Black Sesame French Toast (with a twist)

If there’s one sort of breakfast I have to live off for the rest of my life, as long or short as it may be, it’s french toast.

And yes I like the good old classic stuff, whereby all you have to do is whip together eggs and milk and cinnamon and voila, you get a comforting, nourishing plate, eggy and soft and saturated, and now I use the word ‘and’ too much. Well. One of my personal favourite french toast recipes is actually eggless, and I implore you to check it out here.

But twists are welcome. Despite the familiarity of routine, twists and little leaps off of a classic theme are necessary to uphold the graciousness of the central perk. In this case, that perk is normal french toast. I love normality in that sense, all tried and true. But the addition of black sesame here, the little flick of the pen at the end of story, is the enhancement factor, serving not to distract, but uplift.

I’m a flexible eater, but I’m also the sort who thinks that if you’re going to enjoy something, you must enjoy it well. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I do love dousing my french toast in whole milk, well accompanied by frigid coffee, because the sogginess factor makes my heart the same consistency. It all sounds a bit absurd, I know. But do what you do best, right? Adjust to taste. It’s all delicious in the end, anyway.

Black Sesame French Toast (For 1)

Directions

In a shallow bowl, whisk together one egg, a dash of cinnamon, a large splash of milk (whatever sort you prefer, I used whole) and a tablespoon of honey. Into another bowl or plate, sift 2 heaping tablespoons of black sesame powder.

Take 2 slices of sourdough/ brioche/ baguette and soak each side in your eggy batter for 10-20 seconds. Whilst waiting, preheat your pan to medium heat, and ready some butter. Once the pan is hot, butter it, making sure you hear a good sizzle upon first contact. Cook your french toast as you usually would, around 2 minutes on the first side and a little less on the second, just so it’s not rendered dry. You want a fair bit of eggy saturation in the middle (yes, even if you like drowning your french toast in milk like moi).

Once your french toast is cooked, generously slather the tops with the black sesame powder, which will go moist and a bit sticky upon contact with the heat and moisture from the toast.

*variation: To serve, place the toast on a plate, top with almond butter, chopped strawberries, a drizzle of coconut cream and, if you wish, coconut chips. The black sesame with fruit and coconut here is a divine combination!

Ronin

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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

Gaest

Be my Gaest.

Nordic-inspired cuisine? Who would’ve thunk it.

So I went all the way to the Central Business District, walking along McCallum Street just to try out these guys’ sandwiches, and ended up totally going against that. Yes, I should’ve regretted it from the start. But I was just as satisfied. No really! Just listen, or better yet, go there yourself. Now. Tomorrow. Soon. Please.

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Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting it. I made my order, after a gruelling self-debate session. It’s the worst part every time I go on some solo adventure. Girl and Going Solo, with a large side of Indecision. I swear. But yes, my order: Iced cappuccino, and the poached eggs with goat’s cheese, eggplant, salad and their homemade rye bread. They had brunch specials, to my giddy surprise. And you heard that? Homemade. In house. Made from the heart. You can imagine how excited I was. Because you know bread and I go way back, and I adore the savoury twist of rye; its dense and wholesome flavour, packed with seeds, nuts and glory. I’ll try their sourdough another time, promise.

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Iced Cappuccino- $5.00
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Poached eggs on homemade rye bread with eggplant, goat’s cheese and a side salad– $15.00

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You just have to love time alone.

The drink came first, though the lady got my order wrong and gave me an iced latte at first. Didn’t take too long for them to rectify that, though. Perfect on that numbingly-hot late morning.

Ah, this dish. I poked at the egg’s belly, as per usual, and the flow of yolk almost made me sweat. It was quite beautiful, and I don’t exaggerate when it comes to poached eggs. I watch videos on them to make me feel better. Weird, I know. On top of savoury, moist eggplant and goat’s cheese. God, that cheese. I chose this brunch special in particular because of it. It’s rare that I get to eat something of the sort, you know. Or maybe it’s just because I haven’t chanced upon the right occasion to even try. The pictures above should say enough. I was initially worried that I made the wrong decision–ugh Alex, did you just pass up on the correct decision of sandwiches again??– but no, that right there was brunch-ful beauty, a coming-together of spectacular, simple flavours on a plate. And I kind of want to steal their plates, now that I think of it. My white home varieties are getting a tad boring, to be honest. Eggs and cheese aside, the rye was the best part, with its glorious brown crust, thin but dense texture and hearty flavour.

The salad it came with was all bright, lightly sweet, tangy and perky, with cherry tomatoes, carrots and barley grains. The light crunch of the latter complemented the bed of greens, all dusted with the kiss of a sweet and lemony vinaigrette. The fronds and tails and tendrils all clumped together, but all that did was make me eat it more politely. I’m still improving on the caveman streak. T’was good.

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Varlhona Chocolate Brownie–$4.50

As you can tell by its less-than-perfect corner, I couldn’t help myself by the time I got home, especially after walking all around Singapore (that’s another story). At first glance, I wasn’t expecting much. I bought this square of a dark beauty on total impulse. I was only telling myself that hey, I’m hardly around this part of town, so why the heck not. Can you see the moisture painting a soft glisten on the fudgy belly of that thing? Gorgeous, fudgy, but not too dense. Much more fudgy than chewy, and the chocolate is on the milkier side, despite yielding a mighty rich flavour. They took this brownie seriously, so I did too.

I really like it there, and I was actually able to get some work done. The fact that almost everything is homemade gives it an edge over the sprawling maze of other cafés and restaurants in the area. Highly impressed.

Rating: 4.8/5

Gaest

21 McCallum St. #01-01, The Clift
Singapore, Singapore 069047

Mon-Sat– 0730-1600 (closed Sundays)

Baker and Cook

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Right. So. Baker and Cook. You know that feeling you get when you finally get to try some place that’s parading its raved goods everywhere on social media? Yeah, I got that feeling. Even when I stepped into the original, tiny (that beats the word minuscule, mind you) location at 77 Hillcrest Road, really near the pizza place I used to drag my parents along to as a kid. The place reeked of my childhood food memories. You walk in and there’s literally one big table, just one, aside from the two stools next to the window and a small outdoor table for two. That’s it? I thought. I have really got to learn how not to have such high expectations of everything. I was underestimating the untold grandeur of bread-crazed homies.

The place is named an artisan bakery, and I’ve tried a range of their goods, from their lamingtons to their famed carrot cake. Almost everything except the infamous, devilish, apparently ‘The Best’ lemon tart in town. Well of course i had to get it, for their wasn’t any other choice. Correction: I made my mother pay, since she surprised me with this morning trip anyway. Family benefits. I won’t complain. Oh right, I should also mention that it’s $4.95.

Verdict? Ok so, I cut it in half first, before forking a sliver and easing it a nice bit of curd and crust ever so delicately into my tentative mouth. I let the lemon coat the front half of my tongue, relished the sweetness, the tart stickiness, before coming to the realisation: It’s a tad too sweet. The crust too, I confirmed, as I continued the forking action. Not that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I could even say I thoroughly enjoyed it. But this, my friend, is not the best. Add one more lemon in whatever curd batter you’re churning, mate. And the crust could be on the lighter side of sweet, just to enhance the tingling tartness of a traditional lemon tart.

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Iced cappuccino– $4.50+$0.50

French toast (New!- Yes, that’s how they said it, with the exclamation mark)–$16.00

Oh my goodness, this french toast. Penchants run deep, so despite spotting words like ‘pancakes’ and ‘eggs benedict’ and ‘quiche’, all I could see was the golden arched halo above the ‘french toast’, and its winning description. Yes, it’s 16 bucks for some stranger, from me to him, oh happy guy, but this was anything but 16 bucks down the drain. Homemade brioche, dipped in lightly spiced egg custard, served with fresh fruit, maple syrup, lemon curd and mascarpone, and oh, for the heck of it, let’s sprinkle on tablespoons of icing sugar and toasted almonds. Now do you see why it’s 16. To further my point, the plate was around 10 inches wide. No food joke. It was an egg monster waiting to be gobbled up by another egg monster, if you know what I mean. The brioche was nicely thick and browned, holey enough to soak up all that spiced custard (mm, cinnamon and ginger), with the sides calling out to me with leftover, curly bits of egg batter, which you could tell was eggy enough due to it’s almost-fried-egg consistency. And I liked that. That rustic factor. Who cares if there’s a bit of twisted, dried egg batter at the sides? If anything, it was rather inconspicuous. The taste made up for every possible flaw that might have been there and gone unnoticed.

And you know, they’re actually geniuses for adding the lemon curd and mascarpone. Absolute geniuses. I hope you can observe my enthusiasm for lemon and how perfectly it went with the thick and wonderful toast in the picture right above. I’ve made my own lemon curd before, and I must say this one was up a notch on the thick and gluggy scale. Colour beckoned, taste was banal after a while. That was the thing with all the lemon dishes there. Just that bit too sweet. The syrup was also a little more like honey, and more fruit wouldn’t hurt. The mascarpone was a nice touch but looked shallow in comparison to the better lemon-and-french pairing. God, I love lemons. I love french toast even more, and I say that proudly when I look at that picture- moist, airy, fluffy french brioche smushed together with curd.

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Eggs Benedict– $19.00 (two poached eggs on toasted pain miche with hollandaise and hint of balsamic glaze and chilli oil, with salmon)

The balsamic glaze and chilli oil thing they had going on intrigued me. I watched my mother attach the crusty, heady plate of lavishly decorated eggy goodness with her knife and fork, mixing everything together into a hurricane of hollandaise and salmon madness. You see the crust? That was a babe, a real sight to behold. The crack was enticing, the melding together of more savoury flavours pleading. A bite was all I asked, and that was all I got. Felt the tang of the hollandaise and robust crunch of pain miche coat the salmon, that fishy flavour you first detect on your palate, with buttery breadcrumbs, cut in half like a fierce interjector by the softly sweet balsamic, even though amounts-wise it was rather paltry. The balsamic I mean, not anything else, Oh no, definitely not anything else. I wouldn’t have been able to polish off more than I slice of this rustic rye for the life of me (but that’s just me and my putrid stomach acting up again).

Fabulous.

This artisan bakery also sells homemade packaged products, loaves (I should die to try their fig and aniseed sourdough and wholemeal farmhouse toast), cakes and sweet buns. Tucked away in Hilcrest meant the most unusual peaceful and green morning for the mother and I. Thanks for paying, mother, let’s go back again so I can try their tartines?

Rating: 3.9/5.0

Baker and Cook

77 Hillcrest Road

64698834

Strangers’ Reunion

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So I couldn’t find the door. The large glass door which lead directly to the light wood enclave so appropriately named Strangers’ Reunion. Let… Let me tell you a short story. I leave my house, take the bus to Tiong Bahru, get lost, hail a cab. Typical, normal, I would say. Nothing not very Alex-like. But I think the embarrassment peaked when I found myself floundering about like a complete and utter idiot even when I reached the shophouse. The words were clear, right there in front of me, I even saw my two cute and nice and short friends Celeste and Liz (probably laughing at my incapability as a human being) sitting in the corner. Not finding the door is just not acceptable. The whole time I was there I felt like lashing out at all the sensible people who were capable of opening the right door at the first try. Ha, they’ve probably been here before anyway.

You come in and the first thing which greets you is a jovial crowd, some bespectacled bohemians quietly, nonchalantly sipping away at their flat whites (or the more sophisticated with their espressos) behind the mysterious screens of their macs. Small tables aligned along the sides, all rather close to one another, all wooden and shiny, plastered with the faint drone of orange light. I? I was an SR virgin. I’ve seen pictures and things of course, all of crisp 6-inch wide browned buttermilk waffles with lashings of beautiful toppings accompanied by even more beautiful cups of coffee. We were already past the lunchtime-nigh, so tragically I wanted something savoury. Ordered and waited, the three of us chatting non-stop over various social situations and nonsense like the wonderful nonsensical beings we are.

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cappuccino, $4.90 and iced mocha, $6.50.

Say hello to the long-locked ladies who lunch- Liz (left) and Celeste. Aren’t their smiles gorgeous? Don’t ask me why the camera focus is on the glass bottle because it just so happened to be that momentary mistake and regret. I ordered the cappuccino, seeing it only fit to try their famed milky concoctions, a little startled by the price but this surprise was stunted when I was greeted by the beautifully and intricately decorated image of a swan nestled in a large purple cup on a yellow saucer. Plater certainly knows his complementary colours. One of the best foam art works I’ve seen yet, almost perfectly symmetrical, the swan itself brimming with a delicate life, albeit the fragile wispiness. The coffee itself isn’t robust enough, and I didn’t finish it. Heard a myriad good things about it, though. Perhaps it was one of those one-off circumstances. Despite the (oh-so) tiny letdown, I was highly impressed by the quality of the bean, which I could taste in the first tender sip. Yes, it must be tender, because rushing through a coffee just isn’t very connoisseur-like now, is it.

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Poached eggs on english muffin with a side of honey baked ham, $8.00+$4.00, eggs florentine with spinach, smoked salmon and hollandaise on ciabatta,  $18.00

What I like is how you can choose from all the various sides as well as the type of bread you should like to nicely sop up all the yolk and hollandaise. Their hollandaise was a little on the thicker side, but the flavour was preserved with the right amount of tang, the butter not saying farewell to the well-whipped yolks. The poached eggs fared eggsellently. See what I did there. Yolks and more yolks! It was disgustingly yolk-y heaven. Rich and sodden, yellow and beautiful. One soft slip of the fork caused an outrageous, glorious burst of bright yellow, spilling over onto the sides, buttering the lonely spinach leaves, offering a soft glaze for the lovely salmon beneath. Everything mixed together in perfect harmony. I enjoyed this a little too much, but the one thing I regret not getting for myself was this baby right below.

‘Can I have a bite?’

‘Sure.’

And thank God for that.

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Before you die of a visual orgasm, let me just make it clear that yes, this was both beautiful and delicious. A lot of beautiful things aren’t worth all the praise, but this… This.

Special of the day: Buttermilk waffles with caramel bananas, walnut crunch and vanilla ice cream, $14.90

You’ve heard of buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk scones, buttermilk in your pants. These buttermilk waffles are the lightest, crispest babies in the universe, and when fastened in that ridiculous, flawless, unbeatable, traditional (alright I’ll stop) combination of banana, vanilla and caramel, I warn you, you might cry. Yeah, in public. Everyone will watch you shed buttermilk tears into your perfect circle of yeast and flour and sugar- oh, sugar. Cut into it. Crisp, golden, carnal. It’s dangerous, it implores you to go on, zombie-like, to take your fork and smear a little of that ice cream on top, make it pretty with a sliver of caramel (note I say caramel, not caramelised, because that’s just the way they serve it, perhaps to make you feel a little less guilty over your pre-New Year gluttony, in an effort to kid yourself over your wondrous efforts to nourish that slovenly little body of yours) banana and walnut, go on, go on. I could go on, but that might be a little mean. When I say fluffy and light, I mean it. Too many a time I encounter stodgy, dense rocks with little square holes pricked in the middle to resemble (gasp) waffles.

Please just go and order this. I implore you.

Rating: 4.7/ 5.0

Strangers’ Reunion

37 Kampong Bahru Rd
6222 4869