Joan Bowen Cafe @ Jln Wangi

20170830_192913 (640x640)A bunch of ex colleagues from my TV days met up recently and we decided to go to Joan Bowen Cafe, a social enterprise off MacPherson Road. Besides decent food, the casual cafe is well known for hiring staff with special needs, which the manageress took care to tell us at the start in case “service is not up to par”. But seriously, there is really nothing to complain about “The Special Culinary Centre” which has been running for close to seven years now.

The place, which has a vibrant art theme, is certainly much brighter and cheerier than my last visit a few years back. Next to their popular pasta and salad items, the menu has also been expanded to include more meat dishes and Japanese favorites.
20170830_193033 (640x622)We kicked off with this wonderful Salmon Skin Salad ($12/$18) that has crispy Salmon Skin served with mixed vegetables dripped with a lovely plum and sesame dressing. It was so good, we ordered another one! (Either that or we were really hungry!)
20170830_193853 (640x612)As majority of us were wine lovers, we asked for a bottle of red which was strong and flavorful, and at just $28, it was seriously more than fine. You can opt to bring your own bottles but there is a corkage fee of $15 for each bottle. They do serve an assortment of beers from $9, while house pour wine per glass costs $10.
20170830_194717 (640x640)As with most of my food-loving friends, each of us would try to order different dishes so we can sample each other’s food. I went for the Duck Leg Confit ($18) as I’m love the dish and am still looking for the best one on this sunny island of ours.  This wasn’t the best I tasted thus far but it was decent as the skin was crisp and the meat, though a tad dry, was still savory enough. Love the mashed potato and salad that came with it.
20170830_194044 (640x604)This rich-looking Chili Crab Pasta ($18) is a Joan Bowen Specialty and the folks who ordered it were highly satisfied with it. The gravy was spicy, chock-ful of spices and crab meat. (For me, I rather dip bread into chili crab gravy but that’s just me).
20170830_194054 (640x640)This was another interesting dish. It’s Grilled Beef Cubes in Skewers ($28) which is simply a fanciful name for Beef Satay. It’s a good choice if you love grilled meat. Not too light and not too heavy either.
20170830_193955 (640x640)This was actually the first order that arrived to the table and we were stunned by the generous portion – that’s two solid chicken thighs there, ladies and gentlemen! It was nice and tasty but way too much for one person unless you are really really into chicken. The pan-seared Rosemary & Lemon Chicken ($15) is marinated with rosemary, fresh lemon and garlic. Flavorful and chewy, it’s definitely value for money!
2017-08-30 20.56.41 (640x640)We had a great laugh when it came to dessert. We were all so full that we decided to order one Oreo Cheesecake ($3) and one Brownie a la mode (3) to share among 8 of us Let me tell you right now that each serving is meant for one person’s consumption and one person only! No wonder the waiter kinda rolled his eyes when he delivered it and smirked when we have the audacity to ask for eight spoons! We eventually ordered a few more of each, haha! The warm brownie with melted vanilla ice-cream is da bomb (pictured above, front) and highly recommended. The Oreo cheesecake (the one behind)  – “possibly the smallest cheesecake in the world”, as one friend quipped –  is alas simply a frozen mousse with cheese and cream; it tastes like frozen Oreo but that’s it.

At the end, our combined meal (comprising wine, main course, dessert and coffee) only cost us $30 each. Joan Bowen Cafe is a great place for dining either on your own or in groups. The only snag is that it is rather inconvenient to get to if you don’t have a car or a direct bus to MacPherson. The nearest MRT is Potong Pasir and even then that’s about a 20-minute walk to the cafe. Still, if you are in or around the area, do check it out as it’s a nice place to dine in and it has a great serving staff.

Joan Bowen Cafe is at 9 Jalan Wangi.

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Meat Smith @ Telok Ayer Street

20170904_185505 (640x593)Being a carnivore, needless to say, a good choice of meats was what I wanted for my B-day dinner. Hence a pal and I decided to check out Meat Smith – The Full Metal Smokehouse at Telok Ayer Street, an area that now has more hipster eateries sited next to long-time F&B establishments.
20170904_184947 (640x640)Meat Smith has a nice, cosy ambience, decked out like a modern-day Western saloon. The menu is not extensive – items such as sandwiches, sides, desserts, draft beers and cocktails only have 2-5 items, while the meat and snack selections have about 7-8 items. But I guessed that way it helps diners to hone in on the items that matter. Specials of the day – from beers to snacks and desserts – will be written in chalk on blackboards with prices indicated, so do check those out if you don’t find anything that tickle your fancy from the menu.
20170904_190555 (640x640)We decided to try something up on the blackboard for our starter – Chiang Mai Sausage (2 for $6) which was something light and savoury, and nicely garnished with roasted peanuts.
20170904_191812 (640x640)For the meats, online reviews have mentioned that the pork ribs were excellent here and hence that was primarily the reason we chose Meat Smith. Their wet or dry pork ribs ($25) are either “wet” dripped in BBQ sauce or “dry” sprinkled with a tasty mix of spices.

We went for dry as that was something new to us and we have no regrets – the meat was tender and succulent with the spices very much enhancing the flavor without tickling your throat. Very much recommended.
20170904_191847 (640x640)We also ordered the 220g Brisket ($28) which, according to the waitress, is another top-seller here. It’s thick and succulent, good enough to be eaten on its own but even better when you have it with sides.  The portion, would you believe, is meant for one person but seriously – considering its generous size – the dish is best shared with another.
20170904_190706 (640x640)The meat items just come as they are so you have to order snacks or sides to go with them. Snacks ($3-12) include items such as Crab and Jalapeno Poppers, Brisket Springroll and Wedge Salad. Or you can order a Snack Sampler for $25. In addition to our starter, we decided to have the Corn Bread ($3) which is small and just enough for one person, although for this occasion we actually shared it just to have a taste.

Sides, ranging from Pickles ($4) to Mac and Cheese ($10), come in decent portions just nice for two persons. We opted for for the Potato and Gravy ($9), which is really lovely and creamy, and the Coleslaw ($6) which is above par.

20170904_190017 (640x640)Drink-wise, Meat Smith has a good range of beers from lagers to pale ales to Trappist beers. There’s also a selection of wines and whiskey. Although there is Free Flow Southern Spiced Iced Tea ($5), as it was still Happy Hours when we got there (before 7pm), I had a Miller Genuine Draft for just $7.50, while my friend has a glass of White Wine at the same price. (Usual pint and glass prices starts from $14).
20170904_191915 (593x640)All in all, a truly enjoyable meaty dinner. Even when the place was packed hours later, it was still a comfortable place to be in (although we did adjourn somewhere else for coffee). The dinner tally came up to about $50 a person and it’s a rare place where there’s no service charge, so we left a tip for the attentive service. If you are a carnivore and love good ribs and brisket, along with a good choice of beers, cocktails and whiskey on the side, Meat Smith is worth checking out.

Meat Smith is at 167-169 Telok Ayer Street.

Roadhouse @ Dempsey

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[Credit: Musings on the M49]

A shutterbug friend and I had fun taking a couple of photos at the magnificent red-bricked St George’s Church at Minden Road last weekend and thereafter proceeded to Dempsey for dinner. There were a couple of eateries that we haven’t yet try and we ulitmately settled for the American diner-styled Roadhouse, known for its burgers and milkshakes.

The place has a cosy ambience, bright and cheery. The attentive manager gave us a quick menu run-through, explaining the difference between a classic beef patty (meatier) and a Wagyu beef patty (juicier), and pointing out the non-beef options (Hogzilla with pulled pork/$22 and Hey Chook-Looking with chicken patty/$13). The rest of the menu comprises salads, sides, desserts, drinks and a kids menu.
2017-08-12 18.37.16 (640x640)As we were dead thirsty after our photo shoot and the walk up the hill from the church up to Dempsey, both of us opted for the Root Beer Float ($8) and the free water Roadhouse provide. We realised too late that we can’t leave the float to rest – the drink was decent for the first few gulps but became rather bland once the soft serve ice-cream melted. To be fair, milkshakes are probably more their specialty but then again, we seriously can’t wait for A&W to make its return to Singapore next year!
2017-08-12 18.49.49 (640x640)For sides – which can also be starters – the fries are the top choices especially the Texas Beef Chilli Cheese Fries ($14). But as there will be fries with our burger orders, we decided to go for The Corn Identity ($7) which was a great choice as the Hokkaido corn on the cob grilled with (our choice of) butter was absolutely lovely – yummilicious and well presented.
2017-08-12 18.54.13 (631x640)For my burger choice, I had the Kiss My Swiss Mushroom with classic beef patty ($15) that also comes with bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and a special Roadhouse sauce. The patty was tender and juicy so there was no regret not ordering a Wagyu patty ($23) instead. The burger was huge though so it was tough holding it to eat and I had to resort to using a fork and knife. The straight cut fries it came with were nice and crispy with a nice dose of truffle oil.

My friend wanted a non-beef option and so she ordered the Fishy Business ($16) with breaded snapper fillet topped with cheddar, lettuce and tartar sauce. Other than the fact that she found the patty rather dry, she had no major complaints.
2017-08-12 18.47.59 (640x640)Overall, Roadhouse is a decent place for a meal if you are craving for a good burger (you can also customise your own). Another cool bit is that if you need the rest room, you can use the one at The Green Door, a quaint garden bar located opposite and which uses a bicycle as a base for their toilet sinks (pictured above). Definitely would look for opportunities to visit both F&B outlets again.

Roadhouse is at 13 Dempsey Road. Opens daily, 11am to 10pm (weekdays)/10am-10pm (weekends & PH).

Chef Andre Chiang shares His Favorite Flavours of Taipei

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Fun Taipei Salon with Chef Andre Chiang (third from right)

Ask everyone who’s been to Taiwan what’s the top attraction there and most will say it’s the food. That’s why for this year’s NATAS Travel Fair, which runs till Aug 13, the Taipei City Government has launched a special tour package with the Singapore foodie in mind. And helping them to promote Taipei’s distinct flavours was native son Chef Andre Chiang who shared his favourite Taipei culinary delights at the Fun Taipei Salon event held yesterday at the InterContinental.

Prior to owning the Michelin 2-star Restaurant Andre in Singapore and Restaurant RAW in Taipei – both of which are ranked in The 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – Chef Chiang was head chef of the 3-starred Michelin restaurant, Le Jardin de Sens- Montpellier, in France.

“My memories of food growing up in Taipei is that the many different flavours the city offers are not tied to just the ingredients or the condiments used in the dish,” says Chiang in a statement. “Rather, these flavours are almost always a collage of physical ingredients and the feelings that come from soaking in the beautiful nature around us, the festivals we celebrate and the constant desire to explore Taiwan to fuel our need for new cultural experiences and memories.”

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Chef Andre Chiang with Taipei City Government’s Information & Tourism Commissioner, Ms Chien Yu-Yen

Here are Chef Andre Chiang’s 5 Most Memorable Taipei Flavours:

1. Shilin Night Market
Located in the Shilin District, Chiang has fond memories of this market which is regarded as the largest and most famous night market in Taipei. After school, he would alight one bus stop before home and walk through the market stalls, trying out various snacks and delicacies.

2. Danshui Old Street
When young, Chiang also lived in the Danshui district for six years. Danshui Old Street is renowned for its many shops and street stalls that sell a variety of snacks – from Iron Eggs to Fish Crackers. What he loves most, though, are the different types of handmade drinks, ranging from freshly made fruit juices to sweet honey and ginger tea.

3. Beef Noodle Soup
Tender braised beef with egg noodles served in a flavourful broth – you can’t mention Taiwanese food without mentioning beef noodle soup. Each time the chef returns to Taipei, this dish is a must-eat for him. And though there are many stalls all over Taipei, Chiang’s favourite stall is Lin Dong Fang Beef Noodle in Zhongshan District.

4. Taiwanese Hot Pot
Another traditional foodfare that Chiang enjoys is hot pot or steamboat where various meats, seafood, vegetables are cooked in a rich broth. And just like beef noodle stalls, there are many hot pot restaurants one can find in Taiwan’s capital city.

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Chef Chiang’s version of the Pineapple Tart at RAW

5. Authentic Snacks Re-styled at RAW
For his fifth pick, Chef Chiang couldn’t resist giving a shout-out to his restaurant RAW where he create dishes by blending Taiwanese ingredients with modern international influences, and where reservations are usually booked up to 3 months ahead. Whenever he could, Chiang would take an authentic Taiwanese delicacy and churn out a new “look” for it using new ingredients and techniques. One example is the traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. Unlike our local Chinese New Year types which look like tarts, the Taiwanese ones are more blocky, with a crumbly crust and pineapple bits either in a jam form or fruit slices. The RAW version (pictured above) is like a cube with a soft and buttery crust and layers of juicy pineapple slices within. Certainly unlike the pineapple tarts I’m used to but nonetheless an unique variation of it.

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Various Gifts-To-Go ideas from Fun Taipei

Taipei’s 5 Distinct Flavours
Back to the foodie package offered by the Taipei City Government. The 3D2N free-and-easy package which costs from $545 per person (tax included) offers foodies to go on a hunt to discover Taipei’s “Five Distinct Flavours” which comprise:

1. Classic Taiwan Tastes: The likes of xiao long bao, beef noodles, bubble tea, mango ice, and so forth.

2. Everyday Aromas: Taiwanese stir-fry that usually features seafood, Chinese herbs and local fruits as ingredients. Popular dishes include chicken steak, egg omelette and soy-based pork.

3. Hotpot Hotspots: From mala (“numbingly spicy”) twin-sided hot pot to Taiwanese-styled shabu shabu, having a hot pot in Taipei is a must.

4. Refreshing Sweet Treats: Handmade drinks from classic bubble tea to shaved-ice treats with seasonal fruits can be found everywhere in the city.

5. Gifts To-Go: From pineapple cakes to nougat candies, Taipei has a wide selection of tasty tid-bits for visitors to present as gifts to family, friends and co-workers.

Fun Taipei’s 3D2N free-and-easy package “foodie” package will be available from the Taipei booth at the NATAS Travel Fair at Suntec City till August 13. There will be extra perks for the first 100 sign-ups each day. For more information on Fun Taipei, visit http://www.travel.taipei.

All Photos by Marguerita Tan.

 

Wine Tasting @ ONE°15 Marina

IMG_20170715_232400_727There’s lots of things you can do on a yacht and having a wine tasting session while cruising to an offshore island is one of them. As mentioned in my previous blog post on WOK°15 Kitchen, Musings on the M49 was also invited to ONE°15 Marina Club last week for the launch of Jules Taylor Wines in Singapore.
L1160967 (640x372)Hailing from Marlborough, New Zealand, Jules Taylor Wines (JTW) is a boutique, family owned and operated company with winemaker Jules Taylor (hence the name) at the helm. Ms Taylor unfortunately wasn’t present at the session but we have her husband and JTW CEO, George Elworthy, to tell us all about their love for wines.
2017-07-12 15.38.19 (2) (640x635)The tasting session took place on board the ANKA, a 75ft monohull and the latest addition to the fleet managed by ONE15 Luxury Yachting, which charters yachts for events and special occasions. As we set sail towards Lazarus Island, the wines started flowing into our glasses as we piled our plates with various cheeses. (Not forgetting, tasty canapes from WOK°15 as well).
L1160974 (640x480)JTW has three tiers to their portfolio: Classic (‘The Better Half’), Premium (‘Jules Taylor’) and Elite (‘OTQ’, whcih stands for “On The Quiet”). Jules Taylor is responsible for the latter two, while no prizes in guessing what her “better half” George (pictured above) is the winemaker for! The couple source their grapes from vineyards in the Lower Wairau, Omaka and Awatere Valleys in Marlborough, located on the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s South island and the region that placed New Zealand-styled Sauvignon Blanc on the world map.

As we sample each brand, George fills us in on the types of grapes and the conditioning that went into the production of each wine. Here’s a sampling of what we had:
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Jules Taylor Chardonnay  2016: Fresh and light, with hints of vanilla and oak. Smooth on the palate as well. Goes well with fish items, either steamed and deep-fried.

The Better Half Pinot Noir 2016 : This red is a delight with rich berry flavours and a robust aftertaste. Goes well with savoury items the likes of roast pork or grilled beef cubes.

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Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2016: I’m not a white wine person so it takes a real good one to take my breath away and this one did. Its strong fruity and floral notes hit you by the first sip, and even more so by the second gulp. Very rich and complex, with a lingering finish. Nice.

The Better Half Sauvignon Blanc 2016: This has a fruity aroma, crisp and vibrant, and smooth on the palate. Goes well with crunchy food such as deep fried fish skin with salted egg or corn chips with guacamole.

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OTQ was created “on the quiet” by Jules (hence the name). According to George, it is made of special grapes that are hand harvested and then pressed into old Chardonnay French oak barrels for fermentation and maturation. Limited in quantities, the collection comes in bespoke bottles decorated with birds and flora found in vineyards around Marlborough.

OTQ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 : Pale green-gold in colour, this has a nice blend of fruity flavours with notes of pecan and honey. A tad gassy, but a strong refreshing taste nonetheless.

OTQ Pinot Noir 2016
: Dark ruby red in hue, the fruity flavours are intense with oakly notes. Have a very strong rich taste. Was hoping to have more but the yacht had returned to its ONE°15 Marina berth by then. Sad.

OTQ is priced from S$100, Jules Taylor from $$60-$70 and The Better Half from $$70-$80. For more information, visit www.julestaylor.com or contact its Singapore distributor, SUTL Consumer Goods at www.sutl.com or 65 6266 3378

 

 

WOK°15 Kitchen @ ONE°15 Marina

2017-07-12 14.28.01 (640x617)I can’t afford an apartment at Sentosa Cove (yet), so it’s always nice to attend events there as it gives you a chance to check out the eateries or the luxurious yachts berthed in the marina. Hence I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” when Musings on the M49 was invited by SUTL Consumer Goods – which owns and manages ONE°15 Marina Club, among other brands – for a food-and-wine tasting luncheon at WOK°15 Kitchen.

Just over a year old, WOK°15 serves exquisite Cantonese cuisine and is helmed by Executive Chef Chum Kar Ho from Hong Kong who has two decades of experience working with the likes of Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure.

The a la carte menu features the usual suspects of appetisers, soups, dim sum, live seafood, stir-fry dishes and grilled items. For the tasting, we were presented with a selection of WOK°15 signature dishes.
2017-07-12 14.28.08 (640x565)First up was a trio of appetizers. The Deep Fried Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk (pictured at top of page) was light, crispy and tasty – a good way to kick off the tasting. The Chilled Cucumber with Garlic (above), which was very well presented, wasn’t half bad but it is not exactly a vegetable you can enjoy a few helpings at one go, unlike kangkong or kai lan if you get my drift.
2017-07-12 14.28.20 (640x546)The Sauteed Pork Belly with Special Sauce though was a different story. The semi-thick slices of pork were yummy with lovely crispy skin and enhanced much by the dark soy sauce which had a dash of chilli padi in it. Taste even better with sliced red chilli, it was a dish I  wouldn’t mind ordering a plate of white rice to go with it!
L1160959 (640x457)Next came the “big plates”. Something that is relatively new on the menu is the Deep Fried Marble Goby – or Soon Hock in Hokkien – with Deluxe Soya Sauce. The dish was a delight – the fish is fresh with much meat, the crispy skin was crunchy and the soy-based gravy flavourful. It is tagged at a special price of $48++ till July 31, 2017.
L1160961 (640x470)I’m a carnivore but the next dish, the Sauteed Beef Cubes with Garlic Flakes, didn’t quite shake my tail feather even though the best of Australian Mignon was used. The beef was soft and tender but not exactly sensational either, even with the giant garlic flakes, broad bean pods and onions. Maybe I was just holding out for the next dish…

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… which was this fiery red Singapore Chilli Crab with Fried Mantou, which tasted as good as it looked. Served in a huge wok, Indonesian crabs are used instead of Sri Lanka crabs. Even though they may be smaller in size, they were no less tasty as the crab meat was fresh and delicious.
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Joy too was dipping the photogenic – they usually are – fried golden mantou into the thick gravy, which though was a tad on the sweet side, was still thoroughly enjoyable. If we didn’t have to rush for the wine tasting on board a yacht, I would have unashamedly asked for more mantou because it was that good!

Speaking of wines, we were also at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove for the launch of Jules Taylor Wines in Singapore. At the luncheon, we had the chance to try some of their fine wines – a Chardonnay from the Jules Taylor brand, and a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from their The Better Half line. Will tell you more of these exquisite wines by a New Zealand husband and wife team – she’s the “Jules Taylor”, he’s “The Better Half” – in my next blog post. 🙂

In the meantime, if you are looking to have some good Hong Kong-styled Cantonese fare, do give WOK°15 a try. Its 120-seat dining hall is spacious and has a good view of the marina. There are also two private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 12 guests each. You can ask the restaurant to suggest a personalised food and wine pairing set course for private events.

WOK°15 Kitchen is at Level 1, ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, 11 Cove Drive. Opens from Tue-Sun & Public Holiday: 11.30am-2.30pm/6pm-10pm. Closed on Mondays. Tel: 6305-6998 or email: wok15@one15marina.com

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas @ Suntec City Sky Garden

20170614_193154 (640x640)A friend fancied steak for her birthday, so we decided to check out Dallas Restaurant & Bar at their outlet in Suntec City Sky Garden. We were given a window seat, which was nice as we were just in time to see a lovely fiery sunset going down over the South Beach Complex and National Library.

Online reviews stated that Dallas is great for their baby back ribs and steaks, so it was to my surprise that their menu only has one Prime Rib Steak item ($40) and one Baby Back Berry or Fiery Ribs ($30/$44 for half/full rack) item. Though there were beef burgers, the rest of the menu comprises mainly chicken, pork, fish items and a selection of salads, desserts and bar snacks (that include beef brisket tacos and Dallas BBQ Wings).

Looking at the prices, we decided to go for the Meat Platter ($70 for 2/$130 for 4), which would give us more choices of meat to sample as it has fiery braised prime ribs, Australian lamb cutlets, rib eye, rotisserie chicken, with a bunch of sides including mint jelly, mushroom sauce, black pepper sauce, garden salad and roasted vine ripe cherry tomato.

20170614_191750 (639x640)As there was already salad with the meat platter, we ordered Garlic Bread and this Sweet Potato Chutney, which was one of 3 starters (not on menu) that cost $8 if you order any of the signature dishes. The sweet potato was tasty but the chutney was rather overpowering. We didn’t quite had time to finish it as the meat platter didn’t take long to arrive!
20170614_193048 (640x640) (2)Dallas have small 2-seater tables and this meat platter tray covered 2/3 of the table, leaving us with just a small ledge to have our small plate, starter dish, drink and I can’t remember what was on my left. It was arguably the most popular customer choice as we could see it on almost every other table. And seriously, it was not shabby at all. Instead of ordering a $40 steak, for $35 each, you can try 4 meats on this dish and have salad and mashed potato (under all the meats) too.

First off, the fiery braised pork ribs are really, really good. Fresh and tasty, with the meat coming off the bone easily. Then there is the rib eye steak – and mind you, it’s a full-sized steak too – which was done medium rare, and was succulent and tender.
20170614_193009 (595x640)The lamb cutlets were a tad disappointing as it was tough, seemingly overcooked. Thankfully, the robust mint sauce given helped. As for the roasted chicken, it was good and tasty, except we would have prefer to have more pieces of ribs.
20170614_191842 (640x640)Drinks-wise, Dallas has a large cosy bar area that’s good for casual drinks with friends; it also have an al fresco area if you prefer natural air-conditioning. Its menu has an extensive list of wines, cocktails, draft and bottled beers, and non-alcoholic beverages. I had a pint of Stella Artois ($12). while the birthday girl had a refreshing Lemon & Lime Bitters ($8).
20170614_191818 (640x640)All in all, Dallas is a nice place for dinner (and probably lunch too). A main dish+drink meal would probably cost $50-$60 per person and if you are looking for good baby back ribs, this place has it. Plus, if you come around 6.15pm-6.30pm, you will be able to catch a (hopefully) nice sunset by the window. Definitely a place worth a second visit.

Dallas Restaurant is at 3 Temasek Boulevard, 03-302/303 Suntec City Sky Garden.