Taratata Bistrot

So, we're still on a quest to find the best steak frites in Singapore. Taratata Bistrot was a recommendation by a friend. She likes their cooking, which is traditional and straightforward, and its warm, cosy atmosphere.

And indeed, the food at Taratata was terrific; it was nothing too fanciful or newfangled, just simple, honest fare coupled with great service. It seems the French community concur; we were about the only locals in the bistro overrun by a sea of French expats.

A must-try, the Grilled Foie Gras ($38), sinfully decadent but oh-so-good, was contrasted against the caramelly sweetness of a baked apple tart and morello cherry sauce. A couple of black truffle shavings added oomph and fragrance.

The house-made Pork Rillettes ($18), sided by crusty bread and pickles, was homey and rustic. Absolutely delicious and perfectly balanced with just the right amount of fat and meat, that went down as one of my favourite rillettes to date.

The Roasted Rack of Lamb ($58), hearty, luscious and full-bodied, was seasoned with sage, roasted zucchini, heirloom tomatoes and eggplant confit.

The Black Angus Ribeye Steak Frites ($48) served with a rich shallot-infused brown sauce, wonderfully smoky and sumptuously juicy, was done a perfect medium-rare.

I usually skip this (they're just empty fillers, you know) but the complimentary bread, paired with French butter was delightfully well-done.

Taratata Bistrot
35A Keong Siak Road
Tel: 6221 4506
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 12midnight;
Sundays from 11.30am to 10pm;
Closed on Mondays
Website: taratata.sg


Akira Back

Have you ever noticed a lot of our fusion restaurants are helmed by Korean chefs? Maybe it's because I'd recently dined at Meta, which is headed up by a Korean chef, just one day after my Smarty-Pants girlfriend andmorefood and I visited Akira Back, also run by another Korean-born. Or maybe it's because the half-Korean, half-Peranakan, full-ACS boy Hubs, can't cook to save his life, and so, any other Korean who can cook immediately bears consideration.

In spite of the shared heritage, Akira Back is strikingly distinct from Meta. A casual but snazzy joint serving tapas-style fusion fare, the ala carte menu is a confluence of modern American dishes using Japanese ingredients, with the occasional Korean slant. Save for the rice rolls, which were outstanding, the rest of the dishes were commendable, if slightly unmemorable.

Dinner was given a boost by our lovely server Rit, who just oozed sweetness and sincerity. Halfway through our dinner, it struck us that she couldn't possibly be local, and it was likely she hadn't been in Singapore for very long. She just seemed so...untainted, by the apathetic affection typically standard of our local service folk. And true enough, the dimpled girl is fresh off the boat, from hospitality school in Switzerland, and had only landed on our shores less than a month prior.

I know many people think it sacrilegious to ground up wagyu, but the adorably dainty AB Tacos ($25) stuffed with juicy minced wagyu and topped with spicy aioli and jalepeno pepper, was extra delicious.

I wasn't a fan of the Pan-Seared Yellowtail ($27) which marked fishiness overwhelmed the subtle bite of the wasabi brussels sprouts, mustard miso, and Japanese pepper powder.

A twist on popcorn chicken, the Rock Shrimp Tempura ($23), lightly battered, flash-fried, and tossed in a spicy-creamy gochujang aioli, was delightfully addictive.

Oh if we brought our husbands, we would have ordered the entire selection of rice rolls. The Holy Cow ($30) was holy crap good. Shrimp tempura was sheathed in seaweed, vinegared sushi rice, then blanketed in an aburi-ed Tajima striploin and finished off with a kimchi peach emulsion for a bit of kick.

The Krakatoa ($30) was a potent combo of sweet king crab and delicate scallops, jazzed up with a robust 'dynamite sauce' and jalapeno. A must-try too.

The 48 Hours Sanchoku Short Ribs ($48) was a melty, dreamy piece of meat. Absolutely exquisite. I don't know why they even gave us a knife, because a fork (even a filmsy plastic one) would have sufficed.

Because dinner with andmorefood isn't complete without dessert, we ordered the AB "Egg" ($20), an avant garde confection that was obviously designed "for the 'gram". Vanilla foam was the egg white, mango passionfruit cream was supposed to be the yolk, jujube ice-cream, and white chocolate beads rounded it all together.

I like to think it was because we were Rit's favourite diners of the night, but she gifted us  complimentary cookies which made a great TV snack.

Akira Back
JW Marriot Hotel South Beach
30 Beach Road
Tel: 6818 1888
Open Mondays to Thursdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Fridays to Sundays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.akiraback.com


Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

I love Disneyland. I may be a 37-year old woman who's chosen a ridiculously straitlaced career in law, but boy do I love my Disney-everything. I mean, it IS the happiest place on earth. And tbh, I don't think you ever really grow up and out of Disney. Just ask the grown-ass men who frequent Tokyo's Disneyland. Besides, I'm all for doing whatever makes you happy (as long as it's within society's constrains of the law, morality and ethics, and whatever you do doesn't hurt anyone else, of course). And Disneyland makes me happy. I love it so much I can stay a whole week at Disneyland, and not get sick of it all. It's the magic that is Disney. In fact, I've spent 5 whole days at Tokyo's Disneyland/Disneysea parks, and I still descend into a fit of giggles whenever I hug my favourite characters. (and if you think that's weird AF, lemme just say, in my defence, that I once saw an full-grown adult man cry while hugging Eeyore. Obviously, he was an Eeyore fan, but all that weeping and blubbering was tough to watch without sniggering. And, in comparison, I think that should make me look "normal", yes?)

While Maihama (that's where the Tokyo Disney Resort is located) has a fair number of hotels easily accessible to the two Disney parks, I would recommend all Disney fans stay in an official Tokyo Disney Resort hotel. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say any of the official Disney hotels are actually 5*-worthy luxury (they're really more akin to 4.5* kitsch-filled deluxe accommodations), and while the Disneyland Hotel is by far the most overpriced hotel I've ever stayed in, the fact is, there aren't any more luxurious options in Maihama.

Also, staying at an official Tokyo Disney Resort hotels grants you the Happy 15 Entry privilege. This allows you entry into the Disney parks 15 minutes before the official opening times, which can cut down waiting times for the popular attractions by a lot. Because we're late risers, that was completely wasted on us...we didn't even get to use those entry passes once.

A warning for the non-Japanese speaking: navigating the website (reservations for Tokyo Disney Resort hotels are exclusive to the TDR's website and no other) was a freaking nightmare, so maybe have a swig of whisky before you begin booking your accommodations. I don't understand how the Japanese can be so systematic and organised and neat as a people, but the Tokyo Disney Resort website was a convoluted mess of a labyrinth. Allow at least two hours, conservatively, to look through your options, book your rooms, and ancillary frills. The Hubs spent 3 agonizing hours on the phone, on a three-way conversation with a translator, just to arrange for 5 dinners at the various meet-the-character theatre shows. Ironically, he had thought calling them directly would be more efficient.

Disneyland Hotel

The Disneyland Hotel is the first of the four official Tokyo Disney Resort's hotels to have been constructed. It's a little dated compared to DisneySea's MiraCosta, but it still is incredibly well-maintained. It's located a stone's throw from Disneyland, with the Disneyland station of the Disney Resort Line rail sandwiched between.

The bronze statutes of Mickey and Minnie are a welcome sight at the grand foyer once past the main entrance at the drop off. We'd requested an airport transfer through the hotel, but were told they didn't offer such a service. Yeah, seriously. We thought it was shocking a hotel, which rooms started at S$650 per night, had no airport transfers.

The main reception where you process your check in and out.

The lobby, littered with guests a-plenty resting their weary legs and/or taking a respite from the Tokyo winter. If you only take a good look, you'll find there's Disney easter eggs EVERYWHERE. A Disney-nut like me went nuts spotting Mickey motifs all around the hotel.

One of the wrought-iron lifts overlooking the main lobby.

Disney's Magic Kingdom Suite

We stayed in the Magic Kingdom Suite, a sprawling 99sqm room with a separate lounge that started at 255,000JPY per night. The bedroom had separate alcove twin beds. I don't know what it is about the Japanese, but save for the top-tier Walt Disney Suite, the rest of the accommodations in Disneyland Hotel only had separate twin-sized beds. The beds, in spite of its dreamy embellishments, were functional and far less comfortable than what we're used to, but at least we didn't end up with backaches.

The bedroom had its own tv, which was the only good thing because there weren't any international channels. For a tv fanatic as moi, it was real depressing. Double closets are to the right of the beds.

The bathroom with an air-jet bath, which we used every night to soothe our poor aching backs and legs (we're such fossils!), and a separate shower booth. A couple of bath beads, no bath salts, but there was a cute itsy bitsy towel bunny.

Double sinks but I really disliked that double tap system, it wasn't easy getting the temperature just right, especially in the dead of winter where just the slightest centimeter made the water freezing cold or scalding hot.

The toiletries aren't the most fancy, but because they were mostly wrapped in Disney packaging, we took them home anyway for our favourite kids Soph & her brother.

The living room is housed at one of the two turrets of the Disneyland Hotel, so it afforded the most expansive view of Disneyland. We got to watch the fireworks from the comfort of our room, and could actually see which characters were out at the main entrance of Disneyland. Really. One day, I was dilly dallying about, and saw Pluto out (and I'd been hankering to see him for a couple of days already right) so I ran down into the park and managed to catch him! How's that for convenient.

See. Best view ever of the park. You can even see the Tower of Terror at Disneysea in a distance.

An unexpected surprise was the bronzed Mickey paperweight that was complimentary from the hotel. The platter of fruits, less so. 

The entryway foyer to the suite, with the dressing table and mini bar to the right.

And a powder room to the left.

Disney hotels provide complimentary use of pyjamas. I thought the Disney Ambassador Hotel's pyjamas were more comfy, but these were adequate.

Room Service

I'll start with the good: room service was available till midnight, which was a bonus coz that's when the munchies kick in. And the food was pretty good. Well, better than the junk at Disneyland at least. The bad: placing our orders was a pain-in-the-@ss. Big time. The staff didn't speak English so trying to tell them to hold off the parsley/coriander leaves/cilantro/spring onions required a translator, which took a good half an hour just to order two dishes. The second night we called for room service, we decided to risk it and not inform our particular aversions. It was just way too much trouble to have to have that back-and-forth with a translator.

On this note, we'd also called the concierge to assist in making dinner reservations at Sheraton's Maihama Teppanyaki, and after a 25 minute 3-way call, with a translator of course, they told us they "cannot make those reservations". Like, huh, what was that about????? What's the point of a concierge if they couldn't even make dinner reservations for us??? 

We liked the Chicken Curry Udon (2370JPY), thick and substantive, and choc-a-bloc with diced chicken and beancurd sponge. This was served with a poached egg, fresh fruits and a surprisingly good pickled burdock root and carrots.

The Tempura Udon (2680JPY) was just ok but unmemorable. The tempura batter was a little too heavy, but the udon was lovely.

The Crabmeat & Egg Porridge (JPY2370) was scrumptious though. Comforting and tasty, this was generously chunked with sweet crabmeat.

The Beef Curry (JPY2780) didn't look like much but it was delicious. This was served with Japanese rice, pearl onions and pickled radish.

We opted for in-room breakfast (JPY4120) because we like to eat in pantless comfort. You can a choice of eggs, which we got scrambled. 

And fried. They were served with hashbrowns, a couple of almost raw broccoli florets, and a choice of breakfast meats like ham. 

Or bacon.

And we had a choice of pancakes,

Or a trio of baked confection, which was pretty decent.

Finally, we had a salad with a tangy Japanese vinaigrette for some fibre

And fresh fruits to really get the excretory system going

Marceline Salon

Access to the lounge is exclusive to guests staying in a concierge room or suite. Check-ins-and-outs are processed here as well.

The loungers are very much more comfy than those in the public lobby.

And it's got the best view of the park.

It wasn't the most well-stocked of club lounges, but those Winnie the Pooh marshmallows were da bomb. I have to confess, I "tookaway" like a hundred of them.

The hotel doesn't have a gym, but it has a pool, but it's only open during the Summer. There's no spa either, but there's a 24-hour smoking room.

The hotel, all lit up at dusk, was just pretty as a painting.

Disneyland Hotel
29-1 Maihama, Urayasu-shi, Chiba-ken, 279-8505, Japan
Tel: +047 305 3333



Meta Restaurant

Meta has been on my to-eat list ever since it opened back in early 2016. Early reviews had pegged it as "the restaurant" to watch, and sure enough, the intrepid little restaurant garnered a Michelin star the following year. Which then made the tiny galley of a restaurant extra difficult to get into. So it was serendipitous that we ended up at Meta over the weekend.

We'd just finished at the gym late in the evening, and were running down my to-eat list for last-minute reservations. It was 8.30pm on a Saturday, and we'd initially been informed they were booked out for the night. But then, we got an SMS update that a table had suddenly opened up. "But it's the table right in front of the door" they pre-warned when we called them back, "not the bar stools in front of the open kitchen". Obviously, we were fine with that.

Ermagawd, Meta Restaurant was well worth the wait. Easily one of our best meals of 2018 to date, it was cool with nary a whiff of pretension. The crowd was hip and stylish but not painfully so. Service was upbeat, interactive and knowledgeable. And dinner was sublimely inspired; the unexpected melding of flavours was just brilliant. I suppose, if I had to describe Meta's food, it'll be effortlessly inventive.

Note that Meta offers only set dinners, and a 7-course ($158), with complimentary amuse-bouche nibblers here and there, was, I thought, decidedly value-for-money.

We were first served a quartet of snacks, starting with the Beef Tartare flecked with black garlic, which umami bomb underscored the fullness of the body of the red meat.

Next up was a Sago Chip laden with octopus dice, ikura, colourful seaweed, and a light aioli. Intense, contrasting flavours and textures, all wonderully balanced.

The richness of the Foie Gras Tart was countered with a beetroot relish, burdock root and fragrant chrysanthemum petals.

The last of the snacks was a baby bottom-smooth Chawanmushi speckled with sweet Spanish prawns, toasty prawn oil and fresh dill.

The first course was a Japanese Madai, apparently a variety of snapper, served cerviche-style with basil oil, yuzu-infused cherry tomatoes, avocado cream. Clean piquant flavours abounded the chilly dish.

The Hamaguri Clam, with fennel cream, dill oil and chives, was a half-and-half, strictly as a matter of preference. I'm not crazy about clams in general and this was no different. But I loved the treatment of the scallop, deconstructed into some kind of silky blanket, it was pure genius. 

This was followed by a flawless Pan Seared Coral Trout, which paper-crisp skin was pure perfection. Charred broccolini and white asparagus lent crunch, while a velvety yuzu sabayon lent flavour. 

The Deep Fried Quail's Leg, which looked like it was meant for Lilliputians, was paired with the quail course. I don't usually eat fried foods but this was juicy and scrumptious.

The Oolong-Smoked Quail Breast, aromatic and succulent, was set atop celeriac puree, portobello cream, quail jus, and crowned with wilted baby spinach and edible petals. 

The Beef Short Ribs, slow-cooked for 48 hours for a plastic-fork tender softness, was sumptuous. Char grilled pearl onions, earthy shitake puree, a tuscan kale chip, and horseradish rounded this smashing construction.

The first of two desserts, a White Vinegar Compressed Peach, zesty and refreshing, was harmonized with Sicilian blood orange, fromage blanc, and orange dust. This was exactly what we needed to cleanse our palates after the heavy opulence of the beef course.

The Poached Strawberry, green tea crumble, pistachio nougat, lemon sponge, vanilla ice-cream, and pistachios, was a contemporary rendition of classic, comforting flavours.

Just when we were about to waddle out of the restaurant, a complimentary platter of petit fours landed on our table, with miniature Chocolate Mushroom Macarons and Chocolate Banana Financier. Yummy.

Meta Restaurant
9 Keong Siak Road
Tel: 6513 0898
Open Mondays & Saturdays from 5.30pm to 11pm for dinner only;
Tuesdays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays
Website: metarestaurant.sg
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