Outstanding, Madam!

We were at Mid-Valley Megamall. I had been there many times before and did not want to go there again but it turned out to be the most convenient meeting place for all concerned so we headed there. The place has changed in the last few years since I last visited. There are certainly more eating places now so off we went looking for a nice place to eat. A friend of mine had mentioned this place before and being the public holiday that it was, there was a long queue even though it was already way past lunch, at 3.30pm in the afternoon.

Madam Kwan is peranakan and I have to give it to the peranakan when it comes to not just good, but excellent food. It seems like this is not just in their heritage but in their blood as well. What started as Sakura Restaurant along Jalan Imbi in Kuala Lumpur has now been rebranded into Madam Kwan’s and has gone outside of Jalan Imbi to Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur and into Singapore.

We ordered the signature nasi lemak chicken, six sticks of huge chicken satay and fried rice. Every bit of the nasi lemak was good especially the coconut rice and sambal chilli. This is by far the best nasi lemak I’ve tasted and if you follow this blog, you know what my favourite nasi lemak haunts in Singapore are. The chicken was tender and had enough flavour in it too. I was impressed.

The chicken satay was good too. The serving was larger than what I am used to but each stick had the correct combination of meat and fat proportion. I could even see the spices on the satay itself which was pleasantly surprising. Usually, one cannot see, though they may be able to taste the spice in the satay. The sauce did not have enough peanut bits in it but this could be a matter of preference. I like satay sauce with more peanut bits in it and smaller pieces of satay on the sticks but that would also mean not enough differentiation between what they are serving (and charging) and what is being served in the hawker centres and the roadside satay stalls elsewhere so I’ll have to settle for larger servings of satay.

Last but not least was the fried rice. That was good as well as it had enough ‘wok hei’ in it. Coupled with real shredded crab meat and fine shrimps, it was a meal in itself.

Now that Madam has come to Singapore, I am wondering if the food here is as good as the one in KL. I’ll check it out one day and do a comparison review but I am not looking forward to paying Singapore dollars for the food though. Oh well, more excuses to head up north for food.

Madam Kwan’s, F-052, 1st Floor, Mid Valley Megamall, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, 59200 KL. Tel: +60 3-2297 2297.

Chicken satay.

Nasi Lemak with chicken curry

Vegetable achar

Fried rice

Food for a cause

This is a case of eating for a cause. The owners of this restaurant, Member of Parliament Denise Phua and her husband, have an autistic child and so with a group of like-minded folks, they set up a social enterprise to give people with autism a chance at working at normal jobs. The result is Professor Brawn which is a name coined by a child with special needs as well. For more information on how Professor Brawn Cafe came about, please click here.

The food quality and prices were similar to the other restaurants in the area. There are now two outlets in Singapore. The outlet at Boat Quay showcases and sells art done by children with autism.

Professor Brawn Cafe, #02-78/79 Novena Square, 238 Thomson Road Singapore 307683. Tel: 6253 4650

What they are about.

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I had the halibut with miso sauce. It was a tad salty because of the miso but in terms of presentation and taste, the food measured up to what is served elsewhere. I liked the mashed sweet potato as the sweetness contrasted the saltiness of the miso nicely.

As part of the set meal, I got a scoop of Macadamia ice-cream. This was good quality ice-cream – creamy and not overly sweet. Yum!

‘Crabby’ enough for crab

Now this was a result of somebody telling me they had crab for dinner the night before. Suddenly I found myself craving for crab. So off we went looking for crabs that did not cost an arm and a leg. We settled for this coffee shop.

The surprise here was the crabs were not Sri Lankan mud crabs. They were smaller which meant they did not cost as much as they were not as heavy as Sri Lankan crabs. We were told upfront that two crabs cost $33. We did not ask for the weight when they showed us the live crabs. Smaller crabs may cost less but we also get to eat less as the ‘limbs’ of the crab were also skinnier and hence contained less meat. After our meal, we were not overly full and that was good as we were going to bed quite soon after.

Crab eating has evolved somewhat since I was young. In those days, crabs normally came in chilli and black pepper flavours. Now there are a lot more variety like salted egg, butter and garlic. We decided on the chilli crab but were mistakenly served the salted egg variety. Since we had not eaten that before, we decided to try it.

We were happy with our food. The place was not crowded at 11 p.m. at night and we ate slowly, unhurried, enjoying every mouthful, licking our fingers as we went along. You get the picture. Next time, we’ll come back for the other crabs. The chilli or the black pepper crabs may be good tries the next time. Plus I found a ‘crabby’ friend to go with.

21 Seafood, #01-347, 212 Hougang Street 21. Tel: 63430771.

Crab in salted egg gravy.

We ordered bread on the side to dip into the gravy. Yum!

The name of the restaurant.

I came back on another occasion with my ‘crabby’ friend and this time we ordered chilli crab. The sauce was more on the sour side compared with chilli crab from other places. But we were able to eat undisturbed and unhurried and on this food paradise of an island where good eating places are usually crowded with people eyeing one’s seat; eating unhurried is a luxury. Those who have eaten crabs before will know that it is a long drawn affair as it takes time to remove every bit of flesh from the crustacean.

I actually preferred the black pepper crab to the chilli crab. The meat was nice and it had a bounce in it. The pepper was not spicy at all. It seemed to have flavoured the crab more than spicing it up. The taste of the crab meat was also more evident as it did not have chilli gravy taking away from the taste of the meat. The next time we come, we’ll try the butter and garlic version and we would have tried all their crab varieties here. As for cholesterol, well, we’ll attend to that some other time…

Breakfast off the menu

It was one of those days when I was in the mood for a nice breakfast before attending a conference on a Saturday morning. So we wandered off to TCC at the airport (again). The items on the menu were a little too filling for me though a friend ordered one of their breakfast. Instead I asked if they had just two slices of toast bread with some butter and jam. To my surprise, they had and it was not on the menu!

I was a very happy person that morning as I got my decent cup of Sumatra Mandheling coffee and two walnut toast slices with butter and jam. An ideal light breakfast for me. Kudos to the staff who served us. I must take note of his name next time.

TCC, Changi Airport T3 Arrival Hall, 65 Airport Boulevard #01-22 Terminal 3 Arrival Hall, S819663. Tel: 6214 0680.

My perfectly toasted walnut bread with butter and jam.

Hearty breakfast with eggs and shrooms which turned out to be a little too oily.

Cantonese Comfort food

I’ve not eaten dim sum in ages. So this time, we decided to try out this place for lunch. It has Hong Kong as part of its name and Hong Kong is known for Cantonese food even if they are cooked Singapore style.

The food was actually not bad. The siew mai, har gao, char siew pau, siew pau, carrot cake and deep fried beancurd wrapped over meat were available in a set for one person and it was actually quite decent. The food was not overly oily or salty. There is a wide variety of food served here as the place is rather large so one is not limited only to dim sum.

Tea houses are usually well-patronised places in Hong Kong and in Singapore, it is no different minus the overly high volume of people and noise. It’s the kind of place where people come in to eat (a lot at times), noise levels are high, business is brisk during peak hours and turnaround times are fast as well. Being a dim sum place, one can expect large group of families coming here to dine.  It was crowded but there were still seats available for my friend and I, which we were thankful for. The place is old, matching the name of the business very well. Service is acceptable. I did not have any problems with my orders.

This is not the best place in Singapore to have dim sum. There are other places that serve better food, of course as it’s a competitive industry. But what I appreciate about it is the oldness of the place. Incidentally, the oldness is not intentional, I don’t think. It’s just a rather old building. But it looks like the teahouses of old, with some of its unrefined and brash behaviour, and the food is still acceptable. I don’t know if I’d bring my mother here though but friends, sure. And if I am hungry at 3 a.m. in the morning, I’d come here. This place opens 24 hours.

Old Hong Kong Tea House, 86 East Coast Road Block A Katong Village (Next to Katong Mall) Singapore 428788. Tel: 6345 1932.

The dim sum was served in two baskets which I thought was a novel idea. Some of the items were standard fare and others, I got to pick.

Milk coffee in a tin mug!

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Baked rice which a friend ordered which was not bad.

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Similar but Different

I have been here but I have not reviewed the food here so I decided I should do it. This place serves value-for-money hawker delights and other Chinese dishes and many families come here for a decent meal. I’ll comment on the food individually below.

I actually raised a complaint about an order and the waitress handled my complaint very well. Kudos to them! I’ve been back to this place since the last visit. Generally good food at reasonable prices, eaten in air-conditioned comfort.

Different Taste Cafe and Restaurant, 9 Jalan Mas Puteh #02-78/79, Singapore 128615. Tel: 6779 6525

This was supposed to be Penang Kuay Teow but it was anything but. It’s certainly fried kuay teow but not the Penang version. Having said that, the smaller kuay teow was used which I prefer and there was sufficient taugeh or bean sprouts on it, which I also appreciated. It was a tad too spicy for me but I know that some local folks like their kuay teow spicy so that was fine.

This was on another visit and I tried their nasi lemak. They had run out of the ikan kuning or small fish that they fry — I forget what it’s called in English — and replaced the fish with an extra chicken wing which I happily accepted. The chicken wings were good but there are better nasi lemak stalls elsewhere.

This was their sago gula melaka which I usually order. It was unique because they added peanuts to it. I like this. One time I had a complaint about the coconut milk thinking that they had used packet coconut milk as it was lumpy but they clarified that it had been placed in the fridge and so some bits of the milk had turned lumpy. They happily waived the charge for the dessert. When I came back on another occasion I ordered it again.

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Humble food moving up

This restaurant was recently renovated. Located in Terminal 2 of the airport, I came here for dinner. The food served here is humble food, eaten by ordinary folks of yesteryear, some who had to rummage through forest plants for food in order to stay alive during the war. There are other foods as well with less of a link to Singapore’s war past like the herbal soups which the Cantonese are especially fond of. One of their signature dishes, Samsui Chicken, used to be eaten annually by the Samsui women of old (single women who came from Canton province in China) and who worked their entire lives as manual labourers to eke out a living and are identifiable by their blue outfits and red triangular-looking headband or red bandana which they used to tuck their hair in.

We ordered their signature Samsui Chicken dish which is eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves here, hometown fried fish belly and stir-fried tapioca leaves, non-spicy. All we ordered were food that were eaten by humble folks of old and this chain of restaurants is famous for such food as well as their soups. I was pleasantly surprised that their utensils were no longer acrylic but ceramic. Acrylic plates and bowls, while not breakable, took away from the dining experience as a whole. The menus too have changed. The smaller dull beigy brown laminated menus have been replaced with larger brighter proper ones. The renovation also resulted in the dining rooms being a little more soundproof, which meant that we couldn’t hear the neighbours, but the staff could still hear us when we called out to them.

The food here is generally good and with the upgrading of their physical environment, they are showing themselves to be an even more serious contender for Chinese food customers than before. Sometimes, it’s the small things that speak volumes about one’s business outlook. I hope they will maintain the affordability and quality of their signature dishes though.

Soup Restaurant, Singapore Changi Airport, Terminal 2 #036-086, Viewing Mall North S(819643). Tel: 6545 6866.

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Banana prata

This place is newly opened in a neighborhood that I’m more familiar with. I had wanted to have prata for lunch and you can imagine my delight when I saw banana prata on their menu. The last time I had banana prata was years ago. I like it without the added sugar as the banana is already sweet. They also had puthu mayam which looks like beehoon and it is eaten with sugar. Tissue and coin pratas were also served. Coin pratas are not as small as coins but they are smaller than the usual pratas. Tissues are called that because they are thin and crispy and usually served shaped like an upside down cone. I ordered my teh tarik and an extra plain prata after I was done with my banana prata. Happy belly!

Sha’s Restaurant, 326 Serangoon Ave 3.

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Food is the point

I don’t normally come to Bedok Point but a friend and I decided to come here for a very long, overdue catch-up. This place seemed to have more food shops than anything else and this seem to be a trend in Singapore in the past few years. Every mall that has been renovated has had a significant increase in the number of food outlets. So far, I have not seen any exceptions. As a food fan, like almost everyone else in this entire nation, the whole country seems to be like one huge eating place. Considering the size of the country, this is like a LOT of food shops per sq km. But, I digress.

I thought that this place was my friend’s haunt but it turned out that she too had not been here before. It was just a convenient place to meet for a catch-up as it was near the MRT, so here we were.

I used to like the restaurant we went to tonight. Their service and food were both good before. I came here because I had not been here in a while. After tonight, I am not sure I would be coming here again in the near future. Perhaps it’s just this outlet as Sushitei outlets are franchised. From a leading Japanese restaurant with food and service that was a cut above the rest before, their food now seemed mediocre at best, and their service too has declined. Don’t get me wrong. The service and food were not bad. But both were better before, especially food quality. Considering that I am actually a member of this restaurant, it seems that other restaurants have either caught up with them or they have regressed without their knowing. I have eaten at several of their outlets before and the only outlets that I now like are the ones at Holland Village, Serangoon Gardens and Raffles Shopping Centre. There are a total of 15 outlets in Singapore now. One of the draws of being a member is their 20% discount for members during their birthday month.

Years ago, this restaurant maintained their quality and service when other restaurants were closing down, because of new players in the market that were making Japanese food cheaper and accessible. This restaurant innovated by going slightly upmarket and maintained the quality of their food especially. The test of the pudding is in the eating and I did not have problems bringing Japanese friends here — I cannot say this about every Japanese restaurant in Singapore. People were willing to come and eat here and pay for better quality food. But today, those same restaurants that had a lower entry level before have also improvised and the playing field has leveled out again. However, instead of continuing with their innovation and maintaining their food quality and service, both seemed to have regressed while the other restaurants have actually caught up with their food quality AND keeping their prices competitive. So, the need to come to a place like this for better food has decreased as those same food can be had at other more accessible restaurants for a similar price or slightly cheaper. The other restaurants may lack the variety though but some foods can be had elsewhere. This chain of outlets had something good going and it would be a shame for them to let this slip away due to negligence, especially now that they have more outlets.

Sushitei, 799 New Upper Changi Road, #02-05/09, Bedok Point, Singapore 467351. Tel: +65 6242 3323.

This was a little dry. There was nothing outstanding about the taste which was actually a pity.

The beef curry rice was also so-so. The curry taste did not seem to have entered the meat yet.

A friend ordered the cold soba with prawn tempura.

Vintage brunch

We came back here again for their brunch menu on a Saturday. This was when I realised that this place has partnered with Skinny Pizza as they serve their pizzas and desserts wholesale. I recognised them from the time when I had dinner at Skinny Pizza before.

There were six of us again – a different fivesome and me. A friend ordered the Squid Pizza and she really loved it. I settled for the French toast which was a little hard while another friend had the pancakes. She thought the pancakes were not fluffy enough. The order of salmon was rather small and seemed more like an appetiser than a main meal. The only happy eater was the person who ordered the egg something dish which we completely forgot to take a picture of. I also ordered a pumpkin salad, which I really liked, and taro fries to share. We tried to get them to serve a 4-in-1 kind of fries deal as we wanted to try all their fries but they didn’t have such a combination so we only ordered one to try this time.

While we were having our meal, we saw a couple sitting near the ceiling-to-floor glass windows, enjoying their meal, with a glass of wine. The scenery outside was beautifully green, with sunlight streaking in just slightly. This is the kind of picture that one would see in advertisements.

The location of this place is a little out of the way which enables one to leave the hurriedness of life as we know it and chill over a good meal and a glass of wine. This place is lovely for meals like that. Having a window seat certainly helps.

But for more pragmatic folks who are more keen on good-tasting, value-for-money food in a pleasant environment, there are other more accessible places that would fit that description better and this place would not stand out that much. But for a trip outside of what we are normally used to, for an unhurried meal, this is one place to come to.

House Dempsey, 8D Dempsey Road, SINGAPORE 249672. Tel: 6475 7787.

This salmon dish was surprisingly small.

Skinny squid pizza. This was like the ones served by Skinny PIzza, who is one of their partners. Nice large portion for one person and not overly heavy on the calories as the pizza base was very, well, skinny.

Pumpkin salad which I absolutely loved. The concept is brilliant and I would like to try this at home sometime. We ordered shredded chicken on the side.

Close up of the pumpkin salad.

Fench toast that was a little hard and chewy. It sure looked good though.

Pancakes that were not fluffy enough.