Everything Else

Dong Po Colonial Cafe @ Kandahar Street

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After patronising all those modern cafes featuring complex espresso machines churning out steamed milk and exquisite espresso shots, a visit to Dong Po Colonial Cafe almost felt like I had returned to somewhere familiar after a long absence. I remember growing up on kopi from the drinks stall before church, and my parents would try to limit the amount I drank (“small children shouldn’t be drinking so much coffee!”). Coffee came in small porcelain coffee cups with a saucer, unlike how most hawker drinks stalls serve their drinks in glass mugs these days. The drinker would pour a bit of his coffee into the saucer for it to cool and slurp it up from there. This practice has since given way to ‘civilised’ manner of drinking straight from the coffee cup.IMG02682-20131101-1013

However, I observed a number of the well dressed middle aged customers doing just that at Dong Po Colonial Cafe. Perhaps they simply saw it as a necessity to revive habits long tucked away in a setting that seemed so apt. The cafe is done up in an old school nanyang coffee shop style, replete with vintage Flying Pigeon bicycles, tea and coffee kettles as well as furniture.

IMG02699-20131101-1045IMG02694-20131101-1042True to traditional style, you would not expect to find dainty cupcakes or cookies here. What Dong Po serves up instead is a variety of long lost pastries and tartlets, many of these I have never encountered, which goes to show just how long these goodies have disappeared from the food scene here. The pastries all seem to combine both western and local elements, somewhat like little pieces of evidence that our little island was once a British colony.

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Kopi and Bostock Set

Order the little snacks ala carte or get them in sets that consist of a drink and a snack or two. I opted for the Kopi and Bostock set. Having never tried bostock apart from the one Chong Hao made (recipe featured in an earlier post on this blog), I thought it was high time to try another interpretation of it. The one served at Dong Po is made a la minute. My order arrived at the table fresh off the grill, fragrant with frangipane, toasted almonds and caramelised syrup. Instead of the traditional brioche base used in bostock, Dong Po puts a local twist to the delicious almond breakfast bread by using white toast instead. While this might reduce the sweetness of the bostock, it also adds a slighty more savoury flavour and crusty finish to the toasted bostock. A slight orange-y flavour lifted the dish and prevented it from being too cloying. Topped with a generous amount of frangipane and burnished slivered almonds, this is undeniably great breakfast food.

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The coffee, meanwhile, was a good rendition of Nanyang coffee. It was smooth and sweetened with just the right amount of condensed milk. Thankfully, it was not watered down and weak like how some hawker stalls serve up their kopi these days.

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It was a joy to sit in a bustling coffee shop and look out the window on a rainy day, savouring a good cup of coffee and breakfast. I imagine this might have been what it was like when the pace of life was slower in the past and people preferred local coffee and food over higher priced western options. The beauty of being taken back in time wasn’t lost on me and for that (and the urge to try the other little goodies on offer) I will definitely be back.IMG02687-20131101-1018

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Coffee Connoisseur

Library Cafe @ Sukhumvit 24, Bangkok, Thailand

IMG02147-20130919-1433Recently, a certain idea popped into my head: visiting a foreign country would not be complete without visiting one of its cafes. I could not pass on the chance to visit one of the several cafes there when I hit the streets of the City of Angels. In my opinion, there is a chance that cafes may display certain aspects of the city in which it is located through its architecture and the clientèle it attracts. Good food and coffee is a plus, of course, but given how countless cafes now have the typical brunch/western fare, I decide to give it a miss here at the Library Cafe. Afterall, Bangkok’s street food has so much more to offer at much lower prices.IMG02128-20130919-1333Library Cafe is located along one of the small, quiet sois, or streets in Thai, in the Phrom Phong locale. It wasn’t quite that easy to find, but that didn’t come as a surprise, given how even the cafes back home can be a pain to locate sometimes.IMG02125-20130919-1330Full length vertical window panels front the cafe, letting sunlight stream in, illuminating the cafe with natural light. Both its interior and exterior is kept simple with a combination of white walls and light wood furniture, shelves and decorative pieces. The layout isn’t cluttered and the place doesn’t try too hard, which makes it a great place to take a break from the dusty and crowded city streets.IMG02126-20130919-1331

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Cafe Latte

The coffee wasn’t too bad. Although not perfect, it was good enough to rejuvenate the weary traveller in me. The little savoury biscuits didn’t quite match the coffee but it was still a nice thought!IMG02135-20130919-1340

IMG02136-20130919-1346The guests at the table beside mine were a group of Japanese ladies doing some sort of embroidery or cross-stitch. It seemed like they had spent a good part of their day there, just chatting and doing what ladies were made to do back in the past – afternoon tea, scones and a spot of thread-work come to mind, anybody? The leisurely way they spent their time perfectly reflects the vibes the Library Cafe exudes: calm and peaceful, drawing you away from the city and almost seeming too reluctant to release you back into the clutches of the whirlwind of shopping and eating. IMG02145-20130919-1430

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IMG02142-20130919-1419The best part? Free wi-fi. Spoken like a true member of this overly-wired generation. But, hey, what’s wrong with using it to plan the fastest route to the next shopping destination while kicking back with a coffee? Nothing, I say.

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Food Hunter

Thai Smile Cafe @ Lorong Telok

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I first visited this coffee shop style Thai eatery after work. It was late and my colleague and I had not had dinner. She suggested Thai Smile Cafe, one of her favourite post clubbing food haunts open late into the night. Perfect for supper or a late dinner. She recommended the Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Galangal Soup). I tried it and have never looked back since.

A few weeks later, I was back for my second visit. I needed to satisfy that Tom Kha Gai craving and try more of their dishes! Thai Smile serves up a variety of Thai food and Thai-Chinese food. It is popular with the expatriate crowd but don’t let that put you off! Contrary to expectation, the Thai food is pretty authentic and, better yet, affordable.

 

 

IMG02457-20131018-2013Yam Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Salad)

The salad was refreshing and delightfully spicy! The mix of lime juice, lemongrass, fish sauce, chillies and herbs created a light and piquant salad. It was tangy, savoury, spicy and sweet all at once. The glass noodles were smooth; the crunchy shredded carrot and sliced onions and fresh squid and shrimp thrown into the mix added a good contrast in textures. A beautiful salad I enjoyed down to the last noodle!IMG02459-20131018-2014Basil Chicken with rice

The Basil Chicken was decent but not spectacular. The seasoning could have been more flavourful and the minced chicken was a tad dry and lacking a strong basil taste. However, this would do good for those who do not quite like the strong taste of  basil!IMG02460-20131018-2014Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Galangal Soup)

And finally, the Tom Kha Gai! This is a spicy soup thickened with coconut cream and is a rich, sinful delight to indulge in with a bowl of rice. The chicken chunks were tender and there was little else inside the soup, letting its flavours shine through. The bad cousin of tom yam soup, the Tom Kha Gai is one unhealthy option and sharing the calories always helps.

Thai Smile Cafe is a great place for Thai food when a late night craving hits and is good enough to satisfy huge Thai food lovers. I would definitely recommend this place if you happen to be having some drinks in the Circular Road/Clake Quay area this public holiday. Happy deepavali to all our hindu readers! (:

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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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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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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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