July, 2006

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Dinner at Patara

With my mum’s birthday coming around the corner during the National Day week, all of us headed to Patara last evening for an early celebration dinner. Patara is a successful restaurant that specializes in Thai cusine. In fact, they have received many awards for fine cusine in Bangkok.

Patara @ Raffles City

dining-025.JPGThere are several branches of the restaurant outside Thailand too, with two in Singapore itself. There is an à la carte menu, but we had the buffet spread where one chooses from more than two dozen dishes. The Sunday dinner crowd for the Raffles City outlet at 6:30 p.m. was relatively light, though it filled to nearly three quarters capacity by the time we’d finished at 8:30 p.m.

Even with the eight of us adults (and three younglings) at the table, we just didn’t have the capacity to try every one of those dishes. That we could indicate the desired size for a number of the dishes did help in letting us sample as wide a range as possible. I didn’t get to take pictures for every dish we had a go at, so here’s just a small selection of pictures: from top to down: deep fried fish cakes + stuffed (chicken) wings, green mango salad, and part of the dessert spread.

dining-026.JPGThe other items we tried included: tom yum seafood soup with mushroom (fantastic stuff), green curry chicken, red curry of roast duck, beef fillet in dry panang curry, spice marinated pork short ribs, bake prawns with ginger glass noodle, fried grouper fillet in sweet chilli (slices were very crispy and yummy), tou miao stir-fried with garlic (all of us swept this dish apart), black olive fried rice with minced chicken (new dish for us but superb), and pineapple seafood fried rice (not so impressive).

The general opinion from all of us was that the food was excellent with good range. and ambience adequate. However, we were less impressive with the service. The head waiter serving our table was polite while the other waiters were well… sullen. More seriously, several of the waiters didn’t seem alert to our table – we had to ask several times for a top-up of drinking water – nor were used dishes and utensils replaced with new ones during the meal, as is the common practice for meals of this type. Price wise was a little on the high side at $28++ per person.

dining-027.jpgSo, on the overall: our ratings:

  • Food: 4.5 / 5
  • Service: 2.5 / 5 (Needs improvement)
  • Value: 3 / 5
  • Overall: 3.3. You pay for quality. That said, for much lower prices and genuinely interested service, we’d give Jai Thai a higher recommendation. The food is nearly as good, and you are served by cheerful Thai lasses. :P

Hawker Fare

Hawker Fare

dining-010.jpgOne thing that visitors to Singapore soon notice about hawker fare is the label each stall displays. Upon first glance, it’s easy to mistake the large letters “A”, “B” and “C” to be some sort of cusine grade in terms of how tasty the meal is. In reality, that grade reflects the hygiene level of the stall, and every eatery here is required by law to display that grade. Grade “A” means the stall’s been given a stamp of approval in terms of cleaniless, and “C” – well, most stalls who get “C”s try very hard not to make their label too conspicuous.:)

Most stalls in foodcourts – being enclosed and air-conditioned as they are – tend to get “A”s, so it’s an uncommon find indeed to see a hawker centre which are open-air with many stalls that get the same grades. One such centre is at Sembawang Hills Estate and along Upper Thomson road. It’s become a frequent place for the both of us to have a quick dinner.

Chinese stir-fry @ Sembawang Hill food centre

This centre isn’t really big – there’re perhaps less than 50 stalls in all, and many of them are closed by dinner time. Still, the stalls that do open still enjoy brisk business from the residents staying at the many landed property units in the estate. The two of us had a Chinese stir-fried dinner there yesterday evening, and here’s the spread we got for $11: a seafood omelette, baby Kai Lan vegetables cooked in oyster sauce, hotplate tofu, all served with rice.

dining-011.JPGIt took just 5 minutes for the first dish to arrive – pretty fast by local standards – and the remaining two dishes followed in minutes. Service was pretty good: the lady took the trouble to make three trips to our table, each time when a new dish was done.

The portions weren’t big – we thought the Kai Lan portions were especially small, and the seafood omelette had an abundance of fish cake and carrot stick pieces and precious little “seafood”. That said, they were well-cooked enough and the Kai Lan and tofu were tasty; and put together, all three dishes were enough to make us pretty full at the end. Our ratings:

  • Food: 3 / 5
  • Service: 4 / 5
  • Value: 3.5 / 5
  • Overall: 3.5 / 5 (Hearty meal, though costlier fare do taste better.)
  • Grilled Sabas

    Ling loves fishes, whether they’re in live form – like in the aquarium we have – or in seasoned and cooked form. In fact, whenever we’re at foodcourts, she’ll have a list of things she prefers and they’re invariably fish-based: like grilled salmon prepared in the western style, salmon teriyaki, sliced fished with rice.

    Grilled Sabas @ Plaza Singapura foodcourt

    dining-007.JPGBy far though, one dish that she loves is Grilled Saba prepared in the Korean style, and she had this for dinner just now at the level 6 foodcourt in Plaza Singapura. This is a pretty common dish found in the foodcourts here, although at $5.50 to $6, they’re priced slightly higher than most other meals at these places. Basically, there’s half a Saba sliced right through the fish, grilled and served on a hotplate with sauces, lime, kimchi and rice. I sampled a little of the dish, and I’ll rate it at:

    • Food: 4 / 5
    • Service: 3.5 / 5
    • Value: 3 / 5
    • Overall: 3.5 / 5 (Not bad; but one at the Funan centre foodcourt – review upcoming – was better.)

    Hong Kong cusine @ Plaza Singapura foodcourt

    On my end, I gave a go at lesser-known cusine – a set of rice with minced pork + salted fish cake with ginger strips, served with stirred fried cabbage, egg beancurd and rice, cooked in Hong Kong-ese style (I think). Ling liked the minced pork cake, although I thought the taste was only pretty average. The beancurd was better: fragrant with just the right texture, nor was it too hard. The set was at a low price point at just $3.80, so that offset in no small part its rather mediocre taste:

    • Food: 2.5 / 5
    • Service: 3 / 5
    • Value: 4 / 5
    • Overall: 3.2 / 5 (Meal on a budget: eat when you only have $4 left in your pocket.)

    “It’s very hard not to get fat in Singapore…”

    That’s Ling’s famous words when we were prowling around Causeway Point – a large shopping mall at the northern tip of Singapore – just now. We’d just stopped by a Singtel shop to buy a new handphone to replace her old one, and had dinner at the level 6 foodcourt. The food court’s one of the larger ones we’ve seen, although I don’t find its seating layout particularly pleasing. Still, since Ling has started this thing about dining in Singapore, here’s my offering:

    Char Siew wanton noodles and “Korean” fried rice @ Causeway Point foodcourt

    dining-003.JPGLing’s dinner item was “Char Siew Wanton noodles (dry)”, which is a dish that I don’t fancy as a rule. It comprises sliced barbequed pork, wantons, selected vegetables mixed with noodles and a mixture of chilli and ketchup sauce. I had a few nibbles, and found that the ketchup taste overwhelmed the taste of chilli. Ling liked the noodles – they appeared to be well-strained and not “clumped” up together, as it often happens if the noodles were not properly boiled and drained before serving. Going at $3, Ling and I rate the dish:

    • Food: 3 / 5
    • Service: 3 / 5
    • Value: 4 / 5
    • Overall: 3.3 / 5 (So-so. Won’t win any contests.)

    It’s good value for money admittedly: you just don’t find many foodcourt places selling these noodles at $3 anymore, even in Singapore.

    dining-004.JPGMy dinner was a plate of so-called “Korean Fried Rice”, but there wasn’t anything very much Korean about its preparation or taste. It basically tasted like a plate of fried rice that you can get anywhere else, albeit this one had a stronger taste of red (?) ground pepper, and it was served with a piece of deep fried chicken cutlet that had been chopped into strips. The plate cost $4, but even for that price, it’s not something I’ll want to try again. So:

    • Food: 2.5 / 5
    • Service: 3 / 5
    • Value: 3 / 5
    • Overall: 2.8 / 5 (Korean? What Korean?)

    A little thai with a lot of heart!

    Thai food scores well with the locals here. It caters to our general liking for spicy stuff. I think being a Singaporean enables me to enjoy a wide spectrum of foods; anything from pungent-smelling durians, tongue-frying chillis to cheesy pastas and raw meats in Jap cuisines. Yeah.

    Okies, let me stay focused. Back to Thai food.

    Jai Thai Cafe @ Thomson Plaza

    dining-005.jpgYang and I enjoy popping by Jai Thai Cafe at Thomson Plaza for their mouth-watering Thai spread. So far, our budget-consciousness has landed us their set meals. For $7 to $8, we get to enjoy a hearty set meal comprising pineapple rice, chicken green curry, sweet chilli fried fish slices, wrapped chicken in pandan leaf, spring rolls, desert of the day (steam honey tapioca in coconut milk / coconut agar cubes / etc) and tea/coffee/lime juice/lemon tea. Incredible right? The ingredients used are fresh and the food is really very tasty. See picture. We’ve also tried their tom yum soup (hot and spicy!) and fish cakes (chewy and delicious). :)

    In addition, I also like the staff at Jai Thai. Like the typical Thai, they are friendly and always warm. One of them even shared with me how to cook green curry when I bought a tub of green curry paste from them. You could detect that sincerity in sharing cooking tips. :)

    • Food: 4 / 5
    • Service: 4 / 5
    • Value: 4 / 5
    • Overall: 4 / 5 (We’re in love.)

    Qn: What do you do with bullying fishes?

    Ans: You throw them back in jail.:)

    For nearly a week now, Patches and Tinny had been dropping a few scales, and we couldn’t figure out the reason why. Their eating patterns had not changed, water parameters and quality were still pretty solid, and the other critters in the large and comfortable tank were alright. Until we finally saw for ourselves – Stripes had been secretly pecking the two Lionheads. And he’s supposed to be the less aggressive of the two Angels.

    For some reason, Pig and Frilly are quick enough to swim away when Stripes comes near, but not Patches and Tinny. Short of sending the two Angels to permanent retirement i.e. down the toilet bowl in a fit of anger, the only real solution was to separate the species again. I’m out of spare tanks, so we had to move the inhabitants of tank 2 – Neonies and Leopards – to tank 1, and the Angels to tank 2. In relative comparison, one could say that tank 2 is like Hotel 81 and tank 1 is like Hotel Shangri-La.

    So here’s a picture of Nibbler and Stripes looking very dejected in their substantially smaller jail cell again:


    And a picture of the Topfin, Halffin, and Blackfin – three of the beneficiaries of Stripes’ misbehaviour.:)


    More Jap and HK cusine

    This food blog is doing wonders to our meal times. OK so maybe no one besides our bud in Missouri reads this, that the both of us have a Dining in Singapore blog on netsphere has led us to sampling beyond our usual dining fares. This time, on a humid Saturday afternoon, we drove back to Thomson Plaza and had lunch at the foodcourt.

    Pork katsu @ Thomson Plaza foodcourt

    dining-008.JPGI haven’t tried the Jap cusine at this foodcourt before. Most of the time the queues are too long and I like my food fast.:) This time round there weren’t many people lining up. The Pork katsu set caught my eye: one doesn’t find this as often as the nearly ubiquitous Chicken katsu set that’s found in nearly every Japanese eatery.

    There was a piece of deep fried pork cutlet with egg, a small bowl of salad and miso soup. The set’s missing the additional garnishing and fruit that one sees elsewhere, but then again the $4.90 price here is cheaper too. The salad was forgettable, and miso soup rather bland. The pork cutlet itself was more impressive: though drench in sauce, it was still reasonably crispy and tasty enough. The service was excellent too: the middle-aged lady at the counter was polite.

    • Food: 3 / 5
    • Service: 4 / 5
    • Value: 3.5 / 5
    • Overall: 3.5 / 5 (So-so. Can eat again if there’s nothing left to eat.)

    Char Siew roast duck noodles @ Thomson Plaza foodcourt

    dining-009.JPGLing carted back to our table an impressive tray. I even exclaimed “Wow – that’s a lot of food. Sure you can finish or not…??” For $6, this is what she got: The dish was Char Siew roast duck ’set’ meal, prepared (according to the sign) in the Hong Kong style. There was a helping of “xiao bai cai” vegetables, a plate of roast duck meat, char siew (barbequed pork), braised groundnuts, cucumber, the noodles itself, and a bowl of soup.

    Sadly, the taste of the various items was varied and less impressive than its presentation. Ling and I found both the main meat items rather… well, plain-tasting. They were serviceable but the char siew could had been more deeply roasted. The same sauce was used for both meats: that’s bad. The noodles tasted like the noodles from every other stall. Fortunately, the vegetables and groundnuts tasted better, and there was portion of vegetables was generous. On the final note, Ling complained that someone jumped queue at the stall but the owner said nothing. So, on the overall, her rating:

    • Food: 2.5 / 5
    • Service: 2.5 / 5
    • Value: 4 / 5
    • Overall: 3 / 5 (One time – next time we’ll look elsewhere.)