Tanuki Raw – The art of illusion


As a chef, I value feedback from my customers. It is even more welcoming when it is justified because it gives me the chance to better understand the food I cook and my customers’ expectations.

There are however two types of criticisms that do not sit well with me –  1. A critique about me not meeting my customers individual palates or unique preferences, 2. That the technique and quality should have been done better. The latter stings the most. I berate myself  when I pass off a dish that while competent, is not up to scratch  and I get called out on my bulls**t.

My recent foray into Tanuki Raw at Orchard Central, led me to think that I have been sold a raging river of questionable food blogs (Influencers marketing) and super-trendy-super-hip-ultra-hype.

I took my sous chef Jennifer, her partner and Cheryl out for a congratulatory dinner as Jennifer had won the silver medal at the Food and Hotel Asia Team Gourmet Challenge 2016. I was very proud of all her hard work and dedication and wanted a dining extravaganza that would excite and surprise, an experience that would open up the process of creativity so that we could expand our culinary knowledge and maybe get us contemplating on an idea or two for the next competition.

A quick internet search revealed that the name tanuki refers to a Japanese raccoon dog with an ancient association to the magical and supernatural. In mystical tradition, it is known to carry magical abilities the likes of an illusionist or a trickster . “The tanuki …. changes its form for the sake of tempting people, tanuki do so to fool people and make them seem stupid”. Never have there been truer words than this, when referencing my dining experience at Tanuki Raw.

To explain the illusion, it is pertinent that you understand the three sections of a magician’s act: the Opener, the Middle Ground and the Closer. Follow me as I lead you through the illusion that is Tanuki Raw.

The Opener (a fast and flashy distraction that catches the audience’s attention), or set-up in this case, was quite convincing; bustling crowd, hip modern industrial interiors, cyberspace white noise (see food blogger chatter), al fresco dining, hipster menu layout , expensive prices, good sake selection, $2 oyster happy hour and a pinch of trendy diners and *Instagrammers photo-documenting every course. The stage is set and the illusion begins.

* Disclaimer – I fall into said category and as such have become an unknowing participant of setting up and creating the apparition of a dining utopia.

Everything seemed above board so this place must be the real deal right?

Let’s move on to the second act, the Middle Ground; this is the meat and bones of the show. The food in this instance will take center stage and here is where the kitchen begins its slight of hand. This is where the illusion (assuming you have a vast food knowledge), begins to crumble.

IMG_0344Foie Gras Truffle Yakiniku (Grilled Meat) Don buri – Pan seared foie gras , onsen egg , short rib, truffle soy and Japanese rice

Yakiniku is traditionally cooked on a Shichirin (Japanese BBQ grill) over Ogatan (charcoal sawdust briquettes). However, for our first trick, we were presented a sous vide short rib that had been pan-finished or lightly  blowtorched. Imagine sous vide satay without the smokey char from the fuelled charcoal flames and you will have the general idea – that stuff doesn’t fly at a food court and won’t fly here.

The dish lacked seasoning, begging me to question if the illusion was a hidden ploy to suggest that if you have to ask for salt, you clearly cannot appreciate the delicate umami flavours at play.

I was told by the waiter they do not have salt in the dining room so he would need to ask the kitchen for some. After a liberal dose of salt, the taste was satisfactory but still, unmemorable.


Uni Donut – Sea urchin , onsen egg on a Tanuki style pull apart donut with crispy bonito flakes and seaweed

Our next trick and probably the best of the Middle Ground segment had been recommended by countless “independent” bloggers. Sadly the taste was a sore miss; once the egg and uni were gone all that was left was a dry donut labouring to find its purpose underneath.


Instgram This Maki – Yakiniku steak, avocado, tamago and bacon maki topped with ketchup and onions.

Catchy name ain’t it? I have to admit that the name itself did get us hyped up. Smart move Tanuki Raw. Surely this would be a dish of redemption. Perhaps it would appease our wanting tastebuds or at least provide one extraordinary Instagram-worthy photo.

Alas, the presentation was uninspired. The lack of originality taunted the photo filters and glamour glows I threw at it as the possibility of a good snapshot cascaded from my hands like a Russian shuffle.

It tasted like a burger, just not a very good one and there was that term again – Yakiniku (I wonder how long I have to wait till McDonald’s starts referring to their patties as Yakiniku patties to illicit some hipster street cred).


Wham fries – Umami Gruyere melted over sweet potato fries topped with marshmallow

I picture this as being the ugly child of a drunken mistaken union between Epic Meal Time and Guy Fieri. What an abrasive grandstanding name. If I gave a hint of credence to those two shows, this should have been the greatest invention since the Croque Monsieur. Sadly it was just a crock.

While it makes for a good photo, the only thing it had going for it was its slightly quirky and interesting name. Just as a pretty picture doesn’t always tell the whole story, you won’t know how disjointed the flavours and textures of this dish are until you pop some in your mouth. But once you scrape off all the residual crud,  the sweet potato fries tastes pretty good (though horribly under-seasoned; I was beginning to think the kitchen staff were allergic to salt).


Crack Wings – Fried chicken wings marinated in salted egg yolk and miso

Sadly not as addictive or as crispy as its name implies; one bite and the table erupted into a spirited discussion on where we could get some decent wings or some decent food.

It was hastily decided that the closest place with reliable food and reasonable prices was PasarBella at Suntec City. We quickly summoned our waiter, settled the bill and ran out the door without giving Tanuki San a chance to perform the Closer (that one final trick that usually leaves the biggest impression on the audience’s mind, allowing them to forgive you for any small mishaps during the show).

In this case the Closer would be to ply us with enough sake so that we forgot we ate there.

I reference a magicians term yet again as I look back and discover that our experience was the culinary equivalent of a Monte (a famous con game where three cards are thrown down and the mark, or in this case the customer, has to follow a chosen card but due to a sleight of hand, the mark never wins). The three cards in this example were the Trendy Crowd, the Influencers (food bloggers) and the Aesthetics. Suffice to say, the substance behind the theatrics was empty and void.

I had the distinct impression that my fellow diners and I had been hoodwinked. I will assume the gimmick of fusion was designed to misdirect diners from the lack of care in not only the flavour department (and its lack of flavour balance) but also the lack of respect for the ingredients and traditions from which those elements borrowed from. Instead of leaving in a state of disoriented pleasure, we left with the sense that we had just witnessed a disjointed and poorly articulated attempt to replicate Momofuku.

I am done being misdirected and made a fool of by the Japanese racoon dog. Once bitten, twice shy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this review are based on my own personal experiences while dining at Tanuki Raw’s Orchard Central branch.  As such, this is not a representation of the brand or any of its affiliates as a whole. 

Passion & Purpose -An Evening with Chef Anderson Ho

If you have been reading the blog these few days you would have seen how busy we’ve been the past long weekend, preparing and gorging on gastronomic delights. When I cook at home I like to prepare simple hearty dishes that invoke memories of large family gatherings, sitting around a kitchen table surrounded by loved ones. I am a sucker for simple food done well. I love being wowed by complex food pairings that I wouldn’t have thought of and expanding my flavour knowledge when dining out. I have in turn discovered many flavour pairings I may not have previously understood.

Our weekend began with a sit-down seafood dinner exploring the impressive range from Snorre Food. Thankfully, we were guests and it gave us a chance to rest and relax before our marathon, back-to-back home dining schedule that was to unfold.

The chef of the evening was Anderson Ho, who during his tenure at the Raffles Hotel, had worked with European master chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Alain Senderens and Gerard Boyer, honing his skills in contemporary French cuisine. He is a chef advisor and mentor to the Singaporean National Culinary team, a cookbook author, food stylist and all-round great guy  who I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from for the past several years. As always, I was very impressed with Chef Anderson’s delicate pairings and the respect he always gives to his ingredients, taking us on a multi-sensorial journey through the seafood Snorre provided.

FullSizeRender5Amuse Bouche – King crab, radish salad, yuzu gelee & avocado creme

FullSizeRender4Appetizer – Fennel & coriander cured salmon, citrus fennel salad, salmon roe and creme fraiche

FullSizeRender3I do love the theatrics of having piping hot soup poured into my dish by the chef

IMG_0290Soup – Seared scallop and poached oyster Jerusalem artichoke veloute

FullSizeRender2The two hungry diners patiently awaiting our next course

FullSizeRenderIce – Shaved tomato ice, basil syrup sour plum dust

IMG_0289Main – Sterling white halibut , marjoram oil, sago pearls and mousseline Potato

Dessert.jpgDessert – Strawberry symphony ( I love the textural play of the microsponge, strawberry gel sheet and crunchy meringue)

I am pleased to say that the dinner was fantastic. I was grateful for the opportunity to support Chef Anderson, who did a wonderful job despite the limited resources for the evening.

We left the dinner well satisfied and when we got home, we found our cocker spaniel Savannah comfortably propped on a seat for our scheduled lunch the next day. That girl has an appetite for good food that may well dwarf my own hedonistic desires. She’s always grateful, doesn’t mind if the service is a tad slow and always comes back for more. What more could a chef want?



Chicken “claypot” rice


Last weekend we had Cheryl’s family over for lunch and I decided to prepare chicken claypot rice; only problem is I don’t have a claypot so I decided to try it out in the tagine. I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

After Cheryl’s post on thebakerwhocooks.net, we had a few requests for the recipe so here it is (I’m only posting the recipe, Cheryl is by far the better blogger and her story is a fantastic read so check it out at the link above).

For the garnish:

  • Handful of dried lily flowers (soaked and tough ends cut off)
  • Handful of dried wood ear mushrooms (soak one hour and rough chop)
  • Handful of dried black fungus (soaked and sliced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light soya sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dark soya sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing wine
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1 lap cheong (Chinese sausage), angle sliced
  • 3 chicken thighs (boneless and skin removed)

Toss the soaked fungus and chicken with the rest of the wet ingredients and leave to marinate for about one hour.

For the rice:

  • 1 cup basmati rice (20% brown, 80% white), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Dash of salt
  • 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Combine all of the above in your claypot (or tagine in this case).


Cover the rice mixture with the chicken and fungus garnish (including all the succulent sauces from the marinate), add your lap cheong and give a stir. Cover the pot it on the stove top on high heat for about 6 minutes,  then reduce to low heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

When done, swirl a little sesame oil over the top and give another stir. Serve with kecap manis and a sprinkle of sliced spring onion.

It’s really that simple and makes for a wonderfully fragrant and delicious one pot dish. Don’t stress about the crispy rice bits that accumulate on the sides, these are the best parts. Seasoned claypot addicts (you know who you are) will be thankful for the authenticity.

Dining with Delicacies – The truffle

This long weekend Cheryl and I invited some friends over for an early dinner.

I admit that I’m too lazy to entertain. Some may find that surprising given that I am a chef. Cooking shows give the impression that chefs, after slogging it up in the kitchen, are still driven by their endless passion & love of food, and end up cooking superb feasts for friends, drinking fine wines and lording it up seven nights a week. Nothing could be further from the truth. My go-to meal is a chunky peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of brown rice (done in the rice cooker) with a sprinkling of furikake and some steamed chicken.

As we do not frequently entertain at home I wanted to put the TV chef stereotype to the test. Oh you know the one; he cooks, entertains his guests, refills the drinks yet miraculously has time to sit down to eat, all the while humbly accepting the pats on the back from his friends as they oooo & aahh at his ballerina-like agility and almost demi-god like cooking skills, which he executes without breaking a sweat.

First things first – in reality, kitchens are hot, especially in Singapore so there was no way I was getting away from this without breaking a sweat. Secondly, watching the risotto, toasting the bread, welcoming guests, cooking the mussels, plating the antipasto platter, making the hummus & duck rillette while pouring drinks simultaneously is not my forte. I felt like I could have served better had I possessed the four arms of Vishnu (incidentally that was one of my Cards Against Humanity cards later on in the evening, oh the irony!)

Thankfully Cheryl was there to pick up the pieces and she hosted while I pirouetted round my tiny apartment kitchen, laughing about how easy TV chefs and their production assistants, plating consultants, menu designers etc. made it all look.

Thankfully, by the time everyone was done with the salad and appetizer, it was time for the main event – the wild mushroom and truffle risotto. After shaving the Perigord truffle into the risotto table side (cue oooo and aaahs ), I was finally free to sit down and enjoy the meal, with thoughts of dirty dishes dancing through my head.

I realised just how disconnected the TV chef persona seems from my own reality. As a chef by profession, I cook and prepare food, taste as I work, clean as I go and rarely have to focus on the entertainment aspect. It’s all about the food. I noticed that even after sitting down I was still in chef mode, jumping up every 2 minutes to quickly wash something, clean a counter top, almost as if I was tensely awaiting for the next batch of orders to be delivered to the pass.

What I did take away from the whole experience is: to do more mise en place ahead, give myself more time to sit down, and simply just enjoy the company of my friends (instead of treating the experience as table service). I knew the illusion provided by TV chefs are just plain nonsense.

IMG_0304.JPGSelection of Coppa ham, chorizo, Rosetta salami, double Brie, Comte, and Manchego cheese.

IMG_0306.JPGQuinoa, feta, olives, rocket & sun-dried tomato salad  – thanks to Lindi

IMG_0308.JPGThe Set-up

IMG_0307.JPGThe entertainment

IMG_0305.JPGClams and mussels, white wine & garlic

IMG_0309.JPGThe main event – The shaving of the truffle

IMG_0310.JPGAnd voila – Wild mushroom risotto , shaved Perigord truffle

Dining by design 

I don’t get out to events as much as I’d like. However, last night I was fortunate enough to be invited by  Chef Anderson Ho, one of the most talented chefs I know, to Lavish’s 18 Anniversary gala dinner at Gardens by the Bay.


The evening’s spread was prepared by Chef Teo Yeow Siang, a truly accomplished chef who represented Singapore at the Expogast Culinary World Cup 2014 in Luxembourg.

The theme of the night was ‘catering redefined’ and we tasted plenty of award winning dishes in a showcase of the future of catering.

What a nostalgic backdrop that served as an homage to 1960s Singapore.

We were greeted with a beautiful light display that spanned most of the space above us. Old world food stalls peppered the perimeter, serving crowd pleasing favourites such as laksa , chicken rice, satay and tandoori chicken. Each stall was decorated to have an old world theme, which was a sharp juxtaposition to the LED light displays and funky clear perspex backlit bar.

Jerry Sim, strategic Business Manager for Lavish took the stage and explained the premise of this dinner – Menu 2.0, in the next room reflected the future of modern contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on Asian flavours. Once the curtains were drawn back we were ushered across from the past, into the future.

What ensued were some memorable dishes. Sadly I didn’t get around to trying them all, but what I savoured, I am sharing with you – a little glimpse of my delicious life.

A molecular deconstruction of the classic Singapore sling 

Dragons breath – a delightful liquid nitrogen dessert that stuck to the top of my mouth due to the immense cold and gave me the pleasure of being a ‘fire breathing dragon’.

Braised beef cheek with bush tomato , smoked onion and potato foam.

Lobster fritters with powdered seaweed -a real crowd pleaser.  

Chawanmushi , scallop tartar, wasabi yuzu and spring onion foam. 

Onsen egg , mushroom ragout , truffle crumble and porcini foam.   

Braised beef Mantou buns.

Cauliflower jelly, marinated smoked eel, salicornia cress (my favourite salty cress for pairing with fish dishes) and trout roe.

Pan seared king crab in brick pastry with lemon purée and oyster leaf (a member of the borage family whose leaves actually taste like oyster).

Salmon and prawn roulade with mustard espuma.

Foie gras with port wine jelly with beetroot meringue and sous vide apple the dish was so nice I ate it thrice.

The food was excellent and so was the company. On the plus side I also got to rub shoulders with local celebrities both from stage and screen and a few of my personal Singapore Chef idols as well.

Many thanks to Lavish catering for the amazing spread, all the hard work from the chefs and service team really paid off. I left sizably impressed and positive about the future of catering in the Singapore market.

Can’t wait to see what menu 3.0 holds.

Here’s to the future of contemporary food in 2016. Huat ah!

New Year Party 2016


The last few days have been exhausting. It was our company New year party for 2016 and I decided to do a new concept this year. I wanted to do a live salad dishing counter with molecular components. It was a lot of work, with a fair bit of trial and error but I’m happy to report it was a great success

 Goats cheese Panna cotta , beetroot purée, fennel crunch, dehydrated feta crumble with beetroot jelly 

Hainanese poached chicken, pickled black fungus, chili caviar, Ginger corriander paste , Szechuan dressing and sesame nori powder


bouillabaisse creme, mango chilli spheres ,salty fingers,peanut crumble and powdered anchovy

  Burrata creme, tomato three ways – dehydrated, compressed and roasted with tomato jelly, olive oil snow and black olive powder 


Iberico ham , Manchego cheese , honeydew and rock melon, dehydrated watermelon , balsamic glaze and sweet and sour dressing 


Chef Kim Wah once again blew us away with his amazing display and delicious coffee break delicacies   

Sorry that I didn’t get more pictures of all the wonderful food on offer but I was so busy I didn’t have any time to navigate the amazing diversity on offer.

Sous Vide Chinese Style braised beef 

Last night I shared a wonderful dinner with my Friends, over dinner one of the conversation topics was about my Blog.

“When are we gonna see more blogs on food” asked Gaston “I don’t want to see a fecking blog about your new shoes” 

Now as enamoured as I am about my new shoes I took away two important points from our dinner party. 

One was about a fascinating movement In the fitness world that involves Ido Portal and his functional movement philosophy (been watching videos the whole morning and braved one of his workouts at gym today) the second was I need to blog more often about the foods I love and prepare. 

I had long read about Rou Jia mo , a braised pork dish that translates as meat sandwich. A delicious , highly seasoned street food delicacy from Shaanxi province. I though i would try my hand at this marvelous dish but with a twist, I would use beef brisket and braise it for 72 hours with the help from my Sansaire Sous Vide. 

For those of you who like to jump straight in , the recipe follows below 

  1. Beef brisket (trimmed ) 1kg 
  2. Root ginger 20gm
  3. Cassia root 3pc
  4. Fennel seeds 2 Tsp
  5. Anise 2 PC
  6. Cardamom 2pc
  7. Cumin seeds 2 tsp
  8. Sechuan peppercorn 2tsp
  9. Dried chilli 3 PC
  10. Rock sugar 160gm
  11. Clove 6no
  12. Dark soya sauce 80ml
  13. Light soya sauce 80ml 
  14. Water 100ml 

the technique is pretty straight forward, crush the rock sugar and dissolve it with the remainder of the ingredients. Throw it all in a vacuum bag with the beef. Vacuum seal it and place in the water bath at 63c for 72 hours 


3 days later I was greeted with a moist, delicious , highly seasoned , mouth watering delicacy . So tender that it broke apart with a gentle pull. The sous vide had worked its magic , the low temperature had prevented the collagen fibers in the beef from contracting (which will cause the meat to be tough and chewy) and what was left was a mouth watering highly flavored slice of Nirvana 


I served it on hamburger buns lathered with a miso mayonnaise , sliced jalapeño ,fresh corriander sprigs and rice vinegar pickled cucumber  

my apologies but it was so yummy it was scoffed up in record time before I even though to snap a pic for the blog.

If you don’t have a sous vide machine at home what are you waiting for , a whole new culinary adventure awaits you for as little as $200 (yes they really are that affordable nowadays)

My personal favorite is Sansaire but there are other Immersion circulators  from companies like Anova and Nomiku that are highly affordable and geared towards the home cook. 

Stay tuned for more culinary posts and adventures into the world of sous vide.