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)

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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

5 Reasons Why Taste is A Grocer Like No Other

Taste Singapore is not the sort of supermarket you’d go to look for your usual tau-gay, hae bee and pork bone (“One kg please”). Cradled in the Holland Village enclave within the Raffles Medical building, this newly opened gourmet grocer is the place to go for gourmet foodstuffs, but be prepared for correspondingly premium prices. We were really excited to find unusual goods here, with a different supermarket experience to match. Here are five reasons this supermarket stands out above the rest in our books.

1. You can grab a Spinelli’s coffee and sip while you shop. The Spinelli’s counter sits right by the down-escalator as you enter the shop.

Talented florist and former fashion journalist Yi Lian Ng explains flowers at her counter within Taste

2. There’s a super talented florist in the house as well. Yi Lian Ng’s floral arrangements are stunning, and definitely on a stylish tangent off from the conventional bouquets. Come here to pick a gift or the get a table arrangement for your dinner party while you shop for your groceries.

3. There’s a Japanese restaurant SENS in the middle of the supermarket. You can pick  your meal from the menu, or get your favourite cut of meat from the butchery section of the supermarket and have the chef cook it for you at an additional cost of $8 per 100g. How cool is that?

Essential must-know’s at Taste

4. Go to Taste Singapore for a gastronomic evening out. Book the table by the wine section, then wander around and pick out a favourite cut of meat at the butcher section, and ask them to cook it for you with some simple sides. Head over to the deli and pick out your cheeses and ask them to lay it out on a cheese board; and pick your bottle of wine from the wine section. You get the idea. All this will be brought to your table at the wine area and you can you tuck into your meal in the middle of the supermarket. Not enough? Have a wander around again, and pick up more food.

Some cheeses from the cheese room. Our favourites were the pesto cheese (the green one) and the truffle cheese (bottom left). Lovely stuff.
He who brings Croatian cheese into Singapore for the very first time. The PAG cheese is well worth having on your cheese board this weekend.

5. There are lots of fabulous finds on the shelves of Taste. The Cheese Room offers a fantastic range of cheeses including Croatian PAG goat cheeses (probably the first time Croatian cheese is available on retail here), a moreish pesto cheese, and a truffle cheese; while next to it, the wine section includes a particular lovely, floral French gin from Cognac. The  meat section has a good selection of wagyu, and the bakery offers breads made on site fresh from the oven. If you need bread customised (eg. gluten free, etc), call in a couple days in advance.

What your weekend dinner could look like at the communal table at the wine section. You can book this table for your own dinner at the supermarket.
This floral gin is one of the most elegant I’ve tasted in a while.

118 Holland Avenue, Basement 1, Singapore 278997
Tel: 6264 8389

The Market Grill at Telok Ayer

Had lunch with some friends at The Market Grill just this week. It’s always a treat to head down to Telok Ayer, which has become Singapore’s ‘gourmet central’ with the opening of many hip eateries there over recent months. Market Grill itself is not new, but this is the first time in ages that it has rolled out new offerings on its menu.

We had a corner table in the narrow pre-war shophouse restaurant. The setting is predictable — noisy, close-quarter seating and open kitchen seem to be the pre-requisites of a hip restaurant these days. Pity we couldn’t hear the music until the restaurant emptied out after 2pm. It was lots of rock and 1980-1990 hits that are, admittedly, quite my time. All around us was an edgy industrial-meets-retro decor including vintage bar stools. It made us feel ‘cool’.

On to the food. The Market Grill, as its name suggests, is mainly known to be a carnivorous place. But also for its lobsters. Our meal took a lighter direction.

First up, was chargrilled artichokes with an anchovy sauce, which was nice but a little dry.

Then came the best lamb koftas ($19) I’ve had in ages. Crisp fine batter on the outside, and juicy, smooth minced lamb inside with light touch of spices, and served with an enticingly piquant dish of pickled beetroot and the same anchovy dip. (It’s not easy to find good koftas, which tend to be dry, gristly and grainy oftentimes.) Godzilla-sized mussels came after that, served in a pot with seafood bisque and baguette. The mussels were pillow-tender despite their colossal size, but a tad briny in flavour.

I really liked the main course of grilled seafood platter (market price). The whole Atlantic  lobster was incredibly fresh, with delightfully firm, sweet flesh; the chargrilled seabass was good too. There was considerable charring outisde, but the white flesh inside remained moist and flaky. For dessert, we had the fromage blanc ($12), a light cheesecake-like slice delicately sweet, served with fruits, granola and candied nuts for a lovely counterpoint.

Good to note: Wines by the glass here are limited — one choice only for bubbles, white and red. The rest are by bottles but prices are decent. Also noteworthy, they serve lobster rolls ($48) if you’re in the mood.

208 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068642
Tel: 6221 3323

Acqua e Farina – A laid back restaurant that checks every box

There are those days when you just want a night out with the family, with good food, decent prices and where you don’t have to dress up. Plus a little something extra to perk up the experience, rather than the usual ‘same-old, same-old’. For me, the latest restaurant that checks all these boxes is Acqua e Farina (meaning ‘water and flour’), a cosy restaurant in Rail Mall, Upper Bukit Timah. For a meal there, I am happy to drive all the way from home in Siglap in the East.

When I first heard that this new Italian restaurant specialised in pizza and pasta, I was struck bored as nails. But since my first visit there, I have been back with family in tow. First, the food there is really good. The pizzas in particular are worth the drive. In the rain. With a sore throat.

Chef Antonio Manetto, one of the owners, does the pizzas. Hailing from Naples where the best pizzas in Italy are from, he holds up the reputation well. (The other owner is chef Roberto Galbiati who comes from Milan, and specialises in desserts and the heartier cuisines of northern Italy. Which means you get the best of both ‘ends’ of Italian food here.) Apart from using a particular kind of flour flown in from Italy, he lets the dough rest for an extended period of time, which results in a wonderfully light yet robust pizza base, chewy without being heavy. From this, he serves up a good range of red and white pizzas including signatures such as pizza Acqua E Farina ($25) topped with spicy salami, tomatoes, mozzarella, ricotta and sautéed spinach, and Pizza Bufala ($25) featuring  two kinds of mozzarella.

What I liked particularly was the restaurant’s unique boat pizzas which seem like a cross between a calzone and a Turkish pide. The Barca Bufala ($26), or Sicilian boat, was great, bursting with juicy tomatoes, melted buffalo mozzarella and draped with generous servings of Parma ham. The prawn spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli was enjoyable too, rich and aromatic, with pasta made from scratch, and cooked till nicely al dente, with a bouncy, lively consistency.

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Two other dishes really impressed: a starter of buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil wrapped in Parma ham ($23), served with mixed greens and flat bread and the other, sautéed octopus with potatoes, olives and capers ($28). These are must-have’s and all you need for a light indulgent lunch, washed down with a glass of white wine.

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To end, the dessert platter ($14) offers tasting portions of creme brulee, molten chocolate cake, panna cotta and tiramisu (non-alcoholic).

There are a few more things worth mentioning about Acqua e Farina. Its very wallet-friendly wine list, for one. Bottles are generally priced at the sweet spot: the house red, Montepuciano d’Abruzzo, Farina, for instance, is only $50 per bottle — an easy-drinking red that’s delectably rounded, smooth and low on tannins.

There’s free parking at Rail Mall, and if you’re lucky, you can even park by the lane in front of the restaurant entrance. With hardly any stairs to take, it’s relatively easy to bring wheelchair-bound guests or elderly family members who may have mobility issues.

Finally if you are planning a party but don’t want to cook, Acqua e Farina offers a ‘Party Helper’ service where you can order dishes in party portions and have them delivered to your home. Choose from a full menu featuring dishes like Salmon Fillet baked with Butter and Dill ($92, for 8 people), Roast Beef Rib Eye served with Vegetables and Rosemary Sauce ($160, 2kg) and Spaghetti tossed with Prawns, Garlic, Herbs, Fresh Tomatoes and Olive Oil ($48, serves 4 people). We notice the prices are very decent too.

The Rail Mall – 400 Upper Bukit Timah Road
Tel: +65 6462 0926

10 Ways to Ace Chinese New Year Snacking

Eat only the good stuff.

Chinese New Year is coming.

There is only about three-and-a-half weeks between the recent New Year parties and Chinese New Year to diet and hit the gym to lose the extra kilos before the onslaught of celebratory eating starts again. After that, we have the rest of the year to live healthily and shed the flab.

The ideal thing of course is not to put on the extra weight in the first place, and in recent years, I have to put in place a strategy to deal with CNY excess. Some tactics came from an article on the Health Promotion Board website which I read a few years ago — yes, I can be that nerdy and I do at times read the Health Promotion Board website — while others are my own. I’ve used them to varying degrees of success. While it all ultimately hinges on self-control, these tricks do help one get past the temptations mindfully. Sharing the wisdom, so here goes…

1. Have breakfast before you go visiting. Nothing’s worse than temptation in the presence of an empty stomach.

2. Don’t look at the food. It’s that simple. Don’t look, and it’s not there. Really.

3. An extension of point #2, sit far away with your back to the food, and get talking to people. Isn’t it great to bond with that super-distant, semi-deaf aunt you see only once a year? She loves your company, and it’s impolite to leave the poor dear mid-conversation to stuff your face with love letters.

4. Plan what you will eat. If there are two places offering lunch on the same afternoon, for instance, decide in advance which you will take and which you will forsake. On the first day, I’ve always a choice between mind-blowing Teochew steamboat at a grand uncle’s place, or fabulous Nonya popiah at an aunt’s house. My choice is always the steamboat – simply because we visit only once a year.

5. Give it a number. If you are going to nibble, limit yourself to a specific number. Tell yourself you’ll eat only two pineapple tarts in this house, for instance, and that you’ll eat another two love-letters only at the next stop. Stick to the plan. Don’t veer off course.

6. Eat the oranges. They are everywhere, so reach for them instead. Once you’ve loaded up, you won’t be that tempted with the ‘bad snacks’. And they’ve got Vitamin C, too. Good stuff.

7. Drink water, or join the old ladies sipping Chinese tea. Lots of antioxidants, low on calories, good for the cheongsam.

8. Between a soda or wine, choose wine — or better yet, Champagne. Then make an exception if it’s the latter: forget about limiting yourself. Know when to load up on the good stuff. Some calories are worth it. Forsake all others.

9. If you’re going to indulge, enjoy the seasonal/festive treats, and skip the more ‘ordinary’ foods that you can get hold of any day of the year, like chicken wings, and spring rolls. If you’re going to treat yourself, make it worth the calories.

10. Remember the numbers. One pineapple tart is about 82 calories, or 10 minutes of jogging; 56 calories per love letter, and 157 calories per slice of kueh lapis. Yup, it’s a scary thought.

(Pineapple tart photo courtesy of Crystal Jade restaurant. Yums!)

CNY Takeaway Treats in Singapore

As always, we like to take the festivities home and celebrate with family. So we’re listing out delectable CNY takeaways that restaurants around Singapore are offering the home-loving but kitchen-shirking hostess with the mostest. We’ll update this post with more finds as we go along, so pop in often to see what else we have unearthed. Here goes:

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For offal fans, Man Fu Yuan of the Intercontinental Singapore is offering a double-boiled Pig Tripe Soup with Seafood ($128 for 5 people), which is packed with Sri Lankan crab, prawns, chicken, pig stomach, chestnuts and gingko nuts, and double-boiled for 6 hours. If you have a small gathering, get the smoked duck with tea leaves and tong gui ($88) and rice casserole with assorted preserved meat ($88). As gifts, get the steamed yam cake with roasted duck meat ($28) and the restaurant’s famous XO Chilli Sauce ($38) stuffed with dried scallops, dried shrimps, dried sole fish, salted fish and cured ham. We’re happy the sauce is making a comeback after a few years’ absence.
Tel: 6825 1007 or email sinhb-festive@ihg.com

 

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Treasure pots are great for festive meals because they are impressive, filling and you don’t need many other dishes to fill up stomachs. Crystal Jade’s Prosperity abalone treasure pot ($248 for 5 / $428 for 10 people), stuffed with 16 types of ingredients including fish maw, fresh prawns, oysters, dried mushrooms and ten-head abalone, would fit the bill. Other treats that can also double-up as CNY gifts are the Eternal bliss sampling platter ($39.80) comprising carrot cake, yam cake, water chestnut cake, egg cake and glutinous rice cake, and the gold leaf double fish glutinous rice cake ($43.80) which will also make a great centrepiece.
http://www.crystaljade.com

goodwood-park-hotel-auspicious-golden-pineapple-the-deli

We are such fans of Goodwood Park Hotel’s CNY cake, and it’s pretty obvious the chefs in their pastry kitchens have a great sense of fun. This year, they’ve rolled out the Auspicious Golden Pineapple ($94.15 nett, 1kg) which would make a grand conversation piece at your CNY table. The gilded beauty is 9 inches tall, with 5 layers of vanilla pound cake with buttercream sandwiched in-between. (“May you have an abundance of wealth and glitz all year round.”) If that’s not enough, get their giant Huat! pineapple tart ($40.65) measuring 6.5 inches across. For the ultimate, artery-hardening indulgence, chill your beers and break out a bottle of two of the hotel’s Spicy Salted Egg Yolk Lotus Root Chips, generously coated in a sinful salted egg yolk crust.
Tel: 6730 1786 or log onto http://festivepromotions.goodwoodparkhotel.com

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If you are happy to splurge on a grand-gesture CNY gift, the shop at Grand Hyatt Singapore’s mezza9 has a a 100-piece chocolate praline set called “100 Blessings of Good Fortune” ($288 nett). It features 100 different styles of the Chinese character 福, including some that date back to early Qing dynasty (221-206 BC). Behind these scholarly words are dark, milk and white Swiss chocolates encasing six different flavours such as cognac, earl grey, mint, mocha, orange, and peanut butter. Particularly suitable for the food-loving Chinese scholar among us!
Tel: 6732 1234 or log onto singapore.grand.hyattrestaurants.com

We’re Making A List — Christmas Takeaways in Singapore

Oh look. Christmas is coming. What a year it’s been. For good or not-so-great, herald in the new and say farewell to the old with family around you and a great festive feast at home with these amazing takeaways that have caught our eye. The list we’ve compiled here ranges from delectable treats to great value buys that we’ll be happy to part money with….

The Deli, Goodwood Park Hotel

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Always the one to give an Asian twist to festive favourites, Goodwood Park Hotel is often our go-to for Christmas eve takeaways which have – over the years – fed many happy relatives. This year, they have Wu Xi Turkey ($218 for 8 to 10 persons), braised with red yeast rice, red dates and spices, and served with Shanghai-style vegetable fried rice. As part of the Local Christmas Combo ($254), the turkey is is packaged with Turkey ‘kueh pie tee’, and D24 durian Christmas log cake. The chocolate whisky profiterole tart ($48 for 600g) and Merry Mosaic Cakes ($48 for 500g) gives your dessert table added flair. The latter comprises 16  small square cakes in six flavours including raspberry earl grey, carrot cake and cheesecake.
festivepromotions.goodwoodparkhotel.com

Baba Chews, Indigo Hotel Katong

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This new niche hotel in Katong, located in the historic old police station on the breezier side of Singapore, has certainly given the neighbourhood a boost. It’s funky-retro Peranakan style restaurant Baba Chews has jumped into the deep end of the Christmas mood with bold offerings like the Turkey Breast Sio ($88, 2kg), a Nonya take on the Christmas bird. It’s slow-baked with tamarind and coriander paste, shallot and plum glaze and served with achar and roasted rempah potatoes. They’re also rolling out a Prime Beef Short Ribs Rendang ($168, 2kg) that comes topped with  a layer of spiced grated coconut and with Hainanese rice and achar on the side. I’m hungry already!
Tel: 6723 2025

Ash & Elm, Hotel Intercontinental Singapore

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The Christmas goodies from the Intercontinental this year is particularly enticing….First  up, a New England 70-Day Grain-Fed Beef Sirloin with roasted Yukon potatoes, winter sprouts, charred corn and a red wine shallot sauce. All this for $178 strikes us as pretty good value when the beef weighs in at a whopping 4 kg. For sweets, Chef Ben Goh’s Mini Kitchen ($68 for 1kg) dessert, comprising Sacher sponge with passionfruit and banana compote and crunchy royaltine is a cute behind-the-scenes edible setting, while the Framboise of the Wild Forest ($68 for 1kg) is a thoughtful sugar-free option of chocolate and raspberry flavours. They’ve got a classic Brandy and rum fruit cake at $28 for 500g, too — not a bad price for a rich boozy cake from a hotel’s pastry kitchen.
*Noteworthy: It’s restaurant Ash & Elm is offering a very attractive semi-buffet lunch (from $48 to $58++) 10-31 December.
singapore.intercontinental.com/festive

Shangri-la, Singapore

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Shangri-la’s got really playful cakes this Christmas. A real show stopper is Santa’s Letter 3D Cake ($88 nett, 1 kg), made of orange vanilla butter cake, with fondant and chocolate figures. It certainly plays up on kids’ Christmas wishes, and adds a touch of magic to the Christmas table. Then there’s the Chocolate Jigsaw Puzzle ($15 nett, 100g) in dark, milk or white French chocolate, and a cute Chestnut log cake ($62, 1kg) with cassis compote and nougat with prancing reindeers on top.
slsfestive.oddle.me

Parkroyal On Beach Road

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Interesting birds to takeaway again this year. …How about Kampong Glam rendang turkey ($128) with brown rice stuffing, Christmas Curry Turkey ($128), from the Plaza Brasserie, and Fiery Lamb Shank in Dried Chilli and Sichuan Pepper($58) from Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant. It looks absolutely fiery, but it taste fragrant and delicious. Tried it before and loved it.
dining.prsin@parkroyalhotels.com or tel: 65 6505 5710
douhua.prsin@parkroyalhotels.com or tel: 6505 5722 for Si Chuan Dou Hua

Fairmont Singapore & Swissotel The Stamford

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There’s loads of desserts for takeaway from their kitchens, and a smaller selection of savouries this time.  Of the latter, Cafe Swiss’ crispy pork knuckle ($41, 1kg) is a nice counterpoint to the usual turkey especially if kegs of ice cold beer is part of your tropical Christmas menu. Comes with braised red cabbage and German potato salad. We love their beautiful coconut almond tart (from $32 for 500g) with its sticky sponge cake, coconut flakes and gold dust; and the belly cute raspberry peach mousse cake (from $43 for 500g, top picture). The almond mousse cake is layered with raspberry and peach marmalade, fresh raspberries, encased in a glazed chocolate dome and topped with a marshmallow Santa hat.
http://www.celebrationscentral.com.sg

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

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We like the twist to their Christmas offerings this year. For those who don’t fancy turkey, how about the roast suckling pig ($250, 8-10 pax) with potato salad, braised red cabbage, and greens. They do have the traditional roasted Christmas turkey with the usual sides ($180, 6-9 pax)  or a super indulgent truffle Christmas turkey ($380, 6-8 pax) iwth black truffles, the usual vegetable sides and truffle sauce. For dessert, how about their gorgeous apricot pistachio pie ($38), with a unique combination of rosemary apricot pistachio cream, vanilla sable tart with orange chocolate mousse.
email mosin-festive@mohg.com or tel +65 6885 3081

Marina Mandarin Singapore

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Perfect for a tropical Christmas…they’ve got an unusual Balinese Roasted Turkey ($148, 5kg)  marinated with Balinese spices, with glutinous rice in banana leaves with a tomato chilli dip as sauce. Another change from the classic turkey is the roasted turkey with Grand Marnier, ginger and spices ($158, 5kg).
http://www.marinamandarin.com.sg/dining.

York Hotel Singapore

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If you’re organising an office Chrismas party, this is an easy, convenient go-to, even if it’s a little predictable. This takeaway meal from York Hotel gives you all you need : rosemary chicken, caesar salad, garlic barbecued pork ribs, roast potatoes, baked vegetables with cheese, and an 8-inch apple tart. All for $180, which feeds 6-8 people.
Tel: 6737 0511

Baba Chews – The Latest Addition Along The Katong Strip

Baba Chews is the latest addition to the increasing hip and happening Katong food strip. Located as part of the new Hotel Indigo Katong, it serves a mix of contemporary Asian dishes and Peranakan fare, plus an enticing menu of craft cocktails which should lure the younger crowd in. But did you know the heritage building it is in was once the Joo Chiat Police Station? Built in 1928, it was in operation all the way to the late 80s at least, if not early 90s, if my memory serves me well. Growing up in Katong, that was a prominent landmark for me. Passing it in the car, I knew I was halfway to my grandma’s house at Amber Road.

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But of course, apart from the exterior, much has changed inside. No longer the austere police station with apartments for the police chief upstairs, Baba Chews, on street level, has been turned into a pretty restaurant with evocative retro furnishings complemented by opulent tiles and Peranakan-esque accents. The bar is eye catching and so are the huge windows that give you a view of the heritage shophouses across the road. Baba Chews is a name inspired by the wealthy landowner Chew Joo Chiat, who owned swathes of land at the turn of the 20th century.

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Chef Alvin Leong heads up the kitchen here, and turns out a creative menu of Peranakan fare with a contemporary twist, tipping a hat to the deeply rooted local flavour of the neighbourhood. Amuse bouche was a little sponge with salted egg kaya centre, coloured blue with the butterfly pea flower — a very suitable start which set the tone for lunch at Baba Chews.

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For appetisers, the otak siew mai was a slightly spicy, juicy morsel that combined Peranakan and Chinese flavours well, and the flavoursome chilli crab cake, filled with juicy fibres of crab meat. The pongteh soup was a hefty serving, sweet with bamboo shoot and minced pork. The only comment I have is that there was way too much soup for the two meatballs, and it would have been much more enjoyable served with sambal chilli. Come to think of it, it should have been made available as a staple on the Peranakan table but was glaringly missing.

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For mains, I would suggest the beef short ribs rendang ($25), melting tender in a rich unctuous gravy, and topped with coconut serondeng which was fried with gula Melaka. The panfried seabass with chilli ($29) was lovely too, cooked just right with house made rempah, and the chap chye, while predictable, was enjoyable too. A sparkling sour plum granita with lychee pearls was served before the mains as a light palate cleanser.

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For desserts, have the nangka cheese cake ($12) served with pulut hitam ice cream.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget the rather impressive cocktail menu, which sensitively gives due respect to the unique Katong vibe, and nostalgia of the neighbourhood. Heading the list is Katong Sling, a twist to Singapore’s iconic cocktail with Courvoisier VSOP, lemon juice and fernet.

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The white negroni was a lighter version of the classic using Martini bianco and Martini Dry instead, and for a touch of nostalgic, Hemingway daiquiri ($18) made with Bacardi, amaretto and lime juice. In place of dessert, you could also have Chews Laksa ($18), a cocktail made of rum, Malibu coconut liqueur, pineapple, gula Melaka and laksa infused whipped cream, and which gives a nod to the famous laksa which that Katong strip is so famous for. They have a good list of spirits particularly gin and whisky, and for non-drinkers, coffee here comes from Common Man Coffee Roasters. All in all, highly recommended, and a great place to bring out-of-towners.

86 East Coast Road, #01-01 Katong Square, S(428788)
Tel: 6723 2025