There are nights when I just want to go someplace familiar and friendly, have a quiet dinner and know the food will be good. My list of such restaurants is woefully short but I have a new one to add: Delicacy at Gemmill Lane.
I feel instantly at home in the cosy new restaurant and when the food starts coming, I never want to leave.
Walnut Croquetas ($8) are crunchy from the nuts and creamy from the bechamel sauce used to bind the fritters. They are fried perfectly, with not one speck of grease. Equally well cooked is Squid A La Plancha ($15), light and springy.
I am in love with the creamy, soya sauce-spiked sauce for the Grilled Prawns ($15) too, and am tempted to ask for bread to mop it all up.
But save room for Suckling Pig ($32). Call to check if they have it before making reservations. Unlike a lot of Spanish versions of the dish, the skin is crisp at Delicacy.
For dessert, it is hard to resist Crema Catalana ($12) or Caramelised Banana Rice Pudding ($12). Both are good.
If you are unable to throw caution to the winds and order all three desserts, choose Churros ($12). The long, hot batons of fried dough are airy, a contrast with the cool chocolate dipping sauce. There is a good reason for it too. After the churros are gone, chug the chocolate sauce.
WHERE: Delicacy by Food & Wine Merchants, 10 Gemmill Lane MRT: Telok Ayer Tel: 9830-0908 OPEN: 10.30am to 10pm (Monday to Friday), 6.30 to 11pm (Saturday), 10.30am to 3pm (Sunday)
KONG BAK DELIGHT
There are four more months to go before the year ends, but Park Bench Deli's Kong Bak Banh Mi ($14) is in the running for Best Thing I Ate this year.
The thin slices of soya sauce braised pork pack in a lot of flavour and the slippery, wobbly strips of fat that slide everywhere are sinful but also delightful. Vietnamese style carrot and daikon pickles cut the richness admirably and the aroma from crushed peanuts add to the allure of the sandwich.
I would never think to order a turkey sandwich because dry meat is not appealing to me at all. However, the deli's Turkey RBC ($15) is a marvel. The brined turkey breast, cooked sous vide before getting a short blast in the oven, is crazy juicy. And really, who can say no to the strips of crisp bacon piled on top of the turkey?
Some customers prefer healthier food, and grab quinoa salad and such from the takeaway place. I like the Acai Bowl ($8) for breakfast. The berry paste is topped with bananas, berries, granola and toasted coconut. This is a power breakfast for sure, but it also makes a rocking dessert after that banh mi.
WHERE: Park Bench Deli, 179 Telok Ayer Street MRT: Telok Ayer TEL: 6815-4600 Open: 9am to 3pm (Monday to Friday), closed on Saturday and Sunday
The beautifully burnished charcoal-grilled chicken wings ($1.20 each) at Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken Wings & Spring Chicken make the drive out to Changi Village worthwhile. I always feel like I am on a mini vacation when I'm there. The vibe is laid back, people are relaxed and the hawker centre is full of good food.
Juicy wings are a big draw and under the deep brown exterior, the chicken is moist. It is a wonder how they keep it that way, since the wings are grilled without oil.
Dip them in the tangy chilli sauce if you must. I find it too watery. In any case, the wings taste magnificent with just a squeeze of lime juice.
WHERE: Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken Wings & Spring Chicken, 01-52, Block 2 Changi Village Road MRT: Tanah Merah OPEN: 1.30 to 10.30pm (Monday to Friday), noon to 11pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday)
Dining in an empty restaurant can be unnerving but the serenity at Hashida Garo makes it a perfect place for good food and some peace and quiet at dinner time.
Garo, which means gallery in Japanese, is the second venture by sushi chef Kenjiro Hashida, who runs Hashida Sushi Singapore two floors down. The name of the new place is apt in more ways than one. There are edgy artworks on the walls and diners sometimes feel like they are on display too, when curious passers-by look through the plate glass at them.
At dinner recently, I pick from the a la carte menu and have a very fine meal indeed. Buta Kaku ($20) is excellent. Pork belly simmered in dashi fall apart when nudged with chopsticks. The soft boiled egg yolk is not runny, it's better; the yolk has a sticky consistency that trumps runniness any day.
I also like the crisp, greaseless breading for the Wagyu Croquette ($18 for two). There is no filler inside, just good beef.
For dessert, get the airy Hokkaido cheese cake ($3), four heavenly bites that balance sweet and savoury perfectly.
Chef Hashida's macarons ($3.50 each) are worth ordering too. There's a little surprise in the hojicha and black tea ones: ground black pepper.
The oh-so-fine food and decent prices mean I'll be going back soon.
WHERE: Hashida Garo, 04-16 Mandarin Gallery MRT: Orchard TEL: 6235-2283 OPEN: 10am to 10pm daily