Pontini

29 04 2010

Serving my National Service liability in the Air Force earned me my callsign “Mambo” due to my crazy facination and addiction to Wednesday Mambo Nites at Zouk. But before you go about stereotyping me as just another booze-bingeing clubbing animal, I would like to reiterate the fact that I look upon Phuture in disdain and do NOT consider Mambo Jambo as clubbing, (much to the disagreement of almost everyone else I know).

It was by this reason(being a Wednesday) that I found myself(intentionally) at Grand Copthorne’s Pontini for dinner.

A spacious dining area and dimmed lightings(which resulted in not so great pictures…fyi I increased the lightings in the pics for easier viewing) allows for undisturbed private conversations. Note to self: Great place for potential dinner dates.

Pontini is also equipped with a pretty awesome wine cellar to get your date drunk with a wide choice of poison. Who knows? You might just get lucky. Sadly for me, I support the Don’t Drink too much and Drive campaign.

A not so memorable complementary Bread Basket was served at room temperature. For starters, E had the Minestrone Soup($15++) which was good(for a bowl of vegetable soup) but overpriced(with emphasis on it being a bowl of vegetable soup).

The Prosciutto di Parma($22++) was terrible. The Parma Ham was sliced too thickly and the excess of salt probably resulted in a fair bit of tongue cells shrivelling up and dying on losing their osmotic pressure. And in case you are wondering, yes this was after eating the ham together with the melons(which provided little relief).

Next up was the Tre Porcellini($22++), Pizza topped with ham, bacon, mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato and spicy minced pork. I’m not sure if this was intentional but the thin crust of the pizza was soft rather than crispy and the taste reminded me of the frozen ones I get from the supermarket. The only upside was that it was huge! The 2 of us barely managed to eat half and decided to doggy bag the rest.

Stricken by the unimpressive Starters and Pizza, I was all ready to throw in the towel and call it a day but fortunately we didn’t as the Mains were a different story altogether. Filetto di Manzo($38++) aka Beef Tenderloin, Foie Gras with Grilled Vegetables was awesome. I’m not sure if it was a lapse in service that they didn’t ask me regarding the doneness of the Tenderloin but when it arrived, it was all good! Juicy and tender, all I can ever ask for in a Steak. Moreover for this price, I would never have expected a Foie Gras of such generous portion. Though it wasn’t the best I have had but seriously how bad can a Pan-fried Foie Gras be?

The Capellini ai Gamberoni($25++) aka Angel Hair Pasta with King Prawns, Fresh Tomatoes and White Wine was truly marvelous. This has definitely set the benchmark for all angel hair pastas I will be eating in future.

Being an Italian restaurant, my default dessert order was the Tiramisu($16++). Served in what seemed to be a cappuccino cup, I don’t see how anyone can polish it off without sharing. It was quite good actually though I would have preferred a larger Marcapone layer.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream($16++), a crowd favourite in any restaurant. I was slightly disappointed when no chocolate lava flowed out after “spooning” the cake but it was good nonetheless. Anyway, why are the portion sizes so erratic here? This Choc Cake was terribly petite!

After the lackluster starters, the meal went uphill from there. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the meal was epic but it was indeed satisfying. We chalked a bill of a whooping $200 approximately for 2 pax but lucky for me, I came prepared with an Ala-Carte Card from Copthorne Group of Hotels so 50% off yippie! Now that I think of it, that makes my Tenderloin with Foie Gras cost only $20! What up!!! 

Rawr! The staff didn’t remind us about our doggy bagged pizza! I had to drive home hungry at 4am after Mambo with no supper!

On a side note, WineBar(outside Zouk) now offers Pontini’s Pizzas from $26++, as well as other bar food which includes Fish & Chips and Ribs(wtf?!) to accompany the booze.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

PONTINI

392 HAVELOCK ROAD, LEVEL 2 GRAND COPTHORNE WATERFRONT HOTEL

TEL: +65 6233 1133





The French Kitchen

25 04 2010

Some might get confused between The French Stall and The French Kitchen, others by the The French Kitchen’s address, Central Mall vs The Central @ Clarke Quay but 1 thing is for certain…the awesomeness of Chef Jean-Charles Dubois exiquisite and masterful culinary arts. Some say consuming Gingko Nuts, Fish etc can boost your memory but I have recently discovered an even more effective way of doing so; dining at The French Kitchen. Meals there will be forever etched in my memories…unforgettable and ever so memorable.

For a fine dining restaurant, The French Kitchen definitely doesn’t pull out all the stops to impress diners with fanciful albeit pretentious decor, sufficing on simple contrasting hues of black carpeting with whitewashed walls and an inconspicuous restaurant front. This minimalistic setting suits me well and makes the dining experience a whole lot more relaxed and leisurely, especially since I’m such a recalcitrant failure in the art of dining etiquette. Service was good throughout the meal but my only grouse was the small and cramp tables.

 

CW flew back from the UK(where she is studying), to mug for her exams during her study break. Get the irony? Ironies aside, she was my lunch date today and 3-Course Set Lunches($36++) were in order.

Instead of the generic Balsamic Vinegar in Olive Oil, the complementary Bread Basket here was served with Butter and Salmon Rillettes(Cured Salmon Spread) which was a most welcome change.

A fabulous complementary Amuse Bouche came in the form of the Fried Cod Fish Ball in Artichoke Soup(I think) with Toasted Broiche. I wasn’t very sure about the workflow process of eating the Cod Ball and was considering whether I dip it in the soup or eat them separately? I decided on the latter so as to fully savour the cod and used the soup as a dip for my broiche. I guess that was how it should be done since it all went down well.

 

The best Lobster Bisque I have eaten thus far! To prevent overly soggy Battered Tiger Prawns, the Lobster Bisque was only poured into our bowls from a small jug at where we were seated. Though it’s just a small gesture, uhhhs and ahhhs were silently muttered in my mind. The broth was smooth and light, yet flavourful and packed an awesome umami saturated punch at the same time. The Leek Custard did well to take the edge off the intense flavours from the broth which threatened to get a bit cloying over time without it. I would have already thought that this was perfect but the presence of the Battered Tiger Prawns reminded me otherwise. The crunchy and sweet prawns, panna cotta-like textured custard and savoury bisque, I call this the tasty trinity! Would the Chef reconsider changing this to entree sized plz?

A thick slab of Pan Seared Cod Fillet with Artichoke Puree, Bouchot Mussel Jus Emulsion. The Cod while fresh, bored didn’t impress me much with it’s mild flavours but those who like the unadulterated natural taste of cod might like give this a go. Presentation-wise, nothing short of full marks!

 

It’s rare that I would encounter 2 best-dishes-I-have-eaten-in-my-life at a single locale in the same meal but it happened today with the latter dish being the Duck Leg Confit with Truffled Mash Potato and Marinated Cherries. While some might find enlightenment/Nirvana sitting under a tree, in prayer or in worship, I found it carefully plated on this cushion of mash. Eating it made me question whether I had died and sent to heaven. This leaves me very depressed now since I know that finding anything remotely similar is…remote!

The Gratinated Champagne Sabayon with Pear Marmalade and Forest Berry Ice Cream was pretty decent. The rich and tangy custard was offset by the refreshing and lightly sweetened Ice Cream.

I preferred the Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee with Vanilla Ice Cream to the Sabayon. Actually, it’s texture was reminiscent of a sinful chocolate souffle more than a chocolate custard but I’m not complaining. It was a pretty close rival to Laurent Bernard’s Chocolate Souffle!

I think I might have just found my new favourite French Restaurant and it does help that the lunch sets are indeed value for money!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

THE FRENCH KITCHEN

7 MAGAZINE ROAD, #01-03 CENTRAL MALL

TEL: +65 6438 1823





Sushi Tei (Thomson Plaza)

23 04 2010

This post shall be short, sweet and mainly pictorial. The memoirs of S’s birthday treat to us…  

Teriyaki Steak with Garlic($12++) done medium rare.

Salmon Mentaiyaki aka Deep Fried Salmon topped with Cod Roe. I must have been allergic to it since it made my hands and mouth “itchy” and I kept reaching out for more.

Unagi Kabayaki($14++)

Salmon Don($7++)

An upgrade from the regular Chirashi, the Irodori Chirashi($18++) came with premium mixed sashimi(Salmon, Tuna, Tuna Belly, Yellowtail, Sweet Shrimp and Squid). It’s good value in terms of variety but sadly the Sashimi(with the exception of the Salmon) wasn’t that fresh.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

SUSHI TEI (THOMSON PLAZA)

301 UPPER THOMSON ROAD, #03-46 THOMSON PLAZA

TEL: +65 6457 6678





Pasta Inc

21 04 2010

It wasn’t very long ago that a young, ignorant drpiggy was content simply by the mass marketed country baked pasta from Pasta Mania. He reasoned that pasta tastes roughly the same everywhere after a generous sprinkling of Mozzarella & Parmesan and just like Mee Kia vs Mee Pok, he didn’t see the rationale in the existence of the different shapes of Pasta(apart from humouring young kids). Looking back, how so much has changed since then, when the line between Spaghetti and Linguine was more than a blur…

While authentic Italian food is often prohibitively priced, Pasta Inc manages to serve up a very decent range of Italian cuisine which caters for individuals with budgets starting from as low as $20. The 50% off every 2nd pasta ordered promotion by Hungrygowhere & Sparklette is still ongoing and is a real boon for the budget conscious.

Despite looking like an old Joo Chiat shophouse from the outside, the dimly lit restaurant exuded a classy ambience on the inside. I noticed that at least half of the diners were there on dates. The level of service was commendable, far better than what I had expected with the Captain ensuring that every part of our meal went smoothly.

Portobello Al Forno($12.90++) was a large Portobello Mushroom baked with Mixed Cheese, finished with a Dash of Tomato Sauce. Baked to perfection, the sides of the Portobello was a light crisp with the rest of the mushroom not burnt nor soggy. (Apologies for the grainy and blurred pics, I was lazy to change my camera settings as I assumed Picassa’s lighting adjustment would fix it…but apparently Picassa isn’t omnipotent).

To put it simply, Melanzane Alla Parmigiana($11.90) was Baked Eggplant topped with Tomato, Parmesan and Mozzarella. I expected a soft and smooth texture of eggplant flesh but was sorely disappointed as the eggplant was undercooked, hard and unable to assimilate the underlying tomato and cheesy flavours well.

 

Bruschetta($6.90++) came topped with Grilled Tomatoes, Oregano, Basil and Olive Oil. I got my hands dirty eating it but it was well worth the trouble.

The Signature of Pasta Inc has definitely got to be the Squid Ink Spaghetti with Seafood($19.90++). Imparting it’s salty and earthly flavours to the Spaghetti, it makes me wonder how this organism’s defence mechanism can taste so darn good. Skunk Secretion Pasta anyone?

I felt that the Fettuccine with Scallop, Mussels and Clams in Saffron Cream Sauce($21.90++) came across as bland and insipid. Anyway I digress, Saffron is actually the World’s most expensive spice by weight, can you believe that? More ex than truffles!

The Pasta of the Day was Lobster Capellini Aglio Olio($29.90++). The Aglio Olio was competent and spicy but the Lobster was dry and tasteless, probably the result of being overboiled. (Capellini = Angel Hair Pasta)

Since the Veal Shank was unavailable, the Captain suggested we try their Lamb Shank instead to which we acceded. I couldn’t find this this dish in the menu so I wasn’t sure how it would be served. YQ mentioned that the Lamb Shank and it’s gravy(me thinks Red Wine sauce) reminded him of Indian Tulang. I haven’t eaten Tulang before so I can’t attest to that but I felt that the Lamb still reeked of it’s gamey flavour though the gravy did help to reduce the odor marginally.

Starting from the Dessert I felt was best, the Tiramisu($9.90++). It had just the right proportion of Marscapone to Espresso soaked Biscuit and I enjoyed every bit of it. Fresh Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream($9.90++) was real refreshing and a great way to cleanse the palate. It was similar to a strawberry ice kachang sherbet since the courseness of the strawberry ice was somewhere in between. The Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream($11.90++) was so-so. What I didn’t like was the Creme Brulee($10.90++). The custard was much too thick and the taste was somewhat weird and slightly nauseating to say the least.   

Despite the kind gesture of the Captain in giving us the Strawberry Granita as a complementary item(as I enquired about it earlier but didn’t order it), the meal still came up to $40 a pax after discount which I felt was slightly steep for students like us. The meal was a mix of hits and misses and I’m hard pressed to find a compelling reason to return(especially when the discount expires). Ok, maybe just for the Tiramisu and Portobello Mushroom

Bon Appetit!

 

 

PASTA INC

279 JALAN BESAR

TEL: +65 6297 7515





Cafe Hacienda

19 04 2010

If you have read Freakonomics, you would realise that the Universe is governed by the fundamentals of Economics. For foodies, this is evident with every meal, the weighing of opportunity costs between dining at different venues. Today specifically, this came in the choosing of a brunch place. My thought process was as such…Rider’s Cafe was on the top of my list but on a Saturday morning with no prior reservations, getting a seat could prove to be an arduous undertaking. Likewise with Spruce, it’s equivalent to going all in in Poker, an all or nothing gamble. My previous visit to Epicurious was just last week so wasn’t too keen on going there again. Hence Dempsey it was to be, after all with the potpourri of brunch places there(Jones the Grocer, Cafe Hacienda, Au Petit Salut etc), getting seats would be easy peasy. Hmm settling for something less so as to ensure a greater chance of success sounds oddly like Game Theory to me…

Gambling is the opposite of Economics. In Economics, it all comes down to organised and logical thinking whereas in gambling, everything is left solely to chance. Coincidence or not, this brunch was actually the result of a gamble. My buddies T, K, R and myself were going on a holiday together to Australia(Sydney’s Tetsuya I’m looking at you) with R’s mystery friend S, whom  T, K and myself had no prior interaction with. So, this was kind of our introductory meeting to get to know one another. It was a gamble that our new found buddy would be interesting(chio would be a bonus and a separate gamble in itself), without any attitude problems.

Yet another FnB undertaking by Michel Lu, Cafe Hacienda is a sister restaurant of Prive @ Keppel Bay, hence the similarities within the menu. My last visit here left me cosying up among tai-tais on a weekday brunch, no doubt I left with a good impression with an undeniable fondness for their Sticky Date Pudding

It’s such a common sight at brunch places and yet it never fails to pose for a great picture…the Eggs Royale($13.50++) aka Salmon Benedict.

S couldn’t decide on what she wanted, so she ordered Eggs Any Style($13.50++). She was taken aback when she was asked what style she wanted, alas she thought that Eggs Any Style was really a dish’s name which could save her from making any choices. Well, normal unbimbotic people can also make such mistakes…NOT! Served with a sole Pork Sausage, Scramble Eggs(choice of poached, scrambled or sunny side up) and 2 Triangular Toasts, it really makes for quite the unworthwhile brunch meal since S ate something similar to that during her self-made breakie. It didn’t help that the Sausage was bland and reeked of an overdose of herbs. The Scrambled Eggs was creamy but average at best.

 

T had the Seafood Aglio Olio, a Today’s Special not found on the menu. On his request for less oil and salt, it was just barely passable and I found the spiciness a bit too strong for me.

  

For myself, I had the Spicy Crabmeat Linguine($22++). I found the rendition here a bit too dry and not creamy enough. Not as good as the other same price-ranged crabmeat pastas I have had recently at Riocotti and Etna’s.

I’m glad everyone loved my recommendation for the Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch & Vanilla Ice Cream($10++). It’s quite foolproof actually, I haven’t eaten a bad tasting Sticky Date Pudding yet, especially when it’s doused with Butterscotch and Ice Cream. The warm pudding here is the totally moist kind, if you prefer the kind with a crisp outer layer with a moist interior, I would recommend the one at Chalk @ Mount Sophia Old Skool.  

R took a fancy to the Chocolate Tart($7++). Having eaten at Laurent Bernard’s Chocolate Bar @ Robertson Quay last week, I dismissed this one rather quickly. I felt that the bittersweet dark chocolate here lacked fluidity and the tart base wasn’t buttery and artery clogging enough.  

I had the TWG French Earl Grey while T had a Cappuccino. According to T, the proper way of drinking of Cappuccino is to first sprinkle sugar over the froth and eat the foam and sugar together using a teaspoon. New day new discovery indeed…

 

Sometimes, Economic reasoning might not triumph gambling in attaining the best results. Cafe Hacienda was sorely disappointing this time round while S proved to be the Jackpot. Let’s pray our lucky gambling streak continues in Australia’s Casinos…and I can use the winnings to eat more yumyums!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

CAFE HACIENDA

#01-07 BLK 13 DEMPSEY ROAD

 TEL: +65 6476 2922





Espressoul

16 04 2010

Singapore needs more places like Espressoul. Unlike the many other capitalist coffee chains, Espressoul’s sole branch serves up a very decent cuppa/coffee with a very much personalized service in a homely setting. It hosts the ideal environment to just sit back, chill, surf the web(there’s even a laptop with Internet access at a corner of the cafe with free usage), have project discussions yada yada.  

Lunch Sets(from $6.90++) are afforadable and includes a Gourmet Sandwich, Salad and Drink(ranging from teas, coffees to fruit nectars and flavoured sodas). After 2pm, Pastrys go for 30% off while Cakes go for 50% off! 

The Salad was topped with a tangy Balsamic Vinegrette Dressing. Choice of Bread for the Sandwiches are Focaccia, Ciabatta or Multi-grain.

I had the Tandoori Chicken Focaccia Sandwich($5.90). I was impressed that a cafe with only 2 staff could whip up such a decent Tandoori Chicken. Just mildly spiced, it suited me well. My advice is to eat it as quick as possible since the Tandoori Chicken doesn’t taste as good after it gets cold. 

 

HY ordered the Smoked Salmon Focaccia($6.90) which surprisingly was not part of the day to day menu.  “Better than Soup Spoon’s” was how he thought of it and I agreed.

AD had the Hawaiian Chicken Multi-Grain Sandwich. With a filling of Mayo, BBQ sauce, Pineapple Chicken and Cucumbers & Lettuce, it was my favourite of the 3 sandwiches. Then again, what doesn’t taste good with Mayo and BBQ sauce? 

The Mocha was competent with a strong addictive nutty flavour.

2pm arrived! So we had 50% off desserts :p

I didn’t like the Mango Deluxe($5.90 b4 50% off). It was weakly flavoured and dry.

The Praline($5.90 b4 50% off) on the other hand was a different story. It tasted so much like a pyramid-shaped Ferrero Rocher-Kinder Bueno crossbreed. Alternating layers of ladyfinger biscuit, crunchy chocolate balls, hazelnut cream and chocolate over a crisp praline base. Yummm! 

I really like the concept behind Espressoul. Between the amiable owner, more than reasonable prices and lovely ambience, there really isn’t much more that one can ask for.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

ESPRESSOUL

67 HIGH STREET, #01-01 EFG BUILDING(NEXT TO THE TREASURY)

TEL: +65 6337 7803





Din Tai Fung

15 04 2010

It was around my early Secondary School days when the hype for Casual Chinese Restaurant Dining started budding, with Crystal Jade leading at the forefront of course. But somehow, CJ never really took to me so when Din Tai Fung appeared on scene, I shrugged it off as another CJ wannabe till my Junior College days…

Yes, it took me that long to discover DTF’s Xiao Long Baos and Fried Rice. My friend HH and I would sometimes take a short stroll to the DTF @ Junction 8 when we were bored with the school canteen’s excuse for food. Perhaps our palates weren’t as discerning but in the past, DTF never failed to please our palates.

We were back at our old Bishan J8 DTF hangout again last weekend after our weekly Sunday soccer game(in a feeble attempt to act fit) at our alma mater. It was nostalgic to see that nothing much had changed here and we carried on our tradition of Fried Rice, XLBs and Soup.

HH enjoyed his Chicken Soup. Simplistic yet hearty.

There’s something about the Fried Rice with Shrimps/Pork Shreads here which I have never been able to put my finger on. Is it the evenly fried individual grains of rice, the fragrance from the spring onions or some special ingredient X? Actually, I don’t really care. It’s comfort food to me…

DTF’s signature XLBs! Of late, I actually feel the standard dipping quite a bit. The soup doesn’t taste as umami as it used to, the meat fillings less smooth and the skin slightly thicker.

Apart from the Fried Rice and XLPs though, I do feel that DTF has nothing much else to offer. It’s noodles and soups are average at best and plz do not get conned and order their prawn dumpling(Har Gao), it’s actually just a prawn on top of a XLB and they charge 50% more. 

Bon Appetit!

 

 

DIN TAI FUNG (JUCTION 8)

9 BISHAN PLACE, #01-41 JUNCTION 8

TEL: +65 6356 5228








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