Rise and Grind Co: Is it time for brunch yet?

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There is a lot going on at Rise and Grind Co, a slightly claustrophobic yet seemingly cosy space in a boxed up settings just a literal, stone's throw away from the main plaza. In this space, the kitchen takes precedence with an endless bustle of activity behind stove tops, and the smell of fresh ground coffee adrift. Dishes meander between wildly innovative and 'the safe choice' with a particular homage paid to Asian cuisine. 

As most of you would already know, Rise and Grind Co. is one of those cafes which I would never bad mouth. Cussing under my breathe at the numerous pop-ups that have proven to be empty vessels financed by carbon copied concepts, brilliant decor and not so outstanding fare that leaves a burrow in your wallet whilst digging deep for reasons to make a return visit. Thankfully, Rise and Grind Co falls out of that category, settling in a particularly fond nook and cranny of my heart. 

Verre: Where the wine is good, but the food, Exceptional.

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In the orange-cast skies of dusk, Verre coaxes its victims to take the plunge. Take a leap of faith into its laps of burgundy red and crisp white luxuries. Although, it's steel cut edges and modern angular approach are not particular heart-warming or appealing to those seeking a piece of familiarity without hints of cold office politics. But in all due respect, food was an immaculate display of perfection, each course revealing more elaborate tricks in its wake. Service even more so, restrained and meek without the need for constant affirmation. Here, the wine flows freely, judgemental stares, a little less so; so, sit back, whip your hair to the side, and enjoy the thrills and spills of the cuisine served up by kitchen maestro, Masashi.

[CNY'16] Mitzo: Prosperity Delights

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As earlier mentioned, the first place (in my books) for this year's Lunar New Year menu has been allocated to Szechuan Court in Fairmont Hotel. Coming in a close second is Mitzo's prosperous delights. Well-know for its vibrant decor, plush interiors as well as its progressive Cantonese cuisine, backed with an innovative cocktail program, Mitzo has always been a firm favourite for me when it comes to Asian dining - here, the double-boiled soups are a hit and roast meats are utterly divine. However, Lunar New Year provides some unexpected twists and turns with specialities such as the Pearls of Prosperity Kingfish Yu Sheng and the Superior Lobster Fortune Pot sounding like they are fit for royalty and looking every bit the part.

BRIDGE restaurant and bar: Impeccable dinner fare

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You can tell when a restauranteur's choices are based on cold market calculus and when they're driven by passion. Bridge is governed by the latter principle, it's picturesque plates backed by modern techniques and solid fare never once attempting a hard sell on its diners. Reason being, it doesn't have to, you're convinced the moment you dig into your seabass that dinner is going to be more than meets the eye.

Start the game small with their Octopus ($16), thinly sliced and perforated with a subtle umaminess from kombu, shallot chutney and citrus sorbet accompanying the  pretty stack. Point to note, Bridge does an insanely shrewd move of naming their dishes strictly after the main ingredient use, no jargon here means the decision making is a whole lot easier, with the rest of the listings optional for diners to digest.

Bacchanalia @ Hong Kong Street: $48 Set Lunches

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Award winning restaurant, Bacchanalia has since 'cleaned up its act' after moving from the mysterious and moody hangout in a Masonic hall in Coleman street to Hong Kong Street in July 2015. Sporting drastically modern vibes, for a change, with the kitchen transported into the dining room, the connection between chef's work and diner's gluttony for excellent fare is further strengthened. 

Still, looking past the metamorphosis, the same tenacity lies in the skills of the chefs; and no doubt, Bacchanalia would be your best bet for a special occasion meal. In fact, my birthday privileges scored me a lovely Gin and Tonic inspired sorbet dessert complimentary from Chef Ivan Brehm after pleasantries were exchanged at the end.

But rewinding back to lunch, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the affable price tag of their 3-course set lunch. At $48 per pop, this buys you a remarkable insight into innovative top-notch food, in the running for a Michelin star (I hope). Book ahead and maybe, just perhaps you'll be granted a Chef's table, right alongside all the tussle in the kitchen. Otherwise, there's always the tables straddling the busy service counter and kitchen pass or the larger, more aloof unit in the deeper end. 

20F Specialty Coffeehouse: Where Chicken makes way for Duck

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Imagination worth the added price? Now, that's worth debating over at newbie cafe 20F Speciality Coffeehouse located along Foch road just right beside a Pig Organ Soup institution .Yes, so an unhosted tasting would mean a mandatory partaking of their illustrious Duck and Waffle combination. I'm sorry, but I can't hold out against the lure of a rendition that debacles my love for chicken and waffles.

Entering the shady alcoves of the cafe, the back premises offering several twists and turns in terms of ambiance; things could get interesting, I thought. In fact, the rest of the meal did unravel in a fun sort of way. In ways that those who love cafe cuisine wish would happen more often in Singapore.

Quick Picks: Weekday eats that won't gnaw into your wallet.[Part 2] || The Ramen Stall, P.Bistro, Wolf

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Second part of the quick picks features a medley of wallet friendly options, once more. Depicting some amicable halal certified establishments for group gatherings, and pish-posh settings in Palais Rennaisance for private meetings; then of course, there's no special occasion needed for breaking in the burgers - and Wolf tends to those unfussy cravings all too good.

Let's begin the tour with a trip down to North Bridge road, popular ramen stall located along Short Street in Rochor has recently expanded their territory to rope in the consumption efforts of the Muslim community. It's clever positioning in the Arab street precinct together with its recent granting of its halal certification, clearly a clever plot and not a mere coincidence. It is 10pm at night and the stall is flooded with throngs of hungry diners, the patchwork of ethnicity in the room a sure win sign that they've done something right.

Quick Picks: Weekday eats that won't gnaw into your wallet.[Part 1] || Koji, Attap House, Nan Hwa Fishboat

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Eating on a budget doesn't need to swear off tastiness and border on mediocrity. Here are some of my quick picks for lunch/dinner spots that would be great catch-up spots with friends or even a less romantic deviant for a weekday date night.

First up, Koji, a name synonymous for delightfully engaging chirashi don bowls amidst some pretty tight circumstances. Yes, squeeze your way past the backed up chairs against the wall surrounding the middle island of frenzied chefs and pent up frustrations, and you'll be rewarded with a superfluity of fresh seaward bounty. 

IndLine: Contemporary Indian Cookery

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I have a love-hate relationship with Indian food. Often cursing it for the gluttony it induces in me and the subsequent wrath incurred in the digestive tract after the spicy, coconut milk laden meal. But despite my 'not-so-frequent' return back to the Ethnic cuisine, my heart still love songs for a good butter chicken and garlic naan one in awhile. Well, if you share the same concerns as me, you'll be glad to discover Indline, a newly opened contemporary Indian cookery right smack in the heart of Keong Saik road.

[CNY'16] Szechuan Court @ Fairmont Hotel: Best Lunar New Year menu of 2016

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Chinese New Year arrived in a torrent of auspicious dishes and mad tossing of yu sheng. I won't brag, but by the time Christmas arrived, I had already raked the sweet sour concoction 5 times at various establishments. Despite the many frivolous moments spent at the round table, I distinctively remember one restaurant which managed a record-setting taste triumphant attempt at every signature dish served up.

Town Restaurant @ Fullerton Hotel - Lost and Found || Artisanal Malay and Indian Cuisines

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Local food and cuisines lost and found are primed to get more glory in the year 2016 with a meal at Town Restaurant snatching up some pretty impressive accolades, in my books, with a short term stint featuring mother-and-son duo Lakshmi and Daniel Surendran from Heavens Catering. Returning as guest chefs after a very successful debut last year in July, the pair will be dishing out a storm on the buffet line at Town Restaurant only from the 6th to the 16th Jan'16. So you better start jostling for a table quick!

Open Farm Community:Social Market|| The Root of all Local

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There's even more excuse to visit Open Farm Community now especially with the Social Market #2 running its second rounds to usher in the new year on the 9th and 10th of January from 10am to 4pm. If you've made the wiser choice of being the early bed or.. the late comer, there are benefits to both; some being access to soap demonstrations, as well as yoga and Pilate classes.

But first, let's talk food. With the extensive brunch  and lunch menu at your disposal in the greenhouse, here are some of our recommendations straight off the bat.

Grand Mandarina: Top notch dining in the Orients

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Call me despicable, call me a desperado, but when one puts a plate of that ridiculously succulent honey glazed roast pork in front of my nose; gastronomical success is almost guaranteed.

Of course, it helps that Grand Mandarina's new inventive ala carte menu is successful on so many levels. Giving the conventional Cantonese cuisine a real booster in the fine dining direction with the use of seasonal ingredients employed in cutting-edge techniques. Take for example the Duo of combination of foie gras with slice peking duck and scallop with salted egg yolk
($26 per person); in usual circumstances, one would expect to find a slab of pan seared goose liver; but here, the precious mother-load is rolled into a tight roulade and braised in 乳水  for that slight Asian infusion and served alongside crispy fingers of cucumber and silvers of uber crunchy duck skin, Send a slice of toast over and I would happily smear the heavenly pate all over it. Then there's the scallop, a parcel of perfect succulence underneath a sheath of golden brown, smothered in salted egg yolk sauce; the crunch of edamame beans below helping to bring harmony to the tumultuous world of dangerous flavors on the plate.

Joo Bar: NEW Dinner Menu || not your average Korean food.

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The last time I dined in at Joo Bar, I was smitten (read here); this time, the wild promises of mangalitsa pork and other delightful Korean inspired bar snacks that I couldn't even begin to fathom, made my return such an easy decision to make. 

There's a lot going on at Joo Bar, push your way past the pint-lifting crowd in the front of the shop and make your way upstairs to the more convivial dining room or perhaps the secret dining booth at the back of the first floor where you'll admittedly receive better service due to the closer proximity to both the kitchen and the bar! Here at Joo Bar, it's a curious mishmash of upscale and casual decor, in the food, which meanders between being wildly inventive and somewhat confusing at certain junctures. 

Quick Picks: No-frills meals for the weekends

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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.

Vasco: Latin American Bar bites.

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Hunger is good discipline, said the great writer Ernest Hemingway, and he is right on the money. You may want to keep a clean palate and a healthy appetite once you step foot into this cozy Latin American digs on the hip and happening Hongkong street. Vasco, reputed for procuring predominantly decadent Latin spirits such as mezcal, pisco and rum for its cocktails does serve up pretty spiffy tapas and nosh to boot too!

In sync with the Latin Americans impossible sense of positivity, the staff at Vasco are a happy bunch. Fitting in squarely with the casual vibes that stem from the South American bar, decked out with leather booth seatings, distressed tile work and a bar that would make your brows rise from the unusual absence of the regular whisky and gin gang.

To start off, we had two colourful renditions of ceviches. The Snapper Ceviche ($22) reveals cubes of snapper sprinkled with red onions, this sailed off smoothly on our gastronomical journey, revving our senses with devilishly spicy red Ecuador peppers. Regrettably, the Salmon Ceviche($22) lacked astringency, the Leche de Tigre giving off a milky creamy taste that muddled the experience of the sea.