Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Daily Scoop

C says:

To top off our rather varied weekend, we dropped by this ice creamery for a little something sweet. It’s a quaint little cafĂ© inside Sunset Way, at Clementi Arcade, selling interesting ice cream flavours. It’s kinda like a less poseur version of Island Creamery.

We shared a Nutty Macadamia, and a Cha (Earl Grey Tea). The Macadamia was very good – nice chunks of nuts and the ice cream had a very pronounced macadamia nut flavour. Better than the Haagen Daaz one, I think. The Cha was refreshingly different. It tasted like an Earl Grey tea with vanilla ice cream that you can get at most coffee joints. The Earl Grey bergamot flavour was very fragrant, but it could get a little too pungent and flowery if we didn’t have the macadamia there to tone it down a little.

The ice creams here definitely don’t feel as creamy and heavy as those at Island Creamery, so you don’t feel that guilty indulging in a scoop, or two… They’re also less fine, although I’m not sure whether that’s due to the lesser milk fat content in the ice cream, or to the quality of the ingredients. Anyway, since it’s fairly close by, we’ll definitely be dropping by more often to try some other flavours.

A says:

This place feels like the poor man’s Island Creamery, even though the prices are higher. Maybe it’s from the more laid back location. Overall, I still think I prefer Island Creamery since it’s cheaper and has better quality (more sinfully rich) ice cream. “If only there weren’t so many snotty kids there,” said the grumpy old man.

Mien at Bukit Timah Market Hawker Centre

C says:

A’s friends P and R told us about this stall on the second floor (#02-133) of the Bukit Timah Market Hawker Centre. It’s a hawker centre-style pasta stall with a difference. The menu is written on a blackboard, and food is served on fairly posh white melamine plates. There are 4 generic sauces to choose from – cream, aglio olio, tomato and pesto, but you can also get some variations on those like carbonara and amatriciana.

There’s only 1 type of pasta – spaghetti – and it’s pre-cooked, then just dipped into a vat of hot water with a wire basket a la mee pok style, then the pasta is given a quick stir with your chosen sauce in a wok. Pasta, Asian style.

I had the Aglio Olio with bacon and mushroom, which was very generous with the ingredients. It was a little salty at first bite but I got used to it after a while. A had a cream sauce with mushrooms because they ran out of chicken, and it wasn’t too bad as well. Best part is, pastas are only $3.90. We shared a soup of the day (mushroom) but it was a little bland. It came with some toasted garlic ‘bread’ which was actually some kind of pandan bread so it tasted a little sweet and really didn’t go with the garlic.

Still, the place was interesting and it also reminded us that there are other good stalls in the market that are worth a try. We had an early dinner so we managed to get a car park. When we walked back to the car, the car park was packed, so best to come here earlier.

A says:

The place was crowded and the layout is super cramped. But if you’re looking for some cheap and good (albeit a bit salty) pasta around Bukit Timah, this is probably the place to go. The guy running the place is also pretty articulate and friendly, especially given how harried he is from the many customers and the heat of the fire.

The portions are small though. And I’d skip the blandish soup. You can easily share three portions among two people. Our just order something else from the other stalls. It is a pretty decent hawker centre.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Margaret Drive Food Centre

C says:

Queenstown Popiah
I’m extremely annoyed that Sunday Lifestyle’s feature on the best popiah in Singapore didn’t feature the stall in the Margaret Drive Food Centre. There are 2 stalls – the one on the ground floor sells the popiah, and the stall on the second floor is dedicated to making the popiah skins (they also sell kueh pie tee cups).

At just $1 a roll, I think the popiah here is not only a steal, but it’s absolutely delicious as well. The skin is nice and thin, the turnip filling is tasty, and there’s just enough taugeh to give it some crunch. The proportions of garlic, sweet sauce and chilli are just right, and there’s also a very interesting crunchy topping that’s a little like fried breadcrumbs that you don’t get at many other popiah stalls. And the best part about this stall? They don’t add the cursory kng chye (coriander/cilantro) that’s so damn common and irritating in so many popiah joints.

So ignore Teo Pau Lin’s list of 8 of Singapore’s supposed best popiah places and head over to the Queenstown Popiah stall. Another thing to note – for $50, they also do a party set, where they give you all the ingredients you need for a do-it-yourself popiah party at home. They’re extremely generous with their ingredients, and a popiah party is always loads of fun.

Sin Kee Chicken Rice

Since popiah alone isn’t quite enough for a meal, if you’re at the Margaret Drive Food Centre, try the famous chicken rice on the second floor. The chicken is wonderfully moist and tender, even the breast meat that A ordered, and the chilli packs quite a punch as well. I had a side order of chicken livers that were cooked to perfection – wonderfully creamy.

A says:

Popiah rocks cause I like the skins. In fact, I could even eat them on their own.

As for the chicken rice, the last time we came I found it over-rated for someplace so famous. This time though, the chicken was really good. The breast meat sections that I usually have were super tender and flavourful. Must be cause it’s a bit oilier than our other chicken rice places. But while the chicken may be better, the rice lacks that chicken rice oomph! And since I’m more a fan of the rice part in chicken rice, I’d still rather go to Boon Tong Kee or Wee Nam Kee.

Queenstown Popiah
Blk 40A, #01-484
Margaret Drive Food Centre
Tel: 9781-6307
Opening hours: 11 am - 9 pm

Sin Kee Chicken Rice
Blk 40A, #02-548
Margaret Drive Food Centre
Opening hours: 10.30 am - 9 pm (Closed Mondays)

Sunday, September 24, 2006


C says:

A met me at my office on Friday night and we decided to go to Nanten for dinner - this Jap restaurant at the basement of Hong Leong building is a sort of sister restaurant of Ichibantei. Instead of having the ramen, we decided to go with the a la carte buffet since that’s only available at dinner time. For $30++ you have a fairly wide range of dishes to choose from, which is pretty worthwhile considering that you can order as much as you can eat.

Portions are quite small – an order of sushi comes with just 2 pieces, but that’s perfect for us because it lets us try more things. The quality of the food is really pretty good. We had some very good zaru soba, grilled teriyaki cod and teriyaki beef slices. The sushi was very good too – the unagi was nice and not bony (a sadly common feature in lots of unagi these days), and the salmon and tuna sushi, while looking rather insipid, was made with very good quality fish. I had a soft shell crab tempura and a shisamo as well, but the latter was a bit bony. We ordered the fried rice but I would give that a miss next time. The portion was huge and it filled us up.

All in all, though, very good value. We’ll definitely be coming back here again for Friday night dinners, since we try as far as possible to eat in the Raffles Place area after work to avoid Friday night traffic.

A says:

I really recommend the sushi. Very tasty. The staff missed a few of our dishes, but overall, they were pretty attentive. I heard the place is packed at lunchtime so I wouldn’t go then though.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Botak Jones – Clementi

C says:

Good news for those who don’t live in the North, and who don’t want to drive into the wilds of Tuas - Botak Jones has opened a third outlet in a much more accessible location: Block 325 Clementi Avenue 5. We went here with A’s folks on Sunday night, and based on the repeat stuff that we ordered (Botak burger, chicken wings, Chili), we’ve concluded that this outlet is better than the Ang Mo Kio one. It was most evident in the burger; we ordered the double, and the beef was juicier and more tasty than the one we had at AMK.

We tried a few more things as well. I had the rosemary lamb chops, and we tried some of the ribeye that A’s dad had. They were alright – the beef was better than the lamb, which didn’t have much flavour apart from the overwhelming rosemary, but the burger far outshone everything else.

We will probably come back to this outlet again, and just share a triple burger and nothing else.

A says:

Less crowded and food tastes better than the AMK one. Best of all, it’s in the West. The drinks store lady was a weirdo though.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nanjya Monjya

C says:

We went with A’s friends on Saturday night to the branch at Waterfront Plaza (near Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel). The other branch is at Allson Hotel, which we tried a couple of years ago and weren’t all that impressed with. This branch specialises in table-top teppanyaki, I think, because most of the tables have a hot plate all ready for some teppanyaki action. Note: if you’re there in a big group, try not to sit near the hot plate because it does radiate a fair amount of heat all night.

Most of the thing we had were teppanyaki items, including something called Belly Pork Pizza which we didn’t expect to be teppanyaki. It was a Japanese pancake, which was a mixture of batter, spring onions and lots of cabbage, shaped into a disc and grilled on the hot plate. This takes AGES to cook but tastes pretty good. Ours would have tasted better if we had left the waitstaff to finish off the cooking process for us. We were so hungry that we kept checking it periodically and ate it the moment it was done. Later, after the other guys ordered it, we realised that if we had waited, we would have gotten the proper treatment of a few squirts of mayo, a thick brown sauce and bonito flakes. Darn.

The best dish that we had was the Geso Butter – squid tentacles grilled with butter and spring onions. The garlic fried rice was also fried on the teppanyaki grill and was pretty good, but overall, the prices are way more than I would pay for the quality of the food. The tuna steak was overdone, and the beef tenderloin wasn’t as good as the one at Aburiya.

I don’t think we’ll be coming back here again on our own accord.

A says:

The more senior staff provide really good service but some of the younger ones are really quite blur. Atmosphere is pretty nice too. The place is nice but not tops on my list.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Buko Nero

C says:

Friday was Buko Nero night once again. The menu was:

Amuse Bouche: Chicken and mushroom wonton ravioli
Beef Carpaccio with Lemon, Grape and Mint
Cauliflower and Crab Meat Soup
Buko Nero Tau Kwa Tower (a la carte)
Orange and Passionfruit Sherbet
A’s main: Beef tenderloin with blueberry sauce and bacon
C’s main: Risotto with lamb proscuitto and marscapone
Coffee ice-cream with marshmallows

The amuse bouche was quite similar to the beef and red wine ravioli that we had on our last visit, so while it was very good, it wasn’t a new taste for us so it didn’t blow us away. The carpaccio was best eaten separately, because the lemon dressing, mint and grape combination tended to overpower the taste of the beef. But I had a mouthful of the beef on its own and it had a great intense beef flavour.

The soup was wonderful; I wish we could have ta bao-ed a whole tureen of it and had huge bowls of it with crusty baguette and lots of butter. I really don’t know how Chef Oscar manages to take a none-too-pleasant tasting vegetable, and turn it into an awesome soup that still tastes like cauliflower, but with none of its dodginess.

The tau kwa tower was interesting – we decided to share it this time because it’s their signature starter and we hadn’t tried it after so many visits. It was pretty good, mainly saved by the sauce which both sweet and slightly tart, and the shitake mushrooms that topped the tau kwa. It was worth trying but I don’t think we’ll order it again.

A’s beef was great as usual, and the blueberry sauce was really interesting. It wasn’t as sweet as I expected, just very concentrated and almost like a red wine sauce. My risotto, which is from the a la carte menu, was an unexpected delight. The rice had a good bite to it, it wasn’t too soupy, and while the risotto with the marscapone was a tad bland on its own, it was absolutely perfect when combined with the intensely flavourful lamb proscuitto. Even A, who is not a risotto fan, liked this and even preferred it to his main.

The coffee ice-cream was a major caffeine jolt. It was home-made and seriously high on espresso flavour. The little pieces of marshmallow embedded in the ice cream added a nice touch.

Note: Buko Nero is closed from 17th September for their summer vacation. They’re back in the beginning of October so we have to wait until then to try and make our next reservation.

A says:

Great as usual. I just hope their sherbet isn’t some weird fruit flavour next time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Baba King, Nonya Deli

C says:

We went to Singapore Expo on Sunday afternoon to watch A’s friend’s martial arts demonstration at Fitness Asia 2006. We saw this place and decided to have dinner there thinking that A could have some nonya kuehs, for which he seems to have developed quite a fondness. When we went in, though, there were no kuehs to be found, just authentic Peranakan dishes.

A ordered the sambal fish spaghetti, which turned out pretty good, as far as fusion pastas go. He would have liked it better if not for the daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaf) that scented the sauce. I wanted to order a bunch of sides, because they looked promising and a lot like what my grandmother cooks, like pong tauhu soup (meatballs with bamboo shoots) and bakwan kepiting (pork and crabmeat balls), but unfortunately they were all out of these, having catered to thousands of people the past week for Comex.

I decided to try the Ayam Buah Keluak. I usually try not to order this dish in restaurants, because my grandmother makes it so well and with such a potent buah keluak flavour that most places don’t measure up at all. Ivin’s sucks, and most places skimp on the buah keluak so it just ends up tasting like assam chicken. However, I’m pleased to say that this one tasted almost like my grandmother’s. The gravy was really thick, and there was definitely some buah keluak added directly to the gravy. The chicken was juicy thigh meat and conveniently deboned, and there were 2 nuts stuffed with some minced meat. They even gave you a disposable glove and a crab picker for you to dig the meat out of the nuts.

The chef, Philip Khoo, came over to ask if everything was alright, and after realising I wasn’t clueless about Peranakan food, starting chatting to us and offered us loads of stuff to try. He brought out an amazing buah keluak sambal – the buah keluak paste blended with sambal which was just amazing with rice or added to the buah keluak gravy. He let us try his achar as well, which A polished off, and some of his beef Devil’s curry which was also really good. (They do a Devil’s curry spaghetti too, which after tasting the curry, I can imagine would be pretty good)

Alas, for the moment they only have the one branch at Singapore Expo (facing Hall 3, for those who may be interested). Apparently they’re going to open 2 more branches by the end of the year – Novena Ville and Telok Ayer Street – along with 6 fast food joints called Pasta Peranakano (or something). I’m less interested in the pasta and more in the proper food joints, so watch this space and I hope to be able to report on the new store openings soon.

A says:

I was surprised how good the food was considering where it was. Owners seem nice and friendly although the new influx of non-native-nonyas may affect quality. And unlike C, I’m not a big nonya cuisine fan so I’m looking forward to the fusion with pasta. It’s not worth going all the way to Singapore Expo to have, but once their other outlets open, I foresee it being a regular haunt for nonya fans.

Monday, September 11, 2006


C says:

After hearing so much about this place (it was named one of Singapore’s top 50 restaurants by Lifestyle recently, and was also in the top 10 best ramen places a while ago), we finally made a date with S and KH for lunch on Saturday. The place doesn’t accept reservations – you have to get there the moment they open if you want to secure a table without waiting in line. Opening hours are noon to 3 pm, and 6 to 10 pm. Already, when we got there at about 12.15, all the indoor seating was taken but we managed to snag one of the last few tables outside. It’s quite tiny, and is located in a little corner of Gallery Hotel at Mohd Sultan.

Unlike Ohsho, which was also on Lifestyle’s ramen list, I think Miharu deserves to be on the list. This is one of the best ramens I’ve had. Yes, the soups were pretty oily and a tad salty, but to me that made them all the more tasty. The noodles themselves are definitely the best I’ve had – they’re springy and have a great texture and bite to them. I absolutely hate mushy noodles so these were perfect for me.

The 4 of us tried different dishes so that we could have a taste of each other’s. I had the Kyushu soup, because I have a weakness for the thick pork bone stock. A had their speciality – the Miso soup. S had a fragrant sesame oil-laced Shoyu soup that tasted remarkably like the soy sauce that comes with steamed fish at Chinese dinners. Finally, KH had the cold ramen with a fragrant dipping sauce. I think my Kyushu soup was the best – it was thick and hearty; a tad salty but definitely the most flavour and body. S’s was pretty good too; not as salty as it looked and quite light yet fragrant. A’s may have been the house speciality but I didn’t find it that spectacular compared to the others. KH’s cold ramen was unfortunately named, because the dipping sauce was quite hot, so by the time the cold noodles were dunked, they were far from cold once you put them in your mouth. The sauce was interesting though – quite salty and very strong in sesame.

We headed over to Ichibantei for a soft ice-cream dessert – perfect end to a great lunch.

A says:

Expect long queues if you don’t get there within 15 mins of when it opens. We could only get tables outside when we got there at 12.15pm. While the food and service are good, I’m not sure it’ll be worth the long wait.

The food was really oily (and salty) but I’ve got no problem with that. Overall, very good ramen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


C says:

Quick one, since we’ve written about this before. A and I had dinner here again on Friday night, despite hearing a few none-too-great reviews from some friends recently.

Besides the beer marinated chicken wings, which I couldn’t not have, we decided to try all new dishes that night. We shared the curry chicken noodles, the Dragon fried wontons and one of their specials that day – a beef kebab. The kebab was just so-so; as far as kebabs go, they weren’t overdone and dry, but the meat wasn’t the greatest quality so it was a tad chewy. I wouldn’t order this again. The Dragon fried wontons are just a mixture of crab sticks and cream cheese, wrapped in wonton skin and deep fried. These were really good, the filling was like crab mayo which always suits me fine.

The curry chicken noodles with cockles was much better than expected. It was a proper Chinese curry gravy, untainted by any hint of peanut flavour which most curry noodles places seem to enjoy adding to the gravy. The curry gravy wasn’t too thick either – perfect consistency for drinking the gravy like a soup without feeling completely ill and bloated after. Flowerbed’s is quite a big serving, with about 5 pieces of chicken, 4 or 5 pieces of potato and about 6 cockles (which A ate), so if you want to sample some of their pretty good side dishes, again we’d recommend that you share the noodles.

A says:

The girl serving us was super blur but at least there wasn’t any cock-up in the order. The chicken curry was surprisingly good (better than the one at the Holland Village ipoh hor fun place). Everything else was pretty decent and the ice blended lychee rocked as expected.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


C says:

A and C are back with a vengeance, heh. We’ve been a little lax in the posting department, because lately we’ve been going to places that we’ve already written about, and haven’t tried anything new there. We went to Valentino’s at Rifle Range on Sunday night, and I thought we wouldn’t have anything new to post, but we tried a couple of new dishes so will give a quick comment on them.

We had one of the starter specials, the one which we missed out on the last time we were here. I was thrilled that they had it again on Sunday. It’s a round piece of cheese wrapped with parma ham, and grilled till the parma ham is almost crisp, and served with a mixed salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It looked a little boring when it arrived, but yumm…. it definitely more than made up for it in taste. The cheese and parma ham were perfectly paired; I’m not sure what cheese it was, but it tasted like a slightly richer yet milder version of brie. Eaten on its own, the cheese packed quite a punch but the saltiness and slight crispiness of the grilled parma ham provided a perfect contrast. Because it had been grilled, the cheese was melty in the centre and was deliciously oozy and runny.

I had the Bismark pizza, because for some reason I had a craving for it. It was pretty good, but after seeing (and smelling) plate after plate of the lobster pasta making their way from the kitchen to the other diners’ tables, I’ve decided that I just have to order that again next time. A had another special, the osso bucco, which was meltingly tender. My only grouse is that the portion was inordinately tiny.

Of course, A had the tiramisu for dessert, and I tried the panna cotta. Both were excellent but best shared, because each on their own can be a tad gelak.

I’m also happy to report that Valentino’s is doing really well, and is even expanding. When we were there on Sunday night, we had to take the first seating at 6.30pm (second seating is at 8.15pm) , and even at that time it was packed, both indoors and outdoors. They’ve also acquired another unit next door, and named it Pasticceria Da Valentino. This is supposed to be a traditional Italian bakery, and sells his sister’s delicious cakes, pastries and desserts which are also available at the restaurant. When we popped in after dinner, they seemed to only have packets of biscotti and whole cakes, rather than individual pastries. Maybe those are available earlier in the day.

A says:

Parking’s a bitch and sometimes, even the local wait staff are hard to understand, but I love everything else about the place. Definitely the best place to have Italian in Singapore.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chippy at Raffles Marketplace

C says:

We finally tried this place for lunch on Saturday. It’s a little stall in the new basement Marketplace of Raffles City, and is supposed to be a traditional British chippy. There are no actual seats – everything is served in little paper bags or cups, and they provide a bench and bar countertop for you to eat. Although it strictly isn’t necessary, because they convenient cut everything into bite-sized pieces that you can easily eat while strolling around, using the satay sticks that they provide.

A and I shared a regular fish and chips, and a cheesy sausage with mashed potato. For the fish and chips, you have an option of 2 sauces – salt and vinegar, and mayonnaise and ketchup. Since we wanted an authentic British fish and chip experience, we opted for the salt and vinegar. The fish is cut into 12 pieces, with each little piece battered and fried separately (i.e. it is not battered as a fillet and subsequently cut, cos then the fish would just flake into bits), and the chips are more like potato wedges also battered and fried. This was actually a lot better than I expected. The fish was liberally doused with malt vinegar, and there was a substantial amount of fish; it wasn’t all batter like I was afraid of. Even the battered potatoes were thick chunks of potato, not processed and tasteless fries. Didn’t taste particularly oily either.

The cheesy sausage was a whole sausage on a stick, and the mashed potato was at the base of the cup, so that you could dunk the sausage into the mash as you ate. The sausage was good, but I found the mashed potatoes to be slightly too salty and processed-tasting.

They also have some crispy curry chicken bites, which I may try next time, and deep fried Mars bars, which sound like a heart attack waiting to happen. A and I would have ordered the Mars bars just for the sake of trying it, if they sold them by the piece. Unfortunately each serving is 4 Mars bar bites (each bite is probably the size of a quarter of a Mars bar), and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to order and be compelled to finish that many.

If anyone dares to try them, do tell us how they are!

A says:

It’s a bit much to have all 12 pieces of fish on your own but the sausage is just nice for a quick meal. I had no problems with the mash, which was just chunky enough so it wasn’t the usual KFC slop.

Standing around and eating is a bit of a turnoff, especially when you have to squeeze with other customers, but I guess it’s all part of the experience. I think it’s great for takeout though (if you eat them before they get too cold and soggy).

Overall, top marks for a quick, affordable (food under $5/pax) meal.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pagi Sore

C says:

Pagi Sore is an Indonesian restaurant along Telok Ayer Street, which was recently recognised in Sunday LifeStyle’s list of Top 50 Best Restaurants. A and I have been here a couple of times since we started this blog, but never together, so we’ve held off writing about it until we got a chance to do our ‘C says/A says’ take on it. However, because A keeps finding other places where he’d rather eat in the area, I don’t foresee going together any time in the near future, so I’ve decided to just write about it now. A can add his comments based on the time he came here with his colleagues.

I had a team lunch here on Friday with my colleagues; the task of ordering the food was once again shoved to me, but the good thing about that is that I get to order what I would order anyway. There are a few star dishes here, although I haven’t actually had anything bad here. Still, the must-try dishes are: Ayam Bali – grilled chicken thigh, conveniently deboned and coated with a sweet dark sauce. This is one of their house specialties, for good reason. The chicken is tender, the sauce is flavourful and the grilled and slightly charred edges are lovely. Otah Ikan Kukus – This is a whole fish, minus the head and tail fin, steamed with an otah paste in a banana leaf. This is delicious, and I’m always glad to go with people other than A so that I can order this, cos he’s not a fan of fish with bones, nor of otah.

Besides those two must-haves, the sayur lodeh and tauhu telor are worth a try as well. On Friday we had their beef rendang, grilled squid and sambal kangkong as well, but not spectacular compared to the chicken and fish. They serve baskets of Indonesian emping or belinjo crackers, the slightly bitter ones, which are addictive and pretty darn good when dipped into their sambal belacan.

This place has definitely earned its mention in the Best Restaurants list. It’s absolutely packed at lunchtime and reservations are essential, especially for large groups. Try to go at dinner if you can, it’s a lot less frenzied and you get more attention from the waitstaff as a result. As it is, though, while a little chaotic, service on Friday was good and not a single mistake was made with our order.

A says:

Food really good but if you’re considering it just for nasi padang, it’s nowhere near the best in Singapore (like River Valley Nasi Padang and Warong Nasi Padang on North Bridge Road). The dining experience is more comfortable though as the other places are non-air-conditioned and ordering gets a bit stressful (if you not down with the lingo like C).

The staff are friendly and well-trained. On a side note: the place supports rehabilitation of ex-cons and employs many. Besides the sayur lodeh, that’s another reason to go support, support.