Friday, April 30, 2010

Bodega Y Tapas

C says:

We’re soon entering the 5th month of 2010, and starting to panic slightly because at this rate, we only have one contender for atetoomuch’s Best of 2010. We’ve therefore decided to start trying new places as much as possible, so that we’re not left scrambling at year end.

Alas, by the time we came to this realisation it was on a Friday afternoon, so not many options were left available – both Otto and Hiroki88 were fully booked, so we ended up at Bodega Y Tapas at Orchard Hotel. Part of the Esmirada Group of restaurants, Bodega is known to be quite an institution for Spanish food.

Based on our experience on Friday, I think that has less to do with the standard of the food, and more to do with the fact that the standard of Spanish food in Singapore is simply not up to scratch. Except for a couple of dishes, I was generally underwhelmed.

Our dining experience didn’t get off to a very good start. First, we were escorted to the Esmirada side even though A had called to book a table at Bodega. We reluctantly agreed after being assured that we could also order from the tapas menu there. Then, the waitress who came to take our orders looked like she had a major attitude problem. She took our order of about 6 tapas without writing anything down. I almost wanted to ask if she could remember the order but held my tongue, wanting to give her the benefit of the doubt.

No such luck. She messed up our order, bringing a plate of lamb skewers when we definitely didn’t order them, and left the plate on the table without so much as an apology. The plate was left sitting there for a full ten minutes before we had to ask someone to take it away as we certainly weren’t going to cave and accept it. Also, another dish failed to materialise, and when we checked it turns out it was never on the order chit. Note to self: waitresses with major attitudes don’t generally have the memories to match.

The two standout dishes of the night were a traditional octopus dish, with sliced octopus atop a slice of potato, and seared bacalao (salt cod) with pureed leek and confit mushrooms. The octopus was surprisingly tender, and nicely seasoned with a sprinkling of paprika and drizzled with olive oil.

The seared cod was really good too. The cod had a good texture and wasn’t too salty. But what really made the dish was the sauce of pureed leeks. It was really smooth and had very good flavour.

The rest of the tapas we ordered were a seared tuna loin with marinated tomatoes, mini jamon croquettes, seared duck breast and a Spanish manchego cheese salad. I found the tuna a bit overdone – it was pink only in the centre; the rest of it was dry and overcooked. The duck was slightly better; it had some good flavours but it was still a tad chewy.

We also made the mistake of ordering the Mezza Platter from the Esmirada menu – a plate of various dips (hummus, tzatziki and baba ghanouj) with olives, feta cheese and marinated grilled vegetables, all served with toasted pita bread. This arrived first and we completely filled up with the surprisingly heavy pita bread. This was pretty good but be warned that it’s very filling.

So far, I haven’t been very impressed with the Esmirada group of restaurants. They’re always so highly lauded that we go with high expectations, and they always fall short. They’re also let down by poor service. That was the case at Brasserie Wolf, and the experience was no different today. Will we be back? I doubt; I’d rather go back to Don Quijote if I want Spanish. In the meantime, we need more good Spanish restaurants! Any other recommendations?

A says:

To clarify, I called the number listed for Bodega and made the reservation assuming it was the right place. If you’re planning to make a booking, I recommend specifically asking for the Bodega. And as we didn’t sit there, I can’t really comment on service standards.

As for the service at Esmeralda, we had one really good waiter, but the hostess was awful.

The food standard is mixed. With some really awesome dishes, but many mediocre ones. I think sticking to dishes that are the Chef’s Specialty would be a safe bet.

Overall, it was okay. I’d probably be back. But I’m in no hurry.

Bodega Y Tapas
442 Orchard Road
#01-29 Orchard Hotel
Tel: 6735-3476
Opening hours: 11 am to 12 mn

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Patisserie Glace

C says:

A recent spate of dental problems, culminating in a root canal on Saturday morning, has understandably curbed my enthusiasm for trying out new restaurants. After all, I wouldn't want my enjoyment of a potentially great find of 2010 to be dampened by an inability to chew.We did fulfil a long-awaited must-try though - Patisserie Glace, at Icon Village in Tanjong Pagar (another doomed to desertion mall).

Their opening hours are highly inconvenient, closing at 7 pm on weekdays so we can't go after work, and there isn't much in the area to entice to drive all the way in on a weekend. Still, doing some research on Japanese Strawberry Shortcake recipes has whet my appetite for Japanese desserts in general, so on Sunday we had lunch at Maxwell, then made our way to Icon.

Be warned – this place is purely a shopfront; there’s no space to sit and eat the pastries, maybe with a cup of coffee. Which is quite a pity, because we were prepared to have a leisurely dessert there, sitting there sampling their cakes and pastries.

We tried their Strawberry Souffle cheese cake, and the Maison, so named because it’s shaped like a house. The Strawberry Souffle was a super light cheese cake with fresh strawberries – right up my alley but I wasn’t blown away. A chose the Maison, which has 4 different types of sponge cake and 4 types of cream – green tea, chocolate, vanilla and coffee. I think that ended up being a bit too complicated as a result.

They also have Rin Rin ice cream cheese tarts which we couldn’t resist. These cheese tarts on a cookie base can keep a little longer since they can be stored in the freezer. We tried 4 flavours – original, earl grey, organic green tea and caramel. I think my favourite was the original, followed by the caramel.

The desserts here are good, but somehow I think the ones at Tampopo Deli are better. Plus the inconvenient opening hours and location of Patisserie Glace really don’t do it any favours.

A says:

It’s not bad, but whether it’s worth a special trip down; I don’t know.

Patisserie Glace
12 Gopeng Street
#01-33/34 Icon Village
Tel: 6400-0247
Mon-Fri: 11 am – 7 pm
Sat, Sun & Public Holidays: 11 am – 6 pm

Sunday, April 18, 2010


C says:

Jing at One Fullerton is part of the Majestic Group of restaurants, so we had pretty high expectations when we came here for Sunday brunch to celebrate cousin L’s birthday. They have a very decent a la carte weekend brunch buffet for $38++, plus if you pay with a DBS credit card, one dines free with every 3 paying adults.

The menu is pretty comprehensive, but be warned that there are some misrepresentations. The Peking duck station is no longer duck, but roast chicken. Yes, it was still quite tasty but a bit of a letdown when one is expecting duck, to get basic roast chicken instead.

We went pretty overboard and ordered one of almost everything on the menu. We started off with the dim sum, but apart from the deep fried scallop in filo pastry, none of the others really stood out. I think the problem was that despite the many varieties, they all ended up tasting like glorified har kau.

Things started looking up when the ‘proper’ food arrived. This is definitely their stronger suit. Most of the dishes were good, like the pork belly fried with garlic and snow peas, the steamed Chilean sea bass and the wok fried black pepper beef. Each table is also entitled to an order each of the deep fried soon hock, and chilli crab with man tou. We lapped up the chilli crab gravy with almost everything.

The service on Sunday was slightly wanting – a teacup had lipstick on it (not ours!), and when we asked for it to be changed, they gave us a fresh cup but failed to fill it with tea till we asked. Food came quite slowly too, and they made a few mistakes with our orders.

Having eaten at Jing on a weekday for a team lunch with my colleagues, I have to say that the weekend brunch is not the best representation of their food quality or their service. On a regular day, their food is similar to the standard at Majestic, but the same certainly can’t be said for the brunch. Overall, it’s a good spread at a very decent price, but I think I’ll take their regular menu in future.

A says:

Definitely good value for the $38++ price. There’s a decent mix of dishes of generally good quality, but really, there’s nothing I’d rave about or have me eager to go back. And except for the senior wait staff, the service was very blur.

I’d recommend this place if you’re giving a small treat for family or foreign guests. They’ll probably enjoy the view. Other than that, prob not.

One Fullerton, #01-02/03
Tel: 6224-0088
Lunch: 11.45 am – 3 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm – 11 pm

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tomi Sushi

C says:

We decided to explore the new Parco Millenia Walk tonight. After some trouble actually finding it (we had to walk through all of Harvey Norman), we headed for Level 3 which houses most of the eateries – mainly Japanese with a lone Italian joint thrown in for good measure.

There were enormous snaking queues outside both ramen joints – Keisuke and Nantsuttei – but because we didn’t feel like ramen, we decided to try Tomi Sushi, which is apparently the first overseas outpost of a third-generation family restaurant in Japan.

I was a bit surprised at the prices on the menu, because the Sunday Lifestyle article had painted it to be a fairly reasonable sushi restaurant, when in reality this is quality food, so you do pay for it.

The word that springs to mind about the food here is refined. You can tell that a lot of care has been taken in preparing and presenting the food, and almost everything tasted good. We ordered a Sushi Gozen set ($54), which came with a massive array of dishes. This is definitely enough to share – a yuzu-scented chawanmushi, a sushi platter, assorted sashimi, tempura, miso soup, grilled teriyaki cod and a delightful pickled salmon dish.

The tempura was a slight letdown, but then again prior to this, our last tempura experience was at Ten-Ichi so perhaps that’s not a very fair comparison. The sushi was very good – very well cooked rice, and the grilled cod was excellent. Only criticism is that there were a few bones in the cod.

We also ordered a Sashimi Moriwase for one person, and were stunned when an elaborately arranged work of art appeared. The salmon sashimi was rich and fatty, the maguro was very meaty, and I particularly enjoyed the ebi sashimi.

You can tell that this place takes their food seriously, as they have separate soy sauces for sushi and for sashimi, and they make a special effort to point this out to you when they serve the food.

There’s no doubt that this place serves very good quality food, but does it justify the rather high prices? I guess it depends on what you compare it with. It’s certainly not on the same price range as Sushi Tei, but it probably is relatively cheaper than some of the higher end sushi restaurants out there.

A says:

The service is excellent and some bits were pretty good. But I think you pay for presentation more than anything else. I don’t think it’s worth the relatively high price.

Tomi Sushi
Parco Millenia Walk, #03-04
Tel: 6333-4633

Friday, April 16, 2010

Orange Clove catering

C says:

We were contacted by a representative from Neo Group, an F&B company with several arms, including a fairly new high-end catering company called Orange Clove. They were holding a Bloggers Night and invited us to attend for a food sampling and a presentation about the company.

Their aim is to elevate catering to something more than just a convenient option that sacrifices taste and quality – a bit like Purple Sage, really. Veering towards “fine dining” catering, they provide proper cutlery and porcelain-looking melamine plates, attractive serving dishes rather than just standard silver chafing dishes, and table decor that includes flowers and tea lights. They also pride themselves on ensuring that the quality of the food isn’t sacrificed just because of the logistics of a large event.

We didn’t try everything at the food tasting, but what we did have definitely had potential. The mushroom bruschetta was good, I liked that they used new potatoes for their roast potato salad, and there was an asparagus and snapper fillet roll with miso butter sauce that was very good. Some dishes had room for improvement though, like the honey chicken which tasted good but would really have benefitted from using boneless pieces of chicken.

Desserts were quite good, particularly the mini cheesecakes. They also do customised cupcakes (tonight’s had the Orange Clove logo on them), which, after you peel off the thick marzipan coating, yielded a surprisingly moist cupcake.

We’re not big users of the catering market, so I don’t think we’ll ever get a chance to use them, but they seem to be an interesting option if you want a slightly more spiffy presentation.

A says:

Sadly, the spread was very small so I can’t give a proper critique. I’ll just agree with what C says.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Professor Brawn Cafe

C says:

This cafe with a social conscience took the place of Mingles at Novena Square. Gone are the large screen TVs with Christina Aguilera concert footage blaring, and in their place are gaudily painted walls with facts, quotes and information on the cafe’s crusade – “A Social Enterprise providing affordable good food by an inclusive quality workforce comprising people of different abilities, ages and socio-economic backgrounds.”

The food is similar to that offered at Mingles, so except for the decor you may initially think it was the same restaurant. They have sausages and rosti, BBQ ribs, roast chicken and fish and chips – generic cafe food. They have pretty good value sets - $13.90 for a soup of the day, a main course and a drink.

The soup of the day was clam chowder. This was very ordinary – the soup was thin, and there were more potatoes than anything else, and barely any clams. The only interesting thing about it was that it was served in a tea cup. A had the fish and chips and I had the sausage (pork bratwurst) with rosti. The fish and chips was the breaded, not battered kind, which was right up A’s alley.

When my sausage arrived, it was a bit pink when I cut into it and also slightly soft. Being worried that it was undercooked pork and I may end up with food poisoning, I asked them to grill it just a bit longer. When they brought it back, I realised they had completely replaced it with a new sausage – they meant well, but that kinda defeated the purpose of my sending it back for a longer cooking time. Anyway, they did a slightly better job on the second one.

The staff are polite and I do appreciate their cause. Opened by a couple with an autistic son, they try to employ autistic youngsters to give them a start in the workforce. With that in mind, I can overlook the fact that the food was, though fairly decent, very generic and nothing particularly noteworthy.

A says:

The service is reasonable and the food’s okay. Prices may be high for the type of place it is, but the portions are big and the money goes to a good cause.

Professor Brawn Cafe
#02-78/79 Novena Square
Tel: 6253-4650

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Portuguese egg tarts from... KFC?

C says:

I was stunned, and I must say not a little apprehensive, when I saw the ad heralding Portuguese egg tarts at KFC. Since when are fried chicken and egg tarts an instinctive combination? And what makes KFC think they can pull off a traditional dessert, when so far all their offerings have been of the deep fried rectangular pie variety?

Well, these certainly can’t rival the ones from Macau, but to be fair they don’t purport to try. So I have to give them credit – these actually weren’t half bad. The pastry was a little oily and a bit tough to the bite, but the filling was decent and not too sweet.

They cost $1.30 each, or 6 for $7.50.

A says:

Surprisingly, it didn’t suck. I like the filling but the pastry is very blah.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Rocks Urban Grill + Bar

C says:

Rocks is part of the Emmanuel Stroobant Group, so expect to find similar pizzas to those that you can find at Picotin, as well as some very good grilled items. I had lunch here once and was so enamoured with some of the offerings that eventually I dragged A here for dinner on Friday night after work.

At first glance, the prices seem quite standard for smart casual bistros, but when you see the portions, you realise that prices are on the high side. The beef maki starter is excellent – rocket and parmesan rolled within a thin slice of beef, sliced to resemble maki sushi, and served sizzling on a hot rock with a ponzu sauce on the side. But at $24 for 3 tiny pieces, this really doesn’t come cheap.

The scallop carpaccio came in a slightly bigger portion – thinly sliced scallops served with olives, frisee salad and truffle mousse. This was just as good as the beef maki. The scallops were fresh and very sweet, and I like how the truffle enhanced but didn’t overwhelm the scallops.

One of the main reasons I wanted to return here was the twice cooked Kurobuta pork cutlet. Simply grilled and served with just a squeeze of lemon to bring out the natural juices of the pork, this is a really good pork chop. I fancy it was better (and bigger) when I first came here for lunch though, but taste-wise it was just as good. The pork was sweet, juicy and tender, and marinated with a blend of herbs that I just can’t put my finger on.

While the proteins were quite modestly portioned, they had no such qualms with the carbs. The side order of truffle mash that we ordered was absolutely huge, and a pretty good bargain at $8. This was comfort food at its best, and didn’t taste as sinful as I expected. There was an oddly disconcerting chunk of potato amidst the smooth silkiness of the mash, and I still don’t know if it was intentional, to add some texture, or did they simply miss a chunk in the mashing?

We shared the cheese board for dessert, since it seemed to have a good selection of cheeses that we liked – parmesan, vieux comte, camembert and gorgonzola. They took quite a long time to bring me a small dish of honey to accompany the gorgonzola; first they brought out a diluted honey, thinking that we wanted it for the latte that A ordered. After I told them I wanted it neat, it took an inordinately long time for them to bring it, but at least it finally arrived.

Food here is definitely good, though the starters certainly don’t come cheap. I think a better bet would be to have a grilled main course and a pizza instead. Given that the place is right opposite my office, it’s a good bet if we’re feeling lazy and unadventurous on a Friday night. Views are also quite lovely, especially once the Marina Bay IR is completed.

A says:

Very good. Worth coming back.

Rocks Urban Grill + Bar
2 Marina Boulevard
#02 – 01/02, The Sail
Tel: 6438-4404
Mon to Sat: 11.30 am – 2 pm; 6.30 pm – 12 mn

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Melt the World Cafe – Buffet at Mandarin Oriental

C says:

We’re generally not buffet people, but I must say that this buffet is right up our alley. I’m not one for main courses at buffets, because I always feel that no matter how perfectly cooked a dish is at the start, it simply cannot stand up to being kept in a warmer for hours while it steadily overcooks. We therefore usually head for the starters or the sashimi sections, the carving stations, and food cooked a la minute, like pasta made to order. Melt has all these aplenty.

This is our second trip here; both were with my brother and his family. We regretted not writing about this the first time, so this time we made a point to snap pictures of the food when we first arrived, before everything got messed up by hungry diners.

What really gets me is their cold cuts and cheese section, which is where I camped out for most of the evening. They have an incredible selection of cheeses, breads and grilled antipasti. Tonight actually wasn’t as good as the first time we were here, when they had a great camembert and blue cheese. The cheeses tonight were a bit more unorthodox but still very good. Tip: ask them for a jar of honey to pair with some of the stronger cheeses – delicious!

They also have a leg of parma ham with the slices displayed on top. The quality was good – a deep red hue and not overly salty. But by far what takes the cake for me is their duck rillette – an entire terrine dish of fatty goodness that only we seemed to be taking. The other diners simply don’t know what they’re missing.

They have a good selection of sashimi and sushi too, though I steered clear tonight in favour of the cheeses. Their smoked salmon is good too, especially since they provide mini bagels and a chive cream cheese for you to assemble your very own smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.

The main courses to me are secondary, but the standout ones are actually at the Indian/tandoor station. They have freshly made naans, and their tandoori offerings are very good indeed – juicy tandoori chicken, prawns and lamb chops.

I was too full to have much dessert, but the variety is quite impressive. They have a chocolate fountain with many different skewers, freshly made waffles that are light-as-air, 8 ice cream flavours, mini cakes and puddings, nonya kuehs and an ice kachang station.

Besides a la carte buffets and not counting the uber expensive Sunday champagne brunches that are so popular nowadays, if I want a good buffet with quality food, Melt is definitely my choice.

A says:

Probably one of my preferred buffets in Singapore.

Melt the World Cafe
Mandarin Oriental Singapore
4th Floor
Tel: 6338-0066
Breakfast: 6.30 am – 10.30 am
Lunch: 12 noon – 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
Sunday brunch: 12 noon – 3 pm


C says:

Poor Iluma mall. It has some potential, but a combination of factors has led to it being virtually a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon. For one, it opened at quite an unfortunate time, because before the general public (ourselves included) could really decide to check it out, the Orchard mega malls (ION, then Orchard Central and 313 Somerset) soon followed suit. With that kind of competition, a fledgling mall like Iluma without any major anchor tenant simply didn’t stand a chance.

Another, and perhaps more significant, reason is the fact that the link bridge from Bugis Junction to Iluma doesn’t actually connect to the inside of Bugis. It stops just a couple of feet short, and you have to take the escalator down and walk along the perimeter of Bugis Junction till you reach an entrance.

As a result, the shops here are forlorn and deserted, and I’m not sure how long this can last; already there are signs of stores that have closed down. The restaurants don’t fare very much better either, which is a pity because there are some rather interesting joints, like Ebiboshi Shotengai, a Japanese food court on the 4th floor.

This looks like it came right out of a Sapporo department store (it looked rather like Ramen Republic, actually). The food court actually houses 3 independent restaurants – a izakaya/yakitori place, a shabu shabu hotpot, and a generic Japanese sushi/udon/ramen place. We tried the izakaya place – Tsubohachi, which is apparently a chain from Japan. The menu is quite varied, from sashimi to dons and yakitori, and prices are fairly decent (we spent about $20 per person).

We tried a selection of yakitori – rice cake wrapped with bacon, tomato and bacon, chicken wing, grilled pork belly and chicken topped with cheese. The chicken wing was perfectly cooked – crispy yet still juicy and tender. The pork belly was good but I would have preferred an option of having it grilled with salt, rather than teriyaki sauce. The grilled rice cake was a bit of a letdown. I expected more of a crispy char on the rice cake, but it was mostly a heavy, gluey mess. This sank to our stomach really quickly and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

We also had the deep fried squid legs – perhaps a mistake with the memory of Hokkaido grilled squid still fresh in our memories. Still, despite this being a bit on the oily side, these were actually quite addictive.

The octopus omelette was a pleasant surprise. It was a bit watery, probably from stock in the beaten egg that leached out during cooking, but the flavours were good and they were pretty generous with the octopus.

Service is good but the food is a bit on the slow side. I wouldn’t mind coming back to try the other 2 joints in the food court, but being one of a handful of customers can be quite disconcerting, and I just get depressed when I see shops and restaurants looking empty and forlorn.

A says:

The food’s not exactly great, but surprisingly not bad. It just tends to be overly seasoned and on the salty or greasy side.

I’d probably come back here if I ever return to this depressingly empty mall.

201 Victoria Street
Iluma, #04-08/09/10
Tel: 6835-7056
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 10.30 pm
Fri to Sun and PH: 11.30 am – 10.30 pm

Friday, April 02, 2010

Bacon sarnie from Bergs Burgers

C says:

I know we weren’t particularly complimentary of the burgers here when we first tried them. Well, we haven’t been back for their burgers since, but A works pretty close by and he tried their bacon sandwich one day, raved about it and ordered a couple to go for a late dinner on Wednesday night.

At $4, this is quite a steal. Generously piled with bacon, a slice of cheese and a fried egg (nary a vegetable in sight) on a hamburger bun, this is a hangover cure at its best. Plus the bacon comes with the rind, quite a rare sight these days, and I do appreciate the chewy texture that it adds.

But, and there is a but, I would advise against having this on a regular basis. Yes it’s a delicious piece of bacon heaven, but it’s really oily and not in a good way. I’m generally not one to steer clear of fat, but this was dripping with oil and not just the natural juices and oils from the bacon. I tasted burger grease as well, so I figure everything was fried in burger fat that had built up throughout the day. It’s no wonder that I promptly fell ill with a throat infection the next day, and A followed suit the day after.

A says:

Awesome. Almost makes up for the guilt you feel after eating it.

Bergs Burgers
137 Amoy Street
#01-01 Far East Square
Tel: 6438-6505
Mon – Sat: 10 am to 10 pm