Sunday, October 25, 2009

Burger Shack

C says:

Burger Shack at King’s Arcade is Island Creamery’s foray into savoury food. Just like Island Creamery, this place is student central – they even have special student discounts so they clearly know their target clientele.

The menu isn’t overly ambitious. They have an original beef burger, a Ramly, a pulled pork, a chicken and a Portobello mushroom. Each burger is between $6 and $8, and add-ons like cheese and bacon cost $1.50 extra each. You can also choose to swap your burger bun for butter rice, but the soft fluffy bun is one of the best things here so I won’t suggest swapping.

We tried an original with cheese and bacon, and a Ramly, and ordered a side of shoestring fries. The original was quite good – I liked how the patty was nicely chargrilled, and as always, what doesn’t taste good with bacon?

In contrast, the Ramly was quite a sad excuse for a ramly burger. The patty didn’t have the same charred goodness, and the fried egg was dry and a bit rubbery. Ramly burgers should have sweet chilli sauce and mayonnaise. I didn’t taste any mayo here, and the chilli sauce was more like a sambal and just downright wrong.

It was almost as if both burgers came from two different restaurants. The fries were really good though. The patties here are a bit on the small side, but I do like the soft sesame seed buns. Just steer well clear of the Ramly.

A says:

The fries are a must-try. I like the buns although the base reminds me more of soft Texas toast. As for the main burger components, I’d say yes to the Original and no to the Ramli.

My biggest disappointment was that they don’t serve milkshakes. Very surprising considering it’s owned by the Island Creamery guy.

Burger Shack
559 Bukit Timah Road
#01-01 King’s Arcade
Tel: 6466-3477
Tues – Sun: 12 noon to 10 pm
(Closed Monday)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ichiban Boshi revisited

C says:

With so many new Japanese restaurants springing up just waiting for us to try, until tonight we hadn’t been back to our previous old faithful Ichiban Boshi in more than a year. Frankly, I think their standard has been gradually deteriorating; either that, or the standard of rival as well as new sushi chains has steadily improved. I’ve been growing less and less enamoured with their thin slivers of fish paired with huge portions of densely-packed rice.

A however, chastised me for becoming too atas, and casting aside the humble eateries from our dating days. Fine... so to humour him we went back to the Great World City branch for dinner tonight, since we had to pick up some sushi for a friend’s housewarming.

While the standard sushi (salmon, maguro, unagi) was pretty decent – they seem to be using smaller chunks of rice now, the aburi sushi platter of their new ‘gourmet sushi’ menu reinforced my current views. At $25 for 8 pieces, this didn’t come cheap but while they certainly tried, this was just executed so poorly.

The uni was a bit fishy, but my main complaint was that they smothered almost every piece of sushi with so much sauce that you could barely taste the fish, let alone the fact that it had been aburi-ed. The tai sushi was drenched in a very salty miso sauce, and worse still, the yellowtail was doused with sweet chilli sauce. Sacrilege! Who puts sweet chilli sauce on sushi, especially in those amounts?! At least they didn’t commit the ultimate sin of saucing the otoro, but this still wasn’t as melt-in-the-mouth fatty as the aburi otoro at Sushi Tei.

I think they simply tried too hard with that dish, when they could have just kept it simple and done what they do pretty well – simple, no-frills sushi; average quality at decent prices.

A says:

The gourmet menu items are to be avoided. Just go for the affordable $2.10 sushi dishes and you’ll have a decent meal.

Ichiban Boshi
#B1-07 Great World City
Tel: 6734-3433
Mon to Sat: 11.30 am – 10 pm
Sun: 11 am – 10 pm

Friday, October 23, 2009


C says:

We met my dad for lunch at ION today, and since my dad has a rather unadventurous palate, that meant no Japanese food or funky street food. We ended up at Canton-i on the third floor – a Cantonese eatery serving everything from roasted meats and wanton noodles, to porridge and dim sum.

We assumed it would be like a generic Crystal Jade sort of place, and were very surprised at how good the food was. I ordered the duck noodles, A had a plain noodle, and we shared a platter of roast pork and char siew, and some dim sum.

Be warned that they describe their plain egg noodles as “wanton noodles” here, so when you order Plain Wanton Noodles, all you get are plain noodles, not even some wanton in the soup. Besides that minor quirk, the noodles were pretty good. They had a good bite to them – nice and springy. We did notice that the sauce served with the dry noodles had a very strange aftertaste, like a hint of coriander, that didn’t exactly wow us, but other than that no complaints. I took a bite of my dad’s beef brisket noodles and they were very good.

They do their roasted meats pretty well. The duck that came with my noodles was tender and very tasty, but it was outshone by the roast pork and especially the char siew. The roast pork nicely seasoned with a thin crisp crackling, and the char siew was glazed with honey and roasted so much that it was almost black and bursting with caramelised goodness. It was also one of the fattiest char siews I’ve ever had, which just added to the incredible flavour.

A ordered the red bean buns, and they came shaped like little piggies! How adorable! This dish would be great for little kids, and it actually tasted pretty good too – very generous with the red bean paste.

We also ordered yam puffs, cos they’re my dad’s favourite dim sum. This was old school wu kok at its best – the filling was deliciously moist, and the fried yam outer layer was light, fluffy and crisp. In contrast, the egg tarts were decent but not as good as everything else.

Prices here aren’t the cheapest – about $20 per person, but quality is excellent. Geez, yet another good food place at ION. We’re too spoilt for choice there now!

A says:

Excellent! Top marks for service and food. And the fattiest char siew I’ve ever had in my life!

#03-14 ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn
Tel: 6509-8368
Daily: 11 am to 10 pm

Friday, October 16, 2009


C says:

We had an off day today, and decided to finally try Chef Angelo Sanetti’s (ex-Michaelangelo) new joint for lunch.

Unfortunately the location is a real downer. We knew it was on Arab Street, but failed to check exactly where, so A was driving around the roads surrounding Arab Street trying to find parking. Turns out the place is directly opposite Golden Landmark Hotel (yes, that end of Arab Street), so A tried parking in Golden Landmark Hotel. Another big mistake – the Hotel’s carpark has stolen the crown from Burlington Square as being the worst carpark in Singapore. Anyway, if you’re planning on driving there, park at Raffles Hospital – it’s just a short 5-minute walk.

Citibank has an ongoing promotion till February 2010 – a one-for-one promotion on their usual $45 set lunch, which is a very good deal. I like the fact that the set menu is standard, and you only get the promotion if you pay with Citibank, unlike menus that are only designed for certain credit card holders, because I always think the quality for those menus is compromised.

Unfortunately they were having some problems with their suppliers so some of the items on the menu weren’t available. To start with, A had the calamari, and I had the mushroom medley – a thin slice of toast topped with mushrooms sautéed in butter with garlic and topped with arugula. There was a huge disparity between mine and A’s. Mine was superb, whereas the calamari was bland and quite chewy.

They had issues with their seafood and duck breast suppliers, so that eliminated the prawn penne, slipper lobster tagliatelle and magret de canard options from the menu. A had the gnocchi with duck confit in a pesto cream sauce for his main, and I had the braised baby lamb shank. My only experience with gnocchi so far has been the one at Valentino, so in comparison this one was a little mushy for my liking.

The lamb shank was heavenly. I was quite surprised – I’m not a huge fan of braised lamb shanks because they usually end up tasting quite similar. This one came with a nice rich jus, and more importantly, it was ridiculously tender yet flavourful at the same time. If I had to find a flaw, it was that the sides were a bit uninspired, though the artichoke puree did add a nice acidic tinge to the otherwise rich meat.

A had the tiramisu for dessert, and I had the Chocolate Delice – cold chocolate ganache on a macadamia cookie dough disc and served with strawberry sorbet. I couldn’t handle more than half of mine; it was way too rich and chocolately for my liking. The tiramisu was ok, but Perla’s is much better.

The food here is far superior to Michaelangelo’s post-Chef Angelo, but because of the location I don’t know if it can survive long term. Business wasn’t great for a Friday lunch, and while the food was quite good, I’d still rather go to Valentino’s or Pasta Brava.

A says:

Definitely recommended, especially for value. Unlike other places with shrunken set portions, everything we got for our set lunch was regular-sized.

While the food is very good, I wouldn’t say it was spectacular. Overall, I’d recommend this as a place for a good hearty meal.

Btw, the parking at the hotel opposite is horrible. Your best bet is parking at Raffles Hospital and making the short walk over.

126 Arab Street (opposite Golden Landmark Hotel)
Tel: 6396-5493
Lunch: 11am - 2pm
Dinner: 6pm - 10.30pm
(Closed for lunch on Sat)
(Closed on Sun)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Market @ Central

C says:

Next to Yamakawa Super (that mecca of Japanese snacks) in the basement of Central is a new niche supermarket with all sorts of imported goodies, like funky Special K cereals, pasta sauces and cool brands of chocolates and biscuits that you don’t see in standard supermarkets.

Connected to the supermarket is a small dining area with a pasta and soup counter. Basic pastas go for a mere $8, with a $2 surcharge if you want one of their home-made spinach or squid ink pastas. Top-up another $5.90 for a set which gives you any soup and salad.

We decided to try as much variety as possible, so one of us opted for the set, we had one pasta with their basic tagliatelle, and another with the squid ink tagliatelle. We went with the smoked salmon salad, and the clam chowder. The salad looked pretty basic but the dressing was quite well balanced so this turned out better than expected. I know if it was canned or freshly made, but the chowder was pretty good and quite generous with the clams.

A had the basic tagliatelle with a tomato cream sauce with chicken and sundried tomatoes. I found the sauce a tad too creamy; I would’ve liked slightly more tomato flavour, but the pasta was very well cooked.

I had the squid ink tagliatelle with a bacon, mushroom and cream sauce. I think it’s worth adding the $2 for the squid ink pasta because it adds a depth of flavour that the basic one doesn’t have. Again it was cooked to a perfect al dente. I think next time we’ll try the squid ink pasta with a tomato-based sauce, and maybe the spinach pasta with a cream-based one.

They initially mixed up our order, pairing the squid ink pasta with A’s tomato cream sauce instead. We deliberated just accepting it reluctantly, but before we could decide, the head waiter came back and acknowledged their mistake, and asked if we wanted to change, which we agreed. I know it was their mistake but still, it was good of them to admit it.

Very good value for the quality that you get. Plus you can go shopping at the supermarket and Yamakawa Super while you’re there. What more reason do you need?

A says:

The Pasta & Soup place RAWKS! Cheap and good.

There’s also a Jap food counter here which I might try at some point.

The Market @ Central
#B1-28 The Central
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Tel: 6222-9060
Sundays to Thursdays: 11am to 10pm
Fridays to Saturdays: 11am to 11pm

Friday, October 09, 2009

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant

C says:

This is the second branch of Watami to open in Singapore, the first being at ION Orchard. This is the restaurant that closed their queue at 8.40 one evening, forcing us to go to Aoba Ramen next door instead. When we found out that a second outlet had recently opened at Central, we were quite psyched to try it. Finally, we thought, a chance to try it without the horrendous queue at ION.

Alas, there was also about a half hour wait at Central, but we put our name down and explored the rest of Central in the meantime. It was with considerable anticipation that we finally took our seats, placed our order and waited for the food to arrive.

Given the hype of the endless queues and P’s recommendation, this fell sorely short of expectations. We ordered quite a wide range of food, and none of the dishes made any impact whatsoever.

The Sushi Grandeur was a selection of their ‘premium’ sushi – teriyaki eel, scallop topped with mango, and salmon. This was pretty boring and lacklustre, and at $10.80, it wasn’t very cheap given the standard.

The grilled scallop and mushroom fared slightly better, but really, you can’t cock up scallops and mushrooms tossed with butter and bacon.

We tried the seafood garlic rice in a stone bowl. This looked promising, what with the sizzling sounds of rice being nicely charred to a crisp on a hot stone. While the rice did get nice and burnt, the dish on a whole was completely under seasoned. We had to add quite a bit of soy sauce before there was any semblance of flavour.

There were 2 good dishes, though I don’t think they were enough to redeem the others. The mentai cheese tamago yaki – omelette filled with cheese and mentaiko and lightly grilled – was light and well-balanced between the savoury filling and the sweet egg.

Another pretty good (but very filling) dish was the okonomiyaki. This was filled with cabbage, sliced pork and noodles. This tasted really good when it first arrived piping hot, and my first mouthful yielded a wonderfully fatty slice of pork. Unfortunately once it cools down it gets a bit heavy and stodgy.

Service isn’t horrendous but I think they just can’t cope with the crowds. We had to ask time and again for soy sauce and serviettes, though to give them some credit, they did look like they were trying.

The Watami Group is a Japanese chain which is apparently quite popular in Japan. I can only guess that they’ve franchised their operations outside Japan to a completely independent franchisee, because I can’t imagine that food of this standard can ever attain a loyal following amongst the Japanese with their discerning palates.

A says:

It’s not bad but I really don’t see what the fuss is about. There are some standout dishes (like the scallops) but I definitely wouldn’t queue up for it.

Watami Japanese Casual Restaurant
6 Eu Tong Sen Street, The Central
Tel: 6323-3398
Open daily: 11.30 am to 11 pm

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Itacho Sushi

C says:

Itacho Sushi, a sushi chain originating from Hong Kong, has taken its home country by storm, and is now looking to make some inroads into the Singapore market. Good for them, I say, because I was quite impressed when we tried it on Sunday night.

It’s very much cha chan teng style, where you mark your order on the order forms at the table. The good thing about this place is that the nigiri sushi is sold per piece, so you don’t have to get pairs and you get to try even more varieties.

The sushi was surprisingly good. Prices are generally very decent – a piece of aburi salmon belly sushi is only $1.70, for example, and the fish to rice ratio was a lot better than many of the other sushi chain restaurants (the thin slivers of fish atop huge chunks of rice at some branches of Ichiban Sushi spring to mind). This is taken to extremes with the anago (sea eel) sushi – an entire anago fillet on top of a small portion of rice, at only $6 a piece.

Other things we tried were a soy-marinated salmon sushi (80 cents), fatty yellowtail sushi ($2.70), sushi with aburi scallop and cod liver ($2.80), aburi mackerel sushi ($1.60), crab meat salad ($4.50) and an agedashi tofu with fried sakura ebi ($6).

Service was excellent. The waiter at the door was one of the most well-spoken Japanese restaurant waiters I’ve ever come across, and when one of the waitresses made a mistake with an octopus dish that I’d ordered, she volunteered to change it, even though I’d taken a piece of octopus already, without any complaints or questions asked.

Don’t compare this with premium Japanese restaurants, but if you take it for what it is, i.e. a chain sushi restaurant, then for what you’re paying, the standard is really quite high. Props to A’s friend KH for recommending this place to us. We’d never have thought to try it, given the wealth of other choices at ION, but now I’m already quite keen to go back for more.

A says:

Superb service and the food’s not bad. Definitely an option at Ion (although I still prefer the duck from B4).

Itacho Sushi
#B2-18 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509-8911
Sun – Thurs: 11 am to 10 pm
Fri – Sat: 11 am to 11 pm


C says:

Hatched, as the name suggests, specialises in eggs. In almost every shape or form. There are apparently about 30 different egg dishes on the menu, which is heaven for all of us who have a craving for breakfast foods at unexpected times of the day or even week.

The place is owned by A’s cousin, and it only just opened its doors on 19th September at Evans Lodge, a few doors down from Prata Cafe and Wine Company. The place was packed when we were there on Sunday morning, but we just about managed to get a table without a reservation. To avoid disappointment I would recommend making a booking on weekend mornings, given the fact that the restaurant has barely been open for 3 weeks and already there was a steady stream of customers.

The menu is divided into categories based on how the eggs are prepared – scrambled, poached and boiled, to name a few. Egg lovers are really spoilt for choice, because there are so many enticing items on the menu. Eventually, after much deliberation, A ordered the smoked salmon scramble, and I had the Rossini – scrambled eggs topped with pan-seared foie gras. Both were served with toast and sautéed potatoes.

A’s turned out to be more salmon than egg, which is actually a good thing, but I think a small part of A wanted a heaping pile of scrambled egg. The egg was actually stuffed inside rolled-up slices of salmon.

On the other hand, my scrambled eggs were served in a separate bowl topped with a slice of foie gras. Given the rather generous portion of foie gras, I thought this was a pretty good deal at $18. My only comment was that the egg and foie gras could’ve been a little more seasoned, but after a few sprinkles of table salt it was fine.

Being atetoomuch, we also tried the eggs Benedict. I like that you can order a portion of just one egg for $10, or two for $16. It allowed us to just have a taste without being overstuffed. Again, this was pretty good – the hollandaise wasn’t as rich and creamy as I would’ve liked, but it’s a lot healthier this way so no complaints.

Given that they’re still finding their feet, service was quite fast and very polite. This is a refreshing addition to our dining scene, and I’m quite looking forward to more occasions where I can have breakfast foods at dinner time.

A says:

The food is good and the prices are great... until you see the small portions. At least they give you a healthy portion of very tasty potatoes to help fill you up. Give it a try.

26 Evans Road
#01-06 Evans Lodge
Tel: 6735-0012/13
Tues – Thurs and Sun: 8 am to 10 pm
Fri – Sat: 8 am to 12 mn