Friday, June 29, 2012

Two Blur Guys, 1 Tras Link (Orchid Hotel)

 Passed by this place a fair bit while it was still under renovation, and we made it a point to definitely try it out once they were open. Lo and behold while we were walking back to the MRT after Pho Stop, place was finally open! Couldn't help but be distracted by the brownies and pies on display, and helpful blur guy Max even gave us a run through of what constitutes a Lamington. We kinda made him a soft promise that we'll be back, so we were. Unfortunately Max didn't seem to be around when we did.

Now, what can a fellow burger enthusiast say to another? A good quality beef burger just about defines your burger joint, and please, do wow me with your quirky burger selection as well! That's why I simply love this spot over here, which I would definitely go on a regular basis if it weren't so (dang) far away.

So we spotted some interesting burgers (smoked salmon and avocado, yum!), pies and what not, and since  wasn't too hungry we just settled on a single prime beef hamburger to share.

{ Prime Beef Burger w/Gruyere Cheese and Truffle Mayo ($12.50) } 

Now that wooden plate does a good job of hiding all that oil and juice, but first impression was still - it was way too oily. Maybe it's good ol' beef juice - maybe - but to my fingers it seemed like oil. So anyway, I cut it in half, and while spilling more beef juice, got a nice look at the slightly pink, medium-done prime beef patty. Beef patty seemed like it was falling apart, but it didn't - probably hand packed from minced beef, promising!

Taste wise was honestly, pretty great in my book! Guess the supreme juiciness / oiliness turned off   a little, but I quite loved it, and I felt the portion ookkkk for the price (considering the location, and that De Burg did charge me $15.50 for that lamb burger). And kudos - that truffle mayo did stand out rather succintly. Salad was a little lacking, and the chips, suspiciously Lays.

But what does a fellow restaurant goer say to another? Guess it would be that I have to dine comfortably, and this place was far from comfortable. Cramped, dark, round tables placed randomly with inadequate spacing, and the unfortunate post-work drinking crowd in the corner made so much noise I could hardly hear my mastication. Perhaps there was too much display space, but I felt more organized seating and better lighting was definitely in order.

We left without trying the brownies, lamingtons or coffee, but we would be back - perhaps!

Two Blur Guys
Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link

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Rating (out of 4) : 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pho Stop, Tanjong Pagar Road

Sadly our first attempt to come here failed as we prepped to come on a Monday before realizing it would be closed! Thus the trip here was postponed till after  's trip to London and on a fateful Tuesday. We walked down the familiar Tanjong Pagar Road, past the 8 (roughly - we counted) korean chicken and BBQ restaurants before standing at the corner at Maxwell wondering where the hell was this place. Turns out we weren't looking for the typical small pho shop after all.

 Surprisingly (?) this place was mostly run by local teens / young adults, which was rather curious for a Vietnamese restaurant, of all places. The decor was simple, with some Vietnamese-looking pictures and what not, and the multi-colored chopsticks which was also a common sight in Thailand street stalls. Lighting was dim!

 I went for my favourite beef brisket with beef balls, which was served with a side of raw basil, bean sprouts, coriander, chilli padi, and dipping sauce for the meat. Love my basil raw and my sprouts crunchy, but I absolutely detest coriander, so I was kinda glad they kept them all separate. Chilli padi was spicy but added a great kick. Soup was flavourful and yet not too salty / oily, which was great! Pho soft and slightly chewy, and serving of yummy beef and onions was rather generous as well. At first glance I was worried the portion was too small, but it's not - just nice.

{ Beef Brisket (Shin) & Beef Balls ($8) }
 Wanted to try something different, but not deviate too far from the noodle soup variety - so I chose Hanoi Chicken. I'm guessing this is a specialty of the region, and if so I should have known before my trip there some years ago! Anyway, I highly recommend this! The broth is extremely flavourful and comforting, with generous amounts of shredded chicken. I'm usually sensitive to MSG but thankfully didn't feel dying after finishing up the entire bowl of noodles and soup.

{ Hanoi Chicken ($7.20) }
 A mild disappointment was had when they said they were out of rice spring rolls, but that was fine -   wanted dessert anyway. I was pushing for the caramel pudding but   decided on the ice cream so we had two scoops. Pleasant surprise when these cute little bottles - rather ingenious I must say - came with the ice cream frozen inside to the brim.

{ Home-made Ice Cream - Coffee and Coconut ($5.50 for two) }
 The first few scoops off the top gave me the false impression that the ice cream was actually a little bland ... which soon I realized was actually caused by the ice crystals on the top. As we worked our way through to the middle, I couldn't hold back the string of expletives describing how f*cking awesome it was. Coconut was rreaallyyy rich and sweet in coconut flavour, and the coffee was bitter which was GREAT. In fact it tasted very similar to my good ol' Kopi C Kosing - the bitter, strong and yet homely kopi taste - a true gem for coffee lovers!

I couldn't help but mention to the waiter how awesome the ice cream was, but unfortunately they don't do take aways because of the bottles :(

 A great spot for simple, inexpensive Vietnamese food (and homemade ice cream!) done well. Also a new and different cuisine option to consider from the numerous Korean food places there!

Pho Stop
21 Tanjong Pagar Road #01-01 (near Maxwell)

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HGW Link (100% recommended at time of posting) :
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Rating (out of 4) : 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sol Tasca, Fullerton Waterboat House (under bridge)

Who thought putting a restaurant under a bridge was a good idea? Well, these folks apparently do.

 Sol Tasca can be found either by chance or by some effort under the Esplanade bridge, a location that doesn't quite strike me as being associated with eating/drinking of any kind.

We decided to put our discount voucher to use on a weeknight dinner. We took our seats indoors, and had a good view of.. nothing much. It was pretty quiet, and the waiter pointed out that some items on the menu were not available that night. Not the most spectacular start! But how does the food fare?

 Well there was a good view of the ... part under the bridge. Looks like a tunnel going into nothingness, a rather philosophical view.

{ Croquetas de bacalao con jamon ($8) }
Salted cod and jamon croquettes

 The ramekin-ful of croquettes were actually quite tasty. It was oozy and gooey inside and quite crispy outside, although I detected no hints of salted cod nor jamon. The dip that comes with it was really nice too - some sort of aioli I think?

 Reminded me a little of Coxinha from the outside, but the croquette itself was filled with some salty, cheesy, gooey, sticky, sweet paste. Which was pretty good actually! And we loved the aioli it came with.

{ Rabo de Toro ($10) }
Braised oxtail with Spanish red wine and tomato

 Not a big fan of oxtail but this was nice and flavourful. Meat was tender, and the red wine flavour comes out quite prominently in the sauce, which I licked off from every surface of fork / knife.

 The red wine flavour was rather stand-out-ish, tasted a little like beef bourguignon. The texture of the oxtail meat was tendon-y and soft, which was pretty good! A tad on the expensive side we felt.

{ Paella de marisco ($26) }
Octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, vegetables

 We had wanted to try the black squid ink paella, but was not available so we got the regular seafood paella instead. I think mussels were off the menu too, so we were compensated with more chorizos. Overall I liked the lovely seafood flavour and al-dente texture of the rice, but felt it needed a bit more charred-ness. It went excellently with the aioli (?) dip that came with the croquettes. However this seems a tad overpriced for the portion though.

 Went awesomely great with the croquette sauce! But besides that, I was rather disappointed with the lack of squid ink for one, lack of mussels secondly, and finally the rice was not at all charred. The charred part of paella is my favourite part! Likewise for claypot rice, or bibimbap. But somehow in this plate ... no matter how long we waited the rice just didn't char :/ Oh well. The flavour in the rice was good however but the ingredients seemed a little lacking and the portion lacking for the price.

{ Churros a la Sol Tasca ($6) }
Spanish doughnuts served with hazel nut chocolate

 Got quite excited when I saw churros on the menu - was reminded of the amazing ones I had in Barcelona before, and (foolishly) hoped to enjoy again. Unfortunately it was a Nope straightaway when it came literally bathing in oil. Sure, these are deep fried, but I swear -  the waitress even brought extra thick paper napkins that seemed to suggest we ought to be dabbing away the oil. And we did dab furiously! After about 1.5 bites it just felt a bit gross eating what was essentially oil and chocolate (in its most obvious form). The search for better churros continues!

 First encounter of the churros kind ... and not a very pleasant one! The oil was grossly, GROSSLY abundant and after two I seriously felt too jelat to continue ... the chocolate was not bad but could be gooey-er.

All in all ... not a great location in the slightest, abysmal lighting (in my opinion) not even in the sort of, romantic kind. Some food items were not bad but still felt it was a little pricey for the portions. Bill with two drinks (juice!!!) came up past $70, and we were glad we didn't get alcohol. Chairs weren't very comfortable either!

Sol Tasca
3 Fullerton Road, #01-04
The Fullerton Waterboat House

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HGW Link (57% recommended at time of posting) :
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Rating (out of 4) :

Friday, June 1, 2012

Black Gold Cafe, Tanjong Pagar

 After repeated accosting by the kind waitress every time we walked past, we finally decided one Friday to pay this place a visit. Located just across Orchid Hotel (effectively 3 min walk from TJ Pagar station), its strange location below a HDB flat belies it's stranger concept.

 Can't say its the best layout I've seen - tiny tiny tables indoors are packed a little too tightly, and seats outside are just next to the letterboxes.

 Must say my first reaction to this place was: bewilderment. I understood it was some kind of coffee place (hence black gold), so the 'casual French' seemed like it was an afterthought. Concept aside, the seating space wasn't very enticing - unless you're about the size of a 8 year old child, you can't possibly eat without knocking something over the postage-stamp-sized tables.

 Is that "Kopi" I see on the menu? Well yes, they do indeed serve your local Kopi C Kao, Teh Kosong and all that alongside their country french cuisine.

They do 3-course dinner sets at $26.90, and 4-course sets at $36.90 with a different option of main course (of course you just get ala-carte). We opted for one 3-course set and an ala carte main all to share. Shortly after they served the bread, and while the butter was cold (pah!) the bread itself was surprisingly great. I mean, given the circumstance I was not expecting much, but the bread was really nice - generously multi grain, warm and a strong tinge of roasted sesame.

{ Mesclun salad with goat cheese, grilled croutons served with French raspberry dressing }

 Salad looks like a mess (is that paprika sprinkled all over?) but actually tasted really nice. I didn't quite identify the raspberry dressing, but I liked the sweetness it lent to the saltiness of the goat cheese. Now this was actually a sizeable portion of salad - some ( most) places tend to give you itsy bitsy portions or dubious quality as part of a set meal, but definitely not here!

 Generous portions of goat cheese, mesclun, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and a great mix of vinegar, oil and dressing (?), this salad was definitely unexpected, and a great start to the meal!

{ Poached salmon fillet served with crunchy vegetables and aioli ($16.90 ala carte) }

 Was considering the chicken leg, but since   was already having some form of another bird's leg I decided to get the fish instead. And no regrets! This was really pretty to look at, and tasted pretty damn good. I thought the aioli sauce was unusual in a good way - it went excellently with the salmon (cooked perfectly) and the (seemingly random) drizzles of pesto. And I can also attest to the crunchiness of the vegetables!

{ Duck confit ($26.90) }

 The duck confit parmentier available in the 4-course set was actually not available anymore - they've changed it to serve the whole leg instead (but conveniently forgot to mention the 50% increase in ala carte price until just before the dish was served - no matter!).

Smell was great and the crisp on the outer bits was just excellent! The sweet apple/plum? sauce actually gave the slightly-dry duck a nice balance, and the caramelized onions and potato base - yum! Very much satisfied.

{ Warm chocolate pudding with lavender sauce & vanilla ice cream }

 We immediately narrowed down our dessert choice to something chocolatey. This is actually a lava pudding which oozed a wonderful stream of dark-ish chocolate into the puddle of lavender sauce. By the way the lavender sauce is really interesting! Never had lavender in this form before and I was really impressed. Even the vanilla ice cream was nice - it has lil wee chunks of chocolate chips in it.

 We were a little concerned that the ice cream had started to melt D: before we realized it was actually sitting in a puddle of lavender sauce! Combination was quirky and good - sweet, chocolatey and perfumey.

{ Kopi C Kosong ($1.50) }

 We just had to end it off with a Kopi C Kosong - even had extra servings of that little gem biscuits by the side.

Looks can be deceiving! Not exactly the most appealing spot from the outside, but the quality of food and service was really good. Apparently the place started off as a coffee place, but branched out to French cuisine after a tie up with a French chef, so I would have it in good faith that their coffee would be awesome too. Would return.

Oh and did I mention NO GST AND SERVICE CHARGE :)

Black Gold Cafe 黑金
7 Tanjong Pagar, #01-104B

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HGW Link (91% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 
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