Fat Cow @ Camden Medical Centre – Holy Cow of a Set Lunch

6 10 2014

What I miss most about student life is the ability to partake in unhurried set lunches at “atas” establishments, at a fraction of the price of dinner service. Though even back then, it wasn’t easy to find restaurants that actually had set lunches worth going for, as the less dear set lunch prices usually meant getting certain items that were a poor excuse for a course. That’s what was so amazing with my first lunch visit to Fat Cow, a not so well kept secret of a Japanese Beef atelier. A typical dinner here easily runs into the $150-$300 range per pax, while set lunches are priced extremely reasonably between $26-$48++, which includes a salad, miso soup, chawanmushi, a choice between 12 main courses and dessert. Better yet, the set lunch is also available on Saturdays!

I first heard of Fat Cow from J almost 3 years back, after it had taken over the premises from Le Figue, a reputed French restaurant back in the day. It’s regretable that my first experience had come so late, for this is a gem that one should always keep close to heart.

*If you are planning on dining ala carte here, do download the Entertainer Singapore 2014 App, which contains three 1-for-1 vouchers on Main Courses here. The use of 1 Voucher already saves more than the 1-year subscription cost to the App.

Reception Area / Bar

Below is what a typical set lunch here looks like, with a partially eaten salad and sans the dessert. As mentioned above, there are 12 main courses to choose from for set lunches here, ranging from Tempura Dons, Chirashi, Sushi, Miso Cod, Kurobuta Tonkatsu, Beef Curry but most popular would be the Fat Cow Donburi (below) and the Fat Foa-gura Don.

Set lunch with half eaten salad and sans the dessert

The Fat Cow Donburi ($39++/set) comprised of A3 grade Charcoal-grilled Wagyu laced with truffle oil, with a perfectly poached onsen egg on the side. Freaking orgasmic is all I can say.

The Fat Cow Donburi

I really enjoyed the Fat Foa-gura Don ($43++/set) as well, which was grilled wagyu and glazed foie gras over rice. The beef is served in cubes with slightly more bite compared to the thinly sliced beef from the donburi and I feel that this allowed for a greater realization of how tender the beef actually was. The oily, decadent pieces of foie gras was executed expertly and not overcooked, definitely something I would consider ordering if it was available as a standalone side dish. While I could go at this all day, some might find this dish slightly unctuous. Well, that’s their loss.

Fat Foa-gura Don

Feedback from E was that the Chirashi ($48++/set) was decent as well, though from her facial expression, I could tell that her pleasure points fell short of the ecstasy I was feeling. Lucky for her, we also ordered some ala carte grilled wagyu, so not all was lost that day.

We tried the grilled Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g) from Saga prefecture which is on the northwest part of Kyushu island and the grilled Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g) from Shiga prefecture. Unanimously, we all preferred the ribeye because the marbling was evidently better and had a richer flavor compared to the sirloin.

Now some people might ask, why do I pay in excess of $200 for a wagyu steak at those fancy schmancy restaurants when the same wagyu steak only costs $50 at Astons? The reason is because most likely, they aren’t the same. There are 3 things to look for when getting down and dirty with wagyu that might explain this price differential. Firstly, is it a cross-bred wagyu from Australia/US or pure-bred wagyu from Japan? Drilling down even deeper, wagyu really refers to Japanese beef, of which there are multiple breeds from the different prefectures (best known would of course be kobe) and each commands a different premium.

Secondly, assuming it is a purebred Japanese wagyu that we are looking at, the meat is then categorized by 2 grading metrics, one that looks at the yield of the meat (ratio of meat to the total weight of the carcass) and one that looks at the quality (marbling, meat colour, texture, fat colour).

For the yield metric, the beef is categorized either as A, B or C, with A (having the most yield) usually derived from a purebred Japanese wagyu. For the quality metric, the beef is then scored from 1-5, with 5 being the best. In addition, there is also a beef marble score (BMS) that is related to the quality metric, that scores the marbling on a scale from 3-12, where an A5 wagyu would have a BMS of between 8-12, an A4 wagyu would have a BMS of 5-7 and an A3 wagyu would have a BMS of 3-4.

Top: Saga Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g), Bottom: Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g)

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

To end off our set lunch, we were provided with a scoop of Honeycomb Ice Cream and it was delish. Again, something that I wouldn’t mind ordering ala carte if it wasn’t part of the set lunch.

Given the flawless and reasonably priced set lunch, I can openly say that this has now become my top 2 favourite set lunches locally, the other being Ember (though I haven’t had the chance to revisit after Chef Sebastian left earlier this year).

 Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard, #01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre, Singapore 248649

Tel: +65 6735 0308

Website: http://www.fat-cow.com.sg/





Sabio by the Sea @ Quayside Isle – Awesome Chill-out Place

13 09 2014

Quayside Isle might just be my top spot for a lazy weekend brunch. While it’s slightly more troublesome to get to by public transport (take the monorail from Vivocity to Beach Station in Sentosa, followed by bus shuttle 3 to W Hotel), you will be treated to a host of restaurant choices, with a serene and picturesque view of the Marina. If you like chilling at Keppel Bay, you will definitely love this too! 

I simply love seafood, so I feel just at home with Spanish cuisine. While Sabio by the Sea has a weekend brunch set priced at $35++, which includes a basket of assorted breads and pastries, a main course and a choice of coffee or tea, I decided to go ala carte instead to get a better idea on the various tapas they have on offer.

Tapas portions here are ideal for parties of 2-3 people. Between M and myself, we managed to finish 3 tapas, 2 mains, 1 dessert and 4 glasses of Sangria for lunch, if that’s any indication of how much to order. As Sabio by the Sea is one of the participating restaurants under the Palate Program, diners using Amex Platinum credit cards are entitled to 50% off food (but not drinks) when dining as a party of 2. Hence all in, our bill came up to $118 net, which is good value for money in my view.

For the hot tapas items, the Sea scallops with sparkling white wine sauce ($18++) was pretty tasty and the buttery sauce did a great job complementing the scallops by not being overly seasoned and drowning it out.

The Clams in White wine Sauce ($16++) was very decent as well. Simple dish done right.

As the restaurant is not air-conditioned (few restaurants in Quayside Isle are), it can get pretty warm and humid by midday, which provides a perfect excuse to get down with Sabio’s White and Red Sangrias ($12++/glass). Between the two, both M and myself preferred the red one. It’s slightly sweeter and felt a bit less dry.

One of the staff recommended that we try the Tortilla Española ($12++), a traditional Spanish potato and onion omelette. The portion was generous but taste-wise, I didn’t think much of it.

Most Singaporeans, myself included before I toured Spain and Portugal, have a very different idea as what what octopus should taste like compared to the Spaniards and Portuguese. So, I would recommend trying the Grilled Octopus leg with “Viola” Mash Potato and Sauce Paprika ($21++) here, which was pretty authentic. When cooked right, the octopus flesh will be less chewy than what you would come to expect with a slight briny taste. M mentioned that the light briny flavor reminded her of crab.

There are 3 types of Paella served here. We opted for the Paella de Pescado, a seafood mix of Squid, Sea Bass, Mussels, Clams and Shrimps ($26++). It’s quite a common problem to find dry overcooked seafood in paella, so I was very pleased that this wasn’t an issue here. Other plus points was the very generous serving and the freshness of the seafood.

To end off our meal on a sweet note, we ordered the Churros, which came with a Choice of Homemade Chocolate or Caramel Sauce ($12++). The surprising thing was how ungreasy the Churros was (for a deep-fried doughnut), compared to the Churros in other restaurants such as Salt Tapas Bar (which is still tasty nonetheless).

Overall, I had an enjoyable Sunday brunch here. The food was above average and the setting couldn’t be better. My only gripe was that service was on the slow side and it was difficult to get the attention of the wait staff.

To shed some light on Amex dining promotions, Amex Platinum Card holders are currently offered free memberships to two dining programs, the Classic Far Card Membership and the Palate Program. Under these two programs, card holders get the opportunity to enjoy significant discounts at over 80 restaurants and bars, such as Jaan, Mikuni, Prego, Forlino and il Lido just to name a few. Over and above the above two mentioned programs, card users will also get additional dining benefits under the “Platinum Private Deals”. Of course, terms and conditions apply. More details on the two dining programs are listed below:

palate card
 
Far card

 

In addition, from now till 9 November, 2014, Platinum card members will also get the chance to be one of five lucky winners daily to win $100 worth of Tunglok dining vouchers for the Monday-Saturday draws and $100 worth of Fairmount dining vouchers for the Sunday draws. Each receipt above $50 earns card users 1 chance to win, with doubling of chances for receipts from any The Far Card or Palate establishment.

This meal was sponsored by Amex.

Sabio by the Sea

31 Ocean Way, #01-02, Singapore 098375 (next to W Hotel)

Tel: +65 6690 7568

Website: http://sabio.sg/bythesea/home/





Penny University

7 09 2014

Quoting from Wikipedia: 

Penny University is a term originating from the 18th-century coffeehouses in London, England. Instead of paying for drinks, people were charged a penny to enter a coffeehouse. Once inside, the patron had access to coffee, the company of others, various discussions, pamphlets, bulletins, newspapers, and the latest news and gossip.

This environment attracted an eclectic group of people who met and mingled with each other at these coffeehouses and through these interactions, one could ensue in wide-ranging conversations ranging from the commercial, to the political, and the purely intellectual; the idea that one could acquire an education for the price of a cup of coffee, that is, a penny, took hold of the poetic imagination…

Situated along East Coast Road, Penny University isn’t the most accessible of cafes, with no MRT stations within walkable distance. What this does is to help regulate diner traffic, which is especially vital given that the cafe isn’t large to start with. Still, one can expect a waiting list to form on weekends. Alongside a minor revamp of the menu recently, prices have also undergone a slight increase but are still kept at fairly reasonable levels, in the low-$20 range for a Full English Breakfast with Juice or Coffee.

MZ had the Honey-infused Greek Yoghurt with Granola ($6.50+) and the Scrambled Eggs on Toast ($5.90). The thing I like about the scrambled eggs here lies mainly in its texture and consistency but tastewise, I would have liked a richer creamer flavor.

I had the Full English Breakfast ($16+) and it was one of the better ones I have had recently. From what I have read, the cafe does not have a halal certificate but runs a halal kitchen and only uses halal ingredients, so don’t be too surprised to find the texture of the bacon slightly different from usual. It still tasted awesome though. Loved the very flavorful sausages and the garlicky sauteed mushrooms too.

Wanted to have desserts but was too stuffed from the generous brunch portions.

Cakes, glorious cakes…

Overall, I had a pretty positive experience having Saturday brunch here and would recommend it to Easties. The service staff was friendly, the meal was unrushed and despite sitting at a long communal table, it wasn’t too cramped so I could actually get a conversation going without the heightened perceived risk of having other diners around me listening in.

Penny University

402 East Coast Road, Singapore 428997

Tel: +65 9008 9314

Opening hours: Mon: CLOSED / Tue – Thu, Sun: 8:30am – 6:00pm / Fri – Sat: 8:30am – 12:00am





La Maison Fatien – Past its Prime

31 08 2014

When French bistro La Maison Fatien first opened shop over 2 years ago, I remember how hard it was to even secure reservations. The food was great then and the setting dim and intimate, especially on the 2nd floor. So when I found out that Amex Platinum card users could get a 50% discount off ala carte items here (more details below), I jumped at the opportunity, heading down for dinner after work on a Tuesday night.

Dinner started off with a complimentary amuse bouche of what I assumed to be Pork Rillette. Didn’t really enjoy it because the fat tasted somewhat stale and left an unpleasant aftertaste. The Fatien family actually runs a wine merchant business back in Burgundy, France, so we ordered a carafe of their Pinot Noir ($68++), which equates to about 2.5-3 glasses. Sadly, booze is relatively pricey here and is not applicable for the Amex card discount.

Almost identical to the one at Stellar @ 1-Altitude was the homemade Twice-baked Cheese Souffle with Baby Apple, Gruyere Sauce and Mesclun Salad ($27++). Crisp on the outside, puffy on the inside, this was certainly the highlight of our night.

Decided to err on the side of caution and stick to a French staple, the Pan-seared Foie Gras on Brioche served with Gastrique Glazed, Apple Compote, Mesclun Salad and Nuts ($27++). Unfortunately, the foie gras was overcooked and the exterior wasn’t crisp enough either. The apple compote also lacked the tartness required to complement the liver.

The mains failed to impress as the Char-grilled Pork Rack with Lentils, Glazed Vegetables, Onion Fondue and Orange Balsamic Sauce ($36++) lacked character and flavour. The Crispy Skin Duck Confit with homemade Celeriac Mash, Fine Beans and Duck Jus ($33++) fared slightly better but better executions can be easily found elsewhere.

However, I did like our side order of the Truffle Fries ($10++). The cut of the fries was somewhere in between shoe string and chunky, so you really get the best of both worlds, thick enough to get a nice bite but narrow enough to get sufficient crisp on the exterior.

Ended our meal with a pleasant but unmemorable order of Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce ($24++). The portion was huge and meant for sharing evidently. With more misses than hits, I’m inclined to believe that La Maison Fatien has past its prime. A friend mentioned to me that there has been a reshuffling in their staff recently and this might explain why our recent experience was so different from two years back.

To shed some light on Amex dining promotions, Amex Platinum Card holders are currently offered free memberships to two dining programs, the Classic Far Card Membership and the Palate Program. Under these two programs, card holders get the opportunity to enjoy significant discounts at over 80 restaurants and bars, such as Jaan, Mikuni, Prego, Forlino and il Lido just to name a few. Over and above the above two mentioned programs, card users will also get additional dining benefits under the “Platinum Private Deals”. Of course, terms and conditions apply. More details on the two dining programs are listed below:

palate card
 
Far card

 

In addition, from now till 9 November, 2014, Platinum card members will also get the chance to be one of five lucky winners daily to win $100 worth of Tunglok dining vouchers for the Monday-Saturday draws and $100 worth of Fairmount dining vouchers for the Sunday draws. Each receipt above $50 earns card users 1 chance to win, with doubling of chances for receipts from any The Far Card or Palate establishment.

This meal was sponsored by Amex.





Artichoke Cafe & Bar – Moorish Weekend Brunch

24 08 2014

With cafe culture quickly catching on in Singapore, it’s getting real difficult to find a decent weekend brunch spot that doesn’t have a constant horde of diners waiting in line and breathing down your neck. In fact, I’m literally scratching my head on where to go for Sunday brunch tomorrow with no reservations. It’s times like this when one returns to spots that are tried and tested, where hype has gradually died down through the years.

I have been to Artichoke on 2 or 3 other occasions for dinner and have not been disappointed yet. It’s one of the few cafes in Singapore that dish out Moorish cuisine, which share some similarities and elements from dishes in North Africa, Middle East and the Mediterranean.

I’m a sucker for any brunch item on the menu that has stewed or baked eggs, so I ordered the Lamb Shakshouka ($26++) that was a lovely mess of stewed Eggs, tomato sauce, roast lamb, kashkaval cheese (a type of sheep cheese), pistachio dukka (a powdery mix of nuts and spices), eaten with pita. I swore I tasted hints of curry inside as well and it worked out to be an amazingly hearty dish.  The only downside (if at all), is the fact that it was too heavy a brunch dish and I left about 1/4 of it unfinished.

My dining counterpart R had the Cauliflower Sabbich ($22++), a cute construction of fried cauliflower, smoked egg, hummus, labneh (yoghurt), israeli salad, truffled tahini (sesame dip), zhoug (a spicy relish made from herbs, parsley and chili), over a serving of pita. The flavor packs a punch and for a moment, made me forget that this was almost an entirely vegetarian dish, which I would have normally steered clear from.

Grilled Haloumi Cheese ($10++)

Of course, no meal here is complete without the Date Pudding ($14++), served with burnt milk custard, coffee jelly, peanut caramel and smoked salt. It’s one of the signature dishes here and has been on the menu for as long as I can remember. Definitely something that I always look forward to when visiting Artichoke and one of my recommendations to anyone asking for where to get a memorable date pudding experience.

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

161 Middle Road, Sculpture Square, Singapore 188978 

Tel: +65 6336 6949





[New York, United States] Soba-ya – Duck & Uni Soba!

13 07 2014

Listed in Michelin’s 2013 Bib Gourmand list that honors good cuisine at reasonable prices, dinner at Soba-ya was my most enjoyable meal for the week in NYC and my best soba experience thus far. It was no wonder the restaurant was sporting a full house on a Thursday night at 930pm.

Hot Tempura Udon (US$18++)

While some of my friends had great things to say about the Hot Tempura Udon (US$18++), which came with Shrimp, Shiso (from the Mint Family) and Shishito (Japanese Green Pepper) Tempura, I would highly suggest going for the Kamo Seiro (Sautéed Sliced Duck & Japanese Green Onions in Hot Dipping Sauce) with Cold Soba ($16++) instead. The duck broth was more flavorful and rich than the hot soba/udon stock and I amused myself as my friends took their first sips of my duck broth after having tried their “basic” stock, watching as their eyes widened in amazement.

I also ordered an unbelievably affordable saucer of Uni (US$6++) on the side, which went surprisingly well with the soba.

Left the restaurant totally satisfied with an involuntary grin. I’m sure I will be back before my month in NYC is up.

Soba-ya

229 East 9th St. New York, NY 10003

Tel: 212 533 6966

Website: http://www.sobaya-nyc.com/wp/





The Flying Squirrel – The Unlikely Chirashi

23 06 2014

He used to be known as Mr Siva, a well-liked PE teacher from Raffles Junior College. Now he is better known as Rai of the singer-songwriting duo Jack and Rai. Multi-talented and adventurous these two are, as they (together with Jack’s wife Angelina) took a leap into local F&B scene early last year by establishing  a modern Japanese restaurant named The Flying Squirrel.

On the menu, conventional Japanese options such as the Chirashi, Sushi and Curry Rice appear next to less traditional options such as the Foie Gras Aglio Olio and Seafood Eggplant Gratin, immediately triggering an alarm in my head. Could such a place really deliver on a decent Chirashi or Sushi?

The answer is a resounding yes. For $25+, the TFS Chirashi was of extremely good value, comprising of slices of Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Sweet Shrimp, Scallop, Ikura, Octopus, Tamago and an entire Anago (saltwater eel) over a bed of pearly rice.

Another alternative is the Salmon & Ikura Chirashi ($20+). Again, the eatery is rather generous with the salmon slices and roe.

The Miso Gindara or Grilled Black Cod ($26+) we had was delicious too as it wasn’t too salty and retained some smokiness, though the portion doesn’t fill you up as much as the chirashi.

Given that it was my first day at work in the Tanjong Pagar area today, I returned for a lunch visit. This time, I tried the Summer Chirashi Bento ($25+), only available during lunch time. The main difference between the lunch chirashi and the TFS Chirashi is that the lunch Summer Chirashi Bento uses diced sashimi instead of slices (think along the lines of bara chirashi) and does not include the higher value items of shrimp, scallops or anago to my dismay. However, the bento does make up for it with 3 pieces of fried chicken karaage, salad and fruits. In my humble opinion, ultimately I still derived greater satisfaction from the TFS Chirashi.

As the restaurant is rather small, seating no more than 20 people by my estimates, hence reservations are encouraged.

The Flying Squirrel

92 Amoy Street, #01-02

Tel: +65 6226 2203

Website: http://www.theflyingsquirrel.com.sg/








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