BANG ON BURGER
There are places here where you can pay ridiculous prices for a burger and it will still not be satisfying. Among the grave sins are buns that stick to the roof of the mouth and dry patties.
So I have great hopes for Wildfire Kitchen + Bar in Evans Road. Its burgers are priced well, from $16 to $26.
The basic burger, the Classic 001 ($16), with a beef patty, butterhead lettuce, tomatoes, beer caramelised onions and cheddar, is well constructed and juicy.
The bun is not at all squishy and has a burnished brown top that reminds me of the burger buns at Blacows in Tokyo.
I am very happy with that burger, but people with bigger appetites might want to go for The Works ($23), a substantial burger with baby spinach, bacon weave, rosti potatoes, parmesan crisp, onion ring, fried egg, sliced tomatoes, beer-caramelised onions and guacamole. That is a lot of burger for the price and all of it is good.
There is also a menu of steaks, featuring lesser-known cuts.
Try the Hanger Steak ($36 for 250g), cooked, like the burger patties, in the British-made Inka oven that is fired with binchotan charcoal. It has a good char, a good chew and a robust flavour that puts more tender and crowd-pleasing cuts such as tenderloin to shame.
The burgers come with fries, but it might not be a bad idea to order the Umami Fries ($6), sprinkled with a "secret umami dust" that has ingredients such as anchovies, bonito flakes and kombu in it.
On the day I go, the Lamb Rack ($30 for 250g) is overcooked, but I am deeply in love with the Miso Butter Sauce that comes with it. I would like to slather that over everything.
Where: Wildfire Kitchen + Bar, 26 Evans Road MRT: Botanic Gardens Tel: 6734-2080 Open: 11am - 11pm daily, 9am - 11pm daily from March 1
A FOR AVOCADO COFFEE
Tucked away in King George's Avenue is a whimsical place called Aeiou Cafe. Animals made out of oil drums, mismatched chairs and tables, car tyres turned into mirrors and a vertical garden - they all lend the place loads of charm.
The food isn't bad too and there are options for vegetarians. Try the Pum King & Queen Of Grains ($14.90), with roasted wedges of pumpkin and a quinoa salad with chickpeas, sliced almonds and raisins. Sticks For Comfort ($7.90) is also good, with batons of potato, sweet potato and yam deep-fried and served with dips - a sweet chilli sauce one and a creamy, tangy one.
This Salad Is No Quack ($18.90) is perfect for a light lunch in cool weather, featuring duck confit with properly crisp skin. The chunks of orange in the accompanying salad is a natural pairing with duck and that hit of citrus offsets the rich confit.
But the best thing is the Avocado Coffee ($8) and I would go back just for this. A thick avocado ice blended in a glass repurposed from a vodka bottle is served with two shots of espresso. Mix the coffee with the avocado and the drink is delicious - creamy, but with a definite caffeine kick.
Where: Aeiou Cafe, 111 King George's Avenue MRT: Lavender Tel: 6291-2698 Open: 10am - 10pm (Tue - Sun, closed on Mon) Info: www.facebook.com/aeioulife
SIMPLE JAPANESE FARE
For a quiet place to chill out at lunch time, head to Cafe Aoyama Collaborative in Chun Tin Road. The stylish place has a Japanese menu of simple dishes done well.
The Wagyu Steak Don ($45) is a case in point. There is no going wrong with marbled beef slices, lightly charred at the edges, over warm rice and with a bowl of miso soup alongside. A bowl of Renkon Chips ($5), crisp circles of lotus root, is good to munch on while you wait for the main course.
Skip the crepes, however. They are elaborately decorated with cream and sauces just like the ones in Japan, but have a rubbery texture.
Where: Cafe Aoyama Collaborative, 16 Chun Tin Road MRT: Clementi Tel: 6314-5688 Open: 11am - 11pm (Tue - Sun, closed on Mon)
CURRY PUFFS MADE WITH CARE
There is something very satisfying about biting into a well-made curry puff.
It is not difficult to get it right - the pastry must be crisp, the filling properly spicy with a good mix of potatoes, chicken and hard boiled egg.
AMK Curry Puff, which is located in Toa Payoh Central, offers excellent puffs at $1.40 each. The deep-fried puffs tick every box and are not greasy either.
Best of all, if you go in the afternoons, you will see a group of aunties wrapping the puffs by hand, crimping them closed and a stack of pastry rounds by their sides. Some things are still made with care.
Where: AMK Curry Puff, Block 184 Toa Payoh Central, Super 28 coffee shop MRT: Toa Payoh Open: 9.15am - 8pm (Mon - Fri), 10am - 8pm (Sat & Sun)