Monday, August 20, 2012

Baker & Cook @ Hillcrest

Go if you want: good coffee, good fruit smoothies and excellent breads.
Parking: a little tricky and they urge dedicated customers to park responsibly.
Address: 77 Hillcrest Road [turn into Hillcrest Road till you come to a row of shophouses at Greenwood. Keep right - it's the last shophouse.]

Nothing defines or changes a neighbourhood the way a good cafe does. And Baker & Cook has definitely put Hillcrest on the radar for good coffee and breads since its quiet arrival on the scene in mid January.  Naturally, it’s easy to rave about a new joint in its early days. So I'd like to add that this review comes only about 20 visits after with different people, beginning early April. Having lived in an area that has suffered a long drought of affordable gourmet coffee under 10 minutes from home, I did not want to gush over any new kid on the block too prematurely.  However, in over four months, I’m happy to report that my lattes and walnut breads have not slipped in form or flavour despite occasional service slip-ups. While Starbucks @ Coronation perked up the lethargic neighbourhood a few years ago, Baker & Cook offers a place more home-style than franchise, and breads freshly-made from the kitchen on-site, not delivered in crates cling-wrapped.

There’s nothing like a place you could just swing by in shorts and shades to get bread and a cup of full-bodied latte. On weekends and public holidays, things pretty much fly off the shelves here. Today [a public holiday], a lady before me snagged the last two custard-filled doughnuts. When I asked the owner, Dean, if there were anymore, he said I'd have to run after the lady! I had no doubt I could evoke her compassion for my children who loved those doughnuts, but the sight of the last piece of Napolean [Vanilla Custard Slice] - a new addition to the menu - convinced me that I'd soon have a better thing in hand!  I also tried the new Chicken Roll.

Morning, afternoon or evening [they close early at 8pm though], the one reason I come here is for the latte. If the treatment of a cuppa is important towards how it’s enjoyed: B&C Hillcrest has a cheerful barista who dignifies every cup with skill and pride, and the proof is in the brew.   

Not many places have the combination of good coffees and baked goods. It's like discovering a beautiful tree that also has singing birds near you. You just want to go with good company, sit and drink it in!

WELCOME to the neighborhood, Baker & Cook!

Latte that's done right each time!
Get at least one loaf of WALNUT BREAD to go - it has disappearing power.
 Breakfast To Rise For!

NEW ADDITIONS - August 2012
CHICKEN ROLL - A little bit dry but substantial on the whole.
VANILLA CUSTARD SLICE - A true delight - like B&C's zesty Lemon Tart.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prive Bakery Cafe

Reservation: book early for Sunday brunch as they set aside only 30% of capacity for booking.
Go if you want: Breakfast, brunch or lunch by the marina and you like dining alfresco.
Parking: Basement carpark at Keppel Bay Vista where the cafe is located.
Tel: 6776-0777
Budget: About $30 a person

Sunday arrived with clear skies after a long night of heavy downpour and made for a perfect day for alfresco brunching. At 1pm, the cafe was packed but we found a nice corner table outdoor nested in the refuge of plants on both sides and that offered a picturesque view of the waterfront. Only when we sat down did we discover why the servers weren't at first keen to give us that spot. Surreptitiously, the overhead sun blazed on us with full intensity. Serum facial repair came in handy in the night!

The service was good - we got water before we asked! - and it didn't take long at all for our food to arrive. In fact, I'd say that from sitting down, to ordering and getting our food and then even changing to a shadier spot, the process was entirely pleasant.

The main draw of this place is its location away from the hurry and flurry of the main island via a mere 5-minute link on Keppel Bay Vista through Keppel Bay Drive from Telok Blangah Road (before you come to The Caribbean condo). Having said that, it's much easier to go by car as you won't be stranded waiting for the sporadic cab to take you home, especially in the evenings. We'll definitely be back!

Cafe Latte - smooth & milky
Spaghetti Aglio Olio
with Bacon, Sundried Tomatoes, Bird's Eye Chilli & Baby Spinach
Big Omelette
Roasted Roma Tomato & Toast, with Choice of 2 Toppings:
Honey Baked Ham, Button Mushrooms,
Cheddar, Onions or Tomatoes
Privé Ultimate Breakfast
2 Eggs, English Breakfast Sausage, Streaky Bacon,
Button Mushrooms, Roasted Roma Tomato, Baked Beans & Toast.
Sticky Date Pudding
with Butterscotch and Vanilla Ice Cream
Lemon Meringue Pie - pity too little lemon
...but the meringue was good!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Koka Wanton Noodles

Go if you want: A plate of comfort wanton noodles before you turn in for the night
Parking: Just outside the food centre at 861 North Bridge Road

A Friday night supper in a most unlikely place - a food centre that had but one stall open for business! With incense lingering from a mini temple nearby, the place had more of a yawning than appetizing effect. Yet, nocturnal food hunters streamed in. Placidly and instinctively, everyone seemed to know what to do: order their food at the stall, and go to their tables [ours had no number]... and wait 30 minutes! The ritual is almost cult-like. 

Having good company that night definitely made the wait bearable; we even had to get our tar-pau [take-away] drinks from a nearby kopitiam.

If a picture tells a thousand words, then the pallid appearance of the noodles belied the taste explosion in my mouth at the first bite of the al dente-feel noodles that had an unusually springy texture and dressed with a soya sauce and oil mixture that reminded me of my mom's home-cooking.

When my siblings and I were kids, our parents almost had a ritual of ending a long and tiring day out with us by stopping at their favourite wanton noodles stall at Commonwealth that always had a long queue. I had always wished they would send me home first. Since then, I have disliked wanton noodles for the wait I had to endure. But tonight, something happened. I can now understand why they had to have their wanton noodles. They can be addictive.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Va Va Voom Cafe

Reservation: recommended for lunch; otherwise, quiet after 2pm. Closed Sundays "cos we can't get workers to work".
Go if you want: authentic North Indian Punjabi food in casual airconditioned setting.
Parking: Basement carpark at Beach Centre at the corner of Seah Street [1/2 hourly parking] or park at Bras Basah Complex [per minute parking]. Scarce chance of finding parking along Seah Street itself, even for shop tenants. 
Tel: 6336-1248 37 Seah Street

Vavavoom is reminiscent of the scooters and motorbikes that throng HCMC and Hanoi streets. I was there with some friends at 12:30pm on a weekday and lunch patrons had already started streaming in. By 1pm, the place was full with mainly executives: didn't hear any Chinese banter among office workers that is usually unavoidable at lunchtime. The owner later said that most of his patrons are those who know and appreciate Vietnamese food because of their travels there. Not too loud background music from the radio also made this a very lovely afternoon. 

I called to make a reservation before arrival and chose to be seated at one of the two sofa areas that can accommodate up to six persons each. The table was of a good height for comfortable eating and chatting. 

Only two male servers were seen on shift but they were sharp, friendly and efficient, although we waited about 20 minutes for our food to arrive. My Vietnamese friend, who came late, explained that perhaps they were waiting for our guests - that is, her - to arrive before serving the food. And sure enough, they came shortly after she ordered her food! Did I say they were sharp? But then, I was also hungry and wouldn't have minded starting my lunch first!

The pho were served in huge portions in bowls about 10 inch in diameter! So it was worth waiting for though it doesn't really take long to cook.

Had a good chat with Brian, the owner, who was one of the servers and who also happens to make very good Vietnamese drip coffee! We ordered only one lunch set [Dried Beef Pho that comes with the Plum Soda and Thai Iced Coffee ice-cream] as the drip coffees are not included in the set lunch. No GST and no service charge here.

The name evokes imageries of busy street-side eateries in Vietnam.

There's a la carte and set menu - opens all day.

I had Sliced Beef Pho - in a HUGE BOWL. $7.50

Dried Pho with Vege Spring Rolls - comes with a bowl of gravy.
$9.90/set with beverage & ice-cream.

SUMMER FRESH [Rice paper rolls with prawns & chicken] @ $6.80

Dripped White Coffee @ $3.90

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mango Tango @ Siam Square, Bangkok

Have you seen mango desserts like these? They are ordered as main course!

We later sent some photos to a radio station for a food-themed photo contest and won an HP printer!

See and salivate. Words are superfluous accessories when food is this good.

Freshly cut mango with sticky rice and coconut syrup.

Fresh-cut mango, mango ice-cream and mango pudding served with sticky rice and coconut syrup.

No pets allowed simply because it will be mango mayhem!

Writings on the wall of Mango Tango.

Our young Thai hosts.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jaggi's Northern Indian Cuisine

Reservation: recommended for big groups; long aluminium-top tables seat up to eight persons each.
Go if you want: authentic North Indian Punjabi food in casual airconditioned setting.
Parking: Along Race Course Road and the area.
Tel: 6296-6141

It was Sunday and Mother's Day and there was no better place to go to avoid eateries packed with families taking their mothers out to lunch than heading off the beaten track to Race Course Road to find a charmingly simple ethnic restaurant that serves up ambrosial Punjabi favourites that look as good as they taste! This day, the dad has taken the right alimentary course to delight the mum! 

Finger-licking good surely originated in India - there's no other way to consummate a meal with fragrant, hot naans and curries than with bare hands.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Greenwood Fish Market Bistro

Reservation: best done beforehand
Go if you want: good food with competent service, and arrangements for special occasions.
Parking: Free around Greenwood, if you can find a space.
Tel: 6467-4950
Menu avail @

It was the family's first visit to the Fish Market, but my second in a week - both times to celebrate birthdays. I've read raving online reviews about their fish and chips, but what took the cake was the unparalleled service standards, product knowledge and attention to detail demonstrated by every server - all of whom happen to be male.

Having had a foretaste of their service excellence at the first visit, I called the next day to make a lunch reservation for a party of five for May Day. Upon arrival, we were ushered a few doors away from the main bistro to a surprisingly quiet and private dining area beyond the fish market [yes, the area where they actually sell fresh seafood]. The smell of fish was very strong at first, but the privacy and cozy ambience soon put us at ease and in happy banter and photo-taking mood for the ocassion. 

Two bottles of drinking water were served swiftly without our asking, followed by delicious and warm homemade pre-meal buns and breads. We would have been happy if the good service had stopped here... but it didn't!

The three girls had to try the House Fish & Chips, and I, having had that a few days ago, chose the Hervey Bay Whiting Fish & Chips. The sides of vegetable salad with olive oil and French fries were generous. Kenny had Pacific Cod, pan seared served with mashed sweet potato and vegetable salad.

One of the birthday girls commented that this was the first  time the batter did not overwhelm the taste of the fish fillet or her digestion. I rather like the less fishy taste of the Hervey Bay Fish.

After our mains, a server named 'Key' discreetly suggested a molten chocolate with ice-cream dessert with candles and inscriptions for the birthday girls. Key took down the full message given: "Happy Birthday to Krystle and Tessa." and even asked if we would like to add an exclamation mark to that! I wasn't sure how he was going to put all that on a single serving of molten cake but his confidence assured me of his competence. And he and his team delivered! THAT was the real birthday treat for my whole family!

At a time when simple, pleasurable dining often turns out to be a complex and frustrating experience with poorly trained foreign servers with poor knowledge of menu and accents that are hard to understand, this trip to the Fish Market today keeps us hopeful that conventional good service, though scarce, is still to be found in modern Singapore.  

Informative Placemats that made waiting pleasurable

Fresh homemade breads [not in picture: bun in a bowl]

Brisk serving of drinking water in glass bottles - at no extra charge!
Seafood Chowder

Lobster Bisque [yummy!]

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Escargot [kway pietee style]

Tartar sauce, Thai sweet chilli sauce and ketchup for Fish & Chips

Hervey Bay Whiting Fish & Chips

House Fish & Chips

The birthday surprise!
Molten chocolate cake with ice-cream, decorated with fresh fruits
The Birthday Girls

Budget $50 nett per pax for a meal with a starter and dessert and coffee/tea.