Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Times UK: Meet the Food Bloggers: nordljus

From Times Online

June 23, 2009

Meet the Food Bloggers: nordljus

Keiko Oikawa uses her photography skills to bring to life the food she encounters on her travels

Nick Wyke

11. Blog: Nordljus

What inspires you to write a food blog?

I never considered myself particularly obsessed with food. Rather, I've always just loved cooking and appreciated good foodwith no fuss. So when I started my blog, it was more of a record of my cooking discoveries - I moved to the UK from Japan about ten years ago and living in Europe has let me explore the diversity of many different ingredients and cuisines. I got my first camera when I started my blog. It has inspired me just as much and I feel lucky to be starting a career as a photographer.

What sort of posting really gets your readers excited (good or bad)?

My blog isn't only about food - I like to share my other interests and experiences, especially travelling. I really enjoy shooting when I travel - it inspires me in every way and I think my readers enjoy sharing it through my eyes, too.

Which cookbook can you not do without and which chef is your hero/heroine?

I couldn't possibly choose one, but having lived in the UK for quite some time, my heart tends to go to British writers such as Diana Henry, Nigel Slater, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Skye Gyngell (I know she's Australian but I think her books can count as being British) who focus on simple recipes and seasonal ingredients. As well as the recipes themselves, I'm also inspired by the personal writing from these and other wonderful authors. Also, although he's not published in English, Japanese patissier Hidemi Sugino's book is great for reference.

Share a seasonal recipe with us...and a tip for a local restaurant?

I've just posted a couple of [ice-cream recipes: one with an Italian twist - hoping that we'll have a hot summer this year, and this elderflower dessert is lovely at this time of year, too.

Tell us something about food from your part of the world?

I'm from Japan, and, as you probably know, they are obsessed with food - with more exclusive food shops and restaurants than anywhere else in the world. The Japanese go to great lengths (and expense) to get the ultimate ingredients and authenticity of seemingly every cuisine. Such an attitude certainly has its downsides, but I'd like to think that being able to appreciate good food is generally a good thing. However, I think there is now an ethos of returning to traditional Japanese methods and ingredients which is great, and I'm hoping to share some of them on my blog sometime.

What would you eat for your last supper?

I'm very open and adaptable when it comes to food, but it would have to be either Zaru-soba (buckwheat noodles served cold with dipping sauce), or hot Udon noodles in a light broth. I do love any cuisine, but for me they are the ultimate comfort food and I never run out of them in my pantry.

Which other food blogs do you read regularly?

There are many inspiring blogs, but my recent favourite is White on Rice Couple - I fall in love with their stories and beautiful recipes every time I visit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

BTO: Ready, set, fire

Business Times - 27 Jun 2009


Ready, set, fire

You can't smoke your way through barbecuing - there's an art to doing it right, says celebrity chef and barbecue-ologist Robert Rainford. By Audrey Phoon

BAKING. Dehydrating. Sauteing. Pureeing. One can readily understand how these cooking techniques contribute towards producing works of culinary art, but barbecuing? Many would consider that a primeval method of cooking, one simply involving slapping huge slabs of meat onto heated pits and firing the beejeesus out of them.

Barbecue-ologist and 'BBQ King' Robert Rainford, however, begs to differ. The celebrity chef of the Asian Food Channel's Licence to Grill programme, who was in Singapore last week to fire up the new Kamado barbecue grills at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore (the world-famous barbecuing machines will be introduced in the hotel's Town restaurant next month), believes 'there's a huge art' to turning out food on a barbecue. From cedar-planked salmon and chicken on a beer can to smoked pork belly, a barbecue is capable of a vast range of delicious dishes, he says - you just have to know the right techniques.

To begin with, if you are using a charcoal barbecue, start the fire with the help of some lighter fluid and paper, then build it substantially before you start cooking. 'What we want to do is get the charcoal from black to a really thick white ash before we start cooking,' says Rainford, a Canadian who prefers to use gas-operated barbecues himself because 'you can just turn some knobs and it's on right away'. He adds: 'Once the coals become this thick white ash, you're ready to cook.'

If you cook before the coals are white, he warns, you get 'an acrid smoke and that smoke is partially what's cancer-causing - so it's really important that you know how and when to start barbecuing when you work with charcoal'.

That done, adding different types of wood to your barbecue - whether it's into the flames in a charcoal barbecue or as a pouch of wood chips on a gas barbecue - will enhance the flavour of your food with a lovely smokiness. Just remember to consider the sort of produce you are cooking when choosing a type of wood to pair with it, says the chef.

'Mesquite and hickory are the two major types of wood that everyone uses, but they're so powerful in their taste that they can overpower food to a certain degree.' While those woods are fine if you are making barbecued pork ribs because 'pork is a naturally neutrally-flavoured item so you would want to introduce some big smoke into that', robust-flavoured foods (such as the beef ribs in the recipe here) do better with woods such as apple and cherry as they have more subtle flavours.

You can also marinade your food by 'throwing an oil and an acid together in combination with onions and garlic', suggests Rainford. 'It's the simplest of marinades but that will infuse flavour into meat, chicken, whatever.' For vegetables, he recommends a simple seasoning by placing them with a bit of olive oil and herbs in a plastic bag and just 'shaking them around'.

When it comes to barbecuing your food, there are basically two main techniques: high and fast, and low and slow. 'Things like chicken breast and chicken, veal or fish burgers are what you would cook fast and on high heat,' the chef says. 'But if I wanted to do ribs or some other type of cut that is very tough, I would use low and slow.'

What the latter method involves is cooking using indirect heat for between three and five hours (depending on what you are cooking), with the fire going only on one side of the barbecue. 'The side with no fire is where we put the meat, close the lid, and allow it to become what I would consider an oven,' explains Rainford, adding that this will help cook the food through without burning it.

Combining both the fast-and-high and low-and-slow techniques will give you the 'two-tiered heat approach' that the chef uses most frequently. He explains: 'I will put one side of my barbecue on high and the other on medium to medium-low. I will start cooking on high to get a crisp exterior and then shunt the food over towards the medium-low side, which gives me the slower heat that's needed to cook things through to the centre.'

This approach helps to prevent food from being cooked only on the outside, but even so cooks must 'look for markers to tell you when to take your food off', says Rainford. In the case of chicken wings, for example, 'when the joints move freely and the juices run clear, we know that cooking has hit the bone'.

Alternatively, if you are using a thermometer, don't put it on the bone; instead, stick it into the fattest part of the meat. An internal temperature reading of about 74 degrees Celsius will tell you that your food is cooked all the way through.

Of course, as with every cooking method, culinary art or not, there's the cleaning-up afterwards. To get rid of any residue on a barbecue grill, crank up the heat if you're using a gas machine, or light a fire and close the lid on a charcoal barbecue to heat it up as much as possible. The heat burns the residue, making it easier to scrape off with a wire brush instead of just smudging back and forth when the grill is cold.

'Proper maintenance is important,' emphasises the BBQ King. 'At least quarterly, take everything out and pressure wash it down, scrub it all nice and clean.'

Spicy grilled beef short ribs
Serves 4


4 beef short ribs, bone in 
1/3 cup five-spice powder 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
3 tbsp garlic salt 
3 tbsp celery salt 
3 cups wood chips (cherry or apple)


1. Combine all of the rub ingredients in a large bowl the day before you plan to serve them. Rub half of the rub mixture into the ribs and reserve the other half of the rub for use the next day. Place the ribs in a large plastic bag and into the fridge to marinate overnight.

2. A half-hour before you plan to put the ribs on the grill, take them out from the fridge. Remove them from the plastic bag and apply the remaining rub, leaving approximately two tablespoons to sprinkle on the ribs while they smoke.

3. Let the ribs stand for half an hour to come to room temperature. This will ensure that they cook evenly on the grill.

4. Place 1 cup of the wood chips in cold water to soak for 30 minutes.

5. If your grill has several grates, remove one on the end and set it aside. Preheat the grill to high heat (approximately 200 to 225 degrees Celsius).

6. Squeeze the excess water from the soaking woodchips and place in the centre of a large piece of aluminium foil. Add the remaining two cups of dry wood chips. Fold the aluminium foil around the chips to create a sealed pouch. Using a fork, poke holes in the package on both sides to allow smoke to filter through.

7. Place the pouch directly over the flame on the side where the grate has been removed. Close the lid and wait for smoke to start building in the barbecue.

8. Once smoking has begun, lower the heat under the pouch of wood chips and turn the heat off on the other portions of the grill. Wait for the temperature to reach approximately 100 degrees Celsius.

9. Place the ribs on the grates where the heat is off. Close the lid and leave to smoke with indirect heat for approximately four hours. After 11/2 to 2 hours, flip the ribs and sprinkle with the remaining rub mixture.

10. After four hours, the ribs should have a crispy delicious rub exterior and the meat should be almost falling off the bone.

Friday, June 26, 2009

STI: Bishan Beckons

June 26, 2009


Bishan Beckons

It's more than just Junction 8 - go off the beaten track for hidden eats and treats

Say 'shopping in Bishan' and Junction8 is likely to spring to mind.

But the 24-year-old HDB new town in central Singapore has more than just the shopping mall.

After combing four streets - Bishan Street 11, 13, 22 and 24 - for three hours, Urban shortlisted six HDB shops and four eateries in the housing estate.

The search was well worth the time as our heartland finds are indeed gems.

There is the women's boutique which looks to be an auntie haven at first glance but turns out to be a vintage treasure trove.

Then there is the cosy photography studio where one can get family portraits and a makeover done for everyday prices.

Foodies would love the neighbourhood eateries with oomph.

Capolavoro, located in a coffee shop on Street 24, for example, is run by Peter Bontoi.

The former chef of Il Piccolo, a restaurant in Bukit Timah that has since closed, serves up hearty, restaurant- style Romanian and Italian fare.

Pontian Wanton Noodles at the S-11 coffeeshop at Block504 on Street 11, meanwhile, is also a heavyweight. The lunchtime queue and newspaper cuttings that plaster its wall are proof of its star status.

There is a good reason Singapore's funniest family - Tan Ah Teck and his brood - made their home in Bishan in the 1990s local sitcom Under One Roof.



01-62 Block 279 Bishan Street 24

This is probably as exotic - and yummy - as coffee shop fare goes.

Romania-born chef-cum-owner Peter Bontoi, who used to work at the now-defunct Il Piccolo restaurant in Bukit Timah, lovingly whips up cuisine from Italy and his hometown.

There is the curious- sounding tochitura ($8), a dish of meat in cornflour bread covered in a yogurt sauce, and the mysterious-sounding Romanian Dessert ($3.50), essentially biscuit and jello covered with whipped cream and raisins - a likely hit with kids.

Those less adventurous can opt for the wide variety of pastas ($5 to $10) and pizzas ($6 to $16) or Bontoi's popular handmade pork sausages ($7).

Western Chow and Pontian Wanton Noodles

01-444 Block 504 Bishan Street 11

These neighbouring stalls located in the area's famous S-11 coffeeshop are indeed one dynamic duo.

Western Chow serves up a mix of hearty American fare - think grilled chicken chop ($5.90) and oxtail stew ($8.50) - and fusion grub like Hainanese beef stew ($6.50) and dory fish cooked with assam or tamarind ($6).

Pontian, meanwhile, specialises in the popular Malaysian wanton noodle dish tossed in dark soy sauce ($2.70 or $3.20).

We love how its noodles remain springy even after take-out. This probably explains the lunchtime queue which started at 11.30am when we visited.

Ye Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant

01-390 Block 508 Bishan Street 11

Get a taste of traditional Chinese cuisine at this rustic restaurant.

Bestsellers include Shanghainese delicacies such as prawns in fermented rice wine and herbs ($12) and chicken stuffed with glutinous rice ($6).

The owners have even imported a special earthen pot (Photo 4) from China so that customers can savour authentic Beijing hot pot ($18 per person).

There is a special steamboat offer where four customers dine for the price of three.


ABC Photography

01-382 Block 509 Bishan Street 11

Live out your modelling dreams or capture precious moments without spending a fortune at this no-frills photo studio.

Owners Andy Tan, who has more than 10 years of experience, and Angela Chen, a former make-up artist, offer a slew of portrait packages.

A 30-minute Best Friends Forever session, for example, costs $268 and includes a CD of all the shots as well as a framed picture of your choice. Till Aug 31, the package goes for $148.

Check out for more promotional packages.

E Bi Ku Da

01-189 Block 151 Bishan Street 11

This tiny shop is crammed with sartorial gems.

Rummage its racks for pretty, breezy dresses such as this cotton one with floral cut-outs (Photo 6, $72) or this cute denim number (Photo 7, $26) that Paris Hilton would approve of.

Friendly owner Catherine Lau says she sources her chic garb from Hong Kong, China and South Korea, with new pieces arriving every month.

Prices range from $5 for a plain tee to $100 and up for a silk evening dress.

Chew's Optics

01-155 Block 282 Bishan Street 22

You know this place is a must-visit from its constant flow of customers.

Its frames are more classic than cool.

These wooden ones (Photo 8, $85 a pair without lenses), for example, are statement-making without being over-the-top.

Most of the patrons are from neighbouring offices who love the wallet-friendly prices - $30 to $400 a pair, excluding lenses.

I & U

01-147 Block 282 Bishan Street 22

This old-fashioned shoe shop houses a small but dazzling array of beaded handbags that both tai tais and fashionistas would love.

Sourced from Indonesia, these handbeaded totes are a steal with prices ranging from $15.90 to $50.90 - at least half that of those sold at department stores.

There is also a range of beaded purses in shapes like fruits, insects and hearts ($6.90 each) that would delight the young at heart.

W2 Trend

01-512 Block 513 Bishan Street 13

Imported from Hong Kong and South Korea, the clothes at this humble shop boasts some of the best workmanship we have seen.

Cotton shirts are comfy yet crisp, while linen blouses and dresses are light and floaty.

The best part: Design details like ruffles and the seamless combination of contrasting materials give the garb a high-fashion touch.

Prices range from $5 for a tank top to $49.90 for a jacket and tube top set.

Chao Yang Trading Kiosk

01-219 Block 152 Bishan Street 11

Do not sniff at its old-fashioned interior and name.

Set up more than 20 years ago, Chao Yang's vintage-style garb would thrill fashion fiends.

We spotted printed polyester blouses that, when paired with skinny jeans or an A-line skirt, look more chic than chintzy.

The discount rack on the side is also well worth checking out: We found this pretty paisley print dress (Photo 13) going for just $10 (usual price $22). Prices range from $5 for a cotton tank top to $50 for a blouse. The shop is closed right now but will reopen on Tuesday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

STI: Shoot while it's smoking

June 21, 2009

Shoot while it's smoking

Food photographer Edmond Ho has an eye and a taste for good food

By Fiona Low

Food photographer Edmond Ho will fly to Bangkok just to satisfy his craving for one particular dish - charcoal-grilled prawns.

He is such a big fan of the dish that the owner of the street stall in Bangkok's Chinatown recognises him and knows his order.

'The prawns are so succulent and so fresh,' Ho gushes.

Given his love of food, it is no wonder that the photographer, who is in his early 40s, chose to specialise in the field of food photography.

The area was relatively neglected when he first started, he recalls: 'Back then, all the photographers wanted to do fashion and shoot models.

'Food photography in the 1980s tended to be very contrived, so I decided that this area was a goldmine and I wanted to capitalise on it and change people's perspective of it.'

Since then, the graduate from the Malaysian Institute of Art has shot more than 25 cookbooks and won numerous awards for his work. Most recently, he received a gold at the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2008 for his photography in Tea Flavours Cookbook, a publication by The Peninsula Hotels group.

His passion for photography began at an early age. As a secondary school student, the enterprising shutterbug would shoot pictures of Hong Kong movie stars when they came to Singapore and sell the prints to his classmates.

'I've always wanted to be a photographer,' says the Malaysian native who is based in Singapore. 'My dad wanted me to study business, but the thought of that didn't excite me. Art is in my blood.'

Today, the accomplished photographer runs two studios. He first started Edmond Ho Photography in 1995 and later Jambu Studio in 2004, which he set up with the aim of providing a platform for young photographers.

'It's a fantastic career,' he says reflectively as the interview rounds to a close. 'I would not change it for anything in the world.'

You spend a lot of time with food for your job. Are you also a foodie?

Absolutely, especially when it comes to Japanese food. I am a huge fan of the cuisine. I must go to Japan at least once a year just to eat otoro, which is fatty tuna. I'll buy it sliced fresh from the market in Japan and it is so good it literally melts in your mouth.

What are some of the challenges faced as a food photographer?

Sometimes it is difficult dealing with chefs who are temperamental or rigid about their food. As a photographer, it is sometimes necessary to add garnishing or to rearrange certain items on a dish to make it look better, but there are chefs who will get angry with that.

Also, it is difficult trying to please so many parties, including the chef, the art directors, the marketing department and the F&B directors who may all have a different idea of what they want.

Lastly, it is also a great challenge to keep photographing the same items over and over again, especially during certain times of the year. Mooncakes are especially hard, because they tend to look the same no matter which restaurant they come from. So there is a need to be continuously creative and to look for new ways to photograph them.

What is your secret behind taking great food pictures?

Going up close and making sure you capture its true essence. Pictures should translate the taste of the food.

It is also important to shoot food when it's fresh, either when it is piping hot or icy cold, as in the case of ice cream. Speed is always the key - to catch the food when it is still smoking.

What is the most difficult food item to photograph?

I would say clear soup, such as those served in Chinese restaurants. Because it is clear, the soup is difficult to capture on camera, especially if the chef presents it in a white bowl. Also, you need to continuously scoop away the oil from the surface of soup.

To solve this, photographers will usually prop up the ingredients in the soup so it rises above the surface, making it look more appetising.

What is your favourite quick meal to have when you are pressed for time between shoots?

Tom yum-flavoured cup noodles. It's unhealthy but I have it about once a week. Otherwise, I try to have muesli bars or apples on the go.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done to satisfy a food craving?

I am willing to drive for 45 minutes to an hour just circling around looking for a parking space to get my favourite bak kut teh in Geylang. And if I still cannot get one after that time, I am willing to drive to Beach Road, where the stall has another outlet, just to get my weekly dose of pork rib soup.

What is your favourite local dish?

Other than bak kut teh, I also really like chicken rice. I used to have it up to five times a week, but these days I have been trying to cut down and watch my diet.

I go to quite a few different stalls but the one I eat at most often is Tian Tian chicken rice at Maxwell Food Centre. I like white chicken rice and I enjoy the skin most.

What is your comfort food?

Pork belly marinated with dark soy sauce and braised with spices such as star anise. I love it when my domestic helper cooks the dish, but my wife, Joycelin, stops me from having it too often because it is very fattening, so I only eat it about twice a month.

Are you a bigger fan of hawker centres or fine dining?

Even though I love fine dining, I would say I am a bigger fan of hawker food.

In my line of work, I deal with food from fine dining restaurants every day, shooting as many as four restaurants in a day, so I tire of it sometimes.

I grew up with hawker food, so I just want to go back to that and be able to enjoy my meal in a relaxed atmosphere.

What are some of the perks of being a food photographer?

I certainly get a lot of free food, as you can tell from my size. Making friends with chefs and those in the F&B industry also means I often get better tables in restaurants and special items which are not on the menu.


For starters, I would have a rocket salad with beetroot, roasted walnuts and blue cheese, drizzled with olive oil.

This will be followed by Buddha Jumps Over The Wall, which is a soup of scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, shark's fin and various other ingredients.

For mains, I will have charcoal-grilled Kobe beef topped with unlimited shavings of white truffles and three slices of fatty tuna.

I'll skip dessert, but I'll round off the meal with a glass of Merlot.

STI: Learn to dress up your cakes

June 21, 2009

Learn to dress up your cakes

By Valerie Wang

By day, Mrs Karen Allan, 33, is the managing director of a branding consultancy.

But at night, 'I do baking and cake decorating at midnight all the time after work. I find it really relaxing', she says.

Her love of baking has led her to sign up for a new professional cake-decorating course that has arrived in town. It is the famous British-based Knightsbridge Precision Machining Engineers (PME) Professional Diploma Course.

Mrs Allan, who is married and lives in a condominium in Novena, is doing one of the three modules. 'I have read many books that mentioned this diploma, so once I heard that it was coming to Singapore, I jumped at the chance and signed up for the Sugar Flowers module,' says the selfconfessed bake-o-holic.

Classes for the three modules will be held on the premises of cake decoration and sugarcraft retail store Bake It Yourself (B-I-Y), located at Bukit Timah. The store has been appointed by Knightsbridge PME to be its first authorised course centre in Singapore.

Knightsbridge PME is well-known among baking enthusiasts as the home of the PME range of sugarcraft tools used by pastry chefs around the world.

The founder and director of B-I-Y, Mrs Cheryl Chee, says: 'This diploma covers an extensive range of techniques that I know enthusiasts like myself will want to learn.'

Half the slots for the classes have been taken up since the course was announced on June 13.

This differs from another course that B-I-Y offers, the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating course.

While the PME Professional Diploma course recommends that participants have experience in cake decorating, the Wilton course has a module specifically for beginners. That introductory course costs $270, much cheaper than the PME Professional Diploma course which is $650 a module.

Mrs Chee says of the Knightsbridge course: 'Beginners may also enrol but they have to keep in mind that it is a professional course. It is designed specifically for anyone anticipating selling cakes either to family or friends or even as a commercial business.'

Ms Malar K. Velu, a housewife who has signed up for two of the three PME Professional Diploma modules, is such a person.

As a mother of two, she thinks setting up a business might be too time-consuming, but that does not stop the 44-year-old from selling cakes to her friends and family.

She says: 'I've been doing cake decorating and baking for the past 10 years and I just wanted to take it one step further by taking the course. I'm not an artistic person so I wanted to prove to myself that I can do well in this prestigious course.'

Pragmatic Mrs Allan has no intention of setting up a business after finishing the course, but says: 'I bake for my own pleasure, but now with qualified instructors teaching me how to use different techniques, I won't have to learn through books anymore.'

STI: Fluffy goodness

June 21, 2009

Cheap & Good

Fluffy goodness

By Thng Lay Teen

Curry puff seller Moh Kway Kheng certainly knows how to make the humble snack look cute and appealing.

When she started selling the puffs more than 20 years ago in the Bukit Timah area, the 56-year-old stall owner wanted to make them stand out from the usual fare.

Instead of the commonly seen semicircular shapes, her chicken curry puffs ($1.10) look more like pyramids with three pleated folds coming together in the centre. They proved to be a hit.

And it is certainly not a case of style over substance. The curry puff skin is thin and crispy and the generous curry chicken filling with potato and boiled egg is moist and yummy.

The correct proportion of pastry margarine to flour is important for the skin to turn out crispy, says Madam Moh. Add too much pastry margarine into the dough and the skin breaks during frying, but if there is not enough of it, the skin is too soft to hold the filling nicely.

Rolling the dough repeatedly also requires patience and skill to ensure that the hard pastry margarine enclosed within is evenly distributed throughout the pastry itself.

Equally important in the making of a good curry puff is the filling. Madam Moh's homemade curry paste is just spicy enough, so even children can enjoy it.

A lot of work goes into making each puff, whether it is the chicken curry, spicy fish otah (80 cents), sardine (80 cents) or vegetable versions (80 cents).

For the chicken puffs, thigh meat is marinated before it is fried till just cooked but still tender.

The potatoes are boiled but not overcooked so they do not become mushy before they are cut into cubes and fried in the curry paste.

All the puffs are handmade and small batches are prepared each time to make sure they are always piping hot and fresh.

Since I chanced upon the stall not too long after Madam Moh relocated to a coffee shop in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 about 10 months ago, I have been going there for my weekly curry puff fix.

A close second to the chicken curry puff is the otah puff. The juicy homemade bei kah (horse mackerel) filling with curry paste is, like the chicken curry puff, spicy but not overwhelmingly so.

The sardine puff is also not too bad, with the canned fish fried in a little of the same curry paste, young ginger and big onions.

However, the vegetarian puff is unremarkable. The filling of carrot, turnip and taukwa (fried beancurd) is a bit dry and not tasty enough for me.


Block 19 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, 01-264

Open: 9am to 6pm (or till sold out), closed on Mondays

Rating: ***

STI: Light flavours at The Lighthouse

June 21, 2009

Light flavours at The Lighthouse

Reopened restaurant serves up Italian fare that could be more flavourful but the view is perfect and the decor chic

By Wong Ah Yoke

After an absence of six years, The Lighthouse has returned to the top of The Fullerton Hotel - but as an Italian restaurant.

The original Lighthouse, which opened in 2000 together with the hotel, was a French restaurant by the Les Amis Group. That closed in 2003 and the eighth-floor space, which housed an actual lighthouse in the 18th century, was taken over by the Saint Pierre Group and turned into an Italian restaurant called San Marco.

That, too, ceased operations in March this year and The Lighthouse was brought back this month. It is still an Italian restaurant but is now run by the hotel.

The tiny space, which seats 52, has been given a new look and boasts a contemporary colour scheme based on brown and orange tones.

Besides a stunning view of Marina Bay, the other highlight is a panel of entwined rings at the far end of the room. The rings are a stylised rendition of the number eight to signify the eighth floor and is no doubt a nod to the Chinese belief in the number's connection to good fortune.

What is also new is that the rooftop is now open to diners to enjoy the view of the bay with a drink in hand before or after dinner. It is accessible through a flight of stairs from the restaurant and is pleasantly cool after sunset when a light breeze blows in from the sea. On a sunny day, however, it is scorching hot.

The restaurant's kitchen is helmed by Italian chef Diego Martinelli, who comes from a stint at the Bulgari Hotel in Bali and specialises in traditional Italian dishes with modern presentations.

One of these is a wagyu beef carpaccio ($26) where the paper-thin slices of beef are laid out into a neat square, giving it a modern geometric symmetry. What also updates the dish are crispy bits of onion sprinkled on top.

The flavours, however, fail to excite the palate. The dressing of basil and anchovies is a tad timid, leaving the parmesan cheese shavings to do most of the work.

The chef probably wants to let the natural flavours of the main ingredients take centre stage but in this and a few other instances, they fail him.

Another example is the strozzapreti pasta with sea urchin, prawns, clams and tuna bottarga ($35). Though I cannot seem to find any sea urchin, the rest of the seafood tastes fine. But their delicate sweet juices can barely flavour the pasta rolls.

You will enjoy it if you like very light tastes but otherwise, the pasta will be more pleasing if it comes in a more robust sauce.

The Isolana-style risotto ($28), however, is good as it is. The rice is cooked with pork sausages and flavoured with cinnamon and rosemary. It smells lovely, is tasty and the sausage meat has a nice bite.

You can also try the butter squash tortelloni ($36). The pasta squares come in a cheese and thyme fondue which is rich and velvety. Pieces of crispy pancetta strewn on top add dimension to the flavours.

Among the main courses, I like the grilled pork cheek ($36) where the meat is first braised and then grilled lightly for a smokey flavour. Served with pumpkin puree and green apple compote, the tender meat does not feel heavy at all.

Desserts include the common tiramisu and cannoli, but there is also the unusual Emilia Romagna tagliolini and almond pie ($16). The chef says it is actually an old Italian recipe but this is probably the first restaurant here to serve it.

It is pasta baked into a sweet pie with the strands on the surface slightly crispy and those underneath chewy. It is a strange dessert, but the almond flavour is pleasing and I probably would have liked it more if my jaws were not tired out by the chewing.

Overall, the cooking is decent but nothing actually wows. Perhaps it is just a matter of adjusting to local palates and in due time, The Lighthouse can become a gastronomic beacon.


Level 8, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square, tel: 6877-8933

Open: Noon to 2.30pm (Mondays to Fridays), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily

Food: *** 1/2

Service: ****

Ambience: ****

Price: Budget about $100 a person

STI: Eater's Digest

June 21, 2009

Eater's Digest

By Tan Hsueh Yun

You've read their food blogs, now should you buy their books?

Cooking & Screaming

By Adrienne Kane

2009/Simon Spotlight Entertainment/

Hardcover/272 pages/$43.50/Books Kinokuniya

Adrienne Kane is about to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley when she suffers a stroke.

The arterio-venous malformation leaves her completely paralysed on her right side and this book is a sometimes poignant account of how she recovers and the role food has played in making her whole again. She has come a long way - starting a catering business, relocating across the country with her husband, starting a food blog and publishing a book.

I check in with fairly often because I like her sunny tone and the pretty pictures. She has not discussed her troubles at length on the blog but I appreciate it even more now, knowing that it cannot have been easy to do all that cooking and photographing.

The book, however, seems a little insubstantial. The chapters dealing with her recovery and with her dad, who also suffered a series of strokes, are the most heartfelt. But the book then peters out into a collection of anecdotes. Some are interesting, some are not.

Still, there are the recipes, one for each of the 20 chapters. I tried the simple one for Tagliatelle With Grated Zucchini and it is a keeper. The zucchini practically dissolves, making for a creamy, velvety sauce.

The Sweet Life In Paris

By David Lebovitz


Hardcover/279 pages/$43.61/Books Kinokuniya

This is a funny and absolutely un-put-downable account of how American cookbook author David Lebovitz leaves his life and comfortable home in San Francisco and moves to Paris.

It all sounds terribly romantic, of course, until he has to deal with being an American in Paris. There is the dinky little kitchen the pastry chef, who worked at Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant for 13 years, has to contend with. There is also the bureaucracy that thwarts his every attempt to obtain a visa, and the many French people who seem to live only to make his life miserable.

To his credit, the book is not so much a litany of complaints as a wry observation of life in the French capital.

I have new-found respect for him after reading about that kitchen. It has no counter space and even less storage space but he manages to cook an awful lot of things in it.

But ice cream, for lack of space, is made in his bedroom. He tested an entire book of recipes for the frozen dessert (The Perfect Scoop, 2007) with three machines churning non-stop there. I guess I have no excuse for not using the one I recently bought.

The book comes with 50 recipes and I tried the two he includes for Chocolate Mousse. I was intrigued by the one made without eggs, developed for Americans wary of eating them raw. It turned out dense and more like chocolate ganache than mousse.

The other recipe, much like the one I always use by French pastry chef Pierre Herme, produced an altogether different dessert. The mousse, lightened by beaten egg whites, was airy and intensely chocolatey.

I have long been a fan of his blog, , for his clearly written recipes. I'm a bigger one after reading this book.

Hungry Monkey

By Matthew Amster-Burton

2009/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/

Hardcover/260pages/$41.01/Books Kinokuniya

This book is required reading for any parent wanting to raise children who will not scoff at anything other than chicken nuggets. Former rock journalist-turned-food writer and stay-at-home dad Matthew Amster-Burton writes a breezy food blog at and that same approach carries on to the book.

He has a sensible approach to the care and feeding of little Iris, now four, and that is what makes this book worth reading.

There are no lectures on feeding children only organic food and certainly no dirty tricks like sneaking vegetables into other food.

Instead, by continuing to eat adventurously and well after having a child and by exposing said child to a wide variety of food, he and his wife Laurie have managed to raise a daughter who can tell the difference between supermarket and artisanal bacon (her preferred brand is Nueske's), and who relishes pad thai and sushi.

STI: Four steps to good food

June 21, 2009

Four steps to good food

Season, heighten, tighten and clean - two bachelors show how it's done in a cookbook

By Huang Lijie

Marketing consultant Nicholas Lin, 25, and chef Adhika Maxi, 24, became fast friends over a conversation about duck fat a year ago.

It happened in New York when Mr Lin overheard Mr Adhika, then a stranger, talking to a friend about using duck fat to fry chips.

Mr Lin, a Singaporean who works in the Big Apple, says: 'I felt compelled to join in because I like eating duck fat and using it in my cooking.'

He and Mr Adhika, an Indonesian, discovered that they were neighbours in the same apartment building and shared a mutual interest in food.

The next day, the two met for dinner over bowls of century egg congee and fried pig's intestines and decided to collaborate on a cookbook teaching bachelors how to whip up easy but presentable dishes.

The book was a long-time dream for Mr Lin, who graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in marketing. He says: 'I've been passionate about cooking since I was 13 because I like eating. I would invite friends over to my home and cook for them.

'While my culinary skills improved with experience, the presentation of the food I served remained very rustic.'

However, when he turned to his collection of about 15 cookbooks, they provided no suggestions on how to plate or serve a dish attractively.

On why he warmed to the book idea immediately, Mr Adhika, who spent six years studying in Singapore at the now defunct Fowlie Primary School in Katong and St Hilda's Secondary School, says: 'Men today buy books on how to dress better and they groom their eyebrows, so there should be books teaching them how to cook better and plate their food nicely.'

The former chef de partie at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's eponymous restaurant at The London hotel in New York City adds that in the past, male friends have sought tips on how to cook to impress dates, so he is confident the book has a ready market.

Their self-published, 213-page cookbook titled Bachelor's Banquet features more than 80 recipes from appetisers such as chicken satay and mint rice salad to entrees such as zucchini and vodka pink penne.

There is also a section on desserts such as wine-poached pear, and a playful category called In Bed Aphrodisiacs featuring bite-size treats such as white chocolate petits fours.

The pair dipped into their savings to pay the book's $30,000 publishing fee. It has an initial print of 3,500 copies and will be on sale in bookstores here in September.

On how they chose the dishes, the bachelors say they went with food that they enjoy eating which were simple to cook.

They even came up with a catchy mantra on how to make tasty, good-looking food: Season, heighten, tighten and clean.

Mr Adhika explains that as much as a dish should look good, its taste is equally important and seasoning each component ensures every mouthful is well-flavoured.

He adds that dishes should have some height - achieved by topping it with garnish - to enhance the presentation. A tightly put-together dish adds to the visual appeal.

'Finally, fingerprints and smudges on the sides of the plate should be cleaned away,' says Mr Adhika, who took a course in advanced culinary techniques at the French Culinary Institute in New York.

Every recipe ends with instructions on how to garnish and plate the food.

The book took a year to complete, of which six months were spent brainstorming the dishes and testing the recipes. Mr Lin says: 'After Max finished work at the restaurant, we would cook from 1 to about 5am. This would happen almost every day for six months.' Max is Mr Adhika's nickname.

They share a recipe for lemon chicken with corn relish from their cookbook.


A hardcover copy costs $23.99 while a softcover one costs $18.99. There is a 15 per cent discount for online pre-orders until Sept 4.



1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 tsp grated garlic

salt to taste

2 chicken thighs, deboned

1 tbs olive oil

2 thin lemon slices

2 cups fresh or canned corn kernels

Juice from 1 lemon

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

pepper to taste

2 small radishes, thinly sliced

A few sprigs of baby radish sprouts or any type of microgreens (young vegetable shoots)



1. Combine lemon juice, sugar, rice wine vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. Lightly season the chicken thighs by rubbing salt on them.

3. Add olive oil to a medium skillet and sear the chicken thighs, skin side down, over medium heat.

4. After one minute, add the lemon marinade to the chicken.

5. Baste the top of the chicken thighs with the marinade repeatedly for three minutes.

6. Flip the chicken thighs and continue to baste them for another three minutes. When done, set aside.

7. Sear the lemon slices for two minutes in the skillet or until caramelised. Set aside.

8. Blanch the corn kernels in boiling water for one minute, drain, then cool under cold running water for about one minute. Drain thoroughly and set aside.

9. Combine juice from a lemon, lemon zest, extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl.

10. Add the corn kernels and radish and toss to mix well.

11. Spoon the corn relish onto a serving plate, place the lemon chicken over the corn and garnish with microgreens and a slice of seared lemon. Serves two.

STI: Return to the classics

June 21, 2009

Return to the classics

A number of new Chinese restaurants are bringing back time-honoured dishes from the past

By Huang Lijie

After flirting with wasabi prawns, foie gras with Peking duck and other contemporary takes on Chinese food, some restaurants are going back to basics.

No fewer than six eateries such as Tung Lok Classics in Amber Road, which serves traditional Chinese fare, have opened in the last few months. More are joining the fray, including Duo Le, a restaurant chain from China's Shaanxi province opening soon in Orchard Central.

Even established names such as Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant in Keppel Road are offering promotional menus featuring time-honoured Chinese dishes.

Contemporary Chinese cuisine with its East-meets-West cooking and refined presentation might have been the flavour of the month in the past but its novelty has worn off a decade on.

Mr Dennis Wee, 56, chairman of real estate company Dennis Wee Group and a foodie, says he misses 'good old, honest Chinese food' which has been overshadowed in the dining scene here for a while.

Indeed, chef Jereme Leung, 39, founder of the food and beverage consultancy Jereme Leung Creative Concepts, feels that Singaporeans are ready to re-embrace traditional Chinese food.

The consultant chef behind Empress Jade on Mount Faber, which specialises in Singapore's Chinese heritage cuisine, says: 'Many contemporary Chinese restaurants have mushroomed in Singapore since the late 1990s and now is the time when people look back and seek to understand the roots of Chinese cuisine as part of their culture.'

Hence, he included dishes such as paper-wrapped salt-baked chicken and old-fashioned Whampoa fried noodles with prawns and scrambled eggs - popular here from the 1960s to the 1980s - in the menu.

Diner Ken Jung, 58, an engineer, likes the traditional offerings at Empress Jade.

He says: 'The food at Empress Jade brings back old memories and familiar tastes, unlike a meal at a modern Chinese restaurant where guests don't know what to expect.'

Former actor Moses Lim, 60, who runs a gourmet club, says: 'Food trends, like fashion, go in cycles. Modern Chinese food was the 'in' thing, but with promotions such as the Nostalgic Beijing Dishes offer at Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, traditional Chinese food is attracting people's attention again.'

According to Mr Benson Loi, 52, general manager of PFS, the food services arm of the Prima Group which owns the restaurant, the ongoing month-long promotion, which features Beijing delicacies such as cold jelly pork with vegetarian goose, has received over 70 bookings since it started. The offer has also drawn more than 40 tables of walk-in customers.

Response was equally enthusiastic for a two-month classic Sichuan food promotion at modern Chinese restaurant Peach Garden's Thomson Plaza outlet in April and last month, which included tasty treats such as camphor smoked duck and Sichuan hot and sour soup.

Its assistant director for sales and marketing, Mr T.C. Ho, 41, says the restaurant received between 10 and 15 bookings a day for the promotion and adds that there are plans to bring it back on an annual basis.


Truly, this growing appetite for unpretentious and authentic Chinese cuisine was what prompted Ms Ju Wen Jing, 28, and her husband to set up Lao Jiang Shanxi Liang Pi in Lorong 13 Geylang.

She says the northern Chinese food it sells, such as liang pi, a cold noodle dish, and mantou, steamed buns, are popular not just among its customers from China but also among Singaporeans.

That Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant at the Sheraton Towers hotel, which specialises in traditional Cantonese cooking, recently won the World Gourmet Summit's regional Asian Restaurant of the Year award further places classical Chinese food back in the spotlight.

To widen the appeal of these old-fashioned dishes, however, some restaurateurs have taken liberties to update the food without compromising the integrity of its taste.

At Tung Lok Classics, which offers various regional Chinese cuisines, its Shanghainese fish puff - fish meat whipped with egg white, deep-fried then braised in stock - is served in smaller bite-size pieces instead of the usual unwieldy chunks. At the restaurant, it is also paired with noodles instead of being served on its own.

Mr Andrew Tjioe, 51, executive chairman of the group of Tung Lok Restaurants, a forerunner of modern Chinese eateries here, says: 'Singaporeans are well-travelled. Many have been to China, they know what traditional Chinese food tastes like and they expect the same authentic taste to be served in restaurants here.

'Modern Chinese cuisine is definitely here to stay, but for Singapore to be a leading food paradise, we must also have Chinese heritage cuisine.'


If you are looking for classic Chinese food, here are some new restaurants serving up traditional Chinese fare.


Where: 109 Mount Faber Road, The Jewel Box, open: 11.30am to 11pm daily, tel: 6377-9689

What: This restaurant specialises in Singapore's Chinese heritage cuisine, which includes dishes such as paper- wrapped salt-baked chicken ($24) and spinach and pork liver soup with egg white ($8)


Where: 80 Marine Parade Road, Parkway Parade, B1-84D, open: 11am to 11pm daily, tel: 6346-6617

What: As its name suggests, this eatery focuses on Teochew cuisine and highlights include savoury crystal bun filled with chives and shrimp ($2.90), and braised duck with beancurd ($16).


Where: Three outlets, including 154 West Coast Road, West Coast Plaza, B1-48, open: 11.30am to 10pm daily, tel: 6777-9950

What: Comfort local Chinese dishes from the past such as claypot soups (right) and steamed minced pork with salted fish and water chestnut ($8) are on its menu.


Where: Four outlets, including 101 Thomson Road, United Square, 02-02, open: 11am to 10pm daily, tel: 6253-6708

What: This Shanghainese restaurant offers classic treats such as Shanghai-style braised giant meatball ($12.80) and lotus wrapped rice ($13.80).


Where: 201 Keppel Road, open: 11am to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 10.30am to 2.30pm (Sundays), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6272-8822

What: Its Nostalgic Beijing Dishes promotion this month features dishes such as cold jelly pork with vegetarian goose ($25).


Where: 21 Amber Road, Chinese Swimming Club, 02-01, open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 10am to 3pm (Sundays), 6 to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6345-0111

What: Specialises in various Chinese cuisines ranging from Hunan and Shanghainese to Sichuan and Cantonese. Must-tries include sweetened red dates stuffed with glutinous rice ($5) and Shanghai- style braised mian xian with fish puff ($7).

STI: What's hot, what's not

June 21, 2009

What's hot, what's not

New eateries are springing up in new malls from Orchard to Ang Mo Kio. LifeStyle checks them out

By Huang Lijie and Valerie Wang

Tertiary student Pauline Su, 21, found herself walking in dazed circles at Iluma in Victoria Street during lunch time on Tuesday.

She says: 'I didn't know what to eat. There are so many restaurants to choose from and some of them are new brands. It's hard to tell which is good.'

Indeed, as shopping centres debut and old malls revamp their food offerings, a slew of no fewer than 19 new eateries have popped up on the dining scene from Orchard Central to Ang Mo Kio Hub.

Gastronomes salivating over the exciting array of fresh offerings are spoilt for choice.

Will it be an American-style diner for sliders or a fusion restaurant for burgers in Chinese mantou? Or what about a fast- food chain selling Portuguese-style spicy grilled chicken?

Diners whom LifeStyle interviewed say price, ambience and cuisine type are major considerations when picking a new eatery to sup at.

These factors, however, do not provide a reliable indication of the quality of food. Hence, disappointments are par for the course when consumers try out new outlets.

Risk management consultant Gordon Song, 29, takes it all in his stride.

He says: 'It happens a lot that I go to a place expecting the food to be good but it turns out to be mediocre.'

To hedge her bet, polytechnic student Tan Hui Ling, 20, patronises restaurants that are filled with customers.

She says: 'If there are a lot of people in the restaurant, the food is probably not bad.'

To eliminate the guesswork, because no one should be wasting hard-earned money over bad food in these tough times, LifeStyle tells you what is worth eating at recently opened eateries.

Mall offerings


Where: 181 Orchard Road

The soft launch of this swanky new shopping centre is not until next month but some food and beverage outlets have already opened.


Where: 07-06, open: 11am to 11pm daily, tel: 6238-7976

What: This familiar tonkatsu (Japanese deep- fried pork cutlet) restaurant has outlets in Ngee Ann City, Shaw House and Suntec City, but what sets this one apart is its 16-seat outdoor dining area with aerial views of Orchard Road.

The restaurant also boasts a larger range of items than its two other outlets in the Orchard Road belt, including an expanded sushi and sashimi selection as well as tasty grilled morsels such as fugu mirin boshi ($8, above), strips of sun-dried fugu (Japanese for puffer fish) with a honeyed mirin glaze, which is served warm and tender to the bite. Great as an appetiser or as a side dish.

To sweeten the deal, there is an opening discount of 10 per cent on the bill until the end of the month.

Heaven's Loft

Where: 08-01, open: 11am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11am to 1am, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6884-9505

What: Opened by the franchisee for Ben & Jerry's here, this three-in-one restaurant, dessert and bar concept boasts an 80-seat outdoor bar balcony with a stunning view of Orchard Road.

The gem here is the sweet pumpkin ice cream from the restaurant's dessert sampler menu (from $7 for one item to $20 for four items).

Besides a lush, velvety mouth-feel and a naturally sweet flavour, the lingering aroma of roasted pumpkin makes it unforgettable.


Where: 6 Handy Road

This chic-looking condominium located between Plaza Singapura and The Cathay is home to an art gallery and a three-week-old dessert shop, 1 Caramel, by the food and beverage group, One Rochester.

1 Caramel

Where: 01-01A, open: 11am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11 to 1am, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6338-3282

What: This eye-candy of a patisserie is, thankfully, more than just a good-looker. Its Mango Mascarpone ($8.90) is a winsome combination of tangy mango compote with an airy mascarpone cream cheese body and an addictive coconut crumble base. For chocolate lovers, its Chocolate Berry Lust ($8.90), a chocolate ganache tart topped with a medley of berries, will satisfy cocoa cravings.


Where: 201 Victoria Street

This recently opened mall, a magnet for the young and trendy, has no fewer than eight new food and beverage brands that are open.

Ebisboshi Shotengai

Where: 04-08, open: 11am to 10.30pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 11am to 11.30pm, Fridays and Saturdays, tel: 6238-1011

What: This Japanese restaurant boasts seven different brands under its roof, including Teppan No Hoshi, which specialises in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (a savoury pancake), where the ingredients are layered instead of being mixed together like in the more common Osaka-style version.

Its rice cake and cheese okonomiyaki ($12.80) is packed with soft, chewy rice cake slices with a slight char, gooey cheese and layers of yakisoba (fried noodles) and cabbage.

Another must-try is its salmon yukke gunkan ($4), seaweed wrapped sushi topped with marinated salmon and a raw quail's egg. The oozy yolk and chunks of fat-marbled salmon belly are a perfect combination.

Empire State

Where: 04-03, open: 11am to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6238-7076

What: This American-style diner with its pop-coloured decor is good for its generous portions. Its spaghetti Bolognese with giant meatball ($13.90) is not for the faint-hearted, but the juicy, well-seasoned meatball should hit the spot for those who like their meatballs with a fine mince.

Hua Li Xuan Fusion

Where: 04-12, open: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily, tel: 6884-7727

What: Fusion is not a dirty word at this eatery. Its mantou burgers are rather tasty. Get the mini mantou set ($4.80 for three burgers), which offers flavours such as black pepper beef, teriyaki chicken and sweet sour pork, and steamed, fried or garlic buns.

Stick with the baked garlic buns, which are crusty and carry a rounded garlic flavour.


Where: 01-23, open: 10.30am to 11pm, Sundays to Thursdays, 10.30am to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays

What: This is somewhat like a Starbucks for tea and offers Lavender Wilderness (from $6.15), a romantically scented ice frappe brewed from lavender blooms and black tea leaves. If you prefer your tea without milk, opt for its refreshing Arctic Dragon's Brew (from $5.85, left) of oolong tea with yuzu, a tart citrus fruit.


Where: 2 Marina Boulevard

This exclusive condominium shot up in the middle of the CBD half a year ago. Now it has new eateries from Health Fuel Station to more familiar ones like Harry's Bar.

Hokkaido Sandwich and Sashimi

Where: 01-33, open: 9.30am to 11pm daily, tel: 6509-0685

What: The signature bite is the Tarabagani or King Crab Sandwich ($10). Fresh crab meat is mixed with mayonnaise and a special sauce, then made into a sandwich with Japanese white bread. Another must-try is the Ebi Katsu sandwich ($8), with breaded and deep-fried prawns.

Health Fuel Station

Where: 01-31A, open: 8am to 9pm, Mondays to Fridays, 11am to 9pm, weekends, tel: 6509-4955

What: This colourful health food shop offers an array of tasty salads, wraps, juices and smoothies.

The salads (from $7.50) are fresh and are made on the spot. Add another 50 cents to design your own if you know what you want with your greens.

Da Paolo Gastronomia

Where: 01-15, open: 9.30am to 9.30pm daily, tel: 6224-4148

What: The new outlet of the Italian deli chain just opened on Tuesday and offers sandwiches that are not available in the other branches.

The generously portioned roast beef sandwich with mozzarella ($13) on ciabatta bread is tasty and packed with the meat. As the sandwiches are made to order, be prepared to wait a bit during peak hours.


Where: 53 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3

What: This heartland mall opened in 2007 but six food tenants are setting up shop there this month.

My Dessert House

Where: B1-51B, open: 10am to 10pm daily, tel: 9180-9959

What: The ice-cream chendol ($4.50) here is an interesting twist on a favourite dessert, with plump azuki red beans taking the place of the usual smaller ones. The white fungus longan ($3.50) is refreshing for the current hot weather.

Coffee Kaki

Where: B1-51C, open: 7.30am to 10pm daily, tel: 6752-4569

What: With faux-antique chairs and tables with marble tops, this cafe might look like the usual kaya toast joint. But it also offers gourmet sandwiches.

The roasted chicken mayonnaise filling goes nicely with ciabatta or focaccia bread and the set ($4) comes with a cup of local coffee.

Otaru Hokkaido Street Food

Where: B2-32, open: 10am to 10pm daily, tel: 6853-6085

What: The omelette beef rice ($4.60) is delicious. Japanese rice with beef is wrapped in egg and the combination of intriguing spices with a special sauce will leave you wanting more.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

BTO: Cheers!

Business Times - 20 Jun 2009


Tucker or tipple? These establishments combine decent fare with speciality beverages, and should leave both diners and drinkers satisfied

Tawandang Micro Brewery 
26 Dempsey Road, #01-01 
(Opening soon)

BANGKOK is known for its food, beer and entertainment scene, pockets of which are generously sprinkled along its numerous sois. Beginning from sometime over the next few weeks, however, those looking to experience all that need no longer fly to the Thai capital and trawl its streets - they can instead head to the Dempsey area's latest offering, Tawandang Micro Brewery.

This direct-from-Bangkok brand has two outlets in the Thai capital (one in the city on Rama III road and the other on the outskirts) and was voted by Time magazine in 2003 as the 'world's best Thai-German bar and restaurant'. Granted, there can't be many in that genre in the world, but that vote of confidence plus the fact that both the Thai outlets are packed to their 600-strong capacity nearly every night speak volumes about what Tawandang offers.

On the menu (which will probably be somewhat similar here) are dishes that span both Thailand and Germany, which means you can have the house speciality of deep-fried pork knuckles along with coconut-juice-laced tom yam kung, or mixed grilled sausages and Thai spring rolls with crab meat.

To drink, there are beers that are brewed on-site, of which three types are usually available in the Bangkok outlets: German wheat beer, dark lager and pilsner. All are made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law).

They could be just what you need to cool down when the nightly floor show hots things up - Tawandang's entertainment (if it's anything like what it is in Bangkok) ranges from traditional Thai music and dance to magic acts, acrobatics, comedy skits and even breakdancing. Now, who's not going to say cheers to that?

Fiesta Brasilia 
101 Thomson Road 
#B1-15 United Square 
Tel 6250-0108

WHEN S P Semmy started Fiesta Brasilia, the Brazilian churrascaria restaurant, last November, he had a rather ambitious aim: not only should the food be as authentic as that in Brazil, but the drinks list should also mirror those offered in the original churrascarias.

With that in mind and the help of Fiesta Brasilia's general manager Rethish Rajan, Mr Semmy - who founded Singapore's first churrascaria, Brazil Churrascara, 14 years ago on Sixth Avenue - scoured the country to put together a drinks menu that boasts an impressive selection of Brazilian beverages.

'At first we started small, just the traditional cocktails which we make exactly as they do in Brazil, with properly muddled fruits such as the Caipirinha ($11.80) and a list of Brazilian wines ($42 for the house bottle and upwards of $64 for the rest) that are exclusive to us,' says Mr Rajan, adding that the restaurant also stocks a range of Brazilian wines for its regulars which are not listed on the menu due to the small number of bottles brought in.

'But with a greater demand for authentic Brazilian beverages, we started to expand this list and now we have coffee made from Coffex, a brand of Brazilian beans exclusive to us, and a range of other alcohol such as Brazilian brandy which we use in Cafe Brasilia Royale ($11.90), an after-meal coffee drink with liqueur.'

The restaurant has also just launched the Fiesta Mojito ($11.90) which is made using a Brazilian rum called Cacha├ža, and will go on to introduce an extensive range of Brazilian beers ($9.80 per bottle) by the end of the month.

'Cocktails like caipirinhas and mojitos are popular with our clients because they make good aperitifs, opening up the stomach for all that meat,' says Mr Rajan. 'As for the beers, at the moment we only have the Nova Schin, a light pilsner that has been such a hit with our customers, we knew we had to bring in more. Brazilian beers are popular because they are lighter, fruitier and fresher, so they go better with our food.'

The restaurant's signature food, of course, is the classic churrascaria fare of an eat-all-you-want, on-the-go Rodizio that boasts more than 10 different kinds of tasty, well-roasted meats including beef, pork, lamb and fish, guaranteed to make any meat lover's day.

The additional offerings of soup, salads, pastas and ice cream make the buffet extra value for money although a la carte options are also available.

Mr Rajan says that the restaurant will continue to evolve based on churrascaria trends in Brazil. 'The reason why we have a pasta bar in Fiesta Brasilia is because many churrascaria restaurants in Brazil have one now,' he says. 'We are looking to add a sushi bar because that is the next big thing there now. It also gives guests a wide range of variety while dining at Fiesta because we are more than just meat.'

The Rodizio costs $21.80+ for lunch and $38+ for dinner on weekdays, and $40+ on weekends.


25 Church Street 
#01-02 Capital Square Three 
Tel 6438-1656

LIKE a desert plant that has sprouted out of practically nothing, Agave (which very appropriately refers to the hardy plant from which tequila is produced) sprung up in Capital Square quite by chance.

'We were previously a beer joint, but the landlord requested that we change our concept because they wanted some variety in the tenant mix,' says its managing director, Charles Guerrier, who is also behind Oosters, the well-known Belgian brasserie along the same stretch. 'It so happened that I have a friend who's a Mexican chef who was willing to cook for us, so we turned it into a Mexican place.'

While Agave may have come about by the bye, that doesn't mean the owners aren't cultivating the establishment properly. The restaurant-bar, which opened in February and takes up two shophouses along a nice restaurant-lined stretch, offers authentic Mexican fare courtesy of Mr Guerrier's pal, Angeles Herrero, who helped set up Cafe Iguana when that first opened. The chef also runs an established home catering business and a small but well-known taco bar at Changi Business Park.

On the good-sized menu are things like generously-stuffed enchiladas topped with home-made salsa (from $15.50 for the grilled chicken version), sizzling fajitas (from $15.50) and yummy cheesy quesadillas (from $12). Nearly everything is decent, although we found the red hot ribs ($17.50) to be more sweet than fiery and rather gristly.

If you can't decide what to have, spring for the Mexican mixed platter ($25) that's laden with mini chicken tacos, slices of hot shitake mushroom quesadillas, tortilla chips with home-made dips and cute beef sopes that resemble petite quiches.

Of course, any place named after a tequila plant had better be worth its salt (or salt-rimmed margaritas), and the drinks list at Agave should satisfy most. Alongside a list of spirits, wine and beer, there are about 15 types of tequilas served here by the glass and bottle, with prices that range from $9 for a glass of Jose Cuervo Especial to $900 for a bottle of Patron Platinum.

For those who prefer their drinks a little more subtle, there's the milkshake-tasting Tequila Rose Cream liqueur ($8 per glass) or the smooth Agavero liqueur ($8 per glass), which is also reputed to have aphrodisiac properties. 'What we have ranges from the basic levels to some very good premium tequilas,' says Mr Guerrier, who admits to having become 'a bit of a fan' after going through numerous tastings.

Thanks to a 'good pick-up' in business since its opening, the concept that began by chance will be consciously grown in future, say the owners. For now though, it's just the one outlet, so go early if you're there for dinner and don't fancy sitting in the stifling heat - there are only three proper dining tables within the restaurant; the rest of the furniture comprises either high tables and chairs, or outside seating.