Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chatterbox

Ever since Top of the M closed down with much fanfare in early 2008, Meritus Mandarin's iconic coffeehouse, Chatterbox, has moved up the levels (literally) to occupy what used to be the crowning glory of this centrally located hotel in Orchard Road.



Interior

Perched on the 39th floor of the hotel, the interior now sports bright red tables and pillars to give a very traditional coffeeshop feeling, yet still offering a panoramic view of the surroundings. Note that the restaurant doesn't revolve anymore, leaving that honour solely to Prima Tower.




Chicken Rice Set

Chatterbox has been known for its excellent chicken rice and of course its exorbitant prices. Consisting of only a bowl of rice, soup and a relatively generous serving of chicken meat, this dish is definitely not for the value conscious.The soup was very tasty probably due to the high MSG content while the chicken was sufficiently tender with an appropriate amount of bite. Personally I felt that the rice wasn't fluffy or tasty enough, coming across as a tad dry and limp.



Flowering Chinese leaf cabbage

The Cai Xin was as normal as it gets but portions were really small for the price ($9++).



Apple & Raisin Tart

In all honesty, I was quite surprised to find a "western" dessert on a menu that featured mainly Chinese/local fare and since my initial choice of homemade coconut ice cream was out of stock, I settled for the tart. Which wasn't exactly a bad choice considering that the tart was quite crusty with a nice oven baked taste to it. Add a couple of sweet apple slices, raisins and a scoop of ice cream for a rather nice ending. But hey, its $12++.



Bill

I shudder to imagine the ridiculous price I would have to pay in the absence of my 1 for 1 chicken rice voucher. Even so, the bill for 2 pax came up to about $53 ($81 without voucher), which is really quite off the chart if you ask me. Service was decent but I seriously doubt I will return, not for the food and definitely not for the high prices.



Likes: Good view
Dislikes: Food quality can be better, expensive

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:5.5/10

Overall:6.625/10

Address: 39th floor, Main Tower, Meritus Mandarin Singapore, 333 Orchard Road.

Contact: 6831 6288

Opening Hours:

5am to 1am (Sun – Thu; Last order at 12.30am)

24 hours (Fri, Sat & Eve of Public Holidays)

Chatterbox High Tea – Available on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 2pm to 5pm

Website: http://www.meritus-hotels.com/hotelresort/meritus_mandarin/dining/chatterbox.htm

Friday, November 28, 2008

Zenden



Zenden is one of the offerings in Gallery Hotel's F&B stable, sitting on the fourth level of this art inspired boutique hotel and serving up modern contemporary and Asian cuisine.




Interior, Complimentary Bread & Menu

The restaurant employs a more open concept interior, where the lift landing blends effortlessly into the restaurant and through the use of expansive floor to ceilings windows that overlook the traffic on a rather quiet stretch of road. The use of pink, blue and purple chair wraps give the whole place an almost playful intonation. Add to that the suspended glass tabletops that are supported by only by steel wires running from the ceiling to the floor.



Oven Baked Scallops & Prawns

This dish came served with rice and honestly I was quite taken by it. The scallops were rather big and fresh sans the overwhelming raw taste. Ditto for the prawns as well. Interestingly, the rice tasted more like paella to me and was firm yet mildly chewy. Capping off this simple yet satisfying dish was the thick gravy that came across as a tad milky and peppery.



Flambe Beef Medallion Steak

I call this the highlight of the evening, not so much for the taste of the beef, but the spectacular (well almost) performance that preceded. The supervisor wheeled out a trolley and proceeded to flambe my steak in front of my table (talk about cutting cost! Where's the chef?). However, to be fair, the tenderloin came medium rare as per request but I did find it a wee bit too chewy. There was no brandy/wine taste to speak off as well. The accompanying cubes of foie gras had a texture like that of tau kwa aka beancurd - not quivery or smooth but still edible.



Banana Split

What can I say? Supermarket grade ice cream topped with fruits instead of just banana and covered in whipped cream. As normal as it gets.



Bill

I had the cheaper main taken off my bill due to a promotion, which resulted in a total damage of about $48 ($72 without discount) for 2 pax. I am of the opinion that the food isn't expensive per se, especially when quality is decent and service is excellent. But on a side note, the place did seem a little short handed that evening. Special mention goes to the supervisor, Caron, who provided exceptional service throughout the evening, making our dining experience a truely enjoyable one.



Likes: Excellent service, not too expensive
Dislikes: Food quality can be better

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7/10
Service:8.5/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10

Overall:7.125/10

Address: 4F The Gallery Hotel, 1 Nanson Road

Contact: 6849 8699

Opening Hours:

Sun-Thu: 12pm - 3pm, 6.30pm - 11pm

Fri-Sat: 12pm - 3pm, 6.30pm - 12am

Website: http://www.galleryhotel.com.sg/

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Village Wok



Was roaming the Raffles place area one late Saturday morning and popped by Village Wok for an early lunch. Actually that was the only place that opened at 11 ish so I didn't have much of a choice honestly. It also helped that they were hawking a set lunch set reasonably priced at only $8.90.



Interior

Located amongst a row of restored shophouses just opposite China Square, Village Wok is easy to miss especially if you are driving past because of the lack of prominent signage. The interior is simply furnished with parquet flooring and white washed walls.



Preserved Vegetable Soup

The preserved vegetable soup or 梅菜汤 came with the set and was rather normal but hey, its better then nothing.



Beancurd with Minced Meat

This was an extra order at $6 and honestly I was quite taken aback by the small portion. It was probably just enough for 2 pax - adequate but not exactly bang for the buck. To give it credit though, the beancurd was smooth and almost silky with a nice savoury taste to it while the topping of minced meat was generous.



Village Smoked Chicken and Char Siew Rice

The smoked chicken was purportedly an award winning dish hence I had to order it. While high expectations may have ruined the experience a little for me, I must admit that the chicken was actually quite decent. Faintly crispy skin with the meat harbouring a hint of smokiness without being too dry. I did find it a little too salty for my liking though and I do have a high tolerance for salt. As for the BBQ pork, lets just say that I've had better.



Hor Fun with Egg Sauce

Okay this dish was a tad disappointing honestly. It tasted average at best and the only upside to it was that the sauce wasn't too starchy or overwhelming. Still edible though.



Bill

$30 for a 2 pax lunch in a empty restaurant smack in the middle of Raffles place is not too expensive if you ask me. Food quality is decent but service was almost non existent save for the taking of our orders and serving of food. In conclusion, a relatively reasonable place for a nice relaxing lunch during the weekend. I can't say the same for weekdays though.



Likes: Reasonable prices
Dislikes: Food is average

Final Verdict:

Ambience:6.5/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:7/10

Overall:6.5/10

Address: #01-01 Far East Square, 80 Telok Ayer Street

Contact: 6743 9743

Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am - 2.30pm, 5.30pm - 9.30pm

Thursday, November 20, 2008

California Pizza Kitchen Part II



Armed with a 1 for 1 voucher, I was back to visit my favourite pizza haunt in town, California Pizza Kitchen. To read about my previous positive visit to CPK, see here.



Interior

I opted for my usual booth seat at the basement level of this cosy family style eatery and being a Friday evening, people started streaming in to no end, resulting in a long queue forming up just outside of the pizza joint just to get a table.



Peking Duck Pizza

Probably one of the most unusual pizzas that I've come across and a signature pizza of CPK, the Peking duck pizza wasn't short on surprises. For starters, the crust's texture tasted like prata or Indian pancake - flaky and a tad chewy. Deep fried wanton skin toppings provided a nice crunch to the pizza. However I couldn't quite make out the taste of the duck slices although I could see them, all thanks to the rather strong peking duck dipping sauce that was drizzled all over. Overall the pizza tasted very much like peking duck wrapped up in a crepe. Most interesting!



Shrimp and Chicken Fettucine with Garlic Cream Sauce

I personally felt that the pasta fell a little short of being al dente. What I did like about this dish was the not too overwhelming garlic cream sauce that didn't render me nauseous (a common occurance for me). I also appreciated the generous servings of chicken cubes and shrimps, making for hearty comfort food.



Apple Crisp Ala Mode

I requested for a scoop of ice cream atop the apple crisp, hence the term ala mode. The nice and sweet layer of crumble belied a trove of hot sourish apple slices that didn't come across as too soft or mashed up. The ice cream tasted like supermarket quality ice cream though. I'm not so much of a sour food eater so the crumble and ice cream appealed more to me.



Bill

With the price of my pizza out of the way, the 2 of us chalked up a reasonably modest bill of about $39, which is really bang for the buck in my humble opinion. Now if I could just get my hands on more of those 1 for 1 coupons.



Likes: Great hearty pizzas, cosy pizza joint
Dislikes: A wee bit pricey, location

Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10

Overall:7/10

Address: #01-42 Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road

Contact: 6836 0110

Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am-11.30pm

Website: http://www.cpk.com/

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hai Xiang



Hai Xiang is the flagship Chinese restaurant of Park Royal on Kitchener Road (formerly known as New Park Hotel) and offers an ala carte Cantonese cuisine and dim sum buffet for both lunch and dinner. Although I have a personal disdain for buffets, the one for one buffet voucher in my possession proved too alluring.



Exterior, Interior & Menu

Hai Xiang is situated on the second floor of the hotel, which is right smack in the middle of a really terrible traffic network. The restaurant's interior comes across as classy with a modern Chinese touch through its use of wood, concealed lighting and heavy carpets.



Deep Fried Soon Hock

The Soon Hock was crispy on the outside but the fish, though fresh, was rather bland and not even soy sauce could save it. Most disappointing.



Vegetables with Abalone and Mushroom

You only get one shot at this dish and the abalone turned really small and of inferior quality. But really, you get what you pay for so no complaints.



Baked Oysters in Cheese & Mustard

This dish gave me the bumps. Plain gross if you ask me. Cheese and mustard is a bad combination in my humble opinion and coupled with a soft and mushy piece of oyster, its a recipe for disaster.



Black Pepper Beef

I personally thought that the beef cubes suffered from an overdose of tenderizer. The meat was overly tender but on the upside, at least it was sweet.



Homemade Beancurd

Soft but not exactly silky on the inside (very much like supermarket grade), the beancurd had a mild savoury taste which would render it one of the better dishes that evening. I appreciated the generous handful of enoki mushrooms that came immersed in the gravy as well.



Broccoli with Crab Meat

This dish was decent but the crab meat sauce came across as rather bland. I would have expected it to be savoury.



Spring Chicken

First looks, the spring chicken appeared appetizing with its golden brown crispy looking skin. Taste wise, it was a totally different matter altogether. The meat wasn't exactly juicy and everything seemed rather bland. More salt would have been great. And it certainly didn't help that the chicken was a tad too oily.



Prawns with Salad Dressing

A perennial favourite of mine and often spotted in cold dishes, the relatively fresh prawns were thinly sliced and served atop cubes of honey dew and rock melon. As normal as it gets. To be fair though, I've never tried any that have remotely gotten close to blowing me away.



Claypot Rice with Chicken

An order for the claypot rice has to be made 30 mins in advance but from the looks of it, it probably took 15 mins max. The rice didn't stick to the bottom of the claypot and was drenched in black sauce, hence the lack of wok hei. I did like the chicken pieces though, which were tender with a moderate hint of rice wine.



Fried Pig Intestines

Another personal favourite, especially when I order kway chup, the intestines were very crispy on the exterior. However, there was an overwhelming raw taste which tasted outright gross. Add the taste of cinnamon and star anise to that and you get an awful combination. The accompanying pineapple slices did quite a good job in covering up the taste though.



Roast Duck & Soy Chicken

I almost laughed when I saw the dish. It had 4 pieces of duck and 4 slices of chicken - 2 per pax. The chicken was served warm but was very tasteless whereas the duck had more bone then meat. Gives a literal meaning to picking inbetween the bones doesn't it?



Scallops with Black Bean Sauce

The scallops were small but relatively crunchy while the vegetables were normal.



Steamed Prawns

There seems to be a prevalent trend in the food here. Everything is fresh but just not sweet. Ditto for the prawns as well.



Red Bean Paste Pancake

Choice of dessert was limited so I stuck to this dish, which sorely disappointed with its ridiculously thick skin. I felt like I was chomping down on fried flour. The red bean filling was decent though, but then again, how bad can red bean filling get?



Bill

With the 1 for 1 voucher, the total bill for 2 came up to a very reasonable $42. However, take that 50% discount away and the buffet loses its draw. To be honest, the food is average at best and portions are really tiny. Going for seconds might prove a little difficult as waiting time can stretch quite a bit and its rather difficult to get the attention of the service staff, who seem to be shorthanded.



Likes: Huge variety (about 80 dishes)
Dislikes: Food quality average, not exactly cheap

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7.5/10
Service:6.5/10
Food:6/10
Value for money:6/10 (without the 50% discount)

Overall:6.5/10

Address: 3F Parkroyal On Kitchener Road, 181 Kitchener Road

Contact: 6428 3020

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 12noon - 2.30 pm

Dinner: 6.30 pm - 10.30 pm

Website: http://www.parkroyalhotels.com/en/hotels/singapore/kitchener_road/parkroyal/specials/hai_xiang_restaurant.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dim Joy



I've always been an advocate/fan/fanatic/supporter of dim sum so when Dim Joy hopped onto the bandwagon a couple of months back, I was tempted to have a shot at it especially in this recession period where Yan Ting and Royal China are seemingly out of reach for my shallow pockets. Of course it helped that Dim Joy reportedly specialises in dim sum and sells only dim sum items throughout the day - a psychological effect?





Exterior, Interior & Menu

And I finally got the chance to dine there on a Saturday morning. Playing anchor to a row of beautifully restored shophouses along Neil Road, Dim Joy oozes sublime old world charm with its facade and simply done up interior that allows natural light in. Cool airconditioning coupled with a nice warm glow from the sunlight make for a soothing and relaxing environment.



Lingnan Egg Tart

Although the lingnan egg tart didn't fall into the buttery crust category which I personally prefer, I have to admit that it was almost in a class of its own. A flaky crust that compounded the oven baked goodness with a smooth, wobbly and not too sweet custard filling that had an almost surreal semi liquid feel. Very delicately done if I may say so.



Savoury Beancurd Skin Roll

Not your usual beancurd skin roll, this one looked like it had tempura batter sporadically coated on it before deep frying. And there was no crackling crispy skin either. Instead, the roll was a tad crisp yet moist, not to mention fragrant with a light savoury aftertaste that complemented the filling of mushroom and radish.




Custard Bun

I wasn't too impressed by Dim Joy's rendition of the custard bun even though the the custard filling was semi molten and oozed out with ease with a break in the skin. The quintessential egg yolk taste was sorely lacking and I could make out some granular substance in the custard which I presume to be partially undissolved sugar (I'm just guessing). There were traces of egg yolk as well from the slightly rough texture but as mentioned earlier, the taste was minimal.



Honey Syrup Char Siew Bao

Unlike the custard bun, the Char Siew Bao was excellent, for lack of a better word. The dough was soft and fluffy with an ample bite to it. However the char siew filling came across as rather lacklustre, mildy sweet from the honey but with a rather high proportion of fat meat in my humble opinion. Having said that, the dough itself is enough to warrant seconds for me (Not that I did though).



Barbecued Pork & Celery in Rice Rolls

The rice roll aka Chee Cheong Fun was a little different from the usual silky smooth ones in that there was an oily finish to it, very much like kway teow or flat noodles. However, as with the char siew bao, the char siew filling in the rice roll was forgettable and overall a rather bland dish.



Century Egg with Lean Pork Congee

I personally dislike century eggs but this porridge was surprisingly decent, especially the pork cubes (actually they looked like chicken cubes), which were tender with a nice salty tinge to it. The porridge itself wasn't too starchy and the ginger slices kept nausea at bay. One serving can feed 2 pax easily.



King Shrimp Har Gao

I would have preferred one large prawn in my har gao instead of 3 medium sized ones but I'm not complaining. The skin did seem a whisker too thick and elastic for my liking but on the upside, the har gao didn't carry the overwhelming prawn taste that plagues alot of har gaos.



Crispy Pumpkin Balls

This came complimentary with every spending of $30 and above. I'm not exactly a big fan of such stuff so I won't comment much except that it reminded me uncannily of those rounded pieces of chewy flour coated with sesame seeds on the outside that are being sold at most dough fritter stalls.



Black Sesame Soup

A most average dish and $3 a pop does seem a little expensive.



Durian Snow Pearl

This signature dessert reminded me of durian snow skin mooncakes except that the skin on this one was soft and excellent. No elasticity or excessive flour taste that I have a particular disdain for. The skin seemed to meld in rather well with the durian filling and cream when I popped one into my mouth. The only thing I didn't really appreciate about the dessert was the cream, which I personally felt marred the taste a little.



Bill

It does seem that Dim Joy is giving the bigger boys a run for their money with its relatively high quality of dim sum at a slightly lower price to boot. The 2 of us spent about $52 for a rather enjoyable and filling dim sum session in a nice soothing environment. Service was good but I wasn't exactly too pleased at being charged $1++ for iced water.



Likes: Quality of food is good
Dislikes: Prices still do seem a little steep especially for an unknown restaurant

Final Verdict:

Ambience:7.5/10 (I like the restored shophouse factor)
Service:7/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:7/10

Overall:7.25/10

Address: 80 Neil Road

Contact: 6220 6986

Opening Hours:

Weekdays: 11am-3pm; 6pm-10pm

Weekends: 10am-3pm; 5pm-10pm

(Closed on Tue)

Website: http://www.dimjoy.com/home.html