Min Jiang, Goodwood Park Hotel

In spite of Min Jiang's longevity, it's not a restaurant we frequent. Their extensive menu is quite a hit-and-miss affair, and you'd really have to pick carefully for a commendable meal. This time round, we opted badly, and each dish comprised a jarring element, which made for a lackluster dinner.

The appetizer of Szechuan Chicken ($12), simply poached and served chilled smothered in a spicy-piquant sesame-soy-chilli sauce, passed muster but was far from outstanding. The version at Shinsen Hanten bore more harmonious flavours.

The Claypot of Braised Beancurd with Assorted Seafood ($28 for small) would have been wonderfully homestyled but for the less-than-fresh fish and overly treated prawns. Suffice it to say, we left the pieces of fish behind.

The Fried String Beans with Minced Meat ($18), enlivened with preserved mustard greens, was lacking in the smoky char of the wok.

We saw this served at just every other table, but we didn't quite take to the Stewed Ee-Fu Noodles with King Prawns ($16 per person). The XO sauce clashed terribly with the punchy heat of the ginger slabs. It was one ingredient too many; I would have much preferred the noodles slicked with just XO sauce, sans ginger.

The 'Min Jiang' Style Fried Noodles ($20 for small) was much better received. Classic fare done right, with a simple, uncomplicated appeal to it.

We should have taken our cue from the Braised Peanuts ($3), which unwonted sweetness was disconcerting. It heralded the disappointing dinner.

Min Jiang
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
Tel: 6730 1704
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner



The fringes of Little India have started getting gentrified. What was once the hub for many mechanical mom-and-pop shops have given way to a number of notable hip cafes and bistros, amongst them, Morsels, a rustic restaurant styled like an English countryside cottage. 

Helmed by twin darlings of the local culinary scene, Petrina Loh and Bryan Chia, Morsels manages an effortless fusion of the east and west with such seamless flair that dishes appear like it was always meant to be married. The food is inventive, and fresh, with nary a whiff of contrived pretentiousness. Best of all, flavours at Morsels are grounded and comforting.

Think fusion fare in tapas sharing portions, so budget 6 dishes, including dessert, per 2 persons. Morsels practices impeccable timing, with only one dish served at a time, closely followed by the next only after you're done, so the petite doll-sized tables don't ever get overcrowded with all of the dishes arriving at once. I love it. The languid pace of savouring the dishes is such a refreshing change-up from the clipped dining pattern regularly turned over by most local establishments. 

As you'd expect of a restaurant on the fringes of Little India, carpark lots are limited and a parallel parking nightmare. A tip is to park at the open-air public carpark next to Sim Lim Tower, take the traffic junction across Jalan Besar, and onto Mayo Street on the other side. 

The Zucchini Pancake ($12) layered with a wobbly mound of gorgonzola panna cotta, and a delicate weave of miso honey vinaigrette was a love-it-or-hate-it dish. Mostly because of the striking pungency of the gorgonzola custard. I like my blues, so this was quite the winner for me.

A must-try, the Grilled Wild Sri-Lankan Green Tiger Prawns ($26), imbued with a fragrant char, was contrasted against a zesty smoked strawberry gazpacho flecked with a fermented chayote salsa, and pulut hitam cracker. Incredible balance shown on this plate.

A signature here, the Steamed Venus Clams ($24) were small but plump with seafresh goodness, and dunked in a creamy fig broth, and spiked with homemade kimchi and pickled wakame. The crusty toasts on the side were great for mopping up every last drop of that sumptuous soup.

The Grilled Hungarian Mangalican Pork ($29) was luscious, and even without the Asian ginger sauce, cauliflower puree, kombu salt, would have been delicious on its own. This was sided by a ginger-sesame dressed baby kailan salad evocative of the local chicken rice.

Another must-try, was the Grilled Fish-of-the-Day, a Barramundi ($26) set above a mound of soba noodles slicked in a umami nori pesto and tare sauce, and topped with micro greens and ikura.

The fork-tender Ume Sake Braised Black Angus Short Rib ($30) was exquisite, the heft of the red meat complemented by the dry sweetness of the liquor. This was paired with okinawan sweet potato, poached baby bok choy and koji wasabi.

Yet another must-try, the 'Morsels' Signature Milo Tiramiso ($15) was glorious. Served kitschily in a mason jar, the concoction was rich but well-balanced.

35 Mayo Street
Tel: 6396 6302
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm;
Closed Sundays to Mondays
Website: www.morsels.com.sg


Uncle Ho Tuckshop

Uncle Ho Tuckshop has been around for a couple of years now, but recently garnered frenzied attention after President Obama's much-publicized visit to some hole-in-the-wall roadside stall in Hanoi with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. Why, you may be puzzled, would a foreign visit to another country's stall cause a local Vietnamese eatery so much buzz? Well, the POTUS dined on bun cha, a classic Hanoian street fare, and Uncle Ho's Tuckshop very cleverly capitalized on it by putting out posters claiming to serve the very thing the leader of the free world ate.

So while Uncle Ho's Tuckshop had previously drawn in an ample lunch crowd from the Pasir Panjang working hinterland, it's now impossibly crowded for lunch, and dinner. Housed in a non-descript commercial building, the ground floor canteen can now be distinguished by a small queue leading out to the main street.

Oh well, at least the turnover's fast, and so is the kitchen service. The self-serviced casual bistro serves a relatively wide range of Vietnamese fare, and while prices are reasonably easy on the wallet, the food is just so-so.

One of the best offerings here, the Fried Spring Roll ($6.50) was nicely crisp, and juicy with julienned vegetables.

For lighter, diet-friendly fare, the Summer Spring Roll ($6.50), boasting clean, clear flavours, was substantive and yummy.

The Lemongrass Chicken ($12.90) was pedestrian, with little hint of Vietnamese influence.

The Bun Bo Nam Bo ($12.90) was a refreshingly chilled melange of torn lettuce, parboiled beansprouts, poached rice vermicelli, topped with grilled beef strips and copious lashings of fried onions and peanuts. A lovely alternative to a regular salad.

Uncle Ho's Tuckshop
100 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 9624 5791
Open Monday to Fridays from 11am to 9pm;
Saturdays from 11am to 3pm;
Closed on Sundays


Wang Dae Bak Korean BBQ Restaurant, Amoy Street

Wang Dae Bak was recently picked by HGW as the best Korean restaurant in Singapore. Although I have a policy of reserving my Korean food-indulgence for only when I'm in South Korea, the rave reviews given to the CBD-adjacent restaurant definitely got me curious. Enough to venture into the hole-in-the-wall at the hip Amoy Street enclave on a bustling week night.

The narrow galley of a restaurant was smoky, cramped, and felt so confined it veered towards claustrophobic. The clincher was the lack of alcohol, because Wang Dae Bak hadn't gotten a liquor licence. In spite of the abundance of soju posters liberally plastered all over the busy restaurant. Suffice to say, Wang Dae Bak is a no place to linger after a meal. You're best served heading off to one of the bars down the road, for a post-meal booze-up. 

Food-wise, Wang Dae Bak was a hit-and-miss. Stews were commendable, and the kimchi was perhaps one of the best outside of the Korean peninsula, but the barbecue was so-so. A downside: the staff didn't assist to cook our meats, unlike most restaurants (both in Seoul and Singapore), which was disappointing.

There was a total of six banchan, which were worthwhile. The kimchi, made in-house, was excellent; and so were the chilled marinated tofu, sesame fishcake, and pickled green chilli. Strictly as a matter of perference, I wasn't a big fan of the seaweed or potato.

Although the barbecue sets are slated for 2 persons, a massive platter can feed twice that. Especially if you're supplementing the barbecue with other ala carte dishes. The Set Menu B ($48) comprising Marinated Prime Rib, Pork Belly, Spicy Chicken, and Marinated Shoulder, was a mixed bag of clunky caveman-quality meats. The beef wasn't exactly melt-in-your-mouth, and the rest of the meats were mediocre.

There are a couple of standouts in the ala carte menu, and amongst them, a must-try, the Kimchi Jjigae ($25 for large). Grounded in an anchovy stock base, and dotted with decadent chunks of pork belly and beancurd, this was spicy, bold and refreshingly piquant.

Another classic, the Soondubu Jjigae ($25 for large) was a bubbling cauldron of spicy-sweet broth swimming with a seafood hodgepodge of fresh clams, squid, and shrimp, and complemented with silky beancurd, zucchini, and egg drop. Scrumptious to the last drop.

The Kimchi Pancake ($19) was a thick fluffy disc weaved with diced onion and kimchi nubbins, embellished with beautifully golden crusty edges. Another must-order.

The vegetable stir-fry Japchae ($8) fell flat, a middling pile of too-fat noodles, insipid seasoning, and miserly cache of julienned vegetables. Finding Wally would have been a far easier process than hunting down another strand of cabbage. Give this a miss.

Wang Dae Bak Korean BBQ Restaurant
98 Amoy Street
Tel: 6226 0450
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.wangdaebak.com.sg


Bonheur Patisserie, Raffles City

Macarons were the dessert du jour of 2013-2014, but it's not a sweet that's easy to find these days. Canale used to be our go-to, but since it's now defunct, we thought we'd try Bonheur Patisserie, a new-ish shop in the Raffles City food basement. 

The packaging is certainly pretty, but the macarons were regrettable. 

Save for the salted caramel one, the rest of the macarons reeked of an overwhelmingly artificial flavouring. It was like nibbling on a cookie doused in those essential oils I burn in my bedroom. From left to right: Lavender, Rose, Yuzu, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Cookies & Cream ($3 each).

Bonheur Patisserie
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City Shopping Centre #B1-72
Tel: 6336 3104
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 10am to 7.30pm;
Fridays & Saturdays from 10am to 9.30pm;
Sundays from 10am to 10pm
Website: bonheurpatisserie.com.sg


Folks Collective, Asia Square

For some reason, I was under the impression that Folks Collective was just another hipster coffee joint. You know, one of those industrial chic cafes with more style than substance.

Turns out, the replacement tenant of La Cantine at Asia Square is actually a contemporary Thai bistro. It's regularly packed with lots of expat-types, so unexpectedly, spice levels are watered down. That said, the food is fairly decent, and price points are sufficiently competitive to keep the restaurant a popular haunt with the CBD lunch crowd.

I liked the sun-dried Pork Strips ($10.90) luscious and redolent with garlic and kaffir lime, and served with a piquant chilli fish sauce. 

The roasted Lemongrass Chicken ($14.90) had an aromatic marinade, but it hadn't had time to steep into the meat. The breast meat was a smidge dry-ish, but the thigh segments were juicy enough.

The Tom Yum Potaek Chicken ($10.90), a Thai classic spicy and sour clear broth, was fragrant and possessed a bright tang, but lacking in heat.

A must-try, the Olive Fried Rice with Chicken ($12.90) was sumptuous, a harmonious symphony of salty olives and eggy elements. 

Folks Collective
8 Marina View
Asia Square Tower 1
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 11pm
Website: www.folkscollective.com
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