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Clarke Quay | Robertson Quay

solace by the riverside.

brought my parents to eM by the river for some roberston-quay style brunch, complete with a gratuitous serving of ang-mohs. eM by the river is essentially an al-fresco cafe thats well shaded from the sun, creating a cool, tropical-gardens atmosphere without the heat… well.. almost completely without the heat (one can’t escape the humidity unless you head indoors). but well, the concept seems to be that of dining among lush foliage and fresh fruits, with the restaurant trying to create the illusion that fresh fruits are plucked from the backyard, pulped and squeezed at the juice bar and brought to us patrons fresh. its a decent concept, and creates a congenial, nature-friendly, semi lazy, laid back atmosphere.

dining in the gardens. juice bar sold separately.

let’s bring out the food.

american breakfast ($20) – comes with fruit juice and coffee/tea

hmm.. i don’t know.. compared to tobey’s estate cafe’s rendition, this seems a little.. cheap? i mean, the bread doesn’t look as appetizing considering it looks just like some toasted gardenia bread and honestly both the sunny side up eggs and beans seem pretty easy to pull off (you don’t even need any cooking effort for the beans). to me, as long as the stuff served seems as though i could have done it, then it kinda begs the question… why pay $20 for such simple fare? and to be honest, the combination of items was also a little too jelak, without any greens to offset the inherent greasiness of the oil from the bacon, mushroom and eggs. not exactly a fan here.

prawn aglio olio

my mom ordered this dish because she belongs to the generation that firmly believes breakfast food should not be consumed at lunch and hence cannot grasp the concept of eating brunch stuff at like 12 noon. but then she specified it to be not spicy, and the order actually came out to be extra spicy. kind of a poor service there.. or well, maybe its just a mis-communication, but it certainly marred our impression of the place slightly. but to its merit, the dish was flavorful and tasty and the prawns were fresh and juicy. its pretty good, but a little on the unhealthy side again, as the entire dish was drenched in quite a bit of oil.

all in all, not exactly an impressive entry in terms of food. the ambience is indeed appealing, but perhaps more to the expatriates who love the al-fresco, sun-soaked tropical environment. i like seeing such an environment, but from the confines of a nice air-conditioned room to escape the weekend morning’s heat. lol. oh, there’s free wifi here as well. =) 6.25/10

eM by the river | 1 nanson road, #01-05, the gallery hotel | brunch, chillax

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for the love of coffee.

our collective comment when we entered the industrial, sleek-looking, sun-lit space was… “wah.. all ang moh one…”. it was as though we were transported to australia and had entered some cool cafe by darling harbor. well, i guess you get such experiences especially when you choose to dine at restaurants and cafes along the robertson quay area (read: kith cafe, eM by the river, toby’s estate etc) but i guess the feeling is still kinda surreal to walk in and feel suddenly as though you have entered a different country.

i rest my case.

anyways, toby’s estate has a really cool interior that has that pared down, industrial minimalist vibe to it. the walls have that stark unfinished feel and you get to see most of the ventilation shafts and pipings on the really high ceiling. natural light comes beaming in from the large windows sited high-up on the walls and gives the entire place a natural sun-lit feel. the furnishings continue the theme of this industrial-sparseness, the tables being constructed from sturdy wood and steel pipings used as support. its the exact aesthetic i want to design my future house with.

ok la.. we talk food here, so here goes.

baguette with bacon and eggs ($12)

toby’s estate is known for their coffee blends, but their brunch efforts ain’t too shabby as well. its essentially typical brunch fare with a slight ozzie influence, hence you see alot of bacon, eggs, ham, bread and the likes.

toby’s big breakfast ($16)

i got the toby’s big breakfast, which honestly looks pretty darn awesome and smells very good as well. i was commenting to my friends how i loved the way the bread had been grilled/toasted perfectly to have that a golden-brown crisp and skillet marks and how it really whetted one’s appetite to see such inviting hues of golden, yellow and reds. the bread was crispy, the bacon utterly sinful but delicious, the tomatoes fresh and not oily/greasy. what could be improved could be the mushrooms (kind of blah..) as well as the eggs (a little light on taste). but overall, this is a really good rendition of a typical big breakfast, and at a decent pricepoint.

to be honest, i think with brunch places that serve common brunch fare, what really sells the ambience and crowd. tobey’s estate has this down pat, drawing the expat and well-dressed/well-heeled crowd, and also creating an inviting, expansive place for people to just sit back and while away their weekend mornings. what’s nice is that there also is free wifi and free flow of water to go with your meal (but of course, get some coffee).

i used to (well i still do) grumble about how singapore’s brunch scene is so limited in terms of food variety, serving up the most basic of brunch dishes that lack inspiration or creativity but i guess i’ve come to appreciate that brunch in singapore is not that much about food creativity but about eating wholesome comfort food in a chillax environment. there’s still some places that serve inspired brunch dishes (my friends mentioned wild honey, spruce and hatched) though, so i’ll still be on the hunt for inspired brunches. =)

till then. 7.75/10

toby’s estate cafe | 8 rodyk street #01-03/04, singapore 238216 | brunch, coffee, chillax

no nonsense, good japanese food

so chikuwa tei was a recommendation by my dear friend stephanie, who was raving much about the chirashi don one night in cell after i told her about kinki’s foie gras+hotate sushi. apparently it is by this grumpy chef that was originally from a wildly popular Wasabi-tei but whatever the history, I was craving some good chirashi after tasting some sub par, scrawny versions in places like mof @ japanese sweets & coffee at raffles city.

chikuwa tei is pretty much a no-nonsense, no frills japanese eatery that doesn’t spend much on decor or ambience — classic japanese filmsy wooden tables and chairs are placed neatly across the wide expanse of the room with nary an acoutrement or decoration. the only efforts at decoration lie at one side of the wall which is covered with a wallpaper of a cherry blossom scene. it reminds me of a canteen, but who cares about decor when you’re just there for value, nice japanese food and you have good company eh?

service is kinda typically singaporean auntie style, direct and straightforward without much pleasantries. we quickly ordered our chirashi dons ($24) and were promptly served with simple appetizers, miso soup and watermelon as dessert (ughh..). one thing i like is how quick the service is — if you’re hungry, fret not – the chirashi don comes real quick.

speaking of the chirashi don.. wowzers.. this thing is really fresh. and the assorted pieces of sashimi as generously thick, juicy and just really tasty. paired with copious amounts of wasabi+shoyu, it was one of my most satisfying japanese dinners to date. i mean, this dish is all about the freshness of the sashimi and how much you’re given. and i’m happy to say chikuwatei didn’t disappoint — there was shake (salmon), maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail – bottom, next to the ginger), uni (sea urchin – that orangey piece in the center, surprisingly fresh and tasty!), mekajiki (swordfish – the pale pink whitish slabs at the left),  and hotate (scallop)! so much variety and each one so fresh and delicious!

all in all, a satisfying meal in a no-frills restaurant. good stuff! 8.0/10

chikuwa tei | 9 mohamed sultan road, #01-01 | japanese, traditional

unabashedly french.

last monday is what people would call a bridge workday — an unfortunate work day stuck between the weekend and a public holiday. so the common notion would be to take leave and enjoy a mega long weekend. so take the leave i did, and i used the off day to bring my parents for an executive lunch at st pierre, since dinner options would have been scarily exorbitant.

st pierre is tucked away along magazine road, in a quite little corner where you don’t just chance upon the place. you have to know the establishment exists and actually go hunt for it. but i guess with celebrity chef emmanuel stroobant at the helm, its worthwhile to hunt for the restaurant. mind you, i hunted for this restaurant because i had gone for the more pared down, cheaper version of chef stroobant’s creations at picotin and thoroughly enjoyed myself and hence i wanted more stroobant. lol.

so the interior exudes a sense of classy, understated luxuriance. there’s an air of sophistication and quiet atas-ness that can intimidate casual eaters initially, but you are put to ease immediately by the maitre d’. speaking of service, i must really commend the maitre d’ for a class act, being able to put everyone at ease and remove any sense of pretentiousness that one would assume would be attached to a classy restaurant like this. you see, my dad was kinda not familiar with the dishes and their names but the maitre d’ instantly saw my dad’s troubles and deftly handled the situation, warmly explaining what the lunch menu entailed and introducing us the best picks from the menu without a sense of haughtiness and without losing any bit of professionalism. that’s singapore service at its best imo. ok lets get to the food.

the first amuse bouche was a smoked salmon concoction (see picture above). this was a nice refreshing start, the salt grains blending well with the salmon and tomatoes. i couldn’t catch the full breakdown of the ingredients sadly, because after the maitre d’ left, the ensuing waitress wasn’t too good at explaining the dishes in detail. =(

we were next served our bread and i must say, one thing i absolutely adore about french food is how the weave in design and aesthetic within food, be it in the presentation, the colors involved with the food and even how food is described in french restaurants. every dish feels like a visual art experience both literally and metaphorically. i mean, where else would you see bread being presented in such an interesting manner? and it was delicious bread i must say — we had milk bread on the top panel along with sourdough and a yoghurt bread at the side paired with salted butter and hazlenut butter (which my dad loved). each piece was warm and smelt heavenly, and the dabs of butter lent a complementary savory touch to the bread. yummy.

amuse bouche #2 – lobster carpaccio with zucchini. again, i’m kinda annoyed because i couldn’t fully understand what the ingredients were thanks to the mumbling of the waitress. the lobster carpaccio was fresh, refreshing and delicious, the salty seafood flavor blending well with the zucchini.

appetizer – classic foie gras – pan fried foie gras with caramelized green apples and old port sauce. HEAVENLY. the best foie gras i had tasted in a long long while that truly melted in your mouth thanks to the warm sauce poured atop of the foie gras (that i assume melted the foie gras slightly). really complex, intense flavors. between this rendition of the foie gras and kinki’s foie gras and salmon sushi, i’m seriously starting to become a fanboy of foie gras.

another classic from the restaurant, the cabillaud au miso, miso braised black cod with bacon pancakes, pan fried endives and parmesan emlusion. when i saw this in the menu i instantly gravitated toward the bacon pancakes which sounded so good. when this was served, i was awed by the size of the black cod – almost completely justifying the price of the entire meal instantly. the cod was perfectly done, flakes falling off cleanly and tasting fresh and wonderful. but what really sold the dish to me was the combination of the bacon and the cod – wow, i wouldn’t have thought of such a combination but this really worked. somehow the salty flavor of the bacon juxtaposed perfectly with the nuanced, more balanced flavor of the cod, and enhanced the flavor of the cod, giving additional complexity to the dish. amazing stuff.

ahh desserts – chocolate cake, grandma stroobant’s flourless belgian chocolate with raspberries and orange zest confit. ya’know, i get immensely jealous when i see grandman’s blah blah.. on menus because i wish my family had a long heritage of amazing chefs or something with many treasured recipes to pass down. lol.. wouldn’t it be amazing to head home and smell this baking in the oven? the chocolate was just the right amount of richness and complexity. yum.

petit fours (french translation of “small oven”, usually small confections served at the end of a meal) – for this we had passionfruit macaroon, some sort of meringue and.. sigh.. i can’t really remember because the passionfruit macaroon dominated my taste buds memory. haha.. the macaroon was delicious and light, not as creamy as Canele’s renditions or as intense a flavor as La Duree, but somehow it felt just right in terms of the lightness and how it tied the entire meal together.

all in all, a beautiful gastronomic experience. i think only in french food would you call a meal beautiful, and this is one such case. the damage to your wallet? well, for set lunches, dessert+main course goes at 32, appetizer+main course goes at 42, with a supplement of 8 if you order the foie gras (do it), and the entire trio goes at 52. methinks its really pretty value for money considering the food you eat. its not those stingy bite sized portions, but sumptuous and yet nuanced dishes that excite your palete and bring you on a gastronomical roller-coaster ride. come here once for the real deal. 8.75/10

 st pierre the restaurant3 Magazine Road Singapore 059570 | french, fine dining, desserts, contemporary

[sunset @ clarke quay]

i was pleasantly surprised when i looked out of the windows @ central today and saw beautiful colors illuminating the sky as the sun was setting.. hmm I remember commenting to my compatriots in Italy that Singapore doesn’t ever has nice sunsets as compared to the riotous oranges, reds, pinks and blues that compose the Italian sunset sky. but hey.. looks like Singapore wants to prove me wrong eh? haha

where to eat

<ma maison, central>

[jap-western fusion dinner – this one’s a oven baked sea bass with (i suspect) camembert cheese and vegetables, $15.50]

central seems like a shopping mall that has had not much luck in retaining its tenants (we bid farewell to long time tenant, sun&moon), which is surprising consider the pretty decent location across of clarke quay. and well, the food quality of the japanese restaurants here warrants many visits to the area but perhaps the similarity in the food amongst the different japanese restaurants is taking its toll and the resturants are inevitably killing each other out for the similar business. hmm maybe’s central’s business plan isn’t too good.

anyways, ma maison has been recommended across hungrygowhere and the likes as having decent jap-fusion food of a certain quality, something like a more expensive and better version of pasta de waraku (which i happen to despise). i wonder if japanese restaurants have collectively been hit hard by the radiation fears because the usual crowd as described by hungrygowhere reviews was absent and we were seated in a nice corner location facing clarke quay. the ambience in general had a cosy, european-homestead feel and was decorated with fanciful western bric-a-brac to create a wholesome atmosphere. i was pretty geared up to explore the food of the  restaurant.. so let’s dig in..

[escargots in garlic butter – $9.50]

hmm at a pricepoint of $9.50 for 6 escargots.. this is heading toward the same price region as typical midrange french restaurants and honestly, the taste was pretty much similar as well. i mean here’s where i kinda am confused with jap-western food – what’s the point here? is it western food that supposed to be more aligned to the asian taste buds? im confused. anyways, you really cant go much wrong with escargots in garlic butter because garlic butter is a winner in whatever occasion. this one was no exception. good, but i wonder about the value.

[squid ink pasta, inspired by italy’s nero di seppia pasta, $15.90]

ehhh.. uninspired. perhaps its because i’ve tasted the Italian version that has much more exquisite and wholesome flavors, this pasta almost seems like squid-ink pasta lite — lite on ingredients and lite on taste. (for good nero di seppia, head to Otto Ristorante @ Red Dot Museum). not too impressed. by the way, my parents ordered the oven baked fish and a hamburger steak (their speciality it seems) and my comment still remains the same – it feels like european food lite – lite on flavors and perhaps, adjusting to japanese tastes, the dishes all have a certain added sweetness to them.

[orange tart, $7.80]

DELICIOUS. this is where the japanese-infused sweetness works. fresh orange segments paired with light frothy cream and a tasty base that doesnt feel any bit jelak (ps cafe’s cakes come to mind) but rather feels tasty and fresh. overall review? im kinda confused as to the purpose of japanese-western food i guess.. i mean, why settle for another culture’s take on some other culture’s food when you can easily obtain the original culture’s food here in Singapore at a similar price range? and well overall, despite the good blessings from hungrygowhere, i think ma maison is good only for desserts. 5.5/10