I love me a good fungi. Ever since I first wrapped my lips around the stuff when I was a boy (in a Burger King in the old Thomson Plaza, part of a Mushroom Swiss Double meal with fries, onion rings, and a large Coke – but let’s not talk about that), I’ve been hooked on mushrooms of all kinds. So you can imagine my glee at discovering some of the freshest and juiciest mushrooms can be found in Singapore’s wild west, at Kin Yan Agrotech.
Naomichi Yasuda is the best sushi chef in the universe, and if you disagree with me, I feel sorry for you and your sad, bleak, existence. He is, quite simply put, the master, the sensei, the honey badger of sushi. Sushi Yasuda, the restaurant he co-founded in Manhattan and which he ran until 2010, is my favourite restaurant, period. To paraphrase one Anthony M. Bourdain, if a person doesn’t like Sushi Yasuda, we can’t be friends. When I moved back to Singapore in 2011, there was a nigiri-shaped hole in my heart; but now that Yasuda-san has opened his own restaurant in Tokyo, which I visited on my latest holiday, my life is once again complete.
In The Five Obstructions, one of the strangest documentaries I’ve ever seen, the notorious filmmaker Lars von Trier challenges the equally controversial Jorgen Leth to remake his most famous short film, The Perfect Human, five times, each with a set of constraints of von Trier’s choosing. The stipulations – the film must be reshot in Cuba; it must be made into a cartoon; Leth himself must play the leading role – are patently ridiculous, as are the remakes, which manage to be even more avant garde than the original.
“Didn’t we go to school together?” is not a question I’m usually asked by chefs. And yet, it seems par for the course in Lolla, a one year-old modern establishment that has become one of the hottest tables in the town, but which refuses to forget its convivial, clandestine origins. I’ve had two vegetarian meals at this sparkling supper-club-turned-restaurant (with my herbivore girlfriend K); the experience was eclectic, serendipitous, and sensational.
Please indulge me for the next few paragraphs as I show off my latest toy. The Porthole, the sexiest infusion vessel known to man, is one of those products that you absolutely have to get for no other reason than its general gorgeousness. I’m an absolute sucker for great design, and this piece of kitchen porn I got off Kickstarter was well worth the one year wait.
My family’s just returned from a whirlwind trip to Fukuoka over the long weekend, and boy, did we love it. It was a shamelessly gluttonous getaway spent, among other highlights, slurping our way through seven different bowls of Hakata-style ramen over two hours; stumbling upon a fruit farm in the countryside; and devouring what I am prepared to swear on my immortal soul is the best damned wagyu tenderloin steak on the planet…in a town with a population of less than 130,000. But we also ended up meeting some of the most colourful, amiable characters this side of Asia – from a steak chef who almost cooked for Obama, to a family of grape-growers who happily allowed us to pick our own grapes from the vine, to Satoshi Tokunaga, sushi chef-owner of Uotoku in Fukuoka city and my new favorite restaurant.
Last year, to celebrate my first full year in the working world, I got myself a Hario Cold Water Dripper. It reminded me that it’s okay to take it slow once in a while and make time for inconsequential delight, such as cold drip coffee. This year, to mark my second year of employment, I typed emails past midnight, was behind schedule on all my posts for this website, and had to give up Pilates for three whole weeks. It was around then – approximately the first week of July – that I decided I needed an Aeropress, because while the Hario is a most excellent office companion, sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that.
“What makes a great croque madame?” is a question that no one has asked me ever. If someone did, though, I wouldn’t be able to answer them, partly because I don’t think there’s a single answer, and partly because I’d be foaming at the mouth. For a perfectly representative specimen, though, I’d highly recommend the beauty of a sandwich being served by chef Frederick Colin at the second, and more casual, of his “Gavroche” restaurants.
My girlfriend K gets a lot of grief for being an ethical vegetarian (and occasional pescatarian, when bivalves and mollusks are involved). Besides the droll meat trolls who ask her questions like “don’t vegetables have feelings too?” and leeringly point out that animals die to make just about everything we use everyday, she also has to put up with largely unremarkable, and frankly disappointing meal options at many restaurants here – one can only eat so many portobello burgers and green salads before one goes a bit nuts.
Experiencing The Ledbury in London is like taking a hike in the wild. For one, traveling there takes you out of Zone 1 and into raw Westbourne Park (or Notting Hill, depending on which line you’re taking), where the streets are mercifully quiet and the grass in the gardens of the low-rise housing developments is untrimmed. For another, the typically cheery London weather (read: rainy with biting winds) made my girlfriend K and I look like a pair of inept hipster hunter-gatherers after the brisk walk from the tube station to Ledbury Road. Then there was the food itself; each of the eight courses on our lunch tasting menu took us on a sojourn, past bubbling rivers, through pungent loam, into the very heart of some unnamed countryside.