Friday, May 28, 2010

Saint Pierre

In Love Again

I always thought French food was overpriced, pretentious and inaccessible to the man in the street. I'm very glad Saint Pierre proved me wrong.

. To me, what really sets St Pierre apart from its competitors is its service. Unlike other chi chi eateries who accord special treatment only to ang mohs, big spenders and regulars, St Pierre treats all its customers equally well. Service staff comprise of an eclectic mix of Asians and Caucasians, all of whom are sharply attired and highly articulate. Food is presented with a flourish and whisked away in a most unobtrusive and tasteful manner. Even plain ol' tap water is served from a very pretty vase-like jug. Frankly, I couldn't ask for more.

A picture of the maitre'd hotel (taken from St Pierre's website)...though he didn't serve us personally , he waved us a friendly goodbye and has a most charming smile

Value. Priced at SGD28, the 2 course set lunch (comprising of a main course and dessert) offers best value for money. If you are feeling more extravagant, top up SGD20 to enjoy a full course set lunch which includes a starter, main course, desssert and coffee/tea. Regardless of how many courses you opt for, cheesesticks and bread are served on the onset, followed by a complimentary amuse bouche.

Food. Our amuse bouche comprised of foie gras mousse served with thin pieces of wafer and random slivers of garden vegetables on a chic stone slab. I am no fan of foie gras but found the overall flavors well balanced and highly refreshing. My unadventurous lunch partner however refused to touch her portion altogether. This caught the attention of our restaurant manager, who immediately replaced her dish with an equally delicious-looking substitute. This is what I call great service.

Amuse bouche: Foie gras mousse served on a stone slab

Whilst the restaurant updates its set menu from time to time, certain perennial favorites have been retained to cater to popular demand. One such item is the miso cod. (I spied with my little eye that at least 90% of the lunchtime patrons had also opted for the cod)

Perfectly cooked and lightly slathered with miso paste, I enjoyed the freshness of the cod and its delicate sweetness. Folks who prefer stronger flavors would however enjoy Ember's version better.

For dessert, we opted for yet another signature dish of the restaurant- Grandma's flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The intense bittersweet richness of the chocolate left us momentarily paralyzed and floating in 7th heaven. It was at this very point that our semi-sluggish brains also started calling out for caffeine. I ordered a pot of L'oriental tea (a light floral concoction) while my partner ordered a pot of English Breakfast tea. (SGD8.50 each). Both were equally sublime.

Everyone loves a surprise and this establishment certainly knows how to pull a good one. Towards the end of our meal, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we were presented with a complimentary selection of sweets (also referred to as petit fours) daintily arranged in a classy wooden box. Our selection comprised of bite sized chocolate chip cookies, cubes of sugar crusted lemon jellies and white chocolate coated marshmallows. What a glorious finish.

Location/ Ambience: The restaurant is located just a stone throw's away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Tucked in a corner of Central Mall just beside the taxi stand. we were able to locate the restaurant without much difficulty. Central Mall used to be a wildly popular watering hole in its heyday but has since faded into obscurity. The whole building resembles a ghost town during lunchtime. Not that we're complaining though. Some peace and quiet during lunchtime is always welcome.

Though smallish in seating capacity, St Pierre still manages to maintain an air of understated elegance, accentuated by the use of soft velvety undertones, crisp white tablecloths and fine tableware. Perfect for intimate gatherings and cosy chic lunches.

This is one fantastic restaurant which I will foresee myself coming back to over and over again.

Saint Pierre
3, Magazine Road
#01-01, Central Mall
Tel: 6438 0887

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Xiong Kee Charcoal Roasted Delights


By a strange stroke of luck, Hubby and I found ourselves lunchless in Bukit Batok last Saturday.

My immediate suggestion was to head to Xiong Kee for a bite. Hubby loves roast meat and so do I. We had heard rave accolades of the stall's legendary roast meats and were curious to see if this humble stall could dethrone Kay Lee's.

I felt a little apprehensive when I stepped into the unassuming coffeeshop at 4pm only to find a random handful of old men sipping their late afternoon kopis. It didn't help that the stall had no customers and looked a little too dowdy for my liking (rating C for cleanliness by NEA). Even the pieces of char siew and roast chicken dangling off the hooks looked decidedly dejected.

The sloppy young lad who took our orders didn't really seem to understand what I was telling him (I wanted the fattier portions of the char siew with more charred ends). He didn't even bother warming up the meat before serving us.

The cold char siew was moist and palatable, but nothing spectacular by layman's standards. It was limp looking with no nice burnt honey aftertaste. Even the tangy chili sauce failed to awaken our tastebuds.

Whilst the roast pork was slightly more enjoyable and boasted a thin layer of crackling. a substantial part of it basically comprised of fatty gelatinous layers (which I could not bring myself to eat).

If there are 3 words to describe my visit to Xiong Kee's it would be: uneventful, unappetising and unenjoyable.

Xiong Kee Charcoal Roasted Delights
Chop Khoon Fong Wee Coffeeshop
Block 265 Bukit Batok East Avenue 4, 01-405
Open: 7am - 9pm daily, closed two Wednesdays a month

Weekend musings

When there's more food then conversation, it must be marriage.

Hubby and I indulging in one of our favorite after-dinner activities.
Two peas in a pod we are not.

Indeed, when you have been with someone long enough, it often doesn't take more than a raised eyebrow, a shifted glance or a hint of a smile to know what the other party is thinking about.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tribute to Fries

There is only one word to summarize my food exploits this week- FRIES

My latest obsession- sweet potato and truffle fries from Barracks @ Demsey

Many people regard fries as side dishes to be eaten alongside mains like steak and fish. I, on the contrary consider fries to be the highlight of a meal.

I love fries, especially ones that are perfectly executed. Nothing quite compares with a plate of fries and an icy glass of diet coke on a hot day.

Since fries are often frowned upon as unhealthy junk food (you would have to walk 2 hours to walk off one large serving of french fries ), it is important to maximize pleasure from every bite . Here's my funny little list of favorite fry-haunts for every occasion.

Free Flow Fries to chomp on the whole night long

A most unflattering shot of the fries and mussels at Brussels Sprouts

Winner: Brussel Sprouts. Fries are thickly cut and served in colored tumblers. They serve as an accompaniment to the restaurant's signature mussels. Best eaten hot off the fryer with a cold glass of beer on hand.

Fries to order if you are on shoe string budget/ need a quick fix/ don't want to think or travel too much:

Winner: Mac Donalds. Mac Donald fries are my first love. I hold them responsible for my stubborn love handles to this day.

Haute fries / Fries for special occasions

Winner: Head to Barracks cafe at Demsey Road where they serve the most delish truffle scented fries ever. I have also become a recent convert of their sugar crusted sweet potato fries- love at first bite! Barracks is a lovely cafe surrounded by greenery. Its an excellent place to chill out with a book if you have the afternoon to spare. The "Sliders" set offers best value. At SGD22, you get a generous serving of sweet potato AND truffle fries as well as 2 scrumptious mini burgers.

Signing off with a French Fry Song which I found on YouTube. Looks like I am not the only french fry fanatic out there...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

10 best sweets in Singapore

Click here to view 10 best sweets in Singapore
(as collated by Dan Lepard from the Guardian newspaper)

For fun, I have also compiled my own version of 10 best sweets in Singapore:

1. Rainbow kueh lapis from Bengawan Solo
Bengawan Solo's nonya kuehs are undisputedly one of the best in town. My favourite way to eat the rainbow kueh lapis is to strip it off layer by layer. The shop's chiffon cakes are also a best seller and are especially popular among Taiwanese tourists.

2. Goodwood Park durian puffs. These seasonal treats beat Puteri Mas' version upside down in my personal opinion.

3. Lana Chocolate Fudge Cake
Eaten by both the man in the street and Singapore's finest politicans alike, this cake has seen me through many birthdays. Several copycats have sprung out over the years but none have managed to replicate a cake as popular as Lana's.

4. Soy beancurd tart from Le Cafe Confectionary
A creative intepretation of the humble egg tart and tau huay. Quintessentially Singaporean. Of course if you are a purist and just like to eat 'tau huay' (soy beancurd) on its own, you can also check out Singapore's famous tau huay shops by clicking here.

5. Egg Tarts and Chinese pastries from Tong Heng Bakery
The boat shaped egg tarts are simply out of the world. They could give Leung Sang's version a run for their money! When you are there, don't forget to try the shop's extensive array of Chinese pastries too.

6. Cheesecake from Checkers Deli at Hilton Hotel
Arguably the best cheesecake in town.

7. Cheng Tng from Bedok Corner Hawker Centre (Shop Name is called "Ye Lai Xiang")
Look out for Uncle Andrew. He's a wicked teaser but bear with him, for his cheng tng is an incredible pick me up, especially on a hot day.

8. Pulut Hitam with vanilla ice cream in a young coconut
Conceptualized by Peach Garden, this dessert is too delicious to miss even on a full stomach.

9. Barcook Bakery's Raisin Cheese Buns
The young 20-something enterpreneurs behind Barcook put couch potatoes like me to shame. Their flagship outlet at a HDB void deck in Chinatown attracted such a long queue that they have since opened 2 more outlets in Central and Raffles Place. The cheese raisin buns and muesli loafs rare highly popular among the chi chi office crowd as well as the "HDB aunties". Barcook has recently expanded their repertoire of products to include items like wasabi cheese buns and nacho mash potato buns, all of which make for a delightful afternoon tea snack.

10. Localized ice cream from Ice Cream Chefs
Where else in the world can you find Thai "red ruby" ice cream, kaya lotee ice cream and milo-peng ice cream together with the likes of the usual chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream? Only in hot and sunny Singapore of course!

Two Chefs

For Mothers' Day this year, I decided to dispense with my usual practice of buying mom a glitzy meal and wrapping her an ang pow. Instead, I enrolled her in a one-day char siew making class and took her out for a simple lunch at Two Chefs.

Two Chefs is located in a dingy coffeeshop at the void deck of a HDB block in the Commonwealth Estate. Although I had made prior reservations, we were unceremoniously seated in a awkwardly positioned table beside a drain teeming with cockroaches. Worse still, because there was a wet market in the close vicinity, the constant presence of pesky houseflies was an unwelcome menace.

I was nursing a bad headache and was too famished to think of an alternative dining venue. Hence, I quickly caught the attention of the sweat drenched owner and ordered a portion of butter pork ribs, sambal sweet potato leaves, house special beancurd, cockles, herbal chicken and fried seafood horfun.

The food arrived within 15 mins, which was a welcome relief of sorts.

First to arrive were the butter pork ribs. We were intrigued by the powdery crumbs generously sprinkled over the ribs. The crumbs tasted like a mixture of cereal, butter and cheese and were highly addictive. Hubby clearly enjoyed this dish and greedily licked up every single crumb (only to complain of a bad sore throat later in the evening). Mom however was not very impressed and felt that the meat was a tad too tough.

The next dish to be served was the house special beancurd. This was undoubtedly the most well received dish. Although it didn't look very appetizing on first sight (brown gooey mess), the rectangular cubes of tofu were so smooth and silky that I almost fooled myself into thinking I was eating tau huey.

I vividly recall my mother feasting on plates of steamed cockles (dipped in piquant sambal) during my childhood days. It thus seemed like a no brainer to order the signature steamed cockles with garlic and chilli especially for her. Unfortunately, many Singaporeans have since sworn off cockles for fear of contracting Hepatitis A. My mom was no exception. She threw a fearful glance at the cockles and only ventured to gingerly eat a few pieces after much cajoling. Not wanting to waste the dish, I tried a piece myself (although I don't eat cockles) and found it to be refreshingly light and delicately flavored.

Mom is an advocate of all things green and leafy. With her around, it is not possible to have a meal without vegetables. When the sweet potato leaves arrived, I was quick to dole out a huge serving on her plate. There was nothing spectacular about this dish but at least it was well executed. The serving was generous and the sambal boasted sufficient punch.

The much raved about satay prawns were not available. We thus took the owner's recommendation of herbal chicken. It was regretfully one of the worst versions of herbal chicken I had ever tasted, with a bland stock and coarse strings of meat. We couldn't bear to finish the dish even though we still had space in our stomachs.

The seafood hor fun was equally disappointing. Although brimming with ingredients (fresh prawns, fish slices, vegetables and pork), I could barely detect the wok hei undertones in the charred noodles and found the gravy rather bland.

The final bill came up to SGD49, which is excellent value considering what we ate. However, I would have gladly paid more for lesser food and improved execution.

Sometimes, less is more.

Two Chefs Eating Place
Blk 116, Commonwealth Crescent
Tel: 6472 5361

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Candlenut Kitchen

I hate Mondays. They represent the worst sort of weekday where the (week)end is NOT in sight. Not surprisingly, they also bring out the worst side of me- crabby, grouchy and a pain in the ass.

On a lighter (and more palatable) note, thank goodness there are Monday lunches to distract thunder clouds like me from wallowing in weekday self pity. Such was the case last Monday where I had the good fortune of dining at Candlenut Kitchen with a fellow colleague- who also happens to be quite a foodie.

At the stroke of 12 (noon), like giggly schoolgirls, we hopped onto a cab and asked the driver to take us to Neil Road, where the restaurant was. Unfortunately, I had stupidly forgotten to take down the restaurant's exact unit number before leaving office. Coupled with the fact that Neil Road is a very long road, we ended up zipping out and then back in to the CBD before finally locating the restaurant. Determined not to let the SGD10 taxi fare get to me, I quickly focused my attention on the sunny smile of our inexperienced young waiter.

Frankly, the menu doesn't really contain many items. The only vegetable dish served in the ala carte menu is chap chye. Some of the items also seem like quick fixes using the same sauce base (think buah keluak prawn, buah keluak chicken and buah keluak pork). My wild guess is that the owner/chef probably wants to smoothen out any teething kinks before further expanding his repertoire.

We decided to pass on the (very affordable) SGD10 lunch set and order ala carte instead as some of the highly recommended items were not part of the lunch set.

Here is what we ordered:

Yeye's Chicken Curry. Purportedly a recipe passed down for generations, this is curry like no other. The gravy was thick, rich and peppery. The chicken pieces were tender but did not seem to have fully absorbed the richness of the gravy. Nonetheless, this was our favorite dish. My colleague liked it so much that she decided to make a return visit on Friday.

Chap Chye. The vegetables were fresh and studded with generous portions of black fungus, chinese mushroom and prawn. As is the case with the chicken, I felt that the vegetables were not simmered in the stock long enough. My colleague also felt it was a tad too salty for her liking.

Braised Pork Belly. The recipe for this dish is supposedly passed down from the owner's mom. The meat was cut into wafer thin slices which yielded a surprisingly crunchy texture. We also enjoyed the accompanying sweet chili sauce.

Trio of desserts- Kudos to the chef for creating a unique "fusion" dessert that pairs familar Peranakan favorites like chendol and sago gula melaka together with pannacotta and vanilla ice cream. Eaten individually or as a combined mess, the resulting flavors were extremely well balanced and refined. This was definitely an eye opener for me.

You can't really compare Candlenut Kitchen with nearby Peranakan heavyweight Blue Ginger which caters to the more upmarket office crowd. Candlenut Kitchen is very much run like a family business, with spartan decor, a no frills menu and spotty service. Nonetheless, the restaurant possesses an endearing quality that tugs on my heartstrings and leaves me craving for more.

This is one great young chef to watch out for.

Candlenut Kitchen
25 Neil Road
Tel: 6226 2506

Other reviews on Candlenut Kitchen:
Business Times
Chubby Hubby


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