The Singapore outpost of the famed New York bakery, Clinton Street Baking Co, opened without much fanfare a couple of weeks ago in the heart of town. Having tried the original outlet in New York about a year ago, the wife and I were eager to give the outlet in Singapore a shot.
Occupying a small shophouse unit along Purvis Street and playing neighbours to a boutique hotel and a coffeeshop, Clinton Street Baking Co Singapore can seat ~ 60 people, albeit in a rather cramp seating arrangement (the NY outlet can only take 32 pax). The interior isn't much to shout about honestly, coming across as modern at best. No reservations are accepted but when we got there at about 10am on a Saturday morning, the wait was a very manageable 15 minutes.
Crispy Potato Pancakes - We opted for the house smoked salmon option, which came with caviar and lightly tart and refreshing lemon crème fraîche on the side. Taste wise, the potato pancakes had been on the grill for way too long; charred to a slightly uncomfortable degree of bitterness but otherwise bland. The thin slices of salmon were pretty good though; lightly smokey without coming across as too fishy. We gave up on the potato pancakes halfway through.
Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter - There is a choice of wild blueberries, banana walnut or chocolate chunk for your pancakes and we went with the banana walnut since we tried the blueberry variant in New York. Bits of banana and walnut wedged between fluffy pancakes and finished with more walnuts and banana atop. Very good. However, instead of being dusted with icing sugar, granulated sugar was used instead, which gave the whole dish a rather unpolished feel in my humble opinion. The coarseness of the sugar really didn't help with the texture either. But......... the pièce de résistance was definitely the warm maple butter (not so warm actually); smooth with the creamy saltiness of butter and the pleasant sweetness of maple syrup.
So how does it compare to the original? In my humble opinion, very close. The pancakes could do with a little more crustiness on the surface. Still #2 on my pancake list after Pancakes On The Rocks in Sydney.
Sugar Cured Bacon - I enjoyed this sinful side of sugar cured bacon but it did seem a little drier as compared to the one in NY. Delectable nonetheless; lightly sweet while retaining the mild saltiness of the bacon. I would envision bacon bak kwa to be of a similar taste and texture?
Prices at the Singapore branch are similar to those in NY (after factoring in forex) and both of us spent close to $52 for brunch, which is still reasonable in my humble opinion. I'll definitely be back for the pancakes and bacon, nothing else! Oh wait, maybe to try out the signature waffle with chicken (only available for lunch) as well.
A colleague had recommended Montana Brew Bar (MBB for short) so the wife and I made a trip down after work one evening to give it a shot.
MBB occupies a small space on the first floor of PoMo and plays neighbour to an outlet of Ya Kun Kaya Toast. MBB attempts to distinguish itself by utilising earthy colours in its design and through the placement of warm lights. Seating is rather limited with space for approximately 20 pax or so. How the place works is you place your order and make payment at the counter and the food will be served to you. One small gripe I had was that I couldn't order everything at once and request for dessert to be served later; not particularly flexible in my humble opinion.
Southern Fried Chicken Waffle - This dish inevitably brought about comparisons with The Beast's offering of this classic Southern dish. First up, the chicken. MBB's chicken was a mess of spicy, a tad dry chicken pieces thrown together and topped with spicy mustard coleslaw; clearly in a totally different league from that of The Beast's juicy, flavourful rendition. The waffles were a totally different story altogether though. Whilst The Beast's waffles came across as hard and unpleasantly sourish, MBB's waffles were light and fluffy with a mildly crisp exterior. Maybe both eateries could contemplate working together?
Umami Burger - At $14, this was honestly quite small and came adorned with cheese, mushrooms and bonito flakes. Which was all good because of the various layers of flavour except that the basic beefy taste was a little lacking. I liked the overall flavour but mourned the absence of the beefiness. The bun (apparently it's made from sweet potato) came across as soft and mildly sweet; no great shakes honestly. You have the option of topping up $2 to "upgrade" your fries to truffle fries, which isn't such a great idea in my humble opinion as the quantity of fries is very limited and the fries I had came seriously drenched in truffle oil (where's the QC?) with loads of fragrance but not much of a truffle taste.
Chocolate Banana Waffles - As the waffles were good, we decided to have another waffle for dessert; the chocolate banana waffle. And it came across as decent. The waffle sported the same light, fluffy texture as the one that came with the chicken earlier on except that this was darker in colour and had bits of what seemed like oreo crumbs wedged in random spots within the waffle. No chocolate taste whatsoever. The vanilla bean ice cream was relatively smooth with no discernible ice chips whilst the banana slices could do with more caramelisation. What I found interesting was the Nutella truffle butter that was sprinkled sporadically throughout; in the form of tiny clumps and mildly sweet.
Moral of the story? Stick to the original waffles.
Overall we spent $38 for two waffles and a burger. Not too expensive and overall food quality is still decent. But I would skip the burgers in future and head straight for the waffles.
La Strada has been around for quite a while but after our rather uninspiring lunch at Les Amis (sister restaurant under the same umbrella) a few months back, I wasn't too keen on dining at La Strada. But as fate would have it, I had an errand to run in the vicinity so decided to drop by for a quick lunch, seeing that the place was relatively empty on a Monday afternoon.
Located just next to Bistro Du Vin (which serves great set lunches by the way), La Strada sports a compact, cosy interior with red tiled floors, wooden tables and chairs against a yellow backdrop. I opted for one of the 3 small tables by the window for a view of the adjourning walkway but do note that means the passersby see you as well.
Carbonara - La Strada's signature Carbonara; didn't look like much but every bit an excellent dish. Beneath the thin, al dente, homemade guitar string pasta lay a confit of egg yolk which added to the creaminess of the dish when the yolk broke. Sprinkled with crisp but a touch overly salty lardo crumble (salumi, an Italian cold cut made by curing strips of pork with herbs and spices) for that extra crunch, this dish also boasted a rich fragrance and earthiness courtesy of the truffle butter sauce. Delicious without coming across as nauseating. But to be fair, I guess that in part has to do with the portion size, which was really quite small. I would probably need at least 2 bowls to fill myself up but at $28 a pop, it's definitely not that affordable. One of the best Carbonara I've had to date.
Tiramisu - Served up in a bowl and dusted with chocolate flakes (not the usual cocoa powder), the mascarpone cheese to sponge ratio was pretty good but unfortunately, the bottom of the sponge came across as very soggy from soaking in too much of the Kahlua. Topped with coffee lookalike, chocolate beans. Decent but not outstanding.
Lunch cost me about $54 and prices are undeniably on the high side for a relatively casual restaurant and the small portions. In this aspect, the set lunch @ $35 does seem like a more viable alternative, just that you won't find the signature Carbonara listed as one of the options. Service came across as rather friendly and good. I'll definitely be happy to return for the Carbonara when the craving hits.
We had read reviews and seen pictures of the nostalgia packed Brunches Cafe and were very much drawn to its decor. So it was with much anticipation that we dropped by one lazy Saturday late morning for brunch.
Just ~ 5 minutes from Farrer Park MRT (parking is very limited), Brunches Cafe's interior is a blast from the past, with nostalgic knick knacks, movie posters, furniture, and a dissected morris mini with its bonnet holding a selection of condiments. A little reminiscent of W39 Bistro and Bakery (which was plain disappointing by the way), just more elaborate.
Nachos with Cheddar Cheese Sauce - The chips tasted bland and straight out of a packet whilst the cheddar cheese dip was rather stingy and watery. I hate to say this but the nachos you get at the cinemas in Singapore (GV, Cathay) taste better because the nachos have a mildly spicy kick to them and the cheese sauce is alot richer.
Shrimp Aglio Olio - Less than al dente but mildly spicy spaghetti coupled with reasonably sized, crunchy but bland prawns made for a very average shrimp aglio olio. Bonus points for the fragrance though.
Baked Egg with Bacon - The baked egg was cooked on the outside but runny inside with an oozing yolk and bits of transparent egg white whilst the bacon was limp and came across as soft and rather fatty - nauseating. Thankfully the side of mushrooms was earthy and the slice of white toast, crisp. Average at best.
Our average brunch for 2 cost to the tune of $41.80, which isn't expensive but food quality doesn't go past average. We were so uninspired by the food that we didn't bother staying for desserts. Service was okay but I don't understand the service charge especially when we had to order and pay at the counter and help ourselves to the iced water. The only thing Brunches Cafe has going for it is its decor but I don't think that's sufficient to warrant a revisit, especially since Jewel Cafe down the road serves slightly better food in my humble opinion.
Back in 2009, we were contemplating between dining at Joël Robuchon (currently the chef with the most Michelin stars to his name - 25 stars) or Guy Savoy in Paris and ended up choosing the latter. 6 years on, we finally stepped foot into Joël Robuchon's first foray into Singapore, the eponymous Joël Robuchon Restaurant (opened in April 2011), for lunch. Gosh, what a long time coming.
If you enter by the main entrance, turning right after the door will bring you to Joël Robuchon Restaurant (left brings you to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, the more casual outfit). The main dining area strikes one as posh and sombre, with a beautiful chandelier as the centerpiece. The adjourning indoor winter garden strikes a stark contrast with a classy yet cheery appeal, sporting a glass roof to allow plenty of natural light in.
There is a smart elegant dress code but I guess it's not strictly enforced (I spotted some guys wearing t shirts and shorts).
Amuse Bouche - A calamansi jelly flavoured with vanilla, topped with anisette cream; a little too tart for my liking.
Complimentary Homemade Bread - All the bread is homemade and pretty good in my humble opinion, especially the viennoiserie; buttery yet light rolls that reminded me of croissant sans the flakiness. The baguette came across as crusty and went very well with the smooth butter. We were so enamoured with the bread that we jumped at the chance for a second helping. And thankfully we did.
Le King Crabe - Seasoned king crab meat, avocado and crunchy vegetables on tomato coulis. A very well thought out dish with the avocado providing a nice smoothness to the crunchy vegetables and the lightly tart tomato coulis and green apple cubes playing counterpoint to the delightful crustacean sweetness of the king crab. Excellent!
Le Thé de Crevette - "Botan" shrimp in fresh coriander and turmeric infusion. I'm usually adverse to turmeric (or any plant in the ginger family for that matter) but this soup was surprisingly light, mildly sweet yet spicy at the same time and accentuated the sweetness of the crunchy botan shrimp chunks.
La Noix de Saint-Jacques - Pan-fried Hokkaido scallop with spelt risotto and coral emulsion. Undoubtedly the pièce de résistance of the afternoon; a lightly spicy, savoury, creamy sauce base coupled with al dente spelt and a huge, perfectly cooked scallop that was oh so sweet. A pity portion sizes were oh so small.
Le Boeuf "Wagyu" - Wagyu beef hanging tender grilled with medley of aromates and shallots marmalade. Done to a perfect medium rare - tender and juicy. Topped with caramalised shallots for a rather strong sweetness. Good but portions are really small and I personally prefer huge slabs of steak of the salted variant. Served with JR's famous mashed potatoes. Incredibly delicious; silky smooth without coming across as overly dry or moist and with a buttery aftertaste to boot. One of the best "traditional" mashed potatoes I've eaten to date.
Le Minty - And on to desserts. Flowing chocolate Araguani with icy mint sorbet. First impression, it looked more like a layer of cream twirl decorated with a chocolate ring than a molten chocolate cake. But looks can be deceiving because dig beneath that layer of cream to find a scoop of light mint sorbet and a layer of chocolate fondant, complete with a mildly crisp shell and oozing chocolate. Although I don't quite fancy mint but this was quite a treat!
La Pavlova - Lychee lightness, lemongrass mousseline and "Mara de Bois" strawberry. The pavlova was crisp on the outside yet soft and gooey on the inside (like a marshmallow) and carried a pleasantly light lychee flavour and sweetness. Generously adorned with an assortment of berries, including the "Mara de Bois" strawberry (apparently very highly sought after for its flavour and fragrance) to juxtapose the sweetness of the meringue. Very good.
Petit Fours - We ended off with petit fours, which provided an additional sweet ending to our meal. Nothing was memorable here and I did find the raspberry macaron a little lacking in tartness and its shell a wee bit too moist.
Our wonderful lunch for two cost ~ $254 which is definitely at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. However food quality is undeniable and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Service could be a little more personable though.
Remember the mention about being thankful for the second serving of bread earlier on? I kid you not but we had to rely on the bread to fill our tummies because of the tiny portions (my set had an appetiser, a soup, two mains and a dessert by the way). French haute cuisine indeed but very unlike my experience at Guy Savoy Paris. However, having said that, we have already made plans for a return trip in the coming weeks ;)