boCHINche

A new venture by folks at the Spa Esprit group, who is behind some of the most amazing eateries like Forty Hands, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Skinny Pizza, I was extremely excited learning about this collaboration with famed Argentinean chef Diego Jacquet. Needless to say it topped my to-brunch list and I went ahead to make reservations. But then I met the biggest problem ever: I couldn’t pronounce boCHINche.

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Bochinche (noun) Gossip.

Indeed. A semi-open-kitchen concept where diners can sit around the cooking stations, it allows for light conversations between chefs and diners, casual conversations among diners; and of course a little gossip never hurt no one.

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boCHINche’s layout allows for diners to take a peek into what actually goes into their plate: the cooking, preparations, and plating. It’s amazing cause it’s times like that where you can see the amount of effort put into preparing your dish, and that makes the meal much more intimate. It’s also really cool and a lotta fun to see chefs at work.

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Latte (S$6)

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Provoleta, Almonds & Honey (S$17); eaten with Pan & Manteca (S$7)

We were told that the Provoleta is supposed to be eaten together with the Pan & Manteca. The melted honey and almonds added a floral and tangy edge to the otherwise boring grilled cheese fare; the deliciously fluffy focaccia and cheese breads kept the dish light and were perfect to soak up the pan juices. A wonderful balance of savoury and sweet. This was in fact my favourite dish of the day. An awfully high benchmark to start the meal with!

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boCHINche Beef “Chimichurri” Burger v2.0 (S$28)

Soft grilled buns with tomato, caramelised onions, pancetta, (more) provolone cheese and topped with a fried egg, with a side of pickled cucumbers. This burger wasn’t bad at all. I loved how the different condiments complemented each other, resulting in a complex array of flavours. Taking a bite and slowly chewing on it, I could taste every component of the burger. Which isn’t something I get from every other burger. A pity the most important component – the patty – was overcooked.

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House Chorizo sausage, braised Ox Cheeks & caramelized onions (S$20)

This, however, was an utter disappointment. It’s perfectly acceptable for a dish to be so-so-, not outstanding but at least pleasant and edible. Yet this was wrong on every count. The ox cheeks were braised so well they were soft and buttery, yet utterly tasteless. The caramelized onions were too sweet and too much. Together with the drizzled reduce balsamic, the dish became overwhelmingly sweet.

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Milk cake, Passionfruit Sorbet & roasted Almonds (S$14)

Not wanting to end our meal on such a nasty note we decided on getting desserts. The Milk cake sounded really interesting cause I’ve never heard of a milk-flavoured cake. What this turned out to be was a delectably moist cake, further sweetened with a sauce made of 3 kinds of milk (heavy cream, dulce de leche, and something else). It would be too sweet if not for the tart and sour sorbet. Eaten together, this is a refreshing and really unique dessert.

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“Dulce de leche” Creme Brulee & Banana Split Ice Cream (S$17)

I was excited to eat this when I saw the chefs bringing out the flame torch and burning the sugar right in front of me. I thought, this surely must result in a cold-hot contrast a creme brulee should have? And I was not disappointed. Cold straight out from the fridge, the torching made the crisp surface slightly warm in contrast. Finally a creme brulee that has that distinction! The only downside was the ice cream. There wasn’t anything banana splitty about it.

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As a first visit there were equal numbers of ups and downs; yet given the interesting menu and the impeccable service, I think there’s still more to bonCHINche than today. With dishes like Organic Poached Eggs on toast, braised Ossobuco and Chive Hollandaise on the menu, I’ll definitely be back for more.

boCHINche
22 Martin Road
#02-01
6235 4990
Brunch: Weekends from 11am-3.30pm
Dinner: Daily from 5.30pm-10.30pm

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Laurent Duchêne

Croissants = French. French = Croissants.

They seem synonymous, no?

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If not for their various desserts and breads, Laurent Duchêne demands a visit by virtue of winning the title of the best croissant in Paris in 2011 and 2012.

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I visited the outlet at Rue Wurtz, and my single and largest complaint is that they do not have a sit-in option. So friends and I had to look for nearby cafes, and grab a cuppa there in order to use their tables.

My sole purpose of visiting them was to try these famed croissants of theirs; but of course when ever do I stop at one? With the array of sweets and vennoisseries on display resistence is futile.

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10 minutes of hopping about on each foot and nail-biting, we decided on a few vennoisseries and pastries to share amongst the 3 of us.

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Croissant (€1.05)

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Lightly browned, the beautifully caramelized glaze was such a teaser. It tore easily with a slightly audible crackle, revealing a pale yellow, airy and absolutely fluffy interior. Buttery yet not greasy; soft yet crisp; fluffy yet substantial; I understand why this was voted best twice. Can’t say I’m the expert but LD’s croissant is really the best I’ve ever tasted.

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Kouign Amann (€2.20)

Think of it as a cross between a croissant and a butter cake. Essentially bread dough and puff pastry rolled with butter and sugar, Kouign Amann is a unique gâteau that promises perfectly caramelised exteriors for a maximum dose of caramel. With Tiong Bahru Bakery’s as my only other basis of comparison, I’m definitely not one to judge this pastry. I can say though that it is without doubt addictive and packed full with yumminess. One thing: the pastry dough was a little soggy and hard to bite through.

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Paris-Brest (€4.00)

Good choux pastry, decadent praline creme patisserie and a generous sprinkle of crushed almonds make this a very pleasing pastry. The very first Paris-Brest I had in France and I must say it lived up to expectations.

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Millefeuille (€3.20)

Perhaps our visit to Jacques Genin was too early, cause every millefeuille we had after paled in comparison. LD’s wasn’t too bad. The puff pastry was decent, crisp enough. The creme patisserie however was a let down. I would call it whipped cream instead. It didn’t help that it had alcohol in it, which was not stated previously.

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Financier (€2.80)

This was surprisingly good. It was moist and had a nutty fragrance from the browned butter, without being overly sweet.

It’s hard to judge with the limited items we’ve tried. One thing for certain, is that LD makes hands down wonderfully delicious croissants. And for that, just for that, I’ll definitely return.

2 Rue Wurtz
75013 Paris
Tél/Fax : 33 (0) 1 45 65 00 77
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 0700-2000

238 Rue de la Convention
75015 Paris
Tél: 33 (0) 1 45 33 85 09
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday mornings, 0700-2000

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Gerard Mulot

I’ve read a lot about Gerard Mulot since my first visit to Paris 4 years back, and was really disappointed when I missed it then. Famous for their chocolates and patisseries, I first learnt of GM when reading a book on Paris patissieres (that I have 5 of those huge-ass books says much about my obsession with Paris). I swear those pages of their wonderful entremets and chocolates were screaming “EAT ME”. So while revising my itinerary for France 2013, I was determined to pop by at least once. Or twice. Thrice maybe?

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I visited the outlet situated along the quiet borders of the 13th and the 14th – a very strategic location imho. mere 10 minutes walk away from the exit of Les Catacombes de Paris, it’s the perfect place for a sweet bite after the solemn morbidity of the tourist site.

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What about these patisseries that really gets me off, is the huge variety of saliva-inducing sweets they boast and the utter impossibility of tasting every single one of them. The damn dichotomy! Yes I am fat but I’m not that fat. With our limited tummy space we settled on having what we thought would be the least filling of the lot – the macarons.

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Box of 9 macarons (€16). Flavours from top to bottom: Nougat, Passion/basilic, Feuille de menthe, Caramel au beurre salé, Pistache, Vanille, Noix de coco, Chocolat, Mangue Yuzu

With the nicely formed feet and a smooth waxy exterior, GM’s macarons passed the look-test. Does it taste as good was the nagging question. Biting into it, the crispy exterior gave way to a chewy almond shell and a smooth, creamy ganache/buttercream. Absolutely wonderful. Technical skills aside, GM nailed the flavours. My favourites were Passion/basilic, Caramel au beurre salé, Noix de coco, Mangue Yuzu. Classical flavours they perfected; but by nailing these new inventive flavours GM has definitely brought the bar up for macarons.

Yes I’m still bitter that I didn’t get to try GM’s other famous sweets, but I guess their unexpectedly delish macarons were worth it. Forget Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. GM’s not one you’d want to miss out on.

93, rue de la Glacière
75013 Paris
Tél : 01 45 81 39 09
Fax : 01 53 80 40 07
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 1000-1930

76, rue de Seine
75006 Paris
Tél : 01 43 26 85 77
Fax : 01 40 46 99 34
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 0645-2000
Closed on Wednesdays

6, rue du Pas de la Mule
75003 Paris
Tél : 01 42 78 52 17
Fax : 01 42 72 60 34
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 0800-2000

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Amorino: one of the best gelatarias in France?

It’s surprising that gelato chain-shops like Amorino is considered by some of the locals to be probably the best gelataria in France. I’ve had my first taste of Amorino in Spain last year, and the experience was pretty good. Wanting to test the Frenchs’ judgement, I decided to give it my second go in Paris.

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Wooden furniture illuminated by the orange lights, Amorino exuded a homely vibe that made us feel welcomed at once. Walking towards the gelato counter, one will be amazed at the flavours offered. From your typical Chocolate and Vanilla, to exotic Pineapple and Coconut sorbets, and finally to never-heard-before ones like Speculoos; the sight of this astounding range was pretty damn exciting!

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I like Amorino’s concept of sales, charging customers for the size of cups/cones bought without restricting the number of flavours they can try. In other words, we could try all the flavours if we wanted to! The staff would then scoop an equal amount of each flavour into the cup/cone, and the amounts differ depending on the number of gelato flavours chosen.

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Clockwise from bottom to top: Cioccolato Ecuador Pure Origine, Speculoos, Caramello al Burro Salato, Pistacchio del Bosforo.

We got 2 grande cups for the 7 of us, with 4 flavours each. The pistachio was simply heavenly. Nutty and fragrant, it is probably one of the best pistachios I’ve ever had. Amorino offers 2 kinds of pistachio-flavoured gelatos, with one being sweeter and less nuttier. If I’m not mistaken, this is the Pistacchio del Bosforo. It has a deeper nutty fragrance and aftertaste, without being overly sweet. An absolute delight. The Cioccolato Ecuador Pure Origine was spot on. Apparently Speculoos is a brand of biscuits! I never knew so I can’t really comment on the authenticity of the flavour. It just tasted sweet and wasn’t that memorable. Finally: having tried several delicious salted caramel desserts, this gelato was disappointing to say the least. I think it would suffice to say I couldn’t tell the Caramello al Burro Salato from the Speculoos.

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Clockwise from bottom to top: Cocco puro Sri Lanka, Yogurt con Yogurt 0%, Tiramisu, Nougat.

This turned out to be the better of the 2 cups. First off the Yogurt con Yogurt 0% was absolutely delish. With little bits of coconut in the gelato, it was creamy, fragrant, and unique. Probably one of the best coconut-flavoured gelatos I’ve had too. Cocco puro Sri Lanka was another favourite of mine. I guess the best way to describe it is “slightly soured milk”. It has all the decadence and creaminess of milk gelatos, with a dash of sour that gives it a refreshing spin. The Nougat I didn’t like that much. Unlike the Australian nougat tidbits we love, this tastes much more like those almond essences. Tiramisu wasn’t that bad, except it would make a better Coffee than Tiramisu.

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With the hits and misses measuring at a 50/50, I guess I wouldn’t call it one of the best gelatarias in France. That’s not to say they don’t serve good gelatos. If you’re ever anywhere near Amorino, I’d still say it deserves a visit. Who knows, you might find some of the flavours actually worthy of those empty calories!

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

1. Phone theft
2. Locked out of apartment

2′s hardly a series; but when it occurs in a succession of 2 days, and our very first days in a Paris, yes it definitely seemed like it.

Premiere jour: vol de téléphone
So we were at Amorino’s, all bubbly with excitement to try their amazing glacés. Our happy pig-out session was suddenly interrupted by this shriek. “OMG WHERE’S MY PHONE?!” We searched high and low, rummaging through everyone’s bags and jackets, but we found nothing.

Then someone recalled an odd event some 10 minutes ago.

When I was out ordering, a few boys ran past our table, suddenly smacking their hands on our table for no reason. They then quickly retracted their hands and ran away. My friends were caught by surprise, and thought they were tryna sell something, so they didn’t really take it to heart.

Apparently those were the theives. There goes the SIM card we just bought.

Deuxieme jour: on s’étaient enfermés dehors a notre apartement
This sucked big time. We were locked out for a total of 4 hours, the 7 of us squeezed into that tiny stairway, struggling to get in. Thing about the apartment stairway is that the lights stay on for about 2 minutes before turning off automatically. That was a real bummer, and we ended up pressing onto the switch, on a rotational basis, for that 4 hours to prevent ourself from being plunged into utter darkness.

Thank God for 24hour locksmiths. At the stroke of midnight we decided it couldn’t wait anymore, and we called for them. Literally begged them for help with that half-past-French of ours. Within half an hour he arrived, and – now this is the real interesting part – opened the door in less than half a minute. How? Put the key in. Turn it. Push the door.

Until now none of us understand why we couldn’t get the door open. It’s definitely not only us cause our neighbour gave a go at it and it remained shut. We failed the next few days too and decided to shove a pamphlet between the door latch and the catch to make it easier to open. We never figured out that door’s sweet spot.

As unfortunate as those were, I guess this proves how this France trip is really going to be full of surprises and new experiences.

Jacques Genin

Just a mere 15 minutes walk from Musee Carnavalet at Le Marais, Jacques Genin was the first sweets stop I scheduled into our itinerary. Having read so much about its amazing Pate de Fruits, chocolates and Paris Brest, I was dying to try them for myself. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s because Le Marais seems to be such a gothic district, I was expecting a small wood-furnished boulanger patisserie. Jacques Genin is anything but that. Huge glass windows reaching to the ceilings, bright orange lights and neatly arranged displays, it’s chic interior was extremely attractive.

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Food displays (left to right, clockwise): chocolates, packets of chocolate treats, caramels, pates du fruits.

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Pates de fruits

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Spiral stairs to the kitchen.

We came in a big group of 7, but the staff was very nice in preparing a table sufficient for us. It was really pleasant to find that he could speak fluent English! I know we’re in France and should learn to speak French, but…really it gets annoying when you’re trying to order food with that language barrier.

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After a 10 minutes wait or so, we were shown to our table where we were immediately served glasses of water. Thereafter the staff informed us about the pastries of the day, in which the Paris Brest was not included. So I asked about it, and I was told that since about a year ago they’ve stopped making regular pastries. They still have a few basics like eclairs featured on the menu, but the rest of the pastries change on a daily basis.

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Complementary chocolates

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Degustation aux caramels

This degustation featured a selection of 6 of their signature caramels. I can’t name the various caramels cause they weren’t written down, and in the mess of eating the various sweets I didn’t pay that much attention to these. What I can tell you though is that they are superb. That says a lot, coming from someone who doesn’t like caramels. Smooth, velvety and rich without being cloyingly sweet, these caramels are perfect. Perhaps what was lacking was the obvious difference between the 6 caramels. If I couldn’t tell the flavours of the caramels, I guess it isn’t that obvious or well done. Kudos for mastering a beautiful caramel though.

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Hot Chocolate

This isn’t your Starbucks diluted sugar-spammed hot chocolate. Parisian hot chocolate is much more different. Thick, decadent, and extremely rich, the hot chocolate tastes more like a melted block of chocolate than a drink. As delicious as it is, it becomes hard to swallow after about half a cup. It is very nice though, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who visits Jacques Genin, except it might be wiser to share it with a few friends.

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Praline Millefeuille

Having eaten millefeuilles at almost every bakery I pass in France, I would say that this is by far the best millefeuille that I’ve had besides Laduree’s I tried a few years back. The puff pastry is extremely delicate, with a perfectly caramelised outer layer, yet sturdy enough to hold the smooth praline creme patissiere. The best part of eating a millefeuille is cutting into it for the first time, hearing the crackle of the puff pastry, then putting a spoonful of that mess into your mouth. Il est parfait. JG’s millefeuille stands out because of its puff pastry, in particular how it remains crisp even in your mouth. I felt that the praline creme patissiere could be more pronounced though. It tasted like a slightly nuttier chocolate instead of having that very distinct praline flavour.

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Eclair Chocolat

They definitely have the best chocolate eclair I’ve tried thus far too. Perfect choux pastry, with a crisp surface and a fluffy interior; filled with amazingly smooth dark chocolate creme patisserie. Absolutely heavenly.

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Tarte au Citron est Basilic

I loved how the basil was subtle yet definitely discernible here. It kept the tart from getting boring after a few bites. In addition the lemon curd was just the right amount of sour. Eaten with the lightly sweeted shortcrust base, this tart was a breath of fresh air to all the chocolatey sweetness. A must-try to balance out all that sugar.

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On hindsight, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to put this first in my to-eats list. Cause everything pales in comparison now. If you happen to be in Paris, be sure to pay Jacques Genin a visit. Trust me: you won’t regret it.

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War of the Falafels: L’As du Fallafel V.S. Chez H’anna

Researching on the must-eats in Paris led me to these 2 rival falafel restaurants in the district of Le Marais: L’As du Fallafel and Chez H’anna. For one, they apparently make extremely delicious falafels. More importantly they’re filling and easy on the pocket. At an affordable €5 , these falafel wraps make a delicious street food.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that our apartment is situated right in the middle of that very district! I made it a must to have lunch there on our very first day.

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L’As du Fallafel

David Lebovitz called it a favourite quick-bite on the streets of Paris; and rightly so if the queue is any indication of its popularity. En route we saw many students munching on their falafel wraps, and that hiked up our anticipation for this amazing falafel.

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Basic falafel wrap (€4 for takeaway). Left is the non-spicy one, where the right has a dash of piquante sauce.

Using that fork provided, dig into warm pita bread stuffed with marinated crunchy cabbage, silky grilled aubergines, cold sesame hummus, and that burning crisp-fried balls of chick-pea falafels. I love that wonderful contrast between the cold vegetables and hummus, against the falafels. Together with the spicy piquante sauce, it was absolutely heavenly. I had no trouble demolishing one on my own!

I was happily gobbling up my lovely falafel wrap, when I made a turn along the street and found Chez H’anna. Now know that no matter how I might look like one, I am certainly not some glutton with a bottomless tummy. I was pretty filled by then, but I simply couldn’t bear the thought of giving it a miss. You mean I’ll have to walk across these streets again just to get back here to try out Chez H’anna? Uh-uh, ne pas possible. My itinerary is way too packed to make a revisit possible. That I am lazy is not a contributing factor to my final decision

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Chez H’anna

Rated half a star lower than L’As du Fallafel on Trip Advisor, Chez H’anna has been receiving mixed reviews. Time Out called it a favourite spot frequented by locals. So I wondered if the former was merely some teenage-hangout-touristy place, while the latter is the real treasure?

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Vegetarian falafel a.k.a. basic falafel wrap (€5.50 for takeaway)

The sauces here distinguished it from L’As du Fallafel because it was tastier. The piquante sauce was honestly spicy and gave the wrap a wonderful kick. It was a tad too salty though. Chez H’anna’s hummus was more fragrant and memorable, as compared to the former. Yet they have a really hard pita pocket that ruined the whole dish. I ended up literally eating the fillings on their own, then throwing the wrap away.

The verdict? None really. Both are good in different ways.

Maybe it’s time for them to collaborate instead of being rivals.

Chez H’anna
54 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris, France
Opened from 1100-0000, closed on Mondays

L’As du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris, France
Opens from 1200-0000, closed on Sundays

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