31.3.13

Choupinette

Phew, that was a tough week!

Work's been absolutely bonkers, and to top it off, we're moving house as well. The silver lining's the long weekend, so we had 3 days to move our mountain of stuff. It never really hits you how much crap you have until you move, does it?  I always find myself spring cleaning whenever I move. Your life gets de-cluttered because you're suddenly brutal with the stuff you throw out. My wardrobe consequently gets an "overhaul" as well. Which is always a good thing for my friends because they benefit from the stuff I never wear. Like that top that I was supposed to lose weight for, or that OTT dress that I'll have an occasion for, or those shoes I was supposed to squeeze my ginormous feet into. This time round, one of my girlfriends was gifted with a pair of gorgeous gorgeous Guiseppe Zanotti sparkly strappy's. She has enviably small feet that I clearly don't. 

This was our first meal in the 'hood. I'd heard that Choupinette's eggs benedict could give Wild Honey a run for their money. So, first thing bright and early on Easter Sunday, we dragged our tired, sore and achy selves out of bed and onto the road. The thing that struck us about this quaint little whimsical shop is that the menu's surprisingly extensive despite its small size. I've always thought that Choupinette was a bakery that did breakfast eggs, but it seems that they do quite a fair bit of European fare, like lasagna, beef stew and chicken pie.

The Eggs Benedict ($22 as a set with a juice and hot drink), with 2 perfectly poached eggs sitting on ribbons of salty shaved ham and toasty muffins, and drenched in a thick and silky Hollandaise sauce is elegant and nuanced. The delicate flavours of the various components were married very well. This is the one thing that'll probably make me return in lieu of Wild Honey. The rave reviews for this were definitely well deserved.
 


The Tristan ($21 as a set with a juice and hot drink) is the bao-ga-liao English-styled breakfast, with fluffy scrambled eggs, chunkily textured lightly spiced juicy pork sausages, sauteed white button and shitake mushrooms, grilled tomato provencale, and a wholemeal baguette.



Choupinette
607 Bukit Timah Road #01-01
Tel: 6466 0613
Opening hours
Tue - Thu: 9am - 8pm
Fri: 9am - 10pm
Sat: 8am- 10pm
Sun: 8am - 6pm

24.3.13

Truffs

Truffs has gotta be the best well kept secret place in the CBD. If not for A1 bringing us to where it is, we would have never known it's even there. It's hidden deep within the bowels of the rows of shophouse eateries, with a teeny tiny signage for guidance. It's like how the muggles didn't realize the Leaky Cauldron was right smack in front of them the entire time along the busy streets of London. I must have walked past the entrance to Truffs a gazillion times and never knew it was there. 

This was a perfect chill-out spot after the sweltering lunch at The Market Grill. Literally and figuratively. A cool respite for leisurely post-meal artisanal truffle and drinks. Truffs is delightfully calming, capturing the zen lifestyle with its minimalist Japanese style and delicate pinewood furnishing. The tables are placed far apart, and people speak in hushed voices so you get to carry on a conversation without inevitably being heard by other diners. Unless you're a loudmouth, of course.

No visit to Truffs is complete without sampling some of their namesake truffles, all lovingly handmade with the purest and freshest ingredients for the day. There are 3 levels of sweetness, 55%, 66% and 70% cocoa, one for each type of chocolate lover. I've always preferred my chocolate bitter, and the 70% Honduras Dark Chocolate ($3 a piece) was wonderfully balanced. To me, this was the Goldilocks of chocolate. Not too sweet, not too bitter. It was just right. Decadent and naughty and delicious. Even if this was a little pricey, it's so good you don't mind forking out the buckaroos.


A drink that's a must-try for all chocolate addicts is Truffs' Ice Chocolate ($7.50), a lusciously frothy blended chocolate that's rich and creamy and sweet, but balanced and nuanced. It's totally sinful but so worth the calories.


Too much chocolate gives me a headache so I opted for an Ice Latte ($6.50), creamy and robust and heady. A perfect way to round off a perfect meal with perfect company.



Truffs
179a Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 9088 2736
Open Mondays to Fridays from 12noon to 7pm;
Saturdays from 12noon to 4pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
Website: www.truffs.com.sg

23.3.13

The Market Grill

It's always surprising to people whenever I tell them that I've made a lot of friends out of my opposing counsel. But seriously, what's so surprising about that? My clients' legal disputes have nothing to do with whoever my opposing counsel is, so no matter how contentious the tussle, it's never personal with my opposing counsel. Well, unless you're a big sissy douche who's the type to storm off the court room after a loss. Or a sneaky slimeball who thrives on cheap potshots. I know some clients prefer their lawyers to take the case as personally as they do, and fight tooth and nail over every inconsequential thing, but in my view, a spoonful of sugar goes a long long loooooooooong way to resolving whatever dispute in the most cost-and-time-efficient way. 

CC and I had lunch with A1 and A2, fellow members of the bar that we got to know over the course of a case we had some years back. They're both awesome conversationalists and so fun to be around, so it was expected that time just got away from us. A right-dab-smack-in-the-middle-of-a-frikking-busy-mid-week lunch turned out a 3 hour affair!

A1 is a foodie as well so we got on board with his recommendation: The Market Grill, a new-ish place along Telok Ayer Street, situated next to Gayatri. It was serendipitous that I'd also been wanting to try it for some time now.

The Market Grill is another F&B venture by lawyer-made-good-by-not-being-a-lawyer Loh Lik Peng. I swear this guy has the Midas touch. The celebrated hotelier and restauranteur always opens up restaurants that always serve up seriously good food. Burgers are de rigueur here, but the eponymous grills are real popular too.

The New-York-styled bistro composes of industrial chic sensibilities, but it doesn't detract from the fact that the 30-odd seating restaurant is really space-constrained. It reminds me of a very cramped version of Open Door Policy. I call it a one-bump place. One bump is all it takes to hit another diner along the short narrow alleyway of the restaurant. This is not the place for large gatherings.

The space limitations is exacerbated by the fact that The Market Grill does not accept reservations. We left early for lunch, crossing our fingers the entire walk over from the office. Fortunately for us, we managed to score seats for the 4 of us. Unfortunately for us, these were the counter seats right in front of the open kitchen. We all got a 2-in-1 deal, a FOC steam facial to go with our meal. You fill your tummy and open your pores at the same time!

All burgers are named after their chef, Colin West. I suppose that's one way of putting your stamp on your creations, huh? The CW Portobello ($22) comprising one of the juiciest hand-formed chuck beef patties ever, is layered with creamed portobello chunks, crisp bacon, and refreshingly crisp lettuce. The toasted sesame seed buns serve as fluffy bookends. This was just mindblowingly delicious. BEST portobello burger ever. Great texture, incredible flavour.



The Lamb Rack ($39), dry-rubbed with an American-styled secret-recipe spice mix for maximum flavour, was succulent, tender and fresh, with nary a gamey scent or taste. And grilled to a smoky perfection. All while retaining incredible moisture. Mushy grilled bell peppers, potato mash, and drizzling of lamb jus completed this commendable creation.


The Grilled Snapper ($40), a daily special, was sparkling fresh. The mild, clean and clear flavour of the fish was kept light with a simple salt seasoning. A delicate balsamic emulsion provided additional flavour. I would have preferred the skin on this to be paper crisp, but this was pretty alright fish.


Another popular signature dish is the CW Blue Cheese ($22). Here, the robust burger utilises pungent blue cheese, salty bacon and a burnt onion marmalade to accentuate the flavour of the beef, while a walnut raisin bun lends a rich nutty sweetness. For blue cheese aficionados, this was a perfect balance of savoury and sweet. This was just dripping with awesome juices. You'll be licking your fingers clean off.


A sharing side, the Sauteed Field Mushrooms ($11), was addictively unique. Most sauteed mushrooms are fried with just garlic and butter, but the addition of sweet onions gave The Market Grill's rendition a subtle sweetness. 



The Market Grill
208 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 6221 3323
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; and 5pm to 10pm for dinner
Closed on Sundays
Website: themarketgrill.com.sg

19.3.13

Ping Ji Bo Bia, Jalan Berseh Food Centre

One of our friends swore this was the "best popiah ever", so when you hear a comment like that, you just gotta try it out. Call it a case of curious george, i suppose. Because that friend was known to rave about absolute rubbish. As it turned out, the proclaimation wasn't hype at all. The popiah here is truly awesome. A real hidden gem in this oldie but goodie hawker centre.

The Popiah ($1.50) is satisfyingly crunchy and delicious. It's scalding hot so be careful when popping one of these babies into your mouth. Most popiahs are a little plain-ish because radish in general has a clean and clear taste, but this was just sinfully flavoursome. Copious lashings of peanut oil, plentiful lup cheong, a generous sprinkling of fried lard, and a good dollop of sweet black sauce set this flavourful roll apart from most other renowned popiah stalls. This actually got us hooked, and we've returned several times just for this.



The nondescript stall. There are a few "famous" stalls here but this one, without any endorsements or writeups, is a worthwhile try. You'd be remiss if you didn't.


Ping Ji Bo Jia
166 Jalan Besar
Jalan Berseh Food Centre
Stall No. 7, lower level

11.3.13

Sushi Tei, Bedok Point

CC and I had attended a client meeting in the far east, so we made a pitstop after the meeting for an early lunch. He lives in the east so he recommended Bedok Point, a new-ish, small-ish shopping mall next to Bedok MRT station filled with eateries. With air-conditioning. With the weather getting hotter as we roll out of the monsoon season, air-conditioning has become a pre-requisite for dining out.

One thing about Bedok Point though, parking's awful. There's only 1 basement for parking, so it gets real jammed up real fast during peak hours. If you're thinking of dining there, go during the off-peak dining time, or park at the multi-storey carparks at the HDB estates nearby.

We were both looking to get something healthy so we opted for Sushi Tei. Affordably good mid-range Japanese food that's definitely maximum bang-for-your-buck.

The Wakame Salad ($7), crisp lettuce interspersed with purple cabbage and carrot strips, was topped with a mess of seaweed tendrils. The bright green seaweed lent a subtly sweet flavour, seasoned with sesame seeds and a piquant wafu dressing. I've always thought wakame was like a healthy version of Twizzlers, fun and chewy.


The Nameko Misoshiru ($6), robust miso soup grounded in earthy juicy mushroomy goodness, was really nice. Simple, homely and wholesome. A plus point was that Sushi Tei was really generous with their mushrooms. Every spoonful yielded this many mushrooms!


The Salmon Shio ($10), grilled salmon that was less than swimmingly fresh, simply seasoned with salt was a smidge salty. At least it helped (somewhat) cover up the day-old fish.


Because a plate of greens wasn't enough fibre, we also ordered the Yasai Itame ($6), pan-fried mixed vegetables with garlic and soy. This was lightly fried so the vegetables were still crunchy.


The Fried Garlic Rice ($8.50) with plenty of chicken chunks, was fragrant and well flavoured.



Sushi Tei
799 New Upper Changi Road
#02-05 Bedok Point
Tel: 6242 3323
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: www.sushitei.com

9.3.13

Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay

February's L.A. Lunch was held at Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay, the CBD outpost of its original fine dining Thai restaurant at Takashimaya along Orchard Road. This is as classy as it gets for Thai food, with white table linen tableclothes, elegant plating accentuating the charm of honest-to-goodness Thai cuisine, and chic sophisticated digs painted in a faint baby blue hue, a purposeful reminder that you're at the water's edge.

We secured a private space, a mezzanine above the main dining area, but because it wasn't closed off, we were still privy to the din downstairs. It did allow for a gorgeous expansive view of Marina Bay waterfront though. Even if the water looked a disgusting murky booger-green.

In addition to the very extensive menu (there are at least 300 items on the menu!), I've noticed that there are always chicken or seafood or vegetarian substitutes for almost any dish, thereby accommodating most people's dietary needs. We feasted on about 13 courses in total, and halfway through lunch, I realized that I may have ordered too much. Never you worry, we still managed to finish most of the savoury dishes, and still had space for dessert. If you're like me, there's always room for sweets even if you're popping out of your pants, isn't there?

The breadcrumb-coated crispy prawn cakes, Tawd Mun Gung ($18.50 for 4) were dripping with juicy shrimpy goodness. Everyone was clamouring for the last piece of this.


The Khao Dtang Nar Dtang ($16), crispy plain rice crackers were set up beautifully against its lightly spiced chunky minced chicken and prawn coconut milk dip.


We got to choose between the prawn version of the Thai classic hot and sour soup, the Dtom Yam Gung ($8.50 per bowl), with succulent pieces of fresh prawns and straw mushrooms. Even if this was deceptively clear, it was spicy as hell, a sure-fire way to clear your sinuses.


Most preferred the seafood version, the Dtom Yam Ruam Mit Talay ($9.50) with added fish, mussels, and squid, all swimmingly fresh and plentiful, floating in a spicy broth flavoured with lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime and galangal and lime juice.


No Thai meal is complete without their curries, the Gang Gwio Warn Gai ($19.70) is a thick fiery curry coloured green with the use of fragrant basil leaves and green chillis, chunked up with tender morsels of chicken breast, diced eggplant and pea eggplant.


Another staple in the Thai curry stable is the Gang Bpet Yang Pollamai ($22.50) a more traditionally red curry with roasted duck and sweet lychees. I like how the fruity sweetness of the lychees balances out the spicy red curry.


A relatively "unknown" and Malay-influenced Thai curry, the Gang Mussaman Gai ($21.30) a roasted peanut-flavoured curry with Malay spices, potatoes and chicken, thickened by rich coconut milk.


One of their signatures, the Pla Neung Manao ($36), is a whole seabass steamed in tom yum-based broth. The delectable soup is refillable, if you ask nicely, and the fish is really fresh and clear.We picked the bones clean off.


One of my must-haves is the Pat Gaprao Gai ($22) minced chicken stir-fried with holy basil, cut chillis and fresh peppercorns. I prefer the pork version, but the minced chicken was soft and tender and absorbed the flavours of the seasoning really well.


The Kai Jiaw ($17.90), a Thai-styled omelette folded over several times to achieve that fluffy doughy appearance, is light, but a tad salty and oily.


Of course we ate our obligatory greens, the Pat Pak Ruam Nahm-mun-hoey ($17.70), a medley of baby corn, kailan, broccoli, carrots, cabbage and tomatoes simply fried with oyster sauce. Colourful, sweet and yummy. If only all vegetables were this easy to down.


We also had another plate of greens, Pat Pak Gub Nahm-mun-hoey ($17.70) baby kailan stir-fried with garlic and chillis. Simple, crunchy and delicious.


We had a little carb, the gorgeously purplish Kao Op Namliap ($17) rice fried with fermented black olives and chicken topped with roasted cashews. I love this. Love love LOVE. Even the newbies loves this as well. A little salty, a little nutty, and packed with flavour, this was great fried rice.


The Ice-Cream Gati ($7) a scoop of coconut sorbet with a handful of attap seeds and jelly-coated water chestnut, was a refreshingly light way to round off the heavy meal.


Durian lovers should not miss out on the Kao Niew Durian Nahm Gati ($9.50), durian simmered in coconut milk served with sticky rice. Granted, it's a strong dessert not for the faint-of-heart, but it's sweet, rich, heady and creamy.


The most iconic of Thai desserts, the Kao Niew Mamuang ($14.50) is a whole fleshy mango served alongside sticky steamed glutinous ricewith a drizzling of sweet coconut milk.


Another refreshingly light dessert, Tap Tim Grop ($7), or what is known locally as "red ruby" is a little too sweet and rich, but the water chestnut provides a nice clear contrast to the creamy coconut milk.



Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay
70 Collyer Quay
#01-02 Customs House
Tel: 6535 3718
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2pm
Mondays to Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.sabaifinethai.com.sg

5.3.13

The New Harbour Cafe & Bar

The New Harbour Cafe & Bar is an quaint English-styled restobar at the slowly-being-revived-once-again Duxton Hill area. Think dark wood paneling and dimly lit interiors. The cuisine here is basically bastardised western food with Hainanese leanings, reminiscent of the days of colonial yore when our local chefs had to cater to the western palate with just their homestyled recipes. 

In addition to the 6 fixed choices for mains under the weekday set lunch scheme, there's also a rotating stable of daily set lunch offerings with 3 additional main course choices. My advice is to take up the set lunch for its value-for-money-ness.  While the food isn't particularly refined or mind-blowingly good, portions are generous, and the food's got an unpretentious and homestyled quality to it.

A signature dish, the Hainanese Pork Chops ($16.80 as part of the Thursday special set lunch) comprises a bunch of juicy, albeit fatty, breadcrumbed-coated pork cutlet flash fried and drenched in a thin tomato-gravy, with a side of peas and onions, chips and a fiery chilli. This is one of the better renditions around. A mound of chicken-flavoured rice completes the main, but trust me, you'll be struggling to finish this.


The Grilled Salmon Fillet Florentine ($18.80), with 2 thick slabs of salmon, seared to retain its moistness is doused with a florentine sauce, and served with with mash, creamed spinach and buttered mixed vegetables. This could have done without the rich and a little cloying florentine sauce. The cream element of this was just a tad overkill with the creamed spinach.


I liked the Grilled Pork Chops ($18.80 as part of the weekday set lunch), flavoursome and moist, just the right attributes needed for a delicious hunk of meat. This was tasty on its own even without the brown sauce.


All of the set lunches are served with the daily soup and bread. Unfortunately, the soup was unmistakeably of the Campbell's canned variety, just thinned and smoothened out. At least the bread roll was soft and warm.



We also ordered a side dish to share, another signature, the Hainanese Roast Pork ($12.80). This was seriously good stuff. Meaty, and salty and juicy and with the perfect crunchy skin. Both the thick black kecap manis chilli mix and sambal were great accompaniments. One lent a sweet and spicy tinge to the belly pork while the other provided a piquant potency to the salty overtures of the pork.





The New Harbour Cafe & Bar
114 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6226 2657
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 11pm;
Saturdays from 3pm to 11pm;
Closed on Sundays

3.3.13

Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria

At the risk of jinxing myself, I've realized that I've never had a bad meal whenever I'm out with Lips. She, in addition to being "the perfect girl", is my good luck charm for meals. Notwithstanding her fabulous company and sparkling conversation, our meals have always been nothing short of fantastic.

We had our monthly meet-up at Cugini, and it's been years since I last dined here. The place is still filled to the brim even on a Thursday night, a hive of bustling diners, but luckily for us, we managed to score a table upstairs, away from the din so we could yak away.

Cugini serves up a veritable range of Italian food, but you should sample some of their seafood offerings, because the owners originate from Southern Italy and they really know their seafood there. The food's here rustic and hearty, and ambience's charmingly casual, so it's little wonder why it's such a popular choice to unwind after work. 

We started off with the Carpaccio di Manzo con Rabarbaro Candito e Salsa di Grana ($20.90), paper thin raw beef cured drizzled with rhubarb confit and Parmesan mayonnaise, and topped with a bunch of arugula and softly poached quail's egg.


The Calamari Fritti ($16.90), thick chewy rings of fresh squid battered lightly and fried to a crisp, was served alongside mayonnaise and salsa.


An insider tip (it's really more of an open secret really) is to order an off-menu item that's apparently a popular favourite with Cugini's regulars, the Frutti di Mare ($29.90). The generously portioned seafood: squid, clams, fish, and prawns were swimmingly fresh, interlaced with al dente paste and tossed in a piquant and lightly spiced tomato sauce.


The Raviolo al Tartufo e Patate con Burro alle Noce e Grana ($26.90) potato pasta pockets stuffed with dreamy truffle and dressed in luscious nutty walnut butter and strips of Parmesan was awesome. A little stingy with the portioning but delicious nonetheless. This would do better as an appetizer.


The Calzone Pizza ($25.90), stuffed with mushrooms, roasted ham, a hard-boiled egg, and the obligatory tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, was also a hit.From the wood-fired thin chewy crust to the generous ingredients, this was very commendable.



I was glad to discover that the Risotto Mare e Monti ($29.90) was still the same as before. Perfectly al dente arborio rice infused with the seafresh flavours of the plentiful seafood while earthy mushrooms grounded the dish from being cloying.


Unfortunately, the complimentary Bread was also the same as before, cold and a little dry though not rock hard.



Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria
87 Club Street
#01-01
Tel: 6221 3791
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm; 6pm to 11pm
Website: www.cugini.com.sg
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