Sunday, October 28, 2007

Da Paolo Il Giardino

C says:

Just like with Pasta Brava, I can’t believe it's taken us this long to finally visit this Da Paolo. All the more so because it’s so close to Serene Centre, where we’re at practically every weekend. Not counting a long ago visit to the Holland Village branch almost 8 years ago, my previous experience with Da Paolo has been limited to the Rochester Park outlet, which I was completely unimpressed with. Because of that, I’ve always wondered what the fuss with Da Paolo was all about, and whether its reputation somehow affected people’s perception of the food.

Well, I’m glad to say that this Da Paolo proved me wrong. We went for dinner on Sunday night to celebrate S’s birthday (happy birthday, S!), and I have nothing but good things to say about the food. The ambience was also surprisingly casual – one of the reasons A and I refrained from coming here is because we thought it was pretty atas and poncey, but to our pleasant surprise, other customers were really casually dressed, and there was enough background din such that little A and B didn't stick out like sore thumbs.

To start with, we shared some fried calamari, beef carpaccio, grilled Portobello mushroom and a smoked salmon salad. They were all pretty good, but none were outstanding – they just tasted like what you’d expect them to taste, though I thought the addition of some avocado in the smoked salmon salad was a nice change, as it added a nice creamy texture to the dish.

On S’s recommendation, I ordered the duck liver pasta, since the home-made pastas are supposed to be their specialty here. I really enjoyed every mouthful of this dish – the fresh fettucine was thin, smooth and perfectly cooked al dente. It was tossed with cherry tomatoes, diced mushrooms and slices of duck foie gras. The pasta absorbed all the cooking juices of the ingredients, resulting in a very tasty yet not at all heavy dish. I tried a mouthful of S’s fettucine with crabmeat in a vodka tomato cream sauce. While it was also very tasty, it was really quite rich, and almost impossible to finish on its own. S and M cleverly asked the kitchen to split the 2 pastas for them – the crab and the duck liver one. Very good idea; we’ll probably do that next time.

A ordered the veal ravioli with veal jus and parmesan cheese. Unfortunately he was a bit let down by this dish. It wasn't as good as my main – veal by nature is quite a delicately flavoured meat, and because the ravioli was quite thick, most of the flavours got lost.

A was looking longingly over at J’s rack of lamb, regretting that he didn't order it because it looked really juicy. Sure enough, we tried a bite of it and it was very good. The meat was tender and sweet, and quite fatty and flavourful. I think we’ll probably come back just so A can satisfy his hankering for this dish. Y does have a point though – with good ingredients like good quality racks of lamb, this is a dish that really can't go wrong.

With the exception of S, who claimed she was really full after the crab pasta, we were all able to fit in dessert so we ordered a whole variety to share. The pancakes filled with pastry cream were really good, as was the chocolate panna cotta with caramelized banana. The chocolate cake, which we ordered as S’s birthday cake, was slightly on the dry and heavy side.

All in all, this place really surpassed my expectations, though it probably helps that I didn't have any to begin with. This is now definitely a viable option if we’re stuck for a weekend dinner venue when we’re in the vicinity.

A says:

Food and service are way better than I expected. Ambience is fairly relaxed and casual, and parking is also easily available. Very good marks overall, but still second best when compared to Valentino’s (or third best if you count Pasta Brava). I guess this place would be a viable alternative if the rest were fully booked.

Da Paolo Il Giardino
501 Bukit Timah Road
#01-05, Cluny Court
Tel: 6463-9628
Lunch: 11.30 am - 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm - 10.30 pm
Sunday brunch: 11 am – 12.30 pm
Closed Monda

Karma Kettle & Rhapsody

C says:

I hope this joint can break the bad business karma that seems to plague all the rest of the establishments that have come and gone from this seemingly cursed unit at Cluny Court. Located at the end of the row, right before the tyre shop and Serene Centre, this unit has played host to many failed businesses, most recently China Moon then La Cuisine.

The newest kid on the block is this quaint little café that serves up an interesting combination of old school English food with an Indian twist. Judging from the items on the menu, as well as the owners/waitstaff, I think it’s opened/run by well-heeled, well-educated North Indians who, if not born and bred in England, were certainly educated there. They even have Eton Mess as a dessert offering, a cream, jam and meringue pudding that’s traditionally served at Eton College’s annual prize-giving celebration picnic.

We found ourselves here for Sunday lunch because as usual we were on our way to Comics Mart, and we’re taking a break from La Petite Cuisine for the moment. On weekends they have a full breakfast set, with the usual eggs, sausages and toast, but we felt like trying their mains today to give us a better indication of the food here (since bacon/sausage and eggs are generally fool-proof). A ordered the Salmon with Tarragon because they were out of their Pork Vindaloo, and I ordered the Sausage Sampler.

I actually enjoyed this more than A did, even though it was a salmon fillet. The fish was cooked very well (though the centre could’ve been a teeny bit more rare, but that would be nitpicking), and the skin was perfectly crispy. It was served atop buttered rice, which wasn’t very well seasoned but had more than a hint of saffron. It probably wasn’t over seasoned in order for the flavour of the saffron to come through. It came with asparagus, Brussels sprouts and very flavourful roasted cherry tomatoes.

I had an old-school bangers and mash (more poshly named the Sausage Sampler on the menu) – 3 different types of sausages with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and an apple and sage sauce. The sausages were good, but after a while it started to get a bit boring. A ended up liking mine more than his, so we ended up swapping halfway.

They certainly like using saffron here, because I ordered a Masala Chai Latte, and it came garnished with 2 strands of saffron. It added an amazing fragrance to the tea, but at the same time it gave it a hint of savouriness, and it had a strange aftertaste that was akin to a lobster bisque. Surprisingly, for a tea shop the coffees and teas are on the weak side here. My Masala tea was full of authentic spices, but the tea itself wasn’t very strong, and A said his latte was pretty weak and instant coffee-tasting.

Still, I’m hoping this place survives and breaks the curse, just cos it almost seems like it’s in a world of its own. They also run a curio shop a few units down, next to Cold Storage, selling all sorts of knickknacks. I’m hoping that the owners are as well-off as they seem, because then they may be able to withstand a few quiet months, before (hopefully) the buzz picks up and they get a regular stream of customers. We were here at noon and the place was about half full, so at least they’re not deserted. I think Indian housewives and expatriates could really go for this place, so maybe they can carve a niche for themselves by targeting that clientele.

A says:

It’s okay but very cramped. The wait staff are friendly and getting adjusted to the new restaurant. Although they didn’t have the pork vindaloo I had wanted to try, the salmon was pretty good with nice crispy skin. The rice was a very bland, but I’m not a big fan of saffron rice anyway. Side veggies were the best bit with an awesome cherry tomato.

My biggest complaint – my coffee was super weak. Like the kind I make for myself when I can’t be arsed.

Personally, I find this place alright for a change or if La Petite Cuisine is too crowded.

Karma Kettle & Rhapsody
#01-01A & #01-05B Cluny Court
501 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6314-3483
Mon to Fri: 11 am – 10 pmSat & Sun: 10 am – 9 pm

Friday, October 26, 2007


C says:

After dinner at The Steakhouse, we didn’t feel like having their desserts; instead, we headed over to Meidi-ya at Liang Court to have the gelato from Haato.

Although gelato is traditionally Italian, Haato combines Japanese recipes to come up with unique and interesting flavours like Yuzu Sorbet and Green Tea with Red Bean. I had the Rum and Raisin and the Milk Tea. The Milk Tea was delicious – it tasted just like the sweet milky tea that you can get at Mosburger.

A ordered the Watermelon Sorbet (go figure) and the Chocolate Banana. I’m not a sorbet person, but the Chocolate Banana was great.

I have to vent though – why is it that all ice cream purveyors, including Island Creamery, insist on having Durian in their repertoire? And if they insist on doing so, can’t they store the durian separate from all the other flavours? Durian is so overpowering a flavour that it will inevitably taint the few flavours that are next to them, which is exactly what happened with the Honeydew Sorbet. A wanted to order it, but he had a tasting first and he could definitely detect durian undertones.

So, to any ice cream joints that are reading this (I doubt there are any but one can dream…), if you MUST offer durian ice cream, please try to mix and store it separately. If that’s not logistically possible, then better still – just get rid of the durian. Trust me, if the rest of your ice creams are good enough, the customers won’t miss it.

A says:

Best jap fancy ice cream I’ve had yet (not counting my usual soft serve vanillas). Too bad I can’t have my honeydew.

Liang Court Shopping Centre
177 River Valley Road
Meidi-Ya Supermarket, Unit B1-50
Tel: 6337 8835
Opening hrs: Daily 10am - 10pm

The Steakhouse

C says:

I had read another blogger’s account of a rather unpleasant experience at The Steakhouse, quibbling with the restaurant manager about the validity (or not) of credit card promotions. With that in mind, I made sure to enquire about them when we ordered, so that I wouldn’t mar an otherwise pleasant dinner with an argument when settling the bill.

Good thing I did, because as I half expected, they refused to honour any promotions, claiming that restaurant policy was not to accept any on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Not even an actual coupon that had been sent to me by DBS, with clear terms and conditions printed “Until 31 Oct 07. Mon to Sun”. When I showed it to him, he said it was still subject to the restaurant’s own terms and conditions, and that it was a printing error on DBS’ part. I was fuming, because printing error or not, they ought to honour any misrep, but I really didn’t want to waste any more time on this, so I just put it behind me and concentrated on enjoying dinner. Eventually, he slinked back and ‘apologised’ again, and said he could offer a 10% discount. Whatever.

Anyway, I grudgingly admit that the food here was good. We ordered the bacon-wrapped scallops to start. Anything wrapped with bacon can’t really go wrong, but the scallops were nice and plump and juicy; still a little rare in the middle. The bacon was a bit undercooked, leading to parma ham syndrome where you end up chewing and swallowing a whole gulp of bacon. Still, it was a great combination.

The good thing about the steaks here is that most of them come in 200g and 300g portions, so larger eaters can be satisfied, and smaller eaters needn’t struggle. The New York Strip only comes in a 300g portion, though, and since it’s meant to be a specialty here, I ordered it to share with A, and he had his own 200g fillet mignon.

As you can see, the plates come quite bare – just the steak, with some roasted potatoes and carrots on the side. Like at Morton’s, you have to order your sides separately. They have a choice of quite a number of different sides, from mashed potatoes to creamed spinach to sautéed mushrooms, but we decided to try the giant grilled asparagus. For the size, the asparagus was actually very tender, and drizzled with a pesto-flavoured oil.

The Steakhouse specializes in Black Angus beef from Australia, which is apparently grain fed for 200 days. The steaks are grilled on a huge grill in the middle of the restaurant, and I must say they’re very well seared. Adequately salted (this is a must in my opinion, to bring out the flavour of the meat), the outside is wonderfully blackened and charred, and the insides are still pink and juicy. Being a very thick cut, A’s fillet mignon was a perfect medium rare but my thinner New York strip was thinner so it ended up a bit more on the side of medium. At first I enjoyed the intense beefy flavour of my striploin more than the fillet, but the striploin is known for its flavour but not its tenderness, so after more chewing, I sort of changed my mind. A’s fillet was actually a perfect balance of tenderness and flavour. Neither of our steaks really needed any of the sauces, which you can choose between quite an array, from red wine to mushroom to béarnaise.

Conclusion? Annoying restaurant manager notwithstanding, the rest of the waitstaff are very pleasant, and the steaks are good enough for us to come back. Maybe we’ll try the same cuts of meat at Les Bouchons again first, so that we can make a fair comparison between the two.

A says:

It was the waiter we talked to, and I think he handled it as best he could. I feel sorry for the junior staff who have to take shit for someone else’s mistake.

Anyway, as usual, I think starters more interesting than mains. I’m happy I can have my small portions and was genuinely impressed by my filet that didn’t need any sauce.

The Steakhouse
Clarke Quay, 3B River Valley Road
Tel: 6332 1010
Sun to Wed: 6pm to 11 pm

Thurs to Sat: 6 pm to 12 am

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Liu San

C says:

This seems to be the weekend for casual Asian eateries. First, we tried the very good Streets at IMM on Saturday, then for dinner on Sunday we met up with A’s friends at this little joint in Bukit Timah Plaza, where R and P are regulars.

Whereas Streets sells Hong Kong cha chan teng food, Liu San serves up the Taiwanese equivalent. We took P’s lead and ordered all the stuff that she recommended, but judging from everyone’s reactions, I think pretty much everything here is good.

We ordered the drunken chicken, and were pleasantly surprised to be told that it was available immediately, because the menu did say “advance order”. This was very authentic; it was served cold, with the yummy gelatinous chicken stock at the bottom of the plate, and it was very strong. No skimpy dashes of shaoshing wine here. This is full-on, hard-core drunken chicken.

The two specialities which P recommended are the Braised Pork Rice, and Braised Chicken Rice. We ordered them to share, but A ended up having more of the pork rice. I must say the chicken rice, though very delicious, was slightly more ordinary compared to the pork rice. The chicken was just stewed soya sauce chicken (thigh fillet), albeit a very yummy version, whereas the pork was very interesting. I expected pork slices or something, but instead, the rice came topped with minced/shredded pork in lots of gravy. Trust me, this tasted way better than it looks or how I’m describing it. At first bite it was bugging me because it tasted familiar. After a few more mouthfuls it hit me – it was essentially mashed kong bak (of Westlake kong bak pau fame)! Aside from the rather liberal hand with the coriander, this dish is comfort food at its best.

We also ordered a few portions of their gyozas to share, both the steamed version and the pan-fried version. Both were very good, though naturally the unhealthier fried version had more flavour.

They have an interesting dessert of or nee, the traditional Teochew yam dessert, but a healthy lard-free version using olive oil instead. This definitely tasted healthy; it didn’t have the flavour of the lardy versions, but was yummy in its own way. The owners, upon seeing a huge table of 10, thought that R&P were celebrating something, so they were sweet enough to give all of us a complimentary dessert of a small brownie with tangerine sauce. The brownie was a bit crumbly, but with the orange sauce it tasted like a Jaffa cake, yum.

They have home-made soya bean milk here which rocks, though it’s not for people who like their soya bean milk overly sweet and processed (read: A). I loved it. This place has lots to offer – portions aren’t very big but prices are reasonable. The waitstaff mainly speak Mandarin but they’re very polite, and there are so many other dishes that I want to try that we’ll definitely be heading here again some time soon.

Note: the place always seems to be packed, so I guess other people have discovered it too; probably no thanks to people venturing to Bukit Timah Plaza for Fairprice Finest. You can play it safe by making a reservation, or alternatively just leave your name with them, and wander around the supermarket while waiting.

A says:

I only like the mains. I find the starters and sides okay only. I think if we go back in the future, we’ll have a quick main here and go down to Wishbone for a milkshake and/or dessert.

Note: The chilli is freakin’ SPICY! I’m going to drop it cause it’s too HOT!

Liu San
No. 1 Jalan Anak Bukit
#01-09 Bukit Timah Plaza
Tel: 6463-1833
Closed Mon and Tues. Wed to Sun – 11 am to 8.30 pm (or thereabouts)

La Petite Cuisine – last post for a while

C says:

I think we’re going to hold off coming here for a while, at least till the recent hype dies down. It’s been getting good press of late, and as a result it’s been seeing a steady stream of customers, but after it was lauded as having the best Confit de Canard in Singapore (according to Lifestyle’s 100 Best Dishes – a list that I find slightly dubious, considering that the best nasi padang is allegedly at Rendezvous Hock Lock Kee??!!), the place has been packed to the gills. As a result, lately we’ve had to wait quite a long time for our food, and it doesn't have that nice, easygoing feel that it used to when we were just one of a handful of tables.

We wanted to try the Coq Au Vin on Sunday, another of their dishes that was recommended in the Lifestyle list, but to our surprise, it seems to have been taken off the menu. Very strange – it’s been on the menu for absolutely ages, and right after it gets a good review, they take it off??!! Anyway, we ordered the aglio olio spaghetti with cepes mushrooms, and a salmon fillet with poached vegetables.

The pasta was okay, but it’s definitely too much for one person to finish – not really in terms of quantity, but it gets quite boring after a while. The salmon fillet was good though. It was perfectly cooked so still a bit rare in the center, the cream sauce that accompanied it had a tart edge that prevented it from being too rich, and the butter rice rocked.

I’m also trying to figure out the head waiter. At first I got a bit cheesed off cos he was very brusque and dismissive when I asked if the coq au vin was still available; he muttered something about it no longer being on the menu, and it may only come back in 2009… Later on though, overhearing his interactions with other customers, I realize that this is just the way he is, and he just has a weird sense of humour. I guess he comes from the Comics Mart school of customer service, where ribbing customers/friends is all part of the fun.

He was very polite when we left, so I won’t put this as a black mark against them. My main issue now is just the crowd and the waiting time. We’re at Serene Centre all the time anyway, so we’ll just monitor the crowd situation, and start going back once it calms down a little.

A says:

Out of stock. Call back in two weeks. (Sorry, this is an in-joke for Comics Martians only)

Saturday, October 20, 2007


C says:

This place was quite an unexpected find. We were at IMM on Saturday and this joint, which occupies the space in the center of the ground floor where Coffee Club used to be, enticed us with a pretty interesting Hong Kong cha chan teng menu.

What caught my attention was the luncheon meat instant noodles with a fried egg. Luncheon meat and instant noodles – a match made in heaven, I say. The one here was pretty good; the luncheon meat was well fried and crispy but not dried out or oily, and the noodles were sufficiently seasoned.

A ordered the Macau chicken chop with fried rice. This was a huge portion, and very good value at only $7.80 for a whole chicken thigh chop and a very generous helping of rice. The rice was very tasty, and the chicken was tender and juicy.

We ordered a side of the Fried Carrot Cake with XO Sauce – this absolutely ROCKED (careful though, A will tell you that the crispy outer layer retains heat like you wouldn’t believe). The carrot cake was really soft inside, but very well fried so the outside was crispy and not at all greasy. It also wasn’t floury at all – a sign of low quality carrot cake that skimps on the radish by loading up on flour. Here, you could taste the radish in it with every bite. It was served with XO sauce (made with chili, dried scallops and dried shrimp) on the side, which added even more flavour. I’m afraid this dish has spoilt me for all other carrot cakes in future – I don’t think I can go back to having greasy hawker centre style carrot cake, not when a plate of this costs only $5.50 and is heaps better quality, not to mention way more delicious.

We also ordered a Polo Bun, another cha chan teng staple. However, I was always under the impression that although this is commonly called a pineapple bun, that’s only because it somehow looks like a pineapple, with its uneven golden top. There isn’t actually any pineapple in it at all. The one here, though, seems to take it literally, because in addition to the slice of butter inside, there’s also a slice of canned pineapple, which is kinda weird but not unpleasant.

With two cups of yin yang tea (a combination of coffee and tea), our entire meal cost just $30. I really like this place, but alas there are only two outlets – IMM, and another at Bukit Panjang Plaza (err… where….?). I’m willing to come back here just for the carrot cake; helps that there’s an Esprit outlet store in IMM as well.

A says:

I can’t recommend this place enough. Excellent service, good food and great value-for-money portions. Too bad they don’t have a branch at a more central location.

Streets Café Restaurant
#01-126 IMM Building
Tel: 6565-0507
Opening hours: 11 am to 10 pm daily

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bistro Petit Salut

C says:

Thanks (or no thanks) to Dempsey, the dining destination du-jour (how’s that for alliteration), Chip Bee was a veritable ghost town on Friday night. Not long ago, it was well nigh impossible to get a parking lot less than two streets away from the main dining stretch, but at 7.45 pm on Friday, there was more than just one lot available.

Bistro Petit Salut occupies the premises that used to be Au Petit Salut, which moved to Dempsey earlier this year. The owners decided to retain the Chip Bee location, and turn it into a more casual affair. Good news for people like us, who prefer casual dining outlets to outright fine dining.

Do take note: there are two menus on the table, that are identical in content, but one’s called the a la carte menu, and the other is the set dinner menu. The only difference is that the set dinner menu, in addition to the regular prices, has a few +4, +2 figures in red below some of the dishes, that indicate the amount you have to top up over and above the $48 set dinner price. Of course, I only realized this after we placed our order, because just our luck, A was the one who got the set menu; I got the regular one. After we ordered, I reached over to the neighbouring table to read the menu in greater detail (I always do this, to see what to order on our next visit), and that’s when I noticed the additional figures. I then saw the words “Set dinner menu” on top.

When I asked A if he had seen it, he said he noticed the additional figures but thought nothing of them. He really ain’t that bright.

Anyway, we shared a stuffed Portobello mushroom with goat’s cheese, and the baked scallops to start. The mushroom was quite ordinary – the one at Galbiati at Rail Mall can rival it in terms of flavour, but the bites with the goat’s cheese were pretty good. The scallops were much better; the roe part was nice and creamy, but I thought the scallop flesh was a tad overdone.

I wasn’t starving, so I passed on the 300g Black Angus steak, and opted instead for the oven-roasted quail, which isn’t on the menu, but was a special of the day. This was a bit of a cop-out, because it’s the same dish that I tried and really liked at Au Petit Salut on my birthday, but I really wanted to have it again. It didn’t disappoint; it was just as good as the one there – tender, stuffed with foie gras and mushrooms, and served with an intensely flavourful jus.

A ordered the home-made linguine with crab claw and tomato. While the linguine was very fresh and definitely did taste home-made, this was a rather ordinary dish, which didn’t really showcase what the restaurant is capable of.

I expected the place to be full on a Friday night; instead, we managed to call only at 7 for a 7.45 reservation, and the place was only half full all night. Now that Chip Bee isn’t the place to be anymore, I’m quite keen to come here more often. Food was good, service was polite, and they serve the most amazing rillette with their bread. I must have polished off 3 slices. Hmmm… come to think of it, maybe that’s why we were too full for dessert.

A says:

Duh… I like. Appetizers better than mains I think. Service good, even from trainees.

Bistro Petit Salut
Block 44, Jalan Merah Saga
Tel: 6474-9788
Mon to Fri: Lunch 11.30 am – 2.30 pm; Dinner 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm
Sat: Lunch 12.30 am – 2.30 pm; Dinner 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm
Closed Sunday

Thursday, October 18, 2007


C says:

Another joint near work, this stall unfortunately only opens from 11 am to 3 pm, so no chance of coming here for a quick dinner. A had it a couple of times and liked it so much that we decided to meet here for lunch one day so I could try it too.

The stall is in the basement of China Square Food Centre; apparently it used to be at Turf City, before it closed for almost two years and reopened at China Square a year ago to the delight of many fans. The owner, Wendy Chin, apparently pursued her singing career during that two-year hiatus, and the stall is closed at night in order for her to continue doing so.

I had the much-lauded beef burger – a small (think fist-sized) but massively thick (slightly over an inch) beef patty, simply dressed with just mayo and some lettuce on a sesame seed bun. When I first cut it I thought the patty would be dry, because there wasn't a hint of pinkness inside, but it was anything but. It was very loosely-formed so still very tender and juicy, extremely well-seasoned, and perfectly seared so that a nice flavourful crust formed on the outside. While it doesn't need any accompaniments, it goes very well with mustard, and the sautéed onions that you can help yourself to separately. A slice of cheese would be great, but I’m not sure if you can order it and how much it’ll cost. I saw a Double Whammy burger on the menu as well – two patties; sounds pretty insane and quite a meat overload. We could possibly share this at dinner (if they only opened), but I think it’s just too much meat for lunch.

A normally orders the beef burger so today he decided to try the chicken one. This was fabulous, and sacrilegious as it may sound, I may actually order this instead of the beef next time. Instead of a chicken patty, this was a whole chicken thigh fillet, marinated with a great satay/curry blend of spices, and again dressed with lettuce and mayo. The chicken was incredibly flavourful, and very tender and juicy. The whole thing tasted like a non-fried version of a Zinger. Delicious.

It’s a bit sinful to have this too often, but every so often I know I won’t be able to resist. Even harder for A to ignore the Wham! call, given that his office is just 3 minutes away.

A says:

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in CHOOSE LIFE tshirts and day-glow shorts! Ha! Get that image out of your head.

Anyway, despite the lame name, the Beef and Chicken Burgers RAWK! Onion rings are very good as well. I wonder how the fish burger is. Too bad the opening hours are so short. It would be great for dinner.

51 Telok Ayer Street
#B1-22, China Square Food Centre
Tel: 90080604 (Wendy Chin)
Opening hours: 11 am to 3 pm. Closed Sunday.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kyo-nichi Ramen

C says:

I used to meet friends here quite often, when my office was still at nearby Capital Square. Since we relocated it’s been too far to walk all the way for lunch, so I haven’t been here for more than a year now.

As such, I’ve completely forgotten how good this place is. It’s absolutely packed at lunchtime, and I’ve waited more than half an hour for my ramen before. When we came on Wednesday night it was practically empty, so our food came barely 5 minutes after we ordered.

Their specialty here is their collagen ramen – so named because of all the collagen goodness that’s extracted from boiling bones for hours on end. You can opt for your soup to be standard, spicy or thick, thick being (presumably) fuller in flavour and more concentrated with collagen.

A had the standard char siew corn ramen, and I ordered the thick char siew ramen, which comes with half an egg.

Both were very very good. The corn was really fresh, crunchy and sweet, and the char siew was very flavourful and tender. The noodles were also of a decent thickness and delightfully springy. I wondered whether the ‘standard v thick’ was just an empty distinction, but after sampling both A’s soup and mine, there was definitely a marked difference. His was a bit weak and thin, and ended up absorbing the flavours of the ingredients like the corn and seaweed. Mine, on the other hard, was a much more intense brown and kept its rich flavour throughout.

I foresee this place being a new after-work place if we’re ever short of ideas on where to go in the vicinity.

A says:

I’m very corny.

Kyo-nichi Ramen
China Court, #01-31 China Square Central
Tel: 6327-3919
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday - 11.30am to 10pm. Closed Sunday.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More new dishes at Tuckshop

C says:

I think the buzz on Tuckshop has thankfully quietened down somewhat. Maybe it’s because we were there quite early on a Monday night, given that the place caters towards the nightbirds of the creative world, but it was a vast difference compared to the frenzied crowd when we were last there. Tables were a-plenty, and because it wasn’t crowded, food was quite prompt and the steak sandwich was exceptional.

They’ve added a few more dishes to the menu, like Steak and Fries, and a Steak Caesar Salad. No prizes for guessing what the specialty item here is… Because we already ordered the steak sandwich, we decided not to OD on steak, and instead tried their new fish dish – Lemon Butter Pan-Fried Fish. This is described in the menu as ‘lovely fillet of pan-seared cod fish with lemon butter sauce’. In reality, it was actually a cod steak (with the central bone), not a fillet, so it had its fair share of bones which kinda put A off. The taste was pretty good though, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll order again.

They’ve also added a new starter – Pepper Salt Squid. Given that the Calamari Rings are still on the menu, I somehow assumed that these would be more like squid tentacles or something, but they turned out to be glorified calamari rings with more heavily seasoned batter. They were also a lot greasier than their regular calamari rings, so again we’ll probably stick to old favourites next time.

I guess with the publicity generated from various rave reviews of the place, it was inevitable that prices would go up. While absolute menu prices are still the same ($12.50 for the steak sandwich), that price now gets you just the steak sandwich. Previously it came with small portions of coleslaw and either fries or salad on the side; now, each side has to be ordered separately at $2.50 per side. While I’m a tad disappointed about this, I guess this is better than either their compromising on quality, or retaining the portion sizes and increasing the menu prices. At least this way, we aren’t compelled to have the fries, and can somehow delude ourselves that dinner is remotely healthy.

A says:

Nothing beats the steak sandwich. Note to self: don’t bother with any other mains.

21 Tanjong Pagar Road, #01-05
(Between Play Bar and Oso Restaurant)
Tel: 6534-9287
Opening hours
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm; 5.30 pm to midnight
Friday: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm, 5.30 pm to 3 am
Saturday: 5.30 pm to 4 am
Closed Sundays.
Happy Hour
Mon & Tues: 5.30 pm to 10 pm.
Wed to Fri: 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jones The Grocer

C says:

This place at Dempsey Hill, and to a lesser extent next-door Culina, is expat central. For a minute I felt like we were on holiday in Sydney or something. We strolled around their produce aisles, and I must say they sell some very interesting stuff. Lobster oil, various jams and chutneys, and posh sea salt and Murray River pink salt. What really got to me, though, was their black truffle sea salt. They had little saucers for tasting, so I popped in a few flakes, and was first hit by a strong yet not overpowering burst of saltiness, then that faded and left behind the most incredible black truffle aroma which lingered on my tongue for a while. I’m thinking a few sprinkles of this could seriously jazz up a steak.

Anyway, we decided to have lunch here (we missed breakfast, which ends at 11.45 am), but it really was sheer pandemonium. They really need more staff, as well as a better seating, ordering and paying system. Right now you’re just supposed to plonk yourself at an available table, and wait (and wait) for them to give you the menus and then take your order. They will then give you a number, and at the end of your meal, you take your number to the one and only cashier, queuing with the rest of the people who are buying their groceries, to pay.

A and I both had sandwiches – he had the smoked salmon, and I had a shaved ham and cheese. Mine was better than expected, mostly because the cheese was really good. The bread was a little too chewy though; could’ve been toasted a little. A’s smoked salmon was surprisingly quite bland – the salmon was barely smoked and was almost sashimi-like. Luckily they had a dish of their pink salt on the table, so a few sprinkles of it lifted the flavour of the sandwich somewhat.

Good flat whites here, and service, when you can eventually get their attention, is pleasant. But the whole frenzied feel just runs contrary to a lazy Sunday brunch, in my opinion. And their cashier could learn a thing or two about the concept of credit card promotions. Next time I’m going to try Culina next door. There are fewer tables so it’s harder to get a seat, but it looks a lot calmer and more peaceful, which is frankly what I’m looking for.

By the way, we met B and CH at Jones, so B, hurry up and let us know what you ordered, and what you think of it.

A says:

Food is decent. Sandwiches are definitely worth it considering the size of them.

I actually like the tuck shop feel to the place but was cheesed off by not understanding how they do things at first – like how you’re expected to just find a seat yourself and then flag the wait staff to get a menu. It’s an interesting way to differentiate the dining experience and I think it would work really well with a regular clientele.

But right now, I think they are definitely understaffed and it all seems a bit hectic. I wonder what a quieter time to go would be.

Jones the Grocer
Block 9, #01-12
Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476-1512
Opening hours: Tues-Sun: 9.30am to 11pm; Mon: 9.30am to 6pm

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tao’s (again)

C says:

I can’t believe how time flies. The last time we were at Tao’s was in January – ten months ago! We really should make it a point to come here more often. It’s a simple, no-frills dinner place, and we always leave feeling just full enough, and very satisfied. Minor complaint – when I called to make a reservation, the waitress who answered spoke no English. Zero. I can’t help thinking that if they want to attract all manner of customers and not just the K-Box crowd, they should really get someone who can speak even a smidgen of English to field telephone queries and reservations. Anyway, minor rant over.

I like that they tweak the menu regularly; it gives us the option to try a few new things each time we come. They’ve added an Asian-inspired plum dressing to their ‘Farm Boy Splendour’ chicken salad, which sounded a bit dubious but ended up tasting really good. I ordered a new starter – the curry yogurt prawn salad, which was a bit measly in terms of portion size, but tasted quite interesting.

Speaking of portion size, they’ve also changed some of their crockery, so as a result, the mushroom soup portion seems to have shrunk. I like the new plate for the grilled oyster mushrooms though – if it was intended to look like an oyster shell, it’s very cute.

A had the lamb again, which was flawless. I tried a new dish – the baked baby lobster with white wine pasta. This was a bit of a disappointment. The lobster certainly was a baby; there was hardly any meat on it, although it was topped with some sinful cheesy goodness. The pasta had no hint of white wine at all, and just tasted of cream, flour and salt.

I can’t not have the crème brulee here; A ordered a new dessert – chocolate mousse, but it certainly wasn’t what either of us expected. Instead, it was reminiscent of chocolate fudge cake, and while being a bit on the heavy side, was quite tasty.

Mr Huang Yen Kun, the boyish-looking and very affable owner of Tao’s, has opened a new joint called Dozo. For those of you who watch the ads on cable tv, yes this is the cringe-worthy ad with the rather un-seductive woman giving come-hither, (non-) smoldering looks at the camera… It’s meant to be a finer-dining sister restaurant of Tao’s, with a similar choose-your-own-course degustation-type menu, but with higher-end, premium ingredients like sashimi, escargot, foie gras and beef fillet. At $58.80 per person for a 7-course dinner, it’s literally twice the price of Tao’s, but I do want to check it out some time. If it’s anything like Tao’s it’ll probably be good, plus the owner is such a nice guy that I do want to lend some support. Well, when we finally drag our asses there we’ll definitely write about it.

A says:

I love this place because it’s so laidback and the menu is like a low-end type degustation. My only complaint is that the main is always the most disappointing thing in the meal. Maybe my expectations are too high because everything else is so great. The price is not bad for what you get and the service is very good (note: I do not share my atas wife’s attitude to K-Boxers).

We definitely need to come back to this place more often (I don’t know why they seem to remember us everytime we come). Once a month is a bit much so I’m aiming for once a quarter.

On a side note, while I’m on to try Dozo, I’m not going anywhere near the place while that horrible commercial is on the air. Plus, I can’t go sloppily dressed like I usually am.

1 Selegie Road
B1-19 Paradiz Centre
Tel: 6339-8858

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tanjong Rhu Pau

C says:

My brother gave us a box of these tonight – char siew paus from the pretty famous Tanjong Rhu Pau shop. I think he goes to the Thomson Road branch. These are little morsels of yumminess. Key word being little. As you can see from the photo (that's my hand), their ‘regular’ sized char siew paus are barely a mouthful, and at 50 cents each they’re not cheap given how ludicrously tiny they are.

They’re delicious though – just the right skin-to-filling ratio, and the skin is just the right texture. It's tender enough, yet not so soft that it doesn't withstand being re-steamed. The char siew filling is also a perfect blend of savoury and sweet, and they’re quite generous with the meat chunks, instead of just skimping on meat and just filling the paus with gooey starch. A few flashes of pork fat make cameo appearances, and no kng chye in sight. I would gladly pay $1 for two of these, than 70 or 80 cents for a bog-standard normal char siew pau.

Apparently they do an amusing ‘Da Pau’ – amusing because it’s all relative; their idea of a ‘da’ pau is the size of regular paus. Stuffed with pork and egg, the ‘da’ pau is $1 – twice the price of the regular tiny char siew pau, and it’s apparently the reason for the snaking queues at the store every day. I’ve never tried it, but if their char siew pau is anything to go by, the Da Pau should be good too. *Big hint to my bro*

A says:

The small paus RAWK!

Tanjong Rhu Pau
(Chin Wah Bak Pau)

Block 7, Jalan Batu #01-113
Tel: 6348-3817
(Closed Sunday)

72 Thomson Road
Tel: 6253-6942
(Closed Sunday)

351 Geylang Road (Lor 21)
Tel: 6842-2112

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sunset Bar & Grill: Update

C says:

It’s been quite a while since our last trip to Sunset, and our buffalo wing craving was reaching an all-time high. We dragged L and D there on Friday night, because Sunset is always best enjoyed with friends.

Lousy L played me out and barely ate anything (heh), because she was feeling slightly under the weather. Still, company was great, and the food was good, albeit slightly shrunken in portion size. The calamari was probably half the amount we used to get, and the ice cream for the brownie was also a much reduced scoop. On the plus side, I think they’ve got more service staff, because we barely had to wait at all for our food.

Tonight’s wings were definitely on the mild side. We ordered Level 3, weren’t satisfied with the heat level, and ordered half a dozen Level 4, which was still more than manageable. We also tried their clam chowder, on D’s recommendation. Very good – thick, rustic and full of flavour.

Ever since I heard about the impending plans to redevelop the Seletar Airbase area into a funky new aerospace hub or whatever, I’ve been meaning to visit Sunset to find out what their plans are for the future. I’m glad we came when we did, cos we managed to find out that they’re apparently moving to Yio Chu Kang (the Singtel building) at the end of the year. But fret not – their phone number will remain the same, and for an as-yet-unspecified transition period they’ll be operating from both locations, until they gradually wind up the Seletar one.

Well, this new chapter in Jerry and Sunset’s history is yet to unfold. I’m gonna miss the Seletar Airbase location though. Besides the novelty of being right next to the runway, the dark and perilous drive deep into the Airbase is all part of the fun. Time will tell, but as long as the wings are good, I’m not giving up on Sunset just yet.

A says:

Food standard has dropped but service standard has gone up. I prefer the good old days though.