Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie, Paragon

I hardly ever do afternoon tea. I've just never been the type to while my time away clinking on dainty teacups and nibbling on scones and cakes. Besides, I've always preferred the savoury over the sweet. BUT, I've always loved the pastries at Canele, and the timing was just right for tea break. 

Canele's very value-for-money Afternoon Tea ($12) comprises 8 small bites, and a tea or coffee. Sufficient for a light snack, but not too much that it'll spoil your appetite for dinner.And so easy on the wallet.

1 of 2 savouries, the Crab Canape was my favourite, with its refreshingly sweet mayo-ed crabmeat topping and flaky shortcrust pastry base.

The Smoked Salmon Canape was twirled around a crunchy asparagus stalk and set atop a dill mayo spread. Well balanced.

I loved the subtly creamy Creme Fraiche, and it complemented the could-be-sweeter Strawberry.

The tear-inducing sour notes of the Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry were countered by the rich sweetness of the chocolate.

A mainstay here, the Rose Macaron, boasts a velvety butter cream accented by a delicate rose extract.

In keeping with the floral theme, the Violette Macaron is lightly perfumed with violet flavoured cream. I liked that the floral flavouring didn't drown out the buttery sugar-ed confection, I'd have felt like I was downing a bottle of perfume.

The Scone, dusted with icing sugar, was buttery, dense and understated.

The Afternoon Tea cake-of-the-day, a Mango Shortcake, with chantilly cream, ripened mangoes, and a light-as-air sponge, is, on its own, enough to make the afternoon tea so worthwhile. This little perfect confectionery was exquisite.

We also had a couple of ala carte items to share, like their popular Le Royale ($8) with praline feuilletine, 64% chocolate cream, and a moist fudge brownie. This is the ultimate chocolate indulgence meant for chocoholics.

The Cream of Mushroom Soup ($8) touched with a bit of truffle oil, hit all the right flavour buttons but was disappointingly watery.

Canele Patisserie Chocolaterie
290 Orchard Road, Paragon
Tel: 6733 8893
Open daily from 8.30am to 10pm
Website: www.canele.com.sg


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Madame Patisserie, Mackenzie Rd

I'd gotten a flyer from Madame Patisserie in my mailbox when it'd first opened its second outlet, a bistro on the fringes of Orchard as opposed to its cafe at Boat Quay, but had only gotten off my butt to sample their wares at an invited tasting from the good people of HungryGoWhere.

Having dined on their menu thrice (the first at the tasting, and subsequent second and third visits on our own), I'd definitely recommend this to people living/working in/around the vicinity. Their meat dishes are done with aplomb, and their well-priced menu makes for a Atkins dieter's very affordable dream, even if their pastas require a fair bit of tuning and desserts were a little weak. The Hubs and I are now fans, and we regularly dabao from here because it's quite close to home.

Service is friendly and sincere, and the 2-odd-men-serving-staff is efficient enough, but I suspect it's also because the bistro hasn't quite taken off yet. 3 times I've been here, the tiny eatery was only half-filled at best, so I'm not sure how they'd handle a full-house. But tables here have a button that you can use to call for service or the bill, and I think it's a genius way of maximising productivity while coping with the labour crunch

The tasting started off on a good note with the Rucola Beef, a mass of lightly seared beef strips, quarters of cherry tomatoes, leafy rucola, and fried onions, all tossed in a piquant wafu dressing. The beef was juicy enough, but it was a smidge too salty. That being said, we still finished it all. The liberal sprinkling of crispy fried onion made the tasty medley sing.

At the revisit, they'd dialed down the salting, and the Hubs, who's usually ambivalent about rucola, lapped the Rucola Beef ($17.90) up. There wasn't a single leaf left by the time he was done.

A Cream of Apple & Carrot was the Soup-of-the-Day ($10.90) at the tasting. Redolent of autumny flavours of butternut squash, this was creamy and comforting, and never cloying.

Another appetizer that scored a hit at the invited tasting was the Pan-Seared Foie Gras with maple balsamic vinegrette, and diced fresh apples, strawberries, and orange.

At the revisit, the Pan-Seared Foie Gras ($20.90) was very well-received by the Hubs too. The foie gras had a gorgeous caramelized char, breaking away to reveal a meltingly smooth, decadently fatty meat. The fruits and basil-olive emulsion lent a tart contrast.

The appetizers were all great, but the tasting's star pupil's the Bacon Bomb portobello laden with a tomato slice, baked egg, wrapped in bacon and grilled to a fragrant, served atop a potato mousse. This was so good 2 of us bloggers tookaway these for our better halves as a supper surprise.

At the revisit, the Bacon Bomb ($10 April promo price, $16.90 usual price) was, once again, done perfectly, with a softly baked egg that oozed a beautifully runny yolk when cut. Definitely gets our vote as a must-try here. 

The Grilled Chicken Roulade, swaddled in streaky bacon, is served with a honeyed jus, baked tomato, button mushrooms, broccoli and potato mash. We particularly loved the juicy tomato.

At the revisit, the Hubs loved the Grilled Chicken Roulade ($16.90). The bacon wrapping amped up the flavours and kept the chicken succulent. Like me at the tasting, he also took to the tomato, baked to a juicy sweet finish.

The Beef Cheek, served with a red wine sauce, button mushrooms, broccoli and mesclun salad, didn't leave an impression at the tasting. It was soft enough, moist enough, but it just lacked that extra spark.

I made an about-turn, however, at the revisit. The Beef Cheek ($24.90) harmonized beautifully with that red wine sauce. The sappy elements of the sauce complemented the deep full-bodied taste of the beef, enlivening it. Also, knives aren't needed at all; we picked this apart with just our forks.

At the tasting, the Duck Confit was slathered with an orange sauce that lent brightness to the rich flavour of the game. Crisp skin, but the flesh needed work, it was a smidge dried out.

At the revisit, the Duck Confit ($17.90) was plastic fork-tender. An absolutely bang-on dish. The Hubs loved the balance brought about by the orange sauce.

The pastas paled in comparison with the meat dishes at the tasting. The Beef Paccheri was stuffed with a slightly dry beef ragu, drizzled with parmesan cheese, and served in a pool of tomato sauce. The tomato sauce was a lifesaver, it added much needed moisture to the pasta tubes.

I was prepared to keep an open mind about the Beef Paccheri ($18.90) at the revisit. The Hubs really liked it, especially the tomato sauce, and practically mopped up every last drop of sauce. The key here is to load each pasta tube up with copious lashings of that mellow sweet sauce.

The Smoked Duck Linguine ($20.90) with garlic, sundried tomatoes, smoked duck breast, and cranberry cream sauce proved to be the weakest link at the tasting. The cloying sauce was just too heavy on the cream and we couldn't taste any cranberry in this. Suffice it to say, we didn't finish it.

The Vanilla Mousse with Lychee Jelly ($8) was light and airy, but lacked punch in flavour. It was too bland.

Ditto for the Chestnut and Pear Dome Mousse Cake ($8). Good texture, but weak in taste.

Three-for-three, the Apple Crumble had good flavour but was a little dry.

At the revisit, only the Apple Crumble ($8) was available. I opted to add on a scoop of Vanilla Ice-Cream ($2) to solve the dry issue of the pie, and it totally works. Like peas and carrots, vanilla ice-cream and apple pie go together hand-in-hand.

Madame Patisserie
25/27 Mackenzie Road
Tel: 6884 9601
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 12midnight;
Fridays & Saturdays from 11.30am to 1am
Website: madamepatisserie.com


Menya Musashi, The Star Vista

The famed Tokyo-based ramen import Menya Musashi has sprouted yet another outlet, this time at The Star Vista

The low-frills Japanese izakaya-esque eatery, with its utilitarian style, stark fluorescent lighting, poor ventilation, and squeezy booth seats is one of those places to dine-and-go (not dine-and-dash). Evidently, lingering isn't encouraged. It didn't help that the air-conditioning was leaky, and we walked out with our hair and clothes reeking of the kitchen.

But, the long line of folks are here for the food, and Menya Musashi's style of ramen is rich, but subtle and layered, which sets it apart from the robust oomph of some of the other popular ramen joints.

The pick of the litter, their Black Cha Shu Ramen ($14.90), which stock boasts rounded charred accents of roasted garlic and fermented onions, is unforgettably flavourful and unique. The pork belly was meltingly tender, boiled egg well done, while black fungus added a lovely crunch. A most awesomesauce ramen, and one that guarantees a return visit. If I had a grouse, it'd be the bamboo shoots, as these had a jarringly raw quality that didn't quite gel with the rest of the components.

The Red Cha Shu Ramen ($14.90) with chilli oil turned out deceptively mild. This had a muted spiced element that married well with the mellow creaminess of the pork bone broth. A more than decent bowl of ramen but it'd likely fade into the sea of mediocrity if stacked up against other spicy ramen heavyweights like Ippudo's spicy miso tonkotsu, or Come-in-Hokkaido's spicy miso.

Menya Musashi
1 Vista Exchange Green
The Star Vista B1-08
Tel: 6694 2515
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: www.menyamusashi.com.sg


Peony Jade Restaurant, Keppel Club

The Amex-HungryGoWhere 30licious $30 Deals In 30 Days promotion is now on. Till tomorrow at least. With an impressive stable of reputable restaurants participating in the promotion such as Da Paolo Bistrobar, Golden Peony, Gyu Kaku, The Song of India, and Peony Jade, diners will be spoilt for choice. You can eat very well for very cheap for the entire month!

We were at the Keppel Club branch of revered Cantonese stalwart Peony Jade Restaurant last night to sample their 30Licious 6-Course Set Dinner ($30 per person). I was very relieved to secure a booking late in that afternoon (we're not the type to plan our meals in advance, you see), through an idiot-proof online reservation system. To be honest, I was initially skeptical about dinner, thinking that the food would turn out a pale shadow of the ala carte fare, but I thought, how bad could the lauded Peony Jade get?

Turns out, not bad at all! The restaurant, resplendent in its cheesy 70's decor replete with plastic florals, garish red carpeting, antiquated furniture and dated mandarin oldies blaring out the overhead speakers, was, save for a bunch of rowdy Japanese businessmen high on "happy juice", almost empty when we arrived for dinner. I liked that we pretty much had the restaurant all to ourselves. The food was very commendable, portions were substantial and service accommodating, if a bit impersonal.

The starter was a Dim Sum Duo Combination comprising a Siew Mai and Beancurd Skin Wrapped Prawns. The plating was uninspiring but the taste was spot on. The siew mai was fresh, succulent and bouncy, while the beancurd skin wrapped prawns was nicely crisp on the outside, and juicy on the inside.

The Scallop Bouillon with Egg White and Pumpkin Paste, uniquely served in a martini glass, was pretty good. Crunchy chestnuts were tossed in together with fresh scallop dice, set atop a mound of baby bottom-smooth egg white custard and slathered with a mellow creamy pumpkin-based gravy.

The Stewed Beancurd with Honshimeiji and minced pork and spinach was excellent. Delicate and refined, I especially loved the smooth-as-silk beancurd.

The 'Rojak' Prawns with Mixed Fruits was the Hubs' pick of the lot. This was at the same time spicy and sweet and piquant, an explosive medley of flavours cut by the tart fruitiness of the strawberries, avocados and melons.

The Wok Tossed Empress Noodles 'Hongkong' style was choc-a-bloc with peppers, chives, beansprouts, barbecued pork and scrambled eggs. No discernible wok hei but packed with flavour. 

To round off the overall satisfying dinner, the Dessert-of-the-Day was a Barley Beancurd Skin Soup, homestyled and lightly sweetened for a balanced finish. 

Peony Jade Restaurant
10 Bukit Chermin Road
Keppel Club Mezzanine level
Tel: 6276 9138
Open weekdays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
weekends from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Website: www.peonyjade.com


JB Ah Meng, Geylang Lor 23

I'd seen a friend's frequent (and tantalizing) facebook posts about JB Ah Meng, a cze char eatery in Geylang. As soon as I could gather the troops, we trudged on down to ever "colourful" Geylang for dinner.

JB Ah Meng is located in one of the busier parts of Geylang, where heavy foot traffic guarantees a PG-13 people-watching travelling show. My littlest brother spent most of dinner transfixed by the various "working girl transactions" going on around us, while we were "entertained" by the occasional sight of a rat scurrying away into the drains flanking the sidewalk. For those keen on keeping their dinner down, my advice is to avoid looking at the ground, or at the other tables, or at other people around you. Heck, just keep your eye on your dinner or your dinner companions. 

For a cze char joint (where service usually ranges from the indifferent to the surly), service was surprisingly pleasant. The lady proprietor was smiley, chatty and accommodating, an uncommon trait of eateries of the like. Food-wise, JB Ah Meng passed muster, but it was unmemorable. There are famed cze char joints in the vicinity like No Signboard Seafood, or Penang Seafood Restaurant that'll take first charge over the discerning tastebud. Looking back, I think, the main drawback of this humble eatery is the lack of a segregated dining area or restaurant space. Patrons were seated at tables strewn along the common five-foot-way and the heavy public foot traffic made for quite a disruptive meal.

The paper-crisp Deep Fried Fish Skin ($12), a refined version of a local snack, fish keropok, started off the dinner right as an addictive nibbler.

We preferred dipping the crackling in the piquant but tongue-numbingly spicy sambal chilli instead of the Thai-style sweet chilli dip accompanying the fish skin.

The 3 Delicacy Beancurd ($12), loaded with enoki and black mushrooms, pork mince and cuttlefish for a umami touch, was slathered in an unctuous gravy. 

My family didn't quite like the Salted Egg Prawn Ball ($20). The sweet accents of the salted egg yolk batter didn't quite sit right with them. I liked it though, especially the sweet corn kernels that dotted the bouncy prawns.

The White Pepper Crabs (3 for $40) were fairly decent, albeit small. Which made picking at it a highly unproductive venture. But the dismal size was (almost) compensated by its freshness and the sweetish, garlicky and subtly peppery sauce. I daresay the sauce is on par with No Signboard Seafood's exceptional rendition.

The innocuous-looking JB San Lou Meehoon ($7), a flattened pancake-esque mess of rice vermicelli, was imbued with a smoky char and rich seafood-based stock. Laced with egg scramble, diced prawns and cuttlefish, and a layer of greasy stir-fried greens under the pile, this was pretty darn good.If there was one thing I'll be back to JB Ah Meng for, this'd be it.

JB Ah Meng
New Good Place Eating House
2 Lor 23 Geylang
Tel: 6741 2418
Open daily from 5pm to 3am


The Disgruntled Chef

I wouldn't have thought to dine at a restaurant helmed by a self-confessed disgruntled chef, but I was hooked after a taste of their braised pork cheeks at Savour 2014. I suppose the epithet's meant to be an irony stilted in truth, where food is created with a disaffected flair. Just like how the quaint colonial setup in the lush Dempsey dining enclave appears, at first brush, formal and totally chi-chi but is actually refreshingly casual and boasts a relaxed, down-to-earth vibe. In line with its breezy form, you'll be glad to know that you can actually dine here in berms and slippers!

The service staff were perfectly lovely folk, so I actually feel bad for saying that, notwithstanding the warm consideration shown to us at dinner (the manager had very thoughtfully enquired if we wanted our eggs thoroughly scrambled instead of runny because he'd observed that Beeps was preggers), service was choppy and inefficient. There were inordinately long lapses between our courses, a dessert order was taken wrongly, we had to ask for the menu repeatedly, and our water glasses were left parched.

Despite the less-than-stellar service, and the chef's "disgruntledness", the food was excellent. Every dish was executed with an unaffected finesse, refining classically comfort food with a homestyled edge. 

The plump Roasted Sea Scallops ($24) were slayed in truffle butter for extra oomph and sat on a bed of delicate green tea puree. A crisp prosciutto and onion films added texture and flavour.

The Crayfish Macaroni & Cheese ($16) was gratinated with cheddar and cream sauce managed to stay light despite the ostensible dairy overload, by layering with bits of diced crayfish.

The Braised Pork Cheeks ($32) could have stayed in the casserole for a while longer, but it was satisfactorily moist and tender. Slices of soft miso-ed daikon and airy truffle mousseline sided this, while a pool of savoury braising sauce lent a homey accent.

The fall-off-the-bone tender Duck Cassoulet ($34) with lyonnaise sausage, coco beans and vine tomatoes, was heartily rustic and evocative of cool Autumns in the French countryside.

The Roasted Salmon ($29), with a delightfully crackling skin and moist flesh, was balanced by crisp green apple strips, creamed fennel and apple balsamic reduction.

A favourite side dish of mine whenever I dine out, the Roasted Mushrooms ($8) were simply tossed with garlic butter for a juicy flavourful earthiness.

A must-try here, the Spinach and Potato Revueltos ($8) was laced with fantastic moist egg scramble. Unabashedly simple, but so incredible in taste.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding ($14) with vanilla ice-cream is the best I'd ever had. I love toffee so I may be a little biased here, but even the Hubs loved it, so that's saying something. Moistened with a stickily sweet caramelisation, and juxtaposed with the icy touch of the vanilla bean ice-cream, the confection was just pure orgasmic heaven.

We'd originally ordered the chocolate fondant, but were mistakenly served the Deconstructed Cheesecake ($16) instead. We were mollified when we tasted the concoction of light cream cheese mousse, crunchy crumble and tart raspberries. Nuanced and balanced, this is a worthwhile order if you prefer a lighter dessert to round off the meal.

The Disgruntled Chef
26B Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476 5305
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Fridays & Saturdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 12noon to 4.30pm for brunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.disgruntledchef.com
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