Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hot Stones, hot deals

Taking advantage of Clarke Quay’s lunchtime promotion where a number of restaurants are offering set meals at $15nett and there’s free parking too, we gathered a few colleagues and headed down to check out Hot Stones restaurant.

Hot Stones was considered quite a hip eating place to go when it was first set up a few years ago, at least among the younger set. But I had never been, since this was before I truly discovered the joys of eating, and in any case I was busy boring over my books in London then. So I was rather pleased that I had the chance to sample its offerings and to have fun cooking my own food on heated volcanic rock.

The $15nett set meal is a very good-value deal – it includes a salad, 2 choices of meat, a dessert, and a coffee/tea. The salad looked like what you would expect to see in coleslaw – shredded lettuce and carrots – but it was fresh and the light tangy wafu dressing palatable. There was a good range of meats to choose from – I picked the Australian beef sirloin + Tuna Fillet, both of which looked to be generously cut at about 100g each, and it was even better to discover that the restaurant did not marinate the meats or add too much salt, so that the au naturel flavours could still be tasted (3 dips are provided on the side). Hearing the sizzle of the meat as it cooked, seeing the oils / juices slowly dripping out, and smelling the heavenly aroma of grilling, really whetted our appetites. The meats were of fairly good quality, although understandably not as flavourful and juicy as one would expect for more premium supplies.

fairly generous cuts of beef sirloin and tuna fillet

sizzling away to a medium rare doneness

Of course at this rather unbelievable price, there were a couple of sore spots, chiefly that they refused to serve tap water, and service was also slow and inattentive. But on whole, we had a great time though the men in our group felt that the portions were small (no complaints at all from the women) and there were no carbohydrates (friendly to Atkins dieters!). I’ve heard that dinner is rather pricey so do take advantage of this deal if you’re interested in the Hot Stones experience. The Clarke Quay lunchtime promotion runs till Feb 2010, so that gives ample time to check out other restaurants offering great deals, like L’Entrepot Bistro and Le Noir.

Hot Stones
Clarke Quay, Blk D #01-06

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Tiffany Look

Made more droplets of cherry quartz and blueish-green aquamarine to dangle on my hoop earrings. Each of the three droplets on each hoop can be slipped off, and worn in many different ways - singly; all together; as duos; or even mismatched! All wires and chains are gold-filled. Don't you think these earrings have a very Tiffany look and feel? Super-classy and elegant. Ooh this is just so perfect for travel.

(I lust after Tiffany jewelry but I think they are seriously overpriced. So I make my own Tiffany-inspired pieces, not exact copies, but with my own unique twist. )

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sin Huat's Crab Beehoon and Gong Gong

The seafood dinner E and I had with my parents last night was stupendously good, not in a refined classy way like the Japanese kaiseiki or French degustation, but in that belly-rubbing; guilty pleasure; this-surely-can't-be-good-for-me-but-i'm-going-to-do-it-anyway; way. You get the message.

Sin Huat Eating House has got to be the only small coffeeshop that is so famous that it has been featured in both the New York Times and Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour. I had once sampled Chef Danny's famous crab beehoon a few years ago on a Makansutra food tour led by the irrepressible K.F. Seetoh, which left an indelible impression upon me. First-time visitors, please look past that dingy darkened coffeeshop, algae-encrusted fish tanks, take a deep breath, and just plunge right in and order the Crab Beehoon and Gong Gong. That is, if Chef Danny the OMO deigns to come out of the kitchen to take your order. Otherwise, just skulk around and wait patiently for his Highness to notice you. You chose to come here, didn't you?
OMO: One Man Operation

The live Gong Gongs (or sea conches, judging from their shape they are close relatives to escargots), were very large and served simply steamed. This came with the most awesome chilli dip which had a salty and slightly sweetish thick base (it could be some type of bottled seafood sauce), with lots of garlic, chopped spring onions and chilli padi in it. I would try making this myself at home in future.

The star of the show finally made its appearance on our table 45 minutes after we ordered (I am told that this is a relatively short wait). But that wait was not in vain. Two of the hugest Sri Lankan crabs I've ever seen, with every single strand of beehoon lusciously soaked in a superbly umami secret stock. There was more crab than beehoon....ratio was about 2 to 1!! The crabs were so much more sweeter and "crabbier" than your usual Sri Lankan crabs, I seriously have no idea and don't really want to know where this chap gets his supply from. My dad the indifferent and agnostic eater ate with so much more gusto than I've ever seen him eat in his life. I also remember my friend S telling me about the fantabulous frog legs cooked with two bottles of Brand's Chicken Essence but we just had no more room to stuff in more.

look at the amount of leftovers! This is a 20cm wide 10 cm deep claypot!
In fact, the four of us who are very small eaters couldn't finish at least a third of the crab beehoon so it got packed up and made a very indulgent and simply divine Sunday lunch. If possible, this tasted even better sitting overnight. I am not ashamed to say that we practically licked our shells, plates and the pot clean! Sin Huat has got to be the priciest coffeeshop around - the crab beehoon cost us SGD128 and the gong gongs SGD50 - but hey! there are some things that one has gotta try at least once in your lifetime.

Sin Huat Eating House
Geylang Lorong 35
Open only from 6 pm till late

Sauce Veloute and MtAoFC

look, no lumps in my sauce!

I also bought the classic Julia Child cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MtAoFC). It unexpectedly got pressed into service for lunch when I was wondering what sauce I could serve with pasta, since we did not have any tomatoes on hand. Following Julia's instructions to the letter, the end-result was jaw-droppingly good for something so dead easy and fast (it takes all of 5 minutes). I have listed the recipe below for W's benefit, in case she is wondering what to cook for dinner (if you are wondering why I am up so late, I was rushing out those darned minutes!)

Simple Sauce Bechamel / Sauce Veloute, makes 2 cups

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk and 1/4 tsp salt heated to boil in small saucepan OR 2 cups boiling chicken / fish / clam stock (I used a mixture of scallop concentrate diluted with hot water, and some milk).
1 cup = 240ml

In a saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Blend in the flour, and cook slowly, stirring until the butter and flour froth together for 2 min without colouring. This is now a white roux.

Remove roux from heat. As soon as it has stopped bubbling, pour in all the hot liquid at once. Immediately beat vigourously with a wire whip to blend liquid and roux. Set saucepan over moderately high heat and stir with wire whip until sauce comes to boil. Boil for 1 min, stirring.

Remove from heat and beat in salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over chicken, fish, pastas, or use as a base for another recipe (a sauce bechamel is the base that is used for mac & cheese).

Note: Liquid to be poured into the roux must be very hot i.e. near boiling point. This will prevent lumps from forming. Variations of this highly versatile sauce - suggestions are to add cheese; onions; or fresh / dried herbs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Seeing Stars: The France Michelin Guide

E and I are going to spend 9 happy days eating and drinking in Paris, Provence and Nice in just a few days time! Finally, after a week or so of bated anticipation, my Michelin guide got delivered, allowing us to put the finishing touches to our plans. Moreover, it's the spiffy-looking 100th edition. Thank heavens for

The Guide is a real treasure trove of restaurant recommendations for France, amazingly detailed (addresses, prices, opening hours) and easy to navigate (categorised by city, or in the case of Paris, arrondissements and cuisine type). It's definitely a good buy (at USD17 from Amazon) and a good keepsake, if you're visiting more than one place in France - Paris has its own separate Michelin guide. Not all restaurants listed in the Guide are starred establishments, it lists "Bib Gourmand" restaurants as well, which have "good cooking at moderate prices". I've already made reservations at two Parisian starred restaurants: a two-star, and a one-star, which promise to be mind-blowingly good, if W's experience with the Guide thus far holds up. Can't wait!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


An oasis of calm

I fell in love with this cafe even before I sat down. The white-washed walls, cool blue accents, wood panelled floors and soft modern jazz playing in the background simply imparted a sense of tranquility and relaxation, and transported me away to an exotic seaside resort. More precisely, Mykii's decor and food (what they call "travelled cuisine" with a theme of "getaway"), takes inspiration from the Greek island of Mykonos. The spread of food items is extensive, with a range including pastas, sandwiches, meat and fish mains, many of which are prepared with a Southeast Asian influence.

just gotta love that adorable little blue window

Felt sophisticated and well-travelled as I sipped my iced lemon tea

Lunch is very affordable, at SGD13.80 for a main course, soup, dessert, and drink. The soup of the day was a tomato basil soup that tasted pretty rich and summery and aptly resonated with the Mediterranean vibe of the restaurant. It probably came out of a can but those were good quality canned tomatoes. My selection of Chicken Tofu Burger with Romaine Lettuce came with two deep fried tofu "buns" sandwiching grilled cajun chicken breast, drizzled with oriental peanut sauce. It felt reminiscent of a westernised version of the Indonesian dish "taukwa goreng". Not bad at all, the chicken was not overcooked and remained tender, and I liked the firm texture and health brownie points from eating tofu (although there are probably truckloads of hidden calories from the deep frying!) A small chocolate tart - a bit of a letdown - rounded off the meal. Really a good find, given the gorgeous decor and that the food is pretty decent. This is probably the cheapest "holiday" that one can enjoy without even having to buy tickets. Perfect for long chats and general lolling around.

17d Lorong Liput Holland Village

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am an INFJ

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (better known as MBTI!) is a well-known personality assessment test. A colleague circulated an abbreviated online version of the test. No surprises at my results!

Your Type is INFJ: Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging

Strength of the preferences:
very expressed introvert
moderately expressed intuitive personality
moderately expressed feeling personality
very expressed judging personality

Famous people with this personality type: John Bradshaw, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, John Calvin, Nicole Kidman. Apparently, I would do well in the social sector in the following fields - education, healthcare, counselling. *Ahem* I've already gone through two out of three in that list.

Monday, October 19, 2009


In a complete contrast to Gusttimo, I didn't expect to like this but I totally did! The lunch choices for today were either Zento or Rakuichi, but since my lunch at Santaro last week had been more "traditional" Japanese, some experimentation and testing of boundaries seemed the order of the day. Zento is not your usual run-of-the mill Japanese restaurant. Think contemporary, fusion or Japanese with strong American influences, and that may still not give you a good idea of what the fuss over this place is all about (check out Wong Ah Yoke's and Jaime Ee's reviews).

From left to right: Otoro, snapper, salmon, swordfish, yellowtail.

I had already decided WAAAY in advance on the sushi lunch set ($35 for 8 rolls and 5 nigiri, accompanied by miso soup, salad and dessert). Chef Gunawan kindly made me an oh-so-delicious wagyu beef roll, with chunks of creamy avocado, mixed with spicy Japanese mayonnaise. It sounds quite "Californian" and avant-garde but all those different tastes and texture unexpectedly melded together fantastically and tasted amazingly good.

But what I really couldn't believe was the nigiri sushi spread! Indeed sitting so prettily on the plate, it was that divine nirvana of raw fish, a superbly marbled otoro. The other sushi were swimmingly fresh too but I only had eyes for the beloved tuna belly, which was stunningly oily that it melted in the mouth almost instantly....ooiishi!!

Y had the seared scallops set (with tempura, garlic fried rice, seared scallops with enoki mushrooms, and salad. She liked it, but probably not as much as I did my sushi set(I strongly recommend that one should go for the unique sushi offerings since it's what this place is known for). We ended the meal with a blueberry cheesecake dessert which although I couldn't taste much cheese in it, was really light and smooth and refreshing to the palate, and best of all, topped with an absolutely scrumptious teensy macaroon dusted with fleur-de-sel.

What excited me was Zento's refreshingly bold approach to reinventing and reinterpreting a classic cuisine, its emphasis on top-quality, premium ingredients, and quirky but delicious and creative offerings. The service aspects however, could do with some improvement - wait staff were somewhat confused and raw (albeit well-meaning, no pun intended), certainly not what one would expect at this price point, since the restaurant has already been operating for a few months.

18B Dempsey Road

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Oomph from Gusttimo di Roma

Question: why is there a "di Roma" tagged onto the name of this place, when it's in fact a chain from Korea?

Answer 1 (from the clueless wait staff): Don't know.
Correct Answer (from me): To make the gelato seem more authentic than it actually is.

I wanted to like this place, since it was decked out in sweet pastel pink and had a beautiful sparkly chandelier hanging from the ceiling, but unfortunately I could not. We shared the SGD5.90 cup and chose the following three flavours - white wine; pecan+brownie; and coffee. The gelato was, for want of a better word, wimpy. It lacked the critical smooth creamy mouth-feel of gelato, felt artificially light i.e. not in a good way as with Yoguru, and the flavours were so muted... such a far far cry from what we ate on the streets of Italy (for only 2Euros too). While I didn't test it, I heard that the shop has this strange policy of not allowing customers to choose only 1 or 2 flavours, even if they pay extra for it. Now that is just plain silly. I wonder how long this place will last!

Gusttimo di Roma, Ion Orchard, #1-15

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two Chefs Eating Place

I really really like this humble zi-char stall, tucked away in a old housing estate. The food is nothing fanciful or restaurant-grade, but its honest-to-goodness ol' home cooking style is really heart warming, almost like you're eating in a favourite aunt's house. E and I often come here for a quick dinner after work, ordering dishes such as the signature butter ribs which comprise boneless soft and juicy ribs coated in a seriously addictive sweet milk powder, and the three-egg vegetable. The prices here are super value-for-money too: our dinners usually cost less than $15 for two dishes and rice.

Cheap and good... no wonder we never fail to leave with a smile on our face.

Two Chefs Eating Place
Blk 116 Commonwealth Drive

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Santaro (a.k.a. I have a short memory)

YAWN. Well I should have known that the spree of fantastic Japanese meals I had been having lately wouldn't last forever. This wasn't actually was just HO-HUM and very forgettable. It didn't inspire, excite, titillate or even shock (at least bad food elicits a reaction!).

And I had completely forgotten that I had exactly the same sentiments just a year plus back. And ordered exactly the same set lunch to boot.

Dessert was not bad, fortunately. Instead of the usual boring cut fruits (why do Japanese restaurants like to give watermelon slices), we got a matcha "brulee", with a strangely firm and non-wobbly gelatinous texture but a nice bitter taste of green tea. Also, the company and conversation saved the day and more than made up for the blandness of the lunch.

My Pearl Earrings

I was feeling rather bored over the weekend, plus I had been wanting to get a pair of simple but chic and tres elegant pearl earrings. No boring pearl studs for me please! (only ladies of a certain age wear them....) So out came the pliers, bead findings, and pearls that had been gathering dust in a cupboard over the past one year and 10 minutes later I had my new earrings.

Largish (6 mm) pink and very slightly irregularly shaped freshwater pearls, with gold-filled pins, dangling on gold-plated small loops - which were recycled from an old pair of Liz Clairborne earrings. These are charming and have a modern fresh feel. Best part is, you can slip them off and replace them with other gemstones, either singly or in combination, and voila! a new pair of earrings everyday.

The vainpot in me likes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Breakfast

Here's another reason why I love Sunday mornings. A proper cooked breakfast!! Creamy scrambled eggs, grilled giant juicy portobello mushrooms, lightly sauteed tomatoes with a sprinkling of sea salt. Don't be duped by that inedible rubbery congealed mess that McDonald's calls scrambled eggs. Here's how it should be done.

Proper Scrambled Eggs (serves one as a large breakfast, or two with accompanying sides)
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan, over VERY low heat. Break 2 - 3 eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork.
When the butter has stopped foaming and has just turned a light brown, tip the beaten eggs in. Stir gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. BE PATIENT. The slower the eggs cook, the more creamy your scrambled eggs will be. You may need to lift the pan off the heat if the eggs are cooking too fast.
After about 3 to 4 minutes, the eggs will become just set and very creamy. Cook longer if you want firmer scrambled eggs.
Just before serving, add 1 tablespoon of milk (or if you like to live dangerously, pure cream), and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. DO NOT add the salt from the start as this makes for rubbery, tough egg whites.
Garnish with some snipped chives. Eat immediately.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leng Kee Beef Kway Teow, East Coast Park

I have been patronising Leng Kee Beef Kway Teow, at the East Coast Park Lagoon Food Centre, for some years now. The soup, which is like a consomme, is clear and light, but sweet and full of beefy goodness. You don't get to customise your order much... you can only choose the serving size (SGD4 or SGD5) and the type of beef (meat only; or a mixture of meat and internal parts). The 70-year-old uncle who runs the stall is fierce and brusque but that has not deterred customers from queueing up for 45 minutes or more to get their fix. This is just a fraction of the very loooong queue that had already formed at 5.50 pm.

I like a mixture of meat and other parts including tripe. It's more interesting.

After dinner we strolled around East Coast Park and watched the wakeboarders being towed round and round the man-made lagoon by motorised pulleys on elevated cables. Costs SGD42 per hour on weekends. It looks thrilling but I think I am too chicken to try though!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chirashi Heaven at Aoki

Otoshi of stewed tuna

Step into Aoki. A zen-like oasis of calm and tranquility unfolds. In that moment your world reduces with startling clarity, to the food in front of you.

Salad with sesame and soy sauce vinaigrette

A bowl of chirashi sushi, sitting pristinely on the polished dark wooden table. Shimmering pearls of ikura that go pop and release their briny flavours in your mouth. Fragrant spongy tamago. Drops of smooth and creamy uni. Cubes of marbled otoro that melt in your mouth. Chopped ika, octopus, marinated maguro, shellfish, all so fresh, scattered over a bed of vinegared sushi rice.

A dainty trio of desserts arrives. Milk pudding with brown syrup. Plum wine jelly. Strawberry ice-cream.

This glimpse of heaven doesn’t cost the earth. $35 for mazechirashi lunch set. Includes salad, miso soup, pickles and dessert.

Life is good.

1 Scotts Road
#02-17 Shaw Centre (next to Les Amis)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Off-key Soprano

Situated in an elegant black-and-white colonial house near the tranquil and aspiring-to-be-bohemian Wessex Estate along Portsdown Road, and surrounded by lush greenery, Soprano seemed so promising and inviting, especially at night when the warm lights glow and the place is filled with the chatter of patrons and subdued tinkle of wine glasses and cutlery. Hence, despite the negative reviews on hungrygowhere, I just had to check the place out for myself.

Lunch started off with bread served with an assortment of pickled pearl onions, bell peppers/olives/mushrooms, and pickled caramelized shallots. I enjoyed nibbling on the condiments, fairly unusual since most Italian restaurants only serve olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Most unfortunately the bread (french bread) was cold, despite the fact that there were only 4 or 5 occupied tables in the restaurant. A harbinger of what was to await us?

The menu was thick and confusing, with pages upon pages of different types of pastas (linguine, tagliatelle, ravioli, lunette, and more that I cannot remember the names of), with each pasta type followed by a listing of different permutations of accompanying sauces, which were just purely repetitive. We spent a good 10 minutes deciding what to eat. Finally I decided on the Lunette al Tartufo (or moon-shaped ravioli filled with cheese and truffle paste), since I love the earthy scent of truffles. The accompanying sauce, which was recommended by the waitress to go with the lunette, was a creamy Al Funghi Porchini e Tartufo (porcini mushrooms and truffle oil in creamy sauce). My friend T had the Rettangoli al Salmone (Rectangles filled with Salmon), with a sauce of Al Salmone e Caviale (Salmon Cream in creamy sauce and Caviar).

We didn't have to wait long at all for our pastas, which came out within 10 minutes of ordering. The descriptions on the menu had sounded really good but the food was only average. The servings were very generous, with a large heap of well-stuffed and plump ravioli, which were al-dente if a trifle thick. However I could not really smell the fragrance of the truffles, and the creamy sauce was also too heavy to go well with the ravioli (this was partly my own fault for listening to the waitress instead of going with my instinct of having the brown butter with sage). The salmon ravioli was more salty than we would have liked, but otherwise fairly serviceable and generous with its salmon stuffing.

The good part was the affordable pricing, at $17 each for our pastas. Strangely, Soprano does not have set lunches, which we found mystifying. But no matter anyway, since we decided not to order dessert and decamped to Laurent Bernard the Chocolatier next door. Which turned out to be a huge mistake, with horrendous service and an expensive and super disappointing over-cooked warm chocolate cake with no lava left in it (this is a standard item, no excuse for massacring it).

All I can say is that it's a lucky thing that I have lunch at Aoki(!!) later this week to look forward to. Ha! I can feel my mood perking up already!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nightclub-style dining at Umami Dining Lounge

Happily, this week started with a bang again. Upon the recommendation of my friend Mr Bang, who always knows about all the good deals, lunch today was at Umami Dining Lounge, situated at Liang Court. This restaurant is part of Social House, which is billed as the largest party club in a shopping mall – in line with this, the restaurant feels and looks like an extension of a night club i.e. dim lighting, velvet-covered banquettes, and lots of dark wood paneling. I almost felt like I was in a (high-class) KTV lounge!

As Umami was having a one-for-one set lunch promotion with DBS credit cards till 31 Oct, with set lunches priced at a very reasonable $18 and $25, we decided to go for the $25 set. This comprised of three courses, with about 3 options for each course. Rather unimaginatively, we all chose the same options: an assorted sashimi platter for the starter, grilled sanma for the main, and cheese mousse for dessert (YJ deviated here and had the homemade custard pudding).

The sashimi platter was decent, with 2 slices each of ika (squid), salmon, and tuna – nothing spectacular in the way of freshness or sweetness, but with a nice touch in that the sashimi was served on sliced rounds of lemon which gave a refreshing zinger to the palate. Impressively, the platter came with real grated wasabi, which is always a good sign that a restaurant takes its food seriously.

Our main of grilled sanma tasted as good as it looked, very considerately filleted so that no fiddly grappling with the tiny bones was necessary. The oily and strong-flavoured flesh was delicious although the skin was not quite as crisp as I would have liked. Perfectly complemented by a petite bowl of Japanese rice (my only complaint was that there was not enough rice! It was that delicious), pickles, and a robust-tasting miso soup.

Desserts were not really fantastic, but still alright. Our cheese mousse dessert was not quite what we expected, since we were imagining something akin to Japanese cheesecake beforehand. But since it was light and smooth, we polished it up, which rounded off the meal well.

We were all happy with the extremely good value lunch, since the quality of the food was high for the price we paid. The only gripe we had was that as our party consisted of 3 persons, the restaurant was not flexible enough to offer us 4 sets for the price of 2 (unlike at Satsuma Shochu and My Humble House), which marred our impression of the service level a little.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Italian-inspired Meatballs with Fresh Thyme

In addition to the tulips, E also brought back this pot of thyme from the nursery to add to our burgeoning herb garden. The thyme has a subtle lemony fragrance. I promptly used it in making these easy and tasty Italian-inspired meatballs for lunch. Mmm. There's nothing like fresh herbs.

Italian Inspired Meatballs (serves 3 to 4, makes about 16)

Chopped fresh thyme, 2 teaspoons
Chopped fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon
Chopped fresh sweet basil, 2 teaspoons
Coarsely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
200 g of minced pork (preferably a fattier mince, but add more oil if you only have lean mince. Alternatively, use a mix of beef and pork mince in a 2:1 proportion)
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 egg

Mix all the ingredients together and shape roughly into spherical balls, but not overly compressed (or the meatballs will taste tough and dry). Shallow fry in a non-stick pan with olive oil, until brown on both sides. Serve with pasta, topped with tomato sauce.


A beautiful orange tulip with an ethereal and luminous glow, setting light my Sunday morning. Far East Flora has a good variety of cut blooms (lilies! tulips! roses!) priced at very pocket-friendly rates, and it's always great fun browsing around in their (super) cold room.
Flowers from Far East Flora
565 Thomson Road