Travels with a Gourmet

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

PCasa GT Singapore, Gin Khao

Sunday evenings are when we have our family dinner out and since Sentosa Cove’s Quayside Isle  is much more pleasant than the overcrowded Resorts World complex, we end up heading there for an early dinner al fresco overlooking the marina.  Since Quayside Isle opened in December 2012, there have been several changes in the restaurant offerings – the space right beside the popular Blue Lotus used to be a Japanese restaurant, then an oyster bar and now is the space where the Thai restaurant Gin Khao is located.

Gin Khao Bistro serves simple Thai dishes at very reasonable prices. I might be mistaken but it seems like they have the cheapest food in the strip of restaurants of the usually overpriced Quayside Isle (not counting the Panini at the newly opened Joe & the Juice).   We usually order the same dishes from their menu which features Thai street food:  Po Pia Tod – prawn spring rolls, green mango and prawn relish with rice crackers and Tom Yum chicken wings plus by their larb moo – warm minced pork and mint salad or the spicy green papaya salad to start.  They do a decent seafood pad thai and have a good selection of grilled seafood (mackerel or squid) or meat (chicken or pork belly) served with the addicting nah jim (green chili and lime dip). There are several types of fried rice on the menu from the spicy green curry to the salty black olive rice to the sweet pineapple and the unusual watermelon rice.  Service is always courteous and efficient and best of all, the food is hot, spicy and inexpensive, the way Thai street food should be.

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Gin Khao Bistro

31 Ocean Way #01-12 Quayside Isle, Singapore 098375

Tel: (65) 6570 2208

Email: feedback@ginkhao.com.sg

Mon to Thurs: 12:00pm to 3:00pm, 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Fri: 12:00pm to 12:00am
Sat/Eve: 11:00am – 12:00am
Sun/PH: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Last Order: 30 mins before closing

*10% off for Sentosa Cove Residents

*Takeaway available

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PCasa GT Singapore, Populus

The Populus Coffee & Food Co (the name’s a mouthful) opened around six months ago in a shophouse along Neil road.   The long narrow space has been carefully redesigned using a lot of wood, from the ceiling and wall tiles to the counter, complemented by modern metal accents like the industrial lighting and iron shelving.  The tables look like textured grey fabric, a nice design touch that makes it seem as if there’s a table cloth.  Their tableware (plates, bowls, cups, sugar containers) have also been carefully chosen with a minimalistic touch making the space a beautifully-designed spot to hang out and have a coffee.

As soon as you step inside the Populus, you know what they specialize in from the wonderful aroma of roasted coffee beans which come from 2 Degrees North Coffee Co.  Several types of coffee are available – from the usual espresso, cappuccino, latte with both full cream, low fat or soy milk and flavoring, plus bottles of single origin cold drip and a white brew using their three in-house blends: Monolith (comforting & reassuring), Caldera (uplifting & refreshing) and the Duxton Vice (cheeky & adventurous).  Filter coffee is also served with six types to choose from.  For those not so much into coffee, they serve a rich Valrhona chocolate, iced or hot, and a selection of smoothies, fresh juices and botanical soft drinks from Fentiman’s.

For a small cafe, the menu is quite large.  I prefer the weekday menu which has a selection of breakfast specials along with healthy grain bowls and donburi plus a few pastas and sandwiches.  There are three ice cream sundaes and a buttermilk waffle for dessert.  The weekend menu has more egg dishes and less of the main courses and since they’re usually packed from early morning, some dishes are sold out by early evening.

On my first mid-morning visit, I had their fluffy scrambled eggs with a perfect piccolo latte and a large fresh orange juice.  For lunch recently, I had the teriyaki salmon donburi, a petite portion of teriyaki-glazed salmon served on seasoned Japanese rice, furikake, nanban vegetables and an onsen egg. On another weekend evening, my husband & I shared their avocado superfood green platter (kale, broccoli, avocado and spinach with feta and cottage cheese) and the Portobello mushroom grain bowl with furikake baby corn, red cabbage & apple slaw, roasted zucchini, roasted butternut squash, sautéed cherry tomatoes, L&P mixed mushrooms.   It’s a good place for healthy eaters since there’s quite a few dishes that are just vegetables and/or grains.  I’m looking forward to my next meal at the Populus since there’s still a lot on the menu I haven’t tried plus a few several coffee concoctions I’d like to sample.

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The Populus Coffee & Food Co.

146 Neil Road, Singapore
Telephone: +65 6635 8420
email: hello@thepopuluscafe.com

Mon & Wed 09:00 – 19:00
Thu & Fri 09:00 – 22:30
Sat 09:30 – 22:30
Sun 09:30 – 19:00

PCasa GT Singapore, Bird Bird

Bird Bird is the newest restaurant of Singapore’s bad boy chef, Bjorn Shen.  Fans of his popular Middle Eastern restaurant Artichoke, are in for another cheeky surprise with this casual Thai street food restaurant just like those found in the back streets of Bangkok.  The place is simply but thoughtfully designed with mismatched plastic stools, simple wooden tables, multi-colored soft drinks crates stacked up by the bar and colorfully decorated walls with their cheeky slogan “Bird Bird Satisfy You Long Time” to the stenciled red rooster painted with the line “This is the S#*t”.

I went with a group of friends recently and we all had the set lunch menu ($13) which comes with your choice of a main course and a drink: soft drink, Thai soda water or soy milk. If you top up a few dollars more, you can have one of their signature slushies (we had the Thai iced milk tea or Thai milk coffee blended with lots of ice to make a refreshing drink which was sweet enough to combat the spice).

We had the Khao Soi (spicy chicken curry soup topped with fried noodles) and the chili basil minced duck Gra Pow which came with steamed rice and the usual fried egg.  We added a few other dishes to share – the som tum (spicy green papaya salad) and a big plate of their famous Gai Tod (southern-style fried chicken wings with chili jam), the bird-bird from which the restaurant got its’ name.  For dessert, six of us shared their homemade ice cream Neh-Neh pops (another of Chef Shen’s creations) – we had sneekers (just like a chocolate covered ice cream dipped in crushed pretzels and marshmallows), a cherry cheesecake (cherry flavored ice cream dipped in graham cracker crumbs) and the Thai flavored Mango sticky rice (mango ice cream dipped in white chocolate and rolled in crispy rice).  The food was good, the place was fun, the service was friendly and the price was right – what more can one ask for?  We’ll be back for sure.

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Bird Bird

18 Ann Siang Road, #01-01, Singapore 069698

LUNCH
Tuesday – Saturday | 1130am – 230pm

DINNER
Tuesday – Thursday | 630pm – 10pm
Friday & Saturday | 630pm – 11pm

CLOSED ON SUNDAY & MONDAY

Walk-ins only for groups of 5 or less.
Email hello@birdbirdsg.com for reservations for groups of 6 and more. A minimum spend of S$45++/pax is required for all reservations. Your reservation is only confirmed after we’ve sent you a confirmation reply.

PCasa GT Singapore, The Lokal

After two years and a half in Singapore, I’m starting to play favorites and have become a regular at a few places.  The Lokal, which opened in 2014 has literally become “my local” since Chinatown is the closest restaurant row off Sentosa island and they’re open early for really good breakfasts and strong coffee.  Service is also friendly, although it can be chaotic when it’s packed on the weekends, and it’s not fancy so it’s easy to just drop in for a quick bite.

Although the menu is limited (only about a dozen dishes), they do have a large selection of mix and match items which they cheekily call “pimp your breakfast”, so you can pimp your plate by adding poached, scrambled or fried eggs, baked beans toast, bacon, smoked mackerel or mackerel and several other side vegetables.  The other great thing about this little place is that the Australian chef prepares a lot of ingredients in-house (one of the few that do this in Singapore).  They house-cure their bacon, they smoke their salmon and mackerel over cherry and apple wood chips, they make their own butter, ricotta, and yoghurt and they even make their own jams and peanut butter.  Coffee is from Common Man Coffee Roasters and they surprisingly have decaf and cold brew coffee plus skim, soy and almond milk.  Daily specials are on the board: usually a toastie (sort of a grilled sandwich filled with different fillings per day) and a multi-fruit fresh juice and sometimes a muffin or cookie.  I’ve been countless times in the last year and a half and it’s a firm favorite for a quiet solo (or not) breakfast or for an afternoon treat.  There’s a completely different menu for dinner (I’ve never been) with cocktails and wines and a weekend brunch menu which includes a Sunday roast and a pork sausage burger which isn’t available during the week.

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The Lokal

136 Neil Road
Singapore 088865

Tel: (65) 6423 9918
Email: hello@thelokalsingapore.com

Monday 8am to 5pm
Tuesday to Friday 8am to 10pm
Saturday 9am to 10pm
Sunday 9am to 4pm

 

PCasa GT Hong Kong, Ronin

“Walk down the alley to a row of nondescript buildings and watch out for the unmarked grey one with a wooden door”.  Those were the instructions a friend gave me when she told me about Ronin a few months after they opened in 2013.  Finding Ronin is part of the fun, and the start of what would be an adventurous evening of fine (sea)food and drink.

Opened by the same young restaurateurs that manage the always packed yakitori temple Yardbird and the more casual fried chicken and sandwich place Sunday’s Grocery, Ronin is a sleek dining bar that focuses on modern Japanese cuisine served with a large selection of Japanese scotch, sake (rice wine), shochu (sake-based liqueur), umeshu (ume fruit based liqueur) and Japanese craft beers.

Ronin features a daily changing menu on a single sheet of paper where seafood is the star. T and I opted for the 12-course tasting menu to get a feel of their food.  The first half of the menu features raw seafood which we had with some cold sake.  We started off with a cold raw Shigoku oyster lightly seasoned with red shiso vinegar followed by the sashimi selection: shima aji, kintokidai red bigeye snapper, hotate scallop and ojisan goatfish, all simply served on a bowl of crushed ice.  The third course was delicious flower crabmeat chunks tossed with uni slivers and put back in the  shell.  The last of the raw seafood courses was a yuzu baby yellowtail sashimi sliced so thinly that you could see the black plate through the fish. The fifth raw course was skinless wedges of extra-sweet fruit tomato with just salt and pepper.

The second part of the menu were the cooked dishes starting off with grilled tilefish, daikon, white ponzu and crispy fish scales – crunchy, hot, creamy and salty in one bite.  The seventh was their signature KFC a.k.a. korean fried crab deep-fried soft shell crablets with chili sauce – just like crab popcorn and a fine dining version of their other uber-popular Yardbird KFC (Korean fried cauliflower).  Next up was the white ale battered hirame, yuzu mayo along with a small glass of very cold white ale.  The most interesting flavor combination of the evening was the ninth course of fried triggerfish in honey, Kyoto shichimi sauce and crispy chestnut slivers (which looked just like garlic) that they suggested we have with a Japanese Hakushu single malt scotch and soda water.  Not being a usual Scotch drinker, I was surprised at how the hot-crispy-sweet-salty fish paired so well with the refreshing highball.  The next two courses: wild tiger prawns, bamboo fennel, tomato confit served in a stone pot like a seafood stew and the deep fried quail, orange zest, sansho pepper were a blur and we just tasted  bit of each.  The final course:unagi, kinome, chirashi was another stunner and this one, we finished up to the last grain of rice.  We were pleasantly stuffed at this point, and all we had space for was a couple of sips each of the dessert-like digestifs cocoa nib shochu and coffee shochu.

Two and a half hours later as we stumbled up the stairs onto the street, we happily realized that evenings like the one we just had at Ronin are few and far between, and should be repeated more often. I’m already planning my next trip to Hong Kong.

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Ronin

8 On Wo Lane, Central, Hong Kong

Tel: +852 2547 5263

Reservations: seats@roninhk.com

No tables, only 12 bar seats that can be reserved two weeks in advance, Walk-ins welcome at the stand-up counter

Dinner only: 6 pm to midnight, Monday to Saturday

 

PCasa GT Singapore, National Kitchen

One of the landmark events of 2015 to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday was the November opening of the National Gallery of Singaporean architectural restoration that joined two national monuments, the former Supreme Court and City Hall, to display the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

In the same building, several restaurants have opened.  There’s the high-end modern French Odette, classic Italian Aura spread out on three floors, sophisticated Cantonese Yan, rooftop bar with a view Smoke and Mirrors, innovative Indian Saha, casual cafe and retail shop Gallery & Co and heritage cuisine by celebrated local chef Violet Oon at the National Kitchen by Violet Oon.  National Kitchen was designed none other than the chef’s daughter, and she has created a cozy yet elegant space with dramatic chandeliers, black leather booths, mirrors throughout and assorted antique tiles to showcase Singapore’s Peranakan heritage.

PCasa GT Singapore, National Kitchen-001

The lunch and dinner menu is extensive and lists a few Singaporean specialties which may not necessarily be Peranakan like the iconic Singapore Chili Crab and Hainanese Chicken Rice.  There is also a light bites menu served at the Veranda which is open in the evenings.

I enjoyed two lunches there recently and had some decent Peranakan dishes: ngoh hiang –  deep fried beancurd skin filled with prawn, crab and chicken, grilled chicken satay with grated pineapple topped chunky peanut sauce and served with cucumbers and rice cakes, Kuay Pie Tee -bamboo shoot and turnip filled crispy cups and the sambal kimchiam dang -a spicy salad of lily buds with starfruit and prawns, the mixed vegetables and tempeh Sayur Lodeh and the deep-fried sambal eggplant.  The beef rendang and butter floss prawns were exceptionally good but it was the modern versions of traditional Peranakan fare that really impressed me -the refined  cod in creamy laksa sauce and the spicy dry laksa noodles are both dishes that you should not miss at the National Kitchen.

Dessert selections were limited to five classics, of which we’ve had four: the crepe-like roti jala with gala melaka was lacking in filling, the delicious rice cake kueh being ka, the warm black glutinous rice pulot hitam with coconut ice cream was too soupy, and the yummy pineapple upside-down cake.  Last on the list to try is the kueh dah dah a pandan-infused crepe filled with grated coconut which looked much more interesting than the roti jala we ordered.  I’m looking forward to see what dinner is like and maybe even drinks and snacks at the Veranda.  When you do decide to go, make sure to reserve as the place is usually packed both at lunch and dinner.

PCasa GT Singapore, National Kitchen1

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National Kitchen by Violet Oon

1 St. Andrew’s Road
#02–01, National Gallery Singapore
(City Hall Wing)
Singapore 178957

Email: eat@violetoon.com
Call: +65 9834 9935

Private room dining is available by reservation only.

Enter via Coleman Street entrance

Open daily for Lunch from noon to 3 pm, Dinner from 6-11 pm, last order at 9:30 pm

Veranda is open from 5:30 to 11 p.m – last order at 10 pm

PCasa GT Hong Kong, Mira Moon

When we were growing up, Hong Kong was our weekend getaway.  At just an hour and a half flight, I can’t recall how many times we visited with my parents and grandparents over the years. When I moved to Paris in the early nineties, Hong Kong was too far away to visit but when I went back home in 1997, I visited again and even stayed there for longer periods while A was posted there in 1999. Since then, I hadn’t been back, and I had heard that the Hong Kong of my childhood had changed – it was bigger, brighter, more crowded – the New York of Southeast Asia.

Finally, in 2014 I went for a few days with my friend T.  We lucked out on a promotion at the newish Mira Moon designed by Marcel Wanders and you Studio.  In a slim modern tower, on the edge of Wan Chai (which used to be the infamous red light district of Hong Kong), it’s near the convention center and to several hip restaurants.  With just 91 rooms, this boutique hotel was perfect for our girl’s mini-break.  On each floor, there are only a few rooms.  Our Full Moon Premier Room was much bigger than we expected and the bathroom was huge, with a separate rain shower and a large bathtub with a sliver view of the harbor.  There was a pretty wooden Grey Goose box filled with everything for martinis, intricately-carved cabinet doors, and rabbits everywhere from the ceilings to the glass etchings and the lamp bases.  Even the signs scattered around had rabbits including one that said “Good rabbits don’t smoke”.  We enjoyed breakfast al fresco at their tiny but well-designed terrace and on one of the evenings, we also managed to have a few after-dinner cocktails.

PCasa GT Hong Kong, Mira Moon1

On our first evening, we explored the little street and had dinner at the more casual and better-priced Hee Kee for their fried crab rather than at the fancier Under Bridge Spicy Crab which was two steps away.  The fried crab was sweet and overloaded with crunchy garlic.  We had it with their salt and pepper squid and a plate of stir-fried greens which was a tasty start for our Hong Kong holiday.

PCasa GT Hong Kong, Mira Moon-001

The next day, we wandered around Wan Chai and explored the area near Wing Fung street and had an early lunch at Classified before we crossed over to Pacific Place and some retail therapy.   On another day, we explored the IFC mall and had lunch at Open Kitchen which had long queues at their large deli counter of salads, sandwiches, cakes and pastries.  We continued our shopping at the Landmark were we stopped for a much-needed afternoon espresso at Fuel.

PCasa GT Hong Kong, Cafes

Our last lunch was at the traditional Maxim’s Palace City Hall – an old school classic dining room with large windows all along one side.  We shared an assortment of dim sum –  prawn filled cheong fun (rice paper rolls), flaky char-siu puffs, the usual siew mai and her gao, steamed pork ribs, custard buns, buchi (red bean paste-filled glutinous rice balls) and the standard dan tarts.  As always, the dim sum in Hong Kong didn’t disappoint.  I never made it to my childhood haunts – Spring Deer and Yung Kee but now that Hong Kong is just a few hours flight from Singapore, there’s no excuse not to visit more often.

PCasa GT Hong Kong, City Hall Dimsum

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388 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay

Tel:  +852 2643 8888     Email: enquiry@miramoonhotel.com

  • Hong KongHee Kee Fried Crab

Shop 1-4, G/F, 379 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai

Tel: +852 2893 7565, Open daily noon-4.30am