Our regular run-to-dinner sessions usually means that we are unglamourously sweaty and in our very casual exercise gear. The good thing about Prego is that they do not have a strict dress code so we're still able to dine there while drenched in prespiration (okay, we're not that bad).

There was a waiting time of 15 minutes for a table but we were happy to cool down while walking around the shopping mall. Okay, we also used the 15 minutes to go to Marks & Spencer and load up on junk food.

Prego's just revamped its menu on 22 February 2010. Only the pasta selection has changed a fair bit, the rest are about the same. Best of all, prices have mostly stayed the same. They probably changed the menu in accordance with the seasonal pickings.

We ordered 2 soups, the Minestrone di Verdure e Legumi ($15), rustic and hearty mixed vegetable tomato-based soup. Today's version was extra chunky, probably because we were dining really late so we got the bottom of the barrel, yay.

We also ordered another classically Italian soup, the Zuppa di Funghi con Bianca e Olio Tartufato ($15), cream of mushroom soup with truffle oil and bianca garnish. This was really good, creamy and rich and full of mushroomy-goodness.

Oh we've realised that the portions for the soups are huge. We were quite full by the time we finished both soups.

We've got our favourites dishes down pat, mine's the Risotto al Funghi Porcini e Bottoncini con Spinaci ($34), a traditional Italian rice dish with sauteed porcini and button mushrooms and spinach. Little grains of pearls shimmering down your throat, clad in a silky, creamy and cheesy sauce. I really love this.

The BF's fave is the Maccheroncelli all Amatriciana ($24), short tube pasta tossed with pancetta, onion, chili and tomato salsa. Fresh pasta has got that soft, bouncy texture that dried pasta cannot replicate. The decadent artery-clogging pancetta is absolutely worth the cholesterol.

Prego's Bread Basket, fluffy and warm as always. We struggled to finish this because we were so full with everything else. Today's service was especially speedy, we barely finished a chunk of the bread before our soups and mains arrived. I guess it's because we're one of the last few diners remaining.

Level 1, Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
Tel: 6431 5156
Open daily for breakfast from 6am to 11am, lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm and dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm


Tony Roma's, Suntec City Mall

The last time I stepped into Tony Roma's was 4 years ago. So when we couldn't decide where to have dinner one evening after our run, we let a poster advertisement for "America's Best Ribs" make the decision for us.

The restaurant was fairly emptied out by the time we stepped in for dinner at about 9pm.

We got the Half Onion Loaf ($8.90), a towering concoction of battered and deep-fried onion rings, served with a BBQ-mayo sauce. This was so aromatic and it tasted as good as it smelled. I didn't really take to the BBQ-mayo sauce though, I'm so not a fan of mayo.

We got 2 mains to share. First up was the BBQ Half Chicken ($20.90), served with a corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. The chicken was juicy enough, but the glazing BBQ sauce was a tad too sweet. The mashed potatoes was also way too dry, even the bacon and shredded cheese topping couldn't cure the dry potatoes. This dish wasn't value for money, but at least the chicken was huge.

We also ordered the Ribs and Fish Fillet Combo ($28.90), also served with the same sides. The ribs were disappointingly not tender enough, and didn't live up to the "America's Best Ribs" promise. It might be the best in America, but definitely not in Singapore. But the fish saved the day. It was flaky, clean-tasting and moist. Overall, this dish was a let-down, and not worth its $28.90 price-tag.

Tony Roma's also serves a Mini Baguette with Herbed Butter, but we were too occupied with the onion loaf to enjoy this. I noticed that the bread was served warm though.

I have to point out something though, we were served by a very very very earnest waiter. He was always so eager and sincere in his service. I didn't get his name (he looks to still be around 18 years old?) but he's the kind of waiter I would give a better tip to.

Tony Roma's
3 Temasek Boulevard #B1-007
Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6337 9055
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 3.00pm for lunches and 6.00pm to 10.00pm for dinners; and
Fridays to Sundays from 11.30am to 10.00pm
Website: www.tonyromas-mms.com/en/index.php?q=singapore

Uncle Sam's Claypots

Uncle Sam's Claypots used to have one of the best claypots around, back in the 90s. Sadly, the standard has dropped quite a fair bit. The ingredients have shrunk, the prices have risen and the claypots are not as yummy as they used to be. I used to love the tom yum noodle soup, but I don't eat it anymore. Also, I always come of the air-conditioned restaurant smelling like the food I just ingested. And, my hair will end up smelling like that the rest of the day.

The only dish I feel worth eating here is the Claypot Chicken ($6), the rice has a nice charred smoky flavour, the chicken is succulent and well-marinated, and the preserved Chinese sausages (lup cheong) add flavour.

A colleague wanted something lighter for lunch, so he got the Claypot Ipoh Kway Teow ($6), which was a little disappointing. The kway teow wasn't very smooth and the soup was a little MSG-ish. He didn't finish this.

The good thing is that they have a 15% discount if you pay by Citibank credit cards. That would eliminate the service charge and some of the GST portion of the total bill.

Uncle Sam's Claypots
63 Robinson Road
#01-01 AfroAsia Building
Tel: 6221 3098
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 3pm


Oriole Cafe & Bar

The BF and I happened to be in the Somerset area when the hunger pangs struck. We ditched the original plan to go running and decided to have dinner instead.

We haven't really checked out the new shopping malls along Orchard Road. Mostly because they are all overflowing with shoppers. We've noticed this phenomenon amongst the locals here, whenever a new mall opens, the crowds will throng it because it's novel and new. It takes about half a year to a year, or when another new mall opens, whichever is the earlier, for the crowds to disperse. Since both of us hate crowds, we figured that we'll wait till the IRs open to visit the new malls along Orchard Road.

Since we were at 313 Somerset, we trailed the Discovery Walk in search of a dinner location. We saw Oriole Cafe & Bar across the Walk at the Pan Pacific Serviced Suites and decided to check it out.

We started off with a Spicy Calamari ($13), battered squid rings with pickled chili peppers. This was surprisingly yummy. The calamari was done just right, cooked tender without being rubbery. The piquant chili peppers provided a tangy and sweet twist to the usual calamari.

We got 2 mains to share, the Chicken Casserole ($20), with spanish chorizo, smoked paprika and grilled baguette. This is done in the style of a typical Italian chicken cacciatore. Very rustic and hearty. I liked this, but it does get a little too rich after a while. Luckily, the BF and I were sharing this.

We also got the Beef Cheek Tagliatelle ($15), beef cheeks braised in red wine with mushrooms and shallot oil. This was alright, but there were unusual fruity overtones in the sauce, which left a slightly weird aftertaste on the tongue. Me thinks that a fruity red wine was probably used, I would have preferred a drier, less fruity braising red wine.

Oriole Cafe & Bar
96 Somerset Road #01-01
Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 8348
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 11pm, and Sundays from 10.30am to 11pm


Carousel, Royal Plaza on Scotts

I was back here for our February L.A. Lunch. This time, I decided to focus, in order to give my digestive system a little break from all that Chinese New Year feasting.

I headed straight to the western mains, the Braised Beef with Carrots and Truffle. Oh I really like this, the beef is tender, the carrots are crunchy and sweet, and the sauce is divine, laced with the unmistakable fragrance and distinctive flavour of truffle oil.

I paired the beef with the Roasted Baby Carrots, Parsnips & Squash. These were roasted very well, lightly salted and sprinkled with aromatic herbs.

I also liked the Black Pepper Encrusted Duck. I loved how the smoky flavours of the pepper crust infused the duck.

The Aglio Olio Spaghetti was cooked upon order and perfectly al dente. Simple and delicious.

It was then time for dessert, I shared some ice-cream with my colleagues. We got the classic trio of Vanilla, Strawberry and Chocolate Ice-Cream. Smooth, creamy and refreshing.

And, ladies and gentlemen, this is how you eat a buffet without going overboard (and without falling asleep at work thereafter). Focus on the things that catch your fancy, be disciplined to eat only the things you like, and have the self-control to stop eating before you have to start unbuckling your belt.

Royal Plaza on Scotts
25 Scotts Road
Tel: 6737 7966
Email: carousel@royalplaza.com.sg
Open from 6.30am to 10am for breakfasts,
12pm to 2pm for lunches on weekdays, 11.30am to 2pm for lunches on weekends and public holidays
3.30pm to 5.30pm for high teas,
6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinners.


Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant, Suntec City

Our regular after-work running sessions were halted when the BF underwent lasik. Doing away with the hassle of using contact lens and/or wearing spectacles is such a liberating experience. I'm all for lasik. It may seem scary at first, because erm, there is a very very very slim chance that you may go blind. More so after the ophthalmologist explains every single risk and complication arising from the operation (I've noticed that doctors in general will explain the risks of any procedure in more detail after they find out that you're a lawyer). But having done it myself, and having known many who have undergone it, I'm of the opinion that it's the best 4,000 bucks I've ever spent on myself.

It's been a week since his op, and since the doc gave the go-ahead for exercise, we ran to Suntec after work today for dinner.

The BF wanted to eat dim sum, so we popped into Imperial Treasure. Unfortunately, they only had the Shanghainese dim sum by the time we got there, so we decided to order from the main menu instead.

We got the Braised E-fu Noodle with Chives ($10.50). The noodles were slippery and smooth, braised with white button mushrooms and chives for that fresh flavour.

I wanted porridge so I ordered the Mushroom Chicken Congee ($6.50), the porridge was watery, smooth and delicate, chock-full of succulent chicken pieces and thick slices of Chinese black mushrooms. You know, the BF used to hate porridge in the past. To him, it was sick-person-food. Now, because I love porridge, he also loves porridge. That's the thing about being one-half of a couple. You somehow end up adopting each other's likes and dislikes. I also used to hate eating fish because of the bones, but now, I actually crave steamed fish once a while.

 I also got one of my favourite soups, the Beancurd Thick Soup with Seafood ($7), a starchy, delicate and light soup with loads of crunchy prawns, fresh scallops, silky beancurd cubes, sweet melon cubes, mushrooms and egg white drops.

We also ordered veggies, the Oyster Sauce Baby Bok Choy (Bai Cai Miao) ($12), crunchy and sweet green leafy vegetables with a good slathering of rich and sticky oyster sauce.

7 June 2010

A quick update: Please note that they've closed this outlet down. The only available Nan Bei restaurants are at Takashimaya and Tampines

Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant
3 Temasek Boulevard
Suntec City #B1-011
Tel: 6339 3118
Open daily from 10am to 11pm


Albert Street Food Centre

It is said that the quality of food is inversely proportional to the hygiene standards of a hawker. Which may explain why the best foods are always found at the dingiest of locations. The most memorable meals I've had overseas are along dark alleyways, cooked up by the most sweaty and scruffy-looking chefs. This may also explain why every time a hawker centre undergoes a renovation and spruces up, the food seems to lose its luster just as the hawker centre acquires a brand new sheen.

So when the Albert Street Food Centre reopened a couple of months ago, I went to check it out and see if the standard of the food has dropped.

I made a beeline for Yuan Ji Zhen Zhong Fried Carrot Cake after seeing that the dinner queue had yet to form. I noticed that the chef has acquired an extra wok, so it now takes him half the time to fry up his popular carrot cake. Yippee! No more horrendous queues.

The Black Carrot Cake ($2.50) was still wonderfully fragrant and aromatic. The hot wok had imparted a nice smoky scent and taste to the carrot cake. Soft and smooth textures of the freshly made carrot cake mingling with sweet and savoury flavours of the condiments, it was absolutely delicious.

We also ordered from Bedok Chwee Kueh (Queen St branch), which is a fairly famous chain of stalls selling the steamed rice cakes with diced preserved turnip.

The Chwee Kueh ($1.50 for 6 pcs) was soft and smooth, with the turnip (chye poh) topping providing the salty tang to the plain rice cakes. It's one of the best chwee kuehs around. The chili is also rather kickass, spicy with a pounded dried shrimp base. The only problem is that you'll have to ask for more turnip topping from the rather stingy server, otherwise you'll end up with a very bare chwee kueh.

We also got some Economic Noodles. There are a few stalls selling economic noodles at this hawker centre but this stall's version is by far the best (in my humble opinion). The stall doesn't have a name but you'll have a pictorial guide below.

I always get a mix of 2 types of noodles, the Fine Bee Hoon and Thick Mee ($2.50). The noodles are freshly fried every day, and it's flavoured so well I could eat it on its own without any sides. I like to pair my noodles with a luncheon meat, an egg and a fish paste cutlet, all standard stuff at an economic noodle stall. They also use authentic pork luncheon meat here, no imitation stuff.

Yuan Ji Zhen Zhong Fried Carrot Cake
Unit #01-59

Bedok Chwee Kueh (Queen St branch)
Unit #01-79

Economic Noodles
Unit #01-109

Albert Street Food Centre


Chili's Grill & Bar, Tanglin Mall

We finished late at the gym today and headed for Chili's for a (really) late dinner. We're really loving this whole "own-time-own-target", "free-and-easy" lifestyle. I mean, if we had kids, we would have to stick to a strict regimented timetable. Plus, it's kind of difficult to drag your kids along for a dinner at 10pm. And we wouldn't be able to enjoy our favourite activity, vegging out in front of the telly for weekend-long marathons of past seasons of 24. Ahh, the joys of non-parenthood.

The BF is a huge lover of red meat and since he needed the post-workout protein, he got the Big Mouth Bites ($17.90), four mini USDA ground beef burgers with apple-wood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, sauteed onions and ranch dressing on toasted sesame seed buns. This was served with black pepper mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were chunky, with silvers of potato skins added for extra texture and vitamins. The black pepper topping was also delicious, it was creamy yet spicy.

The beef burgers were so cute and little, but very hearty. The way real burgers should be, huge, meaty and robust.

I got the Country Fried Chicken ($14.90), battered and fried chicken breast topped with black pepper gravy and served with sides of a corn on the cob and black pepper mashed potatoes. The thick slab of chicken breast was surprisingly moist and incredibly fork-tender.

We also ordered extra sides of Seasonal Veggies ($3.90) and another Corn on the Cob ($3.90). The corn was absolutely stellar, buttery, juicy and amazingly sweet.

Chili's Grill & Bar
#02-23 Tanglin Mall
163 Tanglin Road
Tel: 6733 3317
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 11am to 10pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 11pm
Website: http://chilis.sg/


Seah Street Deli, Raffles Hotel

We wanted some Italian food at Prego's but it had an incredulous waiting time of 30 to 40 minutes. Friends will know that the BF and I are not fans of queues and/or crowds, so we headed straight to Seah Street Deli instead, which was just across the road at Raffles Hotel.

It was fairly empty when we entered the retro New York Diner-styled restaurant. Perfect.

The BF ordered the Texas Burger ($22.50), a whopping 250g beef patty (medium done) with Hickory Bbq sauce, smoked bacon, sauteed peppers, sweet onions and melted cheese. This was hearty, robust and absolutely delish, the way real burgers should be.

I love eating breakfast food for dinner, so I got an Omelette ($14) with Swiss Cheese ($2.50) and Portobello Mushrooms ($5). This came served with baked beans and 2 pieces of toasted bread. Simple and classic, but otherwise unspectacular.

We also got the Mac and Cheese ($17.50) to share. Today's version was sadly lacking in the cheese sauce, so other than the golden brown hued sauce you see slathered on top, the insides were dried out. We struggled to finish this.

We got a side of the Sauteed Mushrooms ($7), shitake mushrooms that was fragrant and earthy. Absolutely yummy.

We also ordered the Root Beer Float ($10), a frothy concoction of fizzy root beer with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream on top, which the BF totally gushed over. I realised then that the BF had never had root beer float before in his entire life! Which totally surprised me. It's amazing that despite being together for more than 2 and a half years, I'm still finding out new stuff about him everyday. That, and the fact that he makes me laugh everyday.

Seah Street Deli
Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road
Tel: 6337 1886
Open Sundays to Thursdays and Public Holidays from 11am to 10pm, Fridays, Saturdays and eve of Public Holidays from 11am to 11pm


Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice

The BF and I were on our way to City Square Mall along Kitchener Road for some Japanese food when we spotted this unassuming coffeeshop selling curry rice. I'm a fan of curry rice, so we ditched the plan to eat at Sushi Tei and decided to give our wallets a break and go cheap instead.

This is called "scissor-cut curry rice" because the dishes are cut up into bite-sized pieces with guess what, a large pair of scissors! Everything looks a gooey mess but trust me, it's lip-smackingly delicious. And ridiculously cheap. Our entire meal, including a large bowl of soup, cost only 16 bucks.

We got the must-try, Curry Chicken ($1.20 for a one person portion). This is done nonya-style, creamy, spicy and rich. Absolutely yummy.

I also loved the Stewed Cabbage ($0.60 for a one person portion), braised till soft but not soggy. The cabbage was slimy and soft, yet sweet and flavourful. This was plated together with Fried Eggs ($0.50 for each), which were drizzled with a yummy savoury brown sauce.

The Braised Pork Belly ($1 for a one person portion) was sweet, sticky, gooey and decadently rich. Very indulgent but worth every calorie of its artery-clogging fat.

We also got more greens, Fried French Beans ($0.70 for a one person portion), which were crunchy and sweet. Simple home-cooked fare.

The Prawn Roll ($0.60 for each roll) was alright, but not spectacular. I liked that it wasn't pulverised and still retained its chunky texture.

We saw a couple of customers having the Sweet Corn and Pork Rib Soup ($3), so we got one as well (a classic case of monkey see, monkey do, huh?). This was so reminiscent of my grandmother's cooking (my mom wasn't a huge fan of cooking). Clear, delicate soup with the sweetness of corn infused into the soup from the hours of simmering. We slurped up this hot soup despite the heat and humidity of the open-air coffeeshop.

All these were served with Rice that was doused in 2 types of curry and a sweet brown sauce. It's so good I could have eaten the rice and gravy on its own.

Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice
229 Jalan Besar (corner of Kitchener Road and Jalan Besar)
Open daily from 11am to 3.30am


Subway, The Ogilvy Centre

Ever since Ernie embarked on a fitness regime with a personal trainer, he's been trying to eat healthily. This was no mean feat, as Ernie would, in the normal course of events, buy 600 grams of Famous Amos cookies and eat the whole packet in one sitting.

So, for lunch one day, we went to Subway for some waistline-friendly sandwiches. The Tuna Sub ($5.90) is one of their classic range of subs. Creamy mayonnaise-blended tuna (dolphin-friendly so no need to feel guilty for aiding and abetting the killing of those adorable creatures), loaded with crisp shredded lettuce, plump tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and spicy green peppers set on a bed of toasted parmesan oregano bread. The bread was incredibly fragrant, with the smell of the aromatic herbs wafting through the air. A light but satisfying classic sub.

Update 21 Jan 2011: This Subway outlet has closed down, due to The Ogilvy Centre being refurbished into a hotel.
#01-01 The Ogilvy Centre
35 Robinson Road
Tel: 6254 2275
Open Mondays to Fridays 8.30am to 9pm, Saturdays 11am to 3pm and closed on Sundays
Website: www.subway.com.sg/


Hyang-To-Gol Korean Restaurant

The BF was craving red meat that day, and there were really only a few options, Mortons for American steaks, Aburiya for Japanese bbq meats or Hyang-To-Gol for Korean bbq meats. We decided that a dinner tribute to his Korean heritage was in order.

I've previously said that there's a dearth of authentic, affordable and quality Korean food in Singapore. The only place I'd recommend to any Korean expat in Singapore is Hyang-To-Gol, perhaps the most authentic Korean restaurant in Singapore. A quick warning for those watching their spending, it comes with a hefty price tag (budget at least 80 bucks per person without alcohol, and 100 bucks per person with alcohol), but it's well worth every dollar.

Almost everyone that stepped into the restaurant was Korean, which says volumes about the authenticity of the food served here.

We barely sat down before steaming hot cups of Korean rice teas were served. After we placed our orders, the obligatory side dishes were immediately served as well. The service standards was Speedy Gonzales-worthy. We never had to wait very long for any of our requests to be acceded to. 

There was a melange of sides (with free refills) to stuff our faces with while waiting for our bbq meats to be done. I'm not a fan of Korean food (especially kimchi), but I was feeling adventurous that night, so I promised to try everything at least once. I was surprised to find out that I loved some of the dishes.

The Traditional Kimchi, the BF loved this. He must have asked for 4 refills of this! Sour and spicy, this was fermented very well.

Sweet Kimchi. I preferred this version. It was an explosion of fresh, sweet, slightly spicy and sour flavours. I also liked that it was nicely chilled.

Cold Tofu, I really liked this, the tofu was impossibly smooth and refreshing, with the kimchi-based sauce complementing the clear flavours of the tofu.

Dried Squid, this was a wonderfully addictive snack. It's like the Korean take on our typical dried cuttlefish snack.

Chilled Fishcakes, this was also served chilled. Simple, chewy and light. We also asked for seconds of this.

Pancakes, I have no idea what the pancakes were made up of, but it was smooth, creamy and savoury. I really liked this.

Pickled Radish, this was extremely sour. We both took one bite of this only.

Cold Kimchi Soup, very refreshing and cooling, the lettuce was also very crisp, it's like Asian gazpacho.

Pickled Cucumber and Radish. I didn't really take to this, it's like the cucumber version of Kimchi.

Lettuce Salad, we both didn't try this, we were too busy eating everything else.

Bean Paste, this was served as a condiment to the bbq-ed meats. Sweet and salty flavours, this tasted freshly made.

The waitresses doubled up as personal chefs as well, and cooked all our meats at our table. Despite their constant presence, they were completely non-intrusive.

Our first order of the bbq meats was the must-try Yangnyeom-Galbi ($40 for 200g), seasoned beef ribs, which was amazing. The bulgogi-marinated beef was perfectly sweet, tender and juicy. We couldn't get enough of this.

The cooked Beef Ribs. It was as tantalising as it looks.

We got a chicken option as well, the Dak-Gooi ($21 for 200g), marinated chicken.

The Marinated Chicken was delicious as well. The sweet flavours of the bulgogi marinade really enhanced the natural flavours of the chicken. Fresh chicken is used here, no frozen tasteless ones. This was succulent and juicy as well.

The other thing that caught our eye on the expansive menu was the Gochujang-Samgyeopsal ($24 for 200g), spicy bbq sliced pork belly. Look at that luscious marinade!

The Spicy Pork Belly was sizzlingly good. The heat was subtle and slow, with the sweetness of the marinade coming through every bite of this decadently fatty meat.

The last meat option was the Doaeji-Bulgogi ($22 for 200g), marinated bbq pork.

The BBQ Pork was just as tasty and succulent as the rest of the meats. Bulgogi marinade really does go well with any meat. It's like the Korean version of Japanese teriyaki sauce.

After all that meat, we had to have some fibre, so we got the Modeum-Yachae-Gooi ($12), assorted vegetables of thinly sliced cucumbers, carrots, onions and shitake mushrooms.

We felt the vegetables were a little bare and plain, the veggies could have done with some butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Otherwise, the vegetables were fresh and sweet.

Silvers of Garlic was also grilled to accompany the meats. They were fragrant and aromatic, the grilling had relieved it of its pungency.

You know how it is in bbq restaurants, you inevitably end up smelling like what you ingested? Not the case here, we walked out still smelling like our freshly-showered selves.

Hyang-To-Gol Korean Restaurant
165 Tanjong Pagar Road
Level 2 Amara Singapore
Tel: 6220 7160
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunches and 6pm to 2am for dinners
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