Quick Picks: No-frills meals for the weekends

Singapore's restaurants run the gamut from sleek and chic to fuss-free. Yet behind all the glitz and ritz of new year brunches are options of places to dine without breaking the budget. Try Thai street food at the newest instalment of Aroy Dee or settle for something a little more romantic at Halia. Whatever you fancy, here are some of my recommendations for great food, perfect for the new year feasting.

Kicking off the trail with Aroy Dee Thai Kitchen, a diminutive, dimly lit room that has paved its way into the heart of circular quay alongside other rowdy ventures best suited for late night eats after a couple of drinks.

Served up in a diminutive, dimly lit room, Aroy Dee Thai Kitchen is one of those places you'll come to love even on the hottest of days with the sweltering cuisine not abetting the heated experience. Get on in the Soft Shell Crab in Thai Curry ($15) - the feisty concoction kicking up a fuss in the stomach. While the Larb Moo appeased the palate with its smoky realms and well balanced temperament. For something a bit more substantial, make sure to order the Pad see ew ($6.50), kuay tiao smothered in a sweetish dark sauce, enhanced by smoke imbued from the roaring flames of the stove. Delicious.

Aroy Dee Thai Kitchen
No. 1 Lor Terok
t: 6635 2698


Helmed by a group of Malaysian chefs who have more than 15 years experience under their belt; Guan Kitchen is poised to attract both the young and the old with their genial blending of east meets west juxtaposition. Touting a menu of zi char dishes affordably priced; this is the place you want to be, should you be feeling like something local without having to endure the discomforts of the humidity outside. 

In execution, Guan Kitchen does exactly what it said it would. Homemade delights with a touch of class from a refined style of plating; the flavors still synonymous with the greasy street versions. Favourites include the Lemongrass Pork Ribs ($22), Deep Fried Pork with Fermented Bean Paste ($15) and the Homemade Preserved Radish Beancurd ($13.80).  First and foremost, the pork ribs slippery from its golden hide of sticky sauces are tangy and refreshing from the inception of lemongrass. These tasty scratchings of meat definitely sticking to the ribs with its agreeable flavor profile of piquant lemongrass and hoisin sauce. Roasted cashew nuts and chili adds to the picturesque dish. My only wish is for those ribs to be a bit fattier, then perhaps they wouldn't have been rendered too dry from the cooking process. Equally robust in flavor is the 南乳炸肉 - the fermented bean paste permeating ever single piece of the unctuous pork belly slices with an intense rich saltiness and cloves of deep fried garlic literally explode with flavor in the mouth.

Another mainstay of Guan Kitchen is their signature homemade preserved radish Beancurd ($13.80) which turned out to be one of the best homemade beancurds I've had in a long while; made even better with those scrumptious deep fried radish placed on top the silky beancurd.

Other highly popular dishes here include the Sauteed Lotus Root with Macademia ($15), Crisp Fried Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk ($15) and the Chicken Soup with Chinese Yam Ishinabe ($25).

Open till 12am tonight, this might be a good stopover for early drunkards like myself or just something to fill your stomachs up before hitting the hectic nightspot up at Clarke Quay.

Guan Kitchen
225 River Valley Road
t: 6333 6003


Banging on something a little more intimate and romantic. Head on down to Halia at Raffles Hotel. Alongside kitschy checkered tile floorings and romantic jazzy lounge tunes playing in the background; the menu carries through in the same vein; with a certain sort of sense and sensibility. 

Rev your palates up with the Deep Fried Salt and Chili Squid ($15), served up in a quaint little dim sum basket, the reward is a tangle of tender squid coated in aerated batter heavily coated with salt and spices. Make a quick trip to the homemade mayo dip for maximum gratification. For mains, the Chilli Crab Spaghettini ($26) is a no-brainer; despite the lacking spiciness in the sauce, but its thick, generous helpings of crab meat that proceeds to evenly coat the pasta definitely qualifies it as an enjoyable fusion dish. Then of course there's the Slow cooked Canadian Pork Loin ($33) that gets a giant stamp of approval from me. My choice of sides, the spring onion mash proving to be excellent company to the framework of the tender pork loin, it's unctuous centres guarded by a beautiful brown crust on the exterior. If I hadn't known any better, I would have imagined the pepper cream sauce to be a magic potion of sorts. Yes, we eat in silent reverence here as we rather let the food do the talking.

Halia @ Raffles Hotel
1 Beach Road
t: 9639 1148

Take a brief trip into Thailand with an excursion to Spicy Thai Thai Cafe in Aljunied. 

I daresay that the Deep Fried Kang Kong and the Hammok (thai style otah) are two of the best Thai dishes I've sampled on local shores, transporting needy souls straight to the nirvana of Thailand beach paradise with every bite. The former, Deep Fried Kang Kong ($10) makes eating your greens so much more appealing, paired with a sweet and sour special Thai sauce, it appeals to diners of all ages. Then, you might want to consider ordering the Hammok ($16) for your own personal consumption. Employing the Thai coconut as a bowl, the fish paste, seafood, egg, Thai herbs and coconut milk are melded into one vessel, resembling the texture of Thai curry crab.  

If you're bent on getting your hands dirty, do make a slingshot for the Basil Black pepper crab (seasonal price), the fragrant notes of basil resonating strongly throughout the dish while the ninja presence of chilli padi proves to be a bit lethal should you choose to suck on your fingers. 

On the heavier side of things, you might want to consider ordering the Lala (clams) Bee Hoon ($18); not too common in the Thai restaurant scene here in Singapore, this rendition delivers thick strands of beehoon cooked in an aromatic seafood stock till saturated and brimming with flavor. Bit of Chilli padi act as hidden surprises in there, you've been warned!

Spicy Thai Thai Cafe
Blk 115
Aljunied Avenue 2
t: 6747 8558

No comments: