Thursday 27 July 2023

Niu Dian Holland Village – New Beef Rice Bowl Series [MEDIA INVITE]

Niu Dian, the 3 consecutive years Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee in Taiwan, has officially opened its second outlet in Holland Village. Spurred by the success of the first Singapore outlet in Balestier, Niu Dian’s Founder, Mr Lin Chun Ying will be introducing a brand-new beef rice bowl series to provide a delightful alternative to their beef noodles. (Full review of Niu Dian Balestier is available here).

Niu Dian Holland Village
We started our meal with the side dishes Cold Century Egg Tofu with Bonito Flakes ($5.90) and Braised Beancurd ($3.90). Served cold, the tofu is soft and silky, topped with century egg, covered with sweet brown gravy and loads of shaved bonito. The overall dish is just creamy, refreshing finished off with umami flavour from the gravy and bonito.

Cold Century Egg Tofu with Bonito Flakes 
Meanwhile, the braised beancurd is served warm and has a chewy texture filled with traditional smoky flavour. When I bit it, the beancurd was bursting with the braising liquid. A familiar taste of beancurd usually found in Taiwan.

Braised Beancurd
Niu Dian outlet at Holland Village has 3 new beef rice bowl dishes on the menu.

1. Combination Speciality Beef Pearl Rice Bowl (Boneless Rib Cut + Tendon + Tripe + Golden Coin) - $19.90
2. Trio Speciality Beef Pearl Rice Bowl (Boneless Rib Cut + Tendon + Golden Coin) - $19.90
3. Shredded Beef Pearl Rice Bowl - $15.90

Shredded Beef Pearl Rice Bowl 
LD chose the shredded beef pearl rice bowl because the meat is different compared to those in the noodle section. The pearl rice is topped with egg, cooked oyakodon style, also known as Tanidon. The egg is creamy, infused with the sweetness of the onion and beef broth. The shredded beef uses mini slices from the golden coin and boneless rib cut. The standard flavour of this dish is spicy, as the signature Niu Dian’s chilli is folded into the rice.

Shredded Beef Pearl Rice Bowl 
Shredded Beef Pearl Rice Bowl 
I choose the Combination Speciality Beef Noodles Set (Boneless Rib Cut + Tendon + Tripe + Golden Coin) - $19.90. The broth has a nice yellowy colour broth, infused with the essence of the beef. A nice-looking beef consommé. The rib cut and golden coin cut are amazingly tender. The tendon is soft with a delicate crunchy texture, while the tripe is springy yet soft. The cuts of the beef tasted clean and packed with delicious beef flavour and without any gamey beef taste. The chopped spring onions are imported from Taiwan, the aromatic aroma just complements this bowl of soup perfectly.

Combination Speciality Beef Noodles Set 
Golden Coin
I realise there is a difference in the noodle compared to the initial version. The original noodle was hard and thick with a lovely chewiness on it. However, Mr Lin told us that due to the feedback from Singapore customers, he adjusted the thickness of the noodle and made it silkier. We both prefer the original version as it is just like what we taste in Taiwan.

Boneless Rib Cut
Accompanying our meal is the palace tea. We ordered the Lime & Sour Plum Green Tea with Aiyu ($5.70) and Osmanthus Oolong Jelly Tea ($5.70). Both type of tea is good to balance the beefiness in the meal.

Lime & Sour Plum Green Tea with Aiyu &
Osmanthus Oolong Jelly Tea
Other than the Media Tasting Menu, we also ordered other side dishes Pickled Radish ($4.90) and Cold King Oyster Mushroom ($4.90). We like the pickled radish as it is crunchy and sourish, which is good to cuts through the “jelakness” of the meat.

Pickled Radish
The King Oyster Mushroom has a delightful chewiness in it, marinated in spicy mala sauce. Meanwhile, the cubed pickled radish is crunchy, covered in sweet and sour marinate. It looks like the pickled radish you get when eating Korean Fried Chicken.

Cold King Oyster Mushroom
The Side Dishes
The décor of the restaurant is inspired by its Taiwanese roots. Combination of solid wooden tables and chairs that are classy and elegant. The twist in the décor is the display of Bearbricks Sculptures, which seems a bit out of place. The service is friendly, though on the minimum side as the ordering is done through the QR code on each table.

Part of Dining Area
Overall, Niu Dian not only has expanded its presence to Holland Village, but they also expand its menu to provide alternative to beef noodles. The beef rice bowl series has its own characteristics and comparable to their noodle series as well. Cheers!!

Thank you very much Protegie and Niu Dian Beef Noodles for the invitation.

Food & Drink: 8.5/10
Value: 8/10
Service: N/A (Tasting Invitation)
Ambiance: 7.5/10
Budget per Person: $26 - $50

Niu Dian @Holland Village
15A Lor Liput
Singapore 277730

Sun – Thu: 11.00– 21.30
Fri & Sat: 11.00 – 22.00 (LO 21.30)
Menu available here

Friday 21 July 2023

Sichuan Alley – Comforting Sichuan Dishes [MEDIA INVITE]

Sichuan Alley is a concept by The Foreign Project Group. Sichuan Alley is the expanded version of the Sichuan Alley noodle bar and took over the space of the defunct Basdban. Sichuan Alley (“SA”) serves hearty Sichuan dishes, comforting noodle dishes, complemented with creative cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.

Sichuan Alley
Outdoor Seating
We started our meal with Small Plates and Signature Dishes. Zhang Fei Beef Slice ($11). It is a traditional dish normally served during the Spring festival in Sichuan area. Known to be low in fat, this dish uses the lean part of the beef and marinated with spiced powder. In SA, the marinade beef is thinly sliced, showcasing the bright pink flesh in the middle and penetrated by the spices. Think of it like Sichuan’s version of beef jerky.

Zhang Fei Beef Slice
Zhang Fei Beef Slice
Smoked Pork Liver ($7.50). A Sichuan version of dried pork liver pate, wrapping the egg yolk in the middle. It is served in thin slices, so you can taste the slightly dried texture of the pork liver and egg yolk.

Smoked Pork Liver
Fried Pig Intestines ($7.50). Deep-fried pork intestines stuffed with leek. I like the crispy and crunchy texture of the pork intestines exterior, follow by the chewy interior. It is stuffed with leek, which introduced a sweet flavour into the dish.

Fried Pig Intestines
Fried Pig Intestines
Lalalala Fried Chicken ($22) – Chicken, Lala Clams, Fresh Sichuan Pepper, Green Chili. A popular dish retained from Basdban. This dish will not be out of place in a Fear Factor challenge, as half of the plate is filled with cut Sichuan chilli. Well, I manage to get a few bites of the chicken cubes, that are aromatic and crispy. For the lala, it is like digging into the landmines, as seeds of the chilli or peppercorn might be hidden behind it. Not the dish for me, but Sichuan or spicy food lovers will appreciate this.

Lalalala Fried Chicken 
Lalalala Fried Chicken 
Crispy Pork Dumplings ($6). Perfectly pan-fried pork dumplings, with a crispy base of the skin, bouncy upper part, filled with plump and juicy pork fillings. I ate the first one without the dipping sauce, I find it flavourful and very tasty. For the second piece, I tried with the dipping sauce, I find the spiciness level is manageable.

Crispy Pork Dumpling
The dumplings also come in a boiled version, Hot & Sour Pork Dumpling ($6). The dumplings are boiled and tossed with hot and sour sauce. The flavour is full-on sour and spicy.

Hot & Sour Dumplings
Braised Ox Tongue ($11) – Ox Tongue, Homemade Chilli Sauce. Nicely done, the texture of the ox tongue is tender with a bit of crunchiness. The homemade chilli sauce is not spicy, instead, it enhances the dish further.

Braised Ox Tongue
Next up is Guokui also known as pot helmet, a kind of flat bread originating from Shanxi cuisine. There are two versions of Guokui in SA, Guokui Liang Fei ($7) and Guokui with Braised Pork Belly ($8.50). The first is a vegetarian version, filled with liang fen (mung bean jelly noodles) and red chilli oil. I find the flavour is underwhelming. The guokui has a very dry texture, while the liang fen is silky but mushy. The red chilli oil gives a spicy flavour; however, it seems to be missing the savoury and umami flavour in this dish. I think they should add mushroom or bamboo shoots as filling to give it more bite.

Guokui Liang Fei
The Guokui with Braised Pork Belly is a different story. Filled with braised pork belly and chilli oil, it gave the dry bread the much-needed juiciness and umami flavour. I find it very comforting. Eating the Guokui, you must be ready to get your hand dirty.

Guokui with Braised Pork Belly
Guokui with Braised Pork Belly
Mini Hotpot ($14) – a medley of ingredients that contribute to the richness of texture and flavour in this dish. In the hotpot, it has Tiger Prawn, Potato, Bamboo Shoots, Black Fungus, Bean Sprout, Mushroom, Tofu and Liang Fen. It is a mini party in a bowl.

Mini Hot Pot
Mini Hot Pot
Braised Beef with Bamboo Shoots ($9). The bamboo shoot is just mind-blowing. Crunchy, tasty and soaks up the gravy nicely. It is cooked with beef check, till the beef turned tender and melts in your mouth. In addition, the smoky flavour just elevates this dish further. A lovely “rice thief” dish.

Braised Ox Tongue
Braised Ox Tongue
We finally reach the noodle dishes, starting with President Rice Noodle ($24.50) - Beef Cheek, Pig Intestines, Pork Ribs, Mashed Peas, Vegetable, Coriander, spring onion, crispy chickpeas, rice noodles. This is the most luxurious noodle dish in SA. The rice noodle is smooth and silky, accompanied by three main protein dishes and topped with a lovely fried egg. The broth of the soup also comes in three options clear, red or mixed.

President Rice Noodle 
While the default is served in the soup version, I decided to make my dry version of the noodle. I took out a bit of noodle in a small bowl, then I ate it with braised beef cheek, pork ribs and braised intestines. It was packed with flavour and give a different flavour to the noodle.

The Noodle
The Noodle with the Ingredients
Mashed Peas Dan Dan Noodles ($13.50) – Mashed Peas, Minced Beef, Coriander, Thick Noodles. The noodle is thick, bouncy and crunchy. You mixed all the ingredients, it become like a version of mazesoba. Though the noodle comes with fresh chilli, I find the spiciness level is manageable.

Mashed Peas Dan Dan Noodles 
Mashed Peas Dan Dan Noodles Mixed 
Mushroom with Chicken Broth Rice Noodle ($11.50) – Clear, Chicken Broth, Mushroom, Spring Onion, Rice Noodle. A very comforting and healthy version of the noodle here. The rice noodle is silky and it soaks up the chicken broth very fast. Surprisingly, the noodle remains silky and did not become mushy. The clear broth is robust, packed with the essence of the chicken and mushroom. I also like the bamboo pith in this dish.

Mushroom with Chicken Broth Rice Noodle 
To cool down the fire at the end, I finish off with Black Plum Ice Tea ($8). It is refreshing with a combination of sweet and sour as well.

Black Plum Ice Tea
Cocktail - Bamboo Breeze
Chengdu Fizz
While there are no major changes in the furniture of Sichuan Alley, the décor has mellow. Instead of edgy and funky neon light, SA’s atmosphere is leaning towards zen, blending traditional elements such as the use of Chinese cloth fabric shade lighting and paintings of traditional costumes.

Part of the Indoor Dining Area
The Bar
The Decor
The Menu
Overall, I like the new version of Sichuan Alley. I feel the dishes served are more affordable, comforting and can be enjoyed regularly. I recommend the noodles, braised beef with bamboo shoots, mini hotpot and fried pig intestines. Cheers!!

Food & Drink: 8/10
Value: 8/10
Service: N/A (Tasting Invitation)
Ambiance: 8/10
Budget per Person: $11 – $25;$26 - $50

Sichuan Alley
51 Telok Ayer Street
Singapore 048441

T: +65 9755 1058
Mon – Fri: 10.30 – 22.00
Sat – Sun: 10.30 – 21.00
Menu available online

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