Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Healthier Food Court Review: Healthier choice now available at Kopitiam stalls

I love food courts. They are convenient, air-conditioned and sometimes has really good food if you know which stall to go to. In recent times, food court brands have also ramped up their offerings in making these food courts a much enjoyable place to dine at regularly, for a price still affordable for most masses. That's why I think it is quite a feat for Health Promotion Board to have Kopitiam onboard as a participating partner in their Healthier Dining Programme to offer Healthier Choices at every single stall. This way you can mind your calorie intake by ensuring what you order from the myriad of dishes is a healthier choice.

It was with that agenda in mind when I visited the Kopitiam at Tiong Bahru Shopping Centre a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised by the retro but modern décor. It was renovated a couple of years ago and features a large selection of food stalls, including the popular Pepper Lunch Express.

Can you see that at each stall, there is a wide rectangle at the top of the menu featuring the Healthier Choice item?

Here’s a closer look. The item is typically the stall’s default or mainstay item too.

My sister and I had a hard time choosing from so mny food stalls, but after some deliberation we decided on a few to taste. 

We started with a classic – the YTF. Yong Tau Foo is a huge hit among Singaporeans because you can pick and choose your favourite ingredients, and add it to soup or have it dry. It’s almost like the Singaporean variation of the Western salad (except instead of greens we have rice noodles). 

The Healthier Choice item listed was the YTF Soup with up to 5 items, which are a mix of fried/non-fried items. I chose to have my ingredients with mee tai mak, or mouse-tail noodles because I haven’t had it in ages! What I found was the soup was sweet yet light, not oily, and complemented the ingredients very well.

Another of my lunch favourites that I look for frequently at food courts is the fish soup. Here the seaweed added the umami dimension. Even though the fish was a little bit on the sweet side, it was still a very good bowl of soup. 

Lastly, something special. We had the Mini Steamboat from a specialty Chinese cuisine stall called Ma La Xiang Guo that specializes in spicy hotpot. 

Our Mini Steamboat came with golden mushrooms, tofu, some crabsticks and fishballs. We could choose from 3 different types of soup (Tom Yam, Mala, Yang Sheng) and we got the last one (ginseng) from 3 meat types - chicken, seafood or pork. We chose chicken. 

The mini steamboat was surprisingly hearty and the soup was really herbal tasting, which is a good thing. Normally soups are just water with flavouring or essences, but this is made with the real stuff. The ingredients were fresh and satisfying. 

We were so stuffed afterwards! I definitely do not recommend someone to have 3x 500-calorie meals at one go. I made it up by going shopping afterwards.

To find your nearest Kopitiam outlet, visit their website

This post is brought to you by HPB’s Healthier Dining Programme. For more info, visit


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Japanese Tonkatsu Review: Saboten at B2-02 313 Somerset, Singapore 238895

I've been missing out. In recent times without me knowing, a new tonkatsu chain has taken Singaporean taste buds by storm. Luckily I caught up with the trend when I was invited to try out Saboten's new branch at 313 Somerset

We tried out 3 types of tonkatsus that day, two of which was special to the branch opening. Each set comes with chawanmushi, refillable lettuce, miso and rice and dessert, which is good news for big eaters and VERY value-for-money! The chawanmushi was great as a starter - smooth, silky and flavorful.

First there was the Fried Jumbo Prawn Set ($28.80) which was super shiok because you can eat the entire jumbo prawn like you would a cutlet since it is de-shelled. The breadcrumbs on it was fried to golden perfection, and not too oily or crumbly. It also comes with half loin katsu which is the original tonkatsu so we could compare. Still, it is very good.

We then tried the super star of the night -- the Iberico Loin Katsu ($28)! The black pig fried cutlet is really something. Even though you pay about $4 more compared to regular tonkatsu sets, this is really worth it. The meat was fatty, juicy and crunchy on the outside but melty on the inside! It was really heaven on earth. Try it to believe it. I would definitely go back for it until they take it off the menu.

Lastly we also tried the Ebi Katsu Variety set ($23) with crab cream croquette, ebi katsu and asparagus cheese roll. This is great for those who are non-pork lovers, or there's already pork on the table and you want to have more variety. Then get this, plus the Iberico set and share it among two!

We finished off with some refreshing yuzu or matcha ice cream. Pick the yuzu if it is available - much better than the matcha, which was normal. 

Do you know that Saboten means cactus in Japanese? I have no idea why that made it to the restaurant name.. but I always remember it as if you have to eat ten, then really "sabo ten"! That said, I finally found a great alternative to my usual tonkatsu haunt Tonkichi at Shaw Lido. I really do think the tonkatsus at Saboten are value for money and high quality so I'll highly recommend for you guys to check it out!

#B2-02/03, 313 @ Somerset, 313 Orchard Road, Singapore
Daily 11am - 10pm


Guest Chef Feature: Jose Avillez Portuguese Fine Dining at Vida Rica, Mandarin Oriental Macau

I had the pleasure to catch José Avillez when he was the guest chef at Viva Rica restaurant in Mandarin Oriental Macau and am happy to say that he is every bit as talented as his write-up said he is, as one of the most famous chefs in Portugal with Michelin stars in his pocket. He just happened to be cooking when I was visiting so my sister booked us a lunch! We had the 5-course menu which was super duper reasonably priced at $73 SGD - something you can never get in Singapore. 

We started with some refreshing Lychee Lemonade, and freshly baked bread. 

For amuse bouche it was a trio of things, starting with the port wine tonic served as 2 yellow balls on ice. What is this sorcery! The ball exploded into liquid when we put it in our mouths. Super fun!

There's also the olive in 3 ways - my favorite will be the spherical olives on the bottom right because it also exploded in my mouth.

Then something more exotic - foie gras crusted with roasted hazelnut. It looked like Ferrero Rocher, but it is savory inside.

The highlight of the meal would be the marinated mackerel fish in rice vinegar with apple-beetroot puree and coriander sprouts. The mackerel was fishy in a good way because it was so fresh - coupled with the acidic and fruity counterbalance from the puree to bring out the flavors even more.

Then there was the Portuguese stew with red tiger prawn, cherry tomatoes, ratte potatoes and fresh herbs. Would you look at that prawn? This was also superbly done - the sweetness from the soup enveloped the prawn like a shawl around a women's neck. Very comforting and rich.

Would you look at that!

For mains we had a choice between the tenderloin and cod. Since there was me and my sister, we each took one and shared it. The beef tenderloin with chickpea cream, garlic and slightly smoked bone marrow, roasted lettuce with cumin and lemon confit sauce was a classic, and perfectly made. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Thinking back, it is amazing how much fine and good food went through my mouth at that time. If only this happens more regularly! The portuguese shredded cod fish with fried potatoes, scrambled egg and explosive olives is apparently a very Portuguese dish, and I'm glad I've had the chance to experience probably what is the finest example outside of Portugal, somewhere closer to home.

Lastly, the egg tart mille feuille with cinnamon ice cream which was great too - the mille feuille was so flaky and delicate it was like eating air. With bits of egg tart cream. Wonderful.

Some petit fours and a cup of mint tea to end off the incredible meal. It's really amazing how the chef can manage all these creations. 

Of course I jumped at the opportunity to take a photo with the talented chef.

I enjoyed myself massively at this lunch with my sister. Writing about this just brings back all the food memories! I hope you had fun reading and seeing all the food porn too :)


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Macau Hidden Find: Bar Celona Tapas and Rice at L2, 16 Rua de Venceslau de Morais

Bar Celona Tapas and Rice is ranked number ONE on TripAdvisor's Restaurants in Macau list. And for a good reason. It is such a hidden gem but so amazingly good that the interwebs exploded with people just recommending other people to go try out this Spanish (but actually Catalonian) restaurant tucked on the second floor of a de-script building in a very industrial and de-script estate.

This is what you will see when you climbed up the flight of stairs. I totally did not expect it. There was designer chairs, comfortable lighting, good ventilation and even some really huge windows to let in natural light!

There was also a bar area to have some drinks, or cava.

Here's the menu. Again, prices are outrageously affordable, and the selection of items are all handpicked by the handsome Spanish gentleman and owner of this place to be served to people of Macau. This, is real Spanish food.

We had an amazing trio of specially marinated olives, pickles and cheese (MOP48) to whet our appetitie. I am still dreaming of those anchovies, which are specially imported for their light and not too salty flavour. 

We started with some bread especially flown in from Spain because they could not find a good enough dough/flour to create the bread they have in mind. It is the special Catalan coca with garlic, olive oil and tomato (MOP28 or SGD4.40). Such dedication to staying true to their roots, it's mind-blowing. The bread is more well-travelled than I am!

We then had a platter of thinly sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham (MOP288 or SGD45). Notice the price difference. That's because it had to be specially imported, and its not just any regular pig that's been made into ham. I was told that the pigs run around on the hillsides, hence gaining some muscles, and eat only acorns fallen from the trees, which gives their meat that sweet clean flavor. Imagine that! Needless to say it was delicious.

Thanks, little pigs!

We also had Grandma's creamy Spanish croquettes with ham & chicken (MOP48 or SGD7.50) - simple, yummy, and comforting. At this rate, I am really going to find it hard to pick which ones you MUST order.

We had some fresh Spanish garlic on the house. Surprisingly it was not garlicky at all. We were all quite hesistant at first, but its like crunching on a not-so-sweet but fragrant apple!

Next, the fried egg with potato and chorizo (MOP48 or SGD7.50). Again crazy good (and would you look at the price???) The runny egg mixed with the potatoes and ham.. I suspect its a very Spanish/Catalan style type of dish you'll expect to find on every table there. Over here, we are so lucky to be able to taste it for ourselves. Yum!

Then the Catalan truffled cannelloni (MOP78 or SGD12.20) which was divine. I think I would pick this as a top recommendation if I have to, because it was just so exquisite and finely flavoured, with the thin pasta layer wrapping the meat and sprinkled with parmesan and truffles. Just talking about it is making me hungry for some.

We also had some marinated Iberico pork skewers (MOP78 or SGD12.20) which was very well-marinated. A bit chewy, but something that will go well with some beer or sparkling wine. As you can see in the background, there's some authentic and imported water from Catalan!

What's Spanish in Macau without some cod fish with sanfaina, Barcelona style (MOP128 or SGD20)? Again, another excellent dish for those wanting to have something lighter, but not compromise on the taste or textures. The safaina is like Spanish ratatouille, and roasted for a good part of the day.

Here's the very passionate owner showing us the mushrooms that was being roasted. He is really one amazing guy. There's so much dedication to details and perfection, it's just crazy. No wonder the food is so good. You can always tell!

We ended with a couple more mains such as the diced tender beef fillet with smoked eggplant (MOP148 or SGD23) which is 

We were shown some Spanish red prawns with garlic & chili (MOP 288 or SGD45), which we couldn't eat because we were so stuffed. Look at the size of that thing, with my hand to compare! It looked succulent and fresh, for sure.

Here's the talented chef behind the kitchen. You know your meal's in good hands!

Lastly, desserts! We had the Lemon sorbet with cave and passion fruit essence (MOP60 or SGD9.40) which was tangy, refreshing and quite strong! I'd prefer the bunuelos of warm chocolate with vanilla ice cream (MOP60) which was a classic pairing and both warm and cool. We couldn't ask for a better dessert to end off the huge lunch.

Probably one of the best Catalonian meals and meals (of all cuisines) I've ever had in my life. This is definitely a MUST-VISIT if you are in Macau. Eat more for me!

Bar Celona Tapas and Rice
Rue de Venceslau de Morais No 16, Industrial Fu Tai Res-Do-Chao B. Macau
Tel: (853) 28721084


Monday, 15 September 2014

Buffet Review: 10 at Claymore at Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore 229540

For $62++ on weekdays, enjoy all of these at the award-winning 10 at Claymore restaurant at Pan Pacific Orchard. I've had the pleasure to try out most of the items on the buffet line-up, and here are my recommendations!

1. Go for the oysters. As much as you can possibly eat. Fresh, and from all over the world!

2. The USDA certified 1855 Angus Beef steak. So tender, soft and beefy. I really loved it. Why go to a steak restaurant when you can pay the same price and get a buffet to go along with it?

It will be served in little portions, which you can always take more of.

3. The Plates of Pleasure such as the Executive Chef Andy Oh's Penang Char Kway Teow - authentic and so very good! Also the assam laksa - tangy but satisfying. With these you don't have to go to Penang anymore!

3. The Lobster Thermidor. Done in a super complicated manner which Chef had explained but I've forgotten, all I know is it involved a lot of work, some white wine, cream and lobster meat. What it resulted, was the best lobster concoction I've tasted. It was succulent, creamy, sweet and seafood-y. All in an easy to eat shell.

4. Everything else, from their desserts (including durian crepes) to the cheeses. There's also fresh sashimi, other carbs, local and international delights and everything else.

For $62-68++ (weekdays to weekends), 10 at Claymore is definitely a contender for the Best Hotel Buffet in Singapore award, if there is one. I will recommend you give it a try if you just want to reward yourself or loved ones to a satisfying and decadent meal.

10 at Claymore
10 Claymore Rd, Pan Pacific Orchard Hotel, 229540
+65 6831 6686
Breakfast - 6:00am to 10:30am, Lunch - 12:00pm to 2:30pm, Dinner - 6:00pm to 10:30pm
Brunch - 12:00pm to 3:00pm (Weekends)

Dinner : $62 (Monday to Thursday)
Dinner : $68 (Friday to Sunday)
Brunch : $72 (Sundays only)