Monday, April 28, 2014

An afternoon in Paris in the Lion City

While waiting for her other half to complete some mundane work errands on a Saturday morning, the lioness decided to search for some peace and quiet in a cafe to catch up on a good read. Alas, that proved to be somewhat of a challenge in the Kampong Glam precinct. Every conceivable joint was packed with brunch devotees. She decided to head for the charmingly serene Toots with its heritage archways and good value rustic French fare. It's a wonder this low key place is not anywhere as swarmed as her neighbours. Hmmm... the absence of commonplace brunch staples like truffle fries and eggs benny, perhaps... ...

Cosy interior far from the maddening crowd... ...
Totally unplanned for: French fare with a dose of wicked
humour courtesy of French author Muriel Barbery.
Lost in daytime reverie... ...
Soft Jazz seeps from the colonnaded walls.
Complimentary bread basket of crusty homemade baguette.
For entree, the lioness chose the Country Style Pig Head Terrine served with
ravigote vinaigrette over the Warm Melted Goat Cheese with garden salad mix.
Although the Caramalised Pork Trotter with Puff Pastry
looked so enticing, she went for the "Chicken Basquaise"
White Wine Braised Chicken Whole Leg with Root Vegetables
as her main. Sublime.
Dessert of Petit Pot Au Chocolate:
Chocolate Custard with Wild Strawberry Compote and
Chocolate Crunchy Pearls.

Total damage is capped at $18++ for this set lunch. This place most certainly deserves more attention in the food scene here with its classical home-fashioned cooking.

Toots Brasserie
101 Jalan Sultan
The Sultan Hotel
Singapore 199002

Friday, April 25, 2014

Holy Guacamole! Mex Out Madness gets Serious

A quick lunch to satisfy a craving saw the Monster Cats and lioness at Mex Out. Hoping to beat the lunch hour frenzy at downtown Raffles Place, they vowed to be early but the lioness secured a table first while the other two grappled with pressing matters. The brief respite while waiting offered her some time to collect her thoughts before the surge of patrons form a belly long assembly line at the counter. Yup this is the ultimate DIY taco/burrito venue on the island that has been dubbed a Chipotle knock off. Some online reviews by the expat community have not been too kind citing the lack of authenticity. But that, apparently, have not deterred many homesick palates judging from the pretty impressive traffic. Damn overwhelming loh. Hey, mai hiam buay pai, we are just thankful that some ingenious fellow brought the concept to our shores in a pretty chic and clever way. Love whoever did the branding for them.  

Mex Out touts itself as a champion of Fresh Mex. Emphasis is on fresh and
healthy varieties of Mexican grub. Reminiscent of Subway. You get
to pick the ingredients, laid before your eyes at the counter, that go into
your perfect taco of the day.
The line gets longer than this... ...
The honest promo: Somber Sunday and Mellow Monday
might plague just about anyone. We love Taco Tuesdays
of course.
Valentina hot sauce for siao folks who always ask for extra
chili padi.
For the uninitiated, skimming through
the helpful instructions is recommended.
The absolutely ravenous should go for the rice bowl
with its generous portion. Eeerr... yup you'll see.
Select what you want and then pick your protein and choice
of salsa. Add a dollar or two for premium meats and toppings
like homemade Guacamole ($2! but it comes in an huge dollop),
sour cream and cheese. Yah mind the damage to the pocket
later. The lioness went for the Cochinita Pibil (pork shoulder in
orange juice, spices and banana leaf) and Carne Asada (Australian
flank steak marinated in cilantro, cumin and ancho chilis)
on her tacos. Delicious but more meat pls!
Afterwork drinks?
Two tacos for $9.90 and three for $12.90.
Quite pricey for lunch. But this seems to be the norm here.
Humble Mexican food is not cheap on this island. The lioness
did not even feel half satiated after two tacos. Help!
Distracted by the artwork... ...
The Monster Cats' meal. Rice bowl + tacos.
Wash it down with imported Mexican soda.
We thought the website design was so funky cool, it
should be shared:

Mex Out
39 Pekin Street
Singapore 048769

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Specialty Coffee & Grub at 63 Celsius

The owner behind the much loved but now defunct Foodbar Dada has opened a similar concept restaurant albeit in a more spacious venue. Just like Foodbar Dada, the Josper Grill features in much of the cooking, lending its alluring smoky charcoal notes to dishes. The menu is supplemented by more substantial mains for lunch alongside tapas or small plates by Chilean Chef Rodrigo Guerrero Ibanez. Yup, we hear you can sink your teeth into a sizeable tomahawk steak here. Other than being a serious watering hole for corporate yuppies in the area, the restaurant also doubles up as a cafe serving a mean cup of specialty coffee "curated" by local coffee veteran, Tony Tan. They think that the best temperature to serve a perfect cup of milk-based coffee is at 63 Celcius, hence the name. Beans are sourced from independent roasters all over the island.   

Grab a seat at the counter for some culinary action.
Open kitchen and bar concept.
No, the lion does not like his coffee piping hot but he's not too sure that
63 is the magic number.
Ok he sees the coffee veteran at the helm. This place is really popular
among the discerning office crowd for takeaway java.
Tall ceiling to floor glass windows make this a great spot to people watch as
Black Squid Ink Croquettes ($15). A delectable play of contrasts: crusty exterior
envelops a creamy bechamel filling spiked with squid ink.
Asparagus With Goat Cheese And Tomato Jam ($18). An interesting dish
with again a playful take on contrasting textures. The thick asparagus spears
were crunchy. A mixture of sweet, bland and slight salty notes on the palate.
The must-order dish! Omg this would make a perfect Easter dish.
63Signature Baby Squid In Enoki Egg Nest ($12). A soft boiled egg sits
in a lovely nest of grilled enoki mushooms that conceals a bed of
grilled baby squids underneath. Break up the egg and take a mouthful
of the unglamorous mess. Heavenly!
Skip the Bacon and Cheese Burger ($20) for the next piece de resistance.
(Hand crushed, Josper charocal grilled 120 grams USDA beef topped with
crispy bacon, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, hash browns on brioche bun.)
The highlight of the meal was definitely the Burrata Burger ($22). The rich
creaminess of the burrata was a perfect foil for the hearty and robust beef patty.
Sublimely awesome. (Hand crushed, Josper charcoal grilled 120 grams USDA beef
topped with truffled burrata, fresh tomato, asparagus ketchup on brioche bun.)
Long Black: full bodied, smooth, low acidity.

63 Celsius
12 Marina View
Asia Square Tower 2

Singapore 018961

Ang Moh Roast at CH叉R

Ang moh sous vide style cooking + Cantonese style roast = Char.  The lion made his way down for a taste test at this new joint. Will it fail his Asian palate? The man behind this restaurant is a Vietnamese-born, UK citizen. He is helped at the helm by a consulting chef who is also his brother. This brother owns a Chinese restaurant in Birmingham, England. Personally, the lion had hoped for some verbal abuse that might take him back to the rudest restaurant in London - Wong Kei.    

 Located underneath an unassuming block of low rise apartments
along Guillemard Road, Char is not difficult to spot. Watch out for its clean
black signage. The hip Tuckshop, who counts HK actress Cecilia Cheung
as its patron, is just a few doors away... ... We wonder if she has tried
this place.......
Waaaah.... Authenticity declared. Ok challenge accepted.
Cantonese Roast given a mod update.
Palate cleanser - lime juice.
Poor little pig... ... doesn't know its fate.
Simple but modern furnishings. Great for family dinners.
Lion and friends got the triple roast platter to share ($20.50).
You get to choose 3 meats out of 4. They picked the roast duck,
crispy pork belly and the special char siew.
The roast duck was a little disappointing for the lion as he's
more of a traditionalist when it comes to roast (his late uncle
was a roast chef). The skin was rendered dry and the meat juicy,
but taste wise, it was nothing extraordinary or to live for
compared to local gold standards around the island.
Special Char Siew.... now this is the highlight. The lion usually
does not like his meats sweet but this char siew was well-balanced
(for lack of a better word). It had a good ratio of fats and the caramalised
glaze was not too overtly sweet. The meat was so tender (thanks to
sous vide?) and was not too charred with a little addictive burnt ends
The roast pork belly is another must-try dish that had been
marinated in a medley of Chinese (and not so Chinese) herbs
and spices overnight. After which, it is roasted on high heat till the
skin bubble. Again, a good ratio of succulent fats, juicy meat and
crackling skin. Nuff said.
 Hot and sour soup ($5).  This classic Sichuan broth is comfortingly
yummy but for those who are not adventurous on the spice trail, do
tell them not to add chilli padi into the soup.
Beef hor fun ($12)..... well, just order if you need to have your
carbo fix.

Verdict? The Char Siew and Pork Belly are worth a try. The lion thinks the char siew resembles the acclaimed version at Overseas Restaurant in KL. Apart from food, there is also a selection of English ciders and beers. A comfy place to have your meal and then wash it all down with English booze.

393 Guillemard Road 
Singapore 399790

May the Froth be with You - Latte Art Thowdown on Duxton Hill

The lions were invited to view the first ever Latte Art Thowdown on Duxton Hill at Cafe Ergo Sum. This was a friendly competition opened to amateur baristas around the island to see who could free-pour the best latte art in a cup. The two cats loved the friendly camaraderie, bantering and light-hearted jibes going around. They observed also some stony faces scrunched up in the heat of the competition, and caving in to stress, where hawk-like eyes trained on every tilt of the cup and flick of the wrist. Hmmm.... the art of bringing excellence to the cup seems to be becoming much of a serious cultivation among the predominantly young crowd (under 30s).  

Competitors stand almost cheek to jowl in the tight space.
It's over in minutes for each competitor as judges deliberate
quickly on results to whittle down the competition.
Moment of truth. A representative from Toby's Estate was
part of the judging panel. Yup, as you can guess, Cafe Ergo Sum
carries Toby's Estate beans.
Participants and their supporters cheer on as they observe the friendly rivalry.
Can you take the heat? The spotlight's literally on you.
Who will take the crown?
It's not a crown! But a erm golden portafilter. Cool.
Getting ready to froth the milk......quivering hands
stop pls......
Battle of the sexes
Those at the back observe the proceedings screened on a wall.

Cafe Ergo Sum sure wants to cement its reputation as a venue for great coffee among java devotees. The lions have tried the grub here on previous occasions. Pretty decent menu brought to you by the brains behind Smoke Shack but what's interesting is that they serve excellent conservas in a tin as an accompaniment for after-work drinks. Yup, canned food has a dodgy reputation here in Asia but back in Spain, if the Spaniards think that something is excellent, they put it in a tin. Think canned anchovies, mussels, razor clams and octopus at some of the best tapas places in the land of siestas. The specially selected range at Cafe Ergo Sum is served with toasted baguettes, sea salt and lime.

Check out their coffee cocktails as well.
The lions tried the well-balanced Tiramisu Martini one evening.
Ergo Sum without the competitive madness.
The owner's mad for vinyls. They do have live jazz nights on some evenings.

Cafe Ergo Sum
13 Duxton Hill
Singapore 08959