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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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when you like something, go really like it.

readers would know that I’ve been on a serious nazi-esque cupcake hunt ever since my sister dropped by Rome and influenced me to watch episodes of Cupcake Wars. This time round, thanks to revealedrome.com‘s tip of a new american cupcake outlet along via dei coronari, I made immediately plans to steer my friend Steph’s rome visit toward that area, so I could serendipitously stumble upon this bakery and grab some awesome cupcakes.

and boy, the shop itself looks really delicious – the window display decked in many bright, miniature cupcakes and pastries whilst the interior was a breath of fresh air, with a minimalistic, clean aesthetic dusted with a little feminine aesthetic. if ambience could be eaten, this would be a nice frosting to pair with the many cupcakes on the glass displays!

bright airy interior of made creative bakery  

the cupcakes aren’t cheap, by the way, so be prepared for prices of between 3 – 5 euros for the cupcakes. I selected a hazelnut cupcake with hazelnut frosting and flower fondant because to me it was unique enough of a flavor to infuse into a cupcake , and well, also because it was one of thecheaper cupcakes going at 3.50 euro (the chocolatey cupcakes were going at 5.00 euro a piece! scary..).  the verdict? a super moist, delicious cupcake that has a natural, delicious hazelnut flavor that permeates the cupcake and the frosting. this is seriously a great midday treat for the travel weary tourist! do visit! 3.5/5 cupcakes

made creative bakery | via dei coronari, 25


break time.

having coffee at a cafe sitting down is just about as touristy as lugging a roma guidebook in one hand and a camera in the other. real romans stand at the counter of these cafes enjoying their indulgent expresso shots before bustling off to mind their business. and well, at times there really is a price difference between standing and sitting.

interior of angelina a trevi – courtesy of angelina a trevi website

but nevertheless, with surroundings as cosy, tranquil and artsy as angelina a trevi’s cafe space, one is really tempted to just settle down on one of the plush leather sofas and engage in some restful people watching (or tourist watching since this place is mightily close to the trevi fountains). ambience is a large draw in this case, and the coffee is decently good, as can be said for most cafes in italy. their website recommends you to try their caffe angelina and tiramisu in a jar, which sounds pretty awesome and is on my list for a next try.

or better yet, go try out their restaurant located right next door. maybe you’ll see me there sometime soon.

Angelina a Trevi | Via Poli, 27 (closeby to Trevi fountain)
Opens daily 9am to midnight


bakers, the battle for cupcake supremacy has begun!

[update: faithful readers might be quick to realise that i reneged on my decision to move blogs – well the honest reason is that it is really too painful to just “move shop” like this, and honestly, for all the foodies out there, good food in rome is still good food, albeit to be savored with the proper opportunity. so yeah, this blog stays and hopefully grows. contact me for collaborations and stuff guys!]

i’d admit it isn’t the most masculine of shows to watch. but geez, when you have a sis that comes over to rome to bunk in for awhile and insists on watching CW’s cupcake wars, you can kinda get caught up with watching these stressed bakers try to incorporate wacky ingredients like chai spice and coriander (yuck) within their cupcakes, with various degrees of success. plus, with its nice 30 minute bite size episodes, it makes a good meal-time show. =)

and of course, watching such cupcakes shows is like force-feeding cupcake temptations upon yourself and i set out to find some cupcakes in the sprawling city of rome. it ain’t easy, to be honest, because foreign craves (especially foodwise) don’t seem to create much of an impact in this country abundant with good food and culinary tradition (which explains the dearth of starbucks). luckily, on my way back home one day, i spotted a patisserie and went in to find.. gorgeous cupcakes!

its a really quaint shop along via savoia called officina dolce with a nice shop-owner that speaks decent english fronting the artfully designed store. in it you find different pastries, pies, italian-styled cupcakes and most importantly, the american-styled cupcakes! my mom nabbed a lemon curd cupcake (2.00 euro, foreground of picture) whilst i got for myself an angel cupcake (2.50 euro, background of picture) which is a vanilla cupcake topped with a cream cheese with lemon frosting and drizzled with white chocolate shards.

the verdict? (let me try to be like florian bellanger).. the cupcakes was executed well, with the cake being moist, but what stole the show was the amazing cream cheese frosting with light lemon hints that went very well with the vanilla cake and chocolate shards. yummy! i was so happy eating the cupcake!

[update 2: i went back to officina dolce and tried the counterpart to the angel’s cake, which was a devil’s cake – dark chocolate cupcake mixed with a little cayenne (i suspect) to give it a slight spicy taste. to be honest, after comparing with made creative bakery’s cupcakes, this cupcake isn’t as interesting or as moist, so i’m assigning taste rankings specially for cupcakes as well.. and this deserves – 2.5 / 5 cupcakes.]

you can read a more extensive review about officina dolce at elizabeth minchilli’s blog here.

Officina Dolce | Via Savoia 52
Opens Mon-Sat 8:30-8, Sun 8:30-2

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