Epicurious, Singapore.

Following the childhood classics theme from my post on Le Loir Dans la Théière where the cafe took to the theme of Dormouse in a Teapot from Alice in Wonderland, I bring you closer to home and into the world of one of Dr Seuss’ best works – Green Eggs and Ham. Are you kicking up your legs and knocking your feet together already? Cos I know I am.

“Do you like green eggs and ham?” Note: I am not Sam and I love my eggs, not sure if i’d like them green but I guess I did.

Getting back on track, weekends are perfect for brunch and I’ve long heard of Epicurious but never had the chance or reason to visit it… until that fateful day. Taking a long hike over under the merciless sun, I was famished, non-too-pleased about the heat and in need of something cool. In my head I was thinking – the food better be good or someone’s roadkill. As the company I was with knew someone who worked there, the orders were decided upon fairly quickly and the anticipation mounted. 

The relief from the heat came in the form of a jugful of iced lemon tea. It’s not as great as the one I’ve had at Food for Thought but it did serve its purpose. Its essentially Lipton tea with a couple of slices of lemon, that’s what it tasted like to me but I could be wrong.

Roll-up the dishes, mine was an order of green eggs and ham and this brunch girl was in brunch heaven. I love eggs but I’ve never had them green. Color aside, the flavor was out of the park. Aromatic, creamy, well seasoned and surprisingly fresh tasting, a dash of crushed black pepper and I was rolling my eyes back in delight. The portions were generous, I mean the egg was overflowing on the toast, just the way I like it and every mouthful sent my fork diving back in for more. I was a monster on this dish and I was going at full speed. The toast was crisp and substantial enough to taste under the generous portion of toppings and served its role as a perfect complement to the dish. In my opinion, everyone should try this. Egg lover or not. Dairy lover or not. You know how scrambles can sometimes reek of the cream/ milk, this is nothing like that. Manifique.

We also ordered a choco-nana sandwich to share and all I can say is, if you love chocolate, if you love Nutella in particular and if you love banana, this is another winner. I have a sandwich maker at home and on days where there are bananas at home, I make myself a nutella-banana sandwich pocket as a treat. Now this one takes it to a whole other level. I don’t know if its the bread they use, or the method in which they grill the sandwich but the bread remains fluffy with a light crisp to it. Again, generous filling although I did wish there was a tad more nutella in the sandwich but I know that it’d prove to be too much for most other visitors. Chocolate and banana is one combination that can never go wrong but what I love is the icing sugar on top that gives a cool sweetness to the sandwich and the slight tartness of the strawberries refreshed the palate for the next mouthful. Decadent yet simple, exclusively enjoyable.

Three dishes down between the two of us [didn’t feature the company’s savory main] and our bellies were splitting at its sides. But. Because the company knew someone there, we were offered a complimentary dessert – the red velvet cake. This, this was splendid and despite the risk of splitting the outfit I was in, I was devouring it by the forkful. This is what red velvet cakes should taste like. Dense, moist, light fragrance of beetroot balanced by the icing between the cake layers and tied together with the cream cheese. By God, this cake is beyond stunning and I would be happy to receive this any time, any day. In comparison with the one I had at Ben’s, my Ben’s referral would have melted on first taste of this cake.

What else do I love about Epicurious? I love how they integrate the old school utensils that we’d typically find at our coffee shops into this Western cafe. Its so tongue in cheek, its so fun, it speaks of the owners’ character. I also love the outdoor sitting area, Quayside,  breeze in hair moments [tho it can get really hot out], sunnies on face and adding a couple of new freckles to my bare shoulders with a book in hand as I await my orders. That’s the life right? I can’t wait to revisit this place but please enjoy yourself the next time you find yourself Quayside.

In the words of Dr. Suess –

Say!
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!

So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am

GETTING THERE 

Got Belly?

Its been a long hiatus and its totally my fault. In the new year, I’ve signed a new gym membership, something I’ve never done in my life. I may actually pen a post on gym shopping in Singapore and how I arrived at my selection – Pure Fitness. In this new year, I’ve also inked a new contract, will be taking on a new role, resigning from another and aiming to be a better version of me. Think vs 2.0, as with software updates and such.

This CNY, I’ve eaten one pineapple tart too many and reconnect with relatives I thought I’d never give another shot. How much did you consume and burn this CNY, I sure am hoping you didn’t grow a belly like mine.

PS. I’m not pregnant. Not even close. I promise to keep writing and keep exercising so I can continue stuffing my face.

Bistro Soori, Singapore

*please pardon the quality of the pictures. taken on the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the camera was not with me* 

Celebrating new beginnings, having had a new contract signed and an old one terminated, we created an excuse to indulge. You see, we have been on the gym diet for 2 weeks now and these long, full course dinners went out the window the minute we signed with the gym because evenings are the only time we can set foot in there. I do work, you know. So we made a collective decision to sneak in a break, feast and boy was it worth every calorie.

Bistro Soori, as the waitress tells me, is 15 months old and recently saw a change in the head chef and is now helmed by Executive Chef Benjamin McBride. I quote, “Bistro Soori is the symbiosis of an enhanced gastronomic experience within a designed space.” I typically steer away from such marketing speak, as a marketing person myself, because consumers recognise the spiel and may even fail to comprehend it. In layman’s terms, visit Bistro Soori if you’re looking for a restaurant to impress that date or client of yours as it boasts sleek designs, courtesy of the architect owner, Soo Chan [also the principal of SCDA Architects] and the food is belly satisfying, of which I will share more in a jiffy.

Reservations were made at 7pm and we were caught in the jam, as we were fretting over whether the staff had let our table go, my Blackberry started vibrating [i keep my phone silent at all times] and it was the staff calling to check if we were still coming. I loved that they did not threaten to let go of our table but rather, dialed us to ask if we were on our way. I knew that I was going to have a good night there because service goes a long way and I was right.

Arriving half an hour late [fashionably, if you ask me tho I hate being late], we had to valet park as Lim Teck Road and its entire vicinity is a nightmare to get parking after 6.30pm. How do I know? Cos Ember, another one of my favorite restaurants is located just a street down from where Bistro Soori is. Seated, we devoured the menu that was placed before us, decided and ordered in a heartbeat and a half. We hesitated a second with the dessert orders as we had each decided on a starter and main without an inkling on the portions.

No need for introductions, the humble bread. I prefer the foccacia tasting one [bottom slice] instead of the rye-looking one [top slice] but to each their own. Note, bread here is served with butter only. I’m sure you can ask for olive and vinegarette but we didn’t try.

Recalling that we had a movie to catch at 9.25pm, I thought to check with the staff on speed on service only after we placed our orders but were reassured that we’d be out of the joint by 9pm. In his words, “We’re only as fast as you eat,” and with a mutual smile the night was off to a food climax starting with starters [for lack of a better word].

This is one night where I did not suffer from food envy at all, loving both my orders starting with the Foie Gras Duo, Poached Pear, Brioche Crouton, Pink Peppercorn, Gastrique at SGD 21. The serving of foie was generous beyond words and the diner gets to experience it two ways – cold, stuffed and contrasted by the flavors of the sweet poached pear and hot, pan seared and buttery rich with the crisp toast. The crunch of the pink peppercorn was a delightful twist in flavors and also refreshing to the palate. Needless to say, I was impressed from the get go.

Another starter at the table was the Scallop, Pistachio Pesto, Arugula, Pear, Vinegar Gelee, Truffle Vinaigrette at SGD 19. Succulent, sweet, the scallops were plump, moist and well seared combined with the pistachio pesto, the dish was aromatic but lacked something to tie all the different components together. I failed to detect the pear in the dish, the arugula provided a slight crunch and refreshed the palate while the vinegar gelee tasted unlike most vinegar I’ve had in this short life time but every item seems to stand on its on and lacked that unity on the plate.

The slow-cooked short rib was worth every penny given the generous serving. Not the best short rib I’ve had but it got the basics right in being flavorful, moist and tender, breaking upon spear.

Without further ado, we approach the mains.

I was pleased beyond words with my order of shrimp, scallop, uni risotto although I was a tad confused by the dish sitting under mains as risottos usually fall under the starter category, not that I’m complaining. I love how there is an infusion of Japanese flavors with the generous use of uni in flavoring the stock and the overall dish. The seafood that accompanied the risotto were well-seared with the right crunch and texture of fresh and well cooked seafood. The basil leaves provided the perfect accent to break the richness of the dish and kept me wanting more till the last spoonful.

The Cured Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, Grain Mustard, GoldenRaisin, Pear for SGD 28 was an explosion of flavors in the mouth. It was at once sweet, sour, savory, tangy with a dash of heat in a single bite. I’m not a huge fan of pork but this, I kinda liked.

On the menu is also the Fish Of The Day served with Garlic Nage, Baby Spinach, Red Chili. I’m pretty certain the accompaniments on the dish do not match up to what’s on the menu but the sides were excellent, the touch of tang on the ‘shrooms and broccoli flowers was just beautiful. The cos was not that well cooked with parts of the fish overcooked and tough to the bite.
With two courses polished each, we had little room for dessert and settled on the best representation of fusion for the night – Pandan Soufflé, Strawberry Compote at SGD12. Light, fragrant and heartwarming, the pandan souffle is definitely a dish I would return for although I don’t care much for the strawberry compote that did little to enhance the souffle in any way.

GETTING THERE

Yellow, Orange, Red, EMBER!

Reliable, a place of consistency, is how I would describe Ember.

Multiple visits later, Ember still leaves me heady with content every time I leave the premise. Housed in Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel establishment, Ember serves up a modern European menu set to win your gut the moment you place your order.

Between my multiple visits, I’m pretty certain I’ve tasted almost everything on the menu. Maybe I exaggerate, but that’s the thing about heading out for a meal with a group – you get to pick from the plates of others you are with. Not the best table manners but definitely a good spread without the overeating. The thing is, Ember’s menu rarely, if ever, changes. That contributes to the consistency in quality of food and the loyal customer base who return time and again for that flavour they crave.

Located in what used to be the notorious red-light district of Keong Saik Road, Ember is a modest outfit with simple furnishings and an interestingly homely vibe afforded by the service staff who is alert and ever ready to stop by your table for a chat.

I judge a place by its bread, and that was the case in the entire week I was dining in Paris. No excuse for the capital of bread to let me down even along the dodgiest of streets but I digress. The point is, good bread revs up your appetite like how good diesel feeds a vehicle. The bread at Ember in one word is – addictive. Just take a look at the appetizingly ripe orange colouring on the bread, that colour evokes warmth and harmony and that is the experience of breaking into this bread. Warmed to perfection with a crusty exterior and a lukewarm, fluffy texture, the bread practically invites you to tear into it. As you chew and savour you get the sweetness from the sun-dried tomatoes and a hit of fresh herbs that is just beautifully addictive. There, that word again, you get my drift. Best part, its complimentary and they top it up every time the plate shows its face. Heed – portion control please.

Back in 2010 when I first visited Ember I remember having a lot of fun with the Oyster Shooters. The thing with food is, always have fun with it. If it can’t put a smile on your face, the calories are just not worth it. Our table of five took an oyster each and had each bite with a different sauce and one ‘genius’ actually had his oyster with a sauce combo and he said it tasted good. So go ahead, try your own mix-n-match till you get the right touch.

If you prefer a somewhat lighter starter, pick the toufu salad. I simply adore it. It’s just simple, unpretentious but if you’ve ever tried recreating a toufu salad at home, you would know what an uphill task it is balancing the flavors to create the symphony that is present in this dish. You can guess at the ingredients and you’re likely to have most of them at home and you may think its as easy as washing up the greens, tossing it in a bowl with that white sesame dressing but let me tell you honey, if you think that’s it, you’re sorely mistaken. Perhaps I lack that culinary finesse in the kitchen but I am pretty certain this toufu salad is not as simple as it looks and tastes.

If you like salads but need a richer flavor to justify the value of your course then my pick would be the pan seared scallops wrapped in parma ham served with a zesty salad. Clearly, the main star for this dish is the scallop but what the chef has cleverly done is develop the richness of the scallop and parma ham combination to accentuate the freshness of the accompanying salad. This is a definite wow factor if you’re out to impress a date and you decide to be an absolute chauvinist and take charge to order for your girl.

Foie gras – that rich butter I can’t seem to stay away from. Ember, to my knowledge, has two options for the foie gras lover in us. One, a deeply rich and mellow flavor that kinda reminds me of a mature man [pictured above] and the other, a refreshingly light version paired with apples. My favorite foie gras dish to date remains in that cafe in Paris, paired with poached pears, a symphony of flavors I will never forget. Back home here in Singapore, Ember does well to  satisfy my infrequent craves.

Introducing what I’ve come to associate with the mature man –  a dish so rich and mellow, the essence of maturity or a deep red wine. This pan seared foie gras topped with truffle and poached egg is a dish I would recommend individuals who are truffle lovers, or rich food lovers. When savoring the dish, please do it justice by breaking the poached egg over and slurp up every morsel and drop in combination. It’s an orgasmic experience if I may say so myself. Some companions of mine have mentioned that the truffle is overwhelming but it works well for me so order and savor at your discretion. Everyone tends to different tastes.

And oh, how can I miss the beautiful parma ham crisp that the dish is served with. Thinly sliced and baked [i’m assuming] to crisp goodness, it provides for a contrast in texture to the dish. It’s the first time I’ve had a parma ham crisp anywhere and I must say, if it came in a bag I wouldn’t be able to stop. Surprising, coming from a non-pork lover.

An alternative to the heavy flavors presented above, a classic pairing of foie gras with fruit is the Pan Seared Foie Gras served with Apple. My personal favorite remains to be the pairing that I savored at La Fontaine in Paris where the Obamas also dined when they were there. That dish remains unforgettable but hand on heart, this pairing served up at Ember will delight most ladies or diners who prefer lighter combinations with that rich butter.

That’s all the starters I’ve tried and they are among the most outstanding. My challenge is refraining from ordering these familiar flavors that I’ve come to love and trust, to venture beyond these and to explore the rest of the menu. Till I do that, the shares will remain as such.

Ah, the section where meals are made or broken – mains. I have tried six different mains at Ember and only one of which is seafood. The conclusion is that the meats are crazy good but I have to give the chef credit for his pan seared sea bass. It does not come as a top recommendation if you were to ask your server but this piece of fish is cooked and seasoned to perfection and is probably one of the best cooked fish I have had. The quality control of the food is excellent as well. We all know how easy it is to overcook a fish but on two separate occasions I have had the sea bass, the same moist consistency and sweetness of a good catch enhanced by a simple and light hand. I really am impressed by the quality of the food served at  Ember based solely on this sea bass dish.

I titled this snapshot ‘You can’t go wrong with beef steak’ but in reality, we all know how many things can go wrong with a beef steak. Satisfying for most men, or women who have a red meat crave. The kitchen gets the done-ness right every time, no matter your request and everything plated works in perfect harmony with the main. Nothing I can pick on, also nothing that I can particularly call out.

Two different groups, two rave reviews of the rack of lamb and both by women. Must be good. I typically shy away from lamb for fear of the gamey flavor that accompanies the meat, and especially so with meat this rare and pink. This seared rack of lamb however did surprise me in the taste department with a palatable richness that I quite enjoyed. In all honesty, I doubt I’d be able to polish this plate of lamb as a course for myself but it is a good bet.

That’s a close up for you to see how rare it actually is when served. You can’t dictate the done-ness for this dish and the server will actually check if you’re squeamish about having meat served so pink. Trust me though, given the done-ness, the dish went down well. Even for this chick who can’t quite stomach gamey flavors. In fact, it is hardly gamey.

The wagyu beef cheek was actually my virgin dish at Ember and also what sealed the deal for me as a restaurant worth a repeat visit. Everything you’d expect in a stewed dish like this – melt in your mouth rich flavors, yet able to still distinct the marbling of the beef cheek as you press into the bite. It was definitely a fine experience for me although admittedly, I have not ordered this dish since my first visit there.

As I build up to my favorite repeat order dish, I’d like to take the time to present to you what I’ve dubbed as the ‘crowd pleaser.’ The crisp pork belly has delighted so many table mates that I’ve lost count. Being a general non-pork lover, this dish is outstanding in how the skin is crisp beyond belief yet is contrasted with meat that is so moist and tender that you can’t help but remark at the chef’s skill and finesse. It’s a must order at every table, even if you don’t want it as your personal main.

The last but definitely NOT the least, the duck leg confit. I’ve not been able to break the spell of ordering a different main since the first time I stabbed my fork into this dish. It is pure amazement and a smile is curling on my lip as I revisit the past encounters where I’ve sunk my teeth into this duck leg. The meat falls off the bone and each bite is accompanied by the crisp skin and tied together beautifully with that rich sauce and sauteed mushroom. A symphony of textures and flavors. I love it. Period.

No meal is complete without dessert and I have a mere three to share, shame on me, I know. Starting with the sticky date, a must order when you dine with me because I’m such a sticky date nut. This one was underwhelming in every sense and I have never ordered it again. Nor thought about it for that matter. I’m just cringing recollecting this particular dessert, which is a very bad sign. 

Moving swiftly on, the tragedy that was the sticky date dessert buried, the apple tartine is absolutely divine. Perfectly caramelized, just the way I like it with that slightly charred perfume housed in a well baked puff pastry, this dessert is a hot pick at the restaurant and I highly recommend it. And oh, it is served with ice cream.

The best for last, presenting the chocolate fondant. There’s no turning away from this. Dark chocolate, fresh vanilla bean ice cream, moist cake, rich & gooey chocolate fondant. As them folks in Hollywood say, it is ‘amazeballz’. No regrets with this order.

So yes, I’ve presented a selection and it may be hard to pick a favorite, as I have experienced. Being the habitual eater I am, I have since settled for this standard order – tofu salad/ scallops with salad to start, duck confit for mains, ending with the chocolate fondant for dessert. Go ahead, make your own selection. Better yet, try something I haven’t.

So what makes Ember a place that has become a staple for me? Quality and consistency. These are the two ingredients that have won Ember a place in my heart. No other restaurant I have visited has been able to churn out the same consistency of flavor time and again no matter the period I’ve been away. Its that sense of reliability where you know you can return for that distinctive flavor or dish that you crave. That is also why, I have been and will be a repeat customer till the chef takes his leave or decides to put aside his discipline and pride.

GETTING THERE

A Saturday in the Park

In search of some greenery and away-from-home experience? P.S. Cafe at Ann Siang Hill is one of the top picks for me.

I found myself there this weekend just past and I love the lush greenery that surrounds this little shop house. The fact that its housed in a shop house doesn’t hurt. Entry into the cafe takes you up a flight of stairs through Ann Siang Park and you almost feel like you’re shedding the bustling roads of Singapore, thrown into a peaceful wonderland before you hit the landing and are welcomed by the familiar black and white checked tiles unique to the P.S. Cafe chain.

I’m no stranger to P.S. Cafe, frequenting the outlets at Palais Renaissance and Dempsey but the Ann Siang Hill branch is unique. For one, they bar the entry of children below the age of twelve. I do not have issues with children but the ambiance sans the shrill trills of active children does make a world of a difference.

Chow wise, P.S. Cafe has never failed to satisfy and here’s a low down of the calorie-laden brunch we inhaled.

Starting with a side, the Foutine was crisp, savory comfort food created to satiate most. The shoestring fries were infused with truffle oil and were crisp perfection, good enough on their own if you ask me. Enhanced, the fries were tossed with foie gras, mixed shrooms, red wine jus and swiss cheese. We couldn’t detect the swiss cheese in the final mix but that red wine jus-foie gras-shrooms mix was lip-smacking goodness.

Having had laksa for breakfast and absolutely craving nothing but armed with an insatiable appetite, I decided to let the one with the craves do the final orders and the mains were decided as such – Breakfast Sandwich, House Bolognaise and Big Bacon & Eggs on Toast. The Bolognaise, pictured above turned out to be the charmer for me that noon.

Starting with the breakfast sandwich, it is what I would call a nourishing meal. Simple, everyday ingredients chocked full with nutrients and freshness presented on a plate for consumption. Starting with the base of a well-made croissant, a  layer of well toasted bacon starts the sandwich off. Generous slices of avocado [my favorite buttery indulgence] follows and is topped with beautiful ripe slices of tomatoes, leafy green spinach and perfectly blanched asparagus. Another layer of bacon tops the greens and is followed by one of my favorite proteins – eggs, the yolk still runny. The sandwich is then finished with melted gruyere and the sandwich is toasted before service. A mess on the plate and in the hands but a symphony in the mouth.

The house bolognaise is comfort food plus. We’ve all had our fair share of pseudo-bolognaise where the tomato sauce is weak and bland, leaving little appetite to stomach yet another forkful. Well this tomato sauce is at the opposite end of the league. Rich, flavorful, sweet even with generous chunks of ground beef and bacon, leaving you craving for the next forkful. The spaghetti is well-tossed and every strand of the pasta was well-coated in the bolognaise. The flavor of this comfort dish was further enhanced with generous shavings of parmesan and topped with crispy basil leaves. This is one dish I would definitely return for brunch, lunch or dinner just for a pick-me-up.

Our little savory dig-in is wrapped with the big bacon & eggs on toast combo, your typical breakfast find. The elements I really loved were the smoked bacon and pesto button mushrooms, but again, I’m a HUGE fan of pesto so take my word with a pinch of salt. Every element on the plate gelled seamlessly together and made for what I would call a breakfast of satisfaction.

No meal is complete without dessert where I’m concerned and since my introduction to lemon based desserts in London, courtesy of Gordon Ramsay, I’m on the search for the best lemon desserts in the +65. So with no hesitation, I declared my desire for the steamed lemon cake. This was faced with mixed reviews at our table. I loved the citrus flavor that permeated the lemon custard sauce the steamed cake was bathed in and did not like so much the vanilla bean ice cream that topped the cake as it was a tad too creamy for my liking. My pals on the other hand loved the ice cream that topped the dessert and one of them found the lemon custard a tad too tart for her palette. As with everything, it is subjected to personal preference.

Sorbet was craved at the table but denied due to unavailability and we were sorely disappointed but not disheartened with an order of the burnt peach ice cream, a special on the day of visit. Again, I have issues with anything too creamy so this dessert does not get top marks from me as I found it somewhat cloying and far from refreshing which was what I was craving from that missing sorbet order. What I did love was the infusion of the burnt flavor via the caramel crisp that accompanies this dessert.

So if you’re craving some good chow and a little taste of the great outdoors without actually being outdoors, do head on down to P.S. Cafe at Ann Siang Hill for a retreat you will not regret. I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures under the vines after, I’m sure you would too!

Take a Little Trip Around..

It’s the weekend. Movies, been there. Shopping, done that. What else is there to do on the little red dot? That’s the question that perplexed us one fine weekend and a fine solution we had – we take a boat and head out!

Destination kelong in the midst of the sea, we sped along [ok fine, chugged along] in old school bum boats departing from Changi jetty to the blob in the far off distance. Built predominantly with wood, this floating platform is home to the family that hosted us and it amazes me how people can live in such great content through simple means. Is it the lack of exposure that keeps them content or that one-ness with nature that keeps them whole? Guess I’ll never know eh?

The kelong experience was a change of pace, a different setting for the bunch of us to reconnect to simpler means and enjoy a dinner under the stars. Our dining area bobbled up and down like an unstable buoy in turbulent waters and we enjoyed the sunset as the host family fry up dishes for our dinner.

It was a short, simple but memorable dinner. And I’ll never forget the sunset, nor the ocean. The weekend just past, I tweeted my yearn to pick up fishing just for an excuse to be on a boat, under the vast sky and feeling one with the ocean. Till that happens, kelongs are an interesting experience too.

Mei Heong Yuen [味香园] Desserts, Singapore

Another overcast day [note: in reference to day of write not post], and the way my wired brain works prompted me to dream of snow and when my tummy grumbled, all I can see in my mind’s eye is snow ice.

I remember when I was first introduced to this velvety delight, I was fascinated by the layers in the dessert reminiscent of the soft layers and folds of an unrolled bale of cloth. My mind was rejecting the texture of the dessert even before i stuck my spoon in as it tried and failed to comprehend the velvet folds of each shaved layer presented before me. I’ve had my fair share of iced desserts and nothing comes close to the texture of snow ice – creamy yoghurt; nope, shaved ice in ice kachang; not quite, frozen ice cream; far from similar.. There is just no comparison.

Tracing the history of Mei Heong Yuen [味香园], I was surprised to learn that the brand is rooted in the iconic Farmer Brand groundnuts. I grew up inhaling these peanuts at my grandma’s place and still do, actually. The menu at Mei Heong Yuen [味香园] features 15 different flavored snow ice, all of which are very familiar local flavors like durian and chendol with a mix of familiar and generally well-accepted flavors like strawberry, chocolate and mango.

My favorite offering is the peanut snow ice – fragrant, uncomplicated flavor that is true to the original ingredient. I can easily polish off two servings of this by myself. It is that good.

Being an all-time sesame fan, the sesame snow ice is a crowd pleaser but I do wish the fragrance and flavor of the seed was stronger. The red bean served on the side is divine and I would love to be able to order that just off the menu for a “healthy” snack.

The yin yang twist on the sesame snow ice is the almond-sesame snow ice. A beautiful blend and presentation. I’m not an almond fan but from the reactions I get at our table every time, I gather its a winning taste.

For a fruity kick, go for the mango-strawberry duo. Not only are the colors gorge-ass but it packs a fruity punch that will send your taste buds trippin’.

Mei Heong Yuen [味香园] can be found at Ion Orchard and Temple Street. Be warned though, it’s always packed.

GETTING THERE

Chinatown Outlet
63 – 67 Temple street
63-67 号, 牛车水登婆街 
Tel: 6221 1156
(Chinatown MRT)
Orchard Outlet
Ion Orchard, Unit B4 – 34
B4层34号铺,乌节路新地星商场 
Tel: 6509 3301
(Orchard MRT)

Mezza9 Martini Bar – Happy Birthday Singapore!

I’ve been on an alcoholic binge. No more than what I use to inhale back in the agency days but definitely a stark upswing since I moved in-house. That familiar buzz, the freedom of laughter and that overt friendliness were old friends I’ve not visited for a while and it felt good to see them again.

So on the eve of National Day, to cheer a pal up, we went bar hopping to lift some spirits and well, celebrate the nation’s 45th independence anniversary.

We started the night off at Bar Canary at Grand Park Orchard. An outdoor space, it was the perfect spot to start a chill-out night under the stars, figuratively speaking. Between us three, we drained a bottle of white over an exchange of laughter and teasing. In less than an hour, we were on to our next hot spot feeling slight buzzed and me, with a pair of wooden chopsticks in my hair.

GETTING THERE – BAR CANARY

Making our way by foot, we crossed the street and headed towards Grand Hyatt Hotel which houses the Martini Bar at Mezza9. You probably won’t be able to find this glass-enclosed Martini Bar on your first visit unless you ask as its 2 entrances are tucked at the extremes of the Mezza9 which may explain the lack of a massive crowd even on weekends or public holidays.

We settled for a table right next to the bar with panels that allowed for a glimpse of Scotts Road. Upon settling, we placed our drinks after much deliberation and I allowed my eyes to roam, taking in and appreciating the interior decor. The grill and lamp before our table, I absolutely adored [pictured above, center]. To keep the alcohol at bay, a cheese platter was ordered accompanied by cashew nuts, compliments of the bar and let me tell you, those cashew nuts are highly addicted. Roasted to perfection enhancing the nuts’ fragrance with cracked black pepper added to that golden brown perfection, we were practically inhaling those nuts like chipmunks storing nuts in their cheeks for winter.

On to the stars of the night, the Martini Bar at Mezza9 offers a stunning array of 40 different martinis to suit every palette, well except the savory [which Bar Stories will offer]. Deciding to avoid the classics on round one, we ordered the Tiramisu, Lemon Custard and Watermelon martinis to start.

The Tiramisu Martini was as the name suggests and delivered the dessert in a glass the name promised. A concoction of Imperia-Russian Standard, Baileys, Kahlua, Espresso and Banana Liquer, we were off to a rocking start with that drink.

The Lemon Custard Martini came highly recommended from the pal who has visited the bar prior and I admit to being highly skeptical of the order and sipped gingerly at the drink only to find myself wanting to gulp it down. This glass comprised of Imperia-Russian Standard, Advocaat, Vanilla Liquer, Lemon Juice and Egg White. Tad squeamish knowing that fresh egg white went into the drink but man those flavors were so fresh and rewarding, that I was left lusting after the drink after that first sip. Everyone should have this when visiting the Martini Bar at Mezza9.

The bore in me, I ordered a Watermelon Martini to start with the excuse of wanting to freshen my palette before diving in. It was beautiful, simple and understated, a flavor I’ve long been acquainted with as its one of my favorite fruits in the world. A glass of this consists of Tanqueray Gin, Watermelon Liquer and Freshly Squeezed Watermelon Juice.

Soon enough, we were on to seconds and polishing off the cheese platter and cashew nuts like we’ve not eaten nor drunk in weeks. It was also at this time that the clock struck 12 and we toasted to the nation’s birthday. Yea, we patriotic like that.

Round 2 orders were a tad more adventurous and our table was served the following – Rick’s Cucumber [i know, sounds wrong], Hazelnut Martini and Vanilla Snow Martini.

So I’ve definitely found my sex in this drink – Rick’s Cucumber Martini. It’s almost the taste I’ve been searching to recreate since a chance order years ago of a cucumber based drink. A simple mix of Hendrick’s Gin, Fresh Cucumber, Lemon Juice and Brown Sugar with a Salt rimmed glass, I was taken on a sensory journey to satisfaction. This is my kinda drink, I don’t know about you.

The Hazelnut Martini was another winner of the night, finished with a white chocolate praline for a sweet end. The mix includes Absolut Vanilla, Frangelico, Vanille de Madagascar and a White Chocolate Praline.

Round two was reined in with a Vanilla Snow Martini featuring Absolut Vanilla, Creme de Cacao White, Vanilla Liquer and Cream. This did not suit my fancy as a result of my long standing aversion to milk and most things dairy. But hey, my friend who is a regular milk drinker loved every drop of it so don’t pass this up if you’re a milk/ vanilla person.

Round three was an order for the person on your right round and it resulted in a longer than usual deliberation and a deep need to focus and sober up from that giggly high state. Here’s the trio for the table – Espresso Martini, Saint Dragon Martini and a Dry Hendrick’s. The round also kinda gave insight into how well you know the next person’s taste.

The Espresso Martini was an all-round crowd pleaser with its coffee flavor perking up everyone at the table. The glass featured Imperia-Russian Standard, Kahlua, Espresso, Sugar Syrup and a dash of Frangelico.

The Saint Dragon was the order for me and it is very aligned with my preference for use of fresh fruits and vegetables in my drinks. Again, the flavor is as what one would expect but with good execution. The Saint Dragon comprises Imperia-Russian Standard, Saint Germain, Lemon Juice and Freshly Squeezed Dragon Fruit.

My order for the pal was a Dry Hendrick’s, a very masculine drink for a female only because of her preference for a good gin tonic whenever we head out for a drink. Tad strong for me but if you’re a gin tonic person, you should be able to appreciate this drink which consists of Hendrick’s Gin, Noilly Prat and Cucumber.

Round four, also known as the finale round. We’ve moved from bar side to the plush couch at the back of the bar. Snuggled in the comfortable softness and tucking in with glee on the chocolate chip cookies, compliments of the bar. Remember how I mentioned the cracked black pepper cashew nuts were addictive? Well, these chocolate chip cookies are premium and we switched our alliance to the sweet treat as we fought to keep the alcohol at bay with our next round of orders – Almond Martini, Berries Martini and the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Martini.

The Almond Martini was pleasant but inferior to the Hazelnut Martini in my opinion, a concoction of Imperia-Russian Standard, Amaretto and Lemon Twist.

Another fruit based martini, no prizes for guessing who ordered it but the Berries Martini was the perfect way to round up the evening of drinks with its sweet, tart flavor and a refreshing zing provided by the mint leaves. The Berries Martini is a combination of Imperia-Russian Standard, Mixed Berries, Cranberry Juice and Mint Leaves. Satisfaction it was.

Last on the list is the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Martini which is everything the name promised with no hidden nuances. I was shocked to learn that cayenne pepper was used in the drink but I guessed it did something to elevate the flavors and tie everything together – a mix of Absolut Vanilla, Baileys, Kahlua, Creme de Cacao Brown, Nutmeg and Cayenne Pepper.

You may have noticed we did not order the classic lychee martini and I’ll bet it tastes fabulous but with a selection of 40 martinis to choose from, why stick to the regulars? Till next time, I bid you adieu.

GETTING THERE – Martini bar at mezza9

Hours: Monday to Sunday 11.00am to 2.00am

Reservations: Please call +65 6732 1234

Dress Code: Smart Casual [strictly no singlets, bermudas, shorts or slippers]

Valet Service:  Available until 2:00 am daily


‘Tis Addiction, The Bar

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Bar Stories and with good reason too – good banter, tinkling laughs topped with cocktails fixed to your crave. Find me another place that can afford that level of personalised service or I’m not moving. Period.

haji lane

Housed in the renovated shophouses of Haji Lane, its a gem of a find along the Lane I’ve come to love. The fact that its housed in a shophouse creates that immediate affinity. Shophouses strike a chord in me like no other and when I first entered I remember smiling to myself, looking around and taking in the intimacy, soft lighting and quirk of the place, wishing it were all mine.

On my first encounter, we were seated on couches by the window and I was expecting a menu of some sort listing available ingredients for selection. Refreshingly, no menu was produced and instead I was queried on my taste preferences to which I shared – sweet, refreshing, hint of mint and Jeremy, declared the Black Forest Mojito the first drink of the night for me. I’m not used to not knowing what to expect and was a little peeved when I tried to request for a drink that was more out-of-this world only to be put in place by Jeremy with a simple ‘The drink will surprise you enough.’ So I resigned myself to the order and allowed the eyes to roam before the first sip..

.. and Jeremy was right. The refreshing burst of berry flavors with the cool of mint leaves danced in my mouth and I was in ecstasy. The sorbet provided a sour twist of coolness on the tongue and I was thrilled till the very last sip. Fortunately, we managed to get our seats ‘upgraded’ to bar side and I would recommend for everyone who visits Bar Stories for the very first time [and subsequently as well] to always sit by the bar. Full access to bar side entertainment, drink creation and even the occasional test taste of concoctions. It be sheer delight.

The second drink I had that night was a specific request for something with cucumber and a refreshing twist. Lead bartender/ mixologist, Jeff, fixed me a Cucumber Saketini of sorts that included the following ingredients – crushed cucumber, sake, galangal and lemon. It did not live up to what my palette was craving but I give him full credit for creating a drink in mere minutes from my ridiculous request. Call me a snob, but I do believe that same drink would have tasted better if he had used Japanese cucumbers instead of our regular species of cucumbers which lacks that certain level of freshness and flavour.

Chng Sue-Anne Anoir Nan

On my next visit, I sat myself right at the bar counter and challenged Big Zach to give me a drink to pick-me up, specifically, a recreation of liquid toasted marshmallow. I saw him register the challenge, I felt myself place faith in his skills and on a delightful journey he brought me on. Watching him create the drink was as fulfilling as tasting it, indeed the journey is as rewarding as the end result. There were points I thought to myself this is not going to work out as he pulled out cream and milk which were products I shy away from every single day of my life but in his hands, magic. After layering the flavors in a glass to create the body of the drink, he frothed a good amount of milk and gently topped the glass with it before flambéing the concoction before me. You know that feeling of warm love, of contentment and satisfaction? I experienced all of that in that one glass.

That same night, I was blown away by another of Big Zach’s creation. I was going to go down the regular route after being satisfied with the Toasted Marshmallow Flambé with a Kyoho Grape Martini but Big Zach challenged me back with a taunt. Why go for something regular? Licking my lips, trying to make sense of what my palette craved, I was struggling to come up with words/ ingredients to guide Big Zach on the next creation and so I said – ‘Go crazy, create me something you think I’d like.’ Silence. A serious look crossed his face and again, ingredients flew. It was a blur, I didn’t quite manage to register all the ingredients but I noted rose syrup [another ingredient I absolutely loathe], organic apple juice and topped with saffron. Viola, he placed the drink before me and declared it The Lover. I smiled, took a sip, felt my smile grow wider as I savored the nuances and notes of the different ingredients. Sheer genius this one, sheer genius the creator, sheer genius the place.

Since then, I’ve been back numerous number of times, each time with different folks as I shared my excitement at discovering this gem of a place. Bar Stories brought out the alcoholic in me, so much so I returned there 3 nights in the same week. I did tone it down and my most recent visit on Saturday reminded me of the simple joys this place brings me.

Turning up on a Saturday is never wise and I was glad Jeff opened the space downstairs, belonging to A Thousand Tales to accommodate us. Settling ourselves at the counter, I declared my want for something sour and refreshing and Jeff declared a Mai Tai [pictured above] to start. Jeff then proceeded to recommend the Mangosteen Martini [pictured below] for my pal as the fruit was in season. What bummed me was that I couldn’t watch them create that Mangosteen drink. Nevertheless we were off to a good start.

We tackled our next drinks with flourish. Anything with Pimms for the pal and a cocktail of gooseberries and passionfruit [pictured below] for me. By then, we were a good way intoxicated and I was itching to get bar side.

Patience paid off and Jeff arrived triumphantly announcing we’ve been upgraded bar side and I trooped on in glee. Seated, we picked up the pace with an order of Kyoho Grape Martini each and that sweetness, well, it’s unrivaled.

Whilst polishing off our martini’s, we spied a concoction of strawberries and frangelico in the mix and our curiosity was piqued. A quick query and we learnt that the drink in progress was a dessert in a glass – Strawberry Shortcake and an order was placed. I must say, these guys are good at recreating desserts in a glass. Now the question I have is, which do you think holds lesser calories? – The actual dessert or the liquid recreation? Any case, be sure to give the strawberry shortcake a shot.

Having craved that Toasted Marshamallow Flambé for a week-ish now, I was not going to be denied the drink and signalled to Big Zach for two orders of that wondrous creation that lifted me on that dark day. Unfortunately, recreation is not one of his fortes and that spirit of inspiration was amiss that night. Nevertheless, I am confident that that magic touch will return.

We rounded off on a good note though. Despite being on break, Big Zach went back behind the bar to create a Jam Donut Shot and I urge you to give it a whirl if you’re seeking something sweet. I do have a person in mind who I know will fall head over heels in love with this shot.

Oh and if you’re looking for some chow to keep the alcohol at bay, don’t fret. Bar Stories serves up a simple menu of bar foods and even desserts to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

So you see, I’m addicted. While the concept of bespoke cocktails is definitely not new but the experience is rare on this little red dot of ours. I’ve since learnt that there’s another establishment along Telok Ayer that serves bespoke cocktails but till I visit, Bar Stories will remain a staple for me. And oh! What makes Bar Stories unique? The place is kitted out with designer pieces and you can purchase any of the furniture there or below, at the A Thousand Tales furniture store to take a piece of the pleasure home with you.

PS. As the boys chime, I repeat, ‘Please avoid Fridays and Saturdays!’

GETTING THERE