We went for lunch at Prego's after replenishing our junk food stash from Mark's & Spencer.

For the month of May 2010, their 2-course business set lunch was attractively priced at $52 (without wine).

The BF got the Vitello All'uccelletto con Funghi Biologici e Pure di Patate as his main course, veal loin with mushroom and mashed potatoes. The braised veal stew was typical Tuscan comfort food. The sweet undertones of the dessert wine infused the tender soft veal and tomato-based gravy.

I ordered the Risotto of the Day, with Bacon and Mushrooms ($34). The shitake and white button mushrooms lent an earthy flavour to balance the salty smoky bacon. The risotto was creamy, delicate and wonderfully subtle.

The Cream of Potato, was the Soup of The Day. This was part of the Set Lunch. Creamy and full-bodied, but yet surprisingly delicate.

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


Gloria Jean's Coffee, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Remember I mentioned that the weather in Ho Chi Minh City was a sweltering 38 to 40 degress celsius on average? One crazily hot afternoon, we popped into Gloria Jean's Coffee for a cool respite from the horrendous heat.

We got the Mix Berry Fruit Chiller to cool ourselves down. This ice-blended confection was refreshing, tart and sweet. A perfect icy counterfoil to the heat.

The dessert selection looked tempting so we got the Chocolate Cheesecake to share. This was creamy, light and balanced.

Gloria Jean's Coffees
131 Dong Khoi Street (corner of Dong Khoi and Nguyen Thiep, opposite Sheraton Saigon Hotel)
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: 3827 6309

Hong Yuen, SICC

We went to have dim sum at Hong Yuen one weekend for brunch because it's so near to Pop's home (we were still house-sitting for Pops then). Overall, the dim sum was pretty average, which was surprising because the chef hailed from one of the more reputable Chinese restaurants. We expected better standards from a chef with such pedigree heritage. Some of the items were stellar but some of the items were very ordinary fare

We started off with the Pan-Fried Beancurd Skin with Prawns ($3.50). This was pleasantly non-oily and still nicely crisp. The dish was also generously stuffed with a lot more prawns than the usual versions at Crystal Jade or Imperial Treasure.

The Steamed Rice Roll with Honey Glazed Pork ($4) was also very good. The rice rolls were soft and smooth, the pork cubes was sticky and sweet and the soy marinade was delicately salty.

The rice roll was so good we promptly ordered the prawn version, Steamed Rice Roll with Prawns ($4.50). The prawns were sweet, crunchy and plentiful.

We really loved the Double Boiled Fish Maw Soup with Bamboo Pith and Mushroom ($14). This small portioned soup was worth every dollar of its 14 dollar price-tag. The soup was delicate yet rich in flavour, obtained after hours of slow double-boiling.

The Siew Mai with Fish Roe ($4.50) was disappointingly run-of-the-mill. This tasted a bit too "porky", there was a very strong pungent smell and taste of aged pork.

Although the Steamed Carrot Cake with Conpoy and Dried Shrimp ($4) didn't look very appetizing, it surprised us with how soft and moist it was. The only downside of it was the dried seafood topping. They hadn't been rinsed thoroughly enough to rid it of its fishy and briny dried seafood smell and taste.

Worse still, we found a piece of hair in the dish. This looked suspiciously like nose hair. I'm usually quite okay with finding hair in my food (as in, I wouldn't be THAT grossed out when finding a strand of hair in my food) but this really grossed me out because this looked a little too short and too thick to be from other parts of the body than the inside of the nose.

The BF is a more adventurous eater than I am, so he ordered the Steamed Beef Tripe with Chili ($4), which I stayed away from. This was chewy, and bland despite the presence of freshly cut red chilis. Tripe is basically tasteless anyway. He had to request chili padi to supplement the flavour of the tripe.

Hong Yuen
180 Island Club Road
Singapore Island Country Club
Island location
Tel: 6450 1426
Lunch:Tuesdays to Fridays from 12noon to 3pm; Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays from 11.30am to 3pm
Dinner:Tuesdays to Sundays & Public Holidays from 6pm to 10.30pm
Fridays & eve of Public Holidays from 6pm to 11pm


Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, The Riverwalk

You know the one thing about my name is that most people get it wrong. The BF and I once went to Krabi and the hotel staff called us by each others' names! Granted, I don't have a very common name, but I knew of at least 3 girls in law school also with the same name during my time, so it can't possibly be that rare.

The same thing happened during the May L.A. Dinner held at Jumbo Seafood Restaurant at The Riverwalk. Beeps helped me make a reservation for a private room, and Jumbo called me to reconfirm the reservation. Both our voices are unmistakably feminine. Mine's especially distinctively high and squeaky (I've actually heard myself on tape, and I really do sound like a cartoon character high on helium). But when we all walked into Jumbo, the private room was labeled "MR B". ALL my colleagues had a very good chuckle when they walked into Jumbo. Great friends that they are huh?

Dinner was a leisurely affair peppered with laughs and easy conversation spanning almost 3 hours. This is one of the reasons why I prefer L.A. Dinners to Lunches, because the meal is a much more relaxed affair, without the constant watch on our time to ensure we get back to the office on time. We also don't have to worry about struggling to stay awake in the afternoon on an incredibly full tummy.

Unlike many of the other seafood establishments, Jumbo offers only 4 different crab flavours, black pepper, chili, pepper & spiced salt and steamed with soya milk and egg white. For those who love the creamy red roe of female crabs, please note that Jumbo only serves male crabs. 

Jumbo does a very good rendition of Black Pepper Crabs ($40 per kg). This was dry-fried. I love the subtly sweet flesh of the fresh crab and the slow heat and fragrance of black pepper. Jumbo does one of the best renditions of this style of black pepper crabs.

For variety, we also got Chili Crabs ($40 per kg). The thick, goopy, spicy, eggalicious gravy was wonderful with fried buns.

Yve just got well so I ordered something light for her, Steamed Seabass with Soya Sauce ($4.50 per 100g). The fish was fresh and flaky, just the way I like it.

We also ordered one of Jumbo's specialties, Herbal Drunken Prawns ($6.50 per 100g). I love the sweet prawns, and the strong herbal flavours of the alcohol-tinged soup.

Some of the girls tried to convince the guys to deshell the prawns for them because they hate peeling the shellfish. Unfortunately for them, the guys didn't bite. I had no problem deshelling prawns so I ended up eating most of the girls' share. Yay, more prawns for me!

Some of colleagues love Wok-Fried Golden Salted Egg Prawns ($40 for large), so I ordered a portion of it as well. Deshelled for the girls' convenience, of course.

The Crispy Fried Baby Squid ($24 for large) was one of my colleagues' requests. This was nicely crisp and coated in a sticky sweet sauce.

The Stir-Fried Broccoli with Scallops ($40 for large) was well done. I loved the delicate and succulent scallops, and crunchy broccoli.

We also got the Stir-Fried Kangkong with Sambal ($16 for large). The sambal was kickass, aromatic and went very well with the kangkong.

The Mee Goreng ($18 for medium), was cooked Chinese-style. Sweet tomato sauce was added to the lightly spicy egg noodles with fresh and plentiful seafood.

The Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Chicken ($12 for medium) was well fried, with the requisite "wok hei" flavour.

Service was surprisingly fast that night. The first dish arrived barely 15 minutes after orders were taken.

Jumbo Seafood Restaurant
The Riverwalk
20 Upper Circular Road #B1-48
The Riverwalk Singapore 058416
Tel: 6534-3435
Open daily for lunch from 12noon to 2.30pm
Dinner from 6pm to 12midnight
Website: www.jumboseafood.com.sg/


Brodard Bakery, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

While researching Vietnam, we learnt that Vietnam's history as a French colony since the 18th century influenced their cuisine and hence resulted in many quaint French bakeries all over the city. So we resolved to try the pastries and confectionery offered in Vietnam on my firm trip to Ho Chi Minh City.

Walking along the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, we were struck by how French colonisation greatly impacted their architecture. Notwithstanding some of the city's dingy corners and side alleys, some of their buildings and cobblestone streets are very reminiscent of Parisian streets. It's the same for many of the French bakeries dotting the city. I mean, if you walked into some of these bakeries, you couldn't tell the difference than if you were in a Parisian bakery!

Brodard Bakery is one of the many French bakeries located within a stone's throw away from Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Tower, where we stayed. We popped in to take a look after being enticed by the gorgeous mound of pure white wedding confection in the window display.

We got 2 cakes, the Opera (VND 20,000) was rich and sweet without being overwhelming. I loved the nuanced sweetness of the chocolate layers.

The Tiramisu (VND 29,000) was absolutely delectable. This was very balanced. The rich coffee flavour complemented the mild mascapone cheese. This was a little custard-like as well.

The shop front

Brodard Bakery
11 Nguyen Thiep St
District 1
Tel: 3822 3965
Ho Chi Minh City

Two Chefs Eating Place

I've mentioned before that most of my best friends are guys. I'm actually not having any bridesmaids for my wedding. I've got 4 best men instead. And they are walking down the aisle with me. Long is one of my best friends and also one of my best men. (The other 3 being Ernie, Cho and Kang)

Funnily enough, we dated once. It was such a disaster. We both realised on our first (and only) date that we were so wrong for each other. And we just became great friends from then onwards.  He's also the only other person that I know who is as crazy about crabs as I am. We've actually eaten 3 large crabs in one sitting before.

He and the BF get along fabulously. And yes, in case you were wondering, the BF knows about our "torrid" history. And he's completely comfortable with that.

We usually meet up with Long about once every few months to catch up. He suggested this cze char place in Commonwealth where the food is homely, simple and uncomplicated. This place is well known for being horrendously crowded on weekends, so avoid those 2 days.

We ordered the Claypot Chicken ($8), tender juicy chicken in a molten silky oyster-sauce gravy. We slurped up every last bit of the gravy. I liked that this wasn't too salty.

The Sambal Kangkong ($6) was blanched just right, soft yet retaining a little bite, and the sambal chili was suitably spicy.

Being the crab-lovers that we are, Long and I ordered Black Pepper Crabs ($35 per kg). Two Chefs didn't have big crabs, the ones they had were a little tiny, so we had to get 2 crabs. Still, the tiny crabs left us a little unsatisfied. The aromatic black pepper gravy was slightly sticky, sweet and spicy, but I've had better elsewhere. The BF isn't that huge a fan of black pepper crabs as we are, so he just watched us indulge.

Two Chefs' signature dish, the Butter Ribs ($8) did live up to expectations. The deboned pork ribs were tender, thick and luscious. A fairy dusting of butter and condensed milk powder completed the stellar dish.

The other highly recommended dish, Golden Mushroom Beancurd ($8) was a slight letdown though. The beancurd wasn't as silky as it should have been and the gravy was a little bland.

Two Chefs Eating Place
Blk 116 Commonwealth Drive
Tel: 6472 5361
Open Mondays from 5pm to 11.30pm for dinners, Closed every last Monday of the month;
Tuesdays to Sundays from 11.45am to 2.30pm for lunches and 5pm to 11.30pm for dinners


Pho24 Vietnamese Pho Noodle, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

My firm just went to Ho Chi Minh City. I wasn't terribly excited about visiting the city, as I thought it was some poor, undeveloped, boring town type with only handicrafts and amateur artwork for sale. I much prefer going to the beach (where you do absolutely nothing), or big cities (with big designer boutiques to splurge at). I'm not really the visit ruins of old palaces, ruins of old monuments, war museum and/or ruins of war sites kind of person.

Oh boy, were my pre-conceived notions about the ex-French colony wrong. The charming city won me over with its vibrant nightlife (yes, really, they have a number of dance clubs, classy live band joints, and a large population of enthusiastic clubbers), high-end shopping and lifestyle (our hotel had a GUCCI boutique and Ho Chi Minh was where I saw the new BMW 5 series on the roads when it wasn't even launched in Singapore yet), amazing food (their cuisine is very delicate, perfect for the Teochew in me), laidback culture and quaint streets to just stroll around.

The only downside of the trip was the weather. We arrived right smack in the middle of the hot and dry season, where temperatures hovered around 38 to 40 degrees celsius (it was literally fever-hot). It was compounded by the fact that most of the restaurants in Ho Chi Minh didn't have great air-conditioning so we ended up sweating through most of our meals. This is why many of my subsequent posts will be from the room service menu at Sheraton Hotel.

The first place Beeps, Phys, the BF (yup, he came along for my firm trip. I couldn't leave him behind, I'd miss him too much) and I went to Pho24 for some Vietnamese pho (pronounced "fer").

Pho24 is by far, the largest chain of Vietnamese pho restaurants in Vietnam. They had a couple of shops in Singapore for a while (back in 2006, I think), but I think Singaporeans aren't great fans of Vietnamese food, so they stopped operations in Singapore.

The BF got the Pho Bo (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Beef) (VND 42,000). The soup was delicate yet rich, and the rice noodles were soft and smooth (they are handmade fresh every day). The thin slices of beef were robust and tender.

I got the chicken version, Pho Ga (VND 42,000), an even clearer and lighter version of the beef soup. I really loved the chicken soup's pure flavours.

Phys doesn't eat beef, so she got the Com Tam Suon (VND 39,000). She was raving about the grilled pork. Though unassuming in look, the delectable piece of meat won us over with its well-marinated and juicy flavours. The rice was also lightly flavoured with stock. I guess this is Vietnam's version of our Hainanese chicken rice.

We also got the Cha Gio (VND 35,000), deep fried spring rolls, which was brilliant. It was so good we promptly ordered another plate of it.

The shop front.

Pho24 Vietnamese Pho Noodle
71-73 Dong Khoi St
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (08) 3914 2424
Website: http://pho24.com.vn

Auntie Kim's Korean Restaurant

I always drive by this Korean restaurant on my way to Pop's home and was curious to try it out. The restaurant always seems to be a full-house.

Once through the door, we were greeted immediately by a Korean lady who spoke immaculate Mandarin. For a true-blue Korean (I think, only because she's got a Korean name and spoke fluent Korean), her Mandarin was astoundingly brilliant. She put both our Mandarin speaking ability to shame (okay, yes, our Mandarin is quite crappy, but she was so good she could well be delivering the Chinese news)

We were quickly served with a small selection of Korean Side Dishes. They were quite dismal, so we didn't order refills although they were free. We should have known better. The standard of the side dishes heralded the quality of the main dishes.

The BF felt that the Kim Chi was very flat and "CMI", "Cannot Make It". (You know how the younger generation pepper their conversations with acronyms all the time? I once submitted a piece of work to CC and inserted a note with the acronym "TMI", because I wasn't sure if that paragraph contained "Too Much Information", and my boss actually thought it was a newfangled legal term that he'd never heard of! It was hilarious.)

The Seasoned Spinach (sigumchi namul) wasn't as good as Red Pig's version, as it was a little bland, but it was still passable.

The Jeon (pancake) was also not bad. Savoury and slightly flattened and compressed. This was served at room temperature.

The Kongnamul (seasoned soy bean sprouts) was practically tasteless, but the sprouts were refreshingly crunchy.

The Oisobakki (cucumber kim chi) was similar to the Kim Chi, flat and tasteless despite its fire-engine red hue.

This pickled dish was also not very good, it was a little too tart and the mushroom was cold, tough and chewy. I took a bite and spit it out.

We tried the Yang Nyum Kalbi ($27), barbecued beef short ribs,  the only good dish of the 4 main dishes we ordered for dinner. This was served with bean paste, crisp lettuce and freshly cut chilies and raw garlic. The BF was about to take a piece of the garlic when he remembered the last time he ate raw garlic. (he was given a 10 foot-wide berth which meant kissing, hugging, and any other forms of affection were curtailed until he stopped breathing AND burping garlic)

The tender beef was marinated with the traditional Korean bulgogi, with a nuanced sweetness which complemented the robust flavour of the beef.

The Dolji Bulgogi ($14.50), pork with a spicy Korean sauce, wasn't good at all. The pork was a disappointingly dry and a little powdery in texture, despite being doused in a spicy Kim Chi-based sauce. We didn't finish this.

We also ordered Kim Chi Chigea ($14.50), kim chi stew with beancurd, traditionally served in a claypot to retain the heat. The kim chi fared better here than in the side dish, the steaming hot soup made the kim chi less flat.

The Soon Dubu Chigea ($14.50), spicy beancurd stew with egg was better than the kim chi chigea, but the Red Pig version is much better. The soup here at Auntie Kim's is milder and slightly bland. However, I liked the addition of zucchini to the soup.

Auntie Kim's Korean Restaurant
No. 265 Upper Thomson Road
Tel: 6452 2112
Open daily from 11am to 3pm for lunch and 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner


The Roti Prata House

House-sitting for Pops at Upper Thomson means that we get to indulge in prata a lot. This is because Upper Thomson is known for its many famous prata shops peppering the long stretch of road that used to be a race-track.

The Roti Prata House is one of those 24-hour joints that some would remember hitting after clubbing for some late night/early morning sustenance.

We ordered my favourite Egg Prata ($1.30 for 1), fluffy on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside, and thoroughly satisfying. The curry was slightly spicier than the Casuarina Curry version, but still not enough kick.

The Curry Chicken ($3.50) was a generous portion of tender succulent chicken. Thick, creamy and subtly spiced, but I would have preferred a spicier concoction.

I really liked the Crispy Chicken ($3.50), Indian-style, deep-fried till crispy with the signature bright orange hue. The chicken thigh was still juicy on the inside. This was really quite addictive.

The Roti Prata House
246M and 246K Upper Thomson Road
Tel: 6459 5260
Open 24 hours, 7 days a week
Email: ikbal@singnet.com.sg
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