Paradise Inn, Singapore

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Category: Chinese Cuisine

This is the second restaurant I’m writing about that’s linked to the Paradise Group (the first being Paradise Dynasty), and I’m starting to feel like I should be paid for writing this (which I’m not, but hey Paradise, payment in kind (i.e. food) is just fine) 😛 Paradise Inn is another of my go-to restaurants, simply because it’s so unpretentious – just good Chinese food in a comfortable teahouse setting – and on some days, that’s really all you want.

Multiple locations including Suntec City, Thomson Plaza, 313@Somerset and Changi Airport T1

The Paradise Group Restaurants are everywhere and the standards are very high across its different chains. If you’re in any major mall, chances are there’s a Paradise Inn nearby.

Damage: $$

Paradise Inn is pretty pocket-friendly – I’ve been there dozens of times and I’d say on average it’s about $20+ per person. We typically order about a dish per head (i.e. 5 dishes for 5 people) or slightly more, and it’s always been about right.

To Go: Definitely

When my family wants Chinese food, this is a default option. It’s fuss-free, comfortable but not sloppy, and service has always been pretty good (except when they’re running at full-house – but even then they’re still relatively quick to respond). From our experience, the wait staff are always very courteous and willing to help, and with Chinese tea that’s always flowing, we always come away with full and satisfied stomachs with none of that greasy-oily feeling like from some other places.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Since I’ve been to Paradise Inn so many times and have tried so many dishes on the menu, I can safely say most of the food is very good- but to help those who’ve not been or friends just visiting Singapore for travel, here are some dishes that I would strongly recommend.

#1 Imperial Pork Ribs

Paradise Inn Singapore Food Review Blog Top Chinese Restaurant Imperial Pork Ribs Pai Gu WangThis dish is a must-order, and we never leave Paradise Inn without it. Although it reads “Pork ribs”, it’s really just pork fillets- which makes it even easier to eat and value for money since there’s no need to pick tiny morsels of meat off the bone like the one at Whampoa Keng Fish Head Steamboat Restaurant. The sauce is a special savory sauce that has a slight sweetness to it, and encrusts the outside of the pork to give it a good caramelized and slightly crisp bite. I’ve tried the Coffee Pork Ribs too – it’s a bit similar in terms of the way it’s cooked, but is sometimes a bit overdone resulting in a slightly burnt flavour, so it really depends. If you ask me, I’d say go Imperial.

#2 Hot Plate Tofu with Preserved Cai Xin and Minced Pork

Paradise Inn Singapore Food Review Blog Top Chinese Restaurant Imperial Hot Plate Tofu Mapo Cai Xin Minced PorkI’d eat every last scrap of this. If you like tofu, minced pork, egg, and lots of sauce, this is going to be your baby. The tofu is smooth and soft, and comes surrounded by a moat of bubbling egg, topped with a delicious and intensely-flavored sauce containing generous portions of minced pork and mushrooms. The leftover sauce goes perfect with everything, and the this dish tastes especially great when piping hot.

#3 Stewed Pork Belly served with Lotus Bun (Kong Ba Pau) (Featured picture)

Known in the local dialect as “Kong Bak Pau“, this dish is not commonly served at most restaurants. It is also a dish that’s hard to get right – I’ve had some poorly done pork belly which is either too lean or too fatty or even too tough. Not only must the composition of the pork be right, the stewing process needs to be done correctly to infuse the pork with the rich dark soy sauce-based marinate. A good kong bak would have a fat layer that melts in the mouth easily alongside tender, lean, and juicy meat. Paradise Inn has a great one, and is a great place to get your kong bak pau fix without having to make a special effort.

Wakakoma, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japanese – Kaisen Wakakoma Don, Kaisen Chirashi Don

I added Wakakoma restaurant to our “Hitlist” for Sapporo because it’d been featured on No Reservations. I’d watched that episode on one of the weekday nights after work, was sold by Anthony Bourdain’s mouthwatering descriptions and enthusiasm for Wakakoma, and found my tummy grumbling about not getting some of that amazing sashimi heap that Bourdain was happily tucking into.

Sapporo Fish Jyogai Market, North 11 West 21, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-0011 (〒060-0011 北海道札幌市中央区北11条西21 中央卸売市場 場外市場), Tel: 011-644-7722, Opens daily from 9AM – 9PM

We had a tough time trying to find the place, with the front and sides of the building plastered over in a dozen signs filled with loud Japanese characters and stalls selling fresh seafood on the ground floor, I thought I’d gotten it wrong. I was asking for directions when one of the stall owners finally caught wind of “Wakakoma“, and gleefully pointed us in the right direction and up a narrow flight of stairs that we would’ve otherwise totally missed.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Wakakoma was definitely one of the pricest restaurants. The Kaisen Wakakoma Don was 3,780JPY (~$44 SGD)- but was also covered in 13 kinds of seafood and so was totally justifiable in my opinion. Can’t get nothing of that sort in Singapore, no, so might as well go big or go home!

To Go: Yes, but don’t go out of your way and stick with the tried-and-tested

It was very good, no doubt. The seafood was fresh covered ever inch of the top of the bowl, and included king crab and botan shrimp. Travelling around Hokkaido, you’d realise that any don (rice dish) with kani (crab) in it never ever comes cheap, and so while it was a pretty costly meal, I thought it was well-priced compared with everywhere else. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to eat at Wakakoma because it was a little out of the way (there was nothing that interesting in the area) and I think you can get some pretty darn decent kaisen dons elsewhere. Sorry Bourdain, but Marutomi Shokudo in Monbetsu was still the best.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We alighted at a nearby parking lot and following my GPS, we found ourselves at the foot of a small cluster of buildings, huge signboards plastered on all sides. I led the way down the pavement – a narrow cement path which separated the shelves of fresh produce and seafood to our left and the road to our right on which huge lorries and trucks drove by hurriedly, fetching the day’s catch from the market to, I supposed, restaurants all over Sapporo.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan Jyogai Market

I walked up and down that same stretch several times, looking for Wakakoma, and each time seeming to succeed in overshooting the little red dot anchored on the map. A kind middle-aged Japanese lady manning the fruit stall finally figured out what we were looking for and pointed down the row. We’d stopped at regular intervals and turned to her for approval, only to see her wave us farther and farther down the row, until we finally ended up by a small staircase where she nodded and pointed upwards.

The staircase opened out into a small restaurant which could seat about 30-40 people. The chef’s table was to the right of the dining area, and dozens of signatures of (I suppose) famous people lined the wall at its entrance which probably meant Wakakoma was a favourite of many.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan

I took no time with ordering at all, considering I already knew exactly what I was there for, and everyone took my cue. When I saw the Kaisen Wakakoma Don, I’m pretty sure my eyes lit up- I mean, anyone’s would! With a grandiose botan shrimp head triumphantly poking out of the sea of sashimi, I’ll admit I was really excited. While some of it was good – like the hotate (scallops) and kani, others like the ika (squid) and maguro (tuna) fell short; the ika was chewy and rubbery while the maguro was thin and slightly stringy. I’d tried uni (sea urchin) a few times around Hokkaido and had attributed my indifference to the fact that those weren’t the freshest, but even at Wakakoma I was let down in spite of all the uni-campaigning that Bourdain had done. It was only recently when I had the best uni of my entire life at Hashida Sushi, surprisingly or otherwise, back home in Singapore – and that, is a story I’ll share with you in time.

Wakakoma Restaurant Anthony Bourdain Food Review Blog Sapporo Hokkaido Japan

Otaru Market, Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

We made a stop by Otaru’s wet market in the late morning to check out their range of fresh seafood. Being a seaside town, Otaru’s streets are lined with restaurants and shops selling seafood in various forms – from live to dried to fresh cuts served with don. Otaru’s wet market was smaller than Kushiro’s Washo market but better, with fresher seafood and great value. The stall owners are a lot kinder as well, perhaps due to lesser competition, and even took the time to explain the different catches and fantastic sea creatures.

I walked down the length of the market armed with my DSLR, trying my best to capture as much of the colour as possible. One of the shopkeepers saw me pointing and commenting on the giant crabs in my video, and without hesitation, lifted the entire crab out of the tank and said, “Yes it is hu-ge!” Haha! – often it’s really the locals that really make the place even more memorable. He gave me a pinch of uni to taste before we eventually sat down to enjoy a Major seafood meal.

Right- enough of my talking. I’m going to hit you with the pictures 😛

Otaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary King CrabOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary BlogOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Ikura Don Travel Food DiaryOtaru Wet Market Fresh Hotate Salmon Uni Kani Don Travel Food Diary

Chihuly Lounge, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Singapore

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Category: European (Varies) – Desserts

Singaporean (girls, in particular) seem to have a fairly sweet tooth and are fond of good-looking food (maybe because that’s just good for Instagram). Whether it’s because of a high demand or a trickle-down influence from a colonial age, Singapore has a fair number of places hosting Afternoon Tea, and Chihuly Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton hotel has been one of the top favorites for a long time.

The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039799

Chihuly Lounge is just in front of the Main Reception area, and right by the lobby and driveway. I came in from the Millenia Walk side, through the side entrance to the Ritz, and so had to walk most of its length to get to Chihuly. We practically “stumbled” inside without knowing because there was no front desk, and the lounge was completely open.

Damage: $$ – $$$

Chihuly changes its afternoon tea line-up seasonally. When I visited in February, they were featuring the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea at $48++ per person. Afternoon Tea in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter, tends to be a pretty pricey affair. While the value really varies depending on what you’re getting in the selection, I thought the Bernardaud Afternoon Tea was promising due to the chocolate-themed desserts which had first been introduced in December 2014 as part of their Winter Afternoon Tea.

To Go: Depending on the Seasonal menu, as an occasional treat

Chocolate is my weakness and my undying love for it means that I’m acutely critical of chocolate which have been ‘branded’ as upmarket, good-quality chocolate. I’m by no means a chocolate snob – KitKat and Ritter Sport are still totally up my alley, but when it comes to “artisan-type” chocolate, I expect to be able to taste the difference. The majority of the items (hot counters, sandwiches, etc.) were pretty average, so if anything was to turn my assessment of the Chihuly Afternoon Tea around, that would’ve had to be the parade of chocolate desserts being featured for the season. I don’t know if the other blogs I’d read were actually paid to write the reviews because they were lavishing much praise, but in my experience, they were about equal parts hits and misses. Service was inattentive, perhaps partly due to under-staffing – we spotted only about 3 staff attending to the entire lounge which was running at full-house.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We lingered near the beginning of the lounge area for a bit, not quite knowing what to do with ourselves since there was no waiting area or desk, until some time had passed and finally managed to catch the eye of a staff who helped us get settled in. By day, Chihuly Lounge is a very open-concept lounge with sofa seating and a live band playing pop classics by the tall glass windows between the lounge and the main driveway. My companion told me that by night, however, the lounge would transform into a chill-out bar at which guests can enjoy cocktails and bar bites to live jazz.

After we were seated, we were left unattended for a good 10 minutes just sitting and waiting to be even offered the menu for selection. After the menu was presented, we waited another 15 minutes to try and get the hostess’s attention so we could inform her of our selection of teas.

The tea was a highlight of the session. I went with Vanilla flavoured Black Tea, while my companion went with the Wild Cherries flavoured Black Tea. Both teas were delightful, although the vanilla was the more perfumed, sweeter, and lush of the two, while the wild cherries one had fruity notes and a deep berry colour.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea

I’ll spend but a blink on the hot stations and the sandwich counter; since the offerings change all the time, it makes little sense for me to go into detail on each and every dish. The kurobuta pork in puff pastry was good, albeit too little pork in too much pastry. The scallop was fresh lacked depth, partly due to the cream beneath which was too strong and overpowering, masking the feature ingredient with a thick cheese-like lather. The tuna was sorely disappointing – it was overdone, dried-out and lacked flavor; a pity on the meaty tuna, really.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Finger Food

Sandwiches were nothing special. The bread was not particularly fragrant – some were better than others, but nothing like the ones at my favorite Provence bakery – and the ingredients were scrimped on, although they did taste fresh and were, on the whole, well-seasoned. Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea SandwichesI’d dedicated much of my stomach space to the chocolate, and so approached the display with much excitement. Sadly, they weren’t half as good as they looked – I’d stopped halfway on the first, the macaron was very ordinary (2/10 on the scale of memorability) and the star atop was very hard and tasteless, and the thin eclairs were completely dried out, coarse in texture and stingy on the cream filling.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateChihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateChihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea ChocolateThe best of the collection were the two featured – chocolate discs were wedged into a smooth, rich and creamy chocolate dusted over in cocoa powder, whilst the other cut open to reveal a mix of hazelnut cream and chocolate sponge and reminded me of a giant ferrero roche.

Chihuly Lounge The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Food Review Blog Afternoon High Tea Bernaudaud Tea Chocolate

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, Singapore

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Category: Western/Tuscan – Steakhouse

I’d heard many good things about Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse and had been meaning to go for some time. When we arranged to have dinner, I was having a steak craving and since my companion was indifferent to the various dining options I provided, we agreed that it would be a good time to give Bistecca a try.

25 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 238969, Tel: 6735 6739, Opens 12 – 2pm and 6 – 10pm

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse is among the row of shophouses next to the Temple on the main road. Most people visiting the area would park at UE Square, from which you could cut through UE or walk along Unity Road and then make a right down Mohamed Sultan Road. The restaurant will be opposite with a steep flight of steps leading to a dimly lit rustic setting with a retractable deep red outdoor shade above the entrance with the words “Bistecca”.

Damage: $$$-$$$$

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse is more of an occasions kind of place. The prices are steep, but the food is lovely and service is great. If you’re going to shell out for a steak at Bistecca (and if you didn’t go alone), I suggest the Fiorentina steak ($188) – it’s the best steak I’ve tasted in Singapore thus far, and I’ve been on the hunt for the best for a while now. I might just say it’s better than Cut by Wolfgang Puck, and for a comparable price point, is on par with Wooloomooloo Steakhouse (although a direct comparison can’t be drawn since they were different cuts) and trumps Bedrock Bar & Grill.

To go: Yes, whenever the occasion calls for steak

As long as you have a team of 2 or 3, take to Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse for the Fiorentina. Good service, fantastic steak – I’ve not had a meatier, juicier, more perfectly done steak elsewhere. The 2 of us could barely finish the Fiorentina and were majorly stuffed, so if your team is a group of eaters with moderately-sized appetites, you should do just nicely. Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse Singapore Fiorentina Best Steak Bedrock Wooloomooloo

The steak is a organic-fed wagyu-cross which is dry aged. It is then grilled over a wood-fire grill which intensifies the flavour with a slightly smoky touch. On medium, the steak was tender and still a deep pinkish red on the inside, perfectly seared on the outside without crusting, and the juices flowed out readily with each slice. Steak is challenging to photograph, and the dimly lighted interiors didn’t help my mission, so go- see (and taste) for yourself. The side dishes were good too, although quite pricey. For dessert, we had a Panna Cotta which was soft and creamy, but you could probably find similar desserts elsewhere.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse Singapore Fiorentina Best Steak Bedrock Wooloomooloo dessert panna cotta

Daijinmon (大仁門), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japanese – Barbecue

Daijinmon is the most highly-recommended Japanese barbecue place and is touted as the best one in Otaru on Tripadvisor. If a sushi/sashimi-overdose was possible, it certainly happened during the trip, and so we decided to have barbecue instead. Daijinmon has an incredible wait if you don’t place a reservation, and since we happened to be strolling in the area in the mid afternoon and spotted it within radius of our Google Maps, my cousin and I went ahead to scout it out while our family rested their feet from an entire morning of walking about and waited for us in the shade by the Otaru canal (小樽運河).

1-13-5 Ironai, Otaru 047-0031, Hokkaido, Tel: +81 134-23-2876

It seems to me that Daijinmon only has branches in Otaru. I’m Japanese-illiterate, so if you do visit their website and discover otherwise, please let me know so I can share this with everyone 🙂 It was easy to find with GPS since Google Map pins it in the right place. The signs outside are an easy spot- with mouthwatering pictures yelling about the juicy goodness of fine cuts being licked by a charcoal heat.

Damage: $$

Unbelievable is all I can say. If we’d had the same thing back home in Singapore, it would’ve easily costed us 4 to 5-fold more. We had slices of wagyu, beef slices of every cut, fine cuts of kurobuta pork, vegetables for the grill… everything, and it summed up only about $35 each.

To go: YES PLEASE!!

Are you kidding? If I were in Otaru, I’d go back multiple times a week! The place is comfortable, clean, has friendly service staff with a great service attitude, delicious cuts of quality meats with the tastiest sauces.

Daijinmon 大仁門 Best Beef Wagyu Meat Barbeque Barbecue Otaru Hokkaido Japan Food Review Travel Blog


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

Daijinmon was further away that it’d appeared on Google Maps. We navigated the neat grid-like roads of Otaru under the gaze of the afternoon sun, taking a left 3 junctions down into a side street, and by the time we were on the right street we were melting. The clean wooden facade of Daijinmon was immediately visible, and we loitered around outside waiting for Daijinmon to open again at 3.45pm so we could place our reservation. I was poking my foot around in the gravel to distract myself from the heat when the sliding door suddenly activated and a tall, slightly awkward girl came out, pulled a chair to the side of the entrance, and looked at us curiously.

Re-ser-va-tion?, I said, and drew with my fingers some imaginary notepad on which I took an imaginary note, and then pointed at my watch whilst saying eight peo-ple at eight o’clock, while my cousin lifted up fingers to show number 8. She gave a confused look, and quickly ducked back inside. We looked at each other and shrugged, not knowing if she’d gotten our meaning. After a while she came back out, and we asked her again about the booking. O-K, she said, O-K. It seemed she didn’t need our name or any contact, but perhaps that could be because they didn’t see many foreign chinese people in their restaurant? Either way, when our entire convoy arrived at 8pm that night, we were ushered inside and upstairs without a moments hesitation.

On the second floor, we left our shoes in a shoe rack and stepped onto the raised deck which was flanked by private rooms with wooden sliding doors on the left and right, walls fitted with ricepaper. It was cozy, with lots of dark wooden furnishing, and cushions on which guests could seat themselves around the table and grill. The menu was extensive but entirely in Japanese, so we did a fair amount of pointing, gesturing and attempted to get our point across in sl-ow hal-ting english, which seemed to work quite well. We ended up with a feast to behold, and we’ve fondly remembered that meal ever since. One of the best Japanese barbecues I’ve ever had, at a standard comparable to Gyu Kaku here (or maybe even better), and at an incredible price. This is just one of the many reasons I need to find my way back to Japan- and perhaps you should to, too.

Daijinmon 大仁門 Best Beef Wagyu Meat Barbeque Barbecue Otaru Hokkaido Japan Food Review Travel Blog

Let’s explore: The little town of Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

Otaru has become a special memory for me. The tinkling music in LeTAO and the Orgel Museum transported me into a Disneyland of sorts, while the abundance of food places along the street and souvenir shops kept it real by singing with wonderful aromas and displays of kawaii toys, telling me that indeed, “This is Japan”.

I managed to capture some of my experiences in this charming town of Otaru, so come along and take a walk in the town with me!