National Day meant many things for me but most of all it meant my girlfriend could get the National Day celebrations discount offered by Secret Recipe which allowed all their cakes to be available for purchase at a whooping 42% discount. Her choice of indulgence? After an agonizing 1 hour of listening to the shop assistant who eventually lied to get her number, the heavy weighted Moist Chocolate Cake which weights in at an astonishing 2.1kg.@
Moist Chocolate Cake ($26 due to discount) - Being my first Secret Recipe cake, i'd say this was big. The shop assistant kindly pointed out the best way to enjoy this was by first heating it and he wasn't wrong at all. When heated, the cake is warm, with a nice layer of melting dark chocolate that would have been better if given in bigger doses but in its current form still managed to indulge the senses with its cocoa content. The thin light brownish layer you see in the middle is mocha fudge which provides a sweet and light relief from the majority of the cake's thick bitter chocolate layer. The sponge cake was also denser then usual and thus results in a more fulfilling spoonful then regular sponge cakes available elsewhere.
So is the Secret Recipe used in this cake good enough? I would say it was really quite good. I loved the melting bitter chocolate layer and the small mocha layer in the middle when i munched on its sponge cake. However, i really would have preferred it if they could have given a few more layers of chocolate of something else to mix up the taste abit as it can get overwhelmingly strong after a few bites.
Definitely worth its price when discounted but i would never pay the full price for a cake of this caliber. To me, $45 should net me something much more exotic or at least thoughtful then this offering. However, this is still a good steal at $26, too bad it comes around only once yearly. =P
I believe the cafe needs no introduction. Its penetration rate is pretty decent with a grand total of 10 outlets in Singapore located mostly in the friendly neighbourhood malls or chic city locales. Supposedly conceived by an Italian lady and a Jewish baker along the back streets of New York craving some home cooked meals, its said to offer fine pastries and equally fine main courses (at least thats what they planned in the first place!)
Anyway, i was there for many occasions so i thought i'd do this in one fell swoop. The mains of this blog was done with my colleagues at a farewell dinner held for a great friend, while the desserts were from my standalone visits.
Banana And Peach Waffle ($7.30) - I personally did not get to try this but it does look quite appetizing doesn't it? The reason its the first food picture? Well, we actually ordered this as a starter. =P
Blue Haven ($4.50) - Termed as a Spider in their menu (whatever that is), all i can say is that this drink tastes good at the upper portion but gets REALLY sweet near the bottom. I enjoyed it for its vanilla ice cream and really cold taste but couldn't quite take to the flavoring near the bottom. Tread with caution here.
Our orders were the Chicken Chef's Salad ($9.70), Texas Rodeo Ribs ($16.50), Hawaiian Pork Chops ($14.20), Spicy Thai Seafood Pasta ($14.60) and St Louis Pork Ribs ($15.20). The above are what my friends ordered. And some orders were repeated as so only single pictures were shown. I personally had a go at most of the items, albeit only in bite sized portions. The ribs were tender and fragrant but too drenched in sauce to be consumed by one person alone as it get overwhelming. I found the pork chops nothing special and a little too oily for my tastes. Finally, the salad was pretty good but i couldn't condone the price it comes at.
Crispy Jumbo Combo ($47.90) - Now this order i shared with everyone else. Its huge to say the least. It comes with a healthy dose of potato wedges and i must say it goes really well with the wasabi mayonnaise combination sauce and its more normal BBQ sauce. Also on the plate are chicken wings, 2 huge fish fillets, 2 fried chicken cutlets, fried prawns and mixed vegetables. Well, weight control and health concerns obviously go out the window with this order. Everything is fried to a friendly golden brown with batter which thankfully isn't too thick. Fish and chicken fillets were both nicely done, maintaining a crispy exterior with a tender and juicy interior. The rodeo wings i found weren't seasoned enough and tasted more like normal chicken wings to me. The prawns weren't too special either. Freshness of it mixed vegetables were also questionable but the wedges and fillets won this dish for me. Not to mention the "chef's special sauce", which is essentially wasabi with mayonnaise, simply went well with anything fried. Best part was that the portion was huge so everyone had a chance to dig in.
Desserts!! (All cakes go for half price after 9pm)
Bitter Chocolate Fudge Cake - I had a go at this cake with a friend @ cafe cartel in Hougang Mall. It was actually pretty good with its 3 layers of thick bitter chocolate. I like my chocolate strong and so this managed to do it for me. Of course, for the price and location, i wouldn't comment on the quality of the chocolate in this offering except say that it was decent enough to give it a second try.
EastSide Brownie Stack - My order almost always at cafe cartel. Who doesn't like hot and cold desserts anyway? Warm, thick oozing chocolate fudge atop oven warmed brownies with hazelnuts. Add in the winning combination of a decent vanilla ice cream and you have a winner. I would recommend telling the waiting staff your prefered amount of chocolate fudge beforehand though, as i got my brownie swimming in fudge once which kinda dampened the dessert a little.
Blueberry Cheese Cake - Blueberry cheese cakes are all the rage these days but honestly, this rendition didn't quite work out for me. The blueberry was a little too sour and the cheese cake wasn't very smooth either. Its quite easy to taste the sour cream in the cake which just doesn't do it for me. For a good blueberry cheese cake, i'd recommend paying a visit to Eden Cafe.
Bill came up to be $216 before discount for our group of 14 people.
In retrospect, i actually been to this place many times for meals. Its quite amazing really. The food is average honestly but is painless due to the fact that the price charged here is very affordable and its portion size is sufficient. In terms of taste, it may not be up there with the other places i've had, but in terms of ease of access and casual dining, this place certainly won't disappoint, just don't expect high level cuisine when you step in though.
Golden Peony is a rather small cozy restaurant located on the third floor of Conrad Centennial Singapore. Its supposedly one of the best restaurants in Singapore in terms of its Cantonese food offerings and this is where my foodie friends and i gathered for our monthly binge session.
Everything here looks and feels pretty nice. The lights were rather dim despite how the pictures look, so i had to struggle to find a good light source to get my photos done.
Peking Duck ($52) - First part of the peking duck is obviously its skin. I must say that the portion here is very miserly. 3 really small skins in crepes and it doesn't allow you to get additional items should you have a different preference. I found the skin very normal and not as fragrant as Hai Tien Lou. Still decent though, just not great.
Peking Duck Continued - The second part of the Peking duck was served sliced and diced in lettuce wrap. Taking the meat by itself would have proven too salty but the lettuce wrap did serve to moderate the taste pretty well. However, i simply do not see a the duck here in our 6 portions which is quite a disappointment. If i pay for a duck, i expect to see a duck, and that doesn't seem to be what i'm given.
Salted Yolk Prawns ($39) - This one i found pretty much to my liking. The salted yolk batter was not too thick and i liked it less salty. The prawns were also of a reasonably big size and freshness which made the dish very palatable. The portions were small again though and everyone ended up with 2 prawns max.
Homemade Beancurd with Asparagus & XO sauce ($48 for 6 portions) - I found the beancurd simple and not really fantastic. Texture wise, it doesn't reach the softness and smoothness of good japanese beancurd and the egg taste didn't win it any points with me. After learning further that the beancurd was sold by the grams didn't improve my impression of it one bit. The accompanying sauce was decent but i couldn't taste the XO sauce in this anywhere.
Tea Marinated Pork Ribs ($90 for 6 portions) - This came across as a pretty good item when it reach our table. It was quite a size and i love meat, albeit not pork. The ribs were tender and juicy though and the fatty layer was minimal. However, i wouldn't have known this was 'tea marinate' if i didn't see the receipt. Still, it was rather good and well done if not for its rather exorbitant price.
Lobster Noodles ($120 for 6 portions) - This was $20 a portion and was it worth it? I honestly have to say a resounding No! The noodles taste like almost anything you could find outside and the baby lobster simply didn't come with enough meat nor taste to make it feel like anything except a scam.
Tao Huay ($24 for 6 portions) - Things just keep spiralling downwards i suppose. This tao huay has nothing special i could rant about and it costs $4 a portion. Simply not worth the time nor effort.
Bill: The total bill for this came up to $472.90. Which is a total rip off and simply left me wondering how it was possible for all those prizes displayed on its corridor.
I honestly expected a whole lot more from this place given its reputation and the number of prizes it won to stand testament to its achievements. Yet, i left the place unsatisfied and feeling more then a little sour at blowing a bomb on a place totally not worth the money. I won't be back and i don't think anyone should either, at least until they get a new chef and modus operandi that doesn't make their customers feel ripped off.
Jurong Hilltop Restaurant was an ad hoc dinner we had due simply because the other venue we had planned has been closed down (oh the horror!!) and so, since i traveled half of Singapore already to be there, I wasn't going to leave till I at least had a semi-decent meal. And since blogger friend FatPig was there to bring us up the hill, we persevered, climbed and conquered huge-O Jurong Hill for our little rendezvous.
I'll be honest, i would almost never have found the place had it not been for my friend. There was a long winding dark road up to the restaurant which simply isn't the kind of road i would willingly drive up for fun. And when we found it, i was surprised to see many people already there, which was quite a surprise as this location was, to me at least, an extremely ulu place. So maybe it serves good food @ a reasonable price?
Appetisers - The appetizers were pretty normal but served its intended purpose of whetting my appetite.
Stir Fried Venison with ginger and pepper ($16) - The venison was tender and sweet but i suppose its possible to have almost the same quality at normal zhi ca outside minus the show and having a lot more msg and oil. So, in light of health concerns, i'd prefer this one.
Pork ($14) - I found the pork a tad dry at first but later discovered some parts to be more evenly cooked than others. Still, a pretty nicely done dish (that means alot mind you, i'm not a pork lover)
Tofu ($8 for 2 servings) - A must-have staple dish for me. The tofu they have is of the egg bean curd variety which is decent, smooth and soft in texture but i can't help feeling its possible to get this from any grocery store outside. It certainly doesn't look or taste like it was made in-house nor does it feel imported but i may be wrong. Still, tofu is something i must have whenever its offered and this is passable.
Fresh Mushroom ($10 for 2 servings) - As the name implies, fresh mushroom is indeed fresh. Nicely done, succulent and tasty. Pity about the portion though, which was rather small after being split into 3 portions.
Bean sprouts Aka Dao gay - The filler section for the menu. You can't expect to be full after eating only the meats do you? And also, which teppenyaki would be complete without a good healthy serving of bean sprouts? This one was good as it didn't have the 'greenish' vegetable taste that happens when bean sprouts are not cooked properly. It was neither too salty nor too oily either which is very good.
Sirloin Steak Completed ($22) - From what i understand about the fire procedure, its very dangerous for the chef as his hands may have residue of oil and catch fire during the process resulting in severe burns. However, its supposed to be a necessary process to cook the beef to a suitable level of 'doneness'? Correct me if i'm wrong please.
For the sirloin, the initial reaction is that its still a little tough maybe because it was slightly overcooked. It thus lacked the juiciness of whole steaks which i liked but in its cube form, this is still quite good. FatPig did comment that the meat wasn't really fresh though.
The meal came up to be about $85 for 3 people.
The place was pretty nice despite being found in an out-of-the-way location and i'm pretty sure its been there for quite some time given the number of people who willingly trekked there to eat. The food is pretty good and portion size was reasonable since it could be split by 3 people filling us up reasonably well. Its worth a visit for the experience and some nice Japanese Teppenyaki. The peace and quiet is also very much appreciated after the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Yet again, i brought my gf for dinner on this day. This time at a location much closer to home. This restaurant has been featured on television before for its unique location and quality of its food. The program raved about its food but i've never been a believer of commercial reviews so its more or less my own thoughts right here.
For starters, i liked the environment and the view. The location is quiet and though there were quite a few people there, it didn't come across as packed as there were plenty of leg space for everyone which is what i like.
(Bliss Special) Crab meat soup - My gf ordered a bliss special meal which consisted of a soup, main course and a dessert. All for $13.90 which was quite a shock for me as the price was rather low for what i envisioned to be a medium priced location. I was however, soon to realise why it could come at such a price.
The crab meat soup they served was not unlike the broth used in shark's fin soup. It had little pieces of carrot, radish, some crab meat and quite a bit of pepper. Nothing amazing but what do you expect for the price eh?
Stella Artois ($7.50) - Our drink for the day. A word of caution, the place DOES NOT SERVE cold water. So you MUST buy a drink. On further notice, i realise the place serves a pretty decent selection of wine, mostly old world wines at a pretty hefty price. If my memory serves me well, it does not serve wine by the glass. @ $7.50 a bottle, it does strike me as rather expensive for a simple beer but i may just be a miser. =P
Baked Seafood Rice ($14.90) - My main course of the day. It was a rather large serving so that earns it plus points. Beneath the thick layer of cheese contains 2 medium sized prawns, 2 huge mussels and assorted pieces of fish interlaced with the rice. Not to mention the 2 squid rings you see on top.
To be honest, i was rather excited when i got my dish. It smelled great and i love tomato based stuff, be it pasta or rice. And looking at the huge serving with the ingredients they offered just made my mouth water. However, it looks better then it tastes honestly, so that really disappointed me. Don't get me wrong, the rice was great and so was the cheese layer but the crucial part of its seafood just didn't quite cute it for me. The prawns were moderately fresh but the mussel and squid ring couldn't be called good which is such a waste considering the nicely done rice. Overall, this is passable but the seafood alone was not worth the money.
(Bliss Special) Smoked Salmon Pasta - Once again, the presentation of the dish is excellent. The serving of salmon it came with was quite generous i must say. However, the salmon didn't taste fresh yet again, just like the seafood in my baked rice. I would have really liked if they could give reasonably fresh seafood for their dishes, because the pasta tasted pretty well done as did the rice. Maybe the chef's specialty is actually in these instead of seafood? Because it sure tasted that way. The pasta was springy and had enough seasoning to make it taste slightly salty yet not overbearing. Needless to say, the pasta was finished but the salmon remained.
Tiramisu ($5.90) - This disappointed me to no end. I wanted a good dessert to end the rather mundane dinner offering but it just didn't do the dessert justice. The top layer was way too soft and watery as was the bottom layer. The rum soaked and completely destroyed the cake layer beneath and worse, the rum didn't taste like rum at all! This has got to be the worst tiramisu i've had thus far. Do NOT try it.
Not shown is my gf's dessert which is also equally bad. Mango ice cream from a really bad manufacturer i suspect. Not worth mentioning as well.
Total bill for 2 came up to $42.20
I like the place and the lack of service charge and GST. I also like the rice and spaghetti but the seafood really didn't do anything for me in the meal except make me sigh in disappointment. The dessert served was outrageously bad as well and the lack of iced water is simply a sin. Service was nice but difficult to get and given the bad seafood, the price to pay for this 'Blissful' meal simply wasn't worth it.