Locally Good!

Locally Good!

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

Whilst COVID-19 may have been quite the thing that had impacted a lot of F&B establishments in a bad way, it is also pretty inspiring to hear how the pandemic has created opportunities for some in a way — Jelebu Dry Laksa ie one of those home-based businesses that had started out during the pandemic which has since become a fairly established brand name on its own. Gaining popularity through their signature Dry Laksa, Jelebu Dry Laksa have had tie-ups with other establishments and made its appearance during events such as that of the Singapore Food Festival — all of which helped to raise awareness of the home-based business that led to their newly-opened permanent space at VivoCity in collaboration with The Tipsy Collective; The Tipsy Collective being the group behind establishments such as Tipsy Penguin, Tipsy Bird, Tipsy Panda, Tipsy Bunny and Tipsy Flamingo; they are also behind brands such as Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, Lady Wu and O/T Bar as well. The entire space is decked in a really retro style that seems to have old-school local elements alongside colonial-style decor for a look that is nostalgic, relatable, yet classy. With the opening of their permanent space, Jelebu Dry Laksa’s signature Jelebu Dry Laksa still takes centrestage here, while the establishment also serves up quite a variety of small plates, mains, soups and sides and desserts as well. For beverages, Jelebu Dry Laksa does have quite a fair bit to offer — the highlights would be the Iced Homemade Drinks which are special concoctions of local beverages, while the two cocktails available are also heavily inspired by local elements; otherwise, Jelebu Dry Laksa also serves are canned drinks, juices and bottled water, as well as Nespresso Coffee / Tea and a decent variety of alcoholic beverage such as beer and hard liquor as well.

Having not tried Jelebu Dry Laksa’s signature item before our visit made to their VivoCity outlet, it is without a question that we would give the Jelebu Dry Laksa a go. The Jelebu Dry Laksa is available in four different variations here; the Kosong, the Grilled Tiger Prawn, the Butter Poached Lobster (Half) and Butter Poached Lobster (Whole) — we found ourselves going for the cheapest variation of the lot, which is the Kosong at $12++. Being the most basic variation of the lot, the Kosong rendition features crispy ebi, blood cockle, tau pok, fishcake, beansprout and sambal — the other variants would see the addition of grilled tiger prawn or the butter poached lobster on top of everything which was listed here; patrons would have the option to opt out of blood cockles if they do not wish to have them. Based on the introductory paragraph on the Jelebu Dry Laksa on the menu, the noodles of the Jelebu Dry Laksa “are first simmered in the thick broth of the laksa” before being wok-fried; it is also noted that unlike most other Laksa Goreng dishes that we have came across previously, the noodles used here seem to be of a thinner variation than thick bee hoon typically used in Laksa. As such, the Jelebu Dry Laksa seems to be especially flavoursome from the rempah spices with that slight hint of richness from the coconut that didn’t seem to be overbearing; the flavours seemingly all absorbed into the noodles, while the noodles are also especially slurpy and therefore not as jelak as other renditions that we have had. The blood cockles here are pretty fresh and provides a nice soft bite for a slight brininess, but it was the Crispy Ebi that added this umami note that seems to further add on to the flavour of the dish with a crisp texture as promised. Not sure how we would have felt of the Jelebu Dry Laksa if we were to order the slightly more pricier variants; this is especially so for the variants with Butter Poached Lobster at $38++ and $58++ for the half lobster and whole lobster variant respectively, but we were certainly satiated with this one at $12++.

Have heard quite a fair bit about Jelebu Dry Laksa even before they had established their permanent space at VivoCity — personally, we did find that the Kosong variant and the Grilled Tiger Prawn variants are probably the value-for-money variants of the Jelebu Dry Laksa to go for here; the Jelebu Dry Laksa also being one of the more unique variants of Laksa Goreng that we have come across so far. While the introduction of the other dishes on the menu may seem to have been included to provide patrons with a wider variety of options to share around the table, the Char Siew Cucumber Roll and the Soya Bean & Grass Jelly that we have opted for do seem pretty well-executed, while the elements featured in both dishes are also on-point to the theme that Jelebu Dry Laksa has adopted — one that features local fusion elements, whilst also coming with a nostalgic factor as well. With prices of the mains (disregarding the Jelebu Dry Laksa) ranging from $15++ to $42++ and small pages ranging from $10++ to $18++, prices of the food here are typically around the same range as what one would observe in the other establishments by The Tipsy Collective; a spot that would work better for larger groups to share the dishes across the table. For those whom have yet to give Jelebu Dry Laksa a go; this is probably the best time to do so — a permanent location great for those wanting to give it a go or craving for their Laksa specifically.

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If anything, the folks behind the collective of cafes that are Atlas Coffeehouse, Lunar Coffee Brewers, Columbus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova are those who wouldn’t rest on their laurels — with the opening of Supernova only earlier this year, they have since did a total revamp of Columbus Coffee Co.; a similar move that they had done to Atlas Coffehouse previously. Having closed down the space for renovations that lasted a couple of months, Columbus Coffee Co. now sports a new look that is completely different from what it was in the past — it now bears vibes that can be said as a fusion of Supernova at Joo Chiat Road, and Neptune located at East Coast Road; one that features quite a bit of wooden elements in its furniture and fittings that carries a rustic feel in a modern, clean and contemporary design language. As with the revamps that they have undertaken, the food menu at Columbus Coffee Co. has also seen a bit of changes — with the food menu now split into two sections, the beloved Pancakes are no longer served up at Columbus Coffee Co.; the Brunch menu (served between 9am to 3pm) sees the introduction of several new dishes such as the Bacon & Potato Omelette and Pork & Potato Benedict, as well as the some items off Supernova’s menu such as the Fried Chicken French Toast. The “Lunch till late” section of the menu is available from 11am till closing; features four new dishes exclusive to Columbus Coffee Co., whilst there are familiar dishes previously available here such as the Wagyu Cheese Burger, and the entire range of pastas as well. A new addition to the menu at Columbus Coffee Co. would be the range of Donburi; some of them being re-worked items off the menu to Lunar Coffee Brewers; items available all-day includes the range of waffles and side dishes to share, while the bakes available for the day are on display in the display chiller at the counter. Their specialty coffee is brewed using beans roasted by themselves under their Sinister Coffee and Goods brand; while other beverages available here includes a good variety of teas, chocolate-based beverages, water kefir, kombucha and slow-pressed juices.

Visiting Columbus Coffee Co. for dinner, we were skimming through the various items available on the “Lunch till late” section of the menu and found the Halibut & Scallop "Pao Fan" to be the new item that just seemed to struck a note with us. The menu describes the Halibut & Scallop "Pao Fan" to come with elements such as halibut, scallops, white shimeji, tomato broth, crispy rice, green bullet sauce and lemongrass chilli — the tomato broth being served in a teapot for patrons to pour into the bowl of “Pao Fan” containing the rest of the other elements to their desire. On first look, the dish seemed rather unique; instead of having the rice served in the usual way, the rice comes in a form of a rice patty — think something similar to the rice in the rice burgers of MOS Burger with that slight chew, whilst the patty is also said to have been grilled for a slightly crispy touch. Pouring in the tomato broth, we were surprised how that rice patty managed to absorb those lightly tangy notes of the broth that was seemingly close to a borsch soup without having the rice turn soggy or soft; something which we found pretty interesting. As one goes for the lemongrass chili, the lemongrass chilli does add a umami touch to the entire dish — a little similar to what one would expect from hae bee hiam (i.e. spicy fried shrimp) on its own. Mixing up the lemongrass chilli into the tomato broth adds complexity to the entire dish however; gives that tomato broth a flavour almost akin to Tom Yum soup that was light and refreshing — all that while the green bullet sauce helps to further ante up the spiciness of the dish that packs a punch even for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. The seafood featured in the dish are pretty fresh; the halibut being pretty flaky and smooth — free from any undesirable odour while the scallops were plump and bouncy. The white shimeiji helps to add a touch of savouriness with a soft crunch factor that further gives the dish complexity. Overall, the Halibut & Scallop "Pao Fan" does feel like a really comforting dish that is amazingly well-designed; so complex, yet so familiar whilst being light and easy to have when compared against the rich nature of the seafood stock for typical Pao Fans — a worthy spiritual successor to the Mussels with Coconut Lemongrass & Ale that was on the previous menu here at Columbus Coffee Co. before this revamp, and is also one of the most value-for-money dishes to order here in our opinion at $24.50++ considering the prices and composition of the other items on the menu.

One thing worth commending on the folks behind Columbus Coffee Co. is how they seem to be always moving on with the times. They have never seemed to have been afraid of tearing down what they have built up and reworking things again from the ground up; this can be said for the refreshed Atlas Coffeehouse, but this is even more evident in this current rendition of Columbus Coffee Co. — gone are the “canteen” vibes at the back of the shop where individual tables are lined up to form a long row of seating space for dine-in customers. Now, the same area is beautifully segmented away from the other seats located beside the windows, yet done in a smart way to maximise the dining space of the cafe. We also really liked how these folks have seemingly put the word “progressive” into the term “contemporary progressive cuisine” that best describes their food. Having been consistently researching and developing for new dishes to be introduced with every revamp, they are also not afraid to remove some of the old favourites that can be said as “dated” so as to maintain being current; a move that most cafes seem to abstain from making. Atlas Coffeehouse, Lunar Coffee Brewers, Columbus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova have often been called “expensive” over the years; while it is true that the prices of the dishes have been increasing over time with their concepts, one thing is certain about them — there is always that level of quality which is synonymous with their concepts that makes them a preferred spot to dine at. It is exciting to see how far they have come, and how Columbus Coffee Co. has turned out to be with this revamp; wishing the folks all the best with the re-opening — we would definitely be back for more!

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The Central Business District has pretty much been bustling with the return of most of the office workers recently — quite glad how this has also translated into new F&B establishments taking over the premises that are left vacated by their previous tenants ever since COVID-19 had started. Opened just earlier this week at the Food Garden food court within Asia Square, Tok Tok Beef Soup is a new concept by the same folks behind South Union Park, Eleven Strands and Restaurant Mia (also unrelated to Tok Tok Indonesian Soup House and Tok Tok Indonesian Restaurant at [email protected] and Joo Chiat Road respectively) — the stall is situated along the same stretch where Twyst and Pepper Lunch are located at for those who are familiar with the food court. Unlike their previous concepts, Tok Tok Beef Soup is not a restaurant-style concept; rather, Tok Tok Beef Soup is a food court stall — the first of such establishments for them. Primarily serving up beef noodle soup, the stall offers five (5) types of beef noodle soups — the Sliced Beef Noodle Soup, Ultimate Trio Beef Bowl, Beef Ball Noodle Soup, Beef Cheek Noodle Soup and Beef Short Rib Noodle Soup. Apart from beef noodle soup, Tok Tok Beef Soup also serves up Steamed Buns — think different meats sandwiched in between Lotus Leaf Buns just like what the now-defunct Bao Makers used to serve up. Sides available at Tok Tok Beef Soup includes the Truffle Kombu Sweet Potato Fries, while beverages available include Pink Lychee Lemonade and Lemonade (both from a Nestle dispenser), as well as soda drinks and water.

Being one who rarely makes beef noodle soup a choice to go for a meal, we found ourselves going for the Beef Ball Noodle Soup which sounds less intimidating as compared to those that feature sliced beef. Tok Tok Beef Soup allows patrons to pick their choice of carbs — one could opt for the Kway Teow, La Mian, Ban Mian or Plain Rice as the carbs to go with the Beef Soup; we went with the La Mian for our choice of noodles. Digging straight into the bowl, we started with the La Mian first — the La Mian is done just about right with the noodles carrying just enough bite without being overly firm. Having a sip of the broth, we found that the broth was especially interesting — whilst it does carry that savoury note that is typical of braised beef noodle soup, there is this element of tanginess that seemed to have come through from the use of tomatoes(?) that makes it especially appetising. That light, zippy note cuts through the heaviness of the meatiness and the broth, and along with the coriander just made it especially comforting and easy for one to finish the entire bowl of soup — something which would really be what we would be craving for on a rainy day. Apart from the beef balls which seemed to be handmade (considering how they were a little unevenly shaped with a bit of variance in texture — we could be wrong though), they also have included beef tendon as well; the former provides a good meaty bite with a slight gaminess from the beef that further elevates the flavours of the broth and noodles, while the latter gives this interesting gelatinous and chewy texture that provides so much contrast to the bowl of noodles. Needless to say, we found ourselves finishing the bowl of Beef Ball Noodle Soup in no time — each element seemingly having its place in the bowl of noodles for that extra flavour and texture, but yet comforting and speaks to the heart while at it; really satisfying.

It hasn’t been too long a while since we have said this; having followed the folks from South Union Park, Eleven Strands and Restaurant Mia over the years, we are pretty much fans of what they have served up. Tok Tok Beef Soup may be quite their most “outlandish” concept so far — one that operates as a food court stall, and also probably the only one by far that seems to be dedicated in serving up homely local fare. That being said, the end product feels like it is nothing short of what we would have expected from their previous ventures — just quality, comfort food that is priced reasonably for the office workers in the area. Not only is the food quality of the usual standard that one would expect from South Union Park, Eleven Strands and Restaurant Mia, but the portion sizes here are really generous for the price — the lowest priced Beef Noodle Soup dish starts at $10.90 for the Sliced Beef Noodle Soup and the Beef Ball Noodle Soup; the latter being packed with loads of beef balls and beef tendon, while the price of the Steamed Buns ranges from $6.50 to $6.90. It is needless to say that we would definitely return for the other beef noodle soup items; the beef noodle soup being something which we would probably be developing cravings for, though we are also pretty positive that we would be giving their range of Steamed Buns a go in due course as well. Congratulations to the folks behind South Union Park, Eleven Strands and Restaurant Mia for the opening of Tok Tok Beef Soup, and wishing them all the best in what is to come!

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Wild Coco should not be a name that is unfamiliar to most who have been following the various new-age Nasi Lemak establishments for a while. Located at 122 McNair Road, Wild Coco has been quite the talk of the town ever since they had opened their doors earlier this year, serving up Nasi Lemak Ayam Berempah that is almost in the same style of that as the ones served at The Coconut Club but at a lower price. Originally sharing the same space as an outlet of Bugis Xin Yuan Ji Fish Soup and Hei Kee Wanton Noodles, the two tenants had since moved out of the spot that they were allocated to right beside the beverages counter, and in their place now is occupied by a new Laksa Labo — a brand that seems to be by the same folks behind Wild Coco. As the name suggests, Laksa Labo specialises in serving up Laksa, which is said to be using a recipe that came from the 1960s — a rather fitting venture for Wild Coco to go into considering how coconut milk is still a large part of the preparation of Laksa. The menu at Laksa Labo is actually relatively simple; there are only two types of Laksa on the menu — the Classic Laksa and the Premium Laksa. Interestingly, Laksa Labo’s menu does feature a Sides section; this section includes items such as the Grandpa’s Tahu Goreng, as well as Fu Pi Juan, Fried Beancurd Roll and Zai Er (i.e. Vegetarian Mock Goose).

Given how we are at Laksa Labo to give their Laksa a go, we decided to go for the Classic Laksa which comes with one Tiger Prawn, Fish Cake and Taupok. Whilst most other establishments would most likely throw in more expensive seafood items for their “premium” item, the only difference between the Premium Laksa and the Classic Laksa is how the Premium Laksa comes with three Tiger Prawns instead. Another interesting thing to note about the Laksa here is that it comes without cockles and that noodle option would be Thick Bee Hoon by default – we were not asked for our preferences for the two when we made our order. Each bowl of Laksa does some with a small bowl of Zai Er on the side as well. Digging into the bowl of Laksa, we found that the Laksa broth is especially thick and creamy here — we did feel that the Laksa has a heavy emphasis on the coconut milk itself, considering how that seems to be the dominating flavour profile of the entire bowl here. It does, however, come with a hint of the rempah spices in its finish; personally would have preferred a balance of both rather than it veering towards the richness of the coconut milk, though we would see how some will really like this bowl of Laksa nonetheless. The Thick Bee Hoon here is undeniably slurpy, while the Tau Pok manages to soak up all that rich and lemak Laksa broth that oozes out as one chews onto the them. As with most cases, there isn’t much to comment on the fishcake, but the inclusion of the Tiger Prawn comes as a surprise at its price point — the prawn being all fresh and naturally sweet with a good bite.

Laksa Labo is probably a Wild Coco with a twist; while Wild Coco does endeavour to serve up an artisanal plate of Nasi Lemak, Laksa Labo strives to do the same with its focus being on Laksa instead. We do prefer Laksa with a better balance of the spices and the coconut milk; that being said, Laksa Labo’s rendition of the Laksa would likely appeal to those who likes the really rich, thick and creamy sort of Laksa gravy. We are pretty surprised at its affordability though — the price point of their Classic Laksa being quite wallet-friendly and would fit well for a lunch/dinner spot on a regular basis; that is especially considering how it does come with a Tiger Prawn that is rather atypical of other Laksa stalls out there. Not sure if we would be craving for Laksa Labo’s rendition of Laksa to make a return visit any time soon; we still prefer the Chicken Rendang Laksa from Tekka Homemade Yong Tau Foo at Tekka Market for a really balanced version of a spruced-up Laksa. That being said, it is probably most worth a try if one is already at Wild Coco to give their Nasi Lemak Ayam Berempah a go — the Classic Laksa being an item which we would consider if we are around the area craving for a good bowl of Laksa.

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Was scrolling randomly on social media the other day and found the accounts of fr(um)py cafe which seemed to have just recently opened its doors at International Plaza not too long ago, taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Siam Sensation — thought it was not too far out and decided to make it a lunch itinerary whilst working from the office. Not gonna lie here but their social media post which contains the caption “frumpy serves you local grub with freshly brewed double shot Arabica coffee” was pretty much the punch line for us — the photo of the cafe being one that suggests a spot that is probably going to be another hipster cafe of sorts that serves up specialty coffee. To our surprise though, fr(um)py cafe is a really unique spot of its own — basically a space that serves up economic mixed vegetable rice with the stall taking up half of the frontage with the other half taken up by the coffee operations, fr(um)py cafe is probably the first establishment that we have come across that serves up specialty coffee with totally local fare as what they have promised. The interior is simply decorated for function, yet carries a minimalist and industrial touch — concrete walls and floors with wooden benches; a look that is seemingly modern as compared to other counterparts serving the same fare within the building. While the main food offering revolves around economic mixed rice / beehoon offerings where patrons pick their choice of carbs and dishes to go along, it is interesting to see how fr(um)py cafe also serves up Ayam Penyet as well that seems to be only available on a Friday as per the standee that is placed between their shop unit and that of its neighbour Super Simple; something which we had missed whilst we were marvelling at the various dishes within the display that they have to offer for their economic mixed rice. Serving up specialty coffee and other beverages that one would expect from hipster cafes, the list of beverages available at fr(um)py cafe includes the usual Black, White, Espresso, as well as slightly more interesting options such as a Dirty Houjicha Latte and Sparkling Peach.

Going for something simple, we found ourselves opting for the white bee hoon here, whilst choosing the fried chicken cutlet, tomato with egg and curry vegetables as the side dishes to go along. The white bee hoon most certainly could do with some sauce here; thought the bee hoon here was a little bit on the dry side and a wee bit stiff for our liking — thankful that we have decided to go for the curry vegetables that provide a little bit of that gravy that made the white bee hoon more palatable. The fried chicken cutlet does seem like a frozen supply that is being fried in an entire batch ready to be picked up when one makes their order for it; nothing wrong about that considering the establishment that it is. That being said, the fried chicken cutlet does hit the spot for us; that crispy golden brown exterior that comes with a slight hint of garlic that provides so much flavour — all that with reasonably tender meat within; a crowd-pleaser on its own. We would wish that they were a little more generous about the gravy for the curry vegetables — then again, we do think that they would probably drench more curry if we were to actually specify for it; thought the curry vegetables was reasonably flavourful without much to fault, while the vegetables do carry that soft crunch which we found it to be of a decent texture. The tomato with egg was a well-executed dish however; the eggs being done to a fluffy consistency that is moist. It is almost akin to a very well-made scramble with soft chunks of tomato that provides just a very slight refreshing tang; our favourite dish amongst the lot that we have went for.

We can’t deny that our trip to fr(um)py cafe was also in part for the double shot Arabica coffee which they claim to serve here. Whilst the White is priced rather decently at $4.50, the prices does come pretty close to that of the main dish here (our white bee hoon order was $5 with all the dishes inclusive in the bill). Thought that the cuppa was fairly decent for a spot that serves primarily economic mixed vegetable rice; a combination that we rarely hear of. That being said, we do think that the milk is slightly over-frothed here, and that the coffee was just a teeny bit burnt; otherwise, a rather decent attempt considering how this had a medium body and an earthy flavour profile that would suit the working crowd well.

Whilst the execution of the dishes at fr(um)py cafe does seem to be really decent at best with some room for improvement, one thing which we found rather creative about its concept is to bring specialty coffee to the local go-to option of economic mixed vegetable rice; something that is rather befitting in the Central Business District considering how the office folks there are likely to be looking for something that is best of both worlds. We also appreciate how the folks have also given the cafe a rather refreshing look that sets it apart from the average economic mixed vegetable rice stall — something that can be said to look a little bit more upscale that would catch the eyes for those who are passing by and notice the coffee bar by the side. Prices are fairly reasonable for both food and coffee here; that being said, we do look forward to probably giving their Ayam Penyet a try when time permits — possibly something more of an artisanal offering that may be worthy to try that seems a little different from the usual fare that they have to offer!

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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 …

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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