Peony Jade Restaurant, Keppel Club

The Amex-HungryGoWhere 30licious $30 Deals In 30 Days promotion is now on. Till tomorrow at least. With an impressive stable of reputable restaurants participating in the promotion such as Da Paolo Bistrobar, Golden Peony, Gyu Kaku, The Song of India, and Peony Jade, diners will be spoilt for choice. You can eat very well for very cheap for the entire month!

We were at the Keppel Club branch of revered Cantonese stalwart Peony Jade Restaurant last night to sample their 30Licious 6-Course Set Dinner ($30 per person). I was very relieved to secure a booking late in that afternoon (we're not the type to plan our meals in advance, you see), through an idiot-proof online reservation system. To be honest, I was initially skeptical about dinner, thinking that the food would turn out a pale shadow of the ala carte fare, but I thought, how bad could the lauded Peony Jade get?

Turns out, not bad at all! The restaurant, resplendent in its cheesy 70's decor replete with plastic florals, garish red carpeting, antiquated furniture and dated mandarin oldies blaring out the overhead speakers, was, save for a bunch of rowdy Japanese businessmen high on "happy juice", almost empty when we arrived for dinner. I liked that we pretty much had the restaurant all to ourselves. The food was very commendable, portions were substantial and service accommodating, if a bit impersonal.

The starter was a Dim Sum Duo Combination comprising a Siew Mai and Beancurd Skin Wrapped Prawns. The plating was uninspiring but the taste was spot on. The siew mai was fresh, succulent and bouncy, while the beancurd skin wrapped prawns was nicely crisp on the outside, and juicy on the inside.

The Scallop Bouillon with Egg White and Pumpkin Paste, uniquely served in a martini glass, was pretty good. Crunchy chestnuts were tossed in together with fresh scallop dice, set atop a mound of baby bottom-smooth egg white custard and slathered with a mellow creamy pumpkin-based gravy.

The Stewed Beancurd with Honshimeiji and minced pork and spinach was excellent. Delicate and refined, I especially loved the smooth-as-silk beancurd.

The 'Rojak' Prawns with Mixed Fruits was the Hubs' pick of the lot. This was at the same time spicy and sweet and piquant, an explosive medley of flavours cut by the tart fruitiness of the strawberries, avocados and melons.

The Wok Tossed Empress Noodles 'Hongkong' style was choc-a-bloc with peppers, chives, beansprouts, barbecued pork and scrambled eggs. No discernible wok hei but packed with flavour. 

To round off the overall satisfying dinner, the Dessert-of-the-Day was a Barley Beancurd Skin Soup, homestyled and lightly sweetened for a balanced finish. 

Peony Jade Restaurant
10 Bukit Chermin Road
Keppel Club Mezzanine level
Tel: 6276 9138
Open weekdays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
weekends from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Website: www.peonyjade.com


JB Ah Meng, Geylang Lor 23

I'd seen a friend's frequent (and tantalizing) facebook posts about JB Ah Meng, a cze char eatery in Geylang. As soon as I could gather the troops, we trudged on down to ever "colourful" Geylang for dinner.

JB Ah Meng is located in one of the busier parts of Geylang, where heavy foot traffic guarantees a PG-13 people-watching travelling show. My littlest brother spent most of dinner transfixed by the various "working girl transactions" going on around us, while we were "entertained" by the occasional sight of a rat scurrying away into the drains flanking the sidewalk. For those keen on keeping their dinner down, my advice is to avoid looking at the ground, or at the other tables, or at other people around you. Heck, just keep your eye on your dinner or your dinner companions. 

For a cze char joint (where service usually ranges from the indifferent to the surly), service was surprisingly pleasant. The lady proprietor was smiley, chatty and accommodating, an uncommon trait of eateries of the like. Food-wise, JB Ah Meng passed muster, but it was unmemorable. There are famed cze char joints in the vicinity like No Signboard Seafood, or Penang Seafood Restaurant that'll take first charge over the discerning tastebud. Looking back, I think, the main drawback of this humble eatery is the lack of a segregated dining area or restaurant space. Patrons were seated at tables strewn along the common five-foot-way and the heavy public foot traffic made for quite a disruptive meal.

The paper-crisp Deep Fried Fish Skin ($12), a refined version of a local snack, fish keropok, started off the dinner right as an addictive nibbler.

We preferred dipping the crackling in the piquant but tongue-numbingly spicy sambal chilli instead of the Thai-style sweet chilli dip accompanying the fish skin.

The 3 Delicacy Beancurd ($12), loaded with enoki and black mushrooms, pork mince and cuttlefish for a umami touch, was slathered in an unctuous gravy. 

My family didn't quite like the Salted Egg Prawn Ball ($20). The sweet accents of the salted egg yolk batter didn't quite sit right with them. I liked it though, especially the sweet corn kernels that dotted the bouncy prawns.

The White Pepper Crabs (3 for $40) were fairly decent, albeit small. Which made picking at it a highly unproductive venture. But the dismal size was (almost) compensated by its freshness and the sweetish, garlicky and subtly peppery sauce. I daresay the sauce is on par with No Signboard Seafood's exceptional rendition.

The innocuous-looking JB San Lou Meehoon ($7), a flattened pancake-esque mess of rice vermicelli, was imbued with a smoky char and rich seafood-based stock. Laced with egg scramble, diced prawns and cuttlefish, and a layer of greasy stir-fried greens under the pile, this was pretty darn good.If there was one thing I'll be back to JB Ah Meng for, this'd be it.

JB Ah Meng
New Good Place Eating House
2 Lor 23 Geylang
Tel: 6741 2418
Open daily from 5pm to 3am


The Disgruntled Chef

I wouldn't have thought to dine at a restaurant helmed by a self-confessed disgruntled chef, but I was hooked after a taste of their braised pork cheeks at Savour 2014. I suppose the epithet's meant to be an irony stilted in truth, where food is created with a disaffected flair. Just like how the quaint colonial setup in the lush Dempsey dining enclave appears, at first brush, formal and totally chi-chi but is actually refreshingly casual and boasts a relaxed, down-to-earth vibe. In line with its breezy form, you'll be glad to know that you can actually dine here in berms and slippers!

The service staff were perfectly lovely folk, so I actually feel bad for saying that, notwithstanding the warm consideration shown to us at dinner (the manager had very thoughtfully enquired if we wanted our eggs thoroughly scrambled instead of runny because he'd observed that Beeps was preggers), service was choppy and inefficient. There were inordinately long lapses between our courses, a dessert order was taken wrongly, we had to ask for the menu repeatedly, and our water glasses were left parched.

Despite the less-than-stellar service, and the chef's "disgruntledness", the food was excellent. Every dish was executed with an unaffected finesse, refining classically comfort food with a homestyled edge. 

The plump Roasted Sea Scallops ($24) were slayed in truffle butter for extra oomph and sat on a bed of delicate green tea puree. A crisp prosciutto and onion films added texture and flavour.

The Crayfish Macaroni & Cheese ($16) was gratinated with cheddar and cream sauce managed to stay light despite the ostensible dairy overload, by layering with bits of diced crayfish.

The Braised Pork Cheeks ($32) could have stayed in the casserole for a while longer, but it was satisfactorily moist and tender. Slices of soft miso-ed daikon and airy truffle mousseline sided this, while a pool of savoury braising sauce lent a homey accent.

The fall-off-the-bone tender Duck Cassoulet ($34) with lyonnaise sausage, coco beans and vine tomatoes, was heartily rustic and evocative of cool Autumns in the French countryside.

The Roasted Salmon ($29), with a delightfully crackling skin and moist flesh, was balanced by crisp green apple strips, creamed fennel and apple balsamic reduction.

A favourite side dish of mine whenever I dine out, the Roasted Mushrooms ($8) were simply tossed with garlic butter for a juicy flavourful earthiness.

A must-try here, the Spinach and Potato Revueltos ($8) was laced with fantastic moist egg scramble. Unabashedly simple, but so incredible in taste.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding ($14) with vanilla ice-cream is the best I'd ever had. I love toffee so I may be a little biased here, but even the Hubs loved it, so that's saying something. Moistened with a stickily sweet caramelisation, and juxtaposed with the icy touch of the vanilla bean ice-cream, the confection was just pure orgasmic heaven.

We'd originally ordered the chocolate fondant, but were mistakenly served the Deconstructed Cheesecake ($16) instead. We were mollified when we tasted the concoction of light cream cheese mousse, crunchy crumble and tart raspberries. Nuanced and balanced, this is a worthwhile order if you prefer a lighter dessert to round off the meal.

The Disgruntled Chef
26B Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476 5305
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Fridays & Saturdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 12noon to 4.30pm for brunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.disgruntledchef.com


Blanco Court Prawn Mee

Blanco Court Prawn Mee is probably the earliest (and most illustrious) purveyor of prawn noodles in Singapore, having started out as a humble street vendor in the 20's. Purists will argue that the Penang version trumps the Singaporean prawn noodles, but I think the local style holds its own unique charm. While the Penanites have found a winning formula with their spicy soup-based renditions, Singapore hawkers have masterfully adapted the noodles into an intoxicatingly spicy dry version.

And here's a little history nugget for you: this heritage hawker is actually cousins to the prawn noodles at Beach Road, Jln Sultan and Joo Chiat, so if you thought the flavours at these stalls seemed familiar, it's because they all belong to the same extended family!

The magic of the Dry Prawn Noodles ($4.80) lay with the chilli paste. Redolent of toasty dried shrimp and oodles of chilli powder, it was both fiery and sweet. To top it off, the prawns were fresh, beansprouts clear, kangkong crunchy and noodles springy. 

Like with the dry version, we opted for a mix of yellow egg noodles and an unusually thick rice vermicelli for the Sliced Prawn Noodle Soup ($4.80). It was a little disconcerting how the rice vermicelli was more like a thinner version of laksa noodles than actually skinny beehoon, and it did little to soak up the sweetly rich broth that drew its vigour from simmering pork ribs with prawn heads. Even if the prawns were split down the middle to appear deceptively plentiful in supply, I still thought they were plenty enough to make the bowl value-for-money.

Blanco Court Prawn Mee
243 Beach Road #01-01
Tel: 6396 8464
Open Wednesdays to Mondays 7.30am to 4pm
Closed Tuesdays


Maison Ikkoku

It's been a while since we last had brunch, and what a comeback we had!

Maison Ikkoku, a quintessentially hipster cafe with its exposed brick walls and copper piping, artistically distressed wood furnishings and kitschy serveware, may look pretentious but their food (and coffee) are really quite splendid. We'd noticed it before, when we were dabao-ing padang fare from Rumah Makan Minang just next door, but never really had the impetus to get past its poncey facade. Until now. The weekend all-day breakfast selection may be decidedly limited with just 10 egg dishes, but boy, are they good. So good I think they make worthy rivals of the king of brunch Wild Honey

The Signature Eggs Benedict ($22) was a hit, with a couple of perfectly poached eggs layered upon silky ribbons of prosciutto ham and thick buttery brioche, draped in a wonderfully balanced and delicate hollandaise sauce. Probably on par with Choupinette's rendition.

The fluffy and moist Ham & Cheese Omelette ($14) was taken up a notch with copious shavings of honey baked ham and melted cheddar cheese for maximum flavour. Toasted sourdough and an almond dusted mesclun salad sided this simple but commendably well done dish.

Don't miss out on their coffee here, they do good soulful stuff. The Hubs opted for a Vanilla Latte (+$2 top up as part of the breakfast set but $7 usual price), a subtle sweetness belying its potency.

The Cafe Latte (complimentary as part of the breakfast set but $5 usual price) was well-rounded and robust. I liked that they do pretty consistent latte art too.

The Tiramisu ($10) hit it out of the ballpark for us. Perfectly balanced, ultra moist and creamy, with heady coffee overtones, this was memorably good.

Maison Ikkoku 
20 Kandahar Street
Tel: 6294 0078
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 9am to 7pm;
Fridays to Saturdays from 9am to 10pm;
Sundays from 9am to 6pm
Website: www.maison-ikkoku.net


Guan Kee Kway Chap, Toa Payoh Lor 8

We went a-hunting after Kang told us about this kway chap stall in Toa Payoh. "Best kway chap ever", he'd said. Luckily, we'd been cautioned to go at an off-peak time, so while there was a queue already lined up at 11am, it was a manageably short one, with just 4 customers ahead of us.

We ordered the 2-person portion at $7, with a mix of Braised Egg, Pork Belly, Tau Kwa, Tau Kee and Small Intestines (that's the extent of my affair with innards), which were about the cleanest tasting innards I'd ever had. These were squeaky clean, with a delightfully chewy texture. The pork belly was scrumptious too, fatty and meltingly moist, while the eggs and beancurd were pretty decent.

The Kway Teow was silky smooth but I'd have preferred them thinner. The broth, though, I loved. It was rich in depth of flavour but nuanced. Not too heavy on the herbs or heaty star anise. A shoutout must be given to the awesome chilli sauce, potent and punchy, with a lively piquancy.

A surprising gem of a find, the Hubs took to the Pig's Trotters ($5) like a piglet to a fresh mudpool. These had nary a taste of feet, a glorious fall-off-the-bone softness, and been thoroughly marinated in a robust dark sauce for a full-on flavour.

The stall facade for reference.

Guan Kee Kway Chap
210 Toa Payoh Lor 8
Tel: 9739 6960
Open Mondays to Wednesdays & Fridays from 11am to 8pm
Saturdays from 10am to 8pm
Sundays from 9am to 8pm
Closed on Thursdays

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