KATONG WONTON NOODLES
The first time I make the trek to Katong to try wonton noodles by Baan by Rochor Thai, I leave disappointed.
At 1pm on a Tuesday, they are sold out of it. The person at the stall mumbles something about how the noodles had been very popular over the weekend.
I can see why when I return.
Baan Wonton Noodles ($6.80 for regular, $5.30 for small) is terrific, one of the best things I have eaten this year.
The dish is much more than a bowl of wonton noodles.
Get the regular version because in addition to two plump, deep-fried wontons, which look nothing like the flat specimens in the photo, there is a generous serving of grilled pork collar. The slices are charred at the edges and springy.
Also excellent, the perfectly al dente egg noodles tossed in a savoury sauce so good, I eat slowly to prolong the pleasure.
My dining companion pipes up: "It's pork fat, isn't it?"
Yes indeed, and other ingredients such as fish sauce, oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, palm sugar, coriander roots and peppercorns.
This is one stellar bowl. I hope chef-owner Joel Ong makes good on his promise to look into opening in other locations. How about across from my office?
WHERE: Baan by Rochor Thai, 125 East Coast Road, Alibabar the Hawker Bar MRT: Eunos TEL: 9820-8739 OPEN: Noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm or until the food is sold out, daily INFO: www.facebook.com/baanbyrochorthai
FANTASTIC FOOD AT THE MALAYAN COUNCIL
Right across from Abdul Gaffoor Mosque in Dunlop Street is a restaurant called The Malayan Council that serves fantastic food.
At first sniff, you might not think so, however. The scent of truffle oil does not inspire confidence and it is superfluous in Kacang Pool With Angus Ribeye Steak ($37). But steer clear of dishes with it and a satisfying meal can be had.
Roti Kirai Beef Ribs ($39, above) is a huge main course that can easily feed two. It comes with a rendang-like sauce, crying to be mopped up with the net-like roti kirai, another name for roti jala. The recipe for the sauce is secret, but I am pretty sure there is cekur in it. That would be the aromatic root from the ginger family and it reminds me of holidays in Bali. The huge rib falls off the bone, as it should.
For dessert, Cempedak Creme Brulee ($9.50) is tempting, but the lure of Classic Ondeh Ondeh Cake ($8) is far stronger. And what a winner it is. Soft, nubbly pandan cake is layered with bits of gula melaka and sprinkled all over with grated coconut. The scoop of ice cream served alongside compensates for the slight dryness in the cake. The place is packed during Ramadan, but I am looking forward to my next meal there, after fasting month. Asam Pedas Fish 'N' Chips ($19) beckons.
WHERE: The Malayan Council, 22 Dunlop Street MRT: Little India TEL: 9002-4414 OPEN: 11.30am to 11pm (weekdays), 11am to 11pm (weekends), Ramadan hours: 5.30 to 10pm INFO: www.facebook.com/Themalayacouncil
FUN FARE IN DUXTON HILL
The words "sassy" and "kitsch" come to mind when I think of Xiao Ya Tou, a fun restaurant in Duxton Hill. Its name comes from the term for "impish girl" and that sassiness is evident from the menu description, and the kitsch from the decor.
It is the kind of restaurant that would make me roll my eyes, but the food is good, the cocktails are strong and I would happily go back.
When I do, XYT Ayam Percik ($23) will be a must-order. The grilled chicken has an addictive sauce that even a chilli coward like me cannot get enough of. Sweet Fish Sauce Cock Wing ($12, above) are fried chicken wings with plenty of umami.
Two of the vegetable dishes stand out. The sprouts in Spicy Brussel Sprout ($12) are well-seared and perfect with pancetta, chye poh (preserved radish) and basil leaves. The chilli jam is lost, but the caramelised parts of the sprouts more than make up for it.
My friends and I fall in love with Thai-inflected Grilled Eggplant ($12), soft and smoky, with dried shrimp, a kicky nam jim dressing and miso cured egg.
There is even a xiao ya tou in the restaurant. I will not spoil the fun, but if you go, you will know who I mean.
WHERE: Xiao Ya Tou, 6 Duxton Hill MRT: Outram Park TEL: 6226-1965 OPEN: 11am to midnight (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday INFO: www.facebook.com/xiaoyatou.sg
BRUNCH AT LOLLA
Most Sundays, I sleep the sleep of the dead and do not get up until lunch time.
Brunch, I have given up on it, mostly because if I have to look at another menu with "Eggs Benny" one more time, I might scream.
Yet, on a recent Sunday, I head to Lolla for brunch, drawn by the unusual offerings. There are eggs, but Scrambled Eggs With Bottarga di Muggine ($19, above) is grown up, the shavings of bottarga or cured mullet roe adding an umami punch that wakes me right up.
Similarly, Deep Fried Radishes, Parsley ($11) is not nursery food. The crisp parsley are thick and satisfying to bite into and I love the new way of eating radishes. Other good things include Bacon Steak ($19), Beef Tongue Hash ($28) and slices of San Marzano Tomato & Smoked Applewood Cheese bread ($12) - all of which my friends and I devour like piranhas.
To drink, there is a thick, lightly sweetened Cashew Nut Milk ($9) and Blood Orange & Soda ($13).
Lolla's cleverly conceived brunch menu is worth waking up for.
WHERE: Lolla, 22 Ann Siang Road MRT: Telok Ayer TEL: 6423-1228 OPEN: Sunday brunch from 10.30am to 3pm INFO: www.lolla.com.sg