House of Robert Timms, Wheelock Place

We stopped by House of Robert Timms for dinner earlier in the week. The Hubs made this observation, which I quite agree, that this cafe always seems so empty whenever we dine here, and wondered how it survives the brutal F&B industry. Thing is, although it does appear lacking in customers whenever we pop by, I suspect that weekends are jammed with customers, which probably keeps this afloat.

The quintessentially Aussie fare is hearty, rustic and charmingly unpretentious, and laidback ambience makes for a great place to unwind after work. And, they offer an all-day breakfast (always a great draw) selection. Nothing like a platter of eggs and bacon to soothe the day's woes!

The Handmade Spinach & Mushroom Hash ($17) with a perfectly fluffy egg scramble, grilled turkey ham, crisp bacon, mixed greens, a beautifully carved grilled tomato, baked beans and toast was both hearty and rustic. I really liked the hash, it was moist and delicately seasoned, with a lovely bronzy sheen.

The Bacon & Mushroom Egg-Drop Fettucine ($21) with shavings of parmesan and a couple of crisp parma ribbons was commendable, but veered a little to the cloying. 

House of Robert Timms
501 Orchard Road
#01-02 Wheelock Place
Tel: 6735 9201
Open daily from 8am to 1am


Tambuah Mas Indonesian Restaurant, Paragon

TGIF! This weekend could not have arrived sooner, really. It's been a tough week, and convenient, low-fuss dinners, like this one at Tambuah Mas, have become routine after an arduous day in the office.

While weekends will see this casual Indonesian restaurant packed to the gills with family-types, the early weekdays will guarantee you a quiet mealtime. Dining at Tambuah Mas may result in a few misses, but they are few and far between. Generally, you can count on them for dependably fair, hearty and homestyled Indonesian fare.

The Sop Buntut Lontong ($8.50) rice cakes in Makassar-styled oxtail broth was alright, but pedestrian. The oxtail needed another half hour stewing time for a fall-off-the-bone texture, while the soup base, while robust, lacked depth.

The Meehoon Soto ($7.50), Indonesian-styled chicken soup with a couple of potato patties perkadel, was decent, but unfortunately marred by the dry stringy chicken and undercooked beansprouts.

The Fried Long Beans with Chilli ($8.50) and beancurd was as plain as Jane. Barely seasoned and almost tasteless, we didn't finish this.

On the other hand, the Sayur Lodeh (6.50) with cabbage, long beans, carrots and beancurd simmered in spices and thickened with coconut milk, was utterly sumptuous. Heady, sweet and creamy, you'll do well to order this.

Another must-try here, the Sate Ayam ($7.50) comprises half a dozen succulent chicken skewers grilled to a smoky perfection.

Tambuah Mas Indonesian Restaurant
290 Orchard Road
Paragon B1-44
Tel: 6733 2220
Open daily from 11am to 10pm


Kimchi Bokkeum Bap (Kimchi Fried Rice)

Another childhood favourite of the Hubs is Kimchi Fried Rice. It's like the easiest thing to whip up, and can be varied a million ways. With kimchi and gochujang as the primary seasoning forming the base recipe for the rice, you can chunk it up with any combination of your favourite proteins.  

Ingredients (feeds 4):
5 cups cooked rice, use leftovers (or if using freshly cooked rice, use less water for a drier finish) (FYI, 1 cup uncooked rice yields about 2 cups cooked rice)
3 cups kimchi, cut into 1-cm cubes (portion 1 cup kimchi to 2 cups of rice)
250gm chicken fillet, sliced to 1" cubes and marinated with light soy and white ground pepper (or bulgogi sauce for a more layered flavour)
4 eggs, scrambled and salted
3 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
2 tbsp frying oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds (I used a mix of white and black)
1/4 cup dried seaweed, cut into thin strips

1) Scramble eggs in 1 tbsp frying oil, breaking it up into small curds, and set aside.

2) Fry kimchi in 1 tbsp frying oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes at medium high heat.

3) Add gochujang and fry for another minute.

4) Add chicken and fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

5) Add rice, and toss thoroughly, about 5 minutes.

6) Return eggs, stirring through, about 1 minute.

7) Sprinkle, liberally, nori (seaweed) and toss throughout.

8) Serve with sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Variation: You can fry the rice a little longer, leaving it unturned for a couple of minutes for the bottom to acquire the smoky, crisp char.
Seafood Kimchi Fried Rice: use fish, prawns, and/or squid as add-ons
Alternative meats: beef or pork, or even spam luncheon meat or bacon, which gels really well with the rice



In the sweet sweet world of macarons, countless bakeries abound, seemingly forgettable, amongst duopoly heavyweights Laduree and Pierre Herme. Anyone with a sweet tooth would have heard of them both, even if both boulangeries were solely based in Paris. I'd hear of friends lugging back boxes of macarons as souvenirs from their sojourns in the city of light.

After years of pent-up demand, Laduree finally landed on our sunny shores, and the frenzied horde descended on the tiny little pop-up shop in Ngee Ann City like bees to honey. As you may be well aware by now, we abhor the national pastime of queuing, so we waited till the fuss died down, and picked an off-peak Monday to sample the revered dame's wares.

It was, at first brush, quite disconcerting to discover that Laduree's macarons cost a pretty penny. Each tiny, pop-in-your-mouth-and-it's-gone morsel retails at a whopping $3.95 a pop, making them the most expensive macarons in Singapore. So it was telling that, despite Laduree's pricing, the Hubs actually thought they were worth every cent. I'm a little ambivalent. Laduree truly does deserve its hype, but I found the pricing quite the downer. If each macaron was more reasonably priced at no more than $3, I'd be a lot more agreeable with the Hubs.

Laduree's macarons are one of a kind, perfectly balanced, perfectly textured. Luxurious and exquisite, I loved how unique some of their flavours were, even if the rest of their flavour combinations didn't quite work for me.

From left to right: Pistachio, Lemon Verbena (loved its bright tang), Chocolat Bergamote (this clashed, I felt like I was eating an aromatherapy candle);

From left to right: Marie Antoinette (a must-try and my personal favourite), Caramel Fleur de Sel (coming in a close second, the best salted caramel macaron ever), Raspberry (loved its fruity sweetness);

From left to right: Coffee (loved its bittersweet overtones), Chocolate (absolutely luscious).

391 Orchard Road
Takashimaya Shopping Centre #02-09
Tel: 6884 7361
Open daily from 10am to 9.30pm


Baked Salmon with Capers, Lemon & Rosemary

A dash of wine, a squeeze of lemon juice, a light sprinkle of rosemary and a few capers are all it takes for a calorie-light weeknight dinner that takes minimal fuss to prep and cook. It barely takes 10 minutes to prep the entire thing, and you actually get to wash up while the oven is doing its magic. A most delicate way of treating salmon, we mopped up every last drop of the clean-tasting clear broth.

Ingredients (feeds 2):
300gm salmon fillet, sliced into 2 equal fillets
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced (if using dried rosemary, use only 1 tsp)
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 lemon slices
4 tbsp white wine (I used a dry chardonnay)
1 tbsp capers

1) Wash and pat dry salmon, placing it in a tray.

2) Marinade salmon with rosemary, olive oil, lemon juice, wine, salt and freshly ground black pepper for 10 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven at 205 degrees Celsius (400 degree Fahrenheit).

3) Turn the salmon fillets once for a thorough marination at the 5-minute mark.

4) Place salmon fillets, skin-side down, on a large piece of foil that's been folded into a boat, placing 2 lemon slices on top of each fillet, and sprinkling the capers over the entire fish. Thereafter, use another piece of foil to cover the boat, sealing it into a covered packet.

5) Bake for 25 minutes and remove from oven. Remove top foil (be careful of gushing steam when you do) and serve.


Spathe Public House

The Great Singapore Sale is now on, and we wanted to stay away from the shopping hordes at Orchard, and so, we thought to go to Spathe along Mohammed Sultan for a very late brunch. The used-to-be-trendy Mohammed Sultan enclave on the city fringes is near enough to home, but has a sleepy, laidback vibe that's so different from the frenzy of the Orchard shopping belt.

On weekends, Spathe offers brunch all the way to 5pm, which is conducive for people like us, whose weekends only start after we wake in the late afternoon. While Spathe's brunch isn't exceptionally phenomenal, there were a couple of dishes that stood out. Plus, the $15-odd pricing for most brunch items made their grub very much more palatable.

In addition, service here was quite impressive; the staff were charmingly spontaneous and, in contrast to most local staff, actually capable of witty repartee.

One major draw, though, was the lack of a hipster crowd that plagues most brunch spots. I'm sure this point is quite the enticement for patrons who are deterred by the presence of such pretentious fops.

A must-try here, and our personal favourite is the Eggs Mushroom ($16), a fungi version of eggs benedict with a couple of perfectly poached eggs stacked atop sauteed mushrooms and a thick buttery brioche, and draped with a velvety well-rounded hollandaise sauce. This was really excellent, and I hear from the staff that the outstanding brioche was baked by their in-house master baker.

The Wild Mushroom Omelette ($14) with mesclun salad, was choc-a-bloc with juicy mushrooms, but it still fell a little flat. It just lacking that something-something, and seemed like something I could easily whip up in the kitchen.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding ($12) with vanilla ice-cream and whipped cream was commendable, though not quite as luscious as the one at The Disgruntled Chef. The cake was fluffy and airy, and the less-than-very-moist texture was cured by the pool of torched caramel sauce, but it was missing that intense richness I'd have liked.

The Chocolate Mocha Cake ($8) also passed muster, with a nuanced sweetness and moist-enough texture.

Spathe Public House
8 Mohammed Sultan Road #01-01
Tel: 6735 1035
Open daily from 11am to 11pm
Website: www.spathepublichouse.com


Grilled Miso-Honey Glazed Salmon

The Hubs has been complaining that I'm making him fat, so I've been cooking a lot of salmon. It's a super healthy source of protein, low in fat and packed with all the good stuff that makes you glow. In addition to being super healthy, salmon isn't as intimidatingly difficult as I'd imagined. The miso-honey glaze makes this dish appear a lot more impressive than it actually is, while orange juice lends a bright citrusy zing.

The key to doing the fish justice is timing; the general rule is 10 minutes total cooking time for every 1" thickness of salmon, and if you follow this rule, you'll never overcook your fish.

Ingredients (feeds 2):
300gm salmon fillet, sliced into 2 equal fillets
1.5 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp orange juice (no pulp, and preferably unsweetened, otherwise, reduce honey to 1 tsp to balance out the sweetness)
1 tsp light soy
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 cup water

1) Wash and pat dry salmon, placing it in a tray.

2) Mix miso, honey, orange juice, light soy and mirin together, and schmear the marinade over the salmon for 10 minutes.

3) Turn the salmon fillets once for a thorough marination at the 5-minute mark.

4) Heat a non-stick grill pan at medium high heat, and place salmon fillets, skin-side down, for 3 minutes. Don't touch the fillet when the skin is searing, it will dislodge itself from the pan when ready.

5) Turn over the fillets and grill for another 5 minutes. This is how you get those charred grill marks.

6) After the fillet is turned over, add remainder of the marinade to the grill pan, together with 1/4 cup water to thin it out a little, and let it cook with the fish.

7) Transfer fish to a plate, together with the sauce, to serve. If sauce isn't of desired thickness, let it cook in the pan until sufficiently thick, before serving with fish.


Fish & Co, Paragon

I used to frequent Fish & Co back in the day when I was a perpetually-broke undergrad. It may not be at the top of the league table, but they do know their fish and can be relied upon for a worthwhile and affordably decent meal. 

I was very amused by their recently-implemented Smile-or-Free-Drink policy. Apparently, if you catch your server not smiling, you're entitled to call them out on it and a fizzy drink on the house. Perhaps, that's why the servers were all so smiley, but not in that creepy, frozen smile way. Maybe just a smidge too smiley compared to the usual service staff but they did seem genuine and friendly. 

A newly launched appetizer, the Crispy Whitebait ($5.95) coated in a thin batter, and sprinkled with flavourful herbs and spices, was surprisingly elegant. This was good on its own without the tartar sauce.

A luxed-up rendition of their classic, the London Fish & Chips ($17.95) is done with cod in place of the standard dory fish. I much prefer the oily richness of cod anyway, and that fantastic lemon butter sauce enhanced the clear flavours of the cod with its contrasting bright and creamy accents. Special mention must be given to the chips here, they'd fried it in some kind of really awesome fat, making it really tasty and addictive.

The perfectly moist Baked Ginza Salmon ($19.95) was encrusted with umami furikake, and finished with zesty balsamic vinaigrette.

Fish & Co
290 Orchard Road
Paragon B1-35
Tel: 6733 0938
Open daily from 10am to 11pm
Website: www.fish-co.com


Sun with Moon Japanese Dining

A long-time tenant of Wheelock Place, Sun with Moon Japanese Dining is one of those places that astounds me with its longevity. With food that's painfully amateurish and pitifully child-sized, I have no idea how this mediocre Japanese restaurant lasted this long. Or gained such a loyal following. Granted, their food's very accessibly priced, with most mains averaging well below $20, but I still left feeling like I'd wasted both my money and calories. Props to the marketing team behind the conceptualization of the menu though, it was key in crafting a very misleading idea of the food actually served. Ironically, I might have not given such a scathing review if my expectations of the food hadn't been so heightened by the beautifully photographed menu.

The Salmon Fillet Steak ($13.80) burnished with teriyaki, was served alongside tater tots, a lone broccoli floret and the most gauche spaghetti ever done. It was stringy, droopy and memorably awful. The dish would have been better off without the spaghetti, because the salmon was actually passable. It was grilled just right, and fairly fresh.

It was telling that the best part of the Beef Sirloin Steak ($16.80) was the crisp garlic sprinkles. The beef, marinated in garlic soy, was supposedly medium rare, but as you can evidently see, arrived medium well done. On the upside, I really got to work my jaw chewing on the beef.

I didn't think they could muck up beancurd, but the Tofu Kaisen Ankake Nabe ($13.80) was dunked in a gloopy, insipid gravy and littered with overdone, mushy prawns.To be fair, the mushrooms were pretty decent.

Sun with Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe
501 Orchard Road
Wheelock Place #03-15
Tel: 6733 6636
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 12noon to 11pm;
Fridays & Saturdays from 12noon to 11.30pm
Website: www.sunwithmoon.com.sg


Braised Pork Belly

I've been wanting to try my hand at Peranakan cuisine for the longest time. The Korean halfling Hubs is also half-Baba and babi pongteh is one of his favourite foods, so I've been scouring the internet researching Peranakan recipes. Since babi pongteh is possibly one of the least complicated of all the typically time-consuming and notoriously intricate Peranakan recipes, I thought it'll be a good starting point for my virgin foray into Peranakan cooking.

So anyway, I followed some recipe extracted from some famous cookbook but somehow, I ended up with something that tasted more like a crossbreed of tau yu bak and babi pongteh. It's still really yummy (the Hubs devoured it all, so you know it's got his stamp of approval at least) so I'm just gonna call this my recipe for a generic Braised Pork Belly. Akan datang for the actual babi pongteh recipe (coming up as soon as I can wrangle someone's family heritage one).

Ingredients (feeds 4):
500gm pork belly, picked off all hair from the skin-side (use a tweezer), blanched in scalding water (to rid the heavy "porky" taste), sliced to 1"-thick cubes, and marinated in thick black soy for at least 4 hours (I marinated this overnight for about 12 hours for a full-on flavour)
3 shallots, sliced finely
7 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 tbsp tau cheo (fermented soya bean paste)
1 tbsp light soy
2 tbsp thick black soy
40gm gula melaka
2 russets, cut to 1" cubes
2 tbsp oil (1 part sesame and 1 part canola)
2 cups water

1) Fry shallots in sesame-and-frying oils until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2) Add garlic and fry till fragrant, about 1 minute.

3) Lower heat and add 2.5 tbsp tau cheo, letting it toast for a minute to release its fragrance.

4) Add 2 tbsp thick soy and 1 tbsp light soy and toss quickly with the rest of the aromatics.

5) Turn up heat a little and add pork and fry for 2 minutes. Careful not to let this burn.

6) Add 1 cup water.

7) Turn up heat to high, add gula melaka cube and stir to let it melt in the broth.

8) Add another cup of water to cover the top of the pork and bring to a rolling boil before lowering to a slow simmer for at least 1.5 hours for that melt-in-your-mouth texture, checking every half hourly to top up the water if necessary. Add potatoes to cook through during the last 15-20 minutes. Longer if you prefer mushier potatoes.

9) Serve with white rice, the sauce is too good not to be paired with rice.

Variations: Add about 10 shitakes or Chinese black mushrooms, or 100gm sea cucumber for texture.

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