31.8.13

LeVel 33

Level 33 was the destination for our August L.A. Lunch. Perched atop tower 1 of the Marina Bay Financial Centre, its imposing loft windows running the entire stretch of the dining hall affords unparalleled views of the CBD skyline and busy port. Naturally, this place attracts the executives and the well-heeled. Reservations are a must, as this restaurant is quite the popular hangout. If you're entertaining a large group, it's best to book at least 2 weeks ahead.

Level 33 aims to change the way you look at beer. The restaurant cum craft brewery pairs artisanal beers with modern European cuisine. On weekdays, it offers a semi-buffet Executive Set Lunch ($33++) that's extremely kind to the wallet. The main courses are cooked a la minute while appetizers and desserts are self-served buffet-style at the Ploughman's Table. Quality of the buffet is maximised as the selection is "capped" small at just about 20 dishes. I like it better this way. Besides, who wants to return to the office a bloated overstuffed cow, right?

There are about 5 types of salads, 3 of the leafy variety and the remaining 2 pasta-based. They were pretty good. Fresh, crisp and refreshing. Romaine Salad with Beetroot Mash

Arugula with Pine nuts and Raisins

Mesclun with Portobello and Corn and Apricots

Macaroni with caramelised onions, corn and sage and kidney beans

Tuna Mayo Penne with oregano and cashews

There was a bunch of cold cuts, which, in my view, can do no wrong. I mean, what's not to love about full-on flavoured cured pork? The Pastrami is my favourite, for its meaty texture.

Salami

Spicy Salami

A couple of chilled seafood lent themselves wonderfully with to the salads. Smoked Salmon

The Poached Prawns, deshelled for convenience, were a tad tasteless but they had good crunch.


A limited Cheese Platter with an assortment of fruity accompaniments.

Cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar for a piquant lift.

An array of Fresh Cut Fruits to cleanse the palate.

A limited range of desserts, all bite-sized so you can sample everything.

The Peanut Butter Cheescake was topped with a strawberry wedge for a fruity accent.

The Oreo Cheesecake was my fave, with its moist texture and nuanced sweetness.

The Swiss Roll was surprisingly moist but I ain't no big fan of swiss rolls.

The Bundt Cake, with its kueh-like texture, was moist and chewy and soft.

Generic Bread Rolls to fill you up. I would have liked these to be served fresh out of the oven. These were cold and hard when they should have been warm and soft with a crusty exterior.

There aren't a lot of choices for the mains, and methinks you'd do well to stick to the familiar stuff. Classics like the Burger & Chips, a hulking chunk of chargrilled pale ale-infused Angus patty topped with a sunny-side up quail's egg, crisp bacon, crisp lettuce, tomatoes and held together by aged cheddar, truffle mayo, and a chilli onion marmalade, was the best of the lot. This was substantial, meaty, succulent and delicious. 

A trio of fat cut chips served alongside a unique dip of blond lager-infused ketchup.

If you aren't up for meat, the Fish & Chips, would be my next pick for the mains. A fillet of fresh creamy dory, lightly battered and flash fried was served atop fat cut chips, crushed peas and house-blend tartare.

The Roasted Angus Sirloin Sandwich with a caramelized onion marmalade, wholegrain mustard and peppery watercress, paled in comparison to the burger. It was lacking in depth and flavour. Again, fat cut chips and the blond lager-infused ketchup were served as sides.

There's a rotating stable of weekly specials for the mains. The Pan Baked Fish Fillet with tomato and black olive ragout, capers and basil oil was pretty good, but I would have thought, based on the description, that this wouldn't have been battered. I would have preferred this grilled instead. Still, it was fresh, moist and well done.

The Preserved Lemon Risotto with zucchini tempura, beetroot and feta puree and dill garnish, was very poorly executed. It was soggy, mushy and waaaay overcooked.


Level 33
#33-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1
8 Marina Boulevard
Tel: 6834 3133
Open daily from 12noon to 12midnight
Website: www.level33.com.sg

30.8.13

Economic Bee Hoon, Redhill Market

Some time back, after I'd written about Eng Kee, a friend told me that I'd gone to the "wrong" Eng Kee. Apparently, the original owner of Eng Kee had sold off the moniker and set up shop at Redhill Market. Clearly, not many are aware of this. Because the Commonwealth Eng Kee maintains a substantial number of long-time customers.

This one at Redhill Market, helmed by the original chef, also hawks the same stuff: economic noodles with an array of standard side dishes, and most importantly, their famous fried chicken wings. Evidently, the crowds have stumbled upon this as well. The stall, with a nondescript signboard, is easily distinguished by the long snaking queue of diners.   


While the Noodles ($0.60 for a half-and-half of rice vermicelli and egg noodles) aren't as good as the one at Commonwealth, the Fried Egg ($0.50) was surprisingly well done. It was cooked perfectly, with a softly semi-runny yolk and fluffy whites. And, what the noodles lacked in oomph and flavour was easily cured with several lashings of that kickass chilli sauce.


You cannot walk away from here without trying the Fried Chicken Wings ($1.20). Afterall, they're what made Eng Kee famous in the first place. The five-spice-centric marinade had completely steeped into the meat, making for a totally scrumptious nibbler. The skin was delightfully crisp while the insides were dripping with juices. You'll be licking your fingers clean off, I swear. We saw the people in front of us takeaway dozens of these and so, followed suit and tookaway 10 of these as TV snackers. We both thought this was half a notch better than Eng Kee's version.


The stall facade for reference. If you look closely, you'll see that the signboard is similar in design to Eng Kee at Commonwealth. Where the Commonwealth Eng Kee has retained its name, this one doesn't even have a name at all.



Redhill Market #01-19
Blk 85 Redhill Lane
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 3pm to 10pm

29.8.13

SocialHaus

SocialHaus is a couple of doors down from Open Door Policy. Both were part of the first wave of upmarket cafes and bistros that partook in the Tiong Bahru revitalisation project. Walking in, you'd think this was a watering hole that only served dainty bar nibblets, but they do a full lunch and dinner service as well. 

I like this place for its sexy, downtempo cocktail bar vibe, with its romantic low lights and sexy bossa nova ambient music. It's reminds me of Wine Bar (ah, the good old days of hedonistic partying that I can't seem to remember), but with a proper array of food.

We utterly loved the Garlic Shrimp ($12), simply sautéed in loads of olive oil, fragrant garlic and chilli flakes. The small-ish prawns were fresh and sweet, bouncy in texture, and floating in a ridiculous pool of aromatic spiced oil, was great with the toasty crusty baguette. Even after we were done with the prawns, we continued to dip the bread into the oil and lapped it all up. The flavoured oil was that delicious.


The Mushroom Aglio Olio ($11), assorted wild mushrooms tossed with garlic, shallots, olive oil, and a splash of white wine was quite delicious. Spaghetti was al dente and the shitake and white button mushrooms were plentiful. I wouldn't have expected this quality from a non-Italian place like this. Especially since this was ridiculously cheap.


What's a visit to a cocktail bar without partaking in some of their cocktails? All virgin of course because we're responsible drivers. Clockwise from bottom left: Lemony Lychee ($9) lemon juice mixed into a base of lychee juice and soda with a couple of cocktail lychees; Mango Lychee ($9) mango puree with the base lychee juice and soda; and Strawberry Lychee ($9), strawberry puree with the base lychee juice and soda.


SocialHaus
11 Yong Siak Street
Tel: 6557 0286
Open Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays from 4pm to 11pm
Fridays from 4pm to 12midnight
Saturdays from 12noon to 12midnight
Sundays from 12noon to 11pm

28.8.13

Hari Raya Puasa 2013 Homecooked Lunch

This was another invite to another bestie's open house for Hari Raya celebrations. The food here had more of an Indian slant, seeing as my friend's an Indian muslim. Remember how there was a bit of talk that the majority of Singaporeans don't have a close friend of another race? What rubbish. A lot of my closest friends are of another race. And this is despite the fact that I grew up in an all-girls' missionary school.  

The spread here may be a little limited, but what they lacked in variety, they made up for it with quality. And, oodles and oodles of love. I think that really is the secret ingredient that makes homecooked food so awesome. I mean, when you're cooking for your loved ones, you tend to be a lot more generous with "liao" and start off with the freshest, most premium ingredients because cost doesn't feature as a consideration, correct?

The Mutton Biryani was one of the best we've ever had. The mutton, devoid of any game accent, was meltingly tender, and the rice was so aromatically delicious I would have been ecstatic eating it on its own. I didn't really care that my arteries were practically slamming shut as I went back for thirds!


The Fried Chicken, undisputedly the star of lunch, was unbelievably flavourful. Marinated to the bones, this was seriously the best fried chicken, Indian style, hands down. The ones you get outside are only marinated skin-deep. But, this was just tasty to the core. I must have demolished half of this. (Don't worry, the tray got replenished because the kitchen just kept whipping up these lipsmackingly awesome babies.)


The Eggplant Curry had a lentil dhal base to it so it was very mellow. Like a eggplant-enlivened dhal curry.



Hari Raya Puasa 2013
Courtesy of the Jaleesoo family

27.8.13

Hatched, Holland Village

Hatched, an all-day brunch place that specializes in eggs, is one of the eateries I wanted to make sure we tried before we moved out of this area. We'd previously taken away from their original outlet at Evans Road, and the eggs there weren't half bad, so I was curious to see how its second outlet here at Holland Village would do.

The good thing about Hatched is how much cheaper it is compared to our all-time favourite Wild Honey, with most dishes costing in the range of $15. And, despite the difference in price points, the quality of the stuff here isn't too far off. In fact, the breakfast eggs here are pretty decent, and what's more, the portions are pleasantly hearty too.

As with every other brunch place, the 2-storey cafe can get overflowingly crowded and the ambience consequently boisterous. I was there at about 2pm on a weekend so the brunch crowd was just filtering out. At such an "off-peak" timing, the cheery sunny spot (we were on the sunlit second floor) was relaxed and quiet, and there wasn't a need for reservations. 

The Usual Suspects ($16), 2 eggs done any style (which I got scrambled), a choice of bacon, ham or sausage (of which I opted for bacon), baked beans (generic canned stuff), sauteed potatoes (skins-on and surprisingly good), toast and coffee or tea (they've got a range of premium teas here, and not just those generic lipton teabag sorts, so I got the peppermint one..super zesty!). The eggs were nicely cooked, fluffy and moist, if a little undersalted. Nothing a good sprinkle of salt didn't solve.


The Veggie-Good Shrooms Overload ($16) is a juicy portobello stacked atop grilled eggplant, tomatoes, a sunny-side up egg, welded together with melted cheese and wedged between fluffy buttery burger buns. Great for vegetarians or people on diets without compromising on flavour. 



Hatched
267 Holland Ave
Tel: 6463 0012
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9am to 11pm
Website: www.hatched.sg

26.8.13

Hock Heng You Tiao, Tanglin Halt Food Centre

We stumbled upon this stall selling fried dough pastries. This kind of fried pastries are a rare find nowadays as it's a bit of a dying trade. The Hubs loves their Lotus Paste Fritters ($0.70), all freshly made and which doesn't stay on the counter long because there's a perpetual queue for them. The Hubs will always make it a point to buy a couple of these yummy babies whenever he takesaway from A1.


The stall facade for reference, it's a stall away from A1. 



Hock Heng You Tiao
#01-11 Tanglin Halt Food Centre
Blk 1A Commonwealth Drive
Closed Saturdays to Mondays

25.8.13

[Invited Tasting] Todai

I've long heard about Todai, the monstrous buffet purportedly famous in the US of A, but never had the impetus to try it. If you're a regular reader, you'd know that I'm very wary of buffets. You inevitably end up paying for the quantity and not quality. And, at my age, I cannot afford to waste any calories on lousy food.

So, it was with skepticism that I attended a tasting at Todai. Moreover, I'd checked out its website prior to the tasting, and found it terribly dated and comically plebeian. And, to top it off, Todai touts itself as the mother of all buffets. With a self-promotion as boastful as this, it would be ironic, to say the least, if it didn't quite live up to its own hype.

As it turned out, the buffet was relatively decent. There was the usual, fair amount of average dishes, the occasional misses, but enough hits to make the very extensive buffet and its hefty $70++ weekday dinner pricetag worthwhile.

I deviated from my usual S.O.P. of revisiting the restaurant for a post invited-tasting dinner. As we partook in the same fare as the everyday walk-in diner, I didn't see a need for an incognito revisit. It wasn't as if the chefs specially cooked up dishes for us, separate from the ones served at the buffet, for the invited tasting.

I'll start things off with the hits, which is the seafood. If you're a seafood lover (like Beeps who once ate more than 30 oysters in one sitting), you'd love this place. The seafood here is very fresh, even if it doesn't get replenished speedily. My take is to sit within sight of the seafood counter, so you know when the seafood is replenished. The poached and chilled Red Crab was sweet and fresh.


I much preferred the Steamed Red Crab, I'm not a fan of cold seafood you see.


The gargantuan legs of the premium Snow Crab, also impossibly fresh and sweet.


The Braised Abalone, a shell-in hunk of seafood, was a lot bigger than I'd expected of a place like this.  This runs out in seconds once it hits the buffet lines, so you gotta be quick and nimble on your feet as you soon as you spy this.


The Abalone Ginseng Chicken Soup, a nourishing broth, was light. The herbal earthy accents of the ginseng was slight so it didn't overwhelm the delicate briny taste of the abalone.


The Seafood counter, with baby squid and mussels and clams and shell-in scallops. The supply of the seafood is kept low, and replenished only when the stocks run low, in order to maintain freshness.


Most eels you eat are of the freshwater variety, but here at Todai, the eels are straight from the sea. The BBQ Sea Eel is sweeter and less muddy, brushed with a sweet teriyaki sauce that complements its delicate flavour. Beware the bones though, there are about a million of them!



I'm not a fan of shisamo, but the Miso Shisamo, grilled and served with a gratin sauce, was moist and fresh.


Another hit was the Churrascaria Station, with a variety of meats, sausages and pineapples cooked upon order.


The skewers are grilled piecemeal so the cooked food doesn't get left on the counter for long or allowed to dry out.


The accompaniments


The side dishes were largely pedestrian though.


The Teppanyaki station was nice but relatively average. This was the seafood version, and I was surprised to find that the seafood was cooked well, soft and not rubbery at all.


The Stir-Fried Beef Teppanyaki was a little tough, this was a smidge overcooked.


The Teppanyaki Vegetable was very nicely done, with a bit of crunch and delicate soy seasoning.


The Tempura and Tonkatsu section was very ho-hum, and I think, one that you can pass on, because most of the stuff, despite being left out on parchment paper, was soggy. Unless it's fresh out of the fryer, my take is to skip this. This was the Fish Cutlet, which was nice but lacking in that delectable crispiness.


The cooked Chinese fare was mostly run-of-the-mill and another section you can opt to skip, except for the Chilli Crab, which was meaty and fresh. The gravy was surprisingly spicy and of some standard. Not the best around but certainly better than the Plaza Brasserie one. It's a bit like those run-of-the-mill cze char versions.


Mantous to soak up the gravy.


The Cereal Prawns, though, wasn't crispy enough. These had been left out for a while. Maybe if you got these piping hot from the fryer, it'd fare better.


The Steamed Fish with Garlic Sauce, wasn't half bad. Fish was fresh and moist, and the garlic-and-soy emulsion was delicate.


The Fried Pork Belly with Mango Sauce was a twist on the sweet and sour pork. Nice concept but very average still.


The Spicy Chicken was tarred with a spiced sesame teriyaki sauce. This was very uninspiring. Not worth eating at all.


The cooked Western fare also meh, like the Salmon Steak with Digon Cream.


The Oven-Broiled Fish & Bacon was also average.


The Broiled Green Mussels with drowned out by the spicy salsa.


There's an extensive Sushi Counter here, and it totally fills you up. These were sub-par. The Koreans aren't known to be great with sushi anyways.


Fresh Fruits to cleanse your bloated tummies.


The Desserts were an equal mix of hits and misses. The hits were the Mango Cheesecake, moist and nuanced.


The Strawberry Cheesecake was another hit.


Gateau Banana Cake


Chocolate Fountain


The average stuff if you still have space, like the Macarons.


Pineapple Sponge Cake


Swiss Rolls, like the strawberry version, were also very average.


Matcha version


Cream Puff

These were the don't bother range: like the Vanilla Puff, which was dry.


The Chocolate Muffins, while cute and tiny, were too dry as well.


Brownies


The New York Cheesecake was too dry as well.


The Lints Schnitten, a pound cake of sorts with a layer of cream was also too dry.


The Walnut Tart was uninspiring.


The Kougelhof, a German/Austrian chocolate swirl pound cake, was also dried out.



There was a Korean counter (try the fish pancake), Italian section, self-serve drinks station, and ice-cream parlour. Be sure to come here hungry.

Many thanks to HGW for the invite and Brandon (who's also Korean like the Hubs!) of Todai for hosting the tasting.

P.S. You may like to know this little bit of "insider" info: apparently, a lot of K-pop stars patronise Todai when visiting Singapore. Rain, Girls Generation and many surgery-assisted plastic dolls of Hallyu pop culture have passed through Todai. If you're a fan, you may want to visit this place in the off-chance you'd see some stars!


Todai
Marina Bay Sands B2-01A
2 Bayfront Ave
Tel: 6688 7771
Open daily from 11.30am to 4pm for lunch; and 5.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.todai.com.sg
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