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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Artichoke, Singapore

located in sculpture square (a place i think not many people even know exists), artichoke is like an oasis of calm amidst the usually bustling bugis area. my friend and i had a great time there when we met for brunch on a saturday morning – we ended up staying for 3 whole hours having great conversation over amazing food in a nice setting.

we knew how popular artichoke is, especially on weekends, so we made a reservation and managed to get a lovely raised table meant for 4, by a big window that looked out into the artichoke courtyard. yay!Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

the cafe exudes a laidback yet sophisticated vibe; it is casual but not sloppy and spacious but still cosy. it is also bright and airy, and i love how the tables are well spread-out so that it doesn’t get too noisy and you don’t have to worry about other diners hearing your entire conversation.20131221_11305920131221_113150

they serve dinner tuesday-saturday, and brunch on saturdays and sundays. here’s the brunch menu for the saturday we visited (i heard it changes):
20131221_113329i was really excited by the menu – everything was different from the usual brunch fare available elsewhere, and had nice middle eastern/turkish/arabic touches to them. artichoke prides itself on serving moorish cuisine. not quite sure myself what exactly moorish cuisine entails, but that might be because that is exactly what it is – a cuisine that comes from a huge variety of sources and has all kinds of influences (african/spanish/middle eastern etc), with no true definition that encompasses everything under it.

we opted for the scrambled eggs and mushrooms and the lamb shakshouka, and boy am i glad we did, because they were both amazing.

first, the scrambled eggs:
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scrambled eggs and mushrooms: local farm mushrooms/grilled halloumi cheese/za’atar toast – $22

this was super yummy! being an egg and mushroom lover, this was heaven on a plate. the mushrooms were fresh and juicy, and were cooked to finger-lickin’ perfection 😉 love how they’re local farm mushrooms too! nothing gourmet or fancy, but tasted just as delicious. as for the scrambled eggs, they were also pretty much perfect – not too wet nor dry, wonderfully creamy but not mushy at all! the eggs & mushrooms were topped with some fresh greens and these unidentifiable crispy bits (still don’t really know what they are) that were glazed in something (couldn’t really place what the glaze was either… oh dear) that were extremely delicious and added texture to the dish. the za’atar toast was also delicious, making for a super satisfying plate of goodness. our only (tiny) complaint was that we found the grilled halloumi a tad too salty. but other than that, it was grilled well and yummy like everything else! not sure if you can see in the picture because of the lack of scale, but the serving was pretty big! definitely filling, yet light.

instead of the mushrooms, an alternative is to have to have the scrambled eggs with “thick cut maple bacon chop”. when they say thick, they really do mean thick – the slice slab of bacon was about half an inch to an inch thick, and we spotted it glistening away in all its smoked glory at many tables. looked incredibly delicious but also very very sinful. best to eat in moderation! hahaha.

20131221_121628lamb shakshouka: stewed eggs/tomato sauce/roast lamb/cheese/pistachio dukka/toast – $26

i was really impressed with this. it was a pan full of bold flavours and hearty goodness. it was something like baked eggs, but even better. a giant serving of tomatoes, two runny eggs (hidden somewhere in there), amazing braised lamb shanks, cheese, topped with dukka, pistachios and some yoghurt – my idea of moorish food heaven! it was very filling, but so delicious that i just couldn’t bear to not finish it! though it sounds like a huge mess of flavours and things piled together in a pan, i must say it was a pretty organised/beautiful one 😛 the flavours and different components combined wonderfully and the lamb (which they were very generous with) was braised to perfection – it was moist, tender and extremely tasty, with none of the “smell” that people sometimes complain of when eating lamb. dunking the toast in all this was really, one of the best things ever.

case in point:Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetdespite the slightly heftier price tag, i would highly recommend this to anyone dining at artichoke! the serving is big and its definitely something different from the typical brunch fare of eggs benny etc, and in my opinion, in a really good way. its pretty heavy and and can get jelat though, so best to share this and some other lighter dishes with your dining companions if you want a greater range of things to eat.

given the big servings for the mains, we were stuffed by the time we were done with our mains, but were so pleased with the food that we decided we just could not pass on dessert. besides the desserts on the menu, they have a little bakery next door that sells an impressive range of tarts/muffins/baklava (traditional middle eastern/turkish dessert) etc where you can order some sweet treats to be eaten at artichoke:
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the tarts and their really interesting flavours were highly enticing, but we eventually decided on the sticky date pudding from artichoke. once again, no regrets at all because it was very very delicious! check it out:
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date pudding: burnt milk custard, coffee jelly, peanut caramel, smoked salt – $14

it appeared at our table completely different from what we expected, and looked good enough to warrant some oohs and aahs from us and envious glances from neighbouring tables. serving was like everything else big, and the pudding itself was sitting in this deep dish of burnt milk sauce, which to me sounded very interesting but to others might sound odd, i realise. if you belong to the latter category, do not let that deter you from ordering this, because trust me, it came highly recommended and with good reason! the date pudding was not cloyingly sweet like many sticky date puddings tend to be. neither was it very sticky actually! but it was moist and dense and was heavenly when eaten with the sauce surrounding it, the coffee jelly and the caramelised peanuts that topped it. the salt also added a very nice salted caramel-ish twist to the dessert. its priced rather steeply but the serving is definitely huge enough for sharing. so very satisfying! need to try the turkish apple crumble next! and some overdoughs delights.

as you can tell from my pretty much rave review of artichoke, i thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back for more. i loved the ambience, the food, and the service (they give each dinner a pack of sour gummies as you leave the cafe – a nice little touch and really helps in cleansing the palette after all that delicious food!). it was quite pricey but i thought it was nevertheless pretty worth the money. be sure to make a reservation on weekends or you might have to queue or be relegated to an outside seat (which is fine on a breezy day, but rather unoptimal on a sweltering one). i think they allow dogs in the courtyard too! saw some people dining with their furry friends so that’s something worth noting for dog owners out there.

i’d like to return for dinner one day, to see what they have to offer! they do communal dining for dinner, and i’m sure the great food and excited passing around of large sharing plates will make for a lovely experience 🙂

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outside seating area

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my habibi & i 😉

Artichoke Cafe & Bar

161 Middle Road, Sculpture Square
Singapore 188978 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar, Singapore

tucked away from the hustle and bustle along main orchard road but still conveniently located at the post office building opposite tanglin mall, nassim hill bakery is a great spot to chill and unwind over good food either before or after (or both!) battling the crowds in town.

i visited on a saturday morning and was able to get a table quite easily although there was a constant stream of customers and almost all the tables were occupied at any one time. we didn’t manage to get one of the individual tables though, and ended up at the big communal table in the centre of the cafe. but it wasn’t bad at all – the table is big and chairs are well-spaced such that everyone can sit comfortably in groups without feeling like you’re too close to your tablemates. its a nice, bright and open space that gives off the vibe of a casual neighbourhood joint; the kind of place where people sip coffee and read books while their dogs sit by their feet wagging their tails. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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they serve a range of breads, cakes, sandwiches, soups, salads etc but it was the brunch food that we were drawn to. after extensive deliberation and lots of indecision (food choices are always life-changing decisions), we settled for an eggs benny (but with salmon not ham), a scrambled eggs with prosciutto and a hot reuben sandwich (manly food for the lone man at the table).

i’d been eyeing the scrambled eggs from the moment i stepped in and a waiter walked past me carrying a huge plate of it. it looked amazing and was calling out to me even though i’m usually more of an eggs benny kind of person (runny yolks ftw), so it was this hearty dish that i ultimately settled on:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhearty scrambled eggs with swiss cheese & prosciutto – $20

the scrambled eggs did not disappoint and were the highlight of the dish. i thought they certainly tasted as good as they looked! they were light, fluffy, soft, buttery, creamy, smooth, and moist but far from being too wet. (feel free to add in any other adjectives you would use to describe really good scrambled eggs; am pretty sure these will fit the bill.) not sure if you can see it clearly in this picture, but i also liked the fact that they weren’t scrambled to the point of them becoming a mass of single-coloured light yellow eggs. instead, they were of varying shades along the spectrum of white to yellow. they also went perfectly with the saltiness of the prosciutto, the swiss cheese and the accompanying bread in the bread basket.

all eggs breakfast sets come with a basket of bread accompanied by butter & jam:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe breads were really good as well! the basket contained a mix – fruit & nut, their signature beer bread, ciabatta etc, all of which were yummy. and the jam that accompanied it was even better – i loved the homemade fig jam so much that i would definitely have bought a jar home if not for the fact that my family hardly eats bread with jam for breakfast. (my dad is a total chinaman when it comes to eating habits – he must have noodle soup/porridge every single morning without fail, while my sister and i have taken to just having a huge bowl of cereal in the morning after getting into that habit while we’re away from home at school) the orange jam was good too, with bits of orange peel in it, but i would have preferred it to be a little more tangy and a little less sweet.IMG-20130817-WA0005happy customer 🙂

the eggs benny, often dubbed one of the best in singapore, was pretty good too! my friend changed the ham to salmon but for those of you who want to stick to the standard order of ham, i observed from people dining around us that the ham they use is what i like to call proper ham – not at all like the lousy ultra thin slices of pre-packed picnic ham you get at supermarkets. the slices are thick and looked very tasty!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

eggs benedict – $20 

the hollandaise sauce was one of the better ones i’ve tasted, and the eggs were perfectly poached. i also liked how the muffin used was white ciabatta which was really fluffy and yummy. everything tasted really good together!

the last thing we ordered was the hot reuben sandwich. the serving was huge! perfect for a hungry boy but definitely too much for an average girl. it probably doesn’t look that big in the picture below, but check out the following pics with people as scale and you’ll see how generous a serving it is. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
hot reuben: sliced corned beef with melted emmental, saurkraut, onions and Russian dressing on signature Grimbergen Ambrée beer bread – $18

the hot reuben is full of beef slices, cheese, onions, and other amazing things that come together wonderfully and present themselves in the form of a massive uber hearty sandwich. check out the cheese (and also how half the sandwich is the size of 3/4 of my dear friend’s face hahaha omg):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

a close-up of the supersandwich:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit actually reminded me of the salt beef sandwich they have at selfridges back in london, minus the pickle and mustard. i only had a little of it since i had a big pile of scrambled eggs to tackle, but that bite was enough to make me want to order it if i have a sandwich the next time i’m there! they were generous with the sandwich filling – definitely not the kind of sandwich where you have some plain bread left with nothing to eat it with, and the signature beer bread had a delicious hint of maltiness that complemented the ingredients really well. being one of nassim hill’s signature dishes, it certainly did not disappoint! my friend who had it was super satisfied and thought it was really reasonably priced. in his words, “i can’t believe its cheaper than the egg dishes when there’s so much beef!” i’ve always thought its not easy to please a typical boy because they’re generally more interested in quantity rather than quality and are happiest when food is cheap, so that stamp of approval must definitely be a sign of great things 😉

what i also really like about this place is that there’s no additional service charge or gst so what you see on the menu is what you pay. there’s free parking right outside as well, though the number of lots is quite limited. getting a space on a weekday will probably be no problem though.

the verdict: definitely worth checking out!

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Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro Bar

56 Tanglin Road
Tanglin Post Office #01-03
Singapore 247964
20130817_143041special friends