Sep 182012

In the post on Fish Head Curry I mentioned that Muthu’s also does a very good centerpiece dish – a Tandoori Fish Head. They face some stiff competition in the Indian fine dining space along Race Course Road from the likes of Gayatri and Banana Leaf Apolo. This dish is one of the ways that they stand out.

Tandoori Fish Head, Muthu's, Little India, Singapore

Muthu’s has a lot going for it – a very good Fish Head Curry, a wide variety of other food options, good service, and a glassed in tandoor oven area – the tandoor (a clay circular pit oven) provides interesting entertainment. Observing a skilled chef placing naan bread in a tandoor is quite something, and the guys at Muthu’s are quite good natured about having an audience.
The Tandoori Fish Head takes 20 minutes to prepare and cook – this provides time to soak up the atmosphere, some other dishes or snacks, and a Kingfisher beer or two.
The Fish Head arrives, served with mint chatni and tamarind sauce, to the admiring comments of those that have not seen this dish before. The meat is slightly crisped on the outside from the tandoor – but soft and succulent tasty on the inside. The tandoori marinade is spicy enough without being overpowering.
Before long, it is gone. If you think that there cannot be a lot of meat on a fish head, just compare this “meal’s end” photo with the one above:

Tandoori Fish Head at Meal's End, Muthu's, Little India, Singapore
This is one of my must try recommendations for anyone interested in Indian food in Singapore – alongside the vegetarian dosa and the humble roti prata, it is one of my favourite things to eat here.

Sep 082012

Lebanon has one of my favourite cuisines – it is something I’ve eaten regularly throughout my adult life. There is something very satisfying about rolling meat, sauce and salad inside a piece of soft flat bread and consuming it bite by bite.

I worked in the financial district near Marina Bay for 12 months – one of the highlights was a huge variety of lunch options. I’ve explained before that discussing food recommendations is a great way to get to know people here. I remember, a year or so ago, talking with colleagues about how I missed really good Lebanese food.  One of my colleagues and friends, Tim, is Lebanese Australian  and could not recommend Urban Bites enough  – he described it as the food his mother would make (high praise coming from him). We went together that lunchtime and I found it very good indeed. I’ve been going there a couple of times a month or more ever since – always with a group, as it is a cuisine made for sharing.

Dinner on Friday started, as usual there, with pickled vegetables – peppers, carrots, lupins and olives:

The mezze platter was next – wara aarish (dolmades), hommous, baba ganoush, felafels, fattoush, labneh, tabouleh and bread so fresh from the oven it was still puffy. I have to say that the oven is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to Urban Bites – a wood fired oven you can watch being used from the dining area. The dips and salads are full of fresh flavours – trying different combinations of these on bread with the odd bit of meat is a neverending delight.

Next up, the mixed grill – kebabs of chicken, lamb and beef served with rice and and onion salad. The dipping sauces on the left there include a very good tum (garlic sauce) – if you have ever enjoyed a good tum you’ll know what I am talking about. The meat is well seasoned, and just as important, not overcooked.

And then, more of that wonderful chewy soft bread, slathered with labneh and topped with choice items from the table:

The two pizzas we ordered were manoushi (pizza topped with zattir or crushed thyme) and lahem bi ajeen  (pizza topped with minced lamb) – these are very good as is or slathered with labneh, hommous or (my favourite) baba ganoush:

We ended up with quite an impressive spread – the danger (and joy) of eating regularly at Urban Bites is that there are many favourites we have time after time, and ordering them all soon covers the table:

The three of us dining that night did get through this magnificent feast – by main course’s end, we stopped to survey the damage and congratulate ourselves:

Thankfully there was room for dessert – Urban Bites make their own, and all are delicious. We had two types of semolina pastries with pistachio – namoura bi ashta (sweet semolina pastry with a cream filling), and namoura (without filling).

Because of its location in the financial district, Urban Bites is full with a line for tables every weekday lunchtime, yet usually has a table free at night. If you like Middle Eastern food, I can heartily recommend it as a dinner venue – and if you are free at lunchtime through the week, you can get the good value set lunch (SGD12) to sample what they have.

I have tried many Middle Eastern eateries in Singapore, including several in the Arab Street/Kampong Glam area – for pure Lebanese cuisine goodness I have not found a better place than Urban Bites. I expect it will remain one of my regular haunts for as long as I live here in Singapore.

To get to Urban Bites: take the MRT to Raffles Place, take the Lau Par Sat exit, walk down Robinson Road until you get to Boon Tat Street, walk down Boon Tat a couple of blocks until you get to Telok Ayer Street and turn left – it is just past the peanut pancake place. If coming by taxi, ask the driver to take you to the place opposite the Chinese temple on Telok Ayer.

Sep 022012

Sometimes, guys dare one another to do stupid things.

I’m not excusing it, but it happens. Sometimes, it is about physically dangerous extreme sports, or standing up to the boss, or going to that bar (you know, the one where the ladies are very pleased to talk with you).

Anyhow, there is another kind of foolishness: eating the hottest chicken wings in Singapore.

I’ve spoken to many people who know of this bar or that club that has chili chicken wings. And they are hot. Sometimes painfully so. But I have never experienced anything like Buckaroo’s, up north in Sembawang. You know of hotter? Leave a comment, let me know.

Buckaroo’s has the non-spicy wings – good onion rings, good pork spare ribs, good steak, plenty of beer, cocktails, and all that. Normal pub food, and it is good pub food. But then there are the spicy wings. Chili wings. The wings that stupid guys dare stupider guys to eat.

The spicy wings start at Level 1, the mildest. They go to Level 4 on the menu, with a note that you can go to Level 10. You can even go one step further to the “Level To Kill” (these are, to put it simply, deadly). This is a plate of Level 10 wings:

Let’s talk about the Level 10 wings. I’ve been to Buckaroo’s several times, and enjoyed myself immensely. I have also known pain whenever I have been silly enough to go beyond Level 4 on the chili chicken wings. I am the only person I know that has done this twice (which says something, I know).

Imagine the spiciest thing you’ve ever eaten in terms of sheer burning chili heat. Double that, add your birth year, double it again. And that is how hot the Level 10 wings are.

While I am not advocating that you undertake this same exercise in self harm, it is truly an experience. If you do choose to undertake this ordeal, you will never forget it :) My only advice is to start with the Level 2 or Level 3 wings first – ease into it. And if in doubt before or after, seek medical advice.

The chili pain of the Level 10 wing starts pretty much on the first bite, and remains with the diner throughout the rest of the meal, regardless of what else is consumed. I stopped when it felt like my throat was closing up (and I know I am not allergic to chili – these are just that hot). The first time I ate Level 10 wings I used my fingers, and I could still feel the tingling burn between them the next day. The second time, I used a knife and fork, and this reduced the affected area to just my lips, tongue, inside of my mouth and throat.

I’ll leave the gastro-intestinal effects to your imagination.

There is other food there – the onion rings are probably the best I’ve eaten (certainly for a long time anyhow) – breaded, not battered, and they come in these neat stacked towers:

There is also a good selection of alcoholic beverages for those so inclined to one or two (and a note to self – stopping at two reduces the chances of succumbing to a dare to eat Level 10 wings, Andrew). This is the Margarita:

And at meal’s end, the group reflects on the meal that was, and everyone feels fairly satisfied. The sensible compliment themselves on stopping at Level 2 or Level 3 wings, and the foolhardy hold their heads high in the knowledge that while they may feel foolish tomorrow, tonight they are the brave few.

Will I go to Buckaroo’s again? Yes, absolutely.

But I will stop at the Level 4 wings, I promise :)