Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dandelion Chocolate : Japan's Bean to Bar Movement Part 2

After Minimal Bean to Bar, Dandelion was the next chocolate spot on my list. This "bean-to-bar" chocolate factory and cafe from San Francisco occupies a two-storey space in Kurame, Tokyo and sells everything on of course, chocolate.

Compared to Minimal Bean or Green Bean to Bar, I like the ambience here the most as it has a classy industrial vibe that makes me feel like I'm literally eating fresh chocolate in a chocolate factory. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ong Yong Lee Seafood Zichar : Must Try Chye Por Hor Fun

Came here to this zichar stall to check out the Chye Poh Hor Fun and indeed it did not disappoint at all! On the contrary, it actually exceeded my expectations with the fiery breath of wok hei that lingered in the dish right till the end. Be it the Kway Teow, the eggs, or even the squid, it's not difficult to spot black charred marks on them and these are the best bits of this dish. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Un Grain : Smallest Cake in Tokyo and probably, Japan

I stood in dismay in front of 20 columns of entremets not because they are smaller than my palm, but because they cost as much as ¥470 -- the price that can fetch you a very decent cake even from average patisseries. 
Pronounced as " un-gran", this classy boutique in Aoyama is headed by Chef Kanai Fuyumi who used to worked at 1-star Paris restaurant Le Chiberta, which is part of a 3-star Michelin group. Compared to most pastry chef, this chef looked very young and smiley as you can see him working behind the transparent glass window of the kitchen. 

And indeed, he is considered quite young at 38 to run his own show at this latest venture (opened in late 2015) by Yoku Moku. I am a loyal fan of Yoku Moku buttery cigares rolls but I was surprised to learn that Ungrain was connected to Yoku Moku because I would not associate any high-end sophisticated sweets coming from Yoku Moku. 

But yet Ungrain is one exact case of an expensive, refined cakes boutiques that actually boast style over substance. Don't get me wrong, the cakes are not extremely bad, but their quality and size simply do not justify their price tag. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ajoomma Korean Dessert Cafe @ Holland Village : Fresh Fruity Bingsu!

With the persistent heat in Singapore all-year round, the demand for Korean bingsus (shaved ice dessert) doesn't seem to fade as  cafes specializing in them continue to open in the heartlands. Opened in June this year, Ajoomma is the latest to join the scene in Holland Village, serving bingsu, toasts and buttermilk waffles. It doesn't belong to any franchise in Korea and you won't find any Ajoomma (aunties) serving Bingsu here (though I wish it would be nice to have Ajoommas instead of young chaps)
The presentation of Bingsu does not vary much from the others; the shaved ice is dusted with powder of certain flavor or syrup and served with ice cream. But what stands out here is the freshness of ingredients. 
Our favourite was none other than the Mango Bingsu ($18.90), a gorgeous summer delight of shaved ice, mango coulis sauce, generous fresh mangos, pomelo and mango sherbet. Unlike the red beans in the matcha/black sesame counterparts, digestive crumbs are embedded beneath the ice, making them close to a mango cheesecake. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lao Chao Zhou 老潮州 @ Ghim Moh : Satay Bee Hoon and Mee Siam

Contrary to its name, Lao Chao Zhou does not sell teochew porridge or cuisine. Instead, it sells satay bee hoon, a dish that I love but not commonly available at hawker centers in Singapore because I heard that a lot of work is required to make the sauce. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

R-Fritters Cafe Tokyo : French Toast Fritters Hybrids

French Toast or Fritters?
You can have them both at R-Fritters, a small cafe in Shimokitazawa that turns French Toast into Fritters by deep-frying mini French toast cubes and serving them in a variety of flavors. 

One set (¥500) comes with the choice of 2 flavors and I had the matcha with kuromitsu kinako as well as cheese and honey. Both chased away my skepticism as they actually turned out to be very tasty indeed!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Maggie Joan's Dining & Bar : Great New Lunch Spot in CBD Area

Just a stone's throw away from my office is Maggie Joan's, an exclusive bespoke dining spot that probably only those F&B insiders or those actively tuned into any latest food news (be it on social media or printed Mags) would have heard of. It's tucked behind the alleyways of Telok Ayer Street, with a wooden, nondescript entrance leading to a dark, edgy dining area--very much like passing through the walls into another world in Harry Potter's fiction. 

Maggie Joan's is named after the two grandmothers of co-owner. Even though it's said to be the elegant, refined copy of its sister restaurant Moosehead, the righteous Mediterranean-inflected lunch menu which had just recently expanded, feel just as comfortable as ever--from the start right to the end. 

The complemtary Homemade Sourdough made a dignified arrival with Smoked Beef Fat. Yes, not butter (or even Echire butter) but something that fare even better in terms of taste and worse in terms of calories. But you won't even have a chance to grab an extra slice even if you want because the dish will vanish in seconds. 
The small platter of Cheese Arachini ($9) tasted just like a flavorful plate of risotto redolent with the umami from the four cheese--gorgozonla, langres, epoisse, ricotta)--except that they came with a crispy Panko coating, a touch of truffle oil and some sweet tomato chutney. It's a dish I would love to replicate at home and share with the family. 

Being a fan of chickpeas, I swooned at the sight of the Gypsy-style Baked Eggs ($16-see top pic) that was served in a nice cocotte with some milk bread. Beneath the bubbling surface of red and white was a pool of comforting Spanish-inspired chickpea stews that made even better with savoury Iberico chorizos. Packed with so many amazing layers of flavors, this is one dish that spoke to the heart and soul--like those churned from nonna's kitchen. 

Quoting what my table partner has said, this plate of Cured Salmon ($17) will be suited for an eat-clean Monday lunch. Indeed, the shallots, chives, dills and Greek yoghurt brought vitality to the tender chunks of salmon which have been cured with salt, sugar, lime and coriander. The taste is clean and sharp; not overly salty like smoked salmon nor absorbed in heavy soy sauce like Japanese rice bowls. Cucumbers and sourdough croutons added that necessary crunch without stealing the limelight away from the salmon. 

But I think my eat-clean plan will fail because the Hand-cut chips ($9) are too difficult to pass up. I always thought I only like crunchy chips until I encountered these rather mushy fries here. Being steamed, blanched in oil at 140 degrees and deep-fried at 220 degrees, those Sebago potato wedges were merely seasoned with rosemary, sherry vinegar and Maldon salt yet they were so moreish and comforting to eat. I think they are good on their own without the creamy ricotta dip.

If you are feeling gluttonous, there's a Fried Chicken Sandwich with green Harissa coleslaw, pecornio cheese all encased in a Middle Eastern-style Joujou bread ($18). I loved the texture of the bread which comes close in between a pita and panini. Make sure to squirt every drip of the burnt lime for that perky juiciness when you sink your teeth through the bun. As tender as it is, I prefer if the Panko-crumb coated chicken was crispier. 

Of all kinds of pasta, a pappardelle--flat pasta sheets that are wider than fettuccini--is usually the first to be crossed out of the menu. Especially when it's pair with hearty meat sauces. But for this rustic plate of House Made Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu ($26). I am happily proven wrong by its delicious and uncomplicated taste. The NZ lamb shoulder was braised till fork tender and eliminated of any gameyness, with a surprising pop of flavor from the rosemary and Parmiaggiano Regganio. 

We capped off the meal with the dessert of the day ($10), which happened to be a silky 65% chocolate ganache riding on top a thin-lining of salty peanut paste. Served with tangy Creme fraiche, this dessert looks deceivingly simple but tastes mind-blowingly good. Earnest yet elegant treat that won't cost you a sugar coma after the meal. 

Upholding the stance on good food and social bonding, this place is truly provides the ideal temporary lunch escapade away from the crowds. For an average spending of $20-30 for lunch here, this will be my to-go place if I am looking for an occasion lunch treat with colleagues without having to spend a bomb at typical executive set lunches that can set one above $50. 

My only complaint is that this comfortable settings encourages linger and I will have to drag my feets reluctantly back to work. 

Maggie Joan's Dining & Bar
110 Amoy Street #01-01 (Entrance from Genmill Lane)
Singapore 068579
Tel: 6221-5564
Lunch 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner 6pm-11pm
Saturday 6pm-11pm
Closed on Sundays

Friday, August 19, 2016

Ghim Moh Carrot Cake : Husband and Wife Steam their Own Kueh

Been having too many plates of carrot cake since the start of August and this is a strange phenomena because I never craved for carrot cake as much as I do this month. I've decided to write about this place because it's one of the stalls that churn out better carrot cakes in my (or my family's) opinion. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Flour Power : Giving Power through baking

As the name puts it, Flour Power is about empowering those with special needs by equipping them with the necessary skills to find sustainable jobs in the F&B industry. Launched only recently on 2nd May 2016, the bakery cafe in Jasmine Road conducts 14 to 16-week apprentice programme which rotates trainees with special needs across various functions in customer service to food preparation. 

This is not simple a cut-and-paste model as each program is specially crafted to suit the trainees whether he or she is a low- or high- functioning individual. The founder, Ms Lena Ng, started Flour Power to help further a dream of a world where everyone can fulfill their dreams and be independent if they are given equal opportunity to learn and work hard. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DineForGood: The Ugly Cake Shop

Ugly or not, the cakes here taste delicious and most importantly, they have a beautiful heart.

The Ugly Cake Shop is one of the F&B social enterprise joining this year's Festival for Good. It started of as the owner's passion for baking at home, which gradually evolved from an online business into a physical cafe in Geylang Bahru. The cakes here are "ugly" because they are absent of any artificial colouring, artificial flavours, fondant, marzipan or gum paste. (Yay! That's a big bonus for me because I can never, never understand the "beauty" of these sugary clothes for the cakes) 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bridge Restaurant Bar: Cutting-edge Fine Dining at Affordable Prices

Chendol strips in smoked shiitake consommé? Nah. That's instant pea noodle squeezed from a bottle that consolidated into solid form in less than 30 seconds. 

Call it your experimental edibles or even some gimmicky cuisine, but that's part of the charm at Bridge, a casual European restaurant that offers serious cutting-edge fine dining, and you don’t need to pay a bomb or queue for hours to eat there. And food here isn't anywhere near molecular cuisine (fish is fish and not foam) Rather, it's more on flavor and flair combined in miraculous chemistry. 

The Foie Gras and Samphire ($22-top pic) is one good example which takes on to an entirely different universe from the standard foie gras fare defined by the French master chefs. It relies on the umami essence of shiitake to hold in the buttery reins of a fat foie gras, resulting in a surprisingly clean and soothing effect that wowed fans and non-fans alike. On the side were some oat crumbles that served as a textural contrast, though without which the dish still wouldn't be particularly different. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dover Road Kai Kee Wanton Mee : A Taste of Old-School Charm

Old-school Wanton Mee, anyone? 

Kai Kee Wanton Mee used to be located in Dover Road Market near Fairfield Methodist School before moving to Alexandra Village Hawker Centre in 2011. I first learnt about Kai Kee through one of the episodes on Makan Places: Lost and Found which was broadcasted years ago but only had the chance to drop by for a visit recently. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

[EVENT] DineForGood : Dine at Singapore’s Social Enterprises to be #partofthegood‏ !

Cakes from Flour Power
Do you know that there are many F&B social enterprises in Singapore that champion different causes such as providing job and training opportunities to ex-convicts or youth-at-risks? In short, these social enterprises develop innovative and sustainable business models to support social good. 

Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh
This August, enjoy specially-curated meals and discounts at local social enterprise eateries participating in DineForGood, a month-long promotion organised by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE)  to increase awareness and patronage of F&B social enterprises in Singapore. 

Here are the social enterprises participating in DineForGood and offering month-long promotions:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shimokita Chaen しもきた茶苑大山 : Crazy Queue Timings for Kakigori

Shimokitazawa is often known as the town that is thronged with independent arts, fashion retailers, music cafes. But when I think of Shimokitazawa, the first thing that comes to my mind is the famous Kakigori from Shimokita Chaen. 

I finally made my way down to the tiny tea shop that opens only certain days of the month (from 2pm-6pm). Even if you check the calendar posted on their website, it is best to follow them on Twitter as they may randomly post a message that they are close for an event, even if it's only 2 hours before they should open. 

My queue timing did not shorten even when I reached the shop 30 minutes in advance before it opened to pick up a queue number. I was the 12th in line but I only entered the shop at 1.5 hours after it officially starts 2pm. The problem? Limited space and inflexible arrangements. You see a four-seater table being occupied by only 1 or even 2 customers. They won't allow another customer in to share the table. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Heap Seng Leong Coffeeshop : 那一年我们一起 lim kopi

Note: This was written in Aug 2015 but I left it hanging in the archive until now......

Even though I came here on a national day morning, everything seems to move in its regular cycle. The place is not too crowded and occasionally, some auntie living in the old neighborhood would stroll in to "dabao" not only the kopi but also the slices of cold butter. I wondered if she is going to put it on her bread or kopi when she reached home. 

Cocoa Colony: NEW Savoury Chocolate Sandwiches and More

When life gives you chocolate, you can make more than just cake. Maybe a Chocolate Toast with Prawn and Crab Mayo? 

This is one of the new item for Cocoa Colony, a Shanghai-born chocolate shop in Singapore which has expanded its current menu to include new sandwiches and waffles. Given that there are already chocolate ramen chocolate prawns, savoury chocolate sandwich isn't too wild and far-fetched to take root in Singapore. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

JB Ah Meng : Not just San Lou Bee Hoon

JB Ah Meng is one of the popular zichar stall that is well-loved even by celebrities and chefs. I've heard about it many years back but didn't really made a point to visit until a foodie friend recommended this place again. Moreover since it was awarded Bib Gourmand this year, I decided bring the family down for a weekend dinner. 

Perhaps due to hearing too much positive ravings about this place, I set my expectations too high. For our table of 5, we ordered the signature San Lou Bee Hoon (large-$14), which was served like a giant flattened pancake with rare sights of dark blistered marks. Perhaps I got the illusion that this was like the chao dar bee hoon from Yong Kee Seafood and thus I was a little upset that it doesn't boast any crispy aromatic char exterior or edges. 

If you perceive it as a fried bee hoon, then it's a well-executed one that is neither too greasy not salty, though there nothing particularly outstanding that would make me come back again for it. I still prefer something "chao dar" or burnt like the version from Yong Kee Seafood. 

Another disappointing dish was the Salted Egg Prawn Ball ($20) that many people have sung praises on. This was the last dish to be served as it was deep-fried in one single batch and portioned into the number of orders. Unfortunately the prawns were over-fried and very chewy, with barely any egg yolk emulsion clinging onto the fried batter. The mini sweet corn fritters was nice touches to balance the savoury flavors but it is not too difficult to find better renditions in other zichar stall. 

The Garlic Chili Clams aka La La (Large $30) was fragrant and had a strong garlicky taste in the "zhup" (sauce found at the base) but too salty on its own that I can't taste the sweetness of the shellfish. Likewise for the Fried Fish Head (Small $16) which boasted a good wok hei but would be nice if it could cut back on the sodium. 

Our favourite dish turned out to be the under-rated Ginger Onion Deer Meat (Small /$20). The meat was utterly smooth, tender, with generous amount of spring onions and caramelized chunky onions that introduced pleasant sweet notes to the dish. 

Another dish worth ordering is the Deep Fried Fish Skin (Small $12). Most places do them simply in salt and pepper or salted egg yolk style but the crispy fish skins here are served in sweet Thai-style pickled papayas dressing which made them even more perky and moreish. It was also my first time seeing both the Snake Beans with Lotus Root (S/$12) and Thai-style Cabbage (S/$12) served at zichar places. It was more interesting and enjoyable to have deep-fried lotus roots chips that worked like crispy toppings rather than everything thrown into the wok with the snake beans. 

I was very curious when I spotted the Thai-style Cabbage on the menu and it turned out quite different from what I expected. The cabbage was stir-fried with some chilli padi and crunchy ikan billis before topping with chewy cuttlefish that have been toasted to a nice firmness. However, it wasn't spicy at all and tasted quite similar to the Snake Beans dish except that it was slightly more saucy with hints of sour notes. Not too sure if this was meant to be a sour-spicy dish but it would be good if it was had been one. 

Last but not least, the Signature White Pepper Crab (market price) which was decent and could be more peppery. I couldn't remember much about this dish except for the fresh, meatiness of the claws. 

Try to avoid weekends as the kitchen struggles to deal with the full-packed tables and takeaway orders. Despite being the first customers during dinner service on a weekend, we had to wait around 45 min-1 hour because the kitchen had to settle the takeaway orders. 

I can understand why this place is so popular because the food is not too expensive and tastes not bad. However, the deliciousness hasn't reach the level that would compel a revisit in the near future. 

JB Ah Meng

2 Geylang Lorong 23
Daily 5.30pm-3am (Do note that they may postpone opening hour to 6pm at times)
Tel: 6741-2418

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sheraton Towers Singapore : An Indonesian Gastronomic Experience 15th-21st August

Gado Gado or Lobsters? 

You don't have to choose between the two as Indonesian guest chef John Suwarto takes familiar Indonesian street food and traditional dishes to a whole new level this August at the Dining Room in Sheraton Towers Singapore. Perched on a bed of tropical fruit salsa, kaffir and kecur-infused peanut dressing, the lobster was at its best, fresh and minimally seasoned to harmonize with the sauce. Such was a refined work that I kept reminding myself to savour slowly to prolong the enjoyment. 

Running from 15th to 21st August, this contemporary Indonesian gastronomic experience is part of the initiative between Sheraton and Indonesian Embassy to commemorate Indonesia Independence Day. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Patissez Singapore: Truly Freaky Milkshakes

Some things are best left to be admired from far. Like the freakshakes that have travelled all the way from Canberra. Came here in a highly anticipated mood with the girlfriends to check out the "latest" hot desserts in town but they fell way below expectations. 

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