Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar

Garibaldi is one of our two favourite Italian restaurants; the other being La Strada. A lauded old-reliable, it relies on good honest food that's elegant but not stuffy. And warm personable service that doesn't superficially or preferentially discriminate. Attributes all that have made, and kept, Garibaldi top dog in the local restaurant scene.

A seasonal delicacy, the Hokkaido Scallops with Truffle Emulsion & Chives ($68), plump and juicy, were sumptuously decked with Alba white truffles. A must-try if ever it's available.

Although slated as a dessert, the Selezione di Formaggi Italiani con Crostini e Frutta Secca ($22), an assortment of asiago, pecorino, and taleggio, trimmed with melba toast and a melange of accoutrement: dried apricots, fresh grapes, pear slices, and walnuts, was served right at the beginning of the meal with the starters. Ingenious move actually, so we get the entire meal to graze through the platter languidly.

A off-menu special as well, the Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Salmon ($18), aromatic with truffle oil, was wonderfully balanced. The salmon providing a salty counter to the delicate sweetness of the cauliflower.

The Linguine al Granchio ($38), sweet with lashings of fresh Australian spanner crab, was slathered in a potently rich tomato-vodka cream sauce.

The Risotto al Porcini ($32), an oozy concoction of al dente acquerello rice was pure earthy cheesy goodness. Fantastically finessed.

I'd shamelessly informed the staff it was our wedding anniversary, and they comp-ed dessert ($15 usual price), a lush chocolate mousse cake. What a lovely bonus to round off a perfect day.

The meal was already carb-heavy, as Italian cuisine tends to be, but we still wolfed down Garibaldi's freshly baked bread, fluffy, delicious and redolent of herbs and olive oil.

Skinny breadsticks that make for a most addicting crunch.

Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar
36 Purvis Street #01-02
Tel: 6837 1468
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.garibaldi.com.sg


Min Jiang, Goodwood Park Hotel

Min Jiang is one of Singapore's most venerable Chinese restaurants.  A long-time anchor of Goodwood Park Hotel, the celebrated restaurant is a favourite of finicky old grandmothers and exacting businessmen alike. Tucked away at the back of Goodwood Park, and swathed in shades of cream, and punctuated with pops of dark brown wood panelling, it's both sophisticated and understated.

Specialising in classic Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine, Min Jiang's food is conservative but not tedious. It's an oldie but evergreen goodie, where you'd go to for comforting familiar fare.

What struck me about the Prosperity Abalone Lo Hei ($78 for small) was how nuanced it was. Ingredients were pretty standard as far as yusheng went, but the julienned vegetables were compulsively even, and the honeyed-plum dressing was obsessively balanced. A supplement of Crispy Salmon Skin ($22) added dimension.

The riotous seafood salad before the mayhem.

An signature that's ironically off-menu, the Crabmeat Tofu ($44) was perhaps one of the best renditions ever. The thing with this sort of gravy is the reprehensible use of frozen crabmeat, but Min Jiang uses fresh crabmeat, thankfully. Sweetened by wolfberries, the crunchy broccoli lent crunch to the smooth egg beancurd ringlets.

Another signature here, the Roasted Peking Duck ($38 for small) was superb. Paper-crisp skin, with nary a trace of fat, was swaddled in soft egg rolls and burnished with sweet hoisin and fresh chives. The prawn crackers was a nice touch, I hardly see that served alongside peking duck anymore.

The remainder of the duck meat was used to fry up Eefu Noodles with straw mushrooms and yellow chives. Simple, straightforward but scrummy filler.

Another off-menu dish, the Deep Fried Sea Grouper with Sweet & Sour Sauce ($105 at $15/100gm) proved a hit. The fish, sparkling fresh, was lightly battered and fried to a delectable crisp, and served swimming in a pool of sweetly piquant gravy dotted with peppers.

The Mango Pomelo ($8) was sublime, smooth, creamy and refreshing.

The usual pickles were swapped with bak kwa coins, themed for CNY of course ($8.80). YUMS. We took off to Dubai during Lunar New Year so this was my first taste of bak kwa in a really long time, which probably explains why I didn't mind the exorbitant pricetag of 5 little grilled pork circlets.

A popular drink at Min Jiang, the Ingot Flower Tea ($8.80 per glass), was kitschily served as a tight coil, which unwinds with the introduction of scalding hot water.

Min Jiang
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
Tel: 6730 1704
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
Sundays from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Hapuku Lodge Restaurant, Kaikoura, New Zealand

We were initially apprehensive about having our meals in-house at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses. Tripadvisor's reviews were less than glowing, and several called the restaurant "overrated". So it was with relief, and pleasant surprise, that the food was extraordinary. Yes, ALL. From the simple homespun sandwiches in the cute picnic basket, to the formal, multi-coursed degustation dinner, everything churned out from Hapuku's kitchen was faultless.

Hapuku places a huge emphasis on fresh, organic produce; they grow much of their food in their own gardens and farms, and source locally for stuff they don't. Hapuku is the real deal, when it comes to the very on-trend farm-to-table concept dining.

The freshness of the produce comes through the food, and because Hapuku makes its own jams, stocks, bread, you really do eat cleanly. That said, eating clean doesn't read bland or insipid. The sparkling fresh produce is done justice by exceptional chefs, who create magic by whipping up contemporary cuisine with a flair for fusing flavours from the world over. It's comfort food for sure, but with a twist.

Daily breakfasts and a 3-course dinner are included in the room price at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses, save for special occasions like Christmas Day and New Year's Day dinner, which carry an additional charge of NZ$150+ per person for a wine-matched 5-course dinner.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Our first meal in Hapuku kicked off on a high note with an amuse bouche, a refreshing Basil Gazpacho with a garlic crouton. I'm not a fan of gazpacho, but the fact that I bodaciously asked for seconds of this said volumes. Hapuku has a decent wine list, primarily New Zealand-based of course, and we went with the sweet stuff, a Seresin 2013 Late Harvest Riesling and Smith Woodhouse 2002 Late Bottled Port.

The Tempura of Mangamaunu Bay Paua, lightly battered and beautifully crisp on the outside, but chewy on the inside, was accompanied by a Vietnamese-style sweet-sour-salty nuoc cham dip. Now, what's a paua, you may ask? I didn't know either. It's maori for sea snails, fancified like the French frou frou reference to escargot.

The House-made Saffron Tagliatelle, slicked in spiced butter, and specked with toasted pine nuts and mint flakes, was straightforward and absolutely delicious.

The Asian-inspired Lemongrass & Tamarind Beef Short Ribs, was delectably fall-off-the-bone and indulgently layered with fat pockets. Fluffy aromatic coconut rice was slathered in a star-anised and chilli-ed gravy, and served with steamed Asian greens.

The Whole Grilled Kaikoura Crayfish, burnished with a chilli, horseradish & lime butter, was mind-blowingly sumptuous. Special mention is given to the fried potatoes, I swear they soaked this in some mystical unicorn fat, the potatoes were so damn good!

To round off the heavy meal, we had the Dark Chocolate Tart, complemented with thick honeycomb biscuits, vanilla cream, and dotted with raspberry puree.

A classic British milk pudding drink, the Lemon Posset, was restrained, the lemon lending a bright, but not overwhelming, lift to milk curds, garnished with coconut shortbread crumble, and fresh strawberries.

Christmas Day Breakfast

The awesome roasted potatoes made another appearance at breakfast, yay! I had the lovely scrambled eggs option of the Lodge Country Breakfast, with a thyme-scented portobello, grilled tomato, manuka-smoked streaky bacon, and freshly baked toast.

The Hubs loves his poached eggs, and he opted for the Eggs Benedict, draped in a velvety Hollandaise, layered with a thickly-sliced ham and butter toast, and contrasted with a drizzle of cumberland jus and apricot jelly.

There was also a small continental spread.

with apple almond granola, fresh Kaikoura cherries, poached apricots with honey & thyme, Greek yoghurt, and full-cream milk.

A Christmas staple, the fruit mince tarts and the muffin-like coconut & raspberry friands, were delightfully festive.

To complete the breakfast experience, there was wholemeal honey bread and an English milk loaf, all pre-sliced for convenience, with an assortment of jams and spreads, like local organic blue borage honey, house-made peanut butter, strawberry rhubarb jam, lime marmalade, and kiwi jam.

Freshly squeezed, not bottled, orange, cranberry, and apple juices, provided a free-flow libation.

Christmas Day Dinner

Christmas Day dinner started off with a quintet of canapes, from left to right: Aged Cheddar Beignet with sesame dressing, White Gazpacho, Spring Rolls of Slow Cooked Beef, Salted Kaikoura Cod Stuffed Pepperdew, Herb Tartlet with NZ buffalo ricotta, all addictively yummy, and matched with a Cloudy Bay Pelorus Vintage Methode. I really really really wanted thirds of this. YUMS.

Usually, burrata is paired with something really salty like parma ham for a stark contrast, but here at Hapuku, they kept everything gossamer light and delicate, the NZ Buffalo Mozzarella complemented with Hapuku zucchini, grano padano, meyer lemon and rocket leaves. This was also matched with a fruit-forward Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A nugget of information: the boutique Dog Point Vineyards was set up by an ex-Cloudy Bay viticulturist and winemaker duo, who left after Cloudy Bay was bought by the massive LVMH conglomerate.

The other option of a starter, was a plush Salad of Cherry Tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh shallots, pomegranate seeds & oregano, served with a Mt Edward Central Otago Rose.

I chose a fish for my second course, a lively and juicy Gin-Cured Aoraki Salmon with pickled cucumber, herbs and horseradish, paired with a Dog Point Section 94 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

The Hubs had the luscious Hapuku Pork Hock Rillette balanced by cranberry and quince preserve, rocket leaves, and paired with a Felton Road Central Otago Riesling.

The Canterbury Duck Breast, hearty and moist, was set against the mild bite of the kumara puree, fruity Kaikoura cherries, and lovely honeyed jus. What stole the limelight was the scrumptious confit duck croquettes, you can't stop at one! This was matched with a rich and full-bodied Te Mata Estate Bull Nose Syrah.

The robust Cheviot Lamb Rump was served with a creamy pea puree, broad beans, honey cherry tomatoes & sweetbreads, which I didn't like as a matter of preference. This was balanced out with a Mt Edward Central Otago Pinot Noir.

For dessert, we had a Christmas Ice-Cream Bombe, folded with mincemeat & dark chocolate and finished off with a flambe of brandy, paired with a Frangellico.

The Hubs preferred the Summer Trifle of rhubarb, raspberries, rosewater-orange scented custard & walnut cake, matched with Seresin Late Harvest Marlborough Riesling.

The gorgeous table setting on Christmas Day, with a pounamu, a green stone treasured in Maori culture, that, when gifted to a visitor, will ensure that visitor returns to the land from where it was gifted.

The restaurant, all decked out in vines and wreaths, on Christmas Day.

Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses
New Zealand


[Invited Tasting & Revisit] The Waterfall, Shangri-La

The Waterfall Cafe is the poolside restaurant of Shangri-La Hotel. Frequently overshadowed by sister restaurant The Line, a monstrous buffet available throughout the day, the breezy little spot is fast discarding its image as an in-house-guest-only destination, and coming into its own.

The menu's been revamped, post the installation of Neapolitan chef Marco, into quintessential Southern Italian fare. So think extra virgin olive oil in preference to butter, seafood instead of meats, and tomato-based sauces in lieu of creamy ones.

I first dined complimentary of my favourite HungryGoWhere people, and as per invited tasting S.O.P., returned incognito for a revisit on my own dime. Both meals were excellent; hearty and soulful yet refined. Although the restaurant was a full-house at the revisit, service was surprisingly efficient and gracious.

The Insalata di granchio Arance e Finocchi (menu price $22), an orange-fennel accented mesclun salad with crab, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and Tropea onions, started off the tasting on a refreshing note. I'm not a huge fan of chilled seafood, so I skipped ordering this at the revisit.

At the tasting, I was surprised to find the Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Crostacei, homemade chitarra pasta laced with shrimp and tossed with garlic, chilli, and extra virgin olive oil, and lemon, so saucy. But the sauce was delicious, notwithstanding the copious lashings of parsley, and we wiped every last remnant clean off.

At the revisit, we held the parsley off the Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Ragu di Crostacei ($29), which only served to highlight the nuanced sweetness and subtle spice of the tomato-centric sauce. Swimmingly fresh prawns, and perfectly al dente pasta. 

The Spigola all'Acqua Pazza, a Neapolitan-style seabass served with cherry tomatoes, olives, and capers, in a white wine sauce, was delicate and well-balanced. My favourite dish at the tasting for its clean and clear flavours.

At the revisit, the Spigola all'Acqua Pazza ($36) was just as exquisite as I remembered. I only wished they'd drown this in more of that white wined broth, it was that outstanding.

The weak link at the tasting, the Agello Arrosto con Timo e Patate, of roasted lamb rack flavoured with thyme and served with new potatoes and sauteed vegetables, was a little too full-bodied for my liking. That said, the rest of the bloggers seemed to like it.

At the revisit, the Hubs also liked the Agello Arrosto con Timo e Patate ($36), for precisely the reason I eschewed it. He thought it was lusciously cooked, and robust in flavour. I left the lamb to him and stuck to the red wined jus and sides.

The Sharing Dessert, from left to right: Biancomangiare, Profiteroles, Ricotta cheesecake, Tiramisu, was great for the indecisive; it gives you a sampling taste of their signature sweets. I liked all, save for the profiteroles, I thought the lemon was grimacingly sour. It was still finished though; clearly the other bloggers liked sour.

At the revisit, we discovered that the Sharing Dessert ($32) was portioned just nice enough for the 2 of us to finish. Without popping out of our pants. (we still had to loosen our top buttons though...)

My favourite, the Tiramisu, layered with savoiardi ladyfinger, mascarpone, coffee, and cocoa powder, was sumptuous and heady, but managed a feather light texture.

The Ricotta cheesecake, a classic style from from Puglia, was beautifully polished.

The Lemon-cream Profiteroles, glazed with warm chocolate fudge and shimmery gold dust, was less sour than at the tasting, so it was a lot more even.

The Biancomangiare, an orange blossom water-scented almond pudding much like panna cotta, was wonderful in that wobbly custardy texture, boasted a fragrant floral accent.

The complimentary Bread at the tasting was scrumptious, especially with that piquant rich salsa.

At the revisit, we had an expanded bread basket, the cheese bread with sesame-d planks. We loved that salsa so much we got seconds of this.

Thanks to HGW for the invitation, and the Shangri-La peeps for being such welcoming hosts.

The Waterfall Cafe
22 Orange Grove Road
The Waterfall
Shangri -La Hotel
Tel: 6213 4138 / 6213 4398
Open daily from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
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