Monday, February 27

18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow

Zion Riverside Food Centre


This is reputed to be one of the better fried kway teow (flat rice noodles stir fried with dark soy sauce, egg, bean sprouts, clams, etc) on the island. I had to wait 15mins in a line before I got my serving. The first taste was delicious - moist with just the right sweetness from the dark sauce, but as the meal progressed, the noodle got dry and then it just became ordinary fried kway teow. I am going to stick to my favourites over at Hong Lim Complex (if only it would open on Sundays!!!) and Serangoon Gardens. Otherwise, this would be the place to come to if I have a sudden craving for fried kway teow when in the city.

Botak Jones

Blk 608, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5


Juicy burgers, handmade patties, chicken gumbo, chilli corn carne, cajun fries, fish and chips - ah... fabulous American food has hit the heartland. These specials are lovingly made by Bernie, formerly of the Bernie's fame from BFD on East Coast Park, and Bernie's at Boat Quay (he sold out the business) and at heartland prices. The burgers (starting at S$4.50 / US$2.30) were freshly made and juicy though I find that the buns got soggy probably because of our weather; the gumbo was mediocre (S$4) but the chilli (S$4) was rather delicious. I plan on trying the chilli dog next and also the fish and chips. It was not crowded when I was there at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon but from the continous stream of people who came by, it seems that Botak Jones has got itself a fan club. This is the second Botak Jones - the first serves the crowd over in Tuas.

Straits Kitchen

Ground floor, Grand Hyatt Hotel T. 6416 7114

This is mecca for the Singaporean and tourist who want to try everything under one roof but are not quite prepared for the full-blown Singapore hawker experience. Housed where the cafe used to be in the Grand Hyatt, this is a tastefully designed Singapore "kitchen" that serves everything local that your heart desires: oyster omelet, chilli crab, roti jala (Malay crepe), popiah (fresh spring roll - top picture), rojak (Chinese fruit and beancurd salad), kueh kueh (Malay desserts - left), wan ton noodles, roast meats, double boiled soups (bottom left), tandoori (Northern Indian oven roasted meats and seafood - bottom right) you name it, they have it. I was pleasantly surprised by the spread and more so by the quality of the food. I have tried several similar type dining concepts in other hotels, but this stands out for the quality so far. No wonder there was a good number of locals dining at the Straits kitchen the same evening I was there. Price - S$40 +++ per person (US$23.50). Reservations are highly recommended.



Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Prawn Mee

159 Mei Ling Street, 2nd floor

We shared a plate of the noodles while waiting for the claypot rice. The prawn noodles looked great but tasted mushy. The noodles were left in the stock a touch too long and the squid was rubbery. It tasted slightly better after we stirred in the chilli belachan (a chilli paste mix with dried shrimp) but even that was not enough to compensate for the overcooked noodles.

Guan Guan Claypot Rice

159 Mei Ling Street #02-97

I heard loads about this claypot rice place but just could not find the time to swing by that neighbourhood. When I finally made it out there, I was not convinced that this was worth the wait or the drive. Its a nice claypot rice alright - with the chicken pieces, slices of lap cheong (Chinese waxed sausages) and extra salted fish freshly cooked with the rice, and with thick dark soy sauce stirred in, just the way I like it - but it was missing the "fire". The smoky, slightly charred flavours that usually accompany the best of this dish. I like that this place is open late though. They were happy to serve us even though we arrived past 9pm. Total meal cost S$18 (slightly over US$10.60) for three.

No 5 Chicken Wings

No.5 Emerald Hill

This is one of my favourite spots for wings - and this time around, I actually remembered to snap the picture before we ate it all up!




Beef Horfun With Black Bean Sauce

Balestier Hill Shopping Centre, 1 Thomson Road
(Coffee shop across from Thomson Medical Centre)

This place is known to have pretty good zhe char (place where the chefs cook to order Singapore Chinese dishes) but the one thing I always eat is the black bean sauce horfun (flat rice noodles). The thick dark sauce is delicious, salty and savoury. The chefs here are also very generous with the beef slices and vegetables which lends more texture to the horfun dish. Prices start at S$4 (US$2.30) for a serving for one.

Whampoa Rojak

Blk 90, Whampoa Drive, #01-64

I grew up eating rojak from this stall. It serves a delicious Chinese rojak - a salad of pineapple, cucumber, dried bean curd, turnip, etc - thickly laced with the most incredible prawn paste, and topped with a generous serving of chopped nuts. Though the rojak itself is stunning, my favourite part is scooping up the remaining sauce at the bottom of the dish and savouring it bit by bit. Yums.

Sunday, February 26

Vientai Kitchen

Basement, Tampines Mall
T. 6789 3887


I needed a pit stop for lunch today and decided to check out this "kitchen" in Tampines. It was quiet at lunch hour which had me crossing my fingers and hoping that I had made the right choice. I picked the pho bo – who can go wrong with this standard Vietnamese noodle dish right? And fortunately, I was right. The portion though dismal, came with a delicious and light soup. And unlike most Vietnamese restaurants in Singapore, the waiter brought me a basket (albeit a pathetically small one) of fresh bean sprouts and basil. It is like they almost got the formula right. Now if only they would make it 100 per cent right. Nice stop for a quick bite. But to make a journey out here just for this, I think not.

Lim Joo Hin Eating House

715 Havelock Road

This is late night dinner / supper haven for me and my friends. It offers incredible variety and feels non-fattening (or so we like to think). Some typical dishes we order include the steamed pomfret (fish), stewed cabbage, salted ducks’ eggs, ha bee hiam (a spicy prawn mix that you stir into your porridge), salted vegetables, chai por omelet (egg omelet with preserved radish), stewed beancurd, duck, stir fry gourd. The array (I have only listed a fraction) is dazzling. These can be eaten with either rice or more commonly porridge, a watery rice gruel. And the best part of it, it tastes healthy, though I think if we took a closer look at the calories, we will uncover the contrary.

Mirchi

#02-23 Esplanade Mall T. 6334 5590

I had a mega feast at Mirchi’s not too long ago. It was a nice find, a quiet and beautiful Northern Indian restaurant with an excellant menu, tucked on the second floor of the Esplanade Mall.

We had quite a spread. For starters, we had a chat made of a chickpeas and a light vinaigrette dressing. It was a nice way to jump start the appetite. The tandoori lamb shank (above) was beautifully grilled. It had a lovely flavour, smoky but not dry. The masala chicken was served with a rich gravy that was excellent for dipping the naans (Indian bread) into. The bindi (ladies fingers) stir-fry was done with a very light hand – there was a crunch in the vegetable still unlike a lot of Indian vegetable dishes, which are usually cooked to a mush. We had to complete the meal with a dessert of course – kulfi or Indian ice-cream, that surprisingly was not too sweet like most Indian desserts. It was an altogether very satisfying meal.

Trattorria Lafiandra

46 Prinsep Street T. 6238 8746

The meal was so delicious the last time that we made a return visit within the week. This time we ordered the aglia olio that I had spied the next table eating at the last dinner. This was equally delicious. The chef had tweaked it for the Singapore tastebuds with a sprinkling of cut chillis in the pasta to give it an oh-so- gentle kick. We also had the homemade ravioli again, this time with a cream sauce. It was just as tasty even though it was rather heavy. But that didn't stop us from lapping it all up still!


Saturday, February 25

Trattorria Lafiandra

46 Prinsep Street T. 6238 8746

If you don’t look hard enough, you might just miss this place. It’s the only dining place amidst a row of karaoke and pubs. But look hard, as it’s certainly worth it. In my very first visit here, we had the mushroom soup that was deliciously made from scratch; the lasagne was served with the cheese bubbling over – yummy and one of the better ones that I have had; and the ravioli with spinach and cheese stuffing in a light red sauce – the pasta melted gloriously with each bite, it was hard to not want to savour all the flavours ever so slowly.

Pasta here costs about S$18 per serving (US$10) and service can be a tad show, as it’s a one-chef show and the crowd can swell at times. The one thing I am not so hot about – its policy on not serving water unless you order wine. Otherwise its S$4.50 (US$2.60) for a small bottle of H20.

Chef Chan's Restaurant


331 North Bridge Road, #01-02 Odeon Towers T. 6250 3363

Chef Chan is known to be one of the best Cantonese chefs on the island. Not surprising, his one and only restaurant serves an amazing roast chicken with the crispiest of skins and the most tender of meats.

Another signature dish is the black pepper beef that is well marinated with the spice, and a melon in orange juice that is served cold. Another item that I always have is the soup of the day - though it comes in individual portions only, its quite a sizeable and can actually be shared.









As we had lunch over the Chinese New Year week (ok, this entry is way late), we also had the salmon yu sheng or lo hei, a mix of shredded vegetables topped with slices of raw fish (salmon or a local catch) drizzled with lovely plum sauce, crackers and spices. The last few ingredients are put together in front of the diners and good tidings are recited with each addition. All diners are required to toss everything together (the higher the better) to get the prosperity, health, etc, going.

Friday, February 24

Cafe Rosso


17D Lorong Liput. T.6466 8637

If nothing else, the cakes at Cafe Rosso are aesthetic marvels. Beautiful. My naive "I'll-only-be-five-minutes" peek at the counter found me soon picking one, then two, then three slices to take away before I realised I was losing control--I wanted everything!

So I halted the takeaway and sat down. The evening's to-do list would remain 'to-do'. There were (obviously) more pressing issues at hand. But what to have?

The final reckoning saw me poke my fork into three cakes: the I.S. Cheese, the warm chocolate cake and the Tartufo (I think, see right). It was a wonderous, guilt-free indulgence--each of them was as light, subtle and unassuming as the other. Which amazed me, especially because their texture, form nor overall quality was compromised in the process. But because I like my cheesecakes not densely cheesy and my chocolate cakes completely the opposite, my vote went to the I.S.Cheese in the end.

Yes, the afternoon was well spent.

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Tuesday, February 21

Café Alberto, Lombok

Senggigi Beach +62 370 639039

This is the one restaurant that I truly like in Lombok. Not so much for the food but the ambience. It’s a very simply decorated yet lovely restaurant set right on the beach. Coupled with good service staff, a gorgeous view and lovely breeze, what could be better.

The menu has a mix of Italian, Japanese and local Lombok dishes. We had a pizza and a seafood pasta, and found it to be average. We topped the meal off with a banana pancake, but found it to be equally ordinary. But it was a nice change from eating at the resort yet again.

It provides a free shuttle at night, to and from the restaurant, from most hotels on Senggigi beach.

Soto Ayam, Lombok

To the Singaporean palate, this would be a “lite” soto ayam. Rice noodles with a flavoursome chicken broth that is dressed with a squeeze of lime and a tad of the chilli sambal (chilli pesto). Tasty.

Kropok, Lombok

They serve this fabulous prawn cracker as an appetizer with an amazing chilli sambal (chilli pesto). Yummalicious!

Nasi Goreng, Lombok

I love having this on beach holidays especially after a morning in the sun. The nasi goreng or fried rice was delicious. It was fluffy and full of flavour. It was accompanied by this amazing chilli sambal (chilli pesto) that gave the dish a nice kick. The satay was good. The meat was cut in chunks, marinated and grilled unlike the mince version that we get in Singapore. The fried chicken was also excellent. In Lombok, they over fry it till its dry, crisp, and falls off the bone. Eaten with the killer sambal, its quite a combination. In fact, this is also served as a dish in itself - Ayam Taliwang.

Beef Madura, Lombok

We had most of our meals at the hotel – this being laidback Lombok - but I made it a point to try most of the items on the “local dishes” section. The beef madura is a little like the beef rendang (a dry beef curry) that we have in Singapore, only I find the flavours milder. It was pretty good, and even had a nice "floral" note in the marinade.

Gulai Lemak, Lombok

We tried the beef curry the first night we were in Lombok at a quiet restaurant on an even more quiet main street in Senggigi, the most commercial beach in Lombok. The beef was tender to the bite, and the curry, a little sweet. I quite like it though my friend found it sacrilegious that sugar should be added to any curry. It was served with rice and boiled kangkong (a vegetable).

Kangkong Peliceng, Lombok

This, I was told, is a typical Lombok dish – boiled kangkong (water convolulus leaves) served with a generous helping of chilli sambal made from red chillies, lime juice and finely cut small onions, and mini bean sprouts. The chillies were quite potent, but once you get over the initial bites, the taste grows on you, and before you know it, its hard to put it down.

Monday, February 20

Bakerzin

Branches islandwide

After innumerable warm chocolate cakes, I finally decided it was time to take a closer look at Bakerzin's menu to see what else it had to offer. Thankfully, the choice was made easier by its new dessert tapas range, which meant we could sample a few at a go. Needless to say, we were subconsciously more drawn by the chocolate-based items, but nonetheless managed to agree on a less exclusive spread of 5.

Prime place goes to the chocolate and caramel ice cream above, which was crunchy, smooth, sweet and bitter all at the same time (and photographs beautifully too). Also worth a try is the banana pizza (right). This was special: didn't realise how well caramelized banana and cheese would work together, though there's no doubt that without the sweet, crisp filo pastry base to bind the flavours, this wouldn't have tasted so good.

The other three items were the chocolate shooter (really just hot chocolate with a layer of milk on the top), the ginger jelly with longan (this was quite refreshing actually, but the canned longans were a downer) and something called 'floating island'. Sound obscure? Well, it had two globs of foam, a drizzle of passionfruit coulis, a sprig of mint and a chocolate soup base, if that helps. Tastewise, it was quite nondescript.

Total damage: S$15.50 (US$9.50). Now where else could you get 5 desserts for that price?

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Wednesday, February 15

PS Café

28 Harding Road T. 6479 3343

This is the new “it” place , and the ever so curious me just had to go check it out. Its gorgeous alright, an all glass restaurant, fitted out with quirky 70's furniture, set in a very green neighbourhood that used to house army barracks.

The food and service… ah that is a different story. The restaurant was full when I arrived. And as I was a "walk-in", they could not accommodate us immediately. But I was lucky and managed to get a table within 15 mins. I ordered the keylime pie, which was supposed to be the “best” of the dessert specials that day, but found it way too sweet. I didn’t try much more of the menu since all I wanted was something sweet (I sure got what I asked for!). Friends who have eaten there have found the menu to be ordinary. I am putting this down to teething problems. I will be back – its just too beautiful a setting not to – to put the menu and service to the test in a few months time. Hopefully, it won't disappoint.

Ember




50 Keong Siak Road T. 6347 1928

This is a small restaurant that has won itself a strong following over the years. It serves western cuisine with an Asian touch. A favourite – the miso cod (top left) that is cooked till its slightly blackened on the edges. It also serves a mean crab cake with mango salsa. We tried something new this lunch - calamari with a soy marinade (top right) served with a variety of fresh herbs. The combination was a winner.

The other tasty thing about Amber is its desserts. The favourite is the valrhona chocolate cake with a lovely melty centre. I also ordered the beignet soufflé served with a pot of chocolate (left). This is not quite a soufflé but more ultra light dough sticks (stick shaped beignets?) that tasted fabulous with that dip of chocolate. Other treats include the banana tart and the banana crepe (right). Yums... It offers a great deal at lunch with the set, comprising an appetiser, main course and dessert available at S$35 (US$20.50) per person.

Samy's Curry Restaurant

Blk 25 Dempsey Road, Civil Service Club. T. 6472 2080
samyscurry.com

This is a restaurant that I had frequented as a child. It serves a variety of Southern Indian dishes on banana leaves laid out on the table. I cant quite recall what I used to eat here as a child, but these days, my preference is for the fish curry, mutton mysore (mutton stir fry), and when available, the fish roe. It is served with complimentary veges of the day - in an Indian restaurant, it could be a refreshing salad, usually cucumber and onions, with yoghurt or some other vegetable that's been cooked into a mush - and pampadams, a light Indian cracker. I also like my meal with some rassam - a light assam-based soup that can also be used as gravy over rice. I used to have the chicken masala as well - a version of a dry curry - but I find the Samy’s version so overwhelming chilli hot that it takes away the joy of eating it.

The trick to eating at Samy’s is to take your time selecting your dishes. The flurry of activity when you first arrive, with multiple waiters offering you a variety of dishes to pick from at your table, can be overwhelming. Once you conquer this, eating at this old style colonial building that also houses the Civil Service Club is quite a nice way to spend an afternoon. It’s also open for dinner.

Thursday, February 2

JuJu Hokkaido Hot Pot

1 Selegie Road #B1-18 Paradiz Centre T+ 65 336 6689

The steamboat business is a funny one. Because it all involves cooking raw food in boiling broth, restaurants tend to differentiate their product by introducing special side dishes and condiments, which is not what the customer is primarily after when they visit a steamboat restaurant. Not that we are complaining – this simple egg starter that came with the set dinner looked fabulous and tasted just as good. The presentation of the raw food was even better and each serving is more than enough for two. Like all good steamboat places, the food is fresh and they do provide lots of greens. But unfortunately, and quite critically too, they do not have an original chilli sauce to boast about, choosing instead to use a ready-made sweet Thai chilli sauce. And in so doing, customers might find it hard to visit again, especially when a price of a meal there, at S$26++ for a set dinner, is comparably higher than that in many other places.