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Mid – Range ($15 – $30)

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

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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

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

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

birthday cakes are even more awesome when you get to sample 4 different flavors! =)

yay.. it’s the birthday season for me already, which means an excuse to visit tons of atas restaurants and then regret when the bill comes! lol..

anyways, let’s talk about canele patisserie chocolaterie cakes, which my sis kindly bought to celebrate my birthday with. its kinda cool really, four different flavors means four sampling chances of different cakes. in clockwise, starting from the bottom left, the cakes are:-

matcha ($7)  – to me, the best cake of the bunch. it’s light, melts in your mouth, and tastes like a healthier, cake version of the starbucks green tea frappe if you get my drift. perfect for the lazy afternoon spent catching up with health conscious, glamorous friends. and hey, matcha has fat-burning properties!

black forest – never liked black forest, so i never knew what was inside. so i needed to google it out – essentially chocolate with cherry on the top and sandwiched within the cake and infused with a clear colorless brandy called kirsch. i found the cake pretty decent – the chocolate was smooth and went down the throat pleasantly, though to be honest, i didn’t really taste much of the kirsch. (might be a matter of tolerance since my mom instantly said she tasted alcohol upon first bite). other than that, this cake wasn’t very impressionable.

strawberry shortcake ($6.50) – this is once again, a very light and smooth dessert — perhaps that’s what characterizes canele cakes – pleasant, unobtrusive and girly in a certain sense. i liked the lightness of the japanese shortcake and felt that the amount of kirsch added into the cake was just right – sufficient to lend a smoothness to the shortcake and not too much to cause it to be soggy. yummy.

tarte au citron – well balanced and not too tangy, with a well baked crust at the bottom. yummy, but once again, unobtrusive. in a sense, these are pleasant cakes but not cakes that will wow you out of your seat or send you on a gastronomic journey. but good nonetheless.

overall, pleasant cakes that serve as a pretty awesome birthday cake when combined together! and i must say, the packaging and branding is really well done. you feel good when you see someone brandishing out a elegant and artfully designed canele cake box for your birthday. =)

canele patisserie – chocolaterie (raffles city shopping center) |   252 North Bridge Road, #B1-46/47 Raffles City Shopping Centre | desserts, western, contemporary