Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie, Paragon

Canele belongs to the Les Amis group of restaurants, so you know you're in very good hands when you dine here. Although Canele is primarily a dessert place (their desserts are absolutely drool-worthy and almost too pretty to eat), it also serves up a selection of French and Italian bistro food.

Housed in the open-concept atrium of Paragon's basement, this is a place to chill, have a leisurely  meal and people-watch. It's fairly noisy and boisterious, as there's a lot of foot traffic from the supermarket opposite, so it's really not a very "chi-chi" place.

We met up with Nate, who now lives in Shanghai, for Sunday tea when he dropped in on one of his bi-annual trips back to the motherland. It's really amazing how most of our friends are gradually moving to other countries to live and/or work. I guess it's one of the inevitable effects of globalization. We're going to have to start making new friends if this trend keeps up.

The Braised Beef in Red Wine ($18) classic country-style beef stew was hearty, rich and rustic. Beef was fork-tender, with just the right amount of fat to make it decadently flavoursome.

Crusty bread, drizzled with olive oil, was provided on the side to soak up the rich stew. These were good on their own, fragrant, warm and flavourful. I particularly liked the raisin wholemeal bread (top).

The Club Honey-Baked Ham ($14.50) with toasted pain de mie (that's French for white bread), omelette, mayonnaise, tomatoes, and lettuce served with a side of potato chips and mesclun salad dressed with house dressing was a lot more substantial than we thought. This was enough to feed a very hungry man, or 2 very slim women.

I would have preferred this without the mayo, though I'd admit it didn't quite have that annoyingly cloying aftertaste.

Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie
290 Orchard Road, Paragon
Tel: 6733 8893
Open daily from 8.30am to 10pm
Website: www.canele.com.sg


Restaurant Ember

The chef and owner behind Restaurant Ember, Sebastian Ng, is the reason for Restaurant Ember's success. Having honed his culinary skills at The Marmalade Pantry's Pierside Kitchen & Bar, and the kitchens of world-class Raffles Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel, Sebastian Ng single-handedly put Restaurant Ember firmly on the gourmand's radar when he was crowned the Rising Chef of the Year at the 2004 World Gourmet Summit. Chef Ng's modern take on European cuisine is effortlessly nuanced and balanced. For a fine-dining establishment, the food is incredibly understated and uncomplicated, whilst the ambience is friendly and unstuffy. However, just because the vibe is convivial doesn't mean that you can enter in slippers and/or shorts, there's a dress code to adhere to here. Also, it's best to make reservations to avoid disappointment at the door because the restaurant is so tiny.

We've always had wonderful dining experiences here at Restaurant Ember, and we brought Kang here for dinner one night. Suffice to say, he was completely blown away by the food here.

We started off with the Pan Seared Foie Gras ($25) with caramelized apple lightly dressed with fragrant clove and a dazzling drizzle of port and raspberry glaze.For anyone not particularly fond of foie gras, I daresay Restaurant Ember's version will change your mind. It totally melts on the tongue, with a delightfully thin crispy crust from the searing process. Sweet but tartish diced apples help keep the goose liver light.

This is my favourite starter, delicate succulent Pan Seared Scallops ($19) wrapped lovingly with rich salty Parma ham atop a bed of crunchy mesclun greens tossed with a tangy orange tarragon vinaigrette

The Fiance had the Cold Tofu Salad ($85 as part of the Set Dinner) with avocado, Sicily date tomato and a savoury sesame dressing. The soft and smooth beancurd was served refreshingly chilled, with a tangy sweetish Japanese-inspired sesame dressing for flavour.

The Crispy Maine Lobster (2nd course of the Set Dinner), with lobster beurre blanc and mesclun was delicious. The lobster had a nice caramelized crust, but remained plump and bouncy inside.

We were served complimentary crusty and crispy Foccacia. I'd have liked some olive oil to go with this but it was so good on its own I didn't even need the accompanying butter. 

The Fiance had the USDA Prime Beef Tenderloin (main course of the Set Dinner) pan roasted to a perfect medium rare, served with forest mushrooms, and new potatoes set on top a bed of mash, wilted spinach in a pool of caramelized onion-thyme sauce.

Kang had the house specialty, Marinated Cod with Black Miso ($32) herbed potatoes and par-boiled sugar snap peas. The fatty oily fish was balanced with sweet miso that lent a smoky accent to the flaky moist fish.

I had my usual, the Chilean Seabass ($34), clean and clear, pan seared to retain all of its moistness, alongside wild mushrooms simply seasoned with smoked bacon ragout, and an aromatic truffle-yuzu butter sauce.

We shared the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant ($14 ala carte but part of the Set Dinner as the dessert) with vanilla bean ice-cream. Because I was eating with 2 extremely metrosexual men that are watching their weight, one portion was enough to share between all of us. Oh, this was soooo good, the chocolate fondant was rich without being saccharine, and the gooey chocolate oozing out of the moist dense cake juxtaposed nicely with the iciness of the creamy vanilla bean ice-cream.

Restaurant Ember
50 Keong Siak Road
Hotel 1929
Tel: 6347 1928
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2pm for lunch
Mondays to Saturdays from 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Closed on Sundays


Tung Lok Signatures, The Central

Lips and I both ditched our respective halves and met up to yak and catch up over dinner. In any case, the Fiance was more than happy to trot off to the gym and work out on his own. You see, usually when I go to the gym with the Fiance, I'd be breathing down his neck to quickly finish up the workout and go off for dinner.

We decided on Chinese and headed to Tung Lok Signatures at The Central. They're well known for modernizing classic Cantonese cuisine.

We started off with grand plans of eating a really light and healthy meal, so we got the Steamed Beancurd with Conpoy and Crispy Sprout Mushrooms ($18). This was an incredibly clear and delicate dish, the clean taste of the silky soft wobbly beancurd married well with the thick gravy accented simply by the dried scallops. Broccoli florets and crispy fried golden mushrooms provided some crunch. This was a huge portion, sufficient to feed 3 persons, but we finished this. We figured we'll just order another dish and be done with dinner.

After the above feel-good choice, we caved into our decadent selves and got the Crispy Roasted Pork Belly ($10) which was worth every sinful, guilt-inducing calorie and sliver of fat. Actually, come to think of it, it really wasn't that fatty, it was a rather lean piece of meat, no obvious thick layers of fat. Crisp, aromatic crackling skin, and a lean flavoursome salty and moist meat.

Save for the parsley on the Pickled Cucumbers ($3), this would have made for a great refreshingly tangy appetizer. Lips ate this on her own.

Tung Lok Signatures
The Central #02-88
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Tel: 6336 6022
Opening Hours
Lunch: 11.30am to 3.00pm (Mon to Sat); 11.00am to 3.30pm (Sun & PHs)
Dinner: 6.00pm to 10.30pm (Daily)
Website: www.tungloksignatures.com/


Starbucks Coffee, DBS Tower II

This was a quickie lunch at Starbucks

The Carrot Cake Petite ($3.60) allowed for some decadence without the guilt and excessive calories because of its teeny tiny portion. The roasted walnut provided a nice bitter contrast to the sweet icing topping on the moist dense cake.

The Egg White Wrap ($5.50) was a deceptively substantial meal. Filled with sauteed mushrooms, diced red peppers and egg white chunks, this was light without compromising on flavour.

Starbucks Coffee
DBS Tower II
6 Shenton Way
Tel: 6223 1657
Open from Mondays to Fridays from 7am to 9pm
Saturdays from 7.30am to 5pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
Website: www.starbucks.com.sg



I think I may be hitting my risotto overload. As evidenced below, I've been eating risottos continuously at Prego. The following were the risottos of each day I ate there.

The Lemon Sole with Capers Risotto ($36) was lighter than their usual super creamy and rich versions. The capers lent a faint peppery kick and its tangy accents cut through the starchiness of the risotto, while fat fish slices were a nice clear plain contrast to the rich risotto.

The Creamy Egg Bacon Risotto ($36) was obviously the rice version of carbonara pasta. I liked that the bacon was diced, chunky and flavoursome without being overtly salty. However, this got a little cloying after a while, there was just too much diary in this.

The Fiance had this while I had the different risottos. This is probably the first time I'm giving a Prego dish a thumbs-down review. The only good thing about the Guazzetto di Mare ($38), a tomatoes and caper seafood stew, was the tomato broth and prawns. I just couldn't understand how such a simple dish could have gone so wrong. All it needed was really fresh seafood and a good tomato soup base. They had a good enough soup base, so all it took was for the seafood to be fresh. Which you'd think would be easy enough for an establishment like this. Unfortunately, the mussels, clams and fish were all terribly fishy, which totally ruined it for us. We couldn't finish this.

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


No Signboard Seafood Restaurant, Geylang

I never really liked eating steamed fish, mostly because I had a terrible phobia of getting the really-fine-but-very-sharp fish bones lodged in the throat. Until I met the Fiance, who got me hooked onto this really-simple-can-cook-by-yourself-as-long-as-you-have-really-fresh-fish Chinese dish. 

The Geylang branch of No Signboard Seafood is widely renowned to be the best outlet, and our default place for takeaway cze char. We takeaway food from this place so often that they actually recognise our voices from the word "hello". Today, we decided to dine at the restaurant instead because we wanted to eat steam fish and it really isn't possible to stuff an entire fish into a box for takeaway.

The Hong Kong Style Steamed Seabass ($50 per kg) hit the steam fish craving on the spot, moist, fleshy and delicate meat, paired with an equally light soy and oil emulsion.

This is one of my favourite veggie dishes, Braised Mushroom with Baby Cabbage ($12). Plump juicy mushrooms bursting with flavour and earthy goodness, set on a bed of crisp leafy greens (not too crunchy so I don't have to chew very much).

The Claypot Beancurd ($12) is one of the best around, in that the ingredients are plentiful and generous, and the addition of the semi-cooked still-runny egg to the rich oyster sauce gravy lends itself well to the plain clear taste of the beancurd.

I was very tickled that we were given 5 different types of chili for a simple meal consisting of only 3 dishes. It's such a Singaporean thing to add chili to everything, isn't it? It's not an affront to the chef's cooking, it's just our culture to do so. The 2 red chili pastes (bottom right and top middle) are their house recipes, and they lend a refreshing zing to any dish. The hae bee hiam, spicy dried shrimp, (bottom left) was particularly nostalgic as my Gramps would fry up a huge pot of this and top it off on a slice of cool cucumber, as a tea-time snack for us.

No Signboard Seafood Restaurant
No 414 Geylang Road
Tel: 6842 3415
Open daily from 12 noon to 1am
Website: http://nosignboardseafood.com/


Lafiandra Trattoria al Museo

I mentioned earlier that I'd just put on invisalign braces to straighten out my buck teeth, so it's been a real pain to take out and put back the aligners. Plus, my teeth and gums are always tender after removing the aligners so soft foods are my friends now. In any case, I'd been craving lots of risottos so it was just as well.

I first knew about Lafiandra Trattoria when they were at Prinsep Street, a tiny place with a homely atmosphere and great hearty unpretentious food. They're now at the Singapore Art Museum, and the restaurant still manages to retain its down-to-earth charm, warm vibe and comforting food while at the classy artsy fartsy posh(er) digs of the old Saint Joseph Institution school building.

Prices here are very affordable and value-for-money, while the portions are generous. There's never really a crowd so you're (almost) guaranteed a seat without reservations, even on the weekends. We like that it's open till late, so we can hit this place after the gym at night.

The complimentary Bruschetta was worth the pain while crunching through it. Crusty toasty bread topped with tart juicy diced tomatoes and warm olive oil, simple and delicious.

The Tortelloni Ripieni di Funghi e Formaggio ($22) home-made dumpling filled with mushrooms and cheese in a gorgonzola cheese sauce was very well done. For a rich cream-based pasta, this managed to keep from being cloying.

The Risotto alla Marinara ($22.90), Italian rice with squid, mussels, prawns and clams in a tomato sauce, was awesome. If we had to choose amongst all the dishes (because we loved them all), we'd have to say that this was our favourite. We loved every bit of this fragrant seafood tomato rice dish. The rice was perfectly oozy and al dente, but the ultra fresh seafood was the star. I particularly loved the squid rings, cooked expertly to a soft and tender texture.

The Aglio Olio Spaghetti con Gamberi e Zucchini ($22.90) with prawns and squid tossed with olive oil was light, flavoursome and so yummy in its simplicity.

Lafiandra Trattoria al Museo
71 Bras Basah Road
Singapore Art Museum
Tel: 6884 4035
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Website: www.lafiandra.com.sg


Ikea Restaurant, Alexandra

Growing up, I didn't eat anything other than fried chicken wings and roti prata. Yes, I was THAT kid. I was so picky with my food that I'd take up to an hour to eat 2 bites of any meal. I'm a lot better now, but as some of my friends will attest, I'm still quite picky. This is why I don't profess to be a true gourmand. I'm just too picky to be one!

In any case, having eaten so many fried chicken wings, I can, at the very least, hold myself out to be a fried chicken wing expert. It just so happened that I was craving for some fried chicken wings, and Ikea is well known to have the best chicken wings on the island.

I'd just put on invisalign braces, and it may not have been the best idea to eat something that requires chewing. But, trust me, Ikea's chicken wings are so worth the pain.

The Chicken Wings ($7.50 for 6) are mouthwateringly aromatic, with a combination of soy, ginger and probably some fairy dust. They were just that good. Juicy, crisp, and addictive.You really just can't stop at one, or 6! We actually braved the horrendously long queue (it's a school cafeteria-style serving system here) to get another plate of 6 chicken wings after we were done with the first plate.

The daily special was the Baked Salmon ($7.50) slathered with a classically Swedish dill cream gravy and poached french beans. I'm not a fan of dill, and as it turned out, we weren't fans of Swedish salmon, it had a very distinctive pungency about it, very uncharacteristic of the usual clean flavour of fresh salmon. It tasted more like smoked salmon to us.

Some may think that the Swedish Meatballs Combo ($9.90) is the best thing about Ikea, but my vote definitely goes to their fried chicken wings. That said, the meatballs are the second best thing about this place and a must-try as well. A dollop of ligonberry jam and a generous drenching of cream lends tartness and a savoury element respectively to the tasty bouncy meatballs.

The Soup of the Day, part of the meatball combo meal, was the Minestrone. A little generic but fairly decent, with plentiful sweet diced vegetables.

Ikea Restaurant
317 Alexandra Road
2 Floor Ikea Alexandra
Tel: 6378 1604
Open daily from 8am to 10pm


Yoshimaru Ramen Bar, Holland Village

Yoshimaru Ramen marks the Jumbo group of seafood restaurants' first foray into the Japanese ramen fad. It specialises in Tonkotsu ramen, also known as Hakata ramen. Yoshimaru is apparently quite a successful chain of ramen shops in Japan, originating from Hakata town in the Fukuoka prefecture.

We had dinner here when celebrating Cho's birthday recently. I'm going to be really sad when he moves to Hong Kong in less than 3 months' time.

This is the Traditional Hakata Ramen Set ($16.90), consisting of a milky rich pork bone soup base, paired with thin freshly made soft noodles. Sliced black fungus provide a little crunch and the tender flavourful soy braised pork make this a hearty dish.

The Potato Chicken Croquette, part of the set, is moist and tasty on the inside, with a nice golden crispy bread-crumbed coating.

The Salad, the obligatory fibre of the set meal.

The Chicken Gyoza ($6) was wonderfully juicy and savoury. This would make for a great snack.

The Shabu Shabu Beef Ramen ($14), drenched in the same collagen-filled pork bone soup base, was topped with super thin slices of beef, decadently fatty, but so worth it.

We also got an additional Soft Boiled Egg ($1), perfectly softened but not runny, well-marinated with shoyu so the soy flavours completely permeated the egg.

Yoshimaru Ramen Bar
31 Lorong Liput
Holland Village
Tel: 6463 3132
Open Weekdays from 11am to 3pm for lunches, from 6pm to 11pm for dinners
Weekends & Public Holidays from 11am to 11pm
Website: www.yoshimaruramen.com.sg


Zi Yean Restaurant Pte Ltd

Ms PR's hubs was away on business so we hung out after work. I was craving steamed fish, and since Zi Yean's so near her home, we decided to have dinner there. It's funny, because although she lives a 5 minute walk from the Cantonese restaurant, she's only been here twice! I suppose sometimes it's easy to overlook things that are right in front of you.

Zi Yean's menu has just been revised, new dishes have been added and not surprisingly, prices have been "updated" as well. I guess there's really just no escaping the ever-rising inflation huh? The silver lining is that payment by OCBC or Standard Chartered credit cards gives you a 15% discount. Hurray for credit card discounts!

The Soon Hock ($8 per 100g) steamed Hong Kong style was moist, fresh and very well done. For a fish that spent its adult life in freshwater lakes and streams, this tastes amazingly non-freshwater-fish-like. The delicate soy and peanut oil seasoning married well with the clean plain flavours of the fish.

The Braised Ee-Fu Noodle with Shredded Duck ($13) was nicely done, noodles were soft but not limp, beansprouts were crunchy, and duck was plentiful and fresh. That said, I'd have preferred the mushroom version of this noodle dish, but it's really a matter of preference.

The Zi Yean Empire Chicken Stuffed with Perserved Vegetable ($22) is really a must-try here. The chicken is steamed over a low heat for ages, stuffed with salty piquant preserved vegetable, so the flavours of the shredded vegetable stuffing really seeps into the flesh of the fresh (not frozen) chicken, so you get a truly aromatic, flavoursome and incredibly tender, fall-off-the-bone meat.

The Sauteed French Beans in Chef's Special Sauce ($12) is my favourite vegetable dish here. Skinny baby French beans are used so it stays crunchy through the frying process, and the chef's X.O. sauce used imbues the greens with a delectable smoky, spicy and sweet coating.

Complimentary Braised Peanuts Appetizer

Zi Yean Restaurant Pte Ltd
Blk 56 Lengkok Bahru
Tel: 6474 0911 (aircon), 6471 0253 (non-aircon)
Open daily from 11am to 10.30pm
Website: www.ziyean.com.sg


Kampong Glam Cafe

Ernie came back over the weekend and was craving Indonesian-Malay cuisine. If there's one thing Singapore has that Hong Kong doesn't, this is it. We went to our usual nasi padang haunts at the Kampong Glam area, where you'll find a lot of eateries selling nasi padang. There's one to suit every preference (more lemak or less lemak) and chili tolerance ranging from hot to hottest. You'll be hard pressed to find watered-down, catered-to-the-tourist-non-spicy food here. 

Kampong Glam Cafe offers not just the usual nasi padang dishes but Malay favourites such as mee rebus, ayam soto, mee siam and lontong. It's really cheap, our entire meal, including drinks, cost less than $30! 

The Lontong had a rich, spicy, tumeric base that complemented the plain soft moist ricecakes, and the still-crunchy-but-slightly-softened cabbage, long beans and carrots. Topped with some flossy pounded dried shrimp and sweet sambal chili, this really packed a punch.

The Fried Beansprouts had a simplicity that was so yummy. It had very clean flavours, seasoned only by sliced red chilis, spring onions and the barest minimum of soy.

The Fried Egg with Dark Soy and Cut Chilis was delicious, even if the egg was tough and rubbery. I think it was the combination of the slightly sweetened smoky saltiness of the dark soy, the tart raw onions, and the spice of the red chilis.

The Sayur Lodeh, using the same curry vegetables as those in the lontong, was really yummy as well. And really, if you didn't add extra chili to this dish, this was really quite mild and low on the spice level.

I think they gave us the tendon part for the Beef Rendang, which was why this was so chewy and tough. Still, the spice paste was suitably hot and aromatic.

This is one example of how the ideal combination of seasonings can transform the simplest of ingredients into stellar dishes. The Sambal Boiled Egg and Fishcake was really all about the thick, dried shrimp-based, sugary sambal.

I like the Fried Chicken Wing here, done Malay-style, so you get the distinctive tumeric, garlic and ginger spice rub...very fragrant, very well-flavoured, albeit a little boney and dry.

The Fishball Soup was very homestyled, they'd used dried ikan bilis in the soup base, so it remained light, with a hint of sweetness from the softened vegetables and fishballs.

Kampong Glam Cafe
17 Bussorah Street
Tel: 9385 9452
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