It's been a year since we last had brunch here and the past year has, evidently, been very kind to Symmetry, a hipster-ish café at the charming Kampong Glam area. It's gotten significantly more popular, resulting in the corridor outside being annexed as part of the dining premises. The menu is slightly spruced up as well, and there are now a couple of dishes here not previously on the menu.

We were intrigued by the Symmetry Eggs Sur Le Plat ($22), as it sounded like a shashouka of sorts, and I'm totally biased towards the Turkish breakfast staple. Symmetry's version is quite different though, even if it does, at first brush, look similar. A couple of eggs are baked in a medley of piquillo puree, pork sausage, garlic confit, cream spinach, topped with melted cheese, lettuce and brioche. This was a lot less saucey than I'd like, and the addition of creamed spinach tipped the concoction into the cloying realm. The eggs were perfectly cooked though, scrumptiously runny when pricked.

The Bacon and Cheese Rissoles ($16), seasoned with apple cider and accompanied by an onion dip, was AWESOME. The potato-based puffs were moist on the inside, crisp on the outside, and totally addictive. They were so good that we promptly "dabao-ed" another portion of this to snack on.

We loved how cool the complimentary starter of iced grapes was.

We supplemented brunch with a cooler of lychee mint which was refreshingly sweet.

And Orangina, for a touch of nostalgia.

9 Jalan Kubor #01-01
Tel: 6291 9901
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 11am to 11pm
Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 12midnight
Sundays from 11am to 7pm
Website: symmetry.com.sg


4Fingers Crispy Chicken, Plaza Singapura

We were at Plaza Singapura getting my polar bear plushie re-stuffed, when we passed by 4Fingers Crispy Chicken. I'd heard that this hugely popular Korean chain of spicy fried chicken was really good, and wanted to see how it'd compare against the unforgettable Chicken Bank.

We sampled their signature Mixed Crispy Chicken ($7.95 for 6 pcs) comprising 3 pieces of their garlic and soy flavoured ones, and 3 of their spicy ones. These were a little underweight and resultingly less than succulent but they were thoroughly marinated and had good flavour. The spicy ones were definitely more exciting than the staid garlic & soy ones, but they still paled in comparison to the kickass ones at Chicken Bank. No worries about runny noses here.

So did I think that these were the "best crispy chicken ever" as touted? Umm, didn't think so.

4Fingers Crispy Chicken
Plaza Singapura #01-32
68 Orchard Road
Open daily from 8am to 10pm


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] AdstraGold Microbrewery

I was invited to a tasting at AdstraGold Microbrewery sometime back by the good people of HungryGoWhere. The young-ish microbrewery used to be at Chijmes until it moved its teeny tiny premises to a bigger premises in the east, and expanded its microbrewery pub to house a proper gastropub. It's decorated in that messy, haphazard style, with a million framed memorabilia, adverts and photos. Add that to the loud cheesy music blaring out of its stereos, competing with the sports channels showing on several TV screens, the casual gastropub wouldn't look out of place at Patong Beach in Phuket, or Kuta Beach in Bali. One thing that struck me about this place is that unlike most eateries with an on-site brewery, AdstraGold is free of the headache-inducing yeast scent.
At the tasting, the food impressed me, even if service was a little sluggish. It was so good that I was left salivating over their fish & chips days after the tasting. I was actually looking forward to revisiting AdstraGold with a couple of chums and the Hubs.

Unfortunately, there was some sort of epidemic breakout amongst their staff when I revisited AdstraGold last Friday, resulting in just one waiter and one chef turning up for work. So it was just them both handling the entire dinner service. As you can imagine, service was terrible. Despite the pub being half empty, our food took a good 40-odd minutes to arrive, and we didn't get no water until the end of the meal. After we'd asked for it. Twice. The food also fared badly. Compared to the stuff served at the tasting, it was uneven and lackluster.

At the tasting, I thought the Fish & Chips were amazing, because they use the premium cream dory fish here. Fresh and totally scrumptious, the flaky fillet was encased in a light batter and paired with a fresh house-made tartar sauce.

At the revisit however, the Fish & Chips ($15.90 for 90gm) disappointed. The battering was uneven, and so was the salting.

At the tasting, we enjoyed the Meat Platter very much. Here, 2 slow-roasted pork ribs, a hulking large-sized (1050-1250gm raw gross wt) pork knuckle were served together with a quartet of chicken and beef sausages. The ribs were less than meltingly tender but they were intensely flavoured. The pork knuckle was very good; fresh, with nary a mature porky taste of feet and superb crackling skin. The sausages were awesome as well, properly textured, chunky and moist.

The Meat Platter ($89.90 for 3-4 persons) didn't fare as well at our return visit. The ribs were awful, tough and dried out. Even the liberal barbecue sauce spread couldn't disguise how dry the ribs were. Suffice to say, the ribs weren't finished. The pork knuckle didn't fare as badly; it was fresh, but it could be moister and the skin more cackling. The only thing that maintained its standard were the sausages, but then again, you'd have to be a complete noob to screw up sausages anyways.

At the tasting, I found the brews here pretty good, as the lack of preservatives ensures freshness. For lightweights, I'd recommend getting the Golden Ale, it's like drinking apple juice with just the teeniest touch of alcohol.

The oddest thing you'll find in the gastropub is the prevalence of yacht chartering adverts. That's because the owner's first (and still current) business venture relates to yacht chartering. So apparently, if you accumulate more than $150, you get to redeem 1 free joyride on a speedboat.

AdstraGold Microbrewery
417 East Coast Road
Tel: 6446 7134
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 2pm to 1am; Sundays from 12noon to 11pm
Website: www.adstragold.com


Fluff Bakery

I just found out that yet another friend of mine has gone into the F&B business. Ash and his wife are the proud parents of Fluff Bakery, a baby confectionery selling cupcakes that, well, sell like hotcakes! Apparently, the 3-week old place sells out their 850-odd cupcakes within 2-3 hours each day. It's madness, really. An insider tip is to hit this place from 12noon when it opens to 12.30pm, when queues are, currently, a very bearable no-more-than-15-minute wait. But if you're a late riser, be prepared to patiently stand in line with a good movie on your smartphone. And, if you're selective about your cupcakes, the popular flavours may have sold out by the time it gets round to your turn. One last tip: other than their bestselling nutella red velvet and salted caramel, the remaining 4 cupcake flavours rotate around a stable of about 100 varietals each week, so be sure to check out what's available each week before going down.

The cosy little confectionery previously retailed their wares at, amongst other places, Penny University, and because they'd gotten so popular (the magic of Instagram is what got them so massively beloved), they decided to jump all in to making their dream a reality and setting up their own place. The Jalan Pisang locale is fortuitous, as their halal cupcakes fit right into the Malay-centric Kampong Glam area.

Having tried their much-hyped about cupcakes, I can totally understand the rave reviews. I'd even venture that these are seriously the best cupcakes I've ever tried. Fluff Bakery is like the Goldilocks of cupcakes, not too sweet or rich, but just perfect. They are insanely good, fluffy and moist while hiding a secret surprise jam/custard/cream inside each core. Basically, Fluff combines the piped-in cores of ET Artisan with the moistness of Twelve Cupcakes. And despite their slightly-above-average pricepoints, the $4-a-cupcake pricetag is totally worth it.

I've mentioned before that I don't quite understand the love affair with the quintessentially American red velvet, but Fluff's rendition is a mind (and game) changer. Their Nutella Red Velvet ($4) is AWESOME, because they'd piped in Nutella into its center. The combination totally rocks, and complements the slight hints of chocolate accents in red velvet.

Their other evergreen flavour, the Salted Caramel ($4) is also one of my faves, and this walks the fine line between the sweet and cloying without ever tipping over.

The Apple Pie Salted Caramel Popcorn ($4) is a bling-ed out version of the salted caramel, with crunchy caramelcorn topping and a Fall-inspired apple pie filling.

The Apple Yakult Lemon ($4), an innovatively whimsical combination, manages a bright and light taste that's so incredibly cheery.

Did any of you eat Milo powder out of the tin? Coz I did! The people behind Fluff Bakery got the idea because they did just that, resulting in the Milo ($4), a nuanced and very addictive cupcake with overtones of the chocolatey energy drink. 

Perhaps the most polarizing of the lot was the Pandan Kaya Cheese ($4), which I would have loved, but for the cheddar cheese strips. I just didn't like the combination. Ash said that this is one of his bestsellers though, so it's probably a matter of preference. That said, I loved the kaya core, and fragrant pandan cupcake, and whipped cream topping.

Fluff Bakery
12 Jln Pisang
Open Wednesdays to Sundays from 12noon till when it sells out around 3pm, even if its official closing time is 6pm


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Skyve Wine Bistro

We always take the shortcut through Winstedt Road home, and have passed this place by dozens of times. While I'd taken note of Skyve, mostly because of its amusingly kitschy name, we never quite had the impetus to venture in.

Until the good people of FoodNews PR extended an invitation for dinner at Skyve Wine Bistro to sample a bunch of their new creations. Apparently, the chef, Jachin, is the brother of the owner here, and with his return to the fold, revamped the menu with influences from the Golden State. In so doing, Skyve has also rebranded itself as a wine bistro with a focus on wine pairings. Here, they try to inculcate an appreciation and eventual love of wines, and so, every dish on the menu has a recommended wine pairing. Brilliant for wine noobs like me!

As per invited tasting S.O.P., the Hubs and I returned the next evening for an incognito revisit, and found the fusion fare here consistent with the stuff served up at the tasting, and definitely more than decent. However, their price points aren't particularly competitive.  Beware the bottles of mineral water pre-placed on every table, you'll need to tell the staff not to open them for you, and ask for iced tap water instead.

Service was commendable both at the tasting and revisit; friendly and attentive. For dog lovers, you may be interested to know this: the nearby residents walk their dogs past the restaurant at night, so be sure to keep a lookout for them. There's one in particular, Phoebe, a goldie, who comes by every night at about 8.30+ pm with her owner, and she's the sweetest, most well-mannered thing ever!

At the tasting, we got to sample a tasting portion of the Sleeping Oysters, a trio of fresh oysters plump with the clear briny taste of clean seawater. Here, you eat from right to left, starting with the plainest one, and ending with the most embellished.

The Chilean ($34 for half dozen), with serrano, lime juice, red wine vinegar and a sprig of cilantro, is most favored by the purists, with the least adornments.

The Mentaiyaki ($34 for half dozen) with mentaiko, ebiko, lemon juice and aioli, was a hit with the mentaiko lovers. The rich creaminess complemented the seafresh oyster very well.

The Kilpatrick ($34 for half dozen) was my personal favourite, with lardons of bacon, worchestershire and chives. Mostly because bacon makes EVERYTHING better. This was lightly cooked and served warm, best for the uninitiated to raw seafood.

The Petuna and Ume Somen, hits both the savoury and refreshing buttons as an appetizer. A 2-inch square piece of trout, very much like salmon, is seared to perfection for a paper crisp skin and moist flesh, set atop cut mangoes, and served alongside the pink-hued somen dressed in a sesame yuzu, ebiko, and chilli dressing, and mesclun salad.

At the return visit, the Hubs enjoyed the Petuna and Ume Somen ($20) very much. The fish was again, perfectly cooked, and the somen (a prettier version of soba noodles) is delightfully chewy and soft.

The Skyve Beef Tartare, is topped with a truffled egg yolk, and seasoned with aromatic thyme sea salt, anchovy chilli aioli, while toasty pizza-ish flatbread and cilantro capered pickles provided company.

At the revisit, the Hubs liked the Skyve Beef Tartare ($20) very much, balancing me out, seeing as I ain't as fanatic about beef as he is. This was lightly torched, so it stayed moist and juicy, and the truffled egg was perfectly done. A wonderful confluence of flavours.

The Polenta Mushroom Stack, with a grilled portobello wedged between polenta cakes smeared with homemade pesto, served together with mushroom fricassee and seasonal vegetables, was surprisingly good. And I'm not a fan of polenta, so that's saying something.  Apparently, this dish was conceptualized as a vegetarian option. Finally, a vegetarian dish yummy enough that even non-vegetarians would order.

At the revisit, the Polenta Mushroom Stack ($34) was probably our favourite of the mains. The polenta cakes were seriously good, moist and fluffy, with the pesto lending a flavourful herby fragrance and taste. That said, we thought its 34-dollar pricetag was a tad excessive for a vegetarian dish.

The Sous Vide Poulet, glazed with apricot, was succulent and juicy, while the pomme puree was whipped light as air. What stood out was the candied pecans, it's like nibbling on caramel popcorn.

At the revisit, they were more generous with the candied pecans atop the Sous Vide Poulet ($34), which I liked. The flavoursome chicken was sufficiently tender and juicy, but like the polenta, this wasn't mind-blowing enough to justify its pricetag.

The Spicy Kalbi Beef Short Ribs were also cooked sous vide style, and it was robust and sweetly marinated, but it lacked that melt-in-your-mouth texture. I'd "dabao-ed" home this dish home for the Hubs after the tasting, and he wasn't super impressed by this, even if he liked the Korean influences in the ribs. I liked the crispy yam and sweet potato ribbons, which got really addictive!

We tried 2 of their signature desserts, and I loved the Mango and Cheese Semifreddo, with frozen lime foam, sablee cookies and rippled frozen mousse. Edible flower petals were thrown in for good measure.

At the revisit, both the Hubs and I gravitated towards the Mango and Cheese Semifreddo ($12). In spite of its dense texture, it managed a lightness that was so refreshing.

The Snicker Bar is Skyve's deconstructed interpretation of the beloved chocolate bar. Layers of salted caramel pudding, peanut butter, chocolate ganache and feuilletine were balanced against flambéed bananas and a scoop of vanilla gelato.

The Snicker Bar ($12), a dense confection that was sweet but nuanced, would probably be preferred by chocoholics. I liked that the vanilla gelato balanced out the richness of the chocolate layers.

While we weren't served any bread at the tasting, the Hubs and I were quickly given complimentary Bread Rolls, evidently fresh out of the oven, as these were warm and soft. Me likey.

Skyve Wine Bistro
10 Winstedt Road
Block E #01-17
Open daily from 10am till late (last order for food at 10.30pm)
Tel: 6225 6690
Website: www.skyve.sg


Hansang Korean Family Restaurant

We were recently in Little Korea at Novena Square 2 to pick up a couple of jars of kimchi for the Hubs. As much as I dislike kimchi and its related dishes, the Hubs loves it, especially the heart-warming Korean staple of kimchi jjigae. So, I decided to christian our new kitchen by trying my hand with my take on his beloved kimchi stew. While we were there, the Hubs took the opportunity to get his monthly fix of Korean cuisine at Hansang Korean Family Restaurant. It isn't the best, or the most authentic of Korean fare, but its casual, low-frills, rustic style tides him over until our annual "pilgrimage" to the "motherland".

The Bibimbap ($15) here is surprisingly decent. The vegetables are refreshingly sweet, crisp and evenly julienned. The accompanying grilled pork slices marinated in sweet bulgogi, braised mushrooms, and a generous dollop of gochujang impart just enough flavour without overwhelming the delicate sweetness of the greens. 

The Kimchi, while spicy, lacked a depth in authenticity. Suffice to say, the Hubs didn't finish this.

The Chilled Squid and Broccoli slathered with chilli pepper paste was surprisingly good. The squid was cooked perfectly, soft and chewy, contrasting well with the toothsome crunch of the broccoli florets.

The Fishcake, while springy, had a slight fishy accent. We didn't finish this either.

The Soy Hard Boiled Eggs, served chilled and doused in a light soy and topped off with sliced chilli, was another good banchan.

The Beansprouts didn't fare well either, it didn't have that clear flavour of squeaky clean spring water.

The Fried Eggplant wasn't too bad also, with a good crunch, soft squishy insides, and tasty smoky overtones.

Hansang Korean Family Restaurant
10 Sinaran Drive
#03-33 Novena Square 2
Tel: 6397 6752
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30pm to 10pm;
Saturdays and Sundays from 11.30am to 10pm


Cherry Garden

Oh yes, we're back at Cherry Garden. Now that the (renovation) dust has settled, we're back to our favourite ala carte dim sum buffet ($68++) at the Mandarin Oriental. We've been here so often that we've got the entire menu down pat, and may even be able to recite it in our sleep.

The Crispy Squid with Salt & Pepper, with its crunchy battered crust and soft and chewy insides, makes for a wonderfully addictive nibbler.

A perennial favourite with Ernie and the Hubs, the Wok-fried Waxed Meat Radish Cake with Silver Sprouts in XO Sauce is a must-repeat order for its soft squishy cakes and caramelised crusty layer.

The Crystal Dumplings with Assorted Mushrooms and Pumpkin, my personal favourite, is awe-some and one of the best versions ever. A great mix of diced sweet root vegetables and chewy glutinous skin makes this MY repeat order. 

The Steamed Bamboo Pith and Prawn Dumplings ("Har Gow"), smeared with a luxurious edible gold paint, is fresh and possesses a bouncy texture.

The Steamed Mini Abalone Siew Mai with Pork and Mushrooms was also impossibly fresh and sweet. As usual, we gave our mini abalones to Ernie to eat. For the uninitiated, we're not fans of abalone.

The Steamed Xiao Long Bao was decent but can't quite stand up to the incomparable Din Tai Fung. The skin here is just a smidge too thick. On the upside, it doesn't ever break.

The Steamed Kurobuta Char Siew Bao is another favourite of the Hubs, with its sticky and sweet and smoky barbecued pork.

Another of Ernie's fave, the Steamed Sweetened Custard Bao is married with dark chocolate for a bittersweet finish.

The roasted meats here aren't as spectacular as their dim sum selections, but they are still pretty decent. The smoky Cherry Wood Charcoal Roasted Duck is very fresh, with nary a hint of game.

The Seasonal Vegetables in XO Sauce, our obligatory greens, is flavoured with an aromatic spiciness, so crunching on these sweet veggies is no feat at all.

I'm not usually a fan of wasabi-flavoured prawns, but Cherry Garden's Wasabi Prawns were very commendable, with fresh mangoes and tiny roe for a good balance with the creamy but never cloying wasabi cream.

The Deep-fried Mantou with Chilli Crab Dip is great for lazy bums, as the crabmeat have all been extracted for easy eating. No dirty fingers while digging into the gooey spicy sauce.

Sadly, the Braised Cod Fillet with Spinach Tofu is a one-off order, so relish it while you can. Luscious braising gravy slathered over soft beancurd, Chinese black mushrooms and cod fish fillets.

The Wok-fried Kurobuta Pork is seasoned with garlic, leek, and oyster sauce, and textured with honshimeiji mushrooms and baby asparagus.

The Sesame Fried Rice is both delicate and flavoursome, laced with roe bursting with umami goodness.

I love Braised Ee-Fu Noodles, with nameko mushrooms, yellow chives and silver sprouts. Uncomplicated but so tasty.

For dessert, I'd recommend the Chilled Cream of Mango with sago pearls, pomelo and lime sorbet. Very refreshing and such a great palate cleanser after stuffing your face silly with the awesome food here.

The Cream of Avocado with black sesame ice-cream is a richer dessert, but still very light.

Cherry Garden
The Mandarin Oriental
5 Raffles Ave
Level 5
Tel: 6338 0066 / 6885 3030
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinne
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