Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Gorgonzola and Baked Eggs

This is a brunch-friendly dish that's really easy to whip up, as long as you can get a reliable sous chef to assist with the dicing (the Hubs had to redo his batch after a quality control inspection). An added bonus is that melting the gorgonzola into a puddle of cheesy melty goo makes the stinky blue cheese an excellent introduction to cheese virgins.

Ingredients (feeds 5-6):
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes (I used a mix of yellow and purple ones - they look prettier this way)
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt (flavoured salts are fine too; I used a cabernet salt)
Gorgonzola (switch it out for regular mozzarella, ricotta, or feta if you prefer)
Eggs (apportion 1 egg per person)

1) Toss diced sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt and spread it out onto a baking pan, making sure it's well-oiled and sufficiently salted. Roast for 15-20 minutes at 190C until tender.

2) Remove pan from oven, and break eggs in separate sections, crumbling as much gorgonzola as you'd like all over the pan. Roast for a further 7-8 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are set and the yolks slightly runny. 


Jim Thompson

At first brush, Thai-based Jim Thompson may appear to be just another homeware retailer in the Dempsey Hills lifestyle enclave, but the multi-hypenate chain actually houses a restaurant. Set in a beautiful black-and-white colonial, amongst lush gardens, and basking in the glow of twinkling lights, the restaurant is striking. But that's where the superlatives end.

Service was well-meaning, but inefficient and sluggish. The staff to customer ratio was higher than at Tamarind Hill, but service was slower at Jim Thompson.

The food was lackluster, far from authentic, and depressingly watered down, probably to indulge the large proportion of Caucasians frequenting the restaurant. Notwithstanding the abysmal fare, the restaurant was still a full-house on a mid-week evening. Packed with business-types. I think, Tamarind Hill would have left a far better impression on business associates.

A major bummer: the mosquitoes infesting the restaurant. I sat indoors, an air-conditioned but open-door-ed space, and still got bitten all over my legs.

The coriander-laced Goong Hom Sabai ($20) of mushy prawns swaddled in a rice paper and yellow egg noodles, was deep-fried to oblivion. The tasty plummy chilli dip did little to save the overdone appetizer.

The Khao Phad Nam Lieb ($20) of rice fried with black olives and minced chicken, sided by raw shallots, lime dice, cashews, and chillis, was one of two dishes that actually passed muster, this had a good amount of flavour and char.

The Gaeng Panang Neau ($24), a sumptuous panang curry with Australian beef tenderloin, coconut cream, and crushed peanuts, was also commendable, but I would have appreciated it served piping hot, instead of tepid.

The Phad Grapow Gai ($22), stir-fried minced chicken with straw mushrooms, garlic, birds eye chilli, and holy basil, should have been punchy but it was disappointingly vapid.

The Pla Ga Pong Daeng Thod Gra Tiem ($22), deep-fried red snapper fillets blanketed in an aromatic garlic sauce, was let down by the less than sparkling fresh fish. The muddy taste of the fish overwhelmed the lovely sauce.

Jim Thompson Thai Restaurant
45 Minden Road
Tel: 6475 6088
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 12midnight
Sundays from 12.30pm to 11pm


Gourmet Greens Week 2015 Food Trail

Food tours are de rigueur on my travels. I've found that joining a food tour is the most authentic way to get to know a country, as guides bring you around to their favourite food haunts, away from tourist traps, all the while providing an unadulterated insight of a local. 

I've never done one in Singapore (why would I ever need to anyway??), so when the FoodNews PR people invited me on a Gourmet Greens Week 2015 Food Trail around our little island, I thought, why not? It'd be fun to do one of my little island, and I may discover new foodie gems! Besides, I'd been toying with the idea of implementing a vegetarian diet once a week, so the food trail's spotlight on vegetarian fare was perfectly opportune.

For the week of 23 - 29 November, participating restaurants will offer a 4-course set lunch at $30, and 4-course set dinner at $45, with a complimentary bottle of FIJI Water (I mean, if you were going to eat clean, you may as well go all the way and avoid Newater, right?) thrown in for good measure. This is Restaurant Week, vegetarian edition. Our food trail brought us to 5 restaurants, to sample a dish from their set menus specially curated for the upcoming Gourmet Greens Week. For a full listing of the 17 participating restaurants, go to Chope Reservations here.

First stop was Humpback, an affiliate of Sugarhall and Jigger & Pony, that I've been wanting to visit. Humpback, as it suggests, is seafood-centric, but they sure don't skimp on their vegetable menu.

The Kale Chips with Sunchoke done three ways, pureed, fried, and raw, was enlivened by a honeycomb drizzle. The saccharine richness of the honey helped mitigate the bitter tones of the kale. Despite the asymmetrical plating, this was wonderfully balanced.

Next stop was OSO Ristorante, which I last dined at 2013. I wasn't particularly impressed then but this tasting warrants a second shot. It helped that the chef was such a charmingly cheeky fella, you couldn't help but take to his effervescent personality.

I don't like eggplant, but the Oven-Baked Parmigiana Eggplant with tomato sauce was quite the game-changer. This was meaty but meltingly soft, delicate but rich in flavour. I think I'll insist on all eggplants cooked this way from hereon now.

Burlamacco marked the mid-point of the food trail, which I liked very much the last time I was here, save for the unfortunate incident of inappropriate service.

A signature here, the Uova al Pomodoro, of 3 eggs perfectly poached in a garlicky arrabiata sauce redolent of thyme and oregano, was just as outstanding as I remembered.

The penultimate stop (and the last of the savouries) was at Humpback sister restaurant, Sugarhall, which I love, so it was terribly disappointing to find out that they no longer catered for takeaways. A customer complaint about his packed food giving him food poisoning, and several others whining about their packed food being terrible, was the rationale for the change in policy regarding takeaways. Oh these imbeciles really screw things up for the rest of us reasonable folk. What did you expect when you take away food from a restaurant?!?!?!?!?!?!? Packed food will NEVER be as good as what you eat at the restaurant itself, moron. (which is why I don't review takeaway food) And if you choose to eat your packed food three days past its 'fresh before' date, then you only have your pathetic dumbass self to blame. In this particular case, Sugarhall had no other complaints of in-house diners suffering from food poisoning that night, so the problem lies with the customer who packed food home, and not with the restaurant. *Ok, rant over*

So, we had a Beetroot Tartin, with pecans, fricassee, and mascarpone cheese. I don't usually eat beetroot because I find its taste jarring, but this was refreshingly nuanced.

Last stop for the night was Pepenero, whose management was recently taken handed over to the owners of Burlamacco, and which I'd just dined at just last week (stay tuned for the review).

The Zabaglione Ice-Cream Semifreddo with amaretti biscuit crumble was a dynamite contrast between the crunch of the biscuit base, and the smooth wobbliness of the icy cream.

So hurry and make your reservations for Gourmet Greens Week, exclusively with Chope Reservations, a collaborator with FIJI Water for this inaugural event, now!

My thanks to the people of FoodNews PR for the invite and the various restaurants for hosting.

Gourmet Greens Week 2015


Paddy Hills

The west end of Singapore is frequently denounced for its lack of laudable cafes. However, I've noticed a trend, in recent years, a surge in cafes opened in the west, like On The Table, W39 Bistro, and now, Paddy Hills.

The corner tenant of a row of gentrified shophouses, Paddy Hills occupies the very same spot previously helmed by Lim Seng Lee Duck Rice (aka that South Buona Vista Road duck rice). Walking into the industrial chic space, you couldn't imagine an open-air-ed old-school coffeeshop hawking braised duck rice if you weren't here before. Hipsters abound, of course, but I've seen the occasional basic adults drawn from the hinterland.

The bistro is run by a lean workforce, but, for a place that doesn't have any service charge, service was fantastic - smiley and efficient. In contrast, I get charged the standard 10% service charge for bleagh service elsewhere. Another perk, no GST either! 

That said, my grouse was mainly regarding the menu, it tended towards unnecessary and wasted pretense. If a menu requires Dr Google's assistance to make an informed decision, that's far too much posturing. I mean, how many regular people know what bagna cauda is??? Or even how to pronounce it?! (btw, it's "baɲɲa kauda", a hot Piedmont dip made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter, and eaten in a similar manner to Swiss fondue) Also, a girlfriend took issue with the mispresentation on the menu. What was named 'Hash Hash' with a description of "sauteed beef, mushroom, chorizo, doughstick and sous vide egg" turned out to be a beef bak kut teh. Calling a dish "hash", she said, and I quite agree, implies that the whole jin-gang is sauteed, as you would a breakfast hash. A soupy bak kut teh IS NOT a hash. Strip away the pretense, I think, and re-direct the effort to the food. That's what draws in the crowds anyway.

Food-wise, it was a hit-and-miss averaging on decent, and occasionally bordering on so-so. Methinks Paddy Hills would make a pretty worthwhile option if you're in the area, but I don't think the food was excellent enough to warrant travelling from afar. At least the 'westies' get yet another brunch place that negates the need to travel to the east!

A must-try, the Berry Ricotta Hotcake ($23), adorned with blueberry sugar, pinenuts, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, yuzu gel, and maple syrup certainly made for a gorgeous plate. And it tasted as good as it looked. Thick, dense, but fluffy, these were the best pancakes I've had for as long as I can remember. Dollop the fragrant vanilla yoghurt for added texture.

The Quesadillas ($20) were stuffed with pulled duck and pickles, served with charred baby capsicum and sweet corn, and sided by a garlic aioli and guacamole. The quesadillas, in addition to being laced with parsley, were mediocre. My parsley-loving friend, who had this, said to give this a hard pass.

Despite the misleading name, the Hash Hash ($24) was a reasonably commendable and very comforting bowl of beef bak kut teh, especially now that we're ankle-deep in monsoon season. Meltingly soft and wonderfully fatty, the luscious hunks of meat could have passed off as pork if I hadn't been informed otherwise. I particularly liked the western twist of the sous vide egg, arugula leaves, and chickpeas.

The much touted Kimchi Fried Rice ($20) was middling, even with the perfectly wobbly sous vide egg, and medium-well tender steak. I've had better.

The coffee is not to be missed at Paddy Hills, and the Latte ($5.50), a frothy blend of creamy and robust, was just lovely.

Paddy Hills
38 South Buona Vista Road
Tel: 6479 0800
Open daily from 8.30am to 10pm


La Strada

It's been a while since we last visited La Strada, and the first time we've dined here since the new chef was installed. As expected, the menu's been revamped; the pastas and risottos have shrunk while the appetizers, meats and seafood have expanded. Bestselling signatures have remained, like the carbonara and tagliolini al granchio, but there's definitely a deliberate paradigm shift in the restaurant's approach to the menu. 

A bonus to our return: it's white truffle season! YUMS.

A seasonal special off the white truffle menu, the Piedmont Beef Tartare ($64) was perhaps the most exquisite rendition ever. Sumptuously full-bodied, a drizzling of olive oil, shavings of parmesan, and flecks of white truffle came together to make an elegant, flavoursome starter.

The Fritto Misto ($32), a melange of lightly battered shrimp, squid, fish, whitebait, zucchini, and eggplant, was deep fried to a golden perfection. A sundried tomato aioli added a refreshing piquancy.

A must-try appetizer, the Porcini ($26) layered juicy porcini flavoured with bacon lardo, thyme, and parmigiano, with an egg confit. Absolutely delicious smeared all together.

Another awesome appetizer was the Piadina ($28) of a fluffy char-grilled flat bread topped with shimeiji mushrooms, and silky ribbons of parma ham. So simple but so good.

For those preferring to eat clean, there's the Tuscan Chickpea & Kale Soup ($16), choc-a-bloc with root vegetables for sweetness set against a delicate backdrop of chicken broth.

A special of the day, the Grilled Seabass ($40) was done just right, seasoned with lemon, rosemary, and sea salt. It would have helped if this was deboned; we spent considerable effort picking off the bones from this.

The Pollo alla Cacciatora ($33) a Hunter-style chicken stew choc-a-bloc with carrots, mushrooms, and green olives, was comforting and rustic, but refined at the same time. We requested another serving of crusty bread to mop up that scrumptious tomato-based sauce.

The Saltimbocca alla Romana ($36), a veal scallopini swaddled in prosciutto, and sage, and slathered in a white wine sauce, was luscious.

The veal was sided by bowl of mixed greens served separately; a crisp and fresh counterpoint to the rich saucy meat.

The sauteed Mixed Mushrooms ($15) was simple but delicious.

The Risotto alla Porcini e Lumache ($32) with porcini mushrooms and romanzini snails, was beautifully done; each fat grain imbued with an earthy wholesome flavour.

A signature, and a must-try, the Carbonara ($28) 'guitar-string' pasta, with lardo crumble, egg confit, parmesan, and truffle butter, has made fans of every single friend I've brought to La Strada.

We finished with the Formaggio ($16), a trio of artisanal French cheeses paired with apricot jam, lavosh, and walnuts.

La Strada
1 Scotts Road
#01-11 Shaw Centre
Tel: 6735 6656
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.lastrada.com.sg


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] Sugarhall

This may have started out as an invited tasting (courtesy of the fabulous people of FoodNews PR), but I'm gonna take an aside and credit a foodie friend of mine, Izzy, for 2 of the best eats of 2015 (the other being Bochinche). She'd raved about the food at Sugarhall, a Jigger & Pony affiliate (and neighbour) and highly recommended the awesome roasted chicken.

As with all new-fangled restaurants in Singapore, Sugarhall had opened with great fanfare a little over a year ago, where the CBD-set swarmed and reservations weren't allowed. Now that the gleam has dulled somewhat, the crowds have dissipated, and reservations can now be taken for groups of 8 persons right at the last minute on a Saturday night.

It's a revelation that the restaurant is far from a full-house on a weekend night; Sugarhall's fare is fantastic, with every dish a slamdunk, and service is upbeat, knowledgeable, and gregarious. BUT, I have a supposition: the fact that the restaurant is 2 (or 4) or shades too dim may cause diners to think of Sugarhall as a watering hole that serves yummy nibbles, instead of a restaurant that serves superb cocktails. I would, audaciously, suggest that the restaurant brighten up (a lot) during dinnertime, and only turn down the lights (and up the music) sometime during last orders. That may lend some credibility to Sugarhall being a restaurant first, and cocktail bar second.

As per invited tasting S.O.P., we returned for a revisit the night before Halloween, which validated my initial thoughts about Sugarhall. The Hubs is now a big fan. Unless stated otherwise, the dishes herein-below are must-trys.

The fat and juicy Short Neck Clams, swimming in a broth sweetened by Tio Pepe sherry was mopped up with a nutty crusty bread. Delicious to the last drop.

At the revisit, the Hubs lapped up the Short Neck Clams ($18). He isn't a fan of clams, so the fact that he practically licked the bowl clean spoke volumes. Sparkling fresh and impossibly sweet, the concoction was spiked with birds eye chilli for a punchy heat.

The Broken Pork Sausage, made in-house, was wonderfully textured, complemented by the charred cabbage slicked with bonito butter. 

At the revisit, the subtle spice of the Broken Pork Sausage ($14) was enhanced by the sweet smokiness of the grilled cabbage burnished with bonito butter. It would be awesome if the cabbage could be offered as a side dish. It could totally stand on its own.

The Tasting of Beef comprised 3 slabs of 120gm meats. From left to right: Angus Black Onyx (Australia) Sirloin 360 days grain fed with a marbling score 3+; John Stone (Ireland) 21-days dry aged Ribeye; and John Stone (Ireland) 21-days dry aged Tenderloin. Perfect for sharing in a group if there's no consensus.

At the revisit, the Hubs observed that the Tasting of Beef ($76) was extremely well-priced, which I agree. Incredibly juicy, and intense with flavour, every mouthful was heady with smoky singe. We ate these unadorned, without the accompanying chimichurri sauce which was laced with parsley.

Although we didn't have this at the tasting, we were urged to order the Whole Spring Chicken ($32) at the revisit. This was indeed the best roast chicken we've had in a long while, even if the presentation of the head and feet might seem pretty gross to some. Brined in rosemary, this was luscious and succulent. So delicious, in fact, the cucumber yoghurt dip was rendered redundant.

The Burnt Carrots, glazed with Saint Maure cheese, and orange ginger, and finished with a cranberry compote, was so sweet it could pass off as a dessert. Great for the vegetable-averse.

At the revisit, the Burnt Carrots ($12) was very well-received by the Hubs, who loved the fruity, tangy, smoky accents lent to the root vegetable.

The Grilled Cauliflower (menu price $12), laden with a bacon puree, burnt butter, capers, and hazelnuts, was perhaps the only dish I didn't take to. Surprising, as I love cauliflower. I thought the butter was a touch too creamy and overwhelmed the delicate nature of the cauliflower.

Sugarhall offers a decidedly limited range of desserts, but what little they do, they do it well. The Baba au Rhum (menu price $14), a fluffy spongy confection drenched in a Jamacian rum syrup, was lavished with raspberries and whipped cream, and sprinkled with yuzu zest.

Like Jigger & Pony, the cocktails at Sugarhall are not to be missed, like the Legardo Rosa, a potent blend of Bacardi carta blanca, passionfruit syrup, and lime juice, finished with an egg white froth, angostura bitters and mezcal spritz.

102 Amoy Street
Tel: 6222 9102
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 6pm to 12midnight;
Closed on Sundays
Website: www.sugarhall.sg
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