21 on Rajah: Gather and Share

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Not so recently (I know.. I'm sorry) I was invited to a food tasting session at Days Hotel in the Balestier region. Part of the Wyndham Hotel group, the largest hotel group in the world with brands like Ramada Hotels and the more humble Travelodge under its belt, they announced the development of Days Hotel in 2010. Fast forward to year 2013, and there I was entering the warm interiors of the reception area after being caught in a heavy rainstorm whilst making my way to the tasting. Just my luck... fortunately, the processions of the evening coupled with good company made up for the shivering discomforts.

21 on Rajah as it is called, pays homage to the 21 Mediterranean countries hugging the large expanse of the Mediterranean Sea (a fact that I only found out upon introduction from the General Manager). Hence diners presume that the menu will be inspired by Mediterranean favourites. So true... and better still, it was based on "family communal dining"; a concept I came to love after dining at Cocotte.

We started off the meal with 4 starters amongst us ravenous diners. The Prawn and Bacon Roll, Crostini of Smoked Eel, Grilled Chicken Satay in Balinese Spices and Poele of Duck Liver with Sweet Pears. My favourite was the prawn and bacon roll, encrusted in a lovely golden crisp batter revealing a tasty succulent prawn within; the surf and turf concept exemplified in this dish. The Chicken Satay was worth a special mention too as despite it's rather odd local tribute in a sea of Mediterranean dishes, this was flavoursome and utterly moist.

The main event was a parade of four signature dishes once again.

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The Moroccan Harira with Chicken and Garbanzo Beans

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Marseilles Seafood Bouillabaisse

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Stewed Fillet of Danish cold Water Halibut "Lisbon"style

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and finally the Jumbo Prawns with Dill and Saffron Paella

Having to comment on these dishes, I would have to say that my favourite was the Moroccan Harrira chicken dish. Tasting mildly Middle eastern with a wave of spices in tow; ginger, cumin and pepper; I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma and texture of the chicken. Served with a bed of fluffy sweet rice tossed in tomato puree and a touch of chopped herbs, this dish could have easily satisfied my voracious yet finicky appetite. A close runner up is the Seafood Bouillabaisse which tasted authentically provencal in nature. Robust in flavor with the colour of roasted pumpkins and warm sunsets, the dish proved a winner with a generous serving of well cooked scallops, prawns, mussels and fish within. Skip the Paella for better renditions and more competitive prices at some other Spanish joints. I would also give the Stewed Fillet of Halibut a miss, despite it's beautifully cooked fish; the dish was one noted and failed to leave an impression.

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Dinner drew to a close with two desserts, the Pannetonne Bread and Butter Pudding with Dates and the Dark Chocolate Fondant with Raspberry Coulis. Innovative use of the Italian Christmas bread since it's porous nature and presence of dried fruits within contributes significantly to the flavor. The Crisp crust followed by sweet and hot innards within was a real turn on; strange how the dates seem to be absent though. The latter dish I feel was a bit of a failure, the molten chocolate cake, which consisting of so little ingredients is mostly judged on the use of its chocolate. In which case, it lacked resonance probably due to the use of poor quality chocolate. I'm a snob after all.

21 on Rajah in my opinion would be a bliss haven for executives looking for a vibrant yet professional space to dine. Service standards are tip top where wait staff anticipate your moves and do their best to meet your needs. Be sure to try out their well crafted tapas selections to share amongst friends and family.

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21 on Rajah
1 Jalan Rajah Road
Days Hotel
Tel: 68086838

Patisserie G: sweets for snobs

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I admit that I may be a snob at times. Turning my nose at the lesser known chocolates brands and enjoying eye widening moments when the music as I hear it in the form of Valrhona, Amedei and Askinosie strums close to ear. Michel Cluziel is one example of this harmonic range of sweet sounds. Upon enquiring the service staff and hearing that the chef owner takes pride in using only this chocolate in her confectioneries; my interests were piqued.

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Patisserie G in Milennia Walk draws customers in with their simplistic Japanese decor and très chic spread of viennoiseries and petite gateaux on display. My favourite design detail would have to be the unique individual serving trays each carrying a different fabric or impressionistic pattern.

After much deliberation, the boyfriend and I settled down to a single petite gateaux and 2 macarons to share. The Douceur Chocolate ($8.50/slice) was a safe combination of milk chocolate mousse, milk chocolate hazelnut praline crunch on hazelnut dacquoise. Despite my familiarity and slight boredom instilled by this classic combination (we serve an identical version of this at my previous workplace in Sydney); I must say that this rendition was executed perfectly albeit for the lack of crunch in the lower depths of the dacquoise layer. Otherwise, the Michel Cluziel milk chocolate added a perfect touch of bittersweet in the cloudy wisps of mousse. The quality of the ingredients itself speaking volumes.

The two macarons ($3 a pop), the Salted Caramel and Pistachio were picture perfect with sexy feet and smooth unwrinkled shells. Taste wise, these were matured for the right amount of time, soft and chewy in the centres. The pistachio was my preferred choice out of the two given the salted caramel lacked depth and smokiness. Still, a very decent effort given the large masses of disappointment I've acquired over the past few months while hunting down macarons in Singapore.

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Pastry Chef Gwen Lim's desire to promote the artistry of fine ingredients in pastry is definitely inspiring, her passion transcending with immediate effect into her pastries. With such fine quality and clean execution, I'm sure (and hopeful!) that this young Patisserie will see much success in the near future.

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Patisserie G
9 Raffles Boulevard
#01-40 Millenia Walk Singapore 039596
Website: http://patisserieg.com/

The Bazaar: Tastes of India along East Coast Road

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taking some lag time off my holidays to update my sorely neglected blog. Apologies going out to my readers who have missed out days and days of food porn clogging their browsers. Trust me, these will make your salivate.

Firstly, I would like to thank Hungry Go Where for the invite. Never would I have thought of venturing so far for Indian food...

The Bazaar is a fairly new establishment located amongst the hustle and bustle of East Coast Road. I've often feel green with envy for the east-siders of Singapore given their vast amount of food choices and excellent standards at that. Now,The Bazaar adds to the league of exotic food options in the region. Specialising in North Indian food with an experienced chef helming the kitchen, my expectations were driven up a notch. Even more so as a quick scan of the menu revealed 'not-so-budget' prices for main courses and appetisers.

As it's name suggests, The Bazaar tries to ring in the festive mood of a carnival by displaying odd, mismatched ornaments throughout the shop. Colourful fabrics with intricate patterns draped across the walls, the lamps, some carrying a bit of Moroccan influence helping to contribute to the mood.

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For starters, we were presented with a medley of dishes. Tandoori Aloo, Chicken Malai Tikka and Paneer Tikka Pizza. I found the first dish unimpressionable, par-boiled potatoes marinated in masala spices and stuffed with extra paneer cheese; this could have used a little more seasoning. The Chicken Malai Tikka on the other hand was a wholesome dish, despite it's creamy white appearance, the tender chicken pieces imparted a little smokey flavor from being char-grilled; overall, addictive. The Paneer Tikka Pizza was a model example of a fusion dish gone wrong. Chicken Tikka filling on a naan base topped with Paneer cheese, it lacked flavor and dry; and in all honesty, not befitting of the term 'pizza' in any way. I believe with a bit of revision, the dish could stand alone sans the Italian terminology.

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After the clearing out of the starters, our eyes feasted on a spread of vibrantly colored mains as they got ferried to our tables. Chicken Tikka, Dal Makhini, Fish Methi Malai, Mutton Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken and Palek Paneer (upon my earnest requests) all at the mercy of our raving appetites. Some of the fillers include Onion Chili Kulcha, Garlic Naan and Aloo Paratha and Chicken Briyani, which we had the honor of trying. Out of these, my favourites include the Fish Methi Malai, the Rogan Josh and the chicken briyani rice. The fish retaining good texture, the creamy sauce well seasoned with the lingering tastes of fenugreek leaves, and the soft briyani rice acting as perfect accompaniment. The Rogan Josh presented perfectly cooked lamb pieces in a well-balanced red sauce, fragrant with the addition of copious amounts of spices.

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Desserts induced some sort of sugar coma in me that probably resulted in slight memory loss. Hence I've no comments regarding the Gulap Jamun Tiramisu and Kheer. Do try the Masala Tea (served unsweetened) should you have a knackering for something strong and suitably sweet to end the meal.

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East-siders, once again, the envelope is pushed with more food options. Next time, if you're searching for an Indian joint at your door step; do consider giving The Bazaar a try. To my dearest westies... stick to Little India for better options.

The Bazaar – Vibrant Flavors from India
115 East Coast Road
Singapore 428804

Tel: 6344 0710

The Lawn: Eat and Love your Greens

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The very sinful period of guilt-laden Chinese New Year feasting has just passed us, let's talk healthy. Greens in particular since vegetables contain vitamins that act as antioxidants, which protect body cells from environmental damage that can lead to cancer and other health problems.

Pardon me if I start to sound like something out of a health education textbook. But I speak with conviction on the case.

And what better way to enjoy your greens then with the accompaniment of tantalising grilled meats? Here at the Lawn, you can be sure that the wide variety are all top notch.

My experience at The Lawn was one that got off to a bad foot. But don't you worry, the recovery was a huge turn over. Stepping into the 'cool' vicinity of the restaurant; or so we hoped, we were hit by a ton of Bricks. No, I kid you not. After navigating an uphill route from the nearest MRT station Buona Vista, the two unsuspecting victims were breaking a sweat. To our dismay, what greeted us was a pretty sight (artfully decorated room with patches of astro turf and strategically placed negative spaces) albeit a poorly ventilated area that reeked of heavy smoke possessed with the smell of barbecued meats fresh off the grill. True to the concept tying the love of Americans for barbies in their backyards and healthy salads; The Lawn presents a fairly fresh and novel concept of mix-and-match salads highlighting the essence of good grilled proteins. Given that I was an obsessive carnivore in all rights, I was easily sold on this idea.

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After placing our orders at the counter, following a very well documented process on the boards over head. We retired outside to the outdoor seating area which apparently was a ton more comfortable due to the wind tunnel like structure of the atrium. *shrugs*

Price wise, you get 1 grill 5 toppings dressing with mesclun salad for $9.90. A real bargain if you ask me, an ideal further reinstated once you eye the large bowls these salads are served in.

Choices of protein range from the grilled chicken breast with maple infusion, MOJO chicken (the latest addition to the family, very heavy in Indian spices), char grilled prawns, herbed pacific dory, Balsamico fresh asparagus and eggplant (for the vegetarians!) and the more premium options of black pepper duck, Ben's beef rub and Portobello Mushrooms. With an additional 7 dressings to choose from, we were guaranteed spoilt for choice. Needless to say, the permutations and combinations were countless, so apparently dining there everyday won't be a boring affair.

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My choice: Chargrilled garlic prawns + sunflower seeds + Cashew Nuts + Sweet Corn + Bell peppers + Boiled Egg + Onion + Tomato + Red Island Sauce

The Verdict: Adored the garlic prawns, these were literally fresh and bouncy. The Red Island sauce was a a fusion of Mayonnaise and Tomato sauce, a good combination of creamy and tanginess hence working well with the other ingredients. With regards to the spread of toppings, what I loved most was the addition of tomatoes that threw in the juicy factor with a sour element for good measure.

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His choice: Ben's beef rub + Herbed Dory + Cashews + Walnuts + Cheddar Cheese + Black Olives + Onion + Bell Peppers + Me So Spicy sauce

The Verdict (from the boyfriend): the dory was well seasoned and cooked to perfection, flaking off nicely with the gentle prodding of the fork. The beef was also well executed, in most cases, still pink in the middle. The Me so spicy spice adding a lovely touch of heat to the refreshing mix of greens.

With so many expatriates visiting the salad bar; the owners can't help but incorporate some sauces that would appeal more to the Caucasian taste buds; these include the honeyball, citrus dressing and maple peanut. Note to self (and other people of similar taste), steer clear of these, I would highly recommend the Perky sesame ginger as well as the Me So Spicy sauces as the best compliments to the grilled meats.

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The herbed chicken breasts that defied the odds with its miraculously tender and juicy innards. This shall be my order the next time round.

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In view of it all, The Lawn offers a very wholesome dining affair for those seeking for a healthier option that's still off the beaten track. No boring Caesar salad or Salad Niçoise here. Instead indulge in a DEEP bowl of tasty goodness, a concoction of greens that you can truly call your own. For those intending a weekend getaway, do consider dropping by as the Lawn now opens on Sundays for lunch!

A major thanks going out to Jonathan, the happy-go-lucky owner of The Lawn for the invitation.

The Lawn Grill & Salad Café
31 Biopolis Way,
Nanos #01-07,
Singapore 138669
Website: http://thelawn.com.sg/