Monday, May 25

Awfully Chocolate Cafe, Sembawang Hills

The work week ended (and the weekend began) on a considerably dark note. There were some bumps at work, but thankfully a nightcap at Awfully Chocolate took my mind off work for a few hours.

The array at the cafe strives to appease all chocolate lovers with a variety of manicured monochromatic treats; but choose carefully for not all items are created equal. Well specifically, the white chocolate items were lacklustre. Some of you might refer to white chocolate as the Jon Snow of the Stark/chocolate family, but I don't mind it at all. In fact, I love how trashy white chocolate is when I'm in the mood.

The white chocolate creme brûlée sounded great on paper but reality proved otherwise. Though the custard and burnt sugar topping were quite lovely, I would have totally missed the white chocolate had I not read the sign before. Worse still, the addition of white chocolate had the unintended effect of negating the quality vanilla within, as seen from the generous specks vanilla beans.

The white chocolate butterscotch block also fell flat on the white chocolate front, and quite frankly, the dark chocolate Swiss roll within was rather dry. The only grace was perhaps the burst of salted caramel woven into the roll.

Not everything we ordered was great but what Awfully Chocolate does well, they did very well. Salted caramel is something they have perfected at Awfully Chocolate. My go-to the salted butterscotch brownie was a scrumptious bittersweet-salty treat that never fails to satisfy.

Their signature Ice Cream was remarkably dark and rich. Each spooful seems to coat your tongue with such intensity, determined to leave a lasting impression. Easily one of the best chocolate ice creams out there.

Friday, May 22

Da Paolo Gastronomia, Paragon

I don't what it is - or maybe I'm just getting old but these days, having a peace of mind is extremely important to me. When it comes to dining options, I rather have familiar favourites than chase the latest eggs Benedict trends or fads. For our Sunday family lunch last week, I suggested Da Paolo Gastronomia as I know I can be assured of a fuss free time; there's something for everyone and I love the idea of nibbling through a meal.

Since we are on the topic of familiar favourites, whenever I'm at Da Paolo, I can never pass up on their smoked salmon pizza. My love for salmon goes from raw to grilled, deep-fried and smoked - yup, never met a salmon dish that I didn't like if it was prepared properly.

The creamy mushroom linguine was really good in a "Hi, old friend" kind of way. Al dente strands of spaghetti coated (not drowned) in a delectable cream sauce with some sliced mushrooms thrown in for much punch. Simple but surely satisfying.

We also shared a trio of sides picked from the antipasti/salad counter - sweet garlicky roasted beetroot, veggie-packed spinach and leek frittata, and sausages with caramelized onions - that I would highly recommend if you were hitting the counter for the first time.

I'm sure some of us had desserts in mind before we even ordered our mains. *cough*

My younger sister has this weird obsession with heating up cakes so that's what we did for the Caramel Crunch Cake. I enjoyed the richness of the cake - luscious buttercream and moist spongy layers, topped off with silky caramel and crunchy chocolate balls.

While my younger sister went gaga over the Caramel Crunch Cake, I marginally preferred the Crunchy Hazelnut Cake. Then again, I would have little trouble finishing either slice, to be honest. 

The hazelnut praline and feuilletine provided the crunch and texture I need in my cake. It was kind of like eating a giant Ferraro Rocher bar! And you know what, no matter how sophisticated and artisanal chocolates get, you can never go wrong with Ferraro Rocher.

Wednesday, May 20

Grub, Bishan Park

I really like GRUB. Given the hype and hoopla, I wasn't expecting to like it this much yet somehow the combination of moriesh grub, friendly service and relaxing atmosphere made for a lovely evening out. 

We had to wait a while for an indoor table and my poor dad who doesn't take well to heat was looking rather miserable. Upon seeing his distress, a waitstaff offered my dad a cold drink and a stool - given how busy all the staff were, it was very considerate of him to offer. 

There were eight of us and after giving up on indoor sitting, we spilled over two tables in the outdoor area. Considering the humidity, this didn't seem like the best option but on hindsight, with two kids, I think the acoustics in the indoor area would have been an issue. It was rather pleasant out there in the evening but I can imagine how stiffing warm it will be in the day. 

I knew I had to order the salted egg chicken drumlets. Yes, salted egg dishes have become ubiquitous and I fall for it every single time. It was a pity the salted egg flavour was weak though the drumlets were tastefully seasoned and crispy.

KW ordered the GRUB Double Cheeseburger, which I was lucky enough to steal bites of. Juicy, beef patties made from 100% New Zealand grassfed beef chuck, topped off with melted Monterey Jack cheese and sandwiched between soft squishy buns. For a person who isn't into burgers, I thought this was a knock-out. Especially loved the wham-bam beefiness of those patties!

On the other table, two orders of the crispy fish burger were placed - there is a very good chance either KW or myself will be ordering that the next time round.

I ordered one of their signature dishes - the slow cooked pork belly, which had been sous-vided for a good 24 hours and pan-seared for some colour and flavour. What resulted was a melt-in-your-mouth chunk of porky goodness. I didn't care for the odd texture of the sautéed leeks but the handmade purple sweet potato mash was a delectable companion.

My elder sister insisted on ordering the mentaiko fries while I was prepared to dismiss it as pure hype. Now the same awesome waiter, who offered by dad the seat and drink, advised us not to get the mentaiko fries but instead order the mentaiko mayo as an add-on as our mains came with lots of fries.    Seriously, this guy saved us a few bucks but earned plenty of goodwill for the restaurant, which you bet translates to return visits. The mentaiko mayo, by the way, was freakin' amazing.

I had my heart set on the Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake as soon as I saw it in the display case. Now, there are chocolate cakes and there are death-by-chocolate chocolate cakes. This, I am happy to report, belonged to the latter category. Rich sacher truffle cake, dark chocolate mousse and a cocoa cookie crumb... it was smotheringly rich. I ordered a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go with it because go big or go home right? The vanilla flavour tasted just about as real as Milli Vanilli but luckily I am no vanilla snob.

I found out later the cakes are from Fix Cafe and you can order whole cakes here.

In addition to other cakes that I didn't try, we also ordered a batch of churros that were heavily dusted with cinnamon sugar, and served alongside creme anglaise and chocolate sauce. Finishing it calls for an extra round around Bishan Park - you have been warned, my friend.

Da Paolo's Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk

Chocolate and peanut butter are two of my favourite things in the world but somehow chocolate peanut butter desserts always fall short of expectations. The result is usually a dessert that doesn't deliver on both fronts and I'm left wondering if I were better off with a Snickers bar.

It's a good thing I was introduced to Da Paolo's Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk before I gave up on chocolate peanut butter desserts. The dessert in their signature tupperware looks benign but it is certainly not a dessert you would mess around with; in fact, without getting it warmed up, you could hardly pierce your fork through it.

The treat is a lofty structure, comprising of a fudgey brownie bottom, crispy peanut butter wafer bits, caramel peanuts and further blanketed with almond-studded dark chocolate. The dessert is essentially made up of caramel and chocolate, yet it doesn't come across saccharinely sweet. What proved to be my undoing was the salted peanut gravel that oozed with delight after some warming up.

Unapologetically dark and rich, I'm all ready to put a ring on it.

Monday, May 18

A plentiful weekend

From a random chat with KW, we both know there is still some way to go before we are "contented" with life, but we certainly are appreciative of how things are turning out.

Fortnight breakfast date with the Firstborn.

KW's cousin, Stella was back in Singapore with her little one, Ashton, and we had them both over for a play date and dinner. Among her many gifts were these super cute macarons from Bonheur Patisserie.

We had a simple takeaway dinner but I also made beef rendang. The flavours were really good but I felt I should have used a fattier cut instead of shin. I spy another round of rending in the near horizon.

I'm sure some of you would know how difficult it is to take pictures of toddlers. It is almost as if they have ants in their pants and can never sit still.

I need to brush up on my Sesame Street trivia. Called these dudes Elmo and Bernie. Bernie?!

Little Lucas hanging with his bumbo. Those cheeks! And of course, Russell, who loathed the bumbo when he was a baby, suddenly took an interest in it now that his baby brother has claimed it.

Always a lovely time at Da Paolo Gastronomia, complete with desserts. The right kind of "crunch time."

Friday, May 15

Friday 15th finds

Must read //

 "Be a person you’d want to be married to" - so true

So true, especially when I think about the absurd guest list at my wedding.

Must make //

Exxx-cusse me... Churros cake?

Provolone and lemon sounds like an unlikely but workable duo.

Must visit //

Planning a sabbatical in Paris? This might just get you started.

I came to know of El Celler de Can Roca from Masterchef Professionals. The restaurant was founded by the Roca brothers – the eldest Joan Roca the head chef, Josep Roca the sommelier, and youngest brother Jordi Roca the dessert chef. Their chemistry is amazing and their mother's little diner is just down the road. So cute.

Wednesday, May 13

Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ, Takashimaya

We don't eat Korean food often enough. I don't know why... Maybe it is because I always end up saying too much so abstinence is the surest form of control. 

After Lucas' medical check-up, we had lunch at Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ at Takashimaya. There  Being part of the Crystal Jade group of restaurants, there is a certain level of standard maintained. No, they didn't reinvent any wheel but that suited us just fine as we were looking for familiar favourites anyway.

The banchan selection isn't astounding but it comprised of some of my favourites including seasoned bean sprouts and spinach. It is always important to start off on a good note, especially when one anticipates OD-ing on meat and carbs later on.

Barely 10 minutes after the banchan arrived, our beef short ribs arrived. The dish received much tender loving attention from the boys . Yes, plural - for someone who doesn't like meat, we were surprised by Russell's recent affection for beef. I regarded the dish's sauciness with a tinge of skepticism but that was right up KW's - and the Munckin's - alley.

The bibimbap was a flavour bomb mash-up of julienned vegetables, beef slices, mushrooms, gochujang sauce and rice: the mixed-in raw egg lends an added layer of comfort.

Let the rice sit for a while before you scoop up those delectable crusty bits.

A must-order for me is seafood pancake. While this wasn't the best I have had, it sure brought back lovely memories of our trip to Seoul last year. Ah yes, the wandelust bug bites again. Maybe I should have played the Mother's Day card and persuaded KW to take us back to Seoul.