Dinner @ Esquina Tapas Bar

November 28, 2012 in Spanish by thywhaleliciousfay

I forgot how I came to learn about Esquina, but my girlfriend seconded that Esquina is a good place to check out from how packed it always is. Thus, we decided to head down for dinner. However, to our dismay, while checking their website for a number to call, I learned that they do not accept reservation. Crowded place with no reservation = Long waiting time? Nooooo! Haha.

We arrived on a Tuesday evening at 7.40pm to find the restaurant (expectedly) full. However, we were told we could be put on a waiting list. Though the Malay male staff accidentally called the waiting list as the reservation list which earned me a dirty stare from my girlfriend as I was telling her earlier that they dont accept reservation. Haha.

But what I really appreciate about this Malay male staff is… We came a little after a couple. He must have realised his senior who attended to the couple first (by bringing them to the waiting corner to order drinks first) had forgotten about us when he saw us still standing at the entrance. He came up to us and said he’ll get his senior. I truly appreciate his initiative and his sense of responsibility even though he has in a way handed us over to his senior.

We chose to wait at a coffee cafe a few units down the road after leaving our contact number. And while we were advised the waiting time is estimated to be 30 minutes, we ended up waiting for 1.5 hours.

There’re some outdoor seats but we were ushered into a round (tall) table placed at the corner. And in the centre of the rectangular interior, are stools around the L-shaped counter. And for a restaurant which could house no more than twenty customers, they sure have a lot of chef! I was pretty amazed at the sight.

And from the menu, my girlfriend and I ordered:-

1) Daily Special, $24 (above) – Topped with a poached egg, we were told to mix it with the fragrant rice. I especially like the contrasting texture between the moist but firm rice and the soft and runny egg. So nice!!!

2) Scallop ceviche, radish salsa, soya & yuzu ponzu, $24 (above) – A must try! The scallops were fresh and succulent. Again, I love the contrasting texture between the soft scallop and the crunchy radish. I’m so glad there were only 2 of us such that we got 2 scallops each. Hee!

3) Raw tuna, mushroom & jamon salad, aubergine miso, sherry sesame, $22 (above) – When I read raw tuna and salad, I thought it will be served as minced (raw) tuna on a bed of boring greens. But I was wrong. Firstly, the tuna were presented cut in pieces and not sliced the Japanese way. And there were hardly any big greens. I love this dish. The irregularly cut tuna pieces were big enough to have satisfying bites. Yum!

4) Iberico pork & foie gras burger $28 (above) – Sadly, this dish was salty. The meat comprised of pulled pork and (what I am assuming to be) minced pork patty. And it’s this patty that’s salty. I think I know my foie gras quite well too but I saw none here, unless it was minced into the patty. But the bun was tasty on its own!

5) Roast pork belly, bacon & onion dashi broth, coriandar seaweed salad, $27 (above) – I’m a fan! Upon presentation, the staff poured the sauce into the dish containing the 2 pieces of pork belly that’s placed on top of the seaweed salad. The pork belly, which were not too fatty, were so tender!

6) Pigeon escabeche, confit leg croquette, carrot & cumin, $28 (above) – Of all the dishes, this came across as okie. The pigeon which is done medium well can be a little dry depending on the part (Like the wing). The croquette which had a nice crispy exterior, was unfortunately dry inside.

7) Seville orange & rosemary ice cream, burnt meringue, citrus curd, marmalade toast, $13 (above) – The rosemary ice cream was creamy and addictive.

8) Grilled pineapple, coconut lime jelly, basil sorbet, $13 (above) – The grilled pineapple funnily did not taste like pineapple while the green sorbet proved to be a little too herby for us.

9) Manchego custard, black olive brioche crumb, apricot jam, $13 (above) – This being cheese is more of a savoury dessert. For ladies (like us) who have a sweet tooth for desserts, this dish failed to impress although we cant deny the smooth consistency of the cheese custard.

I seriously love this place. Although it can get a little frustrating to wait when one is hungry, but the delicious food and warm service is definitely worth the wait. And while the serving is more of a starter’s portion, one should really have anticipated it from their restaurant bar name – Tapas. And because it’s set up for a bar’s vibe, I enjoyed the intimacy feel of the small place.

I really must emphasize on the warm service. The Chinese female who took our orders was always smiling and very friendly as she gave us her recommendations. Not forgetting the chef. We had wanted to order the kingfish sashimi. However, one of the waiter came up to inform that they had finished the last plate of it and asked if we wanted the raw tuna. When the staff suggested tuna, I thought they were giving us alternatives. So when we were presented with the raw tuna and informed that it’s complimentary by the chef, we were genuinely surprised!

Note : I am including the race of the staff as I recount my dining experience so that should Esquina’s management one day read this review, I hope they can use the information to better identify the staff and give them a pat on the back. Cause frankly, the service we experienced was really good!

16 Jiak Chuan Lane, Singapore
6222 1616, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Fri : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 8

Brunch @ Chock Full Of Beans

November 16, 2012 in European (cafe) by thywhaleliciousfay

It was an accidental find to learn about Chock Full Of Beans as I was surfing the net. Having read raves by fellow HungryGoWhere-ers, I was excited to check the place out even though it meant travelling all the way to Changi.

And I have to add, to arrive by public transport sure isn easy. From Pasir Ris MRT, one has to take the only bus; bus 89. Had it not been for GPS, I will have thought I missed the bus stop because it was so far in.

And from the menu, my girlfriend and I ordered:-

1) Latte – My girlfriend had ordered this as a takeaway while waiting for an empty table. She, being a true coffee person, said that the coffee was bad as stale beans were used.

2) Cubano (ham & cheese) sandwich, $13 (above) – Of the 7 options under the section ‘Sandwiches/Wraps’, we decided to go with this. We were presented with a plate of just the sandwich and a little salad at the side. The slices of bread used were so thick that they were very out of proportion compared to the thin meat fillings of parma ham and roasted pork. We ended up not touching the top layer of bread. It’ll have been good if more slices of pickled cucumber were put, instead of just 1 (pathetic one), such that there’ll be the contrasting texture in every mouthful too.

3) Eggs atlantic, $13 (above) – The difference between this and eggs benedict is that the former comprises of poached egg and smoked salmon while the latter is of poached egg and ham. The eggs, which were poached well, went well with their homemade toast.

4) Brulee french toast, $9 (above) – This was like the dessert of our brunch as it’s a sweet dish. I thought it’s not too bad except it was a little egg-y. Worth a try if you’ve a sweet tooth!

My girlfriend and I concluded it’s not worth to make a special trip down to Changi for the bad coffee and average standard food. Instead, we were left pondering as to why there did not seem to be a quiet moment at the cafe. To which, we concluded it’s because if one is looking for a cafe to chill at, this is the only place in Changi. Till someone else opens a cafe in the vicinity, that is.

4 Changi Village Road, #01-2090, Singapore
6214 8839, Facebook
Overall: 6
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 6
Tues – Fri : 11:00 – 22:00
Ambience: 6
Sat – Sun : 09:00 – 22:00
Value: 6
* Closed on Mon
Service: 6

Dinner @ Restaurant Ember

November 14, 2012 in European by thywhaleliciousfay

Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to check Ember out for the longest while. But as time went by, I forgot as Ember got pushed further down in my long list of bookmarks. Till I read about Ember recently on The Straits Times. And thankfully I was able to make a reservation for Monday evening when I called on Saturday.

It’s a 15 minutes walk from Chinatown MRT. I will actually recommend coming here by public transport as it may be a challenge to find a parking lot in front of the shophouses.

And from the menu (which by the way gave us a really hard time cause we wanted to try everything!), my 2 girlfriends and I ordered the set dinner and a few a la carte:-

1) 4-course set dinner, $85 comprised of:-

(A) Pan seared scallops wrapped with parma ham, orange and tarragoh vinaigrette (above) – The Hokkaido scallops (1 of the choices for the set dinner menu) was no longer available. However, we were told we could replace it with the normal scallops (from the a la carte) which we were more than happy to! It could be because it’s served as appetizer portion under the set menu, there were only 2 pieces. The scallops which were fresh, looked deceivingly small wrapped with a strip of parma ham.

(B) Pan roasted foie gras with fried maitake, porcini sauce, 1 hr poached egg and truffle salt (above) – I really like this! From the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras which had a little crunch from the salt to the nicely cooked mushroom that was placed at the side. This also came with a very thin slice of deep-fried parma ham which we were told to break into smaller pieces to consume with the poached egg. Nice!!! Definitely a must try. We saved a portion of the foie gras to be eaten with the york. Yum!

(C) 12 hour cooked pork belly with savoy cabbage, apple purée and spiced calvados sauce (above) – This was an impressive dish upon presented. The sight of a long strip of pork belly with its golden crispy crackling. Visual look, check! There’re 3 sauces to dip the meat into. 1 of which came in a test tube. Interesting. We were told to pour the sauce at the side, instead of over the pork belly to prevent the skin from becoming soggy. The meat is tender and an absolute delight to eat. Taste, check! A must try!!!

(D) Warm valrhona chocolate fondant with vanilla bean ice cream (above) – The melted chocolate oozed out slightly as we sliced the chocolate cake into two. Dark chocolate is used which is a little bitter for my preference, but a joy to my girlfriend.

2) Pan seared foie gras with caramelized apple and clove, port and raspberry glaze, $25 (above) – Of the 2 dishes of foie gras, I prefer the other in terms of taste although the 2 dishes proved the chef’s consistency in dishing out melt-in-your-mouth foie gras.

3) Crispy tofu with foie gras-mirin sauce, white truffle oil, $17 (above) – We would not have ordered this, had it not been for the waitress who strongly recommended this. Cause frankly, who would have thought tofu can taste so good! Slightly crispy on the outside and silky soft on the inside. This Japanese influenced dish was so good! A must try.

4) Cold angel hair pasta with konbu and shaved abalone, $32 (above) – This dish was surprisingly delicious. 1 of my girlfriends is hot for pasta, and we are glad we listened to her. So, so good! Every mouthful was flavourful. The cold pasta, which was served on a bed of sliced abalones, went extremely well with the kelp. We almost wanted to order second for this. It’s so good. A must try!

5) Angel hair pasta with sakura ebi and lobster oil, $27 (above) – This was what our waitress called the hot pasta. However, this dish was a let down. The pasta was dry despite supposedly tossed in lobster oil and slightly hard.

6) Marinated cod with black miso and herbed potatoes, $32 (above) – The cod was fresh, but I felt the sweet marinate overwhelmed the sweet taste of fresh cod by a little.

7) Crispy caramelized pear tart with homemade bailey ice cream, $13 (above) – This is another delight! It was non-stop attacking of the flaky pastry topped with the not-too-sweet pear and crumbs for me! I like!

I’m highly recommending Ember for their food and service. Though it was a little hard to get their attention to place our orders, we finally understood when it got to our turn. The staff is patient and gave her recommendations once she saw us hesitating when we were not sure which (more) appetisers to go for. Haha.

One incident stood out which made our efforts to make reservation all worth it. Behind our table is another for 4. The tables are arranged such that when 1 moved their leather armchair back, there’s sufficient space to not bump into the person sitting behind. However, a 5th person turned up unannounced to the restaurant. As arranging another bulky chair will either block the passageway or leave no space for us to get out, the restaurant got her those red plastic stool. As I was seated right behind them with my bag on the empty chair (since there were 3 of us), I suggested to the waitress to exchange the leather seat (which had my bag) with the lady’s plastic stool. But the staff went, “No, it’s okie. She chose to came unannounced. Had she called at least 10 minutes earlier, we could have arranged a bigger table. We’re restaurant, not cafe.” The staff was nowhere arrogant as she said that. In fact, she earned my full respect. It made us, the other diners who made the effort to call, special and exclusive.

50 Keong Saik Road, Hotel 1929, Singapore
6347 1928, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Fri : 11:30 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:30 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 9