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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Beauty In The Pot @ The Centrepoint

2017-11-09 19.37.05 (640x640)Whenever the BFF and I feel like bingeing, it’s either Korean BBQ or steamboat, or preferably a place that offers both. Anyway, the craving last week was for steamboat and, as we have another friend joining us, we decided to try out the popular Beauty in the Pot (BITP) outlet at The Centrepoint.

We had to book our weekday 7pm slot via phone as online reservations only offer slots up to 6pm. Very odd considering that the hotpot restaurant is open up to 6am daily. And even though we were there way before time, we still have to wait for some time as “our” table is yet to be ready. Still, staff was polite and each apologised profusely till we were led to the table. Anyway, you can spend the time ordering your soups and items first while waiting.

Taking over the site where the former famous Centrepoint Teochew restaurant once was, the by Paradise Group restaurant occupies a big area, with three private rooms and even a play area for kids.

Menu-wise, BITP offers all the necessary raw and cooked ingredients one would want for a steamboat – over 100 items comprising meats, seafood, vegetables, etc. Their unique offering is that the soup pot can be served in quart pot so that you can have a choice of four soup bases at one go. These include their signature Beauty Collagen Broth, as well as Pork Bone Soup, Herbal Drunken Chicken, Longevity Wild Pine Mushroom, Spicy Nourishing Soup and Vitamin C Tomato Sweet Corn.

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We opted for the Beauty Collagen Broth (the thick and creamy one above), and played safe with the Herbal Drunken Chicken which was really fragrant, as it was chock-ful of various herbs and big chunks of chicken. Cool thing is they have jars of extra soup by the side of the table for you to replenish yourself when needed.

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Items-wise we had the usual suspects – pork belly, Wagyu beef, Ebiko prawn paste, assorted balls platter, drunken prawns, fried fish skin, etc. One thing that was noticeable right away is that the quality of meats were really good, so if people found the place pricey, that’s the premium they are paying for.

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We were more conservative when it came to veggie items this time round as we over-ordered the last time we were at J-Pot. (Even for the smallest portion, the offering is over generous each time, we discovered.) So we just had the usual favorites like lettuce, spinach, mushrooms (which came free with OCBC card payment), and the must-have fried beancurd skin (above) which I have to say tasted amazingly good when dipped into the Beauty Collagen broth.

Now, other than that the signature broths are unique, the only thing I could tell you about the broths is that they were flavorful, cooked items well, and tasted great in my rice. We were way too hungry to test out which meat or veggie cooked better in which broth – we just want them to be cooked as fast as possible! (You go try and tell me…)

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And of course, having a good chili sauce base for everything is a must and at BITP, they even have a “Sauces Poster” on the wall if you – like a bunch of ladies blocking my path – couldn’t make up their minds what sauces or condiments to take. Fruits are complimentary as well and you can take as much as you want.

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The only complaint we have, besides not getting the table on time – though can’t really be blamed considering the style of dining that is steamboat – is that the roll-out of dishes ordered was rather slow. The place was packed yes but you can also see the waiters / waitresses looking rather flustered with the number of orders flying around. Our items for example came one dish at a time, and after a while, we have to wave for the rest of our items.

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Earlier reviews mentioned that the servers actually have a tradition of bowing. That was nowhere to be seen bar from one manageress but really we can live without that as long as we get our orders faster. Or at least remember them. For instance, as one friend has eaten at BITP before, she had to request for the Yuzu drink that is usually served at the end of the meal.

To be fair, almost everyone had a smile on their face and were very apologetic each time, but many also looked rather confused at most times. Fun bit was watching a bunch of them methodically gathered whenever there is a birthday customer to be celebrated with 3 BITP balloons and “Happy Birthday” sang in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. There were as many birthdays on our night as there is on a regular night at Hard Rock Cafe…

At the end, the three of us ended up paying $55 each, which is actually quite decent considering the amount of food we ordered and the fact many people online said BITP was pricey.  Well, despite minor shortcomings, it’s a decent hotpot really and certainly a place where we foresee many future visits. Definitely fun for big groups who would be game to try out four soup bases.

Beauty in the Pot is at The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road #05-15/16. Tel: +65 6235 3557. Opening Hours: 11.30am-6.00am daily. 

 

National Kitchen by Violet Oon @ National Gallery

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Have always wanted to check out the Nonya high tea at Violet Oon’s restaurant at the National Gallery but never really got round to it. (It was totally booked for the first few months after it opened too). Anyway, when a dear friend who has been working overseas mentioned that she was in town after I wished her “Happy Hatched Day” on Facebook,  a date for high tea was quickly fixed and I made a Saturday 2pm reservation at the National Kitchen.

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Located on the second floor of the National Gallery (facing the Padang), the National Kitchen is a classy place lovingly bedecked with Peranakan floral-patterned wall and floor tiles, framed  black and white photos, and lofty chandeliers reflected on ceiling mirrors.

The high tea is only available at 3pm so we decided to have coffee and some small bites first. The menu comprises Peranakan favorites in the form of pickles, soups, salads, starters, meat, seafood, vegetable, desserts, noodles and rice. I made a mental note that I will have to make another trip here to try popular Nonya dishes such as Ngoh Hiang ($15), Chap Chye ($15), and of course, Buah Keluak Ayam ($23).

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In the meantime, we were happy to try other items like the Kuay Pie Tee ($17), which seriously was very, very good. Ingredients (prawn/turnip/bamboo shoot/deep fried cup shell) were super fresh and crunchy, and even more flavorful with a dash of sambal belchan and sweet black sauce.

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We also had the grilled chicken Satay ($15) which looked extremely big portion for an appetizer. Still it was yummy and served with generous helpings of cucumber, steamed rice cubes, red onions and a delicious spicy peanut sauce.

The menu also contains a good selection of local Kopi (coffee) and Teh (tea), so both of us went for Kopi C (coffee with evaporated milk) just to give us the feeling that we are taking in less sugar (ahem)…

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At 3pm on the dot, we ordered the Singapore High Tea ($56 per set for 2 pax) comprising a selection of savory and sweet Peranakan delights. Served on a tiered tray, one of the waiters very kindly offered to describe every item to us which was very, very helpful. The high tea set also comes with your choice of local coffee or tea which is refillable.

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We actually started from bottom up, with the savory items first, but for this post I will start from the top as it just seem more logical.

The top tray has all the sweet stuff. Start with the Kueh Beng Kah in the mini glass which is tapioca cake infused with coconut cream and served coconut milk and gula melaka. It was scrumptious and if you have leftover gula melaka, use it to pour over the green Kueh Dah Dah which is grated coconut cooked with gula melaka and wrapped in a Pandan infused crepe. The Kueh Lapis Legit was one of the best we have ever tasted – just wished it was a bigger slice! – while the Roti Jala with Gula Melaka and Banana Sauce was a sweet bite too. The Kesturi Pie (with cherry on top) however was way too sweet for my taste, while the colorful Kueh Lapis Sago was nice but a tad heavy.

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We were more intrigued by the savory stuff as these are items you seldom consider for high tea. We were delighted to have more of the really lovely Kueh Pie Tee to munch on, while the Otak Crostini was an uusual spicy snack to chew on, especially its buttered crust. Served on a spoon is the tasty Nasi Kuning Serunding, which is spicy fried coconut flaked on glutinous rice. Finally, the Buah Keluak Crostini is an eye-opener as you never thought of eating buah keluak – fused with minced prawn, spices and coconut milk – on a buttered crostini. It has an unusual flavor but mighty tasty nonetheless.

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Last but not least, there are the breaded items. The Hae Bee Hiam (spicy dried shrimp floss) sandwich was a delight, down to its cucumber ribbon. The Pulled Beef Sambal Pao though took some getting used to. Not sure if it’s the beef or the spicy/sweet sauce it was slow cooked in but the taste and texture was a tad overpowering. Definitely the least favorite item of ours from the whole set.

Overall, National Kitchen is a nice place to dine in with good food and ambience. Service staff is polite and attentive, often apologizing profusely whenever they had to give us the bill or took away our unfinished drink/plate too eagerly. We were given the bill twice – for our 2pm order, then at 5pm for the high tea order when they had to close the premises to prepare for the dinner crowd. Which was fine with us as they’d asked very nicely. The total bill per person came up to about $22 for the coffee+starters and $32++ for the high tea, so prices are decent.

The only problem we had was that the aircon was seemingly switched off during that time as well and we had quite a sweating spell at the tail end. Not to mention, I had a wheezing fit as we left the restaurant ‘cos I believed some staff may have sprayed some stuff for cleaning purposes. Other than that, a visit to National Kitchen is for sure warranted especially if you are into good Peranakan food fare or high tea with an Asian flavor.

Oh, another thing I love about National Kitchen is the wish on every menu from Violet Oon which is something I learnt from my late mother too –

“May your rice bowl always be full”.

For a “fantong” (Cantonese for rice bucket; also slang for “good-for-nothing”) like me, that is a true blessing indeed.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon is at 1 St. Andrew’s Road, #02–01, National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing). Enter via Coleman Street entrance. Reservations Line: +65 9834 9935

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malacca: Chicken Rice Balls

2017-09-15 12.56.20 (640x640)When in Malacca: If you love Hainanese chicken rice, you are in for a treat as the Malaysian world heritage city has some of the best chicken rice in Asia. And the thing which makes their chicken rice unique for a good many decades is the fact that, thanks to one genius of a chicken rice stall owner, the fragrant chicken rice is served in the shape of balls. In the heyday, the balls were bigger – like the size of ice balls. These days they are the size of fishballs and you can tell they went through an assembly line rather than hand-made.

Still, the rice balls are a novelty but it’s the deliciously tender “kampong” chicken meat that marks the quality of a good chicken rice stall here. One of the best – and you can tell by the queues they have almost everyday – is Hoe Kee Chicken Rice, easily found right at the start of Jalan Hang Jebat or, as it’s popularly known, Jonker Walk.

It’s best to go early as the stall closes like by 4pm. When you are in the queue, prepare your orders so that a server can take them, enabling you to get your table faster and the food will arrive as soon as you are seated. The restaurant has a large dining area, with quaint marble tables and wooden chairs, which reminds one of a big hall of a clan association.

But we are here for the food and it didn’t let us down. The steamed chicken was tender and succulent, slightly drenched in a light soy sauce gravy. They were generous with their cucumber and even throw in a free chicken liver for us though we didn’t ask for one (we prefer gizzard). Unlike other places, Hoe Kee only has one choice of vegetables so we went with the cabbage which thankfully was decent. As for the rice, we ordered a plate of loose rice just in case the rice balls weren’t up to standard – it was rather flat and dry at another restaurant we dined at – but Hoe Kee rice balls are flavorful and has the chicken rice taste. Even so, novelty or otherwise, I think chicken meat is best eaten with loose rice (and with dark soy sauce sprinkled on it).

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There are many other chicken rice balls stalls in the city but Hoe Kee seem to be the top favorite (and they been around since 1962). Some like the Famosa chain has a few outlets and most remain open till the evening. Their chicken is not half bad and they have a wider variety in terms of roast meats and vegetables. Their chicken rice chili, for one, is really good – spicy hot with dashes of garlic and lime, as well as their char siew (Honeyed BBQ pork).

So if you are into Hainanese chicken rice, do check it out if you happened to be in the historic Malaysian city of Malacca. You won’t regret it.

Hoe Kee Chicken Rice is at 4, 6 & 8 Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.
Famosa Chicken Rice is at 21,  Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca, Malaysia.

 

Malacca: Jonker Walk Night Market

 

2017-09-15 19.25.36 (640x640)When in Malacca, Malaysia: A visit to the Jonker Walk Night Market is a must, especially if you love Asian hawker food and knick-knack street stalls of all kinds. The night street market only take place on Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm till late, so do plan your trip well to coincide with it.

2017-09-15 18.51.23 (640x640)Seriously, the amazing varieties of food and snacks you can find along the 500m-long Jonker Walk (a.k.a Jalan Hang Jebat) is the key highlight here. From durian puffs, to savory buns filled with meat, to Korean iced desserts, there’s sure to be something that will tickle your taste buds.

2017-09-15 20.49.46 (640x640)Just like Singapore, Malacca’s weather is usually super hot and humid. Thankfully, there are drink stalls aplenty too – from frozen smoothies, to bubble tea, to fresh fruit juices such as these super cool coconut water drinks with housed in a coconut meat ball which you can eat too.

2017-09-15 20.47.17 (640x640)Not sure if it’s just me but I do think that the best food stalls are along Jalan Tekong, just off before the end of Jonker Walk (if you are walking down from the side of the iconic Christ Church). Here you will find many stalls selling grilled meat skewers and stir-fry dishes, as well as specialty stalls such as Japanese sushi and Vietnamese pho.

2017-09-15 19.26.20 (640x640)There’s seafood galore too, from crabs to fish to all kinds of funny looking shells. You can have them stir-fry, barbecued or steamed. Oh, and there’s fresh oysters too. So much choices, didn’t know what to choose!

2017-09-15 19.48.11 (640x640)In the end, my friend and I settled for black soy sauce carrot cake, sambal stingray and garlic lala clams, washed down with refreshing pineapple smoothies. All in the comfort of tables well placed alongside the street and where a hard-working cleaner uncle will clear plates and leftovers as soon as diners leave.

Truly a must-visit attraction in Malacca especially if you are a food lover. Don’t say I didn’t say…

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s authorisation.