Monday, April 27, 2009

Spruce, a cosy hideout

You know how it is sometimes, when you read a good review about a restaurant, only to find that your actual experience falls short of the earlier praise? Well I was afraid of that happening with Spruce, given all the glowing writeups about the place by Wong Ah Yoke of the Straits Times, Chubby Hubby, and Jeanette Wang. In fact, I was put off going there after not one, not two, but three mentions of Spruce showed up in the Sunday Times and 8 Days within two short weeks, and decided in a fit of pique that I could very well do without it (not without some regret though).
However E had other ideas and swung the car off to Phoenix Park on a weekday night after picking me up from work - yet another proof that the long-suffering hubby does listen to my constant stream of oft-meaningless babble . Tucked away in the former quarters of the Ministry of Home Affairs along Tanglin Road, Spruce is at once accessible, and yet still seductively secluded among the trees / growth. A charming little hideout, it is one of those places where you feel like you could sit the whole day, nursing coffee and nibbling on bread and cakes with your best friends, on a lazy afternoon where the whole world seems to pass you by.
Service was excellent, top notch. Despite the crowd (full house on a Thursday night), the staff remained professional, calm, and super warm and friendly, never appearing harassed. E was completely casual in his running gear and asked for an outside seat away from the air conditioning. While they could not secure outside seating immediately, they brought a scarf for him to use despite him being sweaty from his run.
And yes, the food is good. The famous Spruce burger lived up to its name as one of the best in Singapore (okay I have to reluctantly admit that it tasted better my own handground burgers). Hey, a good burger is all about the meat, non of all these fillings nonsense for me. With its roughly ground good beef, cooked medium rare, juicy and perfectly seasoned with sea salt, held together by its own juices, the Spruce burger packed lots of oomph and texture into every single bit. Totally sinful and totally worth every calorie. Our other choice was the roasted whole red snapper with lemon jam and fresh herb salad, and this was marvellous as well. Cooked to moist perfection, the fish was exceptionally sweet and tasty, the fresh sea taste heightened by the herbs and sweet tangy caramelised lemon.
This was really a beautiful find, and all the credit goes to E for dragging me to Spruce. I can only imagine how marvellous it would be to have brunch there on a weekend morning (they open at 8.30 am on weekends for brunch). Try to score a seat outside on the porch if possible, the decor inside can appear a little too sterile.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I have a good excuse this time for not blogging for so long. *grin* Went for lasik surgery last week and could not see very well for quite a few days, hence, the paucity of posts! Nevertheless, I have been eating a lot as usual, including at Spruce, which pleasantly surprised me. Review coming up soon.

JuJu Hokkaido Hotpot

A mini-feast with colleagues at Juju Hokkaido Hotpot, Paradiz Centre. I have a soft spot for steamboats (fresh, piping hot food, cooked exactly to your preference! Savoury soup, all that you can drink!) and was really rather pleased with the experience here. It's lot of convivial fun as you have your own individual hotpots with a choice of three soups and a super huuuge main platter of your choice of meats. I had the beef selection, but the ocean platter, served on a fish-shaped dish heaped with bamboo clam, mud crab, sliced fish, cuttlefish, looked so delectable that I'm getting that the next time.
Given the freshness of the ingredients and the fun factor, the pricing of $19.80 for lunch (inclusive of drinks, starters and dessert) is a real steal. Service was warm and friendly, just right for the atmosphere of a fun lunch out with friends. Just next door to Juju, is its sister restaurant Tao's, which serves a 6 course lunch menu for the same price.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Clever Food at the Tippling Club, Dempsey

A wonderful and unexpectedly good lunch at the Tippling Club, Dempsey today, with a friend for a girly catch-up lunch. This place serves "progressive" cuisine which I guess is an acronym for molecular gastronomy. And indeed it was oh-so-clever and super-stylish in its use of techniques and plating styles.

We were served not one, not two, but three! amuse-bouche with our set lunches. First up, "char-grilled" capsicums lightly coated in batter, with soy wasabi dip, and that you eat using forceps. This was followed by fried calamari rings served with a sweet basil emulsion, slurped up with a straw (yums!). Then my favourite, fizzy grapes with mint julip. What great fun! By this time the two of us were fairly giggly with excitment.

For starters, we both had the truffle soup. The bowls were whipped out and placed in front of us by chef Ryan Clift ... peering inside I could only see dried bits of truffle and porcini mushrooms, and little white bits which he later explained was fried foie gras powder (wah!). Just as I was wondering whether this was a new-fangled way of eating dried soup, chef Ryan produced two chemistry beakers full of brown liquid, and voila, poured truffle consumme into our bowls. Wow, the soup was full of the savoury truffle goodness and super more-ish, although I felt that it was a little too salty towards the end as the soup cooled down.

Our main courses quickly came out. I had the beef daube with baby vegetables while my friend had a smoked samon with caesar salad - this was the smart choice, considering the common-place name. My wagyu beef cheeks slow-braised in a red-wine sauce was meltingly tender and the mashed potato was also extremely refined and smooth. But oh, the smoked salmon! So wonderously sweet and moist, not salty at all (as my friend put it - you can really taste the goodness of the fish). Served with a deconstructed Caesar salad garnished with really good quality Parmesan cheese and anchovies, this was the star of our lunch.

I should also mention at this point that a glass of wine was included in our set lunches - Shiraz and Chardonnay respectively for us, of very decent quality too.

Finally, we shared a goat-cheese crumble for dessert. Oh, wonderfully divine, this was. Fresh, soft, melting and just a little pungent goat cheese with parmesan cheese crumble, garnished with beetroot jelly strips and beetroot & port "toasties". Love love love the cheese!

All in all, a stunning lunch at an extremely good price. Two-course set lunch including a glass of wine at $29++, and three-course set lunch including a glass of wine at $49++. I really loved the stylish and intricate plating, with lots of little unexpected elements and surprises, and I felt that the quality of cooking was high (even though some other bloggers beg to differ). The counter seating, with a semi-open kitchen concept was also really interactive and proffered interesting views of the kitchen preps, which at times looked like chemistry lab preparation.

So go with an open mind, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Lunch only Thursdays to Fridays (I find the dinners, tapas and cocktails too expensive though). They change their lunch menus every month so there's always something new to look forward to.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I really really wanted to try Forlino for a very long time, after hearing many rave reviews about it from friends as well as on Chubby Hubby's blog. So imagine how pleased I was when I finally convinced E to bring me there for lunch.

Upon stepping in, we were transported to another world by the beautiful decor and stunning views. Done in a modern take on Victorian style, the understated and elegant plush luxe surroundings were the perfect counterfoil to set off the breathtaking 270 degree panaroma of the Marina Bay seen through ceiling-to-floor windows.

We had the set lunch, starting with home-made foccacia bread and an amuse-bouche of fresh mozzarella on cherry tomato garnished with mint. The warmed foccacia bread was crispy and redolent with olive oil, although I felt that it lacked depth of flavour and that wonderful bready yeasty taste. The amuse-bouche however hinted pleasurably of better things to come, with the different tastes complementing each other wonderfully.

For starters, I had the beef carpaccio while E had a pumpkin soup. I very much liked my beer carpaccio - vibrant and citrusy tasting, served on a fresh and zingy rocket and celery salad. The peppery and sharp scents of the rocket and celery set off the beef really well. E's pumpkin soup was nothing much to shout about though, can only say that it was serviceable.

My main course was a grilled red snapper served with capers, olives and rosemary, while E had the pasta. Again, I think I made the better choice of the two of us. The fish was lightly grilled with a thinly crispy skin but still moist and juicy flesh, and the scent of the rosemary and caper jus was simply tantalising. E's tagliatelle was good (fresh pasta can never be bad) with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves but did not rise to new heights - I have cooked better fresh pasta at home before. Sweet ending with coffee and handmade petit-fours (almond cookies somewhat like baci, meringue 'kisses' and chocolate ganache truffles).

Forlino has the potential to be great - it has outstanding views, beautiful and stylish decor and cutlery, and the quality of the food is high - good ol Italian comfort food (though not quite 'knock-me-out' standard). It is however somewhat let down by harried and spotty service, the waiters are not fully trained and professional enough to live up to the billing of fine-dining. There was practically no explanation of all the dishes and little warmth shown. Nevertheless, given the price of lunch and all the other plus factors going for it ($38, but there's a one-for-one deal until end May 09), this has got to be one of the best value lunches that one can enjoy. E and I will probably go back for dinner to try out their famed lamb chops and veal ravioli (E has this hang-up about eating baby animals so I will get double portions of lamb and ravioli. Oh joy!)