Wednesday, 7 October 2015

I’ve quit my job to travel the world

For those who follow me on social media (Instagram, Snapchat id @alexischeong), you’d have seen photos of roast goose rice in Hong Kong, nan gyi thoke in Yangon and frankfurter in Frankfurt, Germany, followed by some pintxos for breakfast in Donostia, Spain.

If you’re wondering why the recent spate of travel, well, all these just mark the beginning of my Epic World Tour for the next 6-12 months.

Sunset at Donostia, Spain, 5 Oct 2015

I’ve written about why I’ve quit my job to travel the world in an Elle Magazine article you can read here. 

I want to continue writing as I travel - so while there will still be remnants of restaurant reviews popping up here and there, I’m going to attempt my to describe what I’ve come across during my travels, seen from the eyes of a single 29 year old Singaporean female as I try to gain more perspectives.

It’s all a mix of excitement and apprehension now as I start to embark on the solo journey - there’s no knowing what tomorrow will bring! For now I have 1 more day in San Sebastian, Spain, before I go on to Barcelona and cross the border to Nice in France, Florence in Italy, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal before flying home for a wedding.

I hope that as I do so, that you my dear reader might feel compelled to check back on my adventures once in a while on this blog.

Thank you, everyone, for your support.

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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Citibank #100Gourmet: Chef Trevor Bird and Anthony Yeoh at Cocotte, Singapore

Citibank dreamt of a fantastic idea, and made it happen. I'm so glad they did too! It's simple - for $100++ per pax, Citibank card holders get to enjoy a specially created 6-course menu by an international and local chef duo. Called $100 Gourmet, it has been in action since April this year and will last 12 months. Tickets can be pre-ordered on the website, and I suggest you do so asap after checking out who might pique your tastebuds! 

I had the chance to try out September superstars, Chef Trevor Bird from Fable restaurant of Vancouver, and Chef Anthony Yeoh from French restaurant Cocotte at Wanderlust hotel, Little India for a 6-course dinner a couple of days ago, and was blown away by the dishes. It's a pity Chef Trevor has gone home (where he is sorely missed), so you won't get to try his dishes, but those by Chef Anthony's equally good! Apparently they are a match made in heaven because of their similar philosophies in using sustainable and natural/organic ingredients - good for us, and good for them too to find a like-minded chef to collaborate with across continents.

Here's what we enjoyed. For starters, we had the duet en premiere by Trevor & Anthony that consisted of brandade, sour cream and onion chips with pickled onions by Trevor (right of board), and a duck rilette and ham & parsley terrine with warm bread (left). While I was rather ambivalent towards the ham and parsley terrine, the duck rilette was a classic taste and combination with the bread that you can't go wrong with. However it was the onion chips that stole the show, with it's sweet pickled onions cutting through the creamy brandade and sour cream on a crunchy chip.

After the impressive start, we were surprised when a pot of what looked like 'canned tuna' appeared in front of us. We were instructed by Chef Trevor to stab at the albacore tuna viciously to mix everything up, revealing potatoes below which had a slight lemon zest (due to the lemon confit) and terragon. It was super homely, and delicious to boot despite its very humble appearance! I could literally just have this for lunch (maybe more bread) and be content.

Then there's the Spaghetti and Meatball. Again, a dish that sounds innocuous enough. What turned up was a bowl with a dome coated with white sauce. Chef Trevor explained that the idea for this dish actually came up when he was in Top Chef Canada, where they had to spin a wheel and reinvent a classic dish. His was the Spag & Bol, and what he did with it was ingenious. Would be a waste to just limit it to the show, hence he brought the recipe with him! Cutting open the dome revealed minced duck meat, and the white sauce was parmesan. 

Upon first bite the meatball was plenty salty, but once we mixed it with the sauce and the spaghetti underneath, along with some of the flavoursome duck sauce (all layered!) it all balanced out nicely. I hope this is being served in his restaurant in Vancouver!

And then, the main course of the night - the Duo of Lamb, which consist of the lamb shoulder and leg, served with some French beans, polenta and brussel sprouts. Here we have Chef Trevor carving out the meat carefully and explaining to us about the dish. Nothing sexier than a man who can carve his meats (and cook well too).

Here's the dish in its totality. The truffle mushroom sauce was a delight to pair with the lamb, which was tender and juicy. Unfortunately we were too full to finish the entire dish, but had the leftovers packed to go because they are just too good to go to waste!

We ended the meal with a simple Hot and Cold Chocolate by Chef Anthony. The flourless chocolate cakes were dark, rich and rather light, even if it wasn't as 'wet' as I'd liked (prefer brownies!). It was a nice sweet ending to the meal though. 

Here I am with Chef Trevor in his last night in SIN city. It's a pity he had to fly home so soon after arriving! I hope to try out his restaurant if I ever do find myself in Vancouver. Meanwhile I should also go back to Cocotte to have a meal by Chef Anthony.

Like I mentioned, it is a really brilliant idea to hold these gourmet collaborations, thanks to Citibank! For $100 it's an incredible deal so don't miss out, and remember to check out October and November's collabs at

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Entertainer App Offer: En Grill and Bar at 207 River Valley Rd, #01-57 UE Square, Singapore 238275

If you like dining out and trying new places, the Entertainer Singapore 2015 App is for you. By paying a fixed fee, you get to enjoy many one-for-one main courses and deals which will otherwise cost even more. It is with that in mind when we checked out En Grill and Bar at #01-57 UE Square, 207 River Valley Road for their 1-for-1 deals. Located near Ippudo (nearer to the Mohammed Sultan road), En Grill and Bar is one half of the En Japanese Dining Bar that's next door, featuring a well-stocked bar and black/red dark plush booth seats for intimate conversations.

Till end of 2015, with the Entertainer App at En Grill and Bar, you will get to enjoy

1) One main menu item for one main menu item (est. savings $18)
2) Two tapas for two tapas (est. savings $25)
3) One assorted grilled skewer platter for one assorted grilled skewer platter (est. savings $26)

Deal number 3 is the best because of all the dishes we tried that night, the Sumiyaki Moriawase ($25) aka grilled skewer platter was the most impressive. It's served on top of a charcoal container where you can see the coals smoking below. The skewers were simple, but had that smokey flavour. At $25 for 2 with the Entertainer, you see how that's gonna be worth it!

We also tried some other dishes, which did not really impress, so I'd say just go for the Sumiyaki with the app and some drinks and have a good time.

En Grill & Bar
207 River Valley Rd, #01-57 UE Square, 238275
+65 67326863
Mon - Thu: 18:00 - 02:00, Fri - Sat: 18:00 - 03:00, Sun: 18:00 - 00:00

En Grill & Bar is just one of the 800+ merchants offering Buy One Get One Free offers on the Entertainer Singapore app. Other than F&B deals, Entertainer Singapore includes spas, activities, attractions and more. This money-saving app retails at S$60 and is available for purchase at Use the promo code "2015ALVIN" to receive a 10% discount upon checkout. 

Thanks to Entertainer Singapore and En Grill & Bar for the invite!

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Oysters and dinner: Humpback at 20 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore 089832

There is now a place to go for yummy oysters, fish, veggies and cocktails! I'd say the newly opened Humpback opposite new Majestic Hotel is probably my version of a "Eat Clean" place, where you have items fresh from the sea, super vegetables and relatively low calorie white-based alcoholic drinks to match. It has now become my default place to go for drinks if I'd want a light dinner to go with it in the Outram/Chinatown area. The shophouse has a long bar counter, and maybe 10 seats indoors, but there are also about 10 or so seats alfresco. The decor was apparently modelled after oyster bars in the States. 

And States is where the lovely owner couple Indra and his wife (of Sugarhall and Jigger & Pony acclaim!) have found inspiration from. Specifically, the waters off Washington state near Seattle, where they discovered the power of great oysters. There's about 3 types of oysters (depending on the season), which goes for an unbelievable $2-3 each during happy hour, Mondays to Saturdays 5-7pm. That's just cray! My favorite was the fat and creamy Shigoku Fat Bastards, which had smooth shells compared to the skinnier Totten Inlet, because of the waters around them. 

I really enjoyed the Gin Martini ($22) as well, made with dolin dry vermouth, cucumber and of course the floral Hendrick's. Clean, refreshing and stiff, which is what martinis should be like (unless you ordered a dirty one).

My dining companions (the lovely Ms-Skinnyfat & co.) had the Bugs Bunny ($22), made with tanqueray london dry gin, carrot, lemon, egg white as well as the Watermelon sangria ($22) with portland dry gin 33, dita lychee liqueur, watermelon, lime, sea salt and prosecco. Both were on the sweeter, lighter side for me. Did you notice that all the drinks are gin-based, by the way?

Here's the food menu! Prices are really decent for a cool hip seafood restaurant like Humpback, right smack where everything happens.

Ok seriously... unless you are a rabbit, skip the Carrots ($8) (*not that it is not good, but... them just carrots, I don't get it.) 1/5

The Kale ($14) for example, is worth ordering. An increasingly popular veggie known for its superfood properties, these crunchy, lovely kale chips were mixed with buttermilk, pear and pecan nuts to create a party in your mouth! I seldom eat kale, but if they are all made like this, it might just become a staple. 3.5/5

Then the Burrata ($14), which I also quite enjoyed. It came with salsa verde, picual and some sourdough to let you mop up all the goodness. The burrata was creamy and light enough to be enjoyed as an appetizer AND help mop up the alcohol that you might be imbibing. 3.5/5

The Hamachi Ceviche ($22) was one of my dining companion's favorites, and for good reason! This dish was simple beautiful. If it was a woman, it'll be like.. Charlize Theron. There's avocado, yuzu, radish and almond shavings all over it. A must-order for any raw fish/sashimi fanatics. 4/5

We also enjoyed some baby blue mussels ($18) that came with edamame, pork belly (!!) in a kombu broth that was so addictive, we had to stop ourselves from ordering more bread to have with it. While mussels are not really my thing, I must say that the 5-flower pork belly and broth really made the dish stand out. 3.5/5

Then came even more beautiful fishes, like I've never eaten before. First, the cod ($20) that came with some leek on top of chestnut mousse and dressed with vinaigrette. It looked so simple and unassuming you'd never know what hit you as you slide the slivers of cod in your mouth. They were freaking amazing. I was in food heaven with this dish because I've never tasted cod prepared like that before! The chestnut gave it an uplift, but mostly the sweetness came from the fresh fish itself. I'd definitely go back for it. 4.5/5

I am running out of analogies by this point, but the next dish again blew me out of the water like rainbow trout being eaten. And that's exactly what it was! The sous vide rainbow trout ($16) had egg yolk, almond milk and pickled mustard seeds over it, and looked suspiciously like salmon, but you'll know it's something more special when you taste it. The textures and flavours were perfect. 4.5/5

Then we tried the chicken breast ($14), which came with king mushrooms, lentil and balsamic vinegar. Sorry but after all the excitement from the seafood, this was a little bit of a let down because the meat was a tad dry, and lentils aren't really to my liking. I suspect land-based proteins are not really Humpback's forte. C'mon, if you are there, why aren't you guzzling down oysters and fish?

Still, by the end of the meal we did have our faces stuffed, but not before we tried their amazing desserts. Do you know that all their dessert china were from the White House collection and are one-of-a-kind (in the restaurant)? How's that for fancy! 

We were oohing and aahing over the china, but then we stopped because our mouths were full of fernet panna cotta ($8) with some bitter cocoa dust and orange zest. If not for Mad for Sucre, I would say Humpback also wins in the desserts department hands down in the 5-mile radius. Still this is pretty amazing. When you put the panna cotta in your mouth, try pressing down the roof of your mouth onto your tongue to get the "lao ban" beancurd solid-to-liquid effect. Very fun. 4/5

Then there's a little bit of the classic, with a valrhona chocolate mousse made with berries compote and fresh cream ($8) which was good too, though given a choice I would have picked the panna cotta because I am not a big chocolate fan. If you are, pick this! Rich and velvety chocolate mousse is always easy to eat.

Right then! So ends my epic Humpback review. I'd say this is a great place for drinks, food and company. I really can't find any fault with Humpback other than their land-based protein. Everything else is just perfect for that lovely dinner with people you like, so go there soon before it gets overrun and then head down to the basement's Flagship whiskey dive bar for a nightcap.
20 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089832
+65 67504461
Mondays to Sundays: 5pm to midnight
Closed on Tuesdays

Thanks to Food News PR and Humpback for the invite!

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Brunch: Clinton St. Baking Company and Restaurant at 31 Purvis Street, Singapore 188608

You'd think that there's enough of all-day breakfasts and brunch places in Singapore, and that this trend would have died down by now. Perhaps that might be true for hipster indie cafes all selling the same overpriced waffles and burnt coffee because people get tired of that, but if you hail from New York as a cult favourite brunch place, you're going to get queues. And that's exactly what Clinton St. Baking Company and Restaurant had when they opened for soft launch yesterday! Singaporeans are a well-travelled and well-informed bunch, I must say. Tucked in a small space at 31 Purvis Street (just a few doors away from Gunther's!), Clinton St. Singapore is within walking distance from City Hall MRT and Raffles Hotel/Seah Street (chicken rice!) and already had a queue at 8am that morning.

The space was intimate, casual, and the red awning outside kept out most of the sun, for hungover people looking for eggs at 2pm. I liked the diner chairs at the back, which lent a nice homage to the American diner decor. Also reminded me of "How I Met Your Mother", for some reason. When I arrived at 4+, the crowd has subsided somewhat.

Here's the menu! Prices are a bit on the high end compared to regular cafes, but it comes from a famous chain in New York so it has to be good right?

They have some cakes and muffins on display near the entrance, which I'd like to try next! That meringue pie looks good...

We started with some drinks, including alcoholic ones (it was 4.30pm...). My special of the day Raspberry Rhubarb Lemonade ($7.50) was tart, refreshing and good for helping to digest all the food we had. The Clinton St. Bloody Mary ($16) and Maple Whiskey Sour ($16) were decent, but I'd probably go to a cocktail bar for drinks instead of at an all-day breakfast bakery/restaurant. I'd get coffee next time, when the weather is more forgiving.

On to the food! So Clinton St. Bakery Singapore is apparently famous for a couple of things, both of which are quintessentially American - the Fried Chicken and Waffles ($21) and their Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter ($18). The waiting time was acceptable between ordering and when the first dish arrived. Waiters were all friendly!

We tucked in to the food with gusto, but unfortunately the Chicken and Waffles made with honey Tobasco sauce, Belgian vanilla buttermilk waffle were way too dry when we tried it, which was a pity. The signature warm maple butter syrup helped, but not too much. The flavouring on the chicken was good though, but the choice of chicken breast might not be the best. The waffle was also dry, even though I could taste its potential. There could be some coleslaw or salad to go with this to provide some moisture, colour and contrast. Hopefully they will improve! 2/5

Then we tried one of my favorite things to have for brunch - the Eggs Benedict ($20)! It is made of poached eggs, maple-cured ham or house-smoked salmon (which we had, +$5) and classic Hollandaise over a toasted buttermilk biscuit. This was better, with perfectly poached eggs and smoked salmon. However, I did find the paprika in the hollandaise sauce a little bit too spicy and out of the 'classic' zone. Gave feedback though, so hopefully that will tone down. The biscuit is a typical American thing (and a little too salty and crumbly), which was nice but I do prefer the English muffin or French brioche! This gets a 3/5, but $25 is indeed a little steep for something quite simple..

Then, the pieces of resistance, the famous Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter ($18)! We had the wild blueberries one, but there was also the banana walnut and chocolate chunk ones to choose from. The pancakes were amazing and gave me the "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" feeling. I would probably head straight to Clinton St. next time I am craving for pancakes, though the stack of pancakes should be shared among a couple of friends. And the feeling the maple butter gave was like... taking a warm shower and going into bed after being soaked in a thunderstorm. No wonder it's famous. 4/5

I was with my partner in crime, stooffi, to partake in the feast.

While it's not 100% perfect as yet, I am thankful that Clinton St. Baking Company and Restaurant has decided to choose to set up a branch in Singapore to serve classic American breakfasts and food. I'll be back again to try all the rest of the stuff before I fly off, and hopefully the quality will also improve and stabilize in time for the official launch. For everyone else, do try out their pancakes and give the rest of the menu a taste for me!

Clinton St. Baking Company and Restaurant
31 Purvis Street
+65 66844845, for inquiries only
8am to 6pm daily (last orders 5pm)

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Monday, 14 September 2015

Italian Dinner: La Braceria Pizza and Grill at 5 Greendale Ave, Singapore 289501

Where does one find good Italian food in Singapore? Well, recently I tried out a small restaurant near Greenwood Avenue called La Braceria Pizza and Grill and found that it is a super authentic place for Italian food! There's a newly appointed Chef Giovanni Minarelli who had years of experience in various restaurants in Italy. In fact, I also found out that the restaurant has been endorsed by the Embassy of Italy for its authenticity, which probably is the highest mark of distinction for Italian food here.

We first tried the foie gras with parma ham, melon and a shot of Limoncello (a type of lemon liqueur which is very Italian) ($20). Simple, strong flavours to start off your palate and get you slightly tipsy. It was alright, but perhaps a little bit too much. 3/5

Start instead with the Antipasto di Mare ($24), which is their seafood salad with three types of fish and seafood, which depends on what is the catch of the day. It could range from Italian clams (pictured) to Australian mussels, Sicilian octopus or Italian prawns (pictured). The clams in white wine were particularly enjoyable, and all the seafood fresh. 3.5/5

We then had the Capelli di Angelo con Salsa di Peproncino ($26) which means Angel Hair Pasta with Hot Chilli Peppers. It does not look like it, but those peppers mean business! It is super spicy. I couldn't really take chili, but I know this is something spice lovers will enjoy. The sauce coated every strand of pasta evenly as well. Quite the comfort food if you can get over the spice. 3.5/5

Here I was, ignorant of the fact that this is a plate of fire.

Something more mild to douse the flames would be the Panzerotti di Pasta Fresca alla Burrata con Pomodorini Cherry e Basilico ($22) which means Ravioli with Fresh Burrata served with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil. Unfortunately I found this way too mild and rather quiet in terms of textures or flavour. Perhaps a little bit more spring in the pasta could make it more exciting. 2/5

We also tried their 4-cheese pizza which had 'leopard spots' that marked a good pizza. Can you see the wood-fired oven at the background? That's what made the pizza really good! I would highly recommend trying out the pizzas here. 4/5

And then, the piece de resistance. A Costata di Wagyu ($145 for 3 to 4 people, $12/100g). This 1.2kg grilled tomahawk wagyu bone-in steak was just amazing to look at, because I get full just looking at it. However I did find it difficult to cut out the meat and eat as a lot of it was charred, and I prefer my steak just as a tidy little medium rare piece in front of me. I would say get this for a huge group of people for fun, but if you're there with 1 or 2 others, get their pizzas and seafood starter.

Lastly, because there's always room for dessert, we had a sample of 4 of their desserts on a plate. The chocolate drenched profiteroles were ok, but the tiramisu and lemon cake were great! 3/5 Skip the cheesecake, which tasted rather odd.

Visit La Braceria for authentic Italian food, which is surprisingly hard to find nowadays given the numerous Italian restaurants popping up here and there. Just know what to order based on my recommendations above and you'll be fine!

La Braceria Pizza and Grill
5 Greendale Avenue, Singapore 289501
Lunch 12:30 - 14:30, dinner 18:30 - 22:30 daily
+65 6884 6884

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