Salted Caramel

Salted Caramel’s been in the ice cream scene for a few years now. Raved about for their crisp waffles and consistently good ice cream, it sees its fair share of crowd despite having Udders being their direct neighbour. It was in fact bursting with people when we arrived close to midnight on Saturday.

Trust me however when I say seating is the secondary problem. The first is actually selecting a flavour or two from their huge offering of ice creams.

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Our orders for the night

Of course if we could stomach it all we probably would; but we can’t. I did my very best by being the typical Singaporean and asking for as many samples as I dared.

The Peanut Butter was fully of creamy goodness, one of my favourites in fact.While the Salted Caramel was indeed salty, the salt and caramel lacked depth and fell flat. The Matcha is one of the better ones I’ve tasted, lightly sweetened with a slightly powdery texture reminiscent of matcha powder.

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Espresso with caramel biscuits and Earl Grey (S$5), with a waffle (S$3.50)

The Espresso tasted wonderfully strongly of coffee. The biscuits though were pretty undetectable, soggy and without a hint of caramel at all. If executed well it would have kicked the flavour up a notch. The Earl Grey was perfectly executed, with the distinctly floral overtones rounded off gently by its creamy texture. An absolute delight.

While their waffles have been touted for being crispy and fluffy, it was anything but that that night. Slightly moist exterior, dense and chewy, it made the dessert very heavy and unpleasant. Perhaps it was the insane crowd that came in the way of quality control, but it doesn’t speak well of them in any case.

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Roasted Pistachio and Chocolate Sorbet (S$5), with a waffle (S$3.50)

The pistachio is pretty good on the first few bites, with a strong pistachio flavour and chewy pistachio bits. However it was a tad too sweet, and overwhelmed the nutty fragrance towards the end. The Chocolate Sorbet was my favourite. Dark, intense and creamy, it was absolute decadence. I can’t figure out how it is a sorbet though.

Smack right in the heart of Upper Thomson, it is not the most convenient place to pop by for ice cream. It’s definitely easier to get there by car. Though the waffles left much to be desired, Salted Caramel does have an amazing range of ice cream flavours. If you do manage to hitch a ride for the day, be sure to drop by and have a scoop or two.

Salted Caramel
246F Upper Thomson Road
Thomson Garden Estate
Singapore
S(574370)

Sun-Thurs: 1200-2300
Eve of PH, Fri & Sat: 1200-0200

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Department of Caffeine

Opened two years back, DOC is increasingly known for making wonderful pancakes and waffles. So when my friend was going through a pancakes craze, I said why don’t we give DOC a shot?

Brunch crowds at DOC are usually pretty long, so it’s wonderful that they are conveniently located at Duxton, surrounded by amazing shops like Flor Patisserie. and Littered With Books. There were about 5 people in the waiting list before us, so we spent the 20 minutes waiting time exploring the area.

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Long Black (S$4.50)

What surprised us about the weekend brunch menu (not the one featured above) was that half their food menu was crossed off. Savoury items like salads and meats were removed, leaving us with the typical brunch fare of waffles/pancakes/French toast and the usual scrambled eggs. It was a tad disappointing. Given the highly saturated brunch scene in Singapore, I would think that most cafés would try to stand out with interesting or slightly unique items. With that narrow a menu, DOC must have a great confidence in those few items.

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Flat White (S$5)

Having had Ronin’s coffee almost daily for the past month, DOC’s fell short. The Long Black was not as fragrant nor as strong. For the newly converted though, it is light enough and not overly acidic. Decent coffee at the very least. The Flat White fared better. The coffee was smooth and creamy, while the foam was really fine. Altogether a pretty well executed cuppa.

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Stuffed French Toast (S$16)

French toast is not usually featured on brunch menus, so we decided to give up on the waffles and have this instead. Essentially slices of brioche stuffed with maple syrup bananas, served with vanilla yogurt, blueberries and toasted almond slivers; this was nothing much to rave about. While Wild Honey uses brioche to their advantage, resulting in a buttery and fluffy French toast, DOC’s brioche fell short. They might as well have used normal bread. The bananas were overly mushy, there was no hint of any maple, and the tart yogurt sauce tipped the dish over. It sounds impressive on words, but a simple thick cut French toast with caramelised bananas, a dollop of yogurt and drizzles of maple syrup would have fared much better.

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B.O.E. (S$20)

Very adorably named “Bit of Everything” thus “B.O.E.”, it’s described as twin nests of premium spanish serrano cured ham & onsen egg and dill dressed smoked salmon with citrus dressing on herb and parmesan english muffins. A decent dish, nothing disastrous and nothing amazing. The combination of smoked salmon and serrano ham in a single dish does lend to the B.O.E. idea, and it very welcomed. We got a taste of everything within a dish. It would have been great to have another egg though cause one is just plain stingy. The downsides are the muffins, which had none of that amazing flavours and was just dense; and the salad which was not seasoned and tasted extremely raw.

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Shepherd’s Pie (S$16)

Smooth melt-in-your mouth mash atop a mess of piping hot saucy mince, this was the most impressive dish of the lot. Having diced vegetables together with the mince, as in a traditional shepherd’s pie, would have made it perfect. That, and a seasoned salad of course.

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This visit’s seen more hits than misses. I have visited on the weekdays though and know they make pretty decent savoury dishes, so there’s definitely more to DOC than their slightly disastrous brunch. For their famed waffles and pancakes, it’s still worth a visit.

Department of Caffeine
15 Duxton Road
Singapore
S(089481)
6223 3426

Mon-Tue: 10:30am-7:30pm
Thurs-Fri: 10:30am-7:30pm
Sat-Sun: 9:30am-7:30pm

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The Fabulous Baker Boy

The Fabulous Baker Boy is not news to brunch junkies. Most famous for it’s cakes, this quaint little bakery cafe has been garnering a steady crowd and following in its 2 years of operation. It recently went through a renovation, refitting the cafe with air conditioners. In the sweltering hot Singapore, who can say no to a good brunch and yummy cakes in an air conditioned area?

The usual problem with popular brunch venues though is, well, its popularity. There are so many people it takes ages for the food to arrive. That’s where desserts come in.

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Valrhona Chocolate (S$8++/slice)

Using chocolate of 70% cocoa, the Valrhona Chocolate cake was fudgy, chewy, yet moist and light at the same time. We loved this an polished it off in less than a minute.

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Carrot Cake (S$8.50++/slice)

Touted to be one of the best carrot cakes in Singapore, it certainly tasted so on the first bite. It was fluffy and lightly sweetened, and the shredded coconut was a wonderful addition. However it fell flat after a few mouthfuls. The cream cheese frosting lacked the tang, the walnuts and raisins weren’t significant enough, and the carrot laden sponge tasted like any normal vanilla sponge. It was quite the disappointment.

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Salted Caramel (S$8++/slice)

I loved how luscious salted caramel is generously slathered between the layers of valrhona chocolate torte. It gave the otherwise dense chocolate cake a welcomed salty balance. It’s my favourite out of the 3 we tried. It is quite a big slice though so it might be good to share it with a friend, to prevent it from getting too jelak.

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Corned Beef Hash (S$17++)

Chunks of corned beef, with onions, potatoes, and a little bacon, this is an absolutely hearty dish. I’m far from being English, but a spoonful of this sent me straight home. Simple fare, cooked with passion and love. This unconventional brunch dish is a definite must-try when visiting TFBB.

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Wild Mushroom Salad (S$14++)

Anything with an egg looks awfully awesome. Sadly the only other commendable part of the dish is the reduced balsamic dressing. Not many F&B establishments use reduced balsamic, which definitely kicks any salad up a notch. The mushrooms though are mediocre, simply sautéed with garlic. The salad didn’t taste like a properly composed dish, but more like a handful of veggies with a side of mushrooms.

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Towkay Ng’s Eggs Ben(S$12.50++)

TFBB’s eggs ben stand out from the others because of the way their eggs are made. Most eggs ben come with the average poached egg – a harder exterior of egg white encasing liquid yolk. TFBB’s eggs are similar to that of Symmetry’s, like a soft-boiled egg, with a softer egg white exterior encasing the yolk and semi-cooked whites. The hollandaise sauce was very well executed. It is a pity the brioche slices used were not distinct, so much that swapping it with the normal muffins would be preferable.

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Guinness Beef Pot Pie (S$18++)

A perfect pot pie, if not a tad too salty. It takes 15 minutes to make a pot pie, so you are assured it’ll come fresh out of the oven, steaming hot to your table. Crisp buttery pastry and delicious tender stewed beef, it’s absolutely worth the wait.

Several hits and misses, but the hits do explain why TFBB is such a popular spot. They don’t merely sell your usual brunch fare, including their interpretation of many local dishes. While their cakes have been slightly disappointing, the savoury dishes were executed pretty well. In the highly saturated ‘hippy’ cafe scene, TFBB is definitely one to look out for.

The Fabulous Baker Boy
The Foothills
70 River Valley Road
#01-15
Singapore
S(179037)

Closed on Mondays
Closed from 4:30pm-6pm daily

Tue-Thurs: 11am-10pm
Fri: 11am-11pm
Sat: 11am-11pm
Sun: 10am-5pm

Brunch/Lunch till 2:30pm
Tea till 4:30pm
Dinner till 9pm

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&Sons bacaro

Bacaro = A traditional Venetian gastrobar, where people stop to enjoy a drink together with little plates of food (cicchetti is similar to the Spanish tapas, but think of it as a regional variation).

This idea of casual dining seems to be increasingly popular, with Morsi and Sorsi launched by Lino Sauro of Gattopardo not too long ago; and now &Sons by Beppe de Vito of il Lido. Opened last December in China Square Central, &Sons seems to already have a pretty strong following. I’ve been there quite a few times, and they are always packed to the brim. Then again, with a wonderful ambience, affordable delish cocktails, and absolutely stunning cicchetis, why wouldn’t they be?

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Proscuitto di Parma & Melon (S$12++)

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Proscuitto San Daniele, Pickled Pears (S$12++)

There are features that distinguish both kinds of cured meats. However my unrefined taste buds aren’t accurately able to decipher anything. That aside &Sons cures their own meat, and judging by their proscuitto they are really good at it. The pickled pears are an absolutely ingenious pairing, adding a tinge of sour to the commonly sweet and salty combination.

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Burrata, Asparagus Cream, Hazelnuts (S$15++)

Lightly dressed greens, a generous portion of fresh and creamy burrata cheese, rounded of with grounded hazelnuts and a drizzle of olive oil – perfection in a plate. The quality of the ingredients lends to a fresh and appetizing dish.

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Grilled Smoked Caciocavallo, Avocado (S$15++)

I was really surprised when I found out that what I ordered was simply cheese! Meaty and chewy, the caciocavallo was deceivingly similar to perfectly grilled calamari. The charred exterior gave the smoked cheese an interesting contrastive texture, hitting the simple ingredient up many notches.

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Tagliolini, Crab & Nduja (S$9++)

For those who don’t know, I first fell in love with contemporary European cuisine after an amazing dinner at il Lido. I was most impressed with the pasta I had, which so happened to be their then Lobster Tangliolini. So this dish was an absolute throw back in time. Al dente noodles, perfectly executed sauce, balanced by slightly tangy crumbles of cheese. Wonderfully executed.

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Spaghetti, Sea Urchin Carbonara (S$16++)

This carbonara perfected the fine line between decadent and overly creamy. All mixed up, the sea urchin cream just barely coats the al dente noodles. It’s like a good aglio olio, where the olive oil is just enough to make it really savoury and falling short of oily. With sea urchin being naturally creamy, &Sons achieved the perfect balance. Of course it also helps that there was a copious amount of crispy bacon bits.

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Tagliatelle, Truffle Pesto (S$12++)

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Wagyu Beef Tagliata, Salsa Verde (S$26++)

The wagyu was nicely seared and tender; a decent dish. Compared to the other dishes it was not much to scream about.

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Baccala Cakes, Sea Urchin Sabayon (S$13++)

These entirely charred balls are actually cod cakes. Break into it, the fresh, sweet cod pairs wonderfully with the creamy sea urchin sabayon. It is odd though that it’s so burnt on the exterior; wonder if that’s intentional?

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Foie Gras, Pumpkin Cream & Roasted Onions (S$18++)

An unexpected combination, this dish is yet another culinary surprise. The usual apples or citrus pairings are absent here; instead &Sons uses another textually similar complement. Yet it works. The sweet pumpkin cream and the roasted onions paired really well with the buttery foie gras.

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Gelato – Pistachio (S$5++)

Creamy, fragrant and bold, this is the real thing. &Sons’ amazing Italian gelato is a must-have.

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Salted Caramel Strawberry Jubilee (S$12++)

A rather ambiguous name, this is rather like an Italian’s eton mess: meringue, ice cream and strawberries all jumbled up into a sinfully delish dessert. The plump and fresh strawberries were the highlight. Not exactly salty nor adding a slightly burnt and smoky dimension, the salted caramel however fell flat. It would have been perfect if the salted caramel was more pronounced.

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Raspberry Zabaione (S$12++)

A light custard, this classic Italian dessert is presented similar to a creme brulee. Flame-torched with handful plump tart raspberries, it is a wonderful way to end the dinner.

&Sons may be new, but being set up by people well established in the F&B industry it is definitely the new kid to look out for. They have recently launched their lunch promotion, offering wonderful pastas (a much bigger portion) at S$8. With the nice ambience, wonderful service and great food, it’s definitely a must to dine at if you’re around the CBD.

&Sons bacaro
China Square Central
20 Cross Street
#01-09
Singapore
S(048422)
6221 3937

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Poulét

A French casual dining restaurant, Poulét’s been around for quite awhile, probably a year or so, and has several outlets across the island. Dishing up typically classical French dishes in a contemporary bistro, it really seems as if Poulét brought a little of Paris to Singapore. Yet despite my love for European and French food, I haven’t visited them till recently. After my long stay in France I wasn’t sure Poulét would come close to anything I’ve had there.

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French Onion Soup (S$5.80++)

Lightly sweetened, this is one of the better French Onion soups I’ve had thus far. It’s definitely more savoury than sweet, though not savoury enough. The French Onion soups I tasted in France were all extremely savoury, with a rich beef stock and topping of melted gruyere. The Singaporean counterparts though seem to all be really really sweet. Poulét serves a decent soup; but nothing more.

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Sauté Wild Mushrooms (S$7.80++)

As usual the wonderfully oozy egg is the center of attention. Especially in this case where the liquid yolk is encased in such a solid and smooth white exterior. The shrooms themselves were simple and plain, nothing outstanding.

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Escargot de Bourgogne (S$8.00++)

Poulét’s escargot’s are slighlty different from the usual escargots, due to the addition of tomato puree. Salty parmesan, fragrant garlic and herbs, rounded off with slightly tart tomato puree – a wonderful composition of flavours. Just a little more seasoning and c’est bien. It’s not the best I’ve had, but it comes close.

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Half Poulét Roti(S$15.80++)

“Poulét” meaning chicken, it isn’t surprising for roasted chicken to be crux of their menu; or one of their better dishes. Tender and succulent, the chicken is roasted to perfection, with the skin being slightly sweet. The Chardonnay sauce is a surprisingly delicious addition, balancing out the drier chicken bits. I don’t usually like cream sauce, but I thought this is pretty yummy. My only request would be to have more spinach.

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Oxtail de Bourguignon (S$15.80++)

The server described this to be one of their bestsellers. Sadly it was an utter disappointment. While they nailed the tenderness of the meat, the sauce was executed horribly. It was bland, diluted, and lacked the richness that defines a bourguignon. Besides the tender meat the entire dish fell flat.

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Banana Bread Pudding (S$6.80++)

We originally ordered the Panna Cotta, just to find out it’s no longer on their menu. But wait, they serve Creme Brulee which is also not on the menu. Hmm I don’t really understand how that works. Anyhow we ended up with this Banana Bread Pudding which wasn’t all too bad. The bread pudding itself was a tad too custardy. The ice cream was not too impressive either. However the banana addition was surprisingly pleasant. The banana bits weren’t overwhelming, and was just enough to add a tinge of ‘banana’.

I’m still not convinced that Singapore can make wonderfully delicious, affordable tasting French food comparable to any roadside bistro in France. Still Poulét, with its hits and misses, does have its fair share of nice dishes. For affordable escargots and roasted chicken, I’d definitely return to Poulét.

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Savour 2014

Yes I know Savour 2014 was way back in March so why is it only up now?

I’m sorry this took so long, but university isn’t really blogging friendly. Neither is a relationship. Between juggling them both with family and hobbies, there ain’t much time left for editing my photos and writing about them. But of course that isn’t an excuse; so here I am! Back, and attempting to start writing regularly to revive this place I so love (:

So; Savour 2014. I’ve known about Savour for 2 years but never got the opportunity to attend it. With 20 acclaimed chefs – both Michelin Stars and award-winning ones – featured this year, naturally I was super duper excited. Like, where else would you get a congregation of such amazing chefs and restaurants like Bo Innovation and Christophe Paucod?

Unfortunately the reality turned out less than ideal.

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Grilling a whole cow

I’m usually rather excited at the sight of food, but being greeted by a whole cow grilled and carved up like that is just a little bit more than morbid.

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Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais – Blood Pork Sausage with Caramelised Apples and Mash, Tatin style (S$14)

Prepared by Chef Christophe Paucod who holds 1 Star in his Tokyo restaurant, this dish sounded promising. I thought the idea of presenting a savoury dish like the classical sweet French tarte tatin was intriguing. Perfectly seared to a crisp and paired with the lightest mash ever, Paucod’s team nailed the most important ‘tatin’ components. Sadly they failed on their blood sausages. I don’t eat those, but my friend who had it commented that Paucod’s rendition was incomparable to those he tasted in Scotland. It had a mushy texture, which did not help with the composition of the dish, and tasted too raw for his liking.

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Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais – Whipped fresh cheese with chives, garlic & parsley served with fresh baguette (S$0)

We had this for free because it was the last day of Savour 2014. I guess they wanted to reduce food waste. Simple and light, this was a pleasant munch; but nothing impressive.

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Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais – Snails “Eclair Style” served with tomato, persil & garlic (S$14)

Yet another innovative dish. Difference was how perfectly executed this dish was. Even after days of service, the choux pastry was slightly crisp on the outside, yielding a softer interior. The escargots were lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection; the persil and garlic sauce was flavourful; and the tomato sauce added a slight tang to it all. Overall and extremely well-composed dish in terms of both texture and taste. It was my fave dish of the night.

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&SONS.The Italian Bacaro – Roasted Cod Salsa Rubra (S$18)

I always thought cod to be a really safe dish. Sadly the team at &SONS proved me wrong. The cod was overcooked to the point that it was less crisp than hard, and lost all of its tenderness and omega-3 goodness. Any average home cook can whip up a better cod fish than that. Headed by Chef Beppe de Vito and located at 20 Cross Street, I expected better. If this is the outcome of as simple a dish as roasting cod, I’m not very optimistic about their other dishes.

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Stellar@1-Altitude – Meat Lovers Platter: Smoked Angus Rib Eye, Braised Short Rib with Soy Caramel, Crispy Pork Crackles (part of S$50 platter)

This tastes as delish as it looks. Crowned Best Restaurant 2011 & 2012 by the Singapore Tatler, Stellar@1-Altitude boasted an amazing sounding menu that really piqued our interest. Their S$50 platter consisted of an oyster dish done 3 ways, a meat platter (featured above) and a dessert (below). Chef Christopher Millar did a wonderful job here, balancing the cool oysters with crackling succulent meat. Absolutely delish.

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Stellar@1-Altitude – Chocolate Violette Earth with Strawberry Blossom Sorbet (part of S$50 combo)

Sadly dessert disappointed. Essentially just strawberry sorbet with chocolate crumb bits, dessert proved to be just a fancy name. I could not decipher what that blue liquid was, nor how it added to the dessert. The chocolate crumb bits taste suspiciously similar to Oreos, and where was the ‘Blossom’ in the sorbet? If any, the only decent thing was the sorbet.

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Mikuni – Hokkaido Botan Ebi, Tenshin Sauce, Caviar (S$18)

I don’t know much about Mikuni, but they got me at Hokkaido prawns and caviar. I thought Chef Moon Kyung Soo came up with a pretty interesting pairing. What I didn’t expect was for it to be a cold dish, with the prawn tasting pretty raw. The light sweetness of the raw prawn, eaten with a slightly gooey sauce, was unimpressive.

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Jason’s – Wagyu Striploin (S$40)

Surprisingly this was one of the better dishes that night. Prepared by chefs representing Jason’s Gourmet Grocers, the striploin was delicious and perfectly seared. Granted it was pretty pricey, but given the disappointing food the entire evening, it was worth every cent.

With all that hype and expectation, I must say Savour 2014 was a total disappointment. There were several hits, but mostly misses. I love intricate food compositions because they reveal the chef’s grasp and understanding of the ingredients; unfortunately many chefs at Savour 2014 seem to be overwhelmed by complexity, ruining even the simplest of dishes. It’s a wonder how a perfectly grilled piece of meat can outshine intricate award-winning dishes. As much as I’m sure Savour 2015 will feature and equally amazing array of chefs and restaurants, it remains to be seen if I will once again be enticed.

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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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