Saturday, September 26, 2009

More ION Street Food

C says:

The early bird catches the worm. Or in our case, the takoyaki and Arinco King salt caramel roll. We got to ION at 11 am, and the basement food stalls had only just begun their business. We decided to take advantage of our early start, and try all the stalls that normally have snaking queues when the crowds build up.

Gindaco Takoyaki

For me, that meant making a beeline for the renowned takoyaki stall. Ever since it opened, it’s had a Donut Factory effect – scores of people would queue for the fried balls of batter, cabbage and octopus.

When we got there, we were so early that a queue hadn’t even formed yet, and they were just about getting the first batch of balls nicely browned. We placed our order, and were told to return in 5 minutes to pick it up.

Well, I still wouldn’t queue for too long for these, but I must say they’re a whole lot better than Takopachi, the other takoyaki brand that’s available in many supermarket food courts. Takopachi offers a number of fillings (octopus, bacon and cheese and prawn) whereas Gindaco only has octopus, but Gindaco certainly focuses on executing that one variety well. The outside is browned and crisp, and when you cut into it – I would advise not biting into a freshly cooked one cos it’s steaming hot – the batter is remarkably light. Quite a contrast with Takopachi’s dense and soggy interiors.

I’ll definitely have these again. But only when there’s no/not much of a queue.

R Burger

In contrast, this was such a disappointment. Having read good reviews and seen the long queue when we were last here, we headed for the stall while it was still quiet, and ordered the R Burger – a beef patty with shiso leaf, pickled daikon in a steamed mantou bun.

I really didn’t like the flavour combination – essentially the shiso leaf overwhelmed all the other flavours, with the daikon second and the beef patty a distant last place. I didn’t care much for the mantou bun either. I know it’s meant to be a light and fluffy alternative to a regular burger bun, but I found it a bit sticky and unpleasant – kinda like pau that’s gotten a bit wet whilst steaming.

Arinco King

You can’t miss this stall, with its larger than life salt caramel roll, a hint that this is clearly their specialty. Snagging one of these is apparently almost an art form. More often than not, when you go at peak hours it’s sold out, and when you try to go early like we did, the rolls aren’t ready yet. So we placed an order at 11.30 am, went shopping and picked it up at around 1 pm.

Each portion is $18 for a roll that’s approximately 6 inches long, and about 3 inches in diameter. Soft vanilla sponge is rolled with Chantilly cream and scorched caramel, and drizzled with salty caramel.

I have a salt caramel obsession, so this was close to heaven for me. I’m quite picky about my salt caramels. I think so far, Canele’s salt caramel macarons and Cafe Caramel cake have the best salt caramel blend. They’re daring enough to push the boundaries of the saltiness level of the caramel.

I must say this gives Canele a run for their money. The flavours in the roll are surprisingly complex. The salt caramel topping is pretty close to Canele’s, and the caramel within the roll is slightly burnt so it’s nutty and a little bitter, but not past the point where it’s downright burnt.

The roll is quite big, so if you’re counting your calories (and who isn’t, these days), don't worry, you can spread them out, because this keeps in the fridge for about a week.

A says:

Gindaco Takoyaki – the staff at the takoyaki were really efficient and friendly, but I really didn’t find the balls that great. Worth a try, but only if there’s no queue.

R burger – yuck.

Arinco King – very good. Whether it’s worth the $15+ price tag is questionable though.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Prime Society

C says:

I’m not sure which of A’s atas friends suggested this place, but we found ourselves here on Monday night (Hari Raya Puasa). We were a bit apprehensive because before dinner, we were checking out the website, which is quite frustratingly smart-ass.

Still, we went with an open mind, and dinner was generally better than expected. Our table of 12 was seated right in front of the open kitchen, which meant we could see our steaks being cooked, but also meant we ended up smelling of steak by the end of the night.

It’s certainly not cheap – a decent cut of steak starts at around $45, which prices slowly increasing depending on the cut, origin and whether the cow was grain or grass-fed. Most of A’s friends had the rib fillet; A and I shared a whopping 750 gram rib on the bone.

This was a huge hunk of meat, but much of the weight was in the bone. It was grilled really well, with a nice charred exterior and quite rare inside. However, we weren’t raving about the meat as much as those who had the rib fillet. I guess there was less fat in our cut, so the meat, though well cooked, tasted a tad one-dimensional.

Dessert was an absolute rip off. The chocolate trio consisted of a crème brulee, chocolate tart and ice cream. The tart was the size of a 50 cent coin and tasted like it was store-bought. The texture of the crème brulee was like pudding – not very pleasant at all.

Comparisons with Morton’s are inevitable, and I think what this place has going for it is that it’s less intimidating than Mortons, and it’s cheaper. You don’t get the whole Morton’s experience though. Service was pretty slow, though I guess to be fair to them, it can’t be easy catering to a table of 12. It was worth a try, but I don’t think it’ll be the first place I think of when I have a major craving for steak.

A says:

I wasn’t blown away by the meat. But at least it’s cheaper and less stuffy than Morton’s. I must say the service is very friendly and efficient. If only the prices were equally friendly.

Note to self: skip the desserts.

The Prime Society
10 Dempsey Road
Tel: 6474-7427
Tues to Fri: 12 noon to 3 pm
Dinner:Daily: 6 pm to 10.30 pm
Sat and Sun: 11.30 am to 3 pm

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Home-made curry puffs

C says:

Not, not made by me. This is actually the name of the stall at Toa Payoh. For those of you familiar with the Bukit Timah area, this is the pyramid curry puff that used to be at Bouganvillea Park, near the bus stop. It moved when they decided to spruce up the park (though in my opinion it doesn’t look all that much better now), and for years I wondered if she re-opened anywhere.

Finally, a couple of months ago an article appeared in the Sunday Times, featuring the ex-Bouganvillea Park pyramid curry puffs. After Bukit Timah, Madam Moh opened a stall at Balestier, before settling at her current locale in Toa Payoh.

Maybe childhood food memories play a big part, but to me this is the best curry puff ever. The pastry is paper thin yet not too fragile, crisp yet not too oily. She’s extremely generous with the filling, which consists of potatoes, a wedge of hard boiled egg and tender chicken thigh pieces. This is how Old Chang Kee curry puffs used to be, before they exploded into the global brand they are now and became machine rather than hand-made.

Now that I’ve re-discovered Madam Moh, I’m going to make a point to patronise her stall every once in a while. I’ve even taken down her number so that if she ever were to move again, I’ll know where to track her down.

A says:

Curry puffs aren’t my thing. I’m more into Powerpuffs. Fighting crime, trying to save the world...

Home-Made Curry Puffs
Block 19, Toa Payoh Lorong 7
Tel: 9389-4408
Closed on Mondays

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Handburger

C says:

Newly opened at the Raffles City basement by the folks behind The Soup Spoon, The Handburger offers an array of gourmet burgers at prices ranging from around $13 to $18. The decor is simple, and I quite like the wooden block-like chairs that tuck nicely away under the tables.

They have quite exotic burger varieties, including a tea-smoked duck burger, duck confit burger and tandoori chicken burger. Being our first time here, we decided that one of us should try the original before veering off to the exotic ones. So I had the Original Handburger, which consists of a 170g sirloin patty, tomato, lettuce, cheddar cheese, caramelised onion jam on an onion bun. I chose to have mine with fries.

It didn’t bode well when my request for a medium rare burger led to much confusion between the server and the kitchen. The server looked at me blankly, and told me their burger is normally cooked 70%. Figuring that was more like medium or even medium well, I asked for 50% instead. More confusion as that was relayed to the kitchen. Finally, the head waiter came to me, and confirmed that I wanted it medium rare. Isn’t that what I said all along?!

Against this backdrop, I therefore didn’t expect much when the burger arrived. To my surprise, it was actually very good indeed. Perfectly cooked patty, the bun was nice and soft, and the onion jam added sweetness but not in a cloying way.

A ordered the Reuben, which had slices of corned beef, swiss cheese and an egg on a basil bun. He chose the chilled stuffed tomato as his side – a peeled tomato was stuffed with coleslaw. I found this a bit too cold for my liking, but it tasted good. I think the Original was better than the Reuben – I found the basil bun a bit too experimental for me.

The coffee here isn’t great, but overall this was a surprisingly good find. Next time if we’re really hungry, one of us can try The Works burger, which is the Original with added mushrooms and bacon. Mmm...

A says:

Props to my dad for mentioning this place to us (although what he said was, “Wah! Burger so expensive one ah?”).

The waitress we got was a bit blur but everyone else seemed to know what they were doing.

C’s burger was better than mine but it has to be eaten fast. The patty goes cold and lifeless if you don’t gobble it down. But a big treat for me was the chilled tomato stuffed with coleslaw. Totally unexpected and totally a refreshing change from fries. Not for everyone but a definite must-have for me.

Anyway, this is my new favourite joint in RC. My next goal is to go hungry and try the desserts and/or milkshake.

The Handburger
#B1-77/78 Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
Tel: 6334-4577
Sundays to Thursdays and PH: 11.30 am to 10 pm
Fridays, Saturdays and eve of PH: 11.30 am to 10.30 pm

Friday, September 18, 2009

En Grill & Bar

C says:

For the month of September (and, according to one of the waiters, for October too), En Grill & Bar at UE Square is having a really good deal. $24.80++ for an a la carte buffet of their skewers. At first when I heard that there was a selection of 20+ skewers, I thought they’d pick 20 basic ones from their menu. But when we inspected their regular menu, it actually had less variety than the buffet menu. And when you look at the prices of the regular skewers, this is a really good deal.

To start with, they give each person a selection of 5 skewers. After that, you can order as many as you like. We tried quite a number – bacon-wrapped scallop, prawn wrapped in pork and shiso leaf, asparagus bacon, enoki bacon, unagi, and beef with grated radish and ponzu sauce.

The prawn was good, and the beef was a nice medium-rare and went very well with the ponzu-soaked grated daikon. But surprisingly, the best skewer of the night was the cherry tomato and cheese wrapped with bacon. Each bite exploded with flavour, and tasted like really good pizza.

Service is polite, but they missed out a section of our order, so we were waiting in vain for quite a while. Only when they came to ask us if we wanted more, did we realise that they forgot a part of the order. Our re-order arrived pretty quickly though.

Generally, nothing really blew me away, but at that price for all-you-can-eat skewers, of pretty good quality, I really can’t complain.

A says:

The surprise of the night was the cherry tomato and cheese wrapped in bacon. Excellent. Everything else ranged from good to not bad. The service was great (even though the waitress missed half our rather large order the first time, the food came quickly on the re-order). Just a side note if you’re sitting indoors, the ventilation isn’t perfect so while you’ll definitely not smell, be prepared for a mild lingering odour of grilled meats.

En Grill & Bar
207 River Valley Rd #01-60
UE Square
Tel: 6732-6863
Opening Hours:
Mon to Thurs: 6 pm to 2 am
Fri, Sat & Eve of PH: 6 pm to 3 am
Closed Sun

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zen Japanese Cuisine

C says:

Zen is part of the En group of restaurants, and like En Japanese Dining Bar, Zen has a pretty killer a la carte buffet comprising both shabu shabu and regular items. However, unlike at En where the shabu shabu is, if not the star of the show, at least on par with the other items, here at Zen I’m willing to trade in the shabu shabu to provide more stomach space for the other dishes, which are excellent.

The one dish that I think makes the whole buffet worthwhile is the aburi salmon sushi. The sushi is perfectly sized – small amounts of rice with fairly decent slices of salmon belly, lightly torched for a smoky flavour and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise. I think A and I had like ten pieces each...

Two other items which are worth ordering at least one portion each are the grilled sirloin steak with ponzu sauce, and tenderloin beef cubes with mashed potato. The tenderloin cubes are so tender they really melt in your mouth, but I actually prefer the sirloin because it has a bit more texture and more importantly, a more pronounced beefy flavour.

They do a really good daikon salad as well, and their asparagus with blue cheese sauce is interesting and very addictive. It comes with perfectly toasted baguette slices to mop up the blue cheese sauce.

Desserts are included in the buffet too – cheesecake, coconut crème brulee, and vanilla and chocolate ice creams. I like the cheesecake, which was light, not too sweet and a perfect end to the meal.

Service was generally very good all night, except for a puzzling occurrence – every single one of our orders turned up, except for the garlic fried rice and crab ‘mui fun’. We had to remind them twice for both carb dishes, which was pretty odd. You’d think that it was in their interests to bring the carb dishes first to fill us up so that we don’t order enough aburi sushi to feed an army.

The strange thing about Zen is that their buffet costs more on weekdays than on weekends! From Mondays to Fridays it costs $52; it’s $42 on weekends.

A says:

RAWK!!! I have to waddle out of here every time.

The service can be a bit slow though so place a big first round order and be prepared to wait. Just don’t over order and get flooded with stuff right at the end.

Note to self: don’t order rice again. It just fills you up too much.

Zen Japanese Cuisine
205 River Valley Road
UE Square #01-75
Tel: 6732-3110
Mon – Fri: 12 noon to 2.30 pm; 6 pm to 12 mn
Sat, Sun & PH: 6 pm to 12 mn

Kith - an update

C says:

We went for brunch again today, and it was somewhat more disorganised than last week. Food took a while, and they seemed to have run out of quite a number of items. At least they were upfront about it when orders were placed, though. We had a lazy day ahead of us, so we didn’t mind the wait while we read the papers. I think our food arrived after about 20 minutes.

Until they sort themselves out with (hopefully) expanded premises, don’t come here if you have limited time and aren’t prepared to wait. But if you can be patient, the coffee here is still worth the wait. Had the flat white again today and it’s still one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had.

And haha, it may be coincidence, but this week the sandwich came with tortilla chips, not crisps! A was mighty pleased :)

A says:

I like the place but my recommendation remains to go at a less busy time or wait till they have expanded into larger premises.

Kith Cafe
7 Rodyk Street
Watermark @ Robertson Quay, #01-33
Tel: 6341-9407
Open daily: 7 am to 7 pm

Saturday, September 12, 2009

15 Minutes Cafe

C says:

Thanks once again to cousin L for recommending this place. Located at Lasalle College of the Arts’ swank new premises in the heart of town, this casual dining place serves pretty tasty and very reasonably priced food. The large area it occupies and the vast high ceilings give it a good sense of space, making it very conducive to just chilling out and nibbling.

The regular menu features items like a very decent-sized burger, complete with egg, cheese and mushrooms, and side of very good fries, for only $12.90, shaker salads that come in a jar for under $10, and a selection of pastas and pizzas for around $9.90. In addition, they have a separate tapas selection which is laid out at the counter. You’re supposed to pick and choose, then pay for them at the cashier.

We came here on Saturday night with A’s gal pal T and her bf D. On L’s recommendation A had the burger. For $12.90, the burger was pretty good. The patty was quite juicy, not dry, and while I think it would benefit from some bacon, at that price I really can’t complain.

I had the southern fried chicken wings, which were really good – they tasted like the Ikea ones! The rest of the stuff I had was picked from the tapas counter. We had a selection of bruschettas – one with buffalo mozzarella and trout pate, mushrooms duxelles with blue cheese, and torched smoked salmon. Prices ranged from $2.90 to $5.90, and I think the mushroom one was the best, though all of them were pretty good.

I would recommend coming slightly later, say past 8 pm. We were there just after 7, and some of the tapas selection wasn’t ready yet, like the mini wagyu burger than is served on a fried mantou bun, blue cheese wings and a breaded fried lambchop (confusingly termed the Lambchop Lollilop). Those appeared halfway through our dinner, so we couldn’t risk trying the wings, but I would’ve liked having the whole selection to choose from at the start.

The blue cheese wings were quite interesting. In addition to the blue cheese sauce, it was dusted with chopped mint, which helped to brighten up the flavours. Still, because it was battered then fried, I found it a bit heavier and oilier, and actually preferred the basic fried wings that we had earlier.

Desserts are quite no frills here, with simple things like no-bake cheesecake, trifle and chocolate mousse in little plastic cups, for around $3. We tried the cheesecake, which had a dusting of “roasted soil” on top – crumbled cookie bits. This turned out better than expected.

All in all, we had a very pleasant experience here. The ambience is great, food is good and really reasonable. One of the few places these days that you can go to for austerity drive food without compromising on taste. Needless to say I’m already itching to head back to try the other items in their tapas selection.

A says:

Mad props to cousin L for the recommendation. I really like this place. Good atmosphere, good food and super easy parking in the basement (you get there via Prinsep Street).

The regular dishes are very reasonably priced although if you go crazy on the “tapas”, the bill can add up. Having said that, the tapas dishes are the best things here. I’ll be back to try more soon.

15 Minutes Cafe
1 McNally Street, Blk D, #01-01
Lasalle College of the Arts
Tel: 6333-5915 (reservations accepted only for evening)
Mon – Thurs: 10 am to 11 pm
Fri: 10 am to 12 mn
Sat: 11.15 am to 11 pm

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hana Hana Japanese Restaurant

C says:

We came here on Friday night intending to have a fairly light Japanese dinner, because my throat still isn’t faring too well. Instead, we were informed that their a la carte buffet, which usually costs $33++, was going at a very reasonable $29.90 nett. We figured our bill would amount to something close to that per person if we ordered off the regular menu anyway, so decided to go for the buffet (argh).

The buffet includes sushi, sashimi, yakitori and tempura items so it’s pretty good value for money. But the quality is pretty basic, so don’t expect premium ingredients for that price. The grilled yellow tail head on the buffet menu was also too good to be true – it was the head, not the collar (cheek), so the meat isn’t as meltingly soft.

Still, the food is decent and service is good. They were apologetic that the food took so long, and when we called for the bill after we were stuffed, they thought it was because we were unhappy with the service/the wait, because in their opinion we didn’t eat much at all. Imagine that!

A says:

The food’s pretty standard but takes very long to prepare. This might be because of the two large groups taking advantage of the buffet deal though. It’s a very good deal after all.

The service is friendly although a bit blur. A note of caution, the place doesn’t have great ventilation so prepare to smell of the place if you sit near the open kitchen.

Hana Hana Japanese Restaurant
223 River Valley Road Tel: 6738-5858
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 5.30 pm to 2.30 am

Hiang Ji Roasted Meat and Noodle House (Toa Payoh)

C says:

This noodle stall near the Toa Payoh HDB Hub is a tribute to lard. Besides little cubes of it in the noodles, there’s also the flavour of it permeating the noodles and adding its distinctive richness and smoothness. Lard rocks!

I ordered the soya sauce chicken noodle, A had the hor fun with cha siew and roast pork. Both were delicious, although the hor fun tends to absorb more of the oil, so you get a lot more of the lard flavour coming through. And because the hor fun is soft and smooth, I can imagine that the texture combined with the richness could get a tad jelak after a while. In contrast, the noodles are springy and eggy, so you get more texture and bite, but less of the flavour.

I can’t quite decide which is better. Though it doesn’t really matter because both are just delicious.

A says:

Awesomeness!!! My new standard order will be hor fun with roast pork and char siew. A definite must-try.

Hiang Ji Roasted Meat and Noodle House (Toa Payoh)
190 Toa Payoh Lorong 6
Tel: 9726-7338
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Menya Shinchan

C says:

Thanks to a reader for suggesting this ramen joint in one of the back alleys at Robertson Quay. I’d walked past it a couple of times but it looked a little forlorn at the time, so I (quite unfairly) didn’t give it a second thought.

After the recommendation, we went there on Thursday night and were very pleasantly surprised. The place looks really authentic, with lots of Japanese having a quick noodle dinner there so it must be good.

As per the recommendation, A had the miso ramen with scorched sesame and garlic oil. I decided to try the salty pork bone broth (rich). I thought rich would just mean the broth would be thicker, but actually it just means there’s a layer of oil on top. I added a stewed egg, and A added chashu.

A’s had an interesting flavour from the sesame (the garlic wasn’t very pronounced), but ultimately this isn’t to my liking. I don’t like anything that had too much peanut or sesame flavour. A really liked this though.

Mine was in comfort zone territory. The broth was pretty oily, but very tasty and not that salty notwithstanding the name. The noodles are quite thin, nice and springy, and the stewed egg was really good, albeit a bit on the salty side.

Service is really good and prices are what you’d expect at a typical ramen joint these days. The food comes really fast so it’s ideal for a quick dinner after work.

A says:

Very good and not super expensive. Well worth a try.

Menya Shinchan Japanese Noodle Restaurant
30 Robertson Quay
#01-05 Riverside View
Tel: 6732-0114
Lunch (weekdays only): 11.30 am to 3 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10 pm

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Prosperity Kitchen

C says:

Prosperity Kitchen (or Mun Hung Lau) sort of sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the bars and Japanese restaurants along Mohamed Sultan Road. This is a Hong Kong cha chan teng opened by 3 TVB stars.

We walked in to an empty restaurant on Tuesday night, and only 3 more people arrived over the course of our meal. I was nursing a bad throat, so decided on something soupy and ordered the beef brisket noodle soup. Having read that they’d poached their roast meat chef from Crystal Jade, A had the 4 Treasures roast meat rice, which consisted of char siew, roast duck, salted chicken and assorted pot-stewed meat.

The beef brisket noodle was pretty good – the meat was quite tender, and soup was thick and flavourful and I like the texture of the noodles.

Unfortunately A’s rice was a complete let-down and a rip-off. The roast duck and salted chicken portions were all bone and hardly any meat, and the “assorted pot-stewed meat” turned out to be gizzards and duck feet/webs, and not very well stewed either – they were hard and chewy.

A’s dinner was slightly redeemed by the ah balling that he ordered, but it took so long to arrive that our spirits were sinking by the minute.

They have a pretty comprehensive menu with some other dishes that I wouldn’t mind trying, so I won’t exactly write them off yet. But they seriously need to clean up their act if they want to compete with the more established restaurants along the stretch. Frankly, I think it’s just the wrong location. There isn’t enough demand in the area to sustain this kind of food if it’s not exceptional. They should have opened at The Sail instead, which I think is sorely in need of an Asian restaurant like this.

A says:

It’s okay. Nothing great.

Prosperity Kitchen
15 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 6884-8888
Sun to Thurs: 10.30 am – 3.30 pm and 6 pm – 10.30 pm
Fri to Sat: 10.30 am – 3.30 pm and 6 pm – 1.30 am

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ryoriya Sangokushi

C says:

This place bills itself as serving “Japanese style Taiwanese cuisine”. A bit of an identity crisis, you might think, but I think the Japanese part is just a marketing ploy to target the clientele in the Robertson Quay area, because the food seems quite decidedly Taiwanese. We came with A’s friends so we managed to try quite a number of dishes.

I ordered a dish that was described as spicy chicken with century egg, but the literal Chinese translation was “Weird Taste Chicken”. I should’ve known better. Well, to be fair it was perfectly edible, and A and P seemed to like it even, but it had a predominantly sesame/peanut flavour which just isn’t my thing.

I would strongly recommend sharing their noodle dishes, because their portions are massive. The zha jiang mian that some of the others ordered was very tasty, but it came on such a huge plate that 2 people could easily share. And the mixed vegetable and mushroom noodle soup that I had was chockfull of vegetables, very light yet tasty, and just what I needed after a weekend of binging. They have sample portions of their Taiwanese soup noodle and their braised pork rice, for $4 each, which make for a good alternative if you want to try more dishes. Unfortunately the yummy zha jiang mian doesn’t seem to come in mini portions.

We picked at some of the dishes that the rest ordered. The Taiwan sausage is notable because of the presentation – from afar it almost looks like a Caprese salad, but taste wise I thought the sausages were a bit too lean. The stir fried beef with eggplant had rather overcooked and tough beef, but absolutely delicious eggplant. And the mixed vegetable and mushroom noodle soup that I had was chockfull of vegetables, very light yet tasty, and just what I needed after a weekend of binging.

None of us had any expectations, so the general consensus was that the food was actually pretty good. I know this isn’t quite A’s thing, but I really like the food here, so we better come more often while we're still in the area, because A certainly won’t agree to this as a destination place.

A says:

It’s not bad but I certainly wasn’t blown away. If C wants to go, I wouldn’t say no. But if she asks for suggestions, I wouldn’t bring it up.

Ryoriya Sangokushi
30 Robertson Quay
#01-03 Riverside View
Tel: 6238-8962
Daily: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 6pm - 10.30pm
(Closed during lunch on Mondays)

ION Basement 4 Street Food

C says:

We decided to explore the eateries at Basement 4 of ION this afternoon. I don’t mean the food court Food Opera, but rather the little standalone street food stalls outside Food Opera.

Granted, if you want a proper sit down dining experience, you’re better off in Food Opera because apart from the stalls selling more substantial food like R Burger and the Thai stall, for the most part there isn’t any proper seating here and you have to stand around to wolf down your food. Not the most convenient if you’re laden with shopping bags.

Still, the array is so much more interesting and inviting than the rather generic and soul-less offerings at Food Opera. I was a bit stunned at the array of choices, and was wondering how on earth I was going to decide what to have, when we walked past the roasted meat stall. The glistening roast ducks being deboned and the huge pig in the window did it for me. We ordered the peking duck ($6 for 5 pieces) and the roast pork ($6 for very generous 6 slices).

This was really good, especially the peking duck. I think it’s a great idea to make peking duck pancakes available to the masses, rather than being forced to go to a fancy Chinese restaurant to have it. Plus the duck was really tender and juicy, with nice and crisp and not too fatty skin.

The slices of pork were a bit of a meat overload, even for me. It’s a really good deal though – all that meat for just $6. It's more than enough for 2 persons to have with rice for a very substantial meal. The skin wasn’t as crispy as I’d hoped, but the meat was really tender, not dry, and no stray bits of soft bone either (like you get in many hawker centre roast porks).

Some other things we had were:

- Tokyo Crepe Girl. A had a mushroom and cheese crepe, and a chocolate and banana crepe. He said the sweet one was way better.

- Korean bulgogi skewers. I had a beef and a pork. The beef was tough and dry, the pork on the other hand was deliciously tender and with the right amount of sizzling fat.

- Marvelous Cream. This is a marble slab ice cream place, where the ice creams are apparently made with 100% Hokkaido milk. We shared a yogurt flavour with frozen strawberries; the ice cream was good but the strawberries were too cold and too sour. They do some interesting pre-made ice cream puddings for take out. Maybe we’ll try those next.

If it's your first time (it was for me), I'd recommend just walking around all the stalls to recce what’s available. It’ll take more than a few visits to try everything that we want, plus R Burger and the takopachi stall are perpetually packed, so either we have to be patient and queue, or keep coming back in the hopes that the furore eventually dies down.

A says:

Modern Peking Duck – RAWK!
Tokyo Crepe Girl – stick to the dessert crepes
Marvelous Cream – Not worth $5.20 a scoop. I’m gonna try the Hokkaido soft serve stall next time.

To me, this is the best part of Ion. There’s loads of stuff I can eat here. The only problem is there are no bloody seats!

Modern Peking Duck
#B4-75 ION Orchard

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Kith Cafe

C says:

Many thanks to P for recommending this cafe, which is located at The Watermark condominium at Rodyk Road, opposite Gallery Hotel. It’s a tiny little hole in the wall coffee joint that’s somehow drawn quite a following, and apparently was even featured in Monocle.

Space is tight, with only 2 large and 2 tiny tables indoors, and another few tables outdoors facing the river. When we got there at around 10 am on Saturday, we were lucky enough to get the last table inside. They’re expanding though, most likely taking over the vacant unit next door.

Considering their kitchen is just the tiny space behind the cash counter, and fits about 4 people back there, they have a seamless operation going, turning out surprisingly good food and even better coffee given their space constraints.

A ordered the smoked salmon, rocket and tomato Panini, which came with a generous serving of potato chips. The bread was well toasted and nice and thin, so you could still taste the ingredients, though A felt that the tomatoes still overwhelmed the flavour of the smoked salmon.

I ordered the bacon, cheddar and scrambled egg toastie. This was a steal at only $5.50 – 2 large, generously-stuffed triangles, and a sweet orange salad to boot. You can’t really go wrong with this combination, though I would’ve liked a bit more cheddar cheese. Still, the bread was crispy and the egg inside was light and fluffy. I can’t wait to try the nutella and cornflake toastie next time.

The flat white here was one of the best I’ve had in Singapore – strong and full-bodied yet not overly bitter. Better than A’s cappuccino, though he begs to differ.

All the servers, particularly the head waitress/owner manning the cash till, are extremely efficient, friendly and professional, and while they’re sometimes quite swamped with orders, they have a wry acceptance of their current limited space and still never lose their cool. Whilst we’re in the vicinity, I foresee that this is going to be a favourite weekend brunch spot.

A says:

The smoked salmon sandwich came with crisps which I’m not a big fan of. Next time, I’ll ask if I can get another side instead. As for the sandwich itself, the tomato kind of overpowered everything else. Luckily, I found a really simple and good solution. Just flip it open and have yourself two really good open-faced sandwiches.

The service is fantastic and I have to say it’s incredible what they can do in the small space that they have. And considering the location, the prices aren’t astronomical either.

Except for the extreme lack of seating, I really like this place. Top marks. I’ll be back if I can find a place to sit.

Kith Cafe
7 Rodyk Street
Watermark @ Robertson Quay, #01-33
Tel: 6341-9407
Sunday – Thursday: 7 am to 7 pm
Friday – Saturday: 8 am to 10 pm

Friday, September 04, 2009

Mondo Mio

C says:

Next on our Robertson Quay list, Mondo Mio is a few doors down from Shunjuu and bills itself as a South Italian restaurant. We didn’t make a reservation on Friday night, and just about managed to get a small table outdoors.

In addition to a pretty comprehensive menu, they also had some specials written on a chalkboard. We decided to share the ravioli stuffed with porcini in a truffle cream sauce as a starter. This set our hopes pretty high for the meal – the ravioli wasn’t too thick or chewy, the filling was generous and the cream sauce was good, albeit lacking in much truffle flavour.

I ordered the special, which was a spinach pappardelle with prawns and mussels in a saffron cream sauce. A ordered the pappardelle in the regular menu, which came with bacon, sundried tomatoes and pesto in a tomato cream sauce.

On hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea for both of us to order pappardelle. The pasta, which was apparently home-made, wasn’t rolled out very thin so it didn’t have the smooth silkiness of the home-made stracci at Pasta Brava. Also, I think they rushed a bit in the cooking, because while some pieces were properly cooked, some had stuck together so they were tough and chewy, taking al dente to a whole new level.

Flavour-wise, A preferred the seafood one, while I thought the bacon one was better. The colour of the bacon one wasn’t very appetising though, and the combination of pesto with tomato cream sauce was a bit out of sync.

Prices seemed quite cheap, with the premium pastas going for just $22, but portions are on the small side – definitely meant for a first course rather than a proper main. Service wasn’t too bad, but with Bella Pizza round the corner, I’d hesitate about coming back.

A says:

The service here is superb. The head waiter is very friendly and attentive without going overboard into irritating territory.

The ravioli we tried was very good but the other two dishes were average. And really, don’t bother with the desserts here.

Overall, I’ll probably come back for some simple pseudo-Italian since I’m living in the area (C says: Temporarily! Don’t get too comfy, dude...). But it’s definitely not a destination point.

Mondo Mio
30 Robertson Quay
#01-02S Riverside View
Tel: 6736-2503
Lunch: 11 am to 2 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10.30 pm