top eat of 2016

i opened up the calendar on my notebook.


"shucks! a month plus delayed!"

being hectic at work has left me a little behind in my annual ritual of picking out the #bestof2016 from my collection of food photos from the previous year. twentysixteen was filled with an assortment of good food (although i've had my share of not so great ones too) but i've got to admit that there were some food experiences that stood out more memorably than others, evoking pleasant tasting memories that leaves me with a bittersweet feeling of transient but strong cravings for another bite once more.  

// the grilled scallops by cheongsapo suminine {수민이네}

the epitome of simplicity executed perfectly, highlighting the natural sweetness of the freshest seafood you could get from the coasts of south korea's second largest city, busan. 

this was easily one of the most memorable meals of 2016 where fresh shellfish on the half shell, lightly seasoned with salt & pepper, complemented by the sweetness of sliced onions, chopped garlic and straw mushrooms - placed over an open fire grill, in a bowl. cooked to perfection, the heavenly broth from the scallop's were sweet and intensely packed with an umami punch that i had a quiet desire to lick the bowl. 

so.very. delicious. period. 

and yes, i'd be going back for seconds if i return to busan for another visit.   

p.s. i have been craving to share my busan travelogues since i've returned in october 2016 but i just haven't had the time. it will, however, be written in the very near future. 

// the otoro sashimi by sou omakase

at the mere mention of "o-toro" itself, pupils dilated in excitement, an unconscious smile on the face and the mouth watering unexpectedly may be the few involuntary reactions in response. 

this piece of otoro left a lasting impression - fresh without a pang of fishiness, served at the right temperature. fatty but with an underlying familiar tuna flavor, a meltingly tender texture, moist and luscious as it enters the mouth. it was so yummy that my face was illuminated with a smile almost immediately with my eyes closed momentarily as i savored every bite, only to be surprised by my reaction seconds later. 

no doubt, the best piece of otoro i've had, thus far. 

// the hokkaido scallop sushi by sushi oribe

lightly smoky grilled flavors that gradually transitions into a citrus-y umami of the yuzu to finish off with the natural sweetness of the fresh scallop. a distinction from the torched exterior, lightly cooked - possessing a different texture than its raw interior. this fresh shellfish was accentuated further by the perfectly cooked sushi rice, still slightly warm. the beauty of the fish was that it almost seemed every chew held its own tasting experience.

// the canalé by yellow spoon pastry

a seemingly basic and simple french petite pastry in the form of a canalé.


with a desire to imitate as the best form of flattery, i've done some research to only realize how extremely fickle and delicate this french classic was to get just right. meticulous precision and mastery is vital in achieving the ideal contrasting textures with just the right amount of sweet nuances.

while this was only my second canalé that i've had, (my first time was also during the same trip to bangkok but much more forgettable) it was one that i thought embodied the qualities of an excellent canalé. with the textures resembling that of a perfectly cooked sweet french toast, the soft and tender custard interior encased in a dark, caramelized, crisp shell - baked to an almost bittersweet flavor profile to contrast the sweetness from within. 

// the cherry ripe by rosie patisserie

a petite, endearing french cafe in bangkok, serving impressive desserts mimicking its namesake.  masterfully created, the delicate combination of flavors with just the right level of sweetness and a deliberate play in the texture. the thoughtfulness were reflected in this dessert with combinations of flavor that worked beautifully together, boasting flavors of fresh cherry concentrated in the compote against the chocolate richness and creamy mousse.

"the bib gourmand list"
// of the ones who just missed the top list but deserve an honorable mention

// the iced houjicha latte by tealily cafe

besides being able to play with the very adorable #mochithecat, the depth of flavor in the iced houjicha latte is reason enough for frequent visits to this bangkok cafe, specializing in green tea. a resounding flavors of forceful roasted fragrance, lightly scorching the tips of the floral notes of the roasted green tea, rounded by the creaminess and sweetness of the milk. it was intricate as it was lovely. 

// the hanjuku cheese tart by tokyo secret


molten cheese, delicate but rich oozing slightly from the shortbread cookie buttery crush with a pleasant fragrance, striking a lovely balance of sweetness and cheesiness. the hanjyuku cheese tart assumes different alter egos after spending different periods of time in the fridge or freezer, a three-in-one cheese tart.

// the pork soup with rice in busan, south korea

a bespoke delicacy of busan in south korea where you're in control of the flavor profile of the pork soup served with condiments to be added to your preferred taste, picking from a combination of gochujang paste, fermented shrimp sauce, kimchi, bean paste, sliced green onions, garlic, etc. 

in fact, it is a dish where every bowl may taste different. 

starting out with a clean and mild flavor of the pork bone soup, containing very tender pork slices. the broth starts building character gradually with the addition of the sauces/sides, with a hope that the end product is one that is hearty and delicious. 

// the ipoh bean sprout chicken with flat rice noodle by ah loi restaurant

an old-school coffee shop specializing in a popular classic of my mom's hometown is a mandatory pit stop whenever i visit ipoh. smooth and perfectly cooked flat rice noodles in flavorful, clean broth were slurp-tastic, paired with plump bean sprouts with a fresh crunch and tender, moist chicken  albeit a bit greasy tossed in fragrant garlic oil with slightly sweetened soy sauce. the trio is a wonderful combination that brings warmth to my soul and yummy to my tummy. 

twentysixteen eats were a collection of a few hits, some averages and several misses but what was most important, it brought a few first times in my food experiences has had me on the edge of my seat and left me wanting more in twentyseventeen. here's to another 365 days of yumminess :)

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and tastebuds may vary for others.

{ singapore } osteria mozza

the chef with the orange crocs. 

it's the attraction of the brightly neon colored crocs. 

come for the orange crocs, stay for the endearing charm of the person wearing them.

when i first watched chef mario batali on iron chef america - a cuddly (even almost teddy bear-like) chef in his white coat and apron, preparing five beautiful italian dishes with a cheerful demeanor even when he was under the pressure of intense culinary competition. in fact, he looked like he was having a blast. 

it was such a lasting impression that since then, mario batali has been one of my favorite chefs.
by the end of that episode, eating in one of his restaurants became a goal of mine.

that was nearly nine years ago.

so you'd imagine how overwhelmed i was with a bittersweet feeling when chef batali opened eataly in chicago.

... okay fine, upset probably described my feelings more accurately because eataly opened merely a year and a half after i had left chicago. i was scrolling my instagram feed on eataly with envy and all i wanted was a plate (or a couple) of freshly made pasta, a cup of gelato and freshly baked focaccia.

about a year ago, osteria mozza came into my life when a friend told me he found out about the restaurant during his food hunt in singapore. located in the grandoise marina bay sands, it was on my list of 'must-go' even before i knew when my next visit to our neighboring country would be.

finally, my "mild" disappointment was appeased when i was finally seated across from my dining companion in the open dining space, adorned in dark wood contrasted by the pristine white table cloths accentuated by the marble table counters that lined the back walls. i drank in the sophisticated yet casual ambience as my excitement soared with a hint of expectation.

the friendly server came by with a smile, ready to take my order patiently as i mulled over the menu - while i learned how to pronounce my pasta correctly...with very little success. this was clear however -- pasta was a must. and a shared appetizer to start with.

they started us off with the amuse-bouche of homemade ricotta cheese with olive tapenade, finished lightly with olive oil atop a cheese cracker. a pleasant texture of the milky ricotta was quickly distracted by the olive flavor imparted by the tapenade. a sprinkle of salt would have featured the flavors in a more pronounced manner but a lovely introduction.

antipasti :: chargrilled octopus | with potatoes, celery & lemon (sgd 27)

a mini tower of chargrilled octopus rested on a nest of shaved scallion with hidden thin slices of celery upon the layer of beautifully cooked potatoes that still had a nice bite.

"it is best to eat it with the greens," the server recommended as he placed the plate in the middle of the table.

getting a bit of everything on my plate, i couldn't resist taking just a bite of the octopus on its own.
"ooo that is slightly charred..." i was slightly taken aback by the burnt edges from the octopus.
unknowingly, i just had to say it just as our server walked past our table and when he double backed, he repeated, almost impatiently, "this is best with the greens!"

i understood his good intentions and yes, he was absolutely right.'s just that i have a habit to try the elements on its own, most of the time.

the greens were dressed in the lemon juice and olive oil, where the mild onion notes, fresh from the lemon juice balanced the charred flavors from the octopus beautifully. a slight crunch from the celery and the potatoes, seasoned perfectly then the tenderness of the octopus. each ingredient had a purpose and this dish was best when all the ingredients were eaten in a single bite.

'this was a good start,' i thought with a smile.

pasta :: orecchiette | with fennel sausage & swiss chard (sgd 27)

a signature dish of mario batali, orecchiette from the southern region of italy is paired with peppery sausage bits -- maybe it was a bit too peppery. the freshly made pasta, cooked al dente gives a lovely chewiness that can never be found in store bought dry pastas. however, that may be the only highlight for me.

to be fair, the server had explained the pasta would be spicy in the peppery kind of way. but it was heavy, almost monotonous with each forkful - it was probably the fat rendered from the sausage, coating the tongue. some freshness and lightness of herbs could have gone a long way to bring the flavors to a full circle. it was missing the balance of flavors that was masterfully depicted by the appetizer.

pasta :: ricotta gnocchi | with wild mushrooms & asparagus (sgd 29)

i get nervous with gnocchi but my friend did not.

before i go any further, allow me to explain myself. 
several years ago, i've had probably the best gnocchi i've ever tasted where the gnocchi's texture was the ideal embodiment of pillow-y clouds - in the most literal sense - but with a sturdiness yet tender. it had became the yard sticks of all future gnocchis, which had been disappointing, thus far. 

she generously offered some and the flavors were lovely, lightly hearty -- almost familiar.
texturally, it was delicately tender and somewhat melts almost instantly in the mouth. it was good but didn't mange to upstage our shared dish of octopus.

caffe :: latte (sgd 6)

an excellent cup of latte to end the dinner right. the familiar bitterness of the espresso lingered with different full bodied notes, announcing its presence against the milk.

tldr // osteria mozza. this restaurant was one i had been dreaming to try from the first time i watched chef batali's battle on iron chef america. freshly made pastas cooked al dente with a slight bite are definitely my kind of thing especially when they offer freshly grated cheese at your table. but not when it is doused with an overpowering flavors that lacked a harmony i expected. maybe that's just it - it could be because of the increasingly budding expectations i've had over the nine years....or it could be that i picked the wrong pasta from the menu that just wasn't what i was craving for.

even so, eataly and babbo are still in my future plans, hopefully one day.

nonetheless, while you are at osteria mozza, don't miss out on the chargrilled octopus for sharing (or not!) but don't forget that "it's best with the greens!"

osteria mozza | location 
2 bayfront avenue,
b1-42-46, galleria level,
marina bay sands, singapore
{opens mon - sun: 5pm - 11pm;
weekends only: 12 pm - 3:30pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

sushi oribe 寿司 織部

"is there anything you don't eat?" chef naoya asked with a smile from behind the counter at sushi oribe, the japanese restaurant in the neighborhood of klcc opened by chef hideaki oritsuki, who was last seen sharpening his knife at sushi hinata a few months prior.

i shook my head almost immediately from my coveted seat at the chef's counter, returning his smile momentarily before i shifted my focus to the lunch menu again, trying to etch into memory what to expect from my iga pre-fixe selection (rm 168).

"this is pickled ginger, made in house," as he placed the sliced ginger on one corner of the sushi plate.

both chef naoya and chef oritsuki were completely in their element behind the counter as they expertly shaped perfect pieces of sushi, one after another seamlessly - their motions seemingly hypnotized the diners seated at the chef's counter, with the spell occasionally broken by their instructions for fresh ingredients to the assistant chefs, standing on the sidelines. a few minutes later, the rice in the wooden rice bucket by the chefs were replaced in order to keep it warm.

"deja vu..." the words resounded in my head as i stared at the japanese knives in envy, reminiscent of my food excursion to kyubey in ginza, tokyo four years ago. the feelings were similar but the setting was different - sushi oribe's dining space was a modern interpretation through its minimalist approach while still rooted firmly to the charm of a traditional sushi house.

a dainty boat-shaped bowl was placed in front of me, as the server described it as cubes of melon dressed in a light gravy with crab meat.

"ah, this is appetizer," chef naoya explained with a smile as he chopped up some spring onions together with tuna belly sashimi for one of the dishes. the two chefs prepare most of the food facing the diners across the counter and also for the whole restaurant. it was a meal that requires diners to slow down in order to savor the dishes the way each deserves.

the melon cubes was light in flavor where the gravy followed suit - almost bland but what surprised me was the slightly stringy crab meat from being overdone in the gravy. i raised my eyebrows, quiet disappointment lurking by the corner, ready to pounce at a moment's notice.

but, i was quickly distracted by the server who placed a tiny wet towel folded neatly in a similarly sized plate, "this is your finger towel," in anticipation for the next courses.

opening the cover to the chawanmushi cup revealed a clam obscuring the egg custard. the dashi-based, silken egg custard hid mushrooms and fresh clams was an umami jackpot, contrary to the first course. the comforting warmth of the steamed chawanmushi trickled down the throat, leaving in its trail a cozy feeling, embracing the heart.

"this is a yellow tail belly, brushed with some shoyu and there is already a little bit of fresh wasabi inside.." as the chef set the piece of nigiri sushi - perfectly cooked rice topped with a scored thick slice of white fish in front of us.

"please eat using your fingers," chef naoya recommended. that was when the finger towel finally made sense.

it was the opener for the chef's eight piece specialty sushi, the chef had evidently put much thought for this act of the play. the theme evolved around the freshness of high quality ingredients while the plot begins with cleaner, lighter flavors to build towards a crescendo - a pleasure to the taste buds, as it reaches the finale of the octet course. the guest star - the pickled ginger, to which we were introduced earlier, imparted a mild bite/heat underneath the sweet-tart pickling, acting as the perfect palate cleanser between each piece. the fluffy grains of rice barely had whispers of vinegar, worthy of its supporting role in elevating slices of fresh seafood into the spotlight.

yellow tail belly. 
flounder, shiso & yuzu.
aji mackerel, shiso & green onion.
shrimp from hokkaido. 
hokkaido scallop.
grilled flounder fin.
chef's special bowl.

each main character has its own merits, reflected in their different flavor profiles which created such a meaningful story of flavors and textures. a few stood out more than the rest, some because of the nostalgia it evoked, others were a symphony of taste and texture that worked harmoniously to leave a lasting impression in that single bite.

aji mackerel.
topped with shiso and green onion. best during the summer, aji mackerel held its own with its meaty texture. it was one of my favorite discoveries in my omakase meals in tokyo, which brought back the memories of sweeter flavors from my previous encounters.

the one that never fails to bring happiness. the rich texture of the fatty belly imparted such a satisfying lusciousness under the familiarity of the distinct tuna flavor. 

hokkaido scallop.
light smoky grilled flavors to gradually transition into the citrus fragrance from the yuzu, suddenly caught unaware by the natural sweetness of the scallop - subtle distinction between the torched exterior to the raw interior. it was as if each chew held its own tasting experience.
//my top pick 

grilled flounder fin.
a rare find. the soft natural sweetness of the fish, melt in mouth sensation, coating the tongue with a pleasant sweet soy smokiness and umami, persuading my dining companion wishing for another.
//her top pick.

the finale of the sushi course: chef's special bowl.

chef naoya gently placed a small amount of rice into a deep silver bowl where he piled chopped fresh tuna belly with young green onions, small shrimp and a generous amount of salmon roe before topping it off with uni and a dab of fresh wasabi. he squeezed a brush of shoyu over the bowl and finally finishing it off with grated yuzu.

"all mix," chef naoya gestured towards the bowl as he finished the description of this final sushi. on its own, each ingredient packed a punch. together, it was bursting with flavors of the sea interjected with undertones of citrus freshness.

a chopped tuna belly sushi roll, cut into three one bite pieces completed the flight of sushi. the chefs cleverly alternated the dishes of hot with cold meant the cup of the warm miso soup in its earthy-salty complexity followed next. the dessert closed out the meal without much conviction as the rest of the meal did.

i was still basking in exhilaration as i recounted the highlights of the iga courses when our friendly chef placed a piece of what seemingly looked like a brûléed cube pudding on the sushi plate.

"we added some small shrimp in this special tamago and was steamed for 5 hours. it tastes like cheesecake. special for you two since you've had to wait patiently," chef naoya's offered although there was really no reason for him to. taking it gratefully, the whispers of sweetness of the tamago pudding resonated with the chef's description.

tldr // sushi oribe. easily one of the most memorable meals i've had all year, despite the minor hiccups along the way. i'd love to return for an encore but the hefty price tag makes it something that cannot be done frequently. even so, the freshness of quality ingredients from japan and wonderful dining experience with a chef who is passionate about food make it all worthwhile. it is sushi done right.

so, yes to a return visit and definitely reservations for seats at the kitchen counter again a few days in advance.

when the maitre'd was overheard informing the caller apologetically, "i'm sorry, sir. the restaurant is fully booked today..." i exchanged glances with my dining companion, as if being able to read each other feelings perfectly especially after the meal.

- content...and perhaps with a sliver of gloat.

sushi oribe 寿司 織部| location 
block c-1, vipod residences
no 6, jalan kia peng,
kuala lumpur, 50450
{opens mon - sat: 12pm - 3pm;
6pm - 11pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.

the molten salted egg yolk croissant rivalry: le bread days & bake plan

food trendspotting.

typically, it starts with #saltedeggyolkcroissant trending on instagram, which inevitably leads to long queues.

sometimes, i'd find myself waiting in those.
other times, i let novelty runs its full course before a new food trend ousts its counterpart off the pedestal.

in the case of the salted egg yolk croissant phenomenon, it was the latter.

salted egg yolk in bun is nothing new. in fact, it is a staple at chinese dim sum eateries.
however, it was mind boggling that during the peak of the food trend, food eateries could have slathered salted egg yolk custard on almost anything and the crowd would have gobbled it up in no time. maybe it's the revolutionary east meets west roots. or maybe it was the pairing the salty & sweet.

with a story featured in an international newspaper going "will the salted egg yolk trend ever die out?" i had to get to the bottom of it - it being the reason behind the craze behind this movement, headlining the local food scene for several months.

two of the most talked about salted egg yolk croissants later, the one thing i've managed to figure out is that i'm a fan. 

not an obsessive fan, but a fan. 

le molten egg yolk custard croissant at le bread days (rm 7.30) stirred quite the controversy, a love-hate relationship with its following. poor service by the staff had aggravated hordes of people swarming to the quaint pastry shop in ss2 - the overwhelming popularity was something le bread days wasn't prepared for, making no room whatsoever for reservations for its signature pastry. 

the crispy shell of the croissant crackled briefly before giving way under the pressure of the knife as the rich golden molten lava of the salted egg yolk oozed out from the cut, while some ebbed into the crevices of the honeycomb insides of the soft freshly baked bread. i eagerly took a lick of the molten lava - a strong salted egg yolk flavor but with sweet undertones that managed to sneak in to achieve a salty-sweet balance. the crunchy ends of the crescent were probably my favorite bite.

'overhype,' a couple of my friends had lamented.
maybe. or it could be novelty.

but i can't deny that le bread days had managed to get this rich decadence balance to work; still, it is probably best shared with friends (or not, if you really LOVE salted egg yolk).

labeled by many as a worthy rival (if not better), the bake plan churns out their version just in the vicinity at the food square in ss2. garnering love and regulars for its pastries, i called to reserve two just to make sure it wasn't a futile drive.

as i walked into the quaint pastry shop made for take outs, it was a busy - almost boisterous - mid-afternoon. the kitchen staff were boxing up freshly baked cheese tarts from trays as swiftly as they could. other patrons were browsing through the selection of loaves and breads on the shelves that lined the walls. i queued at the cash register for my pick up order alongside the others who were beaming at their trays, filled with bounties of golden pastries. 

the freshly baked croissant, still warm, was a lovely golden brown with a lighter and softer texture honeycomb insides wrapped by a lightly crisp outer shell. equally as decadent and a slightly thicker, the molten salted egg yolk was a smidgen sweeter.

tldr // the molten salted egg yolk lava croissant - a fusion of the chinese classic dim sum with the french croissant turned into sensation. both renditions of this pastry by le bread days and bake plan summon their own camp of followers. 

my take on the rivalry? edging out its counterpart slightly, le bread days moved me more.

le bread days | location 
68, jalan ss 2/72,
seksyen 19
46300 petaling jaya
{opens daily: 8am - 8pm}

bake plan | location 
36, jalan ss 2/61,
ss2, 47300 petaling jaya
{opens tues - sun: 9 am - 10pm}

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.