The Big Sheila – “Inspired food. Life made easier.”

8 12 2012

It’s been a 3 week hiatus from blogging, as I became a social recluse to prep for my SMU finals. Finally emerging from my cave, my first stop was at The Big Sheila, a new restaurant just slightly over a month old located in the vicinity of Siglap.

I was first introduced to The Big Sheila by Janice, a food PR consultant, and one thing I have learnt over the years is to trust their judgments when it comes to food. After all, who else would be more in the know about local F&B happenings? A week after Janice’s recommendation, Tan Hsueh Yun published an article about The Big Sheila on The Sunday Times. “Drat, it was going to be more difficult to secure a seat now”, I thought to myself.

The Big Sheila is the brainchild of Fleur Glover, an Aussie who courageously set aside her career in IT to pursue what she was truly passionate about – food no less. Her establishment houses 3 tables outdoors and 2 indoors (not including the large indoor communal table), with a capacity of about 30 people based on my estimates. Hence, reservations are recommended should you want to dine in. Of course, there’s the option of ordering online and getting the food delivered conveniently to your doorstep as well.

There are 2 seatings for dinner and even as my party arrived at 830pm for the 2nd seating, the place was still packing a full house (on a weekday night). Impressive.

I liked the vibes here. It felt less of a restaurant and more like a friend’s place, very much like the feel I got from Bistro Soori and it does help that the staff are passionate about what they do, hyping up each dish with a detailed explanation of where the ingredients are sourced from and how each dish is prepared.

The food menu takes the form of a conspicuously displayed blackboard, allowing for flexibility and evolving nature of Fleur’s craft.

To complement our meal, we got a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Tinpot Hut, New Zealand ($39 + $15 corkage), which came as a recommendation by the staff. It’s a light bodied white wine with quite a long finish (aka aftertaste) and a crisp texture, going pretty well with the light, natural tasting dishes here.

The Chicken Caciatore ($20++) consists of chicken pieces slow cooked with olives, orange, lemon, bay leaf, white wine & button mushrooms. Some might find the flavour a little on the bland side but personally, I believe that this was tastefully done, adhering to their concept of home-cooked western fare, where the emphasis lies in natural flavours and healthy living.

The Beef Bourguignon ($20++) is a typical French dish made by slow braising beef, bacon, shallots, mushrooms, carrots & celery in a red wine sauce. The staff asserted that the accompanying baguettes were brought in from France, though I wonder how that was done given that they tasted fresh, perhaps she meant the ingredients for the baguettes helm from France. It is rare for me to finish up a whole roll of bread but this was so crisp and toasty that I found no trouble at all, not when there’s a hearty tangy stew to dip the bread in as well. My only gripe was that the cut of beef was slightly too lean for my liking.

I have never been a fan of chicken schnitzel and have never come across one that has made me sit up and take extra notice. The Chicken Schnitzel ($16++) here, a Deep Fried herbed crumbed Chicken Breast with Apple Mint & Baby Caper Slaw & Aioli, didn’t change my beliefs.

I loved the Beef in a box ($14++), which is a dish of Aussie ribeye, Caramelized Onions & Mustard. Although the beef is prepared beforehand if I’m not mistaken, it still remained tender and moist. Plus, who doesn’t love caramelized onions right?

Desserts were fairly decent too. The Tim Tam Cheesecake with Caramel Ganache (can’t remember what the actual names for the desserts but this should be fairly close) found favour with all my friends. The mild-tasting cheesecake is sandwiched between a biscuit base that is reminiscent of tim tams and the glaze on top tastes of lightly salted caramel, with the combination working surprisingly well.

However, I was the sole person who preferred the Chocolate Truffle with Almonds and Whiskey Soaked Prunes, which is made using rich Valrhona chocolate. It’s a bit heavier and drier than the cheesecake but it tastes great, ending off a memorable experience at The Big Sheila.

Before leaving, K ordered an additional cake to go. I’m not sure how it tasted but I was definitely impressed with the take-away packaging. Very glam indeed.

In a nutshell, what one can expect at The Big Sheila is food that is hearty, ambience that is chic yet homely, service that is friendly and attentive, and prices that are extremely reasonable.

The Big Sheila

15 Swan Lake Avenue

Tel: +65 6645 4422

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Foo House Cafe & Bar – The Foo Works

15 03 2011

Simpang Bedok is more or less synonymous with pratas, teh tariks and nasi gorengs. It’s a place where soccer fanatics gather over the weekends to supper while catching a live EPL game; possibly the 2 most favourite of Singaporean pastimes.

However, today was no weekend. I was on the search for a relative unknown in the Singapore food scene, the dark horse better known as Foo House Cafe & Bar and while it’s not the most renowned eatery around the area, I was indeed deeply enamoured by the quality of food served here.

Operated by Grand Hyatt’s former executive Sous Chef (2nd in command after the Chef de Cuisine), Chef Foo has over 40 years of culinary experience. Hence, it’s no wonder why the cuisine offered here possesses a subtle sophistication despite the eatery’s casual and slightly run down nature.

Having worked at western joints such as Pete’s Place, Chef Foo is no stranger to western cuisine but it’s not difficult to spot some tweaks within the food that suggests a slight gearing towards fusion (especially the Roast Duck I had).

Initially, Eunice and I had intended to share some appetizers but was discouraged by the staff taking our orders. Apparently, portions here are big, especially since we had ordered The Foo Works ($20.90++), which is essentially their Picardy Monster Beef Burger ($16.90++) with additional toppings of Bacon, Egg, Caramelized & Onion (additional $1 per topping). Guess we were slightly overzealous in wanting to order appetizers; this was an upgraded version of their Monster Beef Burger after all. Eunice told me that the beef patty here isn’t minced but is in fact manually chopped and so tastes more genuine and also manages to hold together much better. I do recommend adding all the toppings; each one playing a vital role for a wholesome experience. I couldn’t even find fault with the mash which was buttery and smooth. Without doubt, definitely top 3 within my burger rankings.

Curiosity got the better of me in making the decision to order the Foo House Roast Duck ($17.90++). Isn’t Roast Duck supposed to be Chinese? What’s it doing on a bar menu? Is it just a Duck Confit? Too many questions left me begging for an answer. It’s quite interesting really, I couldn’t really decide if the Roast Duck was more east or west. It tasted somewhat like a braised herbal duck expect that it had been lightly roasted. Too bad a mix of 2 cultures just wasn’t for me. I’d prefer either a soft fall-off-the-bone-tender braised duck or a sinfully crisp duck confit anytime.

I was really quite full by then but managed to pull off another Apple Crumble for sharing. I found it pretty decent for a dessert  costing $6 or $7, just don’t nit pick if you don’t spot the black specks of vanilla beans.

The menu here is astoundingly extensive and unless you dined here everyday for a month, you’d probably not be able to try everything. While I tend to avoid eateries that have overly extensive menus (which I regard as lacking focus and having no real speciality), I think this would be an exception and I’m really excited to return to try out whatever else Foo House, Cafe & Bar has to offer.

Bon Appetit!

FOO HOUSE, CAFE & BAR

6 JALAN PARI BURONG, PICARDY GARDENS

TEL: +65 6445 3110





Jing Long Seafood Restaurant – A Coffeeshop Turned Restaurant Success Story

2 02 2011

When Mum told me we were going to lunch with relatives at some Bedok North Restaurant, I immediately thought of Chin Lee Restaurant (coincidentally I will be heading over for lunch there this coming Sunday yay!). So when I found out it wasn’t, I was slightly disappointed because I really enjoyed my previous meal at Chin Lee.

She told me it’s this restaurant called Jing Long and I thought to myself, “just another typical chinese restaurant with an awfully corny name” because initially I thought it was worded as 金龙, meaning Golden Dragon, and with the abundance of Chinese Restaurant’s named along the lines of Golden Peony, Peony Jade, Dragon Pheonix etc, you can’t really blame me.

The real name of the restaurant was actually 金隆. My Mandarin sucks but I think it means prosperous and then again, that’s pretty much what every other chinese restaurant name means anyway, be it literal or metaphorical.

Anyway, having come across too many overpriced CNY menus, I got to say that Jing Long’s menu is pretty value for money. Our party of 12 pax had their 9-Course Set Menu priced at $368++ and added an extra dish as this menu was meant for 10 pax.

The CNY staple dish, Yu Sheng. Instead of the customary Salmon, I think it was Saito Fish (of Malaysian Origin) that was used instead.

Though the Sharkfin was lacking in both quantity and quality (we all love thick chunky ones with more bite, don’t we?), the thick broth was actually very flavourful.

While most dishes from Chinese Restaurants can be replicated at home, I find that one of the most difficult endeavors would be steaming a fish as perfectly as what you would get in restaurants. At home, I have always encountered times while the fish tail is steamed perfectly, the mid-section tends to have uncooked areas, and if the mid-section is steamed perfectly, the tail would be overcooked. Somehow, Chinese Restaurants are able to get the best of both worlds so as usual, I throughly enjoyed the Steam Red Grouper here.

We proceed on to the Roast Chicken Crusted with Sesame Seeds. The Sesame Seeds added a nice crunchy crisp but I found the chicken meat rather dry and bland.

We also had a lovely serving of Braised Sea Cucumbers, Fish Maw, Topshell and Mushrooms, topped with an umami rich gravy. Love the sea cucumbers here, rather soft and springy which is the kind I like, in contrast to the really chewy bitable ones.

I love the colours of the Scallops and Assorted Peppers, though I found the Scallops not as plump and fresh and I would have ideally hoped for.

The extra dish we ordered was Jing Long’s signature Coffee Pork Robs. Really tasty with a nice tender texture, the hint of coffee was barely discernible. This is one dish which will thrill both coffee and non-coffee lovers alike.

However, if I had to choose my favourite dish of the meal, it definitely had to be the Chili Butter Prawns. It was genius to fuse chili and butter, 2 highly popular ingredients in local cooking to come up with this awesome dish. The sauce coating the prawns was so darn tasty and I was desperately sucking on the shells to maximize this experience, not forgetting to suck on my fingers one at a time after I was done shelling the prawns of course. To get this excited over prawns, imagine what would happen if crabs took its place instead…swoons…

A passable Lotus Rice with Chinese Sausage. Adding sambal in it adds an extra element on the taste factor.

The meal ended on a high note with a pleasant and simple Mango Sago Dessert.

Just like Chin Lee Restaurant, Jing Long Seafood Restaurant is another Coffeeshop turned Restaurant success story serving unpretentious affordable Chinese cuisine.

Bon Appetit!

JING LONG SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

BEDOK NORTH AVENUE 2, BLK 412 #01-152

TEL: +65 6442 9398





Bedok North Blk 85 – My Hawker Haunt

30 09 2010

Hawker food in Singapore never fails to delight me. Prissy gourmets may scorn at the thought of dining at such “low class” and humble settings but I for one am truly appreciative of their existence. There are few countries apart from from Singapore that can boast about being able to offer so many different cuisines under one roof at such affordable prices.

One of Singapore’s famous supper places may be seen in Bedok North Block 85 which operates till 2am – 3am each day. Having ended my mid-terms today was akin lifting a heavy burden off my shoulders, now I could focus on things that truly mattered. So, I did a 10km run (super proud of myself!) which I had been procrastinating to do for so very long and organized supper between S, MZ and myself (where the running comes to nought).

No matter which Bak Chor Mee(BCM) stall you patronise within the premises of Blk 85, they share a similar style which is slightly different from the Singapore norm. Instead of fried Wantons, Liver and Slice Pork, Blk 85’s signature BCK is the soupy version with lots of meatballs and minced pork(with a high pork fat:pork meat ratio). Of course, the dry version is available but your order will definitely be sticking out like a sore thumb.

2nd item on the agenda was the BBQ Chicken Wings. I think there are 2 or 3 chicken wing stalls so I can’t remember the name of the one I usually order from (I only know they charge $1.10/wing) but it’s one of my favourite BBQ Chicken Wing Stalls in Singapore, trumping all the BBQ chicken wing stalls from East Coast Park’s food centre. The wings aren’t just crisp, there’s a light smokey flavour as well which I have taken a fancy to.

Another finalist in my self-promulgated list of top food pickings, this time in the congee category. I think the stall is named Chai Chee Congee (or Porridge). I did the usual order of Pork Congee (add Egg). I love the congee here because it’s really smooth and the pork (both the sliced pork and meatballs) is really tender. The egg is also necessary for that addition “oomph”.

Another of my favourite congee stalls (whose name I can’t recall) is also located around the vicinity at Bedok Central’s Food Centre (the hawker centre nearest to Bedok Interchange). They serve an excellent whole piece of piping hot You Tiao with their Congee.

There are quite a few stalls here selling Carrot Cake and Orh Lua (Oyster Omelette), all of which I don’t find that fantastic, merely passable in the annals of hawker rankings. My favourite Carrot Cake stall still has to be Golden City Carrot Cake in Kopitalk at the junction between Changi Road and Telok Kurau Road while my recommendations for Oyster Omelette (Hokkien Style) would be Beng Thin Hook Kee Restaurant on 65 Chulia Street, #05-02 OCBC Centre.

After spamming so much oleaginous health hazards, what better way than to wash it all down with a freshly squeezed cup of Sugarcane with Lemon Juice.

In face of work or study stress, a scrumptious supper that isn’t too harsh on the wallet simply does wonders!

Bon Appetit!








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