Sunday, June 18, 2006

Off the Menu

If you ever find yourself seated for the first time at Azhang, a little cafe along Mohamed Sultan Road - don't be dismayed by the A3-size one-sheet laminated menu and its tiny 1-inch by 1-inch pictures (some slightly bigger, some even smaller - at a recent dinner, my dining companion commented that she may have to bring along a magnifying glass the next time she comes in).

Helmed by owners, Patrick and Ava Zhang (not related, they stressed), Azhang recently moved from its previous abode at Joo Chiat Road to its present location amidst a row of cafes and restaurants now occupying the sites of the pub-haunts of not too many moons ago.

When hubby and I first chanced upon this place last weekend, we saw the menu comprising an assortment of grilled/roast meats, soup, salads and some local dishes, and were decidedly unimpressed. Luckily for us, a family of four had ordered a rack of roast lamb ribs and it looked and smelled very edible indeed. Scanned the one-sheet menu and couldn't find anything listed as roast lamb ribs, enquired with the hostess and discovered that from time to time, Azhang dishes out 'off the menu' items, depending on the chef's 'inspiration' and the requests of regulars.
Slathering of Pate
Having decided to brave the roast lamb ribs, we were told that it would take awhile to be served as there was only one cook (Patrick himself) in the kitchen. To still the growing hunger pangs, we ordered a small crock of the homemade chicken liver pate together with a small basket of home-baked focaccia bread. Just look at that wonderful texture of pate and bread.. hubby was not much of a liver person (his loss), and the whole crock of pate ended up at my corner and was soon totally wiped clean. Hubby, in the meantime, was quite happy dipping the fresh focaccia slices in olive oil with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

AZhang's Offering
Finally, the roast lamb ribs arrived, crispy on the outside (we understand that they were roasted over lava stones), succulent tender meat within, well-flavored and just the right touch of honey probably either drizzled or basted on during the last part of the roast. Obviously, we didn't bother with the knives and forks - the dish called for finger-licking techniques.

Besides the lamb ribs, I had the pumpkin soup which was thick and very hearty soup while hubby ordered the beef curry. Although the curry had no coconut milk, it definitely did not lack flavors and the strong spices melded very well together. A word of warning, this dish is subtlely SPICY - it does not hit you immediately but halfway thru' the dish, you suddenly realize that your nose is sniffing and your hand is reaching out for relief in that glass of cold water. And oh, did I mention that the beef shin used in this curry has been cooked until it is so tender that Azhang didn't even bother to serve this with a knife or fork - just a lone spoon, that's all the cutlery you need.

Told my lunch kakis about my weekend meal at Azhang, and a few days later, we had reserved a table for dinner and upon enquiry of his 'off-the-menu' item for that evening, agreed to try out Patrick's Moroccan paella.
AZ Moroccan Paella
The saffron-flavored rice came in a huge WMF shallow pan, with a variety of seafood (mussels, squids, prawns and fish) and chicken meat, dotted here and there with bell peppers and sliced chilli. Slightly spicy, it was delicious gaining a special flavor from the burnt rice-crust (the socarrat) at the bottom of the pan (an absolute must for paella).

AZ Sweet Potatoes DelightTo accompany this dish, we had a platter of sweet potatoes cooked with sweet potato leaves. A most unusual platter, it had hints of Peranakan cuisine with the addition of chopped dried prawns (hae bi) and spices. Quite quite yummy too!

My company of 5 also ordered desserts, a chocolate pudding (which is almost like crumbled rich chocolate cake drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with cream) and a tangy sorbet... but my apologies for the absence of pics - by this time, with the amount of carbohydrates consumed, the mind had kinda gone into "non-alert" mode!

If you have the time to spare (after all, 1 cook in the kitchen may sometimes mean a leisurely wait with a glass of wine in hand and do ensure you have an amiable dining companion), do give Azhang's dishes (both on or off the menu) a try, and after dinner, go ahead and have a chin-wag with Patrick and Ava, a couple of friendly hosts.

6 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore
Tel: 68363436


Blogger joone! said...

Hey Cath! I've heard good things about azhangs and your blog report just confirmed it! i'm going to be there on thursday, so now i'm pretty excited!

6/19/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, that looks fabulous!
I'm particularly interested in the Peranakan sweet potato platter. I didn't know that potato leaves were eatable since the plants are toxic!

6/19/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Audrey Cooks said...

The name of the place definitely doesn't reflect the type of food served. Absolutely marvelous food! I love ribs, lamb rack, beef or even pork. I wish I am in Singapore now eating at Azhang!

6/19/2006 09:41:00 PM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

that's certainly finger smacking good! especially the paella .... *drooling*
looks like Mohamed Sultan slowly changing from pubs to a gourmet paradise
a persian on the left and italian on the right and many more around the area.

6/19/2006 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@june, can't wait to read your review of this cafe!

@rosa, sweet potato leaves are actually quite a common dish in Asian countries, usually stir-fried with garlic or 'sambal belacan' (a kind of chilli and dried prawn paste).. toxic? I certainly hope not, having eaten my fair share of these leaves over the years!

@audrey, yah, the cafe name is actually derived from the owners' surnames "Zhang".

@slurp, ahhh, so you know the place, have you tried the italian or the persian place next door? I also espied a high-end Vietnamese restaurant at the end of the block (Le Tonkin) that looks pretty promising.

6/21/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Interesting... I did not know that the sweet potato plant was edible, because the "normal" potato one is very toxic!!! Thanks for the enlightment...

6/21/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

Le Tonkin, i think high end french-vietnamese restaurant. nah, not yet, at least until i got what i have been saving up for ... new camera body, lenses, hopefully the new Macbook too :P so looks like it's probably year of streetfood for me in 2006 hehehehe ...

6/22/2006 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@slurp... you do have discipline.. which camera system are you shooting for?

6/22/2006 09:41:00 PM  
Anonymous slurp! said...

Since i'm already using Canon system, it isn't too hard to decide. EOS 30D seems the natural choice.

well i love the 5D & but you need to have good lense to pair with. so for now, probably be worthwhile acquire good lenses while waiting for full-frame prices to drop hahahaha ...

1DsmkII is in the totally different league. not pro standard yet :( (in terms of skills & revenue generating capabilities ha!)

6/22/2006 11:33:00 PM  
Anonymous keiko said...

Eatzycath, everything looks fabulous - the curry looks especially yummy (and spicy)...

6/23/2006 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

@slurp, Canon's a popular system and has a host of lenses to play around and yes, the 30D does sound good. Wow, 1D is like an amateur photographer's dream!

@keiko, thanks... and yup, that curry is several degrees off the hot scale!

6/26/2006 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Elsie said...

Hi Cath, thanks for your comprehensive review on Azhang. The paella looks so appetising! I am planning to check that place out. Just checking. How much did that delicious paella? It looks so GOOD!

7/04/2006 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi elsie, the paella is not on Azhang's standard menu, so if you're interested, you should call in advance to see if the chef is going to be in the mood to make it :-) it was about $80 per pan and the pan can feed 5 persons (maybe 4 if they are big rice-eaters)!

7/04/2006 09:46:00 AM  

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