Eating in Singapore

River Wok – a place to discover Indochina cuisine from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia

River Wok, a new restaurant that specialises in Indochina cuisine, just held its official grand opening celebrations on 3 May 2018.

Helmed by Executive Chef Kantha Chookiat, who has over 30 years of culinary experience in the region, the restaurant’s menu features traditional favourites and reinterpretations of well-known dishes from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. The Thailand-born chef has earned recognition among many distinguished individuals, having served Singapore’s late Founding Father and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and royalties like Prince Edward, the Princess of Monaco and the King and Queen of Sweden. Having drawn inspiration from his travels all around the world to places like Germany, Indonesia and India, his food has earned him the title of “Indo-Chinese Treasure” in Cuisine and Wine Asia Magazine.

The restaurant is located in the vicinity of Robertson Quay and diners can choose to either dine al fresco, with a view of the Singapore River, or…

…dine indoors, where it is much cooler (i.e. for those who don’t like the warm and humid weather).

All diners will be served with some crispy keropok, whilst waiting for your food to arrive.

I’m not familiar with Laotian food, so I was glad to have the opportunity to try some of the dishes.

Koi Pa Salmon ($18)
A Laotian dish consisting of marinated Norwegian Salmon sashimi cubes, with Asian herbs in chilli and lemon juice.


This sat in a crispy shell, which made it feel as though you are eating kueh pie tee, but with a different filling. The standard serving comes with three of these wanton-like shells. Traditionally a different fish is used in this dish in Laos, but since the fish cannot be found in Singapore, salmon is used in its place.


Nam Khao Hor ($14 – this is the non-vegetarian version)

Laotian hand rolled rice paper with lemon marinated minced chicken, roasted rice crumbles and greens.


As I had never tried Laotian food before dining here, I had always assumed that rice paper rolls were uniquely Vietnamese, so I learnt something new from dining here! The ingredients were a well balance of flavours and I enjoyed the crunch from the roasted rice crumbles. Hmm…I concluded that I prefer Laotian fresh rice paper rolls over the Vietnamese version!

The dish pictured above was a tasting size, but the normal serving comes with four pieces.


Yam Tuapoo Goong Sod ($16)

This is a traditional Thai Wing Bean and Tiger Prawn Salad, which also includes shredded chicken, boiled egg, fish sauce, lime juice, chilli paste, coconut cream, topped with fried shallots and roasted grated coconut.


The wing beans were crunchy and I thought the salad was refreshing, with a hint of spiciness. My hubby on the other hand felt it tasted too “green”, as he isn’t a big fan of veggies. I would recommend this to those who do like crunchy greens and want a spicy entrée.


Pho Bo (Wagyu) ($26)

A premium version of the traditional Vietnamese dish, as it is served with sliced Wagyu beef, which is then cooked at your table after you place them into the rich and flavourful clear beef broth. Bean sprouts, herbs and some veggies are served on the side, so that diners can add to their liking.

If you want to ensure that your beef gets cooked, don’t wait too long before putting them into the bowl, as the soup is still hot when it arrives at your table.

The tender slices of wagyu beef made this classic Vietnamese dish feel so luxurious!


Gaeng Phed Ped Yang ($22)

Roasted duck in a rich and flavourful Thai red curry with Thai eggplant, pineapple, grapes, cherry tomatoes and white beech mushrooms.



I loved the rich fragrance of the coconut gravy and felt that the various fruit that were added to this dish gave an extra dimension to the flavours. Overall, the curry was a little on the sweet side, but I really enjoyed it even though it was my first time having duck curry and I concluded that it’s probably my new favourite curry dish!


Banh Chuoi ($12)

A savoury Vietnamese dessert consisting of banana fritters and black sesame ice cream, served with some gula melaka sauce drizzled over.


Just two words to describe this – goreng pisang!! The black sesame ice cream went down well with the fried banana. If you are an unadventurous diner, this would be a safe dessert to order.


Khao Neow Ma Muang ($10)

A traditional Thai sweet sticky rice pudding paired with slices of sweet mango and coconut cream, with a sprinkling of black sesame over the top.


The rice ball reminded me of eating ketupat, except that this was made using glutinous rice and when we cut into it, we found that it was still warm! Remember to leave room in your stomach if you want to order this dessert – I was stuffed from all the earlier dishes and thus was trying to find a spare slot in my stomach to be able to digest this! Loved the sweet slices of mango, which accompanied this dessert (but then again, I’m biased to anything that’s mango)!


More pictures from their Grand Opening celebrations…

The lions from the lion dance troupe had earlier left an auspicious message on the ground, shaped using mandarin orange segments. This was followed by some traditional Thai dance performances.

Various canapes were served, but I only managed to try some of them.

Indonesian Chicken Satay and Vietnamese Sugarcane Prawns

Both were tasty morsels and some other guests agreed that the satay was really good! Satay is available in the restaurant’s menu at $28 for a dozen sticks, including cucumber, onion and rice cake.

Roast Beef with Caramelised Onions and Truffle Sauce

Chicken Balls with Tamarind Sauce and Rice Crumbs

This was really good and very flavourful!

Passion Crush
A cocktail comprising a mix of cointreau, rum, kaffir lime leaves and passion fruit.

It was quite a pleasant combination of flavours.

Smokey Sunset
The presentation was interesting and this cocktail consists of Grand Marnier, lemongrass, spiced rum, lime and orange juice.

I found the taste of the lemongrass rather overpowering and the alcohol was rather strong. It was my least favourite out of the three cocktails that I had tried.

Coco Bay
This concoction is served in a young coconut and contains lime, coriander, coconut cream and gin.

My favourite cocktail of the night, as I found the flavours very pleasant and easy to drink. This cocktail is available at the restaurant, but if you can’t find it on the menu, do enquire with the wait staff.


VERDICT

Overall, the food was much better than I had expected. It was my first time trying Laotian food and I did like it! However, the dishes that really stood out for me were the Duck Curry and the Pho Bo with Wagyu.

This place is good for those who want a variety of food, as there is a selection of different dishes representative of the different countries (i.e. Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia).

Address:
River Wok
80 Mohamed Sultan Road, The Pier, #01-12, Singapore 239013.
[Map]
Opening Hours: Daily 12pm to 11:00pm (Last Order at 10:30pm)
Telephone: (65) 6732 1126
Getting There by MRT:
9-min walk from Fort Canning station
15-min walk from Clarke Quay station

Disclaimer: This was a media tasting session, but all opinions expressed are entirely of my own.

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Categories: Asian, Eating in Singapore, Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobster Porridge Weekday Set Lunch at Wan He Lou (萬合樓)

Always on the lookout for a good deal, when I saw this lunch promotion, I immediately contacted some of my foodie friends to go try it!

Apparently Wan He Lou (萬合樓) has been known for their lobster porridge, but I have to say that since the restaurant is located at a part of Singapore that I hardly frequent, it was the first time that I’d heard of this restaurant.

Although the lunch set is priced at $12.80++ per person, the food isn’t served in individual portions.


Signature Lobster Porridge (招牌龍虾粥)

This isn’t the Cantonese style of porridge, but rather the Teochew style where you can still see the grains of rice. The broth had a seafood flavour, but it wasn’t as rich and flavourful as I had hoped it would taste (I guess my expectations were set too high). My friends on the other hand loved it! The serving size shown in the photo is for 3 persons and you will get about 3 bowls each. There wasn’t much lobster in the porridge and we got about one piece each.


Golden Shrimp Roll (酥炸鲜虾卷)

The filling was nice and it reminded me of something that you would get as part of a cold dish at a Chinese dinner. Unfortunately, the skin of the shrimp roll was limp and a little soggy, so it would have been much better if it was crispy.

Prawn Paste Chicken (虾酱鸡)
Yumm…this was quite tasty and my favourite out of all the dishes that we had.

French Bean with Minced Garlic (蒜蓉四季豆)
A simple stir-fried vegetable dish and it was alright.


The next dish is served when you dine in a group or 4 or more, but they gave it to us even though there were only 3 of us.

Tofu with Crispy Salted Turnip (菜莆脆豆腐)

At first we we’re trying to decipher what was “crispy salted turnip”, then we realised that it was actually “chai poh” (菜莆) but deep fried until it was crispy! It was an interesting twist to the tofu dish and created different textures in your mouth.

If you dine in a group of 6 or more, you will get an additional dish of Cereal Prawn (麦片虾) at no extra charge.

Overall, it was quite a value for money set lunch, but go with a bigger group to make your money’s worth.

I loved the lanterns that were used to decorate the interior of the restaurant, but my friends thought they were a bit dated.

Address:
Wan He Lou (萬合樓)
65 Maude Road, Singapore 208347.
[Map]

Opening Hours:  Daily
Lunch: 11am to 2:30pm
Dinner: 5pm to 10:30pm

Telephone: +65 6294 8057

Getting There by MRT:
7 min walk from Jalan Besar station
9 min walk from Farrer Park station

From 1st June 2018 onwards, Signature Lobster Porridge Set Lunch includes:
• Wan He Lou Seafood Gyoza
• Prawn Paste Chicken
• Stir Fried Green Dragon Vegetable
• Signature Lobster Porridge

Dine in groups of 4 persons and above to enjoy additional dishes!
• Crab Meat Tofu (group of 4 pax and above)
• Herbal Drunken Prawn (group of 6 pax and above)

Terms and Conditions:
• Reservations must be made through HungryGoWhere website, mobile app or Hungrydeals and this promotion must be selected.
• Valid till 31st July 2018 on weekdays during lunch only.
• Valid for dine-in only.
• Not valid on Eve of and Public Holidays.
• This offer is not valid in conjunction with other ongoing promotions, offers, vouchers and discounts and/or privileges.

Categories: Chinese, Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sama Curry’s Lunch Promo

Hokkaido is famous for its soup curry and yes, the gravy is drinkable by itself, unlike the thicker Singaporean/Malaysian/Indian curries that most people are familiar with. It’s interesting that one of the Japanese soup curry restaurants has set up shop in Singapore!

Sama Curry offers a choice of 4 different soup bases – Tomato, Coconut, Shrimp and Japanese.

When I visited, there was a lunch promotion, which had a limited choice of soup curries that could be ordered, but it was inclusive of a side dish (choice of Shrimp Gyoza or Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese) and a drink.

We asked the wait staff for her recommendations on the soup base and she said it was down to personal preference, but she did explain that both tomato and coconut were creamier, whereas the other two were much lighter in soup consistency.

This was the regular menu:

After making our selection of curry, we had to decide on the level of spiciness (from 0-30, with 30 being the spiciest level!)

Instructional guide on how to eat the soup curry:

My friends and I ended up ordering the following:

Marathon Chicken (tomato)
チキンと野菜カレー (トマト)
Spiciness Level: 5

This was my choice, as I love tomato soup, although initially I couldn’t fathom how a combination of tomato and curry would taste! Surprisingly, it was really good! (and in my opinion, the best out of the 3 soup bases that we had ordered)

The chicken leg was very tender and could easily be removed from the bone. I liked that the veggies were pan fried before being added to the curry, as that added another dimension of flavours to the dish. In addition, the tanginess of the soup curry made it quite appetising and I liked it very much! My friends each took one spoonful of my curry to try and the spiciness seemed to hit at the initial mouthful and thus they were a little worried, as they had ordered levels 13 and 15 for theirs.


Special Soup Curry Udon (coconut)
特別スープカレーウドン (ココナツ)
Spiciness Level: 13

This was rather rich and your taste buds may get tired of the flavours halfway through. The soup curry was creamy, but in terms of flavours, my preference leans towards our local curries if I want to have coconut-based ones. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that spicy and didn’t have that same initial impact on the first mouthful as what we had experienced with the tomato (and that was only level 5!)


Special Soup Curry Udon (shrimp)
特別スープカレーウドン (エビ)
Spiciness Level: 15

The shrimp soup curry was indeed a thinner soup than the previous two above and it had a strong seafood taste. As for the spicy factor, when we took the first mouthful, we didn’t feel a thing and were quite surprised as it was level 15, but before we had enough time to react, the burning feeling of the chilli suddenly hit us! It’s the same effect as those mala (麻辣) chilli dishes, where the chilli burn has a delayed impact. My friend seemed to enjoy this, but I still stand by my preference for the tomato based one.


The side dishes that came with the lunch sets included a choice of Shrimp Gyoza (2pcs) or Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese (1pc).

Shrimp Gyoza「エビ餃子」

If you order this ala carte, 6 pieces will be included in one serving, but as part of the lunch set only two were given. I felt that the filling tasted similar to those Japanese shumai that can be found at the supermarket’s frozen section.


Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese「北海道芋餅」

This was not bad and even my non-cheese loving friend liked it! It was a little chewy and tasted more like potato rather than cheese. As part of the lunch set, we were given one piece, but if you order this ala carte, you will get two pieces.


Overall, the food was good and I would highly recommend the tomato soup curry, if you are a fan of tomatoes!

Address:
Sama Curry
68 Orchard Road, Plaza Singapura, #06-11/12
Singapore 238839.

[Map]

Telephone: 6445 2033

Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm

Nearest MRT station: Dhoby Ghaut

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lunch Sets at Katanashi An「型無庵」

Katanashi An「型無庵」 is a hole-in-the-wall Japanese izakaya located nestled between some old shophouses. I had heard that they serve reasonably-priced ochazuke lunch sets only on weekdays and thus went to check them out.

At the very moment that I stepped in, I was greeted in Japanese by a Japanese wait staff and ushered to one of the few remaining empty tables in the pub restaurant. Lunch hour can be quite packed, so do try to arrive before 12pm to get a table.

月曜日から金曜日までに居酒屋「型無庵」はだし茶漬けのランチセットがあります。

The lunch menu is limited and revolves around the theme of ochazuke, with different variations available, including some monthly specials. In this instance here, the “tea” is actually dashi broth and thus referred to as dashi-chazuke.

I was amused by the drawings on the disposal wet tissues that were provided at the table. When I looked around, I could see different designs on every table. Hmm…I wonder how much time the staff spend daily to draw them?

According to the information given at the table (see photo above), the food can be eaten in two ways, but I prefer to follow the Nagoya-style for eating unagi hitsumabushi and thus eat this in three different ways!:
(1) Scoop the rice and its toppings into a bowl and eat it as it is.
(2) Do the same as (1), but eat it together with pickles.
(3) Pour the dashi broth over the rice before eating. It will be like having rice porridge (but with firmer rice).

You will find a marked contrast in the flavours, especially between (1) and (3).


The lunch sets typically come with two side dishes of seasoned seaweed and tofu, plus a teapot containing dashi broth. Some roasted rice pops, pickles and wasabi are also provided as additional toppings. My preference is to use the roasted rice pops as a topping for my “porridge”.

Tori Sansai「鶏山菜」– $12
Roasted Chicken and Japanese edible wild plant

This was surprisingly good! The chunky pieces of chicken were tender and had a nice flavour.

All 3 methods of eating go well with this set.


Salmon & Maguro「サーモンと鮪」– $15
Fresh Salmon Sashimi & Fresh Tuna Sashimi

My friend ordered this and she liked it, but didn’t use that much of the soup broth, as she preferred just eating it chirashi don style.


毎月もランチスペシャルセットがあります。三月のは豚そぼろセットと北海道丼セット (鮭、ホタテ、かに、いくら)。

These were the monthly lunch specials for March:

Buta Soboro Set「担々豚そぼろ」– $12
Spicy Minced Pork & Takana (Japanese pickled vegetables)

Mmm…this reminded me of a Chinese dish (i.e. 梅菜扣肉). It was extremeful flavourful and the combination of ingredients tasted better without the soup stock, so I decided to consume them separately.


Hokkaido Set「北海道丼set」– $20
Fresh Salmon, Scallop, Boiled Kani (Crab) & Ikura (Salmon Roe)

The seafood was fresh and I felt that just eating the main dish by itself was extremely satisfying (i.e. without the dashi stock).

If you still want to try it with the “tea”, then my advice is to leave out the salmon and the scallop, as those taste much better when eaten raw (i.e. after you pour the soup stock over, the sashimi will be cooked and thus leave a different feeling and taste in your mouth!), but at the end of the day it is down to personal preference on how you wish to eat it.

Regardless of which method was used to consume the food, it was value for money as the prices were nett, the ingredients were fresh and the service was friendly. Simple fare and yet satisfying.

美味しかったですね!

Address:
Katanashi An「型無庵」
1 Boon Tat Street, #01-01, Singapore 069611.

[Map]

Telephone: 6221 5101

Opening Hours:
11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm

Nearest MRT Station:
Telok Ayer

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Invited Tasting] 8-Course Omakase Menu at Big Sake Bar

In conjunction with Big Sake Bar’s first year anniversary, an eight-course omakase menu has been introduced and it features premium ingredients like grade A4 wagyu beef and otoro, plus an optional sake pairing option, with a choice from three seasonal sakes to suit the different customer preferences.

Located at the Concourse Skyline Building, Big Sake Bar is an izakaya concept restaurant, which boasts a large selection of over 40 different kinds of Japanese sakes and whiskeys. When I first stepped in, my eyes were immediately drawn to the back wall with all the various bottles on display!

The rest of its interior has pre-war Japanese beer posters on its brick walls and is reminiscent of a nostalgic era.

This Japanese gastropub’s trademark “大” (Japanese kanji character for “big”) emphasizes its philosophy, to be “big on food, big on service, big on sakes”. It is run by three good-looking young men, (from left to right) Co-Owners Jeremy Goh, Daniel Kwok and Head Chef Andy Quek.

In order to preserve the freshness of the ingredients and to ensure a great experience, Big Sake Bar will only seat six guests at the main sushi counter each night for their new omakase menu.

This will ensure that diners get to enjoy the full omakase experience as they watch Chef Andy at work. You can even chat with the friendly chef between courses, especially if it’s immediately after the dish has been served to you (i.e. before he starts to get busy preparing the next course).

Big Sake Bar’s new omakase menu will be available for a limited time only from 23rd October to 31st December 2017.

8-Course Omakase Menu
(Available for Dinner from Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 11pm, with advance reservation)
SGD$88 nett per person for the eight-course omakase menu.
SGD$108 nett per person for the eight-course omakase menu with sake.

Century Egg Tofu

This to me is somewhat of a fusion dish as it is usually found on the menus of Chinese restaurants. The century egg has been marinated with Chef Andy’s secret sauce, which is sweet and masks the strong flavour of the egg, so those who aren’t fans of the “100-year-old egg” may find themselves liking this! In addition, the silky smooth tofu is made in-house by the chef and is topped with sprinkles of crispy tempura flakes and slivers of spring onions. Overall, it was a nice start to the meal.


Sashimi Platter

This comprises of botan ebi, mekajiki (swordfish), salmon and aburi (i.e. seared) salmon. The seafood was fresh, the prawn was plump and firm and my favourite was the aburi salmon.


Wagyu Beef Sirloin

At first glance, this may look like a humble dish, but these are slices of grade A4 Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Sirloin flown in from Kyushu, Japan and is definitely a must-try! Although the accompanying ponzu sauce complemented the flavourful beef, I felt that it tasted just as good on its own. The marbling of the meat wasn’t overly fatty and was just right. For more information on beef grades, you can click here.


Sushi Platter

When we first set our eyes on this dish, the initial thought was on what that strange spiky thing at the far end was! It’s actually the prawn head from the botan ebi sashimi that we had earlier and a clever re-use of ingredients so that nothing is wasted.

We were told to start off with the shoyu ikura (salmon roe) and work our way down from left to right to gradually build up the flavours.

I don’t like eating ikura in Singapore, as it usually tastes a little fishy in the country’s hot and humid weather, but the one here was quite alright to me. The next morsel to chomp on was a piece of maki, topped with yuzu infused tobiko and the flying fish roe was really fresh and crunchy. Following on was the tamagoyaki, which was a bit overly sweet to me and I couldn’t really taste the flavour of the dashi stock in it (I’m quite particular when it comes to tamagoyaki, as this is one of my personal favourites).

The final bite was a challenge to eat as it was a deep fried prawn head, sat atop a blob of mentaiko mayo sauce. Now this is the typical sort of unusual food item found at Japanese izakayas and goes well when downed with alcohol. Don’t worry, it’s really crispy and you can swallow everything, plus it’s extremely flavourful! The trick to eating this is to chew off all the protruding sharp ends, which are very crispy, then munch carefully until you reach the main section of the prawn head.


Wagyu Beef Maki

This is actually a temaki (i.e. hand roll), made with wagyu beef as its key ingredient. The beef was seasoned with salt, which made it a little salty, but when eaten together with the other ingredients in one bite, the flavours actually went well together. I much preferred the previous beef dish to this one, although this was good too.


Negitoro Don

This dish uses otoro (the fattiest portion of the tuna, found on the very underside of the fish – this cut is fatty almost to the point of falling apart and can literally melt in your mouth) and is topped crisp green onions sitting atop a bed of premium Japanese rice from Akita prefecture in Japan. A raw quail’s egg is served on the side and you are supposed to add the egg into the rice bowl and mix well before eating.

Thus, I poured the egg in and voila – this is how the dish typically looks like at most restaurants in Japan:

This particular dish is probably what most Japanese will consider to be luxurious, as it contains the most precious part of the tuna.


Asari Miso Soup

People usually think of miso soup as an ordinary and simple soup dish, but the flavours of the soup stock may vary and the ingredients found in the soup may differ too. This one contained plump and firm asari clams, enoki mushrooms and cubes of tofu and the white miso-based soup had a fuller body and flavour, as the stock was made from boiling the clams.


Goma or Yuzu Ice Cream

We had the yuzu ice cream and its zesty flavour was really refreshing, plus it contained bits of peel, which gave each mouthful an extra dimension. It also helped to cleanse the palate from all the flavours from the entire meal.


(Optional) A tokkuri「徳利」 of guests’ choice of sake from a selection of three premium sakes, Toyo Bijin, Nabeshima “Pink Label” or Karakuchi Ki-ippon. Diners will first do a tasting of all three sakes, then pick their favourite one to accompany their meal.

From Left to Right: Karakuchi Ki-ippon, Toyo Bijin and Nabeshima “Pink Label”.

More information on the three different sakes:

Masumi’s Karakuchi Ki-ippon「純米吟醸 辛口生一本」 is a delightfully dry junmai ginjyo (milled to 40-50% removal of each grain of rice) from Nagano Prefecture. The word “karakuchi” means “dry” and this sake is said to be popular with drinkers.

Toyo Bijin「東洋美人」, a junmai daiginjyo (milled to at least 50% removal of each grain of rice) from the Sumikawa Shuzojo Brewery in Yamaguchi prefecture, has a clean entry with a slight sweet finish. This was previously served to President Vladimir Putin during a dinner party at the Japan-Russia summit meeting in December 2016 and it is said that Putin enjoyed the taste of this sake.

Nabeshima “Pink Label”「鍋島 特別本醸造 ピンクラベル」 is a tokubetsu honjozo (milled to 30-40% removal of each grain of rice) from Kashima City in Saga Prefecture. It is a refreshingly sweet sake, with slight effervescence and an excellent aftertaste. This was my personal favourite as I like my alcoholic beverages to be on the sweet side.

Regardless of which sake you choose, all of them go down well with the entire meal.

Overall, the meal was quite satisfying, the ingredients were fresh and my favourite dish was the Wagyu Beef Sirloin. Surprisingly, I did actually enjoy that crispy prawn head although it looked more intimidating than appetising – do give this a try and you may find that you’ll want seconds!


Address:

Big Sake Bar
302 Beach Road, #01-02 The Concourse Skyline, Singapore 199600.
[Map]

Getting There by MRT:
Nicoll Highway station exit A, take the connecting overhead bridge to cross the highway to get to The Concourse (about a 5min walk)

Seating Capacity
Indoor Table seatings – 24
Indoor Bar counter – 6
Outdoor – 12

Contact/Reservations Tel: +62912700 / 96567105

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 5pm–12am
Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays.

Email: enquiry@bigsakebar.com

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Japanese, Media Invite | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minions Cafe in Singapore

After seeing the various posts about the Minion-themed pop-up cafes in Japan during the course of the year and wishing I was there to visit them, at last one has opened in Singapore and so I went to check it out.

This pop-up cafe is operated by The Guest Cafe & Diner, the same group who often operates different themed pop-up cafes in Japan.

The dining area isn’t that big and is decorated with minion plushies, balloons, decals and other stuff that are easily removable.

There is also a shop within the cafe premises and they sell Minion memorabilia, some of which are exclusive to the cafe.

A photo spot is available for both cafe diners, as well as those who have purchased merchandise at the shop. You will need to have made your payment, then show your receipt to the staff manning the photo booth.

As for the food, here are some of the items that I had ordered:

Menu:

If you order anything from the food or dessert menus, you will be given a limited edition placemat.

Those who order the “Minion Riceball Party” will be given a balloon on a stick as a souvenir to take home. These are some of the possible designs you may get (randomly given).

A limited edition coaster will be given with every drink order.

The desserts look cute and if you order the “Minion Pudding”, you can take home the bowl – i.e. the same bowl that your mango pudding is served in, but they will give you a new one in a box.

Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew – $20.90

This plate was definitely a carbo overload and there was more rice on the plate than there was cream stew. I usually like to soak my rice with gravy, but there wasn’t enough of the stew to go with the rice. In addition, there were only two small slices of chicken in the stew, along with some carrot, potato and broccoli. The minion’s face atop the rice is actually made using edible rice paper, which is tasteless.

A small salad is served on the side in a minion bowl.

Minions Vacation Plate – $23.90

This is supposed to have a Hawaiian theme and same rice that was used in the previous dish mentioned above, is served on this plate, but at least in a more manageable portion for smaller eaters. The hamburg steak tastes like a hamburger patty from the supermarket’s frozen section. As for the prawns, they had a bit of seasoning over them and were served with rosebuds which I guess were edible, but they were really hard and so we didn’t touch those. Our biggest surprise was the cold soup, which tasted like it was made from green peas and we even found a green apple flavoured gummy bear in it!

S’more and Minion’s Ice cream – $16.90

Desserts were probably more pleasing than the main courses in terms of taste. This came with 4 pieces of Digestive biscuits and a big portion of marshmallows, topped with mango sorbet. I found it to be less sweet if you scoop a portion of the marshmallows onto the biscuits and top it off with some of the mango ice cream.

Minion Pudding (comes with an original Minion Cup) – $24.90

Initially I had thought that the entire bowl would contain only mango pudding, but when I scooped my way down to the middle, I found that there were cornflakes and quite a fair bit of cream and cake underneath, which meant that the mango pudding only occupied the topmost layer. Unfortunately, the cornflakes had lost their crispness and so it made this overall a little disappointing.

Upside-down Minion Jelly Soda Drink – $12.90

Visually it was colourful, but it’s actually a whole cupful of jello, which tasted a bit strange and the soda was tasteless.

Be Bad Cafe Latte – $8.90

At least this cup of latte tasted normal, but we didn’t like the design of the latte art and it was stated on the menu that the designs are random and diners aren’t allowed to choose.

Coasters are given (for you to take home) with any drink purchase.

Verdict:
Full marks for the presentation of the food and the cuteness factor. However, although the ingredients are fresh, much could be improved taste-wise and overall the prices are on the high side.

Address:
Minions Cafe
Orchard Central, Level 3

Dates:
23 November to 31 December 2017

Categories: Cafe, Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beat the Queues at popular eateries with DBS Fastrack Apps

Hate long queues? Are you one of those who always dabao food/drinks on behalf of your colleagues, friends, family or perhaps for yourself? Read on to find out how these mobile apps could help save you a lot of valuable time! Queuing may gradually be a thing of the past for you…

List of apps currently available:

Several merchants (as seen from the above photo) have partnered with DBS Fastrack to provide a solution to enable customers to order and pay without having to be physically there. More eateries may be added to the list in the near future.

What’s in it for me as a consumer?
Well, one benefit is that you can avoid queuing and save that precious time to run other errands. After all, in our fast-paced society, time is money.

These mobile apps are especially useful when ordering takeaways, as you can go pick up your food/drinks when they are ready for collection.

Some establishments like Five Star Restaurant, allow customers to drive by to pick up their food orders. With their app, it allows for a cashless drive-through and customers can just grab and go – this minimises inconvenience to other road users as previously customers who stop their cars to pick up their orders may obstruct the traffic flow in the area.

From the merchants’ point of view, they benefit from these apps as it increases their productivity and they can serve more customers due to a reduction of time required to handle cash and return change.

How does it work?
I decided to give it a go and went down to Koufu to check out the weekday lunch queue in the CBD area. This was the queue at the Duck Rice stall and although the queue wasn’t exactly that long, I decided to order duck rice to go, via the Koufu app.

When you launch the app, you can select the stall which you wish to order from and a choice of food items will be displayed. Ohh…I discovered that there is a 10% discount if you order via the Koufu app!

I chose the Specialty Braised Duck Rice, checked that the correct quantity was specified and that I was doing a takeaway (although dine-in option is also available).

Add the item to the cart and when you are ready, click on the cart to do a checkout.

The estimated waiting time will be shown next and you will be prompted whether to proceed with your payment.

The amount to be paid is displayed and you can choose to settle by DBS/POSB Debit or Credit cards, or by DBS Paylah!

I chose to pay using DBS Paylah!

After my payment had been processed, a collection slip was provided and this is to be shown to the stall when collecting my food.

At the stall, they had also printed a collection slip with the queue number and this sat next to my packet of duck rice.

I have to say that the ordering process and payment was pretty straightforward. The best part was getting a discount on the food and knowing what time I had to go collect it. Do note that if you want to use DBS Paylah!, you’ll first need to apply to use internet banking.

As my office will be moving to the CBD area early next year, I am happy that I will have some solutions available for me to beat the long queues during the lunch hour madness. For those groups of colleagues who want to dine-in but don’t have the habit of using tissue packets to reserve tables at various eating places and one magnanimous colleague usually needs to sit at the table and wait for the rest to return before heading to order his/her food, the good news for this person is that he/she can sit at the table and order food via the app whilst waiting! Alternatively, everyone can sit at the table and chat, order via the app and walk over to pick up the food once it is ready.

Each mobile app differs according to the merchants’ customizations. Most will offer takeaway options, but some may also allow dine-in orders to be placed via the app. Hmm…I can’t wait to go try this out at Tiong Bahru Bakery and Miam Miam, both of which have notoriously long queues during the peak mealtimes.

These apps are available for download in both the Google Play Store as well as the Apple App Store. All you have to do is search for “DBS Fastrack” and a list of related apps will be displayed. Do try out the apps and let me know if you find them useful.

Categories: Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KoKoPanda – A Korean Superfood Dessert and Beverage Parlour

Officially opened on 16th December 2016, Kokopanda is a new Korean soft serve and beverage concept focusing on “superfood” toppings to cater to the health-conscious. Yes, you can indulge without feeling guilty!

They offer three unique soft serves, which include White Cremo (a rich smooth and creamy Korean soft serve ice-cream made from premium Korean milk), Black Yogo (a black frozen yogurt made from roasted coconut husk that contains edible activated charcoal, which helps to cleanse the body of toxins) and for the undecided who want to try both – KoKo Twisto (a combination of both Black Yogo and White Cremo).

White Cremo

Black Yogo

Koko Twisto

Quality ingredients sourced directly from Korea are used, including Korean Milk and a selection of superfood toppings like KoKoCrunch granola (a blend of dried fruits and rice puffs) and dried fruits that are rich in vitamins and fibre. The best part is that the fruits are not artificially sweetened and if you are familiar with Korean strawberries and tangerines, they are naturally sweet! The Korean Milk used here is preservative free and thus has a shorter shelf life, so this is regularly flown in fresh from Korea.

A variety of dried fruit is available and this includes Jeju tangerine, Korean strawberries, pear, apple, persimmon, orange and lemon! My favourites are the pear, tangerine and strawberries.

Interestingly, when you eat the dried fruit on its own, their texture is what you’d expect dried fruit to be like, but when you put them into the soft serve, some of them turn a little crispy! I tried this with both the tangerines and strawberries and there was an added crunch to them!

Fruit Bombs (made from real fruit juice) and Jelly Pearls (made from seaweed) are some of the other toppings that are available. If you like nuts, you can try the Honey Butter Almonds, which I absolutely loved!

In addition, there are also Jellies and Chia Seeds that you can choose to add to your dessert or beverage.

A variety of different drinks can be found on their beverage menu, which include Seoulistic Iced Tea Lattes, Korean Fruit Vinegar Ciders and Fruit Enzyme drinks, Exotic Gangnam Iced Teas and ChiaChaCha, which is a refreshing combination of 100% coconut water with Chia Seeds.

One of their signature drinks is the Jeju Green Tea Latte and you can have this with black KoKoPearls, i.e. if you are the type who’s into bubble teas. I usually like my drinks with 0% sugar and I found the green tea latte with black pearls to be just right for me as it wasn’t too sweet and I think those who don’t like the slightly bitter taste of Japanese matcha may like this as this Korean green tea doesn’t have that same bitter taste. Premium grade Jeju green tea is used and it contains natural polyphenols and antioxidants.

Those who can’t do without sugar haven’t been forgotten and similar to other beverage outlets in the market, you can customize your sugar levels, but of course to be healthier, try to slowly reduce your sugar intake and go for 0%! ^_^

Although I’m not a hugh fan of coconut water and healthy drinks, I did try the ChiaChaCha with added Mango Fruit Bombs and I have to say that those fruit caviars burst easily in your mouth and made each sip of the drink very flavourful! Hmm…possibly something I can consider drinking more of in the future, with health benefits!

Weight conscious individuals can opt for the Green Grapes or Green Apple Cider with Chia Seeds, as these are made from pure fruit vinegar ciders known for extra health benefits such as weight loss and maintaining blood sugar levels.

If you haven’t already noticed by now, the shop’s logo has a cute panda in it and you can find this mascot on both the drink and dessert cups, on the staff’s t-shirts, as well as at the shopfront.

On what sets KoKoPanda apart from other dessert and beverage outlets, Katie Kang, Managing Director for KoKoPanda states: “We are all about superfood desserts and beverages. We noticed that many of the drinks and desserts available today are mostly made from sugar and syrups with little goodness included. We are here to spread our concept of guilt-free indulgence by adding the benefits of superfoods into delicious desserts and beverages that people already enjoy.”

I’ve always thought of health foods as being bland and taste-wise not to my liking, but this has somewhat altered my perception. Healthy desserts and beverages that taste good too! Do come and give it a try!

As part of their Opening promotions, Kokopanda will be having a special Buy-1-Get-1-Free promotion on all items on their menu during their launch weekend from 16–18 December 2016.

Thanks to KoKoPanda for the dessert and beverage tasting!

Address:
KoKoPanda
#B2-60, Plaza Singapura,
68 Orchard Road, Singapore 238839.

Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Daily

Categories: Cafe, Desserts, Eating in Singapore, Korean | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Seoul Garden’s All-U-Can-Eat Buffet at Harbourfront Centre

Seoul Garden has opened a second outlet at Harbourfront Centre #01-65/66 and this is a buffet restaurant (different from their hotpot restaurant located at the 2nd floor).

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For those who are unfamiliar with their buffet concept, both cooked food and uncooked ingredients are available in the buffet spread. You can choose to cook the raw meats and seafood on the grilling pan or in the hotpot(s) at the table.

Here’s a look at the buffet spread…

Take your pick from a selection of meats (beef, lamb, chicken) that you can put on the grill.

Premium meats and seafood are available in the dinner buffet – I was eyeing the crayfish and scallops! :p

Other items at the buffet for the hotpot/grill:

Various sauces to go with your food, or you can also use them as an additional marinade before cooking the various meats!

For those who can’t wait for their food to be cooked, a selection of cooked and ready-to-eat dishes are available.

Sushi:

Salad and pickles:

Instead of a soup base, you can opt for Queso Fundido, which is a cheese dip and these are some of the foods that go well with the dip!

Moving along…here are the drink dispensers, plus an ice shaving machine (at the far right of the photo below), which you can use to make your own version of ice kachang.

Fruits and ingredients for your ice kachang:

Ice cream and available toppings to go with it:

Both Western cakes and Asian “kueh“:

We tried the Thai Tom Yum hotpot and the Queso Fundido (cheese dip), which was topped with kimchi and grated cheese. I know the combination of kimchi and cheese sounds weird but surprisingly it actually goes well together!

  

In case you are unsure of the optimal temperatures to use for cooking, we were told to use P2 for the cheese dip, P4 for the grill and P3 for the hotpot.

Okay…time to start cooking and tucking in!

The good thing is that this restaurant has certainly kept up with the times! I’ve patronised Seoul Garden since my schooling days and when I first entered the workforce and in the past, after a BBQ meal, your clothes and hair will end up smelling of the food that you had cooked earlier – well, gone are those days as the restaurant has a ventilation system which absorbs the cooking “smells” and when you are done with your meal, your hair and clothes still smell exactly the way they did as when you first entered the restaurant! ^_^

I think the buffet spread is quite decent for its price and I loved the grilled meats, seafood and the cheese dip!

Thanks to Seoul Garden for the invite to the food tasting!


Address:

1 Maritime Square, #01-65/66 HarbourFront Centre, Singapore 099253.

Telephone: 6710 6339

Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:30pm

Buffet Prices:
Weekday Lunch – Mon-Thur (11:30am-4:59pm), Fri & Eve of PH (11:30am-3:59pm): Adult $21.99++, Member $17.99++, Child $8.99++
Weekday Dinner – Mon-Thur (5:00pm-10:30pm): Adult $28.99++, Member $25.99++, Child $11.99++

Weekend Lunch – Sat-Sun & PH (11:30am-3:59pm): Adult $25.99++, Member $22.99++, Child $8.99++
Weekend Dinner – Fri-Sun, Eve of PH & PH (4:00pm-10:30pm): Adult $31.99++, Member $28.99++, Child $11.99++

Student Meal is available for Lunch on Mon-Fri, excluding PH (11:30am-3:59pm): $14.99++ (present bus-pass, matriculation card or student pass before ordering)

Senior Citizens (60 years and above): Mon-Fri (11:30am-4:00pm) – $15.99++

Kids (below 1.0m in height) dine for FREE on Sunday with every paying adult.
Child price is applicable for kids between 1.0m to 1.3m and those aged 9 years and below.

Soup Base (freeflow, per table):
Basic Soup Base $1.99++
Soup Upgrade $5.99++ which gets you a choice of any 2 soups OR 1 soup & 1 Queso Fundido (cheese dip)

Soup flavours include:
Herbal Beef Broth, Ginseng Chicken, Chinese Herbal, Thai Tom Yam, Seafood Kimchi and Miso.

Categories: Eating in Singapore, Korean, Media Invite | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

SAVOUR Wines 2016

For the uninitiated, SAVOUR is Asia’s premier gourmet festival which features the finest food and drink, live demonstrations and culinary shopping, all in one special purpose-built location. This second event in 2016 is held from 9-11 September and has its focus on wines.

DBS Treasures held a private event for their clients (before the event opens to the public) and each person was allowed to bring a friend along. I was glad to have the opportunity to check out the event’s offerings a day earlier and went to check fill my tummy with food first before going on to sample the wines. A doctor friend who was there said “why waste time on food when the wines are so good?” but I live to eat and I guess she loves alcohol more than food!


GOURMET VILLAGE

The two photos below were taken about 5mins before the event closed as I was too pre-occupied earlier with the lovely food and wine, so I didn’t take many shots of the venue, especially with the crowds.

Wandering past the various food stalls, everything looked good but I couldn’t possibly eat them all in one night and so I had to prioritise and only select the dishes which “called out” to me.

These were some of the dishes that my hubby and I had tried…

RESTAURANT EMBER – by Chefs Pan Sihui & Alex Phan
Sakura Ebi Pasta ($12)
Sakura Ebi Pasta with Konbu, Chilli and Crustacean Oil

This was a lovely start to my dinner and I enjoyed the crunch of the Sakura shrimps, mixed with the other flavours in the pasta.


Foie Gras ($12)

Foie Gras with Chinese 5-Spice Caramel and Market Fruits

The foie gras was cooked perfectly and I thought it was a refreshing touch to have it served with jambu slices.


XPERIENCE RESTAURANT, SO SOFITEL – by Chef Trevor Paulo

Beef Short Rib ($12)
Onion Puree, Broccollini, Onion ‘Paper’, Shallot Jus

This seemed to be one of the crowd favourites and the beef was very tender and easy to slice! The various accompaniments and seasonings in this dish seemed to revolve around onions but I couldn’t even tell that THAT piece of crispy “paper” is made using onion! Interesting!


MITZO – by Chefs Nicky Ng & Ben Yapp

Truffle Noodles with Prawn Ball & Lobster Claw ($12)

There was a crazy queue at this booth and I guess everyone must have ordered this dish!! It was served piping hot and the taste of truffle was well balanced and did not overpower the dish, which came with a prawn and a lovely piece of lobster claw. Ohh…the indulgence!


RABBIT STASH – by Chefs Matthew Mok & Soon Teck (Skydy)

48hrs Slow Cook Wagyu Beef with Trompette Stew, 58 Degrees 1st Born Egg and Crispy Brown Rice ($12)
French-Singaporean inspired dish with an Oriental Marinated Beef slow-cooked for 2 Days

This was another booth which had extremely long queues, in both the ordering queue as well as the collection queue. Loved the flavours in the beef, which was served with mixed greens on a croissant-like pastry that you can use to clean up the plate especially if the egg yolk has broken and oozed out all over the plate. The crispy brown rice added an extra crunch to the dish.


ANGELA MAY FOOD CHAPTERS – by Chefs Tee Lee Hing & Angela May

Lobster and Crab Roll with Salted Egg, White Wine and Kabocha Squash
+ Locally Grown Curly Leaf Kale Salad and Pomegranate Seeds
+ 1 Dark Chocolate Cream Choux with Toasted Marshmallow Topping
($26)

This was one of my initial picks for food but I ran out of food coupons and was saving the last two for dessert! There was a lady showing us a sample of the dish, so I asked if I could take a picture of it. Apologies, but I can’t tell you how it tasted.

Anyway, it was time for dessert!…

BIRD BIRD – by Chefs Fiona Ting & Bjorn Shen
Durian Softie Pie ($12)
Durian pudding, almond pie crust, caramelised white chocolate, gula melaka caramel, brown butter soft serve

I was drawn to this dessert as it sounded interesting with all the varied ingredients! Wow! There were so many flavours and textures in this dessert – it was creamy, yet crunchy and sweet but also with a hint of saltiness. The best part was when you got to the durian pudding, which actually contains real durian flesh!


There’s also an Oyster Bar and Cheese Room, which is located next to the Wine Market.

I found popcorn here…

…as well as oysters.


WINE MARKET

Go on a wine tasting journey where there are hundreds of specially curated wine labels from all around the world to choose from!

Access to the Wine Market is limited to Wine Tasting Card holders only (max 700 per session).

The Wine Tasting Card (Single) – $15 (online pre-event price) includes the following:

1 x Wrist Band for single person access into the Wine Market
1 x Wine Tasting Card with 10 Tastings
1 x Badoit Sparkling Water (330ml)
1 x Limited Edition SAVOUR Wine Glass

Here’s an idea of what you’ll get, minus the wrist band and the fact that my wine tasting card has been used up.

I had initially started tasting wines from the booths which seemed to be more popular with the crowds but as I am not a wine connoisseur and my preference is for sweet wines (yes, I love dessert wines!), so after about 3-4 tastings, I decided to switch focus and hunt down only sweet wines! ^_^

My favourites of the night were…

De Bortoli Emeri Pink Moscato NV (Australia)


Little Eden Moscato (Australia)


Balan Viola Moscato NV (Italy)

Even if you are not a wine lover or you don’t drink alcohol, you can still come to SAVOUR Wines 2016 and check out the food!


SAVOUR Wines runs from 9-11 September 2016

9th (Friday): 6pm – 11pm
10th (Saturday): 11am – 4pm & 6pm – 11pm
11th (Sunday): 11am – 4pm & 6pm – 11pm

Location: Bayfront Avenue, next to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre

Entry to the Gourmet Village is complimentary to all visitors. However, the purchase of dishes and drinks are on a consumption basis.

Access to the Wine Market is ticketed and limited to 700 guests per session, so if you’re a wine buff or are looking to learn more, it is to best pre-purchase your wine tasting card to avoid any disappointment! I hear that they are selling out fast…

Categories: Eating in Singapore | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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