Bincho at Hua Bee, Singapore

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Category: Japanese

I guess we should’ve known. With a 45% rating and a price range of $$$$ on HungryGoWhere, we should’ve seen the signs.

My friend, an up-and-coming culinary superstar in his own right, was back from London for a short while and suggested we give it a go. Coming from someone who has helmed the kitchen at some of the world’s finest michelin star restaurants, I wasn’t going to object – and so we went.

78 Moh Guan Terrace, Singapore 162078

The restaurant is situated in a quiet corner of a block of low-rise residences, just before the turn into an open air carpark. With an entrance that looked entirely unassuming, the restaurant would not be found unless you were specifically looking for it. Either that, or if you’d googled and seen pictures posted by the visitors who’d gone before you who, like you, also thought they’d finally stumbled upon the “hidden” find.

Damage: $$$$

In short, it costed a bomb. Almost 2 hours later, we were left slightly dazed at what just happened.

Full? Nope. Amazed? Nope. Mind-blown? Yea, I think so, and it’s not exactly contradictory. After all, we did get served up a $300 check just for us two.

To go: Uhh… no :/

I’m not going back, sorry.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

Bincho Singapore Old School Interior

Bincho has a small seating capacity of 25 seats. In the day, Hua Bee is a kopitiam that serves up bak chor mee (a Chinese dish made with yellow noodles and accompanied by minced pork and sliced mushrooms). At nightfall however, the lights are dimmed, the tables are set, and the charcoal is ignited under the yakitori grill. The vibe is one that is unexpected, yet quite pleasant and cosy when combined with the marbled tables and plastic chairs.

We weren’t very hungry so we ordered a Bincho set ($120) and a few add-on a la carte dishes of Spice Cod Roe Wings ($15), Grilled Squid ($20), and Grilled Beef Tongue ($25).
19-bincho2

Our first dish to arrive was the grilled squid. It looked pretty nice, but taste-wise I thought there was really nothing special about the dish. I wanted to like the dish because I usually like grilled squid, but the flavour was lacking. I looked at him and he simply chewed, delaying his verdict on it having been overcooked.19-bincho3

As part of the Bincho menu, we were served up Angler Fish Liver. The dishes that came before it were an Assorted Appetiser and Assorted Sashimi – both pretty standard restaurant dishes in my opinion, and not enough to incite a reaction of sorts. I kind of expected the liver to taste like a form of foie gras -Perhaps I was wrong to have that kind of expectation, but this was pasty, lacked flavour, and had a far firmer texture that came away in pieces rather than melted in my mouth. The sauce, I felt, was a bit misplaced and separate from the liver.

Then, 2 dishes later, we were served up a plate of tempura. I absolutely love tempura, so when I saw this, I picked up my chopsticks and immediately fished up a piece and popped the entire thing into my mouth. It was super hot from being freshly battered, so I was hurriedly fanning my mouth and blowing out the heat, but once that was through and I actually bit through the tempura, I turned to him and made a face just as he put his piece back on the plate after just a nibble.

I don’t like this, he told me, just as a hot liquid mess filled my mouth from the broken tempura. The tempura itself was unusual – it was less weighty and crispy than most. The inside of the tempura was creamy but not quite, and tasted like… wow, I don’t even know how to describe. Slightly like a tasteless hot mess, with… a tinge of fishiness? I hated it.

He made a face back, laughed at my expression and said, it’s a cod fish’s sperm sack.

Damn.

The Tsukune with egg yolk was possibly my favourite dish of the entire Bincho degustation menu. Anything with yolk is usually good with me, and the sauce on this had far more depth than all the other dishes. I most closely associated it with the Tsukune burger at MOS which, as a kid growing up, I ate every Saturday after ballet class because it was so yummy.

While, this far into the meal, I’d become rather cautious of what I might be served, I must say the grilled beef tongue (featured picture) was good too. I’d never tried beef tongue before and was rather hesitant about it, but it was tender, full of juice, and the sauce of chopped garlic went perfect with it.

19-bincho5The chefs tell me it’s hard to impress with chicken and they were right. Although the chicken of the Yakitori Platter was pretty tasty, I probably wouldn’t be blown away no matter how many parts of the chicken they separated out and cooked for me. Some of it was actually quite dry, and while I like creative dining, I might just prefer the chicken wings on the the long metal skewers which the uncle fans with a wicker fan down the street.

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Wooloomooloo Steakhouse, Singapore

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Category: Western – Steakhouse

I visited Wooloomooloo Steakhouse when they first opened in Singapore, and I’ve gone back (and have been wanting to go back) at every opportunity. Wooloomooloo Steakhouse has a cosy spot in my book as a place that serves a great steak, is cosy (yet comfortable enough and not overly pretentious), and good to go with friends, family, and even that special someone.

2 Stamford Road, Level 3 Swissotel The Stamford, 178882 (Access from Raffles City Shopping Mall)

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse is tucked at a corner, just behind the escalators leading up to the conference venues, on level 3. You’ll be led from the entrance past chillers displaying a variety of wine and a classically-furnished bar area (think cigars and men in top hats) into the restaurant, which is surprisingly larger than it appears from the outside.

Damage: $$$

They’re reasonable (by that I mean around 70 bucks for an Australian Black Angus Beef 12-oz Rib Eye or Sirloin). If you don’t feel like spending a bomb, I’d pick them over CUT by Wolfgang Puck or Morton’s. In this price range, they trumph Bedrock Bar & Grill, and are comparable to Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse, although I’d go to the latter just for the Fiorentina.

To go: Yes, whenever possible

Christmas time is actually a really good time to go to Wooloomooloo Steakhouse. They usually have a very comprehensive 4-course Christmas menu for $68++ at lunchtime, including a steak option for the mains. The rest of the menu is fixed. For people who can’t eat a whole lot, a set menu makes more sense as well. As for the rest of the lucky ones with bottomless pits for stomachs, by all means, feast and be merry!

The ambience by day is comfortable, cosy, with light coming in from the full length windows, and with views of the Padang. By night, the place seems to transform into a warm, rustic and charming atmosphere, with gentle lighting illuminating the dark wood.


A MORE DETAILED RECOUNT

StartersThe bread that opened our meal was an onion bun which was served warm. The bun was soft, yet with a thin outer layer that provided a bit of bite, while the inside was fluffy and moist. I loved the onions atop, which was well complemented by the sea salt butter, although I thought some of the flavour could have been better kept at the edges which had been heated out a little too much.

The cream of pumpkin soup was next – creamy and flavourful. The highlight of this dish, however, was really the foie gras which was seared to perfection. Many places overcook foie gras, but this one wasn’t; the searing brought out the intensity of the flavour on the outside, while the inside remained soft and almost tofu-like.

Salmon on cream cheese

The appetiser was a smoked salmon dish on some cream cheese and topped with mint leaves. I thought this was an excellent choice, being light and full of fresh bright flavours, and really set the stage for the heavier (and meatier) mains and creaminess of the dessert to follow. I am personally not a fan of smoked salmon because I find it tends to be rather salty, but this was quite alright even for me.

The steak, oh the steak, was really my favourite part of the meal – as it should be, considering it is after all a steakhouse. It was a true medium, springy and still red through the middle, was tender through and kept its juices. The brown gravy brought out the meat’s woody notes, and the mash on the side was pureed into a cream.

Fruitcake dessert and coffee

The dessert was a Christmastime special of fruitcake, seated in a moat of a creamy vanilla sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream and a caramelised thin. I wasn’t a fan of the fruitcake (nor of most fruitcakes for that matter) because it was quite hard and the flavours were too synthetic and gummy for my liking, although the ice cream was fine. The coffee that came later was a great way to finish the meal and cleanse the palate though – strong and full-bodied with a mild bitter finish, accompanied with a little chocolate truffle cube.