Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Galbiati Gourmet Deli, Rail Mall

With the opening of Downtown Line 2, foodies now have easier access to many previously hard to reach places (unless you get a cab that is). One of these places is the Rail Mall near Bukit Timah (5 minutes walk from Hillview Station). This reason this place is called the Rail Mall is because the mall is situated next to the former KTM train track. For those who are more adventurous, they can actually bike here via the green corridor though a good and proper mountain bike is highly recommended.

Back to the Rail Mall, there are actually quite a few eateries here though most of it are the run of the mill stuff like Eat Noodles, Cedelé etc. Oh, they even have Bao Xiang the string tied bah kut teh here and also Teck Kee Chicken Rice. Though I will not travel all the way out to Bukit Timah for chicken rice and BKT. The reason I am here is a quaint little Italian eatery called Galbiati Gourmet Deli.

This restaurant is owned by an Italian chef. This restaurant prides itself by using the freshest ingredients available and all the food here is made from scratch. Everything from bread, pastry, cakes etc. Yes, this means fresh pasta, which is quite difficult to find at the price point they are offering.

Like any true blue Italian restaurant, we were given some complimentary bread to start of our meal. I am glad to announce that true to the restaurant's claim, the bread was fresh and fluffy. Perfect for dipping into olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.

For starters, I ordered the soup of the day, which happened to be clear mushroom soup (S$8.00++) for that day. Creamy mushroom soup are a dime a dozen in most western eateries. It is quite rare to get clear mushroom soup. Making clear mushroom soup is actually easier than making cream of mushroom. All you need is a good broth and the freshest mushrooms you can get. The soup served did not disappoint on both counts. Mushrooms were not over boiled. You can still taste that little bit of crunchiness and chewiness in them. The slight "woody" taste is complimented perfectly by the flavourful broth. Not a hint of MSG in it and definitely no need to down glasses of San Pelligrino after the soup.

For the main course we decided on Spinach Tagliatelle tossed with Mushrooms and Pancetta in Cream Sauce(S$18++) and Braised Lamb Shank(S$24++) with mash and vegetables.

First the Tagliatelle. As the chef like to emphasise, the food here are all freshly made from scratch hence the spinach pasta is no exception. The pasta is cooked perfectly al dente and goes really well with the mushroom and pancetta. The cream is not to overpowering, balancing out the saltiness of the pancetta.

The lamb shank is braised in home made tomato based sauce together with the vegetables to perfection. The meat falls of the bone with minimal effort with the fork. There is just the right amount of sourness in the sauce to balance out the meat. The mash is silky smooth and compliments the dish nicely.

For this meal we did not order any dessert. Servings here are actually quite generous and we were full after the mains. All in all, it was quite a satisfying meal and worth the travelling. It is quite difficult to get authentic, non pretentious Italian fare at this price point in Singapore.

Address : The Rail Mall, 400 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 678050.

Post Script:

As mentioned, The Rail Mall is actually situated next to the former KTM Railway line that runs all the way to the old Tanjong Pagar Train Station. After lunch, one can actually go for stroll on the green corridor. There is even an undisturbed railway section and bridge with sleepers, ballasts (the stones) and all. I would highly recommend anyone who have not being there to experience it before the upgrading works commences on the green corridor.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Arkadas Café, Fusionopolis

Firstly, let me wish everyone a Happy 2016.

I have not being updating this space for quite some time due to some personal commitments over the pass months. Since this is a New Year, what better time than to reactivate this space.

People say that a new year often brings new experience. This could had been more true when my sister arranged a meet up with our god sister yesterday at one-north on Sunday. I have passed by Fusionopolis many a times when travelling along the AYE but have never been there. Being a weekend, that place were basically deserted. There were many eateries there but only a few were opened. Amongst those were the mainstream fares like Ya Kun and Pastamania which did not pique our interest. My sister did some googling and decided on Arkadas Café, a Turkish joint ran by a real Turkish man. Not the easiest to find though. When we got off the MRT, the directory states that it is situated at Level 3. Took the escalator up, could not find it. Went to the information counter and was told that they have relocated to the building opposite. It took another enquiry at the security guard counter of the building to locate the restaurant. It is actually tucked away at the opposite end of the building.

The first thing you would notice about this quaint restaurant is that there is a very down to earth feel to it. No pretentious decorations. Just some Turkey tourism posters adorning the walls. We were greeted by the very friendly owner who speaks a sputtering of English. Since it was a weekend and I would had imagined that the bulk of the business would be the office lunch crowd, there were only 2 other tables that were occupied. One by a family and another table by 2 friends. Both tables were of course, Turkish or of Mediterranean decent. I guess not many people would travel to this part of the island for authentic Turkish fare.

The friendly owner (sorry, didn't got your name) went to great lengths to explain the menu to us. We decided to start our lunch off with the appetiser platter. It comes with a combination of Baba Ganoush, Hummus, stuffed brinjal, a piece of feta cheese and stuffed grape leaf. The most interesting item in this platter is the stuffed grape leaf. Basically it is the grape leaf is stuffed with rice and rolled into a tube. It taste a bit like lotus leaf rice but we can eat the leaf. The goat cheese was good too as it was not over powering. The Baba Ganoush served here is a bit different from what we use to get. Instead of a creamy consistency like hummus, you can still see the caramelised chunks of brinjals in this. It's a bit like chutney if you or savoury preserve if you may.

The appetiser platter is served with a serving of freshly made turkish bread, perfect for dipping into the humus and baba ganoush.

The first main course that we ordered was the Izgara Kofte or Meatball Kofte. The kofte is served with a side salad, some onions, a grilled green chilli and butter rice. The ratio of spices and meat in the meatballs were just perfect with one complementing the other. They were grilled to perfection, succulent and juicy.

Next 2 main courses were quite similar. The first was a dish of minced lamb in tomato sauce and yoghurt. The second was sliced doner kebab in tomato and yoghurt sauce. According to the menu, these 2, especially the lamb dish, are very traditional turkish dish that one would find in any Turkish home. We were new to these dishes and we actually quite like it. The slight sourness of the tomato sauce and yoghurt balanced out the meat perfectly making this a surprisingly refreshing dish. The 2 dishes can actually be eaten on its own like a stew but top some of it on the butter rice or dip some bread into it, makes it a perfect meal.

Minced lamb in tomato sauce and yoghurt

Sliced doner kebab in tomato sauce and yoghurt

For the dessert, we were recommended something called the kunefe. This is actually a pastry dish made from something called shredded phyllo dough which resembles bee hoon. The shredded dough is mixed with cheese to make a round shaped pastry. The finished product looks like a cake of bee hoon. Well, it actually does taste like a sweet pastry made of bee hoon and topped with cheese.

As a summary, we did enjoy the lunch experience there. For one it is quite difficult to find authentic Turkish cuisine in Singapore. There are a few in Arab Street area though those are authentic, they can be quite pretentious and pricey. From the photos, you can tell that the food here is actually quite down to earth. No fancy platting and stuff. Heck, look at the appetiser platter it seems like the kitchen just plonked the stuff onto a plate without much thought (I am not saying it is a bad thing). Price wise I would say it is of the moderate range. A meal for 5 adults and 2 children came up to approximately S$140. There are a few other dishes that I did not review as I did not try it (mainly the standard sis kebab, baked rice and doner kebab pita wrap). The question is will I purposely travel all the way to one north again to visit Arkadas Café? Well, I definitely would if I have a very strong craving for Turkish fare. After all, it's not too inaccessible with the MRT.

Address : 1, Fusionopolis View, #01-02, Sandcrawler, Singapore

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ramadan Bazaar, Geylang Serai

For one month every year, our Muslim brothers and sisters will fast from sunrise till sunset. This is known as the holy month of Ramadan. For muslims, this is a time of spiritual reflection and of devotion. One of the fixtures during the Ramadan, both in Malaysia and Singapore, would be the bazaars that pop up in many places. These are the places where most of our Muslim brothers and sisters will buy food for breaking fast. Of course, these bazaars also draw in non-muslim crowds eager to sample Malay street food. This year, I decide to visit a bazaar in Singapore for the first time in my 3 years here. I picked the largest one in the island, which is the situated in Geylang Serai.

The first thing that caught my eye is how huge the bazaar is. Unlike most of the more popular ones in Malaysia, instead of only selling food, there are a lot of stalls that sells other wares too, from clothing to mobile accessories. There are even the odd fair stalls offering games and prizes.

Food wise, there seems to be a unusually large concentration of Ramly burger stalls here. Every corner you turn to you will be greeted by the familiar whiff of burger patties sizzling on a cast iron plate. For the uninitiated, Ramly is a famous local burger patty producer. More often than not, the patties are wrapped in an expertly made thin omelette.
Potential customers browsing through the wares on offer

Ramlee Burger Artisan

Besides burgers, these stalls usually sell another kind of bread known locally as "Roti John" or John's bread. I do not know how this name came about but apparently this is the what you get when you grill an elongated bun spread with a mixture of beaten egg and mince meat on a cast iron plate. By the way, the best Roti John is still in Tengkera, Melaka (that's for another story). Since it had been quite some time ago since I had a good Roti John, I decided to give this a try. Not really up to expectations as the amount of cheese and barbecue sauce that they put in overpowered the other flavours. A good Roti John would be a balance of flavours of the fried egg, mince meat and other condiments. Who the hack put cheese and barbecue sauce in Roti John anyways. Well, apparently in Singapore. 

Dinner - Roti John
Besides the burger stalls, you will get stalls selling a variety of fried food and noodles.

Shut up and take my money :)
Otak-otak is aplenty here too. Otak-otak is made of blended mixture of fish meat and other spices wrapped in banana leaf. It is then grilled over an open fire grill. The term "otak" means brain in Malay language and I think this food got its name from its brain matter like appearance.
Literally translated, the sign say "Self caught fish", which I really doubt it.

One thing you won't usually get in bazaars in Malaysia are halal Chinese food. Here you will find things like stuffed you tiao, char kaoy teow and even sharks fin soup. Truely a harmonious society, aye? The photo below is of a vendor selling a delicacy that is usually reserved for Chinese New Year, Bakkwa aka barbecued dried meat. For CNY usually it is always pork but here, for obvious reasons, beef and chicken are order of the day.

Halal Bakkwa
So, as a conclusion, I find that the bazaars here might be huge, but lack a certain oomph. Food stalls are repetitive. Instead of traditional Malay fare like Soto, Briyani, Nasi Dagang, Ayam Percik etc, you get things that are of other origins trying to be Halal. Hack, there even more than 5 takoyaki stalls before I decided to stop counting. When it comes to Ramadan bazaar, Malaysia still holds the edge, even though our football sucks.

One of the more exotic and exciting finds - Fried Quills 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Throwback - O&S Coffee Shop, Sea Park, Petaling Jaya

I was browsing through my photographs and found these photos. The photos were taken at O&S Coffee Shop, a food court that is quite famous in Petaling Jaya. The difference of this coffee shop compared with other a dime a dozen coffee shops is that all the stalls here are manned by locals instead of foreign workers. Choices are quite aplenty here. They have stalls selling, Char Kaoy Teow, Assam Laksa (some claim the best in Petaling Jaya), Fish Head/Seafood Noodles, Sam Kan Zhuong Pork Noodles, Nasi Lemak, Wan Ton Noodles etc.

The following are some of the highlights of this coffee shop:

Yong Tau Foo
O&S is a must visit for me whenever I am back in KL and the Yong Tau Foo here is a must have for me whenever I am here. For the uninitiated,Yong Tau Foo literally translated means stuffed bean curd. However, now the term is loosely used to described any kind of food (Okra, lady finger, etc) stuffed with fish paste.  At RM1.20 per piece, it is not cheap in any sense of the word. However, you get what you pay for. Made from pure parang fish paste, there is no hint of any additive in it. Hence, the texture is not like those super springy fake fishball. If I may, there is even a hint of fishiness in it (in a good way).

Chee Cheong Fun
A good companion for the yong tau foo would be the chee cheong fun. Chee Cheong Fun are made of steamed sheets of rice noodles. There are 2 options available here. One is with curry chicken and the other is Penang style which is flavoured with prawn paste sauce, sweet sauce and chili sauce, sprinkled with some sesame seed and cooking oil. (Hint : ask for the sauce to be served on the side to adjust to own taste).

Char Kaoy Teow
The Char Koay Teow (stir fried flat rice noodles) here is one of the best in Klang Valley. It is not too oily and it is not too salty. From the photo you can tell that the cook did not over kill on the soy sauce which is a good thing. Crunchy bean sprouts cooked to perfection is an added bonus. If you are in the an adventurous mood, order yours fried with duck eggs instead of regular chicken eggs.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of the good food available here. One can only order so much for breakfast. I will introduce other dishes when I revisit this place again.

39, Jalan 20/14, Taman Paramount, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ikkousha Hakata Ramen, Chijmes, Singapore

Ramen, staple of the working class Japanese. Like making an omelette or egg fried rice, making a bowl of ramen is not difficult. However, it is not easy to make a bowl of good ramen. The springyness of noodles, the intensity of the broth, the consistency of the chasu, must all come together. 

Since its humble beginning in Fukuoka, Ikkousha had expended into a chain of 8 outlets in Japan and 22 outlets overseas. 3 of the 22 outlets are in Singapore. I recently visited their latest outlet located in the refurbished Chijmes. Seating place here is a bit cramped, maybe to emulate the confined spaces of Japanese cities, but in no ways uncomfortable. In some eateries, you get peanuts or some finger food for appetizers. Here you get a basket of hard boiled eggs and you can have as many as you like.  

Appetizers - Hard boiled eggs


Ordering here is no frills. You get an order chit and you tick what you want. The good thing about this place is that even though the menu is not extensive (basically of consisting of various type of tonkatsu), customers is able to customize the texture of the noodle from soft to very hard (sounds a bit obscene) and the taste of the broth in 3 levels (light, normal and Japanese taste). I would also recommend that you go for the large portion for an extra S$1 as the portions are not too big. I went for the light one and it was already potent enough. I would not recommend to go Japanese on this. If you check their Facebook page, there is a competition of the spiciness level going on if you order the spicy tonkatsu. Apparently, the record now is Level 13. 

I do not know much about ramen, but apparently the one served here is the Hakata variety Tonkatsu ramen.
The broth (as I mentioned earlier I went for the light version) is quite agreeable to my palette. Not the super heavy broth that you get in some of the wannabes ramen outlets. According to my server, even if I ordered the normal or Japanese style, the consistency of the broth will still be the same just that the chef will add in more secret recipe sauce into the broth, hence increasing the saltiness.

The noodle itself is springy and chewy. Just nice that you can slurp it in without wanting to bite it halfway, like how you are supposed to eat a bowl of ramen. It does not feel like you are eating a pile of overcooked goo.

The Chasu is made of thinly sliced lean pork belly. Not too thick the cut hence it does not overshadow the noodles and other condiments. You can tell that the chef uses the freshest and best cut of pork that he can find. No dreaded freezer after taste which one tend to get from some ramen outlets (namely Ajisan ramen and mind you, the prices are not too far apart).

A Satisfying meal here would cost you a little south of S$20 which isn't too much taking into account the quality of food you are getting. A meal at Menya Mushashi Ramen might cost you a few bucks less but I am telling you, the taste of sodium bicarbonate in their noodles is overwhelming. I would highly recommend this place if you happen to be near any of its 3 outlets.

Changi Terminal 3, #B2-58 (Inside Ramen Champion)

Block 7, Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #01-104, Singapore

30, Victoria Street, #F1-07, Chijmes, Singapore

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Forty Hands, Tiong Bahru

After the disappointment of breakfast, I need something to cheer me up. May and Tim had planned to have late lunch at Forty Hands, a cafe at Hipster Central that is Tiong Bahru. This was my first visit to Tiong Bahru. Even though I have heard about that area's hipsterness I did not know it was that hipster. At the same road I count 5, maybe 6 hipster cafes, one hipster book store, one hipster provision shop, one hipster curtain and sheets shop, saw one girl shooting with a hipster twin lens reflex camera and me shooting with a digitalized OM camera. Forty Hands is tuck away amongst all these amongst Yong Siak Street. Blk 78 to be exact. The entrance is quite unassuming. You will miss it if you don't look hard enough. 

Open the door and you will be greeted by deco that screams Hipster. Quirky posters, graffiti and the like. I was also surprised by the crowd since it was already late lunch. Quite difficult to get a table but managed to get one by the door.

Hipster Graffiti
Hipster Poster
Hipster Coffee Cabinet

After settling down, we proceed to order. First and foremost, Forty Hands would like to remind you that this is a coffee place. They show their seriousness by having an espresso machine with 3 presses. Since it was a hot day, May and I ordered the iced latte($6.50). Glad to report that the coffee here is as good as they claim it to be. Apparently the boss here have a distributorship of coffee called Common Man Coffee and they use the same beans. The balance between the steamed milk and espresso is just nice. There is a strong yet not overpowering taste and the after taste lingers around with just the right amount. A bit on the fruity side but one of the best iced latte I have tried. Tim said he had enough coffee and decided to get a Mandarin orange flavoured Mexican soda.
Hipster Barista at Work
Iced Latte

The food. Tim and I ordered the same thing. Eggs Benedict served with roasted potatoes($16). This place claims that all the ingredients used here are organic and they even plant their own herbs in the backyard. Our eggs ben consist of pouched egg, organic shoulder bacon, baby spinach all stacked on top of a soft muffin. There are actually 2 versions of eggs benedict here the other being the steak version.

Eggs Benedict
Yes, my dear Sith Kith Cafe, this is how pouched eggs should look like. Pouched for the right amount of time, drained properly and the sides trimmed. The pouched eggs are nicely done. It goes just nice with the Hollandaise sauce, all easily soaked up by the English muffin. Whereas most eggs ben use rockets as their greens, the spinach is a nice twist.   

How pouched eggs consistency should look like.
May ordered something that I have forget its name. Basically it is pouched egg served with sautéed mushrooms and truffle($17). Presentation is nice served in a Chinese soup bowl (those used for double boiled soup) which is placed on a plank with 2 pieces of toast. Basically, you mix the content of the bowl and eat it with the toast.
Pouched eggs served with mushroom and truffle

I have never been a huge dessert person. They have a weird selection of desserts but my attention was caught by the Onde Onde cupcakes and the Chendol cupcakes. Sounds super weird but challenge accepted. Ordered one each to share.   

The chendol cupcake really contained chendol and if you dig deeper, there is actually red bean and gula melaka. Like a bowl of real chendol. As for the onde onde cupcake, there really are shaved coconut inside it and a layer of gula melaka (I somehow managed to not take a photo of it). Tasted weird but in a good way. Since the fillings are already quite sweet, they are actually smart enough not to sweeten the cake too much. So, glas to report that the overall sweetness of the cupcakes are at the acceptable level.

Really got chendol
 A visit here more than made up the disappointment that I have over breakfast. I have always said that to run an F&B establishment, you will only succeed when you are passionate about making good food. This establishment oozes the passion of the owners. It starts off by using the freshest and best ingredients you can get. Whereas at the Kith Cafe, you get the feeling that the owner is just trying to sell as many plates of lousy breakfast as they can. Hence, "the everything here is standard, Sir" statement. The difference, can't be more profound.

P.S. After giving your body sustenance, feel free to pop by Books Actually opposite to feed your mind. It has quite a selection of rare books, especially by local authors.