Dinner @ ANJU | Contemporary Korean in Tanjong Pagar

March 19, 2022 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

I didn’t think I would get down to sharing my dining experience at Anju because there’s a lot of reviews of Anju on the internet. But the thing is my friend and I truly enjoyed ourselves. And it’s always experiences at the 2 extreme ends of the spectrum that make me want to write. So yes, here I am… Penning my thoughts of my meal at Anju. Since I also noticed a good handful of the online reviews are from media tasting that Anju hosted. I usually read reviews from media tastings with a pinch of salt. But hey, that’s me. =)

My girlfriend was visiting from Australia in January 2022, and suggested Anju because she saw photographs of their food on her Instagram feed. Power of social media, eh. And surprisingly, I didn’t hear of Anju prior. Shocker, I know. But I am always up for Korean cuisine!

Anju accepts reservation exactly 1 month in advance. So for our mid January dinner, reservation was made in mid December. And we chose to dine during the first seating.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

We were assigned to a table right under the skylight, which was lovely! Since we reached at 6.30pm, we got a good amount of natural light before the sun eventually set at 7pm. And from the food menu, my girlfriend and I ordered:-

1) Gyuja salad, $24 (above) – Prawns, squid, kimchi, red dates, mustard dressing. Would definitely recommend ordering this. The tangy sauce cut through the greasiness of the other dishes, which allowed my girlfriend and I to eat more. Keke.

2) Domi carpaccio, $26 (above) – Red snapper, seaweed, chilli, miso, chive oil, yuja. Don’t be fooled by my photographs. The portion is on the smaller side, and is good for just 2 people.

3) Hogam jeon, $26 (above) – Potato, zucchini, prawn, onion pickle. There’s an option to add mozzarella cheese for $3 but we decided not to. And this unfortunately tasted just like any seafood fritters. Barely saved by the dipping sauce. I guess this didn’t live up to expectation because I was expecting some dough since ‘jeon’ is after all a pancake dish. I say give this a miss.

4) Oyster, $28 (above) – Squid ink battered oyster, pickled fennel, flying fish roe. This was so good. Definitely recommend ordering this.

5) Abalone gim pasta, $34 (above) – Fresh abalone, seaweed, pickled shallots, perilla.

6) Bossam, $50 (above) – Pork belly, pickled mushroom, dried squid, dried radish, pickled garlic, baby romaine lettuce. Since bossam is a Korean boiled pork dish, I was surprised to see the pork belly black instead of white. And going by my standard, this would be a fail because I am a traditionalist. I want my white beautifully boiled pork, and paired with well-seasoned crunchy kimchi. Bonus if oyster is included in the kimchi just as how bossam was served when I had it in Korea. But I digress… Nonetheless, the pork belly at Anju was still enjoyable. There’s a good ratio of meat to fats, and was nicely charred.

7) Baek kimchi, $7 (above) – White kimchi, radish, red dates.


8) Sweet potato, $18 (above) – Salted caramel crème, sweet potato ice cream, brown butter crumble, charcoal curd foam, roasted sweet potato skin powder. This was lovely! Looked similar to a tiramisu, if I must say.

9) Black sesame bread, $16 (above) – Korean black sesame bread, black sesame cream, doenjang ice cream, yuzu meringue. Skip this.

So yes, my girlfriend and I had an absolute wonderful time at Anju. Though most of it was contributed by the wonderful service. When the staff came round at 7.30pm to take last orders, I panicked. We had consumed 3 of the 4 (savoury) dishes we ordered, but I was still very hungry. I liked that the staff entertained me and allowed me to go overboard with my orders. Haha. And it was an absolute bonus when the staff said we didn’t have to clear our table for second seating. I couldn’t imagine us wolfing down our additional 3 (savoury) dishes and 2 dishes within an hour.

  

My girlfriend and I also ordered some alcoholic beverages to go with our food. We had to order drinks, especially since it’s read from Anju website that head chef Kim Gi Deok created the food menu to be paired well with all of their drinks. And I would definitely recommend trying their range of makgeolli. We had White Lotus makgeolli (375ml, $30) (above, left) and Champagne makgeolli (940ml, $80) (above, right). Pity we weren’t able to try Ellyeob Pyunjoo makgeolli (750ml, $188). Might pop by just for it cause their alcohol (at least the makgeolli) is reasonably priced.

Would I recommend Anju? Yes.

ANJU RESTAURANT
62 Tras Street, Singapore
Website, 6612 1172
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Dinner @ Meta Restaurant | Contemporary Korean in Keong Saik

March 13, 2022 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

I’ve been meaning to check out Meta since they opened in 2016. However whenever I updated my list with newer opened restaurants, Meta got pushed further down my to-try list. So yes, Meta unfortunately didn’t become a priority for me until a foodie friend recently nudged me. He shared that none of his friends were disappointed by his recommendation to visit Meta. So when I found another foodie friend who was keen (and it will be his second visit by going with me), my trip to Meta was finally happening! =)

Reservation was made for a weekday dinner via their website with 1 month’s advanced notice. But if one prefers weekend slots, book at least 2 months ahead. And there’s only 1 dinner menu at Michelin-starred Meta. Shortly after my friend and I were seated, we commenced our dinner menu, $288 with:-

1) Foie gras (above) – With Korean strawberry, verjus. To address my friend’s dietary requirement, his foie gras was replaced with monkfish liver (ankimo). And we thought that (replacement) was a bold move. Some may not take foie gras because of how it’s being made, while some don’t because of its texture. But thankfully it was not for the latter reason that my friend don’t consume foie gras. So yes, it was a bold yet smart move since monkfish liver texture is pretty close to foie gras’s. In fact, monkfish liver is also known as ‘foie gras of the sea’. And we enjoyed this. We were off to a good start!

2) Tuna sandwich (above) – With premium fatty tuna (otoro), egg yolk and salmon roe (ikura). This was so good! It was no bigger than my thumb, and I easily had it in one bite. But nothing prepared me for how flavoursome it was. The fragrance of the perilla continued to linger in my mouth. So good! Wished I could have seconds.

3) Gimbap (above) – With venison, comte cheese.

4) Taco (above) – With bossam, pork.


5) Gyeran jjim (above) – Ika, haemultang. Gyeran jjim refers to Korean steamed egg while haemultang means spicy seafood stew. Ask me about Korean steamed egg and I would say it’s fluffy but rough. So it’s interesting how a refined rendition of this dish meant it tasted more like Japanese steamed egg (chawanmushi) instead. But I really enjoyed this. Especially the sauce which had depth in it.

6) Oyster, + $10 (above) – With gochujang, lemon, ginger.


7) Doldom (striped beakfish) (above) – With capsicum, mustard, coriander. Another favourite!


8) Hokkigai (arctic surf clams) (above) – Porridge, lilybulb, kamtae.

9) Kinmedai (golden eye snapper) (above) – Daikon, doenjang. I didn’t like the doenjang (fermented soybean paste) sauce used on the daikon. It was way too heavy, and even salty. But the fish was so good. I am not really a fish person. If I could choose my mains, I am bias towards my red meats. Give me lamb, pigeon or even rabbit anytime. But they aced the execution of the kinmedai. With a slight smokiness in the crispy fish sclaes, the fish was firm, juicy, and even naturally sweet! It didn’t even need any sauce. It was good on its own.


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10) Mechuri (quail) (above) – With potato, morel, truffle. We enjoyed this very much! I probably would have enjoyed it even more than I already was, as I was starting to fill up at this point of the meal.


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11) Korean BBQ (above) – Iberico pressa pork, gobo rice, white kimchi. Replacing what’s supposed to be a beef dish, this unfortunately failed to impress. I was expecting to chew into tender and juicy pieces of iberico (black) pork, but it was tough and chewy instead. The burdock rice was slightly dry, which I only managed to finish because I ate it with the white kimchi.

12) Strawberry (above) – Guava, makgeolli.

13) Buckwheat (above) – Doenjang, injeolmi.

14) Petit fours (Part 1) (above) – Banana creampuff, cassis marshmallow.

15) Petit fours (Part 2) (above) – Gangjeong, yakgwa.

It was a very nice meal. It was what I expected from a restaurant of such calibre. In fact, I echo my friend’s sentiment when he said he couldn’t find major flaws with the meal. Though one particular dish shone for me. The tuna sandwich was mind-blowing. In fact, it was so good that the immediate 2 snacks that came after just paled in comparison. Don’t get me wrong. Those 2 were good, but nowhere as good as the tuna sandwich.

Will I recommend Meta? A definite yes. However, my friend shared that the menu hasn’t changed much since his first visit 5 years ago. So I guess Meta is definitely worth visiting at least once. But it’s probably not for re-visiting unless Meta starts updating their menu regularly to entice diners to return (sooner).

Do note Meta is able to make an additional cake if celebrating events. I ordered the yuzu cheesecake (3 inches diameter, $25) as it was my friend’s birthday month! No picture of the cake though. The only picture I have of the cake is a group picture which I am unfortunately too fat in it. Haha. Nah, I kid. Yes, I am undeniably round. But am not posting because we are camera shy. =p

META RESTAURANT
1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore
Website, 6513 0898
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Fri – Sat : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:30 – 23:15 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Dinner @ NAE:UM | Contemporary Korean in Telok Ayer

November 12, 2021 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

What do one do with a super long list of restaurants to try? I wconquer it by prioritising my visits according to friends’ recommendations and… The ease of securing a booking. Keke. And it was a foodie friend’s Instagram posting that made me quickly push forth with my booking at NAE:UM. Oddly though, my (not too foodie) friends weren’t keen. Ain’t sure why the idea of fine dining contemporary Korean isn’t as attractive as getting oneself smelly in front of the barbecue grill. But thankfully, NAE:UM accepts solo diner.

And even though I was booking for just myself, the earliest I could secure in mid August was for early November. Almost 2.5 months advanced booking!

  

Arrived at NAE:UM on a Tuesday for my 7.30pm dinner, and was led to the counter. Counter seats at NAE:UM weren’t the typical sit-facing-the-open-kitchen type of counter seats. They were instead bar counter seats with limited view of the kitchen. While I loved what they did with the space, I felt the layout wasn’t fully optimised. But it must had been a challenge because of the long narrow layout; To get to the toilet, one would need to pass through the open kitchen from the main dining area. Yes, one’s literally walking through the kitchen to get to the toilet.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

Upon seated, the staff explained the menu to me and informed there’s 2 supplement dishes which I could choose to add on. And of course, I did. Haha! I continued to ‘study’ the menu after the staff left with my order, and that’s when I realised NAE:UM had just launched their menu (Episode 2) with the theme ‘Mountain Lodge’ in November 2021.

And with that, I commenced my dinner tasting menu, $168 with:-


  

1) Appetiser #1 & #2 (above) – Kkotge (left) and nurungji (right). Was told to start with the rice puff with minced shiitake and shaved yolk first. But between the two, I preferred the other; Shredded flower crab served on a shiso leaf tempura and dusted with kimchi powder. I was initially pinching at the flower crab ‘tart’, trying to taste the various components individually. And the kimchi powder was as spicy as warned by the staff. But when I eventually got down to putting everything into my mouth, it was a beautiful burst of flavours.

2) Appetiser #3 (above) – Duckgalbi. Served warm, the meat patty was made with duck leg and had a rice cake stuffed in it. I liked the surprise of chewing into a chunk of (chewy) rice cake.

3) Domi (above) – Sea bream, acorn, citrus soy. And when this was first served, I thought the cucumber foam was burrata cheese because it looked so similar. Haha. And I learnt from the staff that the foam was made with snow from Korea. Interesting! Served with acorn jelly cubes (hidden out of sight in photograph), ice plant, romanesco broccoli, edible flowers and herbs, the staff further shared the sea bream (which was in season) was treated by dousing hot water over the skin to melt the underlying layer of fat and thus releasing its natural umaminess. However, I wasn’t impressed with the fish. Maybe it was sliced too thinly? It was gone with just 3 chews. Too quick for me to get a proper taste of it.

4) Somyeon, + $38 (above) – Buckwheat, kimchi, kristal caviar. Was told this was inspired by chef-owner Louis Han’s childhood memories where his mother would use his grandmother’s handmade white kimchi to prepare cold kimchi noodle for the family on Sundays. And this was so good! Served with thinly sliced Korean pear, chopped white kimchi and chives, and tossed in truffle oil… This reminded me much of Gunther’s angel hair pasta dish. I kid not. NAE:UM’s buckwheat noodle dish was of that calibre! The noodles were so good that I didn’t even think it needed the sea urchin or caviar. I definitely recommend having this when one is at NAE:UM. And to be honest, I even contemplated ordering seconds as takeaway to share it with my family. Decided against it only because I rationalised it’s better to bring them down to the restaurant instead!

5) Naengchae (above) – French chicken, abalone, soybean. And for the dish introduction, the staff decided to jazz things up by saying puffed millet was used because the chicken ate puffed millet. Haha. It was lame but that cracked me up. Though the staff went to clarify puffed millet was really used because of its texture. And 2 cuts of the chicken were used; Breast and thigh.

6) Samchi (above) – Winter mushrooms, daikon, onion. Slow cooked radish and Japanese mackerel cooked in brine first before it’s smoked in hay. Served in a spicy mushroom broth infused with soybean paste (doenjang) and red chili paste (gochujang). This was a very comforting dish to have on a cold wet night.


7) Iberico tenderloin (above) – Burdock, potato, galbi.


  

8) Sanchae sotbap (above) – X.O makjang, duck, namul. And because of my dietary restriction, what’s supposed to be beef was replaced with duck. I was told to mix the red sauce (made with Chinese XO sauce and Korean fermented soybean paste) into the rice. It was only after mixing that it dawned on me that this was head chef Louis’s rendition of the Korean dish bibimbap (mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables). What’s usually served with bibimbap is a fried egg. And at NAE:UM, the yolk was presented in the form of small orange balls. Amazing. I enjoyed the dish very much, except that I couldn’t quite taste the duck. Either the duck could have been served in bigger chunks, or I should have gone easy with the sauce. Haha. I added a lot of it. The staff asked if I wanted more, but I had to say no as I was feeling pretty full by then.

9) Mandarin (above) – Vanilla yoghurt, honeycomb, ginger snow. Another dish inspired by head chef Louis’s childhood where he would sit in front of the television during school holidays and eat mandarins. Served with bits of mandarin and grapefruit, I liked how the honeycomb was made of dalgona (a Korean sugar sweet).


10) Charcoal jujube, + $12 (above) – Multigrain, jujube ice cream. After sharing jujubes (Korean red dates) were eaten in Korea for good luck, the staff went on to say “Here’s wishing you all the good luck.” Awww… Thank you! I gladly accepted it, of course. Haha. Although immediately after that, the staff said “Could I clear this (empty wine glass)?” So for the more superstitious people, one may think the good luck was taken back immediately after it was given out. Me? I refused to think that way and took all my good luck by wolfing down my dessert. Keke. And I really enjoyed this. The use of meringue isn’t a novel idea, but the ones at NA:EUM was really good. It was of the perfect thickness where it was light and crunchy all at the same time.

11) Dessert (above) – Fermented rice cake and yakgwa. The last dessert was served personally by head chef Louis. The madeleine-shaped rice cake, fermented with makgeolli (Korean rice liquor) and lemon juice, was soft and sticky. The kind of stickiness where it stuck to the top of my mouth and teeth. And I liked how the top was caramelised such that I could also taste a bit of sugar bits. And I enjoyed the traditional Korean deep-fried biscuit very much too. In fact, I was left reminiscing it and could only satisfy my craving by settling for a somewhat equivalent Asian snack ‘mahua’ (fried twisted ribbon biscuit). Ha!

And with my meal at NAE:UM, I understand why it’s so hard to get bookings. I enjoyed every single dishes. Well… Okie. Maybe except for the salad dish with sea bream. But it was truly an enjoyable dining experience. Beautiful space, great service, and delectable food. And to top it off, it wasn’t crazily expensive too! Highlights of my meal had to be the buckwheat noodles and charcoal-jujube dessert. Though it’s ironic both were supplement dishes.

But having said that, there was just 1 pretty odd incident. When I was having my rice dish, I accidentally dropped a blob of the red sauce onto the cream-coloured table surface. But when my cutlery were cleared, the staff didn’t clean the evident mess that I created. It was only 2 dishes later when head chef Louis personally brought the last dish that he saw it and got his staff to clean it up.

Would I recommend NAE:UM? A big fat yes! I am definitely keen to return and try their next menu (Episode 3). And NAE:UM accepts reservations up to 90 days in advance. So with some advanced planning including setting alarms for midnight, one should be able to secure a booking. :)

NAE:UM RESTAURANT
161 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore
+65 8830 5016, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Sun