The food critics are here

My husband and I have been going on a food tour, which began last Friday. It’s basically trying out new restaurants and existing eateries that we haven’t tried before. It all started when I read an article on new restaurants and patisserie in Duxton area, and wanted to check them out when I’m off from work this week. Then last week I told my husband I would love to have some good sweet pies. It’s seriously difficult to get good pies in Singapore because savory pies are more popular. Even those few shops which sell them do not have a lot of varieties unlike in the USA. My husband did some research and told me about a shop called Windowsill Pies that supposedly has pretty good reviews, and he suggested we could have breakfast at Choupinette, a French bistro, before checking out the pie shop.

So our food tour started at Choupinette, 607 Bukit Timah Road, #01-01. I’ve heard and read about this bistro, about how good the croissant and pastries are, and dining there is just like having a meal in a Parisian bistro. The bistro is opened by a French lady and the interior design is supposedly chic. But my husband somehow warned me not to have high expectations, because he considers Choupinette a neighborhood joint, and the odds are most such joints do not have high quality food. So we went there without much expectations.

Well, first the decor doesn’t look like Parisian chic to me, more like run-down, tired looking. Next the food, my husband had the English breakfast set while I ordered the Jason-style egg breakfast set. We also ordered a croissant and an au pain chocolate. The pastries are seriously nothing to shout about, not as good as those available at Hediard.

As for the breakfast sets, we find them no different from home-cooked food and yet cost as much as the typical egg breakfast from Wild Honey, a place that provides all day breakfast. Though the Choupinette set does include OJ and coffee/tea. Wild Honey offers relatively well cooked breakfast which is also more substantial, and the coffee is smooth. So much for Parisian bistro food. We then proceeded to Windowsill Pies, where I bought a slice of Moreno Cherry pie for S$6.50. I find the cherry a little too tart for my taste though the crust was not bad, but still not good enough for me. I’ve had better pie at Smokeys BBQ, which unfortunately only offers one type of pie a week and sometimes not even available. Anyway at the end of the day, my husband’s warning was justified.

Our next venture was to check out eateries from established restaurateurs. We went to 112@Katong to try the new Chinese restaurant, Canton Paradise, for brunch. It serves dimsum from 11am to 5pm everyday. The restaurant layout reminds me of that of Crystal Jade kitchen and the casual dining eateries of Imperial Treasure. Even the menu layout also reminds me of that from Crystal Jade.

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We ordered the usual dimsum dishes like Char Siew buns, pan-fried radish cake, beef ball with orange peels, Char Siew Cheongfun (rice flour roll) and custard with salted egg buns. My husband also had a beef congee and I had a roast duck thigh hor fun (flat rice flour noodle). My husband thought the char Siew in the Cheongfun was more flavorful than what he had at Imperial Treasure which he felt was one note (that’s Iron Chef speak for you, from watching too many cooking competitions on TV), but the char Siew was not as springy. As for the char Siew buns, the eatery is very generous with the filling but the bun is not as fluffy; the beef ball with orange peel has a refreshing citrusy tinge to it but unfortunately it’s a little dry and the eatery didn’t provide the Lea & Perrin’s sauce. The radish cake is not as flavorful as what Imperial Treasure offers, but the custard bun has more filling though it’s not the best I’ve had. My husband commented the congee isn’t as smooth as what Imperial Treasure’s, but the roast duck was not bad. All in all, the standard of the food is similar to Crystal Jade kitchen which is basically rather average.

Another eatery at 112 that we tried is Obolo, where we had lunch on Sunday. I had tried the cakes at its first outlet in Joo Chiat but wasn’t impressed. I thought I would give it a second chance with the sandwiches which are not available in their original store. The sandwiches cost between S$13-S$16 inclusive of a side salad and fries. My verdict: my sandwich of roast chicken sucks! The chicken doesn’t even taste roasted, even Cold Storage supermarket sells better roast chickens. Not only that, there’s way too much mayo in the sandwich. The only flavor I could taste was the mayo. Worst, the eatery uses white bread for the sandwich, which I hate. My husband had the Cajun Chicken sandwich on panini bread. He complained that he could hardly taste the chicken, which was in slivers, least alone any Cajun taste. The only saving grace is the bread, which he said was good. Later my husband got himself a roast beef sandwich from Da Paolo Gastronomia, which costs the same but tastes way better. My husband said he could do without the accompanying salad and fries offered by Obolo. So this second tasting just proves to me that Obolo doesn’t just serves average dessert, even their sandwiches are seriously not up to standard.

Our food tour continued yesterday at Duxton, where I had mapped out some 6 restaurants and patisseries to try. First was The Plain Cafe, which serves all day breakfast. My husband tried the Darling Egg which consists of poached egg on toasted sour dough and ham, whereas I had plain poached egg on the sour dough toast. Quoting my husband “it’s like going to someone’s house for breakfast but you’ve to pay for it”. Basically just plain average breakfast, that provides convenience to the surrounding offices and shops. My husband said he could cook a mean sunny side up compared to this cafe, even the coffee was thin.

We looked at the other eateries, one was a high end Russian restaurant which my husband wasn’t keen to try. Another one, a British gastropub, has recently closed down. He has absolutely lost any confidence in the rest, and think they’re probably opportunistic restauranteurs who just want to make a quick buck. Instead he only wanted to try the patisseries. The first was Flor Patisserie, opened by a Japanese pastry chef.

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I bought a slice of green tea cake, Wakakusayama (S$6.20) and a dark chocolate cake, Cacao Royale (S$6.80)

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The second shop we checked out was Bonheur patisserie, where I bought a Rhubarb Cheese Mousse (S$7.50).

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I asked my husband why he was willing to take a chance on the cakes, and his reasoning is that cakes are not everyday food, and with these shops located at Duxton, which is not a densely populated area, and the cakes are relatively more expensive, they have to be pretty good to attract customers from other parts of Singapore and can’t just rely on the office crowd. True enough, the cakes are fabulous! Those from Flor look really pretty and light in texture, particularly the green tea cake, which is a characteristic of Japanese dessert. The chocolate cake is so moist and the chocolate is heavenly rich. As for the Rhubarb cheese mousse, the Rhubarb is just slightly tart, balanced by the light sweetness of the cheese mousse. These are some of the best cakes I’ve eaten!

Instead of having lunch at Duxton, we went to Casa Verde, 1 Cluny Road (Visitors’ Center), Singapore Botanic Garden. The restaurant has pretty good reviews in Hungrygowhere.com, and I thought that it would serve pretty good food considering it’s part of Les Amis group. It turns out to be a casual dining place which is self service. You have to order your own food at the counter and also get your own cutleries and plates. I was surprised that the menu was extensive, consisting of both western and local cuisine. Usually this doesn’t bode well for the quality. My husband ordered 2 starters of Pomelo salad and fried calamari, and a main course of seafood pizza. The starters are quite good, the salad is refreshingly light and the calamari is well done. But we don’t think the pizza is good compared to those we had at Bruno’s Pizzeria & Grill or Etna Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. I find the thin crust was not crispy enough, whereas my husband feels the cheese was too runny. But I guess for S$48 which also included 2 bottles of mineral water, we can’t complain too much. Besides, there’re some good stuff and the ambience is pretty good. It’s a really nice place to chill out among the flora and fauna. The restaurant opens early at 7.30am serving breakfast.

So these are the places we’ve tried. More misses than hits, unfortunately. You can be sure we’re not returning to most of these eateries. Come to think of it, it’s not easy to find good quality food in Singapore.

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One thought on “The food critics are here

  1. Pingback: Food revisited 2: I’m taking back my words | petulantchild

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