CRAZY GOOD CHAR SIEW
Char at Guillemard Road is just the sort of place you want to tell everyone about.
The air-conditioned zi char eatery is run by the brothers Ung from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Anthony, 41, runs the front of the house while Alvin, 51, makes a crazy good Char Siew ($5 for 100g, minimum order of 300g).
No red colouring mars the barbecued pork. Instead, the glaze is black and shiny, the tender meat tasting of good dark soya sauce and expert caramelisation. While the minimum order sounds like a lot, the pork does not last long on the plate. Anthony says there are diners who order 300g each and then ask for more.
Roast Crispy Pork Belly ($5 for 100g, minimum order 300g) is good also, but I have had better. The Roast Duck (from $14 for a quarter) might be hard to beat, however. On the night I dine there, I have something of an epiphany. So rarely are skin, fat and meat done perfectly in one bird. Yet, there is crisp skin; soft, sweet fat, just a thin layer; and juicy meat. Truly a triumph.
Other dishes to order include Hot & Sour Soup ($5 for an individual portion), spicy enough to make my head spin and addictive enough that I finish every drop, and a comforting Shredded Duck Noodle Soup ($10), the rice vermicelli soaked through with the flavourful stock, which has no trace of gaminess.
Not to sound alarmist or anything but please, when making reservations, pre-order the char siew and roast duck.
Think what you will miss if you don't.
Where: Char, 393 Guillemard Road MRT: Dakota Open: 11.30am - 2.30pm & 6 - 10pm (Tue - Sun), closed on Mon Tel: 6842-7759 Info: www.char.com.sg
POMEGRANATE TAKES THE CAKE
While wandering around PasarBella at lunch time recently, I do a double take and stop at cake store Laman's Delight. There in the display case is one of the most striking cakes I have ever seen. Dome-shaped, it is covered with softly whipped cream and then studded liberally with pomegranate arils.
I get a slice ($10) to try and my lunch companions and I fall in love. The cake, flavoured with hibiscus and pomegranate, has a velvety crumb and is so very light. Fortunately, the cream is not at all sweet, and with each bite, I get bursts of pomegranate juice.
Later, I return to the market and get myself a whole slice to enjoy at leisure. It is every bit as good as the first time. I wonder if it is all those antioxidants from the pomegranate coursing through me.
Where: Laman's Delight, PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah, 200 Turf Club Road MRT: Farrer Road Open: 10am - 8pm daily Tel: 9735-0071
DIBS ON THE MEAT BUTTER
New restaurants here are aplenty. Good new ones are much harder to find. One night, after a disappointing meal at a new place, I decide to check out another, not wanting bad food to ruin the night. Dibs at Duxton Road delivers, saving the day.
The menu is not cliched or larded with crowd-pleasers such as Spanish ham or soft-boiled eggs plopped on everything. Prices are friendly, a rare thing these days.
Meat Butter ($15) might be a fancy name for roasted veal marrow bones but the smart additions make this worth eating. Teriyaki, not too sweet and wisps of shaved bonito flakes add nuance and smokiness to the gelatinous spread.
I must say something about the bread that comes with the bones. It is not from a fancy bakery nor is it made in-house, but the baguette is toasted properly and the crackle of the crust makes me hungry.
Where: Dibs, 51 Duxton Road MRT: Tanjong Pagar Open: Noon - 3pm & 6pm - midnight (weekdays), 6pm - midnight (Sat), closed on Sun Tel: 6223-3784 Info: www.dibs.sg
FOOD HAVEN AT HALIA
Those seeking an oasis at lunch time would do well to head to Halia at The Raffles. A recent visit hits all the right notes: the welcome and service are warm, the menu interesting and the food puts me in a good mood.
For starters, order the 12 Hour Braised Lamb Dip ($14), which comes with slices of toasted baguette. It sounds terribly rich, but the tomato-based barbecue sauce cuts the richness, and I think this would be terrific tossed with pasta too.
My main course of Halia Chilli Crab spaghettini ($26) is a punchy, flavourful rendition of this Singapore-Italian hybrid dish. I am not a chilli head by any stretch of the imagination but I cannot get enough of the aromatic sauce.
For dessert, order Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10). A sprinkling of salt makes this a salty sweet, the best kind of dessert in my opinion. Pillowy date pudding, not-too-sweet butterscotch sauce, that salt and luscious vanilla ice cream make for a perfect ending to a good meal.
Where: Halia at The Raffles, 1 Beach Road, 01-22/23 Raffles Hotel MRT: City Hall Open: Noon - 2.30pm, 6 - 10.30pm (weekdays), 11am - 11pm (Sat), 11am - 10.30pm (Sun) Tel: 9639-1148