Salt Tapas & Bar – Pairing Churros with Sangria

13 04 2013

It was only when Salt Grill & Sky Bar commenced operations did I realize that Ion’s top most floors (level 55 & 56) were open to the public. I paid them a visit last year for a Restaurant Week lunch and left with a positive impression. Following the success of Salt Grill, Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan must have gained an epiphany that Singaporeans love gourmet food but are rather sloppy when it comes down to dressing for meals and hence launched Salt Tapas & Bar last year, a tapas bar where no one will judge you (much) if you and your girlfriends started giggling and banging tables after a couple round of drinks.

While the restaurant has been operating for a while now, the recent appointment of Chef Matthew Leighton as head chef in March 2013 has resulted in a major revamping of the menu. At only 26 years of age, he has served in the Glass Brasserie in Sydney, as well as The Palace in Melbourne, both reputable restaurants by Luke Mangan. Guess we can call him Mangan’s protege of sorts.

The interior of the restaurants gives off a charming rustic vibe, thanks to the red brick walls and wooden furnishings. The tables are spaced out sufficiently and coupled with the high ceilings, I was pretty oblivious to the noise level and could carry out conversations without straining my voice despite the full house on a Tuesday evening.

Now that I see a picture of the bar, I’m reminded that Salt Tapas & Bar has a Ladies night on Wednesdays too. I believe the current promotion is that on every order of a tapas, ladies get 2 drinks FREE (choice of Sangria or Lychee Martini). That’s seriously a good deal, given that a glass of sangria costs $17 bucks here. Oh and the sangria tastes great by the way, would recommend ordering it even without Ladies night. It’s on the sweet end and doesn’t compromise too much on the alcohol.

The menu here is divided into 6 sections, namely “Nibbles”, “Butcher”, “Garden”, “Sea”, “Paddock” and “Sweets”. The sections are more or less quite self-explanatory, so items in paddock would be your meats dishes, items in garden your salad dishes and so forth.

We started off dinner with the Fried Potatoes (Potatas Bravas), Spicy Sauce & Garlic Aioli ($9++), a traditional Spanish tapas dish. Rather tasty and came in a pretty generous serving too.

The Beetroot, Asparagus, Egg, Radish, Rocket, Tarragon Dressing ($12++) wasn’t quite as good. It’s greens after all though objectively, the sweet beets does go quite well with the bitter rockets.

The Pork Sliders, Pickled Cucumber & Chilli ($13++) consisted of a trio of mini burgers filled with pulled pork and pickles. Instead of a solid patty, the pork patty had a consistency which was more of a paste, similar to that of the tuna you find in your subways. Cute as it may be, I thought it was pretty forgettable taste-wise.

Parmesan Truffle Fries ($10++) tastes more or less the same everywhere but the ones here loses its crispness rather quickly so must 趁热吃.

The Roasted Barramundi with Squid, Tomato & Chorizo ($32++) is something I would recommend here. The Barramundi is pretty bland on its own so the zesty tomato base does well to add some much needed flavour to it.

For a tapas bar, I expected better from the Paella of Prawns, Mussels, Chorizo & Chicken ($38++). It was too dry and the rice was unappetizing, very must like soggy clumpy fried rice. A good paella in my view would have the rice absorb a fair bit of the seafood broth and be palatable enough to eat on its own.

Interestingly enough, the star of the Lamb Rumb with Crumbed Zucchini & Salsa Verde ($34++) was the zucchini. The batter was really light and the deep fried zucchini reminded me, in a good way, of the cheese sticks from Burger King which I used to get as an add-on every time I dined there. The lamb was decent and I was impressed by how well the Salsa verde complemented the meat. Salsa verde is a green sauce generally made using parsley, vinegar, capers, garlic, onions, anchovies and olive oil. The one here had a nice mild minty taste.

After a heavy meal, I was thankful for the Berry & Custard Cream Mille-feuille with Elderflower Sorbet ($12++), which was a relatively light dessert made using a layer of of cream filling between 2 layers of puff pastry. I especially liked the elderflower sorbet which was had a nectarous flavour that cleansed the palate.

If you have no time for a meal, do still consider dropping by for the Churros & Chocolate ($11++). Deep fried dough, coated with sugar, dipped in cream and dark chocolate. Sinful as it may be, I think it’s definitely worth the calories.

I like the fun vibes at Salt Tapas & Bar. It’s a great place for meet-ups and you don’t have to be too hush for fear of disturbing other customers. A fair share of hits and misses food-wise but nibbles like the Potatas Bravas and Desserts are worth dropping by for…and not forgetting the Sangria.

Special Thanks to Salt Tapas & Bar for the hosting the dinner invitation!

Salt Tapas & Bar

252 North Bridge Road, #01-22A Raffles City Shopping Centre

Tel: +65 6837 0995





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





Toby’s Estate – Assessing Food, Assessing Life

15 02 2012

Summer internships applications are finally in full swing and with that, university students eagerly await their interview call ups at the various hiring firms. One of the typical questions interviewers love to ask is “what are your strengths?” and my usual response is that “I have good time management and motivation towards activities that interest me, and that has allowed me to juggle school work, cca commitments, competitions and writing a food blog all at one go, sustaining a well balanced lifestyle that most students nowadays fail to achieve.”. But actually when I think about it, I find myself working a bit too hard over the past year in building up my resume, that I’ve been neglecting getting a life. So I have embarked on a mission this semester, dedicating my lesson-free Sundays/Mondays chilling at cafes, perhaps sitting at the communal tables or bar counters, chatting up random strangers as I have brunch, you know doing the whole indie thing you’d only normally do while overseas alone. Then after a satisfying meal, I would then sip a cappuccino, whip out some readings and let my imagination drift randomly. That’s what a pretty well-balanced life would sound like don’t you think?

This was my 2nd week doing something like this (Was at Prive Cafe for brunch last week which I have yet to post about). I wasn’t alone though, good friend R was with me. We didn’t bid for any modules together this semester so Sundays were now our catch up days. We decided to drop by Toby’s Estate, which came highly recommended from friend J and I have to say, I wasn’t left disappointed.

Originating from Australia where it has already established its brand name, Toby’s Estate founder Toby Smith continues his mission of educating the public on the diversity and complexity of coffee with the recent opening of his first Singapore branch located at Robertson Quay. Unlike 0ther western brunch places, Toby’s Estate really does well with the whole communal dining thing, where the interior seating area comprises just of bar seats and a central table, providing a great avenue for friendly strangers to strike up random conversations.

They weren’t kidding when they said they specialized in coffees. The Cuppaccino ($5+) I had carried with it a rich aroma and milky froth, just what I needed to get the day going. R had a Flat White ($4.50+) which she enjoyed as well.

Toby’s Breakfast ($16+), comprising Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms and Brioche was hearty enough to be considered my lunch. Everything was pretty standard I suppose but I have to give extra credit to the scrambled eggs which were super creamy and evenly cooked.

We both preferred the Poached Eggs, Salmon with Brioche ($12+). The yolks were runny and the smoked salmon was extra tasty for some reason, probably because it tasted rather fresh (I find smoked salmon tends to get noticeably drier and less smooth when left in the fridge more than a couple of days) and had just the right amount of saltiness to go along with the egg and brioche. A side of sauteed baby potatoes with onions for accompaniment would have been good though!

Sometimes, we just have to take a step back and reassess our lives. Take the time to smell the roses and enjoy the greenery and not be too engrossed in meaningless work. Carefree and happy, can I be like those kids in 20 years time? I really hope so.

Toby’s Estate

8 Rodyk Street, #01-03/04

Tel: +65 6636 7629





Graze @ Martin No. 38 – Contemporary Australian Cuisine

13 11 2011

I have only been to Graze @ Martin No 38 once and it was for lunch. At night, the setting and ambience mirrors that of daytime, quiet, cosy yet classy, a perfect venue for that special date or simply catching up with friends and loved ones. The menu revolves around contemporary Australian cuisine, offering a Charcuterie section and meats off the grill as well.

Chance brought G and myself here today. Our original dinner plans were set for Le Bistro du Sommelier, a quaint french bistro located at Prinsep Place. Unfortunately, our reservations got screwed up somehow and we took a detour to Graze instead.

For starters, we were recommended the Upside down Duck Pie, Dried Black Olives, Mash & Pickled Vegetables ($24++) which we both found really pleasant. Soft creamy mash forms the base of this dish, followed by a middle layer of buttery filo pastry and topped off with marinated duck meat that carried with it a distinct Indian influence.

Another recommendation by the staff, I had the Spiced Baby Chicken, Cracked Bulgar, Broad Beans, Soft Herbs, House Sea Urchin Butter ($34++) as my main. I was expecting to be hit by a wave of intense flavours at first bite but it wasn’t so. While the mild flavours failed to excite initially, my tastebuds quickly adjusted to the natural flavours and I was soon smitten by the complementing urchin butter and bulgar (a type of grain like couscous). I couldn’t make out the taste of urchin but the butter does possess a mild cheesy undertone which I adore. It does help too that the chicken was executed skilfully, succulent and tender with a crisp layer of skin.

G had no complaints about her Pan-Seared Barramundi, Chorizo Broth, Watercress, Salad of Ruby Red Grapefruit, Avocado & Mint ($34++). A common feature that I have noticed about Graze’s cuisine is that they rely a lot on natural fresh flavours, in this case letting the sweetness of the fish speak for itself rather than littering the dish with excessive seasonings and spices.

Graze’s wine list isn’t extensive, featuring a selection of less than 20 wines. We tried 2 different whites today to complement our white meats, the delicate Italian Torresella Pinot Grigio Trentino 2010 ($18++/glass) which was smooth and mildly sweet,  and the Australian Corriole Chenin Blanc, McLaren Vale 2010 ($14++/glass) which we found much too tart.

Bon Appetit!

Graze

38 Martin Road

Tel: +65 6509 1680





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





The Moomba – The Start of Summer Hols!

17 04 2011

Finals are finally over! It’s been so long since I last had time for a nice slow-paced 2 hour lunch so I was really looking forward to this, especially since The Moomba has been a consistent recipient of multiple dining awards. Located at boat quay, The Moomba is a popular lunch spot for the executives working around Raffles Place.

Despite our supposed cultural diversity, Australian restaurants seems to be much lacking in Singapore, with the few well-known ones being Osia, Uluru Aussie Bar & Steakhouse, Salt Grill & Sky Bar and The Moomba, of which I have yet to try any as of yet before this visit to The Moomba, so this was going to be a real educational experience for me. The severe lack in Aussie eateries locally is probably why I know nuts about Australian cuisine. To me it’s no different from American, with meals consist mainly of just steaks and mash right? Well of course not, there is much diversity in Aussie Cuisine which I was about to find out.

The Moomba offers a 2-Course Set Lunch @ $38++ and 3-Course Set Lunch @ $42++, where you choose 1 appetizer, 1 main and 1 dessert off the ala carte menu (sans either the appetizer or dessert for the 2-Course). Of course, everyone opted for the 3-course. Given that mains cost around $30 plus and appetizers and desserts costs around $20 each, I would be rather reluctant coming here for an ala-carte dinner given the premium I’d be paying.

For appetizers, I had the Bacon Wrapped Crayfish on Wilted Spinach and Poached Egg.  Despite being a signature dish,  I found it rather dry and unremarkable. The egg was overpoached too.

Didn’t get the chance to sample the Iberico Ham with Brie but the piece of Deep Fried Brie looks tempting.

J had a generous portion of 6 Freshly Shucked Oysters.

My favourite appetizer was the Squid Cakes served with Thai Styled Mango Salad. Similar to crab cakes, it had a tantalizing and robust flavour that makes you want to keep going on and on.

For mains, the Confit of Duck on Garlic Mash Potato, Savoy Cabbage, Corn Kernal, Caramelized Fig and Smoked Duck Breast was slightly underwhelming. Perhaps the Australian-styled Duck Confit differs from the usual French, but I found this one disappointing because the skin just wasn’t crisp.

On the other hand, I thought the Grilled Grass -fed Beef Steak wth Roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Sugar Peas, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions, Roasted Garlic Oil and Red Wine Jus was well executed, though it still falls short of specialized steakhouses like Bedrock Grill & Bar.

Char Grilled Kangaroo Loin with Apple Soya Glaze on Roasted Pumpkin, Portobello and Sauteed Sugar Peas. My first time having kangaroo and it’s quite similar to beef in texture, though the meat has less fat and hence chewier. It’s not bad and J enjoyed it much.

I was quite fond of the Braised Lamb Shoulder with Tomatoes, Olives, Capsicum on Grilled Marquez Sausage, Lyonnaise Potato. The pungent smell of lamb was clearly absent which was much appreciated.

For my own main, I enjoyed the Grilled New Zealand King Salmon Fillet on Japanese Pumpkin Mash with a warm Aubergine and Tomato Relish, which presented itself as fatty but not cloying.

Warm Chocolate Puddig with Black Doris Plum and Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

Pavlova with Raspberry Sorbet. The picture doesn’t do justice to the actual size of the dessert. It’s really too huge for one person to stomach alone. With raspberry sorbet atop a meringue base, it’s a nice pairing of sweet and sour.

Lemon Tart served with Feijoa Ice Cream and creme anglaise. I didn’t really fancy it but M thought it was awesome. Feijoa is a fruit from the myrtle family, and alternative names for it include pineapple guava and guavasteen, so let’s just think of it as Guava ice cream and leave it as that for simplicity’s sake.

I had the Pecan Pie with Butterscotch and Vanilla Ice Cream. The Vanilla Ice Cream was really good, rich and flavourful, going well with the nutty pie. Would have enjoyed it more if it was a chocolate pecan pie though.

While the dishes here weren’t bad, I felt that none were mind-blowing enough to warrant a special visit, and given that it doesn’t have the ambience of a fine dining restaurant, I find their set lunch prices a little on the steep side.

Bon Appetit!

THE MOOMBA

52 CIRCULAR ROAD

TEL: +65 6438 0141





Jones The Grocer

31 05 2010

You know what’s better than dining at Jones The Grocer @ Dempsey? It’s dining at the original flagship Jones the Grocer @ Woollahra, Sydney! And fyi, I’m travelling down to Australia(Sydney & Adelaide) in the later part of next month and that will definitely be one of my stops, along with Pancakes On the Rocks which I heard serves the most awesome pancakes.

Anyway, T, R, S and myself(all going for the Australia trip) were having our routine Saturday cohesion activities which led to brunch here. Functioning both as a grocer(albeit atas one) and an eatery, Jones boasts a spacious interior, high ceilings and diverse clientele.

Hungry people should get The Jones English Breakfast($20++). T opted for his eggs scrambled(other choices include fried or poached) which turned out slightly runny and creamy(just how I like it). I also liked the toast which was very light and crisp. Apart from that, the bacon & sausages, sauteed mushrooms and grillled tomato was rather run of the mill, but still delightful. 

The Leg Ham Sandwich($13.50++) was served with a bed of salad with balsamic vinegrette dressing. I really don’t recommend getting this here since it’s so easily replicable at home and I’m not a fan of leg ham anyways.  

For myself, the Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast with Asparagus & Poached Eggs aka Salmon Benedict($17++ I think). Not very well executed as the eggs were overcooked. The limited amounts of Hollandaise provided was easily overpowered by the smoked salmon and the petite portion was hardly filling in any case.

Imo, Jones the Grocer is one of the more affordable eateries in Dempsey and serves up a decent but unspectacular brunch menu. I’m not complaining about the small portions though, it just left more space in my tumtum to go over to House for dessert!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

JONES THE GROCER (DEMPSEY)

9 DEMPSEY ROAD, #01-12 DEMPSEY HILL

TEL: +65 6476 1512








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