BIG STEAMY DUMPLING
Marina Square has not been on my radar in a long time but I recently find myself drawn to a restaurant there, after seeing photos on a friend's Instagram feed.
The restaurant is Yechun Xiao Jiang Nan and it specialises in dumplings and hand-pulled noodles.
Its sprawling menu is intimidating but that means there is plenty to mine for repeat visits, and I will be going back.
Each time, I will order Steamed Minced Pork & Crab Roe Broth Dumpling ($4.80 each).
Wobbling in its own bamboo steamer basket, the giant dumpling comes with a straw so you can slurp up the broth. It is rich and hearty, with bits of crab and pork. The skin is a little thick but then it has to hold all that liquid.
Watching the dumpling "dance" in the basket is half the fun.
Steamed Bun Stuffed With Bamboo Shoots And Green Vegetables ($4.80 for three) is excellent. And for once, "fluffy" does not sound like a cliche because the skin is exactly that. The bamboo shoot and punchy mustard green filling is vibrant and I wish there is more of it.
Other good dishes include Fried Green Soy Bean With Xue Cai ($6.80), crunchy and perfectly seasoned; and Marinated Salted Duck ($7.80), ironically, not too salty, just succulent and moreish.
A couple others I will not order again. One of them is Steamed Chicken With Chilli, Peanut & Sesame Sauce In Sze Chuan Style ($7.80). It looks appetising but the flavours are dull and muted, and the chicken has a strange, mushy texture.
Where: Yechun Xiao Jiang Nan, 02-181 Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard MRT: Esplanade Tel: 6333-4038 Open: 11am - 9.30pm daily, last order at 9.30pm
ANGELINA'S HOT CHOCOLATE
Sooner or later, everything comes to Singapore. And so Angelina, the famous Parisian tearoom and patisserie, has opened at Capitol Piazza.
The two-storey salon seats 60 people and is the company's first foray into South-east Asia. Confectioner Antoine Rumpelmayer started it in 1903 in Paris, naming the place after his daughter-in-law. It is said that writer Marcel Proust and designer Coco Chanel hung out there.
Naturally, the thing to order here is the signature Old Fashioned Hot Chocolate L'Africain ($12),a blend of beans from Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Papua New Guinea. It comes in a pitcher, with a pot of unsweetened whipped cream on the side.
Many have waxed lyrical about the thick hot chocolate and I am going to add to the chorus. I look for the tell-tale skin of chocolate thickened with cornstarch but there is none. Just incredibly thick chocolate.
The drink is a tad sweet for me but it seems churlish to quibble, when I can stir in the cream to mute the sugar a bit.
There is a menu of breakfast food, sandwiches, salads and cakes too, and the Croque Madame ($21) is decent.
It is hard to go wrong with a ham and cheese sandwich topped with creamy bechamel and a sunny side up egg. However, they could, and should, leave out the truffle oil.
Where: Angelina, 01-82 Capitol Piazza, 15 Stamford Road MRT: City Hall Tel: 6384-0481 Open: 11am - 9pm daily during the soft-launch period
COMFORTING BEEF NOODLES
When I am bracing myself for a difficult day or when I am feeling poorly, I have beef noodles for breakfast. For breakfast, I hear you ask in horror.
Yes. It helps me get through the day and seems to cure all ills. My go-to place is Hai Nan Xing Zhou Beef Noodles in Toa Payoh Lorong 7. The kindly uncles who run the stall always have ready smiles and that alone makes my day better.
However, the noodles (from $4) seal the deal.
Order the soup version because the gravy for the dry one is too gloopy and drowns out the taste of the beef.
In any case, the soup is thick, cloudy, robust and comforting. The beef is never overcooked and I like the crunch of salted vegetables sprinkled over the noodles.
My standard order is a $4 bowl with sliced beef and beef balls but sometimes, I go for the luxe one, with sliced beef, beef balls, tripe and tendon ($6). The offal is perfectly prepped so it is not at all gamey.
One bowl and I am ready for anything.
Where: Hai Nan Xing Zhou Beef Noodles, Block 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, 01-06 MRT: Toa Payoh Open: 8.30am - 3.30pm or when sold out (Tue - Sun), closed on Mon
HIT BAR IPPUDO BEFORE DINNER
Bar Ippudo, newly opened at Shaw Centre, is a place to sit and have some sake and nibbles before deciding where to go for dinner.
Wares from more than 20 sake breweries are available in the 12-seat bar and there is a small, well-curated menu of otsumami or snacks to go with booze.
Ginjo Namachozo ($19 for a 300ml bottle) is silky smooth, with the classic sake notes of banana and melon. Harushika Junmai Chokarakuchi ($22 for 300ml) is floral and light, delicious on its own.
However, the otsumami is too tempting. Yaki Miso ($4), a mix of white and red miso with walnuts in the mix, is the best, the crunchy pieces of nut so satisfying with the rich umami flavour of the fermented soya bean paste.
The range of oden ($2 a piece, $5.80 for three pieces) is small but I cannot resist daikon, chikuwa fish cake and konnyaku simmered in dashi.
Ita Wasa ($6), the ubiquitous pink-rimmed fish cake, is made special with pungent pickled mustard greens. It is perfect with cold sake.
Now, if only it would expand the otsumami menu.
Service could also be better. The manager's attention span seems short and wait staff keep coming with dishes they do not know which bar fly has ordered.
Where: Bar Ippudo, 04-23 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road MRT: Orchard Tel: 6235-2547 Open: 11.30am - 10pm daily