Food Hunter

NamNam Noodle Bar @ Wheelock Place

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On days when I get a craving for something hot and soupy, I often find myself hankering after a steaming hot bowl of pho. The herbal, meaty broth and flat rice noodles are soothing, homey and not to mention, pretty healthy as well. Authentic Vietnamese food can be a little tricky to find in Singapore, and although NamNam Noodle Bar is opened by the Les Amis group, it serves up a good version of the classic Vietnamese dish.

Sam and I headed down to the Wheelock Place outlet for lunch on a weekday and were pleased to find that they were offering a set lunch consisting of a choice of Chicken or Sliced Beef Steak Pho, a side of Vietnamese Spring Rolls and a choice of a Vietnamese Iced Coffee or Iced Lotus Tea. Naturally, we both picked the beef and iced coffee.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls | Fresh Southern rolls with sweet shrimps, egg and fresh herbs

It could be a matter of personal taste, but I felt that the spring rolls were abit too bland for my liking. The dipping sauce did help to give it a sweet-savoury flavour packed with shallots and garlic – and the sauce eventually did make this a very likable dish- but the spring rolls alone were clean tasting and seemed like it could do with abit of seasoning. Despite that, I must point out that the shrimp was fresh and the amount of fresh herbs, egg and vermicelli wrapped inside made a good combination of natural flavours and textures, making it a great dish for the health conscious.

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Pho Beef Steak Slices

The noodles were a joy to eat: smooth, slippery and light, cooked to perfection. They carried the flavour of the broth well, unlike how noodles sometimes don’t soak up the flavours of the soup they swim in. There was a good amount of noodles and a surprisingly large number of beef slices. We had thought that they might stinge on the meat but were proven otherwise. The meat was done medium well, with the centres still a rosy shade of pink. Thinly sliced and tender, we enjoyed every bit of it. The herbal, lightly salted soup was satisfying and light. For those who prefer their soup with a bit more punch, sauces such as fish sauce, hoi sin sauce, chilli sauce and soy sauce are available. Just add them straight to your noodles and slurp up every last bit.

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It was a great deal, considering the central location and the fact that the meal filled us up very nicely. When asked about her opinion of NamNam, my Vietnamese friend put it across best. ‘Authentic or not, if it’s good, it’s good. Who cares.’ Well said!

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Food Hunter

Krispy Kreme

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The highly anticipated first Krispy Kreme outlet has finally hit our shores after all these years of buying these doughnuts back from far flung places like the UK or the US! Evidently, Singaporeans will do anything for these, being the slaves to food that we are. If 13 hour flights and the possibility of these little rings of dough getting crushed won’t stop us, neither will a 30-man deep queue that Sam and I encountered at the newly opened Tangs outlet. Not that we had any intention to queue for them anyway. Thankfully (and yes, this blog is all about being thankful for everything we eat, ain’t it?), my dad had the foresight to buy these back from Jakarta, where apparently people don’t queue feverishly for doughnuts, and where these sweet treats come cheaper. Thanks Dad!

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Original Glazed Doughnut

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To be honest, I wasn’t terrifically excited to see a box of Krispy Kreme in the kitchen. I’ve never really had a good impression of doughnuts, probably due to the oily, sugary neighbourhood bakery types I got fed as a child – not that every neighbourhood bakery does bad doughnuts, but. Despite my incredulity over these sugared rings of fried dough, I was dead curious: What was the hype all about? Weren’t these just doughnuts? So I decided to heat an Original Glazed Doughnut, Krispy Kreme’s signature, up for breakfast.

A couple of minutes in the toaster and the sugar glaze melted into a happy sticky mess while the doughnut remained soft and fluffy despite being left overnight. What struck me was that there was none of that oily smell that often comes with doughnuts. Not a bad start! One bite into it and all inhibitions were gone. I finally understood the 13 hour flights and the 30 man deep queue. The doughnut was light and not cloyingly sweet. It was barely even oily and the doughnut was deliciously airy. I finished it much faster than expected and found myself wanting another. Do they put some addictive component in those things?

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Coffee Kreme Filled Doughnut | Chocolate Kreme Filled White Chocolate Glazed Doughnut

To be honest I’m not too sure what the next two are called because they don’t appear on the Krispy Kreme site. Products do vary from country to country and these may or may not be available in Singapore. When Sam and I checked the local store out, we found a red velvet variation not mentioned on the website!IMG02478-20131019-0716

I highly doubt it would be possible to get doughnuts for breakfast before work in Singapore. Not with the 30-man deep queue! But do try them at least once because you’ll never think of doughnuts the same way ever. Speaking of which, maybe I should join the queue since I’m getting a craving from writing this post…

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Food Hunter

The Burger Bar by Fatboy’s Concepts @ Far East Plaza

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Think of the word “Burgers” and the immediate place that comes to mind is a fast food joint. However, apart from those, you will find other eateries that serve burgers with so much more variety. One of these is The Burger Bar by Fatboy’s Concepts. This small outlet is a branch from the main Fatboy’s Burger Bar you find in Thomson and Katong.

What makes The Burger Bar by Fat Boy’s Concepts different from other places is that you get to build your own burger. Think of it as an unhealthy version of Subway. It gives you the freedom to choose the type of meat, bun, toppings and sauce. The plus point of being able to customise your burger is that you will never ever get bored of eating from a standard menu since there are somewhat endless choices.

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Ordering is done on your own on an iPad which simplifies the ordering process. The basic burger is priced at $6.50 with a choice of meat and given toppings of lettuce, cheddar cheese and tomato slices. The next step is to select any additional toppings or premium sauces (prices range from $0.50 to $3). The final step is a choice to top it up to make it a set meal (an addition of fries and a drink) or to have additional sides.

I got myself a burger consisting of grilled chicken on a wholemeal bun with smoked chipotle sauce and an additional topping of grilled pineapple. The burger came piping hot and it is quite telling from the grill marks on the chicken that it was hot off the grill. Although I had anticipated the burger to be on the smaller side (given its price), I was quite surprised how generous they were in serving up a huge slab of chicken.

Because of its size, handling the burger was a bit cumbersome at first. Once you get past that and you sink your mouth into the burger, the different textures and flavours create such a party in your mouth. There is the juiciness of the chicken, the charred grilled taste of the meat, the crunch from the lettuce and the sweetness of the pineapple. However, my bread turned soggy after awhile due to the amount of juice and sauce and I was left trying to not let it seep through the wrapping paper.

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Generally the meat was well cooked over the grill and the burger itself left me very full even without a set meal! Although I did not try the other sides, my friend who ordered the mozzarella sticks found it a bit tough to bite through. However, it was quite fun to watch how far you could stretch the cheese!

The space is quite small but if you prefer something different and away from the hustle and bustle of the Orchard crowd, this may be the place for you. But after eating this, I do think a run was very much needed.

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Coffee Connoisseur

Loysel’s Toy @ Kampong Bugis

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Singapore’s weather has been terribly temperamental of late. Remember the day Sam and Chonghao got caught in a flash flood? The day one of my kids and I decided to check out Loysel’s Toy was the exact opposite. It was scorching hot and it did not help that the cafe was located right at the end of Kampong Bugis. It was a good 10minute walk from Lavender MRT station and Google Maps never gives the most convenient route. We ended up walking along a dusty, deserted street, past a worn Hindu Temple, various construction sites and industrial buildings before finally spotting the warmly lit cafe at the end of the road. For the longest time, we thought Google Maps had us on, but as with all good cafes hidden in lesser-known parts of Singapore, I knew better than to give up when roads get quiet.

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Loysel’s Toy is a riverside gem surrounded by lush trees. Quiet and peaceful on a weekday with both indoor and outdoor seating, it was the perfect place for a catchup session. Located just along the Kallang Park Connector, the cafe offers bike rentals with the option of fold-able bikes as well as ones with baby seats for the more adventurous looking to work off the teatime calories.

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Hot and thirsty from the long walk, the kid chose a Pineapple Passion Popsicle from Popaganda sold at the cafe. They carry a good range of refreshing flavoured ice popsicles that are indulgent and healthy at the same time. The Pineapple Passion one we had had a good balance of both pineapple and passion fruit flavours. Tangy and not artificially sweet, it made for a terrific thirst-quencher after the long walk.

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Pineapple Passion | Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow

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Meanwhile, my choice of a teatime snack came in the form of the Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow. Being a fan of salted caramel, and since Loysel’s Toy is known for great coffee, I expected the dessert to feature some great coffee flavours balanced with the salty-sweet caramel. However, what I had instead was abit of a let down. In the dish was a layer or salted caramel crumbs, followed by coffee marshmallow and topped with chocolate and peanuts. The crumbs were rightfully salty-sweet, but the taste of burnt sugar didn’t come through as much as I would have expected it to. Instead, it tasted more buttery and had a peanut butter flavour more than it had caramel. The coffee marshmallow did not live up to expectations as well. It felt more like a spongy layer than melt-in-you-mouth sticky marshmallow. Also, I could barely taste the coffee that presumably flavoured the marshmallow. Although not a bad dessert in itself, I felt that it did not live up to its name. My expectations could have been set a tad too high though!

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Salted Caramel & Coffee Marshmallow | Iced Mocha (using 1000 Cups blend) | Cafe Latte (using Terra Firma blend)

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Loysel’s Toy uses Papa Palheta beans and offered a choice of 1000 Cups and Terra Firma blends when we were there. I chose the Terra Firma blend for the cafe latte, which had a description of being nutty and citrusy with a chocolatey bitter-sweet finish. The coffee had a medium body and was mildly acidic and well-rounded – quite easy on the palate and not too heavy. The milk was also well-steamed – creamy and rich at just the right temperature.

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Meanwhile the kid chose to have an iced mocha. She drinks coffee like water, I’m not even kidding. The problem is, she’s only been drinking Starbucks coffee and mostly frappes (ridiculous amounts of sugar and little else heh). So this being her first cafe hopping experience, she decided to go easy on the coffee. The 1000 Cups blend used in her coffee has taste notes of baker’s chocolate and hazelnuts with a mildly fruity acidity that cuts through every sip. But honestly, with all that chocolate in the iced mocha, I could barely discern any specific flavours. She enjoyed every bit of her drink though!

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Loysel’s Toy also offers the options of hand brew and cold brew coffees in a multitude of funky looking apparatus.

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Loysel’s is ultimately a coffee place serving up good, well brewed coffee. We might have had better luck with their other cakes and they do offer a menu of simple brunch food, but I feel that coffee is still their strong point. It is a great place for a laid back teatime with friends or a good book. Its location strikes it out of my daily java dose list since it would be way too inconvenient, but it hunting down the cafe on occasion makes for a good adventure. It helps that the popsicles on offer are ready thirst quenchers once we complete the hunt!IMG02530-20131023-2219_edited

Happy Monday everyone! Remember to spend some time with your family this week – maybe get out there for a coffee and rent a bike at Loysel’s if you find the time to!

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I am the baker boy

Expresso Butter recipe

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The other night, I ended up in Drury Lane with Sam and she happened to be eating banana bread with expresso butter. That drove me to perfecting my own espresso butter recipe. It’s relatively simple and you can use it for toast, bagels, muffins and whatever spreadable.

INGREDIENTS : 
3 tsp of instant coffee granules
2 tsp of hot water
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
110g of butter (the spreadable type)
1 heaping tbsp of icing sugar

 
RECIPE : 
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DISSOLVE coffee granules and vanilla extract with hot water in a small bowl

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CREAM butter and sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy

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COMBINE the two mixtures
BEAT until smooth
SPREAD IT.

 

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Food Hunter

Bread Society @ Suntec City Mall

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Cinnamon Roll x Chocolate Pistachio Pretzel

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From the people who brought you BreadTalk comes Bread Society, a bakery led by artisan baker Chef Atsushi Murata. I think the photos speak for themselves. The bread here is simply mouth-watering. The selection of bread reminds me of Tiong Bahru Bakery but I guess that’s just the whole artisan baker thing going on. They also serve not so commonly seen bread in Singapore such as the brioche, dark rye bread, tarte tatin, cinnamon rolls, pretzel and so much more! As a fan of the Great British Bake Off, these are some of the things you see the bakers bake on the show that you have never tasted before thus, Bread Society does help a whole lot by introducing these to Singapore!

All the bread there are baked on the premise thus ensuring it’s freshness. The bakery is also a cafe and some of the things they serve definitely caught my eye such as the  Salted Caramel Lava Cake and All Day Brunch. I definitely see myself visiting the place far more often in the future and perhaps even working there for a short stint just to gain some skills!

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Food Hunter

Guan Kim Restaurant @ Tanglin Halt

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Planning for a meal that requires table space for a big group of people can be troublesome. This is especially so when certain places are unable to accommodate and it is a bummer if you have to split into smaller groups at separate tables. Moreover, it is another challenge when people are on a budget.

With 10 hungry church teens in tow, I decided on Guan Kim Restaurant. Tucked away in a corner of a shop house, this quiet coffee shop is a stone’s throw away from Commonwealth MRT and neighbouring hawker centres.

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The main draw to this place is the chicken rice. Known as “white chicken” (白鸡), the cooked chicken is dipped in ice to produce a jelly-like skin finishing – all that collagen goodness. We ordered a whole chicken and asked for two bowls of Yong Tau Foo soup (clear soup containing various items like fish balls, stuffed bean curd, and vegetables) and a plate of vegetables with oyster sauce.

There definitely has to be an art behind making chicken rice for it to be one of the national dishes of Singapore. It is a hot favourite I would recommend any of my international friends to try.

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The chicken meat was tender and not dry. The ratio of sesame oil to soy sauce in the dressing drizzled over the chicken was just right, making it fragrant and savoury, and adding a delicious ‘smoothness’ to the meat. Best of all? It did not leave an oily after taste! The skin did not look too undercooked and did not have too much of a jelly texture (which I preferred!). A plus point to this is that the chicken had been de-boned (maybe the store owners saw that there were many young people at the table), yet there were a good two plates of meat to go around; doesn’t being served a plateful of bones with a bit of meat hanging off them get to us all the time!

The rice was flavourful – delightfully aromatic with garlic, ginger and chicken fat – and just oily enough to give the mouthfeel that makes you just want another spoonful. And another. And another. Also, what would chicken rice be without that garlicky chilli sauce? The chilli packed just enough heat, was tangy with ginger juice and really hit home with the garlic flavour; it paired really well with the black sauce and their rice. One bite of the meat and a spoonful of rice with the chilli – exactly what the taste and texture of chicken rice should be. In addition, the chicken stock served alongside it was not oily nor was it overly salted. 

The overall ambience of the place left us feeling like we had been transported back in time. One of us even commented that it had the feel of being in a Malaysian coffee shop. Chatting and eating within this setting was quite different and nostalgic as compared to swanky air-conditioned style eateries that are common rendezvous points these days.

The total cost of meal was quite surprising as everyone had to pay a mere $3.60 and yet all of our hunger was nicely satiated.

To sum up it 5 phrases:

Good food, low prices of food, big group seating, casual dining space, old school interior.

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Coffee Connoisseur, Food Hunter

Symmetry @ Jalan Kubor

IMG02299-20131005-1212_editedI’ve realised how many of the cafes we’ve reviewed recently are located in the Kampong Glam area. There’s something about the area that’s quaint. Small surprises lie in every corner – be it in the form of good food or an interesting piece of heritage. And if you’re lucky, these two come hand in hand. Located just beside the old Singapore Metal and Machinery Association, Symmetry is a case in point.

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It sits quietly in a corner shop house, its entrance of dark wood and old school style louvre windows almost makes it nondescript. I remember passing by once but giving it a miss as it looked too dark and unremarkable. However, I decided to give it a try after my friend recommended the place for quality food.

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My brunch buddy and I headed down on a Saturday for brunch. At 11am, it was already packed to the brim with hungry diners, which is always a good sign. A nifty device placed outside the door reduced the manpower required to seat people – all we had to do was press a couple of buttons on the touch screen indicating the number of seats required, the location of our seats (indoors/outdoors/bar) and to enter a contact number and we would receive a call when our seats were available. It was thoughtful of them to add an extra option for parties requiring a baby seat as this would save parents and wait staff the last minute hassle of creating space in the already packed restaurant upon the arrival of the guests. It took a mere ten minutes before we received a call notifying us that our seats were ready. Efficient!

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Latte with Gingerbread Snap

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The latte was pretty well done, considering how Symmetry seems to be more well-known for food than its coffee. The gingerbread snap was a very nice touch.

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Chocolate Banana Milkshake

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Flan | Pork cheek confit, sauteed mushrooms, onions, poached egg, cream, parmesan, pommery mustard

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The Flan came as a surprise, given the description left most of it to imagination. It came encased in a thin, crispy pastry, layered with creamy sauce below and topped with sauteed mushrooms, a poached egg, the pork cheek confit and a rocket salad with generous amounts of parmesan cheese. The combination of flavours: the rich creamy taste of the sauce, the bitter, nutty flavour of the rocket and the sharpness of the cheese, along with the runny yolk and sweet-savoury marinade of the pork cheek made this a dish replete of flavours. The pork cheek confit was delightfully melt in the mouth and special mention goes to their poached eggs.

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Eggs Benedict | Poached Eggs, aged cheddar, smoked bacon, onion hollandaise

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As with both the Flan and the Eggs Benedict, the poached eggs were done to an almost soft boiled state. Not your usual poached egg with leathery whites (yikes), these eggs were the epitome of poached eggs with soft feathery whites and runny yolks. All other components of the Eggs Benedict were pretty decent, apart from the stellar eggs and the fact that the (tiny bit of) hollandaise sauce was glazed on top of the eggs. My brunch buddy was left wishing that there was more hollandaise sauce atop the eggs though.

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An eclectic mix of art pieces, little trinkets and wall paper amongst other things adorn the small space within the shop, making it a joy to explore each dark corner of the shop space. Speaking of dark, the cafe was poorly lit in some areas. The sunlight streaming through a couple of small windows did little to shed light on the seats not in direct line with the windows. We had been allocated a table at the back of the cafe that was dimly lit, and requested that the spotlights above us be switched on. However, we were told that they would heat up too much – explains why the photos to this review are of a terrible quality (for which I apologise) since dim lighting does nothing for the already finnicky blackberry camera.IMG02342-20131005-1336

Prices at Symmetry are abit on the high side, with the Eggs Benedict going at $20. It is, however, a decent price to pay for quality ingredients and good food. I wouldn’t mind returning to try the dishes off their lunch and dinner menu, but that would take a tad of saving up before I do so. Until then, Symmetry has impressed me with their brunch items and quirky interior. I’ll just be sure to get a brightly-lit seat the next time around!

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Food Hunter

Mu Parlour @ Holland Village

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Finding a lunch place on the weekend that is not crowded is pretty rare. Especially when you are at Holland Village, where the cafes are packed with people and it gets quite noisy. Don’t you just wish for a quiet somewhere you could go to for a relaxing Sunday?

All hope is not lost, as proven when my companion and I stumbled upon Mu Parlour. Interestingly, both of us had visited this place previously to study it for an urban class and remembered it to be a designer concept store. So like Alice going down into the rabbit hole, we went up the stairs lined with brick-clad walls on each side.

We were greeted immediately by the service staff and ushered into a bright and clean white space. It was filled with different furniture pieces and each had its own character.

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While I was supposed to have the No. 11 (beef burger with avocado), my words went faster than my thoughts and I subconsciously ordered Burger No. 1 ($15+) instead.

No. 1 consisted of beef, monterey jack, streaky bacon, gherkin and topped with a charcoal bun. The beef did not have an overpowering taste and was seasoned nicely with pepper and with other condiments. While the meat was thick, it was packed firmly and cooked evenly. The toasted charcoal bun was unique in colour and was a bit dense in texture, but  it tasted almost like any regular bun. One bite and you get the flavour of the juicy beef, the melted monterey jack, the crunchy texture of the bacon, lettuce and gherkin all rolled into one.

Not forgetting the fries that came along with the burger – they were seasoned with pieces of diced garlic. However, I felt that they were a little over-fried.

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If you choose not to have their burgers, there is also salad, coffee, cake and various pastries to satiate your hunger.

So would I be back? It really depends. Although the price of the food is kind of steep, the quiet ambience of this place might somehow make me consider my return.

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Food Hunter

구이가 Guiga Korean BBQ Restaurant @ Tanjong Pagar Road

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Banchan 반찬 (clockwise from top)

yeongeun jorim | nakji bokkeum | deodeok muchim | sigeumchi namul | gamja saelleodeu| baechu kimchi| kimchi oisobagi

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It looked like a scene straight out of a movie: rainwater surging towards us from all directions and, horror of all horrors, we had nowhere to seek refuge.

Caught in an unexpected flash flood, all we wanted was something hot. Something right off the grill. Something… Oh, something like a good ol’ Korean barbecue. We found ourselves stuck along the five foot way of the row of shophouses, trapped between rising water levels along the main road and what other than a homey and inviting looking Korean barbecue restaurant. Of course, we couldn’t resist.

Guiga Korean BBQ Restaurant is the new kid on the block among the row of Korean eateries you find along Tanjong Pagar Road, and we find, being new is not always a bad thing.

We ordered the chicken in soy sauce and were served an array of banchan to kick start the meal.

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There is always much anticipation as raw meat hits a hot grill. The sizzle of the meat; the smoky aroma that wafts into your consciousness; the sight of the meat turning from pink to a dark caramel colour, with slightly charred bits at the tips; the heat rising off the grill; the explosion of flavours and textures as you bite into a lettuce-wrapped bite-sized piece. This moment of gratification, knowing that the short wait for the food to cook (certainly felt like an eternity to us) and the sacrifice made to smell exactly like what we just ate was all worth it.

The chicken was tender and well seasoned with soy sauce. Every bite delivered a combination of the juiciness of the meat with a hint of the charred grilled flavour. Eaten dipped in a little tangy and savoury dipping sauce, wrapped in a lettuce leaf, every lettuce wrap we had was a parcel of crunchy, meaty textures. As is the Korean custom, the helpful service staff laid out the meat on the grill for us although we could have very much done it on our own. This gesture is what good service is about, since customers definitely wouldn’t want their hands dirtied with raw food.

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Guiga is definitely worth a visit for some good quality Korean barbecue in a homey, family business setting. If you are a night owl looking for food, this place is open till 6 am! What we appreciated most was that the banchan were considered as ‘service’ and we did not have to pay for them as a result. Of course, you could always say that the cost was accounted for in the price of the food, but it always helps to think of the cup as half full, no?

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