Hidden away in the corner of the tangle of interweaving shop spaces of the Pasar Bella market is the new shop offering a neat selection of chocolates, pralines and bonbons. Behind Anjali Chocolat, is lady boss Anjali and her supportive husband who together have decided to open up a Chocolatier to fuel her passion and love for this luxury good.
Made from Belgian couverture, consumers are guaranteed a spike in quality, further enhanced by the creative juices of Anjali as she injects bits and pieces of herself and her vivid travel and living experiences from around the world into the flavors of the chocolate. Her exposure to a large hotpot of cultures clearly evident in her inspired use of a wide variety of spices and fruits in her pralines.
After a good amount of sacrilegious feasting on chocolates and a glass of sparkling white to top off the experience; I had gathered a list of chocolates that had caught my fancy. The Lemon White Chocolate Pistachio with it's pristine slick sides and marbled green top managed to balance out the slightly medicinal pistachio with a subtle tang from the lemon, the sweetness of the white chocolate carrying it home. The exotic Fig and Ginger Truffle resulting in an explosion in the mouth with the crunch of the fig seeds combined with the sugary hit of warmth from the candied ginger. A match made in heaven and delivered with strong persuasive powers. Worth lusting for is the Coffee Star Anise Bonbon; if you enjoy your liquorice (or Sambuca in my case), this chocolate delivers on every front, the star anise not as pungent as most would anticipate, but more subtle and almost mysterious. That aside, the fruit flavored bonbons failed to meet the mark, the strawberry and raspberry pate de fruit in both instances, represented by clumsy layers within the pralines. More attention to detail needed in this case.
In line with Diwali, Anjali Chocolatier has launched a list of attractive seasonal flavors which is not available for ordering. On hindsight, who doesn't like receiving chocolate? Whatever the occasion may be, chocolates will always win you some favors. So what are you waiting for?
Farm cosy, Miner's nightmare or Snow Cabin; I can't quite put my finger on the description for the decor at Tolido's Espresso Nook. But one thing's for sure, the sight of textured wood with its uneven shades makes me feel at ease. So, in calling it a nook, that's just genius.
Founded by Mr Douglas Tan who has roots stemming from his previous venture at the Omni Theatre, his experience is represented by an large the queues and crowds at his former outlet. By word of mouth (and evidently from its'flower stamped instagram feed), Tolido's has become a go-to venue for fancy latte art and a solid cup of coffee with beans hailing from Yahava. The latter fact, the cause of some innate impartiality prior to my visit.
My Latte ($5.50), though a tad expensive, was big on flavors, underscored by a rich woody earthy profile befitting of the snug surroundings.
My companion ordered the Bacon Mushroom Aglio Olio ($9.50) while I floated between a few options till settling for the Norwegian Smoked Salmon Scrambled Eggs ($15.90). The former was a predictable plate of pasta that fell short of expectations, appearing lacklustre when it reached the table; only to reveal a pool of olive oil residing at the bottom of the bowl later. A couple of seconds more in the pan with a gentle tossing motion would have created a more desirable coating of oil with gentle nuances of nuttiness from the browning on this simple dish. As for my dish, the eggs were perfectly cooked, not the best of course, but sided by a sweet, tang and cheesy tomato au gratin, ciabatta studded with grains and a salad, there was nothing to complain about. The generous serve of smoked salmon adds considerable layers of flavor complexity and eating variations with each and every bite.
During our short stay over at the cafe, we noticed the large amounts of office crowds drawn over for a quick lunch and a caffeine jolt. Attracted by the decent pricing and comfortable settings, it gives them somewhat of a quiet respite away from the drudgery of work till stepping out into the blinding mid-day heat once again. As for me, will I be back again? Only if I'm in the vicinity of course.
Even restaurant-clogged Singapore has its food deserts, neighorboods where dining destinations (Good ones I mean) are like finding a needle in a haystack. But as restaurateurs seek out less-expensive and less saturated areas, a few are coming to life. Take the swath of land straddling Lavender and Jalan Besar, after the move-in of coffee institution Chye Seng Huat, several other cafes have followed suite, Windowsill Pies, Tiramisu Hero and the Bravery for example want in on the piece of action. Yet, with that much talk generated about these wild children, Babette still remains under the radar.
To quench my thirst after having traverse the neighborhood by foot, I ordered the Yuzu Beer ($14) a refreshing pint of beer that appeared to be tinted with a glorious bit of sunshine. As I worked through the pint slowly, every bit was as sweet and tangy as the last, a possible incentive to order this drink as there is no need to rush through it as you do with most beers.
The starter of Grilled Octopus Salad ($17) consists of Mediterranean octopus braised in Japanese sauce and served with fresh garden greens; while its vibrancy garners attention, it doesn't do much to charge the palate for the plates ahead. The piquant citrus dressing with orange segments not tantamount to the slightly chewy octopus that hadn't managed to pick up the sweetness of the braising liquids.
Owner Darren Wee ( who also happens to be a Radio DJ on 98.7fm) explains that the menu at Babette is reflective of his personality and cravings at the moment. "Take for example the roasted avocado, I've been dreaming about it a whole lot and would want it to be incorporated in more future menu items.", even playfully accepting my challenge to do a chocolate avocado pairing for desserts! Here, the food transcends words or boundaries... so lend a hand to your imagination and enjoy the loud, raucous and seemingly bizarre array of dishes.
Somewhat similar to the Babette movie experience, the first few courses were sleep inducing. Charred Cauliflower ($8) with yuzu veloute attempts to dazzle with its rare presence as a starter on its own at the table but honestly could use a touch more seasoning.The buttered soup base had a bisque like quality to it but needed a little more acidity.
This was followed closely by the Roasted Avocado ($12) stuffed with Aburi Salmon and diced tomatoes. Each bite with all the elements on the fork mellows out to a sweet creamy briny finish from the salmon.
Entrees continues without a hot streak of goodness, the Confit Salmon & Soba ($17) looking every bit as unappetizing with the confit salmon that appeared tampered with (not in a good way), the white edges and absence of healthy pink acting as red lights to the hopes of perfectly cooked fish. The soba noodles on the other hand were nicely seasoned with a light touch of dashi and Japanese herbs, that with the tamago served on the side were the saving grace of the dish.
Another instagram darling of the restaurant is the Steak and Foie Gras Donburi ($28), where deliciously salty marbled cut sirloin steak is paired with creamy foie gras and drizzed with the signature babette sauce. I liked the doneness of the steak, it's ruby red innards giving the impression that it was under-done, however, this is probably due to the sous vide technique which has resulted in an out-of-this-world succulent flesh with a nice crust developed from a quick sear in the pan. The one shortfall, was the foie gras which was cooked to the point that it was chalky and very unpalatable.
Affordable entrees include the Duck Confit Donburi ($28) which features a generously portioned duck confit sitting atop a bed of sushi rice, flanked by homemade pickles. A good option for people looking to have French fare and yet still have their dependable form of carbohydrate, rice.
Seeing that plans for the remainder of the night were beginning to take shape, I rev-ed up the engines once more with Babette ($16), a refreshing sour mix of passionfruit, lemon , mint and gin. This simple concoction all comes together so unexpectedly and right that it's easy to work through one too many during your visit. So be warned.
Before concluding your meal at Babette, be sure to order the Matcha infused White Chocolate fondant ($12 ) , judicious with sugar and complimented by the bitter grassy notes of Japanese Matcha powder, the lava cake is sure to steal the limelight and is best eaten with vanilla ice cream with premium azuki beans on the side. Simply sublime.
Babette's cuisine may adopt a mild sense of weirdness, however, with direction and leadership from owner, Darren, this destination cashes in on a whole unique attitude of a disregard for food trends, which has proven useful in setting it apart from other diners in the area. Definitely a place worth checking out (especially so for the lava cake.)
The years have fleeted by since my last attempt at a recipe post. However, due a change of circumstances, cooking has become more a viable option for me due to my 'dietary restrictions' (preferences more likely), and in order to make ends meet, sometimes one has to pick up the ole' whisk and ladle and get down and dirty.
In this edition of #SSkitchendisasters, S and I made our first attempt at our most critical subject, the ultimate burger, making everything from scratch in our tiny and insanely steamy kitchen. And this is what we came up with: Beef patty, caramelised onions, rocket, blue cheese sauce on homemade brioche buns. All this flanked by a side serve of chunky crisp spam fries and Sriracha mayonnaise.
Raising our bottles of Aspall's Imperial Cider to our lips, we ate like kings, lavishing in all the love on the plates. Then we tucked into the Hokkaido Cheesecake that I had slaved over earlier and peace was restored.
Recipe for the Brioche Burger buns are below in the case you want to go the extra mile in recreating your own Burger Night. Give it a go!
Let me first make a disclaimer; Chinese cuisine and it's intricacies are not and never will be my forte, hence my opinions are entirely subjective and very personal. But nevertheless, being an experimental diner, I was more than thrilled to be invited to Mouth Restaurant to taste the Treasure Pot Feast 九大簋盆菜.
Priced at just $31.80++/person for a party of 6-9 pax, the number scoops down to a low of $29.80++ when you round up more than 10 people for the feast. All this for a palatial and ostentatious 9 course meal fit for a king (promo last till 15th Dec'14). Story goes that the Treasure Pot Feast was invented in close resemblance to the common man's poon choi, but this one done with lavish intent.
We started off the meal with Steamed Shanghai Hairy Crab. Note that this was a replacement to the usual Suckling pig as denoted on the usual Treasure Pot Feast menu; however, Mouth Restaurant is currently having some promotion sets for the hairy crab that are worth checking out. Digging into the cream, roe-infested flesh of this hairy crustacean does set the tone for the meal. Succeeding in gearing the palate up for some culinary pampering.
The Early Days Shark Fin Soup was a well executed version with the extra bells and whistles contributed by the fine shreds of deep fried wanton skins placed on the side that provided texture; the brightening jolt of acid from the vinegar highlighting the affair.
The next dish is an ode to a classic old school dish of prawn toast. The Nostalgic Whole Prawn given a twist with the emergence of whole prawns instead of the conventional prawn mince used to adorn the normally dry door stopper like tiny toasts. A clever reinvention, revealing a dish that I'm sure would steal the hearts of the young and old alike.
The chef's fine-dining chops show on such preparations such as the Sauteed Asparagus with wild mushrooms in truffles. Heady with the aroma of the forest floor wafting through the dining room, I relinquished in the expert execution of this dish, from the crunchy asparagus to the tangle of mushrooms, all this gleaming from a thin coat of oil that gave the dish visual impact.
The next plate featured the traditional braised 'pi-pa' tofu. Deftly shaped in soup spoons, these elegant parcels of silken tofu, minced pork and prawn and other condiments were the epitome of Chinese comfort food emerging in more exquisite forms. It was delicious, enhanced by a crusty exterior that allowed for the salty brown sauce lathered over the top to adhere to it.
The star player of the line-up was undoubtedly the HK Temple Street claypot rice, that true to its form showed up in jaw-drop worthy moments as the gargantuan claypot lid was lifted up. It is a pleasant mix of tender juicy chicken, rice and other proverbial goodies. Dig into this with a generous dash of the garlic vinegar sauce for maximum utility.
But for me, the best dish of the day had to be the Sauteed Basil Grouper in 3 cups sauce. It's sprawling mermaid like stance in the deep bowl revealing hunks of meaty grouper lightly tossed in soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and Thai basil. I chopstick-ed my way through the cascading pyramid of succulent fish, followed bravely alongside Li Tian (dairy&cream) who gamely wrestled the fish head and carcass. Like a boss.
My least favourite dish of the spread came in the form of Braised trio Sea Treasure in Abalone sauce. Since I was not a big fan of either 魚鰾 or 海参, I struggled to find common grounds with the rest of the diners dishing out nothing but praises for this hot plate of delicacies.
Given how impressive the savouries were, we were looking forward to the desserts. The Double Boiled Ginger Tea with Glutinous Rice Balls did not disappoint; I sank deep into the recesses of my seat as I revelled in the warm syrupy sweetness of the ginger tea, the ridiculous burst of flavor from the sesame glutinous rice balls helping to break the monotony.
And if you're not watching your weight, keep a lookout for the cholesterol -busting Baked Salted Egg Yolk Buns. Fragrant, rich salted egg yolk custard is encased in flavorful pastry with a crisp top. Decadence that would cost you another hour on the treadmill if you're addicted. Don't say I didn't warn you. The Squid Ink Char Siew buns are a novelty item that is worth saving some tummy room for too.
Belgian Beer Cafe
Rostang at the Atlantis
Almaz by Momo
Le Pain Quotidien
Lime Tree Cafe
Fundamentally-flawed is Lee Sihan. 26 going on 27, she is a dessert enthusiast,
food nomad, wanderer of lands and a pastry chef currently working in Sydney.
Fueled by a lifelong addiction to all things sweet, and a burning desire to travel the globe
follow her as she embarks on delicious escapades both in and out of the kitchen