La Ristrettos, Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset spotted: chai latte ($6) lurking in the back

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

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

PPS. gotta love the new s5 camera!!!

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Maison Ikkoku, Singapore

located along a quiet street in the kampong glam area, maison ikkoku is possibly one of my new favourite places for brunch in singapore! the cosy cafe is located on the ground floor of a 3-storey shophouse, while the second and third floors house a boutique and cocktail bar respectively – all part of a multi-concept lifestyle store that the people behind maison ikkoku are trying to sell.

i visited a week and a half ago and was extremely satisfied and impressed with the food – what better way to spend a saturday morning than with 2 of your bestest friends and amazing brunch food?

case in point:
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on weekdays, they only serve a limited range of breakfast items, and for a short 2 hours from 9am-11am (their weekday menu can be found on their website at http://www.maison-ikkoku.net/). if getting up before 10am and making your way to kandahar street proves to be a bit of a challenge for the more sleep-inclined among you, then besides the fact that its probably a lot more crowded on weekends, heading over on a saturday or sunday instead is a great alternative! the weekend menu is extensive and has an exciting range of all day breakfast items to choose from, which i love!

here’s a peek at the menu:
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we ordered 3 items to share, and they were all super yummy.

the first thing we got was the umami florentine – sauteed shiitake mushrooms + sauteed baby spinach with garlic + poached eggs + hollandaise sauce + sauteed asparagus + toasted english muffins! we also added smoked salmon on the side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
umami florentine – $16 (+$4 for additional side of smoked salmon)

this dish was one of the BEST eggs benny/eggs benny variations that i have had. being a mushroom lover, i loved the addition of shiitake mushrooms which were perfectly cooked and plated in copious amounts (so much so that the sauteed spinach under the mushrooms is completely obscured). it was something different from the usual portobello mushrooms typically used in brunch food, and complemented the sauteed spinach perfectly. the spinach sauteed with garlic taken together with the mushrooms and finally topped with perfectly poached eggs was an amazing combination. the homemade hollandaise sauce was also wonderfully done; it was light (not jelat at all) and its consistency was just nice, bringing everything together very nicely. couldn’t get enough of it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAquintessential shot of oozy egg yolk

the next thing we ordered was the french toast with caramelised bananas – thick brioche french toast with cinnamon + caramelised bananas + home-made caramel with sea salt + toasted walnuts + sour cream.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
french toast with caramelised bananas – $15

if you like sticky cinnamon buns, this will be heaven on a plate for you. i happen to absolutely adore sticky cinnamon rolls so this was amazing to me – not only was the presentation super enticing with thick toast stacked on top of each other, piled high with caramelised bananas and walnuts, and drenched in an amazing caramel/cinnamon sauce, it also tasted really really good. didn’t taste much sea salt (as mentioned in the description) at all though, and we barely touched the dollop of sour cream by the side, (both of which were probably meant to balance out the sweetness of the toast i imagine) but that’s probably a good sign because i suppose we didn’t think we needed any of it, ie the toast wasn’t sickly sweet at all! the bananas were yummy, the toast was really thick and fluffy, and the walnuts were fresh and added a great crunch and texture to the dish. it is actually as filling as it looks in the picture though, so i think it’d probably be a bit too much for one person to stomach without feeling like its too heavy; this is ideal for sharing and is a lovely sweet lift to the usual savoury brunch options.

the third thing we ordered was the break of dawn – pork bratwust + crispy smoked bacon + cherry tomatoes + breakfast potatoes + scrambled eggs with chives + mesclun salad with almond & classic lemon vinaigrette +  double orange salad + sourdough toast.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
break of dawn – $22

this is hands-down one of the most value-for-money brunch dishes i have ever had. seriously. at bigger establishments like wild honey, you’d probably pay more than this and get something barely 1/3 the size? just check out the size of that plate – it was HUGE and piled high with an array of breakfast foods. i think two average eaters can share this plate very comfortably and leave feeling very satisfied! each component on the plate was good which i thought was no mean feat, given that its rather hard to achieve that with the number of different things they served up.

the bratwurst was of a good quality (not at all the processed kind of sausage), and the cherry tomatoes were amazingly sweet, fresh and juicy. we all loved how they were the kind that are still on the vine when you buy them, and not the more run-of-the-mill oval-shaped ones. the potatoes and bacon were not bad too – well-fried and not too greasy. as for the mesclun salad and the orange salad, they were both very enjoyable additions to the plate to cleanse the palette in between bites of heavy breakfast food. the greens of the mesclun salad were fresh and the almonds added a nice crunch to the leaves. i also loved the lemon vinaigrette which was light and refreshing. as for the oranges, they were drenched in cinnamon and i’m not sure what they were meant to be eaten with, but they were delicious all the same and as i mentioned earlier, something refreshing to accompany the more greasy foods on the plate. the scrambled eggs were delicious. we all loved the addition of chives and they were light, fluffy and creamy – a worthy competitor of nassim hill’s scrambled eggs, i thought. they also gave a huge serving of scrambled eggs (we couldn’t finish it even among the 3 of us); not sure if you can see it in the picture but it was really a very big pile, plenty to be eaten with each component on the plate. last but not least, we had 2 thick pieces of sourdough, which was really welcome as an accompaniment for the hot foods on the plate to be piled high on.

despite the fact that the 3 of us are pretty big eaters, we did not manage to finish everything we ordered. we came pretty close though, because the food was so yummy that even though we were full, we kept picking at the remnants and going back for more bits and bobs left on the plates. unfortunately that left us with no space for desserts! they have several interesting cakes in the display, which i hope to try the next time i visit! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe were especially intrigued by the “fade to black” cake that is meant to be a tribute to Metallica. the coffee is also supposed to be good, but we didn’t have any as we found the prices for the drinks slightly steep.

all in all, we thoroughly enjoyed what maison ikkoku has to offer. great food with generous servings at very reasonable prices – no additional service charge added, so what you see on the menu is what you pay! its a great little place to hang out that has a very chill vibe, the kind of unpretentious place where you order at the counter and get water for yourself. the cafe is pretty small and it does get very crowded on weekends (we witnessed several people being turned away/being told to wait about 30 minutes for a table), so making a reservation is definitely recommended if you’re planning on going at brunch peak hour (about 11am onwards).

i’m definitely returning to maison ikkoku but i’m not sure what i’ll order this time – i enjoyed what we had the last time so much that i’m not sure how willing i will be to depart from those choices we made! maybe i’ll go on a weekday so my choices will be limited and i’ll be forced to try the rest of their offerings which i hope will be equally great! 😉

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Maison Ikkoku

20 Kandahar Street
Singapore 198885

ps. rich & good cake shop a few doors down has some great swiss rolls in variety of local flavours to offer – pop by & give it a try!!!

pps. don’t forget to pop by haji lane and kampong glam while you’re in the area! its always nice to take a stroll around a culturally rich area rather than being constantly surrounded by towering skyscrapers. some exciting post-brunch things we did that day documented by my la sardina:
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