The Lokal

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I wanted to write about this place for quite a while now, but I had to visit twice, you know, just to be sure. Also, with exams just round the corner, it’s been rather hard for me to justify an hour so in front of my computer doing something other than school-related research. It almost feels irresponsible, but then I remember how weirdly satisfied I feel each time I click on that ‘publish’ button, and anyway, it’s a nice break from the books. OK, it takes quite a lot for me to label something as a favourite, but there you go, and there it is. Any place I visit more than once says quite a lot on my part, to be perfectly honest. The Lokal at 136 Neil Road is not your typical stop-by hooter shoot. Aussie-inspired and run by the group heading Sarnies, another popular spot along Telok Ayer which I have yet to visit, goodness gracious. I feel a slow joy ebbing through me as I type, just because I so thoroughly enjoyed my first experience there. It is precisely 10.42pm at night and I am drooling just looking at the picture above.

Cappuccino
Cappuccino

At more than $5, you would think that this cup would cost you more than what you might benefit from, but trust me, it’s beyond worth the price. This cappuccino in particular has dark chocolate undertones and a subtle, nutty aftertaste. The foam is a dream, the art intricate and professional. I always feel a little wary when I talk about coffee, because I am a complete amateur when it comes to distinguishing between flavour, roasts and extraction degrees, but this is undoubtedly good bang for your buck. Holy shucks, the things I would do for one right now. It lasted me a good hour too, and I relished the thick layer of creamy foam at the very end, scooping it up as if they were bits of airy treasure.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
toasted banana bread with caramelised bananas, homemade yoghurt sauce, toasted macadamias and orange zest– $12

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I kid you not, this is one of the top 3, ok no, 5 things I have ever tasted in my life, alongside others such as foie gras terrine I had in Bordeaux two years ago. It’s way up there, my friend. I remember putting the first forkful into my mouth, making sure to have a bit of every component impaled on the tips, before the taste bud shock thrust me into immediate, unexpected pleasure. I had to close my eyes for just a second, and that is rare, even for me. The homemade yoghurt sauce was what elevated all the flavours of the banana bread, which would have otherwise been overwhelmingly sweet drenched in inches of toffee syrup and even more of the stuff oozing from the slippery, soft sides of those well caramelised bananas. I appreciated the maintenance of a slightly firm interior and rich, caramelised outer layer, instead of being greeted by a flopping about of wet, ripe banana all over the place, yellow dotted guts and all. The nuts provided a hearty crunch, the bread itself wonderfully saturated, beautiful and dense. Each forkful was soft and tender, thanks to the loving bath of toffee, which would’ve been even better with a touch of fleur de sel, now that I think about it.

Fruit salad with homemade yoghurt and white chia seeds– $9
Fruit salad with homemade yoghurt and white chia seeds– $9

This was happily consumed on my second visit, alongside the same, oh-so-loyal capp. At the back you may notice my mother’s avocado, homemade ricotta cheese (don’t you just love the homemade theme running through here?), pomelo and toasted almonds on sourdough ($18). The fruit salad was predictably good, the yoghurt thin and tangy, eventually mixing in with the juices collected from all the fruit. I got a generous helping of watermelon, melon, exotic dragon-fruit and berries. They went all healthy and wholesome with the addition of chia seeds too, and it was only then that I acknowledged the existence of white chia, aside from black, which I enjoy at home in things like oatmeal and atop toast with avocado, honey and maldon. It’s the perfect dish to really fill you up, since the chia seeds expand upon contact with water and sit nicely in your stomach for as long as possible. How adorable. Little jelly balls. What I enjoyed more was the smashed avocado dish, although the avocado itself could’ve benefitted from a touch more seasoning, with coarse salt, lime and pepper. Chilli flakes, even. Just something to move it away from normalcy. That aside, the sourdough was gorgeous, poached eggs (which we ordered as a side for $6) were decent and the homemade ricotta was an effortful and effective addition. Breakfast fare aside, I’m duly keen to try out their sandwich options, which include handcrafted roast beef on rye and chicken varieties. They even have ‘toasties of the day’, and that in itself should make your toes tingle. Does for me, anyway.

I think it a little silly to say ‘I’ll be back’, because that’s just a painfully obvious statement, and anything painfully obvious simply does not deserve to be stated. There. Go.

The Lokal

136 Neil Road

Singapore 088865

Craftsmen Specialty Coffee

cappuccino

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

I still can’t believe I travelled all the way to the East for good coffee. Siglap, to be more precise. All for the sake of trying out this three-week old café. It wasn’t exactly a tedious prospect, but it just so happened that that day was particularly hot, and I almost couldn’t bring myself to further my advances in the obtaining of skin cancer. I’ll be the first to get it and my future children would hate me forever. It’s kind of genetic, you know.

So thank goodness this place had an ambience welcoming enough to compensate for the long distance. I took my little sister along to accompany me, forcing her to bring along some work just so she could at least attempt to be productive that Thursday. I brought my English stuff along, but ended up gushing over the coffee instead of analysing the moth-like tendencies of Blanche Dubois in Streetcar named Desire. All’s still good, I promise.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
cappuccino–$5, iced chocolate–$6

The cappuccino was one of the best I’ve had in an incredibly long time. I appreciated its soft and creamy touch on the palate, and wasn’t in the least bit acidic or sour. The iced chocolate was predictably sweet and refreshing; you can’t exactly go wrong with this. Some places like to posh it up with some vanilla ice cream and extra bits and bobs, but this was perfectly fine on its own. Yum.

The food, on the other hand, was another story. Pips, my sister, ordered the pain au chocolat, her favourite, which was unfortunately nothing short of disappointing. Sufficiently chocolatey and gooey on the inside, yes, but it should definitely have been served warmer and toastier. The crisp factor here was little to none, apart from the occasional caress of flaky crust on your tongue as you joyously tear the elastic pastry bands beneath the less-than-pleasant crust on top.

My own parfait was mediocre, decent at most. The yoghurt they used was a little thin and much too bland; someone needs to hook these guys up with some greek yoghurt stat. The thick, freshly-strained sort. Tang missing, fruit doing little to compensate for the muesli which was overwhelming in both quantity and sweetness. I felt a tad ill after eating just half of the stuff. I personally love it when muesli and yoghurt are mushed together and the initial crunch is whittled down after some time to a delectable, sub-healthy mush, but the ratios here did not work as well to bolster that nice ‘mush’ factor. Ah, pity.

That being said, the ambience here was more than inviting, gorgeous wooden tables everywhere and even a miniature ferris wheel gracing the wide window, and the staff are friendly and amicable. They also serve a variety of belgian waffles, each with its own coupling of ice cream and toppings. I promised myself, as I left, with a half-heavy heart, to try some the next time I chance upon an East Café adventure. Waffle-anything is the epitome of café worthiness, and this place is worth the hop.

 

Craftsmen Specialty Coffee

2 First Street, Siglap V, #01-01, Singapore 458278

IMG_1317
pain au chocolat–$4.20, yoghurt and muesli parfait–$10

Kilo at Pact

IMG_1541

 

This one’s specially for Felix(:

I had been meaning to come here, though to me, Orchard Central isn’t the most particularly ideal destination. All these escalators, all these random jutting corners, as if the designers only thought properly about the layout after it was all set up and built. But fusion food? I was up for the stuff. And so was he.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Donburi salmon rice bowl (all rice bowls come with sweet corn, radishes, sugar peas, wasabi sprouts, shimeji mushrooms and cherry tomatoes) – $17
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
salmon avocado ‘sushiro’– $17

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

They are currently having a set lunch promotion, whereby you can get either a salad, sushiro (I love how they do a nice play on our grotesque accents here) or rice bowl, together with a citrus iced tea and a choice between two desserts– basil panna cotta or a lemon tart with fresh cream. All for around $20++. Since we were in a rush for a movie (I teared up an embarrassing amount during The Fault in Our Stars, though I might have enjoyed it more if it weren’t for the mediocre book), we just ordered two mains, but each was satisfying enough!

I thoroughly enjoyed my donburi salmon rice bowl, a relatively new addition to the menu. They also offer pork belly, beef short-rib and roasted vegetables with tofu options. The salmon could have been more tender and with a little teriyaki marination, for otherwise it was a little dry and bland. You know, it’s always easy to put ‘sweet corn’ in the menu, and I could almost imagine them pouring the bright yellow stuff out from a can, but these kernels were as crunchy as the almost-burnt crusts of toast and as sweet as can be. The avocado was a nice touch, but it was a little lonely green sliver amongst the mounds of superior vegetables, and should have been accompanied by some sauce or other– I’d say a sweet soya or shabu-shabu variety. Anything, really. The highlight of the whole thing was most certainly those sweet, marinated shimeji mushrooms. Tender, sweet and fresh, and paired perfectly with the more hardy stance of brown rice. I chose brown because I enjoy its chewy wholesomeness and frankly I get enough sushi rice in my life already. Everything was dandy, but a little overpriced. 17 bucks demands serious business for a bowl of rice, fish and vegetables. Let’s be real.

That being said, the portions were perfectly satisfying, and I think I shall return for the set lunch option. The sushiro Lix ordered was proper huge, served with nacho-style chips (which I thought needed more seasoning, whatever brand they’re sourced from), and wasabi and soy. The ambience here is lovely; there was gorgeous, soft light streaming through the wide top-to-toe windows that early afternoon, but they could do with more tables to accommodate more people.

One thing is for sure though– lunches with this guy are the best.

 

 

Rating: 4.4/5.0

Kilo at Pact

#02-16/18
Orchard Central
Singapore

 

 

 

Ronin

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ronin. By the same people of The Plain, which I adore wholeheartedly and should definitely put up a review for, and The Bravery. These guys love to show off the well-done industrial chic thing. And I appreciate their efforts. I really do.

I heard a little too much of this place, situated right on Hong Kong Street. I had no idea this place even existed. Is there Hong Kong in Singapore? Will I find it here? That was probably expecting a little too much. In my previous review of The Bravery Café, I was intrigued by the staunch industrial chic feel, and this feeling was brought to a maximum at Ronin. Once I stepped inside, I knew I had found something quite special. No, it’s not the sort of place where you can take well-lit photos and upload them all shamelessly. It’s dim, warmly lit, and on that particularly rainy day whereby my socks were soaked through and through (ugh), it was hard to see past the first half of the café.  To be frank, all the photos I saw of the place on Instagram almost put me off visiting– I thought it all too surreptitious, dim and perhaps a tad too pretentious. But knowing me… I’d do anything to find a good cup of coffee.

Cappuccino and latte–$4.20
Cappuccino and latte–$4.20

The Genovese blends they use will always have me coming back for more. And now I only wished I also ordered their special ‘Wicked Mocha’, which apparently comes with fudge on the bottom and a lively sprig of mint. I’m determined to return just to try it. My cappuccino was thick and frothy; a tad better than the one I had at the Bravery. One cannot expect consistency all the time, but this really impressed me and my coffee buds were set alight.

French toast with cooked apple, candied bacon, hazelnut-flavoured butter and maple syrup–$14 Scrambled eggs with sourdough, rye, bacon and portobello mushroom– $9+$3+$3
French toast with cooked apple, candied bacon, hazelnut-flavoured butter and maple syrup–$14
Scrambled eggs with sourdough, rye, bacon and portobello mushroom– $9+$3+$3


The french toast, the french toast. I asked for the maple syrup on the side, because I hate having my french toast drowned at first go. However, the server conveniently forgot and the toast was soaking in a too-generous pool of the stuff. Secondly, on behalf of both Liz’s and my later pleasure, I requested for an add-on of portobello, because I absolutely love a hulking mass of beefy, juicy portobello, and once again she forgot. Ah, one, two marks off. They were simple enough requests. This wasn’t off to a very good start. What I found slightly odd was how when my dish came, each slice seemed to have a ridge right along the edges, so that each could be split into half on the horizontal plane once again. My my, it was massive. The hazelnut-flavoured butter was a nice touch, though I feel they might as well have served it with real hazelnut butter, or almond butter, because now that I think of it, that would have paired quite wonderfully with the soaked brioche. The toast itself was lovely and squidgy on the inside, but didn’t undergo as much saturation of eggy batter as I would have liked. It was all a little too dense and just slightly above mediocre-good. I found myself reminiscing the time when I was sitting alone, having french toast at Stateland Café, which I thought had the most fluffy and bombastic interior. This was good french toast, but it failed to deliver the same outrageously fluffy and light consistency on the inside. The fat-marbled candied bacon and cooked apple were marvellous though, but somehow the maple syrup felt a little thick on the palate. More like a Grade A, I should hazard a guess.

The most impressive item, I must, must say, was the scrambled eggs. Because honest to God, I wasn’t expecting such a creamy, beautifully curdled, pale yellow mass such as this one. Each bite was wonderfully well-seasoned, and paired with the nicely toasted sourdough and rye, yielded a heavenly combination of hearty flavour. The portobello mushroom (which, yes, came later) was beautifully roasted and as juicy as a ripe tomato, bursting with beefy flavour on the inside. Best dish that morning.

I shall return for more, that is, if they actually remember specific orders next time round. This place is excellent if you’re looking to while away your time in a cosy and dimly-lit place, with a book in hand and creamy broth in the other. Come here for the heartiest of brunches, for sharing, for escape.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

Ronin

17 Hongkong Street

Tuesday – Sunday 8am-8pm

Carpenter and Cook

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Passionfruit Meringue Tart– $6.50

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

Brain dead. Slow, lethargic. We trudged uphill. And lo and behold, we found the quaintest little hideout at Upper Bukit Timah. Felt like the queens of the hill, and frankly, all energy was restored soon after. Walking at least a mile in that heat was pretty worth it.

Did I say quaint? I said quaintest. The plates, the decor, the everything. I had been meaning to visit this place for at least a year and half, and finally I can announce I have been, and have eaten. Eaten what, exactly? Why, only some of the best tarts I have tried in the country. Starting off with this passionfruit meringue babe, one in their ‘The Queen of Hearts Tarts’ series. Yeah that’s right, they boast six different sorts of tarts to please the senses. One walks in and marvels at the Alice in Wonderland clocks and cutlery, but marvels even more at the quality of double-baked (yes!!) crusts. And I don’t mind double-baked crusts. Frankly, I prefer it. This tart sings with the zesty tang of passionfruit without letting it dampen the filling. Cutting into it was admittedly a little tough, with my fork splaying everywhere, but the surprise lay in the filling, which in contrast to the stout and hardy crust, was very moist and more runny than other fillings I have encountered. Silky, rich, topped with the prettiest dollops of sweet meringue.

And goodness, the lemonade. Fizzy, sweet, gorgeous, refreshing.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
chocolate sea salt caramel and lemon cream tarts– $6.50, lemon drizzle ‘Eat Me’ mini loaf– $5.00

IMG_0250

 

I couldn’t not try more babies. Saying it like that is horribly sadistic, but I really can’t find any other appropriate way to describe them. They are such… babies. Mini, petite, pretty, delicate. Too much so to be touched by even the most delicate of forks. And I am extremely, eternally grateful to my friend Liz’s mum for helping me buy them. I still feel a little embarrassed!

The lemon cream tart was my queen. Probably the best lemon tart I have tried so far.

Lemon anything is God-sent. I personally don’t know what would happen to me if I was deprived of this angel of a fruit. And I certainly felt like a queen eating it for breakfast this morning. Equals. The filling, contrary to popular belief, is not too sour at all, and perfectly complements the extraordinarily buttery and only mildly sweet crust. The sourness wasn’t let down by a dribbly consistency, but instead was spread evenly throughout a bright-hued, sacred pale yellow. Vivid and creamy. It’s hard to stop yabbering on about both shell and filling. It’s calling me.

Most everything about it was faultless, from the smooth and silky chocolate top and gooey, almost smoky caramel insides. Cut like butter with a mini fork. Ravishing. A little more salt and perhaps a more sophisticated grade of chocolate would be preferable, but overall, my, my.

The lemon drizzle cake is part of their ‘Eat Me’ loaf cake series, and other options include banana, pear almond and apple cobbler. As I have mentioned time and time again, lemon anything is irresistible. I couldn’t.. not. I was heavily impressed by this one in particular; the cake was of the right tart to sweet ratio, the inside was dense enough to pack in the perfect amount of flavour, light enough to hold the title of a posh fairy cake.  The icing was an uplifting experience, I swear.

The downside to all of this was the price. Let’s be real. I was extremely hesitant to pay more than 6 bucks for one minuscule tart, which might not have lived up to expectations. Considering this place was rather off-the-beaten track, and required quite a trek to get to, the prices incited a moderate degree of annoyance. Then again, they do make everything themselves and the quality is pretty unbeatable. They obviously take great pride in their work and efforts, although the service available could have been a tad more professional. I overheard one at the counter asking, in a rather audible tone, if some strange liquid in a cup ‘smelt like shit’. I could’ve said it, anyone could have said it. But right when I was eating a passionfruit meringue tart…?

If anything, go for their lemon-themes tarts or cakes. Those are certainly worth every bead of sweat. They also sell savoury dishes such as quiches, savoury brioche buns and make their own jams. I highly, highly recommend at least one visit!

 

Carpenter and Cook

19 Lorong Kilat (Upper Bukit Timah area)

6463 3648

Tues-Sat: 10am–10pm

Sun: 10am–7pm

Closed Mondays