Locally Good!

Locally Good!

Singapore's local good food!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Wasn’t intending to dine at The Kongsee on the day that we made our way down even though we were planning to make a visit for it soon; found ourselves winding up here only because we were stuck with a situation where the spot that we wanted to visit initially for brunch had pretty much sold out on its food offerings, and we decided to make our way here for lunch instead. Located along Gemmill Lane, The Kongsee is described to be a mod-Sin Izakaya establishment; the chef partner for The Kongsee being no other than Chef Willin Low who is behind established names such as the now-defunct Wild Rocket (our meals there are still pretty much stuck in our memory), Relish by Wild Rocket and Rocketto Izakaya. The Kongsee is Hokkien for “company” — refers to Chinese businesses and clans back in the early days, whilst “Kongsi” in Malay, which shares a similar pronunciation means “to share” where The Kongsee defines it as sharing with “good intentions to connect or bond with one another”. The entire establishment is decked in a swanky setting with a nostalgic touch — the darkly-lit environment provided a sort of underground vibe; one that is very befitting of it being a bar, while there are subtle touches such as the old sewing machine tables and tabletops with Peranakan tiles that provides that old-school look that gels well with the mod-Sin theme that the space intends to go into. Having opened since June 2022, The Kongsee had only recently launched a new lunch menu; while they do seem to focus on small and large sharing plates during dinner service, the lunch menu sees a smaller menu consisting of more substantially-sized dishes that is good to share between two small eaters, or sized well enough to feed a hungry individual. Being a mod-Sin Izakaya, the drinks available at The Kongsee largely consists of alcoholic options ranging from craft beers on tap, to beers, cocktails, spirits, wines and sake. The only non-alcoholic drink on the menu at The Kongsee would be the Lyre’s — a mocktail that is listed in the “cocktail” section of the menu.

Skimmed through the lunch menu and thought the Itek Tim was something that kinda stood out to us amongst the other items that are listed on the menu. True to Chef Willin Low’a fashion, this isn’t just your typical Itek Tim; described on the menu as “Crispy duck leg served in a slow-cooked broth of mustard greens, assam & silken tofu”, this is their mod-Sin twist to the Peranakan classic which some of us conveniently refer to as “preserved vegetable duck soup”. Rather than serving the duck leg boiled within the soup, the duck leg comes fried here — would probably say that it comes close to that of Bebek Goreng (i.e. Indonesian Crispy Duck) which we have also been craving for a while. Really liked how the golden brown exterior is so crisp and savoury; the flesh within is just a teensy bit on the drier side though was nothing too much of a bother to us; the sprinkling of pepper over the top provides a lightly spicy note that antes up the saltish notes of the fried duck as well. The mustard greens provided a slight crunch, as well as a tang that went well with the soup itself for that savoury-sourish combination of flavours; the coriander added being pretty uplifting to cut through all of that which is going on here. The tofu pretty much delivered on what the menu promises it to be — smooth and silken; disintegrates in the mouth without much effort, while the slices of tomatoes have an extra meaty bite; a burst of refreshing tang that really gives an extra contrast to the flavours of the soup. We heeded the wait staff’s tip to have the Itek Tim alongside a bowl of white rice since she was concerned that we might find that having the Itek Tim alone could be a little bit on the salty side of things; no regrets here as the bowl of rice was exactly what we needed to mop up that entire bowl of soup clean.

Having tried just a very small variety of items which The Kongsee has to offer for its lunch menu, we did find their lunch menu to differ quite a bit from their dinner offerings — whilst the dinner items served here are more poised towards dishes that would go especially well with their alcoholic beverages, the lunch items are more about being hearty and wholesome with more emphasis on local elements; that familiar hint of nostalgia with that slight mod-Sin twist that is typical of Chef Willin Low. True to their vision, The Kongsee does give a playful and inventive touch to local cuisine for that modern spin — offering their own take of classic local dishes on the menu that sets the table talking as they gather together for good company. We are most certainly impressed with what The Kongsee has to offer — have heard some good reviews on their KFC (Kongsee Fried Chicken) from the dinner menu, while the wait staff who attended to our table mostly during our meal also recommended the Iberico Pork Nasi Ulam which she has mentioned was her favourite dish; probably two items which we would most certainly be ordering if we ever make our revisit to The Kongsee again!

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One thing we came to realise ever since leaving this neighbourhood as the work ‘hood for Marina Bay was how great the food options are at Rochor / Bencoolen / Bugis / Bras Basah. The Central Business District has aplenty of options when it comes to food, but we have yet to find an option that is a comfort food to go for; the former work ‘hood has a decent selection of wallet-friendly fare within walking distance, and there is always something to look forward to whichever building we wind up at. Decided to venture a little further during lunch one day back into the former work ‘hood since the cravings for Butter Chicken with Rice were hitting really hard — just had to make it back to Three Meals a Day 一日三餐 at level two of Sim Lim Square to get it fixed.

Everyone seems to be all over their Salted Egg Chicken with Rice but we are one of the few who would go for their Butter Chicken with Rice over their Salted Egg Chicken with Rice — not that the Salted Egg Chicken with Rice isn’t good, but their Butter Chicken with Rice is the one that really hits the spot for us. The standard plate of the Butter Chicken with Rice comes with keropok (i.e. prawn crackers), buttermilk chicken and rice; the sunny-side-up is an extra that is priced at $0.60. Being one who is into sweet-savoury flavour combinations, what we really love here is how that Butter Chicken is being executed over here — the chicken chunks come piping hot, crisp and drenched in that rich and creamy buttermilk sauce; think of a subdued version of salted egg sauce without the salted egg bits and with a slight note of sweetness (condensed milk maybe?) for a contrast of flavours. Stir-fried with curry leaves and chili padi, the former provides a light crispness to the dish, while the latter provides that slight kick of spiciness that tingles the tastebuds slightly. The sunny-side-up is also well-executed here; the egg yolk has always been consistently runny during our visits previously, and is still so now. Still pretty much the same dish that I have loved despite not having it for a couple of months since moving on to a different work ‘hood.

One thing for sure about how the good the food here is would be the weekday lunch time crowd it attracts from offices within the vicinity. The eatery is consistently packed on weekdays during lunch hours — it is not too easy to get a seat if one were to make their visit during the lunch peak hours of 12 noon to 1pm, with the crowds being there at the earlier end of the time range. That being said, this is pretty much a testament to their food even though they seem to be pretty much the new kids on the block having taken over the former premises of The Rice Bowl Gold that used to occupy the same space. Would most certainly find myself back again here for lunch — there really isn’t many places we are able to hit for buttermilk chicken cravings within the Central Business District; also probably want to try their Plum Sauce Chicken with Rice some time soon, though moving away from the Butter Chicken with Rice would probably be a challenge for me on any given day that we are here …

Triple13 Asian Bistro has become quite a haunt for us when it comes to lunching on a weekday near the office — whilst we do usually have a preference of hitting up Amoy Street Food Centre and Lau Pa Sat, Shenton House proves to be much of a good location when it comes to bad weather where we wouldn’t need to go too far away (the lack of affordable dining options in the office building we are at still makes us do some legwork). Whilst most would probably find themselves winding up at either Shenton Food Hall on the first level of Shenton House or Tofu Lane on the second level, one of the lesser known eateries would be Triple13 Asian Bistro — a really simple quick service eatery which has opened its doors in May 2022 that serves up Hong Kong-style roast meats that operates only during lunch service on weekdays between 11am to 3pm.

Having tried their other items before, we went for the Honey Char Siew & Roasted Pork Curry Chee Cheong Fun during one of our most recent visits here; apart from Chee Cheong Fun, other choices of noodles include vermicelli and yellow noodles as well. Served in a way similar to the Malaysian style of curry Chee Cheong Fun dishes, the Honey Char Siew & Roasted Pork Curry Chee Cheong Fun comes with other elements included long beans, taupok, and pig skin. First spoonful of the curry gravy and we noticed how the curry gravy is pretty heavy on the coconut milk — sort of a creamy curry with a hint of curry spices; those who wish for a punchier note of spiciness can help themselves to the sambal chili on the side. Between the two types of meat that we have opted for, the clear winner would be the Honey Char Siew. The Honey Char Siew being a good balance of fatty parts and lean meat — all that with a slightly crusted, sweet caramalised glaze that glistens on the outside; what one would expect from Char Siew that is done in the Malaysian-style. The Roasted Pork was decent as well, though somewhat less memorable than the Honey Char Siew; a cut that is on the leaner side, the skin on the exterior is relatively crispy whilst the roasted pork is savoury enough in terms of flavour. Long beans provide a good crunch, while the taupok absorbed all of that rich curry gravy that oozes as one chews on it; the pig skin being quite almost the same but with a more gelatinous bite.

Being an eatery that targets the lunch crowd of the Central Business District, Triple13 Asian Bistro, they seem to have gained quite a healthy following ever since their opening — there is a healthy stream of office folks dining here; prices of the food here are also especially reasonable considering the quality and execution of the dishes with the most expensive individually-portioned item being the Roasted Duck Drumstick Rice / Noodle priced at $7.00. Whilst being hidden at level two at Shenton House makes it an establishment that is a little hard to find, Triple13 Asian Bistro does seem to be a gem for the office folks looking for an affordable spot to dine at for lunch.

Chanced upon the Facebook page of Lao Di Fang 老地方 one day whilst scrolling through social media — while they are fairly new set-up at High Park Residences which is located a stone’s throw away from Thanggam LRT Station on the Sengkang LRT (West Loop), Lao Di Fang is actually an establishment by the same folks behind the now-defunct Tong Shun 東順 that was previously located at Jalan Kayu; an establishment which was pretty impressed with their roast meats and the Salt & Pepper Tofu when we made our trip there back then. Moving away from communal plates and zichar offerings that made up the menu of Tong Shun previously, Lao Di Fang’s focus seems to be more towards noodle and rice offerings that cater to a single diner — think individually-sized items such as the Curry Ngoh Huang Koka Noodle, San Lou Hor Fun, Salted Egg Pork Rice, Luncheon Meat Fried Rice etc.; just to name a few. Other offerings include porridge, such as the Trio Egg Porridge, Prawn Porridge, Sliced Beef Porridge etc. — some sharing plates listed on the menu are the Salt & Pepper Chicken Cutlet, Black Pepper Beef and Stir-fried Kailan. Beverages available at Lao Di Fang includes Ipoh Iced Coffee, hot green tea, hot Chinese tea and canned drinks.

We recalled how we loved the Char Siew during our visit to Tong Shun previously — that is how we found ourselves going for the Char Siew Koka Noodle at Lao Di Fang this time round despite contemplating to go for other items including the Salted Egg Pork Rice and the Curry Ngoh Hiang Koka Noodle initially. The Char Siew Koka Noodle is a fairly simple affair here — sliced Char Siew served atop a bed of Koka Noodle that has been tossed in a dark sauce whilst accompanied with blanched greens and fried shallots. Whilst we did recall that the Char Siew served at Tong Shun is of the Malaysian-style sort being all fatty and glistening from the glaze, the cut of the Char Siew used for the same found in the Char Siew Koka Noodle at Lao Di Fang is not quite as fatty; does give some bite though the glaze is still quite as thick, dense and sweet as what we had expected. Giving the noodles a good toss, we liked how the dark sauce provided a good sweet-savoury note; all that while the noodles were springy with a nice chew — we initially thought that it was to come with instant noodles (since it mentioned Koka) — turns out that the noodles served were almost akin to a less broad, but slightly thicker version of Mee Pok; one that we found to be really delicious. The balanced greens provided a refreshing crunch where all the meat and noodles get a little overbearing; liked how there wasn’t any undesirable bitter aftertaste, while the fried shallots provided a crispness for a bit of variance of texture. A simple eat that we found to be pretty enjoyable overall.

Thought Lao Di Fang is quite a great destination for those within the immediate vicinity — the lack of dining options around Thanggam LRT Station does make Lao Di Fang an especially attractive option for those staying within neighbourhood to settle their meals at. Prices of the food here are kept pretty affordable — individual portions of rice and noodles are priced below $9; not exactly the cheapest but still rather reasonable considering how they are located within the premises of a condominium. The quality of food here also makes them a pretty value-for-money option; a spot that one can also head to so as to satisfy some cravings for delicious Malaysian fare. Glad that Lao Di Fang still managed to stay rather consistent in their quality from their days of being Tong Shun previously; somewhere which we would not mind dining at if within the Sengkang neighbourhood!

Heard about this new noodle place that had recently opened its doors within The Clementi Mall named Newddles — a pretty apt name considering how they have called themselves “The Next Noodle House”. Taking over the former premises of Eng’s Heritage within the mall, the remnants of the decor from the previous tenant remains rather stark; the designs of the counter and walls are pretty reminiscent of the look that Eng’s Heritage had created when they first took over the space — just painted with a different colour scheme. The menu at Newddles comprises of individually portioned noodles that feature some sort of Char Siew; think items such as the Char-Newddle with Charcoal Pork Jowl Char Siew and the Char-Newddle Cha Bu Duo Mian, whilst the section dedicated to side dishes include items such as the Flying Fish Roe Shrimp Wanton Soup, Golden Crispy Handmade Tofu and the Oyster Sauce Hong Kong Kailan. Beverage options generally revolve around rather interesting home-brewed tea options such as the Apple Green Tea and the Snow Pear Pu Er Tea, as well as HongKong Milk Tea and canned drinks.

It was pretty much a no-brainer for us to settle for the Signature Char-Newddle (Dry) — essentially the full works here that feature elements such as their custom egg noodles soaked in a secret mix of sauces with Charcoal Pork Belly Char Siew and Charcoal Pork Jowl Char Siew. For those who are looking to try a soup rendition of the same dish, one may opt for the Signature Char-Newddle (Soup) as well. Giving the noodles a good toss around the sauce, the sauce (along with the bits of minced pork) does provide the noodles with a savoury note; one thing to note about their noodles is how their noodles do seem to carry quite a firm bite in general — they are also a little bit thicker than the usual egg noodles that we are familiar with that typically comes with Wanton Mee. Moving on to the two different cuts of Char Siew that came with the bowl, we found this to be a rather interesting move — the two different cuts of Char Siew seem to provide an alternating contrast of Char Siew that is fatty and gelatinous against the same that has a more balanced ratio of fattiness to leaner parts; both being somewhat on the sweeter side having seemingly been done closer to the Malaysian-style roast somewhat. Whilst the inclusion of one Flying Fish Roe Shrimp Wanton was a good addition, we only wished that the texture of the wanton could be a little bit more delicate here — no doubt well-filled with a good bite, though it does feel a little stiffer than what we would liked it to be. Was pretty glad how they did not miss out on the Lava Egg here — seemingly a must-have in every new-gen noodle stall for that slight fusion touch; the eggs here are well-marinated in soy sauce, and does come with a molten yolk that is especially flavourful. Another interesting touch here would be the crispy wanton skin tangy they have included with the dish; liked how the wanton skin still maintained its crispness without being limp or soaking with oil — a great addition to introduce yet another dimension of texture to the bowl of noodles.

While some may lament how the Signature Char-Newddle (also essentially the full works) is not quite as affordable to be considered as a daily eat given how it is being priced at $12.90 and $13.90 for the dry and soup variants respectively, we do note that there are more affordable options at Newddles priced below $10 such as the Char-Newddle Cha Bu Duo Mian (i.e. the lean char siew variant) at $7.80 and the Char-Newddle Charcoal Pork Belly Char Siew at $9.80. That being said, we do notice an uprising of F&B establishments that seem to revolve around Char Siew and Roast Pork in general — a more commercial name at the point of writing is Tun Xiang 豚香, whilst a more indie establishment which we visited would be ten tenths at Havelock II. Would say that Newddles does certainly add as a great dining choice in the area given their quality, though the lack of variety of meat apart from Char Siew in their noodles would mean that they are leaving some out — a spot we would not mind dining again at if within Clementi as long as they keep to the standards they have set during our visit.

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Have heard about Box饭 a while ago; being one of the eateries being situated at The Brooks I (the same building also houses Friends HK Cafe, Nicher etc.) just a short walk away from Springleaf MRT Station, the establishment is being run by chefs formerly from reputable establishments such as Raffles Hotel, and the now-defunct The Black Swan and The White Rabbit. Whilst the establishment may be more known for its rice bowl offerings considering the posts going around social media, Box饭 serves up more than just that — apart from their Build-Your-Own-Bowl options that also feature Garlic Fried Rice, Aglio Olio, Koka Noodles etc. apart from Pearl Rice as a choice of base, the menu also feature a light bites menu offering items that can be shared across the table; the Special Menu also sees items such as a Simply Mac & Cheese being listed as well. Beverage options are aplenty here — they do have a dedicated coffee menu, as well as a section featuring Tea Lattes; Boba Tea with Pearls, Fruit Tea, Smoothie and Fizzy Drinks (i.e. flavoured soda) and Hot Tea are also available as part of the non-alcoholic beverage menu here, while alcoholic options include Soju and beer.

We visited Box饭 after a workout and were pretty lazy to think about building our own bowl — found ourselves settling for the Har Cheong Gai Fried Rice from their Special Menu instead. The Har Cheong Gai Fried Rice is essentially just a combination of their Egg Fried Rice and Prawn Paste Chicken Chunks served in the same bowl — the former being an item that one can opt for in their Build Your Own Bowl menu though the latter is not featured in the same. Thought that they were really generous with the serving of the Egg Fried Rice here — definitely a little too much for us to finish individually if we were to be dining alone, though we really liked how the Egg Fried Rice was done here; coming with bits of egg that can be seen speckled throughout the fried rice, the fried rice was fragrant from all that egginess and was sufficiently savoury without being overly so. Using pearl rice, each grain is distinguishable from the other without being overly greasy as well — truly delightful that we finished more than what we had expected ourselves to consume given the portion size. The chunks of prawn paste chicken comes boneless here — a thoughtful touch for the convenience of the diners; liked how the chicken was tender and juicy inside, while the golden brown batter was light and crisp. The marination of the prawn paste was also on-point; each chunk carrying an umami note that is undeniably delicious.

Truth to be told, we were initially sceptical about Box饭 and its food — just not a fan of their flashy neon lighting and bright pink that just seemed a little overboard and “girly” in our opinion. That being said, we were glad that their food was able to change that impression — they were certainly able to deliver on their mission statement on provide restaurant quality food at a reasonable price. We were most impressed with the quality of their fried rice here, which even seemingly puts some of the hawker equivalents to shame. No doubt its location at The Brooks I is a bit of a challenge, but Box饭 is certainly a spot worthy of a visit for those within its vicinity even along the Thomson-East Coast Line for some well-executed Egg Fried Rice in an air-conditioned environment.

Was actually intending to dine at Hawkers’ Street @ ION but found ourselves looking for an alternative because it was just too difficult to find an empty seat there (also didn’t really feel like queueing given we were pretty hungry). Found the new Sally’s that is located just right beside Hawkers’ Street — being a new concept by the folks behind the Neo Group (which includes iconic brands such as Neo Garden Catering), Sally’s is described as a Singaporean diner that serves both local and western delights. The menu is segregated into several sections here — this includes sections dedicated to Traditional Toast & Eggs, Local Western, All-Day Breakfast, Sharing Snacks, Asian Delights, All-Day Sides and Pasta. Beverages available on the menu at Sally’s include local Nanyang-style Kopi and Tea, as well as gourmet coffee (i.e. “westernised” variations of coffee), as well as other beverages that includes Milo, Homemade Barley, Calamansi with Sour Plum etc.

We initially wanted to go for the Sally’s Curry Chicken but found ourselves going for the Sally’s Curry Chicken Chop since the French Bread option for the Sally’s Curry Chicken was unavailable. Being an item off the “Local Western” section of the menu here, this can be easily said as a fusion dish that sees the combination of a typical chicken chop served at coffeeshop stalls serving western cuisine — all that whilst being drizzled with the same curry from their Sally’s Curry Chicken. The dish also comes accompanied with curry potatoes, as well as mesclun salad that is drizzled with mustard sauce and coleslaw. Overall, a pretty decent eat though slightly pricey — this is considering how the Sally’s Curry Chicken costs $9.90 be it coming with White Rice or French Bread, while the Sally’s Curry Chicken Chop is priced at $17.90. There wasn’t much to comment about the entire dish — the elements were fairly decently executed though nothing much to shout about; the slab of chicken is sufficiently juicy and tender without requiring much effort to slice through, while the curry was sufficiently flavourful though rather pedestrian since it seems to be not as thick and Lemak as what I would have expected it from the price tag. Thankfully, the curry potatoes were cooked till soft; the coleslaw itself being one that is more towards the dry variant when compared against that of what we are usually more familiar with — perhaps an attempt to keep the extra creaminess away from the curry gravy that is drenched all over the chicken. Honestly thought that the choice of mustard sauce for the mesclun salad was an odd choice; personally would have preferred to have the usual vinaigrette for a lighter touch of flavours to cleanse the palate with.

Having given some of the items from Sally’s a go , Sally’s does seem to be an establishment that seemingly gives off some Han’s-like vibes — that white porcelain plate that features a red-coloured logo of the establishment; that emphasis on local and local western cuisine, as well as how they seem to serve up a decent variety of bakes and cakes apt for a mid-day treat. Food quality is decent at Sally’s, though there isn’t much else to shout about their offerings in general — probably an establishment that would fit those that aren’t too picky with their food and looking for some sort of variety without having to settle for something too “foreign”. Considering the demographics at Orchard as well as the F&B scene within the mall, it remains interesting to see what the future would bring to Sally’s as time passes …

Hidden within Havelock II, ten tenths can be said as one spot that is actually pretty much tucked away from the eyes of the mass public if not for the poster which is located on the exterior of the building (it also houses establishments such as Taiwanese eatery Big Mouth Eat, Mother-in-Law Egg Tarts and Bundt by The Backyard Bakers; just to name a few) — situated within the basement, ten tenths is located in a kiosk-like space. Despite the size of the location it occupies, they had still managed to fit in a small dine-in space that comprises of one four-seater table, one two-seater table, and a bar table of three seats. Serving their very own spin on what local roast meat establishments typically serve up, ten tenths’ menu comprises of items such as Herbal Chicken with Fragrance Rice and Deep Fried Har Cheung Chicken Cutlet with Fragrance Rice — other items available include a Grilled Chicken Thigh Noodle Soup and Fried Mee Siam. Patrons who wish to order the meats ala-carte also have the choice of going for the Cantonese Pork Belly and the Signature Spicy Char Siu. Beverages available at ten tenths comprises of non-alcoholic options — this includes items such as Green Tea, Honey Lemon (infused with Blue Pea Flower), and a Frothy Coffee (their rendition of Dalgona Coffee) — just to name a few.

We were really tempted by the Peking Grilled Chicken Thigh with Fragrance Rice, but found ourselves ending up with the Signature Spicy Char Siu with Fragrance Rice since we also couldn’t quite resist not giving the Char Siu here a go. It turns out that the “spicy” in its namesake here refers to the black pepper sauce which is drizzled over the meat, while we liked how the item does come with Ajitama, Nyonya Achar and a bowl of soup. Sure; it is priced at $9.90 — a little more premium than what one would be paying at a roast meat specialty stall at a hawker centre, but sure it is worth the price. For one, the Spicy Char Siu comes with a cut that is gelatinous and fatty; all that whilst still being lean enough to chew easily — melt-in-the-mouth, whilst being sliced just sufficiently thick so it does not get too jelak yet provides for enough chew. The caramalised glaze on the exterior is just sweet enough, while the meat still carries a meaty bite; the black pepper sauce provides a light peppery kick that adds on to the Char Siew without overwhelming it. The Ajitama is also worth the mention — its yolk still being runny and molten just like what we would have expected it to be; all that whilst the Nyonya Achar gives a good crunch and slight tang that refreshes the tastebuds with a bit of nuttiness from the crushed peanuts. Beneath everything though is the Fragrance Rice — its pretty much essentially the same rice one would typically find served at a chicken rice stall; ginger-y, moist and carried sufficient flavour without being particularly greasy, which we found to be pretty stellar. Accompanying our rice bowl is also a bowl of soup on the side — very clean flavours in the clear bowl of soup here, with bits of cabbage and fried shallots that provide some sort of texture and flavour.

ten tenths is certainly a hidden find — a spot that one is likely to miss within the building here considering how it is located right in the basement that few would venture into. That being said, ten tenths is a spot that is worth making one’s way for — while some may make comparisons between them and other Hong Kong-style roast specialty establishments around, ten tenths’ own twist to the dishes certainly adds more character that gives them some sort of a unique identity which stands out and justifies the slightly higher price point that it commands for. We were also equally impressed with how the drinks are created — could really tell that the folks behind the establishment has passion for their craft and placed a lot of time and effort in pushing out their best to the customers. Despite being in its early days, ten tenths does seem like a spot with potential; wishing the folks here all the best in what has to come!

Jia Yuen Eating House is pretty much a familiar name to the residents in the East — perhaps also especially so for those whom have served their National Service in the same area as well — previously located at Crane Road, Jia Yuen Eating House is perhaps best known for the Creamy Salted Egg Yolk dishes. They have since been re-located; now taking over the former premises of The Hainan Street at Tanjong Pagar Xchange within Tanjong Pagar MRT Station, Jia Yuen Eating House had yet to retrofit their own signages to the signboards — does create somewhat of an identity crisis that makes them a little non-descript until they come up. With a dine-in space that is located across the counter and kitchen from the shopping aisle, Jia Yuen Eating House does not only serve up their mini wok-esque sort of dishes here — they do also have Yong Tau Foo on the menu where patrons get to pick and choose their preferred items as well.

Found it a little hard to resist giving their Creamy Butter Chicken Rice a go — was also recommended to add cereal at $2 extra since the staff at the counter was saying that it would most certainly complement the dish. We were actually impressed that the item did come with a sunny side-up by default — though there again, the base price of the Creamy Butter Chicken Rice is $8.00; not quite the most affordable eat in the Central Business District though the portion sizes are considered a little more generous than what some other places may serve up. First few mouthfuls on the dish and it felt decent — the creamy butter sauce does feel a tad bit on the savoury side, which somewhat differs from the more sweet-ish sort of buttermilk sauce that we are used to having from Three Meals a Day at Sim Lim Square. That aside, the light hint of flavour from the curry leaves and chili padi creates somewhat of a flavour contrast, though the flavours of the sauce does turn a little flat and jelak as it cools down. Best to be had when still warm, the chicken does feel tender and considerably juicy when we first started the meal, though it does turn a little tough as we took some time to polish it up. If anything, the cereal does add a little to the experience here — that being said, we felt that the fragrance of buttery cereal wasn’t quite unleashed to its fullest potential here; possibly so in order to not make the item too heavy as it already was. We were pretty glad that the sunny side-up turned out fine however — runny yolk without any undesirable notes of overused oil.

Considering how big the portions are for us, and how the item does generally feel jelak as it turns cold while we attempted to finish it — the Creamy Butter Chicken Rice from Jia Yuen Eating House is something that didn’t seem to really go together with our tastebuds that well. That being said, we would guess that there is a reason why it is so popular with the army boys whilst they were at Crane Road — its that craving for a sinful meal after a long day of training that makes it an especially attractive option to have. With prices being this steep especially at this end of the Central Business District for local cuisine, it would remain to be seen if Jia Yuen Eating House is an option that would be popular with office workers in time to come …

Ubin Express may not ring a bell to some, but New Ubin Seafood is a pretty established name at this current juncture within the F&B scene in Singapore. Perhaps best known for serving up tze char dishes that bears a unique identity to their own, Ubin Express is New Ubin Seafood’s fast dining concept that showcases the very best of what New Ubin Seafood has to offer. Taking over the former premises of Lam’s Garden at City Gate (they have since moved to BGAIN Eating House at ARC380), Ubin Express is fairly simply decorated; the interior being really functional and basic. Offering only a small selection of items off New Ubin Seafood’s menu, Ubin Express only serves up limited starters and mains such as the Luncheon Meat Fries, Squid Paste YouTiao, as well as their signature Authentic Heart Attack Fried Rice and the. Boss Bee Hoon; just to name a few. Beverage options at Ubin Express is pretty much limited to various varieties of canned drinks.

Have heard quite a fair bit of New Ubin Seafood’s Authentic Heart Attack Fried Rice and it was something which we could not see ourselves giving a miss here; patrons have an option to actually go for meat options such as grilled chicken, house smoked pork or seasoned prawns at a top-up — we opted for the house smoked pork for our order. Coming in the same dark, lacquered aesthetic that we have seen in photos from those who have had it at New Ubin Seafood, the rendition at Ubin Express does look the part. We might not be able to comment on how closely it resembles the same that is served in New Ubin Seafood since we have yet to visit any of their tzechar restaurants — that being said, the Authentic Heart Attack Fried Rice delivers that artery-choking experience it promises in the namesake; the broken rice grains comes all glistening here and is especially moist and loose, whilst being fried with black sauce for that savoury note. There is also a noticeable hint of wok-hei with the fried rice — that smokiness being prominent throughout the entire portion; a bonus factor to the already sinful affair going on. Those who wishes to up their game on the Authentic Heart Attack Fried Rice shouldn’t give the addition of house smoked pork a miss — basically strips of thick-cut bacon which is fried together with the rice, it provides not only a juicy, meaty bite to the fried rice, but also that familiar saltish note of cured meat that really brings out more flavour for the dish.

Despite New Ubin Seafood’s popularity as seen on social media, we were pretty surprised by Ubin Express was empty when we made our visit — our table being the only dine-in patrons throughout the entire visit on a weekend lunch service. Perhaps it could be due to them being a new opening where there had not been much publicity, though we were also initially hoping for a menu with more variety that had lesser a focus on fried dishes especially for the sides that they are offering despite being an “express” outlet — something perhaps more consistent to the New Ubin Seafood experience without having to serve the whole menu available there. Food is however executed pretty well; we were pretty satisfied with the Luncheon Meat Fries and Squid Paste YouTiao that we have ordered. Prices are also fairly reasonable; with the exception of the sides (meant to be shared) priced at $10, the priciest mains (i.e. rice and noodles) are at $9 — pretty pocket-friendly especially when shared between a number of pax. Wouldn’t really recommend coming down to Ubin Express to experience what New Ubin Seafood has to offer considering the scaled-down menu here, but definitely a great spot to try some of the iconic dishes at New Ubin Seafood that are also available here, or get that craving for their Authentic Heart Attack Fried Rice solved!

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Came across the new Arcadia Room via social media recently — the establishment, which is located at 10A Trengganu Street, is a little bit of a hidden find considering how it is located at the second level of a shophouse (think the likes of Nirvana Dessert Cafe at Arab Street) just a short distance away from Chinatown MRT Station. Marked by a circular sign stating “Arcadia Room” that is hung on the wall right beside the doorway of the shophouse, patrons will need to climb up the stairs where the steps has a projection of animations leading up to the second level of the shophouse — one will find yet another sign indicating “Arcadia Room” beside the door to enter the establishment. Opening the door, patrons will find the main dining hall of Arcadia Room — the first section has dim lighting and its walls filled with projections of animations playing on its walls with soft music in the background; the other dining area is separated with a curtain with star-shaped cutouts that features brighter lighting with tables that are able to accommodate bigger groups. With an emphasis on serving up Swatow and Teochew cuisine, Arcadia Room’s all-day menu features rice rolls and beef ball soup, though also consists of other items such as stir-fried kway teow — they also do offer a beef hot pot promotion set during our visit that is priced at $68++; comes with selected cuts of beef, beef balls, assorted vegetables and kway teow. Choices of beverages include canned drinks, as well as other options such as flower teas and AR Signature Cold Brews — the latter essentially being their line-up of bottled cold brew coffee options.

The highlight at Arcadia Room as it seems from their menu would be their rice rolls and beef balls soup — they do allow patrons to try both items at one go through their Rice Roll Sets. Patrons will be able to pick their choice of Rice Rolls (Pork, Beef or Vegetable), whilst also accompanied with a serving of Beef Balls Soup on the side. Whilst the menu does not list it as an option, they do also offer patrons a choice between Beef Balls Soup or Pork Balls Soup — a good consideration that seems to have been made for non-beef eaters. Opting for the Pork Rice Roll + Beef Ball Soup, we were also served with a saucer that comes with chili and Shacha sauce on the side — the former is to be had with the rice roll while the latter is to be enjoyed with the beef balls in the beef balls soup. Going straight for the rice roll first, the rice roll does remind us of the ones that are served at YinJi 银记肠粉店 at Far East Square it terms of aesthetic. Despite it being a Pork Rice Roll, it also comes with egg, beansprouts and prawns apart from the sliced pork that can be found rolled within. Tearing off a morsel of the rice roll, it is noted that the rice roll isn’t only smooth and silky, but it is sufficiently thin yet carries a texture almost akin to Mochi being quite stretchy especially when it is warm — the sliced pork being tender without carrying any undesirable porky stench; all that while the omelette-like egg comes with bits of prawn for a good bite and a bit of sweetness. The rice roll comes doused with the same soy sauce one would usually be served with Hong Kong-style Chee Cheong Fun — the rice roll here absorbing those sweet-savoury notes that creates a medley of flavours with the elements it comes with. While the beef balls soup does come with a soup that is pretty clean-tasting, what we really enjoyed with the Beef Balls Soup were the beef balls itself — they were incredibly fibrous and had a good firm bite whilst being savoury, yet didn’t taste particularly gamey; the texture being so on-point that we found ourselves devouring the beef balls in no time.

Those who have been following me for a while now may probably know I am not a fan of gimmicky setups with the likes of using projections of animations — a little unnecessary and cliche but who are we to judge; it is after all the look that they are trying to go for. That being said Arcadia Room does seem to do well where their food is of concern; probably somewhat of a rarity for an establishment of its type, though we have probably only tried a small selection of what they serve up. Still, we were pretty impressed with the items we had, including that of the Traditional Kopi Cold Brew which had all the traits of what Nanyang-style coffee should have. Arcadia Room does have a pretty promising start — a hidden location with some sort of attraction to it considering the use of projections; not sure how authentic their Swatow and Teochew cuisine are, but definitely something which we would like to have again.

Made a revisit to the newly-opened Nan Yang Dao after making the first visit some time back — the F&B establishment, which is located pretty conveniently at Blk 262 Serangoon Central within walking distance from NEX, Serangoon MRT Station and Serangoon Bus Interchange had been recently making waves across social media ever since after our first visit there. Decked in a green coloured facade, Nan Yang Dao isn’t difficult to miss especially given how it seems to stand out from its neighbours within the same block, while it’s interior features zinc plate, neon lighting and wooden furnishings that brings a bright and welcoming vibe despite being a playful attempt on an industrial vibe that some cafes had done in the past with albeit of a darker setting. As opposed to our very first visit here, it is noted that Nan Yang Dao has streamlined its menu since its opening — many of the items listed on the menu are now labeled “not available”. That being said Nan Yang Dao’s menu still comprises of a pretty decent selection of Malaysian cuisine — this ranges from appetisers and small bites, to main courses featuring noodles and rice dishes, as well as dessert and non-alcoholic beverages. Whilst we had made our visit once before the relaxation of safe management measures and once after, it is noted that the main dining area within the shop does feel especially congested with the recent relaxation of safe management measures.

Having tried some of their other dishes during our very first visit, we found ourselves returning to try the dishes that we really wanted to order from our previous visit. One of the items include the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg, which is listed under the “Mains” section of the menu. Available only in a single size, the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg is an item that can either feed one hungry individual, or can also be shared around the table with two or three diners. Here, the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg looks pretty similar to the Moonlight Hor Fun that some may be familiar with that is also sold at other tzechar establishments. Coming with the usual suspects such as Kuey Teow, beansprouts, some greens, prawns and a raw egg, one is supposed to mix the raw egg into the entire dish so that it creates this silky smooth texture that somewhat gels all the elements together. Of particular note with this rendition being served at Nan Yang Dao will be how they aren’t too heavy with the dark sauce — one can argue that the flavours do replicate that of the Singapore-style Hor Fun, though without the gravy; all of that with a slight hint of wok-hei so all the noodles do come with a slight smoky note. The other elements, such as the greens and beansprouts do create a refreshing crunch that provided a textural contrast with the slurpy Kuey Teow, while the prawns can be said as pretty fresh and carried a good bite whilst also carrying a natural sweetness.

Apart from the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg, other dishes worth commending stars Nan Yang Dao do include the Chendol — despite the generic-looking pandan “noodle” that they have used here, there is sufficient coconut milk and Gula Melaka that provides the Chendol with a rich flavour and earthy sweetness that makes it pretty satisfying. Also worth mentioning would be the Iced Coffee — coming in true-blue Malaysian-style with all that froth (though a little too thick in our opinion) and that overspill that is contained within the bowl which the glass sits atop of. The Selayang Big Bowl Curry Mee is also an item often featured on social media — one that features quite a generous load of condiments, and the overspill of curry gravy contained in another bowl containing the bowl of curry noodles similar to their Iced Coffee. Sure, the borders may be opening up for us Singaporeans to visit Malaysia for their scrumptious hawker fare — that being said, Nan Yang Dao does seem like a promising joint to get those cravings resolved without having to bring the passport. Nan Yang Dao does attract quite a good crowd during meal hours from what we had noticed during our two visits there; something that those who are intending to make a visit should make a mental note on.

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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