Pile it up high: Fruit Paradise

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And a month has slipped by, the Chinese New Year Season wearing me thin. I spend my nights dreaming smells of toasted chinese almonds, my hands twitching from the instinctive dough-pinching techniques employed at work. Somewhere I see a glimpse, a tiny twinge of hope in the hippo campus of something greater. I'll soon be moving off.

The last day of the month warrants a sweet ending. Hence, my write-up on Fruit Paradise.

Fruit Paradise first stimulates its customers with a blinding spread, a melange of immaculate looking tarts, little snow mountains of fresh cream and topped off with beautifully arranged fruits. For me, this evokes a thought of unnatural sweetness and a grotesque experience of having a mouthful of cream. However, the in-house Japanese Patissiers beg to differ on their slogan that their fruit tarts are made with lightly sweetened cream meant to be highlight the natural goodness of the fruits.Enough said, my interest was piqued.

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Away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping crowds, the mother and I managed to steal away two slices of tarts for a more comfortable home-bound session. Upon whipping out my camera, flashbacks of the movie "Crazy Stupid Love' came to mind. "Seriously!? It's like you're photoshopped." Yeah, the slices were perfect. The first, a strawberry tiramisu with custard base ($6.80/slice or $43/8-inch cake) tasted barely of cheese, in my opinion, the bestowed title of Tiramisu was seriously pushing it. What I adored the most was the shortness of the tart base, a mean feat achieved given the fresh custard filling just above.

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Our second choice was more adventurous, on promotion was the Pumpkin Custard featuring sweet japanese pumpkin discs, bananas and crunchy caramelized nuts nestled on a carefully laced pumpkin custard top, luscious cinnamon apples and bananas sandwiched between layers of chocolate sponge and ganache and soft chocolate mousse ($7.80/slice or $50/8-inch cake). Again, this lacked the resonance I was hoping for. Sure it wasn't a mouthful of sweet cream. But still, that's a hefty price of pay for a mediocre dessert. It does however win customers over with it's somewhat 'healthy indulgence' play on things, incorporating a very neutral flavor and fresh fruits. Try it if you must, it makes a lovely dessert for sharing over tea time.


FRUIT*PARADISE

Plaza Singapura
68 Orchard Road, #04-01, Singapore 238839
Tel: 6333 9286

Raffles City Shopping Center
252 North Bridge Road, #B1-44F, Singapore 179103
Tel: 6333 4849

Vivocity
1 HarbourFront Walk, #01-#01-59, Singapore 098585
Tel: 6376 9978


Humble alternatives: Doodle! Pasta Noodles and Wine Bar

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We turned the corner, A tiny corridor within the premises of a hotel, its narrow ways leading to a carpark on the left and a mysterious curve on its other end. Before you know it, I was awkwardly surprised by the vastness of the space before me that is Doodle! Pasta Bar. At 6pm on a Saturday evening, the diner and it's next door vicinity were dead. My suspicions grew by leaps and bounds; however I was reassured by my friend that this was her go-to-choice when in need of fixing her pasta cravings whilst in the region. Novena, that is...


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Things went off to a great start with zealous staff who readily flooded us with recommendations as we were confronted with the ominous black board of options above head. Our flummoxed stares quickly turning fervent onlooks as we watched the 'Doodlers' (apparently one of the coolest job titles I've heard) stirring up a storm on the induction stoves. It was truly an interactive session with the chef goofingly giving a step-by-step demonstration as he worked his magic.

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The Sweet Spot ($11.80), which includes a pulled pork stew braised in cognac and whiskey, red wine glazed onions and garnished with Parmesan cheese.

My choice of the sweet spot, complete with a fresh serving of linguine pasta beared resonance in flavor. The meat was like cotton puffs on our tongues. Dissolving effortlessly with every mouthful of twirled pasta. Given it's price, I was blown away by the bounteous portions which warranted a little accompanying protein with every mouthful of carbohydrate till the very end of the dish. Enriched by the the slow cooking process in cognac and whiskey; the pulled pork easily stole the show, the crunchy rocket leaves adding both colour and a contrasting bitter note to the dish.

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Prawn Star($11.50): unadulterated linguine with juicy prawns smothered in a prawn tsukudani butter sauce and garnished with arugula and Parmesan cheese

My friend's dish, which I never got down to trying, was reported to be delicious. A verdict I garnered accurate given it's rate of decay on the plate.

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Doodle! Pasta Noodles and Wine Bar, a joint venture between a father and a son responsible for Saladstop has never been anywhere near my radar before. But with it's decent prices, exotic Asian inspired pasta dishes and fair execution, this place definitely has picked up a fan in me. Pasta, yes it may be basic, but with Doodle's versatility at play, it is surprisingly satisfying, the sort that really grows on you, just like the boy next door often does.

Doodle!Pasta Noodles and Wine Bar
8 Sinaran Drive
Oasia Hotel,
Singapore 307470

Food Tasting sessions: Ito Kacho

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It's been a grand day so far. Early morning jogs, long afternoon naps under fuzzy blankets and a steamboat spread like no other. Stories like the one I'm about to tell you belongs to grand days like this.

So let's start shall we...

Dinner at Ito Kacho one day with the HGW team. Don't mind my rudimentary practises as I bombard you with photos from the dinner.

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What I fancied about Ito Kacho was it's ultra chic settings, the black pressed uniforms of the service crew speaking volumes about the work ethics of the restaurant. After a short introduction to the establishment, I was charmed by its' efforts to import its stash of wagyu beef into Singapore fresh, not frozen as the former ruins the extensive marbling in the meat. Not too sure to what extent this is true since most wagyu is packaged and transported frozen and vacuumed sealed... but I suppose they hold the benefit of the doubt.

We began the meal with a tornado of beautiful dishes, the Kimchi Moriawase was a delight with the salty shrimp flavors complimenting the fermented product perfectly. The Dashimaki tamago (pictured above) was subpar, not as smooth as I would have liked with an absolute dire need for seasoning. The Namuru Moriawase dealt much better with the cinnamon fern there, moreish stuff. My heart sings a praise or two for the Jikasei Potato Salad ; definitely not humble in terms of appearance; a volcano like impression of creamy potato salad with crisp bacon strips as lava flowing down the cracks and crevices.

Moving on to the stars of the show. We feasted on platters of beautifully marbled meats. The Wagyu Kainomi being my absolute favourite. Not a big fan of the Jo-Karubi hailing from US due to it's strangely acquired gamey flavor and springy texture when bitten into. Fast forwarding the entire experience, I was at awe mostly by the resounding technology in the barbecue systems installed, there wasn't an once of smokey residue left on my clothes or hair. Truly impressive!

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Taking a break from the beefy affair, we shifted our attention to the Kaisen Moriwase, following the polite change of our grill plates. Assorted seafood in the form of a luxurious spread of king crab, giant tiger prawn, Hokkaido scallop and squid. The scallop and squid dish, meant to be steamed recommended 7mins over the grill (too long in my opinion) left me both intrigued and smitten. Consumed with the accompanying sauce derived from yuzu sauce and a mysterious salty concoction; I lapped at the sauce like a happy puppy.

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The other showstopper of the night was the Tsubo-Zuke Kurobuta- Pork Collar. Served up in a deep urn like dish, the large strips of unsuspecting pork cooked like magic on the grill. Curling deeply along it's fat fault lines. These were like a magic show in the mouth, melting unceremoniously in the warmth.

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Just like any traditional Chinese wedding dinner would end, out comes the carb heavy dish. Ishiyaki Bibimbap, rice, minced meat, Namurus topped with shredded dry seaweed and sesame seeds served in a sizzling hot stone bowl Despite my discomfort at this point of the meal, I must comment in all honesty that this was a pretty good version of the dish and I happily gobbled down my bowl with gusto. Moist all around with adequate ingredients and fair amount of seasoning made this a delightul dish.

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If you're feeling full at this point from the picture overdose, think on my part. Dessert was a hit and miss for some. My choice of the less trodden Kurogoma Ice Cream Chestnut ice cream was annoyingly disappointing; the large chunks of icicles and a general lack of chestnut flavor made it a dubious affair. The Kuri Icecream was the best choice out of the lot, the black sesame notes much more prominent in this one. Sweet azuki beans providing a sweet woody accent to the composition.

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Ito Kacho Yakiniku may be quite a stretch on the wallet for most, but if you're yearning for a luxurious affair of delicious wagyu combined with an addictive smoky flavor then this will be a definite recommendation from me.

Ito Kacho Yakiniku
333A Orchard Road
#04-08/09 Mandarin Gallery
Tel: 6836 0111

Maison Ikkoku: food with a fashion statement

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Let's take a break from the recent torrent of japanese dining features on the ole' blog. Today we'll go cafe hunting instead.

Maison Ikkoku is an institution. Period. With it's 3 separate levels serving as natural dividers to it's very attractive business concept of cafe, men's retail boutique and bar; it was plain easy to see why the place has garnered so much attention within such a short span of time since it's launch. I have nothing but high praises for the establishment and would definitely suggest this place for any sort of meetings or intimate get-togethers.

I had the opportunity to taste its food on two separate occasion. Both times, my cappuccinos were acceptable, not the best, but still passable with a slight boost from the chic minimalistic settings. Slightly on the pricey side, the coffee with beans originating from Brazil tend to lean towards the more acidic flavor profile. I would have loved to love the Pumpkin cheesecake that we ordered on a previous visit too, however it disappointed with it's inconspicuous flavor of pumpkin and reeked from a stingy percentage of cream cheese in the slice that resulted in a strangely soft, gelatinous dessert.

My second visit however was much more pleasant. The Norwegian smoked salmon sandwich ($15) served with Ciabatta was a sight for sore eyes and a god-sent to a piggish girl. The generous slathering of dill sour cream over the toasted ciabatta slices paired with the luscious savouriness of the smoked salmon was extremely gratifying.


With cocktails to end the night, my choice of the base alcohol being gin and a one word 'sour' as inspiration; the in-house mixologist worked his magic to conjure up a kiwi martini-like drink, refreshing and ever so slightly potent. My very pricey ($25) joy juice for the night.

Maison Ikkoku
20 Kandahar Street
website: http://www.maison-ikkoku.net/

Bishamon Sapporo Ramen: looks are decieving

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Weekends are for...

looking through your never-ending archive of backlogged photos and trying your best to set some sort of regiment to getting these fresh off the press. It's a hopeless case. Many times, this results in an unproductive mixture of self destructive things, hanging out hopelessly on facebook/instagram whilst eating my weight in kok zai (watch this to get in the action). I hang my head in shame.

This weekend.. I made a difference. Mainly because tomorrow I'll be sweating it out in the Safra Avventura hence I need to indulge in a little stress relief on paper keypad before hand. Do drop me a note tmr to find out if I've survived the experience.

Bishamon Sapporo Ramen located at Great World City being my subject of scrutiny.

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The Sashimi salad was our first dish that set my experience on a downward spiral. Sad slices of coarsely sliced discolored fish on a salad that was limp on every level.

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My auntie's Bishamon Combo set came with a flurry of Chicken, Fried Prawn and Rosu Katsu. Not too bad... but I would definitely pick the superior Tonkichi's Version over this anytime.

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Apparently, the curry rice fared the best out of the lot. Shift your attention to this low-key player should you be dining here. The pork katsu curry rice had a substantial portion of breaded and fried katsu that was surprisingly tender; the curry, sweet (as it should be) had a robust flavored unlike some of the water-ed down versions spamming the island.

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let's talk about Sapporo Ramen, I left feeling like a miserable rat. You would expect a top notch rendition giving the establishment's name and it being the signature dish. However, my mini miso sapporo ramen was a sad picture. I didn't complain about the lack of puddling soup only because it tasted so diluted and lacked the slightest hint of Miso even. Portion sizes were miserable, for $3 I got an extra single piece of cha shu that was dry and marginally tasteless. Heed my advice and avoid the ramen at all cause.

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The saving grace of the day came in the form of a mixed plate of Kushiyaki. I was struck by a bout of food allergies closely after. I suspect the oh-so-good peanut sauce on the side to be the culprit. That aside, the bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms and grilled pork belly with leek shone as real stars in an otherwise depressing dinner. I left the place miserable still... I hold grudges, what you going to do about it?

Bishamon Sapporo Ramen
1 Kim Seng Promenade
01-21B Great World City
Tel: 62352890

HGW invited session: Todai

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Elmer Dills, famous Los Angeles food critics, once described Todai as "THE MOTHER OF ALL SEAFOOD BUFFETS"

After taking a sneak peak at its premises in the basement of the ultra sleek mall of Marina Bay Sands, my expectations grew by a mile. Beware at this point...

Dinner at Todai was a invited food-tasting session by HungryGoWhere and I arrived ravenous from a hard days work in the kitchen. Thank goodness for the lovely Kirin beer to get conversations started over the table. Not that it was too important given that the buffet line was the star of the show. I very quickly ran over to introduce myself.

What I loved most about Todai's international seafood buffet spread was the diversity and structure of it all. If my memory doesn't fail me, there was the pizza and pasta section, noodles, korean food, Churrasco station, crabs, sashimi and sushi station, cold cuts and salads, teppanyaki (NEW), chinese food, dim sum and dessert stations.

To cut to the chase, if you, like me, do not excel at orientating buffets then heed my advise on this one. Attack the Alaskan Crabs, beef short rib, sushi, sashimi and Churrasco stations for maximum gratification.

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You'll be surprised to find out that most of the kitchen staff behind the counters hail from Korean hence do not be surprised if communication is minimal despite the open kitchen concept. Inherently, the Korean food (try the pan fried egg battered fish) is impressive despite it's potential to be neglected in a predominantly seafood menu concept. Some of my favorites of the night include the pork belly from the Churrasco section and the wide array of colorful sushi unique to the Todai's kitchen.

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deep fried ginseng root. a truly subjective taste matter to debate. I wasn't sold on this one.

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After filling yourself to the brim with all things savoury and making an extra run just to double check that all items have been sampled. Make your way to the dessert counter. The cream cheese swiss roll and new york cheesecake were delightful; so are the shortbread cookies that would make a great accompaniment to a cup of hot coffee as finale. Avoid the apple crumble and brownie unless you want a parched desert as a mouth.

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In all honesty, I find Todai's buffet a bit on the pricey side. An affair only justifiable should you be an avid crab fan willing to get your hands dirty. Unfortunately, I failed miserably in that department and on hindsight, would not have parted with the money for such ordinary fare. Todai offers a very casual "non-buffet" type dining experience gearing more towards family outings and large gatherings. So do give it a shot if you fall within that category and are urgently seeking a venue large enough to cater to your group size.

Todai
2 Bayfront Avenue
#B2-01A Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 66887771Fax: 66887701

The Essence of Christmas

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A severely late but mandatory Christmas Dinner post. I was reminded of the essence of Christmas this year as being a celebration of God's gift of salvation and love to us. Misrepresented by modern practices, it is not the gifts nor the food and the making merry that make up Christmas but our hearts in communal gratitude while receiving God's precious gift.

Still.. there must be food. Hence...

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an excessive 3 turkeys on the chopping block = turkey sandwiches for a good long time.

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Homemade Pork roulade with apple sauce

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a never-ending traffic of busy hands grappling for food over the dining table.

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and finally, the end courses to sweeten off the deal. All made by my very talented cousin... (lemon meringue pie and cherry custard pie)

The Best of Year 2012

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I hope it isn't too late to do a self reflective piece for the past year. This year has definitely been an epic one, filled with unexpected opportunities and in return, lots of hard work. Since most of it was spent overseas in Australia, most of my experiences were foreign and frighteningly new. Still, I lived and learnt. After all, that's life. At the end of it all, I return to Singapore, dauntless.

I had this depressing notion that new years day was nothing but an overrated day celebrated by fools around the world despite it being a mere continuation of life's mundane-ties. Then it came to pass that even story books should have chapters, the purpose of it's existence very much applicable to the essence of the new years day celebration. (view here). This time around, the change of location and point of view being predominant. No kidding, but its time to pick up the pace and focus on new goals and resolutions in the coming years. Entering a new phase of life.

My resolutions these year are a mash up of so many things that it almost appears like a disarray of false hope. But more importantly, for the new year, I pray that God grant me strength to manifest my big dreams and reward me with the courage to face new experiences.

What follows is a recap of the previous year. I hope that they inspire you to reflect on the richness of your year.

Single best thing that happened this past year?
Attending Pastry school @ Le Cordon Bleu (Sydney) with a follow up of a 7 month internship at Cheeky Chocolate where I worked with the most fantastic team in the world. Thanks Elicia, Yumi, Adele, Mia, Edwin and Andy for the many good experiences. Chef life just wouldn't have been the same with all those wild nights of drinking games. Tsk. (Read more about my experiences here)

single most challenging thing that happened?
Participating in the Callebaut Hunter Valley Entremet competition. Many weeks of trial and work finally led to a silver medal worthy piece. Never did saw it coming, but with the encouragement of my dearest Chef Andre, I pulled through.

What was an unexpected joy this past year?
My nga nga, who stuck with me relentlessly through my overwhelming negativity.

Pick three words to describe 2012
surreal, restorative, tough

Best dining experience in 2012
That would be dining in the Qantas first class lounge in Sydney terminal. A big thank you going out to Darryl who pulled a fast one to grant us access. Who would have thought we would be dining on lavish fare in slippers...

In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
catching up with many relationships that I have neglected over the past years and most importantly reuniting with the girls (you know who you are!)

What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably -- taken off "Jiro dreams of Sushi"

Lastly, Happy new year to all my readers. In this new year, eat sweet and stay sweet always!

I'll leave you with some shots of my works over at BakersWorld through the festive season... Stay tuned for my next post on the season of festive gorgings!

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Log cakes designed by yours truly for the Xmas sales. Chocolate Banana logcake versus Mango, White Chocolate and Coconut log.

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Chinese New Year cookies already up for grabs and available for corporate orders as well.

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