Sunday, June 29, 2008

Relish by Wild Rocket – 6 months on

C says:

Props to A’s friend R, who suggested Relish for dinner tonight. We hadn’t been back since our disappointing first and only visit, so if not for tonight’s dinner we wouldn't have found out that Relish has in fact improved, and perhaps on our first visit we were victims of teething problems after all.

They’ve added a few new burgers to their menu, including a brioche burger with minced pork patties, and a beef burger with blue cheese, pear and rocket, which is what I ordered. A decided to be boring and went with the old faithful Wild Rocket burger.

After the American Sliders at House, I seem to have developed a liking for blue cheese on my burgers. The one here came with a blue cheese dressing, rocket leaves, slices of tinned pears, and unfortunately some kind of peanut sauce that, to me, really didn't go with the rest of the ingredients. Then again, I’m not a fan of peanut sauce generally – I think it makes everything taste like satay... If not for the peanut sauce I wouldn't mind ordering this again, because the combination of the rest of the ingredients was actually quite good.

A’s Wild Rocket burger was nothing new but still satisfying. Again though I seem to have a problem with the sundried tomato chutney or whatever they put on it – I would much prefer it without too many fancy sauces. Maybe next time I’ll go for the bacon cheeseburger again, or perhaps I’ll finally give the Ram-lee burger a try. R had it and it looked really good.

I’m pleased to say that unlike our first time, the burger patties tonight were indeed cooked medium rare and, being adequately seasoned and not too tightly packed, were pretty tasty and finally shed some light on how Relish has managed to garner such rave reviews when initial experiences and feedback were lacklustre at best. The patties weren’t the best or the juiciest I’ve ever had, but overall this experience has definitely whet my appetite for more.

Service has also improved. The food took a while because it was almost full house on a Sunday night, but at least the waitstaff knew what they were doing, and were more than able to deal with the rush.

A says:

I think our friend D might disagree on the service considering the other six of us all got our orders very quickly, but his took forever.

Anyway, this place has redeemed itself so we can now go regularly. It’s still rather expensive for what you get though, so I don’t think it’ll be very often.

Note to self: Chocolate Cointreau milkshake’s thick and not too great. Skip it.

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

Saturday, June 21, 2008


C says:

We finally made good our intention to come to Ember more often, and not just once a year for our anniversary. Quite an indulgence to have two fancy meals in one day, but it’s my birthday today (I’m perennially 25) so indulge me :) Once again, Ember never fails to satisfy, and I left feeling very happy, and with a renewed intention to come back more often.

Besides the scallops with parma ham that we had last time, we tried 2 different starters – a deep fried tofu with a foie gras-mirin sauce, and cold angel hair pasta with sweet Japanese konbu (seaweed) and shaved abalone. Both were very different yet excellent.

The tofu was crispy on the outside and soft and light on the inside. It was topped with shimeji mushrooms and bonito flakes (you can opt for a variation with zucchini flowers that costs slightly more), and the highlight was the foie gras-mirin sauce, which was smooth, rich and creamy.

The cold angel hair pasta was actually a perfect complement to the rather heavy and oily tofu dish. The pasta really was fridge-cold and very refreshing. The combination of the sweet konbu and tender shaved abalone was light yet very tasty.

As always, one of us had the Chilean seabass, which never fails to impress and it certainly didn’t again today. I hope they never remove this dish from their menu. The other main we ordered was the slow-roasted pork belly with savoy cabbage and pomme puree (mashed potatoes). This tasted quite Asian, but it was very well prepared – the pork wasn’t too fatty and was fork-tender, yet the crackling was light and crisp.

We had some room for dessert but didn’t feel like waiting for the tarts or cakes that take up to 20 minutes, so A opted for the coconut panna cotta with gula melaka. Wow. I regretted not ordering one of my own, because this was surprisingly outstanding. It was topped with red rubies, which I thought was an interesting touch, and overall the creamy coconut pudding, gula melaka and red rubies were together perfectly.

We hope to make it here again at least once more before our anniversary in November this year, but given how 2008 has flown by so far, I won’t be surprised if the next time we write about this is our 5th anniversary.

A says:

Coconut panna cotta RAWKED! Awesome twist on red rubies. I’m definitely going to save room for that next time. Although the portions are small enough that you don’t really have to save room. 3-courses is definitely doable. And if I’m feeling hungry, I could probably go for 2 appetisers as well.

Restaurant Ember
50 Keong Saik Road
Tel: 6347-1928
Monday to Friday: Lunch 11.30 am – 2 pm, Dinner 6.30 pm – 10 pm
Saturday: Dinner only
Closed Sunday

Wood Restaurant & Bar

C says:

Evidently we’re still on our VivoCity carpark mission, because we found ourselves here again on Saturday to finally give Wood a try. Wood’s selling point is that they cook everything over wood or charcoal, to give a distinctive aroma and flavour. I’m all for charred and smoky accents in my food, but I thought that although this place boasts a very interesting concept and has a great amount of potential, it was actually slightly let down by the actual execution of the dishes.

They have a set lunch that’s also available on weekends - $28 for 2 courses, and $35 for three. Because I also wanted to try the smoked foie gras pizza, and A wanted the smoked salmon and buffalo mozzarella salad, we opted for just one set and ordered the other 2 dishes a la carte.

While the flavour of the smoked salmon was definitely impressive, A found that it didn’t actually go with the mozzarella, as the textures were too similar and didn’t really complement each other. The mozzarella also was a bit on the watery side and not as creamy as some of the better buffalo mozzarellas we’ve had. The roasted asparagus soup was good, with the smoky flavours quite evident, but be warned that the asparagus flavour is quite strong, so it’s not for non-asparagus fans.

The smoked foie gras pizza was paired with rocket, grapes and a sweet balsamic dressing. This wasn’t too bad – again I liked the fact that you could definitely taste the fact that the foie gras had been smoked, and it went well with the grapes and sweet dressing, but because A isn’t a foie gras fan, I think once is enough for this dish.

I was looking forward to their house-aged ribeye, as it was promisingly described as generously salted and grilled over their wood of the day (or something). Unfortunately, which the smoky and charred flavour was faultless, it was overdone – a clear medium as opposed to my requested medium rare, so it was way too dry and chewy.

Surprisingly, dessert was a highlight Рthe chocolate and earl grey cr̬me brulee was very well done, with a distinct yet not overpowering hint of bergamot from the earl grey tea, and a perfectly caramelised top.

Interestingly, when you go to Wood’s official website, you’ll notice that it’s actually under the Caffe Bar umbrella – that casual eatery tucked within Parkway Parade. I suppose they’re aiming for a more sophisticated crowd and dining experience, so they’re not openly publicising the affiliation.

For a Saturday afternoon in an otherwise bustling VivoCity, Wood was rather quiet. When we arrived we were one of only two tables, but a few more tables arrived during the course of our meal. Still, I’m not sure that 6 tables for Saturday lunch, during the GSS, can sustain them in the long run. They suffer from a combination of poor feng shui, being located at the furthest end of one wing, and having a rather imposing frontage that gives the impression that it’s more poncey that it actually is. They could do a publicity blitz to position themselves as more accessible to regular diners.

A says:

This place is okay but nowhere near what I expected from a specialty restaurant (especially one with such a fancy frontage).

I wouldn’t mind coming back, but it’s not someplace I’d specifically go to for the food.

I’d probably recommend it if you want semi-fancy food but don’t feel like getting too dressed up. Or maybe if you’re in Vivo City and everyplace else is too crowded.

Wood Restaurant & Bar
#01-53 VivoCity (Lobby F)
Singapore 098585
Open daily
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: Sun – Thurs 6 pm to 10 pm; Fri – Sat 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jones the Grocer – an update

C says:

We were at Dempsey pretty early on Saturday morning (around 10.45), initially to try the breakfast/brunch menu at Culina, which apparently was only served until 11 am. We must have read a very old review/article, because when we got there, we saw that they only served lunch, and only from 11 am onwards. When asked, the servers looked a bit stunned, and said they hadn’t been serving breakfast for a long time. Because it was too early for a full-on meal, we bailed on Culina yet again, and found ourselves at next door Jones The Grocer, where extended breakfast hours on weekends are now 9.30 am to 3 pm.

This was only our second visit to Jones; the first time was back in October last year when they were still fairly new, and had some staffing and logistical problems. It was much better this time – they have more staff now, and they’re generally more clued in as well. Also, this time we were early enough for brunch, so I didn’t have to resort to having a sandwich like I did the last time.

A obviously doesn’t have any problem with sandwiches though – he ordered the bagel with smoked salmon, avocado and watercress. I like the creaminess of the avocado paired with the quite strong watercress, but as a result the smoked salmon, which was quite mildly flavoured, ended up taking a backseat. The toasted bagel was good though – I used to think bagels were overrated but this may have changed my mind.

I ordered the Jones English breakfast, consisting of eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and sourdough toast. This is a more refined, less artery-clogging version of the Penny Black fry-up; it has less oomph, and the sausages at Penny Black are much better, but at least you can enjoy this more often without the guilt. There was a slight glitch when I ordered sunny side up eggs and they served me scrambled, but they took it back and replaced it without any questions asked.

Coffees are good here – my flat white was better than A’s latte. Also, what I like about coming here is browsing the aisles after eating. This time we checked out the cheese room, and ended up getting a couple of wedges of delightfully creamy brie. Note to self: the French brie is much more strongly flavoured, but the Australian brie, being milder, lends itself to eating in more copious amounts.

A says:

Being an expat joint, I’m not surprised by the price; I just expected the portions to be bigger. My bagel looked deceptively tall only because the thin layer of salmon covered a huge load of avocado.

Although the service here is now very good, I don’t really fancy this as a breakfast place. Choupinette is still tops in my book.

Jones the Grocer
Block 9, #01-12
Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476-1512
Opening hours: Tues-Sun: 9.30am to 11pm; Mon: 9.30am to 6pm

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Central (VivoCity)

C says:

Not to be confused with the shopping mall of the same name located on Eu Tong Sen Street, Central is a Hong Kong cha chan teng with other branches at Parkway Parade, Tampines Mall and, most notably, the basement of Ngee Ann City. VivoCity is their newest outlet.

Having never been to the other outlets, I can’t really make a comparison but I believe the menu offerings are different. My brother’s tried the instant noodles with luncheon meat and egg at the Ngee Ann City outlet, but that dish was conspicuously absent from the menu. Instead, they seem to have a whole section devoted to what they term ‘pick-up sticks’ – sticks of anything from fishballs, parcels of minced meat wrapped with cabbage, meat to even pig’s intestines are cooked with your choice of noodle then served either dry or in soup (I think). I think this is similar in concept to the Trolley Noodles at the Marina Square food court.

We shared a luncheon meat and egg sandwich but that was pretty uneventful – a thin sliver of luncheon meat and omelette between soft white bread. I ordered the Central special chicken with scallion la mian. The chicken was essentially poached chicken rice-style chicken topped with a spring onion and minced ginger combi (which had a tiny trace of coriander, ugh), and the noodles were tossed in a soy-based sauced and topped with some dried shrimp. The chicken wasn’t too bad, save for the hints of coriander, and the noodles were ok, if a bit ordinary.

A ordered the pork chop noodles, which came with rather generous portions of battered pork chop that were pretty tender. I really like the noodles – while they may not have had the rich taste of the wonton noodles from Hong Kong, they definitely had the texture. The noodles were delightfully springy, which is quite rare here in Singapore.

The drinks and dessert items far outweigh the food proper here, which is a little strange. A had the yin yang and I, to nurse a throat that’s still very slightly under the weather, opted for the hot ginger drink. This tasted like the ginger teas that they always serve at the start/end of spa treatments, but a much more intense version. This really packed a punch but also really hit the spot.

I expect we’ll be back, at least in the month of June, cos we still have parking credits in VivoCity that we need to use up by then. I’m definitely going for something with the springy noodles.

A says:

Sigh. Another place where the wait staff don’t speak English.

At least our waitress wrote down the numbers of our orders and asked us to check.

Anyway, the selection of food is not big and the standard is decent. The desserts and drink selection is much better and I’ll probably go try the interesting items when I’m hungrier. The only thing off-putting is the inclusion of durian items (like Durian Fried Rice. What’s up with that?!). Durian really taints everything near it.

#B2-13/14 VivoCity
Tel: 6376-8270