COCKLES, PHO FUN
In the row of shophouses along Beach Road opposite The Concourse is a new Vietnamese eatery called Mrs Pho.
Expect the usual Vietnamese staples of spring rolls, both fried and fresh, and chicken and beef pho. It also serves Bun Thit Nuong, or rice vermicelli with pork chop and spring rolls, and Hu Tieu Bo Kho, which is stewed beef noodles.
Highlights here include the stir-fried cockles ($6.50), tossed in garlic, chilli and plenty of lard. The cockles are full, plump and juicy. Dip them, along with a cube of lard, into the fiery chilli paste for a hit of spicy pleasure.
I add condiments such as chilli to my pho depending on my mood, but I decided to be a purist when the bowl of beef pho (from $7.90) arrives.
The broth is light but still flavoursome and is not sweet unlike some other versions. My main gripe is it could be served with more herbs - mint, basil and coriander, please.
The Bun Thit Nuong ($7.90), on the other hand, is disappointing, mostly because it comes with a disproportionate amount of toppings: a tiny piece of pork chop, just one spring roll and not enough pickles and veggies. It could be a case of too much noodles. But flavour-wise, it is pretty decent.
Wash the dishes down with a cold glass of Saigon Salty Lemonade ($2) or a fresh coconut ($3.50).
Where: Mrs Pho, 349 Beach Road, opposite The Concourse MRT: Lavender Open: 11am - 10pm (Mon - Sat), closed on Sun Tel: 6292-0018 Info: www.mrspho.com
HELLO BANDUNG ESPRESSO
A kitschy cafe has taken over the space previously occupied by a 54-year-old provision shop in Dakota Crescent.
The week-old cafe has kept the shop's original name and signboard Tian Kee & Co as well as an old and rusty Milo tin and some stools. Meanwhile, the shop's old wooden panels have been converted into tabletops. It sells coffee, pies, muffins and cakes for now.
One thing on its limited menu that stands out is the Snag ($5.50) - espresso with, er, bandung? I cringe at the thought of rose syrup with coffee at first.
It comes hot or iced. I order an iced version.
An unlikely combination, but with each sip, it strangely grows on me. It's quite sweet and as I try to pinpoint the flavours, which are familiar yet unique when put together, I get a strange sense of euphoria. Maybe it's the high from the caffeine and the rose syrup.
Where: Tian Kee & Co, Block 12 Dakota Crescent, 01-48 MRT: Dakota/Mountbatten Open: Noon - 9pm (Tue - Fri), 10am - 9pm (weekend), closed on Mon Info: E-mail email@example.com
BREAKFAST DATE AT BECASSE
I have a love affair with dates and butterscotch sauce. Sticky date pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts. So, imagine my delight when I notice there are Sticky Date Pancakes ($13 for a stack of three, topped with slices of banana and butterscotch sauce) on the menu at Becasse in Dempsey.
I like that there are chunks of dates in pancakes. But as much as I enjoy the caramel butterscotch, the dish is far too rich to finish on my own. Perhaps there should be less sauce, but I recommend you share this.
The Croque Monsieur ($14), a ham and gruyere brioche toast, is cut into soldiers and reminds me of my childhood.
Opt for the Becasse Big Breakfast ($22), an English breakfast with the works, or Eggs Benedict ($18) if you like your Hollandaise sauce. The dishes are well presented, but the poached eggs I had were inconsistent - one was runny and the other wasn't.
The bakery- restaurant also has a substantial spread of salads, seafood and main courses that include lamb cutlets with fresh mint ($26), slow-cooked pork belly ($25) and steak and fries ($28).
For dessert, there are waffles and crepes ($9 a serving) and a selection of fine French-style cakes and tarts such as the Opera Gateaux ($6.90) and the Salted Caramel And Chocolate Tart ($4.90).
Where: Becasse, Block 10 Dempsey Hill, 01-21 MRT: Holland Village Open: 8am - 11pm daily. The breakfast menu is available from 8am - noon (weekday) & from 8am - 3pm (weekend) Tel: 6479-8119 Info: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
BOND OVER SAKE AND SKEWERS
For a casual meal with friends, I like to go to Shunjuu Izakaya. It is simple and unfussy, a great place to unwind over Japanese beer and sake.
Here, enjoy a range of sumiyaki or grilled items on skewers, from beef short rib to gingko nuts. The cubes of short rib are always tender, while the grilled gingko nuts come slightly charred and nicely salted.
Other things to order include the lamb cutlets, tsukune or chicken meat balls, and other parts of the chicken from the heart to the butt.
Most items are priced between $4 and $8 a serving. There are also various sets ($16 to $27 a set) to choose from.
Where: Shunjuu Izakaya, 30 Robertson Quay, Riverside View, 01-15 MRT: Clarke Quay Open: Noon - 2.30pm daily, 6 - 10.30pm (Sun - Wed), 6 - 11pm (Thu - Sat) Tel: 6887-3577 Info: www.shunjuu.com