Lolla, Singapore

lolla was the sister’s choice for her birthday dinner this year, so its where we headed for some celebratory feasting on thursday night (her birthday was actually on friday but we were under the giant white tents at marina bay watching the spectacular Cavalia that night, so dinner on thursday it was!). 

located at the hiving-by-night ann siang hill, lolla is a mediterranean-inspired tapas-style restaurant that serves a range of what struck me as fusion-type small plates meant for sharing in a group. it occupies the ground and basement levels of a shophouse – the ground floor houses a long counter where guests can watch the chefs at work while the basement is home to a communal table. would have loved to be in on the action at the counter but we were told when we called to make a reservation that the counter was for walk-in customers only (i wasn’t particularly pleased to hear that, to be honest… shouldn’t those who make reservations get first pick of where they sit?). the place is trendily decorated to exude a casual and fun yet stylish vibe, and the restaurant was already buzzing when we arrived slightly past 7.
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ground floor counter seatingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
communal dining one floor down

indeed, testament to the casual and unpretentious nature of the restaurant is the fact that the menu is so simply printed on a piece of paper that doubles up as your place mat.i hear the menu changes according to what seasonal produce is available, and besides whats listed on the menu they also have a few specials written on the mirrored walls for you to choose from. this is what was available on the menu the night we visited:
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[NB: as you can probably tell from the picture of the menu above, the lighting where we were seated at the communal table was terrible for photo-taking and the pictures hence don’t quite do the food justice… 😦 probably explains why i am still sore about not getting to sit at the counter despite making an advanced booking; the lighting at the counter is highly optimal]

the service staff were friendly and willing to recommend the specialities of the restaurant, so it didn’t take us long to decide on what we wanted to have. 

we started our meal with a full portion of their famous sea urchin pudding:
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sea urchin pudding (full portion) – $40

served chilled, this. was. delicious! and we all agreed that it did live up to the hype surrounding it. a generous chunk of fresh uni sat proudly atop squid ink pudding and the two came together wonderfully to make for highly tasty, rich and satisfying mouthfuls; it was truly the epitome of umami. the squid ink pudding (with tomato, cream and egg yolk thrown into the mix) was smooth and creamy, with a strong taste of seafood. this was the first dish to be served and promptly raised our expectations for the rest of the meal. note that its so savoury that it can get quite heavy and jelat, so ordering a portion (or two, depending on group size) to share is ideal.

next, we were served one of the specials of the day:
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pan roasted padron peppers – $15

this was a special available for the night and we chose it for our dose of greens for the night. the peppers were very well done – very lightly coated in some kind of batter/crispy bits that added texture to the dish. the peppers themselves were cooked to perfection and were extremely juicy and naturally sweet. not quite sure what else went into them but it was quite an interesting and tasty dish. not exceptionally memorable and wouldn’t rave about it or think of having it again though!

we also had some scallops mmm:
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hokkaido scallop carpaccio – $38

my first thought when this arrived at our table was that it appeared similar to the mentaiko scallop carpaccio at the sushi bar! felt a little bad for / realised i was wrong in making that comparison after though, because i daresay this was much better (also much pricier) / the two are actually quite different. i’m not exactly sure what sauce was drizzled on top of the scallops here (this happened a lot that night – not quite knowing what went into the creation of the amazing flavour explosions in our mouths, if only we could see what the chefs behind the counter got up to while preparing the dishes; this is me feeling sore again about not getting to sit at the counter… hahaha #life), but there was definitely some kind of salt sprinkled on top i think? everything came together wonderfully and the scallops were of just the right thickness – not too thin such that the natural sweetness could not be appreciated, but also not too thick – just as carpaccio should be. very delicious!

there is a section of the menu dedicated to eggs, and we were torn between the tortilla with smoked eel (which was recommended by the waiter) and the scrambled eggs. eventually settled on the latter:Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
scrambled with bottarga di muggine- $22

did not regret choosing this over the tortilla one bit! topped generously with bottarga di muggine which is fish roe from grey mullet, these were some of the best scrambled eggs i have ever had. if only the lighting at the table was better, you’d be able to see the glorious yellow of the egg and the wonderfully creamy texture of the eggs. the texture was really spot-on – it was creamy and slightly runny (but far from being too wet), and the fish roe added a nice saltiness to the eggs. once i took my first bite of this dish, i lamented to the mother that “i wish i knew someone who could make scrambled eggs as good as these”. true story.

our meal continued with some meat:Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset
braised beef tripe – $23

these pieces of beef tripe were cooked to absolute perfection – slightly crispy on the outside but tender, moist and having just the right amount of chewiness that tripe should have within. not quite sure what they were seasoned in but they were extremely tasty! the tripe pieces also came accompanied by some kind of tomato/carrot/celery mix, and the two went wonderfully together – the tastiness of the tripe was very well-balanced by the sweetness of the veggies which were soft and wonderfully sweet. there was also a subtle smoky taste, possibly from being grilled? a great meat dish to order if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to try something different from the usual lamb cutlets or steak.

the other meat we ordered was the pork collar which came recommended by our waiter:
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iberico pork collar – $26

pork is my all-time favourite meat so i was immensely excited to try this! we requested for it to be medium rare and that is exactly what we got – thick slices of meat cooked precisely to medium-rare as evidenced by its pinkness. the thickness of the pork made for a great bite that proceeded into close-to-melt-in-your-mouth goodness. the meat was so tender and naturally sweet that the sauce drizzled on top of it wasn’t really needed. i wouldn’t say we were disappointed by this dish but i think i was expecting more in terms of flavour, especially because of how good everything else we had tasted was up till this point. the pork was amazingly cooked, but taste-wise it was pretty much just like chinese cha siu (very expensive chinese cha siu…).

back to seafood, we also ordered the grilled octopus:
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grilled octopus – $26

this was a hit with us – the octopus was very fresh, and was speckled with charred bits that added to the taste and texture of each piece. drizzled with a sauce that was subtly spicy and accompanied by lime, this was like grilled sotong on steroids. each piece was crunchy and sweet, with none of the mushiness/sliminess/stringiness that non-fresh or poorly-cooked octopus tends to have. needless to say, our tummies were happy. very happy.

the last item we ordered for the night was the tuna tartare:
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tuna belly “chutoro” tartare – $39

they had forgotten about this item we had ordered but thankfully we remembered it was missing and had them serve it promptly! (one of the) best of the night was certainly saved for last. chunks of tuna are seasoned in something (once again) mysterious and magical and all our eyes lit up as we took our first bites of this super yummy dish. the pieces were very well-chilled (which certainly upped the delicious factor; nobody likes warm sashimi) and had just about enough fattiness to have a hint of a melt-in-your-mouth effect. my only qualm was that some pieces had strings of fats which were hard to bite through in them, but the exquisite flavour of them more than made up for it. this is definitely something i will not pass on when i return to lolla!

finally, we ended the meal with dessert:
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steamed dark chocolate pudding – $15

this was the only dessert on the menu (they also have doughnuts, crema catalana and a selection of creamier ice creams) that really called out to us, and we were not one bit disappointed with our choice. we all agreed that this was one of the best chocolate puddings (or even desserts, for that matter) we have ever had!!! it was so so so good. the dark chocolate was extremely rich and delicious, and the pudding actually resembled the inside of a molten lava cake (only the best part of it), only better 😉 the addition of chocolate and coffee chips sprinkled on top added texture and taste to the decadent and ultra creamy and smooth pudding and paired with the vanilla ice cream (which i really have limited recollection of; it was all about the chocolate, really), this is really a chocolate lover’s absolute dream, and we were so tempted to order another serving!

i love birthdays in the family because it means not just getting to enjoy good food, but enjoying good food in great company ❤ we had a great meal at lolla (though we weren’t quite as full as we had liked to be and proceeded to maxwell round the corner after dinner for some supper #familyofpigs) and though i thought it was quite pricey given the serving size, i anticipate that i will be back – the innovative dishes and bold and delicious flavours that really work are a huge draw. hopefully i’ll get a counter seat when i return so that i can take better pictures that do the very yummy food justice. i apologise again for the lousy photos; i did try my best to save them by editing but they’re still far from what i would have liked 😦

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happy birthday sis!!! ❤

Lolla
22 Ann Siang Rd
Singapore 069702

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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!!!

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 :’)

Ah Loy Thai, Singapore

if not for the fact that i used to have math tuition (oh, those were the days) in the area and spent quite some time exploring random parts of bugis, i probably would never have stepped into or even thought of stepping into shaw towers along beach road. it is old with a facade which is in need of an uplift, and is definitely not a building that catches your attention at all – even if you say you have no idea which building i’m talking about, i’d place bets on the fact that you’ve probably gone by it several times without realising it!

located on the ground floor of the aforementioned nondescript building, ah loy thai is one of a handful of food outlets there. it occupies 2 shop units (1 of which seems nicer than the other), and is almost always fully packed at meal times. they have the hallmark of a popular joint right outside their shop – a barricade is put up in anticipation of a queue. decor in the shop is fuss-free and far from being fancy – its the kind of place people turn up at in shorts and slippers, with good and affordable food being their sole purpose of visiting. 20140719_183553

we were there close to 7pm on a saturday night, and were surprised to find that there was a table for us available immediately, albeit in the unit we later discovered seemed to be the “poorer cousin” of the 2 units they occupy there…
compare where we were seated (ft. my excited dining companion):20140719_183609with their 2nd unit further down the corridor:20140719_191959see what i mean? the chairs and lighting really make all the difference…

didn’t bother us much though, since we were there for the food and not the ambience, but if you’re celebrating a special occasion for example, then i’d definitely recommended opting for a table at the unit that’s further down the hallway if possible, for that little bit of improvement in the setting.

you place your order by indicating what you want on an order form and taking it to the cashier to pay. the food will then be served to your table when ready. here’s the menu:
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between the 2 of us (big-eaters), we ordered 3 dishes to share, beginning with the green mango salad:20140719_184210thai green mango salad – $6.90
for some reason the serving looks pretty small in the picture above, but it wasn’t actually that small at all; it was very sufficient for 2 people to share. we really enjoyed this refreshing salad, particularly with the peanuts and little dried shrimps which added additional crunch. the sauce was of just the right sourness and the green mango was fresh. i’d order this again when i return!

no thai meal is every complete without some tom yum soup, so we ordered a bowl of that to share too:20140719_184347tom yum seafood soup – $7.90
i thought this was an extremely reasonably priced bowl of soup! you probably can’t tell from the way i’ve taken the picture that it came in a large claypot-like thing which really held a substantial amount of spicy soupy goodness. (you’ll probably be better able to see its size in relation to other things in picture of everything placed together below) we ordered the one with seafood, and were pleasantly surprised that they were generous with the squid, prawns and mushrooms (oyster mushrooms, not the lousy canned button mushroom substitute) that they added. all the ingredients were very fresh too! the soup packed a real punch and we were super satisfied, happily ladling and slurping up bowl after bowl.  if you can’t take spicy food, this is probably a no-go though; the soup is rather spicy and we quite quickly developed runny noses and red faces. i thought this dish was testament to the fact that quality does not always have to be compromised on when something is priced relatively affordably. this is again something i would order on a return visit!

another thing i will never leave satisfied from a thai meal without having is none other than pad thai:20140719_185353pad thai – $7.50
this dish took the longest to be served, but it was worth the wait! it was another very generous serving with prawns and chicken as toppings, and my friend and i both thought it was one of the better pad thais we’ve had. there was just the right amount of wok hei for the noodles and mixed with lime squeezed over it and plenty of peanuts, it made for an excellent dish. we especially loved the noodles they used; they were thin and retained bite, almost like the texture of tang hoon but in thin kway teow form. two thumbs up! the prawns were also fresh and crunchy, as was the tow gay. we also liked how it wasn’t too greasy, so wiping the plate clean was no problem at all 😉 (we were actually getting really full about 3/4 through the pad thai but it was so yummy that we just kept going…)

ah loy thai is a great place to have authentic and homely thai food at affordable prices. i definitely prefer it to the other cheap thai eateries in the bugis area like jai thai and first thai. plus, tom’s palette is right across the corridor so its ultra convenient for having dessert after 😛 (which is exactly what we did, despite us being really full from dinner.) i will certainly be back for more!

Ah Loy Thai
100 Beach Road
#01-39/40 Shaw Tower
Singapore 18970220140719_192118
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PS. as i mentioned earlier, tom’s palette right across the corridor from ah loy thai is the perfect spot for some ice cream for dessert. they are known for their salted egg yolk flavoured ice cream (tastes pretty much like frozen liu sha), but i thoroughly enjoy other flavours from their wide range like banana and roasted nuts, black sesame, lavender, honey and cinnamon etc.
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with my favourite partner-in-crime/partner-in-many-non-stop-eating-and-feasting-adventures/fellow bottomless pit

Hanare Japanese Cafe, Singapore

finally got to try the much raved about teppei barachirashi one night after work last week; it was the perfect way to reward myself after a whole day of being cooped up in the office! we didn’t have it at teppei itself because teppei only does omakase at night (and i hear they are fully booked for their attractively affordable omakase dinners for months); neither did we have it at hana hana (also opened by teppei and located right next to it) which serves teppei’s lunch menu in the day, but focuses on yakitori at night. that left us with hanare, another off-shoot by teppei (that makes them a trio of restaurants) which offers a japanese buffet as well as some simple set meals in a really fuss-free and family-friendly environment. hanare is located a stone’s throw away from teppei and hana hana, at the top floor of a shophouse along tanjong pagar road. look out for the signs they place along the walkway so you don’t miss the doorway with this staircase that will take you right up to the cafe: 20140710_183435 helps in working up an appetite 😉 we were there right when they opened at 630pm, and were among the first few to arrive. i was really pleasantly surprised because i imagined we’d have to queue after hearing horror stories about the snaking queues at all 3 teppei outlets during lunchtime that start forming at least half an hour before they open (do these people not need to work?!)! since the prices at hanare are the same both at lunch and dinner, i would say it definitely makes heaps more sense to go for dinner; avoiding lunch crowds is always the way to go! as the word “cafe” in its name suggests, hanare is meant to offer a very simple no-frills experience. decor is really simple and doesn’t feel much like a japanese restaurant at all; in fact the whole set-up seems a little makeshift, with basic tables and chairs and bare walls.20140710_183901 you place your order and pay at the cashier before taking a seat. there are a few options to choose from – the japanese buffet (at a really affordable price of $19.90), the bara set (equally affordable $17.60), and the hanare special (just $12)!20140710_183551 we were there to try the famed teppei barachirashi, so we went for 2 bara sets. the bara set comes with a bowl of the barachirashi as well as a free flow of 4 side dishes. the side dishes available as part of this set change on a daily basis if i’m not wrong, and on that particular day, this was what was available: 20140710_183636i do think the presentation of the dishes can be improved on but for the price we paid, i really didn’t think there was any reason to complain. the 4 sides available that day were (from left to right in the above picture) salad, a stew, edamame, and something that tasted like a cross between a fishcake and potato cake in some kind of sweet sauce (clearly i wasn’t really a fan of this… hahaha). as part of the bara set, you can also help yourself to the white rice, miso soup and japanese tea available at the buffet table. 20140710_184158took a mix of the side dishes to snack on while waiting for our barachirashi to be served. the salad greens (tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce) were actually very fresh and made for a refreshing side dish when paired with the sesame dressing that was provided. the edamame seemed slightly overcooked to the point of being a little soggy, but the beans within weren’t affected so no complaints about this either (gotta love edamame!). as for the stew, i think it was meant to be something like oden although there was no fishcake in it (if i’m not wrong, japanese fishcake is usually a key ingredient in oden); instead it was a mix of carrots, radish, lotus root and chicken. i really enjoyed it, especially because i am a huge fan of daikon and lotus root!!! the broth was light and tasty, and i had quite a few servings of this. finally we come to the unidentifiable fishcake-type thing which i really did not fancy, especially because it was cold after being left at the buffet table for quite a while. had half of a piece and left the rest… service is efficient and our barachirashi arrived really soon after we placed our order. it was all quite exciting finally seeing the bowl of chirashi that i had seen countless pictures of sitting very very pretty right before me: 20140710_184259 the first thing that struck me about the bowl of chirashi was that i could barely see the rice hidden below the chunks of fish. definitely a good sign! as evidenced by the picture above, they were really generous with the fish for the price, and i have to say that the fish was really quite fresh. there was a mixture of tuna, salmon, scallop, ikura, yellowtail etc, and all of it was thoroughly seasoned with a soy-based marinade (if my tastebuds did not fail me). topped with some seaweed, spring onions and sesame seeds, it made for am extremely tasty bowl of chirashi. my only qualm was that the sashimi could have been better chilled while the rice could have been cooled down a little more before serving. it was as if they just scooped straight out from the rice cooker (in fact, they probably did?) and piled seasoned fish on top of the rice; i felt the rice was seriously lacking in rice vinegar and everything else that makes sushi rice sushi rice, it felt like i was basically eating a bowl of white rice. also, the rice was so hot that some pieces of sashimi appeared to have cooked a little after mixing it all together?! definitely not how i like my chirashi… all that said, can’t deny that this was still a great bowl of sashimi goodness, especially for the extremely affordable price. so how does teppei’s chirashi compare with its counterparts at my other favourite haunts (ie aoki and sushi bar)? i actually think they’re all different so it depends on what you’re looking for! at the sushi bar, the chirashi is basically very fresh and delicious pieces of sashimi very generously laid atop a bed of rice; it is completely unseasoned, just good, sweet, thick slabs of unadulterated sashimi. at aoki on the other hand, there’s just something amazing about how everything is put together and some magical aoki touch is added to it, making quite possibly the most perfect bowl of mazechirashi ever. the fish pieces at aoki are small but provided extremely generously (still has the highest fish to rice ratio, in my opinion) and yes, quite clearly, aoki still has my vote for the best bowl of chirashi in singapore; even if not the best, definitely my favourite. at teppei, the seasoning is soy sauce-based which makes it tasty, but i think i prefer a lighter seasoning so that the flavours and freshness of the fish isn’t lost. took a quick look at what they offered as part of the buffet spread, and found that the food was very simple and home-style. don’t expect any fancy or fine japanese cooking or foods; what they had available as part of the buffet spread consisted of a lot of japanese curries, katsudon, gyoza, siew mais, soba etc:20140710_183744 20140710_194046 i’d probably give the buffet a miss, but the chirashi is something i am likely to return for if i’m looking for a cheap japanese meal in the tanjong pagar area. if i’m pining for chirashi and desperately need to satisfy a dire craving though, i’d probably be more content if i head to the sushi bar or aoki. don’t get me wrong – it was definitely a good bowl of chirashi and i will return for it, but for some reason (perhaps the strange temperatures of the rice and fish?) i probably wouldn’t constantly miss it as i do with aoki’s… have to acknowledge the fact that the former is definitely much much more wallet-friendly than the latter though!

Hanare Japanese Cafe
99B Tanjong Pagar Rd
Singapore 088520

20140710_183508Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset another pic of the chirashi for good measure PS. perfect place for dessert after the meal, keeping with the japanese theme, tsujiri tea house at 100am mall for the best matcha soft serve ever!!! IMG_20140710_234908 best best best

(dessert at) Roka, London

today on rockabitebaby, i present to you… *drumroll please*… quite possibly my new favourite dessert in all of london and one of the BEST molten lava cakes i have ever had – none other than roka’s dark chocolate molten matcha lava cake.

please do me a favour and FEAST YOUR EYES –
Imageafter a wonderful japanese dinner at nizuni (directly across the street from roka) last weekend, my pig-in-crime for the night and i decided to try our luck at roka and see if they’d just let us order dessert. we weren’t too optimistic and were initially turned away but we must have looked pretty shattered, because we were later told that we could do that if we sat outside, so brave the cold we did!!! and boy am i glad we did.

we didn’t even need to look at the menu to place our order; we had come for just one thing: what they call the CHOCOLATE TO MACHA PUDDING, YO-NASHI AISU, rather underwhelmingly described on their menu as a dark chocolate and green tea pudding with crunchy jivara and pear ice cream. i really don’t know why its misleadingly called a pudding, because this is some seriously amazing molten lava cake!

we requested to change our pear ice cream to black sesame ice cream (green tea + black sesame = one of my all-time favourite flavour combinations), and were greeted with this humble-looking cake not long after:
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looks can be deceiving/do not judge a book by its cover – i was apprehensive when the cake first arrived at our table and wondered why it was square and not the usual more cylindrical-shaped lava cake. but we quickly learnt that our worries were completely unfounded when we dug in:
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the dark chocolate cake erupted with amazing green matcha goodness that just wouldn’t stop oozing out!20140308_205528if this isn’t a beautiful mess, then i don’t know what is…

the dark chocolate cake was crisp at the edges but moist inside, and even got a little gooey towards the centre, just as a perfect molten lava cake should be. it was light and not overly-sweet – pretty much a match made in heaven with the molten matcha that was of the perfect consistency. the matcha taste was really authentic; there was not a hint of any cheap artificial matcha flavouring at all and topped with the yummy black sesame ice cream which was smooth, creamy and fragrant with black sesame bits, we were truly in dessert heaven.

indeed, this slice of heaven didn’t come cheap (i can’t remember the exact price but it was about £10), but it was worth every penny (and calorie)! it proved to be one of those rare (or not so?) things which made me remind myself not to stuff my face too quickly so the enjoyment could be prolonged, and that caused an escalating sense of loss as what was on the plate slowly diminished. 😦

a must-try if you are at roka and i will without a doubt be back for this, hopefully along with their proper food too!!! for matcha lovers out there, it is essential that you give this amazing cake a try to better your quality of life. as for non-matcha lovers out there, it is equally imperative that you do the same; you might just change your mind about this green goodness.

Roka

37 Charlotte St
London W1T 1RR

PS. feast for two that night at nizuni across the street, before the night got even better than it already was with aforementioned epic dessert:
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might (or might not) have gotten a little carried away with the ordering (but we did finish it all!!!)

needless to say, i was a very very happy bunny that night 🙂

Abeno, London

located just a stone’s throw away from the british museum, abeno is the perfect spot for a legit japanese food fix after a day at the museum.  specialising in okonomiyaki (japanese pancake containing a variety of ingredients), this traditional japanese establishment also serves a range of other foods cooked before your eyes on a hot plate at your table, including teppanyaki, yaki-soba (fried noodles), and om soba (noodles wrapped in egg).

my friend and i visited on a friday afternoon and we were greeted by the sight and smell of food glorious (fried) food being cooked at the centre of each table once we entered, which got us even more excited to eat. (NB: as enticing as the smell of freshly-fried goodies is, unfortunately it lingers on your clothes so wear something you’re going to wash…). abeno occupies a simply-decorated and cosy shop along musesum street that makes for a very pleasant place to have a casual lunch:
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they have a special lunch menu, so its not a bad idea at all to make a trip down for that all-important mid-day pick-me-up:20140307_132810

since they are known for their okonomiyakis, it wasn’t difficult to decide what we wanted to go for – we decided on an osaka mix and a tokyo mix. it came with a miso soup and the side dish of the day which was some kind of green bean-like vegetable in sesame dressing. 20140307_134313
the miso soup was flavourful and wonderful for a cold day, but i do wish they had added some ingredients into the soup instead of just having a measly few pieces of seaweed. i really enjoyed the side of greens – it was well-chilled, extremely fresh, and they had a very nice crunch to them. the sesame dressing was also light and added in just the right amount such that all the greens were well-covered, but they certainly were not dripping in sauce.

not long after, the raw okonomiyaki ingredients were brought to our table in shiny metal bowls, all ready to be mixed and cooked before our eyes!
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we were rather pleased with their generosity with the ingredients! every condiment was also very fresh, and everything was subsequently mixed together to give this:20140307_134210

then the cooking began! the mixtures were poured onto the hot plates before us and shaped, before being left to cook under metal lids for a few minutes.20140307_134440

after some fancy flipping and the removal of the lids, this is what greets you:
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trust me, by this point, the smell and wait you’ve had to endure thus far will leave you completely ready to tuck into this pancake of goodness sitting pretty before you! but before going for it, there’s one final step to be done – the decorating of the okonomiyaki! there is a range of sauces/toppings you can pick from – japanese mayo, sweet katsu sauce, seaweed and bonito flakes! needless to say, we opted for everything, and a bit more 😉

the final product:20140307_135229after admiring the bonito flakes that were very much alive and swaying atop the freshly-made pancakes for a bit, we happily commenced demolishment of the okonomiyakis.

there was actually not much difference in taste between the tokyo mix and the osaka mix, which i think probably means not enough kimchi was added to the osaka one to give it that additional spicy punch. nonetheless, both were very good. the ingredients were fresh, the pancake was lovely, warm, fluffy and tasty, and the sauces that accompanied them were great complements. the combinations of ingredients were good, and i particularly liked the squid and prawns which were really crunchy and naturally sweet! it didn’t take long for us to get through the pancakes though, because they were not very big at all. for someone with a big appetite, you’d probably be just half-full but there is the option of getting a deluxe okonomiyaki (which i assume is bigger), or adding noodles to the mix though!

we had room for dessert, and i was really excited by the impressive range of desserts they had on their menu:
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after much deliberation, we opted for the kyoto sundae!20140307_143742
kyoto sundae: green tea ice cream, azuki red beans, cream – £5.95

besides the fact that the sundae itself was structually unsound and basically impossible to eat without putting the scoop of ice cream in serous danger of rolling right off, it was pretty good! hidden beneath the cream were some crunchy cereal bits as well as mochis, so it pretty much had all the makings of a perfect matcha sundae. i love red bean so my only qualm was that they were a little (or not so little) stingy with the red bean sitting atop the ice cream. also, for its price i had imagined something bigger, but then again i suppose the size of the okonomiyakis for the price we paid should have been some indication to manage our expectations with the dessert serving size. matcha anything is always good though, so i still really enjoyed this dessert!

abeno is certainly worth a visit for the relatively novel experience of having your food prepared before you. the quality of the food is also commendable, and it makes for an entertaining lunch experience although i think the okonomiyaki itself though very tasty and rather yummy, isn’t particularly mind-blowing. i’d probably be raving about it more if it was slightly more reasonably priced! at £13 for the lunch set, it is a bit steeply-priced for what you get. (or maybe i’m just comparing this to what you pay for something similar back home or in japan, which i really shouldn’t be doing because this is london after all…) i will return if i’m craving teppanyaki-style food or some good japanese dessert, but probably not as frequently as i would if the pancakes were just that tiny bit cheaper!

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Abeno

47 Museum St
London WC1A 1LY

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PS. they have a sister outlet serving the same things (if i’m not wrong) – Abeno Too located near covent garden/trafalgar square at great newport street!