Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ju Shin Jung Korean Charcoal BBQ

C says:

After an absolutely miserable wet weekend, the rain let up for a brief period on Sunday evening so we decided to walk out to the Korean bbq place across the road from our place. I’ve heard that the place is quite popular with Koreans, but was warned that prices weren’t low.

We ordered a couple of grilled meats, since that’s what they’re supposed to be famous for. At about $20 and up for the meats, it was definitely true that this place isn’t cheap. We went for a beef short rib ($36), and a honeycomb pork belly ($28). We also ordered a kimchi soup, since I have to have kimchi at a Korean restaurant.

We sat back, expecting just a light meal of soup and some grilled meat. Suddenly a waitress appeared with a gazillion plates till our table was full to overflowing. So much for a simple meal! I guess when you order the grilled meats, all the side dishes are included. There were loads, from two different types of kimchi, cold tofu, ikan bilis, to a sweet potato salad and a sweet fritter of sorts.

The cabbage kimchi was excellent – slightly spicy and garlicky, and perfect with hot white rice. The tofu was good too, as was the stir fried bean sprouts. On hindsight, since all these are included with the grill, the prices aren’t that astronomical after all.

The meats were ok, but the pork belly was a bit tough. I think we need a while to experiment with the various cuts of meat, to find out what’s the best (and also best value…).

The kimchi soup at $12 came with a bowl of rice and was chockfull of ingredients like cabbage, tofu and pork belly. This is a good deal, and I think if we want something simple (for real this time), we’ll just come and have a soup and maybe a bibimbap or a noodle dish.

I dare say that I enjoyed this a lot more than A, so as much as I want to come back quite soon, it’s going to take some convincing.

A says:

omg. I thought it was just meat with the order. We got a freaking flood of side dishes, most of which were great.

Just fyi for newbies so you don’t look as silly as we did, the small pill-like things are dehydrated wet towels. Add a little water and watch the magic happen.

Also, the large dish of veggies they give is to wrap the meat in. Next time, I don’t think I’ll need rice at all.

Ju Shin Jung Korean Charcoal BBQ
27 West Coast Highway
#01-18/19 YESS Centre
Tel: 6464-0872

Friday, January 28, 2011


C says:

Another random visit on a Friday evening, Alli Oli is actually part of the Four Seasons Gourmet Supermarket at the Marina Bay Link Mall. They have a cheese and charcuterie counter, but also a little sit-down section where you can order small bites and sandwiches. It’s quite funny that if they need any ingredients, they just walk through to the supermarket to grab them.

We had a salami and emmenthal cheese sandwich, an omelette with bacalau (salt cod), a plate of anchovies and a mushroom risotto.

The sandwich was very simple – literally just baguette with slices of salami and cheese, but strangely it was quite good as you could therefore taste both ingredients without being overshadowed by vegetables or dressing.

Maybe ordering both anchovies and the salt cod omelette in the same meal wasn’t the best idea. Both were good but also very salty. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the omelette.

The risotto was quite ordinary, but not the worst that I’ve tried. Given that this is a simple deli set-up, I can’t really complain.

This place is good if you’re in the mood for a light bite, but only one person runs everything so don’t expect a fast food experience.

A says:

Pretty good. Portions are tiny for the price but that’s what you’d expect. Definitely an option, although not one at the top of the list.

#B2-49 Marina Ball Link Mall
Tel: 6634-4726
Open daily: 9 am to 2 pm; 6 pm to 9 pm

Monday, January 24, 2011

Freshness Burger

C says:

We stupidly didn’t try Freshness Burger while we were in Japan, opting instead for Lucky Pierrot when we were in Hokkaido. So we were pretty keen to try Freshness when they opened in Singapore, but weren’t very keen to venture to the new Nex mall at Serangoon Central, so we’ve been waiting patiently for the outlet at Central at Clarke Quay to open. I think it only opened in the last couple of weeks, and we happily found an excuse to be in the area in order to finally try it.

At first glance, prices seem quite low. Then the burgers arrive and you realise why. They’re tiny! Without sides, each person can easily have 2 burgers, in my opinion. With sides, maybe 3 burgers between 2 people.

Our first order consisted of a Freshness Burger, and a Spam Burger, fries and onion rings. The Freshness Burger is a bit like a Mosburger – meat patty, big slice of tomato, onions and a meat sauce. This was ok but I think Mosburger has a more pronounced beefy flavour.

The Spam Burger, however, was sheer heaven. Soft bun, slice of Spam (Lite – I saw the cans), and a runny sunny side up egg. This was almost like a breakfast burger, and being the Spam whore that I am, I enjoyed this thoroughly. The egg yolks oozes all over the burger, mixing with the mayo and giving it an instant sauce. Mmm…

In terms of sides, the fries and onion rings are apparently both from “Hokkaido Farm”. The fries are more like wedges, so they’re quite filling and probably not worth the carbs when there are so many other burger options to try. The onion rings, however, are stellar. Crispy on the outside, soft and sweet inside, you can tell it’s proper onion and not some processed thing.

Clearly that didn’t satisfy us at all, so on our second round we ordered a hot dog, a side of grilled chicken, and one of their desserts – the popover. I think the burgers are better. The hot dog was alright but I prefer the dogs at Superdog. The grilled chicken was a whole grilled teriyaki chicken thigh, which was pretty nice. The popover was a big choux pastry puff, hollow in the centre, and they provided a miniscule amount of whipped cream to go with it. Again, we’ll pass on this next time.

Definitely going back for their Spam burger and the onion rings. Some other burgers on the menu are calling to me too, like the original burger and the bacon omelette burger. The Clarke Quay branch was pretty empty on Monday night, maybe because not many people realise that it's open yet. The branch at Century Square in Tampines is apparently open as well.

A says:

Awesome onion rings. Too bad they give you so few. And while the Freshness Burger is tasty, it’s very light on meat. Oh, and the hot dog sucked.

Stick to Spam Burger and onion rings for a good but very light and pricey meal.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

True Blue Cuisine

C says:

Our main purpose of coming to True Blue Cuisine today was actually to pick up their Chinese New Year goodies – specifically, the Kueh Kara Kara. I used to have this snack – a crispy snack with slightly caramel hints – back when I was young, only I never knew what it was called. We used to just refer to it as “bee hoon thing”, because of its appearance.

I haven't been able to find them for years, but as of last CNY, True Blue Cuisine has started making them for sale. Their version is even better than those I used to have before – it feels lighter and not as greasy, and the sweetness is perfect.

Since we were there, we decided to stay for lunch as well. The restaurant is located in an old Peranakan house, complete with a lovely skylight inside. Food is served on traditional crockery so delicate that I felt a bit concerned that I might break something.

We ordered the otak, ayam buah keluak, bakwan kepiting soup (pork, crab and prawn balls with bamboo shoot) and stir fried okra. In my opinion, anyone who likes ayam buah keluak will automatically say that the best version they’ve had is their grandmother’s/mother’s etc. I’m unfortunately no exception. My grandma’s buah keluak is the standard to which I compare any buah keluak dish, and more often than not they all fall short. Most places skimp on the buah keluak and it ends up tasting like a glorified assam dish.

The version here ticks all the boxes in terms of buah keluak flavour. They add lots of buah keluak to the filling within the shells, and also add it quite liberally to the gravy itself. My only comment, which is more a matter of taste than a criticism, is that it’s a tad too sour for my liking.

The soup was pretty good but again, due entirely to my personal taste, I didn’t quite like the bits of coriander that “perfumed” the soup. Fishing them out didn’t really help since the flavour had already permeated.

The otak was so so, but we both really liked the okra, which was stir fried in a really good savoury sauce with a hint of spice.

The ambience is nice and you do feel like you’re in a traditional Peranakan home. But methinks we’ll only ever come back here to pick up more of the awesome Kueh Kara Kara every CNY.

A says:

Great service. And good food I guess. But I’m not a connoisseur of Peranakan. The question really is whether it’s as good as your grandmother's.

True Blue Cuisine
49 Armenian Street
Tel: 6440-0449
Open daily: 12 noon to 2.30 pm; 6 pm to 9.30 pm

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kraze Burgers

C says:

We moseyed over to Marina Bay Sands after work on Friday, but weren’t really in the mood to try one of the fancier restaurants. We ended up in the basement, and the choice was either the Rasapura Masters food court, and a standalone burger joint called Kraze. We saw our friends D and L at Kraze and decided to join them.

Kraze is apparently a Korean burger chain, and solely based on the menu, it looked pretty enticing. Unfortunately, it turned out pretty disappointing, and I don’t think it was worth it for the prices.

At least the low-carb burger was passable. This consisted of two burger patties and a sunny side up egg, with a sweet Korean bbq sauce. The actual burger, on the other hand, was pretty bad. The bun was cold, dry and hard, and the rest of the burger was just ordinary and forgettable. There’s apparently an option of normal and wholemeal bun, but we were all given the wholemeal one without any choice.

At an average of $20 per person, this definitely doesn’t warrant a return visit. I think the food court would’ve been a better bet.

A says:

It’s not bad. But it’s not very good either. More like “Yeah, well, whatever.”

Kraze Burgers
#B2-54 Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688-7844

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Donna Carmela

C says:

This branch of Donna Carmela is just a 5 minute walk from our new place, but it’s taken us more than a month of driving by every day on the way home saying “we should really try it one day”, before we made a concerted effort on a quiet, plan-less Sunday evening.

Whenever we pass by, the restaurant isn’t ever empty but it’s never packed to the gills either, and Sunday night was no exception. There were a few tables outdoors enjoying the breeze with a few bottles of wine, and a few more heat-allergic patrons comfortably seeking cool comfort indoors.

At first glance, their menu seems pretty overwhelming, with pages and pages of pastas. But on more careful examination, you realise that the pastas are grouped according to pasta type – “Linguine”, “Tagliatelle”, “Penne”, etc – and for the most part there are many overlaps in the array of sauces. I’m still trying to figure out if this is the best way to present, or whether presenting it by sauce would be a better bet.

What was slightly disappointing is that with so many choices on the menu, after poring over them and deciding what we wanted, some of our choices weren’t available. In which case, isn’t it better to have a more streamlined menu, then ensure that everything on it is available?

Anyway, since they were out of the octopus carpaccio, we ordered the burrata instead, which came with a sizeable amount of salad and cherry tomatoes. Of course, comparisons to the Valentino burrata were inevitable, and the conclusion? Well, it’s one thing to have good produce, but I think where Valentino really shines is that they know how to bring out the best in the produce. While the quality of the burrata here was very good – rich and creamy inside, the dish lacked any form of seasoning. I had to drizzle olive oil over it and sprinkled salt and black pepper to season it, to bring out all the flavours.

A ordered the crab and lobster ravioli with a salmon cream sauce and caviar. This looked rather plain but it was delicious, with the ravioli full of shellfish and going perfectly with the salmon cream sauce.

I ordered the tagliatelle, Donna Carmela-style, which was Italian sausage with a tomato cream sauce. Another interesting aspect of this place is that you can opt for your pasta to be cooked either al dente, or tender. I opted for al dente cos I hate mushy pasta, but maybe their concept of al dente may be different from my expectations. The pasta was just a tad on the wrong end of firm, for my liking. The sauce was strangely almost Asian, with chilli padi and an Asian flavour that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

For dessert, I just had a scoop of gelato, but A decided to try the tiramisu roll. This was pretty dense and, given that they initially said they ran out but eventually located a portion, probably wasn’t the freshest.

All in all, some hits and misses, but a good option to have at our doorstep. Their raviolis seem to be good so we’ll try more of those, and give their pizzas a go too.

A says:

I was craving a bit of crab and while I was dubious over the quality of a crab and lobster stuffed ravioli, I loved it.

That turned out to be the highlight of our meal. I think we’ll have to try the pizza to give a well-rounded review of its capabilities as an Italian place. And given the enormous scope of the menu (although the majority is really probably just different pastas and sauces) we’ll have lots to try.

Service unfortunately was hit and miss. It alternated between having attention lavished on us, or the staff completely ignoring us.

This may be a default simple weekend dinner place for us, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it if you want a mind-blowing meal.

Donna Carmela
242 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 6476-3242
Lunch: 12 noon to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Best of 2010

C says:

Happy new year! It’s taken us a while to come up with a “Best Of’ list this year, simply because it hasn’t been all that inspiring a year for us, in terms of new finds. Possibly because some of the more lauded new restaurants this year have been way out of our price range, like Waku Ghin and Restaurant Andre. For the most part, our best meals of the year have been at old favourites like Ember and Valentino. Still, for what it’s worth, here are some standouts this year (in no particular order).

1. Spruce

Their burger and burrata are decent, but what will make me return to Spruce is their outstanding tuna tartare.

2. Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck

This is our new default favourite place for birthday gatherings with my gang. Fabulous Chinese food that even A likes, and outstanding peking duck. Not to mention the delicious mee pok with truffle oil.

3. Otto Ristorante

Fancy Italian food but still not intimidatingly chi-chi. Just well executed and great flavours. The set lunch doesn’t showcase the restaurant at its best, so just go for a proper dinner service.

4. Two Fat Men

No, this isn’t here because we know the owner KH. It’s because their creamy tom yam soup and grilled pork neck are almost reason enough to consider moving to the East.

5. Paradise Dynasty

Awesome xiao long bao and la mian, this place may be our new favourite dining destination in ION. The perpetual queue just makes Meatworks next door look all the more forlorn.

6. San-Sui Sumiyaki and Tsuki Bar

We’ve been here a few more times since our first visit and I must say I’m liking it more and more. Their foie gras rice bowl, the ultimate in elitist comfort food, is to die for.

7. Gattopardo

I know some of my friends have mixed feelings about Gattopardo, and I while I do agree that some trial and error is required in terms of what to order, I still maintain that when you do come across a gem, it’s really good.

8. Chikuwa-Tei

Thanks to colleague L for recommending this amazing Japanese joint. It’s right up our alley – no frills, really fresh fish, and in my opinion, their chawanmushi is the best damn $5 you’ll ever spend.

9. Paradise Inn

Another entry from the Paradise Group, the Paradise Inn restaurants serve zi char done really well. Everything that we’ve tried here has been delicious.

10. Santi Tapas Lounge

I’m in two minds about whether this ought to make the list, but I did need some place to round off the list to ten... Anyway, this makes the cut simply for the awesome parmesan cheese and the quail stew.

Have a great 2011 everyone!

A says:

Maybe we’ve just gotten more spoilt and selective, but it seems the pickings for new places were slim this year. My best meals probably came from old favourites like Ember, Valentino and Morton’s Bar.

But for new places we tried in 2010, I agree with C on:

Spruce – Killer ahi tuna tartare

Otto Ristorante – Very good food with very good service. Atmosphere may appear stuffy and imposing but the wait staff are super friendly.

San-Sui Sumiyaki and Tsuki Bar – Made me a convert with the foie gras rice bowl. And I’m not even that big a fan of foie.

Paradise Dynasty – Great xiao long bao flavours and large portions of la mien.

Paradise Inn – Good zi char chain.

Chikuwa-Tei – awesome Unagi and Chirashi for relatively affordable prices.

I’d also add:

Melt, The World Cafe – Fantastic cheese selection.

Domani – Not for food, but for the Double Chocolate Chiffon Cake.

Rocks Urban Grill + Bar – Great food although a tad on the expensive side.

I’ll stop there and not try to force entries just to make up numbers.