Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, Singapore

i was never a fan of bak chor mee until my mother took me to this place on a random afternoon after we collected my passport at the immigration & checkpoints authority. the stall is in a coffeeshop which is behind the immigrations building, and can be accessed via a pedestrian bridge across a canal that’s near the open-air carpark next to the building. one spoonful of the noodles and i was sold!!! (still wouldn’t say i am a bcm convert though, because this is probably the only bcm i ever crave)

i’ve gone back every single time i’m back home and each time, the queue seems to be longer. not sure if its because its become more popular of late or because i’ve just been going at the wrong times, but i think it might be the former since on my most recent visit there, we arrived at 11am (we thought it was the perfect time to beat the lunch crowd) and ended up queuing for 1 hour and 20 minutes. by the time we got our food, everyone at the table still thought it was worth it though, so i guess that means i will be returning to conquer the crowds once my craving for it hits again…

what greeted us when we clambered out of the car at 11am on a weekday morning:20130723_112026half of the queue. there were about 10-15 more people that couldn’t fit into this shot; the queue so long and snaking that i couldn’t even take a panorama shot to get the entire queue in 1 picture lol

by the time we reached the front of the queue, more than an hour had passed and my cousin decided that she needed to order the biggest bowl available ($10) to make the queuing worth it. 😉 the smallest bowl costs $5, and the largest $10:20130723_121049

she managed to finish every single bit of it!!! (as i mentioned before, a huge appetite and thankfully, a high metabolism to accompany it, runs in the family :P) as you can see in the picture below, the bowl itself is actually really large and it comes with a bigger bowl of soup too, but what makes it cost more is actually additional ingredients and not anything else. the noodles given in the $10 portion aren’t significantly more, but if you compare this picture to the next one, you can definitely see the difference in the amount of meat/liver/fried fish/meatballs/dumplings they give!20130723_122842 $10 bowl

this is the $6 bowl:20130723_122900$6 bowl

so what exactly makes this bak chor mee so good?

1. the noodles are cooked to perfection. they aren’t in the least bit overcooked and retain a delicious bite while not being too hard. you’ll also never find bits of clumpy noodles stuck together (that is pretty common in noodles that aren’t as well-cooked). my personal preference is mee kia, but both the mee kia and mee pok are good!

2. the sauce – note that this sauce is a vinegar-based type of sauce so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. having grown up eating dry noodles in sauce that always includes some vinegar, this to me is the best sauce ever.

3. the chilli is really really good.

4. the ingredients are all delicious. the meat, like the noodles, is perfectly cooked – sweet, tender and not overcooked at all! the liver is crunchy and delicious (my sister who normally avoids liver like the plague actually enjoys this liver), the dumpling is not at all the kind of dumpling that has more skin than filling (in fact many people order a bowl of soup with dumplings on top of their bowl of bcm), and the meatballs are a yummy touch. and the pieces of fried solefish (ti poh) that top the dish are like icing on top of the cake – so good.

at this point, if the only reason why i haven’t successfully managed to convince you to go give this delicious bcm a try is the long queue, then i hope this helps me to further build my case 😉 :20130723_114706

another stall in the coffee shop does very good fried dumplings (guo tie) as well as chive pancakes! plus their queue is never as long as the queue for bcm, so this is a great snack as an appetiser or energy boost for the queuing while waiting in line for your noodles! the guo tie is perfectly brown and crispy on the outside without being burnt at all (check out the pic – no black bits in sight!), while the chive pancake is really well done with generous amounts of very fresh and juicy chives. both aren’t too oily as well – barely any oil was found left on the dish when we were done. i would definitely recommend ordering this along with your bak chor mee! the stall that sells these items is the 2nd stall to the left of the bak chor mee stall.

there is a western stall in between the bak chor mee stall and the guo tie stall, and this western stall is supposed to sell very decent coffeeshop-type western food! they actually have newspaper clippings about them stuck at the stall so it must be pretty good! i’ve never been one to go for western food in hawker settings though, so i’ve never given this a try. i guess this is a good option if you’re eating here with young kids who might not fancy or appreciate a bowl of bak chor mee as much as they would a plate of pork chop with fries. 20130723_113011 L to R: guo tie stall, western stall, bak chor mee stall

there is a carpark right by the coffee shop so its pretty convenient eating here if you drive! if not, walking from lavender mrt which is right by the immigration building is also a breeze. definitely be prepared to queue for about an hour if you head down at lunch/dinner time. if not, going once it opens in the morning (930am if I’m not wrong) or mid-afternoon should help to shorten the waiting time.

although my parents say that there is a stall in hong lim food centre that serves very similar bak chor mee with a shorter queue that moves more quickly, i have yet to try it and so hill street tai hwa pork noodle is currently still my favourite go-to place for bak chor mee in singapore 🙂

UPDATE: aforementioned hong lim bak chor mee has been tried and tested a few times, and unfortunately i have been disappointed each time! i find that its downfall is mainly in its noodles – what you get at hong lim somehow just lacks the same satisfying al-dente bite that hill street tai hwa somehow manages to deliver every. single. time. besides the noodles, i find that the ingredients at hill street tai hwa are always cooked to perfection, never over or underdone whereas the hong lim bak chor mee lacks that same consistency. hill street tai hwa – you have my heart, always and forever! ❤

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Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

#01-12, Tai Hwa Eating House
466 Crawford Lane
Singapore 190466

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Nana’s Green Tea Cafe, Singapore

my trip to Nana’s was a total spur-of-the-moment decision at 9pm on a sunday night. having just stuffed ourselves silly on crab bee hoon, we were craving something sweet to end off the night’s feasting and my cousin’s innocent suggestion of Nana’s and its matcha treats became something that was just too good to pass on. every time we discussed another dessert possibility in the car, the conversation would just be diverted back to Nana’s and that’s when we decided we had to make the drive to plaza singapura or it’d be on our minds for the next few days till we got to have it. (evidently, the love of food runs in my family ;))

located in the plaza singapura extension, Nana’s is a modern, open concept-type of cafe, surrounded by a few other japanese outlets like Hoshino Coffee, Tsukada Nojo (a place that serves collagen steamboat) etc. it is a popular chain in Japan with such a sizeable number of outlets that it is said to be the Starbucks of the land of sushi! however unlike Starbucks, the focus is not just on the drinks – Nana’s serves both proper food (by proper i mean typical japanese mains such as dons, udons & sushi rolls) and sweet treats like matcha drinks and a range of desserts.

we went all out with the matcha (what else would you do in a green tea cafe) and ordered a matcha latte, a matcha parfait and another matcha dessert to share. thank goodness the service was prompt and i didn’t have to wait in anticipation of matcha heaven for too long. the desserts appeared at our table looking almost identical to what was shown on the menu and i was so excited to dig in that i only have 1 picture (and its a picture of all the desserts together) from that night. sorry! here it is in all its green glory:

20130721_204748L to R: matcha latte ($7.00), matcha parfait ($11.80), matcha anmitsu ($8.80)

let’s start with the latte – it was thick and fragrant and the taste of the matcha was strong, but not overwhelmingly so. definitely one of the best matcha lattes i have had in singapore and beats Starbucks’ green tea offerings hands down in my opinion. i would come here on a rainy day for a warm matcha latte in a heartbeat! they have a range of other matcha drinks with toppings like mochi/red bean/ice cream – i imagine them all to be good especially when they seem to have a really good recipe for matcha-based drinks that are made using what appears to be good quality matcha stuff.

as for the matcha parfait, it was layers of yummy goodness. my favourite part about it was the cornflakes – despite being packed between dense layers of ice cream/red bean/cream/jelly/syrup, they retained their crispiness and added a very nice bite to the dessert. the mochis were also delightfully chewy, just as perfect mochis should be! the cup is huge and this dessert can definitely be shared.

the third item we ordered was the matcha anmitsu. the ingredients were largely very similar (minus the creamy milky layers in the parfait) to the parfait, except they were served in a bowl and drizzled with sauce (caramel, if i’m not wrong?). the azuki red bean paste was very smooth and satisfying, and the matcha ice cream was nice and creamy while the matcha jelly was yummy! but there was an addition of black beans which i could have done without. the black beans added saltiness to the dessert, probably an attempt at striking some kind of balance between sweet and savoury. it wasn’t bad at all; just a little odd in my opinion.

if i had to choose between the 2 desserts though (both are recommended in the menu), i would undoubtedly pick the parfait. there’s something very exciting about digging into a tall glass filled to the brim with layers of green tea goodness with a long spoon 😀 i’m already thinking of going back as i type this post!

we also ordered this drink (i can’t remember exactly what its called), and it was yummy since it came with mochis and a generous scoop of matcha ice cream!20130721_205241

for all matcha lovers out there, this is your mecca. for non-matcha lovers, this might just be the place that will make you jump on the bandwagon and convert you into someone who is greedy for green tea. i’m not sure how the main dishes at Nana’s are, but the desserts are certainly worth trying!

Nana’s Green Tea Cafe

68 Orchard Road
#03-80/82, Plaza Singapura

The Lawn, Singapore

been eating non-stop since summer started, and finally decided that it was getting out of hand; i was in need of some serious detoxing! The Lawn was thus the obvious choice for a light lunch with friends last week, especially since i had inhaled an entire apple cinnamon prata with vanilla ice cream at 4am earlier that morning (it was SO. GOOD.)

eating clean doesn’t mean eating food that’s anything less than yummy, and The Lawn is the perfect place to do just that! located at biopolis, it caters mostly to the working crowd in the area but given the ample parking available in the basement and its relative proximity to buona vista mrt station, i think its a pretty good spot for a satisfying salad fix. the cafe is clean and bright with a few tables inside, and a synthetic turf outside (an attempt to stay true to their name) for outdoor seating on a cool day. the atmosphere is relaxed, almost like you’re just sitting in your backyard having a barbeque 🙂

we arrived a little past 1pm on a weekday to a thinning lunch crowd, and wasted no time in heading to the counter to place our orders:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the lawn is all about fresh greens topped with grilled meat/seafood, and finished with tasty dressings. everything is your choice and you get a huge personalised bowl of salad for just $9.90! at the counter, you start by choosing between a salad (1 grill + 5 toppings + dressing) and olive rice (1 grill + rice + side salad). the 3 of us all went with salad and we were really spoilt for choice. being the extremely indecisive person i am, ordering was stressful (picking the right combination of salad toppings is a life-changing decision, seriously :P) but i suppose it was a happy problem…

there are about 12 different grills to choose from, with some premium ones that cost an additional $1/$2. Sorry I didn’t take a picture of the blackboard behind the counter, but I do have a picture of the grills available (taken from a board outside the cafe) and you can check out the entire range of choices available at their website here: http://thelawn.com.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=53 !OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
grill choices at the lawn

i went with the chargrilled prawns while both my friends went with the herb-infused chicken which came highly recommended by the staff behind the counter. after choosing your grill, you proceed to pick your toppings from the huge range available; they have everything from granola to green apples to seeds to chesnuts to beetroot to assorted nuts to eggs to tomatoes to pasta to cous cous to broccoli – you name it and they probably have it! after picking toppings, the final step is to pick a dressing and unsurprisingly, there is once again a headache-inducing (because i am ridiculously indecisive) selection. i went with the honeyball which was a safe choice in my opinion; the last thing i wanted was to leave less-than-satisfied because of a wrong dressing choice, especially after racking my brains to achieve what i deemed the perfect salad combination! hahaha. for the adventurous, you can go for something like maple peanut (maple syrup + peanut butter?!) or perky sesame ginger (one of my friends got this and it tasted very much like chicken rice) or even one of the premium ones!

they grill your choice of seafood or meat on the spot after you place your order, so its nice and warm when the salad is served to your table. the prawns i had were juicy and crunchy, while the greens were very fresh. my friends enjoyed their chicken, though i felt it was a tad dry when i took a bite. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
$9.90 for my very generous portion of greens. a very satisfying bowl!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAM looking pleased as punch with her giant bowl of salad

none of us ordered the olive rice, but it seemed to be quite a popular choice with the rest of the patrons. it looked moist and hearty, and is done teochew style, instead of the thai-style olive rice that many of us would probably imagine it to be. given the huge range of exciting toppings and dressings to choose from when creating your own salad however, i think i’ll be sticking with the salad when i return. (also because my maid cooks an amazing teochew style olive rice ;))

they also have a coffee + cake counter selling rather reasonably priced coffees:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the lawn is a great place for a relaxing, casual and most importantly, healthy yet tasty lunch away from the hustle and bustle of the city. i will definitely be back when i eventually decide that its time for detox round 2… bets on when that’s going to happen are welcome 😉

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The Lawn Grill & Salad Cafe

31 Biopolis Way,
Nanos #01-07,
Singapore 138669

Malacca & My Malaysian Menu of Mirth

The alliteration of ‘M’ words is by no means coincidental. Put together the ‘M’s and it spells ‘Mmmmm’ – which is exactly how one would feel after a trip to our friendly neighbours Malaysia.

Food in Malaysia tends to be identified with a particular area or town – Ipoh hor fun, Penang laksa, KL hokkien mee, Klang ba ku teh. All these individual locations deserve a post on their own, given the true gastronomical excellence that they provide: in each locality, almost every outlet selling the said dishes are of decent, if not top notch, quality. I shall attempt, in this post, to offer a glimpse into the spectrum of Malaysian fare available using the town of Malacca as an example.

In a recent trip to Malaysia, I was in Malacca and made a trip down to the famed Jonker Street – which , at night, turns into a pedestrianised street (aptly called Jonker Walk) night market selling foodstuff, mobile phone and fashion accessories and much more. Being a food blog, we will of course focus on the food; however, the history of the street should not be neglected. Back in the old days, Jonker Street was where rich Chinese merchants – trading in the port of Malacca – congregated and settled, making the street the centre of the Chinese community. If you look around, old buildings of Chinese clan associations and temples still exist in their original incarnations.Photo 21-07-2013 06 33 21 PM

The street market offers fare ranging from the sweet to the savoury, snacks to wholesome meals. Here are some highlights.

Muah Chee – glutinous rice snack coated in peanutsPhoto 21-07-2013 06 50 56 PMPhoto 24-07-2013 11 06 28 AM

The muah chee here was really smooth and I liked how the peanuts actually are able to fully coat the rice chunks . Also, the peanut coating was not overly sweet and you could taste the roasted flavour of the peanuts – which is something most muah chee stalls aren’t able to boast.

Fried Carrot CakePhoto 24-7-13 11 05 57

We get this almost everywhere in Singapore and given a choice, I’d opt for the Singaporean version more often than not. However, note that the fried carrot cake in Jonker Street (and the wider Malaysian food scene) is different from what we’re used to in Singapore. Vendors tend to add bean sprouts into the frying mix and this, I feel, makes a huge difference to how it tastes – perhaps a little too healthy hence my deference to the Singaporean version.  Also, often there isn’t a choice between the black and white versions that we are familiar with in Singapore. I guess that’s a good thing because you only need to order one plate, unlike in Singapore where it’s too tempting to just order both!

Potato RolesPhoto 24-07-2013 11 06 20 AM

This is interesting. Basically it is a deep fried whole potato cut into small slices. After which you can choose your flavouring ranging from mayonnaise, chilli, black pepper to cheese. Essentially this is like your packet potato crisps, just that its freshly made on the spot.

Durian PuffPhoto 24-07-2013 11 06 24 AM

Just look at the durian cream oozing out of the puff! This was really good, especially since it’s served chilled. The pastry was thin and light, which complemented the durian cream inside. If you’re looking at this and expecting it to taste like the S$7 for 2 durian puffs sold at Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore, you’re missing the point.  The puffs here are not stuffed with a thick durian filling; rather it’s a watered down version which is surprisingly refreshing – a unique description of anything durian-related. Moreover, at RM5 for 3 (that’s S$2) it is well worth the money spent

Coconut JellyPhoto 23-07-2013 10 35 39 PMPhoto 24-07-2013 11 05 33 AMThis is my personal favourite. It is basically gelatinised coconut water. This means that the natural coconut taste is preserved and not artificially enhanced and, once again, an extremely refreshing option on a hot, humid day.  

Dim SumPhoto 21-07-2013 06 58 33 PM

This was not anything particularly special, aside from the fact that the variety was pleasantly abundant and that the ingredients were fresh and served piping hot. No need to queue for hours (*ahem* Tim Ho Wan) or pay sky high prices (*ahem* Yan Ting) if all you want is to satisfy a craving for a couple of prawn dumplings or siew mais.

Takoyaki – Japanese Dumpling BallsPhoto 21-7-13 21 23 04

I have always felt takoyaki should be a staple in street markets, given how light a snack and how universally palatable they are. I mean if you don’t take the original octopus fillings, go for cheese! Or if you’re allergic to prawns, have the sausage option! In fact, to me at least, takoyaki balls actually whet up one’s appetite so its presence should benefit the other stallholders as well. The ones here aren’t exceptional as they are too floury for my liking. But, as I mentioned, a must have in every street market.

Fried OysterPhoto 21-07-2013 09 23 38 PM

As a dish, this is one I always look out for anywhere I go. The thing about Malaccan fried oysters is that they fry the oysters for a rather more substantial amount of time than Singaporean hawkers. Hence you get a oysters that are more cooked. Somewhat similar to the oysters you get in Penang. I personally prefer this style because the oysters become less watery and, texture-wise, goes better with the fried flour. If you are Hepatitis-paranoid, perhaps this version will set your mind at ease (if only by a little).

Nonya snacksPhoto 24-07-2013 11 06 06 AM

There are also sweet snacks available along Jonker Walk. Here is kueh dadar, a nonya pancake role filled with grated coconut. The one I bought was pretty mediocre but at only RM1? Always worth a punt.

We adjourned to a nearby zi char restaurant for dinner after roaming the streets for snacks. Well everyone deserves a proper meal after walking so much!

We elected to come to this eatery just metres away from the main food street. The waiting time for the food was more than half an hour but I tell you when the food arrived it, it was thoroughly worth it.

Curry Fish HeadPhoto 24-07-2013 11 05 15 AM

The curry fish head was delightful, the fragrant curry taste and generous servings of veggies. It also wasn’t too oil unlike most other curry dishes. The fish was fresh and cooked to perfection – usually most curry fish head would be pre-prepared, and hence likely to be overcooked; this one had no such problems.

Salted egg yolk fried chickenPhoto 24-7-13 11 05 24Basically this was fried chicken coated with a salted egg yolk paste. It could be ordered with pork ribs, prawns or chicken and we opted for the latter. This was quite a unique take on a common zi char dish. The salted egg yolk paste was not too thick, yet it was ultra creamy in texture. No way did it taste like a heart attack waiting to happen  as you’d expect with such a rich dish. I also found it a nice touch that the chicken pieces were filleted for our convenience and I was happy to devour each piece whole.

Claypot pork cooked with sesame oil and salted fishPhoto 24-07-2013 11 05 11 AM

This was nice, especially when eaten with plain rice. The pork was very soft and the salted fish bits added a panache to the overall taste of the dish.

Tofu with seafood topped with dried scallopsPhoto 24-07-2013 11 05 07 AM

This was another enjoyable dish. The seafood, comprising prawn and squid, was fresh. What impressed me was the generous toppings of dried scalloped – which was fried till crispy, so much so I almost mistook them for shallot bits! That, of course, would not have done the dish any justice as the scallops – in the way they were fried – definitely enhanced the taste of the dish by miles. Photo 24-07-2013 11 04 57 AM

For the sake of a wholesome meal, we also ordered spinach fried with garlic and long beans with dried shrimp. The long beans were especially good, in fact it was so good that it was long gone before I could even snap a close up picture of it. I guess it was due to the fragrance of the dried shrimp; again I suspect that they had pre-fried the dried shrimp before putting in the beans.Photo 24-07-2013 11 05 01 AMPhoto 24-07-2013 11 04 53 AM

Restaurant Chong Sek

20,Jalan Portugis,75200 Melaka
75200 Melaka, Malaysia

Malacca, and indeed Malaysia as a whole, is certainly a good place to visit for food – the peranakan food scene here is famous but sadly overly commercialised. But try your luck and visit any independently-run eateries or stalls and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. More Malaysian posts to come – watch this space!

Saveur, Singapore

i first patronised Saveur about a year ago at their bugis branch and remember being quite satisfied with the lunch i had there, so i was quite excited when they opened another outlet at far east plaza a few months ago!

the crowd at far east plaza seems to be a bit more manageable; i remember having to go to the bugis branch right at opening time so that we were guaranteed a seat at their first seating. once the restaurant filled up, you’d be sent away and told to come back later. i’m not sure if thats still the case there, or if the crowd was merely due to the initial hype that came with an ex-coffee shop stall serving up affordable french cuisine moving to their own restaurant-style premises. whatever the case, i was pleasantly surprised when we did not have to queue at all when i visited the far east plaza branch at 1230pm on a wednesday afternoon. the restaurant gradually filled up though, and a queue soon formed outside the door. service is rather efficient and quick however, and so the queue moves relatively quickly.

the decor at both branches is modern (albeit simple), and very pleasant for a good meal. i think i prefer the ambience at the bugis branch to that in the far east branch though! if my memory serves me well, the bugis outlet has a white colour scheme, making the restaurant appear quite nice and bright. but food-wise, i think they are pretty much the same – as good as each other!

we ordered Saveur’s signature pasta to share as a starter. at an extremely affordable price of $4.90 for a regular-sized portion (we paid an extra $2 for a bigger sharing portion), its hard to go wrong with this order.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASaveur’s pasta tossed with chilli oil, japanese konbu & sakura ebi with minced pork sauce – $4.90

i thought this was a very well-presented dish (given the price – equivalent or even less than a bowl of bak chor mee!). the angel hair pasta was cooked just right; it was moist and retained a bite while not being too hard. i liked how each strand of noodle was infused with subtle tastiness and this was achieved without having them swimming in a dish full of sauce (in fact as you can see from the picture, there is no excess sauce on the plate at all), keeping the dish light, as a starter should be! the ebi contributed to the texture of the dish, adding a nice crunch to the pasta.

for mains, the first thing we ordered was the duck confit:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
duck confit – $10.90

i don’t think there’s anywhere else in singapore where you can get duck confit of this quality at $10.90! of course its not the quality of duck you’d get at a fancy french fine-dining restaurant, but for the price you are paying, there is really nothing at all to complain about. the duck was well-cooked as duck confit should be – the skin was crispy while the meat within was tender and moist. the mashed potato was smooth and creamy, and the mushrooms were juicy and well-cooked (if only they gave a few more!), this is definitely an extremely popular item on their menu; nearly every table in the restaurant had at least one serving of this main.

the second main we ordered was the beef:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
beef short ribs braised in red wine – $14.90

being beef, it is one of the more expensive mains on the menu (along with the fish) at $14.90. the beef was very tender and juicy and the sauce it was braised in was nice. however i think if we hadn’t shared all our mains and i had ordered this dish just for myself, it might have bordered on being “jelat” towards the end, because the sauce tends towards being heavy. the potatoes (potato au gratin) that accompanied it were delicious! despite the creamy sauce, they were not heavy at all and were a nice balance to the beef’s sauce.

our final main was the pork:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
pork belly with lentils and soft-boiled egg – $10.90

i love pork, i would say its probably my favourite meat along with duck! the skin of this pork belly slab was divine – it was crispy and very much like the skin of the best chinese roast porks. the meat was also very good – it was tender, juicy and moist. my only qualm is that the serving size was really small. 2 mouthfuls each and it was gone! i like lentils, and am also the hugest fan ever of soft boiled eggs (the one here was cooked to perfection) so this dish was really just my cup of tea 🙂

we skipped dessert as they were not that cheap (unlike the rest of their dishes) and we figured we’d probably be more satisfied with a huge cup of bubble tea or froyo each 😛

i would say my expectations for my visit to the far east plaza branch of Saveur were definitely met. the quality of the food was as good as i remembered it to be, though the serving sizes were also as small as i remembered them to be hahaha. ordering a main each is definitely insufficient (unless you have a tiny appetite). ordering starters thus becomes quite necessary and i suppose this might make you spend more than you initially planned on. but then again, for the price you are paying, i think its a very decent meal that you get.

saveur is known for providing quality french food inexpensively to the masses, and i think they are doing a pretty good job at living up to this reputation.

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Saveur

14 Scotts Road
Far East Plaza #01-07B
Singapore 228213

Kilo at Pact, Singapore

at the junction of orchard road and killiney road, take the outdoor escalator into orchard central and you will find yourself right outside pact – an interesting store that houses 3 things under one roof – a hairdresser, a boutique and a restaurant (kilo at pact). having heard rave reviews about this place, my friends and i headed there for dinner last week to check out whether it was really as good as people say it is!

we went at 730pm on a thursday night and the restaurant was nearly full save for a few seats at the bar, so i think reservations are probably a good idea if you are planning on dining there. i think having 3 different things within one common space is quite an interesting concept, and the shop has a very nice, clean and modern/minimalist feel to it with its huge glass windows, concrete tables and floor, and simple wooden seats and walls:ImageOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the food is fusion-ish; the dishes are pretty much modern takes on traditional vietnamese/japanese cuisine (eg summer rolls, makis etc). don’t think very much can be seen here (sorry!!!), but if you squint hard enough, you might be able to get an idea of whats on the menu heh:Image

we ordered 5 items to share among the 4 of us.

first up, the baby eggplant:Imagebaby eggplant in donburi sauce, with marscapone cheese & tempura flakes – $12

we really enjoyed this delicious starter! the eggplant used was very fresh and the tempura flakes added a nice bite to the eggplant (that in regular tempura would normally only come from the entire piece being coated in batter), keeping the dish light. the donburi sauce and marscapone cheese combination was surprisingly good – the cheese added a twist to what would otherwise have been quite an ordinary japanese dish, albeit a very yummy one. it was a really promising start to the meal!

for our second starter we had the tuna tartare, which our waiter said was the most popular raw dish on the menu:ImageAvocado-wasabi tuna tartare & flour chips – $20

it was a good recommendation! even my friends who don’t normally eat tuna sashimi enjoyed it as the strong taste that sometimes accompanies raw tuna wasn’t there at all, probably because the tuna was nicely seasoned. the tuna was very fresh and despite it being a tartare, the pieces were distinct and not too finely minced; they retained a chunkiness to them which i really liked. it would have been nice if there was a little more avocado though. we also couldn’t taste any wasabi at all! a very yummy tartare that went well with the flour chips.

we also opted for the mentaiko pasta:Image
spaghetti tossed with cod roe, spring onions and shoyu – $18

i know it doesn’t look great in the picture, but i really enjoyed this dish! it was simple, but super tasty. they were generous with the mentaiko and the spaghetti was done just right with a nice bite to it. it wasn’t a sauce-y spaghetti, but wasn’t dry either. despite this being quite a common fusion of italian and japanese food, i was still impressed with this dish because i thought it was well-executed.

beef short ribs rice bowl:Imagebeef short ribs rice bowl (all rice bowls come with nigata rice, sweet corn, radish, sugar peas & wasabi sprouts) – $17

i can definitely imagine myself returning to pact for lunch one day and ordering a rice bowl for myself. besides the beef being tender, juicy and well-cooked, the rice was really yummy! no idea what nigata rice is and what makes it different from other types of japanese rice, but the rice was delicious! we all figured they must have seasoned it with something. it was sticky and moist, the texture somewhat resembling what you will get with mango sticky rice. eaten together with the beef and the vegetables that accompanied it, it was a satisfying dish that was not too heavy despite the carbo, and seemed very “clean”.

our fifth and final dish was the salmon avocado sushiro:Imagesalmon avocado sushiro with prawns, japanese cucumber, tamago, spring onions – $15

the sushiro was like a giant maki, which they very kindly cut into 4 so that we could share it easily. this was the last dish to arrive at our table, and the one that i felt was the most disappointing. it was rather average and i thought there was nothing that set it apart from regular sushi rolls! although i liked the fact that it was packed with ingredients, i would have preferred the rice to be less compact; it was almost like a huge mass of rice. the sushiro was accompanied by a side of soy flaxseed chips, which were nice, but i didn’t (and still don’t) really see how they complemented the sushiro. doubt i’ll order this again – it is filling and i feel that there are other more interesting things on the menu to be tried.Image

all in all, we had a great dining experience at kilo! the food was a refreshing change from run-of-the-mill cafes and restaurants, and ingredients used were fresh and of a high quality. however for the price we were paying, we all agreed that the servings were on the small side and could definitely have been bigger. dessert choices are also not very extensive and we ended up heading to cold stone creamery downstairs for a yummy dessert fix! besides that though, no other complaints at all! i will probably be back 🙂 i would love to try their weekend brunch menu!Image

Kilo at Pact

181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central
#02-16/17/18/19
Singapore 238896

(given the nightmare that navigating orchard central is, the easiest way to find kilo is to take the outside escalator from the intersection of orchard road & killiney road as mentioned above!)ImageImage

Sin Ming Roti Prata, Singapore

i’m constantly in search of good prata and i think i finally found a place i can call my favourite for this indian dish!

i would say its quite a hidden gem since most people who think of eating prata in the thomson plaza area flock to the bigger and more conspicuous prata house along the main upper thomson road, me included, until i recently discovered Sin Ming Roti Prata, located in a coffee shop at the foot of a hdb block off the main upper thomson road.

i’ve been there twice in 10 days; my craving to have it again came about an hour after i had it the first time (i am ridiculously greedy, i know), as we were having ice cream for dessert at Salted Caramel.

i am completely sold by the prata from this stall for several reasons:

1. the pratas are all freshly made on the spot by a prata man behind the counter after you place your order. no such thing as reheating prata that was made much earlier here, which makes the pratas deliciously warm when you tuck into them. the dough for each prata is kneaded by hand and i feel this is what sets apart the prata here from others which to me, taste more mass-produced and aren’t vastly different from the good frozen pratas you can buy from supermarkets.20130705_110520

2. as you can see from the picture above, they have a really extensive menu! (though i stuck with my standard cheese & plain pratas.)
on my first visit there, we ordered a chicken murtabak to share on top of our pratas. the murtabak was not bad – huge with plenty of onions and chicken, and encased by the same yummy fluffy, light & non-oily prata. i’ve never really been a murtabak fan though, and i would say this murtabak didn’t suceed in making made me a convert. don’t get me wrong – it was very good, but not exceptionally outstanding such that it left me craving more (unlike the prata).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
chicken murtabak

3. the pratas are what i consider to be perfect pratas – crispy on the outside and soft & fluffy inside. they’re also not very oily; in fact, there was very little oil left on the plate after we finished our prata both times i was there! makes them appear a little more healthy and the feasting a little less guilt-inducing? (some wishful thinking at work here heh)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA cheese prataOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAperfect plain prata

4. the curry gravy is thick and has a really tasty kick. i find that quite often, the curry that prata shops provide with their prata can be rather diluted but that is not the case at all at sin ming prata! i personally quite like the curry they provide, though my parents (who tried the prata there after i raved about it) found it too sweet for their liking. i can see why some might find it too sweet, but i suppose you can always order other curries to go with it if you want, or just have the prata with sugar! the prata itself is good enough to keep me going back, nevermind the curry!

5. they have amazing prata coins!!! i saw them on the menu but didn’t think of ordering them the first time i was there, so they were a must-order on my second trip there. the novelty of mini pratas did not disappoint! the prata coins were thick, giving them a really satisfying bite and emphasising what i love most about the prata from this stall – the fact that they are crispy on the outside while chewy and fluffy inside. the fact that they were small made them crispier than normal pratas, but their thickness allows them to retain the chewiness inside. i found them a bit pricey at $3.50 for 6 coins, but they were delicious so the price probably won’t stop me from ordering them again the next time i’m there…20130715_123148 $3.50 for 6 prata coins

6. i also love that the stall is tucked away in a little neighbourhood coffee shop; no flashy signs or advertising.
i was initially concerned that the fact that it wasn’t a standalone prata shop might mean that i would miss out on what i deem the full prata experience – completing the prata meal with a milo dinosaur 😉 i had nothing to worry about though! the drink stall uncle was more than happy to make one for me heehee.
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so there you have it, my 6 reasons for why sin ming roti prata is currently my favourite place for a roti prata fix in singapore! the stall also sells indian rojak, mee goreng, briyani etc, all of which are supposed to be pretty good. have yet to try them though, maybe next time!

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Sin Ming Roti Prata

Blk 24 Sin Ming Road
#01-51 Jin Fa Kopitiam
Singapore 570024