Cicheti: and then there were Italian small plates


Before stepping through the rustic black wooden doors, a thought crossed my mind; I was sure the Italians would be equally bewildered and perhaps outraged by the notion of Italian cuisine served in small plates format. Slowly taking my time to adjust to the sheer darkness of the interiors, after just having wandered around the bright-light, touristy outskirts of Kampong Glam, I let the oddity of the situation slide. Ordering a glass of house white to soothe my nerves.

Cicheti is Kampong Glam's newest addition. A narrow shopfront reveals a massive monster of an oven right in the middle of the service floor; the pizza maker revelling (or not) in the rousing heat of its hell-like hearth, the balls of dough proofing ever so slightly from the heat of the atmosphere. Gleaming in through the glass doors meant to separate this inferno and the slightly cooler interiors, we watched as spectators, as the maestro does a pronounced counter spinning motion followed by a swift arrangement of assorted ingredients.

Our meal began with my mandatory order of Calamari Mollica Di Pane ($11). Crisp fried calamari in homemade breading served with garlic aioli dip. My feathers were left unruffled. The word 'homemade' making excuses for its crumbing which was under seasoned and slightly too stodgy. Aside from the fact that the calamari could have used a good 20 seconds out of the deep fryer; the self professed garlic aioli lacked any resounding trace of garlic (not that my companion was complaining since he's very much a hater.)


We were told the Duo Caprese was not available and pointed in the direction of a house special salad ($15) instead which turned out to be an exact replica of the former, sans the fried mozzarella and with a ton more rocket piled over the top. A decent medley of boccocini, cherry tomatoes, balsamic and rocket. There was just no 'umph' in there.

And as the oven-obsessed owner would trumpet, the heart and soul of Cicheti lies in its pizzas. I was eager to get that in my belly.

A couple more glasses of wine and a Peroni later, our beautiful bubble crusted pizza stood in full glory before us. The Bismark ($19), had ham, bacon, mushrooms lying on a bed of homemade tomato sauce, before being sprinkled with a liberal dosage of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. To further feed the illusion, an egg is cracked right in the middle, tossed in the oven for a couple more seconds before being plated. The result, an imperfect, blistered edged pizza with delicious dark patches of burn marks and a delicate spot of sunshine in the middle. Chef Lim might have misjudged the cooking time of the dough while juggling the finesse of the perfect runny egg that led to a severely under-cooked bottom. Raw dough... outrageous. Nonetheless, we polished our plates in respect of alcohol laden stomachs.

Cicheti falls short of expectations on so many levels. Yet the tight spaces within the establishment allows for a lot of food ogling situations especially with thy neighbours. Perhaps I'll be back for the pastas.

52 Kandahar Street
Singapore 198901
Tel: 6292 5012

Buttero @ Tras Street: Once bitten, twice shy


Tras Street, on the periphery of Spore's wheeling and dealing financial district has developed into some sort of food mecca for the office workers in need of some after work pampering. Stationed right smack in the middle of this hot mess is newly opened Buttero, rebel-child Italian bistro.

This review may reveal an overload of gastronomical porn images, but do bear with me. On hindsight, this restaurant was reviewed twice on two very different occasions to get a grasp of its consistency with regards to food and service. My first visit was a walk-in in the middle of afternoon service on a Tuesday. Despite the odd day of the week, business was brisk and the diner was filled with corporate clients in search for a quick lunch. Except that.. the food didn't arrive all too swiftly. Faults with the minuscule hole in the wall kitchen I might say, or perhaps the fresh team trying to work out some their SOPs.

We started off our lunch with the Chopped Pork and Zucchini Fritters with charred lime and ricotta cheese ($20), a stellar dish in the kitchen's repertoire. The chopped pork, a fatty and soft affair that added pops of joy to the fragrant zucchini fritters. The torn basil elevating the dish with its herbaceous characteristics.

This was followed closely with the lunch special, a Triple Cheese and Truffle Toastie ($15),  that's where things starting heading south. As much as I appreciate the efforts behind the chef sourcing the traditional jaffle irons, this UFO dish like sandwich came across a little lacklustre in flavor. The cheeses not yielding to the heat sufficiently to attain that dreamy stretchy texture and the promised aroma of truffle threatening to disappear after a single waft.

I turned to our main course for a miraculous resurrection.

The Porchetta ($32) from the rotisserie served with braised beans reminded me of a dish I had in Sydney a while back. . The similarities are uncanny, yet the results are staggeringly different, with Buttero's version paling in comparison; it's crisp crackling brimming with refined salt that bites harshly at the tongue when savoured. A tinge more sauce could have made it to the plate to balance out the overall fattiness of the dish.


On my second visit (invited this time), I was blown away with the Chef's credentials. Previously hailing from Lucio's in Paddington, Sydney, Executive Chef Logan Campbell not only looks suave while flailing his knife in the air, he has the work experience in this long standing Italian joint to back him up. 

Clouds began to lift.

Expectations set in.

House Special, Jesus Juice helps to set the mood. A granita of pinot noir and coke, this basically tasted like a frozen sangria slushie. Delicious, and I might say, quite potent.

For the peckish, go for the Pulled pork, Waffle fries & Mozzarella ($15),  moreish and perfect for sharing over a bottle of wine. The texture of the pulled pork was winsome, the generous slew of triple cheese sauce over the piping hot waffle fries making it an absolute delight to munch on.

One of my favourite dishes of the night was the Torn Buffalo Mozzerella & Fried Cornbread ($21) with heirloom tomato, sabu and Ligurian Olive oil. This was a fail proof, simple formulation of ingredients, but the entirety of it given a little snap, crackle and pop resulting with an end product that is more satisfying than some high end salad landscape. Chef Logan really paid homage to his Italian heritage with this offering.

Once again, the Chopped Pork and Zucchini fritters with charred lime and ricotta cheese ($20) delivered. I griped a little about the dwindling portion of ricotta cheese on the plate, but overall still an outstanding plate.

We stretched our waistbands a little bit more for the arrival of the mains. First, the Handmade Gnocchi, sauteed brussel sprouts with honey, lemon and sage ($21). A generous inclusion of cheese within the knobs of potato and flour creating soft springy pillows of goodness with a slight browned crust, a result of being sauteed in the pan at the very last minute. Flavors were delicate in this dish, highlighting the simplicity of eating clean.

Baked Barley with New Zealand Clams and Belly Bacon: a brilliant dish with a twist of old school mindsets where barley rice is used to replace the traditional arborio in this risotto dish. The barley was cooked to perfection with its turgidity resembling the hardy grains of normal arborio rice.

The two meats that followed was a repeat act of my previous experience and another much more stellar performance.

Once again, the Porchetta ($32) resulted in me drowning in an ocean of salt water. The raw grains of salt on the crackling dulling the taste buds to the robustness of the flesh.

However, the Dirty Steak ($34) was a showstopper, the Carolina dry rubbed wagyu flank steak cooked on hot coals, topped with verde, onion rings and shallots was one word, mesmerising. Put at the mercy of the grills, the meat attains a heady, smoky, a thoracic warmth and cumulates in a smack down with the spice rub so generously massaged in before hand. The verde helps to tone the spiciness down with its piquancy of flavors. The only downfall of the dish were the onion rings, the batter, a stodgy affair that denies its recent get-together with the deep-fryer. I tossed those aside in favor of the conjugal bliss of meat and spices. Definitely a MUST-ORDER in Buttero.

Following up with a rather non-conventional dessert menu, I was keen to sample the goodies. Starting off with the Cannoli filled with whipped ricotta, lemon and strawberry salad ($12), these could have been the perfect dessert to end off an Italian feast, the amalgamation of textures from crisp to dreamy cream putting a smile on my face. I just wish that cannoli was a little more fresh. The Milk Chocolate Rosemary pot with orange blossom air ($12) encountered some storage facility mishaps before arriving at our tables, the orange blossom fluff looking more like orange creme anglaise above the warmish milk chocolate cream at the bottom of the jars. Those who are impartial towards the orange chocolate combination should avoid this dessert at all cause. The best dessert of the lot has to be the Vanilla bean Panna Cotta with crushed peanut butter meringue and passionfruit ($12), a traditional dessert executed with finesse and a little magic dust thrown in with that crisp shard of peanut butter meringue.

Buttero sells itself uniquely amongst the hodgepodge of chi-chi restaurants in the vicinity by offering good food with earnest intent at reasonable prices. The packed dining rooms at both lunch and dinner times bearing testament to this mantra. Give it a couple more weeks to iron out its issues and I'm sure you'll be in for a guaranteed treat with every visit.

54 Tras Street
Singapore 078993
Tel: 6438 7737

{KL}: Burger investigations at #ieatburgers


My indecent obsession with burgers continues across the causeway, where a recent trip up to Kuala Lumpur saw me conquering burger joints and attending the #ieatburgers event orgnised by friedchillies.

Let's start off with My Burger Lab located in Petaling Jaya. Well loved for its quirky menu and charcoal powder dyed buns, the place was teeming with life when I arrived on a late Friday evening. A persistent queue of hungry diners lining from wall to wall.

I had the Beautiful Mess ($18), beef patty, fried portobello, sunny side up, cheddar cheese. And honestly, it sure up the anty on the 'mess' factor, the pattys consisting of such grounded down meat mixture that its somewhat crisp exterior gave way to a sloppy mess halfway through. In fact, the fried portobellos assumed a more desirable texture than the beef patty itself, it's juicy squared off innards benefiting from the breaded and deep fried treatment. The sunny side up egg that crowns off this tethering stack bearing  a slight resemblance to airport scrambled eggs with a ton of cream thrown in for the bulking. Not exactly the best burger it claims to be.

Moving on... the stars magically aligned to get me the privilege of participating in the I EAT BURGERS event in Kuala Lumpur on the 7th June just when I was there over the short weekend trip. A coincidence you may say? I believe it was destiny that brought us together. 

Organised by the Fried Chillies , this fiesta brings 20 of the best burgers in Klang Valley together. Like an orgy of heart clotting transgressions... I descended very quickly to feed my vices.

These were some of the burgers stalls I sampled from that day (in no particular order of merit, click on the links for some lucid food pornography)

Some of the memorable ones for me include the Chili Beef Concar-nay Burger and Buffalo Soldier Burger from Burger Junkyard; Kak Ana famous 'I Love You' Burger and Steam & Grill's Serunding Burger. 

Of all, Burger Junkyard scored the highest in regards to the bun, the spongy butter brioche buns still retaining that slight savoury edge to enhance the sweeter fillings that were noticeably more innovative than its neighbouring stalls. The Buffalo Soldier burger is a grilled chicken burger smothered in buffalo hot sauce, glazed with cool sour cream and a celery infused cheddar. Nicely balanced with a good ratio of filling to bread. Steam and Grill's unorthodox methods of preparing the meats create an almost Malaysian stylised beef patty; the combination of steam and grill ensure a higher level of moisture is retained, resulting in a pulled beef texture filled with asian spices and marinades. Definitely a star in the making.

But never straying from the search of the best Ramly burger, I stumbled upon Kak Ana Green Apple and their 'I Love You' burger. From the moment the patties hit the grill to the stage where a slew of hot sauces and creamy white mayonnaise are showered over the top; this baby cries out to be picked up. A streamlined perfection assembly of chicken and beef patty separated by a fried egg and those signature green apple slices helping to cut through the absurd greasiness. Brilliance. I attacked this one like hungry pack of wolves.

Singapore... we could use an event like that now.. TOP 10 burger food festival perhaps? 

Bread and Hearth: Bread and Butter letters


Butter. there was butter dredged all over the walls, it enveloped me, luring me into its warm embrace. If you cringe at the smell of this yellow villain, then avoid Bread and Hearth by all means. However, my love-hate relationship with it (referring strictly to my days in the kitchen spent tackling a 25kg block of butter with a really blunt knife) draws me one step closer.  

Bread and Hearth is the newest artisanal bakery to open amongst the playground of F&B riches in the Ann Siang/ Keong Saik neighborhood. Dedicated to using the best quality ingredients to set it apart from its competitors, I was keen to taste a difference.

And I did.

Working within the constantly cool realms of the fastidiously packed kitchen, staff laminate the croissant doughs from scratch. Plowing the natural levain dough, hiding sheets of French butter within, through the dough-break, book-turn after book-turn till the cross-section reveals some mind-blowing layers of alternating dough and butter. Once proofed, these babies enter the mouth of the blazing hot German oven and the water content in the butter blisters, swelling causing the pastry to puff up. There you have it, crisp, flaky pastry, the hinterland of every butter worshipper. 

Here at Bread and Hearth, they take their coffee seriously. One sip of my cappuccino and my coffee nerd consensus attained a quizzical standstill, unable to establish a familiarity with the blend. The owner explains that the coffee beans used for their coffee have been 'blended' in house, a fixed ratio of arabica and robusta beans in order to balance out the tannins, acidity and nuttiness of it. The end result, a smooth, medium bodied coffee which leans ever so slightly to the more nutty side of life. Adding to the pageantry of the fancy coffee art is the subtle fairy dusting of nutmeg powder over the top that works miracles with its rich woody spice.

With a spread of goodies to conquer, we nibble our way around the table. For me, the real strengths are in the Croissant, the Raisin roll and Pain au Chocolat; shedding some light on the dark and depressing state of such boulangerie items in Singapore. Retaining a crisp crust even after the relentless shootings, the butter taste was profound, deliciously rich and salty. The chocolate batons from cocoa barry spilling its hot fudge like melty innards within those flaky layers. Frankly, though, the Matcha Orange soft roll and White Chocolate bun are not particularly tempting with a strange doughy texture.

Part and parcel of any boulangerie spread are tarts. Here at Bread and Hearth, the tart shells are made from scratch, another applaud worthy moment for the hard working folks here. That aside, the result is this strange cookie like crust that screams it's tormenting experience under the hands of an overcompulsive dough maker. The Lemon Meringue Tart, your usual suspect has a lovely bright citrusy note, let down only by the biscuit like dense tart base; whilst the Salted Caramel Tart shows up sweet with sticky caramel, jazzed up with a wee bit of sea salt (could use a lot more in there to warrant the use of the descriptive word 'salty') and nuanced by the simple addition of roasted hazelnuts speckled over the top. With a bit of fine-tuning, this combination has a lot of potential to be the unique selling point of the cafe.

Like every new kid on the block, Bread and Hearth uncovers a mixture of hits and misses throughout its menu. However, with a concise business plan and niche products on offer, this place is set to conquer the hearts and stomachs of croissant lovers with a couple of tweaks. 

For now, I vouch for that Pain au Chocolat. Why not give it a go?

Fundamentally-flawed dined as a guest of Bread and Hearth. However, opinions are strictly her own. Thank you Mapwerkz for the invite.

Bread and Hearth
18 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089215
T: 6534 7800

Potato Head Folk: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious


Potato Head Folks needs no introduction. A huge cloud of media banter rising from the dust weeks before it's opening here in Singapore. Indonesian brand Potato Head, known for their unorthodox operations in Bali has quite a following. With that, the launch of their local outpost builds a flutter of anticipation in me, especially so since one of the gentrifying factors of their multi storey complex alone Keong Saik features a burger joint.

Potato Head Folks is an interesting premise - a Bohemian flower child space with butterfly and bird motifs, inspiration from Melbourne-bourne artist David Bromley. His obsession with little prepubescent boys puts me on edge, bordering near paedophilia disorders. But that aside, it's rebellious and showy interior paves the way for some great food.

Featuring a menu from Three Buns with its kitchen planted on the ground floor, Potato Head Folks pull out all the stops with a devoted menu of hearty burgers and naughty sides accompanied by a mix of devilish drinks. Roping in Chef Adam Penney, the previous Head Chef from London's Patty and Bun , our expectations have now exceeded the roof. 

From the list of "Jerk Cocktails", we sampled the Mexican Mule ($15), a refreshing mix of cimarron blanco tequila with lime and ginger beer, the good dose of tequila, a sturdy work horse in the background as the conjugal bliss of tangy lime and candied ginger provided that 'ka-pow' effect similar to a donkey's sidekick. Paying homage to their Indonesian roots is the Albens Fine English Cider ($14), brewed in the Alben cider factory and bottled at Molly Malones in Jakarta, this is as honest as it gets. Clear pale golden, this cold filtered cider is clean and spritzy with sweet notes of green apples. Perfect after the walk in the sweltering heat. 

I ditch the fancier versions in favor of the basic burger, Baby Huey ($20), prime 150g beef patty, stacked with cheese, lettuce, notorious T.O.M sauce, pickles and spiced mayo. A simple convening of well executed items that cumulates in a smackdown when first bitten into. Special mentions going out to the artisanal breads that are all baked in house ( i did notice that my friend's Burning Man burger had a different rendition with a more wholemeal like bun, so again, hats off to the kitchen for taking the extra effort). The beef patty renders a burst of juices from it's larger ground size and level of doneness. This for me, was my answer to the replacement for Mary's on local grounds...

Potato Head Folks do feature some other more interesting spaces on the upper decks should you want to linger. The third floor is home to a more intimate, reservations only bar where future plans for small plates, vintage spirit tastings are still in the works. Climb another flight of stairs and you'll find yourself in an oasis of fragrant herbs and exotic flora, a modern rooftop bar exuding tropical vibes and dishing up tiki cocktails created by Dre Masso.

As for me, my passion is solely focused on that burger joint. I will be back to try that Honky-Tonk soon!

Three Buns by Potato Head Folks
36 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089143
Tel: +65 6327 1939 (no reservations policy)

Lucha Loco: Ready, Get Set, EAT!!!


It's always a riot at Lucha Loco, groups congregating under colored flags and hanging bulbs in the garden patio chowing down on hearty Mexican fare. The atmosphere is laid-back, yet dripping with contemporary LA vibes all at once. With the kitchen headed by Executive Chef Mario Malvaez in collaboration with Chef Jason Jones, co-founder of Mamasita in Melbourne; food here is touted to be the real deal. Judging from the deliveries of wildly hued tacos careening past our noses, out of the kitchens and on to hungry diners; it didn't take much convincing to see that Lucha Loco must be doing something right.

This post maybe severely belated, reviewing my last visit on the 9th April in conjunction with a special "Taco Eating Challenge" that was held on the same day. With my partner competing in the 10 mins, 'stuff yourself silly with tacos challenge' in tow, I set out to explore the menu on my own.

Taco De Chorizo con Red ($10) was a chorizo and braised beef taco. The braised beef carrying a heady aroma of spice, it's melty mouth-feel mixing beautifully with the more robust flavored sausage for a devilish combination. 

The Taco de Pescado ($11) starts off with a beautifully fried snapper, the red onion salsa and spicy orange chipotle mayonnaise building it up into a crescendo. Wonderfully balance in flavor, this attractive package works it magic amongst the rowdy diners.

My staple order of Chicken Quesadilla with Serrano Chili ($16) arrives at the table, a racy sight of feisty colors, the freshly made salsa on the side providing acidity that cuts through some of the heat derived from the inclusion of serrano chili in the mix. The chicken is cooked to perfection, still retaining that bit of moisture that ties the spicy, creamy concoction together under those pressed shells. All in all, one of the better quesadillas I've had in Singapore thus far. 

The event was a smash, gregarious hosting from the MC and great energetic vibes from the contestants and their supporters. The winner might have consumed 18 tacos in 10mins (if my memory doesn't fail me), and still had a visible 6 pec after the whole affair. I assure you, life isn't fair.

That being said, Lucha Loco was definitely a great find, an unhurried space that is the perfect backdrop for creative Mexican dining and a very persuasive choice of libations to wash down the sublime food. Perfect for after work dinner and drinks with the colleagues. Just be mindful of the tequila if the boss is around.

Lucha Loco
15 Duxton Hill
Tanjong Pagar
P: 6226 3938

Roadhouse: Integration


Integrating myself back into Singapore society is in all honesty, a painfully dreadful task. 

What better way to start then on more familiar grounds. Let's ease into this transition. Starting off at a burger joint. Baby steps. My chest heaves in the humidity of the air, the heat slapping me in the face. I say a silent prayer... break it to me gently please.

The Roadhouse is a modern American diner shining the spotlight on burger artistry. It comes across as simply a restaurant with good food and earnest intent that just happens to be in one of the coolest spaces in the city. Inside, the feeling is almost "ironic suburban". with expansive family tables primed with chili flake shakers and good ole whimsical school diner lights hanging overhead. I settled in comfortably, only slightly bothered by the unfamiliar singlish jargon floating in the air. It will take time...

Kicking off the welcome back party were the Spicy Garlic Parmesan Wings (5 for $14), before you jump to conclusions, these are 5 single joints not 5 entire wings including both drumlets and wings. Pretty pricey in my opinion, these prove to be just mediocre, the BBQ sauce a little too acidic and one dimensional in flavor profile. 

The burgers come in variety of ingredient pairings; the menu proving to be a tough one to navigate if you're as fickle minded a person as I am. I went forth with the Bacon Marinated ($26), soft buns baked in house, beef patty sizzled on the josper grill; gorgonzola, streaky bacon, caramelized onions, garlic mayonnaise and sauteed mushrooms form the other layers. Similar to a brioche sans the unnecessary sweetness and sometimes overwhelming richness, the cloud like buns are a perfect canvas for this juicy mess. I just wish there was more gorgonzola on there... Verdict: this burger tickled my fancy, ticked off all the boxes that qualifies it as a good burger but still it's not the best I've tried. I continue my search for greener pastures.

His, High on Shrooms ($26) featuring forest mushrooms, truffle oil, rocket, monterey jack and garlic mayonnaise. Definitely an overkill in the truffle oil department, but the name says it, so no whining there.

13 Dempsey Road