Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stranger's Reunion (Cafe)

I'm in two minds about writing about Stranger's Reunion so early, as Ryan (the owner, a friend of mine) has told me not to do so maybe until next week, when the cafe's more 'sorted out'. It's still in its inception stages, in that it just opened on Wednesday, to no or little fanfare, but I decided to blog about the place anyway to a) give them some publicity and b) try to fulfill my commitment about trying to blog about new places first rather than wait until everyone has blogged about the place before I write my own take about it, which is, of course, pretty much superfluous. 

Located at Kampong Bahru Road, Stranger's Reunion is pretty much a hole in the wall - looking at the door you wouldn't believe that there's a cafe inside, but there is, and so, step in! (37 Kampong Bahru Road)

The interior is decked with loads of wood, minimalist, pretty "natural" in texture, really like a cafe in Melbourne - that's where Ryan really spent his university days anyway. And he's brought along that DIY feel to Singapore - the lights aren't polished, it's a homely atmosphere, but also creative as well. 

Ryan, being the Singapore barista champion for 2 years running now, is no stranger to anyone in the coffee world, as he used to work at Papa Palheta (being part of their family), i.e. Leon's cousin. He's started up his own cafe, which uses beans from Papa Palheta. The first day I went, i.e. on a Wednesday, I had a Cappuccino. This was not too bad - the milk was expertly done as Ryan's milk usually is - and as you can see from the photo, the latte art was immaculate. Very dark coffee layer on the outside with a great contrast with the milk. Very nice texture with the milk just like those in Australia. Nice. I figure that it will even better next week when he has his own blend (I know some folks from Papa's are reading this, but I am not really that fond of the present incarnation of the Terra Firma blend. It's really nutty and a little chocolatey, but that's about it, and I just wished it had a bit more complexity and a bit more acidity. 
I visited them again today and I had, this time, a "Magic" which is apparently something borrowed from Seven Seeds in Melbourne, i.e. a double ristretto with milk. This was exceptional - so good. With less milk than the cappuccino and with the coffee really shining through, it was extremely nutty, a bit chocolatey, with good body and just a well-balanced cup of coffee. Delightful. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered one more to go to savour. (8.5/10). Can't wait till the new beans get here to see what Ryan can do with them.

Maison Fatien Revisited - Coq Au Vin

Maison Fatien is starting to become one of my favourite places to eat French food in Singapore. Very authentic place, run by a Burgundy company who also runs a inn in Beaune, Burgundy - it's just as good and authentic as it gets. 

I've blogged about the place before, but with each repeat visit i try different things and thus, as you're only as good as each new dish, you know, definitely the ratings go up or down with each new dish you try.

Here I had the escargots - these were competently done, with loads of garlic and butter. To be fair , I'm not so keen on escargots as i find them pretty tasteless, really. (7/10)

The Coq au Vin, the Cocotte of the day, was excellent excellent stuff, probably the best Coq Au Vin I've had in a long time. Very very authentic tasty traditional dish, Coq Au Vin, i.e. chicken in red wine, was absolutely brilliant. Here there were wild mushrooms and chanterelles, onions, and of course the chicken, all cooked in an earthly, rich and savoury red wine broth which had been mixed with the chicken stock to create that musky, earthly stew that is so delicious. Each mouthful was just rich with umami and with an earthiness that comes from the ground - so Burgundian. Lovely. (9/10).

These two dishes are just excellent. Must try! We downed everything with a lovely Pouilly-Fume, 2010. Just delicious. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Skyve Revisited: Restaurant Week & Ala Carte

I wrote previously about Skyve Elementary Bistro and Bar before (sometime last year) as one of my favourite places to have a meal, and thus I had to visit the same for Restaurant Week. This was a lovely setting - school like, "canteen style", as Skyve is a pun on "Skiving work", etc. As you can see from this not-so-good photo, the ambience is pretty nice. 

We were served with some onion loaves, which were piping hot and oh-so-delicious. Good way to start the meal. 

Soon, our first dish came, and this was just oh-so-delicious - poached eggs, done sous-vide style, with truffle oil (loads of it), mushrooms, and some vegetables to balance out. Not to mention a crispy crouton-like thing which balanced away the richness of the egg. The egg burst away into a medley of richness and gooeiness well perfumed by truffle oil and the mushrooms for the earthly aroma. Everyone loved it. (8.5/10)

I had the Barramundi which was pan-seared with herbs (or was it oven-baked)? Either way this was delicious, with the fish deliciously flavoured with the herbs and cooked in herbs and having a nice flaky soft texture. (8/10). 

We were also allowed to add one more main for an additional $16, so why not! I thus tried the other main course, the Beef, as well. This was robust if a bit overcooked [the doneness wasn't quite done to my expectations). (7.5/10)

Dessert was a simple concoction of cake. No worries - the other 2 courses were brilliant already. 

The next time I came here (Sunday night) was for my brother's birthday. This time, it was ala-carte because the Restaurant Week menu was already full. So here's what we ordered....

steak tartare
Always love a good Steak Tartare, and this was really tasty and flavourful. The beef was just seared on the outside while retaining its 'rareness' inside - and with some herbs and spring onions, had enough crunch and flavour and texture to keep everything harmonious. Quite delicious. (8/10)

The first time I came here long time ago, the Confit de Canard (Duck Confit) was sold out, so this time I had to try it. It was pretty good - the skin was extremely crisp, probably the crispiest of all the places that I've tried Duck Confit. It was just so crackling and crisp and there was just so much of it - really delicious, albeit heart-attack-inducing. The meat wasn't that impressive however - it was definitely tender, but I believe it could have more 'duck' flavour. Still, a very very credible effort, albeit that the meat was just a bit too salty .(8/10)

I really love Skyve's logo, as can be seen from this photo on the left.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keystone Restaurant, Restaurant Week

I have been hearing rave reviews about Keystone from fellow foodie P (who happens to be also a colleague) so when the restaurant week came around I believed I had to try this - just to see if it was any good. Went with my dining companion S, and we trudged down to Stanley Street to try out this new restaurant. The ambience was a definition of modern chic - loads of black, reds, and sleek. The decor definitely worked.

The lovely decor - modern chic

And the food? Well, suffice to say, I expected better. If this was really, as P said, the "most exciting restaurant in town now", sorry, I didn't get it. We started off with some charcoal buns - which were not bad. Sometimes, however, a simple crusty hot baguette would suffice. 

An amuse bouche came next and this was pretty good - there was foie gras with some burnt sugar ala creme brulee on the right of the picture, with some pineapple-inspired pastry on the left. Didn't care too much for the pineapple, but the foie gras creme brulee thing was quite delicious - sweet and bursting in your mouth with fat (if only you'd know what a heart attack that is). 

Ordered a scallop carpaccio which was rather tasty. It was soooo light and the little yuzu things did some good, and there were little jelly-like balls that added sweetness. However, it was pretty underwhelming - expected much better. Seriously! (6.5/10)

I tried S's "veloute" which was quite lovely and the thing I enjoyed the most - very delicious. Rich and buttery, with potato-like croutons inside. Just so rich and satisfying as it slides down my throat. (8/10). Forgot to upload the photo though.

 The beef wasn't bad - quite tasty, and it went very well with the granola (pictured to the right of the photo). The meat was quite flavourful if a bit salty, but unfortunately too cold when it was served (presumably because one has to rest the meat). Not too much flavour - perhaps it was the cold I was suffering that day). Still - hmm. not very creative for a top restaurant. (7/10)

Dessert was a valrhona something - I thought it was only so-so. Sigh. Not much flavour of chocolate, although the banana in the middle was quite good. (7/10)

On hindsight, maybe it was a bad idea to go for restaurant week, since the prices on the ala carte menu was far higher and you'd definitely have to compromise on quality. Still, I expected better. 

Rarrrh. Never mind. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ng Ah Sio Eating House

This bak kut teh is the place that turned down Donald tsang long ago , which created an uproar in the local papers - wow how DARE this eatery turn down the most powerful man of Hong Kong? But well, I sympathise with them - if you have no food you have no food, would it be better if he ate there and the food was all lousy since they weren't even open to begin with? Didn't think so.

Anyway now Ng Ah Sio's open all the way till at night, and I've checked it out 3 times already [yes this is the third time]. So what's the verdict?

I must always order the small intestines, or 'fen chang', because it's just so delicious. It really reminds me of my grandmother's cooking. Soft, luscious, delicious, and with the lovely innards flavour, and with a flavourful, robust, soy-sauce gravy that really hits home as comfort food. I used to love eating fen chang when I was staying with my grandmother's back then when i was a kid, maybe until the age of 12. And this one really has that flavour. Lovely. (8.5/10)

I really enjoyed the stewed vegetables as well - not too overcooked till it breaks down, but with a nice softness in the texture whilst still keeping its shape. Stewed till soft. (8/10)

The bak kut teh was quite delicious - spare ribs [as seen in the picture], with a rather robust-tasting broth. This one was less pepperish than Founder's, and less garlicky than Ya Hua - it has the pepperishness of the former and the garlic flavours of the latter. The meat fell off the bone easily and was tender enough - whilst the soup was pretty tasty. Not bad. (8/10). 

Coming up - a trio of restaurant week offerings! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Drips bakery cafe

The most awesome fruit tarts can be found at drips bakery cafe, located in tiong bahru. Crumbly crust, lovely custard with just enough sweetness, and lovely sweet strawberries and blackberries. Awesome, especially the crumbly crust which paired so well with the custard. Probably the best fruit tart in Singapore - only drawback is the price, a sizable $7

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Maison fatien @ Duxton Hill

Today's gastronomic adventures takes us to Maison Fatien, a place which I had previously blogged about before (somewhere in the archives, go see). Basically the thing about this place is that the owner of this place owns a vineyard in Burgundy and thus they naturally sell their own wines from that vineyard (some vineyards in Beaune, some in Volnay, etc). They also own a hotel in the middle of Beaune, so I'm told. Anyway their goal is to have a really rustic French Bistro somewhat like the type you get back in France. I mean I've been to Burgundy and that place is replete with little bistros like this one. Extremely quaint and charming and, of course, stocked with the goodness of natural produce of the region.

A little word about Burgundy, since I've been researching alot on this topic. Burgundy is basically a region in the east-central of France, southeast from Paris. The wine regions are divided into three (well, actually, four), namely Chablis in the north, the Cote de Nuits (which runs from Dijon to just north of Beaune), the Cote de Beaune (which runs from Beaune to further south), and Beaujolais (which is further south of that). The Cote de Nuits is quintessential Burgundy territory containing all the well-known vineyards such as Gevrey-Chambertin, Romanee-Conti, Chambolle-Musigny, and Nuit St Georges. Driving down from Dijon to Beaune down the Route de Grand Cru (which I was fortunate enough to do in summer of 2010) brings you past all these communes and vineyards, which are all adjacent to each other along this route. From Gevrey-Chambertin, you'd get to Chambolle-Musigny, then Morey-St-Denis, etc. 

Anyway, I digress. Maison Fatien at Duxton Hill is a fine example of a place that sells homely French food. I have met the proprietor of the place before, a really friendly man whose aim is just to provide good French home-style cuisine at relatively affordable prices. So you don't have to bust your wallet just to eat here. The place is extremely charming as well - seating is on the second floor and there's a whole roof-light atrium in the middle which brings in light from the top. 

We were served with some bread, as is customary with French restaurants. Nothing to shout about, but at least they were warm and the butter was nicely soft. 

Anyway my dining companion S and I had a starter of Foie Gras de Canard, which is a classic as appetizer as French food goes. This one was done very competently, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, just the way I like my foie gras to be. Paired with some pears at the bottom and it managed to cut through the richness. (8/10). 

My dining companion S had the boeuf bourguignon which is an extremely traditional French dish hailing from Burgundy - seriously, every place in Burgundy sells this dish (I've actually tried cooking this before, with differing results - the first time was very good). It's basically beef cooked Burgundian-style which means stewed in red wine. However, you cannot just pour the red wine in - and stew it with the beef - it'd almost have no flavour. I'm not sure how Maison Fatien does their version, but I remember, from the recipe book by Julia Childs, that it involves sauteeing bacon to get the fat, and then coating the beef with flour, and then searing the beef in that bacon fat. And afterwards, to "smoke" the vegetables and then the wine and the beef stock goes in. Anyway I digress. This one was absolutely delicious [if a tad salty] - lots of savoury flavours, mushrooms, small onions, and tender tender beef. Yummy. It tastes exactly like the beef bourguignon that I had in Burgundy [if my memory serves me correctly]. Yummy stuff. (8.5/10 (minus 0.5 for being too salty))

I had the duck confit, or confit de canard, which was quite good as well. Very crispy skin which I love - this is the way the skin should be, just so crisp that there's practically no fat and makes it a joy to eat. However the meat could have been a bit more tender - this was acceptable and somewhat like those duck confit that I had in paris, but I guess with the new sous vide cooking methods some places have managed to make the duck confit meat far more tender than this. But then again I'm not complaining - this was done pretty well. (8/10)

Overall, Maison Fatien is a great place to have homely, authentic, French food without busting your budget. For example all these dishes cost $80++ which is pretty alright concerning today's inflated prices. The mains are about $20 to $30 which is still quite decent value. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kingyo @ Marina Square

Kingyo was recommended to me by a colleague / mentor / friend of mine, P, who said this place was extremely good value for money and good food to boot. He told me to simply ring the place and mention his name and they'd be able to do some good omakase sets for S$50 a head. Sounded great, isn't it? Why not! Hence, me and G trotted down yesterday night to try some Japanese. Healthy living, y' know, for once - I just ate at my usual staple, Chikuwa Tei, just on Monday night, but Kingyo was just as good (especially for the cooked items). Actually, you can't compare, because I hardly ever eat cooked items at Chikuwa (since their raw fish is just soooo good). Never mind, back to the point of Kingyo....

Pidan Tofu 
First up was a lovely pidan tofu - this is an extremely simple dish but oh so effective, with the savouriness and umami flavours of the pidan (century egg) combining well with the mild flavours of the tofu, with some ebiko for added crunch. Simple but it works. (8/10). Just wanted to have more of that! 
Sashimi Platter 
Next up was the sashimi. Here they were pretty generous as well, considering it was part of an omakase. Here, as you can see from the photos, we were given 2 slices each of tuna, salmon and swordfish, and one hamachi (yellowtail), thickly sliced. Delicious, especially the hamachi which was very delicate in flavour. The swordfish however was not as juicy as Chikuwa's (7.5/10 overall).

A close-up view of the sashimi platter 

Bamboo Clams with Dressing 

Bamboo clams were next - these were done up with Japanese mayonnaise and mentaiko (was it?) which went very well especially with a dash of lemon juice. Excellent dish - the clams were sweet and succulent and the tartness of the dressing really livened the entire dish. (8.5/10)

Next up, we had some stewed pork belly, which was just delicious. Juicy, succulent, stewed pork belly in a sauce of mirin, brown sugar, soy? - somewhat like "tau yew bak" but with a Japanese twist, as well as being a little sweeter than that Chinese dish. I enjoyed this quite a bit. (8.5/10)

Next up was some deep-fried tofu, in broth - just so good, especially where the crispy bits of the tofu meet the delectable, umami broth. (8/10)

We even had sushi afterwards - four pieces: (a type of fish I couldn't quite identify), swordfish, mackerel and aburi salmon. The aburi salmon was just delicious - love anything aburi. (7.5/10)

The miso soup was excellent - it came with a piece of salmon which added a different savoury dimension to the usual miso soup. G liked it alot. (8/10)

Ambience was nothing to shout about but hey at these prices I'm not complaining!

Kingyo Japanese Cuisine
Marina Square #02-03
Excellent Japanese food at unbeatable value.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


A great brunch place that I'd highly recommend is Artichoke, located at Sculpture Square at Middle Road. Middle eastern cuisine at middle road, how apt. I've been here twice and all the food I've tried has been excellent.

G and I visited artichoke today. We had a haloumi with mushrooms which was delicious. Haloumi is a kind of cheese with a very high melting point meaning that it can withstand all sorts of cooking methods like frying and grilling which was what was done here. The haloumi was grilled which made it pretty delicious- it has a nutty goats milk flavour, and was creamy too, if a tad salty. It went very well with the organic mushrooms which were delicious, loads of cepes and other kinds.
(7.5/10 (minus one for the overly eager use of salt)).

I had the scrambled eggs with bacon chops which was delicious. The scrambled eggs were very creamy and soft the way I like it, if a tad oily. I'd imagine that there was loads of butter in it. The bacon chops were just delicious - it was marinated in coke and had a lovely caramelised flavour of cola. The sides of mushrooms were also pretty delectable of course. 8/10

I just didn't like the coffee - it was really a bad rendition of a cappuccino which was a pity for a place wanting to be a brunch place.

Mushrooms were lovely (and very fresh)
Overall Artichoke's a place that does great brunch - the ingredients are very fresh, of extremely high quality - and you get all these different foods that you don't normally get, such as Halloumi, Shashouka, etc. Very delicious - just needs to turn down the salt just a tad and it'll be brilliant.