Tan Hsueh Yun Food Editor recommends

Bird Bird's juicy fried chicken, Roxy Laksa's luxe gravy, Bala's fresh appam and more

Birdhouse Special at Bird Bird.
Birdhouse Special at Bird Bird.PHOTOS: BIRD BIRD, TAN HSUEH YUN
A bowl of Roxy Laksa.
A bowl of Roxy Laksa. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN
Braised Beef Cheek In Red Wine, Mushrooms from O Boeuf A 6 Pattes.
Braised Beef Cheek In Red Wine, Mushrooms from O Boeuf A 6 Pattes.ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN
Appam from Bala’s.
Appam from Bala’s. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

NEW LOCATION, NEW MENU AT BIRD BIRD

Let me just say I miss the old Bird Bird. You know, the Thai chicken restaurant in Ann Siang Road with the crazy decor and, in the beginning, unreliable air-conditioning?

It served a superb Isaan BBQ Chicken smoked with lemongrass, Umami Corn coated with Sriracha and mayonnaise, and the unforgettable Mama Slaw, coleslaw topped with crushed, crispy instant noodles, with chunks of deep-fried century egg among the vegetables.

Owner Bjorn Shen has moved his restaurant to the east and revamped the menu. The signature dish at the new place is still chicken, but it is American-style fried chicken. The new offerings look more upmarket, but it is reassuring to find that the cheeky, dude food vibe remains.

Take, for instance, an earnest- sounding Umami Quinoa ($13), the garlic-spiced quinoa tossed with charred corn, arugula, roasted vegetables, nuts and seeds. What the description does not say is that the salad is also tossed with purple potato chips, some crisp, some soggy from the dressing. I'd like to think of it as Shen winking at the diner.

Of course, the Birdhouse Special ($24) is a must-order. The buttermilk fried chicken, which has been brined in Old Bay seasoning, is what fried chicken must be, boasting crisp skin and juicy meat. The set comes with chunky mashed potatoes doused in a properly gutsy sausage gravy, Green Goddess coleslaw and a cornbread waffle. The soggy waffle is the weak link, but Shen says the cornmeal batter does not crisp up.

Even then, there is a silver lining. The waffle is the perfect vehicle for soaking up the sublime smoked maple syrup, a squeeze bottle of which sits on every table. One taste and I am smitten.

Big Mac Fried Rice ($24) is a fancier version of the original served at Ann Siang. There are more vegetables in the dish and it looks like bibimbap. Good beef and that killer Special Sauce make it worth ordering.

For dessert, Banoffle ($14) hits all the right spots. Swirls of toasted milk soft serve are studded with coffee shortbread, drizzled with gula melaka caramel and draped with caramelised banana. The cornbread waffle appears again. Cue smoked maple syrup.

Also recommended, the Rhuppleberry Softie Pie ($14) and Durian Softie Pie ($16). But the best dessert is really a side dish - Brown Sugar Bacon Chop ($8). The slab of bacon is sprinkled with brown sugar and torched until it caramelises just enough to give it an edge and brittleness. The result is sweet, savoury and impossible to forget.

Shen says he might bring back the barbecued chicken and the pei tan (century egg) coleslaw. I live in hope.

WHERE: Bird Bird, 97 Frankel Avenue MRT: Kembangan TEL: 6694-8270 OPEN: 11.30am to 3.30pm (last order: 3pm), 6 to 10pm (last order: 9.30pm) (Wednesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays



A bowl of Roxy Laksa. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

LUXURIOUS LAKSA

Some people I know will never go to Roxy Laksa because its version of the lemak noodle dish comes without cockles.

As much as I love them, I will never shun Roxy because I cannot get enough of the rich, full-bodied gravy. It puts to shame many versions of Katong laksa. And while I like Sungei Road Laksa in Jalan Berseh, the gravy has become thinner over the years.

Since I do not eat laksa often, I want it unabashedly rich when I do.

Roxy's version ($4.50) does not disappoint. The noodles, prawns and sliced fish cake are bit players to the gravy, which is still good after all these years.

There is nothing quite like the richness of coconut milk cooked with a good spice paste and the luxurious way that gravy coats the tongue.

WHERE: Roxy Laksa, 01-17 Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent MRT: one-north TEL: 9630-2321 OPEN: 9am to 6pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays



Braised Beef Cheek In Red Wine, Mushrooms from O Boeuf A 6 Pattes. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

HEARTY FRENCH BISTRO FARE

If you dislike crowds as much as I do, but still want to eat well, head to Park West condominium in Clementi.

The restaurant in the clubhouse is open to the public and O Boeuf A 6 Pattes serves good, hearty French bistro food. It is casual, with no air-conditioning, but the place is breezy.

I go there not expecting fireworks, but come away impressed. Chef Francois Mermilliod, 41, of French restaurant Bar-A-Thym in Gemmill Lane, and his business partner run it, with chef Eric Tan, 27, in the kitchen.

The restaurant's name means "cow with six legs" and there are six beef dishes on the menu.

Braised Beef Cheek In Red Wine, Mushrooms ($26, photo) is not a complicated dish by any stretch of the imagination, but the meat has that deep, savoury flavour, boosted by the wine and housemade stock, that spells comfort to me.

With the dish comes a choice of two side dishes. Choose creamy mash and ratatouille rather than fries and salad. The silky, buttery potatoes are hard to resist and to cut the richness of the potatoes and beef, there is the perky ratatouille with zucchini, yellow squash, onion and tomato.

Other good things include the Charcuterie Board ($24), with duck rillettes, a very smooth chicken liver mousse topped with apple chutney, and pate en croute with duck, foie gras and pistachios. All are made in-house.

Forget jostling with hordes of Christmas shoppers in town. This place is perfect for a chill-out weekend lunch.

WHERE: O Boeuf A 6 Pattes, The Club House, 02-02 Park West, Block 8 Jalan Lempeng MRT: Clementi TEL: 9630-4526 OPEN: 11.30am to 10pm, last order: 9.30pm (Wednesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays



Appam from Bala’s. ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

APPAM WORTH GOING BACK FOR

A good appam is hard to find in Singapore. Too often, the pancake, made with a fermented rice batter, is made ahead and soggy when you get it.

At Bala's, a stall in a Serangoon Road coffee shop, the appam ($1.50 each) are made to order, so they have crisp, lacy edges and a beautifully pillowy middle.

You can have them sweet or savoury - I prefer the latter because it allows me to help myself to lots of the stall's thick coconut chutney. The egg version ($2) is not overcooked, so the yolk is still runny.

The stall also sells thosai ($1.50), idli ($2 for two) and vadai ($2 for two). While they are good, they cannot hold a candle to the appam. These are the suggested prices, but customers can pay it forward by contributing more money, which the stall will use to fund meals for the less fortunate.

WHERE: Bala's, Thye Chong Restaurant, 168 Serangoon Road MRT: Little India OPEN: 6am to 2pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 6am to 9pm (Sundays)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe