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Archive for July, 2010

Following the success of Roast at One Rochester, the 1-Rochester Group is introducing another new dining concept known as Coast at 1 Twenty Six. Located along the breezy shores of East Coast Park, this chic chill-out beachfront restaurant and bar offer an idyllic escape amid a lush setting. The dining areas are mostly outdoors but for those who’s not a fan of al fresco dining like me, fret not as there’s an indoor dining room too.

There’s a good selection of whites and reds, cocktails and juices to satiate and stimulate the appetite before dinner proper. Though we declined any when orders were taken, the friendly bartender sent us 2 ornamental glasses of The Narcissist ($16++) on the house. Made of 42 Below vodka, peach, freshly-squeezed lime and rosemary infused raspberries, this was very light and refreshing.

I had cod brandade for lunch everyday while in Verona and Venice not too long ago so I was eager to find out how the homemade version ($8++) here measures up, especially when this is a laborious dish not commonly found in Singapore. While the smooth texture was spot-on, the saltiness was way over the top, even when paired with the accompanying grilled bruschetta.

The soft shelled crab ($14++) served with a chilli mayo dip was decent. Crispy and not oily at all.

With the nibbles out of the way, it’s time for my first proper starter: pan-seared Hokkaido scallops ($24++) with jerky-like bacon crisps and balsamic reduction on a bed of eggplant caviar which is somewhat like the Lebanese baba ghanoush. I like the whole combination of this!

The classic shellfish bisque with prawn ravioli ($20++) didn’t fare as well. This was quite diluted and didn’t pack a powerful punch like the renditions from The French Kitchen and Private Affairs, which are my personal benchmarks for any “seafoody” bisque.

For salads, I went for the chef’s recommendation of the Tuna Nicoise in 2 styles ($20++): tuna tataki that’s perfectly seared and tuna confit tossed with French beans, cherry tomatoes and soft boiled quails eggs with liquid yolk. While not mindblowing, this was another decent dish that agrees with the palate.

From the pasta & grain section, I opted for the goat cheese tortellini with prawns in clam broth, coppa cracklings ($24++). I can’t be 100% sure but I think there’s caramelised onions in the filling, which may explain why there’s a hint of sweetness in the pasta.

Correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve always believed that fresh cooked prawns are a breeze to de-shell and that’s how I tell whether prawns and lobsters are fresh and healthy prior to being cooked. Unfortunately, the meat of the grilled king prawns was tough to separate from the shell and had a chalky texture.

Continuing the theme of coastal dining (notice how seafood is featured in every dish so far?), I had the Hiramasa Kingfish ($42++) with a delectable currant and pine nut salad as my main. I enjoyed this a lot cuz it was so juicy and tender, and the Asian influence of a sambal-like sauce was a nice touch.

When I read “spicy corn cakes” in the description, I wrongly assumed that it’s referring to polenta. These corn cakes turned out to have a texture like fish cakes, chewy and a little starchy.

The frozen ‘deconstructed’ strawberry shortcake ($14++) was such a pretty sight to behold. Love the home-churned strawberry ice cream which was so natural-tasting and had a fabulous creamy mouthfeel. Nothing beats homemade ice cream! And the layers of soft sponge and flaky pastry were a great contrast.

I remember lamenting that the coconut ice cream is not found on the menu of Roast previously so you can imagine how happy I was to find that said ice cream is now paired with a Valrhona dark and white chocolate fondant ($14++) on the dessert menu of Coast. It’s still as good and while I had to send the 1st fondant back to the kitchen cuz there was no lava flow, the 2nd one turned out well and surprisingly not as sweet as I thought it would be.

Before I knew it, 4 hours had passed! While the food was a hit-and-miss affair, I was reluctant to leave as there was an awesome live band belting out Top 40 hits to diners winding down on comfy couches after a long long week, TGIF!

Last but not least, I would like to extend my thanks to Chiew Yen and Juwanda for the kind invitation =)

 

Coast at 1 Twenty Six
902 East Coast Parkway, #01-26 Playground @ Big Splash
6348 2126

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Fou de Fafa #2

Dinner at Fou de Fafa was an oasis of calmness, with none of that buzzing organised chaos that define lunchtime at said cafe.

Besides ingenious salads and sandwiches, the paper-thin pizza is also one of their signatures. Pizza Fou’d Flewed! ($20, below) is a huge round disc of cracker-crust topped with generous amounts of rocket leaves and shredded chicken, while Pizza Fou’d ($18, last pic) is the vegetarian cousin heaped with avocado, feta, cherry tomatoes and tons of rocket leaves.

Like Skinny Pizza, the crust goes crunch-crunch-crunch like crackers with every bite. But I found the base too oily in the centre so it turned somewhat soggy halfway through. Not attractive. And the flavours here are dull compared to Skinny Pizza (which rocks cuz of the flavourful toppings)!

I’ll definitely go for dinner the next time cuz it’s so much more relaxing and fun when I don’t have to raise my voice or share the table with white collar strangers. And definitely no more pizza here, just anything but, please.

 

Fou de FaFa
#01-05 Capital Tower
168 Robinson Road
6327 9418

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Spruce Taqueria

I used to have my weekly dose of Mexican food at Mexicali Fresh when I was living in Auckland cuz it’s cheap, fresh and most importantly, delicious. Nachos, tacos, quesadillas… I’ve tried them all, and liked them all. But after moving back to Singapore, I realise that it’s so hard to find a decent local Mexican joint. So when Tan Huseh Yun from Straits Times’ Urban Posh Nosh raved so much about the tacos from Spruce Taqueria, I thought that I can finally go back to my tacos-eating days again… Not.

Like its name suggests, Spruce Taqueria is not a cafe or restaurant. It’s more like a simple, no-nonsense black-and-white shack located at the back of Spruce at Phoenix Park. The menu is equally straightforward and rather limited: choose ala carte taco ($3)/quesadilla ($6)/rice bowl ($9) or a set of 2 tacos/1 quesadilla with chips, salsa and a drink for $9.

Out of the 3 types of tacos we ordered, my favourite is the grilled snapper (like duh). Grilled to order, the fillets are coated with Cajun seasoning and tasted flavourful and fresh. At just $3, I can’t say that I wish that the fish is chunkier, can I? The guacamole was even better, really smooth and creamy. I wanted to get the set but this is so popular that there was only one portion left that day =(

Other fillings available: poblano chile and mushroom (a vegetarian version with roasted Mexian peppers and meaty shiitake and honshimeji mushrooms) and traditional pork carnitas (slow-cooked Kurobuta pork shoulder).

While I applaud the idea of setting up such a novel taqueria in Singapore, I won’t be in any hurry to go back again. Location is not exactly ideal or accessible for those who don’t drive or live close by. Tables and chairs are scattered outdoors so it can get really hot when the sun decides to make an appearance. And while the taco filling is good, I didn’t like the soft corn tortillas cuz I’m used to (and much prefer) hard crunchy taco shells.

To make you working adults groan in frustration, the taqueria is only opened from 12-3pm on weekdays. So take a long break someday and head over to Spruce Taqueria for cheap and gourmet fast food!

 

Spruce Taqueria
320 Tanglin Road
6836 5528 

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The Mask Restaurant

After Mom told me that The Mask Restaurant was featured in Tuesday’s my paper, I thought I’ll also share this new live seafood restaurant with you guys. I actually went there late last month when there was a promotion of 50% off all ala carte items! No harm trying since it’s such an attractive deal.

What sets The Mask apart from all the other seafood restaurants is that the menu comprises of a mix of indian and chinese dishes. Think along the line of fixing your cravings for tandoori chicken and kung pao chicken at the same time.

I took my carb in the form of Indian garlic naan ($5++) cuz I haven’t had naan for the longest time ever. Maybe 3 or 4 years? Anyway, I thought this was just average, not particularly fragrant and dotted with too many ugly bitter burnt patches.

The winning dish for me is the egg tofu in pumpkin sauce ($10++) cuz it’s everything I love in one big deep dish: painstakingly homemade tofu that’s so silky soft, sweet and fresh pumpkin puree, plus loads of bell peppers, ginkgo nuts and Japanese mushrooms.

What do you always order at Cze Char places? For me, it’s deep-fried yam ring! The Mask’s version ($15++) is filled with a mixture of stir-fried vegetables, cashew nuts and chicken. Though the ring is a tad too thin, I still like this cuz it’s not oily at all and the texture is smooth.

Anything cooked with those sinful orangey balls of salted egg yolk is bound to taste good and the prawn balls fried with salted egg yolk ($18++) are no exception! I only wish that more salted egg yolk is used for an even more powerful impact on the palate.

While this dish is delicious, it’s not meant for those worrying about going into instant cardiac arrest. Salted egg yolks are known to be unhealthy: one salted duck egg yolk (about 70g) contains 359mg of cholesterol! No wonder they say ignorance is bliss~

Another Indian dish I tried is the popular curry fish head ($26++). The gravy was not too spicy, the fish fresh and tender, and the vegetables not soggy and overcooked. Thumbs up for this! 

Though this looks fiery, the chili crab ($40++) was more sweet than spicy. The crab was rather skinny and not too meaty. Better versions can definitely be found elsewhere.

I was there on a Sunday and the service was painfully slow cuz the place was packed. A few of my orders were forgotten and I had to remind the waitress to check with the kitchen a couple of times. That said, the bill turned out to be astonishly cheap after the discount so I could close one eye to the service lapse.

Here’s the good news: due to overwhelming response, the 50% promotion has been extended till the end of this month! Which means that you have approximately 7 days left to take advantage of this good offer =)

 

The Mask Restaurant
418 Serangoon Road
6396 8051 

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Paris: Ice Cream Marathon

Besides calories-rocketing macarons, chocolates, cakes and pastries, there’s also world-famous ice cream to be found in Paris. Or more specifically, the main street of quaint Ile Saint Louis: rue de Saint Louis en Ile.

Berthillon and Amorino are the names you wanna remember. And since I could only squeeze in a visit on my last day in Paris, I had to down 5 big cups (14 flavours) of ice cream on the spot. All in the name of research, of course =p

Entering the island from the direction of Notre Dame and walking along rue de Saint Louis en Ile, I came upon Amorino first and got really excited even though it was second on my list.

Founded in Paris by two Italians in 2002, Amorino makes Italian-style ice cream (think gelato) and is a hit with tourists and locals. All the flavours are in Italian, which made ordering a baffling fun challenge. Baci di dama, crema, stracciatella, zabaione, amarenada, bacio bianco… If none of those names seem familiar, either ask the friendly staff for translation or get a huge hint from the matching toppings generously sprinkled on the luscious rippling ribbons of creamy goodness for the exact flavour.

I always get a cup of 3 scoops so as to try as many flavors as possible, but still not get too confused with the different tastes. This “policy” of mine also stood me in good stead through my must-have-gelato-everyday eating days in Italy (more on that later)!

All the flavours look and sound so good that I wanted to find out whether they taste just as good. After much deliberation, 9 flavours were shortlisted! As you can tell from the pics, the scoops are really generous and ordering a large cup is akin to having an extra-large size!

Here are the 9 flavours I tried and tested: dark chocolate (always a must!), pistachio, nutella, rum & raisin, coffee, cinnamon, orange, coconut, and hazelnut praline.

I’m not going into details how each flavour tasted cuz that’s too boring for you and me. You have to eat it to believe that it’s good! I favoured the pistachio cuz it tasted all natural and not artificial or weird like the local versions. Generally, I was thrilled with all my choices cuz the texture is smooth and it’s not overly sweetened so the natural flavours really shine through.

After striking off Amorino from my list, it was time to put Berthillon to the test. Just a few steps away is the original Berthillon tea room style shop lined with people queueing or just happily licking their cones away. Though many cafes are licensed to sell Berthillon throughout the city, this is the true birthplace of Berthillon so authenticity is guaranteed here.

Little needs to be said about Berthillon that hasn’t already been said. This is the most famous of all Parisian ice cream parlors and arguably serves the best ice cream and sorbets in the world. Such tall claim, you say? Well, I was there to find out! 

Established in 1954 by the eponymous Monsieur Berthillon, Berthillon offers such an overwhelming array of flavours that it’s impossible to leave without trying at least 2 cups. It helps that the scoops are just golf-ball sized (and more expensive), which means I could try more without overloading the system after that 9 scoops from Amorino.

As usual, I had my dose of chocolate in the form of extra-bitter cocoa, as well as praline with lemon, caramel, armagnac & prune, and raspberry. While the armagnac & prune is my personal favourite, the raspberry is also especially good, with the deep intensity of the tangy fruit but without the distraction of cream. Likewise for the extra-cocoa bitter.

Ok, I shall classify this as the type of “Oh my God” ice cream. Yes, it’s that good. Once I tried it, I was lamenting why can’t there be Berthillon in Singapore cuz I didn’t want any other kind of ice cream. Or so I thought, until I got to Italy (like I said, that’s a story for another time)!

If I have to vote with Amorino and Berthillon, I would definitely go with the latter cuz to me, the flavours are richer, much more intense and unusual than the former. Like Laduree and Pierre Hermé macarons, it’s entirely a matter of personal preference. You’ll have to take the taste test yourself and see which is your favourite!

 

Amorino
47, rue Saint Louis en l’Ile

Berthillon
31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile

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Les Amis

Discounting Canelé Pâtisserie which I’ve been to more times than I can count, my first foray into the Les Amis Group’s restaurants was at Au Jardin, followed by Bistro Du Vin, La Strada and Aoki. Some left me delighted, while others left me disappointed. After a myraid of good and bad dining experiences at those restaurants under my belt, I reckon it’s time to drop by their flagship, Les Amis, which is one of the top fine-dining restaurants in Singapore.

Like Iggy’s, we were given personalised 4-course menu ($80++)! Simple gesture that adds points.

Complementary crusty walnut bread.

Amuse bouche: sea urchin with crunchy asparagus and bell peppers.

A huge dollop of buttery, melt-in-the-mouth sea urchin… Need I say more?

Starter #1: Marinated Japanese bluefin tuna, smooth avocado marble, hearts of palm and intensely sweet cherry tomato.

This is a very ‘me’ starter cuz I like everything on the plate. And it’s most interesting cuz of the hearts of palm which I’ve never tried before. They have a very delicate flavour like artichokes and resemble thick white asparagus, sans tips.

Starter #2: Char-grilled Obsiblue prawn, al dente mushroom risotto and confit egg yolk.

This is even better than starter #1. Come on, who wouldn’t get weak at the sight of bright cheery confit egg yolk in all its wobbly glory?

Poke it open, let the yolk flow and coat each grain evenly…

Wait, it gets even better! Ta-da, presenting the seasonal Australian black winter truffles ($6++ per gram) cultivated from the “Oak Valley Farm” located about 300km south of Perth.

A sleek weighing machine was brought out, weight of truffles measured, slices of the black gold were shaved over my starter, truffles weighed again, big grin on my face and… Complementary 2 grams of freshly shaved truffles = Love! I took a very long time savouring each and every bite of this. It smells and tastes incredibly heavenly, I’m telling you.

Main course #1: Crispy skin Tennen Tai, tender hen of the woods mushroom, lettuce and caper lime jus.

Main course #2: Japanese trout cooked “sous vide”, chanterelle mushrooms, spring onions and…

ramp leave puree on the side.

Both main courses were heavy strong in flavours, leaning more towards the salty side of the scale. The trout was perfectly cooked but I can definitely do without the foam on top since it doesn’t really add any flavour to the dish.

All too soon, it’s dessert time! The sommelier offered complementary glasses of Tschida dessert wine to go with our sweets. While I’m no connoisseur of wines, I do know that Austria is at the top of the list when it comes to the finest sweet wines in the world. This has a pale golden hue with a light acidity and a touch of delicate sweetness which caught my fancy.

Dessert #1: Crispy apple-pear strudel, weird-tasting vanilla foam, awesome tangy-sweet yoghurt ice cream and salty caramel

This is the first time I see a strudel presented as a “cone”. The filling of apple and pear is pretty good, not too sweet and goes well with the thin pastry.

Dessert #2: Strawberry-yuzu tiramisu, chocolate tuile, strawberry granitee.

What wins our votes is the superbly smooth and soft mascarpone cheese that’s second to none. The creamy yet light mouthfeel doesn’t taste like any other mascarpone cheese I’ve ever tried before and I even double-checked with the waitress to assure myself that I didn’t assume wrongly, haha. Minus some points for the so-subtle-it’s-almost-not-there citrus flavour though.

Soothing camomile tea and mignardises: crispy caramelised canele, fantastic black sesame (my favourite, duh!), Le Royale and dark chocolate pralines from Canelé and freshly baked madeleine that’s still warm from the oven.

I don’t have to stress how much I enjoyed lunch, do I? While I was browsing through the photos, it struck me that the colours are so vibrant. That’s how I like my food to be, colourful and tasty.

Dining at Les Amis is an education in itself cuz I got to sample many different golden-priced produce which I’ve never seen before, like the hearts of palm and chanterelles. I even learnt a bit about sweet wines from the friendly sommelier =) And as with most fine-dining restaurants, the service was impeccable, though at times, it was a tad too attentive for my own comfort.

 

Les Amis Restaurant
#02-16 Shaw Centre
6733 2225

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Restaurant Ten

Me not being a fan of Chinese/Asian (sans Japanese) cuisine, I think I’ve finally found a Chinese restaurant that I can truly like. I approve of Restaurant Ten‘s concept of dishing out holistic herbal cuisine that doesn’t turn off diners with any strong medicinal taste whatsoever. To me, it’s always a huge plus if the food turns out to taste good and is beneficial to the body too. 

While browsing through the menu, we were served a shooter of icy lemongrass+honey that perked up my mood right away cuz it’s so invigorating and a small appetiser of crunchy sliced lotus roots soaked in sweet orange juice (standard charge of $1++ per pax).

We had the 4 course set lunch ($28++) which I thought was very good value for money.

My first starter of soft pure egg white topped with dried scallop on a bed of fried crispy potato nest was absolutely delish! Love the whole combination and interplay of different textures. I also added a few drops of black or apple vinegar to spruce up the flavours.

This was followed by an aromatic double-boiled black chicken soup which tasted like my grandma’s homecooked soup.

The main course is a trio of braised cod fish, golden fried rice and a stuffed chicken wing. I changed the chicken wing to deep-fried dace fish skin instead and this reminds me of the fabulous fish skin I had in Hong Kong. So crispy and non-oily. 

Fresh fish that’s perfectly cooked always seal the deal for me and this cod was especially tasty paired with the salty-tangy sauce of celery and parsley. If I have to nitpick, it’s that the rice would be even nicer if it wasn’t so hard and tough.

Dessert was a bowl of chilled (or hot) double-boiled pear that’s so light and refreshing that it doesn’t even feel like dessert.

From start to end, the service was top-notch. Very attentive and the waitress took care to explain each dish to us after serving it. I guess this is it, Restaurant Ten will be my first choice when the loving-Chinese-food parents wanna have Chinese for family meals!

 

Restaurant Ten 
#01-01, 7 Purvis Street
6333 9901 

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