Sabio by the Sea

Despite the rather underwhelming dinner I had at Sabio at Duxton Hill a while ago, I decided to give its Southern outpost a shot after my friends suggested the seaside bistro for brunch.

Far from the maddening after-work crowd of the Duxton Hill branch, Sabio by the Sea is appreciatively more relaxed. Of course, the expansive view of the marina and rhythmic lapping waves were key to a leisurely enjoyable brunch. Oh, and the multitudes of the most adorable dogs walking on by with their walkers made for a very fruitful dog-watching afternoon! Be sure to make reservations though. The small-ish seafront restaurant fills up quickly on the weekends.

We started off with the Paella de Pescado ($26), the classic Spanish seafood rice with squid, seabass, mussels, clams and shrimps. The saffron-infused rice was a riot of colours, moist and sumptuous with the essence of seafood. Not the prettiest of paella I've seen but the flavours were bang on.

The Champinones al Ajillo ($13) was heady with fragrant garlic and olive oil and bursting with earthy wholesomeness. So simple but so good.

The Tortilla Espanola con Chorizo ($14) was a thick omelette packed with soft potatoes, fresh onions and smoky chorizo.

The Croquetas ($13) was a quintet of crisp breaded mash potato tubes dripping with chewy manchego cheese.

The Gambas al Pil Pil ($17) was my favourite tapas, bouncy prawns sizzled with garlic, red peppers and olive oil

The Pincho Moruno de Pollo al Ajillo y Queso ($16), a duo of succulent chicken skewers draped with manchego cheese, was drizzled with a chilli-ed garlicky olive oil.

A must-try dessert, the Pastel de Mantequilla Salada Caramelo de Lava ($16), a lava cake with molten salted caramel paired with caramel ice-cream and biscuit chips. Absolutely divine.

Sabio by the Sea
#01-02 Quayside Isle
31 Ocean Way
Tel: 6690 7568
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 12noon to 10pm;
Fridays & Saturdays from 12noon to 12midnight;
Sundays from 10.30am to 10pm
Website: sabio.sg


The Concerto Connoisseur, Keppel Bay

We'd originally wanted to hit up Takumi for one of their value-for-money set lunches but they were closed for renovations, so we popped into The Concerto Connoisseur next door. The vantage view of the Sentosa waterfront and Keppel Bay afforded by its second storey locale of the Keppel marina makes for a very calming tranquil lunch. It's one of those places that I'd be perfectly content parking my butt at, nursing a drink, and pouring over a good book. And I kind of get it now why some folks prefer to live by the water, instead of in the buzz of the city center.

But, its arresting scenic view and serene ambience is where the superlatives end. The food here was pedestrian at best, and abysmal at worse. Service was sluggish too. Maybe the staff just so happened to take an early siesta.

The insipid Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad ($19), laden with a way-too-soft-for-my-liking 63" egg, bacon strip, tomato confit, wild salmon roe, several strips of uninspiringly grey-ish hued smoked salmon and baby romaine lettuce, was tossed in a rather generic caesar dressing, and topped off with parmesan shavings and a garlic toast.

The similarly vapid Wild Mushroom Risotto ($24) was garnished with a couple of king oyster mushroom chips and parmesan shavings.

The Vegetable Broth ($13) was surprisingly decent, with a mellow sweetness that belied its grungy sppearance. This was garnished with sauteed chilli mushrooms, and organic quinoa and polenta cake,

The Cafe Latte ($7) was averagely characterless as well, lacking in body and depth. Still, it was a worthwhile shot of caffeine.

The Concerto Connoisseur
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay #02-02A
Tel: 6276 1223
Open daily from 11am to 11pm
Website: www.theconnoisseurconcerto.com


Osaka Ohsho

After those fantastic gyozas from Gyoza Ya, we went on a little gyoza binge of sorts. I'd also heard about another gyoza specialist, the Osaka import Osaka Ohsho. The open-concept dining space in the basement food street of Raffles City Shopping Centre was teeming with diners when we arrived for dinner but turnover was high and we didn't wait very long before we were seated. Ordering is streamlined by a self-serviced iPad-based menu system, but we would have liked to be automatically served some iced water instead of having to badger the waitress repeatedly.

The Gyoza ($7.80 for 12 pcs) was decent but it was a little heavy on the chives and a smidge light on the pork. Naturally, the stellar ones at Gyoza Ya trumped these hands down. Also, this seemed a tad production-lined, in that it arrived barely 5 minutes after our orders were keyed in, with them all still stuck together.

BUT, the bright shining star of Osaka Ohsho was the Fuwatoro Chicken Tenshin Han ($10.90), a seemingly innocuous mound of the fluffiest scrambled egg ever clouded over pearly grains of rice and diced chicken bits. This went swimmingly well with the pool of delicate brown sauce. For this alone, I would return.

The lackluster Pork with Green Pepper ($9.90) was laced with waaay too much ginger, and waaaay too little pork. This left me feeling a little shortchanged on the lack of pork.

Osaka Ohsho
Raffles City Shopping Centre #B1-75
252 North Bridge Road
Tel: 6338 5584
Open daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm
Website: www.osakaohsho.com.sg


Cat & the Fiddle

I'd heard so much about the online venture by the founder of Bakerzin, whimsically named Cat & the Fiddle, so when we were thinking of ordering a cake for a friend's birthday, I immediately thought of this cheesecake e-retailer!

Only cheesecakes are offered at Cat and the Fiddle, but its diversity is mind-boggling. From the locally-loved durian infusion to the PG-18 vodka mango cheesecake, there's a flavour catered to just about every whim and fancy.

We got the Paws of Fury ($26.64), a spin off the Hongkong classic yuan-yang drink of coffee and milk tea. I loved the graphic of the cats encircled in a yin-yang position.

Gorgeous swirls of heady coffee made for a marble-like facade.

The cake was just divine, rich but nuanced, moist and an exquisite balance of the tea and coffee infusions. For sure, I'll be ordering from them again.

Cat & the Fiddle
Website: www.catandthefiddle.com


Gyoza Ya

I used to wonder how any restaurant could sell just gyozas and survive in a cutthroat F&B line. To me, gyozas were merely a side dish, and not the main attraction.  Until we chanced upon Gyoza Ya in the basement of The Heeren. We were shopping for some housewares at Robinsons when we chanced upon this gyoza-centric restaurant.

They had the most amazing gyozas I've ever had in my life. Gargantuan and bursting with juicy goodness, we loved them at first bite and actually went back again in the same week to dabao dinner!

We loved the service here, in particular this spritely young waiter who's a bundle of sunshiny joy to be around. For the first time in my life, I actually thought that he ought to be tipped!

The perennial classic, Yaki Gyoza Pork ($4.80) was a mouthful, measuring almost 2 inches long. A beautiful caramelised crisp edge, juxtaposed against the chewy sides, enveloped a wonderful textural pork mince laced with cabbage and chives.

A seasonal special, the Yaki Crab Gyoza ($7.80) was heightened by lashings of red crab meat. This was notably sweeter, but we preferred the pork rendition for its more "neutral" accents.

A must-try is the Jya Jya Men ($6.50), the Japanese take on the Shanghainese zhajiang mian. Thick flat hand-pulled noodles were topped with a plummy minced meat, pickled cucumber strips and chives. You drizzle as much vinegar and chilli oil you like, and toss the entire thing to even it all out. This was absolutely smashing. It was light, piquant and spicy, and danced on the tastebuds like the most dreamy ballet.

That's not all, apparently. So, you leave a few strands of noodles behind, and the staff will give you an egg to break into, and top it up with additional noodle boiling water, before you stir it all up into a sludge. It may not look like much, but oh was the egg slurry glorious.

The Nikujyaga ($4.80), a side dish of comforting beef stew was just as scrumptious. It was rich but mellow, and just incredibly wholesome and hearty.

Gyoza Ya
Robinsons Orchard #B1-02A
260 Orchard Road
Tel: 6737 5581
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm



Portico has recently changed hands. Where in the past they were helmed by a Greek Hagrid-lookalike, it's now charged by a local whose experience in the kitchen of Saint Pierre mirrors that of his predecessor.

Walking into the sun-drenched Portico for lunch, I'm reminded of how cool and sustainable their in-house herb and vegetable garden is. Just about every dish was garnished/comprised of their own garden produce.

So how does Portico fare under the new direction? Reasonably fair, I think, with bits of tiny disappointments scattered here and there. BUT, if you take into account how unbelievably cheap their set lunch is, at only $28 for a very substantive 2-courses, the food immediately ups a notch, or two.

Service has stayed pretty awesome. Warm, hospitable, and so accommodating. As usual, we name-dropped our friend's relationship with the owner, who comped our dessert and then some!

The Salad-of-the-Day (ala carte price $14) was a well-balanced medley of elderflower compressed coloured watermelon, rosemary feta cheese, kalamata olives and mesclun greens.

The Forest Mushroom Broth (ala carte price $12), on the other hand, was a little too heavy with the woodsy essence, despite being cut with silken tofu and zucchini and mushroom vegetable pearls. 

The Miso Crusted Salmon (ala carte price $24) would have been better marinated throughout, and with a crisp, not limp, skin. That said, the curried sauce was excellent, and provided a spiced contrast with the rich fish. Crispy puffy tteokbokki rice cakes and pickled vegetables sided this.

The Chicken Leg Confit (ala carte price $24) was superb as well, succulent and flavourful and fork-tender. This was set atop a mound of braised purple cabbage, maple-scented sweet potato puree, and drizzled with a mildly spiced chicken jus.

Their much-raved about Fish & Chips ($21) did live up to the hype. Seabass is used here, which I love for its meaty but flaky texture and clean and clear taste, encrusted in a thick batter. The crushed peas were scented with mint for a lively countenance, and curled fries completed the ensemble.

Our complimentary Creme Brulee, nuanced and burnished with elderflower plucked fresh from the garden, and so huge it needed all 6 of us to finish.

991B Alexandra Road #01-10
Tel: 6276 7337
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 11.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 9.30am to 3pm
Closed on Mondays
Website: portico.sg


Chalk Farm

There's this part of Paragon that I try to avoid...and it's the basement quarter where Chalk Farm is at. Everytime I walk past it, I invariably walk away with a couple of their cakes in hand. I have no self-control when I'm at Chalk Farm, and it's doing terrible things for my resolution to lose weight. At this rate, I'm just gonna have to resign myself to letting out all of my pants.

Of all  Chalk Farm's cakes I've had, the Salted Caramel Macadamia Cake ($8.50 per pc) is my favourite. The crumb cake was moist and dense, and smeared with oodles of indulgent salted caramel butter cream. This was just as luscious as it was dreamy.

The Hubs isn't as big a fan of salted caramel as I am, so his vote goes to the Blackcurrant Cheesecake ($9), a wonderfully balanced and sumptuous confection smothered in a thick layer of berry compote.

Chalk Farm
290 Orchard Road
Paragon B1-K5A
Tel: 6235 2872
Open daily from 10am to 10pm
Website: www.thechalkfarm.com


Keisuke Tokyo, Suntec

It'd been disappointing when Keisuke Tokyo closed down at Parco Millenia Walk because their signature crab stock ramen had been on my to-eat list since forever. So when they re-surfaced at the overhauled Suntec City Mall, I made sure a trip downtown was in order.

Compared to the other Keisuke outlets, this branch is more modern, with lots of pine paneling and Japanese minimalist tendencies. Here, tables are also spaced further apart than at the other cramped Keisuke outlets, so the ambience was noticeably less buzzy. But a lot more private. You're unlikely to find yourself in the middle of other patrons' conversations.

On another note, the dinner service was unusually slow for a Keisuke affiliate. Although the restaurant was barely at a 80% capacity, it was about 20 minutes after that our first bowl arrived. And where the complimentary beansprouts appetizer was usually served straight after the orders were taken, we had to specifically request them here, to quell our rumbling tummies.

Oh oh, by way of a PSA (read: public service announcement), Keisuke Tokyo is located on the second level at the convention centre end of Suntec. For those driving, park at the blue section of the enormous carpark. You're welcome.

For some reason, the Crab Stock Ramen with Egg ($15.90) was reminiscent of our local lor mee, in that the eggs noodles were flat and thick, and the consistency of the broth was thick and viscous. The soup base was bisque-like, intensely sweet and robust but its cloy leanings got a tad saccharine halfway through. For me, this was a one-time-and-done kitschy and unique take on the traditional ramen. 

The Niboshi Ramen with Egg ($15.90), also another Keisuke creation, was a dried fish based stock ramen. This was overwhelmingly umami, so even the crisp rawness of the onions couldn't shake off the pungent dried fish overtones. Clearly, this wasn't something I'd ever order again. To date, I think that their chicken leg ramen at Keisuke Tori King trumps all other Keisuke ramen.

Keisuke's also branded their twist on the classic coke, a Japanese Green Tea Cola ($3.80), a fizzy, refreshing, green tea-accented soda. This was instrumental in balancing out the rich stickiness of the ramen dishes.

We love Keisuke's complimentary Marinated Beansprouts, so crisp and clear and simply seasoned with sesame seeds and oil and salt. That said, we also noted that unlike the other Keisuke outlets, this doesn't serve complimentary hard boiled eggs either.

Keisuke Tokyo Ramen
Suntec City Mall #02-391
3 Temasek Boulevard
Tel: 6337 7919
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: keisuke.sg


il Lido

il Lido is one of those restaurants that oozes class and elegance in an effortless, understated way. Of course, being perched on a hilltop replete with a magnificent view of the turquoise waters and encircled by lush greens goes some distance in making this a luxurious oasis away from the buzz of the city.

Service was as you'd expect from a fine-dining establishment, impeccable and discreet but attentive. I'd casually mentioned that we were celebrating a colleague's birthday, and they'd planned a surprise birthday cake, illuminated by a single candle, for him. Even I was taken aback because the surprise was so unexpected. But appreciatively so. 

To top it off, the food was fantastic; masterful and exquisite. Best of all, the portions were pleasingly hearty. So even with the upmarket prices, I thought the meal was thoroughly worthwhile. 

Shortly after we were seated, we were served not one, but TWO, amuse bouche! First off was a cup of Porcini Mushroom Soup laced with roasted barley for a little crunch, dusted with nutmeg for levity, and swirled with balsamic for a faint piquancy.

Next up was the Truffle Arancini, a miniature riceball crowned with a truffle shaving, intensely fragrant and wonderfully textured.

The Bread Basket of tepid crusty rolls was so good, we actually finished up them all. No mean feat considering the amount of food we'd ordered.

A tip for the wallet-light: get the extremely value-for-money 3-Course Set Lunch ($38), complete with an amuse bouche and coffee or tea. The daily soup option was a Cream of Asparagus, smooth and thick, fragranced by a splash of truffle oil.

The daily choice appetizer was a melt-in-your-mouth Beef Carpaccio, simply flavoured with shavings of parmigiano and wisps of microgreens and arugula, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

An ala carte menu item, the Green Asparagus & Truffle Casserole ($28) was a bright green soft-boiled egg slurry weaved with garlic croutons and diced asparagus.

For the mains, the pasta-of-the-day was a soft and chewy Homemade Penne with Pumpkin Squash and truffle sand, homey and sweet and mellow.

The daily fish was a perfectly Grilled Halibut with grilled root veggies, a light-as-air pomme puree and brown jus. The crisp of the skin was contrasted by the soft moistness of the flesh.

Off the ala carte menu, the Mushroom Risotto ($35) stirred with stracchino cheese, and topped with shimeiji mushrooms and micro-cress, was sumptuous. A word of caution to small eaters though, this was massively portioned!

The daily dessert option was a Vanilla Panna Cotta, a wobbly cone of delicate cream, balanced by the tart-ish strawberries.

Some of us swopped out the daily dessert for a sweet on the ala carte menu. It was really nice that we were allowed to do that. The Banana Brulee ($18) was sweetened with salted caramel and sided by a rich coconut gelato.

The Hazelnut Coulant ($18) was rich but nuanced, and juxtaposed with a spiced chocolate gelato.

The complimentary birthday cake, a Tiramisu Moderno ($18) was an excellent rendition of the classic Italian confectionery. This was at once heady, creamy and moist.

Another ala carte menu item was the Italian Cheese Platter ($28), a fine selection of the blue, fontina and parmigiano varietals. Dates, fig compote and some rustic garlic-rubbed toast were on hand to help mop up every last bit of the funky cheese. 

il Lido
Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866 1977
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.il-lido.com
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