Food Picks: Henri Charpentier desserts and The Ship reopens at Shaw Centre

The Crepe Suzette from Henri Charpentier is a must-try. -- PHOTO: HENRI CHARPENTIER
The Crepe Suzette from Henri Charpentier is a must-try. -- PHOTO: HENRI CHARPENTIER

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A friend I meet at Henri Charpentier tells me, frustration in her voice: "If I want to eat cake, I want a proper cake." She finds the confections at the newly opened dessert salon too dainty and delicate for her taste, but for those who like a Japanese sensibility when it comes to dessert, this is the place to be. Of course, I have friends who wonder if the desserts will live up to the hype but go without expectations and you might be surprised, as I am.

The Crepe Suzette ($22) is a must-try. After all, the place is named after the French chef who popularised it, although whether or not he invented the dessert is disputed. It is flamed tableside and the nutty flavour of the sweet butter, which permeates the crepes, is delightful.

What I appreciate most is that there is no sugar overload here. The bakers rein it in and let the natural sweetness of fruit shine. This is very much apparent in Strawberry Shortcake ($9.50) with light, almond sponge cake layers filled with cream and the berries. Eating it is pretty much what I imagine inhaling clouds to be like.

On the menu are some desserts created for Singapore and Flower Temptation ($25) is one of them. Cubes of sweet pineapple accompany two types of chocolate mousse, white and dark. Sitting atop this dessert is a bowl made out of sugar. Into it goes some Grand Marnier orange liqueur and the whole thing is set alight. It is another good dessert; hot and frosty, sweet and bittersweet.

The luxe interior is at odds with the plastic sheeting that covers part of the dining room. Although a seat at one of the tables along this wall offers a view of lush greenery, it can get awfully hot in the afternoon. Sink into the fuchsia couch near the kitchen instead or, when booking, ask for one of the pavilions in the middle of the dining room, and people-watch through gauzy drapes.

I contemplate the small selection of savoury food and then order another dessert instead. Life is short, always cut to the chase.

Where: Henri Charpentier, 9A Dempsey Road MRT: Orchard Open: 11am - 10pm daily Tel: 6479-5518

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You have to love a place which butters its toasted bagels and then smears cream cheese on top of that. After a quick lunch at Two Men Bagel House in Enggor Street, I am hungry for more. The bagels here, made in-house, are pleasantly chewy and perfectly toasted. There is no tugging at the sandwich after a bite, always a good thing.

I pick the classic Lox ($11.90, left), topped with smoked salmon, capers, dill, coriander leaves and pickled onions and beets, shaved thin. The rich elements - butter, cream cheese and smoked salmon - are balanced perfectly with the fresh herbs and pickles. That and a great bagel, who could ask for anything more? Well, I would order the Cucumber Juice ($3.90), the coolest, most refreshing ice-blended drink I have had in some time.

Where: Two Men Bagel House, 01-12 Icon Village Altez, 16 Enggor Street MRT: Tanjong Pagar Open: 8am - 8pm (weekday), 8am - 6pm (weekend) Tel: 6509-4125

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It says something that on the day The Ship Restaurant & Bar reopens at Shaw Centre, about a year after it closed for renovations to the building, it is packed. The dark, wood panelled interiors of the old restaurant are gone and in its place, much welcome natural light. However, the menu harks back to a simpler time in Singapore dining, when family-style restaurants such as The Ship introduced a generation to steaks, escargots, baked oysters and other Western food.

I am there, however, for the Special Sliced Fish Noodles ($12.90 as part of a set lunch with a drink and the dessert of the day, right). It is still excellent, though, I remember the snakehead fillet used to come in chunks, rather than the thickish slices the restaurant now serves.

They are served separately from the rice noodles and soup so they stay crisp. I cannot think of anything more comforting than dunking the fish into soya sauce and sliced chilli padi, and then slurping up the thick rice noodles in the cloudy, gingery broth.

Other dishes hold up well too. Oysters Mornay ($21.90 for six) come with a blanket of thick cheese sauce, crusty on top. The spinach under the oysters are fresh and this nostalgic dish is delightful. The bread rolls are made in-house and the famous chicken rice, which I cannot wait to taste again, is served on Thursdays like before. Welcome back to shore. You have been missed.

Where: The Ship Restaurant & Bar, 03-16/18 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road MRT: Orchard Open: 11am - 10pm daily Tel: 6235-2235

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When the cubicle serfs go out to lunch at One Raffles Place, I imagine they are blinded by the myriad offerings there. Curry puffs, savoury and sweet tarts, steaming bowls of pho and salads are just some of the mind-boggling choices.

I pick Smor, which means butter in Danish and Norwegian. This little cafe serves smorrebrod, or open-faced sandwiches with bread made in-house. Sandwiches cost $6.90 each, $12.90 for two and $17.90 for three. There are hot and cold choices and I pick one each.

The Hand-Peeled Norwegian Shrimps (below) on rye are tossed in mayonnaise thinned out with a bit of lemon juice so that it is not too rich. The tiny shrimps are sweet and firm and the pungent bite of chives give the sandwich some personality.

On the day I go, there is a new hot sandwich with kale and mushrooms and this is what I will go back for. Atop the lightly cooked greens are juicy chunks of mushrooms with melted Edam cheese. A surprising hit of heat, from chilli-infused olive oil, is a very good surprise.

Where: Smor, One Raffles Place, 1 Raffles Place, B1-23 MRT: Raffles Place Open: 8am - 8pm (weekday), 9am - 4pm (Sat), closed on Sun Tel: 9430-1500 Info: E-mail

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