Korat Thai Cafe

Korat Thai rounds off the trio of Thai eateries scattered in Orchard Towers, the other two being Cafe Sapunsa and Thai Tantric. We rotate between the 3, depending on whichever is the least busy. The Muslim-friendly Korat Thai doesn't do pork, but that lacuna is offset by the excellent finesse of the fresh and sweet seafood.

Straightforward and rustic, the food at Korat Thai boasts big bold flavours. The Hubs says this is like the best of Thai street food that you could possibly find in Singapore, but in air-conditioned comfort and at prices reflective of an Orchard Road tenant. That said, Korat Thai's "premium prices" are cheaper than at fine-dining Patara, Tamarind Hill or Sabai.

Like Cafe Supunsa and Thai Tantric, the tiny stall gets crazy-mobbed and service consequently choppy and dour, but who cares about good service when the fantastic food's all the draw you need.

The Deep Fried Chicken with Garlic & Pepper ($10.90), fried to a crisp and intoxicatingly aromatic (but a nightmare for those wanting a little after-dinner nookie), was a must-try.

The golden crumbed Prawn Cakes ($10.90) were beautifully crunchy on the outside, and scrumptiously juicy on the inside. A most addictive tv-snack now that all of my favourite shows have returned with the advent of fall.

The Paneang Curry Chicken ($10.90) may look like an ugly sludge, because the kitchen held off 'everything green', including the kaffir lime leaves, when I asked to hold off any parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves, but wowza, tasted heavenly. This was smooth and creamy, and boasted a robust spiced kick. A must-try.

The most surprising thing about the Seafood Fried Kway Teow ($6.50) was how well the squid was cooked. This may not have the distinctive char of 'breath of wok', but the noodles were comfortingly delicious, and the squid, while little in portion, was perfectly soft with the slightest chewy texture.

Korat Thai Cafe
Orchard Towers #03-28
Orchard Road
Tel: 6736 2282
Open daily from 6pm to 3am


Dak Dori-Tang

A lot of people associate dak dori-tang with that angry red-hued chicken stew dish commonly served in many Korean restaurants. That's a fallacy. Traditional styled dak dori-tang is supposed to be black in colour, spiked with green chillis only for heat, instead of the Korean red pepper paste gochujang or Korean red pepper powder gochugaru. A simple homecooked dish eaten in many households, and one of several Korean dishes the Hubs grew up with, dak doritang is the easiest thing to make. It has its roots in Chinese cooking, and to be honest, it's really just the Korean version of soy braised chicken. Only a little sweeter and a little spicier.

This is great for a weeknight dinner, being low-fuss and quick to make. Serve with steaming hot white rice for maximum pleasure.

Ingredients (serves 4):
4-6 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in (substitute with 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
9 small potatoes, skin-on and cut half
2 carrots, diced
1 cup fresh enoki
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
10 fresh Korean green chili pepper (substitute with our local green chillis, serranos, jalepanos or anaheim chiles), 5 sliced half lengthwise with seeds removed, the remaining 5 cut into pieces with seeds intact
4 cups water
3 tbsp mirin
7 tbsp Korean light soy, guk kanjang (substitute with light soya sauce)
2 tbsp Korean dark soy, jin kanjang (substitute with thick black soy sauce)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sesame oil

1) Brown chicken in pre-heated pan with canola oil, salting liberally and taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Set aside.

2) Use remaining 1 tbsp chicken fat-infused oil, and add in sesame oil, and fry onions until transluscent.

3) Add garlic, and fry till fragrant.

4) Add carrots, and fry till slightly soft, about 2 minutes.

5) Add water, and return browned chicken to pan.

6) Add mirin, guk kanjang, jin kanjang, bring the whole thing to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 35-45 minutes for a fall-off-the-bone texture.

7) Add seeded chilis 20 minutes before serving.

8) Add potatoes 15 minutes before serving.

9) Serve with toppings of fresh enoki, sesame seeds, and additional helpings of fresh cut chili.


Overeasy, Orchard

When I was the in the U.S., diners were my favourite guilty pleasure. The food isn't the greatest, but they're unabashedly, and sinfully, comforting in that greasy, indulgent way. Plus, diners are mostly open through the night, and can be counted on for a most satisfying supper.

Singapore has its 24-hour mamak stalls, which are awesome in their own right; but sometimes, in the dead of night, all I want is a milkshake and burger and fries, American diner-style. And Overeasy's second outlet in the heart of Orchard, fills that niche pretty nicely.

As with all diner fare, Overeasy's food isn't the most polished or refined, but it is hearty, decadent, and appealing, albeit in the most unhealthy way, and thoroughly enjoyable. It's classic diner cuisine, done commendably.

Service is chirpy and cheerful, courtesy of our pretty waitress, whose wide smile and tonal lilt helped shake off a tough day at work.

A must-try, the Good 'ol Fashioned Mac & Cheese ($14) was a signature for good reason. This was wonderfully cheesy, a layered dimension of gruyere and cheddar and parmesan, and not cloyingly loaded with cream.

The Breakfast Nachos ($20) was simply, nachos luxed up with scrambled eggs. I've always thought of nacho chips as background filler for the toppings, negligible and trifling; but these were notably better than any other, and the highlight of the dish. These had a beautifully toasty corn essence, thicker than the usual chips, and stayed crunchy under the blanket of sour cream and salsa.

The Truffle ($28) wasn't the best burger we've ever had, but it sure hit a bulls-eye on the pleasure-button. The perfectly medium-rare Wagyu patty, dripping with robust juices, bore the distinctive fragrance of a smoky char. The truffle accent was slight, but that was compensated by lashings of shimeiji and shitake strips, melded with gooey Swiss cheese and caramelised onions.

No visit to the diner would be complete without its calorific drinks, like the ever-popular Root Beer Float ($10) and all-Americana Homemade Lemonade ($8), refreshing but weighted with sugar.

Overeasy @ Orchard
541 Orchard Road
Liat Towers #01-01
Tel: 6684 1453
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11am to 12midnight;
Fridays from 11am to 1am;
Saturdays from 10am to 1am;
Sundays from 10am to 12midnight
Website: www.overeasy.com.sg


Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant

We haven't been to Lei Garden in some time, not since Chijmes unveiled its refreshed facade and revamped dining options. It's still as awesome as ever: an old reliable that churns out consistently exquisite Cantonese cuisine, and graciously serviced by knowledgeable efficient personable waitresses.

The Sauteed French Beans with Preserved Vegetables ($22) seasoned with jalepeno, and studded with mushrooms and barbecued pork dice, redolent with a smoky char, was wonderfully crunchy.

In contrast, the Steamed Egg White with Crabmeat & Shrimp ($22) was smooth like the airest, fairiest cloud. Incredibly delicate, this bore a hint of shellfish essence for sweetness.

The XO Braised Tofu ($26) dotted with minced pork was robust and punchy, and it's amazing how they manage to fry such delicate silky beancurd. That takes real skill and finesse!

And because we love tofu so much, we also ordered the 'Lo Han' Vegetable Braise ($28). The assortment of firm beancurd, beancurd skin, black fungus, black moss, straw mushrooms, Chinese black mushrooms, and choy sum, slathered in a velvety gravy, was sumptuous but mellow.

The only lackluster dish, the Peking Duck ($36 for half) was disappointingly pedestrian. No crackle when we bit into the skin. In this regard, Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck is really still the best when it comes to peking duck.

The rest of the duck, we Sauteed with Salt & Pepper ($18), and while the seasoning was faultless, the dish was let down by the gamey meat.

The Braised Assorted Vegetables with Conpoy ($22) was pure comfort bubbling in a claypot. Choc-a-bloc with broccoli, kailan, baby choy sum, straw mushrooms, glass vermicelli, tempura squid, this was a riot of textures and a beautiful balance of flavours.

The Poached Homemade Noodle with Prawns ($13) displayed restrain, the broth was rich and sweet but not cloying. Add to that the delightfully chewy noodles, and the sparkling fresh prawns, and you've got a major hit.

The Preserved Meat Rice Cooked in Claypot ($16 per pax x 2 portions) was a Cantonese take on our local claypot rice. I loved that this was done with polish, and generous with the waxed sausages and fat slices of barbecued pork belly.

For dessert, we had the Mango Sago Pomelo ($7), which was balanced and refreshing.

Chijmes Lei Garden Restaurant
Chijmes #01-24
30 Victoria Street
Tel: 6339 3822
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch and from 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Saveur Art

We like Saveur a lot. It's consistently good and easy on the wallet; a reliable go-to for French homecooking. Suffice it to say, we had somewhat high expectations of its luxed-up sister concept, Saveur Art.

Located at the 4th floor of ION Orchard, Saveur Art is notably more fancy. The restaurant would still be considered relatively casual, but stacked up against Saveur, Art's decked out with frills - a basic cheese cart, pretty chandeliers, and plush couches which lend to its lush appeal.

Correspondingly, the menu at Saveur Art is ritzier, where haute cuisine is served alongside traditionally peasant fare, with the use of premium ingredients. But that's where the Saveur group loses its edge. As a cheap and modest option catering to the mass market, their value-for-money-ness makes for a winning formula like no other. But as an affordable upstart in a landscape saturated with French fine-dining options, Saveur Art just can't compete. Prices may be cheaper than, say, at French heavyweights Gunther's or Les Amis, but the food pales in stark comparison. And, as a general policy, I'd rather pay more to eat better. Evidently, the crowds agree. I hardly ever see Saveur Art a full-house, whereas Saveur at Far East Plaza regularly packs in a maximum capacity daily. 

There were just 2 standouts in our dinner at Saveur Art, 1 of which was the Egg Confit ($12), a dish unique to Saveur Art. Comprising a soft boiled egg draped on a truffled potato mousseline, this was dotted with macadamias and finished off with brown butter.

The Lobster Angel Hair Pasta ($15) was the deluxe version of the prawn pasta at Saveur. Topped with poached lobster, ikura, crispy shrimplets, and sprinkles of espelette pepper, this was decent but unmemorable.

The Grilled Foie Gras ($20) suffered from a lack of quality. I don't think it was the lack of skill; rather, it was that the piece of goose liver was less than melty. That was regrettable, as the honey lemongrass glaze and berry compote was quite the inspired twist. And that homemade brioche, wow, was it delicious.

The Snapper Grenobloise ($30), thick and meaty and studded with garlic croutons, was overwhelmed by the briny tang of the capered shallot mix. I like capers, but yikes, this was just too much of a good thing.

The other outstanding dish was the Crispy Duck Leg Confit ($20), a polished version of the one at Saveur, with roasted baby potatoes, lardons, horseradish cabbage, and a sumptuous jus. I say, forget about the Saveur Art line, and bring this over to the Saveur eateries.

The Chocolate & Pistachio ($14) was gorgeous like a painting. Crunchy Guanaja chocolate fondant balls were a lovely textural contrast to the fluffy tanariva mousse, while caramelised ivory, araguani chips, pistachio ice-cream completed the dessert confection. I particularly liked the pop rocks sprinkled all over, it was quite the delightful party in my mouth.

Saveur Art
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard #04-11
Tel: 6634 1141
Open daily from 12noon to 9.30pm


Saveur, Far East Plaza

Saveur is another one of those places I'd never have visited on my own volition. I was under the impression that it was the French version of the dreadfully middling Pastamania. If not for the Hubs being unfamiliar with the local restaurant scene, who fortuitously ordered Saveur through a food delivery app, we wouldn't have discovered this treasure of a find.

A wildly successful chain that grew from a little coffeeshop off Purvis Street, Saveur now has 4 establishments scattered around the central region. The food is unabashedly rustic, unpretentious, and for some reason, reminds me of really delicious canteen food, which may be partly attributed to the breezy, casual vibe of the eatery. Actually, it's more like heartwarmingly comforting French homecooking. At its finest. We're bemused by how Saveur keeps its prices so affordable, because the food is just so damn good.

The Hubs has proferred a rationale: Saveur may be keeping costs low by employing less wait staff, because there was just the 3 frazzled waitresses frenziedly trying to handle the entire dinner service (that was up to 70 diners methinks). I honestly refrained from chasing for water just because the staff looked so overwhelmed.

A must-try appetizer, the Prawn Pasta ($9.90) was a prettily plated capellini roll-up dressed in shrimp jus, and dotted with sakura ebi, caviar, and tiger prawn dice. Served tepid, this was well-balanced and scrumptious.

The Duck Confit ($14.90), a classic French comfort food, was sublime. The skin was paper crisp, and luscious meat was rich without a whiff of game. Sauteed shitake lent an earthy juiciness, while orange segments lifted with its fruity sweetness. We switched up the regular mash with velvety smooth Truffle Mash (supplement $3) for added aroma. A signature for good reason and a must-try.

The Pan-Seared Seabass ($16.90) executed commendably, was sided by a medley of sauteed potato cubes laced with crabmeat and vichy carrot, and tossed in a caper vinaigrette.

Another bit hit, the sublime Oven-Roasted Chicken ($15.90) was half a spring chicken, butterflied and with the most beautifully golden skin. This was topped with buttery stewed savoy cabbage, a mellow jus, and fluffy truffle mash.

Our pick for dessert was the Salted Caramel Lava Cake ($12.90), exquisite and polished, flavoured with maldon sea salt, valrhona dulcey chocolate, and paired with vanilla ice-cream.

Far East Plaza #01-07B
14 Scotts Road
Tel: 6736 1121
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 9.30pm;
Sundays from 11.30am to 9pm
Website: www.saveur.sg


Wanton, Seng's Noodle Bar

Wanton Seng's may just be the fanciest place we've ever been to for the humble wanton mee, a local dish ubiquitous to hawker centers but never featured as the highlighted draw of a restaurant. To be honest, but for a foodie friend's rave review, I'd have never thought to visit the CBD bistro bar. I mean, why would anyone go to a hipster upscale restaurant to eat wantan noodles, right?! It'll probably be worse than the Orchard Road food courts, severely overpriced and bitterly underwhelming. Or so I judgmentally thought.

I'm glad I dumped my preconceived notions and heeded Ivano's recommendation, Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar is so much more than just an upmarket wanton mee outfit that also hawks alcohol. Wanton Seng's deconstructs the humble hawker fare and elevates, reinvents, and refines the local favourite into a modern artform. It's everything that you're familiar with wanton mee: the traditional, comforting, and hearty flavours, but made exquisitely contemporary. And so its premium prices are totally justified.

On this note, we always lament the dying out of heritage hawkers, but this is a way to keep our hawker culture alive. I'm all for the raising of hawker prices, if that'll ensure the longevity of our notable hawkers. I really don't understand why Singaporeans are happy to shell out $15 for a plate of mediocre pasta, but whinge about the inflation of 30 cents for a bowl of stellar char kway teow. The proliferation of 'Best Hawker Food at Under $3" lists will attest to that stingy mindset. If you can afford a $20/pax meal once a week at a middling restaurant, you can also afford an excellent inflated-but-more-value-more-money $10 plate of hawker dish twice a week. You get more bang for your buck anyway. Both upscale fare and hawker food take just about the same amount of skill and time to perfect, yet for some reason, Singaporeans seem to have this resistance, mentally, to hawker food costing more than $5 a dish. *end of aside*

A twist on the standard red-tinged char siew, the Aburi Pork Belly ($13), slow-cooked for 18 hours, was meltingly caramelised and beautifully charred. This was most excellent and a must-try.

Another must-try, the Betalong Eggs ($10) was an Asian take on the classic English scotch egg. A soft-boiled egg, perfectly molten, was swaddled in a breadcrumb coat of pork mince, and topped with micro sprouts.

Wanton Seng's has clearly jumped on the salted egg food fad du jour, with their rendition of Salted Duck Egg Chicken Wings ($10). Deep fried to a golden brown, these were garnished with red radish, fried shallots, and curry leaves for a subtle kick.

The Boiled Dumplings ($8), stuffed with a blend of pork mince, chestnut nubbins, and diced shrimp, was commendable, albeit a tad forgettable. The broth, was rich in depth, and redolent of an earthy Chinese herb.

I much preferred the Fried Wantons ($6) an all pork mixture that was superb. Another must-order.

Despite the no-carbs-at-night diet, I couldn't resist the Nudles ($1), a small bowl of egg noodles that were delightfully springy, and devoid of the reek of that typical alkali treatment. Slicked in the classic dressing of soy, sesame and a little something-something, this was a most pleasant surprise, for its traditional taste. Ask for extras of the shallots, the garnish really made the noodles 'pop'.

Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar
52 Amoy Street
Tel: 6221 1336
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Fridays to Saturdays from  11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: wantonsg.com
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