Mrs Pho

Mrs Pho is the one of the many in the wave of hipster restaurants gentrifying the Kampong Glam enclave. At first blush, a little Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall may not sound hipster, but the low-frills eatery, tricked out to look like a Vietnamese alleyway, is kitschy and artificial, almost gaudy. That said, it does resemble at the street stalls of Vietnam. Just a lot spiffier.

Though a squishy tiny place, service is speedy, friendly, and helpful. Our dishes arrived barely 5 minutes after orders were taken, in quick succession. The traditional fare at Mrs Pho may be a little clunky, but had a rustic, homestyled, authenticity to it.

The Hubs loved the Cha Gio ($3) Vietnam's answer to the Chinese spring roll. A lovely chunky texture, with wonderfully juicy porky flavours.

The Nem Nuong ($3.50) purportedly "Mama's secret recipe" of Hanoi pork meatballs, were decent, but failed to leave an impression, in light of the most amazeballs minced patties in Hanoi just earlier this year. 

The Pho Ga ($7.90), a classic chicken noodle soup, loaded with an extra poached egg in broth, Trung Ga ($1), was delicate enough, but missing in richness of depth. A tip is to ask for extra lashings of basil and mint, essential in making it all come alive.

The Bun Bo Hue ($7.90), a hot and spicy beef noodle soup laden with stewed beef that was so-so, and a fantastic Vietnamese ham, was robust; its heartiness heightened by refreshing mint and basil leaves.

A must-try, the Bun Bo Xao Sa ($7.90), chilled rice noodles tossed in a peanut-onion dressing, and topped with beef slices stir-fried with lemongrass, was superb. This, with its clean and clear and crisp flavours, called for a revisit. 

The Chanh Muoi ($2) a salted plum and lime juice made for a refreshing thirst quencher in the stifling heat of the afternoon, and Ca Phe Sua Da ($3), iced Viet coffee sweetened with condensed milk, was a bold and heady pick-me-up.

Mrs Pho
349 Beach Road
Tel: 6292 0018
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11am to 10pm;
Closed on Sundays 
Website: www.mrspho.com


My Little Spanish Place, Bukit Timah

My Little Spanish Place is yet another restaurant that sprouted from the ashes of now-defunct Santi. Located along Bukit Timah, embedded within the row of shophouses adjacent to Coronation Plaza, this cosy spot is homely and charming. In part credited to the gregarious familiar service. And that impressive jamon bar. Also, I found it so winsome that, when informed of my aversion to parsley/cilantro/coriander, the manager actually came over to commiserate. Hey, we of the OR6A2 gene have to stick together! Our shared hatred of these herbs, alone, is a plus point for My Little Spanish Place, in my book. Hur

No visit to My Little Spanish Place is complete without indulging in their jamon, of which they have 5 types. The most luxe, the Joselito Guijuelo Iberico Bellota ($25 for 25gram serving), cured for a whopping 48 months, was decadent but so worth the cholesterol.

The Gambas al Ajillo ($16), fresh sweet shrimp sizzled with olive oil, fried garlic chips, and chilli pepper, was lovely, and that umami gravy was most sumptuous.

The Croquetas ($12) stuffed with jamon nubbins, cream, and mash, was excellent on its own. I thought the aioli was a bit 'extra' - the croquettes were creamy enough.

The Tortilla de Patata con Aioli ($10), a thick, dense potato omelette layered with onions, and sided by aioli, passed muster, but was forgettable.

A breakfast staple, the Huevos Fritos con Chorizo y Patatas ($18) of fried eggs with chorizo and potatoes wasn't at all what I expected. What I expected was a breakfast hash of sorts, but this was really just a mish-mash of thick fried chips, fried chorizo dice, and a fried egg sunny side egg, strewn together. Rather disjointed and jarring.

My Little Spanish Place
619 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: 6463 2810
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 6.30pm to 11pm;
Saturdays & Sundays from 11am to 3pm; 6.30pm to 11pm;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.mylittlespanishplace.com.sg


London Fat Duck

There's been a slew of roasted duck heavyweights launched over the past few months; London Fat Duck being one of them. Part of the Akashi Group, this casual Cantonese eatery marks the Japanese-centric group's first foray into Chinese cuisine. Here, the unique selling point is the use of Irish duck, renowned as the "wagyu of ducks".

The small-ish restaurant doesn't take reservations at this point in time. As expected, there are long queues at peak dining hours. So I suggest dining at an inopportune time or hold off till the new-ish gleam of the restaurant dulls and the crowd fizzes out. If you're inclined to wait in line, turnover is high and service expeditious (albeit frenzied), so unless you're dining in a large group, waiting times don't exceed half an hour.

Long queues aside, the Scotts Square tenant is an occupiers-liability lawsuit waiting to happen; the floors were so oily that, even with my rubber-soled heels, I had to hold onto the Hubs for support. It was a nightmare walking in and out.

The food was a bit of a hit-and-miss. The Signature London Roast Duck ($12.80 for regular) was gamey and chewy and dry. Terribly disappointing, considering its signature dish status. Suffice to say, we didn't finish this.

The Barbecue Pork with Honey ($14.80) was absolutely smashing. Beautifully caramelized with a sticky honeyed glaze, and meltingly luscious, this was perhaps the best char siew I've had in a while. I'll return just for this.

The Hongkong Wanton Noodle ($6.80) was decent, if a little pedestrian. The shrimp dumplings were juicy and bouncy, while the noodles had a lovely bite.

The London Roast Duck Noodle ($7.80) was better on its own, plain, without the duck, which was double whammy with its gamey taste and lean breast cut.

London Fat Duck
6 Scotts Road
Scotts Square B1-16
Tel: 6443 7866
Open weekdays from 11am to 10pm; weekends and PH from 10am to 10pm
Website: www.londonfatduck.com.sg


Li Bai Mooncakes

I may have ranted about this before, but really, it's become frustratingly difficult to hunt down snow skin lotus paste mooncakes these days. I'm a traditionalist, so like rice dumplings, I like my mooncakes traditional. But wow, has it become near impossible to find lotus paste-flavoured mooncakes, with just about every restaurant trying to out-do the other with new-fangled creations. Aren't these durian/ice-cream/chocolate/alcoholic mooncakes just mooncake-shaped cakes?!

Anyways, we managed to find my favourite snow skin lotus paste mooncakes at the venerable Li Bai, a Cantonese restaurant that's the very bastion of classic traditionalism. Even so, out of the 10 or so mooncake options, there was only one that was of the snow skin lotus paste variant.

These White Lotus Seed Paste Mini Mooncakes with Salted Egg Yolk ($56), dotted with golden raisins, were perfectly nuanced. These mint green babies were so addictively good, I devoured half the box in one sitting.

Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant
39 Scotts Road
Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel Lower Level (the hotel sometimes calls it the "ground floor" or "level 1" but for the avoidance of doubt, it's actually the basement 1)
Tel: 6839 5623
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch;
Daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 10.30am to 2.30pm for lunch


Com Nam Vietnamese Street Eats

Com Nam is the sister restaurant to Nam Nam. Located next to Nam Nam at Raffles City, its menu is centered around rice-based dishes. But, unlike the never-ending queues at the pho-oriented Nam Nam, Com Nam hasn't quite taken off. There's hardly a queue to get into the self-serviced eatery. Perhaps the "broken rice" concept isn't quite as distinguishing as Vietnam's national dish - the comforting pho.

The Spicy Beef Rice Noodle Soup ($9.90), loaded with beansprouts, and pork balls, was a robust mix of tangy and spicy flavours, but let down by the tough chewy thick slices of beef and undercooked beansprouts.

A must-try, the Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe ($10.90), swaddling thick slices of tender pork belly, and succulent prawns, was excellent fodder for fresh lettuce, pickled radish and julienned cucumbers. Skip the beansprouts, these had an undercooked alkalinity.

Another excellent option was the Napa Cabbage Soup ($5) sweet and delicate, and choc-a-bloc with bouncy juicy squid balls.

In contrast, the Squash Soup with Pork Ribs ($5) was middling; the pork ribs were dry-ish and soup base lacking in depth.

A beloved Vietnamese street snack, the Crispy Shrimp & Sweet Potato Fritters ($6.50) was pretty authentic. Now, if only they'd make a deshelled version.

Com Nam
Vietnamese Street Eats
Raffles City B1-46
252 North Bridge Road
Tel: 6334 7377
Open daily from 8am to 10pm



Bochinche is our new favourite restaurant. And not just because of their $10 Happy Hour offers. The hearty Argentinian cuisine is a meat-lover's dream; the convivial atmosphere buzzy and lively; the personable service warm and welcoming - overall, a winning formula for the full-house most nights. 

Argentinian cuisine may not be known this part of the world, but it's really just Mediterranean-influenced South American fare. The typical Argentinian diet is beef-centric, with lots of Spanish flavours, and the grill being the favoured style of cooking.

Reservations at boCHINche are advised, especially if dining in groups of more than 2 persons. If possible, try to hit up the restaurant before 7.30pm on weekdays, the wines are $10 a pop till then - an excellent (and extremely affordable) way to unwind after a hard day's work.

We've been here twice in under a week, so you can tell we really like it here. Another thing I appreciate about Bochinche - the chef always apprises the market price of the fish-of-the-day BEFORE confirming our order for the same.

A fantastic nibbler, the Iberico Cold Cuts ($21) comprises slivers of lomo, chorizo, and 30 months' shoulder charcuterie, freshly baked bread, and vegetable pickles.

The amuse bouche was a duo of fried tapioca balls sided by a spiced aubergine dip. Think giant bubble tea pearls, just deep fried. These were wonderfully chewy, and its plain simplicity was contrasted with the subtle sweetness of the stewed eggplant.

A must-try starter, the Caramelized Pork Belly & Grilled Prawns ($18) with sweet potato puree, pork crackling, and chorizo, was robust and flavourful.

Argentinian steak is a bit of a cross between Australian beef and USDA Prime; the grass-fed, free-range, perfectly medium, Ojo de Bife Ribeye ($55) was so sumptuous it rendered the mustard-tinged peppercorn sauce redundant.

The melt-in-your-mouth Malbec Braised Ox Cheeks ($23), was paired with a velvety truffle mash, succulent house-made chorizo, and a luxurious malbec sauce.

The meaty-but-juicy Iberico Pork Chops ($42), glazed with mustard and honey for a sweet-salty finish, was simply accentuated by a caramelized apple chutney.

For a meat-oriented restaurant, their grilled market fish is awesome. We've had their fish twice, and twice now, we've been blown away with their treatment of fish. The first Catch-of-the-Day we had was a whole Flounder ($45), burnished with rosemary, sea salt and blistered lemon.My only gripe, strictly as the world's laziest bum, was in respect of the fish's bones.

Another Catch-of-the-Day, a Seabass Fillet ($50) was a massive slab of perfectly grilled fish, also simply gilded with rosemary, sea salt and lemon.

The French-originated Malbec is Argentine's best-known wines, and you can't go wrong getting a glass or two (or three) of their Happy Hour Malbecs. Between the Circus 2014 Malbec ($10), a medium-bodied berrylicious red, and the Rutini Trumpeter 2014 ($10), a lighter velvety red, I thought the Circus was most complementary to the beef.

22 Martin Road #02-01
Tel: 6235 4990
Open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 5.30pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Fridays from 5.30pm to 1am for dinner;
Saturdays from 11am to 4.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 1am for dinner;
Sundays from 11am to 4.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: bochinche.com.sg


Spicy Sesame Noodles

Spicy sesame noodles, an amalgamation of western preferences and traditional Asian flavours, is a staple of most Chinese restaurants in the States. Like most of my recipes, this is a cinch to make, and because it can be served hot or chilled, prepped way beforehand on busy weeknights.  

Ingredients (feeds 6 pax):
a packet angel hair pasta, dunked in salted boiling water and drained
8 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp peri peri sauce
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp chilli oil
1 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp light soy
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp five-spice powder

1) Fry garlic in olive oil until just turned a shade darker.

2) Turn off the heat and whisk together the sesame oil, chilli oil, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, peri peri sauce, soy, and five-spice powder.

3) Toss the drained pasta in the sauce and serve with sprinkling of sesame seeds.

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