Mikuni – A Tough to Beat Set Lunch

25 01 2015

Located on the 3rd floor of Raffles City / Fairmont Hotel, Mikuni brings together Teppanyaki, Robatayaki and Sushi, enthralling diners and leading them on a gastronomic adventure across the best of what Japan has to offer. Diners may choose to sit at the general dining area or on any one of the three counters; sushi, teppanyaki or robatayaki to watch the master chefs in action. On this occasion, I chose the sushi counter.

General dining area

Set lunches (11 choices in total) are available daily, with prices starting from $65++ onwards, providing diners with options spanning teppanyaki, robatayaki, tempura and sushi main courses. Spoilt for choice, I chose the Premium Bento Miyabi ($120++), which offered a good mix of the options mentioned. 

Sushi Counter

Starters were simple yet effective and we particularly liked the salad dressing. The thin sheets of seasoned crackers tasted somewhat like Chinese New Year Prawn Rolls.

Next up was three kinds of sashimi; Salmon, Chutoro and Scallops. Not often does one find Chutoro in a set lunch so I was pleasantly surprised.

When the mains arrived, I was totally blown away by the extensive variety and hearty portions afforded onto us.

From top-left clockwise: Kyoto Onion Soup, BBQ Eel on rice, Teppanyaki Prawns with a Golden Cheesy Sauce, a skewer of Grilled Kagoshima Beef, Mixed Tempura.

I was at a loss as to what I liked best amongst the mains, since all were top-class in execution. The draw was really the variety, where I could go back and forth between the different items without ever feeling cloyed or bored with any particular item.

Friend CW seemed to like the Teppanyaki Prawns best, which were garnished with ebiko, slices of asparagus and slathered in a golden buttery sauce.

For dessert, we were given a dense Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Crumble. 

Complimentary Matcha White Chocolate and Red Bean “Kueh” were also served as the bill was presented. A nice touch to end off a perfect weekend lunch.

What we liked about Mikuni was the consistent high quality present in every course. While meals here don’t come cheap, I found it fully justified by its value and utility. It will be tough to find a set lunch as awesome as this one.

Dining discounts are applicable to holders of the FAR card and Amex Platinum card.


80 Bras Basah Road, Fairmont Hotel 3F, Raffles City, Singapore 189560

Tel: +65 6431 6156

Bespoke Cocktail Bar Hopping – A 6-pub guide around CBD

2 11 2014

With the cocktail scene alive and kicking in Singapore, Amex has recently launched #ChillaxSG, a one year promotion for Amex Platinum and Amex Platinum Reserve card holders, offering various privileges such as 1-for-1, complimentary welcome cocktails with any order etc, at 16 different cocktail bars from 15 Oct 2014 to 14 Oct 2015.

In anticipation of this promotion, I had the opportunity to hang out with the folks from Amex, as they took two mini-bus loads of lifestyle and food bloggers on a pub hop event to 6 of the participating bars to showcase what was on offer.

1st Stop: The Men’s Room (13 North Canal Rd, #01-02)

Best for: The Laid-back Working Crowd who wants a drink neat, rather than fancy

Unlike some of the other places we visited later in the night, The Men’s Room seemed more like a place to get down with unadulterated liquors, especially whisky and gin. Instead of going hard on the first bar, I had their signature Chrysanthemum Cocktail instead, which would have been pretty nice for a tame night out and much reminiscent of Winebar/Zouk’s Chrysanthemum shots.

Source: Google Maps

Chrysanthemum Cocktails

2nd Stop: Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (60A Boat Quay)

Best for: The Discerning Hipster

Like a scene out of the 1980s, I truly enjoyed the hipster vibes I got from this place. Like many other bars that concoct bespoke cocktails, you won’t find a drinks menu here and the mixologists get to work by asking about your alcohol and taste preferences.

I had their version of the Old Fashioned which I enjoyed. Typically, an Old Fashioned is a bourbon based drink but Ah Sam gave it a local twist in line with the shop’s theme by infusing the bourbon with Milo. What resulted was an Old Fashioned that had the rich creamy texture of milk. I’m the type of person who needs food to go along with my drinks so I was super pleased to find out that in addition to the well thought out ambience and creative drinks, Ah Sam serves up a mindblowing Hokkien Mee as well, which if served in a hawker centre, would no doubt be drawing crowds. Other food items on the menu include local delights such as Prawn Paste Chicken, Ngoh Hiang and Fried Kuay Teow.

Ah Sam in the flesh

Food Menu

Half-eaten Hokkien Mee and Milo-infused Old Fashioned (with a proper ice cube)

3rd Stop: Spiffy Dapper (61 Boat Quay)

Best for: The Cool Emo Kids

For a slightly more grungy environment with an amazing view of the Singapore river, pop by next door from Ah Sam’s to Spiffy Dapper. When we were there, we were served some decent tandoori and grilled items, possibly from the Indian Restaurant downstairs. If so, I think that’s a plus for allowing outside food, while the mixologists focus on doing what they do best. They did a marvelous job with my Gin shaken with Mint, simple but effective. Like Ah Sam’s next door, there’s no drinks menu here so sit back and let the bartenders get creative and concoct something to your mood and likings.

For a better idea of what you can expect in this unpretentious hole in the wall speakeasy bar, the below is an excerpt from Spiffy Dapper’s blog website which I think describes it perfectly:

“In the middle of Boat Quay, the last remaining bastion of the seedy port town that was Singapore, and hidden away on the second floor is The Spiffy Dapper.

Born out of a need to be real and imperfect, we aim to channel the creative audacity and sense of adventure of the 1920’s.

We make some damn good drinks, but what this place is really about is chilling the fuck out and having a good time.”

Gin Shaken with Mint (left)

4th Stop: The Secret Mermaid (10 Collyer Quay, B1-08 Ocean Financial Centre)

Best for: The True Blue Pro-American Craft Spirit Connoisseur

The Secret Mermaid is the latest brainchild of restaurateur Howard Lo, the owner of Tanuki Raw and Standing Sushi Bar. In the day, the shop space operates under the name of Shinkansen, a Japanese Salad Bar but once dusk falls, The Secret Mermaid emerges. 

Specializing in American spirits, The Secret Mermaid offers a range of craft spirits never seen before in Singapore. For the uninitiated, their tasting flights (starting at $15) comprising of 3 half shots of different types of spirits is an affordable way to get educated without breaking the bank. I was also rather intrigued with the novelty Smoked Salmon Vodka and Bacon Vodka that are available in tasting portions.

5th Stop: Maison Ikkoku (20 Kandahar Street)

Best for: Date nights, for couples who love pyrotechnic displays in a posh setting

Among the 6 cocktail bars we patronized that night, Maison Ikkoku had the most razzle dazzle and pomp. The setting is elegant, with the mixologists friendly and accommodative. The music is not too loud and allows for a decent conversation. Hence, it’s somewhere I would potentially bring a date, to impress her with the well-executed cocktails, liberal use of pyrotechnics for the cocktail preparation and classy bar grub.

For specific cocktails, I would highly recommend the Pina Colada which is served in a seared coconut, the Banana Daiquiri which I found astoundingly refreshing and smooth, and the Passionfruit Gin & Tonic.

Banana Daiquiri

Pina Colada (amazed that my iPhone did such a good job with this pic)

Parmesan Chawanmushi

Smoked Duck

6th Stop: Orgo (8 Raffles Avenue, #04-01 Esplanade)

Best for: Large group gatherings, where space is of the essence

I have been to Orgo before a couple years back and I wasn’t impressed. Fast forward the clock and I still get the same vibes now. Drinks were a pretty standard affair and the place exudes a more commercialized feel compared to the other 5 bars we had been to. What’s going for the place is the view, given its location on the Esplanade roof terrace.

The Halia @ Raffles Hotel – Fun Communal Dining Concept

15 06 2014

You would think that for its location in the iconic Raffles Hotel, the Halia must certainly be a fine-dining western restaurant. This “mistaken” mindset has proven to be slightly burdensome for the eatery, which has continually strived to portray itself as a casual-chic restaurant that isn’t afraid to infuse an element of playfulness into its dishes.

Al fresco dining area & bar

The latest concept adopted by the restaurant, which was also the reason for my being there, is the introduction of a communal dining concept, with dishes being classified as “big plates” or “small plates” for sharing instead of the usual appetizers and mains. The general idea is to bring out the scene of a feast where the table is kept filled with a variety of dishes, rather than having the usual course by course meal sequence typical of western meals.

Apart from the ala carte menu (note: prices of the individual plates are listed below), a communal set dinner is also available daily from 6pm to 10.30pm, priced at $260++ for 4 pax. However given the generous servings, my take is that the set can comfortably feed a group of 5, especially if there are females present. What’s included within the set are a kettle of soup with assorted breads, 4 small plates, 4 big plates, 2 desserts and a jug of barley/lemongrass/ice tea.

Alternatively, for diners who might want to sample Halia’s offerings without the full-blown commitment of dinner, the restaurant also offers very affordable 3-course set lunches at $25++, and a lunch communal set for 4 pax at $160++ which includes soup, 4 small plates, 2 big plates, 1 dessert and a non-alcoholic jug of barley/lemongrass/ice tea.

Upon entering the restaurant, the first signs restaurant’s casual-chic nature presented itself with the interesting old school designs on the communal menu and paper sheets covering the tables. Then came the barley water and utensils in old school tin cans.

Cream of Mushroom Soup, Bread Selection

Goats’ cheese mousse, heirloom tomato, olive, wild honey, dried brioche ($18++)

I didn’t quite take to the Oriental Pulled Duck with Soba Noodle ($18++). The meat was seasoned to be sweet, which isn’t something I’m used to.

On the other hand, the House smoked salmon pate ($23++) is a small plate that I would recommend ordering. Compared to the overwhelmingly salty smoked salmon commonly found in supermarkets (possibly to extend shelf life), the smoked salmon here was significantly less so such that you get a better sense of the smokiness and the natural taste of salmon.

The Chilli crab dip with toasted baguette ($14++) makes for a great starter. It stands out from the chili crab sauce from chinese restaurants since it was slightly more sourish, which whetted my appetite for the feast ahead.

For a secondary cut, I was surprised at how much I liked the Baked Kingfish Collar ($28++). The flesh was remarkably tender and I managed to debone it with ease. The light miso marinade also allowed me to appreciate the Kingfish, without overpowering its natural flavour.

While the Wagyu Beef “Zhajiangmian” ($30++) was visually appealing and conceptually interesting, with the “noodles” being replaced by long thin vegetable strips, it didn’t leave much of an impression tastewise. I thought of it as a fancy salad dish.

While the Twice-cooked Spatchcock of Spring Chicken ($35++) might look uninteresting, its execution was flawless and it turned out to be my favourite dish of the meal. The secret lay in it being twice cooked, first in a sous-vide style (slow cooked under low temperatures) to derive that tender juicy consistency, and followed up with some light roasting to attain the crispy skin and smoky char. What was most surprising was how moist the breast meat was.

In the old wild west, gunpowder containing traces of magnesium, potassium, sulphur and charcoal was sometimes used as a seasoning for meats. Inspired with this, the ‘Gunpowder’ Wagyu Topside Mayura Station ($46++) here was seasoned with charcoal. The beef was first cooked in a water bath at 59 degrees celsius before being grilled, resulting in a nice pink hue to the beef. However, for a indicated marbling score of 8-9, I was slightly let down that the beef still retained some bite to it rather than having the melt in your mouth sensation. The seasoning and accompanying sauce was also a little too savory in general.

Coconut parfait, pineapple, gingerflower, chocolate

Of the two desserts I tried, I preferred the Sticky toffee pudding, date, butterscotch sauce, sea salt, vanilla ice cream ($10++). Simple touches like the light sprinkling of sea salt on the toffee pudding did help to distinguish this rendition as an above average one. After all, who doesn’t like salted caramel?

On the whole, the meal was really enjoyable and the huge selection of dishes present in the communal set menu left me with positive feelings. Many of the dishes were rather creative with influences from various cuisines styles. What I enjoyed most however, were the relatively more straightforward dishes like the Roast Chicken, Baked Kingfish, Smoke Salmon Pate and Sticky Toffee Pudding. Regarding the communal dining concept, you can think of it as a scaled up tapas meal, or a chinese restaurant meal utilizing western dishes. Either way, it is a fun concept for group dining.

This meal was sponsored by Halia. Special thanks to Halia for hosting the invitation.


1 Beach Road, #01-22/23 Raffles Hotel, Singapore 189673

Tel: +65 9639 1148

Website: http://thehalia.com/raffles/raffles/about-the-halia/

Le Bistrot du Sommelier II – The Yardstick for French Bistros

16 06 2013

I was starting a 10-week internship the next day so I convinced myself that I had to spoil myself with an awesome meal. After all, I didn’t know what the workload was going to be like and when my next indulgent meal would be. The initial plan was to head for lunch at Restaurant Absinthe at Boat Quay but I guess my due diligence fell short as it was closed for Saturday lunch. But seriously, who closes for Saturday lunch?

It might not have been a bad thing though since Le Bistrot du Sommelier was just around the area. It’s one of my favourite French bistros in Singapore with food quality that had been tried and tested. I last visited them a year ago and the menu has been revamped slightly since then to my delight.

Their affordable Pork Rillette ($9.50/100g) can easily feed 3-4 people as an appetizer. It’s has just the right proportion of fats and isn’t overly salty, very much like luncheon meat in paste form.

We also had the Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream, Quinoa, Onions & Dill, which I found enjoyable as well. The Salmon is just mildly salty and blends in nicely with the sour cream.

The Beef Short Rib with Polenta Mash ($40++) was one of their daily specials but it paled in comparison to the Braised Beef Cheeks that we had as our other main, as the accompanying polenta mash was too sweet and didn’t complement the short rib much. I’m not a fan of polenta anyway.

The Braised Beef Cheeks in Red Wine Sauce, served with potatoes ($34++) is possibly my favorite dish on their menu, especially because of the hearty gravy and tender cheeks. The gravy went great with the dish of short ribs too.

As with my previous 2 visits, I had the Profiteroles filled with Vanilla Ice Cream in Warm Chocolate Sauce topped with Sliced Almonds ($14++). Not as good as I remembered but the crisp choux buns encasing the ice cream is still one of the best around in my opinion. 

I often make the mistake of over-ordering here so be warned. Portions are really huge, hence the usual 3-course meal per person does not apply here. A party of 4 can consider just ordering 2-3 starters, 3 mains and 2 desserts to share or there might be wastage and it’s just cruel to watch such awesome food go down the drain.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

53 Armenien Street

Tel: +65 6333 1982

Park Palace @ Grand Park City Hall – A CNY Menu to Consider

19 01 2013

With Chinese New Year quick approaching, a key question on everyone’s mind would be where to hold our reunion lunches and dinners? Initially, I admit that of the many restaurants considered, Park Palace @ Grand Park City Hall was definitely not one of them, but that was before I had a chance to sample their CNY menu last week, where I left the restaurant extremely satisfied. It was the largest scaled tasting I had been to so far, where around 30 curious individuals were gathered and eager to find out what Park Palace had to offer.

Available from 21 Jan 2013 to 24 Feb 2013, their CNY menus are priced at:

·         $78++ per person (a maximum of two persons)

·         $288++ per table (for four persons)

·         $438++ per table (for six persons)

·         $588++ per table (for eight persons)

·         $788++ to $2388++ per table (for ten persons)

Keeping true to the tradition of CNY, we started our meal with the Golden Shunde Yellowtail Yu Sheng ($88++). Literally translated, Yu Sheng (魚生)  means raw fish in Chinese but its pronunciation also functions as a pun to signify abundance (余升). Unlike the usual Yu Sheng which is sweet due to the use of sweet plum sauce, this version was more on the savoury side, as a soy based sauce was used instead. Young kids would definitely adore this as well because crispy fried vermicelli has replaced most of the icky shredded vegetables.

I had 2 favourite items for this meal and the Imperial Suckling Pig ($238++) was one of them. The skin (wrapped in steamed flat man tous) was super crispy yet not overcooked and didn’t feel oily at all. I could have easily polished off the entire pig’s skin if not for social decorum dictating I leave some for others at my table. Do order it in advance (24 hours notice recommended) as prior preparation is required for this dish.

Lazy Less hardworking people might take to the Golden Happiness Crispy Grouper, whose meat was filleted and deep fried, saving us the trouble of having to separate the meat from the fish bones. The batter was light and the accompanying plum vinaigrette sauce added some much needed flavours to the otherwise relatively bland fillets.

The Chinese New Year Flambe Pen Cai ($248/$428++ for 6 or 10 pax) was my other favourite dish. Our dining experience was made a little more exciting as the chef flambeed the Pen Cai in front of us, pouring the ignited brandy into the claypot as a finishing touch, which is supposed to enhance the aroma of the Pen Cai. It’s so ironic that it’s called Pen Cai, which literally means “bucket of vegetables”, when there’s so much seafood treasures to be found inside such as abalone, dried & fresh scallops, slices of sea perch, deshelled prawns, sea cucumber, roast pork & duck, soy sauce chicken, mushrooms, gingko nuts, lotus roots, cabbage and broccoli. A very hearty dish which goes down well with rice.

The Imperial Suckling Pig – Oven Baked with Lemongrass was made using what remained of the suckling pig we had earlier. The meat was pretty tender but given that it had already cooled down by the time this was served, it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the skin we had earlier.

When I saw that we were going to be served the Auspicious Glutinous Rice with Foie Gras and Preserved Meat, I initially thought of a bak cang (glutinous rice dumpling). Guess I was more pleased to see it being presented the way it was, where I could savour the foie gras by itself if I wanted to. Personally, I found this dish to be a little too heavy with a much too high rice-to-foie gras ratio, but it’s definitely a creative play on glutinous rice.

We were served the Steamed Mini Pumpkin Dumpling with Green Bean Paste for dessert. Very cutesy and intricate, so full marks for presentation but taste-wise, it was purely an over-glorified ang ku kueh.

Park Palace had far surpassed all expectations, with each dish I tried displaying a unique quality, be it in terms of taste, execution or simply aesthetics. So if you have not made CNY reunion meal plans yet, Park Palace is definitely somewhere to consider.

Special thanks to Park Palace for hosting this tasting session.

Park Palace

10 Coleman Street, Mezzanine Floor Grand Park City Hall

Tel: +65 6432 5888

Le Bistrot du Sommelier – Blown Away Once More

3 06 2012

If you have been following this blog closely, you might have guessed that French is my favourite cuisine. There’s really no lack of good French food in Singapore, ranging from the budget “coffee-shop” no-frills French eateries like Le Cuisson (Awesome Chicken Roulade) and Saveur (which I have not gotten down to try), to the entry level bistro fare like the highly popular Black Sheep Cafe and La Petite Cuisine, the middle-end restaurants like Bistro Du Vin and Ember Restaurant and finally the fine-dining scene starring the likes of Gunthers and Les Amis.

Recently however, 2 French eateries have opened / relocated that I believe is worth mention. First off is La Maison Fatien, a middle-end bistro located in the heart of Tanjong Pagar. The mains there are incredibly affordable within the $20+ range, though the inclusion of a pan-seared foie gras for appetizer and chocolate fondant for dessert will set one back by about $70 after taxes, which is still quite affordable in my book for French food of the given quality. The service is warm and professional as well. The wait staff who served my party was a charming Frenchman who knew his food well, providing us with lots of suggestions and answering our queries effortlessly. And to add icing to the cake, the restaurant boasts a rustic setting that adds a sense of authenticity to the meal. I will definitely be making a return visit in the next month or so and do a more detailed write up but just wanted to mention it first because it’s freaking awesome, so do pay a visit if you are around the area.

But enough of stealing the limelight from the main topic of discussion for today, the relocation of Le Bistrot du Sommelier from Prinsep Place to 53 Armenien Street (opposite SMU School of Law & Accountancy), taking over the premises from the highly acclaimed restaurant FiftyThree which specializes in molecular gastronomy. FiftyThree has since shifted over to 42 Tras Street in the Tanjong Pagar area (source: Hungry Epicurean).

It’s quite a coincidence but just last summer, I penned a short writeup on Le Bistrot du Sommelier for SMU Gourmet Club’s summer publication entitled “Urban Relish”, a food guide to central district dining. On my previous visit, I was blown away by the repertoire of dishes that was served and given that good friend CW was due to fly off the coming week for her Goldman Sachs IB position in London, I figured it was time to bring out the big guns to ensure she had an awesome experience since she might not get to see the light of day much in her new job.

Despite only being in its 2nd week of operation at its new premises, reservations are already a must to secure a seat as it was full house on this Monday night.

I usually avoid Pates and Rillettes because I have had a few bad experiences where they turned out too gamey and pungent for me. However, I’m thankful that I took the wait staff’s advice to have the Pork Rillette ($13.50++) as it tasted really fresh. Savoury with a nice density of fat and tasting like very fatty mashed ham, I could have happily had this dish alone for lunch.

For something more unique, try the Sauteed Frog Legs with Garlic & Parsley ($26++). Instead of the the usual steaming or braising more commonly witnessed, having the frog legs sauteed was a nice change. With a thin crisp exterior and chewy texture, it reminded me much of chicken wings. I especially loved the garlicky flavours which had seeped into the residual oil, which I mopped up using the bread from the Pork Rillette dish.

The Catch of the Day was Gurnard Fish ($30++), something that I am totally unfamiliar with. Topped with crisp slices of fried garlic over a bed of very smooth but heavy mash, this particular fish meat had a very nice firm texture rather similar to Threadfin.

The Joue de Boeuf aka Braised Beef Cheeks ($30++) served here is one of the best renditions I have tried in Singapore. As I mentioned in the write-up I did earlier on Le Bistrot du Sommelier, their beef cheeks definitely set the yardstick before one should dare use the words melt-in -you-mouth ever so frivolously, plus it’s a steal at this price!

While the generic Fried Duck Leg Confit is available on the menu at $28++, you can choose to order the French Duck Leg Confit Cassoulet Style as we did. It comes as a stew with a variety of other meats such as Steaky Bacon, Pork Sausage & Lamb Shoulder Baked in White Beans ($34++). Surprisingly, what we found best in this dish was not the duck but the Pork Belly (I’m guessing it’s the steaky bacon), which was as a 5cm x 5cm x 5cm cube. Do NOT attempt finishing this dish by yourself though as the portion is unimaginably generous.

Although we were stuffed, desserts occupy a different part of the stomach or so the saying goes. We settled on the Profiteroles au Chocolat aka Choux buns filled with Vanilla Ice Cream in Warm Chocolate Sauce topped with Sliced Almonds ($14++) after much deliberation and were pleased with our choice as we sunk our teeths into the pair of plus-sized profiteroles drenched in a luscious layer of chocolate sauce. It’s easily the best profiteroles I have had, with a sizable portion suitable for 2 to 3 people to share.

Paying under $60/pax for French food of this class, I really felt like I had shortchanged the restaurant when the bill arrived. It’s definitely one of my favourite meals this year and for the upcoming SMU semester, I foresee myself to be well-fed.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

53 Armenien Street

Tel: +65 6333 1982

Royal China – The Decline of a Dynasty?

11 10 2011

Located just 5 minutes away from SMU, Royal China is one of the places I started frequenting quite a bit in my current sophomore year, so this post will be a cumulation of  the 3 lunches I had over there in the past 2 months.

Housed in Raffles Hotel, most would think that the restaurant would charge premium prices commensurate with the 5 star hotel status. I’m pleased however to announce princely sums are not a prerequisite for dining at Royal China, as a filling casual dim sum lunch can be sought after for as low as $15-$25.  Weekday set lunches are available too at $68++ for 4 pax, which brings it to about $20 nett a person, definitely affordable considering that the nearby Koufu would set you back at around $6 for a meal and drink anyways.

For dim sum, there are a few items that Royal China excels spectacularly in. First, there’s their Royal China Special Cheung Fun ($4.80++), a combination of scallop, char siew and prawn cheung fun. The translucent skin is delicate and smooth like a baby’s bum, a real pleasure to eat.

Touted as one of the best renditions of its kind to be found locally, the Steamed Bun with with Salted Egg Yolk and Fresh Mango ($4++) treads on the fine balance between sweet and savoury with its fine pairing of fluid lava custard and soft airy bun. Unlike the ones at Victor’s Kitchen, the custard fillings here aren’t as oily, and the buns’ texture are a lot softer than the ones at Bosses in Vivocity.

Another item worth ordering would be their Congee. Coming in substantial portions sharable amongst 2 pax, the variety of congees ranging from seafood, fish & conpoy, chicken & mushroom and century egg & lean pork are priced reasonably between $5-$7.50++.

I tend to order Scallop Dumplings ($4.80++) whenever I see it on a dim sum menu. Topped with what seems to be a dollop of caviar, it didn’t disappoint.

The mediocre items would include the Char Siew Sou aka Baked Barbecued Pork Puff ($4++), the Pan-fried Bean Curd Roll Stuff with Minced Prawn ($4.80++) and the Deep Fried Vegetarian Spring Roll with Shredded Vegetables ($4++).

As I mentioned previously, Royal China also offers a $68++ 6-Course Set Lunch for 4 pax though personally, I’d recommend sticking to the ala-carte dim sum menu.

The 1st Course is a Healthy Soup of the Day, in my case it happened to be a clear chicken soup with coconut. It wasn’t fantastic. Coconut flavoured soup just doesn’t sit well with me and the chicken meat was tough.

Then came the Medley of Dim Sum, comprising 3 of the most common dim sum that can be sought. Somehow, the har gaos and siew mai in the set lunch feels slightly more slipshod than ordering it ala carte.

The Barbecued Meat Combination Platter was rather disappointing as well. The chicken meat was dry and the char siew unflavourful.

The Stewed Sea Perch with Mushroom Served in Hot Stone Pot was probably the only course which appealed to me throughout the set lunch, though it wasn’t that fantastic either.

The Poached Garden Greens with Wolfberry in Stock was simple but boring.

The Braised Noodles with Live Prawns in Ginger and Shallot Sauce came across as rather bland, with the noodles tasting floury and lacking the tasteful infusion from the sauce and prawns.

Dessert was a Steamed Layer Cake with Salted Egg Yolk. It’s not bad, but nothing compared to Royal China’s signature Steamed Bun with with Salted Egg Yolk and Fresh Mango. 


Standards at Royal China have been a little inconsistent of late, but let’s cross our fingers that it’s just one off incidents.

Bon Appetit!

Royal China

1 Beach Road, #03-09 Raffles Hotel

Tel: +65 6338 3363


Flutes at the Fort – Just another Western Brunch Place

23 09 2011

Flutes at the Fort is a hidden enclave located in the heart of town. Very much like Spruce, this green hideaway provides a brief respite for the busy white collared workers in the area from their harsh schedules. It’s definitely not as well known a brunch place compared to Rider’s Cafe or Cafe Epicurious and I would never have known of its existence if not for the SMU Gourmet Club’s decision to host a quiet saturday brunch event here. I was excited about the brunch, for gourmet club events have always been rather fun and provides a great setting to just talk to random strangers and meet new friends.

Flutes at the Fort is not solely a weekend brunch place but caters for lunch and dinner as well. Executive set lunches are available on weekdays at $32/$38++ for 2/3 Courses and going for a 3-course ala carte might set you back $100.

We had the 3-Course Set Brunch, priced at $35++ but with a school’s subsidy, we only had to fork out $20 nett per pax, quite a steal! Well, you must be thinking why would SMU subsidize gourmet meals right? While I don’t have a sure answer to that, I’m guessing that in developing a holistic education in the fields of business, fostering soft skills in students such as dining etiquette and networking skills might be possible reasons. But for whatever the reason, at least I’m making full use of my higher-than-other-local-university tuition fees.

For starters, I chose the US Asparagus with Poached Egg, Smoked Salmon and Hollandaise Sauce. The egg was slightly overdone so the yolk was not as runny as I would have liked it but the Hollandaise sauce was pretty competent. I have tried making it at home before so I know it’s really not that simple, despite being part of the 5 Mother Sauces in French Cuisine.

I felt that the Grilled Baby Octopus with Chili Jam, Cherry Tomato and Musclun was rather flavourful, especially with the chili jam which made the octopus slightly reminiscent of those sambal ikan bilis we get in nasi lemak.

I didn’t get to try the Sauteed Garlic Mushroom and Goat’s Cheese on Sourdough but feedback about it was positive.

For main, I choose the Seared Sirloin with Celeriac Remoulade, Spinach, Roasted Tomatoes and Red Wine Sauce. The roasted tomato was probably the best thing in this dish, as I felt the sirloin was way too tough, a portion of my steak was way too rare and the sauce wasn’t that impressive either. You’d probably find better steak at Bedrock Grill & Bar, which offers set lunches at $32-$38++, depending on which main is chosen.

CrunchyBottoms had positive reviews with regards to the Beer Battered Snapper with Fries, Mixed Leaf, Malt Vinegar or Tartare Sauce.

I was quite opposed to having the Eggs Benedict with English Muffin, Spinach, Ham, Roasted Tomato and Mixed Salad as a main, especially since the Poached Egg was also available as an appetizer.

Flutes at the Fort clearly falls flat when it comes to desserts.

The Crepe with Caramelized Banana and Butterscotch Sauce was pretty disastrous. The crepe skin was way too thick, and when I say thick, it means about thrice as thick as the skins used to eat peking duck. Perhaps a scoop of ice cream or two would have made this a little more palatable.

The Earl Grey Creme Brulee with Black Sesame Ice Cream and Strawberries fared slightly better, though I still wouldn’t rate it positively. It’s just not my cup of tea, get the pun?

I chose the Belgian Waffle with Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce for my dessert and found it pretty dismal as the waffle was totally bland and the ice cream rather pedestrian. It didn’t help that I patronized Salted Caramel along Upper Thomson the night before and had their pretty awesome waffles there, alongside their very awesome chocolate sorbet and rum and raisin ice cream.

To play safe, stick to the aesthetically pleasing Trio of Ice Cream (Salted Caramel, Black Sesame, Vanilla) with Mixed Berries.

While I only forked out $20, we did still pay the full price of $42 a pax and I honestly believe that there are many places out there that give better value and quality for a weekend brunch. Still, I’m wondering if this was a one-off or I made the wrong choices for my orders because online reviews of Flutes at the Fort on Hungrygowhere seem really positive.

Bon Appetit!

Flutes at the Fort

21 Lewin Terrace, Fort Canning Park

Tel: +65 6338 8770

Soho7 Cafe & Bistro – SMU Students can finally say Nay to Koufu and Kopitiam

3 05 2011

SMU students are a really sad bunch when it comes to mealtimes. Normally, it’s a choice between the overpriced and crappy Koufu at the school basement, the Kopitiam opposite school or the student-run cafes. So when an affordable cafe serving more than decent food opens shop just opposite Timbre, it’s definitely a cause for celebration and joy for us deprived students.

With a seating capacity of around 20 pax, it’s not a big place and is rather hidden from public eye but when I was there on a Sunday afternoon, business was brisk and I have no doubt that once summer is over and term starts again, Soho7 will be swarmed with students.

Priced between $3 to $6 depending on the type and size of caffeine boosters chosen, it’s a cheaper alternative to the larger coffee chains. Yet quality is supposedly uncompromised, as Soho7 roasts their coffee beans every 2 or 3 days for a fresher and more fragrant brew.

On the left is their signature burger, the Soho7 Best Ever Burger ($9.70) is more or less their basic Delish Burger ($7) with additional toppings of Egg, Bacon and Swiss Cheese. Now that I mention it, I think they might have missed out on the egg for my burger! Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the burger, especially because of the bacon and BBQ sauce which tastes really home-made. And on the right is the PattyMelt Burger ($7.70) which is a Delish Burger with melted Swiss Cheese. I do recommend sticking to the Soho7 Best Ever Burger though, as the bacon is a crucial ingredient in elevating the taste factor.

Apart from the burger menu, Soho7 also offers an all-day breakfast menu. The Tassie Benedict ($14.70) consists of 2 poached eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, toast smothered by Hollandaise Sauce. For the eggs, it was ever so slightly overpoached with the yolk not as runny as it should be. I do love the toast, and the creamy Hollandaise though not very rich, made up for it with sheer volume. It’s a pretty decent Salmon Benedict, and I feel it’d be best shared with a friend to avoid the risk of any “gelat-ness”.

On a side note, there’s a cool camera shop a few shops away from Soho7. Do visit it too because it’s really quite interesting with many cool looking cameras.

Anyway, a mutual friend of mine and Soho7’s boss told me that Soho7 is planning to set up another outlet to replace the 7-11 shop in the basement of SMU / Bras Besar MRT. Let’s all wait in anticipation for that, shall we?

Bon Appetit!



TEL: +65 6634 5779

Lei Garden – Dim Sum Delights

8 03 2011

A dim sum lunch is perfect for a birthday meal! After all, dim sum (点心) literally means “touching the heart”, which is what a birthday meal is all about…feeling the love, care and concern, if only for a day a year…

So my friends got this investment book called The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (Warren Buffett’s shifu), which might help in inculcating the skills required to sell risky structured products to unsavvy investors in the future…and with food, guess that makes 2 of my life’s passion.

Lei Garden is only a short walk over from SMU, and it’s really nice to be able to soak in Chijmes’s chill-out ambience during a school day.

We started the meal with some Rainbow Egg & Shredded Pork Congee ($5.80). It was very decent with a nice smooth texture.

I have had better so I didn’t really think too much of the Deep Fried Taro Dumpling with Minced Chicken ($4.30), nor the Pan Fried Carrot Cake.

The Steamed Cheong Fan with Char Siew was awesome! While thicker than most dim sum joints, the skin of the cheong fan was unbelievably smooth.

What I found most abysmal was the Xiao Long Pao. The skin was awfully dry, over steamed perhaps?

Had ambivalent feelings about the Steamed Custard Bun with Salted Egg Yolk ($3.80). On one hand, I liked the unique chocolate twirls on the bun, but the custard filling was a bit of a let down. Firstly, there wasn’t enough custard to have the oozing effect when I peeled it open, secondly there was a lack of the distinct taste of salted egg yolk.

As for the Har Kow ($4.80) and Siew Mai ($4.30), I thought they were just decent enough.

The Char Siew Pao ($4.80) was just average, much lacking in fillings.

For desserts, I ordered some Tang Yuan (Rice Dumpling), a Mango Pudding with Dragon Fruit and a Gui Ling Gao (Herbal Jelly) to share. Nothing particularly memorable though.

Food does taste better with good company. I truly enjoyed my delightful dim sum lunch there though next time, its probably going to be Wah Lok or Royal China. (Can’t believe I still haven’t got down to trying them yet!)

Bon Appetit!




TEL: +65 6339 3822

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