Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sri Kamala Vilas

It was a really spontaneous decision to alight at Little India with the intention of transferring to the NEL train. But one thing led to another and I soon found myself facing Sri Kamala Vilas restaurant. I found the name familiar, and recalled reading some recommendations on their thosai. Despite my initial reservation about being a minority once I enter the coffeeshop, I decided it was about time I broke my dry spell from thosai, a typical South Indian crepe, made from a fermented mixture of ground rice and beans.

plain thosai ($1.50)

Very quickly, a freshly prepared and ginormous piece of thosai plated on a piece of banana leaf was served. Another guy followed behind with metal pails containing different side items. I got a coconut chutney that I didn't care too much for, a coconut and chili sambar that was pretty average and lastly, a watery vegetable sambar that was surprisingly my favourite. It was tasty and flavourful despite its appearance and I particularly loved biting into bits of mustard seeds. Its watery consistency also allowed the thosai to soak it up real good.

I loved the thosai's crispy parts on the edges and despite the large appearance, the crepe was not heavy at all. A plus point was that it was not too sour either. This is definitely one thosai I would gladly stain my fingers for again.

Sri Kamala Vilas Restaurant
(not Komala Vilas)
Block 662, Buffalo Road (Tekka Market)
(Beside the POSB ATM)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dim Sake Bar

It had been a really one over-indulgent week. But who could resist an opportunity to check out Goodwood Park Hotel's latest dining concept, a dim sum & sushi bar?

Try the DS Brew ($18) - it was a refreshing cocktail of vodka, lychee and of course, sake. We decided to have dinner there and had almost the whole dim sum menu. Unfortunately, the dim sum though apparently from the reputable Min Jiang restaurant, was just mediocre. More emphasis was placed on playing up the presentation than the quality of the food itself.

Order the "xiao long bao shooter" for novelty's sake. A shooter cup of broth that was served together with the bun was tasty enough. But the bun suffered from a skin that was far too thick and tough because it had turned cold quickly. I found out that to be the general trend for all the steamed orders.

On the contrary, all the deep-fried items fared better, being made ala mode helped. The chinese breadsticks (picture above, right most) that tasted like Chinese NY hae bee rolls went well with the savoury chili dip.

The highlight for me was the lobster roll (picture above, bottom) that retained a moist and crunchy texture, and tasted sweet and fresh. A coriander ginger shrimp (picture above, top) was interesting because the ginger flavor hit the nose even before a taste but overwhelming it was not. Instead, the zesty flavour just seemed to perk up the palate sensation even more.
The steamed sea perch with wolfberry ($8.95) was a light-tasting dish. The meat was smooth and silky, typical trademarks of the cod family.

(adorable) Carrot dumpling

Sliced fish congee with spinach puree ($11)

Tofu Trio ($8.95)

The rest of the dim sum was really just average.

Durian puffs ($2 each)

I rounded up the meal with Goodwood Park's famous durian dessert. The durian puff looked so ladened with its bulging filling I ended its misery by quickly devouring it.

It turned out Dim Sake Bar is an ideal place to hang out with a few friends, quiet enough to make your own merry, open til late and best of all, away from the rest of oversubscribed haunts. But eat first, or stick to the fried food.

Dim Sake Bar
GoodwoodPark Hotel
Sun-Thu: 6pm - 1am
Fri, Sat & eves of PH: 6pm - 3am
Tel: 6730 -1825

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie

Who was one happy girl when Canelé finally expanded beyond its Robertson Walk location into the main shopping strip? Not enough, they decided to expand its menu as well, venturing into the savouries.

With their latest outlet located at Raffles City, I find myself indulging one time too often. Its prime location beside the water fountains and the chic setting just makes it an even more attractive spot for a girls' night out. The menu is kept light enough to prepare the tummy for an onslaught of sinful desserts.

This was one of the first item that caught my attention. I love carbs which means pancakes in any form. Of course I could not resist the temptation to try the smoked salmon crepe ($13.50) that first looked like a piece of crisp, folded napkin, only edible and tasty. While the folded edges were oddly crispy, the bottom layer of crepe remained slightly chewy and moist. To add flavour, there was a layer of dill cream cheese topped with smoked salmon, red onion, and capers. It was supposed to be served with salad but I really don't think that few green things scattered around could be worthy of that title. But overall, the crepe made a nice light meal.

The Club Salmon tasted as it was described to be - Toasted Pain de Mie (white toast bread), smoked salmon, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, plump tomato, potato chips, fresh lettuce and side salad with house dressing. It was average but for $15.50, it was a little pricey for a sandwich.

The Chicken Caeser salad ($11.50), according to my friend who was attempting to watch her weight, was delicious as the generous cheese shavings and soft molten yolk added a lot of richness even without the signature anchovy dressing.

On the day I decided to abandon my all-time favourite Le Royale, it was because Cafe Caramel ($8.50) beckoned with its layers of milk chocolate coffee mousse, hazelnut praline, chocolae cake, and salted caramel. It was almost too rich but manageable, with a bit of tea.

Surprisingly, I found the sour cherry tart ($5.50) a rather refreshing change from the usual suspects. The tart cherries balanced the sweet almond frangipane filling perfectly and the crust remained ever crunchy to give it more texture.

At odd times, I do crave for cheesecake and the spotty-looking Oreo cheesecake ($6.50) seemed to beg for a chance. It was acceptable but I prefer a creamier texture rather than this, which was a little on the dry side.

Did I say I love layers already? The Cafe Noir ($8.50) was another dessert that did not fail to impress. The cream in the coffee mousse came on too strong and made the dessert cloying only after a few bites. This cake could be something to consider for sharing but I wouldn't be ordering it again.

With only a few more new desserts down, I still have a looong way more to go before I go through the entire dessert repetoire. I'll have another post when critical mass hits.

Canelé Pâtisserie Chocolaterie
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: (65) 6334-7377
Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm daily

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Xin Yuan Ji (Seah St)

The first coffeeshop at the junction of Seah St. seems to be jinxed. It went through several changes of management over the last couple of years already. The newest owner is none other than Xin Yuan Ji (新原记), which is already doing brisk business just a few blocks away, at Tan Quee Lan Street. I sure hope they survive longer than their predecessors because I just had a very satisfying lunch there today.

Their specialty is the sliced fish noodle soups and steamboat. But honestly, I don't think they are very good at it. Having tried both the milk- and non-milk versions before, the soup always tastes artificially sweet. The fish soup stall from Maxwell FC is still tops for me.

So at this new location, I steered far away from the fish soups and gave the seafood hor fun ($5) a try.
I love, love, love, a good hor fun but more often than not, I end up disappointed. Taking a risk, I placed my order, specifically requesting to taste the 'wok hei' . Luckily, the kitchen noted the request and I could tell that the hor fun was first given a good, looong, stirfry, before being drowned happily by flavouful gravy choked full of very fresh seafood. The shrimps were crunchy, squid not rubbery and fish firm. I was especially impressed that the shrimps were carefully de-veined. What a bonus!

Xin Yuan Ji's seafood hor fun is definitely the better one around my office area and whilst it is also the most expensive thus far, it is justified by its quality and quantity.

My lousiest came from Chin Chin Eating House, where a platter of lukewarm rice noodles that had a fake tan (via a dark soy sauce massage) was drenched with an insipid gravy tasting like water. It was definitely a bummer. Yikes, never again!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tatsu Sushi

This was the restaurant where Tatsuya's owner/Chef Ronnie Chia first started and I used to frequent this restaurant quite a fair bit in the past. But I was not really into food then and I can't remember when the last time I was there, probably about 2 years ago?

The chawanmushi definitely went downhill. It appeared to be promising but really, it lacked that soft, custard-y and throat-sliding sensation that was almost a pre-requisite.

The gindara teriyaki was okay. They got the sauce was just right - neither too salty nor excessively sweet. I would have prefered the fish to be oilier but that would just be an added bonus. I love its well-grilled and crisp skin though.

The sushi, well, it could be better. Luckily the rice was done quite well and not too big a mound. However, the 'neta' was on the skimpy side of things and could be fresher. There was no "wow!" moment unfortunately. The tamago was slightly too heavy on the sugar, so much so, I could only taste that sweetness through its spongy texture.

The bara chirashi had a lot more variety of raw seafood than the sushi. Between sushi and this "deconstructed sushi", I would re-order the latter if I find myself returning again at some point later.

Interestingly, the gari (or pickled ginger) was pretty good. It still had the spicy gingery kick to it and made a good palate cleanser.
Anyway, I was feeling really jaded about Singapore's Japanese food in general. The menus are boring and whilst most of the top-tier restaurants' standards are pretty decent, I feel like they are almost there, but just not quite.

I think a trip to Japan is in need to rejuvenate my taste buds. The lunch at Tatsu Sushi reinforces that last point and I was really surprised that the smallish restaurant filled up pretty quickly.

Tatsu Sushi
Tel: 6332 5868

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The butterfly will be gone

Dinner actually started off on a slightly depressing note, knowing that one of our all-time favourite restaurants and talented local Chef Anderson, will close its doors for good, coming 29 April 2008. But we decided to turn it around into a celebratory dinner of sorts, to commemorate all the good times and all the good meals we had under Chef's good hands.

To those who have yet to discover the talents of Chef Anderson in the kitchen, I would urge you to make your way to Red Dot as soon as possible. His food is typically made of relatively few and simple ingredients. But they are well thought out so the dish speaks volume when the various components are combined together.
To all who have yet to taste Chef's talents for yourself, hurry down and try his food. If it helps, I'd suggest this menu to make it simple for you:

Start off with "Freshly Picked Mud Crab with Mango and Tomato Salsa Served with a Light Orange-Mango Espuma" ;

Share an ala carte order of "Rigatoni Pasta Tossed in Crustacean Oil, Shaved Bottarga, Tiger Prawns, Seaweed and Arugula Salad" ;

For your main course, you won't go wrong with meat because my foodie friends say so :) ; or if you prefer fish, try the "Pan Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with Vanilla Shrimp Butter Sauce Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas and Crushed Potatos". The secret to the delicious vanilla sauce lies with the shrimp ;

End of the slate of savoury courses with dessert of your choice. Chef has a good pastry chef so you are in good hands there as well. If you drink, I'd encourage you to get a bottle of wine to go with your meal. With that, you will definitely leave with a delicious memory of Le Papillon, until the butterfly resurfaces once again.

Le Papillon
Red Dot Building
Tel: 6327-4177

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MINT Museum of Toys & Cafe

This place is a must visit for any toy-lover or a child at heart. It's actually a museum dedicated to toys and boasts a strong collection from over 25 countries! The MINT museum of toys is located at Seah Street, not too difficult to find as its rather comtemporary building is a stark difference to the rest of the row of old shophouses.

The museum has its own cafe that is quite cool. A stairway right at the entrance of the museum leads you downwards to the open-top dining room. I would love to duplicate the design for my own place.

Inside the cafe, the decoration was figurines and posters of familiar toys and images. They definitely invoke a sense of nostalgia for me. Everything was seems so quirky, so arty farty, particularly the retro and customised paper place "mats" and menu. I like!

The cream of cauliflower had the mildest of flavour but yet creamy and tasty enough to satisfy. The norwegian salmon with ratatouille was generous as the main course. Fish was fresh and not overdone. Too bad it didn't have much flavour. The thick salmon fillet was cushioned by a mound of delicious but slightly oily ratatouille. I think the daily quota of omega-3 and fiber could be easily met.

The primavera sandwich was also a pretty good vegetarian option. Then again, I could be impartial since I love vegetableseverything in the sandwich - grilled portobello mushrooms, mixed peppers and melted cheese, all between sturdy slices of sourdough bread no less, and toasted to enhance the pleasure.

Dessert was simply put as "panna cotta". It was served in a small shot glass layered with a couple of unidentified liquids. The first taste led the mind to think "chendol". How strange! It turned out that the layers were gula melaka and coconut cream. It was really a pleasant and deeelicious surprise.

9.30am to 10.30pm
26 Seah Street
Tel: 6339 6266

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Olio Restaurant

It was rather strange that all the restaurants at the basement of Suntec seemed to have a perpetually long queue but Olio was just the opposite - I got a table right away. Honestly, I went because of a recent review in the papers. Yes, definitely a classic example of how ST can boost a restaurant's business.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious the cafe was and I liked that today's paper and latest magazines were available for browsing. The menu is quite varied to cater for everybody. For the indecisive one, there is a 'chef's recommendation' logo to help narrow your options.

The capellini pasta with salmon in a miso cream sauce ($14.90) was one of the recommendations. The pasta was topped with two pieces of pan-fried salmon fillets and a bright orange glob of tobiko. Whilst it was a feeble attempt to jazz up the presentation, I thought it was still commendable.

The fish was quite fresh and not overcooked. The ample cream sauce was mildly sweet and coated each strand of the al dente pasta very well.

The laksa spaghetti ($12.90) was another other recommendation. Yet another rendition of Wild Rocket's laksa pasta, Olio's interpretation was akin to eating laksa that has been drained of all its gravy but left with all the bottom sendiments. This was different from Wild Rocket's version that was heavy on the laksa leave as a pesto sauce. Do I make sense??
Anyway, the sauce was not bad. It tasted 'lemak' withouth being overly oily and I could make out bits of laksa leaves and other things that go into making a laksa paste. Its flavour was definitely infused into the al dente spaghetti and there were generous fresh shrimps, hard-boiled eggs and gravy-soaked tau pok for completion.
Despite my initial reservations, both "fusion" pastas turned out pretty decent. Definitely something I would re-order, if I happened to be back.

B1 Suntec City
Tel: 6238 1109

Friday, April 11, 2008

Simply Irresistable

You know, I have been deliberately avoiding raw food for about 2 weeks now. I could not forget the horrible episode battling with the stomach virus.

Well, I should have known I simply cannot stay clean for long. The period of abstinence was finally broken when I was shopping innocently in the Marketplace. There were actually a couple boxes of negitoro maki sushi at the "Mr Sushi" takeout corner. They never have that before! Somewhat feeling guilty, I picked up both boxes.

Given it cost only $2.50/box, I could not fault the badly-made maki. The seaweed could barely hold the maki together but the negitoro filling was at least plentiful and tasted fresh.
Much of my pleasure was derived from knowing my stomach can handle raw food once again. I look forward to indulging in my favourite sashimi and sushi soon.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bonta Italian Restaurant

It is a small world after all and after a friend and I found out that we both knew the same friend, all 3 of us decided to get-together, over a meal of course.

We chose to try Bonta, located at the "jinxed corner of UE Square", to quote a friend. The restaurant has a mezzanine area that seems like a respite from the main dining area that lacked no crowd during the lunch hour. I was glad we weren't stuck in between people who spewed business lingo all through lunch.

Our meal started with fresh baked complimentary bread that I have heard such much about. After breaking into the crust and taking the first bite, I understood why people loved the walnut bread with sundried tomato and feta cheese. The crisp crust shattered and flew everywhere but the innards were soft like pillow and had a strong hint of sundried tomato flavour. It was especially joyful to bite into nuggets of walnuts and feta cheese that spiraled inside. All of us bread lovers, it was certainly an unanimous vote that this bread was beyond good.

As I was not feeling too good, I decided against my desire for something heavy and naughty for a fish option from the set lunch ($26++) menu. The 3-course episode started with a grilled vegetable platter with melted scarmoza cheese. It was very little food but tasty nonetheless and I still had the bread to finish. The other option was a tuna carpaccio, which I found slightly too fishy.

The main course was a grilled seabass with sicilian dressing, rosemary potato and green beans (2nd picture above). Nothing exciting here but it was well put-together. Fish was fresh and cooked til the flesh was still tender and had a delicious crispy skin. I know of people who do not eat their fish skin. If I knew that person well enough, the fish skin would be in my tummy :P

The other set lunch entree was a gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese. It had a really soft texture with hardly any tenacity. You either love or hate its texture. The sauce was really good though and after the main course, the friend shared not to underestimate the small portion of gnocchi because the heaviness sets in after you finished it.

The other friend succumbed to temptation and got the a la carte order of foie gras with homemade tagliatelle (S$36) but unfortunately the dish did not fare too well with her and the pasta was barely touched.

A feedback to the waiter saw the owner & executive Chef Luca apologising via an upgraded dessert on the house. We were served his specialty, the mango gelato with a pistachio crust, which was a light dessert perfect to finish off lunch. We still got the dessert of the day though, a raspberry tart. The tart crust was not a shortcrust but an almond torte. It was slightly heavy but paired with a whipped, light mascarpone cheese on top that was yummy.
It was an overall enjoyable lunch for me and I would love to come back soon to try some of Chef Luca's specials.

Bonta Italian Restaurant
#01-61 UE Square
Tel: 6333 8875

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Freshly Baked by Les Bijoux

I first found about a new bakery-deli along Killiney Road while surfing the web and actually checked it out while on my way into Sushi Yoshida. Did you know that its owner, Chef Audrey, is an ex-stewardess turned baker? She used to work for St. Pierre's group but finally decided to strike it out on her own. Her homemade loaves of bread looked pretty good and prices were certainly much better than its competitors.

Since that little stopover, I never returned and to be frank, I totally forgot about the place until a friend's recent SMS, strongly recommending Freshly Baked's sandwiches to me, the bread lover. So together, we went back to the cafe for a quick lunch. The smallish cafe filled up quickly and I was glad we were early so we got both our seats and our food rather quickly.

The menu was relatively simple - soup, sandwiches, desserts and drinks. Each sandwich is made with a specific recommended bread unless otherwise indicated by the customer. There was also a sandwich set going for $10.80 for a sandwich of your choice (from a fixed list), soup of the day and a drink. The a la carte soup ($5.80) gets you a free flow of bread too.

I had my favourite - the smoked salmon sandwich ($8.20) with wholemeal bread (instead of the original - paprika tomato). Its price was slightly more expensive than other sandwich joints that I frequent but to be fair, it was also quite a large sandwich as the bread was sliced thickly up to almost an inch thick. I think the sandwich was intentionally untoasted, as the bread was simply just so fresh that I think toasting it to a crisp would do injustice to the soft innards.

Yes, the wholemeal bread had a soft interior but the crust was a little thick, making it a slightly tough to chew in comparison. The sandwich filling was pretty generous though, and comprised of good amounts of delicious smoked salmon, dollops of cream cheese, leaves of romaine lettuce and whole (cherry) tomato confit. I loved that the tomatos were sweet and juicy, acting a little like lubrication to each bite.

The friend had a delicious looking vegetarian sandwich ($6.90) made with a multi-cereal bread. The mashed up avocado looked especially sexy and I think I will try that next time if I am around the area. It is really great to know there's another good, reliable sandwich option around town and even greater to know the deli is open even on Sundays too.
Freshly Baked by Les Bijoux
57 Killiney Road
Tel: 6735-3298
Weekdays: 8am - 7pm
Weekends: 8am - 2pm

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The morning after

My mom knew I was on the road to recovery when she came home and saw this.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rabbit Brand Seafood

I am back from China, suffering badly from a bout of stomach flu :( But instead of wasting time at home, I thought it is better spent recommending this seafood restaurant located in Joo Chiat.

The menu for the night was already sounded yummy. Imagine seeing this in front of you:

Braised Shark’s Fin with Japanese Scallop
Steamed Live Patin Fish In Nonya Style
Sri Lanka Crab with Chilli Sauce
Handmade Fried Buns
Deep Fried Live Prawn with Salted Eggs
Pan-Fried Fragrant Pork Chop
Homemade Spinach Beacurd with Tobikko
Baby Cabbage In Superior Stock
Fried Rice with Shredded Topshell Clam & Tobikko
Fresh Fruit Platter

The restaurant is your typical no-frill seafood restaurant but it is at least air-conditioned so you can dine in comfort.

I attempted to collage some of the pictures of the dishes. But my top two favourites are:

1) steamed patin fish - the flesh was wonderfully smooth and tender, and the Nonya sauce was awesome! It definitely had lots of garlic and other chopped bits that could be peanuts and/or tau cheo. That is besides the point because whatever the ingredients, they made the sauce very, very addictive, so much so it begged for white rice so we could savour every drop (which we of course obliged and requested for some).

2) chili crab - I know, this dish is everywhere but here, it was executed very well. Again, the crab was perfectly cooked and the sauce was robust, thick and just the perfect dipping consistency for the mini fried buns. And why waste such a yummy sauce? We asked for round 2 of buns!.

Worthy of a mention is the fried prawns with salted eggs. Typical interpretation of this dish is to use salted egg yolks to make a sauce to coat the fried prawns. But here, salted egg whites were finely diced and then stir-fried with garlic and the prawns. That made the outside shell of the prawn quite salty. Luckily we had the rice.

The homemade tofu was also not too bad. Fried til it's almost a tofu puff, it did come across slightly bland but that was probably because we had a few courses of heavier dishes before this. The tobiko added an element of fun while eating the tofu too. I think children will love this.

Rabbit Brand Seafood
325/327 Joo Chiat Road
(inside Hotel 81)