Applebee’s

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Ever since spying Applebee’s from across the road at Oriole cafe, I’ve been wanting to check out this American chain diner. I remember reading a blog somewhere in which some random American girl (I know, not a particularly good source) said that it was her all-time favourite and was intrigued since then.

We started off with a Sour ApplebeeTini, an apple-flavoured martini with a cute stick of apple pieces to garnish. It was more apple juice than alcohol and  not particularly sour, though very palatable. This is one of those drinks that you could easily have on an empty stomach, it’s so mild. I’d imagine teenagers would adore this drink. Not your manly man type drink but very apt for the place and the food.

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DC the burger king ordered the Fire Pit Bacon Burger. It was a big burger with an even bigger portion of fries on the side. The seasoned fries were very good: soft inside and crispy outside. It was a good start already. The burger was very well seasoned, though I felt it a tad overcooked. It could be juicier but the melted cheese topping compensated nicely. No big deal with the jalapenos, they hardly added any heat but then again this is Singapore and we’re used to far hotter. I wasn’t very keen on the bacon because it was a bit too burnt and didn’t taste very bacony. But on the whole this was a very good burger with a nicely toasted bun, loads of ingredients that made a mess and excellent fries.

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I had the half rack ribs with Southern BBQ sauce. Those ribs were quite something. They were incredibly soft and tender with the meat practically falling off the bone and coupled with the sweet, smokey BBQ sauce, ambrosial. I don’t normally like sweet mains, but this was an exception. The accompanying coleslaw was surprisingly fresh and good quality. Coupled with the aforementioned excellent fries, this dish seemed pretty faultless to me!

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Now despite our full tummies, we couldn’t leave without trying dessert could we? There was no choice but to share a Maple Butter Blondie. The blondie was served  topped with vanilla ice cream on a hot skillet and maple butter sauce was poured on top to sizzle away. This was one of the few desserts that really worked the contrast between hot and cold, making it very special. I especially loved how the maple butter sauce caramelised on the skillet. Eating that those bits with the crisped up bottom of the blondie with cold creamy ice cream was such a sensation to savour.

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In short, expect loads of good, honest to goodness American food. None of it is gourmet, but it’s got me wanting to go back very soon!

[Edited to include the fajitas.]

So DC and I did go back another day. This time DC had the steak. Don’t bother with that sinewy excuse for meat, just head straight for the fajita combo. This sizzling plate of seasoned rice has lovely strips of beef and chicken nestled on a huge pile of  onions and peppers.

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Accompanying it was a generous plate of four tortillas, shredded cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo (basically onion and tomato salsa), sour cream and shredded lettuce. Making up the tortillas so that I didn’t overstuff them was a big challenge, I’m so greedy. I wanted a bit of everything inside and ended up squishing half the contents onto the plate by the time I got through the tortilla. It was very yummy though, with plenty of spice and smoke from the meat and onions and creaminess from the guacamole and sour cream. There’s enough for two people, so you could try sharing and ordering more starters and desserts. I certainly couldn’t manage a blondie dessert the second time round!

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Applebee’s
111 Somerset Road
#01-11/12 TripleOne Somerset
Tel: 6735 9671

Ice Cream Round Up

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It’s great that there’s plenty of good ice cream around, especially with so many local ice cream makers around. Tom’s Palette is one of the lesser known yet one of the better ones. I like their inventive flavours and sheer variety. Each time I go, there’s an interesting flavour to try out. Over the Chinese New Year period, they  not only had the usual “surprising” pineapple tart flavour, but also had stuff like tau sar piah flavour.

I also like their generous portions. In this picture there’s ba bao cha (eight treasure tea) sorbet and my favourite salted caramel cheesecake. The ba bao cha flavour wa a flavoured ice, nothing particularly special except it being served as sorbet. Now the salted caramel cheesecake is something else altogether: incredibly rich and cheesy, with bits of crumbled cookie base and the most luscious salty caramel flavour. Other flavours of note are the wasabi lime (a combination that works amazingly well, but not in too large a dose!) and passionfruit sake for the clean flavours.

Tom’s Palette
100 Beach Road #01-25
Shaw Leisure Gallery
Tel: 6296 5239

Galta Gelato at Parco Marina Bay is pretty decent too. The fridge is a funky cylindrical contraption with the ice cream laid out in a turn table of sorts.

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The gelato is very smooth and drippy. The fior di latte (milk) flavour was a bit too sweet for my taste, a pity. On the other hand, the ciocolate flavour was intense and unctuous, very excellent stuff especially considering that I’m not a big fan of chocolate ice cream. Try the other flavours and let me know whether they’re good!

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Galta Gelato Italiano Artigianale
P1-08 Parco Marina Bay

Last on the list is what DC think is the grandaddy of local ice cream: Daily Scoop. Their ice cream is always very smooth with the finest crystals, favourite flavours being coconut and butterscotch (I wonder what a combination of the two would be like!). We were delighted to find out that they served desserts and found that the brownie went amazingly well with the Salted Mr Brown. Somehow the salted creaminess worked a charm against the foil of warm chocolate. The butterscotch was buttery and caramelly and lovely with the brownie too, but far lovelier on its own. Bliss!

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Daily Scoop
41 Sunset Way
Tel: 6463 3365

Privé Cafe

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I’d been meaning to try Privé Cafe for a while and breakfast was as good a meal as any to check it out.  The website says that it opens at 9.00am, so we got there slightly after nine only to be told that while the place was open, only coffee and selected drinks would be served for then. It wouldn’t be till 9.30 that they would take orders for food and other drinks like smoothies. I found it incredibly bizarre because it was a bit silly to open for breakfast and tell people that they could only drink coffee and tea for the first half hour. No smoothies even! How hard is it to load a blender and flick the switch? The manager explained to us that even pastries couldn’t be served because they were still baking. It was obviously a lie because the pastries, while not stale, came at room temperature and the glaze of the Danish pastries were definitely not freshly set. The worst bit of it all was that they did not even offer to take our order first and get it to the kitchen so that our food would arrive just after 9.30. (Back story: we had an elderly person who couldn’t stay out for long, hence the need for speed.)

Well, we finally got round to getting our food and it was decent. The berry smoothie had lots of (frozen) mixed berries blended into vanilla ice cream. It was more of a milkshake than smoothie. My impression of a smoothie is one made with yogurt instead of ice cream, it was a bit too rich for the morning, especially with my main course.

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The stack of pancakes was quite lovely. It was the best I’d had in a while, with each pancake warm and fluffy, accompanied by fresh fruit, softly whipped cream and syrup on the side. A nice touch was the honeycomb bits which really added to the flavour and texture of the dish. All in all very satisfying.

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Discount the odd order-only-at-9.30 policy and not particularly attentive service and the food and ambience are great. It’s lovely to sit by the marina with the sun climbing up over the boats, feeling like it’s going to be a lovely day ahead.

Privé Bakery Cafe
2 Keppel Bay Vista
Marina at Keppel Bay
Tel: 6776 0777
info@prive.com.sg

Seafood and an Unexpected Find at Alexandra Village

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I try to make sure I don’t get too fat by running three times a week. Unfortunately, running is almost always negated by dinner. After a good run at Labrador Park, we headed to Alexandra Village. We got there a bit too late as most of the famous stalls were closed. The good thing was that Rong Guang BBQ Seafood was not. We ordered sotong kia (deep fried baby squid in black sauce) and sambal sting ray. I managed to head off disaster by persuading DC that we really shouldn’t go for the deep fried you tiao.

DC decided that the sotong kia was one of the best he had, very similar to the memories of his childhood. I liked the crisp crunch of the squid especially while still piping hot, but I thought it was a bit too sweet for my liking. The best I’ve had in recent memory is the one at Pulau Ubin still.

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I adore sting ray and can never get enough of the moist smooth flesh. Grilled with sambal and eaten with onion-soaked chinchalok, it really is heaven in a mouthful. Here, the sambal was spicy with good kick and the fish fresh and firm.

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We had been rather, um, restrained in our ordering as DC wanted avocado ice cream. He was buying our very fresh and sweet pineapple and starfruit juice when he spied the avocado ice cream sign. Apparently Seng Hong Fruit Juice specialises in avocados. They make a mean avocado juice/milkshake too. (We had to go back another day to try it!)

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It’s the avocado ice cream that takes the cake. At first look, it’s a small tub costing $1. The pale green stuff was frozen solid and needed a while on the tongue to start yielding up some taste. I was dubious at first, but then started whining at DC for eating faster than me. The ice cream was very creamy and had a lot of avocado pieces swirled into the jade goodness. It’s definitely better and probably cheaper than the stuff you get at the local ice creameries. A definite win!

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Rong Guang Seafood BBQ and Seng Hong Fruit Juice are pretty much side by side, at the far corner of Alexandra Village hawker centre.

MOF@Suntec

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I went to Suntec to meet up with some friends for lunch. Shinta suggested MOF, so Japanese it was.

I was quite disappointed that a lot of items on the menu were unavailable. Just my luck, but the most delicious stuff were the ones they didn’t have. Shelving my plans for negitoro, I had Maguro Sashimi Juu ($10.80) instead. Look at how pretty the serving is. Too bad the taste didn’t match its looks. I’m used to fresher stuff from Sun and Isetan supermarket, so this one was a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t stale, but the tuna tasted a bit flat and the salmon roe was slightly flabby. The little balls of delicious fish oil should be bursty and firm. It was a pity, this dish could have been so much better.

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I liked the dessert there. We ordered a Mango Mixed Imo ($6.80) and changed the soft-serve ice cream to green tea red bean ice cream for an extra $1.50. The ice cream was excellent, it was silky and smooth with just enough green tea kick and bits of red bean to chew on. The deep-fried sweet potato and yam were both good, a bit like a more sophisticated (and more expensive!) goreng pisang. The batter was nice and crisp and the tubers were softly grainy, a good combination with the ice cream. I think the two measly strips of mango didn’t go very well with the rest of the dessert though.

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MOF My Izakaya
3 Temasek Boulevard
#B1-40 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6338 5523

Farm Visit at Poison Ivy

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A friend and I went to explore the Lim Chu Kang farm area on a lazy Sunday. Our first stop was of course for lunch and we had it at Poison Ivy at Bollywood Veggies Farm.

First, we cooled off with an icy glass of fig tea and then perused the menu.

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We ordered quite a bit of stuff off the special menu of the day. There was a lot to choose from but only two bellies to fill, so we had a tough time choosing.

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We started with the grilled brinjal. Even though the presentation was awful, with the tomato and onion sauce slapped on messily, it tasted quite decent. Dunno why but it seemed to be fried in egg rather than grilled like it said on the menu. I liked the soft texture It was not badof the brinjal although the sauce was a touch too sweet. My friend said that he had eaten better on previous visits.

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Next up was the banana curry. It’s so popular that it’s often sold out, so get there early for your banana curry fix. It was quite unusual because the bananas were the starchy less ripe variety. It went surprisingly well with the curry although I felt that it could have had a little more depth, perhaps paired with another vegetable, either carrot or cabbage maybe.

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Our last main dish was sweet potato leaves fried in chilli, garlic and onion. It was delicious! I liked how tender it was. It’s hard to find sweet potato leaves that aren’t fibrous and tough. These were deep green and very young, going very well with rice.

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For dessert, we had banana crumble and kueh kosui. The crumble was more of a cobbler and came with the usual supermarket vanilla ice cream. I liked the texture of the banana and suspect it’s probably pisang rajah. The topping and ice cream were pretty run of the mill. I routinely make better crumble than this and in my books, crumble has to come with custard. Not up to my standards.

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Now the finale certainly was a worthy one. The kueh kosui was what it should be: soft, sticky, coconutty, caramelly and yummy. It came in a big slab and had to be teased out in bits by the sticky forkful. Even my true-blue grandma-makes-everything-from-scratch Peranakan friend said it was decent. Pass!

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A word about the portions: they’re not exactly the most generous, but it makes for reasonable prices and the chance to nibble at a lot more things. I think small is beautiful, so I’m not complaining. Just take note if you’re a big eater, as opposed to merely a greedy eater like me. The bill came up to $23.50 for the two of us. It was decent considering we had two fig teas, three dishes with rice and two desserts.

Poison Ivy Bistro
100 Neo Tiew Road
Tel: 6898 5001

Heavenly and Incredibly Easy Poached Pears in Red Wine

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Pear poached in red wine is one of those chi-chi restaurant desserts that’s actually quite a no-brainer to make at home. It’s so much easier yet somehow more impressive than baking a cake. I made some the other night and it was such a revelation!

Here’s where all the leftover red wine stashed in the freezer comes in useful. Or you could just use any cheap not-too-sweet red. Use as many or as few of the spices as you like. I think the poaching liquid ends up like mulled wine with all the spices!

For dessert, I reduced some poaching liquid to make a sauce.  I left the pears soaking in the rest of the poaching liquid overnight. The next morning the pears deepened to the darkest purple ever. This time, I didn’t bother with a reduction and just had them cold as a fancy fruit compote with my thick yogurt. Both were very yummy.

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Ingredients:
½ bottle red wine
4 black peppercorns
4 green cardamom pods
½ stick cinnamon
1 star anise
4 cloves
lemon peel from ½ lemon
½ cup sugar
2 pears

Method:

  1. Combine wine with spices, lemon peel and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on low heat.
  2. Get on with peeling and coring the pears. Cut each pear into eight.
  3. By now the poaching liquid should be at least warm. Lower pears into poaching liquid and keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes or till pears are soft.
  4. For serving immediately, fish out the pears and boil the poaching liquid till the resulting syrup coats the back of a spoon. Drizzle the sauce over the pears and serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche or ice cream.
  5. Alternatively, leave the pears in the poaching liquid overnight to steep. Eat with yogurt for a decadent breakfast.

Serves 2-4.

Dessert at the Former Factory

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I’m getting old. My aging brain keeps referring to Laurent’s Cafe & Chocolate Bar by its old name, The Chocolate Factory. It still has rather decent, though often patchy, offerings. Shinta and KK shared a molten chocolate cake that was accompanied by vanilla bean ice cream and chantilly cream. None of us were too impressed as the cake was a bit overdone. Only the very centre of the cake was molten, with only the tiniest ooze. The chantilly cream was fake. Sure, it was better quality fake stuff, probably not from a can, but it was definitely not real dairy cream. Eeyore and I, the cream experts, sniffed at it and then looked away. Oh, and by the way, what on earth is that raspberry sauce posing as? Whoever plated this dessert has a ridiculous sense of aesthetics.

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Shinta and KK’s chocolate souffle fared better. It was baked just right and was chocolatey and yummy. KK made the hole in the picture so she could pour in the chocolate sauce. The tart raspberry sorbet went winningly with the souffle. Two thumbs up.

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Onwards to the Grand Marnier souffle I shared with Eeyore. It’d risen quite impressively in the ramekin and went nicely with the vanilla custard sauce. Too bad the inside wasn’t cooked enough. It was as if the souffle was only cooked on the outside. On the inside, there was still plenty of raw whipped egg white that was just on the verge of weeping. I didn’t like the feeling of damp foam in my mouth. The orange liqueur flavour was very good though.

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I’m still not completely convinced by this place. This time, the service had improved from abysmal to decent with nothing to complain about. The food was pretty much hit and miss. I’d only come here if I was craving souffle very badly and wouldn’t mind an inferior version.

Laurent’s Cafe & Chocolate Bar
The Pier at Robertson Quay 80
Mohammad Sultan Road #01-11
Tel: 6235 9007

Quick Eats: Ice Cream Gallery

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Ice Cream Gallery is a great place for cheap and good ice cream. The friendly staff are very generous with samples, so much so that if you’re super not-shy, you could probably try all the flavours in the shop before making the decision on what to settle for. It’s especially famous for the D24 durian flavour. I haven’t tried it because durian and me don’t mix.

My favourite teh halia flavour isn’t often in stock. This time I settled for the red bean and gula melaka flavour. I think it used to be called chendol flavour. It’s pretty good. The ice cream is smooth and sweet with plenty of caramelised coconut flavour. The red beans were soft and mushy, giving a grainy counterpoint to the rich cream. Yum!

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KK couldn’t resist the caramel macadamia and lychee flavours. Both were decent, though I felt that macadamia just isn’t fragrant enough to work well in ice cream.

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Ice Cream Gallery
20 Eastwood Road
Eastwood Centre, #01-13
Tel: 6246 2926

A Civilised Lunch at The Marmalade Pantry

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The Marmalade Pantry is one of those places to go to when I need a civilised lunch where the food and service are consistent, one of those days when I don’t want any surprises yet want the option of being a bit adventurous.

Having woken up late from a night of whisky, I thought I’d skip breakfast and go straight for lunch then shopping. I went for The Ultimate Beef Burger, medium done. It was a substantial burger, made from scratch not one of those pre-made frozen patties. It had charred cherry tomatoes, pickle and a generous spread of mayonnaise on the soft toasted bun. The french fries were well made, crisp on the outside and softly grainy on the inside. They were soaked in salted water before frying. I prefer them as is so I can sprinkle salt on top instead as I like the little bursts of salt on the tongue better.

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The burger itself was alright, though I felt that it was slightly too done for medium. Even though there were plenty of juices  oozing out as I cut into the patty, it was somehow rather dry in the mouth. The beef was probably too lean. I also found it too salty and there wasn’t a lot of flavour to it. It tasted rather generic, nothing special.

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My mum had the Pan Roasted Red Snapper with Almonds [sic] Herb Crust & Chickpea Salad. She liked it a lot. It’s a perfect light lunch, healthy from the fish and vegetables. It was also great that the complex carbs came from chickpea, a better source of protein and fibre than most grains. The fresh fish went well with the mustard in the  herb crust and the squeaky-crunchy sweet peas.

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For dessert, we had Basil Crepes with Caramelized Bananas. The crepe itself was an almost luminous green from the basil, reminding me of kueh dadar. I was surprised that despite the many flecks of basil in the pancake, there was hardly any basil flavour at all. Nonetheless, the banana and the caramel worked. You can’t go far wrong with soft banana pulp and sweet buttery caramel. The rich vanilla bean ice cream helped a lot too.

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We rounded off the meal with coffee. Check out the cool fern pattern on my caffe latte. I sipped at it carefully, keeping the pattern until about halfway into the cup. The hot coffee flavoured milk was a nice end to the meal.

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The bill came up to $82.85. It’s pricey but that’s what you pay for the decent food, genteel ambience and the Orchard road location.


The Marmalade Pantry

Unit B1-08 to 11
Palais Renaissance
390 Orchard Road
Singapore 238871
Tel: 6734 2700