Thursday, May 03, 2007

Scallops, Mussels & The Merlion

Okay. So the thing about eating out in Singapore is, you are spoilt rotten for choice. The restaurant business here is intimidatingly competitive. In four days, I saw a restaurant that only has mussels and beer on their menu, another nothing but soups; a microbrewery with Germanic dishes, molecular gastronomy at Saint Pierre, and many more multiple-syllabic descriptions that I simply can't remember. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg. With 90% of the population living in spaces the size of a very large walk-in wardrobe, people love or perhaps need to go out to meet friends for food and breathe in some fresh air. Indeed the air is much fresher over the causeway. When it comes to restaurants, is the grass greener too?

Previously I've only been to Singapore to a) shop and b) catch a Cirque du Soleil performance. This time, my sole intention was to eat. And eat I did. So with all this choice on my plate, there was bound to both hits and misses. Singapore on the whole has intrinsic design values. And therein also lies the problem. A lot of the restaurants we visited were visual feasts but often disappointed with lackluster food. I don't think I used the term ho tai mm ho seik quite so often as I did in Singapore. I'm not saying KL doesn't have its fair share of places that, to put it bluntly, suck. Here is a place where you can get fresh artichokes, fresh Norwegian mussels, wagyu thats not limited to the face or backside of the cow, zucchini flowers and more. With plenty of fresh produce in hand, I simply expect more.

We visited Rochester Park which was reminiscent of Kenny Hills in its heydays. Beautiful black & white bungalows surrounded by thick luscious greenery. Although, not quite thick enough to hide the sounds of a lorry lumbering past on the adjacent highway. There are only a handful of restaurants that have opened here, with a few more to open in the pipeline. We were warned by friends and foodies that the food here left a lot to be desired. Did we listen? Of course not. We simply thought, "Honestly, how bad can it be?". And honestly, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't good either but it made me realise my "high expectations" aren't quite as elevated as others. Graze serves "Australian" fare. I think its a bit of an insult to Australian food. I don't know what possessed my sister to order the corn chowder with coconut milk. There was no hint of corn but it was convincing as curry from a box at best. Ms Orange ordered a trio of mini burgers which had more breadcrumbs than meat! Fine dining my butt. Expect good cocktails, mediocre fusion food and a lun si manager.

Another trendy hot spot is Superfamous at OCBC Centre in the CBD. Perched by the stairs overlooking a zen water feature, it certainly looks chic with its contemporary open structure and deliberately simple decor but lunch was a complete waste of time. I was so excited when I saw pulled pork on the menu. I've been dreaming about it after reading it was referred to as the kwai loh roti babi. This version was nowhere close. Forgettable, pricey food in chic surroundings. On our last night we ate Reif + James in Robertson Quay. Another good looking place with promising descriptions on their menu. We were offered vanilla risotto which we could either eat as a main or dessert. I thought that was a little strange and a bit off putting because I immediately thought of Ambrosia rice pudding from a tin. A few people ordered seafood pastas and all of them were on the sweet side. We were assured that this was a result of a superior lobster stock. Hmmm. The best part of the meal for me was their homemade ice creams.

On the other hand, there were some nice meals too. We were at PS Cafe on Dempsey Road twice! Once for dessert and drinks, and the following day for breakfast. It was described to me as Singapore's version of Alexis but I think the former is better. Or maybe I'm just bored with Alexis. Dempsey Road has long been known for its collection of antique shops. The buildings are converted army barracks. They are not as charming as Rochester Park but has its own appeal. PS Cafe's structure was built from scratch on a plot of empty land but I would never have thought the structure was new because it has a really nice 70's rustic and retro vibe about it. The desserts are fantastic! I especially liked the steamed lemon pudding with lemon curd. Brunch was pretty good too. We got there at 9:30 in the morning as we were told that the breakfast crowd on Sundays could get crazy. I liked my portobello stack with bacon and poached eggs. I also liked the sun streaming through the huge windows and the expanse of greenery in front of me.

The best meal of the trip happened that same day during lunch at La Braceria in the Green Leaf Area. It is a quiet and unassuming restaurant tucked away in a row of somewhat dilapidated shophouse. I loved the crazy mozarella ball that looked like a cross between a deflated balloon and giant poached egg. Pierce the sinister opaque exterior to release a river of creamy mozzarella. Eat simply with basil, black pepper and salt. Delicious! I loved the simplicity of the ricotta ravioli served with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley. We also ordered baked fish with salt and lemon, clams in white wine, risotto, baked pork sausages, pizzas and more. It was worth it!

On the whole, the few good dining experiences more than made up for the bad ones. The good were really good. I enjoyed this trip to Singapore, especially as we had EJ to take us around. I want to go back to check out all the other restaurants that I missed. Okay maybe not all, since they are so many. I mean, I didn’t even make it to Vivo City and Sentosa. Hey, who knew Singapore stretched beyond Orchard Road?

9 comments:

  1. LOL! I also went and ate lots but this time round it was a mix of hawker food and cafe stuff. No one wanted to go Orchard Road or Vivocity with me this time round so no shopping for clothes and etc.

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  2. Oh, there's civilisation beyond Orchard Rd?

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  3. wow.... i bet u hv a wonderful meal there!~~ reallyu looks good!

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  4. a meal in any decent rest in the merlion land will dry up my wallet hehe..did u try the over rated ding tai fung?

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  5. Yea this trip was for work so no deviating from the list of restaurants we had to visit. Jackson, ho tai mm ho seik lah! I would have loved to have tried the "over rated" din tai fung! Was so sick of western food by the end of the trip. First thing I ate when I got back was rice. Sign of old age I tell you!!

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  6. ACKS, was EVERYONE in singapore??? yours is the THIRD food blog abt singapore today. (msian one la)

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  7. That's quite a good spread you had in Singapore! No matter what though, I have to have my Yakiniku Burger from Mos Burger when I'm in Singapore! Ha ha ha...

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  8. I've not tried all these food though I've lived in S'pore for so long!

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  9. WMV, do u know this trip was the first time I've ever had Mos burger?! By the time I got around to trying it in KL, they had already closed down. All this time I thought the rice patties were rice cakes, I didn't know they used real rice! Waaaah!

    Tigerfish, I don't think I would've even tried 1/3 of the restaurants if it had not been an eating trip!

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