Ristorante Da Valentino – Italian at its Finest

13 02 2014

If you had asked what my view was on opening a 134-seater high-end Italian restaurant at Turf Club a couple years back, I would most likely have said that it would be an incredibly brave but foolish endeavor. After all, the location isn’t exactly in the most central of areas and with such a huge restaurant without any nearby offices, where would the demand be coming from?

Two years on and I would have eaten my words…

Given that it was my first ever visit to Valentino, I was immensely surprised that for a restaurant this size, I was unable to secure indoor seats for a mere 2 pax on a usually slow Tuesday night, even by calling in advance. My surprise was compounded by the fact that this wasn’t even a new joint and there didn’t seem to be much hype about it in online circles in recent months. It wasn’t long before I found out the reason behind this phenomenon…they served quality food.

Catering mainly to the white-collared working class, as evident in their menu pricing, a 4-course dinner bill easily runs up in excess of $100 (excluding drinks) as I found out on this occasion. Just like how off-balance sheet liabilities contributed to the global financial crisis, likewise, off-menu items contributed to the hefty bill, busting my initial planned expenditure for the meal.

The Garlic Bread ($8.80++) and Burrata Cheese ($45.90++) were the said off-menu items. They were both good, with extra points going to the amazingly sweet tomatoes.

If there’s one item to try out here, it would definitely be their signature Squid Ink Fettuccine with Crabmeat in Creamy Tomato Sauce ($29.90++). The well-balanced sauce complements and does not overwhelm the subtle sweetness from the generous chunks of crabmeat. Surely one of the best pastas I have had to date.

While I wasn’t particularly fond of the Osso Buco ($42.90++), I couldn’t deny that its execution was without a doubt, masterful. The meat was insanely tender to the point that a knife was rendered useless, since a sole fork was all that was needed to pick away at this splendid creation. The accompanying sauce tasted lighter than it looked, with a distinct taste of stewed carrots.

The sole disappointment that night was the Seafood Pizza ($26.90++), which was slightly soggy and lacked a distinguishable seafood flavor that one so often finds in other seafood pizzas such as at Pepperoni’s Pizzeria.

As I personally prefer my Tiramisu ($14.80++) not too soggy, this rendition suited me perfectly.

The Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream ($18.80++) was awesome as well with ample lava flow.

While the meal wasn’t exactly cheap, I left feeling truly satisfied with the impeccable food, service standards and great company (was doing a catchup session with Ad, whom I hadn’t seen in more than half a year).

Ristorante Da Valentin0

200 Turf Club Road

Tel: +65 6462 0555

Website: www.ristorante-da-valentino.com/

Blu Kouzina – Greek in Bukit Timah

29 07 2013

Happened to drop by Blu Kouzina for dinner with fellow food-blogger Xinli from the4moose (his post here) about a month back. Greek cuisine is rather uncommon in Singapore and this might possibly be the only restaurant that does it (based on a quick google search). That said, Greek cuisine is a subset of Mediterranean cuisine (which includes North African, South European and Middle Eastern cuisines) so it wouldn’t veer too far off from what our palates are used to, especially if you are comfortable with Mediterranean dips, grilled meats and seafood.

While the restaurant looks rather small from the outside, the seating capacity is actually quite large given that there is a second and third floor as well to accommodate patrons.

The staff are really friendly so don’t be surprised if one of them puts their arms around your shoulder halfway during the meal to ask you how’s everything going because this was what really happened to me. Initially, I thought that the guy was trying to pick me up or something (given that I was dining only with another guy and my sexuality might have be miscontrued, plus it was the day after Pinkdot SG) but later realized that this was something he did to other guests as well, leading me to think that this is probably the culture back in Greece where people are so much friendlier.

As it wasn’t cost-effective nor stomach-room efficient to order an array of individually-priced dips for just 2 people, the staff recommended that we order a 3-dip sampler platter ($22.80++), which was not listed on the menu. The sampler platter serves 3-4 people nicely, leaving just enough room for mains and desserts. The 3 dips (in order of decreasing preference with prices listed for individual orders) comprised of:
  • Melitzanosalata ($13.80++) – Smoked eggplant mixed with herbs. I found it very flavourful with a very distinct smoky savoury taste.
  • Tzatziki ($12.80++) – Yogurt mixed with cucumber, extra virgin olive oil and flavored with garlic.
  • Fava ($11.80++) – Yellow lentils with fresh onion, oregano and extra virgin olive oil. The texture held a heavy semblance to beans.
Pita Bread ($3++) is not included and must be ordered separately. It seemed to have been prepared upon order and arrived on our table piping hot which is a plus.

We also tried the Spanakopita ($12.30++), a filo pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese, and herbs. Going by its looks, I initially expected the texture of the pastry to be like a spring roll but soon discovered that it was way thinner and lighter. I would recommend this.

For main, Xinli had the Souvlaki me Pita ($19.80++), or Beef kalamaki wrapped in pita bread, with fresh tomatoes and red paprika served with chips. Kalamaki means grilled skewered marinated meat cubes. I usually stay away from such wraps because the grilled meat fillings often turn out dry and rubbery but the one here was actually quite tender, where I could bite a sever off a chunk of beef effortlessly in one chomp with the pita bread, rather than having to tug and pull to tear the meat off.

I stuck to a rather safe option, the Me Patates ($22.80++), or half a roast chicken with potatoes, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and oregano. Nothing terribly exciting about it.

To complement our meal, we had the Cair Retsina Gold ($26.80++/500ml), a traditional type of Greek wine made ​​by adding pine resin into white wine. The pine resin was used in ancient times to increase the storage life of the wines. Personally, I didn’t quite like the pine flavour as I thought it tasted a bit like medicine. Guess it’s more of an acquired taste.

Overall, what charmed me most was the ambience of the place. The staff were genuinely friendly and I felt like I had been transported to a cosy little European cottage, where I could truly enjoy an unhurried meal. There’s also the potential plus point of sipping on affordable wines over post-dinner chit chat.

Blu Kouzina

893 Bukit Timah Road

Tel: +65 6875 0872

Website: www.blukouzina.com

Sweet Salty Spicy – But Mainly Spicy

18 05 2012

SSS is a Thai eatery that dishes up a wide variety of Thai delights in a casual setting.  As it is owned by the same operator and shares its premises with Cafe Epicurious (Rail Mall), diners get the benefit of mixing and matching their food orders between the 2 restaurants. Xinli from the the4Moose (you can view his review of SSS here) and myself were down for a tasting session about a week ago where we managed to chat with the chef/owner for a bit. Coming from a Caucasian background, we were puzzled as to why the he (who requests not to be named) would want to operate a Thai eatery and he mentioned that apart from having some friends who run reputable Thai restaurants in Sydney (Sailor’s Thai) and London (1-star Michelin restaurant Nahm), he felt that there was a major market gap in Singapore’s mid-end Thai restaurants. You can more easily find either affordable Thai eateries such as Ah Loy Thai and Nakhon Kitchen or the fine dining restaurants such as Patara Fine Thai Cuisine and Jim Thomson.

We started off the meal with the Tasting Platter, which comprised of 4 appetizers from the menu. Of the 4, 2 were note-worthy, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Chili Jam & Lemongrass Dressing and the SSS Crispy Rice Cakes with a Warm Chicken & Prawn Chili Dip, and are items that I would order again on future visits. The crabs are meaty and flavourful, and the chili jam was more of a curry cream sauce. The Traditional Prawn & Vegetable Rice Rolls with a sweet Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic looked like sushis’ but apart from the beancurd, it was difficult to located any other flavours. “Miang” is a traditional street snack originating from Thailand and Laos, meaning “food wrapped in leaves”. How it is made is quite flexible as different types of leaves and fillings can be used. The ones offered at SSS use fillings of Prawns & Pomelo on Betal Leaves with a Palm Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic. You are supposed to eat it in one mouthful but that is definitely not easy and it’s quite easy to mess up (as I did) and the dressing can end up all over your hand if you are not careful.

I would have loved to have some Thai Iced Tea, since the meal was course after course of spicy and curried dishes. Milk is one of the few drinks than can alleviate spiciness because of a compound present in it called casein. It effectively disengages capsaicin, a compound that gives off the spicy taste, from your mouth and helps to wash it away. There was no such option on the menu though so I settled for the Lemongrass Juice.

If I’m correct, the Thai name for the Spicy Chicken & Coconut Broth infused with Thai Blue Ginger, Kaffir, Lime & Lemongrass ($10++) is Tom Yum Kai. Nothing very exciting about the dish as the chicken thigh meat was rubbery though the sour tang of the tom yum was a great lead up to the mains.

The Deep Fried Silken Tofu Stuffed with Fresh Crab, Coriander & Minced Pork ($18++) is a bit overpriced to me. Eating the tofu without the accompanying thai chili sauce, you can definitely taste the fresh crab meat but the tofu might be a little bland for some. For me, I thought the milder flavours of this dish was greatly desired amidst all the pungent spices present in Thai cuisine.

Excluding any curries found in the appetizer or noodles section of the menu, there are 5 other types of curries available at SSS. For first timers who do not know which one is their appeals to their palates, I’d suggest opting for the Curry Triplets, which as the name suggests, allows diners to pick 3 of the 5 curries in small tasting portions. For Xinli and myself, we tried the Roast Duck Red Curry with Seedless Grapes & Fried Shallots, Green Curry of Baby Snapper with Apple Eggplants & Holy Basil and Jungle Curry of Scallops & Prawns with Long Green Beans & Sweet Thai Basil ($20++ inclusive of Jasmine Rice). My favourite of the 3 was the Jungle Curry because the prawns were really springy and I’m a huge fan of scallops as well. The jungle curry tasted a little like a belachan chili sauce, reminiscent of what you might find being fried with long beans at a nasi lemak stall. An interesting fact about jungle curry is that no coconut milk is normally used for this dish, as you would not expect to find coconut trees in the Thai jungles. The Green Curry was decent but slightly watered down.

I found the curry in the Chiang Mai Curried Noodle with Chicken & Mustard Greens ($12++) tasting a bit like sweet laksa gravy. It’s rather spicy on its own, but diners will also be given a dip made using sesame oil and spices which you can dip the noodles in. For some reason, the dip makes the noodles more fragrant and quells the spiciness to an optimal level. Personally, I find it a bit too rich to have it all by myself though so I would advocate sharing this.

I was really quite stuffed by now but it just felt inappropriate not to try any of SSS’s Thai desserts, so Xinli and myself shared the Black Sticky Rice with Cashews. In Singapore and Malaysia, we usually refer to this as Pulut Hitam but in Thailand, it is known as Khao niao dam. In retrospect, this was definitely too heavy a dessert so I gave up after 2 mouthfuls since it was very standard fare.

Special thanks to SSS for the kind invitation!

Sweet Salty Spicy

392/394 Upper Bukit Timah Road, The Rail Mall

Tel: +65 6877 2544

Cafe Epicurious (Rail Mall) – Baked Eggs to die for

2 04 2012

*This meal was sponsored by Cafe Epicurious.

Cafe Epicurious was one of the first blog posts I made on this blog almost 2 years ago. When I look back at that post, two things strike me. First is that my food photography skills and photo editing skills have indeed come a long way, from being a total noob to the rookie I am now. Second is that I used to be so much more creative in my writing. I guess right now, the luxury of time is just not on my side, while back then I was still waiting to enroll into SMU. Anyhow, I wonder what the two year later me would say when I looks back at this post?

I was invited down to Cafe Epicurious at Rail Mall for a tasting session. Given that it totally sucks to do a tasting alone (I hate wasting food and worry about the awkward silences that might ensue between the host and myself), Xinli from The4Moose and myself coordinated to go down together on a not so lovely Saturday where I had 2 concurrent project meetings to attend. I find myself blessed to have understanding group mates, who are very supportive of my foodie adventures even at the expense of their GPAs (I like to think of myself as an indispensable group member whose work actually has a bearing on the final project grade 😀 ). I’m a very last minute worker so I hope they know I will pull through at the end.

Unlike the Epicurious outlet at Robertson Quay whose clientele is made up predominantly of expats, local young adults and students make up the core clientele for this outlet during brunch. I find it a lot more peaceful at this outlet, where I can take my time with my meal and do some readings without anyone breathing down my neck. The Robertson Quay outlet is just a little too noisy, hot and crowded for my liking.

We started off the tasting with the Pancakes ($8++). Topped with some lightly caramelized bananas and strawberries, it is one of the better pancakes around. It was really light and fluffy, so finishing all 3 wouldn’t have been a problem for me if not for the onslaught of the other brunch items that the 2 of us were sharing. For drinks, Xinli had a Cappuccino ($6++) while I requested for a Honey Lemon Drink (not in the menu) since I was down with a sore throat.

My favourite dish at Epicurious so far is their Baked Eggs with Toast Soldiers ($14++). I recall that they used to serve it either with a choice of bacon, mushroom or prawns, but now diners get the standard two eggs with bacon, mushroom, tomato & cream, covered with cheese and baked until gooey, to be eaten with a side of Brioche. If you are worried that this dish is too cheesy for one to stomach, you can opt for the Half and Half ($16++) which, allows you to mix and match 2 brunch items at half servings, from the choice of Baked Eggs, Eggs Benedict and Green Eggs & Ham.

For our Half and Half ($16++), we got the Eggs Benedict and Green Eggs & Ham, which is eggs scrambled with basil pesto, prosciutto and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Parmiagiano-Reggiano is the italian name for what is commonly known as Parmesan cheese and just like how sparkling wine can only be classified as Champagne if it is produced in the region of Champagne, France, Parmesan Cheese can only be produced in certain regions of Italy. I didn’t quite fancy the eggs ben today as the egg was severely overpoached and the Hollandaise came a little too tart for my liking, though the consistency of the sauce was just right. As for the Green Eggs & Ham, I would say that the eggs are scrambled well, retaining a slightly runny and creamy texture but what didn’t go for me was the combination of basil pesto. What impresses me however, is the Sauteed Potatoes on the side, which comes slightly crisp but not over-fried and lightly salted. The Eggs Ben and Green Eggs & Ham are available in full servings at $14++ as well.

The Ratatouille Omelette ($14++) is simple but tasty. It is a two-egg omelette filled with a herb, tomato, eggplant & zucchini stew, topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano, very much like an omelette filled with pasta sauce. I couldn’t detect the parmesan though. Funny story back in 2007 when Ratatouille the movie was first screened, I thought it had something to do with the rat’s name. That was back when I was an uninitiated foodie. My dad isn’t a fan of western food you see, so as a child I had little exposure to much french or italian cuisine. So I’m making up for lost time now.

The Epicurious Burger ($18++) is listed as IS Magazines’s top 10 burgers in Singapore. After the first bite, I thought to myself, “Is there really that few burger joins in Singapore?”. I have no qualms about the fries, in fact I find it amazing and I definitely award brownie points for the lime aioli which tasted heavily of lemongrass with a suggested thai influence but what I felt could have been improved was the beef patty, which tasted artificially salty and not very juicy nor tender. As for bacon, what’s not to like?

This is also what I’d like to call the burger method of critiquing, you first start with a good point (the fries) so that you don’t seem to be scolding a person directly, then proceed to the body of your message (the patty) where you criticize the object but never the person, and end off on a good note (the bacon). Management Communications 101 😀

There were a couple of misses but the whole experience was surely positive, and I’d still rate Epicurious as a brunch place worth visiting.

Special thanks to Cafe Epicurious for the hosting this tasting session. I enjoyed the brunch much!

Cafe Epicurious

392 Upper Bukit Timah Road

Tel: +65 6894 5926

Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant II – Higher Expectations, Lower Standards

11 02 2012

The last time I visited Shin Yuu was 2 years back. In my view at that time, it was one of the best ala-carte Japanese Buffets around for its price range of about $50. I knew of some friends who loved it so much that they visited it on three consecutive weeks after discovering it. My lastest visit though, confirmed rumours that standards have since fallen.

However, I wouldn’t consider it a wasted trip since this was a SMU Gourmet Club event and I only paid $20 for the lunch buffet, the remainder being subsidized by school/club funds. The usual price for Lunch Buffet is $36.90++, while Dinner Buffet is priced at $49.90++. The buffet menu is essentially the same for lunch and dinner and the only difference would be the one-time only (premium) orders that are served at the start of the meal.

Personally, I’m not really the buffet sort. I hate having to sieve through mounds and mounds of dishes just to find a few semi-decent ones, not to mention most non ala-carte buffets have their dishes being left out for god knows how long, compromising on quality and freshness. Fortunately for us, such problems wasn’t faced at Shin Yuu since it’s an ala-carte buffet and dishes are freshly prepared upon order.

We first had a one-time only order of Seared Minced Tuna Belly Sushi and Smoked Duck (seen in background). The tuna sushi is pretty good and I would have ordered seconds if it wasn’t a premium item, but don’t go expecting to taste much of the tuna belly though as the savoury sauce more or less conceals its taste. The Shin Yuu Special Aburi Special (in foreground, multiple orders allowed) is in essence a seared salmon sushi coated with a layer of mentaiko sauce. This combination works and I had multiple orders. I have to say the minced tuna sushi and salmon aburi sushis are probably my Shin Yuu favourites.

Just a meme that I made to complement this post. We know this is too true.

The Sashimi Moriawase aka Mixed Sashimi Platter included slices of Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Kingfish and Octopus Sashimi. The sashimi tasted rather muted and barely thawed (especially the swordfish), but this is to be expected of buffet standards.

Tamago Nigiri Sushi

Had I not been so full already, I would have probably enjoyed the Shin Yuu Special Sakana Chiizu (“Dory Fish topped with Cheese”) a whole lot more. I had a few rich dishes and by the time I reached this dish, the excessive cheese coating came across as much too cloying. The dory is fried well though with a nice light crispy batter.

The Ika Sugatayaki (“Squid with Sweet Soy Sauce”) suffered a case of over-grilling, such that it became too tough to chew in some areas. You can probably skip this.

While friend C commented that the Buta Misoyaki (Pork Loin with Miso Sauce) had an overly porky taste, I thought it was fine as the thick miso sauce helped to mask the gamey scent she had mentioned. I’m a sucker for fatty pork dishes anyways.

One of the better dishes from Shin Yuu, I found the Hotate Mentaiyaki (Grilled Scallops with Cod Roe Sauce) pretty fresh, with the scallops having a nice springy texture.

The Saba Shioyaki (Mackerel with Salt) comes across as very average to me, probably not much different from what you can get at a nice Japanese food court stall. The one at Kaiho Sushi, ah that’s one to be remembered.

The Ebi Tempura is something worth ordering too. The prawns aren’t as sweet as I would have liked but it’s fried nicely, with the batter remaining crisp for a noticeably lengthy period when it was left on my table.

The Shin Yuu Special Ebi Miso Mayo Yaki (“Prawns with Miso and Mayonnaise Sauce”, left of picture) is one of my favourite items on the menu. It arrives looking like an orh lua (oyster omelette) with a slight outer crisp of fried cheesy mayo that is really yummy. On the other hand, the Tebasaki (“Grilled Chicken Wing”) is glazed in a sweet sauce and proves to be simple comfort food.

The most disappointing dish today was the Kuruma Ebi Teriyaki (“Tiger Prawn with Sweet Soy Sauce”). The prawns had a fishy odour, so much so that I left it untouched after a small nibble.

The Wafu Tenderloin Steak (left) is forgettable as well. The beef isn’t marbled, nor is the sauce remarkable enough to warrant an extra order. I liked the Spare Ribs Teriyaki (right) though, the pork is well marinated, tender and falls off the bone easily. As for the Grilled Salmon Head (background), you can just give it a miss as well.

I really love Kani Karaage (Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab) but the ones here lack flavour. The crabs lack its natural sweetness and I tasted more batter than crab.

The Shin Yuu Speicial Chawanmushi with Salmon Roe is competently done here, exceeding expectations. The egg is light and smooth, lacking any discernable air bubbles. The Shin Yuu Special Makimono (“Unagi with Avocado Sushi”) would have been better if they were more generous with the eel.

One of my grouses here was that the sushi tends to have less ingredients and more rice as lunch progresses on. All in all, compared to the time I last visited 2 years ago, I’m now finding it hard to think of a good reason to come back and at the lunch price of around $45, I’d rather settle for a simple lunch set at reputable Japanese restaurants elsewhere. For buffet lovers however, it might possibly be worthwhile to drop by Shin Yuu if you are around the area.

Bon Appetit!

Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant

16 Greenwood Avenue, Hillcrest Park

Tel: +65 6763 4939

Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro – If you want it any fresher, you got to catch it yourself

4 11 2010

If you asked me where I would find the densest aggregation of restaurants most worth visiting in Singapore, I would probably say Bukit Pasoh or Keong Saik Road @ Outram, Scotts Road for the Les Amis Group of Restaurants, as well as the charming Greenwood Avenue.

Greenwood Avenue isn’t very accessible by public transport which is a boon and a bane. While it means more effort is required to go there, it also means you are rewarded with a quieter (though it can be bustling on weekends) and more exclusive dining experience. There’s a variety of cuisines available there which leave you spoilt for choice. Eateries include Shin Yuu Japanese Restaurant, which in my opinion, serves one of the most value for money Japanese Buffets in Singapore. Rival Japanese Restaurant Raku is located just a few steps away which I have also heard good things about. A short stretch down is Peperoni Pizzeria which is supposedly one of Singapore’s best pizzerias. Then, there is Chat Masala Too! with Indian amd Donna Carmela with Italian offerings but enough about them, today is all about Greenwood Fish Market and Bistro.

After a visit to their website, I realised that Blue Lobster @ Frankel Avenue (which has been closed for more than a year but still not removed from the website…) and Fin Seafood Cafe @ Marina Square are also affiliates of Greenwood Fish Market & Bistro. My previous experiences at Blue Lobster have generally been positive but the same cannot be said with Fin. Hence I really didn’t know what to expect of dinner here.

Seating capacity is for 80 pax, of which 40 are indoors and another 40 outdoors. The dining style here is rather casual, not too posh but not to sloppy either.

Complimentary bread was served but the staff missed out on me as I adjourned to the loo momentarily so I was left breadless and hungry. The bread seemed pretty decent though, my friends finished theirs in a jiffy.

Now, the concept of an al dente pasta is subjective and best left to one’s own discretion but I personally enjoyed the slight firmness of my Squid Ink Linguini with Calamari and Unagi($20.95++) which was generously doused with olive oil. The unagi stood out like a sore thumb though, I would have preferred the classic toppings of scallops and clams.

While the squid ink pasta was commendable, what really stole the show tonight was the Red Miso Cod($29.95++). Sweetness from the Aka Miso paste, fattiness and savouryness from the cod; a concoction close to perfection. Not to mention the hearty mash and nicely grilled eggplant, this will haunt my dreams for many days to come.

As the House Fish and Chips($18.95++) was unavailable, one of the staff recommended we try battering a Catfish that was air flown from the Mississippi instead, and we acceded. What he didn’t tell us was that it was going to cost us $29.95++ and so we slightly annoyed when we received the bill. It didn’t help that I found the catfish far from fantastic (personally I don’t think catfishes are great candidates for battering), and a Fish and Co one might possibly trump it.

What I really love about Greenwood Fish Market and Bistro is the freshness of their produce. Fresh fish always retain a sweeter flavour and smoother texture when cooked and this was evident in the Pan-seared Barramundi($21.95++) which came served with salad and mash. Big on natural flavourings instead of spamming condiments, this felt like a healthy choice.

Of course, apart from pan-searing, customers can opt to cook their desired types of fishes in several other ways such as steaming, baking, char-grilling, battered and crumbed. We had our Snapper Char-grilled($21.95++). Char-grilling would be a style preferable to those who want stronger flavours from the marinade. If you are considering between barramundi and snapper, I would recommend barramundi because it has a more tender flesh and I find it far tastier for some reason.

If you really are too indecisive in ordering from the seemingly inexhaustive menu, something that cannot go wrong is the Pan-seared Black Cod “Chilean Seabass”($26.95++). Elegant yet simple.

One of the few low points of the meal was the discovery of a rotten or decomposed clam in the midst of the Marinara Linguini($24.95++). Not wanting to make a fuss, I think that it’s probably bad luck rather than the negligence or fault of a third party for such an event to occur anyways.

Apart from a few minor setbacks, dinner went on more than smoothly. I can’t wait for a return visit, though hopefully it will be on a tuesday because of their weekly Tuesday oyster nights($1 for a freshly shucked oyster shiok!).

Bon Appetit!



TEL: +65 6467 4950

Raw Kitchen Bar – Rawr! I’m Definitely Coming Back!

15 09 2010

You know the warm feeling you get during a dinner invitation at a friend’s place? I get this same homely feeling at Raw Kitchen Bar (RKB). Occupying the former Bukit Timah Firestation, RKB isn’t exactly very visible from the main road which I feel adds to it’s exclusiveness and charm.

The use of random eccentricities and paraphernalia includes artwork, piano and an “obiang” looking sofa furnishes the interior of RKB and makes it really unique. I haven’t really come across anything like it in Singapore, but it kind of reminds me of Little Part One Cafe, just 10 times quirkier.

It looks to me that the sitting capacity (both indoors and al fresco) is kept to a low number of around 25-30 pax at most, probably because the team of Sharon, Javier and probably one cook in the kitchen is only able to handle this much without compromising on service and food standards. Here it seems that profitability comes secondary to the provision of sincere and flavourful food, with the spaciousness of the premises adding to the feel that you are really at a friend’s place for a dinner party.

It’s the perfect matrimony of East and West, RKB’s menu boasts a selection of carefully crafted dishes that draw influences from Japanese, Italian, French and god knows what other cuisines, taking only the essence of each cuisine while leaving behind the dregs (a direct translation of “取其精华,去其糟粕”).

I have never truly been impressed by Tuna (Maguro) before. Most often I find it to be too lean and not as fatty as compared to other types of fish. Yet I was truly taken by the Ahi Mango Poke with Wanton Chips ($16). The fresh Tuna cubes infused the marinate well and there was a perfect pairing of sweet and savoury of the Mango cubes and Fried Wanton Chips. There’s something real special about the Wanton Chips too, it tastes radically different (in a good yet inexplicable way) from the norm, with the addition of some secret spices I suppose.

The Zucchini Pancake with Balsamic Goat Cheese & Iberico($14) is another dish worth ordering to share. Was this idea taken from the Japanese Okonomiyaki (Pancake)? The Goat Cheese is kept sandwiched between the 2 Zucchini Pancakes, with the intention probably to keep the cheese warm for an easier and softer cheese spread. The Iberico goes into the middle of the 2 pancakes like a typical handburger and the pancakes are cut into smaller pieces for easier sharing. What is Iberico you ask? It’s a cured ham, something like Parma Ham but coming from the Spanish Black Pig, sounds pretty much like a Spanish Kurobuta ham doesn’t it?

All Pasta & Noodles dishes here are sold at $19, including the Spaghetti Mentaiko. It’s nice and light-hearted but not as awesome as our previous 2 Starters. The last Spaghetti Mentaiko I ate was at TCC during their Buy 1, Get 2 Free Promotion and compared to TCC’s, RKB’s version isn’t as thick or creamy.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the BBQ Pork Ribs ($20) that blew us away but its side of Crisp Cheesy Parmesan Roasted Potatoes! It’s soooo good, I’m amazed I haven’t seen any such Potatoes being sold at other restaurants before. I shall stop harping about the potatoes now because the Ribs do deserve credit. I prefer the ones here to Tony Roma’s & Chili’s, restaurants supposedly specializing in Ribs, probably because I prefer my ribs soft and fall off the bone tender rather than the slightly chewier and charred ones served at the latter mentioned restaurants.

The thin crusted Basil, Mozzarella & Rosemary Pizza($19) here is one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. It’s beauty lies in it’s simplistic nature, with an emphasis on the full flavoured Basil and Rosemary.

What I find most affordable here is the Desserts!

One of the Day’s Specials, the Guinness Chocolate Cake($8). The chocolate isn’t too dense or overwhelming and the gentle bitter hint of Guinness keeps the sweetness factor from getting too out of control. If I’m not wrong, the white portions of the cake is creme cheese. Despite not being on the menu, this was actually my favourite Dessert for tonight!

The Rum + Brown Sugar Plaintains with Vanilla Ice Cream($6). I know they look and taste like Bananas but Plantains are slightly different as they are firmer (and thus is often cooked before eating) and have a lower sugar content.

The Classic Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream($6). It’s such a ubiquitous dessert that it’s hard to find a really outstanding one nowadays. This one was just above average.

One of RKB’s signature desserts, the Fried Cheesecake with Strawberry Marmalade($6). I have only heard of Fried Snickers & Mars Bars but Fried Cheesecake? It’s novel but I would have preferred a classic cheesecake to this battered one. It was G’s birthday so we got him a candle. Don’t you think it actually looks nicer this way? Maybe in the future, RKB will just put the candle as a default decoration.

One of my most memorable meals ever, it’s not going to be a case of whether I’m coming back but rather a question of when? This one’s definitely a keeper.

Bon Appetit!



TEL: +65 6467 3987

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