Sunday, July 29, 2012

&Made by Bruno Menard

C says:

I love stumbling upon a new food gem when you least expect it. We had originally planned for a simple dinner at Cine Cafe after catching a movie, but decided to try &Made instead, since it was still pretty empty at about 6.45.

Bruno Menard was a 3-Michelin star chef at L’Osier in Tokyo, till the building in which his restaurant was located closed for renovations. During a guest chef stint at Jaan, he met up with Olivier Bendel of the Deliciae group (responsible for Sabio and L’Entrecote) and decided to collaborate with the group to open &Made by Bruno Menard at Pacific Plaza. The name &Made is actually meant to be a pun on how the French pronounce “handmade”, with a silent “h”.

The food served here is decidedly not fine dining, conceptually, but make no mistake – there’s still no lack of care and thought in both the menu and the execution of the dishes. The concept is casual, everyday food, but done well. The menu comprises a few salads (including some Salads to Drink, which we’ll try the next time), and either burgers or Toastoos as the main event.

The Toastoo is a bit of a cross between a toastie sandwich and a crepe – they use buckwheat crepes with a sandwich maker, with fillings ranging from ratatouille, ham and cheese, and the Viking which A ordered – smoked salmon, broccoli and curry cream cheese. Not exactly ingredients that you’d expect to see together, and could’ve gone really wrong, but somehow everything went together really well.

The 3 Little Pigs burger consists of a pork, bacon and chorizo patty, with shredded cabbage, a yuzu-kosho mayonnaise and Japanese pickles. I loved this – best burger I’ve had in a while. Incredibly, all 3 flavours were discernible in the patty, which was perfectly cooked and juicy. The condiments, again, complemented each other perfectly. I read somewhere that the ingredient pairings for each dish are the result of careful deliberation, so requests to “hold the pickle” or similar are not encouraged.

The burger came with shoestring fries and their homemade BBQ sauce, which was less a sauce and more of a onion chutney of sorts. It had a slightly Asian twist and went really well with the fries.

We passed on dessert, but after reading some reviews after dinner, we really should have ordered the Lollipop Waffle. It looks almost like a flattened churros on a stick, and comes with 3 dips - dark chocolate, white chocolate and caramel. They also have a hot caramel lava cake which, if the caramel isn't too sweet, sounds like a piece of heaven.

To me, the mark of a great place is when you're already planning your next visit before you're even done paying the bill. That happens every time we go to Esquina, and SPR MRKT too because of their elusive daily menu. Now we can add &Made to that list.

A says:

So awesome. This could be my new fav place in town.

9 Scotts Road
#01-04/05/06 Pacific Plaza
Tel: 6732-9808
Sun – Thurs: 10 am to 10 pm
Fri & Sat: 10 am to 12 mn

Friday, July 27, 2012

More from SPR MRKT

C says:

We've since been back to SPR MRKT a couple more times to try more of their offerings. This is a bit of a moot review though, since they've changed the menu, and some of my favourites didn't survive the switch *wail*. 

On a Monday, we tried their creamless mushroom soup, which as its name suggests isn't thickened with cream so it's actually pretty healthy. You barely notice the lack of cream - it's so flavourful and moreish. One good thing you do notice about the absence of cream is that it does make the soup less heavy and cloying.

The sandwich was a cured beef with mustard sauce. Again we had a choice of baguette or croissant, and this time we thought baguette would go better. The beef was excellent, but I personally find baguettes a bit hard to eat, so this was no exception.

The beef lasagne is an extremely hearty portion, and for the first time we found this less than stellar. It was a bit too dense and heavy for our liking, and after it we were too full for dessert.

We finally tried their carbonara, and I'm happy to report that I think my carbonara search is over. It was excellent - exactly what I think carbonara should be. Good flavourful bacon, and an eggy, not overly creamy or heavy sauce. Thankfully, this has survived the menu revamp. *Phew*

I guess this is our last post on the old menu. We'll do an update after we've had a chance to try some of the items from the new menu.

A says:

I finally had a dish at SPR MRKT I don’t like. The lasagna isn’t bad, but it was super filling. So filling that I couldn’t have my usual dessert. Boo hoo.

2 McCallum Street
Tel: 6221-2105
Mondays to Fridays: 8am — 9pm
Saturdays: 9am — 4pm (Brunch)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back to Esquina

C says:

I’ve been having serious withdrawal symptoms after not revisiting Esquina since April, so on another day off today, we headed there for lunch, armed with a new camera to boot (thanks, ladies!).

Rare view of an almost empty counter (taken with funky Miniature picture effect)

The menu has changed somewhat, with some dishes like the tuna tartare and the baked egg with anchovy, capers and lemon no longer available. I guess those that remain are considered their classics, like the bone marrow and salt and pepper baby squid.

The egg dish we had today was from the Specials board – slow cooked egg with bacon, shrimp black rice and seaweed dashi. The black rice was a bit like a risotto, with bits of shrimp as well as baby squid. The dashi was poured on at the last minute, and given that I’m a big fan of comfort food like risotto and porridge, this was amazing.

They no longer have my gambas with orzo pasta, so again we looked to the Specials board for a prawn dish – sautéed gambas with potato dumpling and bisque sauce. The prawns were smaller than expected so didn’t have as much of the lovely head juices as the jumbo prawns. The dumpling was a bit dense and heavy, but the bisque sauce was enough to make me forgive everything else. Total essence of crustacean.

We had yet another dish from the Specials, since we figured we had to try those while we could. We had the seared scallops with mushroom ceviche, miso aubergine and ponzu dressing. I let A have most of this, since I was busy polishing off all the prawns, but again the flavours of each element really worked well together.

Lastly, we had the roast pork belly with crispy skin and chorizo octopus bolognaise. This was quite a heavy dish, and I guess that’s why it came last. I couldn’t detect any octopus in the sauce, but there were cannellini beans together with the chorizo, which explained why we were so full after finishing this.

As always, I love the food and I love the vibe, particularly at lunch time. After a 3 month hiatus I’m now scrolling through my calendar for the next time that we can come back.

A says:

Awesome, awesome, awesome. My current fav place to go in Singapore.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Maison Keyser

C says:

Since we were at Scotts Square, we thought we’d try what critics have labelled the second best croissant in Singapore, after the one from Tiong Bahru Bakery. Since it was a bit sad to just get a single croissant, we also bought their bread of the day – a bun studded with white chocolate and topped with chocolate chips.

The croissant definitely wasn’t as good as the one from Tiong Bahru Bakery. The latter had such a definitively buttery flavour that it was good on its own, whereas Maison Keyser’s definitely needed some kind of spread to go with it. It also didn’t have the crisp exterior and chewy interior – this one was just chewy and a bit flat. The white chocolate bun was good, but not worth a special trip there.

I think I just prefer Japanese baked goods to French ones.

A says:

The white chocolate bun we had here was better than the croissant. But if we’re talking croissants, Tiong Bahru Bakery is easily much better. Although honestly, Sun Moulin is still my favourite bakery in Singapore.

Maison Keyser
6 Scotts Road
#B1-09, Scotts Square
Tel: 6636-3672
Open daily: 8 am to 8 pm

Osteria La Luna Rossa

C says:

This semi fine-dining restaurant at Scotts Square has been slowly but steadily garnering good reviews for their Italian cuisine with a distinct Japanese twist. Menu prices are probably in the Otto/Oso category, but they have some pretty good value set lunches (ranging from $30 to $60) which FYI are also available on weekends.

The ambience is more formal than I expected, but at the same time it’s not fussy or intimidating; the service staff are very polite, yet still friendly.

They have 3 set lunches – a $30 pasta lunch, a $40 classic 3 course lunch with a few more options, and a $60 5-course executive lunch. We decided on one classic, one executive, and shared an additional pasta.

The classic lunch starter was a prosciutto panna cotta with shrimp, peperonta and pineapple. The panna cotta tasted oddly like ham-flavoured La Vache Qui Rit cream cheese, which though not unpleasant was still a bit disconcerting. Not sure that the pineapple bits were necessary too.

The executive lunch starter was an antipasti trio, with mixed vegetables in an anchovy sauce, a fresh oyster, and earl grey cured salmon. Again, ok but not spectacular.

The second course for the executive set was supposed to be roasted white asparagus with truffle scrambled egg, but white asparagus season has ended so they changed it to a seafood parcel with cous cous. This was pretty good – the cous cous was nicely flavoured with all the yummy seafood juices, and studded with mozzarella.

The pasta in the executive set was a squid ink-blackened tagliolini with crab, ginger and pepperoncino. This was remarkably like chilli crab, and while I liked it, A found that the squid ink pasta was overwhelmed by the sauce.

The additional pasta I ordered a la carte was a chitarra pasta with uni and asparagus in a carbonara sauce. This was very good, with the carbonara sauce not too thick and rich, but the taste of the uni was quite subtle and again, got sort of lost amongst everything else.

The executive main was a roast magret duck breast with balsamic sauce. Some slices of duck were a bit overdone, but the slices in the centre, which were done more medium, were much better.

For the classic lunch main, I decided against the mushroom and bacon risotto (carb overload!) in favour of the braised beef cheek in red wine and acacia honey. This was a very hearty portion and very well done. The beef wasn’t overly braised so that it fell apart, but it was very rich and unctuous so sharing it definitely helped.

Desserts seemed a bit of an afterthought. The classic came with a Valrhona chocolate cake, and the executive had a trio of desserts that included the chocolate cake, together with a matcha cheesecake and pineapple sorbet.

Generally, I expected to be a lot more impressed than I actually was. None of the dishes were bad in any way; they just weren't particularly memorable. It’s a pretty nice respite in the middle of town though – very much a ladies who lunch place. Ah well, I can dream…

A says:

Service is spectacular. Unfortunately, the food, while very good, didn’t blow me away. I’d recommend this for a business lunch or tai-tais.

Osteria La Luna Rossa
6 Scotts Road
#02-01 Scotts Square
Tel: 6636-2951
Lunch: 11:00 – 15:00
Dinner: 18:00 – 22:30
Hi Tea: 14:00 – 16:30 (Saturday and Sunday only)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maxwell Chilled Bean Curd Wars

C says:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 6 months or do, you would’ve heard the buzz about the latest queue-inducing craze to hit town – chilled bean curd. Unlike regular soya bean curd, which can be eaten hot or cold and indeed probably tastes better hot, chilled bean curd, as the name suggests, is only eaten cold. The texture is a cross between regular bean curd, crème caramel, and longan tofu.

The pioneer stall is Lao Ban, which opened at Old Airport Road and has since opened several more outlets, including one at Maxwell Food Centre. Queues at lunchtime are legendary – we were there for lunch on Saturday, and when the shutters rolled up a queue of at least 15 formed instantly. In contrast, a few stalls down is one called Bean, also selling chilled bean curd but with no queue to speak of. Naturally we thought “hmmm, atetoomuch taste test!”.

They’re actually very different from each other, and both are also very different from regular soya bean curd. Lao Ban’s texture is the most different of the lot – it’s the least like any form of bean curd, and more like a smooth longan tofu/jelly. It also had the most prominent almond flavour, which may also have contributed to the longan tofu association.

Bean, on the other hand, is more like regular soya bean curd, just lighter and smoother. The soya bean flavour is also more prevalent, rather than almond.

Comparing these to the Rochor soya bean curd, which in my opinion is the best regular bean curd in town, I actually think Bean is better, because it still retains some element of the traditional. Lao Ban is a totally different dessert to me – a very good almond-flavoured longan tofu, but too far removed from the original.

A says:

Lao Ban is an interesting change, but overall, it’s not worth the queue and I’d rather go with Bean.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tiong Bahru Bakery

C says:

It seems as though everywhere you look, there’s an article or blog post extolling the virtues of the croissant from Tiong Bahru Bakery, the collaboration between Gontran Cherrier and the Spa Esprit group. I’m actually not a huge croissant fan (I prefer my butter straight up on bread, rather than having it weaved insidiously and deceptively into a pastry), but I really wanted to see what the fuss was about, so we popped by on Saturday afternoon.

It was a mad house even at 1 pm – queues at the counter and a general din. The tables are tightly packed, so we took one look at the chaos and decided to just grab a few pastries to go.

Naturally we picked the croissant, and A wanted to try the chocolate brioche. The brioche was a bit of a letdown, though perhaps it’s because A expected a softer, lighter bread, rather than the denser nature of a brioche.

As for the croissant, was it all that? Well, as I said, I’m not a croissant connoisseur so I don’t have much basis for comparison, but it was a damn good pastry. The outside was crisp, the inside was airy, flakey and just chewy enough, and it was buttery without being oily. We had it a few hours later; I can imagine it being even better if we’d eaten it right away.

We also tried the almond croissant and the Kouign Amann, albeit the next day. Unlike the regular croissant, the almond one was pretty dense and almost cakey, due to the almond paste sandwiched inside. This was quite sweet and reminiscent of marzipan because of the almond paste, which I think was a bit too overpowering.

The Kouign Amann is apparently a traditional pastry from Breton, similar to puff pastry and glazed with sugar. I got this because it was described as “Salted Butter and Glazed Caramel”, but in reality this was all sweet; almost no hint of salt at all.

I’ll stick to the regular croissant next time, and maybe try the chocolate croissant as well. It’s actually a stone’s throw from where I practise yoga, so maybe next time I’ll just swing by bright and early before class to pick up a few pastries before the crowds descend later in the day. Though they’ll pretty much negate my entire yoga session, and then some.

A says:

Great croissant. The rest was very so-so. I’d like to try the sandwiches next, except the place is seriously chaotic. And for some reason, it gives off a strong poser vibe. As I am a part-time poser only, maybe the next visit won’t be soon.

Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-70
Tel: 6220-3430
Opening hours: 8 am to 8 pm
Closed Tuesdays

Friday, July 13, 2012

Otto Locanda

C says:

Maxwell Chambers at Tanjong Pagar, just down the road from Red Dot Museum, doesn't seem to have very good food feng shui. The last 2 tenants didn't last very long - Osvaldo, and later L'Angolo.

The guys behind Otto are probably hoping that their casual offering, Otto Locanda, can break the curse. Unlike its fine dining sibling down the road, Otto Locanda offers a more trattoria style dining experience, with a stripped down menu of basic Italian staples.

The place was rather worryingly only half full on Friday night, though the waiter assured us that they tend to be more popular for lunch.

In addition to their menu items, they have daily specials scribbled on blackboards, which is helpful so that we aren't at the mercy of any particular waiter's memory. We had the bruschetta special - Italian sausage with gorgonzola. This was pretty good; the sausage was slightly sweet so it paired with the gorgonzola quite well, though I would have liked the blue cheese flavour to be a bit more aggressive.

The salt cod quenelles with croutons was disappointing. The only discernible flavour was, unbelievably, the olive oil. It was underseasoned, and didn't taste at all like bacalao. I'm not even sure how they achieved that, given how strong the flavour of bacalao usually is.

We were toying between one of their specialty flatbreads, or the deep fried Panzerottini, but we decided on the latter since we'd already ordered the bruschetta. Big mistake. The  Panzerottini, which are a bit like empanadas, were filled with anchovy, tomato and cheese. One bite and all I could think of was, "Malay sardine curry puff".

But then the main course arrived and saved the meal from being doomed to mediocrity. The spaghetti vongole looked ordinary enough, but the spaghetti had absorbed all the lovely clam juices and white wine. Plus they were very generous with the clams, which were very fresh, sweet and meaty.

With all the carbs, we really couldn't fit in any dessert. Service was very good - efficient and very polite. Most of the meal was a bit lacklustre, but there were gems like the pasta, and the bruschetta had potential. Maybe we just need to order more of the right things.

A says:

Service, just like Otto, was great. Unfortunately, the only standout dish was the perfectly cooked spaghetti. I do want to come back to try their special Focaccina though. Will do a final review after that.

Otto Locanda
32 Maxwell Road
#01-03 Maxwell Chambers
Tel: 6224-0978
Lunch: Mon to Fri 11.30 am – 2 pm
Dinner: Mon to Sat 6 pm – 10 pm
Closed Sundays

Sunday, July 08, 2012


C says:

Canele usually isn't on our radar at all, at least not for food, but I had a sudden urge for carbonara, and I'd heard that they do a good one at Canele.

Traditional carbonara, at least in some parts of Italy, doesn't have any cream at all. It consists of all of a few ingredients - crisp bacon/pancetta and the fat rendered from it, parmesan cheese and eggs/egg yolks, all of which are tossed together with hot pasta so that they emulsify and form the sauce.

The sauce should be thick enough to just cling to the pasta, and should be flavoured with the bacon fat. The pasta certainly shouldn't be swimming in a thin, cream-based soup with insipid pre-cooked bacon. Unfortunately, the latter is almost the norm in most restaurants in Singapore, which is why I was quite keen to see if Canele's would buck the trend.

Alas, it was extremely disappointing. It ticked all the boxes of what a carbonara shouldn't be/have. Epic fail. I need to elsewhere for a carbonara fix - any recommendations?

At least Canele still get their desserts right. Their nutella crepe with salted caramel was still a winner, and their apple crumble is one of the better ones I've had.

A says:

Carbonara fail. Dessert and service both rock though. Go there for that.

350 Orchard Road
#05-21 Shaw House (Lido cinema)
Tel: 6735-5855
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm

Friday, July 06, 2012


C says:

SPR MRKT, short for supermarket, is a bistro at McCallum Street that also sells gourmet ingredients and lifestyle products. It's co-owned by A's friend's sister and the chef, Joseph Yeo, whose previous experience includes Les Amis and recently Waku Ghin. Their pastry chef makes all the cakes, bread and pastries in-house. Read their story in greater detail here.

They firmly believe in only serving the freshest of ingredients and not wasting food. That's why, even though they have a fairly extensive menu, only selected items are available on any given day (2 soups, 3 mains and 2 desserts). The only downside is that if we can only come on Fridays, then we'll only ever try the same dishes. 

Friday's menu included a brilliant beef broth with oxtail ravioli. This was an intensely umami beef soup with potato, carrot and amazing ravioli filled with shredded oxtail. It's worth noting that because it's located in the CBD, all their dishes are designed for takeaways, hence the paper soup containers and bento boxes.

Because we'd ordered the beef soup, we passed on the beef lasagne and ordered the mushroom and emmenthal cheese egg sandwich (you can choose between baguette and croissant) and the pork chop. The sandwich was good - light croissant with creamy egg, swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Go for the croissant if you're not hungry, and the more substantial baguette if you are.

The smoked pork chop with crispy mustard crust was awesome. The pork was lean yet still amazingly tender - when we raved about it to the chef, he said it could be because they don't use frozen pork. Maybe he's being modest - I'm sure his cooking skills have a lot to do with it too. The mustard crust was crisp and not overpowering, and even the fries and salad were good.

When you come, don't pass on the desserts, because their pastry chef's skills are something else. Friday's dessert is supposed to be caramelised banana tart but not tonight because apparently their banana supply wasn't up to scratch. Instead there was pear tart, which was really good.

The star of the night was the bread pudding with vanilla sauce. They make individual muffin-sized portions, ensuring lots of browned, crisp edges. Instead of bread, I think they use their in-house pain au chocolat to make the pudding. The result is an awesome, really light pudding studded with chocolate, served with a warm vanilla sauce. Amazing.

They're apparently introducing new menu items in a month or so, though they'll still be sticking to limited items each day. Guess we'll have to mess with our routine at times, so that we get to sample their other non-Friday offerings.

A says:

Mega-awesome! Not exactly cheap for a little café but not the most expensive I've been to. You do get fantastic food, and you’d probably be paying a lot more for the same quality at a proper restaurant. And the bread pudding dessert is a mmmm…must-try. The coffee has an interesting flavor too. Must remember to ask where it’s from the next time we go. And we’ll definitely be back. Highly recommended!

2 McCallum Street
Tel: 6221-2105
Mondays to Fridays: 8am — 9pm
Saturdays: 9am — 4pm (Brunch)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Salt Tapas

C says:

The success of Esquina seems to have spawned a new food trend. Fine dining establishments are being eschewed, in favour of more casual joints serving tapas or small bites meant for sharing, yet still prepared with finesse and premium ingredients.

Good food in casual surroundings is what atetoomuch is all about, so we're certainly very happy with the choices that are increasingly available now. We're slowly eating our way through them, starting with Salt Tapas at Raffles City.

Salt Tapas is by Luke Mangan, of Salt Bar & Grill at ION. Prices and menu items are similar to Esquina (except that Salt has a distinctly Moroccan influence), so comparisons are inevitable.

Being big Esquina fans, we went with muted expectations so maybe that's why we were pleasantly surprised. We started with the arancini, which are fried risotto balls filled with mushroom, and served with a fresh parsley sauce.

The roasted pumpkin with rocket, walnuts and blue cheese was pretty good too, with all the flavours complementing each other well.

The crispy baby prawns with garlic aioli made my night. Best dish for me, hands down. The prawns were tiny, and fried so crisp that you just pop them in, heads, shells and all. Given my obsession with prawn heads/brains, this was a truly stellar dish.

Their version of baked bone marrow has a shitake mushroom duxelle. I still prefer Esquina's version with the escargots, though this was pretty good as well, just that the mushroom more or less masked the bone marrow.

The roasted Iberico pork with curried lentils and minted yogurt was tasty but the pork was a bit dry. The lentils were good though.

The lentils were surprisingly filling, so we only had room for one dessert - the chocolate tart with salt caramel ice cream. This was intensely chocolatey, tamed slightly by the crust and the ice cream.

So the million dollar question - is this better than Esquina? To me, no. I still prefer both the food and ambience at Esquina. Salt was better than expected though, and seats are definitely more readily available than at Esquina. Having said that, the almost cultish status ascribed to snagging a table at Esquina is also, to us, part of its appeal. 

A says:

Excellent. I’d still rather go to Esquina, but this is a worthy alternative.

Salt Tapas
252 North Bridge Road
#01-22A Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6837-0995
(Reservations accepted for lunch; for dinner, reservations only accepted for parties of 8 and above)
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 10 pm
Fri and Sat: 11.30 am to 10.30 pm
Sun: 11.30 am to 9 pm