It's been a while since our last visit to Imperial Treasure Teochew and since then, so much has changed. For starters, they relocated from Ngee Ann City to Ion Orchard and included the word "Fine" in their name. Oh and they recently garnered a Michelin star. Exciting times.
The place is certainly more upclass now and gone are the days of the rather cramp-ish interior with haphazard seating arrangements. Instead tall glass ceilings allow for tons of natural light and coupled with lots of wood, make for a more relaxing and refined dining environment. Do note that if you sit by the windows during the day, be prepared to soak in some heat; a little hot but still bearable.
Double Boiled Fish Maw Soup with Shark Cartilage - This came across as a little starchy and rather sweet. Not quite a fan honestly and rather pricey at $30 for such a small bowl. The Cantonese restaurants definitely do this better.
Doubled Boiled Pig's Stomach Soup with Salted Vegetables & Peppercorns - The soup was a tad too salty from the salted vegetables but I liked the peppery goodness of the peppercorns. Decent soup overall but I can get a better (and cheaper) rendition from one of the Teochew braised duck stalls that I usually patronise.
Chee Cheong Fun - Just for the kick of having some dim sum - a rather average rendition with the skin less than silky and a lacklustre char siew filling.
Three Kinds of Marinated Combination in Teochew Style - One of the hallmarks of Teochew cuisine, braised meat. We went with duck, pork belly and intestines and it was seriously underwhelming. The duck was thinly sliced and didn't come across as too tough but the gravy was a tad too sweet for my liking. Though the pig intestines were well cleaned, they lacked the crunchiness that I liked and came across as limp. Not to mention the pork belly with its >50% fat to meat ratio that honestly didn't go well with the sauce. The sole saving grace? Silky smooth beancurd slices hidden beneath. Apparently this is the Hong Kong style Teochew braise with its lighter flavours but I've had much better Teochew braise in Hong Kong. ie. Chan Kan Kee or Hung's Delicacies (which I make a point to patronise whenever I depart/transit HKIA).
Deep Fried Cod Fillet with Sauce - I had meant to order the pan fried version but made a mistake. Thankfully it turned out pretty good; crisp on the outside with sweet, flaky flesh on the inside. Ladled with mildly savoury sauce with lots of spring onions. Delicious.
Sauteed Prawn with Egg White in Italian White Truffle Oil - I usually prefer the scallop version but apparently prawns have substituted scallops for good (still can't quite accept that fact). The singular prawn was quite sizable and crunchy and of course the white truffle oil gave the whole dish a rather heady (and amazing) aroma.
Braised Spinach Beancurd with Assorted Mushrooms - Now I've rather biased towards beancurd and it was quite delicious - crisp on the outside while soft and eggy on the inside. Topped with lots of mushrooms and sitting on a bed of spinach. Definitely my kind of dish.
Sauteed String Bean & Minced Meat with Preserved Black Olives - The string bean came across as a little too oily but at least it retained its crunchiness without coming across as overly raw. Average dish at best.
Teochew Fried Fish Noodles - Stir fried with beansprouts, chives and egg, the fish noodles had a nice springy texture to it but was way too oily for my liking. It was also a tad lacking in wok hei.
Sweetened Mashed Taro with Ginkgo - And finally, another ubiquitous Teochew dish, the humble but extremely time consuming to make Orh Nee. It looked dry and unappetising on the outside but was actually smooth, fragrant and moist without being too sweet. A great ending to our otherwise underwhelming meal.
With a $100 discount, lunch for the 4 of us came to about $232 (~$339 without discount), which isn't quite worth the money in my humble opinion. Food overall was acceptable but some dishes came across as too oily. Service was good but seemed to be shorthanded at times, especially when the restaurant was at full capacity.
To be honest, even though I'm quite a fan of the Imperial Treasure group (note the number of times I've been to the Cantonese outlet at Crowne Plaza), I fail to understand how this particular outlet is able to achieve 1 Michelin Star.
CUT Marina Bay Sands recently earned a star in the 2017 Michelin Singapore edition and we had elevated expectations of a great steak dinner (hopfully even surpassing that of Morton's in Singapore).
We were seated in a semi private enclave with just a single table at one corner of the dining room. I honestly don't know what to make of the decor except that it struck me as rather clinical, unlike that of Peter Luger Steak House in New York, which had a cosy and inviting feel to it.
Complimentary Bread - There were 3 rounds of complimentary bread; bread sticks, cheese puffs and an assortment of bread from a mobile tray. The sticks were nice - crisp with a strong cheese taste (tasted like goat cheese) while the puffs came across as light, fluffy and mildy cheesey. From the tray I had the pretzel (love the texture - soft, dense yet chewy but extremely salty!) and the onion bread (moist but a touch oily). So much bread to fill you up!
Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Fuji Apple-Yali Pear Salad, Sesame-Orange Dressing - This looked absolutely delicious with a sumptous fat to meat ratio of ~50%. Coupled with a rich layer of sweet maple glaze, it was a sure fire recipe for nausea. Thank god for the sliced apple and pear salad, though sweet, provided a nice refreshing crunch and much needed moisture. I personally think a tarter apple, ie. Granny Smith's, would work better though.
Alaskan King Crab & Shrimp "Louis" Cocktail, Spicy Tomato-Horseradish - This was a half sized portion because the chef split the original portion into 2 for sharing. Although I liked the crustecean combination of king crab and prawn together (with a medley of vegetables thrown in), it wasn't spectacular. I've definitely had better.
Double Thick Iberico Pork Chop, Rhubarb "Moustarda" - I liked how the surface of the pork chop was crisp (a wee bit to burnt though) while the meat (and fat) retained its tenderness and flavour. The meat was also well seasoned with a faint tartness (probably from the rhubarb). Decent but not as good as Gunther's rendition.
Hokkaido "Snow", Tomakomai, Filet Mignon - I had high hopes for this small piece (120g) of premium Japanese steak (heck you would too if it cost $245 ) but unfortunately it was disappointing to say the least. Although the marbling was very good, the meat was a little too soft for my liking at medium doneness and it lacked the beefiness that I personally like.
Cavatappi Pasta "Mac & Cheese", White Cheddar - It was our first experience with cavatappi (helical tube/cockscrew shaped pasta) but it wasn't a good one. The dish came across as very oily with a mild white cheddar cheese taste. We gave up after a couple of mouthfuls. Bird Bird definitely does a much better rendition.
Kaya Baked Alaska - Ironically, the Kaya Baked Alaska was the star of the evening. Reminiscent of a durian shell with its spiky edges, this dessert was essentially coconut cake with pandan ice cream and coconut sorbet encapsulated within a meringue on a crumble base and quickly torched. Deliciously sweet and I love how all the flavours come together to remind me of Kaya. Served with a "side" of coffee crumble.
The both of us spent ~$508 for a rather dissatisfying dinner. Service was good but food in general wasn't great and I fail to see how or why CUT was awarded a Michelin star. At this price point, I am way more inclined to stuff myself silly at Gunther's.
Bird Bird moved to the east a couple of months back and I chanced upon it while dropping by Cedele (a few doors down) one afternoon a few months back. I was hooked and made it a point to visit shortly after. Just for the record, I have been there quite a few times for lunch/brunch ever since.
Bird Bird occupies a corner unit along Frankel Avenue and parking is limited to the private estate behind (however you are free to park anywhere you like as long as you are able to evade the rather frequent patrols by the traffic wardens). The interior is kept simple with cement screed floors and wooden tables.
Cornbread Waffles - At $3 a piece, the cornbread waffles were relatively pricey. But by golly, they were worth it. Mildly sweet with a rather significant corn taste and served with smoked maple syrup. Definitely my kind of carbs. Just watch out - they get cold and limp rather fast so eat them while they are hot/warm.
Black Truffle Mac & Cheese - This was delicious; Al dente macaroni coupled with a light fragrance from the black truffle bits and a not too creamily rich sauce nursing a tinge of zest to keep nausea at bay. Topped with shavings of cheese and croutons for an extra crisp.
Brown Sugar Bacon Chop - I loved this as well. The thick cut bacon chop was seared and coated with a thin, brittle layer of caramalised sugar; sweet with salty undertones. A little different from the renditions of both Peter Luger and Clinton Street Baking, which do without the evident layer of sugar but equally delicious.
Signature Fried Chicken - Our order of half chicken consisted of 5 pcs from wing to breast. It looked absolutely mouth watering but unfortunately I found the seasoning a little underwhelming and not thorough enough. The meat was tender, juicy and moist but the skin was a little bland and lacked the oomph I was hoping for (in this respect, Southern Bird @ Marina Bay Sands does a better job). The signature gravy tasted like runny mashed potato gravy. Maybe the other chickens taste better?
Durian Softie Pie - An absolute crowd pleaser, the toasted milk softie had a light browned taste to it without coming across as too sweet. Topped with a generous scoop of durian pudding, white chocolate, sitting on an almond crust base and drizzled with gula melaka caramel for an added sweetness. Delicious and definitely a great way to end off the meal.
Brunch cost the 2 of us ~ $81, which isn't exactly cheap but I think it's worth the price for the above average quality of food in general. Service is decent but just be aware that the ventilation isn't great so you will walk out of the place smelling like your meal. Weekday lunch sets offer a much better value proposition so it would make better sense to go during lunch (you can even top up $5 for a durian softie!)
We had been meaning to drop by Riders Cafe for the longest time but somehow never managed to get to it until one overcast Saturday morning when we decided to go off the beaten track.
Located at the Bukit Timah Saddle Club in a charming colonial style building, Riders Cafe boasts great ventilation and views of a field and horses (sometimes - not to mention the smells too). Which is great if the weather is cooling (not too common in Singapore though) and you enjoy dining alfresco. The place is a constant buzz so reservations are advisable (I witnessed a few people being turned away without one).
Fried Chicken BLT - The chicken patty was well marinated with spices and came across as mildly sweet but not too dry. Topped with coleslaw, rather weak kimchi mayonnaise and sandwiched between two rather insipid buns. Still palatable though.
Riders Burger - I opted for the works; added mushrooms, bacon rashers and an egg. The Angus beef patty had bits of fat in it which made for a nice chewy texture. However the bovine flavours were a little muted and the bacon, a little limp. I liked the smooth creaminess the egg yolk provided though; a sort of gooey glue that brought everything together. Buns needed more butter and time on the grill in my humble opinion. Decent burger overall but no great shakes.
Death By Chocolate Cake - This was very sinful and oh so good (I'm definitely biased). A luscious slice of moist chocolate cake slathered with mildly viscous chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of ice cream. Watch out for the sweetness overload though.
Salted Caramel Brioche - Salted caramel brioche topped with a scoop of vanilla (not vanilla bean) ice cream and honeycomb. I liked the flavours; salty yet sweet. Unfortunately the brioche was rather inconsistent in texture - some were crisp while others came across as limp and stodgy. A bigger scoop of ice cream would also have been appreciated as towards the end, the brioche got a little too salty and there was no ice cream left to "dilute" it. Still a decent dessert nonetheless.
Our bill came up to ~$74 for 2 burgers and 2 desserts which isn't too expensive but food quality in general hovered a notch above average at best and service, though proficient enough, didn't seem quite friendly. The place is nice but given Singapore's humid weather most of the time, ambience alone isn't a big enough draw for me to return.
Half Pound Burger (or HPB for short) sounded promising so we dropped by one Saturday afternoon to partake in their reasonably priced set lunch.
Located close to the start of Purvis Street, HPB occupies a simply furnished but comfortable unit just metres away from Saveur.
Soup Of The Day - It was either the Roasted Tomato Soup or the Potato Leek Soup for the set lunch so we went with the former. The tomato soup came across as rich but a little too zesty for my liking whilst the croutons were overly soggy, probably from sitting in the soup for an extended period of time.
Grilled Chicken Burger - The grilled chicken patty tasted rather similar to a huge piece of chicken satay but came across as a tad dry. Decent flavour though but maybe having a bit of sauce would make it better? Side of fries was okay though the dipping sauce was rather interesting; a mildly sweet and creamy butter base that actually went well with the fries.
Petite Half Pound Burger - As far as burgers go, this isn't anywhere near the best I've had but definitely not near the worst either. The patty was juicy though it was rather compact and strangely tough with a mild brovine flavour. Layered with Monterey Jack cheese, a strip of decent candied bacon (not as good as the one from Peter Luger or Clinton Street Baking or Bird Bird) and capped with a crisp, buttery bun (a wee bit more time on the grill would have been better in my humble opinion).
Sure the food at HPB isn't fantastic. But at $17 /pax for lunch (includes a drink), it's actually pretty decent value for money especially in the City Hall area.