CHICKEN SO TENDER
The thumping music hits me when I walk into Sugarhall, a rum bar and grill house in Amoy Street. It cannot be a good sign, I tell myself.
But all that is forgotten once the food starts arriving.
The 65-seater, by the same team behind Jigger & Pony bar next door, serves some really good grub, not to mention cocktails and rum.
I would gladly have the Whole Spring Chicken ($28) to myself next time. Its burnished skin and juicy, tender meat makes me abandon table manners, grab the carcass and pick at it with my fingers. The cucumber yogurt that comes with it is refreshing, but the bird, brined for 24 hours, does not need it.
Even the vegetables go on the grill and I especially enjoy Grilled Cauliflower ($12) with bacon, capers and hazelnuts. The cauliflower florets are crisp-tender and serve as a sturdy canvas for bacon, crunchy nuts and tangy capers. The balance of flavours and play on textures are pitch perfect.
Roasted Beetroot ($10) features the sweet and earthy root vegetable and the hot green of the moment: kale. It is as pretty as it is delicious.
Sugarhall is a rum bar with more than 60 choices on offer and I am drawn to the Especial Martini ($22). It is made with Brugal Extra Dry Rum, Cocchi Americano and garnished not with an olive but with a mezcal-washed pickled quail's egg. This is no wallflower cocktail. That quail's egg is tart like an olive but richer and a little more decadent.
A return visit is in order, earplugs optional.
What: Sugarhall, 102 Amoy Street MRT: Telok Ayer Tel: 6222-9102/9732-5607 Open: 6pm - midnight (Mon - Sat), closed on Sun
DROWNED IN COFFEE
Some days, the heat and humidity make it difficult to drink a cup of hot coffee. So I head to Shrove Tuesday in Toa Payoh for an affogato ($5.50).
This most delightful drink slash dessert has an unfortunate, though apt, name. It means drowned in Italian. In this case, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is "drowned" in a hot espresso shot. The neighbourhood cafe's version goes down like a treat, with smooth, strong coffee cutting the sweetness of the ice cream.
Cool down and wake up instantly, not bad on a muggy day.
What: Shrove Tuesday, Block 94, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, 01-32 MRT: Braddell Tel: 6258-2254 Open: 10am - 10pm (Sun - Thu), 10am to 11pm (Fri & Sat)
FLAKY SIEW PAO
A fluffy steamed bao filled with char siew is one of the most delicious things to eat. Less common here is the baked version.
However, Seremban Kee Mei Siew Pow has been doing roaring business with its outlets here. I saw it first at ABC Brickworks food centre, but the long queue put me off. Recently, I stumbled on its stall at Maxwell Food Centre. There was no queue and I swooped in.
The siew pow are good, with flaky layers of pastry. The best ones are the char siew and curry chicken bao ($1.20 each). The stall also sells pineapple tarts (80 cents each), with soft pastry and well-caramelised filling. They are not bad but seem more like Taiwanese pineapple cakes than the kueh tart we are used to.
Save some room for the Tambun Biscuits (80 cents each). They are terrific, with a crackly crust yielding to softer pastry and then a delicious sweet-salty green bean filling.
What: Seremban Kee Mei Siew Pow, 01-002 Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street MRT: Chinatown/Tanjong Pagar Open: 8am - 7pm (weekdays), 8am - 5pm (weekends) Info: For a list of outlets, go to www.keemei.com.sg/outlets/
Temptations lurk everywhere on Wolf's pork chop menu. Yes, you read right. The nose-to-tail eating restaurant at Gemmill Lane has a list of five pork chops from different breeds of pig.
All are served with maple-glazed sweet potatoes, addictive in their own right; a mesclun salad and a choice of juniper berry sauce or apple mustard puree.
Much as I love pork, I manage to try just three of them and already, I am struggling to figure out which one I like most. Two of them I enjoy, but the third shows that the importance of fat in keeping a chop moist cannot be overstated.
The Nagano ($40 for a 320g bone-in chop) from Quebec, Canada, is the prettiest one of the lot, but also the leanest and the meat is a little dry.
So that leaves the Duroc-Landrace from Suffolk in the United Kingdom and the Mangalica (above right) from Pick, a Hungarian company.
The Duroc-Landrace ($40 for a 300g chop) has a thick layer of fat, and comes from a hog that is a cross between two breeds. The Duroc is known for tenderness and succulence, while the Landrace is a leaner pig.
What I notice straightaway is the delicate sweetness of the pork, which is not overwhelmed by the expert searing. The more I eat, the more I want.
Like the furry pigs they come from, the Mangalica chop ($42 for a 350g chop) is a little shaggy. The chop is not as perfectly trimmed as the others but there is a rough-hewn charm. Who would complain about having more meat on the bone?
These hogs are known for their marbling, and every bite is juicy and tender, the flavour robust.
Who knows what will happen when I try the Iberico ($42 for a 280g chop) and the Kurobuta ($42 for a 250g chop)? It is a good dilemma to have.
What: Wolf, 18 Gemmill Lane MRT: Telok Ayer Tel: 6557-2224 Open: 11.30am - 3pm, 6 - 11pm (Mon - Fri), 6pm - midnight (Sat), closed Sun