Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Category Archives: Cuisine

Bistro du Vin #2

Bistro du Vin!

I used to shun set lunches like Singaporeans shun the sun (say that ten times fast). I mean, nondescript “Soup of The Day”s, “Garden Salad”s, and “Dessert of The Day”s? You get what they’re trying to do after a while – Cost cutting. You know, things that the chef or the kitchen needs to be rid of in a manner to avoid any wastage. Isn’t it perfect then, to feed the sorry souls hungry for a break from sitting at the desk who brighten up at the mere thought of a ‘3-course set-lunch’ the chowder from yesterday’s dinner rush, and a fritatta of last night’s leftovers?

Oh lordie, am I jaded much?

Right, enough of the mopey grousing over all the times I’ve been hoodwinked into forking out cash for crummy food. I should make it clear though, this does not mean I condone the fact that just because it is a set lunch and not an à la carte order for lunch/dinner, it is an excuse for serving less-than-excellent food. Nuh uh.

That being said, I declare that I am now a convert.

I now order set lunches with wild abandon. So shoot me.

Interior. Complimentary bread.

Bistro du Vin swept me away from my first visit about half a year back. It was dinner that I had then, and their rendition of the timeless Duck Leg Confit (confit de canard) had me weeping at the table with how delicately it literally melted off the bone, yielding to barely a prod of a knife, and had skin so fine and thin and crackly it was like a single, most intense moment of self-revelation – that it put the french in French cooking that I’d never realised before.

So then I heard that they offer equally, if not better, 3-course set lunches at $30++ that could potentially make me burst into tears, I had to go. I needed a good cry.

Salmon Trout Gravadlax with Dill, Citrus and Radish.

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Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Turkish cuisine remained much of a mystery for the better part of my awareness, since I must admit that I carelessly bunch Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian and Lebanese all under the gigantic umbrella of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m horrid, I know. It’s like how Chinese food is no different from Japanese, Korean or Thai to plenty of people. But I have an excuse, and you must grant me this at least: I have never had Turkish cuisine in my entire life, because if I had, I would have been making pita bread all my life had I known that homemade, freshly made flatbreads were just so darn good.

Doner Kebabs roasting on vertical spits.

We have some pretty good Middle Eastern restaurants scattered over the island, most of which I’ve heard are congregated in Haji Lane and Arab Street, some in East Coast, and a couple others on Bussorah Street. And I’ve never been to a single one. I know! What’s wrong with me?!

Well, Sofra is located in the unobtrusive and dowdy-looking Shaw Towers along Beach Road. It’s a reasonable, 8-minute walk from Raffles City, or cut through Bras Basah complex to shave of a couple of minutes. Here, I’m telling you that it’s just 8 minutes to exotic and affordable food (‘exotic’ because anything and everything else is shiny and new outside of Koufu and Kopitiam).

Chefs.

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The Dining Room – Sheraton Towers

The Dining Room

Buffets incite the same mixture of feelings within me as savage most-pit slam-dancing in front of the stage, so close you can see up the band’s noses – immense trepidation and morbid excitement.

It’s the kind where you can’t decide if you should refrain from joining in the party since being molecularly smashed against other people isn’t very appealing, or if you should dive right in since you already paid to enter.

What a star diver I used to be.

The staggering, inebriated shuffling out of restaurants after too much of, well, everything was even funny. It was hilarious! There’s no better way to deal with pain than to laugh it out (but then of course there were times when I couldn’t even laugh since my stomach took up all the space left for my lungs to expand).

Then I would just feel like an imbecile. I mean, is there any higher form of depravity than paying to be one chocolate-fondue-coated-banana-chunk away from going kablooey-kasplat?

Sautéed Vegetables. Braised Lamb.

Somewhere along the years, I eventually got into my thick head that the stomach isn’t as expandable as I thought it was, that 3 servings of durian pengat, 2 ice cream waffles and pudding really wasn’t going to fit in with the orgy of seafood, meats and copious amounts of clogging carbohydrates. Boy what a revelation that was. That was a hypothetical scenario by the way, to put my wanton gluttony into perspective for you.

Therefore I am pleased to announce that The Dining Room is my first buffet that no one has had to wheel me out on a gurney. No crutches, no rolling. I walked. Huzzah!

And every single buffet item was good.  Read more of this post

Brotzeit (Vivocity)

Brotzeit

As I’m punching out this post, I’m reminded and wrecked with guilt over the remaining 18 days of my Europe trip that happened about half a year ago that I have yet to write about. That will probably be done next year around this time if all goes well. And that’s me being optimistic.

Anyway, Frankfurt’s pork knuckles can wait (ETA 6 months from now). Brotzeit’s can’t.

It was with a fair bit of hesitation that I led the family into Brotzeit (pronounced broht-zye-eet), but I reasoned that since our last meal of wursts or brots or German-anything has been a good while ago, they wouldn’t turn green at the sight of potatoes anymore. And so they didn’t. But our Europe-seasoned habit of ordering three dishes for four to share remained even though I was ready to conquer the Schweinshaxe (Pork knuckle) all on my own when it eventually descended onto our table.

Pork Knuckle ($36)

This was one burnished crown of blisteringly, crackly, hunk-o-barbaric-looking, MEAT.

Just Meat in all its glory. Look at that. No, really, look at that. What higher power orchestrated such a perfect union of unctuous, smokey meat and golden, crisp skin? Read more of this post

Diandin Leluk

Mango Salad ($6.00)

Take me back a year or two ago and at the mention of ‘Thai food’, I’d just think ‘Thai Express’, ‘spicy’ and…well, ‘SPICY”.

Fortunately for me, time has done away with my sorry ignorance of cuisines and I now associate Thai food with Golden Mile Complex. Of course I’ve heard plenty of people making offhanded comments about how overrated and overhyped it is, that there are many more authentic Thai places scattered all over the island, and that I shouldn’t just keep going back to Golden Mile Complex because it’s boring! Well, its novelty for me hasn’t worn off yet.

But that’s probably also because I’m a masochist.

I can’t explain it, but there’s something extremely gratifying about sniveling and spilling copious amounts of tears and mucous, clawing at my dining partners in pain for help (who also begin clawing at me as their tongues go numb and are reduced to a blabbering mess) as I consume awesome, spicy, Thai food, like a Mango Salad.

And then having it practically tear through my system and blaze out of my behind the next day.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Read more of this post

Hatched

Hatched

I do plenty of silly things now and then, and lately, I’ve run out of excuses for the mindless things I’ve done.  It’s like there’s some missing link between my thought processes that my brain just skips without realising.

I have no excuse for dining at an egg-inspired all-breakfast place and not ordering anything to do with eggs.

Really. Don’t bother waiting for my explanation because I have none.

I wasn’t thinking. (Haven’t been doing that for a while, and…wait, is that considered an excuse? Shrugs.)

So I returned to Hatched to redeem myself. Read more of this post

The French Kitchen

 

The French Kitchen

 

It’s hard to come by authentic French establishments these days. Far too many cafes, bistros and restaurants quietly serve up fusion fare, sneaking in herbs and spices otherwise never used in French cooking. But, as Jean Charles Dubois proudly declared himself, The French Kitchen has the pleasure of offering bona fide, untainted French menu selections for lunches and dinners at incredibly reasonable prices. The menus change every now and then, and so if you’re in luck, there’ll be caviar, if not, then pan-seared foie gras, sea scallops, veal or duck leg confit and a myriad of other very possible appearances by seasonal French ingredients may pleasantly surprise you.

The French Kitchen is situated in Central Mall at Magazine Road, a little ways from Clarke Quay and should not be confused with The Central that is directly above Clarke Quay station.

It’s a humble restaurant and seats about 30 people modestly. We easily took up half the seating capacity, walking in blearily after finally having found our way through the downpour that day for a three-course lunch.

The decor is bright, elegant and minimalistic, none of that froufrou ambience characteristic of French fine-dining establishments. It isn’t casual, oh definitely not, but it’s comfortable, and there is nothing else more satisfying than dining at ease, without a choking collar of propriety around your neck. Read more of this post

The Roti Prata House

Kaya Bomb Prata

When I was a little tyke, Sunday mornings were spent at Lakeview market, tearing up bite-sized pieces of prata with my bare hands, plunging each into a mound of sugar before stuffing my face with glorious amounts of dough and ghee. But ever since they razed Lakeview market (and left the land desolately empty and barren for more than a decade, presumably for another MRT station or something, although that’s what they always say…), the only other prata place that my family would make the effort to go to is the one at Jalan Kayu.

We don’t really go for prata anymore, anywhere. But sometimes, on the very rare occasion that I get slapped with the crushing and unrelenting yearning for FCB (Fried, Crispy Bread, essentially any kind of dough that gets deep-fried, pan-fried, grilled, roasted, toasted…and not some new acronym-ed vulgarity), I cannot sit still till I find some for my stomach. My brain will not let up on sending life-and-death, SOS signals for copious amounts of Fat and Carbohydrates till it gets it. There’s no fooling thy brain, if that’s one thing I’ve learnt. No amount of gnawing on raw carrots and chomping on apples is going to work. Nope. Just give in, and then spend the next day gnawing on raw carrots and chomping on apples. Read more of this post

Choupinette

Choupinette

I’ve never been a brunch person.

At least not intentionally because, I mean, can I be blamed if I sleep in and have breakfast at 10-11am? I still consider that breakfast, by the way. Feel free to contend with me on what you’d like to call a meal at that time. I thrive on confrontation.

Meals, to me, are the fundamental three: Breakfast, Lunch and then Dinner.

Anything else in between is subject to preferential labeling. Brunch, tea, lunchner, dinch (you know, since breakfast + lunch = brunch. Therefore lunch + dinner = lunchner/ dinch), dinper, supner. Whatever.

I don’t care what time I’m eating something at, because regardless of how school life has been granting me only lunchners and supners, the only and important fact to me remains: I’m eating.

‘Nuff said.

Yet this was a planned brunch. Afternoon classes make certain of that. And have I mentioned how there should be more weekday French brunch places to cater for the increasingly prominent crowd of late-rising tertiary zombies? Oh any kind of brunch place is fine. But I’ll be a regular at any French cafe. Give me a piping hot croissant anytime and you’ll seal the deal. Read more of this post

Din Tai Fung (Junction 8)

 

Xiao Long Bao

 I had this more than a month ago. A really long time ago. 

But I’ll be honest with you. 

I’ll have it every other week if I could afford it – financially and physically. 

What’s wrong with having steamed pork dumplings even more than the occasional chocolate, you say? 

When they start getting more addictive with each little bundle you pop in your mouth is why. And have I mentioned the varying results that occur when you do? Sometimes they burst in an explosion of fragrant broth out of your mouth at your dining companion, which isn’t always a bad thing. But then sometimes they blast back inwards into your throat, and you end up violently hacking up the entire thing, saliva and dumpling and all, at the same dining companion, which is when you realise that there’s much more skill required in handling those humble looking things than you initially thought. You also realise that the diners in your immediate vicinity staring at you. 

So when I say these are addictive, I mean it. If I had a rumbling, sexy baritone of a voice like those movie trailer narrators (This Summer…*dom dom dom* A hero is chosen…*dom dom dom*) I would be able to warn you effectively. But since I don’t – and I will very probably only end up sounding hilariously sleazy if I try – I just have this to say: Watch how many you have eaten. They are worse than snacking on Pringles while watching a Germany/ England match. 

Each famous dumpling skin, when eaten the moment they arrive on the table, is soft and supple yet doesn’t break when you pick one up by its tip. I’m convinced there’s some mad science that has gone into the fine balance between achieving almost paper-thin skin and yet being able to contain a ball of succulent minced pork and broth. Apparently the original Taiwan outlets are even better. I’m almost afraid to imagine. I never used to like XLBs. Never used to like the vinegar and ginger slices either. 

I still don’t know what was wrong with me then. 

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