Manzoku, Singapore

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Category: Japanese – Smart Casual – Chirashi Sushi Bento, Grilled Items

Yoi Group’s Manzoku on Purvis Street is the new sister to Chikuwa Tei at Mohamed Sultan. While I’ve yet to go to Chikuwa Tei, I’ve heard many good things about it and figured Manzoku would be more of the same. Both restaurants have a pretty similar menu, so I’m not quite sure why they were given different identities, but Manzoku fared well enough to prime me for a visit to Chikuwa Tei.

18 Purvis Street, Singapore 188597, Tel: +65 6734 4436

In January when they first opened their doors, it was a difficult find – the restaurant’s signboard was a plain A4 paper plastered onto its doors reading “MANZOKU” – and many customers got lost en route. It’s almost just opposite from Jai Thai, and when I went in late February, I found that Manzoku had settled in quite well – it now has a beautiful sans serif black lettering above its set of tall wooden doors, and its signature Chinese character running vertically down the middle in a bold, auspicious red.

Damage: $$ – $$$

In spite of its wilfully unfinished interior, Manzoku is in no way a budget or casual eat. The Chirashi Don ($25), however, is of very good value and featured some typically costlier cuts of sashimi. The grilled items are distinctly pricier, and if anything is going to derail the budget, it’ll be these. Our add-on of Unagi was $24, bringing the total to around $43 per person.

To go: Yes, it’s worth trying

Many of us have an undying love for sashimi and chirashi don, and Manzoku is a good place to get your fix, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a more personal, intimate setting for special occasions. It’s great for a night out with friends and like Chikuwa Tei, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of time as Manzoku is often full.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

We arrived at 7pm in time for our booking and the place was 80% full, with the last few vacant seats under reservation. Stepping in, the ambience was a little unexpected after the polished impression created by the strong (and heavy) double front doors, slightly minimalistic in design. The floor and walls were plain, bare cement. Simple pendant lights dangled from the high ceiling, and the counter was on the right, towards the rear, creating some sort of a cafeteria-but-not-quite setting. By estimate, Manzoku has a seating capacity of about 50.

Having read about the chirashi sushi bento, we homed in on it in the menu, and added on a grilled Unagi as a side dish.

Manzuko Chikuwatei Singapore Japanese Restaurant Food Review Blog Chirashi Don Best SashimiThe Chirashi Sushi  bento featured Salmon, Maguro (tuna), Mekajiki (swordfish, my favorite), and Hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi slices atop Japanese sushi rice. The sashimi was sliced thick, and the swordfish was especially fresh and tasty. The salmon was sliced a bit thinly and the tuna was a bit stringy (perhaps specific to the cut I’d happened to receive), and I very much preferred the taste of the sashimi pieces I’d had on my Mix Bara Kaisen Don at Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya. The little appetiser of cold tofu with cucumber slices and the miso soup which were served with the Chirashi bento were tasty.

The unagi was deliciously prepared. Grilled to perfection with just a slight charring to bring out the smokey flavours and giving rise to a little caramelisation, the unagi was generously lathered in a thick (arguably too thick), sweet-savory teriyaki sauce. I thought the portion was decent for the price of $24, and is something well worth trying if you should visit Manzuko.

Manzuko Chikuwa tei Singapore Japanese Restaurant Food Review Blog Chirashi Best Sashimi Grilled Unagi

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NamNam, Singapore

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Category: Vietnamese – Casual

NamNam is probably the first vietnamese restaurant to have made it to multi-branch status. Owned by the Les Amis Group which owns other restaurants such as Peperoni Pizzeria and the newer brother to NamNamConnam (or “Broken rice bowl”), NamNam is especially popular amongst the weekday lunch crowd – in part due to its accessible location, and in part due to its affordable set lunch.

252 North Bridge Road, #B1-46/47 Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore 179103, 10 – 9.30PM daily (Multiple Branches)

Namnam is conveniently located at major shopping malls, and has spread its reach across Singapore with branches at Suntec City, Wheelock Place, Plaza Singapura, and even Resorts World Sentosa. Greens and browns feature strongly in the decor at Namnam, and it often jumps out because of its rustic vibe.

Damage: $ – $$

Lunch set meals are good value for money at $9.90 flat, and include a bowl of beef or chicken pho, a small plate of appetizer (which used to be the fresh southern rolls, but is now a salad), and a vietnamese coffee or lotus tea. At other times, the noodle dishes are about $10, with appetisers and sides going at about $5 – $6, which is still affordable especially when you’re eating about town.

To go: Possibly yes, but don’t expect consistency

I used to be a loyal fan of Namnam and went at least once a week for lunch when they first opened, but after a short while, as their business picked up, the standard dropped considerably. Service is eyebrow-raising at times, especially at the Raffles City branch, with service staff leading you to tables that are not yet vacated or swapping you about between different tables for no apparent reason at all, but I think that boils down to specific kanchiong (colloquial speak for someone who is over eager and tending to cause blunders as a result) staff rather than the entire team. I find Namnam to be either hit-or-miss, about 50-50 both ways, but I guess at the price point we couldn’t ask for too much.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

The atmosphere is pretty consistent across the NamNam branches – packed and cramped with tables just the width-of-the-spread-of-your-fingers apart, with hurrying staff carrying bowls of pho and others ushering customers from the queue to available seats, NamNam is a no frills, quick eats kind of place, with a do-it-yourself approach when it comes to service – but there’s no service charge so that’s fine.

NamNam Pho Singapore Food Review Blog Vietnamese Noodles SaladThe appetisers at NamNam have always been consistently good. The salad of crunchy pickled vegetables, slices of fish cake, fatty pork belly, tossed with crunchy peanuts and crispy shallots is full of intense, alert flavours. However, the pork tends to be very fatty, slivery and lacks taste, but the other parts of the salad is undoubtably good and perfect for prepping the palate for the rest of the meal.

NamNam Pho Singapore Food Review Blog Vietnamese Noodles

The Sliced Beef Pho has sometimes been a hit – springy noodles with a slight bite, with thin, tender slices of beef – and at other times, a miss – noodles going way too soft and soggy probably from sitting in the broth for too long, and chewy tough beef with lots of hard tendon going through. When it’s good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s bad. The only thing that’s really been consistent is the broth which always has a good depth of flavour and is sufficiently flavoured with thai aromatic herbs and spices.

NamNam is okay to go with familiar friends, but not a good place to chat about much because even if you’re quick with your meal, you can never seem to be quick enough. Service can be appalling – once I’d been at my meal for barely 20 minutes when a family suddenly appeared beside our table. The couple and their two children looked befuddled, and we too were confused by their presence. They told the waitress who’d led them there that we weren’t done yet, and she promptly waved a hand at us and decided, “no they’re finished”. On another occasion, I was halfway through my soup when a waitress came, just took the saucer of chilli and dropped it right into my soup. I looked up at her in shock, and she said “you’re done right?”- too late, soupwrecked. My visits dropped from weekly to once every few months, and now, when prompted for pho, I’d suggest we go to So.Pho instead.

Travel Diary: Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

I remember waking up to this scene in the morning- watching as yachts slowly sailed out of the marina to sea, V-shaped ripples trailing in their wake. Once I escaped the veil of slumber, I excitedly sat up and pulled out my now-crumpled sheet of itinerary to see which stops I’d planned out for the day.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Seaview Sea

Otaru, about half an hour’s drive northwest from Sapporo, has a small town kind of feel – we would walk along its wide, clean pavements, and make stops every few steps or so along the rows of shops, full of the most tantalising displays of chirashi don and fresh sashimi one moment, to dried seafood shops and souvenir shops the next. I guess part of the charm of Otaru was derived from not really knowing what might be stumbled upon. Full of historical buildings and some of the most incredible dessert shops, the town was bound to be full of pleasant surprises.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Street

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal Seafood Dried Shops

A day isn’t long enough for Otaru, especially if you have an affinity with food like I do. We would walk into glorious clouds of mouthwatering smells and be seduced by stalls selling a dazzling array of- very good, might I add- food with samples generously being offered to you as you stroll down the street; there’s no way anyone could go hungry in Otaru.

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal street side stalls

Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Canal seafood Ika stuffed squid

And through the centre of it all, lay the beautiful Otaru Canal (小樽運河, known locally as Otaru Unga; featured picture)- a quiet, gentle body of water, mirroring the façades of the low rise buildings standing alongside it, delicately covered in a vibrant green, and also the clear blue sky. In the late afternoon, after hours of walking about, I’d sat by the canal on a cold stone bench, fleeing the sun for a moment of rest, and thought about how perfect this town seemed to be.

Kitakaro (北菓楼), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

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Category: Japaneses – Desserts – Creme Puffs

I’d read about Kitakaro (北菓楼) – in particular, about its amazing creme puffs. Like the others in Japan, Kitakaro sells more than creme puffs, and has a range of beautifully packaged snacks and items which you can take home for gifts. Besides the creme puffs, they sell a variety of heavier cakes as well.

7-22 Sakaimachi, Otaru 047-0027 (There is a branch in Sapporo as well, at AIMARU Sapporo, 4 Chome Kita 5 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo 060-0005)

In Otaru, Kitakaro is just slightly further down the street from LeTAO, on the same side of the road. A building of grey slate, it would’ve been easily passed up if not for the bright orange signs on all sides of its entrance, the standing sign by the pavement, and the posters of ice-cream and baumkuchen.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Damage: $ – $$

The creme puffs are under $2 – they’re huge, full of generous filling, and well worth the money. I tried the baumkuchen as well, and it might be that I’m not a baumkuchen fan, but I couldn’t quite appreciate it beyond thinking it to be some form of kueh lapis (an Indonesian layered cake that is relatively common in southeast Asia). I spent more money on the items at LeTAO, but I saw people coming out with Kitakaro bags, so I suppose you’d best budget for a couple of $10s.

To go: YES!

Everything else was quite ordinary, and I think you could find comparable items in the other dessert shops. If you don’t have time, just head straight to the back of the shop where they have shelves full of their creme puffs and buy one- or two. The puffs were well-aerated and pillowy, and the cream was light and fluffy with just the right amount of flavour and sweetness. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Kitakaro 北菓楼 Otaru Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog Creme Puff Food Review

Prose by Photograpy: Memories from the Land with an Orange Sun

When I think of Orange, I think of Dubai. It might seem like a funny association, but in March, everything in Dubai is permanently painted in an orangey golden glow from the arabic sun- casting sharp shadows and reflecting off surfaces and into my lens, easily convincing anyone looking through my reel of photos that I’d photographed with a warming filter.

This was the first trip I’d taken with two of my closest friends, and orange reminds me of that as well. It’s a warm, happy colour – a colour which conveys smiles and friendship. We’d explored the souks (marketplaces)- drifting from one into another, into another, getting lost in the alleyways lined with handcrafted arabic slippers decorated with colourful threads one moment, and the next- being draped in shawls and pashimas by shopkeepers trying to make a sale. We laughed, asked questions, observed and took photographs.

City of Gold spice souk dubai bazaar marketplace travel diary blogThen there was the desert- a picturesque memory of undulating fine sand, drenched in orange as the sun began its descent, stretching like waves as far as the eye could see. Stepping out of the jeep, I was taken aback by how strong the winds were and the grains of sand rising up and about in the air, sometimes getting to the eyes or the camera lens, but I soon was so taken in by the beauty of the desert that I forgot all that.

Now, I only recall the dunes, like a smooth silk, rising, falling, rising, falling, and the feel of how my feet sank into the sand slowly and softly with each step, and looking on at the animals which have known the desert for years- and they, as if knowingly safeguarding the desert’s secrets, looked back from behind a soft woven veil.

My other stories from Dubai can also be found here.

Dubai Desert Sand Dunes Dune Bashing Camel Tour

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?.”

Otaru Orgel Museum (Music Box Museum), Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan (Gallery)

On our second day after lunch, we went to the Otaru Orgel Museum, which is synonymous with the “music box museum” simply because that’s the museum’s claim to fame. We drove up to the museum and parked in the open-air carpark just in front of the main entrance, and from the outside, the building looked incredibly plain for something that supposedly housed a variety of interesting souvenirs and music boxes.

Stepping in, however, I could see that I was incredibly wrong and, as they say, looks can be deceiving. A soft, cheerful music filled the entire place, and I was greeted with huge rooms on both my left and right – displays full of shiny, moving things from miniature carousels, to snow globes and photo frames, to intricately carved music boxes within which little ballerinas danced or fabric butterflies flapped their wings. Sort of like a disney shop for grown-ups.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

I don’t think you’ll need that much time at this stop – around 45 minutes should do – unless you’re a huge music box fanatic or plan to do some serious souvenir shopping. The upper floors contain some of the most exquisite (and very expensive) music boxes and other vintage items, but really, I spent the most time standing by the shelves pressed up against the wall, picking out little musical movements encased in clear acrylic boxes, labelled and prepped to play everything from Backstreet Boys to Phantom of the Opera to KPOP/JPOP and Classics. I eventually brought home Beauty and the Beast‘s signature soundtrack because it’s my favourite Disney classic, and I thought nothing would be more magical than to have a musical movement which tinkled the tune whenever I feel like winding it up for a listen.

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

Orgel Museum Otaru Music Box Hokkaido Japan Travel Diary Blog

JUMBO Seafood Restaurant, Singapore

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Category: Singaporean / Chinese – Seafood

JUMBO is one of my family’s all-time favourite seafood restaurants because it is convenient and serves very good quality food at a competitive price point. I’ve tried chilli crab at a variety of restaurants and still find myself returning to JUMBO because there is that special something about the delicious semi-sweet savoury eggy gravy. If you’re in Singapore and are looking to try our perennial favourite, JUMBO is a good bet.

11 Dempsey Road, Singapore 249673, Tel: +65 6479 3435

JUMBO is prominently located at the end of a row of restaurants right in the centre of Dempsey. There is usually ample parking and JUMBO  has its own smallish carpark, although it can get quite crowded on Friday and the weekends.

Damage: $$ – $$$

I was there during Chinese New Year and we ate up half the sea. The bill came up to about $60 per head, which is extremely good value in my opinion, and we came away completely satisfied and stuffed.

To go: Often, whenever there’s a seafood craving to be fixed!

JUMBO has not yet disappointed me – I’ve tried probably about 70% of the dishes on the menu and and all the dishes have always been really good. Service is usually quite quick, and I like that they employ some mature staff who are very personable and helpful.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

This review comprises a run-down of some of JUMBO’s best and most popular dishes.

#1 Chilli Crab

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant Singapore Chilli Crab Man Tou fried buns Food Review BlogThe top-seller at JUMBO, without a shadow of a doubt, has got to be its Chilli Crab. Those of you who’ve been around for a bit will remember that Gordon Ramsay challenged JUMBO on its chilli crab and won by the public over a while back. I don’t know about you (and I wasn’t there to taste Ramsay’s take on the dish) but JUMBO‘s is still my go-to for chilli crab. The crab is usually fleshy and fresh, and the gravy is just the best – just the right consistency and sweetness, noticeable but non-jarring spiciness from the chilli, and lots of egg beaten into it. I especially love the taste of peanut, which gives it a unique light nutty flavour and sings counterpoint to the rest of the sauce, and yet complements it perfectly.

Drunken Prawns

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant Singapore Chilli Crab Man Tou fried buns Food Review Blog drunken prawnsThe Drunken Prawns are incredible value for money – we had about 15 prawns (mostly large) swimming in a huge bowl of brandy-infused broth for $21. When we were served the dish, we thought perhaps they got our order wrong because it didn’t seem “small” at all, but the check proved otherwise. The taste of the brandy in the prawn itself isn’t as strong as the same dish at Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, where they would pour brandy into a bowl of live prawns and show you how they jump about in the bowl before your very eyes, but still a good dish especially with the amount of broth that comes with; it’s practically a soup.

Salted Egg Golden Prawns

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant Singapore Chilli Crab Man Tou fried buns Food Review Blog Salted Egg Golden Prawns

Sorry JUMBO, I HAD to steal this picture from your corporate site. I just could not explain the awesomeness of the Salted Egg Golden Prawns without a picture to go with. Every time I visit, we try so hard not to order this dish in a bid to try something different but always end up caving. The prawns come de-shelled, which means you can have every bit of that delicious grainy creamy salted egg yolk sauce that they come dunked in. Unbelievable. Yes, please.

Sauteéd Cod Fish with Special Sauce

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant Singapore Chilli Crab Man Tou fried buns Food Review Blog sauteed cod fish special sauce

With this dish, you can never have enough. The Sauteed Cod Fish with Special Sauce ($28) features large chunks of succulent cod fish lightly encrusted with a slightly crisp caramelised special sauce (which is indeed so special I can’t really figure out what went into it besides probably some dark soy sauce) – are you salivating yet?

Chinese Spinach with Salted Egg Yolk and Century Egg

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant Singapore Chilli Crab Man Tou fried buns Food Review Blog chinese spinach salted century eggI love this vegetable dish – I’m not sure I’m talented at describing vegetables (soft? limp?) but the gravy is really tasty; you can taste the texture and creaminess of the salted egg yolk in it. I was so sad when they sold out on this dish at my previous visit. Do try it!

OMG – why did I do this to myself? I am so hungry now.