Jean told me about this place called Yahava tucked in an area of town that I’ve been frequenting quite a bit. It’s stylishly decorated…
… with interesting details such as the portafilters standing in for door handles. Cute eh? The inside feels very airy because they haven’t crammed the place full of tables and chairs. There’s plenty of space for displaying coffees from around the world. (They urge you to take a pack home to try.) There’s also a comfy couch if you feel like lounging.
And how’s the coffee? Very decent. The cafe latte is aromatically assertive with a light bitterness and none of the horrible acidity of inferior brews.
Worth trying if you’re in the area. Good coffee, great atmosphere.
We discovered this little restaurant while wandering around Chinatown looking for a quick dinner. I liked the gentle pun in the name, as the character for Yang was “sheep” instead of the usual character for the legendary Chinese consort’s surname. Yang Gui Fei specialises in Xi’an cuisine, and is run by Xi An people. We only seemed to hear mainland Chinese accents from the other patrons and had high hopes that the food would be authentic!
As per our usual practice, we ordered a bit more than expected, starting off with some typical Chinese cold starters, such as these pickled long beans. When they first arrived, I was a bit dismayed by how bland and faded they looked. But looks belay much flavour and zing. The beans were refreshingly spicy and sour, plus fermentation did wonders to add to its flavour. They were super yummy and also deceptively spicy – on first bite, they were mildly hot but the more I ate the hotter my mouth got and I couldn’t eat more than two in a row before having to cool off my mouth with something else.
We also had a plate of seasoned enoki mushrooms, similar in its savoury umami seasoning, just not pickled and only mildly spicy. They were a good interlude between bites of beans!
The star dish of this place had to be the mutton. We ordered the mutton kebabs and also tried out a few chicken ones. These were well-marinated, but the chicken kebabs were definitely juicier and more flavourful than the mutton ones. The mutton ones unfortunately don’t quite match up to what I remember in Xi’an. It all became clear when the proprietress told us that they used New Zealand lamb and not proper grown-up and gamey mutton. Maybe they should change to a Muslim supplier from Tekka market and make it truly Muslim-style like in Xi’an.
Here’s a close up on the spice mix that goes into the marinade. Yum!
The next dish we ordered brought back fond memories from my holiday in Xi An. “Biang Biang” noodles are thick, flat and very chewy noodles seasoned with a spicy vinegary dipping sauce. The texture of these noodles are far from the usual slightly limp and soft Chinese noodles. They are the epitome of al dente yet are nothing like any Italian noodle. I don’t know what type of flour they used nor how they developed the gluten in the noodles to get this lovely firm noodle with loads of bite . It was wonderful.Word of warning: one bowl of “Bian Bian” noodles is plenty for two.
Yang Gui Fei restaurant
18 Smith Street
Tel: 6100 0629
DC sniffed out this place. We whizzed by for some takeaway milkshake and ice cream. Though I didn’t try the ice cream, I’m already a fan! We had the Agent Strawberry flavour, a straight-up strawberry flavoured milkshake.
Check out how thick the milkshake is. I’m not normally a fan of milkshake as I really couldn’t stand the ghastly over-sweet synthetic stuff McDonald’s used to hawk. This one made a convert out of me. The strawberry flavour shone through with clear flavours of sweet yet tart strawberry. It tasted almost like my weekend breakfast smoothies (just that homemade is always better) and was very very smooth. I really liked how the shake didn’t separate as it gets drunk. Some just turn into ice as you suck away the sweet milky part, but this one was pure strawberry goodness all the way to the last drop. Go try it, it’s very very good.
The Tanglin Tree is a vaguely Australian-inspired place just at the edge of town that’s nice for a quiet dinner out. It has pretty decent food presented in an equally pretty manner. DC had the teriyaki cod skewers, I had lamb cutlets with spicy lamb sausages and we shared three sides of fries, green salad and ratatouille. The fries were done just right: crisp outside, fluffy inside and with salt bits bursting on the tongue. The green salad was well-tossed in a tasty low-key dressing, but the ratatouille was a letdown. Hardly the stuff of epiphanies and childhood memories, it was too sharp and too mushy for my taste.
DC’s cod was surprisingly good and beautifully presented, as you can see from the picture. I normally steer well clear of teriyaki and cod as I’m not very fond of sweet in my savoury food and I find that cod is often too fatty for my taste. This version was deftly handled with a light touch. It helped that the cod was in small pieces so that the excess cod oil would’ve oozed out in the cooking. Lightly crisp outside and meltingly tender inside, the cod almost made me regret not ordering it…
… until I ate my lamb and was well pleased. Now, it’s not earth-shatteringly good, but an extremely decently executed dish. I didn’t feel like it was lamb overkill as the portions were restrained and well-proportioned. The cutlets were done just right, again the contrast of the right textures inside and out, and the sausages were nicely spicy without being overwhelming. It also helped that my food came nicely presented too!
The most interesting thing for dessert was this flourless orange cake (goes to show how boring the dessert menu is). It was very dense, a change from the spongier norm. It was also surprisingly good as we found ourselves gobbling up it all up with the creme fraiche despite already being very full from our mains. Though not a particularly orangey cake, the interplay of dense and sweet cake with tart fruit and unctuous creme fraiche had a lot to speak for.
I’d wanted to go to Peperoni for a while and was delighted when Misa wanted to check it out too. We had girly gossip over the most amazing truffle pizza where the truffle was earthy and almost buah keluak-like in flavour. The thin crust was excellent and freshly made, I how loved the flavours of yeast and bread and the crisp-chewy texture of the crust mingled and really made this pizza work. It’s not just the truffle and melted cheese, it’s also the excellent crust that made this pizza. It’s not quite perfect though, because the egg wasn’t runny as it should be. Still, a small defect. I’m going back for more soon!
It was a pity that the linguine vongole had an off day. The clams weren’t very fresh and it affected the whole dish. Such a waste since this dish is potentially such a winner. I hope they do this better the next time I get there!
6 Greenwood Avenue Hillcrest Park
Tel: 6465 6556
One Friday evening, DC and I headed out to Seletar to have a cosy little night out at Sunset Grill, famed for having the hottest dish in Singapore: its buffalo wings. I remember reading an article in The Sunday Times about an intrepid reporter hunting down the hottest dish in Singapore and the Level 30 chicken wings landed her in hospital! I was so chicken (!) that I asked the waiter whether they’d serve me Level 0.5 wings. He obligingly let me have two regular wings and four Level 1 wings in our order of half dozen.
The regular wings were pretty good as they were, well seasoned by pepper and they came hot and crispy. I’d definitely eat these without the chilli again.
I realised that the hot chicken wings were painted with chilli sauce and I suppose the level goes up according to the number of times the spicy, slightly vinegary sauce was painted on. This made the chicken less crispy, but still good. I couldn’t eat two at one go and ended up alternating between that and the plain ones. It was just spicy enough for me to handle without gasping for water, a good start to dinner.
I chose pork chops for the main course and found them a little bit dry, especially away from the bone. I liked the canned apple sauce that came with it, but the rest of it wasn’t remarkable at all.
DC went for the special of the day, deepfried tenderloin steak with potato and vegetable. It was surprisingly well done as the steak wasn’t greasy but slightly crisp on the outside and still very rare on the inside. I liked that the meaty taste came out nice and clean. Thumbs up!
I’d definitely return for the lovely ambience as the place is practically in the middle of nowhere. It’s next to the Singapore Youth Flying Club and overlooks the runway, so you’ll see the occasional plane landing or taking off. The sun sets directly in front of the place and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a spectacular sunset. We weren’t as it was a bit cloudy that evening, but it was still lovely sitting under the one large raintree in the area and after that going for a stroll to walk off the worst of dinner.
Sunset Grill and Pub
Singapore Flying Club
Tel: 6482 0244
I went to Plaza Singapura for a quick lunch one weekday with a colleague and headed to an old favourite: Hot Tomato Express. I love how no-nonsense both the food and the prices are, and how the service is friendly and flexible. The set menu included either hot tea or pre-mixed iced lemon tea. Not only were they good enough to give us hot tea with ice instead of the usual over-sweetened iced tea, they also gave us lemon in the tea without us needing to ask. Plus, they even provided extra ice in case one glassful wasn’t enough. Now that’s what I call good service.
The food’s good and cheap too. I liked the lamb chop with aglio olio spaghetti. It costed only $13 for the set including soup and tea. The soup that day was tomato soup, a thick chunky version served with crisp garlic bread on the side. On to the lamb chop. It came with two generous chops, both nicely seared and browned on both sides. They were on the fatty side, so not for diet days, but the fat made such a difference! The brown sauce on the side made the (again!) generous serving of spaghetti very yummy and the green salad on the side was yet another bonus.
In short, a great place for quick, cheap and very satisfying food.
Hot Tomato Express
68 Orchard Road #B2-40 Plaza Singapura
Tel: 6341 9162
We ventured to Prive Cafe again, this time for dinner. The service was much improved from before and our server did his best to move us up to a table with a better view when we first had a less than ideal table. Instead of sticking to our post-festive season diet, I broke ranks and went for burgers instead of salad. So did DC. At least his was the cod burger. It was a thick, well-cooked fillet of cod topped with grilled cheese sitting pretty on a garlic bun. I quite enjoyed it, despite not fancying cod much. Here, the fish that I normally find too oily worked well as a burger filling as there was enough juice to have moist mouthfuls of burger with each bite. The fries were good too, crisp outside and soft inside, though quite oversalted. Then there was the fresh salad that gilded the lily very nicely. At least there was a bit of a nod to the diet here.
I went the whole hog and did the Mexican burger. On top of my juicy medium-done beef patty sat some guacamole, grilled cheese, tomato salsa, sour cream and jalapeno slices. It was a great medley of flavours and textures coming together to form a very squishy (and satisfyingly so) burger.
It’s definitely better to come here for dinner than breakfast.
Privé Bakery Cafe
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay
Tel: 6776 0777
We went back to Oriole to have a proper meal and were rewarded with excellent starters and mains. The potted crab was a lovely starter. I liked how the firm crab pieces blended well with the mayonnaise and generous amounts of pepper. The contrast with the crisp toasted bread and crunchy aromatic herbs was lovely.
I had the beef cheek tagliatelle which was fantastic. It was one of the few dishes involving what’s normally a main course repurposed as pasta sauce that actually worked. The rich beefy sauce was absorbed well by the noodles and the mushrooms provided a burst of soft flavour ever so often. A definite reorder.
Talking about reorders, the risotto was one as we enjoyed our taster of the last one very much. This time it was as good as ever. I think it was a slightly different version from before with a different fish (plus more too!) and asparagus included in it. Very good stuff.
The dessert was where a bit of disappointment came in. The Eton Mess had overwhipped cream in it and wasn’t particularly special.
Last of all was the espresso that we had to send back because it was too sour. Unfortunately the replacement espresso came back sour too, so we gave up. Nonetheless, KK says that coffee made by a certain barista is good, so we’ll have to reorder on a day when he’s there.
Oriole Cafe and Bar
96 Somerset Road
#01-01 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
Tel: 6238 8348
DC and I revisited some old favourites. At Entre Nous, we tried out the savoury galettes. They’re buckwheat pancakes served most typically with savoury toppings. DC had the ham and tomato while I had the mushroom one. Both were very good. The galette was the same excellent standard as the sweet crepes: super crisp on the outside and still moist on the inside. The tomato and ham topping was pretty decent and made for a satisfying yet light lunch.
I liked the mushroom filling much better though. It was very rich and, well, mushroomy. The depth of flavour was amazing, even more impressive because it was pure mushroom, probably with plenty of butter, but otherwise unadulterated with meat or truffle oil. Excellent.