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.

 



 
 
 
 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Osteria Art Always Delights


Beppe De Vito's culinary excellence at Osteria Art was worth waxing lyrical about.  

The restaurant  offered good, unpretentious Italian cuisine that combines rusticity with a touch of contemporary flair.

Having dined there several times, we have never once been let down by the quality of the food. 
 
Our visit to the restaurant last week was no different. Osteria Art featured some of the season's best  creations so thoughtfully put together by the talented team.

 
We had made plans for dinner there with the sole intent of indulging on the rare and prized white truffles but alas, this was sold out for the day by the time we arrived. Putting our disappointment aside, we settled for the black truffle which came in the form of an antipasto, the Burrata with Porcini Mushrooms and Truffles. Filled with a slight tinge of sweetness, the black truffles provided its trademark fragrance which intermingled with the soft, velvety texture of the burrata. The porcini mushrooms provided an interesting bite to this creation whilst further bolstering this creation with its umami-filled flavours.

 
A decadent pasta main, the Tagliolini with  sea urchins harvested off the Sicilian coast  was truly a stunning masterpiece which showcased this fine ingredient so fittingly. Brimming with rich flavours, the pasta was cooked al dente in a briny sea urchin sauce, crowned with its creamy flesh and further graced with a sprinkle of shaved black truffles. This had a reasonable amount of sauce to it which served to complement the tagliolini without resulting in an overly soggy creation.

 
Aesthetically presented, the Osteria Art Tiramisu was a perfect cap to the dinner. Decadent without being cloyingly sweet, the tiramisu had a hidden and unique twist to it with the addition of powdered Pop Rocks which created an occasional fizziness that melted in the mouth as it dissolved. This was just enough to wow without stealing the limelight from this quintessnentially popular Italian dessert. Artfully embellished with both white and dark chocolate, this provided a delicate balance of pleasant bitter and sweet flavours.
 
Well done, Osteria Art for never failing to delight. Your hallmark consistency in quality of food and service can only mean that Jerome and I will come back for more.


Our Verdict?  -  BELLY CONSISTENTLY EXCELLENT


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.

 


Let Them Eat Cake With Angelina


I am a little bit more pedestrian when it comes to food, compared to my more well-travelled brother. 

My knowledge and experience of French food had never extended beyond a Croissant,  Duck Confit and Seafood Bouillabaisse.  Jerome on the other hand was more adventurous and would not hesitate to indulge in food served up at a restaurant that had built its reputation across the world.
 
Last week, he paid a visit to one of these, Angelina.
 
Hailing from Paris, the illustrious tearoom in its flagship location situated at Rue Du Rivoli in the French capital was a regular venue for hobnobbing amongst media celebrities, talented fashion designers and notable poets. This was managed by Groupe Bertrand today, a well-known name in the French restaurant industry.

 

The local outlet here featured a list of Parisian classics and he commenced his meal with the Traditional Crusted Onion Soup. This had a deep flavour profile ranging from beefy to naturally sweet with a pleasant tinge of tartness as a balance. Capped with an airy and flaky pastry that is melt-in-your-mouth perfect, the fragrant soup had a generous amount of velvety onions and an adequate portion of melted cheese which served to provide just the right consistency to the tasty broth.

 

The main course for this evening was a Beef cube-roll. Prepared with a 120-day grain-fed Australian Angus, this was served with sweet potato fries and warm, savoury red wine veal jus. Fork tender with its juices sealed in, the steak had a good meat to fat ratio with the latter sporting a soft and almost buttery texture. A sprinkle of herbs prior to serving further enlivened this menu item.

 

A unique range of pastries were available here and they were perennially in-demand. He had intended to have the Millefeuille, a caramelised puff pastry with light Bourbon cream but this was sold out. He had always believed that when confronted with tough menu choices, the solution would be to choose more than one. So, he selected the rich and chocolaty Forêt-Noire which was prepared with a dark chocolate biscuit, Amarena cherries, cherry confit and light vanilla mousse with the second being the Cheesecake Cassis, a citrusy number with crunchy shortbread almond biscuit, black current cream and cheesecake mousse.
 


I laughingly joked with Jerome that this was a meal fit for Marie Antoinette and he should be declaring, "Qu 'ils mangent de la brioche".


Our Verdict?  -  BELLY INDULGENTLY GOOD


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, 28 July 2016

Singapore Welcomes Pizza Express


Pizza Is Not Junk Food

 I know I know, not another review about yet another pizza restaurant.  We can’t help it.  My brother Jerome and I love our pizzas.  He preferred the thick crust version and I adored the thin crust ones.  At home, Mom called it junk food. 

When we were younger, Jerome and I were brought up on Mom’s cooking of low salt and low fat dishes daily,  that we often had to sneak out for an unhealthy snack of chicken nuggets, burgers or curry puffs.  I remembered that even Dad had big meals during lunchtime at the office, anticipating a rather bland dinner.  He often had  roast duck, roast pork,  roti prata and soup kambing or anything else that would not have passed Mum’s scrutiny, governed by her “quack nutritionist” certification.  

Jerome and I can attest to the fact that pizza is not junk food.  It is worthy of claiming its own food group, under the label of “Healthy Food”. This is particularly so for the pizzas served at Pizza Express. How can a pizza that is made from premium flour, hand tossed and served with the freshest ingredients full of goodness from the garden be unhealthy?

So yes, there is cause for celebration.  Jerome had just informed me that Pizza Express had just opened its first outlet here in Singapore at Scotts Square.  In the past, I often looked forward to work trips to Hong Kong so that I could dash into Pizza Express at the airport for a quick meal before heading back to Singapore.




This post is a review done by Jerome when he visited Pizza Express yesterday for dinner.  No, I was not invited.  Sometimes, my brother can be quite useless.

 Pizza Express In Singapore

 Pizza Express was founded by Peter Boizot, a restaurateur and philanthropist in 1965 when he first obtained a pizza oven and hired a chef during his trip to Italy and set up the first outlet in Wardour Street, London. The rest is history and Pizza Express has since expanded regionally and globally over the years into the rest of Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East.

Jerome loved his pizzas smothered with tomato sauce and the creations at Pizza Express hit the spot with a good slather of homemade passata. The pizzas are available in both the classic (original and unchanged since 1965) and Romano crusts with the former being thicker and the latter being a thinner and crispier version. These are made from freshly kneaded dough that is prepared daily from premium flour.

A good range of pizzas are available and it was impossible to resist having a few at a single sitting.  Jerome ordered 3 whole pizzas for 2 persons to share.  So I am quite annoyed he had not invited me to dinner last night. 

The Lava from the classic range was topped with fresh olives, burrata, mozzarella, sweet cherry tomatoes, whole basil leaves and passata. The creaminess of the burrata created a delightful burst of flavours with each bite. He favoured the thicker crusts but the Romano pizzas here had made him rethink his preferences. The Pomodoro Pesto (Romano) was the pièce de résistance for him with its thin crust, which still provided a very satisfying bite. Crowned with mozzarella, passata, cherry tomatoes, garlic pesto sauce, basil leave and pesto Genovese, this pizza had left him impressed with how all the ingredients complemented each other to create a wonderful symphony of sensations for the palate.



The third pizza, a Margherita with the classic crust was a creation of mozzarella, basil and passata. So simple, so comforting and definitely a perennial crowd-pleaser.

 
His Verdict?  -  BELLY HEARTY YET HEALTHY

 
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 June 2016

Hawker Food For A Cause


I think I found my answer to indulging in great hawker food without the guilt.  No I am not talking about following in the footsteps of fitness fanatics who might opt for fish soup without the noodles, plain rice instead of chicken rice,  Fried Carrot Cake without the Carrot Cake or Fried Hokkien Mee without the Mee, at the hawker centers.  I am talking about indulging in great hawker fare for a good cause.

Singaporeans within my age group will remember Rasa Singapura Food Centre, an iconic hawker centre that was located at the current Tudor Court in Tanglin during the 1970s-80s.  As a child, I remembered having a feast of Fried Carrot Cake (fried to a crisp), Char Kway Teow (complete with lots of sweet dark sauce and cockles),  Satay and more for supper with my parents. When this beloved hawker centre had to go to make way for new, modern and soulless buildings, our entire nation grieved.   I think very few people understood that Rasa Singapura Food Centre, meant more than good food to us.  It was a place that bonded families and friends over great Singaporean Hawker fare, my uncles took their then girlfriends there for date nights, we fell out with our siblings over the last stick of Satay there, we chatted about our career ambitions, new love, upcoming marriage, getting keys to our new HDB flats, kids, and just about everything about a typical Singaporean life, at Rasa Singapura Food Centre.  Of course, I grieved when the bulldozers came for a piece of my childhood.

 At the end of 2015, Josephine Ng launched the New Rasa Singapura, at the old premises of the Tanglin Post Office, just across the road from the former Rasa Singapura Food Centre.   The New Rasa Singapura, tries to preserve the traditional flavors of our well-loved local hawker delights.

More importantly, the reason why one could indulge without the guilt, was that Josephine had established New Rasa Singapura as a social enterprise with the aim of providing training and jobs that could help the disadvantaged reintegrate into society.  Through New Rasa Singapura, Josephine had been helping the less fortunate including people with physical or hearing impairment, recovering stroke patients, and mature vulnerable individuals.

Her menu boasts a wide selection of dishes that ranged from familiar favourites  which are reasonably priced like Mee Rebus, Hainanese Chicken Rice, and Soup Kambing.  Did I mention the weekday lunch specials cost only $8?


We tried the Dry Laksa, Beef Rendang, Chicken Wings and Satay.  I found the Dry Laksa not spicy enough and a little too soggy but the serving staff told us that we could request for a spicier version in future and they would be happy to entertain any special requests like “less oil, less salt etc” so my fitness fanatic friends would be happy to know that.  The  Beef Rendang is not called “Must Try Beef Rendang” for nothing.  It was so full of flavor and there was quite a lot of tender chunks of beef in the dish.  We had to stop ourselves from ordering an extra helping of rice to go with the delicious gravy.  The Chicken Wings was the husband’s favorite.  He loved the traditional prawn paste chicken that we often ordered at Cantonese restaurants.  The Chicken Wings served here were also marinated with prawn paste and fried to a crisp.  They did not go overboard with the marinade so I was glad the dish did not turn out too salty, like other versions served at most restaurants.  The Satays were well grilled and I liked that the meat was so tender that they fell off the skewers.  I was glad the peanut sauce that accompanied the Satay was not oily at all, unlike those served at some hawker centres which came covered with a thick film of oil.

 While New Rasa Singapura can never bring back the same atmosphere and the old world charm of old Rasa Singapura Food Centre, the fact that we were still served good local fare, for a great cause was enough reason for me to spread the word and make a return visit to try the other dishes that I have yet to try.

Beyond the good food, I am awed by the tremendous effort and energy put into New Rasa Singapura as a social enterprise that aims to serve the community with its heart-centric business sense.

 

New Rasa Chicken Wings

 


 

Satay

 

 

Must Have Beef Rendang

 

 

Dry Laksa

 

 

Our Verdict?  -  BELLY GOOD FOOD FOR A GREAT CAUSE

 

 

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, 20 June 2016

A Culinary Adventure At Epicurious


We see restaurants come and go every time.  Fast-moving trends, fastidious customers, unsustainable quality or service and annoyingly greedy landlords could, among other reasons, be key to the fickle nature of the food and beverage industry in Singapore.  I applaud the tenacity of restaurants that have survived the onslaught of changes through the years.  One of these is Epicurious at Robertson Quay.

 

My family had seen Epicurious develop from a little restaurant offering a limited menu 14 years ago, to the restaurant it is today, experimenting with different ingredients and cuisines to create dishes that are unique.

 

I remembered accidentally stumbling into Epicurious when I was buying some gourmet bread from Simply Bread which was located just a few doors away.  That was how I met Helena, the owner of Epicurious.  She also procured her bread from Simply Bread and that was how it became one of our favorite restaurants for a simple wine and cheese dinner.  That was 14 years ago.  My son Joel was still little then and often bounced into the restaurant calling out at the top of his voice, “Aunty Helena!”  14 years after, Epicurious is still there, and still getting its bread from Simply Bread which has since shifted and Joel still bounces into the restaurant, calling out “Aunty Helena!” at the top of his voice even at 23 years old.  Also, the restaurant built its success over the years on great service that was personal and familial, as well as its stupendous brunch fare with Helena’s signature touch of Epicurean fun which can be found in dishes like Fried Poached Egg and Rainbow Cheese Toast.  I wrote a little about the dishes she served at brunch that were quite different in a previous blog post:  http://whatmakesmybellytick.blogspot.sg/2016/05/breakfast-will-not-be-boring-again.html

 

Helena’s sense of fun did not stop at brunch fare.  I often stalked her instagram feed to see what her wonderfully crazy mind concocted that would be on her “blackboard” specials.  I would swoon over her Ribeye Salad with Crispy Kale, Soy-roasted Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds, all held together with a spicy Thai-style vinaigrette.  Even better, was that a dish like that for me, was personal trainer-approved.   My friends who are rake-thin would have the advantage of tucking into one of Helena’s more yummy but sinful creations prepared in February this year, in conjunction with the Chinese New Year.  This was the  Creamy Salted Egg Yolk Spaghetti  with Prawns, Baby Scallops, Crab and Asparagus.  There were days I thought Helena had lost her mind when she had decided to go “all the way” with her sense of adventure and came up with a Croquette Salad which consisted of mesclun greens, pineapple and cucumber salad tossed with a sweet and sour dressing made up of mango, chilli and lime juice, then topped up with  a couple of crispy Corned Beef Croquettes.  I classified this as experimental “loopiness” but my friends labelled it  as ingenious. Helena called it, “Hel’s Kitchen”.

 

Intrigued, I pulled my friend Shaun along with me for dinner at “Hel’s Kitchen” last week.  I understood that Helena’s ingenuity had led to her putting together an amazing new menu of Peranakan-inspired dishes that, as usual, came with Helena’s experimental flare. 

 

I first teased Shaun with one of her instagram post which showed an extremely pretty picture of Helena’s version of  a chicken dish called Ayam Sioh. He was sold immediately.   It was based on a 150 year-old Peranakan recipe taught to her by her friend.  While she changed the technique of preparing the dish, the taste, she claimed, remained true to the original recipe.  Helena’s version was made up of Sakura chicken breasts which is antibiotic and hormone-free, cooked with spices made from tamarind, coriander seed, and shallot.  And because we all try to go low-carb at dinner (Helena included), she topped the chicken breasts with carrot “noodles” stir-fried with Thai basil and laksa leaf and garnished with egg floss. That dish looked so enticing in her Instagram post.  So I was gamed to try the rest.

 

We ordered the Banana Leaf Barramundi.  That was Shaun’s favourite dish hands down that night.  The fish was lightly spiced with a sweet and sour chilli paste, baked in banana leaf and served with char-grilled okra and cherry tomatoes.  Shaun thought it was quite a stunning work of art really.  I ordered the Bibik Bouillabaisse  which was a light seafood bouillabaisse prepared with traditional Peranakan spices that enhanced and did not overwhelm the seafood at all.  We also tried the Spicy Winged Bean Salad which was tasty, addictive and not overpoweringly spicy.  As it was our “diet cheat day”,  we decided to get bolder with our orders.  We had the Popcorn Chicken with Salted Egg Yolk Sauce (don’t tell my personal trainer) and the Vietnamese Street Wings that paired very well with our bottle of white wine.

 

We were so stuffed at the end of our dinner and had no room for her equally unique Peranakan-inspired desserts like her Coconut, Kaya and Gula Melaka French Toasts with caramelized banana. 

 

Our dinner however, blew our mind about the culinary ingenuity one could come up with, when one had an opened mind, a spirit of adventure, and a voracious appetite for food and life.  That was uniquely Helena, wasn’t it? 
 
Epicurious might have been in existence at the same spot at Robertson Quay for the past 14 years, but might not be there for long as the restaurant's lease comes up in August.  So if you haven't tried it yet, it's really quite something to have dinner at Hel's Kitchen.

 

 

Banana Leaf Barramundi

 

 

Bibik Bouillabaisse

 

 

Spicy Winged Bean Salad

 

 

Popcorn Chicken With Salted Egg Yolk Sauce

 

 

Vietnamese Street Wings

 

 

 

 

 

Our Verdict?  -  BELLY INGENIOUSLY YUMMY

 

 

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, 7 June 2016

Designing My Food Fantasies With DW Workshop

Every few months, a new restaurant opens in Singapore and serves up similar fare that would not get far from what was being served at an older restaurant just down the road.  At best, you would have yet another restaurant to visit where you could hopefully find a vacant table on a weekend flooded by brunch-fanatic Singaporeans.  Oh yes, I do love brunch fare.  I often write about the food I eat at restaurants that serve up All Day Breakfast.  Here are some of my previous posts:  http://whatmakesmybellytick.blogspot.sg/2015/07/brunch-hopping-around-singapore.html and http://whatmakesmybellytick.blogspot.sg/2016/05/breakfast-will-not-be-boring-again.html

 

What I completely abhor though, was to be made to pay  through my nose for a plate of pallid chicken chipolatas and scrambled eggs that looked like yesterday’s dinner after a very boozy evening.  And if I had to drag myself out of bed  during a weekend, and into a restaurant that I had picked to provide my first meal of the day, it had better be a good one.

 

So I was delighted to be invited by a friend who was about to open her new bistro, DW Workshop, to do a taste test of her All Day Breakfast menu. 

 

Her bistro is located in a pre-war colonial bungalow surrounded by lush greenery at Rochester Drive. Stepping into the well-lit, cozy and laidback space within the bistro, made me feel like my weekend had just started.  I really appreciated that hour of peace “in the boonies” on a  Tuesday afternoon in between back to back meetings at work.

 

The first question I asked owners, Edalin and Sebastian was what did the DW in their brand DW Workshop meant?  Sebastian explained that DW meant Design your World.  He wanted to create a safe space for anyone to design their world, design their lifestyle and design their space which was interesting because, this was no longer purely a bistro focused solely on serving food.  The bungalow was divided into distinct spaces that served specific purposes according to how you wanted to match a specific space with your favorite food and the company that dines with you.  If you love an afternoon spent with good friends and family, you could have a meal at a communal dining table or a coffee table and sofa area that resembled the dining room and the living room of a typical home.  If you preferred a traditional bistro style table sitting alfresco or indoors, that was available too.  If you just wanted to hang out alone around the kitchen counter to watch the world go by or chat up the crew, you would be delighted that the kitchen counter felt like you were sitting around in your mother’s kitchen.  You might prefer to have a beer by the bar just outside on a balmy night. That was a useful spot to “park” the husband while you went shopping at Rochester mall or if you were attending a workshop within the vicinity.  You don’t drink?  Perhaps you might want to have a cup of coffee and a cake at the outdoor coffee patio where you can pick your choice of a cup of stove-brewed coffee or a cup of drip coffee made from a NASA Engineer-designed drip machine called Pour Steady.  It looked like the pilot’s control panel from the Starship Enterprise.  I was told it was the only one available in Singapore.  The drip coffee we had tasted clean and smooth.  Just standing by the coffee patio and smelling the coffee aroma wafting in the air was enough to give you a caffeine kick.











However, the main purpose of setting up DW Workshop was to literally provide a space for learning and designing while you could enjoy great food too.   While we were there, they were just setting up the tools and materials to hold a workshop soon where you could learn to design paper jewelry.

Now let’s talk about the food.  I loved the way they have prepared their food and I could tell from the food served that that menu was inspired by their love for all things beautiful about life.  I could taste the freshness of the food, and the dedication they have put into the cooking. Edalin and Sebastian were finicky about freshness and often used the phrase “wholesome food from the earth”.  When you tasted each dish, you would know they were walking the talk.

Here are a selection of must-try dishes on their All Day Breakfast menu, courtesy of the good folks at DW Workshop.  The food was just so heartwarmingly delicious, but don’t take our word for it.

A Selection Of Breads And Flavoured Butters

 

 

What we had was a tomato bread, olive bread and brioche, served with sundried tomato butter, tahini butter and lemon zest butter.

 

Crab Salad Croissant


Rosti


 

Braised Minced Beef With Roasted Potatoes

 

Homemade Granola With Yogurt

 

 

 

 

 

Our Verdict?  -  BELLY AWESOME

 
Photo credit: Most of these photos in this post was taken by Kasia Auyang.
 

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.