The Beast, Singapore

i still don’t know how i should feel about me being someone that comes to mind when my male friend decides he wants to head out for some legit “man food” and needs an eating companion… to put it nicely i would say that i guess people around me recognise my extremely healthy and large appetite, to put it less nicely i would simply say i’m known to be a greedy pig who is ready to eat everything and anything all day every day.

the aforementioned legit man food was to be found at the beast, so off for their sunday brunch we rather excitedly headed. what i feel sets the beast apart from the myriad of other eateries and cafes in the haji lane area is its very strong identity as a southern eating spot evidenced in not just its food – think fried chicken, biscuits with gravy, bacon, maple syrup – and drink – mimosas (they have an all-you-can-drink option at $20/h), cocktails and bourbon, lots of bourbon – , but also its decor – large wooden counter tops, bar stools and refurbished oil drums.
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they open for dinner every day of the week and on sundays, brunch is served till the dinner menu takes over at 5pm. here’s the brunch menu:
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with so many tantalising and, more importantly, interesting (you won’t find such a quintessentially southern menu anywhere else in singapore, i believe) options on the menu, we were spoilt for choice but eventually decided on the fried chicken with waffles and pulled pork hash, along with a serving of cornbread.

the cornbread was served first, sitting happily on a wooden slab and accompanied by a side dish of maple syrup. we very excitedly poured the syrup all over (the more the merrier) and sat back to admire it glistening in and surrounded by a pool of golden goodness before tucking in.
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freshly-baked cornbread ($6)
i really love cornbread so this was my dream come true. but even if you’re not as much of a cornbread fan as i am, i’m sure you’ll still thoroughly enjoy it because it was delicious; i would suggest you give this a try if you’re ever at the beast! the cornbread was served wonderfully warm, and had the perfect texture – light, moist and fluffy while still retaining just the right amount of density to be slightly crumbly around its edges. drizzled (or should i say drenched) in maple syrup, it was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury. simple, but very yummy.

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chicken & waffles – southern fried chicken, waffle, bourbon maple butter sauce ($20)
this was a must-order for us because its probably their most highly publicised brunch offering on social media and was what lured my friend here in the first place. the slab of chicken (you can choose between breast and thigh) was huge; definitely more than enough to have your fried fill with every bite of waffle. it was well-seasoned, the skin oh-so-crispy, and despite it being a really thick slab, the meat within was not overcooked and remained moist. paired with bourbon maple butter sauce, this was quite addictive. the waffle however, paled in comparison to the chicken that sat proudly atop it. it wasn’t bad, but it was certainly not a standout, not a waffle i would eat if it was not accompanied by the chicken. it was crispy at its edges but i felt it was lacking in density (too light and airy) and taste (batter could definitely have been quite a bit more flavourful). i’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt – perhaps it was intended to be this way so that it wouldn’t be too heavy when taken with the fried chicken?

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pulled pork hash – 10h pulled pork, home fries, poached egg, bbq sauce ($18)
i am a huge fan of pulled pork so this was my choice and we were quite pleased with it! there’s nothing for scale in the picture so i’m not sure if you can see how generous the serving was, quite beastly indeed (sorry, i just had to, the pun was going to come up eventually anyway 😛 ). this was a really hearty dish packed with really strong flavours from the barbeque sauce and egg yolk! the ten hours expended on the pork shone through in how tasty, moist and tender the shredded meat was, and the fried potatoes were addictive and perfect for soaking up the sauce and sweet juice from the pork. each component played a part in the interesting mix of textures offered, and i really liked how the bbq sauce wasn’t overpowering. this was rather heavy though so i’d definitely recommend this to be shared, especially given the portion size. i think a slice of toast on the side would have been a perfect accompaniment to the pork and would have helped lift the dish from being the very heavy-going manly meal that it was.

was tempted to end the meal with a bacon maple glazed donut or bourbon pecan pie, but we were wary of the portion sizes and felt like we needed a lighter dessert to wash down all that heavy food (ended up adjourning to artistry for really yummy speculoos cake) so we passed. the beast is yet another exciting option for sunday brunch in the haji lane area; you now know where to head to should the queues at maison ikkoku or symmetry be too long to handle!

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The Beast
17 Jalan Klapa
Singapore 199329 

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Sacha & Sons, Singapore

happy new year everyone!!! you may or may not have noticed that we now officially have our own domain (ie we’ve dropped the wordpress from our url), hurrah! it was one of nic’s new years resolutions to get over his self-proclaimed tech noobness and sort that out, and he very adeptly did so thank you nic (you are now forgiven for leaving me to do most of the writing 😛 )! 😉 i am ashamed to admit that i haven’t been religiously updating about the new places back home that i’ve managed to check out this holiday, but today i woke up and decided i had better get cracking on that given that there are a mere 2 days left to christmas break, so here i am, appropriately kickstarting the new year with a post on the newly-opened sacha & sons.

while in nyc over summer, i had the honour of having what was probably the best (and also most expensive) bagel in my life thus far – a classic smoked salmon cream cheese bagel from traditional new york deli russ & daughters. i occasionally think of it and wonder when i will get to taste a bagel that comes close again, and am delighted to say that judging by the food i had in this little corner of mandarin gallery that day, i think i might have found just the place!

located right next to its sister restaurant wild honey (the two are owned by the same couple) in a corner of mandarin gallery’s third floor, this delightful delicatessen occupies a bright, tastefully-decorated and spacious unit that is perfect for a casual hangout over some unique nosh.
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(i have concluded after looking at this picture that the space looks much better and more inviting in person; this photo unfortunately does not do it any justice)

besides the classic new york smoked salmon bagel (which i did not actually try but definitely plan on returning to do so), sacha & sons serves an exciting range of food that one would expect to find in a traditional jewish deli in the big apple, filling what used to be a gap in the singapore dining scene, and very successfully might i add. here’s what they have to offer:
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their pastrami came highly recommended and i really wanted to try their bagels, so ordering was a surprisingly stress-free affair despite the myriad of choices available on the menu. we decided on a grilled reuben with pastrami and scrambled eggs with sturgeon and smoked salmon, placed our orders and paid at the counter, and returned to our table to eagerly await the arrival of the food.

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scrambled eggs with sturgeon, smoked salmon and caramelised onions served with a toasted bagel and cream cheese with herbs – $18

i am a huge fan of bagels and this was without a doubt one of the best bagels i’ve had in singapore. hand-rolled, it was served freshly-toasted and warm with a crisp exterior encasing a soft and fluffy (while retaining just the right amount of bite) interior, basically the perfect texture of a quality bagel. i am also a huge fan of seeds and nuts (who isn’t?) so the generous sprinkling of sesame seeds that topped the bagel was truly my cup of tea and added additional texture and crunch to the bread. a generous slathering of some thick and creamy cream cheese and a heap of scrambled eggs to top it all off made for the perfect combination of flavours. the addition of herbs in just the right amount to the cream cheese also lifted its taste and prevented it from getting too heavy.

as for the scrambled eggs, they were well-executed – fluffy, smooth and neither too dry nor too wet. very well-sized slivers of fish were generously added to the mix (every spoonful of eggs contained a decent dose of fish pieces) and gave the eggs texture and a savouriness, while the caramelised onions added sweetness. i feel like the latter was overpowered by the strong flavours of the fish though. and i think i’ll probably opt for the purely salmon and onion and sturgeon-free option the next time i order this – if you aren’t a fan of strong fishy flavours, you might want to do the same because i felt that the sturgeon added quite a distinct fishiness.

indeed, the scrambled eggs were rather scrumptious but what truly stole the show for me was the glorious grilled reuben sandwich:20150108_123348grilled reuben with pastrami, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and russian dressing – $18

the only other place in singapore where i’ve had a grilled reuben is nassim hill bakery. it might be a case of personal preference, but my friend and i both agreed that sacha and sons’ rendition is far better. we were so impressed and satisfied by this humble-looking sandwich that there were already discussions of returning for more as we savoured our respective halves.

the pastrami is house-cured and smoked, and is so fragrant and perfectly-flavoured that my mouth waters thinking of sinking my teeth into it again. for the grilled reuben, they have achieved the perfect ratio of meat to cheese to sauerkraut, resulting in satisfaction guaranteed in every bite. i was initially worried that it would be a tad dry, but my worries were unfounded because everything sandwiched in between the two slices of delicious toasted rye bread came together amazingly well and there was an immensely satisfying burst of flavour in each mouthful. the pastrami was tender and so flavourful, oh and did i mention its beautiful pink hue?
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what stands out about this sandwich for me is that despite being so tasty and sounding so heavy, it remains light and i believe i’d have no problems finishing an entire one. perhaps it is because the flavour of the pastrami is delicately fragrant, the cheese is added in just the right amount to complement and not overpower the other components, and the sauerkraut brings a lovely and refreshing slight zest and tang to the mix. they are also generous in providing two whole pickles along with the sandwich. i am seriously looking forward to returning for this when i’m next back in singapore.

besides the delicious food, service at sacha & sons is also worth mentioning. staff are friendly, welcoming, attentive and ever ready to help. they also have a range of samples of their different offerings for you to try before placing your order – i managed to try the smoked trout dip, smoked salmon dip and chopped liver. all were good, and special mention goes out to the chopped liver which is a liver lover’s dream come true – thick, creamy and oh-so-liver-y (for lack of a better description). my advice is for anyone who has even a slight dislike of liver to stay away though, because even for someone like me who quite enjoys liver, i found the taste quite overwhelming. on second thoughts though, it could have been due to the fact that they were so generous with the chopped liver sample that the ratio of liver to cracker was about 3:1…

i was very impressed with the entire set-up and will certainly return. hopefully they maintain both the high standards of food and service even as they grow in popularity (which i am sure they will). another plus point is that they take reservations, yay! definitely go check it out!

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Sacha & Sons
333A Orchard Road
#03-02 Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897

The Exhibit, Balham

an invitation to check out the revamped menu of a happening joint in the heart of balham was too good to turn down, so it was on a rainy thursday night that the 2 of us made the trek into zone 3 to pay the exhibit a visit! we were afraid we would be unable to locate the restaurant but thankfully it was just a stone’s (more like a grain of sand, actually) throw away from the tube station – so not to fret; even in zone 3, the exhibit is extremely accessible!

we got out of the tube station, and 2 minutes later, we were here:
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rach was thrilled by the old-school diner sign and the classic movie timings display, so it was with high hopes that we stepped through the doors and into the exhibit. we headed right up to the 1st floor (making a mental note to check out the bar after) where the diner was. immediately we were struck by how american the layout of the diner was.
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as we were ushered to our seats we were informed that there was a thursday night deal where shakes went for £1 (for a soft shake) or £2 (for a hard, ie with alcohol) each. they have different deals every night which keeps things exciting and people coming back for more (and more). we were particularly taken in by the “movie nights” deal where you get 2 courses and a movie ticket (to catch a film in their boutique cinema on the 2nd floor) for just £15.90 – a real steal, in our opinion! check out the blackboard for the full range of offers:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

for a thursday night, the place was pretty crowded but service was still efficient which was great! here’s the all-american artery-clogging (but totally worth the reduction in lifespan) menu:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

while deliberating what to get (ordering is always a life-changing decision), we decided to start with 2 shakes – a cookie monster soft shake (on the left) and a tiramisu hard shake.
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cookie monster – £4 (£1 with a main on thursdays), tiramisu – £7 (£2 with a main on thursdays)

i (rach) had the cookie monster and loved every drop of it. it was thick, creamy and full of cookie goodness, though i think what could have made it even better would be the addition of some chunky cookie bits. it was also surprisingly not cloyingly sweet, which allowed me to make my way steadily through the entire glass instead of having to leave half of it, as milkshakes often make you do. very satisfying for this cookies and cream fan over here! nic ordered the tiramisu shake which was what jumped out at him from the menu once we were seated but he was, unfortunately, kept in his seat. we both found it a little too diluted and icy; we tasted more alcohol than anything else and even after mixing the cream in, it lacked the thick creaminess that one would expect from a shake.

and now on to the food, we decided to try as wide a variety of food from the menu and settled on the ribs and a burger. we were told the signature was a firm favourite with both the staff and customers. we were also keen on the wild boar and chorizo burger but popular opinion swayed us towards the purist’s beef burger. to accompany those 2 mains, we had a 5 inch stack of onion rings (and promptly regretted not going for a taller tower of that finger-lickin’ goodness) and the interesting-sounding skins with mushrooms.

food glorious food!
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the signature burger is a hand-made ground steak beef patty enclosed in a seeded brioche bun, topped with red lettuce, onion, relish, dill pickle and mustard mayo. we built on that by adding jalapeños, guacamole, cheddar and a fried egg (they have an impressively huge range of toppings to choose from, that can be added to any burger on the menu). when it arrived, nic had the chance to show off his superior photography skills (or so he thinks) by snapping this pic:
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signature burger – £7.25 + toppings (prices as stated on menu)

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the burger was very decently-sized and because of what we had packed into it, it was extremely hearty and satisfying! since most people are most concerned with the patties in their burgers, patties first – they were extremely meaty, chunky, and we could really taste the meat, though we would have preferred it to be a bit more medium-rare (though i’m sure you can make a request for that). it was clearly not factory-made and was quite a thick slab such that it wasn’t lost in all the other ingredients that we had added. together with everything else we had picked, it made for a delicious burger. especially the fried egg because, as rach always says, she is a complete sucker for wet egg yolks, and this was one such amazing egg. given how amazing the fillings were, the brioche bun was a bit of a let down. it wasn’t as buttered as we would have liked and was a tad too thick. nonetheless as a whole the burger was delectable.

we also ordered a full rack of ribs to share:
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full rack of ribs (original flavour) – £11

the ribs were generously slathered with a thick gooey layer of barbeque sauce. nic appreciated that the ribs were slightly charred and rach liked that they were meaty. the meat was soft and tender, though we felt they could have been even better if the sauce soaked right through the meat and the insides were more thoroughly marinated. they were good enough to leave us licking the bones though; that’s always a positive sign of good food!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and now for the sides, the onion rings exceeded our expectations, not just in terms of serving size (aka height) but also in taste.
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5-inch onion ring stack – £3.50

we absolutely loved the batter which was crisp and left no aftertaste of stale oil but what nic loved even more was the juiciness of the fresh onions which is clearly evidenced here:
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evidently pleased. which is longer – his hair or the onion???!!

and finally, what was probably our favourite dish of the night that left us yearning for a second serving after we had finished the first one:
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skins with mushrooms – £4.20

this amazingly simple dish was simply amazing – it consisted of a fried potato skin filled and baked with mushrooms and cheddar. rach’s favourite part of the dish was the skin which remained crispy even after we had left it for a while – who knows why we did as it should have been gulped down immediately. nic felt that the pureness of the taste was so good that the sour cream (pictured in the middle) was rendered redundant. the sweetness of the fresh mushrooms complemented superbly with the saltiness provided by the melted cheese. it’s a wonder why this dish hasn’t been propagated on to some other american diners’ menus yet. as mentioned earlier, we liked it so much that we had a second serving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the star of the night

despite all that we had eaten, there was space for dessert (there always is)!!! we went for the sundae:
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the exhibit sundae – £3.90 ft. nic and his tongue

a typical american diner dessert, the exhibit sundae consists of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, peanut butter, toffee sauce, crushed brownies and whipped cream. our favourite part of the sundae was the addition of chunky peanut butter, it added a very nice and welcome bite to the otherwise slushiness (not in a bad way) of a sundae. the brownies also added texture to the dessert which we enjoyed.

after dinner, we were kindly shown around by luke. we checked out the top floor which has a big room with a bar and a balcony that can be used for private gatherings or parties. the top floor is also where the boutique 28-seater cinema is located, and they show films twice a week (check out the movie schedule on their website and advance booking is recommended). for popular films, additional screenings may be added, as happened on the day we were there, when about time was being screened for the third time. unfortunately, we were oblivious to this fact 😦 if we had known that they were showing it that night, we would have made haste with our food and headed up to one of the cushy sofas to enjoy the movie.

besides the diner, the first floor has another function room that plays host to a range of events, including a speed-dating one that was going on that night.

and finally on the ground floor, there is a lovely bar which charmed us with its stylishly modern yet cosy interior. it also helped that they have live acoustic music on thursday nights and there was a healthy crowd that had the place buzzing and alive.
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overall we were thankful to have been invited to the exhibit as it would not have otherwise crossed our minds to venture out this far. the trip, however, was thoroughly worth it and it would be a waste to let the (slight) distance deter you from paying the exhibit a visit. the concept of having a diner together with a cinema and a bar is fresh and unique; in our humble opinion, this hangout has all the makings of a great venue for an all-in-one night out. be it a night for a nice meal before a movie or just a night for drinks after work the exhibit is a perfect place to get together with mates for a jolly good (and food) time.

thanks for having us, greg; and luke too for showing us around. we’d love to return to check out the brunch menu soon!

The Exhibit

12 Balham Station Rd
London SW12 9SG
http://www.theexhibit.co.uk/

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PS. finally writing together again!!!
(excuse the unimpressive attire – this is us on a school night in rach’s kitchen)
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