Thursday, December 17, 2009

Empire State @ ILUMA (Victoria Street / Bugis) #04-03

Looking for a place in town with superb dessert? Read on!

Empire State is a new casual dining restaurant in town, located at Level 4 of the new ILUMA mall just across the road from Bugis Junction. I have always been attracted by its bright color theme and wondered how is the quality of the food. A friend told me good things about the food as well. Since I had only one hour to grab dinner before my movie at ILUMA, I thought I should give Empire State a try.

One of the reasons why I like the theme of the restaurant - Their monkey mascot. Yes, I was born in the year of the monkey. That explains my affinity with the mascot ay?

I really like the high ceiling at Empire State. Makes the restaurant look really massive!

The place looked a little short of floor staff, as I saw the few staff rushing from table to table non stop. But still, it didn't take long for our food to be served. 

First up, Mushroom Soup ($5.90)

To be honest, I usually don't think much of the quality of mushroom soup at casual dining restaurants. My partner wanted some soup though. Since the staff recommended the mushroom soup, we decided to give it a go.

It was surprisingly good! Thick and flavorful. The price is a little steep for a small bowl of soup. But if you must have any soup for your meal, go for the mushroom soup.

Next up, my main course Herb Roasted Maple Glazed Chicken ($11.90)

Truth to be told, I chose this main dish because of the following reasons:
First, I wanted something filling (I was famished!) and value for money. Besides, I wasn't willing to blow 15 bucks on just a burger.

Second, a friend told me that he had this same dish before and he liked it.

A lot of times, the roasted chickens at casual dining restaurants disappointed me as they were often overcooked until the meat turned all dry and tough. Overcooking effectively kills off all the juice that should be in every good roasted chicken. Hence, I had to try to keep an open mind for this one.

As I took my first stab into the bird with my knife, I instantly knew that my doubts were unfounded. The meat was tender and juicy! The sauce complimented the meat well too. The fries were rather blend, so I dipped them in the sauce for the chicken. That made the fries more edible. I thought that they should at least add a pinch of salt to the fries to give it some flavor though.

Quite a filling main, I must say. Definitely satisfied my hunger.

Author's note:
I got home and read some reviews describing the burgers as mediocre tasting. So try their burgers at your own risk!

This time round, we saved some stomach space for dessert.

Empire State Sizzling Boston Brownie ($8.90)

The brownie was served on a sizzling hotplate. That was a first for me. Very interesting.

See all the dark and gooey stuff underneath the brownie? That stuff is actually chocolate sauce. Yes, a whole lot of it, together with more generous amount of chocolate sauce coating the top of the brownie. It looked soooooo sinful, but we couldn't wait to taste it!

Ever had a piece of heaven? I reckon this is about as close you can get to that, in terms of dessert. I kid you not. The brownie was delectable. Heavenly. The mix of chocolate sauce on the walnut brownie, couple that with the vanilla ice-cream, you've got a winner. I dare say that this is easily the BEST brownie I have ever tasted so far.

$8.90 for piece of heaven? I say it's worth every single cent!

Wouldn't the ice-cream melt really quickly on the hot plate, you ask? They placed a small piece of wafer underneath the ice-cream as heat cushion. Genius.

Word of advice though. Have plenty of water to drink or share it with someone, if you are eating this delectable brownie dessert. You might risk having sore throat if you don't. It's THAT sinful!

The Empire State Sizzling Boston Brownie is a must try for all dessert lovers. I am pretty darn sure that you will love it! If you don't, then save some for me. I would gladly finish it all up for you! Hah!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ice Cream Chefs @ 520 East Coast Road #01-06 Ocean Park

Here's something for dessert lovers.

Introducing, Ice Cream Chefs!

It is not an easy place to locate. A rather 'ulu' place to find. But if you walk along the long stretch of East Coast Road, the prominent landmark would be St Patrick's Sec School. Once you see the Ocean Park sign, you're there!

Apparently, Ice Cream Chefs is rather highly acclaimed by foodies from the Press as well.

Once my friend and I entered the little ice-cream parlor, it felt like home. It had this friendly and homely vibes about it that relaxed me almost immediately.

The staffs were friendly and greeted us cheerfully. I had difficulty choosing what flavors to go for as all their ice-cream flavors looked yummy and they had so many toppings to choose from! The staffs never rushed me and left me alone to make my choice. They attended to me with a smile once I had made up my mind. Thumbs up for their customer service.

Just look at the variety of toppings you can choose from!

I eventually went for Mrs Smith ( apple flavor) with Wafer Crisp as topping. After my friend and I made our choices, the staff began to mix our ice-cream on their special 'Ice Pan'.

Apparently by mixing the ice-cream with your topping this way, it will give your ice-cream that extra crunch and flavor as the toppings blend in nicely with the ice-cream. This is becoming quite a common thing to do for ice-cream nowadays, instead of just sprinkling the toppings on top of the ice-cream.

Here is my Mrs Smith with Wafer Crisp topping.

While Ice Cream Chefs doesn't have as much variety as compared to some other ice-cream parlors, I would say that they make some really smooth and flavorful ice-cream. Very interesting choices of flavors that will make it difficult for you to make a choice. With interesting flavors such as Kaya Lotee, Milo Peng, Berries Kiwi Fuzz (their trademark), it is a tough choice!

I went with my gut feeling and chose Mrs Smith flavor. The green color of Mrs Smith flavor appealed to me as well. It certainly didn't disappoint. The apple flavor was really refreshing to consume on a hot afternoon. The hint of cinnamon taste in it was a nice touch too. The wafer crisps were well mixed into the ice-cream to give a nice crunch to it. I'm not one who takes very sweet savory stuff. This was just right for me. Just the right amount of sweetness that didn't overwhelm my taste buds.

While the roughly 3 bucks a scoop price may seem a little steep for some (apologies, I have forgotten the exact prices!), the smooth ice-cream with good mix is quite worth every cent, in my opinion. What's more, you get to sit in the cosy venue for as long as you want, without having the staff pressuring to leave, even after you have long finished your ice-cream.

A look at the comfortable and cosy seating area.

Those stuff stuck on the wall are the many pictures of satisfied customers who enjoyed hanging out at Ice Cream Chefs.

You may choose to sit outside, alfresco style too.

If you are around East Coast Road or live around the vicinity, Ice Cream Chefs is certainly a great place to hang out with your friends at. There is nothing more satisfying than having good ice-cream on a warm and lazy afternoon!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Everything With Fries @ 458 Joo Chiat Road

Heard some good recommendations about Everything With Fries. So since I was going around the area to shoot pictures on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to venture down Joo Chiat Road in search of this eatery.

If you are unfamiliar with the area, it can be quite a daunting task to locate the eatery. One landmark you can look out for is Joo Chiat CC. It's just 5 minutes walk along the road from there. Once you see the Hotel 81 building, you're there. It is just directly opposite the hotel.

All right, enough about directions. Let's get back to the eatery.

Here we are, at the entrance of Everything With Fries!

The table I was seated at. The decor there was simple, clean and sparse. The way I like it. Nothing fanciful, just going for the 'less is more' look.

Menu on a clipboard. Nice idea. In sync with their simplistic and clean theme.

They have a library that stocks up a fair amount of books too. So you may spend a lazy afternoon having a good read while having good food there as well.

So much about the ambiance. Now on to the important stuff. The food of course!

Lemonade to quench my thirst on a hot Saturday afternoon. Perfect.

The Lemonade was the real deal. None of those canned/pre-mixed stuff. It certainly tasted like freshly self-made lemonade. Thumbs up!

For appetizer, my friend and I shared the Skinny Wings.

They are called Skinny Wings because they are basically the mid-section of chicken wings broken into two. Hence the name. Nice idea, as it makes it even easier for you to eat the wings without the need to use your hands.

If you think that the wings look very crispy in the above pic, wait until you get to taste them. The skin was very crispy as I sank my teeth into them. The wings were well marinated as the flavors filled my mouth as I ate them. A must try if you're there!

Next came my main dish, the Cheese Burger with Straight Cut Curry-flavored Fries.

I chose the mini Caesar salad as the side for my Cheese Burger. I'm normally not much of a salad person, but I quite enjoyed the salad this time. The dressing was light and not overpowering in taste. The crispy bread cubes were a nice touch to the salad. Gave it a bit of crunch.

Wooo the melted cheese on top of the beef patty! Anything with melted cheese is a winner for me. The friendly waitress asked how I wanted my beef patty and so I asked for medium rare. The patty came well done though. But I wasn't fussy. I mean, burger patties are often well done anyway. At least they didn't over cook the patty. It was well done, but still tender and juicy. So I've got no complains there.

Now the star of the show is the fries, since the name of the eatery already suggests so. They offer shoe string fries (the skinny types you get at McDonalds') and straight cut fries (thicker ones, like MOS Burger). On top of that, they have a variety of flavored fries for you to choose from. I went for the straight cut fries, curry flavored.

I thought how could they possibly translate the taste of curry onto fries? How wrong I was. They passed with French-Frying-colors! It brought the normally ordinary fries up to another level. Each strand of fries was coated with fragrant curry powder that gave the fries an extra omph in taste. Even though I was filling rather full when I was halfway through the fries, I still finished everything.

However, after my meal, my reliable sources told me that the other flavored fries taste EVEN BETTER. I'm so going to try the fries with other flavors next time round!

I have heard good reviews about the desserts there, but my stomach was unfortunately way too full to take in anymore food. So I had to give the desserts a pass. I didn't expect the main dish to be so filling. Next time round, I'm definitely going there with an empty stomach to get the complete Everything With Fries experience!

When I visited the gents at the restaurant, I saw this just beside their toilet.

Very tongue in cheek. The owners are gracious enough to even recommend their neighbours. Nice.

I thoroughly enjoyed dining at Everything With Fries. Good food, nice ambiance and friendly staff. In fact, one of the staff started chatting with my friend and I about cameras, as she saw us shooting with our DSLRs lol.

If you don't mind finding your way around Joo Chiat or you are within the Katong/Joo Chiat vicinity, drop by Everything With Fries for a meal. You'd love it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kopi & Tea Cafe @ Park Lane #01-05

Inside the often forgotten and old Park Lane Shopping Centre, lies a humble little coffee shop near the entrance of the mall, Kopi & Tea Cafe.

Note: Do not confuse this place with the popular 'Park Lane Fried Wanton Mee' stall, which sells lousy wanton noodles ever since they opened more branches.

The Kopi & Tea Cafe stall sells quite a variety of dishes, but you will be quick to notice that everyone orders the wanton noodles.There must be a good reason for that, of course.

Wanton noodles

I would recommend to order the noodles with both the soup and fried wantons. Especially the fried ones. The fried wantons were very crispy but didn't feel oily at all. I could even hear the crunch from the wanton skin as I sank my teeth into the fried wantons! The soup wantons were good too. Soft and fragrant.

The noodles came with a generous helping of vegetables, which was very much welcomed. Most stalls give you miserable amounts of vegetables, you'd feel unhealthy just looking at the plate of noodles. But no such problems here. Remember to eat your greens!

The Char Siew (roasted pork) was thick and tender. None of the dry and tough to chew crap you often get from wanton noodles stalls.

Now for the most important part of this dish. The noodles. I went for the non-spicy version of the noodles, as I usually don't like to have any chili numbing my taste buds. I like to taste the original taste of my food. Noodles were served in tasty sauce. Not too blend, neither was it too salty. Cooking wanton noodles requires more skill as the nature of the noodles is that they overcook easily. The noodles here were cooked to perfection. Chewy and not overcooked. The sauce was not too oily too.

This is exactly why I always drop by for a plate of this whenever I am around the Dhoby Ghaut vicinity!

PS: Order the home made barley drink. Goes well with the wanton noodles.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Restaurant Chako @ Hong Leong Garden Shopping Centre

Address: 134 West Coast Way

A quaint little family-run restaurant tucked at a corner of Hong Leong Gardens. A little tough to locate for people who are not familiar with West Coast Drive area, but it's certainly worth the effort.

Upon entering Chako, it felt like I was entering a cozy Japanese home.



I felt so at home in the restaurant. They even had very old Japanese cassette tapes lying around! 


Even our president Mr Nathan dined here before too!!

The restaurant is so homely, even their food menu is home printed!

Tea was served promptly to my table. It was their own concoction of Barley Tea.

The Barley Tea didn't look any fantastic initially. But once I had tasted it, I was sold. Very refreshing drink!

My friend and I had to wait for quite a while for our food to arrive. It was known amongst regular foodies there that the food takes quite a while to be served, as they only have one cook. The cook is non other than the friendly old lady who runs the restaurant. She painstakingly cooks each dish one by one on her own, hence the wait. As we were waiting, her daughter would be up and around serving all customers and making sure everyone felt comfortable. It was truly a very warm and homely experience.

Then the first dish was served.

 Shiromi Sakana Hamburg

This delectable dish is made up of minced fish patty served on hotplate with sauteed vegetables and a side of spaghetti, sunny side up egg, cold bean curd, salad, rice and miso soup.

For starters, I really enjoyed salad. It's lettuce, carrot, cabbage tossed with some potato chunks and a splash of salad cream. Light and very refreshing. That says a lot, coming from someone who hardly eats salad!

The fish patty is something really unique to me. It's like eating a soft patty that has the texture of the Chinese 'carrot cake' but with the taste of fish. The splash of mayo on it brings out the taste of the patty well.

It was a little peculiar to have the spaghetti side, but once I tasted it, I had no complaints. I never knew that crispy spaghetti (due to it being on a hotplate) tastes rather good too!

Needless to say, the sunny side up egg and carrot slices were nice and crisp due to the hotplate.

Then here comes the killer part. The miso soup.


I have to say, I have never finished an entire bowl of miso soup before, due to it being too salty and very MSG laden-ed. But this time round, I finished ALL of it in no time!

The secret to the flavorful miso soup must be the clams added to it. I have yet to taste any miso soup in Singapore that has clams in it. So this one's a winner!

Next up, Unatamaju


The dish consisted of broiled eel with home-made sauce served on a bed of egg-topped rice. It came with pickled radish, cold bean curd and miso soup.

My friend had this. I took a little of it to sample. I'm a fan of Unagi Bento (Eel with rice set) and this one takes the cake. The unagi is tender, succulent and tasty. Must be the special home-made sauce that went with the very fresh eel. The light and fluffy egg and rice complimented the unagi very well.

Can I say that this is the best Unagi bento ever?

A resounding YES!!

To cap off the satisfying dinner, I had to give their desserts a try.

Caramel pudding

Fans of super sweet desserts should avoid this, as it is not all that sweet in taste. I like it though, as I don't have a sweet tooth. The smooth texture of the pudding works for me. The grape, blue berry, strawberry and kiwi fruit slices were very very fresh too!

The service there was ever so friendly and homely. The daughter of the lady boss even suggested that I should call and place my orders before hand so as to avoid the long wait. She got me to write down my email address so that she could send me their restaurant menu. Now, how's that for great service?

Overall I will have to say, Restaurant Chako is a definite MUST TRY for all fans of Japanese cuisine. Well, even if you're not a fan of Japanese cuisine, you will probably be converted after dining there!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Victor's Kitchen @ Sunshine Plaza #01-21

Tucked in the quieter side of town, Sunshine Plaza is a often forgotten mall located at the outskirts of the busy town area.

Usually frequented by toy enthusiasts due to the popular toy shops in the mall, Sunshine Plaza has a little Dim Sum place that is frequented by foodies who know where to get a good Dim Sum fix!

First up, the Iced Milk Tea

How is this iced milk tea different from any where else? Well, they served the beverage with the ice OUTSIDE of the cup. The reason? So that the ice will not dilute the milk tea. Ingenius and practical reason, I must say.

If you are caffeine intolerant, I would advice you not to try this one. It might be a little too strong for you. Other wise, it is a must try!

The drink is thick and has a strong taste of good tea. Made sense for them to have the ice outside of the cup, as it would certainly be a waste of good tea by having ice to dilute its goodness!

Fried Prawn Dumplings and You Tiao (fried fritters) Chee Cheong Fun

The fried prawn dumplings were so crispy, I could hear the loud crackling sound as I sank my teeth into them. The prawns wrapped in the dumplings were very fresh too. Went well with the mayo dip that came with the dish.

The You Tiao Chee Cheong Fun was something totally new to me. I've eaten Chee Cheong Fun stuffed with prawns or Char Siew meat before, but You Tiao in it was a first. It tasted surprisingly good too!

Doused in a generous helping of sauce, one would expect the You Tiao to be a little soggy. But no, it stayed crispy! A unique dish. Must try!

 XO Carrot Cake and Yam Fried Spring Rolls

The XO Carrot Cake was something completely new to me. I've never tried anything like that anywhere before. But it was certainly worth a try because it tasted excellent!

Don't expect the carrot cake to have a crispy exterior, because it doesn't. Doused in some kind of specially made XO sauce, the carrot cake was soft and soggy, but in a good way. The sauce had a mixed taste of salty, sweet and spicy, which gave the common carrot cake an added zest to it!

The Yam Fried Spring Roll seemed interesting as it was my first time having yam wrapped in spring rolls. It was however, quite mediocre tasting. Just your typical spring roll with yam wrapped inside. Nothing to shout about. I would give this a miss next time round.

Prawn Dumpling (Har Gao)

I always save the best for the last. The Har Gao was the gem of it all, in my opinion. The very very fresh prawns were wrapped with dumpling skin that wasn't too thick. Light but smooth exterior skin that was still moist from the steaming of the dish. As I bit into the dumplings, the freshness of the prawns inside were evident.

This is most certainly a must try when you are there!