Spaghett-ular

Spaghett-ular

The list where you find me having a rare plate of pasta.
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Osteria BBR had been a spot that I have been wanting to make a visit for a long while; glad to have finally made the visit thanks to a chance opportunity of a spontaneous dinner where it was only arranged a day before. Entering from “patio” area at the back of Raffles Hotel, the main entrance to Osteria BBR is tucked at the side of the building; stepping into the restaurant and one will be greeted with a clean aesthetic that sees white and red being the main colours used throughout the entire restaurant. There is really a great incorporation of the building’s style against the interior decor of the restaurant — the colonial-era elements such as the windows seemingly blending well into the modern aesthetic so well; the middle of the space being dedicated to the kitchen and food preparation area, while the dine-in area surrounds that afore-mentioned area so diners can get to see the action going on without being seated by the counter seats. Visiting Osteria BBR during dinner service, they serve up both an ala-carte menu and a prix fixe set menu — the former being segmented into sections such as Antipasti, Pasta E Risotto, Pizza, Da Condividere (i.e. sharing plates), Secondi Piatti (i.e. main course), and Dolci (i.e. dessert). They also do have an extensive list of alcoholic beverages available; patrons can also opt to have coffee to go along with their dessert if they wish.

There were several highlights to our meal at Osteria BBR, but our favourite would possibly be the Mezzi Paccheri Alla Guancia Di Manzo E Barolo. The dish features Paccheri pasta and Barolo-braised beef cheek; one would not be wrong to call this Osteria BBR’s rendition of a braised beef cheek pasta. The waitress had asked us if we would like our pasta to be done al-dente or slightly past al-dente; the reason being the Paccheri pasta being a little thick and it being done al-dente meant that it could be a little firm to some — ordering the pasta to be done slightly past al-dente would bring it closer to the texture of a typical pasta that is done al-dente. We eventually requested for our order to be done in the normal way (i.e. al dente). Being a tube-shaped pasta, the Paccheri pasta carried quite a bit of bite — we could see why the waitress had forewarned us about the texture of the pasta and asked us for our preferences earlier; that being said, we totally enjoyed it being al-dente, considering how it was pretty toothsome with all the tender and savoury braised beef chunks that saw the infusion of red wine in the braising process. The braising liquid pretty much acted as a “sauce” to the pasta, giving the pasta this luscious flavour — the braised beef adding that meaty touch without being particularly gamey. All in all, a really enjoyable dish that we found comfort in.

Our meal at Osteria BBR is nothing short of enjoyable — other items that really stuck an impression with us were the Polpo, Spuma Di Patate, Profumi Mediterranei (i.e. Octopus, potato foam, Mediterranean scent), Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese, Insalata Di Rucola E Pomodorini (i.e. Veal chop Milanese-style, arugula salad, cherry tomatoes) and the Baba Al Limoncello, Panna Montata (i.e. Signature baba, limoncello, whipped cream) — the Polpo, Spuma Di Patate, Profumi Mediterranei featuring a well-executed octopus leg that carried a good bite with a bit of crisp char on the outside that is in no way rubbery, while the Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese, Insalata Di Rucola E Pomodorini had a golden-brown batter yet with the flesh done with a pinkish centre; crisp on the exterior and tender inside; the exterior crust somewhat bearing a resemblance to Hainanese-style biscuit-battered pork chops that we found to especially appealing. The Baba Al Limoncello, Panna Montata ended the meal beautifully; one of the most subtle Rum Baba that we have came across to-date where it wasn’t too overwhelmingly heavy on the alcohol, and carried a gingery undertone in its finish that was pretty refreshing. It is without a doubt that we would find ourselves craving for quite a number of the items that we have had at Osteria BBR — the experience was a good one on the food, but made even better with the service crew that knows their stuff; takes pride in introducing the items for guests to make a decision on what to order, yet willing to engage in small talk with patrons at appropriate times. A spot that works for dates, anniversaries or just a fancy catch-up; definitely a spot we would like to return to again!

It was pretty much a shame that Rascals at PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex had since shuttered — a spot that we really quite like when we made our visit just several months ago when they had first opened their doors; a gastrobar that serves up contemporary Asian cuisine. Since its closure, the space has now been taken over by yet another gastrobar — this time being Overworked Gastrobar which seems to have inherited much of whatever that Rascals had left behind when they had vacated the space; there has been little changes to both the facade of the shop unit (with the exception of the change of signages) and the furniture and fittings within, which gives the space that slightly raw look that it used to have with its previous tenant. Being a gastrobar that serves up Western and Asian fusion fare, the menu at Overworked Gastrobar is segmented into sections such as Starters, Overworked Burgers (featuring a homemade brioche bun), Breakfast, Entree, Light Bites (i.e. finger food that goes with booze), Signature Potato Rosti, Protein Poke Bowl and Dessert (i.e. a variety of Gelato on Homemade Waffle). The beverages menu at Overworked Gastrobar includes non-alcoholic options such as alcohol-free wine, house-made concoctions, floral tea, and kombucha from Wild Boocha; they also do serve coffee using beans roasted by local cafe, State of Affairs, which is located at 183 Longhaus at Upper Thomson Road. The alcoholic beverages menu would comprise of various types of wine, beer and hard liquor.

Being an item on the menu that is listed with two thumbs up, the Johnny Nutmetto was an item that we found ourselves going for since it is pretty much a strong recommendation on the menu. The Johnny Nutmetto is a Cold Seafood Pasta which consists of elements such as Cold Angel Hair Pasta, Asari Clams, Vannamei Prawn, Seabass Slices and a Chef’s Secret Nutmetto Relish. Served with the plate also chilled, the Johnny Nutmetto is a dish that is quite unlike any other that we have had thus far — the Cold Angel Hair Pasta is tossed with the Chef’s Secret Nutmetto Relish here; the relish being a tangy, nutty mix that probably involved tomatoes(?) and peanut sauce(?) that gives off a flavour profile that is almost similar to that of sauces typically found in Hong Kong-style chee cheong funs that comes with the “trio sauce”. The relish, which also gives the dish and Western-Asian fusion, comes slightly spicy — it isn’t that sort that gives a fiery kick, but certain enough to tingle the taste buds and should work fine even for those with lower tolerance to spiciness; something which we found to be particularly fitting with the seafood elements of the pasta. The Cold Angel Hair Pasta here is done to a slightly softer consistency than what we are used to — carried a good chew that somehow fits the context here where it is done as a cold pasta. Thought that the portion of seafood is pretty reasonable, with a good portion of Asari Clams, Vannamei Prawn and Seabass Slices thrown into the mix so every twirl with the fork ends up with some seafood laced within. A rather appetising dish that could also work as a starter to share with a larger group of diners as well.

Having tried other dishes such as the Plaster Cheesy Ham Rosti at Overworked Gastrobar, we did find their Western and Asian fusion fare to be somewhat playful and inventive — the Plaster Cheesy Ham Rosti being their own fusion take where Rosti meets Plaster Prata, which sees a sunny side-up plastered on the Rosti. Overall, the fusion fare here can be pretentious to some; that being said, they do seem to make sense while at it — probably shows a lot on their R&D process whilst coming up with the dishes. Coffee needs quite a bit of work however; the use of beans roasted by State of Affairs for their coffee offerings is something which deserves some cred — that being said, we do wish that they could probably invest in a better machine and having a proper barista in order to make the best use of the beans that they have got. Overworked Gastrobar was a tad empty when we had visited them on a Friday evening; that is despite all the posts that seemed to be making its rounds of social media of the late — a little bit of a sad sight for a spot meant for after-work drinks. That being said, this makes for a great space for catch-ups over some drinks and fun fusion fare to go along till it starts to get buzzy with a crowd — somewhere which we would not mind revisiting if in the area.

Wisteria Mall at Yishun had seen a slight switch up of tenants ever since our last visit to the mixed-use development — gone are some of tenants such as Wild Wood Cafe and the Kopitiam food court within the mall. While the food court remains vacated, Eighteen Chefs Express has since taken over the former premises of the now-defunct Wild Wood Cafe. Builders Cafe had also recently ceased operations within the mall (their outlet at Sims Place named Builders at Sims still remains in operation), and has since re-branded itself as Not Just Mee. The re-branding exercise does seem like a hasty job; whilst most of the furnishing and fittings has been retained, the menu board does seem to be handwritten, while all decor and fittings that previously referred to Builders Cafe have since been replaced by that of Not Just Mee. The food menu at Not Just Mee comprises of Sides, Pasta, Rice Bowl and Desserts — it is however worth nothing that the Pasta section of the menu does comprise of some options that are noodle dishes that may not necessarily belong to the said category such as the Japanese Soba with Seabass which features soba noodles, the Viet Beef Pho which features Kway Tiao, and the Korean Ramen that features ramen noodles. Beverages available at Not Just Mee includes specialty coffee (brewed using beans from local roastery Dutch Colony Coffee Co.), artisanal tea, and a whole list of other beverages that also comprises of flavoured “Sprite Yakut” drinks, milkshakes, sodas and even a small variety of beers. Apart from the deserts being listed in the Desserts section of the menu, Not Just Mee also does carry a small selection of cakes that they have sourced from KURA Patisserie which had recently moved from The Herencia at Kim Yan Road to South Bridge Road — something that Builders Cafe had been doing at the Wisteria Mall outlet previously as well.

Being one of the dishes listed on the Pasta menu, this is also one that comes with a fusion component; the Tomyum Pasta also comes with elements such as linguine, fresh clams, prawns and Tom Yum Cream as described on the menu. Digging in to the plate of pasta, there is no denying how this a well-executed plate of pasta with a fusion element — here, the Tom Yum Cream manages to achieve a really good consistency; there are places that serve up their Tom Yum pasta with a Tom Yum Cream that is either too creamy or too diluted. It is just at that right level without being too jelak, yet not being so dilute that it doesn’t lace together with the linguine — the Tom Yum Cream carrying that zing and tang with a mildly spicy kick that kept us yearning for more. The linguine is done al-dente here; not too soft nor was it brittle; the fresh clams and prawns being especially fresh and carries a natural hint of sweetness on its own — also thought that they did provide enough seafood for the price at $16.90++ as well. Overall, the Tomyum Pasta did manage to check all of the right boxes for us — a dish that we spent no effort at all in mopping up the entire plate clean.

Builders Cafe may be a recognisable name within the local cafe scene and it is certainly a shame to see them no longer being in operations at least in Wisteria Mall — great cafes in the North are certainly hard to come by, but Not Just Mee is an interesting concept that delivers on the same to the residents of Yishun; great noodle dishes that are well-designed and can be said as a wholesome offering that would suit well for both lunch and dinner. We were pretty satiated by both noodle dishes we have had here — the Tomyum Pasta, as well as the Viet Beef Pho; the latter with a light but flavourful broth with slippery Kway Tiao that is especially comforting, and a great complimenting dish to have with the Tomyum Pasta considering how one emphasises on heavier flavours while the other comes really light and clean. There are other dishes that also intrigued us that we have not ordered — think dishes such as the Corn Tempura and Mussels with Marsala Sauce; probably a next visit to Not Just Mee would be needed!

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Dropped by the new Musette that had opened fairly recently at Thye Hong Centre — the building itself is situated just a short walk away from Redhill MRT Station, and is pretty much the first building along Tiong Bahru Road that leads up to the new car dealerships up Leng Kee Road. Musette Cafe shares its premises with an upcoming fine-dining establishment that takes up a separate corner of the the same shop space named Full Circle by J.Man; both concepts are by the same folks behind one Michelin-starred 28Wilkie and Twenty Eight Cafe that are located at Sophia Flats at 28 Wilkie Road, just behind Wilkie Edge. Being their second concept, Musette bears a slightly different aesthetic than that of Twenty Eight Cafe; while the interior of Twenty Eight Cafe does blend it pretty well being situated in colonial-era building, the design of Musette seems to take on a slightly more industrial approach with a darker interior, as well as cement walls and metallic fittings — overall a more industrial look in comparison. It is also interesting that Musette also serves a rather different menu than that of Twenty Eight Cafe — Musette Cafe’s food menu is split into sections dedicated to All Day Breakfast, Salad, Mains (from 11am onwards only), and Sides — most of dishes seemingly being exclusive to Musette though there are some items such as the Pandan Souffle and Smoked Salmon Souffle that are extensions of what Twenty Eight Cafe serves up; the list of non-alcoholic beverages include specialty coffee, chocolate/Matcha/Houjicha options, juices, milkshakes, tea, soft drinks and mocktails. Alcoholic beverages include beer on tap, cocktails, spirits and wines as well. For those looking for some form of light bites here, they do offer a variety of viennoiserie that is on display at the counter.

Having caught the word “Orzo” in the Mushroom Orzo Pasta, we knew that this was an item that we cannot simply give a miss after skimming through the menu here. The Mushroom Orzo Pasta is described on the menu to come with elements such as mushroom, sous vide egg, fried kale and parmesan; other elements that we have noticed on the plate here includes pine nuts as well. We are big fans of Orzo pasta grains here; for those who are unfamiliar with Orzo, they are a type of pasta that is shaped almost like rice grains — a wise choice of pasta here considering how this gives a risotto-esque feel with a good bite. The orzo grains do come with a light drizzle of balsamic; this provides a slight tang to the pasta that gives it a bit of a flavour contrast against the lightly creamy notes it does come with. The inclusion of pine nuts provides a contrast of texture against the orzo; lending the dish a soft crunch that compliments the textures of the orzo. They seem to be pretty generous with the chunks of mushrooms in the pasta here; these gave a good bouncy bite and gave the pasta an earthy note, while the fried kale provides a lightly crisp texture that tops it all off pretty well. Breaking up that sous vide egg reveals a creamy and runny yolk; mix it up with all that beneath and it binds all the elements up with a silkier texture. The dish comes topped off with shaved parmesan; provides just that right level of saltishness for a savoury touch. All in all, a very well-executed pasta dish that we could not get enough of.

Having tried Twenty Eight Cafe previously when they have first started operations, we must say that Musette does feel like an establishment where they have taken much of their experience in running Twenty Eight Cafe, and refined them further for a better experience here. For one, we do find the Mushroom Orzo Pasta being executed well above our initial expectations — one that has taken into account flavours and textures for a cohesive experience which we thought was a great effort on its own. We were also very impressed with the level of service here — whilst one may attribute it to them having the time since we were one of two groups of pax dining in during our visit, they did manage to give us a short introduction to the concept and a short tour around Full Circle by J.Man; also gave us an introduction of the dish each time our order is served. Overall Musette has probably nailed almost everything right for now — it will be pretty interesting to see if they would be able to keep things consistent or even further elevate the dining experience from here. Would most certainly be back again for the Ebi Katsu Sando; that certainly was something that caught our eyes which we are eager to return to for some other time!

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Lola’s shouldn’t be an unfamiliar name in the local F&B scene these days — having been in operations as Lola’s Cafe for a number of years now, Lola’s had finally expanded its main brand after the introduction of several other notable brands over the years; these include the now-defunct On The Table previously at Pasir Panjang Road, the now-defunct Suzette previously at The Esplanade, as well as Dumpling Darlings which operates at Amoy Street and Circular Road, and Lucky Dumplings at ION Orchard. With the opening of their newest space at Lorong Mambong in Holland Village which takes over the former premises of the now-defunct JOMO, Lola’s has also introduced an updated logo that is also used at the original spot at Kovan. Occupying a shop unit that consists of two levels at Lorong Mambong, Lola’s Cafe had completed redesigned the space; the first level is pretty much reserved for outdoor dining — the indoor space at the ground level being a more of a service area with the espresso bar and cake counter taking up most of the space there, while the second level is the main indoor dining hall. The interior is decked in a rather earthy tone that is soothing to the eyes with use of terracotta and wooden elements; lots of greenery is also used to create a look that is close to nature. Those who have visited Lola’s at Kovan might find the menu served at their new outpost at Lorong Mambong somewhat familiar; the menu is split into several sections where the items listed in the All-Day, Dessert and Waffles section of the menu are available throughout its operating hours, while the dishes on the Brunch section are available from 9am to 3pm. The Pasta section of the menu, which is exclusively available at Lorong Mambong, is available from both 9am to 3pm, and from 5:30pm to 9:30pm, while the Dinner items are available only from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. Whilst most of the items do seem to be carried from their existing menu at Kovan, the Lorong Mambong outlet does serve a few exclusive items — this includes the Tsukune Sando in the Brunch section of the menu.

Also exclusive to the menu at Lorong Mambong in the Dinner section of the menu would be the Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli that we have decided to go for. Being much of a fan of ravioli, this was a clear draw for us considering how it featured elements such as Handmade Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli, Brown Butter, Fried Sage, Walnuts, Parmesan, Wine — sage, brown butter and walnuts being things that we especially love to have in a ravioli dish. We were initially rather sceptical about how the dish would turn out, but was left really surprised by how well-executed these were — the handmade ravioli served here does seem bigger than what we are used to having at other establishments. We also liked how the pasta was well-made; not too doughy nor chewy, but does hold up to the mushroom and ricotta fillings pretty well — the mushroom providing a slightly qq-texture and an earthy flavour profile that matches against the savoury brown butter sauce that is spiked sigh a little bit of parmesan pretty well. The fried sage gives a slight twist of textures; somewhat crisp, yet carries a distinct herb-y note that adds on to the brown butter sauce — all that whilst the walnuts helped to add a bit of nuttiness and a crunch factor to the dish. All in all, a dish that we thoroughly enjoyed given how it attempts to hit a multitude of textures and flavours to provide that extra “oomph”.

Always had that impression that Lola’s serves pretty decent food, but at a rather safe level — the impression of our meals at Lola’s at Kovan previously were more of decent cafe fare at a rather affordable price, though nothing much to shout about in general. Having dropped by their new Lorong Mambong outlet, we did feel that they have since progressed beyond the standards that we have expected them to be at — the Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli was actually really well-executed and could certainly compare against what some bistros were serving up previously as well. Perhaps the rise in standards stems from their experience gained over time especially with the success of Dumpling Darlings — we are definitely seeing some sort of a change from what they were when they first started out as Lola’s Cafe in Kovan. It goes without saying that their latest outpost at Lorong Mambong would be a destination that cafe-hoppers should put in the list of places to check out — that being said, we do feel like those whom probably have given them a go several years ago should make a timely revisit as well; we are truly impressed with how they are like now, and would certainly return for more when the time allows for it!

Checked out the new Cafe Hachi that had very recently opened their doors at 35 North Canal Road — the matcha-centric cafe is located within same stretch as PUNCH which is located just a few units away. Hailing from Fukoka, Japan, this Singapore outpost is also their very first location that is situated outside of Japan. Unlike other matcha-centric spots that we are familiar with locally, the decor at Cafe Hachi does seem to be a little darker than what one would usually associate such places with — dimmer lighting agains concrete walls and furniture with a darker wooden accent, it is actually pretty easy to the eyes and sets a slightly more upscale vibe as compared to the other matcha-centric spots around. Serving up hot food aside from matcha-related desserts, think Cafe Hachi as an establishment closer to the style of Nana Green Tea rather than the likes of Hvala, Matchaya or even Tsukiji — the menu features both vegan and non-vegan mains, as well as vegan desserts and matcha-based desserts. The list of beverages here includes different types of Matcha — something which isn’t too surprising considering their focus here.

Having skimmed through the menu here, we went for the Mentai Pasta since there was quite a list of items that were unavailable during our visit. Being one of the most basic pasta dishes that is listed on their menu, the dish comprises of pasta, cod roe and butter. Based on the description directly quoted from the online menu, the spaghetti used here is said to be “made with aged noodles from Awaji Island” — did not feel much of a difference about the spaghetti here from usual ones; that being said, they were done al-dente, and we really loved how giving the entire dish a good toss brings all the elements together. That savouriness from the butter sauce with the briny notes of mentai — it is nothing short of flavoursome despite its rather plain aesthetic; simple but hearty.

Whilst Cafe Hachi does seem like a fairly promising establishment, it is important to set the expectations right — Cafe Hachi isn’t quite the spot to head to for those who bear expectations of it being an establishment meant for the true matcha lover; at least based on what we have ordered. In retrospect where establishments such as Hvala, 108 Matcha Saro and Matchaya may appeal more towards the matcha purist considering the intensity of their matcha and matcha-related items, Cafe Hachi seems to sit in the category of a matcha specialty shop-cum-Japanese Deli where they are more positioned towards the general market. Do also expect teething issues as well since they are fairly new — prices on their printed menu do not tally with the online menu (they go by the price on the online menu); the online menu also did not display the full range of hot food initially until the staff reset the system. Also of particular note is how the dessert counter does not seem to receive tickets for the hot food orders, so do expect wait staff to come by asking if mains would like to be ordered even though orders have been placed for hot food and dessert. Still, Cafe Hachi does seem like a spot good for a girl’s day out or even for brunch dates — hoping that the teething issues will sort out as they ease into their operations as time passes.

Pretty new to the cafe scene of the late is Amika Cafe and Bar; taking over the former premises of Two Bakers at Teck Chye Terrace, Amika Cafe & Bar is located a few a couple of bus stops away from NEX, Serangoon MRT Station and Serangoon Bus Interchange. For those whom have visited Two Bakers at this location previously, the interior of Amika Cafe & Bar remains pretty much the same as what it was during the tenancy of the previous operator. Despite being largely similar to what it was previously, the placement of the furnishings do somewhat differ — gone is the cake display that used to be placed near the entrance at some point of time; there is also a side table near the entrance that has some Thai ornaments on display. Being pretty much a cafe and bar, Amika’s menu features starters/sharing plates, all-day brunch items and mains — some of which carrying a Thai influence such as that of the Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta and the Zaap Fries that we have ordered; other more westernised items that are available here includes the Rosti Sausage and Amika Burger; just to name a few. Beverages at Amika Cafe and Bar are largely limited to non-alcoholic ones — a little surprising considering how they do call themselves a bar; patrons can expect a variety of specialty coffee, tea and mocktails available here.

Of the various mains that are available at Amika Cafe & Bar, it was clear that the Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta had already caught our attention as we skimmed through the menu before deciding to head in. The Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta consists of elements such as spaghetti that is tossed in a homemade spicy tamarind sauce that is mildly spicy with grilled marinated Kurobuta Pork. First taste of the pasta and we liked how the pasta is done al-dente; the pasta being coated with the savoury yet tangy tamarind sauce that can be said to be similar to that of an Assam sauce with some depth — the sauce being suitably spicy and should do fine even for those who have a low tolerance to spiciness. The Kurobuta Pork Belly is well-marinated; savoury whilst being pretty gelatinous around the fatty parts — does require some effort to chew but it is still juicy and considerable tender. An item that is pretty unique, and something which one would probably be not able to find elsewhere.

The closure of Two Bakers at Teck Chye Terrace may be said as a loss to the residents around Serangoon for a spot that serves pretty decent brunch and bakes in the neighbourhood; that being said, Amika Cafe and Bar does fill up this void rather decently — not only do they serve up what most would consider usual brunch fare at a decent price point (most all-day brunch items and main fall below $22 here), they do have some items that does seem rather unique here. No doubt that are better cafes around the island, but Amika Cafe & Bar would probably cut it for those staying around the area who is looking for a hangout in their own neighbourhood for a leisurely brunch over the weekend.

A few newly-opened cafes have been making their rounds across social media recently and one of them is Blue Balls Cafe — a bike-themed cafe that is situated at 44 Pasir Panjang Road. For those whom are unfamiliar with the area, the cafe takes up a stand-alone space with the same grounds as Anytime Fitness Pasir Panjang, and is located pretty close by to the Pasir Panjang outpost of Eat 3 Bowls as well. Having an al-fresco dining area that is pretty much only sheltered by an awning, as well as an outdoor dining area apart from the main indoor dining hall, the al-fresco dining area does seem to be pet-friendly, whilst patrons who are less keen to sit in the area can actually choose to sit in the outdoor area that is accessible through the indoor dining hall. The cafe does exude some industrial vibes with the large use of brick walls and cemented floors, as well as the mix of metallic and wooden furnishing and fittings — does somewhat remind us a little of Wheeler’s Yard where a similar approach was used as well; from the colours of the walls to the hanging of the bicycle parts. Walking into the dine-in area, one is greeted by a display rack of biking apparel that showcases the items available for retail; on the other side, the display chiller is stocked with the cakes and wraps available for the day. The menu here features hot food ranging from mains (mostly meat, fish or poultry dishes), burgers and pastas, as well as soup and salads, bites that are good to share at the table, and a small selection of desserts. Beverages include smoothies, specialty coffee, teas from Teapigs Tea from UK and canned drinks; just to name a few.

While one can argue that a lot of thought was placed in the decor and environment of the cafe, the food could be said as something that probably has some room for improvement. While the Grand Tour Fish & Chips that we had was rather uninspiring, the Echelon Mussels Pasta left a slightly better impression. Featuring elements such as mussels, white wine, butter, garlic, chili, parsley and linguine, the broth that the linguine was tossed in had that slight alcoholic zing that made it taste pretty close to a rather decent Vongole — all that spiked with a bit of spiciness coming from the bird’s eye chili that they have included for the kick. That being said, we felt that the noodles could do with a bit more cooking time for that truly al-dente texture, while the quality of the mussels could admittedly been better since the quality just seemed to vary between the pieces that were in our plate.

A lot of the hype on Blue Balls Cafe seems to be placed on the interior — no doubt a very conducive environment which we found ourselves enjoying and even staying for longer than we would usually. Whilst we only tried a select few items off their menu, we felt that their offerings seem a little generic and just doesn’t seem to be made to impress — probably something that may appease the most basic of taste buds, though mostly a tad off for the seasoned cafe hopper. Nonetheless, they have done quite a good job with the interior here; something that is likely to attract avid cafe hoppers as well as bike enthusiasts alike — though one should manage their expectations on the food which could do with more attention to details here.

Was scrolling through social media pages and found the accounts of the newly-opened Armenor located at 7 Purvis Street — the establishment has taken over the former premises of Santa Fe Tex-Med Grill, and is a “casual modern European restaurant” that aims to give classic European cuisine a modern twist. The interior has seen a total revamp from its former tenant; with a more bistro-style setting, the design language can be said to be of a modern chic style — concrete-esque walls with wooden fittings and a brick-esque look for its bar counter, the suede cushioned seats do add up to the other furnishings for a slightly upscale sort of vibe. Plants also adorn the interior for a feel that makes the space seem closer to nature, whilst the yellow hue for its lighting is warm to the eyes, yet dim enough to create that sort of “classy” atmosphere. The menu at Armenor comprises of sections dedicated to Entree, Soup & Salad, Appetisers, Beef, Pasta, Pizza, Dessert and Kid’s Menu — small bites are also offered here; items which are good to pair alongside their extensive beverages menu that comprises of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options where the latter includes milkshakes, coffee and mocktails just to name a few. Prices of the pasta here are at $25 before service charge, while the pizza are priced at $20 before service charge — the beef ranging from $33 to $45 before service charge; pretty in-line with their focus on providing a menu at a more accessible price point.

Of all the dishes which we had tried, the Classic Carbonara was the one which we found to be pretty memorable. Featuring elements such as Guanciale Cured Pork, Fresh Egg, Spaghetti, Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Black Pepper, the Classic Carbonara is done in a way that is authentically Italian — purists will note how there isn’t any cream nor bacon used here; just egg, pork cheek, cheese and pepper all done with the sauce being reduced to a point where there is enough to coat the pasta. While the Classic Carbonara here checks all of the boxes of a traditional Carbonara, we enjoyed how the noodles were done just al-dente here carrying just the right bite — each strand of noodle being sufficiently coated by the eggy sauce. What we really liked was how the Guanciale Cured Pork provided (which they were also pretty generous with) had a sort of flavour that was typical of Chinese waxed meat — incredibly savoury on its own but gives the eggy pasta a hint of meatiness from its fats that was especially delicious; also provided some form of chew as a textural contrast as well. Those seeking for an authentic Carbonara would most likely be satisfied with the one served here at Armenor — pretty surprised how this item wasn’t actually listed as a Chef’s Recommendation given it’s quality.

Overall the experience at Armenor is a pretty pleasant one; for one, the environment is pretty soothing and warm but we note that the service here is on-point (though it may also be possible that they had the time to since we were pretty much the only table there for the night) — friendly staff who are genuinely into making connections with their patrons through small talk and also gathering constructive feedback, which made our visit especially welcoming. Food here is also genuinely decent; no doubt there are some items such as the Tricolour Panna Cotta that requires a bit of fine-tuning to achieve some sort of balance between the various elements, but there are also items such as the Classic Carbonara that deserves a mention. Let’s just say that Armenor is a spot that works for dates, family dinners and even a night’s out after work alike — would really like to see them uphold the same level of hospitality as time passes; not a lot of places do make their guests feel at home at this price point, but this is something that Armenor does seem to do well at that sets a difference against other establishments out there.

Han’s is pretty much a brand that I do have a love-hate relationship with; it’s a favourite with my folks, and whilst I did belong to the era of kids who actually had it once in a while where my parents wanted to dine in air-conditioned comfort yet have local fare at the same time back int those days, we are now pretty much at a time where there are plenty of other options that we can go for at the same price point where satisfaction might be better met. The opening of the Thomson-East Coast Line had made a visit to Han’s a little bit more convenient, considering they are just situated outside Springleaf MRT Station — the outlet itself being a Han’s Union one where patrons can also order items from their other brands such as ĀTO as well.

Not sure how true this statement is, but it seems that Han’s Union had recently started to serve up an outlet exclusive menu that features plant-based items — not that we have seen this menu served at their other usual Han’s or Hanis outlets but we could be wrong. While the menu does feature other items that includes plant-based meat such as a Chicken Stew with Truffle and the Lemak Burger, what caught our eyes was the Pappardelle Al' Funghi with Truffle Butter, which is described in the menu as “Classic italian pasta with homemade cream sauce, topped with mushrooms and
fragrant truffle butter”. There was also an on-going promotion during our visit, where each main will come served with a drink, soup (Cream of Mushroom) and garlic bread on the side. Whilst my previous experiences of Han’s cream pasta dishes is usually an immensely rich and sinful ordeal (a guilty pleasure of mine, since I grew up being fond of such pastas in the past), this one was not too jelak in comparison — it is sufficiently creamy without being overly thick; perhaps so from the infusion of the truffle butter that gave it a slight hint of savouriness apart from the hint of truffle that perfumes throughout the dish lightly. The Pappardelle was slightly too soft for my liking; feels a tad overdone with the texture coming pretty close to Kway Teow somewhat — there again, I don’t think regular patrons of Han’s and their various concepts would have been too bothered with this. One thing i particularly enjoyed with this dish is how it comes with quite a decent portion of assorted mushrooms — all of them gave a good bouncy bite but I liked how there is varying contrasts of earthiness from the shimeiji to the shiitake; pretty much shook up the otherwise rather boring plate of pasta for me. Also, kudos to the folks at Han’s Union for the plating of this dish — not the prettiest, but definitely one of the more presentable dishes that I have seen from them though it is also known that some of the dishes here do bear a different plating from that of the usual Han’s and Hanis concepts.

To be fair, I am not one who would turn into a Han’s establishment as a meal option — there was one around the office until pretty much recently and I had never visited them ever. That being said, having visited Han’s Union several times, this is one spot I wouldn’t mind visiting considering the proximity from me, and how the food quality does seem to be beyond that of their other outlets, whilst also being one of their most comfortable outlets around as well. Wouldn’t say that the Pappardelle Al' Funghi with Truffle Butter is a must try, but it is worth considering for something that is pretty decent for those who are not too picky overall.

Quite excited to drop by the new Oaks Coffee Co. that had recently opened its doors at Upper Thomson Road; the new coffeehouse is located along the same stretch of shophouses where Hello Arigato is. For those whom are pretty familiar around the neighbourhood, the spot that Oaks Coffee Co. occupies is the same exact spot where Habitat Coffee was before their move to King George’s Avenue. Serving up different menus for lunch and dinner service, the brunch menu features dishes with a fusion touch amidst other more contemporary cafe fare like pasta, muesli, cheese toasties and brunch plates — think items such as the Beef Rendan Burger and Laksa Orzo Pasta, while the dinner menu is more communal featuring starters and sharing plates. Being a coffeehouse at heart, there is a selection of specialty coffee (including their in-house concoctions such as the Fizzy Espresso Yuzu), tea and even wines available for choices of beverages here.

Being someone who is on a lookout for dishes featuring Orzo (items that I recall having the specific type of pasta include the Beef & Grains from the now-defunct Sin Lee Foods), the Laksa Orzo Pasta was one that piqued quite some interest in me even before I headed here. The item features Tiger Prawns, Clams, Salmon Roe, Tau Pok, Coconut Ice Cream, Laksa Leaf — a rather unorthodox combination of elements considering how the item is a combination of hot-and-cold, whilst also lacking the strands of noodles which have been replaced by Orzo — pasta grains shaped like rice. Liked how there is sufficient “gravy” going around the sauce; it was also pretty “lemak”; rich and carried evident notes of the spices, while the coconut ice-cream provided on the side was velvety smooth and further enhanced the texture of the whole dish. The Orzo grains also carried a good bite; liked how they have portioned it well so it doesn’t really get overwhelming here. The taupok included were dehydrated; carrying a texture almost akin to that of croutons, while the seafood included such as the clams and prawns were fresh — the latter carrying a natural sweetness. Liked how they also included the Salmon Roe here, which helped to give it a slightly umami-ness that strangely compliments the whole dish.

Also took the opportunity try out the Chrysanthemum Jello for a dessert to end off the meal, as well as the Creamy White Cold Brew which is a bottled cold brew with cream and milk — the former is a refreshing dessert evident floral notes, while the latter comes slightly sweetened and is everything nutty and rich. While the Upper Thomson Road neighbourhood is filled with a myriad of cafes of the old (i.e. One Man Coffee, Colombus Coffee Co.) and that of the new (i.e. Hello Arigato), Oaks Coffee Co. is an apt addition to the coffee scene here — liked how they do carry quite a good selection of inventive dishes (that also work) and some safer items to cater to a wide variety of patrons. They are currently still in their soft launch phase, so do expect some teething issues but I am pretty certain that they will get things sorted out soon — a spot to add to the list of cafes that one should check out!

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Stirling Road seems to be much of favourite for cafes these days for those who have chosen to open at Queenstown — the folks of Mixsense Private Dining had recently moved into Blk 169 Stirling Road within the estate of Stirling View, operating as Sin & Savage Bakehouse; their shop space being located just beside that of Creatr., which is a collaboration between Three’s a Crowd Cafe and MasterChef Singapore Season 2 runner-up, Leon Lim. Apart from serving up the artisan donuts which Mixsense Private Dining is known for, Sin & Savage Bakehouse also serves up a variety of bakes, whilst also serving a hot food menu that comprises of breakfast platters, salads, appetisers, mains and pasta as well; a perfect one-stop cafe to have a meal and grab some treats for tea-time.

The Orecchiette really got to me as I was craving for a good plate of pasta, and the option just quite stood out from the rest as being an uncommon option against the other pastas they have to offer. Featuring elements such as smokey spiced beef, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach, the pasta has also been tossed with some cheese as well. Taking a spoonful of everything at one go, everything seemed to have gone pretty well here — while the orecchiette here isn’t made in-house, it was done just right; al-dente with a slightly chewier texture in the centre for some bite. Stringy, melted cheese helps to bind several of the ingredients in parts for a savoury note, but it is the smokey spiced beef that brings this notch above being a well-made Beef Bolognese pasta — savoury, but not gamey, yet smoky bits of minced beef laces the pasta, it also carried hints similar to chili minced beef being tossed in chili oil just for a tinge of spiciness to tickle the tastebuds. The cherry tomatoes gives a refreshing burst of zestiness when chewed upon; providing for much of a flavour and textural contrast for the pasta. While some may lament on how the pasta may be a tad oily from the chili oil, we found the Sakura Green Tea (served as the Hot Artisanal Tea of the Day) adequate to cut through all of the grease and cleansed the palate well.

Pretty impressed with the food that Sin & Savage Bakehouse is serving — not only was the Yuzu Citron Tart that we had pretty much on point, but we were also pleasantly surprised by how they seem to also serve up some pretty delicious hot food here. If one is in Queenstown craving for some cafe/bistro fare; Sin & Savage Bakehouse is certainly the spot to hit — a location that one should definitely check out at least for once!

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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