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Archive for January, 2010

Element Restaurant

Mention “buffets” and I’m positive that Element Restaurant at Amara Hotel is not one of the first few to pop into your mind. If not for a close friend’s invitation to her birthday party, I wouldn’t have known of this restaurant at all! High tea is priced at $29++ per adult, $16++ per child on the weekends from 12 to 4pm. The spread is pretty limited and focuses on local favourites such as Roti Prata and Peking Duck.

As with all buffets, quality is a “hits and misses” issue so I won’t say much about the food itself. This will mainly be a pictorial post to give you an idea of the high tea spread.

My personal favourite was the cooked salmon (no surprise!) from the hot food section.

None of the desserts were outstanding enough to garner any raves even though there was a good variety from Italian panna cotta to American carrot cake.

The birthday cake: Strawberry Shortcake, an extremely creamy concoction from Four Leaves.

Happy 21st Birthday, babe! Love you lots.

 

Element Restaurant
165 Tanjong Pagar Road
The Amara
6879 2555

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Mad for Garlic

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s all about garlic at Mad for Garlic. With a name like that, it’s a no-brainer! The theme of garlic was evident from the moment I stepped into the restaurant. Strings of garlic hang on the wall, above the light fixtures, along the tables… You get the idea. Most tellingly is the menu where all of the savoury items have an element of garlic incorporated in it. If not for Google and the introduction by Marcus, the operations manager, I wouldn’t have known that MFG is actually a popular restaurant chain that originated from Seoul and the Singapore outlet is the first outside Korea.

Think Sprite flavoured with Japanese yuzu (a.k.a. yuja in Korean) and you get Yuja-ade ($4.20++). The citrus tartness was too subtle and refreshing, though it got a little too sweet for me after awhile. Perhaps, more yuja would do the trick?

I was worried that Skinny Pizza has spoilt me for all other thin crust pizzas but MFG’s special Garlic Snowing Pizza  ($16.90++) shot that theory to hell. Topped with shrimps and pineapples, the crust retained its crispness and I particularly love the baked cloves of garlic and honey-sweetened sauce. The thin flakes of garlic deserved a mention too! Kind of cornflakes, just so much more aromatic. If there’s only one thing I’d go back for, this is it.

Though MFG is supposedly an Italian restaurant, the Red Devil ($19.80++) is as un-Italian as it can get. Pasta with lots of prawns, clams, squids and… beansprouts! I have to say that this is the first time I come across the combination of beansprouts and pasta, and surprisingly they go quite well together. Clearly, this is a dish tweaked to suit the Korean tastebuds. Note that this is an extremely spicy dish, great for chili+seafood lovers!

My first question to Marcus when I saw the Garlic Butter Shrimp ($20.80): “Why aren’t the prawns de-shelled??”. Turns out that since this is a franchise, there are so-called “rules” that the franchisee has to abide by. And one of them is that the prawns are to be served in their shells since Koreans like it so they’re perceived to be fresher. Okay… Anyway, though the prawns were fresh, they were secondary compared to the garlic butter sauce with lots of minced garlic and onions. Tasty tasty. But now that I know that the prawns are not de-shelled, I’ll have second thoughts about ordering this again. Too tedious. I know, lazy me, haha.

Don’t worry, desserts are spared the garlic touch! Rather than sprinkle the cocoa powder on top of the tiramisu ($7.90++), the chef created a cocoa-garlic on the plate instead. Cute! Taste-wise, I thought this was very nicely done, with a moist base, distinct coffee liqueur and a good balance of sweetness and bitterness.

What I like about MFG is its unusual creative take on Italian cuisine, though it’s far from being an authentic Italian restaurant. Since I belong to the camp of garlic lovers, I may be a little biased in my raves but just to provide a different perspective, the friend who’s totally NOT amoured of garlic was equally won over! I suppose it’s all thanks to special recipes (Marcus refused to reveal the trade secret, haha), the garlic’s pungent smell has been reduced drastically.

I walked out with garlic-free breath, I swear.

 

 

Mad For Garlic
#01-039, Suntec City (Galleria)
6333 1507

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Skinny Pizza

Wheelock Place is fast becoming my favourite mall for dining in town. First, there’s the ever-reliable Cedele; now, Skinny Pizza is vying for my attention with its cheery vibe, funky retro decor, cute waiters and of course, the skinny goodness of its namesake. My first encounter with it was at Barrack Cafe a month ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Time to get it out of my system!

Still loving the Sweet Potato Nibblets ($7++)! Not oily and the sprinkle of salt and sugar is just right. Great consistency there.

I declare these the most addictive fries. Ever.

With heaps of well-marinated tuna chunks, crunchy pistachios, plump port-wine soaked raisins, avocado and herbed roasted tomatoes, Ahi Taki Pizza ($25++) was oh-so-delish! Nothing makes me more happy than chomping down all my favourite toppings in every bite. This is messiness in the best way possible.

You know how much I love squid ink, don’t you? Topped with calamari, fresh tomato salsa and onions, the magic with Squid Ink Pizza ($23++) lies in the squid ink paste. Briny and umami-rich, it’s perfect with the plain papadum-thin crust! This won more votes than Ahi Taki from the friends, but I’m not choosing sides since I’ll probably take ages to decide which one I love more. Both are equally delicious!

Lemon Cake ($12++) was a good choice even though it was not the birthday girl’s first choice for desserts since the ones she wanted were unavailable. Be warned that it may too sour if you have a low tolerance level but the tartness was just right for me. Light and zesty, this is a classic with layers of lemon butter cream, moist madeira sponge and lemon curd with a dollop of baked meringue.

Enough said, Skinny Pizza is my latest obsession! What a crack.

 

Skinny Pizza
#03-04, Wheelock Place
6235 7823

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Ma Maison

When I was in secondary school, the friend and I used to talk about living in a traditional English-style cottage. I know I know, we live in Singapore, so that’s highly unlikely but hey, you can’t blame two 14 years olds for daydreaming right? 7 years later, I’ve found the perfect cottage facade in Singapore: Ma Maison, with its English cottage theme for decor. It’s impossible not to get sucked into the quaint and homely setting, what with the timber panelling, parquetry flooring, and charmingly cute memorabilia on the walls. The cuisine is supposedly fusion, which is not really helpful. So is it Western? French? Japanese? I reckon it’s a combination of all that and more, with a touch of Chinese thrown into the mix as well. Talk about confusing.

The grilled seabass ($16++) was fresh and nicely grilled but I didn’t fancy the heavy Chinese-style sauce, which was thickened with too much cornstarch.

Sometimes, good desserts things come when I least expect it! The homemade caramel pudding ($4.80++) deserves a spot in my list of “mind-blowingly good desserts”. It’s not as cloyingly sweet as the word “caramel” may suggest – instead, it’s surprisingly light with a perfect level of sweetness. Übersmooth with a silky texture, this may very well be the best one I’ve eaten so far. Ok, it is the best.

Gotta love a place with such an inviting setting, good service and fabulous pudding to boot. Big eaters, take note: portions are on the minuscule small side so it may be a good idea to drop by for desserts after a proper meal elsewhere. That’s what I’d do, anyway.

Ma Maison
#02-51, Bugis Junction
6338 4819

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Tao’s Restaurant

I’ve never heard of Tao’s Restaurant until recently when the friend mentioned that this is one of her favourite restaurants. Of course I have to go check it out! Apparently, Tao’s has been around for years and belongs to the same group as JuJu Hokkaido Hot Pot and Dozo (on my to-go-list!). The concept is straightforward: “One price, One Menu, Many Selections” ($19.90++ for 6 course lunch/ $29.80++ for 7 course dinner) and the fusion menu is a mishmash of modern European and oriental dishes.

Love the tangy and refreshing sour plum juice! This actually belongs on the menu of sister restaurant JuJu Hot Pot next door but the staff kindly brought us a serving each.

The bacon and mushroom gratin pairs well with the free-flow toasted bread but it was slightly salty and way too cheesy for me.

Instead of the gratin, my starter is off the menu (it’s actually the starter on JuJu’s menu, how convenient to have a sister restaurant next door haha) and this is my favourite dish of the day! Hard not to love eggs, especially when said egg is a 70% semi-boiled  beauty with a semi-solid yolk, served with cold tofu and a small slice of yellowtail. Extremely simple but terribly good! 

I happily polished off the slices of smoked salmon on my salad but neglected the pile of romaine lettuce which looked wilted and browned to me.

To my surprise, the waiter noticed and after knowing the reason, he insisted on letting me try another salad on the menu. So I had the fruit salad, a timbale of apples and peaches, topped with finely chopped crabsticks. Sweet and fruity (duh!).

Both the cream of mushroom (with lots of mushrooms!) and pumpkin soup had a strong dose of cream that I didn’t take to.

I hardly ever find fault with unagi, just because I like it so much that even an average one will make me happy. Thumbs up for Tao’s rendition of the grilled Japanese unagi which was soft and tender. I like. Pity that the portion was very small though.

Seriously, the stingray is a steal of a deal! The portion was so big that it put my unagi to shame. Very meaty and juicy, with a robust spicy chilli for that good kick to the palate.

The only complaint the friend had for her oven roasted steak? Portion was too generous! Definitely a plus for big eaters.

I don’t think dessert is Tao’s strong suit as none of the ones I tried are good enough to impress. Don’t get me wrong, they are decent and passable, just not something I would come back for. From top left, clockwise: cheesecake, tiramisu, yangsheng poached pear and creme brulee.

With so many choices and no ala carte options, there’s bound to be some hits and misses in our selections. While I won’t go so far as to say that this is one of the best meals I’ve had, I think that the value for money aspect offered by Tao’s can’t be denied. And did I mention that the service is impressive? Friendly and efficient with an attention to details, those guys bring “genuine service” to a whole new level.

 

Tao’s Restaurant
#B1-19, PoMo
6339 8858

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Schokolart

Schokolart has been lurking at the back of my mind ever since a reader’s enthusiastic recommendation (hi, Tiara, if you are reading!) of this new chocolate café-lounge in town. But they seem to be having some logistical problems since the few times I popped by, the display cases were empty. Yup, that’s right, no cakes in a chocolaterie! How absurd. Anyway, Schokolart (say “Sho-koh-lart” with me) hails from Kuala Lumpur and apparently, the cakes are shipped from KL daily, which is why there’s often no cakes during tea time. Weird, I know.

Like Bakerzin and Canele (but Schokolart is way out of their league!), there’s savoury food on the menu besides the sweet stuff. Hot & Saucy ($12.50++) is very much a fusion dish: angel hair tossed with sambal and chicken meatballs. Nothing worth mentioning.

I love the combination of chocolate and orange so it’s hard to go wrong with Chocolate Orange ($5.60++). Totally adore subtle hints of orange flavoring the extremely soft and moist sponge. What I didn’t like was the lack of professionalism in its presentation. The cake wasn’t cleanly cut, had jagged edges and on the verge on topping over!

Things Desserts went downhill after that. The Raspberry Brulee ($5.60++) is essentially a dome of creamy (not in a good way) creation that didn’t impress. It’s not even mousse, it’s just cheap flavoured cream.

On a random note, is it just me or does this remind you of Elmo, the cute muppet from Sesame Street?

Again, another dessert that’s more cream than cake. And nothing screams “ARTIFICIAL” more than that too bright hue of Mango Passionfruit ($5.60++).

Cream, cream, cream. That’s what the White Chocolate Coffee ($5.60++) is made of too.

I quote the friend: “it’s cheaper to buy a tub of cream and flavouring from the supermarket.” How true.

I want cakes, not cream!

 

Schokolart
#01-25, Orchard Central
6509 6139

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Hediard Cafe-Boutique

Afternoon tea in London, waffles and chocolates in Brussels, herring sandwiches in Amsterdam, Sachertorte in Austria, rosti in Switzerland, pasta and gelato in Florence… Planning for the upcoming trip to Europe got me fantasizing dreaming of the land of epicurean promise. I’m particularly excited about Paris, think Pierre Hermé’s pastries, Berthillon ice creams, Ladurée macarons… I want to be there now! But since Paris is still 3+ months away, I made do and headed to Hediard Cafe at Tudor Court, a name synonymous with luxury in France. Dressed in dramatic black and red, the cafe retains a casual and cozy vibe with single, arched windows for people-watching.

Eggs Norwegian ($19++): Poached egg on toast with Norwegian smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce. Just my kind of breakfast. The smoked salmon was really delicious, not too salty with just the right level of sodium. I can’t say the same for the poached egg though, which was overcooked and too solid.

Eggs “Benedicte” ($16++) underwent a makeover since the best friend wanted scrambled instead of the default poached egg. This is a first for the chef since according to the waiter, “it’s never been done before. But possible.” Great flexibility there. This is very similar to the Eggs Norwegian, except that it’s served with Parma ham on toast instead of smoked salmon. The scrambled egg was good, with a velvety and creamy consistency.

I think cheese lovers will like love the Croq’ Ferdinand ($16++), a tartine of grilled bread with Parma ham, and topped with lots and lots of gruyere cheese and mornay sauce. Extremely cheesy is an understatement. Even I, the self-proclaimed non-cheese lover, like this enough to steal a second bite!

The food is not mind-blowingly good but still very enjoyable since it’s really hard not to love dining in such a charming and lovely setting. And it’s luxury with an affordable price tag! Portions are on the small side though, the reason why French women don’t get fat?

I wanna go Paris even more now.

 

Hediard Cafe-Boutique
125 Tanglin Road
6333 6683

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