Located on the peripherals of Tiong Bahru estate is the Dispensary cafe, sharing a portion of the already saturated cafe culture pie-chart in the vicinity. And it does so humbly. With its old-school shop front and ostentatious traditional Chinese medicine cabinets as centre piece, the rest of the cafe decor is kept simple and understated with raw finishing and a touch of nostalgia provided by shelves of memorabilia and time honoured crockery.
we settled down quickly with our buzzers at hand after placing our orders; however, I wish the more personal type, long-established form of service can be rendered here. With a simple menu to boot, boosted by a sizable amount of cakes and sweets baked in-house, we were quick to settle on our wants . Ham & Cheese toastie ($7.50) for me and Smoked Salmon toastie ($8.50) for him.
The former resulting in sighs of disappointment with a cold nappy limp lettuce neatly folded up into a quarter and haphazardly placed over the stack of ham. As much as the bread was an outstanding piece of carbohydrate, that all fell to pieces with the lack luster filling. The latter was an insignificant event that warranted no reviews from my companion. Enough said.
Will return for the,' much raved about' cakes the next time. #tgif peeps.
One of the several reasons to like Saboten is the bona-fide promise to get some deep-fried food into your system without the whole cloying oil-laden regrets that come an hour later.
In Tune with the opening of its new outlet in 313 Somerset, Saboten has released some new menu speciality items such as the Iberico Loin Katsu Set ($28) and the Fried Jumbo Prawns Set ($28.50) to create a stir amongst its diners. To be fair, Saboten has never quite stolen the residency of 'Singapore's King of Tonkatsu' throne in my heart, and I broached the repeated challenge with indifference.
The promise of more glamorous waves unfortunately was met with a barrage of quizzical looks round the table as diners found themselves tucking into a chewier cut of meat masquerading as Iberico pork, this pedigreed species which supposedly delivers more succulence and delicacy of flavor from it's excellent marbling had no such luck here.
The Fried Jumbo Prawn Set is an immaculate gathering of gold treasures in various shapes and sizes. It's entourage including a wild-catch tiger prawn, creamy crab croquette and a hunk of original loin katsu. Indecisive ones will feel a strong tug to check out this 'surf & turf' set and hope for the best for at least one of the lot. For those who venture into this terrain, you'll be rewarded with an even showing from all aspects of the meal, the jumbo prawn grown to such large proportions that a quick trip to the deep fryer still render its deep innards unimaginably creamy. The crab croquette which tasted more of potato than crab meat had a melted cream cheese like texture when pried apart. Last but not least, the piece of original loin katsu peculiarly nudged the Iberico katsu off its pedestal and had a better luscious quality to it.
Now filled up on free-flow cabbage and fried food, we wrapped up the ingloriously diet-betraying affair with the Fried Hotate ($12 for 2 pieces) which are only available till the end of October in line with the seasonal Hotate Feast. These beauties were pulled from the heat precisely at the moment their flesh turns from translucent to a crystal white, before they had a chance to seize up into a rubbery puck that would chase away their sweet oceanic juices. Definitely a dish worth splashing the extra couple of bucks for.
Surrounded by a deluge of similar concept restaurants with identical menu, Saboten misses the mark pertaining to specific issues such as the quality of its cuts (as explained before), however, some of it's less common offerings ups the ante for those craving a little bit more variety.
I used to say good things about the simple cafe fare at Oriole Cafe. But apparently with the passing of time, standards have slipped so far beyond rescue that I probably would not recommend nor be going back there anytime soon for a meal. The picturesque Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Waffles ($26) was a real disappointment. Gracefully composed, yet so lacking in substance, with deep fried chicken pieces that resemble Japanese kaarage out from a frozen bag and Bourbon syrup which tasted more like cheap honey than its declared maple origins. The coleslaw was half decent albeit for a lack of seasoning. Definitely a dish you wouldn't be able to work through despite a ravenous appetite (tested and proven by the partner who nudged away his plate after consuming less than half the dish). Ouch.
My Oriole Burger ($25) was a slightly more peachy affair featuring a 100% US Angus beef patty. cheddar cheese, lettuce , tomato and onion. A hearty meal with mainstream appeal but will one that disappoints the hardcore burger fans. The beef patty had a queer stringiness to its texture and the sesame bun could have used a little tender loving care with a spot of butter to crisp up its edges. Not a burger I'll return to if the cravings arise.
It is obvious that Oriole's priorities have deviated off tangent from its glorious days where quality food was the pride and joy of the cafe along with its star-studded cast of baristas with their fancy coffee art work. It's weakness made clearly evident by the barrage of menu specials put in place.
Having been a loyal fan of the original outlet at Neil Road, I turned to the newer branch at BugisVillage to get a quick dumpling fix.
So to be honest, with regards to ambiance, Jing Hua doesn't quite cut it with it's blank white walls and cheap furniture meant to withstand the anticipated rowdiness of the Chinese dominated crowds. The unfussed decor as if serving to accentuate and highlight the authenticity of the food.
The first dish we had at Jing Hua was a piping hot bowl of Zha Jiang Mian. A saucy mess of meat sauce sprawled over springy noodles and laced by cool shreds of cucumber. This was a yummy dish, best savoured with a spoonful of chili sauce, tossed high till the potent sauce drapes every strand with it's streaks of umami. It was a gentle start. One that eased our stomachs into the barrage of heavier dishes that the Northern Chinese were better known for.
The Xiao Long Bao arrives as delicate parcels of hot soup enrobing sweet morsels of pork mince. In my opinion, these came out a little flat, literally, each dumpling could have benefited from a boost in the volume of soup. However, the delicate pleats received technical bonus points from the hungry diners.
The Pan-fried Dumplings gets nods all around the table. It's crisp base in contrast to it's juicy innards propped up by a well balanced mix of spices, incorporated fats and succulent mince. These were pulled away from the heat all in precise moment that rendered all conditions perfect for these golden pillows.
One cannot set foot out the door of Jing Hua without having their Red Bean Pancake. A classic dish unlike the usual overly crisp renditions that you find so commonly here, these had a queer sort of custardy spongy innards beyond the flecks of toasted white sesame and golden brown crunchy skin. A generous amount of sweet red bean paste smothers the dough before being wrapped up in a tight rectangle package and pan fried till an inch of its life. What emerges is a alluring goddess that punishes the greedy with a tongue scorching forfeiture from it's piping hot innards. Still,.. utterly delicious.
Belgian Beer Cafe
Rostang at the Atlantis
Almaz by Momo
Le Pain Quotidien
Lime Tree Cafe
Fundamentally-flawed is Lee Sihan. 26 going on 27, she is a dessert enthusiast,
food nomad, wanderer of lands and a pastry chef currently working in Sydney.
Fueled by a lifelong addiction to all things sweet, and a burning desire to travel the globe
follow her as she embarks on delicious escapades both in and out of the kitchen