Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kate Spade!!

There's just something about kate spade accessories that make one go "i want! i want!". They are happy, bright, colourful, and quaintly twee. It is impossible to resist them.

So I got this bag at a warehouse sale yesterday to add to my ever-growing collection of handbags. Embossed croc leather in a bright moss colour. Lovely!

Satay Beehoon, East Coast Park

The queues for Meng Kee Satay Bee Hoon (East Coast Lagoon Food Village) are horrendous. Even on weekdays, it is easily a 45 minute wait, and thus our many attempts to try this famous satay beehoon always sadly ended in us walking away to Leng Kee for beef kway teow (queues too, but thankfully shorter).

But by providence, yesterday afternoon we happened to arrive at the hawker centre at 5.50 pm, 10 minutes before Meng Kee's opening time of 6pm. Thank goodness, there was only a 6-person-long queue at that time! So we got our Satay Beehoon - a concotion of peanut gravy ladled over blanched beehoon, kang kong, prawns, cockles, cuttlefish, tau pok, sliced pork, and pork liver. The best part was the peanut gravy - superbly thick and rich, fragrant and aromatic - while the seafood was blanched to just the right level of doneness and not overcooked. In fact I don't happen to like Satay Beehoon all that much but Meng Kee's rendition was so addictively tasty that I ate up quite a bit of E's dinner (that's what husbands are for, to share good food, right?).

Meng Kee Satay Bee Hoon
Stall 17 East Coast Lagoon Food Village

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Morton's made affordable?

Mention Morton's of Chicago and apart from the obvious association with steaks, the next thing that comes to mind is $$$ signs (and lots of them). It was therefore too good an opportunity to miss when D found out that they were having this fantastic promotion (until 31 Mar 2010) where a set dinner goes for $95 - for that you get (1) a Morton's salad, (2) a choice of seafood appetiser, (3) a choice of vegetable or potato, and (4) a lovely aged filet mignon! One set was in fact more than enough to feed two and our server had to stop us two excitable girls from ordering two sets.

We upgraded our order to a prime rib (additional $15) and it was a good decision for this cut was simply bristling with flavour (and also fat). D felt that the steakhouses in the US served better steaks and I agreed that it should be so since the quality of the produce is much better and wider over there. I also had this little sneaky feeling that my sirloin steak at La Strada had been just a tad more tasty than Morton's.

Apart from the Morton's Salad with blue cheese dressing, our other choices for the set were the jumbo lump crab cake served with mustard mayonnaise sauce, and grilled jumbo asparagus with balsamic glaze. The jumbo lump crab cake was excellent - whole chunks of crab meat as the name suggests - although it looked deceivingly small on the plate, it filled up our stomachs comfortably.
But it was not the food that was the highlight. What made this dinner so especially wonderful was D's company and the sharing of long-awaited good news. I wish my friends every happiness in the world, for they truly deserve it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Eden Sanctuary, Rochester Park

The friend was in need of a safe sanctuary to talk about some issues and hence we snuck off to this quiet little hideout tucked away in a nook of Rochester Park. Eden Sanctuary is a little café serving the Body With Soul healthcare and wellness group, so naturally the cuisine also falls into the “wellness and healthy living” category.

I went for the three course set lunch at $20.90, starting with the orange feta cheese cashew nut salad. The salad dressing had a shot of what I thought was orange juice but turned out to be calamansi juice instead, and had a nice sour tang, just the thing to perk up the appetite. I enjoyed the very sweet and juicy orange segments tossed with the salad leaves (calamansi dressing and orange segments are a good idea for replicating at home!).

My main of spicy chicken with mango basil salsa sounded exciting but it was an anticlimax. The flavours of the chilli salsa had not permeated the chicken meat and I could hardly find any mango. The nice touch was that there was more of the delicious salad on the plate.

Finally, tofu cheesecake for dessert which I shared with my friend who had by this time finished downloading most of her troubles. This was passable but forgettable.

You wouldn’t find gourmet food or sophisticated cooking here – indeed the food would only be considered average, but the privacy and leafy green surroundings are ideal for a good goss with friends. Add to that the virtuous feeling one gets from feeding your body with healthy foods, and I wouldn’t mind coming back again.

Eden Sanctuary
44 Rochester Park

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Ladies lunch is so pretty (and so are the ladies who lunch)

A delightful lunch at Chiharu last week left me in high spirits. Chiharu seems to fly slightly under the usual foodie radar, perhaps because of its somewhat out-of-the-way location at the old Corduroy & Finch premises (junction of Sixth Ave and Bukit Timah Road).

A visit to Chiharu had been on the cards for some time and it was wonderful that they were having a special Ladies Set Lunch ($38) on the day that I dropped by with L. We were already on a high enjoying our complimentary cocktails of plum wine, and got progressively more excited as the stunningly laid-out baby blue porcelain platter was placed in front of us. So frankly in such a great mood, we were already very much pre-disposed to find the food good.

side view of giant clam shell used as container for the mategai mentaiko!

There was a smorgasbord of things to try on that huge platter but the three I liked best were:

Temari sushi in the shape of adorable miniature balls. So very fresh and delectable, particularly that sweet sweet scallop sushi. The sushi rice was firmly packed and well seasoned, with the grains still retaining their texture and bite.

Handmade crab tofu and pidan tofu. So smooth and light and yet flavourful in a very subtle way. Clean-tasting and very understated! The bad part was the teensy servings so the enjoyment was over in two bites.

Both L and I agreed that our favourite was the Mategai Mentaiyaki – grilled bamboo clam with mayonnaise and spicy cod roe dressing. This came beautifully presented in a giant clam shell supported by a mound of baked salt. I love anything mentaiko (dig the spicy and salty flavours!) but this was really super addictive, with the succulent bamboo clam meat providing a good base for the taste explosion of the mentaiko.

After all that happiness and enjoyment, I am now making plans to return to Chiharu soon, in particular to check out their Monday yakitori buffet promotion (priced very reasonably at $28 per person). Bring on those chicken skin skewers!!

779 Bukit Timah Road,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Touch of Luxury: Grilled Jumbo Prawns

We knew we had to buy them when we saw these stunningly fresh and glistening jumbo tiger prawns at the supermarket on Saturday morning. Each one weighed in at an astonishing 100g and at a price of SGD39 per kilo (more expensive than Sri Lankan crabs!), four of these babies cost us SGD16.

But seared over a hot grill, sprinkled with some fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper and accompanied with a caramelised lemon, these were so so awesomely finger-licking good. Such a rich and robust flavour more than mere prawns, similar to crayfish or lobsters, with the taste of the ocean marvellously brought out by our precious stash of fleur de sel from the Camargue marshes in Provence. A wonderfully indulgennt and luxurious lunch indeed!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

La Strada, Shaw Centre

There's nothing quite like a nice lunch to perk up the workday. This month's lunch outing with Y was at La Strada, the Les Amis group's Italian restaurant. It was an impromptu decision and thus no reservations made in advance but we were warmly welcomed and served a wonderfully tasty and crisp pizza bread made in their authentic wood-fired oven. So simple, with just a smear of tomatoes and herbs on the top and yet so terribly good.

For her starter, Y went for the croquette with crab, bell peppers, onions and mesclun salad. I sampled a bite and it was delicious, with a smooth, creamy and piping hot potato filling.

Being partial to the slightly gamey taste of duck meat, I went for the poached duck breast served with citrus segments. The duck breast was beautifully cooked, with a touch of pink in the middle and juices and the lightness and acidity of the grapefruit complemented the meat well, although as a whole, this dish fell a little short of the stunning renditions that I had in France.
Y always seems to order pasta 8 or 9 times out of 10 and this time was no exception. Pasta of the day was spaghetti with ham and onions in a tomato-based sauce. The flavours were good but the spaghetti was a tad overcooked (also, I would have expected home-made pasta), so I thought this dish was pretty unexceptional.

On the other hand, my char-grilled 70 day grain-fed sirloin steak was a revelation. Perfectly and simply seasoned with only sea salt, the flavour of the meat was utterly delicious (probably even better than Morton's but I need another tasting at Morton's to be sure) and absolutely no sauce was necessary. Unlike the bistecca I had at La Nonna, this was cooked exactly to my medium-rare specifications.
At $28 for the two-course lunch ($34 for three course), this nice lunch is definitely an affordable treat.
La Strada

Love Boeuf Bourguignon

On Sundays when I have nothing much planned, I like to cook hearty stews. Therapeutic to stir and taste and add herbs, stews gently simmer for many hours on the stove or in the oven, filling the entire house with delicious smells and the warmth of a home. They don't need very much effort to prepare or cook and their flavours improve with keeping, making it entirely possible and even desirable to cook up a large batch and store leftovers for easy dinners over the working week.

Last Sunday's stew was the classic French dish, Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stew in red wine with onions and mushrooms). I used Julia Child's recipe as a reference but did not follow all the steps that closely, being susceptible to shortcuts and not wanting to spend a small fortune on pearl onions. Even then, this turned out to be stupendous, one of the best things I have ever cooked. I almost swooned as I took my first taste....the sauce was fabulously rich and flavourful; the beef tender from the long slow braising; the tiny braised onions sweet and soft and wine-y....

We had the stew for dinner on Sunday night, and the remainder on a weekday night accompanied by warm toasted baguette - it tasted even better if that is at all possible - and we mopped up every single bit of the sauce. What a meal!

Here are links to the classic Julia Child recipe:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Privé Restaurant Now Has Windows

I am one of those who actually bother to read the email updates (and actually occasionally rather useful and interesting) from Yuan Oeij, co-owner of Privé and other establishments like Stereolab, Hacienda. But then I let out a whoop! when i saw his latest email. Privé has finally seen the light and installed windows. Pun entirely intended. Why waste a good view?

Photo borrowed from Yuan's update

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food For the Soul

Just from reading this blog it may seem that my greatest love is for food, but in fact the real passion of my life is reading. I simply love to read. I devour books. I HAVE to read every single day, at least 30 minutes or I can't go to sleep.

So what a treat it was to find that Borders had stocked a whole range of these classics from Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Henry James, to beloved children's stories like Wind in the Willows, the Railway Children, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island! These were going for practically nothing - after a 40% discount at only SGD3 each (imagine, buying Anna Karenina or Crime & Punishment at that price)! I couldn't help feeling sad though that in the half hour that I squatted in front of the shelf deliberating on which four books to get, no one else came near despite the display being given prominence near the entrance of the shop. Guess reading is not really in fashion these days.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

La Nonna, Holland Village

Prosciutto e Rucola pizza

La Nonna stands for "grandmother" in Italian, so the food served at the La Nonna restaurant was meant to be evocative of Italian home cooking...hmmm....visions of a sunny Mediterranean kitchen with a weather-beaten but hardy old Italian granny presiding over a pot full of vine-ripened tomatoes and olive oil come to mind....

La Nonna restaurant comes under the Senso group, which operates the Italian restaurant Senso and also the Spizza group of restaurants - one of the first to bring in thin crust pizzas. Having had good experiences in the past at both Senso and Spizza, I was really looking forward to the experience at La Nonna. Plus, they were having a fantastic promotion with 50% off food every Monday to Wednesday lunch.

La Nonna signature pizza
Of course I ordered the pizzas - how could I not? The Prosciutto e Rucola (SGD18 before discount, with parma ham, parmesan cheese and rocket salad) was suitably thin and crusty with generous slivers of parma ham - adequate, but not outstanding. But the La Nonna signature pizza (SGD18 before discount, with asparagus, egg, truffles, parmesan cheesse) that I had on another occasion was fantastic. I loved the runny yolk which melded perfectly with the aromatic truffles (they didn't skint on this despite the hefty discount either). It was so good that my colleague L who hardly eats much had three slices of the pizza without any prompting.
Bistecca: ribeye steak in red wine sauce
The mains fared less well though, my Bistecca ribeye steak (SGD26 before discount) was large but had a significant amount of gristle and fat in it, and came out well-done despite me asking for it to be medium rare. Nevertheless, the meat must have been quite a premium cut as it had lots of flavour and character (definitely not from frozen) and the red wine sauce that accompanied it was rich and tasty.
If you are looking for an affordable place with fairly good food, La Nonna amply fits the bill. Sitting in that sun-lit dining room with a solid wooden table and colourful pictures on the wall and munching on my pizzas, I almost felt like I was back in Italy (where E and I had a very happy and food-filled honeymoon). Here's to La Dolce Vita!
La Nonna
26 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village
76 Namly Place

Friday, January 8, 2010

Going Vegetarian: Thunder Tea Rice

One of my resolutions this year is to go vegetarian at least once a week, as a small contribution on my part for the sake of the environment (the production of beef and pork take a huge toll on the environment).

Lunch at a health food cafe in the Biopolis area a couple of days ago was for lack of a better description, extremely healthful and virtuous. Hakka Thunder Tea Rice is something that I've been wanting to try for a long time ever since I first heard about it, just because of THAT NAME.

This vegetarian version came with brown rice, beancurd cubes, lightly toasted ground nuts and a goody variety of blanched and diced greens: green beans, kailan, chye sim, four-angle beans. The green tea mixture was real complex.... it comprised ground green tea leaves, basil, mint, coriander and a bunch of other unidentifiable herbs - you pour it into the bowl of rice and greens and stir everything up and eat. It has got a whole bunch of purported health benefits too, like lowering cholesterol, easing digestion and so on...if it is true, this makes one wonder why we need doctors with this kind of super medicine food.
Thunder Tea Rice seems to elicit two kinds of extreme reactions in people: those who love it and those who hate it. Happily, I fell into the former camp - it had a refreshingly herbal and minty taste, not overly strong or bitter or astringent (plus, I happen to like the smell and taste of basil). Best of all, eating it made me full in a very satisfying but not satiated way, and I didn't feel hungry all the way till dinner or sleepy after lunch (a major accomplishment).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ootoya - Delicious Food Haphazard Service

A rather schizophrenic experience at Ootoya last week. Prior to the visit, I was full of anticipation, having heard so many rave about the place. I liked that Ootoya specializes in teishoku – an all-in-one set meal with a main dish, side dish, rice, pickles, and miso soup - just like home cooking.

Driving up the dizzyingly steep carpark ramp (all of 16 floors before I found a lot) of that bewildering vertical mall of Orchard Central gave me a staggering headache. Good thing there was no queue and we promptly got seats at the big communal table. Unfortunately after 20 minutes our food was still nowhere in sight, as our server had forgotten to key in the orders – which would ordinarily not have peeved me so much but for the attitude of the manager who couldn’t be bothered to find out what had happened.

Despite being in a huff E was appeased by his first bite of the Torotoro set (steamed rice with Mutsu bay scallops and a soupy stew of tofu and chicken), $17 and 751 calories. So very tasty, with a homely, down-to-earth feel – three small scallops but judge not by the quantity, these were real sweet. The soup was flavourful and heartwarming to sip on, although it seemed a little weird that it was thickened with cornstarch.

The most popular item on the menu, the charcoal grilled atka mackerel ($17 and 579 calories) was deservedly so. An oily and succulent texture but not over-the-top greasy, and pleasantly salty and bitter notes that were complemented perfectly by the grated radish, I couldn't stop eating it and finishing my entire bowl of rice in the process.

Lovely food at Ootoya – I always like down-to-earth homely dishes and this amply fits the bill. So, never mind the can’t-be-bothered service and the crowds, this is a place that I would come back to again.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Orange Chalcedony Earrings from Ying

Lovely Ying sent this beautiful pair of orange chalcedony earrings with Melissa, and it was such a wonderful Christmas surprise! These perfectly match the stunning orange fantasia necklace that I had gotten from her earlier.

Just gotta love that petit leaf detail, topped off with a tiny cream pearl. Ying is really one of the most talented jewellery designers around - support her one-of-a-kind creations at!

The Best of 2009

With all that eating we did, it has been terribly difficult to pick our favourites of 2009. Here are our top 10 gastronomic experiences of the year, all unique and memorable in their own way. Unintendedly so, the list is heavily weighted towards "fine-dining" restaurants - simply a reflection of that super-serious eating we had in France so many of the more humble places that I loved couldn't squeeze into this list.

1. Relais Louis XIII, Paris, France
2. Blu, Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore
3. Joel Robuchon, Monaco
4. Cilantro, Arles, France
5. Aoki, Singapore
6. Les Amis, Singapore
7. Sin Huat Crab Beehoon, Singapore
8. The French Kitchen
9. Tenshin, Singapore
10. Menya Shinchan and Santouka, Singapore (tied jointly)