Monday, 29 May 2017

The Rabbit Hole Salad


A Salad With Benefits Beyond Health

 
It was not difficult to make a healthier choice when it comes to lunch around the Raffles Place area.  I was surrounded by so many cafes serving salads, sandwiches, soup and cold-pressed juice where I worked.  Even when the temptations of cheap and delicious local fare at the likes of Lau Pa Sat, Market Street and several food courts were just a stone’s throw away, my desire to have a quick lunch that was healthy and guilt-free, within an air-conditioned environment often won hands down as an option for lunch. 

 
Let’s face it, when I indulged in a bowl of salad, I felt relatively happier that I need not have to face the wrath of my personal trainers and explain myself later.  The salad always looked so colourful that it was instagrammable, and that helped because I was a social media whore. I often come out of the café smelling and looking refreshed compared to having come out of a food court smelling like chicken rice.  That was useful particularly when I had to meet the boss after lunch for a presentation. A salad meal meant that I had left enough room within my calorie count for the day to have a cupcake that I might accidentally chance upon at the office pantry.

 
But did we need yet another café serving clean eats when there were already so many that had sprung up across the CBD? How different can another café serving up salad, sandwiches, soup and cold-pressed juice be?  You would still be served a salad bowl with a base of lettuce leaves, and other vegetables and a protein topping of your choice, right? The last time I checked, a lettuce tasted like a lettuce no matter where I bought that box of salad from.  After packing a random box of salad back to the office, could you tell the difference between what had been served at the Daily Cut, Omnivore, Salad Stop, The Salad Shop, Grain Traders, Wheat, Raw Bar, and Lean Bento?  Some salad aficionados might differ in opinion.

 
The truth was that, now that I have been walking on this journey towards better health, and knowing that I needed to eat right so that I could be fuelled enough to get me through my very hectic work schedule, I would not think that there could be too many of such cafes.  I would usually head for the one that was most convenient and had the shortest queue.

 
However, when the Rabbit Hole Salad & Juice opened at One Raffles Place, that would usually be my first stop for salad because that café served up clean eats with a difference.

 
This café is a social enterprise, set up to not only feed people with great tasting and healthy salads complete with a choice of home-made dressings, sandwiches, soup and cold-pressed juice.  It also provided an opportunity for people with autism to integrate into mainstream society by learning valuable skills like food-handling and customer servicing.

 
This was a café after my heart.  If I had bought some lunch, knowing that what I bought was giving someone with autism a chance in life, it made my lunch tasted even better.

 
The Rabbit Hole not only won hands down with me because of their social purpose.  They wowed me with their customer service too. 

 
A few weeks ago, I contacted The Rabbit Hole via Instagram and told them that I wanted to add more kale in my diet.  Super food right?  Must be good.  However, I hated the taste of kale, and if I could drink it all down in one gulp, that would help.  Pure kale juice was not offered within their menu.  However, they obliged and prepared a glass of pure kale juice for me. 

 
Today at lunch, while waiting for them to prepare my kale juice, I was so glad I had the chance to explain to some people at the salad queue about the wonders of kale. 

 
It looks like the Rabbit Hole might need to put pure kale juice within their menu after all.


Verdict?  -  BELLY FULFILLING KNOWING THAT I ATE A SALAD FOR A CAUSE OTHER THAN MY HEALTH

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

No Bullshit At Bread Street Kitchen


No Bullshit Cuisine

 I spent a few weeks searching for the perfect restaurant to celebrate the hubby’s birthday and our 16th wedding anniversary.  David had always been a practical man.  So yes, he chose to get married on his birthday so he would never forget our wedding anniversary…you know, “Happy Wife, Happy Life” and all that.  Being practical meant that he would appreciate a meal that was practical and without frills.
 
For a cheapskate Scot, that would usually mean Pie and Beans at our local.  However, it was his 53rd birthday and our 16th wedding anniversary, so I was not going to be happy with just that meal of Pie and Beans.

 
That search for the perfect restaurant began with my hunt for the right cuisine that I felt he would enjoy.  Would he prefer the exotic taste of Indian food, or perhaps the comfort of British food, or would he veer towards healthier fare like Japanese food?  To be honest, the choice was a headache, until I walked past Bread Street Kitchen at Marina Bay Sands one day and it dawned on me that my man would truly enjoy a “No Bullshit Cuisine” from a restaurant owned by a “No Bullshit Chef”. 

 
Bread Street Kitchen

 Togged in our No Bullshit casual weekend garb, we sauntered into Bread Street Kitchen expecting not to be served Bullshit and we were not disappointed.
 
We were about an hour early for our reservation, and were promptly ushered to the bar for some pre-dinner drinks.  We ordered some sensible Prosecco to kick-start the evening but our 23 year old son decided to opt for a drink for 13 year olds - the Vanilla milkshake - which was prettily served with chocolate chip sprinkles and wee marshmallows. We had a good laugh over it and the guys at the bar did the same, asking if he wanted a little umbrella to go with his drink.  The jokes and laughter that ensued just put us all right into a relaxed mood and ready to enjoy an evening of great food and even more laughter.

 
Delighting The Customers
 
After our glasses of Prosecco, we were ready to order our bottle of wine.  David chose a bottle of Syrah which we both sampled after the bottle was open.  It tasted terrible.  I rejected the bottle and was prepared to pay for that bottle but the server apologized for my experience with it, and told me not to worry about that bottle of wine.  Mind you, that bottle cost $129 yet they were willing to absorb the cost for my erroneous choice.  I was delighted by that touch of customer-service because I had been to a restaurant where a server once retorted when I rejected a vile bottle of wine,  “Well you chose to have something medium-bodied so this was medium-bodied what!”   Instead, this  server at Bread Street Kitchen was apologizing for my poor choice! What a breath of fresh air.  He asked if we preferred something that was fuller bodied or medium bodied and because David and I loved a full bodied wine, he pointed to the Chateu Le Boscq Saint-Estephe 2008. It was a great choice and I was glad he pointed us to the right choice.  This kid definitely knew his stuff.

 
No Bullshit Food

 We started our meal with a Cider Onion soup.  As unadventurous as we were, we were expecting a clear broth of French Onion soup, “but this one had that bullshit addition of Cider”, I thought.  However, I canned that thought at the first taste of the soup.   It was not bullshit at all. The Cider gave the soup its hint of sweetness, made it richer, full-flavoured and so robust. As David put it, the soup was “bowl-licking” good.  We mopped all that soup up with 2 bread baskets and swore not to order a 3rd one if we could help it.
 

At most fancy celebrity chef-owned restaurants, we would expect food described like this -  “Stout Battered Wild Haddock Served With White Wine, Crème Anglais And Truffle Reduction Fried To A Golden Brown Perfection” and then only to be served 7 thickly battered pieces of shrivelled white bait each served on a single French Fry and plated on what looked like a used diaper when they swirl a dollop of mushy peas on the side of the platter.

 We would not appreciate that kind of Bull Shit.

 David is a simple man.  He would be happy with just steak and chips.  So that was what he ordered.  He ordered a tenderloin, and was asked how he would like it done, what accompanying sauce and what sides he wanted.  There was nothing fancy in the dish.  What was served was a near- perfect medium rare tenderloin, served with a peppercorn sauce on the side and some chips. It was near perfect because David expressed that his steak was not hot enough, as if it had sat on the counter top for awhile as the chef took time to plate it with some cherry tomatoes.  The server was prepared to take the steak back immediately and exchange it for another one but David felt it was a waste of good steak and told him that he was okay with it.  As you can see, the servers did not attempt to offer an excuse.  They were prepared to change it. Perfectly No Bullshit.  



Joel chose to have the Dingley Dell Pork Belly.  I had heard friends raving about the pork belly before and I knew he would thoroughly enjoy the dish with its phenomenal crispy  golden skin yet juicy and tender belly meat served with spiced apple puree on the side.  The portion was huge yet Joel did not leave a single morsel on his plate.  At the end of his meal, he proclaimed, “Speechless.”  That had got to be “delicious” to  the millennial generation I thought.  That pork belly was again a No Bullshit dish.  It was just pork belly cooked to perfection no more no less.  It was not overly dressed with garnishing and anything colourful because the star of that dish was just that piece of pork! They got it.  No Bullshit.


I was vegetarian that day and entered the restaurant thinking that any of Gordon Ramsay’s kitchens worldwide would not know what vegetarian meant. I was surprised that they had a separate vegan menu.  I chose a risotto with semi-dried tomatoes.  Yes that was what it was called in that menu, just “Risotto With Semi-Dried Tomatoes” so I would not expect anything fancy.  Risotto is a dish that is so difficult to cook.  I was often disappointed by over-cooked mushy oatmeal like dishes served at restaurants which tried to tout that as risotto.  This Risotto With Semi-Dried Tomatoes did not bury its lack of meat and other ingredients with any fancy names, sauces, or garnishing.  It was plain and simple – risotto with semi-dried tomatoes served with some arugula for colour.  Semi-dried tomatoes and cheese were a winning combination. They were not overpowering each other and I could taste every grain in that dish.  Even my vegetarian dish was No Bullshit.


The Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding served for dessert and as part of his birthday celebration was a delight.  I had stopped him from having too many sweets for health reasons and was pleased that the pudding was not overly sweet.  This sticky toffee pudding was the best we have had in a long time, definitely unrivalled.

  
Celebrating Real Moments With Real Food


I was glad David enjoyed that dinner.  We were not served Bullshit the way many fancy restaurants would. The team at Bread Street Kitchen had a simple goal to just serve good quality food with great service. It did not claim to be anything else other than a restaurant that was good for casual dining.  Although every table at the restaurant was filled, they never once faltered in their service.  They just wanted to delight their customers in any small way they could.

 Another example of this was that the table allocated to me initially was at Basement 1 level.  While we were about to finish our glasses of Prosecco, the server led us to another table on the same level as the bar, at Level 1.  She said, “I think you might prefer this table because the other table initially allocated to you is just beside a long table which is expecting a party of 8 diners.  It could get noisy.”  Bless her heart.  I would not have written this blog post if I did indeed occupy that table.  Great customer service come from staff that is mindful about fine details like these.  They could have laid the bullshit on about a “fully booked restaurant” and not bothered about it.  But they did not. 
 I love the No Bullshit quality about Bread Street Kitchen and am now keen to explore Ramsay’s other offerings in London at the end of the year during our trip back to the UK.

 
Verdict?  -  BELLY AWESOME AND WORTH REPEAT VISITS

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Will The True Peranakan Please Stand Up


The Unwavering Search For Authentic Peranakan Food Beyond Home

 
This blogpost was written by my brother Jerome to celebrate our love for Peranakan cuisine.  So do excuse the poetic ramblings of his experience at The Peranakan, located at Clamore Connect along Orchard Road.  He had obviously been whacked in the head with food coma and was in a state of delirium as he wrote this post while shoving wee cups of Kuih Pie Tee into his mouth.  Here’s his story:




Born and bred Peranakan, food has always been a focal point in my family and a gastronomic spread is a sine qua non for all occasions. We celebrate joyous occasions from the Chinese New Year to birthdays, to engagements and weddings through food. Any  Peranakan would confess that home-cooked Peranakan food is unparalleled.  Mom’s THE number 1 culinary genius of Peranakan fare.  My hunt for good Peranakan cuisine across Singapore over the years have resulted only in disappointment.

I was pleasantly surprised when my mother, a finicky eater and fastidious self-professed custodian of this culinary art form told us that there was a relatively new Peranakan restaurant that was worth a visit.  Brimming with excitement and ignoring the very real possibility of getting into a state of postprandial somnolence, I visited this eatery recently over three separate sessions (almost back-to-back) in an enthusiastic attempt to savour the extensive menu offerings.

The quality of the fare here truly matches up to what I have grown accustomed to from my days of youth and left me yearning for more. A consistently impeccable standard of service demonstrated by the serving staff made every visit such an awesome experience and actually made us feel like we were dining in the company of good friends.

 

Kuih Pie Tee

The Kuih Pie Tee was a definite crowd-pleaser and served as a great start to the culinary adventure. Traditionally served deconstructed, the mild sweetness from the julienned turnip coupled with an appetite-whetting house-made zesty chili paste made for an exhilarating blend of flavours in the crisp shell.




Sambal Pisanag Jantung


The Sambal Pisang Jantung is a rarely seen Peranakan "salad" that is regrettably disappearing from so many menus these days and is almost at risk of becoming recherché. A true heritage dish, this welded the banana blossom with shrimps to form a truly spectacular culinary creation.


Ayam Buah Keluak


Just as the Japanese have their fugu and the Icelanders have their hákarl, Peranakans do have a potentially deadly ingredient in their culinary repertoire too. The Buah Keluak, a fruit from the Kepayang tree is poisonous if not prepared correctly. The Ayam Buah Keluak, a much-loved delicacy amongst Straits-born Chinese was a pleasant combination of tender chicken with this ambrosial "Peranakan black truffle". It was meticulously prepared to exacting standards here and the flesh of the Buah Keluak infused the gravy with its rich and smoky flavours to make this an absolute stunner that cannot be missed. If you could have only one dish (which I sincerely hope not), this had to be it. Noteworthy too was that unlike other eateries that mixed the flesh of the Buah Keluak with minced meat in an effort to cut down on the tedious preparation, the ones here were
filled with only the delicate kernel within the shell.


Ayam Sioh


I thoroughly enjoyed the Ayam Sioh too. This flavourful staple had a delectable sweetness from the combination of palm sugar and red sugar. The ketumbar (coriander powder) added so much depth of flavour without over-powering the dish. The more commonly encountered version used duck meat and was known as "Itek Sioh". The Ayam Sioh served  here was a refreshing change indeed for those who might not like the gaminess of duck.



Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa


Fans of poultry would also love the Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa. The former was a dish of fried chicken flavoured with turmeric and coriander whilst the latter was a spice-filled curry elevated to another level with the aromatic tang of lime leaves.




Sotong Masak Asam


Seafood aficionados would be thrilled to bits with the Sotong Masak Asam. This was squid cooked in tamarind with palm sugar and starfruit. A mix of sweet and citrusy notes to tease the palate, this definitely had a lot going on in a single dish without being overwhelming. Another squid item to look out for would be the Sambal Sotong which had just the right mix of spice to complement the springy freshness of the seafood.


Sambal Belachan and Cincalok


When revelling in Peranakan fare, it would be near sacrilegious to pass on the sambal belachan and Cincalok. These are necessities associated with this form of dining and the fine folks here did a brilliant job with combining the latter in an egg dish known as Telur Goreng Cincalok. The robust mixture of fermented krill with fresh lime juice, chili and shallots paired marvellously well with the savoury and fluffy omelette.


Chendol Melaka and Pandan Gula Melaka


What is a great meal without the equally decadent desserts? Both the Chendol Melaka with its velvety palm sugar syrup and Pandan Gula Melaka cake would undoubtedly serve as a fitting cap to a dining experience here. The dessert was a rather unique sweet treat of pillowy soft cushiony chiffon cake crowned with a drizzle of that luscious palm sugar syrup (Yes, we do have a sweet tooth!) and desiccated coconut.



Verdict?  -  BELLY ‘MUST-COME-BACK-AGAIN-AND-AGAIN’ TERRIFIC

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Not A Magical Meal


 
Themed Restaurants

 
How many diners would go to a themed restaurant and expect to be served great food?   Thankfully, we didn’t.  We decided to step into the magical world of Platform 1094, a Harry Potter / Wizard – themed café that had just sprung up near our hood, just for the sheer fun of immersing ourselves in a Hogwartish atmosphere and perhaps, whish our wands around to turn a bucket of truffle fries into a 2-bucket portion.

 
Well, can I just say for the record that the restaurant IS Platform 1094, and not Platform 9¾.  So never mind the quality of the food, the look and feel of it is as far from Hogwarts as Daniel Radcliffe is to Daniel Craig.

 
Step up to the Platform



Platform 1094

 
The first indication of  having been transported from the street off Serangoon Road to a magical place is to open the glass door to a shelf full of wizardry paraphernalia from the Halloween costume shop that says Mrs Lich Wands, Trinkets and Curios.  Cute.  Some of my friends who had been to the restaurant encouraged me to put on the witch’s hat, robe and brandish a wand.  No thanks.
You want to be Harry Potter or Voldermort?



After settling down at my table, we were served water in lab beakers while we browsed through their menu. So far, still cute.
Yup, its water. Not a pee sample.


We had decided to start off with some drinks.  The hubby ordered Mr Lich’s Flaming Brew which looked like a goblet of lemonade and blue curacao torched with a spoonful of bacardi and sprinkled with cinnamon powder to create some sparks of magic.  If it was not an alcoholic drink, kids would be thrilled with it.  For old fogies like us, we cupped our faces in our hands and rolled our eyes to the fact that it was such a lame gimmick that tasted like cough syrup.
So Tacky.  Blue Tack...see what I did there? Get it? Get it? 


The boy ordered the Butterscotch Ale which was a white foamy liquid topped with sugared star sprinkles.  I thought it was a pretty, girly, frou frou drink and a good one for my boy who was allergic to alcohol and believed in unicorns.

Unicorn Milk


Not enamored by the drinks, we then went on to the food, hoping to be mesmerized by the magic of their culinary skills even if everything else from theme décor, to service to drinks fell flat on their faces.

As I was an avid nibbler, we ordered almost everything from their list of appetizers.  We had the Spam Fries, which was strangely breaded and deep-fried but still tasty.  It’s Spam Fries, you can’t go wrong with Spam Fries. We also ordered the Truffle Fries, Platform Wings and Meatballs.  So far, these were just ok. One could really not find fault with anything deep-fried right?  The meatballs however were a heap of cheesy, tomatoey mess that looked unappetizing and way too over-saucy.
Spam Fries


A bowl of glob they called Meatballs



We also had their Mushroom Soup and Carrot and Beetroot Soup which were served in black cauldrons.  How witchy. So cute. These, I had to admit, were delicious, hearty and substantial as a meal on its own.
Mushroom Soup in a cauldron





Truffle Fries saved the day


For main course, the hubby had the Da Bomb Burger.  It was Da Bomb alright.  It was Da Bomb in his face.  No doubt the serving was huge.  However, it was a huge disappointment because it was too dry, and the patty was almost tasteless that he had to douse it in ketchup.  The accompanying french fries was served stone-cold.
The Burger that bombed


The boy had the Pesto Mayo Pork Ribs.  Although the meat on the ribs was tender and fell off the bone, he felt that the pesto mayo marinade made the pork ribs too saucy. In his words, “It was okay. Edible.  But I wouldn’t travel all this way for this.”

A plate of glob they called ribs


Now, that was how we felt about the restaurant, the drinks and the food.  Let me tell you about the service.  I am most finicky about service.  Quality of food and drinks can be improved.  However, with the lack of long-standing, good service staff faced by most restaurants in Singapore, I often wished that most restaurant owners would invest in proper training and nurturing of their service staff.

 
Customer Service

At Platform 1094, the staff were not engaging enough.  This was a themed restaurant.  Customers would be visiting this restaurant in the hope of having a fun meal.  Could we have some life please?

Our dishes, beakers, and cauldrons were left piling on our table as we polished off each dish.  Staff were walking past our table and had not had the common sense to remove the dirty dishes.

Could someone please take these away?


When a staff took our order, and it was a long list of order, he seemed to be struggling to remember everything that we ordered. So I asked him if he would like to write them all down.  However he said, “No need.”  Well, he was wrong, because we were accidentally served with yet another bucket of Spam Fries that we had not ordered. 

When I tried to make a reservation earlier for dinner at 6.30pm, the staff that took my call said, “Sorry we are fully booked for dinner.”   So I decided to ask if I could then make a reservation for 5.30pm, perhaps we could be there for drinks and see if we wanted to stay on for dinner if it was not too crowded.  He said that was ok as the restaurant would not be too busy then.  He was right, the restaurant had more life than my underpants at that time.  But even when we finished our meal at about 7.30pm, I still had more life in my underpants.  There were several empty tables around us with reserved signs on them.  What a waste!  If I was a restaurant owner, and I knew that I could have the potential of filling my restaurant throughout the evening, I would never tell a potential customer that the restaurant was fully booked for dinner.

I know this post may be quite scathing about the restaurant.  To be fair, I had no high expectations of the food when I had decided to pay Platform 1094 a visit.  However, from the décor, to the service to the food and drinks, at least try to score on a couple of winning factors that would bring your customers back right?  I would not think of coming back just for the Carrot and Beetroot Soup served in a cauldron. Really.

 
Verdict?  -  BELLY ‘FALL-FLAT-ON-THE-FACE’ DISAPPOINTING

 

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Nasi Lemak At The Coconut Club


Is It Really That Expensive?

I came across a few blog posts about this new kid on the block along  Ann Siang Hill which "serves that expensive Nasi Lemak". I am not a Nasi Lemak fan but the amount of press about this local dish which was priced at S$12.80, got me really curious, and ready for that hike across the CBD to find out why it was worth that hefty price tag. I think I found my answer.

 Value For Money

The Nasi Lemak came with Ayam Goreng Rempah which was a  perfectly marinated fried chicken that was crispy on the outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis,  peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough.  It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown  Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres like the one at Changi Village or at Adam Road.

But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback? 

e outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis, peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough. It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres in Changi Village and Adam Road. But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback?e outside and so tender on the inside, ikan bilis, peanuts, a fried egg and a dollop of chili sambal which I liked but my lunch companions thought was not spicy enough. It was a substantial dish. Yes you can get something similar for less and tastes better at more renown Nasi Lemak stalls at food centres in Changi Village and Adam Road. But we were on Ann Siang Hill right? And we tucked into a great meal within the cool comforts of an air conditioned restaurant where we were served by very engaging staff. I think that price tag of S$12.80 isn't about the Nasi Lemak you see. We were delighted by a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lemak which is an Indonesian style vegetable dish in a thin coconut broth. We also finished our meal with a complimentary piece of Kueh Salat each for dessert. I must add, that Kueh Salat was so soft and yummy. And here's why I truly think my Nasi Lemak meal was worth S$12.80 and will be going back for more....The serving staff said," We are offering you these complimentary dishes as we would appreciate your honest feedback before deciding whether or not to add it to our menu." Wow! I was bowled over. How many eateries out there do value customers' feedback?
Verdict?  -  BELLY WORTH IT

 
About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

 


Monday, 24 October 2016

My Experience As A Mystery Diner At O Comptoir



How many times would you see restaurants springing up all over Singapore but some barely lasting a year?  Many restaurant owners told me that the one thing that plaqued the food and beverage industry in Singapore, and possibly the biggest contributor to its transience was the lack of good staff. I disagree.  The ONLY thing that would make or break a business, whether or not it was a restaurant, would be the failure to put its customers first.  Customer centricity would be key to businesses thriving in an environment of cut-throat competition.  Those operating within the food and beverage industry should know this best.

 

Over the weekend, I participated in a Mystery Diner program at a crepe and cider restaurant, called O Comptoir.  I was contacted via Instagram after one of my numerous visits to its sister restaurant, O Batignolles.  As an avid foodie, I would never fail to post my photos and reviews of the food and service of restaurants that I had visited, and that would be probably why they contacted me to be part of their Mystery Diner program. I was truly impressed by the management’s dedication to customer centricity as they invested time and resource to ensure that customers at their restaurants, O Batignolles and O Comptoir were delighted by their food and the service.  They were open to comments and suggestions and were genuine in their intent to improve.  I was bowled over.  Frankly, beyond the usual post-dining feedback/comments forms that most restaurants had, I did not think that there were any restaurants in Singapore that had actually implemented a Mystery Diner program.

 

It was a perfect decision for me to accept the invitation to be part of the program as I had never visited O Comptoir before.  This gave me an opportunity to get to know the restaurant and what was offered on its menu.  Moreover, as I sat within my organization’s Customer Centricity Committee, I wanted to leverage my experience to present this as a best practice case study to my committee members at work.

 

The program required me to read the program questionnaire at least twice before participating, and then take down every detail from the time I made the reservation right through to my experience of the food, the service and the ambience, to the way my bill was presented.

 

These were my observations at O Comptoir.

 

My reservation was made with the restaurant’s manager who noted down every detail including my preferences and any special occasion that I was celebrating then.  When I turned up at the venue, he served me personally, greeted me and led me to my table, asking, “Would this table be okay for you?”

 

He was very knowledgeable with the menu, explaining what O Comptoir as a restaurant was all about, what was on offer on its menu, and the type of drinks that would pair well with my crepe or galette.  I learnt then, cider and crepe was a marriage made in heaven.  When I was looking rather lost and undecided about what to order, he made some recommendations and intuitively zeroed in on the healthy options when he noted that I was picky with my food choices.  He explained that the galette was made of buckwheat flour which supported my gluten-free diet and if I wanted to choose a galette that was lighter and more diet-friendly, he pointed to a list of healthier options from which I could choose from. This demonstrated his interest in his customers enough to engage them in a way that made them feel that they could enjoy a meal without having to worry about dietary preferences. He did not even wait for me to request for gluten-free options on the menu.  He had just intuitively connected with my needs when he overheard David asking me, ”What can you eat from here?”  

 

He then proceeded to ask what I wanted to drink.  He mentioned that the best pairing for galette would be a cider.  However, I told him that I preferred a glass of wine instead and proceeded to ask for his recommendations from the wine list.  He demonstrated a good knowledge of the wine list, but requested that I went ahead to order my galette first as specific types of wine would pair better with a specific galette. 

 

David ordered the Khao San Road, a galette with Thai-inspired flavours that was made up of prawns, mango, peanuts, beansprouts and mint sauce.  I ordered the Duck It which was a galette filled with duck confit, caramelised onions and potatoes.  He asked if we would like to share a side salad to complete our meal which was a nice touch.

 

Knowing that we preferred a medium to full bodied red wine, he went on to recommend the Haut Medoc.  I asked if we could sample the wine first and he then brought back 2 sample pegs of Haut Medoc.  I did not like the taste of it and decided to opt for the Malbec instead and he happily acceded to my request to change my choice of wine.

 

So far, the manager handled our orders with a lot of enthusiasm and even when we asked to make some changes to our orders at last minute, he was unfazed.  David asked for the mint sauce to be removed from his Khao San Road galette. He was then asked if it was okay if they added more cheese to his galette so that the dish would not turn out too dry.  That was really thoughtful. I have experienced a server  from another restaurant who took my order, accepted the changes to my order, then served a dish that was almost inedible.  When I indicated that I could not take another bite from the dish, he just shrugged his shoulders, and looked at me accusingly as if to say, “Well, you made that choice.”  At O Comptoir, they were very serious about the quality of the food served to their customers and were keen to ensure that every plate of food leaving their kitchen would be perfect and to their customers’ satisfaction.

 

I asked for my Duck It galette to be made without potatoes.  This did not compromise the dish in any way because the galette was filled to the brim with duck confit and caramelised onions.  The portion was ample and definitely value for money.

 

When we finished our meal, they asked if we wanted coffee and dessert but like I said, the galette was huge.  I did not have any space left for dessert which I was sure would have been equally as delightful as the galette.  Instead, we decided to have glass of cider each.  David had the original apple cider and I had the pear cider.  The pear cider was so delicious that I regretted not listening to the manager about pairing it with my galette earlier.

 

We really enjoyed our evening at O Comptoir.  Most importantly, we were very impressed by the Mystery Diner program which proved that O Comptoir and her sister restaurant O Batignolles were serious about putting their customers first.  The only way that businesses can stay sustainable are those that strive to delight their customers and take customers’ opinions seriously.




Our Verdict?  -  BELLY IMPRESSIVE SERVICE AND FOOD



About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.