Tucked away in the lobby of a boutique hotel in Jalan Klapa, near Jalan Sultan, is an unpretentious gem of a Peranakan restaurant called Peranakan Flavours.
The kitchen is headed by chef Benny Teo, 56, a Baba who used to be a chef at Li Bai Cantonese restaurant at Sheraton Towers.
I may not be of Peranakan heritage, but I do love a good bakwan kepiting - a comforting soup with meatballs usually made with minced pork, prawns, bamboo shoots and crab meat. Every family does it differently but such is the beauty of the cuisine and the dish.
When the soup arrived, I admit I barely recognised it. I stared at the soup and wondered if it were perhaps tom yum instead because of its reddish hue.
The colour comes from the prawn and flower crab shells that have been ground into the soup, adding an intense and robust umami flavour.
The meatball itself is about the size of my fist and contains chunks of prawns and crab meat. Instead of minced pork, chef Teo uses hand shredded pork and some tofu to make the juicy meatball.
Of all the iterations of bakwan kepiting, chef Teo's is one of the best I have tasted yet. A bowl of bakwan kepiting here is priced at $10.
Where: Peranakan Flavours Restaurants, The Ardennes Hotel, Lobby Level, 11 Jalan Klapa MRT: Bugis or Lavender Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 9pm, closed on Tuesdays Tel: 6789-1001
HEARTY BURGERS AND LOBSTER ROLLS
For a juicy beef burger, I recommend The Market Grill. There are six options here ($20 to $33 each), of which four include beef patties. I love the Bleu Cheese and BBQ ones, but for non-beef eaters, there is also a cod burger and a chicken burger. The sesame bun, which is fresh and airy, manages to hold the burger together and does not disintegrate when it absorbs the juices from the patty.
Where: The Market Grill, 208 Telok Ayer Street MRT: Telok Ayer or Tanjong Pagar Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10pm (Mon to Sat), closed on Sun Tel: 6221-3323 Info: E-mail email@example.com. The restaurant does not take reservations
My colleagues and I have discovered a pretty decent and value-for-money omakase meal in Orchard Road. At five-month-old Hana, a Japanese restaurant at Forum The Shopping Mall, its omakase or ''leave it to the chef'' menu is priced at just $30 a head. So, what's the catch, you ask? It is available for only dinner, and only on Monday nights. And don't expect to be wowed by fancy dishes such as uni with a dust of citrus zest, or anything of that sort. What you get are eight courses including nimono, a simmered dish; agemono, a fried dish, and a serving of assorted sushi.
For our dinner two weeks ago, dishes include salmon teriyaki, vegetable tempura, assorted sashimi and sushi, among other smaller items - which are considered a steal given that the meal costs $30 a person.
If you opt for the usual omakase price of $120 or $150 a person, you might be treated to some high-end offerings. That, however, is at the chef's discretion.
Where: Hana Restaurant, Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, 01-17 MRT: Orchard Open: 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 10pm daily Tel: 6737-5525 Info: Go to www.facebook.com/HANARest
TOPPINGS HIT THE RIGHT SPOT
Peperoni Pizzeria introduced five new flavours - one flavour at each of its five outlets - at the start of this month. The promotion ends on Nov 30.
At its Greenwood Avenue outlet in Hillcrest Park, tuck into a Pesto Scallop pizza with roasted tomatoes. Over at Binjai Park, it is offering a sweet Bacon Honey pizza with smoky bacon, gouda and fresh oregano. Both outlets are located in the Bukit Timah area. Its other outlets are serving a Salmon And Dill Mascarpone pizza with arugula (Suntec City); Rendang pizza with fresh coriander (Frankel Avenue); and Parma Ham And Foie Gras (Zion Road). Pizzas are priced at $24 each.Parma Ham And Foie Gras pizza tantalises my tastebuds.
I like that the Parma Ham And Foie Gras pizza comes with a generous amount of toppings, including slices of caramelised Spanish onion, slivers of foie gras, mushrooms, spinach leaves, Parma ham that has been charred to a crisp, shavings of fresh parmesan and a bulls-eye egg in the centre.
Taste-wise? Ah, it hits all the rights spots.
Where: Peperoni Pizzeria - five outlets, 6 Greenwood Avenue, tel: 6465-6556; 7 Binjai Park, tel: 6463-7800; 95 Frankel Avenue, tel: 6445-5661; 56 Zion Road, tel: 6732-3253; B1-130 Suntec City, 3 Temasek Boulevard, tel: 6884-7737 Open: All are open for lunch and dinner daily. The Suntec City and Frankel Avenue outlets are open all-day daily, while the other outlets open all-day only from Friday to Sunday Info: Go to peperoni.com.sg