Kuvo Restaurant – Orchard, Singapore

KUVO is a new multi-concept restaurant/bar/lounge by TCC located right next to Somerset 313 with a lot less crowd than its neighbour. It was opened recently, with its name KUVO derived from the French term cuvée, which means blended batch of wines. This was clearly evident with the extensive wine chiller at the back of the restaurant and a fusion mix of Asian and Western fare. The ambience of the place is a rather fancy, spacious and sleek look with a sepia colour theme. Even the Athena cutlery exuded elegance. KUVO would be a great date or special events venue.

The KUVO Coffee Hot Wings ($14++) are large, juicy and moist with a sauce that resembled a hybrid of American buffalo wings and Singaporean coffee pork ribs. I actually did not really fancy it much as I thought the chilli kick was too intense and the sauce was too pasty and salty, with not enough of a coffee/sweet essence as I had hoped for, but RX enjoyed this dish and said that “Singaporeans would love this”. They were served with baby carrot crudités and blue cheese dip (which did help to cut the spiciness, but the blue cheese was very pungent; and I ain’t no fan of blue cheese). To be honest I wish I had ordered the new off-menu item Hokkaido scallops instead (make sure you ask for the off-menu items if you’re coming to see if they tickle your interest).

The KUVO Atlantic Cod Meunière ($38++) was the highlight of the evening for me. The cod medallion was succulent and soft, exuding a natural fresh sweetness. It paired so gloriously with the savoury sweet pea crust on top and the relishing sides of the creamy pearl barley and corn fricassee, potato gratin (hands down one of the best ones I’ve tried; how ingenious that they put thin layers of potato and orange sweet potato together?), and a citrus nutty brown butter (and vinegar?) to meld it all together. It was also accompanied with tenderly roasted asparagus, thin green beans, fine green beans, a plump cherry tomato and pickled figs for an extra tang. Props to them for serving on a heated plate too. This is truly one of the better gourmet Western dishes I’ve had in Singapore.

The Croissant Bread Pudding ($14++) is adorably cake-shaped in filo pastry with dried cranberry, salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. I loved the juxtaposition of the crunch from the filo and the soft creaminess of the croissant pudding encased within, which went well with the sauce and ice cream combo. You can tell they’re serious about food when they serve good quality vanilla bean gelato and thoughtfully covered the top and base of the saucer with crunchy nutty crumbs so that the ice cream wouldn’t come into direct contact and melt easily with the saucer. Perhaps if the caramel was less salty, and more buttery, it would’ve been perfect.
I also tried their Baileys cheesecake ($7.50++, also available for takeaway from the cheesecake counter if you want to save on the service charge) which was satisfyingly rich in Baileys (actually to my ‘alcoholic’ taste buds, it was lacking a bit, but my ‘non-alcoholic’ boyfriend said it was too much!) but the texture of the cheesecake and biscuit base was a bit too soft and crumbly for my liking (I like my cheesecake firm and cheesy like the NY style baked ones).
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Service was friendly and the waiters asked about the meal and topped up water un-intrusively. I enjoyed my time at KUVO and it was surprisingly quiet for a Friday night. I hope that it’ll be a keeper in the brutal F&B scene in Singapore. (I was just looking through my to-do list (which is ever-growing and currently stands at about 100 items) and realised that some of the places are already closed permanently! (Wood Shed Cafe, Parco Cafe, just to name a few)
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KUVO Singapore
#02-01, 321 Orchard Road, Orchard Shopping Centre, Singapore 238866
Closest MRT: Somerset (don’t make my mistake and get off at Orchard just because it’s at “Orchard” Shopping Centre!)
Tel: +65 67338272 / email for reservations reservation@KUVO.com.sg
Opening hours:
Sun – Thu: 12:00 – 01:00
Fri – Sat: 12:00 – 02:00
Eve of PH: 12:00 – 02:00
PH: 12:00 – 01:00
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Prices are not inclusive of GST and service charge.

Clinton Street Baking Company – Bugis, Singapore

I’m not usually one to want to be the first to queue for newly opened food outlets so that I can let the hype (and queues) die down, but Clinton Street Baking Company with its accolades as the best pancakes in NY from New York Magazine (twice) seriously piqued my interest. The secret is to separate the eggs and gently fold in whipped egg whites (if you have the time and mixer, there’s a recipe here). Chef-husband and wife duo Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman, opened Clinton Street Baking Company in New York City in 2011 to make the best baked goods in the city, hand-mixed in small batches.

Having brought its splendour to outlets in Dubai and Tokyo, Singapore is the lucky second in Asia. It’s within walking distance to City Hall/Bugis MRT. Having just opened yesterday (without much fanfare either), the queue when I arrived on a Sunday morning at ~10.30pm required a 45 minute wait. Luckily their efficient system allowed us to walk around the nearby Bugis malls before they called us when our table was ready. The menu is pricier than standard cafe fare being a world-famous restaurant.

In classic Southwestern American style, Clinton Street uses buttermilk in many of their dishes, like the pancakes, Southern biscuits, and chicken and waffles. It makes the floured foods taste rich, well-aerated and fluffy.

You can’t go to Clinton St. and not order their Warm Maple Butter Pancakes ($18). They have blueberry, banana walnut and chocolate chunk. I got the blueberry rendition as per the waiter’s recommendation; bouncy, thick and fluffy to the core, yet with a firm and crunchy exterior and specks of blueberry embedded within; with a rich buttery fragrance, I can understand what all the hype was about and devoured it happily.

 I reckon the pancake itself was slightly too sweet for my tastebuds though, especially with the pot of the divine warm maple butter (comfort grub at its finest) and blueberry topping. The maple butter was not really enough for me, and each extra pot is $2 more (I suppose it’s a good thing for my waistline!). The blueberry topping was luscious and chock full of tiny blueberries (I believe they are dried blueberries) with in a rich sauce that soaked through the pancakes to create ultimate blueberry goodness. True to its American style, the portion is very large, and I think that this is too filling to share between two people (if you’re ordering another item to share between the two of you) so it’s probably best to gather a few friends to share.

We also tried a not so popular item Smoked Salmon Scramble ($23). I thought this was relatively average and pricey. The scrambled eggs were generous with the house-smoked salmon, but slightly rubbery and not creamy enough (although there were sparse chunks of the scallion cream cheese). The salmon was cooked with the egg so it was not soft, but the eggs were doused nicely with its salmony oil and chopped chives. The salad was fresh and had a mild vinegary taste (luckily not dressed with oil as the meal was already quite heavy!), and the seven-grain toast was wholesome and crunchy. My partner in crime liked this dish more than the pancakes (although expectedly, as he does not have a sweet tooth at all!), as it was a light reprieve from the richness of the pancakes.

We had a Ginger ale ($5) as it was quite hot sitting at the very front of the shop next to the window (they do have an awning but the morning sun was still shining straight at the shop and it got quite warm). This tasted like a canned drink, not particularly gingery, and nothing to shout home about.

The ambience overall is relatively fast-paced and busy with a lot of hustle and bustle/noise, but comfortable seating. Service was overall quite friendly and efficient (although the waiter wanted to clear my plate when I still had a fair bit of food on it and just stopped for a bit of a rest; I suppose there is a long queue?). Going to the toilet may be a bit of an issue though as there’s only one unisex restroom available.

The unbelievably phenomenal pancakes here gives Singaporean cafes a run for their money. I spotted a cute slogan on the staff’s t-shirt “Made with Love and Butter” very apt. I definitely want to return (probably when the crowds die down 😛 if they ever do…) to try out some of the other brunch items. The eggs benny on Southern biscuits and the crispy potato pancakes look very promising. I’m glad that Singapore seems to be getting quite a lot of worldwide famous restaurants into the ever-changing food scene here (seems more so than Australia too… probably because there are so many homegrown talents in Australia though).

Prices are not inclusive of GST and service charge.

Clinton Street Baking Company 
31 Purvis Street, Singapore 188608
Nearest MRT: Bugis/City Hall
Tel: +65 6684 4845
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clintonstsingapore
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am to 6pm

GastroSmiths – Bugis

GastroSmiths has been getting rave reviews for its Asian fusion cuisine serving globally inspired hearty food (drawing from Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish etc cuisines). It is a restaurant opened last year as the chef owner, Dillion, had shut down his original 10-seat bakery in Katong to open up this 20+ seater bistro at Marrison Hotel in Bugis. It’s an unassuming hole-in-the-wall place that you wouldn’t expect to serve such good food, but it definitely impressed. Although it was small with sparse decorations, it was thoughtful with adequate space between each table and the ones we were at even had extra chairs by the side (under the bench) to put our bags.

Our starter was the Scallop Ceviche ($14.50++), with Hokkaido scallop sashimi garnished with cute radish discs. It was simple yet the delightfully fresh and plump scallop paired so well with the sweet orange morsels, tang of the yuzu/olive oil sauce and koji (steamed rice with koji mould spores cultivated in; a crucial ingredient for sake) accentuated the umami taste of the scallop.

Their signature is the Hokubee Ribeye Bowl ($28.00++) with 200g grilled hokubee ribeye, Japanese rice generously seasoned with furikake and sweet vinegar, and an ultra soft sous-vide 63 degree egg (resembling the super squishy eggs served with kaya toast). Hokubee (or meltique) is a non-premium beef cut injected with canola oil/beef fat with starch to mimic the marbling of Wagyu. Hokubee definitely is no match for real wagyu, but it is tender enough to feel like it’s melting in your mouth. It had a good char encasing the perfect shade of medium pink.

I was a bit disappointed when I realised they no longer have the famed Fried Cod Mee Sua, but I was in for something better: Fisherman’s mee sua ($25.50++) is a seafood medley with homemade scampi bisque (with hints of satay?) and mee sua. Velvety mee sua absorbed full of the seafood bisque without becoming soggy, it took in the flavours much more than pasta would. Plump juicy seared scallops, chunks of juicy crabmeat, and fresh crisp prawns, all mixed in a gloriously rich and intoxicating bisque that was absorbed into the mee sua. A shower of coriander, lashings of spring onion, grilled cherry tomatoes, and a hint of chilli padi (optional; the waiter kindly asked whether we wanted it and it was an affirmative from Mr Chilli) all completed the scene for a very enjoyable dish (the only qualm was it’s a tad salty).

I couldn’t resist but order this gorgeous palette of magenta hues, Beet & Cheese ($14++). Patterned on the plate is the beetroot gel (which was more like beetroot puree; and it is quite strong in beetroot!), rustic beetroot sponge (yes those cute sponge-looking balls are actually beetroot flavoured), and two small cheese parfait mounds (which has a nice sticky cream cheesey quality similar to other deconstructed cheesecakes out there) dipped in a shiny beetroot fluid gel; with good-quality vanilla ice cream and crispy cookie crumbs. The beetroot taste is quite overwhelming (especially the sour pickled sliced beetroot at the centre!), but paired with the different components, it was a refreshing change to the usual berry compotes found elsewhere. I loved the luscious cheese parfait and wish they had given a bigger portion!

The menu has evolved and the website reports it will continue to do so as inspired by seasonal produce/latest trends. So your tastebuds will be constantly tantalised with new things and this surely was the case for me.

Service was warm, cosy and attentive. If you’re into interesting gastronomic experiences at reasonable prices, GastroSmiths is one of the favourites I’ve discovered.
Prices above not inclusive of GST and service charge.

GastroSmiths
103 Beach Road #01-02 Singapore 189704
Nearest MRT: Bugis, near Tan Quee Lan Street
Tel: +65 9772 9511
https://www.facebook.com/gastrosmiths
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6:00pm – 9:30pm (Tues – Sat), 11am – 3pm (Sun)

New Ebi Burger with Sweet Potato Fries and Honeydew McFlurry from McDonald’s Singapore

Disclaimer: The first part of the post was an invited media tasting

McDonalds - Cereal Ebi

Credit: McDonald’s Singapore

If you love the Ebi Burger from McDonald’s, look out for the new Cereal Ebi Burger and accompanying sides from 3 September 2015, for a limited time only. Omy Blog kindly invited me for a special launch event of the new McDonald’s Ebi Burger. Ebi is prawn in japanese, and I wanted to see what would be coming up before the rest of Singapore, so treated myself to the rare McDonald’s indulgence. Yeah it’s not the healthiest meal ever, but I haven’t had Macca’s for a few months, and I do enjoy their Asian-themed burgers that I don’t get in Aus… So I brought myself to the AMK Park Macca’s (which reminds me of the stand-alone Macca’s restaurants in Australia; it’s one of the rare ones I see in Singapore with a drive-thru). Sorry for the poor quality photos; I’ve been moving house (or room, rather) and my organisation is a bit messed up so I forgot to charge my camera battery and had to resort to the iPhone in horrible night lighting.

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The new Ebi burger trumps the one I tried last year. For reference, the one last year was a wasabi flavoured sauce with a carrot/cabbage mix which felt almost like coleslaw. This year’s Cereal Ebi Burger (à la carte from S$5.35) has a crunchy cereal bun topped with chives and roasted white sesame (it’s a soft white bun with a sprinkling of cereals on top, not multigrain unfortunately…). It has the same whole crisp small prawn patty as last year, with a cereal coated batter and a mild potato flavour which gave the patty a pleasant mealiness. Sandwiched between the butter lettuce leaf lies a shrimp flavour mayo paste with a spicy lingering heat (some of the ingredients include onion, garlic and chilli padi). The sauce made the burger quite moreish with just the right level of spiciness, combining the different Singaporean-esque flavours; but the spiciness level may not be enough for many Singaporeans, it is certainly nowhere as hot as McSpicy.

The crispy sweet potato fries (à la carte from $3.25) are coated with an ever so thin, crispy and light batter and they were so darn good! I love sweet potato fries anyway, but these ones were really addictive; the batter made the fries crispy for a long time, unlike other sweet potato fries which become soggy. I adored the sweet and salty interplay of flvaours. They should really make these a regular, just like the yummy twister and shake shake fries; or maybe not because then I would be patronising McDonald’s too much haha.

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The Honeydew McFlurry ($2.90) had a strong and pleasant honeydew taste, similar to the honeydew vitasoy flavour. It is flavoured with a sweet honeydew powder, but it is mixed in thoroughly and not in green strands / chendol like the picture seems to suggest (there was a small lump of powder that was not mixed well into the ice cream, but otherwise it was totally smooth). For textural contrast, there were crushed cones on the iconic soft serve. While I enjoyed the dessert, it was too cloyingly sweet for me; if I were to get it again, I would request for less honeydew powder. It would also taste better if there were fresh honeydew chunks in the McFlurry (a bit of wishful thinking since I’ve never seen Macca’s offer fresh fruit in their ice creams before!).

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We also got to try the chill drinks: Ribena Chill ($1.95) and Mango Peach Chill ($2.45) (basically slurpees with Ribena or a mango peach sjora style syrup; the Ribena being a bit sweeter) that were refreshing albeit a bit of an overload of sugar.

The ‘Ebi-Kase’ special set meal includes a Cereal Ebi Burger, a glass of coca cola (small) and crispy sweet potato fries (medium), available for $7.45. To healthify your meal slightly (and kudos to you if you can really resist those addictive sweet potato fries), opt to swap the fries for a corn cup (no extra charge), or a garden side salad of whole leaf lettuce, red and white cabbage, crunchy carrots, corn, tomato and a Japanese dressing (top-up $1.20).

Thank you Omy Blog and McDonald’s for the invited tasting.

McDonald’s
10 Ang Mo Kio Street 12, Singapore 567740
Tel: 6451 3365
Opening hours: Daily, 24 Hours
Website: https://www.mcdonalds.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mcdsg

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Reprise for my second Ebi Burger at Hougang Avenue 8 McDonald’s (anonymous identity) on 11 September 2015

So the first post had really lousy photos and I also wanted a quick lunch so with my trusty Canon G7X in hand, I went to the neighbourhood McDonald’s for comparison.

The prawn patty tasted a bit different this time, it seemed there were less whole prawns and more of the starchy/fish paste filler instead. A bit disappointing, but I suppose it makes sense that they’d make the invited event more impressive than the real thing. The sauce was still nice though, and the batter still with a nice cereal crunch.

When I went into the Maccas store, I could tell the sweet potato fries were sitting there for quite a while as it was about the end of the stash. Not wanting to wait until they cook the new batch, I asked if I could have a non-salted sweet potato fries (because this trick works for the regular potato fries: if you ask for the non-salted one, they always make it fresh and hot for you and it tastes so so much better than mushy fries minus the sodium overload). Unfortunately, this trick did not work as the server insisted that there is no salt added to the fries. I didn’t dare ask for a newly fried sweet potato fries though, which was unfortunate because I did not enjoy the stale sweet potato fries (tasted doughy and not at all crispy). Dipping it into the garlic chilli sauce helped me to get through it. The sweet potato fries also taste good with the ice cream (come on, I know many of you guys would’ve dipped the Maccas french fries into the soft serve as a kid, no?).

This time I was smart and asked for less powder for the honeydew McFlurry. So it was better, less sweet yet with an adequate honeydew flavour punch and the nice cornflake-like crunchies (which remind me of Rice Bubbles in ice cream, one of the simple pleasures I made for myself sometimes in Australia; although I just realised…there’s no Rice Bubbles in Singapore?! Maybe it gets soggy too fast in this humid weather?). It is still very sweet though haha.

And yes, I only just discovered you can lift up the McFlurry like a paddle pop with the spoon. 😛

The Cupping Room – Canberra

I’m going to introduce to you my favourite cafe in Canberra, and probably one of my favourite cafes in Australia. The standards here are on par with those in the cafe capital of Melbourne, and I loved The Cupping Room so much I went there twice in the short 3 days that I was in Canberra visiting my brother, sister-in-law and baby nephew. Of course it helped that we stayed just a stone’s throw away in the ANU University House.

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Situated in the heart of the Canberra CBD, The Cupping Room’s name is inspired from the cupping of coffee (not as suss as it sounds!), which is is the process coffee roasters and growers use to judge different coffees’ quality against each other without bias, and they have cupping sessions held free of charge every Wednesday and Sunday from 2.30pm (bookings essential). I didn’t get to go, but another blogger wrote about it in quite a lot of detail.

The space is a breezy little shack with foldable windows and plenty of good lighting, and the patrons are mostly uni students but there’s a fair share of Lycra-clad joggers / older adults / business people looking for good nosh. There’s a row of comfy fabric cushion sofas lined across the edge of the walls, and adequate breathing space between each table. There may be a short queue if you’re here during rush hour in the morning or lunch.

The clever thing about the menu is how they seem to more or less feature their same favourites in the menu but rotating with different ingredients on a seasonal basis (we were there in March and it was their Summer menu; it has now rotated to the Autumn menu) which takes advantage of fresh seasonal produce and reflect the overall mood of the seasons. There’s also a specials menu stapled onto the normal menu everyday which usually runs out of stock quite quickly.

On the lunch menu, my savoury-philic boyfriend got the Market fish burger ($21) – Oven baked sword fish steak, piled high with Mauritian pickle, aioli & zucchini ribbons in a brioche bun and fries on the side. The swordfish is too tough for RX’s liking, but I thought it was nicely seasoned, and taken with the zesty Mauritian relish, creamy aioli and the raw zucchini thins, it was a very satisfying brunch indeed.

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Me on the other hand as a sweet-philic, was craving something lighter… so I got their amazingly good Bircher muesli ($13) with coconut milk soaked oats, chia seeds, grated pink lady apple, almonds, and passionfruit pulp. The flavours were such a great combination and the juicy crisp of the pink lady apple (my absolute favourite apple cultivar), almonds and tangy passionfruit made something as monotonous as muesli into a sensationally delightful breakfast. Surprisingly the coconut milk was not too heavy; perhaps it is a mixture of almond and coconut milk? I’ve never tasted such a delicious bircher muesli before. They were really generous with the chia seeds too; it was proportionally more than the oats!

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Escabeche ($19) – one of the specials on the menu (they seem to rotate weekly with seasonal produce, so while it’s still on the autumn menu, it may not be kingfish anymore). Cured kingfish with heirloom beets, baby carrots, radish, jalapeños, boiled egg & anchovy aioli  and gluten free bread (just wanted to try Deeks quinoa bread… it’s originally supposed to be sourdough toast. By the way they do charge extra for the GF bread; I think $1?) – RX’s favourite meal in Australia. Not to be confused with ceviche (raw fish), escabeche is a Meditarranena/Latin American dish of poached fish marinated in an acidic mixture served cold. The dish really piqued the palate with generous blocks of mellow and oh-so-soft poached kingfish, which had only a very mild vinegar taste. I don’t like cured food but this was really well done. The fresh heirloom veggies were piled in a beautiful fresh stack, and the jalapenos provided the hot kick to oomph the dish up. The soft boiled egg was seasoned with salt and pepper and provided a yolky creamy goodness to dip the nicely toasted bread.

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Beautiful food…Hotcakes ($18) – Figs, strawberries, pomegranate, housemade honeycomb, crème fraîche, citrus syrup and berry gel ricotta hotcakes (I saw on their Facebook they have it with agave syrup; as I have read some people say it’s not sweet enough for them!). This is THE BOMB. Yep. Beats any other hotcake I’ve had in my life. I loved the generous heaping of fruits and despite its looks, it wasn’t too sweet. The creme fraiche, berries and pomegranate had a refreshing and sour touch while the crunchy honeycomb provided the sweetness needed to balance it off. The ricotta hotcakes were thick, fluffy and substantial; it’s really the good homemade stuff.

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Real chai – infused with bonsoy ($5). The chai tea leaves came in a strainer and I could pour the honey-infused soymilk through. I asked for less sweet, but they advised me it was already pre-prepared; but luckily it wasn’t too sweet at all. Chai tea tastes so much more gingery and fragrant when it comes from the real thing and not syrup.

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If you’re looking for wholesome, beautiful, and good food, I think you’ll know where to head if you’re in the capital of Australia.

The Cupping Room
1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra City 2601 Australia
Tel: +61 (02) 6257 6412
Website: http://www.thecuppingroom.com.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canberracuppingroom
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 7am-4pm ; Saturday-Sunday: 8am-3pm

Two Wings at Essen in the Pinnacle at Duxton

I stayed at Everton Park (the oldest HDB in Singapore, at Outram Park) for 2 years before moving to my current place, and I would pass by Pinnacle (Singapore’s fanciest HDB, and newest too? I liked the Outram Park area because it was quiet but also incorporated both the old and the new…) very often as I was walking to get groceries at the local NTUC. I remember the tacky looking Kopitiam back in the days, with the typical food court fare of the soup stall, mixed veg rice etc. Needless to say it was rather insipid and I didn’t go back for a second time.

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Fast forward 2 years, and the spunky looking Essen has replaced the old Kopitiam at the ground level of Pinnacle. Catering to the more upmarket residents above, it features various Western food stalls, one of them including Two Wings. The atmosphere is a trendy vibe, almost like we were in a cool bar rather than a food court.

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Two Wings owner, Jeremy Loh, was inspired to re-brand the 40 year old family recipe passed down the generations from from his granduncle (which also has apparently been passed on to other stalls like the Victor Famous Fried Rice Chicken). The chicken wings are said to be massaged everyday to drain the blood off, and uses bigger wings imported from Brazil. The skin is one of the thinnest and crispiest I have tried,  perhaps the reason that, surprisingly, the wings are not as greasy as most other fried wings. The batter is seasoned with hints of spices, upon biting which reveals piping hot, moist and tender meat. Although it may be mellower compared to more spice-filled chicken wing joints like KFC, it allowed the natural chicken-y juices to burst through.

The quality is said to be kept consistently with the original stall at Bukit Merah (non-airconditioned one), with his family members helping to run the Two Wings at Essen. The Chicken Wings are priced at $8.50 for 4 pieces, $12.50 for 6 pieces and $24 for 12 pieces. There are other options including the Chicken Burrito, Spring Chicken, and of course the combo meal I ordered.

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The Finger Platter Deluxe ($23.90) is a smorgasbord of fried and salad items, including 3 of the famous Chicken Wings served on a cute wooden board,  can feed 3 hungry people. It also contained Crispy Chicken Strips, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries and Mozzarella Cheese Sticks, Carrot & Veg sticks on a special dip sauce. This match definitely went down well; the fresh and crispy veggie sticks tasted so refreshing after all that fried food, and the creamy mayo dip was strangely addictive, which I was informed is Jeremy’s wife’s grandma’s homemade special mayo dip recipe. Everything on the platter was freshly fried without any overused oil taste and no greasy residues. I love that we got sweet potato fries rather than the typical potato fries too! The mozarella cheese sticks were unique, and indeed chewy and springy (but it hardened easily in the aircon). We shared it among two pax so it was too heavy, but it’ll be just right for 3 people.

IMG_2901We got an extra side of  Mashed Potato Salad ($3) was also nicely seasoned with hints of onion and sour cream, just like the good old chip flavour. The service crew there were kind enough to microwave the salad for us (mashed potato tastes better hot in my opinion…).

The photo doesn’t show, but we later picked up the chilli sauce, which is a homemade recipe lovingly made over a few hours on a daily basis, including fresh ingredients like homemade chicken broth. The chilli was indeed really good; similar to the chicken rice chilli but with a zestier kick and a spicy zing.

It’s one of the best fried chicken wings I’ve had in Singapore, and true to say that you definitely can’t just stop at one wing; two wings should do the trick! I love the fact they lovingly create everything from scratch with old family recipes too.

All prices stated are nett (no GST and service charge).

Website: http://www.twowings.com.sg

Two Wings – Essen At The Pinnacle
No. 1 Cantonment Road #01-01 The Pinnacle @ Duxton, Singapore 080001
Closest MRT: Outram Park
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 9pm Daily
Tel: +65 9667 0368

The flagship branch:
Two Wings Bukit Merah
119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Salute, Singapore 15119
Closest MRT: Queenstown
Opening Hours: 12pm – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm (Tues-Sun)
Tel: +65 9667 0368

Tung Lok Teahouse – Square 2, Novena and Far East Square at Telok Ayer

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I saw the cutest baos ever on a Facebook from the Tung Lok Restaurants group: they are shiitake mushroom clones, down to even the stems, but made of steamed bread! Working near Novena, I took the opportunity one lunch hour to check it out.

As its name suggests, Tung Lok Teahouse was designed to echo the retro ambience of an old teahouse in Singapore during the 1950s-1970s, adorned with Peranakan furniture to match. The one at Novena had no windows, with a yellow tinted lighting, so it unfortunately didn’t really replicate that experience, but I could appreciate the concept displayed through its decor. They serve top-notch traditional Teochew/Pernakan-style food with a modern innovative twist; thus prices here are slightly steeper than your typical restaurant. It was a rather quiet day as there weren’t that many other patrons. Service is warmly genuine, and the waiters made an effort to find a comfortable seat for me (yep I was a brave lone diner!) when I expressed the table I was at was too cold, and they proactively offered to refill my warm water cup.

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The Wild Mushroom with Black Truffle Baos (S$4.80++) is a triplet of adorable steamed buns that have a soft fluffy interior with a beautiful mottled pattern of a mushroom. The crusty exterior is an ever-so-thin layer that seems to resemble the texture of tiger bread, which is made painting on rice paste and sesame oil, which dries and cracks into a crust during the baking process. I’m not sure if that’s how they made the pattern but doesn’t it look uncannily like the tiger bread: perhaps with some soy sauce to give it the black/brown hues? Nevertheless it’s quite a work of art and Tung Lok reports it took the chefs 6 months to perfect the recipe!

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I was a bit let down by the presentation as the other food bloggers (and the display outside the restaurant) had posted gorgeous photos of the buns complete with peanut /fried shallot garnishings on a pretty ceramic plate, but mine came out looking plain in a bamboo steamer. Nevertheless, one bite into the bun and all qualms were set aside; the fillings had king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, tea tree mushrooms, wood ear fungus, black truffle oil, and truffle abalone sauce). It was bursting with umami magical mushroom-y goodness (the abalone sauce gives it a great kick in what would otherwise be too monotonous in fungi); mushroom lovers will love this! Supply is limited to 50 baskets everyday, so the manager suggested that if you want to come back for dinner (yep the dim sum menu is available then, and LOL yes I love them that much) you can always call in to reserve it before you come in so that you can make sure you get your hands on these adorable fungi imposters.

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I also had their Steamed Glutinous Rice with Diced Chicken wrapped in Lotus Leaf (S$4.80++). This was very good, as I am usually very picky with lor mai gai and this hit the spot. Well-cooked (but not soggy) grains of rice (with specks of red rice) with morsels of salted egg yolk and succulent lean chicken. I’m glad that unlike many restaurants, Tung Lok did not seem to use fat as fillers for the dumplings.

I’ve always liked the restaurants under the Tung Lok group (did you know Slappy Cakes is under them as well?), and Tung Lok Teahouse definitely hit the mark for good quality dim sum. I will do a re-post here of the second visit I have coming up 😉

The dim sum menu is below. You can find their set menus online though, (including items like the Braised House Special Beancurd with Fried Conpoy, and Fried Assorted Vegetables served in Yam Ring).

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TungLok Teahouse
#01-73/79 Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive, Singapore 307506
Tel: +65 6893 1123
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 11:00am – 02:30pm & 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Nearest MRT: Novena
Website: http://www.tunglokteahouse.com

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Reprise for second dinner visit on 24/8/15 at the outlet at Far East Square

Far East Square is like a maze of various buildings and the restaurant was not easy to find. This outlet seems to have a slightly more yesteryear ambience than the one at Novena.

They served an appetiser at each table, and these blissful bites of crunchy sesame seed praline walnuts were very addictive; too bad they are a hefty $4.00++.

The Sweet and Sour Chrysanthemum Fish ($26++) was done well with a lighter, crispier batter than the typical economic rice fare combined with some extra pine nuts and capsicum, but I couldn’t really taste the chrysanthemum. Guess what I just realised: the term ‘chrysanthemum fish’ means the fish is cut into the shape of a chrysanthemum flower, not that it has chrysanthemum inside! I can’t help but think it’s similar to the ones you can get at the Tze Char stalls though.

The Fried Assorted Vegetables served in Yam Ring ($24.00++). I didn’t really like the yam ring here: it was too thin (not enough yam), too oily, not crispy enough, and has a ngoh-hiang spice taste that doesn’t match the yam well. The fillings inside though, including the prawns, were fresh and juicy.


The Braised House Special Beancurd with Conpoy Crisps was good, with generous servings of soft tofu within leathery, crispy spinach skin at the top and mushrooms, atop a bed of green spinach. This was the better of the main dishes we ordered, and although the sauce tempered the taste, I felt it was doused in too much oyster sauce and there weren’t many mushrooms.

I also couldn’t help but order a second mushroom bao. They’re that good haha. But this time it looks a bit less realistic (more whites showing) and one of the buns was slightly torn, but still tasted awesome. RX picked up that there was a subtle chocolate flavour in the dark crust too.

Coconut and dessert fans will love the Chilled Snow Lotus Pudding With Ice-Cream Served in Young Coconut ($8++): an ever-so-light, melt-in-mouth, smooth and slippery (my tongue was floating on coconut water cloud nine) snow lotus pudding, vanilla ice cream, mango cubes, drizzle of evaporated milk. The young tender coconut meat was easily scraped off the shell for a highly commendable dessert. I have no idea what snow lotus is and it seems very elusive in my Google search as it looks more like a herb than any kind of pudding ingredient, but they do this pudding so right.

The restaurant was nicely spaced out without much crowd. I’m not sure if it were just the dishes we chose, but I thought the food was a bit hit-and-miss for the price you’re paying, but the coconut dessert is absolutely out of this world.

Prices stated are not inclusive of GST and service charge.

TungLok Teahouse
Far East Square, 9-13 Amoy Street, #01-01, Singapore 049949
Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer
Tel: +65 6877 1123
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm (Mon – Sat), 10am – 2:30pm (Sun & PH), 6pm – 10:30pm (Daily)

Chez Dré – South Melbourne

I went back home for a short trip and for RX to finally experience Australia. It was a long 2 year wait before I went back; partly because my parents are no longer there, but also because there are so many other new holiday destinations near Singapore that I wanted to save my limited annual leave and hard-earned moolah for.

We went on a whirlwind trip around the east coast; from Sydney to Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane; and other towns in-transit. This wasn’t an easy feat to achieve in just 2.5 weeks without a car to adequately cover everywhere I wanted to go!

I didn’t really like Melbourne when I went there 5 years ago; maybe it was something to do with the fact I went in the middle of the bitter winter temperatures?! And I didn’t really get to do much tourist/foodie exploring that time as I was only visiting family. So I was a bit of a Melbourne snob, dismissing it as just a pretentious hippy city… I had always liked Sydney more: the temperatures are nicer, there’s more of a metropolitan buzz, and my grandma is there so it’s always been like my home base in Australia (even before I migrated over).

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My second trip back to Melbourne and I have officially found my ideal foodie paradise. I am being serious, the food there is ah-ma-zing. I only had a few days there but I stuffed myself silly… and I came across my favourite brunch place in the whole world (no kidding). Chez Dré came as a recommendation from many of my Melbournite friends so I knew I had to try it, and boy am I glad I did. It’s a Francophile atmosphere with ingenious sweet and savouries inspired from France and made with local produce. Opened by patisserie chef Andrea Reiss, their pastries are excellent, with a huge variety of tarts, madeleines, gateaux and macarons. Come early if you don’t want to miss out on the best ones though as they may sell out quickly!

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After a short trip on the tram from the CBD, we reached the quaint area famous for the South Melbourne Markets. Chez Dré is immensely popular and we had to wait for about 15 minutes before we got a seat (it was a weekend morning…).

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The interior is grand and classy chic yet with a warm cosy feel and inviting breezy atmosphere. There is a curved design of the open kitchen for all of its patrons to stare in amazement, and beautiful window displays of the dainty desserts it is well-known for.

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My friends and I (all of them who were formerly Brisbanites; my old high school friends 🙂 ) decided to choose from the dizzying array of desserts staring at us as we were waiting for our friend to arrive. All the petits gateaux (small cakes in French) are priced at $9.50.

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Our first pick is the pretty strawberry & vanilla fraisier: orange financier, vanilla mousse, basil-olive oil biscuit, strawberry jelly. It was a great juxtaposition of textures and flavours, with the contrasting tang of strawberry and orange layers and sweet creamy goodness of the vanilla and crunchy biscuit.

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Sacher Torte is a chocolate mousse and apricot gelee on a chocolate sponge base, fresh apricot, gold leaf with a white chocolate curl on top. This was good quality chocolate mousse, light and airy yet creamy, with a pleasant apricot fragrance.

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GREEN TEA CHEESECAKE: RASPBERRY CRÉMEUX, ADZUKI BEANS, GREEN TEA MOUSSE, GIANDUJA SABLÉ

I have found my favourite dessert ever, it is the green tea cheesecake here. Absolutely amazeballs. The base is addictive, being extra crunchy and nutty compared to your typical buttery graham crackers. The cheesecake itself was not like any other cheesecake I had; it was not the firm cheesy type that I usually like, yet it was not the mediocre creamy mousse types that I don’t like; it was luscious and light with a rich matcha taste. The core embraced a cluster of the speciality hazelnut chocolate (gianduja) and adzuki red beans, and the dollops of raspberry cremeux just worked together so well to create a sublime dessert. I just can’t get over it!

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The pastries on the wooden board it was supposed to be presented on 🙂 My friend wanted it packed in the cardboard takeaway box for some reason haha. IMG_0484

Roasted eggplant and buckwheat salad ($18.50): Smoked eggplant puree, wild rocket, pomegranate molasses & rose water vinaigrette, dukkah and spelt flat bread. I loved this breakfast item I had. They may not have it anymore as it was seasonal special, but it tasted delightful, with the smokey undertones of the moreish eggplant contrasting against the clean cut and tangy pomegranate and vinegar. I loved their spelt flatbread too, being much thinner and airier than a typical pita and a more wholesome taste too (I love breads that use grains other than the typical wheat). It may have been vegetarian, but it was very satisfying.

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?Persian spiced tomato soup with fish – I honestly forgot what it was called haha and can’t find it on the menu. But it tasted like assam… trust the Singaporean to choose this! It was basically fresh fish fillets cooked in a hot stew with onions, garlic, parsley, turmeric, chilli, tamarind, coriander and tomato (similar to the ingredients of assam). Clean and fresh tasting with a twist of sourness from the tamarind/tomato, RX enjoyed this stew more than I did.

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The peach and mint house-made iced tea ($6.50) is also recommended, being refreshingly light, natural peach and minty fragrance and just the right amount of sweet. I got the last order as they had run out of ingredients to make anymore! And the ice cubes were cute big spheres. 

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Yep, I think Chez Dré is the best brunch I’ve ever had in my life.

Chez Dré
Rear of 285-287 Coventry St, South Melbourne, Australia
Tel: +61 3 9690 2688
Opening hours: Mon to Sun 7:30 am – 4:30 pm
Website: http://www.chezdre.com.au

Ipoh Lou Yau Bean Sprouts Chicken – Bishan Junction 8

IMG_3029 My parents moved to Ipoh last year after a year in Penang. One of the reasons was because the food there is better. Having visited both places, I have to agree. Actually I’ve been to quite a few places in Malaysia (other than the two cities, I’ve also been to Langkawi, KL, Klang, Kota Kina Balu), and I’ve gotta pass the trophy for the best food to Ipoh. Penang is well-renowned for its food but I didn’t think it was really that amazing; perhaps I found it too oily/strong-flavoured/Peranakan/Hokkien style for my liking? Ipoh cuisine on the other hand is primarily based on the Cantonese cuisine due to its population there, which I feel is a bit more subtle in taste (ok I may be biased…?).

I fell in love with the Ipoh’s food: it was amazing, and so much cheaper than the food in Singapore!!! The Ipoh hor fun in particular is very impressive; the silkiness was not like anything I’ve ever had before (even in HK), and the broth it was in was just perfection in a bowl – rich in umami taste without any MSG aftertaste. I eavesdropped the table next to my family’s because of their very obvious Singlish; they said it was really really good as well! Here are some photos of the original Ipoh hor fun I had (they were at different stalls): IMG_4285 IMG_4417 In Cantonese, it is 河粉 ‘hor fun’, in Teochew/Hokkien it is 粿條 ‘kway teow’; which is why some dishes in Singapore call the same rice noodle with different names depending on whether it is of Cantonese origin (e.g. the Ipoh hor fun or San Lao hor fun) or of Hokkien/Teochew origins (e.g. char kway teow) – at least this is what I think. The ones in Ipoh are cut to a shorter width than normal and has a more tender consistency, which increases the slurp factor. Needless to say, I have high standards for Ipoh hor fun. The ones at the hawker/food courts in Singapore are sorely disappointing: unremarkable kway teow with MSG laden soup / oyster sauce. So I was looking forward to trying the one at Ipoh Lou Yau Bean Sprouts Chicken as their hor fun and beansprouts are claimed to be imported all the way from Ipoh, made with the karst limestone mineral-rich mountain spring water said to impart the smoothness to hor fun and the plumpness to the beansprouts. For those who don’t speak Canto, Lou Yau = 老友 = old friend (not in age, but in friendship!). 

Their Kampong (village) Chicken is a must-try. We ordered it as part of the One Person Hor Fun Set: with Hor Fun, Steamed Chicken and Bean Sprouts ($8.50). They use free-range  chickens (apparently from Malaysia) gently boiled in a broth with herbs and spices to keep the meat tender before being submerged in an ice bath to gelatinise the skin. This method is a must for good chicken rice stalls around Singapore that want to differentiate themselves from people like me who just boil the chicken and are too lazy to do the extra step 😛 (it’s one of the dishes that is my family’s favourite during my weekly cooking duty in Australia; we got the recipe from a Malaysian family we met in Adelaide. I’ll have to put it up here someday…). IMG_3031 I digress. The kampong chicken here is very good, particularly the chicken skin: strong chicken fragrance, having a tinge of yellow, with an almost jelly-like texture; akin to fresh chicken in HK. While living in Australia, none of the chickens had this quality, even the organic/free-range ones. Maybe it’s an Asian chicken thing. The chicken meat was a bit chewy in texture and may not be to some Singaporean’s liking if they prefer the more soft, moister meat in the famous Hainanese-style chicken rice stores. I have a feeling it is more tough because the chickens are free-range and have developed more muscle; as it was similar texture to the chicken I had in Ipoh. I also have to give credit to the ginger spring onion sauce which was awesome and reminded me of the bottle of ginger sauce my grandma would always keep in the fridge (which I’m not sure will be sitting for how long to preserve… hahaha but it never seems to go bad). It was full of salty, oily, gingery goodness grated in big chunks for full-on ginger shiokness. Most Singapore chicken rice stalls only provide chilli and dark sweet sauce. Even when they provide ginger sauce, it doesn’t quite taste right, infusing it with vinegar rather than oil and spring onion like it should be. But the chilli sauce here is a bit too vinegary, a bit too little lime juice.

Here comes the big question: is the ‘hor fun’ as good as the one in Ipoh? I have to say yes, I can’t really tell a difference. The silkiness, smoothness, and slipperiness (without oiliness) of the noodles was just like the one I had there. But there’s a catch; the flavouring of it was nowhere as good as the original. The hor fun was sitting in a bed of what tasted like watered down soy sauce topped with some fried shallots and spring onion, which totally didn’t do justice to the yummy hor fun. In the photo on the poster, the dry hor fun looked nothing like reality; it looked appetising in a reddish brown oily sauce! The bean sprouts are reminiscent of the dish I had in Ipoh, being sweet, juicy and plump, but it didn’t look as fat.  Perhaps it’s because it became a bit less fresh after the transportation to Singapore. I also think it would be nicer with a stronger scent of sesame oil like the one in Ipoh. IMG_3033 The Ipoh hor fun with chicken and prawn (soup) ($6.90) was good, but nothing as nice as compared to the one in Ipoh. The stock is the main thing that was amazing in Ipoh; rich, full of the natural sweetness of crustacean-y taste and chicken and just look at the photo at the top; with oil floating at the top which was an undescribable yumminess. The one in Lou Yau was light with a mild chicken stock fragrance, which was definitely nicer than the MSG-laden ones you find in food courts, but was underwhelming compared to the original, even the colour gave it away (the original one in Ipoh had a slightly reddish hue to it from the prawny goodness I guess?). The shredded chicken breast was a bit dry, and I wish they had given unshelled prawns like they do in Ipoh. Nevertheless the delicious hor fun made up for these shortcomings.

On the menu, there are also other sides like Braised Chicken Feet ($4.50), Cold Tofu with Dried Shrimps ($4.50) and Saito Fishball Soup ($5/6 pieces). There are also Ipoh desserts like Ipoh Herbal Tea ($2.50) or Luo Han Guo Longan Tea ($2.50).

The ingredients are all there (authentic and fresh) to almost replicate the Ipoh experience, but unfortunately it was not executed in the best way in terms of the flavouring. If you like your chicken with the old-town chewy texture, it is a great place to get your fix. For the hor fun; was it worth the extra dollars to get this over food court Ipoh hor fun? Definitely. But is it enough to save you a trip all the way to Ipoh to taste the real thing? Unfortunately not quite there yet.

All prices stated are nett (inclusive of GST and service charge)

Ipoh Lou Yau Bean Sprouts Chicken 怡保老友芽菜鷄
9 Bishan Place, #B1-23 Junction 8 Shopping Centre, Singapore 579837
Tel: 6258 0633
Closest MRT: Bishan
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Other branches: IMM, Centrepoint, Vivocity, White Sands, Chervon House, Chinatown Point, Century Square, Bedok Mall, One KM
Website: http://www.ipohlouyau.com.sg

Afterglow by Anglow – Clean eating at Keong Saik Road

As a dietitian, I don’t promote raw food eating exclusively as there are many benefits to cooking foods. However, there are indeed nutrients that are retained better when raw, and I feel it is something that Singaporeans can try to incorporate more of in their diet (as it’s typically a somewhat Western concept that many Singaporeans are averse to).

With the clean eating movement, Afterglow by Anglow is a raw food vegetarian restaurant offering inventive dishes made from scratch with a farm-to-table concept. Afterglow’s founders Carmen Low and Lionel Ang, created the menu in consultation with Czech nutritionist and raw food advocate, Adela Stoulilova. All the dishes are heat-free, sugar-free (although of course there is still sugar found naturally in fruits etc), and apparently using pink Himalayan salt and bamboo salt to substitute table salt (however as I tell all my patients, all salt contains sodium! Luckily the dishes here are bursting with natural seasonings rather than saltiness). The Singaporean couple lived in Shanghai for four years and became proponents of vegetarian raw cuisine because of the endless food scandals in China. Read more about their story here. I also found a recipe from Carmen that looks amazingly good for a raw matcha cashew tart that they will apparently be rolling out soon.

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The woody interior of the place reflects its natural raw philosophy well and I liked the relaxed and unpretentious vibe. The candlelit tables lit up a nice glow (pun intended) to the restaurant Unfortunately the light was very dim on the night I visited, making for terrible photography!

The Raw Zucchini Linguine with Walnut ‘Meat’-balls ($20) is made with Spiralized Zucchini, Dehydrated Cherry Tomato Sauce, Almond Crumble Cheese and Walnut, Shitake & Dates ‘Meat’-Balls

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Other than the ingredients listed on the menu, I could see bites of woodear fungus as well as the shiitake mushroom marinated with hints of sesame oil. The tangy and umami tomato sauce infused throughout to coat the thin strands of juicy zucchini, while the walnut meatballs were well-seasoned enough to be able to conceal the astringent phytic acid taste and a close replication of real meatballs. It was a delight to eat and a unique experience from typical wheat pastas.

Our dessert was the Raw chocolate salted caramel fudge ($12.50), with Raw Avocado and Raw Cacao Fudge, Rich Tahini Layer, Vanilla and Medjool Dates Infused Walnut Crust

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This is the highlight of the meal: the fudge tasted amazingly good yet clean, with a fair bit less saturated fat than its original (yes, I think it is slightly healthier, although still a sugar bomb!) – you wouldn’t even be able to tell it was avocado inside, because the chocolate and date taste was so intense. Yet it provided the creaminess of typical fudges, without the heavy feeling in the stomach like regular cream mousses do. The tahini layer lent a rich tone to the dessert, while the crunchy walnut crust provided textural contrast to the silky goo fudge. This was not in the ingredients but I could taste some coconut oil inside as well which lent a beautiful fragrance. Big thumbs up from me! However for non sweet-tooths, this dessert may be on the sweet side (from the dates).

To keep things interesting, the waiter took the initiative to inform us that there were seasonal specials that are chalked on the board, including the crispy raw lasagna ($22++, which differed from the regular raw lasagna in that it has an additional crispy layer from dehydrated tomatoes and macadamia cream cheese) and the coffee cheesecake ($15++, made from cacao beans and coffee). There is a bar serving alcoholic drinks too.

One thing I adored about the place was its heavy focus on nuts: a very good source of protein that most Singaporeans miss out on. It was interesting when I heard the lady next to me complain to the waiter “Hmm well I don’t eat nuts, so there’s not much I can choose from!” (I saw her eating some salad afterwards). Sometimes I go to vegetarian restaurants here and wonder “how is this a balanced meal! There is no protein! Mushroom with salad is not protein!” but rest assured that most of Afterglow’s dishes seem to have that covered. Another thing is that, as it is a raw food eatery, expect food to be served cold!

Service was authentic, polite and not intrusive; the waiter topped up our glasses of water consistently throughout the whole dinner without any reminder.

I liked the concept of Afterglow by Anglow even before I stepped in, and after having tried it I can attest it’s a place with good whole foods that indeed leaves an afterglow to your memory. The prices are steep but if you’re feeling like a treat after indulging in processed foods, this may be an option to consider. I’m personally feeling inspired to re-create some of the dishes myself considering how none of them require cooking (I need to get a blender though!)!!

See Afterglow’s menu here.

(Prices not inclusive of service charge)

Afterglow by Anglow 
24 Keong Saik Road
Phone: 6224 8921
Operating hours are 12pm – 11pm (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday) , 5pm – 11pm (Tuesday) 12pm – 12am (Friday and Saturday)

Website: http://afterglow.sg