Food Picks: No Signboard's new sheng jian bao eatery, Hida wagyu at Origin Grill

The Tricolor Sheng Jian Bao from nosignboard has two pieces of each flavour. PHOTO: NOSIGNBOARD SHENG JIAN

No Signboard opens sheng jian bao eatery

The seafood restaurant known for its chilli crab dish is branching out with a new self-service concept specialising in Shanghai sheng jian bao, or pan-fried buns stuffed with juicy minced pork.

The first outlet of nosignboard Sheng Jian opened at Northpoint City in September and has been drawing a stream of customers with its no-frills menu of Shanghai dishes targeted at the mass market. Prices are reasonable and there is no service charge.

The signature dish is the "Popping Juices" Sheng Jian Bao ($5.50 for three), so called because you get a burst of delicious meat juices when you bite into the bun, which boasts a pillowy dough with a crispy base.

The sheng jian bao come with other fillings such as vegetables with mushrooms ($5.30) and, not unexpectedly, chilli crab ($6.30) - both of which are good too.

If you can't decide, get the Tricolor Sheng Jian Bao ($10.80 for six), which has two pieces of each flavour.

There are many other dishes on the menu, including popular Shanghai dim sum like Xiao Long Bao ($5.50 for four) and Pan-fried Juicy "Guo Tie" Dumpling ($5.50 for three). There is also a very good Deep-fried Radish Pastry ($5.80 for three).

Try the cold dishes too, like the Spicy Chicken In Sichuan Style ($7.80) or Drunken Chicken ($7.80). There are main dishes such as Ma Po Beancurd ($13.80) and Wuxi Braised Pork Cube ($14.80) that go with rice, but I find these to be less interesting than the noodle and rice items.

The Crispy Rice With Chilli Crab Meat Sauce ($14.80) is another easy way of enjoying No Signboard's prized dish. Even a simple staple like Dried Noodle With Scallion And Dried Shrimp ($6.80) hits the spot for me.

Where: nosignboard Sheng Jian, 01-137/138 South Wing of Northpoint City, 1 Northpoint Drive
MRT: Yishun
Open: 10am to 9.30pm daily
Tel: 6665-9959 (no reservations)

Expanded range at Da Paolo Gastronomia's new outlet

On the menu are offerings from the takeaway counter such as salads, paninis. PHOTO: DA PAOLO GASTRONOMIA

The Da Paolo restaurant chain's first Gastronomia outlet at Chip Bee Gardens, which launched in 2000, was a small gourmet deli offering ready-to-eat Italian dishes like soups, pasta and tiramisu for takeaway.

Fast-forward 21 years and its eighth and latest outlet, which opened in July, is a full-grown cafe and deli occupying an expansive ground-floor space at Great World mall's Kim Seng Road entrance.

Also Da Paolo's biggest outlet, it offers an impressive range of Italian gourmet fare. Apart from a dine-in area, there is also a retail section selling pastas that are both imported and made in-house, cheeses, olive oils and chocolates, as well as ready-to-eat items like lasagna, gelato and fresh bread.

On the menu are offerings from the takeaway counter such as salads, paninis as well as a greens and grains bowl that diners can customise with items like cauliflower rice and steamed herbed chicken breast. Prices for a bowl comprising various grains, a protein and vegetables start at $13.90, while paninis cost $16 to $19.

Hot dishes are cooked a la minute, with a bigger selection for dinner that includes spicy lobster spaghetti ($29) and four-cheeses pizza ($26).

Spicy lobster spaghetti. PHOTO: DA PAOLO GASTRONOMIA

The wholesome fare captures the essence of everyday Italian dining.

I find the greens and grains bowl wonderful for lunch. My bowl had an oven-roasted Moroccan chicken thigh, summer barley salad, shredded brussels sprouts, turnip and cranberry salad and kale, plus broccoli stems and beetroot salad - topped with a dollop of chickpea hummus. There were so many flavours, I can imagine it packs in a wide spectrum of vitamins as well.

Where: Da Paolo Gastronomia Great World, 01-63 Great World, 1 Kim Seng Promenade
MRT: Orchard/Tiong Bahru
Open: 8am to 10pm daily
Tel: 6735-8382

Origin Grill cooks up Hida wagyu specials

A5 Hida wagyu striploin. PHOTO: SHANGRI-LA SINGAPORE

If you are a fan of Hida wagyu from Japan, the current promotion at Origin Grill offers a great way to savour the beef cooked in different ways.

A good way to do that is to order the $188 five-course degustation menu featuring grade A5 Hida wagyu in four of the dishes. It starts with tataki, in which thin slices of lightly seared tenderloin are served with watercress, watermelon radish, onion chips, cherry tomatoes and a sunchoke dressing.

This is followed by a broth with a big slice of tenderloin as well as shiitake mushrooms, turnip and scallions. What makes this stand out is the crispy puffed rice in the soup.

Up next is gnocchi with wagyu ragu made from striploin. Japanese touches come from the shimeiji and abalone mushrooms in the sauce. The main is a ribeye sando, with the sandwich slathered with black garlic mayonnaise. Dessert is a bergamot avocado parfait.

My favourite dish - a charcoal-grilled striploin - is not part of the set, though, and available only as an a la carte order. Priced at $198 for 150g, the succulent steak comes with eggplant crisps and burnt eggplant miso puree.

You will most likely be full from the degustation menu, but in case you still have room, get the steak to share.

Where: Origin Grill, Lobby level, Shangri-La Singapore, Orange Grove Road
MRT: Orchard
When: Till Nov 14, noon to 2.30pm (Wednesdays to Sundays), 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays to Sundays); closed on Mondays
Tel: 6213-4398

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