The Beast, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Beast
17 Jalan Klapa
Singapore 199329 

Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters, Singapore

the newest kid on the upper thomson cafe block is pacamara boutique coffee roasters – a joint which recently relocated from somewhere in the vicinity and renamed and revamped itself along with its location change. i never visited them previously but from what i’ve read online, it used to be oz speciality coffee at thomson v two.

pacamara occupies a spacious corner unit at the row of shops right after the now-defunct longhouse food centre ( 😦 oh how i miss my prawn mee, duck rice and goreng pisang 😦 #jcmemories) along upper thomson road. it has huge glass windows that let in plenty of natural light, giving the cafe a very uplifting vibe (but also as my mother would say, potentially resulting in pigmentation if you plan to sit there the entire afternoon lol) and providing the perfect set-up for the perfect instagram picture (not to mention the adorable little pots of succulents on the tables that serve as good props to fill awkward gaps – hello good photos!). clean lines, a largely white colour palette and simple wooden furniture make for a simple and fuss-free but stylish minimalist space.
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as you can see from the picture, tables are communal so this might not be the best spot for a cosy and romantic first date or an intense pour-your-heart-out conversation with the bffl, but it is great for all other purposes, especially those of the chill hangout sort. this picture was taken at 1030am when we first arrived – the cafe was rather empty and we were clearly spoilt for choice as to where to sit; by the time noon came around however, it was full and buzzing with a healthy lunch crowd.

they do all-day dining, and offer a decent selection from morning right through till evening:
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we were there for brunch and i was rather pleased with the good mix of sweet and savoury offerings they had despite there not being that many things on the menu. eventually decided to order a truffle benedict and french toast to share between the 2 of us. orders are placed and payment is made at the counter, followed by the food being served to you when ready.

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truffle benedict – brioche, smoked ham, wilted spinach, free range poached eggs served with truffle hollandaise sauce ($18)
our noses were excited by the tantalising whiff of truffles as the dish was served to our table. i’ve read other reviews where people complained that there was barely any hint of truffle in this dish and although i agree that it wasn’t particularly strong, it was definitely there (perhaps there is some inconsistency in the amount added? or they’ve improved since the reviews i read were written?) and we definitely smelt it!

because no eggs benny review is complete without a picture of the eggs and their yolk post eruption, here is one for you:20141231_105944
needless to say, the eggs were poached perfectly, all oozy and runny and pregnant with liquid gold. the ham was of good quality, smoked well and sliced relatively thickly. as for the spinach, it was lightly-seasoned and cooked to just the right point – soft but not overdone such that it became mushy or overly wet. the hollandaise sauce brought everything together wonderfully and the truffle complemented it very well, adding that extra oomph to it that allowed it to remain light despite its creaminess. as for the brioche, it was buttery, fluffy and soft but crusty at its edges from a light toasting. i thought this was a very good rendition of the brunch essential eggs benny.

thankfully our sweet item of choice was as satisfying as our savoury dish.20141231_105249salted caramel banana french toast – brioche french toast, caramelised bananas drizzled with salted caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream ($16)
the french toast looked great and luckily we were not disappointed with how it tasted at all! i look forward to having this again just looking at the picture above and recalling how it tastes – i remember the thick salted caramel sauce that reminded me of hot fudge on a sundae, the generously-added and lovely slices of lightly caramelised bananas and the perfectly soft/eggy/fluffy/warm slices of thick brioche toast. it was surprisingly not too sweet, and the granola bits were a nice touch – they added additional texture and a nice crunch to the dish. as for the whipped cream, i don’t think we touched it at all because the toast by itself was so enjoyable!

needless to say, we left belly happy and very happy; it was a suitably satisfying last brunch of the year 2014 (food-wise and company-wise) 🙂 indeed, not only is pacamara’s food good, the environment is nice, parking is free (if you’re lucky enough to get a space in the parallel parking lots that line the row of shopfronts), coffee is great (apparently, will definitely try next time!), and prices are nett. i’d certainly recommend this as somewhere to add to your cafe-hopping list!

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Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
185 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574333

Sacha & Sons, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spices Cafe, Singapore

since i only had 4 full weekdays in sunny singapore after my last internship ended and before i was off to new york, food consumed for each meal was a very deliberate and purposeful choice. the mother insisted on taking me to this lunch buffet before being packed off to the uk (where good nonya food is far from aplenty) and though initially hesitant about departing from my firm favourites (ie bak chor mee/roti prata/chirashi round 2/3/4), i’m really glad spices cafe made the final cut because i left extremely satisfied and all ready to return to the land of roast chicken and grilled salmon.

located in the oft-overlooked concorde hotel that is at the less happening part of orchard road just before the istana, spices cafe serves up a yummy peranakan buffet lunch in a nice setting that far exceeded my expectations. they offer almost any nonya dish you can imagine, and i would say that almost everything i tried was above average which is no mean feat given the huge array of food available.
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managed to snap some pics of the glorious food sitting all nice and pretty before the hungry patrons attacked:
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rojak & gado-gado station
okay faithful followers of this blog (thank you guys!!!) will know that i am a fan of rojak (my all-time favourite being silver stream rojak) but few people know that i am also a fan of gado-gado so a rojak AND gado-gado station was like… a dream come true hahaha. started off with this but went back many many many more times. the rojak is completely DIY – you make the sauce yourself based on the recipe displayed there which makes for quite a fun experience, and its always nice to personalise your rojak with just the ingredients you want. for me, its always lots of peanuts and pineapple 😀 the recipe was not bad i have to say; the final product tasted pretty good every time i mixed a plate!

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kway chap & laksa

20140917_120553popiah / kueh pie tee / satay
the popiah & kueh pie tee are made on-the-spot by the chef manning the station, and they have both chicken and pork satay that come accompanied by ketupat, cucumber, the all-important peanut sauce, and some pineapple sauce too! yum…

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cooked main dishes
they had a huge array of cooked dishes including the quintessential nonya dishes like chap chye, buah keluak (was really disappointed by this though!!! rather sad because i adore buah keluak so much that my maid sometimes cooks and freezes it for me to take back to ldn with me 😛 ), prawns with petai etc. they even have a daily crab dish – it was black pepper on the day we went, and i was pleasantly surprised by how the black pepper seasoning was spot-on and the crab meat was firm, naturally sweet and juicy. bibs are provided so that serious crab eaters can leave without evidence of their crustacean feast; a nice touch!

20140917_120513dessert spread
i would have dubbed this the best part of the buffet, except everything else was really rather yummy too so the amazing dessert spread will just have to be deemed another great part of the buffet 🙂

on to some close-ups of the food i had the great pleasure of savouring:
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one of the many rounds i went for – here i sampled the (going in a clockwise direction starting from the bottom) petai with prawn, chap chye, pork, squid, egg fu yong and oyster omelette. all of them were good, but the stand-out for me was definitely the squid. it was wonderfully tasty and the squid was cooked to perfection (neither rubbery nor mushy), something not easy to achieve when mass-cooking for hungry buffet-goers. i also liked the chap chye, a classic nonya dish done well.

also had several rolls of freshly-made popiah throughout the meal:20140917_122220
i’ve definitely had better popiah elsewhere, but this was not a bad rendition at all. the popiah skin was thin, filling was tasty, and chilli added just the right kick to it. i would have liked the addition of more crispy garlic bits to add some texture though. i loved how the rolls were smaller than the regular popiah rolls you get at other places – big enough to satisfy popiah cravings but small enough so that there’s still space in one’s stomach for other food. also note the kueh pie tee in the background – yummy! but i feel they would have been made even more optimal with the addition of some prawns or peanuts on top.

besides the “soupy” laksa and kway chap dishes they had, there was also a big pot of pig organ soup. i’m not a fan but my mother had a bowl and seemed to quite enjoy it:20140917_123441
speaking of the laksa and kway chap, i don’t have a picture of the laksa but i very fondly recall it to be a very good bowl of laksa – deliciously lemak but not too rich, creamy or heavy. i daresay it was better than bowls of laksa i’ve had from katong laksa and the like. didn’t try the kway chap, but it looked pretty good with a whole range of condiments (tau pok, egg, tau kwa, innards etc) to pick to go with the kway chap.

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another of the many rounds of food – you can see i took more squid. in fact, i took it every single time i paid a visit to the buffet spread 😛 yes, i liked it that much! on this plate there’s better scale to see the aforementioned fun-sized popiah, each roll was cut into just also had some glutinous rice and fried carrot cake this round, along with satay. the fried carrot cake was very average, i remember thinking it could be tastier (but then again, its hard to please with anything other than ghim moh carrot cake heh). as for the satay, i was impressed! both the chicken and pork satays were tasty, tender and moist. super yummy when generously drizzled with both peanut and pineapple sauce. YUM.

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another staple of the day – gado-gado!!! had several servings of this and took plenty of tempeh every single time. i love tempeh!!! (do you sense my excitement) the peanut sauce to go with the gado-gado was great, and i loved how the tau kwa and carrots were cut into big chunks and not measly pieces. could really do with some of that delicious tempeh now…

and finally, on to the glorious dessert:
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the dessert spread did not disappoint. besides the huge assortment of kuehs, there was an array of fresh fruit, a chendol machine, bubur cha cha, putu mayam, and potong ice cream in assorted flavours. this is one buffet you definitely want (and need) to save space for dessert at…
absolutely loved how there were 2 huge bowls of thick, creamy and super yummy durian and banana sauce at the side of the kuehs, to be generously slathered on all kuehs as desired. the durian penyet also deserves a special shout-out: creamy, smooth and thick – a durian lover’s dream come true! the bubur cha cha was good but i would have liked it with some jackfruit (in fact i think i stole some from the fresh fruits section and added it 😛 ), and all the kuehs were good. the more common ones (kueh lapis, 9 layer kueh etc) were done well, while there were some more novel ones added to the mix as well. i didn’t have much of the putu mayam, but my aunty is a fan and she had 2 servings of it (even after all that food) so it must have been good!!!

at a really affordable price of $32++ ($23++ for above 55s), there is really nothing much to complain about at this buffet. not only is the food delicious, the service is also great – the restaurant is staffed with several lovely ladies in traditional peranakan kebayas who make you feel as if you’ve stepped into their homes for some comfort food. also love that this is in a quieter part of orchard road, tucked away along a stretch few walk along because most would hop on the train from somerset to dhoby ghaut; its like one of orchard road’s hidden gems (but now you know about it 😉 ) definitely no regrets spending one of my treasured last meals in sg of the summer on this place, and i won’t be surprised if it actually gets added to my list of must-gos when home for the holidays. its truly the perfect one-stop spot to satisfy peranakan food cravings; i can’t wait to head back for more… till christmas!

Spices Cafe
Concorde Hotel
Singapore 238840

PS. ever thankful for the best family that is always always always willing to go all-out to satisfy my random food cravings with me, even if it means having double the number of meals we normally have 🙂 ❤

Kimchi Korean Restaurant, Singapore

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

kimchi korean restaurant occupies a nice and spacious shop unit on the 2nd floor of suntec city. i was initially worried that i’d get lost in the maze of shops in sprawling suntec, but i entered on the revamped side that’s at the doorstep of esplanade mrt (i think its the side known as the convention mall) and finding it was a breeze. we arrived just before 7pm on a thursday night and the restaurant had several available tables when we arrived, but filled up really quickly soon after and was nearly full by the time we left.
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the dining area is very pleasant – tables are big and well-spaced out, good for both meet-ups in groups and cosy meals for two where you can talk about anything in the world without worry that the guests at the next table are eavesdropping. as for the food, the restaurant prides itself on having 100% of its food prepared by korean chefs, and a head chef who has worked in top 5-star hotels and establishments in korea.  i do think their experience showed in the food that was served to us that day and the best part is that the food is not only good but also reasonably priced!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine, Singapore

sometime last year, yet another addition was made to the array of imperial treasure and crystal jade restaurants within ngee ann city (there are so many variations of the 2 brand names within that one building that i always find that i have to triple check which outlet is the one i’m meant to be heading to) – imperial treasure shanghai cuisine. head up to the 4th floor of the building and you’ll find it where coca restaurant used to be; its hard to miss because of the row of cocoon-like booth seats lining the side of the restaurant.
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if not for the fact that our shanghainese family friends took us for dinner there one night, i probably would never have ventured into this restaurant. it exudes a fancier and more upmarket vibe than the regular chinese restaurant chains like crystal jade la mian xiao long bao or din tai fung, more like somewhere that you’d go to for a sit-down extended family dinner rather than somewhere i’d head to with friends for a casual dim sum meal. boy am i glad they took us there that one night though, because that was the fateful meal where i discovered my current favourite xiao long baos in singapore!

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

the great thing is that they serve dim sum even at dinner time, so i visited after work on a weekday night for my yummy shanghainese dim sum fix. service is top-notch and extremely attentive, and we were given a booth seat which was nice and cosy for two. besides booth seats, they also have a good number of private rooms and regular tables. i love how the area is quite spacious and the tables are well-spaced to afford diners privacy and a pleasant dining experience.
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 here’s the dim sum menu:
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between the 2 of us, we ordered 4 different dim sums and a bowl of noodles to share. would definitely have gone for more if not for the fact that i had a huge and late lunch that day! the meal started with the usual chilled braised peanuts that you get at chinese restaurants, and its worth mentioning that they were pretty good – well-braised to soft perfection and very nicely-flavoured too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

this wasn’t quite what we expected as we were imagining more of a flat chive pancake-like dish. nevertheless, it was pretty good! the pastry was flaky and light, encasing a generous amount of scallions that were fresh, crunchy and well-fried. even though it was deep fried, it wasn’t too oily and was very tasty.
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 finally, we ordered a bowl of noodles to round off the meal:20140812_190932
noodle soup with pork and vegetable dumplings

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

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

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

Soi 55, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soi 55
#02-19, 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Food Centre
Singapore 048940
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 PS. they do discounts on their hot tea and coffee in the morning, so why not pop by for a pre-work perk-me-up?20140821_134058