Seasons Bistro: Seasonal based Cuisine in the heart of Orchard

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Seasons Bistro located at Triple One has given residents a new neighbourhood place where they can have a really simple meal, or, when they feel like it, something more extravagant.

It's name conveniently convenes it's principals, "seasons" touting it's homage to a seasonally driven menu with constantly changing fare showcasing the freshest ingredients; "bistro"  speaking volumes about the affordability of it's offerings. Executive Chef Benjamin Fong is the man responsible for flicking the dust off traditionally dearly priced seasonal menus, focusing mainly on the multifaceted American cuisine, with influences from Canada, New England, Mexico and the cosmopolitan New York City. 

The menu is sprinkled with strange and contemporary choices geared for the curious diner. Lunch time sees a value-for-money set menu priced at the affable $12.99 for a choice of soup, main and coffee/soft drink (add $5 for a choice of desserts), a penny pinchers dream come true. With dark wood finishes and sleek varnished counter tops, bringing a company function to its midst now seems like a viable and slightly classier option. 


I went ahead with the set lunch. Opting for the soup of the day for starters. The potato and leek soup probably doesn't sound like a bell ringer, however its deliverance was stellar. Clean flavors without the distracting chunks of potatoes nor irrelevant carrots, as most cafe renditions are, you would expect to taste a tinge of raw starch from the mindless cooking; that wasn't the case at Seasons Bistro.  A technically sound bowl of soup that saw my spoon clanging the bottom of the dish eagerly.


My main came in the form of a Cobb Salad; an uncomplicated marriage that is signified on the menu by sans-serif lists of ingredients, with no capital letters, verbs, articles or hint of how one relates to the next; yet miraculously it does... and all to well. The main-dish classic American salad isn't as straightforward as it seems. It has some rock and roll in its trousers. Cajun spiced chicken grilled till spot on, boiled eggs with a slightly soft center, crisp bacon bits, black olives, corn, watercress and tomatoes strewn the plate. While the salty blue cheese marries mixed greens and creamy avocado, the result conceived is a perfect combination that presents different flavor dimensions and textures with each bite. My only gripe would have to be the beans which I have uncanny biasness towards.


Not everything is fine and dandy; the service needs improvement and the sprawling space doesn't ultimately work in its favour during a busy lunch service as our plea for desserts to be brought out was lost in translation. 

Mishap aside, Seasons Bistro does have the capacity to titillate its guests, by not dishing out over complicated cuisine but tastes good enough to leave you rubbing your belly at the end of the meal. I pray that with the constant reminder of the establishment's name overhed, the chef never loses sight of the bistro's identity. 

Season's Bistro
#01-11/12, TripleOne Somerset
111 Somerset Road
Singapore 238164

Ramen Champion: Next better player.

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Nothing works better for quality control than the existance of competition. Here at Ramen Champion, this concept is pushed to the extreme with the congregation of 6 ramen stores under one roof. Residency is determined by a competitive and friendly customer voting system, and diners' votes contribute to seeing who stays and who leaves the arena.

Sounds epic doesn't it?

With 2 new contenders arriving in Singapore, tensions were high as the current residents amped up their game in preparation for the conflict of interests. Would the newcomers pose a threat? We put the freshies to the test.




Kick starting the night, we indulged in a bit of pre-game appetisers. The Mentaiko Gyoza ($7) from Menya Ryu was perfectly delicious, the suppleness of the filling and the racy creaminess of the sauce squiggled over the top made it a perfect snack for the peckish. The Tako Age ($8.80) was okay, slightly overcooked but overcomeable with a generous dip in the mayonnaise.


The Tebasaki with Spicy Sauce ($6.90) appeals to me, the lightness of it's sesame crusted golden amber batter satisfying most of us around the table. Avoid the Deep Fried Gyoza ($5), greasy with an overly thick crust filled with the most pathetic amount of fillings I've ever bared witness to in a gyoza, it adds weak lines to Buta God's stellar repertoire as the front runner in the Ramen arena. 



Returning back to the main agenda of Ramen, my favourite of the night amongst Riki, Shodai Koji and Menya Ryu (the last 2 being the new kids on the block) would definitely have to be the Sapporo Miso Special Ramen ($15.80) from Menya Ryu; the flavorful tonkotsu and chicken soup base with 3 kinds of miso, red, white and black dances cross the tongue with such intensity that I was completely smitten. Texturists would relish in the Chef's varied use of garnish ranging from bamboo shoots to corn to spring onions and a generous mound of greens to further enhance the experience. Refreshing the palate with something crunchy, or something sweet with every alternate bite. This rendition uses curly medium thickness yellow noodles which were perfect vehicles for the aromatic broth.


Coming in second  for today's tasting was the Triple Chashu Ramen ( $16.80) from Shodai Koji.  Where it falls short of victory comes in the form of an overcooked egg and a slightly lighter and less flavorful broth than I'm usually accustomed to. Chef Koji Takano lavishes care on the meat selection (specially imported from Spain), offering an impressive spread of 3 kind of meats, chicken thigh, pork belly and pork collar in this dish, his efforts pay off as the Chashu is meltingly pliable. 


Special Power Ramen ($16.50)  from Riki slips into the back lane with its overly garlicky soup base. Proudly declared to have a broth that is simmered for over 8 hours, it's milky white nature is ravaged by the heavy hand of garlic that totally discredits its true potential. The overuse of beansprouts in this dish proves to be a bit distracting as it reveals a rather woeful amount of thick noodles. The beansprouts having been blanched for too long acquiring a rather limp texture that does nothing for the architecture of the dish. All is not lost though as the small detail of blow torching the pieces of charshu before plating imbues the pork with a heady smoky sensation that gives the dish depth. 

With all that ramen digested and commentaries passed, I shall leave you guys to make your own judgement should you be making a trip down to any of Ramen Champion's three locations dotting the island. And till then... may the next better player win.

Ramen Champion
Bugis +
201 Victoria Street #04-08/09/10
Singapore 188607
T: 6238 1011

GRUB at Bishan Park: Messing with expectations

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Are you looking for the best burger in Singapore? Because, if you're turning to GRUB for the solution, you're at a dead end, my friend. 

Having heard notorious news about the snaking queues that build as a result of the no-reservations policy implemented at this place, we arrived a few minutes after 6pm, got cosy on our outdoor benches; only to be greeted by the wide eyed doggy stares from other pairs attempting to saunter in, followed by larger rowdier groups praying for a dash of luck in the waiting game.

GRUB is a high volume joint set in a luscious neighbourhood of draping willows over greenish lakes and the panting joggers that come along with that sacred bit of nature in our concrete jungle. Manage the heat with some thirst quenchers, the BrewDog Dead Pony Club ($10) and Thatcher's Gold Cider ($13) are good options for respite against the humidity.



Get past the contemplation stage and follow your gut. It's the burger that you want. But the real question is.. does it deliver? 

A suspiciously short 5minutes later, the juicy raucous mess arrives on a wooden slab. There is the GRUB double cheeseburger ($18) all ready for its Instagram close up, it is handsomely arranged. fashionably austere in its expertly crafted layers and towering construction. A twist of the stabbing pick reveals a nasty squish of bread; the bottom bun not holding up to the juiciness of the patties. And that situation arising despite the overall dryness of the buns from perhaps doing overtime on the grill sans a protective layer of buttering. Discrepancies were highly evident, the lower patty showing a ticklish pink shade whereas the top starring in 50 shades of grey. At this point, I had my qualms about the burgers being cooked to order. A slight mineral taste accompanied the patties as though they have been frozen a good long time and thawed speedily. Needless to say, this didn't quite make my top 10 list.


The other most Instagrammable offering from GRUB is the Crispy Fish Burger ($14) hake fish and an accompanying remoulade (tar-tar sauce).  The lemon like bite in the sauce acting as a welcome ray of sunlight breaking into this rather mundane one noted dish. I was so disenchanted by this uninspired plate that I doubt it could even challenge a 13 year old's palate. Did I mention the soggy fries we got?

Despite it's poor performance, GRUB exacerbates the feeling that it is loved by all, especially since the restaurant was packing in the crowds early in the evening on a Thursday night. Perhaps the other mains served at dinner hold higher promises; but for now, I can only exhibit a certain level of enthusiasm for the energy, vibes and fantastic service standards at the restaurant. Not sure whether a repeat visit is in the works.


GRUB at Bishan Park
510 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1
Singapore 569983

The Reading Room: Honesty is the best policy

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dumbfounded, adj

"And still, for all the jealousy, all the doubt, sometimes I will be struck with a kind of awe that we're together. That someone like me could find someone like you --- it renders me wordless. Because surely words could conspire against such luck, would protest the unlikelihood of such a turn of events.

I didn't tell any of my friends about our first date. I waited until after the second, because I wanted to make sure it was real. I wouldn't believe it had happened until it had happened again. Then, later on, I would be overwhelmed by the evidence, by all the lines connecting you to me, and us to love."

David Levithan - The Lover's Dictionary

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Today's write-up is about The Reading Room at Bukit Pasoh road, hence the not-so-short quote from one of favourite recent reads. I digress. Such a sublime book to digest though. But if its books you're looking for and a comfy couch to snuggle in with a fresh cup of brewed coffee, then, this place might just be your cup of tea.


Stowed away on the quiet streets of Bukit Pasoh Road, just next to the trendier, more bustling Keong Saik street of parallel characteristics; sits The Reading Room cafe. 

The beaming pride and joy of the cafe lines the establishments from wall to wall. It's shelves packed to the brim with books of different genre and category (some collected by the owner himself while others spawning from generous donations). Each one praying to spill its tales to an unsuspecting cafe go-er at arms length. If you spot plane ticket stubs or name cards jutting out from the top of books, don't be alarmed, and I implore you not to switch the positions of these books; painstakingly tucked away by regulars currently coddling over their specific reads with every return visit.

Here in Singapore, we are no strangers to the concept of cafe by day and bar by night. But we fail to realise that this is no new concept, in fact, it has been adopted by The Reading Room for the last two years now, the transition, flawless, it's laid-back living room settings camouflaging the existence of seams between day and night even. Here, patrons are encouraged to hang one's hat up, dwell and rest within the oasis of books. Reading is optional, one can also exploit the free wifi and enjoy the lackadaisical afternoon.

The lovechild of owner Gino Abate, The Reading Room originated from his passion for entertaining the masses. Down-to-earth with a slight disgruntlement towards the level of respect for food here locally, it was easy to understand his vision for his cafe. "Good, honest food. Nothing fancy, but we do try to make sure that everyone leaves having enjoyed a good hearty meal."


In a nutshell, it was all comfort food, everything made to order, from scratch; a logic that resonated very well with me. 


I had the TRR's Aussie Burger with the Lot ($22.80) -- sans the grilled pineapple cause it reminds me of the Hawaiian pizza which I have hold a great amount of animosity towards. A 180g beef patty is topped with sweet onion chutney, fried egg, lettuce, onion, tomato, tomato sauce, homemade mayo and bacon; a respectable burger with all the expected bits of the formula in there, however the fireworks didn't light up with this rendition. The beef patty needing that little bit more fat ratio injected, it's sticky innards falling a little on the mushy side; egg as binder perhaps? It's evident that TRR lavishes care on the burgers though with evenly melted cheese and a good dash of fresh ground black pepper, the sauces diligently made from scratch.


Desserts are a modest rosters of classics. The Crumble Cheesecake sourced from Gobi Desserts, an absolute pleasure to demolish, it's sweet, slightly savoury crumb topping complimenting the creamy innards of the cheesecake. Shame about the soggy base, otherwise, a real tight effort with the balance of flavors. Another solid discovery is the Homemade Tiramisu, despite it's non-alcoholic nature which I find to be a bore, the final concoction churns out hits of deliciousness percolated by intense hits of coffee and charitable amount of mascarpone cheese unruffled by the distraction of whipped cream. It's no wonder my host was beaming from ear to ear as I tucked in with my spoon unabashedly.


The Reading Room has a facade that is so unassuming, you can mistake the restaurant for a residence, which is exactly the feel the owner is trying to convey. Unlike the usual hipster haunts nowadays, this is the place you would go to stare into space and not to be seen by others. A hidden gem for the socially inept such as I am.

Note that TRR has extended operating hours and is now opening its shutters from 8am onwards on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. On top of that, an all-day-breakfast menu will be on offer on the weekends as well! Stay tuned for more daily specials on their Facebook page. Be warned that this could be severely distracting at work.


Fundamentally flawed dined as a guest of TRR, in the course of which she was absolutely smitten by the place itself. period. A major thanks to Jake for sharing the calories of that yummilicious tiramisu with me.

The Reading Room
19 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore
T: 6220 9019

{Wordless Wednesdays}: Marmalade Pantry & some Mexican Magic

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It was off to Marmalade Pantry for a quick weekday lunch. 

{Wordless Wednesdays} means less talk.. so I'll try to curb the inner banter,  here was the mediocre  Spicy Crabmeat Linguine ($25) with pine nuts, tomatoes and chilli followed by a rather uninspired Basque Chicken  ($28) ,with capsicum, tomato and garlic potatoes; the tomatoes could have used a little more time in the blanch before roasting, the starch reducing to a little chalky consistency. Overall good meal for that quick fix but totally not worth its hefty price tag. Thank goodness for the Entertainer app that reduced our bill to a certain easier to swallow fee of $32 for 2.

The Marmalade Pantry
Unit 03-22 ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn 
S(238801)
T: +65 6734 2700

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Following our disappointing meal that day, we adjourned to Cha Cha Cha at Holland Village for some spirit lifting opportunities at dinner time.

Seeking comfort in our Margaritas ($40 for a pitcher), Chimichangas deep fried to a titillating golden brown and saucy sour cream with every cheesy bite of crackin' shredded beef filled Quesadilla ($13.50). This was the Mexican food lover's idea of paradise.

There and then... everything just felt better. Must have been that Mexican grilled cheese sandwich and its magic ways...




Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant
32 Lorong Mambong
Holland Village
Singapore (277690)
T: 64621650