Dinner @ JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan)

September 16, 2018 in Asian, Mod Sin by thywhaleliciousfay

After trying Le Mout in my previous trip to Taichung, I was ready to conquer visit another (fine dining) restaurant in Taichung. And thus, I started researching for my August 2018 trip. And that’s when I chanced upon pictures of JL Studio on instagram. Mod-Sin cuisine? Eating modern-Singaporean cuisine in Taiwan? I mean… I would prefer to try Taiwanese cuisine. But the food looked so good in the pictures.

So reservation was made by dropping them an email. During which, I was asked to choose between discovery menu (NT$2800) and experience menu (NT$3800). And, yeah… No surprises. I went for the latter. Keke. JL Studio also offered non-alcohol pairing. NT$980 for Asian herb tea as welcome drink, Taiwan pineapple ice tea and longan tea, or NT$1200 with the mentioned 3 drinks and oriental beauty tea.


To arrive at the restaurant, I made my way by taking the bus. Taking the bus was really straight-forward, but the journey took time because the restaurant was not exactly located in the city centre. Although one could also take the taxi; I took it for my first time ever in Taiwan Taichung to return home after my meal at JL Studio and realised it’s actually pretty affordable.

And upon arrival at the building, I was led to second storey which JL Studio occupied. Having pre-selected my menu, I started my experience menu (NT$3800) dinner with:-

1) Kueh pie tee (above) – Rose shrimp, cuttlefish, Chinese radish. This was a challenge to eat. The herbs were piled really high. I concentrated too much in trying to stuff the kueh pie tee into my mouth in one go than to savour it properly. Oops.


  

2) Rose kueh (above) – Turmeric-yellow pepper sambal. Was surprised to taste liquid when I bit into it. Such a brilliant idea to inject turmeric-yellow pepper sambal sauce beneath the honeycomb cookie.

  

3) Satay (above) – Chicken skin, cucumber, peanut. Served on a bed of dry ice fog, JL Studio did a cold rendition of satay. Satay sauce was made into ice cream before it was shaved onto frozen foie gras, salsa of onion and cucumber, and fried chicken skin. This was honestly brilliant.


4) Lamb (above) – Glutinous rice, curry leaves. Another favourite of mine. Not sure which Singaporean dish this was inspired by, but it was so good. The dough-skin was so thick and chewy. Or could this be a savoury take of our 汤圆 (glutinous rice ball)?

  

5) Rojak, Complimentary (above) – I think this was a complimentary dish because it’s not indicated on my menu. Made with green mango, cucumber, tau pok, shrimp paste and peanut, owner-chef Jimmy Lim replicated our rojak dish to the dot. If not, better. I liked that there was sufficient peanuts within to add a crunch in the one mouthful. Superb.


6) I ❤❤❤ this roti (above) – Mint chutney, jackfruit curry. And instead of the familiar crispy roti, I was told this was made fluffier such that it was more like a naan. I enjoyed the addition of jackfruit which introduced a natural sweetness to the curry. But hey, I may be bias since I love jackfruit. Hee. And I honestly felt the dipping sauce of mint chutney and yogurt complemented the jackfruit curry well as it allowed one to refresh one’s palette if one was getting tired of (the heavier) curry. Unbelievably, I managed to finish the naan on my own despite my shrinking appetite.

7) Orh luak (above) – Lard, preserved radish. Preserved radish, which is an ingredient in oyster omelette, was made into ice cream which the staff recommended me to start with. So good! And it was this dish that made me realise I had been taking the dishes which I grew up on for granted. In the sense of… I always craved for Japanese and French cuisines, but never quite truly appreciated what our little island has to offer with her wide variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian food. And I was impressed by the attention to little details where the oysters were sliced into 3s for easier consumption. Egg shells were also made out of egg white. Wow.


8) Seafood ho fan (above) – Wok hei kai lan. It was amazing to see how our street food was upgraded simply by improving its plating where the flat rice noodles were intricately weaved together. And JL Studio’s was like the healthier version because of the equal ratio between noodle and vegetables. Since you know… Our hor fan isn’t normally served with so much vegetables. Keke. But I like. Especially with their thicker seafood sauce.


  

9) Chicken (above) – Pandan, ginger, chili. When this was served, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Den’s DFC which was inspired by KFC. So yes, this was JL Studio’s Hainanese chicken rice inspired by McDonald’s apple pie. However, when I bit into it, I couldn’t quite taste the pandan-flavoured rice because of the buttery-good pastry puff. Unless I put the chili. And I recommend drinking the soup first because drinking it in-between was like a clash of Chinese-styled soup and Western-styled pie.


  

10) Yilan duckling (above) – Red curry leg, fragrant rice, crispy duckling, hae bee salad, green sambal. 30 days old duckling served in 3 ways. Beside the thigh cooked in Thai curry and duck ‘sausage’ which was made with the duck’s head skin, I really enjoyed the breast (and bones) which was fried to crisp.

11) Summer mango, salted egg (above) – And I was told 2 types of mango was used for the palate cleanser. I didn’t catch the mango name (cause the staff explained in Chinese and I ain’t too good with my Chinese. Oops.) but she said 1 was famous for its fragrance while the other was famous for its sweetness.


12) Milo dinosaur (above) – Beneath what-looked-like-a-crisp-cracker-but-was-a-soft-biscuit dusted with milo powder were foam, mousse, ice cream, cookie and… Jumping candy. Jumping candy was a surprise since I haven’t had it (in my desserts) recently. Haha.

  
  

13) Kueh kapit, kueh ambon, peanut & banana, bandung (above) – After I finished my petit fours, the staff asked me guess what’s used in the filling for the kueh kapit. And honestly… I tasted really familiar. I wanted to guess durian but I said jackfruit cause durian is actually a very bold choice of ingredient to use since not many know how to appreciate it. And surprisingly, it was durian! With some longan too. The staff explained they would only announce it’s durian after customers finish it in order to remove their stigma. A bold move on their end, she admitted.

14) Coffee/tea – And I went with tea.

It was also through conversing with the staff that I learnt JL Studio only opened a year ago. No wonder I didn’t read about it when I was doing my (food) research for my September ‘17 Taiwan trip since it takes time for word to get out. =p

I enjoyed my meal at JL Studio very, very much. I haven’t tried many mod-Sin restaurants, but I dare say JL Studio is my favourite of all. Every dish was a surprise. One could see how much planning went into every dish. Through his dishes, I even got to understand our (Singaporean) cuisine better. And one could also say it’s an experience in itself to be eating our Singaporean cuisine outside of Singapore and to be on the end of interpreting what non-Singaporeans would imagine our dishes are based on owner-chef Jimmy’s presentation. A must try.

And to learn more about owner-chef Jimmy, one may also read the Chinese article written by selftaughtgochefgourmet. I got to learnt that prior to opening JL Studio in 2017, owner-chef Jimmy was at Le Mout for 7 years where he worked his way up to be the head chef. During which, he did short (3 months) stints at The French Laundry, Per Se, Noma and Geranium with the support of Le Mout’s owner-chef Lanshu Chen. Much respect to her too cause to have a supportive boss is also one’s good fortune. And it’s not often we meet such bosses.

JL STUDIO
No. 689, Yifeng Road Section 4, 2F, Nantun District, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 4 2380 3570, Facebook
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Restaurant Labyrinth

September 9, 2018 in Asian, Mod Sin by thywhaleliciousfay

Saw a picture of Labyrinth’s gorgeously-plated lala dish on instagram and was dying to revisit the restaurant since. My previous visit to Labyrinth was in 2015 when the restaurant was at their previous location (Tanjong Pagar) and before they were awarded a Michelin star. So yes… I was excited to try the new menu.

Reservation was made with Chope. And a few days before our dinner, the restaurant emailed us with the menu and requested for us to confirm our reservation. Confirmation of reservation is required cause I missed out their first email, and was sent a reminder email.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were led to our table before starting our $178 dinner menu with:-

  

1) Appetiser (above)


2) Heartland waffle (above) – Local duck liver pate & goji berry jam.


3) “Nasi lemak” cheong fun (above) – Chicken skin, ikan bilis & egg yolk gel.

4) Braised baby abalone (above) – Homemade oyster sauce & fatt choy tart.

5) Ah hua kelong lala clams (above) – XO sambal, deep fried wonton skin & Chinese spinach.


6) Labyrinth rojak (above) – Edible garden herbs, natural stingless bee honey & cempedak sorbet.

7) “Ang moh” chicken rice, kin yan abalone mushroom (above) – Home-milled rice flour, grandma’s chili sauce & braised chicken. Presented as a dumpling, I enjoyed this dish.

8) Grandma’s fish maw soup (above) – Yellow tail snapper fish cake, textures of fish maw & tofu puree.


9) Local wild caught crab, sustenir farm strawberry (above) – Signature chili ice cream, egg whites & salted mackerel.

10) Nippon koi farm silver perch (above) – Herbal pepper broth, ulam rajah & textures of black garlis.


  

11) Uncle William’s quail (above) – Satay espuma, muah chee & pearl onion.

12) “Lost grain” fried rice (above) – White bait, dried scallop & local “dashi”.


13) Bean to bar (above) – Artisanal dark chocolate & 8 year aged shaoxing wine.


14) Clam lead snow (above) – Rosella meringue & textures of grapes.

15) Soy bean curd (above) – Bird’s nest & burnt yogurt espuma by Hay Dairies goat milk.

16) Cristal de chine caviar (above) – Kaya ice cream & Sing Hong Loong toast.

17) Petit fours (above) – And it’s a bold move that the macaron was durian flavoured such not everyone could appreciate durian.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy our dining experience. So no, I won’t recommend Restaurant Labyrinth; It’s no surprise that first impressions are very important. And unfortunately for us (or for the restaurant), a really snobbish waiter attended to us for the first half of our meal. He was extremely ‘bo chap’ with the dishes’ introduction; Presentation was brief and he was basically just muttering to himself. My IGGF and I couldn’t make out what he was saying. His I-don’t-care attitude made us feel very unwelcomed.

Halfway through our meal, two other staff stepped in to serve us because the snobbish staff was tied up with other tables. I was glad that happened because they were so much more professional. One in particular stood out with his detailed presentation. In a good way of course since we love to better appreciate the dishes by understanding the story behind.

And food wise… Oddly, I wasn’t too impressed. It just lacked the ‘wow’ factor. I preferred days when they were at their previous location where their dishes leaned towards molecular cuisine.

  

Upon settling the bill, we were given small tokens before we left the Michelin-stared restaurant; A small bottle of chef-owner Han’s chicken rice chilli and a set of postcards which were used as props for the dishes’ introduction.

RESTAURANT LABYRINTH
8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade Mall, #02-23, Singapore
6223 4098, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Fri : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 6
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Circa 1912

August 26, 2018 in Asian, Chinese by thywhaleliciousfay

With the sudden influx of pictures circulating on instagram in April and May 2018, it certainly piqued my interest about Circa 1912. Did a search on Google and learnt that Circa 1912 was inspired by the food David Yip grew up with; Cantonese food from restaurants such as Southern Sky, Cathay, Spring Court and other leading restaurants of the time where dishes were elaborate, and cooked with premium ingredients and traditional cooking techniques.

Why 1912? Because it’s the year when Cantonese cuisine peaked. An era when blenders were non-existent and chefs were graded for their knife and sauce making skills.

And I visited Circa 1912 twice. Once with my family for weekend lunch (with dim sum) and shortly again with my instagram foodie friends for weekday dinner. It’s also this meal that led to the start of my friendship with @abbey_thebolobao, @thetravellingcow and @free.the.umami. Blessed much.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3), we ordered:-

1) Roast “golden coin chicken”, $5 per piece (above) – Made with candied lard, chicken liver and pork, this was really good. But as it can be too sinful for some, one may request to have the portion halved (as pictured) and share it instead of taking the full portion.

2) Deep-fried fish roll with preserved meat, $38 (8 pieces) (above)

3) Deep-fried superior stock and pig’s brain, $28 (8 pieces) (above) – It was slightly daunting at the prospect of eating pig’s brain, but this was done nicely. Its texture reminded me of milt (fish sperm sac/shirako), but denser.


4) Deep-fried crab ravioli, $5 per piece (above) – Like a huge wanton, it was enjoyable to bite through the crisp skin and into the juicy meat filling within. But I didn’t finish the skin because it was slightly pretty oily.

5) Wok-fried goat milk with chicken and seafood, $38 (above) – Order this because I was intrigued. But hmm… It was like eating egg-white omelette?


6) Traditional sweet & sour iberico pork, $38 – Upon ordering, the staff highlighted the meat would be fattier because iberico pork was used. But we really enjoyed this dish. Good ratio of fats and meat (for most of the pieces), crisp and interestingly glazed with a more-sour-than-sweet sweet & sour sauce where its sourness was achieved with hawthorn. But of course, I couldn’t make sense of the addition of strawberry into the dish.

7) Quick-fried wheat-shaped squid, $28 (above) – This was ordered because we read beforehand that the squid was sliced to resemble wind-blown shafts of wheat.

8) Trio of roast meats, $30 (above) – When my family and I placed order for the trio which usually comprised of crispy iberico charsiew, plum-flavoured roast silverhill duck and nam yue (red fermented bean curd) roast pork belly, we were unfortunately told the duck was sold out. Sob. So it was replaced with braised chicken smoked in Chinese tea. And the roast pork belly was a standout. A must try.


9) Plum-flavoured roast silverhill duck, $68 (whole) – This was ordered during the meal with my instagram foodie friends. And this was so, so good. Instead of using salt to marinate the inside, duck was roasted with plums stuffed inside. A must order.


10) Garoupa, $9/100g (above) – Fish could be cooked steamed, fried or braised. However, we didn’t like the sauce which the fried fish was drenched in. Once I put a piece into my mouth, a strong whiff of sourness hit the back of my throat. I kid you not. Which was a pity cause the garoupa was fried beautifully. And the dish came up to $108.

11) Sunflower chicken, $200 (above) – Not on the menu, we ordered this in advanced when we made reservation for dinner. And yes, I certainly didn’t know the poached sunflower-fed chicken was going to be so expensive. Taste wise, it reminded me of… Kampong chicken? I am sorry. I’m probably not educated enough to properly appreciate this.

12) Plain chicken-essence congee, $3 per bowl (above) – If one’s serious about one’s congee, this would be a ‘must order’. Silky, creamy and smooth. Infused with the essence of chicken (ie, chicken broth), the mixture of glutinous rice, old and new jasmine rice was cooked at high heat for two hours. And if one ordered the sunflower chicken like us, the congee would be complimentary (as verified on our receipt).

13) Braised crab meat with winter melon, $28 (above)

14) Hong Kong kai-lan, $18 (above)

15) Braised spinach in Chinese ham broth, $18 (above)


16) Pan-fried mee hoon with seafood, $18 (above)


17) Baked red bean puff pastry, $6.80 (above)

18) Aged tangerine peel red bean soup, $10 (above)


19) Tangerine bean curd with orange broth, $8 (above) – We were puzzled to how we should enjoy theis dish till we flip the tangerine over to see the almond bean curd filled within.

  

20) Almond tea with egg white, $6 (above) – My favourite of the four desserts we ordered.

Would I recommend Circa 1912? Well… Pardon my ignorance and lack of appreciation for this style of cuisine (early 20th-century Lingnan cuisine), but I honestly don’t see myself returning to Circa 1912. As in… True, I enjoyed dishes like the duck, roast pork belly, and sweet and sour pork. But there’re other Chinese restaurants which execute these dishes equally well too.

So unless one knows how to truly appreciate dishes cooked with traditional cooking techniques or wishes to try nostalgic dishes which David has brought back from the past (like the deep-fried superior stick and pig’s brain), I won’t actively recommend Circa 1912.

And yes, if one is curious about the dim sum at Circa 1912 which my family also had during our weekend lunch, click here for the dim sum menu and here for pictures of the dim sum we tried.

CIRCA 1912
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #03-07/11, Singapore
6836 3070/9242 9046
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 11:30 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sun : 17:30 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7