Mid-Autumn Mooncakes, The China Club

The China Club has, by far, the most uniquely chinoiserie (read: cheena-fied) mooncake packaging. A towering oriental pagoda hides functional drawers; the box is pretty enough to be re-purposed to house your knick-knacks.

The traditional mooncakes, filled with white lotus paste, are moist and delicate, each encompassing a single salted yolk and freckled with melon seeds for a textural contrast.

For a more unique, but still very much Chinese-style festive treat, the Lotus Paste with Chicken Bak Kwa Mooncake, studded with a melange of nuts, is crunchy, moist and chewy.

The China Club
Website: www.chinaclub.com.sg


Ramen Keisuke Tori King, 100AM

Ramen Keisuke Tori King is yet another concept by the ever-growing Keisuke Ramen group. Here at 100AM, they specialize in chicken ramen, working exclusively with chicken-based broths adorned with a colossal chicken thigh. Which is why they are more colloquially known as "that chicken leg ramen place".

Prices here are exceptionally budget-friendly, with a properly substantial meal going at under 15 buckaroos per head. So it totally makes sense that, apart from the weekday lunchtime crowd drawn from the CBD hinterland, the cash-strapped and young student-types would frequent this tiny joint. The 40-odd seater eatery fills up swiftly, so best to arrive before 12 noon for lunch or by 6 pm for dinner if you abhor queuing.

Don't fret if you have to wait; turnover is high because the kitchen and service are quick and efficient, but what else would you expect from the Japanese, right? They did invent the bullet train afterall.

Their signature classic, the Tori King Ramen ($11.90), sumptuous to the point it was almost viscous, was enlivened by fried shallots and balanced out by the clear crunch of the black fungus and copious lashings of their "secret chilli sauce".  An exquisite Flavored Egg ($2) and huge slab of Pork Chashu ($1) topped alongside the hulking chicken thigh, grilled to perfection and irresistibly luscious.

An absolute must-try here (you'd be remiss if you didn't!), the Black Spicy Tori Ramen ($12.90), piled with a Flavored Egg ($2), and abundant with the heady heat of black pepper, was effervescent and robust. 

The Keisuke chain is renowned for their serving a free-flow of hard-boiled eggs, usually shells-on and in ready supply on all tables to partake. We don't usually eat them, because we're happy enough with our ajitsuke tamago, but since we were also served 2 hard-boiled eggs, conveniently deshelled for easy access, we relented and doubled our cholesterol intake for the day.

If possible, save space for their complimentary appetizer, Sesame-d Beansprouts, at once refreshing and potent, having been spiked with chilli powder, sesame oil, sesame seeds and shoyu.

Also complimentary are sesame seeds for personal grinding and sprinkling over your own ramen for additional oomph and aroma.

Ramen Keisuke Tori King
100 Tras Street
100AM #03-15
Tel: 6604 6861
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: keisuke.sg


Takumi Tokyo, Keppel Bay

Hidden away in a little nook on the second level of Keppel Island is a little-known Japanese restaurant, Takumi Tokyo, beloved by the Japanese expat community. With expansive views of the marina and Sentosa coastline, the restaurant is sophisticated, but relaxed. An insider tip is to partake in their weekday lunches; they serve up unbelievably cheap sets that make it very worthwhile to drive out here for lunch. 

The Saba Set ($15) comprised a perfectly grilled slab of fish, burnished to a gorgeous gold and delectably moist. The bonito-flaked parboiled spinach and sauteed mushrooms were served refreshingly chilled.

The Tempura Hot Soba Set ($15) paired a wholesome bowl of soupy buckwheat noodles, with a duo of massive inari sushi, marinated spinach, and sauteed mushrooms.

My favourite, the Tempura Soba Set ($15) juxataposed the piping hot crisp of tempura moriawase with the cool clarity of the icy soba noodles. This was sided by kelp-garnished bamboo shoots, bonito-topped lady's fingers and a couple of inari sushi.

All the sets were started off with a half-cup of Chawanmushi, dotted with shitake, chicken and prawn dice.

To round off the meal, we were served a dessert of fruit cups, with melons, pineapples, strawberries and mangoes in a pool of sweet syrup.

An off-menu item that the chef very kindly obliged at my request, the Dobinmushi ($16) was refined, delicate, and choc-a-bloc with sparkling fresh seafood. 

Takumi Tokyo
#02-01 Marina at Keppel Bay
Keppel Bay Vista
Tel: 6271 7414
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Ichiban Boshi, Vivocity

We stopped by Ichiban Boshi for a quick, low-fuss lunch. The food's far from the best, but prices are relatively cheap, and makes for a reasonably value meal if you stick to a few tried-and-tested basics. 

The Chicken Katsu Toji ($10.90), a moist chicken cutlet was slathered with a slightly overdone scrambled egg and sweetish brown sauce.

The Dobinmushi ($7.90), a teapot soup of dashi stock flavoured with a melange of seafood like prawns and white fish, and sweetened by enoki and shitake, was intensely umami. 

The Hotate Kinono Kaminabe ($17.90), a paper hotpot laden with scallops, salmon, prawn, beancurd, enoki, shitake in a shoyu stock, was rich and robust.

Ichiban Boshi
1 Harbourfront Ave
Vivocity B2-07
Tel: 6376 8318
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 10pm;
Sundays from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.ichibanboshi.com.sg


Ramen Bari Uma

Bari Uma Ramen, a specialist in onomichi ramen, marries the heady saltiness of shoyu and the robust depth of tonkotsu. A Hiroshima import with branches all over Japan, they've recently opened their second outlet in Singapore along the sleepy end of Orchard that is Tanglin Shopping Centre.

The offerings here are mostly variants of the onomichi ramen, doctored with nori, chillis, or a medley of toppings. In addition to the ramen and the ubiquitous gyoza, they also serve up a small selection of yakitori, so the cosy little izakaya-styled joint may seem a little smoky.

The Kara-Uma ($16) was the spiciest ramen I've had to date. The shoyu-flavoured pork-based broth was liberally spiked with dried red chillis for an intensely rich heat. The chashu here, I noticed, was thicker than most other places, but wonderfully tender and imbued with a smoky charring. The refreshingly clear Corn ($2) helped to somewhat alleviate the spiciness.

For those who prefer their flavours clear and delicate, the Shoyu-Uma ($12) was like a beta version of the standard shoyu-flavoured pork-based broth. The thick-cut flamed chashu was served in a half-portion as well, but we also added Corn ($2) and a marinated soft-boiled Egg ($2). Ramen just wouldn't be complete without an egg.

We supplemented our ramen with some Pan-Fried Gyoza ($6.80 for 5pcs), delightfully chewy with a beautifully golden and crisp side, and stuffed with juicy chicken mince and spring onions.

Ramen Bari Uma
19 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Shopping Centre B1-01/02
Tel: 6887 4484
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm


Fatboys The Burger Bar, Far East Plaza

The Burger Bar is a scaled-down version of the Fatboys' chain of burger bars strewn across the island. A hole-in-the-wall of teeny bopper hangout Far East Plaza, this tiny diner is manned by a satellite crew. It's entirely self-serviced (you place your orders through the ipads and make payment at the cashiers), and clearing up after oneself is de rigueur.

The menu here is, likewise, downsized, so expect a decidedly limited choice of burgers, sides, and canned and bottled drinks. At least they've retained their build-your-own-burger (aka '"BYOB") option, I'm a big fan of customisation. 

The Beef Cheeseburger ($7.50) laden with Bacon ($2), Fried Egg ($1.50), Caramelised Onions ($1), with standard toppings such as tomato, cheese (monterey, in this instance) and gilded with a premium Smoked Chipotle Sauce ($0.50), wedged between pillowy sesame seed buns, was a sinfully delicious greasebomb. Really awesomesauce, but best eaten piping hot when the oil hasn't soaked through and wilted everything out.

The Chicken Cheeseburger ($7.50) comprised a succulent chicken fillet grilled to a perfect smoky hue, brushed with a premium Smoked Chipotle Sauce ($0.50) and layered with Bacon ($2), Honey Baked Ham ($2) alongside standard garnishes such as shredded lettuce, tomato slice, cheese (cheddar) sandwiched by fluffy sesame seed-studded buns. Excellent stuff. 

The Burger Bar, a Fatboy's Concept
Far East Plaza #01-16A/B
14 Scotts Road
Tel: 6737 3315
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm

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