To finally travel to the states was like a dream come true. After being westernized for my whole life, I was eager to check out the sights and sounds for myself. More importantly, have a taste of American food. From burgers to fried chicken to their famous buffets, all the episodes of Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef have intrigued my taste buds. So the only thing left now is to try them for myself in West America. With only 10 days and on a guided tour, I know my choices maybe limited in variety and number, but I did the best I could. I’m happy to tell you that my palates, and my tummy, flew back home extremely contented. IN-N-OUT: So much talk about this burger chain when they brought a pop-up event to Singapore and the burgers were sold out within minutes. The tour guide gave us the option to choose between Chinese fast food, Panda Express, or IN-N-OUT. My family of 8 were unanimous and the only group in the tour to brave the long queues for some real American burgers. Like the saying, fortune favours the brave. The buns were slightly greased but soft to sink your teeth in. Beef patties are juicier and fatter than our local burgers. The combination of onion, lettuce, tomato slice and American Cheese is just instant fireworks in your mouth. The flavours are different yet complement each other in a harmonious fashion. I don’t think I’m going to eat burgers from Ronald anymore.
Fried Chicken (Disney Land): Through the education of Gordon Ramsay’s television series, I’ve learned that fried chicken is THE dish of Southern United States. Crisp well-seasoned skin, rendered of excess fat, is a mark of a well made fried chicken. A true Southern fried chicken is absolutely a notch above the ones they serve in our local KFC stores. The chicken parts are larger in size but yet tender and moist. The batter carries a special herb flavouring that is hard to find in our sunny island.
Once upon a time, my family sat down in front of the telly and chanced upon a food documentary. It was doing a countdown on the top buffets restaurants in Las Vegas. At the end of the episode, we were all salivating. And from then on, we had a mission. That is to try at least one buffet restaurant in Las Vegas. After a quick research on the internet, my family of 8 marched towards Caesars Palace’s Bacchanal, with open minds and empty stomachs. A name that suggests ‘a wild and drunken celebration’, the restaurant aims to live up to its name with a exciting array of 500 different dishes by 9 different show kitchens: Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American, seafood, pizza, deli (including soups, cheeses and charcuterie selections) and desserts. We literally stood jaw-drop for ten seconds in amazement at the sheer size of the restaurant and another ten seconds to decide where to begin. It does not help that the newly refurbished restaurant has a modernized and edgy interior design that spells posh yet cosy at the same time. Technically, the only motto I have when dining in a buffet restaurant is to lay off the starch. Which means less rice or noodles. However, I also recommend Singaporeans to lay off the Chinese and the Japanese kitchen. We know we can find such dishes with better quality back at home. Personally I favoured the seafood and carving station.
Buffet (Bacchanal, Las Vegas): This was my plate only from the seafood section. Tasty, succulent and fresh, no wonder the seafood section has the longest queue.
Weeks before I was due for this trip, I had a slight inkling of what to do or eat in my trip. From what to buy at the three different factory outlet stores to the places to dine. That includes Old Fisherman’s Grotto at Old Fisherman Wharf, Monterey. A seafood, steak and pasta restaurant that is highly decorated with accolades and awards, their award winning Clam Chowder is a must try. In addition, this restaurant boasts a stunning harbor view, offering diners an unique dining experience. Do not be surprised if you were to walk into the restaurant filled with Singaporean tourists. With a 50-year legacy, this restaurant seems to be the best choice for tour agencies.
Original ‘Monterey Style’ Clam Chowder (Clam Bowl): Old Fisherman’s Grotto is the originators of the world renowned chowder. If that does not convince you enough, the restaurant’s dish is also named the Best Clam Chowder in Monterey County this year. Available in three serving options, the clam bowl serves a generous portion that is enough for 2-3 of us. And indeed, this is the best clam chowder that I’ve tasted. Creamy, rich in flavour and exceptional in taste, a hearty bowl of clam chowder definitely warms my soul, and tummy!
Original ‘Monterey Style’ Clam Chowder (Sourdough Bread Bowl): The only difference is in the serving bowl, yet this might appeal more to the males. The relationship between bread and soup cannot be explained and it is poison to diners who do not know the limits to their appetite. The soft sourdough bread goes remarkably well with the chowder and tempts patrons to overeat. Baked Abalone: Succulent, cheesy, nothing can go wrong with this dish. However, if you really want to get a taste of Monterey Bay’s fresh seafood, order crustaceans instead.
Half Dungeness Crab with Calamari: Where do i start for this dish? The golden brown calamari or the bright orange dungeness crab. Crab lovers will be pleased to prise open the shell and dig out the meat using their bare fingers. Abundant crab meat that makes flower crabs and mud crabs pale in comparison, it is cooked perfectly and tastes delectably fresh and sweet. Not to forget, the accompanying drawn butter gives the crab a lifting fragrance. Calamari is not over done, crunchy and well-seasoned.
Baked Half Lobster: Do not be fooled by the small piece of meat that this half lobster has to offer on its tail. Look carefully, and you will notice the gargantuan pincer. Cracked open, it reveals a generous piece of fresh juicy pincer meat that does not stick to the shell. With a squeeze of lemon and a dab of drawn butter, my tastebuds are good to go.