Gaest, Singapore

i’ve been wanting to write about gaest since i visited it for dinner at the start of summer, but told myself to wait till i re-visited it for lunch so that i could give a complete (or almost complete – there’s still their weekend brunch menu to conquer!) run-down of their mouth-watering offerings. its now the end of summer (mega sad face) and i’m super happy i managed to squeeze in a brunch date with some of my favourite people at this amazing little place amidst the madness that the last few days of being home always proves to be (packing and last-minute meet ups galore, and this time with training contract applications added to the mix. plus squeezing in one last holiday of the summer – am now eating my way through nyc for a week before school starts!!!)…

gaest occupies a small shop space across the street from amoy street hawker centre. they only have space for about 10 within the shop, so most patrons end up sitting outside where they have many more tables. its quite pleasant to dine there in the evening when its much cooler (as we did for dinner), but can get pretty unbearable during lunch.

the first time i visited gaest was when they just started opening for dinner. i was initially disappointed to learn that they didn’t serve their sandwiches and salads that they have at lunch at night, but ended up feeling pleased that we got to try something different from them – their sourdough pizzas! here’s the menu:
the dinner selection (and their entire menu, for that matter) is pretty small, but everything on the menu (or at least everything i’ve tried thus far) is good so no complaints about the relatively limited offerings at all! we ordered 3 pizzas for the 3 of us to share – 2 savoury and 1 sweet. we realised belatedly that it was quite a bit for 3 girls to finish even with the big appetites we have, but once we took our first bites of the pizzas, we realised that our worries would probably be proven unfounded. they were super yum!

first up, the green kale and roasted pork pizza (sorry the pictures are not quite up-to-scratch; lighting was poor!) :20140714_194056
green kale and roasted pork pizza – mozzarella, white onion, roasted pork with crackling, honey marinated green kale, red apple and black pepper ($18)
this was definitely my favourite pizza of the lot; the combination of flavours and textures was amazing! it probably helped that my favourite meat (pork) was heaped on generously, and the saltiness of the meat was perfectly balanced by the natural sweetness of juicy red apple slices and the slight spice of black pepper. the pork was roasted to perfection – slightly crispy on the outside but moist and tender inside, while the crackling was sheer melt-in-your-mouth goodness! the honey marinated green kale was a really tasty addition and together with the apple slices, prevented the pizza from being too heavy. some very strong flavours going on here, but the entire affair was kept light with a wonderfully thin and fluffy crust (more on the crust later) and a great combination of tastes and textures. i would say this is a must-order and will definitely return for this one day!

black forest salami and pickled cherry tomatoes pizza:20140714_194107
black forest salami and pickled cherry tomatoes pizza – mozzarella, smoked black forest salami, sweet pickled red cherry tomatoes, parsley pesto and roasted hazelnut ($18)
another savoury pizza, but something completely different! a really interesting mix of ingredients made for slice after satisfying slice – i particularly loved the addition of pesto and roasted hazelnuts.the hazelnuts were fresh and added great texture and crunch to the pizza while the pesto brought everything together very nicely.the salami was rather salty (as it is meant to be), but the cherry tomatoes balanced out the flavours well with their sweetness and juiciness. the charred bits of mozzarella were also a perfect complement to everything else that sat happily atop it.

and now for the sweet, rhubarb and strawberries:20140714_194517
rhubarb and strawberries pizza – mascarpone, rhubarb compote, fresh strawberries, lemon zest & fresh mint ($12)
this was good, but if i had to pick my least favourite of the lot, this would be it. don’t get me wrong, it was quite yummy, but maybe dessert pizzas aren’t quite my thing… especially after having pizza for the main meal too! nevertheless, like the savoury pizzas, i thought the combination of flavours here was pretty genius – the sweet strawberries and rhubarb compote were very nicely balanced out by the lemon zest (loved how they had actual bits of lemon skin and not just lemon juice squeezed over the pizza) and fresh mint. the mascarpone was fresh and light, and slathered on in just the right quantity such that the pizza wasn’t overly sweet.

all the pizzas are made to order – the dough is kneaded and rolled and ingredients are added as each order is placed. indeed, besides the unique ingredients and creativity in combining them behind each pizza, credit must also be given to the pizza crust! when i first arrived at the shop that evening and noticed them preparing and kneading the dough in the shop window, i knew i’d be in for a treat 😉
the texture of the crust is my favourite part of it – thin and crispy on the outside, but chewy and fluffy inside, with just the right amount of charred bits. perfection in a pizza crust! and topped with such wonderful/fresh/quality produce, its hard to imagine anything they make going very wrong…

the next visit i made to the great gaest was at lunchtime and i was super excited because i knew i’d finally get to try the much raved about sandwiches, in particular the roast pork one! i was most definitely not disappointed. arrived at 11am on a weekday, and successfully beat the lunch crowd to snag a table within the shop.

we opted for 2 sandwiches and a salad which made for an extremely satisfying lunch; even the hungry boy at the table approved and gave it his two thumbs up & man food stamp of approval 😉
salmon – locally cold smoked salmon, honey and apple pickled beetroot, rocket & horseradish cream ($15)
i wasn’t actually drawn to this at all when i looked at the menu because i felt that smoked salmon is something that’s rather common and can be found in lots of places, but i’m glad my friends went ahead and ordered it anyway, because i have to say this was one of the best (if not the best) smoked salmon i’ve had in singapore! the salmon was extremely fresh and sliced thickly, giving it a wonderful bite reminiscent of fresh salmon sashimi. the beetroot was a great touch which added some crunch, while the horseradish cream was delicious and brought everything together wonderfully. it was tasty but very light, and not at all jelat! the sourdough bread encasing these amazing ingredients was also very delicious – crusty (for lack of a better word) crust and soft fluffy centres… super yum!!! we lamented the fact that we couldn’t buy an entire loaf of sourdough to take home with us!!!

salad of the day with homemade sourdough – watermelon/quinoa/feta salad ($14)
next, we had the salad of the day which was a mountain (#truestory) of watermelon and quinoa. as its name suggests, the salad of the day changes daily which is definitely going to keep me heading back for more. the salad was super refreshing, light and yummy, really perfect for a hot day! i especially loved the addition of watermelon which made the salad juicy and moist without having to add much dressing at all. also, i love feta and it was added really generously here so extra gold stars for that yay! the serving is really rather huge so i suggest it be shared, possibly as a side to the yummy sandwiches (though the sandwiches themselves are also rather big!).

pork – roasted pork with crackling, orange marinated red cabbage with parsley, red apple & mustard mayonnaise ($14)
last but certainly not least (in fact i would say i’m saving the best for last), we had the pork sandwich. this sandwich. is. SO. GOOD. a must-try when you’re at gaest!!! the pork is roasted to perfection – the skin is crispy and amazing while the meat remains juicy and tender, its close to melt-in-your-mouth goodness and its not overly seasoned at all and the addition of crackling adds plenty of crunch. the orange marinated red cabbage is also a great balance to the heavy flavours of the pork, and it is this and the red apple slices which keep the sandwich light (though certainly much heavier than the salmon sandwich) and make it interesting. i really really enjoyed this sandwich, and not just because pork is my favourite meat. really brilliant stuff and given the serving size, very reasonable too!

gaest is a wonderful break from the otherwise pretty greasy and unhealthy food options in the area (think amoy street hawker centre across the street/ coffee shops around the area). its the kind of place that makes me feel like singapore really needs more of these lovely little cafes that offer something different from the usual cafe/brunch fare! not only is the food unique, interesting and only made using the freshest of quality ingredients (i thought this really shone through both times i visited), service is friendly and warm, and the prices on the menu are nett – there’s really not much to complain about! now to try their weekend brunch when i next return to singapore over christmas. i already can’t wait mmm… 😉

21 McCallum St
#01-01, The Clift
Singapore 069047
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PS. hopping across the street to amoy street hawker centre for a 2nd meal/ dessert isn’t a bad idea 😛 we had chinese dessert at zhen jie dessert stall on the 2nd floor of the hawker centre, and were very satisfied – the perfect sweet treats to round off an already great meal!
my current chinese dessert obsession is black sesame/almond/peanut paste with tang yuan so that’s what i got and i was extremely pleased because it was one of the best i’ve had in singapore (the other great sesame paste shop i go to is the one in chinatown complex hawker centre)!!! the paste is very fragrant, light and smooth and the icing on the cake here is that the tang yuans are handmade and very good too! realised belatedly that they are famous for their ah balling – you can order tang yuans in a whole myriad of soup bases ranging from pastes to peanut soup to barley ginko nut soup. good stuff.20140915_121837

PPS. i apologise for the recent update drought! was busy at my last internship followed by a week of packing and last-minute meet-ups. and now, i’m eating my way through the great new york city – one last hurrah before final year begins!!! more posts to come soon 🙂 stay tuned!


Kimchi Korean Restaurant, Singapore

i often lament the fact that singapore has a lack of good and reasonably-priced korean food, so was rather excited to try out this relatively new joint that opened earlier this year after hearing good things about it! i’m glad to report that it did not disappoint, and i’ll definitely return when craving some korean kimchi goodness.

kimchi korean restaurant occupies a nice and spacious shop unit on the 2nd floor of suntec city. i was initially worried that i’d get lost in the maze of shops in sprawling suntec, but i entered on the revamped side that’s at the doorstep of esplanade mrt (i think its the side known as the convention mall) and finding it was a breeze. we arrived just before 7pm on a thursday night and the restaurant had several available tables when we arrived, but filled up really quickly soon after and was nearly full by the time we left.

the dining area is very pleasant – tables are big and well-spaced out, good for both meet-ups in groups and cosy meals for two where you can talk about anything in the world without worry that the guests at the next table are eavesdropping. as for the food, the restaurant prides itself on having 100% of its food prepared by korean chefs, and a head chef who has worked in top 5-star hotels and establishments in korea.  i do think their experience showed in the food that was served to us that day and the best part is that the food is not only good but also reasonably priced!

snapped a pic of the order sheet since its pretty much a summary of the menu (the actual menu is a lot prettier with nice pics to go with the food descriptions):
as you can see from the menu, they have a good range of korean staples – from barbequed meats to rice bowls to stews to soups to bulgogi – , and all are reasonably priced.

we ordered a kimchi soup, a andong jjimdak, and a seafood pancake to share. food was served promptly and soon i had this glorious bowl of bright red piping hot soup sitting pretty before me:
kimchi soup (with rice/glass noodles) – $9.80

the soup comes with rice but i asked to change the rice to glass noodles instead, and they very gladly obliged. this was a great rendition of kimchi soup – it was flavourful and really packed a good punch (without being tear-inducing spicy), ingredients were added generously, and the soup was of just the right thickness (far from being diluted). the boy who normally detests kimchi (aversion-to-supposedly-sour-things alert) actually didn’t mind this and said it tasted different (in a good way) from the other kimchi soups he’s had and given his stamp of disapproval. i love kimchi soup/stew with glass noodles so was super pleased with this and happily slurped up them oodles of slippery springy noodles. good stuff.

the other main we ordered was the andong jjimdak aka chicken bulgogi, because it came highly recommended in the menu:
andong jjimdak (with rice) – $15

andong jjimdak is a stew-like steamed chicken dish that made us feel like we were having a lovingly homecooked meal. tender and well-seasoned pieces of chicken were served in a pot together with a myriad of root vegetables (carrots, radish, lotus roots etc) and glass noodles, and doused in just the right amount of some kind of soy-based spicy sauce. the chicken was naturally sweet and the sauce was fragrant. inspired by the chef’s own family recipe, this dish exuded a homely vibe yet was refined and light in taste. wasn’t too blown away by it at the start but the yummy mix of flavours grew on me as we progressed through the bowl. 

no korean meal is complete without some pancake so ordering one was definitely in order (pun unintended):
pa jeon – $8.90

we opted for the seafood pancake and it was delicious! i really enjoyed it and thought it was certainly one of the better korean pancakes i’ve had in singapore. it was really nicely done – just the right thickness, crisp on the outside but soft and a little chewy on the inside, with seafood generously added to the mix, and pan-fried to golden perfection. the chilli sauce it was served with was also great and went well with the pancake (though it was yummy just having it on its own too). if only there were more pieces… 😛

besides being a restaurant, they also have a small section at the entrance of the shop selling a range of korean goodies including drinks, snacks, noodles for cooking and fresh produce. we left really satisfied with the meal and without burning any holes in our pockets. this place will definitely come to mind when i’m thinking of somewhere to have korean food from now on, and i intend to return to try the barbequed meats sometime soon! 

Kimchi Korean Restaurant
3 Temasek Boulevard
Suntec City Convention Mall, #02-387
Singapore 038983 

20140904_190034 20140904_192021

Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine, Singapore

sometime last year, yet another addition was made to the array of imperial treasure and crystal jade restaurants within ngee ann city (there are so many variations of the 2 brand names within that one building that i always find that i have to triple check which outlet is the one i’m meant to be heading to) – imperial treasure shanghai cuisine. head up to the 4th floor of the building and you’ll find it where coca restaurant used to be; its hard to miss because of the row of cocoon-like booth seats lining the side of the restaurant.

if not for the fact that our shanghainese family friends took us for dinner there one night, i probably would never have ventured into this restaurant. it exudes a fancier and more upmarket vibe than the regular chinese restaurant chains like crystal jade la mian xiao long bao or din tai fung, more like somewhere that you’d go to for a sit-down extended family dinner rather than somewhere i’d head to with friends for a casual dim sum meal. boy am i glad they took us there that one night though, because that was the fateful meal where i discovered my current favourite xiao long baos in singapore!

i was so impressed with the food we had with our family friends (we had a proper shanghainese feast – starters, pork buns, dim sum at the side, fish, duck, rice cake, rice wine dessert etc etc) that i vowed to return, and jumped at the opportunity to do so when a craving for xiao long baos came around…

the great thing is that they serve dim sum even at dinner time, so i visited after work on a weekday night for my yummy shanghainese dim sum fix. service is top-notch and extremely attentive, and we were given a booth seat which was nice and cosy for two. besides booth seats, they also have a good number of private rooms and regular tables. i love how the area is quite spacious and the tables are well-spaced to afford diners privacy and a pleasant dining experience.

 here’s the dim sum menu:

between the 2 of us, we ordered 4 different dim sums and a bowl of noodles to share. would definitely have gone for more if not for the fact that i had a huge and late lunch that day! the meal started with the usual chilled braised peanuts that you get at chinese restaurants, and its worth mentioning that they were pretty good – well-braised to soft perfection and very nicely-flavoured too.

first of our dim sums to arrive was the xiao long bao:
shanghai steamed pork dumpling – $7.80

as i said above, these are my current favourite xiao long baos in all of singapore – they are divine! served piping hot, the xlb skin is smooth, delicate, moist and thin (but not too thin such that you have soup leaking out everywhere), bursting open to reveal wonderfully tasty soup and tender and juicy meat.
all i can say is it’ll be a while before/ it won’t be any time soon that i return to din tai fung or taste paradise for their xiao long baos. this is officially my new go-to place for these little packets of tasty goodness! perfection in a mouthful mmm…

we also ordered a plate of pork buns:
pan fried shanghai pork bun – $4.20

these were some beautiful buns 😉 just check out how perfectly pan fried they were:
love the crispiness that the lightly-charred base added to the pau which was a great addition of texture to the pau skin. the pau skin itself was great – soft (but still retaining a nice chewy bite), light and of just the right thickness. as for the meat within the pau, it was actually pretty much like the xiao long bao filling, as moist and tasty and juicy as ever! together with the fluffy pau skin, this made for a great little pau. such perfectly pan-fried paus are not that easy to come by, so i’d recommend ordering this for a taste of some typically shanghainese dim sum.20140812_191245

 moving on with the pork filling agenda, we also got a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings:20140812_191320
pan-fried pork dumpling – $4.20

the last of our porky items for the day – guo tie, and they didn’t disappoint either! these delicious dumplings literally exploded when you bit into them, the piping hot porky juice filling your mouth. the skin was soft and thin but wonderfully crisp on the bottom, and each of them contained as much juice as the xiao long baos. definitely one of the better guo tie renditions i’ve had!

the final dim sum we ordered was the scallion pastry aka chong you bing:
deep fried scallion pastry – $3.20

this wasn’t quite what we expected as we were imagining more of a flat chive pancake-like dish. nevertheless, it was pretty good! the pastry was flaky and light, encasing a generous amount of scallions that were fresh, crunchy and well-fried. even though it was deep fried, it wasn’t too oily and was very tasty.

 finally, we ordered a bowl of noodles to round off the meal:20140812_190932
noodle soup with pork and vegetable dumplings

i very fondly remember this to be a very delicious bowl of noodles! much finer than the regular la mian or noodle soups that you get at other more mass-market xlb restaurants, the soup was delicately flavoured and noodles cooked to perfection. they were thin, tasted very fresh and had a nice bite to them. as for the soup, it was extremely tasty and had a very strong taste of natural sweetness from chicken (i think? if our taste buds didn’t fail us). what we liked most about it was that it didn’t taste like any old noodle soup; instead, the soup tasted like very well-done double-boiled-type chicken soup that they serve on a per bowl basis to start the meal in good chinese restaurants (sans the fancy ingredients that normally go with it eg abalone, mushrooms, chicken etc). the dumplings in the soup were also great:
they were big, the dumpling skin was extremely smooth, fine and thin, and they were generously stuffed with yummy pork and fresh vegetables. i’m sorry i don’t have the exact name and price of this bowl of noodles, but it was really good and i’d certainly order this (or any other bowl of noodles to try something new, for that matter) again when i return.

imperial treasure shanghai cuisine is a great place for a spot of shanghainese treats. besides the divine dim sum offerings, they also serve a range of main dishes and more substantial food for a full-blown chinese banquet. because not many people know of or pay much attention to its existence, i’d say their xiao long baos are a hidden gem (for now, at least). reasonable prices (our total bill came up to less than $40 if i remember correctly), great ambience, wonderful service, delicious food and a convenient location smack in the middle of orchard road – what more can one ask for? definitely worth a try!

Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine
Takashimaya S.C., #04-22
391 Orchard Road
Singapore 238872

Soi 55, Singapore

(sorry for the recent update dearth – spent the past week and a bit feasting in the land of the rising sun! there are few things better than the greatness that is eating japanese food in japan; more on that to come in following posts!)

quite possibly the coolest new shop in the golden shoe block, soi 55 is a thai iced tea stall in golden shoe hawker centre that’s been quenching the thirst of the cbd crowd since it opened not too long ago. located on the first floor of the golden shoe hawker centre (ie 2nd floor of the complex), you won’t miss the stall as long as you look out for its bright blue and white sign that’s really minimalist compared to the other colorful and cluttered signs that the rest of the stalls have. this was the queue we had to join when we were there at about 130pm on a thursday; cbd lunch crowd was out in full force!20140821_133802

decided to start with something basic and went for the thai milk tea! couldn’t resist adding some red ruby to it as well. 
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thai iced milk tea with red ruby – $3.20 ($2.50 + $0.70)

it was the perfect cold drink for a sweltering day. i really enjoyed the milk tea; i would say it was definitely one of the better thai milk teas i’ve had in singapore – it was fragrant, milk was added such that the tea had just the right thickness, and the thai tea flavour was sufficiently intense but not overpowering. my only qualm is that it was a little sweet (possibly due to the addition of the red rubies which probably inevitably added some syrup to the mix); maybe i’ll go for the “siew dai” (less sugar) next time.

oh and another qualm – i love red rubies but i think i might pass on adding them as a topping the next time i’m here. they were rather clumpy and too big to be sucked up with the straw we were provided with; i had a really hard time trying to suck them up without causing too much of a ruckus when i was back at work in my mentor’s office! this problem can probably be overcome with the provision of spoons though, and they red rubies were otherwise great taste-wise. the chestnuts were crunchy and i’m not sure if they make them from scratch but if they do, perhaps less tapioca can be added for the coating to reduce the clumpiness? something should also be done about how they all clump together!

my friend got the thai rose milk tea and she was pretty disappointed with it. i took a sip and could see why – we felt that the taste of rose was insufficiently strong (we saw while they were preparing the drink that its just a little bit of rose syrup added to the regular thai milk tea), worsened by the additional sweetness that the red ruby added to her drink.

all in all though, soi 55 drinks are still a great option to beat the heat. i wasn’t blown away by what i had, but my craving for thai iced milk tea was successfully satisfied and i wouldn’t mind returning for more if i’m in the vicinity. a decent substitute for bubble tea and a worthy competitor for my other cbd drink faves (fruit juice and teh halia from the arcade)! 

Soi 55
#02-19, 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Food Centre
Singapore 048940

 PS. they do discounts on their hot tea and coffee in the morning, so why not pop by for a pre-work perk-me-up?20140821_134058