TEA-RRIFIC TEA AT ROJI
At the end of last year, The Straits Times food writers each came up with a foodie wishlist for what they hope to see this year. I wrote about wanting to see more bubble tea shops focusing on serving proper tea.
Japanese tea kiosk Roji at Raffles Place hits the mark. Since it is by the Gryphon Tea Company, I know I can trust the home-grown brand for quality tea blends.
I like the gentle yuzu flavour that perfumes the Koku Yuzu Kukicha (twig tea, $3.50 hot, $4.50 cold) and am very impressed when I see one tea bag used to brew my cold tea and a separate one placed in my cup. Even though I drink the tea about an hour later, when the ice has melted, the flavour of the yuzu and tea remains. Remove the tea bag if you are concerned about over-steeping it.
After a filling meal, drink the hot version of the Melona Manpuku ($3.50 hot, $4.50 cold). The Japanese sencha comes with the lovely aroma of honey musk melon.
For something refreshing, go for the sparkling fruit tea options ($5.80). My pick is the Citron Rosemary with Tsubaki oolong - with citron puree, red grapefruit slices and a rosemary sprig. I get a very slight bitter taste of the grapefruit, along with the full-bodied tea. I have a very full cup though, as there is plenty of ice, and I add golden pearls as well. The chewy pearls are on the harder side, so I can do without them next time.
Other toppings (90 cents each) include aloe vera or winter jelly.
Choose a sugar level - standard, half or minimal. The sweetness comes from rock sugar. I do not like my drinks too sweet, so "minimal" is sufficient.
The menu also has iced latteros ($6.40), which are ice-blended teas; and a special "beauty" fruit tea ($6.80) with marine collagen, plum green tea blended with red dragonfruit.
WHERE: Roji, B1-64 Raffles Xchange, 5 Raffles Place MRT: Raffles Place OPEN: 10.30am to 10pm (weekdays), closed on weekends and public holidays INFO: www.facebook.com/rojichaseki
SOUTH-EAST ASIAN TOUCHES AT LA VENTANA
When modern European restaurant La Ventana opened in June 2015, it was fairly off the radar, even though Catalan chef Carles Gaig was its consulting chef.
Now, with new Spanish head chef Toni Valero in the kitchen, hopefully there will be more buzz. He has worked at Spanish establishments such as the two-Michelin-starred Mugaritz and three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca, and spent time working in Malaysia before coming to Singapore.
So it is interesting to see him incorporate South-east Asian flavours into his food. The appetiser of scallop, cauliflower and pandan puree, miso biscuit and kale ($31, above), for example, has the light flavour of pandan coming through without overpowering the scallop.
I also enjoy the charcoal-grilled secreto Iberico, fermented pineapple jus and grilled pineapple ($42). Instead of the classic apple and pork combination, I like the use of pineapples grilled with herb-infused butter to pair with the pork.
To complete the meal, I have the curry leaf ice cream, with Sichuan pepper strawberries and lemongrass gel ($18). It is an intriguing combination and a dish that grows on me. All the elements have to be eaten together as the individual components may taste odd on their own.
Now let's hope chef Valero continues to push the envelope.
WHERE: La Ventana, 16A Dempsey Road MRT: Orchard OPEN: Noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 11pm daily TEL: 6479-0100 INFO: www.facebook.com/LaVentanaSG
COMFORT CHINESE FOOD
I love finding out about hidden gems and four-month-old The Chinese Kitchen is one of them.
It is hidden among shophouses in Cavan Road and I almost miss it as it doesn't look like a typical Chinese restaurant. It is more like a laid-back cafe.
Veteran chef Austen Ong, who has worked at Grand Hyatt hotel and was the former president of the Society of Chinese Cuisine Chefs (Singapore), puts a modern spin on his dishes.
For example, an appetiser of crispy fish skin ($12) is topped with tangy coriander salsa, and a simple dish of organic okra ($8) is jazzed up with delicious pickled chilli.
Lest you think that this restaurant serves fusion food, think again. The signature item of Red Garoupa in Old Fifty Collagen Broth ($40 or $58, above) - my favourite dish - is a comforting, soulful soup that has been cooked overnight over charcoal. It is called "Old Fifty" as it refers to the cooking style of the 1950s.
Other highlights include the stewed lamb shank, preserved red bean curd, peanuts ($22) and steamed Scottish razor clam with Korean black garlic sauce ($11 a piece, minimum order of two pieces). The lamb shank meat is fork-tender, while the black garlic sauce is quite the umami bomb.
WHERE: The Chinese Kitchen, 20 Cavan Road MRT: Lavender OPEN: Noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), closed on Wednesdays TEL: 6612-6024 INFO: www.facebook.com/thechinesekitchensg
CHINESE NEW YEAR AT FOREST
If you have yet to make plans to dine out for Chinese New Year, consider Forest restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa. Set menus are priced from $68++ to $888++ a person and the a la carte menu is also available.
Toss to a prosperous year ahead with chef Sam Leong's signature salmon yusheng (from $78++, part of selected set menus, above) served with crispy whitebait and a refreshing housemade yuzu honey lime dressing.
The Grand Celebration Set Menu ($188++ a person, minimum two to dine) offers a more luxurious version of the yusheng, with the addition of Boston lobster.
Other highlights include the Japan "Kanto" Sea Cucumber braised with abalone sauce, black moss and house-made tofu; wok-fried king prawn with Marmite sauce; and my favourite Sri Lanka Crab Claw Rice Vermicelli, served with Chinese wine in superior chicken broth. The rich and flavourful stock is a great way to end the meal.
WHERE: Forest, Equarius Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa, 16 Sentosa Gateway MRT: HarbourFront WHEN: Till March 4, noon to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), noon to 3pm (Sundays), 6 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6577-7788 INFO: www.rwsentosa.com/cny2018