A Roman invention so good my eyes rolled back in my head

15 03 2015

“SIR, WHAT you want is authentic Italian.  Our chef regrets that he would stick to our recipe and hopes you would consider trying it.”

Now if only every wait staff could feign rejection with an underhanded compliment like that – I do remember a half–smile cracking from the corner of her lips – then this world would be a much better place.  One turned down customer at a time.

A Roman invention tweaked so good, it has got to be the best I've ever had in the Lion City!

A Roman invention tweaked so good, it has got to be the best I’ve ever had in the Lion City!

 

Having had a lid put on my brewing revulsion towards the addition of cream into their Pasta Carbonara – not to mention the decidedly deliberate omission of lots of freshly cracked black pepper – I allowed my slightly damaged ego to order the dish.

It came right after I had devoured a couple of starters – the Foie Gras, a Chef’s Exclusive, and the Thai Beef Salad – and with the first forkful gave me a gastronomic euphoria that screamed in my head so loud, I had unknowingly let out not a few scrumptious “moans”.  The decibel level seemed to have alienated – more like, embarrassed – all those at my table that they had considered moving away.

This place gets mad props from me on presentation.  This humongous pristine white plate dwarfs the sliver of pan-fried foie gras nestled on a piece of garlic toast, meant to be stained with the dried fruit compote and dusted with a little bread crumbs.

This place gets mad props from me on presentation. This humongous pristine white plate dwarfs the sliver of pan-fried foie gras nestled on a piece of garlic toast, meant to be stained with the dried fruit compote and dusted with a little bread crumbs.

 

 

Asia is represented in sporadic scatterings on the menu.  This Thai Beef Salad is redolent with the whiff of lemongrass and sweet basil, perfectly perfuming perfectly medium rare meat.

Asia is represented in sporadic scatterings on the menu. This Thai Beef Salad is redolent with the whiff of lemongrass and sweet basil, perfectly perfuming perfectly medium rare meat.

 

The screams would come with every bite so I knew that it could only be quieted down with succumbing to its whim – asking for a second portion.  Usually I would save any repeats to a subsequent visit.  But the craving was unrelenting, demanded by my synapses right there and then.

 

An attempt at flat lay on my Pasta Carbonara, which at first bite I knew would be the first of at least two.  Right there and right then!

An attempt at flat lay on my Pasta Carbonara, which at first bite I knew would be the first of at least two. Right there and right then!

 

Plate number two.  Flat lay number two.  This also came to be known as "Gone in 60 Seconds"!  Hahaha!

Plate number two. Flat lay number two. This also came to be known as “Gone in 60 Seconds”! Hahaha!

 

So I did, notwithstanding the wait staff’s eyeballs bulging out of their sockets.  Not that I needed those to remind me that I was probably having more than enough.  My S$ 80++ tab at the end of the meal told me that.

For the first time ever here in Singapore, I insisted on leaving a generous tip for the servers and pulled them aside to convey a very personal message: “Please tell the Chef that this has got to be the best Pasta Carbonara I have ever had islandwide.”  I have a very exacting recipe and expectation, so I felt pleasantly surprised to be so welcoming of change – to not be in control of what goes to my plate.

I didn’t mind the addition of the cream.  I loved having my palate wrapped in the comforting nuttiness of parmesan cheese redolent in the sauce.  I didn’t miss the black pepper.  I didn’t notice the parsley.

And most of all, I didn’t mind the bill.

P. Bistro Café (http://www.p-bistro.com/) is at 142 Owen Road Singapore 218941. Contact them at +65 6392 2333, or through info@p-bistro.com.

 

The very inviting, cozy bistro interiors greet you from the very moment you fling open the front door.

The very inviting, cozy bistro interiors greet you from the very moment you fling open the front door.

 

"Damn, girl, excuse my French."  The signage on the way to the upstairs sitting area.

“Damn, girl, excuse my French.” The signage on the way to the upstairs sitting area.

 

Everything on the Carbonara description on the menu earned a check from me – except the cream.  And yes, the omission of lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

Everything on the Carbonara description on the menu earned a check from me – except the cream. And yes, the omission of lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

 

Copyright © 2015 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: IPPUDO SG at Mohamed Sultan

23 11 2014

MY RAMEN quest is turning out to be the perfect excuse to go through the list of all IPPUDO SG branches islandwide – all four of them.  I’ve been to three.  The first is here.  This post is about the second one:  IPPUDO SG at UE Square (along Mohamed Sultan Road), #01-55/56, 207 River Valley Road, Singapore 238275.

My bowl of ramen at IPPUDO at Mohamed Sultan.  It's all about the Hakata–style noodles for me.

My bowl of ramen at IPPUDO SG at Mohamed Sultan. It’s all about the Hakata–style noodles for me.

 

My chosen "featured" ramen, calm and collected, just right before I wreaked havoc onto it.

My chosen “featured” ramen, calm and collected, just right before I wreaked havoc onto it.

 

That pinch of a Japanese pepper pounded to a paste makes this bowl a "featured" ramen, as opposed to a "classic."

That pinch of a Japanese pepper pounded to a paste makes this bowl a “featured” ramen, as opposed to a “classic.”

 

For some reason, the noodles at this branch seemed much thinner.  The promised texture – “springy” as the menu brandishes – can only really be had when the noodles are served “very hard”, exactly my preference.

It's all about the noodles.  I actually fight with myself whenever faced with a steaming hot bowl of IPPUDO ramen.  I can almost consume this in a flash.  But restraint and the attempt to pace the eating – almost as if rationing it to myself – does generate much enjoyed delayed gratification.

It’s all about the noodles. I actually fight with myself whenever faced with a steaming hot bowl of IPPUDO ramen. I can almost consume this in a flash. But restraint and the attempt to pace the eating – almost as if rationing it to myself – does generate much enjoyed delayed gratification.

 

I am nothing if not a creature of habit.  And the extra serving of noodles has always been requisite to a most satisfying meal at IPPUDO SG!

I am nothing if not a creature of habit. And the extra serving of noodles has always been requisite to a most satisfying meal at IPPUDO SG!

 

This delusion of a much reduced noodle diameter in the expected doneness, coupled with the signature clean, deeply flavored Tonkotsu broth, sealed the fate of this ramen.  To steal the title of a favorite Vertical Horizon song, “best I ever had.”

And I had a couple of add–ons to prove this claim:  a cup of steamed Japanese pearl rice and an extra serving of the noodles.  Both do exactly what they are supposed to do – soak up the awesome broth, something diners would always be reminded of everytime they look up from their bowl and see the wall art that is the Oriental soup spoons.

I can see the relation with the Mandarin Gallery branch.  The bowls are there.  The spoons are here.  Great ramen is at both.

Anyone who cannot appreciate the ingenuity of hanging all those spoons on the wall as a decorative, artful treatment has no right to witness beauty in any of its form.

Anyone who cannot appreciate the ingenuity of hanging all those spoons on the wall as a decorative, artful treatment has no right to witness beauty in any of its form.

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: Nantsuttei Ramen at Orchard Central

9 11 2014

IN THIS age of globalization and melting pots – and foodies all around, myself included – it no longer comes as a surprise that with one look at the food you’ve ordered, you see beyond what the menu tells you and find the manifestation of a seeming microcosm of flavors and textures, almost deconstructed.  And almost equal parts groundbreaking and cliché as these flavors and textures burst on your mind before they even do in your mouth.

Nantsuttei Ramen's Negi Ramen.  This almost overflowing bowl is layer upon layer of flavors and textures.  And if I may add, colors!

Nantsuttei Ramen’s Negi Ramen. This almost overflowing bowl is layer upon layer of flavors and textures. And if I may add, colors!

 

Nantsuttei Ramen at Orchard Central, #07-12/13, 181 Orchard Road, Singapore 238896 takes pride not only in using the freshest but also – and seemingly, more importantly – the healthiest chickens in creating “a ramen with a purely chicken–based” broth with a touch of a “shiodare (salt sauce) base that is creamy with a touch of sweetness.”

I grew up believing that the authenticity of ramen is anchored on a broth made from simmering pork and pork bones for hours.  Nantsuttei clearly steers away from this norm, but the way they market their ramen unequivocally declares that the foundation of (their) awesome ramen is still the broth – only thing is, they have chicken, again only the healthiest, as its cornerstone.

I opted for the Negi Ramen (S$ 15.00), which is essentially the basic ramen but with a generous topping of negi (spring onions) served in two colors in two ways.  The white part is first cut into three–inch pieces before being shredded.  The green are chopped really thin.  Both are then piled high on top of the ramen that actually already fills the bowl to the rim.

Negi (spring onions, in two colors, two ways) generously tops two bowls of ramen.  Notice that my friend's has the requisite flavored egg.  But not mine.

Negi (spring onions, in two colors, two ways) generously tops two bowls of ramen. Notice that my friend’s has the requisite flavored egg. But not mine.

 

And that’s what your attention panning hits right past the pile of negi – the ramen noodles, the broth and the chasu (tenderly simmered pork) fill the bowl all the way to top.  But before I get to enjoy this rendition of a classic, I first have to pierce through the film of black ma–yu oil – my choice over the red oil – which is exactly a flavorful oil blend of high quality chicken fat and roasted negi.

I started by tasting the ramen noodles, first on their own.  I wish they were thinner that their medium thickness.  I wish that the doneness, which was something they don’t ask about at Nantsuttei, was very hard – almost raw.  But what the noodles lacked in texture, it more than made up for through coats of the black ma–yu oil, suffused and redolent with the sweetish robust aroma of slow–roasted garlic.

It is necessary to start enjoying the ramen – any ramen for that matter – by first tasting the noodles.  Notice how I have carefully moved the negi to one side while I fish out the noodles.

It is necessary to start enjoying the ramen – any ramen for that matter – by first tasting the noodles. Notice how I have carefully moved the negi to one side while I fish out the noodles.

 

I would leave the chasu soaking in the broth, simply for two reasons.  First, I’ve always approached my eating with thoughts of deconstruction – paring down, layer by layer, ingredient by ingredient.  Second, I believe that it allows the chasu to become more tender and more flavorful, the operative words being “soak up.”

In time, I got to the chasu and I finished the soup, my atonement for my gastronomic sins being the extremely generous side portion of fresh bean sprouts I asked for.

A bowl full of bean sprouts, also known as - for all intents and purposes – "atonement."

A bowl full of bean sprouts, also known as – for all intents and purposes – “atonement.”

 

How I ate my bowl of Negi Ramen is actually how Nantsuttei recommends it should be done.  While it wasn’t intentional on my part, somehow a thought bubble formed above my head saying, “I’m a good boy and I do as I am told.”  Haha.

Love it or hate it, a free lecture is always a good thing!  Haha!  I can do everything, except the slurp part.

Love it or hate it, a free lecture is always a good thing! Haha! I can do everything, except the slurp part.

 

Two big spoons, two big bowls, two huge appetites.

Two big spoons, two big bowls, two huge appetites.

 

My Malaysian BFF is back.  And so the gastronomic adventures resume!

My Malaysian BFF is back. And so the gastronomic adventures resume!

 

Malaysian BFF, thanks for this first in a series of your ramen recommendations!

Malaysian BFF, thanks for this first in a series of your ramen recommendations!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Here for #28: NamNam Noodle Bar at Raffles City

28 10 2014

I NEED a really good lemon sorbet at this point, before I talk about the next ramen place on my quest.  That or a seat at the bar – right in front of the cooks – at NamNam Noodle Bar at Raffles City Shopping Centre, #B1-46/47, 252 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179103.

They can try but they can't take noodles away from me.  Haha!  This is NamNam Noodle Bar's “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90).

They can try but they can’t take noodles away from me. Haha! This is NamNam Noodle Bar’s “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90).

I can read the thought bubble above your head, “It is still noodles.”  Yes, but it is definitely a flavor 3368 km West Southwest of Japan.

I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to Vietnam.  Thankfully, its flavors are no stranger to me.  Unlike that of the Philippines’ (so far… it’ll change soon enough), the fate of Vietnamese cuisine isn’t one that has sent it to oblivion.  Rather, to me it stands proud as one of the more definitive Asian cuisines.

And wherever I go, I’d manage to find a Vietnamese place that captivates my palate – then my heart –   be in Folsom (California), Burlingame (California), Chicago, Boise, and of course, Manila.

I start with my Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90).  On to the inside of a crusty–outside–airy–inside single–serve French baguette, I asked for cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with their regular fixings pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro.

My Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90) – cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro, in a French baguette.

My Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) of choice (S$ 6.90) – cold cuts, caramelized five–spice pork belly, and chicken floss, smothered with pork pâté, mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber and lots of fresh cilantro, in a French baguette.

 

NamNam Noodle Bar prides itself for bringing in the taste of authentic Vietnamese street food.  When the Banh Mi came in on this newspaper-print paper, in a wicker basket, I see the effort.  If it were brought to me by a waiter on a high-speed motorbike, that would've hit it our of the ball park.

NamNam Noodle Bar prides itself for bringing in the taste of authentic Vietnamese street food. When the Banh Mi came in on this newspaper-print paper, in a wicker basket, I see the effort. If it were brought to me by a waiter on a high-speed motorbike, that would’ve hit it our of the ball park.

The flavors going into the sandwich are quite traditional but what sold me to this savoury combination is the five–spice powder (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel) that I highly suspect is used as a dry rub on the pork belly before it is either slow–roasted in the oven or braised on the stovetop to caramelized perfection.  It becomes fork tender and is the succulent star of this delectable, edible colonial influence.  In between bites, I’d sip my iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (S$ 2.60).

I meant this pit stop as a respite from ramen – or, noodles in general.  So I thought all I needed was to finish my Bahn Mi and ignore the call of freshly cooked rice noodles in a broth that is equal parts rich– and clean–tasting, the layers of flavors mirrored by the layers of textures as thinly sliced white onions and a bunch of fresh herbs give off their crunch as your chewing finds its way to the tender beef slices.

But that wouldn’t be an eNTeNG thing to do.  Besides, I’d be totally remiss if I’d pass up on Vietnam’s ubiquitous culinary export – the Phở (or, pho).  I asked for the “Phở Beef Steak Slices” (S$ 8.90) which comes with the promise that the meat is served medium rare.  In my head, I went finger–snappin’ and head–bobbin’, almost singing, “That’s the way uh–huh uh–uh / I like it / uh–huh uh–huh, mashed up with…  “#Turnip for what?!”  Haha!

I squeezed the lime wedge into the broth, took a sip, closed my eyes, and savored the goodness.  I opened my eyes and knew that the world is as it should be.  Or maybe not.

I realized I should at least be wearing a nón lá – or be on a street somewhere in Hanoi – to be enjoying food this good.

Seated by the bar, I had a full view of how my steaming hot bowl of “Phở Beef Steak Slices” was prepared.

Seated by the bar, I had a full view of how my steaming hot bowl of “Phở Beef Steak Slices” was prepared.

 

I had my eye on the beef the whole time.

I had my eye on the beef the whole time.

 

I'm amazed at how much work is needed to fill a large pan like this with really thinly sliced onions and herbs.  I just had to pile a lot of this into my “Phở Beef Steak Slices”!

I’m amazed at how much work is needed to fill a large pan like this with really thinly sliced onions and herbs. I just had to pile a lot of this into my “Phở Beef Steak Slices”!

 

I love the rustic feel this metal cup brings to the table.  And the fact that it holds the order slip, which I do intend to go through completely soon enough.  Check away!

I love the rustic feel this metal cup brings to the table. And the fact that it holds the order slip, which I do intend to go through completely soon enough. Check away!

 

The “Phở Beef Steak Slices” bowl makes it to the table!  The beef steak slices are medium rare as promised!

The “Phở Beef Steak Slices” bowl makes it to the table! The beef steak slices are medium rare as promised!

 

I asked a little fresh cilantro on the side from the young chef and this was how much he gave me!

I asked a little fresh cilantro on the side from the young chef and this was how much he gave me!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining at Raffles City

27 10 2014

THE NEXT stop on my ramen quest is a place, yet again just a two–minute walking distance from the nearest train station, that it offers yet another clue to my steadily expanding girth.

In an island–state as tiny as Singapore, it is both utmost convenience and the bane of one’s existence that making it to your destination doesn’t offer the prospect of benefitting from at least a 20–minute brisk walk, the daily minimum the cardiologist recommends.

"Be still my heart.  Lately it's mind is all its own."  And head over heels over ramen!  Here is the classic one  I always order at DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.

“Be still my heart. Lately it’s mind is all its own.” And head over heels over ramen! Here is the classic one I always order at DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.

DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining at Raffles City Shopping Centre, #B1-13, 252 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179103 promises a broth that’s thick and creamy, spiked with special homemade fish spices.  Any attempt to keep me from this – including lack of exercise – would be an exercise in futility.

The broth rivaled my forehead as it glistened under the intense table lighting.  It was slightly thick, not at all milky white, but quite flavorful, something that could only come from simmering pork and pork bones for hours.  The noodles would be what I’d call by now as of medium thickness.  I wish they were thinner.  I wish I had asked for more bamboo shoots, and had advised that I would be passing up on the flavored egg.  I swear, ignoring those egg halves surrounded by ramen noodles, conjured up a 27–year–old cinematic image that nagged inside my head with, “I’m not gonna be IGNORRRED!”  (Insert evil laughter here.)

After having consumed bowls and bowls of ramen, it has become necessary to order a side dish – of a less sinful provenance – as if it’s atonement for my gastronomic sins.  So I asked for silken tofu doused in a soya–based sauce, and topped with shards – no, pretty ribbons – of yummy bonito.  I swirled a little of the sauce in my mouth and espied a slight kick of mirin.

To atone for my sinful ramen cravings, I turn to tofu.  The bonito ribbons melt in the mouth into a salty, nutty goodness.

To atone for my sinful ramen cravings, I turn to tofu. The bonito ribbons melt in the mouth into a salty, nutty goodness.

For the tofu side alone, I’ve gone back to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining.  Clearly, this place was not gonna be ignored.  (Cue again the evil laughter.)  Sadly, the flavored egg, unlike the dining place, had met a different fate.

Welcome to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining!

Welcome to DAIKOKUYA Ramen Dining!

 

After a sinful dinner, the vicinity of DAIKOKUYA allows for some leisurely walk (or should it be "brisk"?) to burn some of the calories.  This store is a favorite.  Haha.

After a sinful dinner, the vicinity of DAIKOKUYA allows for some leisurely walk (or should it be “brisk”?) to burn some of the calories. This store is a favorite. Haha.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING at Orchid Hotel

22 10 2014

HAND ME a step–by–step checklist – “Make your own RAMEN ! !” – and I’m instantly a happy boy.  It saves not only time, but also another tired take at placing my food order, which, if you know me, sometimes turns into a spectacle on its own – I enunciate each word into pieces, complete with elaborate hand gestures.

Before I commit, hand me a checklist...  and I'm yours!

Before I commit, hand me a checklist… and I’m yours!

Thank RAMEN KEISUKE TONKOTSU KING at 1 Tras Link, #01-19 Orchid Hotel, Singapore 078867, for reducing “eNTeNG, the One–Man Act” into four easy steps.  Hunched over my slip of paper at a small corner square table with one end pushed to the wall and another against the seat at the next table, I was a microcosm of how cramped – ok, “quaint” – this ramen place feels.  I caution to say that I had to toil over my options.  I mean, when you know what flavors you like, you just check away.

Step 1Please choose the RAMENBlack Spicy Tonkotsu King (S$ 11.80), check!  Of the two spicy variants, I chose black over red.  I’ve always associated something spicy with being red hot.  So why not black hot for a change.

Step 2 – “Please choose your favorite ToppingSeaweed (S$ 1.00), check!  This one’s a no–brainer.  I’ve never been a fan of “flavored” egg.  And whenever a menu screams, “Recommended!!”, the more I’d veer away from it.

Step 3 – “Please choose your favorite flavor.  Taste of the soup – Strong, check!  Chicken oil – More, check!  Noodle texture – Hard, check!  Not one to shy away from the extremes, I guess my lips just had to break into a half–smile as I checked away options that celebrate the funambulism with which my palate approaches flavors.  A one–line disclaimer says, “’NORMAL’ will be the Authentic JAPAN Taste’”.  With the choices I made, I clearly had waived all rights to being the boy who cried inauthentic!

Step 4 – “Please tell me which ingredient that you ‘don’t’ want.  Who doesn’t want spring onionPork chasyuBlack fungus?  Not me!

I almost specified "VERY HARD" on my preference for noodle texture!  On my next visit, I will!

I almost specified “VERY HARD” on my preference for noodle texture! On my next visit, I will!

At this point of my quest, it has all come down to two things – the broth and the ramen noodles.  And oh, every chance I get to spike my bowl with the hint of sesame oil that makes any ramen experience feel like a throwback to my childhood.  Here, it took an artisanal approach – I had my own mortar and pestle to grind lightly roasted black and white sesame seeds before I tip them over to my bowl.

For that hint of a little sesame goodness, a seeming throwback to my childhood, I had to exert a little work.  So artisanal, with my own mortar and pestle.

For that hint of a little sesame goodness, a seeming throwback to my childhood, I had to exert a little work. So artisanal, with my own mortar and pestle.

The broth was slightly thick, milky white, and quite flavorful.  I could tell that this robustness could only come from pork and pork bones simmered for hours, and seasoned by a ramen chef so good that he could very well be wearing a crown on his head instead of a chef’s toque or a Japanese headband.  I wish the noodles were thinner.  But that didn’t win over my heart’s desire for an extra serving.  Unlike at IPPUDO, no one checked my bowl if I still had some broth left before they acknowledged my hankering for the extra helping of noodles.

My BLACK SPICY TONKOTSU KING RAMEN!

My BLACK SPICY TONKOTSU KING RAMEN!

 

I know I did check seaweed as my choice of topping.  However, when I saw how it made it to the bowl, it almost had the look of an afterthought - like, all was done and perfect and then someone said, "Stick a seaweed sheet in it!  Go!"  Haha!  It does have the look of a breakwall.  It was as if it would come in handy with the (eventual) uncontrollable slurping of the noodles and the broth.

I know I did check seaweed as my choice of topping. However, when I saw how it made it to the bowl, it almost had the look of an afterthought – like, all was done and perfect and then someone said, “Stick a seaweed sheet in it! Go!” Haha! It does have the look of a breakwall. It was as if it would come in handy with the (eventual) uncontrollable slurping of the noodles and the broth.

 

The requisite extra bowl of noodles!!!

The requisite extra bowl of noodles!!!

If it were not for the very limited space, I would’ve kicked my shoes off, rested my feet on a stool, and with one hand on my tummy and the other holding on to my cold Keisuke (Japanese) Green Tea Cola (S$ 3.00), admire the mishmash of retro Japanese art and calligraphy on the wall, thank the fact that this had got to be the shortest walk from my commute to an awesome meal – only two minutes from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station – just in time before I will have realized that I should behave more appropriately.

The mishmash on the walls gives the place some more of its authentic Japanese feel.

The mishmash on the walls gives the place some more of its authentic Japanese feel.

 

This SEISUKE (Japanese) GREEN TEA COLA is just...  what's the word...  oh, fab!

This KEISUKE (Japanese) GREEN TEA COLA is just… what’s the word… oh, fab!

This place, after all, is home – for the broth alone – to a TONKOTSU KING.

Here resides the TONKOTSU KING of the BROTH!!!

Here resides the TONKOTSU KING of the BROTH!!!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Ramen Quest: IPPUDO SG at Mandarin Gallery

20 10 2014

THE TROUBLE with starting with the best – or at least what all others think so to be the best – is that you would end up in just either one of two situations, neither one a total win–win.  If it’s good, you start on a quest with the bar set so high, everything else just pales in comparison right after.  If it’s not good, you will have yet another conjured–up image of perfection come crumbling and crashing down.

I decided to fan the flames of my rekindled passion for ramen with a (first ever) visit to IPPUDO SG on 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery).

I saw this signage while on queue and I couldn't help but chuckle and half-expect that a French Canadian superstar would manifest her presence to me, and with a loud chest thump sing, "'Cause I'm your laaa-aaa-dyyy!!!"  Haha!  Well, you've got to entertain yourself to kill the wait.

I saw this signage while on queue and I couldn’t help but chuckle and half-expect that a French Canadian superstar would manifest her presence to me, and with a loud chest thump sing, “‘Cause I’m your laaa-aaa-dyyy!!!” Haha! Well, you’ve got to entertain yourself to kill the wait.

 

Ramen is the LOVE.  And the SMILE.  It has to be said that this is brought to life by the Service/Wait Staff at IPPUDO SG.  Everyone just has a genuine smile on.

Ramen is the LOVE. And the SMILE. It has to be said that this is brought to life by the Service/Wait Staff at IPPUDO SG. Everyone just has a genuine smile on.

The experience begins with a line that starts way outside the restaurant and continues inside as if it is a line at a movie theater box office on the opening night of a big hit.  This queuing up can make or break you – especially when you’ve reached the front of the line and some of the diners would be staring back at you and you know exactly what’s in the thought bubbles above their heads.  “You are not getting this seat.”

Finally seated!  Gotta love the stark place setting.

Finally seated! Gotta love the stark place setting.

 

It's dinner time!

It’s dinner time!

It sounds like it’s a test.  And it is.  It is one of patience.  This to me fits right in in a place that serves food steeped in the oldest of traditions, something that others may argue to not be the case when it comes to the interiors.  Yes, the ubiquitous multi–hued bowls belong, rather, are the reason for being of this place.  But as design elements on the main red wall, they’ve taken a more edgy, contemporary vibe.

The very first time I laid eyes on this wall, I knew I would want it for my bedroom.  Haha!

The very first time I laid eyes on this wall, I knew I would want it for my bedroom. Haha!

I mentioned patience belongs here, and this is primarily an allusion to that virtue being needed to achieve the perfect ramen broth.  I remember hearing from those Japan TV documentaries that used to air on RPN9 or IBC13 that in Japan, some ramen restaurants would refuse to open for business if the chefs thought that the broth – which they had started to prepare the night before – was not up to their standards.  They would turn people away!  In Manila, I’ve been told about the strive for perfection a particular ramen chef had that if any customer would ask the wait staff for condiments, he would emerge from the kitchen to ask explicitly if there was anything wrong with the broth.

Not the whole ramen dish itself, but specifically the broth.

The menu at IPPUDO SG was helpful, quite descriptive actually.  And before long, I had zoomed in to the operative words, “Ippudo’s original tonkotsu broth.”  It was a no–brainer.  I asked for the AKAMARU SHIN–AJI, enhanced with a specially blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil.  I proceeded reading through the menu, salivating.  I had to make sure that my right hand was ready to reach for my handkerchief just before my synapses would’ve exploded from the intense pleasures derived from reading the descriptions and having them run around in my head.

I read this and I didn't need any further convincing.  But oh, yeah, I just had to close my eyes when my field of view caught the right side of the page.

I read this and I didn’t need any further convincing. But oh, yeah, I just had to close my eyes when my field of view caught the right side of the page.

The red bowl that arrived at my table, with the first sip was so Japanese; it could’ve very well been the shores of Yokohama, as the sea breaks against the rocks and the bridges.  The broth was cloudy white, always a good sign of excellent pork–based goodness.  The flavor was strong, but not arresting to the palate.  It had a clean quality to it, a flavor that’s almost subdued but full–bodied.  And as promised, kicked up a couple of notches by the miso paste – prettily perched on top of the organized chaos of noodles and ingredients – and the fragrant garlic oil.

The AKAMARU SHIN-AJI has landed!  Notice that I did other a side of ... the yummiest bamboo shoots!

The AKAMARU SHIN-AJI has landed! Notice that I did other a side of … the yummiest bamboo shoots!

 

This photo doesn't do the ramen justice.  However, it does highlight how the miso paste sits beautifully on top of all the chaos.

This photo doesn’t do the ramen justice. However, it does highlight how the miso paste sits beautifully on top of all the chaos.

I would almost always forget to acknowledge the presence of the thin strips of tender pork belly deliciously swimming in the broth because next to the latter, the actual star of the whole thing was the noodles.  Originating from Hakata, they are quite thin, white (as opposed to “yellow” noodles), and perfectly done as any ramen should be.  And rightfully so, because even without the menu encouraging it, I would always specify how I like my noodles done – plunged into a rolling boil, swished around for exactly three seconds, drained, and then shocked in ice cold water.  Two words – very hard.

Which, ironically, is something so untrue about falling in love with Ippudo ramen.  The bar has been set so high.

You specify the hardness of the noodles.  In the end, what this means is that you don't have anyone to blame but yourself.  Haha!

You specify the hardness of the noodles. In the end, what this means is that you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. Haha!

 

I read this part of the menu and suddenly felt awash with conflicting emotions.  Excitement at the prospect of an extra serving of noodles.  And an itch to reach for a red pen and...  edit!  Note to self, READ YET ANOTHER ONE OF THE RULES!!!

I read this part of the menu and suddenly felt awash with conflicting emotions. Excitement at the prospect of an extra serving of noodles. And an itch to reach for a red pen and… edit! Note to self, READ YET ANOTHER ONE OF THE RULES!!!

 

The ramen noodles at IPPUDO SG are the LOVE.  It's the star.  Here is my first of two extra servings.  I dunk this in to my bowl humming, "'Yes, I'm saving all my broth for youuuuu..."

The ramen noodles at IPPUDO SG are the LOVE. It’s the star. Here is my first of two extra servings. I dunk this in to my bowl humming, “‘Yes, I’m saving all my broth for youuuuu…”

 

IPPUDO SG at 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery) kicks start my quest for the ultimate ramen.

IPPUDO SG at 333 Orchard Road (Mandarin Gallery) kicks start my quest for the ultimate ramen.

 

What to wear to the first ever trip to IPPUDO SG?  Something as Japan as...  ASTROBOY!

What to wear to the first ever trip to IPPUDO SG? Something as Japan as… ASTROBOY!

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Boise in a list of 40

16 06 2014

WE NEVER forget our first.  I mean to say, “firsts,” as well as all other things worth taking note of.  My first sojourn to the land of world–famous potatoes is coming to an end.  I allow myself to wax nostalgic and I’m not surprised that as I sip through my Tall Breakfast Brew with room for cream and brown sugar mixed in, I couldn’t help but break into smiles as my list of 40 unravels.

They say that life begins at 40.  I think I’m off to a great start.

01

I’ve been made aware of Boise and of Idaho more along the lines of being one of the best places to live in the States, and to raise a family.  I didn’t realize that this assignment would inadvertently allow me to tick off an item on another kind of list:  “TheCNN10 Dare To Go” List, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/travel/cnn10-dare-to-go/.

"The CNN 10 Dare To Go" has Idaho on its list!  I have to say, I've ticked this one off!

“The CNN 10 Dare To Go” has Idaho on its list! I have to say, I’ve ticked this one off!

 

01_Arrival_00

eNTeNG, mere minutes from arriving at Boise Airport.

 

Welcome to IDAHO!

Welcome to IDAHO!

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson!  "And I DO like...  Hoo-hoo...  Living under your STOP LIGHT...  Hoo-hoo..."

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson! “And I DO like… Hoo-hoo… Living under your STOP LIGHT… Hoo-hoo…”

 

02

Somehow, it is indeed very nice to know that “in Boise, you are just within 15 minutes of almost everything.”

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road...  Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road… Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

 

03

In Boise, nature is beautifully and peacefully juxtaposed with modern–day technology.  I was first able to write about a similar observation on my first ever trip overseas, when I delivered a speech at a UN–sanctioned international conference for students held in Japan in 1990.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes.  The Foothills.  The Blue Sky.  The pristine white clouds.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes. The Foothills. The Blue Sky. The pristine white clouds.

 

04

I have never driven my whole life.  So that was the first and foremost concern I had when I learned about my trip to Boise.  Cue The Beatles:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”  Cue James Taylor:  “You’ve Got A Friend.”  And of course, cue TLC: “I don’t want no scrubs.  Scrubs is a guy who can’t get no love from me.  Hanging on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride…’  #Ouch!  Hahaha!

 

05

I was able to get my fill, to my heart’s content, of all the Boise State University (BSU) #BRONCOS merchandise I could get my hands on.  Sadly, I wasn’t as fortunate with University of Idaho #VANDALS.

Lovin' my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

Lovin’ my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

 

Hats galore.  The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

Hats galore. The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

 

06

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.  I ordered their Pho the first time I was there, and never looked back.  I also never ordered anything else.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh's Spicy Chicken Meal!  Well, everybody but me.  Not because it isn't any good.  It is excellent.  But I'm all about the pho.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh’s Spicy Chicken Meal! Well, everybody but me. Not because it isn’t any good. It is excellent. But I’m all about the pho.

 

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho!  Probably the best I've had the world over.

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho! Probably the best I’ve had the world over.

 

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers.  And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

 

07

YOITOMO in Downtown Boise may not be the best Japanese restaurant around, but their All–You–Can–Eat lunch and dinner specials are right up my alley.  And I give them a gold star for the most creative names for their dishes.

I've eaten all I could at this place.  At Lunch, and Dinner.

I’ve eaten all I could at this place. At Lunch, and Dinner.

 

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura.  And I could slurp that dipping sauce...  if I could.

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura. And I could slurp that dipping sauce… if I could.

 

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like.  Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs.  Haha!

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like. Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs. Haha!

 

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo.  And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo. And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

 

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

 

08

The undivided love and attention I usually give to an excellent piece of ribeye steak has finally had to yield to some level of sharing.  How could I not with those amazing sweet potato fries?  My first – Legend’s.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend's.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend’s.

 

A knife through the steak.  And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

A knife through the steak. And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

 

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

 

09

Speaking of amazing sweet potato, the baked version served at Texas Roadhouse, the one with melted honey brown sugar oozing down to the sides, has always been worth subjecting my ear drums to decibel levels that will send me to the EENT someday.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato!  My heart would've melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato! My heart would’ve melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

 

A close shot of the object of my affection.  Gustatory affection, that is.

A close shot of the object of my affection. Gustatory affection, that is.

 

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse.  Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town.  Haha!

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town. Haha!

 

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection.  The latter often win.  (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection. The latter often win. (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

 

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises.  The display alone would make anybody's mouth water.

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises. The display alone would make anybody’s mouth water.

 

10

My seatmate on the Portland–Boise leg of my incoming flight told me that real Idaho potatoes could not be had in Idaho.  If they ever could, they would cost an arm and a leg.  Fortunately, to make my now–famous (haha!) chicken–pork afritada and beef mechado, Winco Foods keeps me covered by stocking up on the best potato in the world!

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others.  All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others. All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

 

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

 

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada.  #BBF Steele became fond of this.

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada. #BBF Steele became fond of this.

 

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

 

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

 

11

Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine, the current office cafeteria concessionaire makes the best Sugar Cookie.  She doesn’t make a lot of it per batch so when she does, I would hoard them.  I share some and the rest, I portion and ration to my own self as much as I could to delay the ultimate gratification.

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

 

12

I wish I spoke Italian.  So that I could fight with someone so fiercely, which is the perfect excuse to later make up over a pint of Haagen–Dazs gelato.

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  Guilty as charged!

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Guilty as charged!

 

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream.  Well, sometimes.  Haha!  As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream. Well, sometimes. Haha! As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

 

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this.  I'd see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this. I’d see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

 

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

 

13

For more wholesome pleasures, Tillamook Cake Batter ice cream is the perfect choice.  I can finish the half galloon all by myself until I get sick.

Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting.  And on one occasion, I did.

Tillamook’s Grandma’s Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting. And on one occasion, I did.

 

14

The best store–bought gelato is Talentis Tahitian Vanilla Bean.  I get it for US$5.99 at Albertson’s.  And for US$3.99 only at WinCo!

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson's and just had to take a snap.  I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven't looked back since.

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson’s and just had to take a snap. I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.

 

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors.  And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors. And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

 

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

 

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

 

15

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s will set you back by about US$ 4.00 at your friendly Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, or WinCo.  In Singapore, it costs S$ 15.00.  The exchange rate is US$ 1.00 to S$ 1.30, typically.

Gotta keep lovin' Ben & Jerry's for not being boring.  Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

Gotta keep lovin’ Ben & Jerry’s for not being boring. Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

 

16

Nothing beats homemade goodnessChase Mecham’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, his grandmother’s (secret) recipe, is so good it belongs to a prominent place on the supermarket frozen section aisle.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, "Chef" Chase Mecham.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, “Chef” Chase Mecham.

 

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me.  On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport.  I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me. On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport. I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

 

17

My first real experience of Mexican cuisine was at my mentor Ralph Kim’s family dinner at his sprawling home of a house.  I had a taste of unforgettable tacos and that killer of a key lime pie!

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos.  It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos. It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

 

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos.  I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos. I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

 

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

 

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler!  With the brownies and the "leche flan" is the unforgettable key lime pie.

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler! With the brownies and the “leche flan” is the unforgettable key lime pie.

 

18

I think the Boise Factory Outlet Mall is seriously underrated.  When you’re done shopping, you can actually soak in the awesome view of the Boise Foothills.  (Okay – I can hear you sayin’ that the same could be had right smack from the parking lot.  You have a point.)

 

19

Speaking of the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, I had a couple of field days there, rummaging through the CLEARANCE section at LeVI’S.  I used to only shop where it says S–A–L–E in big bold red letters.  But LeVI’S has changed this to big bold red letters that spell C–L–E–A–R–A–N–C–E.  I got several pairs for myself at only US$ 9.53 each after a further 40% was cut from the lowest–ticketed–price of US$ 14.98.  #SWEET.

"Take an additional 40% off already reduced items."  Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?!  Haha!

“Take an additional 40% off already reduced items.” Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?! Haha!

 

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

 

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

 

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores.  I find this...  what's the word...  ah, therapeutic.  Haha!

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores. I find this… what’s the word… ah, therapeutic. Haha!

 

20

My good friend Chase Mecham, the generous Baker King himself, would usually make his own mix of nuts, seeds and spices that he would throw into his dough mix – the image in my head involves a lot of wrist action like in flouring a counter top on to which the dough would be mercilessly slammed – but on the one he brought for me to sample, he used a mix he found at random at Trader Joe’s.  It’s called DUKKAH: A Nut & Spice Blend.  It was a whiff of inspiration.  Chase’s homemade bread had become my favorite.

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

 

What's one of the best things in the world?  Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

What’s one of the best things in the world? Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

 

21

I was running an errand at Sephora one day when I stumbled upon a kiosk that sells artisanal olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and focaccia so good I must’ve finished all the samples – cubed morsels of rosemary–perfumed goodness – while I carried on an animated conversation with the lovely shopkeeper.  She was so nice I ended up requesting a selfie with her.  And yes, one huge loaf of the bread!  The shop is called Olioteca.  They are online at http://www.olioteca.net/.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca's artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca’s artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

 

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

 

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy's.

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy’s.

 

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

 

22

My good friend Jonathan Young makes a spicy marinara sauce so good, I had to restrain myself from licking the Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ in full view of the Building 36 lunch crowd.  Sometimes, whatever little sense of propriety a person has always comes in handy.

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony.  Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™...  sometimes, why don't we?

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™… sometimes, why don’t we?

 

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

 

23

I may have no problem strapping a Rolex on my wrist but at the same time, I do derive as much pleasure – if not more so – from all the discounts I have managed to score, shopping at ROSS, Marshalls, and TJMaxx.  And trust me, it is amazing the bursts of clarity that come with psychotic retail therapy.  I had formed some of my more brilliant ideas while taking a pause beside the clearance racks.  Right there, just beside the further–reduced bins.

 

24

I would wait for the Macy’s commercials on TV.  I love how the word “doorbusters” rings with much profundity.  My favorite Ralph Lauren Trail Sweater in navy blue cost me only US$ 19.60 + tax after 80% was slashed off the original price.  Major score!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

 

25

I collect the beautifully designed “scent swatches” (cards) that are used to test perfume or cologne in department stores.  I re–purpose them into gift cards where I write my signature personal notes that come with whatever I give away.

 

26

I thought I was good at making the Filipino leche flan.  And then my good friend Chase Mecham‘s crème brulee came along, by way of one ramekin all to myself!  Same holds true for Filipino specialties that I realize could be made so much better by others – Rafela Sim’s mom Mamita makes the best “ginataang halo–halo”, Arvin Daguro’s wife makes the best “ginataang hipon”, and, Ricky Victor’s wife makes awesome pasta.

Rafela's Mamita whips up the best "ginataang halo-halo."  I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

Rafela’s Mamita whips up the best “ginataang halo-halo.” I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

 

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro's wife Lea's "ginataang hipon."  (Shrimps in coconut milk)

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro’s wife Lea’s “ginataang hipon.” (Shrimps in coconut milk)

 

27

#BBF Steele Stone’s lasagna developed in me a deeper appreciation for pasta doused in sauce that has been simmered for hours.

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele.  The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele. The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

 

#Selfie with #BBF Steele!  Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

#Selfie with #BBF Steele! Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

 

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel.  They brought me out to lunch on this day.

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel. They brought me out to lunch on this day.

 

28

#Hump_Day_Wednesday means a box of a dozen donuts – often from Country Donuts – shared with the best people you know.  This I learned from the example of #BBF Steele Stone.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise.  An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise. An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

 

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays!  I miss these donuts.

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays! I miss these donuts.

 

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box.  Like this chocolate–glazed one!

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box. Like this chocolate–glazed one!

 

29

Eating gluten–free is not a fad.  With all the pasta I devour, I couldn’t imagine an easy existence if I were allergic to gluten.  So I give mad props to all those who whip up edible works of art that pack all the flavors and nutrients sans the allergens.  I’ve been fortunate to sample muffins and (Bundt) cakes made by Sandy Kralik and Heike Brown.  “There’s even no sugar in there eNTeNGJust bananas.”  They were so good that I went bananas.

The Sandy Kralik "There's–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There" Muffin!

The Sandy Kralik “There’s–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There” Muffin!

 

Heike Brown's luscious Bundt Cake.

Heike Brown’s luscious Bundt Cake.

 

30

Gotta love those oatmeal cookies made by Nick Kaiser.  I had to send him my 10–second review from the very first bite.

Not much to look at and doesn't photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

Not much to look at and doesn’t photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

 

31

Some of the best gifts I have ever received this past four months are handwritten notes.  And I would be remiss if I’d not make mention of all the handwritten cards I did receive.  I’ve been reading them over and over again.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise.  I have to say, these are the best things I'd remember the place – and my time there – by.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise. I have to say, these are the best things I’d remember the place – and my time there – by.

 

32

I would start my day with happy, fast songs that I think would put the spring to my step.  I can’t listen to Tiesto’s Red Lights without images of South Federal Way buzzing like neon in my head.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

 

33

I am not afraid of color.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  On two occasions – once in Singapore and once here in Boise – I was told by someone that I bring “Gummy Bears” to mind.  Haha!  I find that to be a huge compliment as it came from two people whose opinions count.

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

 

34

Trader Joe’s opened in Boise on February 28, 2014.  Of course I was there.  After taking several snaps of the bottles of Cookie Butter on the shelf, I had the urge to clean all 35 bottles on display.

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe's to Boise!

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe’s to Boise!

 

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf.  I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these.  I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff.  I was happy to explain!

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf. I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these. I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff. I was happy to explain!

 

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

 

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version.  This one gained a lot of fans.

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version. This one gained a lot of fans.

 

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe's.  Haha!  Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe’s. Haha! Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

 

Made a friend at Trader Joe's.  Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

Made a friend at Trader Joe’s. Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

 

35

The very first car at the parking lot that I took a snap of has the license plate “BELLA”.  I thought the owner was a Twilight fanatic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Hello Gorgeous!

Hello Gorgeous!

 

36

I don’t drive but I do lust after cars from time to time.  I’ve had the longest and deepest longing for the MINI COOPER.  Some of the more recent important days of my life had been punctuated by a sighting of a MINI swooshing by.  I think of it as some sort of lucky charm.  There is a nice MINI I would see at the parking lot on some days.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

 

... and at Albertson's.

… and at Albertson’s.

 

...  and even in Chicago!

… and even in Chicago!

 

37

I think I will miss my cubicle of 120 days – that little corner by the door of Room 113A.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

 

And then...  it was DONE.

And then… it was DONE.

 

38

I am ending this assignment feeling so well taken care of by locals.  By those who have given me a ride to and from my apartment and “dream” destinations.  And by all my friends at…  Boise City Taxi!

I Heart Boise...  City Taxi!

I Heart Boise… City Taxi!

 

39

They say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.  I would say, life is what happens when you actually live those plans.  I couldn’t have been anywhere else better in the last 120 days than in 83706, in this Gem of a State.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

 

40

Food that provides real comfort could prove to be perfect for mopping up tears – cue here those singular nights of homesickness – and when made really really well, they could move an old man like me to tears.  Such was the oxymoronic delight that is the Blondie from the Mecham family kitchen, which, as I have unabashedly declared here, is equal parts home baking goodness (by his wife Jen) and a treasured family recipe.  For sure, I will miss this Blondie.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams.  'Nuf said.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams. ‘Nuf said.

 

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat.  Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat. Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





The heat is on in Saigon

7 04 2014

 

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.

My Pho Beef at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway in Boise, Idaho.  It is now my "usual".

My Pho Beef at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway in Boise, Idaho. It is now my “usual”.

In a seeming defiance towards the tastes of my Compadre Dennis dL and Cher Hong, Yulia, and Victor who all asked for the humongous Spicy Chicken (or Beef) lunch plates, I asked for the Pho Beef – a huge bowl of thin glass noodles swimming in flavorful broth, served with a side of bean sprouts, sweet basil, slivers of jalapeno peppers and a wedge of lime.

The size of greens that add new layers of texture and flavor to the soup.  Staring at these make me feel like I had already made penance for all the fat I had consumed.

The size of greens that add new layers of texture and flavor to the soup. Staring at these make me feel like I had already made penance for all the fat I had consumed.

The self-proclaimed expert in me – on anything noodles – sees the beauty of Vietnamese cuisine, the pho in particular, in its simple, clean flavors that allow itself to be customized to one’s taste.  And this is achieved exactly with the medley of the sides it is served with.  Dump the bean sprouts in and a new layer of texture (crunch) is instantly added.  Tear the basil leaves to perfume the already restorative broth.  Wake up your senses with the interplay of chili and lime.

The popular – and ginormous – Spicy Chicken plate!

The popular – and ginormous – Spicy Chicken plate!

But Dong Khanh makes the best pho this side of Mountain Time zone because they start with arguably the cleanest, most flavorful broth I have ever tasted in the States.  And when I come to think of it, I would say even in the Philippines and Singapore.

Linda, who attended to us, was the most convivial of servers I have encountered of late.  She was quite attentive without being overbearing.  She told me they don’t have fresh lemonade on their drink menu but with a smile said that she won’t mind giving me iced water and slices of fresh lemons if I’d consider it.  I’ve often been told that if the food sucks, the service would be impeccable.  I have held that as absolute truth.

Well, Dong Khanh disproves that absolutely.

Compadreng dL™©, Cher Hong, Victor, Yulia, and, eNTeNG.

Compadreng dL™©, Cher Hong, Victor, Yulia, and, eNTeNG.

 

Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant

Address: 2137 S Broadway Ave, Boise, ID 83706

Phone: +1 (208) 345-0980

Hours: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 4:30 PM – 10:00 PM

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Kuya Mike and pasta

29 06 2013

THE DIFFERENCE in time zones is the loophole of lapses in thoughtfulness.  Clearly, I mean this about friends who have oceans between them – blame it on the time zone, so to speak.  If this post had made it to the third week of May or at most the one after that, then I would claim my opening sentence to be nothing but absolute truth.  Or, at least my scapegoat.  But this post obviously is more of the really belated kind.  No loophole could justify the delay.

Well, I guess there’s one – I actually know when his birthday is, independent of any post on his facebook wall, and I always remember to greet him.  But then again, it is indeed way too late.

So let this be just one of those posts about my few but well thought out friendships.  It’s coming at a time when the cinemas are rumbling with the 40–minute pivotal action sequence in one of the more definitive superhero movies of our time.  So clearly, this post that talks about one of the superheroes in my life, is quite appropriate.

I’ve never really seen any of the cinematic installments but from what I’ve read about Tony Stark, it’s Kuya Mike who embodies him the most among my friends.  We came to Singapore together, had our first day at our new jobs together, and have since been waging our battles together.

F1_00

Kuya Mike a.k.a. Iron Man clearly drives for Scuderia Ferrari!

It’s amazing the clarity that comes with being down on your luck or just unexplainably sad.  You realize who your real friends are.  And you resolve to do your best to keep them.

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Linguine ai Frutti di Mare al Cartoccio (Linguine with Seafood “in the bag”). This has turned out to be Iron Man’s favorite pasta dish!

 

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I saw this pile first thing one morning and I knew that Iron Man was back for his hectic, full-packed two-week break from his assignment on the isle of Sicily. I said in jest that his “pasalubong” for me has had a consistent theme – an “I heart (place)” item and a… notebook! The one the chocolates are on came from his layover in Amsterdam.

I’m quite thankful to be really close friends with Kuya Mike.  That is, Iron Man.  Over a week ago, he took a Royal Dutch Airlines flight back to Italia.  I’m quite happy that he has this chance to enjoy God’s creation in a totally different place.  He deserves every good opportunity that comes his way.

And my special, limited edition airport send–off service.  Hahaha!

Kuya_Mike_Departure_00

Every airport send-off starts with a snapshot of the control tower as our taxi approaches. My trusty Canon IXUS 860IS really does have great stabilizer.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_01

We’ve arrived! It has to be said that Iron Man may seem to be the conscientious traveler. But he actually travels quite light, packing everything efficiently. If I were to go to Italia, I’d probably lug around twice as much. Haha!

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_02

While Iron Man fusses over his stuff for one final accounting before checking in, my attention was demanded by this dynamic work of art. I didn’t bother to check its name out just yet. All I could make of them at the time was that they seemed to be golden droplets of rain making beautiful patterns suspended in the sky.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_03

Here are those golden rain drops, suspended on parallel planes. Observing my being mesmerized, Iron Man quipped, “Boss, ngayon mo lang nakita yan?” (Boss, you’re just noticing that now?)

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_07

Iron Man took the Royal Dutch Airlines.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_05

Trust Audemars to give accurate time check. Iron Man’s flight leaves past midnight.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_04

The blogger and the superhero. That’s Iron Man at the check-in counter.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_06

Something in common with Iron Man: We travel in shorts!

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_08

I asked him to post for a photo in front of numbers “3” and “4”, two of my favorites.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_09

Like with most of those I had sent off at the airport, the first post-check-in activity involves… F–O–O–D.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_10

I realize that I have been in Singapore for two years, yet I haven’t been to Aston’s. This dinner with Iron Man was only my second time at the place – in the space of two days! It felt like a revenge for missing out. Both were such treats.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_13

I loved this chalk work on the board that I asked permission to photograph it. (Lest the store manager screams, “No photo please!”)

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_12

It was departure time so Iron Man was fielding text messages that were coming in a-plenty.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_15

Between Iron Man and me, the count was two wristwatches and three phones. If it were one of those days I fancy to strap on two watches, then it would’ve been three even.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_16

Tag Heuer and Technomarine – live together in perfect harmony… Channeling Stevie and Paulie. Hahaha!

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_17

The food has landed!

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_18

The same thing in the space of two days – the Prime Ribeye Extra Cut, with sides of french fries and steamed vegetables. I would’ve wanted the Macaroni & Cheese but given the lateness of the hour, they had run out.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_19

This is exactly how I want my meat – medium rare.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_20

See, nothing left. Hahaha!

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_21

Dinner’s done! It’s time to head to the departure area.

 

Kuya_Mike_Departure_22

Iron Man was a walking advertisement for UNIQLO. And North Face.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved