Hararu Izakaya @ Bussorah Street

IMG_20180428_193152_008A pair of ex-publishing pals and I continued our quest to check out interesting halal-certified restaurants in Kampong Glam and last week we descended on Hararu Izakaya, reportedly the first Muslim-owned Izakaya in Singapore.

The eatery was easy to find on busy Bussorah Street which is closed to traffic on weekends starting from Friday evenings. There is al fresco seating on the ground floor but we found it nicer to sit in the brightly lit seating area on the second floor where it is decked out almost like an authentic Japanese restaurant of old, complete with diners having to take out their shoes, sit on mats but thankfully without having to kneel throughout the meal. Love the wall art which comprises large black-and-white impressions of Japanese street life and buildings, fronted by lanterns bearing Chinese characters indicating various types of Japanese cuisine.
IMG_20180428_193152_009Hararu Izakaya’s menu is not that much different from the Japanese eateries that we are familiar with except of course there are no pork dishes or alcoholic beverages. The menu comprises the usual suspects such as Edamame or boiled soybeans ($5.50) and Chuka Kurage or Japanese jelly fish ($7) as appetizers; sushi and sashimi; tempura; kushiyaki (skewer items); plus a good selection of charcoal grilled and “from the stove” dishes. And of course, there’s also the various noodles, don and fried rice offerings. Beverage-wise, besides Japanese green tea ($3.50 free-flow, hot/cold) and soft drinks, there are also mocktails and non-alcoholic “beer/wine” available.

To kick off our meal, we had Salmon Sashimi ($8) which was satisfactory, while the Age Tori Kawa or deep fried chicken skin ($4) was fascinating. A tad harder than deep fried fish skin, it was nonetheless crispy and tasty and made for a good starter or snack.

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Not that we wanted to try a fish but we wanted to see if Hararu’s standard was up to par. So we ordered the Saba Shio Yaki or grilled mackerel with salt ($12) which was not only good and flavorful, it was way above par.

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Still on charcoal grilled items: We’d dearly love to try the Wagyu Beef but $44 seems a tad steep even with three of us sharing, so we settled for the cheaper option, Grilled Beef Ribeye ($24) with Japanese sea salt, which was nonetheless a great choice as it was without contest the best item we had on the night. The meat, cooked medium, was super juicy and tender and it was something you could keep on eating (if only we had beer!) We probably could have done without the sea salt which was super saltish and besides, the beef slices were really good enough on their own.

2018-04-27 20.09.49 (640x640)Another delicious item was the Unagi Fried Rice ($14). The grilled eel was soft and sweet but its the yummy semi-sticky rice that really gives you the kick. Glad we ordered this instead of a bowl of Gohan (Japanese rice, $2.50) or Onigiri (the triangular rice, $3.50-$4) each as for their prices, we felt it was a tad too expensive for rice. (That goes for their green tea too at $3.50 which, though free-flow, is usually just $1 at traditional Japanese restuarants.)

2018-04-27 20.05.15 (640x640)By the time the Tori Karaage or deep fried boneless chicken ($8) came, we were actually quite full. Nothing extraordinary but munchable. At least it went well with the rice.

2018-04-27 20.27.18 (615x640)We actually forgotten that we have another item ‘cos it took so long in coming. And it was a pity as the Tempura Moriawase (deep fried assorted vegetables and prawn tempura, $12) was a disappointment. The two pieces of prawn didn’t taste fresh nor fully cooked, and the vegetables were not very flavorful or crunchy. We are guessing that the dish was left aside and served too late, making the items a tad soggy. Just glad it was the last item and that we had much better dishes prior.

2018-04-27 22.03.25 (640x640)All in all, we each paid about $35++ each for a close to $110 bill. I love the artwork in the place – this giant goldfish lies majestically along the stairway – which shows that much thought was given to make the place as Japanese as possible and they succeeded. If I do make a return trip, the grilled items are probably worth it, as is the fried rice. Definitely a good place for meetings between friends and associates.

Hararu Izakaya, at 16 Bussorah Street, opens daily from 12pm to 11pm (last order 10pm).

 

 

 

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Plonk @ Serangoon Gardens

2018-04-04 22.05.21 (640x447)Had a gathering with ex-colleagues from my TV days a couple of Wednesdays ago and the venue of choice was Plonk, a rather cool food and wine bar in Serangoon Gardens. Housed in a two-storied terrace house, the place certainly looks warm and inviting, with service staff greeting you at the entrance.

Downstairs is where the bar is with a long table in the centre. Upstairs, dining tables are spaciously placed but what is really captivating is the number of colorful artpieces and stylish photographs that lined the walls as decor.

2018-04-04 19.24.38 (640x640)The food and ambience at Plonk is described as Mediterranean with a dash of Australian. The extensive menu with clearly-named categories seems to cater much to large groups as sharing is much encouraged starting with the “Sharing is Caring” appetizers; the meat, seafood and pasta items in “The Main Attraction”; a variety of salads in “A Healthy Kick”; 10 kinds of pizzas from “In Crust We Trust”; and finally, four dessert choices in “the Grand Finale”. Beverages wise, there’s a wide selection of wines, beers, cocktails and gourmet coffees to choose from.

2018-04-04 19.50.52 (640x640)As there was six of us, sharing was the obvious choice. We kicked off with the appetizers as of course those came first. The Housemade Beetroot Yoghurt, Hummus And Pesto Dips Served With Toast ($16) was lovely although I can live without the beetroot yoghurt which others seem to enjoy. A very nice starter was the Patatas Bravas With Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise ($12, seen top right), which are potato cubes fried in a spicy tomato sauce and so good that we ordered another plate.

2018-04-04 19.50.47 (640x640)Another delightful item was the Seared Halloumi With Watermelon, Shallot And Accompanied By Raspberry Reduction ($13). The mini slabs of halloumi, a traditional semi-hard white cheese originating from Cyprus, were deeply savory and its unique flavor further enhanced by the robust shallot and sweet watermelon.

One thing for sure, Plonk’s pizzas are very good and best of all, they are all thin-crust. We first ordered the Truffle ($25) which is generously sprinkled with forest mushrooms, shaved parmesan and (we think) dashes of truffle. It was delicious and it didn’t take us long to decide that we should order another one for our second round.
2018-04-04 20.34.15 (640x640)Our first “add-on” was a pasta – we had the Seafood Linguin Aglio Olio Style ($24) that came with jumbo prawns, calamari, blue mussels and baby scallops. The pasta was delicious but as every person took a piece of seafood each, all I can tell you that they were all fresh and tasty.
2018-04-04 20.35.41 (640x640)So glad we ended on a great taste – we had the Four Cheese pizza ($25), a bright yellow beauty comprising mozzarella, blue cheese, cheddar and parmesan. Every bite was a delight. We only later learnt that it’s 1-for-1 pizza on Tuesday evenings. If we have known earlier, we would have come a day earlier. Never mind, next visit will be on a Tuesday for sure.
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My choice of poison for the night is this Italian beer. Peroni Nastro Azzurro is a Euro pale lager is crisp and refreshing. Created in 1963 with the finest hops, the name – I googled -means “Blue Ribbon” in honor of an Italian ocean liner which crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest time in 1933. Better than naming it the Titanic I guessed, haha! Good beer.

Besides the good food, what really made our evening really great was the fact that we had the whole second floor to ourselves, making lots of noise (as always) without bothering everyone else. We thought it must be a quiet Wednesday night until we trooped downstairs after paying up and saw that it was packed like sardines on the ground floor.

All in all, Plonk was a delight – from its great pizzas to the artworks adorning its wall to the attentive service. We paid $26++ each which was really decent considering the amount of food we ordered. Definitely a place we can make a return to.

Plonk is at 7 Maju Avenue, Serangoon Gardens Estate, Singapore 556685. Opens daily from Mon-Fri (11am to late) and Sat-Sun (9am to late).

The Green Oven @ Alley on 25, Andaz SG

2018-02-22-14-11-34-640x624.jpgHad a Chinese New Year lunch with the office people at The Green Oven @ Alley on 25 last week and it was a fun experience. Well, it didn’t begin that way. I didn’t read the address clearly and just following Google Maps, I assume the restaurant was somewhere on ground level in the U-shaped alley (Fraser Street) around Parkview Square (or Gotham City, as we Singaporeans affectionately called it). FYI, it’s not.

Part of a dining hub termed Alley on 25 which comprises five restaurants and two bars, The Green Oven is located on the 25th floor of the relatively new Andaz Singapore hotel. To get to it, you have to find an escalator in the huge shopping complex (Duo Galleria, if I’m not mistaken) located directly behind Parkview, which will bring you to the second floor where you will see the Duo Tower and Residences. Entrance to Andaz Hotel is on the far left and in there, hotel staff will show you where to take the lift to the 25th floor.
2018-02-22 12.53.41 (640x631)Serving classic international fare, The Green Oven is an all-day diner with a menu comprising breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert items, including a decent selection of non-alcoholic beverages, beer, wine and champagne. The place is cheery looking with good city views although the first thing that catches your eye is the huge green Beech oven (hence the name I guess) behind the kitchen counter where all the baked dishes are cooked in. The waitresses, majority of whom are Korean, are chirpy and orders were quickly and easily made. Quite a feat considering there was a dozen of us.

The plan at first was to order their set lunches (@$25++) but after a quick vote, everyone agreed it would be more fun (and economical) to share dishes. As it was Chinese New Year, the first dish we had was Abalone Yusheng. Quite cool for a “western” place to serve a CNY item, complete with giant chopsticks, and allowing us to shout blessings at the top of our voices. (Whether the other guests minded, we didn’t really check, heehee.)
2018-02-22 13.05.54 (640x640)We didn’t have to wait long for the main courses we ordered but we did have lovely Sourdough Bread by Tiong Bahru Bakery with Butter ($5) to pass the time. The first dish that I attacked was the Braised Lamb Shank ($35) which would have my set lunch choice. Served steaming hot with Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, semi dried tomato, rosemary, and tzatziki, the tender meat came smoothly off the bone and was absolutely succulent. A lovely dish indeed.
2018-02-22 13.09.58 (640x640)The Lobster Mac & Cheese ($35) was a fascinating item. It did have a very fragrant “marina” smell – as one of us described it – that you have to get used to. The lobster was meaty, macaroni yummy and I do love the burnt cheesy crust. But a normal Mac & Cheese without the half lobster could be better.
2018-02-22 13.09.02 (640x640)The Half Spring Chicken ($25), stewed with lardons, chat potatoes, pommery mustard, and thyme, was a popular item among the team. Meat was tender and the gravy was delicious, as was every piece of vegetable (especially the potatoes).
2018-02-22 13.18.43 (640x640)This fish main course was so good, I was only left with this small piece to take a picture of. It’s the Barramundi Fillet en Papillote ($28) cooked with Pernod anise, globe artichoke, capers, olives, and Tuscan olive oil. The meat was fresh and tasty, making every mouthful a delight. Just wished there were more mouthfuls to savor.
2018-02-22 13.10.07 (640x640)Oxtail soup yes, but I don’t think I ever had Oxtail Pie ($25) in my life, so I was eager to try it. Baked with red wine, the garlic mash was lovely but the flavor of the meat was a tad strong, even for a carnivore like me. I thought it was beefy but a few others felt it was more mutton. (It was probably a mix of meats). Pity as I was hoping to like it.
2018-02-22 13.08.33 (640x640)Finally, we had the token “vegetable” dish. The Violet Eggplant ($20) is baked with
plum tomato, Boursin cheese, and basil. It’s flavorful but one big piece was enough for me. A dish that definitely need to be shared unless you are totally into eggplants.
2018-02-22 13.52.36 (640x640)There are only two desserts on The Green Oven’s menu –  Tropical Fruit Trifle ($16) and
Brownie ($16) which must have been very good ‘cos both plates didn’t make it to my end of the table. Luckily, some kind soul bought these colorful mini sponge cakes with different sweet coverings from a bakery downstairs and they went very well with the nice Fair-Trade Java Mountain coffee  (various, $6) we had to end the meal.

All in all, food at The Green Oven is good, service is commendable, and ambience is pleasant. Prices may be a bit on the high side on the whole but not uncommon in other restaurants of the same vein. It’s definitely a nice place for meeting up with friends or acquaintances, or if you want to pamper yourself with a nice meal in a classy restaurant. Dinner have more appetizer choices and seafood main courses. Damage per person will probably be about $50-$80 per person. Worth checking out.

The Green Oven is @ Alley on 25, 5 Fraser Street, Andaz Singapore Hotel, Level 25.

Malacca: Iced Coffee Chendol Shakes

IMG_20180131_113813_298 (640x640)When in Malacca: The beautiful historic Malaysian city lies in the Tropics so yes, the weather is hot and humid at most times of the year. Thankfully, there are cafes and stalls aplenty offering iced cold drinks of all kinds, so do stop at one or two to replenish water loss after a long trek through its fascinating streets.

One cool cafe that me and my travel companion stopped at while walking around the famous Jonker Walk area was Famosa White Coffee. The menu offers many beverages but the signature items are iced shakes that mix different types of coffee with chendol, a sweet dessert that contains coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, red azuki beans, and the unmistakable worm-like green rice flour jelly.

Being a durian lover, I went for the Durian White Coffee Chendol Shake (above left), while my friend opted for the Green Tea Latte Chendol Shake. Both were tasty and refreshing with strong flavors. And we happily drank the drinks within the cosy, air-conditioned cafe which is designed to look like the coffee shops of old complete with wooden chairs and square tables. Can’t remember how long we stayed but it certainly perk us up all the way past dinner time!

 Famosa White Coffee is at 31, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 75200 Melaka, Malaysia.

 

JiBiru Craft Beer Bar @ 313 Somerset

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Met up with an ex-colleague the other day and as we both love to try new beers and Japanese food (not necessarily in that order), we decided to go to JiBiru Craft Beer Bar @ 313 Somerset. The bar been around for quite some time and I have always wanted to try its yakitori – its other specialty other than its wide selection of Japanese craft beers – but every time I would deemed it too expensive to try them out on my own.

Well, even with the two of us, we still felt that for $3.50 (thereabouts) for a stick of yakitori was just not worth it. So we figured we’d stick to the beers and other a la carte food items which comprise many Japanese favorites.

We were keen to try their draught beers on tap and they have a cool system going at JiBiru. Every day/week, they will have a different set of six featured draught beers on the menu. On our visit, there was Sapparo Lager and Sambrooks’ Black IPA, and 4 varieties from Japan’s Hitachino Nest. There are also different prices for half/full pints (ranging from 7.50 to $15.90) for different time periods – from opening to 6pm, between 6-8pm, and after 8pm.

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What caught our eye was a special Draft Tasting Set ($24.90) that allows you to order four draft beers from the menu and they will be served in 200ml glasses and in order of their appearance in the menu so you know which one you are drinking. Blooming cool.

We opted for the four Hitachino Nest drafts. As you can see above, from L-R: we had the Craft Lager (using New Zealand hops with sweet malts, it’s fruity with a bitter aftertaste); Endless Summer Saison (German hops offering a dry and fruity flavor), Pale Ale (full bodied and rich like an English-styled pale ale – my favorite among the lot); and lastly, Dai Dai Mandarin Ale (has a refreshing fruity flavor, brewed with organic oranges from the Hitachino region).

It was great to be able to taste as much as four different beer types in small portions. Only slight problem is that as JiBiru is open-air – it’s situated in the the 313 building’s food courtyard opposite Bedrock Bar & Grill – the beer does get warm relatively fast. Luckily, the evening we were there was rather cool but still, it would be great if there’s a way to keep the beer chilled for a longer period rather than us having to gulp it down as quickly as we possibly can…

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Food-wise we ordered maybe a tad too much for two persons but amazingly we managed to clear most of the plates at the end. To compliment the beer, we chose traditional favorites such as Kawaebi (crispy fried river shrimp, $9.50), Tebasaki (fried chicken wings, $12.50) and Tempura Moriawase ($13.50). There was a Green Salad ($8.90) as well just to make us feel that we have something healthy in the mix…

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The food items were on the whole nice and tasty. In fact, as we still have beer left after we finished the other dishes, we decided to order yet one more for the road. We settled on Arabiki Sausages ($11.50) which sadly was a disappointment. We thought it would be some kind of Japanese specialty – considering they are not known for sausage items – but basically what came was not unlike slow fried sausages from the can. Edible but certainly not worth its price tag. If there was any consolation, it did go well with the beer…

Total damage came to about $62 per person which is decent considering the amount of beer and food we had. So all in all, a great experience. Especially the draft tasting set. Will definitely make another visit again.

JiBiru Craft Beer Bar is at 313 Orchard Road, #01-26.

 

 

 

 

DaessikSin Korean BBQ Buffet @ Clementi Mall

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Happiness is discovering a few months back that popular and real value-for-money Daessiksin Korean BBQ Buffet has opened an outlet nearer me home at The Clementi Mall. Although they don’t allow phone or online reservations for after 6pm slots, at least they don’t have a time limit like their Bugis counterpart. It does get packed during the weekends but if you come early on a weekday – like before 7pm – you can easily get a table, no matter how big your group.

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In terms of space area, the Clementi outlet is much smaller than Bugis so the food selections do seem less as well. But basically all the necessities needed for either BBQ or hotpot is more than sufficient really.

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The meats for starters are decent and of premium quality, and like Bugis, are presnted in generous portions.

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There is an abundance of chicken, pork and beef, in various marination and cuts. There are also fried versions on the side but which I always find defeats the purpose of being in a BBQ-it-yourself restaurant.

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If I’m not mistaken, the Bugis outlet probably have a wider selection of vegetables and Korean sauces and snack delicacies, but seriously the Clementi selection was decent enough with popular Korean items such as kimchi, deep fried sweet potatoes and Japchae (glass noodles).

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Basically it’s a BBQ buffet but you can have a small hotpot to make soup or steam food at just an extra $5. If Daessiksin could just provide some oil or butter per table for grilling, dining here would be just perfect.

For dinner, price per person is usually about $35 including free-flow drinks. There are also students and seniors’ discounts which the waiters and waitresses are kind enough to tell you about (and which can reduce your bill by a good $10 or so); if not, just check if you are entitled to any discount at whatever time you are there. Me BFF and I have already been back there twice and there will definitely be more visits to come. So happy to have it at Clementi!

Daessiksin Korean BBQ Buffet is at #05-17/18 The Clementi Mall, 3155 Commonwealth Avenue West. Opening Hours: Mon to Fri: 11:30am – 03:30pm, 05:30pm – 10:00pm; Sat & Sun: 11:30am – 10:00pm.

 

Jigger & Pony @ Amoy Street

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The cool thing about making an appointment at Amoy Street is that if your initial meeting place is either packed or not to your liking, you can simply move on to the next decent one down the road. That’s how me and a few ex-colleagues ended up at Jigger & Pony the other evening for after-work drinks.

Spacious and easy on the eye, with modern art replicas on the walls, seating at Jigger & Pony is pleasant – you can choose to sit at the well-decked bar, comfy sofa booths (which can seat 4-6 pax comfortably), a long central table, or alongside a wall-facing counter.


Known for their cocktails, Jigger & Pony is named after “the double-coned measuring device used by bartenders to accurately pour out liquid… when cocktail recipes were listed in ‘jiggers’ and ‘ponies'”, – according to their website. Hence the cute name.

We were in time for Happy Hours (6-8pm), and the $14 cocktails were the highlight (plus the fact that the beer and wine choices were limited anyway).  I went for the Elderflower Spritz (St Germain, lemon, mint, Prosecco, soda) which was refreshing and spritely, while the others opted for the fruity and flaming orange Flamingo (above right; consisting of Aperol, grapefruit, passionfruit and Prosecco).

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Of course, if you are planning to drink much, it’s best to have food in the tummy too. So we ordered a couple of Happy Hour snacks as well. The Bikini Sandwich ($15) comprising Prosciutto, burrata cheese and truffle butter on toasted bread was absolutely scrumptious.

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The Pork Belly Skewers ($15) were lovely too, great for meat lovers like moi, while veggie lovers will enjoy the Mushroom Spring Rolls ($10).

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Of course there’s a much wider choice of cocktails and food in the main Jigger & Pony menu if nothing on the Happy Hours menu tickle your fancy. When another ex-colleague joined us, we ordered a few more items from the main menu such as French Fries ($10) sprinkled with sweet paprika.

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We also has had the Short-Rib Sliders ($22) which was really two small burgers cut into two. It wasn’t as great as we thought it would be, and on hindsight, should have gone for the Steak Tartare ($22) instead.

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Before 8pm, we were duly reminded that Happy Hours was ending soon, so I had the Savoy Cooler (Bacardi Superior with lemon, ginger and soda) – which was kinda bland, while the rest went for the Bee’s Knees (Beefeater Gin, orange blossom honey, lemon) and Old-Fashioned (Bulleit Bourbon, Angostura bitters, sugar), either which I should have gone for as I prefer cocktails with stronger tastes.

Between the four of us, the damage came to about $62 per person. It was an enjoyable evening as it was a very cosy place for a small (or big) group of friends to chat over good drinks and food. Will certainly come again.

Jigger & Pony is at 101 Amoy Street. Opening Hours: Mon-Thu (6pm-1am); Fri-Sat (6pm-3am). Closed on Sundays.