Sunday, July 25, 2010

Burger Bench & Bar

C says:

Opened by the Wild Rocket group, Burger Bench & Bar (B3) is kinda like Relish’s teenage sibling. Located at Orchard Cineleisure, B3 is fast food style – you order at the single counter, then take a seat with a number to wait for them to serve you your order.

The burgers here are on average $8, so at half the price of Relish’s burgers, don’t expect gourmet-style burgers, or the ability to request for your preferred doneness. These are no-frills burgers, but at the same time are damn tasty ones, and quite good value for money given the quality.

A had the beef burger with mayo and sundried tomato relish, and I had the beef burger with cheese and sautéed mushrooms. The patties are quite juicy, flavourful and not overdone. I like the shredded cabbage that provides a good alternative to iceberg lettuce. I really enjoyed mine cos I’m a sucker for a good mushroom and cheese burger. A’s was on hindsight quite similar to the Wild Rocket burger but also good.

Naturally, we also ordered the fried chicken wings with the chef’s chilli sauce dip. I maintain that you really can’t screw up chicken wings, and this is no exception. The wings were well fried – not greasy and very juicy and tender, and the chilli dip looked nondescript but packed quite a punch.

They have a home-made soft serve dark chocolate ice cream too, which we thought would be an interesting change from the pale brown versions you get at buffets like Sizzler. This is not for the faint hearted. The chocolate was quite potent and intense – great for chocoholics but a bit too strong for me. Good texture though – very smooth and creamy.

I daresay I’d rather come here for good, simple burgers than the slightly ponced out ones at Relish. They’re half the price, but certainly not proportionately less tasty.

A says:

Good and very affordable (except for the over-priced drinks which are essentially canned drinks). And burgers are made to order so while they taste better than any other fast food burger, it’s hardly fast to be served. I’d still highly recommend it though. Definitely the best thing at Orchard Cineleisure.

Burger Bench & Bar
#01-02 Cathay Orchard Cineleisure
Tel: 6737-9947
Open daily: 12 noon to 11 pm

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pudong Kitchen

C says:

This is very much a post in progress, because I’m not quite sure what to make of Pudong from our first visit here tonight. I feel that on hindsight, what we ordered probably wasn’t representative of the kitchen’s specialties. Being a Shanghainese restaurant, we went the safe route and ordered the zha jiang mian, the xiao long bao and a “Pudong special fried rice”.

I like the texture of the noodles – very al dente and springy. The sauce was tasty, but not like other zha jiang mians that I’m used to. Normally it’s minced pork and maybe some soft tofu, but here they had very rustically large cubes of tau kwa and pork.

The xiao long bao was very reasonably priced – 6 for just $6. They were bursting with soup, and the soup and pork was very sweet, but (and I feel like an idiot saying this...) I found that maybe it was a tad too artificially sweet. I would have preferred it to be slightly more savoury.

The fried rice was quite forgettable; not very wok hei, and it had the dreaded carrot dice and green peas – 2 ingredients that, in my opinion, add no value to fried rice besides colour, and who cares about aesthetics in a fried rice, right?

The rest of the menu is quite diverse, and I think we need to do it justice by trying some of their dishes with plain rice. Another table ordered an eel dish that looked really good. I won’t go so far as to order their Matsutake Chicken Soup or Morel Chicken Soup though, which require pre-ordering and cost a staggering $98 and $140 respectively.

So, watch this space, another review will follow in due course.

A says:

We had some good simple food. We’ll definitely be back to try the many pages of chef’s recommendations to see how good those are.

Pudong Kitchen
271 Bukit Timah Road
#B1-02 Balmoral Plaza
Daily: 11 am to 2.30 pm; 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm

Friday, July 16, 2010

Awfully Chocolate Vivocity

C says:

The Vivocity outlet is one of 3 new Awfully Chocolate concept stores, selling new items in addition to their standard chocolate fudge cakes. At the new concept stores, you can get chocolate truffles, cupcakes, cold poached chocolate, super stacked chocolate cake and, the main reason for our coming here, a white chocolate salty butterscotch block.

The white chocolate block is sold by weight rather than by slice ($6.50 per 100g) – they cut slices from a big block according to what you want. When I read about this, I was obviously hoping to find a replacement for Arinco King’s salt caramel roll, so maybe it was inevitable that I would be a bit disappointed. As cakes go, this was actually not bad. The chocolate cake was quite light and moist, and at least the cream wasn’t buttercream, but white chocolate whipped cream. I just thought there was too much of it, and not enough caramel. The caramel itself had potential, but I still wish it was saltier. So nope, Arinco King it wasn’t. Damn you, Arinco King, for setting my hopes so high then dashing them by pulling out of Singapore. Who closes down for being too successful?!

The Super Stacked Chocolate Cake was good. It’s basically a more layered, more intense version of their usual chocolate fudge cake. More and thinner layers means there’s a higher cake to fudge ratio, plus apparently they use different types of chocolate for the fudge. All this translates into one hell of a cake. This is also sold by weight – again, $6.50 per 100g.

I had high hopes for the Chocolate Cupcakes, but I found them too chocolate-y. The cake was the usual chocolate cake, but the lighter brown chocolate icing was more like a thick, almost mousse-like layer. The dollop of dark chocolate fudge was good, though.

We didn’t get to try the cold poached chocolate because it’s almost like ice cream, and doesn’t keep well (we were heading to a friend’s place for dinner and were bringing dessert). They have seating in the store now so maybe when we’re next at Vivo we’ll stop here to try it.

Currently, the 3 concept stores are at Vivo, Kallang Leisurepark and East Coast Road, but apparently 2 new ones are opening at Ion and Raffles City.

A says:

A bit rich for my blood but I can see why people like it. Definitely a must-try at least.

Awfully Chocolate
1 Harbourfront Walk
#01-156 Vivocity
Tel: 6410-9725
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Billy Bomber’s

C says:

Again, we only found ourselves at the Billy Bombers at Jurong Point because A’s folks had a voucher for a $1 party platter that they were keen to use. Talk about a blast from the past… We went without any expectations, and decided to order fairly ‘safe’ offerings.

I ordered a dinner set that came with the soup of the day (mushroom), half rack of ribs and a soft drink (which I upgraded to a chocolate milkshake for A). The mushroom soup boded quite well – it didn’t taste like canned soup so I thought we were off to a fairly ok start.

We were given a selection of sauces for the ribs – original, apricot and whiskey. I decided to play it safe and went with original. I also don’t like my meats slathered in gravy, so I asked for the sauce to be served on the side. I found the ribs a bit overcooked; they fell off the bone fairly easily but were quite tough to chew and pretty dry.

A ordered a basic burger and added cheese, bacon and a fried egg. To give them credit, they asked him how he wanted his burger done, which again boded well, but in reality it was quite so-so.

We only ordered 2 set dinners and one main course for 4 of us, because we shared the $1 platter amongst ourselves. The bill came up to just under $100, which to be fair isn’t very high, but at the same time I think we can get cheaper, and better food, elsewhere.

A says:

The only reason to come here is to have milkshake.
And my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.
Damn straight, it’s better than yours.

C says:

I disclaim all responsibility for A’s posts.

Billy Bombers
1 Jurong West Central 2
#02-20E Jurong Point
Tel: 6795-7690
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm

Saturday, July 10, 2010

San-Sui Sumiyaki & Tsuki Bar

C says:

If you try to google “yakitori + Fullerton”, which is what we did when we tried to remember the name of this restaurant, you end up with Tori Tama. However they’ve changed their name to Sansui, apparently because they’ve started offering more than just classic chicken yakitori. (Since tori means chicken, their previous name gave the impression that it was strictly a chicken parts place.)

This place, located right opposite Butter Factory at One Fullerton, has quite a wide range of options, and an equally wide range of prices. They have chargrilled foie gras for $17, a single chilled Japanese tomato for $12, and some Angus beef ribeye dishes for over $20, but at the same time their regular skewers are within a more reasonable price range of $3 to $8 each.

We ordered too much tonight to list everything that we consumed. We’ll just mention some of the better items. The lamb chop ($10) was definitely one of the highlights – really tender, juicy and nicely charred lamb fat. One of our friends ordered the foie gras, which came with sautéed apples. He claims that the foie gras was even better than the lamb, so now I’m quite curious to try this next time.

The chicken liver skewer was wonderfully creamy, and I liked the plain pork belly one too. A few misses were the cheese skewer, which was a bit plasticky and lacking much cheese flavour (probably used a very basic mozzarella), and the pork belly with ginger roll, which turned out to be the pink sushi ginger that ended up overwhelming everything else.

They do a kick-ass potato mentai here as well – lots of mentaiko (cod roe), cheese and some ikura for additional flavour. I also like that they use new potatoes with the skins on, which adds even more texture and flavour. Our table ordered one of these, raved about it and promptly ordered another 2 more…

If all the grilled protein gets too much for you, they do a very good raw vegetable salad for only $5. They give you a few sticks of cucumber, Japanese yam and lots of raw cabbage, for dipping into a spicy miso paste. The Japanese yam isn’t my thing, the cucumber wasn’t bad, but what I really liked was the cabbage. It was amazingly fresh and sweet, without any hint of bitterness at all.

Again, some trial and error is required, and I’m sure this isn’t the best sumiyaki place in Singapore, but overall this is a nice after work place for those in the Shenton Way area, or perhaps for an audaciously leisurely lunch (because yes, they can be quite slow).

A says:

What C said. Probably the best in the Shenton Way area, but definitely not the best in Singapore. There are much better yakitori places around Cuppage Centre alone.

San-Sui Sumiyaki & Tsuki Bar
One Fullerton Road
#01-05 One Fullerton
Tel: 6423-1555
Mon–Fri: 12pm – 3pm (Lunch)
Mon–Sat: 6pm – 10.30pm (Dinner)

Nonya Delicatessen

C says:

Quick post, because we were too busy digging into our food to take any photos… This little kiosk in Bukit Timah Plaza is somewhat of a cult classic amongst regular patrons of the mall. They only serve a few dishes – mee siam, prawn noodles, mee rebus, laksa, nasi lemak and nasi kunyit (on selected days). They’re apparently known for their kueh-kuehs too.

They usually sell out by late afternoon, so whenever we’re here after work we never get a chance to eat here. Today we went grocery shopping at lunchtime instead so decided to join the queue. Note: the place has limited seats and is self service, so I would recommend someone holding a table while another person orders the food, so that you’re not stuck in a position with a tray full of food and no where to sit.

We ordered the mee siam and the nasi kunyit, and also got some kuehs for dessert – the green and brown kind rolled in coconut (sorry, don't know the names…), and an interesting chendol agah-agah.

The mee siam broth was thinner than usual but still quite tasty. They’re pretty generous with the ingredients too – at least 3 decent-sized prawns inside. The chicken curry in the nasi kunyit was good – nice and rich, but I would have like the chicken to be slightly more tender. It was a little overcooked.

Overall, I can understand the long queues. Best to come early, to beat the queues for one, but while we were eating I also heard that they’d run out of the nasi kunyit already.

A says:

Old school and yummy. The only drawback is the queue. And I don’t know if it’s really worth queuing up for.

Nonya Delicatessen
Bukit Timah Plaza
Tel: 6469 1166

Friday, July 09, 2010

La Strada

C says:

This is only our second visit to La Strada, the first being for lunch a year and a half ago. One of the reasons we’ve refrained from going back was the perhaps erroneous assumption that it was a formal, chi-chi place, but they must have revamped somewhat because on Friday night it was decidedly unintimidating, with one guy even dressed in cargo shorts and slippers.

Alas, as part of that revamp I think they streamlined the menu. This should teach me to wait ages before trying out a restaurant that I’ve had my eye on. A while back, I read a few articles on some “new” offerings at La Strada, including an Italian sausage risotto and an octopus pasta. I hoped to order them tonight but both were no longer on the menu. Sigh.

I was craving a risotto, and they only have one on the menu – Risotto of the Day, done all’onda style. I googled before coming here, and found that “all’onda” means “the wave”, and it refers to that oozing, flowing movement that a good risotto should have. Not so soupy that it sloshes around, and not so thick that it just stays put when you tip the plate. That, combined with the fact that it takes about 20 minutes to prepare, definitely bode well.

The Risotto for the day was parmesan and saffron. That’s it, with no other ingredient. A plate of pure carbs… Gulp. Still, I had my heart set on risotto so that’s what I had to have. It didn’t disappoint. Yes, I would’ve liked some form of ingredient in it, to break the monotony somewhat – mushroom, sausage, anything. But taste and texture wise, I couldn't fault it. The rice was al dente, it was indeed perfectly oozy, and the flavours were really intense.

One of their specials is the mud-crab tagliolini, and we decided to share it as a starter. The tagliolini is hand made and had a good bite to it, and the dish was prepared aglio olio style with nice clean flavours. This wasn’t bad, but quite forgettable once the risotto arrived.

A decided to have the Chilean sea bass, which turned out to be rolled with pancetta. Again, not too bad but it doesn’t come close to Ember’s standard of fish preparation.

The risotto clearly hadn’t settled in my stomach yet, because we felt that we could manage desserts. I had the salted chocolate mousse cake served with orange sorbet, and A had a special dessert platter, with tasting portions of a chocolate tart, tiramisu and earl grey sorbet.

My cake turned out to be like a Le Royale (from Canele), with interesting moments of salted caramel in some mouthfuls. I didn’t like the crust of A’s chocolate tart – it seemed like they just poured chocolate ganache into store-bought tart shells. The filling wasn’t too bad though. I absolutely loved the earl grey sorbet, and wished that my cake came with that instead of the orange.

The limited menu here means there’s a limit to how often I can come, and how much risotto I can eat with a clear conscience. Now that it’s a lot more casual than we initially thought, it’s a pretty decent Friday night option since advance reservations don't seem to be essential.

A says:

It’s not something I’d rave about; nothing fantastic, but still a nice, friendly place to have a decent meal. In fact, I’d describe everything on the menu as good, but having a “but” to it.

The mud-crab tagliolini was pretty good but I was put off because it still had some shell in it.

C’s risotto was very good, but a whole plate of it would just be jelak.

My Chilean sea bass was good, but nothing that will have me coming back.

Highlight of the meal – the awesome sherbets included in the desserts. You should definitely save space for the dessert here. And the desserts aren’t small so I recommend sharing (but then you’ll end up fighting for the sherbet... hmmm...)

Overall, I think unless we’re really craving Italian in the area, I’d rather go to the Canteen (which has a new menu with some awesome waffles).

La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#02-10/11 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6737-2555
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Le Bon Marche

C says:

Finally made it to Bon Marche! We came on Sunday with W and M, and unfortunately were about half an hour too late for breakfast. On hindsight, this was actually a good thing, because it eliminated a few choices from an already very enticing menu.

Bon Marche started out as more of a delicatessen when it was still in Tiong Bahru. When they recently moved to Alocassia Apartments, I think they expanded their dining menu and added greater seating capacity. The restaurant itself emits a very casual unassuming vibe, reminiscent of a rustic neighbourhood café.

However don’t let the casual ambience fool you, because the quality of the food and (especially) the prices are considerably high end. I think some trial and error is required, before figuring out what best to order, and what isn’t quite worthwhile.

Case in point – the salmon platter that A ordered cost $25, for a few slivers of smoked salmon, a few blinis and a dollop of sour cream. The word platter to me denotes something fairly sizeable, so we were very disappointed with this. They have cheese and charcuterie platters too, but after this experience, I think we’ll still go back to La Fromagerie for our cheese and charcuterie fix.

In contrast, the Berkshire pork cheek “Chacutiere” was, at $35, a lot more reasonable for the portion size and the quality. In fact, I think this was one of the best dishes that we tried. The pork was fork-tender, moist and very flavourful, and came with creamy mashed potatoes and a killer mushroom sauce. We ordered this last, after the disappointing salmon arrived, so we were quite full by the time this came, but we still polished off the entire plate.

W had the Croque Monsieur, which was a very decent portion size for just $12. The filling was ham, cheese and tomato, and the combination went down very well. If you’re not up for a huge meal, this is good for a light snack.

M’s porcini risotto wasn’t too bad. Not sure if this fulfils my risotto yearning, but it was better than the ones I’ve had recently (which isn’t saying much). Quite flavourful, and the portion size was good. While some restaurants mean well in trying to give you value for money, large portions of risotto just don’t work because of the jelak factor.

We shared the Alsace tart, which turned out to be more like a skinny pizza and less like a tart. Flavours were good – we had the bacon, Emmenthal and onion one – and it was very light and easy to eat. This is great for sharing with a small group.

Finally (and I know it sounds like we’re absolute pigs), we shared the Raclette, which comes with some crusty baguette and a plate of air dried beef. Frankly, I could’ve done without the beef, and had a plate of cornichons instead, to add some much needed acid to the cheesy raclette. But other than that, this was fabulous. The cheese had a wonderfully rich, smokey and slightly charred flavour – so absolutely unhealthy but oh so divine.

So far, I’ve been quite impressed with Le Bon Marche, and I’m very keen to try more of the menu, to find out which are hits and which are (hopefully fewer) misses.

A says:

I’d give it 8/10. Some dishes like the pork were phenomenal. Some, like the salmon platter, were good but horribly overpriced for the amount you get.

I’ll be back though.

Le Bon Marche
383 Bukit Timah Road
#01-01 Alocassia Apartments
Tel: 6226-3269
Tues to Fri: 10 am to 10.30 pm
Sat & Sun: 9 am to 10.30 pm
Closed Mondays