Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dining Pierside

No, it wasn't a special occasion, unless having dinner with our friend MM, who was miraculously NOT double or triple booked on a Friday night, counts as one. If at all, the remarkable thing was that we had never gotten round to dining at Pierside Kitchen before, given that we are generally and genuinely fond of the other Marmalade outlets i.e. Marmalade Pantry, and the two Toasts. We had certainly walked past it a number of times. Then again, for some reason, the One Fullerton outlets all look like they are big on looks, not necessarily substance. But since our dining companion, MM, vetoed our first choice of dinner venue (HM wanted a veggie burger from Brewerkz but MM turned her nose up at what she considers their rampant use of MSG.), HM turned to her trusty copy of the IS restaurant guide, hit on Pierside Kitchen, and the rest was history.

We arrived at 8 p.m. The waterfront seating looked suitably atmospheric but 'twas somewhat muggy, so we opted to sit indoors. Good thing too, because it did in fact rain a little later on. The decor was reminiscent of Toast, particularly the tiled floor, albeit an upmarket version. The tables were reasonably well spaced out. In fact the place felt a little quiet at first. Only when the crowd moved in from outside was there a pleasant vibe.
Other than that, our only other observation was that it was a tad dark...

Knowing MM was going to be late, we went ahead and ordered some drinks and appetisers to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

mossy mermaid (lime juice, apple juice and soda) and iced lemon tea

mini foccacia served with tomato pesto, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil

cream of grilled cepes with deepfried parsley

cumin spiced crab cakes, marinated cucumber and chilli

To start with, the drinks weren't all that impressive. My mossy mermaid tasted like a kid's drink; MM who had a sip of it later hit it on the head when she said it reminded her of Qoo... HM's iced lemon tea was much better, but still, it was iced lemon tea, no more, no less.

As for the starters, we couldn't quite agree. I liked the full flavoured soup while HM felt it was glorified cream of mushroom. HM liked the crab cakes although I thought they tasted quite junky, like those Japanese croquettes you buy from snack counters. I had to concede though that the texture of the crab cakes was excellent - crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside.What we both enjoyed was the little buns with their sidekicks. Whether dipped into the tomato pesto, the sea salt and/or the EVOO, they were just the thing to blunt the edge of our hunger.

MM arrived just in time to partake of the last of the appetizers. We could finally get round to ordering our mains.

oven roasted miso cod, new potatoes and sweet peas

tandoori moreton bay bug with raisin and cardamom basmati pilaf, spiced cauliflower

We decided to order and share three mains. I abdicated responsiblity to HM who promptly decided on the miso cod and the moreton bay bugs. MM was less successful. First she tried to order the braised lamb shank and oriental spices, only to be told that lamb was not available. Then, when she decided to go for the whole pan roasted trout with garlic, scallion & black bean crust, steamed asparagus, she found out that trout was also not available. The waitperson took great pains to assure us that those were the only two items not available which was of course little consolation for MM. Finally, she settled for a pasta...

arugula pappardelle, braised oxtail and horseradish

I'm not sure how the restaurant itself defines its cuisine, but it was certainly fusion, and as far as the experiment went, the most successful dish was the cod. It was delectably fluffy and moist, the subtle sweetness of the cod amplified to mouthwatering goodness by the miso. Compared to that, the moreton bay bugs were delicious, but let's face it, curried whatever is no big deal in this here country. As for the pappardelle, we weren't sure what to make of the braised oxtail. I swear it tasted as if it had been braised in tau cheo which, added to the pasta, just made the dish somewhat cloying. Incidentally HM had an issue with both the starches; she found the pilaf and the pappardelle too chewy for her liking. Neither MM nor I were too put off by that.

our chosen trio of desserts

So far we had not been swept off our feet, but fortunately for us the best was yet to be. We opted for three desserts: ginger pudding, confit of granny smith apples & home made yoghurt; basil crepes, caramelized bananas & butterscotch ice cream; and valrhona chocolate fondant & vanilla bean ice cream. All three desserts were outstanding, but my favourite was the ginger pudding, in particular, the yogurt-apple mix which was a brilliant complement.

Inclusive of a ginger caipirinha for MM and a glass of verdelho for HM, the bill came up to SGD $242 for the three of us. Let's face it, Pierside Kitchen is no place for those who are price-sensitive. I have to admit that we weren't bowled over either, but I think Pierside Kitchen deserves a second visit, at least for the opportunity to unearth gems like the cod and those desserts.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Certainly Not A Dog's Life...

The best things in life are free, or at least some of them are, and they live right downstairs. Thanks to the coterie of generous aunties (and an occasional uncle) in the neighbourhood, these critters live to a ripe old age. Or whenever their hearts give out, whichever comes first.

a veritable smorgasboard for cats

little wonder these babies grow so fast

they don't have to do much

except maybe pretty up the place

and entertain when they feel up to it.
Now that's the life...


Sunday, March 18, 2007

P.S. check out this CAFE...

We finally made it to P.S. Cafe for Sunday brunch, after months of talking 'bout it. Perhaps the delay was a good thing. The initial buzz resulting from the hype of its opening is probably over. Everyone had warned us about the difficulty of getting a table for brunch - no reservations allowed - and all had their theory on the best time to arrive: "Make sure you're the first in line", "Go later at about 11, before/after the church-going crowd has been fed and watered", and so on. we arrived at about 10 a.m. and managed to get a table straightaway. We even managed to get moved to a table outside after a while. (Note: a queue was starting to build when we left at about 12.30 p.m.)

Sitting outside was a good thing because the indoor area, though cosy, was noisy and busy. There was something about the acoustics that amplified everyone's voices, the clatter of utensils and the angry buzz of the coffee machines. The area outdoors was much kinder on our senses. The ample greenery and the warm breeze (ok, the breeze was from the fan overhead) were quite soothing; it was quite easy to imagine sitting there, lulled, for hours on end. Think: holiday in Bali...

place setting

As for the food, we are big fans of the original Blood Brothers Cafe in Paragon Shopping Centre - laksa pesto, chicken tau kwa burger, mango banana crumble, anyone? - so we were looking forward to more such innovative touches in the P.S. Cafe menu.

skinny latte

poached eggs portobello (except HM had hers modified to scrambled eggs)

the big breakfast sandwich, with homemade baked beans

french fries, with kaffir lime aioli (hidden by basket) and barbeque sauce

moroccan mint tea (left) and lemongrass tea (right)

carrot cake

In general the food was scrumptious. The big breakfast sandwiches were good solid eating - fried egg, bacon, tomatos, and greens tucked inside toast - hearty breakfasts for those too lazy to use utensils on a Sunday morning. For more gourmet palates, the poached egg portobello would have been more their thing - poached eggs on a stack of bacon, potatoes and grilled portebello mushrooms, with spinach and tomatoes slathered with pesto. But none of it was to die for, except for maybe the french fries.

These had clearly had the royal treatment - plunged in ice cold water, deepfried twice at two different temperatures, whatever - because they were truly a treat, crunchy on the outside and oh so soft on the inside. The accompanying kaffir lime aioli was about the only thing that had the Blood Bros cafe trademark asian fusion touch.

Still, I think in terms of the overall brunch experience, I prefer P.S. Cafe to Graze which was far too pretentious. To be fair, P.S. Cafe did have its share of poseurs* too, however these were outnumbered by the number of families. The decor at P.S. Cafe was also more downhome in a retro 70s way, than the minimalist look-we're-so-cool feel of Graze. In all, P.S. Cafe had a warmer, more cheerful vibe to it, that was more conducive for a relaxing morning.

Warning: the P.S. Cafe experience doesn't come cheap. It charges $18 to $24 for brunch mains (compared to Graze's $14 to $18) so it does burn a hole in the pocket, ouch! The portions were however substantial so smaller eaters and/or kiam kannas can probably spend less by sharing mains.

*Major digression: What is it with some women? Why do they feel that they need to simper, flick their hair, kiss air, put one manicured (preferably diamond-encrusted) hand on their man's arm while leaning forward to make a point, just because they are in an upmarket setting? And these are like 25 year olds, not full-fledged tais tais bankrolled by Indonesian billionaires. I'm not saying we need to behave like louts (those are just as bad, just as attention-seeking) but relax lah. Nothing reeks of the nouveau riche quite like poseur behaviour. Then again, I suppose one must start practising somehow, somewhere, and who or what would the rest of us gawk at for brunchtime entertainment otherwise? End of rant.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dinner at Chez Chat 4 March 07

(This one's for you, Ellie, 'cos you missed it!)

Finally decided to document HM's excellent adventures in cuisineland. Tonight our menu was Turkish-inspired, courtesy of Donna Hay. Everything you see here was homemade, except for those clearly labelled as store-bought.

hummus with paprika and olive oil

onion flatbread (by Kontos)

grilled vegetable and white bean salad, with a parsley dressing ala pesto

mint and fetta tabbouli (except that we used quinoa instead of bulgur)

spiced lamb with tahini dressing

date and almond cake with orange syrup

iced mint tea (Moroccan Mint, by Dilmah)

And there we have it, another delicious evening at Chez Chat. Rumour has it that the next adventure will involve ham, possibly as part of a breakfast-themed repast. By invitation only.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hua Yu Wee, Wheee!!!

Hua Yu Wee is the kind of eatery that is like an old friend - you can always count on it. My family has been going there for seafood, several times a year, for the longest time. Housed in a 1950s style Chinese bungalow with an outdoor seating area in the back, it still exudes the rustic charm the old seafood restaurants along Upper East Coast Road used to be famous for. Ambience aside, it serves up good value - fresh seafood in large portions, decent prices.

On a recent visit, we had:

steamed prawns, all plump and superfresh

a close-up look - look at those suckers!

steamed fish hong kong style

(sorry we were too busy stuffing our faces and kept forgetting to get the shots BEFORE tucking in)

deepfried baby squid

ho see fatt choy (dried oysters and black moss)

sri lankan crab in chilli crab style

accompanied by mantou

There were also two steamed Sri Lankan crabs. In all, the bill came up to SGD $208 for five people. So that was another good meal at Hua Yu Wee.

(Steve, here's another pic, just for you!)