Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Esquina at Jiak Chuan Street: Spanish Tapas by Carlos Montobbio

Esquina at Jiak Chuan Street has been one of the hottest place for modern tapas and innovative bites in Singapore. There have been some changes in staff but the addition of Executive Chef Carlos Montobbio sees the menu refreshed with Spanish flair and Asian inspiration.

His Oysters (S$7) make a tantalising start to the evening with the salty, tangy and umami notes dancing on the creaminess of the oyster.

Esquina's Spanish Omelette ($14) might prove comforting to some. It's confit onion, potato, olive oil caviar on a thin slice of crispy toast. It was pleasant but muted compared to the oyster and other dishes.

I loved the Spanish Nigiri ($6), a sushi impression cleverly made from bacalao brandade and bright red roasted bell pepper. The salted cod with garlic oil was an exquisite treat. The whole thing is such eye candy too.

One of the mainstays of Spanish tapas is the Grilled Spanish Octopus ($28). The octopus is first made tender from a sous vide bath, and then grilled for smoky finish. Jerusalem artichoke, burnt onion and oyster leaf finish the ensemble.

If you are a fan of small or game birds cooked medium rare, the Pigeon ($22) at Esquina should please you with its almost bloody pink centre. Pigeon (and poultry in general) is not quite my thing, so I enjoyed the sides more - the forest berries escabeche, burnt rosemary polenta and crisp shallots.

For a play on textures, try the Beef Cheeks ($18, two pieces) with sesame pickled cabbage, wrapped in a corn tortilla and served on baked bone marrow. This was gorgeous to behold and taste.

Out of the many excellent dishes, my favourite is the US "Family Reserve" Beef Ribeye ($38) with charred leeks and romesco, sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Seared expertly on the outside but with a medium rare centre, the beef was the perfect combination of juicy meat and browned edges.

The Saffron Paella ($24) surprised us with delightful bits of crispiness. You know how we love scraping the bottom of the claypot for the burnt parts? Well, at least I do. Those are the best parts. The paella also clearly had the benefit of a very good stock. Pan fried red snapper, chorizo and snow peas not only added more flavour but contrasting colour as well.

For dessert, you have to try the "BBC" dessert ($15): Banana, Beer and Caramel. It totally works. Also because Chef Carlos tried really hard to find the right beer for the beer ice cream. It paired really well with the creamed banana and caramel sauce.

Esquina is cosy and small; it's mostly counter seating in a tiny corner shophouse at Jiak Chuan Road. But come watch the chefs in action and be rewarded with conversation worthy nibbles.

16 Jiak Chuan Road
Singapore 089267
Tel: +65 6222-1616
Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 12pm - 230pm, 6pm - 1030pm
Sat: 6pm - 1030pm

Many thanks to Esquina for the invite.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gourmet food store jones the grocer at Dempsey Hill refreshed!

Do you remember when Australia’s jones the grocer first opened in Singapore? It brought us interesting exotic products to gawk at, and a lovely dining space to enjoy brunch. The walk-in cheese room, the first of its kind here, created waves. It was all very "atas" (upmarket). That was almost nine years ago. How time flies.

Now with LMVH's backing, the famed gourmet food purveyor is introducing new products for everyday living.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Amex Platinum Credit Card: Dining & Drinks Privileges

I'm sure you love food and know many foodie friends. We love to try out new restaurants or just visit our favourite ones more often, but let's face it - the cost does add up. That is why programs like the Palate Dining Privileges and The Far Card that get you up to 50% off your dining bills are a godsend.

Here's how you can get both for FREE! The American Express Platinum Credit Card automatically comes with membership to both. On top of that, you can enjoy complimentary drinks with Chillax. Explore the world of bespoke cocktails, craft gins and sophisticated whiskies at over a dozen of Singapore's most fashionable bars.

Palate also lets you enjoy 15% savings on beverages at some of the island’s trendiest watering holes.

The Far Card Classic Membership (worth S$425) gets you fabulous savings for unlimited visits at your choice of 10 restaurants at Fairmont Singapore, Swissôtel The Stamford Singapore, Equinox Complex and Swissôtel Merchant Court.

Palate has just added more restaurants to its selection:

Lawry's needs no introduction. Its beef is aged 21 days or more before being roasted over beds of rock salt for exquisite flavour and tenderness. Dine on fine American cuisine in the opulent surroundings at the Mandarin Gallery restaurant commanding sweeping views of Orchard Road.

2) Senso Ristorante & Bar (see also first photo)
Authentic Italian cuisine marries modern artistry at Senso. This elegant restaurant, housed in neo-classical colonial architecture, has a beautiful courtyard. The menu features seasonal highlights that bring different parts of Italy to diners. 

Did you know "lime" means to hang out with friends in Caribbean? This shophouse eatery in Chinatown is inspired by all things Caribbean, so expect to find fish cakes, Jamaican jerk chicken and classic cocktails showcasing world-class Caribbean rums.

It's no surprise Singaporeans are taking well to the rich seafood flavours that Cajun and Creole cuisine offers. At Dancing Crab, you can enjoy all manner of seafood from Boston lobsters to Dungeness crabs in the lively and exuberant atmosphere of New Orleans, Louisiana.

5) Napoleon Food & Wine Bar
Modern European cuisine has its match with great wine, and this is one place where you can savour excellent pairings. Napoleon Food & Wine Bar has 32 fine wines by the glass (including Grands Crus Classés). Whether you're new to wines or a connoisseur, there's something here for you. 

And with effect from 1 March 2016, they will be adding three more fabulous dining spots!

Transport yourself to Paris with at this Belle Epoque inspired Salon de The. The beautiful tearoom at the Capitol drew queues at its opening for the famed confections. The all-day dining menu includes viennoiseries sandwiches, salads and omelettes, entrees and main courses like herbed pork rack and Parma ham wrapped cod. Don't miss the Mont-Blanc pastry and the Old-Fashioned Hot Chocolate L’Africain (the recipes are still well-guarded after 100 years).

OLA Cocina del Mar
Spanish restaurant and bar OLA serves live seafood in a cosy and casual environment at Marina Bay Financial Tower 3. Chef/owner Daniel Chavez brings 18 years experience; you may know him from his days at Santi. Signature include the gazpacho (cold tomato and cucumber soup), “Pulpo a la brasa”- grilled Spanish octopus with chick peas, romesco sauce and black olives, “Ceviche”- marinated sustainable fish with lime, chili and red onions, and “Cochinillo OLA”- roasted suckling pig with orange caramel and sweet & sour sauce.

TWG Salon
TWG isn't just about luxurious teas. At the finely appointed tea salons, they have come up with a tea-infused gastronomy menu. The chefs have found innovative ways to pair ingredients with tea (blended, infused, powdered, smoked, marinated, blanched, confit, seasoned or even pickled with tea). For example, the Chicken Bourguignonne (pictured above), is a perfectly composed creation of Anxin chicken infused in Smoky Earl Grey for 16 hours and cooked overnight at very low temperature to preserve the delicate and smouldering notes of pine and sweet touches of bergamot.

Check out all the benefits that the Amex Platinum card offers, especially the dining and drinks privileges.

With such great deals, grab a friend and enjoy 50% off your bill at these and other restaurants in the Palate and Far Card program. Your foodie pals will be ever so grateful! After a gorgeous dinner, you can adjourn to a nice bar with Chillax perks. We should certainly drink to friendship.

This post is brought to you by American Express. All photos courtesy of Amex and respective restaurants.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

I'm in The Guardian again!

Hey look! The Guardian featured blogger recommendations on favourite Chinese restaurants and I'm in it!

For a Chinese eatery, I recommended JB Ah Meng for something a little quirky and unusual. This busy back-alley zi char joint has been drawing the attention of international chefs including the likes of Tetsuya Wakuda and Ferran Adria. I also have a full blog post coming up on JB Ah Meng, so watch out for that.

This is part of my involvement in FoodieHub, which if you haven't visited, you should. It's the place to check out a local expert's take on the best eats in town all over the world. It was formerly known as Chowzter.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tang Steamboat at 25 Keong Saik Road

photo courtesy of Tang

Happy lunar new year! Steamboat is a hot favourite for reunion dinners. As a kid, I never liked it much but these days, I can't get enough of it. Swishing your favourite ingredients around in a delicious hot broth, savouring the different dips and of course, the long and languid chats with fellow dining companions. Steamboat is very much a communal activity.

I've found one more place to add to my list of good steamboat places in Singapore. Tang Restaurant, Bar & Supperclub at 25 Keong Saik Road.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Giveaway: Awavez Rugged Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Gong Xi Fa Cai! One more contest giveaway to ring in the lunar new year.

Music is a big thing in my family, so we love instruments and sound equipment. Food for the ears, you could say.

I recently got to review the a waterproof Bluetooth speaker from Awavez, a Singapore-based company specialising in rugged gadgets and accessories.

This thing really floats in water! It's not often I see a waterproof, shockproof, drop-proof portable speaker that is built to withstand military standard outdoor activities. The tough silicon casing sure looks industrial grade. This is the thing you want to bring on your sporty adventures - hiking, cycling, kayaking - or simply to amp up any beach or pool party. It might even come in useful to play music in your bathroom.

The speaker is rated IPX7 which means it can endure water exposure of up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes. But don't try to take it deep sea diving, ok? The whales need to sleep.

The sound is decent, with substantial volume. It charges fully on three hours, for a full eight hour playback duration. It's not only Bluetooth enabled but also NFC ready(Android folks, you can use this instead of Bluetooth to save some battery). It can also take a micro-SD card, microphone or auxiliary input.

The speaker is available online at S$160 with standard six months warranty. Add S$20 for an extra six months warranty (full year).

Special Offer for Readers
Awavez has kindly extended a special offer - use the code "CAMEMBERU" (not case sensitive) and get S$20 off the speaker, PLUS their iPhone 6/6s waterproof shockproof casing worth S$140 for free! This rugged handphone casing can go up to 8m deep in water and allows you full access to all the buttons, camera, flash, Touch ID etc. The iPhone can become your underwater camera!

Code is valid until 29 February 2016.

Contest Giveaway
Awavez has a pair of Bluetooth speakers to give away as well. All you have to do is: Share this post (make it public so I can see it, please) on social media, tag me where possible, and tell me what IPX7 means in your post. You can also join in via the links below:



I will prefer to award the prizes to genuine folks who aren't contest junkies (i.e. profiles full of contest entries).

Deadline: Friday, 12 Feb 2016 at 23:59hrs

Winners will be notified via email or social media.

Here's wishing you the very best for the Year of the Monkey ahead!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Antoinette's Salted Egg Yolk Croissant

Oooh the golden lava oozing out of a perfectly crisp croissant - you've seen it all over social media by now. Antoinette at Penhas on 1 Feb launched its Salted Egg Yolk Lava Croissant. All 300 croissants sold out within an hour, and there were queues as early as 8:30am the next few days for the decadent viennoiserie.

Chef Pang Kok Keong who is a fan of salted egg yolks and "liu sha bao" says this decadent creation was meant to come together. He's fine-tuned the recipe to feature a smooth and creamy filling.

Personally I wouldn't have minded a more gritty texture, with tiny beads of savoury egg yolk bursting in your mouth to complement the sweetness of the custard. Chef Pang himself also likes the gritty bits. But I think most folks prefer a silky smooth experience.

There are certainly no compromises here - Chef Pang uses real salted egg yolks (with milk and sugar) rather than powdered shortcuts. The filling is painstakingly hand-sieved to achieve the smooth consistency. The result is a richly satisfying but not too satiating (jelak) experience.

This is a large croissant, and we learned that three egg yolks go into the filling for each of these. We joked that each of these has to be 2,000 calories! But yum, some calories are to die for.

Chef Pang's croissant itself is exquisite. He uses traditional French methods of laminating high quality French butter and dough. The laminated dough is then shaped in a temperature controlled environment at 12 degrees Celsius, to create the crispy and flaky crust. Just look at the beautiful layering.

I am still wondering if a croissant can be made with the salted egg yolk worked into the butter and between the layers. But the layers would probably collapse or not turn out as flaky and light.

On a side note, I also had the pleasure of trying Chef Pang's homemade kaya (not a regular menu item, needs to be pre-ordered) and it is DIVINE! It's like if kaya was a fairy - it's like an ethereal whipped custard. This would be great with plain croissants too, maybe as a chilled spread, not baked within as a filling. Hmm, what else could work as a filling? Matcha latte? Cookies and cream? Sambal belachan? Ooh I'd totally buy a spicy croissant...but that's just me.

The Salted Egg Yolk Lava Croissants are available at Antoinette for S$6.50 each for dine-in or takeaway (please just eat it right away while it's still warm) at these outlets:
- Antoinette's Penhas outlet from 1st Feb 2016 at 11 am daily.
- Antoinette's Mandarin Gallery and Softel So Singapore outlets from 10th Feb 2016 at 1 pm daily.

Instagram: antoinette_sg

Antoinette Penhas Road 
30 Penhas Road (off Lavender Street)
Singapore 208188
Tel: +65 6293 3121
Open Monday to Thursday – 11am to 10pm
Friday and Eve of Public Holidays – 11am to 11pm
Saturday – 10am to 11pm
Sunday and Public Holidays – 10am to 10pm

Antoinette Mandarin Gallery 
333A Orchard Road
Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897
Tel: +65 6836 9527
Open daily 11am to 10pm daily
(No reservations)

Antoinette Softel So Singapore
Lobby Level
35 Robinson Road
Singapore 068876
Tel: +65 6701 6868
Open daily 8am to 10pm

Many thanks to Chef Pang and team for the preview of the salted egg yolk croissant!
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