NYDC, Bugis Junction

It's great that NYDC opens late till 12 midnight on the weekends to cater for late night hunger pangs and cravings for desserts. We both had a really early dinner, so by 9 pm, our stomachs were growling again and hankering for something sweet.

We don't usually order the savoury dishes here but some of their appetizers are pretty alright. We had the Buffalo Chicken Wings ($8.50), seasoned, breaded and crisp fried till a reddish-brown, and dipped in a sweetish, Thai-chili-esqe, buffalo sauce. Chicken was well marinated, so the flavour soaked through to the bone. This was a pretty well done rendition.

I really liked the Mushroom Munchies ($6.95) with ham and mozzarella cheese smothered in a garlic sauce and delectably baked in white button mushroom caps. This was a sure-win formula, with favourites like ham, melted cheese and mushrooms in an explosive combo mix.

No meal here would be complete without an order of That Boney Cake ($9.80) with French vanilla ice-cream with chocolate layered sponge Elmer Fudge cake, and finished off with a drizzling of hot fudge and chocolate chip sprinkles. This was a real sugar rush.So indulgent and yummy.

200 Victoria Street
Parco Bugis Junction
Tel: 6333 3161
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 10.30pm, and Fridays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 12midnight
Website: www.nydc.com.sg/


Bistro du Vin

We spent the weekend with 2 of my best friends, Cho and Kang. We needed to get them fitted for their best men suits, so we conveniently arranged to have dinner afterwards. Cho wanted some place with alcohol, and Kang wanted his protein fix, so we headed to Bistro du Vin, the casual French arm of the Les Amis group of restaurants. I have to say that we've never had anything less than an excellent meal at their restaurants. It's little wonder Les Amis consistently ranks high on the international dining scene.

We all got side dishes to share and supplement our mains. The Sauteed Mushrooms ($4) would have been excellent, except it was marred by the taste of flat leaf parsley generously sprinkled all over the dish. This was otherwise brilliantly seasoned and sauteed.

I loved the French Beans ($3), simply cooked in butter for that luxurious feel.

The Pan Seared US Scallops ($16) may have been a bit pricey, but the succulent sweet and plump shellfish, perfectly seared, and coated generously with seaweed butter was worth every cent.

The Char-grilled Australian Angus Ribeye ($40), a 200-day grain fed 200 gram piece of full-bodied meat was grilled to a smoky robust perfection and married with a decadent garlic butter sauce.

The French Fries (served alongside the ribeye) was cut thickly, soft inside and crisp outside was evenly salted and seasoned. This was so good even the carb-a-phobes (the Fiance and Kang, both gym fanatics) lapped this up.

The Fiance had the Beef Cheek Braised in Red Wine ($33) with carrots, mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon for flavour and sweetness. The beef was cooked so well it was practically falling off the fork, with the rich taste of red wine thoroughly infused into the incredibly tender meat.

I particularly liked the Mashed Potatoes (served as a side to the beef cheeks), so simple, so classic, so comforting.

The Pan-fried Grouper ($29), a daily special, with green peas, onions and bacon in a butter-herb emulsion was fantastic. The fish was seared very nicely, so it had that golden caramelised crust while remaining moist and soft inside. I appreciated that this was quite a huge portion, and very value-for-money.

We were all quite stuffed by our mains so we shared the very indulgent Fondant au Chocolat ($9) with vanilla ice-cream. Rich but nuanced and balanced. This was sweet without being overwhelmingly saccharine.

A mini complimentary Baguette was served as a starter with some salted butter. Crusty, freshly made, still warm bread. Good to eat on its own.

Bistro du Vin
1 Scotts Road
#02-12 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6733 7763
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and from 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.lesamis.com.sg


Golden Peony, Conrad Hotel

I've long thought that Conrad Centennial is 1 of very few hotels one would hold a wedding banquet that actually serves good food. Having been to so many wedding dinners, I've found that the food is usually quite substandard and crappy. The at-least-$150 pricetag of each red packet given to the wedding couple really doesn't commensurate with the quality of the food.

I think the reason why the food at a wedding banquet held at Conrad is memorable and satisfying is because their food is catered by their in-house Cantonese restaurant, Golden Peony. This venerable Cantonese dame is quite the understated and underrated hidden gem of a find. The food is exquisite and refined, albeit a little pricey. Service is excellent, attentive but not intrusive. Ambience is low-key, fairly intimate and classy.

We really liked the Sauteed and Golden-fried Sliced Grouper ($24), the smooth and mild fish was cooked 2 different ways for variety, set on a bed of crunchy sugar snap peas. This was very delicate and light, so simple in seasoning but brought out the natural flavours of the greens and fish.

The Braised Beancurd ($24) was served with a thick eggy gravy of diced fresh scallops, freshly shredded crabmeat and topped with fish roe, providing a burst of unami flavour.

The green hue of the beancurd is due to the addition of pureed spinach to the smooth and soft homemade beancurd.

The Sweet Corn Soup with Crabmeat ($10) was choc-a-bloc with egg white drops, sweet fresh corn kernels and crabmeat, thick, savoury and light.

For dessert, we had the Crispy-fried Pancake ($12) with black sesame paste and coated with white sesame seeds. This was nuanced, balanced and sweet.

The chef had inadvertently left a piece of plastic between the sesame paste layers, as shown in this close-up. We didn't complain, mostly because it didn't really make a difference to the already wonderful dessert. However, the waitress noticed it, immediately apologised and automatically comp-ed the dish. Without our asking. Amazing service. Well, I did say that the service here was excellent, didn't I?

The Pickles ($1) may have been a little pricey but the sauteed mix of diced long beans, capsicums, roasted peanuts and beancurd served chilled was very yummy and well worth its pricetag.

Golden Peony
2 Temasek Boulevard
Conrad Centennial Singapore
3rd floor
Tel: 6432 7482
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch, 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch, 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Octapas Spanish Tapas Bar

What used to house The Tapas Tree is now Octapas Spanish Tapas Bar. According to the grapevine, there was a slight change in management, which resulted in the revamping of this beloved Spanish institution. This restaurant is the reason why I love Spanish food. I'd never had Spanish food until The Tapas Tree came along to our sunny shores. While the decor is largely the same, the menu has had a mini re-haul. Rest assured the quality of the food has been maintained, if not improved. All the dishes we sampled that night were pretty fabulous. We had a thoroughly satisfactory meal.

We started off with the Pan-fried Snapper ($15.50) thinly coated with a flour batter and flash-fried, so the crust was delightfully crisp and golden, while the fish remained moist. Spanish romesco sauce, a heady mix of olive oil, pinenuts, almonds, roasted garlic and sweet red peppers, was drizzled over the fish for a little kick and spice.

We also liked the Skewered Scallops ($16.50) plump, sweet and succulent, seared so it was still juicy, wrapped in serrano ham for flavour & topped with romesco sauce. The last time I ate at The Tapas Tree, the scallops were very sad and tiny. Clearly, the change in management has done the scallops some good.

The Sauteed Mushrooms ($9) were also a hit, cooked in sherry to bring out its natural sweetness and garlic and olive oil for aroma.

If we had to choose, the Spanish Omelette ($10) was probably the least exciting dish of the night, but mind you, it was still fairly delicious. The omelette was densely packed with softened potatoes and onions, a relatively mild and delicate dish.

What's Spanish food without paella (say pah-a-yah)? We got the Carne Paella ($36) a meat-lovers dream loaded with chorizo, ham, pork, beef and chicken chunks. The rice was lovingly infused with rich stock and saffron for that gorgeous golden hue, flavoursome and tasty, so good you can pretty much eat the rice on its own. My only gripe was the less than juicy beef, and that chicken breast meat was used. Chicken thigh would have been a lot more juicy while the beef could have a little more fat. 

Octapas Spanish Tapas Bar
Blk D #01-08
River Valley Road
Clarke Quay
Tel: 6837 2938
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 12noon to 1am
Fridays and Saturdays from 12noon to 2am
Website: www.octapasasia.com/index.html


Ayam Bakar Ojolali, Lucky Plaza

If you want ayam penyet (Malay-style fried chicken that's smashed before serving), you've gotta go to Lucky Plaza. There must be at least 5 different eateries selling this Indonesian fare. I'd previously eaten at Ayam Penyet Ria, and for a change, Jal brought me to this other eatery that's really quite popular with the lunch crowd.  This eatery is really quite a hole-in-the-wall, with a seating capacity of about 20 people, but fret not, they have a separate shop unit, about 3 shop units away, that can house another 10 diners.

We both got the Ayam Goreng Set ($6.50), crispy juicy fried chicken loaded with delectable batter crisps and served with a beancake, fried beancurd and rice. They have 2 types of sambal chilli, one with kecap manis (sweet black sauce) and one without. Mix them up together and you get a potent fiery mix that's lipsmackingly good with the fried chicken.

I liked that they served a side of belinjau crackers with the Soto Ayam ($4.50) Malay-style chicken soup that's both wholesome and rustic, with the distinct taste of tumeric and cumin accenting the lightly spiced clear soup.

Crunchy beansprouts, clear vermicelli noodles, perfectly done hard boiled eggs, refreshing cabbage strips and diced chicken chunked up the soup.

Ayam Bakar Ojolali
Lucky Plaza #03-39/43
304 Orchard Road
Tel: 6235 3597
Open daily from 12noon to 9pm
Website: www.ayambakarojolali.com


La Strada

It's great that the Fiance gets along so well with all of my friends. My friends are very important to me, and they've been a huge part of my life. I really wouldn't be the person I am today without them.

To be honest, it isn't as easy as it was when we were all in school together to meet up and catch up with my friends. It takes effort to keep up a friendship. That's why I've started this habit of ensuring I meet up with my friends at least once in 2 months, or every month if schedules permit. That way, I see my friends at least 6-12 times a year.

We met up with Ry for dinner at La Strada. We were all feeling like Italian that day and this place is great for chatting as the restaurant is never really full and you usually get quite a bit of privacy to carry on your chat.

We shared everything. The starter of Scamorza alla Piastra con Proscuitto di Parma ($18) was our favourite. Mild creamy smoked scamorza cheese was lightly pan-fried and served alongside salty pink ribbons of parma ham, grilled sweet cherry tomatoes and drizzled with an acidic balsamic glaze.

The humongous squid rings of the Calamari Fritti ($18) were battered and deep-fried, served with a delectable chunky lemon arrabbiata sauce.

The Frittata Proscuitto e Funghi ($17) was simple classic breakfast food, Italian-style. Proscuitto ham was sauteed with mushrooms in a densely packed omelette and completed with char-grilled cherry tomatoes and parmesan shavings.

We were also given a complimentary slice of Pizza Bread, fresh out of the wood-fired oven. This was made with the barest of ingredients, pizza sauce and a basil leaf, but so delicious in its simplicity.

The complimentary Bread Basket, with aromatic warm foccacia drizzled with olive oil and crispy breadsticks that were so great for nibbling. 

The Carbonara ($24) was amazingly value-for-money, fresh chitarra was tossed with crispy parma ham, egg confit, shaved parmesan and truffle butter. Rich, creamy, nuanced and thoroughly satisfying.

The Granchio ($26) of fresh tagliolini with plentiful sweet mud crab meat, tart cherry tomatoes, zucchini strips, and cooked with white wine, chilli and garlic was light, balanced yet flavoursome.

I didn't quite like the risotto-of-the-day (it was squid ink). Instead, I requested a vegetarian Mushroom Risotto which wasn't on the menu ($34), which the restaurant was more than happy to oblige. This was a huge portion, and incredibly fragrant with assorted wild mushrooms and laced with truffle oil for extra oomph. I loved this. The risotto was done al dente, it was starchy, creamy, rich and totally amazing.

We were all super stuffed by then. So we shared 1 dessert, the Torta al Nero e Bianco ($11) white and dark chocolate cake with berries and caramelized pistachios. The white layer was like a softened cake version of a nougat. Nutty, spongy and yummy.

Update 18 July 2012: La Strada has closed its shutters. 

La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#02-11 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6737 2555
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner
Email: lastrada@lesamis.com.sg
Website: www.lesamis.com.sg


Tung Lok Signatures, The Central

It's been a while since we last had dim sum for lunch. Tung Lok Signatures, in my view, offers the best of the Tung Lok group of restaurants. I mean, the restaurant's garnered an impressive number of culinary awards and is consistently on the "Best of" lists, so it's not just me who feels that the food's good.

We like the dim sum here, and feel that the standard of the dim sum's on par with that of Hua Ting and Wah Lok. Of course, as with most delicious food at upscale restaurants, the food's consequently pricey.

We started off with the Deep Fried Beancurd Skin Rolls with Shrimp ($4.50), the beancurd skin was fried to a crisp golden crust, be-ribboned with a seaweed strip, while the fresh prawns inside remained juicy crunchy and succulent.

The sunny yellow hue in the Century Egg Porridge with Duck ($4.80) is from the yolk of salted duck egg swirled into the porridge.

The porridge was smooth, gruel-like and flavoursome, and the duck was fresh and moist, with nary a gamey taste.

The Steamed Pork Dumplings ($4.50) were one of the best we've had, bouncy, juicy and succulent, with fresh diced prawns mashed with minced pork and some mushrooms for variety and texture.

The rice roll layers in the Steamed Cheong Fun with Char Siew ($7) were delightfully thin, almost translucent, and tender barbecued pork interspersed throughout the rice roll. The only bad thing about this was the liberal lacing of spring onions in the rice rolls. We ended up tearing into this and eating a very deconstructed version of the rice roll.

The Steamed Turnip Cakes with Preserved Waxed Meat ($3.80) had a very homestyled appeal to it. The cakes were soft and moist, laced with crunchy turnip strips. I particularly liked the Chinese preserved sausages that were properly re-hydrated and fried till its oil content is released, so it was especially tasty and chewy.

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/


Gurney Drive, Suntec City Mall

Gurney Drive, a new restaurant named after Penang's most famous food street, located in the food basement of Suntec City Mall, aims to bring the authentic taste of world-renowned Penang cuisine to our sunny shores. Apparently, their chef hails from Penang itself, so the food's bound to be good right? Besides, we were curious to see how this would measure up to the food at Copthorne King's Hotel, our favourite place to get our Penang food craving fix.

Generally, food was fairly authentic, portions were substantial enough to satiate your hunger but not overwhelmingly so, and prices were very easy on the wallet. We thought this was a relatively value-for-money option amongst the many food choices at Suntec. 

We ordered several Penang staples to share, starting with the Penang Fried Koay Teow ($6.90), which was commendable but not mind-blowing. It just lacked that smoky accent and oomph factor of a really hot wok. The addition of the 3 fried pork lard pieces was an authentic touch though, and the cockles, prawns, fishcakes, Chinese sausages were fairly fresh whilst lending texture and flavour.

The Grilled Prawns ($8.90) didn't quite titillate our tastebuds, as the dish arrived looking quite unappetizing. The sambal-ish looking sauce wasn't so much spicy as it was sweet, and it had a very sad boring brown hue instead of a cheery energizing fiery red colour that would have made this dish look a lot more appetizing. I thought the sauce complemented the fresh prawns well, but the Fiance thought the sweetish, mildly spiced sauce was a huge disappointment. That said, the prawns could have done with a little more meat on them.

The Penang Chendol ($2.50) was just alright, there was just enough coconut cream to balance out the smoky sweetness of the gula melaka, making it a sweet and rich dessert that was just as refreshing. The green Chendol jelly really was the letdown, it was just plain frozen, so it was lacking in that distinctive slightly chewy and soft texture.

Gurney Drive
Suntec City Mall
3 Temasek Boulevard
B1-058 Fountain Terrace
Tel: 6336 8847
Website: www.gurneydrive.com.sg


Di Oliva Pizzaria, Seoul, South Korea

No visit to Seoul would be complete without eating Italian food. Italian cuisine is HUGE in Seoul, there's like one pizza and pasta joint everywhere you turn.

Di Oliva Pizzaria was really near the hotel, like a 5 minute stroll, and we tookaway a pizza one night for supper.

The Pizza Rossa Cipolla (15,000 Won), with olives, tomatoes, onions and mozzarella, used the simplest and barest of ingredients, to create an unbelievably yummy and aromatic pizza. Crust was thin, smoky and crisp, indicative of a good wood-fired oven. Considering the incredibly cheap price, we were also very pleasantly surprised by the generous portion of the pizza.

The restaurant facade for reference

Di Oliva Pizzaria
South Korea


Prego, being an Italian joint, really isn't a place one would go to for steak. But as we found out the other day, their grilled beef fillet is easily one of the most value-for-money steaks around. There's only one cut of choice, and that's the tenderloin, which suited us just fine because this cut is known for its extremely tender qualities.

Prego's Tenderloin Beef Fillet ($42) is really huge, so it's best to share if you're a small eater. This was a lovely piece of red meat, tender without being too fatty, hearty with distinctively beefy flavours. This wasn't the Japanese type of beef, as it had a more robust smell and taste. A generous sprinkling of salt made the steak extremely tasty. A drizzle of red wine jus, savoury chick pea and carrot mash, and a bunch of crunchy green leafy vegetables completed the wonderfully satisfying dish.

I'm not as huge a fan of red meat as the Fiance is, and got the Catch-of-the-Day, a grilled Seabass Brazino ($37), fresh, mild and moist, topped with piquant salty capers, honey tomatoes, deep fried diced eggplant and a slathering of olive oil herb emulsion.

The Bread of the day was a crusty thyme scented baked doughnut roll.

I'm really liking Prego's Olive Tapenade Dip, the ricotta cheese balances out the tangy saltiness of the mashed green olives perfectly.

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
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