Friday, July 25, 2008

Smaller Bites at One Ninety

C says:

Well, our visit to One Ninety to try the Smaller Bites a la carte buffet happened a lot sooner than we expected. We planned to come back sometime in August, but when I called to ask them how long the promotion was for, they said it was officially only till 31 July. After that, management is still considering whether to keep it, but even if they do, it will probably be at a different price. That left us with no choice but to come here for dinner on Friday night.

The concept of the Smaller Bites menu is tasting (read: one bite) portions of about 40 dishes, ranging from soups, appetisers, main courses and desserts. The current promotion is very good value - $52 per person for unlimited portions of everything on the menu. We decided that even if they were only tasting portions, if each of us were to order one of everything each, we’d explode. So instead, we got one of everything to share. Here are my quick thoughts on each one:


Green Pea Foam with Black Truffles: Not for me. Way too thick, almost like a puree.
Chicken Consomme with Shrimp Dumplings: The dumpling was good – the shrimp was very fresh and springy, but the soup itself was a bit too cold for my liking.
Tomato Soup with Seafood Skewer and Basil: It’s worth ordering this for the grilled seafood skewer alone. Soup’s quite an intense tomato.
Mushroom Cappuccino with Roasted Porcini: A bit undersalted. The crostini with mushrooms was good.


Baby Spinach with Arugula and Wild Mushroom Salad: Ok, but nothing extraordinary.
Grilled Tofu Pocket with Aromatic Vegetables and Sesame Glaze: This was essentially mini tau pok baos. Awesome! The tau pok had incredibly smoky charred flavour and went very well with the sesame glaze.
Calamari with Vegas Dip: The calamari was a bit too hard and chewy.
Coriander Tuna with Sesame and Citrus Pea Salad: Better than expected. The tuna was just barely seared and still nice and rare.
Roasted Pork Char Siew with Cucumber and Coriander Salad: This was so-so, definitely not the best char siew I’ve had but the chilli oil helped.
Portobello Tempura Fries with Horseradish Dip: Mushrooms were nice and meaty but a tad oily.
Bocconcini Mozzarella with Cherry Tomato Bruschetta: This was fabulous. Great tomatoes and good cheese. I wish the bread was a little less toasted and crispy though.
Balsamic-brushed Baby Octopus with Rocket Salad and Pine Nuts: Not bad but I don’t think I’ll order this again.
Crispy Crab Cakes with Black Pepper Sauce and Asian Greens: These were very good, very generous with the crab meat.
Thinly-sliced Turkey Breast with Blueberry Vinaigrette: The turkey was just deli-style cold cuts. A bit too salty and nothing spectacular.
Risotto Balls with Kikorangi Cheese Dressing: I found these really addictive. Probably the best risotto balls I’ve ever had, they’re good alone cos they’re stuffed with cheese, but also good with the blue cheese sauce.
White Fish Ceviche: Ceviche refers to the technique of partially cooking food in an acid, like lime or lemon juice. This led to a rather spongy texture. Not for me.


Seared Scallops with Avocado and Pimento Coulis: I think they do their seafood here really well. The scallop was tender and not overdone.
Green Lip Mussels Casino: The mussels were baked with cheese and bread crumbs. A tad chewy but not bad.
Poached Seabass with Fennel and Mushroom Essence: This was a very delicate preparation, fitting for the delicate nature of the seabass. Light and refreshing.
Crispy Codfish with Oriental Mango Slaw and Wasabi Aioli: I’m partial to cod, and this was crispy outside but still tender inside.
Roasted Togarishi Salmon with Miso Vinaigrette: Again, very good fish. It was still a bit pink and rare in the centre, just the way I like it.
Peanut Butter Chicken: This was more A’s choice. I’m not a fan of peanut in my food, and this tasted a bit like satay sauce.
Black Soy Prawns with Pumpkin Confit: The prawns were excellent – very fresh and perfectly cooked and springy. Soy glaze wasn’t overpowering, and the pumpkin was a good accompaniment.
Lobster Thermidor: We each got a mini tail, and it was very good.
Honey Glazed Duck Breast with Perigord Truffle Sauce: The duck was too cooked for my liking.
Organic Pork Belly on Tropical Asian Salad: This was fabulous. The pork belly was delightfully tender yet the skin was really crispy.
Seared Foie Gras Celeriac Puree Truffle and Truffle Foam: Predictably the foie gras portions were quite small but they went quite well with the celeriac puree.
Lamb Medallion with Herb Crust: Another winner. The lamb was tender and flavourful.
Angus Beef Cheek with Beetroot Mash and Shiraz Reduction: The meat was meltingly tender and the beetroot mash was pretty interesting.
Grilled Grain-fed Sirloin with Creamy Fondue and Guinness Sauce: I found the beef a bit overdone, it was cooked medium, probably to cater to a wide range of preferences.


Hazelnut Royaltine Cake: This was a bit like Canele’s Le Royale, with the crispy biscuit layer. Pretty good.
Bitter Chocolate Mousse with Lemon Curd: This was surprisingly served in cake form, not bad but the lemon was a bit overpowering.
Strawberry and Tomato Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream: The tomato really threw me off. Tasted a bit like sweet and sour sauce.
Soy Bean Panna Cotta with Sesame Tuile: The most local of the desserts, this was a good interpretation of tau huey, topped with red bean and a caramel peanut cookie.
Walnut Napoleon with Espresso Ice Cream: A light coffee cake; pretty good.

Phew. That was it. We inadvertently had a few repeats when they brought us double servings of a few dishes, but otherwise with both of us sharing just one order of each item, we were already stuffed. Overall, I was quite impressed and if they keep this concept then depending on the revised price, I’ll definitely come back again.

A says:

While the normal meals are too expensive for me, $52 for this is actually quite worth it when you consider what you’re getting. If it’s your first time, go with a friend and just ask for one serving of everything to share.

After trying everything, here’s a rundown of what I’d order for myself (not to share – it’s all for me).

The bread they give you is as good, if not better than most of the stuff on the menu. We got three regular and three sweet ones. I like the sweet one. C claims it’s stuffed with sweet potato, but while it does look like sweet potato, I think it’s some form of custard.

The soups are okay but I think I’ll skip them in favour of other courses. Maybe I’d have the Tomato if I wanted to start it off with a soup.

For starters, I recommend the Grilled Tofu Pocket, Mozzarella and Tomato Bruschetta, Crispy Crab Cakes and Portobello Tempura Fries.

I’m not a big fan of most seafood so I’ll stick with the Scallops and Salmon.

The main meat course is where I’d go overboard. At least two helpings of Lamb and at least one order of Beef.

The desserts were just too “creative” for my tastes. I would have liked a simple gooey chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream. I guess the safest option for me is actually the Soy Bean Panna Cotta.

I would have liked to finish the meal with a coffee but I still can’t bring myself to pay $!! for a coffee.

One Ninety
190 Orchard Boulevard
Ground floor Four Seasons Hotel
Tel: 6734 1110 / 6831 7250

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bistro GAGA

C says:

This was quite an unplanned dinner. We were at Old School (the old MGS) at Mt Sophia to support a friend who was performing there. After the performance a group of A’s friends were wondering where to adjourn to for dinner, and the option with the least palaver was the bistro within the Old School complex. They were quite crowded but managed to squeeze our table of 10 in, and were nice enough to warn us that food would take a while so at least our expectations were managed.

A and I shared the seared pink tuna. Portion was tiny but it was really good. The tuna really was just barely seared and still rare, and topped with a mash that had pieces of salt cod mixed in with it. Interesting combination, but one that really worked.

Those of us at the table who opted for pastas were rewarded with the food arriving fairly quickly. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the poor sods who ordered proper main courses. Those only arrived after most of us had finished our pastas. The pastas were pretty good - I was very happy with my oxtail ragout spaghetti, and A’s squid ink linguine wasn’t half bad either. Word of caution – M&M, who ordered the pan fried salmon and lamb shank main courses, felt that the mains were less stellar. The salmon and lamb both apparently tasted like they had been frozen, and M’s salmon was also not as fresh as she’d have liked.

A ordered the banana and basil crepe, which came in the most lurid shade of green. There was way too much basil in the crepe – it didn’t taste savoury per se, but it was still too overpowering as a dessert.

I wouldn’t say this was a destination place, but if you ever find yourself at or near Old School for any arty farty events, this is definitely an option.

A says:

The consensus was that the pastas are very good. The mains, not so much. I definitely would like to try more of the starters.

Anyway, I must compliment them again for managing expectations. Other establishments could learn a thing or two from them. If the wait is going to be long, at least warn patrons first. That at least gives them the choice of staying or leaving.

Under-promise and over-deliver. Ace!

Bistro GAGA
11 Mount Sophia, #01-03
Tel: 6883-2120

One Ninety

C says:

We’d read many reviews that One Ninety, the coffeehouse within the Four Season Hotel, does a really good burger, and we finally decided to make our way here for lunch on Saturday.

I wasn’t too impressed by the service when we arrived. A had called a week earlier to make the reservation, and called 15 minutes before we arrived just to confirm our reservation, and yet when we got there, we were made to stand around while they made a big show of searching through their books for our reservation. Quite unnecessarily, I might add, given that the restaurant was empty except for about 3 small tables. In the end, after much clarifying of our names, they eventually found the reservation under a very strange permutation of A's name, with nary an apology.

A ordered the regular premium beef burger with Emmenthal cheese, and didn’t opt for wagyu or the extra foie gras and black truffle. This lived up to its reputation. The medium rare patty was perfectly pink, juicy, yet not too greasy. At $27, it was a bit steep for a burger, but it was a damn good one anyway.

I went for the 3 mini burgers, and choose 3 (out of 5) fillings – black truffle, blue cheese and foie gras. This was an absolute rip-off. $42 for 3 miniscule burgers is absolutely ridiculous, even if it’s supposedly topped with premium ingredients, which they were terribly stingy with anyway. And if the beef patties were supposed to be wagyu to justify the price, I can honestly say that A’s patty was much much better. At least his had the taste and texture of beef. Mine were overcooked, and tasted almost like meatballs. Only one out of the three was cooked slightly more rare, and that one tasted very good.

The profit margin on the coffees here, though, must really go through the roof. Our tiny cups of latte and cappuccino were $11 each, which I guess is par for the course in hotel coffeehouses.

We’re prepared to give this place one more try, though, because they’ve got a Smaller Bites concept that sounds quite interesting. They’ve got an a la carte buffet dinner for $52, where the dishes are small, one-bite tasting portions. We sneaked a peek at the items on offer, and I must say the menu was very comprehensive, and A and I could eat practically everything on the menu. So watch this space, we’ll definitely write about it after.

A says:

The burgers are great, but definitely not worth the price tag. And the coffee is a real rip-off. AND parking for our 1-hour meal was $7.

This place is only an option if you’ve got lots of money to blow. But then again, their target market usually does.

One Ninety
190 Orchard Boulevard
Ground floor Four Seasons Hotel
Tel: 6734 1110 / 6831 7250

Sunday, July 13, 2008

J.Co Donuts

C says:

I think I’m officially a convert. Clearly there’s a reason for the shift in long queues in Raffles City from Donut Factory to J.Co, an Indonesian donut chain. On Sunday afternoon, J Co surprisingly had only 3 people in the queue, and a number of empty tables, so we decided to try half a dozen.

Expecting it to be more hype than substance, I was pleasantly surprised with the donuts here, especially the glazed donuts. They weren’t too sweet, and were incredibly light and soft. I daresay they’re better than Donut Factory’s.

As for the flavoured donuts, we tried a Snow White (vanilla whipped cream-filled and topped with icing sugar), Chocolate Pearls and the Don Mochino (dark chocolate coated and filled with coffee cream). The flavoured donuts were less spectacular, and probably on par with Donut Factory’s flavoured ones, but for regular glazed, I’m switching allegiances whenever I’m in Raffles City.

A says:

The regular glazed RAWKS! I think it’s as good as Krispy Kremes even. The flavoured ones are okay, but really, special flavoured donuts tend to be gimmicky and disappointing.

Note to self: coffee here is actually not bad.

J Co. Donuts
#B1-44, Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6333-4258
Open daily: 9 am to 10 pm

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kome Japanese Dining

C says:

Kome is a fairly new Japanese restaurant opened by Lawrence Chia – the brother of Ronnie Chia of Tatsuya fame. The location – part of Keppel Club – seems a rather strange choice for a fine dining Japanese joint, but it’s open to the public so I guess it’s no different from driving to Keppel Island or even Sentosa for a meal.

It’s probably better to come here for lunch because, just like Tatsuya, Kome has some quite prohibitively expensive items on their menu (their omakase sets start at $95 per person, I think), but at lunchtime they have a selection of bentos for $22.90 each. Some of the starters and main courses aren’t too astronomical, so we managed to try a number of items when we came here with A’s folks (Keppel Club members) on Saturday night.

I ordered, what else, the hamachi kama (will she ever stop?!). The fish was very good here, but it fell short of being better than Akashi because of the rice. I ordered a bowl of sushi rice to go with it, and it was just too sweet. I prefer the vinegared rice to be just that – vinegared and slightly tart. Because it was so sweet, it didn't go as well with the grilled fish.

A ordered the Chirashi Sushi, which came in a pretty decent-sized portion for $28. A actually thought that the fish here was one of the best he’s had, and even better than at Tatsuya. Unfortunately I would have to differ, because one of the pieces of salmon sashimi I had actually had a bone in it! It was a small ½ cm piece of a pinbone, but a bone nonetheless.

A’s folks ordered a beef sukiyaki set for 2 persons, which surprisingly took ages to arrive given that most of the food is actually raw… The beef was excellent though – sliced thin enough but not so paper-thin that you don’t get to chew anything, and fantastically marbled and full of flavour.

We ordered a couple of side dishes to try, which were ok but not spectacular. The seared swordfish and foie gras tataki was an interesting flavour combination, and the cheesily-named Keppel Maki, with swordfish, salmon skin and asparagus, was ok but a bit too filling for my liking. The tuna in the Maguro Miso tasted quite meaty, but again somehow the dish failed to really excite.

I think we’re planning to come back again at lunch time one day to try the bentos, then we’ll be in a better position to compare this place with Tatsuya’s lunch sets, because at the moment the lunch we had at Tatsuya still beats the dinner here tonight.

A says:

I actually like the slightly sweeter rice. The food is good, the service is really good and ambience isn’t too imposing.

I’m just not sure if it’s worth the trip out to Keppel if you don’t live around here anyway. Also, the tables are a bit small if you’re ordering multiple dishes.

Kome Japanese Dining
Keppel Club
10 Bukit Chermin Road
Tel: 6273-0118
Lunch: 12pm - 3pm
Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.00pm

Sunday, July 06, 2008


C says:

Tampopo has moved! They now occupy much larger premises on the ground floor of Liang Court, so don't be fooled into thinking that they're still at the basement unit within Meidi-Ya. That’s been taken over by another joint, which serves similar fare.

The new Tampopo is much bigger, but because of the publicity after its renovation, it’s also more crowded. They’ve got a really funky electronic ordering system, that not only lets you key in selected orders (sushi and sashimi) via a touch screen, but your order will get delivered right to your table via a conveyor belt. You don't have to grab it like at other sushi joints – here it’s programmed via microchip technology to actually be pushed right onto your table. Very cool; I got a big kick out of using it, much to the chagrin of the waiter.

Anyway, I’m back on my quest to try the Hamachi Kama at most self-respecting Japanese restaurants. The one here is very good value - $25 for one entire side of the head, compared to other places which only serve the collar for the same price or even more. It may have been good value, but I think the one at Akashi was still better in terms of taste. Akashi’s was better salted/seasoned, and their vinegared rice is unsurpassed.

We also ordered the aburi saba sushi – blowtorched mackerel sushi. Wow… we haven’t had a reaction like this since our first time trying the aburi sushi at Sushi Tei. The mackerel was flavourful and slightly fatty, and aburi-ed just right.

Their desserts here are also very good but unfortunately they sell out fast. And we’re not saying which are the better ones cos we want them for ourselves, heh.

A says:

I’m going to stop recommending stuff I like cause it always sells out. So with that in mind, don’t come here. And especially don’t order the desserts.

177 River Valley Road
Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6338-3186
Open: 11.30am - 10.30pm daily

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Brown Sugar Bistro

C says:

I had a belated birthday dinner with the gang on Saturday night at Brown Sugar. (Thanks all, and eep sorry I was uncharacteristically late). We hadn’t been back since our first and only visit when they first opened, more than a year ago, and there’s been considerable buzz about the place since then, so we were looking forward to dinner.

While there were a couple of kinks here and there, at least this didn't disappoint in the way that La Noce thoroughly did. We had a table of 12, so I think that had to be taken into account when considering the slight slowness in the arrival of the food.

I had the seared scallops with carrot mousse and asparagus appetiser. The carrot mousse had orange in it as well, and was a bit too sweet for my liking. The sauce for the scallops was good though, and generally this was quite good; I just thought the portion was a bit small for the price ($18). A’s starter was quite confusing – molten (or as he insisted, mountain) goat cheese tart with escargots. The snails were actually served separate from the tart, atop the salad, and they tasted rather ‘green’, and definitely needed the cheese to detract from the flavour.

The hand-chopped wagyu burger came very highly recommended. You can choose to have it topped with foie gras or without. I decided to go the whole hog and had it with the foie gras. I think almost half of our table had this as their main course, and reactions/ results were mixed. First off, I think their doneness is touch and go, really. My medium rare turned out pretty ok. J (of K&J) ordered medium and his looked a lot like mine. Y’s medium rare ended up looking almost like steak tartare!

I can’t fault the taste – the meat was quite tasty and flavourful, but the patty was so loosely formed that even with a fork and knife it was really hard to eat. Plus the burger buns were quite hard to cut into, which made it even harder to eat.

A’s linguine was safer but also slightly more boring. It came with a cream sauce with organic mushrooms and topped with parma ham. Not bad, but not stellar either.

Feedback from some of the others were: J (of Y&J) found his rack of lamb to be good, but again the medium rare came out more like rare. Plus, he’d ordered the duck breast special, only to be told much later that they had run out, so he had to change his order. B had the seafood linguine which was served in parchment paper. It looked interesting, but she said it was overcooked.

The dessert selection here is quite good – quite a number of them were calling to me, including the sticky date pudding which S arranged to be served to me on a plate, complete with candle. For regular orders of this, it comes in a bowl with the sauce already poured on top. A’s mille feuille with banana mousse and ice cream was quite yummy too.

Thanks again all, for dinner and the pressie *muah* We had two tables so I didn't get to find out everyone’s thoughts about the food, so do post comments ;p

Will we come back? There are certainly other new places that I’d like to try before going back, but all in all while nothing really blew me away, it was quite pleasant and I wasn’t disappointed with anything.

A says:

The food here falls just short of great. I just can’t help but feel that we can find better elsewhere.

I also think that they’re understaffed. Service was bad when the place was full, but improved substantially once people started leaving.

Also, parking spaces here are limited, so come early.

Brown Sugar
277 River Valley Road
Stardus Clubhouse(enter via Institution Hill)
Tel: 6333-6612
Opening hours: Tue-Sat, lunch & dinner, All Day Sunday Brunch 10am-4pm
Closed Monday (unless Public Holiday)
Public Holidays: Fri & Sat - open as usual, other Public Holidays, even Monday - All Day Brunch 10am-4pm

Friday, July 04, 2008


C says:

We had a slightly subdued trip to Valentino’s on Friday, because A was having a very bad headache. Still, the absolutely amazing starter special went quite a ways towards reviving him – he felt almost normal again after having it.

The starter was a twisted mozzarella, where the cheese was twirled to almost resemble a croissant. It was served with cherry tomatoes, and whilst not included, the server recommended some parma ham to accompany it so we ordered some on the side.

This was insanely good. Each separate ingredient was already quite stellar – the cheese was creamy and subtly flavoured (not watery and tasteless like some low-quality mozzarellas), the cherry tomatoes were ripe, sweet and so intensely flavoured that they just had to have been vine-ripened, and the parma ham was paper-thin and well-cured. But together, it was such a riot of complementing flavours that we were pretty much speechless.

What also rendered me speechless was the table of chi chi tai tais next door. Two of them ordered the mozzarella starters, and each of them left almost half of the cheese behind! Argh! Do you not appreciate good produce, people?!

Needless to say, we’re definitely going to order this if it’s ever on the specials list again.

A says:

They weren’t chi chi tai tais lah. Just desperate housewives. And to be far, the portions are big for a single person (not for atetoomuch).

Anyway, as always, food and service were both great. I had a headache when we got there, and one bite of the starter mostly cured it.

I wouldn’t recommend that you go there just so it’ll be easier for us to get a reservation and find parking.

Ristorante da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka (off Rifle Range Road)
Tel: 6462-0555
Tuesday to Sunday: 12 pm to 2.30 pm, 6 pm to 10.30 pm