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Chiaki27
This is Chiaki27 living in East. I work in Central. I like to hang out in Central, East. Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Taiwanese & Hong Kong are my favorite cuisines. I also love Café, Restaurant and Dim Sum, Ramen, Chicken Rice.
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Categories : Japanese | Ramen

 
For more food reviews, please visit my blog: http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/

Ramen lovers like me are in for a treat with more and more ramen brands coming to Singapore, each offering their unique concoctions. One biggest grouse I have though is that the ramen places that I like don't have a branch in my neighbourhood so I always have to travel to town just to get my ramen fix. Of course, there are some ramen brands which have made inroads into the housing estates but most tend to limit their expansions to various spots within the city area.

Sanpoutei Ramen has been around since 1967 and comes from Niigata, Japan which is usually more well-known for its Koshihikari rice and sake. As such, I was curious how the ramen from Niigata would taste like and decided to give this a try.

 
Upon entering the restaurant, there are two types of seats i.e. the table seats and those at a long rectangular table at the centre of the restaurant. In the middle lies a charcoal fireplace which is of course meant for ornamental purposes and a wooden screen which has a warm feel (perhaps because Niigata is well-known for it being a region with heavy snowfall) and offers some privacy from fellow customers which are seated across you at the same table. For people who dine alone, you don't have to feel self-conscious compared to when you occupy a table seat. Besides, it is easy to observe from these seats how the staff prepare the ramen since you can see the noodles preparation room and kitchen clearly which offers some "entertainment" while you wait for the ramen to be served.

 
There are four main types of ramen offered here i.e. the Niigata shoyu ramen (soy sauce base), rich tori x miso ramen, rich tori x spicy-miso ramen and W soup tonkotsu ramen (pork bone base). W soup actually means double soup and refers to the fact that there are two types of soup being blended together to form the broth in this ramen. As the name suggests, there is tonkotsu soup made from simmering tonkotsu for 12 hours plus rich tori soup (made from chicken) to form the thick broth as seen from the photo. Honestly speaking, I was a bit taken aback when I saw the soup and wondered if it was going to be too thick and salty for me.

I ordered the W soup tonkotsu ramen with extra aburi chashu (5 pieces) which comes with everything as per the full set except for the egg. As I mentioned above, I had misgivings about the soup initially but to my surprise, it was not as salty as I thought and the rich-bodied soup was so flavourful and had a nice aroma. Considering that both the tonkotsu and the rich tori soup should be quite concentrated, I was amazed by how light it was on my palate. However, for people who prefer lighter soups such as shoyu, you might not be used to seeing your soup being this thick and slightly gooey as you get to the bottom of the bowl.

 
As for the noodles, the type used at Sanpoutei is a bit different from the usual thin vs. thick noodles or round vs. flat noodles. It's actually flat noodles being slightly thicker than mee pok but not as broad in terms of width. I tend to prefer the thick curly noodles used in Hokkaido-style ramen rather than the thin straight noodles in Kyushu-style ramen but there are times where I would wish for the best of both worlds i.e. curly noodles which can absorb the soup well but not too thick. Surprisingly, Sanpoutei has a nice hybrid which I like where the noodles absorbs the thick broth well and yet is not too lumpy. It's great to finally find something which suits my preferences.

As for the aburi chashu, I was a bit concerned that it might be a bit too dry due to the grilling. However, the chashu had a fine balance of meat and fat which probably helped in it retaining a certain degree of moisture thus preventing the chashu from being too tough. I also liked the fact that the chashu was tender enough to be easily split into smaller pieces with just the chopsticks and seasoned in such a way that it went well with the soup.

 
It's a bit of a disappointment that there was no gyoza to order here but there are various small bites like mini-don, salad, rice rolls and fried chicken offered. I chose the Sanpoutei deep fried spring chicken with oroshi yuzu ponzu sauce. With regard to the karaage, I thought it was a bit tough because breast meat seemed to be used in this dish which doesn't turn out very well when deep fried since there isn't a lot of fat in this part of the chicken. The thigh portion turns out better when used in a dish like this but unfortunately, not every place uses this. Luckily, the oroshi with yuzu ponzu sauce and the vegetables helped in accentuating the taste of the fried chicken and made it a bit more moist and savoury than if it was just plain karaage being served.

On the whole, I like the ramen served here at Sanpoutei although I felt that the small bites selection is not as appealing to me. I think I'll be back for another visit pretty soon to try out the other types of soup bases.

 
Recommended Dish(es):  W Tonkotsu Ramen
 
Date of Visit: Feb 12, 2016 

Spending per head: Approximately $20(Lunch)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 4  |  
Environment
 4  |  
Service
 4  |  
Clean
 4  |  
Price
 4

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Categories : Japanese | Restaurant | Sushi/Sashimi

 
For more food reviews, please visit my blog at http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/

I was craving for something Japanese during lunch one day so headed to The Sushi Bar at Ngee Ann City to give it a try. Although the online reviews were generally quite favourable, I think it was a mix of hits and misses for me so it will take a few more visits to find out which items are the ones to choose and avoid.

First was the chicken katsu rice which came with some coleslaw and cucumber slices. The fried batter was OK but the chicken meat within was too thin so it felt more like I was eating the skin and batter rather than the chicken. In addition, the rice was rather lumpy and sticky which seemed to suggest that there was either too much water or it was way overcooked. Despite the presence of a sweet sauce to be eaten with the dish, the addition of mayonnaise to the sauce altered the taste and there was too little of the sauce thus making the dish taste rather dry on the whole. It might have better if there was more sauce or the meat was thicker and juicier.

 
Next was the teba gyoza which means chicken wing gyoza. On first sight, this resembled the stuffed chicken wings commonly seen in Thai restaurants served with sweet chili sauce. The version here was made to be like gyoza where instead of the gyoza skin, the chicken wing which had the bones in the mid section removed was stuffed with meat filling. The accompanying sauce was replaced by mayonnaise. Overall, I thought that the taste of this teba gyoza was not much different from its Thai counterpart and the sauce didn't really do much to accentuate the taste of the dish. Although I thought that it was a pretty gimmicky idea to position this dish as a gyoza-lookalike, the dish probably needs a major change to make an impact on the customer's palate. Perhaps something like a wasabi-based mayonnaise might help in making this dish more interesting.

 
The kani maki turned out pretty ordinary in terms of taste which can be considered a good and bad thing. The good thing is, it doesn't taste awful but on the other hand, it fails to leave an impression on me. Appearance-wish, I thought that it could have looked slightly better. Given that the name of this place is called "The Sushi Bar", I was expecting something better even for a simple offering like this. It's the simple things which need more skills so in this sense, I thought that it should have fared better. The only thing I liked was probably the wasabi which tasted fresh. Just be careful not to take too much of it at one go or you might find yourself coughing when you choke on the sudden rush of the wasabi's spicy flavour.

 
The hotate miso yaki was one of the two dishes I liked during my visit. Despite miso having a pretty strong taste and potentially covering up the fresh seafood flavour if it turned out to be too overpowering, the good thing was that I could still taste the hotate's flavour and liked the texture i.e. still crunchy and not overcooked. When eaten with the spring onions, it added a welcome layer of texture to the dish. I didn't try eating with the salmon roe though. However, in order to do justice to the fresh seafood, it might be good to have another option where the hotate is grilled on its own thus allowing its natural flavour to be infused into the hotate due to the heat or adding soy sauce or some other lighter seasoning when grilling. I've tried eaten grilled seafood in this manner while in Japan and really liked the natural seafood goodness which was not overwhelmed by strong-tasting condiments.

 
I've been craving to have some yakitori, not the sauce version but the salt version. Ever since I tasted the latter from a convenience store in Japan, I've grown to like the salt version a lot. However, a lot of Japanese restaurants tend to have the sauce version only so I was quite happy to find the salt version offered here. The disappointing thing was that, the meat was not grilled yet and lost its meat juices so the resulting product was tough and dry despite the use of the thigh portion (momo) which should have been juicier and more tender than breast meat. The salt flavour was also hardly detectable. Perhaps the sauce version will taste better so I'll probably give that a try next time. As for this version, I think I'll go back to Family Mart to relieve my craving instead.

 
Last but not least, the tontoro yaki was one of my top 2 dishes that day. I don't know if this was done by the same person who did the momo yakitori but this version tasted much better. Not only was it juicy, the fats on the tontoro added some much-needed texture to the meat thus making it crunchy and nice to chew. The flavour was just right too. I think I might order this again during my next visit.

On the whole, I thought my visit to this place was not that bad because service was prompt and the restaurant was pretty spacious. However, the food turned out to be slightly disappointing. It could also have been that they specialise more in sushi than the other dishes but even so, the quality shouldn't be too far from one another. I would probably go back a second time to try a few more dishes but there's got to be more "hook dishes" to pull me back for the third visit onwards.

For more food reviews, please visit my blog at http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/
 
Recommended Dish(es):  Hotate Miso Yaki,Tontoro Yaki
 
Table Wait Time: 0 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Dec 24, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $30(Lunch)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 2  |  
Environment
 3  |  
Service
 3  |  
Clean
 3  |  
Price
 2

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Categories : Korean

 
For more food reviews, please visit http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.sg/ and url.com/hc7pgl3

I've always been keen to try Korean stews locally but there were two major obstacles preventing me from doing so. First of all, many places I've been to so far tend to have such stews in sharing sizes which effectively meant that for someone like me who eats out often on my own, there was no way I could have finished the food singlehandedly. Even if I could, some restaurants had the rule that there must be at least two persons present before certain dishes can be ordered (yes, I'm referring to a particular bijin nabe which I've yet to try because of this rule). Secondly, a lot of the stews tend to use beef which I can't eat for religious reasons. It was really difficult to find a place which offers stews using anything other than beef and in a size friendly to singles.

 
First up would definitely be the pork ribs stew. There are three types of meat stews to choose from i.e. pork, beef and chicken. Note that for the chicken stew, the default option is spicy so for those who can't really take spicy food, you might want to keep this in mind. Personally, I'm not too good with spicy stuff too but I would probably come back another day just to try the chicken stew.

I really liked the pork ribs which were well-marinated and absorbed the flavours of the slightly spicy soup which goes well with the multi-grain rice served together. Although I ordered the single portion, there were more than 5 pieces of the pork ribs and they were mostly soft ribs which meant that there was more meat than the typical spare ribs used in bak kut teh. The meat texture in turn was soft and you could detach the meat from the bones very easily.

After choosing your meat, you can then select the spiciness level. For a "beginner" like me, I chose Level 1 which was slightly spicy in my opinion. For those who are OK with spicy stuff, you might find this not challenging at all so by all means challenge yourself with a Level 4.

Next, you get to choose between Korean udon and glass noodles. I'm not sure what Korean udon is and how it differs from its Japanese counterpart since I ordered the latter. However, I was rather disappointed to see the flat and thick version rather than the thinner one in my stew because it tends not to absorb the gravy/soup/sauce as well as the latter. True enough, I didn't like how the glass noodles tasted. As the thick glass noodles was rather stretchy and difficult to lift from the pot, I was conscious of the fact that whenever the glass noodles snapped backwards into the pot, the gravy seemed to spurt outwards to my neighbours and myself. Might be worth considering that if you want to avoid this messy situation.

If you find that your stew is not filling enough, you can add other things like Korean rice cakes as a top-up. I didn't add any this time since I wasn't sure of the portion size. I guess if I am just ordering the stew without other dishes next time, I might want to try adding the rice cakes.

 

 
Read the full review at http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.sg/

Supplementary Information:
The staff were courteous and asked for my feedback about the meal while settling the bill.
 
Recommended Dish(es):  Pork rib stew,Leek & squid pancake
 
Table Wait Time: 5 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Dec 21, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $40(Lunch)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 4  |  
Environment
 3  |  
Service
 4  |  
Clean
 4  |  
Price
 3

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Categories : Japanese | Desserts and Cakes

 
For the full review and other food reviews, please visit http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/

In Orchard Road where there is so much human and vehicle traffic, it is often difficult to find a place which allows me to feel relaxed and get some decent tea time treats at affordable prices. There are indeed many famous and good cafes and restaurants along this busy shopping belt but they may be crowded or cramped due to small shop spaces brought about by the high rents. In addition, customers who are on their own like myself tend to be assigned seats either near the entrance or at some far flung corner where it's hard to get the attention of the staff so it does mar the dining experience to a certain extent. As such, having come across Hashida Garo was somewhat like a wish come true for me especially when I suffer periodic "withdrawal symptoms" from missing Japan.

Hashida Garo which is the second restaurant opened by Japanese chef Hashida "Hatch" Kenjiro, is located on the 4th floor of Mandarin Gallery. His first restaurant Hashida Sushi is on the second floor of the same building. According to the staff, there is a waiting list of at least a couple of months so you would need to make a reservation well in advance if you want to go there. On the other hand, Hashida Garo has a very Zen-like simple feel with its pastel colours and relatively simple decor. The best thing is, you should be able to walk-in and not have to make a reservation. Of course, during the weekend, it might be a totally different situation but since my visits so far were on weekday afternoons, I can't say for sure how crowded it might be.

 

 

 

 
Before the meal begins, you will be handed the oshibori in a dainty-looking glass bowl which looks very pretty. The Japanese restaurants in Singapore (especially those major chains) tend to put the oshibori in sealed plastic wrappers which I can perfectly understand since they have a lot more customers and it's probably more cost-effective and hygienic to do so. Then when you come across restaurants like Hashida Garo who hands this rolled hand towel to you in a glass bowl with patterns, it makes the experience feel different after all. It's a nice-to-have although not compulsory feature but it sure feels good to start the dining experience with a small treat for my eyes. And a good thing about the oshibori, it does not have a strong artificial fragrance so I'm thankful for the fact that it doesn't irritate my nose.

Note that the items featured from this point onwards were consumed on two separate occasions with the second visit being one I did with my friend so we could order more items than when I was alone. As I was there during the quieter weekday afternoons, there were no meals served other than the beverages and wagashi. Thus, there will be nothing about their lunch and dinner items in this review.

 
First up was the yuzu macaron. I must admit that I am no fan of macarons. The first macaron I had was fairly recently at Salt Tapas & Bar where I tried the Japanese purple sweet potato macaron. I guess that somehow set the standard for me so I was looking forward to something like that i.e. light and not overly sweet. However, I found the version here not to my liking. In particular, I thought that the cookies were too dense, moist and a bit chewy that they felt as if they were somewhat sticky. As for the filling, although there was the slight aroma of yuzu which was identifiable, the cream was a bit too sweet for me. Much as there are other flavours which are offered here, I guess I won't be trying any of them soon. Guess it's just my taste buds not being too appreciative of macarons and failing to understand why they are popular. ^__^

 
The mizu manju is such a beauty that I couldn't help but take many pictures of it before eating them. The outer skin is made of translucent kanten jelly and wraps the white bean paste and seasonal fruit within. The light blue syrup is made of mint and slightly chilled before the entire dish is served. On hot days, this will be a truly refreshing treat. Visually, it should also evoke squeals of excitement from the customers. Besides its very appealing appearance, I think that the charm of this wagashi is that it combines several different textures together with the jelly being slightly chewy, the soft white bean paste and the comparatively harder fruit cube and yet maintains the uniqueness of each item while allowing their individual flavours to come together in a coordinated manner. This is a definite must-try item if you are here.

 
The maccha financier was served in a very special way where the metal plate, sheet or foil (not sure how to term it) was slightly bent at one of the edges. As the financiers are made on the spot, they take at least a 15-minute wait so the staff would actually ask you if you are OK with it before they proceed with the order. The dish is served slightly warm with the 5 financiers nicely arranged and you can see some white powdery-like substance sprinkled on them. I didn't actually ask the staff about this but from the scent and taste, I felt that they were coconut shreds. If you happen to know what exactly the white substance is, please share the information with me. In any case, eating the financiers on their own is perfectly fine but do remember to take it with some of the red bean paste which I think was cooked in some sugar syrup. As such, the red bean paste was slightly moist so it was easier to eat it with the financier which had a nice maccha aroma but wasn't that sweet on its own. Usually, the financier I see tend to be long and rectangular so these little round balls here have won me over in terms of its novelty and unique flavour. Never knew that a French dessert like financier could go so well with the very-Japanese red bean paste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Last but not least, I just couldn't resist buying a box of the 6-piece mochi which looked so pretty with its translucent and snowy white skin. It was no doubt pretty pricey at $24 per box ($4 per piece) but given the quality and the appearance, I could understand the rationale behind the pricing. The filling is different from the eat-in version where there's supposed to be chocolate and red bean filling within. Due to the fact that there are no preservatives, the mochi has to be consumed within 2 days. Frankly speaking, I preferred the skin which was chewy and soft but not so much for the filling. I couldn't really taste the red bean and thought that the chocolate was a tad too sweet. Likewise about the mochi mentioned above, I don't have any major complaints about the quality of this item but I need a stronger pull factor to make me a fan of this mochi. For people who prefer sweet mochi like this, you might want to give this a try.

To read the full review, please visit my blog: http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/

Supplementary Information:
Only wagashi and drinks are served outside the meal times i.e. from 2pm to 6pm.
 
Recommended Dish(es):  Yubeshi,Mizu Manju,Chocolate Yokan,Handpicked Sencha,Matcha
 
Table Wait Time: 0 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Dec 17, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $20(Tea)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 4  |  
Environment
 4  |  
Service
 5  |  
Clean
 5  |  
Price
 4

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Categories : Korean | Korean Fried Chicken

 
For more food reviews, please visit http://shokushisouseikatsu.blogspot.com/

As an amateur or should I say part-time food reviewer (I don't think that I fit the title of food blogger) who posts reviews as and when I like and given that I am no expert on food, I would never have expected myself to be invited to food tasting events especially since I'm not one of the big names in the food blogging arena. When I saw the call for applicants to take part in this food tasting event hosted by Open Rice at Chicken Up's latest branch at Parkway Parade, I gave it a shot while thinking that it would be extremely unlikely that I would be selected. As such, when I received the email confirming my selection, it was a mix of surprise and disbelief that I was going to attend my very first food tasting event! It was a tad intimidating at first because some of my fellow participants were armed with very professional-looking cameras, using additional lights or flashes or going to great lengths to arrange the dishes on the table so as to make the photos look better. Comparatively, I just brought my Sony camera which isn't even a DSLR and was meant as a countermeasure against dark lighting within the restaurant. Otherwise, I always use my mobile phone to take my food pictures. I guess this just shows how "casual" I am when it comes to taking food pictures for my reviews so I don't think I can match up to these more experienced food bloggers anytime soon in terms of skills, experience and enthusiasm. ^__^

Perhaps I should talk about my experience with Chicken Up so far for a start. I am not new to Chicken Up actually as I've been to their outlets before i.e. once in Tanjong Pagar and twice in Tampines. As such, I knew roughly what I was going to eat there before I showed up for the food tasting event. However, it seems like Chicken Up has added some new items which I don't remember seeing before which I think is a positive step towards attracting new customers and maintaining the novelty for existing ones.

 
The Parkway Parade outlet at the first floor of the shopping mall feels much bigger than the Tanjong Pagar and Tampines outlets partly because there are two sitting areas separated by the walkway. The Tanjong Pagar outlet felt more cramped as the tables were rather close to one another while the Tampines outlet also had similar issues as it isn't a proper shop space within the Century Square building. Lighting-wise, the Tanjong Pagar outlet was on the dark side since it was within a shophouse and there were not many windows to let in the natural light from outside while the Tampines outlet could be a bit dark if there was a lack of sunlight coming through the full-length glass windows as one side of the restaurant was facing the building. Comparatively, the Parkway Parade outlet felt less restrictive in terms of space and the warm orange lighting made it feel cosier. The shop space area houses the bar counter on the left, the sitting area in the centre, the kitchen at the back and a series of wall display shelves on the right containing bottles of food items such as spices and fruits. It might be good to fill up the entire display area as some bottles were empty so it didn't look as nice as it could have been. The first row of the shelves were also not lighted up so by fixing that, the whole display would stand out more prominently.

 
The other seating area outside the shop space can be likened to be semi-al fresco because there are no walls on the boundaries so you would be able to look across to other restaurants near Chicken Up. The borderless design makes the area look more spacious than it actually is. In addition, you don't need to bear with the heat like in the Tampines outlet because the outdoor seats there are exposed to the elements. In the Parkway Parade outlet, you get to enjoy an al fresco feel in air-conditioned comfort. Based on this reason alone, I think customers would be happier to sit in the "outdoor" area than if they had to contend with the heat, dust from vehicle traffic or even the haze which is becoming an annual issue when the winds are not in our favour.

Being a Korean restaurant, there is no lack of Kpop music as the BGM which should attract young people who like Korean pop culture and food. I heard a number of my favourites during the entire tasting session which I think is good in improving the dining experience. Ever since the Korean drama "He who came from the stars" (별에서 온 그대) became a hit, chi-maek (치맥) i.e. fried chicken and beer has suddenly become a very attractive combination to many people. For chi-maek fans, you would be happy to know about the chi-maek buffet offered by Chicken Up at its Tanjong Pagar, Tampines, Buangkok and of course Parkway Parade outlets where you can eat an unlimited amount of chicken wings with beer or soju at a fixed price. On most days, ladies can get this deal at $35++ each while gentlemen who are expected to be able to consume more, have to pay a $10 premium on top of this amount. Note that if you are coming on a Friday, there would be a surcharge of $20.

 
For customers who may be clueless about what to order especially if this is their first time here, Chicken Up provides a list of their best-selling food, drinks and desserts on the first few pages of its menu. Although not everyone may like what's popular among the masses, it is helpful for those who may have difficulty deciding even after going through the entire menu. With the presence of photos as visual aids, this allows customers to see at a glance what to expect. In the event that they are interested in a particular item, they can then refer to the detailed menu for a list of what goes into which dish and the spiciness level. For those who may have special dietary concerns due to various reasons as religion, I would recommend that you check the ingredients list before ordering. In my case, I keep a lookout for dishes which contain beef or beef-related items when I dine out so that I would not eat such dishes unwittingly. As such, Chicken Up's efforts in trying to provide the list of ingredients is indeed commendable and helpful to people like me. I wish more restaurants would be more considerate in this regard.

 
First to be served was the pineapple soju (파인애플소주, $30). Even before the top of the pineapple was removed, the sweet scent from the fruit was hard to ignore and it looked good visually. The small soju shot glasses were used to serve this type of soju. Much as I'm not really into alcoholic drinks, the pineapple soju tasted better than I expected. A note of warning though, because the sweetness of the pineapple soju is picked up by the tongue first before the taste of the soju kicks in, you may be tempted to drink this at a faster pace than your body can take it. It would be recommended to go easy on the drink because soju's alcohol content varies from 16.7% to 45% so there is a risk of getting drunk before you finish your meal. Perhaps not drinking on an empty stomach and pacing yourself would be the best way to ensure that you can enjoy this drink without causing any undesirable effects after your meal.

 
The watermelon soju (수박소주, $38) was served in an entirely different manner though. First of all, one bottle of soju was poured into half a watermelon with the fruit removed which set off the first wave of white smoke flowing out and collective responses of amazement among the participants. Another bottle of the soju was then emptied into the watermelon as seen from the picture. The soju was then served in droplet-shaped bowls which were much bigger than the soju shot glasses. Comparatively, this may not go down well with the casual drinker because the strong soju taste hit the tongue in such a manner that it felt like scalding due to hot water. The watermelon taste was not as noticeable when compared to its pineapple counterpart which I assume to be that the soju overpowered the taste of the watermelon.

Frankly speaking, for people who can hardly drink or only drink once in a while, the watermelon may not be suitable for you. For those who can hold their liquor well, this would be good if you are eating in a group and the aesthetic appeal of this item would definitely lift the atmosphere of your meal outing as soon as this gets served on your table. On the other hand, if you are new to soju and can't really boast about being a good drinker, go for the pineapple soju which is less intimidating and easier on your palette. Portion-wise, it would be less likely for you to get drunk since the volume of the pineapple should be lesser than that of the watermelon.For those who may be wondering, the type of soju being used here is Sodal 쏘달 from Jinro which contains 16.9% of alcohol.

 
Makguksu (막구수, $12) which is essentially cold buckwheat noodle salad, was one of my Top 3 favourite dishes during the food tasting. Besides buckwheat noodles, there were vegetables such as cabbage and carrots, seaweed shreds, one-half of a hard-boiled egg and a vinegar-like dressing. Even before the ingredients were mixed, this dish already gave off a refreshing aroma even though it was not a hot dish. Despite being slightly cold, the makgusu offered an unique combination of sour vs. spicy (the dressing) and soft vs. crunchy (the noodles and the vegetables) thus making it a very appealing appetiser to begin the meal with. Portion-wise, it's good enough to be shared among a few people so for people who must have their greens and carbohydrates, this would be a pretty good choice to get started.

 
Topokki with cheese and seafood (해물치즈떡볶이, $20) would be a dish popular with those who like spicy food. Most topokki dishes in Korean restaurants tend to have just the deok (rice cakes), the odaeng (fish cakes) and hard-boiled eggs or with ramyeon at times. However, Chicken Up's version chooses to do away with this convention and adds seafood such as squid and scallops along with glass noodles and onions to the standard ingredient of deok. A generous amount of shredded cheese is placed on top thus giving the dish a thick and gooey texture once it is mixed into the topokki's spicy sauce. Be warned that this can be quite stimulating on your tongue so for those who are not too good with spicy food, you may wish to reconsider your choice. For those who relish spicy food, this should be a very attractive option. As for those who can't take beef-related items just like me, note that there is beef seasoning used in this dish.

 
The seafood pancake (해물파전, $18) here was also somewhat different from the traditional version elsewhere. In many Korean restaurants, the seafood pancakes are usually thin with crisp edges and presented as a big full circle. Sometimes, they are cut up in pieces of different sizes in the kitchen while at times, they are only cut and served at the table. The version here lined up the four square pieces of the pancake neatly on the plate and each slice was comparatively thicker than the norm. However, I found that the proportion of the batter was more than what I would have preferred so I could hardly taste the spring onions and seafood bits within the pancake. The dipping sauce was also modified to become somewhat similar to chili sauce with a savoury twist as it contained chili sauce, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sugar and undisclosed spices. This is quite different from the usual soy sauce with spring onions and chili used elsewhere. Perhaps it's a matter of old habits die hard but I do prefer the traditional sauce when eating this dish. Given the price of this dish, I also feel that the portion may be too little and the small number of pieces will probably mean that it's going to be harder to share this dish in a large group setting unless multiple portions are ordered. For a small group though, this will be just nice as compared to the larger traditional version. I guess the suitability of a dish really depends on how big your dining party is.

 
There are two types of fries being offered here i.e. the bulgogi fries (불고기프라이스, $18) and the kimchi fries (김치프라이스, $18). As the bulgogi fries contain beef, I would not be able to give an accurate assessment of that since I did not sample this dish. However, the kimchi fries which are covered in a mayonnaise-based sauce with melted cheese, spring onions, shallots and shredded chicken which had been cooked in chicken stock contains a mixture of different flavours coming together to deliver an unique taste. The sourish kimchi coupled with the sweet mayonnaise and cheese, the crunchiness brought about by the vegetables and the texture added by the flavoured chicken shreds combine to create a new type of fries that isn't so common out there. The only flaw I notice is that the fries at the bottom of the tray tend not to be covered by the sauce thus it might be good to have an option of ordering more dipping sauce for those who find themselves running out of sauce or would prefer to have more of it. Surprisingly, despite the use of kimchi in this dish, there seems to be a lack of the signature spiciness from the kimchi so for those who are concerned about spiciness, it looks like it won't be an issue for this dish.

 
Jabchae (잡채, $14) is a stir-fried dish made up primarily by glass noodles, spring onions, carrots, onions, capsicum and sesame seeds. The version here which I also chose as one of my top 3 favourites, was nicely flavoured without an oily aftertaste. Even when left to cool (because we were busy taking pictures), the glass noodles remained springy instead of becoming a messy lump. Although there are some versions of this dish which contain pork or beef, Chicken Up's version doesn't. As such, for those who are looking for a noodle dish to satisfy their carbohydrates need and yet doesn't want to consume more meat or wants to eat some vegetables, this would be another viable option just like the makgusu introduced earlier on. However, the key difference between both dishes is that the makgusu would be more suitable to be an appetiser while while the jabchae is more like a side dish to be eaten together with the main course.

 
During my last visit to Chicken Up, I did not notice that there was budae jjigae (부대찌개, $30), also known as army stew on the menu. I'm not sure if this was newly added recently though. The strange thing is that, it is known as Ugly Tang Stew even though the Korean name printed on the menu remains as budae jjigae. Apparently, this name was given to represent the mixture of the ingredients in the stew which look rather messy because there are many types of items inside the top. Budae jjigae apparently started as a food item for soldiers where they added anything they had into the kimchi-based stew because food was scarce then. There are no fixed rules on what must go into this dish but as far as I could see, the standard items of ramyeon, deok, ham, luncheon meat (not sure if this is the SPAM canned meat from Korea), chili, spring onions, onions, macaroni and cheese were all there. As for the soy beans (not baked beans) and enoki mushrooms, they probably aren't considered to be part of the menu for budae jjigae. The soup is also a bit different in the sense that the gochujang (chili paste) is mixed into a kimchi-based soup but here in Chicken Up, a clear stock made of chicken is poured into the pot while the gochujang is shaped into a sphere, placed on top of the ingredients and blended in when the soup boils. As such, the taste here is somewhat lighter and not as spicy than the usual budae jjigae.

Looking at the photo, it is evident that the pot was almost full by the time the soup was poured in. It can be a bit difficult to stir the contents without some of the soup flowing out of the pot. As such, it might be better to use a bigger pot if possible e.g. the flat-type big pans usually used for budae jjigae. Otherwise, it would be best to pour in the soup over several times to avoid the contents from overflowing.

 
Finally, here are the leads at Chicken Up i.e. the fried chicken! There are three flavours available i.e. ganjang (soya sauce), yangnyum and spicy. During the tasting, we were given the first two flavours to try.

Korean fried chicken is done differently from the usual style of fried chicken we get elsewhere as it is deep-fried twice and coated with a sauce using a brush after deep-frying. As such, this is said to be the reason why Korean fried chicken is less greasy and crunchier than its competition. It is also said that Korean fried chicken restaurants tend to use small or medium-sized chickens which have more tender meat thus contributing to the popularity of this dish.

The ganjang chicken wings (진짜 유명 간장 지킨윙, $12) which interestingly is listed as "very famous ganjang chicken wings" in Korean on the menu, had a light sheen on their skin due to the glazing of the soy sauce which also played a pivotal role in making the skin moist to the taste. Unlike other deep-fried chicken wings which may tend to be either too oily or dry on the surface, the presence of the ganjang helps to accentuate the flavour to a certain extent and retains the moisture in the skin. In addition, the deep-frying method used to make the chicken wings also played a key role in sealing the natural juices of the chicken meat without drying it out. Although it would be good if the flavour of the ganjang could also be tasted in the chicken meat rather than just at the skin level, this might make the entire dish a bit too salty to my liking so I think the current method of just coating the ganjang still works best. On the whole, this version of the chicken wings ranks in my top 3 but I think that there is a limit to how many I can eat these at one sitting because the soy sauce becomes a bit too heavy on the palate after a while.

 
On the other hand, the yangnyum version (양념치킨윙, $12) looked very different from the ganjang version as the chicken wings were coated in a red and sticky sauce which typically consists of gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste), ketchup, garlic and corn syrup. White sesame seeds were then sprinkled on the chicken wings as shown in the photo. For those who prefer a slightly spicier version of the chicken wings, this should be suitable for you. Even for people who may not be a fan of spicy food, the level of spiciness in this dish is still manageable to a certain extent. Similarly, the meat of the chicken wings was still tender and juicy just like the ganjang version. Personally, I think that this would taste best when eaten with alcoholic drinks such as beer and it doesn't feel as overwhelming on the palate even after eating multiple pieces.

In conclusion, the entire tasting event was very enjoyable and I found it to be a great eye opener. This review turned out to be much longer than I initially expected so if you have read this till the end, thank you for your time and attention and hope that you were not bored by this. Special thanks goes to the staff at Chicken Up who tried to make us comfortable and answered the numerous questions we had and Open Rice for giving me the opportunity to try this new outlet. Till the next tasting event then!

 
Recommended Dish(es):  Makgusu,Jabchae,Ganjang chicken wings,Yangnyum chicken wings
 
Date of Visit: Dec 08, 2015 

Dining Offers: 試食活動


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