19 January 2014

Madam Kwan's

I had a chance to eat at Madam Kwan's, which I previously read somewhere that their nasi lemak is listed as one of Malaysia's most treasured dishes by the country's tourism board. Expectations were raised and I wanted to find out for myself if it was indeed The Nasi Lemak.

Ambience: Decor was comtemporary and the restaurant was bright. Get those seats near the window looking out to the sea and Sentosa. I like the cushioned seats by the side too, some of which were catered to bigger crowds with round tables. However, the fragrance of the food attracted some annoying flies. Or is it me who is nice-smelling?

There was no need to flip the menu. Of course I ordered the nasi lemak ($13.90++ ). What can I say... Almost everything was shiok. The chicken that was soaked in wonderful curry that was creamy and spicy - checked. The rice which every single grain was well coated with fragrant coconut milk - yup. The fiery salty sambal chili that had me reaching for my water after every time I tried to swallow it with my rice - Yumms. And the accompanied ikan bilies that delivered a hot and spicy rush - uh huh. The dry egg and the picked vegetables  - not a big fan though. 4.25/5

Curry laksa ($11.90++) is supposedly a cross-breed - between my two favourite foods curry and laksa - invented by the Malaysians. My friend has this and she thought it tasted more like curry. I had a sip and agreed. Think the gravy is more like curry but the ingredients such as tau pok, laksa leaves are unmistakenly laksa's. 3.5/5

For dessert, we had the cendol ($4.90++). Be generous when pouring in the sugar syrup provided separately or else it will be bland. Refreshing sweet red beans, milky syrup mixed with shaved ice, smooth jelly - A perfect chendol in my opinion. 5/5

Though the quality is there, I think the price point is a bit off. At $13.90++, it was the most expensive Nasi Lemak I've eaten. Not a cheap place for hawker food. Service was alright except that I didn't like to pay for plain water - seriously it doesn't make sense. But at least it's good that I don't have to travel to KL to eat this (although by 2020, it might change with the new high speed train). A place which it's ok to visit once in a long while, but not often because of the price. 

16 January 2014

London | Jamie's Italian

It's an irony that I managed to get my foot in the London version first instead of Singapore's. The last time I tried, I was told the earliest reservation I could make at the Singapore outlet was end Jan.

But seriously if just based on the London (Covent Garden outlet to be precise) version, I could understand what the fuss was about. It is, in my humble opinion, hearty food that tastes like home, and doesn't break the bank. 

Take for example the Prawn Linguine (£7.25 or approx S$14.50). Fried garlicky prawns, shaved fennel, tomatoes, chilli & rocket. The light tomato sauce with linguine that is more fat than flat, coupled with the fresh prawns, was a dish of savory and sweet. The tomato base was different from the normal thick version that I was used to. Jamie's was simple, non-gooey, yet savory enough and satisfying. Tastes like home-cooked food. I could eat this everyday. 4.5/5

It was a different experience with the Wild mushroom & smoked mozzarella risotto (£6.95 or approx S$14). Made of Acquerello rice with fresh & dried wild mushrooms, oozy smoked mozzarella & ricotta. We found it too salty. Wondered if the chef accidentally knocked a bottle of salt in. 3/5

The Epic Brownie (£4.95 of approx S$10) was as epic as it sounds. Wondrously dense chocolate fudge topped by alcoholic amaretto ice cream and caramelised amaretti popcorn, with warm chocolate sauce. The bitterness of the strong alcohol in the ice-cream and popcorn nicely balanced the sweet and diabeties-inducing chocolate. 4/5

Verdict: Except for the mushroom risotto, I am pleased that the food did not disappoint. Service was excellent and my waitress was attentive to re-fill my water and also checking on whether I have any complains/compliments. Nice cosy ambience too. Add in the value-for-money factor, it is a formula that worked. I think I understand why the craze now.

Address: Covent Garden
11 Upper St Martin's Lane

11 January 2014

Salt Grill & Sky Bar

Perched on the 55th floor above Ion Orchard, Salt Grill is designed to impress its diners even before the dinner is served. I took a lift to 4th floor in Ion where a Salt Grill staff escorted me to the restaurant's private lift. Wah not bad I felt like some VIP. I mean it's not every day that I get to take a private lift just for dinner.
There are only 2 buttons. So little boys and girls cannot play with buttons. The light shows the progress to 55th floor.
Full glass windows, high ceilings and chandeliers gave the place a very elegant and posh look. 

Since I was early, I took a walk along the side of the restaurant. The restuarant is actually quite huge. There is a ramp leading to an upper level which has the sky bar. And behind it was like a touristy viewing gallery. Try to get there early to do a tour. Since it is likely that a substantial portion of your meal ticket is for the view too. Might as well.
They try to inspire you with these.


Salt Grill has a policy that groups more than 10 can only order the $105++ three course menu instead of ala carte. I'm not sure what's the rationale behind this but I felt disappointed as I couldn't try more different dishes. Apparently that was not the only policy which I dislike. They also require cancellation to be made 24 hours in advance else they will charge to the credit card. Hence, although my tummy was feeling a little unwell and not exactly in the mood to feast, I had to drag it to Salt Grill.


We had some crunchy bread. The crust was a bit hard hence the crunchiness.


I chose the barbecue spiced king prawns as my entree. The prawns were soft and actually not spicy. They were accompanied by mango salsa and baby gem lettuce and avocado. Didn't like the vegetables which were bitter. Quite an unconventional pairing of tastes. 3.75/5


Sydney spiced barramundi was my main course. The accompanying creamy sauce which was aubergine caviar, coconut and lime tasted familiar and complemented the barramundi well. The barramundi was fresh and fork tender.  I also learnt that aubergine caviar does not contain caviar. It is a type of eggplant spread. The caviar name comes from the seeds found in eggplant. 3.75/5

My companions had the grass fed beef fillet which I took a small portion to try. The meat was very juicy tender and the texture was like pork liver. The beef was supposedly poached by cooking it in hot water in a bag so that the juices were sealed within to ensure its tenderness and braised-like texture.

For dessert, the waiter recommended the vanilla roasted peach with bay leaf ice-cream and toasted almonds and crumble as it was supposedly their signature. Hmm I think everyone at my table went for this. The peach was juicy, not overly sweet, and had a fruity aroma. The bay leaf ice-cream was however bitter. I discovered Salt Grill likes to include bitter taste in their dishes. 3.5/5

Verdict: We concluded that at $105++, it was overpriced. The food, while trying to be creative, wasn't mind blowing stuff or to-die-for. It didn't lit up the fireworks in me and make me exclaim, "Yes this is THE restaurant." This is probably a good place for special occasions for e.g. marriage proposal. We saw a guy proposing to a girl. So romantic.

Address: 2 Orchard Turn, ION Orchard, #55-01 & #56-01 Singapore 238801

8 January 2014

London | Burger & Lobster

First impression - This place reminded me of Overeasy a lot. It's kind of dim. There's a bar. Groovy pop was played. We were denied entry at 10 plus because there was a 1.5hr waiting list. Who eats lobster at such an hour? Nevertheless we devised a strategy and returned next day at 3pm. And we still needed to wait for 1 hr.. But this time my strategy was to shop around while waiting (the place was near Oxford Street. Oxford street to London is like Orchard to Singapore). And by the time we got back to Burger & Lobster, with shopping loots, the waitress whisked immediately to our table. Mission accomplished ;)

The regulars would know that there are only three items on the menu: Lobster, Burger, lobster roll. Each cost £20. Very cut-to-the-chase menu, I like. However I made the unwise decision to order 2 lobster dishes instead of a lobster and a burger. So it was kind of lobster overdose.

Lobster - either grill it or steam it. I chose the unhealthy tastier option of grilling it. I think my picture doesn't do justice on how humongous this was. The waitress must have smirked when she saw my jaws dropped after this "how-am-I-supposed-to-finish-this" lobster was served. Basically it occupied half the table. Anyway, taste-wise, this was godly and justified the long wait. Finally I get to eat you lobster. I forgot to take a photo of the butter lemon garlic sauce - the secret sauce. Dab the juicy tender lobster meat in the sauce, as much as you can. The partially charred meat was fresh and easy to extract from the shells.

Although the lobster roll seemed to be much smaller than the lobster, this was also made to impress. The cold lobster salad coupled with the crispy fragrant buttery toasted bread was a combination that had me sold. I like the dressing and the garnishes such as tomatoes used.

Totally worth making the trip to B&L twice!

Address: 36 Dean St, London

4 January 2014

London | Koya Bar

December 2013 was probably the craziest month in 2013, having to adjust from one time zone to another, and battling jet lags. I packed my bags and went on a huge trip back to back - London/New York. So I had to adjust from SG time zone by 8 hours to London and then 5 hours to New York, and then back again, until my brain was confused which time zone was in. But it was also one of the most memorable experiences - purely relaxing and of course indulging in food that is worthy of my tummy.

I am a trusting person and hence I had pretty much free-ride trusted my food itinerary to people who have been there done that. My friend who lived in London has claimed Koya had the best udon in town. Now this friend has the pickiest taste buds and probably also the meanest critic. Hence if Koya got our king's stamp of approval, we peasants should be on the safe side.

Ok actually we were supposed to go to Lobster & Burger nearby that day, also recommended by the same friend. Alas the waitress was not willing to let us peasants in before letting us wait for one and half hours. We had to abandon our wait which was getting unbearable in the "5 Celsius degrees but felt like 0 degree" environment. Thank god Koya bar was in the same Soho neighborhood, just a few streets away. (And luckily I still got to try Lobster & Burger on the following day). Soho to London is like Boat Quay to Singapore. Littered with pubs, there were also the Japanese shops that offer something different.

The bar was full at 10 plus. A cute young lady server who looked like a mix of Japanese-Caucasian greeted us and informed that the wait is about 20 min. It must been the most unbearable wait because 1) it was 10 plus 2) Seeing the rest of customers slurping their udon .. Hot and soupy udon - the only thing we needed in the cold winter. Still, we were quite happy that we were given permission to thaw ourselves in the noodle shop.

When we got our seats, we just went straight and ordered the Tempura Udon. Still, we have to wait for like 15 minutes before a bowl of hot-piping noodles would appear, like an oasis would. If patience is a virtue, then battling a World War II in the stomach on a cold winter is an honor that deserves a badge.

Finally, the chef has decided not to continue torturing us and gave us our hot broth with slurping udon, and crispy tempura (£11.60).

The udon noodles were al dente, firm and slippery, escaping the grasp of the chopsticks. This is evidential of the fact that the noodles were made in the traditional manner. Traditional udon is made by kneading the dough by foot because the udon dough is too hard to knead with hands. Kneading with hand might result in inconsistent texture. And the scalding-hot soup broth was umami-rich, a very important element for a satisfying udon. The tempura was crispy and fresh. But we had to eat our tempura quickly before it gets disintegrated in our soup. The whole combination of the udon, soup and tempura was clean cut, simple but satisfying. Just how a bowl of udon should be.

Overall, a very memorable udon. I was trying hard to find a flaw for this one. But I couldn't.

We lingered a while to immerse ourselves in the simple ulitarian yet down-to-earth bar with a taste of Japanese. I wished we could stay longer to try their other dishes but they were closing for the day. I walked out as one of the last customers. A happy customer I was. On the train ride back, I couldn't stop thinking when I will get to go back to Koya.

Address: 50 Frith Street, W1, London, UK

1 January 2014

Department of Caffeine

Is it me or does everyone also feel extra sleepy on a weekend morning? Since sleepiness is a symptom of caffeine deprivation, I decided to get it cured at Department of Caffeine. It's located at Duxton Hill no less - a sleepy enclave located in Tanjong Pagar.

Behind the frosted door lies an oasis in the middle of the sleepy town on a Saturday morning. The approach taken was industrial chic and modernist. Alternative music with the likes of Imagine Dragons and Slow Train gave the place an immediate cool vibe. Hmm this place has good taste in music. And spotted - the expected Gen Z, and surprisingly, families with toddlers (well-behaved versions). The ministers and officers of Department of caffeine seemed to be full force at work behind the counter on this slow-paced morning. Ah I like this place more than my bed already.

Menu items comprised of breakfast classics ranging from sausages to French toasts. My wallet might have tried to run away when it first saw the prices (breakfast items ranged from $13 to $20). But the good thing was there was no GST or service charge so it seemed the prices have taken that into account.

My caffeine remedy kicked off with the latte ($5), which was smooth and the perfect art that decorated it warmed the heart. Although I found it slightly over bitter and sourish, it was acceptable. The cappuccino ($5) was also similar. Based on Department of Caffeine's Facebook, they take sustainably-sourced specialty coffee beans from Five Senses Coffee, Australia, and then apply serious technical know-how to craft caffeinated perfection. Sounds like they are serious about their coffee. 4/5

The French toast ($16, below) which was two loaves of brioche stuffed with maple syrup and bananas, soaked in vanilla yoghurt, and sprinkled with almonds and blueberries sent a sugar rush. Not sure if it was because my tummy had not grinded for the last 12 hours, but I felt sweetly blissful when I tucked into the French toast. The only pity was the bananas seemed to be overly soaked with maple syrup, making it soggy. 4/5

There was no way for me not to order waffles when I see one on the menu. Especially when it comes with ice-cream and peanut butter. Say hello to waffles with vanilla ice cream and peanut butter and jelly ($12.5) - these waffles were crispy on the outside (though not super crispy), fluffy and airy on the inside. The generous peanut butter sauce that drenched the waffles balanced the sweetness of the ice-cream and jam. A little pity that it can be crispier. If I can push my limits in the gym after eating a waffle, certainly a waffle could do better. So I say push the limits, unleash the potential! 4/5

Overall, certainly one of the better places for a brunch. Food quality - checked. Attentive service - checked. Ambience - checked. Takes reservations - checked.

Tip 1: If you have Pickat app, it's 15% off (excluding drinks) with min spending of $20 till 29 Jan 2014, excluding Wed, weekends and public holidays. Download Pickat for free.

Tip 2: They have taken their reservation system online now. Reserve before you head down. Queuing is a waste of life.

Address: 15 Duxton Road Singapore 089481

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...