[Taipei, Taiwan] 馬辣 – A Hotpot Buffet with Hagen Daz, Movenpick, Wine & Beer

28 05 2014

A hotpot buffet with 8 flavours each of Hagen Daz Ice Cream & Movenpick Ice Cream, Red Wine and Beer, do I have your attention yet?

While Taiwan might be known for its scenic tourist spots like Tarako Gorge, Sun Moon Lake and the various hot springs, the highlight of my Taiwan trip turned out to be buffet hotpot restaurant 馬辣, much to my Taiwan friend E’s dismay who adamantly insisted that Taiwan has much more to offer than a mere hotpot restaurant.

Anyhow, I first heard of 马辣 from my mum, and subsequently as a recommendation from an adjacent Taiwanese passenger on the flight to Taipei. It’s a pretty popular place usually packed to the brim during mealtimes, with 5 outlets currently in operation in Taipei that are all very much accessible by public transport. Our first visit left us so impressed (and lazy to search for other alternatives), that we decided to come back to celebrate T’s birthday here as well.

The buffet is priced at 498NT++ for weekday lunches and 598NT++ for weekends/dinners (or roughly S$25++), for a time limit of two hours. However, the staff seemed pretty lax on this policy and allowed us to stay on for more dessert, drinks and idle chatter since there was no one else in the queue then. Buffet items include a host of meats (Angus beef, Boston Pork Should, Chicken Thigh…), Seafood (Oysters, Scallops, Prawn, Crab…), Vegetables, Dipping Sauces, Drinks(Fruit Juices, Soft Drinks, Beers, Floral Teas…), Desserts (Cakes, Fruits, Ice Cream…). Diners are also allowed to bring their own booze with no additional corkage charge, overall a pretty good deal if you ask me. Heck, I would pay that price for just the free flow ice cream and beer.

With the exception of the dipping sauces, drinks and desserts which are self-service, other items require diners to physically tick a checkbox and pass it on to the wait staff, who will then have the indicated items brought to your table, ensuring that whatever arrives is relatively fresh and not left in the open for prolonged periods of time.

So to cut long story short, 馬辣 is an incredibly value for money hotpot buffet if you are in Taipei that I would definitely recommend visiting.

Fuxing Location
Address: No. 152, 4F, Fuxing South Road
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM-5AM
Phone: (02)27727678
MRT: Zongxiao Fuxing

Xining Location
Address: No. 62, 2F, Xining South Road (台北市西寧南路62號2樓)
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM-5AM
Phone: (02)23146528
MRT: Ximen

Tingzhou Location
Address: No.86, Tingzhou Road Section 3 (台北市中正區汀州路三段86號)
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM-5AM
Phone: (02)23657625
MRT: Gongguan

Zhongxiao Location
Address: No.4, Alley 10, Lane 233, Zhongxiao East Road Section 4 (台北市忠孝東路四段233巷10弄4號)
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM-5AM
Phone: (02)27212533
MRT: Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall

Songshou Location
Address: No. 22, 3F, Songshou Road (台北市信義區松壽路22號3F)
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30AM-5AM
Phone: (02)27205726
MRT: Taipei City Hall





Stellar @ 1-Altitude – Wine Lust Sunday Brunches

19 03 2014

Following its popularity since its debut in December 2013, Stellar @ 1-Altitude has decided to continue hosting its Wine Lust Sunday Brunches into 2014. This is pleasant news because from what I have seen so far, they seem to be doing it right. The brunch buffet features a good mix of International cuisines, ranging from Japanese Sushi, a meat carving station, cold cuts, western brunch items and most importantly, a free flow of red/white/sparking wine. Adding to that, wine aficionados will also be glad to know that a tasting table of up to 10 wines (different from those on free-flow) will also be set up by a different wine supplier each week, allowing for wine tastings and bottle sales during the course of the brunch. And if you didn’t already know, at 62 floors above ground level, the view from Stellar is simply breathtaking too. How many restaurants can actually boost looking down towards Ku De Ta @ Marina Bay Sands?

At $110++ per pax, Wine Lust is competitively priced against other Sunday alcoholic brunch buffets such as The Line @ Shangri-La Hotel ($138++), Equinox @ Swissotel ($148++) and Clifford @ Fullerton Bay Hotel ($148++). Two reasons might explain this price discount. Firstly, Wine Lust does not offer Champagne but personally, a good non-Champagne sparkling wine offers equal, if not higher utility. Secondly, Wine Lust offers less variety in menu options, doing away with the ubiquitous raw seafood lineup. What Wine Lust offers however, is something unique and what I find to be the key differentiating factor going for it; a larger proportion of live cooking stations and made to order items.

Do not make the fatal mistake of underestimating the menu. While the entire list of food items is categorically displayed on a single page, by the end of the meal, it is likely that you will still end up having trouble standing up, as the individual items listed can become pretty substantial when summed and secondly, since many of the items are made to order, the quality and taste follows that of ala carte and you will likely finish up the entire serving because wasting good food is a sin.

Wine Tasting Table

According to the retailer, the wines were “boutique” Western Australian wines, with prices in the general range of $30-$40

One of the items I found particularly good was the made to order Salmon Benedict. The saltiness of the smoked salmon was controlled and perfect for my tastes. The poached yolk was flowy and the hollandaise as rich and creamy as it gets.

Salami & Salad Bar

Another brunch item worth getting is the French Toast with Caramelized Bananas. It might potentially be one of the best renditions you ever laid your taste buds on with its crisp exterior and airy interior that doesn’t fill you up too badly.

Omelette & French Toast cooking station

I had no complaints with the Sushi section either and found it quite a few notches higher than the usual hotel buffet, possibly because the sushi is made in small batches to ensure that the stock of sushi displayed is always fresh.

One of the highlights of the buffet was the Claypot Chicken Rice. Just like how they do it in traditional dim sum restaurants where you see the staff pushing a cart of fresh dim sum up and down the restaurant for diners to order, the same thing is done with the Claypot Chicken Rice here, where it is pushed around on a trolley whenever a fresh batch is made. To give it a little twist, the rice is served in a piece of lettuce with Tomato Belacan and Cucumber Relish on the side. I was advised to pair it with the Sauvignon Blanc and man did it make a difference. The Claypot Rice tasted a whole lot more fragrant with a hint of sweetness that I did not get in the absence of the white wine.

The mini tacos were also made to order, so they arrived crisp but both CJ and myself found it a little too sourish from the sauce used.

The biggest disappointment for the brunch was the carving station. While the meats (Spatchcock Chicken aka Roast Chicken, Roasted Pork Belly, Rosemary Roast Lamb Leg, Roast Duck) scored high aesthetically with the meats and duck skin glistening from the lighting, they were awfully dry and lacked flavor.

Hopes that the made to order Wagyu Rump would redeem the meat section were quickly dashed as I found the beef extremely sinewy and difficult to cut. Of the two options of sauces (mushroom or red wine), I much preferred the red wine sauce since it complemented the beef way better than the bland mushroom sauce.

Pastas are also made to order, with the option of Carbonara and Aglio Olio. We chose to share the latter since we were pretty stuffed and found it pretty mediocre. Would have loved a stronger garlic flavor and more olive oil, since it came across as a little dry. That said, I was pretty surprised when the chef came over and asked if we would like to have truffle shavings with our pasta, which may cost in the range of $10-$20 per gram in local restaurants. No points for guessing our answer nor our enthusiasm.

The dessert lineup was decent as well, featuring Lamingtons Drive (a type of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled over coconut), Lemon Coconut Cake, Orange Carrot Cake, Chocolate Tartlets, Hazelnut Praline Cake, White Chocolate Raspberry Cake, Strawberry Crumble and Anzac Cookies (an oat cookie). My favourites were the Strawberry Crumble, which is served warm and the Hazelnut Praline Cake (which looks like a chocolate cake in the middle of the dish).

No wine brunch is complete without a cheese platter.

With more hits than misses, I thoroughly enjoyed myself with the entire brunch experience. Service was great and so was the food and ambience. Unbuckling my belt upon reaching home never felt better…

Special thanks to Shasi and Stellar @ 1-Altitude for the invitation.

Stellar @ 1-Altitude

1 Raffles Place, Level 62, Singapore 048616

Tel: +65 6438 0410

Website: www.1-altitude.com





Equinox @ Swissotel – Restaurant Week Lunch

21 03 2013

It’s Restaurant Week again and as usual, I went into a rabid booking frenzy when seats were released. It’s not like I have the time to eat 4 Restaurant Week meals but guess I’m still a true blue Singaporean at heart, scared to lose out when there’s a queue. So while I had rather hard-to-get reservations at Basilico, Brasserie les Savuers and Keystone Restaurant over the course of the week, I had to drop them all, leaving me with just a sole lunch date at the highly acclaimed Equinox @ Swissotel.

Just a bit of advice from me. While the goal of Restaurant Week is to allow would-be diners to sample restaurants’ offerings at more affordable prices, not all restaurant week menus are value for money, so it pays to do some basic research first. For example during the Oct 2012 installment of restaurant week, I actually noted a restaurant that charged $40++ for their restaurant week lunch menu, which was just a truncated version of their normal set lunch menu, meaning diners had to pay more for less choices of appetizers, mains and desserts! Thankfully, that same restaurant isn’t guilty of that this time around (but that’s because they increased the price of their normal set lunch).

Equinox is probably one of the more value for money restaurant participants for restaurant week as the restaurant week menu ($40++) doesn’t deviate much from their usual set lunch ($59++). Their lunch menu comes in the form of a semi-buffet, meaning that appetizers and desserts are buffet style while diners can order 1 main (from 3 choices) off the menu.

Given that my expectations of the buffet was along the lines of a salad bar in Pizza Hut (I do exaggerate sometimes), I was pleasantly surprised by the spread. There were appetizers like Shrimp Cocktail, Cold cuts, Proscuitto, Mediterranean dips like Hummus and Baba Ganoush, Smoked Salmon, Roast Duck Salad, Chilled Seafood (Fresh Oysters, Chilled Crabs, Clams, Mussels & Prawns), Sashimi (Salmon & Tuna), Assorted Sushi (featuring interesting ones like Hokkigai aka Surf Clam Sushi and Herring Sashimi) and unlike some buffets where the food is left in the open for long periods of time, I noticed that food refills here were carried out fairly regularly which is a good sign.

The dessert and cheese line was pretty decent too. Apart from an assortment of cakes, there’s also the chocolate fondue fountain and Ice Cream!

The sushi with bright yellow roe at the bottom of the plate is a Herring Sashimi, something not so commonly found at buffets.

M liked the Watermelon with Feta (plated on the small saucer below) so much that she took 5 servings of it.

There were 3 choices of mains available from the restaurant week lunch menu.

M got the vegetarian option of Wild Mushroom Raviolo with Vegetable Linguine & Mushroom Dressing. Raviolo is simply an oversized Ravioli and this one was filled almost entirely with Mushrooms that tasted excruciatingly sour from the excessive use of vinegar. The faux linguine made from grated vegetables didn’t help alleviate much of M’s suffering either.

I didn’t try the Pan-seared Barramundi with Sauteed Green Beans, Shitake Mushrooms & Herb Broth but G didn’t have any complaints about it.

For myself, the choice of main was a simple one, the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Curried Sweet Potato, Roast Onion & Zucchini in Cider Sauce. It was the most unhealthy dish I could find on the menu and going by my assumption of equivalent exchange, this would prove to be the most tasty dish.

While it’s probably the best imo of the 3 mains available, it fails to impress, falling short by quite a bit relative to some of the Roasted Pork Bellies I have had. The meat wasn’t as tender as expected and slightly on the dry side. Didn’t favour the mash either since it was more chunky than smooth and the curry flavour didn’t complement the pork well.

For good roasted pork bellies, try Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar (which does it sous vide style) or Ember Restaurant (my favourite place for set lunch).

Just for restaurant week, diners can also opt to add on a Pan-seared Foie Gras for an additional $10, which I did. It didn’t turn out too well though as it was unsalted (intentionally as I clarified later) and overcooked, which saddened me a little especially since it was M’s first time trying Foie Gras and I always believed that your first time is supposed to be special. Shall bring her to somewhere with decent foie gras next time to atone for this atrocity.

Sadly the pretty desserts didn’t taste as good as they looked. The more palatable ones include the Creme Brulee and the light Ivory Dome White Chocolate Cake.

Coffee/tea is included within the set lunch and Equinox uses TWG tea in case you are wondering.

I guess word on the street is right. Food doesn’t seem to be the main draw of Equinox. The experience of dining 70 floors up with a panoramic view of the Marina area however, is another story.

Equinox

2 Stamford Road, Level 70 Swissotel The Stamford

Tel: +65 6837 3322





Barnacles @ Rasa Sentosa – In the Running for Best Sunday Lunch Buffet

9 02 2013

Short of doing a staycation to enjoy beach resort treatment, Barnacles @ Rasa Sentosa has come up with a fantastic idea. Diners at Barnacles’ Sunday Garden Party Lunch buffet will be allowed access to the pool facilities at Rasa Sentosa, where one can just relax and enjoy the end of the week after the meal. It’s a day to be enjoyed by the whole family as activities are also organized for kids just outside the restaurant where a performer does stuff like balloon sculpting, juggling and a magic show to entertain the children, while the adults can continue indulging in the buffet spread and immerse into their conversations without any distractions.

Priced at $138++ per pax, diners get to indulge in an array of seafood (hence the name Barnacles), charcoal grilled meats, cooked dishes, an impressive French cheese platter and desserts. The buffet is made more affordable for diners who come with their kids, as one child under the age of 12 gets to dine for free with each paying adult (subsequent children will be charged $38++).

It might be a little warm in the afternoon but if it’s a cloudy day, you should definitely try sitting outdoors, which boasts a tranquil waterfront view.

The assortment of food here isn’t varied as some other buffets but they make up for it with quality.

Singapore lacks an oyster culture. Most of us harbour myopic views on what raw oysters should taste and look like, derived from our multiple experiences at the various International buffets we have been to. So when we stumble across an oyster that tastes unfamiliar, we tend to think that something is wrong with that oyster. That was my view not long ago too but it all changed after I visited Blue Water Café & Raw Bar, one of the best seafood restaurants in Vancouver. There was a selection of about 20 different species of oysters to choose from, leaving me totally lost. From the province of British Columbia alone, there were already more than 12 types of oysters on the menu, and the oyster descriptions on the menu (eg “small cup, firm flesh, light brine, lettuce-like finish”) sounded like wine notes more than anything else.

For Barnacles’ Sunday buffet, French Fine de Claire Oysters are served, which will appeal to folks who love briny, less fleshy oysters. It was fresh but I’m definitely one who prefers my oysters sweet and creamy.

Apart from oysters, there’s also Lobsters, Alaskan King Crab, poached Prawns, Periwinkle (a type of small sea snail) & Bulot (large sea snail) for seafood lovers.

Most of the cooked food are placed outdoors. Apart from the cooked lamp chops, grilled chicken and roast beef, there’s also a live BBQ station which grills your Chicken Steak, Sausages, Salmon, Prawns, Beef and Lamb ala minute.

I piled up my plate full of grilled meats and seafood, of which the ready cooked lamb was frigging awesome. Possibly one of the most tender lamb chops I have had to date, unexpected that I would experience it at a buffet. The salmon and sausage were good too, whose meat was moist. Different sauces such as the Mushroom Sauce, Brown Sauce of caramelized onions, Mint Sauce, Mustard was also provided to complement the meats.

Most buffets leave their cooked food out in the open for hours on end but Barnacles employs a different strategy. A tray might hold as little food as 6 scallops but refilled with fresh ones often, ensuring that diners always get food that is fresh and just out of the kitchen. The gesture is much appreciated and the Seared Hokkaido Scallops wrapped in Bacon was certainly one of the highlights for this buffet, worth having seconds for which I did.

The Crab cooked in Chinese Herbs was great as well and the crab meat was really sweet and delicate.

Instead of the ready cooked Bee Hoon, I would recommend going for the Risotto (choice of mushroom, shrimp or salmon but as kiasu Singaporeans, an “everything” risotto seems more likely) instead, which is made to order. I found it more delicious than most of the risottos I have had in ala carte restaurants.

The quality of the desserts on the dessert line was the most impressive one I have encountered so far at a buffet. Special mention has to go to the Apple Pie, Pavlova and Macarons. I’m sure there are other noteworthy desserts as well but I was far too stuffed by this juncture to try everything.

Warm Chocolate Cakes (no lava included)

The Pavlova (bottom of pic) is a meringue-based dessert that has a marshmellow-like core

What we see here are Macarons and not macaroons. I used to think that it was just a UK vs US spelling difference but they actually refer to different types of pastries.

The spread of 8 different types of French Cheese was simply amazing. I’m no cheese connoisseur (most of my cheese knowledge comes from Mousehunt, a Facebook game I used to play) but I guess my favourites were the milder tasting ones and one that was rum & raisin flavoured, which had a subtle saccharine flavor that goes well with the crackers.

Kids being entertained while parents go wild at the buffet line

Parents need entertainment too

For a buffet, one usually finds one or two dishes that are worth going for seconds. At Barnacles, every other item was deserving of such honour, especially the lamb chops, seared scallops, chilled seafood, dessert & cheese line.

I dislike buffets in general because I tend to overeat, crappy food at that. This time, I was glad to have overeaten yet disappointed that there wasn’t any room in me for more. It’s one of the few times I have felt this way about a buffet, so Barnacles definitely has my stamp of approval. The premium paid for this buffet…justified.

Special thanks to Rasa Sentosa and Barnacles for hosting the tasting.

Barnacles

101 Siloso Road, Rasa Sentosa

Tel: +65 6371 1966





Good Ol’ Days @ Silver Shell Cafe, Rasa Sentosa Resort

16 08 2012

On National Day evening, while most Singaporeans were glued onto their tv screens, I was at a buffet hosted by Silver Shell Cafe at Rasa Sentosa, together with Melissa from Melicacy and Derrick from SG Food on Foot.

The theme of the buffet is entitled “Good Ol Days” and features a wide range of local culinary delights, cultural performances for entertainment and games from yesteryear, which I found rather apt for this occasion. No effort has been spared into conceptualizing the theme, with cafe staff donning on traditional hawker attire, and Chinese, Malay and Indian crockeries and utensils have been specially purchased to add a more authentic feel for the meal.

Good Ol Days is priced at $58++ per adult and $25++ per child and runs every Thursday for the month of August but due to the overwhelming response, Rasa Sentosa has decided to continuing running it into September as well.

1) Chinese Food

One aspect that sets Silver Shell Cafe apart from most other locally themed buffets is the extensiveness of the live cooking stations. You can get oyster omelette, carrot cake, hokkien mee, laksa and lor mee, all of which are prepared ala minute.

Oyster Omelette

Carrot Cake

Hokkien Mee

Laksa

Lor Mee

Of course, there is pre-prepared food as well, ranging from bak kut teh, dim sum and chili crabs. Would have loved to have some fried man tou to dip the chili crab sauce with!

Chili Crab

One of the hits from the chinese food section was the kueh pie tee, which diners prepare themselves and can overload with whatever ingredients they like best. The kueh pie tee cups are replaced frequently due to the high turnover of this dish, so the cups were always fresh and crisp to my delight.

Kueh Pie Tee

There’s also a roast meat section, which serves steamed white chicken, roast chicken, roast duck, char siew and roast pork. There’s chicken rice available as well with all necessary condiments like ginger, dark sauce and chili. Would have been great if they included innards as well, as some tourists might not get the chance to try this back home.

2) Malay Food

While less extensive than the Chinese food section, the Malay section features signatures like otak, satay, begedil (fried potato cutlets) and mee rebus. Something I would love to have added to the mix as well is BBQ Stingray!

Mee Rebus

3) Indian Food

There’s an Indian chef that makes the roti prata from scratch at the Indian food section, and it was fortunate that I manage to snag a fresh batch to go with my curry chicken, vegetable dal and Assam fish curry. I thought the curry chicken was fantastic, with a thick creamy consistency from the coconut milk that goes well with the prata.

4) Appetizers & Seafood

There’s a section for appetizers and seafood as well, where you can get fresh prawns, bamboo clams, crabs, scallops and mussels, cold dishes and sushi.

5) Drinks

In tune with the theme, diners get to sip on local favourites like soy bean milk, grass jelly, bandung  (rose syrup drink), longan red date drink and coke off vintage glass bottles.

6) Desserts & Fruits

What I loved most from the dessert line was the Durian Pancake which was prepared ala minute as well, so it comes to you crisp and piping hot. It can be improved upon though, as the pancakes are on the thick side.

For this special occasion, in addition to the standard buffet fruits such as watermelons, oranges, lychees, bananas and rambutans, durians and mangosteens were also available just outside the cafe.

Tau Suan

Durian Pancake

During the course of the meal, we were also entertained by Malay and acrobatic Bhangra dances. There’s also a chance for audience participation if you feel up for it!

There are game stations which showcase games from yesteryear like five stones, chapteh, zero point and many other trinkets for the kids to have a go at.

In conclusion, if you are looking for the best carrot cakes and laksa in town, you will not find it here. What you will find though, is a great introduction to Singapore cuisine and culture, to reminisce the good old days.

Special Thanks to Rasa Sentosa for the invitation!

Silver Shell Cafe

101 Siloso Road, Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort Level 3

Tel: +65 6371 1966





The Square @ Novotel Clarke Quay – What’s The Big Deal? Promotion

10 06 2012

Just an update on what this foodie has been up to recently:

It’s currently university holidays now so I’m interning at a private equity firm for 10 weeks and I’m currently in my 6th week now. I would say that the firm I am at is quite unconventional. While most private equity firms function with a high degree of corporate culture (since most of the partners and founders of such firms tend to come from an investment banking or consultancy background), the firm I’m at is pretty “creative”. I go to work in casual attire (tho a polo-t with jeans is the minimum I would tread) unless I have have a nice restaurant dinner scheduled that night (I hypothesize that service staff tend to treat me better in working attire than when I’m in casual attire). There’s a drum set, guitar, keyboard and amps in the meeting room where my colleagues sometimes jam (everyone is musically gifted except me), and sometimes we project youtube using the projector, where my colleagues will play to the beat and I will just sing along. I will be traveling with my colleagues to Korea in July for 5 days (which intern gets to travel overseas during their internship?!) so I’m quite excited as well, and since the trip falls on the last week of my internship, I’m considering extending my stay over there to travel around Korea a bit more since the last time I was there was a decade ago. After that, I will be heading down to Hong Kong, Macau and Hainan Island for a long relaxing 11 day trip till end July before I start school in mid-August.

Apart from internship, there are a few other reasons why my blog posts are coming out in a tad slower than expected. I just started taking up golf lessons with some friends. I’m finding it pretty fun but it takes up quite a bit of time since I try to go twice a week. I also pre-ordered Diablo 3 and am slowing making my way through the game as well. Overall, think summer hols is gg great for me so far 😀

Anyway, I visited The Square on 2 separate tastings as coincidentally, a tasting was also extended to SMU Gourmet Club (that I’m a part of) and I went a second time on behalf of the club, playing the role of the meal photographer, so I guess I have a pretty good idea of what’s good here. The buffet is priced at $38++ for Lunch (Everyday), $48++ for Dinner (Sun-Thurs) and $58++ for Dinner (BBQ nite, Fri-Sat).

Unlike The Line from Shangri la, Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts or Triple Three from Meritus Mandarin, admittedly The Square @ Novotel Clarke Quay isn’t very well known for their buffet and most of the patrons here are hotel guests. But with newly appointed Head Chef Jean-Philippe Couturier at the helm, has the buffet spread at The Square been rejuvenated?

I’m not a buffet person per-se. I used to be when I was younger, when the appeal of having free-flow sashimi was still there but now, the elements of authenticity and having freshly prepared dishes seems to take precedence so I have been slowing moving away from buffets. As such, dishes that I find decent here are in my mind, really laudable for buffet standards.

Currently, they are having the What’s the BIG Deal? promotion, where 3-4 BIG dishes are featured every night during dinner such as a variety of risottos cooked a la minute. This promotion lasts till the end of June. They also have an upcoming Father’s Day Special every weekend, where fathers get to dine for free with every 4 dining persons.

On the buffet line, there’s a selection of appetizers to choose from, such as assorted sushi, salmon and tuna sashimi, potato and pasta salad, oysters, chilled prawns & shellfish, brie cheese, club sandwiches, seaweed, golden coin bak kua, ham and parma ham just to name a few.

The Roast Beef at the carving station is pretty good but it requires diners to carve it themselves. Although the intention might have been good, to ensure that the beef does not dry up when left in the open for too long, few people actually take the effort to carve the meat themselves and end up missing out on this splendid roast.

As mentioned above, some of the “big dishes” will be prepared a la minute, with the risottos being one of them. On my first visit, I tucked into the Seafood Risotto which I found rather pedestrian. If only there was a pure-scallop risotto (I’m sure they can whip it up), scallops are my favourite!

However, on my second visit, I received a Vegetable Risotto which came with a side of Parma Ham. I thought this was much better executed than the seafood risotto and something I might consider ordering again. The cheesiness was balanced well with the the hint of tomatoes puree and basil pesto and if the parma ham served with the risotto isn’t enough, just head down to the buffet line to get a refill.

Ironically, my favourite main here is only available from the ala carte menu, the Poached Cod Fillet in Spicy Coconut and Prawn Broth, served with Sauteed Vegetables and Chicken Rice ($34++). The gravy tastes like a creamy sweet laksa sauce with a little more concentration and richness than the usual laksa gravy. This is fusion done right.

The Laksa prepared at their live cooking station falls short when compared to the cod dish. The gravy is a tad too spicy and not as smooth as what you can get from the reputable hawker like Katong Laksa.

The buffet line also features a vast array of other international and local dishes. Other dishes that I found palatable were the Fried Kuey Teow which had a nice “wok hei” character and the Curry Mutton.

As for desserts, the Chocolate Mousse with Mint Chocolate (left of bottom pic) is clearly unrivaled. It is so darn good and chocolatey that it was the only dessert I took that I left none for the ants. Seriously, save stomach space for at least 2 of this, or maybe 3 because it’s the star of the buffet. I would even come back specifically for this if it was served ala-carte. The Green Tea Panna Cotta (bottom left of bottom pic) is not bad as well.

Overall, I would say that the buffet is priced at fair value. The selection and quality might not be as good as some of the more renowned buffet restaurants in Singapore, justifying the more affordable buffet prices at The Square but there are definitely a few gems here that are waiting to be discovered. Coupled with the current What’s the Big Deal promotion, it might just be worth dropping by.

On a random note, guests who stay in the “executive rooms” of Novotel Clarke Quay also get access to their premier lounge, where they get complimentary food and booze (wine included), plus a great view (bottom) from the private balconies in the lounge. I believe the executive rooms are around $60/night more expensive than the standard rooms, so I think its quite a good deal to just upgrade since you get a larger room and I’m pretty sure most of us can guzzle $60 worth of booze a night easily.

Special thanks to Novotel and John for hosting an enjoyable evening.

The Square

177A River Valley Road, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay Level 7

Tel: +65 6433 8790





Time Out’s Dine Out Tasting Event @ Fullerton Hotel

28 02 2011

I have always aspired to attend a fancy dinner party, the type where everyone comes in their prom-like dresses and tuxedos, walking gracefully down a flight of white marble steps donned with a red carpet into a grand ballroom, where waiters go around with silver platters of petite-sized nibbles and glasses of champagne. No doubt this imagery stems from watching too many glamorous Hollywood events on television, but still, a boy can dream…

Though Time Out’s Dine Out Tasting Event was located in Fullerton Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, it was far from the fancy dinner party I had in mind. No tuxedos or prom dresses, I even spotted a guy in shorts! Still, with 14 eateries (actually 13 because Zento was a no-show) showcasing their unique culinary styles, I knew that I was in for a treat. Just think about it, as every eatery prepared roughly 3-4 dishes, we had over 40 dishes to choose from, talk about a spread! And what’s more, it’s a buffet with free flow wine (more than 10 types to choose from by Baws Winery and Magma), Margaritas (by Cafe Iguana) and whiskey (by Baws Winery)!

Starting off with Fullerton Hotel’s own Town Restaurant & Bar, I had their Laksa which I thought was very well done, very thick and rich broth. They also served Bak Ku Teh and Chicken Rice which I didn’t try (who eats such stuff at a standing buffet anyway?).

Jim Thomson evokes an imagery of perhaps a whiskey or bourbon label, but definitely not a Thai restaurant! Located near Dempsey, it is one of the more expensive Thai eateries in Singapore. An ala carte meal would probably set you back by $60 per pax. That night, they had something like a kueh pie tee, some mince meat over a fried shell. I also tried their Rice Crackers with Spicy Meat. I felt that these dishes were somewhat forgettable. Didn’t manage to make a round back for desserts so I didn’t try the Mango with Sticky Rice.

One of the most highly raved about Italian joints in Singapore, Ristorante Da Valentino whipped up 2 simple Italian dishes, Beef Lasagna and Chicken Pasta in a tangy tomato base. The Lasagna was pretty good, but the chicken pasta had a zing which was a tad too sourish for my liking.

My favourite dish that night had to be from Magma. In France, they call it Tarte Flambee, but in Germany, it’s known as Flammkuchen. Cooked ala minute, these thin crust “pizzas” came out piping hot topped with sour cream, lardons and onions. I couldn’t get enough of it and this was probably why I didn’t manage to try more of the offerings from the other restaurants. Very savoury and palatable, I thought the Flammkuchen went well with one of the sparkling red wines from Magma (can’t remember the name but will definitely find out soon. I can only recall it costs $29, really affordable!). That same sparkling red happened to be my favourite wine of the day!

Another eatery worth mentioning is Vanilla Bar & Cafe. I really enjoyed their mini Vanilla Dirt Cakes. Cream Cheese layered with Orea Crumbs, high on taste and aesthetic appeal!

As for the rest of the restaurants, namely Krish, Al Qasr, Perla’s, Moghul Mahal, Cafe Iguana, Nazt and Marble Slab, I shall I let the pictures do the talking…

Had a wonderful time at this tasting event and will am already looking forward to next year’s.

Bon Appetit!








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