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Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is one of the most special restaurants I’ve been to in recent memory. With the restaurant located inside the S.E.A. Aquarium, we had a truly memorable dining experience! The view of the Open Ocean habitat was spectacular – more than 100,000 marine animals of over 800 species. Magnificent view aside, Ocean Restaurant is definitely far from style over substance as Cat Cora is a renowned celebrity chef and the first female Iron Chef.

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Several new additions to the set lunch ($60++ for 4 course), set dinner ($138++ for 4 course) and a la carte menus have been unveiled this month, including our amuse bouche – a pair of fresh oysters, the underwater aphrodisiac!

Oysters on Ice
soy reduction with purple shiso ice

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Characterised by light and healthy dishes using the freshest produce from around the region, one of Cat Cora’s signatures is the 42°C sous vide salmon. The “minestrone” is actually a mixture of orange juice, champagne and pomelo, hence it was sour but so refreshing. As for the tartare, imagine soft salmon “sashimi” layered with creamy salmon mousse, wrapped with seaweed, and topped with crispy salmon skin. So many different textures, wonderful!

42°C Sous Vide Salmon
salmon tartare, citrus minestrone, ikura, fennel

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Similar to the previous dish, the smoked eel also has a great combination of flavours and textures. I love anything eel and this was an unexpectedly lovely match with the smooth sunchoke (i.e. artichoke) jelly and brittle sunchoke chip.

Smoked Eel
sunchoke jelly, duck liver terrine

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Vegetarians can look forward to the wholesome butternut soup which is part of the 4 course vegetarian menu ($98++). I was there during a rainy day so this was another winning dish for me as the thick and hearty-goodness of this soup warmed my system up right away.

Multi-Grain & Butternut Soup
pumpkin seed chantilly, pumpkin seed oil

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We were surprised by how generous the portion was for K’s perfectly medium rare premium wagyu ribeye steak. Topped with a big slab of foie gras, this was a tad too heavy for K and such a huge contrast with the lighter dishes we had.

Beef Wagyu Ribeye ‘Rossini’
seared duck foie gras, sauteed wild mushroom, confit potato with truffle

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My main course of chilean seabass fared much better (fish is usually no-fail #perksofbeingapescetarian haha)! Also known as toothfish, the chilean seabass is simply paired with lettuce puree and tangy vinegar reduction. Moist, (naturally) buttery, silky… Everything I want in a fish!

Pan Seared Toothfish
grilled marinated lettuce, passion fruit vinegar reduction

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Desserts were the weakest link for this meal, I think. We tried three and none of them made a lasting impression – black forest had an overdose of cream (to be fair, I’m not a fan of black forest cake to start with); mont blanc was too sweet; and pandan blancmanger was rather bland (disappointed as the description on paper sounds like something I’d enjoy)…

Black Forest
valrhona chocolate sponge, kirsh, caramel ice cream, cherry compote

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Mont Blanc
hazelnut meringue, chestnut puree, vanilla ice cream

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Pandan Blancmanger
kudzu, kinako ice cream

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If you are planning for a romantic meal at Ocean Restaurant, you MUST request for a table by the window! Unobstructed killer view guaranteed!

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Many thanks to Charmaine and Zhi Juan for arranging dinner!

Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora
8 Sentosa Gateway
S.E.A. Aquarium, Level B1M
6577 6688

Dinner at Tandoor last Friday was interesting, to say the least. The menu was not an ordinary one as Australia’s celebrity chef Tony Bilson has joined hands with Head Chef Vaibhav Suri to craft dishes fusing authentic Indian flavours with western influences such as sous vide cooking and usage of non-traditional ingredients. Think of it as a form of elevated contemporary Indian cuisine!

Tawa Scallops
indian spiced pan seared deep sea scallops with saffron and fennel sabayon

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Highlights for me are definitely the appetisers of red snapper carpaccio and pan seared scallops. The former was simply a sight for sore eyes – beautifully plated, vibrant colours, fresh light and tasty! The latter was quite surreal because it did not taste like scallop at all! So plump, soft and almost translucent, amazing.

Roomali Red Snapper Chaat
carpaccio of red snapper, shellfish and caviar with tangy chilli and lemon dressing

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One of the best aspects of dining at an Indian restaurant is knowing that vegetarians will never be forgotten by the chefs (because I’m half a vegetarian haha)! Instead of snapper, the chefs put together an equally gorgeous carpaccio made entirely of thinly sliced tropical fruits. The veggie mains were my favourite though – smokey tandoori broccoli and nutty stuffed zucchini flower!

Roomali Fruit Chaat
carpaccio of dragon fruit, watermelon, papaya, pineapple with tangy chilli and lemon dressing

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Meat-wise, it seems like everyone had their own preferences – my dining partner and chef Suri were all praises for the tender slow cooked lamb shoulder (second servings were requested and granted yay!) while chef Tony (so glad to catch him before he left yesterday) liked the marinated duck leg most. Popular Australian wildbirds are also included on the menu with the tandoori squab (young pigeon) and stone grilled quail!

Main Course (Meat)
marinated duck leg stuffed with foie gras, pea puree and mushroom; australian squab with traditional tandoori marinade, garlic tempered spinach and crispy potato; slow cooked australian lamb shoulder crusted with grainy mustard marinade, basmati pulao with indian demi glaze

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Main Course (Vegetarian)
cottage cheese stuffed with spiced green peas, garlic tempered mustard leaves; zucchini flower stuffed with nuts, cooked in tandoor; tandoori broccoli with tangy marinade, indian black pepper sauce

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Dessert was quite puzzling. The description read “puff tart shell” and “caramelized fresh figs” but we were served the “tart” in a creme brulee form with dried fig instead. No issue, since it was pretty good all the same (and honestly, I was stuffed by then). Especially the rich and dark chocolate mousse with a hint of spices!

Caramelized Cardamon Fig Tart
puff tart shell with almond marzipan, caramelized cardamon fresh figs, raspberry sorbet, espresso mousse and indian spiced chocolate

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Lunch Set Menu: $48++ per person (12noon to 2.30pm)
Dinner Set Menus: $58++ or $88++ per person (7pm to 10.30pm)
Tandoor will feature a selection of Tony Bilson’s dishes til end January 2014.

Thanks Yan for arranging dinner!

Tandoor Restaurant
#B1, Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre
11 Cavenagh Road
6730 0153

Say hello to my recent food obsession: donburi bowls from Kilo at Pact.

More specifically, I’m heads over heels with the salmon quinoa bowl! The ingredients are simple but outstanding on its own – sweet fresh and crunchy corn kernels (nothing out of a can!), creamy and perfectly ripe avocado, well-marinated radishes and shimeji mushrooms, and incredibly flavourful quinoa. So delicious that I don’t even mind that the salmon tends to be overcooked (tried and tested thrice). I can’t make out what’s in the secret dressing though – shoyu? Mirin? Vinegar? WHAT?! Guess I’ll keep going back to figure it out haha.

K’s pork belly bowl is a near replica – just substitute salmon for pork belly, quinoa for sushi rice. He didn’t like this place on our first visit but has since changed his mind yay. The power of a pork belly bowl!

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Pork Belly Sushi Rice ($18++)
avocado, sweet corn, shimeji mushrooms, radishes, sugar peas, cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, wasabi sprouts

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Pan-Seared Donburi Salmon Quinoa ($18++)
avocado, sweet corn, shimeji mushrooms, radishes, sugar peas, cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, wasabi sprouts

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Kilo at Pact
#02-16/17/18/19, Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
6884 7560

Pontini Italian Buffet

Pontini, the long-standing Italian restaurant at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, has unveiled a brand new Italian buffet featuring a plethora of antipasti, breads, soup, main courses and desserts from various regions in Italy. Priced at $48++ for adult and $24++ for child on Saturdays and public holidays from noon to 3pm, I thought that it was very value for money, especially for the quality (rather than quantity, which is rare for buffets).

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I found myself heading back to the antipasti corner again and again – wholesome baked butternut squash, crab meat and black truffle tapenade; juicy grilled Portobello mushrooms with sweet chilli and arugula salad; Tuscany-style marinated octopus, chickpeas and green asparagus salad; assorted Italian cold cuts served with candied fruit mustard, sweet onion chutney and grain mustard (I made the rounds for K too!); and the crisp, leafy radicchio, pear, Gorgonzola cheese salad tossed with aged balsamic vinegar etc.

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Pastas are whipped up a la minute at the live station by the team of chefs. You can DIY your pasta – choice of pasta (tagliolini, penne, tagliatelle) and preparation methods (aglio oliotomato basil fondue, “Roman” style carbonara, wild mushroom with pancetta and pine nuts, “Genovese” style basil pesto sauce). Mine was given a luxurious touch because I was really lucky to “bump” into both black and white whole truffles! Freshly shaved truffles onto our plates of carbonara and mushroom tagliatelle upped the delicious scale by several notches!

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Main courses were kept to a minimal – Piedmont-style braised beef brisket and potato fondant in herb gravy; sauteed live mussels in crustacean saffron broth and broccoli floret; chicken thigh “Diavola” paired with spicy capsicum tomato sauce and dried oregano. My favourite was no doubt the oven-baked Norwegian salmon mignon in pistachio crust. I love that it was not overcooked despite sitting in the warming tray and the delicately nutty and crunchy crust provided a delightful contrast to the tender flesh!

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A finale for an Italian meal cannot be without desserts right?! The ensemble of mini tiramisu, zesty lemon tart, vanilla panna cotta, pistachio almond biscotti and stracciatella ricotta cannoli prepared deftly at the live station left us completely satiated. I usually left buffets feeling overstuffed but not this time! Everything was just right :)

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Our thanks to Jennifer and Shawn for the kind invitation!

Pontini Italian Buffet
Level 2, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
392 Havelock Road
Singapore 169663
6233 1100

Li Bai Hairy Crabs!

Phew, I’m not too late to share about the return of hairy crabs, am I?!

True, the season is almost over but you can still get your hands on them at Li Bai for the rest of this month!

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New this year is the gorgeous braised king prawn and sweet potato topped with hairy crabmeat and crab roe! I really enjoyed this dish – the medley of fresh and plump prawn, pan-fried sweet potato and sauteed spinach crowned with fragrant hairy crabmeat and creamy roe yielded a myriad of textures with every bite.

Braised King Prawn and Sweet Potato with Hairy Crabmeat and Crab Roe ($36++ per person)
大閘蟹粉大蝦金薯

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My favourite fish dish at Li Bai is the baked cod and while the red garoupa was not bad (deep-fried fillet was good but the sauteed one was bland), I’d still stick with cod any time.

Red Garoupa
prepared 2 ways – sauteed fillet and deep-fried

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To experience the natural sweetness and distinctive taste of hairy crabs, at least try one that is traditionally steamed! Love the succulent meat and of course, the sinful decadent crab roe!

Traditionally Steamed Hairy Crab ($60++ per piece)
古法蒸大闸蟹

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I was more than happy to leave my crab to the experienced staff for deshelling! The experts made it seem so easy!

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As hairy crabs are known to be ‘cooling’, hot ginger tea will definitely be served at any feast involving said crabs to balance the constitution. Don’t worry, this was quite mild (I prefer mine to be super strong with a good kick to the system) so you will still have a sweet ending!

Sweetened Ginger Tea
with hasma (dried fatty tissue found near the fallopian tubes of frogs!)

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Thank you to the Sheraton team for hosting us for dinner!

Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant
Sheraton Towers Singapore
39 Scotts Road
Singapore 228230
6839 5623

I first came into contact with Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore a few weeks ago when they invited their media friends and business partners over for a house party.

Wait a minute, Hotel Jen? New hotel in Singapore? Nope, it’s the rebranded Traders Hotel with a refreshed identity inspired by the virtual persona Jen, a professional hotelier who loves life, travel and the adventure of discovering new places!

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Boy, the team at Hotel Jen really knew how to throw a party – superbrunch (the spread was huge!), human foosball (we won, yay!) and lucky draws (no luck sigh). Anyway, we were told of the rebranding offer (ending Nov 30 so check out the “Weekend Staycation at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore” offer which expires 31 Dec 2015 instead!) at the party which sounded very attractive – $230++ for buffet breakfast in Cafebiz, 20% discount at Ah Hoi’s Kitchen, free WiFi etc etc – and I thought, K’s birthday is coming up so why not right?

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Actually, K’s birthday is at the end of this month but he will be celebrating it in Thailand (army duty for 2+ weeks!) so I wanted to surprise him with a weekend staycation. I even gave him an invitation card to complete the surprise – he totally didn’t see it coming!

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We were assigned a Club Room on the highest floor which is 25sqm size and comes with an en-suite bathroom. Honestly, the room (see above) looks quite “tired” right? So I’m glad to report that the rooms will be renovated (hotel will remain open) to feature modern, apartment-style furnishings such as a bay window sofa –> see mock up room below which was introduced to us at the party. Such a big difference!

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Our room faced the pool and we spotted our dinner venue! You can’t see it in the photo but the signage of Ah Hoi’s Kitchen is right above the yellow umbrellas ha.

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Poolside dining at Ah Hoi’s Kitchen was unexpectedly impressive! My favourite dishes are both crab-based – soft shell crabs stir fried with almond and just a handful of chopped chilli padi (so fragrant!) and the meaty salted egg yolk crab from Sri Lanka. The salted egg yolk sauce was rather magical – usually it gets overwhelming after the initial “shiokness” but the version here had a hint of spicy heat and balanced flavour. Simply 好吃!

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K is a gym junkie so it’s great that the gym is 24 hours and has decent equipment! We also took the opportunity to use the sauna, steam bath and whirlpool facilities located within the spa… Staycation bliss!

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Time always fly by so much faster during a staycation! We woke up not wanting to check out haha. Our breakfast at Cafebiz was very hearty because of the vast spread of food! Asian, international and local cuisines, made to order eggs any style, breads and danishes, cereals and fruits, hot dishes, and there’s even an ice cream section omg. I applaud the idea of having a “tapao” corner – guests can openly takeaway food and drinks from the buffet using the disposable boxes and cups provided, nice!

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The Club Lounge also offers breakfast but a smaller spread – continental and classic hot items such as eggs, bacon and sausages. Throughout the day, there’s free drinks and snacks, along with canapes and wines in the evening. Again, the lounge seems kind of old so I can’t wait to see how it looks after the facelift!

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I must really thank the staff at Hotel Jen for delivering a surprise birthday cake to our room! The soccer balls (K is a huge fan and plays every week) were such a thoughtful touch, thank you!

Other points-scoring aspects of Hotel Jen include fruit cups inside the fridge (conventional whole fruits are so yesterday and chilled fruits do make a difference!), refreshing infused water served in the lobby and at various places (Level 2, Ah Hoi’s Kitchen) and the useful mobile chargers displayed at the lobby (I always see guests camping by the chargers haha).

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And with that, our weekend staycation came to an end… Quirky cushions on sofa, see you soon! I’ll be keeping a lookout for the various room offers on your website!

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My heartfelt thanks to Wai Ling and the team at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore for making our stay so comfortable and memorable!

Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore (Formerly Traders Hotel)
1A Cuscaden Road
Singapore 249716
6738 2222
hjs@hoteljen.com

Merely Ice Cream

I had high hopes for Merely Ice Cream as I had read plenty of positive reviews about their “French-style” ice-cream made using egg yolks as natural emulsifier.

So was I impressed?

In a word, no.

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The flavour that brought me to Merely was actually gula pandan (i.e. gula melaka + pandan cake), which I thought sounded like a sure winner when I was doing my “research”. After sampling it, I realized I was wrong. Didn’t like the weak flavour and the pieces of cake were dry. Because our SOP is a cup of triple scoops, we eventually settled on chocolate stout (best of the lot to me), salted butterscotch and earl grey. Verdict? –> Click here to read more about my (and others’) comments on Instagram!

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Merely Ice Cream
#01-13 Sunshine Plaza (directly opposite NAFA Campus 2)
91 Bencoolen Street
6238 0890

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