26 November, 2009

Sapore Italiano @ Raffles City

The caffè bar has a special place in Italian society. Unlike the Anglo concept of a bar, the Italian caffè bar is visited throughout the day – early in the morning for a full-flavoured Italian caffè and breakfast, during lunch for a panino or a slice of pizza, gelato at tea-break and then an after-work aperitivo before dinner (pasta perhaps?).

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“Without caffe bars, the sidewalks of Italy would smell different,” says Pietro Mazza, the renowned Italian F&B consultant, commercial kitchen designer and founder behind 20 Sapore Italiano outlets worldwide. Aided by his son Andrea, Sapore Italiano marked its first foray into Asia, and Singapore’s first Italian Lifestyle Caffè Bar, is now birth at the Raffles City (former Starbucks facing Chijmes).

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Step into the establishment and one will be quickly seduced by the chic, sexy and modern charm of Italian décor, and simultaneously greeted with an air of causal, non-hastening comfort.

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Andrea mentioned that most of their ingredients were imported over from Italy – their coffee beans especially. And that probably explained why the Crème Caffe – Don Abbondio ($9.00), really stood out, even for a non-caffeine drinker like HFB! Made from Coffee Cream, Espresso, Savoy biscuit, Liqueur, Cream, along with some Chocolate Tapping, the drink probably ranked as one of the best liqueur coffee that HFB had ever tasted. The coffee cream was rich yet coupled really well with the liqueur, enhancing each other. Give this to me anytime!

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Besides their coffee, one could also get hold of some award winning “Made in ItalyAbbondio Italian Sodas ($5.00 to $7.00) that was specially shipped over. Endearing vintage packaging adorned the bottles that came with exotic flavours such as “Pompelmo & Fragola”, “Bianca”, and “Chinotto” to name a few. HFB fell in love with them!

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HFB was never a big fan of basil-based pasta, and their Tagliolini Pesto Pinoli E Calamari ($20.00) didn’t make much enough an impression to warrant a change in that opinion especially since the fettuccine was overcooked, i.e. not al dente. However thumbs up for the freshness of the squid and that the basil base wasn’t too overbearing.

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If one is into Nero di Seppia Pasta (Squid Ink Pasta), perhaps one should then give their in-house specialty (a twist to the classic dish created by Pietro) a try – Sapore Italiano’s very distinct Black Pizza ($22.00) – made with black squid ink. HFB was told that squid ink is mixed into the dough and kneaded into pizzas, and what one would get is a serving of pizza, with the crust coming in black! More novelty than anything else to HFB, the seafood ingredients were once again really fresh. HFB loved that Abalone Clams (鲍贝) were added to the mix. Yummy!

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Sapore Italiano produced their own Gelato and one would be a fool to leave this place without sampling their many lovely dessert creations. Under “Coppa Fragola”, HFB sampled their creation of Ice Cream served with Fresh Strawberries and Kiwi, Whipped Cream with Strawberry Dressing ($15.00), but the whole combination from the former was a little too fruity and sourish (from strawberries and kiwis) for HFB, but that’s just him. He’s never really into sour stuff. The gelato in itself though was nothing short of excellence – the texture was really smooth and light on the palate.

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HFB absolutely loves Rocher chocolates, and the Coppa Rocher ($18.00), consisting of Ice Cream sprinkled with Hazelnuts Croquant and Pieces of Nougat, Whipped Cream and Crispy Wafer didn’t disappoint. One couldn’t really go wrong with chocolate and nuts can they? Yummilicious!

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HFB was told that the serving size was a sampling version, and the actual portion is good for sharing – so save some tummy for it when you’re there! For a change, Sapore Italiano is offering a 6pm to 8pm Happy Hour (Apertivo) that patrons can help themselves to free flow buffet of Italian street food with every aperitivo ordered ($12.00 to $15.00).

Disclaimer: No ratings would be given, as this is an invited taste test. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Melvin and Andrea, and Sapore Italiano for their hospitality.

252 North Bridge Road
#01-15, Raffles City Shopping Centre
Singapore 179103

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19 November, 2009

Air-Flown Jiangsu Hairy Crabs @ Food Junction

Food Junction is the first and only food court in Singapore to offer one of Shanghai’s most prized seasonal delicacies - hairy crabs.


Specially air-flown from Jiangsu region, renowned for its premium hairy crabs, the crustaceans are authentically steamed with well-known traditional Chinese herb “紫苏叶”, or Perilla, member of the mint family.


Priced at $18.80 for a male hairy crab set and $23.80 for a female hairy crab set, patrons on a tight budget can now enjoy this gastronomic treat complete with complimentary ginger tea and black vinegar with thin ginger slices for a truly authentic experience (Note: The difference in pricing is due to the fact that the prized roe resides in the female hairy crab).


As much as HFB wanted to proclaim that he is a jet-setter and sampled every well-known delicacy across the globe, the truth was in fact otherwise. This is the first time he is sampling the hairy crab (he was previously turned off by the dense patches of dark hair on its claws), and the moment he set his hands on it, he began to understand what the hype and fascination was all about.


The roe boasted a mouth-watering flavour, along with a unique gummy texture, that is unparallel to any other crabs’ roe he had sampled before. Indeed the roe is so rich that two female hairy crabs would adequately fill one’s stomach (considering that each of them is only as big as a palm).


This offering is available exclusively at Food Junction @ Bugis Junction and Great World City and The Food Place @ Raffles City from now till late November, while stocks last.

Disclaimer: No ratings would be given, as this is an invited taste test. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Pris and Racheal, and Food Junction for their hospitality.

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16 November, 2009

Spruce @ Phoenix Park, Tanglin Road

Spruce is about simplicity and quality of raw products – or at least that’s what it strives to achieve from their food offerings.

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Helmed by owner Chef Travis Masiero, who is an American, his cuisine is said to pay homage to his humble American roots, influenced by the smell of Mediterranean, North Africa and continental Europe.

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Stepped past the entrance and one would be greeted by the casual yet sophisticated ambience in the heart of Orchard Road (Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park to be exact).

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While Spruce is opened 7 days a week from morning till night, HFB was there for dinner. We were ushered to the private dining area which sits approximately 10 to 12 pax – nicely suited for business lunches or dinner.

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While waiting for the others, we ordered the Hand Cut Chips with Sage ($5.00) to fill our growling tummies.

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Thick and crisply fried, it was straightforward comfort food. Simply addictive! We also had another side of Creamy Macaroni and Cheese ($7.00), which HFB thought while aesthetically boring, it was decent enough.

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Interestingly enough, their menu had a section titled “To share or not” – which offered simple solid dishes to go around. Order was made for 3 of them including – Three Dips with Assorted Toast and Crisp ($16.00), Warm Spruce Olives with Fennel, Thyme and Orange Rind ($12.00) along with Ahi Tuna Tartar with Toasted Ciabatta and Avocado ($21.00).

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HFB is not a fan of olive, thus wasn’t able to comment on it, but the dips and the tuna tartar is a must order if one has a table big enough to share! The dips were packed with awesome flavours and went really well with the toast. The tuna tartar was really good – very fresh and goes well on its own or with the bread, but best when one tried it with the avocado. HFB did and it was divine!

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For the main, HFB opted for the Prawn Pasta with Zucchini and Parmigiano Cheese ($22.00), and all excitement looking forward to sample the dish was gone the moment it was served up. It was probably his fault that he didn’t enquire beforehand, but he certainly wasn’t expecting a bowl of Orecchetti Pasta served up in a bowl looking like a serving of breakfast cereal with a table spoon. Secondly, he was half anticipating a couple of huge-ass king prawns looking all juicy and ready to be chomped, but alas it wasn’t meant to be – the prawns although plentiful, were halved and thus lacked bite. Gone in a flash (how long does one need to down a bowl of cereal seriously?) – HFB wasn’t feeling quite satisfied with his main to be honest (he prefers to “interact” with his food more) and ended up waiting for the rest to finish their mains before we moved on to dessert. What a pity!

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Warm Ginger Date Pudding with Chocolate Toffee Sauce ($12.00) was the dessert for the night. With a tint of ginger that doesn’t put many off, the combination with the ice cream was good. And by right coupled it with the sauce should send it up higher by a few notches, but regrettably the toffee sauce was too sweet for consumption.

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The sweetness simply overwhelmed the whole dish, and when feedback, Chef Travis mentioned that desserts are meant to be sweet and that’s how they eat it America – anybody care to shed some light into this?

Food: 3.5/5 (Simple Fare, Tuna Tartare was excellent)
Service: 4/5 (Service staff was attentive and helpful)
Ambience: 4/5 (Casual, Cosy & quiet)
Price: 3.5/5 (Affordable for the ambience and food)
Total: 15/20
320 Tanglin Road (Phoenix Park)
Singapore 247980

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09 November, 2009

Canopy Garden Dining & Bar @ Bishan Park with Y.E.S. 933 美食鉴定团

Canopy, located within lush gardens of Aramsa Spa in Bishan Park is positioned as an Australia style café that provides the perfect getaway for families, couples and pet lovers alike.

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The new outdoor Canopy Bar also provides a unique setting for one to lounge and enjoy a mug of beer, or glass of wine with friends and loved ones.

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And if you do not already know, Jazreel Low, the former Star Search 2nd runner up and her husband owns the spa and the restaurant, along with some other business partners.

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As part of the group that took part in the food tasting session for the last recording of Y.E.S. 933 美食鉴定团, HFB was served first the Trio of Hot Prawns Cocktail ($16.00 for usual serving), Smoked Pepper Duck ($16.00 for usual serving) and Eggs Benedict ($12.00 for usual serving).

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The only thing that HFB could remember on the prawns was the accompanied Avocado and Mango, nothing memorable to say the least. At least the eggs was decent with a runny yolk, but he did find the Hollandaise sauce slightly salty. The skin of the smoked duck was nicely seared and retained that nibble of fats, giving it a juicy bite.

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Next up, we were served a series of mains to share. The Grilled Pork Rack ($25.00) wow HFB with its serving size. One would get a perfect thick piece of meat for a good bite. However, what would make it more awesome if Kurobuta Pork was used instead – the juicy layer of fats would definitely enhance and ensured a more luscious finish. Alas, it was not to be and HFB did find their meat a tad dry for his liking.

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HFB do not usually order fish for his mains (only on this instance), and the Red Snapper Fillet ($26.00) didn’t do anything that would change that. It was another decent dish that didn’t register an impression. Enough said.

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Twirl it round a fork and slurp it up” – at least that’s what their menu suggest one to do it when you order their Crabmeat Aglio Olio ($19.00). However, HFB would advise against it – this dish was clearly thumbs down for him. Close to saying it wasn’t fresh; the crabmeat didn’t have that clean, bright taste of the sea. Pasta wasn’t as al dente as he loved it to be. Unfortunately, HFB’s search for that elusive crabmeat pasta that can beat this version is still on-going!

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Canopy also served vegetarian menu from the Green Room Café next door, where one can also have a healthy obsession for quality ingredients with playful exuberance on their table. They strived to change the way one view vegetarian cuisine forever, and HFB applauded that they did. Their Curry “Lamb” Pie ($14.00) made of mushroom and carrot filling served with Vine Tomato Sauce really did tasted like lamb – so much so that one of the participants commented that it was something she never quite tasted before even though she was a vegetarian for 12 years! The curry was flavoursome and nicely spiced. Bravo!

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The WOW dish of the day was their Gnocchi, made of Pumpkin, Spinach served with Parmesan Cheese and Semi Dried Tomato. HFB never really liked gnocchi as the starch fills him up quickly. Usually made from ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients, their version however dominantly used pumpkin, that gives it a more sweet tasting flavour and a less starchy finished. Paired it with the semi dried tomato, and the sweet and savoury combination works harmoniously. This dish was addictive!

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The brunch was wrapped up with desserts of Homemade Sticky Date Pudding and Old Fashion Apple Crumble ($10.00 each).

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While the former tasted delightful with the butterscotch sauce and a pretty warm and moist texture, the latter paled in comparison with its slightly dry finishing and lacklustre taste.

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Disclaimer: No ratings would be given, as this is an invited taste test. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Pris, Y.E.S. 933, and Canopy Garden Dining & Bar for their hospitality.

Bishan Park II
1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave 1
Singapore 569931

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02 November, 2009

Highlights from HFB Makan Session VI (Singles Only) @ Standing Sushi Bar

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