Don Ho: Sunday brunch with resort feels in the heart of the city

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Stepping into Don Ho Instantly makes me feel as if I've been transported to a resort. The first thing that catches my eyes was an insta-worthy wall of bright pink flamingos in tropic green, palm leaves surrounding. Then my gaze shifts to the ceiling high cabinet decked out with potted plants and animal figurines. Walking through sliding doors and into the main restaurant area reveals a space that is generously decorated with foliage, pale wooden chairs accompanied with teal coloured cushions, a wall printed with palm leaves and light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I was utterly impressed by the interior even before the food was served. Secretly adding brownie points to the final score.

[GIVEAWAY] Asanoya Bakery launches its new Brûlée Croissant to ring in the New Year

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That very first bite of Asanoya's newest Brûlée Croissant reeled me in. And because I'm feeling all emotional on New Year's Day, I would have described it as a taste of success, surrender, satisfaction, joy and celebration all wrapped up in one bite; or one cube to be exact.

Top eats of 2017: Please Sir Can I have somemore?!

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Tonight, from Kuala Lumpur, I'm raising my glass to one heck of a memorable year.

There have been highs, and extreme lows, bucket loads of tears, jaw-dropping sunsets and plenty of beauty.

Loads of delicious things have been set in front of me. Photos have filled the memory of my computer and pretty epic tales including silly exchanges with chefs have flowed out onto the Internet.

Here we are at the end and at the beginning. Like a hop, skip and quick restart.

But before we do so, there are certain dishes out there which I feel strongly compelled to commit to memory - here are my favourite eats of the year.

[NEW] Merci Marcel: Tiong Bahru gem touting bejewelled tipples

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Just what the neighbourhood needs is another wine bar. Note, the lack of sarcasm in my voice. No, it's not a double innuendo. I persevere in proving my point, the bereft of chill-out joints in the creative enclave of Tiong Bahru a mystery to me seeing alcohol's ability to 'inspire'. Merci Marcel, the latest lifestyle concept doled out by the same folks behind O' Comptoir and O' Batignolles brings the same winning formula of wine and cheese dressed up in a more articulate vibrant manner.

The Affogato Bar: Tis' the season to be jolly... with the aid of chocolate.

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Affogato Bar is Asia's first cafe that specialises in affogatos. As someone who is a lover of both coffee and ice cream, I've had affogatos a couple of times before straying away, since realising that the ice cream often melted into the coffee too quickly and both elements could not be tasted distinctly on its own. While I was slightly sceptical about how an entire cafe can be bourne out of a single dessert, I was even more hopeful that the cafe could change my mind about Affogatos.

The Affogato Bar released 3 special Affogatos for the Christmas season - Lady Claret, Firewood and Toasted Smores. After a series of careful consideration, we eventually opted for Lady Claret and Toasted Smores.

Limehouse: Date Night Solved.

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It's been a good year for the business of libations and cocktail bars spanning our local shores. Singapore has really come into its own in the bar world, capturing six spots in this year's "World's 50 Best Bars" list, third to perennial cocktail capitals London and New York. One things for sure, the locals thirst for cocktails is insatiable. We might have our staid, workaholic way of life to blame, but that just makes the lure of a kooky libation after work, irresistible. Who's with me?

And with drinks, there must be food. If you're looking for a place that does stellar cocktails accompanied with tasty nosh, here's one to add to your list: Limehouse, a Caribbean style drinking den that will have you attempting to salsa at the end of your rum-filled dinner experience.

Urban Bites - All New Saturday Brunch, Lebanese style.

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As many of you may know, I've lived in the Middle-east for a good one year, worked for a Lebanese cafe for another year and a half whilst in Sydney and was blessed to have sufficient exposure to the cuisine, at least, much more than a lot of my fellow dining companions. Not to boast, but I was truly appreciative for a middle-eastern cuisine vocabulary that extended beyond hummus and shish kebabs.  Hence when the invite to Urban Bites - the restaurant inconspicuously sounding more small plate concept than a communal Lebanese joint - I was truly flipping out. My memories of breakfast plates, aromatic hummus awarma and the sprightly impressions of herbaceous fattoush in summer had me hitting the ground running.

Urban Bites located on Telok Ayer Road sees a bevy of activity during weekend lunches. Quick Shish Tawook wraps and healthy vibes associated with hummus have been well received by the surrounding working community. However, 10 years into the business and the restaurant is seeing a major overhaul by Chef Khanashat's daughter Christine Khanashat who is determined to update a large majority of the dishes to appeal to the well-heeled crowd's sophisticated palates. With young and talented Lebanese Executive Chef, Haroutioun Ara Sayegh taking over reigns on the stoves, things have taken a drastic turn - for one, the restaurant now opens on Saturday, offering an authentic Lebanese brunch. It's clever, its a breathe of fresh air where champagne brunches and staple egg offerings are a dime in a dozen.

Humpday Quick Picks: Jade, B Burger, One Farrer Park Hotel X Da Paolo

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JADE unveils a NEW Dim Sum Experience on Weekends and Public Holidays

Jade has done away with their popular a la carte Dim Sum Buffet in favour of a more refined and no less delicious weekend dim sum experience. The Gourmet Dim Sum Treasures with set meals starting at $68++ per person and capping off at an extravagant $108++ per person for the Royal Peacock set aims to allude diners with an exquisite line up of courses ranging from dim sum to braised birds nest and crabmeat broth and my all-time-favourite sautéed Boston lobster which the kitchen perfects to the T every time.

To start, a trio of contemporary bites feed the visual senses. The plumpness hiding some divine ingredients such as scallop dumpling topped with fish roe, golden sea urchin siew mai and foie gras and truffle shrimp dumpling. Luxe versions of the ordinary really; it's obvious that Jade values quality over quantity. You might even contemplate chasing the meal with an astutely paired glass of wine (or champagne if you're feeling fancy). Prices start from $19 per glass or $98 per bottle.

Another worthy contender on the Purple Finch menu ($68++ per head) is the savoury Wok-fried Rice Flour Rolls with Scallops in X.O. sauce. It's a tricky one, assuming the appearance of a regular fried carrot cake, this one is a textbook of textures - the flat surfaces of the rice flour rolls carrying smoky wisps of charred flavour while its centers retain that delectable chew. Pan-fried scallops up the ante and the XO sauce has an addictive fragrance that will have you wiping out the plate before you can even say 'Hey, PRESTO!'


Jade
The Fullerton Hotel Singapore
1 Fullerton Square
t: 6877 8188

Operating Hours:
Daily: 11 30 - 3pm; 6 30pm - 11pm
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B Burger - Classic American burger joint with a Japanese Twist


Just when you think the burger culture is dead, along comes the fashion forward crew of Benjamin Barker with their latest foray into the meat sandwich business - B Burger, cleverly located in Cineleisure. The aim, to capture the hearts and stomachs of the younger audience, a move so brilliantly encapsulated in its usage of hipster graphics, Instagram worthy motifs and cute packaging.

Just based on concept alone, I'm sold. The artsy murals and neon lights a resounding representation of my deep profound love for burgers. Touted to be a burger and concrete paradise, I was quick to jump the gun where criticisms are made - it's ballsy, it's reckless and done so with youthful abandonment. That's B Burger in a nutshell. Now, the real question is if it lives up to expectations. After a quick taste test, I would agree with the latter. The concretes and milkshakes were splendid. The burgers on the other hand are your basic offerings with smushy overly sweet buns that did nothing for its overall integrity. Best of the lot, the Bomchika Wow Wow (yes, you get quite a kick from plain placing your order over the counter) ($10.90) combines the winning combination of fried chicken and egg between black buns mindlessly employed for aesthetic purposes. The Baller Burger ($10.90) is a close runner up with the thin layer or nori adhered to the bottom of the umamified stack adding extra dimension.

Affordability is key here so don't expect a deliverance of gourmet burgers. Do however save space for the concretes which are worth every single calorie you're splurging on. The S'mores Milkshake ($6.90) is a good thirst quencher - signature creamy vanilla ice cream made in house swirled with Nutella and topped with smatterings of crushed graham crumb and toasted marshmallows. The Peanut Butter Jelly Concrete ($7.50) has got a wild-child personality - two scoops of vanilla concrete tainted with malt powder for a bit of nostalgic factor. This concoction championed by bits of smooth peanut butter that stick to the roof of your mouth and imparts bursts of saltiness between mouthfuls of jelly laden mess. If you've got stomach for desserts, don't think twice. Even the Death by Chocolate successfully ropes in the non-dessert fans.


B Burger
Orchard Cathay Cineleisure
8 Grange Road
#01-01/01A
S(239695)

Operating Hours:
Daily: 12pm - 10pm

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One Farrer Hotel and Spa X Da Paolo Group collaboration
Italian Dining Experience


Running till the end of December, this Friday night pop-up features the best of Da Paolo Group's famous homemade cuisine with One Farrer Park Hotel's latest focus on its new "Total Lifestyle Environment" led dining concepts. Available only on Fridays and running till the 29th December, the 6 course menu is priced at just $75++.

The homegrown brand are kings of the good quality, Italian fare at affordable pricing and needless to say, the 6 course menu packs a couple of standouts. The Ravioli di Vitello con Pomodoro e Grana Padano for example, is a showstopper. These cookie cutter pillows containing braised veal, lit by adequate seasoning and just the right amount of unctuous fats to stand up to the silky sheets. They've also got the ratio of crabmeat to pasta spot on in the Spaghetti al Granchio. Fresh, tangy and slighty creamy but not in a faux pas kind of way, this dish will burrow its way straight into your heart.


Choice of mains include the Baked Chicken Roulade and the Pan Seared Barramundi. My preference lying with the former, the usual stodgy chicken dish breathed new life into with an injection of various textural references from sauted mushrooms to the ethereally light bed of truffle risotto engulfed in a moat of forest berry red wine jus to refresh the palette in between bites


You're not leaving an Italian feast without first digging into some form of dessert. Da Paolo showcases its signature tiramisu as part of the set and I'm betting my bottom dollar on it. The moist slice eats like a dream, sponge fingers soaked in just the right amount of liquored goodness to promote healthy conversations at the table.


One Farrer Hotel & Spa
Level 6, Poolside
1 Farrer Park Station Road
S(217562)
t: +65 67057825


HolyCrab!: Let's Get Physical

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Another Crab restaurant has popped up in Singapore, but wait, one that serves White Pepper, Butter, Green Chili and Balsamic Vinaigrette crabs? Count me in!

After seven years of operating as a private dining enterprise, HolyCrab has opened its first outlet at Tan Quee Lan Street, showcasing the titular crustacean in unique flavours that are bound to leave an impression.

[BALI EATS]: Urchin Grill & Raw Bar does poncey with major appeal

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On a weekday night during the off-peak season at Urchin, it's a silent, empty place of polished floorboards, stiff back chairs and mahogany wood stained atmosphere. Similar to other establishments winging the Seminyak stretch, the ill-fated predicament seems commonplace. A waiter appears and injects some life into the dry as dust persona, introducing us to the tasting menu we would be navigating. Albeit, alone in the expanse of the spacious dining room. Urchin defers from most other restaurants, no death-defying design stunts, devoid of tropical-vibe inducing paraphernalia. 

I had no qualms, of course. Settling in prompting with a comp basket of sexy warm sourdough flanked by a small dish of Kombu butter that had seen too long a time in the freezer.