28.3.17

Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters

Whoever said that the central region of Singapore has no worthwhile cafe has obviously never been to Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters. A Melbourne-styled cafe serving modern Australian cuisine and one of the best coffees on the island, Pacamara is casual and buzzy. While Pacamara is notably more crowded and service inevitably choppy on weekend afternoons, night-time will find this place a bit less frenzied and ambience relaxed.

We'd seen Pacamara on our way to the club many times, but never ventured in. Partly because we always saw the cafe packed to the gills, and in part put off by the nightmare of a carpark shortage. But, at the recommendation of Beck, we popped by one night for dinner after hitting the club. She swears by their coffee, which she buys by the truckload, and tells us to park at Sin Ming Plaza across the road: "there's always parking lots, and fees are so low".

Beck knows her food, and she's bang on about the food at Pacamara. The dishes are as delicious as they are pretty. Everything we had was scrumptious.

The Baked Portobello ($15.90), capped with melted brie, was strewn with tomato salsa, arugula, and grated parmesan. Clean clear flavours abound, and an excellent way to get the vegetable-averse to eat their greens.

A fantastic recommendation by the lovely cashier/waitress, was the Duck Pappardelle ($18.90), laced with shredded duck confit, fresh tomatoes, and slicked in a sauce rich with garlic and duck stock. A must-try.

The Slow-Cooked Chicken Breast ($17.50) paired with cubed avocado, wilted spinach & pine nuts, tomato salsa, crumbed feta, and a lemon wedge was light and bright and delightfully lively. The chicken wasn't the most succulent or moist, but it was commendably decent, considering it's breast-meat.

The crisp on the Pan-Fried Seabass ($22) was wonderfully done. A beautiful golden hue and exceptional crunch of the skin. Creamy parsnip puree, juicy oven-roasted mushrooms, sea-fresh ikura, kenya bean, dill, chives, tomatoes, and a 62C sous vide free-range egg completed the ensemble.

Coffee at Pacamara are white or black, for those with or without milk respectively. The Hubs had the Caramel Roadster White ($5 for 5 oz), a rich frothy concoction of caffeine blast.

I'm a sucker for anything toffee, so I got the Santa Sofia Toffee White ($5 for 5 oz), which was subtly fragranced by the burnt sugary notes.


Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
185 Upper Thomson Road
Open daily from 9am to 11pm
Website: pacamara.sg

26.3.17

La Ristrettos

La Ristrettos is the very epitome of a hidden gem. It's squared away deep in the bowels of the Novena Medical Centre, and thus so secluded, that you'd have to be looking for it to actually find it. Or else, happen to be a patient of the few medical outfits abutting the cafe.

Very possibly the best eat in the Novena Square vicinity, La Ristrettos serves up brunch like fare with aplomb. The icing on the cake is the price-points, which, at about $15 a dish, are akin to the prices in the brunch capital of the world, Melbourne. For those who aren't familiar with Melbourne's brunch, that makes La Ristrettos one of the cheapest purveyors of brunch foods in SG.

The low prices may be due to the low rent tagged to the isolated shop space (there is like zero foot traffic here), OR it may be due to the fact that air-conditioning is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent here. It was so stuffy and muggy indoors, that sitting alfresco in the little garden nook, braving the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun was marginally better. At least you get the occasional breeze outdoors.


The Smoked Duck Breast ($14), accompanied by a pancetta-swaddled asparagus spear, fried potato cake, and pesto topped poached egg, was flavoured with a drizzle of honeyed wholegrain mustard glaze. The duck breast was fantastic, rich and luscious, and not at all gamey.

A must-try, the Breakfast Crab Cake ($15), stacked with avocado, potato cake, a grilled pancetta strip, pesto-dressed rocket leaves, a side of poached egg, and finished with balsamic sauce, was insanely good. The plate was incredibly balanced, and that crabcake, ooh la la, amazing!!

The Grigliata Oceania ($14.90), a seafood salad of grilled prawns and scallops set upon cherry tomatoes, mesclun greens, croutons and parmesan was pedestrian, in no small part thanks to the low-grade parmesan, which powdery insipid texture was reminscent of those kraft-branded pre-grated crap. The greens weren't exactly the sweetest either. Such a letdown to the decent shellfish.

Coffee is a big big thing at La Ristrettos, and it's excellent here. The Caffe Latte ($5.50 each), a potent, heady concoction of creamy froth, was a superb perk-me-up.


La Ristrettos
10 Sinaran Drive
Novena Medical Centre #08-37
Tel: 6397 7165
Open weekdays from 8am to 6pm;
Saturdays from 8am to 2pm;
Closed on Sundays
Facebook Website

25.3.17

Joo Chiat Teochew Porridge (aka Teck Teochew Porridge)

So, Joo Chiat Teochew Porridge (aka/fka Teck Teochew Porridge) has moved premises, again! This is like their 4th location since their original location at Joo Chiat. Seriously, the stall has to find a more permanent home. Because it was quite the roller-coaster of emotions to have to hit up their last site at East Coast Road and be terribly disappointed, and then elatedly discover that they'd hauled ass further east to Frankel Ave.

Anyways, I love love love Teck Teochew Porridge. We think it's the best Teochew porridge in Singapore. The seafood is swimmingly fresh, and because everything is cooked only upon order (save for the braised dishes), you get food piping hot off the fire. There's an ice counter flush with an array of fish, prawns, clams, crayfish, scallops and the occasional lobster, for the picking and the kitchen will steam them, Teochew-style, or fry them up with black beans and chilli. Don't be shy to ask the staff to explain what's available for the day, as they're great with recommendations. 

Because there was just the 2 of us, it was suggested that we get a cut of the threadfin, instead of getting a whole fish which might be too big an order to finish. The Steamed Threadfin Fillet ($24), bathed in a delicate stock flecked with salted plums, leek, ginger, tomatoes, tofu, and mushrooms, was lipsmackingly delicious and incredibly balanced. A must-order.

The Stir-Fried Tiger Prawns ($18 for 300gm), burnished in a honeyed garlicky black bean sauce, was decent but unmemorable. We should have heeded the lady's suggestion to have this steamed instead.

Another must-try, the Stewed Cabbage ($2) was simplicity at its finest. Sweet, mellow, and wonderfully comforting.

The Braised Duck ($12) was excellent, and possibly the best hawker Teochew-style duck around. Sparkling fresh, with nary a whiff of game, and drenched in a heady but thin soy sauce braise.

The Braised Peanuts ($2), laced with strips of chewy pig skin, was rich with nutty overtones.

Another must-try, the Chai Poh Omelette ($5) was fantastic, beautifully charred and its smoky notes complementing the salty preserved radish nubbins.

A regular fixture whenever I have Teochew porridge, the Salted Egg ($2) was scrumptious just paired with a mouthful of plain porridge.


Joo Chiat Teochew Porridge
65 Frankel Ave
Tel: 9897 4477
Open Thursdays to Tuesdays from 11am to 9.30pm; Closed on Wednesdays
Facebook Website

24.3.17

PS Cafe Petit, Tiong Bahru

I finally get the big deal that is PS Cafe. The fanfare lies with their pizzas, only available at their "petit" branches, which are one of the best in SG.

[Aside: did you know that there was a PS Cafe in Tiong Bahru??!?? Coz I sure didn't!! I frequent that enclave, and I've actually walked past the outlet several times, but I never realised it was a P.S. Cafe!!]

So anyways, at the recommendation of a colleague who's a big big fan of PS Cafe, a bunch of us from work trooped down to Tiong Bahru on a languid Friday (because, TGIF!!), to chill at PS Cafe Petit.

The cafe, a chic spot bedecked in black with a pretty little greenhouse-like nook, is wonderfully cool to hang out in the blazing heat of the afternoon sun. The staffing is purposely kept lean, so the bistro works like a self-serviced fast-food joint. You find your own seating, order and pay at the counter, and collect your food when your buzzer rings. And when you're done, there's the one staff to clear the table. That being said, it's nice to clear your own crap.

A must-try, the Carbonara ($28), dotted with pancetta and bacon, slathered with parmesan cream, melted mozzarella, grated pecorino, and spiked with fresh basil and crispy sage. I loved the herb additives, they lent a unique and refreshing twist to the familiar flavours of carbonara. And that delicious garlicky chilli oil paste, that added a lovely punchy accent.

The Winter Salami Margherita ($28), a meaty spin on the vegetarian classic, was loaded with mozzarella, cheddar, bologna scarmozina cheese, and rings of szeged magalista pork hungarian winter salami. The pizza crust was something else altogether, perfectly balanced between the thin and thick, so it was at once chewy and fluffy, and imbued with a smoky essence from the wood-fired oven.

I'm trying to eat healthy, so I snuck in some greens, so assuage any carb-loading guilt, and the Superfood Salad ($12) was a beautiful melange of blueberries, almonds, pumpkin, quinoa, broccoli, spinach, romaine, roasted nuts, and goji berries, tossed in a lively orange rosemary dressing, was absolutely scrumptious. So scrumptious, in fact, that it should have been sinful.

A popular mainstay throughout the PS Cafe branches, the Truffle Shoestring Fries ($12) heady with the aroma of truffle oil, was salted with grated parmesan and a sprinkling of parsley.


P.S. Cafe Petit
Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street
#01-41
Open weekdays from 11am to 11pm;
weekends from 9.30am to 11pm
Website

22.3.17

Steeples Deli

Steeples Deli is one of the oldest tenants of the dinosaur-like Tanglin Shopping Centre. The old-school mall is sometimes forgotten as a relic of the constantly evolving Orchard Road, but it's a trove of medical outfits, art galleries, and specialist tailors.

And tucked away in a corner on the second level, the country deli, with a warm homely feel and an easy languid vibe, welcomes regulars like a second home. Sandwiches and milkshakes are the main draw here, with a smattering of breakfast classics, pastas, and burgers. Bestsellers are indexed with a mark, so it's a safe bet to stick to those recommendations. The food is hearty and comforting, but I wouldn't venture that it's tops for sandwiches. Credit goes to Park Bench Deli for that.

The Philly Steak Sandwich ($19.90), loaded with red peppers, shallot crescents, a medium-well steak, melty cheddar, and cheese curds, on a garlic buttered ciabatta. I liked the garlic butter treatment to the bread, that lent a wonderful fragrance and oomph, but it couldn't mask the heavy, stodgy notes of the beef. 

The Cuban Sandwich ($18.90) layered a ham slice, cheddar, caramelised onions, pulled pork, gherkins and melty cheese, between a mustard-ed crusty bread. They were a little too liberal with the mustard, its sharp bite overwhelmed everything else.

The Steeples Burger ($20.90), a multi-grain bun stuffed with a beef patty, bacon, melted cheddar, and egg sunny-side up, was fair but unexceptional.

Ahh, the milkshakes were out-of-this-world delicious. The Shamrock Milkshake ($6.90), a thick concoction of vanilla ice-cream and peppermint syrup, was absolutely smashing.

The Hubs got the Chocolate Peanut Butter ($6.90), so thick it could pass off as oozy peanut butter.


Steeples Deli
Tanglin Shopping Centre #02-25
Tel: 6737 0701
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 10am to 7pm;
Closed on Sundays

19.3.17

Teppan-Ya

Teppanyaki is not a style of Japanese cuisine that altogether commonplace anymore. We were craving griddled food the other day, and found it difficult to hunt down a teppanyaki place that wasn't the mediocre Shima.

It was a surprise to discover Teppan-Ya, the in-house Japanese establishment of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Notwithstanding our tempered expectations (because, you know, no competition anyway), we had a thoroughly enjoyable dinner. The food was exceptional, and dinner theatre highly entertaining. That said, we invariably ended up smelling like our dinner.

Be sure to make reservations, as the space is limited (there are just 10 seats at the counter), and dine just before dusk falls, so you can watch the sunset against the spectacular backdrop of the city skyline. 

I opted for the Seafood Pot Kaiseki ($158), laden with a gargantuan grilled king prawn, plump scallops, and a fleshy hunk of cod dunked in a garlicky broth that was sumptuous. So yummy we asked for a spoon to scoop up the soup. In fact, we'd have licked the pot clean off if we had less shame. 

This was followed by the Salmon course, moist and flaky, and complemented by a butter-soy emulsion. The skin, peeled off and fried to a crisp, lent texture.

Grilled vegetables of zucchini, shitake, and red and yellow peppers, imbued with a smoky char, accompanied the fish.

The meat-loving Hubs got the USDA Prime Beef & Seafood Kaiseki ($188) which kicked off with a duo of king prawns and scallops, beautifully grilled and sweet. I thought the shrimp head, which had been flattened and fried to a crisp, made for a most addictive cracker.

Next up was the USDA Prime Beef, perfectly medium-rare, possessing just enough heft to balance out the fat, and dripping with juices.  A quartet of grilled root veggies and the most awesome garlic chips sided this.

All of the sets are served with the House Salad, a simple assortment of lettuce and julienned peppers drizzled with a subtly spiced tomato dressing.

A pair of appetizers are also part of the set, like the signature Kumi No. 1, a mound of crabmeat, avocado, and white fish swaddled in a nori strip and baked in a cheese blanket.

The other appetizer, was a Baked Oyster burnished with a seaweed sauce and fresh lemon slice.

A swimmingly fresh Sashimi trio of tuna, yellowtail, and salmon, followed suit.

Next up was Dobinmushi, a teapot soup simmered with shrimp, fish, and enoki for flavour. Delicate but with rich depth. 

The Fried Garlic Rice may seem modest in portion, but we were stuffed by this time. Still, this was scrumptious, and it was at once toasty and buttery. I wolfed this down. 

The only blah course, was the dessert of fresh fruits. Maybe they weren't from Japan, they were lacking that incredible sweetness Japanese fruits are renowned for. Silver lining: the tart sourness of the fruits were quite effective in cutting through the heaviness of the lavish meal.

Our cheeky and charming chef with his impressive theatrics.



Teppan Ya
5 Raffles Avenue
Mandarin Oriental Level 4
Tel: 6885 3595
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.teppanya.com.sg

18.3.17

Bincho

It's a rare occurrence that I completely write off a restaurant for atrocious service. And Bincho takes the distinction for that. It was such a waste, as I'd high hopes for the Loh Lik Peng restaurant. I mean, that guy's got good taste in food man. Too bad the chef at Bincho is ridiculous.

So...as per usual request of all my meals, I asked the kitchen to hold off any parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions in all of our orders. At that point in time, there was no indication that such request would be an issue for the kitchen.

But, as I take photos of the squid that arrived first on the table, the waitress comes over and relays, very contritely, that the chef says "no photos" of the food because "you said no parsley".

I'm incredulous. How does it make any sense?!

If the chef was displeased at my picky palate, that I don't eat those herbs, then tell me straight off the bat, and I would have left to go eat somewhere else. It wasn't as if I asked for the kitchen to have the raw fish on my sashimi platter fried instead.

Or, if the chef was afraid that the food wouldn't look pretty because there's no garnish of parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions, then he's willfully blind, because the dishes actually looked beautiful. To have pinned so much value on the visual splendour of those herbs??! Seriously. Get a grip.

Or, if the lack of those herbs compromised the integrity of the dish, whether in respect of the taste or the appearance, then don't serve a rendition without those herbs at all. But he served the no-parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions version, and I ate that very version. It is what it is, right? Irrespective of any photos taken, I would only have been able to talk about the dishes, sans those herbs, that I actually ate.

In any case, I believe that a request to hold off all parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions is perfectly reasonable, and not at all uncommon. Half the people I know hate hate hate those herbs. I'm violently adverse to them, and am unable to keep down any food containing any of these herbs. Also, I can't see how such a request would be disrespectful to the chef in any way. I've made such requests to every restaurant I've been to, around the world, and even in Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan where the chefs are renowned to be finicky and take utmost pride in their craft, with absolutely no issue. It's not as if I brought my own bottle of sambal belachan, smeared it all over my food, and then took a picture of it. And I've never before, been told "no photos" just because my dishes have no parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions. I'm baffled.

If Bincho had a clear-cut policy across the board, that no photos be allowed in the restaurant, (like Buko Nero along Tanjong Pagar Road which explains that some of their customers had previously taken photos of their half-eaten dishes and posted them up, which is gross), I would understand and comply. But this wasn't the case. It was an arbitrary rule that was only imposed because I requested that all parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves/spring onions be held off all dishes.

All I can surmise is that the chef is insecure yet arrogant, overly sensitive about his precious food, and sees himself as an artist. Such ego is not unexpected if it was a 3-Michelin starred chef who's extremely prolific and celebrated. But the chef at Bincho is NOT. And like most people who fancy themselves artists, his over-inflated ego is entirely misguided.

It's such a pity, as Bincho's food was actually good, even with a couple of misses. But it's certainly not good enough for me to bear such megalomaniac attitude.

For the record, I still took photos anyway. There are no laws against taking photos of food in a public space. I took them surreptitiously, on my iPhone, which photos suck compared to those taken on my Sony Cybershot RX100 IV. So, because of the chef's demand that "no photos" because "no parsley", I ended up taking photos which look significantly worse than if I had taken them on my camera. Ironic, that in the chef's attempt to prevent "less-than-amazing" photos of his food being taken, I ended up with posting up photos which look worse off.

It didn't help that the bar section of the restaurant was overwhelming with the stench of the drain, which is immediately evident from the moment you step into the restaurant. I couldn't smell the awful stench from where I was seated, at the back of the small dining hall, but that wretched stench was unappetizing, to say the least.

The only nice photo of dinner was the middling Grilled Squid ($28), which ginger ponzu dip overwhelmed the delicate seafood. The spiced mayo was a much better accompaniment, but I wasn't too keen on mayo.

Another lackluster dish, the Grilled Australian Wagyu with Asparagus ($62) was overpriced and stodgy. That said, I liked the black pepper sauce, it livened and distracted from the flat taste of the meat.

The Grilled Sakura Cabbage ($20), slathered with a creamy anchovy sauce and sprinkled with lashings of crispy sakura shrimp, was excellent. Wonderful balance of flavours and textures.

The Kurobuta & Black Garlic ($30) was a mixed bag, the black garlic and golden garlic confit was fantastic, full of umami and toasty buttery accents, but the pork was a smidge too full-bodied for my liking.

A superb recommendation by the waitress, the Bincho Style Grilled Octopus ($45), sided by a capsicum sauce, was perfectly cooked and delicious on its own. Even better was the potato coins, they must have been fried in some kind of awesome animal fat. So so good!!

The Grilled Chicken Breast with Truffle ($28) was indulgent and luscious and insanely yummy. I'm thinking the breast meat must have been given the brining treatment. A must-try at Bincho.

The Chicken Thigh Yakitori ($15) paired with a trio of mustard, wholegrain, horseradish, and Japanese pepper, was succulent and juicy.

The Tsukune & Egg Yolk ($18) was beautifully smoky and flavoursome.

Bincho's facade, where you enter from the back of the shop space. The Hubs pointed out that it was little wonder that the entryway smelled so bad - what would you expect if you entered through the backside of anything, right?


Bincho
78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19
Tel: 6438 4567
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 12midnight for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.bincho.com.sg


16.3.17

Tomato-Kimchi Braised Chicken with White Wine & Bacon

Inspired by the kimchi bacon udon I cooked the other day, I set out to fuse kimchi with other stuff, this time, I thought, with western flavours. So, I did a slow braise using a base of tomatoes, white wine, kimchi, and gochujang. I thought, the tart accents of tomatoes would boost the sour tang of the kimchi, and boy did that hunch turn out right! Somehow, the tomatoes enhanced the piquancy of kimchi, while copious dashes of cumin complemented the spicy notes of kimchi and gochujang so the kick was pretty potent. Finally, a dry and crisp white wine just rounded them robust flavours all together and tied them up in a pretty little ribbon. How have I never thought to put these ingredients all together in a pot any earlier, I have no idea! And because I skipped the browning of the chicken, this recipe takes under an hour to whip up (including time allocated to braising), which translates to: quick and easy one-dish week-night dinner!!


Ingredients (feeds 4):
6 pieces chicken thigh
1 small yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp gochujang
1 cup kimchi, chopped
3 tbsp kimchi juice
2 cups dry white wine (I used a dry Riesling)
1 can diced tomatoes
12 slices streaky bacon
12 baby portobello, diced
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp chives, minced, for garnishing


Directions:
1) Fry bacon in canola oil till crisp. Set aside and cut into 1" cubes.

2) Reserving 1 tbsp of the bacon-infused canola oil, add sesame oil and fry onions till translucent, about 2 minutes on medium-high heat.

3) Add garlic, and fry till fragrant, about 1 minute.

4) Add kimchi and fry for about 1 minute, to "dry out" some of its water content.

5) Add gochujang, and toss through.

6) Add tomatoes.

7) Add white wine and kimchi juice.

8) Add chicken, nestling the pieces in one layer so the liquid doesn't cover the chicken.

9) Stir in mushrooms.

10) Add cumin, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for at least 40 minutes.

11) Just before serving, add bacon and stir through.

12) Serve garnished with fresh chives.



There was an error in this gadget
Related Posts with Thumbnails