DELICIOUS FRIED DUCK
You know how food you eat while on holiday seems to taste better? There are exceptions to that, alas.
On a trip to Bali, the deep-fried duck I had was stringy and dry. What a pity, as the restaurant setting was gorgeous.
So it is supreme irony that in fluorescent-lit Bebek Goreng Pak Ndut in Lucky Plaza - clean, efficient and friendly, but not gorgeous by any stretch of the imagination - I find the bebek goreng of my dreams.
Crispy Fried Duck In Green Chilli + Rice ($9.90) delivers in spades. The poultry boasts phenomenally crisp skin and the meat has that silky texture that comes from the expert frying of a well-fattened duck.
To go with it, there is cabe ijo, an Indonesian green chilli condiment. I make my own at home, but this one has dried anchovies in it - the little fish add so much punch to the sambal that I will now add them to mine.
Other good things to order include Crispy Duck Skin ($4.90, main photo), something to snack on before the main dishes arrive. The sauce for the salad Gado Gado ($6.50) is spiked with kencur, a kind of galangal that is called cekur here. A whiff always reminds me of a Bali holiday.
All of this food is rich, so order Sayur Asam ($4.50) as an antidote. The tamarind soup is loaded with crunchy-soft peanuts, corn on the cob, green beans, cabbage and chunks of chayote. It is a perky, delicious way to stave off a food coma until you get home and can plop into bed for a long nap.
WHERE: Bebek Goreng Pak Ndut, 01-42/43/44 Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road MRT: Orchard TEL: 6734-4787 OPEN: 11.30am to 9.30pm daily INFO: www.facebook.com/bebekgorengpakndutSG
There is no end of places in Singapore that will serve you a pimped-out burger with more trimmings than you can throw a stick at.
B Burger at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, mercifully, keeps things simple. And delicious.
The bright new restaurant, part of the Benjamin Barker Group, which runs menswear stores, faces a lot of competition in the mall, but it can hold its own.
I will order the Umami Burger ($7.90) again. Thick slices of deep-fried portobello mushrooms stand in for a beef patty. Fresh-looking lettuce, tomatoes and cheese are standard.
So are daikon pickles, which are pretty much perfect with the burgers on the menu. A nest of shredded nori below the mushrooms supplies added umami.
B Burger (from $6.90, above) is also basic, but there is nothing wrong with that. The mysterious B sauce, which looks like Thousand Island Dressing but tastes far better, is something I would like to buy in vats.
Again, the daikon pickles supply crunch and interest. I also like how the patty is cooked to medium, with a faint blush of pink when you bite into it.
Medium-rare would be better, but then I might, perhaps, be asking too much.
Some gristle in the patty detracts from the eating experience. Fix that and I'll be haunting the place often, a dinosaur in youth quake territory.
WHERE: B Burger, 01-01/01A Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, 8 Grange Road MRT: Somerset OPEN: Noon to 10pm daily INFO: www.bburger.sg
SATISFYING COMFORT FOOD
What an interesting idea. Open a no-frills restaurant, serve Taiwanese-inspired small plates and charge either $5 or $10 for each dish. Five Ten in South Bridge Road is not fancy, but it serves good, satisfying comfort food that will not result in credit card meltdown.
Its Lu Rou ($10, right), braised pork belly, comes with a thick, glossy soya braising sauce and manages not to overwhelm the palate with richness. Mussels ($10), supremely boozy from Shao Xing wine, are fat and tender, just the way they should be.
A special on the day I go is steamed cod ($10) - simple and good. However, the deep-fried ginger that tops the fish seems to be a default garnish on many of the dishes.
It arrives on Tau Kwa ($5), firm beancurd deep-fried and served with century egg; and Chicken Hearts ($5). Yes, it addssomething to the dishes, but it can get monotonous. Still, if the chicken hearts are on the menu, order these flavourful morsels, cooked with care.
This pop-up restaurant is open until the end of the year.
WHERE: Five Ten, 237 South Bridge Road MRT: Chinatown TEL: 6924-9752 OPEN: 10am to 3pm, 6 to 10pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays INFO: www.facebook.com/FIVETENSG
FOUND: SQUID AND PORK BALLS
I have missed the knobbly sotong balls and pork balls from Teochew Hand Made Squid Ball so much. The stall used to be at Maxwell Road food centre, but moved away two years ago. My friend found its new location and I made tracks.
The squid balls are as good as before, with plenty of chopped squid. The pork ones are soft and tender, soaking up some of the flavourful soup they are served in. They are a beautiful textural contrast to the more chewy squid balls.
My friend says the noodles are creditable as well and, one day, I might order a bowl. For now, it is just squid and pork balls in soup ($4, $5.60 or $8) for me.
WHERE: Teochew Hand Made Squid Ball, Pork Ball, Mixed Soup, 01-119 Telok Blangah Crescent Market & Food Centre, Block 11 Telok Blangah Crescent MRT: Telok Blangah OPEN: 7.30am to 1.30pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays