Friday, May 30, 2008

McVities goes the extra mile

Green tea seems to be a fad. Everything seems to be flavoured with green tea these days. Matcha ice-cream, matcha tiramisu and even matcha latte! If you are a purist, look else where. McVities jumped onto the bandwagon a long while ago and came up with Matcha and Black Beans. (I was simply too lazy to blog about it hence the delay.

Matcha aka Green Tea contains one of the highest level anti-oxidants amongst the variety of tea and is known to provide many health benefits. Apparently, so does Black Beans. Black beans contain the highest level of anthocyanins (anti-oxidants compounds) amongst the variety of beans. Anti-oxidants offer protection against cancer and heart diseases. Couple Green Tea with Black Beans, McVities go the extra mile to provide a biscuit that is good for our health without compromising on the taste.

Miniature in size, it looks like mini Oreos. Two dark coloured biscuits sandwiching a green tea cream. It tastes a lot like green tea flavoured Oreos too. Can't really tell the taste of black beans from the coin-sized biscuits but the green tea flavoured cream makes its presence known in your mouth. It is not extraordinary and but hey. Gimme a packet anyday and I will gladly eat it up. It is good for peckish snacking.

Adult Fish Food

Everytime some new comes out, I will make a beeline for the new product in anticipation. I like junk food, snacks and whatnot. That's no big secret. Except when I'm hoarding my junk. So when the new Dark Chocolate Pucca appeared, I bought 2 boxes of it.

From Meiji, the dark chocolate is smooth and yummy. The slight bitterness hit the palates at the right spot without the rancid aftertaste that some dark chocolates have. The cracker reminded me of WaterThins cracker without much taste on its own. It had a slight cocoa flavour minus the sugar. The bittersweet chocolate and the cocoa-flavoured cracker complimented each other. In the shape of a fish, Pucca targets the young and the old. My little sister loved the "cute fish biscuit" while the older members of the family relished the "adult-ness" of dark chocolate biscuit snack.

It disappeared so quickly that the next time I replenished my stock, I had to pretend that I bought one box less.

It is available at Cold Storage outlets. Try Harbourfront if the other outlets do not have it.

Figs & Olive: Sign of Peace

Almond Milk

Close-up of the almond milk

Having heard some raves about the simple good food at Figs & Olive, I decided to check out the VivoCity branch. The atmosphere there during late afternoon hours on a weekday was simply perfect. After avoiding the noise and cramp from the busy lunch hour crowds, I felt totally at ease with the good food and sea view to enjoy.

If you are the sort that likes to try everything but do not want to end up over-ordering or overeating, Figs & Olives have the perfect solution for you. I am that sort so I was delighted to find a combination dish that will allow me to try two dishes in smaller portions with a side salad. Don't think that Figs & Olive model themselves on the French, reliving the miniature petit portions phase. They don't. The portions were only smaller portions of what would be served if you ordered each dish seperately as a main. I ordered the dory fish with creamy mushroom sauce and tomato pasta with a side salad. The food was simple with good flavours that were not too complex. Think simple good food. Presentation was pleasant and clean. Dory with creamy mushroom sauce(white) on one side, red tomato based pasta on the other side and the side salad adorning one corner of the big white plate.

The dory fish was very fresh and well-seasoned with herbs. It was well-cooked too. I tried the fish on its own and was very happy with the smooth texture and flavours of the fish. The natural flavour of the fish was enhanced by the herbs. The creamy mushroom sauce served atop it was delicious as well. It had the herby aromas and chunky pieces of mushroom that I loved. The mushroom provided bite to give the contrast in textures with the smooth taste of cream sauce and texture of fish. It was quite light and not overwhelmingly creamy that I could eat the sauce on its own! My only fault with the dish: I felt that the creamy mushroom sauce and its overload of black pepper overwhelmed the delicate natural flavour of the fish. Only stronger flavour meats like red meats will be able withstand the dominating creamy mushroom sauce. However, both the fish and sauce were tasty enough that no one would mind this method of serving fish unless you like your fish al naturale.

The tomato based pasta was good too. The spaghetti had a good bite and had a flavourful olive oil taste. There was something else that made this pasta delicious but I can't seem to put my finger to it. Praise goes out to the sauce. This Mediterranean pasta sauce met the basic requirement of a pasta sauce. Unlike many places serving pasta in Singapore which tend to serve soupy pastas, the chef had the sense to keep the tomato base to a SAUCE and not a SOUP. Soupy sauces do not give pastas much flavour as they are normally too watered down or thin that you will need to gulp down spoonfuls of the sauce for the pasta to have flavour. However, at Figs & Olive, the sauce was thick enough to coat the pasta properly to give the pasta the intense tomato flavour. Two thumbs up! I am proud to say that you will only need a fork to eat this pasta.

The salad was a disappointment as it was just a bed of salad greens with rings of onion flavoured simply by olive oil sitting at the bottom of the greens. The salad greens also had a bitter aftertaste that I did not relish. I had higher expectations of the salad. Perhaps a dash of balsamic vinegar would add the punch that is desperately lacking in this bland salad.

For drinks, I ordered almond milk. Something that is not quite expected of a Mediterranean Western restaurant. It was not extraordinary but nevertheless, still good. It reminded me of those sold in bottles at the Gilman Village Coffeeshop.

Service was good once I forgave the beginning when there wasn't any wait staff around to show me to a table. Had to stand at the entrance for quite awhile. After that, it was OOH-LA-LA. The service was so good that I had ice water served without asking and even before asking. Though I had the almond milk, my glass of water was also refilled frequently that I never had to ask for water. Figs & Olive is a casual restaurant serving simple and good food. Definitely a place for a relaxing, casual and nice meal with friends or family. Good food, good service and good view. What else can anyone ask for?

Food: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Price: Approximately $30 including taxes for a main and drink. Reasonable.

1 HarbourFront Walk
VivoCity #02-116
Singapore 098585

Fancy being a triad boss?

The name of the restaurant Hei She Hui is certainly reflected by the dark black panels with modern lighting. It is a contrast from seedy red and garishly yellow lightings against white walls shown in gangster movies but then again, it IS a restaurant at VivoCity. It is reasonable to say that the restaurants are mostly(if not all), nicely decorated with a sea-view for most. Hei She Hui falls into the category perfectly. While they have inner segregations only seperated by stylish holey partitions, it provides the seperation you need from the rest of the crowd for a family gathering or even a power lunch with your associates.

Hei She Hui offers diners snacks like typical Chinese restaurants offering peanuts or pickles before meals except Hei She Hui did it Hei She Hui-style. I've been there several times and they vary their snacks apparently. I've tried vegetable sticks (carrot, white radish and cucumber) with fried springroll skins, and the sesame-coated honey walnuts Hong-Kong style. The former had little impact on me but I loved the walnuts. The aroma of the sesame and walnuts, taste of the slight bitterness from the sesame against the sweet honey with the texture of the walnuts simply transported me into my memories of eating them in Hong Kong. That aside, the snack is included in the bill and be prepared. They cost around $3-$4, not like the cheaper prices you get for peanuts or pickles.

Hei She Hui opens for Dim Sum, lunch and dinner. The Dim Sum includes the normal Dim Sum fare and some specialties not found in most restaurants. You can order a la carte from the menu as well. Special praise goes to the xiao long baos which were good overall. The skin on top was a tad hard but the very tasty broth and fillings won me over. A little tweaking with the dish will make it perfect. It was also tastier and slightly bigger than those offered at Din Tai Fung. My companions ordered the frog leg porridge. It had lettuce in it which gave the somewhat bland tasting porridge the lettuce taste. The dried fish in it which overwhelmed the tasteless frog leg. Two thumbs up for the cook who put sesame oil in the porridge before serving. The sesame oil did wonders for the porridge.

I like their custard buns ("Liu Sha Bao"). The buns are orange in colour with a hot oozing yellow liquid in the middle. Think chocolate fondant but Oriental-style with a bun with salted egg yolk liquid instead. It is savoury-sweet liquid that has got me hooked. It was strange the first time eating it but it settled really well with me. Seconds or thirds please? The prices are again, steep, with one steamer containing 3 buns costing around $6 if my memory serves me well. They have durian specialties namely the durian mochi and "gao li mao shan wang". The durian mochi ($6 for 3) had a thin glutinous skin that is unique from the ones normally served in other places. The melt-in-your-mouth skin and the filling of D24 durian pulp mixed with cream gives it the oomph in making it truly satisfying. As the durian mochi is served cold, the "gao li mao shan wang" is served hot. The fried exterior was supposedly made of egg whites for it to be soft and fluffy but it tasted more like bread. It was too thick and the interior didn't taste fantastic either. I expected the filling to be either the durian filling for the mochi or standard durian pulp but that day, it tasted like liquidified durian. Pretty hefty at a price of $9 for 3 too.

Fried Unagi with Honey

Fried Udon KL Hokkien Mee Style

Fried Rice with Stewed Pork and Radish

Dinner was more down to earth but more lacklustre. Dishes come in small portions and well. I was not impressed. The fried unagi (eel) in honey sauce was average but the fried udon KL Hokkien mee-style, fried rice served with stewed pork and white radish didn't pass muster. The only saving grace? The custard buns (mentioned above) which were on the dinner menu as desserts.

For lunch, a couple of Dim Sum choices, a la carte dish, tea and snack, adding GST and service tax can easily hit $60 for a party of 2-3. While the prices are steeper than other Chinese restaurants, remember that you are paying for the ambience, view and service besides the food. Stylish decorations do not come cheap. Service needs fine-tuning as the service varied vastly on the different days and time I visited the restaurant. The place can be a tad too noisy during lunch hours that you'd strain your ears trying to listen to what your companions say but it's great for a family setting. When I next returned to the restaurant, dinner was served in a pristinely peaceful atmosphere that somehow seemed more refined. Kudos to the extensive selection of teas available such as the less common White Chrysanthenum and Rose tea which are offered besides the normal selections.

They have half-priced Dim Sum after 2.30pm on weekdays on selected items only.

Hei She Hui
1 Harbourfront Walk
Telephone: (65) 6376-9740

Ambience: 3.5-4/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 3.5/5 (Custard buns and durian mochi are must-tries!)
Price: A tad steep for an average Chinese restaurant fare but it is not an everyday affair. Still affordable.