Tan Hsueh Yun Food Editor recommends

Food Picks: Haute dosa

Masala Dosa
Masala DosaPHOTO: COMO CUISINE
Lucky Bird's Okie Pokie Bowl (top) and Singapore Chicken Rice (right).
Lucky Bird's Okie Pokie Bowl (top) and Singapore Chicken Rice (right).ST FILE PHOTO
Ruby Hills from Myanmar
Ruby Hills from MyanmarST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN
Flatbread from Imperial Indulgence.
Flatbread from Imperial Indulgence.ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

HAUTE DOSA

So I turn up at Como Cuisine for breakfast one weekday morning and find the place packed to the rafters with the ladies who lunch.

These women, perfectly dressed and coiffed, have breakfast in flocks too.

I had heard the restaurant serves a good thosai for breakfast. It is new on the menu, which was recently retooled to showcase signature offerings from Como's resorts and hotels around the world.

It takes a lot to tear me away from the delicious versions served at MTR and Saravana Bhavan in Little India, but I love thosai and have to try this one.

Choking back massive sticker shock, I order Masala Dosa ($22). It comes from Como's property in Cocoa Island in the Maldives.

It is smashing. The crepe is beautifully thin and crisp, lacy at the edges. The spiced potato filling has lots of oomph, as does the toor dhal curry, with okra and strips of kale. But really, I could give them both up and just have the crepe with lashings of coconut chutney. That chutney, thick, creamy and unabashedly rich, haunts my dreams. One of the wait staff offers more and I greedily say yes, happy to abandon lentils and potatoes.

I decide I could eat this for breakfast every day. And I will. The minute I become a lady who lunches.

WHERE: Como Cuisine, 18A Dempsey Road MRT: Orchard TEL: 1800-304-6688 AVAILABLE: 8am to noon (weekdays) INFO: www.facebook.com/comocuisinesg


THE RIGHT RICE

Punchy chilli sauce - check. Tender, silky and flavourful chicken - check. Aromatic, fluffy rice - check on the aromatic, but the texture is terrible.

Nice try, I think to myself when I first taste Lucky Bird's Singapore Chicken Rice ($7). But the dish is such a simple one that the three main elements - rice, chicken and chilli - need to be perfect. But the rice grains are hard and unyielding. Unpleasantly chewy.

But the people behind this chicken rice kiosk in the newly opened Paya Lebar Quarter go back to the drawing board. Are there second chances to be had in Singapore's cut-throat food scene? Yes, when businesses get it right.

When I have the retooled version, it more than passes muster. Why? They use a different brand of rice. That has made a huge difference.

Now, I find it worthwhile telling you how that chilli sauce, with a lively kick from calamansi lime juice and vinegar, sings; and what a difference age makes to the taste of the chicken. Lucky Bird uses a French breed, grown without antibiotics or hormones. They are allowed to roam free and are alive for 75 days, about double the lifespan of most birds at slaughter. With age comes flavour.

For millennials and the grain bowl set, there is Okie Pokie Bowl ($7.90), chicken rice topped with salad; and Wrap N Roll ($7.90, right), essentially a burrito. I'm not a millennial so I'll stick to rice, chicken and chilli. Dark soya sauce and ginger can come to the party too.

WHERE: Lucky Bird, 01-K4 Paya Lebar Quarter, 10 Paya Lebar Road MRT: Paya Lebar OPEN: 10.30am to 9.30pm daily INFO: www.luckybird.com.sg


COFFEE WITH KICK

It used to be that new coffee places would offer staples such as avocado toast and some rainbow concoction or other. These days, serious coffee places serve java, plus housemade kombucha and single origin teas.

One of these, Glyph at TripleOne Somerset, has become a hangout for me, together with Apartment in Lavender Street, which I wrote about some weeks ago. I love that they take their coffee seriously, but are not obnoxious about it, and are willing to answer my pesky questions. I learn so much on my visits.

However, the first drinks I have there are not coffee. The Kombucha ($8) is made with snow and king chrysanthemum blooms. It has a complex, floral taste, with a hint of bitterness I cannot get enough of. Amazake ($8) is similarly compelling, the sweet, comforting flavour of rice flooding my palate.

Glyph's Mocha ($6.50) is an exercise in restraint. There is no hint of sugar, so the chocolate and coffee reign supreme. The same cannot be said of the Matcha ($6), which lacks intensity.

Since my first visit, I have had a tour of the coffee menu with Glyph's filter coffee. I can recommend the Ruby Hills from Myanmar ($8) with its tropical fruit notes.

While on leave, I spend an afternoon pairing the coffee with salt and I love how it enhances the brew. If the folks there disapprove, they are too polite to say.

The coffee cognoscenti will tell you that filter coffee brings out subtle notes in the beans. But sometimes, I like a kick in the head. The Ruby Hills in a white coffee ($5.50) keeps me buzzing happily.

I find it hard, once I get settled in, to leave the place. As a bonus, there is a small menu of eats. Until recently, the offerings were quirky, complicated and interesting. Now, the offerings are a lot simpler, sweet and savoury fillings for bread and croissants, to cater to office crowds who do not seek complexity at lunch time.

From the pared-down menu, I order a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar, mozzarella and ham ($10.50).

The cheese and ham are of the supermarket variety, but the rustic loaf is sliced to the perfect thickness - well, thinness - and crunches with every bite. That sandwich is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

The drinks and the beautiful light flooding in from plate glass windows are what keep me going back.

WHERE: Glyph Supply Co, 01-06 TripleOne Somerset, 111 Somerset Road MRT: Somerset OPEN: 8.30am to 7pm (weekdays), 10am to 7pm (weekends) INFO: www.facebook.com/glyphsupplyco


EATING HISTORY

There is nothing imperial about Imperial Indulgence, a kiosk at Chinatown Point. I also have a hard time believing that anybody imperial would be clutching Jingzhou Guokui and eating it while walking. But, I have to admit, the flatbreads made to order at this humble kiosk are delicious.

Taking a bite, going by the story behind them, is like eating history. The flatbreads, from Jingzhou Gongan County in China, date back more than 2,000 years. Military strategist Zhuge Liang is said to have come up with the water-based dough as rations for his troops.

The flatbreads are hand-stretched, filled and then baked in a 300 deg C terracotta urn for two minutes. They emerge thin, crisp and delicious. There are four types of filling: Golden Pork, Hae Bee Hiam and Gula Malacca ($4.80 each); and Salted Egg Chicken Floss ($5.80).

You cannot go wrong with minced pork and I like how it adds some heft to the flatbreads. Hae bee hiam, being a finer texture, sort of blends into the dough. If you value crispness, this is the filling to get.

To wash it down, there is Wu Zetian Mountain Dates Milk ($5.30), red date syrup smeared inside the cup, which is then filled with milk. It is not too sweet and the date flavour is not buried by milk. A little lighter, and with the sugar reined in tightly, is Guifei Red Treasures Tea ($4.50), a red and chrysanthemum tea drink with red date syrup, cubes of jelly and wolfberries. Until Nov 25, buy any item from the menu and get a second item at half-price.

WHERE: Imperial Indulgence, B1-51A Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Road MRT: Chinatown OPEN: 10am to 10pm daily INFO: www.imperialindulgence.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2019, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe