Sundried Tomato Shrimp Risotto with cherry tomatoes and arugula

I'd leftover cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes from last week's fusilli, and thought I'd mix it up with some shrimp, and set it against a base of risotto using the bottles of shrimp stock in my freezer. Shrimp stock can be a little heavy, so I lightened it up with some chicken stock, and threw in a packet of rocket leaves to lend a mild peppery heat.

Ingredients (feeds 4-6):
2 cups arborio or canaroli rice
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 cup dry white wine (I'm partial to chardonnay)
4-6 cups shrimp stock
2-4 cups chicken stock
200 gm shrimp, deshelled, deveined and given the alkali treatment
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, minced
1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups unpacked arugula
1 cup parmesan, grated
Salt to taste

Optional: 1 tbsp lemon juice, lemon zest of 1 lemon to finish if shrimp stock too heavy

1) Fry onions in pre-heated melted butter until soft and transluscent, about 2 minutes on medium-high heat.

2) Add risotto and fry till toasty, about 1 minute.

3) Add wine, and stir until almost all absorbed, then add 1 cup stock (or enough stock to cover the rice), and stir until liquid all absorbed. Repeat 2-3 more times. Salt lightly. Salt every few steps, as you go along, to build the flavours gradually.

4) In the meantime, fry prawns with sundried tomatoes in olive oil until cooked through and toasty.

5) Turn down heat to very low, add parmesan and stir through until creamy.

6) Add arugula and whip through till wilted.

7) Turn off heat and add cherry tomatoes, tossing through. Top liberally with sundried tomatoes and prawns when serving.

Optional: For the seafood-averse, swop out the prawns with sausage. Remove casings, dice them up and fry 'em up lightly, taking care not to dry them out.

Cat & the Fiddle

Cat & the Fiddle should really start a loyalty program. My colleagues and I have bought 5 cakes from them in just 8 months. That's 1 cake every 1-2 months! We're taking every opportunity to buy their awesome value-for-money cheesecakes and going through their entire range.

For a birthday girl who loves her sour gummies, the zesty Maneki Neko ($33.90 for 1.1kg), with its tangy and refreshing notes of yuzu, mandarin orange, lemon zest and shredded lime leaves, is a sure-win.

Its tart and invigorating overtones were perfectly in sync with the rich creamy cheesecake base.

Cat & the Fiddle
Website: www.catandthefiddle.com


Bob's Bar, Capella

Bob's Bar is one of those places I could chill out at forever. The seascapes are gorgeous, foliage lush, and even in the heat of the afternoon, is breezy enough to hang out. And because the Capella is so resort-like, the resident bar seems worlds apart from the bustling citystate. I can understand why so many people take staycations here. There's such a wonderful holiday vibe about this place!

A major perk of chilling out here: the peacocks, peahens and peachicks milling about, in quiet companionship with us cityfolk. They come up real close, especially if you have peanuts on hand, but don't worry, they aren't aggressive.

Sleeping beauty...zzz

Even more adorable was this little family with triplet peachicks scampering along behind their parents.

The cocktails here are refreshing and cool. Clockwise from top: Virgin Bob's Fresh-Pressed Mojito ($19) with sugarcane, lime juice, organic mint; Windward Island Shake ($19) with orange juice, banana puree, vanilla honey and yoghurt; Painkiller Lite ($19) with fresh coconut water, orange and pineapple juices, and grated nutmeg; Fort Canning Spiced Soda ($19) with mango juice, angostura bitters, soda water and spice garden syrup

They heard we were celebrating a birthday, and comp-ed our Oreo Cheesecake, slathered in a yummy salted caramel sauce and topped with fresh blueberries and sugared pineapples.

Bob's Bar
Capella Singapore
1 The Knolls Sentosa Island
Tel: 6591 5047
Open daily from 12noon to 12midnight

The Fat Cow

The Fat Cow is the premier steakhouse of all things Japanese and wagyu. To be perfectly honest, I don't usually make the leap from 'steakhouse' to 'Japanese' because steakhouses are more commonly associated with America or Australia, but then I remembered that Japan gifted the world with wagyu and kobe, the most prized and luxurious of cows.

A little off the main thoroughfare of Orchard Road, and tucked away in a corner of the Camden Medical Center, the nondescript restaurant is an oasis of low-lit, pinewood-ed tranquility. 

The food's a mix of Japanese sashimi and anything bovine-related, distinguished by a distinctive Japanese twist. Every dish was flawless, exquisite and perfectly executed, but it all comes at a price that's eye-poppingly expensive and in portions that were depressingly petite. Little wonder, then, their set lunches are a lot more well-received than their ala carte dinner.

Reservations aren't really required, because it's a little out of the way, and because its upscale prices tend to attract a well-heeled minority, or people celebrating special occasions. We heard 3 separate groups toasting someone's birthday while we were there for dinner. Heard, not saw, thanks to the generous spacing of the tables and semi-private partitioning, which allowed for intimate conversations. So many restaurants these days have tables so squished up, I inadvertently hear about people's affairs, prostate exams and what-have-you salaciousness...it's not to say I don't enjoy hearing about people's private lives, but you know...I have trouble keeping a straight face when I hear some over-compensating balding middle-ager whining about "that gold-digging trophy of an ex-wife who took him to the cleaners". 

A must-try, the Tai No Kuro-Toryufu ($38) was a sparkling fresh sea bream carpaccio dressed in shoyu, kelp and black truffle.

The Kani Korokke To Tsukemono ($18), a duo of crispy golden crab cakes awash with Japanese mayo and served with kimchi, was moist and sweet. Excellent stuff.

The Wagyu No Yukke To Umeboshi-Miso ($34) was a well-seasoned beef tartare burnished with white miso, salted plum and sweet potato.

The Shabu-Shabu ($81) featured 100 grams of Grade A3 sirloin, alongside enoki, shimeiji, shitake, cabbage, beancurd, carrots and chili peppers, with sesame sauce and ponzu dips.

These were dunked in a copper hotpot of mushroom dashi that was delicate and refined. 

There's a wagyu marbling to suit every fancy. If you're a die-hard wagyu fan, get the Kuroge Washu Ohmi Ribeye ($120 for half-cut 150 grm), a Grade A4 marbling, and so meltingly tender even dentured geriatrics will find a joy to indulge.

If you like wagyu moderately, then the 'entry-level' Kuroge Washu Saga Tenderloin ($89 for half-cut 110 grm), at Grade A3, may be preferred. It's still decadently sumptuous, but doesn't get cloyingly fatty halfway-through.

For the traditionalists, the US Brandt Ribeye ($77 for 220 grm), renowned for being antibiotic and hormone-free, a truly sustainable ranch that only uses corn and alfalfa feed, and grain-finished for 365 days, boasts a full-bodied flavour. I love the beautiful char burnished on the beef.

The Donabemeshi ($78) of charcoal-grilled wagyu, with claypot rice finished with onsen egg and drizzled with shoyu, is for people who need their rice with every meal. This upmarket version of our local claypot rice was absolutely scrumptious.We were scraping at the bottom bits to get at every last burnt grain.

The Fat Cow
1 Orchard Boulevard
#01-02 Camden Centre
Tel: 6735 8836
Open daily from 12noon to 3pm for lunches; 6pm to 11pm for dinners
Website: www.fat-cow.com.sg


Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine

Our Hanoi travel guide recently visited Singapore, and we took the opportunity to show him around our little island city-state. He'd been instrumental in our new-found love for Vietnamese cuisine, and we wanted to inculcate a reciprocal love for our local cuisine. Turns out, our friend wasn't too keen on our spice-and-oil-laden signatures like laksa, chilli crab, char kway teow and hokkien mee. In hindsight, it made sense that a Hanoian, who's accustomed to light and clean flavours, would find our typical "national dishes" overwhelmingly robust.

It was serendipitous, then, that we suggested he sample Teochew fare, a Chinese dialect cuisine characterised by clear and delicate flavours. This meal alone changed his opinion of Singaporean cuisine; he couldn't understand, before, why everyone seemed to rave about Singaporean food.

We brought our friend to Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine, an anchor restaurant at the Teochew Chui Huay Lim Club. The Jumbo-affiliated restaurant was grand and opulent in a traditional chinnoisserie way. Reservations are strongly recommended; even on a Thursday night, they were operating at a full-capacity, mostly with towkay-types. It's easy to see why, the food was fantastic, especially the seafood.

Despite the full-house, service was efficient, warm and friendly in that sweet motherly way made familiar by the Crystal Jade & Imperial Treasure restaurant empires. Dishes arrived in quick succession, our water glasses were kept brimming, so even though my request to hold off any parsley/cilantro/coriander was inadvertently forgotten by the kitchen multiple times, I was okay to let that lapse go.

A must-try, the Teochew Puning Chicken ($16 for half) was balanced and muted, subtly accented by fermented bean sauce slathered over the plump and succulent free-range chicken.

The Deep-Fried Ngoh Hiang Rolls ($10 for small) possessed a lovely crunch, and chunky texture. If I had a gripe, it'd be that it was lightly laced with coriander.

Another must-try, the Teochew Braised Duck ($28 for half) was impossibly fresh, with a nuanced soy-based braise seeped into the moist tender meat, and smooth soft beancurd.

Seafood is integral to Teochew cuisine, and the Teochew-style Steamed Threadfin Tail ($52 80) was absolutely stellar. Swimmingly fresh, barely seasoned with a few salted vegetables, plums, ginger, chilli, mushrooms and tomatoes strewn about, this was simplicity at its most refined.We lapped up all of the wonderfully restorative broth.

The Braised Conpoy with Eight Vegetarian Treasures ($32 for medium) was just glorious as well, I loved the luscious velvety sauce, and the sweetness of the cabbage layered with a medley of dried scallops, enoki, Chinese black mushrooms, straw mushrooms, black moss, and carrots.

The Seafood Fried Mee Sua ($20 for small) was a commendable rounder, plentiful fresh prawns and squid, married together with a nice smoky wok hei.

Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine
190 Keng Lee Road
#01-02 Chui Huay Lim Club
Tel: 6732 3637
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner
Website: chlteochewcuisine.com


Rive Gauche Patisserie

I'd passed Rive Gauche Patisserie by while in the food basement of Takashimaya, with 2 misconceptions. One: I've always thought that it was French, but as it turns out, it's actually Japanese-owned. Two: I've always thought it was a chocolatier, but as it turns out, it's a patisserie. An underrated confectionery, it seems, but with a good-sized following that's enabled the outfit to last decades.

A signature, the Guanaja ($48 for 14cm x 19cm), is a sexy confection of dark chocolate mousse, dense chocolate sponge and crispy biscuit bed. Love how the gold specks glisten in the glow of the candlelight. 

It's heady and luscious, but nuanced because of its bittersweet nature and contrasting textures.

Rive Gauche Patisserie
Takashimaya B2-07
391 Orchard Road
Tel: 6887 4579
Open daily from 10am to 9.30pm

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower soup is one of my all-time favourite soups. The blended soup is mellow, comforting and fortifying. To spice things up, I've added a little curry powder to the soup. The curry powder lends a mild heat to the soup that elevates the sweetness of the cauliflower.

Ingredients (feeds 4-6):
12 cups cauliflower florets
1 potato, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
4-5 cups vegetable stock

1) Toss about 2 cups of florets with salt and olive oil. Roast cauliflower at 200C for  25 minutes till golden brown. Set aside, these will be used as toppings.

2) Melt butter in pan.

3) Add onions, and fry till transluscent, about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. 

4) Add curry powder and cumin, and fry till toasty, about 1 minute.

5) Add cauliflower and potato, and fry till slightly softened, about 2 minutes.

6) Add vegetable broth, bring to boil, and simmer till cauliflower is soft and mushy, about 7 minutes.

7) Transfer to a pot, and blend into a puree.

8) Salt to taste and serve with sprinkling of roasted cauliflower.


Fusilli with Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula & Parmesan

As you may be aware, I recently purchased a punnet of marusho tomatoes from Ethan's Gourmet, wonderfully juicy balls of pure sunshine. This easy-to-make dish is vegetarian-friendly, incredibly simple, and highlights the natural sweetness of the rainbow-hued tomatoes. And because it's so gorgeous, it looks a lot more pro than it actually is!

Ingredients (feeds 4):
400 gm fusilli
10 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups uncooked wild rocket leaves
2 cups marusho tomatoes, halved (regular red and yellow cherry tomatoes work in a pinch as well)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt to taste

1) Cook fusilli in salted boiling water till just underdone. These fusilli cook in 11 minutes, so I took them off the heat at the 9-minute mark.

2) Fry garlic in olive oil, about 1 minute on medium-heat.

3) Lower heat, add tomatoes, toss.

4) Add semi-cooked fusilli, toss for about 1 minute, coating each screw evenly with olive oil.

5) Turn off heat, add arugula, toss and let residual heat wilt leaves.

6) Salt to taste, sparingly, because you'll serve with sprinkling of grated Parmesan which will up the sodium content.


The Chop House

We had a thoroughly satisfying steak dinner at Wooloomooloo, so when invited to lunch at sister restaurant The Chop House, I jumped at it. Whereas Wooloomooloo is the upscale sophisticate, The Chop House is the modest laidback bistro. Prices are correspondingly reflective of the difference in quality of food, service and ambience.

The Chop House has a condensed steak menu, with only 4 options for red meat lovers. But with the massive 400-gram T-bone tipping the scales at just under 50 buckaroos, I thought, after tempering my expectations, the meats here were just as value-for-money as Wooloomooloo. 

Despite the many cautionary tales of the purportedly terrible food and awful service, my friends and I enjoyed our lunch here. The tip is to pick carefully, and stick to the burgers and steaks. I wouldn't wax lyrical about The Chop House, or rate it as a top steakhouse, but it's certainly far from horrible. I, and my friends, waddled away sated, and would consider The Chop House one of the more viable dining options at Vivocity.

If sharing an appetizer, I'd recommend the Chicken Quesadillas ($19) toasty tortilla pockets oozing with jack's cheddar, minced chicken and fresh diced tomatoes. This was served with a trio of dips: guacamole, sour cream and salsa pico de gallo.

A must-try is the Black & Blue Burger ($24) of juicy beef patty blackened with cajun spices, fresh tomato and crisp lettuce, and slathered in a slobbery blue cheese dressing. Hearty, and heart-stopping stuff. Of note was the tater tots, little crunchy morsels of carb-heaven.

I loved my USDA Prime Ribeye ($37 for 200gm), luscious, decadently fatty and beautifully charred, with sauteed potato, caramelised onions, and a robust black peppercorn sauce.

For a full-bodied flavour, get the Australian Grass-Fed Tenderloin ($30 for 200gm), perfectly moist, with grilled sweet corn-potato cake, sauteed spinach, and an armagnac-laced black peppercorn sauce.

If a little tight on budget and not too fussed about eating steak, the 2-Course Set Lunch ($19.90) would be quite prudent choice. The starter, a Creamy Onion Soup with caramelised onions, chives and garlic croutons was a little amateurish, but nicely balanced.

The main, a towering Bacon, Guacamole Chicken Burger, layered with melted cheddar and applewood smoked bacon was quite scrumptious.

The Chop House
Vivocity #01-161
1 Harbourfront Walk
Tel: 6376 9262
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 11pm;
Fridays, Saturdays & Eve of PH from 11.30am to 12midnight;
Sundays and PH from 11am to 11pm
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