Thursday, March 21, 2013

Buyan, Duxton Hill (Restaurant Week)

With restaurant week coming and going again, we decided to check out a place we've always wanted to - Buyan, Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar. It's located at the snug Duxton Hill, semi-atas and expat / pubber-friendly.

  Hanging around outside the restaurant it would seem like only rich people dine here - judging by people with fancy clothes loitering around, and that no staff paid us any mind. We mentioned we had a reservation and were finally seated.

  The interior decor had a very "forest cabin" feel to it, what with the log walls, wooden tables and an almost fireplace lighting to it. No clue whether this was authentically Russian or not but it was pretty cool.

A very helpful Russian lady took our order - we ordered one each of the restaurant week menu (2 choices per course) and figured we wanted some vodka before the night was over. She walked us through the restaurant week menu explaining some of their origins and how they were really authentic.

  Bread was served. The bread was a little bit like Russia itself - cold and hard. Well ok it was slightly warm, but it was hard and chewy, some kind of dark rye? Not bad though, and the butter was at room temp. Would have asked for more but we were afraid there was a charge so we didn't.

{ Pirozhki }
Russian Pastry with Meat, Cabbage and Potato Assorted Fillings

  Ah pirozhki / piroshki ... one of the few Russian foods I've heard of. Was it everything we expected? Well the pastry itself was thick and still doughy, as though slightly undercooked. Would have been nice if there was more filling in each, and the flavour of the filling was quite mild.

{ Bakliki }
Grilled Aubergines & Tomato with Garlic-Mayo sauce

  We had little expectations for this plate, but this was surprisingly awesome. The tomato was slightly unripe (almost like green tomatoes) so it was still crunchy and slightly sour. Paired well with the soft grilled herbed aubergine and the garlic mayo gave it a nice kick as well (it was more garlic than mayo which was great!). Party in thy mouth.

{ Beef Stroganov Pie }
All the Goodness of Creamy Beef Stroganov [sic] Wrapped in a Thin Pastry

  Puff pastry wrapped minced beef, I felt the pastry was again undercooked - doughy inside - and the beef was rather bland and dry, not creamy at the slightest. Overall it was just alright. I've read beforehand that this is actually a 'bar bites' menu item (though at a staggering $25+ IIRC) and they're serving it as a main course. Hmm.

{ Kulebyaka }
Traditional Russian Pie with layers of Salmon, Rice & Mushroom Fillings Seperated with Home-made Blinis

  We began to see a recurring theme here - pastry! Do Russians use pastry dough for everything? Re-assured by our kind Russian lady that this was a very traditional Russian dish, we (once) again found the pastry slightly thick and undercooked, and with rice and blinis (pancake) inside as well this was really carb-heavy and filling. The salmon layer was a little thin, and overall we found it rather starchy and bland.

{ Sladka Troika }
A Trio of Buyan's Favourite Desserts - Honey Cake, Berry Jelly & Napolean Cake

  And ... pastry for dessert too! This time it was stacked phyllo pastry with cream custard - Napolean Cake (left). Was pretty nice though it wasn't as easy to cut as I expected as the pastry has gone soggy from the cream, it became very similar to a Mille-Crepe. Berry Jelly (middle) was really nice - soury and sweet and the consistency of almond jelly. Honey cake was really sweet and was a multistack cake with honey.

{ Bird's Milk }
Tender Soufflé covered with Dark Chocolate

  And would you have known - this was really great! Wasn't really a soufflé but more like a sweet custard with dark chocolate and almond and some berry jam I believe.

Have to say we weren't really blown away but any of their restaurant week menu though we felt like we knew Russian cuisine just a little better now (if anything, they use a lot of pastries). We decided we just had to have some vodka before we left, and man their vodka menu is EXTENSIVE. More than 60 brands of vodka (IIRC). We were a little cost conscious but in the end the nice Russian lady got the better of us - we opted for the Vodka Flight which was a set of 6 home-made flavoured vodka shots.

{ Vodka Flight ($60) }
Clockwise from the white one
Horseradish (white one), Vanilla Peppercorn, Strawberry, Sour Plum, Chocolate Tea, Krupnik

  And ... wow. I'll be damned. These were really, really, really, good. Good in the sense that the flavour themselves (like sour plum etc.) were really strong and obvious, and yet the massive kick you get from vodka is still there. These weren't some vodka fruit juice blend, or vodka with flavour and colouring added - these were full on home-infused vodka.

We asked for a recommended sequence, thank god we did. The Horseradish and Peppercorn were alarming. Imagine drinking liquid pepper or liquid wasabi, with the alcoholic kick of vodka ... we had fire coming out our ears. The sour plum tasted like Choya with 40% alcohol, Chocolate Tea had a surprising bitter tinge and Krupnik had a mild honey sweetness. The Strawberry was by far the most unbelievably delicious shot of alcohol we've had, ever. Strong, sharp and yet so sweet, with bits of blended strawberry in it. Have to say we couldn't walk straight after.

I would not recommend eating here unless you really want to know what Russian food is like. I'm sure if you ordered a Shashlik or some Beef Stroganov you'd have a good time, but those aren't cheap (high 30s if I recall). But the home-infused vodka is the shit. Just have some roti prata nearby before or after.

9/10 Duxton Hill

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HGW Link (66% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wimbly Lu, Jalan Riang

Following an ok brunch we decided to get dessert before the movie. Wimbly Lu was located smack dab in the middle of a private housing estate - very odd location I assure you (and hellish parking) but as you would know it it was packed when we got there.

 It was a bizzare layout with a glass roof, and tables and couches at odd placements. But the waft of chocolate and the stunning display of desserts at the entrance was remarkable.

 We weren't quite hungry but there was always room for dessert. We asked for recommendations and was suggested to try their hallmark root beer cake with vanilla ice cream.

{ Root beer cake w/vanilla ice cream ($6) }

 At $6 it was inexpensive but the serving size wasn't big - which suited us for the moment as couldn't eat more than that. Unlike some places that serve cakes the size of your face for $15 with no option to order half a slice!

On first bite - yum! The root beer taste was rather distinct, and the warm cake itself moist, fudgey and yet not too sweet. Perfect pair with a cold sweet vanilla ice cream. The root beer taste did wane after 2-3 bites but hey as a regular chocolate fudge cake it was still good.

{ Classic Hot Chocolate ($5) }

 We couldn't have left without a cup of classic hot chocolate. Was nice sipping this as it was a cold wet day - the chocolate was rich and just a teeny bit sweet.

Had we had more stomache that day we would've tried a lot more, as the shelf offered quite a stock of cakes, pies, tarts and other chocolate goodies. My only complain was of course, the location. If you don't drive (and it's good fun finding parking) it's a fair bit of walk inside the no-bus estate, or roughly 15 minutes from Serangoon MRT.

Wimbly Lu
Jalan Riang

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HGW Link  (85% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Arbite, Serangoon Garden Way

 We were headed to NEX to watch the movie "Flight" (god knows why it only shows at Shaw) and since we had the car we decided to try some harder-to-get-to areas in the Serangoon area for brunch and dessert. Arbite turned up quite highly in the brunch department so we decided to give it a try.

 We parked our car semi conveniently at a private housing estate across the road, through the drizzle was a hassle. This brunch spot was located on the second floor amongst a row of shops just next to Chomp Chomp.

{ Long Black and Flat White }

 It was packed and we were lucky we made a reservation when we did (though we still arrived earlier) - a queue started to form not long after we sat down. We started with coffee after ordering our brunch. The black for me was just regular, not much depth and a little thin for my liking - could it be I just don't like Avanti? *shrugs*

{ Croque Madam ($15.90) }
Toasted Foccacia sandwich with a parma ham, brie cheese and truffle mayo filling topped with a poached egg

 Now this was just ... wow. What a shame.  had this. Firstly I have to say I didn't think this particular foccacia fitted the sandwich right. There was too little ham, or cheese, and I thought the egg wasn't quite poached right either (a sunny-side fitted it better too). All in all the flavour was there but the plate was badly plated and the portion small for that price. Not quite the croque madam we had in mind.

{ Arbite Breakfast ($15.90) }
Scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, veal bratwurst, sautéed mushrooms, toasted brioche and pomme noisettes

 This was just alright. Again I felt the brioche was a poor complement - it was too sweet and buttery (though nice) but didn't quite go with the rest of the plate. I thought the bratwurst was a little undercooked (skin was tough and insides still creamy) but everything else was ok. Comparing portion alone you could see what a let down the croque madam was!

As we left hurriedly in lieu of the queue we both were rather puzzled about why this place seemed so popular. The place was cramped and totally enclosed which meant the discussions and laughter at other tables just seemed deafening. Coffee wasn't great and the food wasn't either. I'd take my money and my time elsewhere.

66A Serangoon Garden Way

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HGW Link (88% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spagio Pizzeria, Liang Seah Street

The accepted consensus between the two of us when it comes to buying Groupon or like vouchers, is that it's a lot safer to get cash value vouchers ($15 for $30 value etc.) rather than a set menu voucher ($15 for 3 course meal!). Besides the obvious issue of flexibility, many a times we've been conned into a really, really, really mediocre (some crap) 3 course meals, most likely a minimum-cost specially-prepared set for coupon abusers.

 The latest in our coupon list was Spagio Pizzeria, and this small pizza shop tucked at the tail end of Liang Seah Street (Shaw Towers side) is definitely not in the best of spots for human traffic.

{ Caprese Salad ($8.50) }
Slice of fresh mozzarella and tomato seasoned with olive oil and fresh basil

 We opted for the caprese salad ... the tomatoes came pale (appears red only cos of color correction) and greens yellow-y and wilting - not a good impression at all. Thankfully (!!!), the cheese was lovely - 5 thick and creamy slices of mozzarella, and the basil-ed oil gave it a wonderful lift. Just please, take better care of the vegetable colors!

{ Manzo (12" for $18) }
Tomato, mozzarella, thin slice beef, rocket salad and shaved parmesan cheese

 Instead of the regular prosciutto we opted for something slightly different ... in fact I'm not sure if we got the right pizza.

(1) The waiter uttered some other name, and we said we ordered Manzo, and he was like "that's right ..." and plopped it down. Hmm.
(2) I'm no expert, but that's baby spinach and not rocket. And we didn't even realize it until the next day as we had forgotten what was written on the menu. Damn!

So ... yes. Mystery pizza. Even so, the crust was good, thin and crisp. The thin slice beef, however, looks (and tasted) remarkably like cured ham. Shaved parmesan cheese ... at 3 paltry thin slices it shouldn't even be on the description. And after the fat chunks of mozzarella in the salad, this barely had enough to cover the dough.  

{ Tiramisu ($6) }
Layers in mascarpone, flavoured with aromatic coffee and kahlua

 Not quite sure what this was but it wasn't quite tiramisu. We couldn't quite taste the mascarpone, coffee OR the kahlua, it was just a mushy soft cake, and totally butchery but overdose of Hershey's chocolate and strawberry drizzle.

All in all, nothing great, and the tiramisu was sadly butchered. If you're looking for a decent pizzeria, do check out either Spizza or Etna for no disappointments.

Spagio Pizzeria
2 Liang Seah Street

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HGW Link (no rating at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) :
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