Making Easy-To-Cook Soups Via Celebrity Chefs’ Recipes

Home-made Lima Soup (without the Lima)

Due to the global pandemic that we’re experiencing and the #stayhome stance that we all need to heed, I have not dine in a restaurant for almost two months now, but alternating between cooking meals at home and patronizing my market hawkers (by tabaoing back to eat, of course).

March and early April was relatively easy enough as I was fasting lunch for Lent, so I only had dinner to think about if I decided to cook for the evening. I love cooking – it’s the washing up that I can’t stand. I also like to have my meal fast, without needing to execute a thousand steps. So whenever possible, the meals have to be fast-to-cook, good-to-eat, few-dishes-to-wash. Thus the “home-cooked” meals of this carnivore are mostly meat with salad or–with a little bit more effort–noodles/pasta/rice. And if I’m really, really lazy, then it’s just meat and veggies all plonked into water for soup.

Pork Ribs and Watercress Soup

And mind you, I’m not even a soup person. But you do need a change from all those stir-fries and roasts every now and then. My favorite home-cooked soup is Pork Ribs Watercress Soup, the only soup I’m willing to boil two hours for (or at least an hour to get a decent taste). I mean, all you need is pork ribs
watercress, Chinese red dates, Chinese wolfberries, white pepper and a dash of salt, and voila, you get a tasty meaty soup that can be eaten on its own, or better with white or brown rice.

Learning From The Pros
Of late, to make my gourmet life more interesting, I’ve been watching a lot more food programs by celebrity chefs in order to get new ideas for my meals. (On hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to do it while fasting, but praise God, I managed to suppress the hunger pangs relatively well.)

First of these is Kitchen Boss, hosted by Italian-American Chef Buddy Valastro, who is more well-known as the flamboyant star of Cake Boss. Kitchen Boss is actually quite an old series (2011-2012) but it’s fun to watch as Valastro is so much more affable in a studio kitchen as he whips up his family’s much-loved Italian dishes, than when he is making bigger-than-life cake creations in his family-owned bakery. (I also like the fact that he washes his hands a lot, which many other TV chefs seldom do!)

Celebrity Chef Buddy Valastro in Kitchen Boss. [Credit: AFN]

Tortellini Soup With Short Ribs (without the Tortellini)
Besides yummy easy-to-cook Italian dishes such as Shrimp Scampi and Veal Milanese, it was Buddy’s Tortellini Soup with Short Ribs that caught my attention.

Basically it’s because the dish make use of ingredients that I have readily in my fridge such as potato, carrot, onion (red or white), tomato, garlic, and chicken stock cubes. But instead of beef short ribs, I use pork spare ribs, and for the pasta, I use ribbon-like linguine instead of the ring-shaped tortellini. And I could definitely live without celery.

And it was simple: all you have to do is dice the potato, carrot, onion and tomato, place them in boiling water, then add in garlic, chicken stock and the ribs, and let everything simmers for at least 20 minutes. You can prepare the pasta in another pot, or if you are lazy like me, simply cook it in the same pot, so you have less utensils to wash. It is a hearty soup indeed and filling too if you have more potatoes in it. Goes well with rice, garlic bread, or just have it on its own.

Sopa de Lima (without the Lima)

Celebrity Chef Pati Jinich in Pati’s Mexican Table. [Credit: Pati Jinich YouTube Channel]

Another celebrity chef who I discovered recently is Chef Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. In her show, the host, cookbook author and mother of three boys, travels up and down her native Mexico learning about the food and culture in each province, before returning to her kitchen where she presents ways of cooking simple–well, relatively so–Mexican dishes at home.

Her Sopa de Lima or Lima soup stood out as, again, the recipe comprises ingredients I often have at home — bar the Lima, a sweet flowery, fragrant citrus fruit; a couple of spices such as oregano and thyme; and tortilla chips (which she made from scratch but we can always go buy a packet…)

Making do with what I have, the result wasn’t half bad really. You just dice tomato, onion, and green or yellow bell pepper, and then stir-fry the sofrito–as the combo is called–in olive virgin oil, along with salt and garlic, in a pot for 10 minutes till the veggies are mashed and mushy. Now, you can get chicken stock when you broiled the chicken breast, or like me, you can just add a chicken stock cube into water and pour it along with the sliced chicken into the sofrito mixture, and let everything simmer for 8-10 minutes.

I must say, even without the Lima and spices, it is easily one of the most colorful and flavorful soups I have ever made. And it’s so easy to do too. Instead of making tortilla chips wholesale, I just used alternatives such as vegetable crisps or butter rolls. On my second try, I used shabu shabu beef instead, but somehow the taste wasn’t that nice as it is with chicken. Perhaps it’s because I also cheated by not frying the veggies first, so maybe you can’t shortcut everything if you want to have the real flavors to savor.

For those who are keen to make your own Lima soup, check out the actual recipe and preparation at https://patijinich.com/lima-soup/

I wonder what other new fast-to-make meals I can whip up next?…

Kitchen Boss’ is currently showing on TLC, whilst ‘Pati’s Mexican Table’ is on AFN.

Pondok Tempo Doeloe @ Surabaya, Indonesia

“What’s good to eat here?” That’s the first thing a group of us from Singapore who were in Surabaya for the first time asked our local friend who was driving us to our hotel on the west side of the Indonesian city.

“Well, there’s the popular deep fried ‘flying fish’…” Ohhhhhh.

“There’s also ayam bakar (roasted chicken)….” Ahhhhhh.

“And our roast duck….” Drooool!

In the end, after being bombarded by a gazillion questions from his food-mad visitors, our friend simply realized that the best way to show us just how good the local food is was to bring us to a reputable Indonesian restaurant for dinner.

Pondok Tempo Doeloe: Traditional Indonesian Cuisine

Located down the right far end of the road from our Fairfield at Marriott Hotel and housed in a huge building with its own carpark, Pondok Tempo Doeloe prides itself on serving authentic Indonesian cuisine. It is part of the Ikan Bakar Cianjur (IBC) Group which has a string of restaurants in Surabaya to Bali that specializes in Indonesian cuisine.

We were there early for a 5.30pm dinner but the brightly lit and spacious restaurant filled up quickly even on a weekday night. The venue was also chosen as it could accommodate our large group of about 30 by joining three big tables on one side of the dining area. Being the visitors, we simply left the ordering to our host. Just bring it on!

The first dish to arrive was the much talked-about “Flying Fish” or Gurame Goreng, a deep fried fresh water carp marinated with a special sauce. The fish is so called as one side of its meat is curled up during frying as if it has a flying fin. The meat is not only tasty — especially when eaten with either sambal belachan or sliced red chili in black soy sauce — every part of the fish was super crispy and munching each bit of it was so good!

There was also another style of fish ordered – the Gurame Bakar, a Javanese-styled flame grilled fresh water carp that offered softer texture and a different spice flavor. Crispy as it was, it wasn’t quite as fun as when eating the flying fish!

Another great dish was the Ayam Bakar or Javanese grilled chicken marinated with spices that was truly fragrant and yummilicious. It was certainly a delicious flavor that many of us have never tasted before!

Just like with Chinese cuisine, the above meat dishes were best eaten with fluffy white rice. And of course, you also need to have some greens to balance all the fried stuff. Indonesian vegetable dishes are hardly different from Chinese favorites and so we had the likes of Sauteed Baby Kai Lan and Sauteed Kangkong, albeit cooked with a dash of sambal.

​When it came to drinks, a team member who has been to Surabaya before highly recommended the Juice Alpukat, an ice blend avocado juice served with a dose of sweet syrup which we thought was gula melaka (palm sugar) at first but it was just something that is sweet. Well, I was skeptical at first. As much as I love avocado – more as a salad or sandwich garnish – drinking a whole cup of blended avocado didn’t sound quite appetizing. I was pleasantly proven wrong – the thick, creamy and sweetened “smoothie” was actually quite enjoyable and I finished every drop!

In the next few nights, we would continue to be taken to try out other authentic Indonesian dishes at other popular restaurants in the city. But just on our first night in Surabaya alone, the Flying Fish had us at hello! Here’s to many more!

​Pondok Tempo Doeloe is at Jl Mayjend Sungkoko 206-208 Surabaya, Indonesia.

Bodacious Bar & Bistro @ Biopolis SG

It was New Year’s Eve and 8 of my church small group mates decided to meet for dinner before the Nightwatch service to welcome in 2020. An eatery relatively close to our church was chosen and that was Bodacious Bar & Bistro located at Biopolis in Buona Vista.

Though I live nearby, I didn’t realized there are quite a number of eateries in the commercial and industrial hub of Biopolis. Bodacious, located at the western end of Biopolis Street, is one of the bigger establishments with a large, sheltered al fresco area where people can be seen enjoying a drink or two on lazy afternoons.

Bodacious’ interiors is decorated in a hipster-cafe, light industrial style with much room between tables, and our group was seated near the side wall that holds a bold signage of the place placed against an eye-catching montage of celebrity images, with a row of wine bottles strategically lined in the middle.

As it was New Year’s Eve and because one of the serving staff insisted that “it’s Happy Hours every hour” – eg beer prices are between $7 to $12 for half-pints/pints/bottles all day, which is very decent – I decided to have a pint of Stella Artois ($11), while others chose either other beers or mocktails.

Bodacious’ dinner menu is quite extensive comprising soups, salads and appetisers, main courses, sweets and desserts, and sides for sharing. There’s even Happy Hours Oysters (@$2-$3) from 5-8pm. A list of small plates & bar snacks ($8-$19) is listed on a table menu. Drinks-wise, the bar covers a good range of beverages from wines, beers and spirits to cocktails, mocktails and liquers, from soft drinks, milkshakes and juices to brewed coffees, premium teas and mineral water.

Whilst waiting for others to arrive, we early birds decided to have the Bodacious Cheese Platter ($29 for 5 types/$20 for 3 types) which was a lovely mix of blue cheese, Camembert, goat cheese, provolone and grana Padano, accompanied with fig jam, walnuts, raisins, figs and mini toast. A great starter, the cheese lovers among us had absolutely no complaints about this item.

STARTING “SMALL”

When the rest eventually arrived, we first settled on three small plates for sharing, before each chose their own main course:

If you have a choice between French Fries ($8) or Truffle Fries ($10), go for the latter I always say. Nice, crispy and flavorful, this was delicious to munch.

It looks messy but the Crispy Wings Coated With Cajun BBQ Sauce ($10) was a good savory filler for those whose stomachs had started growling…

Finally, there was also the Ultimate Forest Roasted Cauliflower ($8), which is glazed with sweet garlic mayo and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. I never really fancy cauliflower but this was really good.

THE MAINS EVENT

A good thing of having a big crowd at dinner is that all can order different things (as much as possible) and then steal a bite from each other’s dishes. The main courses at Bodacious comprise mainly meat and seafood items, with a veggie item or two, ranging from $16 to $38.

The Iberico Pork Ribs ($21) sounds tempting and I was glad I ordered this as the baby pork ribs, served with coleslaw and salad, were savory and tender, with the meat easily coming off the bone. Its BBQ glaze was also just the right dash of sweetness and flavor.

The one who had the Linguini Vongole ($18) actually painstakingly removed all the clams from their shells before eating. However, despite being infused with white wine, chilli and parsley, the sauce was found wanting and the overall taste a tad salty.

The French-styled Duck Confit ($23), served with braised lentil tossed in foie gras butter and fresh green, actually looked good but the meat was not tender enough and could be better according to the one who partake of it.

She who had the pan-fried Sea Bass Steak ($19) with olive crust, served with corn puree and sauté green vegetable, found it nice enough although she deemed the small plates much more enjoyable in terms of taste.

The duo who shared the Bouillabaisse ($20) – a fish stew filled with fish, clam, prawn, and scallop served
with garlic toast – felt it tasted more like a seafood soup rather a stew. It’s not something I’d ever order so can’t comment…

The two who ordered the Scallop & Prawn Aglio Olio ($18) both felt that it wasn’t like a typical Aglio Olio. Although the taste wasn’t exactly bad, the dish was lacking the fragrance of garlic and olive oil.
Also, the presence of a parmesan crusted egg “added to the strangeness.”

JUST DESSERTS

After our mains shockingly, most of us still had room for desserts. Of course it also helped that we are all going to share a few choices and not have one whole dessert to ourselves.

For the eight of us, we thought ordering four desserts to share was justified:

First to arrive was the Classic Italian Tiramisu ($11) which was simply lovely with just the right amounts of cocoa, cream, sponge and rum. Yummilious!

The Dessert of the Day ($8) was an elongated peanut butter brownie served with vanilla ice cream which is actually quite nice.

The Salted Caramel & Chocolate Waffle ($11), served with vanilla ice cream and fruits, wasn’t too bad I thought but palate purists deemed it way too small, had too many fruits, and “where’s the chocolate ice cream?!” (The chocolate in its name refers to just the sauce topping apparently…)

Last but not least, there was the Chocolate Fondant ($11), a hot chocolate lava cake served with vanilla ice cream. It didn’t look appetizing when it arrived but once the “lava” oozed out, every bite was delicious and great.

All in all, the final bill cost an average of $36 person – from a range of $29++ to $42++ – which is quite decent except most felt the main courses could be better. Still, Bodacious has a nice ambience (both indoors and outdoors) and is still a recommended place for casual drinks and good bar snacks and desserts.

Bodacious is at 70 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138547. Opening hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat 9am-10pm. Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays. Tel: 6778 9585

El Teatro Tapas @ The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Arcade

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On Boxing Day a.k.a Annular Solar Eclipse Day, an ex-classmate and I decided to go to The Capitol Kempinski Hotel arcade for our bi-annual meet-up and we opted for the Spanish restaurant and bar, El Teatro Tapas.

We were led to a cosy corner table lined with many cushions and which offers a good view of the length of the arcade. The menu for El Teatro (which is Spanish for “The Theatre”) is simple: there’s cold tapas ($12-$16), hot tapas ($14-$30), cold cuts and olives ($10-$28), paellas ($28-$40), and desserts ($8-12). There’s also a wine menu from which you can order by the glass or bottle. On weekdays, they have a two-course ($17++) and 3-course ($22++) set lunches which are quite decently priced considering that some of the mains already cost around $20-$30.

We decided to order a la carte in order to try more dishes. First up was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota ($28) or Acorn Iberian Ham Pork, which is a lovely slate of cured ham slices served with some salad. If you love Spanish Jamon or parma ham, this will be a delight to savor.

We had wanted a green veggie dish for the “health part” but was intrigued on what constituted a Russian Salad ($14). Well, it is a fancy creamy tuna potato salad with loads of mayo, topped with garnishing and thin croutons. A nice tasty item for sure. (Oh, we were also given at the start a complimentary tapas of olives which normally you have to order a glass of wine before getting it, so thought that was nice of the manager.)

It was while waiting for the next dish to arrive that we was wondering why the sky had suddenly gone dark – the arcade’s roof is partly glass from which you can see the sky – when we suddenly remembered that there was a solar eclipse happening on this very day – December 26, 2019! So we took turns to dash out of the building – and despite dark clouds and super bright sunlight (you ain’t supposed to watch it with the naked eye) – were able to fairly make out the crescent shape of the sun as the moon slowly move across it.

As the annular eclipse was supposed to occur at 1.24pm, we carried on with our lunch. The sizzling Garlic Prawns ($22) was utterly fragrant when it arrived, served on a piping hot pan drenched with olive oil and with loads of colorful peppers, plus two pieces of toasted bread. This is one of the items in the set lunch menu so it would be very worth it indeed if you like prawns.

Last but not least, our final dish is the prawn, chicken and mushroom croquettes. Though the menu states that you can choose between the three, we were told that two of each meat will be served in the dish of six croquettes, which was a-ok for us. The taste for the elongated prawn croquette (top of picture) was sadly nothing to wow about, but the mushroom (the round one) and the chicken (middle with crust slightly browner) were flavorful and tasty, enhanced by the Spanish Padrón peppers that came with the dish.

It was in the midst of eating our croquettes that we realized we had totally missed the “magic moment” when the “ring of fire” occurs. It was already 1.40pm when we both dashed out of the restaurant—not before informing the waitress not to clear our table!—this time just to the foyer right outside El Teatro to catch the view (as seen above) through the roof of the arcade. Oh well, at least we could say we saw phases of the cosmic spectacle of the century!

All in all, the quality of food in El Teatro was good and service was attentive. Pricing was probably a bit steep but our four dishes came up to about $96, which is still decent for two people in the town area. Would love to try their paellas one day as I have been looking for a paella as good as those we ate in Barcelona but to no avail. Something to consider.

El Teatro Tapas is at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel arcade, 15 Stamford Road. Opening hours: 1130-1430 and 18:00-22:00 daily.

Sushiro Singapore @ Tiong Bahru Plaza

Since Sushiro opened at Tiong Bahru Plaza in August, I have been wanting to try it, but each time I got there, the long queues curbed my interest. Last Sunday though, I decided that long queue or not, I was going to check out the first South-east Asian outlet of Japan’s No.1 conveyor belt sushi chain.

My church mate and I reached the eatery about 1pm where tons of people were already waiting to get in and waiting time was about 35-40 minutes. Good thing that the restaurant has seats and much space out front for waiting. I decided to sit and dally with my phone, while my friend did some pre-lunch shopping. It was while waiting that I spied a poster that mentioned the Sushiro Singapore app which allows one to make reservations prior to arrival (read: shorter waiting time). Will definitely try that next time!

Within 30 minutes our number (#147) was called and as we entered, whoa, it was like walking into a busy food factory with long production lines. The 162-seater comprises long tables served by a two-tiered conveyor belt system – the lower transports various sushi items at a decent speed, while the upper level delivers a la carte items – which you order via a tablet – directly to your seat.

While certain ordered drinks will be served to you directly, complimentary water is self-service and available only at the end of the long tables, as are refillable soft drinks and hot green tea (in powered form and rather good) which are located at a counter close to the entrance. As I prefer my green tea slightly chilled, I simply took some ice cubes from the soft drink dispenser.

Though we were severely hungry, we took some time to check out what Sushiro has to offer. News reports stated that Sushiro has more than 100 sushi and side order items ranging from $2.20 to $5, which is kind of more or less similar to what other Japanese conveyor belt chains in Singapore offer although we reckoned Sushiro has a good number of unique and refreshing items on the sushi belt that are not often seen elsewhere. One cool thing is there are signs on the belt informing diners what are the dishes behind it are, as well as some recommended a la carte items and their prices – say, Braised Pork Sushi or various desserts – which you can order via the tablet. There are 3 plate pricing – Red $2.20, Gold $3.20, and Black $4.80.

I for one have not seen so much red meat on a sushi belt and portions were quite generous too, like the rather yummy Roasted Pork Belly with Spring Onion, and the Roast Beef with Sea Urchin (both pictured above). The reports also said that plates that have covered 350m will be removed from the belt to ensure freshness which is good to know.

The ebi items were fascinating too. For starters, the prawns were huge and often the entire prawn, both raw and cooked versions, is used for the sushi (either planked or butterflied) and served with various garnishings.

We actually found the tablet menu a bit hard to find items as common as salmon sashimi as they are listed in categories you wouldn’t think they will be in. Twice we had to get the waiters’ help in locating what we wanted. We didn’t have a problem with the Chawanmushi (egg custard, $3.50) though and were mightily impressed when the items breezily arrived to our table spots within minutes on the upper conveyor belt. Add to that, it was really good and tasty.

Out of the dozen plus plates we had, the quality of the ingredients on the whole was very good. Other than the fact that we weren’t quite used to the less-dense sushi rice which breaks apart quite easily (made by sushi-making robots no less), we were only disappointed with two items. At $4.80, the Salmon Sashimi had only four pieces and very thinly sliced at that. Even the salmon items on the sushi belt were thicker in their portions! Then there was the Octopus Sushi (above right) that was not only so thinly sliced, it was bland and tasteless. That almost derailed our good experience at Sushiro thus far. We knew we couldn’t end our meal on that bite!

Thankfully, not long after came this lovely Octopus with Grilled Cheese which was as delicious as it looked, saving the day for us. Relatively full by now, we decided to forgo desserts till our next visit. And it wasn’t because there is a sign on the table that said diners only have 60 minutes to eat during peak periods. We did it in about 45 minutes so we were in good time.

The bill came up to about slightly less than $30 per person which is decent as that is more or less the usual amount I spent when dining at my fave Japanese restaurant, Itacho Sushi. Overall, the dining experience at Sushiro is alright and definitely a place I would patronize again.

Sushiro Singapore is at #02-118, Tiong Bahru Plaza. Opens daily 11am-10pm (last order at 9.30pm).

Novel ‘Folklore & Fiction’ Cocktails @ The Monarchy, Tras Street

You know them from books and films, and now you can enjoy them as cocktails. Thanks to the ingenious bar team from The Monarchy at Tras Street, iconic British fictitious characters the likes of Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and Mary Poppins are now available as “one-of-a-kind, quintessentially British” cocktails.

Located in the heart of Tras Street, The Monarchy is styled like a typical British cocktail bar with its walls bedecked with huge portraits of iconic royal figures such as Princess Diana and King Henry VIII (by American artist Alex Wakefield). It opens till late on most days, so it is a popular after-work / after-dinner spot for cocktail lovers to hang out at.

Cheers to British Folklore & Fiction

For the launch of their new Folklore & Fiction cocktails, The Monarchy produced a gorgeous 16-page leather-cover, storybook-like menu filled with water-color illustrations of the 14 fictitious characters who inspired their newly-concocted cocktails. Just look at the cool pages for iconic spies Austin Powers and James Bond pictured above.

Harry Potter’s “Butterbeer”

Each invited guest was given two tokens to order the cocktails we wanted to try. My first choice was their version of Harry Potter’s “Butterbeer”. The “original” Butterbeer I consumed at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando, USA, is purely a delicious root beer sundae made to look like foamy dark beer (they do have to consider the younger fanbase…) So it was quite cool to try a Butterbeer that has real alcohol in it! The Harry Potter cocktail contains Copper Dog whiskey marinated with melted butter overnight, then topped with ice cream soda, salted caramel and vanilla foam. What you get is a sweet, creamy, buttery whiskey-based cocktail that is strong and delicious!

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

As I usually prefer rum in my cocktails, and also love chocolate very much, the bartender closest to me at the bar counter recommended that I pick Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as my second choice. This beauty took some effort to make but basically it is Pampero Blanco Rum mixed with chocolate liqueur, vanilla, whipping cream and egg, then topped with cocoa dust and mini marshmallows. A true yummy delight, it tastes even better if you give it a good stir. Its ABV is also definitely stronger than the Harry Potter!

The Artful Dodger

In between my cocktails, I moseyed down the bar counter to check out the other guests’ choices. This fancy fruity baby is The Artful Dodger (from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist), a medium dry, sherry and port-based cocktail, ordered by a guest who also generously provided us with great lighting from his video light lamp, bless him!

Mary Poppins

The sweet guest who sat next to me ordered the sweet red vermouth-based Mary Poppins which actually has a cute way of serving – the bartender completes the drink by placing a spoon with sugar across the classy wine globet which will then be poured into the cocktail. “A Spoonful of Sugar”, geddit? Believe me, it was really cute…

Mr Bean

You can’t do Britain icons without Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean, which was the cocktail the sweet sud’s friend ordered. The Bol’s Genever gin-based cocktail is green because of the blend of pandan with matcha tea and soy milk. Cuteness is complete when the cocktail is topped with Mr Bean’s beloved teddy bear in cocoa powder.

Sherlock Holmes / Sweeney Todd

The Sherlock Holmes cocktail, borrowed from yet another guest, doesn’t really look exciting but then again, you would expect the 221B detective to enjoy a drink that looks exactly like that! The smoky cognac and whiskey-based concoction is said to be “strong and balanced”. Meanwhile, served in a chilled globet looking bloody red—complete with a tinted-red rim—by the bartender at top right was easily recognized as the tequila-based Sweeney Todd (aka the Demon Barber of Fleet Street).

Jack Sparrow / Paddington Bear

Must say that practically none of The Monarchy’s Folklore & Fiction cocktails seem easy to make. The bar team really went the whole nine yards to deliver one-of-a-kind cocktails. Take Jack Sparrow (pictured above left) for instance: the rum-based cocktail served in a bronze mug has so many layers, from crushed ice to various garnishes, and seared with a blow torch spray too! (Never ever thought of the Pirates of the Caribbean character as British, but maybe it’s because he’s based on The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards…)

As for Paddington Bear (above right), the gin-based cocktail is one of the rare ones that uses a tall glass and hence requires an elongated ice-cube—”So that it gets chilled longer”, says the bartender preparing it⁠—and its garnishes include a gummy bear!

The Ultra Lounge

Whilst showing me the way to the restroom, one of the servers also introduced me to The Monarchy’s Ultra Lounge which is a cool secluded area with its own bar and great for private parties. Here, the portraits are more of celebrities the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Helen Mirren. Apparently every painting at the premises is available for sale.

Musings on the M49 is really chuffed to be invited for The Monarchy’s new British-centric cocktail menu, truly had a fun time. If you love trying new cocktails and everything British, do check out the Tras Street bar’s Folklore & Fiction cocktails (priced at S$22++ each) which will be available for the next couple of months.

The Monarchy is at 56/58 Tras Street. Opening hours: Tue-Sat from 6pm till late. Ultra Lounge opening hours: Fri 10pm-3am, Sat and PH Eve 10pm-4am. Tel: +65 98003787.

Triple Three @ Mandarin Orchard

A Birthday Buffet Bash

For my name day earlier this month, I really wanted to celebrate with a good buffet, so me BFF and I opted for the Japanese-inspired international buffet at the long-established Triple Three at Mandarin Orchard.

Named after the hotel’s address (333 Orchard Road), Triple Three’s buffet spread, which has a few live cooking stations, covers a huge area so one has to check out every corner and nook so as to not miss any of its extensive offerings.

The first thing that had us at hello was this gorgeous Honey Glazed Ham, flanked by cute Yorkshire puddings. There was roast beef too but it wasn’t as enticing as this hunk of a ham here!

This massive Grilled Grouper was hard to miss too, and its tasty meat really went well with rice.

The cold cuts section was right by the roasts. Its selection of meats including parma ham and smoked salmon, just to name but two.

My game plan though was to focus on the seafood-on-ice section where I could have all the utterly huge, fresh and juicy Sakoshi Bay oysters from Japan that I could eat…

… and, most of all. succulent Alaskan King Crab legs as well! (So good and yummy!) The station is also filled with other under-the-sea delights such as prawns, mussels, clams and crayfish.

Another popular Japanese-inspired counter is the Yakiniku (grilled meat) live cooking section. This evening, we had this heavenly grilled Wagyu beef with vegetables that was simply da bomb!

The sushi and sashimi counter is understandably another popular section especially when you can order to your heart’s content items such as freshly sliced yellowtail sashimi or wagyu beef sushi made on the spot.

As focus was to be on just a few stations, counters I had to forgo include the Asian wok-fried favorites, Japanese tempura, and I’m sure there was even a pasta station…

Our tummies practically had no room for this rather tempting Indian section although I couldn’t resist a scoop of the fragrant balmastic rice (which I ate with the grouper fish) and a piece of crispy papadum.

And we’re still not done: There is a decent looking cheese section…

…an impressive bread stand (although the buns and rolls we picked were surprisingly tough…)

…and a good range of pretty and delicious-looking cakes and pastries.

Last but not least, there were healthy fruits to end your feasting, along with premium machine-brewed coffee (or tea if you prefer).

We love to stuff our faces but the primary reason my pal and I have not been indulging in hotel buffets is because buffet prices can be quite hefty these days. During my birthday week however, there was a Triple Three promotion whereby for the weekday dinner of $88++, the second adult gets 50% off if you pay by DBS, POSB and UOB cards. That was why we picked the spot and we ended up paying about $78 each which was decent for such a good spread.

So overall, an enjoyable experience at Triple Three just like the last time when I was there yons ago. Would definitely visit again.

Triple Three is @ Level 5, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867. Breakfast – Daily: 6.30am-10.00am; Lunch – Mon- Sat: 12pm-2:30pm; Sun: 12pm-3pm; Dinner: Daily – 6.30pm-10pm. Tel: 6831 6271

The Art @ APS Cashew Road

“You wanna go so far north for lunch?” That was my response when a pal suggested going to The Art at Cashew Road on her off day because “the bread is very good”. So off we went as the casual dining restaurant, located within Assumption Pathway School (APS), is just a bus and MRT Orange line+Blue line away.

The Art, or Assumption Restaurant for Training, is the Catholic educational institution’s culinary skills establishment that allows APS students—some of whom have special needs—to learn cooking and baking techniques, as well as to gain experience interacting with real customers.

The restaurant is located deep inside the Assumption school premises. Once out of Cashew MRT station, we entered via the front gate of Assumption English School, followed the covered walkway for some distance till we reached and climbed a short flight of stairs. The Art can then be seen atop a “hill” (which faces a football field), and after signing in at a guardhouse—it’s a school after all—we finally arrived at the dining establishment after climbing yet another flight of stairs.

For a place sited far from the main road, The Art was quite a busy place during lunchtime, though not exactly packed. Still, my lunch mate was crestfallen to discover that the “very good bread” was already sold out by the time we sat at our table. “Must come early at 12 next time!” she said. Yes, m’am.

The lunch menu is relatively simple: soup/dessert of the day (each $3); six choices of mains ranging from Deep-fried Breaded Chicken with Cheese Sauce ($9/set $13.50) to Daily Roast (done medium; $15/set $19.50); mocktails ($3.50), and hot beverages ($2-$2.50). It also contains a special Tea-for-Two set (2.30pm-5pm, $12 nett) that comprises 12 pieces of petit fours and two hot beverages.

Interestingly whilst we were there, there was also a “Food Street” where pop-up stalls were set up along the restaurant’s al fresco area. These are manned by APS students, selling fare such as prawn noodles ($4.50), curry chicken ($4.50) and assorted desserts ($1), and which you can order at the table. This is only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12pm-1.30pm.

Good 'o Fish N Chips

We decided to go for a la carte and my friend ordered Fish N Chips ($12) while I opted for the Daily Roast ($15). The tasty Fish N Chips came with crispy French fries, salad and tartar sauce, and my friend had no complaints about it.

I had no complaints about my beef steak either, which was served with mushrooms in cream sauce, potato/carrot combo and some greens. Beautifully done medium, the steak was tender and juicy, and enhanced much by the lovely gravy.

Juicy beef steak beautifully done medium.

We had actually wanted to order dessert from the Food Street but by the time we finished our mains, the stalls had already closed shop! Luckily. there was a deli counter filled with a variety of cakes, so we ended up with Tiramisu and Black Forest cakes, both of which were very well made. I also had a coffee ($2) to end my meal. (If you order the 3-course set meal, coffee comes along with the dessert).

And oh, there was good news re: the “very good bread”. By the time we ended our meal, the kitchen came out with a couple of huge pita-like bread that were topped with pesto, cheese and olive oil for the deli counter. It wasn’t the bread my friend was looking for but since we came all the way here, we bought one each. And let me tell you, the fragrant bread was really, really good – you can eat it on its own or dip it into thick chicken curry or a creamy soup.

Tiramisu and Black Forest

The Art, which has a cosy ambience, also serves set dinners (from $16.50) on Friday nights (except last Friday of the month) and porridge buffet (from $12.50, only on last Friday of the month). These are however by reservations only. The daily menu is also subject to periodic revisions.

All in all, The Art is a nice place to dine in and service by both students and volunteers was good. It is definitely worth going the long distance (if you don’t live or work around the north-west, that is) for its quality food items including freshly baked bread, cakes and pastries. My mains/dessert/coffee meal came up to $24 which is decent, especially with a delicious steak in the mix. Will be keen to try its porridge buffet one day…

The Art is located within Assumption Pathway School at 30 Cashew Road. Opening Hours: Mondays to Fridays (during school terms). Lunch – 12pm-3.30pm; Teatime – 2.30pm-5pm; and Dinner – 6pm-9.30pm (on Fridays and by reservations only). For Reservations, call +65 6892 6187 or email the.art.aps@gmail.com. For more info, visit www.aps.edu.sg/theart.

Grub And Grog Galore @ SFFA And RPB Asia 2019

If you love grub and grog as much as I do, joy is being in a hall filled with hundreds of fine food and drink booths offering samples for anyone who’s keen to have their taste buds tickled. I was hence delighted when Musings on the M49 was invited to the 3rd annual Speciality & Fine Food Asia (SFFA) and Restaurant, Pub & Bar Asia (RPB) 2019 where I could do exactly just that!

Held at Suntec Singapore from 17-19 July and featuring more than 200 artisanal food and drink producers, the trade show is primarily a platform for producers to network and forge business opportunities with people in the food service, retail and hospitality sectors. It was truly a global affair as there were exhibitors from Canada to Spain, Taiwan to Uzbekistan. It was also good to see much local representation with many Singapore producers showcasing their locally-crafted fare – from cheese to beer to mead.

Thanks to organiser Montgomery Asia, a specially curated media tour was arranged for us to check out a diverse range of products on display. Here’s a selection of the goodies that yours truly had the pleasure of sampling.

FINE GRUB @ SFFA2019 & RPB2019 (Selected)

Meats from Spain

Though this Provacuno (Spanish beef industry) booth says “Beef from Spain”, the professional chef doing live demonstrations prepared a few different meat dishes for visitors to try including beef kebab, roast lamb skirt and a veal item. We only had time for the first two but the wait was absolutely worth it – both meats were succulent and absolutely juicy and delicious. (www.provacuno.es)

Dried Fruits & Nuts from Uzbekistan

Truth be told, I noticed Uzbekistan only when they play in an Asian World Cup qualifying round. At their pavilion, we learnt that the Central Asian country is also known for being producers of high-quality dried fruits (grapes, apricots, melons, etc), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc), jams, as well as flour and sugary confectionery. The samples we tried were definitely good and tasty. (http://uzkand.uz)

Cashew Cheese Crafted in Singapore

We were also introduced to Kroodi cheese, the first plant-based artisanal cashew cheese in Singapore. Created by Claudia Cani, an Italian based here, her cheeses are “dairy-free, lactose- free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and preservatives-free.” Now I love cheese and I love cashews, but the cashew-based cheese took a while to get used to. Still, I’m always game to try new types of cheese. Purchase is available at kroodi.com and RedMart.

Pastry, Baked Goods & Tea from Taichung, Taiwan

Taiwan food fare is very popular with Singaporeans and seven foods companies from Taichung, Taiwan’s second largest city, were out in full force to promote their products. Items include various Taiwanese pastries and handmade baked snacks such as tasty almond cookies and pure milk shortbread, as well as fragrant milk tea and coffee drinks. (www.taichung.gov.tw)

FINE GROG @ SFFA2019 & RPB2019 (Selected)

Gin & Natural Mineral Water from Sri Lanka

One of the first fine grog we tried was from Rockland Distillery. Colombo No. 7 (www.colombosevengin.com) is a Sri Lankan take on a London dry gin, flavored with seven spices and botanicals including juniper berries, curry leaves and cinnamon bark. With a ABV of 43.1%, the gin when taken neat is complex and vibrant. At the same booth, we also got to sample Olu Tropical Water (www.oluwater.com), a “natural mineral water sourced from the cloud forests of Sri Lanka”. One thing for sure, it definitely tasted better than your regular tap water!

Blueberry Wine from Michigan, USA

Hailing from Michigan, USA, Vintas Sapphire Blueberry Wine carries much fruity aromas and is sweet on the palate, though not as sweet as a dessert wine. With an ABV of 11%, it’s easy to drink and goes well with the generous cheese and dried fruit platter provided. It would certainly pairs well with meat and dessert items as well. (www.vintas.com.sg)

Mead Made In Singapore

“It’s not beer”, screamed a banner at the Lion City Meadery booth. Well, beer it’s definitely not but mead is still an alcoholic beverage that is basically made from fermented honey, yeast and water. Two local mead-loving lads decided to start their own craft mead brewery and now has three flavors available – Classic, Spiced and Hibiscus Blueberry. Visit www.lioncitymeadery.com for the outlets where you can find their mead.

Gin & Sour Beer from Norway

A Norwegian gin that really took our breathe away was the Harahorn Pink Gin which looks more orangey than pink. At 38% ABV, it has robust citrus aromas and floral undernotes. Its taste is wonderfully smooth with a slightly bitter aftertaste. We also got to try a fascinating Norwegian sour beer-which I forgot to ask how to pronounce its name-that is yet to be in the market. And oh, the booth used really lovely glasses for tasting. www.detnorskebrenneri.no/www.nordicbev.com)

Luxury Chocolate Wine from England

Made in England, Rubis Chocolate Wine (www.rubiswine.com) is exactly what you expect it would taste like – a rich tasting fine red wine blended with premium chocolate. Good enough to drink on its own or over ice, you can also make cocktails with it (just add Schweppes tonic water, for example). It can also be used for tiramisu, or added to ice cream and coffee. Currently available at The Rubis Kiosk @ Raffles City Shopping Centre B1.

Ending the Day with Coffee & Ice-Cream

My media session ended at two live demonstrations. First, it was to be served a yummy cappuccino by a robotic barista from homegrown company Crown Coffee Robotics (www.crowncoffee.co). Think of it as a sophisticated coffee vending machine where you can actually see the coffee being made. Then it was off to the live demo of the artisanal made-in-Singapore vegan, plant-based ice cream by Smoocht (www.smoocht.com). I tried their durian flavor which was served on the smallest wafer cone I’ve ever seen. And yes, it was good and flavorful. Just wished the sample was bigger…

The event was certainly interesting and Musings on the M49 was glad to have some spare time to check out other booths (especially those hawking local and foreign beers.) Here’s to the next SFFA and RPB Asia!

The next Speciality & Fine Food Asia and Restaurant, Pub & Bar Asia trade show will take place from 29 Sept – 1 Oct 2020. To register as a participant or visitor, visit www.speciality-asia.com and www.rpb-asia.com.

Rooftop Bar @ 1919 Waterboat House

A pal and I have always wanted to dine at 1919 Waterboat House but when the time came, we decided to check out its rooftop bar first. Considering the hot/wet and humid weather Singapore been having of late, it was rather brave of us to attempt The Rooftop even for a Friday evening. But praise be to God as not only there was no rain, there were cool breezes aplenty although that didn’t quite stop the sweat from flowing. Also, the panoramic views at the bar – which spread from Marina Bay Sands to the Esplanade, from the Padang to Fullerton Hotel – made it worth the visit.

So it was good that there was nice chilled beer available (albeit there’s only three choices and you have to drink fast before it gets warm depending on the time you are there.) The Rooftop has a simple drinks menu comprising mainly of cocktails ($16), mojitos ($16-$18), twin shooters ($17/pair), champagne ($26/glass), wine and spirits ($16/glass). There’s also a separate wine menu. There’s also a cool 1-for-1 Sunset Happy Hour before 8pm, and for everyday, it’s 1-for-1 half pint beers for $12. So we started off with their main draught beer, Hofbrau Lager, which is a golden hued German Helles type beer that was light, hoppy and went very well with the food we ordered later.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar has a decent food menu and that was why we decide to check it out first rather than its main restaurant on the second level of the colonial heritage building. Items include Spanish Tapas ($8-$22), personal-sized pizzas ($18) and sharing platters ($38-$58).

A little problem was that, though the place is spacious, the tables are rather small and when the food came, they came in very big plates even for the tapas. Also, my clinical lab rat of a friend was rather miffed when the cutlery served was not up to par-there was a dirty spot on a plate, and a veggie thingie stuck to a fork. Thankfully, other that that, the serving staff was attentive in other ways and the evening went swimmingly.

First to arrive was the Truffle Fries ($10) served with truffle mayo which was a great treat. And if they could serve it in a small basket, it will save much space on the table.

Okay, we ordered a Chef’s Salad ($11) for the healthy bit but seriously, if you are going to have a drinking session, forego this as it just doesn’t go with the grog. The salad, akin to a Caesar, is decent actually (although with an over dosage of dressing) but no go as a pub grub.

With beer, you can’t go wrong with meat items and these spicy buffalo wings marinated with secret spice ($12 half dozen/$22) are da bomb. Juicy and spicy hot, it certainly made up for the soggy salad!

Crispy calamari ($14) should be another great grog grub but we suspected that the serving staff forgotten about it ‘cos it took a while to arrive and by the time it did, the items were cold. Add to that, the strips of squid were so miserably skinny, that all we ate were just batter, crispy as some may be. Pity as it looks good visually but we had to leave most of the dish aside.

Prior to 8pm, we went for our second round of Happy Hour half pint beer and this time we went for the Hofbrau Hefeweizen which is darker gold in hue and richer in taste. It is also more fruity and malty in flavor and a good way to end our evening.

Actually, we ended our evening by playing tourist and taking photos on all sides of the bar. Before Happy Hour ends, you can catch a beautiful sunset over Anderson Bridge at about 7.15pm.

When the manager saw us clicking away, he sweetly pointed us to the bar’s outer area where we could get better shots of landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands (without its laser show sadly) over Marina Bay…

… The sparkling Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay over Esplanade Drive…

… Lasers shooting from the Padang (later, we found out that a National Day Parade rehearsal was taking place…)

And last but not least, the majestic Fullerton Hotel that faces the front of the Fullerton Waterboat House and which is well lit after dark.

Overall, the 1919 Rooftop Bar is a nice drinking spot, perfect weather permitting. Bill came up to about $85 for two pax, which is decent for a Friday night session. Would consider coming again and will definitely check out 1919 the restaurant next.

The 1919 Rooftop Bar is 3 Fullerton Road, The Waterboathouse, #03-01, Singapore 049215. Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-12am; Fri & Sat 5pm-2am; closed on Sundays. Advisable to make a reservation first at +65 6538 9038.