Uncle Sam's Claypots, Robinson Road

Uncle Sam's Claypots have come quite a long way since they first set up shop along Robinson Road back in 1995. They now have 3 outlets, at City Square Mall near Little India and the Clementi heartland, in addition to the original at AfroAsia Building. The menu's now a lot more extensive, as they've included crab specialties in their repertoire of claypot dishes. I've also noticed that their prices have risen significantly since my last visit almost 2 years ago. While I don't think their food has improved as much as their prices have increased, their portions are generous and there's air-conditioning, always a plus in our heat and humidity. A warning to the wise though, be prepared to leave the restaurant smelling of lunch, the ventilation here is quite a throwback to the past.

The Seafood Claypot Rice ($9) was loaded with head-on shelled prawns, crabstick, fishcake, mushrooms and greens. Seafood was generally fresh, and the rice had a nice charred element to it. I appreciated that each scalding hot claypot was served on a wicker basket to prevent diners from scalding themselves.

The Sliced Fish Soup Claypot Noodles ($9) was a milky concoction of rich seafood based stock, and laden with sliced mackerel and a large freshwater prawn. Quite the MSG bomb and cloyingly sweet with the use of condensed milk.

The classic dish that made Uncle Sam's so successful, the Boneless Chicken Rice Claypot ($9) is the only thing I'd eat here and not feel ripped off. Lots of tender, well-marinated, chicken chunks abound in this dish and the rice is flavoursome with plenty dark soy sauce.

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


SICC Bukit Cafe

I've reconciled with the sad conclusion that it's impossible not to put on weight during the festive period. Every single social event revolves around food so you invariably end up eating several times a day! Anticipating the amount of eating we'd be doing over the Chinese New Year festive period, we've had to go to the gym almost everyday prior to the festive period to combat the potential weight gain. 

We usually end late at the gym so eating at the club makes more sense as it's convenient to go straight home after dinner. These were just some of our meals eaten at the club after our gym sessions.

The Pan-fried Cod ($21) with char-grilled asparagus served on a bed of truffle scented risotto with forest mushrooms, chervil sauce and lobster and saffron oil reduction was just okay, not bad but not impressive either. The risotto was a overcooked but the cod was done well, with a lightly caramelized crust and moist fleshy insides.

The Chicken Satay ($6.30 for half dozen) was one of the better done dishes, the skewered chicken meat was juicy and succulent, while the peanut sauce was chunky and textured.

The Ultimate U.S. Wagyu Beef Burger ($19.90) with its juicy and full-bodied 200g wagyu beef patty made this a repeat order. The portobello mushrooms and brie cheese fillings added to the luxury content of this burger.

There were hits and misses in the Nasi Goreng Temburong ($7.80). The whole crispy chicken drumstick and the fried egg were a little dried out, but the flavoured rice was good enough to eat on its own, peppery and richly flavoured. This was also served alongside generic achar, crackers and a potent fiery sambal.

The Tofu Claypot ($6.90) was a disappointment though, the pan-fried beancurd was severely waterlogged and the oyster-mushroom gravy laden with pak choy, cabbage and bell peppers was rather ordinary.

Bukit Cafe
Singapore Island Country Club, Bukit location
240 Sime Road
Singapore 578774
Tel: 6461 7439
Open on Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 10pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 10pm


Patara Fine Thai Cuisine

Lips and I met up for dinner at Patara, our first monthly meet-up for 2012. I miss the food in Phuket, and Lips was trying on a vegetarian diet, and Patara Fine Thai fit the bill. The high-end Thai restaurant's dedicated a section of their menu just for vegetarian options. We were led to a booth seat, super cosy for us gals to yak the night away. Per "standard operating procedure", we ditched our other halves for dinner, but they were due to join us later for dessert. I love going out with Lips, we always have a blast and we never seem to have enough time when we're together.

As usual, the food was pricey, but authentic. Ambience was kept relaxed with warm low lights, but somehow the restaurant was, as before, quite noisy. The restaurant was a full house and diners were using their "outside voices" instead of their "indoor" ones. It didn't help that there was a fussy baby screaming his lungs out on the next table, so much so we had trouble hearing each other and were yelling at each other for most of the meal. Also, one thing I didn't realize the other time dining with Ernie, Ry and the Hubs, was that service here is very sluggish.The service staff are generally not as efficient or on-the-ball as I'd expect of such a restaurant.

We started off with the Satay Tao Hoo ($18) grilled mushrooms and tofu skewers with mildly spiced creamy peanut dip and tart cucumber salsa.

The Tom Yum Hed ($20 per pot), a clear sour and spicy soup with vegetables and mushrooms was the vegetarian version of the tom yum soup. This was manageably spicy so even people like Ernie can take this.

We also had another soup, the Poa Taak Pla Kapong ($23 per pot) another clear spicy and sour soup but laden with seabass. While the soup was nice and the fleshy pieces of fish tasted fresh enough, the fish somehow left a fishy smell on our breath.

The Gai Goong Phad Med Mamuang ($28) of stir-fried prawns and chicken with cashew nuts and spring onions was both robust and potent, with dried red chillis lending a subtle smoky heat.

We thought the Tab Tim Krob Ruam Mitr ($13) which was described on the menu as "bubur cha cha", had a very novel presentation. This was refreshingly good, the sweetened coconut milk was creamy and rich but not cloyingly so, while the various toppings were crunchy and fresh.

Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
163 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Mall
Tel: 6737 0818
Open daily from 12noon to 3pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.patara.com.sg


Coffee Club, Raffles City Shopping Centre

I've always thought Singapore was quite the deserted forsaken wasteland whenever Chinese New Year rolls around, all the malls and restaurants are closed, and there's really nothing to do or eat on our little island except visit your relatives or stay at home. If you wanted to do anything over the first couple of days of the Lunar New Year, you could do little other than catching a show at the cinemas. If you wanted to eat out, you're relegated to prata (Indian food), mee rebus (Malay food), Macdonalds (fast food) and the like.

It's changed though. I've noticed a lot more restaurants and shops open, even during the first day of Chinese New Year.  On a hunch, we hit Raffles City on the second day of the Chinese New Year, hoping to get some breakfast. We figured that even if the shops weren't open, the hotel's in-house's restaurants would at the very least be open for business. As it turned out, most of the eateries at Raffles City Shopping Centre were open and we enjoyed a slow, leisurely, breakfast in a relatively deserted mall.

The All Star American Breakfast ($10.50) consisted of baguette toasts, crisp bacon, chicken sausages, chicken patty, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and sunny side up eggs. Substantial and delicious. The mushrooms and eggs weren't salted, which was really great, seeing as the salt content in the bacon, sausages and patty more than balanced out the mushrooms and eggs.

I had mine with scrambled eggs, fluffy and moist, just the way I like it.

The Mushrooms Bruschetta Bash ($9.50) is an absolute must-try, the mouth-wateringly good chorizo and portobello mushrooms bruschetta was served with perfectly executed scrambled eggs, a thick juicy chicken patty and vinaigrette-dressed mesclun salad.

Coffee Club
252 North Bridge Road #03-30
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6336 8208
Open daily from 10am to 10pm
Website: www.coffeeclubworld.com


Paradise Inn, Funan Digitalife Mall

We had our family reunion dinner this year at Paradise Inn. The Hubs and I alternate between our families every other year, and since we spent time with his family on Chinese New Year's eve last year, we decided to have this year's reunion dinner with my side of the family. Besides, my sister was back for the first time since she moved to Germany 5 years ago, and she brought along her newest addition, her adorable 5-month old son, Sammy.

As with any other Chinese restaurant on CNY eve, there were 2 dinner sittings, and we got the first. Dishes arrived in quick succession, the restaurant was operating at a full capacity and so, service was inevitably choppy and harried. Still, the food was not bad (mostly hits and not many misses), considering the dishes were pretty much mass produced (only set dinners were allowed, no ala carte orders) and the kitchen was obviously bursting at the seams.

We started off with the Salmon Yusheng, generic but otherwise a refreshing way to start off the meal.

The view of the salad with everything poured in but before the tossing so it still looks really neat and tidy.

We really liked the Seafood Fried Rice, each grain was individually coated with a thin film of eggy goodness and fried to a fragrant perfection. Tiny bright orange spots of fish roe littered the rice, providing a burst of umami flavour to the rice.

The Duo Combination of Teochew Prawn Roll and Jellyfish was also very well done. Prawn roll was nicely textured with chunky mince and bits of diced prawns, with a crisp flaky flour wrapping, while the garlicky marinated chilled jellyfish balanced out the savoury prawn rolls with its refreshingly clean flavours.

We also loved the assortment of bai ling, straw and champignon mushrooms with the velvety rich oyster sauce gravy in the Braised Assorted Mushrooms with Sauteed Broccoli. The Chicken with Herbs in Claypot was a heady, potent concoction with strong flavours, accented by peppery basil and cut chillis.

The Steamed Star Garoupa in Soya Sauce was unfortunately, over-steamed. The meat was dry when it should have been moist, tough when it should have been firm.

The Chilled Double-Boiled Hashima with red dates lending a nuanced sweetness and dried longan providing deep fruity notes was a very nutritious (hashima is good for your skin apparently although I hate it) way to cleanse our palates at the end of the relatively substantive meal.

Paradise Inn
109 North Bridge Road
#02-10/11 Funan DigitaLife Mall
Tel: 6338 4018
Open daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm
Website: www.paradiseinn.com.sg/


Tung Lok Classics, Orchard Parade Hotel

We had our firm's Annual Chinese New Year Dinner to kick off the CNY festivities at Tung Lok Classics earlier last Friday. Tung Lok Classics serves traditional Sichuan, Shanghainese, Cantonese and Hubei cuisine, 4 of the 8 regional cuisines of China. The 8-course sit-down dinner ($888 per 10 persons) was, as usual, packed with laughter, joy and good food. While the firm may not be part of the "Big Four", or pay the highest salaries, the biggest draw for me here is the people. My team has, over the years, become part of my family. And that's the primary reason why I love my job.

I always think that the most important aspect of a job is the people in your team, which of course includes your boss. Remuneration is really a secondary consideration, as long as you can afford a comfortable life. Of course, what's defined as comfortable is relative and differs widely, depending on who you ask. Afterall, what's the point of going to work in a superbly paid company but hating every single second of your work life? I suppose that's the advice I'd give anyone stepping into the working world for the first time. Find a job that pays enough, which is easy enough (usually), but stick to the one boss that treats you well.

We started off the night tossing to "big bonuses" with the Hamachi King Fish Treasure Platter Yusheng.

Crackers (to symbolise lots of wealth with what resembles gold ingots) and the sweet sauce (for a good life filled with sweetness)

The finished product, a very piquant refreshing salad of julienned vegetables, and because I wasn't a proficient enough excavator, I didn't get any fish.

The second course was the Flambe Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig, very impressively presented lined on both sides with mini flames. The skin was crisp enough, but it could have been a piece of oil-stained, fat-lined, coloured, plain flour cracker for all I knew. This needed a lot of the sweet hoisin sauce to get through.

The rest of the meat was cut up and served neatly later. I didn't quite like this because of its very strong "porky" smell and taste. But to be fair, I've never liked suckling pig.

I loved the Double-Boiled Sea Treasures Soup with Chinese Herbs. It was delicate and clear but with depth and richness of flavour, with the use of a chicken stock base. Thankfully, there wasn't a strong herbal taste to this, I think the herbal part was due to the wolfberries, rich in anti-oxidants and good for your eyes.

The soup's ingredients were ladled out for consumption, and from what I could identify, an assortment of chicken chunks, sea whelk, sea cucumber, and what else, wolfberries.

The fish dish was a Shanghai-syled Steamed Soon Hock with Pickled Chilli, fresh, moist and flaky, with a chilli-laced soy emulsion slathered over this that was at once piquant, spicy and salty.Best dish of the night, together with the soup.

The Braised Dried Oysters with Black Moss and Vegetables was made unique with the addition of fresh crunchy prawns, but I would have preferred the black moss to be incorporated into the luscious gravy instead of being sprinkled very sparingly over the top.

While the sweetish gravy was rich and heady, with an accent of a herbal scent, the Shanghai-syled Braised Duck with Yam was a little tough, cold and gamey. I also liked the cubes of soft sweet yam that lent texture to the gravy.

Although I prefer ee-fu noodles as the obligatory carb dish in set meals, the Fried "Ying-Yang" Glutinous Rice with Preserved Meat was quite commendable. The rice was sticky, soft and moist, with an aromatic soy seasoning, while fried grains of rice thrown into the mix provided a contrast in textures. Diced mushrooms, Chinese sausages and yam also helped chunk up the dish.

The Chilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo was a refreshingly balanced way to round off the meal. Too bad the pomelo was excruciatingly sour.

Tung Lok Classics
1 Tanglin Road
Orchard Parade Hotel
Tel: 6834 0660
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.tunglokclassics.com


Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie, Raffles City

While Canele is known for their decadently scrumptious desserts, they do serve up a small selection of French comfort food. We were craving some homestyled French stews and macarons, and so, we made a beeline for Canele. We were at the supermarket doing groceries anyway.

Although the Portobello & Beef Ragout ($11) was, in my opinion, really quite pricey, especially in light of its minscule portion, it (sort of) made up for the price point by being quite delicious.

A rich and full-bodied stewed beef was layered upon a juicy grilled portobello and topped with melted mozzarella.

The Provencal Chicken Stew ($14) was, compared to the portobello starter, surprisingly priced very reasonably. I've always loved stews, and this didn't disappoint. It had a comforting chicken stock base, sweetened with celery and carrots, and chunked up with large pieces of succulent chicken. Oh and the crusty bread served alongside the stew was wonderful for wiping up any remnants of the yummy gravy.

The Braised Beef in Red Wine ($16) had a very deep, full-bodied and robust flavour to it, much richer than Casserole's version. Sweeter too, with the liberal use of root vegetables and tomatoes.

Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6334 7377
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.canele.com.sg


Casserole @ Dine on 3

Casserole is 1 of 3 restaurants housed together on the third floor of Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort. While the other 2 restaurants serve Cantonese noodles and congee, as well as an international buffet spread, Casserole serves European and Asian stews. The concept's a little novel, I know, but somehow the menu spanning the gamut of Indian curries, Morrocan hotpots and European stews makes sense. Every single culture has at least a classic stew recipe. Stews are simply one-pot meals that are a combination of a basic stock, a meat, and several types of vegetables, resulting in a variety of flavours depending on the ingredients and cultural influences.

We happened to be in Sentosa attending a Beeps' baby boy's 1st birthday party, and decided to have dinner afterwards at Casserole. I've heard good things about this place and been wanting to try it out. The reviews were right. The food here is amazingly good, very wholesome, and with large portions to boot. The food facilitates communal dining, and each casserole can easily fill up 2 large eaters. In addition, every casserole is served with a carb (Asian stews are served with rice, European ones with mashed potatoes and Morrocan hotpots with cous cous) and a garden salad (because we always need our greens). We severely overestimated ourselves, and ended up not finishing 2 of our mashed potatoes, half the mushroom dish and most of the salad.

We started off with a Baked Seabass ($28) served atop buttered green peas, onions and saffron potatoes. The moist, perfectly salted, fish was kept light and breezy with a drizzle of lemon and some Italian herbs, while the potatoes were simply seasoned with bright sunny saffron. But, I felt the best part of the dish was the peas, they were so soft and buttery, with a sweet accent from the caramelised onions.

A highly recommended dish, the Beef Bourguignon ($26) was lived up to its much hyped recommendation. Chunks of beef were slow-cooked in a vegetable-sweetened stock with garlic, pearl onions, baby carrots, celery and white button mushrooms. This was a lot lighter than you'd expect of a beef stew, the broth was clear and delicate, but with the full flavours of the beef stock. But the piece de resistence has gotta be the beef, so flavoursome and incredibly fork-tender that even toothless peeps can enjoy it.

We also loved the Saute de Champignons Sauvages ($18) an assortment of shitake, enoki, porcini and white button mushrooms simmered with white wine and butter resulting in a luscious velvety gravy with earthy tones.

While we liked the combination of the Garden Salad, with baby spinach, olives, artichokes, cherry tomatoes and rocket leaves, we weren't fans of the mint dressing. We'd have preferred something a little more savoury, like a Japanese-inspired sesame dressing or olive oil.

While the Mashed Potatoes with chives were fairly ordinary, we used this to wipe up the rest of the delicious beef stew gravy.

Casserole @ Dine on 3
101 Siloso Road
Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort
Level 3
Tel: 6275 0100 / 6371 1971
Open daily from 6pm to 10pm


Tung Lok Signatures, The Central

The Tung Lok group, together with the Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure chain, make up the "Magic Circle" of Cantonese restaurants in Singapore. I've always felt that while Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure tend towards the classics, Tung Lok sets itself apart by being a little unconventional. This is made most obvious at Tung Lok Signatures, their fine-dining arm of restaurants. Most of their dishes here are made inventive with a slight twist of the typical Cantonese favourites.

We recently had dinner at Tung Lok Signatures, and discovered that they'd just revamped their menu. I like that there's some "rotation" in their menu so we don't get bored with their dishes, but I do miss a couple of their dishes.

Tung Lok Signatures now pairs the Sauteed Star Garoupa Fillet ($38) with asparagus and lily bulbs, instead of the one on the previous menu, which used sugar snap peas. Strictly as a matter of preference, I prefer the previous version. I'm really not a fan of asparagus.

A sprinkling of preserved vegetables imparts just enough flavour to the crunchy Wok-fried French Beans ($18) while minced pork lends texture.

The Braised Fish Maw in Thick Soup ($14) is now "Tan Jia" style, which tastes exactly like shark's fin soup but without the shark's fin, of course. I prefer the previous bisque-like version. While this was rich, smooth and yet delicate, I prefer the more rounded taste of the yellow bisque.

The current Braised Ee-Fu Noodles ($20) is now seasoned with Snow Fungus and Truffle Oil. We loved this, the heady, pungently fragrant truffle oil was incredibly luxurious and lovely when married with the soft textured noodles. Definitely a keeper compared to the one with sole fish on the previous menu.

The Braised Homemade Beancurd with Wild Fungus and Conpoy Crisps ($20) was one of the few dishes that remained from the previous menu.Soft, custard-like beancurd with a mashed spinach-base was slathered with a thick oyster sauce gravy, then topped with shimeiji mushrooms and shredded dried scallop crisps.

The Chilled Purple Rice Puree and Beancurd Pudding ($6) topped with vanilla ice-cream, had a soya bean curd base which differentiated this from the one with coconut ice-cream on the previous menu.This was commendable and made for a refreshing dessert, but we preferred the previous one.

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/
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