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. 

 

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10 Scotts High Tea @ Grand Hyatt Revisited

2017-03-04-15-10-54-640x640A few years ago when I had the afternoon tea at 10 Scotts @ Grand Hyatt, I did not have a pleasant experience cos’, though the food spread was decent, the service was way below par. So when another group of friends booked the place for a get-together recently, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. Thankfully, much has changed since my last visit – not only is the food better presented, the service this time is top-notch too.
2017-03-04-15-11-07-640x640Let’s begin with the food. As our server Nicholas patiently told us, the “hot” (savoury stuff) and “cold” items (desserts) previously served all together on a tiered tray are now separated, which is a very good thing. The “hot” items such as the delicious flaky-crusted curry puff and yummy deep-fried crab balls are now kept warm on the long, buffet-styled counter, where one can also find steaming hot soups, har kow (prawn dumplings), shrimp sandwiches, mini ham wraps, and an assortment of sushi.
2017-03-04-15-11-19-640x640Scones are now served on the same counter and only delivered when they are fresh out of the oven. Needless to say, each lot goes very fast so I would advise that you grab what you need the moment you see there’s a pile available.
2017-03-04-16-41-37-640x640There’s also a live station here when the chef will cook chicken breast in cream sauce a la minute, garnished with parsley and roasted cherry tomatoes.
2017-03-04-16-44-02-640x640There was an added surprise too – fresh oysters are also available in the fridge where you will usually find frozen desserts or cakes. So together with my chicken and prawn dumpling as seen above, for a moment I thought I was having buffet lunch and not high tea!
2017-03-04-16-24-57-640x640Front of the fridge (seen in background above) is an island table where there’s a decent selection of cheeses, breads, cold cuts (parma ham!) and other garnishes. I have to say that this was my favourite corner. Would have gone for a fourth round if I didn’t remember in time that the tiered desserts have yet to arrive…
2017-03-04-16-21-51-581x640An hour into our seating – we opted for 3-5pm – the dessert tray was served. The desserts looked sparse on the tray but every item will satisfy every sweet tooth and can be replenished. Just before the cut-off time, Nicholas came along to ask us what items we want more of and we just ordered what we enjoyed, like the strawberries, shortbread sticks, and opera cakes. Previously, each person would get a set – and there were 3 of us this time – but I guessed this way wastage can definitely be cut ‘cos by the time you reach this point, you will be too stuffed to eat anything more. So, if the sweet stuff is what you came for, either don’t eat too much of the counter stuff or ask them to bring this earlier!
2017-03-04-16-20-47-640x640As mentioned, service was a great improvement from my last visit. Not only did waiter Nicholas explained clearly how the afternoon tea works – there’s also a free-flow champagne version – he was very good with the tea recommendations as well. When we were done with our first choice, he would return recommending that we try another flavour for variety. And when he brought the dessert tray, he didn’t just plonk it on the table and walk away, but would go on introducing every item on it. Needless to say, thanks to him, my party had a wonderful high tea experience this time round at 10 Scotts!

For its delectable food spread alone, 10 Scotts is definitely well worth the money, esp now that the presentation and service have improved greatly. Worth a visit.

Afternoon tea (regular/champagne) is $45/$75 (weekdays) and $55/$85 (weekends and PH). The seatings are from 12.00pm-2.30pm and 3-5pm.

Jamie’s Italian @ Forum

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I love Jamie Oliver and I really want to like Jamie’s Italian, but the VivoCity outlet didn’t really wow me. Then they opened a new outlet at the Forum in Orchard and I thought I would give it another try. And yes, just like at Vivo, if you didn’t make a reservation, you still have to wait a good 45 minutes for a table. At least at the Forum you can either order a drink and sit at a tight corner with other diners who too didn’t make reservations, or you can pop up to Toys R Us and check out the amazing array of toys from Minions to Star Wars whilst waiting. The restaurant will sms you when your table’s ready, which is nice.
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The Forum outlet has a different menu so at least there’s some new elements, although we can safely say most of the original items are intact bar the ones that are probably unpopular such as the Apple Slaw (which we tried at Vivo and it was not very good). Their tables for two are still rather small too and yet they love to serve in big plates or planks. Good thing though is that the Forum outlet is bright and cheery, with a very homely feel.

We ordered 4 dishes and the waiter wisely advised that he will serve the appetisers first instead of all-at-once or else “there won’t be much space”… And he was right: we had the Cured Meats Plank ($16.50 per pax) and that alone took almost one third of the table when it arrived! The savoury meat cuts, accompanied by pickles, mini buffalo mozzarella and slaw, was a good choice to kick off the meal.
2015-10-16 20.51.20 (539x640)We also had the Crispy Squid ($12.50 small) which luckily was a small and didn’t take up much space. Served with garlic mayo, chopped chili and lemon, the calamari was alright but would have been better if it was crispier and less chewy.
2015-10-16 21.20.52 (640x444)For mains, we had the Lamb Chops Scottadito ($44) which was served on a large heavy plank along with red onion salad, toasted nuts, mint leaves, lemony yoghurt and polenta chips. The lamb chops looked good at first glance but the meat was rather dry and not well marinated. Even with the condiments or dipping it into the yoghurt didn’t improve its bland taste.
2015-10-16 21.21.22 (480x640)I had the Lamp Chop Lollipops at VivoCity and even that was half decent. The Lollipops are unfortunately not on the Forum menu but the Scottadito certainly wasn’t worth $44. The only saving grace was the polenta chips fried with rosemary and parmesan that accompanied it.
2015-10-16 21.21.01 (640x480)Actually the real saving grace of the evening was this Wild Mushroom & Smoked Mozzarella Risotto ($27) which was so flavourful that every mouthful was a joy. Easily one of the best Risottos I ever eaten.

2015-10-16 20.44.26 (592x640)To wash down all the items, we tried the Evviva L’Italia ($12, 330ml / $17, 500ml) that was exclusively crafted for Jamie’s Italian by Archipelago Brewery. It was light, flowery and refreshing, but frankly, doesn’t taste like a real beer. It was served in tall beer glasses that showed off its golden hue but surprisingly doesn’t have a logo or the beer’s name etched on the side. Not very becoming for a specially brewed exclusive beer, me thot. (And a huge Instagram loss…)
2015-10-16 21.21.37 (412x640)The bill came up to almost $158 for two persons and it would have been worth it if all the items tasted as good as they looked. Unfortunately, Jamie’s Italian still doesn’t wow me completely unlike Jamie’s 30-minute meals on TV. Pros are that service and ambience are good. Maybe I will give it one more chance but not for a good long while…

London Fat Duck – Worth Waiting For

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Finally had the chance to try the renowned London Fat Duck @ Scott Square yesterday, thanks to a friend who was treating me to a belated birthday lunch. We went way past after 1pm thinking there will be less people but nooooo… Scott Square may be in desperate of a major overhaul (half the shops have gone) but when there’s good food, people in Singapore will queue, come hail or high water…

When handed a queue number of #52 (!) and an expected waiting time of 30 minutes, the waiter kindly told me not to worry as “tables for two usually avail very quickly, so we will move you up the queue…” Meanwhile, you will do good by marking your orders first with the menu order sheet given so that your food can be delivered to the table the moment you sit down…

Since it was our first time at London Fat Duck, ordering was easy – we just decided to go for items with a signature dish sign next to it (in the shape of a duck of course) and a few dim sum favourites. That didn’t take too long and frankly neither did the wait which was the most 20 minutes, affirmed by the waiter who gave me a look that said “I told you so…” as he led us to our table.
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It’s not called London Fat Duck for nothing, so the Signature London Roast Duck ($48.80 for whole) is a must-have. We ordered the smallest “regular” portion ($12.80) and just one piece alone was evident just why the place is so popular. The duck meat is tender, juicy and has a favourful crispy skin. I’m a big roast duck fan and let me tell you THIS is really good!
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The other order that seems to be on every other table as well is the Barbeque Pork with Honey Sauce “Char Siew” ($14.80). This is deliciously tender too and well marinated, cooked in the dark-as-night style. For its price and generous serving, definitely more value-for-money than those in other Chinese restaurants famed for their honey char siew such as Canton Paradise at Star Vista.
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I have been dying to have good Cantonese porridge for ages as there’s none now at my local market. I would have prefer congee with century egg and shredded pork but London Fat Duck’s signature Seafood Congee “Ting Zai” Style ($6.80) ain’t half bad. The porridge was smooth, tasty and chock-full of ingredients such as fish and squid. No complaints…
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The Hong Kong dim sum fare was fairly decent, comparable to what you would get at any good Hong Kong dim sum restaurant. The Steamed Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce ($4.30) was tenderly cooked, while the Pan Fried Raddish Cake ($4.80 for 3 pcs) was well-fried with loads of tasty shrimp, pork and yam bits within. We also had the Crispy London Duck Snow Bun ($4.80 for 3pcs), another signature which was the first item to arrive but which was a mistake to start with because it was huge and very meaty. Yummy as it is, I would advised not to order it if there is only two of you. Unless you don’t plan to order any other dishes…
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Our “healthy” choice was the single vegetable item – Seasonal Vegetable with Oyster Sauce ($6.80) which was broiled kailan served simply as pictured above. Presentations of most the dishes were totally non-fussy. I guess you don’t need to if they are good and tasty…

Verdict: Definitely see more visits in future whenever I have a top-notch roast duck craving! Do Irish ducks really make all that difference? Even the Chinese tea ($1.50) tastes extraordinarily good. Service was commendable too and the waitresses seem very used to customers requesting for “ta-pows” of leftovers. If you love good Chinese roast meats and dim sum, London Fat Duck is certainly a good alternative.

Value-4-Money BBQ Buffet @ K.Cook Korean

20141115_182413I’ve been a fan of Seoul Garden for years but now there’s a new kid in town which is definitely giving my longtime Korean BBQ buffet fave a good run for its money. Located on the 7th floor of Orchard Central, K.Cook Korean has been enjoying good word of mouth and it was easy to see why. Sited at the corner facing the main road, it has an air-conditioned dining area but I would advise you to get a table at the bigger non-AC area as (i) it’s covered but airy so the BBQ smell won’t stick to your clothes; (2) if you get a table by the side, you can enjoy great scenic views of Orchard Road; and (3) there’s a giant screen showing videos of K-pop stars on the loop which, even if you are not a fan, provides some entertainment while you are enjoying your grub and grog.

20141115_180057The buffet fare may not seem as extensive as Seoul Garden but just the meat portions alone are worth the buffet price alone, and then some. Selections include beef ribeye, beef short ribs, beef bulgogi, pork belly and pork collar, most of which are in generous portions – some presented in well-sliced raw cuts, others well-marinated. There’s also a cooked food section that offers items such as braised chicken, stewed vegetables and Korean pancakes. Korean cooking is not big on seafood but raw prawns and squids are available for BBQ.
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Last but not least, garnishes and condiments are aplenty as well and you can choose from fresh lettuce and potato salads, to Korean kimchi and various pickles. At K.Cook, a huge rectangular, not-stick hot pan (see top picture) that runs on gas is used for the cooking and it’s quite practical, with the food items cooking within seconds once the heat builds up. The servers are also always on hand to help you with the configurations, replace the gas can or change the pan if needed. Just wished they were a tad faster if removing the empty plates from the table but then again, we were there on a very busy Saturday evening.
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Plain water comes with the buffet but soft drinks, juices and liquors are available on the a la carte menu. Though there were Korean rice wine or cheongju available, we just had to try the South Korean beer Hite which is a light lager, smooth and refreshing, and which goes down very well with all the red meats we were having. And it was decently cheap too – the tall bottle you see here cost us just $10. If we knew – we didn’t check the price when ordering *duh* – we would have ordered more!

All in all, K.Cook was truly value for money. Weekend dinner buffet was S$26.90 and three persons with 2 bottles of beer only cost us less than $120 and all we could eat too. The place actually offers discounts such as if you can finish your meal within an hour (10% I think according to a poster we saw) or if you leave before 7pm on a busy weekend night etc, but seriously, one shouldn’t rush at all at a BBQ buffet. Take time to cook all food well and make time to savour them bite by bite. Just make sure you get to K.Cook at the right time on Fridays and Saturdays as those are the days they don’t accept reservations. For us, lucky we were there by 5.45pm last Saturday ‘cos within 5 minutes – all food-loving Singaporeans think alike! – the place with over 40 small tables was packed, with a queue that got longer and longer. Me thinks it’s going to be very popular for a very long time yet…