Reunion Dinners this Chinese New Year 2015

ConcordeThe first time I celebrated Chinese new year in Singapore… I pretty much missed all the food festivities thanks to laziness in finding information as well as reserving my reunion dinner on time. By the time I woke up to the fact that I may need to book a table, most restaurants were either full or didn’t serve what I thought was my taste. So for those out there wishing to enjoy the food festivities, here are 3 simple rules:

  1. Decide on what you prefer – seafood or meat: It has been my observation that a lot of restaurants provide set meals which are seafood heavy… with little to no options for meat eaters.
  2. Decide on a budget: This is critical. You will be amazed at the breadth of budget which stretches from as small as S$ 70 per person to as much as S$ 250 per person.
  3. Decide on number of people dining out: Most restaurants provide set meals with a minimum persons criteria. For example, minimum 4 pax and this usually goes upto minimum 10 pax in some restaurants.
  4. Decide on a date and time: You would be amazed at how many restaurants would be closed for 1 or 2 days during Chinese new year. Such restaurants usually have only one special reunion dinner split into 2 slots, early dinner starting around 6pm and late dinner starting around 8:30pm.
  5. Book right away: If you have decided on most of the above criteria, book right away…

Here are a few restaurants listed as per (1) Price and (2) Number of people to get you started on your research.

Peach GardenPEACH GARDEN Peach Garden is one of my favourite restaurants when it comes to tradition Cantonese cuisine. With around 8 outlets across Singapore, the restaurant caters to affordable cuisines at some of its outlets while exclusive fine dining at others. Each of their restaurant has a different menu. A few of the specialities include: the traditional Salmon Yu Sheng, Shark fin preparations, Baby Abalone etc.

Price: Set meal at some of its restaurants/ outlets start at S$ 78++ per person.

Menu & Reservation: http://www.peachgarden.com.sg/cny-promotions-2015

Ban Heng

BAN HENG: Ban Heng is another traditional restaurant specializing in Cantonese and Teochew cuisine (Teochew are residents of eastern Guangdong province in China). Ban Heng also has around 6 outlets in Singapore, with their Boon Keng Outlet being the first and the oldest. A few specialities on offer include: Yu Sheng, Shark Fin, Braised Chicken, and a couple of menus also include Goose meat and pork ribs.

Price: Whole host of CNY set meal options for as low as S$ 29++ per pax. They also serve smaller groups of minimum 4 pax to upto 10 pax.

Menu & Reservation: http://www.banheng.com.sg/boon-keng/

Restaurant HomeRESTAURANT HOME: This place serves quite unpretentious, yet delectable food. The restaurant is well known around Singapore thanks to celebrity chef Tan Yong Hua (ex-Marina Mandarin and Raffles chef). Some of the traditional dishes offered include chef’s signature Barbecued duck with Lychee Wood, Abalone soup, scallops and lobster.

Price: The reunion dinner options are available for minimum of 4 pax and the set menu starts at around S$ 80 per pax.

Menu & Reservation: http://www.restauranthome.com.sg/2015-chinese-new-year-menu/

Yunnan GardenYUNNAN GARDEN: Predominantly Cantonese cuisine, the restaurant is quite well-known for delicious mix of meat and seafood offering. They have pretty elaborate set menus this new year, especially catering to a large group. Unfortunately, they don’t cater to smaller groups at this time. Specialities include: Shark fin with crab meat soup, Abalone with spinach, and Fresh Cream of Pumpkin with Glutinous Rice Ball.

Price: Set meal for a minimum 10 pax starts at S$ 568++ for the group with the most expensive meal at S$ 1888++ for 10 pax.

Menu & Reservation: http://www.yunnangarden.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Reunion-Set-Menu2015.pdf

Hung KangHUNG KANG TEOCHEW RESTAURANT: One of the oldest Teochew restaurant in Singapore, started in 1960’s, it was acclaimed to be the only so called fine-dining Teochew restaurant then. The restaurant has a few elaborate set meals to choose from this new year. Some of the delicacies include teochew duck meat, traditional steamboat and sweet yam paste with mandarin orange.

Price: Their reunion dinner options are available for a minimum of 6 pax and start as low as approximately S$ 60 per pax.

Menu & Reservation: http://www.teochewhungkang.com.sg/menu.php

Apart from the 5 mentioned here, almost all major restaurants across the city offer some or the other form of CNY reunion dinners.

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Other option include Reunion Buffets and some more set menus. Some restaurants to consider would include:

Concorde Hotel: http://singapore.concordehotelsresorts.com/media_releases_view.php?news_id=6793

Park Hotel Clarke Quay: http://www.parkhotelgroup.com/clarkequay/chinese-new-year-reunion-seafood-%26-bbq-buffet-dinner-,special-offers_viewItem_6222-en.html

Grand Hyatt: http://www.singapore.grand.hyattrestaurants.com/straitskitchen/lunar-new-year-dining-,promotions_viewItem_112-en.html

Carlton City Hotel: http://carltoncity.sg/PromoTemplate1.aspx?id=85

Furama Riverfront: http://www.furama.com/specials/riverfront/cny2015/dining.php#.VMRjAP6UdUQ

Holiday Inn Singapore: http://issuu.com/hi_sinatrium/docs/xin_cuisine_chinese_restaurant_luna/0

Regent Singapore: http://www.regentsingapore.com.sg/regentengage/

Fort Canning Hotel: http://www.hfcsingapore.com/CMS/userfiles/file/HFC%20-%20LNY%202015%20Reunion%20Menu%20Packages.jpg

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR 2015! Hope you have a delicious year ahead. Bon Appetit!

* This is a personal post, and the author’s own opinions. The author has not been compensated in any way by any of the restaurants mentioned above… This is not an exhaustive list, neither is it the best, however, these are definitely some options to consider.

Photo Credits: 

[1] Concorde Hotel Website

[2] Peach Garden Website

[3] Ban Heng Website

[4] Restaurant Home Website

[5] Yunnan Garden Website

[6] Hung Kang Teochew Restaurant Website

[7] Regent Hotel Website

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Amazing History of Chocolates…

Some like it soft and mushy, some like it strong and dark, then there are some who prefer it nutty and chunky and finally we have the ones who love them white… I am of course talking about the insanely addictive, instinctively gluttonous, quickly cheering and the most famous euphoria shot of all… “The Chocolate!”

Chocolate is probably one Eden most have experienced and experience it over and over again. It is also one of the oldest gluttons man has discovered and created, in history of food. The little drops of heaven have a really long and interesting history. The Theobroma Cacao beans, then found in the Mesoamerica were ground up and used to make drinks similar to chocolate beverages as far back as the BC 1900s. What’s more… these beans then, had a religious importance where the native Mexican’s considered them to be gift from their God of Wisdom. In fact, the seeds had enough value that they were used as barter or some form of currency for trade purposes.

In its earlier forms, till almost the middle of the AD 1500s, chocolate was consumed only as a drink, often served bitter, either with spices, alcohol or even corn puree. The Mayans and the Aztecs called their chocolate drink ‘Xocoatll’ and this drink was recognised as an aphrodisiac even back in the day. However, how the Xocoatll became Chocolate is definitely been a matter of study for academicians for centuries. But before the word was actually formed it went through many trial names “chocalatall, “jocolatte”, “jacolatte”, and “chockelet”. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl (the Aztecs language) word “chocolatl”, derived from “xocolatl” which is a mix of the words “xococ” meaning bitter and “atl” meaning drink.

The secrets of the Cacao beans remained with the Mesoamerica until as late as the 1500s AD when the Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquered the Central and South America. Intrigued at how much the locals worshipped and valued the beans, he carried the beans back to Spain in 1523 and that’s when the age old Mesoamerican gold reached the shores of Europe.

Once it reached Spain, the beans quickly spread amongst the rich and famous, and this bitter tasting drink became a royalty. Not surprisingly, slowly but surely, the bitterness got to the Spanish and they started adding heavy doses of honey and sugar to the drink to reduce the bitterness. That’s where the thicker version of the drink gained its foothold and chocolate as we know it today was born. Chocolate moved from Spain to France when it was introduced in a royal wedding in the early 1600s and England soon welcomed this aphrodisiac in later part of the same century.

Once it reached across Europe, the plantations of Cacao Beans grew across European colonies. This gave rise to a thriving slave market, where the tedious production of the cocoa was done manually by slaves coming from various parts of the world. Due to the manual slow process, chocolate remained an expensive commodity meant only for the rich and famous. This continued till the industrial revolution in early 1800s when faster steam powered machines helped speed up the production process.

One of the most revolutionary inventions in chocolate making came around 1815 when a Dutch scientist Van Houten introduced alkaline salts which helped bring down the extreme bitterness of the beans. Later he created a process to remove about half the natural fat (what we today use as cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, which made chocolate both cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. This innovation was the birth of modern chocolates. Milk had previously been used to reduce the bitterness of chocolate drinks. However, it was in 1870s when Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by mixing a powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé with the liquor. In 1879, the texture and taste of chocolate was further improved when Rudolphe Lindt invented the conching machine. And by later part of 1870, apart from Nestle and Lindt, several chocolate companies had sprouted across Europe. Cadbury was producing boxed chocolate as early as 1860s, Hersey’s chocolate were born in 1890s and innovation and invention of different forms of chocolate, made from the gift of God of Wisdom of the Aztecs started reaching every home.

However, just like every shiny diamond, these food diamonds have a rather ugly backdrop. Around 60-70% of world’s cocoa production still happens in South America, specifically Ivory Coast. It has been alleged that an estimated 90% of cocoa farms in Ivory Coast have used some form of slave labor in order to remain viable. When cocoa prices drop, farmers in West Africa sometimes cut costs by resorting to slave labour.

Having said that, it does not challenge or bring down the value of the chocolate we so take for granted. So next time you slowly unwrap your favourite chocolate from the shiny wrapper, spend a thought on the long and interesting history of this ‘today commonplace product’. Think about the journey the cacao or cocoa seeds have made, the inventions the scientists have put in place, the many variations they have created, thus, once again proving that human beings can go any lengths to satisfy their gluttony.

Disclaimer: The facts contained within this article are sourced from various textual as well as internet sources. There is no guarantee that the facts included here are 100% true… yet this is the closest history of chocolates available in written records. Any discrepancy is regretted. 

It’s Vietnamese Time… And Madam Saigon awaits – One of the best Vietnamese Restaurants Around

Vietnamese is one of my favourite Asian cuisines. It brings together spices and flavours in such a beautiful manner that even at the end of a hearty meal, you are left wanting for more. The first time I tried Vietnamese was at a food cart in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and the first Vietnamese dish I had ever tried was the all famous Pho (flat rice noodles) with chicken soup. And with that one tasting, all my preconceived notions about Vietnamese cuisine, that they use fish oils, loads of fish paste, have a really strong aroma etc. just dissolved. It takes just one try to fall in love with the cuisine.

Madam Saigon Singapore

Madam Saigon Singapore

Last weekend, I tried out a quaint little Vietnamese restaurant called Madam Saigon at Millenia Walk, Singapore.

I usually start my review with how the restaurant ambience looked like, but in this case, what I want to foremost mention is what appealed to me about the restaurant. It’s people. Even on a Sunday night at around 9, the staff and the servers were helpful, ever-smiling and patient as we browsed through their rather elaborate menu. What’s more, they understood vegetarian-related constrains and were kind enough to point out which sauces had fish-sauce and which did not, making the vegetarian diners at the table really comfortable and happy.

Madam Saigon Singapore (18)The restaurant décor is nice and welcoming, with green being their dominant theme colour. The wall are adorned with warm photographs show-casing day-to-day life in Vietnam.

Madam Saigon Singapore (19)The way the restaurant is set makes it for warm ambience, especially for enjoying a casual meal.

In terms of food, the restaurant is paradise for fish and meat lovers. At the same time, though not as elaborate, they cater quite a bit to vegetarian tastes… This is what we tried:

Chicken Summer Roll @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Chicken Summer Roll @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[1] Chicken Summer Roll: Wrapped in thin rice flower roll, is salad and lightly spiced boiled and almost-shredded chicken. This is an alternative to those who want to avoid eating the fried spring rolls.

Pho - Beef Ball Noodle Soup @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Pho – Beef Ball Noodle Soup @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[2] Pho – Beef Ball Noodle Soup: No Vietnamese meal is complete without boiling bowl of Pho… the Beef Ball Noodle soup made it for a surprise change to the typical sliced meat you usually get. I preferred the beef balls to sliced beef. The beef balls were perfectly cooked… Just a caveat here… the soup makes it for a one-person meal. You want share it, if you wish to enjoy some other delicacies.

Vietnamese Mango Fish @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Vietnamese Mango Fish @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[3] Vietnamese Mango Fish: This fried boneless fish fillet can give a great fish and chips a run for it’s money. Served with an amazingly tangy mango salad, this dish a must-must try for all fish lovers!

Lemongrass Tofu @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Lemongrass Tofu @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[4] Lemongrass Tofu: Chunks of Tofu nicely stir-fried in lemon grass make for a perfect starter for a vegetarian lover. The tofu was soft and the overall dish quite unique.

Stir-fried Lemongrass Chicken @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Stir-fried Lemongrass Chicken @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[5] Stir-fried Lemon Grass Chicken: Small pieces of chicken stir-fried in garlic and lemon grass and served with rice… Again, the portion of this dish makes it for a complete meal, to opt for sharing, else you will be left with one dish to finish for the rest of the meal… it’s yummy, well-flavoured and light.

Vietnamese Fried Rice @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Vietnamese Fried Rice @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[6] Vietnamese Fried Rice: We went for a vegetarian fried rice complete with fried egg. The rice was so well balanced that it was easy to finish it off by itself without any curry or condiments.

Vegetable Curry @ Madam Saigon Singapore

Vegetable Curry @ Madam Saigon Singapore

[7] Vegetarian curry: Madam Saigon makes a coconut based vegetarian yellow curry which is perfect for a vegetarian. It goes really well with the vegetarian fried rice and has none of the strong aromas. It’s well-spiced and not spicy… again meant for sharing… as the portions were quite large.

How much will it cost me: The restaurant is really reasonable in terms of cost and portions of servings. A dinner for 2 with a decent spread should not cost more than S$ 30-35 depending upon what you choose.

Verdict: If you are looking for a tasty meal, complete with warm settings and really helpful servers, go no further than Madam Saigon. For the Pho lover, they have a huge variety and choices available. Have a vegetarian amongst you, no worries either… finally the place is really reasonably priced, especially for the portions it serves, thus, ensuring you do not burn a hole in your pockets. Next time, you have a craving for Asian food, skip the Thai and the Chinese and head for this lovely little Vietnamese place. I bet you won’t be disappointed.

Address: Madam Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant [1]  #01-26 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Blvd, Singapore 039596 OR [2] 30 Liang Seah Street Singapore

Timings: 11:30 am to 10 pm

Places to watch FIFA World Cup 2014 in Singapore – Exhaustive List

Fifa World CupNothing can make you feel as happy as a solid hi-fi you share with your buddy after your favourite team makes that impossible goal… or your least favourite team missing it! This world cup… the groups coming together at a pub or someone’s house to watch that all important group match have gone down drastically due to the inhuman hours of the matches… World Cup gatherings are getting restricted to weekend nights… sigh!

This post is specially for those who have been turned down by boring friends when you have suggested meeting up for that exciting match you have been waiting for, for four long years! Here’s an exhaustive list of places you can watch the FIFA World Cup 2014 and cheer in a group all week long.

[1] Community Centres around Singapore: As many as 40 community centres around Singapore are screening most of the important clashes… For more information on locations, matches and timings do visit http://www.pa.gov.sg/events/latest-events.html

[2] Central Business District: The CBD here loosely covers the options available in or near CBD and it has quite a few options of its own… especially for those who might want to catch an early game before the day’s work… Wabar Singapore, The Shaven Cat, The Chamber Bar and Bistro, The Beacon Room, The Bank Bar + Bistro, Shallots, Ricciotti, Regal Entertainment, Paulaner Brauhaus, J Bar, llluzion, Hood@Bugis+, Singapore Recreation Club, Harry’s (at Esplanade), Caffe B, Brotzeit (Raffle’s City), Paprika and Cumin, Boulevard.

[3] Arab Street Area: You can definitely catch the matches at three different places in the Arab Street. Nasrin Restaurant, Café Le Caire and My Turkish Corner… If you are prepared to walk just a little bit more… J Entertainment and Club De Zara at Jalan Sultan can also be an option.

[4] McDonald’s Outlets: Looking for a cheaper option? 39 McDonald’s outlets across the island will screen World Cup Matches live…

[5] Boat Quay Area: Want to be at the centre of action… you will find nothing better than Boat Quay. You can enjoy the matches at any of these outlets. Bq Bar, Charlie’s Tapas, Grill & Bar, Sahara Bar and Restaurant and The Penny Black.

[6] River Valley & Robertson Quay Area: River Valley has it’s own share of quiet options. Beer Market, Bice Bistro, Brewhaus, Cocoon Bar and Supperclub, En Japanese Dining Bar, Grand Hollywood Disco & Pub, Le Noir, and Wings Bar, Boomerang Bistro & Bar and Zouk.

[7] Orchard Road: Orchard road has some pretty hep and some well-not-so-hep places… choose as per your liking, carefully. Here are the options. Malones Irish Restaurant & Bar, Muddy Murphy’s, Hard Rock Café, Harry’s (Orchard Towers), Entertainment Group, Filling Station Night Club and Café, Fu Chan F&B Group, Jamcute, Ipanema World Music Bar, MBK Entertainment, and well some other places in and around Orchard Towers.

[8] Sentosa Gateway: Sentosa and Sentosa Gateway has three quite frequented options. Start with St. James, Tiger Live, Toxic Entertainment. Then there’s Quayside Fish Bar & Bistro.

[9] East Side: This includes most places beyond well Aljunied. Asteroid’s Cyber, Changi Beach Club, Enak Enak Hongkong Tea House, M/S Hmshost Singapore, quite a few McDonald’s outlets, Safra National Service Association, Singapore Swimming Club, The Coast Bistro & Bar, Vegetoriam, Syed Restaurant and Vie Bar.

[10] West Side: This includes places beyond Redhill. Food Pavilion, Hollandse Club (open for all during world cup), Jurong Country Club, Saf Warrant Officers And Specialists Club, Tree Lizard, quite a few McDonald’s, Holland Village Food Court and Meetup@494.

[11] North & North East Side: While this does cover a large portion, the options here are quite few and limited. There’s The British Club, Serangoon Garden’s Country Club, Food Xchange @ Admirality, One Place Western Food Restaurant and Ice Cold Beer

On a final note, do check the timings of the restaurants to find out what matches will be screened. Needless to say, almost all restaurants will screen all the matches from Quarter-Final onwards.

Juntos num só ritmo! 

If you found the list helpful, do visit www.facebook.com/spicerover to enjoy such interesting updates!

Fast Food for Thought – Perfect Place to have Breakfast… All day Long!

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought

I love casual café’s. You know those places where you can enjoy a well-made burger or freshly made fries… or even a simple bacon and egg brunch. And while Singapore has plenty of those, I hold a special place for Fast Food for Thought.

A quaint café situated on the arty Victoria Street… Fast Food for Thought is a perfect place to hang out for a leisurely brunch / lunch or just sit and read or as many SMU students do, study.

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought

The café is pretty interesting… especially the bright red outdoors. I love bright and shiny places… they surely say, we offer a warm welcome!

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought

The entire café has some really curious décor. Whether it is the glasses suspended from the ceiling or

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought

blackboard that spreads across the centre!

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought

They have a self-service counter. And no number system. So when you order, you usually indicate where you are seated and the server finds you with your order!

Coming to what they actually serve, here’s what I tried.

Salt and Pepper Fries @ Fast Food for Thought

Salt and Pepper Fries @ Fast Food for Thought

[1] Salt and Pepper Fries: The fries were freshly made… nice and crisp. Nothing to complain about and one thing I can tell you… it definitely sets the mood for the rest of the meal.

Basic Works @ Fast Food For Thought

Basic Works @ Fast Food For Thought

[2] Basic Works (All Day Breakfast): My all time favourite combination offered without any jazz! Scrambled eggs (they were really good), smoked bacon (crisp and fresh) and brioche toast. And all this for just S$ 8!

Bread and Butter Pudding @ Fast Food for Thought

Bread and Butter Pudding @ Fast Food for Thought

[3] Bread and Butter Pudding: Bread and butter pudding with chocolate buttons served with vanilla ice cream and generous sprinking of nuts! I have not had too many great bread puddings around, but this one is worth a try!

Few other dishes to try include their sweet breakfast options which include French toast, pancakes both of which are served with gula Melaka and vanilla ice-cream.

Fast Food for Thought

Fast Food for Thought

Apart from their food, they have some interesting bakery offerings such as their carrot cakes and chocolate mud cakes.

Fast Food for Thought

Fast Food for Thought

What’s more, they have some unique beer choices as well.

How much will it cost me: The three dishes cost me S$ 23. It is a reasonable place, considering they have a fair footfall of students from various colleges visiting them all day long.

Fast Food For Thought

Fast Food For Thought, Singapore

Verdict: They do have some killer breakfast offerings. I would recommend a definite visit, especially for their all day breakfast and desserts! It’s reasonably priced, the décor is welcoming. And finally, they have free wi-fi! I say it’s a whole package!

Address: 8, Queen Street, Singapore 188535

Time: Tue – Sun 11am to 7pm

Back to Basics – Peperoni Pizzeria… For some fresh, crunchy pizzas!

Pepperoni (5)

Pepperoni

One of my most favourite comfort foods is Pizza. Bread, meat, ketchup and cheese… it cannot get any better. I still remember the days when mom used to make pizza out of Roti, add loads of meat/veggies pour ketchup and grate cheese and then roast it on a pan (these were the oven-less days). The crunchy crust was my favourite. Of course then came the era of thick pizza base (the days of Pizza Hut and Dominos). And I lost the pull towards pizza for a while. If I wanted to eat that thick a bread, wouldn’t I just go for a sandwich I thought. This of course was personal preference. But things turned for the better with thin crust pizzas and my love story with pizza was restored.

Peperoni

Peperoni

Recently, I fell in love with Pizza all over again, when I visited “Peperoni” Pizzeria, a relaxed a restaurant chain spread across Singapore. Peperoni currently has five outlets in Singapore, newest one being their establishment at Suntec City.

One of the most endearing things about Peperoni is their casual, vibrant décor that immediately makes you feel welcomed.

Peperoni

Peperoni

The interiors dominated by orange shades and bright lights makes it a homey environment to be in.

Pepperoni (16)The sign on their wall, is what first catches your eye. You just cannot miss it. Overall, it has indeed become one of my favourite restaurants when it comes to ambience.

Peperoni

Peperoni

Moving on to their delectable food offering. Peperoni is most famous for their freshly made thin crust pizzas. Their pizza station is something they love to flaunt. The wood fire oven, the glass partitioned work-top and skilful chef’s at work is a favourite pastime for those waiting in queue to get into the restaurant.

Apart from pizza’s they also serve limited yet decent spread of anti-pasti, salads, pastas and other select dishes. In terms of drinks, beer lovers, okay let me rephrase, adventurous beer lovers may want to try out some of their speciality beers.

Here’s what we tried:

Tripel Karmeliet @ Peperoni

Tripel Karmeliet @ Peperoni

[1] Tripel Karmeliet (speciality beer): The description of the beer goes something like this. Three-grain beer has the lightness & freshness of wheat, the creaminess of oats together with a spicy lemony almost quinine dryness. Despite the fact that we were in no mood to drink, we enjoyed a glass of the beer and we were not disappointed! They also have other beer offerings. Those interested can take a look at their choice at http://peperoni.com.sg/menu/drinks/belgium-beers

 

Caprese @ Peperoni

Caprese @ Peperoni

[2] Caprese: For some reason, I had someone at the table who insisted that this was an extremely healthy dish. Healthy maybe, low-cal, definitely not! Thick slices of mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil and olives. It’s a refreshing starter for sure, especially on a hot day! So no complains… The mozzarella serving was generous and the portion was quite large for two.

Arrabiata @ Peperoni

Arrabiata @ Peperoni

[3] Arrabbiata: Red chilli garlic sauce, fresh basil and an actual red chilli mixed with well cooked pasta. I was quite impressed with this simply made pasta… and trust me I have seen this one messed up more times than I can remember. Vegetarians, you will not be disappointed with the pasta!

Hawaiana Pizza @ Peperoni

Hawaiana Pizza @ Peperoni

[4] Hawaiana Pizza: Finally comes the pizza. The classic all-time favourite pizza, pork ham, pineapple, bellpeppers generously laid over a freshly made tomato base sauce. No complains there. Crispy base (its actually crunches) makes my day. While I ordered a 9” pizza, for a family of 4, order their all time hit, XXL 21 inch pizza. Cost S$ 50, but turns out can really feed a family!

How much will it cost me: Pizza’s usually cost S$ 20 for 9 inch pizza, S$ 24 for 12 and S$ 50 for 21 inch pizza. Their basic pasta offerings range from S$ 20 to S$ 30 depending upon what you pick. A lunch / dinner for 2 usually costs S$ 75 including 1 alcoholic drink and dessert.

Special: Suntec City Peperoni offers a great weekday lunch offer. [1] Salad [2] 9 inch pizza OR pasta [3] Drink all for S$ 14.90 NETT.

Verdict: Try it. No doubt about it. Especially if you enjoy freshly kneaded, thin crust pizzas. It’s a great place to take your family for a pizza meal. Also a good place to go for business lunch, their special offer is really impressive. Casual environment, good pizzas yet does not burn that large a hole in the pocket. If I have to, the only negative I can think of… their servers can definitely do better. They all looked irritated and unfriendly, almost banging our drink on the table. I do not know if they were having a bad day, but it was not really called for. But for sheer food offering, definite thumbs up.

Address: http://peperoni.com.sg/contact

Ice Cream Scoop Shop Dempsey Hill… Ben & Jerry’s Dessert Extravaganza!

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

Very few restaurants / eating joints manage to create an awe in me because they offer something I have not imagined or experienced. Ben & Jerry at Dempsey Hill is one such restaurant that makes me think “Hmmm if I had an ice cream/dessert joint, I would want it to be something like this!”

Out Side seating @ Ben & Jerry's, Dempsey Hill

Out Side seating @ Ben & Jerry’s, Dempsey Hill

Situated in one of the picturesque houses at the ever so romantic Dempsey Hill, Ben & Jerry’s takes ice cream parlour concept to another level.

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

Sprawled across a 1500+ sq feet area, this place gives an impression that you are sitting in an old-time roadside eatery in a village somewhere in Europe!

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

The rustic and wooden interiors…

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

Rare raw brick walls are really endearing.

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

The fireplace (non-functional) charming. Especially when you have a live band playing right in front of it.

Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

It’s not a tidy seating, yet the overall setting is just something that makes you want to hang out there, enjoying delectable desserts / coffee / food or alcohol.

Moving to why we usually go there… for the desserts! Ben & Jerry’s offers some really interesting and delicious ice cream based desserts, drinks and sundaes. I will list out some of my favourites.

I will list out some of my favourites.

Double Brownie Special - Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Double Brownie Special – Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

[1] Double Brownie Special: Freshly baked brownie (yes, the brownie is fresh, you can tell) with your choice of ice cream. My favourite ice cream combination includes chocolate chip cookie dough, New York Super Fudge Chunk (chocolate ice cream with dark fudge chunk, pecans, walnuts and fudge covered almonds) and Vanilla!

Double Belgian Waffle - Ben & Jerry's @ Dempsey Hill

Double Belgian Waffle – Ben & Jerry’s @ Dempsey Hill

[2] Double Belgian Waffle: Freshly prepared Belgian Waffle with your choice of ice cream, with cream and chocolate sprinkles… Normal ice cream combination that works is any chocolate ice cream and vanilla.

[3] Some of my favourite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavours to try:

 

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey

Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey

Chunky Monkey: The first time I heard about this ice cream, I rejected or almost rejected the idea of trying it… who has a banana ice cream! I ate my words along with a huge serving of the chunky monkey. If you like banana, you CANNOT miss this flavour! It’s ice cream carton is usually out of stock at quite a few places.

 

 

 

 

 

Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake

Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake: Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream – Strawberries & a Thick Graham Cracker Swirl is actually another rare flavour I really really enjoy! A caveat, if you decide to take a scoop straight out of a box, beware, its really difficult to keep it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk

Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk

New York Super Fudge Chunk: Chocolate Ice Cream with White & Dark Fudge Chunks, Pecans, Walnuts & Fudge Covered Almonds, a chocolate lovers gourmet delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much will it cost me: Well a scoop of ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s is around S$ 10-12. Add another S$10 for waffle/brownie… however, the serving size for Sundaes is quite large and meant for sharing!

Verdict: Oh I find it a perfect place to have a date. Apart from the gourmet desserts, the place also has a well-stocked bar and some select food choices as well. Although I have never really tried food here (Dempsey has quite a few other restaurants I enjoy) I like their limited spread. They have Nacho’s, select pasta, salad, pizza and soup. The setting is perfect for quiet time with your partner as well as a dessert night out for families! Caveat, week days evening is nice and quiet. Weekends, quite a few children around… take your pick!

Location: 8 Dempsey Rd, 247696. Ph: 6473 3231
Timing: 10:30am to 11:00pm

* This review is the writer’s personal opinion and is NOT a paid review.

A Chef, An Artist – Reena Pushkarna, the ‘Curry Queen of Israel’ now adding taste to Singapore

Reena Pushkarna

the ‘Curry Queen of Israel’ now adding taste to Singapore – Reena Pushkarna

“Chefs are like painters… the tools their paint brushes, the kitchen their canvas! And then you paint…” That’s how celebrity chef Reena Pushkarna, lovingly known as the ‘Curry Queen of Israel’ describes her art and love for cooking.

From restaurants to providing ready-to-eat recipes under the brand name ‘Reena’, to having celebrity cooking show, this stunning, dynamic, ever-smiling chef today is a household name in Israel. After successfully conquering and ruling the Israel food scene for Indian cuisine, she along with her son Kunal Pushkarna entered the Singapore market in late 2011 with a unique restaurant concept called Pita Pan – an all vegetarian Mediterranean affair!

Reena Pushkarna

Reena Pushkarna

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with her for a relaxed talk at Pita Pan, Marina Bay Sands where she discussed her love for cooking, (passion and excitement evident on her face like a little child),  her inspirational journey towards becoming the Curry Queen and her future plans in Asia.

Having successfully introduced and inculcated taste for Indian cuisine in the land of Israelis who are known for their specific food preferences, she admits the journey, of course, wasn’t easy. “More than 20 years ago, my husband (Vinod Pushkarna) and I started an all vegetarian restaurant at Tel Aviv. I looked after cooking, catering to preferences of the guests, designing my kitchen, training my chefs, restaurant décor and so on. But logistics and business I happily left it to him,” she says with a chuckle. “After about a year of struggle with our vegetarian offerings, we decided to introduce non-vegetarian food to the meat loving locals, in form of tandoori recipes… and the hard work seems to have paid off.” She finishes humbly.

Reena Pushkarna

Different moods of Celebrity Chef – Reena Pushkarna

And it was hard work indeed, for this stunning chef, hugely adorned for her tasty dishes, has in fact picked up cooking from chefs across the world. But hold on, this wasn’t in any renowned culinary school, but aboard ships! “My husband was a Captain in Indian Merchant Navy. On board the ships, we had a number of chefs from different countries… and I actually picked up culinary skills at the hands of trained chefs from across the world! I could not have asked for better learning atmosphere.” Having said that, she picked up and truly honed her passion toward Indian cuisine closer home… “My mother-in-law is an excellent cook and I truly gained a lot from her!”

So famous is her chain of restaurants in Israel that it is reported that the famous peace talks starring former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were reported to have first started at her restaurant Tandoori at Tel Aviv, Israel.

Gourmet food and personal touch are the hallmarks of all her restaurants and that’s exactly what she brings to Singapore with Pita Pan. “For me food is a way to connect with people. I would never bring about anything into my restaurants that I do not personally enjoy having. I have worked with my chefs here, personally trained them, designed the menu and I love to keep innovating. For me teaching and learning in the kitchen never stops. In fact, before the launch of Pita Pan, I along with my chefs trained with the chef at famous Mediterranean restaurant back in Israel. It was a great experience learning the fine art of making Mediterranean basics like Hummus under a veteran who has done it for 35 long years! So everything we serve here has an authentic touch.”

Reena Pushkarna

Different moods of Celebrity Chef – Reena Pushkarna

Just as I was about to ask her about why the Curry Queen, who runs the most famous Tandoor restaurant in Israel decide to go vegetarian when entering Singapore, we were pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of Executive Chef of Marina Bay Sands, Christopher Christie. It is a humongous task to get this chatty, active chef alone for a tete-a-tete for long time-spans. For in-between celebrity chef visits and her visits to the kitchen, she even manages to keep an eye out for her guests. She quickly donned her chef’s avatar and even went behind the counter to serve customers, when she saw the ever-increasing queue during the lunch hour rush.

“I am thankful we are well-received here…” she smiles after returning to the table. Why vegetarian I prompt. “I personally think vegetarian food can offer a lot, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. And we are constantly working at bringing in a unique dining experience. I love to experiment. I always look out for what might suit a particular ingredient. Or can I make something special that might appeal to say, children or people with particular preferences. For example, we recently launched Pita Pizza, which is catching up with children quite a bit! Apart from that, we recently started offering Hummus without garlic, for those who ask for it! I try to bring in unique offering wherever I can. For example, all the condiments we have on offer here, our chutney’s are my own special creations and that’s how we add special touches to traditional food from the middle-east!” (Detailed review of Pita Pan follows this interview in next few days).

Pita Pan Singapore

Pita Pan Singapore

Today Pita Pan Outlets are available at 2 locations in Singapore. The first of which opened opposite Arts and Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands. “I wanted something that offered both open air and indoor seating. It offers a casual yet homey atmosphere. For me Pita Pan offers an opportunity to bring about something different after having worked for over two decades around Indian food.”

With inroads in Singapore & recently in Macau (Pita Pan has an outlet in the Venetian), is Pita Pan looking to open outlets elsewhere in Asia. “We definitely want to take this concept to more places… and we are exploring options. Hopefully we will be seen in a few more countries in days to come.”

Apart from food and restaurants, Reena Pushkarna has very hectic social life. She is an active member of various organizations including the Israel Chamber of Commerce, IWC (International Women’s Club), and Executive board member of Indo-Israel Friendship Association. She was also a part Israel Prime Minister Sharon’s Business Delegation to India in 2003. With an active business to run, now across geographies, how does she find time for her social commitments? “If my contributions can create a difference or even a slightest impact, I want to be a part of it!” she says simply, “And for that I will always make time.”

With both her children now settled in Singapore (daughter Sarina and son Kunal), does it seem more like home? “My visits have increased quite a bit. And I love spending time with my grandchildren… so yes given time I can happily claim I have three homes, Israel, Singapore and of course India!”

Reena Pushkarna

Different moods of Celebrity Chef – Reena Pushkarna

Talking about Singapore, I couldn’t resist asking her about her favourite local cuisines. “I turned vegetarian a few years ago… so I am always on a look out for vegetarian delights. I have tried the vegetarian Laksa which I enjoyed quite a bit. Apart from that I quite enjoy Thai food offerings here!”

We wish and hope to see this dynamic chef churn out more gourmet & delectable concepts in her culinary journey!

– Interview by Sonal Chinchwadkar

Paddington House of Pancakes – Discover the World in 100 Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

I am very rarely impressed with menus… and by menu’s I do not just mean what is on offer in terms of variety of dishes, but also the way it is presented.

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes offers one of the most impressive menu’s I have seen in the last few years. Located on the Level 2 at City Square Mall, Paddington House of Pancakes offers an extensive and innovative selection of pancakes & crepes, both sweet and savoury!

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

What’s more, you can actually see how most of the dishes would actually look like. There comes my second part of the menu – its presentation!

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Menu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

I love the way it is designed and I can go on and on about the thought process behind it! Most of us are not sure about how savoury pancakes would turn out, especially if the dish has too many elements like meat, sauces, veggies etc. The pictorial representation is a perfect way to tickle the imagination and the palate.

Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

Moving on from the menu to the ambience, that too is extremely impressive. The walls are filled with posters – some stating history of pancakes, some just around to make you real hungry…

Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

I loved the writings on the wall…

Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

And the pillars…

Paddington House of Pancakes

Paddington House of Pancakes

The colour ambience is perfect for a nice informal meal, although I saw a few official meetings happening around me!

Now comes the actual food. Don’t be surprised if it takes you for ever to decide… after all it isn’t always a good thing to be spoilt for choice. Going through a 20 page menu, staring at the gourmet pictures of various dishes is quite time-consuming and honestly tiresome! Talk about first world problems! After scanning through so many pages and reading a ton of mouth-watering descriptions… this is what we ordered.

Classic Buckleberry @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Classic Buckleberry @ Paddington House of Pancakes

[1] Classic Buckleberry: Blueberry pancakes served with cream cheese scrambled eggs with mushrooms & crispy turkey bacon… served with generous quantities of maple syrup. What was interesting about the dish was that the slightly sweet pancakes complemented really well with the creamy perfectly made eggs. The turkey bacon on the side added a nice crunchy touch! Perfect dish to start your weekend…

Monaco @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Monaco @ Paddington House of Pancakes

[2] Monaco: Zucchini & onion pancakes served with grilled herbed lamb shoulder, yogurt mint sauce and mashed potatoes. This was a decently large portion… the pancakes were nice and soft, grilled lamb (250gms) was done just right. The mint sauce I thought was a little watery, but nicely flavoured! Overall a good large dish, great for sharing.

Honolulu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Honolulu @ Paddington House of Pancakes

[3] Honolulu: This is a pannekoek – popular 12” pancake from Holland. Simply put, this type of pancakes / crepes is like a pizza… only the base is well, pancake-batter. Honolulu is almost similar to a Hawaiian Pizza… which includes pineapple cubes, tomatoes, chicken bacon stripes (baked), onions and loads of mozzarella on top. Nice simple dish with generous ingredients all across. The dish is sufficient for one person with a good appetite.  The sweetness of the pineapple and the meat and veggies made for a fulfilling dish. Just a caveat, if you prefer your pancakes to be thick and soft, this may not be for you.

Nice @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Nice @ Paddington House of Pancakes

[4] Nice: Host of food items like grilled chicken, grilled mozzarella, chicken bacon, mushrooms, prawns, pineapple and topped with mushroom creamy sauce are stuffed inside a freshly made soft crepe. That’s a whole lot of stuff if you ask me… and yes, it is a helluva heavy dish! But quite something… advised for those who are really hungry!

Classic Sweet Pancakes - Strawberry and Cream @ Paddington House of Pancakes

Classic Sweet Pancakes – Strawberry and Cream @ Paddington House of Pancakes

[5] Classic Sweet Pancake: So we ended our scrumptious meal with the classic sweet pancakes. Of a variety of options available, we went in for ‘Original Pancake’ with fresh strawberries, ice cream, and whipped cream. I could see the devil smiling when the beautiful looking dish was placed on the table. The classic pancakes were soft and warm… and the accompaniments were well just as fresh and perfect way to end our meal.

How much will it cost me: The meal cost us approximately S$ 75… between 4 people. It is not the most expensive of the places…

Verdict: Without a doubt, one of the most interesting places I have been… the sheer choice, the welcoming ambience and good quality of food makes it a perfect place, especially for brunch… The place provides both sweet and savoury choices, thus, providing vegetarians with some decent options. While I agree the savoury choices for vegetarians are not as many… their sweet pancakes and crepes section more than makes up for it! And their

offerings have flavours of the world… after all as their tagline says, Discover the World in 100 Pancakes. My verdict, a must try!

Address: 180 Kitchener Rd, Level 2, City Square Mall, Singapore 208539

Timing: 9am to 11pm

Phone: +65-6612 9029

Website: http://www.paddingtonpancakes.com/

Don Quijote – For those who crave a little Spanish Spread!

I am a huge fan of Spanish cuisine. The obvious reason for that is Spanish cuisine is full of a variety of spices, without necessarily being hot or chilli. The not so obvious reason is that it maintains a perfect balance for those whose palate craves for delicate yet spiced grub.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

Recently, I visited one of my favourite Spanish restaurants in Singapore – Don Quijote. For those who wonder what the name is all about, Don Quijote is the chivalric primary character in a fictional Spanish novel titled “El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha”, roughly translated as “The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha”. It is recognised as one of the best works of Spanish fiction and the novel went on to inspire many artists in the musical, literary and filmmaking fields.

Coming back to Don Quijote the restaurant, it is one of the better Spanish foods I have tried in Singapore.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

Located at the serene Dempsey Hill, the restaurant offers both outdoor and indoor seating. On a cool Singapore evening, it is an absolute pleasure to sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh crisp night air.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

Their indoor seating is quite classily done.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

Right from the bright yellow colour of the walls to the partial brick setting, the restaurant has a warm feel. The large bar takes a centre-stage in the restaurant.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

The wooden décor at the bar and

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

the paintings on the wall make it a real homey yet swish place to be.

Don Quijote, Singapore

Don Quijote, Singapore

Now focusing on the main aspect… the food. Don Quijote offers some authentic Spanish gourmet including the variety of tapas and of course their traditionally made choices of Spanish Paella.

Here’s what we tried:

Starters:

Don Quijote, Singapore

Fresh Bread @ Don Quijote, Singapore

We started with the complementary bread and garlic butter…

Patatas Bravas @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Patatas Bravas @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[1] Patatas Bravas: This is my most sought after Spanish Tapas… soft boiled potatoes served in spicy tomato chilli sauce. My tapas selection is never complete without this dish. The Don Quijote tapas was nicely made with enough sauce to make a moist well garnished dish. It was just the right amount of tangy and spicy so that neither tastes were overwhelming.

Setas al Ajillo @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Setas al Ajillo @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[2] Setas al Ajillo: The Setas al Ajillo or Garlic Fried Mixed Mushroom was a new try. And we weren’t disappointed. A mixture of choice of mushrooms sautéed in garlic made for a great starter.  Just like the Patatas Bravas, the mushrooms were nicely flavoured and really well made.

Croquetas con Jamón @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Croquetas con Jamón @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[3] Croquetas con Jamón: The Croquettes with Cured Spanish Ham were the highlight of the evening. Beautifully fried crispy croquettes with a delightful mixture of cheese and ham left you wanting for a lot more than were actually served. The croquettes were served with a spicy tomato basil sauce that was a great accompaniment.

Main Course:

Vegetarian Paella @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Vegetarian Paella @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[1] Spanish Paella Vegetarian: I am a hard core non-vegetarian, but surprisingly, I have always preferred the vegetarian paella… I often find it to be more flavourful than the others I have tried. Or maybe it’s just a matter of taste. I think one of the reasons for that is that a vegetarian paella just like Paella Valenciana (chicken based) is made is saffron stock. You just cannot miss that flavour. Either ways, the paella at Don Quijote is really good. One of the things about Paella is that it takes a good 25-30 minutes to be made and hence, the best idea is to order your paella early… A small is good enough for 2 persons; a medium good enough for 3-4 and large is for a group of 4-5 at least.

Dessert:

Bomba de Chocolate @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Bomba de Chocolate @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[1] Bomba de Chocolate: The Don Quijote version of a freshly-made chocolate cake made with Spanish chocolates and served hot with vanilla ice-cream. The cake is one of the really good lava cakes I have had in a long time. Just like the paella, the cake is made fresh and take at least 30 minutes of preparation time. Furthermore, it is sold out quite often, so order early!

Almond Marquise @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Almond Marquise @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[2] Almond Marquise: Of all the dishes we tried, their Marquise was probably the most underwhelming. For one it looked like it had been frozen for too long that instead of being a slight bit mousse-like, it was actually hard, almost like a soft cake… If this is the quality they serve often, then this dessert is avoidable.

Dessert Wine @ Don Quijote, Singapore

Dessert Wine @ Don Quijote, Singapore

[3] Castillo de Maetierra (Dessert Wine): The dessert wine was really good – Sweet with a bit of spicy after taste, but not overwhelming. They have a decent wine collection, although like most other restaurants around Singapore, their better collection is served only by the bottle… and it is no secret that alcohol in Singapore can get quite pricey.

How much will it cost me: Here comes the sad part. The food is excellent, and it comes at a price. A rather high price. The dinner cost us approximately S$ 120 (minus the wine bottle), which I agree is rather steep. However, my experience with Spanish restaurant in Singapore overall has been that they are pricier than the normal restaurants… I have no idea why that is.

Verdict: I like the place. Of course it isn’t a place I would go all too often, but it is a place I have visited when I have guests who wish to try their hand at some Spanish spread. The ambience, the location and the selection of food available makes it a good bid. Apart from Spanish specials they have a large collection of Cold Tapas, Fideus, Ensaladas and Pastas. Their choice of meat and seafood dishes is great, but it also has a lot to offer for vegetarians which I always find comes in quite handy, especially when I perpetually have at least one vegetarian around… Overall, I would definitely give it a thumbs up.
Address: Dempsey Hill, Block 7 Dempsey Road, #01-02, Singapore 249671

For reservation: +65 6476 2811

http://www.don-quijote-restaurants.com/

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