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


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‘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

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               

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

a very odd reunion dinner.

the cny period is almost all over *sad* and well, for me it has been an unexpectedly enjoyable and fruitful one. spent time to just reconnect with relatives and the rest of the time finally getting to update my blog to one that would be much more easily navigable. =)

reunion dinner this year was a little interesting though. having had the extended family reunion dinners days before CNY eve, it was just the paltry me and my parents left to eat reunion dinner together. now, we decided not to have it at home this year not because my mom didn’t feel like cooking, but because we dad violently objected to washing dishes after that. hence, it was decided to head to a restaurant for reunion dinner this time.

but well, it was kind of a last minute decision, and with chinese restaurants either closed for their own staff’s reunion dinner or otherwise packed to the brim with pre-bookings, i decided to shuttle my parents to fika cafe, a halal swedish restaurant along arab street. surely that wouldn’t be closed. so there we headed.

fika cafe is a cosy, chic cafe that uses a predominantly white palette to create a clean, minimalistic, distinctly swedish aesthetic. my mom stepped in and commented that the furnishings looked very ikea, which is precisely the swedish design aesthetic – one of simple, bold design choices and well-organized, brightly-lit spaces. its no wonder so many people look to swedish designs for inspiration.

fika’s menu consists of crepes, sandwiches and mains that are indeed distinctly swedish – ranging from open-face sandwiches, salmon crepes to swedish meatballs, beef patties, grilled seafood and the likes. a word of caution though, do check with your server whether your dish is served chilled or warm – some swedish openface sandwiches are typically served cold so don’t get an unpleasant shock if what you assumed was a warm sandwich turns out cold.

swedish panbiff ($18.90)

essentially beef patties served with cream sauce along with lingoberry sauce and topped with some caramelized onions. this is yet another classic combination, essentially swapping out swedish meatballs for beef patties – it works because the sweetness of the lingoberry sauce pairs amazing with the savory, meaty flavor of the beef patty and cream sauce. delicious, but hmm.. i did feel that the patty wasn’t as well made as I could taste some tough sinews within the patty which detracted from the meal. and well, i tasted a much better patty in sweden before, so that’s what im comparing against.

grilled salmon ($22.90)

something you could easily see in the ikea cafe for half the price it seems. i felt that the fish was a little overly fishy (read: not fresh) upon first bites but it got better and more delicious as you ate. my mom did complain that the fish was quite dry, which i agree but i wonder whether it has something more to do with the cuisine.

swedish hash ($18.90)

not good. again, it was dry and the beef cubes weren’t juicy and were quite tough to chew on. i don’t really get this dish to be honest (my dad ordered it) – perhaps the beetroot slices and the sunny side up was meant to lend some sauce/moisture/sweetness to the potatoes and beef pieces, but it didn’t exactly seem to work. i didn’t like this.

cheesecake drizzled with lingoberry sauce ($7.90)

this desserts is where fika cafe salvaged some points back. the cheesecake was moist and delicious to eat, and paired superbly well with the lingoberry sauce (i wonder whether i can buy this in singapore). somehow the sweetness of the sauce complemented well with the light frothy sweetness of the cheesecake to create a delicious dessert.

hmm.. all in all, disappointing mains with a more decent end with desserts. to be honest what annoyed me more was how pricey the food was – we ended up paying $97.10 for 3 people, having only gotten mains, one dessert for sharing, and drinks. i mean, i really doubt the base ingredients are that exotic and unless lingoberries are really expensive, there isn’t much to justify a cost in terms of ingredients. execution-wise, these foods are simply comfort foods that seem pretty easy to pull off (but they weren’t exactly well executed). i’m wondering if the very notion that it is swedish food (something seemingly unique and exotic) would have raised the pricepoint.

satisfy your swedish food cravings at the ikea cafe my friends. fika cafe is better for their ambience and desserts. 5.25/10

fika cafe | 257 beach road/arab street | desserts, coffee, swedish food