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.
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.
Good food is magical. Surreal, almost, if the ambience and company is right. This is a long, long, long overdue post, but it took me a ridiculously long time as well to think of the perfect way to showcase it. Yes, it is my fault. Felix’s birthday was in the beginning of May, and this lunch was meant to celebrate that special date, his special 17th, and look, it’s already mid-June. He suggested this place and I just couldn’t say no, considering it was one of those quaint little corners I just always passed, always beckoning for a visit, and I just chant, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cue the quaintest little red corner and vintage French comic strips lining the low walls of this adorable hideout. The man you see above was quietly nibbling away at something or another, occasionally looking out the window, reminding me of the pleasures of dining on quality food alone. I wasn’t alone, but I was with the best ever company in the world. Those fresh, coarse locks and brown seafoam eyes are my vice. Second to none. No, there was no better company.
I’ll be frank– he’s more francophile than anglophile. I’m the opposite, or so I claim, but one cannot deny the gracious experience some spectacular French fare can provide. Honestly, guys, look at those beautiful diamond-rectangle slabs of fatty beauty below. Is that not one of the most gorgeous sights ever to exist? Bistro du Vin provides set lunches of superb quality and such decent prices. By the end of it all, and that was, what, a good 2 hours later, I was more than satisfied. And my wallet, for once, wasn’t crying out in pain.
Alex sees onions, Alex sees nothing else.
The foie gras was wonder on a plate. Moist, perhaps not as fatty as it could have been (I’m thinking Au Petit Salut’s moreish version right now). The caramelised, pickled onions were sweet and glazed, offering good contrast to the steamy, superabundance of I-cut-like-butter fat. Two slices was perhaps a bit much, considering there were still two full courses to go. The full effects were weighing down like stale jelly in my stomach by the time I was through with the first few bites. In a sort of pleasant way. How odd.
His appetiser: soft, creamy, probably still mooing. The mild flavour of the cheese worked well with the hardy sourdough crust, the sourdough providing a pleasant, light sourness, and the cooked apple and salty hit of bacon. Once again, practically a meal in itself.
This was my main, which was more filling than it looks. The broth was soft yet hearty, brimming with all flavours of the sea. The fish, and sadly I forgot to ask what sort it was, was overcooked and dry (which was probably why I didn’t bother to ask in the first place). Everything else was… Decent, I should say, with mediocre-tasting prawns, which were also a little too hard, and little clams and mussels. The hero was that sultry broth which managed to sufficiently flavour all the components. Thick and saturated, yum.
In other words, the best part of the set lunch.
In other words, the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted, beating the one at Wimbly Lu and Habitat Coffee, which I love but cower in the face of this divine beauty. It melted like a withering caramel crystal on top of a crusty disc of flaky puff pastry, lovingly studded with delicate slivers of sweet pear, all thick and almost reluctant to give in to the pressure of my fork. A dream. The sort of dish which, even right now as I type with shaky fingers due to the single memory of its perfection, makes me weak at the knees. The sort of dish which you delight in eating even after all the ice cream has melted and has deflated and saturated the pastry, because you are a child once again revelling in the silly joy that is soggy, sweet stodge.
His clever choice. Can you see the fine smatterings of vanilla bean evenly dispersed throughout its creamy, provocative belly? The top crackled, the brûlée a sharp crowning of a most luxurious wobble!
I can’t, won’t, shan’t ever forget this lunch. One of the best set meals I have ever had, quality surpassing expectations, with only a few mishaps here and there. All for only $30++ (I hate how they charge $8 for the additional onions though– that’s just a necessity and there’s no denying it).
I usually don’t say this, but I’m highly inclined to come again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
21 McCallum St. #01-01, The Clift
Singapore, Singapore 069047
I have to pounce on this short-spaced opportunity to write something about a little Mexican place tucked away in Chinatown. I tell you now that this is the first proper adult burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’ll just subtly throw in the fact that I’m 17, so that leaves a little room for quick hop-and-go experiments now. Honest to God. Never in my life have I willfully set out to have a Mexican meal; the idea simply never appealed to me, purely because of my Asian-rooted culinary habits or the occasional yearning for some gourmet fusion fare. Throw in a burger or two and you’ve got me in the fish net. But burritos? Ha, I wasn’t even keen on the idea. But having read a number of reviews lauding the authenticity of this bean-stuffed hole in the wall iced with hanging lights, I felt like abandoning my comfort zone this Friday night. So we ventured to Chinatown, practically a foreigner in my own country, and immediately warmed up to the human heat and red bustle of the area.
The black sign stood out in neat block letters on a glass pane, and the inside beckoned with its beautiful lights, like mini lamps on the end of black streamers, a row of toppings, meats and fats smirking at you from the side. You see the sour cream, guacamole, beans deep fried a second time in mountains of lard, tomato salsa, sweet pulled pork, rice and more. A woman is spreading their homemade cheese spread of cheddar and Monterey Jack on tortilla. You secretly hope she is the best burrito filler they’ve got, and suddenly spot the cold glass of ‘Mexican Cola’ by the side. One of that too please, and you whip out $4.25, before scrutinising the toppings laid out naked before you.
The friend I went with told me that the last time he came, he got the Carnitas, or pork butt slow-cooked in its own lard (goodness yum?!), stuffed with all the trimmings, and could’ve gone on for a full 5 minutes on how wonderful it was. I pondered the idea of beef, since it offered a new taste option and was just a little more expensive, so obviously I wondered if it had some special kick factor which separated the gold from the silver. ‘Pork or beef?’ I asked the capped and aproned lady. I didn’t even end on a questioning lilt before she replied with ‘pork’. Well then. Pork butt it was.
And pork butt it was golden. Added rice, black beans, deep fried beans (which I thought resembled a mild red hummus at first), tomato salsa, fresh guacamole made with ripe Hass avocados, pork, sour cream and hot sauce. The woman asked if I was on some special diet when I gawked at the re-fried beans. I said no, a little annoyed, and hurriedly asked her to pile it on. Thank you. And yes, I do think burritos are wimpy children without sour cream or hot sauce; those two need to be married and done away with. The rice yielded a nice bite and edge, which offered good texture amongst the mush of creamy avocado and that moist, pink landslide of gooey beans. Starch upon starch upon protein, that was. I’m ever so grateful for the discovery of hot sauce at the place, for despite already being lovely and moist on the inside, the monster wrap still needed a little red kick in the gut with some flavourful, simple spice, to squeeze all those wonderful flavours together. The one thing I didn’t particularly enjoy was the occasional dry chunk of pork I would get stuck in the middle of a bit of guac (or my front teeth). Not exactly intolerably dry per se, but dry enough for you to notice in that sea of moisture, juxtaposed by the chewy beauty of tortilla. It was still aromatic, smoky and offered a good chew, so I wasn’t complaining. The tortilla itself isn’t toasted or grilled, which I didn’t mind, but doing so would have added another delectable dimension of flavour, another inch of smokiness.
They also serve quesadillas, more oddly named drinks, beer and buffalo wings. I’m making a strict mental note to visit more restaurants around the Chinatown area in the near future. Gems stacked upon gems. All hidden, all raising their arms to me. All so promising.
Another post dedication to my new café buddy, Liz! Yes, this one is for you, you pink kitty hoarder. (I know you are, deep deep down). Café visiting (the term hopping is a little oversubscribed now, isn’t it) is an actual addiction, I may embarrassedly admit. See, I would be at school working on my extended essay, but since they didn’t have the chemicals I needed that day for me to continue playing at and experimenting with waxy red lipstick, I jumped at the chance to pop by a new café relatively near where I stay. We squealed like idiots over the mere idea, but I don’t regret any willful squeal. No, I don’t really squeal. But for coffee and salted caramel waffles? Yes, I do squeal. Assembly it was.
I said it. Salted caramel waffles. I wondered if they would be comparable to the ones we had at Strangers’ Reunion, that nicely hidden waffle haven, propped up in the middle of a pancake stack of old Chinese shophouses will colourful boards and near-garish signs. This place wasn’t quite as hidden, seeing as it was tucked away nicely near the Botanical Gardens, where my father and I walk to every single Sunday anyway. A huge ‘A’ greeted the two of us as we approached, which really appealed to me in particular, for dreadfully obvious reasons. I liked that a lot.
Before I blabber on the wonders of crisp and fluffy waffle world, I’d just like to apologise in advance for the iPhone-quality photos. Special creds to Liz’s cam, she’s lovely for letting me snap away like a deranged foodie lunatic , but no, I don’t always happen to have my Nikon handy. And you know what? These preserve memories just as well.
The place was much more of a nook than a full-blown artisan café yard, which was more charming than off-putting, and hey, at least the place wasn’t fusty. Lit golden from the back interior, with a couple of round tables exposed to some soft sunlight. Almost in love already. After some surprising encounters with old faces, we sat down. A woman (who apparently is also the barista) was walking around, pretty heavy-handed with her red lipstick, gathering cups and saucers of quirky, contrasting colours (think lavender and a bright sun-yellow). I didn’t miss out the arrangement of homemade cakes at the front either. Assembled at Assembly Coffee. Quite ready, quite thirsty.
The iced mocha is nothing to shout feather and fame about. It was, frankly, a milky mess with a dusting of added sweetener, severely lacking in any rich mocha flavour, let alone a smidgen of caffeine. I remember admiring the traditional gradient of colour as it was brought to the table, rising from steep chocolate to alluring white with flecks of cocoa on top. The first sip was all milk, so I went ahead and stirred rather thoroughly, like how you would attempt to dissolve sodium hydrogen-carbonate in water with a glass rod to make the perfect 3% concentration. And still, mostly milk. Mostly. Alright, it was decent and refreshing, albeit far from impressive. I’ve encountered worse and I’ve had spectacular. Fell on either a 4 or 5.
The waffles came like an angel on wings shortly after. Rough-handed squeezing for that criss-crossed weaving of salted caramel, a patchwork of beckoning, tongue-tingling sweetness atop a 7-inch wide babe of buttermilk waffle. And for the heck of it, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In all honesty, that one scoop did no justice for the pairing. There should have been at least two (and gargantuan scoops, at that) to balance the rigid honesty and fluffiness of waffle with cool vanilla and salted caramel. I took my first bite, after carefully laying a bite of waffle with a good smear of caramel and ice cream. Flavours played like kids in my mouth.
Ok, it’s not exactly the bomb diggity salted caramel buttermilk mania. Once again, a serious lacking of salt in that department, but nevertheless, one cannot refuse to appreciate or acknowledge the humble beauty of that waffle. Decently crisp on the outside, with a white, light and fluffy belly. Note how I said decent. Which basically means they could’ve upped the crisp factor just that little bit more. The sort of waffle which would go all nice and squidgy after a few turns with ice cream. Buttermilk clearly does wonders in any waffle case. The ice cream offered a good vanilla flavour, though don’t expect anything artisan. They should definitely consider adding a menu option of ‘two scoops’. Really. These were good, no, great waffles, but something about them made me feel as if they still did not quite match up to the ones at Strangers’ Reunion, for those alone were absolute perfection on a plate. If I may recall correctly, they were even more crisp with better aeration throughout its slightly thicker body. Don’t get me wrong, the ones at Assembly are perfectly desirable little circles of goodness, and they went perfectly with two hours of conversation and iced home brew, but they aren’t the ones I would claim to be stellar, or the best.
Tart tart. Sweet meringue. Dense, rich, not overly cloying, balanced with the only mildly sweet cracker crust. A beautiful ochre colour. Honestly, there was nothing to complain about there. My fork sank to the bottom with the right tension as it eased through the thick, I’m-holdin-it-together passionfruit curd, which yielded the most wonderful bright notes, playing up the heavily whipped meringue and carefree crust. Loved. It. And would you look at the caramel curls on top.
As I left, I bought a slice of their homemade strawberry cheesecake for $6.50. As a child, I was a cheesecake aficionado, and seeing this humbly decorated cherub in the glass display brought about a myriad old memories, coated with rich cream cheese. I excitedly opened the square plastic packet when I got home. Too excited to take a picture, obviously. I let my fork slide right into its insides, and then nudged at the tender biscuit crust beneath. Immediately, I sensed a definite sogginess at the bottom, realising that it was probably due to the moist body of cake. It was half-collapsing, almost broken into two messy halves. A quick bite left me disappointed, for it was neither tart nor rich, despite yielding a good amount of sweetness. Pale, numb, young. The only thing which should be improved on is the structure and signature tanginess of a good cheesecake, because the ease with which my fork underwent was slightly worrying. I had a half slice anyway, because on the whole, it’s a good homemade cheesecake (with a few limp,thinly-sliced strawberries on top. Who else loves picking glazed fruit off cake? It’s a carnal pleasure).
They call it third-wave coffee movement. I say I’m coming back for the hot coffees and yolk-impregnated eggs.