A bit of Paris in Japan in Singapore

We are here at Octa Hotel to celebrate a birthday. This is a neat, cosy, little place — a piece of Paris in Japan that has now come to Singapore. We shared two dishes for lunch and then proceeded to have the hi-tea set, changing the tea to milk tea for an extra $5.

This place is located at Millenia Walk, within Parco. Parco is like a Japanese shopping mall. I like to come here for good quality stuff, at a price of course, though their sale items are also quite good. It is also not overly crowded. Cafes that are a part of a chain charge the same price as their other outlets. But cafes that are stand alone like Octa Hotel which incidentally is a little Parisian boutique with a cafe and not really a hotel with accommodation, can seem to cost more than the average cafe chain outlet for similar food. It is not overly expensive, however, and one has to view this place in its totality rather than the price of food alone.

This place gets very high marks for their quality of food and service. The Japanese curry rice had the ‘fat’ or calrose rice in it and it tasted really good with their beef curry. The portion was not large and a larger portion could be had for $2 more. The beef was tender and not tough.

The French toast was rich with a generous helping of butter, syrup, cream, raspberries and berries. The bread was warmly toasted and soft. With all the cream on it, the crust was no longer crunchy but that was okay. The cream seemed different from what we get locally. It was nice cream, milky and a little sweet, unwhipped — good cream indeed.

I ordered their standard drip coffee and it tasted fine. Usually the cheapest coffee in any cafe is not very nice and I’ve had to exchange coffee in other places before for their finer and pricier ones but not so here. Their coffee was not too strong nor too bitter — and I finished the whole cup. I would order their coffee again.

The waitresses were very attentive as well. This place pays sufficient attention to quality and it shows from the care they show in preparing and presenting their food to the quality of their service. Everything is neatly and nicely arranged and even the glasses are refilled each time they empty, and the water is cold with a nice lemon taste to it.

The hi-tea set was served with the milk tea done well. For very good royal milk tea, go to Japan. For one that is acceptable, one could come here. The scone, cake, savoury cheese bread and mango pudding in the hi-tea were all acceptable. They didn’t cut any corners here either.

I wouldn’t come here just for their hi-tea but viewed in its totality, this is definitely a place I would return to, either for some of the other food or a quiet read or just for a good chat with friends. It’s that kind of place. And yes, I am glad that Octa Hotel made Singapore their first forage out of Japan.

Octa Hotel and Octa Hotel Cafe, 9 Raffles Boulevard, PARCO Marina Bay, #P1-39 Singapore 039596. Tel: (65) 6336 4614.

Beginning tomorrow, come along with me to Japan as I blog about the trip in the Rising Sun series.

Entrance to the boutique and cafe

The shop part of the boutique. One could also pick up one or two of their sale items while one is here.

Simple drip coffee. I love the pretty cup and that they serve water with a tinge of lemon in it, in proper glasses.

Hashed beef curry rice. Yum! This is something to come back to Octa Hotel for. The portion was not large and for $2 extra, one could get the larger portion. The price of this was $13.90 without the extra portion. Ain’t the plate pretty though? I know, no one really wants to pay for pretty but it all adds to the charm of this place.

This was almost a meal in itself. There was a lot of goodness in this French Toast set. Another dish to come back for.

Hi-tea set. The menu here may be limited but there is enough good stuff here to try on another visit.

Royal milk tea and the milk was nice and smooth.

Came back here on my second visit with another friend who ordered their banana chiffon this time.

I ordered this on my second visit. This is the blueberry cobbler cake. The cream was seriously good. The fruit was also not overly sweet. Nice. I had this as part of the cake set of the day. The coffee, unfortunately, was not as nice as what I had on an earlier visit.

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Fused but not enough

We decided to try this place as we have not been here before. The place was new. It seems to be an Indonesian fusion food place where they try to put a twist on traditional food.

We ordered satay chicken which looked more like teriyaki chicken with peanut sauce. The spaghetti laksa sauce was not strong enough to flavour the spaghetti. Tahu telor was not soft enough on the inside. The tahu or tofu was simply too hard. Tahu telor is not easy to make to begin with. But in what we were served, only the crispiness and the black kicap (sweet soy sauce) saved the dish.

For dessert, we had chendol with jackfruit. The jackfruit has a strong flavour of its own and the gula melaka was not strong enough unless that was done on purpose. Even my root beer float did not have enough root beer in it and because of that it tasted more like ice-cream with root beer! I expected my root beer in a mug, with enough root beer in it, definitely not in a plastic cup.

There seems to be a trend where young foodiepreneurs are putting a twist on traditional foods. This is interesting as food evolves and there is a following among the younger generation for such food. Niched properly, such places can succeed and sustain themselves. The challenge however lay in how much of a twist they can spin on the traditional recipes whereby the link is still noticeable but the dish is really a new dish in its own right. For the dishes we tried here, they just did not seem to have gone far enough. I have reviewed two other places in two other posts, Fusion seems to be In and Local Fusion Food. The challenge truly lay in moving sufficiently away from the old without losing the link completely.

The place was quiet, hip and it had free wi-fi. It’s the kind of place that I would go to again because it was nice and quiet and there were a couple of tables outside that were probably for smokers but were also conducive for quiet conversation or reflection. They do not charge 10% service charge as the food is ordered at the counter so price-wise, they are affordable and this works a lot in their favour.

This location has many other good eateries so one can be spoilt for choice. I applaud the attempt as I think that every generation will have its own kind of food that they like and am game enough to come back and try their nasi lemak spin-off the next time.

RS Deli, 224R Upper Thomson Road 574369. Tel: 6455 1242.

I expected this in a glass and not a disposable cup. I also expected it to be root beer float and not ice-cream in root beer. It needed more root beer to fit the name.

Tahu telor is not easy to cook. Here the tofu was simply too hard. I liked the crispy bits but the tofu was lacking.

This looked good but lacked one thing. The laksa sauce did not get into the spaghetti enough. It needed a bit more time for the flavour to get into the pasta, unlike rice noodles which tended to absorb flavours immediately and would get soggy easily as well.

This tasted more like teriyaki chicken instead of satay chicken. I expected peanut bits in the sauce as well but there were none unless Indonesian satay is only served with smooth peanut sauce. The ketupat (rice cake) was a little dry but the peanut gravy would have countered the dryness easily. Cucumber pieces were fine.

This dessert confused me a little. Was this an attempt to mix chendol (the green stuff) with gula melaka (though a lesser amount) and jackfruit? The other surprise was that it was not served in the same way as it was pictured though that was not so critical but it affected the presentation. I don’t think that chendol and gula melaka mixes well with jackfruit unless they reduce the chendol and gula melaka so that the focus is on the jackfruit which may be what they were trying to do here. The challenge then is in how much to reduce or add.

Fusion seems to be In

I was a little ambivalent about this place, like I was ambivalent about my order. I ordered the bee tai bak fusion which I kind of regretted because I was not sure what I was eating. Perhaps the die-hard rice fan in me only liked what they have renamed as rice pasta done a certain way and this fusion did not fit the bill. But the other burgers were fine and one has to have a slightly open mind to appreciate the different fusion of foods here like the char siew pork served on homemade focacia bread. I probably would try some of their burgers next time rather than the fusion which I had. More traditional western food like pasta and spaghetti are also served as well.

Opened by the same folks who opened Wild Rocket, this place is hip and modern and caters to a younger and more adventurous crowd. This type of food seems to be a growing trend and it is encouraging to see young adults being adventurous and trying new things and making a business out of it.

Relish It, 501 Bukit Timah Road, #02-01 Cluny Court. Tel: 67632945.

Chicken Nasi Lemak with Anchovy Sambal Burger – this was nice and I think because it resembled nasi lemak very closely, with the ingredients repackaged. The sambal was nice and made my bee tai bak palatable. I would probably order this next time if I come here again.

Grilled Portobello Tofu Burger. This is a vegetarian burger and is surprisingly nice.

Wild Rocket Beef Burger?

Thai Basil Pesto Bee Tai Bak – local rice pasta, tiger prawns, haricot beans and pine nut. I am not sure I liked this. It was too oily as I am used to eating the bee tai bak (rice pasta) lightly sauced with mainly soy sauce. I found this too oily and the taste was also a little weird. It was made palatable only because I ‘stole’ some sambal from someone who ordered the nasi lemak burger.

Blue Cheese and William Pear Beef Burger. This too was nice.

Memphis food in town

I came across this place while viewing a friend’s facebook page to see where she had gone to eat recently. So off I went to try this place. I had wanted to have roti prata at first but settled for something less ‘heaty’ as another friend who came along was having the sniffles.

This place resembles an American cafe which is also a pub. They serve food smoked Memphis style.

I have been back to this place again for steak and the set meal for steak was worth it. If I came here again, I probably wouldn’t order the set though as I can do without the soup and dessert. That would have saved me $5++. The soup and dessert were not nice enough for me to spend that extra $5++. The steak though was hearty, good and sufficient for dinner. We ordered the deep fried mushrooms as well. The mushrooms are their signature dish and they were crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. Yum.

One item on their menu that looked good were the lamb chops but that would have to wait for another visit.

Jerry’s BBQ & Grill, 277 Jalan Kayu. Tel: 64840151.

Californian Salad. A really healthy salad which I really enjoyed as well. Next time, I will ask them not to put in the dressing though as it made the salad rather oily. The dressing was not great.

Smoker Roasted Chicken. Half smoked chicken with fries. Smoked meats are what this place is famous for. I am not sure I liked it that much though. The meat was a little tough in some places.

Fried mushrooms were really good! Crunchy and moist.

Rib-eye steak that was medium done. This was sufficient in itself for a meal for one person. This one had black pepper sauce on it.

A friend ordered the same set meal with mushroom sauce.

Brownie with ice-cream. Nice to look at but we could have done without it. In the background is the tiramisu. Again, we could have done without it.

Good sandwiches

This cafe sprang up at Valley Point not too long ago. One orders at the counter and pays for the food. Then when the food is ready, the order is called out and the person who ordered the food collects it.

This is my second time here. I have to say that I preferred my friend’s ciabatta bread to my wrap as it tasted better. Next time I’ll have that as my bread of choice. The coffee was not good and I’ve not ordered it again since.

For a decent sandwich, a quiet read or conversation, this place makes the cut.

Croute, 491 River Valley Road, #01-11 Valley Point. Tel: 97240781

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Chicken Shiso sandwich – this had a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil in the seasoning. I ordered it as a wrap.

Gangnam food

I am not a fan of the Gangnam dance. I think it has certain overtones that are condescending to a certain group of people. If I thought the Gangnam dance was bad, Gentleman is worse, a LOT worse. It is totally derogatory. I regretted clicking on the youtube link and contributing that one click to the video. I am sure that many people watched it because they were curious and because Gangnam had garnered a lot of publicity. But their clicks contributed to views and gave a false impression (I hope anyway) that many liked the new Gentleman dance.

Because of how I felt about Gangnam, I did not want to eat at this restaurant. I wondered if the owner of the restaurant was riding on the publicity of the Gangnam dance. But my friend wanted to treat me to a birthday dinner here and she said to look at Gangnam as a district in Korea instead of the dance. Right! Never mind that there are caricatures of people dancing the Gangnam dance on a long strip of paper on the wall of the restaurant. The drawings were actually quite cute and were not rude or disrespectful, so in we went.

This place serves reasonably-priced Korean food. We were able to order the lunch set during dinner as we were not hungry enough for the dinner buffet. This was the first time I had cold arrowroot Korean noodles. My set came with a meat dish as well and I ordered bulgogi beef. My friend ordered the hot plate rice and both were good. They also serve Korean BBQ food but we left before too many customers started smoking up the place with their BBQ. I prefer my clothes and hair not to smell like BBQ unless I was prepared for it. There seemed to be sufficient new (this place was recently renovated) archaic- and unique-looking ventilators to take care of the smoke but they were not switched on. A good place to come to for affordable Korean food. This restaurant has also reviewed fairly well elsewhere.

Gangnam Garden Korean BBQ Restaurant, 180 Kitchener Road, City Square Mall, #02-21/22, Singapore 208539. Tel: 6509 9644.

Dolsot bibimbab – mixed vegetables and egg on a sizzling hot stone pot with rice and chilli paste

Spicy mixed arrowroot noodles

Beef bulgogi – fried beef

Junior’s Choice

I don’t often get a chance to eat with a nine-year-old so this was special. He wanted to have pizza so off to Pizza Hut we went. Choice of food? Cheese Trio pizza. My request was for the crispy thin crust. Next choice of food? Fries, of course, with cheese and barbecue sauce dips! I went along with his selection. The choice of pizza was an excellent one as it tasted really good. The fries were also nice and crunchy even hours later after we brought some back. I ordered a salad to share but Junior would have none of it! What’s with kids not liking their veggies? Seems like most kids I know don’t like veggies.

Pizza Hut, 1 Jurong West Central 2, #01-33 Jurong Point Shopping Centre. Tel: 67907146.

Trio Cheese thin crust pizza which turned out to be quite nice.

Fabulous fries which turned out to be quite fabulous indeed. The fries remained crunchy even after we had packed them home.

Junior and I tucking into the fries!

Down the ramen lane

Since I am now revisiting Japanese eating places that have been around for a few years, as opposed to a few months, I decided to coin today’s post, Down Ramen Lane. This is a big deal as food business here is very competitive and it only takes a new kid on the block to send the ole kids packing if they do not have staying power.

When I first had it a few years ago — this stall first came to Singapore in 2007 — ramen was just making inroads into Singapore. Now there are too many ramen restaurants to count and it shows no sign of abetting.

I was happy that the taste was still good. This brand of ramen uses both chicken and pork to make its broth so the soup is not overly thick. What I liked best about it was the mini size. I was glad not to be carbo-laden at the end of the meal. I wanted to order gyoza as well but I was told that the ‘machine had broken down’. Hmm…oh well, so I ordered a salad instead. The meal was not expensive and the combination if food was pretty balanced. So, would I go back again? Likely.

The service could have been better and I actually wondered if it was because we were at Funan IT mall. The place is more well-known for its digital stuff than for its food, perhaps? But there are a few eating places here which are not bad. The experience was fine as it was but it would have been better if the folks there had been a little friendlier.

Bishamon’s Sapporo Ramen, Funan Digitalife Mall, #01-18. Tel: 6337 5142.

Cold tofu

Fresh Salad

Negi ramen – mini size. It had enough flavour in it without being overly salty as some ramen broth are known to be. The broth is a combination of chicken and pork which meant that it was not overly oily either. I’d come back here for ramen again.

Moving along Paradise

This must be like the top of the range of restaurants in the Paradise group of Chinese restaurants. I love treats and tonight was no different. This is a Cantonese restaurant that also served wine. The food here was a change from the other foods that I normally eat. This was to celebrate a special occasion and it was simply nice to be with family over a fine meal.

Located in the Marina Bay Financial Centre, the restaurant serves fine Chinese food with fine wine. This combination is unique because usually a Chinese restaurant does not display their bottles of fine wine. The decor is also more western and contemporary, as opposed to strictly Chinese, reflecting the modernity of the place that it is located in.

So far, I have eaten at Paradise Inn, Paradise Dynasty and now Paradise Pavilion. The food in all the restaurants are good for the price that they command, and this place is no different. This restaurant is the finest that I have eaten at, in the Paradise group of restaurants.

Paradise Pavilion, 8A Marina Boulevard, #02-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre, (Ground Plaza), Singapore 018984.
Tel: 6509 9308.

Yummy roast pork and char siew. The proportion of meat to fat is just right, leading me to think that cooking this must be an art in itself. The skin is nice and crispy. It was served with a dash of mustard.

Battered fried prawns with salted egg. This too was delicious!

Peking duck being served. Slicing the skin off at the right thickness is also an art form. There are also different textures of duck meat which is served differently. I did not know there was a difference before. First, the skin is served. Then the more tender moist meat bits are served, followed by the meatier and ‘rougher’ bits.

The duck skin is served first.

The duck meat follows. These bits were tender and moist.

Beef steak pieces. This may have been wagyu because they were really tender and succulent.

Steamed Broccoli.

Mushroom and spinach vegetables

A Better Outlet?

We had been on a small shopping spree and were famished by now. Even at the unearthly hour of 8.30pm, there was still a queue. Food is truly a pasttime here. By the time the food came, it was close to 9pm and one of my friends was clearly fading out from tiredness and hunger. But we were really pleased that the queue at this place was shorter than some of the other restaurants and we had a nice table for four. The greater bonus was really in how good the food tasted. Granted, we were hungry, but still my conclusion is that this is one of the better outlets in Singapore. It serves better food than even the outlets at the airport. I’ve also eaten at Northpoint and Junction 8. These are but three of their 22 outlets so I cannot say that the best food is at Plaza Singapura but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is because of the sheer competition for customers in this place. I hope they continue with their food quality standards because this is one of the few ways they can stay on in the long run in this competitive environment. If their food tastes good consistently, I’d certainly put it on my ‘good places to eat’ list from the ‘no better place to eat’ list which is the list that the Swensen’s restaurants in Northpoint, Bishan and the airport are on.

Swensen’s, 68 Orchard Road #03-23, Plaza Singapura. Tel: 6837 0650.

Prawn and Fruit Salad. I usually order this whenever I eat here because it is no frills, and all fresh. There is a mango dressing on the side which I usually do not add as I like the whole thing raw. What I really like is the jackfruit in the salad which even my friends did not notice because it was similar in colour to the mango.

Chilli Crab pasta which tasted as good as it looked. The crab was the soft shell variety with an abundance of mushroom. The ingredients seemed generous.

Curry Chicken baked rice. The amount of chicken here was also generous.

Chicken baked rice.

Cheese Steak Meltdown. There was no meltdown with only a single piece of cheese but it tasted nice nevertheless. The bread was sourdough. This was served with fries and coleslaw. The coleslaw took me by surprise as I expected it to taste more like an afterthought. But this was not the case at all. The coleslaw was good without the mayo being too overpowering. There was enough cabbage in it and the addition of the odd pineapple resulted in a nice blend of flavours. The steak was just nice. It would have been nice if it was slightly larger but I was quite pleased that I was not overly full from eating this meal.