Fat Lulu – Small but focused menu with a very polished service!

Fat Lulu

297 River Valley Rd, 238338

Obscured, far from any MRT station, definitely not suitable to trek to in the middle of the dry spell but well served by a bus stop just sitting opposite it, Fat Lulu has been making the rounds in social media and this casual restaurant not only serves up delicious grilled mains, but also electrifying traditional desserts, all perfected with a polished service rendered even during the peak hours! It was small and we were fitted at the table near the kitchen initially; not being able to bear the occasional hot draft from the kitchen, and as foodies love to see the preparation in action, we opted for the bar counter instead and that was fun!

img_9847What makes Fat Lulu’s small but delicious menu less boring, is also the daily specials that are written on the huge chalkboard. That perhaps is the advantage of a smaller menu, that it gives the chefs space to wield their creativity, duly expressed in the specials! We got the fried curried cauliflower to start off with; made heavier tasting with the creamy madras curry yogurt while condiments like grapes, dill and mint were added to give a refreshing cut. $12.

img_9849That Iberico pork Satay is one of those on that special board and when it was served with its lightly sweet savoury aroma wafting towards me, I could immediately associate them to the likes of bak kwa. Well complemented with the sweet honey glaze and we felt the evenly marbled fats gave it a very fragrant savoury edge. $12.

img_9850This heavy tasting Spicy BBQ Pork Ribs main was ordered at almost every table; I guess that’s what customers do when we see the previous table getting such a humongous treat at just $28. It would be daft if this wasn’t ordered. Beautifully marinated with the smokey kichap manis sauce coming through strongly and well permeated through that block of protein, the meat was also perfectly grilled to a coveted tender consistency. We loved how robust the flavour of that fermented soy sauce has come through and how it is deftly cut through by the lime drizzle. This was the star.

img_9851I wanted some good fish and the Ikan Bakar was actually a pretty exciting fusion. The parrot fish may have tasted drier but this could be the nature of such fishes as they are perhaps less juicier than a cod. The only wish I had, was for them to be less heavy handed on their garlic chilli butter as they tasted really quite spicy to me and intermittent rests were necessary. I have to say though that the yellow tumeric coating did make them look very appetising. $28.

img_9852On that creative board again, we plucked off the very modern Ice Kacang which was slightly theatrical with the liquid nitrogen used but it was for a better purpose. What this Ice Kacang is about – Gula melaka shaved ice, topped with the chendol noodles, chewy atap cubes, furiously cooled coconut bits (by that lq N2) and that really smooth tasty coconut ice cream, all eaten to give you that seamless burst of flavours in your mouth, as they do away with the more traditional red bean and sweet corn that could have simply clashed.

What we really like about it here is the bold flavours that we get, the very substantial portions that were served and definitely the very thoughtful service that we get from such a small restaurant. My napkin was quietly replaced when I accidentally dropped it on the floor, but I noticed that. How attentive could it be! And needless to say, I drank a lot of refilled water without having to keep asking for it. Great day out indeed!

Verdict: A good restaurant 3.9/5.

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Penang Culture – A new menu launched!

Penang Culture

Changi Airport Terminal 2

IMG_7057Say Penang cuisine and with my limited South East Asian vocabulary, I could usually only dish out the favourite few – Assam Laksa, Penang Hokkien Mee, Penang Char kuey tiao, that sounds familiar to their Singaporean counterparts yet taste largely different. Sour instead of a creamy bowl of laksa, soupy crustacean packed instead of a dry Hokkien mee and savoury instead of the dark sweetened kuey tiao, these actually seem to be very popular among Singaporeans as well. Not a huge South East Asian foodie and therefore wouldn’t be able to authenticate its authenticity, this was actually pretty delicious in my opinion and with such a family oriented setting at our beautiful Changi Airport, Penang Culture is quite worthy of a visit for a casual family dinner. A new set of menu created by the head chef who aims to put a clever twist to the otherwise more common dishes, making it slightly more upmarket. The difficult bit I felt was making it a Halal chain, that means no pork and much effort has to be put in to compensate for that porky umaminess. Lets see…

IMG_7052IMG_7065Premium Lobster and Scallop Noodles – Highly packed with a heavy crustacean flavour, this broth came through strongly that is well deserving of an applause. With that chunky scallops by the side that are well textured, this was further made upmarket with the slipper lobster added. Beautiful flavour soaked up by the noodles and vermicelli but I reckon the lobster has been overly permeated by the crustacean flavour that makes it lose it natural sweetness. This could have been added last. $16.95.

IMG_7046BBQ Salmon topped off with the Chef’s sweet, spicy paste. My biggest favourite of that night as that umami packed spicy chilli paste lifted greatly the entire taste of the fatty crusty salmon fillet! $11.95.

IMG_7049Penang Fire Wings – Deeply fried these belachan coated wings are to an adequate crisp, with its fragrance further complemented by the sweet plum and Thai chilli sauce, this definitely looked influenced by the Korean culture. $6.55.

IMG_7059Premium crab meat and salted egg fried kway teow. Without the use of pork lard, this still has its character retained by tossing it with the heavy tasting salted egg. $15.95.

IMG_7043Salmon Assam Laksa. The biggest difference from its humbler rendition – the chunky bits of salmon there which mellowed the otherwise distinctive sourish taste. And unlike the thick noodles used by many eateries, Penang Culture uses those imported from Penang that is much thicker and actually resembles bi tai mak. $11.95.

IMG_7044Penang Curry Fish Balls made in Chicken curry. $4.95.

IMG_7051Penang Rojak with cuttlefish tossed within. $5.95.

IMG_7056With so much sinful dishes, this Ampla Juice (Indian Gooseberry) came at the right time as a palate cleanser. Packed with loads of Vitamin C and antioxidants, this is made even more refreshing with a sour plum for a salty kick. Great drink indeed. $4.95.

IMG_7067Durian Chendol – Such a huge, decadent dollop of fragrant durian that makes the entire chendol even creamier and fuller in taste.

And even though Penang Culture functions as a Halal restaurant, we concluded that the taste wasn’t compromised at all!

 

Red Pan – Fusion with a local twist, but did it actually work?

Red Pan

Marina Square near Esplanade or City Hall MRT

IMG_6439It is really rare that I would be at restaurant that is just a few weeks old as I usually like to browse more reviews lest the precious calories get wasted. But this time round, H and I decided to try our luck at the newly opened, chic-looking restaurant, Red Pan, at the newly refurbished part of Marina Square. Another fusion bistro, following closely behind the opening of East Bureau (that merges seamlessly different cuisines from around the world) at Marina Square, this on the other hand assimilates local elements into the more familiar western dishes. Things like hae bee hiam, char siew etc has been used and it may look radiant and sound fun, but the appeal wasn’t there after trying some of the more interesting mains and we reckon it might be perhaps worthy only a single visit. Service on the other hand is great, friendly but… yeah I guess we place a higher emphasis on the food.

IMG_6438Char Siew Chilli Fries with sour cream. It really tasted more like minced meat with fries as the char siew fragrance was really faint, a far cry from the umaminess that we get from the really good ones at the more established Cantonese restaurants. $7.

IMG_6440IMG_6442Prawn Hae Bi Hiam Pasta, Tagliatelle tossed with housemade spicy shrimp paste and sauteed prawns. Very strong pungent Hae Bi Hiam fragrance over here, but fell flat in its actual taste that got us bewildered. A pity though as the Tagliatelle was cooked to the coveted al dente texture. And I reckon that familiar crunchiness in the prawns reminds me of the brine solution that had been used to render such a texture. Authentic, fresh prawns would have been much preferred instead! $15.

IMG_6443IMG_6444Grilled Sirloin Steak 250g with housemade spicy chinchalok, pickled onions and smashed potatoes. Ordered at medium rare, the sirloin served somehow was slightly tougher than what was expected but that tangy sauce there was spot on with the right level of citrusy acidity in it, balanced perfectly with the lightly spicy chilli. Refreshing yet still highly savoury, a pity the sirloin did not perform.

Stopped at the mains as we decided that the desserts could be better enjoyed at Haagen Daz. Well, this beautiful restaurant does have the potential in transforming into an excellent one, if more effort is placed in perfecting and elevating the tastes of the dishes. As for now,

Verdict: An above average restaurant. 3.1/5.

Colony – Perfect ambiance, food-wise just like all buffets with hits and misses

Colony at Ritz Carlton

Near Cityhall or Esplanade MRT

C1Beautiful, plush, modern and well-lit, yet still looking smart without going overboard into the opulence extreme, Colony does indeed have one of the most comfortable ambiance for a relaxing lunch. Tip-top service rendered, rightfully deemed as one of the best in Sg, friendly and kind without being intrusive at all. The food though, had some misses here and there just like any other buffets, but taking everything into consideration and making a brisk comparison across the island, a $58 lunch buffet is actually, acceptable.

IMG_9086IMG_9089IMG_9090Compartmentalised into many different sections sprawling across a few rooms, the dessert section was the one that caught my attention the most. Vibrant in colours, large in variety, especially the chocolate stacks that is a rarity in most buffets (This actually added some Swiss character to it), it was the second station I visited after the first round of savouries. One of the misses I heard from the other colleagues – the peanut mochi which was unchewable with its already hardened skin; somehow I got away lucky with the sesame flavoured one beside it. IMG_9088IMG_9096My favourite out of all – the petite lemon tart topped with a rotund lemon meringue. Zesty peels added to the curd, all set nicely on top of a crumbly tart! The chocolate balls were on point too with a huge variety of them at the ice cream section, and I say the matcha one was intense!

IMG_9080The cold section, together with the Japanese sushi at the side, both well presented, had all the flavours and texture that you would have expected for.IMG_9071IMG_9085
Adjacent to the cold section and there we get the fluffy looking baguettes that have a huge range of upmarket cheese and chacuterie sitting in front of them for you to pick!

IMG_9072IMG_9079Moving on to the darker room that showcases these cooked food, the lamb rump was surprisingly executed to the perfect consistency, not tough at all with a well balanced marbling within the huge slab! That is actually quite a feat for an international buffet when loads have to be cooked and precision could have been overlooked at.

IMG_9091At the Cantonese wok station, lay these tantalising chow mien and fried rice, and the option was made easier (you know you have limited carbs space) when the fried rice is embellished with huge succulent prawns! Indeed, wok hei was tasted, and the shrimps were naturally crunchy. Good pick for the carbs!

The roast section was quite a big miss though when the ducks were served up with a tougher and slightly powdery texture. The siu yok however, was splendid with its super crispy skin.

IMG_9083IMG_9097I actually love the salad section that comes with the huge, juicy mushrooms and bouncy mozzarella with cherry tomatoes. Turned this into an Asian one by lashing it over with the Japanese sesame sauce!

12637308_10154037431783714_2039026897_oA fun interaction day out with the colleagues!

Like most buffets, I would advise against expecting really exceptional food lest the disappointment, even if their interior decor appears super plush. It really is just to enjoy the variety, and then repeatedly get the dishes that you have identified you like best! Then, you could enjoy the relaxing buffet, but of course it needs to have a sizeable number of hits first!

Verdict: An above average – good restaurant. 3.2/5.

 

Ellenborough Market Cafe – Traversing Laksa cultures round the region

Ellenborough Market Cafe

Swissotel Merchant Court near Clarke Quay MRT

DSC_0758Mention Durian Penyet, and most would usually be reminded of the pioneer, Ellenborough Market Cafe, that shot its buffet spread to fame a long way back. Constantly looking for inspiration from the local culinary scene, Ellenborough Market place is now launching a Laksamania if you like to term it as, that offers a slew of laksa unique to both Singapore and Malaysia. 6 distinct laksa dishes in total and just like all upmarket dining, Ellenborough Market allows you to opt for seafood top ups such as the crayfish, scallops etc to turn your traditional bowl into a decadent one.

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Starting off with the more interesting renditions, the Laksa Seafood Fried Rice was perfectly executed as the coconut spiced fragrance came through strongly from every evenly coated rice grain. Fresh diced prawns and seafood with the perfect consistency managed to lift the overall taste of this bowl of fried rice. $13.

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Fried Laksa Seafood Noodles. Another dry interpretation for laksa topped with succulent, crunchy prawns. With the Umami guaranteed overcoat on every strand of noodle, this was another clear favourite from the table. $13.

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The classic Singapore Laksa, not deviating from the usual, was served in a thick creamy broth and you could literally adjust the intensity of umami-ness by adding an adequate amount of the dried shrimp chilli by the side. I reckon the chilli is instrumental in giving this an edge over the norm. $14.

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Nyonya Laksa that tastes really close to the Singapore one, it wasn’t easy picking out the nuances except for the absence of cockles. Nonetheless, still a good bowl here. $14.

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Sarawak Laksa – this was quite an unconventional take for me as the bee hoon was tossed in the pasty curry flavoured sauce together with Belachan and I believe isn’t as common in Singapore as its Penang counterpart. Tasting feisty and thick in flavour, it will satisfy the intrepid diners. $14.

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Penang Laksa. I was really quite looking forward to this as the highly anticipated sourness from this bowl of Assam Laksa would be able to whet the appetite easily, which unfortunately fell short of expectation. Milder and less intense in flavour, I reckon it could be spiced up more to turn this lacklustre bowl around. $14.

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Toppings: Crayfish $6 per piece; Fresh Tiger Prawn $6 for 2 pieces; Fresh Canadian Scallop $6 for 2 pieces; Poached Shredded Chicken $4 per portion; Crispy Chicken Ngoh Hiang $4 for 3 pieces; Whole Golden Fish Cake $4 per piece

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And ending with the juice of the month: Sugarcane juice

Thank you Ellenborough Market Cafe for the invite and Cassandra for organising!