[Review] Omakase at Southpaw Bar & Sushi


If you are an adventurous foodie, an omakase-styled meal would go right down your alley. Located off the city centre near Lavender is Southpaw Bar & Sushi, a new 12-seater dinner-only restaurant which serves omakase with whiskey pairing.

Omakase, which means "I will leave it up to you" in Japanese, refers to a meal where the diner entrusts the chef to serve whatever is the freshest and best available. Here at Southpaw, leave your dinner in the hands of Chef Kenny who has 17 years of experience in Japanese cuisine under his belt, and you are sure to step out satiated after being served dishes in the likes of oysters, sashimi and sushi.

While Bara Chirashi rice bowls and sushi sets are available, the omakase sets (S$68+/ S$98+/ S$138+) are the signatures so we ordered the 6-course Omakase Take Set ($98+).

Having omakase can be a gamble, let alone at a new restaurant. However, it was within such initimate setting that I observed the premium fresh ingredients used (and camaraderie between restaurant owner Roy and this two staff), and my initial skepticism gave way into anticipation as the evening went along.

Roy also brings to the table his years of experience as a whiskey connoisseur, so expect recommendations of whiskey pairings with your meal.

1st Course: Appetiser
This dish consists of the chef's selection of 2 appetisers. 

That evening, we were served the Salmon Cartilage and Scottish Loch Fyne Oyster. Salmon soft-bone cartilage is rarely served, so I knew we would be in for a treat for the rest of the evening. The oyster was overall fleshy and 
nutty. If you are looking for something unorthodox, do leave a little oyster "juice" behind in the shell and try sipping it up with some whiskey!

Salmon Cartilage: 

Scottish Loch Fyne Oyster:

2nd Course: Salmon Carpaccio
Next up was a dish of finely-sliced Salmon Carpaccio with caviar and toasted bonito flakes. Bearing tinges of truffle oil, this dish was well executed and I would say that it is clearly able to hold its own as one of this dining establishment's signature dishes.

Salmon Carpaccio:

3rd Course: Sashimi
The beautifully-plated sashimi platter, another highlight of the evening, showcased Chef Kenny's fine culinary skills. 

We were served some really fresh Shima Aji (horse mackerel fish), Tai Fish (sea bream), Akagai (blood clam), Octopus, Tuna and Prawn nestled amongst a mint leaf, chrysanthemum and mustard flower. The garnishes, with their respective distinct flavours, added depth to the dish.

Sashimi Platter:
   
4th Course: Sushi
A medley of seven handcrafted Sushis ensued. Served from the mildest to the strongest flavours, it was evident that much thought went into the creation of these intricate pieces. Each sushi was paired with its own seasoning to best bring out its character, rendering the freshly-grated wasabi and soya sauce almost redundent. 

My favourite were the Salmon Sushi and Foie Gras Sushi. The sesame bonito flakes offered the salmon sushi a totally different punch from those hastily-prepared ones usually offered elsewhere, whilst the torched foie gras sushi simply oozed sophistication.

Chef Kenny preparing the Fois Gras Sushi:

Below were the sushis served:

 Flounder Fish Sushi:

Tuna Belly Sushi with creamy hand-grated Mountain Yam:

Ika (squid) Sushi with Lemon and Rock Salt:

Osmakera Aji Sushi:

(What do you think this resembles? :p )

Salmon Sushi with Sesame Bonito Flakes:
Fois Gras Sushi:

5th Course: Miso Soup
After a meal of raw dishes, the warm homemade Miso Soup with clams offered a comforting touch - though I somehow wished that it was served as an earlier course.

6th Course: Dessert
Our evening ended off with some creamy and deliciously nutty Black Sesame Ice Cream flown direct from Japan.

Drinks
Hot Green Tea may be the most conventional drink to go along with Japanese food, but here, I would suggest that you take your dinner with a whiskey.

Owner Roy recommended the Dirty High Ball Whiskey made with yuzu bits and natural essential oils from the yuzu peel. Bearing refreshing tinges of citrus flavours, it also served as a palate cleanser.

Overall
Diners going for omakase meals usually expect the chef to display culinary artistry and innovation in the selection of dishes, and I would say that this new dining establishment really pulled it off. Much thought was given to the preparation and presentation of each dish.

I enjoyed how the unhurried meal over a cosy ambience allowed me to unwind after a long day, and the interaction between the staff and and us diners made the experience even more special.

Do note that reservations are required. The last order is at 9pm, but expect the entire meal to last for at least 2.5 hours.

*The Hedgehog Knows Readers' Special* 
Present this post to enjoy a free Wagyu Carpaccio worth $38+, if you are celebrating your birthday in October or November! Redeeem this within your birthday week, valid with purchase of any omakase set till 30 Nov 2017. Not valid with other discounts or promotion.

Southpaw Bar & Sushi
  11 Cavan Rd, Cavan Suites, 
#01-04, 
Singapore 209848
Telephone: +65 9101 1941

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[Review] Tok Panjang at The Peranakan (Claymore Connect, Orchard)

Tucked in a cosy corner of Claymore Connect, The Peranakan is a hidden gem and a gastronomic haven for purists of Peranakan cuisine.

The term "Peranakan" means "locally born" in Malay and refers to the descendants of foreign traders who married local women in Southeast Asia centuries ago. Peranakan cuisine is the result of blending Chinese ingredients with various local spices, resulting in food that is often characterised by its strong and spicy flavours.

Perfect for family gatherings especially if you want to bring your parents back in time, this restaurant delivers true blue Peranakan cuisine with much finesse. We heard that the recipes were passed down from chef-owner Raymond Khoo's own family.

As we wanted to try a little of everything that this dining establishment had to offer, the Tok Panjang (S$45++/ S$65++, minimum 2 persons to share) was a natural choice. Consisting of the signature soups, tasting-portions of the chef's signature dishes, a dessert platter and Malaccan coffee/ tea, we were treated to an aplomb of flavours during this feast.

Drinks & Starters
We first ordered a refreshing Soursop with Biji Selaseh (S$8++) which came with a generous dollop of plump fleshy soursop. It served as an amazing palate cleanser for the rest of the meal.

The drink also provided a stark contrast to the some deliciously spicy Hae Bee Hiam Rolls (crispy prawn rolls) which were served whilst we were waiting for our food.

The Bakwan Kepeting (pork and crab meat ball) soup is a pork bone based broth with pork mixed together with crabmeat/ pork/ prawn balls. Served nice and warm, there was absolutely no hint of MSG in the soup and the natural sweetness of the prawns was really evident.

The Itek Tim (duck and salted vegetable) soup was equally wonderful. Chef Raymond shared with us how a ratio of 70:30 for the duck and pork bone helps to lend the soup its well-rounded flavours.

Mains
When the main dishes were served, we were totally blown over. Tok Panjang means a "long banquet table of food" and we were awed by The Peranakan's interpretation with the 13 dishes beautifully presented in a round rattan tray-basket.

Featuring classic dishes such as Kueh Pie Tee, Ngoh Hiang and Ikan Goreng with Sambal Belachan, the cooking style brought out the natural flavours of the traditional premium ingredients.

My favourite was clearly the Ayam Buah Keluak or stewed chicken made with traditional black Buah Keluak seeds. The unique taste of this dish comes from the Buah Keluak seeds which is sometimes affectionately named "Truffle of the East" because of its rich, intense and bold flavours.

I loved how the paste from the Buah Keluak seeds was well-blended - definitely very different from other dining establishments where it is sometimes served a little coarse and sandy. When put together with the succulent chicken, the dish was overall just sublime and heavenly. The amount of paste in the Buah Keluak seed was also very generous and we later found out that the chef had actually packed in double the amount of paste back after blending it. No wonder!

If you have not tried Buah Keluak before, it tastes like a dark bitter chocolate with nutty earthy tones. Interestingly, whilst it is used in Malay, Indonesian and Peranakan cooking, it can be poisonous. Various processes of underground fermentation, soaking and cooking are required to prepare the seeds, so the Ayam Buah Keluek is overall a really tedious dish to cook.

I also enjoyed the Satay Babi or pork belly (3 layers meat) in satay sauce. Before images of the nutty satay sauce are conjured in your head, let me tell you that this dish is quite different because it doesn't contain peanuts. Despite being slow cooked for several hours, the meat was surprisingly very succulent. The sweetness of the dish came from the fatty parts of the meat and it was overall well complemented by the savoury gravy with strong lemongrass and coconut flavours.

One of the highlights is also the Nasi Ulam Istimewa, a flavourful mixed herbs rice that is served cold. The last time I had this was when my grandmother cooked it and I believe this could be the only restaurant in Singapore serving the dish. Preparing this nasi (rice dish) can a tedious process as lots of fine chopping is required for the raw herbs or ulam, vegetables, minced fish, salted fish and rempah. We were also told that the preparation of this dish could not be rushed because if the rice was not cooled  properly, the herbs may become cooked when added, rendering the overall dish bitter. 

Below are some of the other dishes served in the main course, the sight of which would surely be enough to make your mouths water.

Kueh Pie Tee with shredded turnips and prawn:

Ngoh Hiang with generous servings of minced pork, prawns and water chestnut wrapped in crispy bean curd skin:

Sotong Masak Asam cooked with with star fruit and belimbang:

Terong Cincalok or egg plant with fermanted shrimp paste:

Sambal Udang or prawns cooked in sambal chilli and ladies fingers:

Beef Rendang cooked in a rich coconut and spice:

Nonya Chap Chye or mixed vegetable stew:

Dessert
As if we were not already won over by the main dishes, we were again courted by a beautiful display of the desserts. The creative presentation of pandan leaves in the glass pot of gula melaka (a Malaccan brown sugar) definitely deserves extra credits!

My favourite was the Durian Pengat made from premium D24 durian. Delightfully creamy and rich, this is a must-try for all durian lovers. My only grouse would be that the portion was too small. :)

Apom Bokwa, a pancake with banana and gula melaka:

Pulut Inti or steamed blue pea rice with sweetened grated coconut:

Ambience
Featuring beautiful chandeliers and intricately designed, colourful flowery tablecloths and silver cutlery, the decoration and ambience reflect the majestic opulence of the rich Peranakan culture. 

With many Peranakan items tastefully adorning the restaurant, it somehow also feels like a Peranakan heritage museum and one cannot help but feel a sense of nostalgia.

If you are looking for a unique venue for your traditional Chinese wedding tea ceremony, I would recommend this area for its beautiful red elements and flowers motifs. As per Chinese traditions, flowers and birds are also commonly featured in Peranakan decoration for their auspicious symbolism.

Overall
Using premium ingredients, the dishes here at The Peranakan showcase fine culinary expertise and match the intricacies required for even the most complex cooking. The attention to details was evident in crafting every dish and even the dining establishment's decoration.

The service is top notch without being overly intrusive and I would certainly recommend this restaurant for family gatherings. I would daresay that even the most finicky Baba would be satiated. The food brings back a sense of nostalgia and is an authentic tribute to traditonal Peranakan cuisine.

The Peranakan
442 Orchard Road
Level 2 Claymore Connect
Singapore 238879

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[Recipe] Bak Kwa/ Barbequed Pork Jerky Pizza Using Airfryer

 

Making pizzas in the airfryer has been on my to-do list for a while. While I can always make my own dough, procrastination has been stopping me from doing just that. 

When I came across Mission Food's new ready-made pizza crusts (available in plain and wholemal flavours), I decided to give it a try. After all, this brand is really established for their wraps and flatbreads, so why not?

Eventually, my pizza was done in under 15 minutes and the result was a really nice and crispy pizza. If you like Pizza Hut's thin-crust pizzas or Skinny Pizza, you will love this.

I decided to give an Asian spin to my pizza, so here's my Bak Kwa (Barbequed Pork Jerky) Pizza recipe using the airfryer. This would make a really nice fusion Chinese New Year dish too! The thing about bak kwa is that it is usually very well-roasted with some burnt parts, so do be careful with the temperature settings.

Pizzas make really convenient dishes as it is possible to just throw in whatever ingredients you can find in the fridge, and it would still taste great.  Let me know what you have added to your pizza and show me how it turns out! :)

Bak Kwa (BBQ Pork Jerky) Pizza Recipe

Yield: 1 six-inch pizza

Ingredients
1 ready-made pizza crust
Tomato paste
Grated mozzarella/ parmesan cheese (I used sliced cheese as that was all I have at home)
5 mini coin bak kwa slices


Directions
1) Preheat.
Preheat airfryer at 160 degrees for 4 min.

2) Resize (if required).
If the pizza crust is too large to fit your airfryer, run a knife round the edges of your plate to resize it to your requirement.

The crust should now be able to fit the plate snugly:

3) Spread.
Generously spread a layer of tomato paste on the pizza crust. Airfry at 160 degrees for 5 min. 

This extra step makes the pizza crust really crispy!

4) Melt.
Add cheese on top of the tomato paste. Airfry at 160 degrees for another 3 min.

5) Fill.
Fill the pizza with bak kwa, and then more cheese. Airfry at 160 degrees for another 3 min.

Before:

After:

6) Top.
Top the pizza with baby tomatoes (or other leafy vegetables such as argula). Serve hot and crispy!

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