Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jewels Artisan Chocolate

I think I've been neglecting blogging about Singapore food for quite some time, so here's another post on Singapore food. Remember how I said that Singapore needs more dessert restaurants? Jewels is a new chocolate centered dessert restaurant in Orchard Central. Tried their signature Chocolate Mousse in Verrine ($10.80++). It's a prettily presented dessert, which has 3 scoops of chocolate mousse - milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate. Its decorated differently everyday, so that's why there's 2 different picture and 2 different designs here. The dessert is extremely filling (but then again, my dessert tolerance especially for chocolate isn't fantastically high) and I couldn't finish the dessert (after eating half the tea time special).With white chocolate blocks. I like the white chocolate mousse - it tastes more like the fluffy white portion of tiramisu, rather than white chocolate. My favourite drink there - Earl Grey and Chocolate Milk Slush ($7.80++) is an extremely creamy blend of earl grey tea and chocolate milk, with chocolate shavings. Worth every single cent cos it's so rich and creamy. The citrus hues from the earl grey tea goes very well with the richness of the chocolate. It's hard to resist slurping the whole drink down.Hazelnut Hot Chocolate with toppings (either marshmellow or chocolate shavings) ($6.80++)It's made with Gianduja and Guanaja 70% Grand Cru chocolate (whatever they are, I'm not too sure, but it tastes good). Frothy chocolate with a layer of chocolatey hazelnut syrup at the bottom.This is the chocolate shavings topping. It just melts into the drink and makes it even more chocolatey.
Tea time set - $14.80++ for these and a chocolate drink during tea time (can't remember the exact hours, but it's really worth it especially if you want to sample what Jewels has to offer). Their signature Chocolate Gateau cake which is a very heavy and rich chocolate cake, made from 85% abinao dark chocolate. It's very moist, and extremely rich, and equally delicious. Though I think that a small slice is quite enough cos it's so rich.
66% Alpaco Dark Chocolate Ice Cream with Crunchy Pearl
I don't think I'm a true chocolate lover, cos whenever I eat ice cream, I'll go for other flavours first before I try chocolate. The ice cream here is rich and extremely chocolatey, but not overly sweet. Other than that, I haven't got much to say about it, but then again, I don't really like chocolate ice creams.
The House Truffle - cos we couldn't decide which chocolate to take, we decided to be boring and take the House Truffle. Not very memorable. Should have tried something more interesting from their rather extensive chocolate menu.
I really like their macaroons, especially the Black Palm Island salt. There's a few black sprinkles on the top of this macaroon and it's the salt. I think I like it lots cos there's salted egg yolk in it, and it has almond buttercream. It's a bit like nai huang pau (custard pau) in macaroon form.
The macaroon in the middle is the Butterfly Pea Bloom, which is filled with Kaya and almond buttercream. I really like kaya, so this is one of my favourite macaroons. Whenever I pass Jewels, unless I'm super full and exploding, I will drop buy and get at least the black palm island salt and this. It keeps pretty well, and doesn't get salty or crack easily. I really can't decide which I like better between the Butterfly Pea Bloom and Black Palm Island salt, so that's why I get both :P
The macaroons here have nice pastel hues, and aren't as sweet as most other macaroons, which is why I like them lots. I usually come here to take away my macaroons after eating at Ootoya (one of my most favourite, affordable, Japanese cookedfood place).
Green tea is my 3rd fave flavour, cos the green tea isn't as strong as I would like, and I don't think the chocolate balls really goes with the green tea.
Whenever I takeaway the macaroons, they wil give this little carrier which can keep about 3 macaroons inside. Great so my macaroons won't get crushed. White chocolate ice cream with berry compote. It costs $3.80++ per serving, and tastes more like light cheese ice cream to me.
The chocolate crumble with blood orange sorbet ($10.80++) per serving. I didn't try the blood orange sorbet cos I dislike orange, but the chocolate crumble was really delicious. Buttery, crunchy chocolate and plain crumble with rich chocolate mousse.
Service here is exceptionally good, and they are very attentive and always top up my water. They even ask if you want your water warm or iced. Plus, they are very helpful when you're confused and overwhelmed by the many choices of chocolate they have to offer. Hopefully there will be more dessert restaurants in Singapore, just like how there are so many in Japan. I'm still waiting for a nice green tea centered dessert restaurant to open here cos I'm missing Tsujiri lots.
Jewels Artisan Chocolate
Orchard Central 181 Orchard Road #02-31/32
Tel: +65 6509 8998
Fax: +65 6509 9339
Opening Hours : 11am to 11pm daily

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kyoto - Side Trip to Uji Part 1

Uji is this little town about 30minutes away from Kyoto by the JR line. It's very famous for green tea, and Uji tea is supposed to be one of the best teas available. Actually, some teas which are named Uji tea isn't grown in Uji, but only processed in Uji. Not that I'm such a stickler for where it's made, but Uji was one of the side trips I unexpectedly really enjoyed. The air's realy fresh, and it has a much more relaxed, quieter feel than Kyoto.
Uji is much less commercialized place than Kyoto, which has throngs of tourists and many tourist traps (not that I really mind, cos I need to get my souveniers). But the hustle and bustle in Kyoto, especially during the very crowded hanami season (cherry blossom viewing season) can get on my nerves sometime, especially whilst jostling up bus 100 (the tourist bus)...
The more famous tourist spots are the Byodo-in temple (which we missed cos we were rushing to eat and rushing for a tea ceremony, and then rushing to Fushimi Inari shrine before sunset) and some other shrine, as well as some very old bridge where many battles of great significance to Uji's history occured (there were at least 2-3 bridges and I think we didn't manage to find the correct one). Also, the Tale of Genji (some very epic literature book which I haven't read) is set in Uji.
We rushed to the Taihoan tea house, which is managed by the local town council/tourist council for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It's really affordable, and costs 500 yen (about SGD$7.50) for a 20minute tea ceremony.
The Japanese take their tea ceremonies very seriously, and they even have an immensely complex way to drink tea. Click this link to Wiki on chado (the way of the tea). It involves facing the correct direction, having the right water temperature, number of swirls and turning the intricately designed tea bowl the correct direction (either clockwise or anticlockwise, I cannot remember). We had to wait a while, and during this time, we were told to admire the traditional Japanese garden, including this stone water jug thing for cleansing our hands (?). It's very peaceful and quiet.The traditional tea room, which has a picture to admire at the side of it, as well as a depressed hearth to warm the tea. It has traditional tatami mats, and the tea masters have to bow before entering and leaving the room. Of course, everything was done in Japanese, so we couldn't understand about 99% of what was going on, whilst the 2 other elderly Japanese tourists oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over what the tea master was saying. We weren't used to kneeling Japanese style, and half way through, my legs were dying from ischemia and we all had a major case of pins and needles once the ceremony ended. The very expensive and delicately handmade Japanese sweet, which was pink and had a sakura pattern since it was spring. It was very nice, tasted a bit like agar-agar but with a beany taste. The sweetness is supposed to counter the bitterness from the thick matcha.
I really hope to visit Uji again, and maybe stay for 2days 1 night since it's such a lovely, quaint city, unpolluted by millions of tourist and tourist buses. And maybe next time I'll find the correct bridge (so many bridges, couldn't find the one where epic battles took place...)

More about Uji:

Next post will be on one of my most memorable meals in Japan, at one of Japan's oldest tea houses :) That's if my job doesn't kill me first... I have to work on Vesak day. Depressing +++.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kyoto - Yubasen

Yuba tofu is one of Kyoto's specialities. It's like tau kee (bean curd skin) but they have it in both the fresh and dried versions. We were really lucky to stumble upon this small speciality restaurant serving nothing but yuba tofu early one morning, before our hike up to Kiomizudera. We had a scrumptious and very healthy, gout-inducing breakfast. We saw quite a few Japanese tourist here, and they all had different Kyoto guide books. No other non-Japanese tourists there but us - but they (thankfully) had an english menu :) Starter was chilled yuba tofu with 3 different kinds of sauce - there was plum, soy and sesame.
We were very intrigued by the creamy, smooth texture of the chilled yuba tofu - I really couldn't imagine bean curd skin tasting this way, since the dried tau kee comes to mind whenever I think of bean curd skin. It's really creamy, not friable, and tastes very bland (maybe with a slight hint of soy). Different forms of yuba tofu - this one's fried with soy sauce and it becomes slightly crispy and very brittle.
Battered and fried like agedashi tofu, just that it's bean curd skin inside. The drier but still fresh version tastes like tau kee which has been soaked for a while, but it's rolled up tightly to form rectangles.This is the fresh version, but it's drier than the creamy ones we had for the appetiser. This one is served with soy sauce and wasabi, cos it's rather bland by itself. I thought the freshly grated wasabi went really well with the cool tofu skin.
Simmered in soy sauce, the broth is rather thick and starchy (think sharks fin soup)Fresh yuba tofu (the creamy kind) served over rice and braised with soy sauce. This dish was delicious when eaten with the glossy Japanese rice. I don't like rice unless it's the Japanese rice, which has a nice pearly sheen and has more moisture. The yuba tofu was served with freshly grated ginger, which gave it a nice spicy taste. Dessert was also yuba tofu - this one is the fresh creamy kind again, but it's served with thick, brown sugar and kinako powder (roasted soy bean powder). Served chilled, it's a nice sweet ending to the yuba tofu meal we had.The set also comes with miso soup, this one has a reddish hue and tastes almost nutty. Interior of the restaurant - nice warm wooden interior - there was a queue outside when we were done. We were fortunate to stumble upon this restaurant at the unearthly hour of 1030am, when there was hardly anyone around.To-nyu matcha (green tea with soymilk)
We decided to try the green tea with soymilk cos it was a pretty warm day. We did worry about the toilets tho, since it's rather hard to find washrooms in Kiomizudera...
Of course, we chose the most expensive set cos we wanted to try everything. It's 1680 yen, which comes to about $25 sgd, which we thought was pretty reasonable, considering that some other posher places in Kyoto serve tofu lunches/dinners for up to about 5000 yen.
The ego-menu.
The very important map to Yubasen. Basically, it's near the foot of the slope leading up to Kiomizudera temple (if you take bus 100, you'll have to cross the road) and it's near this drug store. It's right at the foot of the hill up to Kiyomizudera, and it's even before the carpark where all the huge tour buses park. The main road is Gojo-zaka.

If anyone else has been to Yubasen, give a shout out in the comments box and share your thoughts on it :) I'll be interested to know of any other interesting yuba tofu places (will be blogging on another one, Naokichi, in Hakone).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Arteastiq - Monet

Little break from blogging about Japan... Before I forget how all the food I've been eating back here tastes like! (Though I really would like to quickly blog everything I did in Japan, I think I shall alternate it with posts from what I've been eating in sgp...)I dislike work. I think I would give my right little finger to spend perhaps another year slacking around, going for holiday, and maybe staying in Japan for a year just to experience the culture and learn the language. I'm on the fast track to looking old and haggard. I'm totally going to pick a career which doesn't involve any more night duty as soon as I can help it. And I am really becoming an old person (even though I really like doing old people things in Japan), I seem to be a hermit (for at least 6 days a week) cos I'm so tired from working. All I really want to do now (apart from sleep) is to curl up on one of Arteastiq's black and white sofas, and sip my Monet dessert tea.
Its a delicious scoop of smooth, Champagne Vanilla gelato, which has enough alcohol, yet mild enough so that it doesn't overpower the taste of the French Rose tea. Mind you, it's not like the heavy handed sloshes of alcohol you'll get from Udder's ice cream. I was so glad (when I tried this) that I didn't bother to attempt this dessert tea the first time I came, because they ran out of Champagne Vanilla gelato (and pretty much everything else I wanted to try). It's nice and creamy, and the drink is really pleasant after the ice cream has melted slightly into the rose tea. I like how it tastes when the alcoholol from the ice cream mingles with the floral fragrance of the rose tea - really relaxing to drink this on a peaceful afternoon (which obviously I will not be doing in the near future). Future tai tai drinking the pear tea. Personally, I don't like the cranberries - would prefer a piece of cupcake/scone/biscuit to go with the teas rather than some pre-sweetened cranberries...
Ahhh I totally can't wait to plonk onto one of the sofas, and look out at the tree branches and just relax instead of doing whatever I'm supposed to be doing... I totally want to get the alcoholic teas the next time I'm back...
Cant. wait. for. my. pay. to. come. cos. its. very. late. already.

333A Orchard Road
#04-14/15 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: +65 6235 8705

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kyoto - Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺

Kiyomizudera is one of the must see sights in Kyoto. It dates back to 798 (acc to wiki) and not a single nail is used during its construction in 1633. It's a UNESCO world heritage site. It's my 3rd time back, and the first time during cherry blossom season (the tail end of it, tho). Kyoto is currently my favourite sightseeing city in Japan (not that I've been to lots of places in Japan, but I like the buildings in Kyoto). The Otowa waterfall has 3 channels of water falling into a pond. Visitors can drink the water, and each channel has either blessings of health, wealth or longevity. But you can only drink from 2 cos if not the gods will think you are greedy and not grant you any. Nice pond in Kiyomizudera, which looked much better at night.I used to think Kiyomizudera looked so nice and grand during the day, but it looks spectacular at night. During the cherry blossom season, Kiyomizudera is lit up at night and it's really worth a look if you happen to be there. The light up ends around 930 to 10pm and we managed to rush in and complete half the path before we were asked to leave (closing time).
The Kyoto tower on the left side of the picture.
Everything looks so grand when it's lit up. We actually returned the next day and my friends said that it felt more grand during the evening light up.
The entrance.
On the way up, they were selling some beef (white) and red bean with green tea paus. Belgium waffles at the Kyoto JR station (near the train line to Nara). I had the strawberry one, which was really very delicious. It's more bready than cakey (I dislike the cakey tasting Belgium waffles) and I like anything with strawberry, more so if it's Japanese strawberries.
Lots of angmoh tourists getting their Belgium waffle fix.
Their morning roll call - at the Isetan in the JR Kyoto station (which is probably the biggest shopping center in Kyoto?).
Fresh rice crackers - never seen any of these in Singapore, but they're realy nice cos they're freshly grilled. Comes in many flavours including mentaiko (spicy fish roe), 7 spice (we liked this the best) as well as seaweed, sesame, soysauce etc
Okonomiyaki - one of the famous foods from the Kansai region - this was at a matsuri somewhere in Kyoto (can't remember which temple, but it's near shijo dori/gion area.
Eating supper under the cherry blossom trees (we didn't cos we were so stuffed from eating our random snacks along the way).
Quaint houses in Kyoto - view from our hostel. A note worth mentioning here - do book VERY early if you want to get nice reasonably priced accommodation in Kyoto. Was preparing for my exams before this trip so I delayed the booking, and found out that EVERYWHERE which was resonably priced was booked full!! So anyway, we finally narrowed our choices down to a hotel which costs SGD$130/person/night which only had semi double rooms (which means its a bed which was 120cm across, for 2 people to share) or a hostel which had proper beds but a shared toilet, but at a fraction of the price (I think it was like US$50 for 2 nights).
We ended up with the hostel, and had 2 days of the tatami lifestyle. Room looks quite spacious, but after putting out 3 tatami mats, we had to sit at 3 corners of the room cos there was hardly any space to move around... Interesting experience, though I don't quite want to experience it again...