Carpenter and Cook: sweet treats for the afternoon

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Carpenter and Cook has been on my radar for the longest time. Funnily, having live so close by, I've not found the chance to stop by despite my incessant visits to other similar cafes on the opposite corners of the island.

Finally on a quiet placid off day, I scooted over to the cafe patisserie. Dressed to the nines in vintage pieces and mismatched prints, we instantly hit it off.

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Cocooned within its cool, softly lit interiors with warm friendly staff, there was no lingering signs of interruption from the bustle of the city outside. Just a delightfully warm resonating vibe afloat despite my unaccompanied visit. Lunch there was a treat of hidden gems. Starting with the Bacon and Egg Quiche ($7), this treat of warmed eggy custard between two delicate walls of pastry, comes stuffed with all manner of good things. Perfect touch of seasoning, with the bacon bits providing hints of quintessential savouriness throughout, I devoured this one like a hungry ghost along with accompanying mixed salad on the side.

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For dessert, I stuck to the comforts of the Apple Cobbler Loaf Cake ($5), personally, I feel that the cake itself could have been a little moister, perhaps the use of applesauce could have enhanced the mix; however, I loved how the crumble toppings were so beautifully crisp. The thin slices of apple interspersed within the cake doing nothing for the overall flavor.

rounding off the experience with a Cappuccino ($5) which was decent, if not one of the better cups that you can find in the west. Only for the lack of better choice.

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At 3pm in the afternoon on a Thursday, a modest trade was running in a lazy Sunday kind of way. And I'm thinking to myself, 'don't these people need to work?'

In it's defense, Carpenter and Cook pretty much sells a lifestyle, a quaint joint filled with hand-picked vintage furniture which you could use to set your arse on during your stay there; an advocate of a state of happy-go-lucky that is so evident from it's ever-changing menu and home styled bakes. Most, would feel at home here, hence the tight following. Don't believe me, go check it out yourself!

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Carpenter and Cook
19 Lorong Kilat #01-06
Tel: 64633648

Balzac Brasserie: Old school French

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There are just some days when you crave for traditional foods. Debating our choices for dinner venues, my companion (a schoolmate from Le Cordon Bleu Sydney) and I settled on Balzac Brasserie for a quick escape from the usual rigours of nouvelle cuisine. Tonight we go old school.

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Balzac Brasserie is exactly what you would picture a typical French brasserie that claims to serve simple, homey food: the interior styled in a interesting juxtaposition of sidewalk cafe and Parisian bar and bistro, with deep shade of mahogany and leather. To one side of the dining area are cafe chairs that usually line the sidewalks of Paris with a back drape of luscious greenery cascading from the high ceilings; the other side features a antique zinc bar with high chairs and booth seats, exuding a cool underground vibe as the trades picked up pace through the night.

Drawing inspiration from his own family's recipes, Executive Chef Jean-Charles Dubois serves up a classic french menu and manges to do so with aplomb; highlighting the integrity of the fresh produce he employs. Perusing the menu, it wasn't hard to zoom in our final decisions despite the rather extensive menu.

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The meal begins with Foie Gras de "Castaing" ($24) for me; homemade foie gras terrine served with fig and raisin compote, farmer's toast and petite salade. Seriously rich stuff with the crunchy farmers toast helping to mitigate the taste. I adored the delicate endive salad on the side which helped me to ease into each sumptuous bite of the good stuff.

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The Escargots de Bourgogne (Dozen for $22);gratinated beure Provencale style with parsley, garlic and butter; was a real disappointment. Bland. We had to resort to massive movements with the salt shakers to achieve a nice balance of flavors. And honestly, service standards were truly lacking. If you want to ask us how the meal was, please stand still for a moment at the table instead of zipping around the tables, leaving our answers hanging in mid air. Basic courtesy.

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Entrecote ($34) - 200gr black angus served with bearnaise sauce and pommes frites. Definitely a commendable dish with the red meat cooked to a perfect medium rare , an enthralling sear on the outside to seal in the juices. The sauce also made a world of a difference - the bernaise made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks, white wine vinegar and flavoured with herbs, well seasoned, it's lusciousness a good partner to the integrity of the steak.

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Another success was the Duck Confit($26) , the duck, a melt in your mouth kind of delicious, humming with the romance of a fine pinot noir. The bed of truffle mash, so smooth, almost like it was sieved thru the finest strainer. With crispy skin, the salt helping to draw any left remnants of moisture out, this provides for the only textural contrast required in this traditional dish. Very well executed indeed.

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Balzac Brasserie separates itself from the throngs of new and old restaurants springing up all over the island with its dedication to old school French cookery techniques and dishes. For one, the food certainly hits the spot, but the same cannot be said for the whole dining experience. The service could use a little fine tuning: more attention to detail, perhaps a little more friendly interaction with the guests? I'm not asking for a lap dance over here, maybe just a sincere warm smile once in a while wouldn't hurt?

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Balzac Brasserie
Rendezvous Hotel,
9 Bras Basah Road
Phone: 63360797

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya

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Media Invite

Located at the pinnacle of Orchard Central, the newly opened Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya is a rambunctious casual dining joint that scores high points for its decor (a graduation from 1950s roadside setup to 1960s Orchard Yokocho and finally to the 70s -80s Dining Izakaya) and merry making ambience. With roof access and a lovely sunset view to boot, there's more reason for food and booze enthusiasts to nestle themselves in the enclaves of Sumiya. Note that Asahi Draft Beer are priced at $4.90++ per mug as per the ongoing promotion which is proclaimed to be the lowest price in town, now that's worth a try!

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On our gastronomic journey through the premises, we were brought to the outdoor terrace, where the kindest looking Japanese gentleman greeted us. Here, patrons can have a go at the Do-It-Yourself Garden BBQ. Some of the offerings include Angus Beef, beef tongue, wagyu beef, marinated chicken and assorted vegetables. Start your weekend night of partying with an invigorating pint of beer and cheerful company over the BBQ, that pretty much sounds ideal to me.

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As we were lead back into the smokey depths of the restaurant, I came to realise how the laid back atmosphere sprawled across the huge decks sophisticated diner and outdoor terrace was conducive to the endless chatter amongst its delighted guests. Expect the standard fare at Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya, boosted only by a sprinkling of marketing magic (adore the $6/grab Moshio Edamame btw). We started with the Prawn Tempura Roll Sushi, simple and unassuming. Then moved on to the Potato Salad with Mentai Mayonnaise and Sweet Pumpkin Salad , both of which were seasoned beautifully and its creamy luscious texture added a bit of full bodied lavishness to the spread that night. The Salmon Sashimi tempted me into submission with its gorgeous rubied tones of the sliced salmon, the fresh hamachi beckoning with its evident suppleness.

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Fancy something a little off the beaten track. Try out the Do-It-Yourself Table Sumiyaki of Assorted Dried Fish, consisting of a platter of conger eel, soft smoked squid, dried baby squid, semi-dried hage fish ready to be placed on the mini barbecue pits at our tables. Curling in silent resistance to the heat emitted,their protests lead to a loud spates of natural flavors of the seas to be enjoyed. I was fond particularly of the dried baby squid that was excellent partner to a stiff glass of sake from the old fashioned tubs placed so conveniently in front of us.

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Let's not forget the promotion for the $6/grab Moshio Edamame, a real good bargain for those with seriously BIG hands. The duo, one carrying a towering basket of willowy gently salted beans at hand, and the other, toting percussion drums sure created a stir in the dining room.

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The Char-grilled Wagyu Beef Skewer and Bacon wrapped Eringi Mushroom Skewer is a delight, an example of a classic main done right. Since Sumiya specialises in the art of charcoal grill, I expected nothing less. The former served with leeks on a stick, helped to enhance the tenderness and fragrance of the beef slices.

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Last but not least, we dug into the Deep-fried Squid with Chilli Sauce, a showcase of the deep fried items included on the menu. This dish, with a sweet and savoury mix, did not pay off for me, the freshness of the squid squandered away in a chaotic mish-mash of thick red sauce.

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Sumiya pleases most with its attention to detail; memorabilia collected lining the counter tops, old school Japanese decor, completed with prompt and attentive service. Throw in the killer view and boisterous cries from the ever-so-happy staff, there's no lack of reason for more visits to Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya, especially with your best mates in tow.

Thanks once again to Rachel from The Asia Media for the gracious invite!

Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya
#12-02, Orchard Central,
181 Orchard Road
Phone: 65099618

Wordless Wednesdays: Porn's

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Pad Thai
sadly pedestrian (sorry for breaking the code of silence)

Porn's Thai Restaurant
#01-32, Junction 10,
1 Woodlands Road
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun 11:00 - 22:00

Jewel Cafe + Bar: OMG

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I loved that you were late because that just gave me more time to squeeze some more shots of the place.

My dining accomplice arrived a tad late. Held back by the nasty traffic that curse the Jalan Besar area daily, just slightly before the mad peak hour rush. No complaints of course. I happily settled down at the table with a cappuccino and a magazine which I hastily picked out from the vast spread made available and pondered life's choices. All was peaceful then.

Jewel Cafe + Bar is a second outlet, with Jewel Cafe at Shenton Way shedding the light on to this new establishment. Having had huge success taking the coffee route with the working class in the heart of town, Jewel Cafe ventures out to the more "indie" zone of Singapore to dabble its luck. What is remarkable about the place is firstly, the location - where else do you turn out the black-soaked, Tamil-reigned area, walk a couple of steps and find yourself in a "hole in the wall" styled cafe and bar complete with tinkering warmth and strange modern light panelling overhead? Then there is the food served. At this cafe+bar concept, a full fledged menu of hot meals harbouring around the safe origins of comfort foods is provided. Some not so safe... but with major emphasis on freshness and down-to-earth flavors made right from scratch.

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The dish of Umami Prawn Cappellini ($22) arrived at the table a 'hot mess', the bonito flakes atop the pasta revelling in the heat. Grilled prawns, crustacean oil, bonito flakes, Tobiko (flying fish roe), and Umami 'magic dust' made up make up this dish. Sadly it wasn't mine.

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Worth the wait, my OMG! Burger ($20) quickly stole the attention of my accomplice and with cruel intentions, I allowed him to bathe in the green luminance of jealousy for awhile before painstakingly slicing him a portion to taste. He swooned and pouted, my heart sang a little more at my triumphant choice. Fully loaded with crispy bacon, luncheon meat, lettuce, USDA beef patty, caramelised onions and cheese between two deliciously buttered brioche buns, it was indeed a deadly mix. let's not forget the perfectly fried sunny-side egg, the crowning glory of the dish, one that sent an intoxicating meander of yolk, streaming down the sinful tower of glorious ingredients. This dish definitely stole my heart for the night and is one of the top contenders on my ever-growing list of burgers conquered.

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One more look at the heart-attack on a plate

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For all your coffee snobs out there, do not leave Jewel Cafe without a cup of artisan coffee. With beans roasted in-house and espresso-based coffee specialities extracted using the Italian state-of-the-art La Marzocco Strada machine, you will surely be in for a treat.

I'm so checking out the uber chic loft level the next time round!

Jewel Cafe and Bar
129 Rangoon Road, Singapore
Tel: 6298 9216

Chili's Central @ Clarke Quay:

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Food Panda and Singapore Dine have partnered up to provide Singapore with the largest delivery service on local shores. To mark this momentous announcement of the collaboration, a launch event was held at Chili's Central @ Clarke Quay and yours truly received an invite!

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Frankly, mingling isn't my strong suit so I chose to settle down along the padded booth seats with a San Miguel in tow. Soon after, I was introduced to two other food bloggers from Piece of Cake and Dairy and Cream whom I got acquainted with swiftly. Thank goodness for that. Surrounded by a special blend of politisse with a soupcon of obsequous grovelling all around, I was grateful for the company of my new found friends who like me, zoomed in like eagles over the food.

We were treated to a starter dish of warm and crispy tostada chips with flavourful house-made salsa on the side. Perfect dish for the peckish. The freshly fried chips, light and extremely thin yet resilient enough to scoop up the tangy salsa. I appreciated that these chips did not reek of old re-used oil.

Then next up came Big Mouth Bites, mini renditions of beef burgers with ground steak beef patty, apple smoked bacon, cheese and ranch dressing. As much they looked good on the platter as the server made his rounds, ringing the crowds and prancing through the human obstacles like a ballerina; this dish was less than stellar. The patty was dry and clumsily seasoned, overworking the meat resulting in a texture similar to a Macdonald's sausage patty.

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If there was one comment about the food that was clearly palpable throughout the line-up of dishes that night. They were all overzealously salted. Perfect if you're downing a couple of beers along with your meal.

The Boneless buffalo wings, essentially golden nuggets of chicken breast battered and deep fried and served with a cool blue cheese dip fell prey again to the spells of the salt over dosage. On a hindsight, these were exceptionally moist and succulent despite it's breast meat beginnings.

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Moving on to the better dishes of the night, we were presented with the lovely Club Quesadillas, a melted orgy of chicken with applewood smoked bacon, fire-grilled corn guacamole, grilled onions and peppers. Eaten alone, this was a gorgeous exercise of purity in flavors. But eaten with a shy smothering of jack cheese and ancho-chile ranch dressing, this humble looking Mexican fiesta attained a whole new level of piggish indulgence. I wanted to hog this dish so badly.

Equally tantalizing, the Southwestern Eggrolls looked spectacular with its colourful medley of smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalepeno jack cheese, red capsicum and spinach all within a crispy flour tortilla. Scoring in terms of presentation, I fell in love with the eggrolls, the little spoonful of avocado ranch sauce over the top resulting in a riotous mouthful of crispy, soft, crunchy and savoury goodness all at once.

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Chili's Central @ Clarke Quay is a good place for hearty American food, some Tex Mex style and others of more traditional origins. A good place for a chill-out night with close friends over simple food and couple of margaritas to match.

Thank you once again to Antoniya and the team of Food Panda for the generous invite. (You can read about my experiences with Food Panda here)

(The Central)
#01-18, The Central,
6 Eu Tong Sen Street

Purple Mustard: It's got heart

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It was just one innocent glance. Then, envy struck me down with the weight of Thor's hammer. And yes, I’ll admit, I am jealous. I am jealous of the boy from Oh Nom Nom Nom who sank his teeth into picturesque dogs from Purple Mustard. And as a result, I had to get in on the action.

All in time for International Hot Dog Day too on the 4th July. I swore it was absolutely unintentional.

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Purple Mustard is a no frills joint located at Icon Village @ Tanjong Pagar. With minimal seating and no elaborate decor so to speak of, the store steals the hearts of many wandering souls with it's gutsy sauces and innovative pairings, all dealt with the humble hot dog.

I opted for the signature Barnyard Dog ($9)which comes with a beef and Guinness sausage, caramelized onions, purple mustard and sriracha remoulade. I raped the poor beast of a dawg with my eyes first, my breathe stolen by its vibrant nature, the striking shade of purple caused by mixing Dijon mustard with whiskey soaked blueberries. The blueberries imparting a slight fruity perfume to the overall makeup of the sauce. This complimented the robustness of the firm savoury sausage sandwiched between the pillowy soft buns. And which each bite, I let out a painful moan of pleasure, as quietly as possible, to avoid my companion over hearing my exquisite love-making session with the unassuming fella. His combinations, power-packed and alarmingly alluring given it's humble beginnings from just a sausage and a bun (that I supposed was factory produced)

I added another $1 for the house drink of Lemongrass tea, a two way servant as a palate cleanser and a breathe freshener after the flavoursome ordeal.

Note: My friend's order of Beanless Chili Meat ($3.00)was excellent too so I suppose the Coney Dog would be a good option for the future. It's all out on the table now. Definitely worth a second, third and fourth visit! Check out their menu here!

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Purple Mustard
Icon Village
12 Gopeng Street,
#01-31/32 ICON Village (near Tanjong Pagar MRT)
Tel: +65 6221 8498
Opening Hours: Mon–Fri: 11am – 9pm;
Sat: 12pm – 9pm (Closed on Sun)