TASTY DISHES WITH HOME-GROWN FARE
I was not impressed with the food at Open Farm Community when it opened in July last year. Its focus on home-grown produce did not translate into many tasty dishes.
One year on, chef Daniele Sperindio has put on his thinking hat and come up with a new slate of dishes. And these work so much better.
The Watercress Soup, Soft Poached Hen's Egg, Crispy Kale, Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($19) may not find favour with everyone because of the slightly bitter vegetables, but I love it. It's the soft egg that makes it work for me, smoothing out the texture and flavour of the soup, as well as taking away some of that bitterness.
The Roasted Short Rib, Buttery Green Asparagus, Crispy Kuzu Noodles, Vietnamese Pho Flavours ($37) and the Coconut Laksa Barramundi, Crushed Potato Cake, Bok Choy ($29, above) are both worth return visits.
Go before sunset and take a stroll in the adjoining vegetable garden while waiting for the food. It's fun identifying the plants that may later end up on your plate.
WHERE: Open Farm Community, 130E Minden Road MRT: Orchard/Botanic Gardens WHEN: Noon to 4pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 4pm (Saturday and Sunday), 6 to 10pm (daily) TEL: 6471-0306
SUCKLING PIG WITH DIPS
Si Chuan Dou Hua at Kitchener Road's Flambe Suckling Pig ($258), available till Sept 30, is a bit gimmicky - created, I suspect, more for Instagrammers to post videos of the pig covered in flickering flames.
The rose wine used to flambe the pig beside the table gives off a pleasant floral aroma, but adds little to the flavour.
What makes a more substantial difference to the taste is that the pig is served with six dips, five of which work - traditional, creamy foie gras, black garlic, pineapple and matsutake mushroom with parsley. The spicy Sichuan dip is created to reflect the identity of the Sichuan restaurant, but the spice overpowers the pork.
If you are looking for a good deal, order the suckling pig set menu ($368 for six persons, $588 for 10). After you finish the crackling, the rest of the pig is cooked in various ways, such as stir-fried with salt and pepper, simmered with pork rib in congee or cooked in mee suah soup with preserved vegetable.
The set includes Stir-fried Sri Lanka Crab With Soya Bean Crumb, Double-boiled Chicken Soup With Fish Maw And Spiky Sea Cucumber and Steamed Soon Hock Fish In Shunde Style.
WHERE: Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant, Parkroyal on Kitchener Road, 181 Kitchener Road MRT: Farrer Park WHEN: Till Sept 30, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6428-3170
FAIR VALUE FOR MONEY
The wonderful thing about dining at a market is that you often get good value for your money. That is what I like about Emporium Shokuhin's Ehime Food & Sake Fair.
I ate at Takujo Japanese Dining, one of the dining concepts run by the Japanese gourmet grocer within its premises in Marina Square. For $98 a person, you get a seven-course meal that includes Mikan Dai (citrus seabream slices from Ehime) With Konbu & Hakata Sea Salt, five kinds of sashimi, a generous hunk of Chargrilled Bluefin Tuna Cheek With Ponzu Sauce and Slices Of A5 Miyazaki Beef Simmered With Sweet Sauce In A Rice Bowl, served with chilled onsen tamago.
You can pair the meal with four types of sake from Ehime, a prefecture on Shikoku island, for an extra $38.
WHERE: Takujo Japanese Dining, 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, 01-18 MRT: Promenade WHEN: Till June 26, 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 10pm daily TEL: 6224-3433
If you go to Johor Baru regularly, you may know of Souper Tang, formerly called Taang Shifu, which started in the Johor capital and now has 18 outlets throughout Malaysia.
It opened its first outlet here at the revamped Centrepoint this month, bringing its unique herbal soups and main dishes, many of which are flavoured with herbs.
The Souper Tang Signature Soup (from $26.90 for two persons, above) is a good way to start the meal. It is brewed with chicken and belly pork, as well as fried fish maw, dried scallop, shiitake mushroom, American ginseng slices, ginseng root and cordyceps flower - resulting in a clear and sweet broth. A dash of glutinous rice wine added at the end of the cooking gives it a slightly heady effect as well.
Among the main dishes, I like the Home Braised Pork Belly In Rich Dark Sauce ($18.90), which is cooked with oolong tea, angelica root, star anise and orange peel. The sauce tastes deep without being overly sweet or salty, and the pork does not leave a greasy feel in the mouth.
There is also the healthy Steamed Chicken With Cordyceps Flower And Essence Of Chicken ($19.90), where the contents of a bottle of essence are poured into the dish at the table.
Instead of rice, get a bowl of Mee Suah Tossed In Abalone Sauce ($3.90) to go with the dishes. The noodles look plain, but the sauce is delicious.
WHERE: Souper Tang, 176 Orchard Road, Centrepoint, 02-52 MRT: Somerset WHEN: 11.30am to 10pm daily TEL: 6737-6772