Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crystal Jade Hong Kong Cafe

C says:

Is there anything that Crystal Jade doesn’t do? Another aspect of their vast repertoire is their attempt at cha chan teng cuisine – Crystal Jade HK Cafe, its newest branch at Orchard Central. The problem with Orchard Central is that the layout sucks, and the cafe suffers from being right at the corner of one floor, which doesn't attract much foot traffic.

Prices are surprisingly reasonable. Our entire meal cost us just S$29! I had a crispy spring chicken, A had a nissin noodle with chicken chop, and we had a cold yin yang each.

The chicken was extremely good value for money - $9.90 for a whole spring chicken and a basket of fries. The chicken was supposed to be flavoured with lemongrass, but instead I found it almost curry-like, with aromas of curry leaf and kaffir lime leaf. The chicken was quite juicy, but the breast was slightly dried out. I love the fact that they gave a pair of disposable plastic gloves for attacking the chicken! A bit like seafood joints providing bibs.

A’s noodles were a bit misrepresented. They weren’t on the regular menu, but on a separate menu card on the table. It was listed under the “Pastry Crust” section, along with a photo of a bowl topped with a puff pastry crust. We were curious to see nissin noodles prepared that way so we ordered it, but it was a bit of a letdown when they ended up just regular instant noodles. The chicken chop was nice and tender though.

I normally go for hot drinks, but here I would recommend the cold yin yang, just for the sheer elaborate way that it’s served. It comes in a sake-like flask, with a hole in the centre, and little shot glasses for the drink. At the table, they pour some water into that hollow (which is filled with dry ice), which results in some serious smoke. It’s not all just drama though – the yin yang itself is actually really tasty.

We’re not at the Somerset side of Orchard much, but when we are, this would be a good place for a drink if nothing else. With the opening of so many new eateries in basement 3 of 313 Somerset next door, I do fear the staying power of the stores in Orchard Central.

A says:

Very generous portions for the price. The food is decent, but what’s really great are the drinks. Our yin yangs were excellent and had a really cool presentation.

The service is a bit iffy and the location sucks, but if we’re ever back in area, which is unlikely given the horrible parking around there, this would be my go to spot.

Crystal Jade Hong Kong Cafe
181 Orchard Road
#07-05 Orchard Central
Tel: 6509-3118
Open daily: 11.30 am to 11 pm

Saturday, January 23, 2010

15 Minutes Cafe – an update

C says:

It’s been quite a while since our first and only trip to 15 Minutes, and it’s certainly come a long way in the last 4 months. You’re no longer guaranteed a table if you don’t make a reservation – it was absolutely packed when we went on Friday night, with every table taken or reserved. Luckily it was just the 2 of us, and they managed to seat us at the very last available table in the bar section, right in front of the band. The downside of that was – the band started playing midway through our meal, and it was mighty disconcerting to have a spotlight shining on you when you’re trying to eat. Needless to say, we finished up as quickly as possible and left before we embarrassed ourselves.

The menu has also been glammed up somewhat. Previously the offerings were quite basic – burgers, sandwiches, a few salads, and simple pastas and pizzas. There were also tapas-sized snacks, which we found better and more interesting than their standard offerings.

Imagine our surprise then, when we saw items like Duo of Lamb and gnocchi with blue cheese and parma ham on the menu. Both caught our eye so we ordered them to share. Unfortunately, most of the tapas that we wanted to order had already run out by 8.15 pm.

The lamb was quite a small portion – 2 small chops, one breaded and fried and the other grilled. It was accompanied by a confit artichoke and some orzo (rice-shaped pasta) salad. The chops were tiny, and what with the bone attached, there wasn’t much meat on this at all. The breaded chop was better; the grilled one was a bit overcooked. All in all, not a bad attempt at serving something fancy.

The gnocchi, on the other hand, sounded a lot better than the eventual dish. Instead of a pure blue cheese sauce, the blue cheese was sparingly dotted throughout the dish. The gnocchi itself was a bit dense and heavy, and while the mouthfuls with the parma ham and blue cheese were decent, the actual cheese sauce tasted quite cheap and synthetic.

We also tried their salad in a jar – quite an interesting way of serving a salad. We had the warm mushroom salad, because it was the only one on the menu to mention ‘rocket salad’ rather than ‘mixed greens’. Alas, when it arrived it was all mixed greens, so that was a bit disappointing. The sautéed mushrooms weren’t bad though.

Needless to say, we felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable with the spotlight trained on us that we didn't stick around for dessert. Will we come back? I honestly don’t know. It seems that reservations are almost essential, and I’m not sure that it’s worth the trouble to actually make advance plans for this place, given the standard of the food.

A says:

Eating just feet away from the band is very strange. It didn’t help that the spotlight was also partially pointed on us.

I must say the service was excellent. The only problem is that most of the tapas dishes were sold out.

The food quality is still pretty good for the price. Portions are small for the mains though.

I think I’d recommend this place only if you were in the area. It’s good, but not worth making the trip down for.

15 Minutes Cafe
1 McNally Street
Blk D, #01-01 Lasalle College of the Arts
Tel: 6333-5915
Mon – Thurs: 10 am to 11 pm
Fri: 10 am to 12 mn
Sat: 11.15 am to 11 pm

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


C says:

Since Wendy’s opened at Lau Pa Sat this was my first visit, but actually A’s second. After his horrific first time where he waited an hour for his food, we’ve been giving it a wide berth but it was a late night at work for both of us, so we figured it was late enough to give Wendy’s a try.

Even at 9.45 pm there were still a few people in the queue, but we didn't have to wait more than a few minutes. We each had a single ¼ pounder with cheese, shared the fries, and I had a chilli while A had a frosty shake.

The burger was decent; I like that it had a considerably larger patty compared to the bun. But it looked like it was assembled rather haphazardly, and the cheese was cold and not melted into the patty. What saved it was the combination of mayo and ketchup. All in all, it’s decent for what you pay, but if you don’t mind paying slightly more, Carl’s Jr is way better.

I have a big issue with their service though, or rather, lack thereof. This is definitely the reason for the snaking queues at lunchtime – complete inefficiency. When we were there, 2 counters were open, one manned by the store manager and one by an extremely blur-looking staff. There were another 8 to 10 people milling around the kitchen, most of whom were doing nothing besides distract the people who were working.

I placed my order with the blur guy, and since their burgers are “made fresh”, I appreciate that I have to wait for my burger to be made to order. I stood to one side while the blur guy served another customer. My burger materialised from the kitchen shortly after and was placed on a tray in front of the blur guy. I waited a few moments for him to pass it to me. Nothing happened. Waited a bit more while he clowned around with another guy. Still nothing. Finally I had to ask him “Is that my order?” “Yes.” Pause… “Can I have it?!” “Yes”; at which point I had to reach over for the tray myself.

We were still eating at closing time (10 pm), and saw one of them hose down the outside of the glass doors. He clearly wasn’t paying any attention to what he was doing, because he sprayed water onto an innocent passer-by. She took it extremely well, only asking for napkins to wipe herself down, but I was livid on her behalf after already experiencing their nonexistent service.

They really need to get their act together. Their food isn’t so outstanding that I’ll put up with insane queues and shoddy service. In fact, if they keep this up, I really doubt that they’ll have enough repeat customers to support the 35 branches that they are committed to opening in the next decade.

A says:

Given I used to live on the Wendy’s $1 menu as a poor college student in America, I was super psyched when Wendy’s re-opened here.

Sad to say, I’m sorely disappointed.

The ¼ pounder is much better than the ½ pounder I had when they first opened. But still, it’s not that good.

I also had the chocolate milkshake which sucked.

In fact, the only redeeming thing here is the Frosty ice cream. But that will in no way have me coming back.

Especially with the horrible, horrible, horrible service. You can see the manager is trying his best, but everyone is simply incompetent.

I probably won’t be back unless I walk past and it’s totally empty and I’m craving an ice cream.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Grandma’s Restaurant (United Square)

C says:

We’ve been meaning to try Grandma’s at Paragon for a while now, and it was quite by accident that we discovered they have a branch at United Square. Ironically, we went to United Square this evening cos I felt like some ice cream from Udders, but when we walked by after dinner, the queue was at least 15 deep! So no ice cream for me, but at least we discovered a new place for some good curry and nasi lemak.

Grandma’s serves quite a wide variety of food, including some pastas, fish and chips and steak, but their speciality seems to be local food like nasi lemak, rendang and chicken curry. A had the nasi lemak, and I had a rather strange combination of fried chicken wings, stir fried vegetables with sambal, and steamed rice.

A’s nasi lemak came with chicken curry, and that absolutely made the dish. The gravy was rich and flavourful, with a hint of kaffir lime leaves but not overpoweringly so, and the chicken was really tender. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that next time I’ll order the chicken curry instead of the fried chicken wings, which for a chicken wing fanatic like me is saying a lot. The wings were ok but not outstanding. They came with a nice crust but the taste was a bit bland unless you dipped it in the accompanying sauce. The wings at Ikea are way better…

I quite liked my vegetables fried with sambal, which had long beans, brinjal, lady’s finger and petai, a bean used in Peranakan cooking that has a very distinctive and acquired taste. My only grouse was that the aircon in the place is a bit too drafty, and given how slow I eat, my food got cold halfway through my meal.

I’ll definitely come back, to have more chicken curry and to try more of their dishes. It’s good to come in a bigger group, because currently Citibank has a promotion where if you spend above $50, you get a $25 return voucher.

A says:

The service is excellent. Food came out quite fast. And you get to eat it in air-conditioned comfort.

The food, especially the curry was very good. Not cheap (around $9 for Nasi Lemak) but definitely worth it.

Grandma’s Restaurant
#B1-17 United Square
101 Thomson Road
Tel: 6356-5434
Weekdays: 11 am to 3 pm; 6 pm to 10.30 pm
Weekends and PH: 11 am to 10.30 pm

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Highlander Coffee

C says:

After seeing that Kith’s coffee made it to our ‘Best of 2009’ list, S asked me if I’d tried the coffee at Highlander and if so, how it compared to Kith. I’m clearly not with it, cos the first (and only) place that came to mind was the Scottish theme restaurant of the same name at Clarke Quay…

For those in the know, Highlander is a cult classic in Singapore, serving allegedly the best coffee as well as teaching wannabe baristas the finer points of coffee-making and even latte art.

After being duly enlightened by S, we made our way to Kampong Bahru Road (off Spottiswoode Park) on Saturday morning to give it a try. For the fairest comparison, I had to order a flat white. A had a cappuccino, and we shared a latte.

I must say that results are mixed. Highlander’s coffee seems to have a more complex flavour, but it’s not as strong, whereas Kith’s is much stronger and has more depth, and you get more of a coffee kick, but lacks the complexity of Highlander’s. This is the most apparent in the flat white, and I personally prefer the one at Kith just that tad bit more. I like the fact that it packs quite a coffee punch, yet doesn’t have the sour or bitter aftertaste that is usually associated with a strong cup of coffee.

A prefers slightly weaker coffees, so to him, he actually preferred the flavours in Highlander’s latte and cappuccino.

They serve some simple food as well, but this is limited to boxed or pre-made sandwiches and a generic lasagne. We decided to pass and had lunch at Maxwell instead. For this reason, I’d say that Kith gets my vote over Highlander, because in addition to very good coffee, they have proper food made fresh to order, so you get more of an overall brunch experience.

A says:

I really like the coffee here. But is it worth driving there for? No.

Highlander Coffee
49 Kampong Bahru Road
Tel: 6223-7102
Mon – Sat: 9 am to 6 pm
Closed Sun and public holidays

Monday, January 04, 2010

Update: Sunset Bar and Grill

C says:

Just a quick update on Sunset Bar and Grill:

1) They are still at the Seletar Airbase, but some of the roads have changed slightly. Simply following signs to “East Camp” no longer works. You now have to follow the tiny makeshift signs that say “Sunset”.

2) Their buffalo wing levels now go up to #35. There are the usual levels 1 to 10, then arbitrary levels of 25, 30 and 35, based on a Wall of Fame that has very recently been established.

3) As a result, I think they have dumbed down the spiciness of the regular levels 1 to 10. We went on Sunday night with A’s friends, expecting to scorch our tongues with level 5. We ordered levels 2 and 5, and 5 was disappointingly just mildly hotter than level 2. Feeling buay song, we ordered level 8, which turned out to be not much hotter than the level 4 that we had on previous visits.

All in all, a very disappointing experience. Plus service sucked. What a pity – this used to be my go-to place for a satisfying hot wing experience, but now I don’t think it’s worth the hassle nor the wait.

A says:

What C said.