Omakase Burgers: it's about the price tags

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“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
― Margaret Mitchell

Perhaps I've been too preoccupied with expectations. Being touted as having one of the best burgers in Singapore, I marched down to Omakase Burger at the Grandstand hoping to be floored. Little did I know that the experience would leave me a little jaded.

A little background information regarding Omakase Burger, it was set up by banker turned restaurateur Cheng Hsin Yao who decided on sharing his perfect burger with the world after a year and a half of experimenting. This came in the form of a patty made with blends of USDA choice grade beef with no fillers, a soft (and extremely yellow) bun created by a Japanese artisanal baker, specially imported American Cheese and a signature Omakase sauce comprising of 13 secret ingredients.

Sounds like a recipe for success doesn't it? Well here's the low down.

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Destination wise, the interior design of the place gave off a very casual vibe, befitting of it's self-service nature similar to a fast food joint. My one gripe is that tissues (which you would come to see the need for after the juicy burgers start spitting juices out at you) are in short supply around the shop. Please be a little more generous with these!

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Food wise, I had the Bacon Cheeseburger ($15.90) which was the original cheeseburger finished with a couple slices of high quality American bacon smoked in natural hardwood whereas my accomplice had the Deluxe Cheeseburger ($15.90) topped with a generous helping of grilled onions and mushrooms. Truth be told, portions were minuscule and the whole affair had a very commercialised feel to it. Performing a side by side comparison, I find the deluxe a much better choice given the lavish grilled onions and mushrooms added some smokey flavors to it's composition and allowed the "oh-too" yellow buns to become vehicles for the lovely drippings that held the mingled flavors of earthy goodness with charred meats. That being said, I've had better and at a better value for money too. Pay a little extra for the fries ($3.90) and you get bodum cup full of skinny fries. Nothing fancy there, a little too much salt on there perhaps.

In all, I must have spent 20 minutes in there. leaving promptly with a half filled stomach and a void so big that disappointment poured in.

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Omakase Burger
200 Turf Club Rd 287994
Tel: 6763 2698

The Big Sheila: Big on flavor

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Sundays are special days. A day for sleeping in and perhaps for take multiple swigs of champagne (ideally) after a full on brunch; it is even more so for me since my 6 day work week only allows for one full on day in the sun. Coming to full terms with this fact, I've even took to the habit of sleeping in early Saturdays just to muster enough energy for a full day of activities which include a slightly reluctant and very sluggish trip to Sunday morning service (my bad, I know). That aside, Sundays are meant for eating out, and I go big, working down a list of "must-visits" that have been slowly piling up over the weeks. Is it just me or restaurants and eateries are popping up like baby rabbits all over this island?

So, if like me you are looking for place significant enough for today than The Big Sheila at Opera Estate, Siglap would be my suggestion.

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I was a little bewildered by the location of the establishment. Nestled amongst a row of shop houses similar to Jalan Riang, most of which are main kitchens and holding areas for catering and dispatch functions, The Big Sheila stands out as the new kid on the block. Opened by an Australian expat, Fleur Glover, her switch over from a career in IT to F&B speaking volumes about her passion for the artistry of feeding the masses. And her unique styles certainly make for an interesting experience, the food menu constantly evolving, a showcase of Fleur's skills and talent for recognising the need for constant change to feed the Singaporean palate.

Upon entering the dining area, I was struck by the lovely display counters. A throng of beautifully put together delicacies gracing the white counter tops. One can't help but gawk at it's mouth watering appeal.

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As for me, I passed and settled in on the couches (what's with all the pillows?!) with my boyfriend. Browsing thru the menu, the counter top mains beckoning from the other side, I finally ordered the Scotch Eggs whilst he went with A Ploughman’s($24++): piggy terrine, packed with pistachio and prune, baby scotch egg, pickles, homemade chutney, aged cheddar cheese and a crusty French baguette.

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The scotch eggs were gorgeous, a delicate soft-centered quails eggs enrobed in loosely packed mince adequately spiced and seasoned and then crumbed and lightly fried. A far cry from it's rustic origins of having a full sized hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, crumbed and baked.

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The ploughmans platter was a a sight to behold as well. Bright colors and a myriad of textures smearing the granite slabs. I adored it's simplicity yet complexity of flavors when put together. The pork terrine with pistachio and prunes, a winning combination when eaten together with the crusty baguette. Definitely a must have!

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I've heard loads about the desserts at the Big Sheila but not wanting to have the temptation of scarfing down an entire slice of cake (look at the size of that Frangelico layered cake!) by myself (since the bf doesn't eat dessert), I gave it a miss. Pity...

All in all, The Big Sheila is a quaint addition to the sleepy chai chee estate. With a ever changing menu of such transcendence quality, it's no wonder the rave reviews and mad gushing from some fellow foodies keep coming. You have to taste it to believe it's magic.

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The Big Sheila
15 Swan Lake Ave,
Siglap Singapore 455711
Tel: +65 6645 4422

Macarons, no.. not Laduree's

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With the renowned French brand, Laduree recently stealing the limelight and bringing macarons back into fashionable conversation material; I took the liberty to suss out a few other Patisseries at work with their versions of the sweet sandwich.

First stop, De La Creme where the Gulu Melaka Macaron ($2.40 per piece) offered a fusion of Asian flavors into this usually dowdy French pastry. I adored the coconut infused buttercream filling and squealed in delight with the flowy gulu melaka (palm sugar) surprise center; unfortunately, the macaron shells themselves weren't a thing of beauty, pasty white and severely unbaked in the centers with a clear show of squishy uncooked meringue. It led me to wonder how these macaron shells were unmoulded in the first place...

While we were at it, the Genevive ($6.90) became our next victim. Employing the magic of Valrhona chocolates in this dessert, white chocolate ganache is layered over 70% Guanaja chocolate mousse and then cast over a crispy praline feuilletine base. Composition wise, this was very similar to the Douceur we had at Patisserie G sans the dacquoise layer at the bottom. Having the crispy layer stationed at the bottom made for cleaner cuts and swipes at the rich confectionary.

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Our next port of call is ET Artisan Sweets at the Grandstand along Bukit Timah Road. Decked our in pretty pastels, the shop front was a sight for sore eyes. The display case itself was quite a stretch with items ranging from macarons to cheesecakes and even freshly baked tarts.

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Spoilt for choice, I did my ordering on a whim. A hunch and a slight glimmer of hope that my choices would speak volumes on behalf of the kitchen's standards. The Blueberry Macaron ($2.50 each) was a lovely shade of lilac. Despite it's less than smooth surface and lack of shine, the macaron shells were near perfect. Reminiscent of a strong flavor of almond, these delicate beauties gave way to a fruity buttercream within. The Yuzu Macaron did not disappoint as well, the complexity of it's citrus nature standing out in the curd fillings. I was beginning to understand why some have told me ET Artisan Sweets had some of the best macarons in Singapore.

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The Black Sesame Cheesecake however failed to translate the seedy flavors of the black sesame. I should have been a better judge, it's faint grey color tint, a tell tale warning sign. Thank goodness for the Lemon Tart that wowed us with it's ingenuity. A thin layer of sponge lay buried between the crisp tart shell and the puckery sour lemon cream. A dam to prevent soggy tart bases, now that is surely the work of a genius since the sponge offered a twist with textural contrast as well. Definitely highly recommended!

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Aside from it's range of confectioneries, ET Artisan Sweets prides themselves on their customised cakes. Splotches of evidence blotting the shop, these elaborate works of arts placed around the shop allowing customers to fully admire the prospects of having literally any cake they want. Service staff adding fuel to the flames with their beckoning that ,"yes, we can even cover the whole cake with macarons if you wish!" when I gushed about the macarons after my meal.

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On a separate note, Mothers' Day is around the corner, what are your plans to surprise the most important woman in your lives?

De La Creme
42 Siglap Drive
Singapore 456167

ET Artisan Sweets
200 Turf Club Road
The Grandstand #01-35A
Singapore 287994

Food Tasting: Street 50 @ Bay Hotel

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First of all, I would like to thank Dennis from Craft Communications for the invitation to Street 50. Long overdue post alert but apparently it's never too late when food is concerned because memorable foods (be it good or bad) leaves deep imprints on the mind. So a good month after the food tasting, I attempt to put pen to paper, food descriptions a blur, the lingering aroma of certain dishes fixated in my mind. We'll see how this pans out.

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Forest Mushroom ($9): veloute of wild mushrooms, cream, chives and garlic croutons.
Don't remember anything about this apart from the strong lingering flavors of chicken stock.

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Caprese Salad($12)
a conventional salad done right with lovely and intensely sweet vineyard tomatoes complimenting the indulgent creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella.

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Hazelnut Escargots ($22 for 1 dozen)
slow baked burgundy snails stuffed with hazelnut butter and flambed with brandy
a spectacular show to watch in all honesty but the over dosage of liquor made the hazelnut flavors within the dish almost negligible. Loved how the slow baking process resulted in a firmer texture of the escargot flesh. A real conversation starter for how Gordon Ramsey translated an escargot dish from his garden snails...

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Give the hot pot sets a miss. Despite my adoration for the chinos royale touch in those ceramic individual hot pots covered in prints of Chinese dragons, the simple fact that the two choices of stocks (Imperial Chicken Broth and Siamese Luck, a Tom Yum Broth) did not live up to expectations just made the option seem a little over the top.

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Tom Yum Flair ($18)
an example of the few fusion dishes that are well executed by Street 50. The tom yum flavors could have been turned up a notch but then again, with the addition of cream toning down it's acidic pungent qualities, it's finicky business.

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Lobster ($32)
grilled half lobster with piri piri butter served with pilaf rice and vegetables
ordered by my dining companion, I found the portion sizes a little stingy given it's hefty price tag.

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Fisherman's Net
prawns, squid, mussels, mozzarella and grated lemon zest
not exactly my favourite item either as I've never been a fan of seafood pizzas. Despite the thin crust,it was a tad pale and doughy in the center. It's failure to cook evenly demonstrated by the flopping motion when held up as a single piece.

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Lamb Rendang ($24)
my only word of advice when dining in at Street 50. You can give everything the dismissive look but NEVER shun away from the lamb rendang. Done upscale with a whole lamb shank braised in rendang paste in a claypot, this dish was the highlight of the evening. Robust flavors tying in with the tenderness of the lamb shank that fell apart from the slightest touch. I dived into this dish repeatedly till the pool of gravy dried up like one of those African river beds in summer.

For those with a sweet tooth, do give the Durian pengat ($8) a go at the end of the meal. Fresh durian pulp cocooned in crepes, served with a drizzle of gula melaka sauce over the top, this dish may just seal the deal with a promise of sweet dreams.

Located opposite Vivocity, Street 50 provides diners with a quieter respite as compared to the dining options bursting at its seams in the shopping centers. With a menu that boost an extensive array of global fare and multi-cultural flavors, visitors will be spoilt for choice. However, that being said, the situation where the kitchen becomes a jack of all trades but a master of none is clearly evident. Word of caution, do make your choices wisely lest you be disappointed.

Street 50 @ Bay Hotel
50 Telok Blangah Road,
Singapore 098828
Tel: +65 6818 6681

Mexout: Tacos are IN!!!

The weekends have snuck up to us as quickly as the trend of Mexican food hitting a run in the local scenes. Following closely behind the launch of Mexican takeout joint Pistola (sister restaurant of Club Street Social) and Lucha Loco at Duxton Hill, is Mexout at Far East Square.

Located within the reaches of the office crowds, I was surprised to find the place packed on a Thursday night. Perhaps it is the draw factor created by the urban contemporary feel of the space or maybe it's the fresh ingredients being used with pride that keeps the joint busy. Whatever it was, it worked, the quirky yet fast-food like operations sealing the deal for me.

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Click here for a better enlarged view.

Approaching the board, one can't help but feel intimated by the looming of options ahead. Thank goodness for the gentle prodding and guidance of the staff. The multi-step ordering process first involves selecting the base – burrito ($9/8-inch, $13/12-inch), warmed tacos ($13/three), or rice ($13, with tangy Mexican-style red rice) or salad ($13) bowls. I went ahead with the corn tacos (which skips you right by step 2), filled them up with cochinta pibil (pork shoulder braised in orange jus, spices and banana leaf), added lettuce and sour cream, a hot concoction of salsa verde for that edge and finally a little over-the-top reward of guacamole (additional $2) to pull the hefty package together.

Paired with a Corona ($7 at happy hours), I was all settled. The braised pork shoulder was delicious, it's smoky undertones complimenting the creamy freshness of the guacamole (one of the better versions I've had in Singapore thus far); on the other hand, my friend's filling of char grilled chicken was slightly disappointing with a close resemblance to tandoori chicken. Next time, I would probably pay the $2 supplement for the beef barbacoa – a cumin-laced brisket dry roasted in chills and beer.

All in all, an appropriate meal to set the tone for a night of rowdy fun.

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#01-01 Far East Square
39 Pekin St 048769
opens: 11:30 - 22:00 on weekdays only

Club Street Social: where we had paninis for dinner

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Located along Genmill lane, a little turn off the rowdy Club Street, Club Street Social has received raving reviews and attention due to it's decor and ambiance similar to the many speakeasies in New York's west village. Having not been to that part of the world before (though I'm dying for the opportunity to creep up), I was eager to fill myself in on the experience even if it might be a make-shift one.

True enough, stepping into the vicinity on a warm weekday night, the honey tone shades of the lights overhead beckoning a sort of ease into our mannerisms, I was instantly charmed. Gorgeous outfitting, mosaic tiled floors and fashionably old fashioned varnished bar counter tops. Stunning.

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A quick perusal of the menu saw the bf and I ordering a pair of paninis and Toasted Ciabatta with dips ($12) for sharing.

With regards to food, Club Street Social gives a stellar performance with premium ingredients injected into basic fun fare. First things first, the ciabatta, also used in its paninis is a major super star; with a crisp outer crust giving way to airy pockets of yeasty goodness, it was a huge success serving as a medium for such obnoxious flavor pleasures. I had the pan seared lobster with avocado and yuzu mayo ($28) whereas he settled for the more humble salami, fontina and red peppers chutney ($15). The former was a treasure of all things creamy and luxurious, akin to an occasional treat of lobster thermidore rolled into a tight package. However, in the reality that we were stripped from the intoxicating ambience, the lobster panini plainly put was overpriced. I would have been better off with a burger from &Made. The latter, the salami panini wasn't big on flavor, save for the strangely addictive carb wrapper of a ciabatta.

That being said, Club Street Social leaves one at a major dilemma. I would have loved to have fallen in love with the place. Unfortunately, the quaint establishment falls short of expectations in the food department after having built a reputation high given its daring menu on top of it's less than minimal media exposure. Not a place I'll return to.

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Club Street Social
5 Gemmill Ln Singapore 069261
Tel: 6225 5043

Le Bistrot: classic or contemporary?

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For whatever inchoate reason, dinner landed up being in Le Bistrot upon recommendation from the older brother. And in a spectacularly scattershot and eclectic approach, dinner plans saw me having a pint of beer alone along the Kallang river as the family trudged the course to the marine barrage.

After a short period of evaluating the curious dearth of bleak monotony at work despite the mundane work flow over my inspiring drink, it was return time to the dinner table with the family. Le Bistrot claims presents a classic french menu to its diners coupled with a casual environment. I was there with the intention to rock the boat.

Note: Portions are huge and between the four of us, we ordered 3 prix fixe sets($60 each) which entitles us to 3 entrees, 3 main courses and 3 desserts. So "value for money" wise, we were off to a good start.

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Poivron farci a la ratatouille, chevre marine grille - roasted red capsicum stuffed with ratatouille, served with lightly grilled marinated Sainte Maure goats cheese and mesclun salad. Best entree of the lot, love the combination of the creaminess of the goats cheese with the richness of the ratatouille.

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Soupe a l'oignon gratinee - traditional caramelized onion soup gratinated with emmenthal cheese. I'm going to be blunt here, forgettable, and overcompensating with a lack of portion control.

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Caviar du pauvre (poor man's caviar) verrine of eggplant and garlic puree, chicken liver mousse and pernod creme fraiche served with char grilled bread. A strange tasting dish that I spent half the time sifting thru for the permeating acidity of chicken liver. Fortunately eggplant is on my list of favourite foods, so I happily dug into this rather neglected dish.

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The mains arrived in orderly fashion at the table. First to be assessed was the Confit de cuisses de canard - duck leg confit with honey mustard vinaigrette and creamy potato puree. Highlight of the evening for sure. Crisp from the action of poaching in its own fats, the skin was an absolute delight to munch on, its flesh, a pompous affair of plumpness and succulence. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

I can't say the same for the Steak Frites with pink peppercorn beef jus served with pomme frites. With such a thick slab of meat at stake, our medium rare request resulted in a high percentage of rare doneness towards the middle of the steak. What a shame.

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The last, Pan-seared Salmon fillet was a respectable attempt with gargantuan portion sizes once again. Done perfectly pink in the middle and served with haricot vert. I was pleased but not blown away.

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Desserts were an utter flop. The Tarte au citron bearing the taste of uncooked cornstarch, the lack of tartness reflecting a state of lazy cooking. The trio of creme brulee were acceptable with the pistachio raspberry flavor outshining the rest. The pastilla a la pistache et chocolate noir was an interesting dessert with a strudel like pastry encasing a warm filling of chocolate ganache and crunchy pistachios. But I shan't speak more of it.

To put things straight, Le Bistrot offers quality service but very sub-par food. Perhaps its my misconception of French fare, but I would think twice before putting my money on a meal here.

Le Bistrot
2 Stadium Walk, #01-03
Singapore Indoor Stadium

&Made: Truly Good Burgers

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Since we are on the subject of burgers, let's talk about my recent burger expedition to &Made. Having been all the craze back July last year when it first opened its doors to fad hungry Singaporeans. It managed to garner lots of attention with its well accredited Michelin starred chef Bruno Menard holding the reigns. Having a simple short menu with a more casual styled bistro settings ensured that &Made was a sure fire success, a truth I came to savour during my recent visit. After a couple of months into business, the flames have simmered and in retrospect, possible kinks in the kitchen as well as its management issues have been eased out to a comfortable pace. Time for judgement.

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I started the night with a little amusement for my tired senses, yes, a half pint of appenzeller dunkel beer, in an attempt to put out the fire that had built up inside as a result of inhumane 36 degree heats in the macaron room kitchen. I must say that it was a huge success. Swiss in origins, this dunkel carries a smooth yet creamier finish to most of the other dunkels I've fit in my memory. Nice.

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And as me and my dinner companion engaged in a lovely conversation regarding the intricacies of human relationships at the workplace, back in the engine room of &Made, the kitchen staff were running like clock work. In not more than 15mins tops, our food was served, accompanied by inquisitive oohs and ahhs.

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The Lamb Burger ($25 plus an additional $3 for truffle fries) consists of spiced lamb patty, fresh coriander, lime pickled sauce with onion jam and curried raisins. Intricate in flavors, this burger was a refreshing change from the usual beefier options found in most burger joints. And the best part of it all was that it actually was executed really well with a well balanced flavor profile to boot. The bf commented that the sweetness of the curried raisins really helped to lift it from its heavy spices.

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My choice of the 3 Little Pigs ($23) was again another crowd pleaser. With a bacon, pork fillet and chorizo patty (sounds like a party already), shitake mushrooms, Japanese cabbage and Shibazuke pickles to fill in the gaps, I involuntarily zoomed in for the burger buns. Mind blown. Crisp yet soft and tender on the insides with a subtle hint of butter, I suspect Brioche being employed. The generous coating of yuzu-koshu (paste made from chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt) mayonnaise on both sides of the bun was phenomenal, its acidity adding another dimension to the dish . I imagine the pleasures derived from slathering this creamy dream on to freshly toasted buns, knife against crumb... The patty on the other hand was uncannily moist and ultra tender, perhaps from the incorporation of those fatty cuts into the mix.

The truffle fries on the other hand were a disappointment. Falling shortly behind the rosemary and Parmesan fries from Overeasy which painstaking hand cut efforts paid off with crisp and fresh innards. Say nay to frozen fries.

That being said, &Made has certainly exceeded my expectations. Bruno Menard is certainly a culinary genius when it comes to flavor profiling and menu planning and it speaks volumes in the food served; coupled with simple execution, its no wonder I don't see many disappointing reviews around. Service standards are top notch too with attentive wait staff and lots of smiles going around.

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&Made by Bruno Menard

#01-04/05/06 Pacific Plaza
9 Scotts Road
Singapore 228210
Tel: +65 6732 9808
Open daily 8am-10pm, no reservations