The Handburger – Hand Crafted Gourmet Burgers

29 08 2010

You know what’s the problem with the Singapore’s shopping centre dining scene? I find that it lacks diversity. While one might think that hey, there’s so many cuisine types and restaurants available, it’s actually just an illusion brought forth by brand proliferation, meaning one company introducing new brands(in this case restaurants) into the same field to capture a wider consumer market. It’s not necessarily so that these restaurants will suck, it’s just that I don’t get the feeling of cuisine specialization (which I would presumptuously assume leads inevitably to sub-par food standards), though these are really just my perceived feelings than actuality. For example, mass market casual dining restaurants New York New York, Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe & Thai Express are all managed by the same mother company. Then again, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s fine dining restaurants like Aoki, La Strada, Au Jardin & Les Amis etc all under the Les Amis group. I guess in that case, my concerns of non-specialization leading to sub-par food is largely unfounded.

Anyway after rambling on so much, the point I want to make is that The Handburger is under the same management as The Soup Spoon. I like The Soup Spoon so I thought that if anyone could do it (brand proliferation), it might possibly be them, especially with their expertise and resources in the food industry.

The concept of The Handburger is pretty similar to The Soup Spoon. You can either just buy a Burger(or sides) ala carte, or add $4 or $6(depending on the choice of sides) to the price of the ala-carte burger for a set meal which would include a side and a drink(choice of ice lemon tea or green tea or pay the price difference should you want to get a fancier drink).

One of the choice of sides available for the $6 add on was the Pumpkin & Crab Bisque. It’s quite the combination, the mild sweet undertones of pumpkin complementing a gentle saltiness from the crab. The Onion Bread was served warm, but I could hardly detect the fragrance emanating from the onion so it was pretty forgettable.

Of course, primary sides to the typical burger meal such as Onion Rings or Fries are also available with a $4 add on. Apologies for the misrepresentative picture of Onion Rings, my friends ravaged about 3 or 4 pieces before I stopped them.

BFF K had the Handburger Original($7.80), with an additional topping of an Egg($1) while JC had the Original in it’s naked form. The Original’s description reads as such, “150g of NZ Ribeye Beef Patty, Sweet Onion Jam, Cheddar Cheese, Handmade BBQ Sauce on a Bed of Coral Lettuce, Tomato on a Toasted Caramelized Onion Bun”. Could it be that it was all fluff and no stuff? JC’s ranted that the Beef Patty was too dry and tough, but K found it acceptable, in fact he thought it was good.

I had The Works($11.80) which is ideal for gluttons like me who want a bit of everything. It’s essentially an upgrade from the Handburger Original, with additional toppings of a Sunny Side Up Egg, Battered Onion Rings, Crispy Bacon, Sauteed Basil Pesto Mushrooms & Aioli Sauce. It’s messy to eat and artery clogging, but this sinful indulgence was definitely worth it. The Beef Patty seems to be compacted and compressed real tightly so it tends to be a bit chewier.

Despite being opened for quite some time, at least before Raffles City’s basement underwent renovation, this is the first time I’m trying out the Handburger. Compared to when it initially opened, The Handburger has actually reduced their prices if I’m not wrong, probably to capture the mass-market with their “Gourmet Burgers”.

I’m really not a big fan of burgers, especially ones which involves beef patties. Paranoid me thinks that patties are usually made to cover up or hide unfresh or low grade beef and it’s a waste in any case to ground good beef into patties instead of eating it in it’s unadulterated form as a good old steak. Just my 2 cents worth but I think I just might return to The Handburger for the Pulled Pork Burger and Duck Confit Burger.

Bon Appetit!

THE HANDBURGER (RAFFLES CITY)

252 NORTH BRIDGE ROAD, #B1-77/78

TEL: +65 6334 4577

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Black Sheep Cafe – Affordable French Nosh

27 08 2010

Ask any random passerby about French cuisine in Singapore and the few he or she can probably list out are Les Amis & maybe The French Stall. The general consensus is that French food here is uncommon, ostentatious and lavish, left to the upper rungs of society while posing barriers of entry for some who equate French dining to Fine dining. Generally, such claims have been hard to refute but finally, I have found one such exception in the Black Sheep Cafe.

Why it is named so I do not know, perhaps it’s because it’s smack in Little India opposite a mosque, or it’s because Head Chef Ratha is of Indian descent, giving rise to “BLACK” Sheep Cafe. It’s pretty rare to find an Indian Chef specializing in French, and I did have my reservations to the “authenticity” of the food initially. Then again, Black Sheep Cafe has been making waves in the online food community for quite some time now and I was eager to try it out.

The cafe looks modest and unassuming with a max capacity of 20 pax so reservations are recommended. I love the random paraphernalia used to adorn the interior of the cafe, especially artworks of sheep paintings, but it would be greatly appreciated if the general light intensity of the cafe could be increased just a wee bit, to facilitate food photography!

I suggested Black Sheep Cafe for dinner with some friends from my SMU bidding group (we call ourselves the Humbled Group…). It’s always good to dine in groups because you get to sample and share a range of items on the menu. Black Sheep’s menu is consise, a euphemism for lacking variety, with a total choice of 4 Starters, 3 Mains & 2 Desserts with the occasional special seafood or meat dish on offer. But who cares about variety as long as whatever is whipped up is good right?

We started off with a Caeser Salad with Garlic Prawns($12.50). The salad per se was nothing to shout about but the addition of small strips of bacon added a nice smokey flavour and the Garlic Prawns were amazingly fresh and crunchy.

The other starter we ordered was the Pan Seared Foie Gras with Fruit Compote & Butter Toast($22). We all enjoyed the rich goose liver but personally I felt that it was sliced too thinly, with the surface of the Foie Gras not being crisp enough and the inner layers slightly overcooked and not as unctuous or wobbly as I would have liked it. The Fruit Compote was rather unnecessary though, Foie Gras should be savoured on it’s own!

The Black Sheep Shank($22.50) is essentially a “Lamb Shank Braised in Red Wine & Special Blend of Herbs”. It’s definitely one of the better and affordable lamb shanks around, tender with an almost absent gamey taste though it still pales in comparison to the sous vide Lamb Shank at Table 66.

It’s like 燒肉 without the conspicuous layers of fats, the Crispy Pork Cheeks with Roasted Pears, Leek & Orange Glaze($24). S prefers the Jap-style Pork Cheeks better though I find the ones here just nice as long as it is not eaten in excess as it becomes a bit “gelat”, especially with all the other oily and cholesterol laden dishes analogous with french cuisine. Actually, I couldn’t really pinpoint the roasted pears, leek or orange glaze, it tasted more like salsa to me which still effectively complemented the succulent Pork Cheeks.

The general consensus was that for the mains, the Duck Confit with Apple Roesti($22.50) came in tops. Apart from the crispy duck skin and fat, the meat wasn’t overly dry, a problem encountered with most duck confits. The Apple Roesti is insanely good too, probably the best roesti I have had since my brush with roesti has been rather limited. The side of Mango relish was symbolically more oriental than french but it’s still a really well executed Mango Chutney in any case and went well with the duck.

Quite stuffed by then, the 4 of us decided to share just 1 Flourless Chocolate Tart($8). The texture resembled that of a smooth chocolate moose but I wasn’t really taken by it. The accompanying Vanilla Ice Cream tasted rather “cheap” and artificial.

Why can’t there be more places like Black Sheep Cafe? Restaurants that are seemingly out of place with a chef that serves a cuisine that is seemingly out of place. Guess what? The GST and Service charge looked seemingly out of place too so Black Sheep Cafe decided to just do away with it.

PS: Lunch sets are priced at $16 Nett!

Bon Appetit!

BLACK SHEEP CAFE

15 MAYO STREET

TEL: +65 9272 1842





Chili’s Grill & Bar – Ex Tex Mex which is a Rib-Off

25 08 2010

After a day of mugging with S and MZ at Starbuck’s(Tanglin Mall), I suggested having dinner at Chili’s as friend D had raved to me countless times about their ribs. Chili’s Grill & Bar specializes in Tex Mex cuisine, something not too common in Singapore  despite our love for chili(a signature tex mex dish I presume).

Tanglin is known for being the quiet cousin of Orchard and that’s why we chose to mug here in the first place. The lack of human traffic being a crucial factor determining the conduciveness of our cramming sessions. Yet, there was an astounding contrast between Chili’s and the rest of Tanglin on this Tuesday evening. It was 2/3 full!

Though their menu is diverse which includes Burgers, Tacos, Fajitas, Margaritas, Desserts etc, I was here for only 1 thing – The Ribs.

We got a full rack of Baby Back Ribs($36.90), with an add on of another half rack($15.90). We opted for 3 half racks to be done in 3 different styles, namely Original, Honey BBQ & Honey Chipotle. Honestly, there really wasn’t much of a difference in terms of taste despite their different shades. While it wasn’t terrible, the satisfaction level I gained from eating these ribs was around the same level I would have gotten from Cold Storage BBQ section ones, though the ribs here are indeed juicier and more tender. Somehow I felt that the ribs weren’t marinated enough.

I liked the side of Loaded Mash Potatoes. Normally you only get toppings over your Whole Roasted Potato so I was quite happy to find them on mash instead since I’m a fan of mash, bacon chips and cheese. The mash is pretty dense with traces of crisp potato skins.

The Potato Salad was pretty decent too!

While I felt that the sides were good, the main characters (ribs) didn’t enthrall me. Given that we weren’t very hungry and shared the food, the bill didn’t come to that much per person as it would have in normal circumstances (where everyone orders a rack each). My humble verdict is that Chili’s is overpriced and it’s ribs mediocre.

Bon Appetit!

CHILI’S GRILL & BAR

163 TANGLIN ROAD, #02-23 TANGLIN MALL

TEL: +65 6733 3317





Ootoya – Complimentary Dessert for UOB Cardholders till 30 Sept 2010

18 08 2010

BFF K and I had a nice meal over at Ootoya last Monday (yes its a backlog due to the start of uni term). I remember the first time I patronized, Ootoya had only recently opened but has since garnered a loyal customer base. There’s no secret to their success, just good old unpretentious nosh and service while keeping prices at a reasonable level.

Currently they are having a promotion for UOB cardholders, giving away a complimentary dessert for every main course ordered.

I ordered the Ootoya Special Dish($15) again, same as my last visit.

Ootoya Special Dish($15)

It’s not that I’m a boring person who only orders the same food at the same places, if I was I wouldn’t have started this food blog! It’s just that Fried Chicken and Fried Potato Croquette will always hold a special place in this little boy’s heart. I didn’t bother using the dipping sauce for my chicken, it tasted great on it’s own!

Be it Tonkichi or in any other Jap restaurant, K always ends up ordering either the Unagi or Miso Pork Cutlet. This time, it was going to be the Miso Pork Cutlet($16).

Breaded Pork Loin Cutlet with Miso Flavoured Sauce & Half-Boiled Egg($16)

I preferred my fried chicken more to the pork cutlet but that’s probably personal preference.

What I like about Ootoya’s fried items is that it doesn’t leave one with an excessively unctuous feel after the meal and I love the little gestures such as serving the fried chicken on the metal grill thingy so that it doesn’t get soggy over the course of the meal.

Due to the UOB promotion, K and myself also got our complimentary desserts!

The Green Tea Ice Cream with Soy Milk Syrup tasted very peranakan (think coconut milk desserts) after we poured in some Gula Melaka given to us. The sweet Gula Melaka helped to balance the slightly bitter green tea jelly and tasteless mochi found at the base of the dessert.

Green Tea Ice Cream in Soya Milk Syrup($4.50)

I really loved the mildly sweet Milk Ice Cream though I don’t really have a thing for green tea (mousse in this case) and was too full to eat anymore rice ball desserts (mochi) since it was also present in the previous dessert.

Kyoto Uji Matcha Green Tea Mousse & Milk Ice Cream($6)

Bon Appetit!

OOTOYA

181 ORCHARD ROAD, #08-12 ORCHARD CENTRAL

TEL: +65 6884 8901





Laurent’s Cafe & Chocolate Bar – An Endorphin Overdose

13 08 2010

Stopping at the threshold of Laurent’s, what first greeted us wasn’t the service staff nor the “Plz wait to be seated” sign, rather it was the wafting aroma of to die for dark chocolate and like sailors to a siren’s song, we were lured into the abyss, the dark abyss of sore throat inducing chocolate paradise. Al fresco is definitely condusive for people watching, especially at night in this part of town where the young at heart wonder about in their hip get-ups and sassy clubbing attires.

After an extremely heavy meal at Sun with Moon, I suggested that my ex-jc classmates try out Laurent’s since none of them had patronised said chocolate bar before and we needed somewhere to sit down and catch up anyways. Chef Laurent continually strives to improve and tweak each and every of his recipes or so they say, but here it is, concrete pictorial evidence! The evolution of the Crispy Chocolate Tart($6.80++) over the past year.

Crispy Chocolate Tart(Before)

I would have scored the “original” Chocolate Tart a 10/10 already so when I saw that there was a new version, I was a little apprehensive. Why would he want to compromise on something that was already perfect(in my eyes)? Fortunately, I felt that the latest version is just as good as it’s predecessor, just some minor modifications to the tart base and shape. The Dark Chocolate is still as heavenly as when I first laid my tastebuds on it.

Crispy Chocolate Tart(After)

I don’t really appreciate souffles. The overly eggy taste and airy and puffy texture of it just turns me off…with the exception of Laurent’s Guanaja Chocolate Souffle($16.50++). It reminds me much of a light chocolate moose, especially when taken with loads of Vanilla Sauce.

Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Souffle

If I’m not mistaken, the Ice Cream($11/3 scoops) available at Laurent’s is home-made and has only recently(since last Oct) became available on the menu. Though it’s not Laurent’s main selling point, the ice cream here is one of my favourites in Singapore. Call me crazy but I will actually rate Laurent’s Ice Cream higher than that of Island Creamery, Tom’s Palette and Ice Cream Chefs, especially the Green Tea and Chocolate(duh!) which are totally awesome!

Ice Cream

Last but definitely not least, how can we forget about the Valrhona Warm Chocolate Cake($9.80++)? Strangely, I didn’t find it very amazing. Something was missing somewhere, apart from the lack of lava flow. (Random note to self: Pahoehoe means solidified lava. I learnt that from a Mind Cafe Game called Balderdash!)

Valrhona Warm Chocolate Cake

I’m not uploading the picture of the Ice Chocolate because it was quite badly taken and won’t do Laurent’s justice since it’s the best Iced Chocolate I have had!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

LAURENT’S CAFE & CHOCOLATE BAR

80 MOHAMED SULTAN ROAD, #01-11 THE PIER @ ROBERTSON

TEL: +65 6235 9007





Sun With Moon Japanese Dining & Cafe – 30% Off Total Bill Till 24 Aug 2010

11 08 2010

What is it that I love so much about Sun with Moon? Is it my insatiable desire for anything Japanese? Maybe it’s their irresistible velvety Tofu Cheesecake? Or is it just the chillax riverfront ambience? Well, the answer is probably all of the above and now there’s yet another reason to add on to that list! Sun with Moon is currently celebrating its 3rd Anniversary and slashing off 30% off the total bill PLUS a 10% rebate of the total bill in the form of Sun with Moon dining vouchers. That’s an approximate whooping 40% discount! As such, reservations are indeed recommended, you don’t have to tell me twice.

I had the Premium Sushi Set($39.80++) from the Lunch Menu. Apart from the boring looking Salad, Chawanmushi, Fruit & Japanese Green Tea, the set also came with a Choice of Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen or Salmon Yaki(Grilled Salmon Belly) or Unagi Kabayaki. I opted for the Salmon Belly of course for it’s crisp unctuous omega-3 goodness.

Grilled Salmon Belly

An assortment of Sushi comprising of Otoro(Fatty Tuna Belly), Uni(Sea Urchin), Yellowtail, Ikura(Salmon Roe), Sake(Salmon), Unagi, Cooked Prawn, Tamago & California Roll. Definitely no complaints, especially when the entire set costs approximately $30 after discount.

Premium Sushi

For those on a tighter budget, the Mix Roll Sushi Set($24.80++) is another option, comprising of a Pink Dragon Roll, Avocado Soft Shell Roll & Ebi Crunch Roll, as well as sides and the choice of Spicy Ramen or Unagi or Salmon Belly similar to the Premium Sushi Set.

Mix Roll Sushi

Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen

Sun with Moon’s Lunch Menu really leaves one spoilt for choice. From the Wayuzen section of the menu, there’s the highly recommended Gindara Teriyaki & Soft Shell Tempura Set($24.80++).

Grilled Teriyaki Cod

Soft Shell Tempura

Another item on the Wayuzen section, Chirashi Don & Soft Shell Tempura($25.80++). Such a photogenic bowl of Chirashi Don isn’t it?

Chirashi Don

With 2 more weeks to go before the promotion ends, I highly suspect that I might just make a return visit.

Bon Appetit!

SUN WITH MOON JAPANESE DINING & CAFE (THE CENTRAL)

6 EU TONG SEN STREET, #01-70/71/72 THE CENTRAL @ CLARKE QUAY

TEL: +65 6534 7784





Tao’s Restaurant – Casual Dining with Fine Foods

7 08 2010

Dinner at Tao’s was a direct result of Guoren’s lucky streak. You know those lame SMS competitions where the answer is so ridiculously obvious? Guoren took part in one, sent out 1 sms that cost him 20 cents and bazinga, 2 free Vip tickets to the 1st day of Singfest 2010 with performances from Wondergirls, Orianthi, Tokyo Hotel, Katy Perry and The Light. Ok VIP tickets are such an overstatement, the only difference was that we had 3 free Tiger Beer coupons each and sheltered seatings that were was so bloody far that we ended up jostling our way through the horde of sweaty & smelly “normal” Singfest ticketholders to get a better view of the performances. So much for thinking that VIP meant an exclusive seating location directly in front of the stage, with access to a  buffet and waitresses moving up and down asking if you would like any complimentary cocktails, and maybe a throw in of a backstage pass as well? Anyways, I felt quite bad just taking the “VIP” ticket for free (the “normal” tickets already costs $175 for a day pass!) so I treated Guoren to dinner at Tao’s before walking over to Fort Canning for Singfest. Still, I feel like I’m somewhat shortchanging him.

Having had memorable meals at sister restaurants Dozo for it’s Japanese Fusion & Ju Ju Hokkaido Hot Pot for its awesome hot pot, I finally visited Tao’s Restaurant, the third and final sibling of this dining group.

The dining style here is simple. 6-Course Set Lunch is priced at $19.80++ while 7-Course Set Dinner is priced at $29.80++. Unlike semi fine-dining sister restaurant Dozo, Tao’s portrays itself as a casual dining restaurant with a touch of class. Nothing too posh or over the top, just comfortable surroundings with good food and service, though I did question the sexual orientation of our waiter but at least he was friendly right? I’m no homophobe anyway.

The 7-Course Dinner between my friend Guoren and me kicked off with a cheesy Bacon  & Mushroom Gratin. Served with 2 thick slices of Toast, it’s looked and tasted like heaps of Baked Mozzarella over a Creamy Mushroom Soup. It’s hearty and we both liked it but it did seem a bit filling for a starter.

Bacon & Mushroom Gratin

2nd Course: Salads.

The Topshell Salad with Jap Noodles was served chilled with chopped nuts and an oriental dressing that tasted very Thai and refreshing.

Top Shell Salad with Cold Japanese Noodle

The Pork Floss with Prawn Roll was a much better choice of Salad in my opinion. It was very much like a Pork Floss Crepe or Popiah which agreed with my palate. The Mango Sauce that was drizzled over it complemented it well too, resulting in a good mix of sweet and savoury!

Prawn Roll with Pork Floss

The only difference between the Lunch and Dinner Set is this course – The Grilled King Oyster Mushroom with Sorbet. I forgot to take a picture of the Sorbet but it’s essentially a sweet citrus drink(if I’m not wrong it’s Yuzu Sorbet) served with crushed ice in a shot glass that aids digestion (Dozo and Ju Ju serves this too!). I loved the Grilled Mushrooms too! They were awfully fresh and crunchy. (I’m just a Mushy person, pun intended)

Grilled King Oyster Mushroom & Sorbet

4th Course: Soup

The Fish Consomme came in a cute looking pot. Crystal clear and void of any impurities, the consomme was flavourful and rich yet light at the same time. Again, portion was too much for 1 person to stomach. Why do I sound like I’m ranting? Bigger portions are a good thing right? I think it’s just because I hate wasting food, tasty ones at that.

Fish Consomme

GR fancied a more traditional Chinese Soup and hence chose the Sharkfin Melon Herbal Soup. There wasn’t a whole lot of sharkfin, I actually didn’t spot any at all but it had a nice mild herbal undertone of Ginseng, Red Dates & Wolfberries.

Shark-Fin Melon Herbal Soup

5th Course: Main

I don’t see why anyone would want to pay $15 bucks for a Cafe Cartel St Louis Pork Ribs or a $20-$30 Rack over at Tony Roma’s when you can get one that is of better quality and value right here! Slowed cooked to a near tender perfection, my only gripe was that the side of pumpkin mash wasn’t very smooth.

Slow-Cooked Pork Back Ribs

The Marinated Rack of Lamb was succulent and tasty on it’s own even without the side of was it Mint sauce? I did have a stronger preference for the ribs though.

Marinated Rack of Lamb

6th Course: Desserts

The desserts at Tao’s are good but not mind-blowing. Especially staple desserts like Tiramisu whereby after you have eaten so many, they all start tasting more or less the same and only the really poor or really awesome ones stand out. What I liked about Tao’s Tiramisu though was that the Mascarpone’s smooth consistency, denseness and sweetness suited my tastebuds.

Tiramisu

The Brownie with Ice Cream on the other hand was just unsophisticated sweet comfort food!

Brownie with Ice Cream

I really love the signature fruit teas from Dozo and Tao’s. We had the Ice Rose Apple Tea and Ice Summer Peach Tea and we both favoured the former. Its really refreshing and the Rose flavour was clearly evident even after all the ice melted. Guoren couldn’t stop raving about it.

Ice Rose Apple Tea & Ice Summer Peach Tea

We enjoyed our dinner at Tao’s tremendously. The food is not as sophisticated nor as intricate as Dozo’s but still tastes as good. Tao’s owner Mr Huang has indeed succeeded in his endeavor in making quality food that is value for money accessible to the masses.

Bon Appetit!

TAO’S RESTAURANT

1 SELEGIE ROAD, B1-19 POMO

TEL: +65  6333 0779








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