Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mixed Tape Series: Matt Corby - Resolution

Matt Corby - Resolution 
from Matt Corby on Vimeo.

You said don’t lie so I made the truth
Seemed like a lie to even you
Control your fear. It's clear
That you do not know where you're going to

So here I am.
So here we are.
Because there's nowhere else to go.

Him: I let her go that day.

It's dangerous to speak and sigh
You might know what I’m trying to hide

Are you there?
I never left.
Because I know no other way.

Her: I let him go that day.

So from the cradle to quarter age
oh, I bought the book but didn’t flip the page
oh, readiness is near. We steer
As far away from the coming of days

I heard.
I know. 
Because I can't imagine being anywhere else.

Him: She marries him tonight.

Turn around, put it down and see
That this is really the place to be.
I’m not you, nor you me
But we’re both moving steady.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Gaucho Tower Bridge: "Hi, steaks!"

Last weekend, my good friend G decided to have a birthday rendezvous in Gaucho Tower Bridge. Gaucho is a chain of Argentinian steak houses in the UK which usually comes up in a pool of suggestions when people ask where to 1) take someone out on a first date; 2) have dinner with clients; or 3) have decent (enough) steak. I personally think the Tower Bridge branch is heaps nicer than their establishments in Central London. It still had the classic Gaucho feel of sexy glammed up interiors but the cow-hide upholstery was a bit more subdued and less overwhelming. 

It was a pleasant summer day when we got there so it only felt right to take photos while waiting for our reservation. Here's a photo of my friends and I by More Place... Tower Bridge...

...and by the City Hall

I promise you, we didn't talk about dressing up in monochrome! But it was quite hilarious as we matched Gaucho's black-and-white interiors. Quite rightly, the birthday girl stood out in an awesome pop of blue.
The Filo Supper Club girls, missing R & K

 Meet the birthday girl. Isn't she a cutie?

On to the food then.

The bread basket is complimentary here but I'd happily pay if I had to. The traditional South American pao de queijo balls were crusty outside with a soft, cheesy and oniony interior. The flat grilled bread pieces, which resembled halloumi, had a semi-hard cheese like texture but tasted like thick buttery crepes. The bread was so moreish we had to stop ourselves for fear of getting full.

A server gave us a rundown of steak cuts on offer: ancho (rib-eye), lomo (fillet), cuadril (rump) and chorizo (sirloin)He also advised a bit on how each cut is best served.

I didn't know which cut I was in the mood for so I ordered the trio of medalions (£27.20) which had cuts of the fillet, the rib-eye and the rump at 100g per piece. I asked if they can cook each cut at different temperatures: rare for fillet and rump, medium rare for rib-eye. The server said of course, they aim to please.

I like it when steak comes plain on a plate, without sauces nor garnish. I believe that a real great steak can be truly enjoyed on its own; there’s no need to hide good beefy flavour under any sort of sauce. 
L-R: de lomo (fillet), de ancho (rib-eye), de cuadril (rump)

You have no idea how excited I was to check the fillet as it's my favourite cut of all time. I've asked for it rare and.....
HAPPINESS!!!!! The fillet cut at Gaucho is served thinner than elsewhere so I'm beyond happy they've managed to cook it right. The flavour is competitive - seasoned to perfection with just the right amount of salt. It was soft to the knife and melted in my mouth. Delicious.

Let's talk about the rib-eye, which came medium rare as requested. I forgot to ask the marble grade on this cut but it tasted, looked and felt like it was on the leaner side. There was still a lot of good flavour from the marbling although as I've said over and over again, I'm really not too keen on medium-rare steak nor rib-eye cuts.

The rump is the leanest cut and it's never nice to chew on good beef so I've asked to have the piece rare. My cut didn't really have that springy bounce when I poked it with my knife so it wasn't surprising when I saw this after first slice...
It was not rare at all so I had to send it back.

A few minutes later, I had the most amazing piece of rump. Just look at this gorgeous thing! (Yes, we got to keep the other piece, too.)
Isn't that amazing? I actually went "Oh, wow!" much to the amusement of my peers. 

The flavour was quite a pleasant surprise. The cooking really made a difference and seriously, I honestly don't think I've ever enjoyed rump like this.

We ordered sides across the table and quite frankly most of them are forgettable. I warn you now: do not get the domino potatoes, they put confit potatoes to great shame! The only side I quite liked was the sweet potato chips with chorizo (£5). The chips were twice cooked so they were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I love how the sweetness works with the salty chorizo pieces.

I requested some spinach (£4.5) sauteed in olive oil and lemon. It was a bit of a let down, to be honest.

Most of us ordered steaks save for Kuya D who had the Gaucho burger (£15.50). It wasn't exactly the most photogenic of burgers. Served on a brioche bun, the patty itself looked miniscule, topped with a stingy serving of cheese and the saddest looking bacon strip I've seen in a restaurant. Kuya D said it was just okay and I think for the price he could've had more. At least it came with chips.

After we've finished our mains everyone hinted on being full. I was a wee bit up there with the others but I knew I needed something sweet to balance the protein overload. Nothing from the dessert menu really grabbed me so I just chose the chocolate orange cake (£8.5) because it had 'chocolate'. 
I was expecting a Jaffa Cake-like deconstruction and boy was I wrong. It wasn't a sponge/biscuit based cake, but a chocolate mousse topped with white chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream, served with two wedges of orange on a plate smeared with 'chocolate sauce' that was probably wrongly tempered. You don't really get the orange flavour from the mousse itself, but to be fair it was good enough if you're not too picky (I am).

Admittedly, you can probably find restaurants where you can get a better meal on the cheap, but when they do their steaks right, Gaucho really is not bad. I paid a bit over £50 that night for my share but I think those rare cuts of melt-in-your-mouth fillet and rump were so worth it.

Oh and of course, the company was smashing too.

Gaucho Tower Bridge
2 More London Pl, Southwark SE1 2JP | 020 7407 5222
Ave spend pp £50

Gaucho Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 July 2013

La Cantine: a French brasserie in Singapore

Let's go back to Singapore, shall we?

Bruno Menard is the Golden Boy of French cuisine. He's famous for a few award-winning restaurants including the 3 Michelin starred l'Osier in Tokyo (re-opening in October this year). You may remember him for an Iron Chef episode challenging Hiroyuki Sakai to a battle of escargot. He's now based in Singapore and owns a burger joint and a French brasserie in the city. 

I met my friend L for lunch at Chef Menard's La Cantine down Asia Square, in the heart of Singapore's financial district. The ambience is a definitive smart casual: the decor oppulent but quirky, the service attentive but not overeager. I was a bit early so I had a bit of time looking at the menu. I've noticed how French the logo is with illustrations of two French symbols, the Eiffell and the rooster.

The lights are so pretty...

And so is the whole place, actually. My view, pre-date... notice the upside-down roosters!

A few minutes later my gorgeous lunch date L arrived. Gotta love this girl. She's very driven and business/career oriented, such a go-getter. She's also a really, really, really nice genuine person, which makes her charm work on anything and anyone. So glad we got to have a proper lunch to catch up on college life and infinite possibilities. 

This tea reminded me so much of uni in the Philippines. My friends and I would frequent this restaurant on campus called Chocolate Kiss. They served bottomless iced lemon tea with a mini shot glass of sugar syrup so you can temper the sweetness depending on your preference. La Cantine's home brew is just as refreshing but I much prefer it because the syrup isn't as sweet and as overpowering.

L & I went for the three-course set lunch du jour for ease. At SG$39 (20) this was quite a treat!

We had a slice of galantine de porc for starters. Pork is not my favourite meat (unless we're talking bacon) but I liked this very much. The seasoning was light enough so the flavour really sang pork.

The entrée was cod bouilliabaisse which I also enjoyed. Firm, buttery chunks of fish in a light bisque punched with the smoky marriage of paprika and saffron. They also threw in some potatoes and some fresh basil leaves. It's light but substantial and a fish stew gone elegant.

The trio of desserts are French favourites: lemon posset, a salted caramel macaron and creme brulee. The macaron was a bit spongey so let's forget that. The creme brulée was steady and perfectly cooked but the star of the plate was the lemon posset. I rarely go for lemony nor heavily creamed desserts, but this was very light and refreshing. The lemon sorbet was delicious and I would happily eat it again.

La Cantine is quite a good spot for catching up with mates but I think it's also really good for work lunches. It's impressive enough to take clients and casual enough to have professional development chats with colleagues. Oh, and since the chef de cuisine is an innovative chef who strives to serve pleasant French plates of food, you can actually enjoy your meal too.

La Cantine
8 Marina View Singapore 018960 | +65 6690 7567 
Three-course set lunch from SG$39
Follow them on Twitter, Check them out on Facebook.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

People who inspire: a story about Dad

I was going to write this birthday post on the things Dad taught me, but then I figured all dads are different so I changed it to a story about my father instead.

Dad was working on a case in Region 2 when someone ambushed one of his meetings and fired at the venue. His body took thirteen bullets: his shoulder was severely damaged, his thigh was tortured and his body was left to die. One of the bullets slipped off his shoulder and went right around his eye, missing his brain by a hair or two.

I remember vivid fragments from that night. Mom frantically telling our driver that Dad's body was being airlifted to Manila so they needed to rush to the hospital. My yaya telling me this was all a dream, I must go back to sleep so I can grow taller. Mom crying as she called my grandma in England. Our helpers praying by the altar. Thoughts of growing up in a single-parent household. My young fragile self thinking I will never see Dad again.

I did see him, a few weeks later, at the hospital wrapped in all sorts of casts and bandages. He smiled when he saw me and said, "Hi baby! Do you like my costume? Your daddy is a mummy now!" Yeeeeeesh. They may have gone through his body, but man those bullets clearly could not get through to Dad's humour and spirit. 

It's been over two decades since the shooting and Dad's in his fittest and funniest state. I'm so grateful for his second chance on life. My sibs and I are extremely blessed because I was able to grow up with a super awesome, super cool, super inspirational father. 

Happy birthday Daddy! Thank you for giving me and the sibs everything we wanted and more - most especially our normal noses and corny genes (we are able to amuse ourselves and never get bored because of this). Thank you for teaching us a lot about strength and resilience and for making us realise the true meaning courage, loyalty and integrity. For making us showing us the importance of hard work, humility and compassion. For making sure we know how charm/respect/deal with people (he's such a well-loved man). Most of all, thank you for always reminding us to CAPITALISE (on the things that matter in life). 

You are brighter than the stars on your badge and I will always, always, always look up to you. I super love you. You inspire me every day. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Shake Shack London. Hello world-famous burgers (and queues)!

Two months ago, a conversation.

Friend: Shake Shack is coming to London. Covent Garden Market. Is that near you?
Friend: ......
Me: Oh. Uh. Actually don't. Hahaha. We better get queuing!

And here we are. Shake Shack has finally opened its first UK venture in Covent Garden Market (two minutes away from my office, woohoo!). I love a good burger so there was no surprise that we braved the queues on opening day. 

This freakishly gorgeous little bad boy was so worth the wait.

Pre-opening, I wondered if they were going to alter the Covent Garden menu to cater to the British palate. True enough, it's fairly similar to the NYC menu with the inclusion of local fare and flavours like flat-top dogs made of Cumberland sausages and desserts named after streets in the area (There's even one that helps support a local community centre - how cool is that?!). I just love the glocalisation and the thoughtfulness of this.

We got there for 6pm so we were pretty lucky to have arrived fairly before the queue got ridiculously long.

20 minutes later, we were in!

There was an awesome buzz about the ordering area. The servers seemed so friendly and energised and excited in the kitchen, by the counters and along the queue. That's exactly the kind of buzz you want to see, hear and feel when a world-famous fast food joint launches. I hope this goes beyond opening day! 

Orders done, we just had to wait for pick up. 

We were snapping away outside until this dude offered to take our photo for us. I noticed he was wearing a different Shake Shack uniform with some initials. Ever the curious cat, I asked him what 'MR' stood for (and blondely guessed Mark Ryan). He laughed and said it stood for Mark Rosati. Yes. MARK freaking ROSATI, Shake Shack's Culinary Development Manager. The dude responsible for a menu of burgers, dogs and dessert worth queuing and waiting for.

I tried to contain my excitement. I chatted him up further asking about the competition (Five Guys has also just recently opened down the road, the day before Shake Shack launched), his favourite London burger joints (Honest Burgers, Patty & Bun), Brixton Market and how awesome opening day has been. He was such a cool character, so down to earth and so seemingly excited about what he does. Then again if you worked around food with a worldwide following, won't you be excited too?

I really wanted to chat a bit more but our buzzer went off and my stomach cartwheeled in excitement.
(I wasn't trying to pull the finger here, I promise. The receipts were in an awkward place!)

We easily got a seat in the piazza courtesy of Aaron, a lovely server from the Upper East Side Shack

We then got on to it. 

Hello there, Shack-ago Dog (£4.75)!
all-beef dog + Shack relish + onions + cucumber + pickle + tomato + sport paper + celery salt + mustard
I've never liked hotdogs as much as I liked burgers but this... mate.

That beef dog was pretty firm and decent and I actually thought it tasted heaps better than I expected. It actually tasted beefy! I didn't care about the juice dripping down my forearm, the onions plonking on the napkins nor the sauce left on my face. I caught some chaps from across the table staring so I reminded myself to calm down a bit. But it was too good! 

And now for the main event: the Shack Burger(£4.75)
cheeseburger + lettuce + tomato + Shack sauce
Let's cross-examine. What makes this a world-famous burger?
The softest bun I've ever had with a burger, yet firm enough to hold it all together. The 'Shack Sauce', some sort of mayo with a hint of something tangy. That picture-perfect duo of lettuce and tomato. The 'Shack Blend' of beef aka a good quarter pounder patty, cooked medium (supposedly). That freakishly good American style cheese.

Really, it's that simple. *burp* 

Oh of course it goes down well with a little help, too. Like the Fifty/Fifty (lemonade/iced tea, £2.75) and some fries.

Hello, cheese fries (£3.20)!
That cheese blend is soooo good I want to marry it. The crinkly chips stood firm all through dining time: crisp on the outside and amusingly fluffy on the inside.

They have a photo booth going on, by the way. This will only be around for a week.

So we clearly took advantage!

After posting our photos on the social networks and further ooh-ing and ahh-ing from our Shack Opening Day experience, we left to see that the queue was five times as long. Awesome.

Shake Shack isn't just about the food (and yes, it's lived up to expectations.) but the overall experience, really. If I'm going all philosophical about it I'd say everything good is worth waiting for and yes, this American burger joint was definitely worth a try. London is blessed with pretty good burger joints already but there's definitely room for a few more.

Looks like the Shack is here to stay. Quite rightly so.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack London
24 Market Place, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8RD
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