DELICIOUS LEBANESE FOOD
Construction work in the area makes Le Bistrot de l'Olive difficult to find, but it is well worth seeking out for its delicious Lebanese food.
The Mezze Platter ($25) is good for sharing. It has two sesame seed-studded falafel, chickpea fritters that are crisp on the outside, light and airy inside; tabbouleh, a parsley, onion, tomato and bulgar salad; fattoush, a bread salad with pita croutons topped with sumac and dried mint; and two dips - baba ghanoush, made with roasted eggplant and topped with pomegranate arils, and hummus, made with chickpeas. Mop up the dips with house-made pita ($4 for two).
Another good starter is Kibbeh Maklieh ($13.90 for four), torpedo-shaped ground lamb croquettes with a crust of ground bulgar and pinenuts. When you break them open, the scent of ground lamb and spices is quite something.
Reyash Ghanam ($26.90), with three lamb chops, pilaf rice and salad, is good for a main course. The creamy white blob on the plate is toum, a garlicky sauce. But it is what I call tourist toum, toned down so the bite of garlic is not so strong. If you are lucky, you might get a serving of the real thing as my friends and I did one night: stiff, white, shiny and vampire-repelling. That version is gloriously pungent. I wonder if they will sell me tubs of it.
WHERE: Le Bistrot de l'Olive, 01-02 V Hotel Bencoolen, 48 Bencoolen Street MRT: Dhoby Ghaut TEL: 6734-8262 OPEN: Noon - 3pm, 5.30 - 10.30pm daily
CRISP PIZZAS, SUNNY SALAD
Alexandra Central is a brand new mall, but The Bakehouse, on its ground floor, looks like it has been there for a long time. There is a lived-in feel about the place, with its retro tables, chairs and tchotchkes.
The pizzas are great and I would go back just for them. Instead of loading them with toppings, The Bakehouse opts for restraint and that means the slices do not flop in the middle. The crust remains crisp to the last bite and I love the char on the edges of the pies, which are baked in a wood-fired oven.
For vegetarians, there is the Portobello ($14, right), with slices of the mushroom, tomato sauce and a good crust of fontina and mozzarella cheeses. The Pulled Pork ($14) is also delicious, with caramelised onions adding sweetness to the moist pork.
The Baby Spinach salad ($12) is more than just obligatory fibre. Scattered around the greens are four rounds of mild goat's cheese, pomegranate arils and pine nuts. The dressing is tangy and bright and it is such a pleasure to eat that sunny salad.
WHERE: The Bakehouse, 01-14 Alexandra Central, 321 Alexandra Road MRT: Queenstown TEL: 6250-0040 OPEN: 8am - 10pm (Sun - Thu), 8am - 11pm (Fri & Sat)
PERFECTLY SPRINGY NOODLES
Itacho Sushi, a Hong Kong chain with restaurants here, has opened Hong Kong Wonton Noodle at Plaza Singapura, a few months after Mak's Noodle opened at The Centrepoint. While the noodles are not as fine as the Hong Kong institution's, they are perfectly springy.
The Prawn Wonton Dry Noodle ($7.80, above) has just enough sauce to coat the noodles without turning them soggy. There is a good bite to them and the wontons are plump and juicy. The soup that comes with the noodles is slurp-worthy, being made with chicken, pork, dried fish and shrimp.
The Pig's Trotter In Red Fermented Beancurd Sauce($8.80) has a gorgeous gravy full of umami and it calls out for lots of rice. The chunks of trotter could, however, be braised a little longer so they are more tender. Ditto the Stewed Beef Brisket ($9.80). There is good flavour from the spices that go into it, but the cubes of meat could do with a longer cooking time.
In dim sum restaurants overseas, I love ordering deep-fried pepper and salt squid tentacles. Here, the Boiled Squid Leg With Ginger & Green Onion ($6.80) is served with heen kai, Cantonese for fermented clam sauce. It is an acquired taste for it is truly funky. But it works very well with the squid.
I will not order Prawn With Dry Shrimp Seed Dry Noodle ($8.80) again. There is no sauce to toss with the noodles and no discernible flavour in the dried prawn roe.
However, there is plenty to go back for. Next time, I am going to order the braised pig trotters with noodles. There has to be a way to soak up all that gravy.
WHERE: Hong Kong Wonton Noodle, B2-25 Plaza Singapura MRT: Dhoby Ghaut TEL: 6694-0923 OPEN: 11am - 10pm daily
TASTY WAGYU DON
Even though my job involves checking out new restaurants, I go for the tried and true when eating for pleasure, which is to say I keep going to the same places.
So when a friend tells me about Ginzawa at Palais Renaissance, I decide to check it out for a change.
I have been there three times now and the servers even know I like my tea iced. Am I stuck in a rut? Maybe, but it is a delicious one.
My favourite meal there is the Wagyu Don ($42, above), which comes with chawanmushi, miso soup, the beef and rice and a scoop of yuzu sorbet or matcha ice cream for dessert.
Unlike some Japanese beef, tender because of spectacular marbling, this one requires chewing. And, yes, that is a good thing. The sear on the meat is beautiful too. Sweet onions and buttery pinenuts add to the allure of this rice bowl.
WHERE: Ginzawa, 01-07 Palais Renaissance MRT: Orchard TEL: 6736-0100 OPEN: Noon - 3pm, 6 - 10.30pm daily