Saturday, June 30, 2007

Le Bistrot

C says:

Deceived, I say, deceived! A and I went to the Indoor Stadium on Saturday night to see the Genie in a Bottle herself, so we figured we’d take the opportunity to have dinner at Le Bistrot. Le Bistrot started out as a humble little café/bistro in Joo Chiat, serving unpretentious French food prepared by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Lee Chin Sin. They moved to the Indoor Stadium Waterfront in February this year, after talk that the building in which their restaurant was located was to be sold.

Anyway, I called on Thursday intending to make a reservation for about 6 or 6.30 pm, just in time for the show at 8. However the person who took my call asked if I was going for the concert, and when I said yes, she told me to come at either 5 or 5.30. I was a bit taken aback, but agreed to a 5.30 reservation. We then spent the next few days checking out the menu on their website, trying to decide what to order.

Surprise #1 – when we got there, we were presented with an Express Pre-Concert Menu, with only a handful of the selections from the main menu, and some of our planned items weren’t available. Turns out on concert nights, they have a streamlined concert menu, and the main menu items are only available after 8 pm. No one told me this when I called to make the reservation.

Surprise #2 – the food came really quickly, so we really needn’t have come at 5.30 as advised. As much as we tried to prolong our meal and take minuscule bites, we still finished at 6.45 and spent a “romantic” hour strolling the banks of Kallang River and sitting on the steps of the Indoor Stadium.

However, as far as grouses go, they end there. Much as I wanted to complain about dinner itself, I couldn’t. The food itself was really good. They operate by way of a Prix Fixe menu - $38 for 2 courses, and $48 for 3. In the regular (read: non-concert) menu, there are about five or six choices per course. A and I both had a 2-course, with a starter and a main.

I had the Chilled Pumpkin Soup with Goose Rillette and Mint Crème Fraiche. This may sound a bit dodgy but it really tasted quite heavenly. The chilled nature of the soup actually made the otherwise thick pumpkin puree taste light and refreshing. The mint crème fraiche added more depth, and the rich, flavourful rillette complemented everything perfectly.

A’s starter was a Mesclun Salad with a Tian of Goat’s Cheese and Grilled Vegetables. Expecting a rather pungent concoction, I was pleasantly surprised with this – the cheese was savoury and delivered an initial burst of flavour, but it mellowed after first bite and became a nice creamy accompaniment for the salad.

The main course portions are quite hearty – my Duck Leg Confit came with two whole duck legs, mashed potatoes and a grain mustard vinaigrette. Since the method of preparing duck confit essentially involves curing and preserving the duck in a mixture of salt and its own fat, I always had preconceived notions that duck confit is overly salty and stringy, and indeed my previous experiences have proven this to be the case. However, these were laid to rest at Andre’s (in Telok Ayer Street), and confirmed by the duck confit here. The meat was tender and just fell off the bone with a gentle prod of my fork, and wasn’t at all salty. The skin could’ve been a little crispier, but that would just be nitpicking.

A had the Steak Frites with a 200g rumpsteak cooked medium rare (they only allow you to request for rare or medium rare here, good on them!). The doneness was perfect, and although A had some trouble cutting it (tenderloin, it certainly wasn’t), the resulting bites were actually quite tender and very sweet.

Initially I was spoiling for a fight and really wanted to either complain about the limited menu or the food, but they were so nice and apologetic about the concert menu arrangement that there was nothing for me to pick on, and the food itself gave me absolutely nothing to complain about. Conclusion? We’re definitely coming back after 8 pm to try the other dishes in the main menu.

A says:

Maybe I very the “low-crass” but the goat’s cheese and C’s duck tasted a bit like fancier (and much tastier) versions of La Vache Qui Rit and KFC respectively. But overall, the food is very good, the service very friendly, and the whole atmosphere very nice. Although I wouldn’t recommend going on a day when there is an event at the Indoor Stadium – getting out of the car park is FARKING INSANE!!!

Note to self: the Cappuccino is better, but C prefers the latte. Both come with very good, very dark Valrhona chocolates.

Le Bistrot
2 Stadium Walk
#01-03 Singapore Indoor Stadium
Tel: 6447-0018
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday 6.30 pm to 11.30 pm (last order 9.30 pm)
Lunch: Thursday and Friday 12 noon to 3 pm (last order 2 pm)
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10.30 am to 2.30 pm (last order 2 pm)

Thai Noodle House

C says:

We just discovered the stretch of eateries along Coronoation Road, right before Coronation Plaza. I always thought there was just a chicken rice stall there, but to our surprise there were about five different eateries, all selling Asian food. We tried Thai Noodle House today, because there was more choice for A than the rest of the joints. It seems fairly authentic – the owner and waitstaff appear to be Thai, and there are photos of the Thai king on the wall.

I ordered the tom yam noodle, and asked for it to be served with tung hoon. They claim that tung hoon is more expensive than regular noodles, so charged an extra $2. To be fair, A-Roy Thai said the same thing as well, so at least they’re not (I think, anyway) trying to pull a fast one. The tom yam noodle wasn’t bad, and I love tom yam soup with tung hoon, but it still doesn’t beat the tom yam noodle at A-Roy Thai. Still, the seafood was nice and fresh.

With so many interesting dishes on offer, like a rice with minced pork and basil leaf, A chose the single most boring thing on the menu – pineapple rice AGAIN. I had to say “I told you so”, because the one here is quite mediocre – pretty bland and not really tasting of anything in particular.

We also had the red ruby but we ordered it to go, so by the time we had it the ice had melted and it was almost lukewarm. Again, can’t beat the one at A-Roy Thai. All in all, this place isn’t spectacular, and I don’t think the food is worth the rather steep prices – our dishes were $8 each. I’d rather head over to A-Roy Thai any day, but I guess this place is worth considering if we ever get an insatiable Thai food craving while we’re in the Bukit Timah area.

A says:

Food is okay, but I’d rather go to A-Roy Thai (tastes better) or Tuk Tuk Thai (cheaper).

Thai Noodle House
5 Coronation Road
#01-03 Coronation Arcade
Tel: 6467-0104
Open daily: 11.30 am to 9.30 pm; closed Mondays

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wiener Kaffeehaus

C says:

Another discovery for casual Friday night dinners. Located along Neil Road, this is a casual café that specialises in authentic Austrian dishes, and prides itself on its coffee. They claim to be the only coffeehouse to have its own coffee roaster in-store; they roast and grind their coffee daily, and even produce their own house brand coffees for sale – they have 7 different roasts, sold in very attractive packaging.

A had a cappuccino, and I must say their pride in their coffee is not misplaced. The coffee was strong, rich and flavourful. It came served on a silver platter, with a glass of water. Apparently, the silver platter is used to prevent the coffee from staining the marble tabletops, and the water cleanses the palate from the aftertaste of the coffee. Also, Viennese coffee culture dictates that you sip your coffee slowly, savouring each mouthful, so the water’s probably also there to quench your thirst while you’re at it.

On Fridays and Saturdays, they have the pork knuckle special, so I ordered it tonight. At $23, it was huge and very good value, considering it was the same size as the large one at Baden that costs $39. It was served with salad, sauerkraut, and the mashed potato-looking ball is actually an Austrian bread dumpling. This was super-filling and really not my thing, but A absolutely loved it. The pork knuckle itself was pretty good – the meat was tender, but the crackling and the gravy weren’t as good as Baden’s.

A had the Wiener Schnitzel. He ordered it thinking it would be a light meal, since the waitress said it was about palm-sized. When it arrived we were in shock - as you can see from the photo, who on earth has palms that huge?! Taste-wise it was ok, but a little one-dimensional and boring after a few bites. Needless to say, we were way too full for dessert, which was a pity since they apparently do a good strudel. Well, next time we may share a main so that we have room for dessert.

While the food isn’t spectacular, I like the ambience and the fact that it’s really casual, so we’ll probably come back, if nothing else then for the coffee and to try the desserts.

A says:

The menu selection isn’t big but it seems very good value because the main course portions were huge! The cappuccino was pretty good too. My favourite thing about the place is that the air-con is nice and cold. Perfect for me. Also note that they have only one server so you may have trouble getting her attention.

Wiener Kaffeehaus
148 Neil Road
Tel: 6226-3148
Open daily: 9 am to 10 pm

Makan-Sutera Nasi Lemak

C says:

Another Yummy King finalist, this nasi lemak stall is a stone’s throw from A’s office, but they’re so popular that by lunchtime they’re more or less sold out (they’re open from 6 am to 2 pm), so poor A hardly gets a chance to have it. Today, since I was on leave, we came here for a very hearty and filling breakfast.

It’s really good value – for $2 you get rice, sambal, cucumber, and a choice of 3 dishes. In addition to the chicken drumstick, egg and luncheon meat that we chose, there’s a whole array of other choices, from chicken wings to fish cake. But it’s not just the price and variety that draws the customers – this is really good nasi lemak. The sambal is sufficiently spicy, and a taste test of the rice alone passed with flying colours. The rice was very fragrant – lots of coconut flavour, as well as a fuller bodied flavour that reminded me of chicken rice.

In my opinion, this is way better than the Adam Road nasi lemak (the first stall, anyway), which is totally not worth the 15 – 20 minute queue.

A says:

All the nasi lemak stalls around the area are good value (which explains why most are sold out and closed by 1+). The best one is over at the Neil Road side with 4 sides at $2 only. Given that I just mix it all up in sambal, that would be my recommendation.

Makan-Sutera Nasi Lemak
6 Tanjong Pagar Road
#02-40 Tanjong Pagar Market
Monday to Saturday, 6 am to 2 pm. Closed Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


C says:

This was quite an unplanned visit. We met M&J for dinner, and since baby E came along, we had to go somewhere relatively kid-friendly, and still close by to M&J’s place. Our plans to go to either Hanabi or En Japanese Dining Bar in the Crown Centre area were thwarted when both places looked packed and we couldn’t find any parking in the immediate vicinity. We were driving around aimlessly trying to come up with ideas when I suddenly thought of Westlake, since it was the closest thing around.

This place is another blast from the past for me. I used to have weekend family dinners here quite often when I was young, then somehow we stopped going; I’m not sure whether it was because other joints took our fancy, or the standard dropped/prices rose. We’ve been back a few times over the years, and I even brought A a couple of times, but nowhere near the frequency of old.

Westlake’s specialty is their Kong Bak Pau – a deliciously sinful dish of braised pork belly slices that you eat sandwiched between a steamed man tou. This is probably their most popular dish, and they’ve even taken to setting up kiosks at mall atriums occasionally, just selling this dish. In fact, they may actually have a permanent stall in the Tangs basement food hall. This dish is quite a no-brainer – juicy pork belly in a sweet-savoury sauce, eaten with a soft fluffy bun. Can’t really go wrong.

This was my first time ordering the deep fried squid, and I’m very impressed. Instead of calamari rings, these were baby squid, lightly battered and deep fried. It was extremely addictive, although the dipping sauce that came with it was a nasty lemon sauce, the kind you get with lemon chicken (ick). Eaten without the sauce, though, this is a great dish.

We also ordered the kung pao chicken, and long beans with sambal. The kung pao chicken was nothing spectacular – a little too sweet and not sour nor spicy enough. The long beans fared a bit better, although I would have preferred them with spicy minced pork rather than the hay bee hiam that they used.

All in all, I guess the food here isn’t bad, with some winners and some more ordinary dishes. It’s certainly a useful alternative when you need something in the vicinity, but for similar high-end zi char, I’d still rather go to Manhill, Romanee’s or Arcadia restaurant.

A says:

Blast from the past is right. Food quality is still pretty good. Parking is pretty easy with the HDB car park on the ground floor (No Free Parking at any time as I discovered after walking all the way to the entrance to find the notice board).

The only problem I can see is the lack of elevators for old people and baby prams. Considering it’s primarily a family gathering kind of place, the big flight of stairs doesn’t make it very accessible.

Westlake Restaurant
Block 4, Queen’s Road
Tel: 6474-7283

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Aston’s Specialties

C says:

Ever since the review in Sunday Times on good quality steaks at reasonable prices, people, fueled by the love of a good bargain, have been flocking to Aston's in droves, creating long lines thanks to the fact that the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations.

Since it’s located in the (gasp) East, A and I have been wary of going on our own, scared that we’ll be called out for not being locals… My East-sider friend SS and her fiancé HH, who was in town over the weekend, were nice enough to bring us there on Saturday night to initiate us (thanks for dinner, SS!).

We got there at 6.45 and a considerable queue had formed already. It moved along fairly quickly, though, and we were seated in about 20 minutes or so. It helped that they came to take our order while we were waiting in line, so that saved some time after we were seated as well.

Aston’s manages to occasionally bring in wagyu steaks at fairly reasonable prices, relatively speaking of course. Reasonable compared to what you’d have to pay for wagyu beef at more chi-chi establishments. Today, they were selling some Grade 7 wagyu rib-eye for $58.90 per 250g piece. We passed on that, and instead opted to share a bunch of main courses. SS ordered the Double Up Chicken – 2 huge chicken thigh pieces, one prepared cutlet style and one chop style. This was by far the best value – all that, with 2 sides, for only $9.90. The chop was a bit generic but the cutlet was quite good.

A went for the ieat super burger. Some background on this – Aston’s is a hot favourite of the popular blog ieatishootipost. One day the author decided to ask Aston (assuming the owner is called Aston…) to make his ideal burger. It went down so well with customers that it was named the ieat super burger, in honour of said blogger, and is now a permanent feature on the menu. It consists of 200g of handchopped sirloin, proper salty bacon, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cheese, hickory smoked BBQ sauce and topped with fried onion rings. At $12.50, it’s not the cheapest considering it comes without any sides, but it’s still one heck of a burger.

HH and I went for the rib-eye steaks – I chose the Long-Fed Rib-eye that was on the Special’s menu, for $29.90 for 250g. HH chose the Premium Rib-eye Extra Cut, which is on the standard menu (regular cut is about 150g, extra is 250g), for only $15.90. In the photo below, my steak is on the left, and HH’s on the right. As you can see, mine was slightly thinner and therefore a little overcooked for my liking. It was a little dry, but still flavourful. HH’s was much better – thicker, juicier and sweeter. Strange, considering that it was half the price.

We eyed the sausage platter that another table was having, so halfway through our meal we ordered one too – the Grand Sampler, for $12.50. It came with 4 different sausages, all quite interesting and tasty in their own right. The snail-shaped one was probably the best, and I liked the chicken and cheese one too. The sausages are from the Butcher House on River Valley Road, and their sausages are all home-made in their factory in Macpherson.

When we finished dinner at about 8.30 pm, we noticed a number of empty tables near us, so we figured it’s actually better to come here later rather than earlier next time. To our surprise, when we left there was still a queue! Very strange. Maybe they want to give the impression that they’re really popular, knowing Singaporeans’ obsession with queuing for food (see Donut Factory at Raffles City…)

All in all though, I thought the food was good for the price you pay (no premium steaks for me next time, though). Service was varied – there were some good waiters and some blur ones, but I would definitely come back. Maybe on a weekday night after work, since it’s fairly close to the city, when hopefully the queues are shorter.

A says:

Since the restaurant is kerb-side, parking is non-existant, although we’ve discovered that you can park at Katong Mall.

Queue sucks. While the food is generally good for the price you pay, I don’t think it’s worth queuing so long for. I can see why it’s popular, but I’d rather settle for something half the price at a food court/hawker centre (I recommend the Western Food stall at Old Airport Road), or pay more and have a better overall meal (like at a place with Angus in its name).

Aston’s Specialties
119/121 East Coast Road
Tel: 6247-7857, 6346-2131
Opening hours: 11.30 am to 11 pm
Closed Mondays

Friday, June 22, 2007


C says:

PaPi is owned by the same team behind Oso Ristorante. We’re pretty big fans of the food at Oso, so when we heard that they’d opened a casual pizzeria/pasta joint, we were quite psyched to try it out. Somehow, though, it took us more than a year to drag our asses here, so it’s not exactly new anymore.

It was surprisingly empty when we went on Friday night, considering its location (along Mohd Sultan Road). Also, it was much more casual than we expected. We figured it would be simpler than Oso, but it was really very laid back – quite similar to Spizza, actually.

The menu is pretty no-frills – some simple starters, a page each of pastas and pizzas, a couple of mains and some desserts. Some of their pastas, namely the tagliatelle, pappardelle and the filled pastas, are hand-made on their 45 year-old pasta machine. We shared a Caprese salad to start with, which was decent but not spectacular.

Since I wanted to try their home-made pasta, I ordered the tagliatelle with squid ink sauce. Unfortunately that’s all it is, no ingredients or anything. First bite was a little bland, but after I added parmesan cheese, it was much better. The best squid ink pasta I’ve had so far is the one at Friends, though.

A had the pizza with porcini mushroom and pancetta (bacon). The ingredients weren’t out of the ordinary, but the crust was great – it was thin and crispy, and unlike some thin-crust pizzas that turn soft and soggy after a while, this one stayed crispy throughout.

PaPi does takeout as well, and they only need about 10 – 15 minutes’ notice to prepare a couple of pizzas, so it’s pretty convenient if you want to pick up some pizza on the way back from work. Here’s their takeout menu, if anyone’s interested.

A says:

Simple. Casual. Cool. I like the place.

Service was excellent, atmosphere non-threatening (no worries about making noise), and the pizza crust RAWKED!!!

Definitely a new option for Friday night dinners or takeout pizza.

5 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 6732-6269
Opening hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm; 6 to 10.30 pm
Closed Mondays

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Buko Nero

C says:

It’s been almost 4 months since our last visit – how time flies! We managed to secure a reservation for tonight but only at 8.45 pm, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I ate so much all day (thanks for the yummy lunch, Y and W!), that if dinner had been earlier I would’ve been way too full to enjoy it. At least by 9 pm, and after a pre-emptive Spinning class (which probably didn’t even burn off the soup…), I was once again raring to go.

The menu for the night was:

Amuse bouche: Crostini with seared steak topped with half a grape
Starter: Zucchini “tonnato”
Additional starter: Veal carpaccio with parmesan, pear and truffle vinaigrette
Soup: Watercress and crab meat
Sherbet: Strawberry and lime
A’s main: Beef tenderloin wrapped with eggplant, topped with green peppercorns in red wine sauce
C’s main: Home-made tagliatelle with porcini mushroom and cod
Dessert: Chocolate cake with caramel coulis

Joy, the crostini was like the awesome one that we had on one of our first few visits, and our reactions were the same – oohing and ahhing noises as we munched into it, trying to savour all the flavours. The grape was a surprisingly good pairing with the steak.

The zucchini tonnato was 3 ribbons of zucchini, sliced ridiculously thin, served with a thin tuna-flavoured sauce. If that sounds strange, just imagine the flavour of tuna mayonnaise, but in a cream sauce consistency. Since it’s a special occasion (*ahem*), we decided to order the starter special of the day as well – the veal carpaccio. Again, the veal was sliced really thinly, and topped with slices of pear, shaved parmesan, and a creamy mayo-like dressing. While the dish tasted more interesting if you ate all the ingredients together, we actually preferred it without the pear, but that’s because we like-a the meat.

The soup wasn’t bad, but wasn’t one of Chef Oscar’s yummier soups. The sherbet was great though, even for a non-sherbet person like myself – nice and fruity and not too sour.

The mains this time were stellar. The tagliatelle was very good – perfectly cooked, very tasty sauce and plenty of flaky cod fish pieces. But what blew both of us away was the beef this time. It was incredible – again done to a perfect medium rare, and ridiculously sweet and tender. I swear you could have cut it with a fork, and it wasn’t bland and tasteless like some fillets tend to be. The beef was wrapped with a thin sliver of eggplant, and served with mashed potatoes and a lovely red wine sauce. Wow.

A simple warm chocolate cake was a perfect end to a fabulous meal. In a way, I think the 4 month absence helped us appreciate the food more. During the period where we were eating there quite frequently (almost once a month), we started getting a bit spoilt and jaded, so the absence has definitely reminded us why we like Buko Nero so much.

A says:

The beef dishes RAWKED. Best steak I’ve had in a while. And for once, the sherbet wasn’t some weird flavour. All in all, one of the best meals we’ve had there.

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

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Au Petit Salut

C says:

We celebrated my 25th (hang on, was I 25 last year? Anyway, my 25th…) birthday with dinner with the gang at the new Au Petit Salut in the ever-so-hip Dempsey Road area. Occupying the large colonial bungalow where the Junior Flying Club and then the short-lived Highwood deli used to be, this Harding Road outlet is now the restaurant’s main branch. They are apparently retaining their premises at Chip Bee Gardens and convering it to a more casual bistro outlet. Sounds interesting – we may check it out one of these days.

The new premises looks like it can seat considerably more customers than the Holland one. There’s indoor as well as outdoor (still covered, though) seating, and a few rooms for private dining as well. S made the reservation at fairly short notice (Thanks, S!), so there was only outdoor seating available, but fortunately it had rained almost all of Saturday, so by the evening, it was nice and cool and very pleasant. Parking is also much more convenient than at Chip Bee – there’s quite a big carpark just for the restaurant just outside the building.

The menu was surprisingly quite accessible – surprising because I always expect French food to be quite intimidating. The menu here was very comprehensive, to the point of being a tad excessive (do they really need five different steak options on the menu?), and there were loads of options that I would’ve liked to order.

After all of us dithered for a considerable amount of time, we decided against the $85 set menu and ordered a la carte. For starters I had the handcut pasta with braised lamb cubes, tomato sauce and parmesan shavings. This tasted a little ordinary at first bite, but after a while it really grew on me The pasta was a little too al dente but the lamb was exquisitely tender and the tomato sauce was just right – not too sour and overpowering.

A’s starter was the mini cheese raviolis and wild mushrooms in a red wine reduction. This was served in a little casserole and was very rich and creamy, and packed a serious flavour punch. I think his starter was probably better than mine. I also shared a lobster bisque with Y, and while it was admittedly a little gelak, I couldn’t stop lapping up every drop. The lobster flavour was really intense and it wasn’t too thick and creamy.

For some reason I was feeling rather adventurous, so instead of ordering one of the usual suspects like a steak, lamb or duck, I decided to go with the oven-roasted quail stuffed with foie gras and wild mushrooms. I’m glad I did – this was really quite amazing. It wasn’t at all gamey; instead, it was tender and very flavourful, and the accompanying mashed potatoes were very fine and creamy.

A had the more traditional rack of lamb, done medium which looked just about right, maybe even verging on a little too pink. I had a mouthful and it tasted pretty good, but unlike my quail, it wasn’t particularly outstanding.

Most of us passed on dessert because we were pretty full, and there was a cake waiting for us at S’s place (Note: Coffee Bean’s Chocolate Truffle Cake is not particularly good). A couldn’t resist one of the desserts that pretty much called out to him - Frozen cappuccino with coffee ice cream, chocolate sorbet, grilled hazelnuts and whipped cream. There was a lot of whipped cream, but it was really good.

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised with the food as well as the ambience and service, which didn’t seem as chi-chi and poncey as it was at Chip Bee. The only downside is that although it doesn’t feel particularly formal, because the surroundings are now quite grand, I think it’s unlikely that A and I will come back on our own, just the two of us, for a simple Friday or Saturday night dinner. This now seems more of a special event kinda place. We’ll explore the bistro at Chip Bee and see how that goes.

PS: Comments and guest posts from the rest of the gang on the food that they ordered are more than welcome! *HINT*

A says:

Much better than I thought it would be. Service was good and sitting outside made it a lot less formal. I think I’d rather sit inside next time though as I kept being bothered by small bugs through the night.

Food-wise, I think the starters (and there are a lot to choose from) are probably better than the mains. The French Onion Soup I shared with J was a bit of a letdown but the mini cheese ravioli was really good. And of course, the Frozen Cappuccino RAWKED!

Au Petit Salut
40C Harding Road
Tel: 6475-1976
Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday Lunch : 1130am – 230pm (Last Order)
Saturday Lunch: 1230pm – 230pm (Last Order)
Monday – Saturday Dinner : 630pm – 1030pm (Last Order)
Closed on Sundays

Da Paolo Gastronomica

C says:

We are slowly but surely becoming fans of the Da Paolo Gastronomica outlet at Cluny Court. It’s a convenient place for us to have a quick bite before or after our weekly trips to Comics Mart at Serene Centre next door. Their menu seems to be more varied than the branch at Chip Bee Gardens; the pizza selection is definitely wider.

We were here two weekends in a row. Last week we forgot to snap some shots of the pizza but remembered today. We had the beef and smoked salmon pizzas both times, but last week we had a delicious all-day breakfast pizza, consisting of scrambled egg, bacon and sausage, that unfortunately wasn’t available today.

This place definitely has one of the best take-out pizzas in town, and I think the standard has gone up since we last had them at the Chip Bee outlet. The crust is thin and crispy, toppings and generous, and the pizza isn’t oily or greasy at all. Ok, the outdoor seating gets a bit hot, and we’re not heat-loving expats, but otherwise I grudgingly have to admit that this is a pretty decent Da Paolo joint.

A says:

Not exactly cheap, but I think it’s worth it. I recommend the beeef with feta cheese and of course the salmon. RAWK!

Da Paolo Gastronomica
501 Bukit Timah Road #01-01
Tel: 6468-7010

Open daily: 9.15 am to 9 pm

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bistro 793

C says:

Barely a month old, the rather unimaginatively-named Bistro 793 (named for its address – 793 Bukit Timah Road) is yet another joint to pop up in the row of shops unfortunately referred to as the “Corduroy & Finch row”. The chef, Alvin Ng, is apparently from Gourmet Cellar (how many ex-Gourmet Cellar people are there? See KR-50...), where he gained a number of fans with his bistro-style cooking.

Having never been to Gourmet Cellar, I can’t make any comparisons, but dinner here on Friday night was a very pleasant experience. We called about half an hour ahead to make a reservation, and when we got there, the place was almost empty. We jokingly said “Thank goodness we reserved”, but about half an hour later, that actually proved to be true. By about 8.30 pm, the place was full, and since it hasn’t been open for long, I guess some of the clientele must be Chef Ng’s loyal fans.

The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, as are the waitstaff. There was only 1 waiter and 1 maitre d’ running the floor, and they were doing a very good job getting everyone’s orders out on time.

They have a pretty good set dinner - $48 including a glass of wine, and it comes with an amuse bouche, starter, choice of mains, dessert and coffee. I had the set, and A ordered a main course separately because we wanted to try one of their specialities.

The amuse bouche, which A got even though he didn’t order a set, was some kind of tuna/seafood mayo salad with some salad and tomato. It was quite basic and nothing special – it was essentially tuna mayo.

The smoked salmon salad fared much better. It consisted of a few slices of Scottish smoked salmon, on a bed of mixed greens, and the dressing was in the form of diced cucumber with an avocado cream. A few mounds of salmon roe topped it off. This was very tasty, but most of the flavour was attributed to the smoked salmon and the fish roe, which overwhelmed (in a good way) the more delicate cucumber and avocado. Still, the cucumber added a nice fresh crunch to the salad.

For the set, I had a choice of either Ravioli of Duck Rillette, or Oven-baked White Miso Cod. I read a review that the ravioli was a little brittle, so I decided to go for the cod. It was very good – the fish was flaky, fresh and not overdone, and it was served with gratin potatoes and an incredible gravy.

A’s main was the NZ fillet of beef with Black Glutinous Rice risotto (pulut hitam, heh). An interesting combination, I must admit, and especially when accompanied by caramelised red onions and a red wine jus sauce. However, the whole thing actually came together really well – the risotto was nice and chewy and the sauce, though a tad sweet for my liking, was way up A’s alley. One criticism though, is that the meat was slightly overdone, more of a medium than the medium rare we requested. This wasn’t helped by the blunt knife that was provided. This is one of my pet peeves – if restaurants are going to serve steaks in any form, they are only doing themselves a favour if they provide sharp steak knives to go with them. A sharp knife does wonders for the overall impression of a steak’s tenderness.

Anyway, overall the mains were impressive. I’m now quite curious about the duck ravioli, notwithstanding the review, and another main on the menu called Tempura of Crustacean. Definitely going to come back for some of that.

Dessert was a lime and ginger crème brulee, served with lychee granita and apple compote. The crème brulee was very interesting, with a whole gamut of flavours going on. At first, the ginger hits you quite hard, and after you’ve gotten used to it and it seems like a teh halia, then the lime kicks in, and through all that you still get the smooth creaminess of the custard.

We’ll be back for sure to try their other dishes, and note to selves: jokes aside, reservations are definitely advisable.

A says:

Service is superb. Main courses taste much much better than you’d expect. Portion size isn’t big but I think it’s tailored for a 3-course (4 if you count the amuse bouche). Starters are okay, and while the desserts look interesting, I’d prefer popping over to Venezia at Guthrie House.

If I had any complaints, it would be that the place is too brightly lit and wasn’t cold enough. The many lights also attracted those funny small insects (not moths, but those mini flies) that flew in when the door was opened. Also, once the place filled up, I was actually perspiring a bit.

Overall, just because the mains and service are so good, I’d definitely go back.

Bistro 793
793 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6463-1233
Tuesday to Sunday: 11.30 am to 2.30pm; 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blooie’s Roadhouse

C says:

We’re certainly turning out to be Rail Mall kids. We found ourselves there yet again on Friday night, with M and J, and decided to try Blooie’s new outlet here.

This wasn’t our first time at Blooie’s – a few years ago we went to the Science Park branch, but came away unimpressed. The menu was limited because they were out of a number of main courses, so I think all of us had burgers by default, which weren’t particularly outstanding.

The menu has since expanded, and I saw something on the menu that I really want to go back to try – the Beer-Butt Chicken. This is the by now famous way of grilling a chicken, where you shove a beer can up a chicken’s a** and sit it on the grill, and apparently the boiling beer makes for a very tender and juicy bird. Blooie’s is possibly the only restaurant that sells it in Singapore (as far as I know), but you have to place an advance order of at least a day ahead.

On Friday we ordered some Cajun Chicken wings to start with, and they turned out better than expected. The wings were nicely chargrilled, but I could’ve done with less of the Cajun sauce.

A had a chilli burger, and I had a Portobello mushroom and cheese burger (with a beef patty of course, not vegetarian). I didn’t try A’s burger, but mine wasn’t too bad. Nothing to shout about, but not bad either. We ended the meal with a brownie with ice cream, but it was nowhere near the standard of Jerry’s wife’s brownie at Sunset.

I didn’t have any problems with the food, but what marred the evening for me was the surroundings and the service. The music was really loud (although it IS a bar, after all), and the lighting was way too dim (hence the sucky photos). To make things worse, I sat in a place where the light was directly behind my head, so my own shadow more or less prevented me from seeing anything that I was eating. At the end of the night, we waited absolutely ages for M’s credit card to be processed, and our increasingly sullen glances towards the waitstaff were studiously ignored. Eventually we went up to the cashier, only to be told that the machine was spoilt so we paid cash.

If not for the Beer-Butt Chicken which I really want to try, I don’t think I’d come back here, what with so many alternatives at Rail Mall. However, I need to try the chicken before making any definitive pronouncements about this place.

A says:

Burgers are pretty good although the chilli actually tastes better on its own instead of on the burger. Service is decent (excellent if you really consider it a “roadhouse”) but it is very dark and noisy. Think it may be unfair to compare it to other proper restaurants (other than Brewerkz) though since it’s essentially a bar-cum-restaurant. So since I don’t drink, I think I’d rather go to Renaldo’s for the burger.

Blooie’s Roadhouse
426/428 Upper Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6766-1588

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The CaffeBar

C says:

We found ourselves in the East on Sunday, and since we had a couple of errands to run in Parkway Parade, we decided to have lunch there. Since the Fish and Chip shop in the basement food court has closed down, we were looking for a place to eat that we couldn’t get anywhere else. Hence, no Ajisen Ramen, Ichiban Sushi or Crystal Jade.

We ended up at CaffeBar, a little café tucked away in one corner of the first floor, right outside Marks and Spencer. Given the hustle and bustle of the rest of the mall, it was quite tranquil and a pleasant respite. We were there with M and J, and little baby E, and the servers nicely ushered us to a table for 6 so that we had enough room for all the paraphernalia.

The menu is pretty comprehensive, with quite a decent variety of pastas and hot main dishes, but the set menus will pretty much reel you in for their good value and considerable array of choice. And they’re available every day, so none of that “Monday to Thursday 12 to 2 pm” type sets. There are 3 sets, varying in price and the selection of main course. The Executive Set is $12.80, Gourmet Set is $18.80 and Cuisine Set is $19.80. All come with a soup of the day, and while the Executive and Gourmet Sets come with a drink, the Cuisine Set comes with ice cream for dessert.

Soup of the day was a Mushroom Chowder, which though slightly insipid in taste, more than made up for it in thickness and heartiness. This was no watery dishwater soup – it was thick, creamy and absolutely loaded with mushrooms. Button, shitake and even some traces of wild mushrooms. Quite a promising start.

A and I had the Cuisine Sets, and the main courses were much better than I expected in a joint like this. A had the Medallion of Salmon with Soy-Honey Glaze and Wasabi. The salmon was actually a roulade of sorts, rather than a straight-up salmon fillet, and it was cooked really well. It was still slightly pink in the center, and the combination of the soy-honey glaze and the wasabi puree was very good.

I had read about the duck confit in this place, so I decided to have the Spaghetti with shredded duck confit. Again I was a little hesitant about ordering something as sophisticated as duck confit in a simple café like this, but I needn’t have worried. The duck had a good texture, wasn’t too strongly flavoured and most importantly, wasn’t overly salty. The spaghetti was done aglio olio style, with lots of whole chilli padis tossed in as well. I ate a couple whole, but after my tongue exploded, I decided to cut them up into smaller, more manageable pieces. The heat added a welcome zing to the otherwise pungent duck and garlic combo.

The ice creams weren’t outstanding – A’s lime sherbet tasted like a Super Lemon and my espresso ice cream had authentic but very strong flecks of coffee grounds – but the latte and flat white (brewed with Illy coffee) that we ordered were both very good.

The service here deserves special mention too. Given that the servers are the usual young waiters and waitresses that you find in almost any café these days, the ones at CaffeBar were a few notches above the rest. They took the trouble to ask if we all wanted our drinks before or after our meal, and got every single order right. They also provided an empty plate to J to dispose of prawn and clam shells because she ordered the seafood pasta. They were all very polite and very professional.

I definitely want to come back to this place again. Problem is, we don’t really want to venture to the East. How…?

A says:

Considering the size of the place, our service was super. Best service I’ve had in this kind of casual dining place in a while.

The menu’s a bit simplistic but at least they do simple café dishes well and rather than overreach the limits of their set up. The bread counter was also a bit blah but I liked the balsamic they use. The set menus are pretty decent value but I’d skip the sorbets or fancy ice creams. Maybe will try the regular flavors next (although if I didn’t get a set, I’d rather save stomach space for a New Zealand Natural Chocolate Shake).

Overall, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather eat in Parkway. It’s not difficult to get a table, the food is better than you’d expect, and the service is tops. Too bad they don’t have something like this on our end of the island.

The CaffeBar
80 Marine Parade Road
Parkway Parade
Tel: 6345-4345
Opening hours: 10 am to 10 pm

Friday, June 01, 2007

Chocolat N’ Spice

C says:

Another place in A’s kampong. Across the street from Amara, within Tanjong Pagar Plaza, is this nondescript muffin shop that’s a branch of the famous one from Shunfu Road. I’m not a big muffin fan, because I generally find them way too dense and filling, but the ones here are light, fluffy and almost cupcake-like. A bought a few home for me to try previously, and even after sitting in his bag for more than 5 hours, they still tasted good, so I wanted to see for myself how they tasted fresh.

Being too full from the Nana curry earlier, I only ordered a banana and walnut muffin today, which is one of their better ones. Alas, it wasn’t hot from the oven, but it was still very good. Some of their other flavours include chocolate chip, cheese, orange peel and raisin, and double chocolate. They were out of blueberry today, but that’s one flavour that I’d really like to try (hint hint, A…).

A says:

Very good when fresh out of the oven. Still decent if kept overnight. Be prepared for up to 10min long queues if you go at peak period (around lunch), but that’s also the best time to get them fresh from the oven.

Chocolat N’ Spice
Block 1, #01-18
Tanjong Pagar Plaza
Tel: 9276-2110
Mon to Fri: 8.30 am to 5 pm
Sat: 8.30 am to 3 pm
Closed Sundays and public holidays

Nana Curry

C says:

This is Chinese-style curry at its best. There used to be a branch in the China Square Food Court, but that unfortunately closed down, so the only place that you can have this is at the Amara Hotel Food Court. The fiery curry gravy is the perfect consistency for slurping up, dousing over rice or dunking slices of bread. In fact, the same gravy is used if you order fish, chicken or pork rib curry, and there’s a separate gravy for the mutton. You can choose to have it with rice or slices of baguette. I personally like my curry gravy with rice – there’s something so comforting about eating hot white rice with a good curry gravy. A, ang moh in disguise that he is, of course went with the bread.

I had the chicken drumstick, and A had the pork rib. The chicken was tender and succulent, and had absorbed all the flavours of the gravy. The pork rib was a pleasant surprise – it was meltingly tender and the meat literally just fell off the bone, very surprising considering that pork is generally quite a tough meat.

Nana also sells their curry paste, if you want to whip up some curry at home. I’ve tried it once and it actually didn’t turn out too badly, if you follow the enclosed instructions.

A says:

Good but so hot and spicy that it burnz! My tummy was still trying to cope many hours later. I won’t talk about how my ass handled it.

Nana Homemade Curry
Amara Hotel Food Court
For enquiries, call 6756-4778