NO FRILLS THAI FOOD
Thai pop music plays loudly in the no-frills, no air-conditioning restaurant and if you do not get there early enough, be prepared to queue.
Lots of discerning customers know to head to Nakhon Kitchen for gutsy Thai food at fair prices. The restaurant opened in 2008 in Hougang and has since spawned five other branches; in Bedok, Pasir Panjang, Marine Parade, Holland Village and Ang Mo Kio.
After my meal at the Ang Mo Kio branch, all I want to do is go back.
The first indication that this restaurant should remain firmly on my radar comes when I take a sip of the Thai Iced Tea ($3) and it is not overly sweet. So many versions of cha yen threaten to send customers into diabetic shock, but Nakhon holds back and that is a very good thing.
Thai Prawn Cake ($12 for four) are so very light and greaseless, a good way to start the meal. Clear Tom Yam Soup with seafood is a steal at $6 and the broth is aromatic and very moreish from the Thai lime juice in it. There is a good amount of prawns, fish and squid in the soup, and succulent pieces of straw mushrooms too.
Deep Fried Red Fish With Thai Chilli Sauce ($12) is another well-priced dish, with a kicky topping and expertly fried fish.
A dish of Stir Fried Kang Kong Thai Style ($6) has great wok hei but, alas, the vegetables are overcooked. I am also puzzled by the mussels in Stir Fried Mussels With Sweet Basil Leaves ($12). The fresh molluscs are inexpensive, but I suspect the restaurant uses the cooked, frozen kind, which come on the half shell. They don't taste great cooked twice.
Still, that is but two dud dishes in a meal full of good things. If there is room for dessert, order Sweet Tapioca ($3), a generous portion of the candied tubers topped with cool coconut cream. It has a down home taste that hits the spot.
Where: Nakhon Kitchen, 01-2371, Block 529 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 MRT: Ang Mo Kio Tel: 6451-1332 Open: Noon - 3pm, 5.30 - 10pm, closed on Wed
YUZU IN A BEER
When the weather is hot and dry like it has been the last couple of weeks, I look forward to rain. If that is not forthcoming, a beer will have to do.
So on a scorching Sunday afternoon, I head down to beer tavern JiBiru and order Hitachino Nest Saison du Japon (from $9 for 300ml). The Japanese brewery's White Ale, Weizen and Red Rice Ale are among my favourites, but this latest offering, on tap, is really right up my alley. It is flavoured with yuzu, my favourite citrus fruit.
The saison-style beer, a type of fruity pale ale, perks me up immediately. I only wish there is more yuzu in it. That might well happen, as the brewery is still tinkering with the blend.
To get a taste, go to JiBiru today or from Monday. It is celebrating its fourth anniversary tomorrow and Sunday, so the beer will not be available.
Where: JiBiru, 01-26, 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road MRT: Dhoby Ghaut Tel: 6732-6884 Open: Noon - 11pm (Sun - Thu), Noon - 1 am (Fri & Sat)
WAFFLES WITH SALTED EGG YOLK SAUCE
Waffles on the menu, check. Pretty latte art, check.
What, then, sets Fatcat Ice Cream Bar in Bedok apart from all the cafes popping up like crazy in Singapore?
Well, it serves delightful alcoholic spheres, the sort of thing you might find in a chi chi restaurant. These change regularly and Pina Colada and Lychee Martini are the flavours du jour. My fat and wobbly Watermelon & Soju Sphere ($4.50) is a delight, being cool and refreshing, with a little alcoholic kick. On top of the sphere are osmanthus flowers, amaranth sprouts and lime zest, all of which add flavour and finesse. It is gone too soon.
Customers have been known to get angsty when the jet black charcoal waffles ($6) run out. I must say they make a pretty picture for Instagram, but the charcoal does not impart a special flavour to them. What Fatcat's version has going for it is salted caramel with a sprinkling of lavender flowers and an addictive salted egg yolk sauce. Add a couple scoops of ice cream. I like Hay & Honey ($4.50 a scoop) and Espresso ($3.90 a scoop).
If the black waffles run out, just get an Original ($4) one. Although I spend the same amount of time taking photos of the waffles, the plain one stays crisp longer.
Where: Fatcat Ice Cream Bar, 01-25, Block 416 Bedok North Avenue 2, MRT: Bedok Tel: 6241-0830 Open: Noon - 10pm (Sun to Thu), noon - 11pm (Fri & Sat), closed on Tues Info: www.facebook.com/fatcatsg
MR GRUFF'S PRAWN MEE
The stallholder is a stroppy so and so, chiding me for being imprecise with my order. Prawn mee, I say, because the stall also sells lor mee. I then follow up by asking for bee hoon or rice noodles.
"So do you want prawn mee or prawn beehoon?" comes the rejoinder.
I am peeved by the rudeness until I have a taste.
The prawn noodles ($4 and $5) are good enough that I would go back. Although the soup is more sugary than I would like, it is also robust and very satisfying. The scoop of chilli sambal deepens the flavour without adding much heat.
A generous helping of pork slices, three prawns and a heap of aromatic fried shallots come with the $5 bowl.
Although the queue is long, it clears quickly mainly because Mr Gruff moves like lightning. Customers are expected to order at warp speed too.
Where: Penang Delights, 01-08, Block 711 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8, S11 Food Court MRT: Ang Mo Kio Open: 11am - 10pm, or until the stall sells out. There are no set rest days, but the stall is closed once a month. The next closure is on Thu.