Dinner @ Circa 1912

August 26, 2018 in Asian, Chinese

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 

Dinner @ Arakawa Osaka Cuisine

July 15, 2018 in Japanese

Always on the hunt for new places, I got to know about Arakawa from instagram (yet again). And I was excited because the interior decor look promising from pictures; Authentic in a rustic way. And to check out Arakawa, I got @zachdevours (also called IGBP (InstaGram Bottomless Pit) in my previous post) to visit with me. Because I found the place, he volunteered to make reservation by calling the restaurant. Ha!

We arrived at the restaurant on a Wednesday night. But because it was a little difficult to locate the unit, we were slightly late for our 7.30pm reservation. And with us and another group that started before us, the restaurant was half full. However, it’s interesting to observe that as it neared 8.30pm, more customers came in and soon the restaurant was running at its full capacity of 14 people. In fact, the group of 5 that came in earlier than us were reminded they had to leave to make space for the 8.30pm crowd second seating. I guess their meal must have dragged for more than 2 hours.

If anyone found head chef Seiichiro Arakawa familiar, that’s because he was the executive chef at now-defunct Han Japanese Restaurant in Odeon Towers. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), we ordered:

1) $80 omakase comprised of:-


(A) Appetiser (above) – What surprised me was the crab-flavoured sesame tofu. Pretty unique. And of course, he topped it with crab innards and crab meat.

(B) Sashimi (above) – Yellowtail, tuna and salmon belly.


  

(C) Steamed (above) – Simmered duck, taro ball, peas and radish (daikon) with wasabi sauce.

(D) Grilled (above) – Japanese barracuda with (yellow-coloured) gluten.

(E) Fried (above) – Corn and pike eel tempura.


(F) Meal (above) – For the rice bowl, we were served bonito drizzled with sesame sauce.


(G) Dessert (above)

2) Oden (above) – Chicken ball ($4), fried tofu ($4) and konjak ($3).

3) Oden (above) – Fried tofu pouch with rice cake ($5) and shumai ($7).

During our dinner, we got a glimpse of the $130 omakase course as some customers from the second seating ordered it. And they were given additional cockle (torigai) for their sashimi dish, and wagyu beef instead of fish for their grilled dish. Can I just say I was glad I didn’t go with my usual of ordering the most expensive course? Phew.

Would I recommend Arakawa? Well, I wouldn’t recommend Arakawa although the number of restaurants offering kappo cuisine in Singapore is very limited. I didn’t feel the dishes justified the $80 spent. In fact for kappo cuisine, there’s another restaurant in Orchard that does it better. As for oden, I do know of others but unfortunately none are in Orchard.

That said, if one is really bent on trying Arakawa, maybe head over for their lunch menu instead.

ARAKAWA OSAKA CUISINE
150 Orchard Road, Orchard Plaza, #01-34, Singapore
6733 0107, Facebook
Overall: 6.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 6
Mon – Sat : 18:30 – 03:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ IL DEN

July 12, 2018 in Italian

The number of friends I made from instagram once I decided to be less shy and meet up with like-minded people is simply amazing. So yes, I was off to check out IL DEN with newly-made instagram friend @jonathanloong. I have been following Jonathan for years now. But we only exchanged messages this year after I participated in his instagram survey. To which he initiated the first text! I just had to say that. Hahaha.

To make our reservation, I sent owner-chef Javier Low a message on instagram. And I advise one to make reservation at least 2 weeks in advanced. In response to our reservation request, Javier needed our choice of menu at least 1 day prior to our dinner. It seemed to be a trend that restaurants are expecting customers to have done their homework (like reading up on the menu) prior to the meal. But of course, that didn’t pose as a problem since we were stalking IL DEN’s instagram account. Haha. And between the $75 and $120 menus, we went with the former.

We arrived punctually at 6.30pm on a Friday night. And to the people hardcore foodies who mentioned (in their instagram posts that) they chanced upon IL DEN by coincidence, I must say they are impressive. IL DEN was nestled deep within Orchard Plaza. As I walked down the quiet long corridor, I even questioned myself if I got the address correct.

And upon entry, we were welcomed by the immediate sight of a 8-seater communal table and open-kitchen (at the further end). After settling our drink orders, we started our $75 dinner menu with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Pâté. Homemade with ground pork, cognac & pistachio.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Homemade tofu & sea urchin. We were given an extra piece of homemade tofu topped with caviar.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Aburi scallop, caviar & vegetable garden. Served alongside homemade pesto sauce, Javier mentioned he added salmon to our salad as it came in fresh with the day’s delivery of ingredients. “The salmon is special because it’s caught by the younger generation of Japanese fisherman”, he added.


  

4) Dish #4 (above) – What’s supposed to be orecchiette (little ears pasta) as per the menu, we were served tajarin pasta topped with parmesan cheese and shaved truffle instead. And I was pleased with the unexpected change because it allowed us to enjoy his handmade pasta better. I prefer slurping my noodles. Keke. And this was really good; Al dente and very tasty. In fact, I was struggling when I was taking pictures of this dish because of the strong aroma. I wanted to quickly put down my phone to start eating but my phone camera refused to take sharp shots with my first few attempts. (^^lll) A must try!

5) Dish #5 with options of:-

(A) French poulet (above)

(B) Iberico pork jowl (above) – This was so good. The meat was surprisingly tender!

6) Dish #6 (above) – Yuzu sorbet with ginger jelly and lime jelly.

It was a fun dining experience. Don’t expect fast or personalised service as it’s a one-man show at hole-in-the-wall IL DEN. Javier took on multiple roles as the chef, waiter and cashier. And because of that, I would thus recommend one to be in the first seating if one don’t like a (too) draggy dinner. We were the first to reach, so Javier was tracking our progress well; We didn’t have to wait too long for our next dish. But for the groups that came in after us, I noticed while Javier was slower in attending to them (since it’s a one-man show), the interval between their dishes was much longer than ours. But I say… Enjoy the vibe and have a good time catching-up in between the dishes if one couldn’t start one’s meal at IL DEN early.

And do remember to bring cash as IL DEN only accept cash payment. We didn’t have sufficient cash on us and neither of us had PayNow, so… Yeah. Jonathan had the important task of walking to the nearest ATM machine at The Centrepoint to withdraw money. Haha.

IL DEN
150 Orchard Road, Orchard Plaza, #04-21, Singapore
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Thu : 18:00 – 21:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 03:00 (Dinner)
Service: 7
 
* Closed on Sun