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Puffer fish

Puffer fish
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Unlike its moniker, Puffer fish is actually quite friendly and approachable. Unless you’re out to eat her lunch – or dessert — to be precise – then be prepared that she might raise her spikes at you. Good food is just one of her many likes, Puffer Fish also loves visiting new and familiar places around the world because she believes there are always new discoveries and adventures to be had. She considers herself one lucky ass to be able to put her editorial background to good use by sharing her travel and gastronomical adventures online via Gratenews. She hopes readers get as much enjoyment and insights from her pieces as she has writing them.

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    Dragon Bowl Flaming chicken

    We like Christmas ham and log cakes as much as the next person. But at the same time, we don’t mind sprucing up our festive feasting with other cuisines.  That’s why we’re quite excited to check out Dragon Bowl’s Christmas creation – Flaming Chicken!

    There’s no question why this dish is called ‘Flaming Chicken’. It is a clever pun on the Chinese term for Turkey or 火鸡, a traditional dish eaten during Christmas. The dish is literally served after it’s been set on fire! In order to create the dramatic effect, the chicken is first drenched with rose wine, which also impart a flora aroma to the meat. Taste wise, the meat is surprisingly tender, thanks to the chef’s secret marinate. We also liked that our chicken wasn’t too fatty. The Flaming Chicken is going for only $1 when you spend more than $80 at Dragon Bowl and pay for the meal with a DBS or POSB card.

    The Flaming Chicken is not the only dish worth trying at Dragon Bowl. As a traditional Cantonese restaurant, they also specialise in dim sum dishes and lobster porridge.

    Dragon Bowl Lobster Porridge

    Lobster Porridge caption: Try Dragon Bowl’s signature Crab Roe Live Lobster Golden Porridge for $38 for a small serving (good for 2 people) Offer ends 31 Dec.

    For dim sum, we recommend the Poached Mala Dumplings ($4.30 for 3). Plump prawn-filled dumplings are drenched in piquant black vinegar, cut chillies, spices and sliced ginger. We couldn’t really taste the mala – but this is one fiery dish, alright. Good luck to you if you bite into one of the sliced chilli padi!

    Dragon Bowl - Mala Dumplings
    Watch out for the landmine of chillii padi!

    The Fried Shrimp Wrapped in Cheong Fun ($6.50) is another must-try. This is a twist on the famous Hong Kong dim sum dish “Zha Leong”, which consists of fried dough (you tiao) wrapped with steamed rice roll. It’s a riot of textures with the tender rice roll, crunchy you tiao and succulent prawns.

    Looking at the humble Claypot Taro Cake with Preserved Meat ($4.30), we were not expecting much but the taste of dried shrimps, flavoured meat combined with mashy and thick cut Taro squares really won us over. The old school flavours (古早味) of the dish reminds us of what grandma used to make.

    taro cake-e

    There’s a 30% discount on the al la carte dim sum dishes until 31 December so now’s the best time to try them out! Do note that dim sum is only served during lunch.

    Dragon Bowl Dim Sum

    Offer valid till 31 Dec.

    Dragon Bowl

    6 Raffles Blvd, #03-129A Marina Square, Singapore 039594

    Tel: 6858 1588

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      1-for-1 lobster set, Emporium Shokuhin
      1-for-1 lobster set at Tokujo $68++

      Our favourite time of the year is here! Like many of us, our Christmas and New Year’s are normally spent on get-together with family and close friends, so we’re always busy looking out for the best restaurants to celebrate the festive season. Apart from great food, drinks and a nice ambience, places that offer good value for money dining deals are a bonus!

      We recently came across a number of great deals at Emporium Shokuhin that checks all the boxes! The Japanese cluster dining concept at Marina Square is running a number of 1-for-1 deals to attract diners.

      Here are some of the dining deals we cherry-picked for you. The deals are running from now until 2 January. if you’re keen, make sure you make your bookings early!

      1-for-1 A5 Miyazaki Wagyu & USDA Prime Beef Buffet

      beefslices_e

      Restaurant: GYUU+ Yakiniku Grill

      Tel: 6812 2177

      Price: Adult: $98++ (Mon-Thurs), $108++ Fri-Sun, Eve of PH & PH; (Child: $26.80++ for all days)

      This has got to be one of the most value-for-money Wagyu beef BBQs in town this festive season! Beef lovers can have their fill of quality A5 wagyu beef and USDA prime beef at this all-you-can-eat beef buffet. You’ll also get to enjoy a variety of seafood like prawns and scallops. There’s also a choice of greens available to complement all that meat. Dining is limited to 90 mins.

      1-for-1 Sashimi and Lobster Sets

      Lobster set at Tokujo, Emporium Shokuhin
      Soup with a whole lobster at Tokujo, Emporium Shokuhin

      Restaurant: Takujo Japanese Dining

      Price: From $28

      Tel: 6812 2176

      With such an excellent deal, you can feast on a variety of fresh fish and seafood this festive season. Choose from an array of fresh sashimi platter, starting from $28++ and get your second one of the same or lower price for free. You get 3 types of the day’s freshest white fish such as Shima Aji, Houbou, Isaki or Mandai. The 1-for-1 lobster deal is also not to be missed. Have your lobsters in 2 ways: half prepared in sashimi style and the other half in deep-fried tempura style. The second option is a whole lobster cooked in a miso-based soup to bring out all the umami goodness. Personally, we prefer the first combo but you can always order both to try since you get the other lobster set for free. At 68++ for the lobster set, diners end up paying only $34++ per lobster!

      1-for-1 steaks and main course

      1-for-1 French oysters at UMI + VINO at $8++ each
      1-for-1 French oysters at UMI + VINO at $8++ each

      Restaurant: UMI + VINO Seafood & Wine Bar

      Tel: 6812 2175

      Price: from $8++ for oysters; $28++ for burgers

      Even dined at UMI + VINO, a Japanese and Western fusion restaurant? If not, this might be the best time to check out this steak and seafood specialty restaurant as it’s offering 1-for-1 for its mains and steaks on Saturdays and Sundays from now until 2 Jan. Their cold Hokkaido Scallop & Kombu Pasta ($32++) is worth a try, while its Lobster, Prawn & Scallop Burger ($28++) is one-of-its kind. It consists of a lobster claw and a generous seared scallop on a prawn patty. Game for more seafood? Well, oyster lovers can go for their excellent, creamy Fine de Claire oyster or the more rounded in flavour Speciale de Claire variety from France. Priced at $8++ a piece, you get 1-for-1 for every order. While you’re at it, order one of their excellent wines to pair with your meal.

      Hokkaido Scallops Pasta at UME + VINO
      Hokkaido Scallops Pasta at UME + VINO

      Emporium Shokuhin

      6 Raffles Link #01-18 New [email protected] Square Mall
      Singapore 039594

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        Emporium Shokuhin, the Japanese seafood and produce store at Marina Square has launched an e-shop to allow customers to shop online. Enjoy fresh Japanese produce, seafood, meats, snacks and even Japanese alcohol delivered straight to your doorstop, at just one click away.

        You’ll find Japanese fruits and vegetables imported directly from Japan, such as the seasonal Mizuna vegetables ($6.90 per pack of 200g), Kousui Pears ($13.90 for 2) and Donut Peaches ($6.95 per box) on the online shop. Meat wise, choose from A4 Kagoshima Brisket Shabu Shabu ($26 for approx 100g) – great for hotpot or the premium A5 Miyazaki Steak at $92 for a 200-230g slab. Since Emporium Shokuhin is well know for its live seafood, we checked out what’s on offer. We found quite a good selection including Boston lobster, Alaskan King crab, French oysters and grouper. There are also seafood BBQ packs if you’re planning on holding a year-end grill party.

        Apart from the online store, the site also offers recipes, restaurant guides to help you whip up a delicious Japanese meal at home. So if you’re planning a year-end get-together this festive season, check out the Emporium Shokuhin at https://emporiumshokuhin.com.sg/

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          Osteria Mozza at Marina Bay Sands by Mario Batali has added some large, sharing dishes to fill hungry diners.

          One such dish is the Beef Cheek & Bone Marrow Pie ($65), which pays homage to Chef Nancy Silverton’s Restaurant Chi Spacca, Mozza’s sister restaurant in Los Angeles. The pot pie features a roasted veal femur bone shrouded in a buttery golden-brown pie crust. Guests can tear open the crumbly pastry to reveal a pool of succulent beef cheek meat that has been stewed with carameralised mushrooms and cippollini onions, and dip into the centre of the bone to scoop out buttery bone marrow.

          Beef Cheek & Bone Marrow Pie ($65)
          Beef Cheek & Bone Marrow Pie ($65)

          If bone marrow’s not your thing, try the Dry-Aged Porterhouse (from $130). But order this only if you have a huge appetite or have a few friends to share the dish with. The huge 1kg Porterhouse steak is premium 150-day grass-fed Black Angus beef from Queensland, Australia that is aged for 45 days to heighten its flavour.

          Dry-Aged Porterhouse (from $130)
          Dry-Aged Porterhouse (from $130)

          Want something more manageable? Try the Fried Whole Snapper (from $90, depending on size). The fish is good as a main course or shared among friend and family. It features a whole New Zealand snapper doused in agro dolce, a tangy Italian sweet and sour sauce. The fish is scored on both sides and fried till the skin is crisp and meat is fork-tender. A generous serving of tangy Italian sweet and sour capsicum-onion sauce is then ladled over the fish, and topped with fried Tuscan kale leaves.

          We’re heading to Mozza for our next group gathering!

          Images by Osteria Mozza

          Osteria Mozza

          2 Bayfront Avenue Marina Bay Sands, B1-42-46, 018972

          Tel +65 6688 8522

          [email protected]

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            wineglass bay at freycinet national park, tasmania
            Wineglass Bay lookout at Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

            I have long heard about how beautiful Tasmania is. The island state located in the southern tip of Australia is known for its national parks, stunning oceans, aged forests, dramatic landscapes and abundant fresh seafood. When I finally made my first trip to Tasmania, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the place exceeded my expectations. From the moment I landed in Hobart, I was already taken by the beautiful townships set against the scenic backdrop of rolling mountains. To think, I haven’t even seen much of Tasmania then yet.

            Freycinet is a popular tourist site of Tasmania, well loved by locals as well as visitors from overseas. The town is home to the Freycinet National Park, which includes famous spots like Wineglass Bay, The Hazards and the white, sandy shores of Friendly Beaches. To make the best of your trip to Freycinet, here are the top 7 things to take note of before you go.

            1.Get ready for a road trip

            Most people take a self-driving road trip to Freycinet. It’s a very rewarding experience as your journey is flanked by stunning greenery and ocean views. So beautiful that drivers have to be careful about not getting too distracted by the views. Ideally, there should be more than one person driving so everyone can take turns to enjoy the view or take a break. The stretch of road from Swansea to Freycinet has many sharp bends and curves and it doesn’t help that the narrow road is open to two-way traffic. Always keep an eye out on the speed limit and watch the road conditions – such as frost.

            Devil's Corner, Tasmania
            The good thing about a road trip is that you can start wherever and whenever you want. We did a pit stop at Devil’s Corner
            Devil's Corner, Tasmania
            Inside of Devil’s Corner vineyard
            Devil's Corner, Tasmania
            Order a glass and take in the amazing view at Devil’s Corner

            2. Dark, dark highways

            Before my trip, I read these stories about how some people had managed to catch the Southern Aurora in Tasmania. On one of the nights where the Aurora indicator was said to be rather high, we decided to hop into our car and head to a nearby bay where we could get an unblock view of the South. Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves driving along a pitch dark highway moments later! The visibility ahead was under a couple of metres. The only light was coming from our own headlights and the reflectors on the side of the road. It was a pretty unnerving experience, not to mention dangerous. Inexperienced drivers, in particular, should avoid driving around Freycinet after dark. If you’re wondering whether we managed to see the aurora in the end, the answer is unfortunately, no. But we did get to enjoy a very beautiful view of the perfectly dark and moonless night sky, which constrasted sharply with the bright, shinning stars. It was a memorable experience, but not one worth risking our lives for.

            3. Your best bet is Telstra

            If you’re getting an Australian phone SIM card for data access on the trip, Telstra is your best bet in Freycinet. Even then, there are black out spots around the area where no network is available – pretty common in Freycinet. When renting your lodging, do not take for granted that WiFi will be provided. Check that it’s explicitly stated in the offering.

            4. Supplies, surprise

            The idea of gathering around a barbeque fire in the cold, while sipping wine on the terrace was one of the experiences we were after during this trip. So much so that my travel mates and I insisted on renting a place that had barbeque facilities. And we did just that. But when we got to Freycinet after a 2.5 hour drive from Hobart, we were surprised to find that there were no proper supermarkets in the entire town of Freycinet to be found on the map. The closest you get to a supermarket is a convenience shop called ‘Coles Bay Convenience’ in the town centre! If you’re after some cold drinks, milk and light snacks, the shop comes in handy. But it’s lacking in terms of fresh meats and vegetable supplies for a decent BBQ. Later, we found out that the nearest supermarket is located in another town called Bicheno, which is about a good 35-minute drive away.  Needless to say, we didn’t get to live out our BBQ dream.

            5. Expensive dining

            Related to the previous point on not having a proper supermarket, most of the food options in Freycinet don’t come cheap. Choices are also pretty limited. They include a restaurant called Tombolo Freycinet, which specialises in wood fire pizza (very good, by the way), a casual eatery called Iluka, The Edge Restaurant and Freycinet Marine Farm, which is only open in the day (more on this later). There are a few other eateries within a 10-minute drive from the town centre but options are limited. A simple meal at one of these places will typically set you back A$20-30 per person per meal. We’re lucky we had a few spare packets of indomee instant noodles with us on the trip as we got rather tired – and broke – from the food options by the third night of dining out in Freycinet. If you don’t want to end up like us, make sure you stock up for your trip on the way in.

            Tombolo Freycinet
            Tombolo Freycinet at Coles Bay
            Their wood-fired pizzas are very good. This spicy mussels pizza is one of the specials that night
            Their wood-fired pizzas are very good. This spicy mussels and chorizo pizza is one of the specials that night
            Fish and chips at Tombolo Freycinet
            Fish and chips, AU$26

            6. Freycinet Marine Farm

            By the time we left for Tasmania, we had read so much about Freycinet Marine Farm that our mouths were watering for fresh seafood whilst driving to the farm. We don’t know whether it was a case of pure bad luck or over expectations on our part, but Freycinet Marine Farm wasn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Sure, the seafood we had there were very fresh but they were also very limited. The menu featured a variety of oysters prepared in different ways (baked, fresh), baked scallops and salmon. When asked whether there were other food we could order in or take out, we were told that everything else available was in the glass fridge in front us. It had some fresh oysters and prawns but not much else. Mussels were also not available due to a certain strain of bacteria affecting the molluscs during that period. I remember double checking the location to see if we were at the right place. We went home disappointed that day.

            Freycinet Marine Farm
            We were there early and there were plenty of seats
            Oysters at Freycinet Marine Farm
            The best way to enjoy these oysters is straight up

            7. Hotel, what hotel?

            A lot of the lodging in Freycinet are private homes and villas as opposed to a conventional hotel. What this means is, there’s probably no one to greet or check you in when you arrive at your place of lodging. That’s why it’s important to familiarise yourself with how you can gain access to the rented property beforehand. For us, we had to key in a set of password sent to us via email to unlock the key to the main door upon arrival. Additionally, if you anticipate to return after dark, take some time to find the night light in your driveway and turn it on before you head out so you can locate your house after dark. We know this because we ended up circling a few times around a dark neighbourhood before we found our unit.

            Gumnut at Coles Bay, Tasmania
            This the place we rented at Coles Bay

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              Noboribetsu
              The devil welcomes you to Noboribetsu

              Planning a trip to Hokkaido? Lucky you! Everything from Hokkaido’s amazing food, rich culture to picturesque scenery is sure to wow its visitors. My favourite city in Hokkaido is Hakodate, thanks to its beautiful bay area and what seems like endless supply of fresh, succulent seafood. Check out our list of the 15 things to do in Hokkaido to make your trip a memorable one.

              1. Enjoy Kaisen Don

              How Singaporean to pick a food item to kick off a must-do list! But didn’t they say that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach? First on our list of dishes to try is the kaisen don or seafood bowl. Whether your favourite seafood is swordfish, salmon, snow crab or those juicy ikura fish eggs, there’s such a wide variety of kaisen don in Hokkaido that you’re bound to find one that suits your palate. Some of the best places to enjoy kaisen don is at a seafood market like the Hakodate Morning Market or the Sapporo Nijo Market.

              Kaisen don in Hokkaido
              You can have Kaisen don for breakfast
              Kaisen don in Hokkaido
              Kaisen don for lunch…
              Kaisen don in Hokkaido
              and Kaisen don for dinner. Burp
              Kaisen Don in Otaru
              The mother of Kaisen don. Look at the variety of seafood!

              2. Experience Winter at Asahiyama Zoo

              Enjoy your own version of the penguin march at this well-loved zoo. During certain periods in winter when the ground is covered with snow, visitors get to walk alongside the adorable, waddling birds. It’s guaranteed to be a fun-filled experience for kids and family. Do note, however, that the zoo is closed for a few days during winter so make sure you check the opening schedule on the Asahiyama Zoo website before you go.

              Penguins at Asahiyama Zoo
              Playful penguins at Asahiyama Zoo

              3. Savour a sea urchin or uni

              Fresh sea urchin can be found in various restaurants or seafood markets throughout Hokkaido for about 1,000 yen a piece. Savour the soft and creamy orange flesh of this sea creature and you’ll remember its sweet taste for life! Oishii! Some may choose to have their uni slightly torched but we think fresh is best.

              Fresh Uni at Hakodate Morning Market
              Feast on fresh uni at Hakodate Morning Market

              4. Have Soup curry

              Unlike the usual Japanese curry, soup curry is thinner in consistency as the gravy combines soup and curry – thus its name. There’s different levels of customisation depending on where you eat, including choice of meat, the soup base, amount of rice and down to the spiciness of the curry. it’s very popular among the locals in places like Sapporo city – so don’t miss this special culinary treat.

              5. Organise a picnic during sakura viewing season

              Every year, tens of thousands of tourists flock to Hokkaido and parts of Japan for the sakura or cherry blossom viewing in Spring time. If you’re lucky enough to catch the Hanami or cherry blossom viewing activity, why not join in the local practice of setting up a picnic at these scenic spots too? Just pack a picnic mat, bento and some snacks and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer.

              The scenic Odori Park during the sakura season
              The scenic Odori Park in Sapporo during the sakura season

              6. Shop at Don Quijote

              No shop is equally ecclectic or well stocked as Don Quijote, which is located across Japan rather than just Hokkaido alone. It’s your one-stop shop for everything from Japanese snacks to make-up to Halloween masks and cosplay supplies. Every aisle is crammed with supplies so take your time to shop here.

              7. Enjoy the produce of the season

              Take a walk along the fresh produce section of the supermarket or farmers’ markets in Hokkaido and you’ll find a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. But the best produce are often the fruit or crops of the season, not to mention it’s more environmental too. For instance, honeydew and persimmon are the sweetest and most abundant in Autumn, while strawberries are the best enjoyed in Spring.

              Honeydew are seasonal produce in Hokkaido
              For big groups, go for a whole honeydew. A mid-range one costs around 1500 – 2500 Yen

              8. Attend a festival

              The Japanese simply love festivals! There are various festivals to celebrate the season, religion, cultural practices and other special occasions, so plan your travel date accordingly. Some of the most popular festivals include the Sapporo Snow Festival in February, the Kamome Island Festival in Esashi, Hokkaido to celebrate the sea in July, the Kachimai Fireworks Festival in August and the Yokata Andon (fighting lantern) festival at the end of August. Did we mention there’s even the Nemuro Sanma festival in September which worships fish!

              A performer taking photos with the crowd
              Devil and Fireworks performance in Noboribetsu

              N9. Visit the Hakodate Morning Fish Market

              If you visit the serene coastal town of Hakodate, the morning market is a must. It is breeming with fresh and cooked seafood every day of the week. Go on an empty stomach and enjoy your fill of seafood like grilled scallops, sashimi, seasoned cuttlefish as well as snacks like mochi and hokkaido milk ice cream. Keep a lookout for the prized whole tuna being transported around the market by fishermen. The occurrence never fails to raise awe!

              Interior of Hakodate Morning Market
              Plan your Hakodate Morning Market visit early in the day when it’s less crowded
              Hakodate Morning Market
              Crabs in abundance at the Hakodate Morning Market
              Street view of Hakodate Morning Market
              The market may not be big but it has plenty to offer

              10. Eat at Lucky Pierrot

              Another exclusive place of Hokodate is fast food chain Lucky Pierrot. The most famous item on the menu is the Chinese Chicken Burger which is served with a sesame specked bun and some fresh lettuce. The Fried noodles with chicken combo and Original Curry + Chicken are also very delicious and good value for money. There are a lot of other dishes and burgers to try so take your time to pick and choose what appeals to you.

              Lucky Pierrot stall at Hakodate
              Look at the number of items on the menu!
              Lucky Pierrot stall at Hakodate
              One of the many Lucky Pierrot outlets at Hakodate
              Chinese chicken burger at Lucky Pierrot
              The popular Chinese chicken burger at Lucky Pierrot

              11. Bask in an open roof onsen

              Going to an onsen is a popular experience in Hokkaido but more then just any onsen, pick one with an outdoor bath.  One of the most memorable onsen experiences I’ve had is at an outdoor onsen at Mount Kurodate in Asahikawa during Winter where I got to enjoy the contrasting temperatues of the cold surrounds while being submerged in the heated spring water, all whilst soaking in the the amazing views of the mountain. Simply out of this world.

              Open air onsen at Sounkyo, Hokkaido
              Open air onsen at Sounkyo
              Open air onsen at Sounkyo, Hokkaido
              Best time for open air onsen? When it’s snowing.

              12. Stay at a ryokan

              Get the full Japanese experience by staying at one of the ryokan or guest houses in Hokkaido. Prices per night vary quite widely depending on the ryokan, location and what’s included – such as meals and whether there’s a private onsen. You can also choose one with a personal onsen attached to your room, but those would come at a higher price. During my trip to Hokkaido in Oct 16, I spent a night at the Oyada Kiyomizuya ryokan in the popular onsen town of Noboribetsu and the overall experience was simply unforgettable.

              Ryokan at Noboribetsu
              A popular ryokan in Noboribetsu
              Ryokan at Noboribetsu
              Inside of a traditional Japanese ryokan
              Breakfast spread at a ryokan
              Waking up to a sumptuous breakfast spread!

              13. Take a ropeway

              If you plan to visit a mountain in Hokkaido, take the chance to ride on a ropeway if it’s available. It’s a scenic (or thrilling for some) to get to the top of a mountain in the elevator where you can get to a vantage point to enjoy the surrounding scenary. Some of the popular ropeways can be found at places like Mt Moiwa in Sapporo city and Mount Kurodake in Asahikawa.

              Ropeway up to Daisetsuzan
              Ropeway up to Daisetsuzan, a pretty thrilling experience

              14. Bring home a piece of Otaru

              The quaint, European-eque town of Otaru (about an hour train ride from Sapporo) is littered with ceramic and glassware shops. You’ll find nifty items like one-of-a-kind, handcrafted pottery, sake glass, music box made from glass and more.Take your time to visit some of these shops and bring home a piece of Otaru for friends and family.

              15. Check out the Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum

              The range of sake or Japanese rice wine in Japan is mind-boggling. It ranges from under S$10 a bottle to the hundreds. One of the most popular sake in Hokkaido is produced by Otokoyama. If you visit Asahikawa, drop by the Otokoyama Sake Brewery Museum where you’ll get to see the brewery behind a glass panel, the equipment used for making sake and most importantly get a tasting session! The brewery is located at

              079-8412 Hokkaido Prefecture, Asahikawa, Nagayama 2 Jo, 7 Chome−1−3.

               

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                Katsudon Hanakatsu at Eat@Seven

                Katsudon Hanakatsu is one of those eateries that specialises in just one type of dish — and does it really well.

                Hailing from Japan, the restaurant specialises in katsudon, a popular Japanese dish consisting of deep fried pork or chicken cutlet served on rice.

                For your main course, you can choose from either the original, HA – NA Katsudon, or spicy flavour, HA  – NA Katsudon Spicy Flavour. That’s it, no complications, no frills and minimal decision-making required. Sweet!

                Generous portions to please big eaters

                Each katsudon comes with 6 slices of meat cutlet; 3 pork and 3 chicken covered in a light and crispy golden brown batter. The meats are arranged in way that makes the cutlets resemble the petals of a blooming flower sprouting out of the rice bowl – an appetising sight for meat lovers, indeed. And for all that generous serving, the bowl only costs $13.50.

                Despite being deep fried, we were surprised by how tender and juicy the cutlets were. Compared to other katsudon places we’ve tried, Hanakatsu’s meats are more thinly sliced and uses a crumb batter, rather than the thick-cut cutlets covered in a flaky batter. Between the pork and chicken, we like the former better as the meat was sliced thinner, thus enhancing the crispiness and had more flavour.

                Katsudon Hanakatsu Original flavour

                Katsudon Hanakatsu Spicy flavour

                Spicy bowl – only available in Singapore

                Knowing how Singaporeans love spicy food, the restaurant created the spicy katsudon bowl just for us. Being a Japanese restaurant, we were skeptical about the level of spiciness at first. But we decided to give it a shot, anyway, and ordered it along with the original flavour. When the food arrived, we saw that the spicy cutlets were fiery red – and looking quite promising. As it turned out,  the cutlets weren’t tongue-numbingly spicy, but it definitely had heat — enough to make us stop for a few big gulps of iced green tea throughout the meal. So if you can’t take spicy food, go for the original instead and just add dashes of chilli powder to taste.

                The rice is worth a mention as the restaurant uses high quality Nanatsuboshi rice imported from Hokkaido. You can choose from white rice or the 16-grain variety which comes at no extra charge.

                Katsudon Hanakatsu 16-grain variety rice option
                16-grain variety rice option

                We’re glad that the restaurant offers miso soup as a side order, as that helped to wash down all that meaty goodness. Known as Ton-ji-ru ($3), the soup is chock-full of vegetables like cabbage and carrots and even had some pieces of pork in it.

                Is it worth checking out?

                Katsudon Hanakatsu is located right next to Tendon Kohaku, a popular restaurant under the same group. Due to the proximity, some people recommend Katsudon Hanakatsu as a plan B for diners who turned up for Tendon Kohaku but decided they didn’t to wait too long in line at the tempura place. Personally, however, we think that Katsudon Hanakatsu — with its delicious and value-for-money katsudon offering –  should be more than just an after thought.

                Katsudon Hanakatsu

                Address: Suntec City Mall, Eat @ Seven, 3 Temasek Boulevard #03-10, Singapore 038983

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                  Kale Caesar at Antoinette
                  Kale Caesar

                  There are lots of good dessert places in Singapore. But one that specialises in both desserts and savoury dishes – maybe not so common.

                  That’s one of the things that impresses us time and again with Antoinette, helmed by chef Pang Kok Keong. After all, being able to get the best of both worlds under the same roof is a pretty neat idea.

                  We were at Antoinette to try out Chef Pang’s new dishes and desserts. The new savoury dishes are a fusion of East meets West – and they are all pretty elaborate.

                  We had some warm bread ($5) to start off the meal. They came served with 4 types of special butter including caramelised shallots, rempah and preserved turnips (chai po). The fourth and most outstanding butter was preserved beancurd or Chinese ‘fuyu’.  The ‘force’ is strong with this one – you’ve been warned.

                  Our favourite dishes of the night are the Kale Caesar ($22)and Hakka Gnocchi. The salad is served with roasted five-spiced chicken roulade and a generous sprinkling of fried garlic and crispy salted fish, which goes extremely well with the kale.

                  Kale Caesar at Antoinette
                  Kale Caesar
                  Hakka Gnocchi at Antoinette
                  Hakka Gnocchi

                  The colourful Hakka Gnocchi ($24) is not only pretty to look at, it is also well executed. The soft and chewy gnocchi got their beautiful colours from ingredients like beetroot, purple sweet potato and yam. As we couldn’t taste the difference between the different flavoured gnocchi under the heavy-tasting foie gras gravy, we like them all the same. Mixed with salty cured minced pork, the dish was very satisfying.

                  Next came Chef’s favourite amongst his new creations – Spaghetti with Pork Belly Ragout and cuttlefish ($24).  Chef says he draws inspiration from a “peasant dish” he fondly remembers from his childhood days called ‘Ke Jia Yen Mien’, which is prepared by tossing fragrant oil into noodles. We especially like the addition of cuttlefish to this hearty dish as it not only lends umami flavours but also provides chewiness to the dish.

                  Chicken Rice at Antoinette
                  Chicken Rice

                  The Antoinette style Chicken Rice ($36) is a play on the Singaporean Classic. Even though only breast meat is used, the chicken slices are very tender, as it’s cooked sous vide style. Barley is used instead of rice and the grains are infused with chicken stock and spices. The accompanying sauces come in the form of small blobs of dark soya sauce foam and chilli gel beautifully arranged around the plate. It’s definitely an interesting dish but we would go for a normal plate of hearty chicken rice (not barley) anytime.

                  New desserts at Antoinette
                  New desserts at Antoinette
                  Misty Forest at Antoinette
                  Misty Forest

                  Desserts are a must at Antoinette, especially after we’ve seen how exquisitely designed the cakes look on our way in. If you only have space for one, we highly recommend the ‘Pandan’ ($14). The first part of this dessert consists of creamy Pandan kaya smeared on small pieces of toast. The second parter builds up to a medley of pandan infused desserts consisting of Pandan foam, ice cream, sponge and coconut crumble. Chef must have crammed a ton of aromatic pandan leaves into the dessert, as the flavours are so intense. The dessert is made even better by pairing it with salted gula melaka. Beautiful as a dream!

                  Chocolate lovers will be charmed by the Misty Forest ($18). It’s designed like the ground of a forest covered in small twigs, crumbly dark soil and the occasional sprig of weed (edible). Served under a glass dome filled with smoke, the dish is well deserving of its dramatic presentation (all eyes will be on your table). Enjoy the chocolatey goodness to madness as you shovel your way into this delicious crumble of chocolate cream, cashew nut nougatine and bright yuzu curd.

                  La Rose at Antoinette
                  La Rose
                  Charlotte IV Petite
                  Charlotte IV Petite

                  Antoinette Restaurants

                  Penhas Road
                  30 Penhas Road (off Lavender Street), Singapore 208188
                  Tel: (65) 6293 3121
                  Fax: (65) 6293 3220

                  Mandarin Gallery
                  333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery #02-33/34, Singapore 238897
                  Tel: (65) 6836 9527
                  Fax: (65) 6836 9209

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                    Booking rates start from $45/ hour for a standard station

                    Looking for something to whip up a feast on your next office event – you might want to check the new OUE Social kitchen.

                    Located at Downtown Gallery, the 4,000 square foot communal kitchen space comes with 2 VIP rooms and 6 standard stations, including 2 halal friendly ones. Users will have access to the full range of kitchen appliances from Smeg, such as gas and induction hobs, ovens, microwave, fridge, wine chiller and coffee maker. Small appliances, baking essentials, cookware, crockery and cutlery will also be provided by OUE Social Kitchen. Just bring your fresh ingredients and get to work!

                    Booking rates start from $45/ hour for a standard station
                    Booking rates start from $45/ hour for a standard station

                    If you need any cooking tips, an in-house chef and staff will be stationed in the kitchen to provide assistance, cooking tips. Probably the best thing of all is that there are clean-up services after the cook out. The dining area within OUE Social Kitchen is also free-to-use for consumers to host meals for their friends and families, or interact with other users. OUE Social Kitchen is also an ideal location for hosting corporate and private events with a maximum capacity of 200 people.

                    To book one of the stations, you can make a reservation via the Downtown Gallery app.

                    Rates start at SG$45/hour for a standard kitchen station and from SG$150/hour for the VIP rooms.

                    OUE Social Kitchen officially opens to the public on 18 September 2017, daily from 10am to 10pm.

                     

                    OUE Social kitchen

                    6 Shenton Way

                    #03-02/03, Downtown Gallery

                    Singapore 068809

                    Opening hours: 10am to 10pm

                     

                    Images by OUE Social Kitchen

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                      Making of the Angel Prawn at Rokukakutei
                      Making of the Angel Prawn

                      Another Michelin-starred restaurant has landed in Singapore.

                      Located at Odeon Towers, Rokukakutei is a one-star Michelin Japanese restaurant specialising in food on skewers – also known as kushikatsu. It’s the perfect first-date meal where all the dishes are served in neat, manageable portions. You don’t even have use for any clanky cutlery – simply eat off the stick.

                      Rokukakutei, which originated in Osaka only serves Omakase meals. You can choose from 10 skewers ($118++) or 20 ($134++). You get items such as meat, vegetables and seafood — all deep fried to a perfect crisp.

                      The skewers are placed in front of you on a plate lined with a thin slice of bread – meant for soaking up excess oil (there wasn’t any). You will also be served an array of accompanying dips and sauces. The servers are trained to point each end of the skewer to the dipping sauce that goes best with the food.

                      Wowed by the seafood

                      Despite fiddling quite a bit to get the best shot of our food, the dishes were still steaming hot when we bit through the crispy cocoon of deep fried batter. Of the sticks we had, the seafood skewers were outstanding. Items like the Scallop and Angel Prawn retained their tenderness and umami flavours under the batter. The Salmon with chrysanthemum petals complemented each other exceptionally well, with the floral scent of the petals neutralising the natural fishiness of the salmon. For the non-seafood selection, we particularly enjoyed the chicken with perilla and croquette of green peas. In fact, anyone who could make ordinary green peas taste so good deserves an accolade.

                      Go for the wine pairing, it’s worth it!

                      Apart from the seafood, the restaurant also excels in their choice of wine pairing. The wine pairing menu comes with 15 skewers and a selection of wines at $288. We kicked off with a heady champagne, followed by a Sauvingnon Blanc from Napa Valley which went beautifully with the scallop and fish skewers, before finishing off with a robust red wine that paired well with the Duck and Welsh Onion. If you like wine, the pairing menu is definitely worth it.

                      To our surprise, we were pretty stuffed by the time we had our 12th skewer – three more to go. As dainty as they looked, the small sticks of food really add up.

                      Our only gripe was that there wasn’t any sweets to seal the meal. After all the deep fried food, a dessert would definitely break up the monotony. It didn’t help that our last course was a stick of creamy fried cheese that was rather mild-tasting. We couldn’t help but feel that the final omph to round off the meal was missing. But despite that, our Rokukakutei experience – also our first taste of kushikatsu omakase fare —  will stick in our memory for some time to come.

                      Rokukakutei

                      331 North Bridge Road

                      #01-04 Odeon Towers

                      Singapore 188720

                      Open: 4-11pm (daily)