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Contemporary

clearing the backlog.

the problem with food blogging is that whilst some restaurants really compel me to blog about the fantastic tastes and the artful decor (say, jaan), others simply can’t excite me to summon much enthusiasm to write about. so let me try to complete this whilst i have so time to spare.

chalk is the very definition of hidden find, tucked up above mount sophia at old school, where timbre is also sited. its a chillax, artsy environment what with the semi-industrial, minimalistic designs (seemingly with the swedish design aesthetic) along with tasteful paintings and furniture. getting here can be quite a pain if you don’t have a car, as it means climbing up quite a few sequences of steps from plaza singapura. but that gives it the secluded charm i suppose.

my first impression of chalk was hugely positive – nice ambience along with good wine and company, and the restaurant gave the sense of a cosy after-work chill out spot for wine and food lovers and artsy bohemian spirits alike. often quite packed and requiring reservations, the restaurant had the air of a crowded yet still sufficiently private feel of a popular dining club, if you know what i mean. food-wise, the first experience proved pretty good, what with a decent carbonara serving, nice desserts and at a price point that wasn’t too expensive.

so it was with these high expectations that i headed back to chalk to celebrate my birthday (now you know how backlogged this post is.. lol). and with high expectations came a high crash i suppose. what stunned me initially was the prices of the food as i stared at the menu – simple pastas were going at high 20s to 30s (the range of fine dining establishments), appetizers going at 20s to 40s (for iberico ham) and with flatbreads (some variant of a pizza) fetching at least 30 bucks. its was seriously pricey and i was kinda shocked at the menu and really even wondering what to order. lets not even talk about the drinks menu.

i mean, let’s be honest about prices. people head to restaurants with a certain expectation after looking at the ambience, the clientele and just the general hype, classify them as a certain type of restaurant (cheap/value, cafe-style/brunch, mid-range, pricey, fine-dining). to me, chalk fell nicely in between the cafe/mid-range zone, where i would have expected pastas at around low 20s and mains at high 20s – 30s.. hmm, i dunno, the shock really took away alot of the initial goodwill i had of the place. and of course, with such prices, you become just that much demanding of what you get served with.

let’s talk service next. i would call it inattentive at best. there weren’t that many tables being served at that time, like 3 – 4.. which was surprisingly empty actually (maybe it was a sign). service was slow and it was difficult to get the waiter’s attention it seemed. furthermore, there was a distinct sense that some of the waiters (or perhaps owner?) of the place was fixated on serving this ang-moh family that were seated later than us and pointedly ignored us. and that’s annoying.

and then let’s talk food. surprisingly, the menu didn’t seem to have the well-acclaimed carbonara anymore, and the selections seemed to have thinned out. let’s see:-

(sorry if the dish name/price is inaccurate.. im trying to remember the ballpark figure)

seafood aglio olio, $32

to be honest, the dish didn’t look too bad or taste too bad, but i seriously don’t know how the restaurant would justify a pricepoint of 30-ish bucks. The ingredients don’t look particularly spectacular or expensive and neither does the execution seem to require some major expensive equipment. so why?

Coca De Matanza – Garlic Saffron Bread with Lean Pork Belly Meat, Fried Chorizo, Caramelized Onions, Roasted Garlic and Smoked Idiabazal Cheese ($36?)

i’ve said my piece about the price so i’m not repeating. taken on its own, this dish is actually a decent variation of your common pizza, with the caramelized onions, fried chorizo and pork belly meat blending well to create a flat bread that was both sweet and savory and tasted good. it’s a decent dish.

chocolate fondant, vanilla ice cream and sesame snap

sticky date pudding with brandy butterscotch sauce and ginger ice cream

vanilla pannacotta with berry compote

desserts was where chalk won back some points. the desserts felt inspired and the vanilla pannacotta is really something to die. for. light, but bursting with immense vanilla flavor and paired spectacularly with the berry compote, this dessert seriously left you wanting for me. haven’t seen another pannacotta that is as good as this to be honest. try this if you are here.

hmm. all in all? a disappointment, more from an overpriced standpoint. dishes were well-executed and tasty but the price left a bitter taste in the mouth. service didn’t help either. i liked their spanish flatbread, but found their others mains (didn’t really include them, but it included dishes like half a spring chicken and barramundi fish) to be too simplistic and uninspired to fetch such a high price. desserts were good. its sad to say this, but i doubt i would revisit chalk unless i hear sufficient good hype again. the competition out there is just too stiff. 5.0/10

chalk restaurant | 11 mount sophia, #01-03, singapore | desserts, western, contemporary

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bringing the city to the garden.

i’m sniffing my guts out as i type this, but ah wells, let’s get this over with.

so we decided to head nearby to bishan park for a meal, since i’ve heard growing buzz about weekend brunch @ canopy and the likes. went there for a drink a while back and found the ambience to be pretty amazing what with a laid back, garden environment creating a sensation of being whisked away to a hidden garden realm. perhaps that’s the very definition of a hidden find?

there are actually 3 restaurants co-located within the verdant confines, canopy being the most exterior and well-lit lodge style dining, followed by the green room, a hidden vegetarian restaurant and then cosy, dark corners that make up middle rock bar. we headed to canopy, by virtue of the fact i’ve heard about it more often. the food is more of a mish mash of western influences, from tapas choices like mini wagyu burgers, selections of pizza and pasta, as well as mains like beef bourguinon and wagyu steak.

lobster pomodoro, $19

ordered a lobster pomodoro, essentially spaghetti in a nuanced tomato sauce, sprinkled with various herbs and parsley (which i still categorically dislike)  and paired with generous chunks of lobster meat. i found this to be a decent rendition of a simple classic, not with the heartiness that typifies typical italian tomato pastas, but with a certain elegance. it was admittedly not mindblowing though, and the lobsters didn’t feel exactly too fresh. perhaps its just that my expectations toward pastas and the likes have really soared with the so much good food in the recent years, but this was well.. well made, but not interesting or inspired.

we also ordered the smoked duck pizza ($20, see first picture) which had a little japanese influence what with the generous globs of mayonnaise spread on top of the pizza to give it a distinct sweetness to balance the savory saltiness of the smoked duck. the flavors were good, and adding rocket and sliced apples into the mix was an inspired choice, lending a different texture and crispness to the pizza that otherwise would seriously merely taste like a wafu pizza from watami (not that the wafu pizza isn’t delicious.. but its half the price). i found the pizza crust to be just a little thick and it lacked a certain crispness and lightness that characterized really good pizzas. but this was nonetheless a satisfying and delicious dish.

signature date pudding in butterscotch sauce and paired with vanilla ice cream ($10)

it was the price of the desserts that made me realise that canopy isn’t exactly very cheap. i mean, consider that you’re located in what would be the heartland-area, sandwiched between bishan and ang mo kio, and you are serving single desserts for the price of $10, which was the exact same price i paid for my desserts at carnivore, mbs last night. and to be honest, this isn’t exactly very fantastic — definitely cannot compare to artichoke‘s amazing rendition of date pudding with salted caramel and it was actually surprisingly simple and well.. flat. the butterscotch sauce was overpoweringly sweet and lacked the finesse and nuance in taste that a salted caramel sauce would have lent, and the date pudding didn’t have any oomph or warm sensation upon eating into it. this was not good considering it was a signature dish and cost 10 quid.

hmm.. overall, this place wins hands down for its ambience, and for its hidden-find ambience. its the perfect place for drinks and late night chats, but the food isn’t exactly very impressive. decent, but not exactly inspired. come for drinks and the ambience instead. 6.0/10

canopy garden dining & bar | 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1, Bishan Park II | chill-out, drinks, western

save water drink beer.

there’s something about chef willin low, courtesy of wild rocket/relish. he seems to have mastered the art of singaporean-western fusion, combination local flavors and delicacies seamlessly and splendidly together to form interesting and inspired dishes.

relish by wild rocket, is a scaled version, burger-cafe version of the more atas wild rocket restaurant @ mount sophia. but the chef’s signature dishes and philosophy of asian-western fusion dishes is still very present. sited at myvillage @ serangoon gardens, it is quite the hidden find, but judging by the crowds during lunchtime, it might be quite the open secret.

ambience wise, i like relish’s pared down, simple cafe design — with sleek metal furniture, full length glass windows, white brick walls. cutesy drawings on blackboards break the monotony of the minimalist design, and imbues a certain sense of playful warmth to the surroundings. i suspect servers are also judiciously chosen, being all of young, cute gals that are amicable, friendly and very presentable. top marks for branding yet again.

let’s talk about food.

set meal mushroom soup. (set meal costs $12.90 and comes with soup, along with discounted prices for desserts)

simple mushroom soup with a dash of truffle oil that really elevates the smell of the dish. sadly, i couldn’t really taste much of the truffle oil when drinking the soup. pretty decent stuff tough, not like the watered-down sort you get at common western chains like swensens (and think about it.. the set meal price is pretty reasonable if you consider that swensens pretty much charges at the same rate).

aglio oilio with crabmeat (pasta of  the day – one possible selection for the set menu)

mom ordered the pasta of the day. looks pretty good. but p’haps tad small a serving.

wild rocket beef burger – arugula, sarawak pepper cream, sun dried tomato relish together with a nicely charred, medium rare patty ($12.90)

this doesn’t come with a set meal sadly. supposedly there signature dish, this is the beef burger done artfully, the patty being juicy and yet crisp at the edges. the sarawak pepper cream added a certain spiciness to the dish which distinguished it for common burgers out there. i noted that they called arugula arugula instead of rocket which is kinda wierd since the burger is known as wild rocket beef burger. ah wells.. i notice wierd things.

for sides, i got the onion rings (+2.50), which were not your ordinary run-of-the-mill rings, but nicely battered and crispy. yummy.

pandan-infused panna cotta in a pool of gula melaka ($3.00 with the set meal)

the set meal makes things really quite affordable. this interesting local variant of the panna cotta was refreshing, and the sweetness gula melaka went well with the light frothiness of the pandan panna cotta.

deconstructed strawberry cheesecake, ($3.50 with set meal)

i think i finally understand the point of deconstructed desserts. it allows you to be the masterchef to combine ingredients by yourself and essentially recreate the entire flavor of the familiar dessert within your mouth. of course, each deconstructed piece has to be delicious and well made – such as in the case of this strawberry cheescake, with a delicious walnut crumble, cream cheese, ice cream and strawberries in syrup. you take a sample of each portion in your spoon and eat the entire spoonful in one shot, hence essentially recreating the flavors of the strawberry cheesecake instantly. to me, such a way of eating actually enhanced the flavors of the dessert, since you could taste every single ingredient on its own and also the overall impression of the dessert.

overall, definitely come here for the set lunch — for the same price that you would pay at many local establishments that push out pretty mundane, uninspired dishes, you get interesting satisfying flavors in a really chillax environment. i like. i would also want to come back and try the various different burgers with local twists, from chilli soft shell crab burger, to blue cheese and pear burger. mmm. 7.5/10

relish (serangoon gardens)1 Maju Ave, #02-07/09 myVillage at Serangoon Garden | burgers, desserts, chill out

the allure of the exotic orient.

something about ku de ta amazes me. i think its the notion that location, location, location (and perhaps a lil’ bit of branding) can trump any other factors, such that the restaurant can pretty much serve subpar food in ultra dim conditions and get away with it in style — throngs of people crowd the place even on a thursday night, most of them well heeled expatriates and socialites that would willingly blow a wad of cash unintelligently on this so called fusion chinese food. -_- are people willingly getting duped here? or is the allure of the exotic orient, the immaculately-done branding – what with the sensual reds, superb panoramic view, dim lightning, bali-fusion music, that blind people to the obvious flaws of the food?

let’s examine the curious case of ku de ta in more detail…

ambience wise, this place has it really down pat. the restaurant/bar exudes a sense of exclusive luxury infused with asian undertones. its like how the west would view the rich exotic orient essentially. being up so high at mbs does really have its perks — the air is cooler, the view is magnificent at all angles, and it doesn’t take much to whisk a customer into another world. i do wonder what happens when it rains though, considering that alot of the restaurant space is located outdoors.

passion and cream ($20) – vanilla infused grey goose vodka, fresh passion fruit and passion fruit foam

i was eager to try out their cocktails since ku de ta essentially is more known for being a sky bar than a restaurant. still hankering after a passion fruit fixed, i went for the passion and cream, as recommended by the waitress. it’s decent — creamy and fruity at the same time, but doesn’t come cheap as well. and to be honest, it wasn’t anything special or outstanding unlike the cocktails i had at wolfgang puck’s cut.

ok let’s talk about the food. we were informed that the dishes are inspired from the chef’s travels across asia, and are created with the intention of being shared across the table. to be honest, after the artichoke experience of shared dining, i’m super skeptical of such a format of dining because it just gives the chef an excuse to serve up miserly small portions of food for sharing and essentially force people to order many many dishes, sending the bill skyrocketing.

and can i just spend some time commenting about the intro written on the ku de ta menu? “dining at ku de ta is a multi sensory adventure; our servers will be happy to guide you on your journey” wow.. pretentious much? and furthermore, what multi sensory?? if anything, the place was so dark u couldn’t really see the food you were eating, much less look closely at the menu. more like a gastronomic ganzfeld perhaps. (lol.. ok lame psychology joke)

soya-glazed hokkaido miso scallops ($26) – nashi pear, pickled mustard, wasabi leaves

shame on you ku de ta! the miso scallops were quite the disaster – scallops were completely overcooked, resulting in hard, plasticky, shrunken pieces of scallop that was surprisngly discordant  with the nashi pear and pickled mustard. this just didn’t work on any level, and its ridiculous to serve poorly done scallop. like c’mon! are you a fine dining establishment or what! this really fouled the mood for the night.

steamed pencil asparagus ($11), with prawn floss crumble

decent, and in fact, quite flavorful and delicious. the prawn floss was the perfect complement for the asparagus, which was nicely grilled. (i don’t know how steaming would give it the semi-grilled texture and look.. so i’m kinda confused as to whether this was steamed or grilled)

whole baby chicken teriyaki ($26), with crunchy mustard seed crust

come on lah.. its plain chicken teriyaki you can get at simple hawker stores for like $5.. so what justifies the 5 times price hike? ya’know, the issue with fusion asian food is that if the result too closely resembles a hawker stall dish, then there’s bound to be that nasty comparison with hawker food. and there’s really no way one can win against hawker food. and yeah this was a resounding blah.

pan roasted foie gras and green mango pickle, ($36), with spiced lime and puffed rice

expensive as this was, at least you weren’t able to draw comparisons with hawker food, and well, foie gras really can’t go that wrong. this was really delicious, the foie gras melted in your mouth and the puffed rice was the perfect carbohydrate base to soak up the foie gras oil. yummy. and yeah, i’ve reconciled with the fact that one has to really spend a bomb for decent foie gras in singapore.

  ‘forty flavor’ fried rice ($18) – baked in lotus leaf

this was yet another dish that received scathing reviews from all of us. from the scoffing of the purported ‘forty flavors’ when we only detected off-spicy and salty as the predominant flavors, to the irritating way the rice was served such that many bits of rice where trapped within the lotus leaf wrap and it took quite a bit of effort to extricate all the rice. furthermore, the rice actually tasted much worse than common cantonese restaurants’ lo ma kai, with the rice served here dry and somewhat tasteless at the top at somewhat soggy at the bottom. yet another dish that should have been rejected in the kitchen and not sent out. such a disgrace.

as you can surmise, i wasn’t too pleased with the mains, to the point where me and my compatriots were debating whether to sojourn to somewhere else for desserts. but somehow i felt like giving them a chance to redeem themselves. so let’s see.

‘apple and honey’ ($12) – fresh green apple, milk and honey ‘creameaux’ green apple granite, comb honey crumble, green apple jelly

wow.. color me impressed. this was a really creative, inspired dessert, drawing some inspiration from thai cuisine (what with the sliced green apple) and mixed with all the western dessert sensibilities (love comb honey crumble.. mm). this was an interesting, refreshing and well thought out dessert. delicious!

kdt ‘bounty cake’ ($16) – warm bitter chocolate, coconut filling, yuzu mashmallow

another winner in its own right. the chocolate cake was warm and had a different but equally appealing texture with the infusion of the coconut. the blend of coconut and chocolate went really well, and the yuzu marshmallows were the perfect complement to the dish. and boy.. count me in as a fanboy of yuzu infused desserts. the marshmallows tasted different but really good. i think the creativity here exceeds that which is shown in 2 am dessert bar, the their execution is infinitely better.

all in all? it’s a mixed bag to be honest, but one thing is clear – DON’T come here for mains. come for the desserts whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery and chillax ambience. the service isn’t much to be spoken off, waiters are mildly responsive and pleasant enough to be forgettable. its a decent place, but methinks they should remarket themselves as a dessert and cocktails nightbar and just ditch the restaurant concept. but well.. who am i to comment, since this placed obviously has legions of adoring fans?  5.5/10

ku de ta |10 Bayfront Avenue, Sands SkyPark, Tower 3, Marina Bay Sands Hotel | desserts, drinks, ambience

tiong bahru chic

tiong bahru’s seriously becoming chic you guys, what with popular cafes and restaurants like forty hands and open door policy sprouting up, along with curio shops like strangelets (that sold popaganda!) and cool bakeries like drips. mark my words, tiong bahru’s your next duxton/ann siang. already, i noticed an increasing number of foreigners and well-dressed singaporeans strolling around roads with names like tiong poh road and such, so its a matter of time. anyways, ODP is sited along yong siak street, directly across forty hands. its not exactly easy to get there — you’d have to walk for about 10 minutes to get into the old estate area from tiong bahru MRT, but i guess that’s what gives it its tranquil charms. the place is still relatively under-developed and primarily an old residential estate, so when night falls, there’s a certain tranquility that settles within the area. parking isn’t an issue because there’s a relatively big open air carpark within the estate.

the interior of ODP gives off a very industrial, sleekly designed feel that feels like some up and coming restaurant in NYC, say within the meat packing district. you do get the feeling of being transported to another world, one where tired executives head to artsy restaurants like these to unwind from the days work alongside well-dressed socialites quietly sharing the latest gossips with each other. one must mention the furniture within the restaurant, which has largely adopted the “olden days” theme, with tables converted from old classroom desks, and many chairs being those old, rusty metallic chairs in classrooms. the furniture, whilst fitting with the theme, wasn’t exactly too comfortable as the chairs were kind of hard and my mom stared at the rust worried she would get tetanus (lol.. kidding). ok food talk.

steak tartare with truffle mayo and potato chips, $19

yummy! i recently commented to a friend that i found truffle fries to be the next big overhyped dish of singaporean cafes but these truffle potato chips made me literally swoon upon first bite — crispy and amazingly flavored with truffle sauce. i could order an entire bowl to finish if I had the chance. =) the steak tartare was well made and paired well the toasted bread. i suspect we were supposed to eat the chips with the tartare, but the chips were too good to need any further flavor inject. mind you, for people who don’t know, tartare refers to raw meat, usually used for spreads for toast. (this is essentially the thing mr bean ordered and hated, and proceeded to try hiding chunks of them in the most ridiculous places ever. but don’t worry this tastes good.) so yeah, if you get squeamish about eating raw stuff, then don’t order this — though to be honest, it tasted really great and had no such slimy/raw feel to it.

48 hour cooked braised beef cheek with mochi potatoes, carrot puree, and snow pea lendrils , $29

didn’t exactly like the snow pea lendrils, but besides that this dish was perfect — something that can literally send you to gastronomie heaven. the beef cheek is so soft that it really melts in your mouth as you savour it. the sauce for it is well balanced, and the carrot puree formed a perfect complement to the beef cheeks. mochi potatoes was something new to me and they likewise went really really well with the dish, and made me actually hanker for more of such carbs. my only other complain would be that the sauce wasn’t enough and I ended up eating a little portion of the beef cheeks without the sauce. but besides that, seriously guys, go try this rendition of beef cheeks. yummz.

pork belly with parsnip puree, braised quinoa and celery, $29

tried some portions of this — the crisps stacked on top of the pork belly were really good and the pork belly was one slab of crispy goodness as well. my companions who ate this gave quite high reviews as well, besides for the fact that it was slightly small.

i didn’t try the desserts. why? to be honest, I realised just how expensive some of the dishes were – desserts were roughly $15 each, which is kind of exorbitant. and likewise, a quick calculation in my mind made me realise that we had already spent upwards of 30+ for a shared appetizer and mains each. haha.. i’m quite the calculative cheapskate nowadays perhaps, but i think the atas food trips is taking a tolling on my wallet. =(

overall? a really cool place with an exciting menu and food that has some serious flavor and goodness in time. it’s more pricey that your usual cafes (a spaghetti bolognaise went for $22) but in return, you get good ambience, interesting food arrangements (there was a tendency to use chopping boards and stone pots for various dishes) and good, solid food. come at least once to try it out, then take a stroll round the estate to discover this part of singapore, eh? 8.0/10

open door policy | 19 yong siak street | contemporary, western

simple playspace.

saturday mornings have become lazy, brunch-hunting mornings where I hunt down new cafes and establishments to soak in the atmosphere, comment about the ambience, enjoy a good meal and chat with good friends. =) that’s a pretty chill life, eh? so this time round, lik sin and i got down to exploring arbite @ serangoon gardens. after having watched michelle chong’s inspired portrayal of a serangoon gardener, i decided to go explore this area abit.

so arbite took the place of what used to be a chinese dessert stall that used to sell durian desserts which contributed to an overall pungent environment to its cosy confines. me no life. arbite has taken the space and has decorated it in a sleek, white minimalist theme, using swedish-style furniture to create a tasteful cosy area for people to escape the midday heat. the decorative elements are lego blocks that have been stuck onto cracks in the wall, and there are also jars of lego for little kids to play with. nice concept. location wise, arbite manages to achieve that hidden gem feel owing to the fact that it resides of the second floor above guardian pharmacy, but is actually really convenient, considering it faces serangoon circus and can be seen once u get off the board that leads into the area. let’s talk food then.

pappardelle with mushrooms and parma ham – button mushrooms, spinach, parma ham and cream sauce drizzled in truffle oil ($19.90)

yay for home-made pappardelle! it’s been awhile since i’ve managed to taste home-made pappardelle — those i tasted in florence really set an incredibly high standard with an amazing crunchiness and lightness to the taste of the pasta. mind you, there really is a difference when stuff is home made and made well. makes me really want to head back to florence again. FYI, the restaurant you MUST go to in florence for their pasta and wine tasting is Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. anyways,the parppadelle here can’t compare to that found in florence, but stands pretty well on its own. there is a certain level of crunchiness and the ingredients really worked well together, the cream sauce balancing out the savoriness of the parma ham and the mushrooms. good stuff.

pork schnitzel, $17.90

lik sin got the pork schnitzel, which was a smart choice i suppose, since arbite is a pun for the german/danish word for work. anyways, he liked it alot, especially with the gratuitous dollop of blue cheese at the side.

my wife’s chocolate cake, served with a scoop of movenpick’s vanilla ice cream, $8.00

the dessert is kinda huge and should be shared. its delicious mind you but imo, too much chocolate makes on jelak very easily. anyways, i appreciated the fact that the movenpick ice cream used real vanilla pods because you could see the black grains in the ice cream. (the cheaper and much easier method would be to use vanilla essence) the ice cream went really well with the chocolate cake, which had a thick layer of chocolate ganache on top of the chocolate cake that swirled well with the ice cream. the cake itself was pretty light but still held its own flavors together with the ganache and ice cream. yummy.

all in all, i’m definitely coming back here, what with other delicious things on the menu, from brunch breakfasts to lamb shanks. nice chill ambience and a cool environment. 7.5/10

arbite | 66a serangoon gardens way | cafe, contemporary, desserts

boutique beer

i’m starting to really love the duxton hill area, what if the general artsy, designer-ish vibe juxtaposed with the traditional chinatown alleys, the many real cool hiding places and nooks and cranies that have been converted into chic meeting spaces, art galleries and bookstores, and of course, the many interesting food places around. as my dad was driving us around the area, I was excitedly pointing out of the various restaurants i had seen online and had wanted to try, be it buyan, bonheur patisserie and the likes.

anyways, our trip down this time was for group therapy (the place, not the activity). its this small, hidden restaurant/event space run by two charming, efficient ladies  right above etna italian restaurant. its kinda not too conspicuous, considering that its basically one small door tucked within the alleyway, but i guess its cool for what it is. and i liked the fact once you head up and opened the door, it was like heading into a friend’s cosy studio apartment in some boulevard in paris, where you could sit, chill, have some chips and beer whilst staring out at the balcony gazing at the streets below (not that the balcony was open). you know, that kinda feel…\

but yeah, there’s a very homely feel to it, and its also quite a small, cosy place. there is essentially one long communal table along with 3 side tables and a bar counter at the dining area, and a larger event space area filled with cushions and chairs. being a friday night, this place was comfortably crowded, all the tables were filled bar none (which we took =)) and there was an air of cheery merriment due to tgif. ok lets get to the food.

squid-ink ravioli (see that black stripe?) stuffed with mushrooms and topped with a basil/tomato sauce ($20)

this dish was surprisingly refreshing and light what with the mixture of basil, mushroom and tomato sauce. couldn’t really taste out the squid ink from the pasta but overall the dish felt healthy, tasty good and left me wanting more. and hmm, the price point was tad steep for such a dish perhaps (i suspect the ravioli wasn’t cheap) but its good stuff for vegetarians. (methinks an infusion of pine nuts would have made this dish even better)

beef shank stew with carrots and potatoes, paired with 3 pieces of grilled bread ($15)

simple, home-cooked food eh? i think its a real cool concept actually, its like having house-warming with friends and seeing them cook behind the bar counter at the semi-messy stove. to be honest, the food isn’t like outstanding or like pushing culinary innovation or something, but just well-cooked, well-intentioned food. and somehow the notion of pairing delicious-looking grilled bread with stew is something that can never go wrong. hehe.. wish they had gone more along the route of a beef bourguignon and had added a little red wine into the sauce =)

chicken ham and egg pie ($11)

wonder where they bought the pie because the crust was really delicious. (and if they pre-made it, then i really want to know how to make such crusts) the crust was flaky and buttery and overall the pie was yummy. essentially, it’s easy cafe food somewhat like delifrance, but more delicious and better prepared.

belgian waffle with blueberries and starberries, ice cream, almonds and maple syrup ($11.50)

the waffles crust was just right and delicious really good. hehe, though i wish some maple butter was added into the mix to send you to saccharine heaven. =) and on a sidenote, i realise how my family is turning into quite a small-eating, health conscious bunch. i mean, we shared this dessert among four people!! i remember how in Cornell freshmen year, we would totter to RPCC and like make ONE such waffle and drizzle all sorts of condiments, ice cream and fruits and eat it alone. shudders.. no wonder i got fat. =)

but make no mistake. the cakes here are pretty huge. i spied my neighbor’s table 4-layered carrot cake and noticed they took a full hour to work through half of it.. (well and also cos they were “pak tor-ing”) and i noticed the apple crumble was one massive horizontal slice of goodness. so yeah, share your desserts here.

there are also boutique beers and ciders for people to try — its a nice, lighter alternative to the common vino places. you know, seeing such a place makes me really yearn to set up my own cosy eating establishment.. sigh

all in all, a fun, cosy place to relax, have some desserts with friends and just enjoy the atmosphere. i like. =) 7.0/10

group therapy | 49 duxton road, #02-01 | desserts, chill-out, brunch