Locally Good!

Locally Good!

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

One of the spots that we have noticed having opened for quite a while whilst going around Bugis / City Hall is Old Street Victoria Cafe — the establishment itself is located at a fairly prominent location along Victoria Street leading up towards Hotel Grand Pacific and Bugis+ being part of the lobby of Victoria Hotel. While Old Street Victoria Cafe has been operating for a number of months by now, the establishment had since made some changes and been through some sort of revamp; there is no significant changes when it comes to the interior space, though there is a change of operating hours that sees the dining establishment operating for 24hrs instead of the 7:30am to 7:30pm from Mondays to Saturdays only previously. The interior of the dining establishment is cleverly sectioned off from the hotel lobby, though the interior of the dining establishment and some of the storage for the kitchen operations do somehow come together towards the end of the dining space. There is a nostalgic flavour with the decor here; the walls bearing old posters of food products and black and white photos of the area as it was in the past; all that with cushioned booth seating and wooden dining tables and chairs. With the revamp, Old Street Victoria Cafe is now known simply as Victoria Cafe; there is also a wider menu that consists of sections such as Nasi Lemak, Dry Mee Siam, Victoria Signature Hainanese Chicken Chop, Local Snacks, Singapore Favourites, Traditional Toast, Traditional Sandwich and French Toasts. Apart from the items that are listed under the Old Street Victoria Cafe menu, there is a new menu that seems to be introduced under the Yao Ji 窑鸡 branding; this menu comprises of sections like Home Town “Zi Char”, Yao Ji and Grilled Local Food. Non-alcoholic beverages include Nanyang-style Kopi & Teh, as well as special concoctions listed under the “Victoria Specials” and “Lemonade Soda with White Pearl” sections; alcoholic beverages include a range of beers.

Whilst we had already wanted to make a trip down to Victoria Cafe before its re-branding and revamp into the concept it is currently, the introduction of new items in the menu was the push factor for us to make our visit there. Old Street Victoria Cafe was an establishment that seemed to have focused its emphasis on their Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa and Kaya Butter Toast offerings; that being said, the revamp got us really interested in the establishment since it had started to offer a wider variety of menu items that includes their line-up of Nasi Lemak. Victoria Cafe does offer quite a range for its Nasi Lemak offerings, with item such as the Victoria Signature Nasi Lemak that is essentially the full works that includes their Chicken Berempah, Sambal Prawn Petai and Spicy Whole Squid. Not needing this much food considering how we had pretty much visited Victoria Cafe alone, we went for the Nasi Lemak Chicken Berempah. Apart from the chunks of Chicken Berempah that comes along with it, the Nasi Lemak Chicken Berempah from Victoria Cafe is also noted to come with the usual suspects such as sunny side-up, anchovies, peanuts, sambal chili and cucumbers. An interesting addition that makes their Nasi Lemak unique would be the inclusion of Ngoh Hiang Prawn Crackers. The Nasi Lemak Chicken Berempah is actually served with its elements rather hot; do take precaution in taking the first mouthful especially. Going straight for the coconut-infused rice of the Nasi Lemak Chicken Berempah, it started off as kind of a disappointment — there was a lack of coconut-y / pandan note that came with the rice. Instead, the rice felt particularly gingery; the texture of the rice was also less fluffy than we had expected it to be, verging on being a little hard to bite for some of the grains.

That being said, the sunny side-up did come with a molten egg yolk and a soft egg white; mixing the yolk into the rice does help to make things slightly easier to swallow considering the silky texture than the egg yolk provides — adding the largely sweet sambal chili that is provided in the side also helps in the flavoural aspect of the rice. While it is noted that most places serving Nasi Lemak with Ayam Berempah does serve up the chicken in the form of a whole leg or with breast meat, the Nasi Lemak Chicken Berempah from Victoria Cafe follows closely to the style of the chicken chunks that Ollella also serves up in their rendition of the same dish. The Chicken Berempah is done pretty much on-point here; prominent notes of turmeric, lemongrass and other spices that are being used in its preparation process — the meat also not being too tough as well despite the manner it is served in. It also comes with stir-fried curry leaves that gives a crisp texture for some contrast. Other elements such as the Ikan Bilis were pretty crisp still even despite us having made our trip to Victoria Cafe only in the evening on a weekend; the Ngoh Hiang Prawn Cracker also being pretty crisp and also surprisingly not greasy as well. Perhaps Nasi Lemak isn’t quite their strongest suit; apart from Nasi Lemak, one can also order Dry Mee Siam that also features similar protein / meat / seafood options to the Nasi Lemak. That being said, we are most intrigued by their French Toast offerings — think items like the Scrambled Egg & Bacon French Toast and the Classic French Toast with Maple Syrup & Chicken Floss; something which we would try alongside the Cucumber Lemonade that is part of the Lemonade Soda with White Pearl section of the menu; that is if we decide to make a revisit to Victoria Cafe some time soon in the future!

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There has really been quite a lot in terms of the F&B scene around Marina One recently; while we have just written about the new TangYuan 糖苑 which had recently opened its doors at the basement of Marina One serving up Chinese-style dessert, the basement of the mixed development has also seen the opening of Heritage Yong Tau Foo — a new Yong Tau Foo-centric establishment which is located in the same area as TangYuan in between the walkway between Shenton Way MRT Station and Marina One East Tower. Occupying a stall unit that is relatively close by to Standing Sushi Bar as well as Fun Toast, Heritage Yong Tau Foo is an establishment that serves up only Yong Tau Foo; unlike the trendy stalls these days that serve up Yong Tau Foo with a fixed set of Yong Tau Foo items, Heritage Yong Tau Foo follows the style of the old-school hawkers where patrons get to pick-and-choose their desired Yong Tau Foo items off the display chiller at the counter. Being a rather simple eatery at best, the establishment is simply decorated with the use of a bamboo-print wallpaper that attempts to give the dining space a vibe; all matched against plastic stools and simple wooden tables. Heritage Yong Tau Foo serves up their Yong Tau Foo in sets, with the patrons being able to pick between Yong Tau Foo served with their signature sauce, classic soup / dry, or with Laksa. Beverages available at Heritage Yong Tau Foo includes Nanyang-style Kopi and Teh, as well as canned drinks — just to name a few.

Our usual order at any Yong Tau Foo stall is to go for the Laksa variant — needless to say, we found ourselves going for the Set C - 7pcs Laksa during our visit made to Heritage Yong Tau Foo on a weekday lunch service. It is noted that Heritage Yong Tau Foo does offer a decent range of Yong Tau Foo items that feature are served in soup and fried formats. The minimum order of Yong Tau Foo items at Heritage Yong Tau Foo is set at seven (7) pieces; quite the standard for most Yong Tau Foo-centric establishments around. Patrons also do get the flexibility of choosing between a variety of carb options such as that of yellow noodles, Thick Bee Hoon, Bee Hoon, instant noodles or rice to go with their Yong Tau Foo order. One thing that was pretty stark to us here was the price point — the Yong Tau Foo at Heritage Yong Tau Foo does seem pretty pricey, with the Set B - 7pcs Classic (Soup / Dry) being listed at $8.90; all other Yong Tau Foo
sets are priced at $9.80 (in retrospect, a basic grain bowl from Supergreen; also located at the basement of Marina One also costs $9.80). Orders did take some time to be ready, with a very inefficient self-collection system where collection was made in between the queue to make an order — does seem like a teething issue that would likely be sorted out as they ease into their operations in the future, since we had made our visit to Heritage Yong Tau Foo on their very first day of opening. Having picked a couple of Yong Tau Foo items that is to be served fried, the fried Yong Tau Foo items are served in a separate bowl from the soup Yong Tau Foo items that comes with the laksa gravy and the Thick Bee Hoon which we had opted for as the choice of carb for our order.

Heritage Yong Tau Foo has an upper hand with the Laksa broth as well as the soup items as opposed to the fried items; while most of the fried items are decent, we did wish that they could have drained the oil a little more so that the items feel less greasy. Their execution of deep-frying was not the best; the most evident Yong Tau Foo items exhibiting this would be the beancurd skin where it was done a little too dry with the grease having been absorbed into some parts, while the middle was still a little tough in certain areas to chew upon. The Fried You Tiao with fish paste stuffing was however a good one to order especially when one dunks the fried dough fritter into the Laksa for it to absorb all the flavours of the gravy. What really caught us with the Yong Tau Foo that we had gotten would be the Laksa gravy — this was close to almost having an actual bowl of Nyonya Laksa with a very evident note of rempah spices in the gravy itself; the Laksa gravy also coming with just the right proportion of coconut milk that makes it sufficiently thick without being jelat, and comes with a slight kick of spiciness that should tingle the tastebuds for those whom are tolerable to lower levels of heat. The Thick Bee Hoon was also slippery smooth and slurpy; the greens, bittergourd stuffed with fish paste and beancurd skin stuffed with fish paste being good accompaniments to it. Overall, quite a decent bowl of Yong Tau Foo especially if one avoids certain fried items (i.e. the beancurd skin), though also one which we find a little pricey as well. Still, we do think that Heritage Yong Tau Foo is here to stay — that sort of location that would do well enough from office workers within the same complex that doesn’t want / no time to go further for their Yong Tau Foo fix and don’t mind the slightly marked-up prices here, considering how the food from neighbouring shops are priced as well.

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While there has been quite a lot of stalls moving out from
Shenton Food Hall at one point of time, it does seem that they are pretty quick in getting new tenants to move into the food hall once stall spaces are made available. There was, at one point of time, a stall by a commercially-run brand serving Ayam Penyet that used to occupy one of the stall spaces at Shenton Food Hall — the said stall did not last long in the food hall, but it seems that there is yet another tenant that had just recently moved it which serves similar fare. Named D&Z Penyet, the stall is located right beside Noodle Legend House; a stall that is known for serving up Sarawak Laksa and Kolo Mee within the food hall. The facade of D&Z Penyet isn’t particularly outstanding — the signages being fairly typical of a usual stall at a hawker centre / coffeeshop setting. While the focus is mainly on their Ayam Penyet, much like most other establishments serving the same, D&Z Penyet also serves up variations of Ayam Penyet with green / red chili like the Ayam Sambal Hijau Padang Set, and the Ayam Sambal Belado Padang Set. For those looking for non-spicy fare other than the Ayam Penyet, there is also the Ayam Bakar Solo Set; other options of meat includes Fish Fillet, Ikan Bawal and Grilled Seafood. D&Z Penyet also does serve up noodle dishes like the Mee / Bee Hoon Soto, as well as side dishes to share like the Tahu Telor, Gado Gado and the Satay Chicken (only available from 3pm to 8pm) that can be shared across the table.

In any typical setting, we would usually find ourselves ordering the Ayam Penyet Padang Set, but we weren’t sure why our mouths blurted for the Ayam Sambal Belado Padang Set when we visited D&Z Penyet on a weekday for lunch. More intimidating would be the fact that the Ayam Penyet Padang Set is listed as an item with two chillies on the menu, while the Ayam Sambal Hijau Padang Set is listed as an item with only one chilli on the menu board. In retrospect, the Ayam Sambal Belado Padang Set is an item that is being marked with three chillies on the menu — the highest for any item that is being marked with chillies on the menu board. That being said, the Ayam Sambal Belado Padang Set comes with a fried chicken leg that is doused in quite a generous serving of Sambal Belado atop a lettuce leaf, and comes accompanied with a mound of white rice on the side, as well as a piece of fried beancurd puff that is accompanied with a slice of cucumber — it is interesting to note that the lack of Fried Tempeh that would usually accompany Ayam Penyet in general.

One thing we particularly enjoyed about the Ayam Sambal Belado Padang Set is that the Sambal Belado actually makes the entire dish feel less dry as compared to the Ayam Penyet Padang Set that we have had elsewhere; there is some moisture with that Sambal Belado that would have given the chicken a bit more moisture, though not so wet that the crisp, fried skin of the chicken would become too soggy — a good balance achieved here. The chicken itself is marinated with turmeric; it is also interesting to note that the fried chicken is also fried fresh-upon-order; quite different from mass market renditions of the dish where the chicken leg is usually fried very early in batches only to be dished up once an order is made. That being said, the marination with the turmeric isn’t quite as obvious when all that Sambal Belado is sitting above the fried chicken; the Sambal Belado isn’t really that spicy to the tongue, but it does get the tummy really warmed up with the runny nose coming straight up right as one finishes the entire plate — we wouldn’t be calling the Sambal Belado here tame to be really honest. One way to make the spiciness more manageable is probably to enjoy the Sambal Belado and the Ayam Penyet together with an ample portion of white rice — this way, it gives the white rice sufficient flavour and moisture, while the white rice helps to “cushion” some of that heat from their fiery Sambal Belado as well. We have an inkling that the fried beancurd puff is also fried fresh-upon-order just like how the fried chicken leg is being served up; the fried beancurd puff also being fairly warm when we dug into it and had a soft texture that is everything but “old” as some others will call it. At $6.90, prices are fairly reasonable here; we would have imagined it to be closer towards $10 if it were to be a similar dish served up by other similar establishments. Overall, something which we will gladly have again if the cravings for Ayam Penyet hits while we are at Shenton Food Hall.

Fish soup has never been quite our thing all these while; and so whilst most of the office workers are foaming over the existence of more eateries serving up fish soup such as the likes of Arcade Fish Soup they have been sprouting up across different buildings in the Central Business District, we had never quite understood the reason why. Fish Soup Paradise isn’t a particularly new brand name in the local F&B scene; it does actually have a presence with its very first location being at Kitchener Road which had since become defunct. In fact, Fish Soup Paradise had also been operating within the Central Business District all these while — their shop space at the basement of Republic Plaza having taken over the former premises of the now-defunct MOJO for quite a while. Their newest outpost is situated at the nearby CIMB Plaza; located in the basement, the independently-run food stall is just a short walk away from Raffles Place MRT Station. Despite the small space it occupies, Fish Soup Paradise is decked in a way that is pretty rustic; almost like an old-school set-up with wooden panelings matched against an interior that sees the use of white tables and wooden stools arranged in a rather tight fashion to maximise the use of space to cater to the lunch crowd. Whilst being a name that is mostly associated with fish soup, what makes Fish Soup Paradise really interesting is its Special offerings in the menu such as the White Pepper Batang Fish (Bak Kut Teh) and the Curry Batang Fish. For those whom are not a fan of fish soup, there are also items like the Pao Fan, Toast Set, and a Teochew-style Pan-Fried Carrot Cake that one can go for as well.

Having spotted them having the Curry Batang Fish on a day when we passed by their outlet at CIMB Plaza, we had pretty much sorted ourselves out on what item we would be ordering when we decide to drop by Fish Soup Paradise. It is noted that Fish Soup Paradise serves up their soup dishes as-is; this means that any addition of carbs such as rice, thick Bee Hoon (which we opted for) and thin Bee Hoon are chargeable items at $0.50 per portion. Patrons also do get the choice to add-on further types of fish and seafood items; all also at an additional cost as well. The menu does not describe on the elements that comes with the Curry Batang Fish, though one can definitely find elements such as a boiled egg, cherry tomatoes and ladyfingers that are swimming in the bowl of orange curry that comes with a bright hue of orange.

Given how it looks, we excitedly dug in and went for the curry first — the curry here certainly puts many others to shame. It is rich, sufficiently dense and flavourful; bright and tangy yet with a hint of spices which tastes almost similar to Indian-style curry; more complex than what we would usually expect to be served with at other establishments with a similar concept. We have no idea if they had actually used their very own Premium Fish Bone Concentrate or their Giant Grouper Collagen Concentrate in the preparation of their curry hence the deep flavours of the curry — that being said, it is worth noting that they do actually retail those in 135g packs for those who are looking to enjoy their fish soup in the comfort of their home. The ladyfingers provided a good crunch, while the cherry tomatoes gave a refreshing burst of flavours — that being said, the main star here is really the Batang fish. We wouldn’t say that they were super generous with the portion of Batang fish, but these are definitely fresh with the fish being still flaky and not anywhere near being mushy; the natural flavours of the fish was also really prominent without being any way mushy. All these matched well with the slurpy thick Bee Hoon which we opted for, which provided a bit more bite than if we had gone for thin Bee Hoon. The boiled egg to us was more of a crowd-pleaser; good to have especially considering the price, though doesn’t seem to do much to the entire experience nonetheless. Priced at $9.80, this is no doubt a slightly more premium-priced rendition of fish soup (their Batang Fish Soup / Fried Fish Soup are their lowest-priced fish soup-based mains at $7.50), but their Curry Batang Fish is something that we would probably return for again in the near future — one that is absolutely tasty and honestly, something which we think we will develop cravings for in the future!

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Have heard some mention over Liu Kou Shui 劉口水; a stall that has first set up shop at Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre when the said hawker centre had just opened its doors. Fast forward to a few months later, it seems that they had expanded their operations, operating alongside *maknomnom at International Plaza by taking up a space around the perimeters of the stall which *maknomnom used to serve up their desserts at. With this at mind, Liu Kou Shui’s second outlet can be described as a kiosk-like set-up; considering the space that it occupies, the entire operation can also be described as one that is more takeaway-like — one would also not be wrong to expect a smaller menu to be served at their International Plaza outlet as compared to their original location at Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre. Interestingly, missing from the menu at their International Plaza outlet included their signature Mala Char Siew Don — in fact, the International Plaza outlet seemed to have carried more of their Japanese-inspired rice bowls such as that of the Beef Sukiyaki Don and Mentaiko Chicken Katsu Don, amongst others. Apart from their Rice Bowl offerings, Liu Kou Shui also does offer patrons with choice of sides, such as Ngoh Hiang, Cold Tofu, Spam Fries etc. for those whom are looking for something to share around the table.

There is apparently a choice to opt for a set to go with the Rice Bowls that they have to offer — by topping up $4 to the price of the rice bowl, one would be entitled to a side and a drink of their choice; one can also top up $1 just to opt for the drink of their choice to go with their choice of rice bowl as well. We didn’t feel like we were in particularly need for the side nor drink; we also weren’t a fan of the Edamame that is being served with quite a number of their items — this also meant that we could probably only opt between the Beef Sukiyaki Don and the Pork Buri Don. We found ourselves going for the latter, which turns out to be something which is fairly similar to that of what could be described as a “Pork Sukiyaki Don”. It seems that the folks have decided to use pork Shabu-Shabu slices for their Pork Buri Don, considering how thin the pork slices seem to be; all that stir-fried with strips of onions and a sauce that gave a sweet-ish and savoury note. This made the pork slices especially easy to have, and there was also sufficient sauce to go along with the bed of short-grain Japanese pearl rice beneath. Meanwhile, the sous-vide egg comes with a jiggly egg white and a creamy, molten egg yolk; helps to provide a silkier texture to the entire bowl as one mixes all of the components together. Overall, quite a decent offering though there isn’t quite anything too outstanding about it — the price at $8 does seem a little steep for the portion size for some, though would still be what one might find rather reasonable still given the market these days. Looking forward to give their Mala Char Siew Don from their Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre location a go some other time — have an inkling that it might be a more promising offering than what we had tried thus far!

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With the opening of Trifecta, we do think that Somerset is likely to be the most happening neighbourhood around the island for a while now — after all, the compounds of Trifecta which is located conveniently opposite 313@Somerset right beside where the skatepark beside Somerset MRT Station is comprises of a few interesting segments; a skate bowl, a surf arena and a snow arena. Of course, there are retail and F&B segments that also finds a place within the compounds of Trifecta; this includes a shop retailing skate-related items named The Ride Side, as well as a F&B concept that is named Butter. Turns out, Butter is a concept that is run behind the same folks that has brought us Two Men Bagel House and the recently-opened Two Men Rice Bar; these guys are seemingly on a roll with the way that they are opening new establishments all across the island. In typical Two Men Bagel House / Rice Bar fashion, the Butter carries a rather rowdy-looking aesthetic that is pretty much in the DNA of the brand now — think of an interior that is decked in an industrial design language seeing the use of some rather raw elements with a splash of colours in the murals found within the premises; this is also not forgetting the use of neon lights which is almost guaranteed with their concepts by now. It seems that there is a different focus adopted by Butter in their day and night operations; the establishment seeing more focused on their bagelwich, croissant sandwich and pancake roll offerings during the day while the dinner offerings revolve around rice and noodles in the evening (sounds familiar?). Of course, Butter does not miss out on serving up sides for those whom are into sharing something across the table; there are also two desserts being listed in the menu as well for those looking for a sweet end to their meal here. The beverage listing is actually fairly extensive at Butter — whilst espresso-based specialty coffee are only available in the day, bottled cold brews are available all-day at Butter; same goes to the range of non-alcoholic “All Day Drinks”, juices, protein shake, wellness drinks, Kombucha and a variety of alcoholic beverages.

We are pretty much fans of anything salted egg and creamy butter, so it does seem like the dinner offerings available at Butter were pretty much designed to our liking — after all, Butter is an establishment that seems to be very focused on the usage of butter as a main ingredient to what they have to offer. With an item that has a name like that, it is needless to say that it was the item that first captured our attention when we skimmed through the menu at the table. The menu describes the Not Salted Egg to come with elements such as Spicy Takana Butter, Creamy Butter Sauce, Fried Squid, House Salsa, Asian Greens and Sunny Egg — this is definitely the dish that attempts to recreate the tze-char classic that one can find at coffeeshop stalls; the Salted Egg Squid. On first look, the presentation of the rice dishes at Trifecta does look less messy and abstract as compared to what we had seen at Two Men Rice Bar.

In true Two Men-fashion, their interpretation of the dish sees the use of two types of butter integrated as one to replicate the notes of salted egg. Truth to be told, we were quite expected some sort of spiciness from the Spicy Takana Butter, though the two butter elements doesn’t really quite carry any kick of spiciness; instead, it is creamy and a little bit on the sweeter side – we do know of folks who do not particularly like this interpretation of creamy butter sauce, though we felt that this was still something pretty tasty despite the inherent heaviness that it carries on its own. The deep-fried squid came with a crisp, golden brown exterior that encases the squid ring within; the texture of squid ring was alright, though we like how they weren’t particularly greasy especially given its deep-fried nature. Aside from that, the house salsa comprises of diced cubes of tomato, onions, cucumber etc.; this provided quite a refreshing crunch that takes away much of the heaviness from the carbs, fried items and butter sauce. Meanwhile, the Asian Greens that came with French beans, carrots and Shimeiji mushrooms provided a bounce and a crunch; the folks here have added salt to give it an elevated note. Sunny side-up comes with a crisp underside from pan-frying; not greasy and did not came with any undesirable stench of overused oil — the yolk being all flowy and molten as one pokes it using a fork. Needless to say, the Not Salted Egg feels like a very Two Men-style creation — this especially considering how we had just tried Two Men Rice Bar when they had just opened their doors at Guoco Tower not that long ago. That being said, price tag for its dinner items are not that affordable — we do understand the sort of space it is being located at, though $20 to $24 for their rice / noodle items might not gel well as an idea to some. Still, for the vibe and that whole concept of what Trifecta, a meal at Butter is what we would recommend so that one can try it for themselves to see what they are all about — there’s definitely a novelty to this somewhere, and the food’s definitely gotten a stamp of approval especially considering the folks that run the kitchen here!

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Have been wanting to make our visit to the new Good Kopi ever since we had found out about their presence via social media some time back. The area of which Good Kopi is located within Bukit Merah Central was an area that was particularly buzzy with quite a number of gentrified establishments such as the likes of The Bakery Chef, Pan Delights etc. which had since moved out quite a number of years ago — Good Kopi is located at Blk 161 Bukit Merah Central that is just a zebra crossing from the cluster of HDB low-rise flats and Bukit Merah Central Hawker Centre is located; they are neighbours with a Tasty Sarawak Food Court that also seemed to have sprouted up rather recently as well. On first look on the outside, the establishment does look a little trendy with its branding though the interior of the space is simply-decked as with most Nanyang-themed dining establishments that we have come across thus far; apart from walls that are painted turquoise half-height to provide a visual contrast of colours, much of the establishment is simply decked with concrete flooring and wooden stools and marble-esque tables being used for dining furniture. Picking up a hard copy of their menu, there is a heavy resemblance of the menu in both its style of presentation and menu items to one particular establishment that serves up similar fare (we will leave you to think about this); whether there is any affiliation between the two or if this is just an uncanny resemblance due to the type of food that they are serving, let’s leave as that. The menu at Good Kopi is split into sections dedicated to Toast & Bun, Ipoh Hor Fun, Curry Noodle, Bean Sprout Chicken and Local Delight — beverages available at Good Kopi includes a range of Nanyang-style Kopi and Teh, as well as Milo, Iced Lemon Tea, Barley and Chrysanthemum with Goji Berry.

We were looking for something light to have considering we weren’t in the mood to have something that is too filling — skimming through the menu, items like their selection of Curry Noodle seem particularly tempting but did not quite answer to our desired of wanting something light. After much deliberation, we found ourselves going for the Dry Mee Siam with Fried Chicken. For those wishing to go for something similar but with rice as the carb option, Good Kopi does offer the same proteins available with their Dry Mee Siam with Nasi Lemak as well. To our surprise, the Dry Mee Siam with Fried Chicken actually comes with a fried chicken leg that is quite well-sized; it is also not just any fried chicken leg, but Ayam Goreng Berempah. The Dry Mee Siam with Fried Chicken also comes with a sunny side-up, lime, slices of cucumbers, and sambal chili on the side. Digging into the Dry Mee Siam first, we liked how the noodles have been wok-fried to a decent texture; not too wet, yet having just enough moisture to remain springy and also having absorbed all of the flavours of the rempah spices that it seemed to have been prepared with. Squeezing in a bit of that lime juice does seem to have provided for a little more zing for a flavoural contrast. As we went for the fried chicken leg, we did feel that the fried chicken leg came with pretty tender and juicy meat; there are evident notes of some of the aromatics used in the preparation process here; the lemongrass being especially prominent with those crispy bits adding on to the already crispy fried batter of the fried chicken. Sunny side-up was done right here; came with a flowy, molten egg yolk that eagerly bursts with poke from the fork; overall quite a good eat at $7.80. Also tried other items like the Kaya Butter Toast and their Signature GK Hor Ka Sai (i.e. Milo + Kopi) — both of which are absolutely on-point and items which we feel that are a must-try at Good Kopi. Prices of the food are a little steep for the neighbourhood they are at, with proper-sized mains priced between $5.80 to $10.80 — though we would say that it is really reasonable for those whom are already very accustomed to food prices in some other neighbourhoods or in the Central Business District.

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Old malls such as the likes of Textile Centre has always been particularly interesting to us whenever we are just passing by the location — chanced upon the new House of Malaysia 大马美食之屋 at the ground floor of the building one day whilst going around the building. Turns out, House of Malaysia does seem to have been an establishment that had been re-branded from the now-defunct Don Don Express which had occupied the space prior to the moving-in of House of Malaysia — some interesting cues on this that we have noted includes disposable bowls that are branded with Don Don Express’s logos and how the Facebook page of House of Malaysia does have an image of the menu previously offered by Don Don Express as well. That being said, the space did see a slight revamp transiting from Don Don Express to House of Malaysia — while there isn’t much work done to the walls and floors of the establishment, there is a large use of neon lighting that attempts to attract passers-by considering how the unit it occupies is hidden around one of the aisles that is deeper within the complex. Otherwise, one can describe the interior furnishing and fittings at House of Malaysia to be pretty much on the functional side of things — more for the practicality rather than the form. For its food offerings, House of Malaysia attempts to serve up a taste of Malaysia at Textile Centre; the food menu is being split up into several categories including that of Johor Pandan Nasi Lemak, Muar Wanton Mee, Penang Prawn Mee, KL Chili Pan Mee and Malacca Curry Laksa. In terms of beverages, expect Nanyang-style Kopi & Teh, Milo, Chinese Tea and soft drinks — just to name a few.

It does seem that there are a number of articles which one can find about House of Malaysia despite how new they are — having seen the articles and also the illustrations of the dishes that they have to offer on its menu, we found ourselves intrigued with their KL Signature Chilli Ban Mian that is listed under the “KL Chilli Ban Mee” section of the menu. While the menu does not describe the elements that are included in their variation of the KL Signature Chilli Ban Mian that they serve up here at House of Malaysia, we found the elements included to be pretty similar to what we have been having at Chilli Pan Mee (Batu Rd) at Telok Ayer all these while — elements in the bowl included minced pork, chili, anchovies, noodles, fried shallots and a sous-vide egg.

Gave it a good mix so that all of the elements could come together; the flavours were actually pretty on point considering how the chili provided a hint of umami against the slight fiery spiciness that tickles the tongue — all that while the sous vide egg comes with a runny egg yolk that provides a good texture to the noodles and all the other elements to gel them together. We felt that the minced pork came a little lumpy for our liking; would have liked it a bit more “loose” so that there isn’t too much of a strong meatiness that would get in the way of the chili. Meanwhile, the noodles were also a little harder than what we would have liked them to be; lacks the springiness that we would typically prefer. Otherwise, the other elements are decent; the anchovies and fried shallots being just crisp enough with an additional saltishness that gives a bit of flavour contrast to the dish. We had also given other dishes such as the Kaya Butter Toast and the Kopi a go during our visit; the former’s bread wasn’t really toasted for long enough and was oddly dry without being crisp — they also have seemed to use margarine over butter here. The Hot Kopi fared slightly better than the iced one, with the latter being rather watered down. Overall; the food at House of Malaysia felt like hits and misses, though they seem to have a slightly stronger suit in noodle fishes based off from what we had tried — definitely not an establishment for a gastronomical affair nonetheless. That being said, it does seem like a decent spot to stop by for a wallet-friendly meal — the lowest-priced main being the Fish Fillet Nasi Lemak at $3.80, and all items are priced comfortably below $10 except for the Hom Prawn Mee Set that is priced at $12. Not a spot that we would recommend one to make an out-of-the-way visit for, but somewhere to consider dining at for those whom are not too picky with their food and on a tighter budget.

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It has been a while since our last visit made to AMK Hub — was pretty surprised to find that there had been some switch-up in some of the F&B tenants within the mall considering how the F&B mix of the mall had been pretty consistent in the mall in the past couple of years. Taking over the former premises of the now-defunct outlet of Yenly Yours at AMK Hub is a new concept by the Tung Lok group named Home Fiesta by Tung Lok 同樂家宴; yes , the same Tung Lok Group which also runs other F&B brands such as Dancing Grab, Lao Beijing, TungLok Heen, TungLok Tea House, Slappy Cakes etc. — just to name a few. Home Fiesta by Tung Lok does seem like an attempt by the Tung Lok Group to run a quick service diner; the set-up being rather informal considering how the space is pretty much a kiosk with dine-in seating located beside the aisles of the basement in a shopping mall — the interior being decked rather simply with the use of stools and dining tables that seemed more functional for their dine-in furniture. One can also observe that red seems to be the colour theme adopted for the space; the colour being used on the fittings that are installed within the interior. Interestingly, there is some use of technology where there are two tables featuring a touchscreen on the surface where one can make their order by swiping around the surface — something which we had not quite seen before at other establishments. The menu at Home Fiesta by Tung Lok largely revolves around Dim Sum items and Mains, with the focus on the Mains being more on dishes involving the use of braised pork, as well as Herbal Chicken Soup, Prawn Dumpling Noodle Collagen Soup, as well as Map Minced Pork Tofu Rice. Dessert options are strictly limited to the Sesame Cream, while beverages served up at Home Fiesta by Tung Lok mostly revolves around hot tea and canned drinks.

One thing which we had been wanting to try ever since walking by Home Fiesta by Tung Lok quite some time ago before eventually making our visit there was the Pork Shank Served with Rice and Egg — the illustration of the item on the menu being pretty enticing to say the least. Considering the quick service nature of the establishment, it is noted that Home Fiesta by Tung Lok serves up all orders be it for dine-in or for takeaway in disposable ware. The name of the dish is pretty self-explanatory here; the Pork Shank Served with Rice and Egg common with braised pork shank and a braised egg that sits atop a bed of rice. Digging into the Pork Shank Served with Rice and Egg, we found that the braised pork shank was indeed the star of the show here — the pork shank having absorbed all of the flavours of the braising liquid for a savoury and sweet note. We really liked how the pork skin for the pork shank came all gelatinous and melt-in-the-mouth as well; all that while the meat remains lean without being dry nor tough. There was also sufficient braising liquid that was drenched atop the bed of rice that gave the rice sufficient flavour and moisture — makes its especially easy to eat as well. Meanwhile, the braised egg itself was nothing much to shout about — one that featured a fully done egg yolk. Truth to be told, our experience at Home Fiesta at Tung Lok does seem to suggest that these folks are stronger in their offerings of Mains than compared to their Dim Sun offerings — the other item from the Mains section of the menu was the Prawn Dumpling Noodle Collagen Soup which came with a really rich soup and Chinese La Mian done to the right texture; the dumplings also being sufficiently plump as well. In retrospect, the Dim Sum offerings — in particularly the fried ones, were uninspiring. Those were seemingly fried and left in the display case for a long period of time; the Mini Barbecued Pork Bun faring a little better in terms of the flavour and quality but just wasn’t served warm enough. Prices of the Mains range from $8.80 to $13.70 — not exactly wallet-friendly for an everyday option, but still of a decent price; probably worth considering as a dining option solely for the mains if one were to be in the area.

Ollella is one of the brands which we have been following for quite a while — the brand has indeed grown quite a fair bit for the past number of years, with their last location being at Cluny Court alongside their sister brand named Swish Rolls before they had moved out of the space earlier this year. Was pretty stoked to have found out that they had since made the move to a new shop unit that is now located in the heart of the Central Business District — Ollella had since found a spot located within the air-conditioned area of Far East Square; its neighbour being KORIO which is perhaps best known for their artisanal doughnuts and sammies. Much like most of the shop units located in that part of Far East Square, Ollella’s spacecraft can be described as a hole-in-the-wall; that being said, they had attempted to go for a Balinese-themed space despite the limited space that they have — think a pastel pink-tiled counter space matched against concrete-esque walls and floors, as well as furniture and fittings that features wooden and rattan elements that brings those vibes. There is a small dine-in space within the shop space with three dining tables that seats two to three pax each; that being said, there are another three dining tables situated outside of the shop space to accommodate for more dine-in patrons during the weekday lunch peak hours. Much like Ollella during its days at Cluny Court, Ollella still serves hot food alongside a line-up of Kuehs at their new location in Far East Square — there are new Kueh offerings such as the White Kueh Dadar and the Lemper Rendang Ayam being offered at the Far East Square location. Beverages available at Ollella includes local-style Kopi and Teh, as well as drinks like Lemon Tea, Honey Lemon and Milo.

For their Far East Square outlet, the hot food menu is kept simple and scaled down from what it was when they were operating at Race Course Road and Cluny Court — patrons can either opt for the Nasi Lemak Kosong, or go for the Nasi Lemak Sambal Hijau Ayam Berempah which is essentially the only other Nasi Lemak item which comes paired with proteins and sides. Ollella describes its Nasi Lemak Sambal Hijau Ayam Berempah to come with elements such as coconut rice, spiced-marinated chicken cutlet cubes, Padang-style green chilli, fried anchovies and sunny side-up. Considering how Ollella is operating as a quick-service diner, all orders are served in disposable ware. Digging into the coconut rice first, this is actually the first time that we are giving Ollella’s Nasi Lemak a go after reading so much about it online — we loved how the rice here was light and fragrant; there was an evident coconut-y fragrance that lingers around the tastebud with every spoonful. The spiced-marinated chicken cutlet cubes may not be quite as sexy as the Ayam Berempah Leg which other establishments such as The Coconut Club, Wild Coco and Spicy Wife Nasi Lemak, the flavours from the use of lemongrass and turmeric in its preparation process is still particularly evident — the chicken cubes were also still juicy and easy to chew apart. The Padang-style green chili also hit the spot just like how we would expect from an Indonesian establishment — one could definitely taste the freshness of the green chillies used; itself almost being a relish with onions mixed in for an extra crunch and zing, whilst also mixed with the Ikan Bilis for an added texture. The level of spiciness can be described as one that would do well for those whom are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness — gives a good kick to tickle the tastebuds without being uncomfortably fiery as well. Overall, not the all trendy Nasi Lemak Ayam Berempah that most establishments tries to serve these days, but still one that is especially tasty for what it is.

For those whom are unaware, Ollella’s journey in the F&B scene has been one that have seen quite a bit of transition along the way — Ollella was initially a brand that was more focused on their choux-related offerings during their initial days when they are located at Petain Road; they had since slowly evolved into an establishment that is better affiliated with Indonesian fare somewhere along the way with their Makan House by Ollella concept at Race Course Road being the start of how the brand became known for their Nasi Lemak offerings. It seems that they do know where their strengths are, and they do seem to be actively refining their offerings to position themselves well within the area which they are operating out of. Apart from the Nasi Lemak Sambal Hijau Ayam Berempah, Ollella’s other hot food offering at the Far East Square location would be the Lontong Sayur — something which we had skipped during our visit to their Far East Square location but was something that blew us away when we have had it during the initial opening of Makan House by Ollella at Race Course Road; simply one of the best Lontongs that we have had despite us being folks who do not usually appreciate such dishes. Other new items that we had tried at Ollella Far East Square includes the White Kueh Dadar and the Lemper Rendang Ayam; both of which are very well-executed Kuehs with the former being a typical Kueh Dadar that is filled with a white-coloured filling that includes elements like grated coconut and honey rock sugar and wintermelon. Meanwhile, the latter sees chicken, herbs, lime leaves, coconut milk, chilli and anchovies encased within glutinous rice that is everything sweet, Lemak and with a hint of curry spices that is just so compatible with one another. Prices of the hot food range between $5.80 to $7.80 ala-carte; quite reasonable for the area it is situated in. Would like to congratulate these folks on the opening of their new location, and wishing them all the best in what is to come!

Probably one of the openings that is being mentioned quite a fair bit around this week would be that of the opening of Toast Box Coffee House — Toast Box may be a name which many would find familiar considering how they are a brand by the BreadTalk group and do have countless of outlets operating all across the island. That being said, the opening of Toast Box Coffee House still bears quite a bit of significance for the brand, considering how Toast Box Coffee House is a slightly different concept than the other Toast Box outlets that we are familiar with after all these while. While there are other outlets of Toast Box that have incorporated a nostalgic theme that already brings a different vibe to their other standard concepts (think the Bras Basah Complex location that had taken over the former premises of the now-defunct Music Book Room), Toast Box Coffee House attempts to be a whole new concept that not only offers exclusive menu items that are unavailable at other Toast Box locations, but also houses an outlet of First Street Teochew Fish Soup within the same premises; a little bit more of a casual eatery with a Nanyang-style focus that also has table service (hence the inclusion of 10% service charge). Toast Box Coffee House takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Old Tiong Bahru Bak Kut Teh; located at the ground level of the iconic art deco-style pre-war flats at 58 Seng Poh Road. Decked in a style that brings back those vibes of the colonial times, the interior decor should not be unfamiliar to those familiar with the Toast Box brand name. The menu at Toast Box Coffee House is being segmented into categories such as Thick Toast, Sandwiches, Traditional Toast, Asian Delights, Breakfast (only available from opening till 11am), Cakes and Kueh — beverages served up at Toast Box Coffee House includes the usual Nanyang-style Kopi and Teh, as well as concoctions like Honey Lemon, Homemade Barley etc.

We weren’t actually too keen on giving Toast Box Coffee House a go at the start; that being said, we are typically suckers for Nanyang-style coffee houses that has a strong vibes of Hainanese eateries in the colonial times. This, coupled with the fact on how Toast Box Coffee House does offer a menu that includes exclusive items not available at other Toast Box locations (vis-a-vis Toast Box at Bras Basah Complex, which is no different from a usual Toast Box outlet apart from the theming) was what made us really compelled to give Toast Box Coffee House a go. One item which caught our attention very early on whilst reading about Toast Box Coffee House from the few social media posts that have went up online was the Old School Hainanese Pork Chop Rice — we had been looking for Hainanese-style Pork Chop Rice all around the island; a form of Western food that had one point of time vanished from the menus of most eateries except a few in Singapore, though had seen somewhat of an uprising with modernised establishments starting to serve their own interpretation of the dish. The Old School Hainanese Pork Chop Rice was actually quite decent here — we weren’t expecting much considering how we have had varying standards of food whenever we dine at Toast Box, but we actually found this to be pretty palatable. At $9.80++, the Old School Hainanese Pork Chop Rice comes with deep-fried breaded pork chop that is drenched in that all-familiar red sauce that is accompanied with peas, onions, pineapples and lychee with a mound of rice by the side and a sunny-side-up on the top.

Thought that the pork chop was done pretty well; it does seem to have been tender used to achieve a good and consistent bite — the cut of meat being on the leaner side of things as well. The only gripe in terms of the “heritage” that it was lacking of is the use of panko crumbs rather than crushed soda crackers for its batter. The sauce does come with a tangy and savoury note — itself seemingly being a concoction of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce that is much in accordance to what we grew up knowing it as; the sauce is also thickened enough for a consistency that is considered sufficiently dense. One thing that we did note about the sauce was that is a little different from what we had expected was the note of sweetness from lychees that it also carried — makes it taste somewhat closer to the Heng Hwa-style lychee sweet and sour pork as a result and thus not as “authentic” as we would like it to be. Meanwhile, the sunny-side-up here comes with a fully cooked yolk; something to note for those whom are into eggs with a molten yolk. Whilst we usually wouldn’t comment on this, we were glad that the bed of rice was cooked just about right — at least this wasn’t hard or undercooked which we had experienced at some other Toast Box locations before. We had also given other items like the Kueh and the Traditional Black Sesame Toast a go during our visit as well; we were actually quite impressed with the qualities of their Kueh offerings. For the Traditional Black Sesame Toast, the inclusion of butter helps to gel the black sesame spread and the toast together though we weren’t a fan of the inherent savouriness the butter brought; also thought it could be a little sweeter to provide a balance of flavours. Prices of the hot food at Toast Box Coffee House are a little bit on the high side when compared to mom-and-pop eateries around its vicinity; the cheapest item priced at $5.50 being the Small Curry Chicken with Prata, while the priciest is the Old School Hainanese Pork Chop Rice at $9.80. Will be interesting to see how things will pan out for Toast Box Coffee House in the future.red to mom-and-pop eateries around its vicinity; the cheapest item priced at $5.50 being the Small Curry Chicken with Prata, while the priciest is the Old School Hainanese Pork Chop Rice at $9.80. Will be interesting to see how things will pan out for Toast Box Coffee House in the future.

The opening of the new Two Men Rice Bar: Standing Edition was something which we had been anticipating for a while — we had seen the folks going through their renovation phase before its opening while passing through Guoco Tower some time back. For those whom find the name of Two Men Rice Bar ringing a bell, it is because Two Men Rice Bar is a concept by the same folks whom has brought us Two Men Bagel House; an establishment that first started in ICON Village at Tanjong Pagar, the brand had since expanded their operations to multiple locations all across the island — this includes outlets such as their Holland Village, Royal Square @ Novena, and East Coast Road. With their following strong within the Central Business District ever since they had first started their bagel concept, their new concept that is situated at the outdoor area of Guoco Tower takes over the former premises of Wagatomo. Considering how they have included the words “Standing Edition” on its namesake, it is to no surprise that Two Men Rice save does have dine-in tables within its premises, but no seatings available — perhaps a way to maximise space efficiency whilst operating in a busy environment during meal peak hours. The entire shop is decked in a style that one would find familiar to the various Two Men Bagel House concepts around — one that employs a large use of wood within its premises, all with neon lighting that provides a fun vibe amidst the chic environment. Experimenting on a different concept from Two Men Bagel House, the main offerings at Two Men Rice Bar would be their Rice Plates — think of it as a fun variant of grain bowls without too much focus on being health-conscious; just bold flavours and elements that comes fixed with each bowl, though patrons are able to customise some elements (to be explained later). Apart from Rice Plates, they also do offer some light bites which are categorised as “TMRB Snacks” in their menu, while beverages include some house-made drinks like The Cooler Bandung and Plum Lemonade Fizz, as well as bottled cold brews and espresso-based coffee brewed using beans roasted by ST. ALi Coffee Roasters from Australia.

For those will are accustomed to establishments serving up grain bowls / rice bowls in the Central Business District, Two Men Rice Bar certainly provided for a less customisable experience overall — Two Men Rice Bar offers only Rice Plates with default combinations of meat / seafood / fish with fixed toppings. With that being said, there are still some customisable elements to the Rice Plates here — there is the flexibility of opting for a half-portion sized bowl or a full-sized bowl (i.e. Half Tank and Full Tank), while patrons can also opt for their preferred grains. Two Men Rice Bar allows patrons to choose between Japanese (short grain rice), 16-types (mixed grain rice), and Turmeric (long grain rice), while also allowing patrons to have the flexibility of adding curry gravy to the Rice Plate at an additional charge of $0.50. All Rice Plate items comes with a Housemade Soup on the side be it that the patron opts for the Half Tank or Full Tank portion size. Our order was for the Happiness2 in the Half Tank portion size; the menu describing the item Happiness2 come with elements such as Lion Head Chicken Meatball, Plum Sauce, Sesame Chicken Cutlet, Rainbow Slaw, Pickled Cucumber, Cherry Tomato, Glass Noodle Salad, Sous Vide Egg and Tenkasu Tempura Crumbs — quite a wholesome offering considering all of the elements that went into the Rice Plate. Our order also came with the 16-types grain, which we have also went with the addition of curry gravy as well. Patrons can also help themselves the various condiments (i.e. chili and dips) that are being stocked at the self-service area.

Digging straight into the Rice Plate, it is needless to say that we decided to go for the meats first. Both the Lion Head Chicken Meatball and the Chicken Cutlet were items to die for — both carried a good crispness since they are deep-fried elements; all that without feeling particularly greasy nor carried any undesirable stench of overused oil. The meat for both are tender, while one could arguably mention that chicken cutlet came juicier; we did like the flavours that went into the Lion Head Chicken Meatball which seems to suggest that some form of marination was involved — definitely carried a contrast of flavours that is more complex than what we had expected. Whilst the 16-types grain was nothing much to shout about, we did note that the grains felt close to being akin to that of typical Japanese short-grain rice; a good texture considering how such types of grains usually carry a harder and more distinct texture than white rice in general. The addition of the curry gravy was a good call — apart from the flavoursome notes of curry spices, we did detect some aromatics such as that further elevated the flavours of the curry even more; something which we found to be a little different from the norm. Other elements here seemed to have provided a more wholesome and balanced feel for the dish whilst also adding a whole lot more texture for a varied mouth feel so that it does not get too boring here.— the glass noodle salad is a rather odd choice considering how it is an additional carb to the Rice Plate, but it does add a chewy texture amidst the refreshing crunch of the Rainbow Slaw and the Pickled Cucumbers; the latter adding a tang that refreshes the tastebuds. The sous-vide egg comes with a creamy molten yolk, while one can also find avocado that adds a creamy and butter touch to the Rice Plate. Despite being the Half Tank option, this is pretty much a substantially-sized Rice Plate that definitely filled us up pretty well. Prices for the Half Tank Rice Bowls are priced between $12 to $18; a little steep for some but there are efforts placed here in the quality and execution much like Two Men Bagel House — not to mention that they are also well-sized. Wishing these all the best with the opening of Two Men Rice Bar — would definitely be back to check out the other items that they have to offer!

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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