Tuesday, November 29

Wisma Atria Food Court - Hokkien mee

Wisma Atria, Level 4

This is one of the newest food courts to hit the Orchard Road area and with a totally brand new concept too. The place is laid out ala old-style coffee shop, featuring what the food court operators claim to be some of the best hawker food on this island. There is also the ubiquitous ice-cream man, drinks lady and dim sum server with their pushcart that passes by your table ever so often.

We, as true-blue foodies, had to pick the stall with the longest line – the Hokkien prawn mee (S$4 / US$2.30) - was well worth the wait. It was tasty, packed full of ingredients, and had the just right chilli sauce that brought the dish together. We tried the fried kway teow (flat rice noodles fried with egg and a dark sauce) during a previous visit and found it to be just as good. I also like the way it was served – in the traditional dried leaf, that holds all that great flavour in.

We had some watercress soup (S$4.50 / US$2.60) to go with the noodles. Surprisingly, this was doubled boiled with fish rather than the usual pork ribs. The taste was not compromised, and we declared this the healthier alternative.

I have not had the opportunity to try the other stalls there but the roti prata (fried Indian bread with curry), bcm (minced meat noodles), kaya toast (toast with a coconut custard) seemed equally popular with the diners.

Monday, November 28

B Bakery

15 Bussorah Street. T. 62939010

We weren't terribly impressed with this place on our first visit. As recommended by the newspaper review, we tried the chocolate manjari cake with lemon cream. It was quite a creative combination, and well-executed, but nothing to write home about. We also had the passionfruit cheesecake. This was encased in thick plastic coated with chocolate, so at first try, we weren't sure why the cake wasn't yielding. But definitely not a plan well thought through as we got our fingers messy with chocolate bits as we tried to remove it. More curious were the bits of seemingly leftover chocolate sponge under the meringue caketop--was something missing? The cheesecake didn't have a distinctive passionfruit flavour either.

But on a second visit a couple of weeks later, I tried the apple sage cake and the strawberry short cake. Both were simple and light. The apple sage was slightly sticky, and a bit delicate on the palate; but the strawberry short cake had my dining companion raving from the first bite. At S$3.50 (US$2.10), these really were quite a steal.


Vietnamese noodles

Takashimaya Food Court, Ngee Ann City, Basement 2

It is not easy looking for decent (I am not even going for great here) Vietnamese food in Singapore. So I was pleasantly surprised with this stall at the Takashimaya Food Court. There was nothing out of the ordinary at the stall, neither was the service excellent, the food however, was rather tasty. The pho bo (beef noodles) was served with flavoursome clear broth with plenty of beef slices and beef balls to go around, and nicely garnished with the essential basil, lime and bean sprouts. Sure we could have done more with the latter (I love mine with plenty of sprouts), but it still gave the dish plenty of crunch. The portion was large too. I could barely finish half the noodles.

The other dish we tried was the bun (rice noodles) with grilled chicken. Served up in a similarly large dish, it was tasty and refreshing for Singapore’s perpetually hot weather. The dishes however didn’t come cheap for a food court meal. We paid close to S$20 (US$12) for the two noodle dishes, fresh skin spring roll and a drink.

Friday, November 25

Tong Shui Cafe

54 Zion Road

The first thing that struck me about Tong Shui was its Shanghai Tang-esque decor: bright pink and green walls, traditional Chinese rosewood tables and stools, quirky wall hangings... it was at once energizing and uplifting, particularly on this otherwise dark and quiet street. But with the Hong Kong-style cafe's seemingly unending menu, energy (and focus) would not be misplaced. It is almost impossible not to find your favourite snack amongst the vast array of hot and cold desserts, and quick bites on the menu. There are about 12 different types of chee cheong fun (steamed thick-cut rice noodles) alone! For first timers, a good rule of thumb would be to order something with a green spot: chef's recommendations.
First on my plate was the ultra-decadent Toast with Peanut Butter and Condensed Milk. Sounds simple enough, but central to the success of this dish was the thick slab of traditional Chinese bread, which held strong against the flood of peanut butter and condensed milk. Suffice to say, every last drop was assiduously mopped up.

Distracted as I was by the toast, by the time I got to my Mango Pomelo Snowy Mountain, the ice-caps had already started melting. This probably diluted the typical sweetness of this dessert, but I still enjoyed the crunch of the pomelo and ice against the soft smoothness of the mango bits. (In case you're looking, this is no. 80 on the menu).


Thursday, November 24

Mei Xin Minced Meat Prawn Noodle

Stall 5, NTL Eating House, 60 Loyang Way

I simply love bcm (ba chor mee – minced meat noodle), so when I first read about this particular stall in a recent food review, I just had to go try it. As the stall name implies, its not a pedigree bcm stall. Instead the noodles tasted more like a cross between that of teochew fishball noodle and bcm. Still, it tasted great, and is a nice find for this part of the island where the culinary spotlight generally does not extend beyond Changi Village hawker centre. The sauce for the “dry” noodle version was quite delictious, with a nice fragrant chilli sauce and the right splash of vinegar. What stood out was the cracker topping: different from the usual fried wonton, it was more of a thick crunchy cracker with a slice of tasty fish cake packed inside – flavour and crunch packed into one bite. I love the ambience of the place as well - this noodle store is located in an old style hawker center within an industrial estate. Totally cowboy town. Prices start at a very reasonable S$2.50 (US$1.50).

Sunday, November 20

Mong Hing Teochew Restaurant

371 Beach Rd #01-18 Key Point
T. 6223 4588

I was blown away the first time I ate here a month ago with all the incredibly tasty dishes they put in front of me - fresh cold crab, thick fish maw soup, crispy prawn roll, melt in your mouth braised goose, sambal (a spicy chilli paste) crayfish, a very fresh steamed pomfret, stir fried chives with prawns and to-die-for desserts - and more than reasonable prices. But on my second visit, the experience was very much different. The cold crab order was overlooked by the staff till way towards the end of lunch (This dish is ususally served as an appetiser). By the time they served it to us, it was dry and the flesh stuck to the shell. The prawn roll was also not as crispy and the fish maw soup, thin. However, the braised goose was still as good as ever and the pomfret very fresh. The desserts, the steamed yam paste with pumpkin and ginko nuts and crystal dumplings (both sweet and savoury), held up too. I was a bit disappointed with the inconsistency but was told that it was due to a staff’s bad headache (?). Nevertheless, it is still one of the better Teochew restaurants I have been to in Singapore.

Wednesday, November 16

Xiao Ping Steam Pot Buffet

57 Temple Street. T. 6226-0889

Finally a place that serves hot-pot just like the ones I lap up in Taipei. This little hole in the wall joint was discovered by another coverted foodie and true to his “assessment”, is a delicious find. This no frills set-up (which looks more like an air-conditioned coffee shop) on Temple Street in Chinatown serves the traditional Chinese steamboat with either a flavoursome clear or mala (spicy and tongue numbing) stock, with just the slightest hint of herbs. What got me really excited was its condiment table that had a spread of sesame paste, crushed garlic, chilli, parsley, vinegar, and more, to concoct your very own special dip. At just under S$20 (US$12) you can eat to your heart’s content a variety of thinly sliced meats, tofu, seafood and vegetables. Whats truly outstanding is its homemade dumplings; so tiny and delicate but packed full of taste. And for those who can’t live without their instant noodles, there is a basket of these two minute wonders that you can throw into the pot. Service is a tad slow, with just dad, mom, and their boy running the show, but its all part of the family run ambience.

Tuesday, November 15

Wild Rocket@Mount Emily

Hangout Hotel, 10A Upper Wilkie Road. T. 6339 9448

Just six weeks old and already this place is wowing diners and attracting quite a band of regulars who are simply determined to try everything on the menu. Set up by a former lawyer, Willin Loh, who is more impassioned by the culinary arts than legal humdrums, the menu is simple yet tasty. My favourite is the crab meat linguini (S$17.50/US$10.20) in a light tomato sauce with just the slightest hint of chilli.

The laksa pesto pasta (S$13.50/US$7.90) is good too, though I feel, will work better as an appetiser. We also had the baked cod (S$25/US$14.70) that was flavoured just right and slightly burnt on the edges, giving it a really unusual texture. We didn’t try any of the appetisers this time around as we were saving out stomachs for dessert. But I was told that the mushroom soup is quite a stunner.

Moving on to the desserts... Warm chocolate cake usually collapses into a rather unglamourous cake/fondant mush when cut. But not this one. For the first time, the cake case was firm and held its form as the fondant gushed. The banana flambe was perhaps a little too subtle for the chocolate, and probably would've done better as a separate dish. But I was a goner from the first whiff.

Remember the deconstructed fashion craze that was all vogue a while ago? Think of that but with cheesecake. Willin's strawberry cheesecake and maple walnut ice cream is really a dollup each of strawberry coulis, cream cheese, ice cream and cake alternately put together in a martini glass. And the effect is great-each mouthful is slightly different, depending on how much of each you get in a spoonful, but when you're done, you get the same satisfaction as if you had a traditional slice of cake.

Granitas (lemon grass - yums, grapefruit and orange-basil) complimented the main courses very well and were definitely yummy, but given their delicate nature maybe would've served their purpose better earlier in the meal.


Sunday, November 13

Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Tai Hwa Coffee Shop, Block 466 Crawford Lane #01-12

After a way too long search, I finally found my favourite bcm (ba chor mee – minced meat noodle) at a coffee shop on Crawford Lane. Formerly at Hill Street (I remember eating there as a kid) and then Marina Square, they made this last move to Crawford following renovation works at Marina. The bcm, I am happy to report, taste as delicious as ever, with the sauce for the dry version the right balance of chilli and vinegar and other crunchy bits; the noodles, nice and springy; the soup, flavoursome; the ingredients, the liver in particular cooked just right with the mushy centre; and with the just right amount of fragrant ti poh (crunchy dried fish) topping to round off the dish. I have tried its many different versions: "soup", "dry", various types of noodles, and it comes out right, each and every time. Prices start from S$4 (US$2.30). They are open 9.30am to 9pm, closed alternate Mondays.

Tuesday, November 1

KiKi Restaurant, Taipei

Xin Yi Road, Section 4, No. 396. T. 2700 2777

Kiki has always been on my list of must-try places having had many good reviews from friends living in or visiting Taipei. I finally made my way there on this recent trip to the city and I was not disappointed. The restaurant specializes in Szechuan cuisine, Taipei style of course.
We tried the very interestingly named chang yin tou - literally translated, this means "flies' heads" but it actually was finely chopped chives, fried with fermented black beans, minced meat and a hint of chilli. Not altogether a common combination, but the resulting amalgamation of flavours was all delicious, especially when you stir it into rice. Other tasty treats we had were silky smooth, lightly friend home made tofu that melted in our mouths, kung pao beef (beef slices fried with dried chilli), string beans with chilli and mince meat and a light winter melon clam soup. I am piqued and plan on returning to try the rest of the menu.

Street eats - Muah Chee, Taipei

This is a dessert that can be commonly found throughout Taipei. It’s a glutinous dough ball (slightly larger than a golf ball) with a very liberal sprinkling of finely chopped peanut, flavoured with sugar and sesame, on top. The bettermade ones are very light to the taste, and melt quickly in the mouth. You have to eat it really quick though, when it is hot, as it tends to get too sticky and chewy when cool.

My favourite place to eat muah chee (NT$35, under US$1) is at a dessert stall near the Long Shan Temple, known as 136 Dessert Stall. This place sells a very wicked yam dessert – pieces of yam in ginger soup – and an assortment of others from ice shavings with your own selected toppings to red bean soup.

Street eats - Taiwanese Sausages, Taipei

I acquired a taste for this on this trip to Taipei. The Taiwanese sure know how to grill their sausages. Not only do they do it just right, the more creative ones serve it up with an assortment of whatever you want – pepper, mustard, chopped onions, Chinese parsley, satay sauce – you name it, they have it. My favourite combi – Chinese parsley with hot sauce. These sausage stands can be found at the night markets.

Ai Yu / Sian Chao (Jelly Desserts), Taipei

Tung Hwa Road, No. 56

It doesn’t come any better. I usually follow up any hot and spicy meal with a stop at this place. Known for its ice jelly and grass jelly desserts, these delicate morsels are delicately flavoured with different herbs and can be eaten on its own (the ice jelly version is normally served with a squeeze of line) or in a combination, ice and grass jelly. It shares the same consistency as jello, and each spoonful glides down way too easily. As with all dessert stands in Taipei, they offer a dazzling array of choices: soya bean curd, ice jelly with yam, green bean soup with soya bean curd… These sweets are always a nice way to round up the meal before heading for a walk through the Tung Hwa night market just up the street. Each dessert costs about NT$40 (US$1.10).