Pizz Please ~

Pizz Please ~

It’s time for pizza!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

It has been a while since we had found out about this; whilst there has been quite number of stalls that had moved out of the BGAIN @ Lavender Foodcourt since a couple of months ago, it does seem that there is a new stall that had sprouted up there of the late. Located at the corner-most unit right beside the windows facing out towards Jalan Besar, the latest stall that had moved into the food court would be that of Vegan Natural Bakery. For those whom find this name particularly familiar, yes; this is actually the same establishment with the namesake in Johor Bahru, Malaysia — in fact, Vegan Natural Bakery does have two independently run locations in Johor Bahru with one being at Nusa Sentral and the other being in Skudai. Their very first outpost in Singapore differs from that of their Malaysian locations considering how they are just a food court stall here; that being said, their menu revolves around noodle and rice offerings — there are also items like the Plant-Based Charcoal Burger with fries set and the Golden Pillow with the latter coming with their very own housemade bread as well.

Being an establishment that hails from Malaysia and with particular focus on Malaysian cuisine, it is needless to say that it was items such as the Ipoh Curry Daan Daan Noodles, Penang Assam Laksa and the Melaka Chicken Rice Ball that really caught our attention whilst we were skimming through the menu during our visit there on a weekend afternoon. Amongst much contemplation, we went for the Ipoh Curry Daan Daan Noodles — the mention of Daan Daan Noodles here seems to be more in reference to the Chinese La Mian-esque sort of noodles that are being used for the dish, and definitely did not seem to be referencing any potential fusion element between Ipoh Curry Noodles and Daan Daan Noodles they some may be thinking about. Vegan Natural Bakery does not describe on the elements that come with the dish; that being said, one can expect vegetarian tofu fish cake, fried beancurd skin, beancurd puffs and long beans coming with the dish. Going straight for some of the noodles with the curry gravy, we already found ourselves in love with the springiness of the noodles — all of that with that incredibly flavourful curry that just hits the tastebuds being all rich and not too spicy for those whom are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness overall. All the other elements are actually pretty god to have — the fried beancurd skin providing an element of crisp and remained to be so even after a good while of being soaked in all of that curry gravy; not particularly greasy, while the long beans delivered a crunch. The fried beancurd puffs absorbed all of the goodness of the curry gravy like a sponge, only to ooze out only when one takes a bite into it; the vegetarian fish tofu delivering a bouncy bite as well.

We had also managed to give the Melaka Chicken Rice Ball a go; this came with vegetarian roast(?) chicken and some fried beancurd skin at the bottom. The chicken rice balls were the standout for us when it came to this item; these certainly carried a slight gingery note with flavours almost akin to glutinous rice that also replicated the notes of the typical plate of chicken rice quite closely. We also liked the fact that the chicken rice balls were well-packed; the rice balls being sticky enough to still hold its structural intregrity as we chewed into it, and paired well with the chili which came with a bright, spicy note from fresh chili padi without the zing of calamansi. Compressed beancurd skin has been used in the making of the chicken; the one here does seem a little more loosely packed than some that we had come across but also comes with crisp layer over that provided a contrast of textures. We were also surprised with the texture of the blanched vegetable leaves that it came with; this came amazingly fresh and naturally sweet — all that with a soft crunch. Prices of the individually-sized main dishes at Vegan Natural Bakery are priced rather reasonably — the noodle dishes and rice dishes being of the range of $5.90 to $7.90, though some might note that the portions of food may be on the smaller side as well. Still, we are pretty much impressed with the items that we had went for during our visit — Vegan Natural Bakery definitely does their Malaysian-style dishes particularly well — we are looking forward to be back to give their other dishes such as the Golden Pillow a go some time soon!

The folks at Sinpopo Brand / Sinpopo Coffee has been pretty much on a roll of the late — it hadn’t been too long ago when they had just opened the doors to their location at Scotts Square; that being said, there is yet another location that finds the brand establishment its presence in the East. Sinpopo Coffee’s new outlet has found home with Tampines 1; the mall has also seen quite a much needed rejuvenation of the tenants that are operating within the mall as well. Located at level 2 of the mall, Sinpopo Coffee can be found along the same stretch of stores situated beside the shopping aisles — other F&B establishments located within its vicinity includes Oppa Bibimbap. Ever since the opening of their location at Tangs Plaza, Sinpopo Coffee had seen quite a bit of a revamp; while the concept at Tampines 1 is still not one that serve up savoury food much like their Tangs Plaza location, it does seem that their location here has a bigger emphasis on their Kueh offerings — a wider selection that we have yet to come across at their other outlets. Also exclusive at this outlet would be their selection of ice cream sundaes listed in the Sinpopo Singapore Sundae Movement section of the menu. Beverages listed on the menu would include drinks split into sections dedicated to Crafted Coffee, Specialties Coffee, Iced Thirst Quenchers and Teas.

With all the hype surrounding that of Warabi Mochi especially ever since the opening of Warabimochi KAMAKURA all across the island, it does seem that the folks at Sinpopo Coffee is riding on the hype train by offering three different types of “Warabi Mochi” at their Tampines 1 location (we hadn’t come across this offering at their other locations prior). Available in three (3) flavours, a single portion would see six (6) pieces at a price of $6.50. Amongst the Bandung, Gula Melaka and Pandan flavoured Warabi Mochi, it was the Bandung one that stood out to us the most. Unlike the usual Japanese Warabi Mochi, it does seem that the Bandung Warabi Mochi here does come with the flavours and colours infused into the rice cake flour — the typical Warabi Mochi would have seen a plain base for the Warabi Mochi to be rolled in some form of powder instead. Considering so, this would bear a texture and appearance similar to the traditional Jie Hong 结红 that can be found in some old-school bakeries. These were pillowy soft; almost to the point of lacking some sort of firmness — the slight note of floral notes typical of rose syrup also being pretty evident apart from the powdery texture that it carried. We had also given the Chendol Ice-Cream Sundae a go as well; this wasn’t exactly our ice-cream sundae of choice — we only ended up with it considering how it was the only ice-cream sundae flavour that is available for the day when we made our trip there on a Friday evening. This came with the usual suspects; chendol jelly, Gula Melaka, coconut cream, and Vanilla ice-cream all in a cocktail glass.

Replicating that of a typical Chendol with a slight modern twist, the Chendol Ice-Cream Sundae comes with that earthy sweetness of the Gula Melaka and the aromatic note of coconut cream — the chendol jelly also coming in a shade of pale green that doesn’t seem to be particularly like those that are commercially-made either. Of course we had to give the coffee a go; we were a little bummed that they didn’t carry their usual selection of “Sinpopo Style” beverages like the Fresh Pressed Kopi-O with Sweet Milk Foam — that being said, they do have rather interesting concoctions like the Kopi Kohsui, Chendol Latte etc.. Going for the Flat White, the Flat White was nothing much to shout about; we were alls rather surprised with the inconsistency of their cuppa here considering how we were served with one that came with latte art during our previous visit to their Scotts Square some time back. It does seem like that the folks at Sinpopo Coffee are able to find a niche within the market for themselves; we still remember the concept that Sinpopo Brand had started out being early in those days — itself being a really different concept to what they are now. With all that attention on heritage foods and flavours, it does seem that the emphasis on Kuehs that Sinpopo Coffee has taken of the late is particularly relevant — definitely one that would return back again for more!

It has been a while since the folks of Louisa Coffee had landed in Singapore — their very first outlet being situated within Guoco Midtown and is neighbours with Porsche Studio Singapore with a sprawling space and a shopfront that faces the main road. These folks had recently expanded their operations in Singapore, with their second outlet situated conveniently in the heartlands. Their second outpost in Singapore is located in at the ground level of Junction 8 in Bishan in the same area where one can also find establishments such as that of Swensen’s in the area. For those whom are unaware of the brand, Louisa Coffee is a brand that hails from Taiwan, but does have an international presence having expanded to Thailand back in 2019 as well. Their space at Junction 8 is significantly smaller than that of their first location locally at Guoco Tower; the shop space also being enclosed without any windows with views outside of the mall — that being said, those whom have been to their space at Bugis would find their Bishan location decked in the same style of wooden furniture and fittings for a modern look that is still more typical of a commercially-run coffeehouse. Louisa Coffee’s menu at Bishan still remains largely similar to that of their Guoco Midtown location; the offerings are pretty much focused on their specialty coffee with drinks split across the sections such as Estate Coffee, Classic Espresso Drinks, Specialty Coffee, Iceccino and Beyond Single Origin Drip Coffee. Other non-coffee beverages listed in the menu would include items segmented into Taylors English Tea, Taiwanese Tea and Other Drinks. Food options are categorised into Fresh-Made Sandwiches, Peanut Butter Bagel, Fluffy Floss Bagel, Wrapanini, Chip Cookie, Scone, Bread, Tart and Boston Cream Pie.

Most whom have read into what Louisa Coffee has to offer would be quite aware that the highlight of their food menu would be the range of Boston Cream Pies that they have to offer. Whilst almost all of the flavours of the Boston Cream Pie available at Guoco Midtown are also retailed at Junction 8, the BBT Mochi Boston Cream Pie is an item that is exclusively available at their Junction 8 outlet. We have had another flavour of the Boston Cream Pie during our visit to their Guoco Midtown location when they had just opened their doors; the BBT Mochi Boston Cream Pie is pretty much the same item at the core of it all — this some what almost resembles a castella cake that is aptly dense and pillowy as one lands their form into it. The cake also comes with a pastry cream filling in the middle as well. For the BBT Mochi Boston Cream Pie, the pastry cream layer is where one can also find huge slabs of chewy brown sugar mochi — replicates that chewiness and sweetness of tapioca pearls that one would find in bubble tea; the cream with a dark brown hue right on the top carries a light note of tea that lingers at the back of the tongue. The bitter undertones of tea just perfumes the tastebuds with every mouthful, bringing the Boston Cream Pie that bubble tea fusion that its namesake suggests.

We also went for the Coffee Mojito during our visit to Louisa Coffee at Junction 8; this is an item that is inspired by the mojito cocktail and comes with a coffee infusion. Coming with a slight carbonation, it comes a little fizzy and is pretty much a fun drink to have — the distinct notes of the fruity body of the black coffee matching up against the zippiness of citrus making it pretty much we close to being as refreshing as the Orange Americano that some places serve up. Despite being a commercially-run coffee joint, Louisa Coffee is one of those brands that seems to be able to hold up well against other commercially-run establishment in terms of the quality of their offerings — they definitely do seem to do flavoured coffee better nonetheless.

Got to learn about the existence of Freya when we weee going around the Stanley Street area during lunch hours one day — turns out, these guys had just recently opened their doors during the same week. Taking the space of a ground level shophouse unit at 13 Stanley Street these folks are more of a gastro-bar that is described to serve up “Contemporary Mediterranean x Asian Cuisine” based on what is being described in their social media accounts. The facade of Freya does seem to be able to match up against the more fancier dining establishments that are located in the same stretch of shophouses where they are; the stone wall with gold accents definitely giving it a pretty luxe look from the outside. As one walks into the establishment, one can find a mix of high chairs and tables as well as proper dining furniture; each type of seating and furniture seemingly taking up a specific space within the dining establishment. The interior is set up in a way that does feel more for functional than for form; that being said, the addition of gold accents on its walls does help to give it a bit of a modern and contemporary look nonetheless. Whilst seemingly serving up sharing plates during dinners that would match up well with the alcoholic offerings, their lunch operations sees themselves being a “Build Your Own Bowl” concept almost similar to most salad / grain bowl-centric elements that are particularly popular in the Central Business District. This would be paired up with several types of beverages such as that of espresso-based specialty coffee and detox juice — just to name a few.

The “Build Your Own Bowl” that is exclusively available during lunch hours at Freya is being offered in two (2) different sizes — there is the Regular which comes with 1 Base, 1 Side and 1 Main, and the Large on the other hand would come with 1 Base, 2 Sides and 1 Main. For our order, we went with the Regular, and have went with the Lemon Rice Pilaf, Cucumber with Chili Oil and Tahini Yogurt and the Chermoula Chicken for our choice of base, side and main respectively. Given how we had made our choices for the base, side and main, our bowl like one that leant closer towards the “Contemporary Mediterranean” part of the menu rather than the “Asian Cuisine” side — it is well noted that there are other choices for their mains such as the Lean Beef Rendang and Spicy Tempeh, as well as for the base such as the Tom Yum Noodles to choose from. Digging into our customised bowl, the Lemon Rice Pilaf is one that came with fluffy and with a distinct note of Mediterranean spices; one that is really easy to eat and perfumes subtly throughout the entire portion — the rice itself also coming with nibs of raisins to chew on that gave it an extra note of sweetness. The Chermoula Chicken was done to a consistency where the flesh is amazingly tender and falls off the bone easily without the use of a knife; the juices of the meat being locked within as well. The flavours of the Chermoula Chicken would definitely win the hearts of those whom love herb-y, pesto-esque notes — one that not only comes fairly refreshing and zippy, but is also incredibly easy to have and got us yearning for more as well.

The Cucumber with Chili Oil and Tahini Yogurt on the other hand is probably the element that sees the most obvious fusion between Mediterranean and Asian cuisine; likely inspired by the Chinese Cucumber Salad and the Greek Tzatziki, it comes with that tangy and creamy note that one would usually expect out from the Tzatziki — the fact that this included a slight hint of spice and crispy crumbs together with the chili oil and how the cucumbers still come in distinct slices brought out the Asian character of the fusion altogether. With prices starting from $16.90 for the Build Your Own Bowl (Regular) — not forgetting that there are some choices of Mains where one would be required to make a top-up for, Freya’s Build Your Own Bowl offerings might be a little pricey for some. That being said, Freya’s Build Your Own Bowl offerings does provide a slightly more upmarket touch with Mediterranean flavours that distinguishes themselves from other establishments serving up grain / salad bowls in the Central Business District that is worth checking out for those whom are willing to spare

One place that had been mentioned a number of social media in the last couple of weeks would probably be that of Farmhouse. Located in a district that most would likely find slightly inconvenient, Farmhouse is actually situated at Dairy Farm Mall — one can find Farmhouse being located in a shop unit that is behind where Patisserie CLE’s outlet there is. Farmhouse itself is a food court housing several stalls within the space that it occupies; itself already seeing tenants that are serving chicken rice, western cuisine and mainland Chinese cuisine being in operations — there is a stall that is serving up alcoholic beverages, while another stall that serves up regular non-alcoholic beverages such as the likes of Kopi and Teh is operated by KOPIFELLAS. Also situated in the food court would be Tokyo Taste — a stall that focuses on serving up Japanese cuisine that occupies a stall larger than the other tenants that is tucked at the back of the entire food court. Unlike most Japanese cuisine stalls that are situated in food courts, the offerings served up at Tokyo Taste can be described as fare that is more often found in Japanese restaurants; the menu is being categorised into sections dedicated to Donburi, Udon, Chazuke, Maki, Sashimi, Salad, Side Dishes, Kushiyaki, Sumiyakj Don, Nama Don, OmuCurry Rice, Kakuni and Tendon.

Having seen a few photos going around about Tokyo Taste, one item which caught our attention whilst reading the various articles mentioning about Farmhouse would be that of the Tempura Moriawase Tendon. It is well noted that the Tempura Moriawase Tendon does come as a set by default — this means that it comes accompanied with a complimentary serving of salad and a bowl of Miso Soup; the same would apply to any dishes that are being ordered off the Donburi, Udon, Chazuke, Sumiyakj Don, Nama Don, OmuCurry Rice, Kakuni and Tendon sections of the menu as well. The menu at Tokyo Taste does not describe on the elements that comes together with the Tempura Moriawase Tendon — that being said, one can observe from our order that it does come with tempura prawns, long beans, mushrooms amongst some root vegetables; all that with crispy fried tempura bits that lined atop the rice, as well as a sous vide egg that is being topped with Furikake. We liked how the folks at Tokyo Taste had actually served the egg the way that they did. Whilst some places do serve a tempura egg with molten egg yolk for an additional wow factor, considering how there wasn’t much sauce being drenched on the rice itself (most of it being on tempura pieces), the sous-vide egg has helped to add a creamy and silky texture to the pearly, short-grain rice that would otherwise have been a little too dry for our liking if left as-is. All of the items do come with a light, crispy and airy golden-brown fried batter that wasn’t particularly greasy — we liked how the consistency of the tempura here was rather well-executed since some establishments that we had been prior couldn’t get this right; the folks at Tokyo Taste do deserve the credit where the tempura items are of concern.

What really upped the shiok factor for the Tempura Moriawase Tendon was the crispy tempura bits that they have added above the bed of rice that gave it an added crispness with every spoonful of rice. When compared to the Tempura Moriawase Tendon, the Spicy Salmon Maki was less spectacular in general — being a maki roll that is sliced up into several pieces, the Maki Roll does hold up well without the elements within falling apart whilst one picks them up with the chopsticks. The Maki Roll features elements such as Tamago, cucumber and surimi within; all that with salmon sashimi and Tobiko that comes over the top — the mix of mayonnaise and spicy mayonnaise contributes to most of the flavours of the maki roll. The level of spiciness of the spicy mayo is pretty manageable for those with tolerance to moderate levels of spiciness, though can be quite fiery for those whom do not take spiciness at all. We also have gave both the Pork Belly and Shiitake Mushroom Kushiyaki a go during our visit to Tokyo Taste — these came with chargrilled marks with a slight hint of smokiness amidst the savouriness coming from the teriyaki sauce that is drizzled atop. The Pork Belly Kushiyaki deserves the mention considering how it does come with a balance of fatty parts and leaner parts for a contrast of textures as well for the best of both worlds. Prices of the individually-sized mains in the Donburi, Udon, Chazuke, Sumiyakj Don, Nama Don, OmuCurry Rice, Kakuni and Tendon sections of the menu are priced within the range of $7.80 to $18.90; most of the dishes being around the $15 mark. Whilst we do think that most of Tokyo Taste’s offerings can be further refined as time goes along and when they have gotten feedback on their food, Tokyo Taste does deserve the mention for its attempt in serving up Japanese restaurant-style food and providing the Dairy Farm residents yet another choice apart from Monzen Izakaya and Grill right at their neighbourhood.

Managed to find out about the new 121 Vegetarian that had sprouted up at Amoy Street Food Centre whilst scrolling around social media one day. Turns out, 121 Vegetarian does seem to have replaced the previous chicken rice stall named 鸡不可失 which opened up at the food centre not too long ago. Located at the second level of the food centre, 121 Vegetarian is located along the same stretch of stalls as where one would find Spicy Wife Nasi Lemak. For those whom are uninitiated, 121 Vegetarian isn’t a stall that is affiliated with Veggie 121 that is located slightly further down the street within the Kedai 121 Eating House along 121 Telok Ayer Street; the “121” in Veggie 121’s namesake refers to the address of the coffeeshop that it is situated in, while the same in 121 Vegetarian’s namesake refers to the unit number (#02-121) that 121 Vegetarian is situated in. The menu at 121 Vegetarian is focused solely on the offering of vegetarian chicken rice; items on the menu would include steamed vegetarian chicken, roasted vegetarian chicken, Thai sauce vegetarian chicken, lemon sauce vegetarian chicken and sweet & sour sauce vegetarian chicken rice. They do also offer a limited selection of sides that includes the refreshing radish soup, as well as achar for those looking to add something to their order.

Of all the vegetarian chicken rice dishes that they have to offer, only the steamed vegetarian chicken and roasted vegetarian chicken are available in the form of sets. Whilst the usual vegetarian chicken rice would only see the respective vegetarian chicken offering to be accompanied with a portion of rice, the sets would see the steamed / roasted vegetarian chicken rice coming with a bowl of their refreshing radish soup as well as some Kai Lan that accompanies the dish. Visually, the Steamed Vegetarian Chicken Rice Set that we had went for came in a presentation style similar to that of what some would find familiar to the Vegetarian Steamed Chicken Rice served up at a stall named 33 Vegetarian Food at Teck Ghee Food Centre; that old-school crockery that one may also find at a stall serving up the traditional Hainanese chicken rice. Visually, the Steamed Vegetarian Chicken Rice does look like any non-vegetarian Hainanese chicken rice dish — the compressed soy / gluten does come layered in a manner that is almost akin to that of actual chicken flesh. It also does come seemingly with a splash of oil that not only gives it flavour, but also that moisture that is akin to that of actual chicken — very silken, whilst soft in a manner that was close to tender even. With that said, there is a slightly peppery undertone in the steamed vegetarian chicken — likely included to mask some of the notes of the soy / gluten used. The rice here sees the use of broken grains almost similar to that of the Vietnamese Cơm tấm; these were surprisingly flavourful carried a note gingery and almost akin to that of glutinous rice that replicated the note of the usual Hainanese-style chicken rice to a tee.

Be it the rich, dense and sweet dark soya sauce or that zippy chili sauce that came with a bright hint of spiciness that is suitable for tastebuds that are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness, both did pair with the rice especially well. The Kai Lan on the side were fresh and crunchy, whilst coming with an adequate note of savouriness, while the bowl of refreshing radish soup came with soft radish and carrots that had been cooked together with the soup — the soup coming with a hint of natural sweetness from the radish with the coriander helping to add a contrast as well. Whilst the Steamed / Roasted Vegetarian Chicken Rice Sets at 121 Vegetarian are priced at $8 and can be said to be on the steeper side, their Steamed / Roasted Vegetarian Chicken Rice are priced rather reasonably at $5.80 — pretty close to what one would expect at a regular chicken rice stall; this is also especially on how there is considerable effort that goes into the making of the vegetarian chicken as well. Their steamed vegetarian chicken rice does seem to replicate the same non-vegetarian dish that it is inspired — another spot for vegetarians to go for at Amoy Street Food Centre, whilst also being a stall worth exploring especially for those whom are curious on what they have to offer as well.

Warabimochi Kamakura probably does not need much of an introduction at this current juncture — for those whom need a bit of a refresher; yes, this is THE Warabimochi that always garners a queue at One Holland Villqge ever since that location has first opened their doors. Since then, there is also yet another location that has opened within TASTE @ Orchard (formerly OG Orchard Point) that usually sees a shorter demand that we also prefer to get our Warabimochi Kamakura fix from. The opening of yet another new location within Ngee Ann City’s basement had been made known for quite a while, with the hoardings bearing the establishment’s brand for quite a while — they had since opened its doors to the public in the past couple of weeks. The outlet at Ngee Ann City does offer pretty much the same menu as they do at their two (2) other locations comprising of both Warabimochi and Warabimochi Drinks; that being said, there is the Matcha Warabimochi that is only retailed exclusively at this location.

Having passed by the Ngee Ann City outlet of Warabimochi Kamakura and noticing that there is no queue at all, it was needless to say that it felt like the perfect opportunity to give their outlet-exclusive Matcha Warabimochi a go. We actually went with the 5-piece Matcha Box, which is essentially the very same Warabimochi as their 5-piece Original Box but coming dusted with matcha powder all over the top. As with the their 5-piece Original Box, the their 5-piece Matcha Box also comes with a small bottle of Kuromitsu (i.e. Japanese sugar syrup) on the side that patrons can drizzled onto the Warabimochi to their fancy. The Warabimochi is still definitely on-point; the soft and almost slime-y texture where it is still sticky and dense, yet being able to hold itself altogether without sticking to the teeth is highlight that draws folks to their Warabimochi. Whilst we still preferred the 5-piece Original Box for our preferences of soy bean powder over matcha which also seemingly works better with the Kuromitsu, we cannot deny that the matcha powder used for the 5-piece Matcha Box is of a good quality with its intensely rich and bitter undertones that it provided.

At $10.90, the 5-piece Matcha Box might comes across a little pricey for some individual patrons, though we always find that the 5-piece boxes are more adequately sized to be shared amongst two (2) pax considering how their Warabimochi are sized way bigger than that of other establishments. In any case, individual patrons can still enjoy the Matcha Warabimochi without stuffing themselves silly anyway; there is always a 2-piece Matcha Cup and 2-Piece Matcha Cup with Ice-Cream that is priced at $5.89 and $7.90 respectively should one be really tempted to go for it whilst being alone.

Great World City does seem to be in the midst of a change recently — the mall has been seeing some of its F&B tenants close down in recent times; this would include the likes of Goobne. With that being said, we did manage to learn about a fairly recent opening within the mall in recent times. The Chateraise outlet located within Great World City had been one that is particularly quite oddball; the outlet was being known to co-share its space with another dessert shop serving up Chinese-style desserts named Sweet Symphony 甜多多.香多多 — the aforementioned establishment still operates at two (2) locations with one behind at IMM, and the other being within Stars of Kovan that is a takeaway stall. The space that was occupied by Sweet Symphony within Chateraise’s outlet at Great World City was left vacant for quite a period of time — this is until recently where a new Vietnam Kitchen had sprouted up in its place. Not a lot has been done to the space except for the obvious change of signages to reflect the current tenant of the space; that being said, there seems to be more dine-in seating than it used to have had. Occupying a rather limited space for its kitchen operations, Vietnam Kitchen’s menu is confined to Bun Cha, Bun Bo and Pho offerings — they also do offer fresh and fried spring rolls that can be shared across the table. Beverages available at Vietnam Kitchen revolves around Vietnamese Black / Milk Coffee, while there is also a selection of canned and bottled drinks available as well.

Interestingly, Vietnam Kitchen offers two (2) Bun Cha dishes on its menu; these aren’t to be of any much different in terms of the meat that is being used, but is more attributed towards the portion sizes of the dish — the Bun Cha Standard is described on the menu to come with elements such as rice vermicelli noodle, pork patty, pork belly, and vegetables. On the other hand, the Bun Cha Special would see additional portion of the pork patty, whilst also coming with spring rolls as well. We found ourselves going for the Bun Cha Standard. It has been a long while since we last had a Bun Cha and this turned out to be as comforting as it gets — the fish sauce here comes laden with chili padi; served to the table warm, it comes savoury with quite a kick of spiciness that tickles the tastebuds even for those whom are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. This provides the flavour that the rice vermicelli noodles exactly needs, which is by itself pretty springy as well. Both the pork patties and the pork belly pieces were grilled; they carried a noticeable char on the exterior, and both were savoury and meaty without carrying any undesirable note of pork-iness. We liked the pork patties a little more than the pork belly; perhaps cos these weren’t too firmly packed nor do they feel like they came with fillers / stuffings. The root vegetables within the fish sauce came with a crunch, while we particularly liked the mint leaves that accompanied the dish on the side — gives the dish a refreshing, herb-y note.

We also went for the Iced Vietnamese White Coffee during our visit to Vietnam Kitchen; whilst we would have preferred them to use a smaller glass so as to make the entire item look more proportionately sized, the Iced Vietnamese White Coffee does come with that dark, roasty hint of caffeine that also had a chocolate-y note which was a hit for our tastebuds. Prices of the individually-sized mains at Vietnam Kitchen are priced between $10.90 to $15.90; that being said, there is direct competition with Vietnam Kitchen within the food court of the very mall it is at — an establishment that has been operating within Great World City for a long while and had already garnered its own following there. We do hope that there is still some room within that environment for Vietnam Kitchen to operate in.

It does seem like a long time coming for the folks at Grain Traders; having opened their doors since 2015 at CapitaGreen, Grain Traders has become quite a hit with the office folks in the Central Business District for their hearty and wholesome grain bowls with an artisanal touch. These folks had at one point expanded their operations to Los Angeles in the United States; that being said, their sole location there had ceased operations since 2022. All these while, Grain Traders has only operated a single outlet in Singapore — that is until recently where they had just opened a new location at Guoco Tower; still in the Central Business District, but definitely the preferred location for those based in Tanjong Pagar. Occupying the space which was formerly tenanted by the now-defunct Gyu San, their new space is still smaller than that of their first location at CapitaGreen — that being said, the outlet is decked in the same manner where one can find marble countertops, brick flooring and wooden furniture and fittings within that gives it that familiar, chic appearance that the brand has adopted. Due to space constraints, seats located within the air-conditioned space is limited to a few; all of facing out of the window and works well for single diners; proper dining tables and chairs can be found outdoors. Much like their CapitaGreen location, patrons can go for the Gather Your Meal option which is essentially their version of “Create Your Own Bowl” elsewhere — there are different size options such as the Original and Petite; there is also an option for a Quiche Plate as well. Otherwise, there are also Seasonal Pickings which are essentially pre-defined combinations if one doesn’t wish to go through all the fuss on ordering. There are also a line-up of bakes such as dessert pies, brownies and cookies, while beverages at their Guoco Tower outlet is limited to the bottled beverages displayed in the display chiller at the counter.

We found ourselves gravitating towards the Tantrum from the “Seasonal Pickings” section of the menu considering how we weren’t quite in the mood to make decisions and going through the thought process on what items would match well against other elements that we intend to go for; the Tantrum itself was also the only Vegan option that was available on the menu in the “Seasonal Pickings” section on the day of our visit. The Tantrum is a bowl that featured elements such as barley risotto, Pad Kra Pow “Karana” Jackfruit, Roasted Eggplant with Cashew Sauce, Mixed Tomato Salad with Wafu Dressing, Cauliflower Pickle, Roasted Chickpeas and Coconut Curry. This would likely be an item that would work well for those whom love Asian-inspired flavours in their grain bowls, and food that generally sees the use of turmeric, coconut milk and curry. We liked how the Barley Risotto was done about right; whilst some may think of such an item carrying a creamy consistency, these were more of barley pearls that carried a slightly bouncy bite that was similar to oatmeal — all that without coming with excess liquid at the same time. This makes it a good base for all of their offerings; the coconut curry being creamy and hints of a strong note of turmeric with a light hint of curry spices. Whilst being rich, but not particularly spicy and suitable even for those with pretty low tolerance to spiciness in general. What truly blown us away would be the Pad Kra Pow “Karana” Jackfruit; while “Pad Kra Pow” (meat and Holy Basil stir-fry) is mentioned in the namesake, there wasn’t a particularly notable hint of basil going on in here — all being said, the texture of the jackfruit does come with a fibrous chew that is almost akin to that of beef that was once pretty amazing.

The other elements such as the Roasted Eggplant with Cashew Sauce, Mixed Tomato Salad with Wafu Dressing and Cauliflower Pickle kinda shared the same theme with the Pad Kra Pow “Karana” Jackfruit where the infusion of flavours aren’t particularly strong, though all of them do make the entire bowl feel more hearty with a variety of textures ranging from the soft egg plants to the crunchy cauliflower — all that whilst the mixed tomato salad comes with a refreshing zestiness to cut through the heavier elements like the jackfruit and the barley risotto. With most of its Seasonal Pickings priced from $17.50 onwards, the prices of Grain Traders are definitely a wee bit higher than that of most other grain / salad bowl establishments in the Central Business District — this had been the case ever since their days at CapitaGreen anyway. That being said, Grain Traders does seem to put in a lot of emphasis on their produce and the way that they are executed — and all these definitely speaks volumes in the way that their grain bowls are presented and taste. Considering how folks of the Central Business District are pretty familiar with the Grain Traders brand by now, this is one spot that is likely to draw a crowd in time to come.

The folks at Nan Yang Dao 南洋岛 are definitely not ones whom are known to sit on their laurels when it comes to their business — it is almost impossible to keep up to what has been happening for the brand in recent times. Apart from the opening of their new outlets at Thomson Plaza (taking over the former premises of the now-defunct location of Huggs Coffee) and Anchorvale Village, there is also expansion plans for further new outlets such as the hoardings that one can find in Bugis+. These folks had also recently released yet another new line-up of dishes in their menu, further expanding on their offerings as well with their all-new Curry Series and Ayam Goreng Berempah series.

Our latest visit to Nan Yang Dao is made to their Thomson Plaza outlet — not the newest location of theirs when we made our visit, though we had never been to this particular outlet since its opening; this also seems to be their biggest location at the time of writing, and the space is definitely less claustrophobic as the situation was during our visits to the now-defunct Serangoon Central location, as well as their Hillion and Heartland Mall outlets. What has brought us to Nan Yang Dao this time would be their Ayam Goreng Berempah series — patrons would be able to opt for either Nasi Lemak, Mee Siam or Fried Rice to come alongside the Ayam Goreng Berempah; we found ourselves opting for the Mee Siam since we weren’t thinking much about having rice on the day of our visit. Apart from the fried chicken leg and the Mee Siam, the Ayam Goreng Berempah Mee Siam also came with a hard-boiled egg, slices of cucumber and sambal chili on the side. Being a Nanyang Kopitiam-themed establishment notable for serving up Malaysian fare, the Mee Siam at Nan Yang Dao is served in the dry format.

Coming with an orange hue, we did notice that there is a tangy note that one would associate with tomatoes that forms part of the flavours of the Mee Siam. That being said, we did feel that the Mee Siam lacks that zippiness from the lime that one would associate with the refreshing, easy-to-eat notes of the dish; there was also no cut lime provided on the side for patrons to squeeze onto the dish as well. The Ayam Goreng Berempah itself was fairly decent; that being said, we did find that crumbs of spices to be a little more greasy and less crisp than expected — still perfumes of an evident hint of lemongrass whilst the curry leaves were wok-fried till being crisp as well. The fried chicken leg was reasonably juicy and tender; all that whilst coming with a crisp, fried exterior that is best to be had when still hot since it does get a little soggy after being left around for a while. The sambal provided on the side is pretty much the same as what one would expect to be served with Nasi Lemak; a sweet sambal that should be pretty manageable even for those with a lower tolerance of spiciness. That being said, we thought that it would probably work better with the Nasi Lemak variant of the dish since there wasn’t really anywhere that we could use it here. Overall, not the best Ayam Goreng Berempah Mee Siam we have had but it does well enough to scratch those cravings that one may have for the dish — portion size of the dish is pretty huge as well for its price tag at $10.90; not to mention the fact that they are the most easily-accessible Nanyang Kopitiam-themed establishment around the island at the time of writing …

Got to learn about Hooked The Seafood Bay whilst going around the Redhill neighbourhood one day. Located within the Chang Cheng Mee Wah coffee shop at Blk 75D Redhill Road, Hooked The Seafood Bay is one of the more recent openings in the coffeeshop, being stall that is serving up zichar offerings here. Having looked at the marketing collaterals surrounding the stall, Hooked The Seafood Bay seems to be a brand that is affiliated with Ming Kitchen 名厨 which in turn is also a brand under the Chang Cheng Mee Wah group. Hooked The Seafood Bay is a concept in collaboration between the Ming Kitchen 名厨 and Ah Hua Kelong; their marketing taglines mentioning “Farm to Zichar” for some of their dishes that they serve up. The facade of their stall at Redhill is pretty eye-catching; the bright lighting of its signages as well as the slightly dramatic illustrations of their fare on their signboard does help to draw some attention to the stall’s existence within the coffeeshop. The menu at Hooked The Seafood Bay does not really differ much from other zichar establishments typically found in coffeeshops / food courts and hawker centres all around the island from how the items are being categorised; this includes sections that are dedicated to Crab, Seafood Treasure, Steamboat, Beancurd / Omelette, Oceanic Fresh Catch, Poultry-Pork & Venison, Poultry-Chicken, Garden Greens, Fried Rice and Asian Noodles — that being said, the variety of dishes that they have to offer do seem to differ slightly from what one would expect out of such stalls (more about this later).

We were skimming through the menu and we managed to chance upon the Chef Andy’s Mee Pok with Prawn in Truffle Sauce that is being listed in the Asian Noodles section of the menu. This item is also marked as a recommended / signature dish at Hooked The Seafood Bay, and the item is also being listed as one of the “Top 10 Hooked’s Specials” as well. Not being a dish that one would typically find at zichar-style establishments, this can be easily said as a rather straightforward, spruced-up dish considering how there is the use of truffle here. Whilst there is no description of how the item would have turned out, the dish didn’t turn out to be too different from its namesake either — a fairly simple dish comprising of Mee Pok that is tossed with truffle paste, three (3) prawns, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and greens. Giving the noodles a good toss, the Mee Pok turns out to be pretty springy — cooked just about right to also retain some bite and is actually done slightly better than how most minced meat noodle / fishball noodle stalls execute it even. Served dry, the noodles do seem to be strained off all the excess liquid that is cooked with before being tossed with truffle paste — there are no other distracting notes that came within the noodles except from the hint of truffle aroma that perfumes the tastebuds gradually as one goes through the entire plate. We aren’t typically a fan of the alfalfa sprouts in our dishes, but these didn’t really have much of an effect on the Chef Andy’s Mee Pok with Prawn in Truffle Sauce anyway. For the prawns, those were especially fresh — exceeding our usual expectations for a zichar-style establishment though we were also expecting a little more considering their “Farm to Zichar” approach; these carried a good bite and a natural hint of sweetness of crustaceans which is quite unmatched to most establishments of its type.

Meanwhile, we had also given another dish that is listed under their “Top 10 Hooked’s Specials” a go as well; the Homemade Kale Tofu with Fresh Shimeiji Mushroom & Miso Sauce under the Beancurd / Omelette section of the menu. This does seem to be their very own take of the typical seaweed tofu that some may be able to find at other zichar establishments elsewhere. The miso sauce does come with a light and savoury note, though we couldn’t really get that hint of earthiness that one would typically get out of the Japanese-style miso soup; this felt like a lightly savoury and slightly thickened stock that was meant to give a soft touch of flavour to the tofu instead. The tofu was largely smooth though came with some air pockets within; also came with a largely eggy note on its own as well. The kale doesn’t really bring much to the table; itself understandably lacking that sane umami notes that seaweed inherently carries, though we also that the dish also came with specks of kale rather than an another layer of it on the top over the tofu. Prices at Hooked The Seafood Bay can be described as slightly higher than that of the average zichar stall in a typical coffeeshop, hawker centre and food court — that being said, it is worth noting that these folks not only offer “Farm to Zichar” freshness from their seafood sourced directly from the Kelong, but they do also inject a bit of a creative touch to the dishes that they have to offer. Still, some dishes such as the Chef Andy’s Mee Pok with Prawn in Truffle Sauce does seem to be rather value-for-money; priced at $6.80, the fact that it does come with three )3) pieces of prawns this fresh and being tossed in truffle paste does give the item a good bang for the buck for those with smaller appetites.

Was going around the Serangoon Central neighbourhood one day and thought that there was a sight in which that we found a little unfamiliar from our usual walks around the neighbourhood. It does seem that the folks of Canning Big Prawn Noodle 皇家山大虾面 had recently re-branded their Serangoon Central location, and it is now currently known as Fort Canning 1963 皇家山 1963 instead. For those whom are unaware of where the location of the dining establishment is, the Serangoon Central location is a individually-run establishment that can be found at the foot of the Blk 262 Serangoon Central; this is also the same space that was occupied by the now-defunct first location of Nan Yang Dao 南洋岛 when they had first sprouted up in the local F&B scene in Singapore. There has been some changes made to the space by the folks of Fort Canning Big Prawn Noodle / Fort Canning 1963 since its days of being occupied by Nan Yang Dao 南洋岛; the space does seem a big use of blue in its decor that is pretty much the colour theme of the establishment. Otherwise, the establishment does come decked in a way that is more for function than for form; almost akin to most casual eateries around. With the rebranding efforts from Fort Canning Big Prawn Noodle to Fort Canning 1963, they have also revamped their menu to be more aligned towards that of a Nanyang-themed Kopitiam — the menu being segmented into sections dedicated to Prawn / Pork Rib / Pork Tail Noodles, Hainanese Curry, Blackgold Hor Fun, Nasi Lemak, Signature Fish Soup, Wuxiang, Sides, Breakfast, Dim Sum and Desserts. Beverages offered by Fort Cannjng 1963 would include that of local-style Kopi & Teh, as well as other concoctions like Yuzu Tea / Soda — just to name a few.

Having tried a number of Nasi Lemak dishes form several establishments throughout the week, we thought it would be better for us to go for another item that isn’t a Nasi Lemak dish — we eventually found ourselves settling for the Hainanese Curry Rice with Pork Cutlet from the Hainanese Curry section of the menu considering how Hainanese curry is a less commonly found item during our various visits to other Nanyang Kopitiam-themed establishments around the island this far. For those whom do not fancy pork cutlet with their Hainanese Curry Rice, other meat options that one can find at Fort Canning 1963 would include that of Chicken Chop, Curry Chicken Drumstick, Braised Pork and Fried Black Pomfret. Whilst not being described in the menu of Fort Canning 1963, all their Hainanese curry rice dishes also comes inclusive of braised cabbage and a sunny side-up. The Hainanese Curry Rice with Pork Cutlet does come in the same style as how one would also Hainanese curry rice to be like — the rice being drenched in a generous portion of their curry gravy, whilst also being paired with a rich braised liquid as well. There was actually sufficiently curry gravy and braised liquid to go with all of the rice; the curry being sufficiently rich in its flavours and should be manageable even for those whom are not particularly tolerable to spiciness in general. The braised cabbage was decent; cooked to a soft consistency though we have had variants of the cabbage that were more flavourful elsewhere — still pretty ok overall. The sunny side-up here would come with a fully done egg yolk, while the pork cutlet was the only item that felt like a little bit of a letdown. Whilst we do applaud how the pork cutlet does seem to tenderised and come with a batter made from soda biscuit crumbs like how it is traditionally done, it was also a tad dry for our liking as well.

Other dishes that we had tried during the same visit to Fort Canning 1963 would include the Wu Xiang Platter (Regular); this would comprise of a combination of several items such as fried beancurd, fish cake, prawn crackers, Ngoh Hiang etc.. Accompanied with two (2) different sauces, one of them was a more savoury, zippy and spicy dip; the other was almost akin to that of the sweet, pinkish sauce that usually comes with Indian-style rojak. The various elements in the Ngoh Hiang (Regular) were fairly decent; all without coming particularly greasy with all of the deep-fried elements being pretty crisp — our only qualm would be the fried beancurd being not quite as fresh as what we would have expected. The Oni Toast is actually their version of the typical Kaya Butter Toast that comes spread with a yam paste filling — whilst coming with a thick, smooth and creamy spread that comes in a shade of light purple, the spread does seem to hint of a heavier note of coconut cream with a very light touch of earthiness from yam in its finish. It is also paired with toasted wholemeal bread here; slightly different from the brown bread that one would associate with the local style of Kaya Butter Toast here. The Tiger Biting Lion is essentially the Hor Ka Sai; the namesake being the direct translation of Hor Ka Sai from Cantonese to English — the version here seeing the addition of Milo into the Kopi in the form of Milo powder sprinkled atop the Kopi much in the likes of Milo Dinosaur. Overall, Fort Canning 1963 does feel like a spot with hits and misses; its attempt in serving up fare typical of Nanyang Kopitiam-themed establishments can be felt in both how the menu is designed and how the food is executed — definitely a wider variety than what Fort Canning Big Prawn Noodles serve up. That being said, we did feel that there are some elements within each dish that could be executed better for to hit that spot for us. We do hope that the folks at Fort Canning 1963 are able to further work on their craft as they get used to the operations with their new menu; this is especially considering how the local F&B scene have been pretty saturated with Nanyang Kopitiam-themed establishments that have appeared in recent times …

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