Mar 22, 2014

Gastronomical meanderings - March 2014

Singapore has always been a great place for foodies and if there is one thing that has gotten better over the last few years, it is the food scene. Lots of new bars and restaurants are opening up at every corner even in the so-called HDB heartlands and remote suburbs. Many are 'authentic' these days i.e., run by native chefs from country of cuisine and many even have waiters from Europe to add that authentic touch. Reason - the average meal tickets are a lot higher making it meaningful to employ them. People - locals, tourists or expats are more willing to spend on a good lunch or dinner. I remember the early 90s when a 10 cent increase in coffee shop prices for Kopi sparked big discussions and a fifty cent price increase in hawker food was resented heavily. Today many don't seem to care as they plonk down a 50 dollar bill for a normal meal in a not so fancy restaurant. Even in a distant mall like Star Vista, you can see students happily enjoying meals that easily cost two weeks of a typical working office lady's lunch barely a couple of decades ago.

Let me quickly share my comments and thoughts on a few restaurants I have visited this month FWIW.

Serendipity is defined as 'pleasant surprise' - something you run into or find when you are looking for something else. Taking a wrong bus led me to Portsdown road and when the bus did a loop and started turning back I got off and walked into Pietrasanta - Italian. It was lunch so I had a quick Pecorino salad and Ravioli (spinach). Salad was good, and pasta was excellent - recipe used butter which gave it an interesting aroma of ghee which is often used in Indian cooking. The mini pizza served free as starters were also quite tasty, encouraging you to order one for the next meal.

It was a return trip to Pietrasanta, this time for dinner, that led me to Chuckswagon as Pietrasanata was closed for renovation! So serendipity visits again. It was really a pity that in a restaurant with a very interesting menu, a great location away from the maddening crowd, good ambience and one of the friendliest bunch of young staff I have seen in Singapore, I could not enjoy a main course. I had ordered Bruschetta to go with my beer and a Salmon steak for the main. But the friendly waiter told me I am ordering too much and helped me cancel the main since the bread was too late to cancel. The portion sizes are huge! The bruschetta was four large slices of bread generously topped with chopped tomatoes and olive oil. It was a meal by itself, as I was alone. I ended up breaking a bottle of sauce as I was leaving. I have to make it up for all this by spending a lot more next time around!

As I mentioned earlier, now many Singapore restaurants make enough to afford European chefs and even waiters. One such place was in Cross St - China Square Central. I will not name this place as the food was not great. It goes to show every Italian cannot make great Italian food just as every Indian cannot spin a good Prata. Authenticity can draw initial patronage but repeat customers requires great food. Tried some Chianti, my usual Bruschetta for starters and grilled Cod for the main, but it was so-so and too salty. I generally also don't like restaurants that dump the main course on your table literally seconds after you order for it, even as you are enjoying your drink or starter. I have to learn to hold off on the order perhaps.

Holland Village as you all know, has lots of interesting food choices and my usual haunt is the Al-Hamra Lebanese joint. It was vegetarian this time around, with Hummus / Pita combo plus a salad Tabbouleh which uses cracked wheat (Bulghur?). The bread as well as hummus was quite tasty and decent portion size.

I also had dinner at the HOUSE in Dempsey Hill with a friend. They have an interesting diverse menu and a great location nestled among the wooded and green Dempsey area that makes you feel you are in Bali or someplace like that. A pork dish called Asian Sliders, presented with white bun that tastes like the 'pau' sold with red bean and other fillers in Singapore, plus carrot fries was more than enough that night thanks to calories provided by the beer - again a rarely seen Aussie one whose name I forget. The main course was quite nice.

Looking forward to sharing more in future! Thanks for viewing.