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:
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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 😉
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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.
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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 😉
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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!!!

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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!).

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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… 😉

Gaest
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!
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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!

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Assembly Coffee, Singapore

evans lodge just got more exciting with this (relatively) new kid on the block. opened some time late last year/ at the start of this year, assembly prides itself on good coffee and is the perfect place to stop and get a cuppa if you’re in the dunearn road / bukit timah area. i’m not big on coffee but am still very pleased with this addition to the area’s offerings because the food is good too!

i visited on national day with three friends; we were looking for somewhere convenient to have a spot (or more) of tea, and assembly coffee fit the bill with its waffle and cake offerings, its location and ample parking right within evans lodge itself. it was packed when we arrived at 2.30pm but we were lucky enough to snag a table for four just as a couple was leaving. assembly occupies a rather small shop unit in evans lodge – when its not too packed i can imagine it making a really nice and cosy place to chill with a book and while the afternoon away, but when it was packed like how it was when we visited, it can get rather cramp and stuffy.
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where we were seated (by the window on the left, semi-hidden in the pic) was bordering on uncomfortably hot and i think it can probably be attributed to the lack of sufficient air-conditioning and the strong sunlight coming in through the windows that day.

besides the coffees they are known for, assembly offers simple breakfast/light brunch or lunch-type food items. here’s the food menu:
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and the drinks menu:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

we were all really full having just come from respective lunches, so we passed on the mains and headed straight for the sweet dessert offerings. wasn’t difficult to agree on what we wanted – the four of us ordered a waffle and brick toast to share. i was so tempted by the cakes on display in the counter (i wonder if they’re outsourced?) which included exciting things like horlicks tarts and dark chocolate-pistachio-cranberry cake (mmmm…) but was reminded by my teatime companions to exercise some self-control and rein the omnipresent greediness in me in.
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cake display mmm…

considering the crowd, the food was served in a relatively decent amount of time. first up, the famous earl grey caramel waffle:
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earl grey caramel waffle – waffle with homemade earl grey caramel sauce topped with new zealand natural vanilla ice cream and strawberries ($11.50)

i wasn’t disappointed by this waffle! it was wonderfully crispy on the outside (which made eating the edges delightful) but moist and fluffy inside. the vanilla ice cream that topped it went very well with the caramel sauce. the first of my only 2 qualms is that the earl grey taste could have been a little stronger! till now, i can’t tell if the earl grey is just in the sauce or if it is infused in the waffle batter; i only tasted it fleetingly in some bites so can’t quite figure out where the subtle earl grey flavour was coming from. secondly, i thought that the waffles could have been lighter within as i felt that the inside of the waffle was a little on the dense side; you can tell from the picture below that they are very moist inside which is great but at the same time i think they could be a little lighter and airier (for lack of a better word).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
but of course i’m comparing the waffles here to my favourite waffles at creamier, so the benchmark is set pretty high 😛 this still made for a highly satisfying waffle mmm yes…

we also had the brick toast:
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assembly’s brick toast – “shibuya” inspired honey brick toast topped with vanilla ice cream, artisan honey greek yoghurt and fruits ($12)

back view:
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this plate of toast was a real show-stopper; its the kind of thing other patrons stare at curiously (aka enviously) when they see it being served to your table and wish they had ordered too. the centre of a super thick slice of toast is cut out and into little blocks, while a scoop of ice cream sits pretty within the now empty core of the thick toast. i quite liked this but the general consensus among the four of us was that it was bordering on being too sweet and we all preferred the waffle. its basically really thick toast that’s fried (i think?) till its nice and crunchy on the outside, but that remains soft inside. it was coated in sugar and honey which made it very sweet, but we realised that was probably what the greek yoghurt was for – to balance out the sweetness of the ice cream + sugar-coated toast combi. taken with the yoghurt and fruit, it became much more enjoyable and was actually quite addictive; crunchy outsides and fluffy insides paired with ice cream and finally dipped in yoghurt. sounds rather odd i know, but actually tasted quite interesting. the greek yoghurt was a refreshing addition. 

we also ordered an iced latte but i only had a sip of it so i can’t say much about it:
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iced latte: $5

they are extremely serious about their coffees here though (look at the number of people working hard behind the counter), so i’m sure it was very good, and much needed in the heat!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i’d definitely return to assembly coffee again if i’m looking for somewhere to have a light meal around the area; what we had that day satisfied me enough for me to want to try their savoury offerings as well as some of that yummy-looking cake! a (very) belated welcome to the ‘hood, you guys! 😉

Assembly Coffee
26 Evans Lodge
Singapore 259367

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my teatime companions – old and very dear friends :’)

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clearly i am the only / the most patriotic one among the 4 of us… (#happybelatedbirthdaysingapore #loveyoulongtime) all decked out in red & white to show my love for this amazing city that has given me so much, and has always kept the foodie in me 129843094829304% satisfied!!!

My Little Spanish Place, Singapore

don’t know what took us so long to check this charming place in our neighbourhood out, but last night (i liked it so much that i decided i had to write about it pronto!) the tan family finally did tapas! and boy were our tummies glad that we finally got round to giving this cosy spanish restaurant at the row of shops after coronation plaza a try.

when we called to make a reservation that morning, we were told that they were fully booked and they could only offer us a table outside. but we went ahead with the booking anyway, and went prepared in our absolute sunday best (shorts) to keep cool in the heat. turns out we were given a table inside when we arrived instead, so that was already a great start to the night 🙂 and given that its a cosy family-friendly neighbourhood set-up, we didn’t feel particularly awkward or underdressed for the meal.
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this picture was taken at 630pm when we just arrived and the crowd had yet to come. by 7ish, the place was full and people without reservations were either turned away or given tables outside.

i was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s interior. it is tastefully decorated and the warm yellow lighting and cushioned seats with large pillows that line the side of the wall give it a nice homely feel, like you’re dining in someone’s traditional spanish home. not sure how clearly you can see it in this picture, but they also have a range of hams on display which is quite a feast for the (greedy) eyes. the menu is simple, but with a good range of dishes to cater to a myriad of preferences:
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for our party of 5 (grandma tan was over for the weekend), we ordered a few tapas to start, followed by 2 small pans of paella. the first tapas that was served to the table was the tortilla:
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tortla de patata con alioli – traditional spanish egg omelette with potatoes and onions, served with homemade aioli (4 pieces for $8)

said to be the national dish of spain, this was a good rendition of the traditional spanish tortilla. the omelette was fluffy and tasty with a thin crusty layer, and the potatoes were added to the mix in just the right amount such that it wasn’t too heavy. the onions also added a nice lift to the omelette and the aioli complemented the simplicity of the egg very well. my only qualm was that it could have been served warm/hot; not sure if its meant to be served completely lukewarm (it was bordering on room temperature).

next, we were served 2 tapas on a board – the garlic prawns (left) and fried chorizo (right):
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chorizo frito – fried chorizo (spicy spanish sausage) $16

the chorizo frito is what you see to the right of the serving board. we actually didn’t order this but were given it on the house when we informed the manager that this was not what we had ordered (we had ordered the clams with chorizo – see below) – A+++ for service (although the waitress who took our orders seemed a little unsure and we had to repeat things many times to her – to not much avail, it seems, given the wrong order?) didn’t find anything exceptional about this dish; the chorizo was extremely salty but good when taken with the accompanying bread (which was very good – crusty on the outside but soft inside, and served warm). considering it was fried, it was not too oily! but i don’t think i’d order this when i return unless i am a huge chorizo fan…

the garlic prawns on the other hand, are certainly worth mentioning: 
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gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) – fresh shrimp cooked in boiling olive oil with garlic and chilli pepper $16

i wasn’t too impressed with this dish when i first tried it, but soon came to appreciate it much more when i dipped the bread into the delicious sauce, which to me was the highlight of this tapas. the prawns themselves were fresh and cooked to perfect crunchiness. they were naturally sweet, but i felt that the sauce could have been infused into the prawns more; i felt like i was eating plain prawns with just some sauce coating it, a real waste because the sauce was very yummy! it was super fragrant and had a strong taste of prawns; best savoured when bread is dipped into and completely soaked in it. we ended up asking for more bread so that we could lap up every drop of this prawn-y sauce. it was a tad on the heavy/oily side, but that didn’t bother me much.

next, we had the croquettes:
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croquetas – lightly-fried jamon-stuffed creamy croquettes $10

these little croquettes were little nuggets of happiness. i was all excited when i saw their perfectly golden-brown exterior, and was not in the least bit disappointed upon biting into it. the croquette filling was smooth and creamy, and oozed out once you bit through the light and crispy ‘skin’.
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the generous chunks of juicy jamon added texture and depth to the croquette and despite the cream, it remained light and made for a satisfying treat.

finally, we had the clams with chorizo:
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almejas con chorizo – fresh clams cooked in a chorizo-based broth $15

we thoroughly enjoyed this dish! it was a generous serving of clams (more than enough to go around for 5), and the sauce was extremely tasty while remaining light. it was tomato-based with small bits of chorizo that added texture and bite, and went very nicely with the fresh, plump and sweet clams. this was another sauce that we happily soaked up with bread.
moving on from the tapas to even greater things, we also ordered a serving of grilled squid:
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calamares rellenos a la plancha con cebolla y pimientos – whole grilled squid stuffed with caramelised onions and red peppers, grilled and drizzled with a sherry wine reduction $21
close-up of the stuffing:
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i really enjoyed this dish. it was a generous serving that is great for sharing, and the squid was fresh and grilled wonderfully. it retained the right amount of crunchiness and had a perfect subtly charred taste that was balanced by the sweetness of the caramelised onions and red peppers. the sherry wine reduction was very tasty and squeezing some lemon juice to go along with it lifted its taste, and kept it light and refreshing.
finally we were on to the paellas, which take 40-45 minutes to cook because they are made to order. we were told that each small pan serves 2-3 people, but upon seeing the serving size, i think its pretty generous and can probably serve 3-4 people especially if you have other food. for the 5 of us, we decided to go with ordering 2 different small paellas rather than 1 medium-sized paella. the first paella that we ordered was the house paella:

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paella de la casa – house paella $49 (small)

this was one amazing paella, definitely one of the better (if not the best) ones that i’ve tried in singapore. it was so wonderfully robust and full in its flavour, and the range of ingredients including mussels, chorizo, prawns, squid and chicken were generously added. it was extremely fragrant and the rice was cooked perfectly – not too dry and certainly not too wet. a little steeply priced, but i thought it was worth every penny for the ingredients added and its great taste; every grain of rice was infused with the fragrance of saffron and seafood. i would definitely order this the next time i visit. paella perfection in a pan! i daresay this was my favourite dish of the night.
the 2nd small pan of paella that we ordered was the squid ink paella:
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arroz negara – blank ink paella $44 (small)
this paella was very different from the house paella. it was good as well, but the hot favourite at the table that night was definitely the house paella. flavoured with black squid ink broth, and served with prawns and squid and a side of aioli, this was an interesting change from the usual paella. as with the house paella, the rice was moist and every grain was flavourful. the prawns had a wonderfully lightly-charred taste and a squeeze of some lemon lifted the taste of the dish such that it was easy to polish off yum yum. the aioli was an interesting addition that was nice but not particularly necessary. if slathered on too generously, the paella was at risk of becoming too heavy.
the paellas were certainly worth the 40-45 minute wait, which didn’t feel that long anyway, because we were kept more than happy and satisfied with the steady stream of well-timed tapas. they have a small but adequate selection of yummy-sounding spanish desserts including a chocolate tart, custard cream-type thing and of course churros! we were too stuffed for dessert, but i will definitely try some on my next visit.
i’m so glad that we finally tried this place out and my only regret is that we did not do so earlier! its so difficult to find good spanish food in singapore (and it tends to be quite overpriced), but for now this seems like its going to be one of my go-to places for delicious tapas and paella. they also do brunch on weekends and that is something that i really want to try too. churros for breakfast/lunch/brunch? mmmm definitely…
My Little Spanish Place
619 Bukit Timah Road

Singapore 269720
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Cocotte, Singapore

an old and dear friend recently celebrated her 21st (we are all getting old) birthday at cocotte, a casual and unpretentious french restaurant on the ground floor of wanderlust hotel located along dickson road. the sunday crowd in little india left me a little frazzled but thankfully i found a lot and parked without much difficulty and more importantly, without knocking any random jaywalker over.

the wanderlust hotel exudes a quirky, eclectic and yuppy vibe, and cocotte is no different – it is country-style decor with modern touches at its very charming best. i’m not sure what the restaurant layout is like on a regular day, but this is how it looked for my friend’s very nice do 🙂
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we had the whole place to ourselves, and a special menu was put together for the event:
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cocotte believes in communal dining where large servings of yummy food are shared across the table, so that’s how the lunch that day rolled as well. before any of the proper food came, we were served a basket of warm bread – yum yum love me some carbs. the bread was crusty on the outside but soft inside, nothing to shout about but was a promising indicator of the good food that was to come 🙂
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the first dish to be served was the french onion sandwich!
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french onion “soup” sandwich – walnut rye bread, onion confit, veal jus, melted gruyere cheese

picture of its cross-section so you can see how its constructed:
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we all really liked this sandwich! i haven’t had anything like it before, and it was an interesting take on the classic french onion soup. taste-wise i have to say that it was really quite on point, tasting very nearly like a non-liquid form of french onion soup. and because my utmost favourite part of a piping hot bowl of french onion soup is the sinful layer of gooey cheese on the top, this was just my cup of tea. wonderfully-flavoured onions and a layer of melted gruyere cheese are generously layered onto a slice of (freshly-baked?) walnut rye bread and it makes for a really tasty open-faced sandwich with a range of textures. yum yum, though i can imagine it getting a bit heavy if you have too much of it. best to share, especially if you’re planning on trying lots of other food! i’d certainly order this again when i return.

the next starter that was served to the table was a salad:
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poached egg & lardon salad – frisee with french lardons, barn-raised poached egg & smoked bacon-infused sherry vinaigrette

this was a good second starter to follow the french onion sandwich as it was much lighter and cleansed our palettes for more food to come! the salad was alright, nothing to shout about although i did, as always, appreciate the very well-poached *barn-raised* (whatever that means hahaha) egg! the greens were quite fresh and the dressing was pleasant with a hint of bacon infusion. for the health-conscious, the addition of lardon (pork lard, basically) turned this into a not-so-healthy salad though.

now on to the mains, the first thing we had was the duck confit crepe:
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duck confit crepes – homemade duck confit wrapped in a warm crepe with roasted shallots, red cabbage, & fresh herbs with citrus jus

i was most excited for this wonderful-sounding dish but have to say i was a little let down! here’s a picture of the crepe cut up so you can see the inside a little better:
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i thought the crepe was too thick and for some reason the components of the filling didn’t come together as well as i imagined they would. the duck was moist but was unlike the usual duck confit-type meat i was expecting – maybe because my favourite part of a duck confit is the thin layer of crispy melt-in-your-mouth skin but that was nowhere to be found here; it tasted almost like braised duck..? so that was quite disappointing. the red cabbage was also a little too raw for my liking; i think the filling of the crepe might have been more harmonious if the cabbage was cooked a little softer but maybe its crunchiness was intended to be maintained to add some crunch to the crepe. i probably would give this a miss when i return.

thankfully things looked up for the mains after we were done with the confit crepe! the next main we were served was a whole fish:
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whole roasted seabass – tomatoes provencal, slow roasted garlic, fine beans, grilled eggplant, peppers and courgettes and saffron aioli

i really liked this dish! it was a big plate meant for sharing, and reminded me of home-style chinese cooking 🙂 hidden under the fish (sorry i didn’t take a picture of what lay beneath) and accompanied by the beans was a bed of wonderfully roasted aubergines, peppers and courgettes – i love my roasted veggies; so yummy! as for the fish itself, it was very lightly seasoned and perfectly roasted such that the skin outside was mildly crisp while the meat within was extremely fresh and moist. i really should have taken a picture of the inside.. we were all impressed by how it was extremely fresh and very tasty yet light and moist. it was also accompanied by a saffron aioli dipping sauce which was a great accompaniment for those who wanted a more flavourful fish. i thought the aioli was not particularly necessary because the fish itself was tasty enough and i didn’t want to overpower the freshness of the fish. i was much more willing to slather the yummy aioli over my roasted vegetables instead. a great dish for sharing!

last but certainly not least, we had cocotte’s signature roast chicken:
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signature poulet roti – whole roasted antibiotic and hormone-free chicken served with pan gravy, spring vegetables and creamy potato gratin

my dining companions and i thought this was the star dish of the lunch that day. we concluded that it is their signature dish with good reason! a whole chicken is roasted to perfection and served on a big wooden board to the table, accompanied by some yummy vegetables and potato gratin mmm. the chicken was definitely one of the better roast chickens i’ve tasted in singapore. the meat is tender, moist and juicy while the skin outside is crispy and super tasty. we hardly touched the gravy at all because we didn’t need it at all! the natural sweetness and juiciness of the fragrant and flavourful chicken was more than enough to make our tummies very happy. 
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the accompanying potato gratin and beans were also well-received and by the time we were done with the chicken, most of us were at the brink of falling into food comas.

so we took a break and headed to the quirky and super trendy hotel lobby to play some foosball in preparation for dessert…
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and also a spot of retail therapy:
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alas it turned out to be the most unoptimal decision of the afternoon because when we returned to our table, we found to our great horror that we had missed our chance to be served a dessert platter 😥 had to settle for taking a picture of a half-eaten platter that the people at the other end of our table were tucking into:
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our crestfallen faces were spotted a mile away by the birthday girl’s mother, and she very kindly arranged for some cherry chocolate cake for our dessert:
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its worth saving some space for cocotte’s chocolate cake. it is a chocolate lover’s dream – moist, dense and extremely chocolate-y, the non-chocolate fan in me was a little scared by how heavy and chocolatey it looked but i ended up really enjoying it! have it in small quantities and you won’t be overwhelmed by its richness. the dark chocolate ganache that topped the cake was really really good, and the little crunchy balls added a different texture to the cake. the cherries within made it into something like a blackforest cake without the cream, and everything came together very nicely in the little foil loaf tins to make a yummy little treat. the cake is definitely way too much for one person to finish alone; it’s perfect for sharing, and i can imagine how delicious it would be when accompanied by some ice cream!
as for the cupcake, it was a banana cupcake if i remember correctly, topped with the same oh-so-good dark chocolate ganache. i thought the cupcake was a tad dry though, and it definitely paled in comparison to the chocolate cake.

finally, we had their ice cream sandwiches! snagged a portion of the burnt caramel ice cream sandwich to try:20140720_151345
i thoroughly enjoyed this burnt caramel ice cream sandwich – burnt caramel ice cream sandwiched between two thin speculoos biscuits. i absolutely adore spiced speculoos (!!!) biscuits, so this was quite a hit with me. the taste of the burnt caramel was rather strong, but i thought the speculoos biscuits balanced the potency of the homemade ice cream out rather well.

all in all, it was a good meal at cocotte and if you are a fan of roast chicken, you should definitely check this place out. on weekends, they do brunch in a really cute way – apparently they bring around a trolley of food for you to pick things off, instead of the boring old ordering off a menu. sounds like fun!

Cocotte
2 Dickson Road, Wanderlust Hotel
Singapore 209494
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PS. happy birthday sarah ❤ (birthday girl in the centre)
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i’d like to think we’ve come a long way from our 12-year-old selves who were tyrants doing bridges at the back of the classroom during higher chinese lessons… from 12 to 21 :’)

GRUB, Singapore

this place has been on my list of to-try places for the longest time, and i finally got the chance to check it out two weekends ago, yay!!! located smack in the middle of bishan park, grub is a real crowd magnet for its family-friendly environment and fun food offerings; the long wait on weekends is testament to its ever-growing popularity.

visited on a saturday afternoon around 1pm, and the place was packed! do not be deceived by the lack of a line in front of its doors (i eagerly quickened my pace thinking we’d gotten lucky and somehow evaded the crowds, but quickly learnt that that was pure wishful thinking), they run a system where you leave your number and they send you a text message when your table is ready.20140705_140513

there were about 15 groups in line ahead of us and the estimated waiting time was about 45 minutes, but hey, they say good things come to those who wait right? we did consider giving up and heading off to somewhere else, but i’m glad we ultimately chose to wait – it wasn’t so bad with good company in the air-conditioned comfort of the car, armed with many photo-taking devices 😉
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approximately 45 minutes later, we were sent a text and very excitedly leapt out of the car; good food awaited! it was a hot day (what’s new) and thankfully we were lucky enough to snag a table indoors:
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clearly excited

grub is surrounded by greenery and bathed in natural light coming through the huge glass panels that surround the building on 3 sides. the indoor area is pretty spacious, and i like how the tables aren’t cramped together such that you can hear entire conversations going on at the table next to yours without even trying.20140705_140957

as for the outdoor area however, i imagine it getting really really hot especially if you’re sitting there for an extended period of time on a typically muggy afternoon in sunny singapore. didn’t seem to deter these folks though:20140705_150510

they have an extensive food and drink menu and as you’ll see proudly proclaimed on it, at grub, they believe in i quote them, “eating responsibly”. this means cooking with ingredients which are as natural as possible, without adding any msg or artificial preservatives and flavourings. the meats they use come from pigs, cows and chickens which have been naturally fed and responsibly farmed, while their fish are caught in waters free from contamination and water-borne diseases. given the quality of the ingredients going into their food, i would say the dishes are very reasonably priced!
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among the 4 of us, we ordered the mentaiko fries, truffled egg cocotte, GRUB double cheeseburger, crispy fish burger and churros to share. service was pretty brisk given the crowd that day, and soon we had this yummy array of food before us:
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the first appetiser we ordered was the mentaiko fries.    20140705_141923
mentaiko fries – $9
don’t let the simplicity of its look fool you, these were some wonderfully cooked chips, and the mentaiko aioli and nori seaweed that topped them made them pretty perfect! this was a nice change from the usual truffle or cheese fries options you get at most cafes these days. the mentaiko aioli was very tasty but remained light, and the nori seaweed added another dimension of texture to the mix. everything came together very nicely and we had every last bit of the mentaiko dip, using the other plain fries that came with the burgers to wipe the saucer of additional dip clean. almost every table at grub had at least one plate of this on the table, and we could see why.

the second item we chose from the appetiser menu was the truffled egg cocotte:20140705_141947
truffled egg cocotte with crispy parma ham & toasted foccacia – $7
this was a decent dish, but i probably wouldn’t order it again when i return because it was not particularly outstanding. it actually reminded me of the half-boiled eggs you get with your kaya toast sets at ya kun, just with truffle added and topped with a few slivers of crispy parma ham. let me show you a picture of what it looked like after mixing and you’ll get what i mean:20140705_143320sorry for the rather unappetising picture, but see what i mean now? ya kun eggs!!! (which are delicious, don’t get me wrong.) i liked how the truffle taste was prominent and the combination of egg, ham and truffle was really good stuff. our only qualm was that the toasted foccacia provided was far from enough to be eaten with all the egg. we had at least half the ramekin of egg left after finishing all the focaccia, and ended up having to dunk our plain fries in it again.

as for the mains, we opted for the extremely popular crispy fish burger:20140705_141835
crispy fish burger: crumbed fish fillet, remoulade – $14
this was definitely one of the better fish burgers i’ve had in singapore, and we could all see why it is so popular among grub’s patrons. firstly the fish fillet was a very generous portion and secondly, it was crumbed and fried to perfection! the tasty batter coated the fish in just the right amount (nobody likes overly thick batter), keeping it light and allowing us to appreciate the freshness of the fish within. i would probably order this again when i return; it reminded me of my younger days (i make myself sound so old) where i would get the filet-o-fish at mcdonalds though of course this tastes far, far, far better. i guess you can say grub’s crispy fish burger is like filet-o-fish on serious steroids hahaha 😉

a picture of the yummy fish that the glorious golden batter encased:
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we also ordered the double cheeseburger:
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GRUB double cheeseburger – double patty, double cheese, bacon – $18
for just $5 more than the regular cheeseburger, you get an additional patty, more cheese (mmmm…), and some bacon – why not make the upgrade? check out the cross-section:20140705_142905
this is the perfect burger for those of you with voracious appetites to feed. the cheeseburger was pretty good, but we all preferred the crispy fish burger. the patty was moist and tasty, remaining pink in the middle which i really appreciated. topped with bacon and coated in cheese, everything went well with the burger bun. i felt that it was a tad dry though, not in terms of the meat, but in terms of some kind of sauce that would bring everything together. perhaps if the cheese was meltier and hadn’t hardened as such, it would have played that role of tying everything together perfectly. besides that however, it is a really generous portion for its price, and i am sure it is a hot favourite with hungry men (stereotypes, i know…). also loved the addition of a gherkin!

oh and as you can see in the pictures, fries are served as a side with the burgers. like the mentaiko fries, they are cooked to perfection – crisp on the outside while fluffy inside and not overly oily, best eaten when first served as they are all warm and toasty and delicious.

finally, we ordered churros from the dessert portion of the menu, but had them served with all the rest of the food because we simply couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into them. 20140705_142117
churros with dark chocolate and tangy creme anglaise- $9
its not often that you find churros in singapore, and even more rare to find decent, let alone good churros! these though, were definitely the best churros i’ve had in singapore. they were of a thickness that i love (i have never been a fan of skinny churros), coated in just the right amount of sugar, crisp on the outside but amazingly soft and fluffy inside. alternating between dipping them in the dark chocolate and cream, i was very very pleased. if you’ve never had churros, grub is definitely the place to give them a shot 🙂
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we left grub full on food and friendship, happy from the satisfying meal and a great catch-up with fab friends we’ve known for 14 years! i’d definitely return to grub if i’m looking for a place with a different environment from the usual cafe in the middle of the urban jungle that is singapore. the only thing that would make me think twice about returning is the fact that they don’t take reservations and the almost 100% certainty (especially on weekends, maybe weekdays are better?) of having to queue/hang around bishan park aimlessly is a turn-off. not sure how long i’ll be able to stay away from those churros though… 😛

GRUB
510, Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 (Bishan Park 1)
Singapore 569983

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sisters tan x sisters yeong finally together again!

PS. if you’re wondering where to park, parking is available at 2 carparks right by bishan park – note that 1 which is slightly further from grub has free parking, while the other which is right where grub is operates on a coupon parking system.

 

My Cosy Corner, Singapore

my cosy corner has been occupying a cosy corner (sorry, i just had to… bahaha) on the second floor of coronation plaza for as long as i can remember. its certainly not the newest/snazziest/hippest/trendiest eatery out there, but it is definitely an all-time favourite of mine (and many residents in the area), and is worth sharing about!

they are a small family-run (i’m assuming) set-up that sells a range of affordable one-dish meals including japanese fare like udon and katsu rice, but what they are really famous for are their yummy local dishes ie mee siam, mee rebus, popiah, kueh pie tee etc. there is limited seating space within the shop so its always quite full no matter what time of the day you visit; there are always customers popping in for a quick bite or taking away food!
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when i’m there, my order is standard – a serving of mee siam, accompanied by their super popular popiah! 20140626_132853
was also feelin’ a chendol (it was yummy) to beat the heat that day
the food at cosy corner never ever disappoints. it is one of my all-time favourite places to have a bowl of mee siam; i know i will always leave happy. the secret to its smashing success is definitely in its gravy – not too thick or too thin, very very tasty and far from being diluted. squeeze some lime into it before eating, and it really packs a super satisfying punch! the tau pok is also worth mentioning – fried to ultra crispy perfection while remaining soft and airy within. the tow gay is also fresh and well-cooked, not at all overdone to the point of being soggy as it tends to be at many places. my only qualm is that they seriously overcharge for the addition of 2 measly prawns to the dish – if i’m not wrong, they charge an additional $1 for just 2 prawns! i hadn’t realised this but now that i’ve taken note, i might just go with the mee siam without prawns the next time round. admittedly though, the prawns do add more texture to the dish. and despite the fact that mee siam is probably available more cheaply at any regular hawker stall, i keep coming back for more. #addictive!

look around cosy corner while you’re there and you’ll notice that some people order mee rebus, some mee siam, some laksa, and others even japanese (always a ?!?!?! kind-of-moment for me). but what almost every table will have a serving of is their famous popiah! 20140626_133011
popiah – $2.20 per roll
popiah aficionados will know this – cosy corner’s popiah consistently appears in lists of the best popiah in singapore, and i wholeheartedly agree that it is certainly a worthy contender! the rolls are freshly made-to-order and you can watch the aunty behind the corner at work as she gets rollin’. let’s start with the skin – it is thin and moist and is wrapped around the filling so skillfully that nothing ever falls out when you eat it/when it is cut. the filling is added generously and is extremely juicy and tasty in a very nice homecooked and not msg-laden kind of way. the chilli sauce (homemade) adds a great spiciness and my favourite part of these decadent rolls is probably the crispy fried garlic bits that are well-mixed and hidden in the glorious turnip filling that also contains beansprouts, cucumber and egg.20140626_133339once again, though pricey, i never stay away from their popiah for long. forever a favourite!

definitely pop by if you’re in the vicinity and are looking for a quick bite in a no-frills fuss-free eatery. it might just leave you constantly looking for reasons to return to coronation plaza to have more of their yummy homemade comfort food! (there’s a ntuc there so grocery shopping can always be the reason for regular visits :P)

My Cosy Corner
587 Bukit Timah Road #02-02
Coronation Shopping Plaza
Singapore 269707
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La Ristrettos, Singapore

this cafe is the epitome of a hidden gem in singapore. tucked away where nobody would expect to find a cafe, la ristrettos is nestled among medical clinics and practices on the 8th floor of novena medical centre. you wouldn’t know its there unless you’ve seen stuff about it or heard about it through word-of-mouth, or you randomly chance upon it while on your way to a medical appointment.

we were looking for somewhere in the newton/novena area to have brunch on a saturday morning, and it was la ristrettos that we decided to head to. arrived around 1030am and had to wait about 5 minutes for a table – it is a small cosy place with a large communal table, a long window seat and another small standalone table. if you’re willing to brave the heat (or rain), they open out into the rooftop garden of the medical centre so you can dine there too.20140628_103105 20140628_103000

my first thought when i entered this little cafe was that they take their coffee very seriously. not only because the words “coffee boutique” are proudly declared on the big brick wall you see when you enter, but also because they have a few impressive coffee machines hard at work. the interesting thing about the machines is that they are laid out on an open counter and not behind a counter; its almost like you can walk right up and make yourself a coffee:
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snazzy coffee machine/monstrosity

for such a cosy little set-up with a small kitchen, i was impressed by the range of food and drinks they had on offer. 20140628_105444

pastas are served from noon onwards only, so we focused on the all-day breakfast menu which had a nice range of food, that was quite different from regular eggs benny/eggs florentine/french toast fare (a good change!):20140628_104145

you place your orders and pay at the counter, and the food will be served to you when ready. for the 3 of us, we ordered a grande with scrambled eggs, a toasted sourdough topped with chicken and a poached egg, and a mushroom frittata:
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grande – choice of eggs, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, spicy italian sausage, sourdough ($14)
i didn’t have much of this but my friend who ordered it (a boy who wanted something more substantial; big breakfasts like that are always popular among hungry growing boys) seemed pleased enough with it! tried the scrambled eggs and they were pretty well done, fluffy and moist. the sausage was good too; it wasn’t the kind of poor quality processed sausages you get in cheap supermarkets. this is great if variety on a plate excites you. at $14, i would say this is really reasonably priced too!

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tostino e arrosto – toasted sourdough with garlic olive oil, spinach, roast chicken breast, tomato and poached egg ($11)
i loved this open-faced sandwich! it looks quite small in the picture but it filled nearly the whole centre of the plate and the plate was quite big, so it was actually bigger than it appears here. the combination of chicken, spinach, tomatoes and a perfectly poached egg was super yummy! i think my favourite part and the star of the sandwich was the super tasty and tender chicken slivers. the seemed more grilled than roasted actually, but however it was done, it was done to perfection and topped the sandwich in generous portions. the egg was wonderfully runny and taken with the honey mustard-type sauce drizzled around the plate, this made for a light but satisfying meal.
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RUNNY EGG YOLK my love

we wanted to get the bircher muesli because i had seen pics of this wonderfully-plated gloriously poached pear sitting atop some muesli (everybody loves pretty food) while reading about the place, but they had no pears that day! so we ended up going for the mushroom frittata:20140628_105833mushroom frittata – italian mushroom omelette with ham, mushroom, tomato & cheese served with sourdough ($12)
the frittata was served in a little personal pan and accompanied by some buttered sourdough bread. a frittata is like an omelette but with everything randomly mixed in as opposed to folded in (you can probably tell from the picture). they were generous with the toppings, and this made for a really tasty dish! my only qualm was that i felt it was a little dry because there wasn’t really any “wet” element in it. perhaps the frittata could have been done a little wetter? would have tasted yummier with the sourdough that way. nevertheless, i loved how it was simply done and presented; this dish exuded a very homely feel for me 🙂

not forgetting the drinks we tried – i had a chai latte while my friend had an iced caffe.20140628_105148
iced caffe (espresso with gelato and milk) – $6.50
the coffee was good, and the gelato added a nice thickness and sweetness to the coffee. quite a generous serving, i would say!
as for the chai latte which i don’t have an individual pic of (but you’ll see it sitting pretty in some of the pics later), it was very yummy and definitely one of the better chai lattes i’ve had in singapore. the chai flavour was very fragrant and they had the proportions of milk just right, such that the chai taste wasn’t drowned out by milkiness and vice versa. i just love how chai lattes make you feel warmed from inside out; they are perfect for rainy days (or any day for that matter).

besides being tucked away from the crowds in its exciting nondescript location, i love how the prices at la ristrettos are nett. what you see on the menu is what you pay; they do not charge the extra 10 + 7 which is great! for the quality of the food, the prices are definitely reasonable and the dishes were simple but well-executed.

one negative is that they seemed to have run out of quite a few things on the menu – we were looking forward to having the pear tart or any other dessert that they had available, but they had run out of all desserts!!! i thought that was quite surprising given that it was a saturday morning when they should expect a healthy crowd. i guess they hadn’t restocked for the following week (they close on sundays)…

la ristrettos is a great place to grab a bite and relax with a coffee and book. the atmosphere is really nice and relaxed; it exudes a friendly neighbourhood joint-type cosiness and warmth. definitely check it out if you’re in the area and looking for a good cuppa or a satisfying meal!

La Ristrettos
10 Sinaran Drive, #08-37 Novena Medical Centre
Singapore 307506

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we settled for mr bean ice cream and taking stupid selfies for dessert (a firm favourite)

PS. tip on how to find the place – take the escalators up for square 2 all the way to the 8th floor and you’ll see the roof garden. if you park in square 2, the escalators from the carpark are the ones to take!

PPS. gotta love the new s5 camera!!!