Saturday, May 31, 2008
Alas, we haven’t been very experimental of late, so we’ve been a bit quiet. Hopefully this weekend will see us trying at least one new place, but in the meantime, we thought we’d write a bit more about Pasta de Waraku at Novena Square 2. We had dental appointments in the area on Saturday, so took the opportunity to try more stuff at Waraku.
Once again, confronted with the mind-boggling array of choices, we were undecided until the very last minute. We ended up having the Okonomiyaki pizza, which I liked so much from our previous trip, as well as 3 other pastas. Yes, 4 dishes for 2 of us to share. No wonder the waiter and the table next to us were shocked… In our defence, the portions are quite small, we hadn’t had breakfast, and we ended up not really having much dinner either.
We tried 3 new pastas: a carbonara with squid and spicy cod roe, a Bolognese, and something from the seasonal specialty menu – tuna and mushroom with oma sauce or something. The carbonara was pretty good, and what dish isn’t made better by the addition of mentaiko? The Bolognese was a little odd – it had a distinctly smoky aroma and aftertaste, which I quite liked because it made the dish a little less ordinary, but A wasn’t too keen on it.
The oma sauce spaghetti was NOT my cup of tea, though. The sauce turned out to be somewhat like a pesto, but I couldn’t identify what herbs went into it, and there was definitely a lot of seaweed involved as well. Well, A seemed to be ok with it, though I’m not sure if it’s because it was his choice and he felt obliged to finish it.
The pizza wasn’t as good as I remember, but generally I have no complaints with this place, as long as you come knowing full well what to expect (and what not to).
2 mains for 2 would be right if you’re not too hungry. 3 mains for 2 if you’re reasonably hungry. And 4 for 2 if you’re starving and write for atetoomuch.
Although the food is only average, I really like the variety and the service at this place. Plus they have chocolate milkshakes!
Note: This place is not for those who can’t take watered-down Japanese versions of pasta.
Pasta de Waraku
Square 2 (Novena)
10 Sinaran Drive
Open daily: 11.30 am to 11 pm (last order 10.30 pm)
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Fancy having stew cooked by LKY? That’s Benedict LKY, the affable and sometimes over-the-top owner of Stew Haus along East Coast Road. He is very proud, and certainly makes no secret, of the fact that he’s also called Lee Kuan Yew – a fact that was played out at length when his restaurant was featured on Makansutra Raw.
We came here on Saturday night with A’s Mart buddies, to bid a fond farewell to one of their own. Besides a variety of about 8 savoury stews, another of Stew Haus’ specialities is their pork knuckle, so we ordered a few helpings of the knuckle and a wide selection of stews to share. I’m just going to attach a few photos, because after a while the stews ended up looking the same… Taste-wise they were pretty different though, and we all had differing views on which was our favourite.
For me, the winner hands-down was the German oxtail, followed by the lamb shank stew. The oxtail was a full-bodied, richer version of its lighter and more subtle lamb shank cousin. The oxtail pieces had been slow-cooked to perfection, with the tendons in the meat breaking down to give a great thickness to the sauce. A preferred the Lamb and Guinness (sup kambing, as it was affectionately called) because it was lighter in texture, but flavour-wise was actually still quite strong. The alcohol had been cooked away but there was still a strong trace of Guinness.
The Osso Bucco here uses pork shank rather than veal, which was interesting but made for slightly tougher meat. The Hungarian Goulash was so-so, and I didn’t try the mussel stew, but the Chicken Stroganoff was surprising. We ordered it because it had come recommended over the Gumbo, but when it first arrived, it paled in comparison to the rich red-meat stews. At the end of the night though, as I was picking through leftover portions, I realised that after enjoying the various heavy, meaty ones, the Chicken Stroganoff was actually a welcome breath of fresh air, being tasty yet light enough not to overwhelm.
For a stew house, the pork knuckle was great – deep fried till the crackling was really crispy. The downside to that though, is the meat got a bit hard as a result. What I liked was that they deboned and chopped it up for you, so no messing about clumsily; you just get lovely bite-sized pieces of crispiness.
We had a sweet stew dessert – apples stewed in white wine, served with rum and raisin ice cream. I found the apple and wine combi a bit too strong for me, actually, but the rum and raisin ice cream was fabulous. Next time I’m just gonna have the ice cream.
Don’t expect fine dining, but if you feel like some comfort food on a rainy day, I think this’ll hit the spot. Unfortunately, (a) this place is in the East, and (b) stews really aren’t A’s cup of tea. Unless we arrange another group outing, I highly doubt that he’s gonna agree to traipse all the way here just for stew. Pity.
Service from the owner is very good. Unfortunately, one of the waitresses forgot one of the dessert orders. As for food though, stews really aren’t my thing. I’d recommend it only if you live within walking distance. Parking in the area is hard to come by.
695B East Coast Road
Open 11 am to 11 pm
Mimolette is located in a charming little bungalow within the Saddle Club off Eng Neo Avenue. It’s yet another dining location that caters to Singaporeans’ current love for eateries that are off the beaten track. We had heard lots of things about Mimolette since it opened, ranging from rave reviews to tentative opinions to downright scathing comments on the service (or lack thereof), so it was a good thing that we went there for brunch without any expectations whatsoever. Because we didn't have any expectations, we couldn't really be disappointed with both the food and the service, so we ended up actually having a decent experience. My one grouse is that they still don’t allow photographs of their food. I knew they had this policy prior to the launch of the restaurant, but it’s been launched and open for so long that you would’ve thought they’d relax their policy by now. No such luck, so I only managed to get one shot before I was stopped.
The seared tuna salad was highly recommended by L, so we shared that as a starter. I must say that while it was a pretty good salad, with a simple balsamic dressing and some raisins thrown in for added flavour and texture, I was a little let down by the tuna itself. While the quality was good and it was pink inside, somehow it was still not rare enough for my liking. I think I need my seared tuna to be completely raw, sashimi-style, with just the barest hint of a seared outline.
I ordered the mini wagyu burgers with fries. These come topped with 2 different toppings – caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms. When they say mini, they really mean it. These were absolutely tiny. Granted, they were tasty, and the patties were very flavourful and well seasoned, but they were just a little too pretentious for my liking, and almost impossible to eat without deconstructing it with a fork and knife; the patties simply fell apart. I think if I want a ‘posh’ burger and fries, I’ll still go back to House.
A had the steak and eggs, which came in a huge portion – 2 sunny side up eggs, baked beans and a massive steak. Again, this had lots of potential but somehow fell just slightly off the mark. No complaints with the eggs, and the baked beans had bacon mixed into the sauce which made them taste heavenly, but I’m still puzzled by the steak. It was listed on the menu as an Angus tenderloin, but when it arrived it was clearly anything but. Tenderloins are usually medallion shaped, simply because of the shape of the loin itself, but the steak that appeared was more like a sirloin. It didn’t have the full-bodied flavour of a sirloin though, which again puzzled me. It didn’t have much beefy flavour at all, and the texture was tender but also a bit spongy. Can’t quite describe it.
We had some space for dessert because the burgers were so tiny, so we had the nutella and banana crepes. Good thing we did, cos it ensured that we ended on a high. The crepes were yummy, but then again nutella and banana is a pretty foolproof combination.
I know it sounds strange that we aren’t dissing this place, given that the food obviously wasn’t anything to shout about. I can only attribute it to the fact that we had no expectations, the ambience was very pleasant, and service was surprisingly quite good. Will we be back? Probably, just to give them another chance.
The waitress we had was very good. Service was excellent but I think it was only because the place was only half full.
As for the food, it was mostly good with a few exceptions. The tomatoes and baked beans (with killer bacon bits) were exceptionally good. The fries were exceptionally bad.
I think I’d like to come back to try the full Farmer’s Breakfast.
Note to self: Cappuccino is very small but latte is a bit weak.
55 Fairways Drive
Tues to Fri: 11 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 11 pm
Sat to Sun: 10 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 11 pm
Monday, May 19, 2008
Yet another Makansutra Raw alumnus, Grill-Out is located amongst the cluster of eateries in the not-so-recently refurbished Sunset Way area. The ground floor of a block of HDB flats has been converted to a casual dining enclave, with mostly al fresco seating. The whole area has a pretty nice vibe – it’s definitely not hip or poncey, but rather very chill-out, laidback, and you won’t feel out of place in your weekend flip-flops.
Grill-Out has only outdoor seating, on a specially-constructed patio deck. An adequate number of fans ensures that it doesn’t get uncomfortably hot, and on Monday night (apparently they’re closed on Mondays but opened because it was Vesak Day) it was actually quite pleasant, which is saying a lot for a serial indoor person like me.
We weren’t feeling particularly flush, so the Wagyu steaks were out. We went for a US Angus beef ribeye, and a US Kurobuta pork tenderloin. We also shared a starter of grilled US Kobe beef short ribs (boneless) with yakiniku sauce.
The short ribs ended up being the highlight of the evening for me. The meat had a good char to it and was tender and sweet, with just enough fat to give flavour without being too sinful.
Surprisingly, between the two mains, the Kurobuta ended up winning hands down, which is not the result that I expected. The ribeye was very ordinary, and indeed no better (but no worse) than lower end and cheaper versions at Astons or even Uno Beef House. The meat wasn’t particularly flavourful given that it was supposed to be US beef, and some parts were actually quite chewy and sinewy.
On the other hand, while the Kurobuta pork looked dry and unimpressive, it actually tasted a lot better than it looked. It was actually quite tender, all things considered, but the tenderloin being a lean cut by nature, while it was tender, there wasn’t much fat on it to give it flavour.
Still, I quite like the area in general, so if we find ourselves here again, I may actually go for a host of starters instead, because some of the other choices looked quite interesting, like potato cakes with kurobuta pork, and steamed mussels. And, if we can get over the thought of having fish at a meaty grill joint, the Wild Alaskan Salmon with Gorgonzola Sauce and the Grilled Yellowtail Cheek with Wasabi sound pretty good too.
I was very impressed by the service considering the crowd. The food was good but just didn’t meet my expectations given the hype and price. I actually think C makes better steaks when she gets good meat from The Butcher. (When are we going to get an endorsement deal from them?)
I think I’d only go back if I was too lazy to dress up or go far out. If I’m craving a good steak, I’d rather go to L’Angelus or even Angus House.
106 Clementi Street 12 (Sunset Way)
Tues – Sun: 6 pm to 11.30 pm
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I can’t believe we’ve never written about the tai-tai institution, Marmalade Pantry. We’ve been to the original Palais Renaissance one a couple of times, I’ve tried the one at Hitachi Tower (bad service on a weekday lunchtime!), and today we went to the newest outlet at Holland Village for brunch.
We were there at about 11-ish, so it was a little too early for proper food. A predictably had the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and I decided on a field mushroom and emmental cheese omelette.
The food wasn’t bad, but nothing to really blow you away. My omelette was suitably runny in the centre, but I would’ve like a stronger hit of emmental cheese. Portions were also quite small, although I do recall that the lunch main course items are more substantial. I guess they take the view that brunch is just the beginning of a lazy day of eating, but don’t order the brunch items if you’re ravenous because you won’t really be satisfied.
Food’s okay but really not worth the price. The atmosphere is really nice so I’d recommend this place for catching up with friends over a snack rather than for a proper meal. And the music they play is awesome.
17D Lorong Liput
(Holland Village, next to Aburiya)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
La Noce is opened by the ex-chef of Papi so it was with considerable anticipation that we made our way to the slightly ulu Chu Lin Road in Bukit Batok on Saturday night to celebrate B’s birthday (Happy Birthday, B!).
I can’t say that I totally wouldn’t recommend this place, but the general consensus was that it had its fair share of hits and misses. Some of the dishes were objectively very good, but then there were some that were so bad that, coupled with the erratic and downright bizarre (I’ll explain in a bit) service, I don’t think the place as a whole could be redeemed.
The evening started out well enough, with a complimentary amuse bouche of crab meat and caviar tartlets. The pastry for the tartlets was a bit soggy, but otherwise this was alright. Because the chef was from Papi, the pizza place that we loved for too fleeting a moment, we wanted to try the pizza here so we all shared a Siciliana – eggplant, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, anchovies, garlic and black olives. Some of the gang thought this was a little on the salty side, probably because of the anchovies and olives, but I was very impressed with the pizza.
The other starters that we shared had more mixed reactions (which proved to be the prevailing theme for the rest of the night). The spicy sauce that came with the calamari was quite good, but the squid itself was overcooked and rubbery. The vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce), on the other hand, was very good and as S said, one of the better ones that she’s tried. The veal was sliced just thin enough to still have some substance, and the tuna sauce had a good balance of flavours; not too overpoweringly tuna.
M had a pumpkin soup and W had the minestrone, both of which fell completely flat, in their opinion. In fact, it seemed that a lack of salt/taste was the general opinion throughout dinner, and we had to keep the salt shaker with us the entire night. When starters were ordered, we got our first taste of the strange waitress who seemed to be living in a parallel twilight zone dimension. Y asked if there was any mushroom soup, and the waitress told her, with a straight face, that mushroom soup hadn’t been on the menu for two years. Wtf??!!! The restaurant itself has been open for only about 6 months…
We had read/heard differing views about the main courses too. B read that the lamb rack was good, and W was told to stick to the pastas. With that in mind, I ordered the lamb and A ordered a pasta – the cappellini with crab meat and cherry tomatoes – to share. The lamb arrived first, and while mine was a tad overdone (I’d requested medium), S’s and B’s looked a bit better, but taste-wise there was no complaint. The meat was well-seasoned, not too fatty, and generally quite tasty.
Then the pastas arrived, and all the pastas just couldn’t make it. Again, everything just lacked salt and taste. The crab meat cappellini was flat, and according to M and W, their vongole and seafood pastas didn’t fare much better.
Strangely enough, only half of the pastas arrived. After waiting ages for 3 more pastas, we finally asked the waitress (the same twilight zone one) to check on them, and based on the flurry going and her frantically checking the order chit, we knew she’d simply forgotten them. She claimed to have them ready in 3 minutes – well, maybe in her time zone. After a good 10 or 15 minutes, a second cappellini and 2 rigatonis arrived. This cappellini was only marginally better than the first, but the rigatoni with creamy duck ragout was actually pretty decent.
Finally, it was time for dessert. We ordered 2 portions of profiteroles, and a slice of torta del nonna (grandmother cake) to sing a birthday song for B, but the kitchen gave her a complimentary plate of 2 profiteroles with a candle in one of them. Quite a nice gesture, and the profiteroles themselves didn’t look very good but actually tasted quite delicious. The choux pastry was very light, as was the whipped cream filling, and it was coated in a light chocolate sauce. The cake was a bit on the heavy side though, and a tad dry.
Well, there you have it. Quite a spectrum of standards, such that it felt as though the dishes were cooked by completely different persons. I’m sure the rest of the gang have some words of their own to share about the place, so I’ll leave them to add a bit more colour.
The other tables had the antipasti which looked really good. I guess you should stick to that and the pizza, although I think Peperoni does a better thin and crispy pizza. Best dish was surprisingly the profiteroles. Nice.
3 Chu Lin Road
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I was all set to write something rather nasty about the service I received at Canele at Paragon, but to their credit they rectified the situation so well that now I’m feeling rather bad. To provide a fuller and more complete picture, let me explain…
I called the branch on Friday to order a Gateau Chocolat for Mothers’ Day. At first they told me collection was after 2 pm, but when I asked if I could come by at 1 pm, they said yes, and that the cakes would usually arrive from Robertson Quay by then (they’re all baked offsite at the Robertson kitchen and delivered fresh daily).
So on Sunday, promptly at 1 pm we turned up at the branch, only to be told that collection is after 2 pm. When I mentioned that the person who took my order had assured me at I could come after 1 pm, they said the delivery ‘uncle’ was on his way, and if I could please walk around for a while, they would call me the minute he arrived.
We didn’t want to wander around aimlessly, so we ended up getting a table at Starbucks opposite and nursed a coffee while waiting. Finally, at 1.45 pm we saw the uncle pushing the delivery trolley in, so after giving him a while to unload, I walked in 5 minutes later.
I was told to take a seat while they got my cake ready. After waiting for another 10 minutes, I realised that something was up when the waitress kept taking out cake boxes, checking them and putting them back, all the while looking harassed while on the phone.
Finally, she came to me and very apologetically said that my cake was still at Robertson Quay. After having spent an entire hour waiting, I couldn’t help but wail “What??!! I don’t understand, why is it still there?!” She apologised profusely, and said there were so many cakes for Mothers’ Day that they needed to do two deliveries, and it was on its way. She then said that she felt bad for making me wait any longer, and volunteered one of their delivery men to drop it off at our home or the dinner venue, whichever was more convenient.
She also offered to either give me a larger-sized cake, or something else to compensate for the trouble caused. Feeling duly mollified, I asked if she could give me a box of macarons, since I hadn’t tried Canele’s fairly famous macarons before. She agreed, and said the cake and the macarons would be delivered to our place that afternoon.
The delivery guy arrived at 3 pm, with the cake and two boxes of macarons, each containing a dozen. That was a lot more generous than I expected, figuring that they’d just fob me off with a box of 6, or 12 at most. After the delivery guy left, it suddenly occurred to me that in the whole hooha of the afternoon, I hadn’t even paid for the cake yet! I immediately called the branch and spoke to the same waitress, and when I sheepishly said I hadn’t paid yet, she said “No no no, it’s ok. It’s our fault, we made you wait for so long and caused you so much inconvenience, we’re very sorry.” By then I felt SO bad and offered to pay a few more times, but each offer was rejected. Ack.
So there you have it. Yes, perhaps they were a little disorganised, more so because it was Mothers’ Day, but you have to give them props for their fire-fighting and damage control. Very good customer service, and I must say it does pay off – now I feel obliged to patronise them more. Anyway for what it’s worth, the cake was good but could’ve been thawed a bit more before eating, and the macarons were rather impressive.
C probably scared the poor girl.
C is very scary.
She beats me.
Anyway, Canele has more than made up for the disappointing experience we had the last time. I can now recommend it again.
290 Orchard Road
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm
The first and only time I ate at Tatsuya was on a corporate expense account, and I had one of the best Japanese meals ever, although admittedly I had no idea what I was eating half the time. With their a la carte omakase-style lunches going for as much as $150 a head, the only time we can afford to eat at Tatsuya is to have their bento lunch sets, which at between $25 and $30 are very reasonable in comparison. The best part is that their bento lunch sets are available daily from 12 to 2 pm, including weekends.
We made a booking on Friday night for Sunday lunch, and they were quite full by then (maybe Mothers’ Day had something to do with it as well) so they told us they only had the sushi counter available. Apart from being a bit squeezy, this was great because we got to see the chefs preparing all the food, including our lunches. Seeing the care and skill that went into making even our basic bento lunches is enough to convince me that the bentos are very good value for money.
There are a total of about 8 different bento sets, so there’s quite a wide variety. In addition to the Sushi Bento and Barachirashi Bento that we ordered, there’s a sashimi one, tempura, grilled fish, teriyaki chicken, grilled unagi and a Ladies’ Lunch. Each set comes with miso soup, fruit for dessert, and a chawanmushi that’s refreshingly uplifted with some orange zest. For the very first time, A actually finished a bowl of chawanmushi.
The Sushi Bento included about 6 pieces of sushi – salmon, 2 pieces of maguro, a swordfish, prawn and one more that I couldn't identify. There were an additional 6 small pieces of rolled maki, and 2 pieces of a California roll. I also had some tempura – 2 prawns, 2 pieces of lady’s finger or okra, and 1 piece of eggplant. The sushi was great – the slices of fish are pretty generous, and they give you very little rice in relation to the fish, allowing the flavour of the fish to really come through. Watching them make it, they add a few touches to it that are probably absent in more commonplace sushi chains, like adding some citrus zest and brushing a mysterious sauce on top of the sushi. These additional flourishes gave the sushi quite a bit of flavour, thereby almost negating the need to douse it in soy sauce.
Inspired by the barachirashi that we had at Akashi, A went for the Barachirashi Bento (he actually wanted mine but was put off by the tempura). They were very generous with the fish, which was good quality and very fresh. In terms of portion size it’s not huge though, so if you’re hungry you may want to go for some of the larger sets.
Generally the portions are enough to just fill you, so if you’re starving you may not be totally satisfied. All in all, we’ll definitely be back whenever we crave a fix of good quality sushi.
Very good. A bit stressful sitting right in front of sushi chefs though. Must remember not to mix wasabi in soy sause and cannot dip sushi in it.
Maybe one day, we’ll be able to afford the chef’s menu.
Tatsuya Japanese Restaurant
270 Orchard Road
Park Hotel Orchard (formerly Crown Prince)
Open daily: 12 to 3 pm, 6 to 10.30 pm
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Ragazzi is an unassuming Italian joint (run by Singaporeans though, not Italians) situated in a coffee shop in Ghim Moh. For a place that operates out of a stall in a coffee shop, the menu is surprisingly extensive, offering a full menu of starters and soups, pastas, main courses and desserts.
We went there for dinner on Thursday after A got back from reservist. We decided to share a pasta and a main course so that we could try a wider range of their offerings. We had the mushroom alfredo spaghetti, and the Carne Misto – a mixed grill for meat lovers.
I quite liked the pasta; in fact I preferred it to the meat, but A disagrees. The noodles were pretty well cooked, the cream sauce wasn’t too rich and heavy but still had good flavour, they were very generous with the mushrooms (shitake and button), and it didn't suffer from the fate of most food court pastas, i.e. it wasn’t overloaded with garlic such that you didn't taste anything else.
The Carne Misto was a sampler of most of the main courses on the menu. There was a lamb and sausage kebab, a portion of steak, and a huge lemon and thyme roast chicken leg, all served with side salad and mashed potatoes. Initially I thought this was good, but after a while the flavours started merging and everything ended up tasting the same. The chicken was good initially, but while it was well flavoured, the meat itself was a bit tough and lacking any sweetness. The lamb on the other hand had a rather strong aroma – avoid this if you not a big lamb eater. The steak was passable, though they looked a bit puzzled when we wanted medium rare when they asked “do you want it medium or well?”
My one complaint would be that their cutlery really isn’t suited for hard core meat dishes. Their knives are like butter knives, so it was a challenging and rather tiring affair trying to make my way through all that meat with such pathetic knife. Other than that, this is pretty decent and since it’s so close to home, definitely a good option for a simple meal. Reasonable too – our meal cost us $24 in total.
It’s not a destination point, but definitely an option for around the area. The sauce was a bit too watery for my tastes. Lots and lots of mushrooms though. I’ll try the salmon alfredo one next and hope they’re just as generous.
Ragazzi – the Italian kitchen
Block 10, Ghim Moh Road
Fu Chan Food Paradise
Open daily: 12 – 2 pm; 5 – 9.30 pm
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Clearly I spoke too soon when I said that the new Aston’s in Jurong East had no teething problems – they simply took a while to show up. We were there for dinner again with A’s parents, and it was an appalling experience.
Firstly, we waited more than half an hour for our food, only to be told that only 2 of the 4 chicken wings that we ordered were available. Fine, we accepted a refund for the other 2. Then, food arrived in bits and pieces. The Porterhouse that A’s parents ordered was too rare; they were probably rushing so took it off the grill too soon.
Then only one of the 3 soups arrived, and it tasted bland and watery. After waiting for the other 2, we were told that they’d run out of soups. Fine. So we asked for two corn on the cobs instead. THEN the garlic bread for the soup had ALSO run out, and by then I swear my patience was running dangerously thin, so we simply asked for extra corn to cover it.
The corn arrived and it was stone cold and undercooked. So off we had to go to get them to heat it up for us. All in all, what should have been a quick and simple dinner at a neighbourhood coffee shop turned out to be a long drawn and unnecessarily stressful affair.
Looks like we’re back to square one for places to eat when we visit A’s folks. Dang.
I pity the poor waitstaff who have to deal with angry customers. But seriously, if it’s going to take so long and you’re in danger of running out of food, at least tell the customers first. At least then they know what to expect and can’t complain. Botak Jones used to do it.
I seriously hope our corn wasn’t spat into. I know one waiter who told me all sorts of shit about what they’d do to the stuff sent back.
I don’t believe I’m actually saying this, but for the first time in a very long while, I had McDonald’s this morning. It’s all D’s fault – she told us that the new McGriddles were really yummy and got us psyched to try them this morning.
These have been available in the US for ages, but have only just reached our shores in the Macs breakfast offering. They’re similar to the McMuffins, but instead of using English muffins to sandwich the egg and sausage, these are like hotcakes with the butter and maple syrup built-in. They’re quite delicious, especially when you bite into the portions with the maple syrup. However, because of their butteriness, they’re also a bit gelak towards the end.
The McCafe cappuccino is pretty good, but the hash browns suck now. They’re way too oily and not worth the calories.
I like the taste of the “Griddle”. Not enough to make me want to eat the crappy McD’s sausage though. Yuck.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
After raving about the steak sandwiches at Tuckshop and having them almost every other week at one stage, we somehow OD-ed on them and coupled with how fast time flies, it’s been more than 6 months since our last visit.
We went with D&D on Saturday night, and expecting a weekend drinking crowd, I took the precaution of booking a table. When we got there, we were the only table and over the course of our dinner, only one other table of 2 arrived. I wonder how they’re faring on weekdays, but the turnout for dinner on Saturday was certainly not sustainable in the long run.
A still ordered the sandwich, and the mouthful that I had was still pretty good, but A thinks that it’s deteriorated.
Kudos to them for always trying to update their menu - they’ve added more new items keep things interesting. There’s a two-mushroom sandwich with Portobello and enoki mushrooms, chicken wings and instant noodles dressed with sesame oil and sliced shitake mushrooms, which I what I ordered. Because I was feeling a bit ill, this was just what I needed – some comfort food. The noodles were simple but good; my only complaint was that the noodles were a tad overdone.
I wanted the chicken wings but they were sold out, so I consoled myself with another new dish, the crumb coated chicken. Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed with this. It was too crumbed and overfried, so the chicken ended up being dry and overseasoned.
They also claim to serve ice cream from Ice Cream Chefs in the East, but tonight their machine/freezer wasn’t working so the ice cream was melted and couldn’t be served.
I think a combination of the waitstaff’s rather lackadaisical attitude and their inconsistent food quality has led to the slowdown in customers. Now that A isn’t working in the immediate vicinity any more, I don’t think this place is worth a specific visit.
Good. But not as good as before.
21 Tanjong Pagar Road
Friday, May 02, 2008
Ah… always satisfying. Since A is off to reservist (for a long period of 4 days, haha) next week, we decided that that was as good a reason as any to have dinner at Valentino. It was quite a feat for me to resist ordering the lobster pasta again, but I managed, just barely.
We had a couple of the specialty starters: a Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and Italian cherry tomatoes flown in from Sicily, and scamorza cheese with tomatoes and anchovies. The Caprese salad was a classic example of good produce, simply executed. The tomatoes, vine-ripened, were so sweet they were almost like grapes, and the mozzarella was soft and creamy. This was a fresh, clean starter compared to the scamorza that was mild yet smoky, and paired with the savouriness of the anchovies and good capers and olives.
After hearing Cousin C’s recommendations of the Fiorentine cote de boeuf, they happened to have a small portion today just nice for 2 to share. As far as steaks go, this was very good – perfectly cooked, tender, wonderfully charred on the outside and sweet inside, and drizzled with lemon juice to keep it from being too cloyingly beefy and heavy. But while it was a really enjoyable steak, I think I’d still rather have the lobster pasta.
Because we didn’t have any pasta or carbs today, we weren’t absolutely stuffed so I was able to order a slightly heavier dessert (compared to the light as air Chantilly cake). The pear and chocolate tart was still one of the lightest I’ve ever had – the chocolate filling was lightly whipped, the pears sliced really thin, and the crust was light, buttery and perfect.
We really should come here more often – it’s getting increasingly more difficult to get a reservation though, so it’s not a place that we can go to immediately satisfy a craving, but if we call two weeks’ ahead we can expect an incredible meal in two weeks’ time. The challenge is waiting that long.
This is definitely my favourite restaurant now. There’s no course that I’d want to skip. Tiramisu can’t be beat!
Ristorante da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka (off Rifle Range Road)
Tuesday to Sunday: 12 pm to 2.30 pm, 6 pm to 10.30 pm
Thursday, May 01, 2008
We finally made it to Dozo (the more upmarket sister restaurant of Tao’s) for dinner tonight, after hearing pretty good reviews from my dad, of all people. I can’t believe my dad made it to Dozo before me…
Anyway, their concept is similar to Tao’s but on a more high-end level, with better ingredients. For dinner, a 7-course meal costs $58.80 and you can choose from about 5 options per course.
As a pre-dinner amuse bouche, we were served a mango sorbet, and a platter comprising smoked salmon with sour cream atop a mint leaf, grilled scallop with asparagus, and a crostini with a small morsel of foie gras.
For starters, A had the beef carpaccio with parmesan cheese shavings, and I had the king crab claw salad. 1 point to A – the beef carpaccio, besides having a kick-ass (and rather phallic) presentation, was very tasty. In case you’re wondering, that cone is actually a cone of filo pastry that was deep fried, and the carpaccio slices wrapped around it. The actual filo didn't do much for the dish though, as it tended to detract from the delicate slices of beef.
In comparison, my crab claw salad was pretty ordinary. Not much meat on the crab leg, and the dressing was nothing to shout about.
Next were the side dishes. A had the escargot with yuzu garlic butter, and I had the foie gras chawanmushi with scallop and caviar. This was a tough call – mine will appeal to foie gras lovers because the foie gras is blended into the egg custard so each spoonful has a nice rich foie gras aftertaste. A’s escargots were surprisingly good, given that I only expect French restaurants to do good escargots.
The soups presented another tie, although I think mine narrowly edges out A’s. A had the cepes mushroom soup with truffle, and I had the seafood bisque. The mushroom soup was very similar to the one at Tao’s, but apparently they use a few more wild mushrooms here compared to simpler blend of mushroom and shitake at Tao’s. The result is something slightly richer, but not obviously so. I really liked my seafood bisque. It was full of flavour and yet wasn’t too rich or creamy. There were fairly generous pieces of crab meat in it as well.
Although their main course specialty is the grilled rib eye on hot stones, we both decided to go for fish today. A had the cod fillet with miso cream cappuccino, and as you can see, I’m clearly still not over my yellowtail collar obsession – I had the oven-baked Hamachi Kama with risotto. The cod was ok but the portion was pretty small. In contrast, my main course portion was huge, and the quality of the yellowtail collar was pretty good. All in all, I found this very enjoyable. 1 point to C.
Finally it was time for dessert. A had the sesame yin yang panna cotta – yin yang because the panna cotta was flavoured with white sesame, and served with black sesame ice cream. Separately, this wasn’t great but eaten together, both types of sesames really complemented each other. I had the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, which was predictable but good. The ice cream was more like gelato, and I think it would’ve been better if it had been richer and creamier. Still, 1 point to C for dessert.
Dinner was quite an experience – enjoyable, but a part of me wishes they’d tone down the dramatic plating just a tad. The place itself is a lot bigger than I expected, and it seems to be a good place for private functions. They have rooms for 4 to 6 persons, for 10 to 12, or even large groups of 18 to 20. They’ve also got a Ladies Room, done up in plush purple velvet and black lace, that would be perfect for a girls’ night out.
Service was excellent, just like Tao’s. I have to give credit to whatever training or incentive programme they have because the main waitstaff are always very good.
Food-wise, I think I might still prefer Tao’s though. While the food is good and the quality of ingredients here is somewhat better, I just get the try-too-hard-and-not-quite-making-it feel. You can tell a lot of effort went into the presentation, but the taste doesn’t quite match.
Overall, I wouldn’t mind coming back but I’m in no big hurry.
491 River Valley Road
#02-02/03 Valley Point Shopping Centre
11.30 am to 2.30 pm, 5.30 pm to 10 pm
This is Al Forno (East Coast), not to be mistaken with the completely unrelated Al Forno Trattoria at Goldhill Centre. We’ve heard some good things about the Al Forno at East Coast, but being in the East, we haven’t dared to make our way there so we decided to give them a try when they opened a little stall in Taka’s basement for their Italian fair.
The menu at the fair (which lasts till 11th May) is apparently completely different to the menu at the restaurant – the chef said that the menu at Taka is just a hint of what’s available at the restaurant, and portions and prices are also different.
We had the Spaghetti Vongole, which wasn’t too bad, if a tad predictable. The Deep Fried Pizza was a no-go – it looked like a curry puff and was way too doughy and tasteless. The stuffed pizza – a slice of pizza stuffed with sausage, spinach and ricotta cheese – fared much better, with the ricotta giving a nice creamy texture and the spinach preventing it from too heavy.
Given that the chefs were cooking on makeshift stoves, I don't think it would be fair to expect the restaurant’s quality to be the same, but based on what we’ve tasted so far, I think there’s definitely some potential, and wouldn’t mind trying the restaurant proper whenever we next venture to the East.
The food was as good as can be expected from a makeshift Italian kiosk. I was let down by the deep fried pizza but very impressed by the stuffed pizza. Also, the chef was very friendly and not imposing at all.