Alexandra Village Food Centre

We're slowly eating our way through Alexandra Village Food Centre, a sprawling hawker centre that's most active weekday afternoons. Most stalls cater to the working crowd drawn from the factories/offices nearby, so while the stalls are inundated with long snaking lines of the lunch hour crowd, it's really the best indicator of which stalls to patronize. 

Hong Kong Yummy Soup

I see a lot of OLs ("office ladies") here. The steamed soups are about the most nutritious food you can get in a hawker centre, where lard and oil and salt are chief components of a chef's repetoire. The soups are more rustic than what you'd get at a fine-dining restaurant, or at home, but hey, at about $4 a bowl of steaming wholesome goodness, who's complaining? The Spare Ribs Soup with Winter Melon ($3.50), brewed for its "cooling properties", is wonderfully delightful in our sweltering heat.

Stall facade for reference

Hong Kong Yummy Soup #01-51


Leon Kee Claypot Bak Kut Teh

The KL-styled Bak Kut Teh ($4.50), thick with the herbal tones of dang gui, wasn't as heady as I'd expected. I prefer this, as the robust ones tend to give me pounding headache. The pork ribs were tender and lined with fat, maximising juiciness. A necessary accompaniment, fried dough fritters ($1) were on hand to soak up the porky soup.

Leon Kee Bak Kut Teh #01-18
Open Thursdays to Tuesdays from 8am to 10pm; Closed on Wednesday


106 Nasi Lemak

The Nasi Lemak ($3.50) was pretty decent; fluffy rice fragrant with coconut was topped with fried chicken wing that was succulent and crispy, a semi-fried egg that still had runny yolks, and a mildly spiced otak. Loved the punchy sambal that was as sweet as it was spicy.

Stall facade for reference

106 Nasi Lemak #01-12
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 10am to 7pm; Closed on Sundays


Alexandra Village Food Centre
Blk 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1


Krua Chao Baan, Koh Samui

There are 3 premier seafood joints in Koh Samui, Sabieng Lay, Tarau Samui and Krua Chao Baan, the last being the most prolific. It'd been highly recommended by friends, and it was right on Lamai Beach where we were staying.

The open-air restaurant is a rustic scenic seafood shack along the seashore (try saying out loud ten times), so even in the heat of the day, breezy with a faint scent of sea spray. Like any other seafood joint on Thailand's beaches, prices are marked up for tourists and spice levels watered down. Still, the price points are cheaper than what we're offered in Singapore, the seafood's swimmingly fresh, and Thai food deliciously authentic. In any case, be sure to ask for "really spicy" if you want a truly authentic Thai flavour.

The Fried Pork with Chilli & Basil (THB150/S$6) was moist and robust and punchy. 

The ubiquitous Tom Yum Kung (THB150/S$6), generously dotted with fresh bouncy shrimp and straw mushrooms, was a tingly lively balance of the spicy and sour.

The Green Curry with Chicken (THB150/S$6), sumptuous and creamy, was laced with plentiful green beans, baby corn, baby eggplant and cauliflower for crunch.

A must-try, the Deep-Fried Snapper with Garlic & Pepper (THB400 per kg/S$16) had beautifully crisp skin, and still moist flaky flesh. We picked this clean off the bones.

The Prawn Phad Thai in Omelette (THB135/S$5.50) was just so-so, but immediately elevated by copious lashings of the excellent green curry gravy.

Krua Chao Baan
438/18 Moo 1, Maret
Lamai Beach 
Koh Samui
Tel: 077-418-589, 087-893-7766, 089-009-5560
Open daily from 10am to 10pm 


D9 Cakery, Hilton Singapore

D9 Cakery is the reincarnation of Checkers Deli, the in-house patisserie of Hilton Hotel. They've been renowned for their luscious cheesecakes for as long as I can remember. The bakery is now spiffier, and in addition to the classic American cheesecake, they now offer up to 8 variants of their bestseller, but my take is to stick to the classic; I didn't think their fruity variants were as outstanding.  A tip here for the peck-ish, they've complimentary truffles and pralines for sampling!! Hur!! (In case you can't tell, the cheapo Singaporean in me is whooping for joy right now)

The Pineapple Cheesecake ($8) fusion was a little odd, and I thought the pineapple overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the cheese.

The Blueberry Cheesecake ($8) fared better; the blueberry accents were complementary rather than competitive.

D9 Cakery
Hilton Hotel Singapore
581 Orchard Road
Tel: 6737 2233
Open daily from 9.30am to 9.30pm


Culina Enoteca Dempsey Bistro

Culina, the expat butcher of choice, has finally ventured into the bistro business. Whereas they previously were just a gourmet grocer cum butchery, Culina now serves up a fairly extensive menu of European cuisine. Their flagship bistro is located in the lush Dempsey Hills, facing the similarly-conceptualised Jones the Grocer. But unlike the inconsistent, middling fare at Jones the Grocer, we thought the food at Culina was well-executed and refined; a delicate hand had been employed to highlight the sparkling freshness of the ingredients here. 

The Pan-Roasted Atlantic Cod ($33) was stellar, moist and flaky and torched with just the right amount of caramelization. Sauteed endives, wilted spinach and crunchy hazelnuts lent texture, while a luscious brown butter sauce accented with capers provided libation.

The Crispy Skinned Ocean Trout ($32) was beautifully done, paper-crisp skin, and soft flaky flesh. This was accompanied by a fennel, sundried tomato, cucumber & dill salad, and a drizzle of basil dressing

The Pan-Roasted Iberian Pork Rack ($40), lip-smackingly juicy, was complemented with the most divine jus, softened by a creamy mustard & cider butter, and braised kale.

The Beef Brisket & Portobello Mushroom Pot Pie ($32) was well-rounded, hearty and heftily portioned.

But, I wish they were just as generous with the gravy as they were the beef; there wasn't enough gravy to mop up the buttery pastry top. 

The Truffled Mac & Cheese ($18) hit all the right flavour points but was unevenly yoked. The top layers were a bit dry, while the bottom was flooded with bechamel. We had to toss this up on our own.

A favourite staple of mine, the Pan-Fried Mixed Mushrooms ($8) was just earthy wholesome goodness.

The complimentary Bread Rolls were superb; crusty, fragrant and piping hot.

Culina Dempsey Bistro
Blk 8 Dempsey Road #01-13
Dempsey Hill
Tel: 6854 8703
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 9am to 8pm;
Sundays and PH from 9am to 6pm
Website: www.culina.com.sg


L'entrecote the French Brasserie

The Hubs' been feeling more like 'The Tubbs' lately, so we thought we'd cut out carbs for the week. Our first attempt at a carb-free diet was dinner at L'entrecote, a French steakhouse renown for offering just 1 dish - steak and fries. To be as successful as it is, over just a single offering, is no mean feat, so we thought their steak had got to be something special.

It was ironic then, that the steak turned out disappointingly pedestrian, while the carby sides fared fantastically. So much for our diet plans...it apparently tanked spectacularly...oh well! On the upside, the price-points were affordably-mass-market and wallet-friendly. Just be sure to tamper your expectations accordingly.

Service was a tad surly, and inexplicably, hurried. They kept returning to clear our plates despite my clear intention to nibble through my rice and cheese languidly. It was quite the throwback to my childhood, when I was pressured to finish my dinner fast.

The Entrecote Steak ($29.90 for classic), trimmed and served with a mustard-tinged gravy, and shoestring fries, was nice in an amateur-ish way, and far from outstanding. And, despite the menu's claim that the sauce was "legendary", I thought the mustard's sharp bite overwhelmed the steak.  

The Walnut Salad, a ride-along to the steak, was pleasant, but also uninspired.

The Le Bar ($17), a moist flaky seabass fillet with a medley of steamed root vegetables and a delicate lemon butter sauce was pretty decent. I thought the vegetables were superb, mostly because the butter coating was simply luscious. 

We opted for a premium alternative of Truffle Fries (+$3 for unlimited flow) to the usual fries, which was superb as well. Wonderfully aromatic and crisp.

The other white meat, Le Poulet ($14), a succulent roasted chicken fillet, was sided by an amazingly addictive buttered rice and steamed vegetables. I'd return just for the rice alone, it's that awesome.

Cheese aficionados will love the Le Fromage ($20), a slab of aged brie accented with black truffle and accompanied by a bunch of walnuts and crusty baguette. This was just glorious, the heady fragrance of truffle balanced out by the sharp pungency of the cheese.

The Coulant Caramel au Beurre Sale ($15) of salted butter caramel lava cake sounded promising, but was more kueh-like than cake-like. Really mediocre stuff. They'd run out of ice-cream so we got this with a moist warm gooey chocolate mousse instead.

L'entrecote the French Brasserie
Suntec City B1-128
Tel: 6690 7569
Open daily from 11.30am to 9.30pm
Website: lentrecote.sg


Antoinette, Mandarin Gallery

It's a little-known fact that dessert specialist Antoinette also serves up a worthwhile brunch. They've recently refreshed their menu, and while signature mainstays like their egg-cellent egg gratin have been retained, they've added a couple of newbies that are absolutely smashing. Best of all, their breakfast eggs are available all-day, all-week.

The Fried Eggs with Ratatouille ($16.50), choc-a-bloc with tomatoes, onions, zucchini and peppers, was sided by silky ribbons of serrano ham, crusty levain bread and balsamic-dressed mesclun.

The L'oeufs en Meurette ($17.50) was a duo of poached eggs swimming in a delicate red wine sauce littered with bacon lardons, sauteed mushrooms, and pearl onions. Toasty levain bread were on hand to mop up every last bit of the sauce, while the house salad lent a piquant contrast.

The Wagyu Agnolotti ($28) of pasta pockets stuffed with ricotta, blanketed in a wagyu beef ragout and showered with parmigiano shavings, was rustic and hearty.

333A Orchard Road
Mandarin Gallery #02-33
Tel: 68369209
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: antoinette.com.sg


Henri Charpentier

Henri Charpentier, the famed Japanese patisserie chain, landed on our shores with much fanfare. The fuss has since subsided, so we thought it time to pay a visit. The French-inspired cafe is really gorgeous, in that princessy girlie way, with soft drapes, bright fuchsia hues, cushy recliners and romantic candlelight. Add to that the lush greenery of Dempsey Hill, and I can see myself whiling the time away here at Henri Charpentier while nursing a pot of tea and lapping up a good book.

The charming little cafe has truly beautiful desserts, but taste-wise, was a tad underwhelming. After all the hype about it being Japan's premier patisserie, I was expecting to be blown away. I was expecting a little more finesse, and a lot more nuance. And at just over $100 for 4 persons, I don't think my expectations were too lofty. My take is to get the cakes, which are more value-for-money at about $10 a pop, rather than the fancy schmancy theatrical Singapore-only creations.

I thought the Matcha Opera ($9) layered with white chocolate ganache, almond sponge steeped in matcha syrup, and matcha butter cream was a smidgen saccharine, but a galfriend thought this was perfectly balanced.

The Dome ($29), a chocolate sphere enclosing a chocolate parfait biscuit of fraise d'amande, sounded really impressive and grand.

It was lit up with a minty eau de vie, melting away the sparkly ball.

BUT, the resultant mess, finished with strawberry sauce, was lackluster, and clunky.

The Flower Temptation ($25), a tower of caramelised pineapple saute, dark and caramel chocolate semifreddo mousse, and a sugar bowl flambed with triple sec, was pretty decent, and this got a friend's hearty stamp of approval.

My pick of the lot was the Aquarium ($23), a dainty fish-bowl of vanilla cream nestled with chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries and crunchy chocolate-coated nut clusters, while a hot passionfruit caramel sauce dissolves the chocolate film cap.

The chocolate and peanut-dotted ice-cream is popped into the entire concoction. This was sumptuous but balanced.

Henri Charpentier
9A Dempsey Road
Tel: 6479 5518
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.henri-charpentier.com


Ippudo, Shaw Center Lido

Shaw Center has been under renovation for the longest time, but the once-sleepy, terribly-aged mall is slowly coming back to life. The new tenant-mix is predominantly food-related (always a big draw with food-crazy locals) and new restaurants have recently started sprouting. Amongst them is lauded ramen great Ippudo, with their 6th store joining the stable. 

Ippudo is one of my all-time favourite ramen joints, but I've always found it a turnoff to have to queue at their Mandarin Gallery restaurant. It's great news then, that they've spawned a few more branches, including this Shaw Center one, to ease the crunch at their Mandarin Gallery outlet.

I like that this Shaw Center outlet isn't too packed (yet), so service is consequently more attentive and personalised. For a casual(ish) ramen spot, Ippudo's service is refreshingly top-notch. 

Our favourite ramen here, the Spicy Black ($16) was a heady mix of miso paste with minced meat, topped with tender pork belly and shoyu braised egg. We opted for the "hard" noodles, which we find to be the only variant with bite.

We luxed up the ramen with a Special Topping ($9), comprising a melty pork cube, simmered bamboo shoots and crunchy cabbage strips, and an extra Tamago ($3).

A new feature on their menu is the hotplate items, and the Umakara Ton Toro ($12) a sizzling hotplate of juicy pork cheeks sauteed with cabbage, chillis and spring onions, was punchy and spicy.

After all that spice, the Edamame ($6), with its clean and clear flavours, was a welcome palate cleanser.

1 Scotts Road #04-22
Shaw Center
Tel: 6235 2547
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: www.ippudo.com.sg


Phad See Hiew Moo (Stir-Fried Kway Teow with Pork)

This is a Thai classic that's strongly influenced by Chinese cuisine. Plentiful greens enliven this noodle dish with a riot of colours, while upping its nutritional content.

Ingredients (feeds 1-2):
1 cup fresh kway teow
1/2 cup pork, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh bok choy, unpacked, sliced to 2" lengths
1/3 cup carrot, julienned
1/3 cup baby corn, sliced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, cut to 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, cut to 1/2" cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp light soy
1 tsp maggi seasoning (skip this if you prefer)
1 tsp sugar
Dash white ground pepper
1/2 tsp thick black soy
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp canola or soy bean oil

1) Marinade kway teow with 1/2 tsp thick black soy and dash of pepper.

2) Marinade sliced pork with 1 tbsp corn flour, 1 tbsp chicken stock, and set aside. The pork will "dry" up.

3) Mix sauce comprising 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp light soy, 1 tsp maggi seasoning sauce, 1 tsp sugar, and dash of pepper. Set aside.

4) Heat oil in frying pan. Add eggs, and scramble.

5) Add garlic to saute until fragrant.

6) Add pork and 1/4 cup chicken stock, stirring until pork cooked through, about 30 seconds.

7) Add bok choy, carrot, baby corn, peppers and 1/4 cup chicken stock, frying for about 1 minute. 

8) Add noodles, and stir fry about 30 seconds.

9) Add sauce, stirring through quickly. Serve with lime wedge, chilli flakes, ground peanuts.


Marche, 313 Somerset

It's been ages since I was in a Marche. Back in the early 2000's, there was just the one Marche at Heeren and that used to be the teen hangout du jour. Just about every outing with college mates included a visit to Marche. Fast forward a decade, and Marche has long lost of its hip quotient, the appeal of its self-serviced, upscale marketplace restaurant having faded into near obscurity.

That said, their rosti remains one of the best around, which probably explains how Marche actually has 6 branches(!) in Singapore. (yeah, I was just as surprised at that revelation too!) A word of caution though, the queue at the rosti counter is the longest; we stood in line for a good 20-odd minutes just to place our orders. But, it was fun watching the chef deftly flip the potato cakes over and over.

The Rosti with Coarse Pork Sausage ($13.40) laden with melted Cheddar Cheese ($2.90) and a Fried Egg ($1.90) was a perfect breakfast-food option for dinner. The rosti was done fantastically, soft potato strips crisped to a beautiful crusty golden.

There are at least 3 different varieties of sausages, and this was the Rosti with Garlic Pork Sausage ($13.40), topped with sour cream for a refreshing lift. 

313 Orchard Road
313 Somerset Discovery Walk #01-
Tel: 6834 4041
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11am to 11pm;
Fridays from 11am to 12midnight;
Saturdays from 10am to 12midnight;
Sundays from 10am to 11pm
Website: www.marche-restaurants.com/en


On The Table

Brunch spot hottie and Lola's Cafe-affiliate, On The Table, recently refreshed its menu. Many of their popular mainstays have been retained, but they've added a couple of pasta options to keep big eaters sated.

The Mushroom & Cheese Sandwich ($10), layered with a creamy bechamel mushroom saute, melted mozzarella, and caramelised onions squished between buttery fluffy brioche, was delicious. This was served with a tangy balsamic mesclun salad.

The Tomato Swimmer Crab Linguine ($16), laced with plentiful shredded crabmeat, was tempered with a garlicky tomato cream sauce and peppery rocket leaves.

The Chicken Harissa Bolognese ($14), spiked with harissa for a mild heat, and fresh cherry tomatoes for maximum juiciness, was tossed in a garlic tomato sauce.

The Truffled Bacon Mac & Cheese ($11) was pretty good, the elbow pasta perfectly cooked, the truffled cheese sauce crusted a beautiful golden at the top, and dotted generously with bacon.

An oldie but goodie, the Bangers & Mash ($9) was a duo of juicy pork sausage and bratwurst, draped over homemade potato mash and slathered in an oniony peppery brown gravy.

Their freezer was spoilt that day, but the Waffles ($7), sans any ice-cream, was still pretty yummy.

Their Latte ($5), delicious as usual, was thick, robust and frothy.

On The Table
118 Pasir Panjang Road
Tel: 9780 8094
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 8am to 10pm
Saturdays & Sundays from 10am to 10pm
Closed on Mondays
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