Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nick Vina Artisan Bakery

One of the perks of working in the CBD is the many delicious lunch options within walking distance. So when I was meeting a friend for lunch the other day I had no hesitation to accommodate her by going somewhere near her workplace at Tanjong Pagar.
With only one hour's time, we went into the Icon Village and found Nick Vina Artisan Bakery at a hidden corner of the shopping mall. Although the lunch promotion had finished 15 minutes before our arrival, the staff very kindly let us order the lunch set. 
A simple lunch set of picnic ham sandwich, brownie and fruit juice

The bread is definitely a winner. After being re-heated in the toaster oven, the crust was crispy and crumbly. The inside was fluffy, with the aroma of wheat. The ham, however, was no better than the luncheon ham sold at any supermarket. It was thankfully rescued by a dressing of mustard and apple chutney, which added both sweetness and acidity to the otherwise bland filling of ham and lettuce.
A meal always ends better with a nice dessert and lunch is no different. Their brownie was firm but moist and the top was slightly crumbly. The richness of the chocolate was occasionally interrupted by the generous amount of crunchy walnut. Its small serving was just enough to be satisfying without giving you the sense of guilt.
I could not help myself but selected something from their small range of artisan bread. I bought their mini walnut and was impressed by the aroma and the flavour of the sourdough. Chopped pieces of walnuts and black sesame seeds were scattered evenly in the small bun. It made a delicious breakfast even in the following day. 
Despite the high quality of the bread, the price are very affordable. The lunch set cost only SGD$5 and their pastry and bread ranged from $1-$5. If Nick Vina was any closer to my home I'm sure I would be a frequent customer there!

Nick Vina Artisan Bakery
#01-54/55 Icon Village
12 Gopeng Street

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Huong Viet

One of the things that I missed after returning from my recent trip to Hanoi was their simple yet amazing Vietnamese cuisine. It is refreshing and healthy (most of the time). Yet the use of fresh ingredients and unique combination of spices and herbs have the ability to tangle the senses of sight, smell and taste and keep you asking for more.
There are quite a few Vietnamese restaurants in the East and Huong Viet Vietnamese Restaurant on Joo Chiat Road was the one we visited tonight.
The menu offers a wide variety of dishes ideal for sharing, such as salads, prawns, crabs, squids, beef, chicken and even frogs. 
W's order arrived first. Pho nam is a bowl of soup noodle with sliced beef cooked to well done. It came with chilli sauce, hoisin sauce, lime, chopped chilli and some extra Thai basil leaves. The broth was clear and sweet but I feel like the use of herbs, such as cilantro and mint, has been toned down to cater for the local taste. I would prefer the vermicelli to be a bit thinner and smooth for texture. 
As one would expect from a Vietnamese coffee, the iced coffee was strong and sweet, although not as robust as the ones we had in Hanoi.
I ordered the noodle with grilled pork and fried spring roll. The pork chop was marinated and grilled to give it a crispy outside while the meat inside was still juicy and tender. The spring rolls were slightly over-fried but the filling made with minced pork, mushrooms, shrimps and chopped carrots was very tasty. The rice noodles were covered with crushed peanuts, dried garlic and dried shrimps, sliced lettuce and cucumber and served with a sauce of rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce and chilli. When mixed with the noodles and the vegetables, the combination of sweetness, acidity and heat and the contrast between the crunchy peanuts and vegetables and the smooth noodles were incredibly delicious. Although slightly too spicy for my liking, I really enjoyed the dish. 
PS According to their business card they open 'til 3am. So do drop by if you have craving for some good Vietnamese food, even if it is past dinner time!

Huong Viet Vietnamese Restaurant
333 Joo Chiat Road

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


While big crowds was heading to the city to watch the annual F1 Grand Prix, we headed to the opposite direction for an Italian restaurant in the North area.
Pietro is a casual dining restaurant opened by a Chinese chef. Although not located at the most accessible street, the place was at least half full on this particular Sunday evening, which I took as a good sign. The menu was quite extensive, with more than a dozen dishes recommended as chef specials written on a blackboard on the wall.
While we were still deciding what to have, our complimentary bread was already brought to the table. By the time we finished placing the order and started digging in, the bread was already half cold. Instead of olive oil or butter, it was served with a creamy dipping sauce, which strangely reminded me of canned mushroom soup. The bread itself was sliced unusually thin and its taste (or the lack of it) and texture quite resembled cardboard paper. If it is true that you can judge the culinary standard of a restaurant by their bread, then my expectation for the meal to follow had definitely been lower.
I have never been a fan of lobster bisque. There is something in the combination of the thick liquid and its flavours that I find nauseating.  And my opinion remained unchanged after trying Pietro's creation, which was slightly lighter on with consistency and flavours.
The Pizza Romana was served next. The thin base was covered with tomato sauce, ham, slivers of mushrooms, melted mozzarella and chopped parsley. It was claimed to be baked in a wood fire oven. There was nothing about the dish in which I could find fault, or to praise really. The crust was baked just enough to crisp up without being burnt but it lacked the smokiness produced from a wood fire oven.
The ravioli with seabass and scallop in seafood sauce was one of the chef's specials. It was not for this dish I would not think it was worth the journey to come here at all. The tender seabass was wrapped in pasta sheet cooked perfectly to al dente, which was served in a creamy tomato-based sauce containing slices of scallop (so small it was almost unnoticeable) and tiny flakes of chilli. The pillows of pasta was flavourful and the sauce was rich and creamy, with sweetness from the seafood and a mild kick from the chilli. It was a much better job than the pizza. 
Attention to details does not seem to be the forte of the owner of Pietro. None of the serving plates was warmed up. The pizza was cut off centre to present slices of different sizes and shapes. A picture of the Eiffel Tower was hung on the wall in a restaurant serving Italian cuisine. The dishes lacked a sense of genuinity and pride that would have to originate from an Italian chef cooking food from his home country. 
Given the affordable pricing range and the wide variety of main course, Pietro may just survive as a family style restaurant. 

12 Jalan Kelulut 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Motoring Heritage Day

To me car talk is as foreign as Hebrew. My descriptions of motor vehicles usually start and end with its colour. But that did not stop me from paying a visit to the Motoring Heritage Day at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. 
Videos from the Grand Prix in 1960's
 One of the vintage bicycles
which is identical to one that was given to the late John Paul II as a gift
Sketches made by visitors on site

 The very flashy Alfa Romeo
 I wonder what this honk would sound like! 
Cute frog eye lights and emerald green
This would make a sweet wedding ride.

We joined one of the guided tours, which included briefing on each model by an enthusiastic volunteer who was occasionally joined by the owners of the vehicles themselves. I certainly am not fluent in the car talk but I have definitely learnt a thing or two. In a way vintage cars are not that much different from an ideal feminine figure from the 1950's; both were voluptuous, curvy and glamorous. 

This was my second time in Tanjong Pagar Railway Station that is no longer in operation and my fondness for it has definitely grown. From its exterior façade in art deco style and the lobby with plenty of natural light flooding through large windows, decorated with long panels of paintings depicting daily activities of early day Malaysians, to the long empty platform and the part of rails which has survived after the closure of the station, everything about it oozed a sense of elegant nostalgia. Instead of spoiling the day out, the light drizzle did the opposite by enhancing the beauty of the venue. I hope this place will continue to be put to good use with more interesting exhibitions!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Strangers Reunion

Before we headed to Tanjor Pagar Railway station for Motor Heritage Day, we stopped by Strangers Reunion for brunch.
It was not yet noon and the café was already packed with the hungry Sunday crowd, among whom were mostly groups of casually dressed 20- and 30- something, a few couples and families. The owner has made good use out of every corner of the shop front by setting up bar stools and a high table by the window and arranging tables closely together. The bright lighting, the high ceiling and the off-white walls managed to keep it from being claustrophobic. The fresh daisies on the benches and the Chinese ink paintings were definitely nice touches.
The cappuccino was presented with a cute latte art. The foam was creamy and thick and the coffee was rich and full-bodied without too much acidity. While I enjoyed the flavour of the coffee, it was not hot enough! My first sip was almost lukewarm. Otherwise it would have made me a much happier customer.
The buttermilk waffle was very crunchy and crumbled as I cut through it. Although a bit too dry, it absorbed the sweet and aromatic maple syrup like a sponge. 
W ordered the ham and goat cheese omelette on ciabatta. The ham tasted like nothing more than the apple baked ham from the supermarket deli and there was so little goat cheese it was barely noticeable. I loved the tangy salsa on the top, which added contrasting flavour and texture to the egg. 
It felt very comfortable and homey here at Strangers Reunion. Even the waiting staff gave out the wrong food more than once, they were all quite friendly. While the food was just average, their coffee was definitely worth a try.

Strangers Reunion
33/35/37 Kampong bahru Road

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lady M Confections

All the way from the Upper East Side of New York, the cake boutique Lady M Confections has arrived in Singapore. With its white walls, white furnitures and minimal decorations, the new glossy restaurant felt casual and elegant at the same time. 
Without a second glimpse of their other pastries, I instantly ordered the Mille Crêpes, their signature cake. Exactly 20 (not 1000 despite its name) thin crêpes were stacked on top of each other, with just the right amount of light pastry cream spread between layers. Every bite was soft and delicate, infused with the fragrance of vanilla and egg. The top was gently cameralised to give its golden gloss. 
Gâteau aux Marrons was another lovely creation. A generous amount of airy whipped cream was sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake made of almond flour, which was topped with beautiful pipings of chestnut-infused cream and sprinkled with some crunchy chopped walnuts. The combination of the creamy texture and the nutty flavour was irresistible. The only fault was the slightly overcooked edge of the almond flour cake.
When we arrived on a Friday evening about 1.5 hour before its closing time, there were not many cake choices left. The Mille Crêpes and cheesecakes seemed to be the most popular. Unlike its American counterpart, there was no savoury dishes on the menu. I can see myself coming back again, perhaps at an earlier time of the day for their many others famous desserts.
Lady M
#02-103, Marina Square Shopping Mall
6 Raffles Boulevard

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ikoi Japanese Restaurant

On a Sunday evening we found ourselves at Ikoi, a Japanese restaurant on ground floor of Hotel Miramar. Same as all the other patrons on the night, we were there for its buffet.
Within two hours, we could order anything on the buffet menu, which included sashimi, nigiri sushi, maki sushi, deep-fried and grilled items, rice, noodles and some side dishes such as salads. The extensive drink menu included Japanese beers, sake, cocktails, juices and soft drinks. Just like the desserts, they were not included in the price of the buffet.
There were a few complimentary dishes, the first one being the salmon sashimi seasoned with a light soy-based sauce. Miso soup was not presented in individual portions, but in a pot still boiling above a burning candle to be shared between the two of us. The fat from the salmon was released into the soup, which was too oily for my taste. After the candle burnt out, globules of fat was floating on the surface, which was not a pretty sight. We were presented with a second rather salty soup, which was served in a teapot with a lime for seasoning. With all the other delicacies from the menu waiting to be ordered, we pretty much left the soups untouched. 
While there were not many different types of sashimi available, what they offered was fresh and delicious. The tuna and salmon were thick, tender and sweet and the cuttlefish was crunchy. The snapper (not photographed) was sliced so thin that it was transparent.
We ordered tempura of prawn, eggplant, mushroom, cuttlefish, fish, lotus root and onion. Comparing to their sashimi the tempura was a bit disappointing. The batter was not crispy enough and the prawn was mushy. Whiting tempura tasted like the kind of soggy battered fish that would be served with chips. The lotus root was cut too thick, making it hard to eat.
Yakitori was juicy and the sauce was a nice balance between sweet and savoury. But W complained that it lacked the smokiness from the grill.
We did not manage to try many side dishes as we were too full from having sashima. The cold udon was silky smooth and slightly springy, despite being soaked in the dipping sauce. 
The seating was quite cramped and not very comfortable as waiters tried to squeeze between tables and chairs throughout the whole night. Most of the dishes we tried were mediocre, with the exception of the sashimi and sushi. Do not expect to have an abundant Japanese feast here but for $45 I am not complaining. 

Ikoi Japanese Restaurant

#01-01 Hotel Miramar
401 Havelock Road