Paradise Inn, Suntec City Mall

There are a couple of shop spaces at the Suntec fountain circle that seem to have the worst fengshui, i.e. the restaurants that occupy it never seem to last past a year or so. Even new openings, despite the hullabaloo of their respective grand openings, are treated with trepidation and always seem to be barely occupied. Like the one space previously occupied by NYDC, and the one spot now housing Paradise Inn.

When this casual dining arm of the Paradise Group first opened a few months ago in the sprawling premises (which was only minimally renovated from when Tian Dian Wang was occupying the spot), I did notice that it was barely filled every time I was there to takeaway from Crystal Jade Kitchen. I was thinking how unusual it was for any Paradise Group restaurant to be doing such poor business, especially since the rest of their restaurants are always overflowing with capacity.

Little wonder Paradise Inn recently rolled out very value-for-money set meals, where the daily soup, 3 mains, dessert and drinks are priced at only $38.80 for 2 to 3 persons. There are also a variety of set meals for up to 10 diners. The restaurant consequently seems a lot more occupied ever since they started offering this promotion. 

The 'Hua Tiao' Drunken Chicken ($8) makes for a nice appetizer with its refreshingly chilled temperatures and clear, simple flavours of the Chinese wine seasoning the poached chicken thigh. Too bad the chicken wasn't moist or tender enough.

Now, if there's one thing that makes Paradise Inn stand out from the rest of the Cantonese restaurant chains, it's their locally-styled double boiled soups. The Double Boiled Pig Stomach Soup ($14.90 per pot) with spare ribs and white pepper is my favourite for its stomach-warming, peppery tones and just pure comfort factor. Plus, it helps that this soup purportedly has slimming properties!

The best thing about the Braised Homemade Tofu in Claypot ($10.90) with golden enoki mushroom and minced meat is the silkiness of the plain beancurd. That said, this was an alright dish.

I never liked this preggy fish, but the Hubs loves the Deep Fried Shishamo ($10) for its smooth tiny roe. Unfortunately, this was battered too much and doused in way too much salad sauce.

The Imperial Pork Ribs ($10.90) were pretty commendable, moist and tender and coated lightly with a sweetish sticky oyster-sauce and tomato based sauce.

The Pan-fried Egg Omelette with Prawns ($8.90) was also alright, it had a very homecooked style to this, fluffy and simple. Unfortunately, this was laced, liberally, with spring onions, and so, I picked out every single piece of spring onion for the Hubs. For those men who say that Singaporean women are a spoilt, bunch who don't pamper their men enough, please re-direct them to moi. I even peel the Hubs' prawns!

Simply as a matter of preference, I would have preferred to leave out the onions in the Sambal Kangkong ($8.90). The sweet onions made this uniquely unpalatable to me.

The Chinese Style Pan-fried Beef Fillet ($14.90) is another pretty commendable dish, well-marinated meat, reasonably tender and nice charring of the fillet.

We didn't like the Sauteed Leather Jacket Fish ($14.90) in black bean sauce. Hated the coriander added to this, which totally spoiled it for us. Even the liberal sprinkling of chili padi couldn't musk the taste of the awful herb. Or that the fish had muddy overtones and was overcooked.

Paradise Inn
3 Temasek Boulevard
#B1-33 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6336 5168
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and 5.30pm to 9.30pm for dinner
Saturdays and Sundays from 11.30am to 9.30pm
Website: www.paradisegroup.com.sg


Jerry's BBQ & Grill, Club Street

I've noticed a recent resurgence of activity along Club Street. Just a couple of years ago, the entire conservation shophouse-lined street used to be so quiet. Save for a few notable restaurants littering the once-hyper street,  it was a relatively peaceful spot for a nice, quiet meal. There's now a whole lotta watering holes, which contributes to the current buzz and hive of activity. Happy campers spill out onto the roads from the numerous bars and pubs, with their rambunctious toasts and loud cheers. Parking is consequently a nightmare, so cab or carpool there if possible.

Jerry's BBQ & Grill can be considered an old-timer amongst the gleaming new bars and restaurants. It's been a Club Street stalwart since 2003 and held steady amidst the high turnover of restaurants here. While there are a lot of people sitting outdoors along the corridor enjoying the alfresco heat and humidity, we much prefer the indoor air-conditioning. It's a much more comfortable way to enjoy our meal. Although the quality of the food has gone down slightly over the years, it's still relatively commendable. One of the more notable places to have American comfort food. Of course, the friendly, upbeat service and generous portions help loads.

The Lamb Loin Chops ($21.95 for the weight watcher's portion of 2 cutlets) were juicy and succulent, well marinated and not very gamey, and the mint jelly lent a nice refreshing tinge to the full-bodied ribs, while the rucola side salad provided a peppery lift to the dish.The weight watcher's portion was definitely something that would make for an appetizer sizing for big eaters.

The distinctively Oriental Oxtail Stew ($21.95) had a delectable fall-off-the-bone texture, with chunks of softened carrots and potatoes thrown in together with sliced peppers for a oyster sauce based gravy. Not really our style, but it was alright.

Toasted fluffy buns were served alongside the stew to wipe up the thick gravy.

Jerry's BBQ & Grill
92 Club Street
Tel: 6323 4550
Open daily from 12noon to 10pm
Website: www.jerrybbq.com


Cocobolo Poolside Bar & Grill, Park Hotel Clarke Quay

As it turns out, I don't actually have a breather. What I thought was a little breathing space turned out to be additional work within the same limited time constrains. And it doesn't help that my firm had a company trip to Phuket, which was such a disruption to my timelines. I'm actually regretting (a little) that I extended the trip by a couple of days (coz I've got so much work), but free wifi is a lifesaver. I got to do work all the way from Phuket. Ah well, working by the pool in the sun is infinitely better than slogging in the office. I think, everyone should have this option of working every once a while. It's awesome.

We attended a good friend's birthday party at Cocobolo Poolside Bar & Grill at Park Hotel recently. A tip is to wear anything breezy, light and thin, Singapore's humidity is just not great for any alfresco meals. Also, go there only an hour after sunset so the heat has time to dissipate from the ground.

The barbecue buffet ($48++) is decidedly limited but they do good, simple, uncomplicated stuff. Nothing too fancy but they were fresh. Credit definitely has to go to the grill maestro, who produced extremely well-executed barbecues. Everything produced on the grill remained juicy and moist, and glazed with a delightful smoky charring. While they also had some fillers and desserts that were pretty alright, I say just concentrate on the grilled stuff.

One thing we really loved, but didn't manage to get a picture of, was the Cream of Mushroom Soup. It was delicious. Creamy, earthy and chunky, this comfort soup was one of the best things on the menu.

I don't usually like lamb, but these Lamb Chops were fresh, not gamey and well-marinated so the rosemary-centered herb seasoning complemented the strong flavours of the meat.

A selection of western-styled condiments to flavour the meats and seafood, should you require more flavour.

The juicy Steaks were done to a perfect medium well finish, lightly seasoned with pepper and salt so the focus was on the full-bodiedness of the red meats.

We all loved the plump and sweet Buttered Prawns, it was just too bad they weren't shelled

The Sausages were all yummy, totally delish and succulent.

The Fish fillets were a bit tasteless, despite the chili and onions layered in between the banana leaves with the fish, but very moist. Also, the Chinese-styled grilled chicken were also very good but i didn't manage to take a picture of that.

There were also cooked veggies, namely Zucchini, of the green and yellow varieties, Corn, and Pineapples, sweet and juicy.

The Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli was pretty commendable, not too creamy and still crunchy.

Then there are the carbs and fillers, Baked Potato, soft and mushy.

The Roasted Red Skin Potato with Olive Oil and Herbs was served chilled for a refreshing but substantial salad.

Onto the salads, beginning with the Classic American Coleslaw, crunchy and refreshing and topped with blueberries and strawberries for a sweet tang.

The obligatory Toss-Your-Own-Salad Bar.

The Vegetable Achar served as a piquant appetizer.

Though I wasn't a fan of the Fruit Salad, the salad sauce was admittedly not too rich.

Then there was the decidedly limited dessert station, Creme Brulee that wasn't too bad.

Freshly Cut Fruits

The Cheesecakes, Mousse Cakes, and Jello section.

The Pear Tart needed a higher pear to pie crust ratio.

Cocobolo Poolside Bar & Grill
Park Hotel Clarke Quay 2nd Floor
1 Unity Street
Tel: 6593 8855
Opens Sundays to Thursdays from 11am to 7pm
Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 10.30pm


Chili's Grill & Bar, Tanglin Mall

Sorry for the hiatus. The adage is totally true, that when it rains, it pours. It's been a pretty crazy couple of weeks at work, and I've finally gotten a breather.

One of our favourite go-to restaurants for Tex-Mex cuisine, or good 'ol American fare is Chili's. It first opened to great fanfare (and consequently not-so-great crowds) when it arrived back on our sunny shores in 2009. 3 years on, 2 new branches, and I'm glad to report that while the crowd has dwindled, the standard of their food and service haven't slacked off. I'm constantly recommending Chili's to my friends, because portions are huge, quality is consistently good and delicious and service is always affable and super efficient. I swear the wait staff at Chili's are running on pure sugar, they're like a hybrid of Speedy Gonzales and Tweety Bird!

I love Chili's fajitas, minus the flour tortillas. The Fajita Trio ($35) is strictly for people that can't make up their fickle minds, because you get your red meat (steak), white meat (chicken) and seafood (spicy garlic & lime shrimp that were so sweet and crunchy). They were all grilled to perfection and served on a sizzling hotplate with sliced peppers. Super moist, super tender and super flavoursome.

The Quesadillas ($18) are for people who are too lazy to wrap their own fajitas, because these are served already wrapped so you can just pick it up. Thick slices of fajita-marinated steak were tossed with caramelized grilled onions and melted jack cheese then wrapped in buttery soft toasted tortillas and dollops of sour cream and pico de gallo.

While I felt the Grilled Baby Back Ribs ($39 for full rack) could have been marinated for a longer period, the triple-basting of Chili's classic BBQ sauce packed a punch with their full-on flavour while mesquite wood lent aroma. The meaty ribs had a lip-smackingly fall-off-the-bone texture.

This was classic Southern cuisine, Country Fried Chicken ($17), fork-tender battered chicken breast was served alongside mashed potatoes, black pepper gravy, juicy corn on the cob and fragrant garlic toast.

Whoever said that healthy stuff is tasteless ought to be redirected to Chili's Guiltless Chicken Platter ($17) where a moist piece of chicken breast was brilliantly seasoned simply with pepper and salt. This was served with sides of capsicum spiced rice and corn on the cob (we switched out the seasonal vegetables with the corn). 

No more BK's mushroom swiss for us, Chili's Mushroom Swiss Burger ($19) laden with earthy sauteed mushrooms, aged Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, sans mayo is the gold standard, with a scrumptiously juicy beef patty. This was served with a black pepper mash side.

The Blazin' Big Mouth Bites ($21) kicked up a notch with fiery jalepenos and American cheese were huge! Though Chili's has this in a scaled down appetizer size for sharing. Crispy onion shoestrings and thick fries completed the meal.

For carb lovers, there's the Cajun Chicken Pasta ($19), penne done al-dente coated in creamy Alfredo that's cut with diced tomatoes and topped with Cajun-spiced chicken breast strips, Parmesan cheese and garlic toast.

We've recently been turned on to Chili's Terlingua Chili ($6 for cup), a slow-cooked beef mince amped up with onions, peppers & slow-heat Mexican chilis, then topped with sour cream and melted mixed cheese. This is old fashioned Southern comfort food, and I'm always hit with memories of ball games in the US whenever I have chili.

The bowl version ($10) can easily make up an entire meal on its own.

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/


Hyang-To-Gol Korean Restaurant

It's been a while since we last ate Korean food. Although I'm not particularly fond of Korean food, the Hubs is susceptible to the occasional craving for Korean cuisine, or as he calls it, "the food of his motherland". Well, he did grow up eating Korean food on a daily basis afterall. Anyways, the Hubs had been hankering for some kimchi jjigae, his favourite childhood comfort food, so we headed to the only place in Singapore that he considers authentic enough to satisfy his craving for Korean food, Hyang-To-Gol at Amara Hotel

This time, we brought Kang along as well, because he's about the only person who shares the same love for beef with the Hubs.

We were surprised to find that the quality of the food seemed to have gone down, and the overall experience was just a little blah. The food's still above average, but we just didn't get the "oomph" feeling that we did the previous time. Maybe they do better during dinners. It didn't help that service that Saturday afternoon also seemed off, the staff were extremely lackadaisical and sluggish, and they could not have had a stonier appearance. It was like they all just got a shelling from their boss and couldn't wait to get off their shift. We didn't get any iced water until halfway through the meal, and our waters didn't get filled after that, despite the fact that the restaurant was barely occupied.

As usual, we were served a variety of banchan, starting with the Pancakes (gamja geon), of the potato and sweet potato varieties. There was something very delectable about its clear, simple taste. This was the only banchan that I asked for seconds of.

The Broccoli florets were lightly poached then served chilled with a dollop of spicy gochujang, a Korean condiment for seasoning in bibimbap.

The chilled pickled daikon slices were very refreshing. We used these to wrap the barbecued meats with some lettuce.

The Cold Kimchi Soup (mul kimchi), basically kimchi submerged in water, is a watered down taste of version kimchi.

The Hubs says that the standard of the Kimchi has gone down. It doesn't quite have that piquancy as before.

Sweet Kimchi, I much prefer this to the traditional spicy one.

The Fruit Salad (gwah II) was pretty generic and not entirely Korean in taste.

The Cucumber Salad (oi muchim) was a mildly spiced piquant and crunchy dish.

The Yam Cake had a jello-like texture and served chilled, its plain taste was a nice setup for the stronger flavours of the spicy, piquant topping.

Lettuce Salad simply seasoned with mayo

I generally like simple stir-fries like Japchae ($20), sauteed vermicelli with shredded mushrooms, carrots, spinach, black fungus and strips of lean pork. This was a bit oily and lacking in flavour though.

The Kimchi-Jjigae ($15) spicy kimchi stew with pork wasn't quite on par with the memorably fantastic one the Hubs had in Seoul, but it was above average. Rich broth with equal parts spicy and sour, this was choc-a-bloc with tofu, clams and pork. We were quite surprised this was so cheap!

All the barbecues were done by the staff, and the grilling plate was turned over for a fresh one for every new meat. I suppose it's just so the flavours of the meats don't get mixed, but they might as well, because they all had the same sweetish bulgogi-tasting seasoning. The Dak-Gooi ($21) marinated chicken, was juicy and succulent. 

The Doaeji-Bulgogi ($22), marinated BBQ pork, was leaner, but fortunately, moist and tender.

The Yachae-Bulgogi ($30), sweet marinated beef was enlivened with strips of carrots, oyster mushrooms, spring onions and clear vermicelli. This grilling plate was different in that it had a "moat" to catch the beef broth for sipping.

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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