New & Noted – Great Food Finds with a Local Spin

A couple of foodie finds caught our eye lately, ranging from new restaurants to tantalising heritage menus which we would happily dive into. Here goes:

Just launched in Pahang Street, No Milk Bistro is a quirky name until you realise its forte is Teochew style fish soup, done traditionally, with no cheating addition of milk. But there’s more to it.

The first level houses The Fish Soup Boutique, where its signature dish is fish soup that’s “deceptively clear and full-bodied, finely balanced with a generous garnish of Japanese Nori in place of seaweed”, made with mackeral and seabass. Other complementary dishes include black char siu and grilled pork belly, and another signature, a spicy fragrant egg noodle dish which offers a local spin on mala, served with grilled fish or pork belly.

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Upstairs, The Rooftop Bistro has a more international spin. Open from 5.30pm, it offers Mexican, Italian and local fusion cuisine like beef rendang pasta. Cocktails are available too between $10 and $20, and good to note, every night is ladies night.

Where: 18 Pahang Street

Premium Madness - Rock Lobster

 

If you want a good range of local comfort food at good value, head to Ginger at Parkroyal Beach Road for its buffets. The weekday lunch spread  is priced at an impressive $35 per adult and offers up local faves like kurobuta pork belly kong bak pau, kueh pie tee, curry chicken noodles, Penang style prawn noodles and chicken rice. Things are raised up a notch for dinner ($58) with baby lobster laksa, braise pork trotter mee sua soup, Singapore chilli crab, and salted egg crab. Weekend buffets (from $58-$68) include soft shell crab, white pepper crab, wagyu beef cheek rendang, whole baked nonya salmon and roast wagyu beef. Sometimes we don’t need glamorous. Good value and soul food that resonates hit the spot.

Tel: +65 6505 5710

Weekday Lunch Buffet

Eewaun

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My Carbonara Deserves More Than That!

Tasting Tuesday highlights a cosy pasta joint in Singapore this week.

Pasta Bar is one of those places that does what it says on the box. It’s pitch to customers is straightforward and simple—you come here to eat pasta. The simpler the proposal is, the higher the expectations, and on my recent dinner here, it did not disappoint.

Behind its clean simple frontage in Keong Saik Road, this dinner-only restaurant is dim, noisy but rather comfy. A bar dominates the middle of the dining room, and yes…it is literally a pasta bar. The cooking goes on behind it, and those sitting at the bar get an eyeful of the action. The service was generally friendly and prompt, and the food was good and hearty. Given the overall vibe and physical setting, I’d say this is a nice place for a non-threatening first date. As for ourselves, we had a cosy corner table near the entrance, all the better for an all-girl catch-up.

For starters, we had the whipped buffalo milk ricotta with honey served with toasted ciabatta. The cheese was creamy yet light, delightfully lifted with the fresh sweetness of the honey. The toasted bread gave a good crunch for contrast in texture.

The sashimi prawn with endive salad could have been enjoyable if it wasn’t so heavy-handed with the mayo dressing which weighed down and overwhelmed the otherwise light flavours.

Pasta is clearly the main attraction here, all handmade in house. My companions had the fettuccine with truffle butter and shaved truffle ($48)—clearly an indulgence. And the manager who served us was enthused about. He gave a riveting explanation—both hands gesticulating earnestly— about how the pasta was lovingly cooked in the truffle butter and finished off with very generous shavings of the prized mushrooms that literally covered the mound of pasta. Indeed, it was an aromatic dish. Then he turned to my carbonara ($29) and just said something to effect of “…And here is your (apologetic micro-pause)…carbonara.”

Done. That was it by way of introduction.

I admit I was quite miffed. It was not just another common garden pizza hut carbonara. Just because it did not have the sexy stuff like foie gras and truffles does not banish it into the ignominy of just “carbonara”. It does have lots going for it, and I am sure the chef knew it. Pasta Bar’s carbonara ciriole was perhaps the most authentic I have seen in Singapore, made not with bacon but guanciale, or cured pork cheek. Carbonara done this way is not easily found here, and it is, I believe, carbonara at its most authentic.
It was creamy not cloying, the delicate whiskers of percorino gave a salty tang but did not overwhelm, and the guanciale was crisp, light, savoury and quite out of this world. No, nothing remotely like bacon. For carbonara lovers out there, this is the bee’s knees here. The ciriole was nicely al dente and gave hearty mouthfuls. Kudos to the chef. (We totally appreciate that your dish is not just carbonara! Perhaps your manager didn’t get the memo!)

Wines by the glass are quite pricey starting from $18, but its selection is unusual and interesting. If you have room for dessert, the apple strudel with cinnamon and pine nuts is excellent. End with a lovely shot of homemade limoncello ($10).

55 Keong Saik Road #01-05
More details here: Here

Ee Waun

New & Noted – In Singapore, Two Drippingly Fresh Watering Holes for Craft Cocktails

Victoria Bar

The rather dead-beat Victoria Bar that languished in a corner of the Intercontinental Singapore has very thankfully been completely re-done and replaced by Idlewild, one of the latest cocktail bars in Singapore. What a necessary breath of fresh air for the hotel. We popped in for the opening party and from the quick preview we had, Idlewild seems promising.

Idlewild - Bar Overview - Night - Copy

Themed after the golden age of air travel starting from the 1940s, Idlewild is a sexy space that exudes a retro-(somewhat)glam feel with a shiny, eye catching bar, sultry live jazz and a most elaborate story of the romance of air travel behind their cocktails.

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Tipples are inspired by 10 cities along the popular Transatlantic Route – Dublin, Rome, Lima, Lisbon, New York, Casablanca, London, Paris, Mexico City and Havana. There were some hits and misses from the 20 signature cocktails (from S$20++) on the menu. But we liked the Shaftesbury Theatre, made with London Dry Gin, dry vermouth, Chartreuse Genepi and black lemon bitters, and a favourite of mine, Passage to Havana, comprising Cuban rum, Amontillado and Pedro Ximénez sherries, Foro Amaro and tobacco tincture for a heady touch of smokiness.

Helming the bar is Andy Griffiths, a newcomer to Singapore. It would be interesting to see what he brings to the drinking scene here in time to come. Oh and just in case you’re wondering (like we did), Idlewild is the original name of the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Now you know.

80 Middle Road, Lobby Level, InterContinental Singapore, Singapore 188966
Closed on Mondays

———

Old Man & The Sea

Another craft cocktail bar joins the list of eateries in the Keong Saik Road area, and of a most respectable pedigree to boot. Hong Kong’s award winning watering hole Old Man & The Sea—which is rated #10 on World’s 50 Best Bars list—opens its first overseas iteration in Singapore, paying homage to a literary great who loved his drink—Ernest Hemingway. The bar is helmed by seasoned pros in Hong Kong’s cocktail scene—Agung Prabowo, James Tamang and Roman Ghale with Head Bartender and Managing Partner Andrew Yap.

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Old Man & The Sea promises sophisticated cocktails that “exude an Asian touch”, which incorporates techniques like fat-washing, rotary evaporation or sous-vide cooking. Highlight on the menu are nine cocktails from the original list of drinks when the bar first opened in Hong Kong in 2017, all aptly named after Hemingway’s books. The Sun Also Rises is an Asian spin on the classic Negroni, with coconut oil fat-washed applejack, curry leaf-infused gin, sweet vermouth sous-vide pandan leaves and lime kaffir; The Green Hills of Africa contains rosemary-infused pisco, turmeric & tamarind cordial and citrus, and The Little Wax Puppy, is a mixture of beeswax-infused Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon with eucalyptus honey and bitters. All cocktails are $17++. I can’t wait to go check it out myself.

#01-04, 55 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089158

Ee Waun

L’Espresso at Goodwood Park Hotel – A New and Surprising Chocolate Afternoon Tea Spread

In Singapore, afternoon tea at Goodwood Park Hotel’s L’Espresso Lounge has been very popular ever since I have been a food writer—and that’s close to three decades. The appeal of taking tea in L’Espresso’s informal sunlit lounge overlooking its leafy gardens has clearly not waned one bit. When we popped by this weekend to try out its latest chocolate-infused afternoon tea menu, we noted that almost every table was occupied. Those that weren’t had ‘reserved’ tent cards sitting squarely in the centre. It mattered little to diners that the café’s light beige hues and European furniture were looking rather dated, and the tableware and china teapots had seen better days.

The chocolate-themed afternoon tea the café recently rolled out was ostensibly for International Women’s Day, but it would be served until end April. While the dessert spread predictably carried the weight of the theme, the savouries held some interesting surprises. The finger sandwiches featured white and chocolate bread filled with creative fillings which worked nicely. My favourite was the very tasty zucchini piccata with smoky tomato, and there was the beef pastrami with emmental cheese and dried tomato pesto. Then there was duck rillette with chocolate ganache and orange – the chocolate overpowered the duck somewhat, but it was a pleasant combination – and a quirky jamon iberico with chocolate pecan nut roll. I really liked the white chocolate arancini – the chocolate was not pronounced, but lent sweetness and creaminess to the rice ball; and the piquant Mexican beef stew where the addition of chocolate gave it a rounded, smooth texture and a hint of sweetness.

Chocolate cooking aside, the honey stout roast chicken was very good, along with the crabmeat and corn tartlet (very generous with the crab), cucumber sandwiches and maple glazed bacon and egg mayo croissant. And how about the scones, which is crucial to every afternoon tea spread? Well, they were puffy, soft and held the promise of a sublime bite. Unfortunately, while the texture was good, the taste was  doughy—perhaps a tad under-baked.

With it being chocolate focused, I chose the No.1 Tea, a special tea blend infused with chocolates and nuts, and that went perfectly with the spread.

It was overall a good, moderate-sized spread even if it tended to be heavy handed with sandwiches and its bread-based iterations. The tea here offered enough savouries and sweets, including two to three hot dishes to make up a filling lunch if you chose to go at noon, like we did. Priced at $45- $48 per person, the spread also includes two servings of beverage: choose from 13 teas and 20 coffees.

The downside were the chipped teapots and the forlorn, age-worn plates which desperately need to be replaced. Service and the replenishing of dishes at the buffet was rather slow, but the staff were absolutely polite and warm.

As with afternoon teas though, as long as the spread is decent, the occasion can be a success with good company, a few leisurely house and a nice setting. And L’Espresso delivers enough to ensure a regular full house.

Good to note: Afternoon tea starts at 2pm on weekdays, while weekends feature two seatings of 2.5 hours each starting from 12pm.

Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road
S228221
Tel:+65 67377411

Ee Waun

Marketing gimmicks make this Hotpot chain a winner!

I’m back in Hong Kong for two weeks because of the Summer school break in Auckland which means that I have come back to cooler Winter weather because of the reverse in seasons. For my tummy, cool weather simply translates into hotpot time – an excuse to get together and catch up with good friends for one of my favourite shared meals.

A close friend recommended this amazing hot pot find. A place called Hai Di Lao hotpot restaurant which started in China’s Sichuan province in 2004 and evolved from a humble spicy (ma-la) hotpot chain to a 300 outlet chain all over China, Hong Kong, recently opening in Singapore and the US. We visited the outlet in Kowloon’s bustling Yaumatei district. For those who want to try it – head out of Yaumatei’s MTR station, exit A1 and its just around the corner, up the stairs in the next door mall.

There is literally something for everyone from food to entertainment here based on the sheer marketing genius that is behind it’s brilliant customer service. In fact, keeping the customer waiting has become an art form at this restaurant.

Make a reservation and arrive in time for it but don’t expect to be promptly seated. In fact, you should expect a queue … and a VERY LONG one at that. However there are no angry complaints, hungry crying children or irritable guests (all common sights at crowded Hong Kong eateries). Instead, this restaurant has turned waiting time into a fun pre-dining experience for all who come.

Seats and free snacks

There are seats for everyone in the queue, albeit rather unsophisticated stools and small tables but no one is left standing.

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Whilst you wait, you can help yourself to a free-flow complimentary range of snacks or fruits, water,  pop corn, crisps and even ice cream (if you want it before your meal). Before long, you will find yourself happily chatting, itchy mouth occupied and hunger soothed whilst you whet that appetite. If you are still bored, pick up one of their readily available board games or leave the kids to watch TV or get them busily occupied in the Kid’s playroom.

Free Gel Nails

Ladies, forget future investments in your expensive gel nail package. The outlet here has a team of manicurist that offer a free gel nail service.

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They  remove your old set, reapply the new and you have an ample choice of trendy colours and embellishments. Definitely gets you coming back for your next fix every month when your nails grow out. An act of sheer marketing genius in my books!

Birthday Parties and Performances

Birthday celebrations are also a performance art here. The service crew come out to sing a song, stereo music accompaniment blaring in the background. By the time that they are done, everyone in the restaurant knows its your special day. Bring your own cake or order one from the outlet. Whatever makes your visit and the occasion work!

The restaurant has occasional impromptu performances here like the Chinese face mask changing artist. They go from table to table to entertain guests during dinner.

VIP Members

Customer retention and loyalty is a big thing here. VIPs (we are not sure how one qualifies for this) have a little sign that says you are ‘Diamond member’ delivered to the table.

My host who was a diamond member got the full works – a service staff who knew his name, a visit from the outlet manager to our table to chat and find out how we were doing – at the same time delivering a free box of beautifully packaged red packets from the restaurant for Chinese New Year. My host shares that they even give away mooncakes when the annual mid-autumn season season arrives.

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Whilst we happily chatted away. we had our hot pot items cooked for us at the table by the hostess, drinks refreshed almost every five minutes, all despite a crazy turnover of customers coming in and out of the restaurant. Someone also came by to take a commemorative photo of our table when the food arrived and at the end of the meal, each guest at our table got a print out of the photo in a sealed zip lock for safe keeping. This was nothing short of the whole works in terms of customer service.

The Menu

The hotpot menu had good and wide variety and was high tech. No paper menus with everything available only on a tablet which is left on your table. In terms of the food – hot pot is hot pot – there is not a lot that you don’t love about the experience since you literally pick your own favourites and the pleasure lies in the camaraderie of cooking it.

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What I truly thought was innovative and unexpected was the soup tray. Usually you get a ying yang tray with a maximum of two compartments. This restaurant offered a tray with 4 cooking slots which meant that you could have 3 or 4 soup bases with different flavours to cook your food in. We chose the sichuan hot soup base (known as ma-la), a pork bone soup broth and a tomato soup base (my favourite) leaving the last compartment for hot water to cook the veggies, noodles or just to rinse out our cooking utensils.

And just when we thought that the experience was ended, our order of noodles arrived with dancing waiter in tow. Dinner theatre was his noodle dance hand-pulling the noodles according to the preferred consistency – thick or thin.

If you don’t like noodles, don’t fret, there is also a wagyu beef fried rice at the buffet bar which comes complimentary with the meal, alongside a variety of starters. Everything is free except the sauces (HK$22 per person) and the drinks ($15 per person and refillable) which honestly was a nominal fee considering how everything else was already thrown in.

Dessert arrived – a finale of fresh fruits and a clear Osmanthus Pear drink. Go back to the buffet bar if you want seconds and help yourself with more. All complimentary, of course.

Open 24 Hours!

No one politely chases you out after an hour – which is the case at most of Hong Kong’s popular hot pot buffet restaurants, just to accomodate a turn over of customers. Instead, here you roll yourself out voluntarily – just to walk off all you have eaten pre and post main course. Whoever said hot pot was healthy as it was all soup – clearly has not been to Haidilao!

And did I mention it is open 24 hours a day here with queues at midnight being the norm! It definitely needs to go to Australia and New Zealand where there are Chinese communities with appetites for novelty and exactly this type of concept.

Find their Hong Kong outlets here

 

The Art Of Grazing

I had four great parties to attend (and host) over the recent festive season, in Auckland. And with the Kiwi practice of ‘bringing a shared plate’ something that Singaporeans would call a ‘pot-luck’ dish, I decided to be adventurous and announced that I would bring a grazing platter as a starter.

Fascinated with the concept of grazing, I have discovered that you can create a visually stunning ‘gourmet’ platter, quite simply and effectively at home. All you have to do is to put the right ingredients together in the right combination, employ the right serving tools and follow some really simple and useful guidelines which I have shared below .. and voila!

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Experience from the four parties this season has taught me that the concept of a grazing platter is a great way to break the ice, especially if you have a room of people that don’t know each other well. Because of the nature of the platter and the fact that you have to come close to pick off it, it actually brings everyone together, around the table or a central area instead of having people wander off to different parts of the room and engage in separate conversations. As it is the first course to any meal, it also visually whets people’s appetites and tastebuds and quite often because it is first on the table, it almost always gets emptied with gusto. And that’s the impression you want to leave everyone with – that it was so-o-o-o gooo-ood!

Some quick tips to create a stunning grazing platter:

Decide on a theme

Depending on the size of the party and what the other starters are, decide if yours is going to be an all-cheese or a mixed meat and cheese platter. Then select the ingredients you buy, to suit your general theme.

A Cheese-only platter has as its staple at least 3 basic cheeses (preferably 2 hard and 1 soft). With this, you will serve up a menu of dried and fresh fruits (raisins, cranberries and apricots) combined with seedless grapes preferably red and green and a variety of whatever berries are in season. Add on a variety of sweet (candied walnuts) and salty nuts (cashews and almonds), plain and fancy crackers, Dips are optional but it is nice to have a flavourful savoury dip (a salmon and caviar cream) and a tangy sweet dip (ginger-marmalade chutney) or a nutty dip (vegan pistachio and cashew with sun-dried tomatoes) to make things interesting.

The Mixed Platter has a meat or fish component added on to the above.  If its meat  that you are going for, I recommend 3 different meats – prosciutto, a mild salami and a cured or smoked spicy chorizo – all thinly sliced are all winners to me. With a special occasion like Christmas, the Mixed Platter can look visually appealing, deliver that generous, wow factor and feed a fairly big party.

From Italian anti-pesto to Greek Mezze, Mediterranean, Spanish Tapas or North Indian – the themes are all up to you and what you think will best wow your guests. The important thing about a theme is to find a theme-specific dish  to anchor the platter and build the items that you choose around it, to support and create an edible story.

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The Right Tools

It’s true, presentation is everything and first impressions do count especially since the art of feasting, begins wth the eyes!

Invest in three types of basic boards to present your platter. A long wooden plank serves a large group of up to 25, a round 12 inch pizza style paddle  with a handle can feed about 15, a regular sized lazy susan also makes a good and larger option to a 12 inch paddle plus it has the advantage of being able to rotate. And if you can get a square or rectangular bread board, this also creates good options to feed smaller parties.

Build a small collection of empty glass food jars. Don’t collect standard sizes, instead make sure that they are in different shapes, sizes and heights. Consider also that the mouths of each of these jars will be wide enough so you can hold anything from breadsticks to carrot wedges. I like jam, honey or sauce bottles (labels soaked and stripped off).  I also save the amazing terracotta jars from French dessert shop Paul Lafayet, each time I buy one of their ready-packed desserts from the super-market. I often also buy interesting patterned or odd-shaped clay bowls when I travel or look for unusual sauce dishes that will add interest and highlight to whatever theme I have chosen for my platter.

A couple of quality fancy cheese knives (as those will be scrutinised and well-used on your platter) are also good investments along with a number of small-ish spoons that can be used to scoop out the dips onto crackers.

The pleasure of grazing is having a small pick either stuck into the food you serve, or available in a jar so guests can grab one and pick at what they want. Invest in a few rustic looking mini skewers, metal picks or mini dessert forks along with small dainty cocktail size serving dishes or trays for your guests to enjoy the graze.

Tuck or fold a small napkin along with your palm sized serving plates and mini dessert forks or fancy picks. Hand these out once everyone has a drink in hand, and you are ready to start the party.

Quality rather than quantity

It is so tempting to think quantity when you are buying to fill a grazing platter – 3 packets of this and 4 packets of that … I have learnt that you should go quality rather than quantity.

Whilst it is important to have enough, interesting items and a good variety does matter and lends an artisan feel to your creation.

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Here’s a shopping list of what went into this platter which I organised for 20 guests.

  • Grapes and Carrot sticks and Blueberries (1 plunket of red and black seedless grapes, loose anti-oxidant rich blueberries and carrot sticks)
  • Cheeses (5 types altogether: 3 soft creamy cheeses – I picked a Double-Cream Camberbert, Regular Brie and a Creamy Blue. There were also 2 hard cheese – I picked a Dutch Maasdam Cheese which looks just like the ones you see in the Tom and Jerry cartoons with the holes in them – they are lovely and firm and you can shred or cube them easily, just like I did with the Gouda)
  • Meats (3 types – shredded Proscuitto, slices of Mild Salami and thinly-sliced Spicy Smoked Chorizo)
  • Crackers (3 types – Textured Oat and Walnut with Cranberry crackers and Cracked Pepper Wafers. To make it appetising, I also bought a variety of cheese and herb sticks which I stood up in a bottle jar)
  • Nuts (2 types – Salted chilli mixed nuts, Sweet mix of raw almonds, walnuts, cashews and cranberries)
  • Dips – A lovely Salmon and Caviar cream fresh from the Auckland Fish Market.

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Handmake your signs

The key to the success of your platter is to make sure that it has a few indisputably interesting quality items that you highlight with signs so that they also become positive conversation points and ice breaker topics.

Show some pride and effort for your creation. Bring attention to these items by creating some signs to highlight them.  The concept is the same as what you see in a fancy restaurant menu. It’s all in the copy. You automatically want to try it out of curiosity when you read that it’s not just fish but ‘line-caught Atlantic Wild Salmon’ and instead of mushrooms, these are ‘hand-picked first-crop Truffles’. Remember it does pay to put the extra into the ordinary and don’t leave your guests guessing at what they are picking at.

Variety and texture

A platter should not be static, one dimensional and blah. There are a few rules when arranging your platter.

img_1343For example place your cheeses at the ends of a round cheese board or near an edge of a square platter so that people can access them easily to cut off a wedge or pick a cube of what they want.  Cube the hard cheese or crumble it into chunky pieces. Look to give everything a sense of depth and texture whilst at the same time controlling the portion sizes on your platter.

Have things laid out in according to what makes sense – put the bland flatbread or breadsticks next to a tangy or savoury dip, the cucumber or carrot sticks next to a something spicy or flavourful. Have the blue cheese next to the pear and walnuts so that people don’t have to search for what are natural food pairings. Look to wow with colour and contrast.

My next graze challenge …

With the Lunar New Year around the corner, my next personal challenge is a themed grazing platter that incorporates an Asian theme with nibbles like kwa-chi, nuts, new year goodies like peanut and walnut cookies, my favourite pineapple tarts, bak-kwa (roasted pork), pork floss, various sweets and savouries, mandarins, pomelos and flowers especially pink peonies (my personal favs).

If you have been inspired and want to join in the challenge – send me pictures of what you have created and I will be happy to share them on our facebook page or instagram.

In the meantime, a happy new year to all and watch this space – for shots of my next little home-made effort – from the heart and hearth of my kitchen to yours!

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Elaine

 

 

 

 

Wei Private Kitchen

Happy new year to all! It’s been a year since I last wrote a food review anywhere—the first hiatus I have taken on all my 28 years of food writing! But it’s nice to get back to it at the start of 2019, all refreshed and in a slightly different, more relaxed style. And how auspicious for us to discover a brand new private dining gem so early in the new year!

Wei Private Kitchen is a brand new private dining venue barely opened a month ago. I was invited there by a dear friend P, who runs the highly successful and intelligent Plural Art Magazine. It was our first time and so we all didn’t know what to expect. Happily, it turned out very well indeed, but perhaps with bit of minor teething issues (or it could be that I am just being ‘aunty’ about it).

Wei Private Dining is run by professional chef Ang Wei Ming at his cosy maisonette in Coronation Plaza. You sit at his ample dining table in air conditioned comfort, with a view overlooking rooftops of Bukit Timah. Come early enough and you’ll be treated to lovely sunset as he whips up your dinner. He is casual and friendly and puts you at ease from the start, but does not impose on your party unless you chat him up, like we did.

Dinner was a contemporary Asian eight-course feast at the hands of an expert who has worked in Penang and the kitchens of several hotels in Singapore, including Pan Pacific Suites at Beach Road (if I remember correctly).

It started with an amuse buche of century egg tofu with tobiko and spring onions. Then on to a delightful Thai-inspired salad of grilled chicken, pomelo, mango, cucumbers in a tangy, deceptively spicy dressing.

The Penang prawn soup that followed was downright excellent, comprising a rich, savoury-sweet prawn stock nicely in authentic Penang style—he learnt it from a hawker in Penang at 3am after much begging—and slices of pork belly, one of which was lightly torched for added flavour. We would have had seconds if not for having to save stomach space for the rest of the meal.

The chilled mala angelhair with caviar, woodear fungus and cucumber was excellent too, though the spiciness of the Sichuan peppercorn chilli was clearly and thankfully toned down for local palates.

The other highlights for me were the Spanish suckling pig served in two phases: first the crisp delicate skin with a sprinkling of sugar, no doubt with a nod to northern Peking duck, which helped counter the delicate layer of fat. Then the meat, drippingly juicy and tender, was served with a light homemade Taiwanese kimchi which was more subtle than its Korean counterpart.

Though simple, the fat stir-fried prawn and French beans served on perfectly cooked glutinous rice, was also very very good indeed. Other dishes on the menu, which were enjoyable but not my personal highlights, were the wagyu beef with brioche bread and cod with XO sauce.

 

The palate cleanser was a soursop sorbet with blueberries, followed by a grand fruit platter of particularly sweet water apples and pineapples with Wei Ming’s homemade spiced sugar. Again it sounds simple, but we would have wiped out the entire plate had we not been so happily replete. Sadly, we had no more space for a second round of the soup either – which we had not forgotten.

Wei Private Dining allows for BYO, but if you had wanted some champers or wine to go with his menu, I’m sure he would be able to procure as well. From our dinner, our Mumm Champagne went nicely with the salad, and this buttery semi-dry Chardonnay (picked up from the NTUC downstairs) went excellently well with the rest.


But those who love their tipple will not miss his wall of impressive whiskeys near the spiral staircase. He calls it ‘Tipple for Tips’—help yourself to a shot or two and lay down a tip as you wish—but of course, it is an honesty bar. And so I ended a lovely dinner there with a generous pour of an aged Manhattan.

There were what I believe should be a few teething problems. There were no champagne flutes so we drank our bubbly from wine glasses. The kitchen-being an open concept – could have been tidier; so too the empty plates and bowls which piled up around us with each passing course and not cleared away. Then again, we understood the chef was working alone, and we didn’t mind helping him clear the table.

All in all, would I return? Definitely. The food was very good indeed, the setting comfortable, and price very decent. Chef Wei Ming changes his menu every month and has a Chinese New Year menu coming up as well. He does mainly dinners, and takes one booking a day only. However, if you are nice, he might do lunch too. Prices start from $100 for a minimum of 8 pax, maximum 12. One extra thing to note – access to the rest room is via a narrow spiral staircase, so keep that in mind if you have guests with any disabilities or special requirements.

To book the cook: chefweiming@gmail.com

I take the liberty to share his January menu ($100 per pax):
1. Thai Style Grilled Pork Neck with Mango Salad
2. Chilled Century Egg Tofu
3. Poached Garoupa in Spicy Lemongrass Lime Broth
4. Suckling Pig – served two ways
5. Wagyu and XO Rice, Homemade Pickles
6. Iberico Pork Belly Sukiyaki with Cured Egg Yolk, Spring Onions
7. Pineapple Carpaccio with Sogurt© Original Frozen Yogurt
8. Seasonal Fruits with Spiced Sugar

And his CNY Family Favourites menu ($128 per pax)
1. Homemade Yusheng with Abalone 鲍鱼发财捞生
2. Fish Maw Soup with Yunnan Ham and Cabbage 鱼鳔云腿白菜汤
3. Otak Chawamushi 香辣蒸蛋
4. Roasted Suckling Pig, served Two Ways 黄金烧乳猪,双味
5. Superior Braise of Duck, Pork, Assorted Seafood and Vegetables in Claypot 家乡一品锅
6. XO Fried Rice XO酱炒饭
7. Pineapple Tart 2.0 黄梨挞 2.0
8. Ice Cream with Bacon Crumble and Walnuts 香肉核桃雪糕

Comida Mexicana – Mexican Fare & Margaritas We Can’t Get Enough Of

Newly opened in Katong, Comida Mexicana is technically not new — it was formerly Margarita’s East Coast. In its refreshed branding and new menu, proprietress Vivian Wee continues to serve up top notch Mexican fare with a focus on healthy cooking, quality ingredients and fabulous flavours. I’ll admit, this post is particularly enthusiastic because hers has been our favourite neighbourhood restaurant for well over 15 years (ie. we’ve put our money where our mouth is), and we are very familiar with her as well as the food she whips up.

Oh, but Mexican is so heavy, and it’s all just refried beans and tacos, you say. Well, rest assured, not here.

For those who like their tipples, let me just state that they serve the best margaritas on this earth. There are several grades on the menu. The higher grades are smooth and well rounded, but the house pour margarita’s ($18) are good enough for me — I like them with a bit of an edge. And you’ll definitely feel the buzz from these. I like them classic, but if you fancy a twist, the tamarind margarita — as odd as it sounds — is actually very nice. There’s also sangria, mojito and daiquiris if you prefer.

Food portions are very generous here and meant for serious sharing. Not like the trendy ‘sharing plates’ that are actually two-thirds the size of full main courses, these are genuine, generous, hefty dishes. As a guideline, if there’s three of you, you’ll just need two appetisers and two mains to share, and get a jug of margarita. If you still have space for desserts, order two again to share. We promise you’ll be rolling out the restaurant after that.

So, on to the food. To start, share the mashed avocado sopes ($20), little tarts (made from scratch) piled with refried beans, guacamole, and a lime wedge, and my must-have, tortilla chips with home-made red salsa ($6), tangy, rich, with a substantial chillied kick. The mushroom fritters are great too.

From her main courses, the Mexican Yucatan chicken ($28) is a must have, comprising five large pieces of grilled leg meat on skewers. Marinated in achiote, garlic, orange and lemon juice, they are tasty, juicy with a zippy tang, served in a tortilla ‘bowl’ filled with salad and four steamed tortilla. Get hands-on and assemble your own tortilla wrap, filled with meat, salad and pieces of fried tortilla bowl. Since it made its debut, this dish has been making ‘instagrammed’ countless times and has won many over. And it’s large enough for two to share.

The carne asada ($52) is a drippingly juicy, boldly flavoured grain-fed beef marinated in brandy, tequila and orange juice, served with tortilla, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, salsa rojas, and black beans. It comes to the table sizzling, and is absolutely delectable. We love the carnitas, too, comprising delectable pulled pork slow-cooked for two and a half hours and served with tortilla, salsa rojas, salsa verde, and guacamole. Like the chicken, these are meant for hands-on assembling fun. If you fancy seafood, the cornflakes crusted baby snapper fillets ($32) with roasted tomatillo sauce is good – crisp, zingy and generous. The chicken burrito, and the braised lamb shank ($38) are also favourites.

If you’ve still got space for dessert, have the salted caramel pina colada bread pudding ($15). Unapologetic and not for the faint at heart, this is made of brioche soaked in dark rum and cream, with chopped pineapples, coconut ice cream and lashings of salted caramel sauce. Divine. And there’s the kahbrita ($14), a moreish composition of homemade coconut ice cream coated in chocolate powder, kahlua and a shot of espresso. A Mexican version of the affogato.

A passionate cook who is also totally health conscious, Vivian makes everything from scratch in her restaurant kitchen, from the sauces and salsas to ice cream. She imports most of her ingredients from Mexico and the USA, including avocadoes, chillies, beans and tomatillos — and most of them organic as far as possible. Canned ingredients are avoided as far as possible. Another thing worth noting, with three days advanced notice, she offers made-to-order reduced-sugar cakes such as Kahlua Tiramisu, Carrot Cake, Banana Cake, and Bread & Butter Pudding ($80-$150 for 3kg, takeaway only). And did we say they serve the best margarita’s on earth?

404 East Coast Road, Singapore 428998
Tel: (65) 6440 8030
(Closed on Mondays unless they are public holidays or PH eve)

Fratelli’s Colossal To-Die-For Veal Rack

Located in Hotel Michael in Resorts World Sentosa, Fratelli has made it to my personal list of ‘must go’ restaurants in Singapore, and definitely worth the drive to Sentosa.

This celebrity chef restaurant — backed by brothers Roberto and Enrico Cerea of three-Michelin starred Da Vittoria in Lombardy — is a contemporary Italian restaurant that serves up creative, contemporary yet authentic fare with fundaments firmly based on the traditional cuisine. The cooking here is delightfully precise, and the dishes impressively done (and I’m not easily impressed these days). Helming it is Chef de cuisine Davide Bizzari, and together they have just rolled out their new menu, with most items from the ‘mother restaurant’ in Lombardy.

If there is one thing you must order, it is their colossal 1kg bone-in Milanese veal rack. Juicily tender and sweet, the meat is coated in breadcrumbs and crushed breadsticks, then deep fried in clarified butter. You could smell the butter wafting in like a herald as the cutlet was hauled in; then it was assembled at the tableside – with roasted tomatoes, crushed potato wedges and lemons arranged on top. Bite into it, hear the splintering crunch of the breaded coating, inhale the buttery aroma and the experience brings tears to your eyes. It’s true. I thought I heard a choir of angels sing. On the menu, they call it “elephant ear” and it is almost that large. The bone runs on just one side of the cut and the rest is beautiful meat. As the only main course, it could easily feed six conservatively. This is a seasonal item — read ‘short term’ — and the meat is from native Italian Piedmontese breed called Fassone, known for being lean and tender.

Another must-have is the Pizza Oro Nero, a squid ink pasta topped with mussels, salted cod fish, clams, baby squid, plump orbs of trout roe, tomatoes and topped with gold dust. Set against the black ink, it is the most glamorous looking pizza I have ever encountered – and it was good too.

The chittara pasta ($34) is worth having for its uniqueness. It is handmade, and shaped by pressing sheets of fresh pasta through metal strings strung across a wooden frame — quite a tedious process. This results in a spaghetti that has a square rather than round cross section, with a firm, short bite. Served with braised short ribs ragu and shards of truffles, it is a very rich, thick, hearty dish which, while delectable, is best eaten in small doses, in my view. Lovely as it is, it can easily become ‘jelak’ as we say here in Singers.

For appetisers — sorry, we seem to be working backwards here — go for the steamed Boston lobster ($48) with avaocado wasabi cream and red capsicum mousse. Everything on the plate is as it should be in its best rendition — juicy sweet, lightly chewy lobster; and intense, smooth, luxurious mousse and creams which must not be wasted.

A highlight for dessert is Rosella’s Strawberry Planet, a meringue sphere which you break open to get to the strawberry inside. All in all, a fabulous meal, even if the interiors had a somewhat bland 1990s look.

Good to know: If you’re driving, just park like how you would go to Universal Studios, take the escalator up and walk along Festive Walk towards the hotel. Fratelli has an entrance facing Festive Walk, obliquely opposite Osia. That’s probably the most straightforward path to the veal rack.

Tel: (65) 6577 6555 or email Fratelli@RWSentosa.com
Closed Tues

Ginett – Stylish Bistro, Good Food, Fabulous Prices

I have been driving past Ginett every day since it first opened. The route home from my daughter’s school brings me past this restaurant along Middle Road with its eye-catching black-framed windows and glittering bar with a heap of wine glasses suspended overhead. Very NYC in style and most inviting indeed. I always told myself I would pop in one of these days. And I finally did over the weekend.

In a word, Ginett is a fabulous restaurant to linger over a lazy meal. Its interiors is Paris-inspired but with the laid back vibe of a Melbourne establishment; service is friendly and warm. Tables are arranged cosily, but with enough distance to be comfortable, and most importantly, the food is good and the prices even better.

If you want to have a light nibble with friends, order the 1 metre cheese board ($56), with four cheeses and four charcuterie, many of which are made inhouse. The chorizo in particular is very good. Pair it with a bottle of wine, or a parade of their very well-priced wines by the glass (from $6). As the restaurant sources and imports its wines directly, they have been able to keep prices at the sweet spot. Ginett’s more than 70 labels come from France and includes some unusual labels. Bottles start from $30.

The one-metre long cheese board. Easily the most generously filled cheese board in town.

For brunch, the deceptively named Duck Gravy is soul simple food elevated to divine levels of comfort. The description in the menu falls short of reality: expect two sunny-side eggs on more than duck gravy, but a most generous heap of pulled duck cooked confit style (I think). It was a juicy, tasty, savoury slop but perfectly comforting. A must-have that tastes a whole lot better than it looks, it is also big enough for sharing. The eggs benedict was not that great though — the sauce was rather dry and the yolks not as runny as it should be.

Duck gravy – the name is deceptively vague and it is way more delicious than it looks.

Ginett’s signature dishes are the grilled meats cooked over apple wood charcoal. Have the ribeye or striploin (300g for sharing) at $42. We also tried the rotisserie chicken — it was all right but the breast meat was dry and overall, a little under seasoned.

For dessert, we had the profiteroles which, rather than filled in the classic way with cream, was sliced in half, with scoop of ice cream in between. I plan to try the baba au rhum the next time we head there.

At the end of the day, the stars were the cheese board and the wines. It is worth noting Ginett has about 30 types of cheeses in total, and next door, its sister outlet 25 Degrees offers good burgers.

The wines and cheeses are listed on the board on the wall.

Look out for Executive Chef Emmanuel Xu, a unique figure in the industry. From China, he had worked in Paris for 11 years, then back to Beijing for a few more years and now he helms the kitchen at Ginett. He is also the man behind the burgers at 25 Degrees.

Good to know: Ginett is open daily from 7am till late; last orders are particularly late — 10.30pm from Sundays to Thursdays, and 11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. On 23-27 May, award-winning French cheese master Gérard Poulard will be at Ginett to demonstrate the art of cheese pairings. He’ll be bringing along over 30 cheeses from boutique cheesemakers France.

200 Middle Road
Singapore 188980
Tel: (65) 6809 7989