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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

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a taste of indonesia.

when it was time to choose yet another establishment at mbs, i wanted pizzeria mozza but my friend suggested moluccas room, which drew blank stares from me.

“it’s really good indonesian food with good reviews!”

*blank*

“it’s by the promenade with a riverside view”

*blank*

which explains why i was hopelessly lost and couldn’t find my way to the restaurant despite my friend giving helpful tips like “it’s near gong-cha and 7-eleven (i never knew mbs had these type of shops) and “its near avalon” (sorry, don’t club). but i finally found it after walking the whole span of the promenade. the ambience is one of laid back, elegant, riverside dining. a semi open concept with outdoor ventilation and pared back furnishings create an almost balinese-luxury resort like feel. i suspect the notion of these promenade restaurants is to create a middle-tier of restaurants for people who refused to shell out hundreds paying for mozza/db bistro moderne/cut and the likes. so out you go. =)

ok let’s talk service. to be honest, service wasn’t too good. our first server was slightly curt and made no effort to really make us feel welcome – his service was nevertheless professional, but it just felt slightly cold. other than that, we felt a little ignored throughout the meal as well, a good litmus test being that my glass of water remained empty for quite some time before i gave up and motioned for a refill. its kinda sad for a restaurant with really pretty decent food. let’s get to it then.

amuse bouche – indonesian pancake with eggplant carpaccio and cucumber

nice, appetizing start to a meal. the pancake was fluffy and flavorful, with the eggplant lending further flavor and crisp to the simple appetizer.

confit sakura ayam tuturaga – light citrusy confit chicken curry from the northern sulawesi region, $33

with this dish, my eyes lit up as i started to comprehend what style of cuisine moluccas room offered – essentially western-style ingredients and cooking methods fused with indonesian spices and sauces. and indeed this was a rewarding and flavorful partnership — the curry lent a certain sweetness to the chicken but did not overpower the entire dish. as per confit, the chicken skin was crisp and delicious to bite into. i did feel however, that parts of the chicken within did not seem fully marinated and had some loss of flavor, but it was overall a really decent and flavorful rendition of a indo-western fusion dish.

angus steak rendang – tender beef steak tenderloin topped with an extremely flavorful Javanese style rendang curry sauce, $35

again, the curry sauce wasn’t overpowering, something you would have expected from traditional indonesian dishes perhaps. but this level of flavor (perhaps more suited for foreigners) incidentally also brought out the meaty flavor of the beef steak, which was juicy and tender. a masterful fusion once again.

baby eggplants with belachan, $18

hmm.. this wasn’t too impressionable, and in fact i felt that the eggplants weren’t completely cooked till soft, and the belachan flavor hadn’t completely permeated into the eggplant. it felt like a simple home cooked dish that was cut back on the belachan intensity, not really that worth it here.

sate udang java – luscious grilled prawns marinated with secret Javanese recipe, $27

you might wonder at this point whether i thought the food here wasn’t good but enter the sate (is it me, or is sate a super pretentious way of writing satay? and yes, the sate had an inflection tagged to the ‘e’.. lol) the grilled prawns satay were amazingly tasty, with flavors bursting in your mouth as you bit into it. the accompanying sauce complemented perfect with the grilled prawns, lending a spicy and tangy flavor to the dish. the prawns were really. grilled. to. perfection. ’nuff said.

sate ayam madura, grilled chicken tenders served with creamy roasted peanut sauce, $22

you might see the price and think i’m really retarded to come to mbs and order satay at a price that could give you platefuls of satay at say chomp chomp. but to be honest, the chicken tenders here make normal roadside satay look like emaciated bits of chicken. this satay ayam madura is juicy and succulent, globs of tender meat skewed together and bursting with flavor. i kid you not. the fried onions and garnishings and special peanut sauce further elevated the flavors of this dish to another level. ok la, $22 is really a bit steep, but.. somehow.. it’s worth a shot. haha. you’d understand my comparison of the emaciated chicken after you have bitten into one of these.

we skipped desserts because somehow i think the service left us a bit cold. but all in all, the food here is really good stuff and worth a shot, especially to sample the uniqueness of indonesian-western fusion dishes. and yeah… come try to sate, you wouldn’t be disappointed. this is a nice place to bring your atas overseas friends and allow them to sample some local dishes without them tearing and wheezing from some potent curry. its also a nice place for a casual get together with friends for a decent meal. if you are willing to spend though. =) oh come on.. you’re at mbs. -_-  7.0/10

the moluccas room |  2 Bayfront Avenue, #01-81 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands | indonesian, fusion, local, upscale

berry cornucopia.

its cool to have friends working at mbs, because they know the ins and outs of the place and can easily recommend you good places to dine at. so yeah, thanks phili — though, minus points for you for calling forty hands forty handles.. lol! anyways, its real cool to meet old friends and just have a riotous time. part 1 was at moluccas room, which will be on a separate post later, and since it’s late i’ll just tackle desserts.

carnivore and rio tapas lounge is the third such brazilian churrascaria (brazilian word for steakhouse) joint, following after vivocity and chijmes. men love this place in general because of the copious amounts of meat that is served whereas their female companions usually gag at the thought of eating so much oily meat. this joint at mbs utilizes the inherent atas ambience of mbs to incorporate an additional rio tapas lounge and included desserts, cocktails and teas into their menu. it’s here we had our dessert, as phili mentioned that she liked what was served her. let’s review!

churros with chocolate, berry and cheese dips ($10)

this dessert is not too often seen in singapore, but its pretty common fairgrounds food. essentially a spanish-style doughnut, churros are pretty common in US and latin america, and are often paired with (and dipped in) hot chocolate. the churros here obviously surpasses common fairgrounds standards, being crisp and warm – as though one was biting into a pot of sunshine and sugar. it’s not too sweet, only lightly dusted with sugar, so the general savory flavor of the doughnut is more pronounced, and pairs well with the different dips. (i like the chocolate dip the best, whilst phili preferred the berry dip). good stuff that’s worth the try.

we also got the strawberry cheesecake ($10, see first picture), which was yet another rendition of a deconstructed cheesecake in a martini glass. apparently the notion from the chef (as phili explained), was that anything in a martini looks sexier. to be honest, comparing the two deconstructed cheesecake, carnivore’s rendition paled in comparison to relish’s version – mainly because it felt as though the proportions of this was slightly off. for one, they seemed to have added a minuscule portion of the crust, and had too much cream cheese, so one ended up eating dollops of cream cheese alone, which kinda defeats the purpose of a deconstruction. furthermore, i don’t get the inclusion of blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries to a strawberry cheesecake. i mean, the ingredients are fresh and all, but the construction of the dish wasn’t too inspired.

chocolate trio, $12 (from top, lava cake, chocolate ganache and chocolate cake)

i note yet again the copious amounts of berries. this pastry chef loves his/her berries indeed. in fact, the berries lead to a hilarious conversation as we tried to figure out what berry each one exactly was, debating whether we were served boysenberries [i concede, looks like they are blackberries instead] and not knowing how to name the gooseberry [the orange/yellow berry with bougainvillea-like leaves] . berries are pretty confusing stuff, especially if you start considering currants.

anyways, the dessert was pretty decent, especially the ganache – well balanced, luxurious and not at all jelak. the chocolate cake was kinda flat and i felt that the lava cake wasn’t hot enough (though it might have been my fault for me holding up everyone by insisting on snapping a shot).

ambience-wise, this place is pretty open-concept, which wooden chairs and tables placed in the middle of the mbs mall, illuminated by nomad lamps (luminous lamps that changed colors every tens of seconds). its a pretty laid back, chill atmosphere, and the hugeness of the mbs mall allows you to talk a bit louder without worrying about being a nuisance. service was decent, and the servers actually went to help us figure out the name of the gooseberry. =)

all in all, a nice chill out spot for some desserts and drinks. food-wise, it probably isn’t going to be any different from the vivocity joint so you pretty much know what to expect. 6.5/10 

carnivore and rio tapas lounge |  2 Bayfront Avenue, #01-77/78/79/80 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands | meat, desserts, drinks

cosy little art corner.

when i suggested to my cornell friends to come to artichoke to eat, i guess they weren’t used to my liking of hidden finds and the likes and hence i got this sms from one of my friends when she was reaching..

“frank, im reaching, but are you sure this is correct? im opposite fortune center and it looks positively seedy

lol. well, sculpture garden is tucked away at the edge of middle road facing dubious looking buildings like fortune center and ma-kwang TCM clinic but well, its a hidden haven away from the bustle of the city — the compound was converted from an old church into an art gallery with an ensuite restaurant space that used to house the secret garden. we decided to visit the art gallery after our meal and found it a really cool exhibition space for up and coming artists. this is the side of singapore i like.

anyways, the interior of artichoke is like that of a casual relaxed cafe, with simple wooden chairs surrounding normal tables, the monotony of white washed walls interrupted with graffiti-esque designs and blackboards chalked with today’s specials. its kinda warm, perhaps to give the impression of an semi-alfresco dining but there’s a sense of an otherworldly-ness due to its secluded location.

service-wise, lets just say this place doesn’t exactly win any awards on that front. the servers aren’t exactly the friendliest and weren’t too helpful. first of all, considering there were 7 people on my table and the water jug on our table was perennially empty, i wonder why it wouldn’t have been easier to just give us two jugs. also, when we asked for recommendations for dessert, this dude said we could share a date pudding among three people, prompting us to recoil and wonder just how big the pudding was (it turned out to be nice for one -_-“). finally, the cardinal sin was when a server came and swiftly took awake our dish of date pudding with one final morsel left that we had been struggling to decide who to finish since we are chinese and we all have the “last piece aversion syndrome”. what a crime.. lol

nevertheless, the food was excellent, so lets get to it.

grilled haloumi cheese, $14

delicious. the grilled cheese tasted amazing and paired well with the savory condiments of walnuts, olive oil, tomatoes and the likes. that being said, we quickly realised an issue with 7 people at the table — simply put it, the style of dining at artichoke and the portion size of the dishes makes it exceedingly difficult for a group of 7 to feel satiated, considering one gets small morsels of every dish ordered, no matter how many. and mind you, i think we got a little carried away ordering dishes to satisfy our hungry stomachs to the point that the meal became an exorbitantly priced affair. you see, artichoke encourages you to share your dishes, and whilst sharing such-sized dishes is decent for 3 – 4 people, it’s not the case for 7.. you practically have to order double for each, which we failed to realise. (i blame all ordering issues to the service, since the servers should be astute enough to advise on such stuff)

its irritating when the food is actually really good, with really complex and interesting flavor profiles, and yet the service, portions, price and just the overall satisfaction level lets you down.

home-grown grilled mushrooms – $15

i never knew mushrooms could taste so good. nuff’ said. the seasoning, along with the freshness of the shrooms made for a refreshing and delicious dish.

poutine (hashbrowns pieces doused in oxtail gravy with oxtail bits, fresh prawns, red cheddar and argula) $28

i would have ordered this online for myself had i the choice. Poutine is something i had when i first headed to Canada and had always wished for it to appear on menus in Singapore  – essentially a dish of french fries, fresh cheese curds covered with brown gravy, this version of your common fries is really something. I remember us students driving around trying to find a KFC along the Candian highway in order to get our poutine fix. anyways, this dish was really satisfying and good — the oxtail gravy and fresh prawns interpretation of a classic dish was creative and elevating the flavor profile of a long time classic. yum.

lamb rack, $28

there were six pieces on the dish. and seven of us. mind you, rationing of food was never as painful before, especially since the ribs were really tasty. but by then i was realizing the amount that we had ordered and how weirdly unsatisfying the portions were — like some tasting menu where u only got morsels of something good, instead of like servings of comfort food that you could really tuck in.

the date pudding that could be shared among 3 people. -_-“, $14

ok look at that dish and tell me that it can be honestly shared among 3 people. 3 anorexic ladies who had just weighed themselves a moment ago perhaps, but not 3 normal size individuals who weren’t feeling particular satiated. that being said, this dessert was amazingly good as well – the mixture of flavors from the peanut beanut, date pudding and salted caramel added many layers of complexity to the dessert experience, though i did feel that the sea salt grains were tad too large and made the salty profile a little heavy.

the bill eventually came up to around $40 a person (i am omitting some dishes we ordered). i mean, actually on hindsight, dining at a fine dining restaurant and having a dessert and a main course would probably have worked up to roughly that amount, but this place just felt oddly overpriced. i guess it was the fact that we were sharing what was single portions of desserts and small portions of mains and that the atmosphere spoke of comfort food than that of fine dining that made the meal seem really overpriced.

all in all, really delicious, good food that’s worth a try. don’t come with too large groups of people and know what to expect of the price range. the service is a little upsetting i guess and could be improved. 6.75*/10

*grr.. this is my first time giving a part score, mainly bcos the food was much above a 7.00 but the service and everything else threatened to drag it to a 6.5

artichoke | 161 middle road, sculpture square, s188978 | mediterranean, comfort food, desserts, delicious, little india