Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bruno’s Pizzeria & Grill

C says:

Knowing our love of rustic, unpretentious Italian fare, W recommended Bruno’s to us, and also knowing our aversion to driving and especially parking in the East, she and M volunteered to do the driving. We made a reservation on Monday for a 2nd (8 pm) seating on Saturday, so tables aren’t all that hard to come by.

Bruno is apparently a French guy, who decided to open an Italian restaurant because Italian food is more accessible in Singapore. Though not immediately noticeable, the menu does have a few sparks of French amongst the Italian dishes, like escargots and a mousse au chocolat.

We ordered the escargots, which came drenched in a very yummy herb butter. Some of the snails weren’t very meaty and were quite elusive when we were trying to dig them out of their shells, but they were very tasty.

Like most Italian restaurants worth their salt these days, Bruno’s has daily specials, and I like that they’re written on chalk boards, rather than depending on waiters to explain them, and risking not getting the full picture from a less competent waiter.

One of the specials was the burratine cheese, which was pretty much a burrata-esque cheese, served with arugula salad and slices of parma ham. The cheese was very good when combined with the parma ham, but lacked a bit of flavour on its own. The arugula was dressed with a nice sun-dried tomato and olive oil dressing, which was pretty good.

At M’s request, we ordered the eggplant parmigiana, which tasted a whole lot better than it looked. The slices of eggplant were really soft, and had absorbed all the flavours of the tomato sauce and cheese.

Since W has been here a number of times, she recommended the king prawn linguine with a tomato, cream and lobster sauce, supposedly their best pasta dish and one of their signatures. At $24.50 for 3 huge king prawns and a mound of pasta, this was amazing and fantastic value. The prawns had the most amazing head juice, the pasta was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was rich with the flavour of the prawns. While Valentino’s lobster pasta with pink sauce may be just a bit more richer in flavour, it’s also $43, and in my opinion, it may be almost twice the price but it’s not twice as good.

A ordered a very similar linguine – with scallops in a tomato cream sauce. Because this didn’t have the prawn/lobster element, the sauce was slightly thinner and more watery, and thus less flavourful too. They were very generous with the scallops though, so again very good value at $24.50.

We splurged a little and ordered the special pizza, which had black truffles and porcini mushrooms. Instead of a black truffle salsa which most places use, they used proper shaved black truffles here and the aroma was intoxicating. The pizza itself was pretty good, but I think I would have preferred if the crust was slightly more burnt and crispy.

They had unfortunately run out of the mousse au chocolat by then, so we ordered a panna cotta and the warm apple pie for dessert. The panna cotta was quite ordinary – creamy but I think slightly lacking in vanilla flavour.

We ordered the apple pie because it had a salt caramel sauce. It took quite a while, though the waiter did try to warn us. It was a puff pastry pie with a cinnamon and apple filling, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel. The caramel was more of a burnt caramel than a salt caramel; not bad but I think I’ll try some of their other desserts next time.

I’m definitely very keen to come back, for the prawn pasta again but also to try some of the other very enticing-sounding items. Parking is still an issue, so maybe we’ll see if W and M want some company the next time they come here...

A says:

Food-wise, it’s not quite as good as Valentino’s, but noticeably more affordable, at least when it comes to the seafood pastas. I’d say 80% as good and 60% the price. Do the math if you think it’s worth it.

Our friends also warned us that the service here is VERY slow but we didn’t encounter the problem on this visit. The large 12-person group at the next table did have a major issue as they were told they could not have dessert as another party was waiting for their table. They complained that they only took so long because the first order took over half an hour to come out. Since we got there only as they were being kicked out, we can’t verify if this was true. I guess that means you should book a late second seating if you want to enjoy a long meal.

Overall, I think it’s worth going for the quality of the food for the price. Just expect a long wait and hard-to-find parking spaces.

Bruno’s Pizzeria & Grill
338 Tanjong Katong Road
Tel: 6440-4525
Tues to Sun: 12 noon – 2.30pm, 6 pm – 10.30 pm

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Brussels Sprouts

C says:

Another place that’s been around forever but somehow has always been below our radar, mainly because A and I aren’t huge shellfish fans. However, I recently heard from my colleague S that the chicken wings here are also to die for. That alone was enough impetus to finally pay Brussels Sprouts a long overdue visit.

Yes, the wings were good – lightly breaded, well seasoned, perfectly cooked and still tender and juicy. And at $12 for half a dozen full wings, pretty good value too. But (and this is based on a purely subjective, personal preference) I still prefer my chicken wings unbreaded; just simply deep fried. Hence, Ikea’s chicken wings still hold the top spot in my personal list of best chicken wings.

I generally prefer mussels to clams, as I find that mussels are richer in flavour and hence have a tendency to get a bit cloying after a while. I’m therefore pretty pleased that at Brussels Sprouts, you can choose between mussels or clams, or even a mix of both, as I later found out.

We both opted for starter portions of the mussels/clams rather than sharing a main course portion, so that we could try two flavours, and also at $18.50, the starter was actually slightly less than half the price of the main portion ($38.50). I went with clams, in a white wine broth with butter, onions, celery and parsley. The clams were nice and fresh, and the broth was very refreshing, but it was a tad lighter than I expected. Somehow I thought the butter would feature more prominently.

A had mussels in a fish broth. For a cream-based sauce, this was actually still quite light. Very tasty without being too heavy, it tasted like a very light and refreshing version of a lobster bisque. I’m definitely having this with the clams next time.

Each order of mussels or clams comes with free flow fries, though I was struggling even to finish my own portion. Good fries, if you like the thick-cut variety. I prefer thinner ones myself, but objectively these were very good, and went really well with the mayo dip. NB: Don't bother asking for ketchup; it's NOT Heinz…

Portions are pretty big for the price, and a plate of half a dozen wings is really too much for just two persons, even if one of those two persons is me. They have a few sampler platters here that sound interesting, and we saw someone having a pretty good steak frites. I like the vibe here on a Sunday night; I assume it’s a lot more chill than the Friday/Saturday chi-chi crowd.

A says:

Great food and exceptional service. And while the prices may seem steep, the portions are large. If only they had a proper (i.e. cold) air-con section for us sweaty locals.

It’s amazing that it’s taken us so long to try it. We’ll be back to try the desserts soon I hope.

Brussels Sprouts
80 Mohammed Sultan Road
#01-12 The Pier @ Robertson
Tel: 6887-4344
Monday – Thursday: 5 pm to midnight
Friday: 5 pm to 1 am
Saturday: noon to 1 am
Sunday: noon to midnight

40 Hands

C says:

40 Hands, another joint within the Spa Esprit stable, is located at Yong Siak Street, a newly gentrified area of Tiong Bahru that now also hosts Books Actually and Strangelets. Unfortunately that also means that it’s pretty crowded on weekends with the cool, chi-chi set. When we were there at 10.45 am on Sunday, the last table available was a tiny one partially blocked by a pillar, and about two inches from the adjacent table.

Food-wise, I must admit that we came here pretty much on a whim, so I didn’t have time to do much research on what their specialties were. We only remembered cousin L telling us about their tau sar pau. Yes, apparently they get these made specially for them, so it’s not Khong Guan or anything like that.

At $2.50 each, these are quite pricey as far as tau sar paus go, but damn they’re good. They’re quite big, around 5 inches in diameter, and super soft and fluffy. They also don’t skimp on the tau sar filling, which is very smooth, refined, and just sweet enough. Sure they don’t come cheap, but I always maintain that if you’re going to indulge in something, anything, it might as well be a good version of it.

A ordered the salmon hash, which was completely unlike what we expected. Somehow I assumed that it would be a salmon version of a corned beef hash, i.e. with shredded potato. This was 2 slices of bread, served with a watery chowder of salmon and potatoes. Quite underwhelming.

Mine fared much better. I ordered the Eggs Cocotte, which had baby spinach, sautéed mushrooms and mushroom duxelles (a kind of mushroom paste), topped with two poached eggs. I think traditional Eggs Cocotte entail the eggs being baked in a dish together with the ingredients, so this was definitely a somewhat deconstructed version. Pretty tasty though, mainly due to the very flavourful mushroom duxelles.

The coffee here is good, so that coupled with the awesome tau sar paus will probably keep me coming back. Not sure if the food is worth jostling with the crowds for, so maybe once I get my ass back to yoga a few doors down, A can wait for me here and reward me with a hard-earned tau sar pau after my practice…

A says:

Great service. Great tau sar paus. Great coffee. But...

It’s very crowded, there’s a propensity for trendy posers and the stuff’s not cheap. And the brunch items are totally not worth it.

We’ll be back at some point to try the other menu items though.

40 Hands
78 Yong Siak Street
#01-12 (opposite Strangelets)
Tel: 6225-8545
Tuesdays, Sundays: 8.30 am to 6.30 pm
Wednesdays, Thursdays: 8.30 am to 10 pm
Fridays, Saturdays: 8.30 am to 11 pm
Closed Mondays

Saturday, July 02, 2011

3 Inch Sin

C says:

A few doors down from Relish on the second floor of Cluny Court is 3 Inch Sin, a little cafe that specialises in molten chocolate lava cakes. Lava cakes seem to have withstood the test of time. They were all the rage about ten years ago, then when every restaurant started having them on their menu, they fell out of fashion (at least for me). Still, they’ve miraculously hung on and I must admit that sometimes, when a restaurant’s dessert menu starts sounding too experimental, a simple lava cake with ice cream is the perfect fallback option.

3 Inch Sin takes lava cakes one step further, by making them in different flavours like mint, coffee and peanut butter, though still of course with a chocolate foundation. Their standard size is 3 inches in diameter, but they also make mini sizes, though they do warn that the mini sizes don’t have much leeway for an oozing chocolate center.

We ordered one original, and one chocolate mint. They were unfortunately out of vanilla ice cream (sacrilege!), so we had macadamia ice cream instead.

As far as simple lava cakes go, these weren’t too bad at all. I liked the chocolate mint, which tasted like an After Eight. The chocolate probably isn’t super high quality, but it’s dark enough to pack quite a chocolatey punch. I’m not sure that I’ll always forego Relish’s desserts for a lava cake here, but it’s always good to have that option.

A says:

Very good. Not as good as the ones C & I used to have at Tamade, but very good. But once you add the ice cream, it’s not exactly cheap considering the setting.

3 Inch Sin
501 Bukit Timah Road
#02-27 Cluny Court
Tel: 6314-1217
12 pm to 9 pm (Mon to Thurs & Sun)
12 pm to 10 pm (Fri and Sat)
Closed Tuesdays

The revamped Relish

C says:

Relish, Chef Wilin Low’s (of Wild Rocket) burger joint has undergone a revamp of sorts. Citing a need to refresh and reinvent after the emergence of more burger players onto the dining scene, it’s toned down its decor slightly, and introduced a more well-rounded menu – retaining some much-loved burgers whilst including more pastas and main courses.

I’m extremely pleased about this, because I’ve always found myself preferring Relish’s other offerings rather than their burgers. Having said that, they now have a burger with an anchovy and garlic sauce that sounds pretty interesting. However, on Saturday we both decided to have their pastas.

I ordered the corned beef spaghettini, and A had the hae bee hiam spaghettini. Good use of spaghettini on their part, as it’s thin enough to withstand a more delicate sauce like my corned beef one. A’s hae bee hiam one was decidedly bolder in flavour, tasting like a slightly sweet XO sauce, but because the sauce was also quite dry, it held up well with the spaghettini too.

The best thing about Relish’s revamp is the inclusion of some Wild Oats favourites, most notably the Spam fries, served with kaffir lime mayonnaise. I’ve only tried it once at Wild Oats, and thereafter just made my own at home. These were better than those Wild Oats I had; the Wild Oats ones were a bit over-fried.

They have a selection of about 8 to 10 interesting beers, with suggestions on beer pairings with their menu items. We had a lychee beer, which was very light and refreshing; very easy to drink.

Most of the waitstaff were very friendly and polite, and one guy in particular was excellent, but we also got a rather sour-faced waitress who seemed like she was doing us a favour by serving us. She was the exception though. Food arrived really fast, making this a very viable option if we run out of ideas for a simple weekend dinner.

A says:

I was really impressed with the service this time. Our young waiter was attentive and eager to please. A big improvement from our last few visits when it was hard to get the wait staff’s attention.

Good food. Fun and interesting, without taking itself too seriously. Prices are very reasonable (for the area).

The specialty beers are also really interesting. They’ve even got some low-alcohol sweet gimmicky beers. Great for a girly drinker like me. I’ll definitely try the Taiwanese honeydew beer next time.

Overall, this could be our new go-to place for a quick, quiet and casual weekend dinner.

501 Bukit Timah Road
#02-01 Cluny Court
Tel: 6763-1547
Mon - Fri: Noon to 3 pm, 6 pm to 11 pm
Sat and Sun: Noon to 11 pm