Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kitchen Memories Brought Back by Kitchen Confidential

I finally picked up my book that's been sitting on the shelf for almost a year. The book is called Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. Many have probably seen his show.

I'm a slow reader and am less than half way, but so far I'm really loving the book. It's extremely honest and funny. It's brought back a few memories that I thought I've forgotten.

Here's an excerpt:
"Working clean, constantly wiping and cleaning, is a desirable state of affairs for the conscientious line cook. That chef was right: messy station equals messy mind. This explains why side towels are hoarded like god by good line cooks. When the linen order arrives, the smart cookies fall onto it voraciously, stashing stacks of valuable objects anywhere they can hide them."

When I read that I couldn't stop laughing. It's so true. In the first restaurant I worked in, we would get linen delivery about once a week and before the next delivery arrives, the towel supply is already gone!!! My partner and I working the dessert station had a deal, who ever was on shift when the laundry delivery arrives is in charge of getting a stack of towels and hide it in our station. Each time we would have a different hiding spot, one week it would be on the shelves behind the books, where it was so high, I'd have to get up on the table to get it, or another week it would be behind the dry goods drawers that you have to bend on the floor to reach!

Why hide in hard to reach places???? If we put them in drawers or our refridgerators, it's too easy to find. The next day, for sure the stash is gone.

At first, I thought my partner was crazy!!! But I realized quickly how serious the situation was. It's never fun to work a shift with 1 or 2 towels, or to beg other stations for their stash. Even begging doesn't assure anyone will be giving it up. It was like a treasure.

That's my blab for the day..... :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sala Restaurant, Makati

Sala Restaurant has been a restaurant that I’ve wanted to try since it opened in Makati, months back. I tried the food in Sala Bistro as well as Sala in Malate and was curious if it is as good or better after the move. So finally, today, I get to try it for lunch and the experience is one with mixed feelings.

When we first came in the restaurant, there was about ten tables and one with a party of three. We filled up the second table and just a few minutes after us, a couple came and filled another. After being seated, the server asked us what we wanted to drink without giving us the drink list; first mistake. A few minutes after that, our orders were being taken. I ordered the “Fennel Velouté” and as the server repeated the order, he says “cream soup,” second mistake. They should know the a velouté is not a cream soup.

As we were waiting for our food, a few minutes passed by and the table of two, who arrived last received their first course. Before our first course arrived we were offered bread about three times and maybe 15 or 20 minutes later we get our soups. Why it took that long, I have no idea and there should be no excuses for it.

When we finished our soup, a good 40 minutes has gone by. As we were waiting, the table of two got their main courses and we watched people going in through the front door bringing in groceries and ingredients. We joked if perhaps our food is taking so long because they were still buying it. What I don’t understand is why they were bringing in everything through the front door! They should have a back door and if they didn’t they shouldn’t be bringing it in the presence of customers. So about an hour has gone by and our main courses haven’t arrived and the table that arrived after us were almost finished.

Our table ordered two salads, a seared tuna, and a breaded chicken, all of which are pretty quick to make. We finally asked our server where the food was and why it was taking so long. Our server was quick to reply that it’s almost finished and they wanted to serve everything at the same time. What bull****! Who are they trying to kid??? I say this because if they wanted to serve everything at the same time, then the table after us shouldn’t be getting their food before everyone else. Aside from that, five minutes after we asked about our food, another server came to apologize that there is no more salmon for one of the salads that we ordered! Why is the server notifying us more than one hour later???????? It’s a salad!!!!!!!!

We didn’t finish our meal until more than two hours later. The food was actually pretty good despite the lumpy potatoes, but I don’t even want to elaborate on that because the terrible service is all that stands out to me, but you can see some of what we ate with the pictures below. It’s incredibly irritating and disappointing. At the end of the meal, we didn’t even want to take a look at the dessert menu.

Salt and pepper on the table. Looks cute, but not clean. There's no spoon and left in the open.

Fennel Velouté Soup with Crab and Parsley Oil.
One of the salads, more than one hour in the waiting.
The seared tuna after an hour later when we found out there was no salmon.
The last dish to reach the table was the breaded. This completed one hour's work in the kitchen.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maxwell Food Center

Since our hotel was in Chinatown, I had to visit the Maxwell Food Center. It's a hawker place popular for all the local foods. There is one stall that's extremely popular for their Hainanese chicken and at 5pm, it was the only one that was busy. It's too bad I didn't take a picture.I did however buy a fried banana for my snack from this stall.
The stall had numerous fried items like yam, jack fruit and taro. Since the stall name said banana fritters, I thought I that's what I should try.
The batter is hot, thick, and crunchy. The bananas were soft, yellow, and sweet. It's not as starchy as the variety we use in the Philippines. The salt in the batter brought out the sweetness of the bananas. It was a great snack.

Qun Zhong Eating House, Chinatown, Singapore

I finally got my camera!!!! It now fits in my purse and takes much nicer pitures than my cellfone. (That's why some of the pictures in my previous posts were so small. ) The first time I used the camera was for lunch in Qun Zhong Eating House in Chinatown of Singapore. It's a small place with two lines of tables. It's supposed to have good xiao long bao, some say better than Din Tai Fung!

One of the dishes we had was the pork and vegetable dumpling.
The dumplings were really delicious. It reminds me of the dumplings we used to eat in Beijing.
Next came the xiao long bao. From the appearance it looked like there was a lot of skin and I was hoping to be surprised when I actually bite into it. Of course, before I first bite into it, I have to pour out all the juice. The juice was pretty clear and what makes it interesting is I think they add a little bit of sesame oil. Biting into the bao, the wrapper was actually very thin and soft. It' felt like it just melted in my mouth. As for the filling, I feel it could be a little better, it was very soft and the meat is too over grounded for me, but the flavor was spot on. The next dish was a pleasant surprise, fried pastry stuffed with red bean paste. I'm not a red bean fan, but this dish was so delicious. The warm pastry was so crunchy, which goes well with the paste. The paste wasn't too sweet and it didn't taste burnt like I thought it would.
The restaurant was small and does not fancy interiors, but has impressively tasty, well-made food. Evidence of this is when we finished lunch at 2p.m., the restaurant was full and there was still a line of people waiting outside waiting for a table.

Friday, August 15, 2008

No Signboard Chili Crab, Singapore

Singapore is famous for its chili crab. It's not popular because the crab is from Singapore, in fact, crabs in Singapore are imported. Instead, it has become popular from how it is cooked and what it's cooked with. Basically, it's steamed and served with chili sauce .

Personally, I really really love crab. I love it cold or hot, steamed or fried, sweet or salty, bought or caught. Crab meat has a great texture and a sweet taste, but by adding so much chilli, I think it kills a lot of the crab flavor.

I do not particularly crave for this dish. I am not a big fan of spicy food and I can tell you, this dish is incredibly spicy. I don't understand why pair something subtle and sweet with something so strong and spicy. I feel that essence of the crab is lost.
The chili crab also came with fried bread, which has always been something I enjoy. However, tonight, the bread wasn't fried properly or it was sitting too long in the humid weather that the crust of the bread wasn't crunchy. It did, however ,go well with the chili sauce.
This famous dish is definitely worth a try, but personally, it's not something I would like to try again and again.

Chin Mee Chin, Take 2

I am back in Singapore and breakfast in Chin Mee Chin kept entering my mind. In my previous visit I didn't really know how the soft boiled egg was meant to be eaten in Singapore, so I tried it again, this time experiencing it the way the locals do.

The egg comes hot in its shell and a small plate. I cracked the egg onto the plate. Then I need to choose from the plate of condiments consisting of dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, pepper and salt.

I chose to put a bit of light soy sauce and pepper. Next step was to mix it up....then enjoy. It's a little different from how I eat egg. I have never eaten it with soy sauce so for me, the egg was slightly over-powered by the soy sauce, however, I still found it enjoyable. I like the texture of soft boiled egg, it's very rich and creamy and in some ways, the saltiness of the soy sauce cuts the richness and heaviness of the egg.
Of course I also ordered the coffee and the bread topped with kaya and butter. The taxi ride from our hotel cost twice as much as our breakfast, but with good food made with care, how could one resist.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Okonomi-yaki in Kagura, Little Tokyo

I always treasure the lazy Sundays you have once in awhile where you don't think of doing anything but relax, bum around without a care of what time it is. Today was one of those Sundays. For lunch we decided to go to Little Tokyo in Makati and eat at one of the tiny restaurants inside. The choice isn't which restaurant is good or which is better than the other because they're all delicious with their own specialties. What I like is, which ever restaurant you pick, you're not limited to what's offered there because you can also ask for food from the other restaurants around the area.

Today, we chose a small place that specializes in okonomi-yaki, which is like a pancake, a pizza, and an omelette. It's the third time I've eaten here and it never disappoints. Before entering the restaurant, you see a little sign outside the door to inform diners what they specialize in.
The first dish we had was this ampalaya (bitter melon) dish with scrambled egg, sesame seeds, and strips of pork. It's one of my favorites. The ampalaya isn't bitter and the sesame seeds adds a unique flavor to complete the dish.
Next was pan fried pork with egg and tonkatsu sauce. It was pretty tasty and tender.
We also had the asparagus wrapped in bacon. The dish was seasoned well and the asparagus was cooked yet still crunchy....perfect.
This next dish was also one my favorites, grilled squid. It was perfectly cooked that the texture was tender and crispy, not chewy at all as it can usually get. It was seasoned well and with the squirt of lemon, it adds the right amount of acidity to balance the flavor that makes you want to eat more.
Here is one of the famous okonomi-yaki the restaurant is known for. It had squid, shrimp, vegetables, mayonaise, bonito flakes, pork, and noodles....all held together with by a pancake-like batter. It was a dish that's very flavorful and filling.
One of the diners there ordered his own okonomi-yaki and he finished it all! The food is so good that we completely finished everything we ordered.

I love coming to this place; it feels a little bit like home. The restaurant is small, but very cozy. The food is great, simple yet made with care and you defintely taste it. The food is consistent and never fails to satisfy.