CRISP TEMPURA ON RICE
More restaurants are starting to specialise in tendon, or tempura donburi, and I could not be happier.
What's not to love about crispy, fried prawns and vegetables in light tempura batter on top of Japanese rice?
My favourite is Ginza Tendon Itsuki in Tanjong Pagar, but I also like the new Tensho by MOF (Ministry of Food) restaurant at The Centrepoint for its portions and affordable prices. Plus, the queues are not so crazy - yet.
Just two options are available - the Vege Tendon ($13.90) with vegetable tempura and Mixed Tendon ($14.90, above) with prawn, dory fish and vegetable tempura. Both bowls come with an onsen egg, chawanmushi and miso soup.
The tempura is not oily and the ingredients are lightly coated in thin and crispy batter. My favourites are the tender shiitake mushroom and sweet pumpkin. There is just enough of the slightly sweet sauce drizzled over the fried goodies and rice.
But for me, the most important part of the bowl is the tempura egg with a runny yolk. At Ginza Tendon Itsuki, that sealed the deal for me.
Ditto at Tensho. Break the egg and let the golden yolk coat the rice, or dip your tempura into the yolk. This is a satisfying meal indeed.
WHERE: Tensho by MOF, B1-20 The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road MRT: Somerset OPEN: 11.30am to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11.30am to 10.30pm (Friday and Saturday) INFO: www.facebook.com/tenshobymof
HEALTHY YET DELICIOUS
Having a light, healthy meal does not mean giving up carbohydrates and eating just leaves. I still need meat and rice for sustenance.
I've been a fan of Cafe&Meal Muji since it opened at Paragon, and its Raffles City outlet is pretty popular too.
The basic deli set costs $7.80, or go for the selection of three ($12.90) or four ($16.90) deli items for a bigger meal.
I try the new hot deli items - healthy tofu patty with shiitake mushroom sauce (above) and teriyaki sakura chicken with braised leek. I am pleasantly surprised at the tasty tofu patty as it is packed with ingredients such as mushrooms, edamame and soya beans - a mix of crunch and umami in every bite.
The chicken is tender and moist, although I wish it is hotter. I eat the leek - something I don't normally eat - because it is soft and well-seasoned.
For the cold items, I pick the salmon salad with carrot dressing, and carbonara-style potato salad. I didn't get much salmon in my salad, but it is coated nicely in the dressing. The potato salad, though it sounds simple, is one of the best I've had. It is lightly cheesy and has fresh bacon bits. I can eat buckets of it.
This is definitely a meal I don't feel guilty about.
WHERE: Cafe&Meal Muji, 02-020 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road; and 04-36 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road MRT: City Hall/Orchard OPEN: 10am to 10pm daily (Raffles City), 10am to 9.30pm daily (Paragon) INFO: www.facebook.com/muji.sg
WINNING MEE TAI MAK
I have a slight phobia about eating mee tai mak. As a child, my mother would buy the short rice noodles in soup whenever I was sick and that is how I've always remembered the dish.
After dining at Now Noodles+ at Square 2, I've banished those memories. The fried mee tai mak ($9.80, above) is the highlight of the casual eatery's small menu. The noodles are stir-fried in a fragrant and spicy rempah together with minced fresh prawns and pork, fish cake, sliced mushrooms, fried egg and diced century egg.
When the dish arrives, its wok hei is enough to whet my appetite. I dig in immediately, shoving a heaped spoonful in my mouth. The flavours remind me of fried carrot cake, but with a generous amount of ingredients.
Other dishes at the shop include dry laksa, dry mee siam and Heng Hwa noodle soup. I go for the mee siam, which is not as spicy as the mee tai mak, especially after a squeeze of fresh lime. The beehoon, fried in the house-made rempah, comes with fresh prawns, diced tau pok (fried beancurd puffs) and half a hard-boiled egg. Add more belacan to spice up the dish.
With that winning rempah, hopefully more noodle dishes can be introduced to the menu. I'd buy the rempah if I could.
WHERE: Now Noodles+, 02-65 Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive MRT: Novena OPEN: 11am to 9pm daily INFO: www.facebook.com/nownoodles
MOLTEN LAVA COOKIES
It seems like any dish which oozes "molten lava" gets instant attention on social media. It started with chocolate lava cakes - which are now passe - and nowadays there is everything from mentaiko lava toast to salted egg lava croissants.
While those desserts can be quite a heavy meal for me, I think the lava cookie sets at Kooks Creamery makea perfect sweet post-lunch or teatime treat.
The signature lava set ($8.50) comes with a chocolate molten cookie, while the matcha lava set ($8.50, above) comes with a matcha molten cookie. Both come topped with a scoop of ice cream of your choice that is plonked on the soft cookie to release its liquid centre. Cue the oohs and aahs at the table.
Ice cream flavours include Earl Grey, black sesame, Thai milk tea and chocolate mint. My friends and I pick the brown butter ice cream to go with the chocolate cookie and milk cereal ice cream for the matcha one.
The chocolate lover in me prefers the chocolate option, which is not too sweet. I wish the matcha one had a stronger flavour, but that might overpower some of the lighter ice cream flavours.
There is also a plain cookie set ($7.80), sans the molten lava. But why would you want that?
WHERE: Kooks Creamery, Block 211, Serangoon Avenue 4, 01-02 MRT: Serangoon OPEN: Noon to 10pm (Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday), noon to 11pm (Friday and Saturday), closed on Monday INFO: www.facebook.com/kookscreamery