Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Macau: Gosto at the Galaxy Hotel

All the major hotels in Macau shamelessly exhibit quite a lot of grandiose and bombast, and the one that we stayed at, the Galaxy hotel, fits that description snugly. I can’t say that I really liked the over-the-top showyness…it made everything seem soul-less and man-made. That’s my opinion anyways.

For our evening meal in Macau we decided on Portuguese/Macanese food at Gosto. We arrived at around 7:30pm but the place was still pretty empty. The setting was cozy but a bit dim.

Appetizer sampler plate w/ fried nuggets of stuff!

For our appetizer we ordered the combo plate, which basically consisted of three types of fried foodstuffs. Even though I tend to avoid fried foods, I must say that the fillings in these were pretty decent. The plate included mashed potato-fish cake, some fried sausage, and…argh, something else that I can’t quite remember! Oh wells, that’s what I get for procrastinating on blog entries…

Stewed pork feet with kidney beans and cabbage

Ok, hopefully my memory serves me better with the entrees. We shared two entrees, my dad and I: the stewed pork feet with beans and chicken with puri-puri sauce. I didn’t really like the stewed pork feet much cause the meat didn’t quite attain that fall-off-the-bone and melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Maybe another 15 minutes in the heat would have been nice. The tomato-ey broth was decent: slightly spicy without overwhelming the pork flavour.

Whole (caged-in factory-tortured) chicken with puri-puri sauce

The chicken with puri-puri sauce, like the previous entree, could have been improved upon. I have to say, though, that even though I still have no idea what “puri-puri” is, the thin sauce was pretty amazing. Tangy and salty and spicy, it accompanied everything on the plate really well! Sadly, the chicken hailed from the factory-raised variety, with the signature floury texture and tasteless white meat. That really dragged down what otherwise would have been a great dish. Disappointing!

Yeah, actually, I’m curious, do most people out there mind eating factory-raised chicken as I do?

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August 19, 2011 Posted by | Macau, Portuguese, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Macau: Noodle and Congee Corner at the Grand Lisboa

While on a few-day trip to Zhu Hai, we took a day trip to Macau, and that was when I encountered the BEST NOODLES THAT I’VE EVER TASTED.

Now, true, I’m not a noodle aficionado by any means; in fact, I tend to steer away from all things pasta. I guess my aversion resulted from too many tasteless, under/over-cooked noodle specimens in the past. But at the Noodle and Congee Corner restaurant overlooking the gambling floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau, the crowning versions of the stuff may just have changed my mind.

The restaurant, like just about everything touristy in Macau, was extremely spacious. My dad and I were seated at a 6-person table! Facing the dining room stood the glassed kitchen through which diners could scrutinize the chefs at work, shaving and kneading and stretching noodles into huge vaults of boiling broth. Very entertaining to watch!

Knife-shaved noodles with grounded meat sauce, pre-mixing

And post-mixing; the grounded pork sort of congregated all on one side

Here’s our first order, knife-shaved noodles with grounded meat sauce. This type of noodles’ name comes from the way that they’re made: chefs hold a huge rectangular wad of dough  and use a knife to shave individual strings of dough into boiling water in quick succession. Because the noodles go in one string at a time, each bowl contains all spectra of cookedness, making it a rather texturally inconsistent dish. I didn’t find this to be a bad thing, cause it made the experience all the more interesting. The noodles were mostly thicker than average and quite chewy with a few overcooked strands. The sauce wasn’t thick enough to thoroughly enrobe the noodles, but that also meant that it carried a nice balance of savoury porkiness and wasn’t too strong.

Dan dan noodles

Our next noodle order: dan dan noodles with peanut sauce. The noodles here were hand-pulled, resulting in basically a never-ending strand!

Dad trying to find an end to the endless mass of noodles

Haha. We had a fun time trying to split this between the two of us. The very impressive feat was that all the noodles had practically the same diameter; it’s amazing seeing that such uniformity can be achieved in something handcrafted. Unlike the previous dish, because the chef flung the hand-pulled noodles into the boiling broth all at once, they all have the same consistency: slightly chewy and spring. The broth wasn’t too spicy and I think it could have been thicker and more peanuty, but those are just my preferences. Overall, a very impressive bowl of noodles!

Marinated cucumbers

Fried egg wrapped pork pancake thing

In addition to the noodles we also ordered sides of marinated cucumbers (which were nice a refreshing, and sweet!) and a deep-fried egg wrap with pork filling (not very interesting). We didn’t try the other half of this restaurant’s namesake, their congee, but the noodles definitely stole the show!

 

 

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Chinese, Macau, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Lyon: Café Comptoir Abel

25, rue Guynemer, Lyon
Tél.: 04 78 37 46 18

I’ve only been in Lyon for just over a day, but already the city’s food scene lives up to its hype and renown. Tonight I had dinner at Café Comptoir Abel, a small restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise fare, otherwise known as a “bouchon.” It was recommended to me by several sources so I went in with high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Even before arriving I’d already settled on trying their highly praised quenelles. Quenelle is a Lyonnaise specialty consisting of cone-shaped poached fish dumplings served w/ a sauce. I ordered mine with a side of ratatouille to get some vegetables in.

When the dishes came, I was taken-aback by their sizes! Chez Abel serves up hearty portions: the quenelle was as long as a medium banana and twice as wide, and the ratatouille came in a medium-sized casserole. After a small gulp & a few photos, I dug in.

Quenelle w/ mushroom cream sauce

At the very first bite of the quenelle, I realized that I wouldn’t have been too surprised should I end up finishing the dish. The chef somehow managed to adroitly manipulate the simple flavours of the ingredients into a beautiful combination. I could taste the savoury fish base in the quenelles along w/ a nice, creamy eggyness. The mushroom cream sauce blanketing the quenelle wasn’t crucial to the flavours but did add a further richness and cut back the saltiness in the quenelle. The melted cheese, on the other hand, I could not taste at all and was probably unnecessary.

While its flavours were amazing, but I think one drawback of quenelles is their lack of textural contrast. Not that its soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture (semblant of soft scrambled eggs with more substance) isn’t wonderful, but it gets dull after a while. The mushrooms in the sauce helped a little at the beginning but I quickly polished those off. Despite this little complaint, though, I still managed to finish about 2/3s of the dish.

Lackluster ratatouille, but no matter!

The ratatouille, on the other hand, stood little chance next to the star dish. It seemed like they dumped all the vegetables together at the same time in making it, because the zucchinis were all gloopy due to overcooking. The better ratatouilles I’ve tried also boost a nice olive-oil burst which Chez Abel’s version lacked. Oh well, no matter, cause the amazing quenelle was enough to salvage any meal.

July 3, 2011 Posted by | French, Lyon, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Still Alive, and Back in France!

So…after a long hiatus from the blogging world, I’ve decided it’s high time to get back on the game. After all, I do enjoy writing about my food encounters and I am back in one of the foodie paradises of the world: France! This time I’m in the Savoie region, near the city Annecy, doing an academic summer program while having the privilege of staying with a wonderful host family.

Firstly, the scenery here is worth a mention, because it’s absolutely STUNNING.

View out towards Lac d’Annecy from Talloires

The locals are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The feel here definitely differs  from Paris; people are more ready to smile and life goes on at a slower pace. I’ve been here for five weeks now, and although I sometimes do miss the city-life I really can’t complain, having such beautiful views right out the door.

Anyways, on to the food: Coming into this region I fully had in mind to sample the local cuisine, and two of the beacons of the Haute-Savoie culinary scene are tartiflette and raclette. Both are substantial dishes consisting of potatoes, cheese, and some form of meat, often eaten in the winter as they are very heavy. One night my host brothers took me to a small restaurant in the mountains nearby to sample the two local specialties.

View from the mountains near the restaurant

I forget (or rather didn’t fully pay attention to) the name of the restaurant, which was small and quaint but bright and cozy. Because my host family was familiar with the owner, we chatted for a long time at the bar over some olives and drinks before sitting down and ordering. It was nice listening to the French and peeping up here and there.

Olives

An aside about the French language: I do hope that my French has improved at least a little during my time here, but I really cannot tell. I’ve been studying French for so long in school that my skills really do not match up with the years of French classes. I often ascribe it to the ineffectively of elementary/middle school French, but even discounting that I’ve taken at least 5 years worth of high school level + French courses and still I have trouble fully embracing the language. I feel that I have the most difficulty with comprehension. When others speak to me I can usually fully understand and can respond readily, but listening to others speak is a completely different story. I find it so difficult to follow conversations where I’m not involved for the sounds jumble together and I lose the ability to decipher anything. It is so difficult to join in the conversations at dinner as my host family speaks with a very rapid tongue! The same goes with films; I usually cannot figure out the plot without untranslated subtitles. I guess it’s all just a matter of exposure and practice, but it’s hard to practice when nothing comes through in the first place.

Anyways, I’ll return to the food: so around 9pm we started eating. Below is the tartiflette, which my host brothers both ordered.

Tartiflette!

It came in a medium sized ceramic dish with potatoes coddled in a thick sauce of reblochon cheese (a famous washed-rind cheese from the area) and cream and speckled with lardons, or cubed bacon. You can see a whole reblochon half on the top! I had a taste and thought it was rich but mild, for reblochon isn’t a very strong cheese. The lardons added a little bit of chewiness and texture but not much. This is definitely a comfort food and not exactly something to dine finely on.

I chose a raclette from the menu, and was very surprised when they presented me with two large plates, one w/ three boiled potatoes and a salad and the other w/ sliced cured meats and rectangles of raclette cheese. Plus a small bowl of cornichons, it was definitely a lot of food!

Salad and boiled potatoes

Mixed cured meats, cornichons, and raclette cheese (natural and smoked)

Raclette is actually a type of cheese from this region. It’s name comes from the way that it’s usually eaten: the insides of a half-wheel is slightly melted under lamp-like apparatus and a wooden utensil is used to scrape, or racler, the melted cheese onto potatoes and other accompaniments. I feel it’s a wonderfully creative and fun way to eat!

Apparatus for raclette melting

The apparatus that we used, however, was differently from the bulkier traditional method. It was basically a small stove and pan on which we melted the pieces of raclette, one at a time. Once melted, we poured the cheese onto the potatoes and ate them with the sliced meats and cornichons. I have to say, potatoes + cheese + cornichons or salami work magic together. Rich and salty and sharp from the cornichons…it was a great combination. Adding some pieces of salad to it was good too as that added some freshness and crunch. I preferred the natural raclette to the smoked variety just because the creaminess came out more in the former.

After the meal, we were all pretty stuffed. Apparently, though, diners usually consume a strong alcohol to help digest, so my host brothers ordered genepi and chartreuse, two types of local liquers, to sum up the meal. I had a little sip of the chartreuse and my goodness it was VERY strong. Stingy strong. I didn’t try anymore after that and my poor younger host brother had to finish my glass too. Lol.

It was a very fun meal, and we finally headed down the mountain and got back home at 11pm. Quite the Savoyard experience!

June 26, 2011 Posted by | French, Lake Annecy, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Paris Big Names

Big name products that we had during our visit to Paris!

Berthillon Ice Cream:

I loved their vanilla flavour, but I was disappointed by the three others that we tried (figs, caramel au fleur de sel, and something else that I forget). Although the flavours were intense, they were all so cloggingly sweet. And the hefty prices (9.90 euros for three tiny scoops from the cafe where we went to) didn’t help either.

Brie de Meaux from Laurent Dubois Fromagerie:

Maybe it’s just me, but do all Brie de Meaux taste stinky?

Patrick Roger‘s Caramels au Fleur de Sel:
Even though Patrick Roger is most famous for his chocolates, these salted butter caramels that I found in his shop were absolutely amazing as well. They were soft and sticky, but not exactly chewy, and you can taste all the ingredients so clearly. The butter, the sugar, the salty hints; they’re all there.

PatrickRoger1
Look at that window display!

Poilane:

The poilane loaf that I tried had a nice sourdough taste, but I found the texture of the interior too crumbly and dry. And the outside crust was too hard. Maybe I just went on the wrong day. However, their punitions (little butter cookies) are to die for indeed, and the brioche was awesomely buttery; would be great for making French toasts.

Jean-Paul Hevin‘s Turin:

This elipse-shaped cake consisted of a sugar crust at the bottom filled with meringue and some blueberry jam-like thing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. I didn’t find it mesmerizing but it was definitely good; not too sweet and the meringue was light and soft.
A separate post featuring macarons coming up!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Paris: Brasserie Balzar

49 Rue des Ecoles, Paris

We had our last meal in Paris at Brasserie Balzar, a restaurant near our apartment at St. Michel. After a week of trekking around Paris our feets were too sore to venture too far just for a meal but I was determined to try steak tartare before leaving. So Brasserie Balzar fitted the bill for being nearby and for having steak tartare on the menu!

Bread: Those small sourdough rolls were amazing! They had a great sourdough flavour.

BrasserieBalzar_Bread

Os moelle au gratin (ox bone marrow): A bit oily, but the marrow tasted great on grilled poilane. Too bad one of the bones had no marrow…

 BrasserieBalzar_Os2

Pork feet: Fall off the bone meat, but a bit too salty.

BrasserieBalzar_PorkFeet1

Steak Tartare: My first time trying steak tartare and I found it all right. Nothing off-putting nor super-redeeming about this specimen of steak tartare. I did think, though, that there was a bit too much mustard mixed in there, making me sneezy after a few bites.

BrasserieBalzar_Tartare
BrasserieBalzar_Frites
Fries…

Endives braisses from Brasserie Balzar: Tasted a bit bitter.

BrasserieBalzar_Endives

Very decent, traditional French meal, no doubt about it.

August 24, 2010 Posted by | French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Singapore: Copthorne King’s Princess Terrace Cafe

403 Havelock Road

On Christmas Day (2009! Super-late post, sorry) we had dinner at the Princess Terrace Cafe at Copthorne King’s hotel. Lots of sources seem to point out this restaurant as one of the more reliable ones for local cuisine, so we decided to give it a try.

Rojak: I was too lazy to mix this all up, so I just topped some miscellaneous fruits with the sweet + spicy rojak sauce. This was my first time trying this dish so I don’t have anything to compare it to. Well, the sauce was pretty tangy and accompanied the fresh fruits/veggies quite well. One of the veggies/fruits, however, had that raw taste that I find really off-putting.

Random cube of chicken salad chicken: Very lame. No idea why I bothered trying this.

Beef stew: I ate this off of my dad’s dish. The beef was pretty tender but didn’t have very complex flavours. It was one of the three Western Christmas dishes on offer so I’m guessing this wasn’t one of the restaurant’s specialties.

Turmeric glutinous rice: Great chewy texture but somewhat lacking in flavour. Because glutinous rice isn’t the type of grain that one eats w/ accompaniments due to its density, this dish’s subtle tastes didn’t quite work. The little peppercorns strewn throughout did add an extra kick, though.

Curry chicken: I found this rather bland because the large piece of chicken that I got had yet to soak up the curry’s flavours. Also, sadly, as with most chicken in Singapore, the chicken used wasn’t free-range and alas had that boring, floury texture.

Pig trotters stew: Decent, but the flavours weren’t complex enough. Adding some star anise in there would have been nice.

French green beans: Nothing special, just needed some veggies.

Chicken satay: Awesomely juicy satay with an sweet-spicy peanut sauce. Now, I know that raw cucumbers and onions are often served as accompaniments w/ satay but how exactly does one eat them correctly? W/ the meat, or separately? Oh, and apologies for the crappy photo…

Pho-like soup noodles: I forget the actual name of this dish, but it was prepared fresh. Awesome flavourful soup. Tasted like pho with a non-beef soup base.

Otak-otak: Again, I’ve never had otak-otak before so I can’t make comparisons. Otak-otak is apparently fish paste seasoned w/ spices and grilled in banana leaves. The version that I had here was very soft and salty. Creamy, but too salty.

Bak choy: Found this too oily.

Herbed rice: Lemony + crunchy w/ the herbs.

Popiah: The first time I tried popiah and I loved it! Such complexity in flavours and textures: sweet + spicy from the sauce, the savouriness from the stuffing, and the crunchiness from the bean sprouts, the chewiness of the wrapper, and the slight gooey-ness of the other vegetable stuffing that I was unable to identify. I’ll be trying to recreate this at home sometime.

Bean sprouts + veggies w/ sweet sauce: Nice sauce.

Vermicelli salad: I found the noodles too mushy.

Marinated veggies: Standard.

Pig stomach soup: VERY good broth. The offals were nice and creamy, too.

Chili clams: Spicy + slightly sweet. Wow, lots of spicy + sweet stuff around here.

Peanut pancake: Made fresh, so that was a plus. The pancake part was nice and crispy but I found the filling rather too wet from the steaming. Peanuts should be crunchy!

Pancake w/ banana sauce: The pancake had large holes and tasted a little yeasty, which was fine with me. The banana sauce was neither too sweet nor mind-blowing. Just all right. I think when it comes to creative dishes or dishes that require considerable effort to prepare, complexity of flavours is a must in order to achieve an optimal product.

Desserts: Sooo many, all with slight variations in taste. It seemed, however, that coconut was present in all of them.

Shaved ice w/ toppings: I didn’t like the watered down condensed milk sauce that was basically tasteless. The green jelly stuff was pretty tasteless too. The creamed corn was VERY weird…tasted like it belonged in soup, not a dessert. The only part that I liked was the red beans, which were really only mediocre at best. It was fun making the dessert but not that fun eating it.

Oh my goodness, such a long meal! It was fun, though; buffets are nice ocassional treats. The offering at Princess Terrace isn’t large, but the quality makes up for it. I have to say that this restaurant definitely stands as one of the better buffet places that I’ve tried.

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Buffets, Restaurants, Singapore, Travels | Leave a comment

Toronto: The Ethiopian House

4 Irwin Avenue
http://www.ethiopianhouse.com/

A few nights ago, I tried Ethiopian food for the first time. With four other friends, we headed to the Ethiopian House, one of the more well-known restaurants of its kind in Toronto.

True to its fame, this place did seem pretty popular. The interior was small and dark but almost all the tables, along with those on the patio, were taken. The whole restaurant had only one waitress, though, so service was a bit slow for it was difficult to catch her attention sometimes. However, contrary to many reviews, I found that the food came out within a reasonable amount of time, perhaps 15-20 minutes after we placed our order.

We ordered a vegetarian platter for four. Initially, seeing that other tables with only two people have such large platters, we thought that a platter for two would be enough. However, the waitress insisted that we up it to four so we relented. Well, one would expect that for paying that extra 25 dollars, there should at least be more food in the four-person platter, but it was the exact same size as all the platters seen on other tables with fewer customers than us! Perhaps we got more injeera rolls on the side, I don’t know, but I did feel rather cheated, for there was barely enough food on that so-called 4-person platter for the five of us.

IMG_1345
Vegetarian platter

But that aside, I must say that the food was pretty decent. I enjoyed the lentil stews the most, for they had that wonderful starchiness often found in legumes and ranged from mild to spicy. The kale was quite sour, so I didn’t enjoy that as much for it only added to the sourness of the injeera. There were stir-fried veggies, which included string beans cooked to a degree of softness yet still retaining a bit of mouthfeel. The “Tikil Goman” (“Cabbage, carrots, potatoes, cooked in turmeric sauce”) was mild and rich. All this was served with injeera crepes to scoop up the stews, communal style. Despite the cost versus size discrepancy of our meal, it was definitely a novel and fun eating experience.

August 22, 2010 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Toronto | Leave a comment

Toronto: Wanda’s Belgian Waffles

http://www.wandasbelgianwaffles.com/

A new branch of Wanda’s Belgian Waffles recently opened in Pacific Mall, so while I was there with a few friends some weeks ago, we decided to check it out.

Truth be told, this location choice seems quite out of place amidst all the Asian food booths in the food court on P. Mall’s second floor. Those manning the store look like the only non-Asian employees in the whole mall.

Anyways, the waffles. We had an original vanilla waffle dusted with icing sugar and a maple waffle. They grill the waffles to order, thus ensuring maximum freshness. It is interesting to note that unlike typical waffles, the ones from Wanda’s contain yeast in the batter, which is a lot more doughy as well. Thus the resulting product was quite doughy and dense, with the very middle somewhat undercooked, as opposed to light and fluffy. THere was some texture contrast between the crispier outter layer and the innards, but it wasn’t too noticeable due to the denseness of the waffle.

IMG_1670
Original vanilla waffle

Taste-wise, I thought both the original and maple waffles were quite similar. They both had a distinctive yeastiness from the batter and were very sweet. In fact, I thought that a plain plain waffle itself, with neither icing sugar nor a maple crust, would suffice on the sweetness scale. But then again, it may be because my taste buds aren’t used to the copious amounts of sugar found in everything here.

IMG_1680
Maple waffle

Overall, I thought the waffles’s taste trumped their texture. The yeastiness wasn’t bad for it brought an extra dimension to what would otherwise be mundane sugary-ness.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Desserts, Restaurants, Toronto | 1 Comment

Toronto: Yutopia

Main Floor in Pacific Mall
4300 Steeles Ave, Markham
http://www.yutopia.ca/

Ever since I tried frozen yogurt for the first time at Pinkberry in New York last summer, I’ve been having on-off froyo cravings all year. Unfortunately, I haven’t had many opportunities in China to satisfy such yearnings, but now that I’m back in the West it’s time to tend to my froyo-deprived digestive tract.

I haven’t really tried many frozen yogurt places in Toronto. Partly it is due to the fact that I’ve had a few rather distasteful experiences with bad yogurt in the past…plus, frozen yogurt tends to be pretty expensive around here. So I tend to be cautious when venturing into any froyo place.

Yutopia in Pacific Mall definitely ranks as a noteworthy find. Unlike all other froyo stores in the city, Yutopia’s yogurt is self-serve and priced by weight. Customers simply grab a yogurt cup, pump in as much yogurt and sprinkle on as many toppings as they please, and then pay-by-weight at the cashier. Simple concept, yet I like it because it gives the customer more freedom to adjust the treat to his or her tastes.

IMG_1794
One of our creations

Yutopia has four flavours available at any time. So far I have tried original (strange after taste, not too reminiscent of yogurty-creaminess), taro (has a pretty convincing creamy taro flavour), pomegranate (tangy), mango (my favourite; very refreshing & not too heavy), and ferrero rocher (tasted like chocolate). One thing to note about Yutopia’s yogurt is that it tends to be on the icy side, unlike their creamier counterparts elsewhere, and thus the froyo melts quite fast. I guess that can come across as both a good thing (if you’re not into heavy desserts) or a bad thing (if you’re after an ice-cream-like creaminess).

IMG_1787
Mochi topping!

Topping choices at Yutopia differ from time to time, but they include fruits (berries, mango, bananas, canned peaches, etc.), cheesecake (whose heaviness rather overwhelms the delicate flavours of the yogurt), cookie dough, cereals, chocolates, and MOCHI, a slightly sweet, chewy Asian dessert that works surprisingly well as a froyo accompaniment. Another notable and unusual topping is cucumber, which is supposed to accompany the original flavoured yogurt. I think the cucumber pieces add a crunchy texture contrast more than anything else because their delicate taste is trumped by the yogurty sourness.

IMG_1789
Cucumber topping…hmm…

The ambience of the store is simple and chic, standing in stark contrast to the surrounding Asian stores. The place is rather small and has no seats, so plan to enjoy your yogurt while strolling through the mall.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Desserts, Toronto | Leave a comment