Monday, February 26, 2007

Aglio Olio Bistro

C says:

Also known as Aglio Olio – Singapore’s version of pasta. We used to laugh at this, because it used to say “The Singapore’s version of pasta”. It was everywhere – on their menus, on the glass feature wall, and on the big yellow umbrella in the alfresco dining area. They must have finally copped on, though, because when we went for a quick dinner on Monday night after a fairly long hiatus, everything except the umbrella had been changed to a grammatically acceptable form.

This place really does serve pasta, Singaporean style. They essentially have 3 types of sauces – aglio olio, cream and tomato-based. You then have a selection of ingredients, ranging from bacon, ham, chicken, seafood and mushroom. Then the final aspect is the chilli level. There’s mild, normal, spicy and extra spicy, and the levels dictate how much chilli padi they add. Be warned though – mild already has a few slivers, so if you can’t take the heat of chilli padi at all, you may be better off asking them if they can hold the chilli completely.

A had the aglio olio with chicken, and I had the bacon cream-based sauce. I usually don’t order cream-based pastas, not because I don’t like them, but because I think they’re just too sinfully rich and fattening, and also they tend to get a bit gelak towards the end. But the chilli padi here nicely deals with the latter point (the fattening part is, alas, still an issue). The kick of the chilli makes each mouthful interesting and alive, so you don’t get the cloying richness of the cream sauce.

A had his mild, and I chose the spicy level, which really did kick some serious ass (literally too, the next morning, heh). However I have to admit that I’m quite a chilli padi addict so for those normal people out there, it’s probably safest to stick to mild or normal.

They do some fairly decent side dishes too, like Mushroom Nuggets which are essentially deep fried breaded mushrooms, and fried chicken wings.

A says:

The mild pasta I had was already a bit spicy. I’d advise against choosing the chicken cause you get occasional chunks of cartilage. Bacon seems like a good bet though.

Service is very attentive and good when the place is empty like last night, but expect long waits if it’s full. Overall, if you’re looking for a nice, simple and affordable pasta (Singapore’s version!) place in the area, this is what I’d recommend.

Note to self: Yogurt smoothie is not bad. Have that if not in the mood for coffee.

Aglio Olio
China Square Central
3 Pickering Street #01-40/41
Tel: 6327-3622
11 am to 11 pm daily

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Café de Amigo

C says:

A is feeling mighty smug right about now. He went to Café de Amigo with his folks while I was in Hong Kong, and told me that I’d definitely enjoy it. Well, we went there on Thursday night and A was right. It was really up my alley and I really liked the food there.

Café de Amigo has been around for ages, and is pretty well known amongst older wine aficionados. It used to be located at Specialist’s Centre, but has since moved to Funan. (I would say Funan Centre, but it’s been renamed twice; first Funan the IT Mall, and now Funan Digitalife Mall.)

It’s by no means a posh and stuffy place, and the name itself seems to suggest some kind of identity crisis. The food is predominantly French, but more like French by way of Hainan, since both the owner and executive chef are both very much Chinese. The menu is quite hilarious because it does try hard, but the spelling errors bring it firmly down to earth in a quirkily charming way. “Seafood Gumble”, “Pork Beacon with Spaghetti”, and “creamy spinach moose”, to name a few.

Still, all that aside, it’s quite a pleasant place to have dinner, and was surprisingly not empty on a weekday night. They have a 4-course set dinner every night for a basic $42+++, with some premium choices requiring some top-up, like the duck breast main (+$5) and the apple pie dessert (+$4).

We were very impressed with the service. A called in the afternoon to make a reservation, and asked if they had the duck breast, because he specifically wanted me to try it. When they confirmed that they did, we made the booking. When we got there and placed our orders, the waitress told me there were out of duck breast and I gasped in horror, and said “BUT WE CALLED!” She then asked us if we were A, because she had specially set aside the last duck breast for A when he called. Phew.

Anyway the starters and the soup were quite good but not spectacular. A had the Oysters Angel Horseback (oysters wrapped with bacon and deep fried), and I had the deep fried cheese. A’s oysters were much better, but next time we may share the escargots instead. A had the French Onion soup, and I had the Cream of Potato which had some nice crispy bacon bits on top. Not mindblowing, but not dishwater bland either.

The main courses were really good. A had the Fillet of Leng Fish (some kind of white fish similar to Sole), because the Fillet of Baby Salmon wasn’t available. This turned out much better than expected. The outside was pan fried to a nice crisp golden brown, but the fish wasn’t dried out or overdone.

The duck was fantastic. It was cooked medium rare so it was pink in the centre and still nice and juicy. It was served with a red wine/cherry sauce, spinach sautéed with garlic, and a couple of hash brown balls. The flavour of the duck was strong but not overpowering, just very meaty and flavourful. Delicious; I’m definitely having this again.

The set comes with a basic dessert of frozen tiramisu, but apparently that’s really quite bad, so I would recommend just topping up the $4 extra to have the Normandy Apple Pie. It’s not so much a pie as a tarte tatin, almost – a disc of buttery puff pastry, wafer thin slices of apple, topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with honey. This was absolutely heavenly, and I was completely stuffed after eating every last morsel.

Because we had a voucher for a one-for-one set dinner, courtesy of A’s folks, dinner was quite reasonable. Without the vouchers, I’m not sure how worthwhile the set is, considering that only the main course and the dessert are really outstanding. Perhaps next time we’ll come here just for a main and a dessert.

A says:

This place has the problem of having food that’s really, really good (duck breast, leng fish, apple pie) and really, really bad (the non-top up mains on the set). Consistency in each dish itself is also an issue I think. As good as the food we had was, it was actually better the first time I came.
Many thanks again to the hostess with the mostest who remembered to keep the duck breast for us. The other waiters are a bit blur at times, but still very attentive. No need to keep flailing your arms to catch their eye at all.

Overall, the prices may seem high for the setting, but if you order the right items, it’s definitely worth it. It’s also supposed to be a decent wine place, so wine lovers (who I shall henceforth call whiners – heh heh) should enjoy the selection and the no corkage policy (provided you spend at least $35 per person). I can’t confirm this though, as I know shit about wine.

Last bits of advice – the apple pie is huge and a must-try so save room for it. And avoid the Tiramizzzu (frozen tiramisu) at all cost.

Café de Amigo
109 North Bridge Road #02-15
Funan Digitalife Mall
Tel: 6835-0238
Open daily from 11 am to midnight; last order 10 pm

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tiong Bee Bak Kut Teh

C says:

S told us to try this bak kut teh place at Jalan Datoh, off Balestier Road, and let her know how we compare it to Founder. It’s located in a little corner coffee shop, and when we came here on Wednesday, the other famous stall in the coffee shop, a bak chor mee stall, was closed for the New Year, so all we had was the bak kut teh.

I think we’ve definitely been spoilt by Founder, because it’s become our benchmark and unfortunately this place didn’t come close. We ordered the long pork ribs as well, and they weren’t anywhere near the juiciness and tenderness of the Founder ones. The soup wasn’t bad but it was more sweet than peppery, and I much prefer the peppery heat of the Founder soup; gives it so much more kick. The giam chye also fell short, and the kuay chap we ordered wasn’t spectacular either.

Given that it costs more than Founder, I think the decision is quite clear – Founder is definitely our pick for really good bak kut teh.

Random comment – dang Chinese New Year… everything in the area was closed. The bak chor mee stall, and ALL the tau sar piah shops along Balestier as well. Bummer.

A says:

It’s the same price as Founder but there’s very little meat on the bak kut teh and there’s no character. This place is really not worth it.

Tiong Bee Bak Kut Teh
Jalan Datoh
Teck Seng Coffee Shop

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Friends at Jelita

C says:

My colleague P recommended this place, so on Tuesday night we decided to give it a try. It’s located on the second floor of Jelita, taking over the space where Pizza Hut used to be. I’m glad a half decent eating place is finally available in the building, since Pizza Hut was a waste of space, as is the O’Brien’s downstairs. Friends opened very recently – 1st February, but according to their website, they have an existing branch near Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens.

When P had dinner there, he chatted with the owner Thomas Chiam, and found out that he’s quite a foodie and a major wine buff, and the selection of wines is apparently quite impressive. As you know, we’re not wine people, and on Tuesday night Thomas seemed to have his attention focused solely on one table; interestingly enough, the table with a certain opposition MP sharing his surname… Are they related, I wonder…?

What with all the Chinese New Year feasting, we weren’t particularly hungry so we just ordered a main course each. Someone was giving out vouchers downstairs for free dessert with any main course, so we had a dessert each as well. A had the squid ink pappardelle with sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese, and I had the caramelized pork belly with mashed potatoes and arugula salad.

The pork belly looked impressive when it arrived, and at first bite it was pretty good. But the flavour mostly came from the arugula salad and balsamic vinaigrette, because when I had the pork on its own, it was tasteless and quite dry and tough as well. The pork belly at Archangel was way better.

The pappardelle fared much better though. It may not look the most appetizing but frankly, what squid ink pasta does? The pasta was well cooked, and the balance of the squid ink and parmesan was perfect. Very flavourful, and the sun dried tomatoes and shallots added some kick as well.

Alas, that was the only high point of the night. The free desserts were a disappointment. I had a sherry trifle, and it seemed like the sherry was just poured on top of the custard as an afterthought. The custard was a bit powdery as well, so perhaps it was pre-mix custard rather than made from scratch?

The molten chocolate lava cake was paired with passionfruit sorbet, I guess in an attempt to make it different from the usual vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately, if it ain’t broke… Passionfruit and chocolate don’t really go together, at least not in this particular dessert. A ended up having the sorbet and cake separately; it worked much better that way. The cake itself looked promising, but when we cut into it, the chocolate inside didn’t flow out, but rather flopped out in a semi-solid chunk. And it wasn’t warm inside at all. At the risk of sounding annoyingly pretentious, I think they probably put it in a too-hot oven for too short a time, so the outside was baked but the inside didn’t get a chance to heat through. I’m just glad the desserts were free because I wouldn’t pay for desserts like these.

This place has potential, but it has many teething problems that it needs to iron out. The place was almost full on Tuesday night (a public holiday), with 2 fairly large tables of about 8 diners each. We didn’t have starters, so the wait for our main course was almost 45 minutes. The maitre’d kept apologizing, though, and gave us each a glass of sherry to tide us over. Same thing with the dessert – after waiting almost 15 minutes after our mains were cleared, he came out and said the desserts would be another 8 to 10 minutes because the lava cake had to be baked. I couldn’t help but think that a more competent maitre’d would have noticed when we were almost finishing our mains, and asked the kitchen to fire up the desserts. I guess we’ve been watching too many episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…

This place also seems to be a haven for families with small children, because we were treated to the sounds of crying babies or overactive toddlers almost all night. The wait, the wails and the none-too-cheap prices (mains are between $20 and $36) are a bit of a deterrent, so I’ll give them some time to find their footing before we head back.

A says:

Considering the menu and the prices, I expected this place to be way more stuffy. But it really lived up to its name cause it’s like a casual place for friends and family to eat good food. Much more affluent friends and family though. Must be the area.

Anyway, the squid ink was damn good. The steaks don’t really seem worth over $30 though. Especially since C can make more affordable and probably equally tasty steak with the quality cuts from The Butcher.

I will probably give this place another chance and see if the service timing improves. If not, then I’d probably only recommend it for people who want to spend a long evening out drinking wine in the company of friends. That’s what the name suggests I guess.

Friends at Jelita
293 Holland Road, #02-04
Jelita Cold Storage Building
Tel: 6463 1011
Open 12 noon to 10 pm daily

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Home Cookin’, again

C says:

Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy anniversary to atetoomuch! Yes, it was a year ago today that we had our very first post; time really flies! True to tradition, we stayed in again this year, and once again I attempted to recreate our Tamade dinner of old.

We started out with a salad of Japanese cucumbers with a garlic soy dressing.

Next was the steak with aglio olio pasta.

I wasn’t very pleased with the pasta – I horribly overcooked it and it ended up soft and mushy. The steaks though, were great, though no credit at all goes to me for them. Once again, I got them from The Butcher, at Chip Bee in Holland Village – the Eye Fillet steak, which is essentially the tenderloin. These by far are the best steaks I’ve bought in Singapore, even after trying Swiss Butchery, Esprito Santo and Isetan Supermarket. The meat is exquisitely sweet, and the texture incredibly fine. It still had plenty of flavour, notwithstanding that it was a tenderloin, a cut that’s renowned for tenderness but lacking in flavour. All I had to do was season them with salt and pepper right before cooking, and they turned out pretty good. Idiot-proof!

For dessert, I made molten chocolate lava cakes, and had them with Haagen-Daaz vanilla ice cream. I wanted Ben & Jerry’s, but A prefers the synthetic sweetness of Haagen-Daaz, and since this was my Valentine’s Day dinner to him…

The cakes were a bit too oozy for my liking, but at least they held their shape. I used some milk chocolate together with the dark, which was a mistake. Next time, it’s dark chocolate all the way.

Well, this has been certainly been an incredibly fun year. Watch this space, cos we’ll just keep on eating too much. : )

A says:

I love the woman who cooks for me, drags me out of bed and gets me to work every morning, manages my schedule and gives me the sweet, sweet lovin’.

Oh, btw, the beef RAWKED!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Brunch at Graze

C says:

Considering that we live only ten minutes’ walk away from Rochester Park, we certainly don’t come here often enough. Before Sunday, our first and only time was back in June last year, to the Da Paolo Bistro Bar.

We’ve always been wary of Graze, because I’ve read mixed reviews about it, some of them none too objective. Still, the allure of their legendary brunch item, the cast iron skillet, proved too tempting, and we finally caved on Sunday.

The cast iron skillet is essentially a chic twist on a classic English fry-up. You get the whole works – a sunny side up egg, two sausages, heaps of bacon, baked beans, diced new potatoes, sautéed button mushrooms, a roasted tomato and plum chilli salsa, all in a skillet that arrives at the table still sizzling hot. Be very careful, the skillet is and remains hot throughout your meal.

I must say it lived up to expectations. The mushrooms were buttery and delicious, the potatoes nice and crispy. But somehow, if I were to rate fry-ups, I’d still pick the all-day breakfast at The Penny Black. That, to me, is a perfect fry-up. The Graze sausages, though very tasty, were just a bit too herbed for my liking. Fry-up sausages should just be classic English pork sausages. The plum chilli salsa too was a chi-chi element that I could have done without. All these trappings elevate the dish above what a fry-up should traditionally be. Maybe I’m just a simple bloke at heart… None-too-surprisingly, A preferred the fry-up here, in particular the sausages and the salsa. And who’s simple folk now?

A’s choice was the baked omelette, where you get to choose four toppings. He chose bacon, ham, smoked salmon and mushrooms. The cast iron skillet was definitely better, but this was pretty good too. Definitely better (and better value) than the Portobello Mushroom Stack at PS Café’s brunch. Even the salad wasn’t neglected; it came with a really good dressing, perhaps made from some of the interesting sauces and oils that you can purchase from their in-house store.

Speaking of which, they served us a couple of slices of toast to start off with, so we had it with the home-made lavender honey that was conveniently at our table. The honey was delicious, and they do sell jars of it in their store too. I was half tempted to get a jar, but I’m sure the bread makes a big difference; I doubt it’ll taste as good with simple sliced Gardenia, so we’ll just have it here instead.

The ambience is quite pleasant and they provide loads of magazines for your leisurely reading, indicating that they encourage you to sit back and chill. That’s pretty much the reason for the restaurant name – you’re expected to take your time, graze, savour your food and just relax. They have a barbeque menu that looks quite interesting. Since it’s really close to home, we don’t have to worry about the parking situation (gloat), so we’ll definitely be back for more.

A says:

Surprisingly good value. You could probably find the quality ingredients and make the stuff yourself, but it’s just sooo much easier to come here.

You can tell people come for the outdoor ambience because everyone was dining alfresco except for us. If you hate the heat as much as I do, you’ll be glad to know the indoor area is nice and cool.

The staff are also surprisingly friendly to sloppy folk like us (except for one slightly snooty chick).

Note to self: Coffee is good but portions are small. Flat white is slightly better than Cappuccino.

4 Rochester Park
Tel: 6775-9000
Breakfast/Brunch: Sunday 9am to 3pm
Lunch: Sunday 12 noon to 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday 6.30pm to midnight (last food order 10.30pm)
Bar: 6.30pm to 1 am

Saturday, February 10, 2007

PS Café (Paragon)

C says:

We should have known better than to venture to town on the weekend before Chinese New Year. It was absolutely packed on Saturday night, and though we planned to go to Shimbashi Soba, the queue was ridiculous, so we ended up at PS Café, which was deserted in comparison.

The menu at this Paragon branch is much smaller than the Dempsey Road one, and is more centred towards sandwiches and salads; pretty much food that you can have all day. Understandable, given that it caters to shoppers and ladies who lunch/brunch/tea.

We shared a Cauliflower and Saffron soup, which didn’t really taste either of cauliflower or saffron. Buko Nero, it certainly wasn’t. The mains fared a bit better – A had a warm salad with breaded lamb leg ‘schnitzel’. It may have been a salad but it was really filling. There were huge slices of lamb, loads of vegetables, and tons of really filling beans. The lamb was good at first, because the breaded crust was still crispy and the lamb was tender. Towards the end, the crust had absorbed the salad dressing and turned a little soggy.

I had a beef brisket pasta. The description in the menu read almost like a novel; something like: braised NZ beef brisket with roasted mushroom, tomato, asparagus and radicchio with herb tagliatelle, served with a tamarind garlic glaze. Whatever…

It was very filling. I must say they’re very generous with the ingredients. There was a huge slab of beef on top, and loads of mushrooms and dou miao. I almost couldn’t see any pasta. It was quite Asian flavoured, so again this wasn’t quite A’s cup of tea.

I had quite a delicious white wine sangria there as well. Barely alcoholic, just fruity, sweet and fizzy. I like sangria…

A says:

I have to say I’m constantly surprised that this place doesn’t give miniscule portions like other chi-chi places. I couldn’t finish all the beans with my lamb cutlets (it wasn’t a salad; it just had lots of veg sides).

My one complaint would be that it’s really hard to catch the attention of the servers. Once you finally do though, they’re very friendly, know their stuff and are willing to please.

PS Café
3rd floor, Paragon


C says:

After lunch at Warong, we strolled to Haji Lane to check out some cool shops for a few friends’ birthday gifts. At one store, called Pluck, there was an in-store café/ice-cream parlour selling funky sundae creations. We decided to share the Kaya Sundae – coconut swirl ice cream, kaya and biscuit pieces. This was quite interesting and pretty light, because it wasn’t too sweet or rich.

I wonder whether this place uses Island Creamery ice cream; they certainly use the rather distinctive Island Creamery flavour names, like Coconut Swirl, Reverso, Fresh Banana, Kahlua Latte and Nutella, and yet the coconut swirl that we had in the kaya sundae didn’t really taste what we’ve had at Island Creamery. Hmmm… maybe we should raise this with the Island Creamery owner…

A says:

Pretty decent portioned desserts. 2 scoops in the sundae and 2 scoops of ice cream in the root beer float (btw, they use regular A&W Root Beer from a 1.5l bottle). I imagine the seating area would be really cramped if the place was full though.

31/33 Haji Lane
Tel: 6396-4048
12.30 pm to 8 pm

Warong Nasi Pariaman

C says:

This is a small shophouse located at the corner of North Bridge Road and Kandahar Street. It’s A’s kampong cos he works in the area, so after always making comparisons whenever we eat at River Valley Nasi Padang, A finally brought me here for brunch on Saturday morning. We had to go for brunch because the place gets packed closer to lunch time, and they pretty much sell out by 1 to 2 pm.

When we got there at about 10.45, the restaurant was already packed, and there was a sizeable take-away queue as well. If you are dining in, you queue at a separate, shorter queue to place your order. The take-away queue is mammoth in length, mainly because each person probably orders enough to feed their entire family. You can see all sorts of people, from Malay makciks to coiffed tai-tais, waiting patiently in the queue. The queue got even longer as we were eating, numbering more than 20 by around 11.30 am.

In order to make as fair a comparison as possible, we ordered almost the same things as we do at River Valley – the beef rendang, sayur lodeh (with tofu, because the cabbage one wasn’t cooked yet), squid and their specialty, Ayam Bakar – a grilled chicken served with a light korma-like coconut gravy.

The rendang was very flavourful and tender, but the squid was just passable and the sayur lodeh was quite watery. The highlight was the Ayam Bakar – order the ‘paha’ and you get a chicken thigh and drumstick portion. The chicken is pre-grilled, and when you order it they just douse it in the korma gravy. The gravy is no where near the richness of the River Valley one, but I must say the charred smoky flavour of the grilled chicken is unparalleled.

Next time we’ll just have 2 portions each of the rendang and the chicken, and not bother with any other dishes. I do think, however, that overall, I’ll probably still go to River Valley for the convenience and the curry gravy.

A says:

This place is just chaotic. Even though the taste of the chicken and rending are better here, I’d rather go to the River Valley just because it’s more organized, easier to order and you can just park at Great World City.

Warong Nasi Pariaman
738 North Bridge Road
Opening hours: 7.30am to 3pm; closed on Sundays

Friday, February 09, 2007

Buko Nero

C says:

After quite a long hiatus since our last visit, we were here again on Friday night, where the menu was:

Amuse Bouche: tuna baked with egg white
Veal Loin and Salted Ricotta Salad with (something I can’t spell) Salsa
Cauliflower and Basil Soup
Mango and Lime Sherbet
A’s main: Home-made pasta with bacon, turkey sausage and olives
C’s main: Crusted cod with a saffron reduction
Milk chocolate and hazelnut cake with caramel coulis

The salsa in the salad was a pesto-like dressing, but slightly more tart. It went very well with the very tender veal loin and watercress leaves, and we mopped up every last drop with the yummy bread from the bread basket. What blew me away was the cauliflower soup. Tracy said that it was made without cream, just milk and vegetable stock, and it was amazing – for something with no cream, it was still really creamy, thick and rich, and was pureed to an almost unreal smoothness.

My cod was perfectly cooked; no easy feat for a slab of fish that thick, but it was evenly cooked all the way through, and perfectly timed so it wasn’t overcooked and dry. The saffron reduction was almost like a lobster bisque, and thanks to some fried shallots tasted almost Asian. As A would say, too Asian for him… His pasta was tomato and cream-based, and although we initially cringed at the olives, surprisingly they went perfectly with the turkey sausage. Their mellow saltiness somehow paired with the stronger and spicier flavours of the sausage really well.

The cake was surprisingly light and moist, with the slightly burnt edges being the best part. Went really well with the latte that A ordered. They’re already fully booked for 9 March (can you imagine?!) so gotta try calling next week for the following Friday in March.

A says:

Everything was good as always but the only thing that blew me away this time was the soup. Still highly recommended.

Buko Nero
126 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088534
Tel: 6324-6225
Dinner: 6.30pm to 9.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday)
Lunch: Noon to 2pm (Thursday to Saturday)
Closed Sunday and Monday

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Beppu Menkan

C says:

I think almost everyone working in the Raffles Place area knows this place. Affectionately referred to as ‘Hell’s Noodles’, it’s a Japanese restaurant in Far East Square specializing in ramen, but in particular their signature dish – ramen in a potentially lethal hellbroth. I say potentially because you get to select your poison: the soup comes in five varying levels of spiciness - one, two, four, six and eight chillies.

The spicy ramen is available in different varieties, ranging from sliced beef and sliced fish, but by far the most popular and most delicious is the fried chicken (karaage) ramen. For $8.80 you get a very generous portion of noodles, bamboo shoot, sweet corn, spring onions, fried garlic chips and about 7 to 8 pieces of juicy chicken thigh, breaded and deep fried to golden perfection.

One chilli is really mild and only has a hint of spice. Two chillies is probably the best compromise for people who like some heat in their food. It’s about as spicy as a normal curry. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I always go for the four chillies, which ranges from being fairly spicy, to downright lip-searingly hot. It’s pretty erratic, because I guess they don’t have specific measurements of chili powder that they add for the various chilli levels. Apparently a woman actually fainted after eating a six-chilli bowl, and the eight-chilli is not without its fans as well – the restaurant sells up to 20 bowls a week, including to a student who has an eight-chilli bowl every week. Insane!

On Thursday night the four chillis I had was quite a killer. My lips were burning, and the soup burned a trail all the way down to my stomach. It’s really addictive though, and that chilli high is precisely what keeps me coming back for more. There’s a price to pay of course, and pay for it dearly you will the next day…

They have a sister Thai restaurant next door, and you can order food from both restaurants no matter where you sit. In addition to the ramen, there’s actually a very wide range of Japanese and Thai food available; it’s just very hard for me to come here and not order the fried chicken ramen. Four chillies is still the max that I’ll go, though.

A says:

I think the standard has dropped since the last time we came a few months ago. The cold noodles and squid we had were not bad, but no where near as good as before. C’s chicken was still really good though.

Note to self: While the longans themselves are sweeter, the juice is really watery. I think I’ll go back to the lychee juice next time.

Beppu Menkan
134 Amoy Street
Far East Square
Tel: 6438-0328

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Noodle House Ken

C says:

We came here for lunch on Saturday and I was all geared up for the stewed egg ramen again that I had the last time but AAARRGGHHH the stewed egg wasn’t ready yet. I ended up having the cha siew ramen which was still pretty good but dang, I really wanted the stewed egg…

Still, I must say they were incredibly generous with the cha siew. There were three huge slices, and I do mean huge. Check them out in the pic. I expected the pork to be quite tough but it literally melted in my mouth.

A had the cold noodle, since he really seems to have a thing for cold noodles. I tried a mouthful and all I seemed to taste was the sesame sauce. Then A told me to try it with the mustard, and sure enough a tiny smidgen brought it to a whole new level. Still not something I’d voluntarily order, but an interesting combination nonetheless.

Since we last came here, Ken’s has expanded. It used to be just a tiny, slightly grubby corner shop and you ate along an L-shaped counter facing the kitchen. But today that shop was packed, and they brought us to an annex one store down, where they’ve now got a rather posh-looking unit. While I’m glad they’re doing well, I think the new annex takes the charm out of the place a little. I liked my previous experience than the generic Jap restaurant premises that we were in today.

This place opens till late though (2 am), so maybe it’s a better idea to come at dinner time. If nothing else, the stewed egg should be ready by then.

A says:

What always surprises me about this place is that the service is really good.
And although the authentic hole-in-the-wall feel at the counter area is fun, I’m pretty happy we got the nice air-conditioned seating. It just makes my favourite ramen place even better. Especially now that I know I can choose between the miso ramen and the cold ramen. The Gyoza we had was really good too, but not really worth $5 for 5 pieces.

Noodle House Ken
150 Orchard Road
#01-17/18 Orchard Plaza
Tel: 6235-5540
Weekdays: 12pm – 2pm; 6pm – 2am
Saturday: 12pm – 3pm; 6pm – 2am
Closed on Sundays

Friday, February 02, 2007


C says:

Borgo is located on Bukit Timah Road, along the stretch of shophouses unfortunately referred to as the ‘Corduroy and Finch row’. Opened by Chef La Mura Dominico (aka Chef Mimmo), formerly of La Braceria restaurant in the Greenleaf estate, it serves Italian fare in simple, understated surroundings. (However, we still managed to bump into 2 different sets of fairly chi-chi friends dining here on Friday night, so maybe it’s hipper than it appears.)

La Braceria is/was known for its grilled dishes, and apparently this place is no different. Their specialties are their grilled items, like their grilled sausage platter and their steaks. They also apparently do a good Osso Buco, but that has to wait for another visit, because on Friday night A and I decided to share a starter, and the massive Bistecca Alla Fiorentina – 700g of seared T-bone steak.

The starter we shared was the Scarmorza Dello Chef – discs of baked scarmorza cheese, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, topped with sautéed button mushrooms. Texture-wise, the scarmorza was similar to mozzarella, but had a slightly fuller but not overpowering flavour. It was served with some rocket salad that went with the cheese very nicely.

Then the main course arrived and it was quite an intimidating sight! The platter was huge; the good thing was that the steak was pre-sliced for us into wonderfully thin slices. Kudos to the chef or whoever it was who did it, because the slices were the perfect thickness, and hardly any meat was left on the bone. It was medium rare, just the way we ordered it, probably no easy feat for a steak of that size.

For $55, this was actually a pretty good deal, considering that a 680g Porterhouse at Mortons was $86. It was just the right size for two rather hungry diners. I actually preferred the striploin side of the T-bone; it was chewier but it had the most amazing flavour. The tenderloin side, though admittedly very smooth and, well, tender, I found it a bit flat-tasting. A much preferred the tenderloin side, though. The slices were placed on a bed of rocket and other mixed greens tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, but the rosemary leaves scattered on top of the steak were a tad overpowering.

Beside a cheese platter, Borgo only serves four desserts – a Caprese almond cake, a chocolate lava flambed with Grand Marnier, panna cotta and tiramisu. The lava cake doesn’t come with vanilla ice cream, and 100% chocolate was a bit overkill after all the meat, so we decided to share a panna cotta instead. It came topped with strawberries, and was rich yet quite refreshing.

Some of the pizzas on the menu look quite appetizing as well; guess we’ll be going back to try those, as well as the Osso Buco.

A says:

Appertisers looked really good. The waiter recommended the Italian mussels which I’ll try next time. The baked cheese somehow managed to smell, look, and taste a bit like chicken to me. I’m sure it’s just my imagination. At least that’s what the voices in my head tell me.

I’ll also try the pizzas next time. Not sure how big they are though so I’m wondering if I can do a starter, pizza and a dessert.

Of the desserts, I don’t think I could do the chocolate cake without ice cream, so I’d either go for the panna cotta or pop over to Venezia at Guthrie House for a yogurt flavoured gelato.

789 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6466-7762 Lunch: 12:15pm - 2:15pm
Dinner: 6pm - 10:30pm
Closed on Tuesdays


C says:

I’m now convinced that the amuse bouche of pumpkin puree with sesame tofu is a standard set lunch item. Today was our third time here and we had it again. Can’t possibly be coincidence a third time, can it?!

For starters, I decided to have the capellini; not the one with the sakura ebi that I had on our first visit, but a squid ink capellini with char-grilled baby octopus. Wow… the squid ink sauce provided quite a rich, deep flavour hit (maybe that’s what the Japanese term umami refers to), and the octopus was slightly chewy but had a nice charred flavour. I could have eaten about five times more, but I shared half with A because his starter wasn’t quite up his alley. Random aside: they considerately provided a wet towel for me to clean the inevitable black stains (very Goth) from my lips.

A’s starter was a grilled oyster mushroom with foie gras croutons and salad. It looked almost like a slice of bruschetta in its presentation. The foie gras cubes were wonderful, and went together with the earthy, almost meaty taste and texture of the oyster mushroom really well. Still, the capellini was definitely the better of the two.

I had my usual moral dilemma of whether to have the Iggy’s burger, or try something new. Today’s menu made the decision for me, though. The other choices were a grilled seabass (no way), or kurobuta pork schnitzel, and I wasn’t particularly keen on having tonkatsu at Iggy’s. So the burger it was, yet again, and no regrets; it was still as incredible the third time around. We decided to take a photo to show you just how tiny the burger really is – here it is in my hand:

We went quite avant garde in our dessert choices today. I had the Bellini – a martini glass with layers of champagne jelly, peach cubes, peach (with a hint of champagne, perhaps?) sorbet, and elderberry foam. This was a lot better than I expected. Very refreshing and a very interesting take on a Bellini (a cocktail made with peach puree and champagne/sparkling wine).

A decided to forego the usual lava cake and had a soymilk crème caramel with black sesame ice cream. The crème caramel was actually pretty good, not too sweet and a perfect texture, but the black sesame ice cream was quite ordinary yet quite strongly flavoured, overpowering the subtle crème caramel.

This is actually a really good place for lunch. If you have the 3-course set, you can pretty be in and out in an hour flat.

A says:

The burger is still the best I’ve ever had. I realize that while the patty is amazing, what pushes it to the gastronomic stratosphere is the cheese-like stuff on top (C says: It’s truffle sabayon, you twat!).

I think that next time I’ll go for a noodley appetizer. Those tend to be the best.

Level 3, The Regent Hotel
1 Cuscaden Road
Tel: 6732-2234
Lunch (weekdays): 12 noon to 2 pm
Dinner: 7 pm to 10 pm

Thursday, February 01, 2007


C says:

We’ve been meaning to try this place in Great World City for quite a while now. It’s a gourmet deli run by Chef Emmanuel Stroobant, of Saint Pierre fame. In the past though, every time we’ve walked past and glanced at the menu on the chalkboard, I’ve always been slightly uninspired because it only offers sandwiches, and I’ve never been a big fan of having sandwiches as a meal.

On Thursday evening, we strolled by and again the chalkboard didn’t look all that interesting; it had the usual sandwiches and a penne with mushroom sauce. Luckily we spotted a proper menu on one of the empty tables and had a flip through. In addition to the sandwiches, they have a proper, albeit slightly limited, menu as well. There are about 5 or 6 starters/salads, 3 pastas and another 5 main courses. I was actually torn between 3 items – the seafood ravioli with lobster bisque, duck leg confit and the pork belly. Unsurprisingly, I decided to go with the pork belly.

It was a garlic and ginger infused kurobuta pork belly, and the flavours were a lot more Asian than I expected. This suited me fine but A found it too Asian for his Anglo-Saxon tastebuds. (His Teochew tastebuds must have taken a hike today) In addition to the ginger and garlic, the sauce had a vinegary bite which made the fatty pork a lot less rich. The pork itself was obviously very good quality, because it was rich, tender, and even the fatty layers were melt-in-your-mouth and weren’t too oily.

A had the smoked salmon salad with rocket, walnuts and julienned pears. He decided on this because the menu described the salmon as ‘green tea smoked salmon’, and he has a weakness for both green tea and salmon. Unfortunately we couldn’t taste any hint of green tea, just the usual smokey saltiness. We also shared a side of truffle mashed potatoes. The devil to anyone on Atkins but boy, were they good. Creamy, cheesy and positively addictive, these were definitely the highlight of the meal for A.

Being a delicatessen, Archangel sells some pretty good stuff in their open concept walk-through kitchen. They’ve got herbs and spices of all kinds, from traditional dried chili powder and saffron, to crazy stuff like beetroot powder, vanilla salt and elderflowers. They come in nifty little test tubes as well, which is pretty cool.

This place isn’t very cheap – our meal, with 2 drinks, came up to $70 for the two of us – so I don’t think we’ll be coming here regularly since there’s plenty of good food to be found in and around Great World City. Still, I do want to try a couple of the other mains, and I’m sure the call of the truffle mashed potatoes will be hard to ignore.

A says:

The food is good but I think most of it is not really worth the price (like my $18 salad or $7 pear & vanilla juice that was the size of an old 10cent tuck shop drink). The mash however was worth the $6 and more. Freakin’ addictive. The coffee’s not bad too.

I guess I’ll go back to try the sandwiches before I make a final decision as to whether to make this a regular dining option.

#03-32/33 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade Tel: 6836-4424
Mondays to Fridays: 9.30 am to 10 pm
Weekends: 10 am to 10 pm