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

Group Therapy Cafe – Katong

On a weekend brunch, the cafe was full-house which is strange considering its whoop whoop location. Expect queues on weekend brunch peak period as they don’t take reservations. The ambience of this cafe is a bit dark and dingy in appearance, being inside a mall without outdoor sunlight, but it’s cosy and comfortable nevertheless.

My friend got the Skinny Latte ($5) which, as a coffee connoisseur, said was good; and me being a chai snob, got the Chai latte ($5.50) which I thought was really well done for Singaporean standards. No syrup in sight, it was made with the real spice. It was strong, full-bodied, milky and a substantial foam top too.

Buttermilk pancakes ($12.50) were thick and fluffy, but in my opinion not enough of a buttermilk taste. It’s a very generous serve though 🙂 The honeycomb crumbs and fruits lent a sour/crunchy contrast, and they by default serve syrup on the side which is always a plus.

Pumpkin pancake ($18.00) – doesn’t look super appetising, but by golly it was outstanding! Hints of fresh pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice ( cinnamon, nutmeg and clove) in a soft pancake with smoked salmon that was tender and easy on the sodium, two soft poached eggs topped with a very thick and rich serving of Hollaindaise sauce. We ended up scooping most of it away but if you do get it, ask for it on the side (or maybe most Singaporeans like it that way I guess…lots of sauce in food…)! Eggs were done bouncy with a gooey half-cooked yolk.

I thought the food and drinks at Group Therapy were good and understand why all the expat crowds flock here on the weekends!

Prices are nett (no service charge or GST)

They have another branch at Tanjong Pagar.

Group Therapy Coffee, Katong
30 East Coast Road, Katong V, #01-11, Singapore 428751
Nearest MRT: Dakota
Open daily from 9am to 9pm.

Group Therapy Coffee, Duxton
49 Duxton Road, #02-01, Singapore 089513
Nearest MRT: Outram Park/Tanjong Pagar
Tel: +65 +65 6222 2554
Open from 11am to 6pm on Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11am to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 10am to 6pm on Sundays and public holidays. Closed on Mondays.

Website: http://www.gtcoffee.com/

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

The Soup Spoon Union White Sands

White Sands Mall at Pasir Ris has a unique Soup Spoon Union that has exclusively debuted two new concept stalls The Grill Knife and The Salad Fork. My friend who lives in the eastside sent me many appetising photos of her dinners enticing me to go. Unfortunately it’s not available any other Soup Spoon outlet except in the ulu Pasir Ris, so I so trekked all the way to the end of the green line to try it out.

According to the mall’s Facebook page, ‘Pasir Ris’ means ‘White Sand’ in Malay, named after a stretch of white beach that makes the North-East Coast of Singapore.

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The menu, in addition to the usual Soup Spoon favourites, has an array of fresh salads (The Salad Fork) and grilled meats (The Grill Knife).

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My boyfriend ordered the salad bowl ($8,80): with mesculun mix (+$1.50), hummus, whole egg, sunflower seeds, falafel balls, cauliflower rice + quinoa and carrot sesame dressing. Every component was fresh and generously packed on the plate. With over 40 fibre, protein, carb, and house-made sauce options to customise for your own salad/wrap, you’re spoilt for choice. And unlike some salad shops, I’m really glad that the menu allowed enough flexibility to allow a significant amount of protein in the dish. My main gripe would be that the falafel balls, although served hot, lacked the crunch and spice-filled infusion I’d had in other shops, but then that’s being nit-picky since it’s obviously not specialising in Greek/Middle Eastern. What I loved about the dish was the cauliflower ‘rice’ and quinoa: basically there is no rice, but it is replaced with crumbled cauliflower florets, edamame + quinoa, an innovative healthy way to add fibre that I approve of (taste-wise too; it’s like crunchy light-tasting fried rice!). I also enjoyed the unique carrot sesame dressing, which tasted like sweet juicy grated carrot with some tahini mixed in. Salads usually bore me but The Salad Spoon managed to create some twists and make things interesting.

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I got the chicken combo with grilled chicken breast + portobello mushroom set with a pesto penne and ponzu miso ($12.80). The grilled chicken breast was done well and again I was happy to see they were generous with the portions. The marinade of the chicken allowed the natural grilled flavour of the poultry to come through, although without a sauce it felt a bit dry (perhaps choosing thigh would be a better bet if grilled). The ponzu miso sauce was alright but it wasn’t really that to my liking; perhaps being a mix of sweet, sour and salty  in a Japanese style tastes a bit strange to me? But I heard the house gravy is good. The portobello mushroom is a bit small and slightly parched, but again well-seasoned. Luckily olive oil is available at each table, which I doused and made the whole dish taste good (yep, I love me olive oil. Nope it’s not because of Jamie Oliver). The pesto penne had a good pesto taste (although perhaps not as much cheese as the European standard?), but it was a bit too soft in texture. Nevertheless, each ingredient combined to make a pleasant dish, although not quite at fine dining standards.

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The Grill Knife also has other options available including the salmon ($15.80), steak (flank $12.80 and ribeye $15.80), and pork cutlet ($12.80), as well as various combos of these for hungry ones. Each grilled meat comes with your choice of a side (mixed green salad, basil pesto penne, cauliflower rice with quinoa and edamame, chunky fries) and a sauce (ponzu miso, Japanese curry, house gravy, mushroom sauce). Customisation at its finest!

I thought it was a good idea for the menu to include the kcal count for each dish, although it was only for the two concept stores.

I like both stores at the Soup Spoon Union White Sands: fresh, innovative, wholesome, generous, affordable and yummy. It’s no-frills at its best. But with a caveat: with these prices, don’t expect gourmet food. However, the main problem is that it’s too far away from where I live: Soup Spoon Union can you please bring it over to the central area?! 😛

Prices not inclusive of 7% GST (no service charge)

Soup Spoon Union White Sands
#02-33, 1 Pasir Ris Central Street 3, Singapore 518457
Opening hours: 10.30am – 10.00pm daily
Telephone: 6585 0898
Website: http://www.whitesands.com.sg/stores/the-soup-spoon-union/ / http://www.thesoupspoon.com/home/our-brands/the-grill-knife/ / http://www.thesoupspoon.com/home/our-brands/the-salad-fork/