Etna

 

Ciriole alla Norcina at SGD28 yo
Ciriole alla Norcina at SGD28 yo

What: Tiny, classy, Italian joint in the Duxton area.

Pros: The food is spot-on. We ordered this antipasti which was this gorgeous burrata, rocket and tomato thing and it made me completely forget I had a fake cheese allergy. My pasta (pictured above) was delicious as well, if a little heavy.

Cons: I would not have visited this place – had it been on someone else’s tab (it was my boss – haHA) – that gorgeous antipasti was SGD45 and the pastas are on the pricey side too.

Verdict: I would say, go if someone else is paying – hear me out – the food is good but you can get similar at Pasta Brava AND it’s in a far more charming space.

Details:
Etna
49-50 Duxton Road
Singapore 089513
6220 5513 

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Pita and Olives

The vegetarian platter with additional kebabs!
The vegetarian platter with additional kebabs!

What: Teeny-tiny Israeli restaurant located in 100 AM mall.

Pros: The food is delicious, healthy (ish) and comforting. I felt like we were eating in someone’s home. I also loved their smoky baba ghanoush (top-most, middle, green mush) and kept going back to it for just a little more, just a little more.

Cons: The ambiance is non-existent. The food is clearly pre-prepared and then heated up and given to you when you order it. I mean it’s good – but I’m just saying it’s like the opposite of fancy.

Verdict: It’s a good option for Mediterranean food in Singapore – and it’s healthy too. Go with good friends (BECAUSE YOU CAN’T TAKE ANYONE ELSE) and enjoy!

We paid about SGD45 for two people (platter, 3 orders of meat and drinks – we over-ordered, clearly). By the way, I stole the idea of putting the total amount spent from the awesome Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow.

Details:
Pita and Olives
100AM
​100 Tras Street, #03-10
Singapore 079027
6636-3779

Relish

BURGER
BURGER
What: Best. Burger. Place. Ever. Okay fine, a restaurant/cafe type establishment situated in a mall that services European tai-tais that serves Very. Good. Burgers.

Pros: The burgers – especially the blue cheese, poached pear and walnut burger (I’m literally swooning just typing this) – are so, SO good. Their onion rings served with this curry dip are also divine.

Cons: The service can be patchy and their renovation has made the space a little less cozy and a little more whatever.

Verdict: I would say it’s still one of Singapore’s better kept secrets, restaurant-wise. Go. But don’t tell anyone. And use this Groupon.

Details:
Relish
501 Bukit Timah Road
#02-01 Cluny Court
Singapore 259750
+65 6763 1547 (reservations recommended)

Cooking with… Regina

Final product!
Final product!

I’m a super judgmental person.

I figured this out when I met Regina for the first time. Regina was a new colleague who joined the adjacent department a couple of months ago.

I met her and decided:
1) She was too hot to be nice.
2) Her heels were too high and she laughed too much which meant she was silly.
3) She was too hot to be nice.

And then.

Despite me being a judgmental ahem and a little cold, Regina didn’t care. She didn’t let it affect the way she treated me. She was unflappably friendly, optimistic and so kind – when I needed it most (I was going through my bimonthly existential crisis) and I was forced to admit I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

We got closer and I discovered that in addition to being hot and able to balance (and DANCE TANGO) in crazy high heels, girlfriend can cook. Which is really the only thing that matters.

SO fast forward to many months and many laughs later, I decided to invite her over to be a part of this whole Cooking with DiniBlini series (I need more volunteers – can you cook? Are you photogenic?)

So Regina, in addition to being generally awesome, has generally awesome genes. Basically she can eat anything and still be skinny. Yes, you can resent her secretly. I won’t tell.

She wanted to make a chocolate tart which morphed into a salted caramel chocolate tart which morphed into salted caramel brownies (too lazy to make the crust) and then finally we settled for salted caramel peanut butter brownies.

Sugar and water
Sugar and water
This recipe… had many steps. We had to make the caramel sauce from scratch and I was like “Nooooo Regina I don’t want to do thisssss.”

Brown sugar and water
Brown sugar and water
But she didn’t let my whining phase her nor the steps. Regina comes from the school of eternal optimism, as in, “It’s ok! Just wing it! It will be fine! Don’t use measuring cups! It will be fine!”

Peanut butterrrrrr
Peanut butterrrrrr
And it was fine. We made our own peanut butter salted caramel sauce which turned out to be easy.

Brownie batter!
Brownie batter!
We melted chocolate over a makeshift double broiler.

ME!
ME!
Me – confidently trying not to burn my hands.

Batter
Batter
Chocolate in
Chocolate in

So in
So in
We mixed in the melted chocolate, post flour addition – which was wrong, wrong, WRONG. If I was alone I would have been on the verge of a meltdown BUT Regina calmed me down and told me it would be fine. It was.

Close up
Close up
All ok?

The glamorous Regina - in the flesh
The glamorous Regina – in the flesh
And then we had a conveyor belt system where Regina very efficiently scooped batter into these waxed cupcake liners and I clumsily tried to put a dollop of peanut butter salted caramel sauce in the middle of it… and… she didn’t say anything.

She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
While we waited for the brownies to bake. Regina sharpened my knives and told me stories about all the things she’s done. Ok I can’t remember what we actually talked about, but Regina tells lots of stories because she’s been there and done that. And it used to irritate me when I first met her but then I realized that she shares, because she cares. It’s about spreading knowledge and information and experiences so that I, or anyone else she meets, can learn from it.

If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
And that’s important because learning is important. I might be a risk averse cook but I can learn to be more laid back in the kitchen. Regina might be averse to eating green things but she can “learn” to eat a salad. Especially when I gave her no other choice.

Taste test
Taste test
Ultimately the brownies were a hit (remember to underbake and if you’re baking them in individual cups like we did, cut the baking time anywhere from 12-15 minutes).

We added marshmallows because Regina wanted them. She also wanted to add alcohol. And peanut butter chips. So we had three versions.

We taste tested them all and they were delicious. So, clearly, in cooking/baking and life you can wing it and in the end, it will all be fine.

Saveur

Duck confit with potato mash!
Duck confit with potato mash!

What: An affordable french restaurant with very minimal attempts at decor (minus some questionable chandeliers) because: affordable.

Pros: The food is good and it’s really good value-for-money. They have a set lunch and you can choose the entree, main and dessert for SGD22.90. I had a wonderful garden salad that came with hazelnuts (what??), duck confit (a bit heavy but whatchoogonnado) and pandan creme brulee to end. Not too shabby considering how much you would pay ANYWHERE else for something like that.

Cons: The ambiance – it’s very minimalist and very spartan but hey, just squint and you can call it industrial.

Verdict: For Singapore, it’s good value and I say go and enjoy a nice fancy meal (you can even get steak – yo!).

Details:
Saveur – Two outlets but I went to the one @ Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road, #01-7B
Singapore 228213
6736 1121

Lucha Loco

It's so good it's loco!
It’s so good it’s loco!

What: Very hip taqueria (restaurant that serves tacos) and garden bar (aka they have outside seating and some potted plants) situated in trendy Duxton, with more pretty people as customers than I could count.

Pros: The tacos are so good that I literally wolfed them down before I could take any pictures of them. That’s why the only picture you have is of a coaster.

Cons: EXPENSIVE. It’s SGD11 for a teeny taco – no sides – and the drinks are on the pricey side too.

Verdict: OMG go – the food is good, drinks are quite good, the people are “good” and there are twinkly lights. Twinkly lights!

Details:
Lucha Loco
15 Duxton Hill
Tanjong Pagar
6226 3938

The 1925

Wasabi Fries and a half-pint of Yellow Van
Wasabi Fries and a half-pint of Yellow Van
I have different friends to fulfill different needs.

I’ve got my super intellectual/shopping enabler best friend.

I’ve got my best bro with whom I discuss movies and shit.

I’ve got my soulmates from high school I still Whatsapp and Skype furiously with.

And… I’ve got my gurlfriends.

Chatting about boys, clothes, our careers and gossiping might not feature very prominently on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but can I just say – talking shit is cathartic.

Which is why when Mel booked a table at The 1925 to get together our group of girly-friends, I was thrilled because I know it meant good times and maybe… good food? Coz I didn’t know shit about The 1925. Nobody I knew had eaten there and all Mel said was that it looked cool and the food looked “tasty.” Sure.

So this 1925 place is fashioned as a brewery slash brunch place. I didn’t know what to expect, especially since most of the restos in Jalan Besar fashion themselves as these industrial-hipster hangouts where people wear lots of hats. I’m not into hats – worn indoors. In Singapore. Because why.

When we arrived Amy was tucking into Wasabi fries (picture above) which was just as you would expect – tangy and the right consistency. Not too crispy and comfortingly dense.

I got the Yellow Van to drink and really enjoyed it (our very helpful waiter advised me to go with that since it was the girliest of the beers they had – not disappointed!) The girls had the darker and more bitter beers and they were, in their own words “bitter.”

Crispy Egg Aglio Olio
Crispy Egg Aglio Olio
Food was a mixed bag, Mel was exited about eating the Aglio Olio with crispy egg, which she thought would be a soft boiled egg that was deep fried. Alas it came with flyaway crispy egg bits and the dish tasted more like not very good mee hoon than aglio olio.

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
Amy went for the chicken that came with potatoes and ratatouille and said it was passable.

Pan Seared Fish in Pesto
Pan Seared Fish in Pesto
I ate this. I know what you’re thinking, fish fillet? It’s so boring and safe and plain. Well maybe it’s a boring choice but goddamn it was good. Perfectly seared, with perfectly seasoned rice and an accompaniment of ratatouille. I was impressed and happy.

So it just goes to show – the safe choice is probably the best one.

We also had a salad (not on the menu) with a yummy wasabi-balsamic reduction dressing and a Hawaiian pizza (crust deemed too thin).

Overall the beer was good, service was great, food was so-so and the ambience was nice. Would I go back? Probably, just to test out their brunch items and then walk over to Chye Seng Huat Hardware for a coffee.

The 1925
369 Jalan Besar
Singapore 208997
+65 6294 9215