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Orchard Road

brunch time at orchard road!

robert timms was an accidental brunch choice for a lazy saturday morning. accidental meaning that mandarin gallery’s antoinette and wild honey were both completely swamped, with waiting times of 30 – 45 minutes whilst robert timms @ orchard shopping center looked distinctly empty besides one of two tables and hence we settled on that.

not that it was a bad choice.

i like the fact that it wasn’t crowded and the place had an airy, cheery atmosphere that really encouraged much talking/sharing and just chilling out. furnishings are nothing much to talk about, its just a simple restaurant layout with some slight australian accents (like the koala). and its not too expensive — something like a cross between a cafeteria styled fast food place and a more sophisticated cafe like environment. let’s talk food.

big bang  ($18.00) – sausages, turkey ham, beef patty, baked beans and bacon

to be honest, its a little of a meat overload, and it was semi-comical trying to see my friend trying to slowly work through the entire portion. definitely satisfies meat lovers though my friend didn’t particularly like the beef patty, but otherwise its not a smart choice for a light brunch option. girls, you can share this amongst three i suspect.

three way toasts ($13.50) – sauteed mixed mushrooms, bratwurst sausage, poached egg with turkey ham on multigrain toasts 

i got this which was pretty decent, what with three distinct flavors topped onto some multigrain toasts. poached egg with turkey was good, with the egg being nicely soft-boiled, oozing upon being poked at. the sauteed mixed mushrooms could have benefited from a little more flavor and perhaps a little of pepper and herbs because it was pretty bland. the bratwurst sausage slices were pleasant and reminded me of chorizo – they were slightly spicy (like the korean bean paste style spicy). overall, a decent choice with variety and a balance of flavors. i mean, i’m not expecting top notch quality food here and neither am i paying for such, so its all good. 

couldn’t end the meal without a decent cafe latte ($5.80), since coffees were apparently the draw of this place (help me, i’m turning ang-moh with the need for coffee). its aromatic and decent (honestly cant comment much about coffee) and made for a good after-meal drink. to be honest, i like the place because its simple, not too crowded, serves hearty decent brunch food at a sensible price, and is a nice place to just chat and chill with friends. mission accomplished. 6.75/10

house of robert timms321 Orchard Road, #01-01/02, Orchard Shopping Centre, singapore 238866 | brunch, australian, contemporary

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bowl of hot soup. 

ippudo is synonymous with ultra-popular, delicious ramen in NYC, with massive queues snaking all the way out of the restaurant during meal times. and knowing this, when we visited ippudo NY a few years ago, i always ensured we went at off-peak times of like 11.00 or like 5.30 to avoid the crowd. still, the wait was roughly 30 mins – 1 hr, so you can understand the hype.

mind you, i think ippudo, NY is really quite good, and it has the crowds and the hype to prove it. well seasoned, delicious and nuanced soup broth paired with sinfully good char-shu pieces and noodles with a great ‘Q’ consistency, it’s the very definition of a good ramen.

so what about the singapore version of ippudo? hmm.. the queues somewhat remain, and its again good advice to come to ippudo at slightly off-peak timwes (read: earlier or later) if you don’t want to wait for too long, but its not as hyped as its NY sister. the menu is somewhat different as well, whereby the NY version stuck true to the notion of a ramen store with few other accompanying side-dishes, whereas the singapore one has incorporated quite a bit of other side dishes and mains, from hot/cold appetizers, salads and the likes (some look good to be honest, but when i go to a ramen stall, i go for the ramen).

so what about the ramen? i had chosen the shiromaru hakata classic with char-shu ($18) which promised a classically tasting, well-balanced ramen. and well, it fulfilled its brief. the char-shu was generously given — almost 5 – 6 pieces of well-broiled, flavorful meat that paired perfectly with the noodles and broth. the broth was a little light compared to local tastes but upon closer sampling, you could really sense that the flavors were firmly locked into the broth and masterfully nuanced. the only drawback? well.. the price and the stinginess of other condiments — to be honest, $18 is a little steep for a bowl of noodles, considering that other ramen contemporaries usually go around $12 – $15 and usually have much more other ingredients. ippudo’s ramen seems a little stingy by the fact that there is very little other ingredients added within the ramen bowl – i mean, the broth, noodles and charshu are all very good but not having almost anything else is a little sad. i mean, yeah you essentially could add in alot of other stuff like the onsen-tamago (half-boiled egg) and likes but these really hike up the price (i think each ingredient addition goes for around 2 – 3 bucks). so yeah, you could end up with a really expensive bowl of ramen if you want the full works.

didn’t try the rest of the dishes, but my previous experience of the akamaru ramen is that the soup broth is more intense in flavor and perhaps more suited for local flavors. to be honest i was pretty impressed by ippudo NY, but i can’t summon similar enthusiasm for ippudo singapore. i think the quality hasn’t exactly dropped — but the fact that it is fighting with some many other ramen contemporaries, be it tonkotsu king keisuke, ramen champion, marutama and the likes, all which aren’t too bad themselves and priced somewhat cheaper, means that it becomes that much more difficult to justify its price point or its hype. furthermore, we’re not comparing with the local variants of prawn noodles and chinese noodles and the likes, all which form some sort of competition with it.

ippudo’s worth a visit or two when you want the ambience and want a bowl of good ol’ hearty ramen. but its not gonna get the hype to make me a frequent patron at any rate.  6.75/10

ippudo mandarin gallery | 333A Orchard Road, #04-02/03/04 Mandarin Gallery, Singapore | japanese, ramen, pricey

sun with moon has a pretty interesting history if i may say. this moderately upscale (more expensive than your casual sushi tei and ichiban boshi) started off at wheelock and gained much praises and rave reviews and quickly became the place to have a chic, delicious japanese meal what with creative favorites like their kamameshi rice and tofu cheesecake. at the peak of its popularity, it was practically impossible to get seats without prior bookings and the restaurant expanded to central, and then chijmes.

but then, somehow the expansion hasn’t done it much good, and the fierce competition at central (with all the other well-marketed and delicious japanese restaurants) forced the eventual closure of the central branch (now replaced with sque rotisserie and alehouse by emmanuel stroobant.. i wanna go try).  and to be honest, the standard at wheelock has also somewhat disappointingly dropped, so it was with a sense of reservation that we headed back for another try. (mind you, i was very tempted to just head to skinny pizza or cedele next door)

the restaurant is a chic, artfully designed space using much wooden elements and dim lighting to create an almost sensual effect. tables are nicely spaced apart so you get a sense of privacy to catch up on the latest gossip (its pretty obvious the design of the place is to attract girls somehow). i noticed that the ceiling had english translations of haikus sprawled across which to be honest, is tad contrived and a little trying too hard to be atas.

and mind you, they do charge quite a bit for their food (since they want you to feel that this is an upscale place). sushi of 8 pieces go for roughly 20 a plate whilst mains go for 15 – 20 and sets go from 20 – 40. you can’t just go on an ordering spree here as you could possibly do at sushi tei.

lets look at the food.

nixon sushi (4 pcs, $9.90) – grilled eel, cream cheese, egg and cucumber

i chose this because the japanese restaurant at cornell university does an absolutely heavenly rendition of grilled eel + cream cheese + avocado sushi roll (that’s called out of control) and i really wanted to taste something similar. and to be honest, this is disappointing. the flavors don’t mesh well together (honestly its lacking the avocado imo) and the resulting flavor in the mouth isn’t one that is cohesive or particularly memorable. and when you charge $10 for a plate of sushi, i would wish for a certain standard.

pork belly kamameshi with soft boiled egg, $16.80 (without soup)

a restaurant recommendation, the kamameshi is essentially japanese rice cooked in an iron pot, where the rice normally gets slightly burnt at the bottom, giving a nice flavor to the dish (something like a mild version of a claypot). to be fair, the pork belly tasted great and had the melt-in-your-mouth sensation but what confused me was that when i poked the soft boiled egg and mixed the rice together, the watery-ness of the egg made the rice kinda wet and there wasn’t that slightly burnt effect in the end. (i dunno.. maybe the iron pot wasn’t hot enough, but my mom’s salmon kamameshi worked out fine). all in all, its a decent, special dish that can’t be found easily at other japanese restaurants but be warned that the flavors are somewhat lighter than what we singaporeans are commonly used to.

tofu cheescake, $6.50

a sentimental classic – the tofu cheesecake is light, very smooth and also very tasty. i don’t understand the concept of the cage to be honest, in my opinion its another example of the restaurant trying too hard but.. ah well.. they’re trying. its a tasty, satisfyingly good dessert- almost like the japanese variant to panna cotta with berries compote, though the berries here didn’t exactly go very well with the cheescake. wonder why.

all in all, to be honest, this place isn’t as good as what it used to be during its heydays. but there’s still good food and its worth a visit once in a while when you have to meet those gal pals and chit chat/bitch/catch up and the likes. lol. or yeah, a good dating spot i suppose. 6.75/10

sun with moon japanese dining and cafe | 501 Orchard Road, #03-15 Wheelock Place | japanese, upscale, desserts

give us our daily bread – (from leftmost, clockwise, chausson aux pomme (apple pie) $3.46, ekmek orange  (honey dough with dried orange peel) $3.18, croissant praline (hazlenut and praline cream) $3.08, pain au figure (bread with figs) $3.18

shall we indulge?

i love french breads and pastries, what with the gentle aroma wafting into your nose and the creative and delicious confections that are displayed for all to drool upon.

my friend told me to go try maison kayser at scotts square (this new shopping center next to tangs) which also has eateries such as delicious and wild honey. its essentially a parisien bakery that went to japan, combined the japanese efficiency and sensibilities before landing in singapore. this bakery/cafe is located at the basement of scotts square, essentially not having much of a store front but just a ringed-in open space with sensible chairs and tables (read: not much decor to speak of) and the brightly lit counter displaying delicious looking bread.

but the decor isn’t what people come for – its more for the bread eh? and boy.. it’s really pretty good. i recommend the chausson aux pomme because of the crust which is buttery (yet not jelak or oily), light, crispy and multi-layered such that the sensation of biting into the crust is a really pleasant one. ditto with the croissant praline, that has this delicious buttery crust that makes it so good, and so authentically french. this is legit baking man.  but yeah, this needs to be eaten freshly made to best feel the effect, because the crispness sadly (and naturally) decreases as time passes.

the breads do not pale in comparison as well – being crispy on the outside but chewy and soft on the inside. the special ingredients make for an interesting taste and i liked the combination of honey dough and orange peel of the ekmek orange, giving the bread a slightly sweet, pleasant taste.

all in all, a decent place to stop by for a chat and some pastries. yummy. 8.0/10

maison kayser | 6 scotts road #b1-09, scotts square, s228209 | bakery, pastries, cafe

i-phone shots.

im getting lazy hor? the introduction of an iphone makes toting around with a camera very leh-chey unless it’s some super major atas restaurant.. (but then those usually dim lights to such an extent that you’re pretty much taking night shots -_-) ah well, this post wasn’t pre-planned, but just that a casual lunch with my parents @ li bai was so surprisingly and pleasantly good that i felt compelled to blog about it.

so, li bai’s this cantonese restaurant located at the basement (i dont know why the address says GF) of sheraton towers – the decor and furnishings are pretty simple but echo an understated luxurious sense. mind you, the staff benefits here must be pretty awesome because some of the waitresses/captains have been working here for more than 7+ years since we first patronized this place. and as you can expect it, service is pretty darn excellent and personalized.

come here for their dim sum, which is intricately made and packs some serious nuanced flavor. the actual look of the dim sum might seem ordinary but the taste is nothing but. see above image, from top left clockwise, sui jing gao (water crystal dumpling – essentially different chopped vegetables wrapped in a crystal clear dumpling sheet), pan fried turnip cake, abalone spring roll and har gau (prawn dumpling).

i think har gau can be used as a standard to judge a dim sum restaurant’s worth since it is found everywhere, and boy does li bai come out with flying colors. the prawns are fresh and have that additional oomph and flavor locked within that really negates any need for additional chilli sauce or the likes. its also perfectly executed as the skin doesn’t flake or stick to the sides.

spring rolls are often the de facto dish of lousy american chinese food often really greasy and stuffed with semi-stale vegetables. so it came as a pleasant surprise that this humble dish was transformed at li bai to be a delicate, nuanced and utterly flavorful piece of confectionery, not the least bit oily. having abalone stuffing within didn’t hurt of course. =)

the other two dim sums similarly had such nuanced flavors locked within them and i’ll be willing to say that they taste much better than the average dim sum you can find here or even in hong kong (someone is gonna kill me.. hee).

we also ordered a noodle dish, that being a seafood crispy noodle – this is a must try at chinese zi char stalls or restaurants by the way – crispy wok-fried noodles that are immersed into a rich flavorful broth just before being served such that the noodles maintain their crispness by also soak up the broth. li bai’s rendition was well balanced, and what surprised me was how delicious the seafood ingredients within were. in particular, the cod fish was utterly flavorful and melted in your mouth – i’d seriously be willing to pay quite a bit for an entire dish of that cod. other ingredients like scallops and prawns were also juicy and well executed.

seriously, come to li bai for a great dim sum and cantonese feast. it’s not cheap, but its worth it. a small crispy noodle dish that serves 3 – 4 goes for $20, whilst the dim sum dishes are between 5 – 8 bucks for a plate of 4. (nice thing is also that they allow you to customize it to be say a plate of 3 or 5, depending on how many people you have, which removes the last piece syndrome eh?) 9.0/10

li bai restaurant | 39 scotts road, ground floor, sheraton towers, singapore | dim sum, cantonese, fine dining

fatty meat

asian kitchen is this mid-range chinese chain restaurant that is found at malls like nex and ion. with its contemporary design and layout, it almost feels as though it is catered for tourists and well.. non-chinese who crave some asian flavour. to be honest, i think i suck at reviewing chinese restaurants simply because I can describe nuance as how I would describe other cuisines. now this ain’t taking anything away from the chinese cuisine, considering how many amazing dishes there are, but just.. something about chinese dishes makes it difficult for me to judge. i just know i love stuff with “zhup” that i can smother on my white rice. to me, “zhup” is everything.

ahh.. i have digressed. ok back to asian kitchen. to be honest, i find the prices here pretty reasonable, and the food very flavorful and sufficient to keep u satiated and happy. let’s kinda break it down. the trademark barbecued pork (see above) was crispy but tad too fatty and gave a slight “jelak” feel. i’ve had better, crispier and less-health-worrying barbecued pork but this ain’t too better. (and to be honest, i think it’s nicer than crystal jade’s barbecued pork, which can be slightly tasteless)

eggy bowl rice, $5

this is essentially for a single person’s portion, though you can share with two people if you are having alot of other dishes. i like the “zhup” of the eggy bowl rice, though it couldn’t completely permeate every portion of the rice. overall, this has a home-cooked, simple feel to it and is quite satisfying.

crispy duck roll

good stuff – not too expensive and really tasty. i liked the crispiness of the roll and how all the flavors came together well without a sense of greasiness that you get with those panda express-style spring rolls.

soup- spinach, wolfberries, egg and pork

for the health conscious! this likewise has that homecooked, satisfying feel to it, and tasted pretty good. and it felt pretty healthy to boot.

hmm.. all in all, a very simple, contemporary chinese eatery that serves unpretentious home-cooked, tasty food at not too bad a price point. worth a visit if u are at those malls and hungry for some hearty, satisfying chinese food to share with your family or friends. ohh, and service was attentive and good as well. 6.5/10

the asian kitchen (lu gang xiao zhen)2 Orchard Turn, #B3-22 ION Orchard | chinese, home-cooked

cornucopia.

finding fellow salad eaters is a difficult task here in singapore, so it’s a great relieve to find people who wouldn’t stare at you if you order a salad as your main and instantly assume you are on some insane diet or some religious mumbo-jumbo. no, i actually find salads nice and a refreshing choice if prepared well. no kidding. =)

anyways, finally got down to going to antoinette @ mandarin gallery after many misguided aborted attempts during the weekends. this place is really getting alot of buzz and probably raking it rich, considering a third outlet is being set up near ann siang (the first being at penhas road). there’s something posh, french and atas about the place that i think is irresistible to most girls and the find also matches the ambience – the menu serves all-day french breakfasts with crepes, waffles, pain perdu (french toast) as well as other french classics ranging from salads to beef bourguinon. and then of course the highlights which are the desserts. the fact that i really liked my salad dish but was still salivating at the dishes being served at other tables is testament of how well the menu has been crafted to attract crowds. =)

i think what creates the ambience is mainly the dim lighting, the posh victorian style cushioned furniture, the beautifully monogrammed napkins and menus all contribute to creating this fantastical theme of being in Versailles and living the life of Marie Antoinette or her many courtiers. mind you, this is a very good singaporean interpretation of french olden luxury. whoever did the branding for this place really did their work. ok lah, let’s get to the food.

salad lyonnaise, $14.00

I got the salad lyonnaise, which had a garden greens, tomatoes, buttered croutons, pieces of bacon strips and topped with a runny egg. felt that the combination was really pretty good, with fresh ingredients which is essential for a good salad. this salad is like a semi-guilty salad — u avoid alot of carbs (just the croutons), you get some sinful food in the form of the bacon, but it is offset with the greens and a general sense of lightness. its a good salad, perhaps a tad expensive. ahh well, paying for ambience again -_- but to be honest, i haven’t found many places that really pay attention to their salad selections and put in efforts to create delicious, creative novel salads (i mean, besides like mesclun and salad shop but they are irritating located in the CBD area and closed on weekends. like hello? it’s not only bankers and stuff that eats grass you know!?)

exotique, $8.00

the main highlight of course was tasting the desserts, since my friend and I were both very into desserts. we got the exotique and some meringue +creme + passionfruit compote confection (can’t remember the name) to share. the exotique was some mango layer topped onto a mousse and sponge cake with gula melaka fillings. the mango was somewhat slightly too tart initially, and it was only till u managed to get to the center to taste the gula melaka and balance out the tartness did the dessert kind of work. my friend commented that this dessert grew on her, lol.. guess that’s another way to interpret it. it’s interesting, but probably not good enough to warrant gushing over it or waiting for a second try.

meringue/creme chantilly/passionfruit compote confection. $8.00

 again a really interesting dessert, not some traditional cakey stuff. this dessert essentially was two meringue bits that enclosed the vanilla creme chantilly and passionfruit compote (which was spread kinda unevenly). the meringue tasted pretty light, but not light enough as compared to french patisseries (lol) but combined well with the vanille creme chantilly. i particularly like the creme chantilly (but errm i guess its pretty easy to make) but found it difficult to taste or interpret the passionfruit compote within the dessert. another ok dessert.

overall? to be honest, this restaurant works because it fills a niche that surprisingly hasn’t been fully developed in singapore excepts perhaps by canele — the posh-feeling, french-inspired patisserie + mid-range restaurant that attracts girls like bees to honey. the cakes are interesting but not as fantastic as they are hyped to be (wished we could have tried the antoinette but it was sold out by then). the salads are nice, but well, its a little overpriced and i guess i can’t comment on the level of cooking because i didn’t get any complex dishes. nevertheless i want to come back and try them. it seems weird but i cant really think of another place that serves similar food, except perhaps hediard, but even then, hediard only mainly serves croque monsieurs.

another thing that is nice is that despite the seemingly posh environment, you still can order ice water/hot water for free, no one scoffs at you if u are just ordering desserts and service is generally acceptable. its not like those irritating places that charge u money for fricking water. -_- overall, expect to see more antoinettes and antoinette-copy cats around town soon. 7.5/10

antoinette333A Orchard Road, #02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery | desserts, french