Dean & Deluca

Dean & Deluca opened to eager anticipation in Singapore back in the fall of 2012. Thanks to the cult TV show Felicity, everyone wanted to have a taste of the cool New York icon that is Dean & Deluca. For months after, the gourmet store was swamped with diners. You could not get a table even if you waited in line for half an hour. The fact that reservations were not allowed exacerbated the maddening lengthy queues.

Apparently, the crowds have somewhat subsided. Addie and I took the opportunity to pop by for brunch last weekend. As it turns out, I can't understand the hype at all. The food's overpriced and disappointingly under par. Service is non-existent because it's a self-serviced joint. Just think of this as a upscale canteen.  With mediocre food.

We also checked out the grocer's section, and everything is, as expected, correspondingly overpriced. You're much better off at TORQUE at Sime Darby Centre. This branch is such a poor imitation from the famed New York institution, a far cry from what I thought it'd be.

The American Country Breakfast ($22) was so staid and disappointing. The eggs were overcooked, sausage dried out, potato patty tasteless, dry and burnt, wholegrain toast dry and chewy and hard, and even the mushrooms were lacking in flavour. The only good thing about this was the bacon, which isn't saying much. Seriously, if I'm going to pay Wild Honey-esque prices for the mains here, I better be getting quality food, especially since I don't get service here.

The Cafe Latte (5.50) was just barely passable. Frothy and creamy but this could do with a lot more body.

Dean & Deluca
181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central #04-23
Tel: 6509 7708
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 10pm
Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 10pm



Oh yes, I'm back at SPRMRKT. I'm on a quest to bring as many people to SPRMRKT and make as many fans out of them as possible. This time round, I brought Beeps, Suz and Kimchi to my favourite lunch spot for a leisurely lunch (CC the boss was away, you see, so we could afford a relatively long-ish lunch...shh!).

The Pasta Carbonara ($14), with fresh, not dried, purr-fectly al dente pasta, was awesome. It was balanced and nuanced and although rich and flavoursome and creamy, never bordered on cloying. I loved the softly poached egg hidden deep in the centre of the mound. One of the best, and definitely memorable versions of this classic Italian pasta around.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich Toast ($10) was stuffed with tender, juicy chunks of seasoned spiced pork, made sweet with caramelized onions, and kept fresh and light with crisp lettuce. A most satisfying sandwich.

The Sausages and Mash ($16), with a duo of herbed and garlicky beef sausage (because the kurobuta pork ones had run out by 1pm!), was a little drier than I'd like, but the saving grace was the caramelized onions dolloped upon the sausages. They were sweet and juicy and rich, imparting much needed flavour and moistness to the meaty, textured sausages. The garlic butter fork-mashed potatoes were also really delicious, which explains why I bothered to take the trouble to pick out the plentiful parsley bits laced into it!

The Breakfast Croissant ($7), with tuna mayo, was also very commendable. Think buttery, flaky, freshly baked bread, refreshingly crisp lettuce and creamy mayo-ed tuna. Delicious.

The chicken mayo version of the Breakfast Croissant ($7) involved chunks of succulent chicken breast strips doused in creamy mayo and served refreshingly chilled.

I love the Shoestring Fries ($5). Slightly spicy, slighty sweet, and salty enough, this was totally addictive and an absolute must-try here.

2 McCallum Street
Tel: 6221 2105
Open Mondays to Fridays from 8am to 9pm;
Saturdays from 9am to 4pm
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.sprmrkt.com.sg


Maison Kayser, Scotts Square

I've mentioned before that the best croissants are to be found at Antoinette. So I was curious when Maison Kayser, an artisanal bakery, opened to rave reviews. Apparently, their breads were awesome, and their croissants were touted to be the best around. 

Well, I had tea with a girlfriend there recently and took the opportunity to get a couple of their baked goods. My verdict is to stick to their breads, which you can takeaway from the bakery, and avoid their mains. While their breads are indeed awesome, their other stuff were relatively sub-par.

We started off on a high note with the Croissant ($2.43), an aromatic, fresh out of the oven confection. Its crisp flaky exterior peeled away to reveal soft chewy and airy insides. It was totally addictive. I had 2 at the bistro and additionally "dabao-ed" home another 3 for the Hubs (okay okay, so I ate 2 of the 3...it was just that good!). It's definitely comparable with Antoinette's version, and a worthwhile alternative. Anytime Antoinette runs out of their croissants, I'll know where else to get my croissant fix! If I had to choose between the two, I'd say that Antoinette trumps Maison Kayser, because their mains, and not just their breads, are delicious.

The Tuna Sandwich ($10.65 for the lunch set with a soup), with emmental cheese, cucumbers and tuna mayo (made unique with the addition of diced pickles) wedged between a crusty ciabatta, didn't fare as well. It was a little plainish, plus, it didn't help that the cucumbers were bitter. This needed a lot more flavour and richness, maybe I should have gotten a more flavoursome bread like the croissant or foccacia.

The Cream of Broccoli (soup-of-the-day part of the lunch set) had way too much milk and cream but too little broccoli. It was insipid and watery, a poor rendition of one of my favourite creamed soups. I could hardly make out a taste the broccoli in this. 

Maison Kayser
6 Scotts Road
#B1-09 Scotts Square
Tel: 6636 3672
Open daily from 8am to 11pm


La Cantine by Bruno Menard

Update November 2015: The restaurant has closed down, and replaced by Folks Collective. 

I revisited La Cantine with CC, Beeps and Suz. It's been 2 months since my first visit (which was awesome, by the way) and I wanted to see how they were keeping up. I'm glad to report that they're still doing well. So well, in fact, that I think I've made CC a new fan of this French bistro.

Service was professional and as usual, the food's flawless. Not a wrong step. This is the place to impress business associates without putting a dent in the expense account. A real recession-friendly set lunch, if you ask me. We got their Set Lunch ($38++), a 3 course meal that's bound to leave you sated and happy. The set menu offerings are completely dependent on the chef's prerogative and the daily market specials.

The complimentary Bread basket with fresh crusty bread that was served warm.

The Tomato Gazpacho was refreshing and smooth, served thankfully in a small-ish portion because I've realized I'm not that huge a fan of cold tomato mush. This was enlivened with a dollop of cream and a hint of spicy pepper.

The main course was half a grilled chicken with shoestring fries. The chicken was lip-smackingly good. It was moist and succulent and tender, and marinated so thoroughly that it was flavoursome on its own, even without the scrumptious accompanying brown jus. The fries seriously good stuff (even if it wasn't dressed with truffle), having been spiced up with tiny specks of dried chilli flakes.

The final course was a trio of desserts, guaranteed to please any sweet tooth.

The Vanilla Creme Brulee was smooth and fragrant and balanced, with a crisp caramelized crust that crackled with a smoky, burnt edge.

The Chocolate Macaroon, soft and chewy, was piped with a rich chocolate cream.

The Ricotta and Jelly Sorbet was my favourite, a well-balanced mix of creamy and sour and sweet elements. This was light and refreshing, a tart finish to the filling meal.

La Cantine
#01-01 Asia Square Tower 1
8 Marina View
Tel: 6690 7567
Open weekdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 9.30pm for dinner
Saturdays for private bookings only
Closed on Sundays
Website: lacantine.sg



We finally tried Paul, the world renowned French patisserie. It's now conveniently located right on our sunny shores just so you don't need to hop onto a plane for Paris everytime you feel like a little Paul's. We waited till the long lines abated before taking away a couple of their lauded eclairs.

While I'll readily admit that their eclairs do really live up to the hype, forking out a cool 6 buckaroos for just one eclair seems a little lavish (not to mention, a bit foolish!). 

We tookaway the Chocolate ($6.80) and Coffee ($6.60) flavoured ones. These were huge (but then again, at more than $6 each, they better be!), and seriously one of the best choux pastries ever. Fluffy and light and moist, their slightly roasted edges gave way to airy tunnels filled with the most amazing cream custards.

Both the coffee and chocolate cream custards were awesome. Rich and sweet but still balanced so it never gets cloying. I preferred the coffee for its bitter undertones while the Hubs loved the chocolate. It's all a matter of preference, really. Will we be back? Probably, if the craving hits. It's the best eclair in Singapore, afterall.

391 Orchard Road
Ngee Ann City
Tel: 6836 5932
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 8.30am to 10pm;
Fridays to Saturdays from 8.30am to 11pm


Open Door Policy

Open Door Policy (aka ODP) reminds us of New York. The long alleyway, uptempo jazz, sexy lowlights, crammed tables and sophisticated buzzy ambience, it's all so reminscent of a typical Manhattan bistro. We liked its grown-up vibe as soon as we stepped in for dinner one weekday evening. Despite the cool factor of this place, it didn't translate to an unlikeable pretentiousness. Diners were mostly engrossed in their own table conversations (the jazz was a loud enough of a foreground base that we couldn't hear the others' table talk), nobody was there to see and/or be seen, and so, we thoroughly enjoyed dinner. Yuppies/adults will so love this place, but I can't quite see people bringing their young kids here. Somehow, ODP doesn't quite strike me as a family-centric place. 

Service was great, we were quickly ushered to our seats by smiley waiters and service throughout the night was upbeat and energetic (on this note, we noticed they were very bouncy) although the restaurant was operating at an almost 90% capacity. The food was pretty awesome as well. Lips and I both loved dinner, and not just because the company was great.

We started off dinner with the Braised Beef Cheek ($29), braised for 48 hours for a plastic fork-tender texture, was practically keeping it together. The meat was so soft and moist and tender, it hardly required any chewing. While it could have done with a teensy bit more flavour, it had that delectable caramelized glaze brush-on treatment. The carrot puree bed lent sweetness while rolls of mochi potatoes, baby carrots and rocket leaves lent crunch and texture. A really great dish but I think I prefer TWR's version.

We also loved the Wild Mushroom Risotto ($22), perfectly al dente grains of arborio rice infused with the earthy wholesome goodness of mushrooms, sprinkled with headily aromatic truffle crumbs and topped with snow pea tendrils and fresh bunashimeiji. I think I've found my go-to place for the perfect risotto.

The Classic English Apple Crumble ($14) had this homely old-school appeal to it. Of course, it helped that it was hugely portioned. Sweet caramelized cubes of apple were topped with burnt sugary golden oatmeal crumbs.

The Chocolate and Pistachio Souffle ($15) was so light and airy we almost don't feel guilty indulging. It's was a perfect marriage of bitter chocolate and nutty pistachio. Creme anglaise, laced with vanilla seeds, was served alongside in a kitschy chemistry flask.

Open Door Policy
9 Yong Siak Street
Tel: 6221 9307
Open weekdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Tuesdays;
Weekends from 11am to 4pm for brunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Website: odpsingapore.com



We were feeling peckish late one night and headed to Antoinette, which opens till 10 pm, to takeaway their sweets.

The Le Royale ($8) with inter-mingling layers of 64% dark chocolate mousse, almond meringue, hazelnut almond feuilletine, chocolate genoise, and a dash of dark rum infusion for grown up decadence, will convert any chocolate haters. It's moist, rich and strikes just the right balance of sweet. One bite and I was hooked. We immediately regretted taking away only 1 of this. Possibly the best rendition of this classic French confection.

Antoinette's Macarons ($2.50 each) are another must-try. They're huge, perfectly textured with a slightly crisp, resistant crust and chewy insides and filled generously with smooth rich cream. From left to right: Passion-milk chocolate passionfruit ganache; Grand Cru-bitter dark chocolate; Brittany-caramel with fleur de sel (my favourite!).

From left to right: Charlotte-vanilla cream with strawberry coulis, Rose-rose petal cream, Antoinette-milk chocolate earl grey tea ganache with raspberry confiture (the Hub's fave!)

Another thing we love love LOVE about Antoinette is their Croissants ($2.50). They're awesome sauce. Truly. They have the most heavenly buttery flavour, with a delectable chewy texture and aromatic roasted flaky crust. Best croissants in Singapore, no doubt about it. They run out quite quickly so a tip is to call ahead to reserve the necessary orders, otherwise be prepared to be disappointed.

333A Orchard Road
Mandarin Gallery
Tel: 6836 9527
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.antoinette.com.sg


Oriole Cafe & Bar

Apologies but this is quite the backdated post. A galfren and I went out to dinner a while ago at Oriole Cafe & Bar. We were lured by the attractive Amex 1-for-1 promo, but it turned out to be such a dud. Whereas my previous dining experience was pleasant, we found that the food, at present, was pedestrian at best, and sub-par in general. Evidently, the quality of the stuff here has dropped significantly.

The Spicy Calamari ($13) used to be a safe bet, but the battered squid rings were overcooked this time so they ended up rubbery. The pickled chilli peppers were the only good thing about this dish.

The Fish & Chips ($18) were also a significant departure from the last time we had them. We didn't appreciate the increase of a dollar as well. This was an extremely ho-hum dish. The snapper fillets were a little fishy and the batter was too thick, having separated from the fish, leaving an air pocket in between. The potato wedges, as evidenced from its tired appearance, turned out as bad as they looked. Soggy and limpid.

The Spaghetti Al Freddo ($16 ala carte price, but waived due to the Amex 1-for-1 promo) was awful. From the cloying cream sauce to the overcooked pasta, everything about this screamed amateur hour. Suffice it to say, this wasn't finished. While we're on this, i have to point out that i'd asked for parsley to be held off in this dish. But, it arrived, unfortunately, with plentiful parsley bits. So, I sent the dish back, and they obviously took the lazy way out, which was to rinse the dish, scrape off the parsley, add a little more of that sickeningly rich cream, and served it up. I could still see and taste residual parsley bits. Maybe that's why the pasta was overcooked. A most disappointing experience, truly.

Oriole Cafe & Bar
96 Somerset Road #01-01
Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 8348
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 11pm, and Sundays from 10.30am to 11pm


Best of 2012

So, The Professor suggested I do a "best of" list. So, in addition to my new year's resolution to get fit and back in shape (which I wanna put on record for posterity's sake), here goes...

Wild Honey: Best breakfast eggs ever.

The White Rabbit: Now that they've removed their drool-worthy truffle mac & cheese off their brunch menu, go to TWR for dinner instead. Everything on the dinner menu is yummy, but the best of the lot are the poached red snapper and beef cheek bourguignon.

Symmetry: Their truffle fries and mushroom beignet are awesome.

Tatsuya: You will never go back to mid-priced sushi chains anymore. Their kaiseki meals are recommended.

SPRMRKT: I love this lunch spot, and love that I haven't had a bad meal here yet.

La Cantine: The second outpost of Bruno Menard is a hit for good reason. Their set lunches provide an affordable peek into the amazing French bistro fare served here.

Senso: Reliably exquisite Italian food that you can impress out-of-towners with. And it's not as expensive as you'd think. La Strada would have taken this spot but for the fact that the Les Amis group closed this down.

JPot: Best local steamboat with impossibly fresh ingredients. My favourite stock bases are the laksa and porridge. Best for a rainy day.

No Signboard Seafood: We takeaway from them so often they recognise my voice just upon answering our call. Their cze char is really just that good. Just tell them that "Chen Xiao Jie" sent you. They'll treat you well.

Antoinette: Their crossiants can beat the much-hyped ones at Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier. Plus, their savouries are pretty awesome. The scrambled egg gratin and mushroom risotto are a must.

Jai Thai: Possibly the cheapest and one of the best and most authentic Thai eateries around.

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck: There are many reasons why this chain has quickly rose through the ranks to become a worthy competitor to the Crystal Jade Group. Delicious food, great service, and always offers a pleasurable dining experience. The scallops/crab with egg white and truffle is a must. So is the steamed egg white and mushrooms.

Crystal Jade Golden Palace: Consistently exquisite fare and such a delicate hybrid of Cantonese and Teochew cuisine. Love the chandeliers and boudoir look.

Lei Garden: One of my favourites to impress towkays and fussy grandmothers. This award-winning restaurant remains one of the top dim sum spots for the well-heeled.

Morton's: An oldie but goodie. Get the ribeye for the most flavoursome cut, and the chocolate lava cake. It's a 25-minute wait but so worth it.

Chili's: My go-to place for hearty, good ol' American comfort food. Big portions, artery-clogging burgers and friendly, cheerful, upbeat service.
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