Monday 19 March 2012

Spices: Iggy's (Singapore) - Dining at Asia's Best Restaurant for 2011 & 2012

Having eaten at the previous best restaurant in 2010 (L'Atelier de Robuchon), we expected nothing but excellence from Iggy's, 2011's best restaurant. Luckily I booked a month ahead of time to make sure that we secure a table, the restaurant is relatively small and it can only sit and accommodate a few number of people at a time.


As we entered the restaurant, my first impression was everything looks so bare and simple. The walls were pitch black with a few mirrors hanged, the simple cube shape chandeliers were the only light source that lighted our path.

Hallway that leads to the Dining Area

The dining area looks even simpler, on the table it was just the basic linens, cutlery and a fishbowl with a flower inside. But upon looking around I found a lot of cool things.

Dining Area
Notice the frosted glass door on the right? From time to time, the frosted glass turns transparent for people to see the action inside the kitchen.

From Frosted to Transparent

I also noticed the tag on the table linen napkin, Italian custom made for Iggy's.

Iggy's Linen Napkin

Even the menu was shockingly simple, no complex french terms or cooking methods. Printed on was the main ingredient in block capital letters and below was the accompanying ingredients that goes with it. Simple. Little did I know that this was how our whole experience will turn out to be.


There were two kinds of complimentary bread served, a mini baguette and a sourdough bread. The breads were served with shaved butter.

Mini Baguette
Sourdough Bread
Shaved Butter

The Amuse Bouche was a Salted Fish Mousse with Caviar and Mint Jelly. The mousse' consistency was amazing, it had a creamy melt in you mouth feel. I was baffled on how they incorporated the fresh salted fish flavor in the mousse. It was flavored and seasoned perfectly just enough to tingle our paletes.

Salted Fish Mousse

We had one of each the three different appetizers found on the menu. The Heirloom Tomatoes was nice and refreshing, the greens went so well with the sliced tomatoes.There was a sweet gelatonous puree at the bottom, I never had tomatoes as sweet as this before.

Heirloom Tomatoes

The Kanpachi's texture was heavenly, my guess was that the fish was cooked using the sous-vide method. Sous-vide is a french cooking method where they put the meat inside a vacuum packed plastic then placed in a water bath. It renders the food to be cooked evenly incorporating a 'juiciness' texture. The bits of Shio Konbu which is a type of Japanese seaweed boiled in soy sauce added the right amount of saltiness to the dish. The strips of ginger and squeeze of lime completed the fresh tasting fish dish.


Our favorite among the appetizers was the Ranched Southern Blue Fin Tuna. The raw slice of fish was topped by Nicoise Vegetables and Truffled Mayonaise.  Every component in the dish complimented each other magnificently. The crunch from the vegetables, the creaminess of the quail egg's yolk, the sweetness earthy aroma of the truffled mayonaise and the freshest tuna all together create one harmonious bite.

Ranched Southern Bluefin Tuna

There were two pasta starters, the first was the Spaghettini. It has slices of Smoked Mullet Roe and slivers of Zucchini on top. The Mullet Roe is a delicacy in Taiwan which kind of resembles the shape of a cow's liver, it has a pinkish orange color. The pasta dish was really nice and simple. The smokey flavor and slight salty taste of the roe brought life to the al dente pasta.


The other pasta starter was the Farfalle or bowtie pasta in a creamy Anchovy Carbonara with Sorrel greens. Though the cream sauce has anchovies in it, it didn't taste fishy at all. It has the right amount of saltiness and the Sorrel greens added the acidic sharp taste to defuse the strong aroma and flavor of anchovies. To top it off, Truffle Oil. Yum!


The following starter might sound and look simple but this was one of my unforgettable dishes I had in my life. The Free Range Egg with Truffles and Mushroom was such a delight. The harmonious texture and flavors from all the ingredients was astounding. The creamiest egg yolk with the crunch from the mushroom strips and the juicy earthy aromatic truffles were heavenly. This was my first time to try real truffles, it was like eating black wood ear fungus or more popularly known locally as 'tenga ng daga'. I love truffle oil but the aroma and flavor coming from the real thing is more potent.

Free Range Egg

For our main course, we started off with the Threadfin Fish with Sweet Pea, Onions and Ginger below. Again my guess would be that the fish was sous-vide. From the tip of the fillet to the tail, the flesh was evenly cooked. The fish was incredibly soft and moist. At the bottom, the peas and onions was savory sweet while the ginger added that spicy zesty flavor.


The next dish was the Kurobota Pork with Romanesco, Chicpeas and Tanba Beans on a black and red sauce. Kurobota is known to be the Wagyu of Pork Meat. The pork came from the Berkshire Pig breed which originated in Berkshire, England.  But nowadays the pig breed is also being bred in Japan. The slice of pork was so fatty and tender, I'm really not a big fan of eating pork fat but tasting this was a great experience. From how it tasted, the black sauce was squid ink while the red one is pepper sauce. Both the sauces were rich and flavorful, it got rid of the greasy taste that stays in your mouth after eating pork fat.

Kurobota Pork

Our favorite main course was The Lamb on a bed of Tapenade and Quinoa with Grilled Eggplant  and Cornbread with a Cherry Tomato on top. Having tasted and cooked lamb before, I know how lamb meat can be tough and it can taste gamey as well.  Jim and Jon had first bite of the pinkish rib of lamb, I literally saw them unconsciously shaking their heads from left to right. I asked them why such an expression, they both told me that the meat was unbelievably tender. When I took a bite, it was mind blowing, it was SO tender indeed and it absolutely has no gamey aftertaste. It was so good that I can claim that this might be the best piece of Lamb Chop I'll ever have.


For our dessert, the words Caramel, Strawberry and Chocolate was on the menu. The Caramel dessert consisted of a Caramel Flan, Brown Butter Ice Cream, Grapefruit, Miso and Pecan. The balance of the sweet, sour and zesty flavors of the ingredients hits the right spot.


The Strawberry dessert looked like a beautiful painting. Basil Ice Cream on top of Graham Crumbs, Slices of  Fresh Strawberries, Dots of Cream Cheese and Strawberry Jelly and Mini Basil leaves with a Strawberry Tuile completed the canvas. The Basil Ice Cream was such a treat, it was mildly sweetened and the fragrant flavors of basil was prominent. Together with the slice of strawberry, jelly and cream cheese, it constituted the perfect bite.


The Chocolate dessert was really interesting and unique, I've never seen this done by anybody before. On the menu it said 'textures of chocolate' and true to its description, there were different kinds of chocolate.The biggest surprise was that each texture has its own level of chocolate intensity, from milk chocolate to dark chocolate. We ate the chocolate by the order of its color starting from the lightest to the darkest.


The Milk Chocolate Cream was so smooth, the Aerated Light Brown Chocolate Bar felt like bubbles popping in your mouth, the Semi-sweet Chocolate Flan was incredibly creamy, the Crumbly Rough Dark Chocolate Bits was decadently bitter sweet and the Bitter Dark Chocolate Swirls just melts in you mouth. Aside from the chocolates, there was a fluffy light Cotton Candy which you can eat if you find the dark chocolate too bitter for your taste. And Ginger Ice Cream to clean your palete after eating each type of chocolate. This dessert was so cleverly conceptualize and executed.

Textures of Chocolate

After dinner, we ordered coffee, it came with two bite size pieces of chocolate cookies. My espresso looked promising, it seemed that it was gonna challenge the best cup of coffee I had the year before. The espresso was good but it wasn't as good compared to my favorite cup.

Mini Chocolate Cookies

While having coffee, we asked one of the servers to ask Mr. Ignatius Chan, the man behind Iggy's, if we could have a picture taken with him. After a few minutes he approached us and in a very humble manner, he asked us if we could wait for a little while. We stood up and shook his hand and chatted a little. He proceeded to tell us that he has instructed the kitchen staff to clean up a little so that we can have our picture taken inside the kitchen together with his chefs. We felt so flattered and surprised, we went in and he introduce us to his head chef, A.K. I started to ramble how great the food was. A.K. smiled and thanked us, saying that he was glad that we liked the food.

Picture with the Geniuses behind Iggy's

After our fantastic lunch, it was hard not to compare the experience we had in L'Atelier and Iggy's. But in my point of view, it was unfair to compare both since both restaurants has its own strong points. Iggy's sophistication of being bare and minimalist was consistent all the way. The setting, the ambiance, the menu, the plating and the food, everything was simple. The phrase 'Less is Better' suits Iggy's perfectly.

'All Thumbs UP!'

Address: 3rd Floor The Hilton Hotel, Orchard Road Singapore
Tel No: +65 6732 2234

During our small chit-chat, I congratulated Mr. Ignatius Chan for being ranked number one. And this is what he said: "Well, thank you! But you know I really don't pay much attention to the rankings. What's more important is that our guests like our food." I suddenly  remembered one of Anthony Bourdain's quotes in his show No Reservations. He was in Venice, Italy and he said..."In France the star of the restaurant is the Chef. In Venice the star of the restaurant is the food." Iggy's of course refers to the latter.

Friday 9 March 2012

Spices: SINGAPORE's Melting Pot of Flavors

Known as Little Asia, Singapore is a haven for foodies, it offers different cuisines from its neighboring nations. Plus due to it's strategic location, Singapore's food culture also has influences from all over Asia. The best place to dine here is in hawker stalls, found in almost every corner in every district.

Singapore Hawker Stalls

When we arrived we headed straight to the Mustafa shopping complex area in Verdun Road to look for an African hawker stall but to my dismay the stall has stopped doing business. We ended up eating at Astu Indian Muslim food, it was a great meal to start our food adventure.

Astu Muslim Indian Food
It was my first time to try the Dosa, a rolled up crepe made of rice batter and lentils.  I saw how meticulous the process of making it, the owner kept on dousing the griddle with water and kept on touching it until he felt that the griddle has the right temperature. It reminded me of how french crepes are made. The Dosa has a slight crunchy crust with a soft and chewy center. It kind of resembled a spiced thicker version of a Lumpia Wrapper.

Making Dosa
The Dosa is served with three kinds of dip, Dal and two kinds of Chutney. The tasty Dal is a staple in Indian cuisine, they usually doused their rice with it, it is made up of lentils and peas. Both the tomato and coconut chutney were also delicately spiced. All the dips packs a delicious flavorful punch.

Dosa with Indian Dips

We also had the Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng, an Indonesia term which means fried rice and fried noodles respectively. Both dishes have the same spicy garlicky and salty flavor.What I found unique about both dishes was the the Banana Ketchup on the side.

Nasi Goreng

Mee Goreng

While walking along Clarke Quay we saw people hovering a stall. When we took a peek on what the fuss was about, we became one of the 'hoverers'. We also wanted ice cream, this is how street ice cream is served in Singapore. A huge block of Wall's (Selecta) ice cream sandwich between either a choice of bread or wafer.

Ice Cream Stall
Wafer Ice Cream Sandhich

After our visit to Universal Studios, we stopped by the Resorts World area to try the 'Michelin Star' Xiao Long Bao of Din Tai Fung at Baits Restaurant. There was a long queue and we had to wait for 20mins before we got a table.

Din Tai Fung

The Long Wait...
Upon being seated, you'll be charged for the hot tea and wet towels that was placed on your tables. The menu showed a picture of how their famed dimsum treat is made.

At the center of the resto, there was a kitchen dedicated in making the dimsum treats. The chefs looked like artists who were painstakingly creating little dimsum masterpieces.

Dimsum Kitchen
Making Xiao Long Bao
The Xiao Long Bao looked pretty and tasted good but it wasn't really extraordinary like I expected it to be. I've tried and tasted Xiao Long Bao of the same quality which cost way cheaper.

Xiao Long Bao
I've been frequently asked on how to properly eat Xiao Long Bao. I saw people getting burnt by the hot broth inside the dumpling as they put the whole thing inside their mouth. From what I know, this is how I was taught in eating the dimsum.

While it's still hot, get a piece and place it on top of the Chinese soup spoon.

Step 1
Take a little nib off the wrapper and slowly sip the broth inside.

Step 2

After of which, put in the black vinegar ginger sauce inside and as an option, you can add the ginger strips on top. Eat in one bite.

Step 3

The Siomai looked really pretty with the shrimps on top but just like the Xiao Long Bao it wasn't really anything extraordinary.

Pretty Looking Siomai

After dinner, we passed by the Candylicious store and saw that there was a buy one take one promo for Il Gelato di Bruno. We excitedly got two cups but was utterly disappointed when we tasted it. The fruit flavors tasted so sweet and unnatural, it was artificially flavored.

Il Gelato di Bruno


After going to Singapore Botanic Garden, we headed our way to The Hilton Hotel for lunch at Asia's best restaurant for two consecutive years, Iggy's. We had a three hour lunch that all of us thoroughly enjoyed.

Dinning at Iggy's

That night, we headed our way to Makansutra Glutton's Bay. Makansutra roughly translates to 'eating guide', created by Singapore's most famous blogger, foodie, tv personality and critic K.F. Seetoh. He basically invited his favorite hawker stalls to put up shop along Raffles Avenue. You can find every imaginable Singaporean dish at this place.

Makansutra Glutton's Bay

We started our meal with the Roti John. It is basically an omelette sandwich. Scrambled eggs, minced meat of your choice and cheese in between two halves of flattened grilled baguette. Served with Hot Sauce.

Roti John
The Singaporean Carrot Cake is not a dessert, it is actually stir fried chopped up cubes of radish cake with scrambled eggs. It has two version, Black or White, which only meant stir fried with or without soy sauce.

Black Carrot Cake

The Hokkien Fried Prawn Mee is a simple and nice delicious tasty seafood noodle dish. Lightly sauted prawn, squid, chicken and veggies with rice noodles. It looked simple yet is was nice and hearty.

Hokkien Fried Prawn Mee
The Yang Chow fried rice tasted like how it was supposed to be. For those on a no-carb diet, stay away from this because this can be addicting.

Yang Chow Fried Rice

The Cereal Prawn was new and unique. I was initially shocked on how much breading I was looking at, the shrimps weren't even visible. I took a piece and put the whole unpeeled shrimp in my mouth, it was a delightfully crunchy spicy flavorful treat.

Cereal Prawn

The next day, we were in search for an exotic Singaporean dish. One of the dishes that Bourdain and Bobby Chin ate together in Singapore, the bloody red Sup Tulang. We headed to Haji Kadir at the Golden Mile Food Center  to try out the dish.

Haji Kadir

Sup Tulang is the bone marrow of mutton in a spicy tomato and chilies sauce. This was served with a plate of sliced bread that is used to mop up the sauce. I saw the disgusted faces of my bros when the dish was served in front of us. The bloody red color of the sauce didn't look appetizing, it looked kind of freaky.

Sup Tulang

Sup Tulang with Bread
Though it looked the dish came straight out of hell, the taste was heavenly. The sauce was addicting and savory, it removed the gameyness of the mutton's marrow. Some would use a straw to suck the marrow but we liked picking the marrow out then slurping it with the sauce.

Mutton Bone Marrow

We also ordered their version of the Mee Goreng. We liked Haji Kadir's version because they used the same base sauce as the Sup Tulang.

Mee Goreng

When I saw chicken satay being cooked at Satay Salim, I also ordered a batch . Skewered and grilled tender pieces of chicken marinated in turmeric, the exquisitely flavored meat was served with peanut sauce.

Satay Salim
Grilling Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

When we were at Chinatown, we specifically looked for one of the popular dishes in the area, the Claypot Frog Porridge dish. It is said that Tong Shian serves one of the best, the huge hawker stall was so busy conjuring and serving pot after pot of the frog porridge.

Tong Shian Claypot Frog Porridge
The porridge was served literally bubbling hot. The porridge has a garlicky-ginger taste, the frog meat was nice and tender. The weather was humid and we were sweating from the heat but this didn't stop us from enjoying the warm tasty porridge.

Claypot Frog Porridge

A Huge Chuck of Frog Meat

Beside Tong Shian, I noticed different pictures posted by Huat Huat BBQ Chicken Wing. There were pictures of asian celebrities eating their version of the BBQ chicken wing and a three bowl rating from Makansutra.

Huat Huat BBQ Chicken Wing
Mr. Chow Yun Fat Was Here!
I decided to give the BBQ wings a try. The wings are a definite winner. Aside from being succulent, the skin was crunchy and the meat was so moist and tender. Served with Hot Sauce.

BBQ Chicken Wing

The cheapest place that we dined was at Ananas Cafe, meals such as Nasi Lemak, Chicken Rice and Bee Hoon only costs SG$1.50 to SG$2. The meals that we ordered was surprisingly good enough for its price, the dishes came with a nice tangy Sambal sauce. You can also choose from the different fried foods to go with your meals.

Ananas Cafe
We ordered the Bee Hooon with three pieces of fried seafood roll wrapped in seaweed.

Bee Hoon with Fried Seafood Roll
The Nasi Lemak consists of a slice of hotdog, deep fried fish cake, fried egg and chicken rice.

Nasi Lemak

The Newton Food Center is one of the popular dining places for locals and tourists. It is the biggest food center that we went to,  the food center has rows after rows of hawker stalls and is open till 2am.

Newton Food Center

When we sat down, someone approached us and told us that she was a volunteer. She gave suggestions on what to eat and we could order the dishes we like from her. She told us not to worry for she is not a scam artist and she even showed us her ID. We were a bit hesitant at first but eventually agreed to some of her suggestions.

Newton Hawker Stalls
The dishes came to our table one after the other. The first to arrive was the Roti with a rich and pungent Indian Curry. I have always remembered this tasty snack ever since I tried it before in Singapore. Good thing that it still tasted great as before.

The Yang Chow fried rice was cooked really well.

Yang Chow
The Singaporean Laksa was delightfully rich, thick and flavorful.

Singaporean Laksa
The Grille Stingray with the Sambal sauce on top was excellent.The fish was grilled to perfection, the charred smokey flavor complimented the moist tender fish and Sambal sauce.

Grilled Stingray

The Chili Crab has become one of my favorite crab dishes after eating this. A spicy, sweet, salty, zesty thick tomato and chili based rich sauce doused over stir fried crab. It was such a rich and savoury dish that kept us wanting for more. A must try in Singapore!

Chili Crab

We usually have breakfast at Jim's place but on one occasion we headed to Holland Drive Food Center to try out a hawker stall I read about. K.F Seetoh was raving about Ru Ji Kitchen's dry noodles and fishball soup. When we arrived there were a lot of people in line waiting to be served.

Ru Ji Kitchen
All the components from the meal was handmade. It was simple yet a great meal. The noodles were firm and has a salty and sweet chili paste. The delicious fishballs were irregularly shaped and it tasted more of real fish than flour.

Dry Noodles with Fishball Soup

If there is one dish that Singapore is most famous for, it has the be the Hainanese Chicken Rice or simply known as Chicken Rice.This dish is served practically everywhere and everyone has their own favorite place for it.

Chicken Rice
After doing research and seeing No Reservations' Singapore episode, it seems that Tian Tian has a cult following. Since the Maxwell hawker stall was closed, we headed to Tian Tian's restaurant in Joo Chiat.

Tian Tian

I had eaten my fair shares of Chicken Rice so I basically know what to expect of it. What made Tian Tian extraordinary was the gelatinous chicken fat and skin and the light soy based sauce of the steamed chicken.

Tian Tian's Chicken

Don't be deceived, though it looks so plain, the Rice was so flavorful that you can even eat it own its own. After dining here, I understood why Tian Tian's Chicken Rice is favored by the majority. It's the best Chicken Rice I had so far.

Tian Tian's Rice

Aside from the diversed and delicious food, there are also interesting drinks in Singapore that we tried. These drinks can be found in Hawker Food Centers.

1. The Teh Tarik - 'pulled tea'. A frothy bitter tea mixed with milk which is poured from one cup to another.
2. Sour Plum Juice - Brewed Sour Plums with Sugar with a little squeeze of Calamansi.
3. Barley Juice - Boiled Pearl Barley with Sugar.
4. Bandung - A pink drink which is made of milk and rose syrup.
6. Sugar Cane with Lemon Juice - Freshly squeezed Sugar Cane and Lemon mixed together.
7. Starfruit Shake - Sour Starfruit blended with crushed ice and sugar.
8. Kopi C - Strong Black Coffee with Condensed Milk.
9. Flavored Yakult - Apple, Orange and Grape

Teh Tarik, Sour Plum, Barley, Bandung

Sugarcane with Lemon, Milk Tea

Kopi C

Starfruit Shake

Flavored Yakult

The last and not the least, a cocktail named after the country itself, The Singapore Sling. What's more chic than having the cocktail at the highest al fresco bar in the world, Altitude Bar. Atop the bar, you'll get a 360 degree view of the city.

Altitude Bar

The View Atop Altitude Bar
I raised my glass to Singapore, a country with such awesome, delicious, diverse, flavorful, unforgettable food. Til my next meal la!

Singapore Sling..."Cheers!!"
Travel Tip: Survey the hawker stalls for the Makansutra signage, look for a bowl with chopsticks on it for the rating. Ratings are good, very good, excellent, divine and die die must try. The ratings are a good indication if the hawker stall serves great good.

Makansutra Rating