Monday, December 31, 2012

Valentino's new digs

C says:

When we first heard that Valentino was moving from their cosy dominance of Jalan Bingka to the large impersonal Grandstand at the Turf Club, we definitely got worried. The noisy cramped ambience of the previous location contributed to its charm; the feeling of a family-run trattoria tucked away in a residential enclave.

That came with its own set of problems though, like the parking situation and the 2 sitting rule. At the new location, there's abundant parking, and they no longer implement the 2 sitting rule. After giving them a few months to get into their groove at the new location, we headed there on a Tuesday evening, with some trepidation.

The new place is a pretty sprawling affair - three times the size of the previous one, though that could also be because they've combined the restaurant, the pasticceria and the private dining all under one roof now. It's a lot calmer and less chaotic, but somehow, possibly due to the rustic decor and the appearance of familiar faces with the long-serving waiters, it's still retained its homely vibe.

Most importantly, I'm happy to report that the food is still the same. Their menu is expanded slightly, but rest assured that old favourites are still there. We started with a special - the deep fried soft cheese served with salami. The salami was excellent. The cheese was good, nice and oozy inside, but in future I'd probably prefer something cleaner and less fried.

My main was also off the specials list - home-made pappardelle with a pork cheek ragu. The pasta was silky smooth, and the sauce just how I like it - just barely coating the pasta.

A's ravioli with minced beef and ricotta, from the a la carte menu, was outstanding. Great ravioli, and the little nuggets that looked like diced potatoes turned out to be juicy porcini mushrooms that packed a ton of flavour.

We decided to go old school with the desserts - tiramisu for A and the chantilly cake for me. Due to the size of the restaurant they no longer have a dessert cart; they have a proper detailed dessert menu now.

We managed to get a dinner reservation just a few days ahead. I'm not sure if that's because it was a Tuesday, or whether it's a result of the larger space. I'm pretty sure they can sustain the new space, but I hope that as time goes by, they don't lose the familial charm that we've come to know and love.

A says:

Still our favourite Italian place. Win!

200 Turf Club Road
Tel: 6462-0555

Sunday, December 30, 2012


C says:

We finally dragged L and M to Esquina on Thursday night for dinner. It was absolutely packed, and we managed to get corner seats for the 4 of us by the skin of our teeth. Since it was L and M’s first time, we ordered some of the usual suspects like the salt and pepper squid and the bone marrow, but we also took the opportunity to try some new dishes too.

We ordered the roasted padrano peppers with garlic, chilli and salt for the first time. Wow, this definitely goes on the repeat list. The peppers were sweet and smoky rather than spicy; amazing that they managed to achieve such charred flavour from a simple cast iron skillet rather than a grill.

We ordered two dishes that, on hindsight, were quite similar. One was a roasted pork belly with bacon and seaweed dashi broth, and the other was a festive dish – Brussels sprouts with slow cooked egg, bacon and pork cubes in a seaweed broth. It may have been a bit much for just me and A, but it was perfect for the 4 of us, because we all couldn’t get enough of the awesome dashi broth. It was absolutely packed with umami flavour; I almost didn’t need the rest of the ingredients, though the pork belly and egg were really good too.

Another festive dish was roast duck with truffle honey and celeriac foam. I couldn’t actually discern very much truffle nor honey flavours, but the duck itself was cooked really well – rare in the center and really flavourful.

We actually ordered the Iberico pork chop off the Josper Grill menu, but they may have forgotten our order because when we reminded them towards the end, they told us they were out of the pork. That was a bit disappointing because I really wanted to try it. We settled for another Josper Grill dish – the grilled ribeye with parsley and shallot dressing. The beef was great, but the parsley and shallot dressing really “elevated the dish” (in A’s exact wanker words).

We ordered the cookies and cream dessert again, and it came served/plated slightly differently this time, with sweetened milk and the cookie served separately. The general consensus was that the manchego custard with olive brioche crumb and apricot jam was “interesting”. It was savoury rather than sweet, so a bit unexpected for a dessert. I guess if you liken it to a pre-dessert cheese course, then that helps you get over the mental obstacle that you’re having a cheese flan for dessert.
We’ve concluded that at least for the non hip-and-happening Atetoomuch, we’d much rather come to Esquina for lunch than dinner. Sure, at dinner there’s definitely a cool buzz, but at lunch time it’s a much more relaxing experience – they don’t run out of food, you don’t feel stressed out (yet admittedly a bit smug) by the people hovering behind you waiting for a seat, and the whole place is less frenetic, so you get to chat to the guys behind the counter and watch them do their thing at a much more calm, leisurely pace.

A says:

Food is always great, but after coming here for a dinner service, I definitely prefer the more laidback lunch atmosphere. Being so close to the "kitchen", I actually get stressed out by the dinner rush.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Noodle Place Restaurant

C says:

This little unassuming restaurant tucked away at the back of Centrepoint (opposite Prima Taste) boasts a consultant chef who used to be executive chef at the famous Mak's Noodles in Hong Kong.

Mak's Noodle's is known for their springy egg noodles, so of course we ordered various versions. I had the wonton noodle soup, and A had the dry char siew noodle.

Both were a pleasant surprise. The taste and texture of the noodles were excellent - thinly delicate, springy and eggy without any obvious alkalinity. The shrimp wontons were good too, as was the char siew, but they really just worked to highlight the noodles.

Portions are tiny, especially the wonton noodle soup, so go ahead - have seconds. We did.

A says:

I used to love places like this when I was growing up. So it's no surprise that I love this place. Win!

Noodle Place Restaurant
176 Orchard Road
#01-53/56 The Centrepoint
Tel: 6733-3171
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More from Papparich

C says:

We went back to Papparich pretty soon to try more of their local delights. We have mixed feelings about some of them, but overall we're still pretty impressed.

The nasi lemak came with a laundry list of ingredients - fried chicken, beef rendang, sambal squid, okra, potato and egg. Out of those, the chicken, okra and curry potato were very good. The beef was tasty but unfortunately quite dry and tough, and the squid was passable.

What looked like a fairly small portion of chicken wings on the menu turned out to be a huge portion of 6 full wings. These were surprisingly delicious, like a very light version of KFC. The wings were lightly floured, just to make the skin crisp, and perfectly cooked - really tender and juicy. We had to take some home, and they were just as good after being reheated in the toaster oven.

I was a little disappointed that despite the many variations of kaya toast they have - steamed, toasted, with butter, with margarine - they didn't have one with thin slices of toast, only the thick sort. I ended up splitting them down the middle and putting the kaya and butter inside. This was still delicious, and do note that you can ask the waiters for extra butter and kaya (at no extra charge).

I'll let A give you his rant about the coffee here.

A says:

The coffee sucks. It tastes like 3-in-1 instant coffee (very good instant coffee, but still, instant coffee, ewwww). Food-wise, I would skip the bland rendang and stick with the curry.

So the question is: Is the great kaya toast enough to win over the bad coffee? Hmmm...

1 Vista Exchange Green 
#01-43 The Star Vista 
Tel: 6684-3373 
Opening hours:10 am to 10 pm daily

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


C says:

Former Les Amis head chef Armin Leitgeb has teamed up with the Esmirada group to open Amuse (short for amuse bouche, so expect small tapas-style bites) in Orchard Hotel, where Bodega Y Tapas used to be. While Armin Leitgeb is the creator and name behind the restaurant, he's only in town once a month to conceptualise new dishes. The kitchen is run by head chef CK Lee, who worked with chef Armin during his Les Amis days.

Our love of tapas, acquired in Spain and reinforced by Esquina, made this a place that we really hoped would live up to our expectations. Luckily, Amuse definitely didn't disappoint. Almost all the dishes were well executed, tasty and interesting.

They have a French Laundry-inspired beef tartare cone, with the cone made of filo pastry and filled with beef tartare and horseradish cream cheese. One order comes with two cones, but next time we're getting an order each. These were really good - the cone, because it was filo pastry, didn't overpower the tartare, which was seasoned perfectly.

Another signature dish is apparently from chef Armin's Les Amis days - the pork crouton with either smoked eel or pork belly. We decided to go with the smoked eel, figuring a surf and turf combination couldn't go wrong. This was superb. The pork crouton was actually a slice of pork that had been roasted till crisp, and it went with the soft, smoky eel perfectly.

The marinated salmon with pickled vegetables was a bit ordinary in comparison. Overall everything worked together, but individually each ingredient was a little boring, especially the salmon.

We read about a hamachi dish that was highly recommended, so we ordered the only hamachi dish on the menu - the grilled hamachi kama. I was a bit surprised when the entire hamachi collar appeared. I love hamachi collar but A doesn't, so I pretty much demolished this single handedly. Nothing innovative about this, but oh so good.

Another winner was the Spicy Lamb Burger. The patty was really juicy and flavourful, and the charred eggplant added a nice texture to each bite.

The Ciabatta-wrapped Crispy Egg, with proscuitto, spinach and mushroom ragout tasted, strangely enough, like a Buko Nero dish; could be the flavourful, slightly Asian-inspired sauce. This is another must-repeat dish.

Portions are pretty small, so unsurprisingly after that we were still hungry. We added a tomato and mussel risotto, which was disappointingly ordinary. Next time we'll try the spicy lobster pasta instead.

The chef told us about the day's special - roasted loin of Iberico pork, and highly recommended it, so we gave it a go. It was a much larger portion than expected, and indeed any of the other dishes. Chef brought it to the table, doused it with a pepper-infused alcohol and flambed it. The pork was still slightly rare in the centre, and had a really sweet, subtle pork flavour. The charred romaine that accompanied it was really good too.

After that, we were too full for dessert, but in any case this place isn't heavily dessert-focused. There was only one in-house dessert, some mixed berry thing; everything else came from Esmirada next door.

The menu isn't very large, and we pretty much ordered most of the items that called to us, so if they don't regularly change it up then I don't think we can go as frequently as we do Esquina. It's a pretty big space, and was practically empty on a rainy Tuesday evening, so getting a reservation doesn't seem to be a problem. It seemed worryingly quiet, but I hope it's because the place is still fairly new, and there hasn't been enough buzz or word of mouth yet.

A says:

Great service and food, and surprisingly affordable (not cheap, but superb quality for a reasonable price). I highly recommend it.

442 Orchard Road
#01-29 Orchard Hotel
Tel: 6735-3476
Monday to Friday: 5pm – 1pm
Saturday: 12noon – 1am
Sunday: 12 noon – 11pm

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On invites and integrity

C says:

While some of our loyal readers have been very encouraging and supportive of the fact that Atetoomuch is getting known enough to at least receive sporadic invitations, others have expressed disappointment that we've "sold out".

The invites that we've received thus far have been sincere offers to showcase what an establishment has to offer. There has never been any obligation for us to write gushing, positive reviews, nor indeed an obligation to write anything at all.

We're not apologising for accepting such invitations, nor are we going to promise to turn them down in future, because let's face it - who hasn't been envious of bloggers who've been invited to media tastings for the opening of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, for example?

What we can do is reassure all our readers that we will only accept invitations to places that we are genuinely interested in, and if we do write about it after, we'll be transparent about the fact that it was an invite, and will always, without exception, write an impartial, unbiased review.

A says:

Until I strike it rich, if there's free food (that I might like), I'm there.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hifumi Japanese Restaurant

C says:

Soup curry in Singapore! Well, for a limited time anyway. While exploring the new Plaza Singapura extension, we walked past Hifumi and I saw a sign outside saying "December Special! Soup Curry Set!" At that point, wild horses couldn't drag me away.

When you order any main course here, you get access to a small appetizer buffet. An additional $1.99 gets you free flow of all their drinks, from coffee/tea to soft drinks.

The appetizers in the buffet were pretty basic - things like cucumber and jellyfish, sauteed eggplant and rice cakes. Some were quite tasty though, like the potato salad, fried whitefish and braised daikon.

On the whole, the soup curry wasn't too bad. It was more like a very thin Japanese curry than the soup curry that I fell in love with in Hokkaido, but overall it was a decent alternative. Flavours were good, and the chicken was nice and tender. My only grouse was that it really wasn't spicy, and there wasn't any proper chilli powder to add spice.

A's katsu was surprisingly good. Instead of a typical slab of dried-out pork like I (perhaps unfairly) expected, the meat was actually very tender, a little fatty and pretty tasty.

Definitely an unexpected find. I do hope they put the soup curry on their regular menu, though it seems like their other dishes are also well worth a try.

A says:

Great value for money with the appetiser buffet (though the dishes are fairly hit or miss).

Hifumi Japanese Restaurant
68 Orchard Road
#04-68 Plaza Singapura
Tel: 6338-4712
Open daily 11.30 am to 10 pm

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Square Restaurant, Novotel Clarke Quay

C says:

We were invited to The Square, the in-house restaurant of the Novotel Clarke Quay, to try out their festive buffet (they have a regular buffet, but for the festive period till the new year, the buffet includes additional items like turkey, honey glazed ham, roast beef or lamb). A and I are generally not buffet people – we order/eat too much as it is, without needing any further incentive to stuff our faces. Also, we usually steer clear of the dishes in the covered hotel pans, since more often than not they’ve been sitting there a while and are usually overcooked.
The Square’s buffet definitely had some elements that didn’t fall into the aforesaid buffet trap – a slab of prosciutto with only a few slices shaved off at a time, some really good items at the carving station, and an a la minute risotto/pasta, laksa and mee siam station.

The prosciutto was pretty good, though the slices could’ve been shaved a little thinner to make them less tough and chewy. One of the other diners had the brilliant idea to take the rock melon pieces that were meant for the chocolate fountain, to pair with the prosciutto.

I passed on the fresh oysters and prawns, though they looked enticing, and made a beeline for the whole salmon. I think it was genius to have this in the cold section rather than as a hot dish. Because the platter was on a bed of ice, it didn’t run the risk of getting overcooked, which is all too common with salmon. I avoided the obvious tail portion and went straight for the oily belly. This was superb – surprisingly no fishiness at all even though it was the belly, and it was luxuriously fat and creamy.

There were two festive items at the carving station – a roast turkey, and a honey-glazed bone-in ham. The turkey was quite ordinary, but the ham was excellent – tender and juicy, not too salty and it had a glorious layer of glazed fat.

We didn't try their pasta, but their cheese risotto (with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes) was great, and I dare say better than quite a number of risottos that we’ve had in proper restaurants. The rice was perfectly cooked, it was nice and oozy, and had tons of flavour. The fact that it was topped with a heaping spoonful of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese freshly grated from a huge wheel probably didn't hurt.

I was less enamoured with the other a la minute items – the laksa and mee siam. Both were quite lackluster, especially the mee siam. The laksa was a bit better but that could also be because I added a big spoonful of sambal.

Because it’s currently the festive season, desserts are obviously Christmas-centric, so expect log cakes, Christmas puddings and pannetone. I’m not a huge fan of holiday desserts so I passed on all but a few bites of dessert, and had more cheese instead. Props to them for providing a jar of honey next to the cheeses. They also have a DIY ice kachang cart next to an ice cream cart, which I thought was a cool touch.

They have a lot more variety than what we’ve mentioned, but as I said, the hot entrees are really not our modus operandi for buffets, so we just went with what we knew we’d enjoy.

A says:

Very decent spread. The hams, satay and cheese risotto were great, but I'd skip the oysters. And the ice kachang machine was a winner, especially when combined with the ice cream they have.

All-in-all, it's pretty good value and worth it if you're in the area and in the mood for a buffet, but I wouldn't make a special trip down.

The Square Restaurant
177A River Valley Road
Level 7, Novotel Clarke Quay
Tel: 6338-3333

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The holidays are upon us again – it’s that time of year when some of us take our much-needed year-end holidays to recharge before the start of a new year.

A and I love going on holiday. Looking forward to our next holiday is one of the main things that keeps us going as we slog our way through work every day. Travelling opens our eyes to so many different sights, sounds, cultures and cuisines (Anthony Bourdain has the best job in the world!).

Ironically, sometimes the more well-travelled you are, the more jaded you get. It’s sometimes too easy to proclaim that the best paella can be had in Spain, or the best sacher torte in Austria. That could (and probably should) well be the case, but it shouldn’t detract from an otherwise well-executed version here on our shores.

As the year draws to a close, I hope that all of us can bear this in mind. Even if we’re lucky enough to travel the world and savour its delicacies, I hope we never lose the ability to appreciate a dish for what it is, rather than comparing it with what we think it should be.

Happy holidays from atetoomuch!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery

C says:

Atetoomuch was invited by Gavan, third generation owner of Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery in Bedok North, to view their operations and have a go at making our own ang ku kueh. The company was started by his grandparents in the 60s as a home kitchen, and only moved to Bedok in 1986. They have relied solely on word-of-mouth all these years, mainly supplying to hotels and other stores. Now that Gavan has come on board, he thought it would be good to introduce the younger generation to the snacks of yesteryear, and to revive interest in our local culinary delicacies.

As part of his efforts to reach out, he's set up Lek Lim's website,, where you can view their product catalogue, and also place online orders.

Pretty much all of the items that they make onsite (they sell some things like kueh ambon that they don't make themselves) are hand-made, which is a dying art these days.

The ang ku kueh session was a hoot. They make 4 different kinds of ang ku kueh here - the traditional green bean, peanut, coconut and salty green bean. They gave us the first 3 to try our hands at making, with the filling in pre-rolled balls.

I found it lots of fun. The first one I made was a bit iffy, but after a few failed attempts I must say mine didn't look too bad. A's first attempt was a tragic monstrosity, haha. It took 3 of us long enough to make 16; I can't imagine making trays and trays of these on a daily basis.

We got to take home the ones that we made (since I don't think anyone will pay good money for our misshapen attempts), and I must say, if our experiments already tasted this good, I can only imagine how the professional ones will be. The skin is light, and tasty in its own right. The fillings are very generous, and in particular we really liked the peanut.

Some of the other items that really stood out were the curry puffs, the glutinous rice, and the steamed yam cake.

The curry puff was outstanding. In the age of machine-made Old Chang Kee curry puffs, with thick dough and dumbed-down filling, this is a joy to eat. The skin is thin, and the filling is properly spicy with a hint of kaffir lime leaf. Since Madam Moh doesn't make her pyramid curry puffs any more, I think this is now the best traditional fried curry puff around.

They do both a fried and a steamed yam cake; I was surprised that both A and I preferred the steamed one. The ingredients added heaps of flavour, and I like the fact that they added chopped bits of yam to add texture as well.

They make soon kueh, koo chye (chive) kueh and png (rice) kueh as well. I liked the fillings, especially for the soon kueh, but I personally found the skin a little too thick. I would have liked the skin to be a little thinner so that I can taste more of the ingredients.

They also make kueh salat, kueh lapis (9 layer kueh), ondeh ondeh and tapioca cake. The ondeh ondeh was good, but I wasn't as fond of the salat and lapis; I think I'm used to slightly sweeter versions of both of them.

The mindset these days, especially as we become more affluent and well-travelled, is that these local snacks are too reminescent of our grandparents' day. Cupcakes and macarons are all the rage, and local kuehs are seen as "uncool". A and I are probably culprits of this mentality as well, but sampling some of Lek Lim's snacks, and thoroughly enjoying them, has made me realise that sometimes, it's good to just go back to the basics. Nostalgia defininitely tastes good.

A says:

Everything was great except for the layer cake and the kueh salat. I highly recommend it if you're into old school local "snack" foods.

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery
Block 84, Bedok North Street 4
Tel: 6449-0815
Mon - Sat: 4 am to 6 pm
Sun: 4 am to 2 pm

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


C says:

Good news - Esquina is now offering set lunches on weekdays. At $39 for 3 courses, this is pretty unbeatable value. On the Monday that we were here, this was the set lunch offering:

We decided to order one set lunch, to gauge both the quality and the portion sizes, and supplemented it with other items off the menu. First, we'll showcase the set lunch dishes.

First course was trout tartare with a red pepper gazpacho. This was similar to another dish we ordered a la carte a few weeks ago, so we can vouch for the fact that they don't skimp on the ingredients nor the portion size just for the set lunch. Once again, the flavours were great, with the gazpacho a perfect blend of sweet and tart.

For the set lunch main we had the beef with peppercorn sauce and carrot and cumin puree. It was cooked a bit more medium than we would have liked, but still pretty tasty.

We would ordinarily have chosen the chocolate mousse, but (a) we've tried that before and (b) we were eyeing a similar dessert off the regular menu, so we went for the manchego, quince and toast. This could be the most straightforward dish we've had at Esquina to-date. No reinvention or modern spins, just straight up cheese, quince and toast.

One of the reasons we came here was a Facebook post over the weekend by one of A's friends, who raved about a grilled Madagascar gambas with seaweed aioli. To my initial dismay, the dish is part of a Josper Grill selection that's only available at dinner time. However, one of our regular waiters noticed how distraught I was, and got the kitchen to make it for us anyway. It was a lovely gesture, and an even lovelier prawn. It was huge, perfectly grilled and I could literally use a spoon to scoop up the delicious head juices. Sublime.

On the festive menu is a pretty awesome pig dish - a slice of pork belly, crackling, and a roulade of suckling pig rolled with minced Iberico pork. The heaviness is cut through with a side of sauerkraut. I'm not a huge fan of their normal pork belly dishes here but this, with the suckling pig, was amazing.

Props also to the fried quail's egg with curried haddock rice. I'm a sucker for a good rice dish, and this was really addictive. There was just enough curry flavour to complement the smoked haddock - I dare say this is better than their paella.

After so many visits, we decided to finally try the ham croquetas. As far as croquetas go, this is one of the best we've had. The filling was creamy and absolutely filled with diced jamon.

They've revamped their dessert menu, and the first thing that jumped out at us was the Cookies and Cream - condensed milk ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and salty hazelnut paste. This was a truly awesome interpretation of cookies and cream, with the entirety even better than each of its parts.

A few weeks ago we were here, and had a good but not as wonderful experience as the current one, possibly due to the combination of dishes that we ordered. The kingfish sashimi with barbequed cucumber and uni mayonnaise is worth mentioning though. The sashimi was delightfully creamy, and each bite-sized morsel of cucumber and uni mayo packed a ton of flavour.

At long last, we also tried their Iberico pork and foie gras mini burgers. I found the patty to be less burger and more pulled pork, and the flavours were decidedly of a chorizo nature. I'm glad we tried it, but it's not something we'll order again.

The kitchen and the service staff have definitely found their groove. It's a lot less manic these days, and they have the time to chat with and get to know you. You don't feel as if you can't linger because there's a long line of customers waiting to take your place. Is this our last visit for 2012? Hmm, I don't know. The dinner-only Josper Grill items are calling to me...

A says:

I love this place. Especially at lunch when things are more chill. If I didn't have to watch my weight or my wallet, I'd be here at least 4 times a week.