Graze At Martin No. 38 – Sorting out the Teething Issues

30 04 2011

2 birthdays ago, some of my friends got me a book entitled “Asian Bar And Restaurant Design”. That’s where I first came across Graze (Rochester outlet), which is featured on pages 224-229 of this book. Sadly, Googlebooks doesn’t allows us to preview so far into these copyrighted books so if you want to read more, you just have to purchase the book or borrow it from the library or if you’re adventurous enough, drop me a mail or comment and you can just borrow the book from me!

Although I haven’t been to the Rochester Park branch (mainly due to my refusal to travel so far from home), I’m really loving the pictures and contemporary concept of the place. There’s a sheltered al fresco dining area surrounded by lush greenery, an outdoor lounge for movie screenings, indoor dining areas featuring different themes and walking up to the second storey, you will be greeted by a long outside balcony, a cigar section and a bar. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

So awesome that CW and myself decided to pop by the the newly opened 1-month old Graze branch at 38 Martin Road, slightly off Robertson Quay.

Personally, I really love the Robertson Quay area. It’s where I first learnt how to mambo jambo when Double O (with their Saturday retro nights, similar to Zouk’s Wednesday’s Mambo Jambo) was still operating there. On many occasions, I also saw myself sitting amongst the expat crowd in the fountain square of Fraser’s Service Suites, watching live soccer on projector screens while indulging in a beer or two. If that’s not all, the entire vicinity is littered with happening pubs and eateries, my favourites being Laurent’s Cafe & Chocolate Bar for chocolate and ice cream and Cafe Epicurious for brunch. I have also been dying to try out Boomerang Bistro & Bar which I hear serves a kick ass Sticky Date Pudding but that’s better left for another post.

 Anyway, I was at Graze for lunch and was surprised at how large the seating capacity was. The combination of the main dining area, dim-litted romantic private dining area and the al fresco area probably fits 80-100 diners easily.

I had the Pan-roasted Barramundi, Orange & Beets Salad & Green Chili Almond Mayo ($24++) for lunch. The fish was fresh and its skin crisp, and the mayo complemented the it well. It’s a simple dish executed well.

CW just had the Pavlova ($10++) served with Fresh Berries, Thickened Cream, Passionfruit Sauce & Mango Sorbet. It’s a native Australian and New Zealand dessert that is meringue-based, chewier than the average meringue but just as sweet. I didn’t try the one here but CW seemed to like it. Best for people with sweet tooths.

The drinks here are rather pricy. My Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice and CW’s Watermelon Juice cost $8++ each which is quite a rip off. CW’s Cafe Latte ($4.80++) was also underwhelming.

Being newly opened, I wasn’t surprised that the number of diners was rather sparse, yet I found the service staff way too chill. They didn’t bother taking our orders when we first arrived, totally forgot to bring the bill after we requested for it and charged for an extra latte in the bill. Teething issues or not, I think that’s pretty much pushing it.

Bon Appetit!

GRAZE

38 MARTIN ROAD

TEL: +65 6509 1680





Bumbu Restaurant – Indothai that does not suck

29 04 2011

In Chinese cuisine, you have Peking Duck, Buddha Jump Over the Wall and Oyster Omelette. In Japanese, you have Sashimi, Tempura and Kobe. In French, you have Foie Gras, Duck Confit and Coq Au Vin. In German, you have Pork Knuckles, Gourmet Sausages and Beer. In Indothai, you get Mango Salad and Ngoh Hiang and a Milk Tea? It’s pathetically anti-climatic don’t you think? Hence, I used to think that Indothai food sucked. I used to think that Thai Express was probably the extent of what Indothai food could offer. Heck, I used to be so ignorant.

So for all those out there who thinks the same way as how I did in the past, I urge you to give Indothai cuisine a chance, at least till you have tried Bumbu Restaurant. It has garnered several dining awards in the past but recently, it has gone off the radar quite a bit. Perhaps it’s time that I gave everyone a gentle reminder of this little gem near Arab Street.

I simply love the Tahu Telor ($7.80++) here. The smooth beancurd is encrusted by an eggy batter which is glazed with a mellow sweet sauce. Whether eaten alone or paired with rice, it’s still freaking awesome.

Another dish worth ordering is the Beef Rendang ($10.80++). It’s only mildly spicy and if I can take it without breaking a sweat, then pretty much anyone can take it.

Impressed as I was by the first 2 dishes, I was still blown away by Pandan Chicken ($3.20/piece), which I felt was the best I have had in the short span of my life. There’s quite a bit of fat, which explains why it’s so tender but it’s worth every calorie. The pandan chicken’s surface is crisp from the frying and the chicken is marinated well. Personally, I think this is a must-order dish for every visitor.

As for their Green Curry Chicken ($8.80++), I find their curry too watered down to pack a punch.

I had high expectations of the Butter Oat Soft Shell Crab ($17.80++) but sadly, it failed to deliver. Unlike the flavourful oat prawns from good zi char places, the soft shell crab and the oats here came across as uncharacteristically bland.

Some seasonal Stir Fried Vegetables ($7.80++) for a balanced diet 🙂

You will definitely get a bang for your buck here. I paid $15, inclusive of a drink, for an awesome Indo-thai meal that few places can rival.

Bon Appetit!

BUMBU RESTAURANT

44 KANDAHAR STREET

TEL: +65 6392 8628





Celebrate Mother’s Day at Din Tai Fung!

26 04 2011

Ranked as one of the world’s Top Ten Best Restaurants by The New York Times, the celebrated restaurant has its roots dating back to Taiwan more than 40 years ago. With its famous signature Xiao Long Bao (steamed pork dumplings) and steamed chicken soup, Din Tai Fung has been making waves in Singapore, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea , USA and Australia.

In the meantime as we know, Mother’s Day is just around the corner and to celebrate the love for our mothers, the restaurant has prepared a special promotion and an interesting event to give the important women in our lives a little surprise.

Promotion: P.S Mummy I Love You

In the week of Mother’s Day, indulge your mum with delectable tastes of Din Tai Fung dishes as the family spend some quality time together. End off the satisfying meal with a mango mousse cake as a sweet treat. The little gestures we make can make a big difference to reward our mums.

Duration: 1st – 8th May 2011

·         Citibank Card Members:

Enjoy a complimentary mango mousse cake (worth $14.80) with a minimum spend of $70.

·         All customers:

Enjoy a complimentary mango mousse cake (worth $14.80) with a minimum spend of $80.

Or purchase it at $8.50 with a minimum spend of $50.

·         On 8th May: all dine-in mothers will receive an exclusive complimentary mini bouquet (while stocks last).

Mother’s Day Culinary Workshop

Treat your mum to an afternoon of fun culinary workshop and scrumptious high-tea at Din Tai Fung! Watch the master chefs in action as they perform the art of making La Mian and Xiao Long Bao. The fun part is, participants will have the chance to get their hands on making Xiao Long Baos! After all the hard work, sit back and enjoy the high-tea prepared for you. On top of that, all participants get to receive a goodie bag worth $50.

Date: 6th May 2011

Time: 3pm – 5pm

Venue: Din Tai Fung, Paragon

Registration Fee: $35 nett per pax OR $60 for 2 pax (inclusive of high-tea and goodie bag worth $50)

Call-to-action: Call 64357351 to register or for more information

I will be dropping by for the culinary workshop if my schedule permits. So see you there!





Cocotte – Cuisine Bourgeoise, A French Affair

25 04 2011

The use of interesting wordplay by eateries are becoming ever so prevalent nowadays. From the likes of Thai eatery Porn’s, Joo Chiat’s fine dining restaurant Private Affairs, and now Cocotte. Few people actually know what it means, but Cocotte has 2 meanings attached to it. First, it could mean “a small fireproof dish in which individual portions of food are cooked and served”. Alternatively, it also means “a prostitute or promiscuous woman”, apt wordplay given its location at the Wanderlust Hotel, a boutique hotel off Bugis and Little India.

Cocotte offers rather traditional French fare which I feel embodies the principles of cuisine bourgeoise, a style of french cooking associated with the middle class, as opposed to haute cuisine which places large emphasis on many small courses of elaborate preparations and presentations. Many of the dishes here such as the signature Poulet Roti (Organic Roast Chicken) are simple displays of French country cooking that is meant for communal sharing, and it really allows me to envision the scene of a tight knitted french family eating together and chatting loudly, where the platters of food are being passed around and across the dining table.

French dining is no hurried affair, with meals typically taking up to 2 to 3 hours from what I hear. Sadly, such a dining tradition is gradually being eroded here in Singapore and families are finding it a tall order nowadays just to have short dinners together, often opting to eat out instead of spending quality dining time with family given our busy schedules.

Cocotte offers a variety of set lunches. There’s a 3-Course Set Lunches for 1 pax @ $29++/pax, Set Lunches for 2 pax @ $35++/pax  and Set lunches for 4 pax @ $33++/pax. I would highly recommend going for the set lunches for 2 or 4 pax because they offer more choices with regards to the dishes available and also fits in with Cocotte’s concept of communal dining.

I didn’t like the warm complimentary bread here because it was hard as a stone.

I had no trouble seeing why the Fried Tripe is one of Cocotte’s signature appetizers. Coated with breadcrumbs and served with a tomato salsa, I throughly enjoyed the chewy yet tender texture of the tripe. Although we normally find cow’s stomach in our chinese-styled beef noodles, it’s really quite rare to find it in Singapore served otherwise. I remember eating an unforgettable spicy boiled tripe in Italy (sold at roadside stalls) and I’d imagine that fried tripe would taste awesome in hotdog buns as well!

The Rosette (cured Pork Sausage) was served in a platter with Olives, Salad and Mustard. It’s really not my cup of tea as the sausage and olives were too salty, though I do know that this is how it’s supposed to be.

I much preferred the Tomato & Pickled Anchovy Salad, with the salty anchovies and sweet peaches.

Pan-seared Chicken with Pine Nut, Mushroom & Port Cream, served with crushed Potatoes & Haricot Vert (a type of Green Bean). While the chicken was fabulous on its own, I had some problems with the sauce. It’s probably because of the Port which made the cream base slightly sweet, which I found hard getting used to. The sauce did complement the potatoes though.

Personally, I’d suggest going for the Beef Bourguignon, “Grass fed beef braised in red wine, served with sauteed mushrooms, pearl onions & roasted baby potatoes” as a main. It’s a classic french dish and Cocotte executed it perfectly, scoring higher points than the one I had at Bistro du Vin. If only there was some creamy mash or nice bread to mop up all the gravy.

For desserts, we had a Passionfruit Raspberry Cream Tart, which I found much too tart and overwhelming for my meek tastebuds.

Since it was Easter Weekend, Cocotte also had a special dessert consisting of an Almond Basket Biscuit with Chocolate Truffles & Marshmellows.

The Creme Brulee here is decent and infused with a nice coffee flavour. The custard might have been a tad too dense but still very enjoyable.

A couple of hits and misses but on the whole, the execution of the cooking was very competent. It does justice to traditional French cooking and I definitely wouldn’t mind returning soon to try out more of it’s signatures.

Bon Appetit!

COCOTTE

2 DICKSON ROAD, THE WANDERLUST HOTEL

TEL: +65 6298 1188





Restaurant Ember – The exception to “hara hachi bu”

22 04 2011

I came across the japanese term “hara hachi bu” recently. It’s an Okinawan tradition which means to eat only till 80% full. While it’s a good strategy for avoiding obesity and living a healthy lifestyle, I find it useful and relevant in the art of food appreciation as well. I find that the most memorable meals are the ones where hara hachi bu comes into play, where you leave a restaurant only partially full and left wanting for more. Ever so often are we guilty of attending a buffet and gorging ourselves to get our money’s worth, only to be left unsatisfied and empty at the end of the meal.

However, Restaurant Ember proves to be an exception. Filled to 110% of my bodily capacity, I still found it to be one of my most memorable meals ever.

Despite being situated in what I’d consider to be the most competitive dining environment (the Tanjong Pagar and Outram area) to be found locally, Restaurant Ember still manages to keep up a fully booked reservation list on a day to day basis, which says a lot for an eatery that has already been around for the past 8 years.

At Ember, you can rest assure that there’s no hocus pocus, smoke or pyrotechnics used to impress diners. It’s a place where ambience and service is kept to a respectful minimum, and the the focus is really on the food. I reaffirmed this fact when I received a call confirming my reservation by a staff member who had an uncouth singlish accent, a far cry from the usual dignified “ang mor” accent we are so used to hearing from western eateries.

A warm toasty focaccia kick started our meal.

We were also given a complimentary mocktail each, a promotion for patrons paying with DBS/POSB cards.

3-Course Set Lunches here are priced at $39.50++, though some dish choices (like the foie gras) do require slight additional top-ups.

Pan Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Apples & Clove, Port & Raspberry Glaze (additional $6 supplement). Me, I’m just a sucker for foie gras. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, with the classic light tinge of sour acidity from the malic and ascorbic acid from the apples to help provide some balance for the fatty goose liver. Pity it was slightly overcooked.

Roasted and Poached Foie Gras with Mirin, Shoyu & Shitake (additional $6 supplement). One of my most enjoyable foie gras dishes ever! As opposed to the sweet-sour combi with the previous foie gras dish, this dish was pure savoury goodness.

Marinated Cod with Black Miso, Sweet Peas & Herbed Potatoes. Unlike the previous Miso Cod I had at Greenwood Fish Market, I preferred Ember’s rendition which has a cleaner and lighter taste.

Crispy Duck Leg Confit with new Potatoes, Caramelized Onion & Thyme Jus. Very impressive duck confit they conjured up here, one of the best I have had. The skin is really crisp and somehow devoid of any excess frying oil, the duck meat is moist and supple, and the gravy heavy probably from the duck fat residue but flavourful nonetheless.

Homemade Sticky Date Pudding with Grand Marnier Ice Cream. For the longest time, Sticky Date Pudding has been my favourite dessert but I think I’m starting to tire of it. The Date Pudding here oddly resembles a fruitcake in terms of taste and texture. Personally, I’d prefer it more moist and I think it would have paired better with just a plain old Vanilla Bean Ice Cream instead of the yoghurt tasting Grand Marnier Ice Cream.

Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. I’m sure this would be a hit amongst dark chocolate lovers. The Vanilla Ice Cream is also to die for.

As you can see, Ember just puts a smile on my face. It just might be is my new favourite restaurant. Bon Appetit!

RESTAURANT EMBER

50 KEONG SAIK ROAD, HOTEL 1929

TEL: +65 6347 1928





Cafe Fables and Bar Stories – A Cocktail Adventure

22 04 2011

On occasion I get the question of why I’m such a foodie and the impetus in setting up a food blog. Normally I’d brush it off with a truncated answer for simplicity’s sake, of how I gained an epiphany; that despite living in a multicultural society, my food knowledge was severely lacking and like many other Singaporeans, I found difficulty in throwing out names of 3 authentic French restaurants in Singapore. 2 years down, French is now my cuisine of choice.

However, the unabridged version of my story starts off slightly different, beginning more than 2 years ago at a bar called Klee (which sadly closed sometime ago) with ex-JC classmate CW. CW had suggested visiting Klee for drinks and it was there that we coincidentally met one of the co-founders of Hungrygowhere and his fiancee. I never learnt of the reason why they sent over a couple of drinks on his tab, and I was really quite perplexed because this almost never happens in Singapore. Of course, we returned their hospitality with our company and chatted with them for a couple of hours till closing time, never seeing them ever again. Hungrygowhere was still rather new at that time and a week later, I opened an account and used it as my primary food hunting resource, occasionally contributing some reviews to this food community myself. And this was how I got started in food writing.

So while some travel to Mecca, and others do community service in 3rd-world poverty stricken areas, there’s this small group of us who indulge in a life-long food trail. The similarity between the 3 are almost indistinguishable, but the fact is that everybody’s actually embarking on the same journey…paths of self-discovery. 

Cafe Fables by day, Bar Stories by night. Housed on the 2nd level of furniture shop “A Thousand Tales”, what I found here was a sense of homeliness, somewhere to go to after work to unwind, somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

A venture pursued by one of the partners of the now defunct Klee, Bar Stories too, functions without a drinks menu with fresh cocktails specially mixed to individual tastes. How apt it is for CW to be the one bringing me here, after introducing Klee to me as well. The cocktail culture here allows me to reminisce the good old times at Klee, the concept of having friendly mixologists interacting with guests, the concept of being able to chat with random friendly strangers across the bar, the concept of being just so un-Singaporean. Say goodbye to the dark dodgy pubs that we are so used to, Bar Stories has an open concept with a soft tune playing in the backdrop, making it easy for catching up with old friends whilst sipping the night away.

Jeff, one of the two mixologists for the night, whipped up a sweet Honeydew Mango Sake ($22++) for CW. Really awesome stuff, and it reminds me of a drink called “Nothing” which is available in Zouk and made with Melon Liquor. But then again, comparing cocktails from Bar Stories with Zouk’s is like comparing steak from Morton’s with Jack’s Place. The difference is simple yet evident. Bar Stories makes its cocktails fresh from scratch, meaning no fruit syrups or concentrates are used. This gives a fresher feel to the cocktails and lends a taste that isn’t too sharp and artificial.

For myself, I was presented with a Pomegranate Passionfruit Martini ($22++) which appeals more to those who prefer their drinks sour rather than sweet. I’m more of a sweet cocktail person but it’d still be my pleasure getting high on this.

Bar Stories, a cocktail adventure? Definitely.

Bon Appetit!

CAFE FABLES & BAR STORIES

55-57 HAJI LANE, 2ND FLOOR

TEL: +65 6298 0838





Fukuichi Japanese Dining – Away from the Orchard crowd

18 04 2011

Fans of Chef John Phua from the now-defunct Shinobu Dining Japanese Restaurant @ PSA Building will be pleased to know that he hasn’t disappeared from the Singapore food scene, and has returned to titillate our tastebuds once more, this time with his relatively new opening, Fukuichi Japanese Dining. The restaurant arm of a partnership formed between a Japanese and Singapore fishery, Fukuichi effectively cuts out the middle man within their operating stream, ensuring a reliable and fresh supply of restaurant produce is always readily available.

We were here to to celebrate C’s birthday. Back in secondary 1, I vividly recall the first time my dad picked him up to go school together with me. His maid carried out his bag for him, much like the recent debacle regarding the NSF and his maid…should have taken a picture and posted it on Stomp but after all, we are just Singaporeans with our pampered ways. It’s been so long since then and C is now a medical student. It’s really astonishing how many friends I know decided to take on the hippocratic oath, but sewing people up and performing rectal examinations isn’t my definition of having a good time. My only comfort is that at least I know or  just hope that good medical advice, potential queue cutting and perhaps even free consultations will be a given in future.

For our dinner, most of us had the Sushi/Sashimi Kami Nabe Course ($60/$68++ for 2 pax).

The first course of the Kani Tofu (Crab Meat Tofu) was excellent! Chilled silky tofu doused with a creamy century egg sauce. I’d recommend ordering this as a side if you decide to go ala carte instead.

Sashimi Moriawase / Sushi Moriawase

Kami Nabe (Choice of Seafood, Beef or Cod). The cod paper pot was quite good though I still think the one at Chikuwa Tei is better because the one over there is boneless and I’m a lazy prick. I didn’t try the beef but it looks appropriately marbled given the price range.

Sanuki Udon which must be simmered in the paper pot before eating.

Dessert of the Day was a Strawberry Mochi.

Some of my friends decided to go ala carte instead. The Hotate Yaki ($15++) or Scallops in Garlic Sauce garnered positive feedback.

Chawanmushi ($6++), one of the prettiest I have seen.

Inari Sushi ($4++) or sweet beancurd skin sushi had positive reviews too.

Tempura Udon ($15++) was so-so.

Fukuichi is a pretty nice place to grab a meal away from the bustling Orchard crowd. My only grouse is that unlike most casual Japanese restaurants, the variety of set meals on offer is rather limited.

Bon Appetit!

FUKUICHI JAPANESE DINING

111 SOMERSET ROAD, #02-11/12 TRIPLEONE SOMERSET

TEL: +65 6271 5586








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