Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

PCasa GT Singapore, Roadhouse

When we ask our six-year old where she’d like to go for Sunday lunch, she usually chooses Roadhouse for their super deal kids menu ($14) which is a main course, a drink and a fun dessert.  We don’t mind because the burgers at the Roadhouse are pretty good and they have lots of other items on the menu in case you’re not in the mood for meat.  The Josper-grilled burgers are juicy, corn-dogs are delicious, fries and onion rings are crispy, iced teas come in large mugs, milkshakes are thick and creamy and the service is friendly.  Don’t be surprised to walk in to a full restaurant on weekends with lots of families having a burger while sharing the large communal table in the center of the restaurant.

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Roadhouse

13 Dempsey Road, Singapore 249674

Telephone: +65 6476 2922

Email: info@roadhouse.com.sg

Mondays to Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 6:30 to 10 p.m.

Weekends and public holidays 9:30 to 11 p.m., Brunch served till 5 p.m.

Free corkage Monday to Thursday, Small fee on Friday and weekends

PCasa GT Singapore, Lolla

When I first arrived in Singapore in 2013, I had already heard about Lolla after reading a  rave review from the New York Times so it was always on my go-to list.  Since they don’t take any evening bookings, I kept putting it off as I didn’t want to risk arriving hungry on a busy Friday and not be able to eat.  Two years have gone by quickly and it was time to try Lolla so I got a group of ladies together for lunch the other day.  I arrived early and was told that our group of six would be seated at the communal table downstairs.  When I said there would only be five of us instead of six and requested if we could sit on the counter instead, the efficient and courteous manager asked some customers who were already seated if they wouldn’t mind to move to the corner so she could free up five seats in a row on the counter and seat our group together.

I love sitting on a counter with a full view of the kitchen.  It’s one of the best ways to enjoy a restaurant, especially solo, since it gives me an idea of what food they serve and the ingredients they use.  Lolla was no different – I entertained myself while waiting by watching the chefs prepare and plate several dishes and already making my choices for what we should order for lunch.  Lolla serves sharing plates, most of which are bigger than a starter and smaller than a main course.  There is a concise menu of meat, fish and vegetables and a few starters and desserts.  There are also half a dozen specials on the board and their list of cheeses.  The food at Lolla is about showcasing fresh ingredients by cooking them simply.

We started out with toasted sourdough bread ($4) accompanied by Kombu butter ($7) and pureed San Marzano tomatoes ($9).  The butter was flecked with Kombu (kelp) which was umami in a single bite and the tomato puree was a take on the Spanish pan con tomato accompanied by sweet roasted garlic.  The rest of our shared lunch was served as soon as the chefs plated them, and not in any particular order.  We had their signature squid ink pudding topped with yellow-gold lobes of sea urchin (half portion $22 or full portion $42) which we passed around for a rich teaspoonful each.  Next came the chutoro (tuna belly) tartar ($42) – large chunks of melt-in-the-mouth tuna belly tossed in a vinaigrette which we ate accompanied with the sourdough toast.  Two blackboard specials came next – the roasted lamb belly with edamame and oven-roasted tomatoes ($28) and the candied foie gras ($36) plus the grilled Iberia pork collar ($26) from their regular menu, along with three sides: duck fat potatoes ($13), sautéed cavolo nero ($19) and a tomato salad ($15).  The foie gras was creamy, the lamb belly was tender, the Iberia pork was smoky sweet.  The duck fat potatoes were crisp, the kale-like cavolo nero was intensely bittersweet, the tomatoes were like fruit candy.  This is food that hasn’t been played with, just food that’s meant to be savored with the simple cooking used to highlight the freshness and enhance the flavors.  Lolla is all about back-to-basics cuisine.  It’s about sitting down with friends over a meal with good wine and great food, yet not letting the food take over the conversation.  It’s food that doesn’t need a long-winded explanation or lengthy description.  It’s the kind of food I went to cooking school to learn to make.  Lolla is my kind of place and I will definitely be back for more.

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Lolla

22 Ann Siang Road, 069702 Singapore
Telephone: +65 6423 1228

*Open Mondays to Saturdays from noon to 2:30 p.m. then from 6 to 11 pm.  Closed on Sundays and public holidays.  

*Walk-ins only for the counter, reservations can be made for the basement communal table.

PCasa GT Paris, Lipp

It’s a hazy Friday in Singapore and it looks like we’re going to have a rainy weekend up ahead which is why I decided to do a “Flashback Friday” post which I’ll try to do weekly to help me catch up on all the other restaurants I haven’t been able to write about.

Today’s post goes back to Paris on another dark gloomy November Friday when A and I went back to this Saint-Germain-des-Pres institution – Brasserie Lipp.  The Lipp is a classic Alsatian brasserie opened in 1880 and has since been a classic on the busy boulevard.  The art-deco interiors of yellow tiles, floral Belle Epoque ceramics and smoke-stained mirrors have been the same since 1926, and if those walls could talk, they would speak of presidents and politicians, writers and actors, starving artists and con artists and le gratin (upper crust) of Paris who have, at one time or another, made chez Lipp their local hangout.

When I used to live in Paris in the early nineties, Brasserie Lipp was a treat since I was on a student budget and meals there were usually had when the parents were visiting or with friends on expense accounts. Later on, after A and I met, Brasserie Lipp was where we’d go for lunch while we walked around our favorite Parisian arrondissement, always crossing our fingers that the white-haired manager would seat us in one of the coveted ground floor tables (VVIP’s usually get the front room), and not upstairs in restaurant Siberia.  We arrived at the peak of lunch hour and were led to the crowded back room to a banquette (yes!) where we could sit side by side – always an issue because both A and I love the more comfortable banquette and always take dibs on who gets it first. Our cozy table afforded us a view of the full room for perfect people watching which is always half the fun.

The menu at Lipp is simple – it’s always been a single yellow cardboard with the food in one long list – oysters and caviar, hors d’oeuvres, plats du jour, specials listed in red, Friday plats du jour, an additional hand-written special, cheeses and desserts.  The food is classic Alsatian brasserie fare, nothing fancy, so don’t expect gourmet cuisine.  It’s just food done right or correct as the French say.

We started off with celeri remoulade (€9.50) – grated celery root tossed in a mustardy dressing and filets de harengs pomme a l’huile (€12.50) – A’s favorite of vinegary herring filets with boiled potatoes drizzled in olive oil – both classic brasserie starters which we shared.  Before our next course was brought out, the professional white-jacketed waiter started to clear our starters when A asked if he could leave the unfinished celery on the table, a major French dining faux-pas,  and the waiter was surprised but agreed.  Our main dishes, my confit de cuisse de canard (€22.50) – duck leg confit with roast new potatoes and the Friday plat du jour for A of raie au beurre (€24) – skate wing sautéed in butter, were served soon after.  We took our time with lunch, enjoying our meal amidst the noise of a bustling restaurant where everyone seemed to be having fun while the waiters were rushing around balancing trays and dishes through the crowded room.  It was only when the place started to quiet down and the midday crowd left to go back to work, that we finally finished.

We couldn’t resist sharing a dessert and debated between the popular millefeuille or another favorite, the ile flottante (€9.50) and finally settled for the latter.  Before the waiter cleared the plates, he asked with a smile if A wanted to have the rest of the celery with the dessert which showed that he wasn’t that serious and had a sense of humor after all.  We all had a good laugh then polished off the large caramelized sugar-domed meringue floating in a bowlful of vanilla flavored custard cream (hence it’s floating island name).  After our long leisurely lunch, we meandered the twenty blocks back from Saint-Germain-des-pres to the adjacent 7th arrondissement – just a couple of flâneurs taking our time to appreciate the beauty of Paris.

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Brasserie Lipp 

151 Blvd. Saint Germain 75006, Paris

*Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.  

*No reservations

PCasa GT Singapore, Tippling Club

No better place to kickstart my blog than a meal at the Tippling Club – one of Singapore’s best restaurants where Chef Ryan Clift has been impressing diners with his inventive cuisine since he opened his counter restaurant in Dempsey in 2009.  I had been once to Tippling Club in July 2011 and heard that since then, they had moved to a brand new location near Chinatown in late 2013.  Located in three adjacent shophouses in the bustling restaurant street of Tanjong Pagar, Tippling Club’s new interiors are a unique mix of old and new – antique Peranakan floor tiles in the bar area and glossy green subway tiles in the large show kitchen, upcycled wooden planks for the ceiling, recycled timber for the floor, vintage lamps for the kitchen counter and a mix and match of lighting fixtures for the main dining area but keeping to the overall green color scheme.  The usual creative cocktails are still present along with a concise bar snacks menu of modern tapas, and there is now a monthly prix-fixe lunch menu (Two course at SGD$43++ or three courses SGD$58++) along with the usual dinner tasting menus (5-course Classic SGD$160++ or SGD$260++ with wine pairing, 10-course Gourmand SGD$265++ or SGD$420++ with wine pairing and an equivalent Classic and Gourmand vegetarian menu).  I went back recently for lunch and was impressed with the changes to the menu – less of the tiny plate molecular gastronomy stuff that used to be served to a more approachable version of modern cuisine – which made me decide to book a table for dinner two weeks later.

A and I arrived a bit early for our 8:30 p.m. reservation during the long weekend of jubilee celebrations for Singapore’s 50th birthday and had time to look carefully through the menu while waiting for our friends to arrive.  We decided to order the chive croquettes from their bar menu which arrived soon after our friends were seated – five piping hot croquettes topped with roe and accompanied by a warm Parmesan foam dip.  We all opted for the five-course classic tasting menu and aside from one substitution for the appetizer, we were all ready for our degustation dinner which we were going to have with a bottle of Venta Las Vacas 2012 Ribera del Duero.

First up were the snacks, small plates of culinary inventions that has made Tippling Club famous.  We started with a dollop of warm tom yum flavored cream with basil tempura followed by the beef tendon cracker dusted with a tomato powder which was like airy pork crackling that tasted of a cheese-less pizza Margherita.  The third snack was their signature charred peppers and soy miso dip served on a slate with some large tweezers (I remember this one from 2011) and the final snack was their tomato lava lamp – a shot glass where oil and vinegar flavored tomato water is poured so that bubbles float up to the surface and make it look like a tiny lava lamp.  It was an entertaining and fun start to our meal which gave us a little taste of what they had in store.

PCasa GT Singapore, Tippling Club1

The cold appetizer of eel, charred shallot, mustard ice cream seemed so straightforward after the molecular snacks but the flavors were very well-executed – jellied eel contrasted with the pickled pearl onions, crumbs, crisp shallot and mustard ice cream.  A opted for the foie gras instead of the eel and was presented with a dollop of hummus-like foie gras with cubes of apples, green grapes and an oven-dried apple chip.  A warm appetizer of scallops came next hidden underneath a black pasta sheet onto which creamy purple garlic soup was poured which almost dissolved the ravioli-like squid ink pasta and mixed in with the parsley root and almost raw paper-thin scallop layers.  Two main courses followed:  roast rockling fish on a bed of shaved beetroot topped with alternating thin slices of smoked ox tongue and fresh beet root, the tongue tasted like corned beef while the beets were sweet and went well with what would have a bland chunk of fish without the interesting ingredients added on; the meat course was a roast pigeon breast, confit of pigeon leg, cep puree, truffle macaroni and a truffle infused sauce Perigourdine.  There was an optional cheese course (for an extra SGD$20) which we would have ordered if we had more time but since A was leaving very late that evening for the Virtuoso Travel week in Las Vegas, we went straight to dessert – textured milk which was a dollop coconut milk tapioca, topped with frozen yoghurt and crunchy milk-flavored meringue – a light palate end to our decadent meal.  Last but not least was their tray of signature mignardises which accompanied the coffee.

Service throughout was courteous, friendly and unobtrusive and the added touch of having different chefs come out to explain each of the courses as they were served, made the meal more interesting.  Tippling Club obviously isn’t a bargain but with the quality of the produce, the innovative cuisine and the good-sized portions, it’s a dinner worth saving up for.  In any case, there’s always the equally good set lunch menu if you’d like to give it a try (photos of my recent lunch below).


Tippling Club

38 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088461
Telephone: +65 6475 2217  or Email: enquiries@tipplingclub.com

Open Mondays to Fridays for lunch from noon to 3 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. till late; Saturdays for dinner from 6 p.m. till late

Bar is open Mondays to Fridays from noon to midnight and on Saturdays from 6 p.m. to midnight

Closed on Sundays

Public parking lot at nearby Duxton Hill or coupon street parking on Tanjong Pagar


 

PCasa GT Singapore, Tippling Club2

PCasa GT - Oprah 2015

Lots to be happy about today – Singapore, my current adopted city, is celebrating its’ 50th birthday (#SG50) and my small feature in the September issue of Oprah magazine – perfect timing to get back to Travels with a Gourmet after months of putting everything blog-related on hold for family time.  It’s amazing how half a year can just zoom by – summer is almost over, school is about to start (more time for my blog!) and Christmas is less than five months away (yikes).  What have I been up busy with?  2015 was a year of travel (Paris, Buenos Aires, Phuket, Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo, Moscow and Bali) and I just couldn’t post fast enough before we were off somewhere again plus I still need to blog about the new restaurants I’ve been to recently in Singapore.  Then family time and making and meeting up with new friends became so much fun that I didn’t realize till now how much I’ve neglected my writing.  I know it’s a little bit late to do start my new years’ resolution but it’s always better late than never right? So, I’m taking the Oprah feature as a sign that I need to get back to what I love to do – write about restaurants, food and travel and get back to my blog. Fingers crossed it’ll be smooth blogging from now on.  In the meantime, Happy Birthday Singapore!  Time to see some fireworks.

PCasa GT Manila, Sarsa Kitchen

I’m in the middle of a one day juice fast of six juices from The Syndicate Juice Co. and after several hours of just drinking my meals, all I can think about is food, delicious food. Since I can’t eat anything, the second best thing is to write about my favorite Filipino restaurant in Manila – Sarsa.

Sarsa, named after the Filipino word for sauce, is a mainstay in the Filipino table. Most meals are accompanied by an assortment of sauces: calamansi soy, chili vinegar, fish sauce, liver sauce, bagoong (a local fermented fish or shrimp paste) – the combinations are endless and Sarsa Kitchen is a contemporary take on classic Filipino food with some specialties from the south as the chef JP Anglo is from Negros.

Collages

The menu is a melange of classic Filipino dishes and several Negrense specialties. All are well-executed – the grilled dishes are seared with the meat slightly blackened and crisp on the outside and tender on the inside – from inihaw na liempo (pork belly) to inasal (Southern-style grill) chicken parts (including intestines, tails, gizzard and liver). Bulalo, a Filipino version of pot au feu with beef, bone marrow and vegetables is done traditionally with soup and another as Kansi, served on a sizzling plate with gravy. Vegetable dishes were also very good with the gising gising coconut milk prawn and beans to the roasted squash topped with crispy dilis (tiny fish). We also enjoyed the pancit molo, a dumpling and noodle soup similar to wanton mee and Batchoy, a southern soup filled with misua, thin noodles and pork liver. My mouth is watering from the memory of that meal – I can almost taste the starter of crispy dilis in the chili pineapple glaze. I better stop writing or I’ll give up this juice fast right now.

PCasa GT Singapore, Hawker Centers1

2014 ended with a fantastic two-week trip a deux to Paris followed by my sisters’ visit over the Christmas and New Year holidays. 2015 started out busy with dinner parties, getting the kids back to school and the the recent Chinese New Year celebrations and just like that, March is almost here. I wanted to get back to posting and I just couldn’t write about another restaurant and ignore one of the best reasons for a foodie to love living in Singapore – hawker centers – that unique outdoor food court that locals love and frequent every day.
I’ve been to several over the years but it was only when we moved here that I was taken to several hawker centers by my friend D (you know who you are) who loves good food and good deal as much as I do. We meet up about once a month to try out new places or hang out at food centers and do an afternoon of hawker-hopping . Our first trip was to the Zion Riverside Food Center (70 Zion Road), we tried the black carrot cake, which is actually not made with any carrot but with radish, wok-fried then tossed in dark soy sauce and also shared an ice jelly dessert. At another hawker center near Holland Village, we had the wanton mee topped with char siew (roast pork), wilted greens and a few wantons with a plate of the classic chicken rice along with a fresh-pressed sugarcane and lemon juice.

PCasa GT Singapore, Hawker Centers1-001

Another time, we met up at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village (1220 East Coast Parkway, Bedok) before going to the famous 328 Katong Laksa for spoon laksa (where the noodles are cut short so you can it just with a spoon) – a large bowl of sinus-clearing prawn broth and coconut milk filled with rice noodles, cockles and prawns and served with a side order of banana-leaf wrapped otak-otak (ground fish meat mixed with tapioca and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled) was a great lunch. This was followed by another short drive to the Old Airport Road Food Center – a few blocks of hawker stalls in three separate buildings. There we had a delicious mutton soup (a first for me) – clear broth with fresh herbs and mutton ribs from Hougang Jin Jia Mutton Soup (1-23) and the best bang for the buck I have ever had at a food court – the $5 fresh prawn noodle soup from Kallang Cantonese Prawn Noodle (1-83) – where the auntie fishes out three large live prawns from an aquarium and drops them into the piping hot prawn broth along with some noodles, fresh herbs and topped with chunks of crispy pork lard which melts into the broth. I would drive all the way there just for that delicious bowl of soup. We finished our meal with some banana and jackfruit fritters along with a green fruit juice, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

PCasa GT Singapore, Hawker Centers2-001
 Of course, our family favorite, Newton Hawker Center which we consider our “local”, even if we live in Sentosa, is where we usually go when we just want a quick meal and can’t be bothered to cook. Many say that Newton is a rip-off and that it’s expensive and tourist-filled but we still enjoy going there and eating at our preferred stalls – perfectly crispy gooey oyster omelets from Hup Kee, grilled pork satay from the uncle at the far end near the washrooms (I don’t even know what his stall is called), hokkien mee – slightly soupy stir-fried yellow and white noodles with prawns, chili and herbs, hot and buttery roti prata to be dipped in the curry sauce or just eaten as is or fluffy garlic or butter naan with grilled prawns and crispy baby squid sotong goreng in the sticky sweet sauce.

PCasa GT Singapore, Hawker Centers2

Singapore’s hawker centers are a great way to experience the local culture through food and even if I’ve been here for over a year now, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Thank goodness there’s lots more to try and loads of new places to eat in. Here’s to more hawker-hopping with family and friends!

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