A Carnivorous, Porky Adventure in SingaporeMay 19, 2012 | 3,123 views
TONKATSU by Ma Maison @ Mandarin Gallery – Hire Katsu (160g) (SGD24.80/RM62)- Pork Fillet Cutlet served with a mountain of finely-shredded, juicy cabbage and a small dollop of mustard on the side.
The sheer thought of a perfect getaway this very moment is darn inviting. One invigorating escapade to an island preferably uninhibited and unsoiled, with a lovely warn breeze to sooth the nerves and calm the calamity of feelings within.
The 5 days spent in Singapore have been pampering, at the very least. And no, nothing that stood out from the norms, as far as the food and travel experience is concerned. Orchard Road is STILL the same old stretch of shopper’s paradise, only expanded to ridiculous horizons. Never noticed a Mandarin Gallery, or a Scott’s Square within the vicinity. Or maybe the similarity between one another complicated differentiation. Or it could just be me.
Hence, let this be a simplified story of my stay in Singapore; with emphasis on 5 food establishments I picked and the hotel where I spent most of my day time in …..
Clockwise from top left : Katsudon (SGD21.80/RM54.50), Mixed Katsu (Pork, Fish & Prawn) (SGD22.80/RM57), a bowl of mixed grain rice with toppings of stir-fried omelette with onions for the vegetarian amongst us, and Ebi Katsu (Prawn cutlets) (SGD24.80/RM62)
A choice of sweet or spicy katsu sauce, followed by self-grated toasted sesame seeds and the choice of white or mixed grain rice to go along with the meats. The refreshing jelly was a good palate cleanser, and the soft tofu (Hiyakakko @ SGD4.10/RM10.30) was a good complement to the vegetarian’s meal.
TONKATSU by Ma Maison sits on second floor of Mandarin Gallery; a relatively quiet mall compared to the rambunctious Takashimaya @ Ngee Ann City, Somerset @ 313 and the likes. The trend-setting casual Japanese diners serving either ramen or tonkatsu took Singapore by storm; with various outlets sharing similar modus operandi competing on extremely touchy grounds … almost within a stone’s throw in some malls. Gone were the days when sushi on kaiten belt garnered all the hype and salivary glands working overdrive.
In some ways, Malaysia is undergoing the same revolutionary ‘hijack’ too. The sudden surge of ramen outlets, for one.
TONKATSU features an essentially straight-forward menu; minimal pages and big, alluring photos of various deep-fried cutlets (from pork loin to pork fillet to chicken, fish, prawns, etc). Since the mainstay of a good tonkatsu outlet is their pork, TONKATSU decided to indulge in more than just the common breed; elevating the porky experience to include the black pig, kuro buta and even the rare breed of a Hungarian pig; Mangalica.
Verdict? Exemplary tonkatsu that may switch disbelievers into pork cutlet lovers. Juicy cut of pork layered with a very fine portion of fat, crunchy batter without the grease, mountainous servings of shredded cabbage to be drenched in their signature sesame sauce, and a side of sweet or spicy sauce with optional sesame seeds. Go for a bowl of the mixed grain rice too at no additional cost, but the comforting thought of eliminating the guilt of indulging in fried food.
IPPUDO SG : Ramen @ Mandarin Gallery – Where the queue never ends.
With tonkatsu out of the way, let’s talk about ramen then. This was purely coincidental, since this was right after the first lunch at Bakerzin over at Paragon. Yeah … on days when you need DOUBLE lunches to get you through.
Ippudo holds a respectable forte of reputation beyond this region. In fact, there are more than 50 Ippudo’s in Japan alone. Read about the Ramen King’s story here.
The elaborate chandelier took the cake in terms of a strong recognition element, with a general sense of urgency in slurping down the noodles and move on with life in the environment.
The “ramen war” exceeded any chicken rice, tonkatsu, Katong laksa or bubble tea wars ever fought. Santouka, Ippudo, Tampopo (actually been to one about 1.5 years ago, but wondering where I stashed the pictures) and Marutama (read my review of their outlet in Fahrenheit 88) are fine brands with two of those finding a foothold over in our country. Everyone has their preference; some looking for perfect noodles with a springy bite, while others seek for the perfect ‘cha-shu’ (roasted slices of pork) and egg. But one make-or-break element of a good ramen that never escapes the mouth of aficionados? The BROTH.
We sampled the Shiromaru Chashu (original tonkotsu broth with thin noodles and simmered pork belly) and Akamaru Shinaji (infused with garlic oil and Ippudo’s blend of miso paste). Both are priced at around SGD20/RM50 per serving. Personal preference led me to vote for the Akamaru version with an evident layer of fragrant garlic oil added into the broth.
That being said, the ensuing thirstiness was a smear to the otherwise positive ramen experience. Tampopo and Marutama both had pretty flavourful soups packing a strong ‘umami’ taste, yet without leaving us like camels hankering for water. However, the noodles at Ippudo was clearly a cut above with almost perfect texture (you can choose to have yours cooked soft, medium or hard) and without any lingering hint of alkaline taste from lye water.
A Pulled Pork Ciabatta (SGD16.50/RM41.30) @ Bakerzin, and Seafood Spaghetti (SGD16.90/RM42.30) to cure the hunger pangs right after arrival.
Do you see a pattern here? Almost EVERY single meal had a porky element to it. Bakerzin used to have outlets in Malaysia, but have since all but disappeared off the radar. Or have they?
Bakerzin @ Paragon serves a variety of light bites and mains, with an enviable choices of desserts to cap off with. The ciabatta bread was a tad too chewy and soft to begin with, but the fillings of caramelized onions and pulled pork, with melted cheese was a delight to savour. The pasta was a forgettable affair though, albeit laden with seafood.
Bakerzin – Started off with a refreshing and sweet pear salad (SGD8.90/RM22.30), with a zesty dressing.
Cedele @ Takashimaya – This was the 3rd visit to Cedele; the previous two happened late 2010 and the fine, egg-less homemade ice-cream named Cloud 9 registered strongly in my memory.
Cedele’s concept of healthy eating and natural ingredients took off rather well, and has since been in my list of safe staples when dining in shopping malls. The desserts especially, and you have to try the caramel sea salt ice-cream (about SGD3.50/RM8.80) per scoop, or any other flavours that pique your fancy. I tried the blood orange flavour once (when it was in season), and this time we had the strawberry which was excellent too.
Crystal Jade Kitchen @ Scotts Square – Where Chinese dishes are executed to a masterful level yet retaining that homely touch.
A little weary from the onslaught of Western food served at the buffet in our hotel (think about glorious Parma ham with rock melon, Wagyu rump at the carving station, incredible selection of cheeses all day and pasta/risotto/lasagne that will send any Italian food lover to 7th heaven), we decided to go Chinese for a night.
The moment my friend took us to Crystal Jade @ Scotts Square, I was skeptical. Wait, we HAVE Crystal Jade back home, and why shouldn’t we try something else? But the response came in an assuring manner; that the food served here is not the exact replica of the ones we have in Malaysia.
To think that this humble bowl of rice gained the most attention among all!
The QQ Rice (SGD6.80/RM17) came in a pot enough to be shared among 3 pax. Steamed rice with a sticky, almost glutinous rice-like texture topped with a green mess of very finely-blended scallion and ginger, with the aroma of sesame oil. Or it could be shallot oil, for that matter. But the moment the lady mixed everything up in front of us, the fragrance got me interested.
And true enough, this was good enough to be eaten on its own. We paired the rice with the signature Superior soy sauce chicken (SGD9.80/RM24.50) which came a little undercooked, Crispy Eggplant (SGD6.80/RM17) and Steamed Loo Fah with Minced Pork (SGD10.80/RM27). The meal came across as simple, yet in a most pleasant dining ambience. Plus, Scotts Square is relatively more tranquil compared to the others; the only other dining highlight could be the all-day breakfast specialists; Wild Honey.
The Regent Singapore – A Four Seasons Hotel @ Cuscaden Road, off Orchard Road, Singapore
I spent a good 4 days at The Regent Singapore, within walking distance to Orchard Road; about 1km away from Orchard MRT station. But walking in Singapore does give you the impression of walking much less compared to in KL somehow. So the few km’s walk from hotel to Somerset back to hotel was not tiresome in any way.
Bits and pieces about the hotel itself; the 5-star experience was really pampering. Good food abound at Basilico; the in-house Italian diner that serves buffet breakfast for the guests, and Summer Palace; the Chinese restaurant on the 3rd floor. The room was very comfortable, with L’Occitane toiletries provided and replenished twice a day. Yup, housekeeping twice a day to ensure a memorable slumber.
The hotel itself may appear to be a bit worn from the outside, but the interior was top notch. This reminded me of the Zon Regency in Johor Bahru though; for the natural light streaming from above and the corridors of rooms more than anything. The corporate rate was SGD250/RM625 per night, and taking into account dollar for dollar; this was WAY better than most 3-4 stars establishments that charge the same rate.
And that summed up the 5 days of work + a wee bit of fun in Singapore. Let me scavenge the old shots of hawker fares around Singapore and share with you in a coming post. Meanwhile, HAPPY WEEKEND!
TONKATSU by Ma Maison (FB page)
333A ORCHARD ROAD
#02-35/36 Mandarin Gallery
Ippudo Ramen (www)
333A Orchard Road
Tel : 6235-2797
Business hours : Mondays to Saturdays – 11am-11pm, Sundays 11am-10pm
Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
#02-09, Paragon, Singapore
Business hours : Sun – Thurs – 10.30am – 10pm, Fri, Sat, Eve PH – 10.30am – 10.30pm
Crystal Jade Kitchens
6 Scotts Road,
#03-06 Scotts Square, Singapore
Tel: +65 6636 1836
Business hours : Mon–Sat: 11.30am–3pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm
Sun & PH: 10.30am–3.30pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm
391 Orchard Road
#B1-37 Takashimaya Shopping Centre
Tel: (65) 6235 2380
Fax: (65) 6235 9650
Opening hours : Mon – Sun/Public Holidays: 10.00am to 10.00pm
Regent Singapore – A Four Seasons Hotel (www)
1 Cuscaden Road
T:+65 6733 8888
F:+65 6732 8838