Tag: 13/20

Songhelou, Suzhou, China

Back in 2000, I went to Suzhou for the first time, and had one of the most memorable meals at the classic Songhelou restaurant. One of the dishes, Cherry Pork, had the most wonderful taste even this old brand has changed. At my last visit it looked old and tired, but bizarrely with the old Chinese charm. Now it’s refurbished and turned into a 21st century restaurant. The decor has received the much-needed TLC.

The dishes were still the classic dishes from the region, but with the ever-increasing health conscious customers, it seems that the cooking has undergone major transformation also.

As one of the main excuses for this repeat visit was to re-live the moment of that melt-in-your-mouth cherry pork (with a very unhealthy but absolutely delicious chunk of pork belly fat), we ordered the dish once again. However, this time it was a total disappointment – while there was not so much fat which might be more healthy, but the meat was drier and tougher, and the sauce was not intense like before (the only way to describe what it was like in 2000 – imagine the best gravy made from the meat fat, and then it’s many times more intense with flavour).

We also ordered another Suzhou classic dish – Squirrel Fish. This was not  a new species of fish; instead it’s a fish that’s been deboned, fried and shaped like a squirrel. There’s more information about the origin of Squirrel Fish on the web. The dish was beautifully presented, but with a more sweet and very little sour flavour. This is not unusual though for this region. To accompany these two rather rich-flavoured dishes, we had a mixture of four vegetables which was a good dish though the pool of oily soy sauce was slightly less welcoming.


While Songhelou is one of the classic Chinese restaurants in Suzhou, I found that it failed to sparkle on this occasion. Without the  attraction of the Cherry Pork, perhaps I’ll head to Deyuelou on the opposite side of the road next time I’m in Suzhou.

Address:   (Quanqian branch) No. 72, Taijian Lane, Pingjiang District, Suzhou, China
Telephone: +512-67700688
Website: www

Opening Hours: Daily: 11:00am-1:30pm, 5:00pm-8:30pm

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 13/20 [Based on visit in January 2012]

Fatty Crab, New York City, United States

When hurricane Irene struck New York City during the last weekend in August 2011, New York went into an unprecedented shutdown. Not only did the public transport system closed down that weekend, most shops and restaurants decided to stay shut the whole weekend. I’d hate to think the amount of business lost during that weekend, especially when the weather improved dramatically by Sunday morning.

Still, because of the transport limitations and I was staying near Columbus Circle, I decided to go somewhere not too far away for dinner. Fatty Crab on Upper West Side announced on Twitter that they were open on Sunday evening, so that seemed to be a good place to walk to for dinner.

The restaurant was not a typical Malaysian restaurant – the decor and music was very much appealed to the younger trendy Western crowd. The food was “inspired” by Malaysian cuisine (as the restaurant said so on the website) and other neighbouring South-East Asian countries.

Because of the hurricane, it was a reduced menu, but there were still plenty of choices on there. So to start, we opted for Jalan Alor chicken wings, and pork steamed buns. The belly of pork sandwiched in the steamed bun was divine – the flavoursome meat was served with a sweet soya and chilli sauce, with boiled eggs and coriander as garnish.  The chicken wings were coated with a rich glaze of soya sauce – maybe a bit too much sauce but the dish did satisfy my craving for chicken wings that evening.

Pork Steamed Buns & Jalan Alor Chicken Wings at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City

The next dish was Bobo chicken satay with lontong cakes, red onion, peanut sauce. The chicken unfortunately was somewhat too burnt on the outside and without any proper marinade, a bit bland and dry inside.

Red curry okra at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City

For the main courses, we chose Fazio Farms Fatty Duck, with pickled mustard greens, gula jawa, thai chili; red curry okra and rice. Unfortunately the duck, which was deep-fried, was so tough and greasy that after two small bites I already felt that I’ve had enough. The okra was somewhat overcooked and just did not look very appealing to go into the mouth.

Fazio Farms Fatty Duck at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City Red curry okra at Fatty Crab Upper West Side, New York City


The meal started on a high with the pork belly in steamed buns and then gradually went downhill from there. Service was warm and friendly without being pretentious – that’s a major plus. The place was vibrant and certainly would make a fun night out with friends, as long as quality of food was not high on your list.

Address: 2170 Broadway (Between 76th & 77th Street), New York City, NY 10024, United States
Telephone: +1 (212) 496 2722
Website: www.fattycrab.com

Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday: Noon to Midnight ;  Thursday & Friday: Noon to 02.00am ; Saturday: 11.00am to 02.00am;  Sunday: 11.00am to Midnight

Food: 5/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 13/20 [Based on visit in August 2011 ]

Northcote, Langho, United Kingdom

After a whole day sightseeing around the Lake District and then a longer-than-expected drive on the motorway, I was looking forward to a quiet evening at Northcote, another stop on the gourmet trip in the north of England.

It was a cold and busy Friday evening, and the hotel was bustling. As usual, Darcy, Bob, Russell and I got to our drill of sipping champagne before dinner. With all the travelling during the day, we were quite hungry by the time we made our way to the dining room (despite having a large number of scones for cream tea at Sharrow Bay in Ullswater.

The amuse bouche was goat cheese mousse with beetroot ice-cream and rocket. It was a good balance of flavours in the goat cheese and beetroot, however there was probably a little too much goat cheese but not enough beetroot.

The first course was shavings of Radholme wild duckling, smoked foie gras snow, pomegranate, black pudding crumble and watercress. The toast that came with this dish was burnt and actually was a bit pointless (or did none of us get the concept?) – after all it’s not a parfait or terrine or foie gras. The foie gras snow was non-existent in taste – we would not know what the dusting was if it’s not explicitly mentioned on the menu. The duck slices had a delicious flavour but it was a little too cold. The pomegranite worked well and was bursting with flavour that complemented well with the duck. A few more salad leaves would also be more welcoming.

The second course was roast halibut, Shorrocks Lancashire cheese fondue, streaky bacon, tempura Ascroft’s cauliflower. it was a shame that the fish was way too overcooked, resulting in a rather dry texture – other than that, the tempura and bacon worked well with the fish.

The celeriac consommé (with partridge turnover and sage) had an intense sweet flavour, though this was somewhat spoilt by the soggy pastry on the partridge turnover. The partridge meat was a little dry also.

The main course  was butter puff pastry wrapped Cockerham goat, cultivated mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, savoy cabbage. This was a rather heavy dish: after the last course with the pastry, I thought it was a bit repetitive to have another dish with yet more pastry; and the goat meat and battered vegetables just added to the stodginess of this dish. We all felt rather unhealthy after this main course.

The dessert was quince, chestnut and praline trifle, with sky dancer beer choc ice. The choc ice was so cold and hard that I was worried about cutting into it and then part of it would fly off the wood block and hit someone like a bullet. The choc ice probably came straight out of the freezer and put onto the wood block and served straight away; but it could have been better if it’s left to warm up for a few minutes. I loved the trifle – the quince jelly would have been very bitter on its own but it worked wonders with the rest of the trifle, though I somehow missed any bits of praline that was supposed to be in it?!

The meal was somewhat disappointing – the dining room was a bit stuffy and noisy, and the meal was not as good as expected. Was it just below average because its a busy night? I wasn’t sure.

Address:  Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn, Lancashire,  BB6 8BE, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1254 240555
Website: http://www.northcote.com/
Opening Hours: Lunch: Monday to Saturday: 12:00 – 13:30, Sunday: 12:00-14:00 ; Dinner: Monday to Friday: 19:00-21:30, Saturday 18:30-22:00, Sunday 19:00-21:00

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 13/20 [Based on visit in November 2010]