang Eating House serves prata in the morning, economic rice in the afternoon and BBQ seafood and frog porridge for dinner. MUST TRY their sambal stingray! Smothered generously all over the stingray, their spicy sambal is the killer. The stringray is BBQ-ed till it is crisp on the outside, yet moist flesh from within. Lime is squeezed in right before eating. The sambal is so shiok till I keep eating more of it even though I am already having Angelina Jolie’s sexy red lips. It is served with cincalok (fermented krill) and a squeeze of calamansi lime.
6. Coffee @ Melbourne
Visiting Australia has always been my dream. This year, I fulfilled my dream. I travelled to this beautiful country alone, took up food photography masterclass with Billy Law and Ewen Bell at Daylesford, greeted the piggies at Jonai Farm, spent a few days learning barista, visited Great Ocean Road, and soaked myself in Melbourne’s cafe culture scene (READ: 15 Must Try Cafes in Melbourne).
The city streets are abuzz with endless cafes and restaurants. Walk into any cafe and you will be greeted with serious barista working magic on their coffee. My favourite is Dead Man Espresso. The menu is seasonal and feature herbs and veggies grown in their rooftop garden. I had the Rosti with poached egg avocado and salmon. I let the yolk run through the sandwich and it made for a tasty breakfast sandwich. Cappuccino here is so smooth and silky. Grab a spot in their balcony and watch the world goes by. (Also READ: Culinary Getaway @ Tweed, Gold Coast)
7. Bouillabaisse Marseillaises @ Zott
Located in a colonial-style shop house typical of Amoy Street, ZOTT’S TRUE ALPS is a restaurant offering authentic Alpine cuisine. My favourite for the night is Bouillabaisse Marseillaises ($87, to be shared between 2 – 3 pax) which is provencal fish broth with poached fish and fennel, served with toasted ciabatta and sauce rouille (red scorpion fish was specially imported from the alps). Four different types of fish are used – rascasse, barbe rouge, seabass and swordfish, each of them varying in textures. Even though this is pricey, it is one of the best fish stews I had.
8. Fishball Story
Being a hawker is not an easy job – the long hours and the heat are but some of the challenges hawkers face daily. This is why, it’s so tough to get the next generation to take over the wok. So I really truly admire Douglas from Fishball Story. He is only 23 years old and yet he is running a successful fishball noodle stall in Golden Mile Food Centre. The fishballs are made daily by Douglas. The fishballs are firm and my mee pok is al dente and has a QQ texture. The sambal chilli, the lard and fried shallots is very shiok!
9. Doughnuts @ The Study
Formerly Keong Saik Snacks, The Study cosy place has been recently rebranded into a British casual bistro. Blending local and British cafe culture, and giving modern twists to great classic comfort foods from around the world, this is the new go-to social bistro that is part brainchild of Michelin Star Chef Jason Atherton with an unpretentious environment.
The doughnuts were soooo fluffy like a flavourful cloud. When you dunk it into the not-so-sweet salted caramel, I feel like ordering one more set for myself. So I left the restaurant very happy. The Study totally manage to uplift my mood and surprise us. Their ambience may not be the best for a romantic dinner, the dishes may not be something spectacular, but the dishes are familiar yet new, clever food options.
10. Garlic Fish @ Kedai Bak Kut Teh Hin Hock
During my JB Food Trail with Johor Kaki, we visited Kedai Bak Kut Teh Hin Hock – which is my favourite for the trip. They started selling bak kut teh 30 over years ago but they are more famous for their garlic fish rather than bak kut teh! Customers get to pick and choose the fresh fish they want like it is in a fish market. Our tilapia is first poached in soup before piling up with huge heaps of fried garlic, homemade special sauce and chopped spring onion. Fish can be paired with their special dip which has garlic, shallot, onion, chili padi and soy sauce. But the fish itself is flavourful enough for me to finish a bowl of rice. Fish is sweet and tender!
11. Peking Duck @ TungLok XiHé Peking Duck
Following the success of TungLok XiHé Peking Duck at The Grandstand, a second brunch has opened its doors in June this year, on the 7th floor of Orchard Central. The 40-day-old special breed duck is selected after rigorous inspection by the chefs and roasted for 50 minutes at 200 degree celsius – the perfect timing and temperature to ensure that the crispiness of the duck’s skin, tenderness of its meat, smoky fragrance and the mouthwatering flavor are all achieved before it is served.
12. Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh
Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh (順發肉骨茶) is a business of a second chance. It was started in April 2013 by Mr Jabez Tan, who spent 12 years in jail for drug and theft related offences. The eatery hopes to give ex-offenders and former drug abusers a new lease of life. My favourite is the Dried Bak Kut Teh ($6.90). The gooey thick gravy is cooked by reducing bak kut teh soup, dark soya sauce, and enhanced with dried chili, dried cuttlefish and lady finger. What makes this dish stand out if the strips of dried cuttlefish that gave the depth and a lovely punchy flavour that pleases our palate.
13. Steamed Egg Custard @ Restaurant Ember
Restaurant Ember opens its doors in September after undergoing a facelift after 12 delicious years. At lunch, there is a $42 set, where you pick three courses from a separate menu, and some dishes are not available in the ala carte list. One of these is the steamed egg custard with mudcrab, asparagus and aonori. Being a huge chawanmushi fan, this is so good that I wished it will be in the ala carte menu. The smooth steamed egg custard pairs amazingly well with clean crabmeat, it is so comforting.
14. Assam Laksa @ Big Tree Foot in Ipoh
At Big Tree Foot (Dai Shu Geok) in Ipoh (READ: The Ipoh Food Guide 2014), there is a yong tau foo stall (忠记兵如港口大树头炸料粉). So you pick your yong tau foo pieces (RM0.50 each) and choose your noodles – kway teow soup or assam laksa. The yong tau foo pieces has excellent fish paste, what stands out more is the assam laksa. There is a balance of spiciness and sourness. LOVE IT!
15. Milk Fed Lamb Short Loin @ Osia
Resorts World Sentosa’s award winning restaurant Osia rolls out a new menu in January to usher in a brand new year. Using only the freshest produce sourced from all over the world and preparing stocks, sauces and bread dips from scratch, Chef de Cuisine Douglas Tay of Osia showcases contemporary western dishes characterized by the natural flavours and essence extracted from these premium ingredients. One of my favourites is the Milk Fed Lamb Short Loin and Breast ($70) that is competently done to a pink and pillowy tenderness, a savoury swede carrot purée, romanesco crumble, garlic cream and drizzled with a flavourful tawny port jus on the meat.
16. Lobster Roll @ Pince & Pints
FOOD TREND 2014! I waited for close to 1.5hours for dinner at Pince & Pints on a weekday evening. I have tried a few restaurants that serve lobster rolls, and I must say, Pince & Pint’s lobster roll is one of the best I had! The 600-650g live lobsters were first steamed before painstakingly removing its meat (about 160g), then tossed with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. The hot dog buns are custom-made by a traditional bakery in Chinatown and soaked in butter, then pan-fried till golden yellow, which makes the roll light and crispy with an aromatic richness. Stuffed with hearty chunks of the natural sweetness of the lobster meat (using a whole lobster and the claw) and coated with chopped chives with a side serving of shoestring fries and salad with the restaurant’s own house dressing of sour cherry balasmic vinaigrette.
17. Carrot Cake @ Chey Sua
Organising Ultimate Hawker Fest 2014 allows me to meet many amazing hawkers. One of them is definitely Chey Sua Carrot Cake. Everyday, they insist on making their own radish cake, put in aluminium bowls and steam it and leave it overnight to achieve the firmness. They will pan fry one side till crispy while leaving the other side only lightly fried. Unlike most carrot cake stalls where they place the chilli sauce by the side, Chey Sua actually pan fries the chilli sauce together with the crispy surface. What I like about it is the crispy eggy part which covered the soft kueh underneath. At the same market, there is also Lau Sim Shredded Chicken Noodles and Teochew Handmade Pau.
18. Secreto iberico @ Moosehead Kitchen-Bar
Opened in July 2013, Moosehead Kitchen-Bar, located at Telok Ayer Street, is something of an insider’s secret. Charcoal grill remains Moosehead’s piece de resistance. You can’t really find any sophisticated cooking methods here. Many of the dishes are grilled and chef believes to let the ingredients speak on its own. What blew us away, was the Secreto iberico ($28). Grilled to achieve a smoky flavour, the pork was sooooo juicy and tender that it tasted great even without the tangy tomato wasabi. These days, it’s really about casual dining places with excellent, seasonal ingredients. I thoroughly enjoyed the dishes created by Chef Manel as I like how he challenges standards and conventions.
19. Seafood Paella @ Catalunya
Sunday brunch at Catalunya is a passionate and festive affair where guests can indulge in the finest food and wine. The sumptuous brunch starts with a stunning selection of Spanish cured meats, breads, cheeses, seafood, stews and fruits presented at various food stations. The seafood paella cooked slowly for 25 minutes. The colours are bright and enticing, and the aroma is seductive. Not forgetting the Roasted Veal Shank which is tender and succulent. And a breath-taking presentation of a flaming salt- crusted whole fish which is one of the most spectacular sight.
20. Steamed Lobster with Glutinous Treasure Rice @ Joyden
Joyden Seafood Restaurant has recently underwent a major revamp, offering a interior facelift and comprehensive revamped menu. Steamed Lobster with Glutinous Treasure Rice (market price) was a show stopper. The entire table of foodies immediately went ‘WOW’ when the bamboo basket opened to reveal plump lobsters over a layer of glistening glutinous rice. The rice is first fried quickly with dried shrimps, shallots, Chinese sausage and scallions. Thereafter, the glutinous rice is steamed with the lobster to allow the succulent juices of the crustacean to impart a richer flavour.
This year, I have tried my hands on doing PR and marketing for quite a few F&B brands. I always believe that life is a ongoing learning process. I learnt a lot from the restaurant owners and chefs, it has been an eye-opener and a journey of self-discovery. It brings me a sense of achievement when I am able to bring brands to a higher level. Next year, I may still accept a few F&B projects but my focus has been shifted. That’s right, some of you have already knew about this. I am starting to do food tours in Singapore, hoping to share more with of our local food culture with tourists and expats.
Each tour will include tasty food and drink tastings with some serious fun in Singapore’s most delicious, off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods. Suitable for all age groups and fitness levels, guests will experience delectable foods from one-of-a-kind specialty food stores, local restaurants and ethnic eateries while receiving an insiders view into the culture, history and architecture that defines the little red dot. I am in the midst of creating the website and it should be ready very soon! If you are coming to Singapore or wish to plan food tours for your friends/families from overseas, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy New Year everyone, thank you for walking this amazing journey with me. Wishing you a delicious 2015 ahead! CHIAK AH!