La Trattoria, Singapore Art Museum

Beautiful days

I don’t know how long this has been at the S.A.M., but I recalled countless times when I have walked past, alone or with a friend, and thinking that I will pop in for a meal one day. That one day finally came when I decided to make a dinner reservation to celebrate my friend’s birthday one evening.

Before we visited the restaurant, I looked for some reviews of the place and read some mixed comments. Generally the consensus I felt, was that food was pretty decent but service iffy; it ranged from good to bad, so I guess it boils down to luck and whether you got the right people serving you or not. But since we went in without any expectations of good service, I guess maybe that was already the correct start.

We were really early but there was already a couple of other guests inside. I…

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Capri Trattoria & Pizzeria

When you think of Capri, you’ll think of the gorgeous blue sea surrounding the island in the Campania region. The restaurant may not be that, but the cozy decor brings you to a place where you can imagine yourself in Italy, enjoying a good meal with family and friends.

Located at Binjai Park, this place was highly recommended to me by an acquaintance I met at one of Lolla’s secret supper. So arranging with 2 friends, we made our reservations and enjoyed a girls’ dinner out together. And we were all truly glad for the recommendation.

For starters, we were given warm home-made bread served with olive oil.

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This was followed by the Scialatielli di Capri ($22), which is oven-baked home-made long pasta, paper-wrapped with seafood, cherry tomatoes, white wine sauce, garlic and parsley. It was nice and steamy, cooked just nice with the juices all melded perfectly in the wrap. We couldn’t help spooning the stock and drinking it.

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Next up was the Tartufata ($25), pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, truffle cream, porcini mushrooms, smoked cheese and shaved parmesan. Delightful as we could taste the truffle cream and the nice thin Italian crust. It was unexpectedly not as heavy as I thought it would be, but it could be because we were still early in the dinner.

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Next served was an antipasti, the Scamorza del fornaio ($16), smoked cheese cooked in a crock with button mushrooms, sliced parma ham, egg and sprinkle of white truffle oil. As for this, it tasted nice, but  I wouldn’t say it was anything special, as compared to what we had so far.

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Last of the mains to share was the Ravioli al nero di seppia ($20), which is squid ink ravioli stuffed with seafood and mascarpone cheese, served with home-made squid ink sauce cooked for six hours.

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The ingredients might look similar to the Scialatielli di Capri earlier, but it definitely tasted different. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve eaten squid ink ravioli before this, only squid ink spaghetti. This was as squid ink as you can get with the squid ink sauce and pasta as black as the squid ink it was made with.  I can’t remember what seafood was stuffed inside now, but all I can recall is that it was yummy. Another thing you should order.

Enough of the savouries. Even though we were quite full after all that, dinner at an Italian restaurant cannot be complete without dessert or desserts. We ordered the all-time favourite Tiramisu ($9) which was nice and spongy,

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but what really completed the meal was the Torta al Limone ($9), a lemon cake prepared with a special recipe of Mama Teresa (the owner, Luca’s mom). With a light texture and tang of the lemon, it helped cut the fullness we were feeling by now. Refreshing. You can say it’ll remind you of the Capri Island, and maybe the giant lemons in the region. Ah, a limoncello to go with it would have made it more wonderful.

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It was a very fulfilling experience and we all emerged satisfied, with one friend saying she’ll bring her family here next time as she lived not too far away. Thanks to Michele for his wonderful meals, even coming out at times to check on guests. I believe I would go back again.

If you’re planning to visit, do make reservations in advance as it’s not a big venue.

Restaurant Details:
Capri Trattoria & Pizzeria
No. 3 Binjai Park, Singapore 589819
Tel: 6468 4886
http://www.trattoriacapri.com/

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Blackbird Cafe @ Handy Road

Hi everyone! Happy Good Friday long weekend!

Last weekend, Ilsa and I had a staycation and it was great to be relieved of the weekend errands that have become my routine in Singapore. Before we caught a movie, we decided to stop by Blackbird Cafe at Handy Road for a quick bite because we thought it’d be good to try something different (at least for me) from Charly T’s where we’d gone for the last couple of times.

Since we weren’t too hungry and we were saving our stomachs for dinner, we ordered the Nibbles Sampler Plate to share. It was a snack sampler that puts together 5 of the light bites on the menu.

It consists of (from top left) 3 mini Quiche Lorraines, Beer Battered Fish, Tangy Corn Chips (or nachos), Marmite Soldiers (marmite and cheese bread fingers) and Chunky Chips. It also comes with 4 different types of dips which included salsa and tar tar. The mustard-looking sauce in yellow is not what it looks like, but has a bit of tangy taste to it (with curry?). There was a fourth sauce that was light green, which was likely guacamole? They were all rather nice, but these days I tend to not be such a dip/sauce person so I didn’t have a lot.

The bread fingers were interesting for me but it wasn’t spread so evenly so some parts of it tasted too salty. But the combination of marmite and melted cheese was awesome. Wedges had a slight spicyness to it (that I don’t think came from the sauces but I could be wrong), and the nachos were, well, nachos. The battered fish was tiny so it was more batter than fish and it was a little oily but as it was in a bite-size, it was generally alright and not too greasy overall. Finally the quiche.

I liked the heap of sprouts on top that complemented the overall savoury taste of what was contained within the pastry. This was probably my favourite of the platter because sometimes quiches leave me feeling too overwhelmed either with too much egg or mush but this was just nice that even the half that I shared with Ilsa was a definite welcome.

Of course, we were really full by almost the end of it so we left behind some wedges and bread fingers.

What’s tea break without coffee? I heard from Ilsa coffee here was good so being the coffeeholic that I am, I ordered this:

Love it but again, sorry that I can’t describe it well. And my memory has sort of slipped with regards taste. But it definitely is not bad because I can tell when coffee is bad.

Prices are still reasonable; for our snack sampler and a beverage each, it was slightly short of S$50.

Quite a nice place to visit although it’s not too spacious and could get busy during certain times. Mostly when I walk past, it’s crowded but we were lucky to get a table when we were there that Saturday afternoon, and the lunch crowd was just clearing out then I suppose.

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Madison Cafe, Shanghai

Hello from Shanghai! I didn’t have an opportunity to try any great food in Beijing due to the tight schedule but thankfully I get one weekend here in Shanghai so there was a chance to go out and have some nice food!

I met up with my friend’s friend who’s living in Shanghai, and she brought me to this cafe for brunch yesterday. It’s called Madison, located at 18, Dong Ping Road on the Pu Xi side of Shanghai (东平路18号), and it’s almost so easy to miss the entrance of the small elevator lobby at the corner that will take you to the third floor because it’s so non-descript and blends seamlessly into the tired-looking building.

But it’s a world of difference on level 3, where the inside of the cafe bustles with activity of a weekend brunch crowd. It’s almost impossible to get a table without reservations, or if you don’t mind, sit at the bar counter that has all of four seats.

We ordered ducks’ eggs, where the egg white seemed and tasted like fried minced meat, with a kind of mustard sauce that was really good.

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It was just to try what ducks’ eggs were but I must say this was an excellent choice!

I didn’t expect the scone to be just one piece sliced into half, and it was more biscuit than scone because it crumbles rather easily but I liked its taste; not too dense and still with a very nice buttery fragrance, or it could be the butter that I spread on it. The cranberry sauce that was served with it was good as it wasn’t too sweet but I only had a bit of it though.

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Seeing as how this was an American-styled brunch cafe, its portions we’re far from being American. So we ordered an additional item, inspired from what the next table was having: fried potato tapioca sticks. I really loved this even if it’s not the healthiest brunch food to have since it’s a little oily but maybe because it didn’t feel so heavy and we could just keep eating it.

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I think Madison has good food, coupled with a pretty nice ambience. They have free wifi too for people who are interested to know. Price was rather reasonable too although I got a treat from my new friend, thanks for the meal, it was really great!

Brunch is from 12-3 on Saturday and I heard they serve supper on Sundays! Maybe the next time I’m in Shanghai I’ll give it a try!

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Coming Soon: Savour Singapore 2012

In about 2 weeks’ time, for the first time in Singapore, we’re going to have a SAVOUR concept gourmet fair, where eating, cooking and (culinary) shopping come together. It will all come together at one purpose-built venue consisting of an alfresco Gourmet Village where you can sample cuisine from award-winning restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, a specially-built 300-seat indoor Gourmet Auditorium where culinary master classes are held, and a Gourmet Market that showcases top quality goods and produce from around the world.

You can find more details of the event at http://www.savour.sg/

Event: Savour Singapore 2012 : Come celebrate the delicious
When: 30 March – 1 April
Where: F1 Paddock and Pit Building

Tickets can be purchased from SISTIC.
There are afternoon (11.30am-4:00pm) and evening sessions (6:00pm-10.30pm) priced at $40 and $60 each, respectively. The tickets provide you access to the Gourmet Village & Market, and to attend complimentary workshops and demonstrations, on a first-come, first-served basis. Savour Dollars will also be given as part of the ticket price for purchasing dishes within the Gourmet Village, drinks at Village Bars and products at the Gourmet Market. More info about ticket usage here.

We’ve bought our tickets. Have you?

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Singapore Secret Supper Society 1

Yup, another secret supper and this time, it’s with Singapore Secret Supper Society. I can’t recall how I came to know about this group…maybe the same way as the previous? Well, I had joined the online group for a few months and finally, I managed to sign up for one of suppers. As you might have read, my last secret supper wasn’t as great as I hoped it to be, but after this round, I think it’s quite safe as the organiser is the chef, especially since I’ve sampled the cooking. The payment method was also a little different. We pay on the spot and even though a suggested amount was given, we can decide how much to put in the “pot” after the meal. I believe this meal was well worthed the suggested amount.

This session was simply called “Meet & Eat” (they usually have themes) and at a “place immersed in art”. It turned out to be held at Artichoke at Sculpture Square (Middle Road), which was closed on Mondays, so the organiser (Jeremy Cheok) could book the place for the event. I even met a work acquaintance at the event! Talk about small world.
Just a short pitch for the organiser: He and team run a set-up called JAM where you can hire them to plan, cook and serve a private dinner at your home, be your secret sous chef or even learn cooking from them.

So, here’s the menu.

First up was the Caramelized Pumpkin Shooter, which was our soup of the day.

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Yum, the oven roasted pumpkin puree was thick and rich, and what’s really cool was that they were served in shot glasses, and topped up with carafes of soup. And the (what looks like) paprika sprinkled on top added that tinge of spice to it. I believe I took 2 or 3 “shots” and would have drunk more if I weren’t saving my stomach for the later dishes (which were unknown to us).

Second up was the starter, Chargrilled Squid, which was squid stuffed with olive and piquillo pepper squid ink risotto.

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Squid is very hard to cook; being under- or over-cooked would mean “rubber”. But this was cooked just nice so I could easily bite through it and squid ink risotto is always a winner. I was quite intrigued by the slight tangy zesty taste at the end. Was that the piquillo pepper? It tasted almost lemon-lime I think…a familiar taste, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was a bit messy though as the risotto fell out, but not too difficult to scoop it up.

Next were the sides and main course. First, the sides – Garden Platter (garlic lime leaf roasted potatoes, triple bypass broccoli and charred baby kailan).

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They all tasted very well-seasoned and delicious, but my fave was the broccoli. It had a very fragrant almond taste to it.
Then there’s the main Angus Rib Eye with chimichurri. Chimichurri is a sauce used for grilled meat.

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The beef was very tender and surprisingly smooth, making it easy to chew and glide down the throat. No tough meat there nor meat stuck in your teeth. The sauce went well with it.

Then, the grand finale came, a dessert you probably haven’t tried. Well, I haven’t. Presenting Banana Smores (freshly baked banana bread/cake with slow roast marshmallows and chocolate ganache). I guess the closest thing you can draw similarities to it would be the banoffee pie, maybe.

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The marshmallows looked almost like it has an ethereal sheen to it…okay, I exaggerate, but this really rounded up the meal very well, settling our tummies for the night. The banana cake was moist and soft, probably because it was full of bananas, and the marshmallows crisp on the outside and soft on the inside (think campfire marshmallows). Well, I would have liked the marshmallows to be a little more oozy, but it was still delectable, especially when you topped it with a warm chocolate ganache sauce. We all wanted second helpings but sadly, none was availed to us.

On the whole, it was a great experience, and was pretty exciting as we didn’t know the menu at all and just waited to see what would come next. Of course, the taste of the food helped to keep us wanting more. And it was almost free flow as second (or third) helpings were gladly served to us (except for dessert :(). Oh, before you start thinking that I ate all these all by myself, these were actually for sharing among a group of 4-5 of us, but they were replenished if we wanted more. So it was just nice such that we didn’t overeat and were able to savour the meal.

If you noticed, this post has been labelled “1”, so yes! I believe I’ll be going back for more.

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Revisiting: Tempura Tsunahachi, Shinjuku Nishiguchi branch, Tokyo (天ぷら新宿つな八西口店)

Places that sell good food should be shared, and this transcends national boundaries. I cannot remember how many times I have been to Tempura Tsunahachi in Shinjuku, but after being introduced to this place by a friend in 2008, I have brought another couple of friends here on occasions when we visited Tokyo together.

Incidentally, in 2008 that was the first meal I had after landing in Tokyo, and this time (in January) when Ilsa and I went to Tokyo for holidays, this was also the first meal we had while waiting for our hotel room to be ready for check-in.

That’s my view-point of the yummy Japanese rice overlooking the scrumptious tempura. Have I mentioned that one of my favourite Japanese cuisine is tempura? Well it’s really tough to make a choice but I count tempura as one of my favourites!

The ebi-tempura accompanied by some form of yasai tempura.

And a basket of tempura seafood. There are fish and shrimps, which unfortunately Ilsa wasn’t able to take too much so we swopped some items, and there are also vegetable items like sweet potatoes.

I love the tempura here, because they are prepared fresh when ordered, and even though it can’t be free of oil, it doesn’t have that oily after-taste or the kind of stale oil that we sometimes get in some places when they re-use the oil for deep-frying too many times.

Due to my poor grasp of the Japanese language we ended up not having any tempura eel, because to me, eel was always unagi (うなぎ) but the ones they were selling were a different variant called anago (あなご). Unagi is freshwater eel that is usually broiled or barbequed; I think it’s always what we always have with rice (i.e. unagi don/unadon or unagi nigiri sushi), whereas anago is saltwater eel that is used in tempura here. Well now we know better!

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