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food ecstasy

I didn’t know this when i stumbled upon the restaurant on my way home with steph & ben, but anatra grassa translates directly to “fat duck” – which is interesting, considering the fat duck restaurant by heston blumenthal is a three star michelin restaurant in UK. tough act to follow eh?

names aside, anatra grassa is quite the stylish restaurant located along the quiet via savoia close by to villa borghese. the interior is awash in black minimalistic furnishings with the predominant feature being a wall-to-wall wine shelf that stretches across one side of the restaurant. nice stuff, but let’s talk food eh?

appetizer – four way seafood antipasto: (from left, clockwise) tuna tartare with balsamic vinegar, octopus with cherry tomatoes and julienne of asparagus and salmon carpaccio with aioli

appetizer (continued) – mussels in tomatoes and white wine (42euro for 3 people)

i’d be first to admit that this ain’t cheap, but what with the celebratory mood of a last meal in rome with friends, it was a delicious and wholly satisfying quartet of seafood dishes. with raw seafood, the freshness of the seafood determines almost 75% of the overall taste, to which anatra grassa really excelled, with the tuna and salmon being utterly refreshing and crisp, perfectly accented by the balsamic vinegar and the aioli respectively. steph and I particularly enjoyed the octopus, finding the pieces chewy, tasty and fresh. and last but not least, you really can’t go wrong with mussels in tomatoes and white wine – and with the basket of bread used to soak up the remnants of the delicious sauce, this appetizer was literally a five course start. =)

 main – moulard duck with caramelized apples, 19euro

what with a moniker like “fat duck”, we practically had to order their duck dish. and what a great choice. the duck was well executed, but what really sold it was the harmonious way the caramelized apples complemented the duck, lending the duck meat an extra sweetness, that together with the savory flavor of the duck, made for an awesome combination.

 black truffle spaghetti, 14euro

when this dish came out and was served to steph, the smell was so heavenly that it took all my self control and manners to prevent myself from reaching over to grab some of the noodles and chow them down. the truffle is generously spread across the dish and as i said about truffles before, you really can’t go too wrong with anything cooked with truffles. yet another good dish.

dessert – creme brulee with tahiti creme (see top image, 8euro), chocolate finger (chocolate mousse with white chocolate), drizzled with pistacchio and paired with cinnamon ice cream (9euro).

dessert time came, and this was where the restaurant really won me over and created that food ecstasy experience that I rarely get nowadays – you know, the feeling of happiness just surging from within when you taste something, where an inexplicable smile spreads across your face and you literally develop tunnel vision for your food. yup that’s what happened here.

we initially each ordered one dessert, with intention to share it out – steph got the creme brulee, ben the tiramisu and me, the dessert special which was explained to me as a chocolate finger with pistachio. but when the desserts came out, i lost all intention to try the other desserts, because the chocolate finger was both a visual and gastronomic feast – so beautifully plated as though it came out from the top chef just desserts kitchen and so so good. the three flavors of the chocolate finger, pistachio and cinnamon ice cream were individually really awesome, clean flavors, but together they really melded and created harmony. =) 

and well, the creme brulee was good. (i snuck a taste after i finished my chocolate finger. =))

all in all, a great restaurant for that special meal to end of a wonderful trip in rome. this place ain’t exactly cheap, with the bill amounting to slightly under 50euros a person (complete with awesome wine – a sauvignon blanc from laimburg, sudtrol-alto adige). but methinks its kinda justified, what with a swanky ambience, great food and above that, wonderful service. the service really deserves special mention, because its one of the restaurants where the servers spoke near perfect english and made it a point to explain all the ingredients within the dish, as well as suggest proper wine pairings for the food. it is so far the only restaurant i felt comfortable enough to ask all sorts of questions (in english nonetheless) regarding the dishes, which also elevated the experience.

i’ll be back.

anatra grassa | via savoia, 68 | italian (venetian), desserts, seafood, fine dining | 9.0/10

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the farewell feasts

been so utterly busy settling pre-trip administration that its been difficult to blog about all the good food i’ve been ingesting that’s been seriously threatening my diet regime. -_-.. but i suppose there’s something about eating great food that makes you want to share it with the rest.. so here goes:-

new ubin seafood kinda exists in a shady-looking area amidst car-repair workshops (which explains the rows of cars in various states of disrepair, some with obvious vandalism signs) so i guess if u wanna call it hidden, you could. its definitely a foodie’s place, considering this would be the last place you would expect a good zi char restaurant to exist. so there.

for the uninitiated, zi char translates loosely as “cook-fried” (which doesn’t make much sense i suppose), but describes a category of chinese food that involves huge fires and big woks to completely “fry” the food and imbue the essence of the “wok-heat” within. (gosh, translations don’t exactly make sense). well, nowadays the definition is kinda loose, but it essentially describes all sorts of dishes that are to be shared among many and eaten with rice/mantou etc..

so new ubin is pretty cool because it seems to have incorporated some western influences and modern amenities – first with a decent air-conditioned eating room (which apparently is fully-booked quite far in advanced during the weekends. we went on a weekday and it was mercifully less crowded), and then also with obvious western styled dishes mixed into their menus.

one of their signatures is the rib-eye beef with caramelized onions, a side serving of wedges and a plate of fried rice fired from the remnants of beef portions and beef oil ($56, see picture above). and boy.. this dish seriously trumps many major western restaurants in terms of the flavor, texture and savoriness of the beef. we ordered the beef medium  and gosh every bit was utterly delicious, meaty, tender and juicy with tons of flavors locked within. providing caramelized onions and mustard certainly didn’t hurt as well. then we come to the fried rice — fellow foodie laishan swears by it as one of the best fried rice she has ever tasted, and honestly i concur – the rice is fried just nice, lending the rice grains a certain level of “kou-gan” (loosely translated as ‘mouthiness’ or a certain bubbly efferverscent texture) and the beef ingredients (fried to a crisp) form the perfect juxtaposition to the rice grains. this dish is obviously blardy unhealthy but its utterly irresistible. this is a must order.

and you know what’s best? this place has no corkage charges and people are known to bring bottles and bottles of wine to enjoy it with this amazing rib eye beef. and honestly, with servings meant for 2 – 3 and the additional acoutrements, $56 is a pretty darn decent price. western restaurants ought to shudder in fear.

another signature is their fried hokkien mee ($24), in which a ‘small’ order comes served in a gigantic plate that can serve up to 7 bowls of glorious, seafood-broth drenched noodles that taste pretty awesome. again, you can choose to be blardy unhealthy and add tons of lard into the dish (i opted out), but its delicious on it own, with generous servings of ingredients like squid, barbecued pork and so on. the noodles are chewy and well cooked. yummy!

creamy sauce flower crab with fried mantous 

besides these, we ordered salted egg squid ($18), kang-kong fried in belachan, and flower-crab in creamy sauce paired with mantous and it was enough to fill 5 of us up completely. (we regretted getting 2 bowls of rice to share) once again, its utterly unhealthy food but also quite irresistible. to be honest, im not a fan of crab and i can’t discern between awesome seafood and just ok seafood so i shan’t comment too much – i just know i enjoyed the interesting and original creamy, slightly spicy sauce that the crab was cooked in, which made for a delicious dip for the mantous. (and gosh, i absolutely love those fried mantous)

all in all, a very delicious expensive that is obviously gut-busting and cholesterol racking. laishan mentioned that she could feel her arteries clogging as she gobbled down the salted egg squid so eat in moderation k? it might be quite unhealthy, but in moderation, the meal was utterly satisfying and didn’t leave one with that greasy, jelak feel that you sometimes get when you have gobbled down copious amounts of fats and such (i.e. like a gigantic kfc meal).

its not exactly cheap – we paid $35 a person for the meal (inclusive of orh-nee dessert, which we didn’t particularly like) but to be honest, considering the spread of food that we had eaten, it’s a decent price. overall, a good recommendation and a better place to bring your ang-moh friends to expose them to awesome, authentic singaporean food instead of the more expensive options of like no signboard seafood or ah hoi’s kitchen. 8.0/10

new ubin seafood (sin ming) |  Block 27 Sin Ming Road (behind Block 26), #01-174 Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A | local, chinese

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

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

sometimes, you just need to take a break.

guys, i was so tired after returning from italy, so jet lagged, and realizing that i had much admin stuff to settle, i decided to apply for an urgent one day leave to really rehabilitate. and… well… take the chance to go eat some nice food with my parents – in particular, nice food that is out of my price range during dinner times but manageable for set lunches.

i think au petit salut is a pretty well known, french fine-dining spot, occupying a prominent spot along harding road that’s slight off dempsey — you can’t miss it when you travel down from holland road to orchard road as its this handsome, stately building. that being said, it’s not exactly that easily accessible as you have to make some sort of detour and enter from a side road, passing through golf courses and a beautiful, well-preserved old style church building.

ambience wise, au petit salut has this laid back colonial charm. we were seated outside at the verandah which was hmm.. tad warm considering that our table was placed at a spot where the roof was not exactly completely covered and the blazing sun rays seared inwards making my mom somewhat uncomfortable. service was pretty good otherwise, with good recommendations, polite and attentive servers and fast service.

let’s get to the food.

we ordered the set lunches. there’s two types of set lunch, the $35 one is the cheaper one with more selections whilst the $48 one is a executive set lunch that presumably contains the best dishes (foie gras, lobster ravioli etc..). we settled for the $35 one since it looked pretty decent itself.

my appetizer was homemade duck rilettes served with petit salad and toast (see picture above). the rilettes (meat that is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until tender enough to be easily shredded) was tasty and went well with the toast, which was fresh and crispy. i mean, its your quintessential authentic french cuisine recipe executed well — the flavors are great and tasty, but they’re a little tried and tested and lack the innovation that gives it a certain oomph. hmm.. i might be making a blasphemous statement here, but perhaps the dish could have that added pizzazz if some form of sweetness could have been incorporated into the dish? (say maybe changing the toast to a brioche?)

pan seared Onglet beef served with shallot confit, pommes frittes

so thanks to wikipedia, i found that Onglet, otherwise known as hanger steak, is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor (but apparently not particularly tender). its kinda smallish compared to normal cuts of steak, and pardon my ignorance, but i didn’t feel that this cut was particularly flavorful or tasty. it was definitely good, and the shallot confit paired well, but it was a little too expected. pommes frittes were executed perfectly – crunchy, shoe-string style crispy and delicious. i’m not really impressed honestly.

soya cheesecake, jasmine tea sorbet and green tea sauce

yay for creativity once again! french desserts rarely disappoint (as compared to italian ones) and this was no exception. this dessert won my mom’s approval for being both utterly delicious and yet obviously healthy. the winner was the jasmine tea sorbet which was light, with faint whiffs of jasmine tea and very refreshing. the soya cheesecake was very light but still held its own because the the jasmine tea sorbet and the green tea sauce were similarly light on the palette and overall the dessert was refreshing, light and yet very yummy.

so.. all in all? if you’re searching for typical, authentic french fare, then au petit salut is your place. you get delicious french cuisine at a cheap price (if you choose set lunches) that is of an unparalleled standard. however, innovation and exciting new flavors is what this place seems to lack, except perhaps on the dessert front. perhaps its only the case for set lunches, im not too sure, but i would rather head to st pierre for a set lunch because it has really unique flavors served even during set lunches. and yeah, they serve a whole range of petit fours and amuse bouche, whereas au petit salut only gave fresh bread (which is nice also lah). 7.75/10

au petit salut | 40C Harding Road, Tanglin Village (Dempsey Road) | french, fine dining, set lunches, 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