Monday, October 29, 2007

Vegetarian Food Boring? Not!

Not when it's Indian vegetarian food. Despite having stuffed our faces at the French Stall earlier, we couldn't pass up the chance to have a smackeroo at Ananda Bhavan, the vegetarian restaurant chain with a branch on every corner of Little India.

evangelical zeal (photo courtesy of KKN)

the gods must approve
We ordered a couple of snacks...

pani puri

One of HM's favourites, pani puri are fried pastry shells, filled with odds and ends such as beans, potato and raw onions, that are dipped into a tamarind sauce. They're light and easy to pop into the mouth.

they look alike on the outside

peek inside and discover it's a kheema thosai!

We ordered two thosai, those Indian pancakes filled with all kinds of yummy things. We had a masala thosai, stuffed with potatoes, and a vegetarian kheema thosai, stuffed with spicy soy bean mince. The latter was something a little different. I liked the mix of spices and it was spicy alright.

Our bill came up to $17 for 3 masala tehs, 1 mango lassi, 2 thosai and 1 pani puri, not too bad for a Deepavali "feast". Too bad we couldn't do the full thing, not when the fairly mild masala thosai sent KKN reaching for the water, spluttering...

sweets we didn't try (photo courtesy of KKN)


Lighten Up

Serangoon Road (photo courtesy of KKN)

We took KKN and ES on another one of our urban jaunts. Having survived the Hari Raya fair at Geylang Serai, the Deepavali light-up was next. Needless to say, there was lots of see.

singapore idols


The most interesting part of the evening was chancing upon a traditional craftsman making lac bangles on the spot.

the bangle maker

his wares

The bangles were $3 each; for a dollar more, you could custom make one on the spot. We stood there for half an hour and watched him make one for ES and one for HM.

adding detail

whipping it into shape

bangles to go

KKN found other ways of entertaining herself...


Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Real Bistro

Before Crazy Ang Mo and Botak Jones, there was the French Stall. Wikipedia defines a bistro as "a type of small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting, especially in Paris, France. A bistro may not offer professional service or printed menus, and it will usually specialize in simple classic dishes such as steak au poivre, French onion soup, and coq au vin." That sounds like The French Stall to me, coffee shop setting et al, though of course it offers both professional service and printed menus.

We used to frequent The French Stall a lot more frequently, back when we were watching our budgets more. The set meals were good value for money and, if I remember correctly, there was no service charge. A quick glance at our latest bill and clearly the latter is no longer true, but I am getting ahead of myself...

A visit to The French Stall was in order the other night, as part of our Deepavali pilgrimage to Little India. After all, we had to feed KKN, she who complains about black pepper in her food.

We were early, arriving there before 6.30 p.m., not a bad idea really since the place filled up relatively quickly. The place was pretty much as we remembered it, cheesy french decor and all, and they still have a no-reservations policy except, as Madame explained, for large groups who may otherwise not be able to get seated.

We ordered a number of our old favourites and something from the much expanded menu.

french onion soup


pork rillette with gherkins

mussels in white whine sauce

We dug into the appetisers with relish, polishing off an additional order of bread in the process. The mussels were as good as I remembered it to be, and HM enjoyed the pork rilette.

duck leg with panfried foie gras and lentils

duck breast with risotto

seafood sausage with spinach

Of the mains, I liked my duck leg best, especially the lentils. It was full of robust flavour. Of course, HM had to remind me that the lentils tasted that good because they had probably been stewed in duck fat. The seafood sausage wasn't my cup of tea, mostly because of the soft slightly mushy texture.

chocolate souffle

In the end, we had room for only one dessert and a smallish one at that. The chocolate souffle was nothing compared to the mondo one we had in Ho Chi Minh City but it was decent enough.

The bill came up to $144 for the three of us, and that included a total of four starters, three mains, one dessert, one beer, one big bottle of sparkling water and three coffees, not quite as cheap as I remembered it to be but certainly still holding its ground as the most reasonably priced French food in town.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Chez Chat Special

HM decided to spice up my favourite Koka brand chicken flavour instant noodles with lots of tomatoes, celery and egg. Add one good dash or two of Japanese chilli pepper and voila, instant noodles reimagined.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Just Like Grandma Used To Make

I'm beginning to like the current wave of restaurant turnovers in our neck of the woods. Marmalade Pantry was a one for one exchange with Cafe Rosso, both of which I like, and then Spizza gave way to La Nonna. On MM's recommendation, we decided to check it out last Friday evening.

bread basket

The minute the bread basket arrived, HM was won over. She couldn't stop eating the flatbread while browsing the menu and waiting for the food to arrive. In all, we ordered two mains and a starter for three of us.

pork sausage bruschetta

The bruschetta was an appetising starter, with lots of savoury sausage.

squid ink pizza with seafood

The pizza was a revelation. Of course, it had to be thin crust pizza.

fettucine with parma ham and truffle cream sauce

While the pizza and bread kept HM busy, I was pre-occupied with the fettucine. I love Italian style pasta, where the pasta itself is front and centre, not smothered under some sauce, as opposed to American style pasta where the pasta is merely the base for the sauce and ingredients. Despite the truffle cream sauce, the fettucine was never in any fear of being overwhelmed. Needless to say, the pasta was al dente indeed. Excellent stuff!

The portions were reasonable, feeding three of us quite adequately. At $56 in total, prices were within reason too. Now, with the moribund Gelare being replaced by an Olio, all I need is a Cedele.

the icing on the cake - the house cat!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Photo Ops

I never tire of the Botanic Gardens. There's so much to see and to shoot. I guess that's the good thing about being a newbie - even common birds are a find.

one of many sparrows perched on top of the bushes

my old friend, little heron, resident of Symphony Lake

my first dollarbird, spotted while I was stalking a koel

time to go home


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chill Out Chic

These days, it seems like a new lifestyle "village" is discovered every month (Tanglin Village, Dempsey Village...) and yet another chill-out restaurant/cafe/wine bar is opened every week. Do all of them live up to expectations?

Set in the leafy environs of Wessex Village, along Portsmouth Road, Cicada clearly aims to offer the same sort of laidback experience as its more famous neighbour, Colbar, albeit in a way more upmarket way. For one thing, one gets to sit outside. That's where we started out, outside, until the mosquitoes got to us. Oddly enough, when the mosquitoes got going, as mosquitoes are wont to do at dusk, the staff could not offer any solutions - no mosquito coils, no incense, no nothing. We ended up requesting to be moved indoors. That too did not pass without incident. The staff kindly offered to move our drinks to our new table; at that point in time, we hadn't ordered food yet. Lo and behold, the staff managed to leave behind two drinks which some other staff cleared away. We had to alert the staff before the situation was redressed - two new drinks were delivered by the apologetic staff. Not exactly the most laidback of starts...

Our experience with the food was similarly mixed.

from left: latte, starfruit martini, anjou pear juice

"The Perfect Mojito"

As expected, the menu had lots of chi chi circle must-haves - mojito(e)s, martinis, chilean sea bass. The drinks were not controversial.

amuse bouche aka cheese puffs

french onion soup

pan seared blue fin tuna salad

rare beef salad with tarragon aioli

prawn bisque with slipper lobster

Of the starters, I liked the prawn bisque best. It was rich and fragrant, and yet I'd say the lobster bisque at the Churchill Room is still better. HM liked the tuna salad, but I took issue with the smaller than expected portions of tuna. The rare beef salad could have been great, except for the fact that it was really overdressed; the leaves were drenched.

chilean sea bass with vanilla sauce

lamb cutlets

capellini with slipper lobster

parpadelle with duck confit

Now, the mains were more memorable. While the lamb cutlets and chilean sea bass weren't too exciting, the pastas got good reviews all round. All four of us enjoyed the al dente texture of the pasta. The sauce for the capellini was a runaway hit. I liked the duck confit, although the others did find it a little rich (whaddya expect, it's duck confit!)

peanut butter brittle chocolate brownie cake

apple crumble with vanilla ice cream

We ended the night with just two desserts and a good thing too, because the portions were relativley large. The peanut butter brittle chocolate brownie cake was just too rich. The apple crumble was decent, with reasonably buttery crumbly pastry and gently stewed apples.

Everything said and done, we weren't blown away. I'd say that the place has potential, not least because of the location, but they really need to work on the food and polish up their act. Oh and it won't hurt to play better music either. We won't be rushing back any time soon.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oktoberfest, Ja...

Finally, we had our Oktoberfest fix at Baden Baden, our friendly neighbourhood German pub, no less. For a moment there, we had considered making our way to Magma, the German bistro at Bukit Pasoh, but we can be lazy and inertia won.

dark beer and diet coke

sausage sampler - bratwurst, brockwurst, chicken chipolata, pork chipolata and I forget what

We kicked off the festivities with some beer and some sausages, before moving on to some serious eating. I must say, the sausages were excellent. 'Twas a pity we didn't have any room for more.

chicken soup with noodles

I find it hard to resist ordering any kind of chicken soup, especially chicken soup with dumplings or noodles (probably the result of a childhood obsession with my mother's chicken soup and later on in life, Campbell's chicken noodle soup). Anyway, this version wasn't particularly good.

bacon mushroom wraps

The bacon mushroom wraps though were just the kind of mouthwatering heartclogging starter we needed before the meat came on. It was a simple but effective combination - now, why can't more places get this right? (I think, too often, people resort to breading the mushrooms but really that can go so wrong.)

pork schnitzel

The pork schnitzel wasn't very schnitzelly. It was THICK and juicy, nicely fried up, but still thick.

pork knuckle

The pork knuckle came off really well. The crackling was nicely crispy while the meat was tender, just the thing to end an Oktoberfest repast.

The evening at Baden Baden was a pleasant relaxed one. While stuffing our faces with pork, pork and more pork, we watched poor Everton go two men down and lose to Liverpool. The only fly in the ointment was the substandard service, but that was mostly because of the poor boy waiting on our table. He admitted that that was his first day on the job. Still, it was a tad annoying that he could not recommend a beer when asked to, nor did he make it clear that two people could not share the one for one happy hour special on the first round of drinks. Oh, and he didn't offer us a choice of potato (mashed, crispy, french fried) which we were entitled to with our sausage sampler...