Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Best of 2012

C's Best of 2012

2012 was a good year, at least food-wise. Unlike 2011, where we were struggling to even find enough contenders for the list, we were quite spoilt for choice for 2012's list. We even had to cull some otherwise worthy establishments, in order not to detract from the truly deserving ones.

If this were in order of merit, no prizes for guessing that Esquina would be top of the list. But because it's too hard to arrange the rest, I'm doing this in alphabetical order.

We still haven't tried Bruno Menard's new bistro La Cantine, but &Made at Pacific Plaza has some of the best burgers we've had in a while. While the original B Burger was good, I still have a soft spot for the Three Little Pigs burger, maybe because it was the first one I tried.

They don't take reservations, but turnover is pretty high since they have an extremely efficient kitchen, so be patient and wait it out. You won't be sorry.

Amuse is a late entry into the list. I was almost certain that I'd include Catalunya, but Amuse's tapas are more interesting, better executed and more importantly, make me want to go back for more.

For some reason, the place hasn't generated a lot of buzz, so for those of you who can't deal with the no reservations policy at Esquina, give Amuse a try.

Sorry, this may be a copout, but our loyalties to Ember remain strong. Surviving ten years in food-obsessed and food-fickle Singapore is quite an accomplishment, so kudos to them.

For as long as they're still around, we'll be there at least once a year.

Need I say more? Every one of our 7 (or possibly 8) visits in 2012 resulted in us scrolling through our calendars, already mentally planning our next visit. Almost every dish pops, with each ingredient playing a specific role and nothing unnecessary or redundant.

The plates are prepared with such care and attention to detail, that sometimes it could work against them - some detractors simply can't look past the fact that they are paying restaurant prices to sit on bar stools, or *horrors* have to wait for seats. They don't expect, and are therefore not willing to pay, for exquisite food that they would probably have no qualms paying double for at a place like Pollen.

All I have to say to that is - excellent. More space for us, then.

And, for the record, Pollen wasn't even in contention for the list.

A doesn't normally like cooking his own food, so the fact that he voluntarily comes here speaks volumes about how good it is, and how much we like it. Skip the wagyu cuts for a more wallet-friendly experience - we do. Their regular meats are good enough, anyway.

They've recently introduced a new dessert - milk pudding with kinako powder and kuromitsu syrup. This is awesome, and a perfect end to a meal that always satisfies.

Kith Bistro
Kith Bistro at Park Mall is everything that we love about the first one at Robertson Quay, and then some. More seating, an expanded menu, and food prepared with heart? Yes please!

With an increasing number of artisanal coffee places sprouting up, I'm glad that Kith has still managed to hold their own.

I was on the fence about whether Masa should feature in my list. Since the last time we wrote about it, the menu has changed somewhat, and the wagyu appetizers that we liked so much, like the tataki and the carpaccio, are no longer available. In their place is a wagyu sashimi, featuring unctuous slices of heavily marbled wagyu beef, but at $28 for 6 tiny slices, it's a bit too steep for a casual night out.

Still, I've decided that Masa still makes the list, simply for the awesomeness that is their hamburg steak with the demi-glace sauce. Since their starters are no longer a regular option, I guess we just have to order larger portions of the hamburg steak then. Yay.

Menya Musashi
I can't not have a ramen joint in my list. It was a tough fight between Tonkotsu King at Orchid Hotel, and Menya Musashi's tsukemen. In the end, because the neverending queues at Tonkotsu King are a bit of a deterrant, Menya Musashi's tsukemen has my vote this year.

I love their white tsukemen (A prefers the nuttier black - the dipping broth is a complex blend of pork and bonito, and after adding the soba-yu you get a lovely soup to wash everything down. The noodles have a great thickness and texture, and you can order as much noodle as you want for the same price. What more could you want?

Plain Vanilla Bakery
I'm not big on cupcakes, but I love the ones from Plain Vanilla Bakery. I love the fact that they're first and foremost really good cakes, and that they customise the cake base for each cupcake flavour, rather than dry vanilla or chocolate bases meant to showcase fancy frostings or decorations.

I also love how they experiment with new flavours, and put out seasonal limited edition selections, like a pumpkin range for Halloween and a festive selection for the holidays. I think they've started diversifying into cookies and tarts, but I hope they don't neglect what they do best.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru
This new conveyor belt sushi joint at Liang Court serves really good quality sushi at very reasonable prices. They give generous slices of fresh fish, on top of relatively small morsels of rice – no sushi robot chunks here. Plus, unlike Itacho Sushi, their service is outstanding – if you know what you want, you can be in and out in about half an hour.
In particular, their salmon nigiri, and various versions thereof, are excellent and very good value for money.
Purely in terms of the original flavour, I prefer Red Mango, but I really like Sogurt’s other flavours like the Green Apple and Lychee. Plus their location at Star Vista makes for a convenient drive-by yogurt fix. They’re partially to blame for my recent weight gain, though. At the height of our obsession, the two of us shared around 250g of fro-yo almost every evening. 0% fat but clearly not a lightweight in terms of calories. Still, I guess it’s better than ice cream…

SPR MRKT may be a bistro within an upmarket grocery/convenience store, but don’t underestimate the quality of the food that they serve. Chef Jo’s creations, like his blackened fish and chips and grilled baby squid salad, pack so much flavour and are so well executed that they wouldn’t be out of place in a chi-chi restaurant.
Pastry chef Furrene Hoh’s evil desserts are another main reason for my putting on weight. Rounding off almost every meal there with a bread pudding and vanilla sauce was, on hindsight, not very smart.
To be fair, we’ve only been to Teppei once, but we really liked our experience here. The food was good, service was great and the overall cramped yet jovial ambience was really up our alley. Plus, $60 for a no-frills, fuss-free omakase meal really can't be beat.
I hear that getting dinner reservations are increasingly difficult though, with advance bookings of at least a week required even for a weekday dinner. Oh well, I guess that reinforces why they’re on my list.

So, there you have it - my Best of 2012. May 2013 be an even better year, for food, for life, for everyone!

A's Best of 2012

Safe to say it's our fave place in Singapore. Although I really do prefer the lunch service as opposed to the more hectic dinners.

The best food you'll find in a small coffee/bistro place.

Menya Musashi
I love the tsukemen here.

Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru
The best combination of value/quality at a conveyor belt sushi joint. (I'd skip the bland cooked dishes though.)

Almost as good as Esquina, which to me, is saying a lot. Plus you can make reservations, and the service is good.

Don't know why it took so long for us to discover this place. Awesome (and not that expensive if you order right). And the service is super impressive for a grilled meat place.

So good. Not cheap but it has an awesome selection of sweet, fruity flavours.

Noodle Place
This place brings back great memories for me. The meats are a bit inconsistent but in my opinion, the noodles are the best in Singapore.

BK A4dables
Surprise entry. Unlike C, I don't mind going with good junk food (which also explains our different cholesterol levels). And it's rare to find something with this balance of variety and value for money. I pick the rodeo beef set where for around $5, you get 2 slider versions of their onion ring western burger, a small fries, a small drink and a mini sundae. Win!

Modern Peking Duck
Our must tar-pow item at Vivo City. $6 gets you a box of very generous portion of roast pork or 6 slices of peking duck crepes. Buy 3 boxes and get the 4th box free.

We come here for our anniversary every year. That pretty much says it all.

Also rans:
Papparich for awesome steamed kaya toast and curry (let down by the bad coffee).
Co-Op Nasi Lemak for the kaya toast and excellent teh (let down by the average nasi lemak).
Jewel Coffee which is my go-to place for a quick muffin in the CBD.
Sarnie's for the best sandwiches I can never have because it's always so damn crowded at lunch.

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