Sunday, October 30, 2011

Good Ol’ Cafe

C says:

Somewhat at a loss for an appropriate dinner venue, we ended up at Good Ol’ Cafe with A’s parents on Sunday night. Good Ol’ Cafe is the sister restaurant of HooHa/The West End, which we only recently discovered. They opened Good Ol’ Cafe quite recently, and while they serve pretty similar fare, Good Ol’ Cafe supposedly focuses a bit more on French preparations and presentation/plating.

It’s located at YESS Centre, right next to Korean Charcoal BBQ joint Ju Shin Jung. Unfortunately, the disparity in the customer volume is that much more apparent as a result. Ju Shin Jung is bursting at the seams on weekends and still has a fairly steady clientele on weekdays. On the other hand, I’ve never seen Good Ol’ Cafe with more than 4 tables occupied on any given day.

They have something like a tasting menu – for $48, you get a selection of their starters, followed by either a laksa or an aglio olio spaghetti, then downsized versions of 2 main courses, followed by dessert. Enough for 2 people to share if you’re not hungry; if you’re atetoomuch, you top that up with an additional order of rack of lamb.


For the starter sampler, we had a mushroom soup, escargots on toast, smoked duck salad, salmon tartare, a crab cake and a fried prawn wonton/ravioli. The soup was pretty decent – thick and quite mushroomy, and the tartare and duck salad were ok as well. There was only one escargot on the toast but the creamy sauce wasn’t bad. The fried items were so-so.


The laksa, again a cute little tasting portion, was surprisingly good. We had just had the “Katong” laksa at Holland V recently, and the one here was definitely comparable. The seafood was quite fresh, and the gravy was rich yet not too thick and heavy; still very much a drinkable broth.



The downsized mains were still very decently-sized portions. 4 meaty ribs for the BBQ ribs, and a palm-sized tenderloin for the steak. The ribs were nice and tender; the tenderloin was better at The West End. In fact, a 200g a la carte order of tenderloin here costs exactly the same as the steak at Pepper Steakhouse, and quality and taste-wise the one at Pepper is far superior.


The rack of lamb was good, but somehow it lacked the oomph of the one we had at The West End as well.


Desserts were a mini sampler of tiramisu, lemon cheesecake and oreo cheesecake.

Again, service isn’t as fine-tuned as The West End. Waiters are a bit slow on the uptake, although they definitely do try hard.

If I were craving similar food I’d rather head to The West End. I think I’ll probably only go to Good Ol’ Cafe if we were there for Ju Shin Jung and couldn’t get a table.

A says:

Service was poor at first but rapidly improved. The taster menu was an interesting introduction but food-wise, it’s just a little bit fancier than HooHa/West End. Honestly, I think I prefer the original though.

Good Ol’ Cafe
27 West Coast Highway
YESS Centre, #01-16/17
Tel: 6777-7600
Open daily: 12 noon – 2.30 pm; 6 pm – 11 pm
www.goodolcafe.com

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Paradise Pavilion

C says:

We're generally fans of the Paradise Group. Their casual outposts like Paradise Inn and Paradise Dynasty are regular haunts for us, for their tasty and value for money offerings. That's why we decided to get their Paradise Group card, and in the process received a voucher for $30 off their signature peking duck.

The restaurant, located at Marina Bay Financial Centre, was surprisingly packed on Saturday night. Somehow I expected it to be mainly patronised by business types on weekdays and empty on weekends, but there were quite a number of family dinners there.



Their peking duck is prepared and served like the one at Imperial Treasure. The premium skin is served on its own and meant to be dipped in sugar, and they serve the breast meat and thigh meat sliced separately as well.

Their duck is roasted with apple wood, meant to impart some fragrance to the meat. Comparisons with Imperial Treasure's duck are inevitable, and unfortunately Paradise's falls short. Yes you do get the apple wood aroma but the duck was overcooked. The meat was a bit tough and dry, and even the cubes of premium skin didn't have the airy crispiness of the Imperial Treasure one.

At $88 – $20 more than Imperial Treasure's, I don't think it's worth the mark-up. They don't even give you the option of a second preparation for the remaining meat for a nominal sum, which is pretty much par for the course at most other duck joints.



In fact, the general impression was that the hefty prices aren't justified by the quality, or lack thereof. Sure, there were some good dishes, in particular the roast pork and a prawn and vermicelli claypot with a rich garlicky stock, but almost everything else we had, we've had better elsewhere.

Somehow it feels like it's trying too hard. The decor is too fancy and looks a bit forced, and the cooking doesn't quite match up to the ambience it's trying to create. Imperial Treasure has better food for lower prices, and if I were to spend this much, I'd rather go to Chinois by Susur. I think we'll stick to what the Paradise Group does best, which is simple yet well executed home-style cooking.

A says:

Er... the service was good and the food was decent, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a traditional dinner. It seems like a place for fancy degustation versions of a Chinese meal. And maybe for client lunches.

Paradise Pavilion
8A Marina Boulevard
#02-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre
Tel: 6509-9308
Lunch: 11.30 am – 3 pm (Mon to Fri); 11 am – 4 pm (Sat, Sun & PH)
Dinner: 6 pm – 11 pm daily

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pepper Steakhouse & Bistro

C says:

This review, and our experience of Pepper, changed dramatically in the last 15 minutes or so of our visit. We started out quite enthused, but by the end I was seething and couldn't wait to get out of there.

First off, Pepper is not to be confused with Pepper Lunch, the casual/fast food chain from Japan. Pepper Steakhouse is actually part of the folks behind The Pump Room (literally; the restaurant has been carved out of The Pump Room's premises at Great World City). They decided to open their own steakhouse, sourcing almost exclusively grass-fed beef, after being dissatisfied with the quality they were getting from their purveyors.

The restaurant is still pretty new - I think it's still only in soft launch phase, so from now till 30 November they're offering 15% off your bill. I guess just-opened jitters accounted for our experience, though to be fair if we judged them purely on their food they would still score pretty highly.

In addition to quite a selection of typical mains, they have signature steaks, currently from five different breeds. Besides their sharing cuts for two (an Entrecote and a Chateaubriand), the rest of their steaks come in 200 gram portions, and range from a very decent $32 to $38 (for the non-wagyu beef).

After much deliberation, we decided to try a ribeye from a New Zealand Harmony Prime Beef, and a tenderloin from a New Zealand Savannah Black Angus. Both medium rare.



It's usually the case that ribeyes are a more flavourful cut but tend to have a bit more bite, compared to tenderloins which are tender but lack much beefy flavour. But comparing the two, the tenderloin came out the clear winner in both departments. Much better texture and flavour, and even the colour of the meat was far superior. The ribeye was rosy, whereas the tenderloin was a deep red, almost burgundy - the mark of good aging. That's not to say that the ribeye wasn't good, it was; just that the tenderloin was much better.

You can choose from a selection of sauces - we picked wild mushroom and bearnaise, but firstly the sauces weren't good, and anyway the meat was good enough without any sauce.


The steaks come with free flow fries, but they're the thick cut steak fries. They're still quite addictive, and at least they serve good ketchup. We ordered a creamed spinach which was more of a sauteed spinach in cream sauce, but was pretty good anyway.


We ordered a starter of crab cakes with a watercress salad and mango chutney, which came in a decently sized portion and was pretty good. Wasn't bursting with crab meat but what do you expect for $18.


We tried the chocolate lava cake which was decent, but the cake had a weird alcoholic flavour to it that we couldn't put our finger on.

That was the food. Now on to the bad stuff. Firstly, I don't know if it was just this particular night, but we were plagued with screaming babies all night. And parents who were content to let them continue wailing.

Then the service. Food took a while to arrive, which was bad enough but still forgiveable. What wasn't, was the fact that I had to wait 15 minutes after giving them my credit card, for them to bring it back to me for signing. After 5 minutes I got impatient and started chasing them. After 10 minutes I started asking anyone who walked by and when still nothing materialised, I was really pissed. Finally when they brought the credit card slip there was nary an apology, and the waitress only muttered an insincere "sorry" to A, not to me although I was the one who was (a) paying, and (b) looking almost murderous by then.

So, food-wise yes, I think I would recommend Pepper for the quality of the meat and the price you pay for it. But if they don't improve the service then I don't think the food is worth the angst.

A says:

I hope this place just has teething problems because our service, while polite, was incredibly slow. As was the kitchen. And a 15 minute wait to pay is plain bad.

Food-wise, the crabcakes, spinach and harmony ribeye were good, while the savannah tenderloin was excellent. Everything else sucked. Especially the steak sauces (thankfully served on the side) and the horrible molten chocolate cake.

We’ll probably be back later next month (while the opening 15% promo is still on) to give them another chance. But if the service and the kitchen are going to be as bad, they’ll definitely get a not recommended rating.

Pepper Steakhouse and Bistro
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#01-66/67 Great World City
Tel: 6887-3229
Mon - Fri: 10am - 10pm
Sat & Sun: 9am - 10pm

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ramen Champion 2011 at Iluma – Part 2

C says:

Ok, so our return visit to Ramen Champion happened a lot sooner than I anticipated…

On Wednesday night, we tried three more contenders. A wanted to try Tetsu, the other tsukumen vendor, and I wanted to try Bario. Since Bario considerately sells half portions of their famous Bario ramen, we were able to share one more bowl from Iroha.

Tetsu


Their specialty is the Very Rich! Paitan ramen - “paitan” being the Japanese way of referring to a milky soup (rather than century egg, as I’d hoped). Very Rich! is right. The consistency is more like a thick, almost starchy gravy rather than a soup, and even with the dipping method, it’s still pretty salty. The noodles are decent but the chashu is again quite forgettable.

Between the two tsukumen vendors, Taishoken is the clear winner.

Bario

Bario’s ‘thing’ is their thick noodles that are made from bread flour, which has a higher gluten content and therefore produces stronger and chewier noodles. Their signature Bario ramen comes with a few slices of thick chashu, a slightly cloudy soup and topped with a mountain of beansprouts. The egg is optional but I would highly recommended getting it as an add-on. They do a half portion of Bario ramen for $7, as opposed to the full one for $13.


I think opinions are mixed on this one. Wong Ah Yoke named this his least favourite of the six, and another friend didn’t fancy it either. Nor did A, who really couldn’t get past the thickness and chewiness of the noodles, but admitted that the broth was pretty good. On the other hand, it also had the longest queues out of all six stalls, unless that’s due to the “let’s just join the longest queue” herd mentality.

I personally liked it a lot. Yes the noodles were a bit disconcertingly thick, but no different from an al dente tagliatelle, for example. I loved the heaping mound of beansprouts, and the soup was flavourful without being too rich/jelak. I think the soup already has a considerable amount of garlic, so I would advise passing on the optional minced garlic if you want a cleaner flavour. The chashu was good, and the egg was excellent.

Iroha


Their black ramen is their bestseller, with a primarily shoyu-based broth. This is so far my least favourite. It didn't do anything for me at all. I’m usually not a shoyu ramen fan to begin with, and the slightly thicker consistency of the broth didn't help. The noodles were sort of in between normal ramen and Ikkousha’s thin noodles, and I guess were pretty nice and springy. The main highlight was the chashu here, which was sliced nice and thin, tender and had a good meat/fat ratio. Best chashu of the lot so far, but unfortunately everything else fell short.

So far for me, it’s a toss up between Ikkousha and Bario for first place, but since we've already tried five out of six, we might as well, for the sake of completeness, go one more time to try Gantetsu’s Sapporo ramen.

A says:

Bario vs Iroha vs Tetsu. Round 2. Fight!

Bario has awesome broth. But I hate the weird thick mee-pok like noodles.

Iroha has awesome char siew. But I hate the soy sauce broth.

Tetsu had a weird thick dipping sauce that I thought I’d hate but it really grew on me. It’s by far my favourite of this round.

Tetsu wins!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ramen Champion 2011 at Iluma - Part 1

C says:

Ramen Champion is an initiative where selected ramen chefs, all highly acclaimed in their local arenas, have been invited to ply their trade at Iluma mall for a year, from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, with a view to one of them being awarded the chance to set up a permanent store in Singapore.

As you all know, until quite recently we were pretty ramen-ed out, which explains why we’d yet to head to Iluma despite the fair being around for 4 months now. It took a visit to Ippudo Tao to banish our ramen fatigue, and get us in the mood to give Ramen Champion a go.


The 6 stalls competing for the title of Ultimate Ramen Champion are:

- Ikkousha, whose specialty is Kyushu broth with Hakata ramen
- Taishoken, apparently famous for inventing tsukemen
- Tetsu, another tsukemen specialist from Tokyo
- Bario, selling Jiro-style ramen with thick chewy noodles
- Iroha, specialising in black shoyu and spicy miso ramen
- Gantetsu, the most “typical” of the lot, serving Sapporo-style miso ramen with corn and butter

Despite being pretty hungry when we got there, we only managed to try two stalls, so the jury is out on our favourite until we’ve tried at least another two more.

Ikkousha


I have a weakness for Kyushu-style ramen, which uses a milky pork bone broth. The noodles here are the thin Hakata-style – similar to our local mee kia. The broth was light yet quite deep in flavour, and the addition of a tiny dollop of minced garlic added a whole new flavour dimension. The soy eggs had a nice gooey centre, and the best part was the pork belly chashu, which was tender but still had a nice bite to it.

Taishoken

This is one of two stalls that serve tsukemen-style noodles, i.e. where the noodles are served separately from the broth and are meant to be eaten dipping style.


Interestingly, their noodles are somewhat of a cross between ramen and soba in texture. The broth on its own is really pretty salty but once eaten as it’s meant to be, i.e. as a dipping sauce for the noodles, the balance is just right. The broth is pretty complex too, since it’s made from a mix of chicken, pork and anchovies. The slightly fishy flavour is a bit disconcerting at first but it does add a nice body to the broth. The chashu wasn’t all that great though. The meat was braised so even though it was soft and tender, it also a bit dry.

Their system is akin to Marche – you get a card upon entry so it’s cashless inside, which is pretty convenient so you’re not trying to fiddle with your wallet and carrying hot soup at the same time. Just make sure you check your bill at the cashier later on. The cards are numbered, and the stallholder manually keys in your order into your card number. The information isn’t embedded into the physical card itself. My order didn’t register in my card number because they keyed in “140” instead of “148”, so someone else’s order could just as easily be mistakenly entered into your card.

Between the two I prefer Ikkousha, but watch this space; we’ll definitely be heading back to make our way through the rest of the stalls so that we can vote for our favourite(s).

A says:

Ikkousha vs Taishoken. Round 1. Fight!!!

Ikkousha is more like your standard ramen. The broth is rich and complex, plus it had great char siew and egg.

But for me, I prefer Taishoken with the salty soup that’s filled with flavour, without being too rich or heavy. Great to dip the thick, meaty almost udon-y noodles. The only negatives about this are the eggs (yolk not runny enough), and the char siew was more like the meaty chunks you find in stews.

Taishoken wins!

Ramen Champion
201 Victoria Street
#04-08/09/10 Iluma Mall
Tel: 6238-1011
Open daily: 11.30 am – 10.30 pm
www.ramenchampion.com.sg

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar

C says:

With the opening of the Circle Line in our neck of the woods, Holland Village is now just a short train ride away and we can do away with the nightmarish parking that put us off dining at Holland V for some time.

We took our first ride on Saturday evening and tried Crust, located on Lorong Mambong just opposite Wala Wala. Crust is apparently an institution in Australia, and the opening of the Holland V store in August last year was their first international expansion. They pride themselves on serving healthier gourmet pizzas made with fresh ingredients. They have gluten-free bases available, and in Australia they’ve won multiple awards for their healthier offerings.

Immediately, healthy pizza to me sounds like an oxymoron, but if the pizzas here at Crust are supposed to be healthier, then sign me up for more, please. I was extremely impressed with all the flavours that we tried tonight. We each ordered a regular pizza, and for more variety we asked for half-and-half.


I had the Sausage Duo and the Wild Mushroom. The Sausage Duo has a tomato base and comes with both Italian and chorizo sausage, caramelised onion and roasted red peppers. This tasted the most like a generic pizza, though I was a bit thrown off by the sweetness of the peppers and onions.

The Wild Mushroom was really good – probably the best meat-less pizza I’ve ever had. It had wild mushrooms, asparagus and pine nuts on a b├ęchamel sauce based, topped with truffle oil and shaved parmesan. The flavours went amazingly well; even the pine nuts added a nice nutty touch.


A ordered the Moroccan Lamb and the White Proscuitto. The lamb was a winner – slices of marinated lamb, red onion and baby spinach, topped with mint yogurt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. This tasted like a really good kebab. Best flavour of the night.

The White Proscuitto was interesting. Again a b├ęchamel base, topped with sliced roasted potatoes, prosciutto, gorgonzola and fresh rosemary. The prosciutto used was quite salty and tasted almost like pancetta, but eaten together with the rest of the toppings, I thought this was pretty good in a unique, not your typical pizza way.

One of the best parts of the pizzas here is the crust. I think they dust the base with corn meal or something, because there’s a texture and a crunch to the crust that I’ve never had elsewhere, even with the thinnest crust pizzas.

The only downside is that there’s no indoor seating. There are limited tables that are under a few fans, that we managed to snag cos we were early. It wasn’t as busy as I would expect, for pizzas this good. They do takeout as well, and delivery to limited areas near Holland V. They’ve also opened a second outlet at Upper Thomson. I don’t think enough buzz has been generated about them, which is a pity because they’re a lot better than the substandard pizzas that are all too prevalent out there.

A says:

Not exactly cheap, but a very good selection of toppings. I recommend going early and getting a seat nearer the counter/away from the road.

Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar
34B Lorong Mambong
Tel: 6467-2224
Mon to Thurs: 5 pm – 10.30 pm
Fri & Sat: 5 pm - 1 am
Sun: 5 pm – 11 pm
www.crustpizza.com.sg

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Wok & Barrel

C says:

The Wok & Barrel is a quintessential success story. This used to be an apparently famous nasi lemak stall at Maxwell Food Centre, called Madam Tan’s Nasi Lemak. Owner Shen Tan did so well that she decided to open her very own restaurant at Duxton Hill. Since we haven’t tried the original one at Maxwell, we came without any basis for comparison, although we had read a number of good reviews from both her longtime customers as well as new fans.

They have a slightly different menu for lunch and for dinner. I think the famous nasi lemak is available as a set lunch, but at dinner time you have to order each component separately, i.e. the rice, curry, chicken wing, omelette, achar etc.


We ordered a plate of the rice, and the beef rendang. The rice wasn’t as rich and lemak as I expected, nor particularly coconutty, but I liked that it came with two different types of sambal. There was the usual sweetish nasi lemak sambal, and a fiery, more savoury sambal belacan that really packed a punch. No prizes for guessing which sambal we each gravitated towards.


The beef rendang was awesome. Every single piece of beef was super tender, and the sauce didn’t skimp on flavour at all. Although we want to try some of the other curries, like the mutton and chicken, I’ll be hard pressed not to order this again, it was that good.


Besides nasi lemak, they have a few other dishes that are modern takes on Singaporean classics. We tried the lamb char siew drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and served with crispy fries and baby spinach. This was another stellar dish. She used lamb neck so there was lots of flavour and just the right balance of fat and lean. The meat was perfectly done, and the seasoning enhanced but didn’t overpower the flavour of the lamb. The crispy fries were really good too – tasted like old school A&W curly fries!

Another lauded dish is her Bak Chor Mee Pasta, which would ordinarily have me dying to try it. However, after I read a few reviews and descriptions, it turns out that it’s just a nod to bak chor mee, and doesn’t actually have minced pork nor chilli and vinegar. It’s actually tagliatelle tossed with the chef’s signature five-spice pork. That being the case, I decided a whole plate of pasta wasn’t a good idea, and instead just ordered a plate of the pork on its own.


In comparison to everything else so far, this was a bit of a letdown. I guess it’s also not meant to be eaten on its own (we had long since finished our rice by then), because the five spice flavours are quite strong, and being almost like a pulled pork in texture, it became a bit too one note after a few bites.


Dessert was by far the most disappointing though. We ordered the Shendol – a coconut panna cotta topped with chendol jelly, drizzled with gula Melaka and served with red bean ice cream. It should have been really good, but everything didn’t really work. The panna cotta wasn’t light or wobbly enough, and the red bean ice cream was thick and slightly gummy, which really didn’t make for a good mouthfeel at all.

I would pass on desserts in future, but I definitely want to come back to try some of the other curries. And have more of that amazing beef rendang.

A says:

I can’t decide if it’s upscale nasi lemak or what happens when the chi-chi crowd pseudo-slum it with some old school dishes. Either way, the service is pretty good considering there’s no service charge, and most of the food is good, especially the beef rendang. Probably the only minuses for me were the bad (noisy) acoustics and the very dense and powdery ice cream (potong gone rough).

The Wok & Barrel
3 Duxton Hill
Tel: 6220-0595
Tues to Sat: 11.30 am to 10 pm
Sun: 11.30 am to 4 pm
www.thewokandbarrel.com

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Restaurant Week - Gattopardo

C says:

Gattopardo was the one restaurant we booked for Restaurant Week that we've been to before, and maybe it's not a coincidence that we had the best Restaurant Week meal here. It was the one meal that made us want to return because of the food itself, not in spite of a lacklustre meal but the lure of something better.


The 3 course dinner started with an octopus salad, a fitting nod to the restaurant's specialty which is fresh seafood. The octopus was a little on the tough side, but it was paired with the most amazing honey vinaigrette and slow roasted vine cherry tomatoes that were a mouthful of juicy flavour.


We decided to have one each of the mains to share. A ordered the baccalao tagliatelle with cherry tomatoes. This was a bit too understated, but I did like that they kept the flavours simple, clean and uncomplicated.


I went for the slow-roasted pork belly, which was amazing. The pork was melt-in-the-mouth fork-tender, but at the same time not overly braised so that it was like a stew, which I’m not too fond of. It still had texture and bite, and just the right fat to meat ratio. It was served with mashed potatoes and braised spinach, which again weren’t overcomplicated, and just paired with the pork really well without distracting.


Dessert was better than it sounded – a mascarpone cream with caramelised fruit and nuts. I expected candied cherries and the like, but it was quite a light concoction of whipped mascarpone, pineapple and a sweet balsamic syrup.


In our defence, dinner was quite light, and we ate at 6.30. My friend G had recommended the anchovy pizza here before, and while we were a bit too full to have it at dinner time, we ordered it for take-out and had it at about 9 pm… It’s a simple Marinara pizza with mozzarella, tomato sauce, anchovies and slices of garlic. You have to like anchovies cos they’re really hard core in this pizza – the bites with anchovy packed a huge salty/savoury punch, though overall I think this would be best appreciated when eaten piping hot.

Well, there you have it – our decadent Restaurant Week indulgences. Old faithful Gattopardo reminded us that Restaurant Week or not, they still never fail to impress.

A says:

This place is really hit or miss depending on what you order. I was surprised at how mundane my tagliatelle was, and equally surprised at how awesome the pork belly was. So really, who knows how any meal could go.

Gattopardo
11 Canning Walk
Tel: 6338-5498
Lunch: 12 noon – 3 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
www.gattopardo.com.sg

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Restaurant Week – Casa Tartufo

C says:

Casa Tartufo, as its name suggests, is a restaurant that specialises in truffles. About 75% of their menu features the ingredient in some form, though more likely as a sauce rather than shaved neat on top of the dish, so prices aren't too prohibitive.

We've wanted to try it for some time, but it always looked disconcertingly forlorn whenever we walked by. It doesn't help that the main patrons of Forum Galleria, and hence their potential customers, are families bringing their young children for all manner of enrichment classes. Not the best location for a pseudo fine-dining Italian restaurant.

Still, the Restaurant Week lunch menu didn't look too bad, and we figured Restaurant Week meant that there would be a few more tables than normal so it wouldn't feel too depressingly empty.


We started out with a beef carpaccio with shaved parmesan, arugula and truffle sauce. The other starter option was a vegetable soup so that was a no brainer... The carpaccio was predictable but not too bad.


Being atetoomuch, 3 courses seemed a bit skimpy so we had a look at the a la carte menu. Two appetisers called out to me - a burrata cheese with a truffle heart, and this dish that we ordered, scrambled egg with truffle and porcini mushroom. The egg was well scrambled - slowly stirred so that it was nice and creamy with no overcooked curds. I quite liked the flavourful porcini sauce as well.


We again ordered the same main course - the veal scallopini with mushrooms and truffle mash. The sauce for the veal was suspiciously similar to that for the scrambled egg. The veal was ok, but the mash had a slightly gluey texture, possible from the potatoes being mechanically rather than hand whipped.


Dessert featured truffle too. The profiterole was filled with a truffle ice cream which I found quite different, but actually very well balanced in terms of flavour. It's not easy getting truffle into sweets without it being overwhelmingly funky, and I think they did a pretty good job with this. The choux pastry for the profiterole was unfortunately way too hard and dry.

Portions were really small; I'm not sure if that was because of Restaurant Week, but $60 per person for what we had (including the additional egg dish) still seems a bit pricey. I'll give them another chance though.

A says:

The food’s decent, but far from spectacular, and it definitely doesn’t deserve the price tag. I think you’re paying for the swanky look of the place, but really, this place could do with a more casual makeover. Given the location, I think it would do well as a casual family restaurant (but for a chi-chi yuppie family).

Casa Tartufo
583 Orchard Road
#01-17 Forum Shopping Mall
Tel: 6836-4647
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10 pm
www.casatartufo.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

C says:

This was quite an unexpected find. We were about to have a generic dinner at Central across the road, when we chanced upon this bustling bak kut teh shop on the corner of New Bridge Road.

It's run like a well-oiled machine, with waiters in uniform and name tags. I was a bit afraid that this meant rather soul-less food, like over-commercialised Ng Ah Sio, but thankfully I was proven wrong.


We ordered one large and one small portion of the pork ribs, the salted vegetables and you tiao. The pork ribs weren't quite as tender or flavourful as Founder, nor the soup as peppery, but all things considered this place comes a close second. The ribs still came clean off the bone, and the broth, when consumed piping hot, still packs quite a satisfying punch.

Avoid the you tiao at all costs though. They dish it out of a big tupperware and it looks like it's been there for ages. It’s dry and tastes pretty stale. A polished off the whole dish, and promptly fell ill after.

My vote still goes to Founder, but I must say this is much more convenient after work, and you don't have to wait in line for half an hour (or more) at peak periods.

A says:

Probably my pick for second best bak kut teh in Singapore. Service is good. The ribs are tender and giam chai is tasty. The only bad points would be the bad you tiao and the usual wait for a table.

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
11 and 17 New Bridge Road
11 New Bridge Road: Last order 9.30 pm
17 New Bridge Road: Last order 10 pm
Closed on Mondays
www.songfa.com.sg

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Restaurant Week - Gaia

C says:

Gaia, located where Thumper used to be at Goodwood Park Hotel, completely wasn't on our radar and we definitely wouldn't have come if not for Restaurant Week. The menu, 5 courses for $55, looked pretty interesting, so I decided what the heck, and booked it for Tuesday night.


First course was deep fried sardines with caramelised onions. This was good until both of us got a mouthful of bones, probably from the tail of the fish.


Next course was a bit of a letdown - a pan fried ham and ricotta cheese timbale. It tasted a bit like christmas stuffing, and basically disintegrated when we tried to eat it.


The pasta course fared better, a home made tagliatelle with soft shell crab in a light tomato bisque sauce. I found it interesting that on its own, the pasta was just a tad underseasoned, but once you had it with the crab, the brininess of the crab added just the right amount of saltiness.


This time we both ordered the same main, cos the other option was a boring-sounding braised chicken leg. We had the oven-baked cod cooked in milk with grilled polenta, and this was the highlight of the meal, particularly for A. I had one slightly dry, overcooked piece of fish but the piece was excellent - really moist and flaky. The polenta had a very subtle flavour, but paired well with the fish.


Dessert was a traditional tiramisu, with half the plate covered in cocoa powder. Brought out the whimsical artist in me. Heh.

Gaia apparently serves fine dining Italian, though when we checked out the a la carte menu, the mains just consisted of various proteins, all served grilled with the same selection of sides. The pasta selection is fairly standard, but the appetisers look interesting and they have an entire page of buffalo mozzarella dishes.

Service was very good; polite and sincere even though we were one of the el cheapos there for Restaurant Week. When we asked to see the a la carte menu at the end of the evening, the waiter brought us one each, and even proceeded to take us through the menu to highlight the restaurant’s specialties.

A says:

Where was the door bitch? We waited like fools at the main door before realizing the greeting desk was in the 2nd room, beyond the bar. Hmpf.

After that first misstep however, service was excellent. The food was good too with the cod being the highlight. Although the restaurant week menu seemed very different from their regular menu. And aside from the page of mozzarella dishes, there was nothing on the regular menu that really called out to me.

We’ll probably be back to try the cheese, and because the service is good. But it’s not exactly top of my list.

Gaia Ristorante & Bar
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
Tel: 6735-9937
Lunch: Mon to Fri & Sun, noon to 2.30 pm
Dinner: Daily, 6.30 pm to 11 pm
www.gaia.sg

Monday, October 10, 2011

Restaurant Week – Il Lido

C says:

Singapore’s 3rd edition of Restaurant Week is on from 9th to 16th October 2011. Since we missed out on most of the good stuff during the second instalment, I decided to book on the very first day that they opened bookings to the public. Some choice places were already booked up, but we managed to get a few reservations at some restaurants that had quite enticing Restaurant Week menus.

I’d already planned for a few days off in October, and fortuitously it coincided with the first two days of Restaurant Week. A and I decided to have a “romantic” day out in Sentosa, starting with lunch at Il Lido. We’ve resisted coming to Il Lido for the longest time, since we’ve always had the impression that it was pretty poncey and fine dining. Since the Restaurant Week menu looked half decent, we finally took the plunge.


We started with an amuse bouche of poached smoked salmon with caviar and a sour cream sauce. Not bad, but nothing to shout about.


The appetiser was seared scallops with blueberry sauce. This was quite disappointing – the scallops were underseasoned so the whole dish tasted pretty flat.



We ordered one each of the main courses (we passed on the vegetarian option, of course) – the beef cheek and the seabass. The beef cheek was good – slow-cooked and tender without being overtly stew-like, and served with a green pea sauce. The seabass was baked en papillote (but plastic), but this was a tad too disconcertingly “steamed Teochew style” for my liking, as the broth was clear and slightly tart from the cherry tomatoes.


Dessert was a molten chocolate cake with a twist – served with a yogurt ice cream rather than vanilla. I liked the tartness of the yogurt ice cream, which tempered the sweetness of the chocolate somewhat. A begged to differ, though.

I maintain that set lunches and Restaurant Week-esque offerings may not necessarily show a restaurant’s full potential, and I think that goes for lunch today as well. The food was alright – good enough that I may consider coming back once more to try some of their interesting-sounding pastas on the a la carte menu, but it’s certainly not at the top of my list.

A says:

The view and service are great. The food less so. But the standard’s decent enough and having checked out the regular menu, the pastas look interesting and the prices aren’t astronomical, so we’ll be back... some time... I guess...

Il Lido
Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866-1977
Open daily: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm; 6.30 pm to 11 pm
www.il-lido.com

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Canteen

C says:

I think Canteen is probably one of the most underrated joints in Orchard Road. A was initially not a huge fan since he has issues with what he deems high end hawker fare. But once he discovered the waffles here, he's now a fervent convert.


My new favourite dish here is the soupy mee tai mak, which I order when I want to feel a bit more virtuous and don't want to indulge in the XO sauce mee tai mak. It's really simple - a clear broth with minced pork, meat balls and a poached egg, but somehow it just hits the spot.


A's default order is the waffles with whipped cream and maple syrup. On the menu it says it comes with strawberries but we always change it to sliced bananas. This is definitely on A’s list of top 5 waffles in Singapore.

Prices are very reasonable, and I love that because it's so underrated, it's a calm little respite from the chaos of Orchard Road.

A says:

I like the simple, no frills attitude of this place. And the service is usually very good, although this time, everything went haywire. Nevertheless, still one of my favourite waffles in town.

The Canteen
1 Scotts Road
#01-01B Shaw Centre
Tel: 6738-2276
Sun to Thurs: 9 am to 10pm
Fri & Sat: 9 am to 11 pm
www.lesamis.com.sg