Tomi Sushi: Lunch Sets at a steal

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Turn to Tomi Sushi, for a great alternative to Japanese dining specialising in Sushi.

Housed in the maze of top-drawing Japanese eateries on top of Parco @ Milennia Walk, Tomi Sushi throws all inhibitions out the window with it's down-to-earth and value for money set lunch menu. It's popularity during lunch hour clearly evident in the noisy throngs of office workers that had gathered in the restaurant during my recent visit.

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Sit at the counter to get a close up view of the action as the nimble fingers of the Japanese chefs go to work pressing little balls of rice together with delicate slices of the fresh fish. Even from a distance, the flurry of activity behind the counters building up a raging appetite between the 4 of us.

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Upon placing our orders, the food swiftly made its way to the table. The rows of sushi calling attention to it's fastidious presentation and natural glistening coating on the sliced fish.

Tomi Sushi claims to use 100% Koshihikari Rice (one of the best rice brand in Japan) and also imported sea salt from Japan. The restaurant's dedication to introduce its diners to good quality produce even extending to the soy sauce. A different one for sushi and sashimi, perhaps with contrasting viscosity and richness to compliment the both items.

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Sushi Bento ($38) as pictured above was a massive spread of the usual suspects. Offering a little bit of everything, this would surely satisfy any fickle-minded diner. The sushi, especially the commonly misrepresented California roll was executed perfectly here. Additional credit going out to the Koshihikari rice that had a good balance of fundamental sweetness combined with the sourness from the vinegar.

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My Gin Teri Set ($24)came withe most delicious piece of gindara teriyaki, cooked to perfection, highlighting the fattiness of the fish.

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Nigiri Sakura ($28) arrived with an assortment of sushi as well, each one perfectly crafted to mask just the right dosage of wasabi within to compliment the tightly rolled package. The nigiri was great, each one showcasing fresh and good cuts whether it be fatty salmon belly or the more turgid swordfish.

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For such prices, Tomi Sushi does not compromise on the quality of its ingredients, stressing on only the finest since minimal cooking is to be performed. If you are the sort to have the occasional want to indulge your sushi cravings without the fuss of a luxurious ambience, then, Tomi Sushi would be your best bet.

Tomi Sushi

PARCO Marina Bay
3F-04 9 Raffles Boulevard
Tel: 6333-4633

Velocity (Novena Square)
238 Thomson Road
Tel: 6255 2355

The Lawn: Greener Pastures

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As some of you have come to hear, The Lawn; which I have visited on many occasions and come to love has opened up a second brunch to cater to the office crowds of a different nature, other than the sciency-geeky bunch (haha). Located along Shenton Way, on the periphery of Singapore’s wheeling and dealing financial district; the Lawn has plans to take the salad diet fads to a whole new level by incorporating a selection of wholesome grilled meats into the picture.

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For starters, I stuck with my usual suspects. Grilled prawns, boiled egg, cashews (boy are they generous with these), cherry tomatoes and finally sprinkled with a healthy dose of parmesan cheese. Sitting over a bed of fresh mesclun salad in a ginormous bowl; one can be sure to execute the tossing maneuver without making a mess.

We were presented a foray of grilled meats as well to be put to the taste test. Some of my favourites include the Teriyaki Chicken, pan seared ducked breast and the chicken breast with maple infusion. Vegetarians fret now as the cafĂ© offers up various options for meat adverse. Take for example the char grilled mixed mushrooms, garlic galore! I couldn’t stop grazing on this one.

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The Lawn prides itself on the variety of dressings that are available to choice. So even if you were to dine in everyday, the countless permutations and combinations on the meats, add ons and dressings alone would surely allow a tickling of the taste buds each and every time. And taking that in mind, eating salads daily combined with the visit to the gym could help immensely in working down the size charts. Personally, I take to the Red Island, Wasa-honey, Wafu and MisoSpicy; but should you be bewildered by the choices, stick to the recommended pairings done in-house.

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My friend, Li Tian from dairycream.blogspot had her customized bowl of salad; the butter-seared Pacific dory, celery, olives, Beetroot, corn and crunchy granola. Boy did she prove that you don’t have to big to have a voracious appetite. You can read more about her experience here.

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End off your meal on a sweet note with the desserts offerings put forth by the Lawn. Tiramisu Hero is available for sale here too.

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Be sure to check out the Oreo Cheesecake (Jonathan’s recommendations) from Gobi Desserts .

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But better yet. Get a stiff one from the coffee counters; the barista does a pretty mean cappuccino with the coffee blends from Smitten Coffee.

The Lawn
Shenton Outlet:
8 Shenton Way, #B1-11, AXA Tower
Mon-Fri 10.30am-9pm

Online Order available here

Alkaff: Second Chances

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Second chances don’t come by easily.

With Alkaff mansion, its’ redeeming opportunity came shortly after the first (my cousin’s wedding, unfortunately during which the food, fell short of expectation).

Stepping into the grandeur and romantic atmosphere of the mansion, one can’t help but feel the rush of unexpected expectations surmounting.

We kick-started the meal with a Caprese salad amuse bouche. Meh…

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The wait drew in the next victim to go under the knife, the Marinated Scottish Salmon ‘Carpaccio’ with Yellow Frisee Salad with Salmon Roe, this dish was light, appropriately seasoned to bring out the savoury goodness of the expertly sliced salmon. A dish definitely worthy of a young chef’s repertoire.

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the Handclosed pumpking casoncelli with taleggio cheese fondue and veal jus unfortunately failed to impress. I do confess my deep love for taleggio cheese in any sort of pasta. Unfortunately, this rendition did not cut it. The veal jus failing to gel with the subtle creaminess of the taleggio cheese and the sweetness of the pumpkin puree within; confusion on a plate.

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Mains that followed were a feast for a gargantuan carnivorous appetite. First, the US prime beef short ribs with potatoes ‘charlotte’ and chestnuts fondant($42). The short ribs yielding to the slow cooking process like a fat kid to cake, cushiony soft, the individual slabs of flesh yielding to the knife like warm butter. The accompanying chestnut fondant contribute earthy flavors to the tantalizing mix.

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The Slow cooked suckling pig ($42) served with celery root and wild berries sauce did not fare as well, to my dismay. The attractive golden sheen of the crackling atop the flesh, winning votes amongst my fellow diners; its mouthwatering bubbling uncovering a hint of charred flavor; however, what lay below was slightly disappointing with the overbearing porky flavor. I must admit the marriage of the celery root and acidity of the berry sauce with the protein definitely helped to cover up some of that.

Lamb Lovers will take to the Oven baked lamb rack ($44) from England with glazed pearl onions and grain mustard sauce. Cooked to pink perfection, this gamey meat yielded with zero contention to the knife. Its assertive flavors only enhanced by the slight sweetness of the mustard sauce drizzled over. Definitely the highlight of the night for me.

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Finally, end the meal with the White Chocolate and Coffee ‘Parfait’ with Espresso Sauce and Hazelnut Meringue ($14); the play of flavors, textures and colors on the plate are sure to cause a swirl of emotions. I first met the dish with much contempt, as do I contemplate most plated dishes that appear all ‘dolled-up’ at restaurants; this time it was different, this dish surely impressed with the luxuriously smooth cubes of white chocolate mousse flavored with coffee, the sweet crunch of the hazelnut meringue playing up the perfect match of flavors between nuts and coffee. The Valrhona chocolate cake ($16) with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce was mediocre despite its provocative flashing of the lux ‘V’ branding. The following Alkaff Mansion Tiramisu ($14) ending the night on a low with its lackluster flavoring.

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Below are the dinner items from the ‘first chance’ that was granted to Alkaff Mansion. Canapes which I hardly recall the details to, except for the extraordinary foie gras tartlets.

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Appetisers, the Marinated Scottish Salmon ‘Tartare’ with Yellow Frisee Salad with Salmon Roe which similar to my latter experience was spot on in terms of seasoning, the minced up form of salmon allowing the marinade’s flavors to shine through better.

Mains: The US prime beef short ribs once again, was miles apart to the tasting portions in terms of gastronomical satisfaction. This could have perhaps used a couple more hours of braising, the flesh slightly tougher than I would have liked it.

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As far as consistency goes, Alkaff Mansion has much improvement to be made in this department. Without a doubt, the ambience here is attractive, so much so that people are blindsided to the quality of the food here given its price point. However, if food standards were to continue in the light of the night where second chances were granted, I would be proud to promote Alkaff as the go-to and fail safe destination for an affirmative wedding proposal dinner. But until then, I will only take my chances with that.

Alkaff Mansion Restaurant
10 Telok Blangah Green
Singapore 109178
T: 6510 3068

Senso Ristorance & Bar: Business or Romance?

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Finding this little enclave amongst the chaos and surplus of bars in the region, Senso ristorante certainly is more than meets the eye. From the outside, it sports a tight, stiff image of reclusivness yet once you step into its cool interiors, you'll be surprised by the expanse of grounds in this restaurant; a lovely courtyard with al fresco dining offers a glimpse of the magical night awaiting to be unfold once the sun sets.

It was lunch and we were quickly led to the tables at the back of the establishment. The atmosphere was stiff, too formal; I broke the eerie silence with a laugh, exclaiming to the waiter who took my order that I would love to have the 'meter-long', referring to the Papardelle XXLong, served with braised wild boar, black taggiasca olives and sundried tomatoes.

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For starters, I had the Burrata Palazzo D.O.P($ 28), Burrata Cheese served with aged San Daniele Ham, rucola salad and grape tomatoes. Strangely, this burrata cheese smelled the same as the writhing of wet towels that had been used multiple times to wipe the tables. I was taken aback by this foreign aroma but then later appeased by its creamy texture. The rucola salad served on the side were dried up and stringy as if dug out from the bottom of a long neglected bag of greens in the fridge. Definitely not a pleasant dish apart from the cured saltiness of the ham which were laid out so gently as a carpet.

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My mains were unfortunately a bit underwhelming as well. The wild boar turned out less gamey and much less robust in flavor than i expected.The braising process reducing the flesh to a texture almost similar to a pork cheek. The sauce, for lack of viscosity clung with measly efforts to the al-dente pasta which I struggled to tear apart with the provision of a spoon and fork as utensils (give me a knife please...)

All in all, I wouldn't be returning so soon just based on this two dishes alone. Better luck with pasta from pasta brava just in the vicinity.

Senso Ristorante and Bar
21 Club St
tel: 6224 3534

The Black Swan: Mary Mary quite Contrary

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The good folks at Lo & Behold (responsible for the Loof, The White Rabbit, Tanjong Beach Club) have done it again... this time, launching a 1930s-style joint in the heart of the CBD. Hardly strangers with fact that the conceptual designs to these projects would be stellar, I was blown away by the decor at The Black Swan. Cool spherical lights draped from the ceilings, frosty and muted, creating a tone of nonchalance in the room. The fabulously narrow U-shaped bar staged in the middle, with its entirely granite counter tops and high shelves of old-fashioned liquors evoke a strong representation of the period.

Barely a month old, the Black Swan has garnered a lot of media attention to itself; seemingly so since the dining room was packed with reserved tables on a normally lackadaisical Tuesday evening. That being said, service was top notch, directions were provided to a rather flustered me over the phone; and a special mention goes out to a kind lady Mary who stood by the table patiently engaging in relevant conversation as I took on the mammoth task of waiting an hour for my companion to arrive sans the 'drinking myself silly' part. "So, this is the guy who's going to pay for the entire meal?", she teases as my friend finally made his way to the table. Hilarious.

For a whole hour, I nursed this drink. The Golden Parachute ($19), a smooth 15 year old single malt whisky stirred with fragrant vanilla bean,  pure maple syrup and livened with mandarin zest. This potent potion a perfect example of the cohesiveness of the cocktails list with the style of the establishment.

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The menu features mostly American classics with a contemporary twist, a concept fortified by the consultation of Chef Sebastian Ng of Restaurant Ember. We started of with the Char-Grilled Beef Tartare ($26), perfectly comforting stack of freshly chopped USDA 365 days grain fed beef seasoned to perfection resting on a bed of sweet sauteed nashi pears. The balance in the dish impeccable. moreish.

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The Black Swan Burger ($26) features a patty made of seasoned chuck with a slender slice of melted mature cheddar plastered overhead. The sunny side up egg was a tad overcooked for my liking, my hopes for a natural yolk sauce, dashed. The buns made in-house were rather good; could have used a tad more wrist work to develop a bit more elasticity in the dough, but then again, butter works its magic. What really stupefies me on this dish are the streaky bacon slices that are served on the side. WHY? as if totally redundant. On the whole, a pretty good burger based on the doneness and juiciness of the patty alone. The fries... meh... they should consider adopting the Parmesan and rosemary haystack fries from Overeasy.

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My partner's Duck Leg Confit ($36)- 36 hour sous-vide, bacon potatoes, fresh thyme,mustard sauce

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Nothing goes better with a burger than a beer, shy away from the chi-chi cocktail and wine driven crowds with a cool Poleeko Californian Pale Ale ($14), a dry medium bodied ale with a hint of grapefruit and citrus notes.

The Black Swan is definitely pulling out all the stops with its recent launch of its set lunch menu ($28++ for 2 courses and $34++ for 3 courses). I reckon with the sensibilities of the company at helm, the new chapter for the Black Swan is looking to be a very long and exciting one.

The Black Swan
19 Cecil Street, The Quadrant
Singapore 049704
Reservations: (SMS) +65 8181 3305

Kith Cafe (Sentosa Cove): Breakfast for Champions (CLOSED)

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What happens when off days and public holidays collide?

You get a crescendo of epic dining experiences, boosted by an eager spirit desperate for adventure. So off to Sentosa Cove we went.

Kith cafe located at the Sentosa Quayside Isle is a scene of rigorous activity when we arrived there 10am on Hari Raya Puasa . Take note that since Kith does not take reservations, be prepared to put your patience to the test, as seats are slowly bestowed down the snaking waiting list.

Similar to its other branches, Kith cafe at Sentosa Cove has a light and neutral color palette of shades of greys and cream complemented by the occasional whimsical touches of blackboard covered walls with the in-house menu scribbled on top. Service staff were enthusiastic and attentive, as if feeding off the crowds energy.

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I settled down to a double shot Cappuccino to sooth the nerves, With orders already locked in, we braced ourselves for the next extended period of waiting; an inevitable resolution given the dining area that was filled to the brim.

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About a fair 20 minutes later, our meals touched down at the tables; thank goodness for that since any added suffering of food envy, from coveting my neighbours' food would have sent me into a mental rage. My Mexican Eggs($18) consist of 2 perfectly poached eggs, topped with avocado and mayo, served on 2 slices of thick multigrain bread, with a bed of baby spinach, on the side, a generous serve of smoked salmon christened with black caviar and a dollop of spicy tomato beans. Essentially an eggs benedict with a twist, I adored the overwhelming "greenery" on the plate (that proved a little too small for conducive eating of contradicting large portions), the mixture of textures, freshness of the ingredients and punchy flavors creating a sweet dance of sensations on the palate.

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My mother's Pork Belly Fried Eggs ($20) features a large slab of fat laden braised soya pork belly topped with two sunny side up eggs and finally sprinkled with magic pomegranate seeds. On the side sits a bed of wild rocket leaves with shaved parmesan cheese. The Ciabatta hidden beneath the mound of dark goodness absorbing all the wonderful juices. It might sound like a bit of work to get through, but the melange of flavors worked so well together, she polished off the dish easily.

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We ordered a Strawberry smoothie to conclude the meal, something that I found paled in comparison to the rest of the meal. The sourness of the yogurt used dominating the entire configuration, it could have benefited from a little more honey in the equation.

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A pit stop at Kith Cafe lets one fuel up on gargantuan servings of their signature dishes. Be sure to check out the lunch menu as well while you're at it; I've heard some good stuff about the pasta as well.

31 Ocean Way
Quayside isle
Singapore 098375

Update: Kith Cafe Sentosa Quayisle has ceased operations.

Prego: Italian food that doesn't come in jars

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Fans of hearty Italian cuisine have lots of options to choose from these days, what with the recent spate of fine dining restaurants that have opened in recent months. But few outlets can challenge the quality delivered by an old timer on the scene, Prego at Fairmont Hotel. Honest, homey Italian fare in Trattoria style. Think large wheels of Parmesan cheese on marble counter tops, strings of Italian Proscuitto and sausages hanging from the awnings and large wooden communal tables awaiting to be filled up with a tidal wave of generous feasting.

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Kick starting the night, we were treated to a basket of bread baked in-house served with a variety of dips. Tomato with Basil, Caramelized Onion with Ricotta Cheese and Truffle with Ricotta Cheese. I adored the rich intensity of the Truffle with Ricotta Cheese sauce, creamy with tantalising nuances of forest mushrooms, it made for a memorable way to whet our appetites for what was coming our way.

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Insalata Mista ($19) - mixed green salad, radicchio, fennel, red onion and lemon dressing

Not my favourite dish of the night since I wasn't feeling the part of a cow this evening. Pardon my prejudices.

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Not to be missed is the Stracciatella di Bufala($26), a crystal clear marinated king prawn topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, oregano and spring onions and finally placed idyllically on a bed of pillowy buffalo stracciatella. A love story to be savoured in small doses.

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Let me bring to your attention, the wine cart at our disposal. Under the guidance of our friendly wine expert, Avy, we sampled a couple of wines that were suggested as complimentary to the courses being served. The Riesling Donnhoff, Nahe, Germany (off dry) being one of the memorable ones for me; with intense lemon and lengthy mineral notes.

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Our next course of Cotechino($23) was a rather fatty Italian pork sausage finished off in a roasted organic sweet pepper sauce. This dish was tender and juicy, the acidity of the peppers in the sauce helping to cut through the opulent fattiness of the sausage. Well balanced and extremely well received by all the diners.

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If there are minor grouses, it would be the Bucatini ($36). Thick straw like pasta served with calamari, bread crumbs, chilli, black anchovies and fennel. This dish proved a little too dry for my liking and could have benefited from a heavier use of extra virgin olive oil to highlight the slick flavor of the pasta employed.

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The Paccheri ($42) was perfect, large hollow tube like pasta bathed in a lovely roasted heirloom tomato sauce, adorned with fresh basil and finally graced with sweet lobster flesh cooked to a seductive firmness.

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Merluzzo($42), baked cod fish was a dream in the mouth. The tender sweetness of the flesh complimented by earthy tones of the artichoke and kalamata olives, accompaniments to the dish.

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the Stinco d'Agnello ($30) was yet another stellar dish featuring the likes of braised lamb served with roasted fennel and potatoes. A classic dish found on many Italian menus, Prego sure does an impressive take on the regular with fall off the bone lamb that was melt in your mouth delicious.

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The end of the meal was marked by a traditional Italian dessert, Zabaglione ($14), essentially egg yolks cooked over a bain marie till it attains a light creamy texture; port wine was introduced into this rendition for a richer complimentary cream to the fresh berries it formed a nappage over.

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The attention to detail on Prego's part is extremely enlightening. Prego definitely has that extra bit of polished refinement in terms of food, and for the most part, the excellent ingredients and sophisticated decor go hand in hand with the execution of the dish. Definitely highly recommended on my part should you be in dire need of an Italian fix.

Fairmont Singapore Hotel
Level 1
80 Bras Basah Road
Singapore 189560
Tel: +65 64316156